Monday, January 24, 2011

Food: The Gutsy Food Sovereignty Movement

It is a basic tenet that a community's food supply should be healthy and accessible for everyone.

Truth is that local communities have very little control over their food. Corporate food producers dominate the American food system by providing cheap and plentiful food. While this may seem to be a good thing, the food and the processes used don't necessarily guarantee the nutrition or health they purport to provide.

The food companies have created an industrialized agriculture system that uses a multitude of chemicals in fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides as well as genetically-modified products. Some people believe these additives contribute to skyrocketing rates of diabetes and obesity not to mention asthma, food allergies and other health problems.

Accessibility to good food can also be a problem, especially for lower-income groups in large metropolitan areas who typically do not have grocery stores in their neighborhoods. Instead, these “food deserts” have an ample supply of party and liquor stores that stock snacks and processed foods but not fresh fruits, vegetables and meats.

Participants in the food movement have actively taken on these “food security” or “food sovereignty” issues by creating substitutes to the industrialized food system including community-supported agriculture (CSA), farmers markets, local food, family and neighborhood gardens, farm-to-school initiatives, food as economic development, food policy councils, food assessment programs, and youth programming and training. And, they are beginning to make a difference in the way America eats.

Food sovereignty means that people have the right to decide what they eat and to ensure that food in their community is healthy and accessible for everyone, according to the Community Food Security Coalition. It also means that producers receive a fair price for their products and that local family farmers and fishers should have the first right to local and regional markets.

With this mission in mind, food security advocates have been successfully changing food policy not only in the United States but all over the world.

Here are some good examples of groups that were honored at the Community Food Security Coalition at its annual conference held recently in New Orleans. Family Farm Defenders received the 2010 Food Sovereignty Prize, which recognizes organizations that uphold the principles of food sovereignty and fight for and make real change to end hunger and poverty.

Honorable mentions were also awarded to ROPPA (Burkina Faso), the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, and the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty (Vancouver, BC).

Family Farm Defenders
Family Farm Defenders (FFD), a grassroots non-profit organization in Madison, WI, was founded in 1994 to support the livelihoods of small dairy and vegetable farmers.

John Kinsman, who is president of FFD, began pushing for food sovereignty when he helped protest the injection of bovine growth hormones (rGBH) in dairy cows on the University of Wisconsin campus. Researchers there were beneficiaries of corporate gifts that encouraged and affirmed its use. Even the National Dairy Board promoted rGBH. But no one ever asked the dairy farmers if rGBH hurt their production, said Kinsman, despite Monsanto’s claims that it did.

Kinsman worked with former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold who at the time was a state senator, on labeling rGBH milk, which the corporate milk producers didn't want to do. A labeling law was eventually passed, however, and it became a model for the organic food movement, which now is trying to label genetically-engineered (GM) foods.

Through FFD, Kinsman also worked to re-localize food/farm economies and forge new economic relationships between consumers and farmers. An example of this cooperative effort is the Family Farmer Fair Trade Project that enables FFD to direct market cheese from Cedar Grove in Plain, WI. One outcome of this relationship is that farmers receive a fair price for their products as they provide consumers with rGBH-free alternatives.

“I'm a peasant farmer,” said Kinsman who uses this term to differentiate himself from food corporations that are now trying to call themselves “family farmers” just as Monsanto is trying to call itself “green.”

“We need to find new words,” he said.

It is important to note that Family Farm Defenders makes sure that urban people are on its board—40 percent of them. This is because the board believes that they must be as involved in defending the family farm as the farmers themselves.

“Farmers are so beaten down by industrial food companies and low prices,” he said. “They have had their dignity taken away from them.”

Our culture requires us to behave in a certain way and that is centered around food, said Djibo Bagna, of the Network of West African Peasant and Agricultural Producers' Organizations.

Food policies are usually formulated by people in offices and agriculture is governed only by financial considerations, he said. However, peasants are leaving their farms because they cannot earn a living.

“As a food sovereignty council, we first had to decide that we would no longer allow others to speak for us or tell us what kind of agriculture we should have,” said Bagna.

Poverty is a rural phenomenon and its strongest conflicts center around resources. Unfortunately, there typically is no investment in rural areas nor is credit offered at reasonable rates. ROPPA tried to change this situation and decided that in order to do so it had to be present at the policy table.

The United Nations Agriculture Policy group was surprised to learn of ROPPA's request. At first it allowed them only one representative but ROPPA baulked. It didn't just want representation; it wanted to shape the policy. When the UN refused to give ROPPA representation, ROPPA promised that it would organize 10,000 farmers to take the streets during the policy group's meetings. The UN capitulated and allowed ROPPA a seat at the table.

“You can't have food sovereignty unless you are involved in the debate,” said Bagna. “You need funding for farmers to grow food and communication to break down the barriers between policymakers who set the rules and farmers who produce the products. You need agricultural research, value-added products and a dialogue space to talk to each other.”

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network
Detroit has one of the poorest urban populations in the country. With 50 percent unemployment in the city and a terrible “food desert,” a group of school parents, teachers and administrators decided it was time to act: they would learn how to grow their own food for their children.

In 2006, this group became known as the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. It focuses on urban agriculture, policy development and cooperative buying.

The group observed that “many of the key players in the city's local urban agriculture movement were young whites, who while well-intentioned, nevertheless exerted a degree of control inordinate to their numbers in Detroit’s population,” according to its website.

DBCFSN believes that the most effective movements “grow organically from the people whom they are designed to serve.” So, the group is creating model urban agricultural projects that seek to build community self-reliance and to change people's consciousness about food.

For example, its urban agriculture program planted and maintained a quarter-acre garden in 2006 and a three-quarter-acre mini-farm in 2007. In 2008 it built the D-Town Community Garden where it grows 35 crops, keeps bees and maintains a vermiculture compost program.

All produce is grown using sustainable, chemical-free practices, and sold at the farm sites, the Eastern Market, and markets for urban growers throughout Detroit. The group also holds harvest festivals four times a year.

Policy development, however, is DBCFSN's “jewel in our crown.” It has crafted food policy for the city that was adopted by the Detroit City Council. This policy includes provisions for education, economic justice, finding ways to combat hunger, discerning the school's role in food security, advocating and providing for urban agriculture, developing emergency responses to food shortages and food deserts and forming a food policy council.

With cooperative buying, the network has tried to go beyond the basic co-op model and include food distribution networks. So the network formed a regional system with Detroit, Toledo, Chicago, and Milwaukee in cooperation with the trucking industry.

“We didn't do anything that we didn't feel we had to do,” said Aba Ifeoma, one of the members of the network.

Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty
Dawn Morrison of the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty is a member of the Vancouver Island Network that has mobilized people to define the food system in Canada for indigenous peoples of 27 nations. They did this by working together with non-indigenous people.

Morrison pointed out that food is a sacred gift of the Creator and humans have a responsibility to maintain right relationship to plants and animals that provide us with food.

“We must be free from corporate control to determine where we get our food and how we grow it,” she said. “We do this in our day to day actions with family and the community. Our policies, meanwhile, must be driven by practice and be community-based.”

Citizen participation is the key to establishing and keeping a democracy. As we watch our representative government crumble through corporate influence, political corruption and hate speech, we can look to the food sovereignty movement to remind us how democracy really works. Then, let's hope that spirit will spread.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sustainability: Kurt Cobb Speaks on His New Peak Oil Novel

Kurt Cobb wrote his new suspense novel, Prelude, for women readers because they are the ones who generally make decisions about the household.

"If the women of the world think an issue is important, most of the people will follow," said Kurt, who spoke at the Portage Public Library tonight.

He cited the example of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers where women in the 1980s lobbied successfully to make drunk driving a major offense.  They wanted both to punish offenders and to raise the public's consciousness about the dangers of drunk driving.  

Of course, he encourages men to read to read the book as well because the book discusses one of the most serious problems in our world today that's not being talked about:  peak oil and our energy future.

"If I can get to them to prepare their families and communities for peak oil, that can make a big difference."

Kurt decided to author a novel on peak oil because he found that after writing about energy issues for three years the message about our depleting resources just wasn't getting through to policymakers or the general public.  (His blog is Resource Insights, he is a regular writer for Energy Bulletin and the Paris-based science news site Scitizen (pronounced like “citizen”), and he is frequently picked up by the premier energy report site, Oil Drum.)

"Ideas are not infused into our culture until they're in the arts," he said.

Music, literature, art works, and especially films seem to make an issue real. 

His idea is not without precedent.  Uncle Tom's Cabin, written in 1852 by Harriet Beecher Stowe, completely changed the discussion about slavery in the United States and throughout the world, he said.

Upton Sinclair's 1906 book, The Jungle, was intended to create sympathy for the working classes who manned the knives in the Midwestern meatpacking plants.  However, his descriptions about the way meat was processed horrified the public so much that it led the federal government to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act that same year; it eventually created the industry's watchdog, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Movies that focus on issues have affected the public in the past, said Kurt.  "Blood Diamond" (2006) illustrated how diamonds were sold by warring groups to finance their operations.  Diamond companies then responded by making sure this did not happen with their diamonds and they assured their customers that they would not sell products that financed war.

In "Philadelphia" (1993), Tom Hanks, a lawyer, was dismissed from his firm when it found out he had AIDS.  This film raised consciousness about this common practice and then led to legislation that made it is illegal for companies to fire people with AIDS.

Perhaps the most compelling example of movies' impact on people was the 1979 hit, "The China Syndrome."  It dramatized an accident at a nuclear power plant.  Uncannily, the film was released 12 days before the Three Mile Island plant experienced a partial core meltdown.  Because of the similarity between the film and the accident, the film dominated the way people thought about nuclear power plants.  This led to a virtual shutdown of the nuclear power plant industry for orders to build any new plants in the United States.

"That's the kind of impact I'm hoping to get with my book," said Kurt.  "I want people to be concerned enough to prepare for peak oil."

With the help of his high school chemistry teacher, Chuck Harmon, Kurt demonstrates the difference between extracting what's called "light sweet crude oil" (root beer that is easy to suck up through a straw) and hard-to-get oil (yogurt that can't go through a straw but must be "dug out" with a spoon). 

During the first 150 years of the oil age (1859-2009), the easy-to-get oil has practically gushed out of the ground, so all the oil companies had to do was capture it, he said.  We have been running the world on that oil.  However, today, more and more of our global society is dependent on the hard-to-get oil that comes from places like the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and deep water rigs like those in the Gulf of Mexico.

So the problem is not that we can't get the oil, even with our advanced technology.  The problem is that we can't extract it at a rate that will meet the growing demand.

Peak oil is not only about running out of oil; it's about running out of cheap oil.

"Global society is addicted to cheap oil to support endless growth," said Kurt.  "That is why prices have fluctuated so much from $10 a barrel in 1999 to $147 a barrel in 2008.  We have a lot of oil left but not in the form that is easy to get in the amounts that we need at the prices that we want."

Kurt pointed out that once Cassie, an oil analyst and the heroine of the novel, became aware of peak oil, her relationship with oil changed and that changed her relationships with the people around her.

Currently, Kurt is promoting his novel in the Kalamazoo area, but he is preparing for a nationwide book tour.  Prelude is available for purchase online all over the world and is already being sold in Australia and South Africa.

To learn more about the novel or to arrange for a presentation, see the website:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Politics: Citizens Urge Upton's "No Vote" on Repeal of Health Care

Activists in Michigan's Sixth District (Kalamazoo) expressed their opposition to the repeal of the Obama health care bill.  They met outside Congressman Fred Upton's office on Tuesday afternoon urging a telephone campaign to get him to change his support for the repeal bill.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Olga

My sister, Denise, and I were unable to get together over the holidays or for my birthday in December.  Weather, illness, and being out-of-town were obstacles we could not overcome.

So, Denise held a special birthday party for me this weekend.  She believes that each decade is a milestone and we couldn't pass up this one for me.

I drove into Detroit from Kalamazoo on Friday.  We met our uncle, Mario Bonfiglio, and his daughter, Mary, and her fiance, Dan, for dinner at Moro's Restaurant in Allen Park.  Italian food is always a great choice and Moro's is one of Unc's favorite places. 

We started off our meals with special garlic bread, minestroni soup, and salad.  For our entrees Unc had veal parmagiana, which he typically selects.  John had the same.  Denise and Mary ordered diet-oriented food:  chicken and fish, respectively.  Dan had a delicious steak, and I had spaghetti and meatballs, which I could hardly eat because I had filled up on the previous foods--and a snack of cheese and BBQ chips when I arrived at Denise's.  I brought the pasta home and had it for breakfast the next day.  Delicious!

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera and didn't get any photos of our gathering.

Scout with Atticus in an opening scene of the film, "To Kill a Mockingbird."
On Saturday, we met with our long-time friend from Melvindale, Joyce Paul.  We four then went to the Redford Theatre to see the film, "To Kill a Mockingbird."  As the theatre's special event, Mary Badham, who played Scout in the film, showed up to talk about the film at intermission and to sign copies of Harper Lee's 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winner novel.  The movie, starring Gregory Peck, was made in 1962 and won an Oscar.

Mary goes on speaking tours to talk about the film and the terrible social disease called racism, which the film addresses.

Mary Badham today on the lecture circuit
Mary Badham as Scout

The Redford Theatre is a special place.  It was built in 1928 as a neighborhood movie house and eventually restored starting in the 1970s.  It offered organ concerts and in 2001 began showing classic movies.  The theatre is all run by volunteers.

After the movie, we made a fine dinner of breaded cutlets (my all-time favorite dish), baked potatoes (from my garden), broccoli, salad.  The birthday cake was an orange cake from Pepperidge Farms.
Joyce Paul joined Denise and John for my BD celebration
This weekend proved to be one of the best birthdays I ever had and I thank Denise and John for making it possible.

(In December, Kurt and I celebrated my birthday with our friends, Beth and Dave Johnson, by going to the London Grill in Kalamazoo.  I had Whitefish Grenoble, my favorite dish there, and the wonderful Stilton endive salad.  I can still taste it!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Farm Journal: Barn Building, Pregnancy and Power Tools

Buffalo side of the new milk parlor under construction
The milk parlor in the new barn is coming along very well. Mike and his father, Russell, are putting in the struts, which will define the various compartments of the parlor. The walls will go up over the next week or so and it will make this area look very different, and, of course, finished to its purpose. Included in the design are chutes where the goats will go on their way to being milked—or when it's time for them to receive their injections, be shaved, and have their hooves trimmed.

New birthing stall for the goats
The men are also building the birthing stall in preparation for goat freshening, which is due to begin in mid-February. The new born kids will be brought into the Klein's new house for about a week to to receive special care.  They will be given colostrum within the first hours of their birth. They will also learn to walk--and leap--very soon after birth, and get stronger. Then they go back to the barn and into the kid pen, which separates them from the older goats who would otherwise dominate and pick on them at a time when they are too vulnerable to defend themselves. 

Ron and Suzanne’s new home was designed with a four-season room on the west side to accommodate the new kids.  The floors are tile for easy cleaning, and like the rest of the house, it is heated with a hydronic system.  This means that the water is heated in a boiler located in the firebox of their wood cook stove.

Russell (top) helps Mike pull up a panel for the milk parlor
The new barn is really an amazing feat of construction that Ron designed himself.  It is a “hoop barn” constructed with steel arches and covered in spun tension fabric made by SpanTech. The building was designed and the structure chosen because it maximized animal comfort and health.  First, the 50’ x 100’ structure has a huge air volume capacity that helps control moisture. Second, there is a four foot canopy and opening along the entire east side above the eight-foot wall that supports the arches.  Third, there are four 4-foot by 2-foot cupolas (vents) at the peak of the arch.   

Moist air and drafts are the worst thing for animals because they can cause serious respiratory disease.  In this new barn, as the warm air rises, it pulls in air from the canopy that runs up and along the inner surface of the fabric drawing air up and out of the building and through the vents.  All air circulation is high above the animals so there are no deadly drafts.  

Moisture and odors also rise with the moist warm air and are vented out of the barn.  The result is that the floors remain dry.   

Equipment barn (left) and animal barn (right) last October
Also, the fabric is a light white in color and lets in an incredible amount of light.  Studies indicate that animals prefer the type of light that is cast on a cloudy day—a softer light—which is what they have in this type of barn.  For an additional benefit, we do not have to turn on lights during the day, nor do we need to run exhaust fans in summer or winter to remove moisture and circulate air!

The barn's dryness also allows the animals to be cleaner, which translates not only into their being healthier for their own sake but for the sake of the dairy operation.  Unclean animals are more prone to disease and they can carry unwanted contamination into the dairy parlor.  Ammonia and other gases can harm the animals' lungs.  To check on the degree of odor in the barn, Ron actually has us squat down to smell the air at the level of the animals (a la Temple Grandin).  In the old barn—despite its good ventilation—sometimes our eyes would water because of the ammonia from the animals' wastes.  Knowing what the animals are exposed to is important and you appreciate your task all the more.  In the new barn, the air is fresh for all of us!

From a barn cleaning aspect, the dryness prevents poop-slush, which is not pleasant, especially if your boots leak. There is virtually no smell from the droppings or manure pack (see January 2, 2011 posting).  Several local farmers have commented on the absence of ammonia and other smells in this new barn.  

Geotextile cloth layed on the dry lot next to animal barn (Oct 2010)
Just outside the barn is the dry lot, which is yet another factor in the animals' health--and it is actually working.  The dry lot provides a place for the animals to get outside, stay dry and out of the horrible mud that collects.  To build the dry lot, an area 60’x100’ was excavated at about one foot deep.  Holes were drilled and fence posts were set.  Ten-foot posts were used on the buffalo side and placed at a depth of 5 feet in the ground and packed very tightly with sand.  

Geotextile cloth was then placed in the excavation.  This cloth is porous and used to make gravel driveways and roads—it holds the gravel from mixing with underlying clay and lets water through.  A 6” layer of washed small stone was added and a 6” layer of crushed concrete over that.  The crushed concrete got hard but is very porous.  When it rains, water seeps through the stone and crushed concrete and through the geotextile cloth.  The water then drains south along the hard clay and sheets over a wide grassy area.  The dry lot is sloped at 2-4 degrees to insure good drainage.  It is important for the health of the animals that they can keep dry, especially their hoofs, to avoid infections. 

Pregnant doelings warm up near the barn with Lil Man on far right
Because we did pen mating with Tiger this year (see October 3, 2010 posting), most of the goats are beginning to look pretty pregnant, including last year's kids, who will be a year old in January. So Tiger did a good job as our sire. So good, in fact, that there is a chance we can double the herd this year from the 18 does that we already have! Ron and Suzanne ultimately want a 40-goat herd.

Ron says once the doelings (those that have never been pregnant before) have been impregnated, their personalities change a bit. That will be an interesting thing to witness since I've known our yearlings from birth and have watched them grow into “goathood.” Mattie, a two-year-old doeling, already seems a little different now that she's pregnant for the first time.  She loves being petted and usually hangs around me a lot as she nudges me to pet her. Now, when I'm in the goat pen she still comes to see me, but it's a lot less.

This year it looks like two of the younger and smaller doelings may have been bred.  We only want the does to breed if they are at least 80 percent of their adult weight and size.  These younger does will need to be carefully watched for any problems. However, they are naturally “equipped” to have babies at this point in their lives. If they were out in the wild, they would probably be pregnant. 

One problem with pen mating is that the farmer doesn't have control over who is mated nor does he know the specific due date of a particular doe. The gestation time is approximately 150 days, the Lamancha does are just a few days longer.  Knowing the date of breeding allows us to watch a specific doe a bit more closely.  We will install a wireless camera in the barn to keep a constantly watch on the does.  KalCarbon Acres graciously let us use their camera last year—which made kidding time a lot easier.  In the past Ron and Suzanne would check the does every hour or so—day and night. 

Power Tool
Although I spent most of my time today cleaning up the water buffaloes' side of the barn, I also had an opportunity to use a new power tool, the battery-operated Dewalt Saws-All.  My job was to saw off metal protruding carriage bolts on the outer side of the goat pen dry lot fence. 

This fence was built from locally harvested wood.  On the goat side we have 4-inch square black locust posts (the strongest you can get) with 2"x6” ash planks attached to the posts with 3/8-inch carriage bolts.  Heavy wire stock panels are between the planks and the posts. On the buffalo side, the posts are 6-inch square with 2”x 8” ash planks.  The posts are eight feet apart.  

Ron showed me how to use  the Dewalt.  Actually, it felt like machine gun, especially since the battery "loads" like a clip.  The “kickback” took me by surprise and made my work awkward and wobbly.  I learned to slow down the saw and control it.  It took me a longer time to realize that “leaning” into the saw would cut the bolts smoother and faster.  Using the Dewalt gave me another testosterone rush experience (see September 5, 2010).

Ron says many times—“we use tools because the tools do the work.”  Of course, you have to know how to use the tool! 

I was also careful to pick up the metal pieces, put them into my jacket pocket immediately after I sawed them off, and then dispose of them later so the goats didn't get to them.  If they were to ingest these pieces, the heavy metal would stay in their rumen--not a healthy thing for them at all.  This condition is actually called “hardware disease.”  So the proverb, "an ounce of prevention saves a pound of cure," makes a lot of sense on the farm, not to mention the time and expense involved in correcting a bad mistake.

Momo and goats work the new feed bins in the dry lot
While I was working on the fence screws, the goats were in their pen watching me. It surprised me that they weren't afraid of the sound from the Dewalt but Ron and the crew frequently work near them and they are used to these sounds so they weren't spooked by them.  That is not the case when the snow slides off the roof of the barn, however.  Because of its slope, snow collects in colder weather and then slides off the roof in big pieces when it is warmer and sunnier.  The sound is a ripping sound on the spun tension fabric roof.  The buffs are cool with it but the goats are still shocked when they hear it so they jump and scamper a couple steps.  I did, too, when I first heard it. 

It was nice to be with the does, especially when they took a break from their feeding bins and "dropped by" me to sniff and request petting. At one point, I tried to pet Momo Tauro, the youngest guardian llama, but he does not like being touched, especially on the toosh with his back turned, so he spat at me. It was stupid of me to bug him and lucky for me that he missed.

The animals never cease to amaze me. Usually, when I first arrive at the farm, I go into the goat pen and say hello to each one. It's been almost two weeks since I last saw them and they seemed genuinely glad to see me. And, even though the water buffalo were way over on the other side of the barn, Ron noted that they recognized and responded to the sound of my voice, too.  Animals make such a difference in my day!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Food: Confections with Convictions

Confections with Convictions, a new chocolate truffles shop in Kalamazoo, has opened in the old Probasco's building on Burdick and Crosstown.  Dale Anderson, proprietor, talks about the truffles, how he makes them, and where he gets his organic and free trade ingredients.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Farm Journal: Frozen Pot Roasts and Kidding Preparations

Donna hurls a pot roast onto the pile
You really have to love farm work to subject yourself voluntarily to a cold, wintry day to chip out frozen water buffalo excrement from the ground and put it on a compost pile! Yet that is what Donna and I did today.

The buffs' dry lot was full of “pot roasts,” as we call them, that had accumulated over the past few days. (And with 11 buffs, it doesn't take long for that to happen!)

The pot roasts were quite stuck to the ground because water or urine or both got to them. So it took a lot of foot action on our pitchforks to loosen them. This was hard work but I must admit that we both got a certain pleasure when we uplifted the “big ones.”

We are both rather thorough when we clean but it turns out Donna was more fierce in carrying out our mission. She found that picking up the pot roasts and hurling them onto the compost pile was easier than scooping them up with the pitchfork. As we dropped the frozen waste onto the pile and it made a plunking sound that is similar to large rocks hitting against each other. Ron will later remove this pile with the tractor and spread it over the new garden we will develop in the spring.

Just as the barn needs regular cleaning, so too does the dry lot. This is especially critical in winter because the frozen turds can get caught in the buffs' hooves and that makes it hard for them to walk. Sometimes they cut their feet on them. So pot roast removal has three purposes: general cleaning, preventing hoof wounds, and collecting compost for the garden. This is important work and we feel very purposeful when we do it.

A couple days ago when it was “warmer,” the dirt on the lot got very muddy. The 1800-pound buffs walked on it and left their tracks. When the ground froze, it naturally became rutted, and left yet another hazard for these big animals. Donna and I could do nothing about the ground, however, what we learned from this experience is that it is probably easier to collect the pot roasts when the weather is warmer than when it is colder and they freeze. This is all part of adapting to a new farm and realizing how localized farming really is.

Speaking of buff manure, Ron is using a new method for cleaning the buffs' side of the barn. It's called a "manure pack." He collects the pot roasts and stores them in the center of the buffs' area until they can be spread at a later time.  He also puts down a four-inch layer of fresh oat straw twice a day.  The straw absorbs urine and is very quickly packed down.  The buffs also help mash it down when they walk or lay on it.  At a later date after he purchases a skidder (it scraps the floor of waste), he will take the compost and spread it onto the garden. Meanwhile, the stuff “cooks” in the barn at about 110 F degrees, which also helps keep the buffs warm during these cold winter months.

Gene Lodgson has just published a book  entitled Holy Shit, which describes the benefits of a manure pack.  It is interesting that the barns at Windshadow were designed to maximize ventilation across the surface of the hoop ceiling by pulling moisture out of the barn, so despite the presence of the manure pack, the barn does not smell and is surprisingly dry, which helps keep the animals healthy.

Jessica feeds Lilly, who is getting ready for her selenium/vitamin E injection.

While Donna and I worked on the pot roasts, Jessica helped Ron give the does their maternity clipping and injections of selenium/vitamin E.  The does are clipped around their back ends to make clean-up easier after they freshen.  Ron trims off just the long hair since it is still winter. If not trimmed, the hair becomes encrusted with afterbirth.  

Selenium/vitamin E  injections are given to avoid any possibility of selenium deficiency which causes "white muscle" disease in newborn kids.  Vitamin E metabolism is closely linked with selenium.  Michigan soils are deficient in selenium which is supplemented in feed and minerals, but may not be sufficient.  A deficiency can result in  a disruption of cell metabolism, especially muscle cells, which degenerate.  Skeletal and heart muscles become pale and unhealthy leading to tremors and death.  Goatkeepers are advised to supplement vitamin E and selenium.  Ron gives new born kids a boost using a prescribed vitamin/selenium gel at the time they are being fed colostrum.

Ron prepares the selenium/vitamin E injection.

Goats, both male and female, grow beards and Ron, who is a little sensitive about his girls having beards, shaves them off.

These are all preparations for the days when we will witness Tiger's mating prowess, which we estimate will be in February--after a five month gestation time. Because the goats were all pen mated (see October 2, 2010), we hope they are all pregnant (and that they mostly bear female kids). That will quickly increase the size of the herd from the 18 goats we now have.

Lilly gets a shave.

By the way, Tiger will soon “retire” from his duties at Windshadow Farm and Dairy and will return to KalCarbon Acres.  Leonidas was sold a month ago to a wonderful family at another farm. Both Leonidas and Tiger have sired some excellent does, however both  bucks are now closely related genetically to most of the does on the farm and should not be back bred due their close genetic linkage. 

Ron is now working with another breeder to bring  a magnificent Lamancha buck on to the farm to enhance the quality of the herd.  The basic goal of the breeding program is to produce more "dairy" like does.  The dairy does have large rumen capacity to maximize forage conversion, good stature on the milking stand, wide in a "rear" to allow for easy kidding, and well balanced and productive udders.  Latte Boy-Leonidas' twin brother will remain to be a companion to the new buck.


After we all worked out in the barn for about three hours, we took a lunch break in the Kleins' new house where a lovely wood-burning stove heated the room. Also, because the house is designed so the heat flows from the floor, we were also able to be comfortable in our stocking feet. Soo was on hand to talk with us, and it was especially nice to see her.

Tempest and Mikey prove that yes, there are buffalo in Bangor

Mikey is fearless in the goat pen.  Here he is with Ella.
Earlier in the day Mike, a neighbor and blueberry farmer, brought Jessica, who would stay and work with Ron and her sibs, Mikey, and Tempest. The two younger ones wanted their picture taken with the water buffaloes because kids at school don't believe that the buffs are really at the farm.

So here's lookin' at you, kids!
Goats like to kiss as much as humans, Tempest soon found out.