Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The next chapter

This blog post has been percolating in my head for months. It's a blog post I never wanted to write. It includes facts I don't want to be true. Many of you know I grew up as a "sickly" child, according to my mother and doctor. There was "nothing" that could be done to keep me healthy, again according to them. But in my 20s, I discovered that by adopting a diet rich in real foods, I no longer suffered from the all-too-common colds and flus and other ills that had plagued me for the first two decades of my life. I would go as long as five years without a cold and ten years without the flu.

For the past year and a half, I've become the sickly child again. At least that's how I feel as I've dealt with one health issue after another, some of which I've written about here. All along in the back of my head, I had a nagging feeling that I might have a problem with food sensitivities.  But my brain would quickly respond that's not possible! But then the other side of my brain would say, "remember back when you were a vegan, your problems with constipation went away, and every time you'd have a little piece of cheese or other dairy product, it'd come back." But the rest of my brain would just ignore that. It could NOT be true! I LOVE cheese! I write about cheesemaking. I talk about cheesemaking. I TEACH cheesemaking!

Last year when I got diagnosed with Hashimoto's, I read that the majority of people with thyroid disease have a sensitivity to wheat and gluten, and that some people have actually reversed the disease by removing gluten from their diet. I was sick and tired and desperate, so I quit eating wheat, which meant no more bread baking, which we had been doing for the past 26 years, almost daily for more than a decade. (See that pic on the right.) I LOVED bread! There are bread recipes in my books. I've taught bread baking from Washington State to Pennsylvania and Virginia, and I always felt bad when someone would ask me if I had any tips for gluten-free bread. I even said, "I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't eat bread!" It seemed a horrible fate. But after eliminating wheat from my diet, it became obvious that my body didn't like it. I'd occasionally wind up eating something with wheat in it when traveling, and the only thing that happened is that my digestive system would just shut down. Not pooping when you're traveling is not such a bad thing ... until you've gone five days!

Many aspects of my health have improved since eliminating wheat. I haven't had a cold or flu in more than a year now, I no longer have migraines, my asthma is gone, and my Hashimoto's is in remission. My antibodies were cut in half, and my hormones have remained at an ideal level. I no longer take any prescription meds. My vitamin D and vitamin B12 deficiencies have been completely corrected, and those levels are now optimal. But things weren't perfect. I still had nagging digestive issues, including constipation, motion sickness, and random nausea in the middle of the night. After seeing how my body reacted to wheat, I knew that I probably had other food sensitivities, which were wreaking havoc on my digestive system. But what?

The gold standard for figuring out food allergies is an elimination diet. I started talking about it last year and said that after the holidays I'd start. The holidays came and went, and it didn't happen. I gave a half-hearted shot at it in January, but I had one excuse after another why it wasn't a good time. Finally, in March after reading yet another book about auto-immune diseases and how food sensitivities play a major role, I started one day cold turkey. I eliminated corn, soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. After three weeks of not having any of those foods, I started to add them back into diet one by one with several days in between so that there would be no confusing which food was causing a reaction.

Of all the foods I eliminated, the only one that I've been able to add back into my diet with no problems has been peanuts. Everything else caused a reaction of some sort. Eggs was one of the worst as it caused chaos in my digestive tract, starting with nausea. I was also sleepy and dizzy and generally feeling like I'd come down with a stomach bug. It occurred to me that my motion sickness and random nausea had probably been caused by eggs all along. In fact, as I was flying into Denver last month in a rather bumpy flight, it suddenly occurred to me that I was feeling absolutely no motion sickness at all!

I could write pages and pages about this, but since March I've been keeping a food journal and writing down everything I eat and everything that happens to my body. I've tried to re-introduce most foods more than once because honestly, there isn't anything that I want to give up. Above all else, the number one thing I did NOT want to give up was dairy products. I've only tried cow milk once, and it was in the form of yogurt. It was our wonderful grassfed Jersey's milk made into yogurt, which is supposed to be easier to digest because of the probiotics, and yet it was not good. I had a smoothie made with the yogurt and didn't poop for three days. Not fun!

The goat milk did slow down my digestive system some, but not nearly as bad as the cow. This has made me very unhappy. It's not like I can just stop buying this stuff at the store! I have 14 goats out there making milk as I type. So far, this spring, all of the milk has been used to feed kids, but at some point, the kids won't need the milk any longer, and how am I going to feel about continuing to go out there and milk them every day? At the moment, my husband is actually doing almost all of the milking, but when he starts teaching again in the fall, the job will be mine again. I love my goats, but I originally got them because I loved their milk and cheese and yogurt. What will I do if those reasons no longer exist? I honestly don't know.

At this point, I've told myself that I should just continue for the next year before making any decisions. I've spent the last 13 years building a wonderful herd of milkers, and it would be tough to give that up. I am hopeful that as my body continues to heal, I will once again be able to consume their milk. Many people have been able to do that, but not everyone. I am not a patient person. I wish I knew what the future would hold for me, but I must learn patience.

That leads me to the next thing that causes health problems -- stress! Stress plays a major role in almost every disease. And we are all under stress. I constantly hear people say that they can't do anything about the stress in their lives. And I've said the same thing myself. But I've spent a good chunk of the past year reading books to help me regain my health, and it has finally sunk in ... we will all have stressful situations come into our lives every day, and we can't help that. We can, however, control how we respond to those situations. And it isn't just a matter of saying that you won't get upset when something negative happens. That just does not work.

I've learned that we have to make a conscious effort to regularly force our minds into a state of relaxation. Okay, "force" is not the right word, but it feels like that in the beginning. I've starting practicing yoga and meditation on a regular basis. I'd love to say daily, and that's the goal, but I'm not there yet. I have noticed that when I meditate daily, my response to stressful situations is much more calm -- and that's exciting!

I've also learned to take time every day to be grateful for the beauty in my life. Even when things are not going well, there are things to be grateful for. When I had car trouble last month, I sat there and thought of all the things for which to be grateful -- a tow truck was coming, I had peanuts in my purse, and so on.

I knew I'd be entering a new chapter in my life when my children left home. I also knew menopause would create some changes. But I always thought they'd be outward things, such as a new career. I never anticipated the changes within my body and mind that would have to happen. Yes, I have had my pity party, as I did not want any of these changes to happen. I thought life was perfectly wonderful over the past decade. But we have to play the hand we're dealt, and I intend to figure out how to make this next chapter the best yet.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Farewell old trailer


We bought this horse trailer in the first few months after we moved out here in 2002. It came as part of a package deal with Katherine's horse Buddy. The horse died at the ripe old age of 30 in 2008, but the trailer, which is 1970s vintage, kept rolling along .... until last week.

Mike used it to take chickens to the processor down in Arthur, which is about a two-and-a-half hour drive. When he came home, he was backing up the trailer to park it when one of the wheels fell off. Apparently the bearings self destructed. So, it will soon be going to the scrap yard.

That old trailer served us well over the last 13 years. It carried goats to goat shows, and chickens and turkeys to the processor, as well as lambs, pigs, and calves. We used it to pick up our Irish dexter cattle in Missouri and to bring home Beauty the Jersey and her calf Beau last year.

It is time for us to move on, and we'll be purchasing a bona fide livestock trailer to replace it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The recliner -- and why you should live your dream NOW!


I haven't written a decent blog post in almost two months -- and that one was entitled "Catching Up," because I hadn't posted in a couple of weeks, during which time I had severely injured my back. And my back has now been re-injured so many times that I've lost count. It's somewhere around seven or eight. Each time I hurt it, I wind up back in the recliner because it is the only position in which I am not crying in pain.

We bought the recliner when I was pregnant with Katherine 22 years ago, and it used to hold such fond memories of nursing her as a baby and cuddling and reading to my children. Now, however, I am starting to refer to it as "that stupid recliner" and say things like, "I hate that chair!" Thankfully, my stints in the recliner are getting shorter. This last time it was only a day. Apparently I have a bulging disc in my back, and it takes the tiniest wrong movement to cause it to flare up again -- things like standing too long at a sink washing dishes. It isn't a big sudden, "Ouch!" kind of pain. It's a slow-building pain, which obviously gets worse as the disc swells more. I've discovered that icing my back after anything that could remotely cause a problem is a good idea, and I've probably avoided a few stints in the recliner by doing that. But sometimes I don't realize something is problematic until it's too late. Spending two hours sitting on the ground trying to get newborn kids to nurse proved to be a definite no-no.

Speaking of kids ... we've had five goats give birth since April 27, and three more are due within the next month. Aurora gave birth to quads the morning of April 27, and by that afternoon, I was in the recliner, which is where I stayed for almost a full two days. Since then, Mike has handled most of the birthing while I stand around taking pictures, trying to keep my back as straight as possible, not because it hurts to bend it, but because it will cause excruciating pain later, if I bend it the wrong way for too long. And that's the problem. It would be easy to not move the wrong way, if my body gave me some indication at the moment that I was doing something wrong. But it doesn't work like that. Nerve pain is quite different from muscle pain. It kind of feels like my body is giving me a pop quiz 24/7 on how to stand erect.

Part of the reason I haven't been blogging is because I haven't been able to sit in front of the computer for so many days. And when I am able to sit here, I spend hours catching up on things like email. I just updated the kidding schedule on our website so that people can see which kids are still available for sale. That was also about two months out of date.

The other reason I haven't been blogging is because I don't want to sound like I'm complaining. So, for the record, this is not a big long complaining rant. This is just the story of my life for the past two months. And there is some usable information in here. I hear a lot of people say that they are going to move to the country and start living this life when they retire. Now that I'm "older," I can say that that is really not the best plan. Two years ago, I had no idea that my body was going to have all of the problems that it has started to have. I am so glad that we moved out here 13 years ago. I had a lot of great years doing things that I loved. I don't want it to end, and I'm doing everything I can do to figure out how to continue living this life. But had we only moved out here a couple of years ago, there would probably be a "for sale" sign out front by now. If I think of all the challenges we had the first few years simply because we were new to this life -- and if you added all of my current challenges to that -- it would have been a recipe for utter failure.

I don't usually give advice on this blog, but I'm getting older, so I figure I can throw out a little advice every now and then. So, my advice is that if you are still young and healthy, and if you read this blog wishing you were living this life, don't wait. Figure out how to do it now.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Spring on the homestead

The snow has melted, the grass is growing, and everything is blooming! Here are a few pictures from around the homestead ...







More goats are due to kid soon, and we put turkey eggs in the incubator on Saturday, which means we'll have poults in about four weeks!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Just Kidding ebook available

For those of you who like reading the goat birthing stories on here, I've created a collection of 17 kidding stories. In addition to the original birth stories, I also added commentary to each one. What went well? What would I have done differently? What would not have made a difference?

And if you ever wondered what happened when Coco gave birth two years ago, I finally tell the story in the book. If you've been reading my blog for that long, you might recall that she died of a ruptured uterus after giving birth to five kids. Actually we had to take her to the University vet hospital, and they pulled the last four kids there because they were quite tangled up. Although all five kids survived, Coco did not, and I was so upset, I was unable to write her birth story at the time. The book also includes the complete story of another goat that had birthing difficulties a few years ago.

I wrote the ebook because there are so many questions from new goat owners about what to expect when their goats give birth. The book includes several normal births, including those that are not textbook perfect but still not problematic. Those are the births that seem to confuse new people the most. And because everyone worries about the possibility of a caesarean section, I included stories of our two experiences.

The ebook is available in all formats, from a simple PDF to those that will work with a variety of ereaders from Kindle to Kobo. If you don't have an ereader, you can download a PDF or get the free Kindle reading app for your computer or iPad. The ebook is only $4.99 and is about 40 pages long. Click here to learn more and to order your copy.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Catching up ...

Since my last kidding post, six more goats gave birth and I hurt my back twice. I can't possibly provide all of the details on everything, so here is a short summary ...

 Emily's doe 
This year's goat births have been going extremely well! Of the ten goats that have given birth, no one has had any problems that required assistance, even though they had some challenging presentations, such as an ear first, a posterior, and a couple of breech kids. We had two sets of quintuplets, three sets of quads, three sets of triplets, and two sets of twins. That's an average of 3.5 kids per doe, which is unbelievably excellent! Even better, we've had 22 does and 13 bucks. Since these are dairy goats, the does are the most coveted because obviously boys don't produce milk. Of course, I should not get too excited because we still have eight does left to kid, and they could have lots of bucks and flip that ratio on its head.

 Scandal's doe 
Two weeks ago I stepped in a hole, which threw my back out, and I spent two days in the recliner on the first floor of our house because I couldn't walk upstairs. After a week I was doing pretty well, other than feeling like someone was following me around and randomly stabbing me in my lower back. Then on Tuesday I was doing chores, and the mud was just too much for my back. I was able to make it back to the house under my own steam, but then I spent the next 48 hours incapacitated, either in the recliner or in the guest bed on the first floor. Who knew that walking in mud could throw your back out? The chiropractor said I have a bulging disc, so tying my shoes could throw my back out. I am really hoping it won't get that bad.

In the meantime, Mike and I are talking about adding a first floor master bedroom because between my knees and my back, going upstairs is getting harder and harder. After 10 years, the house is still not entirely finished, so adding on sounds a little funny, but I need a first floor bedroom more than trim on the windows, so an addition sounds pretty important right now.

If you missed Friday's post about our upcoming farm dinner, click here for more details and to make reservations.




Friday, March 13, 2015

Tickets available for June 14 on-farm dinner!

 Chef Monika's créme brûlée 
I've been wanting to have on-farm dinners for awhile, and we are finally doing it. They are scheduled for Sundays, June 14 and August 30, starting at 4:00 with hors d'oeuvres and a farm tour. Dinner will begin at 5:00.

Monika Sudakov of the Chestnut Street Inn will be our chef for both events. We are still debating the main course for the August dinner, but the June dinner will feature heritage Plymouth Rock chicken for the main course and créme brulee for dessert, made with our fresh eggs. The Plymouth Rock chicken is on the Slow Food Ark of Taste. Although it was quite popular a century ago, you can't buy it today in supermarkets, and in blind taste tests, most people agree that the flavor is superior to modern hybrid chickens.

In addition to dinner, guests will get a tour of the farm so they can see the garden where their dinner salad and vegetables were grown, and they'll get to see the new baby goats that are due to be born in late May.

Dress is casual, as we will be dining outside. Because GPS has trouble finding us, don't hesitate to contact us for directions, if this will be your first visit to the farm.

Click here or page down for tickets to the June 14 dinner. There are only 36 seats available, and rumor has it that farm dinners sell out rather quickly, so it's a good idea to buy your tickets soon.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Victoria's twins

 February 9, 2015 
The day before Victoria kidded, I realized that I had not appreciated my senior does enough. You see, when a goat has given birth before, they are usually very stoic until the last minute or two before the kid is actually born. Victoria was a first freshener and completely freaked out by every little contraction. Sunday night after Cicada gave birth, Victoria was screaming her head off, sounding quite unhappy. I went running out to the barn a few times only to find her standing there screaming as if to simply express her displeasure. She was standing like a normal goat and just screaming. She wasn't pushing or laying down or pawing the ground or anything that a goat normally does when in labor. Even though she is not a friendly goat, she was very unhappy and would scream more whenever I left her. So I wound up staying with her for three hours! And then she was quiet. I came inside, and we went to bed and went to sleep.

Monday morning shortly after Mike left for work, she started screaming again. I decided to take a book out to the barn office and read because it was obvious that she was not going to stop screaming anytime soon. Even though it was a really dreadful scream, her body language just looked like she was mad about something, so I wasn't taking it very seriously.

An hour and a half after I went out there, she finally got serious, and it was obvious she was actually pushing. She's lay down, throw her head back, curl her tail over her back, and stretch her legs out in front of her as she screamed. She also quit eating. And then things got interesting.


A hoof was sticking out, but it was upside down. That meant that the kid was either posterior or breech. Breech would not have been such a bad thing, especially if it was feet first. It would actually be pretty easy for Victoria. However, after ten minutes of pushing the foot was sticking out about three inches, and there was no sign of progress. I ran my finger along the leg and bumped into a nose and mouth. That meant it was a posterior kid. The books tell you that in those situations, you should reach in and flip the kid over. Since I was home alone, the odds of Victoria standing there while I did that were somewhere between zero and never. The idea of doing that also worried me because of the risk of tearing the uterus. I went looking for some disposable gloves and some iodine, but I wasn't entirely sure what I'd do when I actually had them. In the meantime, Victoria kept pushing. About fifteen minutes later, the kid was born. The head actually came out sideways, which I don't recall ever seeing before, and the body came out with the kid's belly facing Victoria's tail, which is basically upside-down. The little doeling was in great shape, and as Victoria and I started to clean her up, I noticed another upside down hoof sticking out of Victoria's back end.

"Seriously?" I asked Victoria. "Another one?" I ran my finger along the leg, and when I came to a joint, I bent it. Since it bent in the direction of the top of hoof, that meant it was a hind leg, and I knew the kid was breech, which should be much easier than the posterior kid that she just delivered. And a couple minutes later, the breech doeling was born.

Victoria has been an excellent mom from the very beginning. I think she heard that I'm planning to seriously reduce our goat herd this year, and she wants to be sure that she makes the cut and gets to stay here. After all it was pretty impressive for her to give birth to doelings that weighed 3 pounds, 4 ounces and 3 pounds, 9 ounces, especially since one of them was posterior, which is never easy, even with smaller kids.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cicada's quads

Six days after Vera kidded, it was Cicada's turn. Unfortunately, she was not as thoughtful as Vera, who gave birth in the late afternoon. Around 4 a.m. February 8, I woke up to see Mike getting dressed. I wondered if it was morning already and asked why he was up. He said, "Listen." The video monitor was on because we thought Cicada might give birth during the night, but I had not heard any screams. I listened carefully and heard a faint moan coming from the television. Mike headed outside while I got dressed. I took my time because it didn't seem like Cicada was in the middle of actually pushing out a kid. 

I arrived in the barn a few minutes before she gave birth to the first kid -- a buckling that weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces! Yeah, that's big for a Nigerian! She took about a fifteen minute break and helped us clean off the kid. Then she plopped down and three kids -- all doelings -- shot out only about a minute apart. Two of them weighed 3 pounds 12 ounces, and one weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces, which are all excellent sized kids -- and pretty unbelievable sizes for quads! Cicada had been as big as Vera and Agnes, which both had quintuplets, but their kids didn't weigh as much as Cicada's. When you add up the weights, they were all actually carrying about the same number of pounds of kids.

Cicada is one of our top milkers and has successfully raised quads in the past, so we were not worried about leaving all four of the kids with her. Since they were all big and healthy, I wasn't worried about everyone getting their fair share, and they are all doing really well.

We will be keeping one of the doelings because Cicada is 8 years old, and I've never kept a doeling from her, which has been a terrible oversight, especially considering what an excellent milker she is. Time flies! It's hard to believe that she is already 8, and she is a third-generation Antiquity Oaks goat. 

Unfortunately I don't have any other photos for you because I upgraded my computer with the newest operating system and now Photoshop doesn't work. Hopefully I can get that fixed before more kids are born. I'll be telling you about Victoria's kids within the next couple of days -- they were born the day after Cicada's. 

Now we are waiting for four more does to kid -- yep, right now. I don't think anyone will kid within the next few hours, but they are due now, so we'll have more kids within the next few days. From the looks of it, there will be some more multiples. We're hoping that four is the most anyone has, and I'd be happy with triplets, but I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A second set of quintuplets!

I'd been thinking that Vera was carrying quintuplets for the past three months. I can now still say with total accuracy that whenever a goat looks pregnant at two months, she is carrying five kids because it's happened five times now. And when I say that a goat looks pregnant at two months, I'm not saying that you look at her and think that maybe she is pregnant. Nope, I mean that they look like they could actually give birth tomorrow! The picture on the right was taken on November 10. I have goats that are due in two weeks that look like that.

Agnes looked just as big as Vera at two months, but I was dismissing the possibility of her carrying quints because no one else in her line has done that. However, I had not looked far enough back in her pedigree. Her great-great grandmother is Vera's great grandmother -- a goat that had quads several times and then had six once!

On February 2, Vera gave birth about 38 hours after Agnes, and she also had quints. I am really enjoying our video monitor because I got to the barn about ten minutes before Vera actually gave birth, which was especially nice since it was 14 degrees out! I am grateful for every minute that I do not have to spend out there. I'm also grateful that my camera recorded the times the photos were taken because it verifies the fact that Vera torpedoed those kids into the world at light speed ...

At 5:03 p.m. she was pushing ...

By 5:14, two had already been born ...

I had no time to take pictures of the third and fourth ones as they were born because by 5:18, five had been born ...

And then she scared the daylights of me because she gave another big push only a minute after the fifth one was born. I screamed, "Oh, no!" as a big bubble emerged. "You are NOT having six!" Nope, she wasn't. It was just a big bubble of water, and I was so relieved when I discovered that there was nothing in that bag other than water.

Final tally was three bucks and two does.



We brought two inside to bottle-feed -- the little doe that weighed only 1 pound, 12.4 ounces and the buckling that was 2 pounds, 1.2 ounces. The three that we left with mom weighed 3 pounds, 5.2 ounces; 2 pounds, 15.1 ounce; and 2 pounds, 8.2 ounces. That was a lot of babies for Vera to be carrying around!

Here is a picture of the four bottle babies today. The two on the left are Agnes's, and the two on the right are Vera's ...

And now we're waiting for Cicada to give birth. She is as big as Vera and Agnes were, but I don't recall thinking that she looked pregnant at two months, so I'm hoping she only has four in there.


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