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Monday, December 31, 2007

The Hardy

This is supposed to be a blog about the dairy mostly but lately it seems I have been posting about the baby. But you have to excuse me there because she takes up more of my time now than the dairy.

In any case it came to my attention this afternoon, after my 3rd wheelbarrow load of wood, that I have neglected to document how we heat the house during the winter. This is our Hardy wood burning furnace. This isn't the best of pictures and was taken back in '04, but it will have to do until I can locate my camera.

Until I moved here I had never heard of a wood burning furnace. I don't understand (and therefore am unable to explain fully) how it all works but these are the basics: It runs off of electricity-to power the blower-and has a huge tank of water in it. The wood fire inside the furnace heats the water and that water is piped though copper coils and somehow the heat is blown off of that into the house. So, of couse, it only works with forced air heating systems. We have it hooked up to the hot water heater inside the house so that hot water is piped into the hot water heater as needed, which saves a bit on electricity.

This furnace will burn just about any kind of wood; dry, wet, you name it. You just have to keep up a demand for heat in the house or hot water in the water heater so that the fire keeps going. The main issue is to keep enough fuel on hand for it. We know people who have much, much larger furnaces than this one who keep it going on handouts from others. That is; they will burn any junk that anyone brings to them; old torn up buildings, old tires, all kinds of burnable garbage and stuff. If someone is cleaning up their place and need to get rid of the burnable stuff they just take it over to these people. Ick!

That's it for now. Running out of time.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

How She Really Felt

Much has been said; mostly by my mom, that Ellen never takes a bad picture and that she is such a smiley girl.

Here is proof that it's not always so. Ha!

This was up at her Great Grandpa's place last Sunday. I came home and took the picture I featured below when we got back home.

Her aunt wanted to take pictures of her in her Christmas riggings, so I left her dressed up when went there. Ellen was not impressed. She let us know in no uncertain terms that she wasn't in to a photo shoot at the time.

Maybe it was because there weren't any presents for her under the tree.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Throwback Thursday

Here in blogger land it seems to be customary among some circles to have a Throwback Thursday, where you blog about the past...however long ago it may have been. I shall attempt this off and on as I go.

Here is a picture from long ago, where I grew up in Northern California. Many folks think, when I tell them I am from N CA, that I come from San Fransisco or thereabouts, but no, my hometown is much further north than that even. San Fran is a a drive south of several hours. Anyway, this picture (and I am not sure of the quality here) is of the house I grew up in. It is pretty much surrounded by Douglas Fir trees with the occasional alder thrown in for variety. The willow tree is hiding the front window.

The front part of the house was built by a bachelor logger who first owned the property back in the '40s I believe. The back half of it was added on later by my dad and uncle, who finished it off for their mother to live in. She bought the property originally. The house is covered in redwood shakes, under which bats roost occasionally. You can, on occasion, hear them squeaking during the day when you are outside and close to the house. We had electricity and running water of course, but relied solely on the wood stove for heat. My father bought me a small ax for my 10th birthday (or Christmas, I forget which) and it was my job to cut kindling. We moved into the house a year or two after my grandmother died, I was about 4, I think. My father not being the most progressive type, the house remained without a foundation; it was propped up on regular cements blocks. Only by God's grace did it not slip off them during earthquakes. There was a large crawl space under the house where the dogs slept, and where the occasional skunk visited. (Ugh)
The small building to the right is the well house. There in N Ca. the wells were dug, not drilled. So we had a couple of the large round cement well liners rolling around. We made teeter-totters from them using long boards propped on them, or we would crawl in them and roll each other around.
After my father died in '95 my mother continued living there for a year, then had to sell the place because she couldn't keep it up. Thankfully, a couple who runs a landscaping business bought it and they added onto the house, maintaining the redwood shake theme and adding a foundation. It looks fabulous now, but still has the rustic air about it. They also have done, as you might expect, quite a bit of landscaping. I try and visit them whenever I go back there, they are really friendly.
So anyway, since I lived there for some 23 years it is no wonder that I ended up back in the country.
That is my Throwback Thursday!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

Since I likely won't have time to do much posting in the next few days here is your Merry Christmas card from me to you; courtesy of Ellen and her sunny smile.

May you have the greatest Christmas yet. Remember the reason for the season, clear your heart from all resentments and regrets, count your blessings, eat a little, laugh a lot and remember to rejoice always.

Please note: a Christmas photo from the dairy isn't complete without a hint of dairy-ness. Check out my husband's work boots by the back door in the upper left hand corner of the picture. Is that not hilarious!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rosie and her red calf

Yesterday morning I went up the road to do the feeding and Rosie wasn't there with the herd. She gave me quite a scare because I didn't think her udder was big enough for her to be close to calving, but finally, after I'd driven all around the pasture, in the half-dark mind you, dodging limbs and stumps and all, I found them; Rosie and her calf. I was so relieved to see her standing up and with a live calf standing next to her I almost cried.

Yes, it's a little heifer calf, and RED like her mother. A little bit darker red, but red just the same. Rosie doesn't have much of an udder, as you can see in the picture, so unfortunately she might become a cull later on down the line, but for now I am just happy she didn't croak in calving and that she had a red heifer that I am not going to worry about that.

I couldn't get the camera to cooperate with me, so that is why Rosie has this demented gleam in her eye-the flash kept going off, but all in all the pic came out OK. Aren't they pretty?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gettin' a Christmas tree-hillbilly style

Yesterday morning husband says: " We need to get a Christmas tree for Ellen. Today would be a good day. I'll get the 4-wheeler and the saw out and you can go get it. Men aren't any good at picking out Christmas trees" So he took Ellen up to his mom's and I, being the dutiful wifey, went out and got the tree. He saw me coming buzzing back up the road and laughed and laughed. What a wonderful romantic my husband is.
Look at my hair! It certainly looks like I went for a long ride on the 4-wheeler, doesn't it. Ha! It, my hair, always frizzes out in humid weather, and it has been kind of humid here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cookie Face

For want of anything trenchant to write today; not that I EVER have anything trenchant to write, here is one of the latest Ellen photos. What joy a child has in being totally oblivious to appearances...just enjoy your food, make the most of it and what doesn't make it into your mouth...wear it with pride!
(Actually, it isn't a cookie she was eating, it was one of those teether biscuits.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Various News Items

The past few days have been busy.

On Thursday we had to move our heifer herd from Windyville back here to the farm...well, just up the road from the farm here, so husband can take them hay with the tractor. We have a winter pasture we put them in; they still had plenty of grass in the summer pasture in Windyville, but weatherfolks are predicting possible 6 inches of snow this weekend; it's not fun driving a bale of hay 5 or 7 miles or so every couple of days-especially on icy steep roads.

So we spent a couple of hours driving back and forth transporting 18 beasts to their new winter home. Two of them were bred so we put them back in with the bull and his heifers. The rest went into the winter pasture.

It is funny to watch them react when you put new critters in with an established herd. They get all huffed up and posture and headbutt to establish who will be boss cow-or heifer. They duck their heads, headbutt and go round and round kicking up mud and grass until someone gives in.

On Friday we had a calf die. She'd been draggy for a couple days, but we'd previously treated her and husband says if they're going to die they are going to die and no use to pour expensive drugs down them when they are going to croak anyway and even if they didn't they'd likely not be good milkers. So, #91 is now keeping a tryst with the coyotes down in the bottoms. Alas.

In better news; also on Friday I took Ellen in for her 9 month check-up. Doc says she looks great and we will be fighting off the boys in a few years. Ha. She is 29.4 inches long (90th percentile) and weighs 22.14 pounds (95th percentile). At this point she falls into the catagory of a big and tall baby...ha ha.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sourdough Bread Recipe

Sourdough Bread

7 cups bread flour or all purpose flour-divided (*see my note below on making dough)
2 cups warm water (105 degrees F-110 degrees F)
1 cup sourdough starter
1 ½ packages active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal (if you don’t have cornmeal, just regular flour will do OK in a pinch)

Making the Dough

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and set on medium speed, combine 2 cups flour, water, sourdough starter, yeast, salt and sugar; beat for 2 minutes. (I just use a wire whisk to start out with, then as the dough gets thicker, graduate to a wooden spoon, or whatever else “feels” right at the time. I tried using an electric mixer and dough hook and couldn’t keep the dough from crawling up the hook into the mixer. Maybe I need more practice)

With the mixer on low, add 2 cups more flour, a little at a time, until combined. Increase speed to high; beat until smooth and sticky, about 3 minutes longer. With the mixer on low, beat in an additional 2 cups flour, a little at a time.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead in remaining flour, a little at a time, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (*I don’t knead in the whole last cup of flour because it seems to make the bread too heavy and dense. I usually try and just use 6 cups of flour in the dough instead of 7, but maybe it depends on the weather-humidity-and/or time of year.)

Oil a large bowl; transfer dough to the bowl, turning once to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; set in a warm place and let dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Somewhere I learned the best way to do the raising is to boil a pot of water then put it in the oven with the dough while dough is rising. It keeps the oven warm and gives it the right humidity, I guess. Anyway, it’s how I do it.)

Making the Bread

Punch down dough; divide in half. Sprinkle cornmeal onto a large baking sheet. Shape each piece of dough into a smooth, tight ball. Transfer each ball of dough to the baking sheet; cover with a towel. Let dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Preheat over to 400 degrees F. With a sharp knife make four ¼ inch deep slashes in a crisscross pattern on each loaf.

Bake bread until golden brown, about 40 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (Maybe it’s just my oven, but I only bake the bread for 20-25 minutes and it comes out just as done. When I bake it for the full 40 minutes it’s almost burned.)

Easy peasy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fire and Ice

In tribute to what those in Oklahoma and other areas of the Mid-West are going through, here is a poem from one of the masters of poetry, along with a couple of photos I took from our ice storm back in January. I feel badly for those who are going through it now, I remember quite vividly how horrible it was to be without power. We were without power for 9 days and it was awful. We had to milk using a generator, and we went down to husband's mom's place to sleep. It stayed cold-well below freezing-for so long and the ice didn't melt and the limbs kept falling and we had to slip and slid around on the ice doing chores. A veritable nightmare.
The first pic is a shot of husband's granddad's place and the damage to their shade oak tree. It has recovered a bit by now, but it's still sad. The second pic is some dogwood buds on ice.
Robert Frost had it right; ice is great for destruction...

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost

Monday, December 10, 2007

It always happens....

Whenever we have a storm of some kind we get a calf.

We are now kind of in the middle of a freezing rain episode. We got some Saturday night, a bit yesterday, some last night and this moring and we are supposed to get more tonight and tomorrow. What is saving us from a great deal of headache is that it warms up above freezing during the day, so much of it melts off and the roads, so far, are clear. This is a VERY good thing because we NEED to milk truck to be able to make it and pick up the milk. If he doesn't we are supposed to dump the milk because he's not supposed to get milk that has been in the tank for more than 2 days. Husband says sometimes they allow it if the weather has been really cold like this, but we have a fairly small tank that only holds a bit over 2 days worth.
Anyway; back to the calf. This morning husband takes hay up the road to the dry cows and finds bull calf. He is back snug and dry under a cedar tree but as soon as husband comes over to inspect calf jumps up and takes off into the freezing rain. We went up to get him later this afternoon and he is looking rather sorry for himself. We put him in a calf house in a pile of hay and hope he will dry off.
In the meantime, I have another batch of sourdough bread in the oven raising. This is with a different starter recipe. I am hoping it works. I shall have to post the actual bread instructions.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's been a few days...

Haven't spent much time on the computer lately. Guess I got burnt out after the NaBloPoMo run. But it was fun.

Yesterday we had a little calf rodeo here. Had to wean 3 of them and put 2 more in the bigger pen. While we were catching on of the weaners another one took a flying leap over the dilapidated fence and landed in the muck back by the barn where the cows stand"produce" after they have been milked. Dunno why they don't go back out to the field, but no, they just stand and make a deep swamp of unmentionable things. So anyway, the calf lands smack dab into this green swamp, on her side. Husband and I just stand there watching her flail around and get covered in muck. *sigh* For a minute there we were thinking she was going to be stuck in it, but no, she got up and went trotting triumphantly off with the cows. They, however, wouldn't have anything to do with her. Then somehow, while we were taking another calf to the weaner pen, this first calf gets under the electric fence and takes off running up and down the fence. Really, there isn't too much danger of one escapee getting out and running off; they tend to stick close to the herd, be it a group of other calves or a herd of cows.

So hubby gets the 4-wheeler and chases the calf down. When we catch her, of course, he has to pen her down and get the rope over her head. He got covered in muck doing this and wasn't happy with the calf. Of course she had it all over her head and neck as well, so the rope needed a good scrubbing.

Then last night, when I went to bottle feed them, another calf had gotten out somehow and I had to get her back into the pen. It wasn't hard though because she came looking for me. They know when it's feeding time and they will do pretty much anything to get their bottle. But, of course, in doing that she rubbed all the muck all over me. So I guess husband and I were even.

Really, we need to fix that fence.

Friday, November 30, 2007

November's Final Blog: the homestead

For some reason this always fascinates me so I will go ahead and post about it.

On the ridge back behind us hubby actually owns the original homestead that his great grandfather (I think) built here back in the late 1800s. This is a picture of it. The middle building is the house, the building on the right was used as a chicken shed and the building on the left was...I dunno, I forget. There is a barn, but it's off to the left of the pic a bit. The large tree on the left was a pecan tree, but it was demolished in the Jan 07 ice storm, a heartbreak to me. The pecans were really good, if you could get any from the varmints. The fallen tree is also a pecan and is actually still alive, it bears pecans every year.
The property has not always been in the family. Back in the early 1900s it was sold to two sisters who actually lived on it and farmed it up until 1968. A few years after that time one of the daughter's of one of the sisters sold it back to my husband because she knew it used to be in the family. Husband also has the deed history records for it. It is interesting to read how it changed hands over the years.
There is no electricity or running water on this place. The creek is actually quite a little hike from it, down the ridge a ways. Keep in mind that electricity did not reach this area until sometime in the 60s. Hubby remembers when it came in and how excited his mother was to get a washing machine. He also remembers carrying water from the spring for household use.
And that is the end of my NaBloPoMo posting. Next year I will try and post every day for sure. I joined too late to do so this year anyway.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Just another day...

The two days that hubby was gone went smoothly. Neighbor did a really good job, and had fun I think. The cows seemed to like him. This isn't always the case. Sometimes they don't like new people and won't let down their milk for them. Cows are funny that way; funny-weird, not funny-haha.

So of course on Tues we have a cow who has a calf. Another heifer. That makes 61 heifers for us, in a total herd, including two bulls, of 101. I think hubby said he was milking 38 cows now.

So anyway. We got a new calf on Tues AM. Today we went down and got cow and calf. And, lo and behold, there is another cow in labor. So we brought her up too. Dunno if she's calved or not. Hubby will check on her later.

That's it for today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dead Mouse Plant

In an effort to find something to blog about today here is a picture of my most unusual house plant.

I like having house plants here, it gives me something green to look at inside the house. However, with regards to inside plants, my thumb is not as green as I would like it to be. My husband's aunt gave me a couple of plants when I first came here; an aloe and this plant. I have, to my great joy and disbelief, managed to keep the aloe alive. It has grown quite a bit over the past 3 years since I have been here. I need to repot it but am not sure how to go about it. It has propagated quite a bit so there is a little flock of teeny aloes in the pot as well.

Husband's aunt propagates these other plants. They go by several names: Starfish plant, Starfish Cactus, Hairy Giant Starfish Flower, Carrion Flower. Also: Stapelia Noblis. I just call it the dead mouse plant. It is a succulent, not a cactus, and is pretty easy to care for, much like an aloe, though it needs much more water than an aloe plant. The starfish plant is native to South Africa and is pretty easy to grow.
It generally blooms in the fall; October or November, but this year for some reason it bloomed in August and then again in October. The flowers stink to high heaven; like a dead rodent, and last for 2-3 days. If you put the plant in the sunlight, or in a warm place the stench gets even stronger. It attracts all sorts of flying insects.
That is my blog for the day.
By the way, for some reason the comment section isn't functioning for me; it keeps kicking me out, so that is why I haven't been able to respond to all the comments. Keep them coming though.
Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Barn warmer

With temperatures dipping well down below freezing every night, it gets really cold in the barn. Not even all the hot cow exhaust helps. Here is my husband's solution.
He used to heat the barn with an old cast iron stove that took two of us much trouble to move in and out of the barn. It had lots of moving parts to take off and put back on and it was super heavy. We had to be really careful moving it because I guess cast iron is so brittle. So last year husband made this.
He used to drive the bus for the local school system and at the bus barn they would have old bus wheels he'd buy really cheap. He took three of those, welded them together and then concocted round ends, a door, handle, draft...etc from scrap steel he has around. You can't see it really well in the picture but the little draft is a round piece of steel welded onto a nut on a large bolt. The whole shebang works really well. It is much, much easier to move in and out. He does it by himself using a dolly.
I thought it was pretty ingenious.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Yes, that's right; 14,600+ consecutive times my husband has milked his herd. That's over 20 years of non-stop dairy-ing.

Twice a day every day. No vacations. No overnighters to the big city. No breakfast in bed. No sleeping in past 4 AM. No evening at the movies. No getting further from home than you can drive back between milkings. FOR OVER 20 YEARS!!!
Tomorrow it all ends.
Well, for a couple of days anyway. Ha.
For the next couple of days he is going to go out of town. He will leave really early and be back really late each evening, so we are having our saint of a neighbor come over and do the milking. I will still do my calf feeding and graining up the road and do the washup as well, but the neighbor will do the milking.
This should be interesting.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


In going through my photo files to find something to post I ran across this picture. This is the building where I used to work. It went by a couple of names; the Justice Center, or as we called it: MCDC. Multnomah County Detention Center. The very top 5 rows of windows belong to Portland Police, their entrance was at the back of the building. The rest of the building was the jail, with the entrance you can see here in this pic. This was the main jail in Portland; one of 5 jail facilities at the time I was there. Yes, the jail population in Ptlnd OR averaged about 1,200 per day, give or take a few, it depended on funding for jail beds. That is more than the population of half this county I live in. When hubby told me this county had not long ago built a nice new jail that would house more than 30 inmates I rolled around on the floor laughing almost. What's really freaky is that they have a whole floor for just the sex offenders.

What does this have to do with the dairy? Ummm..not much, but I am getting desperate for something to post. I was thinking that I would so much rather deal with cows and cow pies and calves and barbed wire fences than inmates and their cranky attorneys. "My client didn't get enough credit for time served on his sentence." "My client says he should have gotten good time and work time credits." Or the inmates themselves: "I'm gonna sue your @#%&* if you don't let me out of here!" Blah, blah, blah.

Yes, it's been 3 years since I left there and the memories just make the smell of cow pies all that much sweeter.

*Edited to add....ahhh, yes. As 26035 noted in the comments but I didn't have time to write about last night; it brings up tons of fun memories too. But I will have to post them later: the baby is squalling right now.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Steel Corral

In an effort to find something to post about; here is just a random picture of the holding corral in back of the milk barn. The calf just happened to be in there when I took the pic; she was just separated from the cow.

Initially when I came hereto the dairy I thought nothing special of it. I mean, a corral is a corral is a corral; right? Well, from all the comments that visitors make about it I guess it is a rather nice corral. Even the veterinarian made a comment about how nice it is.
My husband is pretty handy with steel. Collecting steel is his hobby, or one of them anyway. So over the years he has been working on this corral; setting the round steel pipes in as posts and welding the square pipes as rungs, or cross bars, or whatever you call them. There are three separate holding areas in this corral; you can swing the gates around to create one, two or all three at will. It makes it easier to separate out a specific cow when you need to move her somewhere else.
Just last month we finally cemented the pen where the calf is standing. He is also going to use that to keep the heifers that are going to calve for the first time.
There you are; another fascinating post from the dairy. : )

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Hey. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Here is a turkey that was just passing through last spring. Well, we had a flock of them that wandered around the place here. I haven't seen many around here for a few months now. Mostly they like it down in the bottoms I guess.

As pertains to the dairy we love having the wild turkeys come and visit. They like to scratch the cow pies apart to eat the undigested corn and that way the cow pies do a better job of fertilizing. Otherwise they just dry up and kill the grass. Sorry, when you live on a dairy every subject of conversation can turn into something about one kind of cow product or another.

We have a guy who comes out and hunts turkey during hunting season. When he gets one he will usually bring us some. It can be tough, but I season it with tenderizer and then coat it and fry it; instead of chicken fingers I make turkey fingers. It turns out pretty well. I am not much into wild game, but it's OK sometimes I guess.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

To name or not to name....that is the question

( Here is a picture of S.E. -who is no longer with us. This was right before she calved and as you can tell she was a victim of hundreds, if not thousands, of years of breeding to get bigger udders on cows. But more on that later perhaps. I took this pic to get a shot of her markings; an upside down baseball mitt catching a ball. It's not real clear in this pic, but you can kind of see it.)

OK-so once again I fell down on the NaBloPoMo job by not posting yesterday-it's amazing how life gets in the way of my hobbies...ha ha.

Since I haven't prepared what I want to post I will just go from a comment C left and talk about naming cows.

I think I have mentioned in a previous post that I try to avoid naming or getting attached to them at all costs because you never know when one is going to croak or go bad on you. The first calf I lost I cried over and she was only about 3 weeks old. And in fact in the past 3 years since I have been here and maybe longer than that we have had new heifer problems. We raise our own heifers, husband hasn't bought any cows or calves in ages and he's been in the business for about 20 years, and it would seem that milker quality has been going downhill. Husband says he's going to start calling the place Three-Tit Farms, because many of the new heifers' udders only operate on 3 spigots, as it were, or else they start off w/ mastitis, which is bad news and usually means a trip to the auction. The last few heifers have been pretty good, so we are hoping things are looking up. We went with a different bull breeder this past go-round and are hoping that improves things.

Anyway, back to naming, or not. If a cow or calf has an official name around here it is because we registered her w/ the Holstein Association. So Red Rosie, my ID pic calf on NaBloPoMo-who is actually due to calve here in a month or so-is registered, otherwise I probably wouldn't have named her either. For all we know she could die calving, which happens occasionally. She is officially #G32, and just here a month or two ago #G23 had a breech presentation and died-well, husband had to shoot her.

However, so many of the cows have their own personalities and thus they get named in spite of our no name resolve. Usually it's initials; S.E. (Split Ear-she lost her ear tag); UK, UK1, UK2, UK3 (all of which stand for UnKnown-they lost their eartags too!), BOF (Bump on Foot), BOB (Bump on Bag), UT (Udder Tilts) or RC (Renegade Cow). Then there are the trait names: Messy (Red Rosie's mother-she leaves a most generous pile in the milking parlor almost every time), Fluffy (story about her name in an earlier post), Pee-Wee (self explanatory) and The Black Witch. This last one nearly creamed my husband as he was trying to pull her calf and she was a terror her first year of milking; kicking, squirming, butting around in the milking parlor.
OK, I am going to stop for today.
Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sourdough Starter

As requested; here is the recipe for the sourdough starter. It's pretty easy. This is verbatim from the book, however, I usually just use all purpose flour and tap water and it seems to work as well.

Sourdough Starter

1) In a large bowl combine 1 ½ cups bread flour, ½ cup rye flour, ½ package active dry yeast and 2 cups bottled spring water. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let sit at room temperature for 3 days. The mixture will bubble, smell slightly sour, darken slightly and collect a watery liquid on top.
2) On the fourth day, stir in ½ cup flour and ½ cup water; repeat on the 5th day. Use starter in bread dough or refrigerate in a sealed container.
3) For longer storage, once a week remove 1 cup starter; replace with ½ cup flour and ½ cup water.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Yum yum yum...

What's the only thing that can match the smell and taste of something chocolate straight from the oven?

Sourdough bread!

This is my newest talent. I found a recipe for a sourdough starter and tried it and was hooked! Notice that one loaf is missing a slice or two. I cannot resist; I take it straight from the oven and get the knife and the butter and enjoy. I love it when it's hot and crusty. It makes great toast later on too. After making my own I really don't care for storebought sourdough much anymore. What is it about homemade food that spoils you for storebought?!
In the dairy business: we got another little heifer calf yesterday, but nothing remarkable happened in bringing her and the cow in. I am glad it's a heifer calf. This past week we weaned two calves, which takes me down to 5 on the bottle. This will make 6. But I have another one to wean on the 23rd and then another on Dec 4th. So I need more heifers to keep me in the calfkeeping business.
Well, the baby is fussing. Until tomorrow...

Friday, November 16, 2007


Another day, another post. At times I can think of a dozen things to post, at other times I can't think of a thing. Today is one of the latter. I try to post things pertaining to the dairy, rather loosely at times I admit, but it is hard because things tend to be pretty dull around here for the most part.

Here is a pic of sunset on the dairy a couple of days ago. The wind mill is non-functional except for creating ambiance. It does a good job at that. This scene was much more impressive in person. Not to mention by the time I raced into the house and got the camera it had faded a bit.
Well, hopefully by tomorrow I will have something more interesting to post.
Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mama Cat and Matilda

Way back in the fall of '04 when I moved here I went through a rather tough time having left job, family, friends and everything else familiar behind in Portland. I had for 12 years lived where I couldn't have any pets, so here in the country one thing I wanted again was a pet; specifically a cat since we live way too close to the 55 MPH highway for a dog.
I also had the idea that I would create a kind of compost pile out behind the house. This was until I realized that nothing would stay there and compost due to 'possum, skunk, 'coon visitors. But then one dark evening when I was coming back from the barn there was this little ghost that flitted away from the compost pile. I would see it off and on and eventually it became used to me and would just hide behind a tree and mew until I left.
We finally discovered it was a fluffy yellow cat that would sleep up in the hay during the day. One sunny morning in late winter or early spring I saw it up there and went and got some leftover chicken. Before you could say "Purrrrr" I had a pet. My husband's take on it: "It's probably a female, not fixed." Ha! Funny husband!
In a few months I had 3 kittens out in the garage behind a pile of old tires! Two went to a little neighbor girl. One stayed. I named her Matilda. She and Mama Cat had the most fun playing and cavorting around. There is nothing like a cat ballet to remind you how earthbound you are as a human.
In the spring of 2005 Mama Cat disappeared for good. I strongly suspect coyotes and for that reason have hated them ever since. A friend told me that light colored cats do not last long where there are coyotes around.
Matilda is about 2 1/2 years old, so she has managed quite nicely to evade predators. It still bothers me though, but she just isn't an inside cat, doesn't like it much except during winter. She is colored like a bobcat and blends into the background well. I hope she stays around for a long time. Even though I have a baby to care for now, I still love my cat.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hay for Winter

Here is a picture of about half of our 2007/2008 winter hay supply. It is hard to believe that the girls go through so much hay. In a picture you can't really get the overwhelming sense of how MUCH hay is here, and how tall it is. But over on the left edge you can see a piece of our goose-neck stock trailer and truck.
Anyway, this particular hay shed is a pussy cat's dream retreat. Any stray cat in the neighborhood shows up here eventually; much to Matilda's ire. She is intolerant of any other feline trespassers. But I will have to tell Matilda's story in a different post.
This hay stack also attracts all kinds of varmints; you can see at the bottom the little triangular holes between bales. These make great dens for skunks and 'possums.
(BTW-I was tagged by Michelle at NaBloPoMo, but since I don't really have that many friends who I'd feel comfortable tagging there, I will just give you a link to her site, which is really cool; she does cards and crafting and such.)


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Typical Monday and a Little Beauty

(OK. I joined NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month)-meaning I am supposed to post every day for November, but I haven't been doing a very good job of it. I joined late so I guess it doesn't matter for this year anyway.)

Yesterday my husband had one of those Mondays. On Sun evening at milking time he noticed that our expectant heifer was acting funny, so he rounded her up and got her in a pen by the corral. At 2:30 AM he dons his boots and heads out to check up on her. Sure enough, she's got a calf, but somehow it has slipped UNDER the corral and Mama Cow is having a fit to get to it. So he has to drag the calf around, in the dirt and whatnot, and rearrange portable cattle panels so cow and calf can be reunited and not mix with the rest of the herd. In the process one of the panels falls down on the back of his leg. He comes back to bed and tells me nothing of what's gone on. At breakfast a couple hours later he tells me we have a healthy heifer calf, but, he says, she's kind of a funny color. At 2:30 AM it's hard to tell what color anything is, even with flashlights.
When he goes back out to milk the calf has once again got to somewhere she shouldn't be so he has to drag her around again. In the process he strains his back. Sigh.
But never mind his problems (he's OK by now); look at the calf. Isn't she a beauty?! Her dam and sire are both black and white Holsteins, but she is red with pretty black highlights. To me she looks like she got into her mom's mascara and used it on her lips as well. What happened is that a couple cow generations ago we had a bull whose sire was a registered Red Holstein. Every once-in-awhile those genes pop up unexpectedly. We have one other red heifer from this and she is about to calve here in a month or so. But she is completely red, not like this little gal.
Anyway, we are hoping this calf retains this coloring and that she thrives. Normally we make sure NOT to name them, but she needs a name I believe. I am not good at naming calves much; with great lack of originality I named the other red heifer; Red Rosie.
Any suggestions....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A typical Friday

Yesterday was pretty typical.

After I got my husband his cornflakes at 4 AM, I took another nap on the sofa until 5:30 AM. Then I got up, got the baby up, gave her a bottle, bundled her up and went out to do chores. I fed the calves...etc. Then I came in, got ready and went grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping...I hate it. I would rather go to the dentist. Since I still have no cavities at age 39, I really WOULD rather go to the dentist than go grocery shopping. My husband doesn't quite understand why I hate grocery shopping, but he has never gone in his whole life so how could he?

After I came home, put everything away, ate lunch and was resting, in came husband with a request; go see if you can get that cow into the corral so we can get her and her calf.

So somewhere along the line I find myself up in the dry cow pasture ACROSS the fence on the neighbor's property hanging on to the leg of a bull calf that is trying to kick the liver out of me, with my husband on the walkie talkie asking me if I am making any progress. Then of course, I shimmy around and get the rope on the calf and it has to do a poop (calf poop is nasty...believe me). In the process of trying to wrangle it back through the barbed wire fence I end up with calf poop on my good jeans because I forgot to change when I came back from town, and then in going over the fence myself I get hung on the barbed wire, with a calf tugging at me.

Finally I get over unstuck from the wire and start the fun process of trying to convince the critter to go toward the corral. Husband shows up with the truck and trailer and says, hey you did make good progress.

Thanks Dear.

Typical Friday

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sea Fever

There are times when the whole Mid-West thing gets to me. Maybe it's just the time of year when I feel melancholy and wistful anyway. But having grown up on the coast sometimes I feel landlocked here, suffocated by all the miles and miles of land surrounding me. Then I would give my eyeteeth for a day on the North West Coast, where it's wild and rugged, where the gulls scream and sail over the waves and you can look down on them from the cliffs and see the whales in the water spouting as they migrate.

At times like these this poem comes to mind:

Sea Fever
by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sails shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume and the seagull crying.

I must go down to the sea again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife:
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Four Seasons and my floor

The other day as I was sweeping for about the 3rd time that day I realized that I can almost always tell what season it is by what I am sweeping up off the floor.

This is fall. I am now sweeping up dead flies. These are the flies that sit out on the back door and porch waiting for us to go in or out so that they can come in and drive us nuts. Husband and I walk around with swatter in hand killing them by the dozens. After husband has been through doing his fly massacre duty I also have to mop after I sweep; he has his special trick of swatting once then swatting again to make sure the fly is dead. When he does his second swat he does this swat-and-drag technique that leaves a cute little red trail on the floor. Ick.

In winter I generally am sweeping hay off the floor; the hay that comes out of husband's pants cuffs. He cuffs his pants before he puts on his boots. After he is through putting out hay he comes in, takes off his boots on the back porch but uncuffs his pants in the kitchen.

In spring I am usually sweeping either mud or grass clippings off the floor, depending on the weather. If it's rainy it's mud, if it's dry we have usually been mowing.

Summer. This can involve mud and grass clippings too, but also various bits of leaves, roots or vines from produce from the garden that I have been dragging in to process.

Year round we both have bits of grain and feed dropping from our clothing. It is funny how you can get feed up your sleeves or in your shoes and not even know it.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Varmints on the dairy-raccoons

Here is a situation I never expected to have on a dairy farm: trouble with coons. Now don't get me wrong, we live in the country and I expected them to be around. Coons are everywhere. In fact, they were very much present in downtown Portland even. I mean right in the center of town. Portland is very "green" I guess you would say, with lots of parks downtown. The coons were quite at home there and spent their nights in the dumpsters and in trash cans; they are pretty adaptable. But here on the dairy they make their living in quite a different manner. do I present this? Well, let's see. First off, just a piece of cow information. Cows don't digest the dried corn that they eat; it comes out the other end. And you can see where I am going from here. Coons love predigested corn...gross but true. So they goober through the cow pies and eat the corn.
This past spring and summer the coons were SO many of them my husband was nearly tripping over them in the cow lot; he'd be getting in a batch of cows to milk and have to wade in the coons seemed like. There is nothing a coon likes better than a freshly fallen cow pie. I kid you not, I saw it. I saw the tail raise, the chips fall and the coon scoot over to it with a look of glee and start goobering through it before the last chip had fallen. Gross but true.
So anyway, where do these dratted coons head after their poo pillaging? Right over to the calves feed bunk; as this picture proves. And see the water tub beyond...yep over there too. Do they wash their paws before piling into the calf water and feed? You bet they don't. Do you know what a nasty mess 8-10 coons (yes, that was how many were out there at one point, a couple of families) can make in a feed bunk and in that little water tub? ARGH! We unfortunately had to do some weeding out of coons.
Now, though there is one at least that gets up on TOP of the barn and tries to chew into the door to the grain loft. My husband says it certainly isn't squirrel poo that is left up there and the chew marks are pretty big too.
My mother in law just lost a chicken last week too, in broad daylight (well it was about 5:30 PM, before time change). They think it was a coon. There must be a food shortage or something. I have heard that the coons have been bad everywhere this year. I hope they simmer down soon.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

What happened last weekend

Last weekend we had a couple of escapes. Those are always fun to deal with.

Early last Saturday morning I went up the road to do my feeding. To feed the heifers and bull I go part way up my husband's granddad's driveway (which is about 1/4 mile long) and go into the corral through a gap we cut in the fence. So I head up there and what do I see but a cow standing in the middle of the driveway. She was one of the newer heifers to come fresh about a month ago. I walked up to her and petted her. She was just puzzled as to where the rest of the herd had gone. Husband sends them up that way at night. Somehow this one just managed to get through a gate that had come down in some way. It was kind of strange that she was the only one to get out. But you never know when it might happen. They have a tendency to rub their chins or heads on the gate latches and open them by accident. Anyway, I had to go tell hubby; we came back down later and kind of herded her back in a different gate.

On this past Monday I was in the middle of doing clean up in the barn when I took the nasty water from the overflow tank outside to toss. I looked up and saw this weird black and white dog running across the front yard up by the highway. It was one of those split second things where you think about a dozen things all at once: "weird dog...kind of big...might be dangerous if it decided to chase calves...better go chase it off...oh, wait...husband is behind it on 4-wheeler, already chasing's coming this way....WAIT...IT'S A CALF, NOT a dog! HA!!

Yep, husband had been moving calves from one pen to another and one got away from him. She led him a merry chase on the 4-wheeler until she ran straight into a fence, he leaped off 4-wheeler and tackled her. I brought him the rope. She was fine...the fence now has a dent in it...the wires are all bent in. Ha!

You never know what to expect.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Odds and Ends

Well, I have had quite a few things I wanted to post this week, but not much time. Here is a start to it.

On Monday I took a walk down to the river. I met a couple of box turtles out for a last stroll before winter themselves. Here is one of them. The other was shy.

I hadn't been down there since before the ice storm last January and was overjoyed to find my favorite sycamore tree was spared. The picture doesn't do it any justice; it's huge.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cooking on the Dairy-Chapter Two addendum

Zucchini Pie

This happened just about 2 weeks ago. I decided that I would use up some of the zucchini that I so painstakingly peeled, deseeded and sliced back in early summer. Mostly I use it for this zucchini pie recipe that we like; once it's all done it tastes almost exactly like apple pie. (I very much miss having apple trees.)

So happily humming to myself I make the crust, thaw the zucchini, measure the spices, stir, stir, stir it all up and assemble; confident in my ability to cook this simple dessert. At the appropriate time I take it out of the oven; sniff, sniff, ahhhh the aroma.

Time for dessert after supper; I slice it and put a generous serving on my husband's plate. A piece lands on my hand, I taste it.


"Dear," I say. "I think I did something wrong."

"What?" he asks. "Did you forget the sugar?"

"Ummm, yes, I did."

Well, ever the optimist, especially when it comes to dessert, my husband takes a nice big bite. It almost immediately lands on the plate again. Ha.

"Ewww," he says, "it tastes almost like green persimmon."

Yep, it sure did. See, to give zucchini pie that tart apple tang you have to add a wee tad of lemon juice to the mix. *sigh*

The possums ate well that night.

Note to self: when making pie of any type, be sure to add the sugar.

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Cooking on the Dairy-Chapter Two

This unfortunately won't be as amusing as my gelatin caper story. It has taken me so long to post this because I wasn't able to make it into a funny story, mostly it is just odds and ends.

More blunders:

My mother says I have always been the type of person who wouldn't try to do anything unless I was sure I was doing it correctly. I guess that is true. I haven't really made too terribly many blunders in cooking, but then again I am only a bit less than 3 years along in my marriage and cooking career. So, I am sure there are more blunders on the way. Here are the ones that stick out in memory.

About 2 years ago I was making scalloped taters and read the recipe wrong. Please note: a whole tablespoon of pepper will totally ruin your scalloped potato casserole.

My mother in law has this apple salad recipe that she makes. It involves chopped apples, raisins and mini marshmallows. The dressing is Miracle Whip style salad dressing with sugar and a tad of vinegar. A bit after we first got married my husband requested this salad. My MIL told me the ingredients but I did not ask about quantities. I whipped it up; just adding and stirring as I went. When I tasted it I knew I had been too generous with the vinegar. Unfortunately I did not have another apple in the house but was determined to have this salad for supper. So I rinsed off all the dressing and started over. One of my friends said, "You rinsed off .75 worth of dressing to save .10 worth of apple." Ha!

Oops..the baby needs her bottle. Coming soon....zucchini pie.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ellen and Calves

Here's a cute picture; a nice break from all the stories.

Ellen and the calves were fascinated with each other while I did my little walk along the fence line.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Storage Building Story

This will be an interlude from dairy cooking while I cook up another story about my kitchen adventures. I actually wrote this well over a year and a half ago and friends found it entertaining...husband did not find it so entertaining for some reason, so if you know him and see him, just keep mum about it. Thanks! Ha!

It all started about 2 1/2 years ago when we realized that this modular home was not designed with any type of storage in mind. Down on the back of the ridge, built on a slope, my DH had a small 8'X10' building that he had constructed about 20 years ago, back before he had the sawmill or dairy. He'd hand sawn all the boards from oak and built it as kind of an office/hangout back in the woods. He had a small old sofa and dresser in there. Well, he figured he would move it up here for us to use as storage, though he was nervous about the whole process and kept putting it off. But he finally bit the bullet and moved it; quite a process involving the bulldozer, the dump-bed truck, and a couple different tractors with various attachments.

When it was finally in place my job started; and a nasty job it has been. The building hadn't been used in close to 15 years and had become the abode of generations of spiders and packrats. It was FULL of acorns, leaves, sticks and all kinds of nasty stuff. DH had had phone books and manuals and other boxes of things in there, but most of it was trashed. We had to haul the sofa and dresser out so I could get in there and clean. We did that on a Saturday, so they were sitting out all weekend until I was able to get to them on a Monday. The bottom of the sofa had a storage area for blankets, but it was all jammed with leaves and acorns and rat commas. We couldn't even open the dresser.

I started cleaning out the place; moving the few boxes and other stuff. I kept finding these weird looking spiders, but not being too freaked out by spiders I just squished them and moved on. Then DH comes in and sees me squish one and says; "Oh, that was a fiddle-back, otherwise known as a brown recluse." Great! Talk about the heebee jeebees. The place is crawling with them. I dreamed about them all night that night. Ick.

On Monday afternoon we took the old sofa and dresser out to the calf pasture for burning and burial, since they are way beyond repair; just soaked with rat urine...etc. But first DH thought that there might be something worth saving in the dresser drawers, so he gets the crow bar and pries them open one at a time. The first three are just CRAMMED with acorns and fluff from the sofa as well as tons of rat commas. Then we go to the fourth drawer and suddenly DH hops up yelling; "There he goes, there he goes!" And there went the hugest rat I have ever seen; he was as big as Matilda the kitten, at least as long, including his tail. DH said it was about a foot including the tail.

Well, DH is never one to suffer vermin to live so he just hurls the drawer at the rat; acorns, fluff and rat commas flying all over. Darn! He misses. So frantically he looks around for something, he grabs a large dead branch from the ground and the chase is on; around and around in a circle of maybe 20 yards. The poor rat is hopping and scrambling in unfamiliar territory, going in circles in the tall weeds. Not to be outmaneuvered is my gallant husband, who is galloping and scrambling around after it, whacking around in the weeds with the branch. I am standing in one spot alternately covering my eyes and watching the spectacle, yelling; "Oh, the poor thing, eeeww, there he goes, get him, get him!" The sad ending finally came; victory for DH, who stood there puffing and steaming in the cold fall air.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Cooking on the Dairy-Chapter One

This was going to be just one post, but I got bogged down with trying to tell everything all on one page, so I am going to make several posts out of my cooking stories. Here is the beginning:

When you are 36 and have been a never-married bachelorette for so long, you don’t really prepare the meals, they just kind of happen; soups, sandwiches, fruit, cereal and milk…etc. I rarely ever ate out, but at the same time I didn’t ever see the point of preparing full meals for myself either. Sometimes I would fix a casserole and freeze most of it to be taken for lunches at work, but for the most part I didn’t bother much in the cooking department. Also, for much of the 12 years I was in Portland, OR I didn’t live where I had access to my own kitchen, I either had to share with a bunch of others, or I only had a microwave and a stove top burner.
So when I got married back in the fall of ’04 I was pretty green in cooking to please myself, let alone someone else. I had visited my future in-laws and had been alarmed at the fancy things my future mother-in-law prepared; Cole slaw, deviled eggs, potato salad and Jell-O gelatin…Ha. When I found out I really was going to join the family I panicked and went frantically looking for recipes for such like as above. (Be advised; if you go on a panicked search of the web for recipes you will only find the weird stuff; deviled eggs with peanut butter, Cole slaw with pineapple…no plain simple everyday food.) Now my mom had fixed ‘tater salad quite often, but when I was a kid I never paid much attention to it. Living on my own I never bothered with it. As for Cole slaw and deviled eggs, my mom never bothered to fix them because we didn’t like them much and would never eat them. So. I did have a friend give me a recipe for the tater salad and deviled eggs, however the Cole slaw I had to figure out on my own. I also absolutely hated (still do) gelatin of any sort, but this is one of my husband’s favorite desserts; strawberry gelatin with bananas.

Not long after we were married I got the notion to fix him some of this concoction, but to make it fancy in a gelatin mold. So I got out the box of gelatin and gave the instructions the once over. Comfortably sure this was going to be a piece of cake, as it were, I boiled ¾ cup of water, mixed the powder gunk in and poured it into the mold. It didn’t look like it was going to make that much so I made another box of it and poured that into the mold as well. Hmmm… Even THAT didn’t look sufficient, but oh well, I just chucked it into the fridge to set anyway. I didn’t have any bananas at the time; I guess I thought he ought to be happy to be getting any of this nasty stuff from me at all. Well, after a reasonable amount of time I checked the progress of my goop in the fridge. Hmmm, it had a really rubbery consistency-like, close to like one of those clear rubber bouncy balls you find in a toy store. The box said to dip in warm water to loosen from the mold. Dutifully I dipped, but one dip didn’t seem to help this Rubbermaid look-alike loosen up. So I just left it for a moment and went and re-read the box. OHHHHHH!!! HA! HA! It helps to fully read the complete instructions! I needed lots more water. Oh, well. I turn back to my gelatin in the warm water….it isn’t gelled any more, it’s melted and watery with just a little island floating in the liquid! Double ha ha! So I just poured more water in it and stuck it back in the fridge. In the end, since I couldn’t get as much water as was needed for 2 boxes of the stuff in the mold, but after so much bother I went ahead and put it back in the fridge to set up again. It turned out really rubbery still, but edible. And my husband, being the good guy that he is, ate it anyway.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hot Diggity!! An Extra Fifty Minutes!!

For the past 26 years; even before my husband started the dairy, he has driven the school bus for the local school district. Yesterday he officially retired. This will mean many things for us, but uppermost on my mind is that we get to sleep in an extra 50 minutes in the mornings.

You see, in order to get the little kiddies to school on time he had to do the milking pretty early. For the past 26 years he has been eating his cornflakes at around 3:15 AM every morning on school days! When I came on the scene about 3 years ago the concept of a 2:55 AM arising was daunting. But I eventually adjusted; however groggy I was during the day. I take the occasional nap, but I never know when he might pop in and have me do something; oh, like drive the tractor to tow him on his motorcycle to get it going, or chase a wayward calf or whatever. There are no end of surprise chores on a dairy.

On the weekends, during school vacations and over the summer he still prefers to get done early with the milking and be able to get on with other things, so we still get up pretty early: 3:45 AM. But it is incredible the difference that 50 minutes makes, I am not half as tired and I don't really feel the need for long naps.

So, I am celebrating an extra 50 minutes of sleep; yes, sleeping in until 3:45 AM is a welcome luxury. The kids won't miss him for too long (so he says) and we won't be zombies during the day.

Hot diggity!!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Pregnant on the Dairy

(First off...thank you to everyone who has visited and commented. I appreciate it so much. Someone asked for more about the baby and DH. I will start with the beginning of baby and go from there...ha. You will get some of DH in the story. Usually I write these first in Word and go back and edit, but I am just going to put this in off the top of my head and maybe edit later. Here goes...)

The whole thing began with DH asking me a question: "Had any deep thoughts lately?" I told him we had best be thinking about whether we wanted to have a baby or not because the biological clock was ticking pretty loudly. This threw him for a loop. See, he was 47 at the time and I was 37. We had only been married for just over a year and THAT was a huge leap for both of us since we neither had been married before. At age 44 his sister was the youngest in his family and so he had no exposure to babies and their ilk. He wasn't sure what to say. But suffice it to say and to make a long story short...the deed was done and I found out I was pregnant back in early summer of '06.

I had never connected the dots between pregnancy and living on a dairy, but it wasn't long before the whole picture presented itself! It was early one morning when I was doing chores that it hit; hard! A cow back in the holding corral did a wee-wee. The smell was so strong that suddenly I found myself bent over holding onto a tree and hurling up my toenails. It only got worse from there. If you have ever visited a dairy you know that cows do much worse than pee. My husband got so he knew what was going on when he heard the barn door slamming. It was a wonder I didn't kill that tree. But maybe that's why it had such a great acorn harvest the next fall.

For the 1st 5 months of the pregnancy I was so nauseous that any strong smell would set me off. Just the smell of the fresh milk as I filled the bottles would gag me. Calf poo, fresh mown grass, warm fresh milk, the stupid skunk some stupid heifer decided to chase, the algae smell from the ponds...all the things I never thought about before, it's a good thing our dairy is so wooded. And whoever called it "morning sickness" really missed it by a mile. For me it was 24 hours a day. I had to leave my window shut at night because the wind would blow in some of the nastier dairy perfumes. Even then sometimes I'd roll over in bed at 11 PM and have to run to the restroom to hurl.

My husband was a never ending source of fun. Keep in mind he was totally new to any of this pregnancy or baby stuff. I didn't really get that big, but one of his comments was: "It's hard trying to keep pants up on a ball isn't it?" *sigh* He was always comparing cows and humans, too. Like: "Why is it you never see cows out hurling behind trees and bushes?" Dunno, that's a good question. I wanted to know that one myself. They seem to have an easy time of it.

That nine months seemed to last forever. Most of my friends had their first babies 2 to 3 weeks early; not me. I tried to prolong the discomfort for as long as possible. Finally I had to be induced. Miss Ellen came along in Feb of 07.

She was worth it all.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

More of What I Have Learned on the Dairy

As the years go on I keep learning new things here; not all of it has to do with bovines.
Here are a few more things. I will keep you posted as other things come up.

1) Cows can walk up stairs.
2) With the right motivation cows can walk backwards down stairs as well.
3) A pack rat is a very large beastie; close to the size of a squirrel.
4) An agitated pack rat running straight at you takes on the dimensions of a VW Bug.
5) A 24 hour old calf can outrun a 40 something year old male and leave him in the dust.
6) A 24 hour old calf can contain a lot more poo than you would think.
7) A 24 hour old calf is already an expert at sharing its poo; and is very generous at spreading it around.
8) Training a calf to take a bottle is a task to be dreaded.
9) A bull is an obnoxious, ornery, ungrateful, unpredictable, dangerous (...etc) wretch.
10) No matter how you shout, wave your arms, rev your 4-wheeler and otherwise make a fool of yourself in public, a bull in the middle of the highway will not move.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"It's Fluffy Time!"

When you live on a dairy for very long the first thing you learn NOT to do is to name the critters. You never know when one is going to croak, or when you will have to get rid of them; either BEFORE they croak on you, or because they have some kind of problem.

However, there are times when a name or a nickname just happens. This one calf came along back when I first started my calfkeeping gig here. My husband went by her house one morning and said, "That calf in the last house is sure fat and fluffy looking." And that is how Fluffy got her name.

Fluffy just had her first calf this Monday. My husband was out there at 9 PM, stripped to the waist because he had to pull the calf. Fluffy was in no mood to cooperate, so it was quite the ordeal. He got her in the trailer, but she decided she didn't want to be messed with so she went after him and he had to climb the side of the trailer to get away from her. Anyway, he finally got a live heifer calf out of he. But she was so worked up she didn't want anything to do with it much. We left them together, but I thawed a jug of colostrum and fed the calf in the AM. It did seem really hungry.

That evening comes to milk her for the first time. I guess every dairyman's nightmare is having to deal with the new heifers. They are a pain. Fluffy was no different. She went round and round out in the holding lot before she came stumbling in. She kicked and bucked and put up a fuss. He put one of those over the back kick-stoppers on her. But we finally got her milked.

Her second milking: she didn't want to come in for that either. She did the same round and round game, plus she added a few bucks and full kicks in for good measure; I mean her heels were higher than her head. She pulled this just as she was going in the door. She slipped, skidded into the milking parlor on her belly, her head and one forefoot came out from under the stall bars.

There is nothing like the sight of 700 lbs of agitated muscle, hide and bone coming out at you to make your adrenaline skyrocket! Ha. But she righted herself and did OK, though she did kick a bit.

Then this morning, DH wants me to finish feeding calves so I can be there for: "Fluffy Time!" as he called it. Ha. Well, she did OK, believe it or not. There is nothing a bovine likes better than the promise of feed. Hopefully she will continue to do well.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Insurance on the Dairy

For those of you who are self-employed I am sure you can relate to the whole insurance headache. My husband has a second part time job which insures us, but when our baby was born 7 months ago we decided to get her coverage from a different source. Then, since it worked so well, we decided to get it for me as well. Here is the abbreviated story on how THAT has gone:

The fun began in June of this year.

When he talked to the agent on phone to get a quote he, my Dear Husband, made me 2 inches taller than I am and got a quote for the Premium plan which was $236 p/mo. When I filled out the form I put my real height. Well, the agent calls back a couple days later and says when he turned the application in they had to adjust it because I am four pounds too fat for my height (well, he didn't say that, but that's what it comes down to; 4 lousy pounds) to qualify for the low rate Premium plan, and to keep it would be $262 p/ mo. DH didn't want that rate so he called in and said we wanted to change the plan to a gold plan, or some such I forget which. The agent says no problem, just ignore the letter that you will get here in a couple of days. OK.

So, we get the bill in July; it's for the $262 Premium plan still. I also get the insurance card for the Premium plan in the mail. Dear Husband calls the guy. “Oh,” says the agent, “I'll get back to you on it.” Never calls us back. So, DH calls the company and gets someone who says, “Oh you need to call this other number to change the plan over.” He calls it, gets someone who says, “Sure I'll get you set up, no problem, just ignore the bill and we will get something out to you in writing.” Nothing else came in.

August comes, along with the usual $262 premium bill. By this time DH is steamed. He calls again, gets someone who says, “I can fix that for you and the new rate is actually $197. No prob, just send in the $262 and we will apply it to this new rate and you won't owe anything.” Great!

Sept comes, along with the usual $262 bill. The very next day my new insurance card and a welcome to the $236 gold plan letter arrive. Two days later a bill for $472 comes, along with a letter saying we were 2 months behind on the $236 gold plan!! This was last week. (By this time even I, usually pretty contained about such things, am fed up.) DH called again and was again told it was all taken care of and that we only owe $10. I am not sure what happened to the $197 rate, but somewhere it disappeared.

This was enough to really send me into a daze, and the cows and calves had nothing to do with it. Ha. Until you are living the farm life you don't realize that the animals and the land and all won't be your only source of headache and worry.

Anyway, here's a pic of a cute calf to sweeten up this story.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Funny Calf

Here is another interesting calf we had last year, I believe.

This one was a bull, so we sold him, but he was funny. I think somewhere along the line he was missing a chromosome or two. My husband said the springs were just missing from his ears, but I think there was something more wrong.

He always had his tongue hanging out, though calves will do that off and on, but he was pretty consistent with it. Also his tail was kinked up. You can see that it is kind of short, but when I felt it some of the bones seemed fused.

Anyway, other than his appearance, he acted perfectly normal and the folks that buy our bull calves didn't seem concerned.

I am working on more halfway funny stuff to post but there's so much that I don't know where to start. Just keep tuning in.

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Blind Calf Story

This happened last month. I thought it was an interesting case.

Wed Aug 15th 2007 8:30 AM: Went out and brought new heifer calf and cow in from field. Not too sure how old calf was; umbilical cord sort of dried up, but calf still seemed damp. Left her with cow all morning ‘til maybe early afternoon, then separated them. Beautiful, normal calf.

6 PM Fed calf bottle. She slugged back the whole thing.

Thurs Aug 16th5:15 AM (approx) Calf comatose. Or as near as I could tell. She was on her side, non-responsive, drooling, head on ground, eyes closed or just barely opened. I tried to feed her bottle but she only swallowed convulsively once or twice, then milk just drained from her mouth.

5:30 AM. Husband went out and looked at her. Drug her out of pen and out of the way to be taken to boneyard later after chores were all done. She was barely breathing and as I said, totally non-responsive.This was a real grief as the cow she came from is a great milker and to get a heifer from her was a joy. But...

12 noon on Thurs. I came home from town and was astonished to see her sitting up looking around.

7 PM. She was very weak, but stood up and drank her whole bottle.

By the next day: She is blind! It is so weird. The calf is totally blind. She seems strong enough, gets up, slurps down her whole bottle, but her eyes are white, clouded over like. (see photo)

For the next two weeks she is blind and we don't bother to put her in a pen. She continues to gain strength and wanders around now, but stays pretty close to the other calves. She does get up and come bumbling toward me when she hears me out feeding them. It is funny to watch her; she walks really cautiously with her head stretched out, when she bumps into something she turns and goes another direction; kind of like one of those windup toys that turn when they hit a wall.
Fast forward to Sept. She has regained her sight and except for a strange opacity about her pupils you can't tell her from the other calves.
My husband thinks it was a fever that made her blind. But it was weird.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Genetic Hiccup

Here's a break from my stories....

This is a photo of a calf born back in March of '05. The mom is a b/w Holstein and so was the bull. But both of her grandfathers were registered red Holsteins.
With some lack of originality I named her Red Rosie. She is in with the bull to breed now. We are anxious that all goes well with her. It will be interesting to see if she has a red or b/w calf.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Off the Wall

This takes longer to write and to read than it did to happen, but read on and laugh if you must!

It started off as a regular, normal morning. I went out and did the AM chores as usual and was doing the wash-up after milking; where I run wash and rinse waters through the hoses and milkers. My husband, who drives a bus for the grade school, had left to start the bus and warm it up (he keeps it parked up by his mom’s place) and to check on his mother. I was in the middle of finishing the bleach rinse cycle when I took the plug out of the vat so the water wouldn’t go back up the intake hose and the milking hoses would clear out. As I leaned over to do so I casually laid my hand on the porcelain sink that we use to wash our hands; it is right next to the clean up vats. To my everlasting astonishment the sink just fell off the wall.
Now, this is a large older porcelain sink and rather heavy. However, it didn’t go kablooie, it just kind of bowed slowly away from the wall, like it was genuflecting to the milk tank in the middle of the room. As it fell one of the water lines broke and water started gurgling everywhere. For one split second I stood there in amazement; then I realized that the vacuum pump was still running and I needed to shut it off. For some reason it never occurred to me to try and prop the sink up, it was still only halfway to the floor, but I had to turn the vacuum pump off before it burned out. So as I was turning that off the sink collapsed the rest of the way to the floor, breaking the other water line attached to it. *sigh*
At this point reason left me and while I madly looked for a shutoff valve with the water gurgling happily over my shoes I started hollering my husband’s name off and on, as if he could hear me ¼ mile up the road. I ran from shutoff valve to shutoff valve along the waterlines; but this one went to the stock tank in the holding corral, this other went to the water hose into the milking parlor…etc. No luck. So in my panic I grab up the cordless phone and try to call up to his mom’s to ask him what to do. (The water by this time was just cleaning the concrete floor and swirling happily down the drain.) In my panic, I couldn’t for the life of me seem to remember how to use the cordless phone; I had the phone to my ear with one hand and was waving the headset (which was attached to the phone) around with the other. I think I got a busy signal, which sent me off into another level of panic. I slapped that phone down and ran *pant pant pant* back into the milking parlor to the phone on the wall there. I pick it up and start to dial when to my utter and unbelieving frustration I hear on the phone the swishing sound of water. **ARGH!** I hadn’t hung up the cordless! I ran *pant pant pant* back into the other room, make myself calm down enough to remember how to use the cordless and find out there really IS a busy signal. Double **ARGH!!**
Finally, after a quick check to make sure the baby is OK, she was blissfully sleeping in her carrier, on a high spot of the floor, I go charging out of the barn up to the garage, jump on the 4-wheeler, and roar up the road and get my husband; interrupting him from his donut.
To make a long story short; by the end of the day all was fixed and there was a shutoff valve in the barn as well as in the well house. Ha!
But we still can’t figure out how the sink worked its way UP off the brackets on the wall.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Dairy Realities

Prior to my marrying a dairy farmer and moving to the dairy I was ignorant of the majority of happenings on one. I grew up in rural California where my father had a cow, but she was sold when I was about 5, so beyond the very basics I knew nothing about the day to day conditions or events of running of a dairy farm.. In downtown Portland, where I lived for 12 years before moving to Missouri, one doesn’t see many dairies beyond one called the Belmont Dairy which is actually a large grocery store with spendy lofts for rent on the upper story. There are many dairies in rural Oregon, but I was not fortunate to have visited any of them and picked up any practical knowledge. So once I became an adult what I learned about dairies I learned from the cow commercials I saw on TV when I visited my mom back in California; Holsteins are immaculate, live in lush, knee deep grassy fields, where the bulls yak companionably and the cows chit chat like a group of gals gossiping over a steaming latte.
Then, upon arrival into day to day dairy living I was introduced to the facts of real dairy farming, which I had suspected was more likely the truth; cows don’t care where or what they lay in, or what their tails get coated with, dairy bulls are more likely to maim than to converse and, while bovines are herd animals and like company, they are quick to form a pecking order in the herd and will abuse those who are lower on the totem pole than themselves.
In cow commercials one does not see the vermin; ticks, flies and other parasites that inhabit the dairy along with the bovines. Keeping the cows disease free is quite the never ending chore; a constant worry and headache for the farmer. Speaking of which, the dairy farmers are also conspicuously absent from said commercials, or if present, are never shown slogging around in ankle deep mud in spring or slipping on the ice and snow in 10 degree weather in winter.
Once past such things however there are certainly fun tradeoffs in dairy farming. For one thing you are your own boss; you may lead a rigorous life, but there is no one standing over your shoulder harping about customer service or productivity. There is a certain magic at 5 in the morning when the moon is full and the owls are querying into the early morning air. At 2 in the afternoon when it’s 105 degrees outside you can jolly well go take a dip in the river and there is none to say you nay. Oh, yes, the calves and their knock-kneed charm. There is no escaping the fact that the calves are the most exasperating and fun element of dairy farming. It is less than charming to get slobbered on by them, but watching their capers it is easy to fall under their spell of fun and carefree joy. I dont' want to ruin my blog on calves, so I will leave it at that.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Exercise in Rural Missouri

In Portland, Oregon where I lived the past 12 or so years it is considered trendy, even necessary, to belong to a gym. When you consider that most people there, as I did, have to work office jobs and sit at a desk for 8 or more hours a day it makes sense. However after moving to rural Missouri going to a gym is something that most of the natives kind of sneer at as being sissy or citified. My husband is one of those natives so I have had to find other ways to burn calories. And really, living here on a dairy farm, even if you don't count chores, exercise is something that kind of happens to you, it isn’t necessary to go looking for it. For one thing there is the house and a real yard and garden to take care of and since I don’t have an outside job there isn’t any excuse to avoid certain things like mopping, vacuuming, picking up rocks and such like. Plus, seeing as how he doesn’t want me to have to join a gym my husband is always on the lookout for a good way for me to burn those pesky calories. One of the best ways he has found is when we wean calves. This involves moving them from the bottle feeding pen to the “weaner” pen, which is about a hundred yards or so away. The first part of the exercise is to get the noose of the rope around the calf’s neck. This not as easy as it sounds as they are not generally agreeable to this maneuver and, without fail, having galloped up and down the pen with me in hot pursuit, they will get into a corner and duck their heads so that I have to try and pin them against the fence and wrestle the rope around their obstinate, bony heads and stiff, sticking-out ears.

Then the fun begins because once caught we then have to convince her to go to the gate, go out of the gate and enter the big wide world. This whole process is easier when there are two people working at it; one to push and one to pull. The calf, being of contrary mind, is not inclined to go in the direction one would like her to go, but when there are two of us there she will automatically avoid us both, so this is fairly easy, we just have to dance around her and encourage her to keep moving in the general direction. This burns a few calories, but it is when you finally have her out of the gate and headed toward the weaner pen that the serious calorie burning starts. Especially when my helpful husband points her head in the general direction we want her to go, hands me the rope and then startles her by swatting her butt. Off she gallops, bucking and jumping all the way with me in tow. “Hang on to the rope,” hollers my helpful husband in the background as the calf and I trot along. “Don’t let her go through the windows,” he adds as she makes a particularly high and graceful leap, landing a bit too close to the milking barn for his comfort. If I can kind of run beside her at this point I can get her to go in the general correct direction by tugging on her when she is in mid-air. But suddenly she will realize that she is more or less cooperating and directly she will put on the brakes at about the halfway point to the pen.
Anyone who has wrestled with a small child to get it to go somewhere it doesn’t want to go can appreciate the dilemma now facing me. A typical 2 month old calf weighs as much or more as I do and has 4 flinty little brakes that can dig in quite sturdily. It’s even worse when the calf decides she has had enough of this and decides to lie down and try to ignore the whole situation. If you are by yourself and want to put your back out this is a good time to do it by trying to drag her; there is very little that will convince her to get up and move again. But usually if my husband comes up behind her and spooks her then she will take off again; hopping and skipping, with me jogging along with her, tugging as we go. It is a relief to get her to the weaner pen and burn more calories trying to get the rope off of her neck. The biggest reward is to watch her realize she is now in a bigger pen and take off running; ears pinned back, tail hiked up high, bucking and kicking ‘til she comes to a sliding halt at a fence. My husband says he has seen them go straight through the fence, at which point I suppose you could potentially burn more calories trying to catch her again. But I hope that never happens on my watch.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The First Two Months

Here is what I learned the first two months I was on the dairy:

On dairy farming:

(Most of this was told to me by the resident dairy expert. Some of it I learned by experience.)

Never wrestle with 100 lb day old calves. They are incredibly strong and as stubborn as a mule. I made this mistake and it took two and a half weeks for my back to feel normal again..

When chopping a hole in the ice on the pond, angle the blade away from your face, otherwise you get ice chips in your eyes, hair and perhaps, if you have mistakenly aimed just right, up your nose.

Cows on a dairy are not really in their natural habitat; they were meant to live in and roam the wild, not be put into the same field day after day in winter where they lay in their own crap, necessitating your having to clean their udders off. It’s not nice. They also were not meant to be crammed into the same lot before milking where they crap on each others sides and heads; and cows with green caps are not really attractive.

While standing at almost eye level with a cow’s udder in the milking parlor keep a sharp eye out for the tail, which might be swished around to hit your face and souse you with crap.

And while we are on the subject; do not stand behind a cow that is crapping and shows a tendency to cough at the same time. It’s not a pretty sight; however envious a major league pitcher might be of the velocity of the flying cow pie.

One day upon coming back from feeding the dry cows up the road and advising the resident dairy expert that there was a calf up there I was asked; “Which cow had the calf?” My response: “Ummm… well, dear, all I can remember is that it was one of the black and white ones.” So I have learned to not only recognize that a birth may perhaps be imminent but also to look for the number on the ear tag or recognize some trait of the expectant mother. An expectant mother has a more developed udder.

A “dry” cow is one taken from the milking herd and put in a separate pasture for her udder to dry out one to three months before she has the next calf.

A “fresh” cow is one that has just had a calf and has started milking again.

In general.

There are three forms of amusement out in the deep country; the mail, traffic on the road (you never know who it might be) and the activities of the neighbors.

There is a lot of dirt in the country. I have probably swept half of the county out of my kitchen already and I have only been here barely 2 months.

It would appear in that the natives of Missouri only give names to roads because they are required to by this new fangled 911 deal; not because they actually use them. Whenever I get directions from the locals they never give streets or actual addresses; they always say things like; “turn left at the second stop light in town.” Or, “it’s three streets past what USED to be the Grocery Store, but now is Bill’s Garage.” And then they will give you the history of when the traffic light was put in or how the grocery store turned into a garage, which is all rather interesting, but still, at the end of a 30 minute conversation you are just as clueless how to get from point A to point B as you ever were. Usually I resort to either the map or to calling the place and asking for directions. Several times I have just taken the bit between my teeth and gone driving around until I found the place. Oh, and out here in rural Missouri don’t even bother trying to find a residential address by using; none of the rural addresses are on there. You will do like my brother and sister in law did when they came out for my wedding; get lost. The directions will send you to the town, but here where the actual residence may be 10 miles from town, this is not helpful. That brings us to another issue; cell phones are not reliable out here. Much of the time, due to the hills and loooong distances, cell phone service is extremely patchy. If you get lost and need to use the cell to call someone, by the time you find a spot where you get a cell signal and can call you are twice as lost as you were before.