Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We've found a Remedy that Works!

Cows have ailments.  If you are going to keep livestock, from time to time animals struggle with various health care issues just like you and I.  Although a very good veterinarian is less than a mile from us as the crow flies, we like to try to take care of those minor ailments that arise ourselves.  You might call us "shade-tree" veterinarians, but we don't play around with our animals' health.  If we can't control or heal the issue ourselves in a short period of time, we won't hesitate in calling the veterinarian, and he makes house calls (farm calls).

While Rosie and Clarabelle look fine in the photo below, with Rosie chewing her cud and Clarabelle just finishing up her morning breakfast, things aren't 'Rosy.'  She's hurting.  Her front hooves are very tender as she has what is called hoof rot.  It sounds nasty, doesn't it?  It is a foot infection between her two 'toes.'  It is painful and she walks around gingerly.  As we've discussed previously, this is caused by bacteria in the soil called Fusobacterium.  This bacteria is present wherever there is fecal material and the cows usually pick this up around the round bales where wet, muddy, cow-poop is concentrated.  The cows usually pick this up in the Spring, but oddly enough, hot, humid, dry weather causes their feet to become dry and crack, providing a gateway for the bacteria to enter the foot.

Because we don't like to give our cows antibiotics by shot, we try numerous treatments like iodine applications.  We also put a 50-50 solution of bleach/water in a sprayer and spray the infected area. We've done this daily and had varied levels of success in controlling the problem.

My feet hurt!
This is one of Rosie's front hooves.  If you look at the very top between her hooves, you might be able to make out a little crack.  It doesn't smell good and she lets you know that she doesn't like you messing with her.  Obviously, I wasn't able to get pictures of the entire process, but I'll lift her foot and Tricia will brush off the dirt from the bottom of her hoof as well as between her hooves.  It's not an easy thing to do.

Treating Hoof Rot
I began searching on the Internet and found another remedy to try - Dr. Naylor's Hoof 'n Heel.  We use another product by Dr. Naylor to dehorn our calves.  It's called Dr. Naylor's Dehorning Paste.  It works, so I though I'd give this Dr. Naylor product for treating hoof rot a try.  A 16 ounce bottle costs $11.99.    

Dr. Naylor Hoof  'n Heel
The active ingredient is Zinc Sulfate and there is no withholding period for lactating cows.  The bottle has a squirt top, so after the hoof is brushed off an clean, I hold each hoof up and Tricia squirts Hoof 'n Heel into the affected area.  I hold the hoof up so that the solution gets full contact with the affected area and then we feed and milk her in the barn on a clean surface before putting her back out in the pasture to eat grass.  We treat her twice a day - in the morning and evening.  We've noticed great results and after only a few days, she's no longer limping or walking gingerly! 

My foot is getting better!
There is another remedy for Foot Rot called Coppertox that we were going to use if this didn't work, but we won't have to go that route now.  We're happy and I assure you, Rosie is too!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Checking in on the Late Summer Crops

The past few days have been brutally hot and humid.  There's just no sugar-coating it.  It's miserable. With temperatures nearing 100 degrees and around 106 with a heat index, one longs for the first cool front or at least signs of Fall approaching. Tough.  We have more than a month to go of the sweltering sauna that is South Louisiana in summer.

The poor cows sit in the shade all day long, panting, tongues literally hanging out. We spray them down with water to cool them down.  They're Jersey cows and not really acclimated to tropical weather.  In the late afternoons, they meander out to the pasture and eat grass until well after dark, squeezing in a day's worth of eating into a few frenzied hours of the coolest part of the day.

The garden is not immune to the effects of summer.  It has withered back in the heat with the cucumbers' brown, dead leaves and vines still clinging to the trellis reminding us of the numerous cucumbers we were picking each day just a few short weeks ago.  The squash plants, similarly, have melted into the ground, giving up the fight.  Seems as if the only thing thriving in the garden is the weeds, and I'll try to get the weed wacker to get those under control.  They'll be tossed over the fence as an appetizer to the cows slumbering in the shade.

Cucumber vines dried up and dead
I did plant a couple crops the other day - Southern Peas (cowpeas) and 3 varieties of pumpkins and I'll give a progress report.  Despite the scalding heat, a good soaking rain shortly after planting enabled the seeds to swell, sprout and pop out of the ground, healthy and green.  Let's take a look:

Cowpea leaves tracking the sun across the sky
We had a fairly decent germination rate and the peas that sprouted seem healthy and vigorous.

I like to deeply mulch our plants with hay as it provides several benefits:
1. It crowds out weed pressure, making weeding an obsolete job,
2. It helps to retain soil moisture, blocking out the moisture-depleting rays of the sun, and
3. The hay decomposes, providing organic matter to next year's crop that will grow here.

Cows are notoriously wasteful when it comes to hay.  They pull it out of the round bale, drop it on the ground, trampling it in poop and pee, ruining it as far as it being edible, but it's still good for mulching.  I rake it up and tenderly place it around the stems of the peas, covering the bare earth and small weeds with a nice layer of hay.
Mulched Cowpeas
The pumpkins were a little slower in germinating.

Pumpkins popping up
But they came along quickly, their leaves broadening.

Future pumpkin pies
If one has an active imagination, just walking past the row of pumpkins can evoke the warm, spicy aroma of a fresh pumpkin pie right out of the oven and one can almost feel the first cool, northern breezes of Fall.  If you listen you can hear the fire crackling in the fireplace and the exciting sounds of college football on the television.

Time to snap out of it, buddy!  Let's sweat a little and mulch around the pumpkins now that they're tall enough.  It will give those orange pumpkins a nice, soft bed to sit on while they grow.

Healthy, fully mulched pumpkins
Summer is in full force, but good things come to those who wait.  Fall is coming! (Or so I keep reminding myself.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

And A Cartridge in a Pear Tree

I can be a weird dude sometime, I'm not gonna lie.  When I get home from my office job, I visit with Tricia and Benjamin and then change into my 'work clothes' and start doing my afternoon chores and I have great fun doing them!  The chores can be classified into two categories:  routine things that must get done every day and items on my prioritized "knock-out" list.

Once I get that done, sometimes I'll just walk around and observe things.  In our fast-paced lives, we often overlook things if we don't make time to enjoy things - even mundane, unremarkable things. As I walked by the pear tree, I noticed one of the branches bending over due to weight of the ripening pears.  There were a couple of half-eaten pears laying on the ground beneath the tree.  I think the culprits were the numerous squirrels that inhabit our property.  Just to be silly, I hung a .12 gauge shell from the bending branch.

A cartridge in a pear tree
I began to think about This Post from last week about trying to grow some of your own food - vegetables, fruit, meat, eggs, etc.  Birds and squirrels are two predators that you do need a firearm with which to protect your food, if you decide to grow it versus purchase it at the grocery store. Instead of having a partridge in a pear tree, you'd better be ready to have a cartridge in a pear tree or at least be ready to shoot one into your tree.  You can hang shiny objects like aluminum pie pans or rubber snakes or plastic owls to repel predators, but at some point, you'll need to go on the offensive to protect your crops.

The .12 gauge shell isn't the only thing of note hanging from the branch
But if you really want to protect your crops, you need to pull out the 'big guns' and by that, I mean what I was reminded of by the critter hanging on the bottom of one of the pears..  A Praying Mantis!

A praying mantis
If you really want a successful crop, you need to pray. Agrarian societies of old recognized the importance of humbling themselves before God and asking for His Blessings on their crops - and we should too!
A few pears for snacking on
I shook the pears to the ground and took them inside.  Pears will continue to ripen in the bowl in the kitchen.  Normally we'll cut up the pears and make a nice pear pie, but Russ ate a couple of them right out of the bowl and said they were crisp and delicious.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Another Reason to Grow (At Least Some Of) Your Own Food

As discussed before we love growing most of our own food.  There are numerous reasons for this like the exercise you get working in the garden, the amount of time you get to spend in the great outdoors, the pride and confidence you get growing your own delicious food, and the TASTE of homegrown versus store-bought food... The list is limitless.

I searched on the Internet and found a visual representation of homegrown versus store-bought tomatoes (see below).  The difference is stunning! Just look at that pink, tasteless thing on the right. It'll do in a pinch, but which would you rather eat? For me, it's not even up for debate.  Although they're both technically tomatoes, they are as far apart as Mercury is from Pluto.
Image credit (homegrown on left / store-bought on right)

But another BIG plus about growing at least some of your own food is it gives you some semblance of being self-sufficient.  Oh, I know the grocery store is fully-stocked and right around the corner, but will it always be open and fully stocked? Hmmm... We found out several years ago after several hurricanes that the fully stocked open store can become a closed, empty building in no time at all.  I remember the National Guard passing out MREs (meals ready to eat) and ice to our town's citizens shortly after the storm blew through.

The Supply Chain in our country fueled by "Just In Time (JIT)" delivery means that there are approximately 3 days worth of inventory in the grocery store if something (weather, natural disaster, war, terrorism) were to happen.  I contend that there's less than that should there be a "run" on food by a panicked populace. If something stops the 18 wheelers from rolling, it won't take long before the shelves look like the photo below.

Oh, that would never happen here!  This is America.  Well, I saw this in the news this morning:

Image Credit
The photo above is a grocery store in Venezuela.  This article from January 9, 2015 says:
(Bloomberg) -- Shoppers thronged grocery stores across Caracas today as deepening shortages led the government to put Venezuela’s food distribution under military protection.
Long lines, some stretching for blocks, formed outside grocery stores in the South American country’s capital as residents search for scarce basic items such as detergent and chicken.
Oh but don't worry, apparently everything is just hunky-dory.
“Don’t fall into desperation -- we have the capacity and products for everyone, with calmness and patience. The stores are full,” Interior Minister Carmen Melendez said yesterday on state television.
She sounds oddly reminiscent of this guy.  Remember Baghdad Bob?

Image Credit
So I wanted to see how things are in Venezuela now, six months later.  Have things stabilized?

This Article answers "That's a negative, Ghost Rider" by stating:

Venezuelan farmers ordered to hand over produce to state

As Venezuela's food shortages worsen, the president of the country's Food Industry Chamber has said that authorities ordered producers of milk, pasta, oil, rice, sugar and flour to supply their products to the state stores.

Venezuela's embattled government has taken the drastic step of forcing food producers to sell their produce to the state, in a bid to counter the ever-worsening shortages.

Farmers and manufacturers who produce milk, pasta, oil, rice, sugar and flour have been told to supply between 30 per cent and 100 per cent of their products to the state stores. Shortages, rationing and queues outside supermarkets have become a way of life for Venezuelans, as their isolated country battles against rigid currency controls and a shortage of US dollars – making it difficult for Venezuelans to find imported goods.
In March, Venezuelans were so worried about food shortages and diminishing stocks of basic goods, fingerprint scanners were installed in supermarkets in an attempt to crack down on hoarding.

Admittedly, the United States of America isn't Venezuela and we aren't there yet, BUT it is not an enviable position for anyone to be totally  dependent upon the grocery store for all of your food. Growing and preserving your own food and beginning to build an inventory of preserved food in your pantry is not something that you can do overnight, but you can begin to take immediate steps to grow at least some of your food and can it, keep a few chickens for meat and eggs and begin to learn different time-proven skills of self sufficiency.  It is like an insurance policy for your family.  I think that it is prudent.

Purple Hull Pea
It's good to have cash in the bank and emergency cash at home, but if some disaster strikes, I'm not sure that paper currency is nutritious or tastes good, but I know that row of purple hull peas out back is!  (And you don't have to wait in a long line at the grocery store to get it!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Strange Thing Popped up in the Garden That I Didn't Plant

In a portion of the garden that lies fallow this summer, there were several items that came up volunteer.  They certainly weren't intentionally planted by me and for the longest time, I thought that it was corn, so I let it continue growing to see what the mystery crop would be.  It is not uncommon to have seeds come up year after year. In fact, we don't even have to plant cilantro, basil, or sweet potatoes as they come up on their own each year.

After a time, the crop I thought was corn sent up a shoot with a head on it and I knew immediately that the mystery crop was grain sorghum or milo.

Corn?  Nope.
I'm trying to figure out how it got in the garden.  My first guess would be that the seed was carried by birds from a sorghum field, but there's no sorghum grown anywhere near our home that I know of. Perhaps sorghum is put in birdseed mixes and someone fed birds at their house and they flew over the garden, dropping the seeds?  I'm not sure.  I do know that birds LOVE to eat sorghum.  Yesterday, when I walked into the garden, a flock of doves quickly flew up and away.  They were really enjoying eating it!

The doves are tearing the sorghum up!
I can remember as a kid on the farm, we planted sorghum a year or two as an alternative to soybeans. The variety we planted was more of a red-colored grain.  I can remember that it was a really heavy crop and you couldn't fill your storage bins very full.  I also remember that unloading the sorghum into the bins kicked up some wicked dust.

So what am I going to do with this 'gift' growing in the garden?  I've decided that I'm going to save the seed off of it and plant it next year to produce at least some of our chicken feed on our little homestead.  I researched and read HERE that sorghum is an excellent protein source for poultry, exceeding that of corn.  It would be nice to be self sufficient for at least a portion of our chicken feed that they don't get by foraging for bugs, worms, grasses on our pasture.

Sorghum Head
As I was surveying the sorghum, I noticed a bunch of ants climbing the stalks and surmised that sorghum must really be a sweet crop.  Then I remembered that sorghum is not only used for grain and forage, but for making syrup.  I'm going to manually harvest and dry the sorghum soon and save the seed for next year to see if we can be successful in giving the hens a little variety in their diet.  We'll let you know if our experiment is successful! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fixing A Leak in the Water Trough With a New Product (For Us)

The water trough for the cows sits in a corner of the pasture.  A curious thing happens around water troughs.  When it rains or water overflows from the trough, it creates mud around the circumference of the tank.  Over time as cows gather around the tank to drink, mud gets between their hooves and they carry it off where it gets displaced in other areas of the pasture.  As that process repeats itself over the years, a hole or sunken depression is formed around the trough.

Low lying, muddy areas are not good for livestock.  They provide a great environment for bacteria to grow that can weaken or sicken your livestock.  Then, it is just unsightly to have a mud hole in the pasture.  I decided to do something about the eyesore, so I drained out the water trough, cleaned it and moved it out of the way.  Then we pulled in a load of dirt and built up the area, packed the dirt, and moved the water trough back in place and filled it with water.

Upon re-filling the trough, I noticed an issue that requires fixing - several leaks in the bottom.  The drip, drip, dripping over the course of the day was threatening to create another mud hole in the very place I had just fixed.  If you look closely, below you can see the fiberglass patching I used to fix this leak a while back and it lasted for quite a while.  Well, the leak has returned, and I'm assuming that when I emptied the trough and it dried out, the patching on the inside of the tank separated from the cracks it once covered.

Leaking water trough
I drained the water (again) and let the sun dry out the inside.  A quick tug released the fiberglass patching that was on the the inside.

Previous patch
I cleaned up the area where the stress fractures exist in the bottom of the trough. You can see the crack running horizontally where the bottom meets the sides.  I was going to use some more fiberglass patching, but then I remembered an advertisement of a spray on product I saw on TV for patching leaky boats.  It cost $19.99 a can, but after researching, I couldn't get any assurance that it was safe for drinking water.

In looking around, I found a product called WaterWeld, by J-B Weld that seemed perfectly suited for this situation.  In fact, it says on the label below: "Great for Potable Water Tanks."  I've used J-B Weld before (but not WaterWeld) and always thought it was a great product.  I think I paid $5.87 for the 2 ounce package below. 

Application is simple.  You simply break off the amount that you need and knead it around in your fingers until the color is consistent, mixing the white color with the grey color product that is in the middle of the tube.  It has the consistency of a putty, but it begins to harden after a short while, so once you mix it, you need to be ready to apply it.

Kneading the 'dough'
Then, you just press in the putty, covering the crack, ensuring that the entire area has been coated.  

Applying WaterWeld over the cracks in the trough
The package said the set time is 20 minutes and it cures in an hour.  I performed the fix at around 8 pm at night and I wanted to be doubly sure that it hardened, so I let it cure overnight.  The first thing in the morning, at around 5:45 am, I turned on the hose and refilled the tank.  You can see the white WaterWeld patch at the bottom.

Filling the trough with water
And now for the test to see if the patching stopped the leaks.  I waited for a full day after filling the trough with water.  Annndddd....  No leaks!! Where the water was dripping from the bottom onto the wood prior to patching, now there are no more leaks.

The patching held
So far patching the leaking water trough with J-B Weld WaterWeld seems like a great success.  Only time will tell if it will hold for the duration, but the application was easy, quick, and put an end to the leaky trough.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Wild Mushroom Soup

A friend of ours grows a number of things and sells them in a couple of Farmer's Markets in the area. We grow things for him like Bok Choy Asian Greens in the winter and also provide him with eggs. He has recently gotten into growing and harvesting mushrooms.  He dries them in a dehydrator and sells them at the market, and he gave us some to try last week.  I wish I could remember the name of the mushrooms, but I can't.  Needless to say, it is important to be able to differentiate the edible ones from the non-edible ones.

Dried Mushrooms
In order to rehydrate them, Tricia let them soak all day long in a bowl of water.

Soaking mushrooms
Using a slotted spoon, Tricia fished out the mushrooms, but don't throw away the 'mushroom broth,' that's the best part.  Once the mushrooms were out, Tricia cut them up, sauteed them in butter, added onions, garlic and celery and continued to saute them until they were all happy.

Sauteed mushrooms with onions, garlic, and celery
 Then add 1/4 cup of flour to the pot to thicken.

Thicken with some flour
Tricia lined a container with a coffee filter to strain out any sediment and poured the mushroom broth into the container.  Notice how rich and dark the mushroom broth is!  This is what makes the soup so flavorful.

Wild Mushroom Broth
Pour the mushroom broth into the pot of sauteed mushrooms & vegetables.

Adding the broth
Allow the soup to simmer for about 15 minutes then add some heavy cream that we skimmed off the top of the morning milk.
Wild Mushroom Soup is on!
A rich and flavorful wild mushroom soup made with nature's finest ingredients really hit the spot tonight!

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