Posts Tagged ‘goats’

Spring Is Sprung (Just a Little Early)

We Modern Pioneers, have had an eventful weekend.  Today, March 11th, 2012, marks the return of Daylight Savings Time here in South Dakota.  This will be a difficult adjustment for Mordern Pa and the 2 Farmer Boys, as they will have to start getting up and getting ready for school and work an hour earlier.  It won’t really affect the Littlest Pioneer Girl… babies are funny like that… if you can’t understand something as complex and weird (and currently pointless in my opinion) as Daylight Saving Time, then it has absolutely no bearing on you.  A baby sticks to the same schedule that is typical for that individual baby, regardless of where the numbers on the clock are set.

Yesterday we had a blessed event take place in our barnyard.  The advent of our 8th kidding season.  In the wee hours of  Saturday, March 10th, our 6 year old Toggenburg doe, Hokey Wolf’s Wilma (owned by our Farmer Boy Charles since March 2008), gave birth to a 9 lbs buck kid, sired by our Toggenburg buck, HDGD John-Christopher Sparrow (Johnny).  the boys have decided to name Wilma’s son Racer.

We also began preparing our garden for spring this weekend. For the last couple weekends, Pioneer Pa has been cutting pieces to size for raised garden beds out of plastic pallets he brought home from work to recylce for this purpose.  He built two such garden beds last summer and I would like to eventually add 8 to 12 more of them.  The black plastic of the pallets help to warm the soil and this is particularly useful for growning heat loving garden plants like tomatoes, peppers and melons in our quite short northern growning season, since warmer soil helps the plants grow more rapidly.  Working in the garden this weekend, we decided to build a new raised bed to a spot where a peony bush used to be but did not come back after being transplanted last spring.  In one of the existing 2 garden beds, I planted lettuce seed in this weekend (Iceburg and Black Seeded Simpson that we had left from last season’s garden), as this cool season crop needs to be in as soon as soil can be worked, so that it can be harvested before weather turns hot (very warm growing conditions caused plants in the lettuce and cabbage families to “bolt” or go to seed, rather than produce the crisp and delicious leaves and immature flowers (in the case of broccoli and cauliflower) that we harvest as foods.)  Much of the lettuce and cabbage crop families will be turned under in our garden beds around the end of May or first weeks of June to make way for tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, herbs and melons.  In mid or late July, we may plant more of these “cool season” crops for a fall harvest, just before the frosts return.  As soon as the groud thaws out a little more, hopefully next weekend, we will reset the other existing raised bed so that  there is a wider aisle between most of the garden bed areas.

We also decided where and how we were going to space the new raised garden beds and our wide planting rows to facilitate using some of our chickens for weed control by pasturing them in our garden in moveable “chicken arks” or “chicken tractors” (so-called because the birds till the soil when they scratch about looking for weeds and bugs to eat and work their own manure into the garden soil).

Pa intends to buy a rototiller later this spring to facilitate breaking in some new ground to expand the garden.  Giving him a place to grow amaranth, milo (sorghum) and millet for gluten-free flour, popcorn, winter squash and pumpkins.  We will also be re-doing our garden fence this spring to keep the goats and calf out of the produce.

Saturday, during a trip to town for a bottle of propane for cooking and running the clothes dryer and for buying soy formula for the baby, we stopped in at the local farm & feed store.  The children had great fun looking at the baby chicks and young rabbits, this got the boys into the mood of helping to decide what kinds of chicks and ducklings we should think of purchasing to refresh our flock.  We will be starting some new pullets (young female chickens) soon to replace the more aged hens, since most of our flock is between 3 and 5 years old now.  We plan to put the oldest hens (most of which are Pa’s Cuckoo Maran hens (lay a very dark brown egg) and Americuna’s (lay a green egg)  in the chicken arks in the garden along with our roosters and get a new incubator in order to hatch some of our own replacement chicks from specific breeds or breed crosses.  Pa wants to purchase some Light Brahma pullets, as these are supposed to be good winter layers (unlike our current hens, although being feather-footed, Brahmas are often poor layers in the heat of summer). I would like to get some dark cornish chicks (from which I may keep a few roosters, the females will probably go into the freezer as Cornish Game Hens for roasting and cooking purposes) and some White Rock pullets, so that next spring we can produce our own sex-linked (chicks that can be gender sorted by color at hatching) broiler or roaster chicks that can be pastured.  (Traditional white feathered Cornish-Rock cross “broiler” chicks that can be purchased at feed stores, from most poultry catalogs are the same as those grown by Tyson Foods… chicks that grow so rapidly that they are unable to walk even a few feet and are completely unsuitable for a pastured growing system.)  The boys are planning to get both a few chicks of their own and some ducklings, but aren’t sure what kind they want yet.

This evening will be spent pouring over poultry catalogs and online poultry websites deciding which birds and how many we will be adding to the barnyard this season.  Some of our favorite poultry websites are: www.cacklehatchery.com and  www.mcmurryahtchedry.com.

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From Home Dairying to Home NON-Dairying: Making Coconut Milk Yogurt

 

We started our adventures in home dairying in 2004 with 2 newly freshened Toggenburg dairy goat does (much like the one pictured), named Cafe au Lait (which means “coffee w/ milk” in French) and her twin sister, Cocoa, and their 1 month old daughters Mocha and Vienna.  Within 2 months we were not only milking for goat milk but also making yogurt and both fresh and aged goat cheeses for cooking.

Fast-forward 7 years or so to when we realized we had a major problem with our son Charles and dairy products.  I began making “ice cream” with soy, almond or coconut milk and buying “Rice Shreds” mozzarella subsitute for family pizza night (it still had a little bit of casein, but it was the only thing close our local natural foods grocer could get his hands on for us… thus it was maybe a twice a month type treat to have pizza.)  Charles really wouldn’t eat yogurt and didn’t care for cheese except on pizza… so for a year and a half my stash of home dairying “cultures” (the bacteria used to create yogurt, cheese and other yummy things) sat unused in the back of the freezer waiting…

Anna was born also with a casein allergy issue, but at 6 months old I really felt we should introduce some probiotic foods into her diet, especially when the whole family came down sick with first RSV virus, then secondary bacterial upper respitory infections and everyone got put on antibiotics (they have their place in treatment of bacterial infection, but they wreak havoc on your digestive system, killing off beneficial “good bacteria” the body needs to properly digest foods.)  So I started researching “yogurts” I could make using some of the alternative plant-based “milk” products that are available.

After looking at a lot of recipes and combining several I thought would work best I came up with the following: (For the sake of simplicity, we will assume you have a yogurt maker device and know how to incubate yogurt in it.  If you don’t have such a device and don’t know how to make yogurt with improvised tools, please search the Good Eats archives on www.FoodNetwork.com, Alton Brown did several good episodes on this topic.)

Coconut Yogurt Base

2 cans of coconut milk (full fat is best)

1 envelope Knox gelatin

1 pkt of yogurt culture (some good sources are www.leeners.com and New England Cheese Making)

Upto 3 TBSP Stevia in the Raw or Raw Sugar to taste (optional, to make this “savory” yogurt base for dips and such omit sweetner and proceed as directed)

Open both cans of coconut milk.  Pour the 1st one into a mid-sized mixing bowl or 4 cup pyrex measuring cup (leaving plenty of room to add the other can of coconut milk later and stir it well). On top of the room temperature coconut milk in the bowl,  sprinkle the dry Knox gelatin and allow to bloom for at least 5 minutes.  Pour the second can of coconut milk into a saucepan (add your sweetener if using) and heat this to a boil stirring constantly to prevent scorching the  coconut milk.    Pour the hot coconut milk into the cool coconut milk slowly while stirring.  Stir until the gelatin completely disovles.  Allow to cool on the counter top (cover with foil or plastic wrap if you like) back to almost room temp (between 70 and 0 degrees F).

At this point the gelatin may have cuased it to thicken somewhat.  Gently stir in the pakcet of yogurt culture with a plastic or wooden spoon (do not use metal, as it can react with the culture and the milk and prevent your yogurt from setting).  Pour the coconut milk blend into a very clean 1 quart wide mouth canning jar fitted with a plastic “storage” lid.  Place your jar of yogurt into your yogurt maker and follow the manufacturers directions, incubating your yogurt at approx 110 degrees F for 8 to 12 hours depending on how tangy you like your yogurt… the longer it cultures the more tangy it becomes.  It may not look like it will “set”, this is why we added the gelatin (we all know jello sets up in the fridge when it cools, coconut milk also thickens up when refridgerated to a point… together, when this yogurt is refridgerated it thickens up into a beautiful custard-like consistancy… think Yoplait’s custard type yogurt).

You can combine the yogurt with fresh or pureed fruit and vegetable combinations to your heart’s desire and serve as you would any flavored yogurt for breakfast, snacks or dessert.  Savory yogurt you can combine with your favorite herbs and seasonings to make delicious dips for veggies, chips etc or as a sauce on fish, poultry or game meats.  A favorite use in our house is to set the yogurt out to warm for an hour or so and use it as a buttermilk substitute in our favorite gluten-free/dairy-free pancake or waffle recipes.

New Frontiers In Food

As a family, it seems like we’ve been discovering new territory in foodstuffs for a very long time now.  It began in the summer of 2004, several months after we realized our son, Farmer Boy Charles’, allergy to cow’s milk protien at the tender age of 7 months and about a month after moving from Lubbock, TX to Liberal, KS where we purchased an 85 acre fixer-upper farm.  At the time, our pediatricians (both the one in Tx and the new one in KS) encouraged us to put Charles on goat milk, taking into consideration that my nephew was extremely allergic to soy.  We would not know for 4 more years he had autism, although he had exhibited some “odd” behavior to sensory stimuli even prior to birth.

Shortly after we moved to KS, we purchased 2 Toggenburg milk goats, their 1 month old doe kids and an Alpine/Boer cross buck.  I learned to milk and care for the goats, make butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream and so on.  The goats became beloved members of the family and when we moved again in 2005, this time from Kansas to South Dakota, shortly after the birth of our second child, Farmer Boy Henry, we brought our small herd of 9 goats with us.  In 2006, we began showing the goats in the Open Class Dairy Goat Show at the SD State Fair.  The herd grew, it evolved from an unregistered “grade” herd to a reistered one over the years.  We lost some beloved friends in those years, but through it all, we milked and continued to learn and hone our home dairying skills.

Farmer Boy Charles  was diagnosed in June 2008 with Autism and Oppositional Defiance Disorder at 5 years old.  At the time, he had an extremely limited diet of things he would actually eat, so we spent the next 2 1/2 years resisting the idea of removing certain foods from his diet.  At this time, we were already dealing with 1 child who was allergic to cow’s milk and the other one who was mildly allergic to strawberries and also reacted to artifical food dyes and also had a life threating allergy to beestings.  It was difficult to get our minds around the idea that more dietary revisions might be necessary.

In the fall of 2010, Farmer Boy Charles began tipping our hand in regard to diet.  He’d spent much of the previous summer eating and craving vast amounts of foods that were high in gluten (if it was made of wheat flour, he wanted to eat it… bread, pancakes, cookies, cakes, breaded pre-packaged chicken nuggets and fish sticks and so on) and drinking copious quantities of goat milk.  When the school year began in August, he was suddenly limited to the portions provided by school lunch, school provided morning toast and the afternoon snack that each child brought in his or her turn for the class.  We had no idea the cause at the time, all we knew was that Charles was having these aggressive, angry, violent outbursts in class and becoming dangerous to his teachers and classmates.  Several teachers and his Para managed to injure themselves trying to remove him from the classroom (for the safety of hte other students) during some of these outbursts of aggression.  He would kick, hit, bite, spitting, throwing books, desks and chairs.  It was not only a dangerous situtation, it was also horribly disruptive to the class.  More and more he was being removed from the classroom to the resource room (Special Ed Classroom).  The previous year we had begun charting behavior at school thoughout the day, everyday on a chart, with notations of any changes in routine etc. and part of that charting included whatever he ate at school.

We ended up having to have our annual IEP meeting a month early in order to address his behavior and offically re-assign his educational status from fully-intergrated w/ Sp Ed services in the 1st grade classroom to “self-contained” status in the resource room.  In self-contained, he only got to have contact with his classmates for lunch, library, recesses and music.  Being as autism is to a large degree a disability that includes significant social impairment and dysfunctional social behavior, we as parents and the school staff concurred that Charles needed to continue having some time with his classmates to learn functional social behavior such as imaginitive and cooperative play, turn taking and place appropiated group behavior such as in the library or music class. P.E. was deemed “too much stimulation” since we’d had aggression issues in gym for Charles to participate with his class and he recieved his P.E. in a 1 on 2 class with the gym teacher and his Para, from mid-Oct until the last 2 weeks of school in May.  Slowly he was re-integrated into his class for P.E.

It was during this IEP, listening to the teachers report on his behavior, reading through the behavioral charts of the first 6 weeks of school and the ones from Kindergarten that I started seeing a pattern of escalating behavior that was always at it’s worst an hour or two after lunch and how he had suddenly gotten so much worse behaviorally right after the school term began in the fall.  I started to look for the reason WHY!  What was different??? What had changed???  Was the problem which worsened after lunch somehow food related???

In researching autism and food, I kept stumbling across a theory called the “Autism and Gut Connection”  and a condition called “Leaky Gut Syndrome” that was frequently common in children with autism.  A very simplified definition here: Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition in which the digestive system can not completely digest gluten (protein found in wheat, rye and spelt) and casein (protein found in ALL mammalian milks, including cow milk, goat milk and human breastmilk… I know just when you think you were doing the right thing and being a great mom by breastfeeding your baby, right?)  These proteins are only partially broken down into protein peptides (rather than to the point of amino acids as they are supposed to) and are absorbed into the bloodstream this way (which they are not supposed to do) where they travel to the brain and are recognized not as incompletely digested proteins, but as OPIUM-LIKE substances!  (Totally scary when you are a parent and you realize the food you’ve fed your kid for years was turning him into a drug addict… I mean, you learned in school you are supposed to be eating x number of servings or grain, y number of servings fruits and vegetables, z number of servings of meat and so on… so you do that because you want to be a great mom or dad… never once realizing that what you are supposed to be doing right is making your child really really sick!)

Having grown up with several extended family members with drug addiction issues,  I quickly realized when I started researching food and autism together that my son had an addiction problem to both gluten and casein and the aggression issues we were fighting at school were just symptoms of drug withdrawl.  I made my husband, Modern Pioneer Pa (aka Rob), read what I was reading about this food connection and convinced him we needed to try the Gluten-Free/Casein-Free diet with our son.  Pioneer Pa finally agreed to give me 1 month, to test the theory and see if we got a reaction from Charles using the elimination diet and challenge technique.  So I proceeded to find some GF/CF cookbooks at the library and begin the adventure into the New Food and Cooking Frontier!

After 2 weeks on the new diet, we saw some incredible things happen.  We did not tell the school what we were doing, we just started sending ALL lunch and snacks from home and told them he wasn’t allowed to have ANY school or student provided foods… home food only.  Charles went into a severe withdrawl mode, complete with irritability, shakes, fevers and sweats and violently aggressive behaviors that were geared toward getting his food fix… his drug of choice.  At one point, he pulled a steak knife out of the knife block and demanded Pa to make him “regular” wheat bread toast at knife point.  This drove home the point to Pioneer Pa that we were indeed on the right path and that his oldest son had a severe addiction problem regarding food.

To backtrack just a bit, in 2008, I had begun using our excess goat milk to craft soaps, lotions and other bath products that I was selling online and at local craft shows and farmer’s markets.  Charles’ addiction to gluten and casein was so bad at this point that he could not even tolerate bathing with goat milk soap or using my insect repelling goat milk lotion/sunscreen product.  We began him on the GF/CF diet the 3rd week of October 2010, and as a point of solidarity, I, Modern Ma, joined him on his diet fully (with his father and younger brother joining us in our diet for suppers and on weekends, with Pa eating his regular bread sandwiches at work and Henry having sack lunch or school lunch at school.)  Shortly after going gluten-free and dairy-free with Charles, some skin and bowel related symtoms I’d been having  for several years (since my pregnancy with him actually) began to clear up too.  It took from October to the end of February to get Charles “clean and sober”.  Along the way there were some incidences that were particularly reinforcing of the importance of this diet to extended family members… most notably my in-laws during our family trip to Colorado for Thanksgiving in Nov. 2010, just a month after we started the diet.

My mother-in-law had taken my nieces and I shopping in Pueblo, Co.  (The previous night I’d made a large batch (thinking the leftovers would be supper the following night) of GF/CF corndogs in the “Corndog R”… a small appliance that is similar to a waffle iron that makes corndogs…( you can find one by searching “corndog makers” on www.amazon.com, it’s probably been one of the best uses of $25 I’ve ever spent, given Charles’ preferences toward “commercial/fast food type foods”), well leaving the guys (the hubby, sons , nephew, brother-in-law and Gramps) home alone is not so smart as it turns out… they ate all the corndogs for lunch.)  Us girls were kind of late getting back from our shopping trip and did not realize the corndogs for Charles’ supper were gone.  My nephew, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and is also a picky eater, and my younger niece who has a tree nut allergy wanted pizza… so grandma made them pizza and used up all the cheese she’d had.  Remember this was early in our going GF/CF… we were still allowing a little cheese once in a great while because Pa didn’t want Charles becoming lactose intolerant… and he was one of those dads “oh well, one meal off the diet isn’t going to hurt him”… so Pa told his mother it was okay for Charles to eat the wheat based pizza w/ his cousins.  WRONG!

That night Charles started stimming (self-stimmulating with repetitive behavior) out of control, being grumpy and irritable and teasing his cousin, Julian, calling him “Julie” to which Julian is obviously very sensitive to this sort of teasing (I would be too if I were a little boy).  Next morning Charles was coming down with respitory symptoms, nose running out of control, cough etc. in allergic response to food the previous night (Grandma being a nurse wanted to give some cough/allergy syrup so he could rest.)  Charles got aggressive with grandma for trying to treat his “cold”, spitting the medicine in her face, hitting, biting and kicking her.  Pioneer Pa had to pick Charles up and physically remove Charles from Grandma to another part of the house (the basement bedroom in which we were staying), calling Charles’ dog Narcissa to come with him downstairs.  Pa had to sit on the bed (back to the headboard), holding Charles tightly in his lap and having Narcissa lay on Charles legs for 2 hours to get him calmed down enough where the child could be at least civil to his grandmother and cousins.  (Please note that Narcissa is rather small in size for a Service Dog and weighs about 25 lbs.,  her weight seems to produce a calming effect on Charles, as does her very laid back temperment and her just “being there and being “fuzzy”.)

My dear mother-in-law, finally… FINALLY (after 7 years of my trying to convince her) realized thateven mild food allergies are very very serious business.  It took a granddaughter with a life-threatening allergy to nuts and a grandson who is severely addicted to the Opuim-like substances created when he eats gluten and casein to realize this and drive it home in her mind.  By noon,  my mother-in-law had me and my oldest niece ( who’s 13 years old, on behalf of her baby sister) out to the grocery store shopping for safe foods for the kids!

In the 18 months since we started the GF/CF diet there have been charges to our family.  August 2011 brought the birth of our daughter, Anna (aka the Littlest Pioneer Girl).  Anna started out a breast-fed baby, however I’ve never been a good “milk cow”… indeed, had I been a dairy cow or goat, I’d have been culled long ago for poor production.  After losing an entire pound after she was born, her pediatrician pretty much forced us to supplement her and threated to get the government involved if we didn’t.  So we did, just to shut the doctor up.  First we tried goat milk, within 36 hours she was throwing that up, then we tried the hypoallergenic formulas (avoiding soy because of my brother’s son’s severe allergy).  One after another those expensive hypoallergenic formulas met with the same results (projectile vomiting after 36 hours and there after at every feeding) and continued weigh loss… finally the doctor diagnosed Anna with casein allergy (all those hypoallergenic formulas contain “caseinate” the stuff they put in non-dairy coffee creamer to make it “white”) and we resorted to soy formula to supplement.  In the months since, her allergy has gotten more severe and at 5 1/2 months she could no longer tolerate my breast milk no matter how careful I was of my diet.  I was so very sad of this… I was finally having a good breastfeeding experience after my dismal failures with the boys… only to have a baby who could not tolerate MY MILK.  I struggle not to take the rejection of the protein in my milk personally and move on, doing what we have to to feed our kids.

In the year and a half since we first began the GF/CF diet,  I’ve had to learn to cook and bake all over again in new ways.   We’ve accumulated some new (and somewhat uncommon) small appliances and cookbooks and Pa is contemplating growning some of our own “grain” in the family garden, particularly edamne soybeans, sorghum (milo), millet and amaranth.  We’ve changed our food buying habits, away from the packaged gluten-free foods and mixes and other pre-packaged foods (which were very nice when I was relearning EVERYTHING cooking related… but rather expensive) and more toward purchase of basic ingredients we can not grow ourselves due to climate constraints such as brown and white rice that we can grind ourselves in an electric grain mill (one of said uncommon kitchen appliances) and doing more of our own cooking and baking.

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