To Eat or Not to Eat…

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…that is the question.  It’s no secret now that we are having two new hooved additions to our homestead.  Barbara Que (Babs) and Riblet  are two adorable Kune Kune piglets.  Now Barbara Que is part Juliana so she is going to be smaller and it was already the intention that she would hang around the homestead and be a pet, but then the idea came up that we would like to try our hand at raising a pig for the freezer.  We had already researched the Kune Kune breed in depth and it seemed like the perfect pig to raise for a small homestead.  So now we were getting two, one to keep and one to *gulp* eat…?

***Disclaimer*** I know that talking about eating meat vs not eating meat, and butchering vs. not butchering is a very controversial topic and I HATE controversy.  It is NOT my intention to start a debate or to say what is RIGHT and what is WRONG I just want to respectfully discuss our thought process for what we’re thinking for our homestead.

We have raised animals for meat before (Harvest Day—Bittersweet) so we aren’t a stranger to the idea.  We also aren’t a stranger to separating some of the animals as “non food” and some as “food”.  This idea was hard to wrap my head around at first.  How could I have some chickens for eggs that were practically pets and some that would be treated as pets as well UNTIL it was time to eat.

We finally reconciled that this animal will be a part of our family in life and will return back to our family in death. We appreciate the sacrifice made so that we may eat meat and we do not take it lightly. We owe it to them to give them the most loving and kind life that we can. I worried about them feeling a sense of betrayal but at the end of the day I don’t think the animal would resent the love and the friendship. I don’t believe that they would look at us and say, ” I wish you wouldn’t have been my friend if you were just going to eat me. I wish you treated me differently.” And I truly do take the time to think about and process such things. I try to provide all of my animals with the best care possible and with that comes a friendship that I am truly grateful for. It’s not really easy for me to keep any animal at arms distance. When we first got meat birds I remember telling myself that I wouldn’t name them or pet them or spend any time with them, but it didn’t feel good and it didn’t feel right. I’m a relationship former by nature, that’s what I do, for better or worse no matter how much it hurts in the long run I form bonds with just about everyone I meet and miss them when our interactions are complete.

My favorite video on this subject matter is Justin Rhodes video called, “Why We Name the Cow We’re Going to Eat”. In the video he makes a promise to the calf (a promise that I make to my animals as well) that he will only have one bad day. He goes further to promise that his sacrifice will not be in vain and that they will use every bit of him. He finally ends by saying that it all comes down to one word–the reason they name an animal that they’re going to grow, kill, and eat–RESPECT!

So when the day is done I know not everyone agrees with raising an animal in your backyard around your family and children and then harvesting it. I know that it can seem too close to home and cruel. I know that most people prefer the safe distance that comes from purchasing your meat in shiny packages from the super market and never having to know the face of the sacrifice. All of those emotions are 100% understandable and relatable. But for our family, us the most affordable way to get humanely raised, well fed meat for our freezer, so that we can feed our children the best that WE can afford is to do it this way. Harvesting is never easy and I’m certainly glad that I will not be doing it myself (or on site) but I am abundantly grateful for the sacrifice of the animal that will feed my children and I hope that their [my children’s] gift of love and respect will in some way add enrichment to its life and give thanks to its sacrifice.

All of that said there is always the chance that we grow too attached and the harvest will not be made. Perhaps we will try again, perhaps we won’t, perhaps we will stop eating pork if we don’t have the courage to see it through, who knows. But the idea is that we are ready to try our hand at this journey on our small backyard homestead.

Thank you for reading this with respect. Happy Flocking.

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We’re Growing by 8 Little Hooves

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Find out Here!!!

I just love when it’s time to take on a new venture. The potential and the excitement of new hope is thick in the air. Mostly the potential for me to make a thousand new mistakes but potential nonetheless. I’m eager with new ideas and my husband is silently shaking his head just out of my line of vision. You see he loves helping me make my dreams a reality, my whole homestead was the most generous gift from the most loving man, but he also knows that his wife has a mountainous amount of ideas and excitement and more of a molehills amount of experience and know-how. Nevertheless he straps in for the ride and is always down to go on these adventures with me. Even if he spends most of the time bailing me out. I don’t think there will ever be a way to truly thank my better half for all that he’s given me, all of the sacrifices he has made and all of the dreams that he has helped me chase or fulfilled for me, but hey I am talking him up in this blog post so we’re almost even.

Without further ado I’d like to introduce you to our two new Kune Kune piglets, Barbara Que and Riblet. These two piglets will have very different roles on our homestead (be waiting on Friday’s blog to learn more about that).

Barbara Que or Babs, is part Kune Kune and part Juliana so she will be the smaller of the two. She doesn’t have wattles and was the runt of her litter. I’m a sucker for the runt of a litter. She will be joining us right before Christmas, as she’s my Christmas gift from my sweet husband. Just look how tiny…

Riblet is full Kune Kune. He is joining us today and I’m so excited to have him. His sweet double wattles and spots. I just love this breed.

We choose Kune Kune for a few reasons:

  • Temperament
  • Size
  • Availability
  • Homestead Use
  • Looks
  • Temperament
  • From what I have researched, learned from people with them, and seen for myself Kunekunes have a very gentle and docile temperament. They don’t mind children handling them and they don’t seem overly aggressive. Since we have children and a small homestead we will be in very close proximity to these animals and it’s mandatory that they are docile.
  • Size
  • I will not venture into the debate about whether or not a true “mini” pig exists that’s not the purpose of this blog. But as far as pig sizes go these are on the smaller end. Are they teacup pigs ABSOLUTELY NOT, but are they 400 pound commercial hogs definitely not. Kunekune pigs tend to be smaller pigs. Shorter and lighter. Much easier for someone my size to handle and care for on a daily basis. At full grown will I be able to pick them up and carry them? Of course not I can’t even pick up my Great Pyrenees. But at full grown I will be able to move them about the yard and manage their care without fear of being injured.
  • Availability
  • In our area it wasn’t too difficult to put my Facebook feelers out and find reasonable Kunekune piglets. We didn’t want to have to drive super far and we didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for piglets either. Another reason why we didn’t just get a pet “mini” pig ($$$). On our homestead animals need to be local (within reason) and affordable (both acquisition and care).
  • Homestead Use
  • Probably our biggest draw to the breed was all of the articles talking about how wonderful they are for small homestead use. They’re grazers, which means they can fatten on GRASS! That’s a huge plus for us. That means we can let them forage the yard and supplement with hay (that we already buy for the goats) in the winter. It also means that we have a new use to leftovers (safe ones) we can supplement that grass diet with approved leftovers and limit feed costs. I have seen many articles about homesteaders raising their Kune Kunes on grass and kitchen scraps alone and eliminating feed costs all together (#farmgoals). Another tidbit that we found fascinating was that due to their upturned snouts they didnt tend to be heavy rooters. I’m interested to see if this is the case for us, Rhaegar digs like a John Deere so maybe he’ll dig their mud holes for them. It is also said that they are both winter hearty and tolerant to Summers. Neither of those seasons are terribly harsh hear but we definitely get both extremes so it’s good to know that they should weather the weather pretty well (see what I did there).
  • Looks
  • Lastly we just love their looks. They are cute as heck. All hairy with those little wattles on their chin. Pigs are cute enough as is, but throw on some hair and chin wattles and my heart is melting.
  • We are so happy about our new venture and cannot wait to share this journey with you. Happy Flocking.
  • The Goats are Gone…but the Homestead is Growing?!?!

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    With any luck when those ladies come back they’ll be full of baby goats! I dropped the ladies off with their handsome buck Vader today and we’ll just say everyone was very eager to get down to business. As you can tell by his lip and tongue flapping he is excited to have visitors in his home. He was a real gentleman and selflessly gave up his house so that they would be comfortable. The girls seemed pretty smitten with him even though some of them played hard to get. Toffee had mated twice before I left so she wasn’t shy about letting him know she liked him.

    Hopefully we’ll know in 30 days if the homestead is growing or not.

    Happy Flocking!

    Love is in the Air…How to prepare Does for Breeding

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    It’s that time of year again.  The does all have dates on Friday to get bred and that means I’ll get goat free for at least a week.  That means I have time to clean out stalls, lay fresh straw, and fix their fence.  I’m also looking forward to a weeks worth of peace and quiet.

    The following is how I am preparing for this breeding season:

    Find a Buck-  I’m going to preface this by saying that I do NOT have fancy registered does (toffee is registered but she is the only one), so I am not looking for super fancy registered bucks with pedigrees a mile long.  I am simply looking for a HEALTHY BUCK, with a good temperament, that isn’t too big, has a good track record for throwing girls, and has a nice look to him.  Other than that we aren’t terribly picky about out buck.  There a different way of finding a buck if you don’t already know someone with one. If you are confident using Craigslist that is probably an excellent resource.  I am fortunate enough to be in a local goat forum on Facebook so I made a post about wanting to breed my ladies and the BUCKS just rolled on in.

     Get the Ladies Gussied Up-  Now is the time to get your ladies look all fancy and clean for their date.  Hang on, slow down, step away from the hoof polish and lipstick.  Your goat is already pretty enough to attract the buck she can go fresh faced, let’s just work on some hygiene things.  This is a great time to trim those hooves, it’s better to do it now than getting up close and personal with them when they’re full of hormones and smelling like a buck.  If you want you can shave their back ends, but I don’t think that the bucks care whether they’ve had a Brazilian Bikini wax or not.

    Health Boosters-  When I decided that it was time to breed the girls I immediately wanted to make sure that they were their very healthiest.  In my mind the healthier they are the more likely they are to get pregnant.  So we tried to focus on making sure they had consistent access to their mineral and feeding them the best food that we had.  We bulked it up with nutrients by adding pumpkin seeds.  I also gave the girls a dose of selenium/ Vitamin E, a copper bolus, and probiotic paste.

    Get to Work-  While the ladies are gone I plan on sprucing up their area.  I’m going to clean the run, clean out their house and add fresh straw and repair their fence.  I may also rearrange their climb on activities.

    I’m hoping that this breeding takes on the first try, but that may be wishful thinking.  Wish us luck in this new endeavor.  This is my first time being in charge of breeding, I purchased my does already bred.  Check out my ladies Online Dating Profile her.

    Happy Breeding and Happy Flocking!

    Dating Profile

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    It’s that time of the year. Goat breeding season. We were lucky to land a buck pretty easily but not before my ladies posted that dating profiles. So I’ll go ahead and upload them for future use.

    Millie

    If goats had dating apps

    Millie Age:3

    Interests: Being first to the feed bowl. Lounging on the top step and shoving people that are slow to give her treats.

    Herd Queen. A little sassy but loves a good cuddle.

    Looking for a handsome buck. Horned or polled no preference. Someone who wouldn’t mind sharing his hay with her!

    Capri

    If goats had dating apps

    Capri Age:1

    Interests: Complaining loudly. Lounging on the second step and hanging out with her mom.

    Gentle and sweet and doesn’t mind falling to the background but gives attitude when needed. Easygoing. Princess of the herd. Sweet to look at.

    Looking for a handsome buck. Horned or polled no preference. Someone who will lead and share his warm straw bed.

    Toffee

    If goats had dating apps

    Toffee Age: 2

    Interests: I identify as a dog. So I spend most of my time hanging out with a Rhaegar (Great Pyrenees) Enjoys jumping fences and sampling international weeds.

    She’s a tall girl with a fun personality. Sweet and loyalty always by your side. Life of the party. Leader in mischief.

    Looking for a handsome buck. Horned or polled no preference. Someone who is confident enough to handle her height. Someone who isn’t easily influential her trouble maker. Who likes to have a good time. And it’s intimidated that her best friend is a handsome Great Pyrenees

    A New Piece to the Puzzle

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    I was beginning to feel a but defeated. I was beginning to question what I was seeing, my very sanity. Because no one else could see what I was telling them. A certain doctor we see had led me to know that they didn’t see what I was saying. How could I work with someone who didn’t believe me. I felt like screaming and shouting but I needed the doctor on my side. I went home sad, angry, and defeated. That day my courage did not roar. It cowered, it questioned, it considered believing what I had been told. But then I remembered that I am her mom. I know her best. I am her best advocate. I will not be silenced. I pushed for what I felt she needed and I’m glad I did.

    Ever since AJ was diagnosed with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) she doesn’t eat much st all. It’s not that she doesn’t like the food but it seems that eating is painful and that she doesn’t have much room. When she wouldn’t take in enough formula I kept being told to make it taste better. I was telling anyone who would listen that she liked the formula but it was a volume problem. I was told that her last Gastric Emptying Scan(1.5 years ago) was fine. So I kept trying to push the formula. Finally we got into feeding therapy. They listened to everything I explained and said that it sounded like she had delayed gastric emptying. I got the doctor to order the test, but was warned that “these things don’t change quickly. I’m not expecting to see changes and if there are none we won’t repeat this”. But with the knowledge I had gained from our wonderful feeding therapists I felt supported.

    So we reported to Nuclear medicine. She had to eat radioactive ☢️ oatmeal. Then she would lie completely still for 90 minutes while her stomach was imaged every five minutes. What a trooper. I have a very short attention span so it wasn’t easy but I can’t imagine what it was like for a 3 year old.

    Burning the test I watched the red blob on the screen. The concentrated ball was the radioactive material in her stomach. Over time we should see it spread into her small intestine.

    I went home with the images and used my limited knowledge to try to read them. I scoured the internet but I couldn’t make heads or tails of our images. It was Friday and I knew I’d be hearing back Monday so I tried to push it out of my mind.

    Monday morning I brought the images to feeding therapy with the hopes of making some sense of it. Unfortunately they aren’t versed in reading the results which I assumed, but it was worth a try wasn’t it. Luckily we wouldn’t have to wait much longer. As we wrapped up the appointment and walked towards the scale I received THE CALL. Perfect timing.

    THE VERDICT

    Asher has delayed gastric emptying (gastroparesis). I do not know much about how it’s measured but I’ll explain what I understand from the report. According to the report for normal gastric emptying the “food” (radioactive material) should have a half life of LESS THAN 90 minutes. Asher’s was 143 minutes.

    Validation

    Obviously hearing that there is something else going on in your child’s GI system is tough to hear but this diagnosis explains a lot. It explains why she is always asking for food but can’t eat it (starving and full). Why she can eat a decent breakfast but struggled to eat the rest of the day. Why she’s full after two bites. And why she can’t drink more than 6 oz of formula. It helped me understand that what I was seeing was REAL.

    Solution

    At this time I’m waiting for confirmation from Cincinnati Children’s on the treatment. The proposed treatment plan is to try Erythromycin.  I’m nervous because she has a few antibiotic allergies and I myself and allergic to Erythromycin, BUT we must try.  So we’ll be going to the allergist to get her take on the idea, finishing the antibiotics she is currently on for a respiratory thing she had going on, and then we will be continuing this adventure.  Meanwhile the nurse practitioner at feeding therapy will be looking at her eating habits and diagnoses on a whole level and determining what’s the best eating pattern for Asher.

    I will go on record AGAIN to say that I’m NOT a patient person. I like things that move quickly especially when it comes to making my kids feel better, BUT I will say that I have created a wonderful team of doctors from a few different specialties to look at my daughter  and steer me in the direction we need to go. We have a dedicated team both local in Cincinnati that are coming together to piece this 1000 piece puzzle, that is Asher, together.

    Thank you for continuing to follow her journey and not being too frustrated that I haven’t blogged much about farming.  It is still going on, but it’s a very much behind the scenes project right now.  But it’s almost breeding time so stay tuned.

    HAPPY FLOCKING!

    The Process: Getting to the Bottom of AJ’s Eosinophilic Disease

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    Monday, September 17th

    Let me just tell you that Cincinnati morning traffic is no joke. It look us 45 minutes to get to a hospital that is 9 minutes away. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I AM A COUNTRY MOUSE! Luckily we had been warned by my dad about the traffic and we left in plenty of time.

    The hospital itself is gorgeous. Its very colorful. In fact its color coordinated and alphabetized so that you know where to go. It’s the Disney Land of hospitals. I cannot say enough about how efficient and streamlined every step of our journey was. Nurses are willing to walk you from one appointment to another. They help you sign in and give you all sorts of tips. The attention to stopping the spread of germs was like nothing I’d seen before. Mandatory hand cleansing of patients before entering certain areas. No open tissue boxes sitting out in the OR and once a box is opened and a patient enters the room they either take that box of tissues with them or it’s trash. They had hand scrubbing wipes on every table.  It reminds me of that Hulu commercial where they tell you NEVER to fly first class because it’ll ruin coach for you forever…yeah, local hospitals just can’t compare.

    Today was our biggest and longest day at the hospital. We had a 2 hour appointment in the GI clinic. I have never met with a GI doctor for this long. There was no rush or sense that I was being dramatic or a burden. They asked a ton of questions about everything from Asher’s birth to present and didn’t rush me when I rambled on with too many details. Then they allowed us time to just talk, explain our concerns and minute details that we thought may be important to her case. Lastly we were offered time to ask all of the questions that we wanted before signing her procedure consent. Naturally we apologized for asking so many questions and he doctor reassuringly said “No problem at all and it wasn’t that many”. Relief flooded me, these doctors understand the emotional component of this disease. Someone said to me, on the topic of me being nervous about Cincinnati not being different than my failed attempts at local hospitals,

    “Cinci is going to teach you instead of you needing to teach them. You’re both going to be fine now. You’ve won your fight for your baby. Let yourself believe it.”

    She was right. Whenever I go to the doctors I feel like I’m fighting a case. Like I need to prove to them what’s going on and teach them. In Cincinnati I never felt a shred of doubt. They not only believed me but they wanted to help my baby!

    Endoscopy

    After the GI clinic was completed we were walked down to check AJ in for her procedure. She was given coloring pages to scribble on and taken to a room to wait for her turn. For a kid that doesn’t eat much she was HANGRY. It was just after noon and she hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since 8:45 the night before.  We watched TV while anxiously waiting to get the show on the road.  The anesthesiologist came in to talk to us about the procedure and took me telling her that AJ has reactive airways very seriously.  This time the pre-treated her with a breathing treatment.  Shortly after the breathing treatment they would come to get AJ and wheel her to the operating room.  We got to go back with her and stay until they but her to sleep.

    After she was asleep we were walked back to the waiting room.  This is always the hardest part.  I kept my eyes glued on the number monitor waiting to see her name go from pink (in OR) to green (in PACU).  Finally they called our name over the PA to talk with the doctor.  We were taken into a small room where the fellow and the doctor came in.  The first difference that I noticed between here and our local hospitals is that I got a big page full of pictures for my records. The doctor immediately put our mind at ease by telling us that Asher did great during the surgery.  They went over the pictures with us and explained what they saw.  They said that at the top of her esophagus there was some thickening and swelling that is consistent with eosinophilic disease.  They also mentioned that she had some polyps at the opening of her small intestine that they biopsied.  Overall however her esophagus looked pretty good and like it was healing as opposed to getting worse.  MUSIC TO OUR EARS.  Then the hardest part…we were sent back out to the waiting room to wait until Asher was in PACU and ready to be seen.

    I’ll admit that when the 30 minute mark approached I was more than antsy.  It has NEVER taken this long for me to get back to her and my mind was reeling with all of the reasons that she wasn’t ready yet.  I had my ears straining to listen for codes being called.  Finally after what felt like two eternities, but was probably only about one eternity, they called out name over the PA.  I honestly don’t think I ever popped up and sprinted to a desk that fast in my life.  Usain Bolt who?  I nearly out paced the nurse to get to her bed, I don’t have these long legs for nothing.  Unfortunately I didn’t know where I was going.  typically I listen for her coughing but I didn’t hear anything.  And this is what I found when I got there…

    Asher was peacefully sleeping.  No cough, no reactive airways, no screaming.  Just sweet angelic sleeping.  It would take over an hour before the nurse decided that it would be best if we woke her up.  From now on she will always be pre-treated before being put under that helped tremendously.

    The rest of the week was full of appointments:

    Bone density scan

    Allergist:  There he made us aware that I probably have POTS and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and it makes a lot of sense that AJ may have EDS as well (it’s a dominant trait) since EOE tends to be common connection with it and that we should both look into that.

    THE RESULTS:

    AJ definitely has EOE, but right now it is in REMISSION (zero eosinophils).  YAY!!!  Which means that her treatment, a combination of PPI and elimination dieting, is working and healing her esophagus.  Right now the biggest issue that we are having is feeding.  We are currently on a waiting list to start feeding therapy here at home.  The dietician has determine that she currently is NOT able to take in all of her nutrition on her own orally and we’re trying a few things to change that.  They are concerned about why her airways are so reactive and why she is “croupy” so often so when we return in 3 months (YAY WE GET TO GO BACK AND CONTINUE TREATMENT) THREE specialists will be pooling their talents and doing a triple scope on her.   GI will being doing an endoscopy, ENT will be doing an upper airway scope, and pulmonology will be doing a bronchoscopy.  The big concern is to see if she has a cleft that’s causing her to aspirate food/drink or to see if the crouping is coming from a floppy airway.  The best part is that she gets to add corn, potato, and turkey back into her diet!!!  If the next scope is clean that means those foods were not the culprit.

    BACK HOME: 

    Asher has started school (pre-pre-k)

    Now that we’re back home we tried the new medicine Periactin that we were given to try.  This medication was supposed to increase her appetite.  She took it for three days, while waiting for it to work she had an allergic reaction.  She was really flushed and itchy with hives and rashes.  We couldn’t be sure what caused the reaction but we were advised to stop the Periactin and go to our (local) GI and discuss feeding until we can get into feeding therapy.  So here at home we are limping along waiting.  I’m extremely pleased with the care that we received in Cincinnati and it is MORE than worth the trip.  I was careful not to assume that we would get some kind of magic fix, but I look forward to getting further into our treatment so that feeding isn’t so stressful each day.

    BUT doctors’ appointments aren’t all we did while we were in Cincinnati check out some of our pictures: