"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


                                 "Smoking Goat" Chilpotle Cheddar

I didn't have the guts to wrap it and set it aside for a month. I cubed it and tossed it in salt and am aging it in the fridge. We'll see how much age it gets; it's pretty goddamn delicious as it is. 

Monday, June 29, 2009

Virtuous Kitchen

This is what my kitchen looked like at 5 pm today. 

This is what my kitchen should look like just about every day between now and mid-september. More usually - that is to say, outside of preserving season - virtue in a kitchen is defined by its cleanliness, and I'd be the first to admit that I am not a virtuous woman (though I am tons of fun). In midsummer, however, virtue in the kitchen is defined differently, by industry. 'Tis the season of industry in the kitchen, and I am elbow deep.

Today, I was up at seven and I ran out to milk the goats, because last night was the first night I separated the babies and I knew the mamas would be extra-full. They were indeed: I got about three quarters of a gallon of milk, which, together with yesterday's haul, was enough to make a quart of yogurt as well as a couple pounds of cheese. 

This is my current cheese set-up. I am still not a very good housewife as far as cleaning is concerned, but at least my training as a nurse has enabled me to create a sterile field (okay - a clean field). When I make cheese, I begin by scrubbing a stainless steel pot, a colander, and the entire kitchen sink with soap and very hot water. When the curds are ready to drain, I boil the cheesecloth - which is really a cut-up 100% cotton pillowcase - and line the freshly scrubbed colander with it. I ladle in the curds and wrap them in the cloth. Then, after salting and various other secret cheese procedures, I place a clean plate atop the cloth and press the curds with two stacked-on-top-of-each-other kettles filled with water. It's not perfect but it's going to have to do until my husband makes me an honest-to-God cheese press. 

Today, friends, I took a leap and actually followed the recipe for cheddar. The hard part is going to be not eating it. Real cheddar should be aged for a minimum of several weeks. I haven't decided how to age it, in wax or in a cloth wrapper, and I'll have to age it in the fridge because I don't have anything analogous to a cheese cave, but still. It's technically cheddar because I cheddared it. So there. 

I also had a few pounds of pickling cukes which really needed to be turned into pickles quickly. 

These are quart jars. I made two quarts of dill pickles and one quart of bread and butter pickles. I adore bread and butter pickles, and so does my mom, but my kids all prefer dill. Plus I had to use the dill my sister gave me from her garden. Three jars doesn't seem like a lot of pickles. I think I'll have to do some more. I'll see what's available in the farmer's market this week. Seems like there's always one week when whatever you are looking for is as cheap as dirt - you just have to be ready to pounce on it and take advantage.

In other words, you have to keep a virtuous kitchen, at least for the summer. 

Summer Food Production Season

Just a few notes here to catch up. 

It finally rained a few days ago, a good, soaking rain that lasted most of the day. But it's been hot and dry again ever since. The grass doesn't seem to have perked up much. We need more. I hope it rains again before the fourth of July. People up here really do fireworks big time. There's no need to go to a municipal show: from my ridge here we can see some pretty major displays - stuff I've never seen regular people blow up before. So of course my husband wants to keep up with the Joneses. Me, I'm happy with a big box of sparklers. 

Last night I put the two bucklings in the barn and locked the door. I want more of Iris' and Flopsy's milk for me. As I sit here, I am nibbling on the last of my red-pepper queso fresco and now that it's got about two weeks age on it, it's getting sharper, drier, and more delicious. I really want to make some storing cheese, so we will have cheese in the winter. To do that, I need much more milk!

The bucklings cried and cried. They yelled and hollered for hours. It's so sad. The moms always hang around the barn and yell to their babies for about fifteen minutes, then they wander off and seem to forget all about them. (Well, that's what I do, too, I guess. My sister and I went away for the weekend, and I might have thought about the children twice. For a second or so.) Meanwhile, the babies are apparently starving to death, even though they nursed less than a half hour ago. When I let them out this morning, they were both all hoarse. They could barely baa, the poor things.

But I got almost a gallon of milk! I'm making cheese right now! I am hoping I can move a little cheese into the trade network, to make up for the lack of eggs.

The egg supply has dropped severely lately. I'm sure that some of the hens are finding a new place to lay eggs, because I haven't seen any blue eggs in a while, but the hens that lay them still look like layers. I have no idea where they are laying them. Not in the hayloft, that's all I know. All I find up in the hayloft are more brown eggs. Right now, six or so of my hens are broody. They've been broody for weeks. Nothing seems to stop them. I've tried the recommended methods of breaking them up, but nothing works. I'm sick of broody hens.If I let them brood, the babies have a hideous mortality rate. And I don't need any more chickens anyway! I'm thinking of putting an ad on craigslist offering two broody hens for one layer. 

The Kale Fairy is on vacation for two weeks, which is fine with me because we are still trying to eat our way through last week's shipment. It consisted of two gallon sized ziplocs stuffed full of various salad greens, another of endive, another of kale, and one more of some kind of spiky and peppery green. Mustard, maybe? I also have turnips, napa cabbage, and dill from my sister. And a big colander full of pickling cukes. I'm planning to pickle today.

I also want to get out to the strawberry farm this week and get serious with the strawberries. We went two weeks ago and picked enough strawberries to eat ourselves sick and to freeze two gallon sized ziplocs, but one of them is gone already. I want to have about ten in the chest freezer. 

Then it will be raspberry season, and after that, blueberry. Oh and blacberry. Last year was a bad blackberry season and I hardly did anything with them. This year I plan to get a lot more. 
It's hard to believe it's this time of year already. Canning season. Berry season. Preserving season. Almost time to start thinking about the cold season again.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Trade Network Blooper

Ooops. Apparently, I had a big misunderstanding with my next door neighbor. She's the elderly lady with such lovely fruit trees, and early in the spring I left a dozen eggs on her porch with a note asking if I could trade her eggs all season in exchange for "fruit off her trees in season." She called me on the phone and said that sounded like a nice idea. I've been leaving a dozen eggs on her porch every week since, probably up to about twelve dozen eggs by now.

Usually I don't see her, but yesterday, her front door was open, so I called out "hello!" and we chatted for a few minutes. I said it looked like the raspberries were coming on and could we come over and get some in a few weeks? She answered that her daughter usually gets most of the raspberries. Oh sure, I said. How about those cherries? How do they look? She said there really weren't going to be very many, it looked like a bad year for cherries. Oh bad luck, I said. Well, we'll just wait for the apples! Bye bye, have a nice day, hope you're enjoying the eggs.

This morning, the carton of eggs was in my mailbox, along with an envelope in which was twenty five dollars and a note which read "sorry for the misunderstanding, I thought you just wanted apples! I have a large family and they come first. I hope this money helps you feel better. Sorry you're upset but I didn't mean all the fruit."

Well now I feel just awful. First of all, I wasn't upset at all, and I'm not sure what I did to give her the impression that I was. I'm perfectly happy with "just apples." I hate to think I came off as some kind of fruit-mooch. And of course there's no way I can possibly take her money.  And now, there's no way I can possibly take her apples, either! I'm not sure what to do. I guess I'll send back another note with her money in it and just say "oh tra la la, I'm happy as a clam, no harm, no foul, here's your cash back."

Any ideas?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Good Curds

I've been making lots of Queso Fresco lately, and it really is quite delicious. Not right at first; it has a sourness while it is extremely fresh that I don't like. But after a couple of days curing in salt in the fridge, it becomes something really good. 

My last batch is a hot-red-pepper flake queso fresco and I can't keep my hands off it. I think I am going to have to start separating the baby goats at night, because Iris all by herself isn't giving me enough milk to feed my cheese habit. I find myself snarling at Homero "Go milk your own goat!"

(hee hee, not really.)

Monday, June 22, 2009


Farmy types will recognize this large white piece of plastic as a calf-hutch. It's eight feet in diameter, has built in feeders and waterers, and calves on commercial dairies are kept chained inside day and night. The feeders are made to fit across the opening, because the calves never come out, so why leave a space? It's appalling, I know.

But it makes a great summer goat house. Used calf hutches are relatively commonly found for sale around here, but they go fast. In the past, I've several times seen an ad on Craigslist, called, and found them already sold out. I got this one for $100, which is pretty good. My BIL helped me get it home. It stuck WAY out of the back of his truck.

Finally I have a place for the goats to spend the night in the smallest pasture. I haven't truly implemented the pasture rotation part of the worm plan, because I can't bring myself to let the goats spend the night without shelter of any kind, even when the forecasted low temperature is sixty degrees. Now I can start.

Probable Good News

Took Clove to the vet this morning, and he said he very much doubts the lumps are CL-related. Just not in the right spot, no lymph nodes nearby. However he did aspirate with a very fine needle (another clue it probably isn't CL - the pus inside a CL abscess is usually thick and chalky, not thin enough to aspirate with a fine needle.) and we will have definitive results in 48 hours. 

Oh and I was told that CL, at least the superficial type with no involvement of the internal organs, is not a reason not to eat the goat. Since we are going to butcher ourselves, we will know if there is internal organ involvement or not. 

Oh and FYI, a volkswagen beetle is not an approved method of transport for a terrified forty pound buckling. 

Possible Problem

I don't want to jump to any conclusions, but Clove (the buckling we intended for our own personal table this year) has two small, suspicious looking lumps on his shoulders, in the place that would be called his withers if he were a horse. They are hard, non-mobile, and apparently tender.

The conclusion I don't want to jump to, for all you non-goaty folks, is CL. That's a systemic, recurrent infection caused by a soil bacterium. It's quite prevalent in goats, enough so that most reputable breeders test for it yearly, and enough so that I should have insisted on seeing test results on every goat I bought. What it does is cause abscesses, sometimes superficial ones in the lymph nodes and sometimes internal ones on the lungs, liver, and other viscera. While the abscess is encapsulated, it isn't contagious, but when it ruptures, it is extremely contagious. And you don't want it in your soil: it can live six months in the soil and infect any goats hanging around. 

How could he have got it? He's only ever left the farm once - to get his horns burned off - for about two hours. So it must have come from one of my goats. If that's what it is, of course. If my goats have got it, I'll have to cull. Ruthlessly. All of them. 

Oh god, I'm not sure I can handle that. 

So I'd better call the vet and see what to do. Here's the problem: She could aspirate the cyst and culture it for CL, but then it would be "ruptured" and Clove would need to be quarantined until fully healed (or until the results come back negative, I guess). He's only 8 weeks old, he isn't weaned yet. Or, of course, he could be culled. 

There are questions I need to ask the vet. Does CL have any potential impacts on human health? In other words, could we still eat him, assuming the cysts are superficial and can just be peeled off with the skin (oh God what a disgusting thought. Real appetizing, Aimee)? As far as the other goats - none of whom have any lumps or bumps or abnormalities I can find - will a blood test suffice? What about the other kids? I've heard that a CL blood test isn't reliable until 8 months of age. As long as they don't have any cysts, can I just wait and let them grow up without fear for any goats who have tested negative? Or do they need to be quarantined for the next six months?

Aaargh! Goats are supposed to be easy! 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Trade Network Week Three

Four dozen eggs and a half pound of cheese to Veggie Man in exchange for 3 1/2 pounds of Bing cherries, three pounds of snap peas, a bunch of carrots, and three zucchini. Also, the Kale Fairy is loading me down with greens this week, because she's going out of town, so I get all the stuff she would give me anyway, plus all the stuff she would ordinarily take home to eat herself.

I'm planning on dehydrating some cherries with the kids, and also making some snap pea pickles. I was going to do that today but my sister came over with her family and gave me an excuse not to. Thanks, sis.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Summer Solstice State of the Farm

Just a few days ago, it seems, I went out and looked at the pear tree and lamented that it looked like we weren't going to have many pears this year. I wondered if it was the paucity of bees, or if perhaps the tree was an every-other-year producer like so many apple trees are. But today, suddenly, it's broken out in tiny hard little red pears all over! I think we will have at least as many as last year. And now that I know that pears are one of those weird fruits that don't ripen until AFTER you pick them, I won't get frustrated and pick them all at once and have seventy-five ripe pears in a drawer at the same time. 

I decided to do the rounds and see what's in bloom now, weeds included. I know the Hemlock's in bloom, because I've been wading around in the thistle and stinging nettles trying to pull it all or at least pinch the flowering tops off before it goes to seed. I think I'm becoming immune to stinging nettles. Sort of. Okay maybe not. I did send Homero over the fence into the neighbor's pasture with the gas powered weedeater. He got most of it on that side.

The clover is in bloom, both red and white. The blackberries are in bloom. I spoke to a beekeeper who posted an ad on Craigslist looking for somebody with at least an acre of blackberries to place a few hives and pay them in honey at the end of the season. I called him and told him I wasn't sure about the acreage, but we had a blackberry hedge 400 feet long and twelve or fifteen feet wide. He said he'd come over this weekend, but I haven't heard from him yet. Dang, I'd love to get some local honey to put up.

My tomato plants are in bloom. They aren't looking too happy in amongst the weeds, but maybe I'll get a few tomatoes. The potatoes have not bloomed yet.

The oxeye daisies are in bloom. The roadsides are covered in them, I love it. The butter cups are in bloom. The foxglove is in bloom. A lot of stuff that I don't know what it is in bloom.

Here is Storm Cloud, looking like he might be in bloom. He's big enough to really keep up with the herd now. Up until a week ago, he'd usually lie down in a patch of tall grass and wait for his mama to come back to him, but now he grazes alongside everybody else. He tries to jump and climb with the other babies, but they are way ahead of him. He sure is pretty.

Speaking of pretty. Poppy is just getting more and more gorgeous all the time. She loves to play with the goats, jumping up and bucking and nipping them and then running away, circling back, doing it all over again. The goats don't really get into it so much. Poppy is growing like a weed herself. She's not only going to be tall, she's going to be strong. Look at the hindquarters on her! She's got a nice chunky butt. Maybe her papa was a quarter horse. Who knows?

On this longest day of the year, things are going well. Everybody's healthy - except for Xanadu, but she's slowly getting better. The kids are happy, the chickens are laying, I'm hanging in there and this old world is spinning along right on schedule. 


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Coctel de Camarones

This is one of those "it turned out so good I have to get the recipe down" things. The other night, Homero came home with a pound of fresh in the shell pretty-big shrimp (I hate saying "jumbo shrimp," and they weren't prawns). He wanted a coctel de camarones - a mexican shrimp cocktail.

There is actually a whole genre of Mexican seafood dishes that might be easily confused, being basically all predicated on that sprightly mix of chopped veggies we call pico de gallo, so a little explanation is called for. A coctel is not ceviche. Ceviche is raw seafood marinated in lime juice and mixed with pico de gallo. Ceviche is, in my opinion, best enjoyed on the beach in Mazatlan with a very cold beer and lots of saltines. It's not Vuelve a la Vida ("come back to life"), which is a mixed seafood dish usually consisting of octopus and oysters as well as shrimp and mixed with pico de gallo ingediants (among other things). Vuelve a la vida is a respected hangover cure. Coctel de Camarones is that fabulously expensive dish you get in most Mexican restaurants served in a gigantic margarita glass and consisting of dozens (should be dozens) of plump pink shrimp floating in a tomatoey red spicy sauce along with - yes - pico de gallo ingrediants.

So, let's start with Aimee's Pico de Gallo:

2 fresh ripe red tomatoes
one small yellow onion
2 serrano peppers
handful fresh cilantro
juice of two limes

Chop everything and mix. The seeds of the serranos may be left in or removed as you wish, but don't use a milder pepper unless you really are a hopeless gringo. Preserve the proportions - more or less, it's just salsa - and you can multiply infinitely. Pico de gallo gets better as it sits, within reason of course.

Okay, this is your basic pico de gallo. Good with chips, but also as the basic building block of lots of great dishes. For coctel de camarones, you want to add to the basic mix 1 large perfectly ripe avocado, diced. It's better to leave it out than to use an overripe avocado. Slightly underripe is okay.

Put all this in a large serving bowl.

Boil your shrimp very briefly. I wash them, add them to cold water, bring the water to a boil and then drain them. They should just turn pink. Shell them and add to the pico de gallo mix. Now here's the part that makes it coctel de camarones. Open one can of diced tomatoes. Put it in a small sauce pan. Add about two tablespoons of ketchup (it won't be right without the ketchup. You canm't leave it out) and a tablespoon of the vinegar from a can of pickled jalapenos (but not any of the jalapenos themselves). Bring to a high simmer. Blend carefully in the blender and pour, while still hot, over the shrimp mix.

Break out the tostadas and the tequila. Crank it up. Have fun.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Is it High Summer Already?

How the seasons fly by when you live according to their rhythms. I can't believe it's hay season already.

We've had an unusually long stretch of warm, dry weather, and everybody is haying. I love seeing the bales out on the fields, especially the big round ones (but not the ones covered in white plastic that look like giant marshmallows). I love it when the big tractors rumble down the state highway at twelve miles an hour. I love watching the hawks and the ravens follow the hayers, scrambling for all the little animals as they run away looking for a new place to live. Most of all, I love the wonderful wonderful smell of fresh hay. 

But there's no denying haying is hard work. I was on the computer perusing craigslist at about quarter to eight this evening, when I saw an ad for local first cutting horse hay at $3 a bale off the field. That's a real good price for horse hay when you know for certain it hasn't got wet. I called the number, thinking to make an appointment for the next couple of days, but the guy said "we're out here now." They were only a half mile away, and the truck was empty, so off we went.

Thunderstorms are forecast for tonight, so these guys were working like mules to get the hay off the field and under cover. I'm sure they worked till the last light went out of the sky about fifteen minutes ago. I know we did. 

Homero managed to stuff twenty bales into the truck and we made two trips. We got it all up into the hayloft before it started to sprinkle, barely. First I had to scrape the hayloft clean of all the chicken shit and various debris that has accumulated up there. That wasn't fun. I tried and tried, but I never did find a way to keep the chickens out of the hayloft last year. Maybe I will this year.

The children sure enjoyed the whole endeavor, as did the baby goats. Nothing is as much fun to climb on as a whole big stack of hay. We're all worn out. Most likely the baby goats, too. 

 my sister suggested a caption for this picture: "you might be a redneck if..."

Worm Plan Update

All adults wormed with Panacur 6/14. Will move to smallest pasture tomorrow - when Homero finishes fixing the fence.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Affliction Has a Name

Apparently, I'm a "curd nerd."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Feta Success and Ruminations on Prudence

Well I finally girded up my loins and attempted a new kind of cheese.

It's so easy for me to stick with what I know, to keep repeating and repeating a modest success with only minor variations, and call it good. And my chevre IS good. Very good, if I do say so myself. I'm proud of it, as I should be. It's creamy and tangy and delicious.  But one thing my chevre is not, and that's feta. Or cheddar, gouda, etc.  If I want to learn to make those cheeses, I have to risk some milk.

Like eggs and omelets, I guess. I don't know why it's so hard for me to risk ruining a bunch of raw material, whether it be milk or plain white paper. I've always had a hard time resigning myself to the ruin of some resources in the name of practice. It's just a fact of life, you have to go through a lot of material before you produce something great. Photographers go through lots of film (or they used to, before the digital age). Painters go through lots of paint. And cheesemakers go through lots of milk. But for me, a large empty canvass has always inspired a terror of destroying it with an ugly painting, and fresh new unopened tubes of paint represent the large amount of money that will be wasted if I fail to produce with them anything I'd like to hang on the wall. 

Similarly, a few gallons of milk represents a rather large amount of work to me, these days. Not just the time spent milking, which is considerable, but also the work of cleaning the barn, of slinging around fifty-pound sacks of grain, of lugging water. Start adding up costs and goat's milk becomes a pretty precious fluid. It would be easy for me to freeze up thinking about that investment and refuse to risk wasting any of it on a bad batch that ends up going down the drain. I have to force myself to overcome that anxiety.

I'm glad I did. The feta seems to have turned out very well. It's a bit early to tell, since feta has to cure for a few days in salt, but certainly everything went according to plan up to this point. I read the recipe carefully, made a few adjustments in my equipment, and wallah! Feta, one of my very favorite kinds of cheese. 

After all that business about the preciousness of my goat milk, now I have to tell the truth, which is that I have way too much of the stuff and I need to find an outlet for the excess. To that end, I'm about to pack up some red pepper chevre and take it down to the farmer's market to see if veggie man and his wife would like to expand our trade deal. Already this week, for my four dozen eggs, I've received one green cabbage, two bunches of radishes, two bunches of green onions, one bunch of carrots, and three heads of broccoli. All organic and delicious. Plus I have two bags of greens from the kale fairy. We have officially entered the season of too much produce.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Homemade Mexican Chorizo

1. Raise a pig.

2. (skipping  a few steps here) Take one pound of unseasoned pork sausage (aka ground pork, preferably chilli grind) and fry it with a tablespoon or so of canola oil in a large cast iron skillet( if possible inherited from one of your direct ancestors) over medium high heat. As it is browning, add 
   a) 1 chopped yellow onion
   b)  2 or 3 chopped jalapenos and/or serranos, seeds removed or not as your preference dictates
   c) 3 cloves minced garlic
   d)  a few tbsp mixed spices, ground in a coffee grinder or pounded in a mortar and pestle, consisting of:
        i   1 tsp cuminseed
        ii  3 or 4 whole allspice berries
        iii 3 or 4 whole cloves
        iv  1/2 tsp cinnamon
        v   1/2 tsp salt
        vi 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
        vii 1 tbspn spanish smoked paprika
   e)  1 tbspn tomato paste

use a spatula to mix, break up, and scrape thoroughly whilst the mixture browns. When it is browned and fragrant enough to wake the recently deceased, add

    f) a handful of finely chopped cilantro. 
   At this point, many people of Mexican heritage would scramble in a couple or three of 

   g) freshly laid free-range eggs gathered by one's own children in the dew of a summer's            morning

but personally I prefer to eat the chorizo without eggs, simply folded into fresh hot corn tortillas (if made from nixtamal grown on one's own land and formed by the hands of one's own Oaxacan mother-in-law, so much the better)  and topped with sour cream.

It may seem like a rich meal, and so it is. 

Rich indeed.

Bye Bye Baby Balls

This picture of me and Clove is a couple of weeks old. Don't we look happy? Back then, I didn't know that Clove would be food. I thought we would sell him as a buck. But then Flopsy had her baby, Storm Cloud, a buck who is a thousand times cuter. Storm Cloud will be sold as a buck, and Clove becomes just a surplus male. 

Of course, we don't actually HAVE to eat him. But he's worth more as meat than I could sell him for alive. He's a big, strapping buckling, I think he will easily weigh in at 125 or 150 by October. That's about 60 pounds of prime, pasture raised chevon. Assuming no unexpected costs, that meat should work out to a cost to us of about $2.75  a pound. Have you priced organic lamb lately?

And if we don't eat him, then we won't eat any kid this year. We decided to keep Tutu (oh those little girls are masters of extortion), and Sandy is spoken for - she's meat for the Kale Fairy, who is providing us with an organic CSA share in exchange. (Funny, wouldn't you think the Kale Fairy would be a vegetarian?) So we eat Clove or don't eat any goat at all. And I haven't time or inclination to go into it right now, but I feel it's very important to eat a goat this year.

As future meat, Clove had to be castrated. Not only is mature billy goat a disgusting dish, but if we kept him intact until slaughter weight, he'd cross every doe on the place. I want Storm Cloud to cross them - the ones he's not related too closely to, anyway. The vet would charge us an amount to castrate him that would bring the per pound price up to unacceptable levels. Homero said we had to do it ourselves.

I said "you mean you're going to do it, right?" Well we both did it. Today I brought Storm Cloud to the vet to be disbudded (I draw the line at red hot irons) and had her show me on his little bitty baby balls how to band a buckling. It's alarmingly simple, really. The bander costs $12.95 at the feed store. It just takes .... balls. 

As it turns out, I don't have them. Go figure. I put the rubber band on the bander and slipped his testicles through, being careful that neither of his nipples were inside, but I couldn't let go of the handles and let the band snap shut. I just couldn't. I made Homero do it. As it turned out, I was being overly dramatic. Clove yelped once and then skipped off after his mama, looking for the tit. He kept shaking his back legs and looking around at his belly, but other than that he doesn't seem to be in a whole lot of distress. I guess it's a bigger deal to me than it is to him.

I've been called a castrating bitch before, but it's never been true until now. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Sixteen Things

My brother has a blog. (Infactorium.blogspot.com) It's about his recovery from alcoholism, but it's also about many random and funny things that float through my brother's fertile and active mind. He recently posted "Sixteen things which I haven't been keeping secret but which you probably don't know about me" and invited his readers to post their own sixteen things. Here are mine. Mine today, anyway. Tomorrow they'd be different. Some of them.

1. I am incapable of returning a book, so don't lend me one. I don't have a library card for this reason; I owe them $14,283 from before I learned this lesson.  
2. Not really $14,283. More like $42.  
3. I need my alone time too, but this makes me feel guiltier than it makes my bro feel, because I am a mother of two small children (and one big one).  
4. A lot of the time, I am a barely adequate mother. While my children are telling me important things I go "mmm-hmm" way more than the recommended amount. And that's not the half of it.  
5. I quit smoking two and a half years ago. Before that I smoked a lot.  
6. I quit biting my nails about a year ago. Before that, I just didn't have fingernails. I had little bloody stumps for as long as I can remember.  
7. I have no idea why or how I quit those two things; I just mysteriously stopped.  
8. I used to have lots of vivid dreams, but now I seldom remember my dreams. I miss my dreams.  
9. I like to paint nudes.  
10. All my best girlfriends moved away within the last two years. I'm really lonely for female company.  
11. I rely on my sister way too much for female company.  
12. Having accomplished my lifelong dream of moving to the country and getting goats and chickens and ponies, I'm just not sure what to do next.  
13. I often feel that I haven't yet done anything of "importance" - that is, anything that matters to anyone who doesn't live in my house. Although I have no shortage of useful skills, I just haven't been able to turn them into a worthwhile enterprise on behalf of society at large. I am afraid that until I manage that (really pretty awesome) task, I will feel restless, unfulfilled, and angry at myself.  
14. My painting and my poetry both might have been able to be part of that task, but I've been too chicken and/or lazy to make them public instead of private.  
15. I am the best non-native Spanish speaker I've ever met.  
16. There are so many things I want to do that I know I will never be able to do even a tenth of them, and that drives me crazy. All I can do is try to decide what I want to do NEXT. NEXT I want to make goat cheese cheddar.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weird Eggs Redoux

Clockwise from top right: a more or less regular egg, a freakin' gigantic egg which is most likely a double-yolker, and a teeny-tiny pretty little light blue fairy egg. Right now I also have weird long skinny blue eggs which are pointy at both ends and a purple-freckled egg. 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Goat Crisis Part II

I had to leave in the middle of the last post for church. Home now. Okay, as much for my own records (my blog is my farm record, hah!) here is what I'm doing for Xana and how she is responding so far. 

-5 mL injections of B complex TID (IM yesterday, now SQ)

-Drench with molasses-water into which I have crushed 700 mL thiamine and 750 mL calcium with D, TID (this is a pain in the ass. The first and second day she was easy to drench, but now she is so much improved that she is fighting me hard.)

Penicillin injections have been suggested but I'm holding off because her rumen is so screwed up right now, I don't want to do further damage. I guess the idea is kind of a scorched-earth approach: nuke the rumen with antibiotics and then rebuild with probiotics. I'm going straight for the probiotics without the nukes. Probios in the feed and tablespoons of yogurt.

My poor goats. They all have some level of coccidia, which is a bad bacteria that causes diarrhea and weakness. I was banging my head against the wall trying to figure out where it came from - well, it is present in all goats to some degree, but not usually in amounts that will make them sick. Why did my goats suffer from such a heavy infection? Why did they keep getting re-infected after treatment?

Finally it came to me. This property used to be a cow-dairy. A heavy intensive dairy with confinement pens and the whole lot. I also know from other clues that the owners were not particularly good husbandry-men nor stewards of the land. Dairy cows - calves, particularly - are very susceptible to coccidiosis. These folks were dairying here for forty years. And Coccidia lives in the soil "basically forever" says my vet.

Of course! This soil was saturated with coccidia before I ever put my goats on it! There is absolutely nothing I can do about that. If I put animals on the land, I will deal with coccidia. All I can do - I think - is make sure my animals are as healthy as possible, so that their systems can cope with the coccidia. This is not a disease that usually harms healthy mature animals. Kids are susceptible, and sick, pregnant, or otherwise immuno-compromised animals are susceptible. I need to make sure that my animals are well nourished, vaccinated, wormed, and generally supremely healthy. Even so, I will most likely need to treat them occasionally, when pregnancy or something else temporarily lowers their immune system.

Is coccidiosis what caused Xana's "goat polio?" I don't know. Did she get ill from a combination of the stress of peak lactation, a heavier-than-normal load of coccidia, a few resistant worms, and the lack of woody browse? I don't know. 

Thank goodness, at least she is responding to treatment. The trembling and staggering is gone. She is much more alert, generally. Her hydration status is good. Her gums and eyelids are pink, although somewhat pale. I think she can see at least a little bit more than she could a few days ago, but I know that her blindness will persist, most likely for several weeks. But she is producing milk and nursing her babies, which is good, because they are at a terrible age to lose their mother: too young to be weaned and too old to learn how to bottle feed. I think she will pull through if I continue the treatment for another week or two. 

These goats are wearing me out. 

Yet Another Goat Crisis

I've been quiet here for a few days, because I've been dealing with another goat health crisis. Xanadu, my obnoxious LaMancha and the mother of twins Sandy and Tutu, suddenly became very ill. It was odd. One day I said "hmm, Xana's losing weight. Must be because she's at peak lactation, I'll up her grain a little." The next day, I said to myself, "what's that weird, dark mask on her face? Her whole face has changed color. And she's even thinner. Something odd is going on. I'll have to research that." Next morning, "Oh my God!"

She was trembling and stumbling when she walked, and she appeared to be mostly blind. She walked right into the horse. She walked right into the side of the barn. Even when I gave her grain, she ignored it until I held it right up to her nose. This is when I got on Goatbeat and put up an emergency post.

The consensus - which came back in minutes - was that she most likely had something called "goat polio." Let me say right away that this is a stupid name and it ought to be changed because it has absolutely nothing to do with the polio virus. It's an acute thiamine deficiency caused by disruption in the flora of the rumen, which normally produce thiamine. Thiamine is a co-factor in reactions in skeletal muscle, and so deficiency produces trembling and weakness. I don't know the pathophysiology behind the blindness, but a bell in my head is ringing "beri-beri," which is a B vitamin deficiency disease in people that causes blindness. 

In any case, the treatment is thiamine, and lots of it, along with calcium 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Hard Day's Work

The lawnmower is still not fixed, despite seven separate trips to the mower place for parts (they are laughing at us, I know they are) and much cursing. Today, Homero decided to rent a brush hog to mow the front lawn. And the thistles which were forming an impenetrable thicket in the back pasture. And the giant patch of poison hemlock, which has been weed-eaten twice so far this year but which was starting to flower nonetheless. You don't have to like the nasty stuff, but you kind of have to admire it. Homero said he's enjoying working out in the sun (it's 87 degrees out). He says it reminds him of life in Mexico. 

Meanwhile, I have been washing and dyeing alpaca fiber. This saturday - day after tomorrow - is kid's day at the farmer's market and Rowan's big chance to make back our shearing fees and thus keep the alpacas. However, it's also finals week and she hasn't had time to process the fiber. So I'm helping her. What you see above is about one-fiftieth of what we've got. Less. I can't understand how anybody can make a living with this stuff: it takes whole shitloads of time to process little bitty amounts. It's annoying. But I don't have patience for this sort of work.

This was yesterday's sunset. I'm looking forward to tonight's, with a cold beer in my hand.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dilemma Resolved

I can't keep Storm Cloud. He is the most beautiful goat on the face of the earth, but I can't. Bucks are just too troublesome. Even if I could use him to service all my does, which I can't, he still wouldn't be worth the trouble.

Bucks can't be left to run with the does year round. They must be separated for a good part of the year: separated from does which they aren't allowed to breed during breeding season, and separated from any pregnant or recently kidded does. If allowed, they will breed pregnant does, possibly causing abortions, and if allowed, they will breed does who have recently kidded, possibly causing injury and infection. They will also breed does who are too young to safely carry a kid to term. In fact, they will breed just about anything, anytime, anywhere.

To accomplish their evil aims, they will go over, under, around and through well-built fences, much less the teetery, tottery, tilted fences we have at our place. A healthy buck would destroy every fence on our property in short order. 

Housing a buck separately would mess up the worm plan, effectively reducing my pastures from three to two. 

Bucks stink, in season. If you have never inhaled the incredibly potent aroma of rutting buck balls, count yourself lucky. The smell clings to your clothes, your hair, to the very crevices of your brain for hours. I already walk around town smelling like chicken shit and horse sweat: do I really want to add another layer of funk to my personal perfume? 

And the final nail in the coffin: while in rut, bucks will taint the milk of my lactating does, causing it to take on a faint, funky shadow of their own stench. Lest I forget, let me remind myself that milk is the whole point of this operation. Cheese. Yogurt. Kefir. Delicious, creamy, pure-as-the-driven-snow white milk. 

I can't keep the world's prettiest goat. I'll have to just enjoy him while he's an adorable baby and try to sell him to somebody nearby, so that I can use him to breed back to next year. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I really want to keep the adorable new baby goat, who is now named Storm Cloud (Cloudy for short). I am trying six ways from sunday to justify it. If I had my own herd sire, I'd save $50 to $200 per year, depending on how many does I'm breeding. And I've always wanted spotty goats. Iris is from lovely spotty goat lines, but this baby is the first evidence that truly spectacular spots are possible in my herd.  

Spotty goats are very popular and I might have better luck selling them - though realistically, only if I had them registered, which is a big fat pain in the tuchus. I lost the paperwork on Iris, so I don't know how I'd go about getting her registered - maybe as "native on appearance" or something like that. But let's be honest, I'm not going to do that. And there isn't much of a market for goats right now anyway, in fact, none at all. In my area. 

If I keep him, he could breed everybody except Flopsy. I'm pretty sure it's okay to breed him back to Iris, his grandam. And they'd have gorgeous babies.

On the other hand, my other does are not Nubians. All of them would have little cross breeds, which are basically worthless. My best bet is to sell or trade him to a local breeder and ask for breedings back. Maybe my sister wants him. Doubtful, but a possibility. 

Okay. It's a plan anyway. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cutest Baby Goat in History!

Flopsy's baby, born while I was at my sister's today. Why oh why oh why is it a boy????