Thursday, November 29, 2007

A sweet sort of goose

A photo on Flickrfrom risa

We have three geese, and of these , one is a gander (Sylvester), one an ornery goose (Sylvia), and one is a rather sweet sort of goose, who likes to lay her head on Beloved's hand and gaze soulfully into her eyes. This one we call Susannah, and she has taken command of the clutch. Both of the females lay eggs there (along with some of the ducks, and maybe a chicken or two, but it is Susannah that does the hard work, and we have to keep an eye out for when she's foraging in order to gather.

We sell chicken and duck eggs by the dozen as our farm product, but gather the goose eggs and store them separately until there are enough to blow out and rinse, which is a good deal of effort unless one takes some forethought. To quote a much earlier blog post regarding the eggs of a flock we had back in the mid-90s:
I tried the technique as described, and after about five minutes of blowing, had one egg in the cup and a severe headache.

A hundred and thirty-nine more eggs waited quietly on the table. I sat and thought for a bit, then went to get my high-speed mini-drill, and stopped by the sixteen-year-old's room.

"Got a pump and a basketball needle?"

"Uh, yeah, but what do you want 'em for?"

"Trust me, you don't want to know."

I selected an egg, and, using a cone-shaped grinder bit, opened one end and softened the other (the skinny end). I punched the needle in ever so gently, then pushed down the plunger, slowly, so as to avert an explosion, while holding the needle-inserted egg in the other hand above the cup.

The egg emptied itself in about three seconds.

Visions of a cottage industry danced in my head. I made quick work of the pile of eggs, emptying the cup after each one into a mixing bowl (this is in case you find a bad egg), in which the eggs would be later blended and moved into freezer bags -- when thawed, the batches are good in baking recipes that call for eggs.
A little more detail: find a bit of foam rubber, about 1/2 inch thick, and stick the basketball needle through it. This will serve as a gasket and help keep the upper end of the egg from cracking. Experience will tell you how much pressure, applied for how long, will empty the egg without compromising its structure, so to speak.

You may have some "approved" freezer containers for saving the egg in suitable quantities for however you use them; we reuse very small size sealable plastic bags which we then double-bag into a larger bag and just grab one to make breakfast from time to time, or to use in baking.

We haven't discussed any of this with Susannah.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Unnaturally bright

A photo on Flickrfrom risa

Towhees, juncos, sparrows, finches and cowbirds sought grain on the well-house roof this morning, after our first really major frost, the day after Thanksgiving. We have been limiting them to the smaller bird feeder that hangs by the kitchen window, due to the depredations of squirrels and banded pigeons, none of whom were evident in this neighborhood in the early nineties.

Yesterday, we fed the first shift of our (local) progeny: Daughter (AKA Grinin) and her Young Man, and Last Son, who styles himself a Black Belt in Beer, and brought with him some of the products of Belgium. They took away quite a bit of leftovers, including all the remaining walnut-pumpkin bread, and so I am baking today for the second batch, Middle Son and his flock, who live in what he calls the Barony of Three Mountains.

Today's loaf contains a small handful of flax seed, beaten in a mortar, quite a bit of oats, some creamed butternut squash (from leftovers) and quite a lot of chopped chives, which I brought in from the garden covered with white rime and very cold in my hand.

As the loaf was rising, I discovered that my ironstone baking platter had disappeared.

"Where's my baking dish?"

"Um, it has a ham in it... for tomorrow."

"Eeeee, this is a Serious Matter."

"Hang on! I might have an acceptable substitute. Do I have ten minutes?"

I looked in the mixer. "Yes, just."

So, in the midst of breaking ice for the poultry and other chores, Beloved found a strange, flat, rectangular box, which I had never seen before, and opened it gingerly to reveal a stoneware pizza baking platter. She's had it, she says, for six years, obtained while helping to make some fundraiser a success with a discrete purchase.

It's perfectly round, about three quarters of an inch in height, with a quite level upper surface and, verso, a grid-shaped raised pattern to bolster the strength of the clay (which seems brittle, at least to the eye, but maybe isn't) and to distribute heat more evenly, and, interestingly, is not glazed. One has to wash it without soap and it comes with a soft, pliable cleaning scraper.

What's nice is that one can grease the platter and then use it to shape the loaf directly, rather than greasing or flouring a cutting board, shaping the loaf and then transferring it to a pan. I've formed the loaf and carried the platter in to the dining room to sit by the fire and grow. We shall see how it bakes.

We're having an interesting day, visually -- the house is in a bowl or column of intensely bright sunlight, while all around, about a quarter of a mile off, the fog has not lifted. The sunlight is reflecting from the walls of mist into the house with that kind of horizontal brightness one associates with sun-bright snow. The interior walls and ceilings are unnaturally bright.

I stepped outside and found a large red-shouldered hawk sitting on the end-post of the grape vines, who took off and flapped desultorily to a cottonwood behind the poultry yard. The chickens, ducks and geese were stricken with dread and all stood about in frozen postures for quite some time, but, poultry sense of time being what it is, they eventually forgot about the hawk and went about their business while the hawk remained, seemingly uninterested in the goings on directly below.

Hawks have an evil reputation among keepers of chickens, but as these were never allowed outside their roofed-over pen until fully grown, it may be they are to heavy-bodied to interest our local hawks. None have ever made any attempt on them, which is more than can be said for foxes, dogs and raccoons.

While I was watching all this, a movement beneath one of the old apple trees at the far end of the neighbor's pasture caught my eye, and, concerned lest we were also under surveillance by a red fox (they, too, have appeared here only in recent years), I went for the binoculars and then trained them on the spot, discovering, at the very edge of the bright fog, what appears to be the large male ring-necked pheasant who spent last summer in our veggie garden. So he had survived the visit from this summer's fox. We hadn't seen him since then.

So much going on! I feel like going out again and finding Beloved in her chore coat and miry boots and risking making her a bit cross by insisting on a hug.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Taking care of yourself

from grinin

Introducing a new voice on the farm, my name is Grinin, I'm a professional juggler. I go to school full time, work part time, have a boyfriend full time, and a part time social life to boot. I make an effort to enjoy myself thoroughly at all times in whatever I do.

I just moved to the Portland area for school. I'm taking classes in health, biology, and best of all nutrition. After graduating I'll be applying for the National College of Natural Medicine here in Portland. (I'm also incidentally the offspring of Risa)

While visiting the Smith Family used bookstore in Eugene I ventured into the Nutrition/Health section. I had no particular book in mind but I do enjoy browsing nutritional information being a sponge for that sort of subject. To my surprise there were no books on general health and well being, or even a guide to good nutrition. NOT ONE. This section was a graveyard for fad diets of old. The majority were the "Fat" diet books. Lose fat, burn fat, bad fat. When I was first discovering "dieting" this was diet of choice. The "low carb" diet's reign is coming to an end. Atkins' books were strewn throughout the shelves. This brings me great relief. Carbohydrates are your bodies best friend, they are the first energy source your body will turn to when it wants to burn calories. Though these low carb diets do work their effects are not lasting, like almost all diets. It would seem every year someone makes a million bucks off of our desperate search for weight loss answers. With all of the myths floating around the general public how are we supposed to know how to take care of our bodies?

Begin with the basics:

"Dieting" is not good for your body. A healthy diet however, is. "Everything in moderation" is a code I live by. I am a vegetarian for the most part but if there's a barbecue at a friend's house I will indulge in shrimp. If you eat a balanced diet the majority of the week it's not only OK to splurge but I encourage it. Give yourself what you want but know when to stop. I know easier than said than done. How do we know what to eat, when to eat it, and how much?

A good place to start is the Body Mass Index or BMI though it's not perfect, what is?. It can give you a good idea of where you are at weight wise. Take it with a grain of salt! BMI can not take into account how muscular you are or your build. People are predisposed to different body types. I am 5'3" and I currently weigh 120lbs. That's right in the middle of my BMI with an estimated body fat percentage of 21% for a female 19-23% is a "healthy range". Now, am I going to try to drop five pounds so that I can be at the low range of fat percentage? Certainly not, I'm a stout lass with a larger frame. Again, this is just to get an idea of your weight range.

The Daily Value system of 2,000 calories a day, set up by the FDA is an overall average. Someone my size for instance could get in a lot of trouble if I tried to eat 2,000 calories a day. My guess is you probably don't need to eat 2,000 calories either and you're wondering how many you do. If you're packing around more than you would like to, and I'm not talking about your backpack, there is actually a specific formula that will calculate how many calories a person your size needs to intake everyday. The Base Metabolic Weight formula or BMR calculates how many calories a person your size needs to eat simply to live. In other words the amount of calories you body burns in its sleep, or while at rest. The formula is based on your height, weight, age, and gender. The height and weight in this formula use centimeters and kilograms so you'll have to grab a calculator and do some conversions. This can get tricky so I'll walk you though it using my Volunteer Risa as an example:

Weight in lbs. to weight in kg. = lbs divided by 2.2
Risa weighs 185 lbs. Her weight in kg. is 84.

Height in inches to height in cm. = inches multiplied by 2.54
Risa's height is 5' 9" or 69". Her height in cm. is 175.

After converting your measurements the numbers can be plugged into the BMR formula.

For women: 655 + (9.6 x kg.) + (1.8 x cm.) - (4.7 x age)

Risa's BMR: 655 + (9.6 x 84) + (1.8 x 175) - (4.7 x 58)

Risa's BMR averages out to be 1503 calories a day. Remember that BMR calculates for a body at rest and Risa is rarely at rest in fact she is active for a woman her age. To calculate her activity we take the following steps. Her BMR is 1503, to find the amounts she needs for a sedentary lifestyle, (one that's not particularly active, simply getting up and walking around throughout the day) we multiply her BMR by 1.2

Risa's sedentary needs: BMR X 1.2 = 1503 x 1.2 = 1803.

If Risa were to not exercise her daily intake would need to average 1803 in order for her not to gain any weight. Luckily Risa leads a fit life in which she is fairly active, in order to get an accurate calorie intake that lifestyle needs to be taken into account.

Risa speed walks with a group of friends for 40 minutes five days a week and also makes sure that she hikes 25 flights of steps once a week. Added together she exercises on average 220 minutes a week, that's about 700 calories she's burning. To add her work out to her daily calorie intake we divide the calories she burns a week by seven then add the result to her sedentary BMR.

700/7 = 100, 1803 + 100 = 1903. Risa can eat 1903 calories on average a day to make sure she doesn't gain any weight.

But what if Risa would like to lose some weight? In oder to lose a pound a week your body requires a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day. For most that goal is a little lofty. To lose a pound a week however, all one needs to do is cut 250 calories from their daily calorie intake. So if Risa wants to lose a pound every two weeks she could continue to exercise her regular amount and simply subtract 250 calories from her daily calories intake.

1903 - 250 = 1653

At this point I'd like to warn you that a calorie deficit of over 1,000 calories a day (that's two pounds a week lost) is not healthy. Risa can easily make sure she's not over or below her daily deficit by checking it.

Take the total calories consumed that day: 1653
Subtract from it the Sedentary BMR: 1653 - 1803 = - 150
Then subtract the amount of calories burned: (- 150) - 100 = -250
That is a healthy number for a daily deficit and exactly what Risa needs in order to lose one pound every two weeks.

This is also useful if you work out more than planned and want to know how much more you can or should eat accordingly. For instance if Risa takes a 2 hour hike on Saturday which is out of her usual routine she can check her daily deficit: 1653 - 1803 - 575 (the calories burned on the hike) That comes out to a deficit of - 725 which while not unhealthy is 475 more calories burned than she needs in order to lose a steady amount of one pound every two weeks. She would be able to take a nice snack on that hike and eat 475 more calories that day and not gain any weight.

All of this might seem somewhat complicated but it's a nice reassuring way of knowing you can eat that piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream and it's not going to go straight to your thighs.
If that's all too much for you, here are a couple of other general tips on keeping your weight man manageable:

* You've heard it before drink 8 glasses of water (at least) a day. Though you may not have known that when your body is dehydrated it will make you think you are hungry. Next time you find you hand in that jar full of sunflower seeds (yes I'm talking to you Risa) drink a glass of water first.

* Do not deny yourself food. This is the worst mistake you can make. If you deny yourself something you only want it more so if there are cookies by all means eat one and enjoy but eat one instead of the whole box. Try to drink that glass of water with the cookie.

* Do not think about food! When I would attempt to diet I was always thinking about food, what I would eat next, what I couldn't eat, when I would eat it etc. Thinking about food physically kick starts your digestive track to prepare for digestion, thinking about food will actually make you hungry.

* Lift a few small weights. Next time you're in front of the t.v. pick up the two pound dumbbells under you bed. Lean muscle burns more calories than fat does so you'll be doing yourself a big favor.

* Make sure to eat enough fat in your diet. If you deny yourself the essential fats in your diet it can be bad for your body and make your grumpy. It also sets you up for a fat binge. "NEED FAT NOW!" So make sure that you're letting your body have what it needs.

* If you eat a high protein breakfast you will be much less likely to eat as much if you don't. It also kick starts you metabolism first thing in the A.M.

* Having said that also try to eat small meals spaced out through the entire day. This will speed up your metabolism and help those calories you intake turn straight into energy and not stored energy (fat).

*Also get yourself a cheerleader. You can be your own cheerleader but it can be fun to have a supportive group backing you up, this can be close friends or family or even perfect strangers in an online community. I use to keep my moral high and to be a cheerleader for others as well.

If your curious about the BMI or how to calculate your exercise there are free calculators online just Google them. I'll be popping back in to rant and rave about nutrient potent foods but until then there is A great resource for learning what's going into your body. Until next time, take good care of yourself, I'll be seeing you.