Meet the Orphan Twins

After last night’s terrible events, we’re left with twin orphan goat kids that must be cared for. They are barely two weeks old, and were fortunately in very good health at the time their mother died. Unfortunately, neither one of them was able to figure out how to drink from a bottle yesterday. They were clearly hungry, but when the nipple was put in their mouths they just tried to chew on it. We got barely three ounces into them at the time we discovered their mother was dead (early evening), and kids this age need about a quart of milk each per day just to survive.

Late last night, Mrs Yeoman Farmer and I went out to give it another try. They still wouldn’t feed from the bottle, so MYF got an idea: let’s try pouring some milk into a bowl. That proved to be the ticket. Kids this age supposedly can’t be trained to drink from a bowl (supposedly, only newborns can), but these two went right at it. MYF held the bowl about a foot off the ground, and I guided the female kid’s head into it. After a couple of tentitive laps, she started sucking the milk down with gusto. Ditto for her twin brother. By the time we refilled the bowl, we didn’t need to guide either kid — both of them started sucking down milk at the same time.

We just got back from feeding them again this morning; we’ll need to do this three times a day until they’re three weeks old…at which time we can cut back to twice a day. They both went right at it again, and we decided for the next feeding we’ll just leave the milk in the large pan after we warm it up. Between the two of them, they took nearly a quart this morning. Which is great, but we’re only getting three quarts a day total from the other two goats we’re milking. If we’re going to keep any for the Yeoman Farm Children (which is, after all, the whole point of having dairy goats), we’re going to need to buy some goat milk replacer soon. For now, though, we’re glad we’re getting so much milk into these kids while they’re still healthy and strong. Once they start going downhill and get weakened, it’s really hard to bring them back.

Here’s the female:

And her brother:

We hadn’t planned on keeping this female (most of Marigold’s other kids have been lousy), but it now looks like we’ll need her as a replacement milker. So…we need a name. Soon. We’re open to suggestions, but it needs to be based on a flower.

Awful. Just Awful

There’s no other word to describe what we just found in the goat barn. Went out to do the evening chores, and was taking hay to the goats, when I discovered one of our best milkers was dead. She had twins who were both thriving (but are so little, they’re now going to need to be bottle-fed)…this kind of tragedy of course never happens to the goats whose kids die early. Only to the ones with kids that’ll need to be bottle-fed.

The goat’s name was Marigold. She was among the first goats born to us, when we first got into this, and she moved with us in the “Noah’s Ark on Wheels” from Illinois.

Here is what seems to have happened: she was in the kidding pen with her kids (like I said, they’re still quite young), and she stuck her head through the cattle panel that separates the kidding pen from the “general population” goat area. Not sure if she was after more hay, or what. But here’s the thing: she did NOT get her horns stuck in the fence. She wedged a horizonal piece of the cattle panel against her throat, and then somehow managed to tuck the end of her muzzle back into in a square of the metal panel that was below the one up against her throat. She suffocated to death. Not sure if that makes sense, but I was too sickened by the scene to take a picture that would clarify it. And the whole thing took us a while to figure out, ourselves. The worst part is it made no sense, why she would tuck her muzzle back through the fence. She was wedged so tightly, I had to use bolt cutters to cut the panel. It’d be one thing if she’d caught her horns. This is totally senseless.

When I cut her free and her body collapsed on the floor, all the dead air that’d been trapped in her lungs came out. It was one of the most horrible things I’ve ever smelled.

She’d been dead for awhile, and I’m kicking myself for not having checked on the goats more today. But I got busy with work…and all kinds of other things. Maybe if I’d gone more often to give them hay? Maybe if…maybe if…maybe if.

Such is farm life. Great joys. Great sorrows. Great miracles. Great tragedies.

I’m sorry, but I’m just too upset to write any more about this.

Wither Detroit?

A theme we’ve discussed on this blog before, restoring swaths of Detroit to farmland, is resurfacing in the news again.

Detroit, the very symbol of American industrial might for most of the 20th century, is drawing up a radical renewal plan that calls for turning large swaths of this now-blighted, rusted-out city back into the fields and farmland that existed before the automobile.

Operating on a scale never before attempted in this country, the city would demolish houses in some of the most desolate sections of Detroit and move residents into stronger neighborhoods. Roughly a quarter of the 139-square-mile city could go from urban to semi-rural.

Near downtown, fruit trees and vegetable farms would replace neighborhoods that are an eerie landscape of empty buildings and vacant lots. Suburban commuters heading into the city center might pass through what looks like the countryside to get there. Surviving neighborhoods in the birthplace of the auto industry would become pockets in expanses of green.

Detroit officials first raised the idea in the 1990s, when blight was spreading. Now, with the recession plunging the city deeper into ruin, a decision on how to move forward is approaching. Mayor Dave Bing, who took office last year, is expected to unveil some details in his state-of-the-city address this month.

“Things that were unthinkable are now becoming thinkable,” said James W. Hughes, dean of the School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, who is among the urban experts watching the experiment with interest. “There is now a realization that past glories are never going to be recaptured. Some people probably don’t accept that, but that is the reality.

I intended to discuss this subject more last fall, after putting up my initial post. However, very soon after that post, our family found itself in the frenzy of final preparations for Yeoman Farm Baby’s birth and adoption. Mrs. Yeoman Farmer and I did discuss the “farm Detroit” idea back then, after my post (and I received insightful emails from some readers), and came to an unfortunate conclusion: as attractive (even romantic) as returning Detroit to farmland sounds, there are some extremely big problems with it in practice. Number one, which is prohibitive for us, is even bigger than the threat of losing livestock to drive-by shootings: it’s the condition of the urban soil. Quite simply, we can’t know everything that’s accumulated in the Detroit soil over the last hundred years — but you can bet that most of it isn’t good, and most of it goes very deep.

Think of all the automotive emissions (including from leaded gasoline), industrial pollutants, spilled heating oil, runoff from parking lots and building roofs … and that’s just a start. Any forages you plant for livestock grazing, or vegetables you grow for human consumption, will likely draw all kinds of nasty stuff up through their roots. And this can’t be remedied by adding new layer of top soil; nearly every kind of plant that farmers grow sends roots many feet into the ground. Or does someone out there know a way to do urban soil remediation without spending a fortune?

So…what could a farmer do with Detroit soil? Maybe plant a Christmas tree farm, as one reader suggested. It’s hard to think of any other crop that would be purely decorative. One might be able to plant trees for firewood, but even then I wonder what would be released into the air when one burns those trees.
Any other suggestions?

Different Kind of Crime

I was the victim of a crime yesterday, but of an odd sort. It wasn’t something I could report to the police, and I couldn’t identify a specific perpetrator. My losses could have been substantial, but I fortunately managed to avoid the worst outcome.

My computer was infected by a particularly nasty worm that masquerades as an anti-virus program. I have no idea how it managed to elude my real internet security software, but it got disabled during the attack. The rogue software appeared to be running a scan of my system, and it turned up 30+ “infected files” that had all kinds of scary-sounding things wrong with them. But here’s the scariest thing: the scan and its results looked exactly like the real Vista security center. It was even called “Vista Internet Security,” and indicated I had a trial subscription (which covered the initial scan), and said I needed to purchase a full subscription to clean up the infected files. Heck, computers come pre-loaded with so many pieces of trial software, this sounded entirely plausible. And, as I said, the scan results looked exactly like an actual Microsoft window.

The thing basically took over my internet connection. Every time I tried to launch a browser, the window filled with an official-looking warning that the browser was infected and that unless I took care of the infection my computer was vulnerable to attacks. In actuality, it turns out that the worm had simply changed/redirected my default home page in Internet Explorer. And my address window disappeared, so I couldn’t simply select another website. The only option I could select was to purchase a full subscription to “Vista Internet Security.” When I clicked thru to that site, it looked very much like an actual product, complete with magazine reviews and customer testimonials.

With my credit card in hand, and on the verge of paying sixty bucks for a year’s subscription, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to browse the web and get an independent review of this product. Fortunately, I could still access the web through the browser built into my AOL software. And, even more fortunately, when I searched on “Vista Internet Security” I immediately found a long list of sites warning that this is a nasty worm and a total scam.

But removing the rogue software from my computer was another challenge. From the other sites, I learned that there is a file called “av.exe” that’s responsible. I found it, and tried deleting it, but couldn’t do so because it was running. So I went to Task Manager, ended the process, and then deleted the av.exe file.

This was a huge mistake. I should’ve followed the instructions on some of these other sites, and tried to edit the Windows registry first. It turned out that the av.exe file had so embedded itself into my registry, it was like a brain tumor. When I knocked it out, it completely corrupted my registry. I couldn’t start any of my installed software! And I couldn’t even launch the system tools that enabled me to do a “system restore” back to a registry I knew to be good.

For over an hour, I was in a panic. I’d been finishing up a huge project for a client, and still had work to do last night. I was facing the prospect of having to somehow get the files off my desktop computer and onto a laptop, and finishing things up there — but who knows how long it would take to get my computer repaired at a shop.

I tried launching the computer in Safe Mode, but still could not access the system restore utility in the normal way. Finally, by launching with Safe Mode Command Prompt, and by studying the help menus on my laptop to get the name of the executable file for System Restore, I was able to get into the utility I needed. I went back to a registry from two days ago. Fifteen minutes later, my computer was functioning perfectly. My first move was to update all virus definitions and check all settings on my Norton software, then do a full scan for any traces of “av.exe”.

Why do I bring all this up? In part to give a warning to my readers: Do not fall for this scam! I consider myself to be fairly computer savvy, and this thing had me almost completely fooled.

But I also wanted to share a couple of quick reflections on crime. Yesterday, separating me from sixty bucks for a fake anti-virus subscription was probably the primary goal of whomever designed this worm. I didn’t pay it, but the attempt on money is really the least of the evil done to me yesterday. For an hour and a half, I was in a state of utter anxiety. I depend on this computer for my livelihood. It is my number one tool, and allows me to support my family. Yes, I have an old desktop computer, and a laptop, as backups in a pinch. And I have Carbonite and backups on an external hard drive to protect my files. But this computer I’m typing on now is the nerve center of my professional life. When this computer doesn’t work, I can’t think about anything else until it’s fixed. Dinner was late last night because of this issue. And I was still so upset by what I’d gone through, I couldn’t eat more than a few bites. The kids lost their opportunity to spend time with me after dinner. My client didn’t get the last of his project delivered until 10:30.

What I’m trying to say is that the smallest part of the criminal attack I suffered yesterday was the sixty bucks these guys were after. A criminal does far more damage in stealing a person’s life from him. And a person’s trust in others. And a person’s peace of mind about the world. This thing looked like a genuine anti-virus program, which is supposed to protect me. It turned out to be like a rogue gang that uses police lights to get motorists to pull over, so they can take advantage of people. These are among the very worst kinds of criminals, because they steal more than just money. They steal the trust that we ought to have in those who are trying to do good and keep order.

I worried enough about my computer before…now I’m going to be even more anxious. I was very nearly without my computer for the next few days, right at a time when I’m awash in requests from clients. Mrs. Yeoman Farmer had to hold down the fort yesterday evening, when she really needed a break. Homeschooled Farm Girl threw a pessimistic fit when she saw how upset I was at not being able to fix the problem. And none of the Yeoman Farm Children can have back the hour they didn’t get to spend with me last night.

This reminded me of the only other time we’ve been the victims of crime. Several years ago, a local farmer collected eggs and produce from several of us and took everything to a big farmers market in Chicago. We gave him a percentage of the sales for his trouble, and it was a nice arrangement for everyone. And it gave us a nice outlet for our eggs. Anyway, one week he was packing up…and turned around to discover someone had swiped the cash box. None of us got paid that week. Yes, I was upset about the money. But what made me even more angry was that the thief had taken our work from us. I’d carefully inspected and washed every egg, making sure everything was perfect for our customers. The other farmers had taken similar care in preparing their produce. The young man who manned the booth lost not only his produce and his money, but the whole day he’d spent going to and from the market. Not to get too philosophical, but in carrying out our work, we’d poured ourselves into what we’d sent to market. As John Paul II said, about the nature of work and its relation to the person who carries it out:

And so this “dominion” spoken of in the biblical text being meditated upon here refers not only to the objective dimension of work, but at the same time introduces us to an understanding of its subjective dimension. Understood as a process whereby man and the human race subdue the earth, work corresponds to this basic biblical concept only when throughout the process man manifests himself and confirms himself as the one who “dominates.” This dominion, in a certain sense, refers to the subjective dimension even more than to the objective one: This dimension conditions the very ethical nature of work. In fact there is no doubt that human work has an ethical value of its own, which clearly and directly remains linked to the fact that the one who carries it out is a person, a conscious and free subject, that is to say, a subject that decides about himself.

And some thief simply swiped it like it was nothing. It was a deep and troubling sense of betrayal, and greatly undermined my trust in others.

Anyway, speaking of work, I’d better get back to what I need to do and not let this criminal take any more of my time. Be on the lookout for this nasty scam! And if it does infect your computer, follow the right directions for removing it. (Use task manager to disable the av.exe process, and that should allow you to browse the web again so you can find a site with good instructions.) Things could have gone much worse for us last night than they did; hopefully the rest of you can be spared our experience entirely.

More Illegal Milk

Another great piece out today about the growing demand for “real” milk:

Once a Fringe Item, Demand Grows for Raw Milk – AOL News

Meeting shady characters in Brooklyn back alleys does not immediately suggest “milk.” But that’s exactly what Hannah Springer and group of unpasteurized “raw” milk devotees are doing to get their daily dairy fix, Gothamist reported this week. It’s their way of getting around New York state’s restrictions on the sale of raw milk — and they aren’t the only ones bending laws to get closer to the cow.In recent years, the consumption of unpasteurized milk has been rapidly expanding along with the market for organic, local foods.

When the Weston A. Price Foundation began its Real Milk campaign in 1999, there were only a handful of people selling raw milk – now there are hundreds, and president Sally Fallon Morell believes that is expanding.

Speaking of raw milk, I wanted to add something to a comment that one of my readers posted yesterday. She noted (correctly) that goat milk is about as close to human milk as we can get from livestock, and said that when in a pinch she has fed raw goat milk directly to her babies. With the adoption of Yeoman Farm Baby, Mrs. Yeoman Farmer and I had to do a lot of new thinking and research about how to feed babies; all of the other YFCs had been exclusively breast-fed. (The one time I’d had to purchase baby formula, I’d felt a little like I was buying cigarettes or something.) We eventually settled on one particular forumla that will work for YFB, and he’s done very well on it.

All that is a lead-up to my main point: MYF and I would be comfortable giving raw goat milk to YFB if there was a snowstorm and we could not get out to the Whole Foods 45 minutes away that sells our usual formula. HOWEVER, we would only do so in a pinch, and not on a regular basis. Goat milk, as good as it is, lacks some essential nutrients that babies need. But if you’re interested in making your own baby formula, using goat milk as the base, the Weston A. Price Foundation has some excellent recipes. We eventually decided against using these because of the “time and hassle” factor, and because our goats were not in milk with YFB arrived.

That said, if the Whole Foods formula hadn’t worked out, I’m sure we’d have pursued the WAPF formula more seriously.

Illegal Milk

We now have a couple of dairy goats who are hitting their stride in milk production. We’ve had several of them kid over the last several weeks, and activity here on the farm has been such a blur that I haven’t been able to post about them individually.

The last one we described in detail, Holly’s kid, is doing extremely well. We’re not milking Holly yet. We are milking Button (mentioned in that post), and getting some decent production from her now that her twins are again separated from her.

Unfortunately, we had three additional kiddings that ended in disaster: Pansy, Violet, and Queen Anne’s Lace all delivered kids over the last few weeks, and all those kids died. With QAL, the problem was a teat that got blocked up with colostrum that we didn’t discover until the kids were half-starving. One died during her first night, and the other died during the second night (after we took him in the house and tried “rescue feeding” him with colostrum down the throat with a tube). With Pansy and Violet, we think the problem was in-breeding. They themselves are fairly in-bred, and they got bred back to their sire last fall. One kid was born dead, another was rejected immediately at birth (and didn’t last more than a few hours in the house), and another dropped dead from some other unexplained cause.

We didn’t really need these kids, but it’s always sad to see animals die. The upside, we thought, was we now had two goats in milk and we could take all of it. Unfortunately, both does have very small teats and proved to be extremely difficult for the Yeoman Farm Children to milk. After struggling for a week to get even a cup and a half per day from the two of them, we decided to let them dry up and hope the teats elongate on subsequent kiddings (as has happened with other does on our farm).

Queen Anne’s Lace, by contrast, has teats the size of sausages and is very easy to milk. Losing her twin kids turned out to be a blessing, as we’re able to take all the milk from an easy milker.

A couple of days ago, the last of our does (Marigold) also kidded; both of her twins are alive and well so far, so it’ll be awhile before we’ll be milking her.

Still, with all the milk we’re getting from QAL and Button, Mrs Yeoman Farmer is back making cheese with a vengeance. I’m also enjoying raw milk every morning with my cereal. And with raw milk very much on my mind, the following story caught my attention today:

It was creamy, but not as thick as heavy cream, with a buttery flavor that coated the tongue and left circles around the inside of my glass. This was sweet milk times two, warm white in color with a hint of yellow — my first taste of raw milk from a farm in upstate New York.

When I cracked open the plastic container that looked exactly like the half gallons I get from my usual grocery store, I pressed my nose to the edge to get a whiff. This milk didn’t have that cabbage-like smell that pasteurized milk can have, even when it’s a perfectly fresh carton. I couldn’t help but take another “black market” sip, since the sale of raw milk is illegal in New York State.

I ended the excerpt there, because the author goes on the repeat a lot of the typical nonsense claptrap FDA/USDA agitprop about the virtues-of-pasteurization-because-science-doesn’t-prove-the-benefits-of-raw-milk-outweigh-the-risks. (Though I must admit her article as a whole is much more balanced in detailing the virtues of raw milk than what’s typical in the mainstream press.) For those interested in more about the scientific case for raw milk as healthy food, and why it should be more widely available, there’s perhaps no better source than the Weston A. Price Foundation; this link will take you to a search result for all “raw milk” articles on their site.

We love our raw milk. Too bad it’s illegal to purchase on the open market in so many places (including our state), and the only way to get some is to own your own dairy animal.