Monday, March 28, 2011

Out of the Pot and into the Frying Pan

Unfreakin' believable! You would think that with the mites on the hens, the lice on the goats, and the staph infection on one chicken's foot, nothing more could go wrong on the homestead. Ha! That's just not the way our luck is rolling these days. To complete this den of infestation, Ute and I got lice. However, not from the goats. Like many parasites, lice are commonly host specific.

Last week, Ute brought home from school a letter informing us that someone in her class reported to have Pediculus humanus capitis. I checked her over several times during the week - not thoroughly mind you, just a look see for anything squirming about in there and nada. Zip. Zilch.Then on Friday, after our dear house guests from Redlands departed from their week of Itty Bitty farm camp (more on the visit later), I found a load of the nasty buggers in various stages of development roaming around Ute's scalp. Having never had lice before, I was aghast at their relatively large size compared to goat lice and almost transparent coloring. If they hadn't been moving, I would have never noticed them amongst our blond hairs.

Ugh! For the last three days, I have done nothing but vacuum, bag clothing and anything else that has touched a head (if left for two weeks, any louse or nit left will die from starvation as the babies need a blood meal within 24 hours of hatching and the adults can't go longer than two days sans sangre), and obsessively comb hair. We are trying to stay away from the nasty poisonous stuff as I am sensitive to chemicals and I would rather not expose my daughter to it either. We've gone with a head dressing consisting of massive amounts of olive oil, therefore suffocating the little bastards, and LOTS of combing and inspecting for nits to stop the cycle. I believe on the day of discovery, I spent somewhere near nine hours dealing with the eradication and preventative measures. Poor Ute was passed out cold for the final comb through.

The olive oil did kill the live lice, leaving only two barely breathing ones that I murdered with my razor sharp finger nails. We are now on a daily regimen of inspecting and combing for the next seven days as that is how long it should take for any remaining nits to hatch. We are being very thorough in our daily combing rituals, taking at least an hour or more to inspect each strand of hair. We are also leaving our hair really oily so that no freeloaders can cling on (worked for the husband - with all of his hair goop that he uses he has avoided infestation) and rubbing in tea tree, rosemary, peppermint, and lavender oils since lice reportedly don't like pungent smells. With all of these measures,  we should be good. Good lord, I hope so! All this bugginess is really beginning to bug me. Really.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cluckin' Bumblefoot

And so we begin another episode of veterinarian's hospital. Jesus Christ, when it rains, it freakin' pours! So I was slathering on the petroleum jelly to Sweet Pea's legs to get rid of the mites, which I might add is a real pain in the ass with all of her lovely leg feathers, and I notice on the bottom of her foot that there is a ball of something that looks like a goat poo pellet. Being the picker that I am, I scratched at it. Cluckin' A! Wouldn't you know it, that was no piece of poop. It was a scab masking a big bleeding hole. Cluck!

And I was just talking about this in my chicken class and breathing a big ol' sigh of relief that I've never had to deal with it: the dreaded bumblefoot. Contrary to the name, this does not mean that my chicken stepped on a bee. Bumblefoot is caused by a staph infection and can be gruesome to get rid of.  If you notice in the picture, the pad of the foot is swollen under the sore. This is the "plug" or "seed", basically a mat of staph bacteria that needs to be dug out. Gross!

After reading a few different discussions on the topic at Urban Chickens, Backyard Chickens (warning graphic pics), and Yuku's Backyard Chickens, I decided to start with something that didn't involve a scapel and digging around inside the tissue of the foot. I tore the scab all the way off, palpated the foot to see if any nasty things popped out, washed it in some special blue liquid that I got from the vet a year and a half ago when I ripped off Sweet Pea's toe (you can clearly see my handiwork in the pictures), soaked the foot again in diluted Betadine, shoved a buttload of triple antibiotic ointment in the wound, wrapped it up, and put a shoe on it made from foam insulation used for copper tubing and duck tape. That's right, I made a shoe for a chicken. Don't laugh. I'm like McGyver over here.

My fear is that I will have to go in for the "plug". We'll see how this goes first. What is up with Sweet Pea and her foot? This time it is so not my fault.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


All of this rain intermingled with warm sunny days has been amazing for the garden. And the bugs. Ugh! It seems that in every nook and cranny there are little crawling or flying things emerging en mass from some invisible winter hibernation. Everyday I'm out with the zapper, electrocuting flies left and right. However, it doesn't get the tiny bugs, which have been more than prolific.

Not only is the yard abuzz, so are the animals. This past week, one of the chickens stopped laying and started losing feathers. I noticed that a few of the scales on her legs were looking dark and raised. That's definitely not normal. Usually her scales are smooth and almost white. From what I could figure, it was scaly leg mites though I wasn't sure. But when I pulled out the bedding in the chicken coop and saw all these little black dots bouncing around, I had no doubt I was right. I checked all the girls, and each one seemed to have it. *sigh* To deal with the pests, I've scrubbed down the hen house, sprayed the coop and the birds with poultry spray, sprinkled diatomaceous earth (theoretically, the fossilized remains of diatoms absorb lipids from the exoskeletons of tiny insects causing them to dehydrate and die) on absolutely everything, and slathered all the chickens' legs with petroleum jelly to suffocate the suckers. So far it looks as though it is working.

The goats haven't fared much better. Both have lice. Lucy not so bad, but Ethel... good lord! I usually give Lucy a good grooming while she is on the milk stand and that seems to have kept the numbers down. I only find a handful each morning. Obviously I've been neglecting poor Ethel. Last week her spine was coated with tan, sesame seed looking bits. After a rubbing of tea tree and lavender oil into her coat and a good sprinkling of D.E., she is looking much better. Once we get a good spell of sunshine and things dry up, so should the lice. I look forward to that day, but in the meanwhile I'll continue the battle by arming myself with pungent oils, hard-shelled algae, and oily substances.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Goat Baby Flashback

I wanted to post this video yesterday in solidarity with my fellow urban homesteaders who would like to retain the ability to legally use the terms "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading", but have been a bit out of sorts with the caffeine detox. In fact, I was going to write a whole bunch more stuff today, but I think I will go to bed instead.

As Ethel approaches her due date (Easter), I was fondly remembering our farm's first births.

What an exciting time. I can't wait for more babies.

By the way, Fred and Ginger may be in need of a new home. If you or anyone you know would like these two adorable (now full-grown) creatures, please please please contact me. They are super sweet and very friendly. Fred could still be neutered (surgically) if you need a wether rather than a buck.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mineral Deficiencies

Recently, I've noticed that Lucy doesn't quite look the same as she did when she first came to us. She seems to be going gray. I'm sure that at a mere two years of age she isn't anywhere near ready for the old goat folk's home. This premature graying must be due to a mineral deficiency. You can see the difference in these two pictures.

At 5 months

At 2 years - photo courtesy of Lori Eanes

I have read that goat coats can get scruffy and dingy if the critters are not getting enough of what they need, especially copper. I looked into getting a product called Sweetlix® but everyone in the area was either out or didn't have the kind I needed. Someone actually tried to sell me the mineral mix for goat and sheep, which would do me absolutely zero good since there isn't any copper in the mix because it's extremely toxic to sheep. So I ordered Hoegger's Golden Blend Minerals and some copper boluses off a lady that I found through a thread on Homesteading Today who takes apart boluses for calves and puts them in smaller capsules that a goat can swallow. She sells them at cost. Since I only need 4-6 boluses to get me through the year, this was more economical than making my own. Let's cross our fingers that Lucy returns to her lovely golden brown color soon.

Lucy isn't the only one around here looking a little lackluster. I know I told you all that I would be cleansing at the beginning of this year (including a colonic which I've decided to skip for now), but of course I procrastinated on that for weeks and now here we are in March and I have done zilch to curb my caffeine and sweets addictions. In particular, my fondness for black tea has gotten completely out of hand. In less than two weeks, I have consumed over 100 tea bags. No joke. Over 100. It's real bad. My poor adrenals are begging for a break, along with my kidneys and liver. I may be loaded with antioxidants, but I'm sure that hasn't done me a darn bit of good since all of my vitamins and minerals have surely been depleted.

After having investigated a ridiculous number of cleanses, I've settled on the Clean Program. What makes that one so great, you ask? Well I like the fact that you are eased into the cleanse by eliminating things such as caffeine, sugar, wheat, dairy, red meat, and processed foods before you begin. During the cleanse itself, you have a liquid breakfast and dinner, and a real meal with protein and permitted grains for lunch. This supposedly gives the body a good amount of time during the night to do it's job of "taking out the trash" so to speak, while simultaneously rebuilding with plenty of nutrient dense foods. This seemed perfect for me since I need to eat a decent amount of food on a daily basis as I have a wicked fast metabolism. I know for some of you there is a snarky little voice in your head shouting, "Um yeah, that's called being lucky!" I promise it's not as awesome as it sounds. At various times, I've been told that I look like I escaped from Auschwitz or asked, in all seriousness, if I had cancer. The best was when some over zealous psych student approached me with a "I know what you're doing and you're going to kill yourself that way" diagnosis. And before anyone out there thinks, "God, I wish someone for once would think that I had anorexia," I say no, no you do not. Nobody in their right mind wants to be accused of having a mental disorder that they don't have. That's crazy.

I digress.

I know you all are wondering why I need to detox since I am thin and, of course, the healthiest eater on the planet with my omega-3 rich eggs, easily digestible raw goats' milk, and nutritious veggies sprouting from every corner of my yard. Ha! Little do you know that I harbor secret lusts for coca-cola, bacon, and In and Out burger. Anyone remember this?

As a wee child filled with optimistic ideas about a culturally united world, the carbonated beverage folks, with a moral compunction no better than that of the tobacco industry, infiltrated my impressionable young mind with this little number. Though, I don't drink as much of it as I did in my younger years, I have been a coke (the drink) addict ever since I can remember. Now that we know the caramel coloring causes cancer, I should really consider suing for damages. My friend Robyn tells me that since I know it's bad for me. I can't sue in good consciousness. I don't agree with that logic.We successfully took the tobacco companies down, why shouldn't we take on the soda giants?

Again, I digress.

I was also inspired by the physical transformation of Melinda (One Green Generation) on the Clean diet. Shit, I want to look and feel that good! Bring on the green juices and quinoa. I'll check back in around the beginning of April with before and after pictures. I'm so looking forward to my future radiance.

Wish Lucy and I luck on our journey back to health and well-being.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The View from My Backyard

I see this truck pull into the Safeway parking lot a couple times a week and I have to chuckle each time I read the banner.

I have to disagree.
Photo courtesy of Robin Jolin

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Inadvertently Suggestive Photos of Sausage Making

I suppose it would be impossible to illustrate making wieners without it coming across as somewhat x-rated. Reader be forewarned, I cannot be held responsible for fits of giggles or the urge to make lewd jokes usually reserved for the junior high boy's locker room or a Mike Meyers' film while reading this post. Please try to exude a level of maturity equivalent to your chronological age. This won't be easy. But, you do want to learn how to make sausage, don't you?

My friend Julia mentioned on Facebook that she would be attempting her first batch of sausage. Having also never had the pleasure, I begged her to let me help (see, it's already getting kind of pervie and we haven't even gotten to the photos yet!). Julia supplied the fixings and I supplied an extra set of hands. Ute, my seven year old daughter, also joined in the fun and I have to say that I don't think we could have done it without her. If only someone could have snapped a shot of all three of us trying to crank out the bangers without getting raw meat everywhere, but of course someone had to be in charge of the camera. The following is a blow by blow account of how to make your own inadvertently pornographic food.

Equipment needed:
  • meat grinder
  • sausage stuffer
  • hog casings
  • bowls
  • 5 pounds meat (we used a mix of skinless chicken thighs and pork loin - I would recommend leaving skins on)
  • 1 pound fat (we used about 1/4 pound of lard - we had extremely lean sausages)
  • 1/4 cup whiskey
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • sauteed onions
  • seasonings (we used fresh thyme)
Julia had placed all of the equipment in the freezer and refrigerator before I had arrived. This was to keep the fats cool while processing so that everything doesn't become a big gooey mess.

When I showed up, I found Julia meticulously washing out the hog casings. She opened one end of the intestine, filling it up with a good amount of water

until it looked like the start of a balloon animal.

She then drew one hand down the intestine, pushing the water through, while looping the cleaned gut with the other hand.

As the water passed through, Julia would pick out the microscopic pieces of grit.

Once the casings were clean, we focused on the meat. The semi-frozen cuts were a breeze to chop into one inch chunks, which were then mixed with the lard and thyme.

The broth and whiskey were combined

along with the 2 teaspoons of salt.

Then all ingredients were tossed.

After mixing, it was into the hopper of the grinder.

Ute cranked, while Julia fed the meat into the machine.

Then they traded places so that Ute could get her hands into the frigid, squishy mess.

Once the grinding was finished, the mixture went into the freezer to cool down before stuffing.

In the meantime, Julia cut me and Ute's hair. Did I mention that she is also our hairdresser? Freshly shorn, we moved on to setting up for the stuffing bit. This 6 inch plastic tube went inside the stuffing machine.

One end of the hog casing was put onto the plastic tube

and then the entire casing was eased onto the plastic shaft.

(Breath deeply, it gets worse.) Stuffing was placed into the stuffer and after all the air was expelled through the casing

a knot was placed 6 inches from the end of the intestines.

As Julia pressed, I guided the sausage (I told you),

helping it to form a nice even tube.

As the filling continued to expand the tube, I spiraled the sausage snake onto a wax paper lined pan.

Julia formed the links by twisting the casing every six inches, making sure to alternate rotations in opposite directions at each separate twist. For a first timer, her technique and speed were impressive.

Voila, a pan full of sausages.

The strands were hung up to settle and have the air pin pricked out of them.

I skipped this step, which didn't seem to adversely affect my half of the booty in the slightest. The sausages were most definitely tasty and the husband liked the fact that they were lean. I think on my next go around, I will make two batches, one lean and one with loads of fat. I can already feel my arteries bulging.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone