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Deb Stephens

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since Dec 03, 2011
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books dog food preservation forest garden goat trees
Current homesteader, naturalist, artist and writer. Former zookeeper, archaeologist, and pretty much anything that paid the rent.
I live with 1 husband, 1 old goat (besides the husband), 4 cats, 8 dogs, 19 ducks and 43 chickens on a 75 acre homestead in SW Missouri. We have Mark Twain National Forest along our entire eastern border so when not puttering in the garden or dealing with the usual animal and homestead chores, I can generally be found wandering the hills looking at all the trees and flowers Nature has to offer. I love animals, plants, books and solitude (plus a few more things I may get around to remembering eventually). I am rabid about the environment and try very hard to live a simple, green life with the smallest possible footprint. I am a vegetarian and have been for nearly 30 years. If there is anything else you'd like to know, feel free to ask.
SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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Recent posts by Deb Stephens

I am not a vet, but I do have a lot of dogs and I cook their meals twice each day. I tend to season it with things like turmeric and sage which are said to be good for fighting cancer and I include some grains and a lot of fruits and vegetables along with eggs and meats. (As a vegetarian, it disturbs me to use meat, but dogs aren't vegetarians and I want them to be healthy.) I also give them fish oil capsules a couple times each week and use coconut oil for their skin and coat. I've read the literature on alliums, grapes, etc. and I have to say that I am not convinced that feeding dogs something I have personally witnessed them (and other canids) eating in the wild is bad for them. (Coyotes and foxes eat wild grapes and I know my dogs do--plus wild onions.) At least I seriously doubt they are harmful in small doses. Like Amit said, maybe a little bit of toxin helps--possibly to strengthen our immune systems. We eat things like pokeweed on a regular basis and though toxic in large amounts, it is tolerated by the body in small quantities (and tastes good!) Sometimes I think we over-emphasize science and forget to pay attention to nature. Besides, if you look at commercial dog food, it claims to be 100% nutritionally complete and yet it contains things like wood dust and feathers as filler. (That's why I feed our dogs "people" food.) If you look closely at those same labels, I guarantee that in 9 out of 10 commercial dog foods, you will also find garlic mentioned as a flavor enhancer.

My point is that you really can't go by what the so-called experts say about dog nutrition. They still don't have it right and I am convinced most kibble may even be harmful to canine health. (For example, the same poisons found in flea and tick collars are also found in many commercial feeds--that is a direct result of putting the whole carcasses of cats and dogs--collars included--in the meat vats that they cook down into kibble. The ingredient lists it as "meat meal". I'm not making that up. Check this out ... Dog Food Advisor. Here's another one ... Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and another (Warning! If you love animals, this will break your heart and make you feel sick.) Dog Naturally

That last one is just too sad and I am only posting it so that you will see for yourselves that there are far worse things in your dog's food than garlic. I can't talk about this anymore, sorry.

1 day ago

s wesley wrote:Sooooo strange never heard of that Deb. What kind of ducks? It couldn't be anything to do with the area they are in or what they are eating? I'm really curious as to the difference in the duck vs. the chicken that would make you react. Hmmmmmm

The ducks are Khaki Campbells, Cayugas, Rouens and Appleyards, but I don't think it has anything to do with their feed or where they are at because we have had chickens in that same area for almost 20 years, and I eat chicken eggs with no problems.  They also eat the same food--including fresh greens from our garden every day. I do know that people who are allergic to chicken eggs can often eat duck eggs with no problem because the proteins are different.

Nicole Alderman wrote:Hmmmm, the only thing I can think of is that ducks poop on their eggs a bunch more than chickens do. Perhaps the first time you washed the eggs, you didn't use hot water or somehow some feces got into the eggs. Perhaps it's some sort of microorganism in the duck poop that messes with you? That would explain why even going near their house would mess with you.

The only thing I can think of is, have you tried fermenting their feed? Perhaps that would change the bacteria/fungi in their feces and it wouldn't aggravate you?

Apparently, it is the proteins in the eggs that I am allergic to and since their feces also contains proteins specific to ducks, that would explain why even just touching the eggs can start me feeling like I can't breathe. Considering how little it takes to make me feel like I may be about to go into anaphylaxis, I don't really want to experiment with eating them at all. The last time, I really felt like I was going to die! It was not fun and I almost went to the hospital. The only reason I didn't is that I am one of those stubborn types who would pretty much have to have a leg cut off or something similar to send me to a doctor.

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Allergic reactions to eggs are common enough that Utah's new food freedom legislation requires a warning label on foods that are prepared in the same kitchen as eggs.

I think I read somewhere that eggs are the 8th most common food allergy--especially among kids. Duck egg allergies are relatively rare (it's usually chicken eggs) but naturally, I have to be one of the few who has it! It really bums me out because I was looking forward to them for so long.

At any rate, I guess I didn't make my original post very clear. What I am really interested in is finding a home for our poor ducks--it isn't their fault I can't be around them and I don't want them to die. Does anyone know someone who absolutely wouldn't kill them and would just like to have their eggs and keep them as pets? They are beautiful ducks and we have a few drakes as well so they are capable of reproducing. (One Khaki female has been trying to set on a nest for the last month and we can't make her stop! We definitely don't need more ducks at this point.)
1 day ago
Okay, so we got 20 ducks last year for the first time ever. We've had chickens for 25 years, but never ducks. I was so looking forward to their eggs because everyone says they are great for baking and are super rich. They are now a year old (although we lost 2 to predation along the way) and producing eggs like crazy. The problem is that it turns out I am allergic to duck eggs! Who knew? I'd never eaten one in my life until last fall when our ducks began laying. After twice eating them and then spending the rest of the day alternating between severe projectile vomiting (yuk!) and more or less camping in the bathroom (plus fever, cramps and generally feeling like I had a severe case of the flu coupled with an asthma attack and near heart attack!) I finally had to concede that it was the eggs. Since then, I've found that I can't even go near the duck yard (especially their nest boxes) without getting a headache and shortness of breath. My husband has totally taken over the chore of feeding them and gathering eggs, etc. but I can't even cook them for the dogs without his having to scrub them first. Even then, I have to wear rubber gloves to handle them. Anyone else here allergic to duck eggs (and the ducks themselves apparently--at least their feces )? What should I do? We're vegetarians and only have ducks and chickens for their eggs, so I don't want to give them to someone who will kill them. Anyone know someone who would like ducks as pets and for their eggs who would keep them for life (their NATURAL life)?
2 days ago
And are they good or bad for growing in?

I was looking for some quick, easy ways to use recycled things as planters in my garden (besides the old pots, toilet backs and bowls, bathtubs, half-barrels, crockpots, tea kettles, and so forth that I already have out there) and thought I would revisit the idea of tires for raised beds and planters. I know that some people think they are perfectly safe unless burned (when they produce a ton of toxic stuff in the smoke) while others say that even without burning they are not safe for edibles.  This link gives a quick, simple overview of the two camps if you care to look into it … The Spruce: Health Considerations When Using Tires for Garden Containers

However, besides that debate—which I welcome comments on, of course, I really would like to see ideas for creative ways to reuse this incredibly common resource to encourage others to keep more tires out of landfills. Even if you agree that tires do not make good garden containers for vegetables and fruits, you could grow flowers in them or find other uses in the garden (Totes? Chairs? Sandboxes?)
I’ll start with a few cute or clever ideas …

There are too many ideas!!! I need more tires!!!

Jonathan Ward wrote:My only concern about the Ozarks area is the temperature.  I'd much rather the cold/snow than the unrelenting heat.  Call me a sissy .  While i haven't been to the Ozarks specifically it seems like it would have weather similar to St. Louis and the surrounding area.

St. Louis is in zone 5 while most of the Ozarks are zones 6 and 7. St. Louis is also on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers so weather is affected by those large bodies of water quite a bit (also affected by so much CITY--concrete, asphalt and steel!) so overall the climate is not really the same. As for unrelenting heat ... it isn't all that bad. Our summers are pretty brutal from mid-June through about early September, but we get beautiful mild springs and falls and our winters are seldom harsh except for an occasional freak ice storm in January or February. We usually have plenty of rain (it averages 45" to 50" per year--mostly in the summer months, ironically) so plenty of water for gardening or even a rain catchment system for ponds or household use. I think people look too much at the statistics and think OH MY GOD! about the heat and humidity--we've been compared to a subtropical rainforest in some very wet years (check this out ... I was amused by the description of our climate as "humid subtropical" Wikipedia-Climate of Missouri )--but it isn't as horrible as it sounds when you're actually here. I love this place! It's always flower-filled in spring, green in summer, beautifully colorful in fall and with only enough snow in winter to have an occasional "Christmas card" day for photos without all the muck and mess of a real winter. The only things I don't like about Missouri are the tornadoes and the politics. (They have much in common as to their effect on local populations.)

Anyway, not trying to sell you on Missouri, just trying to correct a few not-quite-accurate impressions. For me, cold is the thing I can't do--otherwise, I would love to live in Canada!
5 days ago

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

John C Daley wrote:Dampness and mustiness is a result of bad design and construction rather than the environment.

In my case, my dislike of the building might also be attributed to living more than 40 years in a dry desert, so Missouri was just plain old musty and dank to me, even outside. 

As a Missourian from birth to age 62, I resent "old, musty and dank". Actually, I have lived in so many places and only lived here until I was in 5th grade--not coming back until near 40--so I can compare it with other areas. It is, beyond doubt, about the most humid climate I have ever lived in. Even Florida and Hawaii do not compare for humid.

So ... when it is hot--which it is for a good 5 months out of the year--it is VERY hot and humid to the point that when you sweat, it has no place to go except to trickle off your nose and down your body and make a big puddle at your feet. (Can't evaporate when the outside air is 90% humidity!) If you leave anything wet outside it turns to mold overnight. Maybe you could call that musty and dank, though you'd be hard-pressed to apply that appellation to our glades or dry oak/hickory forests. Anyway, that is the bad part.

The good part is that you can grow just about anything here that can grow in either southern or northern climates because we are smack-dab in the middle. If you can put up with being soaking wet with sweat all summer, we have relatively mild winters and a good LONG growing season. We also have great species diversity here for both flora and fauna, so foraging is very productive. Since it's also a cheap place to live, it works out well for people with little money and big dreams of a self-sufficient homestead. Besides, we also have a lot of clean water, so when you are hot and sticky, you can just go jump in a creek. My point is, you learn to deal with humidity as a trade-off for an abundance of so many other good things.
6 days ago
I think that is wonderful! One of the things I found interesting in the article is the clever way they make people help to plant seeds and aid reforestation--something geared to every age and occupation. The kids do it because they can make a slingshot game of it; homeowners and farmers do it for their own sustenance and potential future profits (growing trees for their seeds--a sellable item); tourists on the helicopters do it (using the seed bags stored under their seats) because it is fun AND they feel personally involved in helping to restore the country's forests. We need more programs like this here and in other countries with severe deforestation problems. (Madagascar springs to mind--it is estimated that they have lost more than 80% of their forests to logging.) I've always felt that if you shake your finger and lecture people or you try to force them to do something they don't want to do or don't understand, you may as well give up before you start. But ... if you make them feel that they are a part of something that is both good for them and their community AND make it fun (or profitable) at the same time, you've got them. I think this is the key to saving the environment around the world. Instead of setting up adversarial scenarios of them vs. us (bad guys vs. good guys), we need to present Earth's many sufferings as something we all can cure if we simply put our heads together and come up with solutions everyone can find some benefit in.

Eco-tourism is a perfect example of a win-win solution. Indigenous people in remote villages can use the natural resources of their ancestral lands without destroying them. By making a feature of a rain-forest (something to attract tourists with cameras instead of loggers with chainsaws), they keep the rain-forests they've inhabited and depended on for thousands of years and they feed their families in the bargain. For his part, the tourist gets his photo-trophies and a feeling of having helped the planet and a native culture. It is the same in other places, whether a rain-forest or a desert--any habitat that is being depleted faster than nature can regenerate it simply because the humans who live there are forced to make use of scarce resources because they have no choice. Give those people an alternative that lets them keep living on the land they love and 95% of them will take it in a heartbeat! They don't want to destroy their land. They often do it out of desperation--usually as a result of misplaced attempts to bring them into the 21st century. (Forcing Western agricultural practices into other cultures has been primarily responsible for the destruction of what was once a balanced and harmonious existence within a culture and its natural environment.)

Anyway, this was an interesting article and hopefully will inspire people who care about the environment to get creative and get busy! Thanks for posting it!
6 days ago

Valerie Zutavern wrote:My family moved to MO about a year ago from WI. We may wind up finding a bit of land and building a home on it, and we're doing some research into what the best kind of house would be. It would be a medium to large home (probably 1500+ sq ft)Our area does have problems with tornadoes, flash floods, lightning, not a lot of soil above bedrock, heat, cold/snow, and humidity. We would like the home to be as non-toxic/natural as possible, so I don't like the idea of off-gassing, old tires, plastic, and bad chemicals everywhere. Any advice and insight would be appreciated.

I've lived in Missouri most of my life (born in Bonne Terre and left for many years, but I've been back now--near Branson this time around--for 26 years) so I can definitely tell you a bit about what you can and can't build with here. First, you need to understand that there are actually 2 Missouris, above the Missouri River and below it. Northern Missouri is not my stomping grounds so my knowledge of it comes from people I've known and things I've learned from reading. Basically, if you want soil to speak of, that is the area to look in. Most of the farming (not homestead plots but big ag) is done in that part of the state.

Down in southern Missouri where we live, the biggest "crop" is rocks--lots of them! So ... if you want to build, consider a stone house. There are many ways to do it, but one of the simplest and the one that requires the least knowledge of stone-masonry is the method that Helen and Scott Nearing used, slip-casting. Basically, just collect and wash all the rocks you can find and make forms to put them in along with cement. When one section of wall sets up firmly enough, you remove the forms, reposition them up higher and slip-cast another section.

A second resource that is plentiful in the lower part of the state is trees--especially oaks, hickory and eastern red cedar. Log cabins and cordwood homes are naturals, and if you want something really different and non-toxic, there are all sorts of ways to use sawdust (which you can get cheap or even free at the many local mills) for mixing with lime, clay or straw to make cob or poured earthen floors, etc. A portable saw mill you can buy for anywhere from a couple hundred dollars for the chainsaw-type to a few thousand for the band-saw type. You can make a lot of your own lumber from a good-sized woodlot while thinning your trees for forest health.

Of course, there is always strawbale--with a lime coating and with very wide overhangs to protect it from our wet weather and winds or a ferro-cement outer covering to protect from tornadoes! I suggest a round (cylindrical or domed) building for the same reason. Wind goes over or around instead of through!

I have a ton of ideas, but I'm actually supposed to be doing something else right now and will have to come back to this later. One thing I would not recommend is trying to build anything earth-bermed or underground--we just don't have the depth of soil for that (except possibly in the northern part of the state). Oh, and welcome to Missouri!
1 week ago

Jonathan Ward wrote:I hear it about the property taxes.  That is one of my concerns as well.  I'll look at Maine and see what's there.  Are there other New England states that you would suggest?

I don't know about the New England states but down here in the south, our taxes are very low. We've lived on this land for 26 years and our property taxes have never been higher than $65 for the year for 75 acres. I'm sure that varies from place to place even here, but it is lower than most places overall. Land is cheap too, so if you can take the heat (and it DOES get hot and humid, believe me!) it's not a bad place to look.
1 week ago
I've found that one of the best sites for browsing land for sale is LandWatch. You can pick the state (or even other countries) and then further refine the search by county/region, price range, number of acres, etc. It allows you to be very specific and has land ranging from lot-sized to thousands of acres. Another good one for those folks who don't have a lot of cash or don't want to be out in the wilderness but still want to feel like they're sort of in the country is BillyLand. That one has auctions, cheap land for outright sale and land that you can make payments on--financed through them. It doesn't have land in every state, but it does have a lot in the states it covers. Good Luck! By the way, Missouri has cheap land if you ever think of moving south.
1 week ago