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?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Should I Stop Blogging?

Sometimes I think I might have to right now. I don't really have much nice to say to be honest. I have no amazing homesteading or cheese related techniques or tutorials to share. My brain is so full of thoughts, that I'm amazed I can even fill my orders or get anywhere on time anymore.
I am classically the type of person who prefers to keep all that less than positive stuff to themselves. I HATE to cry in front of anyone. I also am not very good at pretending. Lately, I'm just feeling like I should probably keep the negativity and the honesty to myself. Things are very hard and very complex right now. I should come right out and address it. I feel like so many of you are good friends but maybe for the sake of my kids, I feel this need to protect them and it won't do for me to blab about it here.
Have any of you other fellow bloggers felt this way? Do you sometimes feel like maybe you've divulged too much information and no one really wants to hear you whine anyway? I'm feeling like that right now. There are always worse things that could be happening, but when it is happening to you it doesn't feel that way.
Perhaps I shouldn't have named the blog after our farm. My intentions were to blog about farming and connect with my customers but now I'm not so sure that was such a good idea.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I think I'm a Soccer Mom Now....

Here's what one of my days this week looked like:

( We are a homeschooling family, but just recently decided to get the kids involved with the school's sports programs )
Drop Jude off for Gym class
Rush home and start heating the milk for fromage blanc
Pick up Jude, Drop off Veda for speech
Rush home and cool the milk, culture it, and water the cows
Pick up Veda
Feed the kids lunch, start the yogurt, wash some creamery dishes
Drop off Zoie for Gym
Rush home, assemble the milk machines and label the milk jugs
Pick up Zoie
Get a few last minute ingredients for grilled sausages ( our sausage )
Back to the school, switch vehicles with Dante
Work out for 60 minutes. Ride almost 15 miles on the stationary bike ( training for the BIG JDRF ride in July )
Drive back home, milk the cows and clean the barn. Bottle milk, cap and refigerate the bumbleberry yogurts, wash the machines, and set the timer for 1 am to go out and ladle the fromage curds into cheese cloth and hang it to drain for 12 hours.
Dante, Zoie and Jude go to pee-wee basketball.
We also managed to study the American Revolution.

A bit hectic, I admit, but we are having fun! It's all about compromise really. I want to continue homeschooling the kids. Dante has always been lukewarm at best about it, and I think he had really good memories of the social aspect of school and just wanted the kids to share in that.
Here's another small victory for homeschooling. My kids, who have never been in a school or spent much time with large groups of kids had absolutely no problem whatsoever fitting in. Actually they said a lot of the kids said they wished they were homeschooled! Hopefully this will be the best of both worlds.
Another eye-opener this week: CUB SCOUTS.
I know girls, I'm used to the emotions and the inner workings of girls, after all I am just a grown up girl, and have 4 of my own, but boys---let's just say I felt like I had paid money to get into the zoo and observe this species of animal through a plate glass window. For one thing there was tons of twitching, rocking, fiddling movement. There were outbursts and singing of " inappropriate " songs for show and tell. One of the highlights was when a boy was asked to interview his grandfather about what he remembered from when he was in grade school. Apparently , Grandpa shared how a fellow student wasn't allowed to use the bathroom and really needed to, so he pooped in the garbage can during class.
It all went down hill after that. I admit, I kept having to stifle giggles and was feeding off all that energy too! Then as we are leaving, we're informed of a cub scout sleepover in the church. Dante says, " Are you going? " I say, " Oh I can't! I don't think I'd survive."