Letters From Viewers

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It’s been ages since I posted a viewer email.  This one arrived yesterday and relates in part to a recent post, so here it is:


Hey Tom,

Just wanted to write you a thank you for the things you do. You have helped me and my family.

I recently bought Fat Head Kids, mainly for myself (I’m a 28 year old dad with two daughters) and the advice has really helped! I’ve been losing weight, I feel better and I definitely look better!

That’s not all though. Not even close. I have lived my whole life with awful eczema, asthma, and lactose intolerance. My eczema can get so bad it has lead to depression in the past, something I’m not prone to. I once had it so bad that when I would turn my neck the skin would crack and bleed. The few times it’s improved is when I’ve been in tropical climates for awhile, but unfortunately I live in a dry desert.

While switching my diet didn’t heal it, it remarkably improved a ton! In fact I had a bit of breaded chicken from the store the other day and almost immediately my skin flared up. I couldn’t believe I never noticed this before! I think it’s a combination of getting rid of polyunsaturated fats as well as grains. I’ve gotten rid of just grains and sugars before but never had this improvement. I think the fats are a big difference.

I wanted to share an experience with you though. Years ago I lived in Mexico for a little while. My family is from Sweden so I have rather fair skin. In fact when I first moved to Mexico the locals called me “transparent” as a nickname because they said I definitely wasn’t white.

Anyway, I spent most of my time outside in Mexico and eating with the Mexican people. To my surprise I never burned, not once, my skin was at its best but I attributed that to the climate.

Most of my meals there were soups with chicken legs, or cow stomach, also beef, fruits, vegetables. The only thing we had often that wouldn’t be allowed with my current diet is of course the corn tortillas. Almost all food was cooked in lard from a local butcher shop.

When I moved back to the states I can remember thinking “Oh good my skin doesn’t burn now that I’m older” and being in for a nasty surprise when my first summer back I ended up completely sunburned. I was stunned, why was the Mexican sun so different?

Well, I recently read your post on sunscreen and now it makes sense. This summer since switching my diet I no longer burn. I can’t believe it was this easy. You honestly have probably saved me from skin cancer.

I’m still looking at ways to improve my health. I’ll likely follow the Undoctored protocol after reading your recent posts on that. I wonder if that is a big part of my eczema.

But I just wanted to say thanks, I never realized my body and life in turn could be so great.

Hope you’re having a good day on your farm.



So glad to hear your eczema has improved, Nils. I’ve been in the Tennessee summer sun for two-hour stretches several times recently without turning red at all, so yes, I believe consuming natural fats makes a huge difference.

I’d definitely give the Undoctored protocol a shot. My recent experiences have reminded me that if the gut microbiome is messed up, all kind of health problems can flare up.

I’m also glad to hear you bought Fat Head Kids for yourself as much as for your kids. We’ve had several adults tells us they learned quite a bit from it.  Best to you and your family.



More On Gut Bugs And The ‘Not-Yogurt’

I had additional thoughts when I wrote the previous post about the Undoctored advice from Dr. William Davis that solved my health annoyances. I didn’t include them because the post was already lengthy. But since the post sparked quite a few comments here and on Twitter, here are those additional thoughts in no particular order.

Technically, it’s not yogurt.

Someone here or on Twitter asked if it’s possible to buy the L. reuteri yogurt in stores. No, because as Dr. Davis explains in this post, it’s not technically yogurt and can’t be labeled as such:

To call something “yogurt,” by (semi-arbitrary) FDA guidelines, it must be fermented by the microorganisms Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus (unspecified strains). It can contain other fermenting species such as Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacteria species, but it must contains the first two species in order to be labeled “yogurt.” So our L. reuteri “yogurt,” if this were being sold commercially, could not be labeled as such because it was not fermented with Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus thermophilus.

You won’t find it in stores, but trust me, once you make a batch you’ll wonder why you ever thought it would be difficult.

There are benefits besides battling fungal overgrowth.

I was motivated to try the not-technically-yogurt as a means of beating back a fungal overgrowth that was causing those health annoyances. Mission accomplished. But I’ve noticed other benefits as well. My sleep is deep and restful. I have long, complex, vivid dreams. I feel fully awake sooner after getting out of bed, and don’t require as much coffee to feel human. I’ve had occasional bouts of insomnia my entire adult life, and I still get them now and then. But I don’t feel as exhausted when I don’t sleep well.

When I do sleep well, I feel amazingly awake during the day. Like AWAKE! awake, very clear-headed and energetic.

Dr. Davis mentioned in his post that people eating the yogurt have reported a number of benefits: smoother skin (including fewer wrinkles), increased muscle mass, a rise in testosterone, weight loss, etc.

I don’t know what accomplished what.

If I’d been conducting N=1 experiments, I suppose I would have started with the CandiBactin and tracked my results, then tried the yogurt without the CandiBactin and tracked them again. I began taking the CandiBactin and making the yogurt at the same time, so I can’t say how much either had to do with the improvements. I can say it was a very effective combination.

I’ve been reminded of why I need to seed and feed the good gut bacteria.

We had a chapter on feeding the good gut bugs in the Fat Head Kids book and film. (The book of course goes into more detail than the film.) I shouldn’t have needed reminding. But I guess I did … and it turns out drinking Kombucha now and then isn’t enough.

Dr. Davis told me on the phone he’s not very popular in low-carb and keto circles these days because he insists we need to eat foods that feed the gut bacteria. That means fibers – which doesn’t go over well with the We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Fibers! people, some of whom now consider him a heretic. That’s a shame, because he promotes low-carb diets and even ketogenic diets. He just doesn’t want us to go zero-carb and stay there for months on end.  He believes that can lead to gut dysbiosis.

If you’re on an all-animal-foods diet devoid of fibers and are experiencing nothing but benefits, good for you. I hope the benefits keep on keeping on.

But I noticed several people here and on Twitter commented that they’ve experienced symptoms similar to mine. So perhaps the points Dr. Davis makes in this video are worth considering:

Keep in mind, he didn’t form his opinions just by reading research. He’s been actively treating and counseling people for years. On the phone, he told me he’s seen the same pattern over and over: overweight person goes strict low-carb or keto, and everything improves. Weight goes down, energy goes up, labs move in the right direction. Then a year or two or three later, things start slowly going south again. The weight starts creeping back on, the labs move in the wrong direction, and health problems begin to appear – like, say, mysterious itchy patches on the skin, or something that feels like a prostate-colon-whatever infection. Dr. Davis believes the backsliding is the result of inadvertently starving out the good gut bugs.

After seeing how quickly my health annoyances began to fade after following his advice, I plan to be much more vigilant about seeding and feeding the good gut bugs.

It’s not necessary to significantly increase the carbs, by the way. Like I said in my previous post, I feed the gut bugs by stirring the prebiotic mix from Gut Garden into my yogurt shake. Back when I first tried the prebiotic mix, I simply stirred it into water and drank it. I tested my blood-sugar reaction afterwards a couple of times and found my glucose level barely budged. Seems likely you could stay in ketosis if that’s your goal.

As I wrote in the previous post, my cholesterol and triglycerides were higher than usual when I had them tested some months ago. I forgot to mention I also got a fasting insulin test: 10.5 uIU/mL, which is considered moderately insulin resist, and much higher than I’d like, regardless of how it’s classified. I don’t know if that’s gone up recently because I’ve never had the test before.

After I’ve continued this program for another couple of months, I plan to get all those lab tests done again. I’ll let you know the results.


I Got Undoctored On The Way To The Undoctored Mastermind Seminar

Some weeks ago, Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis asked if I’d give a lunchtime speech at the Undoctored Mastermind seminar he’s conducting on August 24th. I of course agreed immediately because I’m huge fan of his work, not to mention the Undoctored book itself.

As if I needed any more convincing just how valuable Dr. Davis’ work is, he undoctored me with some advice that solved several long-running health annoyances.

Okay, yes, Davis is a doctor – a cardiologist, to be specific. But he’s the Undoctored doctor because he thinks way beyond the standard treatments of drugs and surgery. He looks for root causes and natural cures. He encourages people to do their own research, get their own tests done, and generally take control of their health themselves instead of relying on The Great White Coats.

Let me back up and talk about those long-running health annoyances. I haven’t written about them previously because I figured it would be more useful to wait until I had an explanation for what caused them. Now I do. We’ll get to that later.

As you may recall, I went in for surgery a year and half ago to shave down a bone spur in my left shoulder. When I woke from the anesthesia, I was told my bicep tendon had been severed by the spur and had to be reattached. That led to weeks of inactivity, sleeping sitting up with my arm pinned to my side, followed by months of physical therapy, slowly regaining the strength in my left arm.

I was (and still am) grateful to live in an age where these kinds of injuries can be fixed with arthroscopic surgery.  But shortly after the surgery, I began experiencing a string of health annoyances. (I call them annoyances because they weren’t severe … just annoying as hell.)

The annoyances began with what felt like a bladder infection. I scheduled an appointment with our GP and saw a nurse practitioner, who had me leave a urine sample.

Good news! a nurse informed me later over the phone. The tests came back negative. You don’t have a bladder infection.

Ah, I see. The tests came back negative, so I’m fine and there’s no problem … except it still feels like I have a bladder infection.

The discomfort in that general area grew worse, so the GP referred me to a urologist. I explained that I sometimes felt like I had to pee when I didn’t. Sometimes there was pain that felt way down deep somewhere. Oh and by the way, I’ve started having occasional bouts of diarrhea for no apparent reason.

The urologist conducted some tests (one of which involved a glove … that’s all I’ll say about that) and told me my prostate was enlarged and likely inflamed. Probably an infection, he said, and prescribed CIPRO.

I felt better for a couple of weeks after the CIPRO. Then all the symptoms returned. Then they got worse.  During a follow-up visit, the urologist told me the prostate tends to get larger over time, so it’s not at all unusual for men my age to have the symptoms of an enlarged prostate.

Uh, yeah, okay … but these symptoms didn’t creep on up me over the years. They came on all at once. I didn’t age 10 years in the past few weeks.

He sent me for some kind of scan that confirmed my prostate was enlarged. How is that useful? I wondered. We already knew that.  After reviewing the results, the urologist prescribed Flowmax. I took it for one day and threw the rest in the trash because it made me feel hungover all day.

Meanwhile, I went to see a gastroenterologist. I was due for a colonoscopy anyway (my dad had colon cancer, so I get checked every few years) and told him about the occasional bouts of diarrhea. He said he’d run some tests on tissue samples he’d collect during the colonoscopy.

At the follow-up, he informed me I had no cancer and no polyps, but tests showed I had microscopic colitis.

What causes that? I asked.

We don’t know, he told me. Here’s a prescription for a ridiculously expensive drug to treat the colitis and the diarrhea. Or you could just take large doses of Pepto-Bismol.

I went with the cheaper option. The diarrhea eventually went away. In the meantime, I asked the urologist if the inflamed prostate could be the result of an inflamed colon. Yes, he said, that’s entirely possible.

What the @#$%? I wondered. What is going on down there?

Because I had skin cancer on my back in my 30s, I see a dermatologist for a check-up every 18 months or so. Shortly before I was due to see her, I developed an itchy patch on my back. During the appointment, she told me it was a fungal infection. She prescribed a cream to treat it. The cream sort of worked, but the itchy patch tended to flare up now and then.

Then I got what felt like the same itch in my right ear. Some days it was barely there, but on other days, I was constantly poking my pinkie in there and trying to scratch it.

Back to the dermatologist. She examined the ear and said it was the same kind of fungal infection. Use the same cream and it should go away.

But it didn’t go away. It came and went, like the patch on my back.

Around the same time, I decided to get an NMR Lipoprofile and a coronary calcium test to convince my GP I don’t have heart disease and don’t need a statin for my “high” cholesterol. As you may recall, the calcium score came back at zero. The lipoprofile also showed I produce large, fluffy LDL almost exclusively.

I expected all that. The GP was delighted with the zero on the calcium test and had his nurse call to tell me to keep doing whatever I’m doing.

But I was a bit surprised to see my total cholesterol was up to 280. It’s been in the 205-225 range for years. I was more surprised to see my triglycerides were at 125. That’s considered in the normal range by the medical establishment, but I haven’t had triglycerides over 75 in at least 10 years. I began to wonder if all this stuff was related somehow. Was my cholesterol going up as a reaction to the infected prostate-colon-whatever issue?

Meanwhile, as I was trying to figure it all out, I started gaining weight. Over the course of several weeks, I went from 200 or so to 212 on the gym scale – on basically the same lowish-carb diet I’ve had for years.

Well, no problem, I thought. I’ve shed the pounds before when I needed to. I know what to do.

I followed Dr. Ted Naiman’s program of high protein to non-protein grams. I also limited myself to around 2,000 calories per day. Yeah, that should do it …

Two weeks later, I stepped on the scale at the gym: 212 pounds.

What the @#$%!!

Okay, I’ll stick to the same diet, but eliminate all dairy products. I never needed to eliminate dairy before, but I know it works for some people. I’ll also limit myself to an eight-hour eating window.

Two weeks later, I stepped on the scale at the gym: 212 pounds.

What the @#$%ity-@#$%!!

Well, perhaps it’s time to try that meat-only diet everyone’s talking about. People have reported dramatic weight loss – even people who didn’t lose much weight just by restricting carbs. Yeah, I’ll try that, and also make sure I put in more sessions on the treadmill.

Two weeks later, I stepped on the scale at the gym: 214 pounds.

What the @#$% (reaches over shoulder to scratch back) is going on (uses pinkie to scratch inside right ear) inside my body?! (Shifts in chair because of discomfort in nether regions, then gets up to answer a false-alarm feeling of needing to urinate.)

When Dr. Davis got in touch to ask about giving a speech at the Undoctored Mastermind session, I asked if he had any idea what was going on with me. Oh yes, he had some ideas. He had me send him all my lab work. Then he called.

He explained that every one of my health annoyances was likely the result of small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or a fungal overgrowth in the gut, or both. The itchy spots on my back and in my ear? Fungus growing in the gut and likely being excreted onto my skin. The prostate-colon-whatever infection and the resulting discomfort? Probably fungus, certainly some form of gut dysbiosis – and the CIPRO likely made it worse. A fungal overgrowth can trigger weight gain and make the fat difficult to lose, he said. It can also drive up cholesterol and triglycerides.

None of the doctors I visited on this long and winding road suggested anything of the sort. Discomfort in the prostate area? Take these pills. Colon inflamed? Take these pills. Itchy patches on your back and in your ear? Apply this cream. They all treated symptoms. Only the Undoctored doctor suggested a root cause.

He also suggested a treatment plan. He told me to go to Amazon and order two types of CandiBactin (AR and BR) – natural antibiotics to treat the fungal overgrowth. He also reminded me that he posted a recipe on the Wheat Belly Blog for Lactobacillus reuteri yogurt – a yogurt that amplifies the pill form of Lactobacillus reuteri. There are apparently numerous benefits of this particular probiotic strain, which you can read about in the post, but of course my main interest was in getting my gut microbiome healed – probably for the first time since the shoulder/bicep surgery.

Okay, I admit it: I’d read his post about the yogurt before. I even thought it sounded like a good idea. I just didn’t bother making the stuff because I assumed the process was difficult, or time-consuming, or something.

Turns out making the yogurt is quite easy. Chareva and I are on our fourth batch, and we love it. It’s creamy and delicious. Rather than pour off all the liquid when a batch is finished to end up with thick yogurt, we pour off some and then stir in the rest so it’s more like a yogurt shake.

I mix mine up with a few blueberries, some collagen, and some Gut Garden prebiotic blend (potato starch, glucomannan, acacia senegal powder and inulin) to make sure I’m feeding those L. reuteri suckers once they’re in my system.

Here’s our latest batch of yogurt being incubated in a sous vide pot at 100 degrees.

The incubation time is 36 hours, so we start a new batch before finishing the previous batch. That’s longer and at a lower temperature than you’ll find in most yogurt recipes, but as Dr. Davis explains, higher temperatures can kill the L. reuteri bacteria, which would defeat the purpose of making the yogurt.

(When one of Sara’s friends found out we make our own yogurt, she said, “Your parents are kind of hipsters, aren’t they?” I’m pretty sure I’m not hipster. Neither is my wife Moon Baby … I mean, Chareva.)

I’ve been following this program for a few weeks now. The itchy spots on my back and in my ear are gone. The discomfort in my prostate/colon area is also gone. The urge to pee when I don’t actually have to pee is gone.

The weight is finally starting to budge too. After weeks of gaining or failing to lose, I’m down four pounds. Keep that in mind if you’re tempted to tell someone who can’t lose weight it’s because he’s not eating enough fat, or eating too many carbs, or eating too much protein, or not enough protein, or not sticking to a fasting window, etc., etc. I tried and failed to lose weight on diets that worked for me in the past and diets that have worked for other people. It appears in my case it came down to a fungal infection, not a failure to adopt the right macro ratios.

I was flattered when Dr. Davis asked me to speak at the Undoctored Mastermind event. Now that I’ve personally experienced how his approach can turn around a slew of what other doctors treated as separate health issues, I’m not so much flattered as honored to be included in the program.

Thank you, Dr. Davis. I’m lucky I had access to your extensive knowledge.


From The News … Sort Of

      34 Comments on From The News … Sort Of

This isn’t exactly a From The News post because the topics are from real life instead of news articles. Nonetheless …

Food and virtual drummers

The virtual drummer in Logic Pro, which I use to record and produce music, got me thinking about diets. Yeah, it’s a strange connection to make, but that’s how I roll.  I’ll explain.

If you’re a longtime reader, you’ve probably noticed I’m not sticking to my longtime schedule of two posts per week. That’s because there are only so many hours in a week, and I’ve decided I need to finish a music project.

When Fat Head hit Netflix and the streaming services, I received quite a few emails from people asking me where they could buy the music from the film. For a long time, I answered We’re working on that. It was true when I said it. The film’s composer and I had planned to expand some of the short bits of music (“Sugar, sugar … makes me want to be with you …”) into full songs and release them on iTunes. Then he ran into some family and personal issues, including a serious health problem, and eventually told me he needed to abandon the project.

I wrote all the music for Fat Head Kids myself, save for the Fat Head theme that plays for a few seconds. I also wrote two of the songs for the original Fat Head. I’m taking those songs plus some new ones and rolling them into a collection I’ll probably call something like Songs From My Fat Head.

Which brings me back to the virtual drummer in Logic Pro: I friggin’ love the virtual drummer. It’s not a simple drum machine, and the drums aren’t synthesized; they’re real drums played by real drummers and recorded perfectly by Apple engineers.

To add drums to a song, you pick from one of several virtual drummers (all with their own styles and drum kits), then choose from a list of beat presets. Then within that preset, you drag around what Apple calls the hockey puck – in the graphic below, it’s the gold circle. You can also choose options on the right to determine which specific drums are played, the beat pattern for the snare and kick drum, etc.

Here’s a closer look at the hockey-puck portion:

As you can see, moving the puck around sets whether the drummer plays louder or softer, and simpler or more complex patterns. But no matter what you choose, you get a real drummer playing real drums. In the YouTube clip below, you can hear the virtual drummer at work in the opening music.

So why in the heck does the virtual drummer make me think about diets? Because I believe too many people are ridiculously tribal about their preferred diet. Everyone should be on a vegan diet. Or a meat-only diet. Or a high-carb, low-fat diet. Or a ketogenic diet. Blah-blah-blah.

People can be healthy on all kinds of real-food diets. The diet that works best for me might be very unlike the diet that works best for you. As long as we’re talking about real, unprocessed foods, I believe choosing a healthy diet is a bit like that hockey-puck selector, except it looks like this:

Insisting that everyone should be on the same diet is like insisting all songs should use the same drummer playing the same style.  Find the beat that works for you.

Food and the sun

I recently wrote a post about why I don’t need sunscreen anymore. Since switching from frankenfats to real fats, I just don’t burn like I did back in the day. The previous week provided another example.

My nephew Grant (The Older Brother’s Middle Son) was in town because his wife Mirjam, a nurse practitioner in a surgical practice, attended a medical conference in Nashville. (As you may recall, she stitched up my thumb in our kitchen a couple of years ago when I held my pistol incorrectly and got whacked by the slide.) While Mirjam was in sessions downtown, Grant and their two boys came down our way.

Grant is quite a talented actor, by the way. He’s currently working on one degree in theater and another to teach special ed. If you’ve seen Fat Head Kids (or just watched the clip above), you’ve heard him as the voices of Mr. Spot and Marty Metabolism.

During the few days he was here, we played two rounds of disc golf – an hour in the Tennessee sun each time.  We also played nine of holes of actual golf – another two hours in the Tennessee sun. Back in the day, if I hadn’t slathered myself with sunscreen, my arms and neck would have gotten fried.

I took these pictures this morning to demonstrate what all that time being in the sun does to me now. You can see my face and neck are just a bit tanned, but there’s not much difference between them and my chest, which was covered.

Same with my arms. I pulled my sleeve up to show the upper-arm area that was covered. Again, the lower arms are tanned, but not burnt. Just a hint of a reddish tone, but I’m mostly Irish, after all. My skin has a slight reddish tone even if it’s winter and I don’t leave the house. (The brown spot near my elbow is a bruise, in case you’re wondering.)

Real fats make for healthy skin that simply isn’t as prone to burn.

Food and mood

There’s a chapter in the Fat Head Kids book and film titled Food Sets The Mood. As I explained in the book, one of the most touching emails I’ve ever received was from a woman whose teenage son went from being a rage-aholic to a calm, happy kid after Fat Head inspired them to change their diets. A good diet keeps the brain happy.

When Grant and I played nine holes of golf this weekend, it was my first time swinging golf clubs in at least seven years. I haven’t even been to a driving range during that span. When he suggested we play nine holes, I had to go find my clubs in the back of the garage.

Back in my standup days, I played golf all the time. I also became enraged over my bad shots rather frequently. I apparently believed that despite having little inborn athletic ability, I should be able to play a round of golf without topping, slicing and hooking the ball.

I topped, sliced and hooked quite a few balls during the nine holes I played with Grant. I lost three balls out of bounds and one in a pond. My most explosive reaction all day was something like, “Ugh. Bad shot.”

Of course, playing my first round in at least seven years, I wasn’t expecting greatness. I also knew not to compare my game to Grant’s. I’m 60. He’s 31. He’s also a bit of a beast who served two tours in Iraq and then completed Army Ranger school, where the failure rate is something like 65%. He’s way stronger and more athletic than I was at any age.

So he’d smack a drive waaaay down the fairway, then I’d hit a drive about the distance he gets with a five-iron. Didn’t bother me at all. Despite my string of double and triple bogies (with one very lucky birdie tossed in), I was in a great mood the whole game.

Maybe I’m just older and more mature now. But I can’t help but wonder if my golf-course temper-tantrums back in the day were partly the result of riding on the blood-sugar roller-coaster.

Food and awesome food

Chareva and I were married 19 years ago today. Since Grant and Mirjam were in town over the weekend, we decided it would be more fun to celebrate on Saturday and go out to dinner with them. They’d never tried a Brazilian steakhouse, so we went to Rodizio Grill in downtown Nashville.

The food was, of course, simply awesome, and they keep bringing it until you signal them to stop.  Meat, meat, more meat, even more meat, followed by several sides of meat. I believe I ate at least one vegetable from the salad bar, but I don’t remember what it was.

That’s Grant and Mirjam below.  Sorry about the poor lighting.

Since we were celebrating our anniversary, I asked the staff to please seat me directly below a bright light that would make my bald head glow in any pictures. As you can see, they were happy to oblige.

We all noticed something about stuffing ourselves with meat: it’s not the same ohmygodI’mgonnaburst feeling you get from stuffing yourself with pasta, or pizza, or bread, or anything heavy on grains. I was full, but not at all uncomfortable. As Grant put it, “If the sun was still out, I could play another nine.” I’ve never said anything like that after eating pizza.

Food and booze

I drank more alcohol on Saturday night than I typically drink in a couple of months. I had a scotch before dinner, a glass of wine with dinner, and a Rusty Nail (scotch and Drambuie) for dessert. After Chareva (who has zero taste for alcohol) drove us home, Grant and I engaged in our usual habit of staying up way too late talking. We smoked cigars outside and split a small bottle of Jameson’s. Then we drank another four beers apiece.

This was over several hours, of course (we finally called it a night at 4:00 a.m.), but that’s a lot of booze for one night. But here’s what I find interesting: I felt fine on Sunday. No dizziness, no nausea. The only side effect was low energy, like when I don’t get a good night’s sleep. The only explanation I can come up with is that stuffing myself with all that good meat at dinner offset the effects of the booze somehow. I’m pretty sure if I drank that much after a big plate of pasta, I’d still be in bed.

I’m not recommending anyone try repeating the experiment, of course. I’m sure my liver isn’t happy with me, despite the lack of a hangover.

Be careful with those fireworks

If you’re grossed out by graphic pictures of injuries, stop reading now. Go and enjoy the Fourth of July and I’ll see you next week.

Still here? Okay, you were warned.

I hope I don’t need to say this to people who read health blogs, but please don’t be stupid with fireworks this week. As I mentioned, Grant’s wife Mirjam is a nurse practitioner in a surgical practice. She told us that every Fourth of July week, without fail, they end up treating several people who decided to be stupid and light M-80s or cherry bombs, then throw them. Here’s a picture from her Hold My Beer files:

That’s what an M-80 can do to your hand. So please, let’s be careful out there. Forget the M-80s. If you set off fireworks (like we’ve done here on the Fat Head farm), follow the friggin’ directions, including the safety precautions.

Enjoy your holiday.


The Farm Report: The Chicken-Killer Is Gone … We Hope

We’ve lost five more chickens since my post a week ago. Chareva checked the fences and the nets. I checked the fences and the nets. We can’t for the life of us figure out how a critter was able to get in.

I still want to know, but we’re hoping it’s a moot point, at least for now.  Two suspects in the Chicken Mass Murder of 2019 are now gone.

We spent Thursday through Saturday in Atlanta to take a tour of Georgia Tech, which is high on Sara’s list of possible choices for college. Chareva’s younger brother took care of the chickens while we were gone and reported three more dead. Damnit.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I have a trail cam.  I set it facing the chicken yard earlier last week, but apparently didn’t set it for night vision. All the pictures were of the chickens enjoying the daylight.

We returned from our Atlanta trip early Saturday evening.  We found this critter in the trap I’d set:

Yes, possums kill chickens, but I had my doubts this was our predator. I’d set the trap almost every night for more than a week. Whatever was killing the chickens wasn’t interested in the bait. Seemed a bit unlikely a chicken-killer would suddenly develop a change in dinner preferences. Of course, I sent the possum to possum heaven just in case.

My suspicions that the predator was still at large were confirmed when Chareva found another dead chicken this morning. I uttered a string of ancient curses known only to small-time farmers and looked up how to set the night vision on the trail cam.

This afternoon, Chareva and the girls went out for a bit of shopping and other errands. When they came home, Alana ran upstairs to inform me they’d spotted a raccoon hiding under my car. Yikes. If a raccoon is out and about during daylight hours, there’s a strong possibility it has rabies.

I grabbed my trusty Ruger, went outside and squatted down on the driveway, drawing a bead on the raccoon’s head and making sure I wasn’t at an angle where I’d hit a back tire if I missed. Chareva flipped open an upstairs window and suggested that shooting anything under my car was asking for trouble … like, say, a ricochet that hits a pipe. (Those weren’t her exact words, but you get the idea. The word dumbass was definitely not used as far as I recall.) She offered to drive the car forward to expose the raccoon.

Okay, I said, but he’s going to run.

And run he did. As soon as his cover moved away, he took off. Fortunately, he ran directly away from me, so I didn’t have to swing the rifle side to side. I put the red dot from my scope on his butt and hit him with the first shot.

He ran into some underbrush, but I figured he was making a beeline for the forest and correctly guessed he was about to run up against a fence. I hustled over there and saw he was already struggling to climb the fence. I put him out of his misery.

So Rocky Racoon IX may have been our chicken-killer. But I’m putting the trail cam out tonight anyway. If we lose any more chickens, I’d sure as heck like to identify the killer.


The Farm Report: Rocky Raccoon IX Decided Father’s Day Should Be Labor Day

I hope all you fathers out there had relaxing Father’s Day. Mine wasn’t relaxing, but it was highly appropriate: I spent a chunk of the day laboring to protect the little ones … chickens, in this case.

A few days ago, Chareva informed me she found three dead chickens in the coop.

What?! No way! We built the Fort Knox of chicken yards!

Turns out Fort Knox isn’t so impenetrable if you leave the side door open. Somewhere in the course of rearranging and extending the nets to cover Chareva’s garden, we left a big ol’ gap between the garden and the chicken yard. I’m not sure how we failed to notice the big ol’ gap, but fail we did. Granted, the critter had to climb a fence to reach the gap in the nets, but it was only a matter of time. Once I spotted the gap, I felt a bit stooopid for not noticing it earlier.

We’ve been working on the chicken yard where we plan to move the chickens. Last month we finished putting up the poles, then endured the process of unfurling a thoroughly furled net and coaxing it up and over the poles.  Now it’s up there nice and high.

We also repurposed the last of the pavers the previous owner left behind to create a don’t even try digging under this barrier. The only problem is that we didn’t have enough pavers to create a double layer.

That means we also didn’t have enough pavers to create a barrier between the two old chicken yards. As we found out the hard way a few years ago, a raccoon will happily let itself into the unprotected chicken yard nearest the forest, then burrow under the fence that separates that yard from the adjoining yard.

In other words, the re-netted chicken yard isn’t ready for prime time quite yet.  Not until we make a few trips to Home Depot and buy more pavers.

So rather than move the chickens, we made another stooopid decision: we told ourselves if we pulled the tarp down over the current chicken coop and locked the chickens in there at night, they’d be fine for another day or two. After all, Rocky Raccoon IX had already eaten his fill and probably wouldn’t be back that night … right? I set a trap with a can of cat food inside just in case, figuring he’d rather go for the easy meal.

Two dead chickens on Sunday morning told us that 1) Rocky Raccoon IX isn’t a believer in intermittent fasting, 2) he prefers fresh chicken to cans of cat food, and 3) he’s perfectly capable of lifting a tarp, reaching into the coop and killing a chicken.

So we spent Sunday afternoon doing construction. At least the rain that had been forecast held off.

I didn’t take pictures because I was busy uttering ancient curses known only to small-time farmers who have to do hot, sweaty work on Father’s Day, but the construction job boiled down to adding a second layer of fencing on top of the fence that separates the garden and the chicken yard. Then we lowered the net a bit on that side and tied it to the top of the fence.  Trust me, it was more work than the brief description suggests.

The remaining chickens were all alive and well this morning. Either Rocky Raccoon IX couldn’t find his way in, or he took the night off.

In the meantime, I reset the trap. If we’ve learned anything about raccoons, it’s this: once they discover a supply of chickens, they never stop trying to treat themselves to chicken dinners. The only permanent solution is to send them to raccoon heaven.