Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's Summatime!

I've been meaning to have a post titled 'Spring is Here!', but it has been so long since I've posted last that it is now summer. Some parts of the world may consider our weather still spring like, but not in Fairbanks Alaska. Eighty degree temperatures equal summatime! We've set record high temperatures over the last few days. I am sun kissed. I had forgotten the unique sun on skin smell. I can't describe it; salty but sweet... pleasant, sunny. I would not be inside now if my kids were not sick. We spent most of the afternoon on our south facing deck. It is a little tricky trying to stay in the sun while at the same time keeping the kids in the shade - it was that hot! The juxtaposition of snow and heat is delightful. On my evening walk tonight the air was a balmy sixty degrees, all around I could hear rivers of water, pouring off the hillsides. The light breeze was warm but would change to cool when the wind blew over large areas of remaining snow. Here in the interior we generally don't see eighty degrees while there is still snow on the ground. Yesterday there were just a few bare spots of ground showing, mostly on our trails and driveway. Tonight there is more earth showing than snow remaining.

So I know you are wondering about all these cute chick pictures... where do I begin? Well Honey (our broody hen) was due to hatch her clutch of eggs on Sunday. We were beginning to think the worst when finally on Monday afternoon there was a little hole in one of the eggs. I kept checking on it and was growing impatient. Most chicken authorities agree it is best not to help the chicks hatch out of their shells. Well, I couldn't resist. In a desperate desire to see at least one chick hatch I gently enlarged the hole from the size of a small bean to that of a quarter, then set it back under Honey. Within a few hours the chick was completely out and dry. Tuesday morning there were three chicks hatched. I opened the two eggs that had not hatched and there were chicks inside that had died probably just within a few days of hatching time.
Here is our first chick of the year and our first chick ever hatched here on the farm by a broody hen.

Honey is pretty thorough about keeping all the chicks rounded up and underneath her at most times. The picture above is from Tuesday afternoon, so the chicks were barely dry. I pulled them out. She looks a bit overwhelmed, "whats that?!" It is her instinct to protect them and care for them, but she is a first timer and feeling them under her and seeing them moving around in front of her are two different things I'm sure.
I got a call on Monday letting me know that half of our chick order from Whitmore Farm was on its way. By Wednesday morning they still had not arrived so I was getting a bit worried. They finally flew in on the Wednesday afternoon. Thirty Welsummer chicks. Four didn't make it, so that is a little over ten percent. Not bad considering what they went through to get here. So below are a couple photos of the Welsummer chicks.

In the right hand corner are four red sexlink chicks that we had purchased from the feed store last week. They seem to be getting on alright. Tommorow a friend is coming over to help me sex and divide up the Welsummer chicks. We are only keeping about ten for ourselves.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Noah's Third Birthday

Noah turned three years old last Monday. It was the first real Birthday party he has had and the first birthday where he has comprehended the celebration and has had expectations. Dustin took Noah into town earlier in the day so I could assemble and hide the cake. Noah fell asleep on the way home and we quickly decorated the house with balloons and streamers. We laid out a party tablecloth, party-hats and snacks. Dustin filled a baby pool with sand and toys for an impromptu sand box. When Noah woke up and came into the house he was so excited.
Noah had three friends over and we all went on a treasure hunt. Above is Noah pretending to read one of the clues. The clues were written with him in mind. I was thinking he would enjoy taking his friends from place to place, but he was so excited that he didn't really focus in on the clues and just followed his friends (who didn't know where they were going). The treasure hunt took the kids all around the property beginning at the house and going up to the bucks, the chicken coop (where there were eggs filled with jelly beans) up to see the new goat kid and back down to the back porch where there was a treasure chest filled with bags of party favors. Only the treasure chest was locked so first they had to dig through the sand box to find the key.
When we would ask Noah what he wanted for his birthday, he would say "Benny and Scrambler and Cranky" just about every time. So here are Benny and Scrambler on top of his cake. It was a real hit, whenever anyone asks him about his birthday he says " and Benny and Scrambler were on the cake!" Noah's favorite cartoons are Thomas the Train and Bob the Builder. Benny and Scrambler were the last of the Bob the Builder Machines that he didn't have. Cranky the Crane is a wooden crane with a magnet that lifts freight; it was his big birthday gift from Dustin and I.
Above are the kids digging in the sandbox for the key.
I've been meaning to cut Noah's hair for a while now, but it is pretty tricky getting him to sit still. I finally had to bribe him with jelly beans to sit still for me long enough. Whew! Last night he dressed up in Avery's baby clothes and jumped around on the couch. He looks so different with his new hair cut I just thought I'd show the new Noah.. Noah who is three years old!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Rose is a sweetheart. She is due to kid on May fifth. Last year she kidded on her 147th day of gestation and I'm guessing that she will kid early this year as well. By the looks of her I'm thinking two or three kids. I think we are due for some doelings. Rose has taken to laying around quite a bit. I've never seen anyone lay right next to the feeder like this, but I'm guessing she thinks she is pretty clever being able to reach up for mouthfuls while laying down. When our nights started warming up a bit we noticed that Rose was sleeping outside, a sign that perhaps our doe stall isn't big enough. She decided she'd rather have a peaceful nights sleep outside than get picked on, pushed around and have to put up with the general mayhem that goes on inside the stall. I was worried about her sleeping outdoors as she seems vulnerable at night time, white against the dark night.

A couple days ago we moved Xan, Yin and Maggie next door so that the little guy (Zen) could be out and about for the afternoons and hopefully start bonding with his mom. We left Rose in with them because we knew she'd be a non-issue. Rose is the only doe that is not picking on Xoe, nor does she go out of her way to harass Zen. We had to seperate Yin from her mother because Yin was emptying her mother's udder! Imagine! It took me a couple days to figure out what was going on. I was thinking I was going to need to buy some fennel, dill and fenugreek (all lactation stimulation herbs). I thought that maybe her production had slowed down to meet his consumption, and then his demands had grown more rapidly than she could keep up with. Then right before my very eyes I saw Yin duck her head under and start nursing. Tsk tsk. Well I moved Yin next door that very moment. The irony that Xoe will not nurse her baby willingly (when we are actually letting our does raise their young unlike so many goat owners due to disease issues) but she will stand patiently for her yearling is frustrating to say the least.

About midnight last night I crawled in thru the goat door to let Zen have one more nursing session for the night and Rose was sprawled out snoring in one of the stalls. I was so happy to see her enjoying some peace and warmth indoors during her final days of awkward pregnancy. The other three does are irate with me for moving them from their usual quarters but I don't feel bad at all. Giving Xoe and her son time together and giving Rose some peace are necessary.

Rose's real name is Xara. She and Xanadu were shipped up from the same farm in a kennel together and they had been born on the same day. I'm guessing they'd been in a kid pen together since birth and have always had a strong bond. They have stuck together since day one and have been the only goats that would eat out of the same dish without pushing eachother away. Recently Xan has moved up in the herd and tends to push everyone around including Rose. This last year we milked Rose up until early February. She is an awesome milker, gentle and easy going in her disposition, eager to please, has a lovely high wide udder. She really kept up the production level all winter. Her milk quality is high in fat. The last couple months of milking Rose and Maggie, I felt guilty putting milk on my cold cereal because it seemed more like half n half than whole milk. If Rose has a doeling we will be keeping her. With a daughter by her side I think Rose may have a more comfortable niche in the herd.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Xanadu dry this year

Looks like Xanadu will not be having kids this spring...bummer. She was due March 28. We had a feeling a week or two before she was due that she wasn't looking like she was going to kid anytime soon. You can't always tell by looking at goats whether they are expecting or not. A couple of my goats do seem obviously pregnant. I was hoping that maybe Xan just had one or two kids. She is wide through the middle but I think that just means that her rumen is well developed and in good working order. According to Molly (Fiasco Farm site), if the does are wide and big bellied they say that they are in "good condition" or if they are really big but not pregnant they are in "very good condition". I guess that it the case with our Xanadu, she is in good condition. Last fall when I bred Xanadu I had been pretty sure that she was in heat but she wasn't too receptive. I attributed her unsubmisive attitude with the buck to her recent move up and dominance in the herd. She use to be my most gentle submissive doe but after the birth of her son she started picking fights with the other does and moving up in the herd. This winter I haven't been able to tell if she or Maggie are top doe. I did mark on the calender that a week after I'd bred her it looked like she came back into heat, but I never noticed her come into heat in December or January, but those are more challenging months to notice heat cycles because it is so cold and we don't spend a lot of time with the goats during those months. I am disappointed that we will not be having any chamoisee kids this spring. I've been dreaming of a little chamoisee doeling. Xanadu is a great milker too, she is everyone's favorite goat to milk because her teats are so big which make hand milking easier than smaller teats. I feel a little cheated now that I've been feeding her so well, and she is not due to kid and provide us with milk. Kinda like she is living for free and not paying rent, but it is completely my own error. She is certainly taking advantage of the situation by letting the expecting does (who are at an awkward disadvantage) know who is boss, and she doesn't let them forget it. So here are some photos of Xanadu and her buckling last spring. Breeding earlier in the fall has it's advantages, one of them being that if the doe doesn't take you have lots of time to notice. So at this point I am planning on breeding Xanadu first thing in September.

As you can see from the pictures Xanadu is an attentive mother, always close by her son. I never worried (as I do with Xoe) that she was going to be too rough with him, or not let him nurse. Rose and Maggie were also great moms and they are due May second and May ninth. I thought I was going to have to make some difficult decisions trying to decide which doelings we were going to keep this year, but it looks like we'll be lucky if we get two. If Rose and Maggie each have a doeling we will be keeping them both, if one of them has more than one doeling we will probably sell her, unless there are only two total. We are limiting ourselves to two doelings a year, no bucklings whatsoever. We've got to have some restrictions or we would quickly find ourselves overrun with goats.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Candling Eggs

Last night Dustin and I had an egg candling date. We'd been trying to get out together for a couple nights. I was still up when he got home from work at eleven and the kids were both sound asleep so we snuck up to the chicken coop. All the chickens were asleep except for Honey, because I'd forgot to turn her light off - oops. We decided to continue with the mission despite the odds, and would abort if the participant became uncooperative. We turned off her light and our headlamps and under the cover of dark snuck eleven eggs out from under a protective soon to be mother hen. We had waited until day eleven of their incubation so it was pretty obvious which eggs had growing chicks in them and which didn't. The eggs that were fertile were heavy and solid. When we held up the flashlight behind the eggs the fertile ones were dark, whereas the unfertile eggs lit up and we could see right into them (when we turned them the yolk would move to the top).

Unfortunately half the eggs were duds, and all of them were Brahma eggs. So we stuck the remaining six good eggs back under a disgruntled Honey and chucked the duds into the woods. There are a number of reasons why the eggs may not have developing chicks inside. We may have put more eggs under her than she could cover. A couple of the bad eggs were on the edge and didn't feel as warm. The number a hen can hatch is eight to twelve depending on her size. I think a big factor was egg storage. The Brahmas were not laying frequently enough so we stored some of the Brahma eggs too long while waiting for more. I didn't know anything about collecting eggs for hatching before this experience. I learned that you are not suppose to use eggs older than about ten days. Storage conditions are suppose to be around sixty degrees if I remember correctly. The eggs are suppose to be rotated daily. If we didn't have two roosters for seven hens I'd think that the eggs hadn't been fertile to begin with but given the youthful vigor of the roosters I doubt this is the case. I'm guessing the lack of developing eggs is human error. The Americana eggs and Sexlink eggs that we put under Honey were eggs we had collected the day we put the eggs under her just because we didn't have as many Brahma eggs as we wanted and we figured if she was sitting on six eggs she might as well sit on eleven.

If you read a hatching manual that comes with an incubator you'd wonder how a mother hen does it. The eggs are suppose to be kept at a constant exact temperature with precise humidity and rotated multiple times daily. Supposedly a good broody hen knows to lift herself off the eggs when they begin hatching so as not to suffocate the hatching eggs. Well given the small number of chicks due to hatch I think we will try and graft some more chicks onto Honey. We will do this by purchasing a half dozen day old chicks from the feed store and again working under the cover of night sneak them under Honey the night she is due to hatch the eggs. Eggs usually take twenty-one days to hatch but I've heard mother hens often hatch their eggs up to twenty-four hours earlier. So on day twenty I'll start looking for signs of eggs hatching and if it works out she'll take on a few extras.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Avoiding The Winter Blues

Cattleya, blooming last April. Bought it in Florida and mailed it up in the middle of winter. I love the flowers on this plant. It had two spikes.
This Cymbidium tries to bloom every spring, the trick is getting it in a cool enough spot in the house - (a disadvantage to keeping our house so toasty). Our kitchen window is only a double pane and lets in enough cool air to trigger blooming. My christmas cactuses all flower well in this window too. This photo was from last spring.
This is a phaleonopsis that I've had for almost ten years now. It has been blooming for over six months now. I thought it was done, but it decided to keep going. It has put out keikis (baby plants) three times now and I have one of them that also blooms regularly and is identical to it's parent.

These are pictures of a few of my orhids. At times I've had close to thirty, but since I've had kids I don't have as much time to pamper and care for them, so only the hardiest have survived. Our climate is hard on plants, not just the outdoor temperatures but most methods of home heating dry a place out. Our humidity is really low (we do live in an arctic desert.) Most of my house plants have artificial lighting in the winter. I move many of them outside in the summer where they thrive. The change in temperature and light triggers many of them to bloom going into fall or spring.

These days I don't have much time for boredom, idleness or the winter blues - I have kids. Actually I have always faired well through the winter. My secret? A combination of getting outside when it is light no matter the temperature, greenery and warmth indoors and lots of good cooking and eating. Early winter is easy, celebrating holidays with our own harvests bounty. January is probably when most people start having the winter blues. It's still pretty dark and we have four months of snow left. The only times I've really thought about moving are when we return from Hawaii in the middle of winter. It is just a rude juxtoposition. By February the light is returning to our home and property and we rejoice to have it back and savor it so. February is spent making sure that we are doing whatever we are doing in the sun if at all possible. As soon as the sun is back winter takes on a complete different character. From February until the leaves come out in the second week of May, we get such intense direct sun. The weather is clear and sunny almost daily regardless of the temperature. I think we've had three overcast days in the last month.

By now the pace of Spring is picking up. I'm enjoying the last of the days where there is still not a lot I can do until the snow is gone. Chicks are ordered. seeds are started, more goat babies are on the way. I just have to be patient for a couple more weeks while the snow melts and the mud dries. For now I know to savor the intense sun on snow glare while it lasts. Wrapping up another winter here in the Interior of Alaska, Cheers!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Enjoying Last Summer's Herbs

I love fresh herbs. There is always a water glass full of fresh parsley and cilantro in my fridge. I also use a lot of fresh thyme. In the winter I frequently purchase fresh thyme from the supermarket in spendy little packages. Last summer I grew an abundance of thyme and for the first time attempted to preserve it by blanching and freezing. I am impressed with the results so much that I am going to grow and freeze as much as I can this summer.
This past fall I harvested a bunch of herbs all at once (top two photos). In batches I stuck the herbs into boiling water for just a few seconds, until they turned bright green then I immediately pulled them out and stuck them in an ice-bath. Then I dried them and rolled them up in wax paper and put them in freezer ziplocs. I tried this with thyme, oregano and parsley. I use the thyme the most. My theory is that small pungent firm herbs work better for this method than say parsely or basil - at least as far as using them as if they were fresh. I thought that I would use the herbs mostly for soups, stews and casseroles. The thyme is in such good condition it is almost as good as if it were fresh and I use it as if it were.

We are trying to be more concious of eating seasonally and locally...we are not in the most ideal location for this. Having said this eating well is vital to our families well being, so we are not fanatics about eating locally or seasonally. We now have our own eggs, milk and dairy products. We buy most our meat locally. I would love to be able to grow enough garlic, onions and root vegetables to get us through the winter. In the summer we play a game of sorts where we try to only use our own vegetables or those from the Farmer's Market, and supermarket vegetables are off limits until there are no fresh vegetable available. Buying fresh herbs from the supermarket in the winter is costly and often the product quality isn't great. So I am excited about growing, harvesting and preserving our herbs in a manner that keeps them as fresh and vibrant as possible.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rose meet Avery

Avery has been getting outside almost daily now that it is much warmer out. I usually do farm chores in the morning before Dustin goes to work, and then again after he gets home. On his days off I try to make it out in the afternoons as well. From now until October, it will be much more convenient to take the kids along for chores. Often during summer months we spend more time outside than in - getting our fill and making up for all the time we spend indoors during the winter. Last winter Noah usually accompanied me for chores unless it was extremely cold. We dress warm, pull a sled along if he gets tired and come inside when he is cold. Sometimes he only makes it for the lower farm chores and then I finish up after dropping him off at the house. It is more difficult to take the baby along on my back because I do a lot of ducking and bending over. For a couple months the air was too cold for her to even breathe, it would take her breath away. If I have to do chores when Dustin is gone and it is severely cold I wait until she naps and then Noah and I do a quick run. Unfortunately I've tried out two different brands of baby monitors and neither of them seem to work when I'm up top at the does stall/greenhouse and garden. The monitors are suppose to reach the distance that I am away, but maybe the trees interfere?

Avery is fascinated by the animals, cat, dog, chickens, goats. Her intentions consist of grabbing their coats/feathers and holding on, possibly leaning over and feeling them on her face. She would probably try and taste them if I'd let her. Avery loves to be outside and the sun doesn't seem to bother her. Noah was born in the spring so for his first summer he just laid on a blanket, and by the time he was one he would walk up and down the hills on his own and he knew not to put inedibles into his mouth. This summer will be a bit different. I don't think Avery will be able to be on the ground unsupervised. I think we will have to put a play-pen by the milking stanchion so that she will have a safe dry place to play while I milk and do chores. Last summer I got milking down to around five to ten minutes a goat, but then there is walking them back and forth, cleaning them, measuring grain, so milking four goats probably took about an hour. With the rest of chores, feeding and watering different chicken pens, morning chores would take another fifteen minutes. But with a kid in tow, you can almost double both those numbers. It would take me at least two hours to do all morning chores with Noah in tow, and I'm guessing this summer it is going to take even more time. I think we are going to simplify things by not raising turkeys this year. Also, I've been wanting honey bees but I think I'll be waiting one more year. I am hoping to get a gravity irrigation system set up so that we won't have to spend so much time hauling watering cans back and forth.

On a different note, here is Rose investigating Avery. Rose is my most gentle and timid goat. She gets pushed around a bit. Last spring she had one buckling and was a wonderful mother. This spring she is due on May fifth. She is already so big that I cannot believe that she has four more weeks to go.

Today our temperatures were in the fifties, our porch thermometer said eighty (in the sun). The snow is melting fast but there is soooo much of it. I'm guessing it will be a couple weeks before it is all gone up here. The upside is that we get a lot more direct intense sun before the leaves come out on the trees. So the next few weeks are really the sunniest of the whole year. Our sun isn't setting till around nine p.m. and that is only getting later. It is a fine time of year.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Xoe kidded on April eighth to two bucklings and a doeling. We lost one of the bucklings and the doeling. Above is a picture of the two bucklings sleeping together. Below are pictures of the first and surviving buckling. His name is Zen. He is black and white/light tan and he weighs seven pounds. In my last post I said that Xoe kidded last year on day 150, but I realized that she actually kidded at five pm on day 149. This kidding was also on day 149 and if there hadn't been complications she would have delivered mid to late evening. To make a very long story relatively short, I began sitting with Xoe at about seven p.m. and around midnight it seemed like she wasn't making as much progress as she should be. My friend April was with me (this was her first time attending a goat birth). We decided to intervene. The first kid was upside down with his legs in the wrong position and his head was turned. With much effort April was able to straighten his legs and his head, we tried pulling him out but his head kept returning to it's original sideways position. We ended up having to turn his whole body sideways and finally she was able to pull him out. We should have gone right back in but we gave mom and baby about fifteen to twenty minutes together before going back in. Again the kid was upside down with legs in the wrong position. This time April was able to quickly get the doeling out. When she came out she wasn't breathing and we weren't able to get her going after much nose-mouth wiping/sucking/blowing and lots of rubbing. While I was trying to get the doeling going, April went back in and pulled out a third kid, a very tiny and weak buckling. He was breathing and alive but he was so weak it seemed like we lost him a couple times and got him going again. By the time all the kids were out it was probably about three or four a.m. and we spent another couple hours with them, trying to get the big kid to nurse, and trying to feed the little one milk in a dosing syringe. The two bucklings fell asleep so at about five a.m. I decided to leave and let everyone rest. I could only hope that when I returned they would be stronger. I had Dustin check on them an hour later about six a.m. Then I made it back up at eight thirty and the little guy had died. In retrospect I should have brought him to my bedside to make sure he stayed alive and kicking. I wish we had gone in earlier for the first kid and then right away for the second two and maybe we would have a doeling. Goat raising is not for the faint of heart, and incidents like this certainly shatter one's confidence. Yesterday was a gray day around here. It was the first overcast and cloudy day in weeks. When I watch Zen my heart ache for the little ones we lost eases up a bit. I'm looking forward to the kids that are still on their way.
Zen is about seventeen hours old in this picture. He is real wobbly, learning how to stand and walk. In just a couple days he will be running, skipping and jumping...flying really.
Here are a few photos of Noah, Avery and I spending a little time with the new family. In the photo below Xoe is facing the camera and her daughter Yin is behind her. So far Yin is rather indifferent about her new brother.

To make matters more complicated, Xoe isn't willingly caring for and nursing her son. So every few hours (as often as possible) we are helping Zen nurse. He is in an indoor pen on his own, mostly sleeping on fresh hay. I guide Xoe in and hold her in a neck lock while I guide Zen to her teat and kind of angle it into his mouth. We had to do this with Xoe and her kids last year as well. I think if her labor hadn't been so complicated and she hadn't lost a couple kids, we wouldn't have this issue because she wouldn't be near as stressed. I think within a couple days she will regain her mother capacities and be nursing and caring for him on her own.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Waiting for goat babies

These are pictures of Xoe's birth last spring, 2008. Today is her due date and we are expecting kids anytime. For the last four nights Dustin and I have been taking shifts going up to the Doe's stall and checking to see if Xoe is in labor or if there are kids on the ground. Xoe is huge. We've been so certain that we've been seeing signs of imminent labor, but we've been fooled into our sleepless nights. Well, once again I am sure that she is in early labor stages. We looked at last year's birth dates an did some math. Last year Xoe had her kids on her 150th day at 5pm. A friend of mine and local goat expert informed me that his goats tend to have the same length of gestation from year to year, kidding within hours of when they kidded previously. First timers may be exempt from this, but we are going to see if this rule applies to us.
In the picture above and below I am drying of Xoe's firstborn, Yin. Xoe is like "ouch that hurt, what is going on?"These kids were born right as I was in last minute dinner preparations for Noah's second birthday dinner. Our family was just arriving as we finished gettting the kids to nurse once.
Here is a photo of Xoe's kids at a few days old. The doeling on the right is Yin; our first Wild Roots doeling. On the left is her brother (we called him Yang), we sold him along with one of our other whethers as a pet/ brush clearer. We were pretty fortunate to be able to sell all four of our first whethers as pets.
Other news: I stuck eleven eggs under Honey on Sunday night. So we will be checking twenty-one days, or a day early, for baby chicks. Our feed store is getting sexlinks in a day after ours are due to hatch so I might be able to graft them on to Honey. Today, I ordered a half a pig from Delta Meats. We've been wanting to order a half a pig since last fall, just waiting until we had the money to do so. If I'd planned ahead I could have specified the cuts I wanted. This one was already processed it and it's been a while since I've done any research. We will be getting sausage, bone in ham, bacon, short ribs, spare ribs, roast, pork chops and so forth. They deliver it into town tomorrow. Time to go check for goat babies!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Avery Food

Avery has been eating solids for about two months now. It is way easier to breastfeed than feed her solids and I knew once I started there was no turning back so I held out as long as I could. When I couldn't eat a meal in peace because she was constantly grabbing at my hand, arm, utensils, dishes, and following every bite of food from my plate to my mouth while drooling. Well then I knew it was about time. When Noah began eating solids I read the book Super Baby Food, and it greatly shaped how we fed Noah from day one. The author simply lays out what foods you should introduce and when based on how easily the foods are digested and how likely they are to cause an allergic reaction. She recommends waiting until baby is closer to one before feeding much dairy, meat or seasoned and salted foods. We made most of Noah's food, but as we were in the middle of construction and often didn't have much of a kitchen, or were staying with friends, I did buy some organic baby food in addition to feeding some of the commercial baby cereals. I have to say that Noah is the best eater I know as far as kids go. From the time he was about a year and half until recently he enjoyed eating everything we ate. He loves foods you wouldn't think of like kalamatta olives, pickles, salmon, broccoli. This time around I don't think I'll have to buy any commercial baby food unless we take a vacation. Avery has loved eating from day one. She has also wanted to be in control of the spoon from the beginning and gets quite upset with me when I take it from her, or try to keep her from getting to messy. If I have the time I just take her shirt off and put her in her highchair in her cloth diaper and let her get as messy as she pleases. Then I just stick her in the sink for a bath afterwards. But I don't always have the time or energy to make her feeding an hour affair. I've found that I can usually get away with feeding her banana and avacado with just a bib on, whereas sweet potato (referred to incorrectly as yam at our supermarket) makes quite a mess and it is about her favorite. She also enjoys fresh mango, papaya and winter squash. I've been making up rice cereal by grinding it in a coffee grinder (that isn't used for coffee) and cooking it in boiling water. Then I take out a little scoop and mix it with her veggies. We mash bananas, avacados, mangoes and papaya on spot, the sweet potatoes and winter squash I puree in big batches and freeze in ice cube trays, then I just pop one out to thaw before hand. I took some pictures of the process recently but haven't uploaded them onto the computer yet so I'll include those in a future post. But that is the technique I will be using for a lot of other veggies soon; peas, beans, carrots etc. Here is a picture of Avery enjoying a meal.Below is a picture of Avery feeding herself with a little baby feeder. I don't know the correct name for it but it is a mesh bag that opens and you stick the food in it, we use bananas most often, then close it and there is a little handle for her to hold on to and she can feed and entertain herself with it. This little device is just awesome. If she is hungry and I'm cooking for the rest of us I just stick her food in here and she does the rest. I often use it to bide myself a few more minutes doing whatever I'm trying to get done. Some foods really make a big mess, banana seems to clean up pretty well. When she sees the bag in my hand she knows just what is going on and gets excited, often I will refill it for her and she will eat most of that too. Then I have a warm rag and water bottle I exchange out for her when she starts tiring of the fun.
Avery loves bath time. Here she is with a rag on her head. I have to start doing a better job of cleaning up all the dishes around the sink because she is no longer content to just sit and splash and play with a toy or two. She wants to get into everything in reach. For a while I was feeling quite clever because I could wash dishes in the sink next to her but now she constantly pulls herself up and trys to stand and reach into the other sink. So sink baths may soon be a thing of the past.
I'll be writing more about baby food as the months go on. I am thankful that we are going into spring and summer, there should be lots of quality fruits and vegetables for her to consume over the next several months. For now here is a shout out to the power of the cuisinart...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Emily's Portrait

This is me, Emily Stahl age twenty-nine. Last week my friend Adam Schiesel asked if he could take some portrait photos for a project he is working on. The night before we were going to meet up both my kids came down with a cold and I was feeling like I might be it's next victim. So I called and said I might have to cancel if I couldn't stop blowing my nose, or if the kids had a fever. On friday both children were better. I however could not stop blowing my nose and I had a sore throat, but I'd been looking forward to getting out of the house and I didn't know if I cancelled if I'd get another shot...and my nose wasn't red- yet, besides as Adam pointed out it was in black and white.

I enjoyed seeing Adam's studio and some of the other pictures that he's been working on. He explained things about his camera and the photo style and most of it went over my head. If I understood correctly, something all the pictures have in common is that because the camera has a wide scope, the pictures are soft and fuzzy around the outside and very clear and defined right around the eyes and lips. Some of the first photos he had taken looked aged and lighter around the edges and he said that he'd been given some film that had been aged, I can't remember the correct terminology but someone had left it in a window, or in the light and rotated it and over time the film had faded. I found it interesting looking at the group of people Adam chose to photograph-mostly made up of his friends and co-workers, an Alaskan Coffee Roasting Company/ Lulu's Bagels / Marlin (bar)/ College crowd. Many of the people he has chosen to photograph seem to match the style of photo well. There is a roughness and uniquely rugged and stoic look to many of the participants. I think he has paired the style of photo with some of Fairbanks finest hooligans quite cleverly.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mixing Chicken Feed

Tuesday was chicken feed grain mixing day. This was only our second time mixing a batch of chicken feed. In one of my first posts I gave the recipe I'm currently using. So far so well. Once I began giving the chickens this feed, they wanted nothing to do with their crumbles and I don't blame them. They love the oats, barley, wheat and corn. I'm not sure how much of the meal they eat, or if they just push it out of the feeder to get to the grains. I don't think I'll buy alfalfa meal again. They love alfalfa hay. I think I'll just give them a small amount of hay once or twice a week. I'm not sure how much nutrients are still in the meal by the time it gets to us. Who knows when the alfalfa was ground into meal and how stale it is. Well here are some fun photos of Noah helping mix grain. Above is a photo of Noah giving the birds some kitchen scraps. They pretty much expect scraps daily when we let them out. It is probably one of the healthiest parts of their winter diet, comprised mostly of vegetable scraps with a few crusts of whole made multigrain bread and sometimes goat cheese dairy leftovers.
Noah is my mix-master. This is the perfect job for Noah. Lets just say that Noah lives to dig and scoop and dump. And to help me measure out a hundred pounds of grains and meal and then mix them all together in a big tub, he was in heaven. I had to distract him in order to start scooping the mixed ingredients into a lidded garbage can...he would have played in the tub of grain all afternoon if I'd let him.

Noah mixing about thirty pounds of corn into all the other ingredients.
Go mix-master!

Above is a picture of my most prized ingredient, Alaskan Salmon Meal. Fish meal, crab meal and soybean meal are all high protein ingredients. When I first began researching fish meal, I learned that there is a wide range of quality in the different types of fish meal, and that it was important to find out what kind of fish were in the meal, where the fish are harvested and how the meal is processed. When I purchased the bag of salmon meal the lady at the register didn't know anything about it. I figured I would just buy it and check out the bag and company when I got it home. When I saw that it was Alaskan Salmon Meal from Kodiak Fisheries I was so stoked. I think it has got to be one of the better fish meal sources. This is a fifty pound bag and it is one one of the higher dollar ingredients. I'm adding about five pounds to each hundred batch of mixed feed, so I figure this bag is going to last me at least six to nine months depending on how many birds we get this spring.

Here is a picture of about four pounds of flax seed. Omega fatty acids are quite the buzz word today. For humans and most animals, flax seeds and other small seeds like sesame need to be ground for us to get anything out of them - otherwise they just pass through without being digested. I think the chickens are better suited to eating flax seeds just as they are. The other thing about ground flax seed is that it goes stale really fast, so if you are grinding it, keep it in a cool place (fridge) and only grind up as much as you can consume in a couple weeks. We use a five pound bucket to weigh all the ingredients. I thought different ingredients would vary greatly in weight, but pretty much this bucket full of any of the ingredients is five pounds.

Whole grains are amazing. I've heard a cool quote that I wish I could remember. But what other foods can you drop on the ground and instead of going to waste they start to grow. In the center of this photo are red winter wheat berries, they are one of the more expensive ingredients, but oh so nutritious.