Downsizing

Penelope feeds a bottle to our Jersey-Angus heifer.

Penelope feeds a bottle to our Jersey-Angus heifer.

We’ve been milking our beautiful Jersey cows for seven years now, and we’re sorry to say it’s time for us to downsize our herd. We’ve never been very big, milking at most three cows, but it has been enough to serve twenty to thirty shareholders in addition to our own large family. Alas, with Fort Knox being mostly vacant, and our farm being located inconveniently far from anything else anybody might want to visit, we no longer have very many clients. In light of that, and the demands of our youngest two children, we’re downsizing to just one milking cow. We’ll still be able to serve the very few shareholders we have, and would be able to take on a few more if no other source is located, but we’ll also have less protection from the things that can go wrong with a dairy cow. That means that if our cow suffers an illness or mastitis or an injury, we won’t have a back-up cow in production, and weekly pickups will be affected as they never have before.

When we first began with the cows, our oldest child was thirteen and it seemed like we had forever. But children grow, and our two oldest are now out doing their own thing in the wide world. The third is getting ready to begin her own grown-up life, too, and there are always fewer hands, but never less work. It has become too much of a burden, too much of a distraction to mind the business and the children. We prefer the children, naturally, and since our only goal with the business was to feed the animals so that our out-of-pocket expenses were minimized, the children come out on top again. Anyway, feeding one or two cows is much less expensive than feeding the six, plus two calves, we have on farm this winter.

Instead of trying to run a business, we’re returning to our original homesteading vision. We have most of fourteen acres at our disposal, and I have always wanted to fill our front fields with orchard trees, grapes and berries. We’ve wanted to dabble in sheep and goats. (The goats might be useful in light of baby Henry’s dairy issues…) We might even motivate ourselves enough to actually weed and water a garden. Or maybe not. Gardening is so not our thing.

Anyway, I thought you’d like to know where we stand right now as far as the farm goes! I’m looking forward to the respite, honestly; having babies around in one’s middle-aged years is quite the adventure, and we do not need to make it more difficult than it has to be!

Loving Henry

It was really hard to be Henry’s mother.  From the moment he was born, he cried.  He cried because he was hungry and my milk hadn’t come in yet.  He cried because it had been twenty minutes since his last nursing and he was hungry again.  He cried because I wasn’t holding him.  And, increasingly, he cried even when I was.  For a while, when he was very young, he slept through the night, and I actually had to wake him to nurse, but as the months slipped by, he was waking more and more frequently.  Every three hours.  Every two hours.  Every 90 minutes.  Every hour.  When I hit the end of my rope, he was waking every 45 minutes, all night long.

It is hard to love when you are exhausted.  It is hard to love when nothing you do can make this baby happy.  It’s hard to love when the size of your world has shrunk to the circle of your arms.  It is hard to love when there is never any relief.  I tended to his needs as well as I could without knowing why he cried, and I prayed that genuine affection would grow out of that faithfulness.  It hurts to admit that.

henry-eats-his-toastIt’s been two weeks now since Henry and I began our tomatoes-and-peppers fast, and he is an entirely different child.  He’s happy, and he’s a joy to be around.  He’s clever and affectionate and busy, just like a baby is supposed to be.  He naps a couple of times a day for a couple of hours at a stretch.  He still wakes too often at night, but not as often, and I think genuine discomfort has been replaced by just bad habits.

He is seven months old, and I am only just now falling for this little guy.  I wish it hadn’t taken so long, and I will forever feel some guilt for not feeling that affection, and that he suffered for so long when I could have spared him, but right now, I’m just loving Henry.

 

Here We Are

ducklings at sunrise

Welcome. Welcome to our farm. Isn’t the sunrise beautiful? And look! One of our duck families is on the water! They are a wee bit annoying on land, but they do seem to keep the ticks down, at least. Our dog does a fairly good job of keeping them away from the house, so there’s less mess, but I like them best out here, on the pond.

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We’ve got a new milker around here. Rosie is twelve, and she’s been training for about a month. She’s getting the hang of the routines and rhythms, and it won’t be long now till she could run her own crew, or take care of things by herself, if necessary. We usually work in pairs, both for the companionship and for safety, but it has happened that the whole family has been bedridden with some horrid stomach bug, with only one person (usually me) left to tend the sick and manage the affairs of the farm. And sometimes, it’s just really helpful to have someone else who can take care of things without assistance, especially now that the older girls are getting ready to leave us. We have to keep up-training the younger ones! Nine year old Penelope is next. 😉

raining

Shortly after sunrise, a thunderstorm rolled through, so this is mostly an inside day. The baby is two months old and becoming more predictable, and I am very ready to get back to business as usual. I’m not sure exactly what that is, yet, as this new little one gets folded into our ordinary life, but there’s some kind of normal on the horizon. I can just feel it.

Baked Oatmeal (A Recipe)

We’ve got most of this large family’s household chores nicely distributed according to aptitude and interest, if possible, and Delaney is the one who usually makes breakfast.  For the past year, though, she’s had a class away from home on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which kind of left me holding the bag.  (I’m not sure why we weren’t able to flex that to another child; a training gap, I guess!)  Because I had to be out in the barn milking cows, taking care of Evie – and now Henry, too – and making breakfast in the same time slot, I’ve favored dishes I can prep sometime the day before, refrigerate, and just pop into the oven in the morning.  I’m usually able to get Delaney fed before she has to leave, and then the meal can wait in a low temperature oven until the rest of the family wakes.  (Oh, that’s why!  She needed to be fed a whole hour before the rest of the family, and I’m the only one awake!)

oatmeal

Baked oatmeal is one of our favorites.  It comes out creamier than the stove-top version, and you can vary the fruits by season and preference.  The other day, I made an apple-cranberry version that was our favorite so far!  Today, it’s peach-walnut, using canned peaches, because I have a bunch I want to use up.  It mixes up quickly, so you don’t have to mix it the night before, but it’s kind of nice to have it all ready to go.

4 cups rolled oats
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
4 cups milk
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2-3 cups chopped fruit and/or nuts, any combination

Mix together the oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar. (I like to use my hands. I tell curious onlookers that I’m breaking up the brown sugar clumps, but I really just like how it feels.) Add the honey, milk, eggs, and vanilla and stir thoroughly. (I use a spoon for this part. Sometimes.) Stir in your choice of fruits and nuts. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 casserole pan, cover with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, take the oatmeal out of the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Bake for 40 minutes in a 375° oven. Serve warm with your choice of traditional oatmeal toppings. Cream and a little drizzle of extra honey are always nice.

Farm Babies and Other Things

I haven’t written on this blog in quite a long while!  Since August, it seems.  My bad.  In my defense, middle-aged me is happily pregnant with our ninth child, but quite exhausted.  Even keeping up with the daily must-do list has been more than I could manage.  Thankfully, I’m coming into the second trimester now, and feeling quite a lot better.  It also helps that we have sold or butchered all extraneous livestock as we come into the winter season, so there are fewer bodies to tend around here.

If you’ve visited, you’ve probably noticed that all of our chicken crates are empty!  The children helped us process them in three pretty easy sessions, and then we were done.  We’ve set aside a laying flock of about sixty hens.  Around fifteen of them are already laying, and we’re hoping to have a good egg supply for our shareholders through the winter.  Our last crew gave up laying in early August, for some reason.

But we have more important news, oh, yes, we do.

IMG_0995

On Saturday morning, just after 1AM, our heifer, Sunshine, delivered her fist calf!  The birth was uncomplicated, and mother and son are both doing fine.  We’ve named him Oliver, and he’ll be in the barn for the rest of the week.  He’s very sociable, and he’d love it if you’d say hello when you visit the farm.

Sunshine’s training has paid off and she’s milking relatively well.  She’s got a bit of settling down left to do, but her issues have been minor thus far.  Her milk should be in by Wednesday, for which the children are very grateful.  They’re used to drinking about 30 gallons a week, but we’ve been milking just one cow for a month, and supplies have been tight!

Also, I miss ricotta.  A lot.  I dream of warm, sweet bowls of cheese…

A New Tractor and an Annabelle Update

IMG_9523We got a new tractor last week!  There we were, just driving along, minding our own business, when suddenly, we spied this little fella parked enticingly in what we call “The For Sale Spot”.  Everybody’s got one.  It’s up front, near the street, and the item in question is usually posed, so you can always tell, even if you can’t see a sign.  So when we saw this tractor nestled beneath the maples, hay spear raised several feet in order to show off his muscles, well, we knew.

It’s an International Harvester known in these parts as “Dickie Chapman’s Tractor”, though we bought it from Bennie Bruner.  Our hay man, Jeff, recognized it right off.  “That’s Dickie Chapman’s tractor!” he said with a grin.  “I grew up driving that thing!”  Tractors have personalities, I guess, and this one is obviously one-of-a-kind.

IMG_9532We’d actually only just gotten it home when Jeff arrived with our first load of winter hay.  I know.  The last winter is hardly even a memory yet, and here we are loading up for the next one.  That’s farming for you; make hay while the sun shines!  Dickie Chapman’s Tractor handled the job just fine, and David had a much easier time of it because (a) this tractor can lift and then move, unlike Katy Tractor, who had to lift and move at the same time, which is a bit challenging to work with, and (b) everything was going on in front of him, not behind, which is where Katy’s lifting gear was located.  The hay is quite neatly lined up.

Last night, though, Jeff brought over two loads of hay on a borrowed HayLiner.  That was a beautiful thing behold, I tell you.  Seven bales line up single file in the bed, and when you get it where you want it, you pull a lever which releases the bed.  The bed then tips over and dumps all the bales into a nice neat row.  They’re all nestled up neat as a pin next to the first row we set the other day, and no tractor work was involved. We might have cheered from the sidelines.

IMG_9533And I promised you an update on Annabelle!  Her milk has been back on line for over a week.  It tastes fine and there was no milk-withholding on the drug we used to treat her.  She’s still getting topical applications of tetracycline, and the hairy hoof wart isn’t gone, but it’s greatly reduced.  I have penicillin to administer, which would hopefully finish knocking this infection out, but I haven’t given it yet.  When I do, we’ll dose her for three days, and there will be an additional withholding period of three days (and possibly more) after the last dose is given.

My current thought is that hairy hoof wart is so hard to cure because we’re looking at it as an external problem and treating it only topically, rather that looking at it as an internal infection with an external manifestation.  But what do I know.  I’m just a small time farmer with a cow I can’t afford to lose.  🙂

Here’s a paper to read, if you should find yourself interested.  It comes from the University of Illinois Extension.  Hairy Heel Wart

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.

Big Pan Dutch Baby

A wonderful breakfast made of things we usually have in abundance here: eggs and milk! Topped with a fresh fruit sauce (blueberry is divine, but apple is good, too) and homemade whipped cream, it’s a truly decadent way to start the day.

Ingredients

1 stick butter 2 cups all purpose flour
8 eggs or enough to equal 2 cups; beaten 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 425°. Unwrap the stick of butter, put it into a large cast iron skillet, and put the whole thing into the preheating oven while you make the batter.

While you’re waiting for the butter to melt, combine the beaten eggs, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl or measuring cup. I use a 4-cup measure for easy pouring. In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar and cinnamon. Now this is the tricky part. The ratio of wet ingredients to dry is so high that you’ll get lumps if you’re not careful, so don’t hurry and use a whisk! Begin by pouring about half of the milk-and-egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir it thoroughly until the batter is very smooth. If it’s still very thick, add a little more of the milk mixture until you can get all the lumps worked out. When the batter is nice and smooth, just pour in all the rest of the milk-and-eggs and stir well. The batter will be very thin (runny).

Check the oven. Is the butter melted? If not, wait a few minutes more till it is, maybe washing up the dirty dishes while you wait. When the butter is melted into a delicious puddle, open the oven door and pour the batter into the pan. You can put the pan on the counter for a minute if you need to. A rubber spatula will help to get all the batter out. Now put it back into the oven and let it cook for about 25 minutes, until the whole thing is gloriously puffy and lightly browned.

While you’re waiting, you might like to make a simple fruit syrup and some whipped cream, but maple syrup will taste just fine, too. When the Dutch Baby is done, cut it into wedges for serving, topping each wedge with a bit of your fruit sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.

That’s good, isn’t it?

Bacon and Tomato Dip

This is one of our Kentucky Proud recipes!  I sampled it at the extension office one day, and it was so good.  🙂

Ingredients

1 cup sour cream 4 slices bacon cooked crisp and crumbled
1 cup mayonnaise 1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 large tomatoes diced and drained

Preparation

Combine all ingredients. Add reserved tomato juice until dip reaches desired consistency. Serve with fresh vegetables, crackers, or kettle chips.

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!