Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pies and Turkey and a Flurry of Frivolity

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  We had a happy one, for sure.  Six pies - so of course we were happy!  We cooked all of our traditional dishes including a twenty-one pound turkey, dressing, ham, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, and all the rest.  This year, there were eighteen of us enjoying the meal together.  

The fun started Wednesday evening after work, when we baked pies and corn bread for the dressing, and prepped all the vegetables and turkey for cooking the next day.

We made all the pie crusts from scratch, and everyone took turns cutting butter into flour.   Luckily my nieces also find measuring and mixing ingredients as much fun as I do.  Everyone has their favorite pie too, so it's not hard to find lots of helpers.  We baked until well past bedtime, and still saved plenty to do the next day.  

Chocolate pie with meringue, pumpkin pie made with honey, and apple crumble pie.  Two of each, of course, because it's important to guarantee that everyone gets pie to take home for the next day.

My eldest niece turned the cornbread into dressing practically by herself this year.  It's her favorite of all the holiday dishes, so she was extra interested in learning how to make it.  Cracking eggs is one of the best parts of cooking.

My youngest niece gets most excited about the sweet potatoes, so she had enough enthusiasm to make a brown sugar and pecan topping, and then topped that with marshmallows too! 

The pies turned out beautifully this year.  We had a debate about which was the best, and in the end, the apple pie got the most votes.  It was tart and cinnamony.  Brandon and I enjoyed left over pumpkin pie by the fire the next day for lunch, which held us over until we could get to his brothers house to eat Thanksgiving dinner again, but this time we didn't have to do any of the cooking.  We played games and stuffed ourselves while we enjoyed their brand new puppy, named Patches.  

Saturday was chocolate pie for breakfast day, to tide us over until we got to our friends house for our first Christmas party of the season.  We stayed out too late laughing around the campfire, so I didn't have time to bake more pie for my great aunt's ninety-fifth birthday party on Sunday.  Family members from all over gathered near Cincinnati to celebrate her long life, and were excited to coax her into telling us stories about her life - "They had to start that cotton-picking World War 2 right when I'm old enough to date!" 

We started this holiday season off with a flurry of frivolity, for sure.  I'm not sure my sore back can keep up the pace, but I'm willing to try!  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Donkey Adventure and Guinea Family

Rufus and I went on an adventure Sunday morning - we walked out of the fenced in pasture and ate grass on the other side of the fence!  Whoa.  It's true what they say about the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence.  Especially if the grass on the inside has been munched on by a donkey and goats for a few months and it's practically winter.  To get to the fresh green grass, Rufus had to follow me around the barn and step over the scary garden hose, walk past loose chickens, go under the roof overhang near the goats, and tolerate the interest of a giant puppy.   Whew, we made it.  It was a big moment for us.  

Rufus is such a scared-y cat that I wasn't sure how he would respond to being on a lead rope in new territory.  If there was an unexpected noise, would he pull the leash from my hand and take off for the horizon?  Nope.  He was so interested in stuffing his face, that he didn't mind having to follow me around.  He didn't like being led out of sight of his barn and goats, but I figured out not to pull back on the leash when he would get excited, but to gently pull his head to the side, so he danced in a circle around me until he would calm down.  Then I would have to calm down.  How do people do this with big animals?  

Once he was calmly eating in sight of the door to the house, I called Brandon and told him to very quietly come to the door.  The sound of Brandon turning the door knob gave Rufus enough of a fright to send him dancing again.  I can see that I need to work on exposing him to more noises so he isn't so jumpy.  

Wendigo got bored with watching Rufus chew and decided it would be fun to run and jump and play with Rufus.  Rufus thought a game of chase would be great fun too, but since I was attached to his face, I wasn't in to it.  I tied Rufus to the fence while I put Wendigo up.  Rufus and I have been practicing being tied to the fence, and I thought we had that down pat and I didn't have to so careful about tying his head super close to the post.  As you can see, he only had about two feet of rope or less, but he managed to put his leg over the rope, turn in a somersault, and end up on the ground on his shoulders with his feet all tied up on top!  Like a donkey pretzel!  I never knew he was so flexible.  I was still standing there with my jaw dropped wondering what to do, when he slowly untangled himself and stood back up with one leg draped over the rope.  He let me lift his leg over the rope and stood there calmly while I worked on the too tight knot in the rope.  My horse owning friend showed me a slip knot to use in case something like that happens again.  I thought I was going to have to cut the leash the knot was so tight.  

After Rufus was returned to the safety of his pasture, I stopped to appreciate the serenity of the guinea family lounging in the grass.  You can see the baby nestled between his two moms.  The dads are on guard too, and they keep the moms and the baby in their sight at all times.  The guineas are different than chickens in this way.  The raising of chicken babies seems to be solely the responsibility of the mom who sat on the eggs, but the guineas work together as a flock to care for their chick.  

Mrs. Hall?  Is that you? 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pondering Healthy Hermit-Hood

Someone told me recently that they think I moved out to the farm and now I'm becoming a hermit.  I've been thinking about this lately  - I have time to ponder the pros and cons of hermit-hood because I'm home so much now, tending a menagerie of animals and a plot of land.  I even turned down an opportunity to attend a professional conference that I used to attend annually.  In the recent past, I would have been a little upset if I wasn't given the opportunity to attend.  It was important to me to maintain my professional contacts and to make sure I was perceived as someone who stayed current with new information.  I wanted to be involved.  I also wanted to stay in a hotel and have a good time drinking beers with friends who I don't see that often.  Why didn't I want to go this year?  Why don't I want to go anywhere?  

My focus is changing, I think.  Part of my desire to stay home more is that I'm excited by all the new experiences I'm having learning about raising animals and managing our small acreage, but I'm also tending to our health more lately, and that's really hard to do when I'm not at home.  A few years ago I had a routine heath screening and my numbers were borderline.  I was in my mid-thirties and my blood work was indicating that I wasn't healthy.  Not sick, yet, but the nurses talked to me like I was a person who was going to be sick.   They kept talking about boring stuff like cholesterol and blood sugar.  They measured my waist and weighed me and marked me down on the form in the obese category.  Sigh.  

All that was a bummer, for sure, but then I started having back pain.  The kind where my back would "go out" and I would have weeks of limited mobility and pain.  My job and some of my favorite things involve movement, and when my back was hurting it really sucked the fun out of everything.  

I've been known to say that if I have to have a job, then my job is definitely the one I want.  Not only do I work with cool people and have a flexible schedule, but it's taken me places -  I've traveled all over our region, working in at least seven states, and been to workshops out west and as far north as Canada.  I get to switch focus all the time, which keeps things interesting.  In the past fifteen years I've trampled through swamps, climbed mountains, and been deep under ground in caves, and got paid for it all.  

I've also spent countless hours riding in a truck to get to all those places, and once I'm there, I eat at restaurants.  Three meals a day, all made from low quality ingredients.  Turns out, it doesn't matter how hard I work physically, I can't work hard enough to counteract the hours of immobility in the truck and the repeated exposure to low quality food.  Add disrupted sleep on top of that, due to staying in strange beds and keeping strange hours, and its no wonder my health was beginning to slip as I got older.  

Luckily, I figured out that yoga keeps my back in line.  I have to do it regularly, but I don't have to do anything extreme.  I started with this Yoga Therapy for Back Pain DVD, and now I select free routines from the Yoga with Adriene website, and use my phone to watch them.  If I get out of the habit, my back reminds me that I need to take it seriously.  

I managed to get my blood work back to normal too.  I had to make food a hobby.  I read about food and nutrition, and make myself think about where the food I eat originates, how it was grown, and what's been added to it.  Brandon and I tried seemingly extreme things like juice fasts, and we found out that drinking fruit and vegetable smoothies and juices makes us feel better.  We spend a lot of money to buy quality ingredients, and it's working.  We're healthier, and stronger now at and nearing forty than we were at thirty, but it takes a lot of concentration, and when I get out of my routine by going somewhere, we get off track.  So maybe being a hermit is healthy.  

Or maybe I'm just a lazy introvert and I would rather stay home with my goats!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Rubbing Coconut Oil on My Goat

Smile!  It's a donkey with a pool float on his ears!  ha!  Silly Rufus wasn't afraid of the pool float at all.  He let me set it on his back and hang it from his ears.  We tried rolling it on the ground, but he wouldn't chase it.  How do you teach a donkey to fetch?  

Rufus must know I'm entertained by hanging things on his body, because he's pretty tolerant.  Just wait until he sees his holiday decorations!

The dry weather hasn't been very good for the forest fires in Kentucky, but I've enjoyed having so many nice weekends lately.  By the end of last winter I was fed up with the mud and day dreaming about gravel pathways to our outbuildings, and that was before we had an all white puppy and four hoofed animals.  Every mud free day is to be enjoyed.  

Peaches and I are getting better at getting lined up in the right place on the milk stand.  She's not really sure why she can't just walk around the stand and put her face in the food bowl, or why she has to put her head through the center hole, when if she puts it to either side, it far more comfortable and she doesn't get her head stuck.  We've come up with a few suggested alterations for Brandon to make to the milk stand, and we've figured out that our biggest problem is Wendigo.  

Brandon called me on his way home from work the other day and asked what I was up to.  I was just finishing up in the barn and launched into the woes of trying to rub coconut oil on my goats legs with a giant puppy that thought the coconut oil tasted great when flavored with goat hair.  Turns out, goats do not like to have their legs licked by giant dogs!  This makes it hard to get the coconut oil applied, since her legs wouldn't hold still while I was trying to catch her feet and fend off the determined dog! 

Brandon laughed at me, and said that someone should make a cartoon of me.  Why was I rubbing coconut oil on the goat?  As you know, I think Peaches has mites.  I ordered some stuff called Nu-Stock, which someone hypothesized worked so well because it's made of oil, which suffocates the mites.  It also has sulfur and pine tree resin in it.  So, while we waited for the Nu-Stock to arrive, I decided to put some tea tree and coconut oil on Peaches legs.  I did that for three days before the Nu-Stock arrived, and she's already much better.   See Brandon, there is method to my madness, but Wendigo adds chaos!  My darling Puck, with his short legs and sensitive personality, never grabs things from tables, or licks the goats.  If Puck gets scolded his heart is broken.  Not so with Wendigo. 

Joe, who raises hundreds of animals each year, asked when we were going to raise a pig, and I told him that I wasn't ready for a pig yet.  I told him that a puppy, a donkey, and three goats was as much as I could handle right now, and he laughed and said that was because I take my goats for a two hour walk on a leash everyday.  I wish I had two hours to walk the goats!  

They days are getting shorter, but the goats and I try to take advantage of the sun when we can.  I wonder if you can walk a pig on a leash?...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sarah the Sock Creature

My nieces and I finally had a chance to finish the sock monster that we started making the last time they came for long visit.  My youngest niece wielded the scissors and selected the socks, the body style, and the buttons for the eyes and earrings, and my elder niece helped me sew it all together.  She sewed both arms and the smaller leg mostly all by herself.  It was true sock creature collaboration!  

We managed to finish our sock creature and still find lots of time for visiting Rufus and the goats.  Wendigo always brings a toy when we go for a visit to the barn, and the girls have the same good idea.  Only my nieces have funny sock toys and poor Wendi gets a rolled up chicken food sack.  Not fair, right?  

Wendi really wanted a turn playing with the new sock monkey, but my niece figured out a way to keep it safe from Wendi's slobbery mouth by tucking it safely inside her jacket.  I smiled every time I saw her with a sock creature head poking out of her collar.  The sock creatures first name was Penelope, but because that name was too hard to remember, it was changed to Sarah by the end of the day.  

The girls and I took the goats for long rambles and watched them eat weeds and try to head butt Wendigo.  All the extra energy that kids bring got the twin Rivers excited, and they ran up and down the fields with the kids and the dogs, while Peaches focused on eating.  Rufus brayed pitifully from behind the fence because he wanted to join the fun, but when the girls went inside the fence to pet him he was jumpy and skittish and we decided he wasn't ready for an outing with kids.  He got so many treats handed to him through the fence that he seemed mollified.   

They did manage to coax Rufus into taking a run with them.  I was panting from my short jog up the fence line, but I managed to get my phone out and capture the run in this clip.  My nieces can run as fast as a donkey!  

Brandon overheard us talking about building a maze, and when he volunteered to cut a maze with the mower in the long grass of the back field, we were super excited.  He managed to make it hard too, and it included several dead ends.  

As I've said before, mazes are a challenge for me, so I stuck close to my youngest niece, and she lead me safely through.  We went back again right before dark, and took the goats with us.  The Rivers were so worried about being away from the barn at dusk, that they kept jumping and stampeding for the barn, but when they would realize we weren't coming too, they would run back to munch more blackberry leaves.  Brandon said hanging out with goats is like walking with a herd of excitable deer. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Yoga with Goats

Downward donkey?  Ha!  When I brought the goats home, Ashley asked me if I was going to do yoga with goats, like they do on this farm.  

Turns out, Peaches is quite a yoga inspiration!  She likes to incorporate some gentle circles with the nose to really bring those neck muscles to life.  Does everybody hear someone crushing a paper bag when they do this move?  I do.  

Peaches encourages me to try some postures on the ground too.  

And to remember to smile and laugh while doing yoga.  According to Peaches, yoga doesn't have to be so serious.  Especially when doing it with goats!

I'm envious of Peaches' excellent knee flexibility.  

When I took mom out into the pasture to try yoga with the goats, she said we needed a "sit-upon" like she used to make when they went camping with the girl scouts.  She used some empty chicken feed bags and made me one!  I sit upon my sit-upon quite often, and practice sitting cross legged.  That counts as yoga, right?  

Yoga with goats has excellent views.  

 At least until a silly goat gets in the way!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Eureka! Goat Mites!

Yesterday, after posting about my worry for my goat, Peaches, and her skin problem on her feet, I finally managed to hit on the magic combination of words that lead me to this page, all about mange-mites.  I've scarred myself reading about the many problems that goats can have, and I saw pictures of pitiful goats that I wish I'd never seen, but I never could find anything that seemed like it could be Peaches problem until now.  I think it's mites!  Not lice, which some people call mites, which are visible and tend to attack during the winter, but microscopic mites that borrow under the skin and attack during dry periods.  Deer have them, and they can spread to goats.  Goats that have been stressed are most likely to get them, like poor Peaches, who has had two new homes, with new dogs, new routines, new foods, new everything, in a matter of months and still has fresh scars from a dog attack.   

I had an exciting Eureka! moment when I read about the mites.  It could explain why the River brothers, those fat pampered babies, don't have them yet, and why Peaches seems itchy.  The goat's immune response can make them itchy all over, not just where the mites have burrowed in.  The mites tunnel in to the skin in hard to reach places, like around those dew claw hooves, and they make oozy wounds.  My moment of elation at finding a possible answer to the problem was quickly followed by disgust and despair.  Oh no! - my goat has a horrible, and contagious, infestation of bugs!  Gross!  It's gotten worse instead of better.  And now I'm itchy too, just because I've been reading and thinking about mites.  Yuck. 

It wasn't long before I quit beating myself up for not realizing what the problem was sooner.  Now that I might have identified the enemy, I can arm myself better.  Bugs?  I'm not afraid of no stinking bugs!  There are things I can use to fight them, including having the vet inject her with pesticide.  Before I try that route though, I'm going to try some over the counter methods that were recommended, and make sure I pay extra attention to her worming schedule and mineral intake.   Good food, clean bedding, calm routine - all that stuff.  The Betadine soaks and purple anti-fungal that I've been using have probably been good to prevent a secondary infection, but they aren't going to kill the bugs.  We're changing our strategy.  Wish us luck.  

This morning there was frost on the grass.  Real ice crystals, and the chicken's water bucket had a film of ice on the top.  The goats stayed snuggled under the ping pong table lean-to, in their bed of leaves and straw, while I bustled around getting everyone ready for the day.  Rufus was feeling frisky and wanted to play with the manure rake instead of letting me collect the droppings from his stall.  

Rufus could get the mites, and so could the dogs.  I asked Rufus to let me know if he had any itchy spots and ran my hands down his legs feeling for crusty places.  I remind myself that having all these animals means I'm going to have all their parasites too.  It's just part of it, right?  We are all hosts to other organisms, and when one of them starts to cause problems, it's because something isn't as good as it could be.  It's a good thing I like a challenge.  
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