Friday, October 1, 2010

Some Pics

Ayla Faye and her " kitten " Mulberry. He looks absolutely massive doesn't he? If you scroll down to the post I made in June, there's a pic of them on Ayla's Birthday. You can see how much he's grown in a few short months
"Henrietta" our oldest heifer 14 months old. She'll be bred before we move the cows up to the barn in December. She is so tame, she's almost a pain! We adore her.......

"Teeny" just exiting the milk parlor, trying to get past the barn cats that are eagerly awaiting their share. Teeny is a lovely cow, milks like crazy and has a really great attitude. I so hope I get a heifer from her!

"Happy" cow and her daughter "Henrietta". Can you see the resemblance, LOL! They are the calmest, friendliest cows I've ever had! I hope they continue to pass that along to all their future calves.

Finished with milking, Zoie is walking them across the bridge and back to pasture. I hope these times will be remembered as sweetly for Zoie as they are for me. Zoie actually took all these pics, except this last one, while I milked tonight.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Cheese Nun

I finally watched this most interesting documentary yesterday. I think I may have to own this one.
I ordered it through Netflix. Here is the brief description that came with it:

Explore the world of artisanal cheese with Sister Noella Marcellino, a Benedictine nun who visits France to probe the mysteries that make every cheese unique. Marcellino ventures from farmstead to aging room to laborotory, reveling in the fungi and microorganisms that are as essential to cheese as terroir is to wine. This homage to fromage is an unabashed celebration of the science, craft and humanity of cheesemaking.

I absolutely loved the footage of the French countryside and the remote cheesemakers. The cows were gorgeous! They looked like fat Herefords but with nice dairy udders. The sister herself milked and made cheese from their own herd of Dutch Belted cows back at the Abbey. Hand milked, I might add.

Going to the local builders supply tommorrow and ordering all the windows and lumber etc. for the farm store. I will document the process. We also went to see the midwives on Tuesday. Baby is big and healthy, active, and we were all blown away when we heard that strong steady heartbeat! I can honestly say it is no less thrilling with the sixth baby, than it was with the first. I almost cried. Speaking of crying, poor Ida May has had a harrowing week. Monday she somehow fell while dragging a large metal chair, pulling it over on top of her and smaking herself right across the bridge of the nose! It swelled up and bruised most impressively, now on day four it has gone from purple/blue to a green/yellow color so I think that's a good sign? Then yesterday, ironically, just as we were on our way out the door to a Dr. appt, she slipped and hit her head on the door jam. There was some blood, and some drama but by the time we drove 20 minutes to the doctor it was looking much more benign and they told us nothing further needed to be done. Man, it's hard to be a two year old. So many diabolical plans, but those short stubby legs keep failing! Right now as I type she is prancing around in a Fancy Nancy dress and mismatched high heel shoes.
I'm so happy that today, the cows are already milked early and we have nowhere we need to be or anything we have to do. Perfect.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Birthday Pic

For some reason blogger wouldn't let me put a pic with my previous post. So here's a pic, read the next post!

Happy Belated Birthday Jude!

It was Jude's 9th birthday yesterday. We celebrated with family last night and then he had some friends over tonight. It was intense......there were several injuries, no blood shed though! A total of only 4 boys, and 6 girls ( 4 of those were Jude's sisters!) but the mayhem was substantial and I only had to be a meanie once. Maybe twice. I cannot tolerate damage to our measley possessions, or theft of Jude's piggy bank. Other than that I had a great time sharing stories about the skunk that we blasted, after it blasted our dog with spray under the porch---or the time I ran over that mean rooster with the truck. ( I didn't even intend to but he hesitated just a TAD too long crossing the road....)
Now I'm planning to do some cheese research (my favorite kind!), the kids are all watching Diary of a Wimpy kid , and I'm hoping for a nice dull, uneventful night.

Monday, September 20, 2010


A lot has changed since I've last written! In fact I couldn't even remember how to log in. There are some exciting plans in the making, the most important being a new baby for us in March! I may have managed to actually pull it off, so that the majority of the cows will be dry in March too. That remains to be seen, I'll have to send in some cow pregnancy tests here in a couple weeks.
We are also finally going to build that little farm/dairy store I've been needing for so long. Construction should begin in a couple weeks. Hopefully we'll also be able to carry a nice complement of local foods to round out the selection. I've been needing a good option to offer my goods, while still maintaining the privacy of our home.
I simply can't be housewife extradinaire right now while trying to juggle everything else. I'm also the only cow milker, cheesemaker, so I can't travel around peddling my cheese. There aren't enough hours in the day!
Had an epiphany yesterday too, about exactly what to do with my milk--as it is limited supply,temporarily, and I'm also of the opinion that it's probably best to really focus on one area of cheesemaking and do it REALLY well. Perhaps the best use of my limited time? I think its time I finally take that intensive 3 day cheesemaking course in Vermont, I've been wanting to do for years--but it's never a good time. Well, it's never a good time is it? I think I'll just try to make it happen.
I will really try to get some pics, now that we have faster internet. I gave up on posting pics with the dial up, LOL! Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Been Awhile

Miss Ida May smelling the flowers as I plant them.

Ayla on her birthday with her " wittle " kitten Mulberry.

More of Ayla and Mulberry. Best friends. He even goes down the slide with her apparently of his own free will!

Haven't had much too say! I'll try to briefly update as best I can. I've been busy with the creamery. Beretta had the last calf of the season in May. That makes 4 heifers and 2 bulls. How I love looking at all those sleek shiny little babies grazing with their Moms and hurtling themselves back and forth at twilight! After a major struggle where I was sure our 2 year old Jersey bull was gonna kill Dante, we managed to get the assumably pregnant ewes out of the bull pasture and in with the milk cows. I've now bartered milk for their shearing fee with friends, but can't get the ewes out of this new field and the 1/2 mile to the barn for the actual shearing! I need a Border Collie.
The garden is doing great! I spend a lot of time out there and am trying to keep ahead of the weeds. I made an amazing Swiss Chard Gratin with things from the garden and the creamery. Our diet is consisting mostly of garden produce and relying on the cows for protein. By that I mean their dairy products and the eggs we barter milk for as well. We have a HUGE sow that we are fattening up for slaughter, and that scary Jersey bull too. I can't even really get the cows into him, it's ridiculous!
We are getting rid of the TV and I can't wait! It's a move I'VE wanted for years. We'll still be able to rent movies as needed. Lately I've been thinking a lot about why I homeschool. Mainly because I keep getting asked that, and it seems people are constantly challenging me about it. My top three reasons that I now tell people are:
1.) I want to teach my kids how to think. Memorization is not proof of higher intelligence, just proof of memorization. I want them to REALLY be able to think. Be able to competently make decisions and find soloutions that will actually apply to them.
2.)I want my kids to be GOOD people. This is super important to me. I cannot believe how bad Jude was bullied trying to play sports this year. I'm completely blown away by these rude kids. Jude is smart, sweet, and diplomatic. He even got bullied in boy scouts! Sadly it doesn't go well with those other boys. What a shame those qualities make him a target. Even little Ayla got picked on at her last day of gym class. This is a class of 3 and 4 year olds. Ayla is short and a bit cuddly, if you know what I mean. She is not fat. 2 girls in that class said she was big and that she broke a tire swing because of it. Totally not true, but shows how young it starts.
3.)I love to learn with my kids.
Veda had her 6th birthday on May 14th, and Ayla had her 4th birthday on June 14th. I can't believe I'm the Mom of an 11 year old, soon to be 9 year old, a 6 year old, 4 year old, and an almost 2 year old " baby "! Time is flying!
Emotionally, it's still a roller coaster. Many ups and downs. Many decisions still to be made. Many ambivalent feelings. Just taking it a day at a time and trying to be smart about it and see the whole picture. It's tough--but this is really living. I'm grateful for that.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

White Water Rafting

We went this last weekend! I didn't want to post anything until after we got back and everyone survived. We have found a wonderful babysitter and she and my Mom joined forces and managed to keep the kids alive and happy! This is the first weekend away I've had since becoming a Mom 11 years ago.
The friends we went with are wonderful and I feel like we all got to know each other even better.
My stomach hurt from laughing so much. I was afraid of falling out, not because I was afraid of dying but I was worried about some poor soul having to haul me back in again. Let's just say the wet suit didn't look quite as flattering on me as it does on those girls at Sea World. Oh well.
The cows were all a dither with the change in routine and it has been rough getting them sorted out again, but it was worth it. I am refreshed and ready for lots of summer fun! Took the kids swimming the last 2 days, and then got caught in a downpour walking the cows to the barn for milking. Zoie was with me and I said, " I really don't what to do if we get caught in bad lightning!"
Thankfully I didn't have to make a decision. There are so many bonus points to getting in shape, and outrunning the cows and lightning are just a few of them!

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Homage to Fromage ( Blanc that is...)

Raw Creamline Milk $5 per gallon, $3 per 1/2 gallon (plastic)

Raw Jersey Cream $4 per pint

Whole Milk Yogurt, Plain $3.25 per 16 oz glass jarOR$5.50 per glass quart

Flavored Yogurt $ 2.50 per 8 oz glass jar, $4 per 16 oz glass jar,OR$6 per glass quart
Flavors: Red Raspberry, Strawberry Fields, or Ginger Peach

Fromage Blanc, Plain $4 per 8 oz

Lemon Thyme Cheese Spread $5 per 8 oz

Basil and Purple Onion Cheese Spread $5 per 8 oz

Garlicky Chive Cheese Spread $5 per 8 oz

Fig and Honey Cheese Spread $6 per 8 oz

Thanks!Jessika, Family and Cows

I am now like a crazy catatonic cheesemaking fool! Today I spent the day being a good little homemaker, but will pay for that tonight. Good things are happening around the farm. Fields are looking good, calves are growing and surprisingly well-behaved. Garden is doing well, need to cover some plants there may be a frost tonight. I hope not! I'm thinking about raising some meat chickens again, and have an interesting proposition for a certain person in regards to that. Other than that I'm reading a stack of good books.
Food Inc.
Fast Food Nation
House Rules by Jodi Picoult
Four Season Harvest by Elliot Coleman
Untold Story of Milk
Actually I've read all of them except House Rules SEVERAL TIMES. They are classics! I've also been invited to present at Career Day at the local school. If anyone has any ideas about what content and articles to display please give me ideas! I guess if all else fails I'll take some pics of the cows, maybe some cheese samples and just talk about what I do. Right? I'm rather distracted these days and can barely write let alone speak!
The kittens are almost 7 weeks old and I really dread trying to home some of them, we all love them so much! I really wish we could just promise to spay/neuter EVERYONE and keep all four.
Berretta is the last cow to calve. I had her due on 5/21 but I don't think she'll go that far. Wow, is her udder even bigger than last year! She is 6, and I'd say hitting prime production. She is one of the most trouble free cows I own. Such a pleasure to work with. I'm nervous because of Brie, but I need to have a good experience to put that last horrific one to rest. I think she's having a bull, that's okay. She gave me a heifer last year.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cinco de Mayo Theme This Week

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I've been inspired this week to delve into traditional Mexican/ Latin American cheeses in honor of this celebration. I also included a recipe which nicely uses most of these cheeses as ingredients, calls for spices you probably already have on hand and calls for chicken.

Queso Jalapeno $5 per 8 oz
A smooth, soft cheese with bits of real Jalapeno pepper in it. Ideal for making quesadillas with a little extra zesty flavor or for anytime snacking.
Oaxaca $5 per 8 oz
A white, semi-hard cheese from Mexico, similar to unaged Monterey Jack but with a mozzarella-like string cheese texture.It is named after the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, where it was first made
Queso blanco $4 per 8 oz
A Latin American cheese. The name means white cheese.There are many variations of this cheese throughout Latin America. It is hard and rubbery, with a bland, sweet flavor. It is excellent for cooking, and has the unique property of not melting even if deep-fried.
Crema Agria ( Sour Cream ) $3 per 8 oz
A Mexican-style tangy sour cream.

Chicken Enchiladas
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Oaxaca cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) Queso Blanco cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
10 6-inch flour tortillas
1-1/2 cups enchilada sauce
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup minced green onion
Simple but oh, how delicious!
serves 6

Raw Creamline Milk$5 per gallon, $3 per half gallon (Plastic)
$2.50 per 1/2 gallon in a Glass Ball Jar
Raw Jersey Cream $4 per pint
Creamtop Whole Milk Yogurt Plain,$3.25 per 16 oz glass jar,OR$5.50 per quart
Flavored Yogurt - Mexican Vanilla Bean!$2.50 per 8 oz, $4 per 16 oz, or $6 per quart

The cows are now on grass 24/7 have you noticed the vitamin rich yellow hue to the milk and cream? That's because Jersey cows don't use all the beta-carotene they consume in the green grass, a lot of it is passed along to you in their milk. Not all breeds of cows have this ability so enjoy your milk with an extra helping of vitamins!

Jessika and Family and Cows of Course!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cow Pics

The herd grazing. Notice the babies learning how to be good graziers from their Moms. This is key if you want to be grass based.

Teeny. A fabulous cow, giving 5+gallons a year into lactation.

Happy and Henrietta. Happy has a bad knee, that got her kicked out of her former dairy, but she does pretty good here on grass.

Jules on babysit detail. The heifer calves are Juliette and Margot.

Baby Margot. Just the sweetest little thing EVER.

I took these pics today of the cows. My Mom said I was seriously slacking with my blog, so I hope to make up for it with some nice pics. I tried to upload one last pic but it quit on me. This was an embarassing pic of me after I got a little too cocky trying to jump the brook and fell in.
Muddy, and reflective I sloshed a 1/2 mile up hill back to the house. There is photographic just got lost in cyberspace somewhere.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hidden Hazard

Okay. This is lighthearted I swear!
Picture it:
Zoie and I are taking the cows out to pasture. The milk cows are still really excited, and even though we don't urge them on at all, most are trotting pretty steady the 1/2 mile down the road.
They are kinda ungainly, what with that big udder swinging. Zoie is keeping strides with Gale, a very " endowed " cow, when all of a sudden SOMETHING white and milky squirts out and hits her right in the eye! It was milk of course! As her udder was swinging milk was squirting out and somehow flew right into my 11 yr old daughters eye. I laughed and laughed, and laughed some more. Don't you all find that really funny? Even Zoie giggled. We all know not to walk directly BEHIND a very excited cow on spring grass ( a hazard of a much worse sort there! ) but who would of guessed there was a distinct possibility you might get milk squirted in your eye!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bakers, I need your help!

So I made a DELICIOUS batch of cream cheese, and am feeling inspired to bake some homemade Bagels. Who's got a recipe? I'd like to flavor them too, things like " honey wheat " "multigrain" etc. The weather is turning crappy for a couple days, it's cold and I'll be hiding out in the house so I might as well do some much needed baking. Anyone?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another Ambulance Ride

We had to go back to the hospital with Ayla last night. This time it wasn't because she was sick----but very intense nonetheless. Her BG had been on the high side all day. I changed the infusion set for her insulin pump a total of 3 times and still the BG wouldn't budge and in fact started rising despite lots of insulin. Checked her ketones and they were unbelievably high, 4.4, and she strated to vomit, complain of headache and blurry vision.
Called 911. They whisked Ayla and I off to the hospital, sirens blaring. I was afraid she was gonna go into DKA any minute. Somehow we remembered to give her an injection, in addition to the insulin her pump was giving and this is what turned it around. Finally her BG was back down to 132 and ketones all but gone. We believe her pump was malfunctioning and not delivering the insulin it said it was. I need to call them, and probably demand a replacement. It could have killed her. That's how fast type 1 diabetes kills. That's why I have to believe in a cure. I don't think people are aware of the differences between the 2 types and exactly how serious this disease really is. Then as I had a feeling it would, her BG took a big drop in the night. I noticed her twitching and as soon as it entered my unconscious mind--I checked her and sure enough she was only 43. Very dangerous too, but in the opposite direction.
We got home at 1:00am. As soon as I got her settled in I started working on some of my orders because I can't afford to miss any sales and Dante just headed off to work too. I have an hour and 45 minutes to complete as much as I can and meet the distribution truck.
Some exciting news:
5 of the milk cows spent the night out to pasture! They were so happy and such good girls. Walked the 1/2 mile to the gate---unfortunately the wrong gate---but they just stood and waited for us to catch up and let them in another one. The babies stayed with 2 babysitters in the barn. I need to finish their fence. If I put the mother/babe pairs in with the bulls I won't be able to go in and get them if I need to, so I need the babies in a different field with easy access.
We are still feeding hay, but those days are quickly coming to an end!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Puppy Love

Ida May ( 20 months old ) and our faithful dog, Cinder. He is the best. Defending the farm from coyotes by night---and loving the kids by day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

An Interesting Day

Let's see.....It started off with a bang and only 4-5 hours of sleep. This time I have no one but myself to blame, I did a little socializing last night. Zoie had to meet the bus at the school for another peewee tournament game at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday. What???
I cheerfully launched into a good barncleaning and leisurely milking when Jude runs out and says,
"Papa is coming with the hay and wants a 1/2 gallon of milk." Well it's the least I can do for my Dad bringing me some hay and all. So the milking seriously picked up the pace, with me running in place tugging on cow collars. They can't be hurried you know, just plodding along. I did get him his VERY fresh 1/2 gallon of milk.
Then we needed to load some manure for a friend. I had to threaten Dante within an inch of his life to leave MY 3 year old aged and composted manure pile ALONE and take from a different pile. C'mon girls, you all have a prized manure pile right?
While making feta cheese, I decide to try this workout from Self magazine that claims I'll be "bikini ready" by June. I somehow manage to pull a muscle in my left butt cheek. You don't realize how much you use that left butt cheek until it is in agony! I don't know if I'll be bikini ready by June----but I'll probably be martini ready LOL!
Looking for even MORE punishment, I escape with only Zoie and Ayla and a jogging stroller to go for a power walk/run on the trails. It was good---except for that pulled muscle I mentioned. I kinda had to do an improvised power limp.
We almost made it home in the car when suddenly Ayla just explodes and starts going ballistic screaming and crying! I didn't know what the heck was going on but I stupidly tell Zoie to unbuckle and get back there while I'm swerving around and screaming myself. Then Zoie says,"Mom I see flashing blue lights!" I now have been admittedly driving erratically with 2 unbuckled children in a beat up minivan going 10 miles over the speed limit. But when I look in the rear view mirror the flashing blue lights look strange and the vehicle is pulling a boat. Huh??
I pull over, swearing like a sailor, and know my goose is probably cooked with good reason--but I really thought we were having a medical emergency! In my side view mirror I see a uniformed officer, but he's wearing shorts and a fisherman hat. Okay.....
He asks if I know why he pulled me over. I tell him I was probably all over the road, but I thought my 3 year old diabetic was having a seizure and then I did a brief synopsis of her history of seizures and my PTSD reaction to a certain scream she does. I got a stern talking-to, a slap on the wrist and he was on his way. Buckled the kids back in, and then Zoie says, " Did we just get pulled over by a GAME WARDEN?" " looks that way" As a green game warden truck pulling a boat roars off down the highway. That was a first.
The afternoon sun was shining in my room and my bed was looking so gooooood....before I knew it I had hopped in and pulled the covers over my head. In the distance I hear a pounding on the door and then Dante yelling, " Jess! I need you and Zoie the bulls are over at the neighbors!"
You HAVE to be kidding me! We jump in the van and race next door to see our biggest bull scratching his neck on the corner of the neighbors house. Sweet, really sweet. I leap out and wave my arms and clap my hands. Nothing. He stares at me and lowers his head. Okay. I fly back to our house grab a nice big stick and go back, by now Dante is there and we give chase. Did I mention that one side of my butt is in serious distress? Try hopping through tall grass with the fear of a bull smashing you in front of your kids and the neighbor kids with a pulled butt-cheek muscle! We got them back in and now I'm gonna make some homemade pizza.
Overall, not too shabby. Quite entertaining actually. A good day!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Any thoughts or Inspirations?

Regarding weightloss or lack there of! I have been stuck at the same weight since Christmas BUT I've dropped another pant size and have gotten into much better shape. I know I shouldn't obsess over the number on the scale but I'd like to see that change with all the work I've put in!
This week I haven't exercised as much, I think the stress of last week finally caught up to me. I've had a stiff neck and then my back really was messed up, probably no doubt from the whole cow episode.
I hesitate to do anything other than ride it out. Dante and the kids get WAY too much enjoyment out of recalling the last time I went to the doctor for my back. Dante and I had been rolling round bales of hay onto a pickup every 2 days while I was pregnant, because at the time our tractor couldn't move them, but the cows still needed to be fed. ( No wonder my back was messed up! )
So I went to our family doctor, thinking he'd refer me to a chiropractor. Nope---right there with all the kids watching in horror and amusement---he folded me up like a pretzel and then pounced on me four or five times. It probably looked like some fake wrestling move. I'm glad I was able to provide a quality lasting memory for the kids. They'll probably NEVER seek medical attention for an ailing back in their lifetime!
Anyway, I'm looking for some ideas to ramp up the weightloss again. I think I probably need to switch it up. I usually eat similar foods, and have been pretty much running 3-5 times a week.
So I switched to yogurt for breakfast ( I usually don't eat breakfast ) and I think I'll start lifting weights. I wanted to wait until I reached my goal before doing strength training, ( I lift PLENTY of weight on a daily basis on the farm--but my body is SO used to it ) but I think I'll try it and see what happens. Anything thats working for you?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm Still Here !

Here's a pic of Zoie and I, checking out the pasture--wishing it was greener! I told Dante I want a cabin in that pasture so I can wake up with the cows grazing right outside of the door. He says, " Then the cows will crap on your front porch." and I say, " Well the big ones won't. " I really wouldn't mind. I'd just keep a shovel by the door and clear a pathway!

Things are alright. I keep it in perspective. The kids are all well--we've enjoyed this warm spell.

I've pretty much decided that the cows are moving out to pasture--ready or not---I'll just sacrifice one area. I need to have a break from the intense barn work, and they are just dying to get out anyway. I absolutely LOVE , walking the cows back and forth along our 1/2 mile wooded driveway to be milked, and returning them to pasture. I can't tell you what that quiet time does for my soul. I usually have a whole flock of kids along to " help ". It is as close to a perfect time as any.

I need to go back and calculate Berretta's calving date. I think she's due sooner than the " middle of May " date I've had in my head. I am a bit nervous, but have to remember we did this whole calving routine dozens of times without a glich and Berretta is an old pro. She'll be the last cow to calve, and in fact no one is even bred back yet. I want March - May calving dates next year.

The bulls are bored and have Spring fever, and a gate left untied was all it took for an escape today. I knew they'd make their way up to the barn. Wasn't much a woman and 5 kids were gonna do about it really! especially a woman in a whirlwind trying to finish yogurt and making cheese! I blame them for putting me behind schedule and making me late---ALL DAY LONG--!

We are waiting for Zoie to get home, so we can have a gate opener, while we go in a cut the bulls out of the milk herd, and take them back where they belong.

We were all at one of the last pee wee basketball games, Zoie plays. She has come a long way, but I can tell she favors me more than Dante in the team sports arena. I was always better at running, horseback riding, those type of things. I hated little league. I used to go out in the outfield, and sit down and pick flowers. Didn't even notice the game going on really.

You see.. I've always taken time to stop and smell the roses.

Friday, April 2, 2010

We Lost Brie and her Calf

I hate to even write anything. I know these things happen, and it is a part of farming but I'm pretty torn up right now.
I found Brie down, uterus partially prolapsed but no calf in it. Obviously she was dying. Called Dante home, and a neighbor came to help. They put her down and performed a c-section. I worked really hard on that little baby but he died.
For some reason her cervix barely dilated. I've never had any major calving issues, nothing like this. It was so dramatic and horrible and it makes me not wannna do this anymore.
I'll be fine though. Just another test, for what ---I don't know-- but I'm really sad and plain old wore out. To make matters worse Maddy's calf was looking off this morning. She is still nursing and I have them snugged in now, but I don't know where I'm gonna muster the energy to give that the proper diligence.
That's the thing about it, I keep getting blow after blow but I still have to keep going. I can't even just hide out and cry for a few days because I need to make meals for the kids, check Ayla's blood sugar frequently, milk the cows, dishes, laundry. It's probably good, I guess, but all I want to do right now is go to bed but I should probably go check on Margo. Veda didn't understand and threw a fit about gym class so I got her there. Now I gotta go pick her up and make lunch.
I haven't even gotten to mourn the loss of a sweet cow, too many details to settle.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Baby Margot

Have you ever tried to take a self portrait of yourself and a calf while struggling to hold the aforementioned calf? This is little Margot. She is still really tame and sweet. Althea, 6 weeks old, and Juliette, 3 weeks old, are both full of it now and while very interested in me---they are officially cheeky little nurslings that are hard to catch! I noticed that Althea's collar needs to be loosened. I'll have to try to make a leap for her, and somehow loosen that collar.

Maddy is very good about milking but has a tiny little udder. I think that Margot will be able to take care of it pretty soon. Maddy is so small, that I can't use the milker hanging on its strap but have to crouch next to her and hold it up. Those of you who have held an EMPTY surge milker, can appreciate how difficult this is! Do you think I could add a few rivets or something to the strap to make it fit her?

Maddy has learned the routine and even though she is so picked on, readily makes her way to the gate to be milked, and doesn't she LOVE her little baby.

I need to make a few changes in the barn, and I think I found someone to help me. We'll see if it works out. The milk parlor needs a fresh coat of white paint, and I would do just about anything if someone who doesn't have a pathological fear of spiders ( like I do ) could come in and sweep down those barn spider webs. At least in the areas I spend most of my time. I'm sure the spiders are beneficial, but after having one drop down my chest while milking last summer, I don't want to have a repeat! And you wouldn't believe it but I saw a couple moths outside on the deck off the bedroom. MOTHS! How is that possible? You all know how I feel about moths!
Gooseberry's kittens are fat as can be, and opening their eyes. She still tries to frequently move them into the coldest, dankest corners but we're on to her. It is a bit annoying.
Brie hasn't calved yet, but boy is she close. I'm sure we are probably due for a bull calf, that's okay, I've really lucked out with 4 out of 5 calves being heifers.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

We Might Be Home This Evening!

Things are looking up! Ayla is off the i.v's for now if we can keep her hydrated and those nasty ketones away. She is actually able to cough up some of that junk, as gross as it sounds its a good thing! Her attitude is better, she is getting feisty and called me a monkey butt. Typical Ayla.
Ida May still sounds pretty wheezy, her lungs aren't as clear but she isn't on oxygen anymore and is just receiving breathing treatments periodically. I can tell she is feeling better too because she is starting to get into EVERYTHING!
How could this have happened? We generally have pretty healthy kids and I just cannot believe any of this was happening. Last night was SOOOOOOOOO hard. I didn't sleep at all the last 2 nights at the hospital and last night was even worse than the first because I had 2 kids in 2 seperate beds who both needed me, and lots of monitoring and checks and alarms going off. All day yesterday was insane because Ayla was in ICU and Ida May was in the ER and we just ran ourselves ragged trying to go back and forth between them.
We were still trying to keep in contact with our other 3 kids and make arrangements for the cows and milking, and our wood furnace was out and the house was cold and did I mention we were gettting TORRENTIAL rain and wind. My first worry was of course our sick kids but I was also concerned for the cows especially our 3 day old heifer Margo.
I just came home, milked the cows, filled the water troughs and cleaned the barn and took my first shower in 3 days. God knows what kind of germs I picked up at the hospital, it felt nice to have a hot shower! I'm heading back now, keep your fingers and hooves crossed that we'll be home tonight sometime!

Monday, March 29, 2010


hello people,
This Morning we took IDA to the hospital, she took a turn for the worst last nite, and we brought her in this am. Same diagnosis as Ayla, pneumonia and SVR, and her oxygen levels would not come up so she as well was admitted and is on oxygen, they both share a room in the ICU, and Jessika and her mother are both there. Im home with Zoie Jude, and Veda(8pm, e.s.t.) If Any of you want to call to wish the best to Jessika, the phone number is 1-207-255-0456(direct line to her room). So far so good. Keep our children in you prayers and thank you so much for the support. Dante(the father).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ayla Update: Pneumonia and KetoAcidosis

Ayla is admitted to the hospital. She's in intensive care. She has probably got pneumonia and is on I.V.'s, and we are really battling acidosis trying to keep it back. When you have type 1 diabetes EVERYTHING not only looks worse but it IS worse. This morning her ketones tested at 3.2 and the little scale we have says if you get a reading of 1.5 they are at risk of ketoacidosis, so this sent us into full panic mode. Adrenaline was not my friend this time, I was shaking so bad I just couldn't function couldn't hardly breathe.
Getting an I.V. in took over an hour of jabbing and Ayla and I were both crying, Dante had to leave. I hate needing to rely on the hospital to save her and yet needing to advocate on her behalf as well, when they kinda forget she isn't just a patient but a little sick 3 year old girl.
It is a very delicate balance, with so many variables and if anyone of these things starts to decline then we are transferred to a bigger hospital. Dante and I are working just as hard as they are checking her blood and ketones hourly while they draw blood for potassium and acid levels. All this amounts to Ayla being sick and tired of being messed with and now just getting really terrified whene anyone walks in the room.
I only ran home to milk the cows and now I'm going back to spend the night with her. It looks like she is in there for at least 48 hours on I.Vs anyway. Please continue the prayers, we need them. I'll update when I can.

We need Your Prayers!!!!!!!!!!

Heading to the hospital with Ayla now, I am terrified! Please pray for her!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

MORE New Babies !

It has been a busy week with all the joy, but also work that new babies bring. Our cat, "Gooseberry" had 4 kittens. She is a sweet but rather bizarre cat. I had no idea how this motherhood thing was going to go with her. I reluctantly had to break the news of the impending births to Dante by saying, "I have bad news and good news. Gooseberry is pregnant but I'm NOT!" He still wasn't happy, but what are you going to do? The cats are barncats because of Dante and Jude's allergies. We couldn't get Gooseberry spayed in the winter because she lives outside. The cat daddy is feral. We've tried to live trap him to get him neutered but he was too smart. So we have 4 tiny, adorable kittens that are longhaired, and living snugly in a box in our cellar if anyone local is interested. Three are dilute calico females and one grey tiger male. They'll be looking for good homes in about 8 weeks.

Gooseberry is actually doing pretty good and LOVES her kitties. She does keep trying to move them though, and if you run up the cellar stairs after visiting, she immediately assumes you are running because you've stolen a kitten and will give chase and cling to your leg. I told you, she's strange but harmless.

We also have ANOTHER new calf as of this morning! I was completely shocked that Maddy had her calf. She has a tiny little udder and I should have known, but have been a bit exhausted after the crap that Jules put me through, so may have not quite realized the signs.
Don't hate me but, IT'S A HEIFER! I cannot believe it... I now have 4 gorgeous heifers. 3 born since February! I'm am so NOT excited to milk Maddy after having had an absolutely rotten experience with Jules which is actually still unresolved and all my bruises and cuts haven't even healed yet.
Maddy is much smaller, and much more tame. I'm hopeful.....but I may need a glass of wine to boost my morale. Pics of more kitties and the baby calf, "Margot" coming soon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another Satisfied Customer

I sincerely hope all of you that buy cheese from me regularly are just as enthusiatic as Miss Ida May. Of course, as Zoie says, " Mom--Ida May eats cat food. She's hardly an expert on good cheese." I still love the thought of you at home just eating it with your hands, cheese smeared on your faces. Who needs a cracker?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Life IS Good

You're probably sick of all my doom and gloom, so I thought I'd report that I'm feeling good!Things are peaceful and all is well right now. I am trying very hard to have compassion, even though Jules has reverted back to trying to kill me and I'm not set up to handle her properly. I realize that animals have individual personalities just as much as people do. I may try to make a few phone calls tommorrow and see about getting some help with her, or I might just try to see if maybe she is better suited, this time around, to be a nurse cow. ALL of my other cows are an absolute joy to milk. They actually line up at the gate and try to all squeeze through at once to be the first milked! If she would raise 2-3 of our calves, she would pay her way and there's a chance I can still bring her around in a couple months when it is less hectic. One thing is for sure--I just can't face milking her again right now. I'm peaceful about it.
I've recieved so many compliments and can't thank you all enough. It is so wonderful to hear good things. Many thanks to all my faithful customers! It helps me keep going even after a week like Jules just put me through!
The kids were just wonderful today. I always love them, and am very proud of this family of ours but I won't lie--sometimes when you have 5 kids and a farm, and a business and deadlines, and basketball games, speech therapy, medical issues---screaming and fighting kids ( and don't kid yourself ALL siblings fight ) just quickly escalates the situation. Today, it was like time slowed down a bit and I felt like I was watching our lives from a distance.
Ida May ( 1) was toddling around in my pink heels and I thought, "Man, she really looks like a little me. I wonder if she'll grow up to feel as connected to growing food as her Momma does."
Ayla (3) and Veda (5) were in the backseat of the van. We stopped and bought some grain for the cows and every time the man brought out another bag, one of them would say, " Hi ! " and he'd say Hi back to them and they'd just burst into peels of laughter. It was so infectious, we were all laughing even the poor man carrying the grain bags! There is nothing so sweet as joyful children.
Jude (8) is such a gentleman, and likes to surprise me by making my bed. I can't tell you how much it means, when I'm exhausted--finishing up whatever cheese I'm currently making-- to go in and see my bed made and ready for me to just crawl in. Heavenly, it is.
Zoie (11) is growing like a weed. I see bits and pieces of Dante and I, but mostly she is herself. It is endlessly fascinating. Watching and being a part of her life. Of all their lives.
The greatest story unfolding, and I switch between just muddling through the day to day, surviving the really heavy stuff we've been going through, and then seeing it all almost outside of my body, good and bad. It's real, and I LOVE it all. I wouldn't change anything. Not even the bad.
I milked at 8:30p.m. A couple hours late, but sometimes this is the sweetest time. I know that the little kids will be sleeping when I come in, and the cows are very restful at this time. Their bellies are full, they exude contentment and it helps me unwind. The night is dark and misty. Gentle rain was falling and felt good on my face. I went about my routine, and the cows watched me fill their mangers and then ambled over to their own spots. Gale watched me, and nodded as I left. I said, " Night, Girl."
Now I'm gonna go collapse into bed and dream sweet dreams.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Tie Stalls

I should have at least groomed the cows first! Oh well, I was excited! It is nice to know they have a clean dry place. Silly girls will lay in the mud and muck around the hay feeder if the weather is nice. They just want to be outside all the time now. C'mon green grass GROW! I have a feeling since it seems spring came a month early, that I just might be able to move them out to pasture a whole month earlier as well. If they were back to grazing by April 15th, that would make it only 5 months that they were eating stored feed this year. We managed to stockpile some pasture last Fall and they were grazing exclusively right up to November 15th.
A major plus for me, NO MORE MANURE cleaning as soon as they move out. I spend a lot of time right now just cleaning up poop......I'm sure I could find something else to do! Oh, 2 of my crocus bloomed today and I saw a whole flock of robins! Spring has sprung, yahoo!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sweet, Sweet Success

Let the pics tell you the story. I finally got that machine on her and milked out 3 gallons and she only kicked once! I don't know if she just finally gave in, or if it was a combination of desperate tactics I employed this morning. I remembered this trick from the veterinary hospital I worked at in Idaho. When we would be giving a dog or cat their shots, we would tap them on their head. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. This usually distracted them from getting the shot because they were just trying to figure out why we were tapping their head!
So, picture this if you will:

I got Jules locked in the stanchion. I face her head instead of her rear, in order to protect my head, and stand backed into her just like a farrier would with a horse, only facing the wrong direction I guess. But her near hind leg is between both of mine. She really can't get any leverage to kick hard this way because I'm leaning right into her. Then I wash her udder and squirt a few jets of milk out of each quarter. She waves her foot around and kicks once without connecting with anything. Then I hugged my right arm around her barrel and thumped her side steadily while squeezing each inflation with the thunb and forefinger of my left hand and very gently attaching it to each teat. I couldn't believe it.

We got it done.

I was able to go on and take some cute pics of Juliette. She's so shiny and sweet! It's a gorgeous day, and things are looking up!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Update on Jules....

It is still frustrating. Things are not going well and I am getting a little desperate. Her udder looks beautiful, I just can't tell what her major objection is. I have yet to get her fully milked out. Not even close. I have to stand backwards to put the milker on, so the kicks get the back of me. This is by far the worst cow I've had freshen EVER. All I can do is take a deep breath and get in there. I still think persistence will pay off and we'll get there.
I was scanning the crowd at the basketball game tonight and thinking which random guy can I convince to come over and help me get her fully milked out for a couple nights in a row.
I'm not joking, I'm bruised and battered.
I've definitely earned every dime I made this week!
Hopefully I can get a pic of Juliette up tommorrow. I am happy to announce she is doing wonderful now.
I'm making lots of fromage blanc for the pesto &walnut cheese spread this week. It is so good, the kids almost staged a riot when I said that batch was all sold! I'm making more right now.
I am using the tie stalls now, ready or not. The ground is quite thawed out and I need to keep the cows clean and comfortable. They get out for 3 or 4 hours twice a day and stretch their legs, eat at the round bale, nurse their babies and hang out. It was a disaster at first, but they have pretty much learned their exact spot and I can let them in and they just about go to the right spot each time. I keep forgetting to get 2 more wingnuts so Maddy and Brie can join them.
I think, if I get a moment--I'll start some no knead bread tommorrow. I haven't made that in a while. Homemade bread and cheese, it doesn't get much better than that!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Jules Calved---I need your Help!

Yesterday afternoon, Jules had little Juliette. Another heifer, I can't believe it! It was a classic calving everything seemed fine. I was frozen and exhausted though, so I went in for a hot shower before going back out to milk and to make sure Juliette had gotten colostrum. This is when the fun began. It has been SO MUCH FUN, that I haven't even gotten a good pic of baby Juliette yet. I am being sarcastic, and can you read the grouchy undertones?
When I go out, I notice first off that Juliette hasn't stood yet, and even worse--her legs are
"frogged" out behind her. Hmmm, that doesn't look good. When I try to help her stand, Jules is getting pretty defensive. Let's not forget she has one horn left, and brandishes it very well.
So, I coax Jules out and put her in the milk stanchion. I figured I'd milk out some colostrum and just feed it to the calf, so I can be assured she has gotten it. First off, she poops, and swishes her long tail in it, repeatedly. I'm thinking ,where are my scissors. Let's give that tail a haircut.
Then, I got my nice warm wash rag in hand and reached out to wash each teat. WHAMMM! First kick. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but in times like this you have got to move in even closer. I snugged right into her side, and just started blindly washing in the direction of her udder! I was washing legs and a belly, udder, teats, my jeans, whatever I could reach while be buffeting by a constant barage of kicks ! I was NOT gonna stop because that was what she wanted, and this isn't a cow spa. Yes, I adore my cows--but I still have a business to run and part of the agreement is that I need the milk! Now, I am a softy, I always let the cows raise their own calf, and I share with them for 3-4 months sometimes longer if they are generous!
I'm thinking Jules, being a heifer, is a bit confused with all her hormones raging and thinks I'm stealing milk from her own calf.
Somehow, I deflected her kicks and actually got the milk machine on and off her last night and the calf fed. I thought that would be the worst of it......Boy was I wrong.
This morning I go out to milk. The kids are all sleeping, Dante's off to work. It's a busy day, and I was looking forward to seeing the new baby. I peak into the stall, and there's Juliette at the opposite end of where I left her, but still with her legs splayed out. This time I immediately got Jules out, lifted the calf, and she took some rocky steps. Well, at least she can walk a little. That's better. I'm gonna put her on the deep bedding pack where she can get better traction.
Then, I call Jules out, and get ready to milk. It's the same old poopy attitude as last night. Maybe worse. So I reach down and start handmilking a teat, I lean right into her. She keeps kicking me off and I keep grabbing that teat and squirting milk all over my pants. I know that she has to learn, that nothing is gonna shake me off--- and then we'll be fine.
I have no idea how, but after about 6 attempts that she kicked off, I get the machine on and she is seemingly settled down, munching grain and getting milked. Then I don't even really know what happened.
I walked over, squatted next to her, and I think I was either gonna check to see if milk was still flowing or release the vacuum, but without even shifting her weight, she cocked her leg up and kicked HARD, missing my face by maybe an inch. Somehow I got my arm in front of my face and she kicked me in the wrist. Oh, that hurt so bad. That's the most painful kick I've ever gotten. It rendered my left arm and hand completely useless. I really thought she broke it. The machine is hanging under her, and she's stepping on it. It's an expensive and crucial piece of my equipment. I fished it out from under with my one good hand, and then let her go. What else could I do?
I couldn't even use my hand for an hour. Bad thing is, she won that round.
I thought I might have to drive myself to the hospital, but the feeling came back. I still have some shooting pains, and it's hard to make a fist but otherwise it's still usable.
I am use to fresh cows and heifers, I'm not afraid of getting kicked. This is nothing new. But she has me kinda shook up. I'm actually nervous to try again tonight. I won't say scared, because I don't want to admit that. But I need a new game plan before tonight.
I also have a cut and large bruise on my thigh from last night, and I got kicked in the knee this morning too. What if I had gotten kicked in the face?The kids were all sleeping in the house, and no one else was home. I work primarily alone with the cows and usually don't give it much thought, until I almost got really hurt. It was really close, I tell you. Too close.
So, I need a little encouragement to get back in there tonight.
Dante would try to help me, but he is seriously allergic. The kind that triggers asthma, so I feel bad about asking him to come help me wrestle with her tonight. Even if he did, he'd need to probably repeat that twice a day for a couple days anyway.
I'm gonna try the old, " glove on a stick " trick, and maybe Dante can screw an eyebolt into a stud in the milk parlor wall, and I can try to tie off one leg. I don't own a kickstop because usually, I can just move slowly and hang on, and when they can't shake me off they just quit it.
Plus, the hormones settle down after a few days.
You know, she was born in the summer and ran with her mother and was just a very skittish but sweet cow. I do think she'll come around, but for now I need to feel safe enough to milk her again.
It might be a rough few days........

Friday, March 12, 2010

Jules is on Deck.....

She will be the next to calve. Within 2 weeks, probably sooner. Wanna take a guess? She gets all " swishy -tailed " whenever I try to touch her udder. Not a direct windmill-action kick aimed at my head, but she's dancing around and thwapping me with her tail nonetheless. Speaking of which , I got groped by a 3 yr old boy at Ayla's gym class. That was new. I should have guessed what was coming when he sidled up next to me, patted my arm, laid his head on my shoulder and then went for the gold. Frankly, I have 5 kids--6 if you count Dante--( I can write that because he RARELY ever reads the blog! ) so I am pretty used to it. You Moms know what I mean. Your body kinda becomes public property. Newly weaned Ida May has taken to blowing " raspberries " on my chest. Whatever floats your boat, right?

Back to Jules, if she has a heifer she will be named Julia or Juliette. A play on the book/movie " Julie & Julia ". Only this pair will probably be " Jules & Juliette ". I can use the milk. Ellie's bull calf is officially for sale. He is taking ALL her milk. He will be excellent meat for the freezer for someone. We are gonna butcher our bigger bull, Wolfie, after he breeds the cows and is on grass for a bit. He is becoming a jerk, gets all snorty and grouchy if you even look at him these days. Teeny was in heat yesterday, or maybe it was Happy, all I know is it was a DANGEROUS proposition to get in between her an any immovable object! I tried to take some pics of Jules but was scared to turn my back on her! I had to keep my escape route in mind. She just had this love-crazed look in her eyes.....The ram we borrowed for tupping ( remember that is sheep-speak for breeding ) is also a bother now. He uses his horns to dart under the fence and is coating the bottom wire with wool. This is very annoying for Dante, and thus slightly entertaining for me!

Amazingly my business is growing concurrent with the cows freshening. It seems, just as I seem to be short on milk--BOOM! Another calf hits the ground. I couldn't have planned it better, and believe me it wasn't planned! This years calving schedule was all left up to the cows, bulls, and romance under the stars somewhere on the back forty. I would have LOVED to have at least gotten a heads up, but NO---the cows want me to spend weeks scrutinizing their nether regions and discussing it in great detail with anyone who will listen. Zoie lives in fear of what I will let fly, in front of her friends. Of course I use this to my advantage. She had a friend visiting, and we were watering the cows. One of the calves mounted another. This is normal calf behavior, they do it as a dominance thing and just practicing being cows. The little girl looks at me and I can see it coming. " What are they doing? "
" Oh, just playing..." I say. " It looks like they're HUMPING." she says. So I say, " Fine, they're humping." And that was that. When you treat these things as normal everyday facts of life, that's EXACTLY how kids grow up viewing them.

That's one of the great things about being a lady dairy farmer . Not only have I learned every swear imaginable from other farmers, ( when you are dealing with a steaming 20 lb mound of excrement that just came out of the south end of your cow named " Happy ", to call it " poop " or " manure " just doesn't do it justice. It's sh*t. Pure and simple. Call me uncouth, or not lady-like, but I am very feminine, in a not so feminine profession. ) You also get to say things like:
" udder "
" teats "
" vulva"
" springing "
" sliming "
" mucous "
" engorged "
" she's holding out on me! "
" I almost got mounted by a cow today! "
and nobody looks at you weirdly! Okay, they still look at you strange, but you don't give a hoot! I love my job!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Does Muscle Weigh More Than Fat?

Only I could manage to take up running for an hour, every other day, in hopes of jump starting my weight loss---and GAIN 2 lbs.! Let's hope it's true--muscle weighs more than fat.

The power went out last night. Apparently a scheduled outage but I knew nothing about it. What really stinks, is that I had a bunch of yogurt incubating. The power goes out, shuts off the incubators, the space heater, AND the alarm set for 2 a.m., for me to get up and cap and refrigerate the yogurt. It's ruined. I apologize, in advance, to those who won't get their orders. I started another batch, but I don't think it will be done in time.
Ayla and Ida May were panicking because the night light was out. How do you notice the light is out when you are asleep with your eyes closed? I had to keep find my way to the bathroom by the light of my cell phone!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Kids and Cheese

I'm happy to report that we had a GREAT time last night. I laughed so hard and really enjoyed myself. Despite a huge setback in the morning, my Mom got sick and couldn't watch our 5 kids, after much brainstorming and many phonecalls we actually came up with some FABULOUS babysitters. They were perfect, the kids had a wonderful time and Ayla was safe and Ida May content. I'm still in a state of shock. I can't believe that they were fine. These lovely ladies were brave enough to take on watching Ayla, and readily learned what was necessary. No one has done that, I didn't think it was possible. Anything is possible, I guess.
It's a beautiful day, the cows are waiting for me. Jules looks REALLY close. She has been hanging around this dead tree that fell in their paddock during our last storm. I'm almost willing to bet, that's where she plans to drop that calf. She stands behind the small fallen tree and thinks I can't see her. It's like an elephant standing behind a telephone pole. She has one horn, and has been using it. The humane dehorning I started last March, was so humane in fact, that it only took off one horn! If she doesn't calve soon, I'm gonna have to take it off anyway. Either she has to be tied up, or her favorite victim does. Gale is the same story, one horn. I hate it.
I think I'm gonna make a Caerphilly cheese today, it'll culture while we are at church.
You can read about Caerphilly here:

The cream cheese is already started. It is a 2 day process, but I love that recipe best.

I'm gonna start some seeds too! We hung our towels out on the line yesterday, I stood, mesmerized, just looking at those towels waving on the line with the woods in the backdrop, I could hear Ellie softly mooing to her calf, Angus, --who is getting braver than she likes-- and slipping under the fence. Life is good.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A REALLY Big Beaver

I'm gonna " flashback " to one of our family memories. These are the things that you say you'll never forget, but you always do. This way it will be preserved forever! You can thank me for that later, Mom. This is a pic of Zoie taken on the day in question.

I must warn you, it isn't deep---probably nothing you could learn from, but is a typical outing for my mother and I.

We took all 5 kids for a walk on the trails. We had Ida May and Ayla in the double jogging stroller, and actually did a little jogging. We stopped along the way and ate a few fat juicy rose hips. Enough to stain our teeth orange. Upon walking for about 30 minutes we turned around and started to make our way back. That's when I spotted--THE BEAVER TRACKS.

" Look, you guys! There are beaver tracks! " Wow, that must be a REALLY big beaver! " " Or maybe a whole HERD of beavers! "

By this point we were all scooched down, pointing and gesturing loudly. We even showed another family the tracks we had found. Only Zoie questioned the authenticity of the beaver tracks.

That was when it happened............ My Mom took a step ahead of me, and there--in that exact spot where her athletic shoe had been, split seconds before---- was a perfect impersonation of a beaver track.

There were no herds of REALLY BIG beavers. Just one 5 ft 9in Grandma, wearing size 9 sneakers, that happened to leave a print that looked like a beaver track.

I still laugh thinking about that giant Beaver, because ironically we had been eating rose hips, and our teeth were all orange too. Just like a bunch of beavers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Blah, Blah, Blah

I just somehow, mostly pulled off finishing the Thursday orders. It was close. I barely survived and had to meet the truck in my pajamas with my hair looking like Tina Turners's.
It is at times like this, that I really get amused by the strangest things.
I was just pondering some of my favorite words and I think I see a theme developing.
Oddly enough I use these words on a daily basis. Go figure.
Then Zoie, poor thing, is wiped out by basketball and some cruddy cold that Ida May has given us all twice. She just tried to make herself some cinnamon toast but accidentally put CHILLI POWDER on her toast. I'm still chuckling over that one! I fear the kids may be doomed to inherit some of my dementia.
The janitor at the school asked how we got the dent in the van, and all I could say was, " Which one. " Let's see first I was in a hurry, Happy was calving out in the field and I backed into the lawnmower cart. Then I somehow managed to back up at a fairly good pace right into a 10 ft by 20 ft stack of cement pillars. I was preoccupied, the sheep had just been moved into a new pasture and what can I say, I was excited to see them in that idyllic pasture. Took out the passenger side view mirror and the door with that one. Can I borrow your car? Or better yet, your nice 4-wheel drive truck. THAT would be really fun.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I need your cracker recipes....

So,I've recovered from my mini breakdown. I hope I don't come across as having multiple personalities! We ( ME, MYSELF, and I,...and Dante ) are having a party this weekend. Only this time it is for adults only. Yes, for the first time ever, all 5 of our children will be babysat overnight and I hope to enjoy some good ole adult company. Sometimes I'll even admit I've been spending too much time with the kids and the cows. When you spend your days cleaning up poop from multiple species, herding children and cows by waving your arms, clapping and yelling, " Move along, little doggie !!! " and just bursting into gales of laughter when someone farts----I think you need a little more adult converstaion!
Upon receiving an invite, one of the other pee-wee basketball parents said, " What's gonna be the entertainment? " I said, " Hopefully not me! " I'm gonna need a few drinks to cope with Ayla being babysat, and I do LOVE to sing and dance. I wouldn't recommend getting frisky while washing your milk machine with dairy detergent and vinegar. I managed to splash this concoction past my new glasses and right in my eye a couple nights ago. This was followed by even more frantic movements and hollering. Honestly, Dante didn't even bat an eye. I think he thought I was just enjoying the music with a little interpretive dance.
Seriously, this is long overdue, and she and I both need this experience. I have to let go a little, and she needs to have that fun sleepover experience. All I can say about Ida May's night away is---Have fun, Mom! You remember what having 1 1/2 yr olds was like right? I would say I'm gonna unplug the phone after 8:00 p.m., but I won't. You might want to! I'm sure I'll be making more than a few obsessive phone calls. Just joking, don't unplug it or you'll get an impropmptu visit as well!
All this chatter, to say--I need your homemade cracker recipes! I'm gonna make a cheese plate with some of my cheeses and want to do homemade crackers to go with it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Superwoman Syndrome

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Do you ever feel the need to do and be everything for everyone even at the expense of yourself? A couple of weeks ago, there were two comments made in the same day that kinda made me pause. The first was one I've heard many times, " I don't know how you do it all---the kids, the farm. " I gave my usual response. " Does that seem like a lot?" To me it is simply what I do. Then a couple hours later someone else said, " Jessika is a strong woman." I thought, " Really?" I sure don't feel that way. I feel a bit like I'm always secretly on the verge of " cracking up " or failing, or falling apart, or letting everyone else down.
I really have this sense that if I let my guard down for one minute, it's gonna all spiral out of control and our lives are gonna fall apart.
Just so you know, I'm not talking about daily " good " stress either. I wish all I had to worry about was getting the kids to basketball practice, dinner on the table, the cows milked, the house cleaned.
I'm talking about really " heavy " things like serious financial strain, marital " issues " that make me feel like I'm the one with the responsibility for which way our family continues on, and one child with an incurable disease, and another with a rare speech disability that requires intense therapy. I'm also self-employed and a farmer. My house is also a mess and I haven't been doing very good getting nutritious meals on the table.
I am tired. Tired in a way that a few extra hours of sleep at night or a nap here or there aren't going to help. Tired in a way that makes it hard to get up in the morning but yet, nearly impossible to unwind at night and sleep. I feel like my body just won't move fast enough anymore, and sometimes I can barely think.
My poor cows. It is usually out in the barn that I finally let down my guard and have a good cry. I mean the really ugly ones that come from deep down inside your soul. They are loud and painful, and I wouldn't want anyone but the cows to have to witness emotion like that. The word " raw " is what comes to mind. I'm not writing this to scare off my customers, or get sympathy or attention. I've figured out that I have to spill out some of this " stuff " that builds inside me, every once and again, or it'll be toxic.
I really do feel better already. I just thought maybe someone could relate. Maybe someone has come through times like this and has some sage advice. For now I just has to BELIEVE and have FAITH that it really is gonna be okay someday. That is what I cling to.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Calves Coming Sooner Than I Thought....

We brought the bred heifers up to the barn about 10 days ago. I assumed they were probably all bred, they have been in with the bulls since June 2009. I had NO IDEA how far along. So, I did a little training session--put the heifers in the stanchion.
Jules and Maddy are definitely making udders, then I tried to bump them and almost jumped when I felt BIG calves kicking and pushing back against my hands! What? So it seems to me, the calves usually feel like that about a month before calving. Berretta, for reference, is due in May and about to be dried off. I can't bump her calf nearly as easily.
Brie, the 3rd heifer, isn't really building an udder yet. I couldn't bump a calf either. Hopefully she's in fact bred, just due in early May like I thought the others were.
The heifers behaved wonderful in the stanchion. I felt all around their cute little udders. Not a flinch, let alone a kick. I can't belive we might have 3 more little calves in the next 2 months. Yipeeeeeeeeeee!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cheese Notes

Or a note from the cheese, actually. This note mysteriously appeared on the " cheese cave " door. Sorry Colby. It didn't do a bit of good. I managed to walk past this note at least a half dozen times around 9:00 a.m. Didn't ring a bell, and I STILL forgot you in your brine bath.
Some cheese with your salt? Anyone?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Running of The Bulls......and Sheep?

We got a little unsolicited excitement last night.
To begin with, it was Zoie's REAL birthday. For some reason more often than not we seem to have a thing with dramatic animal escapes occuring on her birthday. Five years ago it was the famous " Pig on The Highway " incident that got me my " Crazy lady with all those kids and animals " status in the neighborhood. I think at that time I actually ONLY had 3 out of the 5 kids, and ONLY 3 pigs and no cows as well. Anyway, " Ginger " a large black sow had escaped her fence, in a snowstorm , on Zoie's 6th B-Day, and could not be coerced to cross the ice and go back in through the gate to her pen.
I called Dante at work and told him. I specifically remember him saying, " She'll be fine. Where's she gonna go?" Well, she went 5 miles down the highway in what became apparently a really fun day for everyone involved but US! And I mean right down the middle of the road. There were about 20 vehicles involved in this slow speed chase. Good samaritans were throwing their lunches out the window to her, one kindly neighbor lured her into his pristine white garage, and shut the door. Only to throw it open again when she started to do some damage. The police were involved, and told us if she crossed into the next town they were gonna have to shoot her. Finally she made her way to a cemetary, where some old time pig farmers on 4-wheelers caught her with a noose around the snout, and put her in their barn. We thought that was the end of it, until she jumped the 5 foot wall of the stall they had her in, and was on the loose again. They quickly rounded her up AGAIN, and this time nailed the doors of their barn shut. A friend of ours, went and retreived her the next day for us. And THAT"S how I became famous.........

So last night we get home about 8:00 pm. The answering machine is blinking, we have 1 new message. A quick listen, it was our neighbor calling while we were gone to tell us we had a few cows out. I was thinking, " That's odd. It was probably the calves " Henrietta " and " Angus ", out for a little Tour De Farm. Boy what a pain in the butt those two are."
I somehow convince Dante to go spread some straw out for the milk cows in the barn, because--" I'm so tired, there's no way I can do it!"
He returns, and peaks in our bedroom and says, " We got everybody all mixed in together. The bulls are up here milling around with the milk cows."
Oh, no. Remember-- I'm simply too tired to go on--- I can't possibly go sort out BULLS in the dark. But then I get this horrid picture in my mind, of the cows thundering around the barnyard in the muck and mud, driven on by the bulls, and my darling Althea getting trampled in the process.
Zoie, Ayla, and I get dressed and head over to the barn to join Dante, who is just leaving on the tractor. He figured he better put a new hay bale in their feeder, as incentive to get them the 1/2 mile back down the road to THEIR fence and barn. While he was gone, I get an idea. We should gather all eight milk cows and three calves, up onto their 12x32 ft bedded " sleeping platform " and lock the door. Then it would be easier to drive the bulls out of the fence and barn.
As we were working, my eyes catch sight of something white whizzing by. The sheep! Of course, they were in with the bulls and came up to the barn too. SWEET. Now we have killer bulls AND bouncing sheep to drive back down the hill. I was actually happy to see the sheep, just not in this context. My ewe and her lamb, came right up for some treats and scratches. Their beau, " Black Beard " ( the borrowed Scottich Black face ram ) was all about panicking and hurtling himself from one length of the barn to the other. Like sooty popcorn actually.
The trap is set, Zoie is secure--I'm sprung and ready to flee, screaming for my life if they run in my direction.( Very helpful in times like this ) It's a dark night, and as is typical of most Jersey bulls, they are very dark colored and can move surprisingly cat-like, when they need to. Dante disappears into the night, armed with a trusty fence post, listening to the hoof beats sloshing around outside, every hair is standing up on my head. I wait.
The bulls whiz by the opening of the barn, but the sheep take the bait and come eat grain from the pan I set out. Next time around, the bulls tear straight down the middle if the barn-- and I scramble out the front doors and pull them closed. Did I mention Ayla is hysterical in the minivan this whole time? Even though I went out to reassure her every couple of minutes, she's wigging out. I keep hearing the doors locking, everytime I walk away. She is NOT the one you want around, while working difficult animals. She likes baby " Moo cows" and to look at cows through the fence but that's pretty much the extent of it.
So now, the bulls and sheep are in the barn. Zoie and Dante are taking FOREVER to come out. Ayla's crying, and I'm pacing outside the van. Somehow Dante and Zoie appear around the side of the barn. Zoie hops in, Dante releases the bulls...and sheep, and we're off! The sheep lead the way in a tight little bunch, bounding down the dark, wooded lane. " Wolfie " the almost 2 year old bull is next, followed by " Brody " our runty little yearling, with an attitude, and we bring up the rear in the minvan. I would have loved to have been on the other end and seen this odd nighttime procession coming down the driveway. In fact, I tried to shoot a quick video, but Dante conveyed in a not so subtle manner, ( insert choice expletives here )that this was not the time nor place for it.A trio of sheep, a couple knot-headed bulls thundering along, all in the glow of our 1 headlight van. Yes, we've got a headlight out again, thank you. Bought a bulb for it yesterday.
They all trotted right in the open gate to the paddock and commenced to munch their hay. The girls and I headed back up to the barn, to release the girls, who were all in a dither, by now. What do I find? Maddy is down again. There is something going on with her. I think she hurt her back during that near- death episode she had. She was cast again, a few weeks ago, and then couldn't get up last night. We ushered all the other cows out, gave her some time and encouragement, and she finally got up. It's like she can rise to a certain height and then it hurts, and she drops again. This has me very worried. I'll probably consult with the vet today over the phone. Phew, and now I need to finish up an order and deliver it by the new, earlier deadline.
Never, and I mean NEVER a dull moment around here. I could use a little boredom, a little of the mundane, dull, lackluster. You know what I mean!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Zoie's 1st Sleepover.....I'm still Sleepy!

This scary looking creature is called " Wrap your little sister in toilet paper like an Egyptian Mummy." It was a big hit! An even bigger hit when I told them that was their toilet paper for the morning. I had them put it in a gift bag and park it next to our aging toilet.

( Okay, I may or may not have put a shot of Bacardi Rum in my cup of Diet Sprite. Things were getting a bit stressful and I saw no hope of any sleep in sight. )

Zoie invited 4 friends over to help celebrate her 11th Birthday. There was pizza, a movie, games of twister, cake and ice cream. We made " spirit flip-flops " in cheerleader fashion. I believe the idea came from my sister, Erika. Erika and I were cheerleaders all through grammer school and highschool. I'm tempted to make myself a pair, only I know I'll wear them to milk the cows come summer time, and probably get my toe sliced clean off the first time Beretta steps on it. I love Berretta, but I'm surprised I have any functioning toes left! She's got a knack of stepping on my foot and then standing there innocently looking around while I scream obscenities and beat on her large gurgling rumen to no avail. Wouldn't trade her for anything though.

Voila! Spirit Flip-Flops!

Then they decided to tell ghost stories. Dante hid in the doorway in his blazing red and white flannel pajamas and made snarling, howling coyote noises. They were on to him. But I found it immensely amusing! ( Or maybe it was the Bacardi talking ?) But the amusement wore off 20 minutes later when I found out it was almost midnight. I had to make the prerequisite trip to the bathroom and tell them to put a cork in it, or else face the music if they woke up Ida May!

The next morning I had lot's of little visitors in the barn while I forked out manure and milked the cows. The cows headed for the back forty, of course, and would only make a brave beeline for the parlor when they knew it was their turn.Funny, there wasn't any loitering this time? They made their contribution to the milk can, and then scrammed.

Sometimes I think I was probably a family cow in a past life. I can TOTALLY relate.

I think a good time was had by all. Zoie napped on and off like a played out kitten the rest of the day. If you knew her, you'd know she NEVER makes it past 9:00p.m. I was sorely tempted to sleep with Ida May when she fell asleep in my arms that afternoon, but surprisingly I got up and exercised instead. Now I know I must be addled with sleep deprivation!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Miserable Way To Start The Day

These are the stairs I fell down this morning. Heading out to milk at 6:00 a.m. Welcome back to twice a day milking! Just when I was thinking, " I could really use this quiet, contemplative time of day...." WHAMMMMMMMM! Bump! Bump! Bump!Bump! Down like a sack of potatoes (only wearing pajamas ) slipped on the icy steps, a jumble of flannel, stainless steel, purple muckboots----and wouldn't you know it---the blasted bucket full of piping hot UDDER WASH!

Soaked, stunned, and quite p*ssed off to be truthful. Crumpled in a heap at the bottom of the steps, I considered my options.

1.) There is the obviously sensible one--- get your butt back inside and get changed it's winter!


2.) The grouchy, stubborn, fool-headed way. Ignore the pain and the wet clothing chafing you in areas you shouldn't be chafed, and push on--NAVY SEAL --style.

Guess which one I went with?

Surprisingly, I went back in and got changed. I'm pretty hard-core commando-ish, but give me a break! I hadn't even had any coffee yet.....

Ida May slept ON my head, and every 20 minutes like clockwork would yell, " MOMMA!!!!!!!"
In this really screeching voice directly in my ear, since she was already draped on my head like a hat. I was a bit " edgy" to begin with.
I calmy walked in the house, stripped off my soaking pants and barn coat, and left them in a sodden puddle right by the front door. I tell you I got such satisfaction knowing that Dante would be annoyed to find these soaked articles of clothing, just drip-drip-dripping away! Why shouldn't someone else suffer when your ticked off, am I right?

I made it through the milking fine, but COMPLETELY turned my creamery inside out finishing the orders on time. I was really staring to regret having kicked my workout " up a notch "last night. I made it though. Just as I finished washing the last cheesey utensil and inverted the final clean jar on the rack to dry , I remembered the kids!
Where are they? It's too quiet......
Amazingly this is what I found:

Angels. I didn't pose them, they just did it themselves. Makes you feel like your doing something right afterall.

Five minutes later, Ayla informs me Ida May pooped in her diaper, and says, " It looks just like a cow poop! I looked!

Humility is a good thing too. We need not get big heads over our sucesses! I'm glad God has imposed a system of checks and balances over our lives. Makes you a good person!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Introducing Baby Althea

The pics are blurry, it was still a bit dark in there. I'm heading out now to milk. A bit nervous to milk Gale. Her udder is big, and she is my reformed kicker. Last night I tried to milk a bit of colostrum out and she kicked me. I didn't have her in the stanchion though. I just need to soften her udder a bit, this first milking anyway. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gale Calved!

Just about 2 hours ago. I'm absolutely frozen and tired but so glad SHE is finally here! Yes, she had a gorgeous VERY long awaited purebred Jersey heifer. They are snuggled in a bed of straw in the barn. The calf was upside down, and as she started coming out all I could see were upside down hooves and the underside of a chin, then she got stuck there and I had to help pull the calf. Then Gale " played dead " absolutely scaring the sh*t out of me, I got so flustered that I stepped in the bucket of udder wash and flailed around on the milk room floor for a bit before getting my act together. I think she's okay, she is very alert and LOVES her baby, but I'm not gonna get much sleep tonight! Not that unusual, but I'm a sissy about going to the barn after dark in the winter. The coyotes could smell blood and were starting to cause a racket, then the dog goes beserk barking and charging off into the woods.
I still can't believe she actually had a heifer! Pics and more tommorrow, I'm heading back out to the barn.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Practical Sheep Dairying, Chapter 12

Chapter 12:
The Milking Ewe as a Therapy for the Maladjusted and Lonely

Need I say more? I think this is exactly what Zoie was hinting I might be portraying while reading this wonderful book and simultaneously riding 20 miles on a stationary bike, and meeting her new friend's very " normal " mother.

I have not heard a more apt description of yours truly, in quite some time! This has made me laugh so hard, I was doubled over and fell on the ice outside just thinking about it. Every time I pass by a mirror or catch sight of my reflection, I think, " Yup. Maladjusted and Lonely."
Seriously though, she makes a good point about the role animals play in our lives and how valuable that relationship is particularly to children. Animals are commonly used for therapy for a good reason. They know how to LISTEN and comfort just by being near you. Something that is so hard for many of us to master.
How about you? Are you gonna join the ranks of the " maladjusted " with me?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Typo in The Newspaper

So there was an article in a local paper about one of the local buying clubs that I sell to. It was very good except for one glaring typo in regards to my business of course.
It said that I deliver " Holstein Milk ". Where in the world did that come from! I'm trying not to be too offended, but I take pride in our high-fat milk from JERSEY cows, and in fact the majority of my products are based around CREAM. Sour cream, cream cheese, creme fraiche, pints of cream, cream top yogurt, and raw creamline milk.
Taking a breath and then heading out to milk my tiny, 700-800lb FAWN COLORED, 8.75% butterfat producing HOLSTEINS! LOL!
I really am trying not to panic, but without causing offense to Holstein cow owners, PERSONALLY I wouldn't buy milk if it was touted as being from Holsteins. But that's just a matter of personal taste, it's clear we like our coffee with lot's of Jersey cream in it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Beautiful Bounty

This is a pic of today's buying club order. Right now, I sell to 3 different local buying clubs. It's an interesting model. I still prefer selling direct at farmer's markets, but this has been a fabulous way to market my goods in the off season. Each week I email the 3 different coordinators of the buying club my list of available products and they put together an email listing all the participating vendors goods and customers email their orders. The " leaders " compile and organize the orders, organize a day a week that the farmers drop off their goods and then the customers come and pick up their orders. The coordinators are paid a % for their effort,( they do a lot of work ) payable with food. It's interesting, very grassroots.

Here's what I packed this morning:

9 - Half gallons of Creamline Raw Milk

2 - Pints Raw Cream

3 - 16 oz Plain Whole Milk Yogurts

2 - 16 oz Red Raspberry Yogurts

2 - 16 oz Mission Fig Yogurts

2 - 8 oz Red Raspberry Yogurts

1 - 8 oz Mission Fig Yogurt

2 - 16 oz Fromage Blanc w/ Garlic & Herbs in Olive Oil

2 - 8 oz Cranberry Nut Cream Cheese Balls

5- 1/2 lb wedges of Raw Milk Farmhouse Cheddar

One order down. Two more buying club orders due by Noon on Thursday. Today my Aunt said, " I don't know how you do it all ! " And you know what came out of my mouth? " Well I don't spend all day changing diapers anymore. " That went over well. I think it just might be my new tagline.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Practical Sheep Dairying

Practical Sheep Dairying. The Care and milking of the Dairy Ewe by Olivia Mills.

This is the " Bible " for sheep dairy enthusiasts. I've been wanting to get my hands on a copy for about a year and a half now. Ever since I conceived of the notion to milk a couple sheep in hopes of making sheep's milk cheese. Right now there is 1 used copy available on Amazon for $150.

I requested this book through interlibrary loan, and lo and behold they actually were able to scrounge up a tattered, fragile 1982 edition! Oh, sweet joy!

If anyone ever sees this book for a decent price let me know. It really is good. I've been pacing myself so that I wouldn't read it all in one night.

Naturally, I decide to take it with me to work out. In typical Jessika fashion, I get comfy on the stationary bike and settle in for a good workout and a rousing read. I'm just reading about " tupping " or breeding. ( That's a new name for it ) When Zoie and her friend rush up all in a dither, " Mom, drop the sheep book! Her Mom is coming! " I try to nonchalantly stash my sheep dairy book beside the bike and act normal. I guess it isn't " cool " to meet your daughter's new friend while voraciously reading about " tupping " in a book with an astonished looking sheep on the cover not to mention a pic of the aforementioned sheep's bare udder in all its glory.
By the way, those are my new glasses. Like 'em?