A diary of the projects, hurdles, rewards and family life at we recorded at Wise Acres, our former homestead in Horsefly, BC. (Careers and teenagers have forced us back into the city, at least for a little while.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

First Year in 4-H

This evening was the final event of our first 4-H year...the 17th Annual Horsefly 4-H Club Banquet.
Reflecting on the year I have to say, it was a successful and fun year, it was a steep learning curve and most of the time I felt we were shooting in the dark, but we did have lots of help and next year will be a different story...I hope.

So the year started off in January with our first meeting.  I was very impressed at the leadership of the older members and how they knew how to run an election of officers and generally conduct a meeting.  Gwenna decided she would do a ewe lamb project which meant that she would show her ewe lamb and then bring it home for breeding and have the option of showing a ewe with lamb at foot the following year.  The key for her was that she wasn't going to have to sell it.

The next event was the public speaking competition.  Eeek...I couldn't imagine anything worse but Gwenna rose to the challenge and handled it with relative ease.  She decided to write a speech about her Nana growing up during the war and tell some of the stories that my mum had shared with her.  While she was nervous (and I was a wreck) she was pretty comfortable delivering her speech and was happy with what she had done.

In the Spring we had the judging rally in 100 Mile.  Judging involves viewing a group of sheep, rabbits, rabbit hutches, whatever and ranking each entrant from first to fourth based on a set of criteria.  The kids had to give their reasons for judging one entrant over the other.   One leader explained this skill development as being useful when buying your 4-H project or later when you want to buy a car.  Yes!

So far I was quite impressed...Gwenna was learning meeting etiquette, public speaking and critical thinking!   And next came the animals.

We found someone in Big Lake who was getting rid of their herd of Suffolks so late in March we went and had a look.  Gwenna picked out two lambs and couldn't decide, I liked the looks of them as well as their moms so we bought two pairs.  Here they are being delivered by Uncle David and Auntie Susan;
Here they are settling in to their new surroundings...
Gwenna spent quite a bit of time giving them handfuls of grain and getting them to be not quite so scared of us.
A few weeks later we had to wean the lamb from it's mother.  It wasn't as traumatic as I thought it would be.  Momma looked kind of relieved...that lamb was getting big!
So our next major 4-H event was Achievement Day.  Unfortunately Gwenna couldn't participate in the club's achievement day because before she could show her sheep she got kicked in the head by a passing steer.  She was pretty shaken but okay and her achievement day was a week later at our place...here we are giving Zara (the lamb) the spa treatment...
 Here is the judge giving the girls some pointers...
After Achievement Day, we had three weeks to get ready for the Williams Lake Annual 4-H Show and Sale.  This was quite the event, we spent four days camped out at the Williams Lake Stockyards.  The kids had a blast running around the barns and climbing the giant saw dust pile.  Gwenna showed Zara on the Saturday.  On show day some of her fellow club members helped her to pretty up Zara...including a quick blowdry...
Apparently it is a tradition in the sheep club to have your hair french braided for the show ring, so thankfully one of the 4-H leaders was able to do Gwenna's...
And here she is in the show ring...
If you have ever handled a sheep, you know just how challenging this would be...she had to be able to control that sheep by just leading it holding it's head...I couldn't have been prouder of her...

She didn't win any ribbons or trophies but she definitely won my respect for persevering and getting out there...what you can't see is the crowd up in the stands.
So last night we had our club awards night.  Gwenna won the showmanship award and the lamb award...here she is accepting her trophies...
We are all so proud of her.  Last week we took Zara and her sister over to a neighbour's ranch for breeding so that next year she will be able to show a ewe with a lamb at foot...fingers crossed for another great year!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Raw Milk Controversy rages on

This is so infuriating!!  I have pasted this post from a fellow bloggers blog Carpe Diem Acreage.  She is from around Prince George, check out the rest of her blog.  She just expressed what I think so eloquently that I had to post the whole thing :)

I had planned on a completely different blog post for today; that was until I saw this morning's local newspaper with the following story. I will let you read it first and I'll put in my 2 cents worth after....

Milk battle on between owners, Northern Health
October 22, 2010

Bernice Trick
Citizen staff

A group of milk-cow owners in Hixon is fighting Northern Health for the right to consume the milk they produce, despite it being unpasteurized.

Lesley McConnachie, owner of Hunny Do Ranch, where the milking cows are kept and cared for said, "Northern Health has ordered the members of the group to cease and desist the practice of packaging and distributing the raw milk to the members."

McConnachie has letters from George Abbot, when he was minister of health services, and an official in the Attorney General's department, saying the province's Milk Industry Act does not prevent consumption of milk by owners of cows, or anyone who has direct care and control of a milk cow.

"When we showed the letters to Northern Health, they just said "Those people are not our boss."
"In the two years we've been doing this, no one (in the co-operative) has become sick, and besides that, it's not exactly a spreadable disease," said McConnachie, who sees Northern Health officials "as big bullies".
Gred Thibault, NH manager of public health protection, showed much concern for the Hixon people who are consuming raw milk.
"We know the risk of unpasteurized milk to contain illness-casuing bacteria is very high," said Thibault, citing food poisoning and salmonella as common illnesses caused by raw milk.
"In farm-animal environment, you'll also find ecoli, parasites and crytoporidium that cause people to become very ill, ususally with cramps and diarrhea," said Thibault, adding those who seem to at most risk are young children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.
"It's true that not every squirt of milk will be contaminated, but as a health inspector for 24 years, I can pretty well guarantee if you go from drinking store-bought milk to raw farm milk, you will become severely ill within a month to three months.
"I've got the follow-up data from my field experience that shows individuals drinking raw milk will become sick.
"They may call it the flu or something else, but I've been able to trace it back in many, many cases to unpasteurized milk.
Recognizing the problem, in the early '90s the federal goverment brought in legislation requiring pasteurization of all milk products."
He added that "studies show there is no added benefit for pasteurized or unpasteurized milk, but the potential for illness is greatly increased with unpasteurized milk."
He says the Hixon group is good at creating loopholes to continue marketing milk products like butter, and suffice to say that an inspection visit to the ranch milking barn did not score well with NH environment officials.
McConnachie is baffled why the officials care if members consume milk from their own cows.
"It's pretty well known that people consume what they want - alcohol, tobacco, raw sushi, spinach - and nobody says a word about that. I just want Northern Health to leave our members alone," said McConnachie.
"This all started with one cow, and it just grew from there. Today we have eight milking cows," said McConnachie who provides the pasture for grazing, and is ultimately responsible for the milking, distribution and daily care of the animals.
But the share mambers are in contact with the ranch and their own cows, often helping with the feeding, watering and the clean up, said McConnachie.

Now for my comments:
First off I want to say that we are not part of the Hunny Do Ranch cowshare members, nor do we currently drink raw milk, though we did investigate the program about a year ago and completely agree with the health benefits of drinking raw milk.. Both husband and I grew up in environments in which we did drink raw cow or goats milk at various times during our childhood and teenage years.
We as individuals need to begin thinking for ourselves, and not believe everything presented by the various milk marketing boards and milk producer associations (remember this is a business and no one wants to lose potential revenue). They are taking away our individual choices and freedoms by outlawing the sale of raw milk.

Milk has been drunk by humans for millennia and I fail to believe that it is unhealthy unless pasteurized (pasteurization has only been around since 1864 so isn't is amazing that the human animal is still alive considering raw milk has been drunk for centuries before this discovery?). This is a natural food which is illegal in Canada and many other countries, yet the governments condone 'fake' foods full of chemicals, fillers, flavourings, colourings, preservatives etc. It just doesn't make sense to me.
I also have to wonder why Northern Health is all of a sudden so concerned about a few people in the area drinking raw milk, when the general public purchases and consumes a variety or products from grocery stores that have been recalled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, yet unless you actually go onto their website the public usually doesn't hear about the recalls. Perhaps Northern Health should put their efforts into warning the general population at large about foods that could be harmful to those that unknowingly purchase those products.
I personally believe that raw milk is very healthy due to the enzymes and healthy bacteria that are present and not destroyed by pasteurization. We live in a society in which everything is so sanitized and sterilized that our bodies can no longer cope with, and fight off various diseases... eat a little dirt - its good for you ;) I feel this is why, according to the above article, the inspector is finding that some people become ill after consuming raw milk - they are getting diarrhea because their bodies are not accustomed to to the various enzymes/good bacterias that humans should be ingesting. Obviously milk must be gathered and produced in a clean environment from cows and goats that have been kept in good conditions with proper nutrition so as not to be contaminated by e-coli or bad bacterias.
I noticed one glaring mistake in the article as follows "the federal government brought in legislation requiring pasteurization of all milk products". This is not true, as in Canada we are able to produce and purchase raw milk cheeses. From the Health Canada website: "Raw milk cheese is made from raw milk. While raw milk is not allowed to be sold in Canada, raw milk cheese is allowed for sale. This is because the way raw milk cheeses are manufactured and produced helps eliminate any harmful bacteria that may be present in raw milk. "
The article in the newspaper has really infuriated me, and husband and I have been discussing writing a letter to the editor in support of the cowshare program and Hunny Do Ranch. I am going to investigate the feasibility of obtaining a cow for milk and see if the cost and time involved would be something that we could handle. Perhaps Northern Health has pushed us into it... let them try to ban me from drinking milk from our own cow!
For more information about raw milk and to make your own informed decisions, you can google 'raw milk' and come up with various websites with pros and cons.
I would also recommend listening to the Darcy's podcast from Stumbling Homestead who just happened to post a raw milk podcast this morning (wow, what great timing!)
And here are some other websites:
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Making Sauerkraut

My friend Sara and I have been after Gigi up at Big Bear Ranch to teach us how to make her delicious lacto-fermented sauerkraut and today was the day!  Steffi, another friend joined us and we had a delightful morning chopping, pounding, gabbing and eating Steffi's yummy apfelkuchen.
It is a simple recipe, found here in this book...

The ingredients are basic...chopped cabbage and salt.  The fun part is the pounding...
you add small amounts of the cabbage and then pound it until it produces juice.  Once we filled the jars we put a raspberry leaf on top, which apparently aids in the fermentation process.  Then put the lid on the jar and leave it in a warm place for a week, then move it to a cool room or fridge for a few months.

If  you are really lucky and own one of these beautiful crocks, it works even better...

So simple and so much fun even my friend's daughter got into it!

What a great way to spend the day!

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Productive Week-end

This week-end we bottled Erich's third batch of Pale Ale.  It should be ready in 7-10 days.  Looking forward to cracking one open!

Yesterday we butchered turkeys.  After our chicken experience last year, we felt pretty confident we would be able to manage it.  I found this video which gives a good description of the process from start to finish.  It worked pretty well, although we did end up scalding the birds before plucking them after the first one took us two hours!
Gwenna helped with the plucking...

The birds ended up being on average around 15lbs.  which works for us, because we have a pretty small oven.  Next year I would like to try the white turkeys which apparently get bigger, faster and have less feathers :)
So this is what we ended up with at the end of the week-end...we also made 10 litres of chicken stock from some chickens that ended up getting defrosted when our freezer quit.

We decided to leave two turkeys whole and this morning I ground up the meat from one and cut up the last one into parts.

So all in all a very productive week-end!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Faith, the goat

Way back in May, my friend Sara, always on the look out for new livestock ;) called to say that our neighbour was selling her goat.  I jumped at the chance, she is a mostly alpine goat and related to Sara's goat Josie who I love.  So Faith arrived and we love her or at least I love her (Erich, not so much, after the apple tree incident).
She is very beautiful but intensely curious, as goats are known to be.
She has a very funny relationship with my ram...she likes to lick his horns and prefers to eat through the fence out of his pen.
Unfortunately she is also overly fond of apple trees, snapping two of our three trees in her efforts to reach the top, kind of like this (this should have given me a clue that the apple trees were next but live and learn I guess).
I am hoping to breed her in November for spring kids and rich, goat milk!  I think I will mostly be making it into cheese because no one in our family drinks goat milk.