April 29, 2013
Roughly 5 years and 3 months ago, a baby was almost aborted in late term — but he wasn’t. God intervened through a series of circumstances, and he wound up being placed in our home, as our son. This month, we were blessed to celebrate his 5th year of life with us. They certainly haven’t all been easy, but he has certainly helped us become better people, and we wouldn’t trade those years for anything. We love you little buddy! Happy 5th birthday, and we look forward to many more!!
Among his other gifts, M made some bird feeders out of her craft supplies. When the weather warmed up a bit, A got to role the feeders in the grains, hang them outside, and watch the birds come.
April 17, 2013
With just 3.5 weeks left to move day, things are getting busier all the time! We have our last formal military event coming up this weekend, followed by a last visit with R’s birth family . I’ve told S he has to find someplace to take me once a year so I can use the formal dresses I have collected over the years for these events. I have a doctor appointment to update all my prescriptions, and one or two vet appointments to get all the paperwork lined up. I have begun cooking in batches both to use up food and to prepare frozen dishes for move week. Our closing on the house is scheduled for next week (YAY!!!!), S and I have our final driving class (to learn to drive draft horses), Latte is due to deliver in 2 weeks, I have to pick up my 4th doe who has yet to kid, we have a half-a-ton of grain being delivered which will be divided into our fifty-five gallon drums, and plenty of other tasks I’m sure I’m forgetting right now. I am still plugging along on the packing, we had a big yard sale this weekend so are living a little creatively right now. We are down to just 2 kids’ beds, so kids are sharing beds and using pallets on the floor. They love it, as they feel like they are camping. We also sold our dining set, and are making do with a folding table and some folding chairs we borrowed. We sold off our last litter of rabbits, and the cage-building equipment should arrive this weekend so we can build our transport/new cages for Red Gate.
I have been trying to wean my milking doe, Joy, to a twice a day milking schedule, but she turned out to be an incredible producer, and I’m still forced to milk 3 times a day right now. She is currently producing 12 cups a day–thats about 3/4 gallon. She is only a first freshener, and with the early issues we had, I am really trying to stretch her udder gradually. I have her going 11 hours at night right now, but can’t seem to get beyond 9 hours in the day time. Otherwise, she begins squirting milk everywhere and her hair gets all sticky. ICK! She is coming along nicely, though, and I think I’ll be able to get her to twice a day by move day (which will mean one less milking at a rest stop–maybe).
The kids will wrap up their school this week (another YAY!!!). As soon as we have the check from closing, we have a LOT of items to order and have shipped to the farm for the projects we still have to work on there. All this is so bittersweet–the time has come and yet, we are once again leaving another chapter that includes friends and memories.
What free time I do still have is spent spending time with the kiddos and making contacts for our next 4-legged additions to the farm after we get moved. I have been in touch with Donna and Keith at South Pork Ranch in central IL, where we plan to purchase a couple of heritage Red Wattle pigs. The plan is to pick them up when we finish installing the final section of fence for our pasture next month, and rotate the pigs and goats through to clear all the brush currently there. Then, this winter, the hogs will be used for some hams, chops, and bacon, deliciously flavored by all the forage, acorns, and dairy products we will be feeding them. While it isn’t the Large Black I still hope to try one day, we are excited to try the Red Wattle. Not only will we be helping an endangered breed of heritage hog, but we will be supporting a local small farm operation who has worked hard to develop a good, hardy hog that thrives on pasture and forage, which still have their tails and ears, and that aren’t loaded up with antibiotics, chemicals, and junk foods. These pigs get to grow up with all the “pigginess” (in Joel Salatin terms) that God intended them to have.
A Red Wattle hog;
Source: Internet stock photo of a red wattle farm
For the record, we are raising two, and only need one. If any of my readers are around the Illinois area and would like to reserve the other as a whole or half, just let me know. We are happy to split with you as well, as I can always use bacon around here with 5 farm kiddos around!!
I have also been working with a new friend who has been supplying us with our raw milk when we vacation at Red Gate. She also “happens” to be probably the best contact I could ask for when it comes to getting in the draft horse loop there. She is going to be setting me up with her neighbor who raises good, solid Clydesdales that actually do real farm work rather than just shows. At this point, we are still just trying to decide if we want to buy a single or a team. In addition, she works with an Amish farmer and together, they have developed a breeding program for high-quality miniature jersey cattle. My former contact may not work out afterall. All her mini-jerseys wound up having the bovine disease BLV, which I don’t want to pass on. She wound up selling off her herd to try to work towards a BLV-free herd, but it kinda ruined my plans to buy her minis. The fact that my new friend lives only a few miles down the road (OK, more like 20) is huge bonus! At this point, it looks like we may be getting a heifer calf rather than a cow, but seeing as how I may be swimming in milk anyway with 4 goats, a calf may not be a bad thing. Good thing we’re getting hogs to help consume all that milk!!
Winter has turned Asha into a spoiled brat of a yearling donkey, so I have been working with her a lot more lately to teach her some trust and some manners. The weather is not cooperating at all, snowing again even as I type, but at least I have her used to loading in the trailer and improving in the other areas. I have decided that if the right buyer came along, I would sell her, just to reduce my load a bit. She won’t be very useful to us as a riding for the kids for several years yet, so I wouldn’t be opposed to selling her. I won’t give her away though, so if she doesn’t sell, she’ll move with us as planned.
One other task I may have to do is to shave the dogs’ bellies. None of the animals have lost any of their winter coats, as our highs are still in the 30’s most of the time. Red Gate, on the other hand, is having highs in the 70’s already. Another 3 weeks from now, and the sudden change from cold to hot may add too much stress to the girls, so I am considering shaving their bellies to buy them some time to acclimate, while still being able to make some belly-contact to the cool grass and earth at the farm.
Sorry the posts are likely going to be sparse for the next few weeks, but I will do my best. I’m sure I’ll have lots to tell you when this is all over with though!
April 9, 2013
In case you haven’t been following this blog for long, 2 of our boys are adopted. 4 year old N has cerebral palsy, and many “quirks” we could never explain. He has mild asthma, allergies, chronic nasal congestion, frequent nosebleeds, stiff muscles, and a very short attention span. He also cries at anything and everything. 4 (almost 5) year old A was likely exposed to meth in utero. He may have mild seizures (docs disagree), has major balance issues, and does not understand or learn easily. He is confused and overwhelmed by change, and will mentally “shut down” as a result. Throughout their lives, both boys have spent many months going through all sorts of therapies, medical tests, chiropractic care, and naturopathic care, all in an attempt to help them reach their full potential. Unfortunately, none of this effort has helped me learn how to “deal” with their issues, as doctors and therapists have been unable to find reasons behind their many issues, so most doctors and therapists simply explained them away with “it’s probably related to N’s CP” or “it’s probably just a symptom of the drugs we think he was exposed to.” Since the professionals couldn’t figure out the root problem, they also couldn’t advise me as to how to best handle the boys in order to keep the day-to-day peace in our home when N loses control of his actions and/or A goes into his “shut-down” or tantrum mode.
Last year, friends recommended a new therapist who had a different focus. After reading up on her works, best summarized in her book, “Miracle Children” by Anna Buck, we were intrigued. Unlike the professionals we had seen previously who focused on treating symptoms or evaluated the main areas of the brain, Anna’s work focuses on neurological issues originating in the brain stem. Essentially, the main idea behind her work is that many, if not most, neurologically-related developmental delays and learning difficulties can be attributed to a lack of proper development of the brain stem itself. The brain stem is the first part of the brain to develop, both in utero and during an infant’s first year of life. As it matures, it then signals other parts of the brain to begin maturing. On occasion, however, something will go a little wrong in the early development and prevent the brain stem from maturing completely. As a result, the child will continue to develop, but he/she will begin to compensate for deficiencies in other ways, which mask the problems. This explains why A and N are both able to ride a 2-wheel bike with no training wheels, but can’t recite their alphabet. In reality, they never fully outgrow infantile responses to circumstances (ie, the morro reflex). Eventually, however, the immaturities will catch up, and delays will be seen in areas such as academic learning problems, balance issues, behavioral issues, and many more. Although a bit different than mainstream therapy, her work is quite fascinating, and actually makes a lot of sense–especially when, like in our situation, there have been no other explanations for the issues we encounter on a daily basis.
She is booked several months out, so it has been a long wait for our appointment. This past Friday, she finally evaluated the boys to see if her therapy could help them. The results were very interesting. We get used to seeing our boys on a daily basis, so I guess it’s natural that we justify and explain behaviors and quirks as them just “being who they are.” In reality, though, watching her evaluate them, and witnessing their responses to the exercises she asked them to do, we were able to see their behaviors through new eyes. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were not watching 4-year-old boys play. Rather, we were watching 12-18 month-olds play, and they just happened to have big bodies. The more testing she did, the more clear it became.
It. Explained. SOOOOOO. Much! We realized we were seeing our toddler daughter, R, last year.
N’s constant crying and A’s temper tantrums are exactly how R acted when she didn’t get her way 8 months ago, as an 18 month old. Their inability to focus on a task or follow more than one or two instructions is where R was just a few months ago. Their lack of self-control and impulses are exactly the way a one-year-old responds to things. Our eyes were opened so much, and suddenly, puzzle pieces just “fit” together. I realized that many of my daily struggles were being self inflicted as a result of treating my 3 youngest like 2 pre-schooler and one toddler, when in actuality, I had 3 toddlers.
TRIPLETS!!! Who knew?! Somehow, this wasn’t good news to me, though. It totally explains why A, N, and R seem to speak baby-talk to each other on a regular basis, why A and N prefer playing with R’s toys over M’s and JR’s, and why they are no closer to learning phonics or counting higher than R is. They are literally on the same level, if not slightly behind in some areas, than R.
The good news is that Anna felt it was very treatable, and with specific exercises that target the brain stem, she felt N could possibly catch up within a year or two. She feels A also has a great chance of catching up, though it may take longer. There are different therapeutic exercises that will be prescribed over their time in treatment, but all can be done at home. The one we are working on first, based on their greatest ares of deficiency, is called the “Burrito.” I will post a video and explanation at the end.
Of course, there was bad news too. First, she explained how A’s inability to control his bladder during sleep can be directly attributed to the immaturity of his brain stem. She said we are likely looking at many years of bed-wetting yet, as it may be one of the last symptoms to disappear as his entire neurological system catches up. She explained that N’s allergies, asthma, and particularly his bad nosebleeds may not improve when we move (a big reason behind the kids and I moving early as a doctor thought the lower altitude and increased humidity would help), as they too may or may not be connected to his neurological development. She feels those issues have a good chance of improving as his brain matures and catches up though. Finally, probably the worst news I could have received at this point in time, was that the simple therapeutic exercises we do each evening will possibly cause things to get much worse before they get better. N fights the exercise a lot when we are actually doing the therapy, but seems unaffected otherwise. A, on the other hand, does well during the exercise itself, but has been affected quite drastically the rest of the day. Every day since we started, his entire mood has changed for the first half the day–for the worse. She warned us this might happen, because essentially, the exercises, ridiculously simple as they are, are extremely fatiguing to the brain (to put it VERY simply). The brain stem is literally being faced with its own shortfalls and trying to figure out where to improve the neurological connections (or something to that effect), and therefore, can temporarily cause all sorts of “misfiring” and behavior issues. As I type, A is once again screaming his head off in his bedroom. We have gone through phases of “shut down” where he won’t talk or play, phases of being extremely tired and just wanting to sleep, phases of aggression and acting out, and phases of almost inconsolable crying and screaming.
That is NOT what I hoped to get out of this therapy. It was hard enough to keep the peace before hand with A, and now this. It is a little overwhelming, and I can only pray that God will bring us through this stage quickly and smoothly, and give me the patience and endurance I will be needing this coming year as the boys work through all this. If it will help them in the long run, I am willing to try. Honestly, after everything we have tried so far, I am afraid to hope that such simple exercises will help them the way they need, but Anna seems confident, her research and case studies seem to support it–not to mention the fact she treats children from all over the world and does have such an incredibly long waiting list. I am trying to be positive, to not expect any major changes for at least a year (since an infant normally takes a year to mature this area of the brain stem properly), and to just take it one day at a time with A, reminding myself constantly that even though these phases are hard to deal with, he is not doing them intentionally. Again, he is simply a 12 or 18 month old acting out, just in a 5-year-old’s body. Believe it or not, somehow, that last concept makes it a little easier to deal with. These changes also show, according to Anna, that SOMETHING is happening with his brain because of these exercises, and that is a positive in itself, even if we temporarily seem to be going the wrong way. It is all a process of his brain having to figure out where it is lacking, where it has been covering up and compensating, and trying to re-develop properly this time.
In the event you are interested, the exercise we are working on now is called “Burrito”. I honestly don’t fully understand how it works for the brain, but apparently it does something to cause all sorts of nerve firings and brain stem stimulation, as the body is slowly moving and compensating for the angle and sensations it feels. First, the boys lay on a soft, stretchy blanket, with their head sticking out one side, and their feet out the other. Their arms are beside their body. I began rolling them slowly….VERY slowly…in the blanket, transitioning from their back to their belly, and then returning to their back. The whole exercise takes about 4-5 minutes. If at any point in the roll their body stiffens or otherwise “fights” with certain signals Anna told us to look for, then I stop rolling and just allow the brain to work through its issue. Once they relax again, I resume rolling. At the end of the exercise, I have to use sensations of squeezing, rubbing, and “poking” to stimulate other nerves. One day, we roll one direction, and the next day, we roll the other direction. Again, I don’t fully understand how it works, but I’m willing to try.
In this video, you’ll notice we are quiet. I cannot explain what we are doing, or the boys could begin to force what they perceive to be what I desire, rather than allowing their brain to figure it out on its own. At the same time, to minimize distractions, we try not to have the other children being too noisy or distracting. Notice that N LOVES this exercise, and is all smiles the whole time. Notice, also however, how squirmy he is, how his head is constantly moving, and how he just can’t seem to keep his arms down at times. Even when laying on his belly, his little bum keeps bouncing up. Those are all signs of his fighting whatever issues his brain stem is trying to deal with. According to Anna, the brain has to work through a lot of insecurities that have developed as a result of his learning to compensate for deficiencies in the brain stem. Sounds totally confusing, I know. Anyway, maybe that gives you some idea what you are seeing in the video.
For more information on therapist Anna Buck, or the work of Anna’s House LLC, click here.
April 4, 2013
Our long awaited, and much anticipated special order purchase has arrived!!!
Isn’t she a beauty?! Can you tell I’m a little excited?!
After finding such a great deal on a used truck, we were left with enough of a budget to custom order the exact trailer we wanted. In order to get the versatile, multi-purpose use we needed, we ordered a good, solid, steel gooseneck stock trailer. Because we planned to get draft horses after we move, it had to be tall enough for them. We opted for the 7 foot, 6 inch height (a standard stock trailer is either 5’6″ or 6′), but since that is measured at the shortest spot in the frame–where the horse enters from the rear, the actual inside height of this trailer is about 7 foot 9 inches.
The added height created such a large area in the gooseneck, we now have the option of hauling animals in there as well (which we will be doing on this upcoming trip), in addition to having plenty of room for camping or sleeping. Thus, we had them add windows for ventilation as well. You’ll also notice the standard escape door in the following photo, which gives us easy access to the front stall when necessary.
We got rubber floor mats over the wood floor, and a slider on the rear door–that came in really handy yesterday when I was trying to load 3 goats and 2 dogs into the back stall without help!! The half-slider door keeps all the other critters from escaping while I load the next one.
Of course, I had to try it out to see how my big plan worked. After spending about an hour teaching the donkeys how to load, I put both donkeys in the front stall, and they only used about 2/3 of the available space. Both dogs and 3 goats only used about 1/2 the space in the back stall. For some reason, S changed his mind about the little Alpine I was wanting for Valentine’s day, and since we have space in the trailer (and I suspect he really wants a bit more milk), he has given me permission to buy her after she freshens (any day now). I think I’m going to leave her with her kids nursing for a few weeks, since she is a first freshener, and just pick her up in time to get her health papers. I’ll let the kids do the initial work of stretching those teats out. I am also going to load the donkeys a few times over the next few weeks, and probably even take the (non-pregnant) animals for a quick drive or two to give them a decent experience on a short drive before the upcoming lengthy one. I’m hoping to make moving day, which includes loading all the critters around 4 in the morning, as smooth and easy as possible.
Both me and my critters will be riding in some genuine country style and comfort on this long haul!! In the mean time, it is nice to know that we no longer have to haul hay, straw, goats, chickens, etc. in my poor, abused minivan. We may just become real farmer yet!
April 3, 2013
Posted by redgatefarm under Animals
, Farm Life
Two weeks ago, my first freshener, Joy, delivered her doeling kid about 9 days prematurely. I believe the cause was due to being head-butted by our herd-queen, and the injury resulted in all water sacs rupturing, part of the placenta detaching, and the kid dying. The trauma, in turn, caused an early and fairly difficult delivery, as the kid wasn’t quite ready, and therefore, was not presented quite properly.
After it was all said and done, we were left with a first-time mom, and she was totally confused. She frantically cried and searched for something, but didn’t seem to know what she was looking for. Although she did manage to produce some colostrum (which we milked out and froze for future use if needed), her under-developed udder was small, and her teats were incredibly tiny and difficult to milk. She was also extremely sore, to the point she could hardly walk–both from the head-butting and the difficult delivery.
I knew that her genetics allowed for a good chance of her being a great milker–if we could get her through those first days and encourage further development of that udder. I feared that hand-milking wouldn’t quite stimulate her enough, and I wasn’t sure there was any way S could do it with his big hands. The next day, on a whim, I called a neighbor who I knew had a few week-old bottle kids, and she happened to be in need of milk. I explained my idea to her to try to graft a couple of kids onto Joy and see what would happen. It would provide milk for the kids, and natural stimulation for Joy. As a bonus, we hoped their suckling would increase her teat size and that, perhaps, she might even bond with them and consider them her own. The neighbor thought it was great idea.
That afternoon, they brought a couple kids over. Joy was less than impressed, and wanted nothing to do with them. I suspect because she has never been a mother before, she just didn’t have a clue what they were or what she was supposed to do with them. In fact, she immediately showed signs of outright aggression toward them, attempting to chase, head butt, and bite them. Nonetheless, we wanted to give it a shot. One person held Joy’s head and collar securely so she couldn’t bite the kids, another person held Joy’s back legs so she couldn’t kick the kids, and I then worked to convince the kids that they should suck on the teats. Because it was their normal feeding time, they were hungry, and after a few squirts of milk in the mouth, they quickly caught on.
Later that evening, the kids came over again, the helpers grabbed hold of Joy’s body, and with a little guidance, the kids happily drained her little udder again. Because of Joy’s tendency toward aggression, we couldn’t leave the kids with her, so the neighbor simply brought them over 3 times a day. Over the next week, all parties quickly caught on. Within a few days, Joy didn’t kick at them any longer, and seemed to even appreciate their nursing her full udder to bring relief. It just took one person to hold her to keep her from biting at their tails. The kids acted like pigs, and thoroughly drained her each time. In the early days, the owner would then offer them a little bottle after their nursing, just to make sure they got enough.
Within a week, Joy’s milk started to come in as normal, her udder began showing good development, and her teats began to lengthen. The kids began to stop nursing because they seemed satisfied, and no longer needed the additional bottle. One morning, S went out to feed and Joy was screaming for relief from her tight udder that morning. S wound up starting a new schedule, as her udder just wasn’t developed enough to hold the quantity she seemed to be producing, so to continue encouraging production, he decided to start milking her every morning, in addition to the 3 times a day nursing she got from the kids. That basically put her on a 4 hour milking routine throughout the day, and allowed about 8 hours at night, during which her udder could be stretched a bit. Everyone kept up this schedule pretty religiously. Within a week, it seemed that Joy was producing about 2-3 cups per milking, meaning a possible production of around 1/2 gallon a day at 10 days post-freshening.
I returned from my trip and took over most of the milking duties (S was all too happy to hand them off!!). It was fun to watch the kids nurse. As milking time neared, Joy stood at the fence looking at their barn across the road, and crying pitifully for them. As soon as she saw them coming, she eagerly ran to them and stood patiently, even without being held, as they latched on and started to nurse. It was clear she had learned the routine. She doesn’t appear to have the outright aggression as in the beginning. Now, it almost seems that she is still confused, possibly thinking she should clean their tails, but instead gets carried away and bites down on them. To be safe (they aren’t my goats after all!), we just hold her head so she can’t turn around.
Faith dried herself up while I was gone (she is due to kid in June), Latte has rapidly decreased in her production over the last week (she is due to kid in just 4 more weeks), and we need Joy’s milk. Certainly, we likely could have gotten milk with a normal twice a day milking routine from the beginning. However, there were a number of factors involved in our decision to do this. Our move is coming up, the stress of which could easily reduce her milk supply, plus over the next 8 weeks or so, I expect her production to only increase. I don’t want to risk going too long between milkings in her case, as I don’t want the additional pressure of stored milk to cause her to slack in production at all until we get moved and she settles in. Because Joy’s udder now seems to be developing normally for a first-freshener, we have backed off to 3 milkings a day, spaced at 8 hour intervals. S milks at 6 in the morning, before he heads off to work, then I milk at 2 and 10 p.m.
If I had to do it all over again, I would try to bring the kids over while she was still laboring, rub them in the birthing fluids and tissues, and allow her to lick them clean. I think she would have, and I think it would have greatly increased the chances of her accepting them as her own. With her being a first-timer, waiting the 24 hours like we did just increased the difficulties and her confusion as to what was expected of her. Nonetheless, I am so thankful it did work out like it has. Milking those little teats multiple times a day would have been a nightmare, and I am not confident her udder would have developed as well as it has without the kids to help. At this point, I don’t see any reason why she won’t be just another part of our twice-daily milking line come summer.
April 2, 2013
After the bad week we had two weeks ago, I finally left for the farm, and things got better while I was away. Thanks to some borrowed baby goats and a lot of effort by S, Joy’s milk came in, and none too soon. When I left, Latte was still giving over a quart a day, but was clearly starting to dry herself off. Upon my return yesterday, she is now producing about a cup and a half a day. I’ll do another post later on what we did with Joy and why.
S seemed to have a much more relaxing week this year, hence the reason he never felt inclined to post on it. Other than having to work a few days, he also ensured the septic issue was resolved, replaced all the fencing, took care of the appointment for getting our hens tested for interstate travel, and finished up the kids’ swimming lessons. Additionally, he made a rule that he and the kids would do something really fun every day, and just enjoy their time together. Here’s a few:
Fun thing #1: Build a Piñata
Everyone was involved in the piñata making.
What is it gonna be?
A Pig Piñata!
Fun thing #2: Jumping on Mommy and Daddy’s bed?! That is such a no-no, I can’t believe he actually took a photo that I can now use against him!!
…and what on earth did Daddy do to cause her curls to explode like that?!
A dear friend babysitting so S could go to work one day….she helped the kids make this sign and they e-mailed it to me. Too sweet!
Easter egg hunt. To reduce the candy consumption, S filled the eggs with coins, little toys, and I.O.U.s for things like bubbles, silly string, and other miscellaneous items.
In addition, here are a couple videos of their activities:
During my time alone at Red Gate Farm, things started out a little rough. I arrived in IL with spring clothing, expecting to work outside. The day after, we were hit with 12 inches of snow. I had no parka, no snow boots, no wool socks, nothing. I also hadn’t had a chance to go to the store for supplies yet, so I had no paint or anything for indoor projects. After digging through all S’s stored items, I managed to find a few pairs of winter socks, of which I wore multiples to make an old pair of his triple wide boots sort of stay on my little feet, and I found an old military parka. Thankfully, I had taken a good pair of wool-lined work gloves. Thus was the start of my week.
As the snow melted though, things improved. I managed to get the master bedroom painted, as well as part of the main entry way; I got the carpet and HVAC ducts professionally cleaned; I got 4 raised beds built and fully set up for our square foot gardening plan; I got the 4-beds worth of seeds planted, in the hopes something will grow over the next month. We’ll see. In addition, I got more preparations done for the trailer parking area, so it is ready to lay on gravel, and I got the barn stalls totally cleaned up and filled with shavings. There were also some miscellaneous small projects and cleaning I took care of. With all the activity, I think I cut my insulin needs in half last week! Thankfully, I had time in the evenings to sit, relax, and read, and let my blood sugars stabilize before going to bed each evening.
Since my return, I have been informed that Daddy bought candy (a real treat because I’m usually the one who gets in trouble for that, while Daddy is usually the bad guy when it comes to sweets!), and Daddy makes better smoothies than me. They did very much enjoy their time, though, and that is such a blessing. I love knowing that I am blessed with a husband who is perfectly capable and trustworthy to take care of all our responsibilities in my absence, and I have no reason for any concern regarding his capabilities.