Thursday, April 30, 2009

a wild hair: hair, laundry, and the environment

One of the reasons why I cut my hair (much to the shock and dismay of Matthew) was because I got to thinking about water use. It took a long time to get all that hair wet in the shower, especially when it is so thick and kinky as to be nearly waterproof - even when fully submerged in a bath. After the chop, showers became easy and not just another tedious chore. (Although this may mean that I will take more of them, which might not be a water-savings in the long run. So far, though, I have not suddenly become a cleaner person.) The next reason was that after I grew out my Pequot idea (where my forehead and temples were shaved to the crown of my head and then transitioned from there to long down the back and sides) so much gray had grown in that it was hard to adjust to. I tried black henna: what a pain in the butt! Plus the color falls out of my hair in just a few days. Then I flirted with dyeing, but that, too, required way too much maintenance for this slacker, and I the environmental impact was eating at me. So, okay, off it all went.

I'm adjusting. Now, thanks to my friend and one-time housemate Megan, I've become more aware of the environmental costs of shampoo, too, even the "nice" basic ones. Megan told me how she was scrubbing her hair with a paste of baking soda and water and following it with a vinegar rinse. I tried it, and it works great. For me, I have one more step, but it's not so bad. After the shower I rub my hair through with a little olive oil, usually scented with something interesting: lemongrass, frankincense, rose, whatever is the cheapest essential oil I can find. This tames it down for several days and also keeps it from freaking out when exposed to humidity or rain.

What are the environmental costs of baking soda? I doubt it's pretty. I may do a story on the whole process sometime from when it comes out of the earth to when it returns through a leach field, since a leach field is what I have. Our ground is quite acid, so adding a base substance in the leach field might be a good thing, although I wonder about the sodium part of the sodium bicarbonate. You might say, "Oh, it's only a little bit! Chill." But I also make batch after batch of mozzarella and feta cheeses and each of them (or at least the mozz) requires swirling a significant amount (half a cup or more) or salt down the drain every time. I would think that it's got to add up over time. Having just written a part of a novel where the main character visits the salt flats left behind by the agricultural practices of the Sumerian Empire, I can't stop thinking about salt that easily. I really want to write that article. Finding the time ... finding the time ... and add another story on what really all is in shampoo. And hair dyes. I know many of my friends do not want to know what its those temporary wild-colored dyes, but I do.

Where I am actually going with this post, though, is to another great tip from Megan. Really. Despite what I just said about baking soda, I think it is a big step up from shampoo. She also gave me a recipe for laundry soap that I can't wait to try, especially now that she found a source for washing soda. I buy my Natural Value laundry soap by the case and it lasts a good long while, but Matthew, Ronan, and I are pretty good at getting things dirty and none of us are all that great at getting things clean. Our current laundry soap works as long as nobody is interested in whites being white, or even off-off-off-white. Thus, besides wanting to be able to make my own laundry soap cheap, and be easier on the environment, I am certainly not attached to the cleaning power of the soap I currently have.

Whether you want the recipe or not, you should check out Megan's blog. Here is your entree:

Take some time. Wander around. Don't just stop with the soap.

kidding season - part two - The Resurrection Queen

Next up to kid was O'un. O'un has had an exciting life. Which for a goat is not a desireable thing. For most living things "an exciting life" means, really, that things are not going smoothly - thus the excitement (aka adrenaline). Only humans, usually young ones, think excitement is a desireable state of affairs.

This is probably a Bad Layout Idea, but I am going to put pictures of O'un's trouble-free birth throughout this story and caption them in purple. Because her kidding was so uncomplicated there wasn't really all that much to say about it. The first picture here is shows Moon, still wet, and not just behind the ears.

Visiting the Amazon or hiking across Papua New Guinea are never on any goat's list of Things To Do Before I Die. Goats don't even care how many birds are on their Life List. What would make for "excitement" for a goat? Tangling with a vicious dog? This is only exciting if the goat somehow wins decisively. Otherwise, it's a bloody crisis. O'un's life has been so exciting that her nickname is the Resurrection Queen. She's had two near-death experiences. Both before she was our goat. Both because of not getting proper nutrition when pregnant.

Another picture of Moon, nearly dry, but wet enough to still show off her crescent-moon curls.

Ronan named her O'un when she was born. Ronan was not yet two and we were living in a cabin at the Aprovecho Research Center recovering from the Year of the Thirteen Moves. We'd acquired some goats from our old place (before the 13 moves), Coyote Creek Farm, so that Aprovecho could have goats. V-2 had twins and O'un is the one we still know. O'un is how Ronan said "Other one" at the time. Nine years late, I can't remember what the other kid's name was or what ultimately happened to her. I do have a memory that O'un's birth went smoothly. We helped dry them off, and V-2, who always was more than a little gormless, seemed like she wanted to reject the kids but she got over it. Thus O'un came to be O'un. Or O'one or Owen, depending on which of us is trying to spell her name on what day.

While O'un cleans off baby brother Darshall, Moon nuzzles U'un's neck - because she hasn't yet figured out which bits of mom produce milk when you suck on them.

The name Resurrection Queen came because one year she had one kid and then she just went down and started to die. I was living in Yoncalla and came up to see her. The person who took care of her had concluded that she had a twisted intestine and was toast. She was bloated with gas and her head was thrown back over her body in what I now think of as the "death posture" for goats. It's also called "stargazing." Her kid was standing on the big balloon of her belly. She was in bad shape. She may have had pregnancy toxemia. I say "may" because a vet was never called in. Also she didn't respond to propylene glycol. I raced off to the feed store and got a tube of live gut bacteria and pumped that down her throat, too, but then I had to get back home. She still looked like a goner when I left. In two days time, though, she was up on her feet, eating and acting like a normal goat. If she had pregnancy toxemia, that also meant that she was back from having metabolized her way past a shit-load of toxins dumped into her system as part of the whole process of the disease.

I was a little worried that O'un was going to drop a third baby, but as it turned out she was just passing the placenta. Twins are plenty enough kids, and I never met a goat who couldn't count. Most mother goats I knew counted to two, or maybe three, and if there were more kids there on the ground she walked away from the rest. Some moms aren't really into being moms - or feel their lives aren't stable enough; these goats count as high as zero.

Moon, Darshall and O,un - safe and sound.

O'un went on to have a least one other trouble-free birth before having another bad time. Feed was short again and this time she had also escaped and gotten into a bag of cat food. She hadn't had her kids yet and by the time her owners got her fixed up again (with a quart of plain yogurt until they could get better stuff), the fetuses must have died. A vet was called to pull out the dead kids. As soon as she was ready to travel after this experience, she came to live with us.

O'un wasn't so far gone that she dried up, so we milked her for a year and half and then decided to breed her one last time. By the time we are ready to breed any goats again (hopefully two or three autumns from now), O'un will be twelve or something - well into retirement age. Lucky for us she had a girl and a boy. So we can hope that Moon, the girl, will be her replacement someday.
We don't mind if she has O'un's trait of bad attachment (udder attachment, not emotional attachment) but it would be really great if Moon did not inherit her mom's tendency to go from solid calm to spastic dancing as soon as she feels you've taken two seconds too long at milking.
One more picture of Darshall as he works to get his legs under him for the first time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

kidding season - part one

I wanted a trouble-free kidding season this year, and I got it. Sort of. We've had better. I am sure we've had several kidding seasons over the years during which there were zero calls to the vet or to fellow goat owners, but like a lot of non-events, I don't remember them all that well. This year we had a couple of calls to the vet and several to a friend with goats, and several more to feed stores. However, there are no dead kids and not one anxious trip to the vet with a goat stuck in labor in the back of the truck. What a relief! Once you've had a really bad kidding season, even if it was two years ago, minor problems such as one weakling kid and every goat having lice seem like nothing much.

Lice? Yeah. Guess that handsome billy whose photos grace the first posting of this blog had a seamier side to him. Goat lice, like human lice, don't just spontaneously generate, so our girls had to have gotten them from somebody. He's the only somebody they've been in contact with. In the future we should check prospective boyfriends for lice before letting them on the property. At least for the goats.

We're treating all the goats, and there will be another post about what remedy worked. I was in favor of the nuclear option: a product called Cylence (gotta appreciate those coy drug labels), the goat version of Qwell. But then I had to take off for Cleveland, leaving Matthew with a ton of chores and the option to do things his way. He's trying out some herbal oil-based thing - and, damn, he doesn't have the camera to take any pictures of our greaser goats. He did say that he applied it along their back two days ago and yesterday they were covered in oil. May the lice suffocate.

Back to kidding season, as opposed to its aftermath. Venus dropped her kids first. In the night. I was letting everyone out of their stalls in the morning and - whoa - there the two were, already dry and standing up. Ronan named them Moo-shi and Diego. I tried to move Ronan to a food name for the boy, like Pu-Pu Platter, but no go. As for Moo-shi, she's a girl, so we're not as likely to make mushu goat out of her. Although we do have way too many goats now.

At right is a picture of Ronan and Moo-shi. No, goat lice do not transfer to humans.

I'm going to cut this post short because I recently changed the settings to have the blog sent to the new fujikofarm google group. I want to see if it works. However, I have noticed that when the blog postings are sent directly to your e-mail for your convenience that the pictures and text get rearranged. If you want to see the blog as it is supposed to look - more or less - you should bookmark it and just use the e-mail post as a reminder to check the bookmark. Also I think that the subsidiary blog info, like the comments and "currently reading" is not in those e-mails ... just in case any of you want to get into any discussions about books or music.

my first proofs

Two days ago I received the proofs from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for the story the magazine bought. As I have been since my first contact with them (a month and a half back), I am impressed with the dedication of the F&SF staff. I think just about all the e-mails I received were sent after hours or on Sundays. I sent my one correction today although I had until May 15 to get back to them. As it was, I frittered away one whole day avoiding reading the proofs until I got to wondering if some response was expected - such as "got the proofs, will get back" or if that response would be regarded as lame, or, or, or, ... so I figured I should just read the thing and get 'er done.
During the day of avoidance, I did get to spend bits of time - mostly while taking Ronan for a swim in Lake Erie - thinking about how I did not want to read the story and be embarassed and worried about it. And sad. Embarassed because I am a very harsh judge and I am no longer sure that the story meets my peculiar first criterion for writing anything: Is it worth the paper it's printed on? Or rather: is it likely to produce anything of value to equal or exceed the environmental cost of its existence? Perhaps, I should take some comfort in that the story has a lot less to answer for with its little life than I do for my existence. Worried, because I no longer write like that, which leads directly to sad - F&SF just rejected the story I really wanted to send them. The one that I was going to send out on the heals of the rejection of the first story, while they still had some memory of who I am and a hopefully favorable impression that I understand the rules of English and standard manuscript format.
No big surprise that life is full of surprises. Also it should not come as a big surprise to me that the second story - at 13000 words, three times the size of the first story - is still going to be a hard sell coming for someone only one small step up from a total unknown. I would like to not be surprised to find out that other writers go through similar idiotic contortions with their first proofs - as opposed to being properly and jubilantly happy like we should be. One final non-surprise: F&SF lived up to my experience of their efficiency and professionalism; the rejection came back in less than 14 business days and was a short personal letter, graciously worded.

As for the backlog of posts clogging my mind ... I have now figured out how to get my father's computer in Cleveland to act sort of like the one back at home (I couldn't figure out how to adjust the size of pictures, which was turning them into monsters that clogged the post space). In the meantime the backlog has grown. This is starting to feel awfully reminiscent of bummers and gummers never-completely-conquered pile of not-yet-answered mail. Now if I write, "Patience, please" the deja vu will be complete.