Category Archives: farm ethics

She’s A Witch!

No, not Ysoldashe is perfectly charming! Although we got to YDK too late to join in the weekly Knit Night, we were able to tag along as Dixie and her gang took Ysolda to The Livery for snacks and drinks afterward. We ordered up a plate of smelt for Ysolda to try, because you can’t come to Wisconsin and not eat smelt, right? She gamely tried them and even took a couple more on her own.

No, I refer instead to our poor dear Delilah, who is recovering well from her surgery yesterday.

You can click the pic below if you have an interest in seeing the actual surgical amputation site (clean, but not for the meek).

Dr. Bender in Whitehall did an excellent job. We are truly grateful that we can always rely on him. Delilah was feeling so much better after the operation that she attempted to gallop out to pasture with her herdmates! No more “dead weight” (ugh) holding her down and making her wobbly.

“Whoa, there, Nellie, you’re supposed to be in recovery in the box stall for three days!” We finally caught our girl (a little loopy on the pain medications she’ll be on for a while) and convinced her that there were fresh dandelions aplenty – along with hay, mineral, kelp, and a cool bucket of water – waiting for her in her private chamber. She’s enjoying her pampering and the hand-picked weeds being delivered to her door. Her appetite is very good, which is a great sign.

Thank goodness Dr. Bourdon had come out as soon as we noticed Delilah limping. He got her on penicillin therapy right away, so that we were able to halt the progression of the disease through the tissue as quickly as possible, saving Delilah’s life! Again, we are so blessed to have yet another good on-farm goat doctor – they are really few and far-between.


Delilah Just After Birth


Baby Samson and Delilah


Delilah and Samson, One Day Old


Mama Tulip, Baby Delilah, Jeff

After consulting three vets and doing research on our own, Jeff and I were still stumped about what caused Delilah’s leg to go bad. There was no sign of injury in a fence or by another animal; the illness didn’t present correctly for “blackleg” (a tetanus-type infection); and everyone was scratching their heads as to what caused the blood clot that destroyed her leg with no warning… until Dr. Bender mentioned something to Jeff.

“I’ve never seen it in practice, but I remember studying it in vet school – ergot.”

“You mean like rye and witches?” asked Jeff.

That’s exactly what he meant (and if you are Dianne RJ, you get bonus points for knowing what I was talking about when I ran into you today!) But for everyone else, I will “‘splain, Lucy”…


Samson and Delilah at Two Months, with Mama Tulip


Baby Samson and Delilah, nibbling on my scarf.

Remember the Salem Witch Trials? And how young girls were murdered for “being witches” – having tremors, being possessed, seeing visions, going spastic? One theory which explains their behavior is that they had ergot poisoning. Though I see on Wiki that that’s disputed, what isn’t is the effects of ergot poisoning on animals.


Delilah at Three Months

We won’t ever know the source (pasture, hay, grain, oat straw used for bedding), but thanks to Dr. Bender’s recollection we were able to look it up in our copy of The Merck Veterinary Manual (thanks forever for that, Pamela! We use it ALL the time!), confirm Delilah’s symptoms and progression, and solve our little mystery.


Samson, Delilah, Mama Tulip

I guess if something completely odd and out of the ordinary will happen, it’s going to happen at Tuppinz Farm.


In other farm news, due to the ground being litterally covered with fledgling birds, barn cat Barley is being held prisoner in the house (confined due to his penchant for beating the crap out of the other cats). He’ll remain indoors until the birdlings can actually fly on their own. The chickens are quite amused by all the little ones and seem to think they are baby chicks that they are supposed to guard.


Baby Blackbird with Sumatran Rooster

Animals are just so… odd.

Have a great day! I get to sit and knit with Ysolda at Michelle’s tonight!!

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Filed under animal of the day, animals, farm, farm animals, farm chickens, farm ethics, farm goats, farm mistakes, gratitude, health, nature, pets, positivity

Hero, Part Two

A feature write-up about Jeff’s grandpa appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today. It is here.

We’ve created a memorial website for Bill, which can be found here.

I also found a couple of photos of Bill in his younger days, which I really like. Thought you might like them, too.



Photo caption reads: “William & Edward 12 and 15 yrs old taken spring 1929.”



Bill “bustin’ a bronc” (you know I don’t go for that method but that’s what they did back then!)




A newspaper photo showing Bill having a make-believe cup of tea with granddaughter Becky. She was born with Down syndrome and Bill did much volunteer work for Milwaukee charities that helped brain injured children.



Bill and his wife, “Sutty” (Etelka) at Jeff’s college graduation performance. The Chef’s degree is actually in music, did you know that? He was a classical composer before he became a Pharm Boy (joke there…)


Chef Jeff’s been away in California but is returning tonight. I hear he shipped some wine home which is a good thing, as I think I’m going to be needing some in the next few days: Delilah goat had a blood clot in her femoral (leg) artery and now the leg must be amputated.

At first the vet thought it was from a tetanus-type (clostridial) infection, but then it didn’t present in a manner that made him confident about it (the goats are all vaccinated for tetanus but this would have been an odd type of clostridia (?) that usually only affects cows.) He saw no sign of an injury – and Frieda The Just earned her name by being very careful about being the only horned goat in the herd, so she can’t be blamed. So Doc Stan the farm vet thinks it was just a freak thing. He says things like this sometimes just happen in a barnyard, and we shouldn’t second-guess ourselves about it being something we did, or didn’t, do.

Delilah is doing as well as can be expected. There is no feeling in the leg now so she is not in pain, just uncomfortable. She is eating well and brother Sammy and mama Tulip are looking out for her, standing on either side of her when the goats get hay or a treat of grain. She’s very good for her shots, but thus far, I have given myself one penicillin puncture and have swallowed some as well – I’m looking forward to Jeff returning to veterinary duty tonight.

We’ve discussed the potential amputation with several vets, and the vet that has seen to Delilah’s needs since she was born is able to perform the surgery. He’s actually really a small animal vet, and we always took the goat kids to his practice for disbudding under sedation. He gives us the impression that recovery will go smoothly with sufficient pain meds. Lila’s attitude is good right now, so we’re thinking this is the appropriate path to take.

So unfortunately I won’t be able to attend Bill’s funeral. I’ll be here giving more penicillin injections and toting hay bales (split into flakes first, of course) and exercising the dogs who can’t seem to be outdoors enough in the spring weather. But when Chef Jeff returns from paying his respects, I plan on us toasting Bill with something from Sonoma… and maybe having some time to actually relax and visit with Jeff for more than the five minutes a day we’ve had to speak to each other in the last few weeks… months… year?

Oh wait, baby chicks arrive in two weeks… and my cold frame just blew over – still haven’t gotten my seedlings into the garden bed. No time for sitting still on the farm…

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Filed under animals, charity, farm, farm animals, farm chores, farm ethics, farm garden, farm goats, farm mistakes, gratitude

What Was I Thinking?

Musings on the February Lady Sweater:

1) A lovely pattern… for someone who isn’t pear-shaped like me.

2) I like the color I chose, but I don’t like the “Factory Farms” yarn. Splitty.

3) Come to think of it, I don’t much like “Factory Farm Yarns” itself any more. I had an awful time with their interchangeable needles. I did some research online and found out many people had trouble with them. Yes, I know they are exchanging them out… but for how long? And why should I have to wait when I want to knit?

I also had several poor experiences with “Factory Farm Yarns'” customer service. We’re talking bad enough to make me cry.

I then heard that “Factory Farm Yarns” allegedly asked for information from an American craftsman (someone I actually know) about how his product was made… and promptly took that information, and resources from the craftsman’s supplier, and had their own similar product manufactured overseas. The craftsman’s handmade items – and his family – took a hit. Not cool.

I realize that “Factory Farm Yarns'” prices are “good” – but with those low prices comes a lack of personal attention. When I made a goof on this sweater using “Factory Farm’s” yarn, I certainly wasn’t going to be rude enough to take it to my LYS to ask for their help. So I saved some money, but who did I have to help me out?

And if I don’t support my local LYS, they may not be there in the future! That’s more important than ever with the little hiccup the economy just had. I’ll be damned if I’ll see Dixie ever go out of business, after she and Cindi were so kind and welcoming to me. If not for the LYS, I probably wouldn’t have any friends in this town, as that’s the only place a farmer lady gets to meet others – and I’ve met so many dear people there! (Hi Sue, Sonja, Dianne, and of course Michelle!)

I don’t buy factory farmed meat. As with my food, I want to buy local when it comes to my yarn and needles – needles that I may just need the same day in an emergency, rather than a week later… and ones which I expect to last a lifetime rather than fall apart on their first outing.

So I’m making a couple of resolutions for 2009:

Buy local in all things and support vendors in my community. If I need something they don’t have, I’ll buy from another small vendor (I will be loyal to YDK but I can continue shopping at The Loopy Ewe for Araucania, and because of their great personal service.)

No more “Factory Farm Yarns”. I’m not sending my dollars straight to their executives’ pockets, with no benefits going to the poor people in other countries who make their allegedly copied stuff.

No. More. Sweaters. I need simple, meditative knitting that I can pick up at any time, without following a pattern – especially with Chef Jeff here after his company’s reorganization! [SHOOT ME NOW, SHOOT ME NOW!] I just gave over half of my clothes to Goodwill because, living on a farm, I never wear anything that isn’t sweats/fleece or Polartec or denim.

With four dogs jumping on me all day, I definitely do not need a lace cardigan. (A lace shawl, though, to take away this constant chill, would be a good thing. And that’s what I’m going to cast on with my YDK yarn just as soon as I’ve ripped out this cardigan. Maybe before.)

And I would like to knit more for charity in 2009 – helpful for my mental state, and helpful to someone who actually needs clothing.

Now, what to do with my “Factory Farm Yarns” stash…? It’s bugging me to look at it. I feel like a sellout having it here.


Chef Jeff is cooking duck a la Francais tonight; olives, capers, fennel, and red wine. He’s also making duck stock. The smells here tonight are making my stomach growl! I guess it isn’t so bad having him home for a time (but ask me how I feel after I’ve seen the pots, pans, dishes, and glasses in the kitchen later tonight!)

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Filed under charity, farm ethics, farm knit, fiberarts, food, knit, yarn shop

A Few Of My Favorite Things Part Two

My fellow Americans – is your turkey defrosting by now? My favorite, no-fail way to cook a turkey is thus:

Take your bird out of the fridge a few hours ahead of time, and bring it to room temperature. Rub it all over with butter. Stick a tiny amount of chopped onion, celery, and carrots in the cavity, along with salt and pepper and any other seasonings, and put a cheesecloth soaked in melted butter over the breast. Put the turkey a rack in a pan large enough so that air can circulate around it. Place more celery, carrots, and onions (diced – you can eventually grind them up for the gravy) around the turkey in the pan, with more butter.

I preheat my oven to 425° and then turn it down to 325-350° immediately after putting in the bird. I baste the turkey every 20 minutes (including the cheesecloth). I allow 20 minutes per pound but it usually is done sooner. Cooking this way, the bird comes out perfectly brown, every time.

Make sure you cover the bird with foil after taking it out of the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before cutting off even one piece! This makes it really juicy.

I make my stuffing separately, using purchased organic chicken stock (not broth) for the liquid. I put in fire-roasted chestnuts… preparing them keeps Chef Jeff busy with something and out of the kitchen while I get the bird going.

My mother never could cook a turkey in the allotted time frame, and Thanksgiving dinner invariably got pushed back from noon to about 4 p.m., by which time the side dishes were spoiled, and we were all crabby from starvation and not being allowed to “spoil our appetites” with a snack. The reasons for her turkey ineptitude were that she a) stuffed the turkey with dressing until it was fit to burst (and no air could circulate inside), and b) she cooked it right after taking it out of the fridge. I also think she may not have started thawing it until the day before Thanksgiving, so it was still partially frozen.

This year, we are having a heritage, rare breed turkey from Coon Creek Family Farm. We purchased two and I’m not sure what Chef Jeff has defrosting – it is either a Narragansett or a Bourbon Red. We had one of their birds last year and it was awesome! It had so much more flavor than a plain “homogenized” turkey – just like our own heritage breed Golden-Laced Wyandotte chickens taste better than “plain vanilla” birds from the store. It is amazing what was sacrificed when people decided to breed “improved” livestock for consumption – namely, flavor! Not to mention the fact that the “improved” breeds can’t even reproduce naturally. Heritage breed poultry are so much more healthy, and able to forage on their own, and really thrive without human management. Give me a natural bird every time.

There are instructions for brining a turkey at the Coon Creek site, also, if you’d like to try that method.

I know our turkey spent the summer sunbathing in a low-stress, natural environment; ate healthy, organic food and grazed on a beautiful pasture; was treated respectfully and allowed to have a full life; did not have to receive antibiotics and chemicals to keep it healthy (as it wasn’t raised in a compressed, confined area full of filth); and – most importantly to me – was processed humanely (the same butcher processes our own chickens for us), and purchasing it supports a small, organic, family-run farm. I know it is safe to bring this meat to room temperature before cooking because of how it lived and how it was processed. In short, if I was a turkey destined to be a Thanksgiving meal, I would want to live my life on the Coon Creek Family Farm!

Julie at Coon Creek sells some of my favorite goatsmilk soap – and she boxes it beautifully for gift-giving. Ask her about the soap with the skein of yarn imprinted on the top for your YarnArtist friends! Pop her an e-mail – she’ll be glad to help you out.

One thing I am particularly grateful for this Thanksgiving is receiving an invitation to a family’s holiday meal. For people to open their hearts and home to us, to think of including us, is something I will definitely be giving thanks for on Thursday.


In the past, Chef Jeff and I have made homemade liqueur to give at the holidays. It went over very well. Jayne has a recipe for Van der Hum tangerine liqueur on her blog and I think we may try it this year – perhaps with clementines?

If you see clementines in your grocery store, you must try them. Don’t buy them after December, though – they will have lost much of their flavor. They are so easy to peel, and so sweet – the perfect winter afternoon snack! Another favorite at this time of year.


I will try to post another recipe for giving tomorrow, but must dash now – the farrier is on his way to attend to one of Tikki’s toes.

Have a great day!

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Filed under animals, fall, farm animals, farm ethics, farm recipes, stasia's faves

Happy Halloween!

How will you celebrate this night when the veil between this world and another is at its most transparent? I’m baking some special Gruyere bread for dinner, and thinking a cozy fire and gingersnaps are in order… maybe we’ll make a fire in the outdoor firepit, sip some apple schnapps, and look for the moon.

A black cat was near the chicken coop last night! Hopefully he’ll get some of the ever-present rats… I will not inhumanely poison or glue-trap them, but I have resorted to instant-kill traps, or sending Jeff out with a .22 to dispatch a few cleanly and quickly (he never shoots if there’s a chance he’ll miss). They are going through organic chicken feed – despite its being stored in metal cans – at an amazing rate, and I am not running a rat ranch! These are the kind of ethical issues I’ve had to deal with since moving to a farm, and for an animal lover, they are not easy to decide. It might be easier if rats were edible, hmmm? Well, they’re almost the same thing as squirrels… OK, I know you’re saying “Ewwww!” Enough about the rats.

Chef Jeff had me watch Nosferatu with him again this year. I don’t care if the movie is old, silent, and relatively overdone by today’s standards – it is the creepiest Halloween movie ever! Having seen Shadow of the Vampire makes it even creepier… it’s based on the many rumors that Max Schreck, the vampire in the movie, was a real vampire. After seeing Nosferatu, I can almost believe it.

What’s your favorite Halloween movie? Have you seen An American Werewolf in London? What about The Company of Wolves? I think my favorite spooky – and just plain good – movie is The Village – it’s really more a psychological study than a thriller, and beautifully filmed.


Well, about those quilt fabrics… the consensus seemed to be that the one print didn’t really go with the others, so I took it – and the solids – out of the mix, and re-thought the whole project.

When in doubt, order more fabrics, right? I chose some Bali batiks in the hopes that their variegated colors would pick up more of the somewhat odd shades of teal, orange, brown, and purple in the prints.

Valerie mentioned that the prints were all similar in scale, and the colors all similar in value. I agree with her about mixing things up for a good quilt composition… but something about this project is calling me to combine choices that all blend together. Maybe because I’m not doing traditional pieced blocks, where the pieces also form a pattern; this is going to be a scrappier looking blanket, using just one shape for the “blocks,” and I want it to have a very soothing effect, with no piece standing out. Don’t ask me why – and I may regret not using traditional color and scale theory once it’s finished!

Thanks, Valerie, and everyone, for your help! It freed my mind from being committed to just the fabrics I had on hand, and allowed me to re-think my goal and define it more clearly. I appreciate your help in getting me un-stuck and thinking outside the blocks! (Hee hee.)


The fulled shawl is not a complete disaster – it will make a very warm wrap for barnwork. Here it is after my disaster with the front loading washing machine (never again will I own one of these! There’s no wool soak cycle! I hate this thing!)

Still, it was a bit of a disappointment, as my crafting time has been so seriously limited since we moved here. Well, onward and upward, right? I’ve swatched for my next project. Since it is so cold here in the winter, I’d like some cozy underpinnings that don’t make me feel like a male mountain climber. I’m craving pretty, feminine clothing these days (can’t remember the last time I’ve worn a skirt) – enough with the overalls!

Luckily my swatch was right on for the Anne Modesitt corset (Ravelry link), so I’m going to give it a go.


I hope your day and night are full of delightful frights – none of them involving your crafts!

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Filed under fall, farm ethics, fiberarts, food, knit, pets, quilting