I made an accidental discovery the other day. More on that later.
Accidental discoveries have helped make major advancements in human development and science.
The first that comes to mind is the discovery of penicillin.
Sir Alexander Fleming a bacteriologist from London had been experimenting in 1928 with staphylococcus, a common type of bacteria that causes boils and can also cause disastrous infections in patients with weakened immune systems.
He went on holiday carelessly leaving his bacteria growing on their culture plates. On his return, he noticed that a mould had infected one of the plates and where it had, the staphylococci had been prevented from growing further.
He identified the mould as from the Penicillium genus, but it wasn’t for another decade before it was recognised for what it was as the first antibiotic, and it alone has saved an estimated 200 million lives.
In 1945, Percy Spencer, an American self-taught engineer, was working in a lab testing magnetrons, the high-powered vacuum tubes inside radars. Magnetrons produce microwaves and Percy was surprised to notice his peanut butter chocolate bar had melted in his pocket. Guessing it might be the microwaves, the next day he popped some pop corn with it and then cooked an egg in seconds.
Spencer and his employer patented what we now call the microwave. Their first one cost $US5000 (Over $US50,000 in today’s money), weighed 340 kilos and stood 1.8m.
Natural rubber was limited in its uses as it couldn’t withstand extreme heat or cold. In 1839, Charles Goodyear accidentally dropped some rubber onto a hot stove and the resulting vulcanized rubber created new industries and transformed the world.
We now come to my own accidental discovery that although humble may have some as yet unidentified benefit for humanity.
Forty years of lambing beats and although I don’t want to be taking mismothered lambs home, I find it hard not to gather these waifs and strays up on the chance of a mother becoming available and a hoped-for successful mother up.
Often the natural mother has determined that this offspring has limited chances of survival and she is better to put her efforts into the siblings. She is often right.
We all know that unless you get colostrum quickly into these new-borns, their chances of a long-term future are negligible.
I’m unconvinced that the dehydrated colostrum products are that effective so this year I rang Rob a local dairy farmer and asked for some of his fresh stuff.
I swapped a bottle of wine, and he gave me a generous amount.
More than I needed for the time being so a froze half of it in small containers in the deep freeze.
The first half went down like a treat and saved several lives.
When I needed some more, I went to my store and thawed out a batch.
I was surprised how the freezing had deepened the colour and that when I stirred it with my fingers as it warmed that the freezing had also made it feel gritty.
The lambs didn’t seem to mind as they sucked on it greedily.
What was annoying was how the teat kept blocking up and I had to keep taking it off to get the teat blocking matter out.
The next morning these few lambs were hale and hearty and had another grateful feed of the gritty colostrum.
It was at this point Jane took some notice of my battles to clear the teat and looked at my mix.
“That’s not colostrum you fool, that’s pumpkin soup!”.
I pointed out that I was no one’s fool, and I knew what containers I’d put my precious colostrum in and where abouts in the deepfreeze.
I went to check the deepfreeze just in case and then realised that not for the first time in my life, I was mistaken.
Now, not all those lambs survived but not all of them died either.
I’m not advocating by any means that if you have no colostrum, substitute it for pumpkin soup.
But I’m a huge fan of pumpkin soup and I think this little accidental discovery shows there is more to the substance than meets the eye. Someone needs to have a closer look into its powers.
Fleming wasn’t awarded his Noble Prize until 17 years after his accidental discovery.
I’m hoping I don’t have to wait that long.