Posted by: anniewarmke | September 6, 2012

Holy Bumps Batman!

Monday during evening chores I discovered a sensitive spot on Trish, Tomas’s mother.  Whenever I feed the goats I generally hug them, rub necks, and massage their rumen, petting them all over out of my sheer joy of getting to work with them.  When I was petting Trish, she pulled away from me when I touched the area just inside her right hip.
Upon further examination I found a small bump I first assumed was a swollen lymph node.  Annie said that was probable as they all might still be dealing with the shot we had given them the previous week.  When I checked the other goats I discovered the same lump but only on some of them. Tilly had the bump on her left side with the addition of a scab.  This fact changed our hypothesis from lymph node to blowfly.

Etta Mae had some sort of  blowfly several months ago that appeared as a bump and scab. When Annie broke the scab she was able to see the larvae.  But when we broke Tilly’s scab we didn’t see anything.  Trish had a very small scab compared to Tilly’s that revealed nothing as well.  We brought all the patients—Trish, Tilly, Pinky, and Lana—into the milk room one-by-one to trim the hair around the bump to have a better look.

Blowfly is still the best conclusion, but there is not much we can do now other than to dust the area with diatomaceous earth, hoping the little bugger eats it, and to treat the exit wound with acidophilus to prevent infection after the insect breaks out and departs.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of Mysterious Bumps—same blowfly time, same blowfly channel.

Posted by: anniewarmke | September 5, 2012


Sunday morning it was raining hard and it had been for some time. Supposedly this wealth of water was the reaching remnants of Hurricane Isaac.  When I awoke, I saw in the swath of land between the bunkhouse and the privy a mighty river. No man could fjord it, no matter how severe his privy needs.

Arriving at the goat barn for morning chores, we discovered several pools of water in the small area between the adjoining barns.  One formed beneath the milk room eave because of yet un-repaired gutter damage from a previous storm.  Aaron took it upon himself to cut channels in the earth with John Henry-style speed, connecting his tributaries to what is affectionately known as “The Poop Canal.”

The Poop Canal is the natural watershed for this area near the barns that often needs kept free of accumulated muck.  Aaron had recently dug the canal deeper, and we joked about a photo op, shaking hands with Jay dressed as Theodore Roosevelt at a ribbon-cutting with fanfare and paper boats afloat on their way to the “poopy Pacific”, or “Poop-cific”.

Eventually it was time to process some paw-paws we had purchased at Thursday’s produce auction.  The paw-paw is the largest edible berry (technically) indigenous to North America.  A paw-paw tastes like a mango-banana, and becomes mushy like a banana when ripe.  Because it is so mushy the peel doesn’t peel easily and the many seeds are difficult to extract from the pulp.  As we began to process, it quickly became evident to me why I’ve never had one before.
The best way to process this delicacy is to put an entire paw-paw in a colander and smash, but we don’t have a colander with the correct-sized holes.  We have so far processed by hand, peeling with a knife and then mashing the seeds out with our fingers, collecting the pulp.  We are saving the seeds to plant as well.  After what seemed like several grueling hours (it was probably less than one) we had enough mash to make… ice cream!

We pureed the mash with some sugar, heavy whipping cream, raw goat’s milk, lemon juice, and vanilla, and then tossed the mix into the ice cream machine, which was dusted off for the occasion.  After the addition of ice, rock salt, and the insanity-inducing whine of a tiny electric motor, we enjoyed some homemade paw-paw ice cream.


Posted by: anniewarmke | September 3, 2012


Saturday, it rained.  We had a small tour scheduled, rain or shine, but it seemed as though the rain would last and make it even smaller.  But, by the time the tour started at 1pm, we had more people show up than we had expected initially.  We did however do the chores in a light rain, which I found peaceful and serene.  The goats were all sleepy and huddled in the barn and I would have loved to have just lain down with them.

During the first part of the tour, which is at the goat barn, Annie asked me to hold up Tomas while she spoke.  He doesn’t mind being held, because again, goats like to be higher than other goats.  (In my absurdity, I imagined him looking down from his ivory tower laughing maniacally at his inferiors.)  The longer I held him the heavier he became.  I’m not sure how much he weighs but 50lbs is close.  Additionally, those 50lbs are around 103 degrees so between the sun, humidity, and a goat’s regular body temperature, I started sweating heavily.  Etta Mae, the second youngest goat (Tomas being the first), tried climbing my leg to join him.  Eventually, Tomas began to fidget to I let him down and he peed and peed and peed.  I hadn’t seen him pee before and I couldn’t believe how long he sustained.

During evening chores he amazed me again.  He was in a playful mood and was acting silly.  Either his leg is feeling a lot better or he is too young to care and will probably make it worse by accident, but he reared up onto his two back legs, one with the recovering sprained ankle, and bunny hopped three times.  It was awesome.  It may soon be time to start training again.


Posted by: anniewarmke | September 3, 2012


Friday, I milked Tuti.  She is by far the easiest goat for me to milk.  She has no quirks to her teats and they are symmetrical and large enough for my whole hand. (Conversely, Pinky has an extra hole in one teat, and a teat so small I can barely pinch it with two fingers.)  I kept a pretty good rhythm with Tuti and was rewarded with a lot of milk.  The goal is always to finish milking before the goat is done eating; otherwise they become restless and try to move around.  I was successful and quite satisfied with her, and my, performance.

Between the four goats we get about a half-gallon of milk per day, which is more milk than we can drink.  We always drink the freshest milk first because, well, it’s the freshest and there will always be more milk coming.  When the fridge is full of milk, Annie makes cheese.  Apparently you can make any kind of cheese but Annie usually makes something that tastes like bleu cheese, which I don’t like very much at all.  Perhaps on the next round, I’ll take part in the process and lobby for a different variety.

Well, the deck to the Dogwood Chalet looks good with its coat of stain.  We will either do a second coat and then a sealant or just seal it.  But, in the meantime, we need a step.  The deck is on a pretty steep slope and currently there is about a three-foot gap between the ground and deck.  So, step one of our step-building process was to build a small retaining wall along the slope with three rammed-earth tires.

First, we leveled the area where the tires were to lay, placed the tires and filled the tires with clay.  It’s necessary to pound the clay into the walls of the tire as fully as possible, to the point of weighing between 300 and 350lbs. Aaron showed me how to do the first tire and then I did the second and third.  By the end, I was out of breath and sweating profusely.  It’s hard work for sure, being hunched over, swinging sledgehammer.  I can’t imagine pounding the 2200 tires in Annie and Jay’s Earthship… not yet anyway.
It was a sweaty, sweltering, humid day and the night was going to be worse, so at 10pm I took a cool peaceful shower by the full blue moonlight.

Posted by: anniewarmke | September 1, 2012

Thursday, after…

Thursday, after mucking, mulching, and milking, Aaron and I stained the deck at the Dogwood Chalet.  We stained the outside perimeter and the railing first to still have access from a dry deck floor.  Then we strategically stained the floor to avoid “painting ourselves into a corner”, as the saying goes.  We had hoped to use a roller but realized that we had to use a brush to stain between the planks.  An individual board was nearly done after that so we just finished it off with the brush.

We had also made sure to retrieve any tools left in the chalet before limiting our access.  However, I had finished my side of the deck and went inside the Earthship to write a blog, when I remembered I had hung the camera inside the chalet.  I ran out to stop Aaron before it was too late and arrived at what was the last possible second before loosing access to the door.
Aaron “The Amazing”, or “The Single Man-Looking-For-a-Wife” (self-named and inserted at his request), stretching and contorting his nimble figure in true yogi form, level to that of the Sadhu Babas, seemingly opened the door with his mind, defied all physics, and disappeared inside to return in an instant, camera in hand, with even greater balance and grace–perhaps from having achieved enlightenment.  Camera saved, I returned inside.

Jay and Annie soon returned from speaking to the Hare Krishna New Vrindaban Community in West Virginia.  I mentioned that I had watched The Economics of Happiness and Annie and I began to discuss ways we could make an impact toward localization. However, I don’t yet know enough about it.

It’s clear to me that localization is the way to go.  I don’t need further convincing but having a working knowledge base to be able to defend localization and inform others is an eventual goal.  But, still filled with inspiration from the film, I was anxious to see actual progress, so I tried briefly to find online a simple list of successful ventures people had undertaken that could be adapted to any city.  I was encouraged to find numerous movements and efforts implying an imminent green revolution, but the information seemed so spread out and garbled that it was un-navigable, even on a singular website.

(I did find that several cities have established a tool library, wherein patrons could check out tools like books! Genius! I wonder what else could be “library-ed” for communal sharing.)

I’m also new to Muskingum County.  I don’t know the political agenda or the demographic concerns.  I wonder how receptive the area would be to a green revolution.  Does anyone know what people are already doing to create a sustainable economy and a reliance on community, or does anyone have ideas?

Posted by: anniewarmke | August 31, 2012

An Oil Spill and Economic Hope

Wednesday started off right with over-easy eggs on rye, buttered thick. Then I spread more muck-mulch around trees during morning chores. Tomas is slowly looking better, limping less, but I’m not sure how long a sprained ankle will take to heal.


We had planned on staining the deck today, but Aaron called “an audible” so we painted some trim instead. I have, for as long as I can remember, loathed painting. As a skill, it requires perfect precision, but as a product, it runs on chaos, ruins your clothes, gets in your hair, doesn’t come off your skin with a knife, and is one of the most toxic things on the planet. I painted anyway, but not without incident.


First, we had to scrape off all the lime plaster that had dried on the trim we wanted to paint. In addition to the window and door frames, we painted the eaves as well. That proved to be the difficult part. Working over-head, against gravity, forces all the paint in your brush to fall away from the tips and drip. Thankfully, we had the foresight to lay plastic over the deck to catch it all. However, when I moved the ladder, a leg caught the plastic and pulled it away from the dripping area. I saw this happen and put it back before I climbed back up. But, when next I came back down, I noticed a bigger problem… the remainder of the gallon of paint had fallen over. When I had reset the plastic, I must have tugged hard enough to flop the can, which was out of sight behind me. Luckily, the paint all spilled onto the plastic, so we picked it back up with our brushes and put it back into the can.


When we finished, I scrubbed myself clean and then we drove down to the river to gather some driftwood for an art installation on the outside of the Dogwood Chalet and for a lamp stand inside.


After losing another game of Scrabble when Aaron played “cog,” “cat,” and “go” for something like 26 points, I retired from the sport altogether (probably until tonight anyway), and watched a documentary recommended by Annie and Jay called, The Economics of Happiness.


The Economics of Happiness debunks the myth of globalization and consumerism (what politicians call “economic growth”) as the key to a better life and a better world, exposing the facts that prove globalization to be, not the solution to, but, the cause of every form of poverty from financial to spiritual. It explains how you are feeding the beast by risking your money with a big bank rather than investing in a local credit union. It explains why buying food from a large grocery store instead of a local farmer’s market is shooting yourself in the foot. It illuminates the lies you’ve been told and your own denial of believing them. The truth is so apparent you can’t help but awake from our own complacency… and hopelessness.


Director/Writer/Narrator Helena Norberg-Hodge goes on to explain how true wealth and true happiness are instead found through localization and community and how movements across the globe are saving our world, one local revolution at a time. People like you and me can change ourselves, empower those around us, and together create policy that enables and protects our capacity for a fulfilling, rewarding, and joyful LIFE!

Posted by: anniewarmke | August 29, 2012

From Pac-Man to Scrabble

Tuesday, Annie and Jay went to visit the Hare Krishnas in West Virginia to speak on sustainability practices… but not before we had gluten-free pancakes for breakfast! They were delicious. The following picture is entitled, “Eat your breakfast, Breakfast!”  (Sorry, for turned image.  It’s right side up on my computer I swear!)


During morning chores, I raked up all the… muck, let’s call it, and stacked it in the muck cart (option two: poop and poop pram). Generally, we add the muck to a pile to create dirt long-term, but Annie had the idea of spreading it out like mulch around some trees. The chickens scratch the nutrients into the ground as they scour the muck for seeds and the straw remains to act as mulch. (Aside from proper planting practices, having a mulch ring around any tree you value is of utmost importance. Ask your local ISA-certified arborist, or me, “Why?”)


I checked on Tomas’s ankle and it was still tender, so he escaped another day of training. Apparently, some time ago, Tess, one of the other kids, had fallen in the boulders and got stuck. She cried and was rescued without injury. If the boulders were to blame for her misfortune, and are now suspected of Tomas’s, Annie decided they should be knocked down. So, what was once a two-tiered obstacle is now one.


Then Aaron and I finished the scratch coat inside the Dogwood Chalet. I used my hands all day instead of attempting to apply anything with a trowel at all. It went very quickly and smoothly, I thought. However, because I was essentially scraping over rocks and sand all day long, I very nearly wore a hole in the side of my hand. I think I’ll wear gloves next time.


Aaron and I then capped of the evening with a game of Scrabble. I’m learning I don’t play Scrabble well. I come up with great words that open up the board for my competitors. I also don’t consider very much the “double word score” squares, et al. I figure if they happen to be under word, that’s great. Aaron, however, will play one letter that makes 4 two-letter words on a triple word score and end up with 100 points. So even though I created “romantic,” I lose. Oh well.


As an aside, I’ll mention that using a composting privy while being swarmed by mosquitoes is most unpleasant.

Posted by: anniewarmke | August 29, 2012

Winter Greens and Mint Mantis

Monday, I tried to milk a few goats and checked on Tomas during chores. His leg still hurt, but I’m beginning to wonder if he is faking it to get out of his harness-training with me. He still runs around, stands on two legs when investigating higher things, jumps into the muck cart, and climbs the rocks. He is very good at being a kid, despite his injury.


Jay and Aaron went golfing today, and I would have joined them if I thought I’d be able to hit the ball once. But, I imagined I would have the same luck trying to swing a long strand of hair at a single quark (a sub-atomic particle).


There was no clay work on the docket today as it was scheduled to rain, so Annie set me up doing a bit of weeding and bed preparation. So, right outside the entrance to the earthship, I weeded and raked an area 3×12 feet and lightly turned the soil with a mattock. Then I brought in some compost-soil to cover and level the space. The plan is to plant some lettuce, amongst other things, covering the bed with windows for a make-shift cold-frame, giving us greens all the winter long.


While I was working there, I took the time to appreciate a praying mantis that had walked up the house from behind some mint. I’m sure it was nervous that I would’ve continued on, not seeing it amongst the foliage, and so sought higher ground for safety. But I had gone as far as I was going to go and so just pondered the creature, marveling at its potentially comical, boxing-nun-style arms.

Then I moved on to harvest some pigweed to dry for the goats for winter. Related to amaranth, a native American grain worthy of eating I’m told, the goats would not be too interested in it now, but in the winter it would be a welcomed treat. I weeded around some other beds that had raspberries and tomatoes growing, harvesting any pigweed I came across as I went along. It was insanely humid as the rain hung stubbornly in the air when I reached the plastic bottle greenhouse to turn another bed. Thankfully, just as I finished, the rain lost its grip on the sky and fell.

I once again retired to the bunkhouse to read only to find the two spiders, once again, engaged in a smack-telepathy, mind-game, staring contest. I tried to take a picture of one.


In the evening, it was time to give shots to the two llamas who had alluded us the day before. Not remembering our broken trust from yesterday, they came peaceably into the corral where Jay and Aaron harnessed them and administered the shots. Because they were harnessed already, we walked them around for practice. I had never led a llama before and haven’t spent much time with them here so far. I thought it would feel like leading a horse but I liken them closer to a four-legged ostrich. After a short while, we turned them loose and went back to the house.

Lastly, Aaron and I helped Annie plant a variety of lettuce and beets in the soon-to-be cold-frame and covered it with a light dusting of sand and some screens to protect the seeds from, at least, the chickens. And, with a game of pinochle, the day was done.

Posted by: anniewarmke | August 28, 2012

Shots Ring Out in the Barn, Kids Cry

Sunday morning, during chores, Annie noticed that Tomas was limping, keeping weight off his right rear leg. It seemed as though he sprained his ankle somehow. I think it was from doing a gainer off a llama, but Annie thinks he fell in the rocks and caught his leg. It’s also possible he was head-butted by one of the other goats. In any case, we decided to keep him and his mom in the kid’s stall to minimize potential threats to further injury.


It was a bad day for all the goats because we had to administer shots. We brought them into the milk room, one by one, tied them up, gave them some food, and then braced them and ourselves. The older, bigger goats took it well with just a flutter of the leg seemingly thinking, “What the… Ow! …ooh, more food, munch, munch.” The kids, however, cried.

Annie was pretty sad about having to give shots in the first place, so when it was obviously painful to some it hurt her as well. It was pretty sad to watch the kids cry. I’ve heard them bleat before, like when calling to, or answering, their moms, but their cry was distinctly painful and so was their expression. I tried to console the goats as best as I could, petting and massaging them, telling them it would be alright via my soul and goat-telepathy powers, and it seemed to work. I think I’ve built a good rapport with them.

After filtering the milk back at the house, I cleaned out the Dogwood Chalet in preparation of finishing the scratch coat, though we didn’t get around to it after Jay showed Aaron and I how to use Joomla, the web design program used for Blue Rock Station’s site.

I went back to the goat barn and the kid’s stall to check on Tomas, bringing some sassafras leaves as a treat. He seemed anxious to be cooped up during the day and was still favoring his leg. It was obviously swollen and he did not want it to be touched. So I pet him, used a little more goat-telepathy, and went to the bunkhouse to read.

Upon arriving, I decided to clean under the bed in the daylight to rid the area of any and all spider webs to prevent further attacks. Then I climbed on the roof to broom everything off to hopefully keep the punctuality award-winning, raucous breakfasting cardinal at bay.

In the evening, it was time to give shots to the llamas. This proved more difficult as Annie, Aaron, and I were unable to corral two of them, coaxing even with feed and hay. It was getting late so we decided to try for the remainder tomorrow and bring the big guns… Jay.

(pictured: the Milk Room and most of the kids.  featured: Etta Mae, who just finished pooping and is checking in on the proceedings.)

Posted by: anniewarmke | August 26, 2012

Hand v. Trowel

Saturday, after the spider and bat debacles, I helped milk some of the goats during morning chores. I still can’t start milk flowing from most of them and haven’t yet attempted those with leaks. Additionally, some have teats seemingly too small for my hands. It seems I’ll have to learn to use two or three fingers.

After chores Annie, Aaron, and I went into town to run some errands but also to peruse the library book-sale. I was hoping to find something by Joseph Campbell but I did not. However, because each book was a dollar or less, I picked up a biography of J.D. Salinger, Machiavelli’s The Prince, a compilation of Robert Frost’s poems, and a book about black holes. (I’m quite interested in physics.) Of course I’ll be reading the rest of Jay’s book, When the Biomass Hits the Wind Turbine, before tackling any of those, especially because I was asked to edit as I go along.

Back at the house, after an omelet and hash-brown lunch, I helped Aaron lime plaster the wall that we had scratch coated last week. Lime plaster is much like concrete and hardens well for an exterior finish. I began to apply it using the trowel again but quickly found that it is better to use my hands. If I use my hands I can better control the material as I apply it and I end up loosing and using less. The trowel tries to make a perfectly flat surface which is difficult when the surface your working on isn’t flat. Because my hand is able to contour with the wall as I go along, I get a more even coat that shows more of the building’s character.


I made sure to shower quickly after as the lime is a somewhat harsh substance, and, after evening chores, work was done for the day.

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