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Thursday, December 30, 2010

To a wee mousie

Four does in heat, and two to be bred.  Isn't that what I planned?  Ah, well.  In the words of the poet, 
The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley
And so it is.
Sanuba has silent heats.  I have absolutely no clue if she's been bred.  Emily is a little tank, and the Saanen buck I had for three weeks is a youngling, half the size of my yearling does.
Enter one cute little curly top Toggenburg buck.  Emily came back into heat three weeks later,  and Reverend Lee accommodated her.  He's a small buck, but this is his second breeding season, so presumably he knows the score.

Now it's a new cycle. Is Sanuba in heat?  Who knows!  (except the buck, of course) I decided, therefore, to breed Leah, rather than wait until next year.  Trouble is, the Saanen buck is her half-brother, so that won't work, and I can't find another available Saanen buck in the area. So Reverend Lee has taken up temporary residence at the farm.  If Emily shows further signs of heat, she can keep him company, too, but for the moment it's just Sanuba and Leah.  Beatrice is strictly off limits, as I want to give her a breeding break.
Beatrice, by the way, is already increasing her milk.  She had fallen from 1-1/2 gallons (about 12 lbs) per day at peak, to a little under 5 lbs per day in early December  Now, though, she's up to 6-1/2 lbs a day.  This doe is wonderful!  I'm seriously thinking about having her put on DHIR (milk test), and Leah as well, since she shares similar bloodlines.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shared parenting

My favorite hen (if one can have a favorite) has disappeared.  I wish I had gone looking for her a couple nights ago, but she had always been pretty independent, nesting where she would, and unless she tried to nest in the goats' stall, I let her be.  Alas, I think I found her feathers today, so she's not coming back.  I knew she was gone, though, a couple of days ago, when her lone chick, a mere two weeks old, was cheeping loudly and darting here and there frantically.  She (he?) evaded me quite well, and started following the little Aracauna bantam's last chick, also a single, but almost grown up.  She had been hanging out with her Momma and the new chick, and I guess Cheep recognized her.  The chick crooned softly to her, following her around, and finally I caught the chick and herded the small hen into the middle coop.  The hen didn't seem to mind the chick, but she wasn't doing a whole lot to encourage her, either. Nevertheless, it looked hopeful, so I left them together.

Silkie Rooster sheltering chick--
you can't see her but she's there!
That night, the hen roosted on a perch, and the Silkie rooster took over.  When I looked in, Cheep was snuggled close to him, and the rooster was crooning to her.  Next morning, the little hen took over, and Cheep followed her all over the coop.  Last night when I looked in, the chick was nestled under the hen, who had forsaken her perch for a spot on the ground.  The Silkie was close by, still crooning.

Today, the little hen is starting to make little sounds to the chick.  The Silkie is still close by, still crooning.  Tomorrow, if things have progressed well, I'll let them out for the day.

I miss the little Aracauna bantam.  She was a fierce mother, even chasing off the Guinea cock--who terrorises the Rhode Island Red rooster and every other chicken on the farm.  What is interesting, though, is neither the Guinea cock, nor the bantam hen, ever tried to drive off that Silkie.  The Guinea just ignored him, and the hen--well, she hung out with him.  They must have recognized in him a great soul, chicken-wise.  He takes care of his own.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What is a "liberal" anyway?

I was picking up a load of grain a few days ago and had a short conversation with someone that I know from a goat forum about genetically modified corn and soy, which I will not buy.  In fact, I won't buy food for myself that's genetically engineered, so why would I feed my animals that way?  What my livestock produce goes into my body.  The comment was made, "Oh, yeh, I forgot.  You're one of those 'liberal; types."  Oh, really?  I replied, "No, I'm probably one of the most conservative people you'll ever meet.'  A pause, and then "I eat just like my grandmother did, and her mother before her."

Isn't it a strange world where a libertarian is called a "liberal" because she doesn't want adulterated food?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Adventures with Zoë

Like all terriers, Zoë is a high energy dog.  About four days after I got her, she led me a merry chase! I was going to my car—actually, first to the shed, and thought, I don’t need a leash for this little bit, and Zoë was off and running, nose to the ground. called her and she didn’t pay one bit of attention. I ran after her with my sandals flopping, finally kicking them off to get more speed. She trotted right past my neighbor's trailer, then, thankfully, was diverted into his work yard, so while she sniffed around there I had time to get a little ahead. She came across just in front of me, and I threw the leash in front of her. That startled her! She stopped dead in her tracks and I was able to catch her. I mused that she might never get off-leash again if she’s that single pointed!
Zoë and her bone
I have a few chickens at my house, and a couple dozen more at the farm.  Zoë took one look at them and said, "Oh, boy!  Chickens!"  I sternly corrected her, in my most authoritarian voice saying, NO CHICKENS!  To no avail, alas.  Since my yard is not enclosed, I had been putting her out on a long rope, with a bone to entertain her, and hoped the chickens would steer clear.  Chickens are not known for their great intelligence, so it was only a few day before one strolled into her path.  POUNCE!  S Q U A W K!  Feathers flying everywhere as she happily grabbed the hen--the same Barred Rock that I nursed back to health from a raccoon attack last year.  This is not a smart chicken.  "NO!  B A D   D O G!"  I hollered, and gave her a swat on her butt.  She dropped the chicken, struggled to get it again, and I carried her into the house. 

It took a few more days, but one day something clicked, and as we walked out to the car, Zoë glanced at the chickens--and turned away.  You can still see her thinking about it, but she has decided that chickens are not on the diversionary menu.  Zoë is a very smart dog.
Zoë and friend

One of Zoë's favorite places is the dog park.  We are graced to have the only dog park for miles around, the people of Belfast being a very creative and pragmatic folk.  It's a wonderful place, and I've watched Zoë relax from a cautious (but not timid) dog, watching from the sidelines, to joyously joining in the chase as dogs went speeding by, romping through the obstacle tube, to happily retrieving squeaky balls.  Zoë is a very happy dog.  And you know, watching dogs is a wonderful pastime.  It has to be one of the most relaxing places I've found.

Ah!  This is the way life ought to be.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Zoë,a 3 year old Smooth Fox Terrier, has become the delight of my life!  I had been missing Joe, my last dog, and Juneau and Samantha, the dogs who came before him, and thinking of Jody, my first dog, and realizing how much I missed having a dog.  Now it's important to understand that I'm a big dog person.  Jody was 55 lbs; Juneau was 75 lbs and Sammi was 55 lbs, and Joe was over 100 lbs.  In today's economy, though, I was reluctant to get a dog, because I don't feed grocery store dog food; I buy the highest quality I can afford, and add raw meat to it, at a minimum.  As my mind wandered back over the dogs in my life, I thought of Shakespeare, a Fox Terrier we had when I was a child.  I remembered how much fun he was, how upset I was when he left our house and went with my grandfather to the farm in Maine, and how I cried when I found that he was gone for good.

I put an ad on Uncle Henry's and Maine Craigslist for a Smooth Fox Terrier.  I never got a reply from Uncle Henry's, but within a week or two I got replies from Wisconsin and California.  What? I thought I had posted only to Maine!  Then I heard from Fox Terrier Rescue and learned of a spayed bitch in New Hampshire.  They sent me a photo, and I thought, "Ho-hum, not really what I'm looking for, but maybe I'll take a look."  A couple of weeks later, I went to Massachusetts for the day, and stopped on the way back to look at the dog.  Instant love!  She was sooo much cuter in person than her picture conveyed!  I asked her to sit.  Nothing.  I took a treat, put it over her head and slowly moved it back, saying "sit".  She sat.  "Okay," I thought, "she's trainable."  Her name was Lulu.  I took her home.

It was a three hour drive, and the whole time she sat in the back seat facing the back, until finally, the last half-hour, she lay down. Not once did she whimper, not once did she bark. Neither did she respond to her name.

Over the next two or three days, it was apparent that she didn't respond to Lulu.  But that had always been her name!  She was a rescue, yes, but was rescued by her breeder, so I knew her history and her name.  I sat down and looked her in the eyes.  "Lulu," I said, "if that's not your name, then you have to let me know what it is."  Then I waited.  Nothing.  I tried thinking of different names. Nothing felt right, but Lulu felt all wrong. She wasn't a Lulu.  A while later, I said to her, "You have to tell me your name, or if you don't know it, then you have to tell me what you want it to be."  Still nothing.   About 1/2 hour later, I went to call her, "Come her, Lulu!"  What came out, though, was "Come here, Zoë!"  Zoë?  Where did that come from?  But as soon as she heard the name, she turned her head, jumped up, and came bounding to me, wiggling all over.

Zoë it is, then, and she never fails to respond to her name.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The (semi) final iteration.

I thought I'd just post the almost last design change of my cheese press.  I say "almost" because you will not that there are no legs on it...yet.  I plan to cut dowels to fit into the existing holes and make legs, and probably I'll make a groove or two from the center of the cheese mold to the edge to carry away the liquid from pressing.

Note the 6-inch stainless steel mold.  I priced these online from $84.50 for a 5-1/2 inch mold.  I had the local machine shop make me one for $25.00.  I think he did a great job, and it works wonderfully.  My 4-inch mold was even less expensive--the tin from Sesame Tahini, exactly 4-inches and a perfect size for a small cheese.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Genesis of a cheese press

When I decided to jump in the deep water, as it were, of cheesemaking, and try (gulp!) hard cheeses, it became clear very quickly that I had to have a cheese press.  A real cheese press.  Everything I saw online was just too darned expensive, so I designed my own--and then updated it again and again.

Iteration 1:  Actually it was iteration 2, since 1 was a dismal failure.  I had a bottom board, a top board, and four dowels holding it together, and I used whatever I could come up with for followers.  With only one board, there was no way to keep the weights--salvaged from someone's abandoned bench press set--evenly distributed.  The cheese was always lopsided.  So, I added two springs and an extra board, one resting close to the cheese mold.  It was easier to keep the cheese straight, but still pretty primitive.

I used this for several months, but piling all those weights on top was, umm, interesting.  Some of the weights were cement filled, and slightly rounded.  They didn't sit evenly.

I had a local machinest make me a 6 inch cheese mold with stainless steel.  This cost approximately 1/2 what I would have paid online, and no shipping, either.  However, I mainly used a 4 inch mold since I was still experimenting, just trying to see if I could produce anything worthwhile.  When I broke open the cheeses this spring, I was pleasantly surprised and eager to move on to the next level.  Clearly, it was time to upgrade my press.
While visiting a local Amish family, I saw the pressure gauge and press that Hoegger's sells.  I'd looked at both online several times, and had vascillated about the pressure gauge.  No more!  I ordered it within a few days.

Iteration 3:  The modifications were minimal.  One of the upper boards and the springs came off, and a small hole drilled through the center of the board to accommodate the gauge stem, a recessed place for the bolt, and I was set to try it.  I also sprung for real, honest-to-goodness wooden followers.
Getting that pressure gauge was one of the best things I've done for myself.  Since it was made for Hoegger's press, the pressure probably isn't exactly the same.  However, it works, and my cheeses are oh, so much more uniform, and  And sooo much easier to press.  I've taken to using the 6 inch mold almost exclusively. Next modification is removing the 4 dowels and shortening the side screws.  I think tomorrow might be the very day to do that.  I have goat milk and cow milk ripening for cheese tomorrow.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Birds and more (or less) birds

My two broody hens finally finished their setting tasks, but not the way I had anticipated.  I had put several eggs, almost a dozen, under the bantam, and when the Buff Orpington decided to set, I gave her 9 Welsummer eggs and 6 others from my fertile flock.  Twenty-one days later, the bantam hatched out two chicks, only two, and there were only 2 others in the nest.  What happened to the others is a mystery.  Strangely enough, the two she hatched out were her own.  She's a fierce little mother, and I hope she'll raise a few more for me.

The Buff, who got eggs only a day or two after the bantam started laying, kept setting.  After a few days, a distinct odor began to emanate from her nest area.  Whew!  After a week had passed, I realized she was not going to hatch anything, and things were not the way they were supposed to be.  I bought 8 chicks locally and stuck them under her.  She was thrilled!  But still, she would not move off the nest.  Next day, I reached under her and removed all the eggs and--not surprisingly--dead barely hatched and unhatched chicks.  Only three.  What happened to the other eggs is yet another mystery.  Some pertinent questioning on the Backyard Chicken Forum revealed that first time setters often kill the chicks as they hatch.  They don't quite know what's happening.  Yet, she took to her new chicks like a duck to water, and is an even fiercer mother than the bantam.  In fact, she's driven the bantam and her remaining chick out of the broody house!

We've lost three chicks since then.  One of the Buff's and one of the bantam's drowned, a day apart, in water buckets.  Who'd have guessed that tiny chicks could jump that high?  And early this week another chick disappeared.  All the Buff's chicks were hidden away in a patch of day lilies, and the hen was under the barn.  When she finally showed up again, one chick was missing.  My guess was that the hawk that's been hanging around managed to grab one.

I finally let the two guinea fowl out of the barn today.  I wonder if they'll ever go back in.  The hen looked to be making a nest on the floor, carefully covering her eggs with hay, so I'm hopeful she'll continue and not decide on a new nest spot outdoors.  Certainly the chickens aren't happy to see them wandering around.  The cock chases the rooster unrelentingly, and when the rooster isn't around, he harasses the hens.  So much for "oh, yes, guinea fowl and chickens can be housed in the same place, no problem".  Ha!  And what a racket that cock makes!  When his lady love is in the barn without him, he hollers and screeches and flies bizarrely, ending up at the peak of the roof.  I finally showed his princess the way out the door.  Guinea fowl are definitely not noted for their great intelligence.  All will be forgiven, though, if they but take care of the ticks and black flies..

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I've decided I'm going to throttle my chickens.  Usually they're at the farm, but I have three over at my house for R&R.  Today they found their way through the hanging screen door and were in the house when I came home. I shooed them out, and then stepped in chicken poop in the middle of my rug.  Aaargh!

A couple of days ago I had my plants outside, and brought them in at night. I missed one, a flat of oriental greens, just at the right stage for picking and eating.  It rained the next day, and by the time I remembered them, the slugs had them half eaten.  I brought them in and nurtured them until today, when I put them outside again.  When I was watering my plants this afternoon, I discovered that the chickens had found them as tasty as the slugs.

I think I'm going to have to throttle my chickens.

Oh, did I mention that they pushed their way through the hanging screen door again?  Apparently they don't know that it means "keep out".  I was in the kitchen cleaning up, when I heard little clucks at the door. 
Turning, I found they were not outside looking in, as I'd supposed, but had pushed their way through.  I had to close the glass door, because they just don't get the hit.

I really do think I'm going to have to throttle my chickens.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


My beautiful Maine Coon cat, Jethro, has disappeared.  I let him out a couple of mornings ago, and he never came back.  There's so many reasons I can think of--coyotes, Great Horned Owls, bobcats (though I haven't heard any for a long time), an occasional wolf.  So many dangers, but perhaps he wandered into someone's yard and decided to stay.  i can only hope that's the case, and that I'll see him again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life (and death) on the farm

Life and death occur together, and nowhere is a microcosm so apt to show itself as on a farm.  I have two hens setting, one an Araucana bantam and the other a Buff Orpington.  The Banty is setting on about 9 eggs, the Orpington on about 15.  I snuck a few extras under each of them.  My Silkie rooster now thinks he's the Cock of the Walk, because he happily struts his stuff in the coop where the hens are setting, happy as a clam.

On a less happy note, when I closed up the chickens tonight, one of the other hens was in distress, wheezing and making odd noises as if moaning.  I checked her for egg impaction, but that's not the problem.  Birds are so much harder to diagnose and treat than mammals!  My homeopathic poultry book wasn't handy, and I don't know where I put it.  I don't think it's going to matter, though; I think she'll be gone tomorrow morning when I get there.  Birds get sick so fast, and fail so quickly, that it's hard to save them.  Injuries they recover from, but illness--seldom.

I took out the hen that I think is breaking and eating eggs, too.  If I'm right, then she'll be the next to go.  I have 6 or 7 hens laying out of 17.  When these two go, it'll be 4 or 5 out of 15.  By the time winter comes, though, I'll have a slew of new hens to replace them, and perhaps some meat birds as well.  They should hatch by the end of May, and will be laying by the end of October.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Family pictures

This morning was cool but sunny, and by midday, everyone (that is, all the animals) were out roaming around, at pasture.  Beatrice and the other two goats had called a truce, and they were now allowed to sniff Heartbreak.  By afternoon, they were out in the pasture, having broken out when I wasn't looking, but they were so enjoying themselves that I let them stay.

The horses were resting, though Magic, of course, was interested in everything that was going on around her.

As I headed back to the barn, the geese hissed and honked, protecting the six goslings.  It was amazing to see how they hustled them along, surrounding them, protecting them

Monday, April 26, 2010

First day out

Beatrice has been teaching me.  I tried to get her and her new kid out a couple of days ago, but Bea wasn't having any of it.  I was premature, obviously.  The kid was still learning to use her legs.  Given the opportunity, she took her kid right back to the stall and asked me to close the door.

Yesterday, she decided it was okay to go as far as the barn aisle.  Little Heartbreak was now able to jump and run, and loved exploring, but Bea didn't want her going too far.   I knew that something had shifted when she came out of her stall last night to milk and left her doeling lying comfortably in the stall, no hesitation.

And today, Day 5, was Introduce the Kid to the Herd Day.  Within a few minutes of coming out of the stall, the doeling was hopping onto the milking stanchion, and after Bea was milked, they were out the door and over at the fence, where the other goats were able to check out the kid safely.  An hour later, I let Emily in with them.  Heads butted!  Bea was not going to let Emily near her kid.  It took a couple of hours, but by afternoon, they were hanging out together in the small pasture, Emily keeping a respectful distance, but still close enough to observe.  She eventually decided she'd spent enough time away from the large pasture and asked to go out.

Bea headed back to the barn, where her kid found the horse's round tub was a perfect size for a nap--if only Mom would let her sleep!

Tomorrow, Sanuba gets her turn while Emily stays out.  Slowly but surely, they'll all be integrated into the small herd.  It'll be a bit longer before she's allowed around the horses.  Magic is still too much of a wild thing to trust her with such a small kid.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Babies and babies

It's strange how motherhood can inspire.  Emily and Sanuba are fascinated by Bea's kid.  Bea, of course, hasn't yet let them near her, so I've let them and the horses go out to the pasture and closed the gate behind them.  Bea still won't come out.  She did come as far as the barn door, and little Heartbreak (for that's what she is) jumps and hops everywhere.  What a difference a few days makes!  She's so cute.  It breaks my heart that she's not breeding material.  It always seems worse when it's a doe.  I expect to cull the males. You can only have so many breeding males, but every female is a potential breeder.  This defect is genetic, and a hard decision has to be made eventually.

Beatrice has perked right up in the past few days.  Today she scarfed down a huge quantity of hay, and she's been gobbling any comfrey I offer her.  Carrots and sweet potato?  Yum, yum!  Her milk production is increasing.  Even with the kid nursing, she's giving me 1/2 gallon of milk per day.  It's a real challenge to milk with a kid jumping on and off the stanchion.

And then there are the geese.  One goose has been setting for most of the month, and hatched out 6 goslings the same day Heartbreak was born.  The other goose has been putzing around, laying eggs for two months, and ignoring them.  Every now and then I'd take a few so we didn't have a mountain of goose eggs sitting there, but she just wasn't interested in setting.  Until the first goose hatched those goslings.  Within two days, the other goose was setting.

I watched as the geese headed down to the little farm pond mid-pasture.  One gosline fell into a little hole and couldn't get out.  It wasn't very deep--maybe 6 inches or so, but he's only about 4 inches tall.  What a little trooper!  He kept jumping up until he finally made it to the top, and off they went.

The goats and horses are fascinated with those little balls of fuzz, and ignore all the hissing and wing beating and outstretched necks of the goose and ganders.  They're not like the geese that were on the farm when I was a child.  My grandmother's gander ran at us and bit...hard.  These geese are pikers compared to those.  No horse or goat would have come within yards of the goslings back then.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beatrice kidded last night, one little doeling. Actually, one good sized doeling.  I weighed her this afternoon and she weighed nine pounds.

Around 11:30 yesterday, Beatrice wanted to go into her stall.  I let her in, took her out a while later and put her in the kidding stall, but she didn’t want to be there, so I put down fresh bedding in her regular stall and put her back in there.  Then I let the horses and yearlings out, and opened the stall gate for her.  She just looked at me and didn’t move. I closed the gate.  A while later she started moving around.  By 3:00 it was obvious she was going to kid soon.  Her udder was looking much fuller, she had deep cavities in front of her pelvic bones, and her ligaments had softened.   Around 4:30 I was sure she was going to kid in  an hour or less.   

At 6:30 I wondered what was happening, if anything.  She was definitely in labor, but it was slow going. Around that time, she presented a bubble, but it looked like a red bag delivery—red bag instead of grey.  Oh, no!  I went into the house and when I came back, the water had broken--whew!  Maybe it looked red, but not a red-bag delivery (placenta previa).  A while later, I went in the house againwhen I came out, Shawn said she’d pushed out two front feet and a nose.  Now there was nothing.  A few minutes later, I saw a hoof, then nothing.  This went on for the good part of an hour.  I went into the house again and washed my hands thoroughly, then came back out felt shallowly to see if I could feel a malpresentation.  I backed off after 2-3 inches, went back into the house, called two different neighbors with goats—both out. finally drove to my house to get the phone number of someone else.  The phone rang; things still weren’t progressing  I grabbed the phone number, called on the way: no answer.  I was just driving down the lane when the phone rang again.  "Yes?"  Shawn's voice said, “The feet and head are out, and everything’s going fast now.”  I parked the car and ran into the barn; there was the baby on the hay.  She’d been born about 45 seconds before. We checked the time he’d called and it was 8:04.  A strong doeling, she stood within 3 minutes.  And then I saw that she has an undershot jaw.  Parrot mouth. Bummer.
Bea lay down with her kid this afternoon, and though she got up a few times after that, most of her afternoon and evening was spent lying down. She ate alfalfa pellets willingly, and I gave her grain and herbal wormer as well, but she hasn't touched her hay.  I only milked out less than a quart.  The colostrum doesn’t seem as thick as last year, either, and her udder feels full—is it “meaty”?  Yet two other people thought she looked empty.  Baby is nursing well, jumping little hops, and getting stronger. She's cute in spite of her mouth problem.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The joys of electric fencing

I finished it, finally, the electric fence that's been troubling me since the snow melted away.  First there was the zap from the ground wire, with a corresponding lack of jolt from the hot terminal.  Hmm.  Ground pole is too close to the water source.  Move it, buy 14 gauge wire for ground, straighten all the fence wires, and plug it in.  A good charge!  YES!  That, of course, took care of 30 feet of wire, just to the gate.  There was still an entire length of pasture fence to go.

Now came the hard part.  The way the fence was set up previously, the fence line ran just below a little ridge, making a clean fence line almost an impossibility.  Do you know how hard it is to take a mower or string trimmer down an incline?  Neither a fun nor an easy job, particularly in the area where wild raspberries grow thickly.  I determined to move the T-posts to the top of the rise, not only making it easier to trim the fence line, but allowing the goats easy access to one of their favorite foods and my least favorite bramble patch.  That meant, though, that the fence line would no longer be straight.  I had to jog it first to go around a plum tree, and again to encompass the raspberry patch.

Taking my trusty snippers, I lopped down the raspberry canes one by one and threw them in a heap, right on top of the fence wire that I'd taken from the T-posts. Silly me.  I thought laying the wire down where I'd removed it would make it easy to restring.  That may have worked if the raspberry canes hadn't tangled themselves--probably with intent--among the wires.  Of course, there were two kinds of wire, too; 17 gauge electric wire (4 strands) and heavy barbless twisted wire (2 strands).  The wind blew, the rain came, various critters ran through the pile, I walked in and out, and it all became hopelessly entangled.  One by one I removed the wires, cutting here and snipping there, and enlisting the aid of my strong son to wrap up the twisted wire.  For those who don't know, twisted wire is just like barbed wire in thickness and weight, but without the barbs.  It's very heavy, and doesn't want to bend once it's been on a fence for a year or three.  I was very grateful for his help. 

Two days later I moved all the dried canes away from the fence line and proceeded to reset the T-posts and restring the electric wire.  After I'd finished, I looked at the fence with a critical eye, and didn't like the corners.  There had to be a better way to string corners.  As I drove down a local road later that day, I passed a newly erected post and wire fence--and screeched to a stop, ran and looked, and saw exactly what I was looking for, except that they used wood posts rather than T-posts.  No matter, I could adapt the design.

Off I went to my local Aubuchon's Hardware store and there they were, the hard rubber corner insulators I'd been looking for.  I grabbed a package, drove back to the farm, cut them in half, and proceeded to thread the wire through them.  They worked beautifully!  Off I went again and got another package, and a package of wire tensioners as well.  After two more trips (you'd think I would know ahead what I needed, wouldn't you?), I had completed the fence, hooked the wired together, stretched fence tape across the gate to connect the newly completed fence line to the one that tested hot, and plugged in the charger.  Take a breath, check the voltage, and...the moment of truth...5000 volts on all wires.  Hurrah!  Smiling, I let the goats out.  They were still in when I left.

When I returned later, two were in and one was out.  Ah, sweet Sanuba, how did you do that?  Did you jump through the wires and get zapped on the way through?  I grabbed her collar and led her back to the fence.  She fought me a bit, which lent credence to my idea, but when I led her up to the fence and then stopped, she stuck her nose out, touched that hot wire, and jumped straight into the air, letting out a bleat of shock.  I think she knows it's there now.

I was gone all day today, but none of the goats got out.  I love electric fences.  I can hardly wait to do the next one--next week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I've been reading (listening to, really, since it's an audiobook) The Essential Kipling, a collection of some of the shorter works and letters of Rudyard Kipling.  I've loved Kipling since I was young, which is odd, I suppose, since I never read The Jungle Book until I was well into adulthood; but I did like the Just So stories, and many of his stories about those happy scoundrels in India, Private Mulvaney and friends. Mostly I think I was enamored of India and exotic places, and Kipling slaked that thirst for adventure that overtakes me at times.

Rudyard Kipling was a gifted and fascinating man, writing short stories, poems, and novels with equal aplomb.  He was a devoted father and husband, and many of his stories were written for his children.  I'm always surprised to find that a familiar poem is Kipling's (and that I didn't realize it!).  This one is no exception.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scones, scones, wonderful scones

Last night I had a yen for scones.  I could almost taste them...and then I remembered how dry they usually are, and often how heavy.  I've made a lot of scones in my life, and bought quite a few, and the one thing I've always been sure of is that if you don't eat them right away--or sometimes even if you do--they end up dry and hard.

As I said, though, I just had a yen for a good scone, so I googled "best scone recipe", and I believe I found it.  I quickly made some, substituting yogurt cream for sour cream, and heavy cream for milk, and added an egg (quite accidental, that, but it still turned out well), and when the scones cooled, I ended up eating five of them.  They were sooo good, the best I've ever had.  I took some to my mother today, and she love them, and wants the recipe.  Here it is, the Best Scone Recipe in the world!  And did I mention I made scones again tonight?  This time I left out the egg, used cream entirely, and added grated ginger, chopped up crystalized ginger, and a small chopped up Braeburn apple.  Ta Da!  Apple-Ginger scones!  And they are excellent.

That puts me in mind of the salad I came across this week:  Bittersweet Salad with Apples and Dandelion Greens.  The dandelions are just coming up, and they're tender and full of nutrition, not bitter the way they will be in a few weeks.  The dressing is divine, and quite unusual.  I can't say I've ever tasted anything quite like it, but I'll use it for other salads.

I do love this time of year.  So much abundance!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Forsythia, gardens, and goats

The forsythia are in bloom!  I've never seen them come in this early.  It's time to plant peas, and lettuce, and spinach, and onions, and here I am not ready.  Spring always seems to sneak up on me, even when I'm looking for it.  Rural Living Day classes are tomorrow at MOFGA, and perhaps I'll come back with some gardening solutions to my raised bed and low tunnel questions.  By Monday, I need to be planting.  The weather has been unseasonably warm for the past month or more, but it's dropping into the low 50's over the next week.  That's a good thing, because I don't want to see fruit tree blossoms nipped in the bud.

The grass is coming in green and sweet, and the horses and goats are out every day for a few hours.  The two yearling doelings quickly escape, since there's no real fence to stop them, but as long as the barn door is closed so they can't get in and eat the grain, I have no problem with that.  Alas, my mother is concerned about her flowers. 

I worked on the electric fence a couple of days ago, but I still have an electric leak to ground.  I suspect it's because the ground rod is so close to the hydrant.  I need to move it, at least 50 feet away.  Then I need to run the wire and make the fence secure.  I know what my work is for next week.  I have most of the small pasture ready to hook up, and just a little portion to get small wire around so that it's kid-proof.  Time to build a small shelter out there, too.  I have only a couple of weeks before my does kid.  Sanuba is getting very round, and just in the past couple of days!  Beatrice still doesn't look that big, but since she's usually so slab-sided, it's easy to tell she really does have a kid or two in there.  She doesn't look very big from side to side, but she looks deeper, as if her belly is lower to the ground.  If she has more than one kid in there, they must be one on top of the other rather than side by side.  She's only had singles the last two times, and this is her third freshening, so it'll be interesting to see if she has twins.  I checked ligaments tonight, but she's still tight, thank goodness.  Last year she was 10 days early, but hopefully she'll go full term this time.

I'm looking forward to having milk again, and my mother is so looking forward to seeing the kids jumping around.  She'd have them right in the house, given her way!  Ah, spring!  The way life should be!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Musings on morality and civil unrest

A lot of people are unhappy with our Congress with the shenanigans pulled to force the so-called health reform act down our throats. "Deemed as passed" in the House, without even a vote--clearly unconstitutional, and the IRS, heavily armed, our own answer to the KGB, it seems, to be the enforcement arm. I myself have no health insurance and don't want any. I will pay my own way, and if I can't make it, then no one else is obligated to take care of me, and certainly not at the point of a gun. I am dismayed, if not despairing, over the corruption in government, at all levels. I see it here on the local level, at the county level, at the state level, and blatantly at the federal level. In the midst of all this, I exchanged emails with a good friend who is about as angry as one can get. In his words, the ballot box is dead. Electronic voting machines are easily manipulated, and elections are a fraud. He sent me this quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say goodbye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling in terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand. The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst; the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! 

I’ve been pondering this all morning.  I don't want to be part of a bloody revolution, yet I don't want to be a slave.  Our country has been sold out, our Constitution destroyed.  The people of the United States have chosen the road to destruction.  It's easy to say that the Congress did it, but that ignores the fact that we sent them there!  Most people just "don't have time" to be "involved in politics", which means, they are willing to let someone else run their lives.  I'm torn.  I can't see any way out except the hand of God, and even that won't save us unless we as a nation return to his precepts--which are embodies in the Ten Commandments. 

Funny thing about those commandments.  Thou shalt not steal seems to have been changed in the minds of the people over the years.  Thrown out, even.  And all these wars?  Thou shalt not kill (slay), seems to have many exceptions now.  Thou shalt not commit adultery?  Gee, that's pretty old fashioned, too, isn't it?  Why not whore around with this one and that?  As long as you never get married, or get married and divorced a few times, it's still okay, isn't it?  Thou shalt not covet?  Why, if we all had the same as everyone else, then we wouldn't be able to covet, so we should just share the wealth and then all would be well.  Remember the Sabbath?  Too old-fashioned.  Too much money to be made by carrying on business 7 days a week, and we'd lose our competitive edge if we did that.  And a little lie here and there doesn't hurt anything.  Sometimes we need to stretch the truth or make promises we can't keep in order to do more good.  Gotta get that foot in the door, y'know.  That's not bearing false witness, that's just playing it smart.

As for the rest, well, why should we have only one God?  We can have government as our god, or money, or whatever we choose.  God is whatever we make it, right?  We don't have to make an graven images--that one we'll keep--we'll just pick and choose our god from day to day.  Take the name of the Lord in vain?  Where would we be without a good epithet to express ourselves?  "Mickey Mouse" or "Golly darn" just doesn't cut it when I'm really ticked off.  I'd honor my father and my mother if they weren't HUMAN!  They have FAULTS for goodness sake!  I can never forgive them that! 

There's always a "good reason" to turn our backs on morality, and our founding fathers warned us that the Constitution would never suffice except for a moral people.  They told us we needed to be involved.  They gave us a federation of individual republics and told us to beware of factions that would tear us apart.

We've ignored both God and his emissaries.  We are reaping what we have sown.  I don't think even a bloody revolution would help without a change in the hearts of the people, and I wonder if that's even possible now.   As a nation, we're neither brave nor moral.  The military consists of the mindset that will fire on its own citizens, and the citizens are either too cowed or too apathetic to get involved politically.  How do we take our country back, and restore the Constitution, if no one wants be involved?

I think we have a lot more to go through before this is over.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Newt

I'm not at my best when I'm tired, which means I wasn't thinking as quickly as I should have been when I found the newt.

I noticed that Sassy was watching something intently.  Just about that time, Jethro (aka Mighty Hunter) also noticed.  Sassy doesn't usually spend a lot of time hunting anything, being more prone to let mice run across her toes than to swipe at them.  However, there's spring in the air, and it's been raining heavy off and on today, so it's within reason that she might be responding to something. Even Jethro noticed, and padded over to investigate.  Now there were two of them watching, Sassy sitting and staring intently; Jethro crouching, gazing in the same direction.

I watched them for a few moments, until Sassy began stalking and then sniffing, getting that look that cats get when they're not sure what they're seeing.  Thinking perhaps it was a small insect of some kind, my curiosity was aroused enough to take investigate.  No insect this!  Against a small wooden box that I'd left on the floor was a newt, green with yellow spots, a good 8 inches from tip of nose to tip of tail.  Fascinating!  It must have come in through the sunroom door, left slightly open for the cats since the day was mild.  Not that they'd used it (what self-respecting cat volunteers to go out in the rain), but that newt surely had, for here he (if it was a he) lay.  After examining him for a short while, I went into the kitchen and grabbed a paper towel.  Just in time, too, for Jethro took the opportunity to put out a tentative paw and see if the creature would move.  I shooshed him away, scooped the newt up, walked to the front door, and unceremoniously dumped him onto the ground, close to some rocks where he could hide.  Only after I'd gone back into the house did I think of taking a picture.

I shone a flashlight onto the place I'd left him.  Good!  He was still there!  I grabbed my camera, flipped the outside light on--and discovered the batteries were dead.  I quickly reloaded the batteries, and found that I hadn't inserted a memory card.  Off I went to find it.  By the time I got back, I realized I'd left the light on, and my quarry had fled.  I wish I'd had the presence of mind to just lock the cats up so I could spend more time enjoying that newt.  It's the first one I've ever seen of that size, and right in my living room at that.  As I said, though, I'm not at my best when I'm tired. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cats, goats, horses, and names.

Maine Coon CatA while back, oh, maybe mid-October, I went looking for a Maine Coon Cat.  I had had one prevously, an orange and white tabby, Copper (short for Copernicus).  After two years, it was time for another Coon cat.  I put out feelers; I mentioned it to friends.  Shortly after, a good friend called me, and said, "I saw an ad for a Maine Coon Cat in Bangor."  Happily, she had the phone number, and when I called, the owner said, "come on up".  Off I went to check him out.  He was perfect:  a 3 y.o. male orange Coon cat.  He looked at me, let me pat him, snuggled up, and I brought him home. As I left, I asked, "Oh, by the way, what's his name?'  "We've been calling him Ninety-nine," he replied.  Ninety-nine?  Odd name for a cat.  That just wouldn't do.  So, as I often do with my animals, I asked him what his name was.  I always figure I've probably got it right if it's something I'd never think of myself.  The name?  Jethro.  Not a name I'd have chosen!  I asked again over the next few days, trying out different names.  Nope, it always came back to Jethro.  Jethro it is, then.

Some people associate the name with The Beverly Hillbillies, but I think of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, a strong patriarch who gave Moses advice on how to handle the recalcitrant Children of Israel.  Jethro the cat is not a comical character.  He's independent and willing to tell you just how things can be improved.  And like Jethro of Biblical times, he is able to make his presence known without causing hard feelings.  Sassy, my older cat (whom we've affectionately called "Sassy the b*" for quite a long time) always takes umbrage at other animals in the house.  When I had 3 dogs and 7 cats, she was a terror, and never settled down until she was the only one left.  Did I mention she's rather long-lived?  At any rate, Jethro just wouldn't take offense at anythiing Sassy did--spitting, hissing, batting at him--he just looked at her and went back to whatever it was he was doing.  This was something new in Sassy's experience, and she really didn't quite know how to handle it.  In a very short time--a week or two, she stopped  considering him a threat and actually sniffs noses with him occasionally. For Sassy, this is an amazing accomplishment.

Jethro is an outdoor cat, no doubt about it, and, like most Maine Coon Cats, a wonderful mouser.  He's at his happiest when he can slip in and out the door at will.  Home is a place to eat and curl up by the wood stove on a particularly cold or wet day.  When he's in on one of those days, or at night when I refuse to let him out, he climbs on my lap, purrs contentedly, and goes to sleep.  Just the kind of cat I like.  Not too demanding, but very affectionate on a limited basis.  And I haven't had a mouse problem since he came.

Emily is another of my animals who told me her name.  I got her at five days old from a dairy farm.  I'd actually been looking at another Saanen doeling on the far side of the pen, bigger, broader, possibly even show material.  That doeling steadfastly refused to come to the front, and another little doeling steadfastly refused to go away.  I finally picked up the pesty one with the intention of looking at her horn buds to see how well-developed they were, figuring since they were all the same age, it would tell me how far advanced the others were as well.  As soon as I picked her up, I found myself saying, "I guess I'm taking this one."  It was a bit of a shock. I hadn't intended to take her, but I there didn't seem to be any doubt that she was going home with me.  My friend Laura was with me, and she drove home while I held the kid in my lap.  I studied her for a few minutes, and mused, "I wonder what I should call her?"  The next minute, in wonderment I was telling Laura, "Her name is Emily."  Emily?  Where did that come from?  From Emily, actually.  No one will ever convince me that she didn't tell me her name. Like Jethro, Emily is not a name I would have chosen.

There are other aspects of names.  One must always beware of what name is given.  I bought a Trakehner filly once, a Vincent daughter, a redhead.  I called her Freedom's Fire.  Big mistake.  Freedom joyfully broke out of every fence and went through every gate that she could.  She loves freedom, she revels in telling you so.  I sold her as a five year old to a woman in Missouri.  She has ruefully agreed that Freedom's name fits her too well.  However, she produces beautiful babies, so she has a home for life.

I could go on about names--how Angel came by her name, how Magic's name got changed and why, but that'll have to wait for another day.  Suffice it to say, names are interesting things; they have power, and sometimes they have histories we're not even aware of.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Green smoothies

I've been paying more attention to diet lately.  I tend to grab whatever is close to hand and munch unthinkingly.  That often means I'll make a crusty whole wheat bread, then dip it in olive oil with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Very good tasting, but is this what I really want to eat, no matter how healthful the bread and olive is?  Or sharp cheddar cheese on Triscuits, hard boiled eggs, and so it goes. So a few weeks ago I got back in the habit of making green smoothies for breakfast.  I've had to tweak amounts a bit, because I tend to make enough for an army, and the army never shows; so it's smoothie for breakfast, smoothie for snack, smoothie for lunch, smoothie for snack--you get the picture.

Sometimes my combinations are challenging to the palate, to say the least.  Yesterday, for example, I blended a little banana, part of an apple, some frozen, cooked rhubarb, an orange, a bit of cranberries, and kale, and added kefir to the whole lot.  The result was--well, different, but i added a little Stevia to the lot to make it more palatable, downed it anyway (several times because of the sheer volume) and way glad to see the last of it.

Today, however, ah!  I've hit the jackpot!  Frozen green grapes, frozen blueberries, an orange, kefir, and endive.  For good measure, I threw in a heaping teaspoon of Diamond V yeast.  I'm sitting here now enjoying every mouthful.  This combination I need to write down. Yum!  This is how life (and breakfast) is supposed to be.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Ali went to her new home Sunday.  It was rather bittersweet.  Ali's a sweet doe, but very dominant, and much more aggressive than my Saanens.  And when I wanted everyone out on grass, she still wanted to be in the barn eating hay.  So, not a good match.

Her new owners came to take her home.  They had a van with several bales of hay surrounding a deep bed of hay for her to lie (or stand) on.  Ali was so good!  I got in and tugged a little on her lead and encouraged her to hop in.  Well...she really sort of climbed in, because she is just huge with kids.  But she put up first one foot and then another, and with a little help from the back, negotiated the big step into the van.  She looked around, started munching hay, and all was well.  This was really the last day I felt comfortable transporting her anywhere.  She's due April 1st, and was literally scraping her sides coming through the goat door in the barn.   In fact, we had to widen it for her. ;D

I got an email today.  She never made a sound all the way there--over two hours.  What a good girl!  And she looked around, explored a bit, and settled in nicely.  All in all, I'm very happy with her new people.  They seem to like her a lot, and I think they'll take great care of her.  And what's best is that they're interested in natural ways to care for her, rather than the chemicals that are so prevalent in animal care today.

The only one that's a little unhappy is Sanuba.  She and Ali shared a stall for a while, and she misses her buddy.    Now I can start preparing for the spring kids. Beatrice is definitely carrying a kid or two, and due on April 20th.  Sanuba?  Well, she never came back into heat, so I'm assuming she's also pregnant, but with goats, especially first fresheners, it's sometimes hard to tell.  I hope she is.  Some changes I definitely look forward to--like kids bouncing and playing everywhere. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Raw foods and health--why vegan?

I've been eating from 50-75% raw foods now for about two years, and it's obvious to me that eating raw foods is one of the best thing I've done for my body.  The one thing I find, though, as I look for more information and connect with more raw foodies, is that I'm a definite minority in a minority way of eating.  It seems that most raw foodies think any animal product is anathema!  But why?  Where is the rationale for that?

Victoria Boutenko, for example,  states that human being all come from tropical climates.  Oh, really?  Tell the Inuit that!  Tell Laplanders!  Tell the Hunza!  The claim makes no sense to me.  Now understand, I have a strong Judeo-Christian background, and when I read the scriptures, I see God leading the children of Israel to "the land of milk and honey".  That doesn't sound very vegan to me.  I also read that all herbs and grain are good for man, but that we should be very sparing in our use of meat, except in times of cold or famine.  No problem there, either.  My point, I suppose, is that if the Creator tells us to use animal products, and in some climates the population would have died out long ago had they not eaten animals, why, then, are those in search of a more healthful diet so eager to throw out all the wisdom of the ages? 

I agree that in our over-processed, phoney-food society, we need to get back to more healthful ways of eating.  In fact, I think we need a more agrarian society, and we should all be growing at least part of our own food supply.  No one, though, is going to convince me that vegan is the most natural way to eat.  I rather like the idea of a land of milk and honey.  My goats supply me with delicious raw milk, which I'm free to ferment as kerir or yogurt, make into various cheeses, or drink down fresh--and raw--as it comes.  This, too, is raw food, and don't see any good reason not to enjoy it.

Here's to raw health--in all its wonderful flavors!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Goats, horses, and fences.

The weather is wonderful today.  Though the forecast calls for a 20% chance of snow, the temperature will be close to 40--a heat wave!  There's so much to do before spring thaw!  Last week my son helped me build a partition in the chicken coop to separate the geese from the chickens, so they have a place to nest without being disturbed.  Okay, I helped him. He did most of the work and I was the go-fer.  Today I will put the door on and that job will be done.

Then comes the fun stuff:  finding the shorts in the electric wire.  It's always been a source of amazement to me that I can get a good charge at the source, and have nothing 5 feet down the way, and all the searching in the world won't show me a break in the wire or a place it's going to ground.  Does electric wire have a consciousness, one that snickers and snorts when someone comes out to make it goat proof?  I've taken to going out in the dark to see if I can find a spark every 2 seconds emanating somewhere along the fence line. I've tried to hone my hearing so I can hear the subtle snap, snap of a shorted wire.  The goats watch expectantly, especially Emily, who wants to escape into the wide world of the forbidden.

Someone should explain to me one day, in a way I can understand, why goats and horses can have 30 acres of pasture with excellent grass and browse, but what is beyond the fence--that is, the lawn and the rose bushes, look so much more inviting.  If there's a hole in the fence, Emily will find it.  If the gate is left unlocked for 5 minutes--unlocked, mind you, not open--Magic will suddenly come up from the pasture and push it open, then, kicking and bucking, gallop across the lawn, tail up, ears forward, celebrating her new-found freedom.  If the electric fence goes to ground, either Emily will slip through, or Magic will reach over to eat whatever is on the other side, regardless of how much feed is on her side.

I think 30 aces should be enough for any horse or goat. Obviously I'm missing something, so today I'll tackle the small orchard and give the goats something beyond the paddock area where they're now confined, pending better fencing.  It's a good day to do it, a good day to be outside enjoying the January thaw that showed up in February, a good day to imagine that spring is just around the corner.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Reminder of Spring

Today warmed up to about 35 °.  I let all the chickens out, and as they happily scratched and roamed, I tackled one of my least favorite, but oh-so-necessary jobs--cleaning the coops.  I had both shavings and hay down and the chickens had scratched them to a pulverized rendition of their former appearance.  

The barn is old, built in the late 1700's, and though one enters on the ground level, the hill it's built on quickly falls away and the first floor is supported on 6 inch posts.  The middle coop, divided for chickens on one side and geese on the other, has two windows overlooking the pasture.  One of those windows is just big enough to dump a muck bucket out of, into the compost heap below; so much easier than carrying each bucketful one by one.   It also afforded a wonderful view of the geese playing in the tiny rivulets of water formed as the ice melted.  They were content, honking softly, and stayed far enough from the window to merely glance occasionally as another bucketful fell into the pile below.

I raked and I forked the bedding, lifting various pieces of flat board that cover holes and cracks between the floor boards, inspecting the floor to make sure it's still sound, and of course, it is.  Still, it's good to have those extra piece of board to keep down drafts.   Then came the sweeping.  It's amazing how dusty chicken detritus can be, and just how much fine dirt and dust is left after picking up the larger stuff.  You'd think, wouldn't you, that the chickens would be especially happy to be outside on such a beautiful day, but there's nothing like moving hay and bedding around to rouse interest.  Who knows what goodies could be uncovered at the flick of a stable fork or a broom?

Finally I was done with the cleaning, grabbed two bales of mulch hay, and covered the floor deeply.  Ah, then the interest began in earnest.  It wasn't exactly a stampede, but hens just seemed to appear, and even the rooster took up his spot and called to his girls to come see what great things awaited them in this new, fresh hay.

Now it's time to clean all the dust and hay off.  I feel like it's an inch thick on my skin.  A long, hot shower will be a perfect way to end the cleaning chore, and I can hear the water calling my name.

Truly, this is what life is supposed to be.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A walk through the snow

It's been a few days since it snowed,  but I finally remembered that I had taken some photos.  Snow looks so lovely from a distance, both temporally and spatially.
Picture Perfect Snow

                   Plenty of Snow to shovel!

The animals seem to do very well in the snow.  Well...maybe he geese had their second thoughts.

Magic watches over the fence.  Hey!  Where's my treat?

How a goat gets a dirty nose in the snow is a mystery to me, but goats are interesting beings, with talents only suspected by the likes of us humans.

And after the day is over, the twilight comes, the snow starts gently falling once again, and peace lies over the land.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chickens and eggs

For weeks now, each day we find one egg broken and eaten. Clearly, this will not do.  There are 22 chickens, including one rooster, in the flock, various breeds, and I started separating them 2 at a time to see if I could discover the culprit, essentially dividing the flock into two areas.  Rather a pain, since now I have to have two feeders and two heated waterers.

Now, the odds are that I will not have to go through the entire flock to find the guilty party, right?  But that's exactly what happened.  Each day I'd remove two hens and the next day there'd be a broken egg in the original coop.  Each night I'd band the two I'd removed the day before so I could identify them if they were out together.  Finally I was down to two hens, having already ruled out the rooster.  I removed one and the one that was left laid and ate her egg the next day.  Hallelujuah!  I'd found the culprit.  I removed her, asked my brother, who is not at all squeamish, to take care of the problem, and put the rest together.  He never came, and the next thing i knew, that %*!@# hen was back in with the rest of them.  AAARRRGGH!

No problem, I thought.  I've banded all except the one.  I just have to find the one without the leg band.  Sneaky chickens that they are, two others had shed their bands. Okay, three is better than 22.  I removed one of the three.  Not guilty.  Two to go.  This morning, I walked into the coop and caught the egg-eating hen red handed--or yolk-beaked, if you will, egg dripping from her beak as she pecked away at her egg.  I was infuriated!  I grabbed her, and wrung her neck on the spot.  I heard the bones crunch.  Then I stomped to the house, tossed her on the ground, and to my amazement, she slowly got up, shook herself, and sat there looking around.  An hour later she was pecking at this and that in the yard, and a while after that, she was in the barn again.

Now I've heard of cats having nine lives, but chickens?  For now, I'm going to let her have the run of the barn.  Who knows?  Maybe her head is screwed on straight, now.

2010 Census

It's a new decade, and the U.S. Census Bureau is gearing up to send agents around collecting information.  Now, since I'm a genealogist of sorts, I'm happy to find information on family from past censi (or censuses).  However, the Constitution authorizes and enumeration for the purpose of calculating how many representative each state gets in Congress.  Anything more than that is simply information gathering.

A few years ago, the U.S. Census Bureau started sending around the American Community Survey, which is "conducted under the authority of Title 13, United States Code, Sections 141 and 193", according to the ACS FAQ.  A more intrustive "survey" you'll never lay eyes on, and the "law" threatens you with substantial fines if you don't answer.

However, there is a way to answer both the ACS and the Census truthfully, completely, and still maintain your privacy.  Any questions that pertain to the First Amendment, that is, religion or anything pertaining thereto, can be answered, simply, "First Amendment".  Anything else besides your name and address and number of people in the household can be referred to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees (not grants, because this right is given by God and not government) your right to privacy.  The actual wording of the Fourth Amendment can be found here.

Rights that are not claimed are not rights at all.  To remain a free people, it's imperative that we "remind" our government that the U.S. Constitution is the fundamental law of the land and that Congress cannot change it merely by passing a law.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Victory for Raw Milk

U.S. Dept of Agriculture, the FDA, and various state governments have been waging a war against raw milk for years.  Swat teams hold women and children at gunpoint wihle they haul away "evidence" and "contraband" (raw milk, computer records, dairy equipment) and consumers are treated like children who can't make decisions for themselves.   This, of course, is all under the auspices of "protecting" us against our own stupid decisions.  Like other socialist policies, this looks well-meaning on the surface, but the loser is always the private citizen, and the winner is always corporatism and agribusiness.

A recent ruling in a Canadian court is a ray of sunshine in an increasingly bleak landscape.  Michael Schmidt, an Ontario farmer, was acquited of 19 charges brought against him by the Ontario Ministry of Health.  Schmidt had been running a cow share program to provide raw milk to those who would prefer their milk and cheese unpasteurized.  You know, the way it's been consumed for millenia.

In today's world, common sense takes a back seat to hysteria and corporate interests, and the uninformed eagerly nod their heads in acquiescence, thankful for Big Brother's solicitude.  Others, like myself, see what is happening to our food supply, investigate claims made by public health officials, and compare that to historical data.  I, for instance, concluded that raw milk, raw honey, and other raw foods can't be the threat we're told or the human race would have died out long ago.  Obviously that didn't happen, despite the lack of officialdom looking over our shoulders and monitoring our every mouthful until the recent past.

If every judge were as thorough as Ontario Judge Paul Kowarsky, it would be a better, safer world.  Those who want to drink pasteurized milk would be free to do so, and those who like raw, would be safe from gestapo tactics.

Food protection advocates energy would be better spent protecting us from genetically modified foods, contamination of open-pollinated crops, and providing labeling laws that allow us to know just where the threats in our food actually lay.  Instead, they harass small farmers and private food coops, discourage the buy and eat local movement, and work to convince the European Union that GM products don't really need to be labeled, using the long arm of the U.S. government to further the interests of Monsanto

As for me, I plan to continue drinking my own raw milk and making my own raw cheeses.  I have my very own raw milk machine, and she's a lot friendlier than agribusiness.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Adding enamel to teeth

I just came across an interesting claim that monosodium phosphate will actually thicken the enamel on your teeth and prevent cavities.  If it's true, I want to know!  Quickly!  I have a dentist appointmet next week that could perhaps have been avoided.  In the course of my investigation, I found  It's hard to tell whether the referred to book is necessary or just a good marketing device.  Actually, there's a reference to and the book on  Call me jaded, but I had to wonder if the owners of Toothsoap posted the wiki answer.

I'm going to spring for some monosodium phosphate and some toothsoap and report back in a month or two.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if this were a journey to a new land where tooth decay is unknown, rather than a short walk down the primrose path?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Legacy of Shame

I'm about 2/3 of the way through Legacy of Ashes, a book by Tim Weiner about the CIA.  Truly, the book should be renamed Legacy of Shame.

Well written and informative, if a bit biased, the one question that isn't directly addressed is:  Should the U.S. even have an intelligence branch?  The answer has to be yes.  No nation can exist without knowledge of the world around it, and even during the American Revolution intelligence operations were necessary.

But another more pressing question is whether the U.S. should throw out its moral foundation to interfere in other governments under the guise of national security.  My vote is NO.  There is NEVER a good reason for assassinations, fixing elections, and meddling in the internal affairs of other nations.  The whole mindset has led us to where we are today: hated and despised by the rest of the world, feared even by U.S. citizens.  We are bankrupt in more ways than one.  The CIA needs to be eliminated, and a new intelligence agency that provides information only--even by placing people in sensitive positions--needs to be formed.  Then all we need is operatives and politicians with moral fiber.  Yeh, right, if that's even possible in today's America.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thoughts on a Snowy Day

It's snowing.  Has been since sometime during the night.  As I look out the window, I see the chickadees making runs to the birdfeeders, snatching seeds then flying off, to return again a minute later.

It's very quiet, not the sound of a motor anywhere.  A perfect day to stoke up the wood stove, curl up with a book, and let the world go by.  I watched the end of a movie this morning, Delhi 6.  Good movie, even though it was subtitled thoughout.  As I sit here in my quiet corner, I wonder how people can live in such teeming masses, all of humanity crowded next to each other.  Yet even as I say that, I'd love to go to India and experience it.  I'd like to experience life on many planes, but this one, the one I have today, is the one I want to always come back to: enveloped in quiet, surrounded by warm furry and feathered bodies:  cats, horses, goats, chickens, and anything wild that comes through on wings or feet.

I was reading The 5000 Year Leap, by W. Cleon Skousen, this morning.  Chapter 15 covered The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith, one of the foundations of our Founding Fathers' economic and political philosophy.  We've left that far behind.  For the first hundred years, America embraced Smith's ideas and the U.S.A. became the wealthiest nation in the world.  We produced the most goods, grew the most crops, and exported the greatest amount.  Real wealth, that's what America gave to the world, and though there was still poverty, it was not the glaring abject proverty that's seen all of the rest of the world.  Americans opened their hearts and their wallets and became possibly the most generous people in the world.

That's all changed now.  In the early 1900's, by slow degrees, free market capitalism began to fall into disfavor, as Marxism slowly encroached through the offices of Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and almost every president since 1950.  What I find particularly telling an 1865 editorial by Lord Goschen in the London Times: 
"If this mischievous financial policy, which has its origin in North America, shall become endurated down to a fixture, then that Government will furnish its own money without cost. It will pay off debts and be without debt. It will have all the money necessary to carry on its commerce. It will become prosperous without precedent in the history of the world. The brains, and wealth of all countries will go to North America. That country must be destroyed or it will destroy every monarchy on the globe." Hazard Circular - London Times 1865 (emphasis added)

Is it any wonder that our economy has been under attack, that the Constitution has been undermined, that the "dollar"--which used to be defined as 372.5 grains of fine silver--is almost worthless?  We're now fighting over the last 2 or 3 cents, and hyperinflation is breathing down our necks.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Little Guy

Last April when I bought some day-old chicks locally, I was offered a Silkie with a flipped foot.  At the time, we weren't sure if it were a pullet or a cockerel, but I took it, hoping it was a pullet.  Nope, a cockerel, but so darned cute that I didn't care.  I suspected that as time went on, but when he started crowing, it was a sure thing. The problem is, that all my other chickens are full size, and they sometimes pick on him unmercifully.  He's housed in his own little area in the tackroom, and locked in a cat carrier-cum-private-coop at night. During the day he gets around surprisingly well on that flipped foot.  He can't roost, but he moves well enough.

I call this little bantam SilkieLou (if it had been a pullet, the name would have been SilkieSue), but he actually has many names.  My son calls him AfroCluck, my sister calls him Buckwheat, and her friend Bill calls him Afro or Little Buddy.  My mother just calls him "that funny looking chicken".

SilkieLou actually comes when called--usually.  Or at least, he croons when you call so you know where to find him.   He's a great favorite with everyone at the farm, and Bill, who is a city boy, can't believe that he thinks a chicken is so cute.

A few weeks ago, SilkieLou disappeared.  We called, we hunted, we looked in every nook and cranny, behind every box, under every overhang.  We looked outside, under bushes, beneath vehicles, sure that he couldn't have gotten out of the barn, but not wanting to take any chances of overlooking him.  We called, we listened, but to no avail.  After two nights, we were sure he was gone forever.  48 hours later, the Silkie showed up, hungry and thirsty.  The whole household celebrated!  Such can be the effect of a lowly chicken on the spirits of us all.

I'm looking around for a Silkie pullet or two now.  I think he deserves to have company, and maybe his own little haram.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Time to catch up.

The summer fled by, the fall is gone, and we're right in the middle of a cold Maine winter.  I now have four goats. I added an Alpine, only to find that I really prefer my Saanens.  Ali is a beautiful doe, registered, belted Chamoisee, but her personality is much different from the others.  Where the others want to be outside, she wants to hang around the barn.  The others are sociable with each other as well as with horses and humans.  Not Ali.  She wants to hang out with people.  She's also a very dominant doe, so it took a while for things to calm down after she came.  Now she and Beatrice share a stall and Emily and Sanuba share a stall, and all is quiet.

Three goats are bred:  Ali is due April 1st and Beatrice is due April 20th.  Sanuba may be bred.  I thought long and hard about whether to breed her.  She was, after all, only 8 months old in November; but she's a big girl, and weighed about 100 lbs, so on the last day of her heat, I put her in with the buck.  She ran from him, butted him unmercifully when he got too close, but he finally cornered her and she never came back into heat.  If she's bred, she's due on April 26th.  Emily, aka "Tank", can wait until next year.