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.