I know all of you have been so disappointed to come here and see no new posts (wink). Awkward silence…chirp, chirp…
I am truly sorry! Things have been so busy around here, cleaning up winter messes, bringing in more hay since we ran out (oops, long winter), starting the gardens, scrambling to get homeschooling done amidst all of it. I actually don’t have much time even today but I wanted to stop in and let you know I haven’t forgotten about you. Just a little humor for today. I was at the barn doing chores with two of my girls this morning. After the older went up to the house, I was chatting with my 7 year old. Now don’t forget, we have almost no automated gadgets in our barn. We clean with good old pitchforks and wheelbarrows to dump it. My 7 year old is marveling at the mess and blurts out, “you know what we need? We need a poop chute!”
Yes, my dear, that is exactly what we need. Kids are the funniest people I know. Have a great day friends!
Ok, this might be a stretch but here goes. You know how on a Star Wars movie the storm troopers are shooting their laser guns at Luke and they always seem to miss? Not only do they miss, but it appears as if the lasers go in all manner of directions. Well, that is what milking the new Guernsey for the time this morning was like. I warned you ahead of time it might be a stretch. I was squeezing and the milk was going in all sorts of directions. It was flying up , down, sideways, diagonally, vertically, and everywhere it seemed other than into my nice stainless steel bucket. All that was missing was the classic “ptew, ptew” laser gun noise. Layla had her calf the other night and I have milked her a couple of times just to relieve the pressure but this morning I was aiming for an empty udder…fat chance. Yes, I have milked Cora before but each cow is different. They each present their own types of challenges. She does not want to kick me which I am excessively thankful for. She does want to keep her back legs as close together as is bovinely (you know like humanly but for cows)possible. She has a great udder but man is it high and tight. She is also sporting some super short back teats which forces me to strip milk only. Needless, to say, one gallon later and the making of carpal tunnel I think I had a humbling. Her udder was just as full as when I started but I called it quits. I left the rest of the milk for her sweet calf and will meet her tonight for night milking. Rally the troops, we will attack tonight at sundown. I am determined that the lasers, I mean milk will not go any which way it pleases. Tonight our goal is … better aim.
Just a bit of eye candy, this is Layla’s heifer calf , “Pepper”
Sometimes it feels like farming is just work, work, work. Yesterday was a day for some pampering, pedicures to be specific. I have only had two or three pedicures in my life and I know how much I love having them . I could only assume the cows would like them also. Yup, the pedicures were for our cow friends. Their hooves got long over the winter and needed a trim. I have trimmed them myself but there is no substitute for a good hoof trimmer. It turns out we have one that lives right down the road. We brought two of the girls up from the barn. Coming across the bridge was…precarious, but they made it. The cows are walked in one end of the tip table. It is turned on it’s side and the talented fellow is done in under five minutes. No nail polish was applied but the job was done and their feet look great! Did they really find it relaxing? Absolutely not, that was a tease and to make me feel better about how stressed out they seemed.
As I look through the photos a couple of things come to mind. Firstly, I feel like I should tell you she did not like it but it did not hurt her. That tip table looks like a medieval torture device. Which leads me to my other thought. I feel immensely thankful that we get to sit in lounge chairs when we have pedicures and not a tip table.
Disclaimer: No actual animals or people were pampered on this day.
One of the benefits of farming on a small scale is the personal attention we are able to give our animals. We love spending time with them. One of the issues of small scale farming is that most of the time you can’t justify ( or afford) farm machinery. We do not own any farm machinery. Unless, you consider a nice well used John Deere 140 garden tractor but sadly it doesn’t work quite like a bigger tractor. Not long ago we switched from buying 40lb square bales of hay to buying 800-1000lb round bales. We have two brought at a time on a dump trailer and dumped on a tarp in the driveway. We then proceed to flip it until it sits nicely off the ground on pallets. It is covered with a large tarp until it needs to be taken to the barn for feed. We then proceed to unroll the bale and drag it bit by bit down to the barn on a , wait for it…tarp. Yup, tarps are pretty useful things. Anyway, I don’t mind the work at all. We don’t do our own hay so this is kind of my way of “providing” for our animals. Alright, what happens when the bale dropped in the driveway is closer to the 1000lb range than the 800lb range, and there are only two 150lb (I might be a bit generous with that number but don’t judge me ;-)) girls to push it onto the pallet. Well, bottom line is, it doesn’t budge. Nope it won’t move at all. All the pushing and pulling and begging will not move that bale. “I can’t leave it in the driveway in the rain”, I think to myself. I have exhausted all of my physical muscles, it is time to pull out the big guns, mental muscle. Insert chuckle. First, we came up with an idea to rock the bale up just far enough to fit a piece of firewood under it. “What might that accomplish?”, you ask. Not really sure but we were working in small increments. Perhaps this would allow us to lift from the bottom instead of pushing from the top. Note to self, if you can’t use all of your muscles and your body weight to move something, your little old biceps can’t do it alone either. Lesson learned. Next, we tried shoving a flat board under the bale where the piece of firewood still was and using the board as a sort of lever. Let’s just say ,” it didn’t work” and move on. Just absolutely at my wits end but refusing to give up I said off the cuff to my daughter, “I wish I had a jack”. The rest is sweet victorious history my friends. We found a floor jack in the garage and jacked that sucker up far enough to be able to flip it. Then we shoved that jack under it again so we could flip that bale again to neatly center it on our pallet. With smiles on our faces and victory in our hearts we puffed our chests out and made it into the house just far enough to collapse in a heap. Give the neighbors a show, check. Move the round bales, check. Move adding a tractor to our farm up on the priority list, check. Happy farming!
Today I am rejoicing in what to some may be considered a simple thing, warmth! We bought our home with no central heating system. There was actually no heat source as we polite passed on the pellet stove that came with the house. We owned a used fireview woodstove and hooked that up to the existing chimney and that is what we used our first winter here. After that first winter it became abundantly clear that we needed a more efficient stove that was airtight. So, we came upon a used woodstove on craiglist that was smaller than our current stove but it was airtight. The owner told us it heated their whole home but they were no longer spending winters here so they were trading out wood for electric. We purchased the stove and put it in at the beginning of this winter. Needless to say, and pardon the language, but BULL ROAR! That stove did not come close to heating a house the size that the nice man claimed. Our house was soooooo cold this winter. We woke up each morning to temps indoors in the low 50’s. The stove was cold as can be with not even a single ember to start a new fire. As you might guess, it was hard to get up most mornings. Thanks to tax season we just put in our new “clean burn” Jotul woodstove. It is quite a bit bigger than it’s predecessor and 100% more efficient. We burned it for the first time last night and other than waking up in the middle of the night to tell my husband that the house was on fire ( When you first burn a new woodstove apparently a coating of , who knows what, has to burn off and truly stink you out of your own home) it went splendidly. I got up this morning and was able to open up the new stove to this, .
That my friends is a hearty bed of coals. I had no idea how much I longed for heat until I woke up to a quick source of heat. I could have cried but I was too happy. This morning I rejoice. Thank you Lord for the warmth you provided for us today.
Today is a day of trenches. I spent a goodly portion of this morning digging trenches. I guess I was not technically “in” them but my heart was in digging them. I have a love hate relationship with spring (join the club, right?). This is grown exponentially since I started farming. You see spring means warmer weather, allowing the animals out of the barn to frollick, and just a general feeling of hope as the seasons turn. This all comes at a cost though. The cost is the mess. Everything down at the barn and in the barnyard is thawing. The nice frozen cow pies that lay in the field, that I would on occasion toss at my oldest daughter and start a cow pie fight, are now starting to melt. They are softening along with the ground, mixing with all the water running down the hill. It is a mess! I think I am doing so well keeping up during the winter and then the thaw. So, today I am digging trenches. With ax and shovel in hand I chip away at the inches of ice that have built up and scrape them away to form a nice little waterway. My hope it that all the messy mess will find my freshly dug trenches and meander its way right out of my field. Alright, it definitely won’t all find its way out but here’s to hoping the bottom of the field doesn’t flood. Today, my heart is in the trenches. I love farming!
The weather is rainy, gray, and all in all a bit dreary. It is one of those days when a small victory in the barnyard would mean a lot. Yesterday morning we caught our little heifer calf trying to suckle on our 10 month old heifer E’blenn . For those who don’t know this could be an utter disaster (no pun intended) for E’blenn if she started lactating before she ever had a calf. The laundry list of ailments begins with mastitis leading to possible scar tissue and ending in her going from being a family milk cow to first in line for freezer camp. Of course, we can’t let that happen. So, I have been trying to get a weaning ring in the calf for a couple of days with no luck. It is hard plastic and her little nose had very little give. However, after finding her sneaky attempts at E’blenn I knew I had to get it in. Eureka! This morning it went in on the first try. We put her out with the girls and it worked like a charm. She tried to nurse to no avail. We watched her eat with no trouble and drinking was not an issue. Sounds like a victory, right? Fast forward just a couple of hours later, we check in to find her happily nursing on her momma. It was as if she had no weaning ring in at all. And so, just one of those days in the barnyard. Back to the old drawing board.
Homemade coconut granola and fresh raw milk. There is just something so comforting about knowing what is in your food. I love our fresh milk. We grass feed our cow so she doesn’t get any grain. This is just a personal preference. She gets alfalfa pellets when I milk her and all the good hay she can eat. All this good cow food makes some of the best milk you will ever taste. I clean my sweet cow within an inch of her life before I milk her because I want a clean product. I milk into a mason jar so if Cora feels especially cranky I don’t get a hoof in my pail. I pour the mason jar of milk into a stainless steel pail with a lid so no dust in the air will fall into it as I finish milking. I bring it to the house and I double strain it through disposable filters to get out any last impurities. I then put it in an ice water bath to chill as quickly as possible. So, now you know how much effort I put into providing a clean, fresh delicious milk product for my family. So here is how this post connects with it’s title. Tell me how you really feel about raw milk. I have had countless conversations with people where they tell me how suspicious they are about what is really in their food. They are concerned about the hormones in milk these days and so on. I have even spoken with people who wish they could get their hands on a grass fed only milk product. So, I say, “you are welcome to some of our milk”….Awkward silence… “Oh, no thank you.” they say. I might hear, “we drink skim” or, “we don’t really drink that much milk anyway.” The mouths are shouting , ” EAT FRESH” and “KNOW WHERE YOUR FOOD COMES FROM” ,but actions are chanting something very much the opposite. So, this is not meant as a challenge, I genuinely want to know how you really feel.
Disclaimer-The sale of raw milk in NY is illegal unless it comes from a certified dairy. To the best of my knowledge there are 14 state licensed raw milk dairies in NY. My object in this article is not to convince you to buy our milk. It is not for sale. My object is merely to know, not to be outrageously redundant , but how you really feel.
When we purchased Cora she was not bred. Mostly due to my inexperience we had several AI attempts fail and so we sent her to “lay” with a local bull. After a few months she was finally bred and came home to us to calve in October. It was hard to wait and hard to fail. My hope this year was that with more cows it would be easier to catch them in heat. I had the AI tech come to service one of the cows and asked him to just give our mid-mini jersey Rosie a check while he was there. He thought Rosie was in a good heat so I let him give her a straw as well. He used one of the top Genex jersey bulls that he had. I had very little hope that it would take. I mean after all, I was so diligent with Cora and she came back open time after time. This was just a decision off the cuff. So, the great news is Rosie is bred! I had her biopryn tested (a blood test) last week and the test was emailed to me just now. I had so little faith but God is good and this was my gift from God of an easy settler this year. Thank you God! Cora’s milk pregnancy test is in the mail so I should hear on her soon. I don’t hold out a ton of hope for her as I am still working on the perfect timing of AI for her but now that Rosie is settled I can believe just about anything. I will let you know about Cora…
The updated news is Cora was pregnancy tested via milk sample and that test also was emailed to me today. Status-BRED! This is a happy day!
This is my Cora cow. Her full name is Coraline but we just call her Cora. She was the housewarming gift from my dad, the one who started it all. I had responded to an ad for a Jersey x Dexter heifer in the local paper. Upon arriving at the farm I immediately loved the gal who owned it. I knew I was going to force her to be my friend (but that is another story). She took me in her barn where she introduced me to cow in the paper named Fancy. What a pretty cow Fancy was but who is that hunk of burnin love next to her that seems so interested in me? “Oh, that is Dallas. I am still not sure what I am going to do with her. She has a set of fused teats on one side. The vet said they will be functional and a calf would be able to empty them but I am not sure yet if we will keep her or send her to the auction.” So, back to looking at Fancy I went. I looked Fancy over all the while keeping a hand on Dallas. After a bit I had completely lost interest in looking at Fancy and was haggling over what she would take for Dallas. Really? Yup, I just knew. I did ask her to sell her to me for beef price in case she wasn’t a functional milk cow. She agreed much to the dismay of the fellas on her farm and we arranged for her to be delivered to our new farm. So, Dallas was delivered to our home and we did change her name to Cora. Her fused teats are fully functional for milking. I have actually joked about deliberately breeding animals in an attempt to have them born with fused teats. One squeeze equals two streams of milk, ideal for hand milking. Sometime I will show you how those crazy teats work. We call them the “super teats”. They are after all attached to my super cow!