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Thursday, March 19, 2015

A right to food?

One of our state representatives has proposed a new amendment to the Constitution of Maine.  From LD 783:  

Constitution, Art. I, §25 is enacted to read:

 Section 25. Right to food. Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to
food and to acquire food for that individual's own nourishment and sustenance by
hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing or gardening or by barter, trade or purchase
from sources of that individual's own choosing, and every individual is fully responsible
for the exercise of this right, which may not be infringed

I find this amendment problematic as written.  No one has a right to food, unless they have procured it honestly themselves.  No one has a right to never be hungry. They have a natural right to grow food, to buy it, to barter it, but unless the laws of nature have changed, and there will never be a bad growing season, there will never be a teamsters strike, there will never be a famine, in other words unless there will never be circumstances that limit the food supply, then there is no right to food any more than there is a right to health. We have a right to seek after these things without being infringed upon, but as soon as you say someone has a right to food, you're saying they have a right to take from someone whom they perceive has more than they. It's a complete abrogation of property rights, and without property rights, there are no rights at all.

The amendment is not a recognition of an unalienable (i.e. God-given) right; it actually would establish a right that didn't exist before. It's another entitlement. Human nature being what it is, there will always be those who would say, "I have a right to food, therefore give me yours because you have more than I do." It will make no difference that you worked your butt off to grow it or otherwise obtain it, it will be theirs, and the amendment will lend credence to their demands. Are all people like that? Definitely not, and I think farmers, particularly small farmers, are the least likely to think like that.  However, unless you have your eyes shut tight, you cannot help but see the results of the entitlement society we now live in.  All those entitlements exist because government has the power to take from some and give to another.  This is not what our country was founded on, but sadly what it has become.

Power comes from the people, but the people cannot rightfully give to the government what they do not have.  Does a person have a right to someone else’s property, including food?  Does a person have a right to demand from their neighbor food, clothing, housing, or any of a number of other needs?  No. Therefore, they cannot rightfully give that power to government.  The voice of the people is not always righteous.  The voice of government is always harsh because government rules by force.  As attributed to George Washington, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquent.  It is force.  Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action. ”

I would like to see the first clause struck so that the amendment reads Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to acquire food for that individual's own nourishment and sustenance by hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing or gardening or by barter, trade or purchase from sources of that individual's own choosing, and every individual is fully responsible for the exercise of this right, which may not be infringed.”

One can have the right to seek food without having the right to food itself, because the first is about earning it, and the second is about having it without a lick of work. 

In a compassionate society, and by God’s command, we must help others, but it must always be voluntary.  I often have extra produce from my garden, and I know people who need it.  I don’t sell it to them; I give it to them, and we are both satisfied.  However, if someone came to my garden and demanded my produce, I’d send them packing.  There is a big difference. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Signs of spring

After a long snowy winter and a particularly cold and snow February, hints of spring are appearing here and there.  We still have 4 feet of snow in the yard, but a couple days of thawing and freezing have formed a crust on the snow so that little puppy dog paws don't fall through.  Alas, people do, so snowshoes are still in order if a dog rescue is necessary.  Little dogs just love to wrap themselves around branches and trees.

I've had a bird feeder filled with seed for a couple of months, but for a long time no birds appeared.  They all seemed to have gone into hiding.  The first warm day brought the first birds I'd seen all winter to the feeder. (I say "warm" but that's relative.  Eighteen degrees was warm, after a recording breaking February where the average temperature was 6°F.)  The  Black-Capped Chickadees came out of hiding, and I was delighted to see them. Excited, I put up a window feeder and within hours they were brightening my day close up and personal.

Yesterday I heard the first mating calls, that high, sweet tow-note call that signifies spring.  Not that they aren't chattering, of course, but  for me the sound of "fee-bee" is a true harbinger. A goldfinch also showed up, still in its winter garb. I recognized it only by its bobbing flight. A couple more months and I'll hear "perchcikoree, perchickoree" and see flashes of yellow everywhere.

When I turned on my computer this morning, much to my surprise I had a reminder to turn the clocks ahead tonight.  Tomorrow is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time!  Could it be?  Is the winter that far advanced?  I have two minds about Daylight Savings Time.  On the one hand, I'm glad for the extra time at the end of the day.  On the other hand, I think Maine, especially the eastern part, should be in the Atlantic Time Zone.  Come summer, the first light appears a little after 4:00 in the morning.  If it weren't for DST, it would be 3:00. What are we doing in the Eastern Time Zone this far east?  Government hasn't asked my opinion, of course, but there you have it.

This is an old house, and we have what my grandmother always called "seed flies", little flies that hibernate in the wood and appear when it warms.  I try not to think too closely about that.  They're a nuisance, and as the year wears on they'll be every more of a nuisance, but their first appearance does signify warmer days.

Four of my does are due in about two weeks.    It looks like I'll have to treat them with sulphur over the next two weeks, because they're scratching.  Lice are common in late winter.  I've not had the problem before but it looks like I have it now.  Flowers of sulphur, both internally and externally, should bring that to a halt.

And they're forming udders.  Not a lot, but enough to notice.  When the does get their grain and Chaffhaye ration in the evening, I take time to get them used to being handled.  That diminished the chances of dances on the milkstand, and also allows me to note changes.  As I watch them walking around, I do a little guessing game with myself:  Will D'Arcy have twins? Will her kids be polled? Fingers crossed.

Pretty D'Arcy
D'Arcy from the back.  She looks pretty wide from this angle.

Dandy is narrower than the rest, will she have only one? 

Dandelion is looking narrower than the rest.

Cassie fooled me last year and had only one.  Is she really fat enough to be carrying two?

Could that be two for Cassie?
What about Dolly?  Does she look that wide because she's carrying twins or is it just that she's smaller than the others?
They're all getting wider as time goes on.  Dolly is no exception.

This year will be the first time I'm putting my herd on milk test.  That means all the kids will have to learn to take a bottle so they don't go hungry on test day.  More work for me, but better for them if they should leave earlier than weaning, too.  It also means it's time to set up the milking machine, check the pulsator, ensure that everything is working properly so that there are no surprises when I begin milking again. 

Life on a farm is very satisfying. This is the way life is supposed to be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cabin Fever

Can goats have cabin fever? Two nights ago as I was feeding, I noticed Dandelion, one of my young does,  with a bloody head.  Obviously she's been butting heads with one of the others, the question only remained--who?  White goats are easy to check, and no one else looked like her opponent. When I checked darker heads, it was too hard to be sure, but I suspected Cassie.

Dandy's head looks very sore
Last night I went armed with my trusty camera. Culprit found! As expected, it was Cassie. 
That telltale spot of blood on Cassie's head indeed tells the tale.
Cassie's already cowed D'Arcy, who gives way, however reluctantly.  I've been shuffling stalls around, too, in expectation of kidding season.   Perhaps all those things combined explained why she decided to take on Dandy.

I expect this type of behavior in the spring, when everyone is fresh and full of vim and vigor, happy to get out after being stuck in the barn.  Unless I keep everyone in separate stalls during the day, there's no way to keep fighters separated.  There's more snow on the way and even less chance for them to get outside. I leave the doors open, but they don't seem anxious to take a walk in the snow. 

It's going to be a long winter.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Stormy weather

We've had three storms in 7 or 8 days, all of them dumping anywhere from 8 to 12 inches at a time, an interesting change from the temperature fluctuations of late fall and early winter.

The first storm was almost fun. "Look at all that snow!'  I dug a path to the goats' underbarn sanctuary, and they seemed grateful, or at least interested enough to use the path.

 The does watched with interest, but didn't seem inclined to do more.

 It was a daunting task, and as I looked over the field of snow, I almost changed my mind.  But with Mime following me as I shoveled, patiently waiting for me to dig so he could take a few more steps forward, I persevered.
Once I had completed the dig, the rest of the herd took notice and followed.  You can see them in the background, jumping up and down as they came.

 Three days later another storm hit, the wind howled, snow filled in the path, making it doubtful there had ever been one.  This time I enlistted the help of my son, who maneuvered the snowblower through the barn and out the big doors.  Goats scattered everywhere!  "What's that noise?  Run for your lives!"  

We took turns, slowly making another path through the snow to their favorite haunt.  Zoë delighted in the path, running up and down inspecting everything.

Aren't you coming?

Walls of snow

Zoë through the gate

We took a different path, digging through nearer the feeders.  The drift had looked more doable from our vantage point at the top of the hill, but it proved to be very wide indeed.   The spot where they had come in after the first storm was nothing but a wall now, blocking the way.

The tunnel from the outside...

...and from the inside.

It took a while, but eventually the goats were all under the barn, happily pulling hay out of the feeders and scattering it everywhere.  Little did we know...

The third storm hit Tuesday morning.  It was supposed to start around 9:00, but snow was already falling byt 7:30.  The barn was shut up as tight as I could make it, but since it was built around 1780, there are many little cracks and crannies where snow filters, seeps, and blows through  The first storm blocked up most of those places, but the doors provide opportunity to bring the winter storms right into the barn.  It's always intriguing to see what curious patterns have swirled and mounded inside those doors.  While the storms raged outside, the does relaxed inside, knowing they were snug and warm. 

Today is Friday.  The storm ended around noon yesterday, but opening the doors quickly convinced me that blowing snow could fill the barn just as quickly as the storm itself.  I quickly shut them and left the goats in.  This morning dawned bright and clear, the snow brilliant, the breeze light.  The doors are open, the goats can go outside, but nothing is left of the path that Shawn and I so painstakingly prepared.  It doesn't matter.  Another storm is on its way, and they'll just have make do with staying close.  So far I haven't noticed a hoofprint outside the doors.

Friday, January 30, 2015


            What a beautiful night! It’s still and dark, with a glow that lights up the surroundings.  A light snow is falling, and all is quiet and hushed.  Even my footsteps were muffled in the soft snow.  As I returned from the barn after feeding, I stood outside the door for a few long moments, drinking it in. Instead of taking off my coat and hat as I entered, I called to Zoë and out we went again.  She was on an extendible lead; I could barely see her against the snowy driveway.  We walked about half way up the lane, pausing every now and then for her to sniff and explore and for me to drink in the stillness.  I imagined a white scratch board, just hints of outlines of trees and branches.  I haven’t done a scratchboard in years, haven’t thought of one for almost as long, but the scene cried for a deft hand.  Not mine, I think, but the image hung in the air. 

            Reluctantly I turned and we headed back to the farm; I can’t leave my mother alone too long, but the walk refreshed my soul.

A clean herd

I just received test results from WADDL (Washington Animal Diagnostic Lab).  All my herd are negative for  CL and Johnes, and those tested for CAE are also negative.. Beatrice and Leah have been CAE positive for years, but asymptomatic, so I didn't bother having them tested.

Since I run my herd together, l give everyone CAE nosodes--homeopathic immunization--which I buy from Ainsworth's, a homeopathic pharmacy in England, because they carry a higher potency than what is available in the U.S.  That makes for a more effective immunization program. 

Dr. Isaac Golden, an Australian homeopath, did his doctoral work on the efficacy of homeopathic immunization vs vaccination.  In all cases, homeopathy is just as effective as vaccination; in some cases, it's even more effective.  In the case of CAE, there are NO vaccines, but homeopathy can still protect my herd.  For those wanting more information, his website has a free course for parents.  Though Dr. Golden doesn't treat animals, the principles are the same as for humans.  I do love homeopathy!

I also use homeopathic nosodes to protect my dogs from kennel cough and other diseases, and have used nosodes to protect my horses from Rhinoneumonitis and West Nile Virus.  This is an alternative that I'm grateful for, that is proven, and that, unfortunately, conventional medicine has a field day bashing, because they don't understand how it works.  Frankly, I don't care how homeopathy works.  I'm just glad it does.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A View of the Sanctuary

A blizzard is slated to descend upon us tomorrow, but today dawned bright and clear.  The barn is old, built around 1780, and as it's built on a hill, a sizable area under the barn is a favorite loafing place for all the livestock that have ever lived here.  The area contains two outsize feeders that can be filled from the floor above, and emptied willy-nilly, much of it wasted (from my point of view), but always enjoyed.  There are also wonderfully large, flat stones that the goats love to climb and nap on

I suspect that they won't be venturing forth for a while, probably not until I break trail for them (horses were very good for that, but they're gone now), so it seemed like a good day to capture them in their sanctuary.