Monday, October 29, 2007

SAFF--southeastern animal fiber fair

Blogger still seems to be having picture problems---so I will post them later.

We went to SAFF this past weekend. It was of course a beautiful drive through the mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. Very nice weather and the leaves are turning a bit of color. Of course this year rain would have been my preference but I wasn't horribly disappointed to not have to travel on the highway pulling a trailer while it rained----but I wouldn't have whined if it did.
Anyway---this was our first time to SAFF. We were going to take a dying class but things didn't work out for us to get there in time and we had to cancel out of the class. Our friend, that we met there, did take a space dying (fiber) class and said it was very well done and she liked it a lot. They still had some openings for Sunday classes---some that I would have liked to take---but we weren't staying that long because we had to pick up our guinea hog. Oh well---maybe next year.
The festival was nicely set up but smaller, about 1/4 the size, than the Michigan Fiber Festival. It had quite a few vendors types there---- some of who stopped off on their way back from displaying at Rhinebeck New York---so the selection was good: Pelts (no Icelandic pelts though!), lots of different color yarns and different fiber content yarns, felters and felting supplies, wheels, carders, hand carved needles, knitting shawls and clothing, bags to carry your projects in and many other "necessaries".

I spent some money on some felting needles and bright red/burgundy/purple merino/silk roving and saw the next big purchase I will make-----a circular sock knitting machine. I have been perusing them on line for a while---but I had never seen them in action. See what they look like here. This is how "commercial" socks were knitted in the 1800's and early 1900's. While we were looking around we happened to stumble on a vendor who makes and sells socks with one of them and her husband buys them and repairs them. I know what to save my money for. You can make a PAIR of sock in about an hour once you get good at it. Even at 4 hours----that's still way better than me hand knitting them since I am very very slow when knitting. No production knitter am I. AND I love love wool socks----but at $15 a pair I do have a tendency to buy only a few every year. I know you can buy cheaper one's at Target and such----but they are not as thick or warm and sometimes they are itchy from the cheap wool they are made from.

Over all we had a good time there.

On the way back we went through a town called Hendersonville North Carolina. Very nice place. A tiny bit touristy but it is exactly what I thought Gatlinburg Tennessee would be like (but wasn't). It it a cute downtown, old looking brick buildings, full of antique stores, craft and art stores, artsy clothing stores, food places, candy places toys, bags, pet stuff ----something for everyone. Here is the historic Hendersonville link.
We also went into a couple of art places there called Wickwire fine art/folk art. Both were very nice---one was paintings and higher end art (unique wood tables etc) and the other was smaller knick knack type art things: bowls, frames, mirrors etc.
Overall a cute town. We would go back again someday but we didn't spend too long there this time since we had a pig in the trailer waiting to go home.

Over all a fairly nice weekend. Maybe next year some of you will get a chance to go to one of these places and enjoy some of the festivities.

Sunday, October 28, 2007



I like you to meet the newest member of our farm----Ms. Pumpkin the guinea hog.

**Blogger seems to be having trouble with pictures this evening so I will add more another day.

I am going to be quick with this post about the hog since I have some catching up to do. Here goes though:

We picked up Pumpkin during a trip to drop off a ram this weekend in North Carolina.
She is an only pig currently but in time we will be adding a boar for her to produce piglets with.
She is pretty tame and getting tamer by the hour----so much so that she may end up being a house "hog" if we aren't careful.

Since guinea hogs don't really get much larger than some of the larger pot belly pigs it would be no different than someone who keeps one inside as a pet :-D. However, since she will be tilling my garden---she may be a bit too dirty to come inside regularly. That is after all one of the main reasons we got her---to till with. We also wanted to raise a small pig that would be good for small farms AND to boot she is a rare breed so we will be helping to save the guinea hog genetics. We will be eating her progeny eventually (I know--sad but there you have it. I am a meat eater after all) since that is the original reason for guinea hogs---food for small farms---- but we will not be eating Pumpkin. She will become somewhat of a pet I am sure since hogs/pigs are very smart. They actually smarter than dogs so.....kind of odd that we eat them isn't it.

So, let me tell you a few things about her:

1. She gets car sick. Poor thing. However it did pass.
2. She loves loves loves corn.
3. She really likes avocados.
4. She "talks" constantly in a kind of mix between a grunty snort and a human throat clearing sound.
5. Scratching her very coarsely haired back---hard---pleases her.
6. She's about 8 weeks old currently and she is about 12" tall at the most.
7. We really like her :-)

By the way if you are interested in a guinea hog Pumpkin's two sisters were still unsold. You can contact their owner here: Grace Ridge Farms.
If I had known there were three still available I might have gotten another female for our farm. I really only need one though---so it was probably a good thing we didn't know until right when we were picking up. No time to "think" ourselves into another hog :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The consequences of our (governments) actions

So, back in August a man named Greg Niewendorp refused to allow the mandatory (for the state of Michigan) NAIS officials onto his property to test and tag some cattle for TB. Not only did they come back with warrants but Mr. Niewendorp was forced to have his cattle RFID tagged.

Check out this link here for more of the story as it unfolded later---and in his own words.
Mr. Niewendorp was/is a well known farmer often lecturing and writing for various conferences and papers. (Papers/magazines that have to do with natural and organic grazing). Joel Salatin also wrote a letter to the Michigan authorities in regards to Mr. Niewendorp's situation: here

Do not take my yesterday's post lightly----we need ALL people to stand up and speak. Not just farmers. Even if you have friends not really into organic/natural----maybe they are into freedoms. Tell them. Share this. This is not some "blog/internet fantasy" or mis information campaign. This is real---and very very serious.

And please please please if you blog----write your own post on this. Use some of these links. I don't care if you do or don't link to me. Bloggers are a force of their own and we can create change especially when the national media will not pick up the stories.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Help is needed---Fight NAIS

Help small farmer's like me fight the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).
Unfortunately it has AGAIN been included in the new Farm Bill.
Time is imperative---they are close to finalizing and voting.

Remember---NAIS stops long before e-coli or salmonella gets into mishandled food---so it will NOT make us safer from the most food borne illnesses. That is only addressed by proper handling of animals during butchering and processing.

Remember- NAIS will not stop terrorists from contaminating our food. Computer chips are easily (EASILY) hacked and changed or turned off. Do you think if they "turned off" 100,000 ear tags on a group of cattle---that the company wouldn't STILL send it to slaughter and to local markets?
Local is the way to address this problem and also better care in the handling of grains and things needed in greater quantities. Local can also be translated into American---why trade our grain for another country's?

Remember ---NAIS WILL make it easier for local, state and government authorities to tell us how, when, where and why we can raise our own FOOD on our own PROPERTY. Property WE pay for and that the constitution gives us the right to do with pretty much what we want to.

Remember---Other countries have programs similar to NAIS. If they think there is an outbreak---they don't wait to find out for sure. They come in and kill (slaughter) all animals that can transmit whatever form of disease it is within a many many many mile radius. So....take good care of your animals? Won't matter if your neighbor two miles away doesn't---yours will still end up DEAD. And nobody pays you for it either!

Call Senator Harkin (D--Iowa) and tell him:

I want section 10305 taken out of the Farm Bill.  I do not want NAIS included in the Farm Bill in any manner at all.  While we appreciate Senator Harkin trying to protect people's privacy, the provision does more harm than good.  The Senate should not imply approval for any form of federally planned or funded NAIS.

You should also contact the ranking members of the Committee: Including my Senator Saxby Chambliss (R--Ga) and below I will list other members. Committee members DO take comment from those out of their states---they have to. Call them is the best way--or email them. Find them here by state. You can write up a little thing to say and cut and paste it into each of their sites. Start with Senators in your own state first---you have a bit more impact. Don't forget Harkin since he is the head though and work into the others if you have time. Thanks for your help!!

Other Members of the Committee:
Patrick Leahy (D-VT) 202-224-4242
Kent Conrad (D-ND) 202-224-2043
Max Baucus (D-MT) 202-224-2651
Blanch Lincoln (D-AR) 202-224-4843
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) 202-224-4822
Ben Nelson (D-NE) 202-224-6551
Ken Salazar (D-CO) 202-224-5852
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) 202-224-2315
Robert Casey (D-PA) 202-224-6324
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) 202-224-3244
Richard Lugar (R-IN) 202-224-4814
Thad Cochran (R-MS) 202-224-5054
Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 202-224-2541
Pat Roberts (R-KS) 202-224-4774
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) 202-224-5972
Norm Coleman (R-MN) 202-224-5641
Mike Crapo (R-ID) 202-224-6142
John Thune (R-SD) 202-224-2321
Charles Grassley (R-IA) 202-224-3744

A few tidbits

Every so often when I read articles or magazines I dog ear the pages to come back to---either so I can remember the article for filing or future use or so that I can share it with someone.
Well today---I have a few dog ears to share. You may have read these goes.

All of these come from Organic Gardening magazine.
The first one is a small blurb entitled: "Soil Makes You Happy". Here's what it says:

Proof that dirty fingers lead to clean minds:

Findings: A common soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae is an effective vaccine for leprosy. Researchers began to evaluate its value in treating asthma, tuberculosis, and cancer. When cancer patients treated with M.vaccae reported feeling inexplicably happier, neuroscientist Christopher Lory, Ph.D. of the U.K.'s University of Bristol injected mice with the bacterium then examined their brains. The mice's immune systems were stimulated, causing brain cells to release serotonin, a mood altering pleasure inducing hormone. So...Dig in! Be Happy!

Next is about a partnership of universities, businesses, and government called the Zero Waste Alliance offers tips on how to do away with refuse altogether. Their quote: "Waste is really a design flaw" says the director of the organization.
I haven't looked at the site yet really but the comment caught my attention. Waste is a design flaw. Now imagine if an engineer or product designer was given a bonus or raise for designing the product with only reusable or (very very) easily recycled packaging or content. I am not talking "reusable" here like---"I can use that plastic walmart bag for a trash can liner" reusable, nor do I think plastic is recyclable---because I rarely buy things made from recycled plastic (It's not very common and I try for no plastic) and most places don't recycle it anyway. Imagine if designers were fired for "over packaging" products. Case in point. I understand tampering but does my cimitidine REALLY have to come in a box that is literally 3 times bigger than the bottle? I mean---they even put a divider into the package to keep it from floating around in there. Go figure the waste and stupidity there. I would purchase the brand that came with only a safety wrap over the over boxed version if given a choice.

Third we have another web site---again that I haven't had time to check out. It is supposedly a really great site (????) for checking out your soil type, were is water and how deep in relation to your property. Basically soil maps easily accessed on line that have been put together by the local ags, state agencies and government over time. I will check it out at some point---USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS)
The directions are too long to type---but I am sure most everyone can figure it out.

Last is a company that sell water collection products. They have been working with Organic Garden to give away the 1000 gallon water tanks to community gardens. They have other products too though---check them out if you'd like. The Rain Well (.com)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Let there be RAIN! (finally)

Today---we have RAIN. rain rain rain rain. La la la. It sounds good to say that we are getting rain! Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book aye?
This time, unlike the few other times we have received it, our rain has been good rain----the kind that soaks into the ground and does wonderful things for the earth.
A few times it has come down fast too. During one instance my truck stalled as I drove through a large runoff section---it is an old truck but the "puddle" was a bit deeper than I thought at the time. Of course my son and I had to push it to the side of the road and got soaked for our trouble. However we have been so without rain for so long----that I DON"T mind getting my hair wet. Our pond even has water in it again. Not sure for how long---but it does have water. It has been bone dry for......5 months now for sure. It barely had any water previous to that---it just wasn't so hot that it could finish it off then.
I would love for it to stay around for a few more days. However---I won't fuss too much. This is the most rain we have seen in......months? almost a year maybe.
I have heard that Atlanta Georgia is getting missed. For that I am sad---however I am gleefully happy we are finally getting some that is soaking in.
Maybe I should run out and throw out some clover seed for winter/early spring grazing? Of course that is a guaranteed way to make it stop----and not come back for a while isn't it.

Hope everyone is getting the weather they need for their area---lately that seems to be a hit or miss proposition.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Do you periodically find yourself with a plastic water bottle? Maybe while taking a long walk or bike ride?

Or how about on trips---we continually end up purchasing bottled water again and again. Sometimes as much for the reason that the area we are in has horrible tasting water. Louisiana---near Shreveport---is one such place. The water there is even murky yellow colored. Yik. I refuse to drink it. I don't care what they say about public water in the U.S being some of the best---any water that is yellow colored, tastes and smells..........well, lets just say I'm not drinking it. (sorry to any Shreveport residents---but it is true)
No matter the reason for the purchase, I always think it is such a waste because I end up throwing away the plastic bottle. Yes, some places recycle---but not all do. So a lot of times they just end up in the trash. And as far as the "sports bottles" go---well we always end up losing the lid or breaking it or something gets left in the bottle and then we can't get out the smell. So it gets tossed. No plastic recycling anywhere near us.

Now I have found a solution to help encourage me to carry my own water and reduce my use of plastic water bottles. Albeit a slightly expensive one---but a solution I will purchase and use and then refill over and over and they are safe in the dishwasher too. They are the Sigg Lifestyle water bottles made out of aluminum. Worried about leaching and other things you hear about plastic---true or not? Worry no more---because the aluminum is at least somewhat safer anyway.
Not only are they metal---other companies do make aluminum bottles---but they are SNAZZY. Their motto is: 144 designs, 22 interchangeable lids, 1 you.
Better even than that---if you damage them you can recycle them in ANY city. Also---if the lid gets damaged just get another because of course you will know were to find one that fits.
Though they carry them at my local organic store and probably at the Rock Creek Outfitters near me I looked on line and found the whole selection. The whole enchilada so to speak------all the different styles so I can be different from everyone else. No matchy matchy with neighbors or kids or husbands (unless you want to that is).
Check them out---their kind of cool.

So, though I haven't decided exactly which bottle to purchase for myself as of yet----I will spend much time perusing their selection so that I can also give some as gifts this xmas too. With so many designs surely I can find one for everyone.

Daily life

Today, One of the things I wanted to show are two pictures of the trailer we use to transport our sheep.
I had to use it this morning to take a ram to the vet's office. He has been sold for a while but will go to his new home in Maryland this next weekend. When livestock cross state lines than need official "immigration papers" to say "yeah their healthy and are not bringing any disease into the state".
He is now official.

Anyway--back to the trailer.
We purchased this little jewel earlier this year and modified to fit our needs. We rebuilt the back door for air flow and added air vents on either side at the front (with removable grills). It also has a non slip mat and a hay rack on the inside and is painted a magnificent turquoise blue---very bright---to add some "ambiance" :-D.

When we were trying to decide what kind of trailer/hauler we wanted we kept coming up against two issues. Both having to do with our vehicles. Currently we own two vehicles (we have owned more at times).
One is a small 12 year old truck that we have had since we purchased it new. It unfortunately will soon need replacement (or maybe rebuilding ...) and we have been trying to decide what to replace it with. Since it is so old, though well cared for---we have started becoming concerned with the idea of taking it on long trips. Also, even if we replaced it with another truck---bigger possibly (or not) ---as a rule trucks don't get very good gas mileage. This issue lately has made our choice somewhat difficult in deciding what to replace it with---since it will be our second form of transport. Going to the mall in a gas sucking large truck just isn't my thing-----but that's a different post.
Our other vehicle is our vw diesel golf----that gets 40 to 50 miles to the gallon. Of course it is a car and not "traditionally" meant to haul things.
So, when we were trying to decide what kind of trailer to buy to haul our sheep we kept coming back to the idea of one that our car could haul instead of a truck.
When your going to make a round trip of 1000 to 1500 miles----gas mileage does make a difference. Comfort does too and our car is comfortable in a different way than the truck.

We finally settled on this 5x8 foot trailer and it has worked great so far. Since we painted it and keep a mat down it is easy to clean out to use for hauling furniture and other things too. Our truck of course can pull it---but it's fine for our car too which makes it much more flexible. We ended up purchasing it on line (Ebay as a matter of fact) instead of down the road at Lowe's. We saved $600 because of that---so remember even if your buying from a "big box" place---look around first because someone else may still have a better price.

The next "daily life" thing I wanted to show was the beginnings of another fence---yes, another. This time we are putting it up around part of our back yard. We do occasionally run the sheep through there to eat and we have, up to this point, had a cheesy hot wire fence there. It was build using temporary plastic fence posts that "step" into the ground. However they bent easily and so they were always askew, falling over and tangled in some of the plants. Overall---ugly looking and they didn't work well. So we decided to put up a permanent section and in this area and we will use livestock fence to fence it. Then, for the rest of the yard we will switch to a 4 rail wood or maybe something else (something nicer, more "backyard looking" than livestock fence) as it comes up closer to the house.
We still have about an acre left to fence in our side and front yard and I am undecided what to fence with. Stay with livestock all the way around since we have it every where else? or better yet something really cool like this.

By the way---notice the moisture in the pictures?---YES it is raining here !!
Hopefully all day---the last storm that came through with all those tornadoes for other states didn't give us more than a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A reminder

I am out the door quick today with a number of things to do. However I wanted to leave all of you with a good web site that some may not get a monthly email from. It's the New Farm---by the Rodale Institute. Good little organic/sustainable monthly magazine. I enjoy it anyway :-)

Also the farming community is coming back against the government take over of "Organic".
Check here at the Certified Naturally Grown web site to see farms that are "naturally certified. They are listed state by state with web links if the farm has one.
Hopefully this will continue to grow---and we need to spread the word. I may apply to be certified for my garden soon---you can see my thoughts on why I don't certify my animals and my thoughts on the takeover of "Organic" by the USDA here.

One last thing:
Free bumper stickers for distribution at farmer's markets and other community events at the American Farmland Trust web site. They say "No Farms No Food".
Pick some up for yourself (and your friends). Also---sign the petition!

Have a great day all!

By the way---yes we got a small bit of rain. I am very happy for it----unfortunately it is still just not enough. humph!!!

I don't mind but.....

I just wanted to add a note to those of you out in the blogosphere.
I really really don't mind you adding "plugs" for you businesses when you comment on my blog (I understand links are a way to build a business) HOWEVER--------comment a few times first and let me get to know you before you plug for yourself. After that---I won't mind. Or better yet---advertise on your own site and people will follow your comments there------I promise it WILL work.
When you plug for your business with your very first comment ever to my blog--- it's kind of well....rude.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Water Use

As we struggle with the lack of water here in my area, I realize just how lucky I am to still have water. In a recent post Maggie in North Carolina wrote about her well needing some repair during which she made a point of mentioning how thankful she was that her well (unlike some in her area) had not dried up. She also mentioned something that I have also wondered about on occasion this year which is what the HECK do you do with your animals if you can't get enough water?? As she said: The YMCA isn't to keen on them following you in for a drink or a bath in the case of her geese.
Lately, even before that, I had begun to wonder exactly what would I do in an emergency brought on by NO water availability. I mean---in regards to the livestock. Obviously my situation as a human is a bit easier than a sheep's would be. I can leave if I need to---but they can't. And of course in the case of bringing in water for them, well my one small jack russell doesn't drink much. On the other hand my 16 or so sheep plus our very large Pyrenees does. I figured it up based on the daily "average" per sheep of 2 gallons (depending many factors---but seemed like a good settling point) and I would need currently 34 gallons of water per day for all the sheep and their companion Mikey (the big dog) or 920 gallons per month.

Early this summer we had purchased for $50 each some water containers. Plastic of course, wrapped with a metal structure attached to a metal pallet. We bought them used from a water treatment facility. They receive their water treatment chemicals in them---so we could drink out of them if we needed to. With a bit of filtration for the humans of course. Also, we have had water in them and out of them a number of times---so they are pretty well rinsed out I think.
So, though they were originally just to collect rainwater for our plants use, we decided that they would make good back up sheep waterers for emergency situations. Even something as likely as the water mains being broke, bad storms ect. and the water being off for a day or two (or three) could cause problems depending on when we last filled the troughs. So, to have an emergency water back up for the animals, we will put these containers up on a stand, kind of like a mini deck, and site them so that when we do get gutters up on the chicken coop and barn they can fill with rain. In the mean time, since we have not had rain in a while----we will manually fill them from our public system this time. Just in case you know. We will then attach an automatically filling drinking bowl (their small, about the size of a man's cupped hands) that will keep only a small amount in the bowl at any one time---refilling as it is drunk up. That way there is little of the water wasted if it gets dirty or something of that nature. No evaporation and only a small bowl to clean instead of a large trough. I mean really---when a hundred gallon trough gets algae ---you have to dump about 75 gallons on average to clean it out. Kind of a waste---especially at this time. (I am sure most of you have now heard on the national news how bad it is here in Georgia in regards to the drought and drinking water issues.)
Since we have three of these, that hold 250 gallons each, we should have a short amount of emergency water available to us. Enough at least to be able to figure out what to do--just in case you know? It equals a paltry 20 days worth of water, however it is a help and when we don't have to have it---well it will be nice fresh rain water instead of chlorinated water for the animals to drink. A small aside for those of you who don't know---the chemicals in the water interfere with the uptake of some vitamins and minerals leaving your animals, and you, with a reduced amount or none at all sometimes. We found this out when we began testing our animals to correct some mineral problems we had here.

Of course this is just a small itty bitty way to barely make it. I think cities and municipalities need to wake up to the idea that we need to be more open minded about some of our water issues. We need to think outside the box---or at least consider some of the "boxes" that have come along. We need to reduce, conserve AND reuse. We will always need a certain amount of water for irrigation of our crops---but we need to get beyond the point of choosing water to drink or for food production when it comes to droughts. Also, the wildlife ----- they would like some left for them too.

So I came up with a few things that I would consider if I built a new house---or that I think governments should start seriously considering.
Take toilets. We are incredibly scared about the idea of crapping in a toilet that doesn't flush our poop and pee to some unknown spot. If everyone was forced to switched to composting toilets----do people not think that a whole industry of "compost cleaners" wouldn't spring up to clean them for the squeamish in our society? Of course I'd rather shovel my partially decomposed poop than drink it with chemicals added to make it safe. Put like that it's kind of yikky isn't it.

How about grey water? Why, after all this time, is grey water not more often pushed by local communities for lawn and tree watering?

Or better even than those two idea how about an old/new idea----the "Living Machine". (Capitalize it because it is a patented technology---which I didn't know.) It's that idea we have all seen at one time were they send the water through all these tanks of algae, fish and water plants to re-clean it to as good as or better than it was going in. Developed by Dr. John Todd in the 60's---he has a whole institute, known as Ocean Arks that focuses on studying it. I could easily have a certain amount of ongoing water for my livestock to drink with this concept---something to consider if I ever have an extra dollar not spent on hay or remodeling the problems we still haven't gotten to with this house. Besides from the research I have read about in regards to this system---it costs a fraction of a traditional water treatment plant to build and run AND you get an ecosystem to walk through that doesn't stink to high heavens.
This idea obviously would not work if I had NO water---but in a drought I could absolutely help conserve with this method for supplying drinking water to my animals.
There are a number of places in Europe that use this idea too--not so much in the U.S though but here is Penn State college doing it for a research project.

Some words to search with for more information on this would be:
greywater + reed beds
vertical flow (alone or with one of the above words)

Here's a fairly decent picture site (see the link to move on farther at the bottom of the page)

Also here are a few links for some sustainable book sites that carry books about this issue (plus more):
Low Impact Living Institute (british site)

Eco Logic books

constructed wetland association -- books only on reed bed sewage treatments.

Why do we have Fall?

Yesterday as I walked past my front window I noticed that, during some previous moments in time, my dogwood had put on it's fall wardrobe. A wonderful spectacular display with dark burgundy, maroon and a hints of chartreuse thrown in.
Though these pictures were taken in early morning light--- you can still see the pending beauty that I will look at for a number of weeks.
Later, with time, and the advent of Spring----I will walk by my window, just as I did this time, and unexpectedly notice that the dogwood is now covered with many many pink flowers. Oh the beauty of it!

Reminiscing on how many seasons of beauty that my tree gives me reminded my of one of my all time favorite stories. I think I like it so much because I have gardened for so many years. I used to tell it frequently to my children when they were young and someday maybe I will tell it to my grandchildren.
It's a Roman/Greek myth---just change the names to fit the country---but in either country it is the story of Persephone. Here it is. Enjoy.

It was a beautiful day like all the others in this land, the sun shone brightly in the sky, the hills were lush and green, and flowers blossomed from the earth. The lovely young maiden, Persephone, frolicked with her friends upon the hillside, as her mother Demeter sat near by, and her father Zeus peered down from the sky above. Laughter could be heard in between the young girls' whispered secrets, as they gathered handfuls of purple crocuses, royal blue irises and sweet-smelling hyacinths. Persephone thought to bring some to her mother, but was soon distracted by a vision of the most enchanting flower she had ever seen. It was a narcissus, the exact flower her father hoped that she would find. As she reached down to pluck it from its resting place, her feet began to tremble and the earth was split in two. Life for Persephone would never be the same again.

From this gaping crevice in the ground emerged the awe-inspiring God of the Underworld, Hades, and before Persephone could even think to utter a word, she was whisked off her feet onto the God's golden chariot. As the crack of the whip upon his majestic horses brought her to her senses, she realized she was about to taken into the black depths from which he'd come. The thought of this brought terror to her heart, yet any screams of protest were soon lost within the darkness, as they descended quickly into the Underworld below.

While Persephone's cries could not be heard above the ground, the pain in Demeter's heart quickly alerted her to the fact that something was terribly wrong. She searched high and low for her dear daughter, who had vanished from both the heavens and the earth. Consumed by depression over the loss of her child, she soon ceased to remember her worldly duties as Goddess of Grain and Growth. As she watched the plants wither and die all around her, she felt her own hopes begin to fade as well.

At the same time, deep down in the realm of the dead, Hades hoped to explain his actions to the sweet Persephone. Professing his love, he told her of the plan her father helped deploy and begged her to stay and be his wife. Yet, Persephone longed for something more, the comforts of her mother's home and a view of the lush green grass and blue sky up above.

Far above the darkness of the Underworld, her mother continued to wander the forlorn earth. Eventually she found her way to the town of Eleusis, where she rested by a flowing fountain. Stripped of all her vital energy, she appeared old and wrinkled beyond her years. Soon four young females found the aging Goddess, and agreed to take her home. Their parents were glad to offer the elderly woman lodging and a stable position caring for their little son. Wishing to reward the family for their kindness, Demeter attempted to offer the child the gift of immortality, by sticking him in the fire each night and removing him every morning before dawn. When the child's mother found him in the flames, she was horrified. Her mortal mind could not comprehend the actions of the Goddess, and she asked her to leave their home at once. This immediately brought back Demeter's fighting spirit, who surprised them by exposing her true self. The family begged the Goddess for forgive them and in return agreed to her demands: "A temple would be built in my honor, and you will teach the world my secret to immortality." Within no time, the town built a beautiful temple on the hillside, which the Goddess blessed before continuing on her journey.

Yet it didn't take long for Demeter's happiness to be replaced with rage, as she recalled the disappearance of her daughter. She flew to the home of Zeus and demanded that Persephone be found at once. She also questioned every immortal she could find and eventually uncovered Zeus' plot. In an attempt to appease Demeter's growing anger, he dispatched a messenger to retrieve their daughter from the depths.

Upon his entry to the Underworld, the messenger Hermes was amazed at what he found. Instead of finding a frail and fearful Persephone, he found a radiant and striking Queen of the Dead. She had adjusted well to her new position, saying she had even found her calling. The Goddess was now in charge of greeting the new arrivals and helping them adapt to their new life. While she wished to see her mother up above, she was torn by her desire to remain Hades' wife.

Hoping to comfort Persephone in her confusion, Hades came to his Queen's side. He gently kissed her forehead and urged her, "Do not fret, eat instead from this fruit I know you will like." As she pressed the red pomegranate seeds to her lips, she listened to his words. He told her he would miss her very much, but her duties as a daughter mattered too. So, she climbed into the chariot and bid her husband farewell, as Hermes sped them off to the middle realm of mother earth, the home of her devoted mother.

The flowers sang joyfully of her return, while her mother beamed with pride. Yet, the child that she had born and raised had changed while she was gone. She had grown into a goddess, one both beautiful and wise and the more that Demeter inquired about her experiences below, the more she came to worry that the life they knew was gone. She recalled a declaration Zeus had made from the heavens up above: in order for Persephone to return to the home and life she had known, the young goddess must be as pure as the day she left her mother's side. However, the ruby stain upon her lips spoke of the beauty's fate. Persephone had tasted of the fruit of life. It could not be erased.

Even so, Zeus loved his daughter too much to send her back to Hades without the hope of returning to her mother's abode above. So, each spring Persephone comes back with the flowers that pave her way, to tell the story of rebirth, hope and harmony. And each fall when she leaves again for the Underworld below, her mother mourns and winter comes, while she waits for her return. Yet, for Persephone there is no remorse. She looks forward to the time she spends as Hades' Queen and wife, and to guiding those who have lost their way to the next phase of their life.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Okra and Peanuts

This year we tried two varieties of okra in our garden. The variety in the top picture (or to the right depending on your browser) is "Alabama Red" and the bottom picture (or the okra that is completely red) is "Jing Orange". No I didn't get those backwards---I have them correct. Though if I didn't know which was which I would say that I had them backwards.
Both did about equal in our garden with little watering. Actually without any watering except as they were sprouting---after that they were on their own. We did go through one very long period were it did not rain, the air was dry and no dew developed in the morning----and they wilted a bit during the middle of the afternoon each day. However---they continued to produce well and never did really falter, rebounding nicely when it finally did drop a small bit of moisture on our area.
So---would I grow them again? Yes, to the Jing Orange and maybe to the Alabama Red.
Comparing them I would say the "mini thorns" of the alambama red were the biggest draw back for me. They were so annoying that I think that probably ranks as the number one reason why I wouldn't grow them again. The jing orange pods didn't have any prickly things so our fingers were fairly safe while picking. Also, I felt the jing orange had a slightly better flavor----though my husband liked both equally well. The Jing orange's flavor is kind of........flowery. Not sweet though---just different. They also retained their tenderness longer than the alabama red did with the plants also staying shorter. Because they branched a bit more instead of growing straight up, it made it easier to pick them since you didn't have to reach over head so far. Next year I will for sure plant okra again and Jing Orange Okra will be one I choose.

My next plant I grew that I wanted to post about were peanuts. I chose two types---just as in the okra. I won't even bother mentioning the varieties since:
One---we won't be eating any of them
Two--I don't remember which section has which variety in it.

We had a bit of an issue with the peanuts. First, as with all seeds planted in the early summer, we watered to help them sprout. As we started watering though, the grass over in that section broke through the too thin mulch and just went crazy. Crazy! It was beyond our ability to get it under control----tilling and starting over again would have been the way to go. However, we didn't do that, deciding to just leave it and try and keep it in bounds to see what happened. We just stopped watering and left the area completely alone coming in every now and then to beat the grass back into submission. (why my pasture can't grow like that is beyond understanding ) Anyway, surprise, surprise---those peanuts finished sprouting just fine and continued to grow and flourish. Quite well actually even though they had grass trying it's best to smother them out.
So, this weekend while rechecking the potato beds for stray potatoes missed the first time around---I stumbled on peanuts! Was I surprised. First----I have no clue when you are suppose to harvest. I thought it was when the plants died back some what so that is what I was waiting for. However by the looks of what I found---see the pictures----some had not only finished but started to sprout. (????) Technically you shouldn't eat peanuts raw from the ground---they have a fungus that can/does grow on them and it is dangerous. That is basically why all peanut products you eat will be cooked in some way. Well, throwing caution to the wind we ate some. They are o.k---I didn't really like them raw. My husband did though. They are kind of peppery and nutty with a beany hint all at the same time. Yik. Anyway---more research into peanut production is necessary for my next years foray into homemade peanut butter. I would for sure use them for a nitrogen fixer/green manure though since they are such good growers even in heat and drought.
Wondering what we will do with them though? Why save them for the pig to harvest of course. She comes to us in two weeks and so she will go there to dig and till and eat peanuts. What better way to get rid of all those pernicious grass roots before next spring? With a treat for the pig for doing her work included in it of course!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A quick article

Yesterday's post of "How Are You Doing" brought up some other interesting articles as I researched the information. This one turned up as another example of the "Fascist America in ten easy steps" that I linked to.
Since I usually don't post much on the weekend I am going to put up a link to this article. I looked around and around and couldn't tell for sure if it really was true---or not. I will leave it up to others to check out and figure out if they believe or don't believe. Or even if they can find something I couldn't. I will say I didn't find anything that led me to believe it was an out right lie. This article I link to is the longest and most detailed on the subject that I could find.
So, I am off to care for animals and do my weekend "chores".
Have a great weekend all.

Princeton professor says anti-Bush speech landed him on no-fly list

Friday, October 12, 2007

dallis grass pictures again

For some reason these pictures don't show up correctly in my post Whys and Whatfors all the time and a number of people have asked for them again so hopefully they will stay here---blogger does have a picture issue that bugs a number of us occasionally. So back by popular demand are the pictures of Dallisgrass and the "ergot-like" fungus called Claviceps paspali that can affect the seed heads and poison livestock with "dallis grass staggers". Sorry to all that they got lost from blogger for so long.

How are you doing?

Through out the past few years over and over I keep hearing the government say "We're doing GREAT!" Unemployment is always down, money is always fine, as a whole---we're doing great!
But how come for the first time in my life that I can really really remember---I feel like the people back in the 70's oil crunch?
Why does my dollar buy less than it did? Oh I know---the government tells me that it doesn't but I beg to differ.
Why do I know more people out of work than I did even as a teenager? And worse--these are not teenage people they are adults with family and they struggle not only to keep their heads above water but to get their children decent health care. I can count more families---good average middle class families----that don't have health care than I EVER have in my entire life that I can remember.
Why is it that in 2002 you could buy silver for 5.35 and ounce and now it is 13.50 ish ? That speaks volumes right there doesn't it? It says people want real money---not that over inflated, propped up funny money we are paid with every week. It says that those in the "know" are preparing for when our dollar goes down (even more than it has doesn't seem possible does it---or does it?)
Here's a nifty little site with an article on this topic that is easy to understand how we are getting the wool pulled over our eyes.

So..why does nothing change?
Why, even with a shift in "leadership" in the senate and congress is there no change? Why is it that Nancy Pelosi came in saying that she wouldn't put up with all the republican bologna and we still have it? Worse---she doesn't seem willing or able to stand up to them or to even make her own party tow the line. What a let down!
Yesterday on National Public Radio they did a story that the Washington Post broke about Buyout firms and their low low tax (compared to the average American). Seems as if nothing will change according to Harry Reid. Buyout firms as every one has heard recently pay 15% on the same type of "income" we would have to pay 35% on. Now, why is that? Sure doesn't look as if the Democrats are working for us does it?---no change, no difference.
Is this America still Toto---or our we entering something worse than Kansas. Like maybe Russia? Or how about Germany of the early 30's with our constant fear mongering that most of America seems to believe? What is the deal here people?
Why haven't we stood up and said something? Or have we---but we are being ignored? When is it that we lost that "old American way" of fighting for what is right?
Unfortunately even racism seems on the rise again. Oh call me naive---but here we are back to that same point of ropes and crosses to scare people and blaming people that speak other languages for "ruining" our country. Bullcrap. It's our government that is ruining our country ---and what better traditional scape goat than someone who looks or speaks differently than the main stream? While they (the government) put us in debt up to our country's eyeballs---we sit back and blame the Mexican who makes $15,000 a year for our woes. If everyone was making money like they were back in the 80's we would all LOVE all the Mexican immigrants being here. I lived in Texas in the 80's when they gave citizenship to all. Many, many, many, many (let me say ALOT) of people and companies HAPPILY used Mexican laborers. No muss, no fuss. Now why are we mad? Because there are not enough jobs for the average citizens of America and we are pissed that they come over and are willing to dig ditches---which most people I know won't. Not to say that there may not be people losing their jobs though. I know this is serious stuff. However, when we lived in another part of Georgia there were large chicken processing plants---or "butt cutters" as the joke went. Only the people who were illiterate (65% of the adult population there), dropped out in 9 or 10th grade and didn't have the know how to get a GED or immigrants worked there. NO OTHER person would DREAM of taking that job.
Am I sticking up for immigrants? Not necessarily---that's not my point.
Am I sticking up for companies that employ them illegally? Nope--that's not my point either.
What I am trying to say is that our economy sucks and our damn representatives sit on their fat tooshskies and line their own pockets with money or pat their selves on the back because they are so full of their own self. Sickening isn't it?

Let me leave you with an excerpt from Naomi Wolf's book "The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot"
In it she's says that America has already begun down the road of "ten steps to fascism". As has been said before---it is much easier to bring down a democracy than to create and sustain one.
Are we sustaining ours?

Here's the quote and if you would like to read the ten steps see it here:

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree, domestically, as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government -- the task of being aware of the Constitution has been outsourced from citizens to professionals such as lawyers and professors -- we scarcely recognize the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security -- remember who else was keen on the word "homeland"? -- didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Managing my Hay

So, since this drought has gone on for so long we have worked very hard to "manage" our hay appropriately. I mean---when you can't even steal a bale of hay because it's so scarce have to care for what you have.
Waste---especially of hay is always an issue. All livestock love to walk, climb, fling, roll in, run through, and poop on their hay. I don't know why but there you have it.
Round bales come under particularly aggressive attack---probably because they are big and don't get eaten as fast, but small squares are not really that much safer from the "waste fairies".
For a long time we didn't have to worry about hay and so we didn't really care about the waste. The bales were only $25 dollars for about a 650 to 800 pound round bale. Need a new one?---just drive down the road a mile or so and pick up a new one. Or just across town about 10 minutes away there were even nicer rounds. So, though we did try and keep the animals from completely destroying them it was inevitable that eventually some of it did get wasted.
Last year the weather started to show it's true colors and we became a bit more conservative with hay feeding since it became a bit harder, though not impossible, to find hay. Rounds were tarped in the driveway and fed out in small piles or stuffed into moveable fence panels tied to the regular fence. Square bales too were fed out in small piles or stuffed between the two fences like filling in a pita pocket.
As we moved into summer though and we were STILL feeding hay----we really began to give serious thought to how to feed the hay through summer then on into the winter so that NO hay was wasted. By now hay had become and will remain difficult to find. If you do find it---it's pricey. We now can only get square bales for $7.50 each---though I heard they went up since last we bought. That's $7.50 for just a measly little 70pounds of hay. You do the math in comparison to what we used to pay. Also---though I only have to feed out not quite one bale worth of hay a day I will have to feed more as it gets colder and there is no green grass left to help supplement.
So, after deciding it had become somewhat imperative that we design a hay feeder of some sort I stumbled on the two sided feeder that premier 1 sheep/livestock supplier had on their web site---it's in the downloadable instructions/chart section.
Well, after all my procrastinating for years now---someone should smack me. This feeder was so easy to build that I did the first one, which was the bigger one, in about 3 1/2 hours by myself. The second, though smaller one made by my husband and I for the rams was even quicker. Somebody kick us for being lazy! I tell you what! And wow! how easy to put hay in to it instead of trying to stuff it between two fences. Humph!---how disappointing that it took so long to become aware of this "labor saver" of a feeder.
Also, as a really great bonus---it has a "trough" area that can be used for grain or alfalfa cubes without any spilling. Since it's so stable and part of the whole unit--they can't knock it over while they fuss and fight amongst their selves during feeding. That part is o.k for my ewes----but a huge (HUGE) convenience for the rams who bash around so much during feeding of grains or cubes that most of the feed in lower troughs or bowls gets spilled and smashed into the ground.

And cheap! though we did already have a livestock panel specifically for goats/sheep that we had purchased at Tractor supply for $25 dollars---the wood was very cheap. (small aside to those who try this---we own very large bolt cutters that make easy work of cutting the 16 foot panels to the correct sizes). We even used some of our scrap lumber pile for the bigger one so total cost for it was under $50---most of it being the part of the goat panel we used. The smaller one obviously was cheaper though we did have to buy new wood for some of it---but it used the leftover part of the goat panel in it.
I wish I had built this years ago because not only is it easy to feed hay in but it also keeps the fleeces much nicer than the way we had been doing it. We spent much less time picking VM (vegetable matter), specifically hay, out of the fleeces after we sheared this summer.

There are two issues that we now need to address to make this feeder fit us even better.
One: A roof. The feeder needs some sort of roof that is easily moved, lifted off,or tipped so hay can easily be put in and it could then be used in an open area of a pasture. Both of ours are under cover---the big one is used to divide our "catch pen" and the smaller is under the new chicken coop addition.
Two: Wheels. Wheels and maybe a hitch of some sort, along with a roof would make it easy to move the feeder from pasture to pasture or just around a pasture so they don't "beat down" the grass in one area.

So here are the pictures. The last one shows how we dealt with the open end of the smaller hay feeder. It also allows one more animal to eat at that end. Plus an extra picture of my now healthy Princess (with hay hanging off her face and body!)

Good day all---here's to rain

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why we don't pay to be organic

Some one asked me not to long ago when I decided I would raise my plants (all plants not just my food) organically. I told her that I couldn't remember a day when I hadn't thought that way. I think she thought I was just saying that and I can understand how skepticism may ooze from anyone reading this. Truly though, I don't remember a time when I didn't think that way. I don't know if I read a book, if God "put" it into me, or maybe some genetic "thing" that is inside some of us---who knows. Not I for sure.
I also don't remember a time when I wasn't interested in plants. Of course like all children---I DID NOT want to weed the occasional garden my parents had. My parents grew mostly tomatoes, green peppers and squash---all of which I hated. Not anymore--but I did then (of course green peppers still hate me!)
Anyway my point of wandering through my early life is to give a base point on why I don't "certify" my animals and my garden to be considered organic.
Two reason---one of which is easy. Organic grain. Though I am careful about what I feed my animals I am not always able to get organic grain. Though we do not feed a lot of grain there are times when we have to as in droughts and when the ewes are pregnant. Yes, I would pay the extra price for it but when I ship it in, since it's not commonly carried around here, the shipping adds a lot of price to something I can not easily buy in bulk or store. It almost doubles the "per bag" price. Yes, I would love to use only organic grain and hay (MY grass IS organic) but shipping costs can kill you when you have a small farm leaving virtually no room for any profit---not even a little to buy shoes with :-)
Secondly is the biggest reason and it is this: why on earth would I PAY the government to certify my farm and garden organic when they won't make the others I would be competing against follow the rules? See the story of Aurora Farms here and on Boulder Belt Blog for more information.
One of the lawsuit and article points brought up are: exactly what does constitute organically raised animals (veggies, milk etc)? I know my ideas may not be exactly the same as others. I know my idea may be more or less even than other peoples.
Maybe instead of worrying so much as to whether we are purchasing organic we should instead worry about whether we purchase locally. That is were organic started----and that is were it hopefully will come back too and become "real" again. Why all this stupid legislation by the government to "protect" us from bad food---but in reality most of the bad food comes from big business and the government won't even do anything about it.
I would LOVE to buy local milk----even pasteurized-----but the government makes that impossible. To much legislation that's "for our own good". What are they? My parent and I am 11?
Even starting local with a pasteurized milk I could then say to the farmer: Ever though about going organic? or Ever thought about selling some of it raw?
I am, and have been, a big advocate of writing our congress people and senators. However I would like to add one more thing to those reading this: Talk with your neighbors. Don't bash them over the head with it though---just teach them where their food is REALLY coming from and what it is REALLY costing us.
Even our neighbors don't "get it" completely---but we are working on them. Friends and family that live far away---well they take even longer to educate since they are not near us to hear all that goes on. What better way to affect change than right at home with family and friends? THAT is democracy when we can all get together and tell the government we are sick of their crap---and now they need to clean it up. We expect, nay demand, wholesome food. We are not some corporate guinea pigs for their on going research with food.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Some news (but without a picture)

I meant to take a picture of my ewe Princess that I have posted about on numerous occasions lately---but I forgot. However---she is doing great even though she didn't get the ice cream that Tim was sure she would like :-)
Yesterday we let her back into the pasture and she seems to be doing fine eating and drinking as she is suppose to. She did "relax" a bit around the pasture--- a little more than normal---but after almost 3 weeks in the barn I think she was a bit tired schlepping up and down the hill. That's to be understood though.
How we got to this point is started in my previous post New treatments for sick sheep . After that all we did was add, first some apple tree leaves (any edible shrub or tree leaves would do though) then some grass. At first I gave her only 5 apple leaves which have less moisture than grass so they would be less likely to cause frothing/bloating or vomiting. We built up to lots of them---fed every few hours that day. The next day I started slowly adding grass to the apple leaves until she could eat quite a bit. By the third day she was back on her hay and drinking lots of water herself and voila! She's well :-)
Today--she had some serious head banging and butting confrontations with a few of the other sheep. She is, and of course was, my top ewe----so she has to reassert her dominance over the others. Seeing her butt another of the ewes so hard head to head a number of times and then chase her down to get in a few more whacks ascertained me that she is completely well. A sick sheep does not fight. She also got in a few whacks on my new ram lamb who is not quite big enough yet to take on the "higher" status adult ewes yet. He will soon however---but full rut and a bit more weight will help him out there.
Needless to say I am relieved that my ewe made it---and I now have a much clear idea of how to treat a poisoned ruminant. Hopefully I will never again have to---but at least I now know more than I did before which is always good. Practice makes perfect they always say---however I am not sure you can ever been practiced with livestock since they always always find some new way to stump you.
Have a great day all.

A little bit for the birds

This summer as everyone knows has been hideous as far as droughts go. We finally got to the point were we just quit watering everything since it was becoming very expensive to do it. Occasionally "save the plant" watering did occur for some of the more expensive perennials but nothing more than that.
We had also planted some small annuals--including veggies---but most didn't survive since we just couldn't water them enough.
Even with all the mulch we had acquired---it just didn't work out well for them with the high temps and no rain.
But now that I am getting ready for the fall I felt it was time to post about this plant known as a cypress vine (or maybe it's a cardinal vine---I am not sure which it is since they are closely related).
I actually received this one (and only one) plant as a start when I did some volunteer work for a research/organic garden in downtown Chattanooga (Crabtree farms). I planted it---and forgot it. It was only watered once when it was planted--never again after that. However---it went on not only to climb my fence but take over that corner of the fence and a bench too. I even quit allowing my husband to weed eat there since it might get some of the vine. This vine just went crazy---and remember it is just one plant. One little seed. So, considering how well it did---I will plant it again next year.

It's very pretty and we have had a number of hummingbirds visit it in the morning after they visited the four o clocks by the patio.
Next year---now that know it grows so well, I will use it to disguise some of the uglier spots on the farm. You know--those places that just are not pretty either because they still need work or that just can't help being kind of "ugly" (like the windowless side of a shed or something).

Also, I wanted to remind everyone that fall is technically here now. Soon we will have colder weather (I think we will anyway) and the birds might need a bit of help to survive. This spring with our freaky late frost that killed a number of plants then the drought the wild animals are low on their native foods. In our yard alone we will not have any oak nuts, hickory nuts, maple seeds, wild persimmons, blueberries, apples, pecans, and for some reason no rose hips either. That's a lot of seeds/mast foods to be without. The wild ones will be hungry---especially if we have some really cold snaps that require high energy foods.
I have a number of these feeders below that I hang out. Some years more of them go outside than in other years, but this year I will make sure all of them go out and stay as full as I can keep them with seeds/sunflowers etc. I will even put out corn for the squirrels since, though I don't care for squirrels too terribly much (they are somewhat destructive and they eat my apples and other fruit) I don't want to see them starve to death. I would much rather a hawk got to eat them instead.

So though it's nice to place plants in the spring and summer that bring in those pretty hummingbirds and colorful songbirds---don't forget that the winter can be important too. Especially after a year like this.
One other thing for the birds that they really appreciate is shelters. Bird houses are used even in the winter. It's where they shelter from the cold and icy storms that blow up. So grab a bird book at your local library or bookstore and build some bird houses. Not only is it a fun fall project but next spring you may have lots of baby birds in your yards.

Friday, October 5, 2007

New treatments for sick sheep

So as I have mentioned in the post "whys and what for" (and another) about our sick sheep I just wanted to update the situation.
The reason I am boring everyone with this on going problem is that in the coarse of raising sheep or goats it becomes very very obvious to most people that vets either:

1. Know absolutely nothing more than textbook information about these animals ---so why pay them when you can read it yourself?

2. Don't really care if they live or die. Especially with sheep. EVERYONE says " a sheep lives to die" Again---I don't believe that but whatever.

Anyway in the course of recovering from a bad case of poisoning by fungus our sheep's rumen shut down. Now THIS is serious stuff---way beyond the poisoning. Why? Because a sheep (and goat and cow) being ruminants have a fine balance of various microbes which help them digest their food in a sort of fermentation type process at points. To have these microbes completely die off is very very serious. If you have never seen a ruminant vomit---it's not a pretty site AND you wouldn't be the only one who has never seen it. By the time a ruminant gets to the point of vomiting most people write them off and put them down. Well, my ewe didn't look as if she wanted to die however any bit of solid food that passed her lips was almost immediately rejected by her "stomach". Imagine an animal standing there---looking normal but not being able to eat at all. Slowly they will starve to death or die of dehydration as they try to eat and then vomit out fluids.

So, our goal is to reintroduce the digestion process again. Just as if she were a human that had a bad case of flu----who doesn't immediately restart eating by choosing a thick steak needless to say.

How are we doing it? Well that is why I wanted to post this since there is very very little information on line. If you don't have the correct books---your out of luck.
We didn't do fancy expensive vet stuff like intravenous fluids or anything like that---of course we didn't wait until she was really bad either can however give fluids under the skin if you need to. We didn't as I said.

What we did do was start with fresh ginger from our local store. We bought a pound of it for 3.49 and haven't used much of the total amount so far. We grated it some of it and put about 1/8 to a 1/4 cup of the grated in a lidded bowl with an peppermint leaf tea bag (2.49 for the box of peppermint leaves only---25 bag count ---no flowers, or green or black tea etc added) and steeped it with about two cups of water and two tea bags. We strained it then drenched the ewe with 60 to 90 cc/ml every 15 minutes for an hour and a half to try and settle the rumen.
After that I took plain regular fat yogurt with live culture (or low fat---but not the no fat--- WATCH the ingredients) and thinned it with some ginger/peppermint tea and added a teaspoon of probios powder ($2.49) and electrolyte powder ($1.99). The electrolyte powder also has some added Dextrose so it was a calorie boost also---which was why I chose that particular brand. Both products were meant to go into drinking water but she wasn't drinking much at this time since her stomach was so upset. The tea added was so it would go through my drench nozzle attachment to my 30 cc/ml syringe. I force fed her that (about 90ml again) once every half hour---checking after 5 minutes to make sure she didn't vomit it. After a few times the ewe decided---"Hey I like this stuff" and started taking the drench nozzle in her mouth on her own. We upped the amount she ate each time and by the time 6 ish hours had passed I added some corn syrup to add calories to the mix----and by then the ewe was sitting in my lap begging me to hurry and feed this to her faster. At that point she was eating within a two minute period one cup of the yogurt mix---sucking on the drench nozzle as the last of it went down her throat. For some reason she would not eat it out of a bowl though (must be sheep/texture thing).
One other idea I have been told about since this began is a high calorie livestock supplement that has more calories than the corn syrup does called "Dyne" The person who recommended the dyne says she has used it on sick llamas and lambs---so it would surely work on adult animals too. I will get some---but don't have any currently.
My point yesterday was to try and get about 3000 calories into her (based on her normal weight of about 150 pounds) so she would have a maintenance amount of calories to live on. Hence the dextrose in the powder and the corn syrup so that the calorie count would go up for each feeding.
3 large yogurts cost about $7.50. So in time---this could get expensive but I could have also supplemented with dextrose shots but chose not to. I hate to give lots and lots of shots HOWEVER if they are going to possibly die the rule of thumb is this:

Try anything and don't worry about wether it will kill them or not----if they are about to die what do you have to lose? You may save them

Also---a vet would cost me a lot more so..
Starting today---we added cooked rice. Last night at the last feeding I had added a bit of blender ground cooked rice---which had the yogurt mix blended with it. Today I didn't grind it and it was mixed with a small bit of her yogurt and put in a bowl. Since she was so hungry (no night feeding) she was willing to lick it out of the bowl. This is basically a "BRAT" diet. You know the doctor prescribed bananas, rice, apples and tea for sick kids.
She likes the rice and so slowly we will work up to solids. I am not sure exactly how to go from yogurt and rice to hay and grass but we will figure something out. In the mean time---she looks lots better. Yesterday she had finally gotten weak enough that she wasn't standing again---but by later last night she was not having problems getting up or standing. So we are on the right tract it will just take time and hopefully work out for us.

By the way---during all of this the ewe has been receiving Bcomplex shots. These vitamins are manufactured by the rumen when it is working correctly. If it is not working correctly -- they are not being made. So don't forget those B shots---even with other illnesses :-)

Don't forget when adding anything to the diet small amounts first---working up to large. Even with the yogurt which has the live culture the rumen needs---small amounts. Better small amounts more frequently than to over whelm the system and have the vomiting reoccur.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Purse "snatching"

For the first time in my life---I got my purse stolen. They broke the window of my car and stole it out of the back seat floor board.
Luckily---we had phone numbers written down to cancel everything. As a matter of fact we shut off our debit/visa card right after the guy bought cigarettes and gas but before he and his friends bought $190 worth of groceries. :-D
So..though I have to replace my purse, wallet, driver license, switch my checking account and get a new debit card-----the guy was dumb enough to not only use my card at a store with excellent cameras BUT he stole my purse out of my car in a FEDERAL park. hahahahaha His time to serve is now greater because he committed the crime on federal property. Idiot.
So yesterday and today I am busy replacing all my things and getting "stuff" reorganized.
Don't forget to write down phone numbers and card numbers so if you ever lose your purse or wallet it's as easy as a call to cancel everything quick.

Have a great day all

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Need convincing?

Need a bit more evidence that the current administration is working towards a goal of war AGAIN?
How about this little "you tube" gem that is an interview with Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh (the man who exposed Abu Ghraib). Even better this interview came off MSNBC. Watch it---you might find it......interesting.

Washable leather???

Since I posted about my new Icelandic sheep pelts for this year a number of people have asked me about the care of them. One question that repeatedly comes up is about the fact that my skins are washable---yes washable. No dry cleaning necessary.
I don't know exactly how they tan them so that they are washable instead of needing dry cleaning but I think it is great. Since they are washable this makes them extra functional because they can be used for babies, the elderly who sit or lay for long times (reduces those "bed sores"), trim on jackets, dresses, purses, dog coats for beloved pets---you name it. The Icelandic in particular is good for trimming clothing since it looks a bit more like a fur than most sheep pelts do. Add that to the endless color range and you can match just about anything with one of them.

Anyway, we don't use dry cleaning, even for our wool, cashmere, mohair, alpaca or other fibers made into scarves and sweaters. Why? Because it is hard on the environment. Traditionally all people washed their wool products by hand since in up until recently there were no dry cleaners in the local villages. I figured if they could wash their wool by hand--then I could too. However it took me a number of years to understand just exactly why and how to wash a sweater of wool/cashmere/alpaca without ruining one once in a while. So instead of you stumbling through it here are some tried and true directions that I will tell you for those of you that don't know how to do it. We find many people don't understand this issue and we spend much time at fairs telling people how to wash their clothes so they don't have to dry clean. I will give instructions for washing both "washable" pelts and your lovely natural fiber clothing.
First the pelts:

Washable pelts----the company has differing directions than I, but if you didn't quite pay attention you could end up ruining your pelt. The way I prefer to wash them is by running medium temp. water (not to hot, not to cold) into a tub with some soap. Soap can be dish soap, your favorite body wash, shampoo etc. Some soaps are more drying than others so keep that in mind when choosing. Lay the pelt into the tub upside down---in other words you want the fiber in the water and the skin facing up. The skin will get wet which is fine but by having the fiber "hang" into the water allows it to get clean better.
Let it soak in the water for about an hour. Drain the soapy water out, then while keeping the pelt away from the running water refill the tub with clear water to rinse in. Again, let sit about an hour. Drain. At this point you can quickly get it out of the house wrapped in a towel (to absorb some of the water that's going to try and wet your floor) or you can put it into your washing machine and let it spin out. IF you choose the washing machine---DO NOT let water run in and pound onto the pelt during the spin cycle. That can cause felting of the fibers and though you will still have a functional product----it won't look nearly as nice as it did. Next---lay, drape or hang it to dry. Gently stretching it a few times during this process just so edges don't curl up a bit. Some people then put the pelt in the dryer with a tennis ball and NO HEAT air to tumble and re-fluff the fibers. I prefer just finger combing and maybe using a gentle bit of dog brush----don't get too aggressive though. This isn't your daughter long tangly morning hair :-) Voila! a beautiful clean pelt.

Now sweaters from natural fibers.
Almost the same idea as the pelt. Again---medium temp water with soap and let it soak. Then medium temp. clear water to soak for a rinse. Again---you can then spin them out in the washing machine but DO NOT allow water to rush in and "pound" them during the spin cycle. The pounding of the water AND the movement allows the cuticles in the fiber (which at this point is slightly expanded from heat and the soapy water) to "grab" the cuticles in the neighboring strands and then as they cool the stay stuck together and then you have felting. So, as long as you spin---but don't pound with water which is a form of agitation---you won't have felting and your sweater won't shrink. Every time you have a natural fiber sweater shrink---it has gone through a form of felting: combos of hot water, soap and agitation.
My choice though is not to put it EVER into the washing machine---since I have a tendency to walk away and forget things. So I just pull my sweaters out of the tub---GENTLY GENTLY GENTLY lightly (get the hint?) lightly squeeze just enough water out of the sweater that it isn't going to flood the floor and then lay it into a towel. Roll the towel and just press on it to extract a bit more water. Take your sweater and lay it out to dry on a rack or something---not a cloths line that will distort it. Shaping it slightly since all natural fibers like to "move" a bit and your sweater was shaped the day they finished knitting it to make it look the way it does. Shaping is a natural process and does not mean that you ruined it---most commercially machine knit sweaters don't require quite as much shaping as a hand knit sweater does. Hand knitting is unique each day---today I am tired and my knitting is a bit looser and tomorrow I am tense or in a hurry and it is tighter so it creates a bit of "movement" in the finished product. Nothing wrong with this at all---just that when you wash you may need to shape it (or block as it is truly known) a bit.

Hope that helps some of you out there. If you are concerned with your technique---start with a pair of mittens or a scarf. If you don't scrub, twist, wring or let water "pound" onto your items---you will do fine. It's a lot easier than you think---if everyone knew this the cleaners wouldn't have nearly the business they do.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Whys and what fors

Back on Sept 25th I wrote about how one of our sheep was sick. As I said then---it is something that occurs to every farmer and every species of animal. Most people, without livestock, assume that it can be as simple as giving an antibiotic to treat a sick sheep, goat or cow. However---it's not always that easy. In our case it wasn't anything close to being that easy.
We started out not knowing exactly what was wrong with our girl and finally settled upon "thiamine deficiency" also known as: Polioencephalomalacia (PEM)
This disease can occur because of many different reasons but can be summed up best as a "disease" that has to do with the ruminants stomach not producing vitamin B1 also known as thiamine.
Chances of our ewe recovering were medium---but not for sure---and she could have been left with a bit of neurological damage. However in the course of treating her for this disease we found she lacked the two major symptoms that everyone I spoke with said she should have: a "starry eyed/going blind look" and a neck that was very stiff and "pulled backwards". My ewe did not have either of those----so back to the research I went even though most people DID still think that thiamine was the problem. For some reason I just didn't feel it "fit" correctly.
To make this story a bit shorter we finally figured out our problem. Our ewe---and a few more of our sheep---were slowly becoming effected by "Dallisgrass Staggers". And though the name doesn't seem to say this, basically they were slowly being poisoned by a fungus. A fungus that was growing on the seed heads of a variety of grass in our pasture--dallis grass.
"Grass Staggers" or fungus poisoning is a fairly common problem among livestock but is much more known to happen with fescue or perennial rye grass or a few other types of grass. I had even originally thought it was grass staggers but I do not have that much fescue and the drought had pretty much killed of all the rye grass so when the vet said "thiamine deficiency" that's what I went with.
Treatment is as simple as pulling them off the affected pasture and giving them different grass or forage to eat. That helped the rest of the sheep, though one of our younger sheep also seems to be still struggling with it a bit but not nearly as much as our ewe Princess.
Princess still is bothered by "leg cramps" maybe even a bit of an upset stomach, so twice a day she gets a banimine shot which is a pain and inflammation reducer to help her move around and eat and drink. Yesterday she finally got to go back out on pasture and seems to be doing o.k. She is eating and drinking and moving around with the flock.
I do believe not only was she glad to be back with the others (remember they are social animals) but they had missed her too. Usually when two sheep, even ewes, have been in different pastures for a while they will butt heads to establish who is "top". This time however instead of putting horns together or butting---they rubbed cheeks with her :-) Very nice---I like to think they were telling her they are glad she made it. I know I am.

So here are a few pictures of Dallis grass with fungus on the seeds and also a bit of information about Dallisgrass Staggers for information. Note the comment on the "sticky" sap of the seeds----we have that every where and have never before had that. Also one other thing I learned was that if you have mushrooms growing in your yard/pasture then you have prime weather for any fungus that grows on any variety of grass. So just watch those seed heads---they aren't always good for the animals to eat.

Dallisgrass poisoning (also known as Dallisgrass staggers) occurs several days after cattle ingest a significant amount of dallisgrass seedheads infected with an "ergot-like" fungus called Claviceps paspali. The seedheads typically are infected with the fungus in the fall, as the seedheads age. Rather than flat looking seeds on the heads, the infected heads have gray to black swellings that have a sticky sap material on them. Some observers say it looks like little popcorn (see photos of normal and infected seedheads). Usually not all the herd is affected, and it appears that it occurs when some animals develop a preference for the tips of the seedhead.

The infected seedheads contain three primary toxins, paspalinine, and paspalitrem A and B, which are tremorgenic alkaloids. The affected animals show neurological symptoms, including trembling of the major muscles and the head, jerky uncoordinated movements, and they also are spooky and sometimes aggressive. The animals will startle and run, and often will fall in unusual positions. In bad cases the animals will go down, and may stay down for several days. Convulsions and death can occur in extreme cases. The symptoms are somewhat like grass tetany, and this is often misdiagnosed, but they don't show the sudden death characteristic of grass tetany, and don't immediately respond to treatment for grass tetany.

There is no treatment for the malady, except to get the cattle off the affected grass, and provide them with high quality forage. If possible they should be put in a field with no ponds, steep slopes, etc. as they commonly stumble around and end up injuring or drowning themselves. Usually cattle can completely recover from the poisoning.

In late summer we often have reports of dallisgrass poisoning, and it seems to be getting more common now because there is more dallisgrass in pastures in North Carolina. Toxicity usually is reported on farms with rank dallisgrass seedheads and the fungus present. In many cases producers had stayed off the pastures hoping to let the grass get a little more growth on it, and as a result the seedheads got old. In other cases, there are only a few cattle in large pastures, so the Dallisgrass grew faster than the cattle could consume it. Rarely do we get a report of a case were there deaths of the affected cattle. It also seems that in many cases the younger cows are affected, which suggests that cows may learn to avoid eating too much of the seedheads after getting too much (cattle are known to learn to avoid poisonous plants in this way).

Dallisgrass is becoming a more important part of many pastures in the piedmont and coastal plain. It is a very good quality warm season perennial, and provides great benefits to pasture systems, but the one drawback is the potential for Dallisgrass staggers. By rotational grazing the grass after seedheads emerge but before the fungus grows on them the problem can be avoided, because cattle will readily eat the immature seedheads unlike some other grasses we are used to. If the seedheads do become infected, clipping them off at about 12" before grazing should

help prevent the problem. Hay with high amounts of seedhead can also be a problem, so feeding Dallisgrass hay along with other hay is advised, especially if infected seedheads are present.

For more information concerning dallisgrass poisoning contact, your extension agent or your veterinarian.