Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Noose Tightens

What's new in the world of raw milk, these days? Lots.

FDA has just passed the law where it is now illegal to transport raw milk across state lines. In Wisconsin, Nevada, Louisiana, Iowa, and Montana, it is illegal for state residents to buy and/or sell raw milk, but there are thousands of people in each state that want it. So they traveled over to the next state to get it, where it is legal to buy and sell this contraband item, and then they smuggled it home. Now, with the new law in action, these ordinary people who just want good, clean milk, are violating the law as they continue to smuggle the embargoed raw milk into their state, and risk heavy penalties if they are caught.

Back in December, a woman living in Minnesota received a letter from the MDA (Minnesota department of Agriculture) stating that they had scheduled an administrative meeting concerning her actions in "assisting the sale of raw milk." What was this woman doing? She was buying raw milk, and local foods for her family, and sharing it freely with friends around her. But the MDA wanted to put a stop to it. Since then, the woman and her family have gone through many days in the courtroom, fighting their case, they have had police officers come to their home with criminal search warrants, and they are still fighting their way through everything. All because she had an affiliation with raw milk.

There are over nine million people in America who drink raw milk. FDA is cracking down on small farms that produce it, and people who buy it. The noose is tightening; slowly. So slow that we don't realize what's been taken from us until it's too late. Right now, selling raw milk in the state of Oregon is legal. But there are still laws that we have to put up with. If you are an unlicensed milk producer (which we are), then you can only sell your raw milk from the farm, you cannot deliver milk, you cannot advertise that you are selling raw milk, and you can have no more than 2 milking cows, nine dairy goats, and nine dairy sheep. As long as I stay within the limits, I can pass beneath the radar of the FDA, and my contraband milk can still be sold. But if I so much as dare try to milk ten dairy goats and sell the milk, then I risk having certain government officials coming to my door, and threatening me with various tactics. Don't believe me? It happens quite frequently across the nation.

As I delve deeper into the political world of food topics, I come to realize just how precious raw milk is becoming in this nation. The government is doing everything in it's power to make raw milk illegal to everyone. A couple states are viciously trying to make it illegal to own your own dairy animals. They are treading unmercifully upon our dwindling freedoms... What is it about this white liquid that causes such a war within the nation? I know the majority of the problem leads down to money. More and more Americans are choosing to buy raw milk directly from the farmer, which means less and less money going to the dairy CAFO's. We've scared the government, and they are retaliating.

 Thankfully, things aren't quite so black as they first seem. There are a lot of activists out there who are making life difficult for the USDA and FDA. Because of their faithfulness to the cause, many states do still allow the buying and selling of raw milk -- for now.

The Bible verse about loving your enemies has really hit home this week, for me. I've been feeling like I've been hit over the head with a two by four as things sink in.

"Love your enemies; bless those who curse you, pray for those who hate you..."

You mean I have to love and pray for the USDA officials!? Double whammy!

I remember reading in Joel Salatin's book 'everything I want to do is illegal', at the very end, Joel simply says how the USDA truly believes that raw milk and homegrown chicken is hazardous. They believe it with every fiber of their being. To have such people who will so doggedly try to extinguish these things is truly amazing. They don't care if you hate them, they don't care what you try to do to them. They want you to stop producing "unclean" food. And they will do whatever it takes to stop you.

Joel's electrifying words that follow are : "God bless 'em".

I recently read through a thread online, concerning raw milk, and of course there was a USDA official on there. It was incredible reading through his comments on the matter. He sincerely, 100% believed that raw milk is poisoning people, and that is was the USDA's job to save the lives of American citizens and abolish the "horrible practice of drinking raw milk". I laughed when I first read it, because it was so unreal. All his "scientific facts" were so goofed up, that it became a little clearer as to why things are the way they are.

As for me, I'll continue to drink my milk raw, and I will continue to provide it for others no matter what.

I gave my goats and my cow each an extra bedtime hug tonight. They deserved it... :)

Milk anyone?

Random Words of Wisdom

These are all pretty random one-liners, by pretty random authors...

"The most absurd and reckless aspirations have sometimes led to extraordinary success."

"Experience is the name so many people give to their mistakes."

"Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared."

"How old would you be, if you didn't know how old you are?"

The only way to be absolutely safe, is to never try anything for the first time."

"A government that is big enough to give you all you want, is big enough to take it all away."

"Why not" is an interesting slogan for life."

"Food is an important part of a balanced diet."

"Anger is only one letter short of danger."

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

"When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free."

"It is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them." 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Plan B

Sooooo, did I really say that I was going to be milking Heidi tomorrow? Just pretend you didn't read that. ;)

 Feeling like a criminal, I dutifully put Beatrix and Bertram into one of the kidding stalls earlier this evening.

And then the wailing began.

You'd have thought that I just chopped their tails off! Those two little whippersnappers wailed, and cried so loudly that they could've doubled as a siren! I steeled myself, and tried to remember that we've gone through this before, and that it was necessary if we wanted milk...

Then they bonked their newly dehorned heads up against the metal barn walls...

The screaming rose to another level, and I caved. They bounced happily out as soon as I opened the door, and they were both smiling smugly as they watched me leave. Ornery ol' goats.

Plan B: I have no idea. Maybe I'll try separating them during the day tomorrow. I need to sell some milk this week, as I only have two bales of hay left, and it's gonna' go fast...


Heidi's blood sample has officially been sent on it's way to Idaho, and now there is nothing more to do in the matter except wait...

The testing will take place on Friday, but we won't get results until Monday most likely, so stay tuned...

As a side note, I start milking Heidi tomorrow; wish me luck! She hasn't been milked in 3-4 years, so it should be interesting!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

There Would Only Be One Thing To Do...

At the risk of grossing y'all out, I'm going to go ahead and post the picture...

This is some of Heidi's blood, in a glass vial. It will be sent to Idaho on Monday to be tested for CAE.

For those of you who don't know what CAE is.... It stands for 'Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis', but that's too much of a mouthful for us goat owners, so we just say CAE. Basically, a goat that has CAE will usually get a terrible case of arthritis in its joints, it will begin to waste away and then eventually die. There is no cure for it. Not all animals show symptoms for this disease; some may be carriers but stay healthy their whole lives; which is why we have to test them for it. CAE is only contagious through breeding, blood, or milk. Meaning, I could have a CAE negative herd of goats, but if they were bred to a CAE positive buck, then they too would become positive. Or if a CAE negative goat licked some blood off of a CAE positive goat, then the disease would be shared. And lastly, if you have a CAE positive goat, and you let her kids nurse off of her, then they will be CAE positive. If you take the kids away at birth, and bottlefeed them with a different milk, then they will be fine.

I say all this because, Heidi was tested almost three years ago for CAE and tested negative, but anything could have happened in that span of time; so for all I know she could end up being positive. If she ends up being positive, then something is going to have to happen. You can't (well, you shouldn't) breed a CAE positive goat, because the buck would then contract the disease. And if she can't be bred, then she can't be milked. And if she can't be milked, then she is termed "useless". Most CAE goats are destroyed because no one wants them; the only other use for them is just being a pet. But Heidi is such a big girl, I'm not so sure I could find someone who wanted her just as a pet.

In that little glass vial,  ultimately is Heidi's fate. I knew that there was a chance that she might be CAE positive, when I first bought her. But I took the chance. She was such a shaggy, ugly, bag of bones when I got her... But lately, she has begun blossoming into a lovely dairy doe. She has gained weight, she's starting to look sleek and glossy, and she has such a sweet temperament. I wouldn't dare say that she's become a favorite, would I? ;)

While talking with a friend yesterday (the one who helped me with the dehorning), I had mentioned to her that I didn't know what I would do if Heidi tested positive. She replied that there would only be one thing I could do, if that happened.


I'll let y'all know what the verdict is when the testing is finished...

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Fine Print of Farming

I love farming. I really do. But there are days when you find yourself reading the fine print that comes with this lifestyle, and you wish you could take an eraser to it...

Two weeks ago, my cow accidentally kicked me in the leg. Thankfully, I only had a baseball sized bruise to show for it, but was a reminder that my 400 lb. heifer will soon be an 800 lb. cow that might kick a little harder.

Last week, while trimming Ivy's hooves, she slammed the back of her head into my face. Again, nothing too serious, just a lot of blood, a busted and swollen lip, and an inability to talk or smile for 48 hours. Ivy got the silent treatment for a while after that...

These things naturally come with the farming lifestyle. Accidents happen. People and animals get hurt.

Today I had another "fun" day. My two goat kids, Beatrix and Bertram, had been dehorned when they were 7 days old, but both needed to be done again, as the horns were growing back. Along with dehorning them, I also needed to castrate Bertram, and draw some of Heidi's blood so that I could get it tested. Fun, fun, fun. (Not)

Thankfully, I have a friend who is a vet tech, so she came out and helped me get everything done. Drawing Heidi's blood was pretty uneventful, but the dehorning was another matter. I vehemently dislike dehorning, but unfortunately it's just one of those things that has to be done. The kids definitely screamed more than last time; maybe because they're older? Personally, if someone touched me with a 1000 degree iron, (no, that's not a misprint; the iron really is one thousand degrees) I think I would probably scream a good deal louder and longer than the goats did! But we got it done. And we even got poor Bertram castrated. Whew!

When we were done, I looked like I had been in hand to hand combat. One of Bertram horns had bled a little more than usual, and the ornery fellow decided to rub his head vigorously on my shirt and arm, leaving some lovely scarlet streaks hither thither. Thank you Bertram.

All the animals are resting quietly now. Bertram looks quite pathetic, and I feel so bad for him. But, goat kids always spring back to their normal, bouncy self in a few days, so that's a small consolation.

Despite the pitfalls, bruises and blood that come along with the farming life, I still love it. I am willing to endure the bad experiences, because I know that the good ones outweigh them....

Anyone want to learn how to dehorn a goat? I still have lots of babies comin'! ;)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


We had a late night, last night and I didn't get to bed until about midnight. I was absolutely zonked, and was sleeping soundly until...

My older brother wakes me up at 1:15 in the morning and says, "Caity, is that one of your animals making that ruckus outside?" I shot out of bed, not yet completely awake, and listened intently to the night noises....

There was an unmistakably loud noise coming from outside alright, and it sounded like a distressed goat or sheep, but I didn't recognize the voice. Was it one of my goats? "Maaa! Maaa! Maaa! Whatever is was, it wasn't happy!

I tore downstairs, stomping and thumping my way around as I got my coat on, while my older brother rushed to get the rifle. I was all prepared to go outside and defend my animals, (although bereft of a flashlight or a gun) but luckily mom  had woken up by this time and said I should probably just let the guys (big brother and dad) go check things out. A few moments later, the night once again fell silent. I paced the living room anxiously... Neither wanting to go out into the dark, nor wanting to stay inside.

Dad and big brother returned a few minutes later. They saw nothing, and all my animals were present and accounted for. We all went back to bed, but sleep had left me...

I lay awake until 3 a.m., wondering if my animals were truly alright. It had sounded like Heidi's voice, now that I thought about it, but I had never heard her so upset. Were the chickens all there? Were the goat kids okay? Yes, I am a worrywort.

After 4 small hours of sleep, I couldn't stand it anymore; I got up and went to check out the crime scene. All my animals were fine; the chickens were all there; things seemed normal. Some snooping around revealed large coyote tracks. Unfortunately, the very few tracks that were on our side of the property got erased from boot tracks, but they were very well defined on our neighbors property. So my theory is that Mr. Wile E. Coyote was trying to get some free dinner, but Heidi heard him and started the alarm up. At the sound of humans approaching, Mr. Wile E. took off, deciding that he wasn't so very hungry after all.

So now here I be, rambling on and on... I've learned that I don't do so well on four hours of sleep. It makes me somewhat incoherent. ;)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Salatin Speaks Again

If I could meet one person in life, it would be Joel Salatin. The video below is pretty long, but it's a good one! This one was recorded when he came to Portland Oregon, and it was so encouraging to see all the fellow Oregonians in the background who agree with his ideals and goals.

I've been hearing murmers here and there about Joel coming to the Northwest again this summer, but haven't heard anything concrete yet. Anyone know anything about this rumor?

Enjoy the movie!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Book Review...

I have almost finished reading through my stack of books for the month. Some I read twice over because I enjoyed them so much, some I never finished because they were not what I thought they were, and some I am still trying valiantly to finish... Here's a tiny peek at what is in my "book crate" this month...

Slow Food Nation
By Carlo Petrini

Rating: 10
Readability: 8

This was a fantastic book, but it is in every way, a "slow" book. I had to read and re-read everything just to fully comprehend what the author was saying. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was translated from Italian to English? But once you get used to mentally slowing yourself down (by nature, I am a very fast reader), the book is very enjoyable, informative, and eye opening.

Impact: 10
   I learned a ton from this book; although some of his terms took some getting used to, such as a person being a "gastronome"! ;) I suppose the "American" version of his term would be something like "foodie", "locavore", "Greenie"... Something along those lines.

Recommend it: Very highly! Just take it slow!
Read it again: Yes! Someday I would like to buy this book!

What to expect: Right off the top, you might expect that this book would be about eating "organic, local foods" and all that stuff that seems sorta' elitist. I was pleasantly surprised to find the opposite. Petrini writes with a passion about how our food should be "good", "clean", and "fair". The majority of the book explains in very fine detail just what he means by that. Basically, we should have a decentralized food system that is "good", meaning it supports families in a way that they can make a true living, not just surviving. It should be "clean", meaning our food system should be sustainable, so that families do not have to rely on chemicals, and that the farming practices do not pollute or endanger anyone or anything. And it should be "fair". Many third world countries are cheated out of what they should earn for their crops (many earn $1 per day to support their families). Petrini wants to see that all family farms get a fair price for their goods, not the lowest price possible.

My thoughts on it: Overall, I liked it. I like Carlo's style (even though it took some getting used to), and I like his ideals and goals. He wants to see the world's endangered livestock, cultures, foods,  and lore be revived and kept going. I think he has a good thing going. ;)

The Face On Your Plate: The Truth about Food
By Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Rating: 1
Readability: 3

Impact: 0
Recommend it: No
Read it again: No

What to expect: Masson does his best to turn all his readers in to vegetarians (he would prefer vegans though), by an attempt to horrify you, take you on a guilt trip, and prove the point that animals are the same as people in every respect.

My thoughts on it: I read through the whole thing, because I had heard about so many people turning vegetarian after reading it. I was curious to see how one author could have such an impact. I was not impressed in the least. Masson's theory had a lot of holes; and big ones at that. He starts the book out by asking why we would value an infant/ mentally retarded/autistic child more than a full grown chimpanzee who has  "more intelligence than the above humans". That made me mad. I slammed the book shut and threw it back into my book crate. As a Christian, I believe what the Bible says, and that is that we humans were created in God's image, and we were created to be stewards of the earth and to have dominion over all the animals. Masson's explosive question goes completely against what God has told us.
After a few days to cool the smoke, I picked up the book and continued. Next explosive remark: Why do humans feel that it is okay to eat animals and/or keep them for dairy, eggs or work, but we rebel at the thought of human slavery? Masson claims that we are hypocrites in the worst sense of the word if we can do this without any feeling of remorse for the animals.

Another urge to slam the book closed and burn it. But I didn't. I take it back to the bible. We were given dominion over the animals. It says numerous times in various places how the animals were created to be "beasts of burden".

Continuing on in the book, Masson takes you through the dairy business, the egg business, and the meat CAFO's, trying to take you on a guilt trip. Overall, his reasons for not eating meat is that an animal has to suffer in order to feed you. My opinion is that eating meat is biblical, and while yes, the CAFO animals do suffer horrendously while growing to slaughter weight, we can easily choose to eat meats that have been grown by small farmers who care about their livestock and see that they have a content, although short, life.
Masson does write about the small farms where the animals are cared for properly, but still condemns them. His reasoning? The animal still suffers when his time is up. Therefore, humans should not eat meat.

My response was an original, "bah-humbug"! I have personally slaughtered animals before, and I know that if the animal is dispatched quickly and properly, then it feels no pain; it's just over.
Biblically, slaughtering an animal was a daily thing for many people. Jesus Christ is depicted as a "lamb going to slaughter", or "the lamb that was slain". Life, suffering and death are irrevocably intertwined. You cannot get away from it no matter what.

Back in February, I did do a one month meat fast. I consumed no meat at all, and liked it pretty well. But I did it for health reasons, not because I felt that eating meat was wrong.

So I finished the book. No, I did not burn it. It is sitting quietly in my book crate, waiting to go back to the library. Masson brought up many points, but I did not feel that any were biblically sound. And so, I will continue to eat meat, eggs and dairy. Masson can keep his veggie burgers, I think I'll have scrambled eggs for lunch today...

Real food: What to eat and why
By Nina Planck

Rating: 9
Readability: 10

Impact: 10
Recommend it: Yes!
Read it again: Yes!

What to expect: Nina is very down to earth as she writes, and very simply points out how the basic foods truly are the best foods for our bodies. All those yummy foods such as raw milk, homegrown eggs, real cheese, oils, meats, lard, fruits, vegetables, etc. are what God created for us; we should enjoy them and know that they are healthy!

My thoughts on it: I loved her style, and loved her points about it. It takes her awhile to actually get "into" the book, as she tells about her childhood and young adult years, aaaaand it takes awhile to read through. The only thing I didn't like was that she believes in evolution, and every now and again brings up the phrase, "millions of years ago, we humans...." But her information is very sound, both scientifically and biblically. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it made me hungry every time I read it! ;)

I have over 25 books in my book crate, but somehow I don't think y'all want a review on all of them [wink], so I'll leave these three as a highlight of what I've been reading. Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts on them?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Goals and Decisions

I like lists.

I like to know exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, and when I should do it.

And so, as I have been brainstorming ideas, goals, decisions and whatnot for this farm these past couple of days, I have had a chance to go over some things again and make some changes.

Most of my idea/goals are still in rough draft form, so they shan't be shared publicly yet, but there is one goal in life that I DO know what I want, and where I want to go with it. And that is with my dairy goats.

Last year, I jotted down what I wanted to see in my growing herd of goats and it looked something like this:

Does should be very feminine, and graceful looking. No heaviness or coarseness in body type. First time milkers should give a minimum of 1/2 gallon a day, and would like to see senior milkers giving at least 1 gallon per day. I want goats that do well on a grass based diet, with only a tiny bit of grain (max. 1 lb. per day) and decent hay to supplement. All goats should be very hardy, with minimal health problems, and does should all have easy births.

 I feel like I am off to a good start with these goals, but lately I have been mulling over the thought of adding another breed into my herd. I love my flop-eared Nubians,  but I've also always liked the flashy French Alpines. So my thought lately has been to try getting a couple of doelings this summer, and see how they do. It will be interesting to see how they produce on the above diet (grass-based) as most Alpines have been bred to consume large amount of grain a day, and produce large amounts of milk in return. I just feel like I don't have very many breeding options with my Nubians, and it is really hard to find purebred doelings that have the genetic potential to give 1 gallon of milk a day, that are under the price of $500. Ouch. I've been mulling over the thought of selling Ivy after she freshens (gives birth) in April, but I'm not 100% positive on that decision yet. If I do sell her, than I will probably use that money to invest in some quality Alpines.

I've had a few Alpines in the past; my favorite was named Gretchen. That goat was the most sensible, patient creature, that it almost didn't seem possible. She never tried to escape, never hogged any food, never went down in milk production, was never temperamental, was easy to breed... Just an all around good goat. I have tried multiple times to re-find her, but have failed thus far. Maybe some day... But she was my first Alpine, and since then I have always had a sneaking fondness for the breed.

One other thought I have been toying with, is breeding Heidi with a Saanen buck this year; thus getting kids that would be 3/4 Saanen, and 1/4 La Mancha, but it depends on if she tests negative for CAE or not. Not sure what I'll do if she tests positive... I guess I'll get there when I get there! :)

So I guess my goals really haven't changed. It just feels that way, since I will be working with a new breed, and new bloodlines, I guess. But I'm excited. Excited to have more goats (one can never have too many), excited to have Alpines again, and excited to see how everything plays out in the end. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Farmageddon: The Unseen War On American Family Farms

I recently found out about a documentary that will be coming out soon, titled "Farmageddon", and am now very excited to get to watch the whole thing rather than just the trailer. This documentary bluntly shows the injustices being done to the small farmers in this nation. We are not being allowed to sell, giveaway or consume our own clean food. Farms are being raided, farmers being led away in handcuffs, people being held at gun point by police officers, sheep being killed for no reason... The trailer alone is riveting.

I wanted to put the trailer on here so y'all could see it too, but the producers of the video respectfully ask that viewers go to their website instead. You can visit it, and see the trailer HERE.

I did also want to mention that the producer, Kristin Canty, will be doing a broadcast on the radio about food rights and 'Farmageddon' on March 19th. You can find more info about that HERE

Chicken, Anyone?

April is sneaking up on us, and with it we are facing the big question: How many meat chickens should we raise this year? If nothing else, we will just raise enough birds for our own freezer, but we would like to offer all of you who are within driving distance to us, the chance of getting some good, homegrown chicken for yourselves!!

We will be raising Red broilers (usually a Rhode Island Red/ Cornish cross) which are a little slower growing than the standard white Cornish crosses, but they tend to have a lot more flavor, as well as being hardier birds.

The feed has been the main stickler for us. I knew exactly what I wanted: No corn, no soy, no GMO's, all organic, preferably all locally grown, whole grains. The feed store people thought I was crazy to have such a tall order. ;)

But after many phone calls, I have done it!! I finally located a local feed mill that does all of the above. They are very passionate about their work and truly believe that you are what you eat, eats; and therefore only use the best feed they can find. Yes, we will end up paying a bit more for this feed, than regular conventional feed, but I think that it will be worth it.

So if you would like some real, homegrown chicken for you freezer, feel free to e-mail us HERE to be put on our list! This year's prices are $2.00 per lb. (compare with Harvest Fresh's chicken which is $2.99 per lb.) and the majority of our chickens will weigh around 5 lbs.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

And The Winner Is....

Today's the day! We will find out who the winner of my 'Heirloom Seed Collection' is!

A flower pot seemed ideal for putting the names into...

Said pot was then shaken, stirred and mixed...

and the winner is....!

Congratulations 'Sue'!! (you posted as "anonymous", but you told me who you were. ;D) I will get your seeds sent off you you as soon as possible!

I would also like to thank the others who entered my little giveaway. These seeds are not your ordinary "Dollar-Tree" seeds; they have a history to them. By growing them and saving the seed, you are helping to keep that history from disappearing forever, as well as preserving some rare gene pools and protecting food safety. Each variety has been grown for generations by different families, to have the traits that they do; they have not been genetically modified, nor tampered with, in any way. Sue, I hope you enjoy your seeds, and I hope you have fun experiencing the rich heritage that each variety has! :)

Happy gardening!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Feeding Time At The Zoo

I've started giving the chickens soup for lunch, which basically means any kind of grain I can find, some alfalfa pellets and some kitchen scraps all thrown into a pot and covered with boiling water. Yesterday, they had a warm broth of alfalfa, oats, barley, brown rice, lentils, linseed, and powdered milk.

And they loved it!

Normally, feeding time erupts into a mad, scrambling, squawking mess as the hens all fight for the food, but with the soup, it's calmed into a quiet, peaceful chore. 

For their breakfast this morning, I gave them some alfalfa mash. To make it, I just soaked some alfalfa pellets in water over night and voila! Instant breakfast! The pellets swell to roughly three times their original size, which means that it doesn't take much. I tried soaking 5 cups of pellets, and ended up with 16-17 cups of mash the next morning; way too much!! From now on, I will only soak 2-3 cups per day. 

The hens all seem really content on their new diet, and I am happy to have them off of the commercial chicken  feed, which is expensive and causes health problems.

Why not try giving your chickens some soup today?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Cow

The sweetest, gentlest, most loving, annoying cow that you ever did see.


This is a cow kiss. Poppy loves to give one to me each time she sees me, but it doesn't work out so well when I have a camera. ;)

Ahhh, The Farm Life...

People love imagining the idyllic farm life. There are chickens clucking, bees buzzing, a friendly milk cow is lowing, the grass is a vibrant green color, the sky is so blue that it doesn't seem real.... Ahh, life in the country.

Or maybe not. ;)

Today was one of those days.

Unfortunately, while we may get the above description of the farm life every now and again, there are still days full of mud, blood and water. And in February and March, we get more of the latter than of the former.

I had a list of things that I needed to do outside, but couldn't decide if I should wait for the weather to clear up or not; I decided to go ahead and go, since Oregon weather is so unpredictable. Things started out pretty well; I was working on clearing an area for another garden (making for three gardens this year), and for the moment, the sky was pretty clear. I even thought about taking my carhartt off. Then my cow saw me....

Poppy is under the delusion that when I am outside, I am outside solely for her enjoyment; and therefore I should be petting her rather than working. When she realizes that I'm ignoring her eyelash batting (she's gotten pretty good at it!) she begins bellowing... One moo after the other.

I continue to work, trying not to let Poppy's tantrum get under my skin. Then I notice that the weather is quickly changing. The wind picks up to high speeds and I occasionally see a chicken being blown by. I quickly finish up, and then remember that I needed to add one more strand of electric fence to the pasture, so that I could move the animals the next day. The electric rope is found, the fencing pliers are found, I grab my gloves... But can't find the wire needed to attach some of the insulators. Grrr. A 10 minute search still does not reveal the wire, so I decide to just start with putting some insulators onto the metal fence posts.

Heading out, I have a choice, I can either go through the big metal livestock gate, but risk letting all the chickens out, or I can clamber over the fencing instead. I decide to go over the fence. Half way to my destination, I realize that I have somehow forgotten the insulators. How does one forget those? Talent I guess.  Back over the fence I go to retrieve those annoying plastic things that are so mandatory to electric fencing.

The rain has increased to a steady pour by now. The cow is still mooing, and I'm pretty drenched. Upon climbing back over then fence, I cut my leg, but refuse to tend to it until my job is finished. My boots make a dramatic "squelch, squelch" as I walk down the the property edge. It doesn't take long to realize that I don't have near enough insulators to finish the job, but do what I can and then start heading back to the barn.

The cow is still mooing.

The wind blows a few more hens around, and then dies off. I feel and look like I just walked backwards through a hurricane.

I get the chickens lunch started (soup!), throw more hay into the manger for the goats, fill everyone's water buckets, put all the fencing supplies where they belong, turn the compost pile, and then face my bovine who has now been incessantly mooing for over 30 minutes.

I fold my arms and walk slowly up to her. The goats are smart enough to realize that this means "I'm not happy with you, you had better run and be quiet!" but my cow just makes happy grunting noises and waits for me to come. I'm sopping wet, my leg is still bleeding, my skirt is liberally streaked with mud, and right then, I wanted to be indoors more than outdoors. I stop in front of Poppy, trying my best to look intimidating. She simply bats her eyelashes and then sticks her head in the crook of my arm.

 [sigh] Cows. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. How can you resist someone who loves you no matter what? So, mud, blood and all, Poppy and I spent the rest of the wet afternoon together.

And she's quiet now. ;)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

And So The Long Wait Begins...

Capri dried up today. ("dry" means: not in lactation)

Ivy is dry.

Penny is dry.

And Heidi is not able to be milked yet.

Meaning: I have no goat milk, whatsoever. Ouch.

I had hoped to keep Capri in milk just a leeetle bit longer, so that right when she dried up, I would begin milking Heidi and thus not have a period of no milk. But, Capri had other plans.

So I am now on a "dairy fast". I don't start milking Heidi for 4-6 weeks, which means I will have to go 4-6 weeks with almost no dairy consumption at all. I'll still eat store-bought cow yogurt, but after a year on raw goat's milk, I can't go back to that stuff in the jug.

 To torture myself further, here is a list of praises about raw milk (cow, goat and sheep). Unfortunately, pasteurization destroys the majority of the vitamins, enzymes and beneficial bacteria that is normally found in milk, otherwise I could say that this list is about milk in general.


. Complete protein to build and repair tissues and bones
. Vitamin A for healthy skin, eyes, bones, and teeth
. Vitamin D to aid calcium and phosphorus absorption and for bones and teeth
. Thiamine to help turn carbohydrates into energy and aid appetite and growth
. Riboflavin for healthy skin, eyes, and nerves
. Niacin for growth and development, healthy nerves, and digestion
. Vitamin B6 to build body tissues, produce antibodies, and prevent heart disease
. Vitamin B12 for healthy red blood cells, nerves, and digestion; and to prevent heart disease
. Pantothenic acid to turn carbohydrates and fat into energy
. Folic acid to promote the formation of red blood cells and prevent birth defects and heart disease
. Calcium to make strong bones and teeth; also aids heartbeat, muscle, and nerve function
. Magnesium for strong bones and teeth
. Phosphorus for strong bones and teeth
. Zinc for tissue repair, growth, and fertility.

Whew! That is quite the list! I am already missing my raw milk! :(

Studies have also shown that raw milk has some of the same properties as blood, and while still warm with body heat, fresh milk has the ability to combat and destroy germs, as well as strengthening the immune system.

If you are interested in finding your own source of raw milk, my suggestion would be to start with the Real Milk website. Dairy sellers can be hard to find, but the effort is well worth it!

 I know many, many people have been turned off of goat milk due to a "goaty taste", and to me, that is one of the saddest things to hear. If the milking area is kept clean, and the milk is chilled quickly, and a good breed of goat is used, there will not be even the tiniest hint of goatiness. The breed of goat is really important, as some goats, such as the Oberhasli, toggenburg and occasionally the Saanen, have been bred for generations to give goaty flavored milk. Whereas the Nubian, Alpine, La Mancha and Nigerian are bred for creamy, sweet milk. So if you have tried goat milk before, and didn't like it, try again! A few of my family members claim that they don't like the taste of goat milk, and even say that they can distinctly taste the difference between raw goat milk and pasteurized cow milk. But I can't even count the number of times I have given these family members raw goat milk without them knowing, and they thoroughly enjoyed it! It's pretty funny. ;)

So, wish me luck as I embark upon my dairy-less month; we'll see how I fare...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tastes Like Chicken

A couple weeks ago, my family and I went up to Portland for the day. On our way there, we passed by a Foster Farms chicken CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). The landscape surrounding the place looked starkly neat, and six huge, dome topped  buildings loomed in the background. Each one was roughly 100' wide, and 180' long, and had no windows to speak of.

These buildings had 18,000 square feet inside, and housed 20,000 to 40,000 meat chickens. Most buildings average 36,000 chickens per building, making a total of 216,000 chickens in that one area.

As we were passing that farm, going 60 mph in our van, I looked at those "barns" and tried to conjure up an image of 36,000 birds inside them. I couldn't do it. My brain can't seem to wrap around the thought of that many birds in such a tiny space. Most chickens need a minimum of 3 square feet each. These birds each have roughly .5 square feet to themselves.

I thought about just how well the industry has hid these things from sight; A lot of people pass by that farm everyday and never realize what's inside...

Cramped in their dark, dusty, ammonia-reeking homes for 8 weeks, these 'broilers' (term for meat chicken) can barely move due to their unnaturally large size and suffer from numerous illnesses such as ammonia burns, respiratory diseases and crippled legs. They can do nothing but eat food that is placed in front of them, and grow fat.

When their 8 weeks are up, they are loaded onto a truck, to be slaughtered, by Latino-American, and Mexican workers, who speak no English (the industry uses foreign workers specifically because they don't speak English. If they can't speak English, then they can't tell anyone about what's going on.), are treated badly, and are payed a small pension for their work.

And yet, by looking at those huge buildings, you might never guess that they had such a story behind their walls...

We Americans are so disconnected from our food source, that we can't even begin to imagine such a thing. To us, chicken looks like this:

It's in a nice, neat package, it shows a picture of rolling green hills and a red barn on the plastic, and the whole thing looks very different from how it was when it was alive. I think this is part of the reason why most Americans don't really care about the CAFO situation. They just see the finished product. It doesn't look like a real, clucking chicken with beady little eyes. It just looks like meat. Mentally, there is no connection.

It just doesn't seem right that the industry can legally cram that many animals in one spot, pollute our water and air, and mistreat the workers, all for the sake of supplying us Americans with "cheap" food. Is our food truly "cheap", though? Is that low price tag really worth the end result that comes with CAFO meat? Tasteless, arsenic tainted meat that wears down the immune system; damaged agricultural land, from spreading animal waste on it; poor health of the workers, and the people who live near the factories; a miserable existence of the animals who are forced to live in cramped quarters.... All of that, for cheap food?

Does chicken taste like everything, or does everything taste like chicken? In all honesty, we shouldn't catch ourselves saying that something "tastes like chicken", but we do. I know I do. The food industry uses breeds of animals that grow quickly, not animals that taste good; and consequently, we are left with foods that really don't seem to have a flavor of their own. Our chicken is virtually tasteless, and our other meats are getting closer to being that way. Our food should be PACKED with flavor; it should have its own taste, and not leave you thinking that it tastes like chicken, if it isn't. The cause for this loss is they way they are being raised, (CAFO style) the feed they are fed, (corn, soy, dead cows, paper, chicken manure, etc.) as well as how they are harvested (we won't go there today), and stored. It all adds up to either a flavorful cut of meat, or a tasteless excuse for a cut of meat.

I'm not saying here that you are a bad person if you buy store bought chicken. What I am saying is that I think it's time that we Americans need to start taking on a little more responsibility with our food choices. There are multiple ways to get alternative, grass-fed meats. Local farmers are one way, or you can try Farmer's Markets, CSA's, Co-op's, Local, placing a 'wanted' ad in the newspaper, calling your local extension office, googling it on the internet.... It goes on, and on. Use your imagination! Sourcing you own food can be incredibly fun (and rewarding)!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Mennagerie Farm Giveaway!

Now! Onto happier subjects other than head bonking and CNG people! (referring to the post below)

Mennagerie Farm is hosting a giveaway!!

And the prize is....?

A lovely collection of Heirloom seeds, just in time for planting season!

This collection will have a generous variety of seeds that would be sufficient for a medium sized garden and will range from extremely rare seeds, to not-so-rare, to just-plain-beautiful varieties! (pictures do not show exact varieties that will be in the collection)

To enter, just leave a comment below, and just for fun, tell what your favorite veggie is!

The final drawing will take place on March 12th, so save the date!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Do You Hear Something?

If you do, and it sounds like a loud, "KA-BONK, KA-BONK, KA-BONK", then don't worry; it's just me banging my head up against a wall.

I am still working my way through the hoops and hassles that come with the attempt of being Certified Naturally Grown....Thus the head bonking.

I've done almost everything. Almost everything, to meet the standard. Then, a couple days ago, I received an e-mail from the people who run CNG with one seemingly small question.

 Those people honestly have no idea what they are asking.

There is a creek running between our property and the neighbor's, and the distance from bank to bank is sufficient enough to create a buffer.... Except in one small spot. That one small spot is only 15' from bank to bank and so the CNG people have innocently asked if we could possibly somehow extend that buffer to 20'.

Huh? What do they want me to do!? Bring in an excavator and just POOF! Dig away the bank on my side? Isn't that illegal to mess with property lines? Or, I know, I'll just grow a huge hedge 5 feet from the bank and call it good. Sheesh, I'm just a farmer, not a magician!


I think this might be the Lord saying that right now, it's not time to be messing with certifications. But part of me is still being stubborn and wants to keep on trying. [sigh]

Any suggestions?


Soooo, I was getting a little bored with the old blog look. So I did some changing today! What do you think of it? Should I change it back to the old look? I'm not real sure if I like it or not, yet.... I'm still working on tweaking the small details, such as changing the word color on the sidebar (don't know why it's being so problematic!).