Thursday, January 9, 2014

How we choose to raise our kids

Ilana doing a little gardening. Wearing a white dress, who cares we can wash it.

I have to say I never really thought I wanted to be a mom. I remember as a kid saying I was never going to have kids. I am a very independent, structured, an in control kind of person and kids well they can mess that all up.

Figuring out how the mixer works. Don't worry he can't break it!
Breaking the eggs by himself, so what if some of the shell gets in you can always take it out.

Yeah he is only 2, but the best time to learn is when you want to, not when I say you should.

Then I met Chuck and I knew I wanted to have children. When we got pregnant with our first I remember asking people all sorts of questions trying to figure out the kind of parent I wanted to be. I remember talking with my friend Ahna who was telling me about the kids of someone she knew. She told me when she saw this person at the grocery store with her kids they were begging for treats,  and their mom kept saying because I said so. Something I heard all to often from my mom. Ahna then went on to tell me about her kids and when they would ask for something Ahna would be honest with them and tell them no and give them a reason. Not a lame reason but the real reason. I loved it and was instantly hooked. I was going to talk with my kids explain things to them.

Cutting his own food at a fancy resturant, yes it might take a half hour to eat so what!

Fast forward to when we lived in our little one room house. We had a wood stove practically in the center of the house. With a little one that had just started walking this could be a bad thing. Or so we were conditioned to believe, kids are not smart they will just fling themselves into harms way. So we decided to use the talking route. We explained to Ilana that the stove was hot, "see put out your hands and feel how warm it is without even touching it. If you touch the stove when it is hot you might get burned, and that would hurt a lot." We never forbade her from touching the stove, however we would caution her when she got a little too close. Know what? She never touched the stove, she never was burned, she never accidentally fell on the stove.

Picking out what she wants to wear, who cares if you think it doesn't match or she wont fit it.

We have used this "technique" with both of our kids, we talk to them, we try as best we can to explain, it is not easy especially when they start asking questions. Sometimes we get frustrated and want one of those seemingly easy way out mom/dad quotes like "because I said so."

Quite the shiner on his forehead, it will heal.

The other things we decided to do, which honestly for me has been the hardest, trust. Trust that they can do it themselves, trust that they can figure it out, trust that they will not get hurt, and if they do it will be okay.

Letting her dress herself, however that may look.

A month or so back the kids were with me at the shop where I work. The shops are located along a highway, not a three lane highway a sort of back woods highway. Anyway the 6 year old was next door at another shop and the 2 (almost 3) year old wanted to go next door. So he put on his jacket and went to the front door.  At the front door were two ladies that were headed out the door, when they opened it Elan headed out. One looked back in the store and asked for his mother, I told her it was okay. She was beyond hesitant and extremely confused. I could see Elan walk out onto the sidewalk up the walk a little way then up to the neighboring shop. All the time these two woman were concerned. Elan he was so proud of himself, I could see his confidence grow with every step he took, doing it all by himself.

Just turned 6 and eating her birthday pie with her fingers, who cares she will wash them!

I love my kids, and I am very lucky that they are such good kids. We often get compliments about how great our kids are, and more often get asked what we do. How do we raise such good, caring, independent, courageous kids. And I guess the answer is by letting them be the little people that they want to be. So Elan wants to put bandages on places that don't need them, so Ilana wants to wash the dishes. I can buy more band-aids, we can re-wash the dishes that don't come out so clean (of course not in front of her).

Going to get the mail with no clothes and no shoes...he is doing it his way!

Instead of buying the toys that they can pretend to be adults with, why not let them use the tools adults use.

It can be washed off.

This is what I have learned; things might take a little longer, they might be a little messier, they might have to be re-done, there will be bumps and bruises, there may be more frustration, there will be happiness, there will be more confidence, it gets easier, there is more independence.

Two pretty happy kids!

Let's end with  a word from someone Chuck and I both admire (Frank Zappa):

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Losing Friday

When we first started farming, occasionally we would get asked about keeping goats. People, especially those that had them, would tell us we should get them. I would immediately say no. Thinking back I am not exactly sure why I didn't want goats. Fast forward to 3 years ago when out of milk necessity we got our first goats.

Goats are not like any animal I have ever had. They are kind of dog like, but child like at the same time. They are amusing, charming, gentle, naughty, and sweet (sometimes all at the same time!). Our herd of 3 grew to a herd of 11 quickly.

Although we have been farming for 7 years now we are still newbies. There is so much to learn, with goats we often feel overwhelmed. They seemed to be so much more susceptible to sickness, but our journey has taught us that it is not sickness that they are susceptible to but improper care.

In this short journey the one thing that I have become to realize is you are either in or you are out. Having cows from the beginning we never dealt with as much as we have with goats. Raising cows it is easy to say you raise them naturally. With goats you either do or you don't. No halfway. We have half-assed tried the natural way, always thinking that we could use a chemical if we needed to, then just hop back on the natural bandwagon.

Last week I noticed one of our goats was kinda off. Within a few days she was just laying around, that night she started drooling. I thought that she had bloat. Something we have never dealt with. I walked her and rubbed her tummy for almost 2 hours. I also drenched her with all sorts of herbs, gave her some oils. And went to bed, she was done with the walking and really wanted to just be back with the herd. The next morning she was the same. That is when I was introduced to Listeriosis.

"Listeriosis is a brain-stem disease caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, which is found in soil, water, plant litter, silage, and even in the goat's digestive tract. The bacterium generally enters the goat's body through the mouth and multiplies rapidly in cold temperatures." Source

Switching treatments we started treating herbally for Listeriosis. Being new to goats and to herbs I rely on a wonderful natural goat group on Facebook (Totally Natural Goats). Friday unfortunately was not getting better, she was not eating or drinking. We were drenching her with fluids, giving her herbs every 15 to 30 minutes. I was even giving her enemas. She eventually lost sight in one of her eyes, her whole body would tense up and she would roll. She was in pain. I decided to find a conventional treatment. After just one treatment we lost her. I think by the time we started treating her for Listeriosis it was already too late.

Friday was our first goat, we got her when she was just a kid. This year was her first year kidding, she gave us a beautiful buck and a gorgeous doe. She was an great mom, and an amazing milker for a first year. I know that with every situation we encounter we learn something. I hope that I never see another goat suffering from Listeriosis.

In the midst of all of this I have been reading Empty Harvest by Dr. Bernard Jensen and Mark Anderson. The book has been an eye opener for me. Mark Anderson spends quite a bit of time talking about the immune system. Basically what it all boils down to is plants, humans, livestock, we were all designed "brilliantly." It is what we do with what we have that gets us where we are.

The point in the book where Anderson quotes Dr. Royal Lee is what solidified it for me:

"One of the biggest tragedies of human civilization is the precedence of chemical therapy over nutrition. It's a substitution of artificial therapy over natural, of poisons over food, in which we are feeding people poisons [drugs], trying to correct the reactions of starvation."

If we are nutritionally balanced, if our body is getting what it needs then our immune system can function properly. For me and the livestock this not only means feeding them a grass-based diet. It also means getting rid of chemical mineral supplements and using herbs to meet their mineral needs. It means more research.

I can't say if this would have helped Friday, but I want to feel like I am at least doing everything I can to make sure my goats are well nourished. Friday is missed dearly, we have been devastated by this loss.

Rest in peace dear friend.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Slaughtering the pigs

I am on a search, a word search. I really dislike the word Slaughter. Slaughter just sounds so....well harsh. Not that killing an animal is not harsh, the word just conjures up horrible slaughterhouse type images. Not at all how it looks at our farm.

We choose to kill the animals here on the farm, and it ain't easy. We are not set up like a butcher would be, in fact we are not even set up how we want to be. We make due, we jerry-rig, we stumble.

Yesterday 2 of the 4 pigs we raised were slaughtered. It was not perfect, we had issues. Whenever you take the life of an animal and it does not go as planned you go through stages. The first is frustration and then anger, then sadness. You are not frustrated or angry at the animal, but at yourself. Yesterday's slaughtering did not start out well.

Penny waiting in case Chuck needs any help.

Once the 2 pigs were killed the butchering started. The whole process took about 4 hours. Most of the work is done by Chuck, but the kids and I do stand by in case there is anything we can help with. Chuck is not short of help that is for sure.

Even the chickens are there to offer "help."

We bring the carcases to the butcher in halves. They must be skinned and eviscerated. Then washed. Because we have had weather in the 30's we were able to hang the carcasses overnight so that they could be brought into the butcher this morning.


Wash-down before they are brought into a lean-to to hang for the night.

We still have 2 more pigs to slaughter, and then butcher for our freezer.

The non-farm vehicle that is constantly used for farm stuff.

This video was made on our farm 3 years ago, you can watch it to get a better idea of how things are done on the farm. Although the below video is not about slaughtering the pigs it does show some of the process.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pasture Managment

Well I've been meaning to do a post on my adventures in rotational grazing since mid-summer. So here is a quick glimpse of some things I did with some rather sad pasture land this summer. We have taken over two sections of land for grazing: one was in CRP(Conservation Reserve Program) for 10+ years and the other is old pasture that was overgrazed by horses for who knows how long. This post will touch on the old pasture.

Last year we lacked movable fencing so we did not do any rotational grazing so this pasture was over taken by giant ragweed, reed canarygrass, goldenrod, burdock, thistle etc.. This year all these weeds were there but with the power of the goats and cows (and me), they have been knocked back significantly. In order to use the movable fencing I needed to actually 'mow' a path so I could put the fencing into the ground. Below is a picture of my tool of choice.
Stihl FS90 with a course grass/brush attachment and a fine brush attachment.
The course blade is good for tall weeds and small brush under an inch thick.

Not an unusual scene in our pastures before grazing. Notice the movable fencing in bottom of picture and that handsome devil among the burdock.

 With the pasture in such bad shape I would mow myself some paths for the fencing, set up the fencing and let the animals graze/browse. After the animals had pretty much everything cleaned up, I would then go through with my brush mower to clean up anything they left behind. The idea here is to get most of the weeds knocked down to 1. stunt the weed's growth 2. open up the turf for more desirable plants. At this point almost anything is more desirable, but dandelions, timothy, clover and orchard grass would be nice.

This is what the pasture looked like before grazing. Notice anything in the photo?

After animals, before 'mowing'.
After 'mowing' with the brush cutter.
Pasture now. Notice some clover, dandelion and orchard grass. There is also some thistle and others I do not know.
I'm pretty happy with the picture above. Weeds will continue to be an issue for awhile. Especially thistle, since no animal will touch it. Earlier this summer you had to look for dandelions and clover, now you don't have to really look for them.

Anyway, I'll leave it at this for now. One last picture of the animals in an area that was overtaken by  reed canarygrass that was over 6 feet tall earlier this spring. This is their third time through this area. Canarygrass is notorious for overtaking areas because it grows so tall and all that biomass covers the ground and nothing is able to compete.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How I plant garlic

Today with a forecast of 50 degrees and sun, I decided it was time to plant my garlic and shallots. A friend told me that you are supposed to wait until after Columbus day to plant. I am not sure if in the past I have planted before or after Columbus day but this year it just worked out that I am planting after.

I have had several people ask me how to plant garlic, it is really not that hard, the key...plant in the fall. Sometimes it is hard to come up with the energy needed to plant anything after you just got done with a season, but in the spring when that first bit of green starts poking through it is all worth it!

The first thing you need to do is prepare your plot. We don't have a tiller, so my prep was all done by hand. Last year it was so dry I actually used a pickaxe to dig a trench in the soil! Thankfully this year the soil was much more manageable.

Composted rabbit manure mixed with hay that fell from their cages.

After digging the trench (no need to get all crazy 6 to 8 inch trench works just fine) I added composted rabbit manure, and filled the trench back up.

Plot ready!

Now it is time to plant. One bulb of garlic usually has 3 to 6 cloves. Separate the cloves, this is the "seed." In Wisconsin, where we live, the best garlic to grow is hardneck. Most of the garlic you get in the grocery store is softneck- this will grow in our area but it wont get as big, and it is not easily stored.

This garlic variety is called Music. The cloves are rather large with a good garlic flavor (way better then the stuff in the grocery store!).

Plant the clove with the fat end down- tapered end up.

This is a shallot, the energy needed to grow is stored in the fat area (the part you eat).

I plant mine about 3 inches deep, and about 6 inches apart. Some people like them spaced out more, they don't get that big and the farther apart they are the more room for weeds.

These are not quite deep enough- just wanted you to get a sense of the space between seed.

This year I planted cloves from last years planting. If you are looking for seed garlic I would say the best place to look is your local farmers market. That way you know the variety grows in your area, and if you have any questions you have a direct connection to the farmer. Another great option is You can search for seed garlic in your state, even in your city.

This years harvest!

Last year I planted 110 cloves, this year I upped it to 130, and added shallots.

I added bedding to the tops of the rows, this controls weeds and hold moisture.

Happy planting!