Friday, December 25, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

"I had a facelift!"

You know that's my blog saying that it had a facelift. Right? I'm not saying that I'd never have a facelift (because I never say never, as it seems to be a sure-fire way of making things happen), but having a facelift is on my to-do list right behind jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. But I digress ...

The blog's facelift is all part of a bigger plan. We're in the midst of a complete redesign of the Antiquity Oaks website. The technical stuff is done, and now I just have to write all new text for it because everything is woefully out of date. This blog will go back to being what it was when I started it in 2006, which was my personal diary of life on the farm.

The new website will have a blog that's geared towards the business of the farm -- animals for sale, garden information, farmer's market info, workshop and event scheduling, and other business stuff. As our homestead continues its transition to teaching farm, we're creating a website to better serve that need. Next year we'll have a garden partner who will be taking fresh produce to farmer's markets, so she'll be writing a lot of the posts over there. I'll still write the personal kidding stories on this blog, but the simple birth announcements and info about kids for sale will be on that blog. Make sense?

I think it will serve everyone's needs better. I know this blog has a lot of readers from all over the country and the world, and you don't really care to hear about events on the farm or produce to sell because you're too far away, so you won't have to read about those things. On the flip side, farm customers don't necessarily care about our house building adventures (which are on-going after 11 years in the house).

The above photo was one of the hundred or so taken by my daughter when she was home in October. I figured that since I had a new haircut after 9 years with my old one, I should probably get a new profile pic for social media, so that when people meet me in the real world, they won't get surprised that I look completely different. And sad to say, but I have also had to start wearing glasses in the past two years.

If you're reading this post via email, head over to the blog to see it in person and let me know what you think of its facelift!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

First snow of the season

After having the warmest October on record, and an unseasonably warm November, the real winter weather is finally here. This does not exactly make me happy. I know if my children were still small, they'd all be outside sledding and building snow people. But they're all grown, and single-digit temperatures and snow just make me worry about what's going to go wrong. Sure enough, this morning we woke up to learn that we have no heat. Luckily we have a wood stove in the basement, so we have it blazing, as well as a space heater, so we're not freezing, even though it was 5 degrees outside when we woke up today.

Julia the pig is due on Thanksgiving day, and I kept worrying that we'd go outside this morning to find a bunch of dead and frozen piglets, but I'm happy to report that she is still keeping those babies warm inside her big belly. We opened the door to the kidding barn a couple of days ago, hoping that she'd go in there because it's warmer than the pasture shelter they normally use. If she doesn't figure it out today, we'll lure her in there with some goat milk. The size of those teats is making me think she may not wait until Thanksgiving.

I'm excited that all three of my children will be home for Thanksgiving. Today's photos were all taken by my youngest. She arrived at 11:00 last night, driving across some pretty treacherous roads to get here. She counted at least 15 trucks in the ditches along I-80 and I-39. Everyone else will be arriving on Tuesday, including her boyfriend from Colorado, which is where she is going to graduate school.

I wish I could share all 150 of her pictures with you, but neither you nor I have the time for that, so these are a few of my favorites ...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Farm Crawl day 2

Yesterday was the first day of the Fourth Annual Livingston County Farm crawl, and the weather was about as close to perfect as it could ever be. 

Today is day two, and it started out raining! The rain is gone, though, and the sun is coming out, so I think we'll be fine the rest of the day. 

If you're in the area, you can head over to see the newly hatched chicks. Mike will be doing a cow milking demonstration at 3:00.

This might actually be the last year. A couple of the farmers are talking about moving away, and the others are just getting tired of doing it. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Who's my daddy?

It's Sunday, which has become my day for genealogy research. Anyone who has ever delved into their genealogy knows that you could spend all day, every day working on your family tree, so I quickly decided that I should isolate my efforts to Sundays.

I originally got interested in learning more about my genes a few months ago as I started dealing with my health problems. They say that about a third of autoimmune disease comes from your genes and the other two-thirds comes from environmental triggers and lifestyle choices, so I thought it might be helpful if I knew exactly how much the cards were stacked against me. Someone told me about, so I went online to find out how it works.

One of the first things I discovered is that lots of people use the service to find birth parents. Although I was adopted at birth, my parents kept in touch with my mother. However, she had no idea who my father was, and I had always accepted the fact that I would never know ... until now!

The only thing I've ever known about my father is that he was in the Navy and in Washington DC in May 1962. He was probably 18 or 19 years old, meaning that he would now be in his early 70s, assuming he is still alive.

So, a few months ago, I spit into a test tube and sent it off for analysis, and a few weeks later, I discovered I had 935 cousins! Wow! Unfortunately almost all of them are third cousins or even more distantly related, but to go from having almost no relatives in the world to 935 was an amazing discovery! Via email, I met one particularly knowledgeable and helpful cousin in England who told me that if I could get my mum to do the test, I'd be able to split my list of cousins into maternal and paternal side, so I contacted her, and she agreed. I was thinking that the 935 would be cut in half, but it hasn't been quite that helpful.

As it turns out, only 125 of those cousins are related to me through her. The rest are related to me through my father! Holy smokes! That would explain why almost all of the surnames listed by my DNA relatives are English -- Smith, Jones, Lewis, Parker, Wells, and so on. I'm assuming this is because her family came here from Norway and Sweden at the end of the 19th century, whereas my father's family is almost entirely British and obviously came to the US in the 1700s and earlier, so there are simply a lot more of them in this country to get tested. Although testing is available in northern European countries, this is a pretty popular American thing to do. (Plus, there are a lot more people in this country.)

I even have some African DNA in me, which probably means that a couple hundred years ago I had a great, great, great, great ... great grandmother and grandfather who were slave and slave owner. I think I remember reading somewhere that one of Thomas Jefferson's children with slave Sally Hemming had skin that was pale enough that he was able to live his life as a white person, which obviously would have been the case with my ancestor.

Some of my cousins go back to British royalty and one to Pocahontas. That doesn't mean that I do, because it could be a different branch of their family tree than the one we share in common, but I am even more excited than ever to figure out where I fit in the world.

The funniest thing about all of this is that I've been a huge anglophile my entire life. I've visited England twice, and the only TV show I've watched in the last 15 years is Downton Abbey. I've been drinking hot tea since I was a teenager in Texas, and I was drinking it with milk it, which is a very British thing to do. I didn't even know anyone who drank hot tea, much less tea with milk in it back then! I don't even know where I got the idea.

Years ago, I said that since I had no idea who my father was, I was going to make one up. He was British, and his ancestor came to this country because he was the second or third son of an aristocrat, and since he would not be inheriting his father's land and title, he decided to come to America to find his fortune. I needed an excuse for my expensive taste, and royal blood seemed like the most obvious explanation. It's pretty funny that even part of it has been proven true -- his family did come from England! I'm really looking forward to finding out about the rest of it!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It's not cute or sexy or fun

Here is something no one ever talks about on the homestead ... driveways. I'll never forget the day we moved out here, I walked around feeling like the queen of a small kingdom! We had 32 acres! The largest yard we'd ever had in the past was a mere half an acre, so 32 acres was huge!

Well, once the euphoria wore off, I realized that just like the ruler of any small kingdom, the owner of a small farm has to worry about keeping their roads in good repair. And we've not been so good about that the last few years. For at least two or three years, I've been sporadically trying to find someone to deliver more road rock out here. Finally, I got a recommendation from a friend!

So last Wednesday, we had road rock delivered. The road rock guy was surprised to learn that we didn't have a tractor or a skid loader to spread the rock. So, that meant that it was all spread by a human being -- mostly Mike. Want to know how he stays so thin and muscular? Working on the homestead is a great fitness plan.

We asked the rock guy to "tailgate it," which meant he was supposed to raise the bed of the dump truck and evenly spread the gravel on the driveway as he drove forward. It didn't work as well as we'd hoped. This pile of rock was knee high.

But, that's enough chatter! You really can't appreciate the gravity of this situation unless you see the before and after pictures. I don't think you really appreciate the top photo unless you know that it looked like this before the rock was delivered and spread ...

And you can really appreciate the improvement when driving on the driveway following a rain. Oh, yeah! Life will be so much better next spring!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Scaling back in one area of my life

If you've been hanging around here for very long, you know that I've produced most of my own body care products since 2003. I've even sold my own goat milk soap and a few other body care products. But we can't do it all, and I totally understand that some people don't even want to make their own soap or body butter. But you do want natural products with ingredients that you understand -- products that you could make yourself, if only you had the time and inclination. That's why I fell in love with Poofy Organics. Their ingredient lists are very similar to the ones I've used when making my own personal care products, which means they are all natural, and most are organic.

I've also come to the conclusion that I can't do it all. For years, I've been saying that I'm going to create my own all-natural version of Tiger Balm, and that still hasn't happened. Tiger Balm has petroleum jelly in it, which is (as the name implies) a petroleum product, and I hate the idea of slathering that on my skin. Biofreeze has green dye in it, which again, I hate using. Poofy, however, has an organic liniment called RUB-ology, which is made with beeswax and sunflower oil and essential oils and NO artificial colors -- or anything artificial, for that matter.

I looked for a VERY long time to find cosmetics that were non-toxic. If you've read my book Ecothrifty, you know that most cosmetics do contain toxic chemicals, including many that are carcinogenic. And that is one reason I only wear make-up about three times a year, usually only when I know there will be many photo-ops through the day, such as one of my children's graduation ceremonies. Back when I was doing regular television appearances to promote my books, I tried to not think about the chemicals in the make-up, and I'd wash it off my face as soon as I was off camera!

Anyway, as part of my scaling back -- and in an attempt to encourage others to trade in their toxic products for those that are truly toxin-free -- I've decided to become a Poofy GUIDE, which means I'm selling it. How is that scaling back, you ask? Because I'm not making my own AND selling it. This actually eliminates about 80% of the work! I might continue making my own goat milk soap, but as for the rest of the body care products, I've realized that I just need to stop trying to do everything. So, if you'd like to check out their products and see why I'm so excited, click here to visit the main website. And if you'd like to use a quick order form after checking out some of the products, click here.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Chick days!

I know most people get chicks in the spring, but when I'm getting chicks for breeding purposes, I like getting them in late summer or early fall so that they can mature over the fall and winter and be ready to lay in early spring. Ultimately we get a lot more eggs the first year by doing it this way.

Yesterday we received a shipment of 26 Delaware chicks. (Yes, they were sent through the U.S. Postal Service. It usually works out fine because chicks don't need anything to eat or drink the first day or two after hatching.) They are one of my favorite breeds, and I'm going to have some fun crossing them with barred rocks and New Hampshires, which will be arriving in another month.

They're straight run, which means we have no idea what we have for cockerels and pullets. The pullets will grow up to be laying hens, and most of the cockerels will become chicken dinner around November and December. Since it will probably only be about 12 or 13 males, and we'll keep two for breeding that will only leave about 10 for dinner, which isn't enough to drive two hours to the processor, so Mike will butcher them as we need them over the winter.

We put them in an old water trough for the first week or so until we're sure they know where the water and feed are located, and they understand that being under the heat lamp keeps them warm. (That's why the pictures are pink; the heat lamp is red.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Turkey breeding woes

Last year we were quite successful hatching turkeys in the incubator and with hens, but this year was a totally different story. We had a complete failure in the incubator so none of the 19 eggs hatched, and although we've had two mamas setting, only one actually finished the job, but she then left the nest after five of them had fully hatched and one had only pipped the shell.

Mike didn't know you aren't supposed to "help" with hatching turkeys, so he finished ripping off the shell, thinking that mama would then take care of the little poult. But she didn't. So we put it in the incubator to dry off and get his land legs. That didn't really happen. For two days I kept finding him flipped over, and I kept sitting him upright and leaning against the side of the incubator. Just about the time that I figured we should put him down, he finally got the strength in his legs to be able to stand! Although that little story has a happy ending, it still meant we wound up with only five total turkeys, which isn't even enough to take to get processed. I waited around for another hen to hatch her eggs, but then realized she wasn't really serious about the whole thing when the eggs started to stink.

We were also supposed to be getting some blue slate and lavender turkeys from a hatchery in Indiana, but they had problems, so they said the poults wouldn't be shipping until July or August, which isn't enough time for them to grow out by Thanksgiving. I told them to just wait and ship in late August, as I was planning to keep the hens and a couple of toms for breeding anyway. We can butcher the extra toms next spring.

So, we were in the middle of June and had only five turkeys for the year. It was too late to get any heritage turkeys from another hatchery because they were all sold out, so I decided to get some broad breasted turkeys. I checked all the usual hatcheries, and no one had any left. Then I started looking at hatcheries that I've never used before, and I finally found one in Iowa -- Meyer -- that had some broad breasted whites that could be shipped towards the end of July. They'll be four months old by Thanksgiving, but that's big enough for this breed to be processed at a decent size. In fact, when we've kept this breed for six or seven months, we've wound up with some 35 to 45 pounds toms!

I finally got that long-awaited phone call from the post office yesterday at 11:45 a.m. Since the invention of Click-n-Ship, I don't know our post office workers as well as I used to, and the woman on the phone said, "You've got some chicks here. What do you want me to do with 'em?" Hmm ... what were my options, really? I said that I'd come get them and should be there in ten to fifteen minutes, to which she replied, "You've got 15 minutes!" Geez! Seriously? Was she really going to let the little thing stay in the post office until the next day if I didn't get there by the usual closing time of noon. (Welcome to life in a rural community!)

Not knowing her and not knowing whether or not she would really leave the poults there, I quickly told my son that I was heading to town to get some baby birds. At the time I didn't know if this was my turkey order or my Delaware chicken order that should have arrived from another small hatchery a couple of weeks ago. I drove as fast as one can responsibly drive on rural gravel roads and managed to get there before closing time. I had ordered 15, and that's exactly how many they shipped. All of them looked healthy and happy except for one that was already cold and stiff. I took the above photo seven hours later after everyone was settled in and eating and drinking.

I am still looking forward to getting my new breeders next month, and next year I'm planning to purchase a better incubator than the little styrofoam thing that we've been using.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fish kill!

Yesterday morning I woke up and looked out the window of our bathroom to see something rather large floating on the surface of our pond. Was it a dead duck? I called down the stairs to Mike asking him to check it out. He walked out onto the deck and quickly realized it was a dead fish! And then he saw another one and another and another. Then he said the pond was covered with dead fish!

I called the local Soil and Water office, where the woman said the fish kill was probably due to chemical run-off from a nearby field, and she suggested I call a fish biologist at the Department of Natural Resources, which I did. But he wasn't in his office, so I left a message, and of course he called back when I wasn't home. He spoke to my son and told him to call the EPA, which my son did. The person on the phone there said that someone would probably come out to investigate.

Today I realized that if the EPA put our address in a GPS system, they'd arrive at the pond down the road and leave because it looks lovely. (GPS doesn't know where we are.) So, I called the EPA this morning and had a lengthy conversation with someone who told me that they don't usually get involved in private pond problems unless there is evidence of definite pollution. So, he suggested I call the DNR. I told him that DNR had actually referred us to him, and he said that maybe DNR thought the EPA would be interested, but they're not, and the fish biologist at DNR would be our best bet in figuring out what happened. He said that most fish kills are due to oxygen deprivation, but he also gave me the name of a water testing lab in Peoria in case we wanted to check for the presence of chemicals in the water.

I emailed the water testing lab, and they said the fish kill was probably due to oxygen deprivation, but for a few hundred dollars they could test the water. So, I've spent the last few hours reading about fish kill and duckweed.

As you can see in the above photo, the surface of the pond is mostly green. It's not algae though. It's duckweed, which has never been a problem until this year. Apparently it can be spread by wild waterfowl visiting your pond and dropping off a plant or two, which can then multiply every single day! And before you know it, the surface of your pond is covered with duckweed. The good news is that it killed the algae because it doesn't allow any light to get into the pond. The bad news is that it's as bad for the fish as a huge algae bloom because it can ultimately reduce their oxygen and suffocate them.

So, we have one vote for poisoning and two votes for suffocation, and my reading is leading me to think that suffocation is probably the culprit. I did call the fish biologist again, however, and am waiting for him to call me back.

Monday, July 20, 2015

One year anniversary of our second farm!

July 21, 2014

Tomorrow is our one year anniversary as owners of Mike's family farm in Henry, IL. I never wrote about it on here, but it was quite the drama. He's wanted the farm for as long as I can remember, but it was in a trust with his father and all of his father's siblings as trustees. Mike's grandfather created the trust in such a way that it could not be sold without unanimous approval of all trustees, which was a pretty smart move. For years, four of the six siblings wanted to sell, but Mike's father and an uncle in Alaska had said no. Then after Mike's father died, the other hold-out finally gave in and agreed to sell, so the farm was put on the market.

It was truly the most back-n-forth drama of my life. I lost track of how many times we thought we had it, but then, on no, we can't get it. Here is the very abridged version ....

We initially thought we couldn't afford it, but after lots of brainstorming and a good bit of luck, it looked like we could buy it with a little help from a silent partner. But then someone else put down a contract on it before we did, and he was threatening to sue if they didn't sell it to him. But then it looked like that wasn't a problem. Then two of Mike's uncles decided to take a piece of the land for themselves, which meant we only had to come up with financing for 67 acres instead of 97, and they even said we could use their land, which was even more awesome. We truly were not sure that we were going to get it until the day that we sat down and signed the papers.

Mike in soybean field in 2014
Then the real work began. Of the 67 acres we bought, about 27 are tillable, while the rest are forest and wetland. It had been farmed conventionally with corn and soybeans for about 50 years, and our goal was, of course, to transition to organic something, although we didn't know what at the time. We didn't really care what was growing there -- as long as it was organic. We still don't care exactly what the crop is, as long as it's organic.

I posted all over the Internet and asked every organic farmer I knew, trying to find someone who would plant something organic on the 27 tillable acres this year. We thought we had someone who was going to plant hay, but that fizzled in a very odd manner with more drama. In January I spoke with a crop consultant who said that it wouldn't be the end of the world if we let the land lay fallow for a year and then just till under everything that grew, and that's pretty much what has happened.

Mike planting on Memorial Day 2015
We did go out there on Memorial Day and plant two very long rows of winter squash and melons, which can easily grow without day-to-day attention. Although they are growing, they are growing much more slowly than the garden on our farm here. We took some manure and straw out there for fertility, but it obviously wasn't enough, so we'll need to fertilize some more. We've never before transitioned land that was previously farmed conventionally, although I've heard it takes a few years to get it to liven up. We'll take another pickup load of manure out there, and I'm thinking I'll also buy some fish emulsion.

It appears we have found someone who is willing to plant organic wheat and hay for us on a purely contract basis. He doesn't want to do a 50/50 share as many farmers do because he already has his own hay business and has enough trouble selling his own hay. So, the goal is to build a storage building out there next spring and to grow the hay and wheat (straw) for our own use here on Antiquity Oaks. I've never been able to buy organic hay or straw around here in the past, so I'm especially excited about that prospect.

I was going to take pictures today to show you how our squash and melon plants were doing, but the rain chased us away prematurely.

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.


Related Posts with Thumbnails