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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.