Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

It is totally fascinating to me that this event, changing from one calendar year to another, just about brings the whole world together in a big 'ol group therapy session. We will share our mistakes, shortcomings, and heartaches. Then we share our hopes and dreams, we try to draw strength with what life threw our way. We will listen, and encourage one another, and vow to be better people to ourselves and each other. Just how cool is that???

Auld Lang Syne (days gone by)

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old times since ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
And surely I’ll buy mine !And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad
have roared since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Wishing Everyone A Very Merry Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2008


One of the first things we bought for our livestock was a livestock guardian dog (LGD). Bred for the specific purpose of protecting and guarding livestock, the LGD's have been used for centuries. Since we had coyotes, bears, along with sightings and sounds of mountain lions close by, we started looking around for a LGD.

We chose to bring home a Great Pyrenees puppy to add to the herd. Their protectiveness and devotion is instinctual, brought about by simply raising them with the animals you want them to protect.

Michael is the first Pyrenees we brought home. Michael was supposed to be a male, and was named after the archangel Michael- chief defender of the good from evil. It seemed fitting. We put this little ball of fluff in with the goats, tried to keep handling the pup to a minimum, talking with ‘him’ letting him learn his name & to come when called because his main bond was to be with the goats. Two weeks later I was picking hay out of his coat and doing a general checking over when the discovery was made that he was actually a she. I still get a chuckle over this mix up, and we let the name stick.

Over the years she has lived up to this name protecting the herd from the feral dog packs, coyotes and any other critter that has dared get too close to her charges.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Today December 21st is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year-and also the longest night for that matter. For the most part I enjoy the winter season, don’t mind the bundling up to go outside into the crisp air. Most all the leaves have fallen which now gives me a different perspective of the land around us, can see barns and rooftops in the distance that are normally hidden during the summer. Also the ability to hear the slightest sounds improves now that the leaves aren’t muffling the air.

There is a certain enjoyment of having the tea kettle simmering on the stove all day putting a bit of moisture in the air and knowing a hot cup of tea can be had almost immediately. Or coming into the house to the smells of something simmering and or baking…chili, soup, stew, bread, cake, or cookies, at least something along those lines are being prepared.

The goats which were bred during September and October are starting to get their round baby bellies, prompting me to start getting things together and organized for upcoming February kidding season. By the time kidding is here, our days will have noticeably lengthen and the sun will be rising and setting in a different spot on the horizons making me start to look forward to the warming weather that we know will be here soon.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Full Moon

Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

As far back as my memories will take me, there has always been a slight fascination with the moon, the constant changing of shape, color, position in the sky.

The fact that every full moon rises in the east as our sun sets in the west. It travels through the night making its way to the west horizon to set just as the sun rises again the next morning. The two always stay in sync regardless of the season and even though I know the scientific reason why this is so, it never fails to fill me with wonderment as I watch it happen.

The moon was both at its closest point to the earth in its orbit and in full phase on December 12. This means it was the largest, brightest full moon of the year. Cloud cover has been so heavy the last couple of months that I have missed the actual setting of the full moon; but it has stayed clear enough in the early evening for me to watch the moon rise.

December 12 moon rise

Armed officers raid home, hold mom, kids for 6 hours

An Ohio family whose members have served their friends and neighbors with food cooperative services involving bulk and discount supplies has been targeted in a raid by armed law enforcement officers wearing black fatigues who forcibly rounded up the mom and 10 children and held them for six hours.

The raid prompted a complaint filed today on behalf of the family by the Center for Constitutional Law at the Buckeye Institute. It alleges authorities "made a haphazard unannounced entry into the property with guns drawn, as other officers surrounded the property, with guns drawn," then "confiscated the family's personal food supply, personal computers, and personal cell phones."

The complaint names the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the Lorain County General Health District and the state's attorney general. A spokeswoman at the Department of Agriculture said its officers were at the scene in an advisory role. A spokeswoman at the county health agency refused to comment except to explain it was a "licensing" issue regarding the family's Manna Storehouse.

An prosecutor assigned to handle the case declined to respond to WND requests for a comment.
It's not the first such case of authorities invading a home over issues involving the operations of food co-ops. WND reported several months ago when authorities in Pennsylvania demanded $4,000 in fines from a farmer who provided raw milk to friends and neighbors.
That case also was highlighted by a SWAT team-like raid on Mark Nolt's farm, when government agents confiscated tens of thousands of dollars worth of his products as well as pieces of machinery he used for his milk handling and sales.

John and Jacqueline Stowers, whose Ohio home was raided, explained their work in providing affordable, healthy foods to friends and neighbors in a video posted both on YouTube and on the Buckeye Institute's website.

In the video, Jacqueline Stowers describes how she first started ordering bulk health foods for her own family, and gradually other families asked if they, also, could gain access to the food sources.

Then, about a year ago, the family had a conversation with county officials about licensing. The family asked questions but heard nothing further until the armed raid Dec. 1.
"We had a sheriff's department group of about 11-12, I don't know, 13 men come into our home. It was violent, it was belligerent, they didn't identify themselves," she stated.

She and 10 children were forcibly herded into a room and held there for at least six hours, she said.
"In the meantime we had people with guns inside and outside," she said.

The Buckeye Institute's Maurice Thompson said he took legal action in Lorain County Court of Common Pleas because of alleged violations of the Stowers' constitutional rights.
"The use of these police state tactics on a peaceful family is simply unacceptable," said Buckeye Institute President David Hansen. "Officers rushed into the Stowers' home with guns drawn and held the family – including 10 young children – captive for six hours. This outrageous case of bureaucratic overreach must be addressed."

The Buckeye Institute argues the core issue – the right to buy food directly from local farmers, distribute locally-grown food to neighbors and pool resources to purchase food in bulk – are rights that do not require a license.
"The Stowers' constitutional rights were violated over grass-fed cattle, free-range chickens and pesticide-free produce," said Thompson, the institute's Center of Constitutional Law director. "Ohioans do not need a government permission slip to run a family farm and co-op, and should not be subjected to raids when they do not have one. This legal action will ensure the ODA understands and respects Ohioans' rights."

The institute said licensure law enforcement is one thing, raids are another.
"The Buckeye Institute seeks an injunction against similar future raids, and a declaration that such licensure laws are unconstitutional as applied the Stowers and individuals like them," the institute said. "There has never been a complaint filed against Manna Storehouse or the Stowers related to the quality or healthfulness of the food distributed through the co-op."
Online bloggers raged over the situation.

"Agents began rifling through all of the family's possessions, a task that lasted hours and resulted in a complete upheaval of every private area in the home. Many items were taken that were not listed on the search warrant. The family was not permitted a phone call, and they were not told what crime they were being charged with. They were not read their rights. Over ten thousand dollars worth of food was taken, including the family's personal stock of food for the coming year," said one.

The complaint notes Manna Storehouse deals with wheat, flour, sugar, grass-fed beef, lamb, turkey and eggs from free range chickens, mostly coming from local farmers. The raid was based on an affidavit from Ohio Department of Agriculture agent William Lesho that "makes numerous conclusory and unsubstantiated claims," the complaint said.

The complaint states:
The affidavit does not indicate that the Stowers are dangerous.
The affidavit does not indicate … exigent circumstances … that would warrant using force.
The police knocked on the door, and Katie Stowers opened.
Police shoved Katie to the side and immediately entered the residence without first announcing (1) that they are police; or (2) the purpose of the visit.
During the raid, at least one, if not several police entered the home with guns drawn, and the Stowers home was surrounded by police who also had guns drawn.
Once having obtained entry… the lead officer … with his gun drawn, swiftly and immediately moved to the upstairs of the home, where he found eight small children."
The officer used physical force to get Jacqueline Stowers and her children down the stairs.
The officers held the Stowers family captive in their living room for in excess of six hours.
The complaint raises issues of unlawful search and seizure, taking of private property, due process and unlawful application of police power.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winter Weather

Winter weather has brought us ice & frigid temperature to contend with the last few days.


Friday, December 12, 2008

NAIS if Implimented will wipeout family farms

National Animal Identification System (NAIS)

The USDA in conjunction with corporate farms and makers of the equipment for microchiping are trying to put this system into place. Disease control, trace an animal back to it's origin within 48 hours is the main theme you hear. What they don't tell you is how it will limit your choice for food sources; because it will just about eliminate the small family farm. We loose the family farms we will loose animal breeds because the corporate farm raises just one maybe two different breeds for market.

Why will the family farms go under? The cost of having micro chips in every animal and the paperwork. More so the paperwork, filing has to done within 24 hours if any animal comes or leaves the property, by way of selling, butchering, wandering thru the fence & coming back. Don't know half the time about the ones that go thru a fence for a few acorns they see on the other side & then come back. (their satalite equipment will know & can impliment fines for me for not filing the paperwork-up to $1000 a day)

This year 50+ chickens were put in the freezer for our use. Under NAIS I would have to chip everyone of those birds. They are bought as chicks from a hatchery, they would be required to put a $15 (average cost) chip...that cost would be passed onto me. Pretty expense chicks. If I raised my own chicks, I would be required to put a $15 chip in each bird. Paperwork filed within the 24 hours as the chicks hatched. And again paperwork filed on each and every bird within 24 hours of being butchered that they had been butchered and now in my freezer. How am I going to put the chip in? How will I be able to scan each aniamal? I am going to have to buy a scanner...$500 minimum. Could let the vet scan....that would mean loading up the birds...more paperwork required within 24 hours now that they have left the farm. Or have her come out here & be charged for $1 a mile travel fee...($80 for me) plus the fee she would charge on each animal to be scanned.

To chip every livestock animal I have at the moment, would be a minimum of $1500. Every spring with new kids being born that's an additional $1200 a year. Plus the filing of 75 papers for each new animal born on the place within 24 hours of their birth. During kidding I may average 3 to 4 hours of sleep a day for several weeks at a time.

What I find interesting is that corporate farms will only be required to have one chip per lot and there might be as many as 200 animal in a lot. Which means less cost & less filing per lot as the animals are loaded up for the slaughterhouse.

Also interesting, is the fact that this system started being pushed as larger numbers of people were buying more of their food from small farms.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Vanilla Beans

You can find them in the spice aisle, 2 beans locked in a bottle costing around $10.00. They didn’t get bought often; maybe around the holidays. One bean was used to make flavored sugar, the other was saved to be put in a batch of homemade ice cream the following summer. They are skinny and hard, making it a bit of a challenge to split them lengthwise in order to scrape the seeds out of the pod. Seemed well worth the trouble and cost while eating that bowl of ice cream though, and you can soak the pod in a tiny bit water in order to make them easier to cut open.

The vanilla bean is the fruit of an orchid. After the vines are planted, it will take 3 years for the first flowers to appear. The flowers must be hand pollinated and the long green pods are hand picked about 9 months later. Then they go through a curing process that takes several more months. No wonder they are so expensive.

There are places to buy Madagascar vanilla beans in bulk. To purchase a ¼ pound gives me about 25 beans for just under $24. This included the shipping costs, making them less than a $1 a bean! The real treat came with the beans themselves. Even though they had been dried, their averaged length was 7 inches, plus they were soft, pliable, and slightly oily with the most intense mouth-watering vanilla aroma.

With the cost more affordable there are several ways the beans are used here now. Homemade Vanilla Extract, Kahlua, Crème Brulee, Flavored Sugar, Maple Syrup, Honey. There are endless possibilities of flavoring items or using the scraping in a variety of recipes dishes.

You will see many recipes for vanilla extract calling for about 3 beans per cup of alcohol ready to use in 4 to 8 weeks. Although it is good, this type is really little more than flavored booze. The following recipe is closer to FDA requirements for a true single fold extract without any additives.

Vanilla Extract Recipe – 1x fold

1 Cup Vodka
6 Vanilla Beans
1 lidded glass jar

Split the beans lengthwise using a knife or kitchen shears. If desired you may cut the length of the beans so they can be covered with the vodka easily.
Place beans in the jar & pour the vodka making sure the beans are completely covered.
Store in a cool, dark place, shake daily for the first week. Then shake occasionally for the next 6 months.

Like wine if you allow the extract to age, it will continue to add body and depth of flavor for 2 years. And extract will keep indefinitely if kept in a cool dark place. You may experiment with substituting the vodka with rum or brandy for different flavored extracts.

Day One

Mixture at 9 months

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Persimmon Lore

Along our fence lines and edges of the wooded area you will find wild persimmon trees. Every year by mid September the goats will do their daily persimmon run. Once milking is over and everyone is turned outside, away they go on a dead run to be the first under the closest persimmon tree. The last ones to arrive will learn quickly to just run on up to the next tree so they can see what has fallen since the previous day.

Not sure how they can eat them before they have fully ripen, because they will freeze my face into a pucker for a few seconds if their readiness is misjudged. When ripe they are pleasant enough; but generally a handful will satisfy any sort of craving for me till next year.

The fruit are full of seeds and every fall I will bring back a few seeds to cut open to see how well they predict the winter. The seeds are not easily sliced into, care must be taken or you’ll be slicing more than the seed. You have to stand them on their edge & slice thru the narrowest part in order to be able to see what shape the kernel has taken that year.

If the kernel is shaped like a spoon, expect lots of wet snow. A fork shape predicts a milder winter with powdery snow. And the shape of a knife indicates ice and/or bitter winds. There have been combination shapes for me. A fork with one of the tines elongated that looks like a knife, and a kernel that has looked like a spoon; but with 3 tines at the end…much like those plastic things you will get in some fast food joints that is a spoon/fork combo utensil.

More times than not they have been right on the mark with what to expect. This year they were showing a spoon, and we have already had a few days of flurries with November ending with a light blanket of snow on the ground.