Monday, December 28, 2009

First Seed Catalogs are Here !

I can't believe it! Fedco seeds , and Johnny's Selected Seeds arrived today. These are both Maine companies, but certainly both at least nationally renowned for their good quality and organic seeds and supplies. We're getting a little snow tonight, major drop in temps tommorrow and I am dreaming of starting seeds and planning next year's garden! I also want to expand on all the perennial flower gardens I started last year, and hopefully start a cut flower garden to take to farmer's market next year as well.

What are some of your favorite sources for organic/ heirloom/ rare seeds? Any cool varieties, or favorites? Yipeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

She Finally Asked Me The Question I've Been Dreading....

" Mommy, can you please make my diabetes go away?" 3 year old Ayla pleaded with me. I've been waiting for the day, when Ayla realizes that she is stuck with this horrid disease for life. A life sentence. I could tell her blood sugar was high, and needed to check her and give more insulin, and all she wanted was an apple.
" I don't want to be checked!! " " I HATE my stupid diabetes!" " Mommy, can you please make it go away? I don't want diabetes anymore. I'll be really good."
Let me tell you, I was speechless. I wanted so much to say, " Come on, grab your coat. We're gonna go get rid of your diabetes!" I could picture everyone getting dressed and giving each other " high fives " and then driving to the cliff's edge at Quoddy Head, and throwing Ayla's diabetes off into the Atlantic Ocean and setting it free. Freeing ourselves from the hold it has on our lives. On Ayla's Life.
Darn it. I'm crying and I can't even eat my yummy turkey sandwich, or enjoy the fact that I'm home all alone and could take a bath or something.
We received so much kindness and generosity this Christmas that I can't digest it, I feel guilty to have received so much. We are so Blessed. I sincerely Thank You, all of You!
I'm just having a moment.
There's a song that says something like, " How many times can I break till I shattter ".
Well, I'm an eternal optimist, so I won't stay down long but sometimes its just too much.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Omnivore's Dilemma * Young Readers Edition *

This young readers edition of the famous The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan is brilliant in my opinion. What a great idea to make such an important message available to younger generations. I think my kids, and probably other kids raised on farms and families that frequently purchase food directly from farmers, have a better understanding and grasp of environmental issues and where our food comes, but it is even a wonderful teaching tool for us as well. The librarian at our Lubec Memorial Library pointed it out to me on a recent trip there, so I checked it out, thinking I'd probably be the one to read it and share some parts out loud, but before I even realized it, Zoie ( 10 years old ), had spotted it, ( the purple cover and cute food face may have helped )and was curled up on the couch reading it. She then got up, of her own volition, and went out in the kitchen to check for hidden sources of corn in the house and even told Jude ( 8 years old ) that there is corn in cover of that National Geographic Magazine. It's true. Then we talked about how there is corn in Ayla's glucose tablets as well. I think this book would make an excellent gift to the young reader (s ) in your life and would make an excellent addition to your homeschooling curriculum. I can think of so many projects that we can do just from this book alone.

Now, just for the cuteness factor, here's a gratuitous pic of 4 month old " Henrietta The Naughty Heifer ". She is sporting her new blue halter. That halter FREAKED out the rest of the cattle for some reason and they seemed to scorn her for a day. Do you see that cow's mouth " laughing " at her in the left hand corner of the pic?

And finally a pic of Dear Ayla, caught in a sweet moment. I tell you, those are few and far between these days! The terrible twos are nothing. I firmly believe three year olds are about as trying as you can get! She has been quite the precocious little tyrant lately, and I'm pretty sure all four of her siblings currently carry " the mark of Ayla's wrath " as we speak. It is tough. She has a serious health issue, gets a lot of attention as a result, there is a certain amount of guilt related to having to inflict things like multiple finger pricks daily, site changes every 2-3 days, more attention drawn to every last thing she eats. This is a whole new can of worms for this seasoned Mother of five. Every single decision we make has an impact doesn't it? There's a reason they call it " Mindful Parenting ". At the end of the day, when she falls asleep, I do a quick finger check, making sure she is safe for the moment--and sit back and stare and count her breaths. I'm so intensely thankful for all my children. In good times and even bad, I've never loved like this.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Things that Make You Go--Hmmmmm...........

Like why does this cat, " Gooseberry ", choose to hunker up in a strawberry pot on a nice balmy day of oh---8 degrees---when she could be snuggled up with her five pals in a recliner in her cat house ?( yes, we have an 8 x 10 ft cat house, and yes---we have a recliner in there that we snagged from the side of the road for free this summer. )

Or why, as I backed the van up, loaded with 3 milk machines and all my milking paraphenalia, --because it was exactly 0.5 degrees out when I went out to milk--- did I see a whole pineapple frozen and perfectly preserved, perched on a snowbank. It isn't every day, one sees TROPICAL FRUIT strewn about when its only a 1/2 degree above zero in Maine.

Why, oh, why-- do my dear children derive so much grand enjoyment out of flushing the toilet when they know its plugged with too much toilet paper, and causing it to overflow all over the bathroom floor and then leak through the floor and spill into the cellar basement? I was out in the creamery when they rushed, in group formation, out to tell me it was overflowing. Their cheeks were rosy red with glee, flushed with excitement, as they tore back and forth giving me updates and claiming they couldn't find any towels and that they had NO IDEA that would happen. Yeah, right.

Why do babies , specifically Ida May, seemingly survive, unscathed, after numerous nasty experiences that prove she is our fifth child after all. Like getting into the coffee can filled with rancid, greasy, pan drippings, lard, drained hamburger grease etc. and sampling it while smearing it here and there. Or fishing in our trusty OLD toilet, at every given opportunity. Once again, her siblings whooped and hollered and feigned mock disqust and horror, with their eyes all a glow! Having the time of their lives!

One last one. I peaked my head out of the milk parlor in the barn this morning, and what did I see? Henrietta the cow, Cinder our giant 150 lb dog, and 2 lowly chickens all gathered around a pan of grain, sharing it in perfect harmony. Why was the dog eating dairy cow grain? I don't even wanna think about what THAT might produce!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Milk Test Results 11/30/09

Here's the results from our latest milk test, sampled by Maine Department of Agriculture Milk Quality Laboratory.

Test -Our Results
Antibiotics- NF ( none found )
Butter Fat 6.3%
Coliform <1epcc ( this is the lowest you can get )
Solids Non-Fat 9.2 ( this is high and very good for cheese!)
Standard Plate Count <2500epac ( this is the lowest you can get )

For some reason they didn't do the SCC. That's a shame I like seeing how their somatic cells are.
Overall the cows are producing very high fat milk that is also high in solids for cheesemaking and yields more cheese per gallon of milk than lower component milk. The standard plate count is an overview of all bacteria and reflects the health of our cows udders and also how clean our equipment is. Seeing as how it was as low as it can go, we're doing a good job! I'm very happy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We have a New Baby !

Meet " Angus ". He was born in the snow behind the barn on Sunday morning. Angus is a bull calf out of " Ellie " and is 3/4 Jersey 1/4 Angus. Such a stinkin cutie, it's a shame he's not a she. If you look closely he has a white tail switch just like his Mom.

Going for the " good stuff "! They are so blissfully HAPPY, I could never take a calf away from its Mama. Even though they eventually become a handful, it's worth it to let our cows raise their own calves.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

When will Ellie Calve?

Anyone care to guess? Three words to describe Ellie--- Beefy, Furry, and OPINIONATED!
Love her anyway!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wreaths are Ready

This is a balsam, cedar, and pine wreath that I made last night, with a gorgeous hand-tied bow.
They are ready and available. We also made the traditional balsam wreaths as well. My Mom and I made 50 on Friday, while watching and feeding 5 kids 3 meals, and still managed to milk the cows twice! Then we made another 12 yesterday afternoon.

Here's the days action in the cow barn:

This morning the cows staged a rather clever ploy to get back out to pasture. I knew it was going to rain and thought it would be kinder to leave them in the barn, so leaving Jude ( 8 years old ) in charge, I continued on cleaning and fluffing their beds. " Gale " was in the entryway of the barn finishing her grain, while " Ellie ", " Berretta ", " Teeny ", and " Happy " stood around chewing cud and watching me work. I glanced up just in time to see Gale turn the corner out of the barnyard and steam headlong down the hill. " Jude! Get her!" I yell, and then as if on cue, the other cows file out of an unlocked gate and join her in a steady brigade down the road. Jude grabs a leaf rake, and the cows just deflect his efforts as he crumples in the ditch defeated.
I growl some choice words, unload the milk I had just loaded, toss little kids--like a bunch of grain bags-- into the truck, and ROAR down the hill! Crossing the brook, I see the cows are just reaching the open pasture gate and calmly walking through it, single file. Well, at least they went straight to pasture and not to the neighbors's house! Sure enough, " Ellie " will find some corner way out back and decide to have her long awaited calf there. Never a dull moment!
When I gathered the cows tonight, even though Ellie has bagged up even more, she didn't have the calf, and I'm going to pretend that she is just REALLY wide, but not pregnant. We'll see what that does for me. Usually it goes like this:
As soon as my own baby is snuggled safely in my bed, I steal out to the barn at unpleasant hours, for nights in a row, get thoroughly exhausted, and then finally when I give up and forget about it, a sweet little calf will just " appear " one morning when I go out to milk! Must be that darling little calf fairy!
Tommorrow we are in for some major excitement! The long awaited timber bridge is going to be built over May's Brook! Hopefully our driveway won't wash out every time it rains, AND how cool is your very own bridge! I'll take pics as it progresses.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm making an apple pie right now, we're going to have dinner at my parents house at 12:30pm.
Had to do a load of laundry and find pants without holes in the knees for Zoie and Jude. How do they rip the knees out of every pair of pants? I'm hoping maybe Ellie will calve today. I'd be so thankful! Speaking of which, here are some things I'm thankful this year.

* God *
* My Family *
* My Friends Near and Far *
* Our Health *
* My hardworking cows, and the meat animals who have given us Food *
* Hay for the Moo Cows in a very bad Hay year *
* Freedom *
* Wisdom to make smart decisions *
* Patience ( thankful for whatever bit I'm clinging to!)*
* Pink Insulin Pumps with Remotes *
* Good Customers, who make it all feel worth it *

These others are much less grandiose, but I'm thankful nonetheless.
* Boots that don't leak.*
* New hairstyle and glasses *
* Pumpkin Lattes *
* Great Book Recommendations *
* Warm fire to tend to, and snuggle up to with a good book *

I always try to see what good is there and I am truly thankful for everything. I guess I'm even thankful for the bad, because it could always be worse. I'm also thankful for difficult decisions that in the end may turn out to be a Blessing in Disquise. Thank you everyone! There are a couple of special ladies in particular, and of course my parents and children who are especially near to my heart this Holiday season. Love you Guys!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Get Good Results with OAD Milking

Ayla and Berretta this summer. Boy, I wish we were still in sundresses and the cows were that sleek! Now they look like a tame version of a wooly mammoth. Ayla would dress exactly like that even now if I let her. Anyway..................
I've mentioned before my new revelation this year---- minerals are monumentally important, and you really have to feed these cows. I have always had free choice access to pasture and hay 24/7 but in trying to conform my cows to a grassfed regime, I unwittingly underfed them. They have been bred to produce a good amount of very high quality milk, and they need proper feed.
All my heifers have been raised essentually grassfed and we now have 3 that are bred to coincide with spring grass growth, so we'll see how this generation does, but my original girls that came right out of a dairy need good groceries.
I'm a big fan of OAD ( Once A Day) milking for a couple of reasons. I did milk twice a day from May through November, and had my breeding goals worked out, we would have been drying off at Christmas, but alas, sometimes things do not work out. I am not a fan of combining winter with milking, with mucking stalls, with dragging ones children through snowbanks to the barn, and thawing out little frozen fingers in the bucket of udder wash water. I spend a lot of time outside in winter just getting all the animals fed, watered, barn cleaned etc. that it just gets to be a bit much with twice a day milking added in. I also do not believe in going against Nature, and trying to push production at a time when it should be waning and the animals bodies should be putting their food toward body maintenance as opposed to production.
Typically when you go to once a day, you really sacrifice production. Usually, not only am I fine with that, its usually the goal. But this year, I'd like to keep a moderate supply. I have cheese to make and loyal milk and cream customers. Production loss can be a decrease of 1/3 - 1/2 total production.
Here's my lightbulb moment. What if I continue to feed them their grain twice a day but only milk once a day? Amazingly, there is barely a drop in production, and the cows are looking really good. I'm talking only about 10% reduction. I can't believe I didn't think of that before. Probably everyone else figured that out, but I used to think, if you milk once a day--you feed their grain only once a day. Now, If you have a really fresh cow, only 2 months or less into lactation, you'll need to milk twice a day or sharemilk with a calf or two. I've already done that, and those 6 month old calves have just been weaned and sold. If I find a couple more healthy calves, I'll probably foster them on and sharemilk with those, and after a 12 hour seperations still milk the cows once a day. It's my solution for those frigid, short days of winter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Products for Sale this Winter

There have been some changes, and for now we won't be attending our usual farmer's markets in Belfast and Camden. Milk customers please email me, and if we get a large enough order together, we can deliver every other week. I need to remain close to home right now, but bless their little hearts the " girls" are still milking like champs, so I will be making a trip to Machias every wednesday, coolers in tow. Let me know what you need. We also have some ground beef, and soppressata from our Berkshire pigs available.
For the first time, I'm also making Balsam wreaths for sale. You can get a wreath on the farm, and I'll also be selling decorated wreaths on the " dike " in Machias where the farmers markets are held. Thank you for your continued business!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm Halfway There......

As of today, I've officially lost 47lbs! That is half way toward my weightloss goal of 94lbs. I started this journey on Father's Day, and would like to reach my goal by Father's day 2010. Not sure if I'll make it by that point or not but I'm grateful for the progress so far! I do a whole lot more running, than I've done in years. Even if its just after the kids and cows.
I was gonna take a pic to preserve the milestone, but I need a shower and time to make wreaths anyway. Maybe I'll edit with a pic tommorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Steel Magnolias

Just watched this movie. First time since having a daughter of my own with type 1 diabetes. In hindsight, it wasn't a great idea. Have you ever noticed how you are more inclined to watch a sad movie when you are feelin really sad yourself? Why is that? Maybe we, stoic type, feel its okay to cry over a stinking movie--even if we are reluctant to let go in real life. In case you forgot, in the movie " Steel Magnolias " Julia Roberts playing " Shelby " dies after she is in a diabetic coma presumably due to severe hypoglycemia, leaving behind a baby and her Mother. Her mother has a wonderful circle of friends.......I could picture myself there. God, I hope I never have to.
The kids barred rock pullet, Lena, laid her first egg today! Proof that life will go on, and Ellie looks so very close to calving. I would love to wake and find a heifer calf! I could use the distraction of fresh cow antics right now! If it is in fact a she, she will be named Elinor. If it is to be a he, he will be called Stu. As in future beef stew.
I came across a couple books by Maine author, Elisabeth Pollack that I adore! The first is called " The Rowan Tree Crop" and book two is " The Gathering ". Check them out, you won't be sorry. I also found out that I might be getting a couple more sheep. I really like my sheep,and would love to have my very first lambing season in the Spring. I'm getting ready to have a Hazelnut latte. I haven't been sleeping good, and thought, why not? I plan to finish my book tonight anyway.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

All I want for Christmas.....

Is a cure for diabetes. Or maybe just a break from these really scary lows we've been dealing with. The new trend is for her to have no symptoms and then suddenly say she feels weak and before you can even pull out the meter she is toppling over.
Happened again today. I hesitate to even write about this, because it scares my Mom and I'm afraid she'll never take a turn watching Ayla. As much as I believe Dante and I are the best ones to care for Ayla, I have literally had absolutely no relief from her care and I know for my sanity, I really need to step back somehow. Dante can watch her during the day, but it would be amazing for both of us to go somewhere together sometime. It is hard enough and could really take a toll on our marriage. We need to find someway to have " our " time.
It made me so mad, because we are clearly really good candidates for some technology that could be lifesaving for Ayla, BUT we can't get it because it isn't covered. I'm talking about a Continuous Glucose Monitoring System. There are a few different models on the market. Basically she would wear a sensor, that would measure her BG and display it on a monitor screen. From what I've gathered the actual number may lag behind what she really is, but the value in this technology is more about the PREDICTIVE numbers and trends. You get not just a number, like a snapshot, but a number with an arrow that is either level, or pointing up or down predicting what direction she is going in. A BG reading of 120 can be very deceiving with a standard meter. She could be 120 but rapidly dropping, without us having any idea, we could put her to bed, and be awakened 30 minutes later with her seizing and fighting for her life. We've had that exact thing happen twice. You can also set alarms with one of these CGMS, that will sound an alarm if it predicts your going to go low or high. This would be HUGE for me at night. You can see how important this could be for us, and how much it could improve our whole family's quality of life. A lot of times we feel like we are walking around with a loaded gun.
She does have a pump now, and it is gonna be wonderful but we have been having serious lows and are still fine tuning settings. It doesn't help that she is having a growth spurt that makes her numbers unstable as well.
Anyway, I was brought to tears today because I want this technology for her and can't have it simply because we don't make enough money. I think I'm gonna try to fight this and write some letters as soon as I figure out just who to send it too. Even if we could buy the darn device, which I believe is in the $800-$1000 range, the cost of the sensors are prohibitive for us to maintain and you have to insert a new sensor every seven days, give or take a few days.
I'm just thankful we have Ayla, and all our children. I can't imagine life without them. Things can always be worse and am truly thankful. Everything happens for a reason.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Making Balsam Wreaths

It's a Maine tradition, and another one of the many seasonal sidelines us " downeastas'" rely on to make money. I wish I had got my act together a little sooner and made more out of this season. It's also a traditional, much like Grandma's egg and butter money, way for the ladies to make some Christmas money.

Here's a finished balsam christmas wreath. All it is lacking is some decoration. We plan to offer a choice of 3 different hand-tied bows, and then you can pick one up at one of the Farmer's Markets we attend. To get to this point, we have to start somewhere.

First you need to set off into the woods and find yourselves some Fir trees. Don't forget to get permission from landowners first, however on this day we need go no further than our yard just out the front door. This is called " tipping " because you are gathering the tips of fir branches to make your wreaths.

Here, Jude and I are breaking off tips. Notice my standard issue flame orange knit hat. Ironically hunting season always concurs with tipping. the lengths we go to for a little Christmas cheer!

Then you take your tips and slide them on a sturdy branch.

Here is our workshop in our cellar. I've got my wire hoops, wreath wire, stack of tips, hot coffee with Happy's cream, and a black and white snowy T.V. that only picks up one canadian station. Kinda fun catching up on the latest in Canda, especially when they move on to " World news" and talk of the United States.
Dante tried his hand at making wreaths and a local woman told him his was good enough for the " shitter " door. I think that meant there is room for improvement.
He's back to clearing fenceline and cleaning up scrap metal from one of the pastures. Much relieved, I'm sure to be doing that instead.
Stay tuned for part 2.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Seven Things about Kreativ Bloggers

Many thanks to Kirstin, over at It's Not You It's Brie, for passing along this award. In turn, I am to list seven things about me you probably don't know, and implore seven others, worthy of this honor, to do the same.
Here we go. Some random info about me you probably wish you never knew!

* I sometimes milk the cows in red high heels. They appreciate the effort IMMENSELY.

* I'm scared of the dark and the boogeyman. Always have been, probably at this point always will be.

* I watch The Real World on MTV, because its REAL, right? wink, wink. Now THAT is embarassing to admit!

* I can't make pancakes without burning them. Not sure what the prob is there. I've been called a fairly good cook........

* Our last 3 daughters were all born at home, in our log cabin. Over 30lbs of chubby cuteness, and a few hours of HARD work.

* I was a vegetarian for 15 years. Obviously NOT for the last 5 years.

* I fear I might turn orange if I don't lay off this crazy carrot addiction. I catch myself checking out the whites of my eyes to make sure there isn't an orange hue to them.

That was fun! Part 2. Now I pass it on to you!
I'd like to know 7 things about:

Tammy at T. Cupp Miniatures and Family Cows

Liz at Lucky Lizard Ranch

Nita at Throwback at Trapper Creek

Selden at Fairhope Farm

Swamp Creek Farm

Tabitha at life at home

Northview Diary

Here's an extra:
I don't know how to make the titles of your blogs link directly to your blog. Anyone care or have the patience, LOL, to enlighten me?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Right Gear for the Job

It's getting blustery, and cold and tonight when I first braced myself against the wind entering the barnyard, I thought, " Here we go."
Wouldn't it be nice to be really outfitted properly for working outside? My feet were pretty warm in my pink Smartwool socks and my purple Muckboots. I donned the customary flame orange knit hat for hunting season, but the wind just whipped through my Levi's and my Purple fleece Hoodie needs to be retired until Spring I'm afraid.
I did a search on Google for women's work pants. I was thinking some bib overalls like Carhartts would be perfect. I could layer my long johns' underneath, and take off my coat during the actual milking. I found a good site.

Got any recommendations? Any favorites that make your life that much sweeter while your sweating it out against the odds? I'd love some ideas.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


These little vintage Victorian girls remind me so very much of our own little Veda and Ayla. When I look at them I can't help but think they need to be Girl Scouts or Brownies. I'll have to try to find out if there is a local chapter.
I was late to milk tonight. Got delayed picking up a round bale of hay at my parents house. While there I helped my Mom dig up her Dahlias'. A good job done. My brother actually loaded the 5ft round bale on the truck and was none too pleased about the lack of a strap to tie it down with. I will admit that it was rolling and rocking a bit, but I'm no stranger to transporting these. I already planned to stop at the feed store a buy a few bales of shavings to wedge in between the bale and the cab. Then the bale was satisfactorily stationary. Next time I'll try to bring a strap, just to allay any fears. Honestly between my parents, and my poor brother I think they wonder how I find my way home at all! Yes, I have a terrible track record with the van and inanimate objects on the farm, but I also can do what needs to be done in a complete emergency and have managed to keep everyone alive so far.
I'll take it as a sign of love.
Speaking of love, I have had a terrible time catching Teeny in heat. Time is running out before the girls and the bull are sperated over winter. I really need to get Teeny and Happy bred back. Last night I thought it was a little odd when Teeny veered off the road and walked the fenceline where our bull, Wolfie, was. While milking her she was antsy, and then started in with an incessant, hoarse mooing. Goodness. I hollered at her to put a cork in it, but I guess she couldn't hear me past the din of the milk machine.Yeah, right. Final straw, as we were returning the cows to pasture, Wolfie was just suddenly there at the gate. He is never waiting there. The really frustrating catch is, Wolfie will nurse her. He is 20 months old. So I have to choose, try to get her bred----or have milk. I can't have both like I should be able to. It annoys me to have to make deals like that.
I made potato sausage soup tonight. Ida May adored the milky both. Little rivulets of broth ran down her chin. Bliss.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hypoglycemic Unawareness

Basically, Ayla has had a lot of lows lately and now shows very little or NO symptoms of going low. She used to get cranky, sweaty, white as a sheet, stumble or simply walk up to me and say, " I think I'm low, I need a gluca tab."
She has had 2 seizures due to severe hypoglycemia in the past. To say it scared the - bleep - out of me is the understatement of the year!
This afternoon, I decided to check her BG because we were getting ready to leave on a car ride and I knew she would be falling asleep. I must of pricked her poor little pink fingers 3 or 4 times but couldn't get enough blood out for a test. HMMMMMMMMMM. First clue.
Finally, I get a good sample, meter beeps with the result. 38. This is VERY BAD and SERIOUS! I start yelling for someone to come help me, and get out a roll of glucatabs, but I know I'm gonna need bigger guns than this and don't want to leave her to go get the juice in the kitchen. Now what is really scary, is that she didn't feel anything, like she normally would have. Just as Dante and Zoie, simultaneously bust through the door, Ayla looks up at me, smiles while chewing her fruit punch glucatab, and then just keels over backwards. Eyes rolled back,falls straight back onto the hearth. That snapped her awake, but now she is crying because obviously her little head really hurt. She still hasn't gotten any carbs in her, and I'm start to panic about an impending seizure and feeling like I need to give her glucagon because precious time is wasting. Dante saved the day with a bottle of lovely juice, which she only gets if low, so she was very eager to sip.
I'm trying to talk myself down and not worry about her head. With the looming threat of H1N1 the thought of going to the doctors office or hospital is something we have to carefully weigh. She did get a nice egg, but it went down with a cold pack. Her head really hurts if you touch it but she has seemed perfectly fine the rest of the time. She didn't black out from hitting her head, no vomiting, pupils look fine, didn't get sleepy, speech isn't slurred or anything. She has done all her normal stuff ever since.
My brain doesn't react normally to even minor injuries or illness anymore. It's like I immediately go into overdrive and don't have a clue what is overeacting and what is normal. We have 5 kids, I really think if we hadn't gone through all we've gone through with Ayla, we'd be " letting them juggle knives" so to speak. I've always been really laid back, but not anymore when it comes to my kids.
Welcome to the club I never asked to join. Parents of a child with type 1 diabetes.

And now to lighten the mood, I have a warning about baby carrots. I have been popping these babies like crazy, they really help me keep in check with my diet and I thought , " Hey if they help my vision, night or day, that can only be a GOOD thing." So I share my little diet tip with my Mom, and she tells me to be careful. My uncle used to eat a lot of carrots until he turned ORANGE!!!!!!!!!! Huh? Too much beta carotene. Seems like you'd really have to eat a lot of carrots to actually have your skin and the whites of your eyes turn orange. But I digress, everything in moderation.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Firewood and Family Memories

Our Waterford woodstove. About the only thing I enjoy about winter is sidling up next to this old boy and warming my bones up. There is hardly any better comfort. BUT if we want to enjoy this............

We have to endure this.Dante is barely visible there in between the piles of split and unsplit wood.In all honesty I don't mind doing the wood. Dante would say that's probably because he's done 90% of it himself this year!

We like to break them in young. Even Ida May gets to help load firewood in the wheelbarrow.

Trusty wheelbarrow loaded with wood. I fill them, and Dante stacks them.

The Three Stooges. Larry, Moe and Curly. I'll let you decide who's who. Don't they look just a tiny bit guilty? A little too smiley?

Timeless fun. Rolling a tire down a hill.

Ida May doing what Ida May's do best. Looking absolutely adorable! Nature's design, to make sure you still love them even when they keep you up all night and are teething.

Veda looking pretty, and pretending to help.

Big Guy splitting the wood. Usually I covet that job but not this year. The logs were HUGE! I've already bounced back from one tweak to the back, don't need another just yet. Gotta save that brawn for shoveling cow poop. My Mom loves putting in the wood. I didn't much cotton to the idea as a kid, too many spiders, and my Dad, frustrated with 3 daughters and only 1 son to help him, used to get a little worked up. Must be a Dad thing, cause I thought of my Mom today, while straightening out my back and breathing in the good Fall air. and realized I was smiling. The kids were rosy cheeked running around and Ida May plopped herself in a puddle soaking herself through. I was a little sad to head in the house.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Our brave little Trick or Treaters. I actually have lost a little zest for the occasion since Ayla was diagnosed type 1 diabetic. You can probably imagine the fun in taking a 3 year old diabetic around all that candy! I am determined to never limit her in anyway. Even though that requires extra effort and moving beyond my comfort zone, I want her to know she can do ANYTHING!

The old lady was my Mom, Jude is the Skeleton, Ayla the Pirate, Veda the Princess.

This is 3 year old Ayla, beneath a " 3 Stooges " mask. She was actually a little pirate, but had a good time with this mask while we got ready.

Here is the very Angelic baby, Ida May. Having a mini pre-trick-or-treat melt down. It became a much bigger one by the end!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Every Party has a Pooper......

.......And this week that pooper is me! I apologize but there will be no cheese this week. There will however still be plenty of milk, cream, and yogurt. I am feeling a little underappreciated, and am frankly a bit overwhelmed. Ayla started on her insulin pump on Tuesday and that has not been without much trial and tribulation, and a new pump getting sent overnight to us. I actually had a pretty bad case of mastitis myself, for the first time of nursing 5 different kids. Fever, chills, EXTREME tenderness. No wonder cows kick when they have mastitis.
The icing on the cake is that today I backed into some cement blocks and took the side mirror off the van and scratched up the passenger door. Can you say distracted driver? I was in a hurry to milk the cows, checking on the sheep, Ayla was having a low blood sugar episode, Ida May was teething and crying and honestly I completely forgot those blocks were there.
I only play a superhero on T.V. In reality, I'm but a mere human. I'm tired. Rundown. Just plain had too many things on my mind. I'm really sad about the van, telling Dante felt exactly like being a teenager with a new driver's license and having to work up the courage to tell Mom and Pop that you just ran over a mailbox and said mailbox is implanted in the windshield.
I should probably sell a heifer to pay for the damage and my new glasses at the same time, which I still haven't gotten because there are always things that need the money more. I think glasses just got bumped up the priority list. Sigh.
Told you it was a pity party.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Zoie Pic

My Mom took this pic of Zoie yesterday. We took a nice walk/jog on this gorgeous trail, and Zoie got in a some much needed birding and tracking. The little girls picked and ate rose hips much of the way, Ayla's cheeks turning a tangerine orange.
I am soaking up any rays of sunshine I can get before winter. Lovely

It's Raining Kids and Cows out There!

Rainy days and nights. Gotta love it, or at least tolerate it. Ayla and Veda looked like little half drowned kittens at last nights milking. I left the milk cows up in the barn, even though the tie stall renovation still wasn't ready. I just fed them their hay in the center aisle.
Ayla's pump is on, we are pumping saline right now, while we learn about the pump. We go live with insulin on Wednesday. It is gonna be an amazing advance forward once we learn all the ins and outs.
Zoie and I were under seige one night last week while trying to milk. This is where my sissy, girly side comes out. Bet you thought I didn't have a girly side! It was so bad, we took a cheesy video to document but I can't get it to load. Basically, we were 2 hours late to milk because we had been in Bangor at Ayla's pump class THEN we got a flat tire on the Honda. I get why they call the spare tire a " donut ". Actually I swear it is the same tire that is on my trusty wheelbarrow. How is that REALLY gonna get us 2 hours east back home? We made it, and immediately grabbed all the milking paraphenalia and headed out to the barn. As I snapped the lights on a bat swooped toward some moths gathered near the lightbulbs. Cool, I thought. I've got no beef with bats, but you all know I have some issues regarding moths. As the milking progressed I quickly noticed that there was actually a bit more bat swooping a flittering than I was comfortable with. The final straw, I emerge from the parlor, leading Berretta, and there are 3 bats dive bombing moths and there in front of my face about 12 inches away, one pauses in the air, snatches a moths, drops it grabs it again and in the process buzzes my head. My hair was flapping in the wind from its frantic wings! That's enough.
I screamed and took cover in the van parked out front of the barn. Now what?
It reminded me of when I was a kid, and had to go shut the chickens but was afraid of the dark.
If you keep walking, and even though your heart is beating out of your chest, senses in overdrive Its doable as long as you don't RUN! As soon as I would give into my fears, of whatever I thought was out there, and started running, man, then I could hear things running behind snarling and slobbering, hunting me down. Of course there was nothing behind me, but my imagination would get the better of me.
I guess it's just payback for terrorizing Dante about bats all these years. A month ago, Zoie and I were returning the cows to pasture at dusk, and saw bats just pouring out of the building that Yoda pig is in. It was exactly like those Nat. Geographic documentaries where the bats just pour out of the caves at dusk to go hunt insects. Well, maybe we embellished those details a little and the bats caught wind of it..............

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cheese Pics

I cut into these 2 cheeses today, my Mom is coming up and I wanted to make a small cheese plate and give her some to take home to my Dad.
On the top we have a 4 month old Cheddar, and the bottom is a 2 month old Swiss type cheese. It really wasn't ready but I wanted to check on the eye formation and texture.
We are gonna plant bulbs with the kids. My first year fully embracing flowers, I cannot miss out on planting bulbs! Plus, I am NOT a cold weather friend, so knowing that I can look forward to those little flowers coming up, heralding Spring. I can't wait! We've got multiple colors and varieties of Tulips, Muscari, Daffodils, Iris, Crocus, Giant Blue Allium, Grecian Wind Flowers and some more out in the barn.
Speaking of the barn, remodeling has begun. The cows were not impressed when they showed up at the barn and saw an unfamiliar black Honda, and heard hammers pounding in THEIR barn. Of course they lifted tail, and decorated the driveway. Then stood rooted to the spot. Then preceded to run willynilly like they had NO IDEA where the gate to the paddock was. Of course its in the same spot its always been. Cows are like kids, they like to make you look bad in front of company because they know they CAN! I fumbled through the milking looking like I'd never done it before with all the cows going the wrong direction, Henrietta wouldn't come in for her milk, then Ayla practiced milking with the nipple bucket and squirted half on the ground. Our two little pullets, Blossom and Lena, flocked over and thought they had found paradise.
The pulsator on the Surge milker is really struggling I have to hold its hand and really encourage it, to get through a milking. I ordered a rebuild kit and all new rubber, so "Surge" should be pleased with his makeover too. Now where's my makeover?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cow News

On an exciting note, we got the results of the blood pregnancy tests we did on Teeny and Berretta and Berretta is bred, due in May, and Teeny is open. I knew Teeny was, I haven't put her with the bull because she is hard to catch in heat but last night I put her in with him, and will every night for the next 21 days. This time Berretta is bred to a nice NZ Jersey, can't wait for that calf.
We are doing some major remodeling in the barn. Changing over from a couple box stalls, to a row of wooden tie stalls for the cows this winter. One wall is already down, and if we can get our supplies in time, construction will start this Saturday. Not a moment too soon, Old Man Winter is at the back steps. I figure that if we get prepared for winter now, maybe winter will hold off for a month or so. There is still so much grass out there.......

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oh, My Aching Back!

This is not good at all. Yesterday, while out milking, I decided to clean out some of the deep bedding pack from the sheep/calf pen. I had the right tool for the job, my multi-tined heavy duty manure fork. It makes quick work of the job. As I lifted one big forkful something kinda, " let go" in my lower back. Followed by an electric shock sensation. Oh, Boy. I've been down this road before. It was definitely painful at the time but I pushed on. Probably foolishly so. The icing on the cake was loading 25 T-posts into the van. They are kinda heavy when in bundles, and awkward to carry and load.
Then I carried 2 really full milk cans up the steps into the creamery. They each weighed about 50lbs.
You know how sometimes you don't really notice how bad you are hurt, or how sick you are until you slow down in the evening? Well, that's how it was. During the night rolling over became impossible. Dante left early this morning, so he didn't even know the extent to which I was hurt. He'll be gone all day picking up beef from the butcher.
Today, it is sharp pain and numbness shooting down my lower back and both legs. I've had this exact pain before. 2 years ago exactly. Dante and I were moving round bales without a tractor, stupid, definitely. The thing that worries me is that at that time, I went to our family doctor, he folded me up like a pretzel, pounced on me a couple times ( much to my kids delight ). But it took months, and many setbacks, to go away.
I rummaged around in the cupboard and found some tylenol3, hopefully that will help me get through milking. It's raining and muddy out. Perfect.
Anyone got some good advice for back pain?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Broken Glasses = More $$$

I don't think I can coax along my faithful glasses anymore. They've been good to me....suffered TONS of abuse as you can imagine with the farm and 5 kids. They no longer make these frames so the last time they broke my sister fixed them with some kind of shrink wrap. Yesterday, they snapped on the bridge of the nose. In a panic I did a hasty duct tape job. They barely stayed on my face long enough to get to the optometrist, where they were confirmed DOA.
The thing that really stinks is that we live so far from anywhere, which normally is a good thing except in circumstances like this. It has been 3 yrs since my last eye exam so I HAVE to have an exam, plus buy new glasses. It is not cheap, and I feel it's pretty urgent. I can't see to drive and get a headache if I'm not wearing them for very long. For a very temp fix we wrapped yarn around the bridge and then superglued that. Not too comfy or stylish.
I wondered why everyone was smiling and staring at me in Rite Aid yesterday. Funny thing is--I thought it must be because of the 44lbs I've lost. Finally, I thought, people are starting to notice I've lost weight. It wasn't until this morning that I realized it was the stinking glasses!
One last cute story:
Milking cows this morning, Ayla is splashing in a rather brown and dubious looking puddle. It was situated a bit downhill of the cow paddock. It no doubt had some nice cow poop in it. I said, " Ayla get out of the puddle, you don't have your boots on!"
She says, " But Henrietta's in it." Well, Henrietta is a COW!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ayla's Insulin Pump Arrives!

Here's Ayla, hamming it up for the camera wearing her pink Animas Ping pump. That's my hand holding the remote, looking for a mute or pause button. For the kid, not the pump that is! Wouldn't that be a neat feature! I have been busily reading and cramming as much info as I can to prepare for her pump. Now we have it, and now we have to wait for an appointment to go get trained. In the meantime I've read " Pumping Insulin" and just interlibrary loaned " Think Like Pancreas "
We clipped Ayla's pump on her pocket and clapped and cheered while she tore around the house at " super speed ". She looked like a very industrious little toddler with a pager or cell phone on. It was really cute! Then she walked back up to me and said, " I want this thing off of me." I was thinking in my head, uh-oh, once we put this thing on for real is she gonna leave it alone? I guess we'll see soon enough. In the meantime, I will be scouring the manual and watching the informational CD that came with the pump. If only she could be up and running by Halloween.
Last Halloween was the first since diagnosis, try taking a 2 year old type 1 diabetic, trick or treating and then trying to control what she ate but still let her be a kid. I was so worn out I came home and had a glass of wine!
Do you remember that song from the 90's I think it was, or maybe late 80's that went , " Pump, pump it up, pump it up , while your feet are thumping." Something like that. Now I can't get that out of my head! I stand by my warning to be careful what you're singing out in the barn. I have been busted so many times belting out really embarassing ballads, or singing my own renditions such as " I kissed a cow, and I liked it!" Only to turn around and see a tourist clapping, and then ask about buying sausage. Well, yesterday I got caught by the milk inspector in an early unannounced inspection, singing the " pump, pump it up...." song a little too enthusiastically while adding some choice dance moves for the cows added enjoyment. He got a good chuckle, and I passed my inspection.
At the bottom of my copy were the words.............
" Good Job!" and a hand drawn smiley face.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Cows Coming

The cows were on their way up for milking in this pic. Notice the large black bulk of our Berkshire Boar, Jean Louis in the background. I am gonna miss this routine once the cows move up permanently for the winter. Our trees are turning their gorgeous Fall colors now. If only I was prepared for winter! I've spent the last 2 days making Colby and Havarti cheese. I combined the recipes from 2 different cheesemaking books to come up with my method. I really like the way these cheeses come out. For Christmas I dream of a large Kadova cheese mold! No more messing around with bunching up cheesecloth. Now I should spend the next 2 days out in the barn, staring at it. Willing it to make haste and get ready for winter. Time to polish off the muckboots, I'll be shoveling poop again sooner than I am ready for. I am really nervous about hay. I've got to ask my Dad if he has enough for us too. We still have so much grazing left it is wondeful! I hope the weather holds out so we can take advatage of all the green.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Milk Mobile

This is what we affectionately call it. Since our truck is in the shop, again, Dante needed a way to transport the milk, whey, and clabber that is for the pigs, the 1/2 mile down our driveway. It sure wasn't gonna be in the back of my little Honda! Have you ever tried to drive with an open 5 gallon bucket of clabbered milk? Well if you have, I trust you wouldn't do it again! We usually just fill the buckets 1/2 full and drive slowly with them on the back of the truck. But it is still a messy prospect at best. I don't know what cracks me up more about the lawn mower a.k.a. " milk mobile" Every time you shut it off it backfires LOUDLY a couple times like a gunshot. Cinder, our dog, is terrified of guns, and jumps on us, crawls under the car, you know the drill, pretty much wigs out. Problem is he weighs almost 150lbs! Veda, 5, and Ayla, 3, think it is wildly entertaining and can't wait for Dante to cut the engine, so they can cover their ears and run off screaming when it backfires.
Yesterday, it was really idling funny, and kept revving up and down. We all stood around, not quite knowing what would happen when he shut it off this time. Surprisingly it didn't backfire. We all went back to our business, I resumed milking Happy, when Zoie walks up and says in that nonchalant way of hers, " Um, why is the lawnmower smoking, with flames shooting out the front?" " What? It really is on fire!" I yell, running to turn on the garden hose which Dante already has and is spraying it down. It stood there smoldering for a few minutes, and then we fired it up again 20 minutes later, and took the pigs their milk.
The only thing that possibly brings a bigger smile to my face, is the thought of Dante's serious, deadpan expression as he trevails the 1 mile roundtrip journey. He is all business. When our eyes meet,as we pass on the road, he going one way on a temperamental lawnmower, and I going the other way, with 4 cows---I just stare back with an equally expressionless look, until I pass him. Then it's all smiles!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Productive Day in the Creamery

I'm standing at the counter, out in the creamery right now typing on my laptop. Cream is churning next to me, making butter. I can tell just by the sounds the churn makes when the butter is ready to break. I have a headache, but that's usually an aftereffect of a day spent busily working with my eyes and hands. So much of crafting dairy products is an art as well as science. I don't have great eye sight and when I'm concentrating I think I must squint. Thus the headache.
Let's see, this morning after milking I set 2.5 gallons to rise cream, made fromage blanc, several jars of sour cream, 6 more pints of cultured buttermilk. Some fresh bag cheese, skimmed cream from last night's milking, a gallon and put it in the churn to ripen on the counter a few hours before churning. Yum, I just stopped it and gave Ayla a big spoonful of whipped cream! Oh, I also made 5 strawberry and 5 plum yogurts. Almost ready to take out of the incubator.
Dante is my hero! He extended the pen attached to the barn a little, and made it so there is a gate to the pen right outside the parlor door. So the flow of cow traffic is so much smoother. Now we let 1 cow out to be milked through the traditional gate in the barn. She walks right into the parlor, gets milked, and then exits through the new entrance outside the barn right into the paddock where there is a water trough and hay to munch on. No more pile ups at the gate where I used to have to try to cram the already milked cow against the flow of eager unmilked cows waiting at the gate, trying to push their way out while I tried to push one in. It was a struggle to say the least but not anymore!
Such small gifts mean so much. Tt doesn't hurt to make SOMETHING easier in our lives does it?
We have butter, time to go wash and work all the buttermilk out. I'll pack it in glass jars after milking. Maybe Dante will wash the churn for me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Got Buttermilk?

We do. I just bottled 8 pints that I cultured from our whole raw milk. Traditionally buttermilk is the liquid that remains after churning butter from cream. Not only does it make the best buttermilk biscuits and pancakes, you can also just drink it straight up. I really like the acidic taste. Similar to kefir.

Here's a great article one farm's family legacy of buttermilk. Check out the recipe for Buttermilk Poundcake. Yum!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Knitting Revisited

It's that time of year. Days are cooler, shorter. We are upping the ante to get everything done before snow flies. I need my barn in order first.
Naturally, my thoughts turn to how exactly am I going to survive another winter. It's no secret, I'm not a fan of 6-7 months of winter but that is what you get when you live where we do. This year I am as determined as ever to not just SURVIVE winter, but find a way to THRIVE this winter. I want to knit. Little blankets and booties for Ida May, and matching hats and mittens for all the kids. Maybe some socks for Dante. ( not out of wool for him though ). I always revisit knitting every winter, as the cold forces us to spend more time inside but this year I want to get farther.
We also have a beginner flock of 2 sheep, that will be shorn in the spring. I'd like to think I could move onto learning how to spin next winter. I found a few blogs that I'll be checking out more thoroughly once my barn is cleaned and prepped for winter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy 8th Birthday, Jude!

Eight years ago, 5:42p.m. in Boise, ID. Jude Anthony was born during a thunderstorm. He came out, pretty annoyed by the business of being born, and yanked his newborn fist away from the nurse's hand. Instantly soothed once he heard our voices, he is just as equally passionate and kind today. Loves his many sisters, even though they frustrate him to no end, especially baby Ida May. He calls her " My May " as in his.
Jude is THE lego afficiando, every year the theme varies a bit, Bionicles, Mars Mission, and this year it is " Power Miners " . His B-day party was on Sunday, he worked around the clock and built all 5 sets he got in just under 24 hours! Zoie's gift was to give him the day off from helping with the cows. Usually Jude takes the a.m. milking with me, and Zoie does the p.m.
Love you, Bud!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Things Kids Say.......

Or should I say the things 3 year old Ayla says. Her latest.... we are taking the cows back out to the pasture and she says to me, " I feel sick Momma." I say, " You do? " and then she says, " Maybe I got RABIES " and then proceeds to growl and pounce on me like the rabid little squirrel she is!
Now if you are really delicate and completely apalled by the thought of a 3 year old swearing, DON"T READ ANY FURTHER!!!!!!!!!
For the record this is the first time she has ever used a bad word and it better be the last too, it's a doozy. All I can say is that she has probably spent too much time around farmers' lately, and-well, we all know how tough farming has been......
So one day a couple weeks ago I am getting ready to give her a shot of insulin and I ask her where she wants it, the arm, leg, or bum.
Don't say I didn't warn you....
She says in this little animated voice,
" Right in my little a**hole! "
I was completely floored, blown away, SPEECHLESS! I can't remember the last time I was completely speechless! I had to laugh just a little and then did my duty, and told her that is NOT acceptable language for a little lady. And what would her Polly Pockets think?
She hasn't uttered anymore obscenities.
Thank goodness, we were the only ones around and not at Thanksgiving dinner or anything.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Common Cause" Hypothesis for Autoimmune Disease

I had heard the words autoimmune disease or disorder before 2/08 but it didn't impact me until I had a child diagnosed in a very dramatic way with type 1 diabetes.
Autoimmune Disease-disease in which the body's immune system, which normally fights infections and viruses, is misdirected and attacks the body's normal healthy tissues, through inflammation ( swelling ).
Examples of autoimmune diseases are:
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Type 1 Diabetes
Multiple Sclerosis
Inflammatory Bowel disease
Autoimmune Thyroid Disease
What causes autoimmunity disorders?
The cause is unknown, but there is growing evidence of the " Common Cause " Hypothesis.
As in , several autoimmune diseases could have one common factor, trigger, cause that manifests in a variety of diseases that all have autoimmunity in common. Now I have to tell you that I didn't personally know that this was a legitimate hypothesis but it was MY personal, gut feeling. Naturally when someone you love is diagnosed with a devastating disease you look for answers and a reason why. I have a cousin with type 1 diabetes, he has it on his mother's side but she is not my blood relative, so Ayla's diagnosis seemed to come out of left field until,I slowly started doing more and more research on autoimmunity and came up with the conclusion, that while there isn't a strong family history of type 1 diabetes, there is significant history of autoimmune diseases.
My maternal grandmother had Rheumatoid Arthritis. My Paternal grandmother, my aunt, and my older sister have hypothyroidism. Dante and our son, Jude, have allergies. Dante also has extrinsic asthma. ( triggered by exposure to allergens ).I don't know much about Dante's family's medical history but I do know most of his siblings have allergies of differing severity's.
While these diseases are different, affecting different body systems what they share in common is that " over reaction of the immune system" that causes it to destroy healthy tissue or over react to harmless stimuli in the case of allergies.
Large genetic studies repeatedly find that autoimmune diseases can be linked to the same region of a chromosome as genes involved in training the immune system to recognize " self " tissue. Can you see how a defect in this region could be the " common cause " for many different disorders?
Maybe it is a genetic predisposition and then some environmental trigger sets it off? I have noticed when reading accounts of diagnosis of type 1 in children it seemed to have followed a bout with the flu or some other virus. Not the case with Ayla, she has always been extremely healthy. I don't even remember her having so much as a cold even though she had 3 other siblings who definitely exposed her to every illness they had. Trust me we don't match the theory that a highly sterile environment causes allergies and a poor immune system either. Our house is NOT sparkling clean, Ayla was born here and has grown up on a farm. My sister swears she came down with hypothyroidism after battling mononucleosis.
A couple months ago, I heard the phrase , " You are what your Grandma ate " meaning that some of the disorders we are plagued with could even be linked back a couple generations to what your parents and grandparents ate. Their good nutrition or lack thereof. So if that's true eat your veggies now, and take your cod liver oil, your children's unborn children will thank you! Cod liver oil is rich in Vit A+D, and is a known natural antiinflammatory. All our kids have taken it on and off over the years, but we now take it religiously.

You can read more about the "Common Cause" Hypothesis here:

Friday, September 18, 2009

What we feed our Dairy Cows

This is always such a hot topic. Something I'm constantly tweaking and learning about. My ideal would probably be to have completely grassfed dairy cows, but I've finally gotten it through my head that this is NOT the climate to try to do that in.
First the forage component of their diet. This is big. We are actually understocked with our cows per acre, but it does allow us to stockpile a little grass so our cows get out and graze a few weeks earlier in the beginning of the season and for at least a month longer than others surrounding us, but even so we are looking at May through October as being completely on pasture and needing no hay supplementation. The cows still have some grazing in November but also transition onto hay, and then December through beginning of May they are completely on Hay. We don't have access to alfafa hay, but my Dad grows a pretty good grass hay with plenty of clover in it. We use 5 ft rounds in a ring feeder so they pretty much have constant access to hay. Last winter the barn doors froze open so I couldn't close them and it was a HARSH stormy winter. The cows ripped through our hay supply, eating enough to keep warm. This year I am hoping to build an oldfashioned tie stall set up for our 8 Jersey girls, and I want to put them in at night so I can shut the barn, and help keep them warmer, hopefully use their hay more efficiently. They would be in a tie stall at night, and loose during the day. We'll feed them hay in their tie stalls. During the day they will have a run-in section of the barn and unlimited access to the round bale. This is what I'm hoping for. It will also make my morning manure clean up easier as well by having it all in a neat line behind the cows. Also we always have issues with the cows bossing the heifers and this way, I'll be able to make sure they get enough to eat.
This is typically the grain portion of their diet. I will admit that I don't think I did service to my cows trying to conform my current cows to a grassfed ideal in the past. This year is different and I have truly fed them what they needed. First off, I have picked the majority of my cows based on whether or not they would be good graziers and low maintanence. These are typically the shorter statured Jerseys, with wide faces, more substance to their bones, " easy keepers " and ones describes as " piggy" with big rumens/barrels. These have been, in my experience traits that have made them the kind of cow I'm looking for. I will admit though, that I'm guilty of choosing a few for sentimental reasons and because they were so pretty!
This years plan has been to feed them what they needed, if it means 10-12lbs of grain a day then so be it. Teeny last year peaked around 5-6 gallons as a 3 year old, this year peaked at 8 gallons/day and has been hard to keep in condition. I don't think I caught on quick enough, she dropped weight, making that much milk and now is gaining, shiny looks lovely! What I learned through her is that it is necessary for those high producers to add fat to their diet, as well as energy. I knew she had enough protein through her 16% grain, and all that green grass. Sources of energy I have used are her grain, molasses- which is also mineral rich-. For fat I added black oil sunflower seeds or BOSS for short. I'm pretty encouraged with the results thus far, shiny coat, steady weight gain. As the protein in the grass has dropped, I've also added some alfalfa pellets to their grain. Incidentally, I've also noticed that alfalfa increases the creamline too! Probably adds some vit A too, although it is dried and pelleted not sure about that content.
As I mentioned in my milk fever post, I've had a mineral reawakening! I've provided free choice minerals off and on for years but got serious about it in regards to milk fever prevention. Now I use dry cow minerals while they are dry and haven't had a case of milk fever since. If you google Vit E supplementation and reduction of mastitis, you'll see a correlation there as well. Also I think its a good idea to supplement vit E in the winter as there is obviously less in dry stored feed versus frsh green grass. Deficincy in vit E can show up as reduced shelf life for your milk, an off taste, fertility issues in your cow. Plus several more. So we feed minerals free choice, and dry cow in their ration before calving, free choice kelp, salt, and vit E . I found a bag of powdered vit E at the feed store for $25. It must be at least 25lbs.
So these are my current thoughts. Currently they are grazing to their hearts content, eating 16% dairy feed with alfalfa pellets and boss added, as well as minerals, kelp and vit E.
This is subject to change and differs a little for each cow, but this is the best they have ever looked,shiny, smooth coats, good color,good flesh and I get compliments on their beauty and condition frequently! I love my cows!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Walk for Diabtetes

We raised over $3200 for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation! It was a great day, exhausting, but wonderful. I have been having a bit of a hard time emotionally since then actually, but I'm getting over it. I can't thank everyone enough for all the love, support, prayers, and donations. Times are tough for all of us, and it just goes to show how every little bit counts. Thank you!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weight Loss at 40lbs

Just a quick update, since Father's Day I've lost 40lbs! I still have plenty of real food and fats though. I have to. Farming is just too strenuous to cut that out of my diet. The last couple days my diet has included these healthy fats as an example:
Raw whole milk ( ours )
Raw cream (ours )
Butter (ours )
Sausage and Bacon (ours )
As well as fresh veggies, local eggs, full fat cheese etc. I eat foods that are lower carb and low glycemic index anyway, to be suppportive of Ayla and her type 1 diabetes. We try to stay away from processed foods as much as possible but we're not perfect. You don't have to eat boring, bland food. I've never believed in the low fat diets. You do need to choose healthy fats though, not fast food. I'm eating a nutrient dense diet, just a whole lot less of it.
We all also take our daily doses of cod liver oil. I appreciate all the motivation you can dish out, I still have a ways to go!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Such a catchy name, I knew I'd love it from the moment I heard of it. Told in a series of letters, writer Juliet finds the subject of her next book, glorious new friends and adventure and love on the Isle of Guernsey, while also capturing the tale of the German occupation during WW2. You know when you read a really good book because the lines between your life and the characters in the story get all blurry and you feel like they are people you know. Friends? Sure, I'm a little crazy, you may even be thinking that possibly I need to get out more, and while that's true, it is still a wonderful page turner. A book I highly recommend. I'm sad to return it to The Lubec Memorial Library.
On Deck:
The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich
With a title like that, how can you go wrong?

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Every Woman Wants........ feel beautiful and a wall mount mini wet/dry shop-vac! That's right a shop-vac. I sent Zoie into the hardware store to look for a shop-vac. When she was checking out, the friendly salesman said to her, " I have to admit, in all the years I've worked here I've NEVER sold something like that, to someone so young.......... for their Mother! " Lately while milking it has become a real pain trying to sweep up the stray bits of grain, and mineral dust, and there are a few spider webs in the corners, it got me wishing I could vacuum the milk parlor. I think the wet application will be handy in there as well, I'll have to read the manual tonight. It is a nice womanly touch that the thing is small, wall mounted and comes with 7 accessories!
After our trip to the hardware store our next stop, logically, would be the cosmetics aisle at Rite Aid! Of course ! You know I didn't get out of there empty handed, having gone in with my 4 daughters in pink sundresses! Somehow, Zoie and I get this HAIR brained idea we should color my hair! Mom, are you panicking yet? ( My Mom is a hairdresser, and gets nervous when I pick up scissors because she knows I will and have cut my hair several times actually )
So we hurry home and giggling, send Dante out to work on the fence for another hour and then get busy. This photo is AFTER. " Brown Sugar " is the name and it is desribed as a light golden brown. I thought it would be fun to go brunette for the winter. My hair was already some kind of a dirty blonde, light brown anyway so nothing drastic but it was fun nonetheless!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Charlottes Web and The Blue Hill Fair

In case you didn't already know, The Blue Hill Fair was the inspiration for the fair described in E.B. Whites famous children's book, Charlotte's Web. My Mom and I took all 5 kids to The Blue Hill Fair today. It is a tradition. We went every year when I was a kid, showing up as soon as the gates opened. Now my Mom and I carry on the tradition, and while we don't make it there quite as early as we did when I was a kid, we still get there at an impressive hour and try to wrap it up by lunch, just when the crowds thicken.
My favorite parts are the dairy cattle shows, horse pulls, and sheepdog trials. The kids like the rides. I'm becoming an older goat each year. I actually am embarassed to admit that I got a bit nauseous on the ferris wheel! When I was a kid I went on the highest, fastest, wildest rides and now I'm panicking on the ferris wheel. Maybe because my life is the wildest ride and I don't even need to buy a ticket to ride!
The kids have grown so much, Ayla is finally 36 inches and can get on some rides without me ( be still my pounding heart! ) and Zoie was actually too tall for the bouncy house. This brought a few tears for her and the realization even closer to home for me, that she is growing up.
I got a delicious spinach wrap and an iced Chai tea from my favorite little coffe house in Ellsworth that I rarely get to visit. Now I am exhausted, and am gonna take the easy way out and finish the day with another child pleasing meal, english muffin pizzas. Even Ida May is down with that.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I enjoyed myself today. nothing much exciting going on. My Mom and I took the 3 little girls to a playground. Ironic isn't it? We live on a 150 acre " playground " farm, but they still like to go play on a little playground. Yes, I climbed the rock wall and went down the slide a couple times, much to Veda and Ayla's delight. The sun was shining, cows were well behaved. Henerietta is still too cute, but getting to be a pest! Luckily Happy is an overbearing Mom, much like myself, and keeps a tight rein on her.
I am working hard on Ayla's numbers, and it is paying off. I want this pump so bad, I dream about what Life will be like after! I'm not kidding, I had dreams last night about all the little pockets I will sew on the inside of her dresses and pajamas to nestle her little pink pump safely into.
Now this IS exciting news, my sister Erika and husband Ken welcomed their second baby into the world. Little Lelia Claire. 8lbs and 19.5 inches long. Can't wait to see her!
Tommorrow its off to the Blue Hill Fair. I'd prefer to spend the whole time at the cattle barn but I guess I'll cave in and take the kids on some rides too!

Friday, September 4, 2009

My Milk Fever Prevention Experiment

Here's an explanation of " Milk Fever " or Hypocalcemia in Cattle, courtesy of The Merck Vet Manual.

Here's a dramatic video. You can see why we milkmaids, dairy farmers, and family cow owners have the hair stand up on the back of our necks at the very thought of it.

I bought a cow last December,Happy to be exact actually, from my very favorite little Jersey dairy. Somehow we got on the the topic of milk fever and I asked them how they treat it, etc. and they said, " Oh we don't see any cases anymore since we switched to dry cow minerals". I thought, that's it? Dry cow minerals? No anionic salts or low calcium feeds or prophylactic tubes of calcium? Nope. I decided to do some things differently for the cows calving in 2009, knowing I had some big producers calving in that would be good candidates to test this theory.

In the past I had not given them any grain during the dry period, no alfalfa, and tried my hardest to catch them in labor and force the calcium paste down their gulletts while sweating bulletts the whole time about milk fever. For the record I haven't had a bad case previously, but Gale tries to go down and always requires extreme vigilance, and usually gets ketosis a couple weeks post calving.

Here's what I changed this year and so far, 3 for 3, have had excellent results.

I bought some minerals specifically for dry cows. This is the big part obviously. Starting 3 weeks before calving I have been bringing the cow in, feeding a scoop of grain and mixing in a handful of dry cow minerals. 2 weeks before due date I up it to 1 scoop twice a day with a handful of dry cow minerals. Depending on her condition, I might increase it to 2 scoops twice a day but ALWAYS with a handful of dry cow minerals mixed in. The key is to use minerals SPECIFICALLY designed for dry dairy cows.

Here's what I use.

Anyway, I really feel the combination of feeding them well leading up to freshening, with proper mineral balance has been making a big impact. When Gale calves in January it will be the ultimate test. She is prone to both milk fever and ketosis as she is tiny, 700lbs right now at her biggest ever, and being a VERY high producer.
I was afraid that feeding them grain before calving would leave them even more susceptible to milk fever but I think it is the inclusion of the dry cow minerals, and the fact that it is any easier transition from dry to lactating, that there is less stress on their system. I've had no metabolic issues, didn't even need a single tube of calcium paste, the cows effortlessly transition to lactating and have calved in with the best body condition scoring I've ever achieved! No fresh cow mastitis either. Anyway, I'm becoming a believer.
I've certainly spent many sleepless nights over calving Jersey cows the last few years and it was the thought of finding one of my beloved cows in a state such as that poor cow in the you tube video that kept me awake.
Won't you try this experiment with me?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pump Visit

Today we had a visit with a diabetes educator CDE, concerning our desire to have Ayla on an insulin pump. Man, it was like a test. We were questioned, quizzed, and graded. Overall we were in pretty good shape, need to work more on our record keeping. We also need to have a visit with the Dr. next week, and I think they will order a pump after that.
We got to get our hands on the animas ping, the pump we've chosen and feel it, push buttons, we even each got an infusion set inserted. I'm happy to say firsthand, that it hurts more having your finger pricked for a bg check than it did getting the set inserted. She will have a pink pump and pink infusion sets. Best of all rarely any shots after that. I cannot wait! We are 2 1/2 hours from the diabetes center, and pump start is intensive, with quite a few training visits, so it will be difficult but the rewards are many......................
..........................Okay, just getting back to finishing this. Ayla fell headfirst into an impossibly small crack in between my bed and hers trying to climb into bed. Really scared us! I thought she broke her neck or at least would be bloody when we pulled her out by her feet, but she is apparently fine! I swear, these kids are trying to scare me and prepare me for every conceivable emergency imaginable. I think I have aged so much in the last 2 years. A couple days ago I found my first grey hair. Are you kidding me? I'm 31 years old.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Washouts from the Rain

Here's the old farmer himself. Who just said he doesn't want a pic of him on here, but alas it is in the name of good journalism so I will prevail. He was retrieving a wayward water trough that got washed away when the brook flooded the cow pasture.

This is May's Brook. Our Friend or Foe depending on the season. She waters livestock during times of drought, and frequently washes away our road at her fancy.

Got some good rain last night. Actually it started yesterday morning, continued all day and of course intensified around the time we needed to milk the cows. Zoie and I decided we better lock Happy and Henrietta in the calving stall because on our property we have not 1 but 2 brooks that converge right at a low point of our driveway and usually flood with heavy rain. You wouldn't believe how much that water rises and flash floods. It's dangerous. Anyway, last year we had a scary situation where it flash flooded and left the milk cows on one side, bellowing, and their calves on the other side, bawling. There was nothing we could do, and the calves kept wading out into the fast moving water. That's how fast the water rose. Obviously I wasn't feeling up to a repeat of that performance.

Last night, it was raining horizontal and the cows were freaking out a little, somehow Happy left the field and Henrietta got separated and then Ellie and Chia panicked and chased her headlong down the field over the rising brook. GREAT! We had to rescue her, get her back to the gate, by this time Happy had turned around and was like a steam roller charging through the rain, then Chia went crazy and again tried to chase Henrietta away! I made a grab for Henny's collar and the safety released, leaving me sitting in you know what with a little collar in my hand. Luckily Zoie was onto this game and gave Chia a good " escort " away from the area, Happy reclaimed Henny and away we went. These pics do not show the flood stage at all, and for the record we've had MUCH more severe flooding. This was pretty insignificant, but made it a little interesting anyway.