"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, April 30, 2010

Vet Visit (Separating the Sheep From the Goats)

My ongoing struggle with worms has not been going very well. Just to recap:

After the does kidded in late March, they were wormed with Ivermectin just because it's protocol; they weren't symptomatic, although Iris did have a lot of trouble keeping the weight on during her pregnancy. Within a week or two, the does developed icky diarrhea, which I brought in for testing. The testing showed a high load of stomach worms. Since they had already been wormed with Ivermectin, I used Panacur this time. Subsequent fecals showed a virtually unchanged worm load. So on the advice of the vet, I moved to Quest, a different category of drug.

Ten days later, the diarrhea was pretty much unchanged, although I have to say I did notice the goats seemed a little more perky and less zombie-like. But they had not yet begun to put on weight, and two of the does were so skinny they would put Kate Moss to shame. I had stopped milking them, because 1) Quest has a long withdrawal time, and 2) milking a goat that looks like a wire coat rack just seems wrong.

I decided it was time to ask the vet to come out for a farm visit. She had only seen fecal reports, not the animal themselves. I thought she should see them, and also cast a skeptical eye over my entire operations and maybe suggest improvements. I have been working with this vet for a couple of years now and I like her very much. She's young, but she comes from a vet family and she actually knows and cares about goats (rare in a vet.)

Promptly at 9 am she showed up and we went out to the barn together. She looked over the does, running her hand over their poor, sharp spinous processes, and flipped their eyelids inside out to check for anemia; took their temperatures and looked at their coats and hooves. She listened to their hearts, lungs, and rumens.

"You know," she said, "these goats don't look too bad."

"What are you talking about?" I exclaimed. "They look like they were just liberated from Dachau."

"Well, yeah, they are pretty skinny," she said. "But their color is good, they are strong, they have great appetites, and I think they are going to recover just fine."

"I'm ashamed to have you look at them," I said. "I'm afraid you'll think I'm starving them to death."

"Please," she answered, "You get an A+ as an animal owner. You keep a close eye on your animals and always bring problems to our attention promptly. I know you care about your goats and it's obvious how well you care for them. Don't worry about that."

That made me feel good.

Then we went over my nutritional regimen, which is free-choice local hay plus a flake or two of alfalfa daily; a pound and a half of grain on the milking stand each morning (even though I'm not milking I keep up the routine of making them jump on the stand to get the grain), and free choice baking soda and loose minerals.

"The minerals are formulated for sheep," I said. "I couldn't find any formulated for goats."

"OHHHHH," she replied, "well, I think that's your problem right there."

Turns out, that although sheep and goats are very similar in many respects, there is at least one in which they are very different. Sheep are highly intolerant of copper; it is toxic to them. Therefore sheep minerals are formulated without copper. Goats, however, need a fair amount of copper. Recent research has specifically linked parasite resistance to adequate copper levels. My goats were probably copper deficient.

She also had a few suggestions for rearranging things on the farm and in my daily routine:

1) Get some loose minerals for goats and put it out in small amounts. They will only eat it fresh and dry.

2) Make a fenceline feeder so that the goats are not stepping on, urinating on, and pooping on their hay. It will also save a lot in wasted hay. Obviously, I don't feed my goats on the ground: they have a hayrack inside the barn. But they hayrack allows them to pull a lot of hay through the slats and trample it. In general, they just shouldn't have their food in their bedding area at all. Below is an example of a fenceline feeder, though I don't know why it doesn't have a lid on it to protect the hay from rain. Mine will.


3) Feed grain in two separate feeding rather than one lump feeding in the morning. Goat rumens are so sensitive that a large amount of grain will actually create an environment so acidic, within a few hours, as to kill off many of the bacteria that digest cellulose, and the goats will not be able to fully digest their browse, which will lead to bloating and diarrhea. The answer is to break up the grain feeding into small amounts.

4) Start feeding some grain to the babies, using a creep feeder (I'm using a chicken tractor for this prupose) so that the adults can't get it. This will help them lay off the moms a little bit and not suck them dry like little caprine vampires.

5) Get a Sweetlix protein block. When they are lactating heavily, they need extra protein.

She took some fecal samples and later, she called me with the results and told me that the stomach worms are down to 2. That's from 69 last time. She said the diarrhea is most likely residual and will simply take a week or so to clear up. In the meantime, the measures she suggested should help keep them from getting reinfested, or from becoming so sick if they do.

Let's hope.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Opening the Hives

Sooner or later, I knew I would have to open the hives again. The last time I opened them, a few days ago, it was to remove the bee-boxes and replace the frames. I did it, despite my abject fear, but not without injury (A Bee Bit my Butt). I was rather reluctant to hurry up and open the hives again. However, I needed to know if the queens had managed to escape from their boxes, plugged as they were not with marshmallows (as recommended) but with bread dipped in simple syrup. If the queens had died in their boxes, well, not only would that be horrible and make me feel really, really guilty, but also my hive would die without a queen to lay eggs.

So, it being an absolutely glorious day, I girded up my loins (and put on some pants this time) and went out to the hives. Once again, I decided not to smoke them but just to spray them with sugar syrup. Above, you can see me in full beekeeper regalia, wielding my spray bottle as I peek under the lid of hive number two.

Here is what it looks like under the lid of a beehive. As you can see, most of the bees are clustered in the middle around that bright yellow square - the queen cage. If you look closely you can see a silver strip to the left of the cage - that's an aluminum tag to grab it by. In my big fuzzy gloves, I couldn't grab it, so I had to take off my gloves and reach in barehanded. Very slowly, I pulled the cage out, being careful not to hurt any bees.

About thirty or forty bees adhered to the cage, as did a long strip of burr comb. Burr comb is comb that is not neatly laid out in straight sheets in the frames, but rather is built up willy-nilly wherever there is a vacancy. Beekeepers don't like burr comb. I'm not totally sure why, except that it makes it hard to see what's going on.

Again, if you look carefully at the picture of the inside of the hive, you will see that the frames are not put in totally straight. They are a little crooked. That's because I was starting to freak out last time I opened the hives and put them in, as the bees got angrier and angrier and began to dive-bomb me and crawl up my skirt. I kind of just shoved the frames in and fled. Today, I saw that my cowardice and haste has allowed the bees to start building up a lot of burr-comb. That's bad, though once again I have to go read the book to remember exactly why.

The queen cages were both empty. That's good; the queens were able to eat their way through the sugar-soaked bread and escape. Now I was worried that I might have pulled the queen out of the hive as one of the bees attached to the cages. I carefully examined all the bees, looking for one that was a bit larger, longer, and with a spot on her back (marked by the beekeeper, not by nature). I couldn't find the queen.

Theoretically, I should have pulled out the frames one by one and examined them for brood (eggs in the newly formed comb) and searched thoroughly for the queen. In fact, I once again chickened out when the bees began to get aggressive. They will only stand for so much tampering before they decide they are under attack and begin defensive maneuvers (stinging).

For now, I'm going to assume that my queens are alive. Maybe within the next couple of weeks I can get my beekeeping mentor out here to help me do a real inspection.

Monday, April 26, 2010

You Can Please Some of the People Some of the Time (Post-Apocalyptic Dinner Party)

Yesterday was Sunday, and a very nice Sunday indeed. High haze did not materially interfere with bright sunlight and non-chilly temperatures. If the sky was not completely blue, neither was it spitting precipitation. It was shirtsleeves weather, and not a bad day to have a few friends over for an outdoor meal.

The friends I invited are FOAFs (friends of a friend), who have recently moved to town and been put in touch with me through a very old mutual friend. They are a perfectly lovely couple, unconventional in many of the same ways as we are ourselves, and they have two handsome boys, both on the autism spectrum, one more so than the other.

Their boys have specific dietary needs, which include no gluten and no cow dairy products (goat dairy is okay, hallelujah!). When I was planning dinner, I thought my sister's family was coming, and they have even more severe dietary restrictions. Besides being laxly kosher (no pork or shellfish), my sister is vegetarian entirely, and her son (my nephew) has a severe peanut and cashew allergy.

So, to be on the safe side I had to plan a gluten free, cow-dairy free, peanut and cashew free vegetarian dinner party. Actually, it's a little more nuanced than that. My sister doesn't care if there's meat on the table as long as it is wholly separate from other dishes. Ditto shellfish - but pork is right out. If pork is being served in any way, shape or form, they won't come. I think. I could be wrong about all this - it's just what I've informally gathered over the last several years. Also, please be advised that a gluten free meal is not as simple as avoiding wheat. Many other grains, like oats, for example, are LOW gluten but not NO GLUTEN.

I would be remiss not to mention my own prejudices, which are towards local, seasonal foods, and especially towards anything produced on the farm.

Early Sunday morning found me meditatively doing dishes and trying to imagine what I might serve. Every time I thought I had come up with something interesting, one or another of the proscribed items would rear its ugly head and laugh at me "Hahahahaha, you can't serve pasta primavera that has GLUTEN," or "Wrong, asshole, quinoa with caramelized onions is okay, but forget about the ceviche, that's totally NON-KOSHER!!!" What about pad thai (rice noodles) and chicken in peanut sauce.... oh never mind.

Finally I had a brain-wave. Indian food! I could serve basmati rice (non-gluten) and lentil dal (ditto), plus lamb and spinach curry, utilizing spinach from the garden. I'd make whole wheat tortillas (gluten) as well as corn tortillas (non-gluten). For dessert I'd break out the ice cream maker and whip up a batch of goat-yogurt coconut sorbet. Non-meat eaters could still get a complete meal with rice, lentils, and corn tortillas. No gluten is in evidence anywhere as long as whole wheat tortillas are avoided. No pork (Indians are non-pig-eaters) or shellfish.

I fulfilled my need to show off farm products by making paneer, a fresh Indian cheese, and serving it with my home grown radishes and salad greens as an appetizer. I did remember, mid-preparation, to call my friend and ask if her children could tolerate mild spices (My mother never had to deal with all this: a generation ago, people with dietary restrictions kept them to themselves out of politeness, or made excuses as to why they couldn't make it to the party. Ahh, the olden days!).

The meal was pretty much a hit, although as it turned out, the curry was a little too spicy for a few of the invited guests. I am so inured to chile that I have a hard time toning it down enough for non-chile eaters. As we were sitting around the table scarfing up Indian food, the conversation turned to books we were currently reading, and thence to the inherent instability of industrial food production (I told you; this couple is similarly unconventional - in fact, they were survivalist types long before it ever occurred to me to wonder about a future seriously divergent from the past). Not to bore you with the particulars, but we discussed greenhouse design and fruit tree cultivation; peak oil and home electricity production. As the discussion progressed to the modern homesteading movement and the lost art of food preservation, I looked at the food on the table and realized how much of it either was or could be produced on the farm.

The lamb could be goat instead. All the vegetables could be home-grown (or were). The dairy products and the eggs in the ice cream were home-grown. The sugar in the dessert could be replaces with honey from the hives. Even the beverage was iced mint tea made with mint from the garden. Really, the only part of the meal that couldn't feasibly be produced on the homestead were the starches: it's too wet for wheat here, and we don't have the acreage. Rice, of course, can't be grown anywhere within 300 miles of here (though with global warming, all bets are off). In the theoretical future, I would have to replace bread and rice with potatoes. And coconut and exotic spices of course would still have to be bought from afar.

But even with those caveats, I was struck by what a decent meal we could provide with 100% home grown stuff. Green salad, radishes, fresh cheese, meat and garden vegetables, sweets. All of this was produced with minimal inputs; mainly hay and grain for the goats.

"Well," I said, "if this is a sample of post-apocalyptic cuisine, bring it on!"

The curry I made was based on a recipe my Dad taught me, which he learned from a Pakistani roommate of his at the University of Washington, circa 1966. Here is my Dad's recipe as he taught it to me, with my modifications in parenthesis:

For six to eight people:

2 pounds stew meat (beef, lamb, or goat!)
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper or 2-3 jalapenos, depending on taste
1 tablespoon curry powder (these days there are so many choices: I use madras or kashmiri)
1/2 teaspoon allspice, ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
2 oz tomato paste
2 large cans spinach (that's Dad talking: I say 1 pound fresh spinach, with any mixture you like of greens such as mustard, collard, kale, turnip, etc)

In a very large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons canola oil. Add meat, onions, garlic, and peppers, and brown, stirring with a wooden spoon. When meat begins to brown nicely, add spices. Cook 30 seconds, turning, then add tomato paste. Cook, stirring, a minute or two. Add two cups water. Bring to a boil. Add canned spinach (If using fresh greens, use this method: Wash, chop, and steam greens until tender, adding tough greens such as kale or collards first and tender greens such as spinach last. When all greens are cooked, rinse in cold water in a colander and then squeeze out excess water before adding to curry pot.). Salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer slowly at least 45 minutes while you cook rice or potatoes and heat wheat tortillas. Ladle curry into shallow bowls over rice and top with fresh homemade paneer.

In actual practice, I have used many different vegetables, from cauliflower to peas. But Greens are the best. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Fickleness of Memory (I got the Wormy Wormy Blues)

We had milk goats when I was a child. It was my job - along with my younger brother - to feed the goats and water them every morning before we went to school. I remember many a frosty morning lugging plastic milk jugs full of warm water before the sun came up. The hose didn't reach. One early morning (must have been the dead of winter - it was full dark) my brother and I saw a very strange thing in the sky. It looked like a satellite - just a star moving slowly in a straight line - but it had a trail of red flames bucking rapidly up and down. Remember that, bro?

I remember milking - though not as a regular chore. It was more of "when we felt like it" thing. I remember the cats lining up for squirts of milk whenever I milked. I remember the feeling of hot foamy milk squirted directly from the teat into my mouth. I was a generous (not to say wasteful) milker. One for the the bucket, one for the cats, one for me; one for the bucket, one for the cats, one for me.... I remember the one time Dad made cheese and being very upset that I didn't get to taste any before it was all gone.

I even remember when Lily the goat - our first ever - was attacked by wild dogs or coyotes and had a big muscle in the back of her rear leg torn out. She survived, but was never the same. I remember when Peanuts the buck was attacked by dogs while staked out in the blackberries. He was killed. After that my Dad (or Mom?) sat out with a shotgun for a few nights and peppered the dogs with birdshot. I remember when Daisy got out and ate so much rhododendron she was poisoned and how we found her lying on her side, horribly bloated.

I remember lots of frolicking in the springtime with baby goats, and how they leaped and twisted in the air. I remember there was one baby goat who could climb the ladder up into the hayloft of the barn. I do not remember how we got him down. I remember that all our goats had botanical names - Daisy, Fern, Clover, Dandelion, Bachelor's Button. I remember that I tried for years to see baby goats being born, and I never quite made it. I remember one year waking up in the pre-dawn light (my room was the closest to the barn) and hearing soft bleating sounds. I ran downstairs and out to the barn without my shoes on. Daisy ( a white Saanen) had given birth to triplets just moments before and they were just beginning to try and stand up. That was as close as I ever got.

Here's what I do not remember:

Anyone trimming any hooves.

Taking any goats to the vet, ever.

Problems with birthing.

Medicating the goats with anything at all.

Now, I was a child. I was only eleven when we moved off the farm. My mom put an ad in the paper for "free goats - first come, first serve" and we gave all the goats away in fifteen frantic minutes. It's entirely possible that a lot of things happened that I just don't have any memory of. But I think not. My mom does not remember having any problems with sick goats, either. Her memory isn't much more reliable than mine, but put our recollections together and they do begin to add up.

Most likely, we were utterly irresponsible goat owners. Mom was working seventy hour weeks after the divorce, and I'm sure the goats were the last thing on her list of priorities. For all I know, our goats were walking textbooks on parasites. But that's not what I remember. I remember vibrantly healthy goats, when they weren't being chewed on by dogs or poisoned by bad plants. I suspect that thirty years ago there were not the problems with CAE, CL, and parasites that exist today.

Today, it's a given that all goats have worms. The best you can hope for is that the worms are not resistant and can be controlled by relatively benign medications. My goats have worms. Lots of worms. I've had lungworms, stomach worms, and worms that don't even have names yet. My feeling has always been that a complete lack of parasites isn't possible: instead I should strive to have healthy, well-nourished goats who are capable of harboring a reasonable number of parasites without becoming symptomatic. My vet agrees with me.

Well, that road has closed. Despite my best efforts, despite using de-wormers strictly according to my veterinarian's directions, my goats have developed resistant worms. My does were wormed after kidding - as per instructions - with Ivermectin. At that point in time they were asymptomatic. A few weeks later I noticed that they all had diarrhea. Bad, green, liquid diarrhea. I took fecals to the vet. Stomach worms - a heavy load. Since they had been wormed recently with Ivermectin, I used Safeguard this time - again, on the advice of my vet. I wormed them all thoroughly - using a high dose and repeating it for four days.

Repeat fecals two weeks later revealed a virtually unchanged number of stomach worms. They were resistant. How did the resistance develop? I don't know. I did rent a buck from another farm last fall, but we coordinated worming schedules and both sides should have been worm free at the time of transfer. Other than that my herd has been closed for more than a year.

Oh shit that's not true. Just remembered, I also rented out Cloud for a month as a buck to a nearby farm. But Cloud is the only one who has remained asymptomatic this whole time! He is fat and glossy, pooping pellets and leaping around like a racehorse. The does, in contrast, are skinny as rail fences (poor Django is trying to feed triplets!). Petting them feels like petting a barbed wire fence. I feel like the world's worst goat owner. I can't let anyone see my goats right now or they would assume I am starving them to death. In actual fact, I am feeding them free-choice high quality local hay (orchard grass/alfalfa mix) plus eight cups of grain daily for the milkers, and nearly unlimited browse on grass and blackberries.

Today - again on the advice of my vet - I wormed them all - does, buck, and kids - with Quest. Quest is a whole different class of dewormer and my vet says she has had good luck using it with resistant worm populations. I hope it works. Quest has a month long meat withdrawal time, and an unknown milk withdrawal time, but probably at least two weeks. That's okay - my does will need at least two weeks to gain weight and get healthy before I start to milk them again anyway.

So no more milk products for now - no milk, yogurt, or cheese. Just wait. Just wish them luck.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Bee Bit my Butt

Bees don't bite, of course, they sting. I just couldn't resist the alliteration.

My beekeeping mentor gave me some advice today about my hiving problems. He doesn't think the bread plugs will be a problem, but I should check in 5 or 6 days and make sure the queen cages are empty, and release the queens if not. However, he said putting the boxes inside the hives was a mistake, and I should remove them right away before they start building burr-comb all over them. Don't smoke the bees, he said, just spray them with sugar syrup.

So I put on my gloves and my bee-hat and went outside armed with a spray bottle full of syrup. On the way out to the hives Homero saw me and said "Aren't you going to put on some pants?"

No, I wasn't stark naked beneath my bee hat. I had a floor-length skirt on. "No," I said, "I'll be fine." The bees have been very docile and calm. I figured I'd just spray everybody down good and then work quick.

It almost worked. I lifted the lids of the hives and sprayed the bees down, then lowered the lids and let them eat for a few minutes. Then I lifted the lids again and slowly, carefully grasped the boxes and lifted them out. The boxes were totally covered in bees. My guess is that about one third of each colony was on or inside of the boxes rather than in the frames of the hives.

Hmmm. If I had done it right the first time, I would have removed the syrup can, turned the box upside down, and sharply rapped it on the top of the empty hive and most of the bees would have fallen out of the box and into the hive. Replace lid, and bingo, you're done. The few stragglers still attached to the box would find their own way into the hive.

But now, rapping the box sharply on the open hive would be a recipe for disaster. Picture: Cloud of angry bees erupting like Mount Vesuvius into my face and then swarming away into the trees. How to get the bees into the hive?

I have a big, very soft bristled brush that is used to brush bees around. I tried to brush the bees off the box and into the hive. They brushed off the box okay, but they didn't go into the hive. I was just brushing them into the air. The bees were getting more and more upset. The buzzing was getting louder and louder. They were starting to dive-bomb me. They couldn't get to me beneath me bee hat, but I could feel the force with which they were hitting the mesh over my face.

Then I felt a bee on my leg under my skirt. Okay, time to go. I replaced the lids of the hives, set the boxes (covered in bees) right next to the hive entrances, and liberally sprayed the entrances with sugar syrup, hoping that would attract all the bees back to the hives. Then I mentally shrugged my shoulders and went inside.

I could still feel the bee under my skirt. It was on my lower back now. If my husband were home, he could have helped me carefully remove it, but I was alone, so I had to try and take my skirt off without disturbing the bee enough to make it sting me.

I failed. It stung me. Not so bad, really. Nowhere near as bad as being stung by a yellow-jacket. I'm really almost glad: now I know I'm not terribly allergic (which I was worried about) and that it only hurts for a few minutes. I won't be so nervous about stings anymore.

Hope the bees make it back into the hive. I'll check later on in the afternoon.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Buzz Buzz Buzz

The bees arrived! Hooray!

Now I can add "Beekeeper" to my impressive list of titles (Goatherd and Cheesewright). Assuming that the bees actually decide to stay, and stay alive. Well, also, to tell the truth, Homero and Rowan are more the beekeepers than I am. Homero picked the bees up, and Rowan read the instructions for hiving them, and all three of us worked together to overcome our collective willies and get them into the hives.

It was kind of silly. We couldn't find the queen cages at first. See the box with thousands of bees in it? And the round metal thing at the top? That's a syrup can, but where are the queens? They ought to be in their own little cages somewhere.... A phone call to Belleville Honey answered the question for us: the cages are hanging inside the box full of thousands of bees. You have to sharply rap the whole box on a flat surface to make all the bees fall to the bottom, remove the syrup can, reach inside and remove the queen cage.

Well, reaching my bare hand into a box full of 10,000 angry, disoriented bees goes against every natural instinct I have. So I made Rowan do it. Hey, before you report me to child protective services, SHE wants to be a beekeeper! She got the queen cages out just fine, but now we had another problem. The queen cages have a hole in them which is plugged with a cork. We have to remove that cork and replace it with something she will be able to chew through in a few days. This is to protect her: if she escapes her cage before the rest of the bees are used to her smell, they'll kill her. Beekeepers suggest using a mini-marshmallow to plug the hole.

Well I didn't have any marshmallows and I did have two open boxes of bees that I wanted to get into the hives ASAP. I know, I know - think these things through beforehand. Yes, would have been smart. I feel the same way when I am in the middle of making a cake, say, and discover I have no eggs. Read the recipe all the way through and gather your ingredients first. Too late for the cake, and too late for the marshmallows.

I had made sugar syrup for the feeders, though (see the feeder?) and I had an idea. I ran to the house and got a slice of bread. I ripped little pieces of the bread off the slice and dunked them in the sugar syrup. Then I wadded them up into balls about the size of a mini marshmallow and used them to plug the holes.

We hung the queen cages inside the hive and then, since it was after 7:00 and almost sunset, we decided to just put the opened boxes straight into the hive rather than trying to dump the bees in. The Bee Man said it was okay.


This morning the air around the hives is thick with bees, but they don't seem to be going anywhere or doing anything purposeful right now. They are just buzzing around, kind of agitated-like. Also I noticed that the syrup feeders are still just as full as they were last night, which is odd. I was told that they would last only a day. Maybe the holes are plugged up because I made the syrup too thick?

And I'm worried about the bread-balls. I don't know whether the queens will be able to chew their way out. Maybe I should remove them. But I'm not supposed to open the hives for at least a week.

I can see that the bees are going to offer me plenty of opportunity for self-doubt and second guessing.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Things I Saw Today, and Stuff I Thought About Those Things.

1) A bunch of goats in the house. I let the goats out to browse, and contrary to all my previous experience, I tried to do something else while they were out. You'd think that it would be possible to plant a few beans while simultaneously supervising a small herd of goats, but you would be wrong. It is impossible to watch goats and do anything else at the same time (except drink a glass of wine. You can do that, as long as you can hold a glass of wine and a long stick at the same time. And run, while holding both of those things. Plus maybe a book tucked under the arm. Not quite as easy as walking and chewing gum, but possible. If you don't mind the occasional twisted ankle or skinned knee.) So I planted three boxes (The Tippler's Garden) of scarlet runner beans, and meanwhile, Iris and four baby goats made it into the house.

They did not want to leave the house. It took me about fifteen minutes to get them all out. First I had to straddle Iris, clamp her neck between my knees, grab both of her ears, and frog-march her out. Iris weighs about 150 pounds and is quite strong, for such a skinny goat. Then I had to chase four fully panicking baby goats up and down the hall, vainly attempting to snag one of them by the leg as it hurtled past me at a speed approaching that of sound. I think I heard a tiny sonic boom, in fact, although it may just have been my aging, flabby heart bursting in my chest. It was a very warm and muggy day, which is why the doors were open in the first place. Not the kind of day that makes you think "I think I'll wrestle a few goats today, just for fun."

2) My family using less energy. On the left you see my new clothes-tree, with a bunch of clean clothes on it, for the first time. Yay, air-drying! On the right, Rosie pony, acting as the lawnmower. Actually, we have no way of power-mowing the back yard, since it is fully fenced in for the dogs and we can't drive the riding lawnmower through the playroom. The pony, however, can be coaxed through the playroom and out into the back yard. So I have to shovel a few piles of pony-poop over the fence. BFD.

Oh - and in the background at the far right, you can see the neighbor's new mega-house going up. The farrier came last week, and he asked me, "what are they building over there, a Holiday Inn?" No, no.... just a 7,000 square foot private house. For two retired people whose children are all grown and gone. People who are apparently determined not to leave a red cent to their children if they can instead spend it on propane and landscaping.

3) Baby spiders. I know this picture is a bit hard to interpret: let me guide you through it. The wood is one of the posts on our front porch. The grayish-blue part surrounding the post is an area rug that I threw over the front porch railing sometime last summer. I thought I would clean the rug with the hose and some dishsoap, let it dry, and put it back on the floor. Now, nine months later, I think I may still be able to use the rug. To keep weeds down in the garden. The tiny golden specks in the middle are dozens of baby wolf spiders. Hooray! I love wolf spiders. (No Arachnaphobes....) They keep the local noxious bug population down a little bit, and they are also very handsome and fun to watch. Paloma in particular adores spiders and will watch them for hours.

4) A zombie rooster. Not sure if the picture shows it very well, but this rooster looks like hell. He looks like he rose from the grave, at least a week ago. He looks like he went sixteen rounds with Oscar De La Hoya. In actual fact, he probably went sixteen rounds with the other rooster. One of his eyes is nearly sealed shut with scar tissue; his comb is covered in scabs; and he limps.

What should I do with this rooster? He is still relatively young - about three. He has a small harem of hens who follow him everywhere. He is doing his roosterly duty - inseminating hens and protecting them from predators, and marshalling them around the yard. I sure as heck don't want to eat him. I don't doubt he tastes like an old shoe.

I'm sure this rooster could benefit - theoretically - from a visit to a vet. He looks like a course of antibiotics would do him good. Will I take him to the vet? Hell no! Should I? Maybe, I don't know. I am enough of a city girl still that it bothers my conscious to own animals that I deem unworthy of veterinary care. Good people take financial responsibility for the well being of their animals, right? No matter how lowly? Lots of folks have rats as pets, right? Or even things like stick-bugs and tarantulas. Is there such a thing as a spider-vet? Most likely there is - because good people take their animals to the vet.

I guess that means I am not a good person, because I am not taking a rooster - that I got for free in the first case - to the vet. If it appears to be suffering, I'll put it out of it's misery.

And feed it to my dogs.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Aimee's Excellent Snacks

first cheese of the year - chevre.

I didn't really cook at all today - we all just snacked a little here and there all day long. For the first time this year, the preponderance of said snacks were all products of the farm.

Early snack - frozen blueberries with creamy goat-yogurt and honey (honey is not yet a farm-product, but it is from one of my neighbor's farms. Next year, I hope, we will be using our own honey.). To make this snack extra-decadent, I like to drizzle a little tiny bit of thick cream on top, from a local raw-milk dairy. This cream is unbelievable - if you've never had fresh raw cream, you won't believe your mouth. It has no resemblance whatsoever to grocery store cream. I just don't know how to describe it, so I'll leave it at that.

Lunchtime snack - radishes with homemade chevre. I thinned the radishes today and brought in all the little ones to munch on. Also today I made the first "real" cheese of the year. I have made paneer a couple of times, but that doesn't involve rennet and culture, so it isn't quite the same. Today's chevre is very nice, smooth and spreadable and just a little bit tangy. The French eat radishes with butter, and that's a good way to eat them, but not as good as with fresh homemade chevre.

the mint patch - spearmint

Evening snack - tabouli with fresh mint. The mint has come back with a vengeance. Now I have three kinds of mint; spearmint, peppermint, and grapefruit mint. As mint tends to do, it is pretty much taking over the herb garden. I don't care - I love mint. I use about three cups of finely minced mint to one cup of tabouli, and a few tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of two fat lemons, and plenty of fresh ground black pepper. I'd throw in any veggies I had on hand, if I had any. Beets are nice, it makes the tabouli shocking pink.

Really feels like spring when we can start eating like this.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Steppin' Up the Trade Network

In light of my vast surplus of eggs and milk products, I decided to post an ad on Craigslist looking for a gardener with whom to trade. Alas, the Kale Fairy has moved away and will no longer be supplying me with her excellent and bountiful produce. Veggie-man is still a good source, but he cannot absorb the approximately six dozen extra eggs per week that I am getting.

The ad I posted:

Eggs for Produce?

My free-range flock produces FAR more eggs than we can handle. We are all getting cholesterol poisoning over here. Are you a gardener? Perhaps you are in the same situation, but with spinach, asparagus, greens, berries, or tomatoes (in season, duh). Maybe you have fruit trees and the fruit just falls on the ground. Maybe we can help each other!!! I will give you a dozen gorgeous eggs each and every week in exchange for your garden produce in season! I don't mind fronting you eggs and stockpiling veggie futures, or eggs are $3 cash per dozen.
Thanks for looking! Happy digging in the dirt!
xxx-xxx-xxxx (ferndale)
p.s. no, bacon does not come with the eggs.

  • Location: ferndale
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
image 1693787710-0

I got a response last night from a very interesting guy I'm going to call X-man. He has recently built a greenhouse with hydroponic system where he is raising not only tons of tomatoes, chiles, and other hothouse produce, but also tilapia, trout, and catfish. He started the veggeies in January and anticipates beginning harvest in about a month. Pretty freakin' awesome. He himself is a mightily eccentric guy - I've spoken to him on only two occasions but I already know quite a bit about his colorful naval career and youth growing up on a chicken farm in Illinois. He's a talker. He's also trying to convince me to raise pheasants and split the meat - he'll act as butcher.

I told him I'd have to read up on pheasants.

Meanwhile, I'm going to make some more cheese now, so excuse me!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Easy-Cheesy (No Room at the Inn)

Last week, I started separating the baby goats at night. Now I am getting a crazy-large volume of milk, a volume that must be dealt with daily. If I don't do something with milk at least every other day, there will soon be no room at all in my fridge. The eggs are space-hogs. I have seven dozen eggs in there now, and the hens are outside popping out more even as we speak. I need to step up the trade network; but that's a topic for another day.

Yesterday I made a quart of cajeta (Cajeta is Love). Cajeta is easy to make, but you HAVE to watch it, because milk boils over whenever you take your eyes off of it for fifteen seconds. Ask me how I know. Because it has happened to me EVERY SINGLE TIME I make cajeta. Yesterday I pulled a chair right up to the stove so I could sit and read while I watched the pot. After an hour or so I was pretty sure that I had the right gentle simmer going, and the milk was nowhere near the top of the pot. So I went to the bathroom. Now I have a hamper full of sticky caramel covered washcloths and the floor is still pretty tacky on the bare feet. Will I never learn? But at least we also have a jar of cajeta in the fridge, and my husband was so happy to see it he gave me a big kiss and washed all the dishes.

I have made a half-gallon of yogurt, which is really too much. The guy I thought would want some is out of town so I can't offer him any. We'll just have to eat it. Luckily, there are still some blueberries in the chest freezer. We picked a LOT of blueberries last summer. Blueberry smoothies make a very good breakfast. Maybe I should put a raw egg in the blender too. Get rid of a few. No one will ever know.

When I started to make cheese the other day, I discovered that I'm out of rennet. I already had the milk heated to 100 degrees on the stove, so I thought fast and came up with the idea of making paneer. Paneer, for anyone who doesn't know, is soft fresh Indian cheese. It is made by souring milk with vinegar or lemon juice instead of coagulating with rennet. I like paneer just fine, but I've never made it before. I sort of can't think of it as "real cheese." But I'm glad I was forced to make it: it is so incredibly easy. The finished product tastes pretty much exactly like queso fresco, but it takes only an hour to make instead of a whole day.

Here's how you do it:

Heat a half gallon of milk to just below boiling - when the milk suddenly starts to expand in volume you're there. Remove from heat. Add about two tablespoons white vinegar, little by little, stirring as you go. In a minute, the milk will separate into tiny little curds and clear whey. If you want soft cheese, immediately scoop (with a fine mesh sieve) into a colander lined with a triple layer of cheesecloth. If you want your cheese firmer, put it back on the heat for a few minutes and stir, then scoop. Wrap the cheese up and either hang the cheesecloth bag from the faucet to drip, or leave it in the colander and put a heavy pot on top of it to press out the whey. In about an hour, you will have cheese. If it's firm, slice it into cubes and toss with a little salt (otherwise it's incredibly bland).

These are little cubes of pure protein, without much flavor. Indians put them into all kinds of curry. My husband crumbles them over eggs or beans. They can be used to make quesadillas. I have a feeling I will be making a lot of paneer. It's a perfectly adequate every-day kind of cheese, and it sure saves a lot of time. Of course I will still make regular cheese too: chevre and feta and cheddar. But maybe I don't have to make serious cheese every time.

Sometimes I can make easy-cheese.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weather Report, With Nostalgia

Finally, the nasty weather has subsided. It seems we had all our nice spring weather in February, when it was so unseasonably warm it was freaking everybody out. Everybody walked around dazed, in their T-shirts and shorts, saying "can you believe this?" over and over again. Farmers would add "It's gonna be a bad year for tree fruit." Liberals and worriers would talk about global warming, even as they threw the frisbee around or lit the barbecue.

The weather reverted to it's normal miserable cold rain for most of March, and people breathed a sigh of relief. It's ugly and no fun, but it's what we're used to, we said, as we trudged through the knee-deep mud. But as the rain and wind kept up steady week after week, and the sky stayed stubbornly the color of snail-slime, and the sun became a distant memory, I began to long for more unseasonable weather. I began to daydream of visiting my Dad in Tucson, a place I usually refer to as "that God-forsaken desert."

As a teenager, I loved the rain. I found it romantic. But then, I also wore a red bandana as a belt and kept a spiral topped notebook in my pocket at all times so I could write down a poem whenever the muse struck. I fell in love with wildly inappropriate people and smoked too much weed and too many bare-butt camels and wore cowboy boots for two years straight, summer and winter. I read Burroughs and Hunter S. and Tom Robbins and took up abstract painting and collage art. I dropped out of school and contracted herpes and hitchhiked across the country, all in the same summer.

I was kind of an ass, I guess I'm saying. We mature, thank God, though God knows it takes some of us longer than others. My mature self likes the rain a whole lot less and doesn't find knee-deep mud that is at least half animal-shit to be romantic in the slightest. I find marriage a lot more rewarding than promiscuity ever was, and weed just makes me jumpy these days. I do, however, miss the spiral topped notebook, and whatever brand of youthful obliviousness it is that allows one to call oneself a poet without irony.

The good weather brings it's own set of tasks. Just about every day I tether the ponies and let the goats out to browse. Ostensibly, this is to save the grass in the large pasture as much as possible for later in the season, but also it's nice that it allows me to sit in a folding slingback chair with a magazine, loosely holding a stick and calling it work.

At last, I got Homero to put up the clothes-tree. I have no intention of trying to air-dry clothes in the winter or when it's wet, but running the dryer during the summertime feels like a sin.

Fixing fences is constant work. Poppy pony mashes down the field fencing trying to get at the green grass on the other side, and the goats mash it down trying to get at the blackberries. The long term solution is better fencing, but it's just to depressing to think about tearing out fencing that we put up with so much sweat and tears and at a cost of well over a thousand dollars less than three years ago. We'll probably keep patching it for another five years and THEN replace it all with something better.
The pear tree in full bloom. It's been blooming strong for two weeks now, but it's been too cold and windy for any bees to be out. Finally today the tree is covered in bees. Hope that means we'll be getting some pears in the fall.

Well, this creaky old ex-poet is going out to let the goats out. Enjoy the sun, everyone!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Tippler's Garden

Sometime last summer, while I was helplessly searching for the edible plants I had planted among the waist-high weeds, I decided that next year (this year), I would go to an all-container garden. Three years in a row, the weeds (burdock, amaranth, clover, nine kinds of thistle, pigweed, shotweed, plantain, dandelion, tansy, mustard, milkweed, etc, etc...) had totally and completely kicked my ass. I decided that digging straight into the ground was a fool's game, and began to collect containers.

I collected many diverse types of containers, from half-barrels to abandoned nursery pots to old clawfoot bathtubs. But I just didn't have enough space. As many containers as I could collect, it just didn't approach the sheer square footage available by tilling straight into the weed-seed-saturated earth.

Then I had a brainwave. In the back of the old falling-down shed we ironically call the "Parthenon" there was a five-foot-high tangle of old milk-crates. Who knows where they came from - it was apparently inexaughstable. I had already dipped into the pile to create egg-laying nests for the chickens. They worked great - chickens love milk crates. Just fill them with clean straw and chickens go to town.

I had recently been reading a book called the "square foot gardener" which is all about planning a garden based on the number of square feet you have available. Apparently you can plant a certain number of each type of garden plant per square foot - like six pole beans per square foot, or two tomatoes, or one pumpkin. This is supposedly a very intensive method of raising maximum food in minimum space.

It occurred to me that one milk crate full of fertile compost and dirt would be a little over a single square foot. It would be very easy to follow the book's plan and plant a garden if I could use the milk crates. But milk crates are full of holes. Dirt won't stay in them. What to do?

Well, look around. What else is lying around in abundance? Why, cardboard boxes that used to each hold a half-rack of beer. Also stacked to the rafters. Through my beer-addled brain it occurred to me that each cardboard box was roughly the right size to fit inside of a milk crate. Just pop the seams and fluff the sides a little - plop each sprung box into a milk crate and fill halfway with compost and the rest of the way with topsoil, and wallah!

Today I filled three. I didn't plant them yet - I have to consult the book when I'm a bit less tipsy. I know I have no shortage of cardboard but I may need a few more milkcrates.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


step 1: heat milk to 150 degrees to pasteurize

That's goat yogurt, y'all, and a silly play on "go-gurt" a fake food product that purports to be actual yogurt in a tube and a fun way to get kids to eat yogurt, but which is actually, if you read the label, a mere concoction of sugar, thickeners, artificial flavorings, and some sort of milk-like product. My kids clamor for it, even though I haven't the faintest idea how they have even become aware of it's existence. Probably through other kid's lunches at school.

My "goat-gurt," on the other hand, is nothing but goat's milk and active cultures. I have been milking Flopsy, since she has only one baby left, and I have also been putting the other mama goats up on the stand and giving them their grain, and milking out just a few squirts each - just to get them used to the idea. All in all, I've harvested about a quart of milk a day for the last three days. That would be enough to make a nice batch of cheese - except that I don't have cheese-making supplies. I neglected to order new cultures and rennet before kidding season this year, so I can't make any cheese until I get some more.

My family, I regret to report, is rather squeamish and doesn't enjoy drinking goat milk straight. It tastes perfectly fine - in fact, I doubt anyone who wasn't forewarned would be able to distinguish it from whole cow's milk. It's a little richer and creamier, but there's virtually no "goaty" flavor. I think our reluctance is related to hygiene concerns: no matter how careful I am, there are always I few hairs and flecks in the milk when I bring it in. I strain the milk through a coffee filter, but I saw the hairs and flecks in it and it's hard to forget.

So what to do with the milk? If we aren't going to drink it, and I can't make cheese just yet, then what? I decided to make yogurt. Goat milk yogurt is hard to find, and if you can find it (Trader Joe's) it costs about $5/quart. We use a fair amount of yogurt ourselves, but I also know of at least two people who are interested in buying goat yogurt. I wouldn't charge them $5 a quart - but how about $3?

Whether we end up using it ourselves or selling it or trading it, here's my method for making goat's milk yogurt. Step one is above: pasteurize the milk (after straining) by heating to 150 degrees.
Put a tablespoon commercial yogurt (I like mountain high because it has the highest concentration active cultures) into a quart sized mason jar - or two.

Cool heated milk to between 100 and 120 degrees. I pour the milk into a container which is nestled into a bowl full of ice to cool it as fast as possible.

Add warm milk to jars with culture and stir vigorously for ten or fifteen seconds. Place lids on jars and place in the oven with pilot light lit. Let sit for twelve hours or more, without disturbing. You will have smooth, creamy, thick delicious yogurt.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


This post is actually a bit delayed: life has been rather hectic around here lately, what with all the baby goat activity. In the the last three weeks, we've had three births, two of which required intervention (including a screaming bombing run to the vet at high speed with a bleeding, bleating mama goat in the back). We've had disbuddings and complications of same, and we've had illnesses of varying severity among the adults. We've wormed and trimmed hooves. We've had a steady stream of visitors to the farm looking at the babies, and I've sold every last one of them, including the ones I thought I might keep. We have harvested our first quart of milk.

Of course, other activities HAVE been going on, activities which have absolutely nothing to do with goats. It's just that nobody would guess that by reading this blog. I actually felt compelled to put a post on my facebook page that said "Aimee insists that, all evidence to the contrary, her life does not revolve entirely around goats." Really.

I have attended church and dyed eggs for easter with my kids. I have been cleaning and cooking and supervising as usual; generally fulfilling my function as the superego of the family - a thankless task if ever there was one. Tonight I finally (with the help of a bottle of wine) finished the taxes.

And, somewhere in there, I scheduled the pig for slaughter. I think it was wednesday. The men from Keizer meats came out and did their thing. I wasn't home but Homero was. Unfortunately, Homero told me that this time the pig was not cleanly dispatched: he moved his head at the last second and was shot through the jaw. He ran away and the men had to chase him down and hold him and shoot him again in the head.

I am really really glad I wasn't there for that. I arrived just about ten minutes later, after the pig was good and dead and laid out upside down on the sawhorse. The men were just getting started with the skinning and gutting. Homero had already told them he wanted all the bits that they usually throw away, so I went and got a couple of large clean bowls. We were given the liver, the heart, the feet, and the head.

That's the head, there, in the picture at the top, just as they tossed it in the bowl. I washed and trimmed the liver and stored it in a gallon sized ziploc bag in the fridge, but I refused to have anything to do with the head or the feet.

Once, many years ago when Homero and I were still dating, he brought me some fresh pig's feet and asked me to find a recipe and make him some tacos de patita. It's amazing what young love will drive you to. I did my best, but the smell of boiling pig's feet utterly defeated me. I ended up saying something like "I love you, but I will NEVER allow pig's feet to be boiled in my kitchen again."

Not to repeat myself, but it's amazing what ten years of marriage will drive you to. As long as he was willing to do it all himself, who am I to say no? It's his kitchen too. And I have to give the Devil his due: the soup he made - which involved not only feet but tongue - was seriously not bad. I mean it! I must have done something wrong all those years ago.

It's been a while since I posted a recipe here. I'll ask Homero for his foot-and-mouth soup recipe. I know you don't think you are interested, but there is a surprising amount of meat on a pig's head. It seems a shame to let it all go to waste. I mean, if you ever find yourself with an extra one.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Gone With the Wind



My two favorite baby goats - Cirrus and Nimbus - are sold!

Actually all the baby goats are sold, except for the doe out of Django, the little crossbreed. All seven others are bought and paid for. I never expected them to go so fast! Cirrus started a bidding war and ended up selling for $200, more than twice what I first asked for him (though admittedly, that first price was for my sister, so it was lowballed).

I had planned on keeping all the babies until they were eight weeks old and weanable, but this lady who bought Cirrus and Nimbus wants bottle babies. She lives close by, so if it doesn't work out she can always bring them back to nurse on their mamas.

My husband is shocked and delighted that this year's crop of baby goats has already earned us $1,150. That's almost enough to keep the agricultural designation on the property taxes right there!

I guess if I want a goat for meat this year it will be Django's doe. Oh well. At least I can start milking right away now! The truth is, Iris wasn't doing so hot trying to feed triplets. Maybe now I can get some weight on her. And even Flopsy ought to have a little to spare now that she's only feeding one. Tomorrow morning I'll see what I get.

Oh by the way, Cirrus doing just fine. All he needed were some strong anti-inflammatory drugs and a little time. This morning he was cavorting around almost like normal.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fried Baby Goat Brains, and Farmers vs Vets

Cirrus is the name we decided to give to the beautiful black and white spotted buckling out of Iris. He, along with everyone else, got his horn buds burned off day before yesterday by Goat Lady, a local farmer. Today he is wandering around mostly blind, feverish, and in pain, unable to nurse, because his brain got fried (that's vernacular - actually he has acute cerebral inflammation and increased intracranial pressure as a result of too much time under the red-hot iron.).

I took him to the vet today and he is being treated with Banamine for pain and inflammation, and an injectable anti-inflammatory that starts with "dex-" and a long-term injected antibiotic. Most likely he will make a slow but full recovery. As the inflammation goes down, the pressure on his optic nerve will decline and he should regain his sight. Maybe three weeks.

All the other baby goats are doing fine. Cirrus got extra time under the iron because I told Goat Lady I was thinking of keeping him as a buck, and so she wanted to make extra sure she got 100% of the horn buds burned off. Everyone else got 25-30 seconds per side and Cirrus got that plus an extra 20 seconds per side on a second pass. Vet said that was just too much.

Also, the vet is very careful, when she disbuds, to apply the irons in 10 second bursts, and to remove them and let the skull cool down before reapplying. The total time is the same - 25 to 30 seconds per side - but Goat lady does it all at once and the vet does in three separate passes with time in between.

Now I'm going to say a few things that may be controversial. Many goat folks, I've learned, don't like to take their goats to the vet and prefer to take them to other farmers or do most of their doctoring themselves. I have heard the sentiment expressed many times that vets just aren't taught much about goats in school and not many vets are knowledgeable about them. Most long-term goat farmers I've spoken to feel very strongly that they know more about goat health than their vet does.

This may be largely true - certainly I've heard from a couple of vets themselves that small ruminants in general get little time in school and that most of that time is spent on sheep. And obviously a person like Goat Lady, who has worked exclusively with goats for well over thirty years is going to have more hands on experience with goats than just about any vet out there.
I don't doubt that old timers have more "goat sense" than vets do as a general rule.

However. I have also heard goat farmers express the most appalling ignorance of basic physiology and even basic biology. Few have any formal education in medicine or in the life sciences in general. They are basically laymen when it comes to medicine. I'm NOT trying to disparage anybody here - certainly Goat Lady's operation looks fantastic: clean, organized, and lots of spectacularly healthy looking goats. Most goat farmers are excellent nurses and animal husbandrymen, they care about their animals and treat them well. They know a great deal about feed and supplements, pasture management and poisonous weeds, corrective hoof trimming and just about every aspect of day-to-day animal care.

But they don't understand cell biology, pharmacology, the evolution of resistance, the difference between bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections, or the complex pathophysiological processes involved in diseases.

If they did, they'd be vets.

Wednesday when I took my goats to be disbudded by Goat Lady, I told her how the vet disbuds, taking breaks after each ten seconds, and asked her why she did it the way she did. "I've never had any problems," was her answer. That is a very typical farmer attitude: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The way I've always done it is good enough. This is how I was taught by someone else. Most of the time, this is good enough. Goats are pretty tough customers, basically. Also, in general I believe in the principle of benign neglect. I think premature intervention is the cause of a great deal of unnecessary complication and expense. I like to provide my goats with their basic necessities and leave them alone, for the most part. They tend to do just fine.

I'm not sure what my point is, here. I've sat here for fifteen minutes trying to write the next sentence. Is it that I trust the formal education of veterinarians more than the experience-based wisdom of farmers? No; that wouldn't be true. Is it that I want access to the technology and vast stores of information available through the the vet? Yes; that's closer.

The truth is I want both. I want to be wise. I want (and this so transcends goats or farming, this is everything, now) to grow my own store of experience based knowledge, the kind of wisdom that can ONLY be acquired through living. I want to be able to draw on a deep well of knowledge won through firsthand experience.

But I also want to be able to draw from other wells. No man is an island, right? What kind of bullheaded hubris is it to insist on working with only your own firsthand knowledge? Why, there's only one word for that attitude: STOOPID. I sure don't want to be stoopid.

I'm a nurse. I have a BSN. I've been through five years of University at a pretty prestigious school and I graduated with a damn good average. Before that I was a straight A student all through my scholastic career. I'm not trying to brag; I'm trying to explain that I am already biased toward book-learning, toward traditional, mainstream, formalized methodology. Towards vets, in other words. When I have a problem, I run as fast as I can towards science.

I'm actually trying to balance that tendency by paying more mindful attention to my own experience. It's actually easier for me to learn from the printed page than it for me to learn from experience. In school I was a wunderkind, but I'm kind of an idiot in the real, three-dimensional world. Sometimes I think that my decision to move to the country and start farming was all about trying to develop my hands and my heart for a while instead of just my brain.

Well. I've wandered pretty far afield from Cirrus and his issues. I hope the little guy makes it. I will certainly seek out the advice of farmers as well as vets in trying to help him. Wish him luck.