Hairy Hoof Wart and Annabelle’s Milk

Well, we’ve had to pull Annabelle’s milk this week.  It’s been tasting a little off, and I think I finally know why.  Hairy hoof wart.  Here’s my theory.

I’ve been smelling something when Annabelle comes in for milking for quite a while now, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  It smelled rotten, but upon examination, I could find nothing wrong with her.  Then, months later, as she came into the barn, she stepped on something that hurt her heel, and that’s when I saw what appeared to be a perfectly round but lumpy growth about two inches across.  blog not annabelle lizzie

When the vet came out for another purpose the following week, I asked about it.  Hairy hoof wart.  Highly contagious and she’s surprised we’ve gotten it, having a closed herd and all.  (Either we track it home from places like the feed mill, or the vets track it in on their boots.  That’s the only explanation, as far as I can tell.)  They also don’t think we can cure it.

But here’s the thing.

I think it’s not just affecting her foot.  I think it’s making her sick.

She’s not put on weight like the other cows this spring, in spite of adequate grazing.  Her lymph nodes in her neck were swollen.  She was just a little bit droopy, though not enough to cause concern.  And her milk tastes a little off.

So what we’re trying is systemic antibiotics, coupled with a topical antibiotic wash to try to eliminate the infection from both ends.  Apparently, the recurrence rate is high in susceptible cows, but I think, on Day 2, we’re already making progress.  The wart appears to be smaller, she seems to be walking on it a little better, and the lymph nodes are soft again.

Of course, her milk will be out of circulation for a while, till she’s clear of infection and residual antibiotics, but the alternative is to cull the cow altogether.  The temporary loss of milk is a small price to pay!

Also?  I love my veterinarian.  She’s willing to give this a try, and I really appreciate that.  Our herd is too small to suffer the loss of a good cow.

Chickens in the Field

Each year, we hatch a couple hundred chicks in our incubator.  Thirty of them become next year’s laying flock, and the rest are put out on pasture to eat and grow for about four months.  When they are grown, we harvest them, preparing them for the table.


We have dabbled with eight or ten different breeds, but we always come back to the one we began our chicken adventures with: New Hampshire Reds.  This is an old-fashioned, dual purpose breed.  They are excellent layers, but still gain well enough to be very good table birds.  And because it takes them around four months to fill out, they are also extremely flavorful.  Once you’ve tasted real chicken, you won’t know how you stand that bland, mealy, grocery store version!

The only other breed we may experiment with in the future is Australorps.  We tried a small batch last year and ended up sending them through our processing line because they were quite small.  They fooled us, though!  The finished Australorps weighed in consistently at 3.5 lbs dressed!  They weren’t big, but they were compact little meat producers.  I think I’ll get some in the fall to mature for spring laying, and we’ll see how they work out.

We keep one other breed of chicken on our farm: Cream Legbars.  They are an endangered breed, and we were gifted with two hens and a roo a couple of years ago.  I have a significant number of them now, after our spring hatch, and I intend to raise up a flock of them in the house we built for the ducks.  (The ducks never use it!)  Why Cream Legbars?  Well, they lay blue eggs!  And I have to say, their disposition is far and away better than other, more common, blue egg layers we’ve met.  I shant mention any names.


Meet Roxie

IMG_8951 portrait of roxie dog

If you’ve been to our farm lately, you’ve already met her, but I don’t think I’ve formally introduced her.  So without further ado:

Farm friends, this is Roxie, our new farm dog.

A good farm dog is very necessary to protect poultry and livestock and even people from the predators that prowl mostly in the night.  You might have noticed that we lost our Abby this winter, and when she’d gotten too sick to work anymore, the bad guys moved in and starting picking off the ducks and any unsecured chickens.  The cows, too, were nervous in the evenings and early mornings, and even I could feel the hunter lurking in the darkness when I closed the barn up for the night.

We waited, though, till spring and good weather before committing to breaking in a new dog.

If you’ve been here lately, you might have met Lucky, our first try. He was a black lab mix, and we had him for about three weeks, but it was clear he was never going to be able to give up killing the chickens he was being hired to protect.  So back he went, and that’s when I saw Roxie.

She was loose in the kennel with several other barking, jumping dogs, but even in that poor environment, she kept her head about her.  Though all around her was chaos, she was calm, and while the attendant was suggesting another dog to me, I was admiring Roxie’s good manners.

So she came home with us, and we worked with her on a leash for several weeks, but she has lately earned the right to move freely about the farm without supervision.  And she has already been earning her keep.

Roxie looks to be part German shepherd, and it’s interesting to watch her shepherding instincts at work.  She likes to keep all the critters in their proper places, for one thing, and she’ll round up ducks and chickens who have strayed into the yard.  Just yesterday, we were trying to move chicken crates into a field, which required the gates to be wide open for a time.  I started to run the calves off, but Roxie took over and kept them all out of the way till we were finished.  Other behaviors are strange to me, like her intense affection for the cows and the kitten, and, I think, even the chicks.  She hopped into one of the crates yesterday as we were loading it up and just sat there under the perches, watching her peeps with wagging tail.  And she regularly abducts the kitten, which the kitten is only sometimes happy about.

She is very young, not yet a year old, and still has lots of growing up and settling down to do, so we keep an eye on her during the day and make sure all the critters she feels attracted to are secured before we leave her alone for the night.

All in all, though, she is a very good dog, and we’re pleased to have her on our team.

On the Farm: What We’re Up To

IMG_8896 fly on leaf

Oh, look.  It’s that glorious time of year again, when the flies harass cows and people, and we spend our evenings stalking intruders with a fly swatter.  :-)  We’re running a bit behind schedule this year.  By a bit, I mean a lot!  We’ve usually got our garden plants started by February and we’re ready to set them out by mid-April, but I haven’t even gotten seeds yet.  Dave has got the garden beds all cleaned up from last year, though, and we just need to add some of our beautiful composted cow manure.  Then, I guess, we’re growing cucumbers and green beans.

IMG_8909 honeybees the gathering

We try to manage our egg supply by hatching new chicks each spring.  It has been our experience that they start laying at about six months of age, and then continue steadily all through their first year.  When they quit in September to molt and take their winter’s rest, we (ideally) harvest them as soup chickens, and wait for the next batch of chicks to start laying.  Well, our current crop of hens is laying exceptionally well, and Meg, our chicken caretaker, was so excited to have something to do with all that bounty, that she filled up way more hatching trays than I wanted.  And our hatching rate was particularly good this year!  So I ended up with 250 chicks, approximately 70 more than I wanted to deal with.  Happily, we were able to sell all our extra birds through craigslist, and my chicken crew will be getting a bonus in their paychecks this month.

IMG_8921 maple leaf macro

We hope to have out last “keeper” cow bred next week.  I was thinking of just getting out of the business end of milking.  It’s hard to get new shareholders to commit, though we have no trouble keeping them once they’ve started.  We have a good thing going here, but it’s frustrating sometimes to deal with the marketing end and have the time consistently wasted.  I do enjoy milking, and I enjoy the relationships with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, but the effort is draining me.  Anyway, I’m moving on with our herd improvement program.  Annabelle will be bred next week, and Maybelle and Sunshine are already expecting, Sunshine for the first time.  Daisy will probably be bred and sold, or sold as an open cow, by September at the latest.  That means my milking herd roster for next year is Annabelle, Maybelle and Sunshine.  The following year, if there are shareholders to support them, we’ll add Lizzie and Cocoa.  If not, they’ll be sold next spring as bred heifers.  We can use all the milk from three cows ourselves, but five is pushing it.  :-)IMG_8927 asparagus frond

Two pigs are going to the processor next week, one steer will hopefully be ready before the summer is out, and we have 150 chickens to raise for meat.  I wish we had sheep-proof fencing so I could add a couple of lambs to the rotation, but our ducks are setting, and I plan to catch a few ducklings and raise them in confinement, where they can enjoy a diet of something other than cow manure.  I really enjoy a good roasted duckling.

IMG_8951 portrait of roxie dog

Oh!  If you’ve been to our farm lately, you may have met Roxie!  She is a really good dog.  We’ve been working with her for a few weeks now and we think she’s ready to be off-leash during the day, at least.  She will still need to be supervised a bit, but we have high hopes for this puppy.  She’s extremely affectionate, too, and her fur is so silky smooth.  We like her very much, and we think she’ll be able to follow in Abby’s paw prints admirably.


Shares Are Available

I’ve gotten some emails in the past few weeks from folks looking for herd shares.  Unfortunately, I just found out today that my email service has not been saving most of my sent messages.  That means I don’t have email addresses for anyone who has contacted me recently regarding shares!

The grass is green and growing and the cows are producing well again.  We do have shares available, so if you’ve expressed interest, and I put you off for a few weeks, please contact me again!

The Pig Whisperer

blog sleeping hogs pigs

Aren’t they sweet?  You wouldn’t think “sweet” as a good adjective for a pig, but these two really are.  Bob, the darker fellow in the front, is a borrowed boar.  He was living in a small concrete pen until the day came to visit our Miss Piggy, and he was weak and scared and timid.  A couple of weeks of sunshine and fresh air and a large pen to wander in have done him a whole lot of good, but he’s really thrived under the gentle care Dave has lavished on him.

Dave is our resident pig handler.  He enjoys working with the pigs like I enjoy the cows, and he has spent hours out in the pen, just sitting nearby, talking and touching Bob as much as he could.  After the first few days, Bob was following him around and initiating contact instead of shying away.  He’s been here three weeks now, and he has finally begun to stand his ground for food.  He’s almost a normal pig!  (He still won’t walk down the hill to the water, though. :-) )

We’re hoping to get two litters of piglets out of Miss Piggy this year, but we’re not sure Bob is doing his job.  Miss Piggy keeps showing him how, but Bob hasn’t shown any interest.  At least, not while we’re watching.  We’ve read that pigs mate at night, but who knows?

If Bob works out, we’d like to add a freezer to our offerings, where our shareholders can choose to purchase healthful meats, in addition to our usual dairy offerings.  That’ll mean, too, that you won’t have to buy your chickens all at once.  :-)  And there just might be a store front in the works.  No more navigating the children’s shoes and coats in the mudroom!


Homemade Ice Cream

Hey, there!  Today, I want to share with you a method I use to make homemade ice cream, without keeping any special equipment on hand beyond a hand mixer and an ordinary freezer.  There will also be irrelevant photographs sprinkled throughout.  Ready?

Farmer Dave is out rolling the places that have gotten rutted from using the tractor on soft ground.  Or from trying to drive a pick-up that was hauling a trailer which was holding a pig through a field which was extremely soft from a foot of snowmelt and several inches of rain over just a few days.  When the grass grows back, it'll be nice!

Farmer Dave is out rolling the places that have gotten rutted from using the tractor on soft ground. Or from trying to drive a pick-up that was hauling a trailer which was holding a pig through a field which was extremely soft from a foot of snowmelt and several inches of rain over just a few days. When the grass grows back, it’ll be nice!

To make ice cream, you only need a few ingredients:

1 1/4 cups sweetened condensed milk (That’s one can, or we can make our own!)
2 cups heavy whipping cream (Ask us if you need additional cream with your weekly milk.)
Whatever you want to use for flavorings.  You can go simple with just chopped strawberries or a dash of vanilla, or you can get a little crazy!  A favorite of ours was cinnamon apple ice cream; I simmered the apples with some sugar, butter and cinnamon until they were very tender.  Last week, inspired by Delaney’s no-bake cookies, I used peanut butter, chopped chocolate, and a sprinkle of cinnamon and salt.  A popular request around here is mint chocolate chip, again with chopped semi-sweet chocolate, and three drops each of food grade peppermint and spearmint oils.

Ready for the super-tricky instructions?  Pour your sweetened condensed milk into a bowl, and add any flavorings.  You may need to use a mixer to combine things like peanut butter, but usually, you just need to stir.  In a separate bowl, whip your cream until stiff peaks form.  Scrape the whipped cream into the condensed milk bowl and fold them gently together until no (or few) white cream streaks remain.  Pour into a container, and freeze for six hours, till firm.

We use the small square glass baking pan (9″ x 9″?) because we can cut it easily into nine squares, which is just right for us (for now – Evie still shares!)  We would also like to recommend that you remove the ice cream from the freezer ten minutes or so before serving so that you can actually scoop it.

Homemade ice cream, especially short-cut methods like this one, often yield a finished product with unpleasantly crunchy ice crystals in it.  This is not a problem with this method!  The texture is wonderful, and it takes only a few minutes to whip up.  Also, there are no extra bowls or machines cluttering up the cupboards or freezer!  That’s a major bonus in our book.

Make your own condensed milk after the next irrelevant photo. :-)

Somebody fixed our mailbox in between snow storms last month.  We don't know who, but we thank you, Stranger!

Somebody fixed our mailbox in between snow storms last month. We don’t know who, but we thank you, Stranger!

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk:

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 – 2/3 cup sugar (We use the smaller amount and it’s quite sweet enough; also, we use evaporated cane juice sugar, but use whatever you like!)
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a heavy bottomed pot, combine the milk and sugar.  Bring to a low simmer, stirring constantly till the sugar is dissolved, then reduce the heat to as low as it’ll go so that steam rises off the milk, but it doesn’t boil.  It’ll take quite a while to reduce the milk this way – a couple of hours – but you don’t have to watch it as closely.  If you want to speed it up, just stay nearby and stir often.  I usually get a half gallon of milk reduced in about half an hour, but don’t boil it.  When the milk is reduced to about half it’s original volume, turn off the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla.  That’s it!

We usually start with at least a half gallon of milk, adjusting the other ingredients accordingly.  Then we measure it out into ziplock bags and lay them flat on a baking sheet.  We put the whole pan into the freezer until the milk is frozen, then stack all the bags neatly in a corner.  It takes approximately thirty seconds to thaw out a bag when we want to make ice cream, and we won’t have to slave over a hot stove in July!

Or you can just buy it.  :-)

We've been having the most beautiful weather lately.  You can't tell in this photo, but a lot of the farm is greening up.  Soon the grass will start growing and the cows will be sleeping out of doors and I can start dashing out into thunderstorms in the middle of the night to rescue them.

We’ve been having the most beautiful weather lately. You can’t tell in this photo, but a lot of the farm is greening up. Soon the grass will start growing and the cows will be sleeping out of doors and I can start dashing out into thunderstorms in the middle of the night to rescue them.

If you happen to be in the market for a new hand mixer, I recommend this Sunbeam Mixmaster.  I have always and forever used the super cheap Black and Decker or Hamilton Beach models, which have always and forever burned up at inopportune moments, and this was cheapest model available at my local five-and-dime when I last replaced ours.  My goodness, but it’s a spunky little mixer!  Honestly, I think it’s a little too powerful sometimes, but I will never buy another mixer brand again, on the off chance this one will have to be replaced.  It just seems to be unusually well made.  I’m pretty sure it can handle whatever kind of cookie dough you care to throw at it.

Thanks for stopping in today, and I hope you enjoy your homemade ice cream!