Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Memorable Memorial Day 2011

It started out like a nice easygoing day. I was in the house reading a book on the couch with the cats all around me, all snoozing contentedly. I became aware that some of the ducks and geese had come back up from the pond to the duck house, situated right across from the house, as the geese were squawking their arrival as they normally do. However, something was different; the geese continued to squawk for several minutes as opposed to the usual few they normally belt out. I was concerned that a dog or fox was roaming about, so I went through the gate and out to the duck yard to see what was bothering the geese. Nothing looked unusual until I was closer to the duck house. That is when I noticed one of my Ancona ducks (Cocoa) was all by herself and was sitting with her head down and not moving when I approached. Much to my horror, I also noticed she was bleeding from two wounds on her pretty white neck. One at the back of her head that was about a half inch long and looked like a tear and the other one was about 1 1/2 inches long and looked like a tear as well.

After thanking the geese for being so vocal, I picked Cocoa up and rushed her to the house. The geese and ducks immediately went back to the pond. In the house, I grabbed a dishtowel on the way to the garage to get a bigger towel. I needed to examine her wounds and figure out whether or not Cocoa was going to live through this trauma. My heart was really racing at this point, as I feared that Cocoa’s injuries were going to be fatal. I placed Cocoa on some towels on the dinner table, where I could better see her wounds and began applying pressure to stop the bleeding on both wounds. After several minutes, I noticed that there were no more active bleeding spots, which was very encouraging since I did not want this little girl to die.

Now that I had the bleeding stopped, I needed to get the clumps of clotted blood off her so I could examine her further and decide how I was going to fix this mess. Since Cocoa was being such a good patient, I took her outside to the front of the house and used the garden hose to rinse the wound areas clean of clots. After getting that done I saw to my relief that only the skin had been torn and no muscle tissue was damaged on her neck, whew!!! Her beak had a crushing type injury so It was then I figured that she most likely had been attacked by a snapping turtle on the pond. Poor girl! I was also able to examine her left eye at that time and found that the injury she sustained to her eye last winter has caused her to become blind in that eye.

Now what do I do? I knew she needed stitches but on Memorial Day I was not about to call a veterinarian to stitch her up. That would be entirely too costly. Having read numerous articles written by homesteaders that do their own first aide on their animals, including stitching up skin tears, I decided that perhaps I could do the same thing. However, I would need to wait until my husband got home from work. Unfortunately, as bad luck would have it, he was being held over for several hours into the evening.

In the meantime, I got Cocoa cleaned up and applied globs of Antibiotic ointment to her wounds. Then I fixed a nice straw nest in a fenced area in the barn for her with food and water that included electrolytes for ducks. Next, I went online to find out any information about stitching up Cocoa. I discovered several sites that have complete instructions on how to stitch up wounds, Yeah! I used to work as a dental assistant so I’ve seen a lot of stitches, but I needed a refresher since that was a long time ago. I also found some articles related to duck injuries which reminded me that since a ducks normal body temperature is around 107 degrees, infection shouldn’t be a big concern, as bacteria do not like temperatures that high. Another Yeah!!!

Next, I gathered my materials needed to stitch up Cocoa. A common needle from my sewing kit, good and strong poly / cotton thread in a dark color since her neck is white, hemostats and bandage scissors from my first aid kit. I cut a few lengths of thread about 12 inches long and boiled them for 10 minutes to disinfect them. I then scrubbed my hemostats and scissors with soap and water, and then boiled them for the same amount of time to disinfect those as well. I got the thread out of the water after 10 minutes and placed them on a paper towel, wrapped them in another paper towel and placed those in a zip lock bag. The scissors and hemostats went into another zip lock bag.

When Bill got home, I gathered all the materials I needed and Bill and I headed to the barn to fix up little Cocoa. She was still being pretty cooperative and we saw that she had been attempting to eat and she had been drinking her water with electrolytes – a very good sign. With Bill holding her in a towel, I began by using scissors to trim away as many feathers as I could since I don’t have any clippers. I also had to pluck some feathers but Cocoa didn’t seem to mind. Then I used the information I found online, cleaned up the wound again and began stitching her up. Bill was a bit squeamish about this part and we had to take a break so he could regain his composure, LOL!!! She got 3 stitches on the longer skin tear at the base of her neck which seemed to be enough, and I left the smaller one at the back of her head without stitching as it looked like a puncture wound that may need to drain.

I was then able to get a better look at her beak. It was definitely a crushing type injury on the top with a tiny little tear. Those snapping turtles are brutal! Cocoa’s nostrils were clogged with blood so she was breathing through her mouth. I was not able to clean them out but I knew, in time, she would be able to using the bucket she has for drinking water. All her wounds got a generous glob of antibiotic ointment, more to keep the flies off her wounds than anything else. Last, I gave her a nice Reiki treatment and we put her back in her recovery area.

The next morning we found that Cocoa was still with us. She had been drinking and had eaten a little from her food bowl, Woo hoo!!! We spent the next week, twice a day, cleaning her wounds with Betadine, using the antibiotic ointment to keep the flies off and giving her Reiki treatments. After a couple of days Cocoa was finally able to get one side of her nose cleaned out in her water bucket and she was breathing more normally again. Funny, she was still laying eggs during her healing period. I told her she needed to conserve her energy, but she didn’t listen. By the way, It took about a week before Cocoa was able to get the other nostril cleaned out and I was so happy to see that!!! Both nostrils looked just fine when they were cleared.

Two days into Cocoa’s recovery, I was concerned that Cocoa could become estranged from her little pod of ducks so we set up a small area with fencing in the duck house that would allow her to be in the company of her fellow ducks during her recovery period. That really seemed to perk her up and she began eating even more. She was even attempting to squawk through her painful beak!!!

After 7 days, we took the stitches out and her wounds looked great with only some residual redness and the lack of feathers of course. For a few days after removing the stitches, we continued to treat with the antibiotic ointment, just for good measure. We also kept Cocoa from other ducks for several more days because when they breed the drake grabs a hold of the ducks neck right where her injuries were.
Cocoa had the whole duck yard to herself during her recovery period until I felt she was ready to mingle again. It was so sweet to see that Cocoa’s pod of ducks stayed nearby during her recovery. When that time came, her pod came into the duck yard and treated Cocoa no different than if she had never been attacked, and they immediately resumed their normal activities. Since her injury, Cocoa has become faster on her legs and now outruns most of the drakes. It’s nice to see that her own drake is very protective and does not allow the other drakes to come near her. It’s normal behavior, but still nice since an aggressive drake could have re-injured those wound sites. Today, Cocoa is a happy and healthy Ancona duck. She’s blind in one eye from a past injury but she lived through her encounter with that snapping turtle. It is definitely a ducks life at the Patchwork Prairie.

Cocoa with her pod. She's the Brown and white one in front. The others are Miloe the Rouen drake, Maggie the Black and White Ancona and Tawney the Runner.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Lambsquarters - Goosefoot family , Chenopodium album. Also known as wild spinach, pig weed or goosefoot.

Description: An attractive summer annual, that is upright and branched. It grows up to 6 feet tall. The stems are grooved and it sometimes has purplish vertical stripes on the main stalk. The Leaves are arranged alternately along the branches, and are covered with tiny and grainy, white pollen like substance. The lower leaves are on stalks, are triangular, and irregularly toothed making them look like a goose’s foot. The leaves toward the top of the plant do not have stalks, are narrow, and are oblong in shape. Leaves are up to 3 inches long and 1 ½ inches wide.

According to my book “Crabgrass Muffins and Pine Needle Tea”, Lambsquarters nutritional profile, for ½ cup cooked greens, includes a whopping 3.5 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of carbohydrates, 2.0 grams fiber, 324 mg calcium, 1.5 mg iron, 684 mg potassium, 40 mg ascorbic acid, and 3800 micrograms of beta-carotene, 100 micrograms of thiamine, 200 micrograms of riboflavin and 1000 micrograms of niacin.

These greens actually have more nutrition than spinach! And, since it is a close relative to spinach, it contains oxalic acid which means that it binds with some of the calcium that is in the plant, but thankfully, not the calcium in the other foods in your meal.

This is another garden "weed" I’ve discovered that is not only great tasting but also extremely nutritious. I have been watching this grow in my yard for a couple of years but I wasn’t real sure that it was actually lambsquarters since it, like many tasty weeds has a poisonous looka-like. So, I consulted my field guides, however, they didn’t give me the answer I was looking for. Then, I went to my trusted book titled “Crabgrass Muffins and Pine Needle Tea” as I remembered that it has a section that gives the poisonous look- a- likes for several edible weeds. I discovered that there is one in the same Goosefoot family but that this look- a-like has a rank odor when picked.

What I have growing here has a wonderful spinach odor when the leaves or stem is torn. To test further I took a tiny bite of a leaf and discovered that it tastes remarkably like spinach, only sweeter. That is how they taste when cooked as well. I knew then that my research paid off so I harvested a batch for our dinner. And I wasn’t surprised to find that my husband loved them too.

Steaming seemed like a good way to preserve the nutrients since boiling just pulls the nutrients out and into the water. Which is not a bad way to prepare them if you don’t mind drinking the pot liquor, LOL. To prepare them I rinsed them well under cold water, steamed a big batch for 10 minutes and served them with a little butter, salt and pepper. We later shared this discovery with our Greek friend named John and he referred to them as Horta – boiled garden greens. He used fresh lemon squeezed onto the greens, and thus we tried it as well. Absolutely awesome!!! I suppose you could dress these versatile greens with anything that you like to put on any other greens.

I now have a good-sized batch growing with my Thyme and Rosemary in my herb garden. And I've have been cutting the top few inches every week and these plants are bushing out and giving me more greens every week. I have a couple of plants that I am letting go to seed so I can insure that I have more growing next year, and perhaps in a different location so they aren’t competing for space with my culinary herbs. I think that next year I will have a vegetable garden with several wild foods as well as the domesticated selections. Bon Apatite!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dandelion Allies

During the summer months, while stomping around our 10 acre’s, I’m often inspired by the wild greens that grow around our place, as I can easily turn them into tasty and nutritious foods for our table. One of my favorites is the common Dandelion - Taraxacum officinale. In the spring, I harvest the flowering parts of Dandelions and fold them into my favorite pancake recipe to make tasty and pretty, Dandelion pancakes. The flowers nourish the nervous system as well as the heart.

I love to steam the spring greens and eat then with lemon and pepper or put into homemade soups and beans. Most people don’t realize that the poor misunderstood Dandelion is full of vitamins, minerals, and is a lot more beneficial than the majority of the bland and processed green foods we are accustomed to buying and the grocery store.

According to Linda Runyon, the author of a popular book titled “Crabgrass Muffins and Pine Needle Tea”, one half cup of chopped raw dandelion greens tossed into a salad adds a mere 21 calories, but, also amps up the protein by as much as 2.7 grams! That’s not all, as they also add 9.2 grams of carbohydrates, 187 mg of calcium, 3 mg of iron, 398 mg of potassium, 30 mg of ascorbic acid, 800 micrograms of beta carotene, 200 micrograms of thiamin, 3 mg of iron, 300 micrograms of riboflavin and 900 micrograms of niacin to your salad.

Now sometimes in the summer months, I find that raw dandelion greens can be tough and the big leaves are bitter so don’t use those. One way I get around that is to add them to a raw Mediterranean Kale salad. I got my recipe from Jennifer Cornbleet’s book titled “Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 people”. The recipe calls for using;

4 kale leaves with stems removed then thinly sliced, (I also add ½ cup of thinly sliced dandelion leaves)
1.5 tsp olive oil
1.5 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 diced red bell pepper
1 tbsp or more pine nuts
1 tbsp sliced black olives – I use Kalamata’s
Fresh ground pepper to taste.

I increase the olive oil and lemon juice to 1 tablespoon because I believe it’s tastier that way. The trick to this is to begin by placing the greens in a large bowl with the fresh lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Then using clean hands, in the bowl, rub the greens between your fingers to work the oil, salt and lemon juice into the greens. Do this for several minutes and it will actually tenderize the greens. Then you add the red pepper, pine nuts and olives then mix it all together with a spoon. I let this sit for about 15 minutes before I eat it. This recipe will keep in the fridge for about 3 days, that is if you have any left and can keep yourself from eating it before the 3 days is over, LOL!!! I certainly can’t.

What other parts are left to eat? Oh, the root! Roasted Dandelion root makes a nice herbal brew that actually tastes like weak coffee. I don’t usually roast the root myself but buy it from an herbal supplier such as I buy it occasionally and use it in the nutritional herbal brews I make using Stinging Nettle and Oatstraw, but I’ll save that recipe for another blog post. The root of the dandelion is best when harvested in the fall when the plant is sending all of its energy and nutrition to the root for storage through the winter. I rarely find those lovely half inch diameter roots to use in stews but when I do, I whip up a batch of vegetable stew and include some scrubbed and coarsely chopped dandelion root about 30 minutes before serving. The small ones work too, but they are a bit harder to work with. Not only is the root full of minerals and some vitamins, but it’s also nourishment and a tonic for your liver. By that, I mean that it feeds it and assists it in pumping out the bile needed for digestion.

The only thing that a someone new to eating Dandelions needs to know is that all parts of the Dandelion do have laxative and diuretic properties, so it’s wise to begin eating small amounts, like one half cup or less, at first to see how your body responds to this awesome ally. So if you have a bunch of Dandelions in your yard that have not been sprayed with poisons or bodily fluids from your pets…. Pick some smaller leaves, swish them in a bowl of cold water and begin adding them to a nice summer salad. Oh, you can also pick some of the sunny flowers and shake or blow off the ants (they love the nectar and pollen), and cut the green parts off with a knife and add those, unwashed, to your salad. Your body will love you for it and it is a fantastic way to start learning about the herbal allies you have right in your own back or front yard.

I would love to hear about your experiences with Dandelions so feel free to add them to the comment section.