Goats, rabbits, chickens (pages)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Alpha Gal


Perfect for goats....and deer....







I normally do not post about my personal health issues...that's not what this blog is about. It's about the farm but farms have ticks. The tick-related Alpha Gal allergy is not very well known yet can be life threatening so I feel it is pertinent to my readers. So, here is my story.

As my grandparents always said it was tradin' day. Living in the country has a lot of perks but trips to town have to be consolidated. Not only for gas savings but for good time management as well. I was tooling along in PT Patti Petunia (my PT Cruiser) going to town to do my "tradin' ". The bottoms of my feet began to itch. Before I got to town both feet and hands were itching. By the time I was finished with my "tradin' " my torso had started itching. I remembered that I woke up during the night itching. In spite of all this scratching, I still did not realize I was having an allergic reaction; I thought it was poison ivy.

Poison Ivy grows ALL OVER my farm and my goats love it; I get it from them. And, I get it ALL OVER. So, I was bemoaning the fact that a new round of itching burning blisters was beginning.

As the afternoon wore on I itched and scratched my way through my chores; I weeded six raised beds, put new straw in the hens nests, brushed the goats and played ball with the dog. By this time the itching and burning was intense and I didn't feel too good; I finally looked at my body. My entire torso, arms and legs were covered in huge red welts. Also, there were welts inside my mouth.

That's when I knew it was an allergic reaction. I have many, many allergies from food, pharmaceuticals and chemicals so I began to mentally search for something I may have eaten or come into contact with.


My first thought was the road spray. We have an ongoing dialog with the county about the terrible "trash gravel" they put on our road; whatever it is causes dust clouds that rival a Mount St. Helen's eruption. Really. So, in the spirit of detente the county agreed to try a new spray made from trees that would help settle the dust. They had sprayed that morning when I was in the garden so theoretically the spray could have gotten on my body. Plus, I always munch a little produce so I could also have ingested it.

The second possible culprit was a poison ivy spray I had been using; it contained one ingredient on my allergy list.

My ability to think was quickly diminishing; I could see blackness hovering on the perimeter of my awareness. It was like being enclosed in a slow moving whirlwind, the percussion slowly squeezing, growing thicker and darker, pushing me ever closer to the precipice. I put my head between my knees and mentally grabbed for the edge of the cliff and held on. I could NOT pass out. My husband was out of town and if I feinted I was on my own.

When the episode subsided enough to sit up, I reached for my cell phone praying I had service. Our farm is in a valley and the "mountain" blocks the cell tower that is just on the other side. Our son and his family live 3 miles away; I knew he was at work but prayed my daughter-in-law would be home. Struggling to keep the black gaping vortex at bay I pressed send. When she answered I simply said "Come."

I went into full anaphalactic shock and spent three days in the hospital. I hardly remember anything about those three days; I could have sworn I didn't even have a TV in my hospital room but apparently I watched movies with the family. And, I spent a month looking for my favorite camisole then they told me the doctor cut if off of me in the emergency room.

We all racked our brains trying to figure out what the trigger was so it wouldn't be repeated. My family spent hours on the phone talking to everyone and their brothers about the spray on the road and we finally eliminated it. I stopped using the poison ivy remedy but was doubtful about it causing such a violent reaction.

Then one day a family member heard a news report about tick bites--specifically deer ticks also called the Lone Star Tick-- causing a meat allergy. What? No! That's absurd. Never heard of such a thing. No one I knew had ever heard of such a thing. But, truth is stranger than fiction and this sounded like science fiction.

I looked it up on the internet and discovered a whole group of folks who had experienced the same symptoms. I get tick bites almost every day. I am a big meat eater. I usually eat meat three times a day. Oh my gosh. Could I be allergic to meat? A simple blood test would tell. Meanwhile I stopped eating meat from mammals.

I located a lab who processed the alpha-gal test; now all I had to do was go to my doctor and ask him to order the test. I printed out the lab order; all he had to do was sign it.

Silly me. Some doctors hate it when patients babble on about their self-diagnosis especially if that information came from the internet. And, when it's something they never heard of, well, good luck getting past all that I-went-to-med-school-I know things-you-know-nothing barrier. Not only did he refuse to order it he told me the test would cost me thousands of dollars which his side-kick nurse practitioner promptly substantiated.

I was shocked, disappointed and spent a half day railing against the medical profession. What happened to caring about your patient? Empathy? The hippocratic oath which I'm sure says something about getting to the bottom of medical questions. Wasn't he just a tad bit curious to learn about this new medical discovery? Apparently not. I was cranky. I was steak deprived. I wanted red meat and I wanted it now. My resolve hardened. Next time I would use a different approach.

I visited hospitals, clinics and private doctors offices; no-one had a clue about alpha-gal. When I finally selected a doctor and made the appointment I approached it from the standpoint of I simply needed someone to draw blood and send it in. Instead of saying I was pretty sure this is what caused my allergic reaction I said I just wanted to eliminate this possibility so I could start eating meat again. The personnel had never heard of alpha-gal but nonetheless treated me with curious respect instead of condescension and dismissal.

Then I encountered the fact that their regular lab didn't do the alpha-gal test and they did not have an account with the lab who did. We (and I say we because I was on the phone to the testing lab and my doctors office many times)finally got all the details worked out and I had the blood drawn. Whew. Oh, and instead of thousands of dollars the test would be around $50.

This entire process took a couple of months in which time I was abstaining from meat. And, I do love my meat. It took another week to get my results. The doctors office called. POSITIVE. Then someone else from the office called. The next day they called again. They just wanted to be sure that I understood I COULD NOT EAT MAMMAL MEAT. This was serious: no mammalian meat.

Yes, I cried. It's just that I already have a laundry list of food allergies. And, it was summer. And, it was grilling season. And, I do love a good steak. The positive test results sent my husband into hyper research mode. He read everything he could find and he found plenty. He's also a gourmet cook so he is all about creating good recipes.

I can eat poultry and fish. The turkey burgers from the store make me gag. So, my farmboy made his own--they not only taste good...THEY ARE DELICIOUS. And, he does things with fish that make my head spin.

For months now my foot has been hurting. On the bottom where you stand on your tippie toes and on the inside. Some days it just throbs and is swollen and it shoots pain up my foot into my ankle. Some possible considerations were stone bruising, twisting, spider bite (no point of entry), stubbing my toe; I just couldn't figure it out. Then one day I received a post from the alpha-gal chat room that said this person's foot hurt and was swollen. A light bulb went off but as I eat no mammal meat I was puzzeled. What I read next sent me into an oh-no spiral. They were allergic to dairy in addition to meat.

My favorite food in the world is milk. I drink more milk than anyone I know. I love it. I crave it. My ancestry is Scotch/Irish. A lot of blood type O. Freedom fighters. Meat eaters. Milk drinkers. In particular I love goat milk. I have two angel goats I milk twice a day. I love milking and I love milk. So, this was particularly hard for me. And, yes, I cried again.

This is Tessa. She's a Nupine-half Nubian, half Alpine. She has just started giving a half gallon a day. She is scheduled to be bred in a couple weeks.
Daisy (right) and her daughter Button. Daisy gives just over a half gallon milk a day. She will not be bred this year as she has had kids two years in a row so she gets a year off. Button is only seven months old and will not be bred until next year.

I grieved one day; then I decided I was being silly. After all, there are so many folks who have MUCH WORSE conditions than this. I will concentrate on my blessings instead.

It has been a challenge particularly because there is so much hidden animal products and dairy in foods; things you would never even think of. Like pectin in jelly--there's animal and there's vegetable. Like gelatin--beware of capsules. Like lactic acid. I've kept my farm boy busy researching foods that have caused reactions; it has been a trial and error process. We've read every fine print label in our pantry and frig. We spend hours reading labels in the grocery store. At least I have reached a point where I think I know what to avoid. But, eating in restaurants is a whole other story.
My husband has posted our research and his recipes as he perfects them on our website: HERE

He created this page just for alpha gal sufferers and interested parties. You will be able to access all sorts of resources to help with your own investigations. And, we will post new information as we find it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rocky Creek Class Schedule Fall 2012


HERB CLASSES - All classes Tuesdays 10am to noon $20 per class (Make and Takes $5 extra) October 9 Making Remedies Learn to make simple herbal remedies that were the mainstay of our ancestral medicine chest: salves, extracts, elixirs. Optional make and take remedy $5.

October 23 Herbal Antibiotics Germs can run through a generation in 20 minutes. Is it any wonder that they develop resistance to antibiotics so quickly? Learn about herbs natural antibiotic properties, which ones do what, how you can use them and how you can make them. Optional make and take $5.

November 6 ROOTS Get to the bottom of things during our autumn herb root class. We will study dandelion, burdock and horseradish and learn how they can improve the quality of life. Weather permitting we will go on an outdoor digging expedition! Optional make and take $5.

November 27 First Aid Stock your first aid kit with herbal remedies and learn basic “field first aid” using wild plants. Optional make and take $5.

December 4 Herbal Gifts Explore the world of herbal teas, vinegars, sachets, sprays, potpourri and mineral baths. Optional make and take $5.

CRAFT CLASSES All classes Tuesdays 10am to noon $10 per class October 30 Cards/Envelopes Use scrapbooking elements for making beautiful “wow” special occasion cards/envelopes. November 20 Scrapbooking Supplies are all set out; come on by and join in the fun.

December 11 Gift Boxes Various size boxes made from scrapbooking paper.
Don't settle for assembly line-store-bought cards. To the left are our glorious little designer cards and on the right are the gift boxes. Aren't they beautiful.

I started this last year and it was so successful I am offering past students a chance for refresher courses again this year. Providing the class is not already full, any class that you have already taken YOU CAN TAKE AGAIN FOR FREE. I usually offer new information in each class plus it's a great way to reinforce what has been presented before.

ALSO, if you take three classes in one calendar year, the forth one is half off! Call or email me to register. YOU WILL HAVE TO TELL ME if it's a free class for you that way I don't have to keep track of everyone!


Girls just want to have fun! This is last years ROOTS (First Frost) class.


Making brooms in craft class. Unfortunately, there will be no broom class this year as it only got 2 feet tall and made little tiny t!eensy weensy broom bristles! Drat the drought.

I love my classroom old fashioned black board. Thanks to family for obtaining it for me from an old school building that was closed. It was no easy task to install either as the wall is CEMENT. But, several smashed thumbs, bruised knees and trips to the hardware store later it's on the wall. It's been up a year and I have broken countless pieces of chalk but have never scraped a fingernail!

We have a diversity of classes and meetings...This is a Trust Birth class for those with an interest in natural childbirth.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Operation Adoption


As it turns out Mater did not make a good mom so I reverted to my original Plan A--try to get my broody Jersey Giant--Millie--to adopt the chicks.

I was nervous about trying it as I sure didn't want anything to happen to the chicks. Millie was sitting on her nest in the chicken house. I waited till evening chore time--it's pretty dark in the chicken house by this time. I nabbed up two little chicks from the brooder house and walked quietly into the c-house, crept over by the nests so as not to rile up the other chickens loafing around and spoke softly to Millie. (As I tell the grandkids--the farm motto is SPEAK SOFTLY MOVE SLOWLY)

Millie is used to me getting eggs out from under her--the other hens jump right in there with her to lay. Brooding hens don't lay; they sit. I gently put my hand under her and released the chicks. Millie immediately perked up when she heard that little peep peep peep. I backed away and prepared to keep vigil until I could determine if I had put the chicks into friendly or hostile territory.

Millie started clucking--that adorable mommy cluck meant for babies. She craned her neck under her body to have a look. The chicks had stopped peeping but Millie kept clucking; she stood up a little and did a quarter turn, looking and clucking. Then she sat back down and made content little noises. She looked out at me as if to say Look--Babies!

Stage 1 complete. Now all I had to do was give her a little alone time with her new arrivals and wait till it was a little darker outside.

I put all the other chicks into a box and put the lid on. I turned OFF their heat lamp. I wanted to chicks to go to Millie for warmth not stand under the light and bask in artificial mom-heat.

I went into the c-house, got the 2 chicks in one hand then got Millie and tucked her under my arm and headed back to the brooder house. I sat Millie on the straw and one by one put the chicks under Millie. Millie was excited so she didn't stay seated. When she began to walk around it scared the babies and they went flying (figuratively) to the far corners of the enclosure. I stepped outside and watched. The chicks cried and squawked; Millie walked around confused trying to console them with her clucks but they would have none of it.

Millie jumped out of the enclosure (but still in the brooder house) and hopped back in several times; the chicks were scared and screaming--I was beginning to worry that this was not going to work. I resisted the urge to go back in and "help" them.

Then Millie jumped into the enclosure and sat down uttering her little coos and endearments. The chicks settled down and huddled around her but did not go under her.

I left them to their own devises until it was good and dark--the kind of dark in the country where you cannot see your hand in front of your face. When we first bought the farm there was a yard light here that came on automatically every night. Now why would we want that? It interferes with the natural rhythm of things and besides, you can't see the stars with it on.

Me and my flashlight--which I never shined directly onto Millie--went into the brooder house. The chicks were all piled up IN FRONT of her--it gets in the forties here at night--way too cold for chicklets. One by one I stuffed them under her--all twenty. She is a huge chicken so they all fit. Now if they would just stay under there to keep warm.

After a couple of hours I went out to check on them; all ok. Another couple hours--yes, they were all still under her. So far so good.

The next morning I went out right at daybreak and watched as they slowly peeked then ventured out from under Millie. All twenty had survived the night. Millie started pecking and calling them to eat; they all gathered round for their first breakfast together.

By the second day it was as if Millie had hatched them herself. They crawl all over and under her and are completely smitten with their new Mommie, as she is with them.

I am SO happy! They are so cute as a little family and the chicks are being taught to be chickens. My other batch that I hand raised last year slept under a heat lamp 24/7--totally unnatural but they have to be kept warm. Then when they were old enough to be moved out to the chicken house they were afraid of the dark!

Here is Millie loving being a Mommie at last. She's probably thinking wow, I didn't know I had THAT many eggs under there! (That little green marble is actually a tomato for Millie!)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mater and Chicks

Summer is drawing to a close...only a few more days until the autumnal equinox. I love this transitional time when the earth is changing from green to gold and we are changing from shirts to sweaters. The animals start growing more hair and the plants stop growing anything. Well, that's not exactly true as I am starting my winter plantings. Farmer Gary is mowing down some of the garden--like my broom corn. Last year it was 2 - 3 times my height with beautiful tassels of red seed; this year it's barely knee high.
There's nothing more refreshing than a brisk cool morning to get you going. Usually I love it; drinking hot tea up on the mountain watching Rocky and the goats eat and play--here's a photo of them. But, today we got some baby chicks so I was wishing it was a tad warmer. However, they seem snug in their brooder house with the heat lamp overhead, straw on the floor and straw tucked into the air spaces in the eaves and rounded cardboard in all the corners. What is it that makes chicks pile up in a corner on top of one another until the suffocate? Here they are in their new home. They're so stinkin' cute. It looks red because of the heat lamp. You can just see Mater in the top right.
Mater is keeping them company, at least for tonight. Mater is a little red hen who loves to eat tomatoes in the garden. Because she was covered with tomato juice --I may have blogged about that earlier--the other hens pecked her bloody. She spent a few days convalescing in sick bay then went back in with the flock. This was a month or so ago. She is now a bit slow in the mental department--having your head pecked will do that to ya. Yesterday, Rocky (our ever vigilant 14 month old guard Anatolian), who loves to "play" with the chickens, played with Mater till she was completely disoriented. No blood drawn. I let her dry off and get her wits about her--dim as they are--most of the day then at bedtime put her in with the flock. Come morning, her poor little head was once again pecked bloody. This time a lot more damage was done. I can't say why the others ganged up on her again other than chickens are ruthless about their (no pun intended) pecking order and automatically single out the weak ones. Survival of the fittest. My sick bay is in the brooder house and that's why she's in there with my chicks. I hoped that she might mother them. Although she doesn't peck at them I don't think she's feeling anything maternal.
I have a broody (broody means they are "setting"--they want to hatch chicks) Jersey Giant--Millie...isn't she beautiful. This was taken last winter--she shows up great in the snow! She's been setting on the nest for a couple weeks. I'm thinking that I may be able to sneak a couple of chicks under her (she's setting in the chicken house) and maybe she'll adopt them. Then I can move her under cover of night into the brooder house and she'll adopt the entire batch of 20 chicks. Don't worry, Millie is a huge chicken so she can accommodate that many. I wouldn't be able to leave her in the chicken house--the nest is a considerable distance from the floor and the other hens would be mean to them. I want to have time to watch Millie with the chicks in her nest before I move them, just to make sure she accepts them and they come to no harm. I won't have time to do this before Sunday because of farmers markets, but come Sunday I'm going forward with my plan. Wish me luck.

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