Saturday, March 31, 2012

Nut Bombs!

This recipe is a combination of a recipe that my genius friend TW gave me, and one that was recommended by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, I think it may have been in her wonderful book, Put Your Heart in Your Mouth.   Everyone should read this book, by the way.  It is an easy and quick read but if the suggestions are followed, the only possible outcome will be improved health and a deepened understanding of what real food is and why we should be eating it.  Exclusively.
I make this recipe when life gets hectic and neither of us has time to cook properly.  It offers a quick and simple way to grab a high-energy snack to meet the six-meals-a-day requirement of the sugar handling diet.  Yep, we are still on it.  I just got a check-up and my numbers all dropped....adrenals and blood sugar handling abilities were off-the-chart bad, and these numbers are already about half what they were mere weeks ago.  Now I have renewed resolve to continue and get these numbers even lower....besides, the food is great, the hubby is melting the pounds off, and we both have tons of energy and so much to do in the spring on the farmlet.

If you are a more visual learner,  watch me making Nut Bombs in real time on this ten minute video.  If you have dial-up, I've include the basic instructions below.

I made two batches today, "regular" and chocolate.  The former is strict SHD (sugar handling diet) and the latter is a very mild cheat.  Very mild.  Barely.
There are three main ingredients in this recipe, and no cooking is required....just a little melting.  The variations are endless, though, so use your imagination and make them according to your tastes and enjoy a quick and healthy snack to keep you going on a long, busy day....without crashing.  Really.  No crashes.  Just steady energy.

You need two types of healthy fat, extra virgin organic coconut oil and pastured butter are the basic ones.  If you are avoiding dairy, you still can usually tolerate ghee, which is clarified butter.  You can clarify it yourself simply by melting in gently and scooping the clear butter oil off the top. 

Now don't say "yuk..." but an option for good fats is also lard from pastured pigs, and even bacon grease from pastured pigs, chemical free.  This fat is NOT like the lard you might find in the store, and to my knowledge the only way to get it is to make it yourself from pigs that you know for a fact have been raised on pasture on a good know the farmer by name.  So for most people, this is not likely an option.  When I use lard, I mix it with the coconut oil and the butter, as these two have wonderful flavor.

The third ingredient is nuts and/or seeds of your choice.  You will grind some into a nut butter or meal, or you may purchase organic nut butter for this part of the recipe.  Then you will choose nuts, seeds, coconut shreds, and maybe some bits of dried fruit if you are not strictly on the SHD. 

You may also choose to add a small amount of honey, preferably raw local wildflower honey.  Or....*GASP!*....chocolate!  I like to use an ounce or so of 80-90% chocolate and a couple of packets of powdered stevia to a batch for a nice sweet treat.
Melt your choice of fats together in a double boiler or in a stainless steel bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Add a shake of sea salt if desired, and the nut butter of choice.  I use about a half cup each of these three ingredients, but any amount can be used.  While that is melting, fill the wells of an ice cube tray with your choice of fillings...nuts, seeds, coconut, dried fruit.
When the fats/butters are melted and rather liquid, pour the mixture over the fillings and let it get into all the spaces between the nuts and seeds.  Place the tray in the fridge to firm up.  Later, you can either cover the tray with wrap or pop the cubes out and store them in a container in the fridge. 
I also make up some in small jars to bring in my lunch and eat it with a small spoon at room temperature.  Yummy!  Today I worked on three massage therapy clients, all needing deep tissue work, and had no lag in energy.  My food for the afternoon was an avocado and one small jar (4 oz) of Nut Bomb.  Remember, our bodies run very, very efficiently on good long as our digestive system is handling it with good bile production and good hydrochloric acid.  Both of these can be supplemented if we need a little help for a while.
If you want to fancy them up a bit, you can dust them lightly with unsweetened cocoa powder and call them truffles. 

Remember, fat doesn't make you fat!  Sugar, refined flours, many grains, and bad fats will make you fat.  Nut Bombs won't.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Checking ligaments

I have the due dates on my calendar for my two pregnant goats.  Ginger is due on April 10 and Peach is due on April 17.  But they have their own ideas as to when the big days will be.  Ginger, especially, likes to torture me.
 And not just by warping my fences.
One way to determine when the big day is coming is to monitor the does' ligaments.  In order to allow the babies to pass through the pelvis, the ligaments need to be quite soft so the body releases a hormone called relaxin that causes all ligaments to soften, not just the pelvic ligaments.

There are a couple of ligaments that are easy to find and easy to palpate.  Even the bucks and wethers (boy goats with and without all their plumbing) have these ligaments, so you can learn to find them on the boys, too.  These ligaments run from the spine just forward of the tail, diagonally to the point of the buttock, actually part of the pelvis, or the bone that sticks out underneath the tail on either side.

To show you how to find these easily, I made a video and posted it on youtube.  This one shows me palpating all three does' ligaments, although Plum was not so cooperative since Peach was chasing her off camera.  Notice Plum's rusty thighs....she needs copper, and I will be giving copper to all the does this week.

For another view, I made a video of just Ginger's ligaments.  Actually, this was the first video I attempted but I accidentally turned the camera off before I could get to the other does.  It may show the ligaments a bit more clearly so I included it here.

You can also see a hollow appear between the spine and the ligaments as everything begins to soften.  Here is Ginger, who is starting to show a significant hollow:
And her smoother-coated daughter Peach, who is not softening yet:
Some does also get a little touchy as their time approaches, so condition your girls to allow ligament checks by giving treats or by spending some time scratching their favorite itchy spots.

When Ginger is within 3-4 days of delivery, she tends to get so wobbly that anything faster than a slow walk is difficult for her.  I definitely won't be seeing her help with the tree trimming chores.
Peach is still as agile as her open (non-pregnant) sister, Plum:
Spring is so exciting....I can hardly wait for baby goats!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Plummy sprung a leak!

Ever since reducing Plum to one milking a day, she's been giving 4 to 4.5 cups a day.  Last week, when the weather became unseasonably warm, the does began lounging outside on the warm, dry ground.  Their stall is still bedded very, very deeply with over a foot of bedding, mostly wasted hay, that keeps them up off the  frozen ground all winter, but when it is warm enough, they prefer to sleep and lie down for cud chewing right on the dirt.
I went to get Plum for her early afternoon milking and she was resting outside in her favorite spot, inside a failed hay rack experiment.  This was something I built from scraps based on a design I found online, a large rack to hold an entire bale or two of hay.  The does pulled the entire bale out of the rack within I dragged it outside and started to dismantle it.  They loved going into it to nap, so there it has remained for a couple of years, and in good weather there is almost always a doe inside it, contentedly cud-chewing.

As I approached, I noticed a white puddle of milk in front of her udder.  She was leaking, and quite a bit.  I milked her, and got the usual 4.5 cups.  How odd.  I've seen does (and mares) squirt milk with each step as their thigh puts pressure on the udder, but only when they are just about to deliver their offspring or just before being milked when at peak capacity a month or two into the lactation.  I've never seen a puddle near a resting doe 9 months into a lactation. 

The same thing happened the next day.  I started milking her twice a day, and am averaging 7 cups total.  Now I am convinced that she's been leaking all along, I just never saw it because it was in the deep bedding of the stall.  Also, the hens will come along and clean up anything and everything, and they love anything dairy.

So my break from twice daily milking chores is over, three weeks sooner than planned.  I am guessing that Plum's first-freshener (first lactation) udder is simply not developed enough to hold much milk, and she doesn't create a strong enough keratin plug after being milked to contain the overflow and stretch out her udder.  Just a guess.  She is now making up for about half of what Mya gave, without any additional feed costs, so it is a gain for us.  And for Plum.  She now gets two meals daily on the milking stand and gets fussed over twice and told how lovely she is.....she's thrilled!

Bored?  Me?  Never!

Monday, March 26, 2012

A glimpse of a lovely family

Monday, when I was waiting nervously for Mya's new owners to arrive, I noticed the heavy, blue-enameled cast iron sink I'd bought through craigslist last fall for $15.  This was to become a garden sink, a place to wash my produce before bringing it into the house.  It would have no faucet or drain, it would just be a sink mounted on some bits of sturdy wood with a hose nearby, and possibly a pail underneath to catch the waste water so it could be used to water the nearby gardens.

If designed with counters, it could also be used as a potting bench and would be very useful on days when we processed roosters for the freezer.  I could even wash Biscuit, our rescued poodle mix, in it when he rolls delightedly in something foul....or something fowl.  Like guinea poo.

But there it sat, like so much trash, next to one of the stacks of firewood, waiting for me to figure out how to frame it in a way that would support its great weight while still being somewhat portable.  Then it hit me.  The man who bought Mya was retired from a job in construction.  He could tell me how to configure the boards to make it work.  I'd ask him.

Although he was very focused on showing his wife and two teenage granddaughters their new goat, he paused when I asked him about the sink.  His answer was more questions....what did I want to do with it, where would I put it, and what wood did I have to frame it with.  I showed him two pressure treated 2x4's and said I could also scrounge up a couple of 4x4x8 fence posts, and could certainly buy a few other things if needed....if they didn't cost too much.

He said something to the granddaughters and they both disappeared, heading back to the truck.  I looked questioningly at the wife, who said he was going to get his tools.  What???  Yes, he was going to put it together for me right then and there.  And he did.

In about 20 minutes.  It was amazing.
While I explained goat care to one of the granddaughters, the other helped grandpa.  He moved so quickly it was hard to take pictures!  They worked together like a well-practiced team, barely any audible instructions being passed between the elder and the youngster.  Grandma helped and watched with obvious pride.
He used the four pieces of wood I provided along with some screws from his truck, using all the wood.  There was only one small piece of fence post left over.  No waste.  Amazing.
Measure twice, cut once!
They built it upside down then flipped it over.  Note the look on grandma's face.  This was so great to be witness to....especially since I was so conflicted and heart broken about Mya leaving with strangers.  After watching this incredible.....and FAST....project being completed, I was 100% assured that Mya was going home to the best retirement possible and would be well cared for and loved.  That may sound can the building of a simply outdoor sink make me think Mya would be loved?  It is hard to describe in words.  The love these people had for each other and the cooperative spirit was so obvious that I felt drawn into it while they worked.  Mya was one fortunate goat.

This is what I ended up with when the entire thing was flipped over:
I just need to add boards for the counters, and my friend and colleague, Vicky, is having new stairs and porches built on her three story multi-family home....I'll get some composite scraps which will be perfect for this.

Ed (the genius behind my new garden sink) had asked to buy six hens from me as well as Mya.  He went home with a half dozen free hens, and I feel I got the better end of the deal.  He still does some jobs even though retired, and I hope he is still willing to come to our house when we are ready to have the windows replaced, gutters put back up, and repairs made to the barn and coop.

I can't wait to use this sink, and will think of this family and their love for each other each and every time I use it......Thank you!!!

Spring is early....for now

Spring came early in New England this year.  But that will be over tonight, with a predicted low temperature of 19 F.  This is why I don't like an early spring...things grow and bloom, then are killed by the inevitable hard freeze.  This weakens plants and can destroy hopes of fruit crops.  Thankfully, our fruit  trees haven't bloomed yet, and what did come up should be able to re-group after tonight's freeze.

Rhubarb, guarded by our lone guinea cock:
Chives, which I will harvest today since they will likely be killed tonight:
Scallions, which will likely do ok, but I'll pick a few since we are out of last year's crop, I just used up the last of them this week:
Flowers are blooming, too.  Lenten Rose:
Daffodils, of course, that spread every year:
I'm not sure what these are....does anyone know?
This is a patch of ground where I planted garlic last year and it didn't grow.  I sifted that soil looking for garlics to no avail.  Look what is sprouting all over the place there now.....garlic!
Last, but not least, I'm waiting to weed my irises.  This is stray catnip (snicker) that I will use with some lemon balm, when it comes up, to make a mosquito spray.
Spring is a lot of work, but so much fun with all the new life.  I never get tired of it.  Off to pick chives!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wing feathers

Here are the chicks at 11 days old:
Look at all the colors and sizes!  Look at those wing feathers....and the variations from chick to chick.

The smaller ones are the Icelandics, mostly, and the bigger ones are those we got at the feed store.  In the upper and lower right of the photo are the mixed reds pullets....Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshire Reds, etc.  The colorful wee ones are the Icelandics, and the larger yellow ones are the Buff Brahmas.

I stopped in at TSC last night to pick up something and spotted my favorite sign:  Clearance!  The Buff Brahma chicks, the same ones we'd picked up over a week earlier, were on sale.  We picked up 14 more today.  OK, we are a little out of control.  Spring fever does that.  But....

Forty chicks will give us plenty of laying hens, plenty of broody hens, and a nice selection of roosters for the freezer.  Now if I can just hang onto my sanity as they get bigger and if I can just get them out of my cellar before I go completely insane....

Although some would say that that horse has left the barn....

Udder watch begins!

This is when it starts getting exciting....when the pregnant does begin to develop their udders.  Ginger is definitely getting ready for her April 10 due date with her funny, square Boer-influenced udder:
A closer look:
Yup, something definitely happening there.

Boer goats are bred for meat and not for milking, and their udders are famously difficult to hand milk.  Ginger is only 25% Boer, but there it is, in her udder and her huge body.  The rest of her heritage is dairy, and she gives a reasonable amount of rich, sweet milk, but my hands would cramp in the 15 minutes it takes to empty her udder.  Hence the purchase of the milking machine.

Peach is a little less obvious, with her April 17 due date:
Thank goodness she got her paternal grandmother's udder, a La Mancha, a dairy breed.  Grandmother had a prize-winning udder, and Peach is a peach to milk.  The milk practically falls out of her udder.  I can milk her out in 2-3 minutes or less.

I'll be checking these udders daily for change, becoming more and more obsessive as April progresses.  Then ligament watch will begin....when the ligaments begin to soften due to the hormone relaxin, which is released about 24 hours before delivery.  Can't wait!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Silly hens.....

....leaving their eggs by the busy road!  We found the new nest of the Famous Five.  The FF are a group of five hens that we hatched from our own flock's eggs last year.  They became a small sub-flock within our flock and roam the front and back yard, the neighbor's yard, and a small portion of the farm next door.

They don't believe in nest boxes.  Finding their eggs is a new adventure every day.

When cleaning up the inevitable trash that collects in the bushes along the front of our yard by the busy state road, I found the latest hiding place.
This nest was so close to the road that I was actually a little nervous taking the picture, with big trucks and speeding cars zipping behind me and blowing my clothes around. 

It took help from the hubster to get in amongst the branches and hand the eggs out to him without getting skewered or run over.  This nest has been here for a few days, considering the condition of the eggs.  They were still good to eat....we boiled 'em up....but you can see by the type of dirt on them that the hens had been returning to this nest and re-arranging the eggs each time they deposited a new one.
Silly hens....

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quick and easy spring stir-fry

This takes a little planning and shopping, but it is so easy and quick.  My hubby and I work on this one together...he does some peeling and chopping while I am out taking care of the goats, then I come in and cook it up.  I also cut and marinate the meat in the morning before going to work, or the night before.
I basically go to the store and see what looks good....or to the garden, depending on the time of the year.  I started this one with diced salt pork, fried until crisp, to grease the pan (bacon would be wonderful, too.)  Then an onion, 3/4 inch dice, and garlic from the garden.  Then lots of sliced celery, thinly sliced carrots, and the meat.  Next I added chunks of red peppers and some fresh broccoli florets and asparagus, snapped into three pieces each.  Finally, I added fresh snow peas.  All this needed to finish it was a few good shakes of sea salt and black pepper.  We at the whole thing, filling two large dinner plates to almost overflowing.  It was so good for such a simple, one-pan meal.

A couple of days later I made it again, this time using pork.  I marinated the pork in a combination of raw apple cider vinegar and onion wine and lots of minced garlic.  I think that was even better than the grass fed beef!

I can't wait to make this with snow peas from the garden along with our shiitake mushrooms and fresh scallions, along with some store-bought veggies.  Ooo, maybe some nettles from the woods would go well with this, and some wild ramps (small wild leeks) and fiddleheads.  Yum!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Farewell to Mya.....and new beginnings

We said goodbye to our first dairy goat on Monday.  Yup, Mya went to live with her new family.
It started out as a sad day.  I'd decided two years ago not to breed Mya again for two reasons.  One, she'd had three deliveries with me, and all were poorly presented babies.  The first one she managed to squeeze out on her own as I was calling the vet....a huge single buckling came out with one front leg back.  The next year, she had Plummy, another singleton. 
With Plum, Mya was obviously in hard labor when I found her, but the labor did not progress.  She spent half an hour pushing and getting up and pawing with absolutely no progress when I called the vet.  The vet was an hour and a half away....and Mya wouldn't last that long.  So I got online and onto a goat forum and got advice....and a bit more than an hour later I'd untangled Plum and helped her out into this world. 
And that is how Plummy got her was supposed to be Violet, after our farm.  But I stuck in my thumb, and pulled out a Plum....and the name stuck.  Just like Plum was stuck, a big backwards-facing cork.

I decided not to breed Mya the following year, but she and Dorian had other ideas.  I suspect Mya told Dorian that the electric fence would only sting for a few seconds as he climbed over it, but then she promised him a night that he would never forget.  In the morning, I found them tired but happy.  Mya was pregnant again...with twins.
 And the girl was stuck firmly, in the same impossible position that Plum had been in.  But this time, I knew what to do, so it only took 3-4 years off my life.

We built an 8' fence and made the electric wire hotter.  Mya did not get pregnant last winter.  She was very cranky.

The second reason I didn't want to breed her again is that she tested positive for CAE, a disease in goats that is characterized by arthritis and other symptoms and that is passed on to the babies via their mother's milk.  This disease has been known for decades now and there is no danger to humans in drinking the milk.  So we kept Mya and used her milk for making cheese and such, but her babies could not have so much as a sip.  I pasteurized it and mixed it with as much of Ginger's fresh raw milk as she could spare, and bottle fed Plum and the twins.

Since Mya was no longer going to be able to contribute to her upkeep, it was time to consider re-homing her.  She deserved a good home, so I took my time (about a year, actually) to find the right home.  Through an ad, I found a lovely retired couple who'd owned goats years ago but could not keep up with having animals and working full-time jobs.  Now retired, they were looking for a nice, easy milk goat for their own enjoyment and to give their grandchildren the wonderful experience of  farm animals.  Mya is now the queen of 25 acres about 45 minutes from here.   I am completely confident that she will be loved and doted on, and is probably right now complaining about the poor service at her former home as she wraps her new humans around her little hoof and demands the best snacks.
She was a perfect angel about getting on the truck.
And enjoyed a nice ride with six of her hen companions in crates.  She was loose in the back of the truck with the window to the cab open.  I can't imagine what she told those nice people about me on the ride home.
Goodbye, Mya, we will miss you, but know you will enjoy your wonderful new be a good girl!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A bitter taste can be good....

Good for you, that is.  I prefer dessert, myself.
Most of the people in this country are hypochloridric....that is, have a stomach pH that is too low for good digestion and health....yes, I said too LOW.  I am no exception.

There are many reasons why we need good stomach acid.  The stomach is designed to have a pH of 1.5-3, which is VERY acidic.  If stomach acid is low, many problems are triggered....digestion is a cascade, each step triggering the next step.  If one of the first steps in the process is out of kilter, the rest of the steps will be poorly triggered, or not triggered at all.  It kinda reminds me of a Rube Goldberg machine.  I thought this one was quite appropriate, considering the ultimate task the machine was designed to accomplish.  Digestion is a north to south process, with each function signalling the next function to take place.

If our body is not producing sufficient amounts of HCl (hydrochloric acid), we should seriously consider supplementing with HCl until we correct the glitch in the system.  Do so only with the guidance of a qualified health professional, such as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner.

Without enough HCl, we won't properly digest our foods, especially proteins.  Undigested foods will enter our intestines in a form that can do us much harm.....rancid fats, rotting proteins, and too-large particles of food can poison us and actually create food allergies and sensitivities if we develop antibodies against what is perceived as invaders.  We also won't obtain the nutrients we need from our excellent diet and ultimately, we will begin to break down.  What systems will be hit the hardest?  That depends entirely on each one of us and our unique bioindividuality.  It really is best to correct this problem before symptoms of the damage are evident, or at least while the damage can still be reversed.

Bitters are a way to stimulate HCl production in a sluggish stomach.  HCl is a powerful barrier against pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, and prions.  Yes, E-coli, salmonella, and Mad Cow Disease are all killed in a stomach with a pH of 1.5-3.  These foreign proteins actually become food if they are digested by good levels of stomach acid.

A bitter taste can trigger the production of HCl as the body prepares for an invader, as bitter taste is often associated with poison.  The stomach, when properly functioning, will bathe itself in response to the bitter flavor in the mouth, getting ready to quickly destroy anything that is swallowed.  We can trick the stomach into preparing for our cheeseburger lunch, too, with the use of bitter, yet harmless, herbs.

My first experiment with making a bitters solution is a simple tincture.  All you need is some cheap vodka (which should always be on hand for making tinctures and liqueurs and vodka Collins......mama needs her med'cine!)  and some bitter herbs.  I had wormwood on hand, but other bitter, yet safe, herbs will do, such as hops used in beer brewing.
To make a simple tincture, put some herbs, fresh or dried, in a jar.  I use wormwood for worming my goats, so I had some on hand in a powdered form.  Cut or whole would work just as well.
Add enough vodka to cover the herbs, and stir.  Add the lid and put it in a dark cupboard for about a month, inverting the jar on occasion (daily if possible) to mix the herbs and get floating bits back into the solution.
I put any projects needing this type of attention in with my dishes that I use every day.  When I reach for a mug, I will give this little jar a shake and put it back.

After a month, I'll strain it with a tea strainer and put it into a small, food safe bottle with a spritzer top.  These can be found with aromatherapy supplies.  Then a spritz in the mouth, like a funky breath spray, taken a few minutes before eating will stimulate my body to produce its own HCl and I'll be able to wean myself off the supplemental HCl.

The supplemental HCl, by the way, has made a huge difference in how I feel when eating a meal.  I now get hungry regularly as a meal time approaches.  I rarely felt hunger over the past few hunger pangs, just weakness and shakiness if I went too long without eating.  That was also a symptom of poor blood sugar regulation, but everything works together and intertwines.

The journey to vibrant health from a nutritional standpoint begins with diet and digestion.  The blood sugar handling diet, along with attention to stomach pH and gut microflora (a future article), is a great start.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting help with spring lawn and garden clean-up

Lots of compacted dead leaves and old plants need to be removed from the flower gardens in the spring.  Maneuvering around desirable plants can be tedious, so I hired a crew to do this job for me.  Paid 'em in grubs and worms.
De-thatching is difficult and tedious work.  This crew is not lazy, and will work at de-thatching all day without complaint.
They are very focused and rarely distracted.  I never have to chase them from the water cooler and back to their desks.
They respond well to the slightest praise and take pride in their work.
Considering hiring them for a few days?  See them at work here.  Starting pay is a handful of sprouted organic wheat and some table scraps.  Bonuses are recommended and should include earthworms and june bug larvae.  Will work for food.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Belly watch begins!

The countdown to kidding is on!
Not for Plum, as she is not pregnant, but she is so cute I had to give her space on this post....she was bottle fed, and still makes the most eye contact of any of my does.  Isn't she sweet?

Ginger is due first, on April 10.  She had triplets last year.  How many are in there this time?
Remember, before submitting your guess.....the rumen (large stomach that is the main fermentation vat in all ruminants or cud-chewers) is on the left, so the babies sit more towards the right.  Her right.  The left side of this picture.

Peach (Ginger's first daughter) also had triplets last year, and thankfully, she doesn't look like she has that many this year.  We nearly lost her last year when she had much difficulty delivering them and needed my hand untangling the triplets while the other hand held the cell phone as I was talked through the procedure by Kate Helms.  Kate was a total stranger who generously called me after I posted my phone number in an online goat forum pleading for emergency help.  Peach needed a week-long round of antibiotics to deal with the resulting uterine infection, and she was a walking skeleton for some weeks after that.  I really don't want triplets from her, so I am relieved that she is not as wide as she was last year and looks quite robust and healthy.  She is due April 17.
Next will be udder watch, then ligament watch.....two more signs of impending kidding.  Meanwhile, here is a little video that will get you into parasympathetic and the four does eat their hay.  Watch the herd dynamics.....can you guess which doe is the Queen, and which is the First Princess?