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.