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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.