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!

Spring

It’s too early, but it’s been… what?  Two weeks now?  The temperatures have been so mild, we’ve been sleeping with windows open, and nary a fire needs to be started at five o’clock in the morning.  The grass is greening, and the cows are eating it.  The daffodils are in bloom, the maples are all abuzz with the activity of thousands of honeybees, and the Bradford pears are just about to explode in millions of snowy white blossoms.  Only the apple trees seem resistant to the siren call of spring; they show no signs of life, and I can’t help but admire their wisdom.  We’re due for a frost this weekend.  Hopefully, there won’t be too much damage.

A ruffly sort of daffodit in full bloom.

A ruffly sort of daffodil in full bloom.

A random picture of brush growing up through a fence, with a cow in the background.

A random picture of brush growing up through a fence, with a cow in the background.

Bradford pear blossoms opening at breakneck speed.

Bradford pear blossoms opening at breakneck speed.

Maple blossoms, which don't, perhaps, look like much, but which the bees adore.

Maple blossoms, which don’t, perhaps, look like much, but which the bees adore.

{p,h,f,r} Chickens and Walnuts and Things

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Dropbox Chickens. My chickens. It’s been quite a few years since I tended any of the poultry. I turned that chore over to the children when we got into dairy cows, because the chickens are very low-maintenance. We’re down quite a few helpers this year, though, what with them growing up and doing crazy things like getting jobs and going to school, and I didn’t want anyone to be overwhelmed by our summer chicken chores, so I’ve been tending this flock. I’ve raised them up all the way from chickhood, and now they are beginning to lay for us. More importantly, I’d forgotten how nice it is to look after chickens. They are the happiest critters, and I can, and do, just stand there forever, listening to their contented little noises as they eat their dinner and sip their water. These are New Hampshire Reds, and I happen to think they are the prettiest chickens, too. Well, maybe the Speckled Sussex ladies could give them a run for their money.

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IMG_0879Also highly contented are these lovely children, who are making paper dolls today. It’s one of their favorite pastimes.

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IMG_0883Last week’s fun is this week’s trash, abandoned under the balcony with the bikes that seldom get ridden. Such is life.

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IMG_0893 IMG_0896It’s black walnut season, which means you take your life into your hands when walking in certain areas on our farm! It’s bad enough that they roll underfoot, but they also fall unpredictably from the trees and wallop innocent bystanders on the head!

There’s plenty more {pretty, happy, funny, real} at Like Mother, Like Daughter, so do visit!

And if you care to come back to visit here, I think we’re going to talk a little bit about stress tomorrow: stresses from within and stresses from outside. I’ve been thinking about that a lot since yesterday’s post, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I’m not special.  If I’m struggling, there’s a pretty good chance you are, too.  🙂  Either way, have a lovely weekend!

{p,h,f,r} The End of July

Hi, there! Nice to see you!  Did you know that  bloggers love comments?  Thrive on them?  Are motivated and inspired by interaction with readers?  I know you’re busy, but it only takes a moment.  If anything you see or read here brings you a smile, or makes you think, please tell us about it!  We love the conversations.

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I’ve been here for nearly seven years and this place still takes my breath away.  So many mornings, I just stand and watch the sun rise, watch the changing light, the changing sky, the long shadows and the golden spaces.  I love this place so: the hills and the valleys, the trees and the ponds – and that sky! I never get tired of it.  The poor people subscribed to my instagram feed might, but I never will.

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We have beans!  Finally!  I did not think these vines would produce this year, so long did they seem barren.  Lush, but barren.  Finally, a couple of weeks ago, blossoms appeared, and today, I picked some beans!  It’s good to have another vegetable to supplement our tomato, cucumber, and zucchini diet.

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We had piglets born on our farm last week, and my nieces from New Jersey, who are scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning, are anxious to hold and pet the wee little things.  I told Davey last night about their expectations.  “Do they squeal yet?” I asked.

He looked a little uncertain, but he went out to check.  “I picked one up and it didn’t squeal, so we’ll probably be okay.”

Our mama pig is a very sweet and mild mannered gal, but we know from experience that if she hears her piglets squeal, we are in a world of trouble!  (Don’t let that scare you, Beckie!  We’ll make sure your babies are safe, too!)

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Beef!  It’s back on the menu!  We processed one of our dairy cows the other week, and just got her back yesterday.  Last night, we had burgers, and tonight, meatloaf.  It’s been months since we last tasted the goodness!  For the next week or so, we’ll be on the All Beef All The Time diet.  That’s a thing, right?

Visit Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {p,h,f,r}!