Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rabbit Fever - Tularemia

Life if far too exciting for me. Too many troubles but it is the nature of growth so I guess I'll just become a little more knowledgeable once more.

Our son was just diagnosed with a suspected Tularemia infection, a rare infectious disease that can attack the skin, eyes, lymph nodes, lungs, and less often, other internal organs.

Our son has a tick bite that has not healed and drastically swollen lymph nodes with major flu like symptoms that come and go with exertion. 

But one can contract the disease in many more ways. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) site says that Tularemia can be spread in the following ways:

being bitten by an infected tick, deerfly or other insect
handling infected animal carcasses
eating or drinking contaminated food or water
breathing in the bacteria, F. tularensis

The disease mainly affects mammals, especially rodents, rabbits and hares, although it can infect birds, reptiles and fish. What an odd assortment. Luckily I've taught my children that if the doctor's answers don't add up, just keep going. The third doctor our son went to see called a specialist on Bubonic Plague, Colorado or American Tick Fever, Lyme Disease, and Rocky Mountain Fever, all diseases they looked at in the beginning. The cure is the same antibiotic so pinpointing the cause is not necessary.

Though I do know a little about Rocky Mountain Tick Fever. My step-brother had that years ago. He had a very distinct smell to his body odor. One of the things the doctor used to identify his disease.  

The symptoms are different depending on how you contract Tularemia and that also effects just how deadly the disease is. If treated, less than two percent die. From what I can tell inhalation can cause 50 to 60 percent death rate if not treated. So if a rabbit doesn't look healthy keep a wide berth. I don't care if it is Rocky Mountain Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, or Bubonic Plague, they are all nasties.

What makes Tularemia confusing is that depending on how you contracted the disease your symptoms will be different. Enough to confuse most doctors especially when you factor in that the disease is now rare.
A much different story in WWII when the disease was common. The United States was very different from now. Farmers alone made up 21 percent of the labor force. Produce from victory gardens and rabbits were what was for dinner, not beef as today's slogan implies. Rabbit on the table would include domestic and wild though I'd guess it was wild more than domestic that caused the problem. Kirk's grandpa raised beagles to hunt rabbits and that was pretty common also. There is a vaccine against Tularemia and Kirk's dad remembers getting several shots for different types of tick fevers, this being one of them. He  spoke to our son of a friend that died from Tularemia.

My oldest sister also remembers tick shots but I don't remember such things. I do remember the sugar cubes with the red dot of medicine on top that we ate and they said was to protect against polio. I wished that all my vaccines were in that form.  

Then United States change. People moved to the cities. They seldom go outside and sit inside watching television, playing computer games and the like. Not much risk of rabbit fever there. Farmers have become a dying breed. The average age of a farmer in 2011 is 58 in the US, 58 in Australia, and 66 in Japan. People don't roam outdoors like they use to. And many parks and area you are not allowed to get off the trail. So except do it yourselfers, no one eats rabbit. When was the last time you saw it on your local restaurants menu, never.

But the thing that I found far more disturbing was that fish and birds can get Tularemia. Never heard of a case like I have from rabbit but I guess it is possible. The disease can stay alive in water and the soil for weeks.  That is why the CDC considers it a possible biological weapon, particularly as a airborne contaminate.

Since Tularemia is potentially fatal ,if not treated early, it is wise to check things out and in our son's case check it out several times until you get an answer that feels right. Since our son is an avid hunter and has a bird dog, he is at a greater risk. He pulls ticks off of the dog and himself particularly in the spring. I remember pulling a good share off of our kids when they were growing up. It is a part of rural life so beware. Not all ticks just suck blood. Some give more than they take. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sourdough Baguettes

How in the world do you say baguettes? I say it like it has a q instead of a g. I had to go search on the Internet even though I'm not giving this class in person. I found this fascinating site. It actually says it out loud instead of those confusing little squiggles above the letters. No big surprise, I have been saying it completely wrong. I'm not exactly from a culinary family. Meat and potatoes is all my father ever wanted, after all his family is from Idaho.

I've always loved to cook though I wasn't particularly good at it. With Mom seldom home and a girlfriend who's parent's gave us free rein in their kitchen, she had six younger brothers to eat the results, I cooked my way through childhood. But it wasn't until I was married to Kirk that I really discovered my love for food. For real food that had fresh wonderful natural flavors. This love has been spurred on as Kirk travels a few times a year to large cities with their wonderful selection of eats and he comes home with tales of tongue tickling delights.

We have learned to savor food. Something you just don't do with tator tot casserole or tuna fish casserole, staples when I was a kid. It is no wonder I put ketchup on everything including corn.

My parents still don't see what I see in food but that is okay. My husband LOVES to come home after a long and I mean long 14 hour day at work to a home cooked meal. Last night it was cube steaks dipped in egg and a mixture of dried bread crumbs, flour and salt and pepper fried up nice and crisp with a spicy Alfredo sauce on top. One where I used fresh cream, home bottled half dried tomatoes in olive oil and spices, a little butter, black pepper, basil, parsley, and lots of Romano and Parmesan cheese. A side dish of rice and another of green beans and yum, we were set for mouth watering fun.

This morning it was home-made cinnamon raisin bread and a fruit smoothy with home-made yogurt swirled inside. Yes, my family loves it when I live in the kitchen. Unfortunately at times it is feast or famine. It has been feast lately.

New excites mea and catalogues for cooking supplies that also give recipes are high on my list of good things. Two of the several new sourdough discoveries have come from them.  This makes my sourdough start especially happy with all the use.

1/2 cup (4 ounces) fed sourdough starter
3/4 cup ( 6 ounces) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups ( 10 1/2 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour

Being as this is a recipe from King Arthur Flour, they are recommending using their flour. I do love their bread pans and order their cake flour since it doesn't have those nasty extras in it, but I use Montana Wheat instead of their flour. I believe when possible and affordable to use local. Local may be a state a way since we aren't a big crop state but I want to encourage something so... basic as close as possible. Montana wheat all purpose comes in unbromeated and unbleached. I love how the cold harsh white is replaced with a warm light yellow without all the refining. I'm not a lover of white. Probably a hold over from childhood when I would scream whenever I saw someone in white, fearful that they were another doctor to poke and prod me.

Now for the instructions. These are from King Arthur Flour.
Combine all of the dough ingredients, kneading to form a smooth dough. (This takes only a few minutes)

Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour. Refrigerate, covered, for 12 to 18 hours.

This is where I left the recipe behind. Instead of making a baguette, I rolled the dough out into pizza circle on to parchment paper and let the dough rise for well over an hour. Wish I had timed it but the whole point of using this recipe as a pizza dough was the flexibility of it. Make the dough the day before and let the dough rise for an extended time while the busy evening routine took me away.

 I put all the toppings on knowing that livestock chores had been kept waiting and when I got home Kirk would have arrived. I called Kirk as he was traveling home and asked him to put the pizza stone in the oven to heat while I finished chores. I wasn't too sure how this all would turn out as I don't normally put tomato sauce on too soon as it makes the dough rather soggy.

I should not have worried because it came out nice and crisp on the bottom and not a bit soggy. The dough had a bit of chew just the reason why we love artisan bread. This is definitely a keeper as a pizza dough.

Now for what I was suppose to do.

Divide the dough in half. Shape each piece into a 15" to 16" baguette, and place on a lightly greased or parchment-linved baking sheet, or into a baguette pan. cover and let rise until very puffy, about 3 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the overn to 425 F.

Spray the baguettes with water and make three fairly deep diagonal slashes in each. ( I did not spray mine with water.)

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until baguettes are a deep golden brown. Remove from oven, and cool on a rack.

I went back and make the dough as baguettes too but still love it as pizza dough more. Definitely a keeper recipe. Give it a try and see what you think.

The roll you see next to the baguette is sourdough too but an entirely different recipe. I'll be sharing that one too. It is from the Cuisine magazine. As it has 2 cups of sourdough start in the recipe, it has a distinct sourdough flavor unlike the baguettes which is just a yummy bread. I liked the baguettes better and Kirk the sourdough rolls. To each their own so these two are going in my separate sourdough file for sure.  

Now to try sourdough overnight waffles and sourdough Ciabatta. Two new recipes awaiting my trial.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A New Discovery

 Wish you could see this better but this is a Easter Egg chicken or a rendition of a Auraucan. See the green legs? Well maybe they aren't showing up too well but take my word for it that they are a sage green. She will likely lay green eggs. Very few of this breed of chicken lay pink or blue. The chicken to the left of her is is a Wyadotte, note her yellow legs and she will lay brown eggs. The hen to the Easter Egg chicken's right is a Australorp and she has black legs. She too will lay brown eggs. I'm curious, do chickens have any other colors to their legs? Leg color does not have to do with egg color. Instead you look at their ear flap. 
 But what I really wanted to tell you is that I have made a new discovery. With more dairy goats milking than I've ever had before, four, I have lots and lots of milk and that means the chickens are getting a fair amount of easy cheese. I just haven't had time yet to make very much cheese for us. I am working on trying to make a pattern of keeping yogurt, sour cream, and buttermilk cultures going.

With this large increase of milk I have been making lots of easy cheese and giving it to the chickens. I've noticed that the eggs the two year olds are producing have much harder shells. In past years the shells have been particularly thin and the whites watery when the temperatures outside rise daily into the eighties and nineties. The eggs are particularly not so nice when using eggs as a thickener or in noodles and such.  

No more - the shells are hard and the whites just right. I've always given the hens free rein oyster shells until now and I thought the calcium in the shells would be absorbed but apparently that is not as effective as freshly made goat cheese. Chickens use a huge amount of calcium as that is the main ingredient in the shells. If the chicken does not have enough in their bodies it is taken from their bones. The longer and the heavier they lay the more osteoporisis they become. I may of just stubbled across a really good thing.  

And what a great way to use excessive milk. I just separate milk so I have cream for Alfredo sauce, butter, and such. The remaining milk I heat to just before boiling.
Then I add approximately 1/4 cup of vinegar to a gallon of milk. I never measure but that is the recipe. I just pour in a little vinegar and stir for a few minutes, add a bit more if needed until the milk turns yellow and clear, not milky white. I continue to stir for a minute.
Then I pour off the top since it is all whey and then after the more liquid part is put into a large pot, I pour the cheese into a colander. The cheese is rather rubbery for me but it is definitely easy and the chickens LOVE IT.

The whey I pour onto my mulch pile because milk excites micro-organisms into multiplication. Another big plus of all that excessive milk. Try this and see if it is just me imagining or if indeed this cheese has a significant effect on eggs during the heat.

Tomorrow I'll try and get a couple sourdough recipes to you. And yes, my vinegar supplies have arrived. I need to do some research before I begin.  Thank you all for your comments. They have given me much to ponder upon.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Vinegar -- Home-made

Some of you long time readers might remember that in the name of self sufficiency I started talking my good little Catholic friend into buying vodka for me. Something a good little Mormon girl can't be seen buying or she'll be the talk of the church. I needed vodka to make home-made vanilla so I was desperate. I'd learned that the vanilla I'd been getting from Mexico is usually bottled in unsafe jars and besides I didn't have a supply any more anyway.

I'll never go back to store bought vanilla again since creating my own. And since I've been on this self-sufficiency kick heavily for the past four or five years, most people who know me at all wouldn't bat an eye to see me walk into a liquor store and come out with a bottle. They'd just wonder what I was up to now. That is if it wasn't too often.

And so every two years or more I go into the liquor store and ask the clerk, "I want four cups of vodka to make vanilla and it has to be triple distilled. Please help me find the cheapest brand." If you ask for help you can get out of there a whole lot quicker and not be seen browsing down the isle. Something definitely no good little Mormon girl would do. 

So if you see a large bottle of vodka tucked in this girl's pantry, you will know why it's there. Does it tempt me? No, I have to wait three months for each batch of vanilla to age enough  so that when I open the lid, it doesn't put me into a fit of coughing. Never, ever, even as a teenager, have I ever been tempted to try alcohol. It really smells bad to me.

So I have figured that one bottle every two, three years for vanilla still keeps me in the good little girl category. Then recently I've found out all kinds of awesome uses for vinegar. I'm putting a little in most of my loads of laundry and I'm going to someday take the plunge and start using it as shampoo instead of the store brands. It has tons of uses. It is a basic as far as self sufficiency survival. But it isn't made like I thought it was made.

A bit of research revealed that you can use fruits, berries, apples, peaches, all kinds of fruits to make vinegar. My fruit trees are doing pretty good so far. I just have apple and plum. Not great big trees but it would be a start to begin from. I have some grapes and there is plenty of jelly and some juice canned so they could be freed up for vinegar, if they do okay. I just juiced a little over 3/4ths a gallon of red currants, and I'm thinking I can freeze all this and make vinegar. They even said some frozen fruit juice brands can be used to make vinegar if they don't contain chemicals. Then I discovered the bomb shell, Vinegar - ALL vinegar first starts out as alcohol. 

Surely this can't be so, I called a winery place from the Internet who sells do it yourself products for making beer, wine, and yes, vinegar mothers (the culture you make vinegar from/ kind of like sourdough). The brewery/winery guy on the phone affirmed my fears. There is no other method to make vinegar. Yes, this little Mormon girl was either going to have to go and buy, lots and lots of unchemicalized booze or she was going to have to make it herself if I wanted vinegar home-made.

I tossed back and forth the pros and cons. Only for a few seconds though because I'm going to need lots and lots of alcohol because one day I'm going start using vinegar to wash my hair. Lots because I use it in my laundry as a deodorant. Lots because I'm going to start to clean with it more. And of course lots because you use it in canning pickles and things.

So there is no way I can afford to buy all that booze let alone this Mormon girl be seen going in and out, and in and out of a liquor store. I'm just going to have to make my own alcohol.  

Won't have a clue if it is any good or not because I won't be tasting it. I'm sure there are lots of people that would volunteer but then I'd loose my Mormon girl status. We're not supposed to encourage others to drink either.

So I took a deep breathe and told the guy on the phone, who by now is thinking he's talking to an idiot, that he was the expert and please load me up with what I needed to make alcohol and convert it to vinegar. In his defense I did say, " I need that thingy that allows the carbon dioxide to escape and doesn't allow the oxygen in." I'd looked at a cazillion sites with a "no this can't be" attitude and several supply sites which all leaned heavily toward making beer and wine which further confused me. I didn't want to set up a distillery, I just wanted to make vinegar.

So for reasons I'm not sure of, he is sending champagne yeast. He says that is for the berries and grapes. Why not wine yeast? Then he is sending cider yeast which he said if used on the berries and grapes would alter the flavor to a more apple taste. Don't know that that is bad since I'm not tasting it but he's the expert and said I didn't, so I'm following his lead. Then he loaded me up with mother's for hard apple cider and wine. Confused since I'm using champagne but maybe that will clear up once I get further into the project.

Then of course he added the thingy magig that keeps out the oxygen while letting gasses escape. He asked what kind of bottle I was using to make wine and hard cider and I said some old apple cider glass jugs. He thought they might have one around there to guage the plug needed so I guess I'm set. Set that is after I've done a great deal more research. What I know about alcohol I've learned from watching M.A.S.H. and Hockeye's still in his tent. He used underwear or old socks as a filter. Let's just say I'm not that desperate and don't plan on setting up a distillery any time soon. 

If my Grandpa Jones were alive,who was a good little Baptist boy, he could teach me for he made dandelion wine among others. Mom tells a story about drinking dandelion wine out of the cups that came back to the kitchen at her sister's wedding. She and her twin brother were quite young. Needless to say they got drunk. Can you use dandelion wine for making vinegar? Would I use the champagne yeast or the hard apple cider yeast? I'm so confused. LOL

One good thing though is that the yeast when used becomes a culture that can be kept going. Think it would matter if it was used in currant wine and then some of that start was used to make grape wine? And if the mother is used in a currant vinegar, is it okay to then use part of the mother created to put in a grape vinegar? It is something like sourdough I guess and I'm learning about that too. In fact, I have a awesome new recipe for you but that will have to be later this week. But will sourdough learning help me with mother learning? How ever did the pioneers keep these cultures all going? I'm begining to think they were pretty smart.

My head is just a spinning in all directions on this project. What do I use with what and how do I keep these cultures going through the year?  What all can I use to fuel them? I've got to say my depression, that had me in its clenches, is definitely lifting. My thyroid and adrenals are still screaming but I'm much happier. You can't be depressed and on an exciting adventure too.

Hmmmm..... if alcohol takes two to three weeks to make and vinegar about three months, then how much juice do I need to freeze to keep vinegar brewing all year? And since the stuff you make is quite stout, just how much will I end up after it is watered down? Yes, indeed this will be quite an adventure.

Who know what directions I'll take with this. My sister took an herbal medicine class and alcohol for tintcures was a big part of it. Cleansing wounds would be another great use for the alcohol in a self-sufficiency situation. I'm sure I'll find many more uses before  this project goes very far.

Oh the things I'll do in the name of self-sufficiency.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Lost Calf and Boiling Eggs

I think I messed up my thyroid and adrenals a bit at mom's. I'm pretty whooped still but feeling a bit better today. That means I work a while, lay down a while. work a while, etc.

This has been a unsettling time of our lives. I'm at a bit of a loss, not sure which way to go. We still feel like we need to focus on getting the house fixed up to sell. The deadline for moving the place where we keep our animals hasn't changed and we still don't know how to get everything done in time to put our house up on the market. We will move forward and have faith the Lord knows how it will all work out.

The other thing that has me confused is the yaks. I haven't told you yet but Gracie lost her calf. It was a heifer, an extra bummer. Kirk and I had watched her for over twenty minutes a little after nine at night, the eve before I discovered her calf. We thought all was well and so we headed home for a good nights sleep. My last for a week. 

The next morning before seven I was down at the corrals talking on the phone with my sister. She had just gotten word that our mother was near death and we were making arrangements to gather for her last few days to remain beside her. It is a tradition on our father's side that someone stays by the bedside of those passing until they are greeted by relatives who have gone before them on the other side of the veil. That way they are never alone in this new and sometimes scary transition. It is not always possible to do so but we try.

It is a very special time and we as siblings took advantage of it. Many call us odd, not understanding what makes us tick. One thing is laughter is our way of coping with stress. My wise sister bought a joke book for her grandkids when we rushed out to grab a bite to eat. She read that joke book and we laughed and laughed. What better thing than the sound of the laughter of your grandkids and children? So we laughed for mom. We talked to her even though she wasn't coherent and we never stopped when she slipped into a coma. We told her thank you and celebrated her life, thinking of pleasant memories. 

A stressful week and the frustration of loosing this calf I'd waiting so long for was tough. It is two years before you breed a heifer yak and so they don't calve until three years old. Couple the wait and the loss of Jasmine last fall when we had her at the breeders and now no calf, I'm pretty upset. The heifer calf was full size, large but not too large, fully developed, but strangely its sides were squashed a bit flat and its flanks sunk in. The calf was well cleaned off and Gracie was laying beside it giving it an occasional lick so I know she wasn't neglectful. I'm just guessing it was stillborn. 

Do I give up on the yak project or try and find a bull closer to breed Gracie to? We aren't rich folk and can't handle much more financial loss so what do we do? I'm still pondering on the answer. I know Kirk would call it quits but I do love the yaks. Gracie has started grunting to me. Something Jasmine use to always do and I love it!

Now for something less depressing. I'm experimenting on boiled eggs. I read on the Internet where putting soda in the water changes the PH and allows the shells to be removed easier. 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per quart of water. You know how difficult it is to remove the shells from fresh eggs. So I tried it. I tried it twice. Not impressed. It does seem that breaking the egg shells after they egg cooks and before placing in the cold water does loosen the shell some.

Another site suggests salt along with soda. The science is that less fresh eggs peel better because of their higher PH level. They said that the soda created the effect of less fresh eggs by creating an alkaline water solution. Wonder if their eggs were commercial and not home grown in which they experimented with? Surely diet of the chicken would have some bearing on this as it has a tremendous effect on the vitamin levels.  

Anyway, I'm going to try salt and soda next time but for now I'll just eat my egg salad sandwich and ponder about what to do about the yaks.

Monday, July 15, 2013

What I Learned About Using Aloe Vera in Lotion

Out of lotion and so today I mixed up a new batch.

I decided to try adding aloe vera and had a new recipe to try.

With a number of new plants started I figured we could sacrifice the whole plant. So I slit each leaf lengthwise and opened it up. Then I scraped the gel like juices from the inside with a sharp knife.

There were quite a few leaf pieces that broke apart as I scraped and so I pressed the juice through a screen.  Now I'm wondering about drying aloe vera. I use capsules of it as a mild cure for constipation that occasionally comes with my water imbalance issues. It would be nice to create my own.And of course I use the gel on sunburns as it draws the heat out and allows the burn to quickly heal.  I've also read where another type of aloe vera has much better medicinal properties. I'll have to look into that sometime.  
Disappointed, I found out that I had come up with only a fourth a cup instead of the cup the recipe called for despite using the entire plant. I did not have soy lecithin anyway, another ingredient in the new recipe. Most soy lecithin I hear is derived from genetically modified plants so I'm not sure it is what I want to use anyway.
So as an experiment I used my old recipe and just added the aloe juice after I had melted the oils.
When the lotion was made and I was going to ladle it into the two small jars when I discovered that there was liquid that wasn't incorporated into the oil mixture. Now I see that the aloe vera indeed needed a emulsifier. There wasn't much so I just stirred and tipped the jar upside down and then stirred again repeating the process several times before placing in the jars. I'll keep the lotion in the refridgerator and next time use something else. I think I'll use something that has been steeped in the oil.  
Before the lotion I made a quick vinegar cheese for the chickens. I just heat milk up to almost boiling point and pour in a 1/4 cup of vinegar per gallon (approximately that is) and stir.  The whey will quickly separate from the cheese. The chickens love it and it helps increase their calcium levels. I've not had as much luck getting them to drink milk as I have this simple cheese. Modern day chickens lay far more eggs than the ones from our pioneer ancestors. The problem is the increase in egg production depletes the chickens of calcium which is therefore taken from their bones. As you can imagine my eggs have a lovely hard shell.
The whey from this cheese I pour over my mulch pile. The milk for this chicken cheese is what is left after I separate and keep the cream for butter making. One of these days I need to get some cheese making going for us. Things as you might guess have been a bit difficult.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Get Wet Photo Challenge

Sorry to get these up a bit late but those who follow my blog know I had a very challenging week. and a half. After looking at these photos hop on over to Round Robin photos and check out what others have posted on  Get Wet


I'll be back next week with several blogs so stay tuned as I hurry to get caught up from being gone for a week. It is so.... nice to be home. The week long stress has left me completely wiped. Have you ever done a funeral in two days? I don't recommend it but schedules dictated that we do so since we spent four days and nights at our mother's bedside.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

No Posts

Will not be blogging this week. I am spending time with my siblings as we are with our mother who will very soon return back home to our Heavenly Father above. I pray she passes quickly.