Tuesday, May 29, 2007

a-mincing we will go

Last Wednesday we had the unpleasant task of emasculating Captain Stubing and Umlaut. We decided to use a Burdizzo-type tool, which is sort of like a hand-held clamp that locks into position when closed. I hate the idea of the elastic bands, and I didn't want to cut them open if I didn't have to. So the clamp it was. We gave them a shot of painkiller beforehand, and also used this time to give all the babies their CD&T booster shot. We were fairly certain that I wouldn't be able to hold the fellas still enough, so John was the holder and I was the clamper. He sat in a lawn chair and held each one of them on his lap, kind of in a sitting position, and I fidgeted around with their . . . business and found the cord, then clamped it for 7 seconds. Much screaming ensued--funnily enough, little boy goats don't like having their scrotums clamped. So now we wait for 3 weeks to see if it took, at which point the little package should be firmer and not have increased in size at all. I'll say this--as hateful as it was, I far prefer it to disbudding, because once you shut the tool, it's on there, and you don't have to keep holding it.

Our disbudding has been a colossal failure this year. I think Traci's babies are the only ones who aren't going to have scurs. Grr. I was just so worried, and it looked like we were burning down to the skull, but I guess we didn't burn enough. Tilde and Umlaut and Nona all have little horn buds that look completely unaffected. I have read here and there that you can use the elastic bands on the horns, and it seems to work well and not be invasive. But maybe we're going to have to eat them all anyway, so it won't really matter.

Some neighbors of ours called the other day and said they have a friend who might be willing to trade flooring for goats, which would be great for us. Get rid of extra goats and get our kitchen floor taken care of in one fell swoop. Our kitchen floor is a right mess. I can't figure out how to get this rotten tarpaper off, and I'm leaning toward just getting some cork tiles and putting them down. I'd really rather have the wood, but not if it's going to take me the rest of my life to get it done.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

shine on, you crazy diamond

What does "chucking it" mean to me?

  • living in a rural area
  • letting my children be children, rather than shuttling them back and forth to countless extracurricular activities that they may or may not enjoy
  • understanding that it's important for our bodies to be exposed to germs to build our immune systems (I'm looking at YOU, antibacterial soaps and clothes and sprays and who-knows-what-all)
  • trying to feed my family healthy, locally-grown foods
  • not having a gaming system in my house
  • not plopping my children in front of the TV all day
  • treating animals, whether they be pets or food, with respect
  • knowing some of the vanishing skills that include cooking, baking bread, canning and cheesemaking (and possibly soapmaking--we'll see how that goes)
  • not getting all wiggety-wack about this stuff, and understanding that even small efforts will help, and extremism is dangerous
What does "chucking it" mean to the people who drive past my house?
  • hamburger and other food wrappers
  • soda cups
  • beer cans
  • gloves
  • sports paraphernalia
  • empty bags
  • Powerade bottles full of urine
I know, right?

What should we do about the feral cat who has adopted our garage and had a litter of kittens in it? Call animal control? Shoot her? I don't want to take the chance of her biting our cat or our kids and giving them rabies or some other stupid thing. For now we've moved Aebleskiver's food and water into the house to hopefully drive her back to where she came from. Grrr.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

no explosions . . . yet

Well, we made the soap. I used frozen goat milk from an ice cube tray, lye, olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, and lavender essential oil for the fragrance. There were no problems with adding the lye to the milk--probably because it was frozen. John was very helpful and ran in and out of the house washing things and fetching things. His undergraduate degree was in chemistry, so he knows from bases and acids. He was a tremendous help. We used the stick blender to get it to trace, which I was thankful for--otherwise I'd still be out there stirring. Now it has to repose undisturbed for 12-18 hours, after which we can cut it into individual bars, which then have to cure for 3 weeks. It's kind of a creamy yellow color--it looked like hollandaise sauce for a while. I'm excited to see how it works.

The goat demonstration last night went very well. Traci was very patient, and put up with a lot of noise and crowding. The kids loved the goats and petted them all night, and everyone asked a lot of questions--especially about the disbudding scars on the babies' heads. We were able to let a few kids try milking, and some of them were even able to get a few streams of milk out. I sometimes wonder if milking ability is an inborn trait--I was able to milk the first time I tried. It just seems intuitive--squeeze the top of the teat to seal the milk into it, then squeeze the milk out. But maybe it's because I'm a female mammal. The woman in charge of the whole thing took a lot of pictures of the event, which she is going to send to me, so I can put them on our Local Harvest site. It was a lot of fun.

Friday, May 18, 2007

sticking it to Big Soap

I have all my supplies now for making soap. I'm a little nervous, because of the whole "blow your family to kingdom come with a lye volcano" potential. But I have a ton of undrinkable milk from when I milked Violet before the Penicillin was completely out of her system. I couldn't bear to throw it all away, so I froze it and decided I may as well learn how to make soap, especially since I can't sell my milk. Stupid USDA.

I'm going to make the soap tomorrow when John is home to keep the kids out of harm's way. I hope everything goes well.

Tonight we're taking Traci and the triplets down to Ogden for a family barbecue at the Ogden Prep Academy. They did a fundraiser for Heifer International, and the woman who organized it thought it would be neat for the kids and families to see what sort of animals they'd bought, and how a goat can feed a family. They want me to answer questions and possibly do a milking demonstration. I hope everything goes well--Traci is our go-to gal for things like this, because she is so low-key. Give her something to eat and you can do whatever you want.

Yesterday on our local NPR station they did a show about animals feeling pleasure. I don't know that anyone who's ever met an animal could doubt that they do. I see it every morning when I milk the goats--they bury their heads in the grain feeder and you can almost hear their sighs of contentment and rapture, as though they're saying, "Now this, this is some top-drawer stuff here. This is what GRAIN should TASTE like!"

Unsurprisingly, the guest was a vegetarian, so he felt it necessary to get up into that whole mess. I think animals feel both pleasure and pain, which drives my desire to eat animals who've lived a happy life. But I do not feel that they are our equals--they are in our stewardship, and it is our duty to provide for them, but part of the reason for their very existence is to in turn provide for us. Humans are omnivores--look at our teeth if you doubt it. Meat is good for us, when used correctly. Moderation is our friend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

winter greens?

I just found out--from my awesome new book--that kale can grow through the winter. What? Coming from a family that did not eat greens, other than those from the store, this was completely new to me. But it's true--kale is cold-hardy to -10. How about that? And collards will produce until Thanksgiving in some cases. This is great! I love greens in all their forms--except maybe beet greens. I haven't tried those. I wasn't too jazzed about salads growing up. I thought they were fine, just nothing to get worked up about. Then I got a job in Provo (a little less than 2 hours south of here) soon after I graduated from college, and I stayed with my aunt and uncle while I was looking for an apartment. One night we had a salad whose main ingredient was butter lettuce, and I was floored. It was the most delicious salad I had ever eaten. But I grew up on iceberg, which I always thought tasted like bland aspirin. It's strange, because we always had a ginormous garden--why didn't my parents grow spinach? It's one of the most rewarding crops to grow, as far as the sow to reap ratio goes. We grew peas, tomatoes, beets, turnips, onions, cucumbers, summer and winter squashes, carrots, potatoes, beans, corn . . . I'm probably forgetting a lot of stuff, because we were swimming in produce. We tried brussels sprouts and cabbage one year, but my mom didn't like how worm-prone they were.

So it wasn't until I had that eye-opening and palate-awakening salad at my aunt's house that I realized that iceberg wasn't the only choice available. Thus began my magical mystery tour of all that the edible leafy world has to offer. Now I plant spinach and loose-leaf lettuces every year in our garden. I intended to plant collards and chard this year, but: fat pregnant lady. My mom tried chard last year, but found half of a worm in the bottom of her bowl and was creeped out by it. Worms are not fun to see or eat.

Because of my new discovery I ordered some kale and collard seeds this afternoon, along with some herbs. I haven't got any dill, and I need some to do pickles this summer. Emmett is a big fan. I'm hoping to mooch some cucumbers off my mom.

Monday, May 14, 2007


I got the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" for Mother's Day--I called John and left a message asking for it specifically, then hounded him until he called our sister-in-law to pick it up from Costco for him, so I could get it yesterday. Don't judge me. He hasn't gotten his wallet back from Delta yet after losing it on the flight from Salt Lake to Atlanta--I had to take matters into my own hands!

Anyhoo, the book is just what I hoped it would be. I love me some Barbara Kingsolver. Everyone should go out and buy this book right now. It's also a dangerous book for me to read, because of my proclivity toward weird hippie behaviors. Thankfully for my family I'm also too lazy to be a true zealot about not eating anything out of season, but I would like to get to that point. Buy local! She even touches on a subject that I've preached about before, which is that buying organic is not as great as it sounds. Neat that you're eating an organic apple--what about all the fossil fuels used in transporting it from its place of origin to your supermarket? When Wal-Mart, or as I like to call it, The Great Satan, started carrying organic produce I think I caused a tide shift with the force of my eye-roll. Granted, I'm a jaded conspiracy theorist, but I really couldn't have asked for a better demonstration that the "organic" label is all sound and fury, signifying nothing. It's just that now farmer's markets and fruit stands will be added to the list of local businesses going under because of the new behemoth in their community.

Now as a member of my church, I have heard all this kind of thing before. Eat fruits and vegetables in their season. Eat meat sparingly. This is not news to me, and shouldn't be to anyone who's read their scriptures. Which just serves as another example to me that the Word of Wisdom is inspired--fruits and vegetables are best and most nutritious when consumed in season and close to their source. Meat isn't meant to be eaten all the time. All that jazz. And in turn you can help keep the farmland next to you from being turned into another urban heat island, and your farmer friends can have a livelihood. All part of being a decent human being, you know?

Friday, May 11, 2007

pause for deep breath

It's been busy around here. Kidding season is well over, but that means milking season is upon us. Also there are a lot of things to do as far as general herd management goes at this time of year. All the kids have to be disbudded, which is a gruesome activity that I hate. I've only seen it done, and studied as much as I could on the Fias Co Farm website, which is very thorough in its explanation. But the actual experience is a whole lot more difficult, when you're a rank amateur trying to burn a kid's horns off. I always feel like I'm burning too much, and I've gone past the "copper ring" state to the "burning a hole in their skull" state. But almost all of the kids' horns look weird, like they might have scurs, which means I haven't burned enough. Yuck. John was gone to England for a week, so we had to wait to do Nona until he got home, and I felt a little better about hers until I saw that the horn buds were oozing a little bit of blood, which means that she'll probably be just like all the others. Of all our goats, I think Captain Stubing--the first one we did--has the best-looking horns of the bunch. Sigh.

Next we have to castrate/dock/emasculate or whatever Captain Stubing and Umlaut. We went with a Burdizzo-type tool, because the elastic band idea sounds awful, and I don't want to cut them open if I don't have to. Captain Stubing isn't too bad, but Umlaut is already acting far too bucky for my tastes--he keeps mounting Tilde and Nona, and they keep trying to get away from him. He needs to just settle down--he's not even a month old, for crying out loud! Pervert.

Milking is going really well. I haven't been separating the babies at night, because of one thing or another, but I'm still getting 2 1/2 quarts of milk every morning, which is almost enough to get us through a day. I'm going to separate the babies tonight, and we'll see how much milk I get--and how long it takes me. I don't think our 6 quart bucket will hold it all.

John was glad we went through some kiddings before our baby is due, to kind of remind ourselves what that whole childbirth thing is like. Thankfully people have a lot more help--medicinal and otherwise--when they go through it.

Our lawn is totally getting away from us. It's a sea of dandelion seedheads and brownish grass. Poor John is beside himself. He thinks we're cursed, or at least that our superpower is killing lawns. It would be nice if we had a pump system worked up to use the irrigation water on our lawn, so we didn't have to use the culinary water. Then it wouldn't cost so much to have a dead lawn.

The strawberries are ripening, the spinach and lettuce are on, and the peas are growing nicely. Emmett loves raw spinach, but hates it cooked. Makes sense. I learned to love spinach by first trying it raw. I've found that I really like greens, like kale and collards and spinach and chard. I didn't grow anything besides spinach this year, though. Just planting the few things I did was enough to wipe me out. Being pregnant is difficult when you're trying to be all provident-livingy. I love having produce in the garden, and I'm looking forward to the local fruit stands opening for the year. Cherries, apricots and peaches--especially peaches. Brigham City has the most wonderful peaches. So juicy and flavorful. I read a stupid thing in a magazine the other day that said that peaches continue to ripen after picking. Umm. It depends on what you mean by "ripen." If you mean "soften and eventually rot without ever gaining another degree on the Brix scale," then I guess so. But people, there is a lot of produce out there that is not meant to be picked green and shipped all over creation. Strawberries are not meant to be the size of golf balls with the taste of sawdust. Melons are meant to smell and taste like melons. Peaches and nectarines are meant to be softer than rocks, and juicy and fragrant. A blackberry that is worth eating cannot be shipped. Seriously. I mean, it's nice to be able to get produce year-round, but frozen or canned is better, because at least those things were harvested near the point of ripeness. Except berries. There's just no way to get a good berry out of season.