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Archive for December, 2008

A Satisfying Soak

closeup

Need some relaxation, some down-deep thawing of frozen extremities, some relief from soreness or tired muscles?

It might be time for a nice, hot soak!

Because the way our bathrooms are situated, I’m usually a quickie-shower gal, but whenever I have time and access, I love  a long, fragrant hot soak in the bathtub.  Candles, music, phone off the hook, the works… it’s one of the more basic and affordable luxuries to be had right at home. 

About a year ago, I ran across the “recipe” for homemade bath salts, and it was so easy I decided to give it a try.  My skin is very sensitive to detergents and certain fragrances, but seems to do fine with sea salts and such, so I gave this a try, and really loved its ease and end result.

salts

Here’s the simple formula:

1 cup sea salt (not iodized regular table salt)

1 cup epsom salts

2 teaspoons baking soda (optional, for skin softness)

10 or more drops your favorite essential oil

That’s really how simple it is! 

(After a nice soak in salts, I usually do a quick shower rinse.)  The bath salts don’t produce any bubbles, so if you want them just add your favorite foaming gel or sudsing soap.

Or you might do like my Grandma and add a squirt of Palmolive liquid dish soap we used as bubble bath when we were at her house as kids ( “Madge, I soaked in it,” indeed).    She had a hard time getting me out of that warm bathwater after I’d filled it with a lot of hot water and drifts of suds.  (the bubbles were great for pretending we had old man beards or bodacious bosoms, ha!)

Water temps should be monitored for anyone with a physical condition it might aggravate…possible cautions are in place for those with heart or vascular conditions, blood pressure issues, pregancy, etc…according to your own doc’s recommendations.

Personally, I love my water as hot as comfort will allow :)

Anyway, the epsom salts/sea salt combination is wonderful for detoxifying the skin and really taking the ache out of sore muscles…there’s almost nothing like a warm soak in them before bedtime, sipping a favorite beverage and bundling up clean and fragrant and relaxed.  Playing around with the choices of essential oils is the fun part of stirring up these bath salts…last year I made patchouli (you either love it or hate it) for a friend and peppermint for my daughter.  With my next batches, I’d like to layer more herbal scents, citrus, green tea in the future.

Do you have a favorite fragrance?   Happy soaking!

Oh yes…and Happy New Year!

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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Gina

The big day after Christmas, I wandered down to the mailbox. The box was packed brim to the gills with the 2009 season’s seed catalogs. I excitedly gathered them up and ran back up to the house. ’Tis the season I’ve been waiting for since the first dark night of winter.

Now you may or may not have noticed here at the Dabbling blog, but we actually have structured weeks. One week is dedicated to food, another house and farm, one revolves around garden…this is not that week. If you haven’t noticed this pattern just chalk it up to us being a bunch of undisciplined abnormals who have a really hard time sticking to a syllabus. (Fortunately, we are quite flexible here!) Or maybe it’s just that most of our topics can easily fit into any of the broader categories.

This week, or the ’fifth” week of the month, we have declared to be craft week. This is not a good week for someone so incredibly uncrafty as myself (I covered this already!) I like to think I am okay in the food department and fair to good in the gardening and homesteading department, but that I come up empty in the craft department. So I have decided to think a little crafty in my own way which means I will be sneaking in a little seed and plant porn instead.

This time of the year I am full of thoughts about my upcoming goals. I am looking at my calendar, counting the days until I start seeds again. I am grateful for the returning sun. I write and draw up plans for the garden space and ponder what I want to plant and hopefully harvest. The other thing that floats between the garden rows in my mind is the fact I want to simplify my life…more. This means I will once again resolve not to spend, be thrifty, Reduce & Reuse, simplify, tread lightly, lower my carbon footprint, moe self-sfficiency…on and on. My general goals have been the same since about Y2K!

Last night I was looking through a few of the new catalogs and thinking about my mother’s birthday which is in a few short weeks. I want to make her something, but I have that problem with not even being able to cut cloth straight let alone sew it (this is on my skill goal list for 2009). Suddenly, my brain thoughts collided with what my eyes were looking at on the page in front of me: gourds! One of the varieties I spied was called a “snake gourd” and it literally looks like a coiled, twisty snake. How cool (remind me to tell you the story of my mom and the western garter snake I caught her at 13 someday)! Smiling, I put a little X next to it and added it to the seed list.

Do you make this same goal as me at the New Year? The one that claims you are going to handcraft all your gifts this year?

Well, if you are still learning how to be crafty (like me) or you are too busy to do totally homemade (like me) or lack talent in this area (like me) here are just a small sampling of simple gift ideas that I came up with straight out of one the seed catalogs:

*Art Gourds

*Think Outside the Typical Jam Box

  • Ground cherries
  • Sour cherries
  • Plum
  • Rhubarb
  • Edible Flowers
  • Kiwi
  • Fig tree
  • Roses

Scents

  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Mints

Spices & Herbs

  • Lemon grass
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Chamomile

Spirits

  • Peach Wine
  • Grapes
  • Dandelions

 

 

Wait a minute, I can’t plant a tree, harvest fruit and make jam by the end of the year. No, you’re right, however, thinking about future gifts from the garden will allow the time needed to get that tree to a point that it is fruiting and eventually the gift you dreamed up now just may become a tradition to give years down the road. Some, provided we are all blessed with a good growing season, you will be able to gift next winter if you plant them this spring. Many require a long growing season, so starting seeds early will really help out (e.g. some of the gourds are 120 days or more).

I have already penciled in some possible locations around my place for a kiwi vine and some of the gourds (also vines). If you are growing in a small space (or even a larger space that happens to also house livestock, thus making it a small space), think permaculturally. Where can I squeeze in a gift-bearing vine that is atypical to the rest of the garden. I bet you can find room (a shed wall, behind the garage, on a fence…). Think horizontally and go for one of the birdhouse gourd vines. I am also planting ground cherries to can for my mother-in-law who search high and lo at the farmers’ market this year and finally bought 1 pint for $8. They are easy to grow!

Despite the fact holiday fatigue set in a week ago for me, I am actually excited about my next year’s (or two or three) gifts. This New Year, I am once again looking at my goal to give all homemade gifts, however, I am challenging myself even further: I plan to grow most of the material.

Happy Seed Catalog Season, Everyone!

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Cornmeal Pound Cake

Our Monica is recovering from a cold and while I can’t possibly fill her shoes, I can at least fill this space with a wonderful recipe for you all to try.  This is a great recipe for any of those brandied fruits you may have put up over the summer.  It’s crumbly but moist and not too sweet.

Cornmeal Pound Cake

  • 1/2 Cup Applesauce (plain is fine, but spiced would be good too)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease an 8″ round cake pan.

Whisk together the applesauce, eggs, sugar, and milk until smooth.  Add flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt, mix until combined.

Pour batter into greased pan.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until sides pull away from pan and a tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pan for 20 minutes, then remove to cake plate.

To serve, cut a wedge and then slice that wedge into a top and bottom piece.  Pour some of your brandied fruit liquid onto the bottom piece to soak into the cake.  Place your fruit on top of the bottom piece, and top with the top piece of cake, pour more liquid on top of this top slice of cake, and place a few pieces of fruit on top as well.  Serve with whipped cream, if desired.  Enjoy.

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Repurposed Rug

I decided a week ago that the sink in the guest bathroom needed a rug in front of it.  There was a bath mat outside the tub/shower but nothing in front of the sink and I’m not sure why now, but I decided that just wasn’t good enough, so I got to thinking.

Early this summer we bought two large woven off-white rugs for a dollar a piece at a yard sale.  They went in the kitchen originally, which meant they needed to be washed often, the frequent washing was too much for the one rug which promptly showed all its wear and the reason they were only a dollar piece.

The rug has been sitting on a chair in the guest bedroom for a few months now, awaiting new purpose.  A new rug for the guest bathroom seemed most appropriate.  Here’s how I did it, in case you happen to find a deal on something like this and want to re-use for something new.

Obviously, first measure the space where the rug will go and cut the old rug to size.  Then you need to bind the edges to prevent unraveling.  There is a great binding tutorial over at Posie Gets Cozy, but her tutorial assumes you have a bias tape maker.  I’ll explain how to do it without one.  Though if you plan to do a lot of sewing, those bias tape makers are a God send and relatively inexpensive.

To bind the edges of this rug, I cut 4 – four inch wide strips.  The strips are 1 inch longer than the rug.  The rug was 29″ by 15″, meaning I cut 2 – 16″ strips and 2 – 30″ strips.  Traditionally bias tape and binding tape is cut on the bias, this uses more fabric and generally I find to be a hassle, so I just cut it straight, do what you prefer.

Now, lay the edge of your strip right side down on the right side (the side that will be facing up) of your rug.  Fold a half inch on each end of your strip, over, and pin into place.

Stitch using a 5/8″ seam allowance, locking stitches on both ends.  Now put the rug onto a table with the bottom side up and the strip of fabric pulled out.

Now fold the raw edge of your strip underneath the edge of the rug, so that the fabric is doubled over.  Do this the entire length of your edge.

Take the folded edge and pull it over and on top of the back of your rug.  Pull tightly into place and pin.

Traditionally, when quilting, you’d hand stitch this back edge.  This is a very nice touch and if you want to feel free.  I find that machine stitching is a little stronger and considering people will be walking on this I want it tough.  Machine or hand stitch along the edge of your fabric. 

Repeat the above steps on the next three sides, overlapping your edges.  If you’re really good at mitering, feel free to miter corners, I’m going for the most basic of approaches here for those new to sewing and binding.  Once you have all your sides down.  Seal your edges by sewing them down.

Simply tuck in the raw edges and stitch to seal the corners.  Cut your threads and you’re done with your new rug.

Don’t limit yourself to rugs.  Consider re-purposing those old, torn rugs into place mats or table runners, using the same method, just cutting to size.

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Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by emphelan

I have seen and heard a lot of talk about homemade soaps, body/dish/laundry, but not much on other homemade bathroom supplies. And this stuff is far more simpler to make than the soaps. Let’s go take a peek in my bathroom cabinet, shall we?

Hand care; working outside in all kinds of weather can make your hands rough, dry and the combination of the two can cause your hands to bleed, ok maybe that’s just me. To help with this use Bran water.
Boil 1 cup water and seep 1/2 cup natural bran for 15 minutes. Strain the bran out. Leave some of the water in a bowl next to the sink, and place the remainder in the fridge. Dip your hands in the water after you have washed your hands (like when you do dishes or cleaning all the poop/dirt/oil off of them) Do this at least 3 times a day. It also helps if you use a moisturizer at night. A traditional recipe for this is:

2 oz of honey
4 oz lanolin
2 oz of sweet almond oil

Melt your honey in a double broiler, stir in Lanolin, allow to cool, stir in the almond oil. Apply at night before bed. If you own your own sheep, or have a friend that does, you might think about making your own lanolin. As This is something I have yet to do, I will refer you to an article by Elaine Benfatto; The Scouring Post.

Toothpaste is another simple and necessary item to have in your cabinet. Fresh strawberries are a wonderfully pleasant way to clean your teeth, simply rub the fresh fruit across your teeth. Or you can combine 3 parts bicarbonate of soda with 1 part salt, then add 3 teaspoons of glycerin for every 1/4 cup of soda/salt mix. Add only enough water to make a paste, add a favorite oil to help with taste and smell.

As for breath fresheners, eat more veggies! or make a rose water to gargle with.

Deodorants (not antiperspirants)

few drops of lavender oil
1 teaspoon lavender water

mix and apply to underarms after a warm shower or bath.

You can just add lots of lovage or sage to your bath water or use cider vinegar under your arms. No worries, the vinegar smell dissipates after a bit.

A basic shaving cream:

8 ounces glycostearin (diglycol stearate)
8 ounces heavy mineral oil
40 ounces water

Using double boiler, combine the heavy mineral oil and glycostearin and heat to 150 F. In a separate pot, heat the water to 150 F, and then slowly stir in the glycosterian/mineral oil mixture. Once mixed, remove from heat and allow cool. When the mixture is cool, you can add perfume if desired. Store in tins or canning jars.

There you have it, a quick peek into the homesteaders bathroom cabinet.

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Compost Piles

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Howling Hill.

Howling Hill is a very small homestead. Honestly, I’m not sure it can be considered a homestead because the only animals we have are our cats Harley and Francesca. However, Wolf and I endeavor to have a farm of vegetables and small livestock. We’re leaning toward goats, sheep, chickens, rabbits, and pigs. I know pigs are not “small livestock” but we eat a fair amount of pork. We don’t eat beef so getting a cow or two just for cheese seems a little … too much. And horses, as beautiful as they are, are just to big and expensive. I can’t imagine Wolf and I will have a lot of time to ride horses if we’re caring for our farm of livestock.

Despite not having a homestead, we embrace homesteading’s values: reduce, reuse, recycle. Our mindset regarding what’s important has radically changed the way we think, the way we buy, they way we eat, what and how we throw out, and the way we view politics, religion, and society.

Howling Hill is a one acre lot heavily wooded with trees, predominately pines. There is not a lot of sun on our patch of Earth. I’ve talked about wanting to cut down trees on my own blog many times but I’m reluctant to for a couple reasons. First, the expense. It’ll be about $1000 to cut down the trees I want down. Because the majority of those trees are pines I don’t know what we’d do with the wood. Pine is not good to burn because it’s a soft, wet wood. Second, I don’t want to put a ton of money into Howling Hill because Wolf and I won’t live here forever. We’ll stay in the town we live in but not on this plot. Because HH is on a hill (hence the name) most of the lot is unbuildable.* We never thought of Howling Hill as our dream place merely as a stepping stone to our dream place.

That said, we still learn as much as we can about homesteading, animal care, reducing and reusing, etc. And one of the things we put a lot of time learning about is composting because that is one component of homesteading anyone can participate in no matter how small or large the plot of land you live on is.

One of the first posts I wrote on Howling Hill was about composting. Wolf built compost piles at my request. — I’d show you a picture of them today but it’s a little snowy out there right now thus you can’t see anything. — The compost is predominately food scraps from our dinner table. We don’t put any meat or meat products into the compost because that will attract the wrong sort of critters, though surprisingly I don’t see many critters out there to begin with. Because the compost is behind some fir trees it doesn’t get a lot of sun. The food begins to pile up, I’d say with an average height of two feet. I don’t fluff the pile too much because I don’t want to release too much of the heat the compost creates but I do fluff on occasion.

The best way to fluff your compost pile I’ve found is to get some chickens. Wolf and I were amazed at how rich the compost was when the Chicken Ladies did their thing. It was obvious their bodily waste increased the temperature of the pile while they simultaneously aerated the fruit and vegetable matter while hunting for yummy bugs.** Because the compost has never broken down the way it should — I think it’s never really gotten hot enough — we’ve not been able to use it on our garden which really sucks. However, now that we know the chickens are fab compost-maintainers we’ll put them to work. Next year we plan on fencing in part of the yard, including the compost pile, so we can keep the Ladies alive and well fed while making them work for us by aerating the compost. Then we’ll be able to use it for our garden come fall 2009.

Composting is easy and low cost. It cuts down on the amount of trash in a landfill. You can go out and buy one of those composters but I don’t think you want petroleum based chemicals mixed in with your compost. Besides, why spend over $200 when you don’t have to? You don’t have to build something like Wolf did though I’m sure he’d be flattered if you did =). At our last home (in the suburbs) we just had a pile in the corner of the yard of fruits, vegetables, and grass clippings. There wasn’t any wood surrounding the pile and though it became the neighborhood dog magnet it composted just fine.

One note too keep in mind is this: don’t make your compost pile too big. Wolf and I made this mistake. If the pile is too deep it takes too long to breakdown. Fluffing is good but you don’t want to do it too often. Throw some manure (horse or chicken works best) onto the pile every now and again to heat up the pile and to allow the feces and urine chemicals to do their breakdown thing too.

I’m not going to say composting is “fun and easy” because it’s not particularly fun though it is easy. But it’s a good way to create free fertilizer for your garden and to cut down on the amount you throw away. It feeds the local bird population and possibly the local dog and cat population to as the pile often attracts rodents. Chipmunks and mice seem to love running around the pile picking out what they can. The cats see the pile as their friend. I’ve never seen bears hanging around the pile, nor have I found evidence they do, though that may be our bears here in New Hampshire. If I were you I’d know my local animal population before creating a compost pile because you don’t want to attract animals who will destroy your pile, yard, garden, etc.

Don’t put the pile too close to the house because of the rodents and get some worms to throw in there if you don’t have any.*** It’s better if you have it in a semi-shady area as direct sun isn’t good. This is why our pile is behind fir trees. Certainly it get partial sun during the day but not direct sun all day. Adding water every now and again is also good because it you don’t want it to get too dry but don’t make it too moist either. I don’t think I’ve ever put water on the pile but the Northeast is fairly wet so that’s why I haven’t. If you’re in a dry climate some moisture every now and again is a good idea.

Overall composting is a great way to participate in homesteading if you’re like us and can’t have the farm you dream of.

*Don’t you love making up words?
**Not yummy to me, yummy to them.
***Wanna send me some worms come spring? If so email me and I’ll send you my address.

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the family medicine chest will be an ongoing series on the fourth thursday of each month.

This month, I am going to focus on syrup making. Syrups are very versatile. You can use them in the traditional sense for taking straight as a cough syrup, or you can be imaginative with them and use them on pancakes or even make soda with them.

To make herbal syrups, you’ll need the herb of choice, water, honey and brandy (optional, used to preserve it).

Start by making an infusion. Typically, I match herbs and water cup for cup. In this lesson, I will use Ginger as my herb.

First, I would chop up 2 cups of ginger. There is no need to peel. Add 2 cups of water to a sauce pan and bring it to boiling on the stove top. Simmer for 10 minutes. Cover and let steep for 1 hour. Strain off the root.

Return the infusion to the saucepan and add 1 1/2 cups honey (or if using raw sugar, 2 cups) to the pan. Heat to thin honey and stir until thoroughly mixed. Allow to cool. (If using sugar, you’ll need to cook it down a bit to thicken the mixture). You can add 1/4 cup of brandy to the mixture to help preserve it longer but I rarely do, unless it is a syrup reserved for coughs only and I want it to last more than 1-2 months. Pour into a bottle and label. Store in the fridge. Use up within 1-2 months.

This syrup can be taken straight for upset stomachs and sore throats (1-2 teaspoons at a time). It can be added to teas for flavoring, poured over ice cream or pancakes or made into soda. To make soda, add 2 oz. syrup per every 8 oz. of seltzer water (adjust the amounts to match your taste). Yum!

(sorry, no photos today, i will try to find them later and add them but I can’t remember which computer they are on and i have a squirmy toddler in my lap who’s not letting me get much done right now).

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Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

“…the only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”.

 

from Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

—————————————-

 

The snow falls and falls for so many this week, and we have much to do…too much…and the holidays are upon us now, ready or not.

 

And maybe we’re stuck with a less-than-Currier&Ives scenario that’s a bit out of our control.  Maybe we’re suddenly the default hotel of choice for more out-of-towners than we know what to do with.  Or our pipes have a leak and we all have the flu.  Or maybe we cleaned out the fridge days ago before leaving town, and are now stranded right back where we started due to flight cancellations and delays. 

 

If some of our plans fall apart, as oftentimes happens, what are some simple ways to “keep warm” even in the midst of the unexpected?  I mean the really simple things.  The things you want when your bronchitis is flaring up, dinner won’t happen if you don’t get it, the car won’t start, the dog is chewing the holiday presents, and all your kids have had way too much sugar and far too few naps.  When Calgon has not yet taken you away…

 

Here are some things that spell home comfort to me.  Even one of these is a gesture of kindness, a touchpoint of warmth…things nice to receive and to give:

 

A smile and a touch to the hand, or arm around the shoulder.

Help cleaning up the dishes.

A warm mug of anything…tea, water and lemon, coffee, cocoa, mulled cider.

Reading a book aloud to the kids.

Some soothing or favorite music.

Clean sheets on the beds.

Board games or jigsaw puzzles set up on card tables off the main drag.

Shared potluck dinners.

Singing together.

Children making up their own skits and “fashion shows”

Personal mail in the mailbox

A phone call from someone you miss

Homemade soup

Flannel PJs worn all morning…or sometimes all day

Watching a movie with all the lights out, and popcorn

Lying on the floor (by yourself, with the kids, with hubby, etc) and watching firelight/candlelight/twinkling lights

Storytelling, preferably with kids, under a bedsheet “tent”, with a flashlight

Very warm socks

Comfy afghan/throw/fleece/stadium blanket to curl up with

A crackling fire

A bowlful of nuts and nutcracker

Brushing or braiding the girls’ hair

Handheld string games

Flashlight finger-silhouette “puppets”

Scents…cinnamon, clove, bayberry, pine, vanilla

Everyone pulling the sleeping bags into the family room and falling asleep watching the lights/fireplace

Bringing in chopped wood from the woodpile for fireplace refreshers

A pot stewing all day on the back of the wood stove

Setting/clearing the table

Refilling people’s drinks throughout the day/night

Laughing at old home movies

Remembering those who’ve passed away…keeping them close in memory by retelling some of their stories

Nail care and hair care “spoiling” for elderly family members at home or in facilities

A quick sweep or vacuum when things get messy

Emptying the trash cans

Kisses, mistletoe optional !

Roasting mini-marshmallows over unscented candles with toothpicks, making fireside S’Mores

Simple, warm comfort breakfast served any other time of day …oatmeal thick with cream/cream of wheat/grits with real butter/biscuits with sorghum molasses/fresh bread, butter, honey

 

Well, you get the idea.  None of these things are hard, and most of them just entail some togetherness, or some kindness.

 

Or humor.  Don’t have a lot of gifts to give, but want to make the time together fun?  Something we’ve done a lot in the past is to make treasure hunts, where the person opens a box to find a clue, which then leads to another box with a clue, etc.  We had a lot of fun one year when my sister gave her husband a punching-bag-on-a-stand, but had no idea how to wrap it.  The next door neighbor was a co-conspirator and allowed her to hide it in the garage (unwrapped) till Open Sesame time.  We wrapped up a series of “hints,” except each one had to be performed before the next was revealed.  We were merciless…heehee!  A couple I remember were his having to stand in the front yard and sing God Bless America at top voice; another was his holding the lawn tiki torch and reciting the famous Ellis Island “bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; and phoning a family friend and having to serenade her with a few verses of “You are my Sunshine.”  We have photos of all of the poses, of course!  My daughter has always loved these clue sorts of gift hunts, and as she grew older, she got pretty creative herself.  The last one she did for me was all in poetry…pretty saucy poetry at that, ha!

 

During one holiday season in my childhood, my parents came up short just before the holidays, and there simply were no gifts…none.  You might imagine this would have been sad to us sisters, but it was harder on our mom.  She became despondent over it, and very depressed.  We girls made handmade gifts (very small ones) that year, in a few days, but the one that got saved and reread every year was the set of scrolls, one for each family member, entitled “What I’d Give You if I Had  Million Dollars.”

 

Another year at holiday time, we had to stick to the  practical only,and I believe that was the year Grandma and Grandpa found themselves the recipients of dozens of rolls of toilet paper stacked into a tree shape with a huge red bow on top.  Glad they had a sense of humor ;-)

 

Of course, some people take this a step further, and the humor takes on a life of its own.  I used to live a few minutes away from a friend I’d known from college, back in the days when practical jokes were how we showed our appreciation.  Each year at this season, he would come up with the most ridiculous white elephant gift imaginable, and we’d try to top each other’s.  We were both broke, so the items were always free…and awful.  And they were given with great presentation and fanfare, usually as our two families shared a potluck meal together.  A couple examples were a wreath I made him from old sprouting potatoes wired together with a really gaudy bow tied on.  This was positioned in the place of their tasteful holiday wreath on the front door without their knowledge in advance.  The most memorable gift I received from them was a real classic:  Arriving home after a week out of town, we pulled into our driveway when this sight met our eyes–the most awful metallic garland had been draped over all the front of my house, a plastic pink flamingo with fake antlers tied to its head was underneath, and a HUGE sign read (and this is exactly how it was spelled)  “MARY CHRISTMAS, Y’ALL!!!”   In front of those were the toilet my friend had recently replaced, except it had been spray painted bright red and green and had a fake poinsettia positioned sprouting from the bowl.

 

It had been up the entire week.

 

I suggest a kinder, gentler gesture of affection…  ;-)

 

It’s not going to always be picture-perfect, but hindsight often edits memories more kindly when all’s said and done.  It’s not always words, food, or activities that warm us.    Real life includes those who are in trouble, who are in mourning, the lonely, the ill, the awkward, those with disabilities, the grumps, the prickly personalities, the obnoxious…you name it.  Real life’s messy…but can be meaningful even if in just the small ways.  I’m often surprised at how a simple act of kindness can warm the chilliest atmosphere.

 

May we all find a way to smile during the rough times, and experience warmth– give and receive warmth, not just in the next few days, but as we come together more and more, sometimes inconveniently, but in so many ways, so very necessary to each other.

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Yes, odd title…and no I don’t mean soup recipe. Browse down for a fabulous ointment and also a homemade electrolyte solution. So,taking right up from where we left off yesterday with our topic of dog attacks and livestock:

Third…You will want to administer antibiotics. Right from the start. Don’t miss a day, don’t skip. Take this and cleaning very seriously. If you are squeamish about shots—you won’t be by day three.

There are a number of ways to do this. You can give a full dose shot of LA 200 every day. You can give a full dose shot of LA200 one day then alternate with Pen -G the next, going back and forth like that. I kind of like the back and forth since Liquamycin (LA 200 or oxytetracycline) is a long acting medicine but Pen G (penicillin) is a daily shot. Each is also from a different family of antibiotics so I personally think it enhances but that could just be my opinion. I have done no official study but just observed different instances where this back and forth was used. You MUST do this at least for 10 days. All the vets I have witnessed/heard of gave one shot and said that is enough. It’s not—they must have a course of antibiotics just as a sick human would. Those that beat the infection do a series of shots. No shots—no live animal in my experience.

I also know all the things about antibiotic resistance. I absolutely abhor random use of antibiotics especially for overcrowded conditions and enhanced feed conversion. However, in the case of dog attack—-infection is a very real threat and will be your main enemy. As a matter of fact—infection is your only enemy. Chunks grow back. Punctures close. Wounds that show tendons or bone eventually fill in. Infection….it kills.

For your future reference here is one table that gives some information about antibiotics used in animals. It is not the do all end all but a good starting point . http://www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/antibiotictable.html

You can also give your animal a shot of pain relief if you have it. Banamine is great but expensive. Some vets will tell you not to give many shots of it (maybe two at most) because it can injure the rumen. However, for other problems we have given banamine for many days in a row ( twice a day for the first 3 days and then daily for another 5 or 6) and the ewe, at a year and half later, is still fine. Also, lambs and kids are growing so supposedly they are much less bothered by it. One friend had a ram lamb break a leg. She really wanted this guy for breeding so for a month and half, based on her vet’s recommendations, she gave him almost daily banamine shots while he wore his cast—he’s fine, healed, breeds, walks and has no injury to his rumen. Now I am not saying it can’t cause problems — just pointing out that maybe a dog attack victim needs a bit more than one or two shots.

If you don’t have the money for banamine or it’s off brand (ask your vet for a bottle—not just one shot—it’s much cheaper per shot this way) you can use aspirin. 100mg aspirin per 10 pounds body weight for goats and 100 mg per 20 pounds per sheep. Goats need different amounts because their metabolism is different —this is true with many medicines so please double check dosing always. *Please be aware that aspirin speeds the excretion of tetracycline drugs during urination so try not to use it too much*

Lastly…ointments, medicated sprays, fly protection.

Each day after you clean the wounds you will want to apply an ointment or spray for infection to each and every wound. You can use one you have, one from your vet, one from the local feed store or here is an ointment that I highly recommend for you to make and keep on hand. This is from a good friend, Alethea, who is getting her Doctoral degree in alternative medicines and nutrition. She and I met through our sheep chat group and have traded info for years on ways to treat livestock (some areas like mine just REALLY don’t have vets for large livestock and we must learn to be our own vets). I won’t go into the gruesome details here but a number of people swear by this for help with infected and maggot infested wounds.

So…..here it is quoted exactly as she sent it to me the other day:

I originally got the cedar salve recipe out of Herb Quarterly magazine

and have adapted it for just about any plant, like comfrey. The

basic recipe is:

Take a handful of white cedar leaves (the amount isn’t really important

since you base the recipe on what you have and you could probably use

whatever cedar species you have), pull the green part off the brown

stems, put the leaves in a pan and cover with olive oil, bring just

under a simmer and then let it sit covered either over a VERY low heat

or just take it off the heat. Come back sometime later (at least an

hour) and strain the oil off.

Reheat the oil and add beeswax, I never guess right on how much wax,

it will be more than you think you need. : )

After it cools a bit but before it hardens, add 1 or 2 vitamin E

gelcaps (depending on how much oil you have, maybe 2 gelcaps for a cup

of oil) and a few drops of essential oil of pine or spruce (I make my

own, I’ll give you that info too). Then pour into jars and let it set

up. If you guessed wrong on the wax and it’s too runny, reheat it

and add more. On the wax, I told a class once to put as much as you

think you need in there and then add 2 more chunks, that should come

out about right.

For essential oil of pine, spruce or even fir, I take the oozing sap

off the tree and cover it with olive oil. I let this sit for several

weeks, shaking the jar if I remember, and then strain the oil. It

will have a very heavy scent. It’s antiseptic on it’s own but use it

diluted as it can be irritating. I sometimes use the spruce/fir oil

on sore muscles, it warms the skin and underlying layers. A friend

uses it for all kinds of things, it’s the panacea ointment at her

place. Her daughter came in complaining of a sprained ankle so she

rubbed spruce oil in and sure enough, it was feeling better in no

time!! : ) I’m sure there’s a little placebo effect going there but

I also think it’s a powerful herb(s) and often overlooked. I don’t

make much distinction between the spruce and fir, sometimes I try and

label pine separate but then I use them interchangeably so I don’t

know why I bother.

Of course, you can go buy the essential oil of any of the pines or

whatever, they aren’t expensive because they are often the by-product

of the logging industry. High quality suppliers of essential oils try

to not buy from places that use logged trees but I have mixed feelings

about this. While I agree it is not supporting an environmentally

friendly harvest of plants for medicinal use and involves heavy

machinery, diesel and erosion, it also makes use of something that

will be bulldozed into piles and burned at the end of the logging

season and that is a total waste. I’ve gone out and hauled in fir

branches for my goats and sheep off a logging site, the loggers would

have burned the branches and my goats and sheep loved them. Seemed a

shame to waste good food. They only cut the fir because it was in

the way to reaching the poplar they really wanted!!! Unbelievable.

Anyway, the cedar salve is another panacea type, everyone I’ve given

it to uses it for just about everything under the sun and it seems to

work! I wouldn’t use it on cats though. Too many of the chemicals in

the pine family are nasty for cats, all those volatile organic

compounds we’re always warned about.

Good luck with it, if you get around to trying it. You’ll find a

multitude of uses for it and it’s a nifty color in the jar, if nothing

else. (Thank you Alethea for this recipe)

In the summer maggots will be a problem—you will need a fly spray also. You can call and ask your vet which they recommend—there aren’t that many and all work about the same – or just go pick one up at Tractor Supply or your feed store. The more clean you keep the wound the less likely it is to get “stink” and have maggots attracted to it. If it gets maggots you must remove them. Everyone of them. Then you must clean clean clean the wound because obviously it is infected if it has maggots.

Now on to overall support. At first your animal will be “shocky”. Keep them warm if it’s really windy and cold out (I know—you shaved the hair but I swear it was for a good reason) and keep them hydrated, maybe even with some electrolytes, and give them some hay to eat. No grain please for the first day or two. I know you feel bad for her but her system doesn’t need grain right now. Depending on conditions (hot, cold, running around, laying down etc) a goat/sheep will drink about 1 gallon of fluid per day on average. My thought is you want to make sure Daisy is drinking at least ½ gallon in the next day. If it looks as if she is not you can squirt it in her mouth a syringe full at a time ( use a turkey baster, syringe with a drench nozzle attachment, something that lets you see amounts and get it all in the mouth). Be careful and don’t squirt it in at blinding speed and choke her of course—but do get it in her. Once she has water and time for it to get circulating she should start to perk up.

Homemade electrolyte recipe:

1 quart water

2 ounces dextrose( corn syrup) They recommend not to use table sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Combine all ingredients

Also we want to support the immune system and rumen. I like to always to give my ruminants yogurt (plain or vanilla—no no-fat or fruited varieties please) to help put some beneficial bacteria back into the rumen after the stress of attack, illness or injury. You can buy a tube of probios type stuff but they are expensive and yogurt will do exactly the same thing. Squirt it in with a syringe or some sort of thing like that. They may eat it on their own—especially goats. I like to feed at least half of a single serve container per day if I feel they need it, though you can feed lots of it if you need to for some reason – yogurt will not hurt them or give them diarrhea or anything like that. We have actually used it as a main food source during a bought with a fungus related poisoning to a sheep—works like a charm until they can eat on their own again. I would also like to stress here that the rumen is were the immune system starts so supporting the beneficial bacteria helps for stress and for an improved immune response.

Another bit of help is Vitamin C and E shots or tablets or capsules. You can get bottles of it from your vet to use for shots, go to feed store for powders or you can get human tablets/capsules and supply it that way. Human form will be cheaper but you have to get it down their throat. Plus and minuses for either choice.

One time a day of each is fine. More won’t hurt –though the C can be a bit acidic – but it will just be excreted out if not needed by the body. It’s not 100% necessary but it does help the immune system. In actuality if you wanted to spend the money and buy a bottle of bo/se (get it from your vet), which is man made selenium and vitamin E in a shot form, then you can give them a shot of this at dosage of 2.5ml PER 100 pounds and another about a week later. It also will help with the stress and immune system. We regularly used this to help any sick sheep on our property. Though some vets insist that it is poison if used more than once a month or even at more than 2.5ml per shot (silly because the dosage above is the dosage the bottle says to use), we have not found that to be true. Canadian vets still use bo/se much more frequently than American vets would feel comfortable with according to my Canadian friends. I have conspiracy theories as to why this is so but I will leave those for another day. And though I use natural/organic selenium for my actual minerals supplied to my livestock I do always keep a bottle of inorganic on hand for situations like this as I find it useful and easy to administer to give a boost in situations such as this.

Now even though I have given you suggestions to help your animal and care for them unfortunately there is no guarantee your animal will live. However you will never know until you try. I personally believe that just like humans they do appreciate the effort we make on their part, even when they have pain, and I believe if they could tell us then they would say such. Yes, dog attack looks horrible (really really horrible) and there is no person that can say for sure which animals will live through it and which ones won’t. Each person has to make their choice not just on how the wounds look but also on the original purpose for the animal and the amount of time and effort (and money) they are willing to put into the saving. That to me is the hardest part because of the emotional attachment clouding the choices and always the stress hovering in your mind that the animal is in pain. No matter which choice you decide to take you have always learned something. I know it doesn’t always seem like it…but you have. That in turn makes you a better caregiver to the next animal you have.

The one regret that I have in the years of caring for my animals has not been causing them to “suffer” by treating them or prolonging their pain. It has been the times that I gave up because I was too much of a wimp to try something “scary”. However as one of my friends said to me (and that I always repeat to myself) if you don’t try….they will die anyway.

Hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything and hopefully you will never need this—but here it is just in case. Good Luck and good learning.

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This is a two part series because of length. Tomorrow the second half will be posted—with a big thanks to Gina for sharing her day with me.

My daughter recently acquired a new dog. It is the cutest red and white spotted mini dachshund. This has to be one of the most loving dogs we have ever had and he just dotes on everyone and everything. However…..he does chase my chickens and though we are working on that —he got a scruff shake and a growl just yesterday for not stopping when I told him to—I know that for the entirety of his life we will always have to watch him around the livestock. Dogs….all dogs…are preprogrammed to chase. Put them with some fun loving and like minded friends and you have a deadly pack waiting to rip the belly out of something. Even small dogs, after uncurling from your friends 2 month old baby, can go out with a few other small friends and take down baby horses and cows. I know…sounds unbelievable but it’s true. So the first thing I would like to start this article with is a plea for everyone out there to remind their friends and neighbors to not let their dogs run free. There is nothing worse than coming home to a sheep with it’s belly ripped open, intestines threatening to spill, moaning and baaing in pain.

Now lets talk about some things I have learned about caring for the dog attack victims.

First —do let Daisy bleed a bit. It should naturally stop. If it doesn’t there is something really wrong and Daisy will die painlessly in a short time from blood loss. It seems counter productive to let them bleed but you want the blood to flush the dog spittle/bacteria out. Cardinal rule number one: you can NOT sew up dog wounds. Ever. No matter how bad or “open” they look.

If you have a sheep or a goat, unless the damage is very minimal, your vet will probably tell you it will die. Unfortunately it very well may—but many vets automatically write off sheep and goats because of two reasons 1) they are food and cheap to purchase and 2) they don’t really understand them because they are not big here in the U.S. So…don’t take it too personally if they say that and don’t be to hard on them for thinking that. Most people would never consider putting down a horse with similar wounds but they do a sheep or goat.

One thing though: if Daisy has a ripped open belly in any form (the gut has many bacterias and even if the intestines aren’t ripped that area is extremely difficult to heal and keep clean) or a damaged spine or tendons that keep her from standing soon after the attack —please do put her down. These are problems that are beyond our home skills and require much money and effort and really are not worth going into. Give her a hug and tell her how much you appreciated her time with you and put her down by whichever means you do it normally. Beyond those things— just because Daisy looks bad right now doesn’t mean she’s knocking on death’s door either. Animals like people heal and regrow skin so there is a strong possibility for you to be successful—even if they look REALLY yucky.

Now if your not ready to let Daisy go just yet you need to follow these few processes:

One….shave the animal. I don’t care if it is minus 10 outside you are going to have to shave the animal if it has any kind of fleece what so ever. You can tie a blanket around them afterwards to keep them warm until some of the fleece returns. Why? Because for every bite mark you see there are 3 more (I guarantee it) hiding away under their hair. To be successful at saving your animal you HAVE to find all wounds right from the beginning. Up until recently I would tell people to remove hair around the wounds and be sure they checked all over. Now though I realize that that is not good enough. Many wounds are missed and so complete hair removal in my opinion is required because if you have never seen a dog attack you do not realize how many many many small punctures there can be. You can call your vet for this and have them use their surgical shears. You can do it with scissors or your own shears. If you are doubly triply sure that there is no cut in an area then leave the hair if you must but cut it short enough that it does not “droop” into damaged areas to re infect them with dirt.

During the hair removal, and next with cleaning, you will come across flaps of skin, rips and tears and even hunks eaten out. Do not be squeamish working around these. Either during initial hair removal and cleaning or later when re cleaning. Dirt is disease and disease is death. My best analogy for this situation is burn victims in the hospital. Supposedly removing burnt tissue is excruciatingly painful—yet the nurses and aids scrub (yes, scrub) with brushes to get it off the patients. If it is left on there, not only can new tissue not grow correctly but worse, infection will set in.

This is exactly the same thing: Dog attack puts your animal in “intensive care”. You must be the nurse that wields the scrub brush to be successful.

Second….And this is the CARDINAL rule. Clean, clean, clean…….and then clean some more. You will need a helper of course.

After you have found all those wounds I told you were hiding under that hair—you have to clean each and every single one of them. Not just by wiping them with a damp soapy rag like we do to humans, dogs and cats. Remember: humans bathe, dogs and cats lick….so the wounds continually get re cleaned and have forms of antibiotic reapplied. Even humans have antibodies in their mouth fluid to help heal their own wounds. Of course…we don’t usually lick but you get the idea.

However sheep and goats can not, and do not, do this. They must have each wound cleaned like a horse would have theirs cleaned: from the inside out. You must syringe with saline solution (1tsp NON iodized salt to each cup of water) each and every wound and each and every hole (one friend got completely in the bath with her sheep). You must push flaps of skin out of the way to get completely under all of them into little pockets of bacteria and dirt. Make sure you check each and every wound for flaps—you might be surprised. Use the syringe tip to get into the wounds slightly and squirt the fluid up or down into each wound. Do it well, very well…not just lightly and not just once. Especially the first day you must be aggressive about this. The more “ick” we can get out the first day the better. Again: infection is going to be your number one battle. It is your enemy.

You can use a lightly soapy water on the surface “scrapes” to help clean them but do make sure and rinse them well with saline water.

You must clean these wounds at least once every single day with saline and a syringe until they heal and scab over with a correct scab—not a scab covering infection.

Also, please…try and bed them afterwards on something easily kept clean. I know it’s annoying to think of them in your mudroom or garage but a dirt floor is just death waiting to happen with all the open wounds. Hay, shaving and bedding all harbor extensive amounts of bacteria and have little “pieces” that will re attach their selves to the wounds making them dirty yet again. The MOST annoying, tiring, irritating and stressful part of this whole entire ordeal will be the cleanliness factor. It is hard, messy and bothersome but it is THE most important part.

Please come back tomorrow for the important second half to treating dog attack.

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