Merry Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas 2014Well, it’s time for us to take a break and enjoy the Christmas season.  It is hard to believe that another year has already gone by, isn’t it?

We’re looking forward to bringing you another year of fun and useful tips, information, and resources.  We’ll post one more quote tomorrow, and then we plan to start up again early in January.

Meanwhile, if you are looking for something to read during those cold winter days, or if you are looking for last-minute gift ideas, we’d like to make a few recommendations.


Best of 2014



How to Plan a GardenHow to Plan a Garden


What is Sustainable Agriculture?What is Sustainable Agriculture?


Pros and Cons of Miniature LivestockPros and Cons of Miniature Livestock


The 5-Minute Brainstorming ChallengeThe 5-Minute Brainstorming Challenge


Why Thorns and Thistles GrowWhy Thorns and Thistles Grow


Why are Healthy Plant Bug-Resistant?Why are Healthy Plants Bug-Resistant?


How to Identify BirdsHow to Identify Birds


Pros and Cons of Draft AnimalsPros and Cons of Draft Animals


What is Hybrid Vigor?What is Hybrid Vigor?


The 100th Meridian in HistoryThe 100th Meridian in History




Cattle BreedsCattle Breeds


Starting a Garden or OrchardStarting a Garden or Orchard


Body Condition ScoringBody Condition Scoring




The Roots of Cattle DrivingThe Roots of Cattle Driving




Salad Bar BeefSalad Bar Beef


Peopling the PlainsPeopling the Plains


Found: God's WillFound: God’s Will


Kansas Outdoor TreasuresKansas Outdoor Treasures


Better Horses RadioBetter Horses Radio


Kansas Wildflowers and GrassesKansas Wildflowers & Grasses


Reproduction & Animal HealthReproduction & Animal Health


Stocking UpStocking Up


Storey's Guide to Raising ChickensStorey’s Guide to Raising Chickens


The Christian Kids' Gardening GuideThe Christian Kids’ Gardening Guide




The MajorityQuote of the Week: The Majority


God At WorkQuote of the Week: God at Work


ConsiderQuote of the Week: Consider


PlaythingsQuote of the Week: Playthings


Slow and SteadyQuote of the Week: Slow and Steady


Buy LandQuote of the Week: Buy Land


Practice Makes PerfectQuote of the Week: Practice Makes Perfect


InnovationQuote of the Week: Innovation


A Helping HandQuote of the Week: A Helping Hand


PreachingQuote of the Week: Preaching




Recommended RemediesRecommended Remedies



CarnitineCarnitine is another nutrient that was not considered a vitamin until recently.  However, it has been proven to support vital functions, particularly the metabolism.  Carnitine has a regulatory effect on the metabolism because it is involved in fatty acid transport.  It takes long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria (the “power plants” of the cells) to be converted to energy, then transports the waste products back out to be disposed of.

But the research on carnitine is far from complete.  Other possible roles of this nutrient are still being investigated and may include:

  • Membrane maintenance.
  • Protection from free radicals.
  • Support of liver health.
  • Intrauterine nutrition.
  • Regulation of the degree to which genes produce visible effects.


Natural Sources

All adult farm animals can synthesize carnitine in their livers.  Young animals receive it in their mothers’ milk.

Plant-based feeds are low in carnitine, so an animal-derived source is necessary when supplemental carnitine is desired.  For example, meat and fish meals are good sources of this nutrient, as are dairy products.


Causes of Deficiency

Stress in some form is almost always the cause of a carnitine deficiency.  Other than disease, examples of stress include unbalanced diets (including vegetarian diets for cats and dogs) and high levels of performance.

Treatment with anticonvulsant drugs may cause animals to need higher levels of carnitine in their diet.

There also appears to be a genetic component to carnitine deficiency in cats.


Symptoms of Deficiency

  • Lethargy.
  • Muscle pain and weakness.
  • Cardiac arrhythmia.
  • Heart failure.
  • Hypoglycemia.


Symptoms of Toxicity

Little is known about the toxic effects of carnitine at present.  There is a possibility, however, than an overdose may cause reduced egg production in poultry.  Symptoms that have appeared in pets include:

  • Body odor.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

Giving supplemental carnitine with food and reducing the dosage if necessary appears to prevent these side effects.


Medicinal Uses

Supplemental carnitine is still largely in the experimental stages, but it shows promise.  In most types of livestock, it markedly benefits growth, reproduction, and body condition.  Not only does this result in improved weight gains and production of lean meat in meat animals, but can also reduce the risk of metabolic disorders in pets and dairy animals.

Carnitine may also help animals cope with the effects of stress.  For instance, it appears to be useful in keeping performance horses at the top of their game, and it may benefit broiler chickens in hot weather.

As a treatment for specific diseases, carnitine appears to have potential in combating heart disease in pets.  Some work has also been done using this nutrient to treat fatty liver syndrome and other metabolic problems in cats.  The results are promising, but not conclusive.


Content regarding medical conditions and treatment is provided for general information purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal, medical, or professional advice.  Please consult your veterinarian for advice regarding your specific animal’s needs.


Complete Series



Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato CasseroleSweet potato casserole is a Christmas favorite. When you grow your own sweet potatoes, it’s particularly fun. A fertile garden soil and ample moisture during the growing season ensures spectacular results. Sometimes you can manage to grow a sweet potato that is big enough to supply the entire casserole single-handedly! Seriously!


  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


  1. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into large chunks.
  2. Boil sweet potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes; allow to cool.
  3. Process the potato chunks in a food processor until smooth.
  4. Stir in sugar, salt, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and 4 tablespoons melted butter.
  5. Spoon mixture into lightly greased 2-quart baking dish.
  6. Combine ingredients for topping and sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.
  7. Bake at 350°F for 35 to 45 minutes.

The Roots of Cattle Driving: Part 3

The Roots of Cattle Driving: Part 3From Texas to New York

Another major cattle drive was carried out by a young man named Thomas Candy Ponting.  Ponting had grown up herding cattle in his native England.  When he came to America, he continued in the trade, but soon found his plans growing beyond what he had originally expected.

Ponting heard that longhorn cattle could be bought in Texas for anything between $8 and $12 per head.  He also heard that, with a little fattening, the same cattle could be sold in New York for about $80 to $100 per head.  The next step was obvious.

In 1853, Ponting and his partner Washington Malone went to Texas and bought a herd of 800 longhorn cattle.  Over the next four months, they gradually worked their herd up to Moweaqua, Illinois.  It was here that the cattle were wintered on corn to help prepare them for market.

Ponting sold most of his longhorns and took only an efficient 150 head to New York the next spring.  Fortunately, they did not have to be driven the entire way, but caught a train in Muncie, Indiana.  This carried them to New York City, where they arrived early in July 1854.

The event received quite a bit of attention in New York City, since longhorns had never set hoof in that city before.  But this drive did more than attract publicity for the Texas cattle.  It proved conclusively that there was a market for them and that they could be sold at a significant profit when taken to a railhead.  It also demonstrated the hardiness of the longhorn when on the trail.


To the Confederate Lines

The Roots of Cattle Driving: Part 3
Confederate States of America

There are many more instances of pre–Chisholm Trail cattle drives that we could mention.  However, we will conclude this series with one other major example.

The Civil War significantly altered the demand for Texas longhorn cattle.  Since Texas was a Confederate state, its cattle were not too likely to travel to Union markets.  This meant that northbound trails, such as the Shawnee Trail, were for all practical purposes shut down during the war years.  However, the Confederate troops needed food, so more southerly trails such as the Opelousas Trail were still in use.

From these short drives, the Texans learned several things.  For one thing, they proved to the satisfaction of all involved that a longhorn hurried up the trail was tough and unpalatable, but that the same steer, when allowed time to gain a little weight, was good eating.  For another thing, these grueling drives verified the hardiness that Ponting had taken advantage of.

But the Civil War cattle drives did not last long.  David Farragut captured New Orleans early in 1862, and the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, resulted in Union control of the Mississippi River.  Texas was practically cut off from most of the Confederacy.

With no markets to go to, the longhorns stayed home during the rest of the war.  But they were by no means idle.  Instead, they reproduced themselves until they numbered in the millions.  A supply was created, and, when the war-ravaged nation was reunited, the demand arose once more.

The result: the Chisholm Trail.

A Kid’s EcoJournal Series

A Kid's Winter EcoJournalIf your children love the outdoors and also love to write, they may enjoy A Kid’s EcoJournal series by Toni Albert.

There are four of these books (spring, summer, fall, and winter), but they all follow a similar format. After some tips on exploring and writing about nature comes space for entries. Each entry has blank lines for writing, a selection from the author’s nature journal, and an activity.

A Kid's EcoJournalBesides learning how to observe and record observations, children will:

  • Make maps.
  • Feed worms.
  • Make plaster casts of animal tracks.
  • Grow sunflowers.
  • Capture insects.
  • Keep an aquarium.
  • Dry Osage oranges.
  • Make compost.
  • Press leaves.
  • Make winter decorations.
  • Build bird feeders.
  • Experiment with snow.

A great gift, and a hands-on way to teach children to observe and write about nature! Who knows? Maybe it will spark a lifelong journal-keeping habit.

Vitamin K

Vitamin KVitamin K is best known for aiding in the synthesis of the proteins necessary for blood clotting.  However, research suggests that this vitamin is much more versatile than was once thought.  Vitamin K is involved in the synthesis of other proteins, as well.  Scientists do not yet know the role that many of these proteins play in the body, but some appear to affect the health of the bones, cartilage, heart, and gastric mucus.


Natural Sources

Grazing animals can synthesize their own vitamin K when consuming forage.  Swine and adult poultry can synthesize vitamin K to some degree, but baby chicks must receive vitamin K in their diets.  Pets, too, can manufacture enough of the vitamin in their intestines to cover most of their dietary requirements.

Green, leafy plants such as forages, vegetables, and kelp are the richest dietary source of vitamin K.  However, high-fat grains and meals will suffice, as will animal-derived feeds such as eggs and liver.


Causes of Deficiency

Vitamin K
Sweet clover

In pets and farm animals, vitamin K deficiency is typically a sign of toxicity.  Warfarin-based rat poison is the most notorious offender, and is most likely in small, inquisitive animals such as dogs and goats; however, other drugs and poisons have similar effects.  Grazing animals in general can become deficient when eating moldy hay or silage made from legumes, particularly sweet clover.  Vitamin A or calcium toxicity can also lead to vitamin K deficiency.

Another possible cause of vitamin K deficiency is severe stress.  This can include drug treatment, internal parasites, and disease, especially any disease that causes diarrhea.  Feeding grains to grazing animals can also qualify as stress in this case because it unbalances the pH of the gut.

For swine and poultry, a vitamin K deficiency can be triggered by insufficient amounts of fat in the diet.  Seeds and meals will only have the necessary amount of vitamins if they retain their natural fat.  Extraction of the oil interferes with the vitamin K content of the feed.  Irradiation has a similar effect.

Vitamin K deficiencies are sometimes seen in cats on fish-based diets.  The cause of this is unknown at present.


Symptoms of Deficiency

  • Weakness.
  • Lameness.
  • Fractures.
  • Nose bleeds.
  • Gum bleeding.
  • Pale mucous membranes.
  • Increased clotting time.
  • Bruising.
  • Spontaneous bleeding.
  • Anemia.
  • Abnormal breathing.
  • Swollen abdomen.
  • Bloody vomit.
  • Blood in urine.
  • High embryonic mortality.
  • Navel bleeding in newborn piglets.
  • Sudden death.


Symptoms of Toxicity

The natural forms of vitamin K appear to be relatively nontoxic for livestock and most pets.  Some pets, however, may experience a severe allergic reaction when given this vitamin for medical purposes, particularly if they receive it in an injection or in an intravenous form.

Synthetic vitamin K (menadione), however, is extremely dangerous when given in large doses.  Symptoms of toxicity include:

  • Depression.
  • Weakness.
  • Muscle stiffness.
  • Laminitis.
  • Anemia.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Severe weight loss.
  • Colic.
  • Jaundice.
  • Excessive urination.
  • Blood in urine.
  • Death within 12 hours.

There is also a question, still awaiting a definitive answer, as to whether smaller doses of menadione given over long periods of time can cause organ and immune system damage.


Medicinal Uses

Because synthetic vitamin K is so dangerous, it is primarily used as an antidote to warfarin poisoning, often in conjunction with the natural forms.

Natural forms of vitamin K are a little more versatile.  They are typically used to treat clotting disorders such as pulmonary hemorrhaging in horses and pets.  Studies indicate that this vitamin also has the potential to increase bone density in animals.


Content regarding medical conditions and treatment is provided for general information purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal, medical, or professional advice.  Please consult your veterinarian for advice regarding your specific animal’s needs.


Complete Series



The Roots of Cattle Driving: Part 2

The Opelousas Trail

The Roots of Cattle Driving: Part 2
Opelousas, Louisiana, during the Civil War

The settlers of Texas were by no means behind their fellow Southerners in herding cattle. Well before the days of the Chisholm Trail, they were driving Texas Longhorns to market along the Opelousas Trail, also known as the Beef Trail.

The trail began near Liberty, Texas, and followed Indian paths to various parts of Louisiana, including the towns of Opelousas, Alexandria, Natchitoches, and New Orleans. From New Orleans, the cattle could be shipped to northern markets by boat.

Sources vary as to when the Opelousas Trail was first used for cattle drives, but it appears to have been sometime in the 1830s under the leadership of Texas rancher James Taylor White. He and other ranchers drove an estimated 75,000 cattle over the trail annually. These drives continued for several decades.


The Roots of Cattle Driving: Part 2The Shawnee Trail

Eventually, however, new markets opened up. Americans were slowly working their way westward as far as Missouri and extreme eastern Kansas. As they arrived, the longhorn herds began to arrive, too.

The route used beginning in the 1840s to supply the markets of the Midwest was known as the Shawnee Trail or the Texas Road. It had long been used for travel, but soon thousands of longhorns were following the trail, as well. They began their journey in various parts of Texas, passed through Indian Territory (Oklahoma), and then took one of the many branches of the trail to their destination:

  • St. Louis, MO.
  • Sedalia, MO.
  • Independence, MO.
  • Westport, MO.
  • Kansas City, MO.
  • Baxter Spring, KS.

Fears of Texas fever and the strife before, during, and after the Civil War could make life on the Shawnee Trail rather difficult. Nevertheless, this was the main route for driving longhorns until the rise of the Chisholm Trail.


The Roots of Cattle Driving: Part 3