Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Farm Fusion Advanced - Semester 1 Workshop

During this workshop, the students in the Advanced Farm Fusion class learned to "Develop a Vision", analyzing expenses, and to coming up with creative ways to maximizing the income from your commodities.  We then zeroed in on our dairy goats as an example.  The children discussed all possible avenues for making the most of dairy goats.  They thought well beyond milk and cheese, bringing up rental for weed control, selling extra bucks for meat, stud fees for breeding bucks, and soaps/lotions.

The class learned the mechanics of dairy goat lactation, comparing and contrasting two different milking schedules.  In one schedule, the kids are removed from the does and bottle fed exclusively.  The does are milked twice per day, at 12 hour intervals.  This yields the most milk, but the farmer must be able to make the huge time commitment.  In the other schedule, the kids are kept with the does 12 hours of the day, and they are separated into a different area at night.  This definitely yields less milk, but gives more flexibility and a "back up plan" for if things come up during milking time. 

We spent time practicing the technique of hand milking, using latex gloves as udders and teats.  When you milk, you must prevent the milk from flowing back up the teat and into the udder... which is the path of least resistance.  So, instead of just "squeezing", the kids learned how to squeeze the top fingers together first, thus preventing the milk from flowing back upward.  After practicing, the class spent time milking Greta, or senior doe. We then decided that, although I have not been milking June at all, we would have her jump up on the stand.  June kidded this spring, and her big "baby" is still nursing... off of both adult does.  (Goats will nurse up until they are adults if you, and their dams, let them!)  Because I have been so hands off with June, I was unaware that she was suffering from mastitis.  The kids and I realized this when we attempted to milk her.  I had explained to the class that you never begin milking into the pail.  First, you milk a little into a "strip cup", which allows you to inspect it for any abnormalities.  In June's case, it was very evident there was an issue.  The students were amazed at the difference in thickness.

It is opportunities like this that are the reasoning behind my small class sizes and structure.  It is also the reason that I set such strong boundaries for students on responsibility, behavior, and respect.  They know that we are able to do the things that we do in my classes because of their excellent behavior.  So, with June up on the stand, I asked the class if they would rather stick to the plan and head back to class or watch as I treat June for mastitis.  Of course, they wanted to watch.  So, we held off on our "weight vs volume" lesson in order to have a little impromptu lesson on bacterial vs viral infections.  Having to change plans and deal with unexpected situations is about as "ag. ed." as you can get.

Next, the kids learned the difference between essential oils and extracts.  This was to prepare them for making soaps on the last day of the workshop.  We talked about the properties of some common essential oils and the care that should be taken with them.   Then, I talked about combining different fragrances to come up with great (and not so great) scents.  The kids dipped toothpicks into different oils, dropping them into baggies.  They tested the scents, some of which were wonderful!  We will be using some of these oils during our soap making project.

On our third day of class, the students learned the difference between recipes that use volume measurements (cups, FL. OZ.,  teaspoons, tablespoons) and soap recipes that use weight measurements (NET WT. OZ., grams).  The "ounces" issue can get very confusing!  We talked through some conversions until everyone understood.  Then, we worked on using a kitchen scale to measure weight of an ingredient without also factoring in the weight of the container.  Each of them zeroed the scale and understood why it is so important!  In order to put our newfound knowledge to the test, the class was given a recipe.... for brownies!  They had to double the recipe, as well as convert the cups and tablespoons to FL. OZ..  Finally, I let them get to work.  Not only did they have to follow the directions and measure out the ingredients, they had to measure and record the weight of each ingredient in NET WT. OZ..  This really helped them to drive the concept home!

While the brownies baked, we talked through a few last important topics.  They learned about saponification, or the process that produces soap from fats and lye.  We will be doing a "cold press" recipe, so we will be using NaOH lye in our process.  The kids learned how important it is for the acids in the fats/oils to neutralize the lye, which is a base.  They also learned that different types of acids in the fats (lauric, linoleic, oleic, palmitic, ricinoleic, stearic, and myristic) create different characteristics in the soap.  Some make the soap more creamy, some more cleansing, others make a harder bar of soap.  Thankfully, there are soap calculators out there to help make life easier! 

Before our last day of class, the kids took the soap recipe that we will be using and looked up information on each of the fats.  We went over the important safety precautions that will need to be taken, such as wearing goggles, gloves, and following directions EXACTLY.  This little class is ready and excited for such a major undertaking next week!  (More to come......)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Proper Piggies in Puddles

Today, these little piggies learned a lot! 

We reviewed some of the things we discussed last week, including the pig terms "farrow" and "gilt".  We also talked more about homophones (such as the for homophones for our vocab terms, "Pharaoh and "guilt").  We talked about recent farm happenings, including Daisy breaking into our laundry room, finding the 50lb bag of rabbit feed, and chewing a HOLE in the side!  What a MESS!

We went over common and proper nouns today, as well.  The class took little piggies, each with a different noun listed on it, and decided whether or not the pig needed to wallow in the "proper noun mud puddle" or the "common noun pond".  For the younger kids, we really discussed proper and common nouns, going through many examples.  For the older kids, we went deeper.  We talked about how names such as "Holly" can be proper when used as a name, but are common when used to talk about a plant.  There were many farm examples of this, including Daisy, Honey, Muffin, and Copper.  We also talked about how words like "Grandpa" can be proper when used as the name of the grandparent, but common when simply talking about the person in a general sense, such as "My grandpa came to dinner."  These can get tricky!

Our story today was "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs".  In this story, the wolf tells the tale from his point of view.  Needless to say, he puts a different spin on things!  I used this story to teach about comparing and contrasting.  The kids learned about Venn Diagrams, using one to help organize the class's ideas about things that happened in the two stories.

The class also discussed facts and opinions, in respect to the story that we read.  After the book, I read different sentences to the class.  The kids figured out whether or not the sentences were fact or opinion.  It seems like an easy concept, but these can actually get tricky... especially when it is a "fact" statement, but is not true.  For instance, the sentence "The first pig built his home of sticks," is a fact statement, as it can be proven to be false.

After our art time, we concluded the day... which wraps up our first workshop of the year!