Author Archives: Jennie Cooper

About Jennie Cooper

I'm the mother of eight children, the wife of a retired soldier, and a newly minted farmer. I spend my days fairly productively, home educating our children, raising large quantities of food for several families, and volunteering in our community. I read entire novels a page at a time in the comfort of my bathroom. I tell people I'm Catholic just because they find it so shocking. I think there's nothing so exciting as a thunderstorm coming in. It doesn't bother me at all that my dog barks outside my bedroom window all night. And I rather enjoy being 40. I didn't think I would, but 40 is pretty good.

Winter Vacation

 

We sold off all of our Jersey girls in the spring, keeping just this one lovely lady, Sunshine.  It’s been nice, having fewer chores to do in the barn.  It’s made it easier for me to be the mother I need to be to my two littlest monkeys, and so I don’t regret that decision, but I do miss having all those cows around.  And I’m going to miss having milk for the next couple of months!  Sunshine has been pretty light lately, and milking very poorly in the evening, so we’ve given that one up altogether.  She’s getting milked just once a day now, and it won’t be long until she’s pretty well dried up.  Then, we’ll all be milkless until February.  (More like March, probably, but the time she calves and we get through the colostrum.)

We only have a few gallons of milk going out each week, which is what made the decision to lighten our herd so easy.  At one time, we had nearly twenty shares sold, but when Fort Knox downsized, we lost most of our customers.  It’s a shame, because – and I’m really sorry to have to say this – money makes the effort worthwhile.  With no financial motivation, we quit doing the work, which makes our product unavailable to future customers.  No milk, no cheese, no butter, no eggs, no chicken.  We provide for our own needs and only sell whatever we can’t use.  (With a family of eleven, that isn’t much!)

If you can, support a small family farm!  Buy that CSA garden share, pay a little more for that pastured pork, splurge on those beautiful farm-fresh eggs.  The expense to you is really minimal, the quality is out of this world, and it means an awful lot to that farmer.

Weather Losses

Some years, the springs are mild and uneventful, and other years, we can’t catch a break. This year has been one of the latter, and while there hasn’t been much in the way of tornado potential, we’ve had a lot of rain. A lot. In a sixteen hour span of time, from Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning, we got around four inches of rain. See? I told you! A lot of rain. We’d had a lot of rain the night before that, too, and our young chicks, though they had shelter, decided to panic. They all rushed to one unprotected corner of the crate, got drenched, and then stayed huddled like that until I found them in the morning. Unfortunately, they were stacked three deep, and the chicks on the bottom didn’t make it. We lost eleven that night. They did it again on Saturday, and I went out there twice to unstack them and toss them to the sheltered side. After a while, they seemed to get it, but I kept up a steady stream of prayers for them throughout the night anyway. In the morning, we’d only lost one, but the crate was demolished, collapsed under the weight of the water.

Davey and I repaired another crate and moved them, and the evening’s weather was uneventful, so we don’t have to worry about them for a day or two, but I’ve got to tell you that livestock of any kind takes a lot of dedication! Even chickens.

Our Ducklings Are Hatching

And there really isn’t much more to say than that! It looks like the ducklings are falling out of their original nest, though, and have been adopted by a mama who has not finished setting on her own clutch. So that’ll be a little sad if she leaves her eggs, but there are many more nests in the barn, and they’ll do this two or three times before the year is out.

I Got My Cow Bred The Old Fashioned Way

Yesterday was kind of a quiet day.  We had just as much work to do as ever, but there was a hushed sort of expectancy as we all waited for the wedding time.  After a while, I picked up my camera and went on a little walkabout, seeing the world and making photographs of it.  I met up with my neighbor on the way back, and he nodded toward the camera slung across my body.  “What are you up to?”

“You know,” I said, “taking pictures is probably my most favorite thing in the whole world to do.”

“What are you taking pictures of,” he asked, since I’d just come up his drive.

“Well, there’s this fence post covered in wild roses I saw the other day, and on my way back, I noticed some hooks hanging off one of your trailers, and the barn up there where you’re having the wedding is just beautiful.”

He looked a little doubtful.  Meanwhile, my cow was keeping up a steady bellow a few feet away on our side of the fence.  “What is up with her?” he asked.

“She’s in heat today,” I answered.

“What are you going to breed her to? I’ve got a registered Angus bull over here.”

Well.  I did not know that.  I was going to use Jersey semen, but we’ve had a hard time breeding our cows lately, and I’d not been looking forward to trying to catch her in heat on the same day the vet was open, hoping he was available to AI, and praying it “took” for three weeks till her next cycle, only to find out it didn’t, forcing us to repeat the process until we finally get it right.  A nice Angus bull might be just the ticket.

“You just have to let her in through the gate,” he said temptingly.

So I got my cow, and we let her in through the gate, and we made sure the bull noticed her, and then we left them to their business. Two hours later, I came back to check on her and she was all humped up, with her tail extended like she had to urinate.  “Is that normal?” I asked.  “Or is my cow mortally wounded?”

Normal, it turns out.  So we fetched her back out again and took her home.  He says nine months to the day, she’ll be having her calf.  And I must admit this was certainly easier – and cheaper – than AI!  Also, I’m thankful for good neighbors who don’t mind helping a woman get her cow bred, even on their son’s wedding day.

Moving Day for the Chicks

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that this is Chick Week! Our chicks began hatching on Tuesday, and today, they moved into their temporary homes on the porch. They’ve got heat lamps and wood chips, food and water, and lots of friends. One or two look like they won’t make it, but the rest are strong and healthy. These are going to be our replacement layers. We find that new hens lay through their first winter, but they molt and quit laying their second, so we raise new layers every year and harvest the old ones as stew birds. This keeps us in eggs and soup through the dark winter months.

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Greener Pastures

Yesterday, we moved our boys to greener pastures…literally! They were thrilled with the grass, but not so much with the change of location.

They’ve lived in this other pasture their whole lives, and cows are such creatures of habit that I suppose their angst is understandable, but they spent a large portion of the day mooing at me, and nobody likes to get mooed at like that!

They’ve been on this field for about a year and a half, and you can see how badly it’s been overgrazed. We’re going to run our poultry on this field this year. They add fertilizer naturally, eat bugs and grass, leave plantings of spilled feed behind, and just generally make our fields all lush and beautiful. Some areas of our farm are too hilly to run the birds on, but when we can, it does wonders.

We’ll be showing off our chicken crates soon; our eggs are pipping as we speak!

One Cow Is Nice

Way, way back, seven and a half years ago, when Maybelle, our first cow, came to live with us, we were often alone together, us two.  Being the only cow, she came to love me, as much as a cow can love, and to rely on me for companionship.  We were pretty tight, Maybelle and I.  But times changed, and we wanted more milk, and so our herd grew.  The cows had each other and wanted me less, and we had a friendly working relationship, but we weren’t really friends.  Now, there is just one again, just Sunshine, and we have that same sort of relationship already that Maybelle and I used to have, and that pleases me in ways I can’t describe.  In the evenings, when I walk out to the field to call her in, she perks up at the sound of my voice and comes joyfully to my side.  We walk together and talk together and enjoy the quiet of the milking routine together.  I can’t really think of anything more contenting than milking my one and only cow.

This is not my cow Sunshine. This is my calf Delilah. Delilah will be the mother of our future beefs, but for now, she’s just a calf.

This is not my cow Sunshine, either. This is Sunshine’s calf, Heidi. Heidi is for sale. She will be a most excellent family cow someday.