The Girl Scouts was as close as this suburban girl ever got to learning any kind of traditional skills growing up.I quit it early on, considering ‘badge earning’ to be well beneath my expanding “cool kid” facade.
But if there’s a badge worth earning, midwifery would be up there with the loftiest of them. I’m humbled and proud to say I got to experience it last night for the first time.
I bit of critical background:I’m squeamish.Considering we didn’t have children of our own and I didn’t have my own dog to take care of, let alone any pet previously to our dear Papi, at about age 42, it seems to me squeamishness pretty much comes with that territory.
It’s because I was well aware of this personal limitation that I NEVER imagined we’d have so many animals.
Chickens, for us and many other clueless homesteaders, are the Gateway Livestock.Then came ducks, turkeys, sheep, pigs, and more dogs.But we both swear we’ll never get cows or horses.(Ahem)
Considering my penchant for ‘Too Much Information’ I’ve now been acclimated to loads of poop, vomit, blood and morbid sounds of all sorts.It also got me scared, very scared, about all that can go wrong with pets and livestock.And how painful that is, and knowing this truth in advance is useless.It does not help the pain by expecting it.It does help though to be prepared.So far I give us a C+ on that when it comes to the critters.
My TMI penchant leads also to so much online and in books about serious diseases and awful complications and the myriad very dirty deeds endemic in the farm life.Talking to others more experienced will also always bring sad stories and sometimes tragic ones.
Maybe I don’t quite deserve my badge just yet, but I’m fairly certain I saved our ewe and her young lamb last night by being at the right place at the right time and doing my usual C-level work.🙂
When our ewes have lambed in the past I was not there to witness the actual event, only woke up to find the lambs delivered, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.On one occasion I found one mutilated by our young puppy and I had to kill it.I cannot speak about this moment still today a year later without tears.It was the most confusing, stressful, tragic, sorrowful day of my life.Like most in the so-called advanced economies, we grew up very sheltered from death and from the act of killing.Hubby would’ve handled it far better had he been home.I was alone and a basket case.
I was alone again this time when Buttercup gave an unusual and very loud bark audible from inside the house that clued me in that something was going down.I went to the stalls and saw mama was in labor.I was determined to watch it all and learn.
I was hoping and intending to remain a bystander to nature’s miracle.
As it happened I could tell something was wrong right away.Then I doubted myself. Then I went back and forth a dozen times, yes, no, yes, no.
Then I concluded, no, something’s really wrong here, get help.Help?Like from who?I called two friends with more experience and they didn’t answer.I looked through our book on sheep, panicky by that time.I call Hubby.He calls his folks and searches online while I pace waiting for the bread in the oven to finish so I can go back to the stalls.
I muse, even in this stressed state: “Oh, we’re both waiting on buns in the oven.”Yes, that’s how I cope with stress, and most things really, goofy humor.
It doesn’t occur to me again that the fetus that the ewe cannot seem to push out is in fact dead until hours later.Yet, I felt it, even considered it immediately, instinctually at the very first moment I saw it. I just tried to over-ride that feeling with too much doubt and reasoning and wishful thinking.
On the phone with Hubby we decide there’s really nothing I can do alone in the dark with no experience and no equipment and no nearby vet.Then he calls back and has changed his mind.He urges me to go back out, put on some rubber gloves, and see if I can help her.
And he was right!As soon as I touched the fetus it was obviously dead and my foolishness at waiting hours to “realize” this washed over me.I strained, along with mama to get it out, knowing if not she would surely die as well.
At last it came free, followed by another smaller, but wonderfully alive little treasure!
I’m happy to report as of this writing about 16 hours later, mama and babe are doing well, eating and drinking and getting to know each other.
Yes, I was alone, but really, it was very much a team effort. Thanks y’all!
A short break from the heavy subject of addiction to share some homestead updates lately as well as highlights and misfortunes from the last year.
Starting with the good news, we have two new happy thriving lambs!
They are the first of the year with two more mamas looking full and ready to follow with some of their own any day now. Or more likely, since today it is beautiful and sunny, it will be the next time it’s pouring rain and freezing cold.
That was the weather once again for this rough start. Unfortunately, our permanent corral space is not yet finished.
I had to cancel a holiday trip at the very last minute and I spent a lot of time stressed and worrying. I couldn’t handle a repeat of last year, which is such a tragic story for me I haven’t yet been able to tell it publicly.
It was nearly a repeat. Hubby was at work again, and to keep it short and simple, I found one of our not-so-well-trained LGD (Livestock Guard Dog) had jumped the fence, grabbed one just after birth, jumped the fence back and was ‘guarding’ it until I found it barely breathing and injured.
Luckily there was a completely unplanned, last minute visit that cheered me up after my canceled trip.
And it’s hard to think of anything worse in the garden than poison ivy and wasps!
And my bee colonies didn’t even last the summer. This is an enormous disappointment. But I don’t give up easily and have next spring’s bees on order, locally sourced this time.
Additional misfortunes include the duck that was mysteriously fried by our electric pole in the front yard. And another incident that shot an electric impulse through my hand, up my arm, and landed in now nearly 2 months of stabbing shoulder pain. Then there’s the ram that’s butted me 3 times and therefore will meet his demise prematurely ASAP.
I don’t think Hubby shares this sentiment, but in my case, I’ve definitely had better years.
Here’s to better fortune in the coming year, for me, and for all y’all!
We just wanted to share a few updates from the wee homestead, on the winter garden and other news.
Dreary weather whiplash here, hard to say if our holidays will be white, green, gray or brown, but thankfully we still eat fresh, easily, every day.
Growin’ on now are: broccoli, lots of lettuces, carrots, cabbage, brussel sprouts, beets, kohlrabi, garlic, onions, kale, our favorite herbs–dill, chervil, cilantro–loads of collards for us and the critters, planted thick as green manure and spring bee food, too, like hairy vetch.
It’s high maintenance, we cover and uncover the boxes as weather requires, and it’s slow growing with shorter days and an abundance of overcast days.
But, the limited harvest results are DELICIOUS!
Triumph for the season:
I was interviewed about natural living on Crow777, a site I’ve mentioned here many times as a cutting edge, paradigm shifting, life affirming podcast I highly recommend.
Balneotherapy, crounotherapy, the drinking cure, taking the waters–whatever you want to call it–chalybeate pools, hot springs and mineral spas have a very long tradition behind them. And before I get accused of ‘appealing to tradition’ once again in order to assert the value of these traditions, there’s beaucoup science behind them, too.
“From the frontier years of the Republic to the postwar years of the twentieth century, people flocked to the state’s mineral waters primarily for one reason–health. In that sense, Texas springs were resorts in the truest sense, despite their relative anonymity to the rest of the nation.” (Valenza)
From the Journal of the American Medical Association, 1943: “Much of the discussion to follow on the historical background of resort therapy will be concerned with the forces which at different periods have raised this therapy to the central feature of medical care, have reduced it to the status of superstition, have diverted its main features into voluptuous cultural practices, have opposed its use on the puritanical background that its measures coddled the flesh that needed scourging from the sins of disease, have degraded it to a social fad, have allowed it to pass into the hands of the charlatan and enthusiast as a panacea, have obstructed it with the lack of economic provision for care and have brushed it aside with a disinterest that has come from attention fixed on only the novel in medicine.”
(Howard Haggard, MD) sited from “Taking the Waters in Texas: Springs, Spas and Fountains of Youth by Janet Mace Valenza
“The use of mineral springs for therapeutic purposes declined for several reasons. Many hotels burned or were washed away by floods, and rebuilding them seemed inappropriate because medicine had begun to change. With the rise of “germ theory” and the discovery of sulfa drugs and antibiotics, the belief in the usefulness of mineral water diminished. Many doctors supported water cures, but some began to eschew balneology, the science of bathing, because of some resorts’ extravagant claims. In Marlin the tradition lasted into the 1960s, primarily because the medical profession appropriated the practice and transformed it into a tool for physical therapy. Other factors, such as war and depression, also hurt resorts. The railroad guaranteed the success and demise of some resort.”
“Texas spas were unique among Texas towns and also different from resorts in the East. Daily life at these resort towns revolved around the waters. Architecture reflected the tradition. Pavilions and drinking fountains became gathering places for local citizens, depots attracted bands and drummers to meet trains, bathhouses set the scene for private ablutions, and large hotels employed big bands for entertainment. Other diversions included domino games, burro rides, picnics, and dances. Bathers overcame the fears attendant upon the theory of miasma-that harmful vapors association with swampy waters cause disease-to seek the sanative pleasures of the springs and wells. Osmotic exchanges with the water were supposed to benefit the body. Rheumatism, arthritis, and skin diseases were reportedly relieved more often than any other condition. (Valenza) https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/sbm11
Sounds to me like getting cured was a lot more fun back then!
As for the science
It was Europeans like Ernest Kapp, an early geographer who opened the Hydropathic Institute, that brought these practices from their own countries and ancestors to ours. “Dr. Ernest Kapp’s Water-Cure Treatment included not only hydropathy, but also gymnastic exercises.” https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fka01
Viktor Schauberger was another early researcher studying the properties of water.
For the deep dive into where the science stands now, including references to the numerous studies and on-going research, I’m definitely over my head with this newish publication, Pure Water: The Science of Water, Waves, Water Pollution, Water Treatment, Water Therapy and Water Ecology.
But it’s fascinating nonetheless and certainly convinces me our ancestors knew more than we often give them credit for.
Late summer here is my personal version of hell and I bitch about it every year.
What better time to take a break from my current reality where I feel like an indoor prisoner and wake up daily wanting to lash out at all the idiotic Geoengineering causing drought here and weather chaos all around the globe.
I even want to take a break from my last post pondering passivity and violence and just notice for a day, or so, all the little things and little ways we have improved upon since I last felt this level of droughtrage.
I know I am just a bit more blessed this year than last, mostly by my own sheer will and resilience, and that of Hubby as well, no doubt, and that of some inspiring neighbors and cyber-friends, and perhaps if I dwell on that fact just a bit, next year will be just a bit more blessed in turn.
Last year’s late summer garden
Or rather, lack there of 🙂
Last year’s late summer garden vs this year’s, not great, but still better!
A new young friend who loves plants as much as I do helps me identify the hardy, native heat-lovers of our area, and diligently and graciously watched our wee homestead so I could join my extended family at a reunion in July. I look forward to returning the favor when her family vacations in October. This is the sort of small steps a resilient community is made of, not the top-down control of Rockefeller’s ‘Resilient Cities’, because it’s the neighborly reliance that brings real hope and treasures and peace of mind.
I still don’t like okra, but I’m harvesting it anyway for the pigs and neighbors! Every once in a while I throw a few into a meal, along with other traditional Southern favorites we didn’t grow up with, but are learning to appreciate, like collards and Southern peas, eggplant and jalapenos, all which have survived the heat, but would not be here now without regular irrigation.
It’s very hard to keep up with the constant weeding and mulching requirements in such circumstances, but these plants, along with the sweet potatoes, are actually successfully competing with the grasses in some cases. Amazing!
I won’t mention the melons, because I’m hell-bent on keeping this post positive. So let’s mention instead the ‘mouse melons’, aka sanditas, or, Mexican Sour Gherkins. 🙂
Instead, let’s mention the fact that the young sweet potato vines and okra leaves are edible and quite tasty!
And the fantastic find this summer which I’m most excited to expand next year considerably, the Mexican Sour Gherkin.
Crop of the year, in my humble opinion!
Even in the dead of summer, of brutal heat and no rain, we enjoy meals raised primarily on this land. As an added bonus now my raw milk source is 5 minutes away, whereas last year at this time it was 5 hours round-trip!
The aging fridge is full of cheeses we will enjoy all winter: Cheddars, Goudas, a Parmesan and an Alpine, several Brie almost ripe, a Muenster even! YUM! Last week I taught a couple of neighbor ladies to make 30-minute mozzarella and we had such a nice time.
Next they will teach me skills they’ve acquired—spinning, dying, soap-making–a few more small steps in our agorism adventures. Skill-sharing has been such a crucial aspect of our most successful ancestors and I would be challenged to express how rewarding it is for me still, at 50 next month, to be learning so much that is new for me. It is indeed a sort of middle-age renaissance!
I also foraged for elderberries, mustang grapes and peppervine berries, dried some and made some syrups and preserves.
And, Another 400 pounds of pears, or so!
I do believe still that’s thanks to our bees. For several years we thought it was a weather issue, late frosts, whatever, but I am beginning to suspect it was a pollinator issue all along.
We will see, that’s just a hypothesis so far. And in any case we continue for another year to benefit from the cider, the preserves, the cobblers, and the pigs are getting their fill, too!
The Datura remains an absolute favorite of mine, blooming in crazy heat and exhaling the most exquisite fragrance into the evening air. The thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano are gracefully resilient as well, I appreciate all y’all!
And our dear Tori, who just as I was typing this post chased an enormous coyote off our chickens!
The blessings are very close at hand, the frustrations a million miles away. I vow to maintain that truthful balance deep in my heart as I brave the coming days.
“I’m selling you bees on Friday so you can kill them in your top bar hives.” so smirks JC of Frost Apiary in the Ouachita Mountains, Arkansas. I drive 2 hours across the small mountain range from my dad’s place in Mena, which is a 6-hour drive from our East Texas homestead, mostly because gentle, treatment-free bees are not too easy to come by here.
We’ve got some bad genetics in these parts, as my nearby beekeeping friend and I can both attest to, only she got proof of her Africanized bees on video. Had someone been filming me as I tried to work with mine, it would’ve been cartoonish and probably hysterical as I ran circles around trees trying, in vain, to get the vicious little buggers off me.
I’ve yet to meet a commercial beekeeper who doesn’t scoff at the Kenyan-style hives known as ‘top bar’ or sometimes called ‘horizontal’ hives that are now trendy with hobbyists. I chose them as a completely novice beekeeper for 3 reasons only: weight, esthetics, and the personal preference of the teacher of the beekeeping workshops I took.
Clearly none of those reasons would impress JC even remotely, so I kept them to myself.
In all his decades of beekeeping JC has yet to meet a beekeeper successful with top bar hives. It’s good for business, he says, because they come back every spring for more bees, until they switch to Langstroth hives. He recites a string of reasons why this is, which begins with “they starve in the winter” and ends with “they starve in the spring.”
For those of you who might be curious about this less-traveled region of the fly-over states, but without the time or inclination to actually visit, here’s some of what I saw, and smelled in that 2 hours.
There were approximately 20 Jesus billboards, 10 churches, 2 banks and 1 gas station, thanks be to Jesus perhaps, because I was running on fumes by that time.
As for the smell, unless you’ve had the misfortune to experience the poorer areas of Bangkok in rainy season, you will not have approached this particular olfactory ballpark. It is directly related as to why you see houses on the left directly juxtaposed to houses on the right.
You might have guessed, get-rich-quick by factory farming. If the entire region then smells like you live in a baboon cage at the zoo, well, at least you have the means for air conditioning and Febreeze spray.
JC and his wife busy themselves moving around the shop and yard, bees buzzing all around, as he offers me advice. After 5 minutes of this he says, “I want you to go now,” which he repeats again after 10 minutes, and then again after 20.
“My health’s no good,” he also repeats several times, taking his ball cap off to reveal a fresh scar the length of the top of his scalp where a tumor was recently removed. He says he has a similar scar down his chest, a barrel of a chest still I notice, at nearing 80 years old.
“You might take it a bit easier,” I suggest, because I know how heavy those Langstroths get and I’ve just watched him effortlessly move several around the yard.
“He doesn’t believe in that!” his wife answers for him. Despite his stooped posture and some less than urban-refined social graces, his eyes are still bright and his mind and tongue sharp, which greatly softens any coarseness, in my opinion anyway.
They then carefully load up my impressively-packaged bee packages in the back seat of the car and I set the feeders on them overnight until my 6-hour drive home the following morning.
Calm, happy, well-fed, well-contained bees ready for a wee road trip.
Or, so I thought!
I’m not sure at what point I fully took to heart that the bees were not at all well-contained. At first, I just thought I had a few roaming co-pilots, not a problem.
Then about high noon, still 2 hours from home, I made a pit-stop for gas and a sandwich and return to the car buzzing with hundreds of loose bees, inside and out. I have a moment of panic before realizing I at least need to move the car away from the main traffic area of the convenience store while I devise a plan.
Once at the corner of the parking lot I realize there is no plan to be made. There was no quick fix to this problem; I had no equipment to get the boxes apart and even if I could I could not figure out where the leak was coming from. I had a single choice and no other, leave 4 packages of bees in the parking lot right now, be out the time and the money and the bees, or get back in the car and finish the trip with them. It was all, or nothing.
It was worth the bees crawling over my arms, my face, my sunglasses to see the passersby at traffic lights gawk in stupor! Handy Hubby, being the wise guy he is prone to being, suggested with a chuckle that I visit the McDonald’s drive-thru. 🙂
Because as an American I can’t resist a happy ending, I waited a week to write this post until I had one: We now have four queen-right colonies happily nesting and growing in top bar hives.
The first of my determined objectives, as I stated plainly to JC before I finally left his apiary, “I will be your first successful top bar customer, I betcha.”