Archive for January, 2008

A Domestic Day…so far…

January 30, 2008

Today I was supposed to drive up to Barre for the Vermont Sheep and Goat Association annual meeting, and then to “man” the booth for VSGA for the afternoon…however, this morning it has been freezing rain-ing, the drive is a sheet of ice, and there is more of the same and snow showers predicted for here and not much different there all day.  I decided I really DID NOT need to drive in this, so instead I’m being domestic. (Must be a “cold” or something coming!)  I made bran muffins with a new recipe from my friend, Carol, except I had no wheat bran, so used oat bran.  Very good.  Also making as we speak, healthy muffins with oat bran, whole wheat flour, pears, raisins, carrots, bananas, and since I had no yoghurt, sour cream…They are almost ready to come out of the oven. I’ve also been making soups (whatever IS wrong with me, anyway!) and have chick peas cooking, cabbage soup simmering to add them to, and butternut squash soup simmering as well.  A morning’s worth of work.  Now, I have to look for a size six round needle, 24″ or 29″, to finish the patterned yoke on my sweater.  I’ve been making great progress.  Did the pattern on both sleeves, and discovered they are slightly different: ask me if I care!?  Sweater front, back, and sleeves are knit together and I’m about ready to do the yoke.  I love doing sweaters in the round.

If I can’t find the size six needle, I’m going to be a little crazy for the rest of the day…oh, well…maybe we’ll have the next installment of Dickens of London, which, apparently, is coming from Maryland. I love Netflix…very entertaining, so far.  Have a great rainy/icy/snowy day!


Goat babies

January 21, 2008

Here are photos of the new little doelings, who are still not here, but Lasell graciously forwarded the photos.

First, Daisy, at 9 days:


Next, Spike, named because of a spike-like marking on her head:


Spike is one day old in this photo. Next is Tea Cup, not sure why she was named that. Lasell named both Spike and Tea Cup.


There are actually three doelings in this picture, but Tea Cup is the one looking out toward you.

I did it!

January 19, 2008

Okay, on Wednesday I went up to see those little Nigerian Dwarf goats I spoke of last week.  And I put a deposit on three of them: two bottle babies and one mother fed.  Now, I know that bottle babies in sheep anyway, will break through fences to see their mother, so I asked Lasell to keep them and feed them til weaning. Hopefully, then, they won’t recognize me as the one who feeds them, and my fencing will be more secure.  I spent a lot of time with them, especially smelling!  I found the kids, the moms, even the horny buck about l/4 or less smelly than I’m used to with standardized breed goats.  So, now I’m enthused.  At the end of February or beginning of March, I’ll have three new animals to grow out, and hopefully, milk out for the pigs.  We shall see!

I forgot to take pictures, but Lasell said she’ll do so and send them, so I will be posting them, if I can figure out how to get them from an email to here, when she has sent them.

Grain prices have skyrocketed.  My  neighbor complained a few days ago at how much the price of eggs in the supermarket has gone up.  So, I sat down with my latest grain bill, which stated that I paid $9.80 a bag for grain.  Wow!  I’d paid no attention. At that rate, not even counting the cost of shavings and kelp and oyster shell, I am paying out $2.80 approximately for a dozen eggs.  Lisa, who operates the farm store locally, has been paying me $2 a dozen. I noticed she’s selling them for $4 a dozen.  And she’s a farmer, too!  Sounds like the same scalping small farmers get everywhere.  Anyway, I talked to her, and she agreed to up the price she paid for them to $3 a dozen.  So, I’m making 20 cents a dozen and she’s making a dollar a dozen.  Neither of us is counting mortgage costs!  Somehow, that just seems like more of the same complaint I read about writ small, that industrial farmers are dealing with with their distributors.  Then, I went to the grain store again, and grain is up to $10.25 a bag!  I guess I will have to talk to Lisa again.  I don’t want to rip off customers, but neither can I afford to subsidize them!  My sense is that the cost of food in this country is going to rise rapidly to meet the cost of food in other industrialized nations, which, I understand, is much higher than it is here.  I’m glad we raise so much of our own food, and in summer, at least, rely on our pastures, rather than on commercial grain, for the biggest part of their feed.

On that cheerful note, have a good weekend.

Not goats?!

January 13, 2008

For years I’ve both railed against how bad goats smell and been drawn to Nigerian Dwarf goats, the milky strain, rather than the meaty strain…which, of course, makes no sense.  My husband would say, “That’s not logical,” to which I most often reply, “Okay, what’s your point?”  Logic is not high up there in my motivational excuses department.

Anyway a friend up north a bit has some baby Dwarf Nigerian doelings, who would be a lovely addition to the farm and provide milk for the growing pigs each year (assuming I could figure out how to milk them, and get them to cooperate.  They are small.  They are probably, like all goats, escape artists…and they do smell, except I have been there and the smell was nothing like the smell I get bombarded with at friends’ farms where there are saanens and nubians, that goat smell you can’t shower away, something I really don’t wish to be perfumed with for the rest of my farming days.  So, between now and Thursday, when I go up to see these little urchins, I need to research the whole subject.  (I am reminded that 10 years ago, when I was still a very short time from my almost lifetime position of president of the mythical American Doghaters Association, I fell in love with my border collie, in much the same way: circumstances put her in front of me, and she and I connected.  It feels the same way with these goats, but I will wait til Thursday and give them the sniff test again, and …who knows, next week, I may be the proud mother of a couple of little doelings.  (and bottle feeding, not my idea of fun; need to factor that in.)

Tonight our next big snowstorm is to start, continuing throughout the day tomorrow, if the weather guys can be believed.  Sure smells like snow out there.  Enjoy!

Signs of Hope

January 4, 2008

It was -9 this morning when I got up, not a day I will look forward to going out in to feed the animals once it gets light.  It was very cold up in our bedroom. (We have no heat in it, and we open the window every night!)  It was hard to get out of bed.  Sometimes life seems devoid of hope, on a much larger scale than “I hope it will warm up a little.”  But I reminded myself that the day yesterday was a little longer than the day before, and it will be a little longer today: small signs of hope that Spring is coming.  New life is just around the corner.  Deaths of all kinds are always followed by life of all kinds…

Yesterday, I got a copy of the national Episcopal newspaper.  In it was a review of the new “Golden Compass” movie, which you may recall, I was ranting and raving about awhile back. (Not about the movie, but about the evangelical and Roman Catholic condemnation of it and their fear that someone would kill God.)  WELL, MY church approves the movie, apparently!  The reviewer was very positive about it and said it would give people, children included, lots of stuff for pondering and lots of ways to grow as a result of it.  A sign of hope: the whole country isn’t going brain dead and full of fear.

And this morning, when I opened my email, at 5 a.m. there was a note from Democracy for America, the organization started four years ago by Howard Dean, which promotes the candidacy of people who are not fear-driven, who have the audacity to hope, who have a vision for the future of this country that seeks to return us to the ideals I was taught in grade school about what an American is and what the United States is pledged to as a nation.  The message said basically, “Yahoo!  Obama and Edwards first and second in Iowa!”  Personally, I think Barack Obama is the person most qualified and with the best vision for us for now and with the most skills and talents to be a president of grace and wisdom, a man not ruled by fear.  Fear as a motivation is a terrible thing, demonic.  It makes us do things we would not ordinarily conceive of doing.  It makes us victims of evil, by making us pawns of evil.  In the last Harry Potter film, Voldemort tries to get Harry to hate, tries to get him to succumb to fear and evil.  Harry remembers the moments of love in his life, the care and sacrifices of his friends, and doesn’t succumb.  He is NOT motivated by fear, but by love.  This is what I think we should all be motivated by.  I think it is the keystone of REAL Christianity: not you’ll go to hell if you don’t do this or that or believe this or that, but the words of Jesus: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. (Which, by the way, is a direct quote from the Old Testament.  Jesus was a love-motivated Jew, remember!)

So, there is hope out there this morning: hope for a better world, hope for a world in which our children are allowed to think and learn and grow, hope for Spring in the midst of a dark and fiendishly cold January.  I am grateful.

In defense of food…

January 3, 2008

Yesterday, on my way back from the acupuncturist (who gave me a copy of the Dalai Lama’s healing chanting tape, which is wonderful, by the way!) I stopped at Border’s and bought a copy of Michael Pollan’s new book, “In Defense of Food”.  I started reading after lunch, and finished it before bed…it isn’t a long book, maybe 200 pages.  Wow!

First he talks about the stuff on shelves in supermarkets, how most of it is now food products, not food, per se: it’s been processed to death, has tons of additives in an effort by food scientists and “nutritionism” to add this nutrient or that to food to make it better, but in the process, seems to make it not only not better, but in many cases more fattening and less nutritious.

Here’s a few things I remember, off hand:

First, the synopsis of the book: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Given a choice, eat leaves, not seeds.

Try NOT to buy your food at the supermarket but if you do:

Don’t buy stuff with more than five ingredients.

Don’t buy stuff with unpronouncable additives.

Don’t buy anything with high fructose corn syrup.

Don’t buy anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

There was one more “don’t” but I don’t recall it right now.

Shop the edges of the market, not the middle: meats, veggies, dairy are generally against the walls.  The middle aisles are generally filled with processed foods.

The  “Western diseases” (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers) are seemingly the result of western diets. People who change diets often have dramatic changes in their health.

Eat nine, yes, nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. (My one big question to him, who also says buy local, is how in the world do you eat five fresh fruits (he prefers fresh to frozen and dried, frozen and dried to canned, home prepared and canned to industrial canned, which often has additives) in January in Vermont, or rather where do you FIND them?)

He does state that civilizations on various diets, whether they are high fat or low fat, that are traditional diets passed down through generations by mothers (he likes mothers!), the  passer-downers of food traditions in most cultures, even diets that are largely meats, are healthier than those who eat a “Western diet” which is largely processed food, soda, snacks.

He also says:

Don’t snack.  Eat meals.  Together as family.  Eat slowly.  Enjoy the meal.  Make it more than just refueling, but a community event, a family time.

This all sounds very good.  I do confess, however, that not being an “all or nothing” kind of person, not a “black and white person” (but big on various shades of grey), I will NEVER be able to give up white bread. I can make homemade white bread with unbleached organic flour, but I  hate whole wheat bread, period.  Since I only eat about five slices of bread a week, I think I can allow myself this one Western “food sin”.

The other problem I have is that if I eat and cook the way my greatgrandmothers and grandmothers did, I’m cooking very simple with no spices, barely salt and pepper, eating a lot of different foods, but mostly, meat, potatoes and vegetables, sometimes in stews, but mostly separate on the plate, which both John and I love, BUT try and find ANYTHING like this in any restaurant except maybe a diner today!  Last night, for example, out to dinner in one of the more conservative restaurants around here, a nice one: my fish had been slobbered in garlic and wine and a few other things, so that I couldn’t taste the fish.  My great grandmother, my grandmother, and I would have broiled the fish all by it’s lonesome, and eaten it that way.  (We also would have cooked it longer than the chef did.)  We also would have cooked the corn, peas, and carrots in boiling water, not heated them slightly in some kind of oil.  The popovers, though, those popovers, were delicious.  They still haven’t figured out that they could easily ruin them by adding spices and herbs!  Lucky us.  PLAIN popovers!  We passed on desserts.  This morning, as per usual with garlic encrusted foods, the pores of my skin smell like garlic, and will for the next three days. Why anyone would WANT to smell like that is beyond me!  Maybe it keeps the bugs away, but here in Vermont in January, at zero degrees, bugs are really NOT a problem.

Anyway, I LOVED the book, and his previous book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemna” and Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”.  Changes are coming.  Garden is getting bigger this year.  We just bought a second freezer.  We will fill both.  We will not give up eating meat, but we will be very careful to eat only meat that was pastured, not grain fed.  One last word from Michael Pollan: You are what you eat, but more than that, you are what what you eat eats, as well, so watch what plant food you spread on the earth (commercial fertilizers are bad, bad,bad) and watch what food you feed to your animals (ruminants were not made to eat grain as a main staple…I allow them “dessert” of grain, but they eat mostly green stuff.  This is hard in winter for the layers, but they get some green stuff in winter, are pastured in summer; same with pigs, which are only here when there’s green stuff to eat.)   Both he and Barbara Kingsolver mentioned studies that have shown that organic foods have 50% more nutrients than industrially farmed foods.  (Which reminds me that I discovered that for myself with the sheep years ago: that one bag of organic whole grains kept them in the same condition as 2-1/2 bags of conventional industrial sheep pellets.  AND, I know exactly what they are eating, even if it is just dessert!)  Now I have to apply those same principles to our diet!  And at the same time, not use a lot of fossil fuel to go from farmers’ market to farmers’ market in summer to get what we need.  The trick, I think, is to raise as much as we can, so we don’t need to “get” much outside the farm, in the food department.

Okay, enough ranting and raving about food for the moment.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2008

Good morning, all you folk out there in blogland!  Happy New Year!  May this year be one where peace is victorious over war, where love is victorious over hate, where compassion is victorious over duty.

First off, there were a couple of comments which I approved, but then, they disappeared and I want to answer them.  One referred to a solid colored jacob: there is no such thing, to my knowledge, as a purebred, solid colored jacob sheep.  At any rate, a jacob with more than 80% color cannot be registered, even if it were purebred.  More likely, it was a crossbred, especially with a staple as long as you said it was.  Most jacobs don’t have fleece that long!  A jacob ram on a romney ewe, for example, would give you a solid colored, long stapled fleece, or vice versa, jacob ewe, romney ram.  Generally, when you mix any breed with the dominant black jacob, (in most standardized white sheep breeds, white is dominant over black) the lambs are black, possibly with a little white blaze or leg spot of white.

The other comment asked if I had any other blogs: the answer is no!  Keeping up with one is quite enough to do, given the other stuff I have to do each day around the farm.

So, that being done, I am looking out the window at the greyish sky.  Yahoo weather for my area says 7-11 inches in the next 36 hours.  John’s favorite radio guy says up to 2 feet…but then he has a vested interest, wanting you to stay tuned to his station, so I’m not sure I really buy his forecast.  Besides, the one I use is generally closer to the reality.  Despite all that, we had a record five “plowings” in December!  That’s a lot of snow.  One December we had only one “plowing”, but it was for 27 inches of snow. ..or maybe he came twice during the storm, can’t remember.  I put “plowings” in quotes because Doug (our neighbor and trusty plower) has a tractor and a giant snowblower,so technically, he doesn’t plow, he blows!  It’s quite wonderful.  He blows the snow over the meadow, so we have no high walls of snow to deal with come Spring.  It all melts fairly evenly.

In preparation for the storm, I spent some time this morning clearing out another section of the shed, to give more indoor room for the sheep, on the offchance that they want to ride out the snow indoors, a rarity among jacobs, though I’m sure the coopworths will seek shelter.  No big events planned for today: no black eyed peas for good luck and prosperity in the new year (don’t like black eyed peas).

My cheese making kit came Saturday and I made my first mozzarella and a huge mess of the kitchen. I’m going to try again today, and see if I can cut down on the mess some.  I think I’ll also make up some pizza dough, go find some homemade frozen tomato sauce in the freezer, and make pizza for lunch…I was going to make sausage, too, but I think that’s probably a little more ambitious than I want to be today.

A few more days of Christmas and then we move on to Epiphany: Ill be glad to have some quiet time, I think, and more space. (Decorations away!)  It’s been a lovely season so far, and I love the snow, despite the shovelling aspects of it.  Since we’re in Vermont, and here there seem to be two snowplows for every person in the state, the roads are seldom if ever a problem.  As soon as Doug does his thing with the driveway, life goes on.  And if he’s late, we have a truck with four wheel drive that can get out of the drive whether plowed or not.  This is, after all, Vermont!