Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nursing a sick lamb

Monday night (yes, almost a week ago), I was doing chores, and I saw a ewe lamb run past a three-month-old ram lamb. He fell down. It made no sense, so I made a mental note to come back and check on him. After finishing the rest of my chores, I went back and saw that he had not moved from the spot where he fell. As I approached him, he didn't attempt to run away. When I picked him up, he felt unusually light and limp. Then I smelled it -- diarrhea. This is the little guy that had coccidia a month ago, so I immediately gave him more of the medication, assuming that the coccidiosis had returned. I gave him a 50/50 chance of being alive the next morning, because I've almost never seen a goat survive after they are so weak that they can't walk. This is the first time I've ever had a sick lamb though.

But he was alive Tuesday morning . . . and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and even today. Each day, he has been getting weaker, which hardly seems possible. And every day I've been thinking that tomorrow he would be dead. Six or seven years ago, I would have immediately put him in the truck and driven down to U of I Vet School. I did that with more than one goat. Since the vets are also professors, and they're surrounded by students, I had the benefit of listening to them explain everything to the students. I learned a lot. And one of the things I learned was that vets can't do much for livestock that get sick. Since they're considered "food animals," the emphasis is on herd health. If an animal has something contagious, the advice is to cull. If an animal has a condition that doesn't affect the rest of the herd, the emphasis is on the bottom line. How much is this animal worth? Livestock vets don't see a lot of clients who are emotionally attached to their animals. It took me more than a couple years, but I eventually made the mental transition from "pet owner" to "farmer."

After reading Diarrhea (scours) in small ruminants by the University of Maryland Extension Service, I checked his eyelids and realized he was anemic, so he was also probably fighting worms. I've given him Cydectin for the worms, as well as daily doses of "pig paste," which is a probiotic with iron in it. I've also been giving him NutriDrench, which is propylene glycol and molasses with vitamins and minerals. Yesterday, he was no longer able to lift his head to drink, so I started giving him water with corn syrup in a bottle. I really thought he would be dead this morning, but when he made it through another night, I decided to see if he could tolerate goat milk. He loved it and eagerly sucked on the bottle.

I'm trying not to get attached to him, because he also happens to be a cryptorchid (has only one testicle descended), so he is worthless as a ram and can't easily be castrated to become a fiber wether. Why am I trying so hard to save an animal whose fate is to eventually become lamb chops? Some could reasonably argue that it would be more humane to simply put him down. At times like this, I wonder if I have really come so far from the emotionally-attached pet owner in suburbia. I've no doubt that some "real" farmers would have put him down by now, rather than invest the time to bottle feed him, medicate him, and attempt to clean the diarrhea off his back end. I'm not sure if I'm eternally optimistic or naive, but I just keep thinking that if he was meant to die, he would have died. Who am I to make that decision? So, I'll just have to keep trying to get him well, while guarding my heart against his inevitable end.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

News from Elsewhere

I'm always finding interesting articles from Elsewhere (as opposed to here, which is the Middle of Nowhere) and it recently occurred to me that some of you might be interested. About once a week, or whenever I have a few articles of interest to share, I'll post links with brief descriptions. So, here goes:

  • Using fireplace ashes in your garden is an interesting article, which is perfectly titled. You'll learn what's in ashes, when it's helpful in your garden, and when not to use it. Mike is headed out right now to spread ashes on our hayfield, and our wood stove will produce a lot more ashes over the winter.

  • I've blogged about the Dervaes family in the past, but now there is a documentary film, HomeGrown, that shows you how they grow 6,000 pounds of produce on their 1/5 acre urban lot in Pasadena, CA.

  • Here's a great story about a family that has a grassfed dairy in Iowa. The pictures of their beautiful Jersey cows in the pasture are stunning.

  • Also in Iowa, they're researching how to use grass to control weeds in vineyards. Sounds weird, but it appears to be working better than mulch or cultivation!

  • E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection is the story of a commercial hamburger. Who could have imagined that a single hamburger patty could contain beef from three different states, as well as Uruguay? And how can anyone think that we can have any level of quality control on food like that?

  • I came across Local Burger's website the other day, and if you live in Kansas, I'm jealous! I wish we had a restaurant like this near us!
Local Burger is leading the evolution of fast food with fresh, organic, local, and sustainable fare that is free of unnatural additives and preservatives. At Local Burger, we consider the special diet, the environment, the economy, animal welfare, and the health of everyone who eats our food.

Have you ever wondered what happens to all that fertilizer that's sprayed on cornfields in the Midwest? If you enjoyed King Corn, the documentary film about how corn is grown and how it's used in our food supply -- kind of like you enjoy a horror flick -- you might like to see what happens next. Ian and Curtis are back with Big River, a new documentary, which tells us the rest of the story on industrialized corn.

Big River Trailer from Wicked Delicate Films on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to write a brief post today to tell all of you how thankful I am that you're a part of my life (whether or not you're in the U.S. today celebrating Thanksgiving). I don't even remember why I started this blog four years ago, but I know that today I keep writing because of you. I appreciate all of the feedback -- yes, all of it. Of course, it feels good when people "get it" and agree with me, but it's also important when I know that I haven't done a good job of communicating my ideas. I know we don't have all the answers about food, animal husbandry, sustainability, and definitely not gardening, but we love to keep trying, and if I can help just one of you avoid some of my mistakes, then it's worth it for me to keep writing. And if you're reading this to live vicariously through me, that's cool too. We talked about this for nine years before taking the plunge and moving out here, so I really believe that everything happens in its own time, whenever it's meant to happen. We can't push the creek to make it move faster.

Now, I have to get down to the kitchen and start peeling vegetables, stuffing the turkey, mixing up the bread dough and a dozen other things. Company is coming in four hours, and people always expect a lot of good food when they visit. Can't say I blame them. I expect a lot of good food from my kitchen every day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Curried pumpkin soup & the Firefly Grill

The sensory highlight of the Organic Gardening Day for me was lunch! I think it was the sensory highlight for a lot of people. Every time anyone mentioned lunch, people started cheering and clapping. The conference center happily catered to our group's every whim by bringing in all sorts of fresh, organic, locally grown produce and meats to create some outstanding dishes.

The curried pumpkin soup was my personal favorite. It's a creation of Chef Niall Campbell of the Firefly Grill in Effingham, IL. Their remote location has not slowed them down one bit -- they've been featured in Bon Apetit as one of the "hot ten" eco-friendly restaurants in America and in the Chicago Tribune as a "restaurant worth the trip," which is 210 miles from the city! The building is made from recycled steel and reclaimed barn wood. They have their own on-site organic garden, which is irrigated with water from their pond, and they buy produce, meat, and dairy from about 45 farmers. Chef Niall says he can drive past the farm that raises his beef and see the cattle out there grazing. Talk about quality control! But really it's about taste -- fresh just tastes better.

The moment I tasted the curried pumpkin soup, my taste buds were in culinary heaven. I ooohed and mmmed and sighed. I was even more excited because I'd already seen the copy of the recipe and knew I'd be able to duplicate this delicacy at home. Of course, it uses a real pumpkin. Chef Niall prefers to use one of the heirlooms, such as Long Island Cheese or the Cinderella Pumpkin (Rouge Vif d'Etampes), which run in the 10-pound range, according to my Seed Saver Exchange catalog. So, without further ado, here is the recipe -- and as a really special treat, Chef Niall and Kristie, his wife, who helps him run the restaurant, have agreed to pop in a couple times on Wednesday to answer any questions that you might have about the recipe or their restaurant!

Curried Pumpkin Soup


1 whole pumpkin
1 1/4 T. unsalted butter
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
2 oz. chopped ginger
1 T. coriander powder
1 T. turmeric
1 T. white pepper
1 T. cumin
1 T. cardamon
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 T. clove
1 T. fenugreek seed crushed
1 c. orange juice
1 c. cream
salt and pepper to taste

Roast whole pumpkin at 350 degrees for 1 hour until soft. Make certain to save juice in dish and run through a fine mesh strainer. Let pumpkin cool and remove all seeds, remove skin and cut pumpkin into 2" X 2" pieces. In a large pot combine butter, onions, and ginger and cook on medium heat for two minutes until melted. Add pumpkin, orange juice, cream, pumpkin juice, and spices, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes then puree with immersion blender or food processor and serve.



This post is part of Real Food Wednesday, where you can find more food-related posts.

Did you kill rosemary?

Among the highlights of Organic Gardening Day, I won a two-foot tall rosemary plant. They raffled off about eight of them, and as they were doing so, I heard several people around me talking about how they'd killed rosemary multiple times. Still, I coveted those rosemary plants and really hoped I'd win one. When they called my number, I was as excited as any little kid on Christmas morning. Then as I proudly walked away with my lovely rosemary plant, people began telling me their rosemary tales of woe.

"I've killed so many, I don't even try to overwinter them anymore," said one woman.

"We always kill them," said another. "I think we overwater them," chimed in her husband.

"Oh, that's so pretty," said another woman, "but I always kill them. I think I underwater them."

"But she said they kill theirs with too much water," I said as I pointed to the woman behind me. The underwatering gardener just shrugged with a questioning look on her face.

Not one to be deterred, I walked right up to the man who had been conducting the drawing and asked him what I should do to keep my rosemary alive over the winter. He said it needs to stay cool, but in a sunny spot, and I should make sure not to give it too much water if it goes dormant. If it keeps growing, however, it will need more water. I should have asked how I would know if it was dormant.

So, I came home and posted on Facebook that I'd won this lovely plant, which everyone says they kill, and I pleaded for someone with some level of positive rosemary knowledge to chime in on the subject. What did I get? Five rosemary killer confessions and one who says she can't kill hers with a blow torch, but she has no idea why it's thriving.

So, what about all of you? Is there anyone out there who can tell me the secret to keeping rosemary alive over the winter?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Insanely busy, fun weekend

Before I could even begin to write today's post, I had to just sit and think. I'm sitting at the dining room table and watching the geese on the pond. It looks so effortless and relaxing the way they seem to just float across the water. If you think about it though, you know that they're paddling their feet underneath. But that's what geese do. It's in their nature to be paddling gracefully across the pond. By contrast, they look clumsy and awkward on dry land.

People sometimes tell me that I make my lifestyle look easy. I always laugh. It's not easy, but I love what I'm doing -- just like those geese. The past three days are a perfect example. They're a bit of a blur. Every moment was packed, except when I was sleeping, and I only had four hours of sleep Friday night!

On Friday, an aspiring apprentice took the train from Chicago to spend a day with us, seeing what we do and deciding if this is really what she wants to do next spring as an independent study for five weeks in April and May. While she was here, we had to go about our daily chores, which included (on that day) breeding goats and trying to stop the sheep from breeding. We had to catch the rams to relocate them 1/4 mile away from the ewes so that I don't wind up with a flock of unregisterable lambs next spring.

On Friday, our new milking machine arrived. We generally milk no more than 10 goats at a time, because that's about all that our daughters can handle, and I can only do about four at a sitting before my hands feel like they're going to fall off. (I know I'm a wimp!) So, after seven years of hand milking, we finally decided to take the plunge and get a two-goat milker. With everything else going on, we only had a few minutes to unpack it and give it a cursory look. When Mike's Thanksgiving break starts on Wednesday, it's going out to the barn, and we'll figure out what kind of adjustments we need to make in order to start using it.

Saturday began at 3 a.m. as Mike and I headed down to Arthur with our paltry nine turkeys that we raised this year. It's the smallest number of turkeys we've raised since -- well, ever! (You can read more about our turkey hatching woes here and turkey-coyote woes here.) Anyway, we arrived at the poultry processing facility at 6:30ish and were able to unload immediately, which was great because our day was just beginning!

After a quick breakfast at Yoder's, we headed back up I-57 to Champaign to attend U of I's Organic Gardening Day. I was worried about being able to stay awake with only four hours of sleep, but it was not a problem. (Adrenaline is a wonderful thing.) After 20 years of struggling with gardening, I've finally decided that trial and error isn't always the most expedient way to learn things. (Yeah, I can be a slow learner sometimes.) So, when a friend told me about this workshop, I figured out how to make it work (after briefly whining about it being on our turkey processing day). I have a lot of info that I can't wait to share with you, but it will have to be spread out over the next week or two.

Yesterday, Mike and I delivered turkeys and took home Sarah, our wonderful apprentice, whose three weeks was already over. This was the first year that I helped deliver turkeys, and it was fun to finally meet some of our customers (very few compared to previous years). It was sad saying bye to Sarah however. She's been an awesome apprentice, and after about the third time yesterday that I said, "I miss Sarah," Mike joked, "If you're going to get this attached to interns, you can't have any more." I put on my best toddler-pouting face, and he laughed.

It's very quiet around here today. I can hear the ticking of the clock on the wall. It's just me, because Mike and Katherine are at school. Jonathan is spending a week at his grandparent's helping take care of his grandfather who has Alzheimer's. Margaret will be arriving home from U of I tomorrow, and I can hardly wait to see her. Although I have to teach tomorrow, I need to get started with my Thanksgiving cooking. I have a cranberry sauce recipe that says you can make it up to a week ahead of time, and I need to bake my pumpkin cookies. I need to make a batch of chevre today, so we can use that for chocolate truffles and a pumpkin cheesecake. Life isn't slowing down any time in the foreseeable future, but I love it -- and that's the important thing, right?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Those rascally rams

We should have known that it was too good to be true. The rams had stayed in their pen ever since we separated them from the ewes a month ago. This weekend we were going to put them into breeding groups, but yesterday as I was driving down the road, I saw this: a busted gate and a contented Teddy lounging in the ewe's pasture. The other rams were off in the hayfield grazing.

The picture didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, but that's a 4 X 4 piece of lumber that we attached horizontally to the livestock panel, and it extended beyond the post. Somehow they moved the 4 X 4 enough that they were able to push the lower part of the panel through the opening. I can't even begin to explain how difficult it is going to be for us to unstick the livestock panel from its new position. I could explain how we thought that this was a brilliant idea for so many reasons, but obviously we were wrong, so there's not much point.

Now it is pointless to put them into breeding groups, because whoever lambs in five months could be the product of what happened today, or it could be from a breeding that happened shortly after separating them into groups. We'll have to separate them again -- oh, that's going to be fun -- and wait a couple weeks so that at least we'll know which ones are of dubious heritage.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Where to start?

"Voting with your dollars" has become a common refrain for people in the sustainable movement. When you buy conventional apples, you are voting for conventional apples. Farmers will grow what we are willing to buy. Since cost is the number one objection most people voice against buying organic, that has to be discussed first. Yes, some organic foods are more expensive than conventional, but the key word is some. That tea in my grocery cart is a store brand organic, and it costs exactly the same as the conventional Lipton tea. When people buy Lipton Earl Grey instead of the organic Earl Grey, they've just voted for conventional tea. What really confuses me is that I've seen Tazo tea -- in two different supermarkets now -- priced the same for organic chai and regular chai. If the regular chai isn't gathering dust on the shelf, then the Tazo people are might stop making the organic, especially if it costs more to produce. So, my first tip is to simply pay attention to the prices. Organic is not always more expensive. In fact, yesterday the organic gala and honeycrisp apples were actually 20 cents a pound cheaper than the conventional gala!

Second, if you can't buy organic, at least buy natural. Instead of buying the broccoli with cheese sauce in the freezer section, just buy plain broccoli. Educate yourself about the difference between food and food-like substances. Cheddar cheese is food; Cheez Whiz is a food-like substance. Your best bet is to buy things without an ingredient list or nutritional facts -- things like fresh broccoli and apples. But if it has an ingredient list, read it -- and avoid foods that contain ingredients that you can't pronounce or that have undergone a process that you can't repeat in your own kitchen, like ethoxylating and hydrogenating.

Third, grow what you can. I had big plans for bringing tomatoes into the house this fall, but the blight killed them all. At times like this, it's nice that we have the ability to bring in food from other places, but it shouldn't be a regular habit. It was actually a little frustrating, however, to see organic tomatoes from Canada in the grocery store. If they can grow tomatoes in Canadian greenhouses, why can't we do it in Illinois? But I digress -- you can grow some of your own food, even if you live in an apartment. We grow alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts regularly, and there are all sorts of fresh herbs you can grow in pots. In fact, some do better in pots than in the ground. You can also grow tomatoes and potatoes in pots. My tomato plan fell through this year, but I'm still hoping to try potatoes.

Know that you can change your eating habits if you're motivated to do it. My kids laugh at me when I say that 22 years ago, I thought pickles and potato chips counted as vegetables in your diet. I am not joking. I thought a cheeseburger (on a white bun with American cheese) and potato chips was a nutritionally complete meal. But I started reading, and I started making changes where I could. As a result, my children have grown up eating a nutritious diet, knowing how to cook for a family, and now knowing how to grow a lot of their own food. And it all started two decades ago when I stopped buying a liter of soda every day and started buying unbleached flour and brown rice. Today, I'm researching how to grow my own mushrooms in the basement. Don't worry about growing your own tomatoes if you're still eating Twinkies and Bic Macs. Figure out where you're at today, and make one little change. Next week, make another change . . . and then another . . . and then another . . .




Today's post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade! and Frugal Friday at Life as Mom!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review of "Food, Inc"

Do you eat genetically modified food? Yes, you do, unless you grow and produce everything yourself. According to Food, Inc, which is now available on DVD, 70% of the processed food in the supermarket has genetically modified food in it. If you consume any soy products -- including "vegetable" oil -- there's a 90% chance that you're consuming genetically modified soy.

We went to the theater to see Food, Inc when it was released this past summer, and within a couple minutes, I was trying to remember if I had anything in my purse with which I could take notes. The information comes fast and furious in this documentary, so if you seriously want to know more about your food, you might want to plan to watch it at least a couple times before sending it back to Netflix. Then again, you might just want to buy it.

The movie relies heavily on information from Michael Pollan (author of Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food) and Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation), who also narrate parts of the film. We are taken through commercial chicken farms and a pork slaughterhouse to see the plight of meat animals, as well as the workers in those facilities. It doesn't take long for the viewer to realize that poultry farmers are little more than indentured servants to corporate giants like Tyson. After taking out loans of half a million dollars or more to build their poultry houses, they have no choice but to raise chickens according to the corporation's rules -- and subsist on wages that hover around the poverty level. The deleted scenes on the DVD offer more of the interview with the poultry farmers, giving the viewer a better understanding of their plight.

Stories from a meat-packing plant were equally disturbing. At the largest pork slaughterhouse in the world, 32,000 hogs are slaughtered every day. Workers who handle pork all day long wind up with infections under their fingernails, which then fall off. In the deleted scenes, we hear about a 200-pound dead hog falling on a pregnant woman, who then had a miscarriage. Another worker tells of how there was not even a moment of silence before returning to work when a man was trampled to death by hogs. Because of the bad treatment of workers at the plant, most employees are now bussed in from a 100-mile radius around the facility.

We follow a family through a fast-food drive-through lane, as well as a supermarket and listen to them justify why they buy cheeseburgers for their daughters but not fresh fruit -- even though their young daughter begs for a pear in the grocery store. "It's too expensive." The father, who has Type II diabetes spends $130 for a bottle of 50 pills, and that's only one of his medications. They seem conflicted about whether a change in diet might actually help his condition, even though the evidence is quite clear. I personally took care of my father for two years before he died, and within a month after he moved in with me, he no longer needed any of his three different diabetes medications, and we kept his blood sugar under control with diet until his death. Type II diabetes used to be rare. Today, $1 out of every $5 spent on health care is spent on diabetic patients.

There is some good news though. There is a visit to Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm in Virginia, where he raises pastured chickens and grass-fed beef. He talks about healing the land, our planet, and our bodies by switching to sustainable agricultural practices. One comment that resonated with me was when Salatin said that we should strive to have fewer sick people next year. That would be a worthy goal.

These are just a few highlights. I can't possibly cram all the info into a blog post, so if you're serious about healthier eating, I highly recommend this video.



If you enjoyed this post, you might also want to read my review of Fresh, another documentary released this year about our food system.

For more posts on real food, check out Real Food Wednesday.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bad apples?

I'm always surprised when people with their own apple trees don't use the apples. They usually assume the apples are bad because they're not pretty on the outside. In other words, their apples don't look like the apples in the store. Well, that's kind of like comparing yourself to the supermodel that's been Photoshopped on the cover of the fashion magazines. Those apples look like that because they've been sprayed with pesticides and fungicides while on the tree. After they're picked, they're waxed so they're shiny and last longer. Organic apples are picked through, and only the prettiest make it to the stores, because produce managers know that people are prejudiced against ugly apples. The above photo shows you what a few of our Granny Smith apples look like this year. Although they're not perfect on the outside, most of them are delicious on the inside. Sometimes, part of the apple might be bad, but the rest of it is still perfectly edible, and once it's cut up and put into something like a pie or apple crisp, no one knows that it once had an Ugly Duckling past. Although you might think that organic apples are too expensive to buy, are you overlooking free apples in your own yard?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Forcing bulbs - time to get started!


If you're like me, you have a few spring bulbs that never found their way into the ground this fall. I always do! If I get everything planted, then I get overly optimistic and go out and buy more. And I repeat this exercise until I wind up buying more than I can actually plant. Luckily, a few years ago, I discovered how to force bulbs. It's an incredibly simple process! Savvy Gardener has some good advice about how to force bulbs, as well as the Minnesota Extension Service.

This is a picture of a tulip and daffodil that I forced a couple years ago. Although these articles say not to mix species because they might bloom at different times, I do it because I like to have a pot that just keeps blooming and blooming. And sometimes you do wind up with different varieties blooming at the same time, and it's really pretty.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Farm photo fun

Sarah, our apprentice, has taken a lot of very cool photos since arriving a couple weeks ago. I love this one! I wonder what Lizzie is saying? (Yeah, I know she's just chewing her cud, but it looks like she is saying something interesting.)

This picture of Jo seriously needs to have a thought bubble above it.

Katherine and Sarah have also had a great time taking pictures of each other.

I can't believe Katherine got into the creek -- she said the water was quite cold!


Sarah has been obsessed with horses most of her life and made fast friends with MidKnight. She's been riding for about 10 years and says he's the calmest horse she's ever known. Yes, she just hopped up on his back in the middle of the pasture.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Should raw milk be banned?


Last week, I tweeted a link to I drink raw milk, an article by Joel Salatin, and I commented that I liked the article, but the comments made me want to scream. Later that day, I received this response via Twitter:
mitoticspindle @antiquityoaks I'm all for small farms and sustainable agriculture, but I've gotten ill from raw milk--have to say I agree with the comments
Well, I've gotten ill from Vicodin and Tramadol and about five different non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. Should we ban them? My husband got sick after eating a soy cheese pizza once. Should we ban that? In Illinois, they tried to ban church potlucks after people got sick from one, but they didn't get very far. My mother and uncle (and a few million other people) died from smoking cigarettes, but no one is willing to attempt to ban them, in spite of the fact that there is absolutely nothing good about cigarettes. Why do we think that it's okay for people to choose to use tobacco, and at the same time, we don't think people should be able to choose to buy raw milk? What about capitalism and our free market?

From reading some of the comments on Salatin's article, I've come to the conclusion that some people have no idea what pasteurization does to milk. People seem to think it is some highly scientific process that renders milk completely harmless -- and that milk is inherently contaminated. On the contrary, if milk has been pasteurized and is then handled incorrectly, it can become just as toxic as any other food that is handled incorrectly. Any food can make you sick if it's not handled properly. Remember the problems the U.S. had recently with peanuts and spinach? Has anyone suggested we ban them?

So, just in case you were wondering -- here's a primer on milk and pasteurization. Pasteurization was started because people were getting tuberculosis from cows through their milk. Today, 48 states in the U.S. are certified TB-free in cattle, and all 50 are TB-free in goats. There is an accurate and inexpensive TB test available to make sure your goats or cows don't have TB in case you're worried about it.

Milk is full of bacteria, and contrary to popular belief, this is not a bad thing. It's the basis of cheese and yogurt making. Milk is alive. Pasteurization kills it. Just as antibiotics indiscriminately kill good and bad bacteria in our bodies, pasteurization indiscriminately kills both good and bad bacteria in milk. How? By heating milk to 145 degrees and holding it there for 30 minutes, the vast majority of bacteria and other living organisms are killed. Ultra-pasteurized milk has been treated at 280 degrees, which kills everything instantly. Dairies like UP, because it means milk will not spoil for 45 days in an unopened carton, meaning they will have less waste, which equals more profit.

What's wrong with this picture?
It's probably not a big deal to some people, but you cannot make cheese or yogurt with milk that has been ultra-pasteurized, even after adding cultures and rennet. It's just that dead. More important, however, is that some people can't drink pasteurized milk. This is often misdiagnosed as a lactose intolerance. Ask just about anyone with cows or goats, and they've been approached by people who need raw milk. Yes, they need raw milk. Some merely need raw milk if they're going to have milk in their diet at all, because they need the live cultures in the milk to help them digest it. But there are some people with severe medical problems, and raw milk is one of the only foods they can digest. Some of them are able to find a farm where they can buy raw milk, but others wind up moving to the country and starting their own herd of dairy goats or cows. Every year, someone buys goats from me because they need raw milk. Can you imagine having a loved one so ill that you'd be willing to leave your current life, move to a new home, and begin living a completely different lifestyle?

I use raw milk a lot. I even make cheese and buttermilk with it. It seems pointless to pasteurize milk for mozzarella when it's going to be put on a pizza or lasagna and baked, because heating it will essentially pasteurize it. Using milk in cooking also pasteurizes it, especially when you make something like pudding where you're boiling it. Ironically, I've only had one batch of cheese and one batch of yogurt go bad during processing -- both were from pasteurized milk. Assuming that milk is safe because it's pasteurized is a bad assumption. People can get sick from pasteurized milk. So, why don't we just ban milk completely? And while we're at it, we could also ban cigarettes.

Nothing replaces common sense -- not even legislation.

For more posts on real food, visit Fight Back Friday.

Soap, biofuels, food and the rain forests

Everyone reading this blog, including yours truly, is contributing to the destruction of rain forests in Indonesia -- yes, even if you (like me) buy shade-grown coffee. The culprit now is palm oil and palm kernel oil. Apparently, the demand for palm oil is so high that rain forests are being leveled to make room for palm plantations. How are we all contributing? Because, we buy food, soap, and cosmetics made with palm and palm kernel oil, which is also being used to create biofuels in some parts of the world. I recently came across this disturbing information when researching the benefits of various oils in soap.

Although I love my soap, there is always room for improvement, and I know some oils have various healing properties, which was why I started searching for more information. Among the changes I'll be making with my soap, I'm going to create a new recipe that includes avocado and castor oils, and when my current supply of palm and palm kernel oils run out, I won't be buying more. After reading several articles on the topic, my conscious does not allow me to continue using something that is not being sustainably produced -- especially when I purchase a 50-pound block -- and ultimately I have options. I can use other oils to make my soap.

Learning about palm oil and rain forest destruction has make me realize another important aspect of buying locally as much as possible. If Indonesia were not half a planet away from Illinois, I'd have known about this a long time ago. Illinois does not produce a lot of high-quality oils (corn and soybean oil don't make great soap), but I'm going to look into the possibility of using lard from our pigs, since I know its history. That's not as simple as it sounds, because it would involve rendering the fat, which I've never done before -- however, as you all know, lack of experience has never stopped me from trying anything. I've also decided to start using organic oils when I can find them. So far I've found organic olive, sunflower, and coconut oils, which are three of the most popular oils used in soapmaking. As they say, back to the drawing board!

If you'd like to learn more about palm oil and the rain forests, you can read The guilty secrets of palm oil by a UK newspaper or The cost of the biofuel boom by Pulitzer-winning author Tom Knudson or The Palm Oil Crisis by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's for breakfast?

It's no secret that most breakfast cereals are bad for you, but now consumers can get a better understanding of exactly how bad they are, as well as how they stack up with each other. If you can't find your cereal listed here, there is a cereal calculator here where you can input data from the "Nutrition Facts" on the label, and the calculator will give it a score, which tells you how healthy it is -- or not. It's especially sad (although not surprising) that the least nutritious cereals are those marketed towards children.

So, what can you do for breakfast? When I searched my blog, I realized I've talked about this a lot in the past, so instead of reinventing the menu, here are links to some of my breakfast suggestions from past posts:

It's winter now, and I'm enjoying oatmeal or grits several times a week. Before you say, "Eeyew!" and head off to read another blog, however, check out these great ideas to make that gray goo delicious.

Biscuits are one of my favorite breakfast foods, and they take less time to mix up than it takes for my oven to heat up. Here's my recipe for quick, yummy biscuits.

Hash brown potatoes
have always been one of my favorite breakfast foods, and shredding a small potato takes less time than you think.

French toast is another super easy, delicious, nutritious, and inexpensive breakfast. It's especially good with dense homemade bread that has the body to soak up the egg and milk mixture. Since it takes the same amount of time to make one or two loaves of bread, I'll often make a double batch for dinner one evening, planning to make French toast for breakfast the next day.

And no breakfast list would be complete without a recipe for buttermilk pancakes, which is also quick, easy, and inexpensive. If your children don't like them, throw in a few chocolate chips, and they'll still be less expensive and more nutritious than commercial breakfast cereals.

I'm sure all of you have ideas for good breakfasts, so don't be shy -- share your ideas in the comment section!

For more blog posts on real food, check out Kelly the Kitchen Kop. For other money-saving ideas, check Life as Mom, and for more recipes, check out Foodie Friday and Friday Food.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Meet Sarah


Sarah arrived Sunday afternoon, November 1, to start her three-week apprenticeship on the farm. She's taking a break from college to see if she's interested in pursuing a degree and career in sustainable agriculture. As a vegetarian, she fits in great (our daughters are vegetarians) and has already learned to make mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. She got up bright and early Monday to start learning to milk goats. Throughout the week, she met all the different animals and started sharing in their care. Friday, she started learning to spin wool into yarn. I just love the lumpy-bumpy yarn that new spinners create.

Sarah and I had a great time last Monday afternoon trying to cross the creek with pans of grain when the goats had escaped from their pasture. They met us the moment we stepped onto dry land. Of course, they wanted the treasures we possessed and proceeded to jump on us and walk in front of us as we tried to encourage them to go back to their pen. Somehow we made it to our destination without tripping or spilling the feed, which we had taken over there for the sole purpose of enticing them back into their pasture, where they will be safe from predators.

Saturday, Molly escaped from her pasture and went across the creek to visit with the goats. I had just been talking about how we needed to work with the cows on halter training some more. That skill would have come in handy Saturday morning. Instead, Mike, Katherine, Sarah, and I tried all sorts of tricks to capture her. I eventually got her to follow me as I pretended not to care whether or not she followed me -- and I just happened to be holding alfalfa cubes behind my back as I walked away from her.

Sarah really likes Pearl, our bottle-baby goat, and is wishing she could take her back with her to the Chicago suburbs when she leaves shortly before Thanksgiving. I can hardly believe a week has already passed. We've had a great time teaching and learning from each other, and I'm hoping the next two weeks don't go by too fast.

To hear more about Sarah's adventures, you can read her blog, The Greener Sheep.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

You don't like dark turkey meat?

I never liked dark turkey meat growing up, and then I didn't eat commercially raised meat for 14 years. Now I eat only our homegrown turkeys, and it took me a long time to bring myself to try the dark meat, because I remember thinking that it tasted terrible. After writing about heritage turkeys a couple weeks ago, a light bulb went on in my head. Why do we treat dark turkey meat as if it were the same as the breast meat? It's different! Not all chicken recipes work equally well with dark and white meat, so why should we expect to be able to just dig into a turkey leg or thigh as if it were a piece of breast meat?

So, Jonathan and I got crazy with the two turkey legs we had in the refrigerator. We looked for recipes that worked well with pork, beef, and chicken, thinking that they should also transfer well to the dark turkey meat. And we were right! The first thing we did was a pineapple chicken recipe using a turkey leg and thigh that had been cooked in simmering water much like we cook a stew hen. The next day we made turkey and mushrooms with gravy. As you can see from the picture of the pineapple turkey, it looks a lot like chipped beef, and I really thought that it tasted more like beef than any other type of meat. If we had added a chopped green pepper, it would have tasted like a pepper steak recipe from a Chinese cookbook.

I'm kind of embarrassed to say that I used to cringe at the thought of having to deal with the dark meat on a turkey, and most of the time, I'd stick it in left-over containers, and my husband would take it to work for his lunch. But those days are gone! Now I'm excited about trying other beef and pork recipes with my turkey legs. I'll no longer think of it as second fiddle to the breast meat. It's uniquely delicious and is just as versatile as the breast meat. In fact, I'm starting to think I might actually like the dark meat more.

For more posts on real food, check out Fight Back Friday, and for more recipes, see Foodie Friday.

Using vermicompost

To collect my vermicompost, I use a spoon to scoop a little off the top. I do this so I don't accidentally pick up any worms. After all, I want them to stay in the worm bin to continue eating and pooping.I put the vermicompost into a gallon jug. After I've added five or six spoonfuls to the jug, I add water and let it sit for a day or two. This picture was taken as soon as I mixed it up. It gets much darker with time as the vermicompost dissolves.Currently I'm using it to water my tomato and pineapple plants that had previously been on the deck during the summer. Now they're in my dining room in front of the sliding glass door. The tomato plant is scrawny, but it's alive, which is more than I can say for the tomatoes in the garden, which all succumbed to a late blight. The pineapple is doing surprisingly well. I tried growing a pineapple plant a couple years ago, and it did not grow anywhere near this big this fast. I feel confident that the vermicompost is making the difference. I never used any fertilizer or any kind of supplement with the previous pineapple plant. If you want to know how I started the pineapple plant, you can check out my post from May. It's even grown a lot since I last updated you in August.

When I start seeds in my basement in January, I'll be watering them with the vermicompost tea. Of course, I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I've got worms

Yes, I really do have worms. They reside in a large plastic storage container and eat my coffee grounds, tea bags, vegetable scraps, and even some junk mail or used paper towels now and then. They spend much of their time in my living room, but sometimes I move them into my basement. They stay in the living room as long as I'm feeding them, but once the feed gets too far ahead of the worms, I move them into the basement and forget about them for a couple months.

I started my worm bin in February. Most of the worms were babies, and you could hardly see them. Now they're long and wavy, and to my surprise, I kind of enjoy handling them. Every now and then some will crawl up the side of the worm bin, and although I imagine they'd find their way home if I didn't help, I worry about them. So, I pick them up and put them back down on their bed of vermicompost (worm poop) and food scraps.

Yes, the worm bin is one of those plastic storage containers that you can get at discount stores, so it's not expensive to make it. You drill six or eight holes in the sides so the worms can get air, and you put another six or eight holes in the bottom so the bin can drain if you wind up with too much moisture.

A few people have asked if it stinks, and the answer is no. It even spent two weeks in a public library this spring in celebration of Earth Day and was a huge hit, especially among kids. The vermicompost itself has no smell, but if you were to put the wrong kind of scraps in there, they could attract fruit flies or start to stink because they'd be molding and decomposing before the worms could eat them. You should never put meat or bones in a worm bin. I've also heard that too much citrus can kill your worms, so I don't put citrus in there at all. I have a regular compost bin outside my kitchen door, and I throw my citrus in there. It's a good idea to bury fruit scraps and anything else that can attract fruit flies. Since I put my coffee grounds and filter in there every day, I generally just layer everything, so this morning's coffee grounds cover yesterday's vegetable scraps. The brown stuff in the above picture is vermicompost. Since it looks so much like coffee grounds, I feed my worms on one side of the bin for several months while I'm harvesting the vermicompost from the other side.

So, what do I do with the vermicompost? I'll talk about that tomorrow. I have to run now because we're working on getting the barn and the goats ready for winter.

This post is part of Frugal Fridays, where you can find more money-saving ideas.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

And the winner is . . .

Momanna98 is the winner of the soap giveaway. Drop me an email, deborah (at) Antiquity Oaks (dot) com, with your address and whether you want the animals or the Christmas soaps. Also let me know if you need unscented, or if a variety of scents is okay.

Thanks to everyone for your comments. It really helps me to figure out what to blog about. Sometimes I write about things, thinking that no one really wants to hear about this, and then I'm really surprised by the comments and the number of visitors to that post. Who knew that people were so interested in pigs and nuts or the relationship between pigs and chickens? It was especially nice hearing from those of you who don't comment often, so I have a better idea of what you like to read. Thanks again to all of you!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Our first cria: here and gone


Saturday morning I was dressed up and ready to leave for my nephew's birthday party when Jonathan walked in and said that he had found what looked like half of a dead baby llama. What? How? We only have one female llama, and she shouldn't be having a cria until next April, since llamas have an 11-month pregnancy. We bought her in May, and she was not supposed to be bred. I pulled on my farm boots and coat, hoping I had completely covered my clean clothes.

Everyone ran outside and through the barn and to the far pasture where we saw Sovalye, the livestock guardian dog, standing over something in the grass. We smelled the cria about the same time we saw it. Clearly it had been dead for quite some time. It smelled like rotten meat, and Sovalye was very interested in it. We had no idea whether it was a boy or a girl, because the back half of it was completely missing. We knew Sovalye was not to blame, because he had not been in that pasture for weeks. It was hard for us to believe the llamas would have let coyotes in the pasture to eat their young one, even if it was dead.

Only one thing now made sense to me -- now I understood why Katy looked thin when I was in the pasture a week and a half earlier. Two Wednesdays ago, I was taking pictures of all the animals with the fall foliage. When I saw Katy, I thought she looked thin, but when I compared her to the other llamas, I couldn't say why. When I downloaded the pictures to the computer, I had to say that she looked like a perfectly normal llama. Now I realize that she must have recently given birth, which was why she looked "thin" to me.

I contacted the breeder we bought her from, and she said that another llama had unexpectedly given birth two weeks earlier. She concluded that one of the boys in their mama-baby pasture had reached sexual maturity a little early and got the two pregnant. Luckily their baby survived. We will probably never know why ours died. Perhaps the mama gave birth in the rain, and the baby died from hypothermia. That's about the only thing that makes sense to me. Considering how many other animals the llamas have saved from coyote attacks, I have to believe that they would have protected their own young one.

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