Monthly Archives: July 2014

Meet Our Megaesophagus Dog

Great Dane with MegaesophagusThis is LilBit.  She is a sweet Great Dane, but in her case the Great in Great Dane doesn’t describe her size.  She was born January 9th, 2014 and was the smallest but prettiest black puppy out of nine.  We noticed that she wasn’t gaining weight like the other pups, and seemed to have an eating problem.  The vet x-ray’d her and confirmed that she had Megaesophagus… I’d never heard of it!  But, it is just what it sounds like.  Her esophagus doesn’t push the food to her stomach, but rather stretches to accommodate what she eats.  Then the food just sits there, and… there is no cure.  The good news is there is a work around!   What we learned is that gravity can pull the food to her stomach if she is standing on her hind legs with her front legs up on a stool.  It doesn’t happen instantly though, so she has to stay standing up and leaning on the stool for at least 20 minutes after we feed her.  Now that she has done it for a while, she looks comfortable, like she is sidled up to a bar.  Also, her food needs to be canned food and scooped into medium meatballs.  I think it is the mass of the food and the smooth texture that helps get it to her stomach because we also have to make jello out of chicken stock so that she gets enough liquid.  Apparently, water doesn’t weigh enough.  So far, so good.  She is still skinny at seven months, because all her nutrition seems to be going into making her taller.  Her condition was diagnosed as being a severe case of Megaesophagus, so if you have a dog with this condition, you may be able to figure out a work around too.  We feed her three times a day and she doesn’t eat anything in between if we can help it.

Our other dog Ribsy is also in the photo, and she is awesome.  She was a stray and skinny at the time where you could see her ribs, hence the name.  Everyone loves Ribsy, and I was actually offered $200 for her, but she’s a good dog, a great friend to LilBit and, in my eyes – priceless.

Trellis System for Blackberries

Rows of trellised blackberriesOur blackberry varieties are thornless and grow more in the habit of a vine rather than the traditional blackberry bush.  They don’t have the tendrils like grape vines do, that can curl around things and hold up the plant as it climbs, but they still need supported.  If not trained, they would just grow into a huge tangled mess… get tall, fall over, get tall, fall over.  Not only does a tangled mess make it difficult to pick, but it decreases the potential harvest from the plant because it needs a certain amount of air circulation and light.  So, a trellis is the answer.  Not too high, not too low… there’s a lot of studying behind trellising and a lot of work.  These trellises in the picture didn’t go up in a day or even a week.  How many people does it take to put up a trellis?  Normally, I would recommend three people, but we did not have that luxury.  This entire project was done by one person, Doug – minus a few hours on the first rows figuring out how to wrangle the wire.  The planning and research took the longest, then the posts, which are four feet in the ground and dug by hand, consumed the next longest chunk of time.  (He likes to tell kids that he holds a pair of PhD’s… only it is short for  Post Hole Diggers.)  So, that was the most strenuous… but the taping was the most rewarding.  Taping?  Yes, that is how we attach the plant to the wire to train it, however, it is not traditional sticky tape.  We are using a stretchy material the size of regular transparent tape that is never too tight.  It is dispensed with a rather handy tool that resembles a stapler.  It is called a “Tapener” if you are interested in looking at that further, and it is shown in the second picture.Trellising blackberries

Finally, with this done, I could mow between the rows without fear of running over a primacane.  There is more babying and coaxing that needs to be done to these blackberries through this growing season, but hopefully, it will be worth it.

Picking Blueberries

Color variationHow do you know which blueberries are ripe?  There is a wide variance in color between immature blueberries and fully ripened ones.  In this picture you can see that they start out green and initially turn pink.  That is where the name for the Rabbiteye blueberry variety came from.  It was this pink stage that reminded the developers of the eyes on a white rabbit.  This is a temporary stage though, and you don’t want to pick the pink ones because they are not ripe yet.  Nor are they ripe when they reach the purple stage… Yes, waiting can be difficult, but it is not until the blueberry is actually a very dark blue color and has a frosted appearance that they are fully ripe.  None of the front berries are ripe in this picture.  The ripest one is way in the back on the left side of the photo.  From there, it looks like there may be a few on the underside of this branch.

Pick blueberries with both hands

Picking with both hands is best. You can hold and move the limbs with one hand and roll the blueberries off one by one with the other hand.  One by one… you read that correctly.  As you can see in the picture, if you just grabbed a handful, then you would be picking quite a few unripe ones.  Do they ripen after you pick them like tomatoes?  Nope. They need to ripen on the bush.  The bushes on our farm are still young and rather short this first year, so taller adults are having to bend over to pick them. This has made it a little harder for them to be meticulous about picking, but kids around three feet tall are the perfect height to pick these blueberries.  Next year, there should be no trouble for anyone to pick no matter how tall you happen to be.

You can safely eat the blueberries here right off the bush because we farm with safe organic practices.  Once you get home, freshen the berries by rinsing them in cool water and letting them drain in a colander.  I find it easiest to sort them and remove any little stems or leaves by placing paper towels on a cookie sheet and doing a large handful at a time.  Choose a sheet that has edges because they will roll off otherwise.  This dries the berries as you roll them around.  Then I put them in the refrigerator measured according to what I want to make.  Everyone I’ve asked agrees that this Allrecipes blueberry cobbler is the best.  Here is the link to the “Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler.  Watch the video as there is a secret ingredient that is not listed in the written version!  Go ahead and double it, your family and friends will thank you.