Monday, December 30, 2013

Did you know....?

Goats were once used as companions for horses: Although it is no longer recommended, goats were once used as close companions for racehorses. Horse trainers believed goats had a calming effect on the horses, which would help the horses prepare for a big race. Likewise, the term “Get your goat” is thought to have originated from the practice of stealing a companion goat of another horse so as to liken your chances of doing well in the race.

“Did you know” will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: Eat Move Sleep

If you want to improve your health, exercise more, and eat better, but you're not sure where to start, then Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath is the book for you. If you think that you are doomed to a short, unhealthy life because "everyone" in your family has metabolic diseases, then you really need to read this book.

No one has lost the genetic lottery in a bigger way than Tom Rath! At the age of 16 he learned that he was born with a rare genetic disorder -- as in 1 in 4.4 million people -- that meant his body did not have the usual ability to stop tumor growth. So, at any given time he knows that he has multiple tumors growing in his body. How has he not died from cancer yet? In addition to having regular scans and having tumors removed before they get too big, he also has a very healthy lifestyle and keeps abreast of all the latest research on cancer, diet, exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle choices.

Rath is a best-selling author of business books but he decided to devote his time to sharing his personal health research with the world after losing several friends to preventable diseases. In addition to the book, he also has a website where you can develop your own healthy lifestyle plan.

Although the book is available in various forms, I would recommend either the hardcover or the ebook. I purchased the audiobook, and at first it seemed really disorganized and disjointed. Then I did the "look inside the book" on Amazon and realized that the book is written in 30 "chapters," so that you can read one per day and easily cover the whole book in one month. Each chapter has a couple of pages on food, then a couple on exercise, and a couple more on sleep. At the end of each chapter are challenges on which you can focus for that day.

Had I purchased Eat Move Sleep as a book to read, rather than an audiobook, I would have read one chapter per day, but with audiobooks, I just plow right through them as I'm going about my day, so I probably did not absorb as much information as I would have if I had actually read a chapter a day. However, it is a fairly short book, and I can see myself listening to it again.

Rath filled Eat Move Sleep with tons of research on the various lifestyle choices that we all make, as well as suggestions for incorporating that research into our own lives. If you have read other books on healthier lifestyles, this makes a great booster shot to remind you of all the little things that make a difference in your health. And if you are just dipping your toe in the water of healthier living, this is a great book to get you started on that lifestyle. The super short chapters make Eat Move Sleep a very easy book to read.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

We're taking the day off from blogging!

Here's hoping you're having a beautiful day with friends and loved ones! See you on Friday!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Did you know....?

Goats don't actually eat tin cans: Probably the most well-known myth about goats is that they will eat tin cans. And while this is an entertaining fable to relate to a goat’s desire to “test” just about everything, they are not actually capable of eating a tin can. Because they don’t have front top teeth, it makes it hard for them to get a bite off a can and their four-compartment digestive system won’t allow them to re-chew it during the ruminating process. However, goats are notorious for testing just about anything in their mouth! Clothes, plastic bags, mail, newspapers, and labels off tin cans…..but not tin!

“Did you know” will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: The Log Book

Who knew that anyone could write more than 100 pages about heating your home with wood? Well, that's exactly what Will Rolls did in the second edition of The Log Book: Getting the Best From Your Woodburning Stove. He is a forester who specializes in using wood as fuel.

This book contains everything you ever wanted to know about combustion, the science of burning, buying a wood stove, maintenance, and buying or producing your own fuel (a.k.a. wood). It is worth noting that the author is British, and the book was originally published in Britain, so there are some British spellings ("draught" instead of "draft") and UK websites are listed as a source of more information. However, the book is still a wealth of information for people who live in other areas.

For example, ash is ash, regardless of whether you're in in Europe or North America or the North Pole. Rolls gives you tips on removing ash from the stove, using it in your compost pile, using it for pest control, and using it as a household cleaner. Even his information on buying a stove can transcend the ocean because he give specific details about stoves -- size, rated heat output, primary and secondary sources of air, pre-heating, air-wash, boilers, direct air ventilation, and more -- rather than making brand recommendations.

Even though the UK websites won't be useful to me in Illinois, they have given me loads of ideas about what I might be able to find online. It had not occurred to me to look online to find a chimney sweep or that there would be a National Chimney Sweep Guild, as well as more regional associations in various states. The NCSG has a directory online where you can find certified professionals near you.

Since we have a woodburning stove in our basement as a secondary source of heat, I am very happy to have this book in my library now!

Disclosure: Chelsea Green Publishing provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

M-worm: A nightmare for goat, sheep, and camelid owners

Over the past dozen growing seasons on our farm in Illinois, I've come to truly appreciate the first few freezes in the fall because I know it means that problems with internal parasites in our animals will soon be winding down. A good freeze can dramatically reduce the number of viable larvae on the pasture, so problems like barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) become a non-problem until spring when the pastures thaw.

However, fall is the time when goat, sheep and camelid owners start to see problems with meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis). Unlike intestinal worms, which go to work in an animal's stomach or intestines as soon as it is ingested by the animal, the meningeal worm takes awhile to reach its destination, which is the spinal cord or brain. Sometimes called deer worm or m-worm, its usual host is the white tail deer, and it doesn't really bother the deer much. However, it wreaks havoc in aberrant hosts, such as goats, sheep, and camelids (llamas and alpacas), as well as wild animals, including other deer species and even elk, moose, caribou, and antelope. Because it can take a couple of months to reach the spinal column or brain, most cases of m-worm are seen in the fall or early winter, even though the animal actually ingested the larvae in the summer. Why are animals usually infected in summer?

Intermediary host

You may be familiar with tapeworms, which require an intermediate host to infect an animal. Tapeworms infect dogs via fleas. The goat species of tapeworm infects them through a pasture mite. The m-worm also needs an intermediate host, which is a snail or slug. The deer poops on the pasture, and the snail or slug crawls over the poop, which contains m-worm eggs, which are absorbed into the snail or slug and will remain in that little critter for the rest of its life. When the snail or slug is hanging out on a blade of grass or a leaf and is accidentally eaten by a goat or llama, the eater will then be infected by the worm. Some researchers also say that snails and slugs will shed eggs in their slime trail.

Aberrant hosts

If you're familiar with the concept of rotational grazing with mixed species, you may be wondering why a deer worm is able to infect other species. Most parasites are species specific, which is why using different animals for grazing the same pasture usually "cleans up" the pasture. If a cow or pig eats larvae of a worm that infects goats, that larvae simply dies in the intestines of the cow or pig because it's a foreign environment for the parasite. It would be like a human trying to live on Mars. We can't do it. In most cases, the m-worm can't survive in an aberrant host either. Goats and sheep tend to be highly resistant. Llamas and alpacas are less resistant, so m-worm infection is more common with them.


Our llama, Katy, could not lift her back end.
This fall we had the misfortune of having two goats and a llama infected with m-worm. All of them had different symptoms, which is not uncommon. A week before Thanksgiving we found a goat lying in the middle of a snowy pasture one morning. Other than being unable to stand (and having hypothermia initially) it didn't appear that there was anything wrong with her. She had a great appetite and was her usual cheerful self. We assumed she had suffered some type of spinal cord injury because lameness was her only symptom. A week later, there was a llama that was down in the pasture, but she had no appetite and didn't even want to drink. Once we lifted her to her feet, she was able to walk some, but she kept crossing her hind legs. Five days later, we found a second goat down. When we lifted her, she could stand as long as she was leaning against something. She completely ignored food and water and was twisting her head to her right side. When she tried to take a few steps, she would move in a circle before falling down, which is a classic symptom of listeriosis. We initially thought she was blind because she had a blank stare, but her eyes did respond to us flicking our fingers at them. The eyeballs also quivered from side to side, which is called nystagmus.


M-worm is usually diagnosed based upon symptoms, although they can be very similar to other diseases and conditions, such as listeriosis and a spinal cord injury, as already mentioned. Other conditions that have similar symptoms are thiamine deficiency, goat polio, copper deficiency, foot rot, scrapie, and rabies. A spinal tap can sometimes help with diagnosis. Spinal fluid is normally crystal clear, so if you can't read through a vial of the spinal fluid, it means something is wrong. If an analysis of the fluid reveals the presence of eosinophils, m-worm is likely the culprit. A definitive diagnosis can be made on necropsy.

Prognosis and treatment

Windy kept her body twisted to her right side and
held her head crooked for a couple weeks following treatment.
Early diagnosis and treatment provides the best hope for survival of an infected animal. Because the worm is damaging the host's spinal column and brain, the longer it lives, the more damage it does. Even one m-worm can eventually kill an animal simply because of where it is located, unlike intestinal worms, which may number in the millions. Intestinal worms either consume the food in the animal's digestive system or they attach themselves to the lining of the animal's stomach and drink its blood, so if you can simply kill the worms, the animal can usually recover. Repairing spinal cord damage or brain damage, however, is much more challenging and sometimes impossible. Recovery rates can be as low as 10-20%, especially when treatment is started too late or when an animal is already down.

Treatment consists of giving both fenbendazole and ivermectin for five days to kill the worms. In addition to giving the dewormers at unusually high doses, the animal must also be treated for inflammation that will occur when the worms start to die. A long list of side effects and reactions, such as seizures, can occur during treatment, which is why it would be challenging to treat at home. Once they began treating our llama, she needed additional treatment to deal with high blood sugar and ketones in her urine. Her paralysis actually got worse, and she was unable to urinate or defecate on her own for more than a week, so the vet put in a urinary catheter, and feces had to be manually removed.

If an animal is paralyzed, it is important to have them on deeply bedded straw and change their position regularly to avoid urine scald and skin damage from pressure. It is better to have them propped up on their belly with legs tucked underneath rather than laying on their side with legs straight out.


A vaccine for meningeal worm does not currently exist. Because m-worm is so difficult to treat, prevention is important. Remember it takes both the deer and snails or slugs to complete the worm's life cycle and infect a goat, sheep, or camelid. People had asked me in the past if I was worried about m-worm infecting my goats that grazed around our pond. However, in almost twelve years, we've never had a problem. Why? It could be because chickens, geese, turkeys, and ducks forage around our pond, so snails and slugs probably don't have a chance to become abundant. However, because our pond is quite literally in our backyard, deer stay away. Livestock guardian dogs may also help keep deer away. I know our dogs go nuts barking long before I even notice deer far off in the distance.

Some llama and alpaca breeders give a dewormer (either fenbendazole or ivermectin) monthly during the summer when snails and slugs are more prevalent, but this is a losing proposition with goats and sheep. Giving a dewormer every month will results in the barber pole worm becoming resistant to those dewormers, and they are a much greater risk to small ruminant health than m-worm. Thousands of goats and sheep now die every year from intestinal worms because of dewormer resistance.

It is unusual to hear about a herd that has more than one animal infected with m-worm. So, how did we wind up with three? The two goats that were infected were full sisters, leading me to believe that just as with other worms, there is a genetic predisposition to worm resistance. Other goats that were in that area did not get infected, including old goats that were retired and theoretically should have had lower resistance. The animals that were infected had all spent a lot of time in a wooded area frequented by deer and usually avoided by humans and dogs.

My first reaction was that we would never put goats back there again. But after thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I've decided that we will put bucks in that area. Because most goats are resistant to m-worm, it only makes sense to use bucks that are resistant so that they will hopefully pass on those genetics to their kids.

If you live in an area that has an abundance of deer that get into your pasture, you may want to consider deer-proof fencing, which is either 8-foot tall fencing, or a double fence, which is perimeter fence that is a few feet away from the other fence. Because deer need a running start to jump a fence, they can't jump into your pasture if they first jump another fence that simply lands them in a small lane of fencing. The only way they can get out of that lane is to run to the end and jump out and away from your pasture.

Because goats, sheep, and camelids are a dead-end host for the m-worm, you don't have to worry about them giving it to other animals in your herd or flock. The worm does not reproduce in these animals, and because it is not living in the digestive tract, it would not be leaving eggs in the feces, even if it did try to reproduce.

Unlike intestinal worms that are destroyed by freezing, larvae from meningeal worms don't seem to be bothered by cold temperatures. In one experiment, larvae survived on lettuce leaves at -4 degrees Fahrenheit for seven days! That's when the experiment ended, but since most of us don't live somewhere that stays that cold for a week, it would have been pointless to continue. The simple fact is that we can't count on winter to destroy the m-worm larvae that is on the pasture.

If you would like to learn more about m-worm, check out this article.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Did you know...?

Goats don't actually faint: While numerous people have seen the goat breed called “Fainting Goats,” many are unaware that this is actually a genetic mutation or condition. It’s called congenital myotonia, and it’s a temporary paralysis of the muscles in a goat that occurs when it panics or is frightened. The animals are unharmed during the “fainting” process, which is why many have rebred goats with this condition to get whole herds of them, called Fainting Goats. Like humans, goats learn to cope with this disorder and have actually learned to brace themselves during one of these episodes to prevent themselves from falling.

“Did you know” will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fun with bread!

Whether you've made lots of bread in the past or are completely new, you can create some lovely loaves this holiday season. Don't be shy about doing something creative. You can make a braided loaf of bread by rolling out three long skinny ropes and then laying on the counter and braiding just as you would braid a person's hair. The braid in the picture above was actually my very first attempt several years ago. Of course, I noticed the fact that one end was bigger than the other, but our dinner guests simply raved about how pretty it was.

Here is a simple French bread recipe that you can use to make baguettes, rolls, or a braid like the one in the picture.

3 cups warm water (bath temperature)
2 tablespoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt
6-7 cups of unbleached flour

Mix all the above ingredients together. (If using a mixer, be sure to use your dough hook).

Start with just 6 cups of flour and add additional flour a 1/4 cup at a time, if the dough is still sticky.

Cover your bowl with waxed paper or a damp towel and let the dough rise for between 45 and 90 minutes until it has doubled in size.

Separate your dough. If you're making regular loaves, this will make two or three, so cut into thirds and shape into a ball, a baguette, or skinny ropes to make braids, etc.

After braiding or placing on a baking stone or pan, bake at 400 degrees F for 20-35 minutes, depending on the thickness of the loaves. A skinny little baguette will only take 15 minutes, whereas a larger ball will take 35 minutes. Keep an eye on the how brown the bread is and check for doneness when it looks nicely browned. You can tap the bottom of the bread to see if it sounds "hollow," or you can stick a thermometer in the loaf, and if it reads 200 or more, it's done!

* This recipe makes three standard sized loaves of 16 slices each. 1 serving here equals one slice of bread.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The London Dispatches - Goats At Work

By Cadence Woodland

London is highly metropolitan – but over and over again since moving here I’ve run into something that never fails to pleasantly surprise me: farm animals! Whether it’s stumbling upon live fowl at a farm shop, or meeting a rather dashing hog gentleman on an urban farm near the financial district, by now I probably should have learned to not be shocked at where they turn up.

But I’ve got to confess, the last place I really expected to overhear, “Can we go see the goats?” was walking along the Thames on my way to Big Ben!

London’s Southbank Centre is a cluster of buildings devoted to the arts, famous particularly for the music festivals and performances that go on in most of its five main buildings. Additionally there are shops, restaurants, cafes and open areas … including (I discovered!) a rooftop wildflower “meadow” atop the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The meadow is utterly open to the public. Just climb some stairs from the riverside walk and suddenly you’re in a secret garden in the very heart of Britain.

And wandering amid the shrubs, beds, and brambles? Goats, specially brought in by Vauxhall City Farm for the day!

According to the team, using animals to graze down the meadow is an attempt to keep the plant and grass renewal process as close to natural as possible, and this goat-y visit is a regular event. They make a day of it by including refreshments for visitors, offering seeds from the flowers and plants cultivated in the meadow, and offering workshops for children and gardeners alike.

 Vauxhall had sent along one of their handlers to answer visitor questions, and the garden had many placards with facts (just like Deborah’s “Did You Know…” series!) about the goats’ breeds, life cycle, habits, and care requirements.

It wasn’t a petting zoo and interactions with the animals were limited, but it was really fun to see the goats doing … well … what goats do! Behaving as working livestock, even if just a 15 minute stroll away from the Houses of Parliament.

This is the view from the garden!

Time and again, I’m finding out that the lines between metropolitan and agricultural can be pretty fuzzy here in London. I think some people who don’t own livestock (like myself) don’t always appreciate that most domesticated animals have been bred over thousands of years to do a certain job and take part in certain natural cycles. They don’t exist to be petted or admired as pets, they are working animals and ideally we have a mutual relationship. Here, these goats weren’t just getting what I imagine was a pretty tasty meal, the meadow keepers were maintaining the area in a natural way (very much in keeping with their ethos) while getting some much needed maintenance work done almost totally organically.

Cadence Woodland is a freelance author's assistant and writer. Her journalism has contributed to the New York Times, the National Wildlife Federation, and other venues, but she can be found most often at her blog where she writes about her adventures across the Pond in London.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Did you know...?

Goats can communicate with one another! Just moments after the birth of a kid, both mother and offspring recognize and respond to each other’s voices. And it isn’t just recognizing the roles, but communicating between each other. Goats talk to each other through the sounds they made, which is called “bleating”. And mother goats use this communication to keep an eye on their kids, by calling to them periodically to make sure they are still close by. This close bond of mother and kid stays with them until about 6 months of age. And researchers at the Queen Mary, University of London, also suggest that this bond goes beyond the weaning stage, with mothers and kids recognizing each other's voices over 10 months later!

“Did you know” will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: The Resilient Farm and Homestead

Even though we live on a homestead and produce 100% of our own meat, dairy, eggs, maple syrup, honey, and a lot of our fruits and vegetables, I felt like a bright-eyed freshman as I read Ben Falk's The Resilient Farm and Homestead. He takes self-sufficiency to a whole new level, which he calls resiliency and regeneration. It is not about reducing your negative impact on the planet. It's about increasing your positive impact.

This is not the kind of book that you can read in a single sitting -- or even a few days. At least I couldn't! There are books that suck you in, and you read straight through at lightening speed. Then there are books that are so filled with revolutionary ideas that your brain keeps wanting to mull over everything! The Resilient Farm and Homestead is the latter. It is packed full of details, drawings, diagrams, and color photographs that make you really think. That means you could wind up spending ten minutes or a whole hour on a single page, depending upon how much your brain starts applying the information to your own situation. As I read the information on how to use a compost pile to heat water to 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the dead of winter, I started thinking of where we could put a compost pile on our own farm to utilize this amazing idea. I read over the information several times, questioning and planning my compost heated greenhouse! (No, this does not involve putting compost in your greenhouse, which is why it's so brilliant.) If you can't wait to buy his book to learn more about this concept, you can check out his short video on it.

It is always great to see another author with a similar philosophy to mine. As I write in my books that no two farms are the same and everyone must become their own expert, Falk says ...
This book should be used like a cookbook: not as a prescription but as a resource of ideas to get you thinking and acting. In the same way that no great chef ever confined herself to a recipe, no great land tender should ever confine herself to another's ideas. Each of us working with land must ultimately listen to the clues continually emerging from our own direct interaction with the land under our feet, if we are to find the ways that work best.

Where does Falk's expertise come from? He has a permaculture research farm in Vermont on the side of a hill where he grows most of his own food -- and more -- even though conventional farmers would view that land as worthless. According to his publisher, his farm "is an array of fruiting plants, ducks, nuts, fuelwood hedges, earth-inspired buildings, and even rice paddies." Yes, rice paddies in Vermont! That was one of the reasons I asked the publisher for a review copy of this book. I figured if this man was growing rice in Vermont, I needed to read his book! For more info on Ben, check out his company website, Whole Systems Design, LLC.

While there are a lot of books out there that tell you how to grow your own food (including a couple of mine), The Resilient Farm and Homestead tells you how to produce so much more!  As a homestead designer, Ben explains in great detail how you can create a truly resilient homestead, not just a high-producing farm that will eventually fizzle out without external inputs. He writes about ponds, swales, biochar, growing mushrooms, scything, grazing and perennial food crop integration, using wood to heat your home and water, and even "growing health." The book has several appendices that not only give you additional resources and a glossary, but also help you to assess your current state of resiliency, a list of crucial skills for emergencies, a list of tools and materials needed for self-reliance, and a homestead vulnerability checklist. If you want to be as self-sufficient and resilient as possible, and you have at least a few acres, I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure: Chelsea Green Publishing provided me with a copy of this book at no charge in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Recipe: Sour Cream Cookies

I'm not sure how I came to think of these cookies as something that we only have at Christmas time, but that is indeed the only time I ever think of making them! Perhaps it's the nutmeg that reminds me of this time of year. Unlike sugar cookies, they have a soft cake-like texture. They also freeze well, so you can make a double batch now and freeze some for later this month.

2 eggs
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. sour cream
5 T melted butter
1/2 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream together the eggs, sugar, sour cream, butter, and vanilla, then add the dry ingredients. (I use white whole wheat for added fiber.) Drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

*Based on a batch of 24 cookies, 1 serving equals 1 cookie

Monday, December 2, 2013

Did you know...?

Goats are naturally curious and love to climb on any random object they can find. But it’s not just that they are curious creatures -- most breeds of goats originate from the climates that are naturally hilly or have many mountains. Many breeds, such as the LaMancha, were bred specifically for mountain uses. Their tiny ears allow them to be used in high mountain climbs as pack animals without the fear of frostbite.

“Did you know” will appear every Monday through December to celebrate a fun goat fact in celebration of the publication of Raising Goats Naturally: A Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More.
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