Saturday, January 30, 2010

Two Year Anniversary for Little Ayla

It is two years today that we almost lost her. Two years today that our lives were changed forever when the ER doc ran bloodwork " STAT!" to find out why she was in respiratory failure and found her BG at 465. Type 1 Diabetes at 19 months old. She was in full DKA and had been for almost 48 hours.
We had already been rushed to this hospital via ambulance, and were awaiting transport via Life Flight Helicopter, but it was January and a nasty storm was going on. Both outside and INSIDE Ayla's body. They couldn't fly, so we waited--I prayed they would make it in time by ambulance.
I'll never forget those first Angels who marched through the corridors of our tiny hospital, in their flight suits, in perfect formation. They surrounded her tiny body on the stretcher--secured airways--got in a better I.V.-- got us on the road to a larger hospital 2 hours away. I couldn't ride with her in the back of the ambulance, so sat in the front passenger seat of that ambulance with a non-stop trail of silent tears streaming down my cheeks.
But SHE made it, WE made it. 5 days in the PICU we were released on Super Bowl Sunday and went home--no idea what we were doing and SCARED to death. I remember we had no idea how to feed her and stopped at a grocery store for sugar free popsicles and string cheese.
So many of you have been here for us through it all. The hypoglycemic seizures, the rocking emotions, my subsequent depression and grieving for the baby and the life we used to have. ( still happening by the way ), and our first JDRF fundraising walk.
Thanks to all the medical professionals, and all the friends and family that have cheered us on, and cried with us as well. I love you guys!
We are CHOOSING to celebrate this day every year instead of mourning it. Sure we've lost a lot, but we've GAINED even more.
Zoie and I are off to pee wee basketball, and then the whole family is taking a trip to " Elmers " and the kids are picking out little $5 presents. We've all worked hard and I think it is often overlooked how much the other children do to help with Ayla, and how much it has changed their lives too. We deserve a pat on the back and a little celebration. Tonight we're gonna go play cards with friends and the kids will form a big troop with the other kids and a good time will be had by all.
I'll edit with a pic later. Time to get out of my long johns and get going!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Divine Intervention?

This is Madeline. The pic doesn't do her justice, she is an ADORABLE good-natured heifer. Two years old and bred for a late spring calf. She was as good as DEAD this morning, in fact I thought she was.
7:00 a.m. Dante leaves for work, but is back a couple minutes later. Flat tire. So I get dressed, throw the kids in the car and get set to drop him off at work. The field where Madeline and 2 other heifers, the bulls, and our sheep live is a 1/2 mile from our house and the dairy barn, so I don't see these cows unless I'm leaving the house or checking on them. In this case I wouldn't have seen them until we left 5 hours later, to deliver cheese.
While hurrying by, I see legs in the air and then a head curled back, eyes rolled up into her head.
" One of my heifers died! Stop! " I yell, and fly out of the van in my pajamas to go see what the heck happened. Once I reached the gate, I saw an ear flicker and then yelled, " She's ALIVE ! You've got to get the bull back, I'm going in! " So Dante, dressed for work in a button down shirt, tie, and dress shoes, chases off Wolfie, ( In hind-sight a rather ominous sounding name for a Jersey Bull ) and he grabs her by the collar, righting her head and neck into a better position, while I start trying to roll her back up on her brisket. Dante actually dragged her a couple feet,out of a hole she was in, I think. Once she was on her brisket, she lurched and rose to her feet and staggered a few steps.
Whew! That was extremely close. I don't think she had much time left, and definitely would have been dead by the time I found her.
What happened? She had apparently laid down on a mound of hay with a depression like a big bowl behind her. She got her head down hill of her body. This is a big No-No for cows. They will bloat and then suffocate, and I think are even crushed by the weight of their organs and stomach contents when placed in this head downhill position.
Just a terrible fluke. I can't help but keep thinking that this had to have been Divine Intervention. A chain of events that nornally wouldn't have happened ( flat tire necessitating a ride to work ) , but put us at the right place at the right time. Just when she needed us.
Thank You, God! I appreciate the helping hand. Do you like milk and cookies?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ride for the Cure... Can I do it?

My Mom called me about this funraising project with JDRF called Ride For the Cure.
She jokingly said she already signed up my 2 sisters and I for this ride. Basically, you raise a minimum donation to even be in the ride, I haven't figured out what that number is quite yet but I think it is thousand ( s ), so would require quite a bit of fundraising, AND it is a ride, not a race, of between 30-100 miles.
Don't laugh, I used to be quite an athlete, and let's face it I am determined to do ANYTHING to help find a cure for my daughter and all the other children and adults living with type 1 diabetes.
I know it would be a monumental physical task, but so is living everyday of your life with type 1 diabetes. I see what Ayla goes through. I'd love to show her anything is possible.
Of course, I would be signing on for the 30 mile stretch. JDRF provides trainers and I think lodging and meals for the riders.
Can I do this? Any cyclists out there? I think the training would also be the perfect opportunity to lose the last 44 lbs I'm determined to lose. My sister, Erika said, " Oh you'll lose 40 lbs alright!"
I must warn you, the more people tell me I CAN'T do it, the more insistant I'll become that I CAN.
I need a training partner. Anyone want to really get in shape? We've got until the middle of July.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Latest Milk Test Results 1/11/10

I'll just hit the higlights. Both coliform and Standard plate count the same as last month. Low as you can go. SCC up a bit, no doubt due to milking late lactation cows on a once a day schedule 350,000 but still WELL below the standard limits of 750,000 for raw milk. Here's my shameless self-promotion points:

Butter Fat- 8.72
Solids Non-Fat- 10.53

No wonder I'm getting 3.8- 4 lb cheese yields from only 2 gallons of milk! Unreal!

I post my milk test results in order to provide full disclosure to my customers. It's a privilege to be able to legally sell raw milk and I'd like to set a good example and inspire confidence in my abilities to provide delicious, healthy, SAFE milk.

Friday, January 22, 2010

We Have Holes In Our Ears......

Yesterday, Zoie and I had gift certificates to get our ears pierced. I used to wear earrings but pretty much gave it up 10 years ago when all our little earring pulling babies started coming. I decided to get it done again, and after some intial resrvation Zoie bravely got hers done too.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dutch Cheese Press

Does anyone use a dutch cheese press? I really like the looks of this press. Right now I can only make up to a 2 lb cheese at a time. I have a press from Hoeggers, and while I am pleased with it, I'd like an additional press that can press either a larger cheese, 5-10lbs, or maybe I could stack 2 cheese molds and make a couple at once.
I was sleeping, and then had to get up to drain the creme fraiche for tommorrows orders, and I still have 29 minutes left to go for the fig and blk cherry yogurts.
The kids have a cold, I think its about the only one they've had this year. I've been fighting a bad sore throat for the last 2 nights, I'll be surprised if it gets much worse than that. I don't sicken easily. What Mommy has the time to be sick anyway?
Gale's udder was quite a bit bigger tonight. With her other 3 calves, the two heifers were a week or two early, and her 1 bull was 6 days late. She is 12 days out by my calculations. She is in ideal condition and I've been feeding her according to my new milk fever prevention regime and I consider her to be the ultimate test. It would be REALLY nice if the stars would align and somehow make this calf a heifer. Our lovely heifer, Henrietta, is such a tame puppydog that I'm literally tripping over her every milking and have to push her out the gate to clean the stalls because she is planted right in my lap!
Uh-Oh. It's 1:38 am and I just heard Ida May crying. And the yogurt still has 19 minutes.....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Romantic Foods

What foods do you find romantic? Is it the food or the thought and appreciation of said food being cooked for you? I was thinking about this last night, as I was planning future menus for the buying clubs I serve, and started planning something special for the members for the week of Valentine's Day.
I'll go first. Keep in mind my occupation, LOL, but I find CHEESE incredibly sexy! Especially creamy, full fat cheese. Okay, you're probably a little afraid of me now, but don't worry--I'm harmless. One of my New Year's Resolutions this year was to speak more of what I feel, and apologize less. Forewarned is forearmed.
I also think there is something rather attractive about smoked and fermented foods, think smoked salmon and salami.
There you have it. Let's have some fun! Plus, I'm hoping to incorporate some of these ideas into a savory cheese spread or decadent dessert cheese.
Guys, why don't you pipe in too? Justin........let's here from you too. By the way, we had a good time Saturday night. Let us know about future kid approved gatherings.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Useful Do-It-Yourself Testing for Cattle and Sheep

I'm a do-it-yourself type person, and if you are too, and you happen to have livestock you might appreciate these links. Especially when you are small scale, it's nice to not have to call the vet out to do EVERYTHING for you. But , if you need to have the vet out anyway, its also convenient to whip out a couple of red top blood collection tubes, and have him pull some blood for you, then you can send it in on your own.
The first test, Biotracking, I've used about a dozen times and been very pleased with the results.
It's a blood pregnancy test for cattle, goats, sheep, elk, horses, bison, and deer. Although I can't imagine strolling outside to take a casual blood sample from my family bison or elk. People do ranch those animals and I'm sure its nice to know if they are with child too.
The gist of it is, you draw 2cc of blood put it in a red top blood collection tube, and mail it-regular post-- no need for ice or overnight shipping to either Biotracking or an affiliate lab near you, and it takes 27 hours from laboratory set up to reporting. You can be notified by telephone, mail, or email. I always have them email me. It's like Christmas, finding out if your cow or sheep is pregnant. Then if she isn't pregnant, it's like getting a lump of coal in your stocking.
The cost of the test is $2.40 per test for cattle, and $7.50 per test for sheep and goats, plus shipping. Last time I sent 4 samples off to Pennsylvania, and it cost me $3-$4. Very fast affordable, and frankly kinda fun! For an additional $3.65 you can have your cow tested for BVD and for $4.00 your goat tested for CAE. Get that all out of the way, and then keep that herd closed!

The second test, is one you hopefully will rarely--if ever--need but so important to know its out there nonetheless. This is a DNA test through Veterinary Genetics Laboratory,to look for the Y chromosome in your little heifer calf. Why would you look for the Y in an X? If that little cupcake was born a twin to a bull calf there is a high possibility that she is infertile. Cattle twins share blood supply and the male hormones will circulate through your heifer and usually makes her infertile. She is then called a freemartin. In about 10% of cases, however, the heifer is still fertile. When you think about the value of a cow ( you can't buy a good milk cow for much less than $1,000. Well maybe you can now because the market is shot, think in terms of 4-5 gallons of milk a day for 10 months each year at $5-6 per gallon and you get the idea of her worth.) spending $50 to have a definitive answer is worth it. It's a shame to just assume something and possibly butcher a good heifer. I can think of 2 would be cases off the top of my head where the heifers were breedable. It's a good thing their owners checked.

You'll need 8-10cc blood in a purple top tube. They can test cattle, alpaca, goats, sheep and llamas. Cost is $50.

Lastly, a pregnancy test that is performed on a milk sample. Preg-O-Vet. Of course you could only use this on lactating cows, you'd still need to blood check heifers. This is amazing if truly as accurate as claimed. I'm waiting to hear some more actual reviews of it first, before I try it.
You can test as early as 20 days post breeding, and will get immediate results up to 15 minutes maximum.
Minimum order of 12 kits for $66.
I'm excited to try this one out. Talk about having a low cost, no skill tool at your disposal! I'm not needle phobic, but the first time I drew blood on the cows I really had to work up the courage and then could barely get the sample because I was literally shaking so hard in my purple muck boots!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Artificial Pancreas Project

If you have been following us, then you know that this is BIG news, if not--you may be wondering what an artificial pancreas has to do with a farm and creamery. A quick introduction:
We have a 3 year old daughter, Ayla, with type 1 diabetes--diagnosed at 19 months old. I frequently document our journey on this rocky road. To say it is difficult and plain old heartbreaking, doesn't even do it justice.
The buzz in the insulin dependent diabetes world this week is this talk of a partnership between JDRF ( Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund ), Animas Corp ( makers of Ayla's insulin pump )and Dexcom ( continuos glucose monitor ) to develop a first generation " artificial pancreas ".
The short of it is, this technology would allow us to affix one medical device to her little body, that would be automated to check her blood sugars in real time, and then administer insulin or shut down, depending on what the reading indicates her actual blood sugars to be. It would act more like a pancreas.
You can read more about it, here:

We had an EXCELLENT visit to Ayla's Endocrinologist yesterday. This is her first clinical visit, complete with an A1c ( measures her average blood sugars for the past 3 months ), since going on an insulin pump in October. They reccommend an A1C for a child her age to be between 7.5 and 8.5. Prior to the pump hers was 8.9, and her diabetes was not well controlled at all. Plotted on a graph there were many sharp peaks and valleys. Lots of highs and dangerous lows. This can almost be worse for her body than just having elevated BG's. Ideally you want a flat line, like a person without diabetes would have.

Can I get a drumroll please.................................Ayla's A1C yesterday was 8.0! And her plotted graph was almost a flat line! Her doctor actually said and I quote, " This is a success story! " I said, " We're a success? That is something I rarely hear and even scarcer actually feel. Thank you!" I feel such heavy responsibility to do well for her because she has this disease, with all too real possibilities of bad complications. I need to know we are doing all we can for her future.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Scottish Blackface Ram and Ramblings

Say Hello to " Black Beard ". That's him IN the hay feeder, and Uvi, our ewe below him. Osoka the ewe lamb from this year, is wedged between a couple bovine on the other side of the feeder.The kids named him. He is our Scottish Blackface Ram on loan from The Craven Family. Wonderful people that they are, very supportive of my dreams for a farmstead sheep dairy, to go along with my farmstead Jersey Cow dairy. They picked out a milky ewe from their flock of " island sheep " last May and she came with what I thought was a wether lamb, but just recently discovered is a ewe lamb! I'm not working with dairy sheep genetics, yet, but what I've got is a couple of sheep very hardy to our environment, with a higher proclivity to milkiness, and the the goal is just to get the ewe bred and in milk again. I will probably try to get a ram with dairy genetics for breeding next year. " Uvi " is completely tame, and I did milk her for a bit this year. That's half the battle right there! I've been dreaming of real sheeps milk feta, romano, and some combination milk cheeses of cow/sheep.

My mind never rests. This can be a blessing and torture at times when the thoughts are less than pleasant. It's just how I am. I am always planning for tommorrow, I need to be thinking ahead. These days my thoughts focus on the children first, Ayla's diabetes, Veda's Apraxia of Speech, Ida May growing before my eyes, Zoie and Jude homeschooling and becoming involved with girl scouts and boy scouts. My relationship with Dante. My business, which is hibernating a bit with this slow time of year, but my FAVORITE cow, Gale, is due to calve February 2nd. That's gonna mean a LOT more milk and a return to twice a day milking. I've enjoyed my sabbatical to once-a-day, but will enjoy having more milk to work with too. Right now, I don't have enough of an abundance to make hard cheese like I'd like to. I'm hoping to get some plans for a larger hardwood cheese press to my Grandfather, which would allow me to get a bigger cheese mold and then use an entire milking for a batch of hard cheese.

I'm scouring the seed catalogs and looking for flower seed in particular. Trying to plan my market cut flower garden, which then also brings me to bees. I've been wanting a couple hives for a couple years now, it seems to be a good time for it, so I check a couple books out of the library on bees and beekeeping.

I know that these things will cause some people to say, " You are doing too much! " Whats funny is that they are mostly seasonal, each taking their turn, and peaking during the season of peak daylight. That makes sense to me. I like to be doing something, and if it involves raising food for our kids and can be done with our kids than I don't see the harm. Sometimes I feel like some people would find it more acceptable to be working away from our home all day with the kids in school or daycare instead of homeschooling and homesteading and having my own business. What hurts the most is when the people closest to me feel that way.

It was our 13th wedding anniversary yesterday, and no one acknowledged it. Granted, Dante and I are having some serious issues right now, I'm not one to pretend everythings okay when it isn't, but I'm also not gonna act like the past 13 years never existed either.

Kind of a weird, scattered post, eh? It reflects how my thoughts are arranged in my head right now.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Goodbyes Don't Come Easy

Today we said our final Goodbye to Zoie's beloved cat M&M. He and his brother, Skittles, were born on Halloween in 2008. Zoie had just lost her very first love, Blueberry the Cat, to some hungry predator and was absolutely DEVASTATED. The only thing worse than experiencing intense emotional pain yourself, is to witness someone you love, hurting like that. That first night she cried herself to sleep, and then had nightmares, which is highly unusual for her. I heard about these kittens, and thought Skittles and M&M would be just the fix Zoie needed. A couple little mewling kittens that needed her too. It was love at first sight, even when a few days later they both came down with the cat flu, requiring much doctoring and many $$$ that first winter. The whole family really fell for these 2 little kittens, that were dubbed " The Cellar Cats " as they spent most of that first winter curled up in a box by the wood furnace.
Spring came and turned into summer. Skittles and M&M grew into fine little felines, and soon went to the vet for neutering. M&M was kind of a wise guy and liked to pick on the other cats, except for his brother. He had this thing where, sometimes while getting in close to give him a kiss, he'd suddenly give you a quick " bitch slap " across the face! He did this to other cats and us as well. My favorite memory is when Dante, who wasn't exactly affectionate with the cats, due mostly to his allergies to them, one night snuck M&M up to my room, where Zoie was lounging on my bed, and as he bent down to kiss him, M&M frowned and threw him a quick "bitch slap". What made it so funny, was that Dante didn't know about M&M's love/hate reaction to affection!
Starting as soon as we brought M&M back from his neutering, we noticed he didn't recover quite as well as the other two cats that were also neutered that day. He seemed to lose a little condition. Two months later, we found him hiding in the cellar, listless and burning up with fever.
Took him to the vet, they thought he had been in a fight ( not unlikely ) and had an abcess brewing. He received a long acting antibiotic and we went home. Two weeks later, he spiked a fever again, and to my horror, Zoie came screaming in to the house one afternoon yelling, " M&M's bleeding in his eyes!" He was bleeding within the iris of each eye. Our regular vet couldn't see him, but we got him in with the vet we used when I was a kid. As I feared it wasn't good news, but it wasn't hopeless. He tested negative for both FeLV and FIP, but the vet still suspected the " dry " form of FIP. He went on some high-powered antibiotics, two rounds, and I honestly thought he had it beat.
Zoie and I, but mostly Zoie, have nursed him around the clock the last 4 months. Zoie saved every dollar she could earn, and then spent it on special cat food, cat brushes, and toys.She's even already spent her Christmas money on cat food, and never once complained that she didn't have any money left but instead found more ways to earn some more.
And M&M gave his thanks back too, his temperament softened these few months and he became an absolute love bug. Couldn't get enough petting or loving. I thought he had it beat, right up to a week ago. Then one night Zoie said, she didn't think he could see, that he was going blind, and his head was tilted to the side. Then he quickly went downhill during the 4 days of stormy weather. We kept him comfortable in a laundry basket in my room.
She has cleaned litter boxes, given medicine ( not easy with a cat ), brushed and clipped mats, and now the last few days cleaned up his pee, and washed his fur. She knelt by his bed in my room and hand fed him the choicest cat food, and fed him water with an eye dropper until he refused it all yesterday and I knew, as soon as we got plowed out today, we were gonna take him to the vet and be there with him, and help him leave this earthly world behind. He was suffering and we needed to end that for him.
The strangest thing happened, that affirmed for me we were making the right decision. Right before the vet called back to tell us they could get us in today, I noticed the cats outside were just sitting, very stoic, outside my bedroom window looking in. They never do this, and as far as I know, had no way of knowing M&M was in there, but they did and they were saying their goodbyes too.

Zoie picked out a special urn, and even though I really can't afford it, I'm gonna order it for his ashes. I'm so proud of her and truly heartbroken that the kitten I got her to ease her grief over losing Blueberry, is now gone too. She said losing M&M was so much worse than Blueberry because we tried so hard to save him, and in the end it was just a drawn out goodbye.

If any of you would like to offer Zoie your condolences and any words of wisdom, she is feeling pretty low and absolutely crushed right now. She reads the blog and will see your comments. I have run out of things to say, and ways to explain why sad things happen to good people. All I can offer now is my Love and a share a good cry with her.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Digging Out After The 4 Day Storm

Ida May, 16 months old braving the snow. Just thrilled to be allowed out!

A good old snowball fight. I got pelted with one or two until I claimed immunity for being outside in my velour Christmas jammies. I'm just the photographer, I'll get my kicks milking and cleaning the barn, where the cows stood and dumped for 20 hours straight because THEY sure weren't gonna brave the storm just for a bathroom break!
Veda and Ayla, in matching hats, proved to be the real diehards. They outlasted their older siblings by far in dedication to snowy fun.

Ida May getting pooped out, and Cinder--the giant dog--eating snow.

Ida May and Skittles the cat making their way back home.

Zoie in HER Christmas jammies checking out the snow. Skittles peeking behind her. She had cat treats in her pocket, I think.

This is the view out the door of the creamery. Can't wait to get out there!

And finally, this white amorphous creature si what our minivan looked like before we started digging out. And now it is snowing hard again.....