Monday January 31, 2000
The farmer is home again and is greeted by many changes, most of them wonderful. Daughter Sally and her energetic family have taken great care of Helen. She is giving approximately as much milk as when I left, 3 gallons and something a day. Such sustained production is always a tribute to good management. Hector, the steer her calf of last July, looks as good a Jersey calf could look. Sally acquired two piglets (Susie and Bertie) and they appear to have tripled their weight in five weeks. She also bought a Jersey bull calf, now two weeks old, and he appears to have at least doubled his weight. The farmer asked only five dollars for him but Sally thought this was criminal and gave him twenty. She named him Wilberforce. He had three days of colostrum and is getting 1.5 gallons of milk. Sometimes this shorts the household so I bought a bag of milk replacer for him. Calves are better fed than many human babies. The formula contains no soy.
Grandson Rafe built a fine new manger for the sheep. Dave, the Jacob ram, has managed to bash down part of it. This week we had him castrated (crushing the tubes method) to see if we can soften his disposition. Rafe went in with him and wasnt attacked, in fact Dave fled. Perhaps that is merely reflects a recently acquired association of men with painful procedures. Ill have to go in with him myself, I guess, and check his response.
I reviewed my hay situation and decided Id better call my hay man. He came Saturday while Rafe was here to help and we put in 100 bales. This should be more than enough, but I hate having to worry that Im running out.
One gloomy report: the water to the barn froze up again this winter, like last. Sally has been hauling water in gallon jugs, 12 at a time, twice a day on most days. As soon as Dave has settled down we will open up fences so that cattle can water under the garage using the system Martin put in last year. The sheep are under there now.
Yesterday I cut into the cheddar cheese I made in September. Apart from being a little dry, it has received excellent reviews. Its good enough so people keep eating another piece.
Im wallowing in seed catalogues at every opportunity. Ive already marked more than I can possibly dig space for without a tiller but I guess it doesnt hurt to dream. I can always cross off half of it later. We have new fruit trees coming in April, too. Its wonderful to be back, snow and all.
2/1/00 Tuesday This morning I heard prancing footsteps outside the kitchen door and opened it to find Wilberforce (the jersey steer)had followed Rosie right up to the house. He is so friendly and inquisitive. But Sally says that today he ate some pink fiberglass insulation so I hope he is not poisoned. He is safely in his stall all day except at feeding times when Sally lets him run around and get some exercise. Sally reports that he now eats his calf grain from a bucket. It didn't take him long to learn. Helen loves her new hay. It is light and fluffy and green. Today she gave 3 gallons plus 1 pint. I only got one egg. I'm sure the hens are hiding their eggs somewhere. Tonight I found a hole under the barn floor which I will further investigate tomorrow. I may have to tear up a board.
2/2/2000 Which date I am told is the first time since the year 888 that there has been a date composed entirely of even numbers. Helen gave somewhat over 3.5 gallons today. She also stepped on Sally's foot. Sally says she stepped on the same foot last night. Sally says it's her own fault and Helen is not to be blamed. I got only two eggs today and one was frozen. The chickens have a heater in their water and all they can eat. So what's their excuse?
2/3 Thursday. We took granddaughter Rosie to the airport so Wilber the calf and Susie and Bert, the piglets, for the first time did not get lunch. Of course they were just fine this evening. I had Helen and Hector piled up with hay and they had barely finished it when we got home. Helen gave over 3.5 gals today, very good. I got only one egg, though. Darned hens. Sally reports that Agnes, one of the ewes, finally begins to look as though she might be pregnant. She had been looking discouragingly flat sided. The other ewe, Bernadette, is promisingly wide. Stanley, the young ram, was off his feed tonight. This is worrying as he is ordinarily an aggressive eater. It was cold all day. 8f this morning and no warmer this evening and even colder weather promised for tomorrow.
2/4 Friday Today was sad. Stanley was dead this morning. We have no idea why. Sally got right down there after milking and carried him upstairs to the garage and laid him out on feed bags. Using the hand clippers, she sheared off his lovely fleece, very soft, white with black polka dots. Meanwhile I sharpened the knife. Then she skinned and butchered him. It took her about 45 minutes to shear him and an hour an a half to butcher him. I helped, and there was no internal evidence of what killed him. He was not more bloated than one would expect from an animal on its side. All the organs appeared perfectly healthy. We'll see how the meat is. Right now it's cooling in the cellar. She cut it up warm. One of the ewes, Bernadette, acted slow this evening. Helen did well today, 3.75 gallons. I got three eggs. Weather is cold, about 10f all day.
Saturday 2/5 First thing this morning before I was out of my bathrobe I climbed down the ladder to see the sheep. Three were at the feeder but at first I could not find Bernadette. I shone the flashlight into all the corner and suddenly she emerged from somewhere. No telling why she wasn't feeding with the others. Sally decided not to give them their sheep feed, instead gave them Helen's feed. And we brought them a bale of Helen's new hay which is very nice. Soon all four sheep were eating enthusiastically. All were still lively this evening. When Sally was coming back from the barn tonight with the milk after dark she saw showers of sparks coming out of the chimney. She ran to the kitchen to tell me we had a stack fire, indeed we did. I started to call the fire department but she said she thought we could put it out with water and soda. She immediately carried out the largest log and put it into a snowbank. Two boxes of soda and a quart of water added one cup at a time did not put out the fire. We closed the draft on the woodstove which shares the chimney. And I put the facing board onto the fireplace; this is a board I use in the spring and fall to stop all draught up the chimney. These measures in combination succeeded in putting out the fire in the chimney but an hour later the remaining logs were still burning. Helen gave a bit less than 3.5 gallons today. It was very cold today, -15 this morning.
2/6 Sunday It remained cold all day with a strong wind blowing the snow into drifts. We didn't let Helen and Hector out. We had a nice visit from a reader of Keeping A Family Cow who lives in New Hampshire. She gets fresh skim milk from her neighbor who makes butter. I intended to give her some cream but forgot. For dinner I roasted a saddle of lamb from poor Stanley. We both gave him full marks for flavor and tenderness, sadly though we miss him. Sally washed some of his fleece today in preparation for carding it. She reports it to be exceptionally fluffy and spongey. We carried water to the barn today twice, 14 gallons each time. Helen gave 3.5 gals today and I got 2 eggs.
2/8 Tuesday Helen gave 3.5 gallons today and I got 6 eggs. the weather remains cold and blowy. Nonetheless, Helen stayed outside quite a while. The sun was shining much of the day and she finds spots out of the wind. We carried out jugs of water twice today, usually 14 gallons each time. Tomorrow I have to go to the dentist and will stop afterwards for a big new water tub to have ready for when we get a bit of a thaw. Then we will set up watering for the cattle down with the sheep where son Martin installed a freeze-proof system last winter.
2/9 Wednesday. Zero degrees this morning. Helen's production was down a bit under 3.5 gallons. But I got seven eggs. Hector the calf is now close to a month old. Sally is giving him 1.5 gallons of milk a day split into three feeds. She has got him eating some calf pellets. She is still feeding the piglets three times a day. We think we should keep this up until the weather is warmer. But from now on the midday feed will be simpler, just pig pellets and warm water. For their other meals she cooks cracked corn and adds fat and protein from various animal sources, usually milk or buttermilk and meat trimmings. They also get all the vegetable trimmings. Son Bret has looked up the answer to a persistent question on sheep feeding. All the sheep feeding materials warn against letting sheep have feed containing copper but we have been unable to find out why. Even the material from Cooperative Extension merely said avoid copper. The problem is that sheep have an exceptionally low tolerance to copper. It builds up in the liver causing rupture of liver cells and of red blood cells. One may note blood in the urine. Death occurs within 3 to 5 days following this symptom. We do not know if this is what killed Stanley last week but cannot rule it out.
2/10 Thursday I found a bantam nest today with eleven eggs up in the hayloft. I doubt I would not have found it except I saw the tail of a black cat sticking up out of a gap among the bales. She had her head down there licking eggwhite off the eggs some of which had frozen and cracked and thawed. I left three in the nest. Perhaps that will be enough to encourage the hen to continue laying there. Helen gave 3.75 gallons. I got four eggs from the regular layers.
2/11 Friday It began snowing last night and has scarcely stopped. I expect we have a foot of fluffy new snow. It's warmed up to the mid 20's. Helen is eating a lot of hay. I guess it's a bit over a bale a day. One can't be certain because Hector the steer eats his share. We got 3.5 gallons of milk today and five eggs. Wilberforce, the bull calf, is one month old today. He ran out of the barn today and straight up to the kitchen door. Sally couldn't get him to come back where he belonged until Tim, the reindeer dog, got on the far side of him and moved him along.
2/12 Saturday It seemed very cold today, I suppose because of a light wind and the new snow, but it was in the 20∆s and the eves were dripping. Helen gave 3.5 gallons and I found 5 eggs. I also found a new bantam nest with its first egg in it, still warm. I took it so it wouldn't freeze and put in a goose egg. It remains to be seen whether the little hen will consider this an inducement to lay again. We ate our second roast from the unfortunate little ram Sally butchered. It was perfectly tender and very tastey.
2/13 Sunday At 6am it was -18 but by midday the temp had risen well into the 20∆s. It ended up being a nice day after a painfully cold start. Helen gave 3.5 gallons. I got two eggs plus some eggsicles. Sally has been trying to check her ewes for signs of lambing without overly disturbing them. So far no luck on checking their udders even with a flashlight. They are flighty.
2/14 Monday It began snowing last night and snowed until about 5pm leaving us at least a foot of sticky new snow . Nobody has plowed us out so we won't be going anywhere right away. Fortunately we are fixed alright on feed for a few days. The temp warmed up some. Much of the day was in the high 20∆s. Helen gave 3.5 gallons and I got 7 eggs. The animals don't mind this weather. Helen even went out and stood in the snowstorm for about ten minutes. The dogs have to be swept before they come back in the house. Ted, the llasa apso, had snowballs on his underside. He took a nap on my new Atlantic and soaked it.
2/15 Tuesday Today was bright and sunny and about 30. A neighbor plowed us out. Everybody in the barn seemed happy and Helen gave 3.75 gals. and I got 5 eggs. I do hear a lot of cackling from the bantam hens and have found two nests from which I am getting an egg each. But there are a lot more little hens than that. The cats are romancing. There are a couple of fluffy black males swearing at each other every night now. The vet stopped in today and Sally tried to catch one of the females to be spayed. It got away, but not before clawing her hand pretty badly.
2/17 Thursday Yesterday it snowed all day. We got more than 3.5 gallons of milk. Today was brilliantly sunny and cold, around 10f with an icy wind. Helen gave less than 3.5 gallons today. We mostly stayed inside and answered email. Also I made lemon bars using 5 eggs now that I am getting a half dozen most days. And I gave a half dozen to my cousin who was ill. We would like to go down to the river and see if the witch hazel is getting buds. But the snow is too deep to go without snowshoes and I don't have any. I also don't have a snow machine to break open a trail.
2/18 Friday We're still carrying water and see no end in sight. We switched this evening from filling gallon jugs to carrying 5 gal. buckets half full. Sally can carry two while I carry one. Maybe I will decide I can carry two soon. Today I slipped on the driveway while loading the cart with gallon jugs, of course spilling a couple of gallons and slamming my butt and shoulder. Now, after the fact, I have put a lot of ashes around. I suppose some people would have broken their hip or other key apparatus but I think years of raw milk have given me tough bones. So far I don't even detect a bruise but maybe that will come later. It was -10 this morning but has now warmed up and started to snow again. Helen gave 3.5 gal and I got 5 eggs plus a couple of eggsicles. We put those in to boil with the pigs' cracked corn. I fried Sally and myself some home grown pork chops for dinner and she made a pumpkin pie from some pumpkin we froze. I also ground wheat and made bread.
2/19 Saturday Yesterdays snow continued for 24 hours and left us about another foot. The old Dodge van looks like a giant marshmallow. There was no wind with this storm so all the snow stayed on branches and fenceposts. I took some pictures in case along about next August I am ready to appreciate its beauty. I slipped yesterday and slammed down fairly hard on my right side but fortunately I dont seem to have any bruising or stiffness. Sally and I focused on indoor activities. She did more carding and weaving. I tidied up in the garage and buttery since with this snow the weather is warmer. Our man Barry plowed us out and the berm he created down at the barn is a good six feet high. Helen gave 3.5 gals and I got a six eggs; three were from bantam nests I have located. I chopped up a bunch of carrot tops for the hens and they ate every bit. I baked popovers in the Aga which we had with soup for dinner with lots of butter.
2/20 Sunday Sally and I speeded through the morning chores in hopes of getting through in time to go to church but we didnt make it. So we put on the snow shoes and walked down to Pocket Field, the bottom field, and around by the river and back up by the sleeping veg garden. Sally went ahead of me and broke trail. All four dogs came along. Poor little three legged Liz and short legged Ted hopped along behind with Muffin, the old lady. Big strong Tim plunged ahead until we got to the the woodchuck holes. There he stopped to sniff and bark and declined to accompany us further. The view on the way back up towards the farm buildings was very fine and I was sorry I had not brought my camera. About an hour later we could still hear Tim down there barking so Sally put the snow shoes back on and went down with his leash. He must have had a sore throat by that time. I expect the woodchucks gave up on hibernation and were probably laughing. I made queso blanco again today using a gallon of whole milk. I fixed a half of one of my home grown chickens for dinner, just oven fried in butter and olive oil with a bit of curry powder. Those home grown birds dont require much effort to be tasty. We also had baked potatoes with creme fraiche which I made on the Aga warming plate. And cole slaw which I dressed with a bit of horseradish sauce and mayo and the juice of an orange. I got a dozen eggs today. Helen gave only about 3.25 gallons. I cant think why she should be down in production.
2/21 Monday. We had beautiful weather today and all the animals got some sunshine. Sally tried to see the udders on her ewes with a flashlight this evening when she grained them but wasnt able to get a good look. In theory lambs could arrive any time now so it would be nice to have a few advance clues. I spent most of the day at the computer composing a letter to the editor in response to another letter slamming dairy products. Because I was away I had not had one of the new pork roasts. So I cooked one tonight and served it with carrots and mashed potatoes. It was excellent. I cooked it in my clay cooker so there was no work to it at all. Helen gave 3.5 gals today and I got 9 eggs.
2/22 Tuesday. Helen was was back down to 3.25 gals. today and I got only five eggs. Two bantam nests among the hay bales were exposed by some bales falling away. Neither hen was willing to lay out in the open. It was so warm today that we ripped the plastic off one kitchen window so we could let in some sunny air. What fun! I am sprouting a pan of sunflower seeds for the hens and made them a big pan of yogurt too. All I did was refill the last pan with skim milk without washing it and set it on the Aga warming plate. In a few hours I had a new pan of yogurt. Sally lets Wilberforce, our bull calf, gallop around in the barn while she milks. He thunders back and forth ringing his bell and skidding to a halt and having a grand old time. Helen doesnt approve of this behavior. She may be holding up her milk. Tonight I cubed and fried some queso blanco in butter and curry powder. This is particularly good and Sally likes it a lot.
2/23 Wednesday Helen gave a bit less than 3.5 gals today. I got 7 eggs. The weather warmed up and the wind blew. Sally said it was a Chinook. Quite a lot of snow and ice melted. I am not sorry to see it go. But with the ground still frozen we have to fear flooding if this continues. I expect the sap is running.
2/24 Thursday We had a thaw today. We set buckets under the eves of the barn and caught more water than the cows could drink. Sally put Wilberforce the Jersey calf outside with Helen and Hector today for a get-acquainted visit. All three got very excited and ran in circles throwing up their heels. This is a remarkable sight in a pregnant cow. Tim is now addicted to running down the trail to check out the woodchucks at the bottom of the field. He went by himself. When he came back he couldnt figure out how to get back through the fence. Sally found him cowering in terror while a couple of big animals stared him down. Helen gave 3.75 gals today and I got 10 eggs. I will now start selling them again.
2/25 Friday Dave, the Jacob ram, is still constantly ramming the pilings under the garage and buttery where the sheep live. Being castrated does not appear to have changed this behavior significantly. He does hang back and and walks out the door when people go down there rather than attacking. That would seem to be the only change. But we doubt he is to be trusted. The cattle drank roof juice today, run-off from the barn roof which filled a container we put under the eves. They didnt touch their tub inside. They have always preferred the melted snow or rain to well water. There was enough thaw today to reveal some dead grass on the plowed part of the dooryard. All the chickens went out there and pecked and scratched and had a party. We had a party too. We invited some neighbors in and had coffee and tea with lots of cream. Helen gave 3.75 gals. today and I got 10 eggs and sold a dozen bantam eggs to an old fellow who deeply believes that bantam eggs are superior.
2/26 Saturday We let Wilberforce out with the big cattle again today. He appeared to be having a wonderful time. I think he would have sucked Helen but she kicked every time he got close. The bantam hen that has been laying in the feed room sat down today. We've had a goose egg in that nest as an inducement. So I took that away and gave her five other eggs, just the ones that happened to be in my poclet. Most are bantam eggs. If she is still sitting tight tomorrow I think I will replace them with large eggs. Sal and I visited our neighbors today and were given two goose eggs. These are not fertile so we hard boiled them. Helen gave 3.75 gals and I got only 6 eggs. I guess the hens are having a day off.
2/27 Sunday It got up to 50 today, amazing. But the snow pile by the barn made by the plow is still up to my eye level. Sally continued her heroic cleaning of the buttery, actually a shed area which separates the old barn we use as a garage from the kitchen. She moved out a lot of furniture and greatly disturbed the cats. Sal got behing Agnes, the obviously pregnant ewe, with a flashlight and reports no sign of udder. So I guess we wont see lambs for a while yet. Helen gave 3.5 gals and I got 7 eggs. I took away most of her own eggs from my setting bantam and gave her four large eggs. She is sitting tight and didn't move at all.
2/28 3.5 gals, 7 eggs
2/29 Tuesday Helen gave more than 3.75 gals today, nearly 4 gals actually. It's interesting to see how both Helen and Hector sort through their hay to find the new better grade of hay. I usually put down about half and half of each. Wilberforce is growing so fast. Sally now needs to but on his third collar, a larger size. He is clever. Today was the third time that I let him outside to play with Hector. The first time I had to nearly carry him down the ramp. Today I just pointed him and gave him a tap and down he trotted. March 1 Wednesday We started the day with a surprise. I was drinking my tea and looked out the window to check the thermometer and there was one of the sheep. Soon all four appeared staring at the kitchen window. We got our boots right on and Sally got them to follow her back the way they had come. The way they had come was right across the high granite wall of the old foundation that I formerly used as a pigpen. Despite our week of thaw the snow is still so deep there that it forms an easy ramp up and over the wall. Sally thought their hooves would sink in to prevent them from walking across but this morning there was a heavy crust on the snow. As they trotted home I was struck with the resemblance sheep have to guinea pigs. A very similar expression and like guinea pigs they move forward as though on rollers. We moved the cows' water tub outside today. It will catch some roof runoff and the sun will be good for it. Helen gave about 3.25 gals today. I got 6 eggs.
March 2 Thursday Another surprise this morning. A big new snowstorm. It continued most of the morning, then turned briefly to rain before stopping. The temperature remained above freezing and the animals seemed hardly to notice it. Sally now puts Wilber out with the big guys while she milks. He has lots of fun but Helen worries. She feels it's her job to supervise him. We went next door to see Stewart's new litter of pigs. Thre were fifteen. He keeps two sows and a boar all together in a fairly small space anad never loses a piglet to overlying. He says the boar is perfectly mellow so long as he can be in with the girls. But he only minds Stewart so if he gets out only Stewart can tell him to get back in his pen and be obeyed.
March 3 Friday Sally says she thinks Dave, the Jacob ram, is finally getting more mellow. It must be a month now since he was castrated. But come to think of it I have not heard him mashing away on the underpinnings of the garage lately either. The weather today was dreary and damp, right around 33f. English weather I call it. I cheered us up with a three layer carrot cake. I believe it was the best one I ever made (recipe on request). Helen gave 3.75 gallons today but I got only four eggs.
3/4 Saturday Sally had to loosen Wilber's collar again today. He is growing fast. This is a small management task which is easily overlooked. I have done it myself. An animal outgrowing its collar is very uncomfortable and of course soon becomes unthrifty. Also the animal can become very hard to handle. It is always safer to use a halter because it cannot strangle an animal. Sally cut back on the pigs feed today. They weren't quite finishing it up. She has put them on two meals a day. It was a lovely day. Wilber spent a couple of hours outside. Helen gave 3.75 gallons and I got 8 eggs.
3/5 Sunday Sally put hay outside for the sheep today and Dave, the ram, was obnoxious and wouldn't let anybody near it. Helen gave 3 1/4 gal and I got 8 eggs.
3/7 Tuesday The air is light and balmy but there is still plenty of snow on the ground. While walking down in the field we found chicken feathers. A fox or a racoon must be after the hens. Most likely a racoon, unless there was a hen setting somewhere at ground level that I didn't know about. Many of the bantams roost where a raccoon could get them. There is nothing I can do about this. One of the barn cats was struck on the road today. A neighbor reported this when we got home from doing errands. The cat was not killed. It was seen dragging itself. However we could not find it. We think some passing girls may have carried it away. All the animals including Wilber had to miss lunch. They made up for it with a big dinner. Helen gave 3.5 gals and I got six eggs.
3/8 Ash Wednesday Sally always feeds the barn cats first thing in the morning and stands by for awhile to fend off marauding bantams bent on pecking up cat food. As she stood there being helpful she noticed a drip coming from the frozen barn faucet. She plugged the heat tape back in (I unplugged it weeks ago because it serves only the upper end of the system) and low and behold, the tap ran again within a short while. I at once connected up the hose and filled the stock tank. Helen had a huge drink. Later we took a walk to the bottom of the property. Right by the brook we saw where a beaver had felled a 6" tree. His lodge must be quite a way downstream because we could not see anything of the tree. The dogs also pointed out a muskrat den. They seemed to have been quite active. We came home with pussy willows and witch hazel, all signs of spring. Along the riverbank we did find several trees which have either tumbled over uprooting themselves or seem about to. We are trying to think of ways to assist the bank to hold. We are considering chaining one tree that's already in the water to another farther inland. Perhaps this will help hold the bank. Helen gave 3.5 gals. today and I got 6 eggs.
3/9 Thursday There are some big bare patches now on the fields, all brown of course, but Helen was so pleased to get out and walk around on the ground. She even tried to graze. Sally walked part of the fence line and found only minor damage so far. Wilber now eats his grain with much enthusiasm. He is still getting 6 qts a day of milk. One ewe, Agnes, is getting huge but still no signs of making up udder. Helen gave 3.75 gals and I found seven eggs.
3/9 Friday The pigs are getting so big and frisky now they want to jump their barrier. When they see Sally with their dinner they climb into their trough and seem about to slither over the wall in their enthusiasm. Grandsom Rafe arrived this afternoon and he has offered to reinforce the pigpen. They are also rooting around their wall and nibbling holes. Helen now takes regular strolls out onto the brown fields. WIlber gets to play outside part of the day. He is six weeks old now and energetic but having been people-raised he isn't clear on the cow rules. Helen gets very worried when he gallops far away. We haven't finished checking the fence line so Sally closed off the north field to stop him running so far. Helen gave 3.75 gals today and I got 6 eggs. \
missing week!! Hope nothing exciting happened.
3/18 Saturday It was 5f above thismorning, not as bad as predicted but cold enough to be no fun. I tried all day to get the barn hose to run. Finally at night I connected up a brand new hose with no ice in it and filled the stock tank. Helen seems to be improving steadily but is as touchy as ever about having her teat handled. We still have to use both the kicker and Sally holds up her tail while I insert the cannula. Her production was good: 3.5 gals today.
3/19 Sunday Today was warm enough in the afternoon so that I was able to fill the stock tank with only a little trouble with the hose. Helen came in for milking without much urging and put up with all my ministrations with only the kicker, no tail holding, and for the first time she didn't make a cowflop. I have gotton better at inserting the cannula. I squirt milk out with one hand so as to clealy identify the end of the streak canal and twirl the little cannula while inserting it. We got almost 3.5 gals today. Wilber now excercises by running way down the field and back. He has a wonderful plushy healthy coat. Hector has gotton very crabby. Sometimes I have to take a stick in with me when I look for eggs. Only 5 eggs today.
3/20 Monday Sally had to go to the bus station this evening so I did the milking with help from grandson Gabe. Helen missed Sally and was very naughty. When I had about a gallon milked she deliberately kicked over the bucket. I told her exactly what I thought. I went on to get another half gallon so figure I would have had 1.5 gals, 3.5 today. After I was through milking I took scissors and removed the remains of the bandage on her sewed up teat. the cut is not inflamed. She did not wince when I took a couple of squirts but I think milking normally might traumatize the injury. We'll see in the morning.
3/21 Tuesday Sally milked this morning normally. Helen didn't complain. OK again this evening, but we used the kicker both times. Sheforgot and left the kicker on when Helen left this evening and it took some galloping around to snatch it off again. Helen was right up again in production today, 3.75 gallons. What a fine cow. Hector, the 9 month old steer, is becoming a pest at milking time always trying to charge along in with Helen. Tonight at Sally's suggestion I created a tie-up for him in the beefer pen, their feeding area. I put out a bucket of grain and snapped the rope onto his collar ring. The day before yesterday the little hen in the grain room hatched out two chicks from her four eggs. To keep them safe I put them into one of the hen coops. One poor little chickie got out and was immediately eaten by a cat. So she has one left. I fed them chopped hard boiled egg the first day, then yogurt, wheat germ and layer pellets. Of course, too late, I fixed the coop so it is safe I think. Temp got above 40 today.
3/22 Wednesday The vet came today and dehorned Wilbur. He gave him an anesthetic. He was one sad looking calf afterwards but by chore time he was bouncing around and ate all his dinner. the vet also looked at Helen's teat and said it was unwise to be milking it. He said it could still easily split open and I should use the cannula. He also gave me more medication so I can continue the shots. This was a big disappointment to all of us, not least Helen, I am sure. The milk did not run out well from that quarter as it had been. This is not a good sign. We only got a little over 3 gals today. When I called the cows at noon so as to have them in for the vet all three were way down by the river. I was amazed that Helen came. I couldn't even see the others for about 15 minutes and was getting distinctly worried by the time they trailed up.
3/23 Thursday I got slowed down a bit today by falling down the ladder-like steps into the sheepfold this morning. Actually I fell only from two steps up with my head into their water bucket but I feel rather stiff. I was going down to take a picture of daughter Sally and grandsons Rafe and Gabe and his girlfriend Sara sheep shearing.(The camera got wet) Gabe and Sara had scissors and Sal had hand shears of the type in use since Roman times. Rafe sat on the sheep's head. The sheep was Dave, the big ram. They also sheared the young ram, Thistle. The fleece of each filled a trash bag. And Dave was sheared last fall too. Sally and Rafe worked on fencing today. Sal wants to make it possible for the sheep to use a larger area of pasture this year. Helen came down to stand by and inspect. Helen gave 3.5 gals today. I got five eggs. Two more bantams have gone broody so they don't lay. But I'm sure there are some nests I'm not finding.
3/24 Friday We're sweating out possible mastitis. The milk went through the filter rather slowly this morning. Helen is extremely irritable with me at present. No surprise as I keep having to give her a shot and stick that plastic drain up her teat at every milking. Then I stand by to help. I push the draining quarter over so it goes in the milk bucket and not on the floor. Tonight she whipped me in the face the whole time with her tail. She knows exactly where my face is whether I crouch or stand. We got only 3 gals and one quart today but I know we lost at least a pint onto the floor. Only six eggs. She spends a lot of time now out in the field even though there is no new grass. She wanders around finding things to nibble. The sheep are doing the same thing. They all are fed up with hay and long to graze. Sally and Rafe did a lot more fencing. 3/25 Saturday Now that Dave the ram has been sheared he has got his friskiness back. He has resumed his attacks on the foundation of the the buttery. You can hear him whamming away down there. The sheep all spent much of the day grazing in their paddock. There isn't any grass but they are trying anyway. Helen gave 3.75 gallons today and there is no trace of mastitis. the bantam I have caged up with her one chick had blood all over her head today. We have no idea how this can have happened. The chick is fine. I found only two eggs today.
3/26 Sunday Today was quite springlike but there is lots of mud everywhere. I stuck a rod down among my parsnips and it went in 5 and a half inches. I let the little bantam with one chick out to forage today. She was getting squirrely in her coop. She and her chick had lots of fun and in the evening settled down in a cozy spot in the milking area. Then after locking up the barn we got to worrying about the raccoon. Night before last something reached through into her coop and bloodied her comb. So I went back out and returned her to the coop for the night. I piled some screens on it. If she makes it through tonight I will add some more security to the coop tomorrow. I checked a bantam nest which I have been forgetting about and got six eggs out of it and two elsewhere. Helen gave 3.5 gals.
3/27 Monday It was so sunny and warm today that we carried some of the seedlings outside for awhile. I set tomato, calendula, marigold and Stuart's desert pea against the south wall and stood up a piece of plexiglas in front of them. It's amazing how much more green they are after a few hours of full light. One bantam hen with a nest in the hayloft may be hatching her brood tonight. I frequently check her eggs and I think one was pipping. The bantam with one chick took her baby into the layer's room to settle for the night. She should be safe in there. I lock that door. Helen gave 1 gal + 1 qt today. We're trying doing part of the milking without the drain in her mended quarter to see if the incision can stand the strain.
3/28 Tuesday Lots of rain today and the river has risen over its bank in one place. It has joined with a vernal pond that forms on the field. I think the ice must be coming out of the lake. I watched great floes go past. The river is flowing faster than I would be able to run. Now this evening the wind has come up and is howling in some of the windows. No new chicks today. And no lambs. But both ewes are bagging up a bit. It was so bleak today that the bantam with one chick barely moved out of her corner in the layer room. She just huddled in there keeping it warm. She was pleased when I put some feed down in front of her. She clucked for her chick to "come and get it". I ordered some new chicks today. The roof leaked in the feed room worse than I have seen before. Two bags of feed got quite wet. Helen is still touchy about her injured teat. She gave only 3 gals. 1 qt. They cattle couldn't go outside at all.
3/29 Wednesday We and the dogs walked down in the woods beyond the fields to see how much flooding there is. The brook and the river have merged to form a sheet of water among the trees. In many places near the fields the river is almost over its banks. The banks are about 10' high. Most of the fields are much higher than this and the farm buildings are higher still so the only actual flood damage will be to the banks themselves which are increasingly eroded. This is of course a result of heavy logging in the watershed area. Sally and I got the chick brooder down from the loft where it was stored so I can check it over. Some parts are missing so I will have to do some inventing. The parsnip patch is now thawed down 8". Helen gave almost 3.75 gals today. We decided to start milking normally and no more shots. I think she was grateful. Eight eggs.
3/30 Thursday The river is still high but not flooding. I listen every night for spring peepers but have not heard them yet. The ground in the parsnip patch is thawed down 9". It is gaining an inch a day it seems. Sally saw the ram, Dave, performing an antelope-like step which we have not witnessed before. He bounded forward with all four feet together like a pogo stick. It was intended aggressively toward the other ram. For the first time we tried putting the calf , Wilberforce, out with Helen and Hector. He has been spending all day with them but Sally has been bringing him in at night for fear he might wander off. Milking is once again a pleasant interlude with no doctoring to do. Helen gave 3.5 gals. I found 6 eggs.
3/31 Friday Sally and I both have colds so we didn't do a whole lot. However Sally found an ad for two pairs of geese in Uncle Henry's Swap It Guide. So we called and have made preliminary arrangements to buy them. Grandson Rafe will have to pick them up in Brooklin on his way down from school in Bar Harbor tomorrow. So then we had to go out and do some fencing for them. Sal strung one section of fence about 50' long to cut off a short spur of field. Then together we took the old chicken wire off of the chicken run and applied that to another part of the yard which had only boards. There are two pairs so they need plenty of room. We also did some brush removal in the area. Helen was a lovely cow today and gave 3.5 gals. I got 8 eggs, all bantam. Bantam hens are going broody all over the place. Usually they are wild as hawks but once they go broody you can pick them up and they just plop down wherever they land. Speaking of hawks reminds me, Sal saw a bald eagle circle the barnyard today. She thought he was looking at the chickens. I would even sacrifice a chicken for him if he wants one.
4/1 Saturday Both ewes lambed today. Bernadette, the one which scarcely even looked pregnant until last week, started first with a lamb about 9am. The rams were awful pesky and would not leave the ewes alone. they kept chasing them in circles and trying to mount. We succeeded in driving the rams out of the sheep fold and Sally stood guard while I went around in front of the ban and removed a 12 metal gate and dragged it around. That just fitted nicely across the front of the sheep fold locked in place by two convenient trees. Pretty soon Bernadette produced a second lamb. Agnes decided that one must be hers and kept nudging it away to her own corner. Sally had to stand guard for a long time until Rafe finally arrived from college about noon. He helped devise a private area for Bernadette. By early afternoon Agnes had begun lambing herself and now has her own set of twins. Both ewes are excellent mothers and stood very quietly while Sally assisted the lambs to suck. The ewes are not shorn and there is a lot of wool in the way. It must be 6 deep with lots of tags. All four lambs seem frisky, three female, one male. Rafe would have arrived earlier but he stopped on the way to pick up four geese for which we had made arrangements. We spent part of the day fencing off a secure area for them. It includes a low wet area formed by melting snow. This is now a 6 deep puddle and quite large. They were very pleased with this.
4/2 Sunday The lambs all look perky. With Rafe here to help, Sally decided wed better shear the ewes. We were fearful of doing it before in case we disturbed them too much in late pregnancy. With all three of us clipping and Rafe also holding down their heads we managed to get both fleeces off. Agnes has a much bigger fleece. We still have the new families separated and the rams excluded. Rafe fixed the rams a cozy run-in in the front corner of the sheep fold but the last time I looked they were standing in the rain. This morning Helens recovering quarter produced some significant clots and the milk was slow to strain, a sign of mastitis. I worried all day but she was OK this evening. I was ready with a mixture of olive oil and tea tree oil with which I massaged her teat and quarter. That has worked for me before against mastitis and I hope will again. Right now when she is close to being dried off would be a bad time to get it. All three of the cattle went right out this morning while the weather was good without stopping for hay and spent most of the day trying to graze. Perhaps this is why she was way down tonight. Only 3 gals today. And 7 eggs.
4/3 Monday warm and drizzly today, turning to hard rain. Sally and I walked down to the brook and found the water has retreated somewhat since last week but the fiddlehead bog is still partly flooded. We opened up Pocket Field for the cattle in case they want to explore. Still no grass anywhere of course. All four lambs are apparently quite well but not all are equally bouncey. The two little families have been separated but today Sally let them mingle. One of the geese laid an egg today on the hay pile Rafe put in the old feeder which is in their pen. Rafe returned to school early this morning. Helen was touchy this evening and the filter showed renewed evidence of mastitis. Her bag does not seem inflamed. She gave only 3 gals today. I got five eggs.
4/4 Tuesday Rain rain all day but hurrah, the line to the spring sink thawed and once again the joyful noise of springwater running into the granite sink in the kitchen was heard. A goose laid another egg, this time right in the middle of their paddock. There is a vernal pond in that area which appears every year with snowmelt. I call it Lake Coburn. A mallard drake has joined the geese in their pond. He is a fine greenheaded fellow with an elegant curled tail. Sally saw a pair of bluebirds today. Helen gave 3.75 gals , probably up because the rain kept her in all day eating real hay instead of the slim pickings on the pasture. The tines of my spading fork now go all the way down in the parsnip patch but that is still insufficient for my parsnips I think. I dug a bunch of jerusalum artichokes. We have found a way to make these bland and tasteless vegetables edible (I feel badly saying this of them since they are the first free spring gift.) Saute them in plenty of butter and when they are golden pour on a generous amount of soy sauce. 5 eggs today.
4/5 Wednesday Neighbor Stewart who also has geese says we have one gander and three geese. There were no additional eggs from them today. It was cold, windy and generally bleak with intermittent rain. Nonetheless Helen spent all day on the pasture. Probably as a result, we got only 3 gals today. I dug my first parsnips and we had them for supper. Very nice. Stewart came over and admired all the animals.
4/6 Thursday A cold bleak day with drizzle and flurries. Helen gave 3 gals . The filter has been completely clear now for several days. The geese have decided the like cracked corn. They now come running to the fence when they see me. Five eggs today.
4/7 Friday We are starting to dry off Helen. We are going to once a day milking and skipped tonight. She is due to calve about June 25. I hope to give her two months off this year. Last year she only got about five weeks off because she insisted on keeping on producing!
4/8 Saturday Sally has been worrying about leaving me with Dave, the mean and ugly ram. She asked Stewart if he would shoot it so she could get him into the freezer. Stewart arrived with alacrity bringing his buddy Dwayne and a very small, almost toylike, .22. He gave Dave one shot in exactly the right spot. He and Dwayne continued to help. They got Dave's carcass hauled up using an improvised spreader and a comealong which Dwayne happened to have in the truck. They skinned him and saved the head. Dwayne is thinking of having the head mounted as it is so amazing looking with its array of four large horns, the top two sticking up like some antelope, the lower two curving down gracefully. We left the carcass hanging in the garage. It's the best we could so. It's plenty cold. We'll probably cut the meat tomorrow. It looks like excellent meat. We had Dave castrated six or more weeks ago and it is generally believed that the carcass will not be tainted by excessive masculinity. The cats may nibble the shanks a bit but appear more interested in the bucket of offal. I cleaned the chick brooder and got it set up for Monday. Some of the parts disappeared last year when Stewart lost everything in a fire. He had return it minus the feed trays. I have improvised replacements. So far, though, I cant get it to be as hot as I think it ought to be. Sal did some more fencing today. Helen gave close to 3 gals this morning. We skipped milking tonight. I got five eggs.
4/9 Sunday Between us, Sally and I got the sheep all cut and wrapped. There must have 150 lbs of meat, perhaps more. It looks to be very high quality. Because we don't have a bandsaw we had to forgo lambchops. I guess if we had a better handsaw we could have cut them. We made roasts, stew, and some ground meat. There was virtually no waste because I used the cleaver and chopping block to whack up the neck bones. My apparently authentic book of Indian curries calls for bones in nearly everything. Helen was down to 2.5 gals today. Drying off is going much faster this year because there is no green grass grazing to boost production. She grazes every day but it is mostly just pretending. She still eats her hay. I am using the poorer stuff until shes all dried off. The geese have decided they like cracked corn and layer pellets and clean them right up. The weather today is rotten. This evening it is blowing hard and the rain has turned to snow.
4/10 Monday We awoke to a snow covered world today. The post office called at 8am to tell me my chicks were there. The road had not been sanded so it was a sloshy drive. I had the brooder all warmed up and ready. Sally and I picked up chicks and put each one's beak in the water before releasing it. If this is not done some may collapse before they get the idea of how to drink. I had contrived a waterer for them by filling an ice cube tray with pebbles. Actually, it was Sally's idea. She has done this before. They like to stand on the pebbles to drink. Soon all were drinking and eating their chick starter mash. I topped the mash with clabbered milk as a source of lactobacillus. It has been found that colonizing the chick gut with lactobacillus is a successful way of preventing disease. The weather continued stormy and two hours later we lost power. So we put all the chicks back in their packing crate and set it on the Aga. They were comfy there for an hour until we got the power back. One chick was DOA and we lost two more. It's hard to believe the fixes they can get themselves into and if not saved at once, they die. This evening all seem well and happy. There are 35 chicks. One large spruce went down last night. It took out some fence and lay halfway across the dirt road that runs north.
4/11 Tuesday Today was an improvement on yesterday, weatherwise, but Spring still seems to have lost ground. I did get some more bags of sawdust off the foundation and onto the asparagus patch. And I discovered scilla blooming. The new chicks seems perfectly happy and are so very cute. They now race around in the brooder from food to water to warming light. But another inexplicably died. That's three that have died since arrival but the other two had good excuses. The vet came today and docked the tails on the lambs and gave them tetanus shots. They are growing amazingly, especially the little ram lamb. The vet stayed for lunch and I served some of my parsnips. Helen gave 2.5 gals this morning. I got 5 eggs.
4/12 Wednesday My goodness, the weather today was awful for April. Snowing this morning and a bitter wind all day. We went around doing encouraging things for all the animals including giving a bale of hay to the pigs to make a nest. The baby chicks brooder is covered with blankets and they have a microclimate that is perfect. They are totally frisky. One little setting bantam in the barn finally hatched one chick this morning. I saw the damp little thing. I tipped her up this evening enough to see its tiny feet hurrying out of sight under her fluff but no more had hatched. If by tomorrow morning there are no more Ill take the other three eggs away and install her in the nursery coop. Helen gave a little over 2.5 gallons this morning. I got five eggs.
4/13 Thursday Helen is most reluctant to dry off. She was up a quart this morning. She's determined to get at that green grass. I might have to keep her in a few days. Two bantams hatched chicks yesterday, the second one has two. Sal cleaned out Wilbur's pen and we have made it into a nursery. Later the chicks in the brooder are going in there. Only three eggs today.
4/14 Friday I think the bantam chicks are doing
alright. Two were in the feed pan this morning. The other spends all its time
under its mother and I haven't seen it since we moved her in there. I hope she
brings it out once in awhile for a meal. Our trees came today. I bought three
apple trees and two cherry trees. Sally bought all kinds of things including a
lime (linden) tree, a black walnut, two elderberries and some black locust.
Helen gave 2.5 gals this morning. She gets no grain now at night and was very
cross when she smelled carrots on Sally's hands. So Sally went and got her some.
We walked down to the brook this morning along the river. Everything is eroding
badly. We took along willow cuttings and a shovel and stuck them in. Maybe they
will grow and hold the bank and be beautiful.
4/15 Saturday This was the first true spring day. It got over 60. Tonight for the first time I hear the spring peepers. The two bantam mothers sat facing each other about a yard apart just like mothers in the park as all three chicks scratched around on the bare spot their mothers had cleared around their pie pan of feed. I let the geese out for the first time. They fooled around on the lawn looking pleased for an hour or so until we herded them home singing "Susie, little Susie". Sally has tied big bows of orange flagging tape on Helen's kicker so that it will be very noticeable. We rarely use it, but the great dread is forgetting to take it off when we let her out. She gave 2.75 gals this morning. She doesn't want to quit. I found 8 eggs.
April 17 Monday Sally has completed a big segment of fencing so that one large field is ready for the sheep. Yesterday and today she let them out for awhile and they had a great time exploring. Because of all the lambs, the ewes prefer not to move very far or fast so this makes it easier to keep and eye on them. I've been letting the geese out about 3pm and today when I didn't I could tell they were very disappointed. I picked up a 50' roll of chicken wire to string from the corner of the house to the front fence so that they don't jump in my goldfish pond. Yesterday they went marching in that direction. I think they smelled the water. I know they would love it but one hour of geese and that little pool would be a mess for the rest of the season. Plus they might eat the goldfish. After dark tonight I went out and caught my biggest rooster for Cousin Susan. She lost hers. This boy has a bloody comb. Fighting, not doubt. One cat, Fraidy Cat, has had kittens in a nearly inaccessible spot. She won't leave them. They are at least three days old. I can see down in the hole. One was dead. I took her a bowl of chopped meat swimming in cream and reached down with a goldfish net and removed the dead baby. Fraidy hissed madly but didn't scratch. She knows I am her friend. She just can't overcome her fear.
APRIL 19 Wednesday. Yesterday I put up the temporary fence to prevent the geese from heading for my goldfish pond. But they didn't even bother. Instead when I let them out they figured out how to get around behind the barn where they found the stock tank and had a lovely swim. Of course they got it all muddy so Helen wouldn't touch it . Sal and I dumped it out and I rinsed it out and ran it full again. Later they took a long hike down the pasture. They may have been heading for the river. Sal rounded them up and drove them home but they were afraid to go past the cows in the barnyard. Nor would the cows get out of their way. They associate Sally with supper or at least carrots and all ran over to see her. She came in later and made herself a cup of tea. She said unraveling the animals took her twenty minutes. Helen's production on once a day milking won't seem to fall below 2.5 gallons and this morning was closer to three. Tonight I left her with access only to the barnyard; that means hay and water, no nibbles of grass. We'll see if that does the trick. I did the chores alone tonight. Sal has gone to the airport for husband Tom.
April 21 Friday For the third day I left open the stall where two bantam hens have been staying with their chicks. Today they finally decided to bring out the chicks for a slightly expanded horizon. The chicks now mind very well and run to their mothers at her cluck or run after her like fluffy wind-up toys. The geese come and go to their pen without getting away into the field. I did the feeding alone this evening because Sally and Tom went shopping for a new water pump for their house. Tom was seriously bummed out about having to replace it, poor guy. Keeping Helen confined to the barnyard at night with just hay and water has not so far depressed her production very much. She still gives over 2.5 gallons in the morning.
April 22 Saturday Last night it started to snow and slushy snow kept falling until about 2 pm when it turned to rain. It is still raining now at 10:30pm. I have never know snow this late. Once on April 15, 1976, we had about 6" of light fluffy snow but it melted right off. The poor little spring peepers have had to go back to sleep. This morning I discovered that three setting bantams in the hayloft were gone as well as all the eggs from one nest. It has to be a raccoon. One nest had three cold eggs but the hen was gone. Later she returned and sat down but she is wasting her time of course, poor little thing. I borrowed a Havahart trap and baited it with peanut butter, a raccoon favorite. I doubt I catch it. Usually I either catch a cat or the trap closes by itself. The setting is very sensitive and my old post and beam barn is shaky. The geese seemed to like the weather. All the low spots in the front lawn have become lakes again. I brought in a couple more goose eggs leaving four in the nest. Helen didn't choose to go out at all. I think she is as disgusted with the weather as I am. The sheep minded it less. Their wool is plenty warm despite shearing. Even the lambs are warm enough, it would appear.
April 23 Easter Sunday Cold rain continued all day. None of us went to church because of many problems with the McGuire's water system. The Havahart trap contained an embarrassed and disgruntled tom cat this morning. I set it again tonight. Helen gave a little over 2.5 gallons. The chicks in the brooder are getting long legged. We will have to move them soon to larger quarters. There is a dog in the neighborhood which runs loose and has killed some small animals. Its owners have been reluctant to tie it up. We have been worried about what would happen if it got in with the sheep. Today we heard that it had tangled with a porcupine and had to have stitches removed by the vet to the tune of $160. Now they tie him. Rough justice, but perhaps better than being shot which is what we would have done if he killed sheep.
April 24 Monday Sally worked a long time today on the room in the barn where we will put the chicks. This is the same room where Wilber used to live. Now it is used by the two bantam mothers with three chicks between them. She is making it so chicks can't escape. This morning when I went in the barn the three chicks had squeezed out a crack and were hopping around in the milking area. Their mothers were frantic because they couldn't get out. The chicks heard them calling but couldn't remember how to get back in. When I opened their door those mothers simply flew around the corner to their babies. It was rather funny, actually. But it's amazing no cats noticed their chance. Helen gave a little over 2.5 gals this morning. I'm not getting many eggs as the raccoon has cleaned out all the nests she can find and eaten some of the hens. The remaining hens have found new nests and I don't yet know where they are. The trap was sprung this morning but nothing was in it.
April 25 Tuesday Helen at last shows signs of dropping off in production. Three days of cold rain and second rate hay might have something to do with it. We moved the brooder and chicks out to the barn. Sally worked on the stall some more and has made it proof against most anything but a weasel. We put the two hens with their three chicks into the layer room where they are safe. We set up the brooder with the food out on the floor and four hours later they hadn't stirred outside to get it. Some chicks were beginning to look wobbly. So we put the food back inside where it is warm and put an old quilt over everything. Then they went right to eating and drinking. It was sunny all day today but not warm, maybe 40f. Only three eggs. I released another cat this morning from the trap and have set it again.
April 26 Wednesday The chicks in the brooder got through the night just fine. So did the two mamas in the layer room. But later in the morning when I looked in on them I saw that the bantam with only one chick no longer had her tail fanned out. I couldn't find her chick for several minutes until I saw its little wing floating in the water basin. I felt terrible. But I had put out a pie pan for chick water and a big tool in the older bird's water so that a chick could climb out. But the poor little thing was just too small I guess and got waterlogged. This evening the bereft mother was once again snuggled up with the other mother helping keep the two chicks warm. Sal and I took a late afternoon walk down to the brook and found our first fiddleheads. I gave two eggs to a hen that has been sitting on a shelf in the pig pen. She has been faithfully sitting even with no eggs.
April 27 Thursday The sheep got into the veg garden area today. We found where they squeezed under the fence. Now we have more fencing to do before Sally leaves. Agnes, the larger ewe, gave us a scare. She wouldn't touch her grain this evening, wouldn't let her lamb nurse, and had foam around her mouth. We walked all around and could find no evidence of wild cherry that she might have got at. This was my first thought as it is toxic. The only other thing I can imagine is a mild case of bloat due to too much fresh grass. The grass is very short but of course sheep can graze very close. Helen was back up this morning to nearly 3 gals. What a cow.
April 28 Friday Despite a gloomy weather report, we did get a bit of sun today although I don't think the temp got above 45f. Helen gave 2.5 gallons. I'm not getting many eggs, what with the raccoon, also lots of bantams setting. The geese are laying. There were seven eggs in their nest today and I took three. In case the goose sets, I don't want her to have more than four. Sally spent hours working on the veg garden fence to make it sheep proof.
April 29 Saturday Twas a very fine day, against all predictions. I dug up part of one of my flower borders. I am removing the brick edging. At one point I hit rock and dug up a large piece of flagging about six inches down. Tom lifted it out for me. I have started digging a good spot for it where it will be part of some stone steps. All animals are perfectly happy I think. The bantam with two chicks insists on putting them to bed out in the milking room but I am able to pick her up carefully with the chicks under her wings and but her in with the layers where she is safe. Each day I let the geese out for a few hours and each evening I heard them back into their pen. Tonight as soon as they saw me thy started dutifully marching home. Tom and Sally spent all day getting ready to leave early tomorrow for Haines Alaska. It will seem pretty quiet.
April 30 Sunday Sally and Tom got off before 8am. The sun was bright all day and my first daffodils were open. They took their three dogs but left me their blind cat, Lemur. She finds here away around here pretty well and it seemed a shame to move her again. She was born blind and has extraordinarily large unseeing eyes. She also seems deaf and retarded but she knew they were gone. She kept fumbling around to find me and show affection. She doesnt ordinarily do that. Doing all the chores alone took me a long time. I skipped milking this morning but milked this evening, making a 36 hour interval. Helen was bellowing steadily. I cant say if it was because she wanted to be milked or because she was cross about being confined to the barnyard on hay and water. SHe stood like a perfect lade for milking but was resistant to letting down. She gave 2.5 gals. There were flecks on the filter and it looked coated. I hope this was just an artifact of delayed milking.
May 1 Monday The barn swallows were back today. I love seeing them. There was frost on the grass this morning so I fed the sheep hay as a preventive against bloat before letting them out in the big pasture. The sheep and geese have both learned their noon routine. The sheep come back to their fold and the geese expect to be let out for the afternoon. Then around five I drive them home. Today when they saw me they began walking back. At evening feeding Helen crowded past me to go to her stanchion. When she found no grain waiting for her she came back out by herself. She had not made much milk today. Her bag was quite soft. A couple of more days of this hated regimen and perhaps I can safely allow her to graze.
May 2 Tuesday Helen was very filled up with milk tonight. Im not much encouraged this evening with her drying off. I didnt milk her. I hope she isnt suffering too badly.
May 3 Wednesday Helen was miserable this morning. I brought her in and milked her. She gave a good 3 gallons. The bucket wont hold that much so rather than go back to the house I finished milking in a feed bucket. I then gave this half gallon to Wilber who was glad for it. I took it to him out in the Beefer Pen where Hector was also. Pretty soon Hector pushed Wilber away and finished it off. I was surprised. Hector hasnt had any milk for months. Helen was clearly a lot happier after being milked. Her bag felt fine and the milk strained perfectly. I drank a glass just to see how it would taste after two days inside a cow. The only difference was it seemed salty. My young friend Kelly visited with her baby girls this afternoon. The older girl is 22 months, articulate and fearless. She had to see and try to feed every single animal. All the animals were surprisingly cooperative except I was little worried about the geese. The gander has not so far bitten anybody but he runs at people with his head down. Kelly darted ahead and stood him off just in case. I got my peas planted today.
May 4 Thursday Helens bag was encouragingly soft all day. She sure is fed up with staying in the barnyard and eating hay. Everytime I walk by she moos to ask me why I dont let her out. This morning I got in a row of carrots.
May 5 Friday Helens bag was quite full this evening. I fear that in the morning it may be back in trouble. She sure doesnt want to dry off. I think one of the geese may be setting. All four spent most of the last two days huddled around the nest. Today was quite warm. It got up to 70 in some sunny corners but a strong wind made me reluctant to set out plants.
May 7 Sunday Naughty Helen mashed down part of the barnyard fence and joined the sheep in in their pasture. When I found her she was looking rather sheepish. She wasn't sure she liked being in the pasture no matter how good it was without Hector and Wilber. There was clearly no way I could get her back so I thought 'what the heck' and let the others out with her. She gobbled grass all day. By evening she had made a lot of milk of course, but I didn't milk her. Most likely I will have to by morning. I don't know how long she might have stayed out had it not been for a fairly violent thunderstorm starting at about 4:30. That brought everybody in. One of the geese is setting. When she got up to take a drink I checked the eggs. There were five plus a broken one. I can't imagine how it could have gotten broken. They are very hard. I did an hour and a half of digging today partly in the perennial border, partly in the veg garden. I found my first asparagus spear. No doubt the inch of rain we had with the electrical storm softened up the ground and I'll be having asparagus every day.
May 8 Monday Helen was out grazing in the North Field this morning, this time my fault for not shutting the gate. Very possibly I should have milked her this morning but decided to let her go until this evening. Now she won't come in. It's so warm today and the bugs aren't bad yet. She might even stay up in the field. I got 9 eggs today. That's better than I've been getting. I bought some wooden eggs and put them everywhere that I know they lay so they have resumed using the nests. I had to stop leaving real eggs in the nests for decoys because it was just drawing the raccoon. But I know he is still around because when he comes in the barn at night to steal eggs he (or she) throws the fake eggs out of the nests and I find them on the floor. I got in about another hour today of digging and set out some herbs. I made an astonishing discovery. Out front where last year I had morning glories climbing all over the lilies and dahlias there are dozens of self seeded ones coming up. I have never before seen this happen in Maine. Snow was piled up there by the plow to a depth of about 6'. Maybe that had something to do with it.
May 9 Tuesday Helen did indeed stay out all night and this morning she ignored my calling. So I got my boots on and walked to where they all were, still nearly out of sight in the North Field. She let me feel her bag. Three of the quarters were softening up satisfactorily. The right rear was pretty tight with milk. It rained all day and around 1 o'clock they all came in and wanted hay which I gave them. Later they went back out to graze and did not return this evening so I hope she is OK. I removed the plastic from the window in the chick's stall. They are growing fast. They stand about 8" tall and flutter all around, hop up on things, play and have little bird fights. Altogether different from the Cornish X I raised last year which spend all day sitting by the feed trough like loaves of bread rising. I removed the plastic from their window so they would have more air circulation. Also added a lot more nails to the chickenwire on their window so the raccoon can't get in. It's still raining tonight! Three days ago I planted peas and today they are sprouting. But they are rolling out of their row and into the aisle. I made holes with my finger and put them back.
May 10 Wednesday Another sodden day. First thing in the morning I took some apples and went down in the pasture and got Helen to stand still long enough so I could feel her bag. It's coming along OK. She came in and asked for hay and grain about 5 o'clock. Had enough of wet grass. An electrician came and installed motion sensitive outdoor lights. That should slow down any future hay theives. The temperature today didn't get above 42F. Combined with the rain it felt pretty cold.
May 11 Thursday Rain continued all day. The river is high but I didn't have time to walk down there. The pastures are now all green like one giant lawn. The sun came out for about 10 minutes just before sinking and I took a picture to show how green it is. The leaves are still tiny. Helen scarcely came near the barn. I put out some hay in case she got tired of grass but she never did. The geese don't come out of their enclosure much now even when I leave their gate open for them. They like to stay clustered around the one who is setting. I don't think a fox of raccoon could get near her.
May 12 Friday A fine sunny day all day. I did some ferocious digging in the veg garden for about an hour and a half until the bugs got to me. They aren't yet out in full force but there are plenty of black flies. I found self seeded kale in last year's kale bed and transplanted a few to another bed. I t looks like I won't have to plant kale. Another bed is covered with what looks like baby lettuce. I picked my first serving of asparagus this evening. Like yesterday , Helen did not eat any of her hay. She seemed to be asking for some so I threw it down but she just sniffed at it. All three come inside the Beefer Pen to chew their cuds as there are fewer bugs. With all the lush grass they are a bit messy. The sheep are getting more confident around me. The wether, Thistle, walked very stiff legged and was a little threatening at first when I took over from Sally. They come very well when called and all stay together in quite a compact flock. Part of the time Helen and the boys are in with them and then the two groups usually stay together.
May 13 Saturday Helen gave me a surprise today. I went down the ladder to where the sheep live and there was Helen lying in the middle of the room. Hector and Wilber were there too of course. I was bringing the sheep their grain which she noticed in my hand so rather than risk having her damage their manger reaching for it I gave it to her. It was chilly today with some rain.
May 14 Sunday All the animals had a lovely day in sunny pastures. Martin took lots of pictures with his new digital camera.
May 15 Monday The flock of chicks is growing so big I must start calling them pullets and cockerels. They flutter all around in their room and seem to have a good time. There is quite a lot to do in there with various things to perch on. I still keep two lights on partly for heat. I tried it with one light. I don't believe they were cold but they didn't seem to eat as much in the dim light. The hummingbirds are back. I just wonder what the poor things find to eat. There are hardly any flowers now except dandelions. I wonder if there is nectar in the maple tree blooms. My bird feeder is full of bluejays, often six or seven.
May 16 Tuesday After Sally left I decided to make life easier by feeding pig pellets rather than cooking cracked corn for the pigs. I could tell right away they didn't really like this change. A few times I cooked corn and they would get all excited about their meal. Either way, I always add other stuff, milk if I have it. My perception is that pig preferences apart, the cooked corn goes farther than the pellets. Today I bought a bag of each and am going to keep a careful record by weight of how long each bag lasts. I am feeding 12 lb/day to two pigs about 5 months old. I'd guess they each weigh not less than 100 lbs. Today there was a dead chicken in the layer room. She was a 1 year old bird with nothing wrong with her that I could see apart from a somewhat dirty back end. Among the pullets and cockerels I found one bird today that doesn't walk properly. It goes backwards in a huddled posture. I got it to drink water by holding its head. The sheep are getting a lot friendlier. The wether doesn't seem wary of me now. He stops to sniff my hand and lets me pat his head. I've kept the geese in the last two days because of needing to leave the front gate open. They make it very plain they want to come out. I took pity and let them out for a while this evening and they had a good sozzle in the big puddle. Then they waddled home to attend the nest.
May 17 Wednesday I spent a good deal of time today getting the lawn mower to work. And a lot of time mowing the lawn which has gotten almost out of hand. Two weeks of rainy weather gave it a headstart. The lawn mower keeps on choking. I didn't get even half done today so I hope we don't get more rain tonight. I took some grass clipping to the pullets and cockerels for a change of diet. The crippled pullet is still alive but can only walk backwards. She eats and drinks a little when I hold her head.
May 19 Friday There has been a little hen sitting on two eggs in a crevice in the outside of the barn wall 4' above the ground. Today I found her with one chick under her around the other side of the barn. I don't know what happened to the other chick. There is no unhatched egg in the nest. Maybe a cat got it during her negotiation to get it out of the nest and down to the ground. The chick she has is very beautiful with stripes like a partridge chick. I would have caught them and put them in a safe cage for the night but she was too wild to catch during daylight and at evening I could not find her. Wilber came up to the barn all by himself while the others were way down in the field. He took a big drink and asked for some grain. I gave him a large serving. The pullet that is bent out of shape and travels backwards still lives. Occasionally it seems able to relax enough to manage a little food. I push its beak in the water a few times a day too. The bantam with two chicks tried roosting in the rafters tonight. They can fly short distances. Somehow she persuaded one of them all the way up there, using the ladder part way no doubt. The other could not figure out how to get to the rafter so finally she gave up and they went back in the layer room to bed. I mowed the lawn for almost two hours today. I quit with about an hour's worth left to do. Then I heard my neighbor on his big riding Craftsman finishing it up. That was a treat. The part that was unfinished is a noticeable part of the lawn surrounded by pool and garden so it is nice to have it looking professional. I had to set my small mower very high to prevent stalling and my results look like a bad haircut. Some of the grass was over a foot long. I look at Helen many times each day in case she gets bloat on the lush grass. So far she has not shown any signs of it. Tomorrow morning will be the test. Frost is predicted.
May 20 Saturday The hen with one new chick was right out there this morning. But later I did find her other chick dead near the wall. It must have gotten separated and chilled during the time she was moving away from the nest. We had quite a frost last night. I didnt lose much because I put garden cloth over the morning glory seedlings. I thought the becopa was a goner but now I think it will recover. In late afternoon Helen came up to the barn asking for grain. Soon I will need to start building up her feed in preparation for starting to milk again. But she should not get any fatter so this is a quandary. The pigs would eat more if I gave them more but they are not seriously dissatisfied as judged by their dispositions. They fight less than any pigs I have had. This afternoon I added a salad course to their dinner, a 5 gal. bucket of weeds I dug. It was mostly dandelion and comfrey.
May 21Sunday The little hen with one chick is still with us. They are such a cute pair. The pullets and cockerels began to look bored so I opened up their door and set up a screen door to give them a view. The crippled bird is occasionally able to relax enough to un roll its head and eat. But of course the other ones arent very nice to it so it only gets a few pecks. Mostly it hides in a corner. I hauled a big cartload of chicken litter down to the veg garden today and spread part of it. The lilacs are starting to open. The scent is wonderful.
May 22 Monday This morning when I opened the gate to the barnyard with the pig food I left it ajar. I didnt notice little Wilber, the calf, around the corner. He walked right out the gate and before I could reach him ate one of the flowers of my black tulip Queen of the Night. Fortunately he is totally tame and friendly so I had no trouble catching him. We had a little bit of sunshine today but mostly it was overcast and threatening rain. My row of peas is all up and I dont believe the birds noticed them. When they were sprouting I went by every day and pushed down any pea seed that was showing. The carrots are up too.
May 24 Wednesday Rain part of yesterday and all day today. I planted some nasturtium seeds in a planter and put wire around some vulnerable little trees but that was the extent of my gardening. The apples trees are blooming but it has rained so much and been so cold when not raining that I doubt the bees were able to pollinate. Two years ago this happened and we got no apples. A bantam in the hayloft to which I gave one egg when she got broody has hatched out her one chick. I have been checking under her every day lately and this morning there was her chick. I fixed up a cat carrier cage with food and water and put her and her baby in it. The chicks are at risk upstairs. They have to flop all the way down to the main floor and may die in the attempt.
May 25 Thursday More rain today, some of it quite hard. But we did get a little beautiful sunshine just before sunset. Helen had figured out that I give the sheep a little grain at noon to reward them for coming in. Now she and the guys come running up to the barn to get some. I bring Wilber in for his and give Helen and Hector a little to share out in the beefer pen. The bantam with a new chick which I put in a cat carrier last night preferred to remain inside it all day. I opened the door for her but the main thing that happened was that the other birds came in and ate her food. Another bantam that has partly grown chicks, the one I have insisted sleep in the layer room for safety, has been trying to get her children to fly up into the rafters to roost. Every few days she tries but one always falls back so she gives up and takes them in with the hens. Tonight they made it up into the rafters and are lined up looking very clever. Three more bantams are setting. I gave one an egg today and took away the wooden egg she was sitting on. Another one is sitting on a light bulb. I always ask her if it has lit up yet.
May 26 Friday Just a sprinkle of rain today a few times, mostly sunny and a great deal of wind. I did an hour of digging in the garden and and hour of running the weed trimmer, later more digging. I also planted cabbage plants and onions. The bantam with one new chick which spent a second night in the cat carrier finally took her chick out today. I did not see them all day. After dark this evening I went out to close up the chickens and discovered something astonishing. She had found where I put that cat carrier and taken her chick back in there for the night. Fortunately I had left the door ajar. I rounded up water and food and put it in there with her so when daylight arrives she wont have to wait for me to let her out before they can have breakfast. I did not see the five day old chick and its mother anywhere today. I hope something didnt get her chick. There was a distracted looking hen around this morning but so many of them look alike that I could not be sure. When I went out this evening I also discovered that the three ganders were shut out of the goose pen. I had propped their gate open but the wind today was quite violent and had swept the gate shut despite the prop which was driven well into the ground. Thank goodness the sitting goose was not out taking her break or she would not have been able to get back to her nest.
May 27 Saturday Our little hen with one new chick settled down for the night in the cat carrier again. Again I put in food and water and shut the door. This morning before I let her out at 6am I carried it out on the grass. She ran right out, circled the box a couple of times flapping her wings to stretch, then darted back in with her chick. Later they spent the day scratching around. She prefers to be inside the barn where there are many more hazards than outdoors. At noon when I went to the barn I could hear desperate peeping from some distance away. The chick had somehow gotten inside an old cage made of chicken wire which is meant to be chick proof. I guess its not. I reunited it with its frantic mother. I dug, fertilized, and planted more seeds today: spinach, coriander and fenugreek.
May 28 Sunday When I let the little hen out this morning she raced around the carrier as before, then dove back in with her chick. She returned to it several times today to rest but settled down for the night somewhere else. The geese were hanging around at her early bedtime. Probably she didnt want to take her chick anywhere near them. I could not find her. One of the cats had three kittens six weeks ago. One died right away. She moved the others where I couldnt find them until today. I caught one little cutie. It was very strong and I nearly got bitten. I brought it in the house and gave it a dish of irresistible canned cat food. I shoved the dish under the magazine stand where it is holed up and it ate it all, and a second dish later. Its mother is worried and wouldnt join the other cats for their supper. I tried to explain to her that I could not find a good home unless I could get it friendly. The cows and sheep look happier every day. They have more beautiful grass than they can eat. Nonetheless they come pleading for grain when they catch my eye. The lilacs are in full bloom for Memorial Day, and the lawn is mowed.
May 29 Monday Memorial Day Most of today was sunny. It got up to about 60F. I finished the lawn mowing that Stewart didnt get done. Both my little hens and their chicks were out scratching this morning. At bedtime the cat carrier hen took her chick back in and I locked them in with food and water as before. At lunch time when I visited the barn a found one of the half grown pair of chicks struggling with its head stuck in a crevice. It was on the wall outside of Helens stanchion and some grain had dribbled out. I had to force up a board to free him. He ran off with no damage but ruffled feathers. Within five minutes he was back at the same crack looking for grain but managed not to get himself stuck again. The mother of those two chicks no longer spends the day with them. But I notice she cuddles up with them at night high in the rafters.
May 30 Tuesday The kitten I brought into the house day before yesterday has gotten very friendly. It no longer cries unless it sees me and wants food or cuddling. It plays by itself. I cant find its brother. I think the mother has moved it somewhere. Ive gone back entirely to feeding the pigs cooked cracked corn. Ive worked it out that it costs just half as much as the ready to eat pellets. I am cooking 6lb a day of it in a big pot which I steam in the Aga. I add some powdered milk to the water and anything else I have. They much prefer it to the pellets too. Helen now acts as though she hardly knows me. But well get reacquainted before long. This morning the sheep forced a hole in the page wire fence and got from their field into the barnyard. Then they didnt know what to do with themselves and stood there saying baaa until I ushered them back into their field. I saw only one hen and chick today, the one that goes into the cat cage. She did not go in this evening because I had left it outside. But I saw where she settled down and after dark I put her and the chick into it. Ive used up the last of the milk I had frozen in pint jars and today bought a gallon of commercial milk. Not being used to it, the flavor of plastic and cooked milk was disgusting. It is like the difference between fresh country air and the air in an underground parking garage. Our country air right now is especially nice because the lilacs are in full bloom.
May 31 Wednesday. The other little hen and chick were out this morning happy as ever. They do seem very happy. The mother hens cluck and the chicks hop and run after them bouncing over the tall grass. The confined pullets and cockerels have been hoping very much to get out and run around. Today I opened their door and let them out. Mostly they stood around in small groups like people waiting for the bus. But then the little cockerels started to fight. They all wanted to fight the one rare breed cockerel which McMurray added to the order as a freebie. He cant weigh above 10 oz and the other birds maybe 12 oz. But he is a little feisty. He lowered his head and flared his hackles like an Elizabethan ruff and took on the others one after another. I watched through three fights. I dont know his breed but he has black and white checkers over most of him, white hackles and a bright red comb. These birds are too young to have spurs. They leap in the air at each other coming down facing each other from the opposite position. Then they push their chests together while flapping. They muscle each other around in a circle. At bedtime I had to shoo the whole crowd back into their room. They didnt seem to think of returning on their own even though I turned on their light. Cousin Steve came today and tilled a patch of turf 30x30 for me for additional garden space. What a treat. He has a big Ariens lawn tractor that carries a 6 tiller. I hilled up two 30 rows and dug in chicken dressing. Tomorrow I will plant sweet corn. This new plot will enable me to plant a lot of squash and cucumbers which formerly I did not have room for.
June 1 Thursday Both the little hens were on the job this morning. I guess Ill stop worrying about the outdoor one. The cat cage one goes in every night so long as I dont put her cage in a new place. We had a marvelous sunset this evening. The entire sky was filled with small fluffy apricot colored clouds while the sky itself was turquoise. I sat outside and listened to cowbells and spring peepers until the light faded.
June 2 Friday Now that the pullets and cockerels are loose they are hard to get to bed. They arent clear about what to do when everybody else is going to roost. I walk forward holding a feed bag in front of me and sweep them ahead of me. It took me about 10 minutes tonight and some I had to catch and carry to their room. The chicken that was crippled got well again. I cant even tell which one it was. Helen is looking large these days. She seems aloof. The air is still scented all day with lilac. But I still have not seen any honey bees.
June 4 Sunday I inquired of the lady from whom we bought the geese what to feed the gosling. She suggested bread and milk. What I did was mix dry powdered milk into the laying mash which I have been putting out. The free range chickens and the big geese of course ate most of it but Im sure the gosling ate some as he was standing in the middle of the dish when I went back. I also fixed up a different water container for them as the one they had was empty so very often I thought maybe it had a leak. I put it right next to the mash for the convenience of the gosling. It is a low flat thing as was the other one. I dont want him to drown. Apart from such a mishap, I dont think much but a mountain lion could get past his honor guard. It is highly entertaining to see how the goose and all three ganders position themselves around him. He stands in the center looking quite important although only about 5 high. At midmorning I discovered a very sick looking raccoon behind the barn. I called for Rafe who shot it with his .22 I called our animal control officer several times but never got a response so the corpse is still there. Dear Rafe has repaired the springline so once again we have our lovely water. It runs better than ever.
June 5 Monday Early this morning I took Rafe to the airport for his flight to Alaska. Later I dug over one of the perennial borders. At chore time I found a small lonely black kitten behind a feed bag. I expect it belongs to Little Ruby, A very shy female who probably never gets enough to eat because she wont push in among the others. She came out and looked at me when she heard te kitten crying. I had put it in a bucket to wait while I finished the chores. I brought the kitten in the house and tried to teach it how to drink warm milk. It drank some. When I was feeding the pigs a left the gate open. A bit later when I went out to bring in the laundry I heard a big mooo much too close. All three were standing in the garage. It took me about 20 minutes to herd them back. Hector, the yearling steer, knew exactly where he didnt want to go and had a good time racing around and snapping the tops off plants. Helen also ate a big share. I never could herd Wilber along with the others. He is so people oriented that I had to come back and give him a special escort leading him by the collar. He wanted to be led at the run so I got hot and tired and out of temper. But it serves no purpose to get mad at cows. It only frightens them and then they act worse. So I didnt tell them what I thought. Of course it was all my fault anyway.
June 6 Tuesday I found two more kittens down inside a wall in the barn. I was peering in there for eggs. They are almost certainly part of the same litter as the little one I found yesterday. I could barely reach them. So now there are four in the kitchen. They arent ready to eat from a dish so I suppose I must try the eye dropper for them. The one I brought in yesterday got pretty hungry until I fed it with the eye dropper this morning. It then fell asleep instantly and slept for two hours. If I get a chance to catch them at this age, probably six weeks, I grab them. Another week or two and the chance of catching them drops to nearly zero and they grow up wild and cant be given away to good homes.
Thursday June 8 Its past time for another round of lawn mowing. During recent rain the lawn jumped up in some places to 10 . I decided to start today by going around the periphery to outline the job. I ran out of gas before I got all the way around. It is a big area. Before I could get back to the job it bagen to rain again. I now go out about 7pm to close up the chickens but am finding that is too early. The older birds are all on their roosts but the pullets and cockerels dont want to go to bed. I have to wait until it is pitch dark. Lately I have been getting 10 eggs a day. I guess Ill have to find some more customers.
Friday June 9 One of the ewe lambs isnt doing as well as the others. She is the only one who doesnt crowd in for grain when I serve out their small feed. She hangs way back. I prepared another 30 row in my veg garden including spreading down black plastic garden fabric. I hope to warm the soil enough for cucumbers and squash. They will be going in nearly two weeks later than I would have liked but it has been too wet and cold. The corn has not sprouted. The peas look good. I did another hour and a half of lawn mowing today. It looks very nice where it is mowed. So far this year I have not seen one single honey bee and only one bumble bee. This is scary. There used to be hundreds.
June 11 Sunday It rained all last night and most of today making outdoor work impossible. I had a fire in the kitchen fireplace and practiced making Middle Eastern flatbread using my sourdough starter and whole wheat flour. The Aga cooking plates make perfect griddles for this purpose. I made several different types using the same basic dough. It was easy and the breads looked authentic. Helen came in for her grain this morning and I medicated her teat. She was quite cooperative. This evening she ignored my calls so got no treatment. I found the gosling dead this evening. I can only assume one of the geese killed it. It was eating and drinking this morning and was perky but lay dead at 5pm. They had all seemed so attentive. The only other possibility is if the mother wasnt brooding it and it got too wet and cold. This is upsetting.
June 12 Monday This morning I let out the caged bantam and her two day old chicks. I was acting on the advice of people who say I am doing too much fiddling around with bantams. There was a crack in the barn floor which I noticed just too late and before my eyes one chick fell through. It hopped in the air several times in an attempt to get back up but was too small. I was able to pry the boards apart by hand far enough to get my fingers down and caught the little thing between two fingers. It was hardly bigger than a moth. Then I put loose boards over all the cracks I could see. This evening I could not find the little family at all. I hope she is safe somewhere. Despite two days of rain my corn has not sprouted. But the black plastic is warming the soil. If I hold a hand over the slits I made I can feel little fumeroles of warm air. When driving around town I can see some gardeners have put in their tomatoes but I have not. I got Helen in today for a look at her torn teat and an application of my oil and comfrey remedy. It looks better. She let me put the stuff on without kicking.
June 14 Wednesday The roses are starting to bloom, the little pink ones that run riot in the stone wall. When I went to feed the pigs tonight I was greeted by two heads peaking through the wire of their door. They had made matching holes in the chickenwire that covers the upper part of the door and looked about to follow with their entire bodies had I not poured their dinner into their trough. I have now made a low rent repair, another door fastened over the damaged door. I then wrapped chain across the whole thing. But when a pig wants to get out it is hard to stop. Pigs are immensely strong. They may decide to bash out their side wall. I did a lot more mowing today but did not finish. Neighbor Stewart came by and completed the job with his big riding mower. I gave him some asparagus.
June 15 Thursday It was another cold overcast day. I did some errands and everywhere people were deploring the fact that it wasnt warm enough to plant tomatoes. I did put mine in Tuesday and Wednesday despite unpromising weather. It appeared to me that they were getting smaller in their pots. Speaking of getting smaller, I have been fostering four kittens in the house. They are not all from the same litter. The largest one is doing fine but the other three have been in a holding pattern. They have sore eyes and modest appetite. The smallest one yesterday seemed hardly hungry at all, had a stuffy nose and did begin to look smaller. This is the first time I recall ever noting failure to thrive syndrome among any of my fostered kittens of any age. It is also the first time I have not had raw milk to give them, Helen being dry now. Last night I defrosted some liver and for breakfast I gave them all the juice that seeped out of the liver. There was a noticeable difference in their appetite and friskiness within hours. The smallest one is once again a constant pest trying to climb up my leg. His appetite came roaring back. He attacks me for food because I feed him with a bottle. I gave him the liver juice with a medicine dropper. He was crazy for it. I have been getting Helen in every day for a grain feed and treatment of her cut teat. The teat is healing as well as can be expected. The cool weather means flies are not as bad as they might be. With her grain I have been including the anionic salts designed to ward off milk fever. If I give her as much of the salts as she ought to have she refuses the grain. Next time I will cut way back on the salts.
June 16 Friday Helen wants to come in for her grain now. She eats it right up if I dont put on too much of the anionic salts. She is beginning to look very pregnant and walks wobbley. Two of her quarters are swelling including the one with the injured teat. This morning within minutes after I let the sheep out of their paddock into the big field they had breached the fence and were standing in the barnyard. They were bunched up by the gate looking confused. I have been getting nervous about putting myself in a vulnerable position with the wether, Thistle. He has been giving me the wall-eye. My saving his life from twisted wire did not improve his attitude. I went in among them anyway because I didnt want to spook them away from the gate. I got the gate open for them and was rewarded by Thistle ramming me in the thigh. He was only three or four feet away so I only have a bruise. But I have definitely begun to picture him in the freezer.
June 17 Saturday Yesterday Helen's torn teat looked pretty good and I was able to handle it wihout her kicking. This morning it was red and puffy. Clearly my treatment is not adequate to the situation. I called the vet but unless I declare an emergency, he will not come before next Tuesday. I have mixed up a stronger solution of tea tree oil for tomorrow morning. She is eating her grain enthusiastically.
June 18 Sunday Helen's teat definitely looked better today but still feels hot. She did not want it touched. I used a much stronger mixture of tea tree oil on it to day, cut about 2 to 1 with olive oil, and put it in a little bottle which I can use for a total teat dip. There is no way the injury will be healed enough for normal milking by the time she calves.
June 19 Monday I didn't even mention yesterday that one of the kittens I have been fostering was gone Sunday morning. It was the one I was feeding by bottle, the smallest one. It had rained during the night. I looked and called and when it was still missing by evening I felt sure it was dead. Then today at 5pm the animal control officer showed up with it in a little cage. A fisherman had found it under the bridge about 500 yards down the road from the house. It was in great shape but plenty hungry. It still will not eat from a dish, only from a bottle. Shortly thereafter I got a call from Martin, who does this web site, from the hospital. He had had a serious accident to his foot and ankle caused by catching his foot in an auger at his extruded wood products plant. His foot and ankle are broken and he is lucky it was not a lot worse.
Thursday 22 Martin is out of the hospital and doing well considering his injuries. He couldn't stand being away from his plant so rented a wheelchair and went in for a while. Here at the farm, Helen is looking close to calving. She is starting to show mucous and moves slowly. Her torn teat looks about the same today as yesterday but she allowed me to handle it with almost no flinching. My kitten that was lost still won't eat from a dish. He has chewed the end off the nipple on his little bottle so can't suck any more, just slurp. But he is sticking with his principles, no lapping from a dish. I got my pole beans in today about three weeks late. It got up to 80F today so maybe the beans will catch up. I also worked on my water system and have a sprinkler going on some of the flowers. In this heat with our sandy soil the beds dry out in a day.
Friday 23 June Such a beautiful day here. I finally got my potatoes planted. It is not straightforward planting. The newly tilled turf they went into requires a lot of preparation. It is only a 20' row. They are very crowded because i didn't feel like doing anymore digging. The cucumbers and squash are up. I transplanted my two gooseberry bushes to a sunnier place. They were being swallowed up in my windbreak row which has filled in since we set them out there. I also transplanted a rhubarb plant which was unhappy in its site. I long to have a big stand of rhubarb one day. Helen appears to be i n early labor. She spent the day lying down in the beefer pen not chewing her cud. I threw down a lot of hay sweepings from the hay mow and forked it all over the floor to make a clean surface. I also shut the two steers out in the pasture but when I went back an hour later the bad things had pushed down the fence to get back in. They hate being separated from Helen. While observing Helen today I saw her struggle to her feet after she had been lying down for a couple of hours. It is clear that she could indeed have cut her teat with her hoof while rising. It is a common occurrence in cattle with large udders. I have shut her inside the beefer pen with the steers outside. They get too excited. No further signs of calving at 9:30pm except a mucous string which might mean nothing.
June 30 Friday As soon as I approached the barn this morning at a quarter to six I knew from the rapid steady ringing of Helens bell that she was licking her calf. There they were with Hector and Wilber close by sniffing and admiring the new member of the family. I could tell that the calf had just hit the ground not more than five minutes earlier. A warm wet grope and I was pleased to discover we have a heifer. Last night Helen seemed almost to be staggering she was so heavy. This was partly because her hooves are overgrown but mostly because of the calf. Then we had a major electrical storm starting about 10pm which seemed capable of shaking a calf loose. To get the steers away from the scene I put out a pan of grain and Hector ran right outside. Wilber was unwilling to leave Helen and the calf and I had to drag him out. The calf is strong and well coordinated as a June calf should be and was ready to suck within 10 minutes. I pushed her head down and got her started several time but Helen kept circling as cows will. So I put her in her stanchion. I baited it with a lot of grain, then picked up the calf which I would guess weighs 50 lbs and raced ahead of her down the aisle to her stanchion. She ate with good appetite while I put the calf on successive teats. Happily, she is willing to allow the calf to suck the cut teat. The cut is on the front side therefore the calfs razor sharp incisors do not touch it, only its toothless upper gums. Nevertheless, she was not anxious to have me touch that teat. After the calf could drink no more I went for the bucket and milked out a gallon of colostrum. I put a little collar on the calf and tied her near Helens head while i milked. The calf certainly had more than half a gallon, then sucked some more after I milked. I then set Helen up with hay and water in the central aisle of the barn. Daughter Sally was to have the calf if it proved to be a heifer so I have put in a radio call for her in Alaska so she can name it. I have checked Helen every hour for incipient milk fever. So far so good. Mostly she and the calf were napping. About 2 pm I milked out another gallon of colostrum out. The calf had sucked again. The calf has a classic Jersey appearance including a black nose. 5pm Her ears are still warm.. Im going out to dinner.
July 1 Saturday At 10pm last night Helens ears were warm and she was snuggled up with her calf in some hay I had put down to stop draughts. They appeared relaxed and comfortable. I set the alarm for 3am and returned to the barn at that time and found no signs of milk. At 6:30am I got Helen into her stanchion and gave her three scoops of grain, an increase from her former two. I put the calf on the cut teat and another quarter which was tight and she had a good feed. I then put the kicker on Helen and got about 2 gallons of colostrum. She might have behaved without it, she is being very good, but it does increase peace of mind to use it right now while she is still nervous. I am grateful for the flags Sally tied on it. It is remarkably hard to remember to remove it although Helen reminds me by standing and staring after I open her stanchion. I was late feeding the pigs this morning and in their impatience they had bashed out their top fence board. I have nailed it back but dont trust it. Later: So far no signs of milk fever in Helen. It has hit my cows so often in the past that I hardly dare trust this good fortune. My hay man called about noon and wanted to know if I could accept delivery today on 200 bales. Son Mark was on the way so I said yes. It is nice hay and with the help of his hay elevator and with the mans wife, me and Mark and little Hailey all helping we got it unloaded and stacked in less than an hour. At 4:00 I milk Helen for a second time today and got a gallon and a half. I did not use the kicker. One front quarter hasnt been touched by the calf. She is already so skittish I could scarcely catch her to put her on the teat. She ran round and round her mother and then would not suck. I was unable to milk that quarter out very well.
July 2 Sunday Helen continues healthy and happy. I milked her about 6:30am. The calf was already full and didnt want any more. I tied the calf by her head during milking but it would not settle down, just stood there sagging back on its collar. Hector was bawling outside the window. All this made Helen jumpy so I used the kicker. The calf has now made a little cut on one back teat. It is not bothering Helen so far but appears to be a little infected and I soaked it in tea tree oil after milking. I got two gallons and was able to get the quarter which was blocky last night to soften a bit. Helen has been eating hay well and chewing her cud, a good sign. She wanted to go out to graze after milking and when I opened the door she called her calf to come along. I kept it tied but it did not bawl and after brief hesitation she marched on out and is grazing with the boys. I released the calf to run around inside and Helen has not called again now three hours later. She is a far more relaxed mother this time and trusts me. Last night I made beestings (colostrum pudding) from some of the second colostrum milking. This pudding sets up without eggs. Just add sugar, vanilla, and a sprinkling of nutmeg and bake like a custard. Do not add salt. I took several ramikins of it to camp last night where daughter Marcia was having a party. I dont believe anybody ate any. Too bad, as I think these were the best I ever made. There was a lot of other food including a fancy bakery decorated cake. Helen stayed out grazing not much over three hours. I offered her the option of returning to her calf and she came right in. Later I looked at her and she was lying down looking ill. It is a very hot day and she had her mouth open panting like a dog and breathing fast. I was alarmed and much puzzled about what to do. Then I thought of the water hose and gave her a light sprinkling. This brought her to her feet and I put her out again. At milking time I let the calf go first. She did not seem terribly hungry but sucked awhile. I got only 1.5 gals. There was a lot she did not let down. I have been straining through a fine nylon mesh strainer because colostrum goes only reluctantly through the paper dairy filter, if at all. Tonight I used a filter and it strained perfectly. The one miserable looking black kitten I have been feeding with a bottle finally drank from a dish today. I got it lapping the tip of a spoon a few times, then slowly lowered the spoon into a bowl of milk. I had to leave the spoon in the bowl or it would quit. This morning I made queso blanco and made butter from the cream off of the colostrum. It is dayglo yellow. From setting up to finishing washing up the farm chores took me exactly two hours. I hope to get more efficient.
July 3 Monday As soon as I realized today was not a holiday I went out for feed, especially cat food. I cant stand fifteen cats all staring at me. The greatest invention of the new decade would be would be a blow dart that sterilizes cats. Some of these cats cannot be caught. At least I dont have any rodents and even the skunks have called it quits. Helen was cooperative today as well as could be expected with two sore teats, she is so much better than last year. I did have trouble getting her to go out and graze and leave the calf. I had to push and cajole for ten minutes. Once out she grazed and chewed her cud happily for four hours. I brought in 2 gals. this morning and 1.5 this evening. The calf is ad lib except while Helen is grazing. Helen is still engorged but today she let down a great deal better. She and the calf spend the night together. It surely takes more than a gallon.
July 4 Tuesday Helen had a fairly good day. I put her out after morning milking. She bellowed for a few minutes but then grazed and chewed her cud the rest of the day until 4:00 oclock when she began bellowing for her calf. I let her in and milked at about 5:00. It was suffering hot in the barn, there were flies, and the young poultry were pesky. She was very restless during milking. I did not get quite 1.5 gals., 3.5 +/- today. The calf is to be named Leah. The sheep showed up in the wrong field today. I just opened all gates and they found their way back where they belong and I dont even know how they got out. I have a huge beautiful crop of mesclun and nobody but me to eat it. I must find somebody to give it to.
July 5 Wednesday Today dawned very fine and I decided to try letting the calf, now named Leah, out with Helen. Today is day four for the calf and Helen already had accepted the idea of going out without her. She marched right out after milking. Then I pushed Leah after her, the boys joined her and they set off into the pasture. I watched them often through the binoculars as they moved around. Leah was just a tiny brown scrap trotting right along with her ears back. Hector, Helens yearling calf of last year, is friendly and loving. He knows only one way of expressing his affection, to mount. Poor Leah must have gotten knocked down a number of times but she is athletic. Getting them back in at milking time was tricky. Helen was not at all sure this was a good idea. She would not come when I called and I had to go fetch her. Once up to the barn I could tell she was considering whirling away. But I am sly and had brought a hay string to put on Leahs collar to force her along with me inside the barn. Of course she set her heels and I had to almost carry her. But I got them all in at last. It took me 25 minutes and I was covered in sweat. Helen let down better and I got almost two gallons tonight, close to four today total. Helen and Leah are staying in tonight. I dont care to have to drag the calf in the morning. Once a day is enough.
July 6 Thursday Another fine bright morning, not too hot. I had to fight for my two gallons this morning because Helen wasnt letting down in the near front quarter where the cut is not quite healed. The calf seems to prefer the back teats but all three other teats are milking out well. After milking I slathered the quarter, not the teat, with salve similar to Bag Balm. I put wheat germ oil (blend) on the teat. I no longer put tea tree oil on it because I dont want to discourage the calf from sucking that teat. Leah no longer fights being tied up during milking. She lies down quietly . Helen walked straight out after I turned her loose and I pushed Leah along. I then closed the barn door and observed her through the window for several minutes. She took a long drink. I timed this at 43 seconds during which I interrupted the count twice while she turned to make sure where Leah was. She then turned and waited for Hector to show up. She is never mean to Wilber but it is Hector with whom she has the close relationship, he being her calf. While waiting she watched Leah licking the mud. She licked mud for more than two minutes. Then Hector showed up and began greeting Leah by sniffing and poising himself to jump her. Helen made a slight gesture with her head telling him not to do that and touched Leahs butt to move her along. She then made a gesture toward Hector to move aside. He minds her perfectly. Wilber then arrived and they moved off slowly in a tight bunch surrounding Leah who trotted at Helens shoulder with her ears back. At evening milking Helen was not at the barn. I called to her and she came right away but along the way she stashed Leah and came up to the barn with just the steers. After about 10 minutes of me wheedling and cajoling she walked in and stuck her head in the stanchion. But she seemed to regret not having brought Leah and was agitated. I finally put the kicker on her. She let down well in her hind teats but poorly in front. I can tell the calf is only sucking the rear teats. Both front quarters were quite hard and blocky. I got only1.5 gals tonight, 2 gals this morning. That is down a half gallon from yesterday and that milk is still inside her. I sent her out with tea tree oil on the rear teats in hopes that will make Leah prefer the front ones. They will all be spending the night outside. Maybe now I can get the main hall dry and clean again. I pulled my first lovely beet greens today.
July 7 Friday Another bright Maine day. Helen and the group were down by the river at milking time this morning. I called and she brought them all up and Leah was first into the beefer pen (holding area) and first through into the barn. Of course this made Helen come right along and she was relaxed and let down well. So will that the bucket was so full I had to stop or go get another bucket. I sprayed the rear teats with my citronella fly spray to discourage Leah sucking. This evening all the group was waiting in the beefer pen and Helen marched right in. Leah was lying down and did not move. After she was in her stanchion and had grabbed a few bites of grain Helen became agitated and bellowed, peed and dropped a big plop. By then the boys had taken off for the pasture with Leah following or I would have brought her in. I had to put the kicker on and fought for every drop of milk after that. I didnt get much over 5 quarts but it is still nearly 4 gallons for the day. I had to send her out with front quarters still full. I put citronella on the hind teats again as it did appear to have caused Leah to suck the front today. This morning I churned a gallon of cream in my Cuisinart and made 2.5 lb of butter.
July 8 Saturday Milking time this morning was a days work. At 5:30 am when I let out the chickens Helen and the crew were inside the barn. I should have locked them in. A bit later when I went out with my bucket they had gone into the north field to graze and no amount of calling would budge them. Finally I walked up there and drove them home while trying to think nice thoughts about the dewy wild flowers. Getting them started and moving in the right direction is complicated because Leah keeps racing off and causing Helen to go her way. When I finally got them to the barn Helen would not go in without Leah, no doubt remembering how much she didnt like it last night being in there without her. I coaxed and wheedled for ever so long. Leah kept hopping inside but just as Helen would start to come in with her, Leah would dart outside and run 40 yards. Then Helen decided to skip milking and turned the whole group back toward the pasture. I got in front of her just in time to close the barnyard gate. I went and got a rope, cornered Leah, and dragged her inside. She set her weight against this the whole way. I could not get behind her and nudge, which works far better to move a calf along, for fear of the crowd of big cattle behind me, especially Hector. The last 30 yards of this operation Leah flopped down and I had to literally skid her along. When I dragged her like bait along the passageway to the big barn floor Helen followed and so did Hector and Wilber. I had to push them backwards to get them back where they belong. All this took over half an hour. Once in her stanchion, Helen let down well except in the off front quarter. I ended up with 2 gallons and a quart. I managed to get through all this without letting on to the cow population that I was angry but when later I ran my shin into the dishwasher door I had a few things to say. As it happened, two tomcats were persistently carrying on outside the kitchen. I dashed outside snatching up a couple of unbreakable objects as I passed through the buttery. My aim today was good. I got them each in the butt, one with a paint scraper, one with a yogurt container. This evenings drama was mostly just long and boring. Helen finally responded to my calling after 15 minutes. But when she reached the barn instead of coming in the whole group peeled off and went way down in the field in the other direction. I think Leah was the cause of it by not knowing here to to turn so Helen had to follow her. Further calling by me was unfruitful but a sudden storm came up and Helen showed good sense by heading for the barn. I shut gates to trap the lot and milked 45 minutes late with Leah tied at Helens head. The calf had sucked the front quarters and Helen let down fairly well. I got over 1.5 gallons. There were some flecks on the filter no doubt from the unblocking of the two front quarters. I made three pounds of butter today.
July 9 Sunday The cows were down by the river this morning but came when I called them. I put down feed for Hector inside the beefer pen to keep him busy. Helen came in with Leah and I raced around shutting the door behind her, then led Leah in to Helens stanchion and she followed her calf. I got over 2 gallons of milk. Later I remembered an advantage I have been overlooking. Daughter Sally trained Hector to accept being tied up for his feed. This evening I was able to call the cows to the barnyard and shut all gates behind them. Then I took advantage of Hector always being first into the beefer pen. I had his pan ready and clipped him to a rope. I then faded back and the others came on in. I shut the door behind them. Helen of course went straight over and swiped the rest of Hectors grain but then she and Leah marched straight in to the milking area, Leah going first. This was a smooth operation. Leah now lies down quietly during milking. Now if I can just think of something to do about the muck Helen has to walk through to get in. She comes in perfectly clean except for her feet. So I am in constant dread of her kicking for fear she will throw muck into the milk. If she does I will carry the bucket right around to the pigpen. As I have mentioned before, there is one lamb which has steadfastly refused to join the others for ther grain. They troop in and she peels off and lies down in a corner. Lately she has been approaching the feed trough and tonight she came up to the far end and took a nibble.
July 10 Monday This morning I overslept. It was 7:30 before I was ready for Helen. My ploy to forestall Hector with grain proved unnecessary. Helen had stashed Leah somewhere and walked right in like the old pre-calf days. She had clearly just fed Leah. She didnt feel like letting down what was left. I had to fight for my 1 gallon + 1 quart. Nor did she feel any need to go wake up Leah after milking wherever she was. She lay down in the beefer pen with Hector and Wilber and chewed her cud. And chewed. And chewed. It started to rain quite hard. One part of me was sure she knew what she was doing leaving Leah. It was warm rain with no wind. I went out about eight times during the morning and still she lay there blissfully until 11:30. When at last she left the barn she began bellowing for Leah. Leah did not respond. Helen obviously knew exactly where Leah was and ambled over to the tall marsh grass halfway to the river. I was in suspense watching through my binoculars. Like a sensible calf, Leah did not move until her mother nudged her. I feel sure that calves who trot unattended toward their mothers across open fields have left few heirs. This evening Leah was waiting with the others. I hitched up Hector and Helen and Leah came right in. Leah tried to put her little head through a slot at the side of the stanchion so she could stand like her mother. I got all the missing milk, 2.5 gallons which is all the bucket will hold.
July 11 Tuesday The cows came when I called this morning and Helen and Leah walked in in an orderly manner. I could not ask for better manners. Leah lay right down in her spot. She was stuffed with milk and although Helen let down fairly well I got just 1.5 gal. Leah is growing fast. I loosened her collar a notch. After Milking Helen was deeply reluctant to walk back out. She hates going down the ramp which leads directly outside because it is too steep. Back out through the beefer pen means stepping in disgusting muck. She stood pondering her options for more than ten minutes while I pushed as politely as possible on her back end. Finally I got creative and went up to the loft and threw down some floor sweepings aiming for the general area. That did the trick. The feeble kitten I have been looking after in the house has not been thriving. It has from the start had infected eyes. I wash its face with a wet paper towel every morning so it can get its eyes open. I have figured to get some medication from the vet but he has not been by. Day before yesterday (Sunday) I squirted the contents of a vitamin A and D capsule into its mouth. I saw no change yesterday but this morning for the first time its eyes are open and clear. When I was ready for Helen this evening she was nowhere to be seen. I called and she did not come. I finally decided to see how she does when I skip a milking. Now at 8pm I can spot her down in pocket field. It is a superb evening. Maine is so beautiful. Sleep well Helen. I will take out two buckets in the morning very early.
July 12 Wednesday Helen was down by the river this morning in the sun but came right away when I called her. She mooed all the way to the barn. She was so full of milk that her udder looked like a cow caricature. One rear quarter where Leah had sucked was not very full but but her off front quarter was touchy and did not let down well. It was touchy enough to cause me to put the kicker on half way through milking. I took an extra bucket to the barn and got 3 gallons. I smeared thuja zinc ointment (aromatic) on the upper part of that quarter where it feels blocked. I also put it on the teats of the other three quarter but not on the teat of the affected quarter. Maybe this will encourage Leah to suck that one. I am not too optimistic about this, however, because Leah was so full that by the time she feeds again most likely all the salve will have washed off in the dew. This afternoon around four the cows were all inside the beefer pen and I closed the barnyard gates so they were trapped until milking time. When I brought Helen in an hour later Leah wanted to eat so I guided her around to the quarter I was worried about. I think my earlier ploy had been successful as the quarter was well softened up and by the time Leah got through with it it was empty. I got 1.25 gals tonight.
July 13 Thursday Leah trotted right in with Helen this morning. She had been stuffing herself and consequently I did not get much over a gallon. This evening Helen came in alone. She had stashed Leah somewhere hours ago and was very full. But without Leah there she let down badly . I had to send her back out with lots of milk still in her. I got less than two gallons tonight, about three for the day. This is the sort of thing which has stopped me in the past from letting the cow and calf run together, not letting down. But I am not ready to give up. It isnt as though I need more than three gallons, I just fear mastitis. Those tight quarters are not preferred by the calf so it is not as though I can count on Leah to solve the problem. Leah clearly favors the rear quarters.
July 14 Friday Helen and Leah were waiting this morning and came in together. Helen seemed relaxed. She gave 2.5 gallons and none of her quarters seemed to be in trouble. This evening she was again waiting in the beefer pen but without Leah. We were having a major electrical storm. She had left Leah napping somewhere outdoors so she will have had a good soaking. Helen came right on in. Because of waiting in wet weather she was very dirty and it took me a long time to wash her up. She gave two gallons, 4.5 for the day. No problem with any of her quarters and the filter was perfectly clean. The last three milkings it has been very hard to get her to walk back out into the beefer pen. I had to push and coax for more than five minutes tonight. I even tried climbing on her back in the narrow passageway like a rodeo rider. She had no objection to this at all so it was a useless ploy. I must figure out something to do about the squishy mess she has to walk through. That is why she hesitates.
July 15 Saturday Everything went pretty well today. Helen showed up nicely for both milkings and I got Leah in although she is shy and frisky and doesnt always follow her mother. Total 3.75 gallons of milk today. All four of Helens quarters were in fairly good shape.
July 16 Sunday. We have been having a lot of rain which has interfered with fencing. The sheep keep getting out of their field and today ended up in the beefer pen with the cows. The cows had a disgusted There goes the neighborhood look. Once I discovered them, I did not have much trouble herding the sheep back to their own side of things. Because of the rain I put out hay for the cows and sheep. They ate quite a lot. Total milk today 3.75 gals. Helen was well behaved. Helen stepped a hole through a rotten plank in one of her ramps. Fortunately she was not hurt. Granddaughter Rebecca who is visiting cleverly repaired the damage with a new plank. This is the first calving when I have not had to deal with any milk fever or ketosis at all. And Helen shows signs of ultimately settling in to a regimen of milking along with the calf. Unlike Clarinda, she has not refused to come to the barn with her calf.
July 17 Monday Granddaughter Rebecca and I went shopping today for feed and supplies. I currently have a couple of milk and butter customers so Helen is self supporting at the moment. I have been thinking I saw Leah chewing her cud the last couple of days but today I observed her for certain. She grazes quite a lot and has for a week. This is much earlier than a calf would chew its cud if raised in a hutch on pellets. Also much earlier than a calf would graze without its mothers example. I put a bell on her today. Helen came in well both times today although I was 45 minutes late this morning so had to go fetch her. This evening she left Leah (chewing her cud) with the others in the beefer pen when she came in for milking. Bu t she was not nervous and let down ok. She gave 3.75 gals today. Leah looks very sleek. No telling what she is getting but probably a gallon and a half. Rebecca repaired the fence where the sheep are escaping but she thinks there are some more weak places.
July 18 Tuesday I could not see Helen anywhere early this morning and she did not come when I called. If we make eye contact no matter how far away she is she will usually come but not otherwise. After awhile I spied Wilber at the edge of the woods near the river. He started to come, then they all did and Leah came all the way to Helens stanchion. This evening Leah stayed in the beefer pen where all had spent the afternoon. We had a violent electrical storm which went on about three hours. Whether through ignorance or faith, the cows seemed undisturbed and chewed their cuds. I put out hay for them. The storm was accompanied by hail an inch in diameter. Rebecca froze some for ice cubes. The hail made hash of my roses and lilies. I have not had the courage to look at the lettuce and beans. The cut on Helens teat which she got three weeks before calving is finally healed down to a small scab. It is nice not to have to favor that teat when milking.
July 19 Wednesday We have fine weather again but the pasture grass is already past its prime. Helen sorts around and finds juicy clumps of clover but the grass has all headed up. I am serving a little hay every day. A bantam hen which I have been checking daily was finally rewarded for her faithful sitting with one chick this morning. I have set them up in the coop condo where they are safe. This evening Leah came in with Helen then stood there and drank milk for five minutes. I still got 2 gallons so I suppose the bucket would have been up to the brim. I didnt try to stop her as what to do with all the milk can be a problem. Rebecca made a nice cheese with 2 gallons yesterday. 3.75 gals. today.
July 20 Thursday Helen was perfect this morning but this evening she was a pill. Without the kicker I never could have milked her. I figure she is coming in heat. Tomorrow makes 21 days since the calf was born. To be on the safe side I closed her out of the north field. That field is a little less secure and if there are other cattle in the neighborhood they are to the north. She gave 3.75 gals today. Becky and I tried to repair the springline today but the river is too high to find the broken part where it crosses the brook. It crosses right where the brook enters the river. We found the end that is pouring out springwater but could not find the near end of the polythene pipe.
July 21 Friday Well, I dont think Helen was in heat after all. Once again this evening she was crabby about being washed up. After an afternoon in her run-in, the beefer pen, she needs a lot of washing and I dont stop until she is clean. She reminds me of a little kid trying to avoid getting his faced washed. I had to put the kicker on again. But I had some nice hay in front of her to eat when her grain was finished. Then when she would not stop prancing I yelled Knock it off! quite loudly and she was so surprised she stood still. I got about 3.75 gals. again today.
July 22 Saturday The flowers and vegetables are recovering somewhat from the attack last week by big hailstones. The spinach still looks shredded. Helen continues restless during milking especially in the evening when I usually have to scrub her teats for a long time. Her early morning grazing brings her in beautifully washed by long dewy grass. Today she gave over 4 gallons plus whatever the calf had. That is surely a gallon and a half if not two.
July 23 Sunday Helen outdid herself today. 4.5 gallons plus feeding the calf. Son Martin brought some more hay which he had bought for Helen from a neighbor of his who hays. Two bales were broken so we put those right into the feeder. Helen went right for it and by evening between the four of them it was largely gone. From the state of Helens bag (dirty) Leah had not fed since midday but she was chewing her cud at evening milking time. So she must have been eating hay too. She did not get up to come in. A skunk has been hanging around the barn at night. Both this morning and yesterday the barn smelled terrible. The bantam with her chick in a coop is safe but I expect she had a nervous couple of nights. It was around her that the smell was strongest.
July 24 Monday Just over 4 gals. today. I have everything set up for 5am milking tomorrow as granddaughter Becky must start her return journey to Alaska very early tomorrow. I closed the gates to the barnyard so Helen is shut in a small space and I wont have to hunt for her in the morning.
July 25 Tuesday This morning I milked Helen at 5:00 rather than my usual 7:00. She was stuffed with milk. I stopped milking when the bucket was full. It was the same this evening. She gave over 5 gals. I hope the calf is getting enough. I let my hen and chick outof the coop today, she was so desperate. Sadly, the chick drowned in a water dish while I was milking. This is a terrible problem with chicks.
July 26 Wednesday The poor little bereaved hen was still hanging around the water basin this morning, clucking for her chick. It just about ruined my day to see her. At milking time I left a door open and Wilber, now 6 months old, ran in after Helen instead if waiting for his grain in the beefer pen. He kept circling around the spot where we used to grain him when he was tiny and I had a hard job to get him back where he belonged. I ended up chasing him around with the barn broom. Helen gave 4.5 gallons today. I started a new cheddar cheese. It seemed to take all day. Maybe I will become more efficient.
July 27 Thursday It had to happen sometime. When I went to feed the pigs there in the tall grass was a white bantam attempting to marshall a huge clutch of chicks. I suppose she hid her nest behind the nearly sheets of corrugated iron. Im afraid shes on her own. There is no way I can catch that many. She is the little hen who always shows up at pig feeding time to snatch stray tidbits. Today I shut the door to the beefer pen in the afternoon so the cattle had to stay outside. They didnt mind because there was a light misty rain to keep off flies. For the first time in days Helen was clean. Leah came in for milking with her and because I did not have do that scrubbing she was in a good mood. I got about 4.75 gals today.
July 28 Friday Today was the day I have been planning for, the day of the Parade Of Tall Ships in Portland. Helen threw a monkey wrench in my departure plans by not showing up for morning milking. I could not see or hear her anywhere and my calling brought no response. Of course I was extremely busy trying to get ready and I did not wish to get all hot and sweaty circumnavigating my pastures. A complete circuit would take 40 minutes. I had about decided to try skipping morning milking when she finally showed herself. She was well behaved once she came in at close to 9 oclock. Because of being gone all day I left the sheep in their small paddock with additional hay. They have been finishing off all I give them. When I got home this evening I was very tired. It had been my plan to skip milking and leave it up to the calf and this is what I did even though in fact it was early enough so I could have milked. I heard no bellowing from Helen. Nor did she come in although she was hanging around no doubt expecting to be called.
July 29 Saturday Helen was no mores stuffed with milk this morning than usual. She gave 2 gallons. She appeared perfectly happy. The new family of bantams are incredibly cute. There are five yellow chicks and two black ones. This morning I gave them a handful of clabber from the pig bucket, later a handful of layer mash and this evening some bread soaked in milk, also from the pigs dinner. She runs to the food, then clucks to call them. They hesitate for a moment to think about it, then all run fast to the food and imitate her pecking. I thought I had better help her to feed them. She works constantly to scratch up morsels in the dirt but I am not sure she finds enough for that many to share. This evening Helen was inside the beefer pen waiting for me but I pretended I could not see her.
July 30 Sunday At 6am when I made my first trip to the barn to let out the chickens Helen and the others were all waiting. When I finally got back with my bucket it was 7am and they had all gone to the bottom of Pocket Field and had no interest in returning to the barn. It was a beautiful morning and I was a good sport about traipsing down there to drive her home. Of course all came. Helen was really full of milk. I eventually realized it would not fit in one bucket and went back to the house for a second. She gave 3 gals. plus 1 qt. Through most of the milking Helen was uncooperative but finally settled down quietly. It is a great blessing to have the kicker contraption. It does not prevent her shifting around and acting annoyed but it really prevents kicking. Another setting bantam, this time one I have been watching, hatched out one chick in the hay mow. After dark tonight I moved them down to the coop for safety.
July 31 Monday Helen was easy to get in this morning and gave 2.75 gallons. The sheep are so good at getting out of their pasture that I just left all gates open between pastures. All the cows then went in and visited the sheepfold and chewed their cuds in there. The small kitten I have been taking care of in the kitchen died this evening. I think he had pneumonia. He died in my lap this evening. He was very affectionate but could not seem to thrive.
August 1 Tuesday Because I have to leave here at 6am tomorrow for the airport, I milked twice today and will skip tomorrow morning. I got only one gal this evening, 4.75 for the day. Helen was cooperative. The bantam with 7 chicks has not lost any, I dont know why. She is quite harebrained. If she sees me she will race towards me leaving the chicks fifty feet behind. Halfway to me she remembers the chicks so races back and tells them to get moving. Then she races back towards me. She always thinks I might be bringing her food which I often do, usually a handful from the pig bucket. Then all the chicks pick up speed and race my way stumbling and bobbing in the tall grass. It is too cute for words.
August 2 Wednesday As planned, I did not milk this morning. I was home in plenty of time to milk early this afternoon, 4pm. I got only about 2 gals and it did not strain well. This is a worry. Helen was anxious to come in for milking. She was some distance away in the pasture when I fed the pigs so I took a chance and left the gate open behind me. It is a great nuisance to open and shut. Bad idea. Helen and all the others arrived behind me while I was still pouring the pig food. They streamed past me and on through the gate, ecstatic at the chance to be naughty. As is always my first move, I sped for the front gate and got it closed before Hector who was cavorting behind me loped through. Then they all started gobbling the lawn except Leah who ran back and forth like mad. They all did some running. Maybe Helen got overheated. I was able to lead them back to the barn in two groups using grain. I caught another small kitten this morning in the barn and have it in the kitchen. And another bantam has emerged with a large clutch. This one appears to have about 10.
August 3 Thursday Helen gave only 1.75 gals. this morning but it strained perfectly and she had to touchy quarters. So I guess she does not have mastitis. Last nights milk was exceptionally creamy I see today now that it has set overnight. The weather is hot and muggy and this afternoon we had heavy rain with thunder and lightening. I gave hay to the sheep and cattle. Leah has taken to napping in the hay feeder and looks terribly cute. She gets in through the feeding apertures along the sides. The new family of bantams included 11 chicks all different colors. I doubt the mother can find enough bugs for that many so I gave them some handfuls of mash. She is extremely attentive and keeps them well bunched up around her. Periodically she gets them all under ger wings. You can see some tiny feet sticking out at ground level.
August 4 Friday Twas a fine day for all the animals. Recently it has rained nearly every day and was muggy but today was fine. Helen is reluctantly adjusting to once a day milking. She gave 2.5+ a bit this morning. I would not be surprised if Leah gets 2 gallons. I cut Helens grain way back . She of courses misses the evening graining because of not being milked. In the morning I am giving her less than 5 lbs.
August 5 Saturday This mornings chores got a late start thanks to my getting to bed late last night. I was at a family gathering and my car was blocked and I didnt want to break up the evening by asking for people to move their cars. I didnt start milking until 7:15. Helen was in a foul mood which far exceeded anything which could have been caused by late milking. While I was washing her udder she did not just wave her legs around, she aimed a direct kick at me. She was especially opposed to having her rear teats milked and danced around as much as she could. I got up and moved the kicker to a tighter setting and did the same with the stanchion pin. This barely did any good. Her behaviour continued awful but she did not cease to let down. Then Wilbur squeezed in through the partly opened back door and poked his nose in further annoying Helen. She had an amazing amount of milk. I had to return to the house for a second bucket. She gave 3.75 gallons! Today is fine and clear.
August 6 Sunday Last night I ate with the family at camp and did not get home to feed the pigs until after dark. Helen and the other three immediately emerged from the darkness making questioning sounds. I guess they were worried their caretaker had quit. Around midnight I hear Helens bell where it ought not to be, so I thought. I crouched by my open window for about a half hour trying to identify the bells. It was very puzzling. In the morning I discovered that Helen had been on the lawn but the others had not gotton out, a highly unusual circumstance. Ordinarily if one is out all are out and there is a lot of racing around by the young stock. Helen had leaned over the veg garden fence until it semi collapsed. There was surprisingly little damage to the vegetables. All I could see that she ate was about half of the brussels sprouts. I have now shut them out of that end of the pasture until I can pick up some new posts at the Farmers Union. I also cleaned up a lot of cow pats on the lawn. A the mornings milking Helen was even worse behaved than yesterday. She took to whipping me with her tail. I got up and found some hay string and tied it to the wall but she continued pissy almost until I was finished milking. She clearly does not want her teats scrubbed and she does not want her left teats milked. In fact it is only the front right that she does not object at all to my milking. It may be because the calf prefers those others. Another theory is that the no-seeums are driving her wild. Her less hairy parts are much inflamed with bug bites. What I have noticed with my bites is that although the mosquito bites itch badly, the no-seeum bites both itch and burn and seem to cause me to feel hyper irritable. I think they have some psychopharmacological effect.
August 7 Monday Helen was, if possible, worse this morning than the last two days. It took me nearly an hour to get about 2.75 gallons. As previously, she was worst about her left rear teat. I got up and further tightened the kicker and tied up her tail. She twice lost her footing and semi collapsed. For a brief period towards the end of milking she seemed to relax. I turned off the radio and sang to her, also got up and rubbed her ears. I have made up my mind that the core problem is that once a day milking has eroded her attachment to me and strengthened her attachment to Leah so that she just hates anybody but Leah milking her. This is the point where most people solve the problem by separating or selling the calf. Neither is likely to forget their bond. Whether I can get Helen to become reasonable again remains to be seen. I am going to get a second kicker, the kind that attaches to her hocks, and see if that helps. I came in exhausted.
August 8 Tuesday Milking was easier this morning. Sister Barby helped out by standing next to Helen and leaning a bit on her to shift her weight onto her left hind foot that she kicks with. Also, I brought Leah in and tied her nearby. Helen started off kicking when I washed her udder but she seemed to have altogether less fire today. I suppose I should consider the possibility that she was in heat but there were no other signs except general pissiness. During the last ten minutes of milking I removed the k icker and she stood nicely. She gave almost 3.5 gallons. It did not strain perfectly and there were some lumps on the filter probably because yesterday I could not milk her out entirely ; she quit letting down and the left hind quarter remained somewhat hard. Today I was able to milk her out completely. I doubt there will be any further problem. Leah was well behaved.
August 10 Thursday. Yesterday Helen behaved better than the preceding three days. Barby assisted and Leah snoozed nearby. I got 2.75 gallons. Leah had just fed. Today Barby did not come to the barn because she had back pain. Helen came right in for milking and Leah followed with just a touch from me. She was easier to catch and lead and did not jump around and get entangled as she had yesterday and the day before. Everything was quiet. I decided to try milking without using the kicker and Helen stood very well. She had recently come up from wet pasture and was fairly clean so I didnt have to do a lot of scrubbing. She did not kick at all and although Leah had recently fed I got 3 gals. The hen with 11 chicks still has them all and so does the one with 7 chicks. She is the one who is a scatterbrained mother. She trusts me and runs to me asking for food everytime she sees me. She leaves the chicks far away but calls them while she eats the grain I give her. Then she remembers her family and races back to them, then races back to her feed, calling them to hurry. It is very entertaining. The geese are all well and talk to me every time I appear. They have lots to eat but the female has not started a new round of laying. I expect it is now too late in the year.
August 11 Friday Once again last night I heard cowbells around midnight and thought they sounded too close. After 10 minutes of listening I concluded it was better to go in search of Helen than to worry. It was a bright moonlit night. I found her under the crabapple tree on the lower lawn and she was alone. She was reluctant to head for the barn, instead turned into the veg garden where she gobbled half a cabbage before I could stop her. After I managed to get her halfway back to the barn Hector came galloping out of the shadows from somewhere. He moves as fast as a pony and comes dancing around kicking so I stay out of his way. After I finagled them into the barnyard it still left the problem of finding and letting in Leah and Wilbur. Unlike horses, cattle will take big detours back to where they know there is a gate. The little ones soon turned up at the field gate ready to be let in. The next trick was getting them in without Helen barging back out to join her baby in the same field from which she had just escaped. I dont know how I accomplished this unless perhaps St. Francis was helping. Barby and I spent this morning setting new posts in key spots. I hate fencing. This morning I had to use the kicker with Helen but once it was on she was perfectly quiet. She gave 3 gallons.
August 12 Saturday Helen was OK without the kicker this morning but she gave only 2 gallons. Leah had recently sucked but that doesnít usually make so great a difference. Perhaps it was because of the low grade hay she ate yesterday. I threw down a bunch of old stuff to improve her barn environment and she ate quite a lot. The one-chick bantam settled down for the night in a rather vulnerable place so I hope she makes it through the night.
August 13 Sunday This morningís milking was pretty awful. Helenís left front quarter is completely blocked with mastitis. Sigh. Not only was she dirty but very irritable. She did not act as though she were in pain. I thought maybe she was crabby for the same reason I was, a plague of no-seeums. But even with hot compresses I was not able to get more than 2 cups out of the affected quarter so brought in only a scant two gallons. I had to put the kicker on her and also tie her dirty tail. Leah came in nicely and was easier to catch and hitch and she ate her half cup of grain. I slathered the upper part of the mastitic quarter with aromatic salve and also put it on the three good teats but not on the teat of the quarter with mastitis. Maybe this will make Leah prefer to suck the mastitic quarter, I hope. Unfortunately I turned Leah loose ahead of Helen, then opened Helenís stanchion before removing the kicker or the string on her tail. She went charging three-legged after Leah and all the way out in the beefer pen, inadvertently body slamming me along the way and knocking me down. The string to her tail broke. Thank goodness at least I had followed my custom of stowing the bucket of milk well out of the way so it was not spilled. Once she was out in the beefer pen and standing next to Leah I was able to walk up to her and remove the kicker. I left the string tied to her tail. My own injuries were mostly to my dignity. I landed i n a wet spot, none too clean either, and had to change clothes. Now two hours later I do feel a bit stiff. A half grown bantam pullet was stuck in some chicken wire and I had to cut her loose. She was high up above a shelf. I have seen her there every night. It is where she roosts. So I donít actually know how long she was there. She was able to skedaddle away so perhaps she had not been caught for long. I milked twice today. This evening Helenís bag was improved. But there were some clotty lumps I had to work out of the mastitic quarter. I milked that quarter mostly onto the floor. It did not milk out completely but was improved. I again put on the counter irritant salve and salved up the three unaffected teats in hopes of causing Leah to choose the bad quarter. I got a total of 5 quarts this evening. Helen was quite relaxed but was quite dirty so I used the kicker while washing her. The milk tasted perfect.
August 15 Tuesday Now that I have returned to twice a day milking Helen obviously prefers it. I am getting about the same amount I was before, approximately 3.5 gallons. Leah has not come in every time and I donít see this mattering much to Helen. This morning I had to put the kicker on her because she hates so much to have her teats scrubbed. This evening after being out all day she was pretty clean so she didnít get fired up and I milked without the kicker. Last night I found three new kittens in a disused manger i n the barn. It has rained nearly every day. I donít know how anybody is making hay. The three bantam mothers (one mother has only one chick because I took away the rest of her eggs.) have not lost a single chick so far. I make sure to feed them every day. One runs to me in front of the barn and I give them layer mash. The other runs to me when I feed the pigs and I give them a handful of the pigís food.
August 16 Wednesday Helen was waiting at the door for both milkings today. Total for today, 3.5 gallons. That is not far different to what I was getting on once a day milking but she is unquestionably much more relaxed. She has not come in with any overstuffed quarters. Leah has not come in with her for several milkings. She climbs into the manger for a nap instead and Helen does not seem to care either way. I have been teaching Hector not to rush me when I arrive with his and Wilburís grain. For awhile I was getting scared of him, he was so bouncey although not malicious. I was afraid of tripping on the rough footing. Wilbur is at all times shy. This evening when I went to scoop up the grain I found a poor little bantam hen trapped in the grain barrel. She was underneath a basin I had tossed in there in the morning without noticing her. She was ruffled and limping from close confinement but was able to flutter away. It has rained nearly every day for weeks. Then the sun comes out. I wonder if I will be able to find any more hay. The weather is not conducive to hay making.
August 17 Thursday I saw the hen that was trapped yesterday in the grain barrel. She came to the pig pen to scrounge tidbits when I fed the pigs. She has lost some feathers and still looks scruffy but is otherwise ok. Also, darn it, I noticed another new bantam mother over in the sheep paddock among the thistles. I couldnít tell how many she has but itís a crowd. Helen was restless this morning at milking and highly irritable this evening. I got under 3.5 gallons today. I made cottage cheese and ricotta today.
August 18 Friday Helenís production is way down for some reason and she is grumpy. Only 2.5 gallons today. I put down about half a bale of hay tonight to see if some hay would make a difference. The pasture is not very good but is much better than usual at this time of year because of all the rain. She spends a lot of time in the beefer pen. I have not seen her lie down in the field to chew her cud at all lately. So she may be inside hiding from the bugs in preference to grazing. I have never seen so many mosquitoes since the last time I was in Alaska. A friend stopped in to see if I had any butter. She said ďI saw the cutest little marten darting down the river bank twice now when I went byĒ. This is a weasel. This is extremely bad news for the chicks and even for the adult birds. I have been fortunate in not having a weasel around here before. There is no way I can weasel-proof either of the two chicken rooms. And the bantam families sleep outdoors. I tried to feed the latest bantam mother but she is wild and furiously attacked my hand and her chicks ran and hid.
August 19 Saturday Another fine bright day. This morning Leah clearly wanted to come in with Helen. She was waiting at the door and is getting easier to lead and stand. I also loosened the collar on Wilbur one notch. He continues to be very quiet and friendly so this was no trouble. It is well worth taking the time to keep all calves friendly by frequent handling. Otherwise collar adjustments can be a rodeo. Helenís production was way down the last two days but up again this morning to 2 gal. 1 qt. Leah had not touched the left hind quarter. It is inconvenient to have one quarter much fuller because I have to keep changing hands to keep up a rhythm while never quitting on the full quarter. Helen hates this and gets cross if I attempt to milk the left quarters with my right hand. It feels different and she instantly begins switching her tail and dancing around. I donít know if production picked up because I put down hay for her last night or because she was holding up her milk. I was not aware of her holding up but there was way less cream which is good evidence. I forgot to mention yesterday, I went down to pick peas and blackberries and noted that one part of the garden fence which I had fixed in July in a slipshod manner was about to give way to Helenís reaching over for greener grass. I set two new posts. Along another section that is going I simply stretched concertina barbed wire which I hate to do but I am out of posts. Evening: When I returned to the house following a brief midday barn check, less than 10 minutes, on the threshold of the garage lay a newborn kitten. It was still wet and dragging its cord with its sac everted behind it. I could not imagine what to do with it so I put it in a nest of wool while considering my next move. It was lively but getting chilled. There was no sign of any possible mother. I decided its best chance was to put it in the nest with three five day old kittens in the barn. That mother is crazy wild and flees if I get anywhere close. I checked them at milking time and the foster kitten was still in the midst of the others acting lively. The rams are getting frisky. I canít tell if the ram or the wether or both are pounding away at the foundation of the buttery because they stop when I go down. They are also butting heads. At milking time I had the shock of finding Hector on the back lawn. It took me a lot of running to herd him back where he belongs and I donít know where he breached the fence. He ran repeatedly through the vegetables. I closed the cattle out of that field. Very discouraging. 3.75 gals today.
August 20 Sunday I found where Hector got out yesterday. It was the same place among the lilacs where Helen got out and where I had put two new stakes. He had simply bent them over. When I attempted to straighten one it broke. What a crummy stake. I will have to buy or find some more. In the meantime the cattle are still shut out of the field. It was cooler today with two brief rain showers and it was breezy. This is no doubt why Helen stayed out a lot longer today and came in quite clean. Both this morning and this evening her left hind quarter was much the fullest and is not letting down well. I put udder cream on the upper part and on the three other teats in hopes of warming that quarter and directing Leahís attention away from the other three teats since I doubt the stuff tastes good. 3 gals 1 quart today.
August 21 Monday Helen was quiet and well behaved today except while washing her. She gave 3.5 gals. The abandoned kitten that I added to another litter seems to have now merged right in. I leave an extra dish of food for that mama. I have made arrangements for butchering of Hector and the two pigs.
August 22 Tuesday As I was tidying up in the barn I picked up an overturned bucket that was way back in a corner behind some lumber. Underneath was a half dead Buff Orpington pullet. It must have been there two or three days. It could still hobble. I brought it some water and five minutes later it was still drinking. Later I set it by the feeder and it ate a bit. This evening I took it some cottage cheese and it ate quite a bit. Helen was pretty good today. She gave 3 gallons.
August 23 Wednesday My pullet that survived under a bucket is still wobbley and appreciated being brought food and water and cottage cheese. I kept her in the grain room most of the day but back in with the others for the night. She is safer there from predators and it is a stress to be isolated. I thought she seemed stronger. Helen gave 3.5 gallons today. Her left front quarter was blocked again tonight. I donít think i is mastitis. For some reason she just did not let down in that quarter. I have been having fairly good results with smearing smelly salve on the other teats to direct her to the neglected one. I have made an appointment to dress off the cockerels. The first time available is September 10. It is raining again now.
August 24 Thursday According to my dog dish rain gauge, we got another half inch of rain last night. Helen was well behaved except while I was scrubbing her. Total for the day 3.25 gals. Leah is drinking a lot but there is still plenty for the house. She completely fixed yesterdayís blocked quarter. She trotted into the barn tonight with Helen. I picked about a quart of blackberries this evening at some cost to skin and shirt. Our blackberries have dagger thorns. My cousin down the road says bears are visiting her patch at night and setting off the dogs but I saw no sign of bears here.
August 25 Friday. Helen only gave 2 gallons today. I guess Leah is getting a lot or else her production is being knocked down by the plague of mosquitoes. They were terrible tonight. I put down some hay for the cows so they wouldnít have to brave the bugs for a little while at least. There is one half grown bantam pullet that lives with the sheep. She even goes out with them to graze, just trots right along. Now that I have become more familiar with sheep I see clearly the relevance of certain Biblical expressions. The sheep just donít leave their home paddock even if I open the gate until I have called them in the morning. They need to hear my voice or they just stand there. Then the lead ewe also comes and sniffs my hand. She likes to have her ears scratched too but I donít believe there is anything about that in the Bible.
August 26 Saturday Helen gave 2.5 gallons today. She was quiet and let down well. The weather was perfect for people on holiday but too hot for cows and me. I got my first pole beans. And a little boy came and spoke for one of the kittens when it is old enough. The mosquitoes are still awful. I made out my list for the butcher telling h im how to cut the meat. The steer, Hector, and the two pigs go the first of the week.
August 27 Sunday Helen was very good at both milkings. She gave 3.75 gals today. The weather is beautiful. But I was gone most of the day to Portland to pick up grandson Rafe who is returning to college. Neighbor Stewart left a horse trailer on the lawn a few days ago for transporting Hector to the butcher tomorrow. Rafe moved it around so its open back end is up against the open front door of the beefer pen where the cows hang out. I wish this cold have been done a couple of days ago. I want Hector to be used to it. I put his grain in there tonight. I don't want a big brawl loading him. It is separation that cows fear most and I had hoped to have him butchered at home but that is impossible this year. I want him to be as happy as possible. I did not raise him for a pet but it is sad all the same to say goodbye to him.
August 28 Monday Helen was very good this morning but didn't give much over a gallon. Also she was clean. This evening it took me forever to srub her clean and she remained restless because there were flies. She had a lot of milk. I finally got up and put the kicker on her and tied up her tail because she kept whapping me with it. Her total for today about 3.5 gals. Stewart came and got Hector. Rafe and I followed my plan which succeeded in getting him into the trailer quietly. I reached in the front with his grain and Rafe closed the door behind him. Stewart came back later for the pigs but was able to load only one of them. He did not tell us he was here or we would have helped. He had never told me which day he was coming so I did not know not to feed them. So he took away one pig and will return tomorrow for the other. I am not very happy about this glitch which seemed unnecessary to me. Hector was Helen's calf of last year and they were close. She has never encouraged WIlbur at all, he just follows along at a distance. I was surprised at how little worrying Helen did when Hector left. She bellowed for about 10 minutes only. Before he left I removed his collar and bell and stuffed the clapper with paper so it would not ring. It upsets cows greatly to hear the bell of a missing herdmate.
August 29 Tuesday Another fine day. Rafe repaired fences and the chicken run. Helen was most pleased to once again have access to the river field. She has been shut out of it for a week because of Hector breaking out. Now Hector is gone and the fence is fixed. Stewart came for the second pig this morning. I was instrumental in getting her loaded. I crouched down next to her and led her forward with dribbles of grain.
August 30 3.5 gallons today.
August 31 Thursday Yesterday and today were hot, well into the 80's. Rafe went up on the barn roof and worked on patching a bad leak which has plagued me for more than a year. He tied a rope to the bumper of one of the vehicles, then threw the rope over the barn gable using a lead line. So while working on the roof he was roped around the waist. I have the beefer pen closed and off limits to the cattle. Maybe eventually it will dry out. I have tried to find somebody to muck it out with a front end loader but there is not one in town. This points up the decline of agriculture. My own agriculture is declining too with this muck build-up. It ought to be spread. Helen was crabby with the heat. She gave 2.5 gals today. Leah is looking mighty sleek. She is the size of the usual 4 month old Jersey heifer but she is only two months old.
September 1 Friday Today was even hotter than yesterday . Rafe worked for hours on the barn water system to get rid of a persistent leak which last winter led to a freeze-up. We think he may have fixed it. This is his last day here. He has fixed lots of things. Helen did not come in for milking this evening despite all my calling. I did not feel like walking down to the bottom of the field to drive her home so I skipped this evening's milking. So we'll see what comes of that. She gave 1.75 gals this morning.
September 2 Saturday Rain last night and most of the day breaking up the heat. I let the cows stay in the beefer pen tonight with some hay to eat. She will be dirty again in the morning. I picked up the pork today from the butcher. The combined carcass weight of the pigs was about 500 pounds. I carried it to the freezer in small quantities. It filled the upright freezer. I made a second trip to town for grain. The sheep were completely out and the others were low.
September 3 Sunday Helen was perfectly clean this morning. She had been out grazing in the warm rain. Leah did not come in with her. When Leah comes in she lies down quietly and Helen pays no attention to her. But her presence does seem to influence Helenís letdown. Two quarters remained quite blocky. Leah did come in this evening. The same two quarters had not been touched all day by Leah, I think, but she let down better. Total for today, 3 gals. By the next day the gallon jars in the frig give clear evidence of poor letdown; there is noticeably less cream. While he was here, Rafe worked on the barn water system. His repair required epoxy so I was not able to try it until today (I ran hoses out from the house for the stock). It does not appear to be leaking.
September 5 Tuesday Helen did not come when called last night for milking, just ignored me. Iím not even sure where she was. This morning tried to ignore me but the calves came running so she felt constrained to follow. She was in plain sight this time. Her udder was in good condition, no quarters having been neglected by Leah. She gave only 1.5 gallons. We got some frost last night for which I was not prepared. Now 9:30 am. I have not surveyed the damage.
September 6 Wednesday Another beautiful day. And despite predictions, it did not freeze last night. Helen came right in this morning without Leah and let down just fine. Her udder was again in good condition. She gave 1.5 gallons. This is an amount I can deal with. At 5 oíclock she was bellowing to be milked, or at least to come in. I followed her around and felt her udder and could tell it was not in trouble. But I let them into the beefer pen where she wanted to be and gave them some hay. This seemed to satisfy her but she still thought she ought to come in to her stanchion. I really hope to be able to stick with once a day milking. I made lard again today, also bread. Also covered the plants as hard frost is predicted.
September 7 Thursday Such a perfect day, no frost but crisp clear air. I did a bit of cleaning in the perennial beds. Helen was mooing eagerly this morning. She came in without Leah but let down well and was well behaved except when I tried to milk her off rear teat with the hand to which she is not accustomed: my left. Right away she began kicking. Got close to 2 gals. The bantam hen with 11 chicks is sending them off on their own most of the time now. She has been an attentive mom but when they all try to get under her all they can manage is their heads. It sure looks funny. They are about tree weeks old. One Buff Orpington pullet laid her first egg today.
September 8 Saturday Helen gave almost the same as yesterday, a little shy of two gallons. The frig is gradually clearing of excess milk. I made some skim milk clabber which I fed to the chickens and geese. The chickens took toit right away but the geese were suspicious of it for hours. I notice they finally cleaned it up. Unless, that is, the chickens hopped in and ate it which they often do. It has been another very fine day. A few more like this and I will have a decent crop of tomatoes.
September 9 Saturday Helen gave a little under 2 gallons this morning. Yesterday was densely packed with activities, a luncheon guest, dealing with a surprise plumbing problem in a house I am renting, food prep for a house party son Mark is having tomorrow at camp, and by evening I was very tired. Then I remembered that Saturday was my appointment to get the cockerels dressed off. Out to the barn then to repair a chicken coop to put them in. Before making this effort I should have determined it the thing would fit into my car. It would not. I then rounded up three cat carriers. By now it was dark so it was not much trouble catching the birds but I had room only for eight. Then, as usual before hopping into bed I listened out my window for cow bells. And I heard them in my veg garden. So back on with the clothes and out into the warm moonlight where Helen was munching up my garden and Leah was drinking from the rain barrel. I decided I was not up to cow chasing and to heck with my garden. The chicken people wanted me there at 9:15 and it is more than an hourís drive so I set the alarm for 5 am, did milking early, and made it on time. They kept me waiting for an hour and a half, then another 45 minutes while they dressed off the birds. Then back home to make my barbecued pork ribs and just as I was loading the car I got a call from my hay man. He was coming with 100 bales. I said he would have to unload them himself of I could not take them. He was nice enough to do that. I got home late and climbed up to look at it. Iím glad he brought it. It is beautiful hay.
September 10 Sunday I have not figured out how the cows got out Friday night. I am keeping them in the north field indefinitely. Helen ate a lot of big zuchinnis I had laid on the grass. Thatís OK. But she also ate the little bit of corn I had and all the leaves off the Brussels sprouts and tromped around in the tomatoes sampling them. I think this may be the last time I do a vegetable garden.
September 11 Monday Helen gave 2 gallons this morning. I picked up the new beef this morning. 390 pounds after cutting and wrapping. Amazingly to me, I was able to get it all into the freezer. This afternoon I noticed Lemur, the blind cat, outdoors where she never goes. Probably she got out while I was carrying in the boxes of meat. She never lets me pick her up, being terrified of having her feet off the ground. I had to try to carry her and got lacerated. After that I sort of scooted her along to the door. The skin on her neck is too tight to pick her up by.
September 13 Wednesday Yesterday Helen gave over two gallons, this morning slightly under. She now seems completely relaxed with our arrangement. I am not always happy with the way she lets down but it has been a couple of weeks since she has totally resisted. That makes two months of daily, often highly emotional, effort to gain her full cooperation. I suspect it is a maturational thing as much as the result of my tact or insight. Leah is now so big that that perhaps neither she nor Helen feel threatened by brief separation or milk sharing. I have never before persisted in the attempt to run the calf with the cow while also milking. So far as I can tell, most people who report good success are keeping the animals in a small paddock and/or putting calves on the cow which are not her own. In such cases she has no emotional investment to make her hold up or kick.
September 14 Thursday We had another mild sunny day with Fall in the air. Every frost free day now is a gift. I was slow moving this morning causing Helen to have less milk because Leah takes extra snacks. About 1.75 gals. Lots more than I can drink of course. I have been making cottage cheese and butter and clabber for the chickens and geese. One litter of kittens which was born about August 14 has now emerged to toddle around. I decided that instead of catching them (easy now) I will seduce them with canned cat food and hope to keep them friendly enough so I can grab them when they are older. One is now friendly but one is already fierce. I felt sorry for Helen being denied her favorite field and opened the gate to the south. Within three minutes she was back in the garden. This time at least I saw where she got in. But the whole fence is of questionable strength. Wilbur finished off the Brussels sprouts and snapped a mouthful of leaves off a baby apple tree as they were leaving with me behind them waving a stick. It is amazing to see how with Hector gone, Wilburís personality has changed. He was always so meek. Now he is assertive. This morning he actually slammed me with his head which I totally did not expect. Fortunately he is hornless.
September 15 Friday Fraidy Catís kittens in the garage are responding to canned cat food. There are four and all came eagerly to the plate today. The ones in the barn also took a real interest today in their canned cat food. Soon I can put out the kitten sign! It rained all day so I gave Helen and the calves some hay. Leah does eat hay but mostly she lies in the manger. She is now so big she can barely squeeze in and out. I throw down the hay until she is nearly covered up and the others eat it off her. They look funny. I also gave the sheep some hay because they donít like to graze in the rain. I am surprised how few signs of the breeding season I have seen among them. The hens are laying better now including a couple of the pullets. This morning Helen gave 1.75 gals. I have been making some good cottage cheese.
September 16 Saturday Helen gave 2 gallons plus a quart this morning. One quarter provided most of this. Leah had clearly not touched it since yesterday. It rained a lot yesterday and last night but today just a few sprinkles, mostly fair. One of the four kittens in the barn is missing. I did not count them this morning, just stroked the whole pile. But it was there last night. It it the smallest, the foster kitten. I looked all around with a flashlight. I gave away one kitten from the group in the garage. It was the largest and friendliest. 15 eggs today.
September 17 Sunday Three of Helenís quarters were sucked dry this morning. All the milk was in the left rear, the one she hates me to milk with my left hand. My right hand got so tired working alone, which is much harder than two handed milking, that I put the kicker on her so I could trade hands. That made her stop letting down. I got a little over one gallon. I got Leah in with Helen this morning and loosened up her collar. I had to punch a new hole. I brought the runt of the garage litter into the kitchen today. It looked so hungry. In by the Aga it stuffed itself with canned cat food and creamy milk. When I lay down to read my book it took a little nap on my chest. This evening I found a nest with 22 eggs. As usual, it was right where I should have seen it, right behind a piece of board that was leaning against the wall about 8í from my milking stool. I left four in the nest in hopes of fooling them. From the regular nests I got nine eggs. Muffin and I walked down to the river in the late afternoon. It was very lovely. I noticed a place where the cattle have been getting down to the river to drink. Not just lately of course, because they are now shut out of this field. Muffin took a swim.
September 19 Tuesday. Yesterday morning Helen gave about 1.75 gals. and this morning 1.5. Both mornings she was clean and very orderly. I am feeding some hay most days because they are shut out of half of their pasture. The runty kitten in the kitchen has learned to drink milk and eat canned cat food. I also gave it some raw hamburger. It got particularly excited about this and kept looking around for more. Today it even chases me around for it. It has started to play a little bit. But has not got the hang of a litter box. This morning another of the barn kittens was missing, the biggest feistiest one, a long haired gray, presumably male. I did not know what to make of this. But then this evening when I gave them their canned food all four were back. The smallest black one which had been missing was distinctly bigger so the mama has been feeding it somewhere. How it possibly got back in that manger is quite a mystery. The tiny mother surely could not lift it and it would have had to cling along toeholds more than 3í up the wall.
September 21 Thursday Yesterday morning I saw all four barn kittens at milking time. I decided they were big enough to give away and went back two hours later to get them. By then they had all disappeared. Later in the day I caught two but the two I most wanted are gone with their mother under the barn floor. A disappointed little boy who had been waiting for one of them will have to wait a little longer. I am trying to tempt them forth with canned food. Both yesterday and today Helen gave a bit under 1.5 gallons. We are still having warm weather. It rained a bit today but it was till in the high sixties. This is not the weather pattern we are used to. In the past gardens were usually completely frost killed by now. Muffin was quite ill yesterday and this morning. She was willing to eat a little raw ground meat and milk while lying down. This morning I gave her one of her Rimadyl arthritis tablets. This afternoon she was noticeably more active and ate her dog food. I feed Annamaet
September 22 Friday Wonderful company arrived for me today, son Max and family and grandson Rafe. They all love farm food and farm work so Iíll soon be reporting improved fences. Weíve already had the first big farm dinner. And Rafe has already made a start on restacking the hay. The hay I got two weeks ago was just thrown in by my hay man. He was good to put it in the barn at all: most wonít. But as a result I have been unable to get to the back part of the hayloft. Granddaughter Shireen lost no time in climbing right over this high wobbly stack to look for eggs. You canít stop kids on hay. That is the main reason I am a stickler for proper stacking. I now have five kittens in the kitchen. I caught two more today. But I still have not seen a trace of the ones I most want. The little boyís dad called again today.
September 23 Saturday Rain today. I fed nearly a bale of hay. The pastures are getting weak. Helen didnít give us much milk this morning. I canít tell if Leah is drinking more or she is producing less. Not much over a gallon today. I have five kittens in the kitchen and today three grandchildren to play with them. Daughter-in-law Mitra, here on her first ever visit, stepped out from the buttery to the back garden, looked up, and said ďWhatís that?Ē In the cornice return outside the kitchen there was a hornetís nest the size of a basketball. They must have been working on it all summer not far above my head. These were white face hornets. I had three sons and a grandson, Rafe, age 19, here today, and they hastened to form and execute a plan for getting rid of it. I believe it made their day. As good as a hunting expedition.
September 24 Sunday Grandson Rafe did some fencing so I tried letting the cows back into their favorite field. They did not go straight to the veg garden. They waited about three hours before bashing their way in again. Max helped me chase them back where they belong. I guess this calls for some very serious fencing now. The little boy who was disappointed about his kitten came with his parents and picked out another. Well, his mother picked it out. It is an adorably cute black long hair. I asked him if he thought he could learn to love it instead. He said no. I promised to keep trying for the other one that he wants but i am about out of ideas how to get it out from under the barn.
September 26 Tuesday Helen gave us 1.5 gallons Monday, less than a gallon today. The last fence repair did not stand up to Helen. Son Max worked on it again this morning and so far it has held. After I opened up that pasture to her she marched her and the calves straight down there to check out the repair. She saw at once that she could not get through and gave her bell a noisy flounce.
September 27 Wednesday Another perfect warm fall day. No cows out. Since we destroyed that hornetís nest it is astonishing how many flies there suddenly are. Shireen age 4 and I stayed home and dug carrots and collected eggs while son Max and wife Mitra climbed Tumbledown with little Roshan on Daddyís back. It is a demanding 2 hr. climb. Helen gave 1.5 gal. this morning. Shireen came out to help milk.
September 28 Thursday Helen gave a bit less than 1.5 gal this morning. I was away to Portland all day so didnít see much of the animals. But when I got home and fed the barn cats I succeeded in catching three more kittens. One was pretty fierce and bit my finger so typing is difficult. But it was just frightened. Once in the kitchen I was able to stroke it and it ate canned food. It is much colder tonight. I am saying goodbye to my dahlias. One small feeble kitten died this morning. The children had a little funeral while I was gone.
September 29 Friday It was down to 24F this morning so I lost all the flowers til next year, always a sad moment. The the leaf color is picking up fast. Helen gave less than a gallon this morning. Leah is stuffing herself. She is the biggest sleekest three month old Jersey heifer in the world I think. Iím getting lots of eggs. 14 today.
October 1 Sunday On Saturday morning I got only .75 gal. of milk and this morning I got 1.5. With family visiting, this amount of milk doesnít give us enough cream. So today after milking I kept Leah and Wilbur in and let Helen out. I put hay on the ground near the barn because I knew she would just hang around the barn mooing and not go off to graze. I was right. About 4:00 she finally did some grazing. I got about 1.75 gal tonight. They are all together tonight.
October 3 Tuesday I separated Helen and Leah all day Monday and got a total of 3 gallons for the day. They remained separated Monday night. There was not much bellowing until 4 am. Then they both bellowed back and forth until I milked at 7 am when I got over two gallons. They were together all day today until I brought Helen in at 4 pm. She does not hesitate to come in because she is hungry. I gave her a full feed of grain and milked but did not get much over a quart. They are spending the night apart. She went right out to graze and did not hang around the barn. My plan now is to separate them at night, milk in the morning and let them spend the day together. But when I bring her in at night to separate them I will give her grain. She has been getting grain only once a day with once a day milking and is losing condition.
October 4 Wednesday Our fine weather has given way to rain but we do need it. It seems to make the fall colors brighter too. The trees seem slow to turn this year. We moved the five kittens out to the buttery. They are bouncing around looking totally cute but nobody has asked for one lately. Helen did some more bellowing last night but did more grazing today. She gave 2.5 gallons this morning. I brought her in at five and gave her grain and put out hay for her but did not milk. Leah and Wilbur are shut in the beefer pen with hay and water. There is a separate run-in for Helen so she is not standing in the rain. A cute bantam came forth with nine new chicks yesterday but today I did not see her. I hope she is safe. I would put food in front of her if I could find her.
October 5 Thursday I have still not seen the hen and new chicks. Now it has started to rain. It certainly is puzzling what can have become of her. Helen spent the day with her calf and ignored me when I called her to come in. I had to walk quite a ways to fetch her in for her grain. I put her out by herself for the night. At 8:30 when I went out to close up the chickens it was raining and she was not in her run-in. Its door had blown shut so she could not reach her hay. I blocked it open with a cement block and called her. I think I could hear her bell somewhere. I hope she came in. This morning I had to stop milking when the bucket was full. The lid sat on the foam. That is nearly three gallons. I did not take granddaughter Shireen to the barn this morning because I wanted to do everything possible to keep Helen calm. Separation is making her agitated and she bellows loud enough to be a fog horn but she did not kick.
October 6 Friday This morning Helen had so much milk the foam piled up over the top of the bucket before she was out of milk so I left the rest for Leah. 2.75 gal. in the bucket. It rained most of the day but is not terribly cold, 40ís and 50ís. We discovered another hen with eight newly hatched chicks. I could hear a lot of peeping from inside the wall of Helenís run-in the former pigpen. The mother was on the ground with a few chicks and the others could not figure out how to get out from their nest. Son Max tore off a piece of wall and reached in and fished out a couple of handfuls of chicks to a total of eight. Later he brought them a dish of wild bird seed. Helen came up to the barn tonight and was easy to get in for her grain. We are seeing some signs of hormonal activity in the young ram, Stanley II. He stamps his foot when he sees me and has been seen sniffing the ewes.
October 7 Saturday No shortage of milk now. Helen again gave 2.75 gal this morning. But the cream remains scant. She is holding up a bit. Also I did not milk her out completely either yesterday of today because the bucket was about to overflow. Tomorrow I will try to remember to carry a second bucket to the barn. Helen is being very cooperative apart from some holding up of her cream. The newest hen with eight chicks is doing well. She has moved her family from the pigpen to the tansy patch at the back of the barnyard. The weather today was excellent and the fall color at its peak. No more people have come for kittens so we still have five.
October 8 Sunday Helen gave 2.75 gals. again this morning. I am still getting very little cream. All my company is leaving tomorrow so I will change my management somewhat. I may try evening milking after the calf has been on her. Or I may put the udder support on her to prevent Leah sucking. I need to find a way to get Leah eating more grain. She takes very little interest in it. It was cold today. Not much over 40F and 34F at bedtime. I still have plants to lift
October 10 Tuesday Monday morning I milked an hour early because I needed to drive son Max and family to the airport. Helen and Leah had been separated for 24 hours but what with wearing herself out bellowing and holding up her milk, I got only about 1.75 gals. I milked again in the evening and got about the same, still holding up her milk. This morning the bucket was full and I was able to strip properly. So we will see about the cream when it rises. Cow and calf remain separated. Both bellow every time they hear a door open at the house. I am warming a bucket of skim for Leah. Yesterday I saw some jumping by Stanley on one of the young ewes. Evening: Helen ought to have a sore throat by now. She bellowed for hours. Leah refused milk in a bucket. This evening Helen let down fairly well. I got 1.75 gal, total of 4.5 gal today. Hopefully I will see more cream tomorrow. in case I have not made it clear, my quest for more cream which has now necessitated total separation of cow and calf is due to the fact that when she holds up her milk what she is mainly holding up is the cream. My frig is full of gallon jars with about on half inch of cream on. Interestingly, her resistance to being a house cow, as opposed to a nurse cow, has not included kicking. She has not lifted a foot lately. It was cold and blowy all day but the predicted snow did not arrive, nor even rain.
October 11 Wednesday Helen gave 4.25 gals. today. She has something wrong with right rear foot and hates putting weight on it. I walked her all the way around the barn to come through the front gate and door so she would not have to come up the ramp. It is hard for her and she hates it. If her limp is worse tomorrow I will call the vet. I finally caught sight of the grey kitten which I couldnít catch, brother of Oreo and the others. It was by itself in some tall grass. Of course I still couldnít catch it. Maybe it will get hungry and come into the buttery. I am beginning to see more cream.
October 12 Thursday I now have enough cream to make butter tomorrow although the yield will be lower. The cream is not as heavy as it should be. Helen gave 4.25 gals again today. Her limp was much better. She had one overgrown toenail (hoof) and this evening it had chipped off to the proper length. That was probably all that was bothering her. There continues to be considerable bellowing around milking time and any time I head for the barn.
October 13 Friday I made 2 lb of butter today. I usually get 2.5 from that amount of cream. But her cream production is definitely on the increase. This evening at milking time she remembered to come all the way around to the front gate so as to walk in without a ramp. Smart cow. She only gave 1.5 gal. tonight though, 3.75 for the day. The weather today was lovely. About 70F with a light breeze and all the bugs are gone. I planted some hyacinth bulbs. Also made two loaves of extra healthy bread with lots of raisins, dates and nuts. It is extra tasty too. Of course I do not spare the butter. At dusk the sheep were cavorting like mad. The young ram, Stanley, is chasing ewes and the older wether is chasing him off. It is hard to believe that guy is wethered. The ewes are not standing.
October 14 Saturday Helen gave 4.5 gals today. It was another warm beautiful day. The moon came up in a spectacular way even more dramatic than last night when it was full. The sheep made a new fence hole today and spent the day in Helenís field. They are now back in their small paddock where they will stay until I can get around to fixing the fence.
October 15 Sunday Production down today a bit, 4 gals. I set out to the field to repair the fence and to my astonishment was pursued by Helen and narrowly avoided being jumped. Suddenly she is in heat, the first time since she calved June 30. She had the calf running with her until less than two weeks ago but now they are completely separated. I doubt it is a coincidence that now she comes in heat. She has been losing condition but is far from emaciated and Iíve seen cows a lot thinner than she is be in heat. I strongly suspect this is the same hormonal thing which occurs in breastfeeding women. While feeding the baby ad lib at three or four hour intervals around the clock few women ovulate. The frequent nursing keeps prolactin levels high and ovulation is suppressed. If the baby begins sleeping through the night and there are intervals of seven or eight hours during which the baby does not nurse there is often a drop in prolactin levels sufficient to permit ovulation. I donít know if this has ever been studied in cows. I have not read of it anywhere. After all, there is no commercial situation where calves run with the dairy cow. My 10/14 hour spacing of milking may be what induced heat. I have read of beef cows being rounded up to separate the calves but donít know if it has to do with ovulation. I donít intend to breed Helen now. I am going to try milking her through the winter, and longer. I donít want her dry this year just when family arrives in summer and I donít want a winter calf. After repairing the fence I let the sheep out of their home paddock and they all ran straight along to another hole they knew of. Then when I went back through the barnyard I had to run fast to stay ahead of ardent Helen. She came right on up the ramp after me as I slid the door shut, silly old cow. The sheep did not want to come in tonight. I called them and tempted them with grain all the way out in the big field which I would rather not do because of the ram and wether that thinks he is a ram. It must be the effect of breeding season. Ordinarily they are afraid of the dark, at least they ordinarily bed down inside, donít stay out in the dark grazing.
October 17 Tuesday Late this afternoon I repaired the other hole the sheep made and let them back into the pasture. They did not go through. Today a friend of mine told me old timers around here used to put a wooden frame around the neck of the lead sheep to prevent her going through fences. That would be Bernadette. Helen gave 4.5 gals today and was very well behaved. She and Leah still moo some at each other but not much. Mostly now she moos at me to get on out for milking. She would prefer both morning and evening milking were an hour earlier. I made butter again today.
October 18 Wednesday I woke this morning to cold hard rain and it has continued all day. Helen had no inclination to graze but the sheep ignored the rain completely. The bantam with eight chicks was pretty discouraged. I took her a scoop of cracked corn. I had to take about two cups, more than she needs, because every other chicken in the neighborhood swoops down on her. At night she takes her chicks into Helenís leanto. 4.5 gals today and I made more cottage cheese and ricotta.
October 19 Thursday A lot of my hay is proving to be mouldy. What I threw down today for Helen was really dusty. She walked away from it. I should have gone up the ladder to the haymow for a different bale but I was lazy and didnít. Not surprisingly production was down this evening, 1.5 gals. 3.5 gals today. I saw the sheep inspecting my fence repair. They decided not to try it. It is just laced up with hay string if they only knew. I made butter again today and have nearly two gallons waiting. However I sold a gallon of milk yesterday and today and also a pound of butter. This is encouraging.
October 20 Friday I now have 2.5 gallons of cream ahead of me and more arriving all the time. Tomorrow I will have to dedicate to butter making. 4.5 gallons of milk today and more fine weather.
There's a missing week due to computer problems.
October 28 Saturday Since I didnít have any help I tried letting Leah out just to see if by any chance she had forgotten about suckling and I could skip the nose plate. No such luck. She ran straight to Helen. So I did not have to milk this evening. I separated them again at night.
October 29 Sunday Today we are getting our first snowstorm of the year. Accumulations of around a foot are predicted but it has been snowing all day and so far it has melted on the ground and not accumulated. Temperature is around 30F Two of my neighbors helped me put the nose plate onto Leah. Then I let her out with Helen. She chased Helen all around trying to suck but could not. She was so obviously angry that it was rather funny. She kept backing off and jumping up and down, then would try again. As of this evening the device is still on place. I got about 3.75 gals. today.
October 30 Monday It was still snowing this morning but turned to rain, Now all the snow has gone. The animals were in a hurry to get out and graze. Helen gave 4 gals.
October 31 Halloween Tuesday Last night I stayed awake half the night reading and this morning felt like I had a hangover. I am pleased to report that milking a cow has great restorative powers and got rid of my headache. 4 gals today
November 1 Wednesday Four gals again today approximately. I am getting about one and a half dozen eggs every day. All the young birds are laying I think, even at least one of the Cochin hens. The Cochin roosters are very active. They are so silly looking with their upright posture and fluffy pantaloons chasing the hens. They look as though they are in drag. Helen did a lot of bellowing today for no reason I could see. I am putting out lots of hay and begin to think I must buy more.
November 2 Thursday To my astonishment, the neighbor who bushhogs the field arrived today. I called about getting it done about the end of August but there was serious illness in the family and they had forgotten to mention it to the workman. So I looked out this morning and there he was going around and around the field. Thank goodness all the snow melted. I also arranged for him to take down a piece of fence so he can get into the sheepís night paddock and knock down the thistle. Iím afraid they have already picked up quite a bit of it in their wool. I called and ordered another 50 bales of hay. The young stock and sheep are eating a bit more than I had taken into account. Helen gave a bit over 4 gals today.
November 3 Friday Another beautiful day, bright and warm. The bushhogging continues. I think it will be done early tomorrow. For the first time today I saw the young ram, Stanley whom I call Hornet because of the menacing white band down his face, seriously butting heads with Thistle, the wether who thinks he is important. The real leader is Bernadette, the largest ewe. I still have not seen any convincing mounting. The geese are happy but I am worried about what winter will bring. I have asked other people and been told they put theirs in with the chickens. That wonít work for me. I donít have enough floor space.
November 5 Sunday Don finished the bushhogging on Saturday without doing the sheep paddock. He didnít want to take his equipment in there. It is pretty rough. To make things easier for myself I started on Saturday to strain the evening milk into a second bucket. I can skim the bucket and have fewer jars to wash. This time of year I can just set it in the buttery, no need to put the milk in the frig. I fell part way down the sheep steps again today. A couple of weeks ago I bought a 33 lb protein block for the sheep and have been waiting for somebody to show up whom I could ask to carry it down. Nobody came around that I could ask so I decided what the heck, Iíll just drop it down. This I did. It bounced off the lower tread which is about a foot above the ground doing unseen damage. When I stepped on that tread it gave way and I barked my shin pretty good, the right one this time. Last time it was the left. I am trying to use up some of the skim by putting it in the pan with Wilbur and Leahís grain. Wilbur is now nearly a year old and Leah close to 5 months. Yesterday they drank some but not today. With four gallons a day of milk and only selling 7 or 8 per week, and no pigs, it is a job figuring what to do with the skim. Today was the day I had marked on my calendar for Helen to be in heat. No signs except slight swelling around the vulva.
November 6 Monday Leah has figured out how to suck despite the anti sucking gizmo. I got under one gallon this morning. At 2 pm watching the animals through the binoculars I see Bernadette repeatedly standing for the wether. I am seriously doubting his wetherliness. Or if he is, then Hornet who is definitely uncut doesnít have much chance. Thistle, the wether, chases him 50 feet away every time he gets near Bernadette. I also see Helen acting in heat. She is chasing Wilbur around.
November 7 Tuesday Election Day. The animals are ignoring it. It was a beautiful day, sunny, about 55 F. Thanks to Leah, total milk today was 1.75 gallons. I made 4.5 lbs butter. I started the day by fixing fence so that I can go back to giving the sheep the south pasture in the morning, then opening it for the cattle.
November 8 Wednesday Another gorgeous day. I managed to squeeze only about 1.5 gals out of Helen in two milkings. I have separated her and Leah for the night. I donít hear any mooing. I guess they now know how to survive a night apart. Helen kicked tonight. This was the first time in weeks that she has lifted a foot. It was not a real kick. She just lifted up her foot and set it on my arm. It scattered a bunch of debris in the milk, though, so I threw away what I had and wiped out the bucket with paper towels before continuing. When I fed the barn cats this evening, what should I see but a small black and white kitten. I managed to catch it without getting myself clawed or bitten and carried it to the kitchen. When I got back there was another. I caught it too and carried it in. Then when I got back there was the mother feeding two more. With great good luck I managed to catch them too so now I have four little sinners to civilize and find homes for and I still have two from the last lot.
November 9 Thursday Because of being separated last night from Leah, Helen gave two gallons this morning. I got her in for milking this evening but there was no milk so I did not bother even trying, just let her back out, the other are locked in. The sheep are looking well. They easily remembered their training to come back in at noon for their grazing. As soon as they hear me call they all run as fast as they can. That is no doubt because it is cooler now. In summer they ambled. They have learned to drink at the river. The four new kittens in the kitchen took to canned cat food right away and one drank milk from a saucer. They still hiss when I stroke them with my finger but cower rather than scratching.
November 10 Friday It rained off and on all day. The temperature was around 42 F. It is great fun to see the flock of seven sheep all bounding this way when I call them. They usually run until they are near the gate, then stop and all look my way until I call some more. I suppose they need to verify that it is really me. Then they all race to jostle for positions at the feeder where I put out a small amount of grain, the real inducement. Helen gave only 1.75 gals this morning and I did not even bother taking the pail to the barn in the evening. If the downward trend continues tomorrow and is combined with a poor cream line I will have to return to full separation of her and Leah.
November 11 Saturday Milk production was down to 1.5 gals this morning but neither of my usual customers came so I don't need any more milk today. She seemed to be letting down OK but at evening I can see that the cream line is skimpy. The four kittens I have installed in the kitchen are very playful and one of them had gotten friendly. After watching my favorite program, Victory Garden, I was reminded about digging up chicory to force. It comes up all around my garden. I went down today and dug up a pailful of roots which are now in a dark pail in my laundry room. November 12 Sunday Helen gave 1.75 gals this morning, up from yesterday, so I postponed full separation from Leah. It is so nice having less milk to deal with and if they are fully separated I have to set up a separate water system indoors for Leah and Wilbur. But the cream line is definitely skimpier. Today I was given a dog. It is a male about one year old maybe. He was found lost on a highway by cousin Susan. She kept him for a week during which she made an active attempt to find his owner. During this time he became very fond of her so adjusting to me is disorienting to him. But he seems likely to be a good boy. He shows some interest in chasing cats and chickens but not in a vicious manner so I expect he can learn not to. He has a short rough yellowish coat, short lop ears, a large head and big feet. He looks likely to get bigger and he is already about the height of the average Lab which is the size of Muffin. He and I and Muffin took a walk around the fields and down to the river. I have named him Bagel. Keeping him exercised will be good for me and Muffin.
November 13 Monday Helen only gave 1.5 gals this morning and I could tell she was holding up a bit. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt because Bagel who was tied outside the barn was doing a lot of yelping and she doesn't know him yet. He as really been pretty good. He sneaked into my room last night and was quiet as a mouse. He is a bit shy about eating. The first dog food he has eaten was this afternoon. But he did eat raw ground beef that I gave him. Outdoors he plunges against the leash trying to chase cats. He doesn't chase the baby kittens in the kitchen. Muffin hardly acts jealous of him at all.
November 14 Tuesday Helen gave just a little shy of two gallons this morning but it is still low on cream. I was away all day on errands. Before leaving I put the dogs in the garage and went to a lot of trouble to secure it, even tying the big sliding door shut with a rope. But when I got home Bagel was gone. He had worked on the door until he stretched the rope and knot. I called the animal control officer and learned he is at the shelter. Tomorrow I will go bail him out.
November 15 Wednesday When I reached the barn this morning I found the young stock, Leah and Wilbur, cavorting around in there. I must have failed to close their latch properly. I was glad that at least I had followed my immutable rule to close the grain room door so they didn't get in there and make themselves sick. Helen gave just a tad less than 2 gallons again this morning. There is about one miserable half inch of cream. In a few days I will have to return to 2X/day milking but in the meantime I am enjoying the break from evening milking. First thing this morning I drove to the animal shelter for Bagel. It is a small operation run by one woman who apparently has an arrangement with local towns to bring in animals. It was quiet and clean. She only charged me $14. Bagel acted subdued and anxious to please. Later today while I was in the barn I left him fastened by his leash to a post. As I returned across the lawn he came running to me, having bitten through that nice heavy nylon leash in what appeared to be one bite. But I was gratified that he ran to me and not straight out the gate. He also ate well today and drank a lot of water. I took both dogs for a nice walk which did us all good although there is a bitter wind. November 16 Thursday Helen gave about about 1.74 gals this morning, down a little. Probably due to a lot of cold wind yesterday and all night. My hay man came today and took back some of the hay. I had complained it was dusty. He will bring some more to replace it.
November 17 Friday Helen did not give much over 1.5 gals this morning. I had Dr. Cooper here today to give Leah her immunization against brucellosis. The vet volunteered that this is an outdated procedure but at least it comes with an ear tag and tattoo. He also helped me take the anti sucking flap off of her nose since it is useless. Leah was mighty hard to hold. I was afraid the rope would break. Dr. Cooper also neutered Bagel for me. It took him longer than I expected. I expected a brief procedure like he does for bull calves or like I have often helped with in piglets, zip, snip. This is my first male dog in many years and the first I have had neutered. People did not used to consider it important. Dr. Cooper anesthetized Bagel and put in a lot of stitches. I had to hurry away to take my eggs to Farmington where a gourmet shop wanted them. I left Bagel stretched out on the garage floor. When I got home he was on his feet looking reproachful. I put a little blurb in each box of eggs telling how wonderful they are. I mentioned that they contain naturally occurring EPA and vitamin E. These are what they add to the diet of some hens to produce those $4/dozen eggs. I sold mine for $1.
November 18 Saturday Helen was really stingy this morning. Only one gallon. Grandson Rafe arrived from college and did many helpful things around the farm. He repaired the sheep steps that I fell down twice. Repaired the back ramp that the cows use. It was bad. He also got the barn water system ready for winter with heat tape. He dismantled and removed the pig house that was taking up space in the leanto where Helen sleeps. I don't plan to get pigs again very soon. I did my part by feeding him when he arrived, all afternoon, and for dinner roast beef and pumpkin pie. Rafe is getting through my list of things I need done so fast that maybe he will have time to replace the pane in the buttery that some bantams have broken. A few teenage bantams keep coming into the buttery to swipe cat food. When I go in they rise like a covey of quail.and dash themselves at the glass. I have suggested to Rafe that he take the shotgun to them. Two people came today for kittens That still leaves four. Bagel is recovering from his operation pretty well. He ate some meat but would not touch his kibbles.
November 19 Sunday It was down to 18 F this morning and so I had a lot of extra work carrying water and thawing hoses. However the faucet in the barn did not freeze so I was able to fill buckets. Helen gave a little over 1.5 gals. Most of today was sunny. Rafe put hay up against the foundation where a draft comes down on the sheep. He also brought 10 bales of hay over from the barn and piled them up next to the sheepís trapdoor. He also did some chain sawing. But the chainsaw started smoking. We concluded the gas was too old so he went to town for a fresh supply. Rafe also walked the dogs down to the brook to inspect the spring line. My spring line is still not delivering water and we do not know why.
November 20 Monday Helen gave slightly under a gallon this morning. But for the first time, when I let her back in with Leah, Leah did not run to her to suck. This morning Rafe, although it was his last morning, dressed off two of the geese for me. We saved the down. Thank goodness there was no wind. Even so he was covered with down and so is the garage. I feel rotten about dressing off the geese but there is little chance of my selling them or giving them away. I was about to advertise them in Uncle Henryís when two other local people called me to ask if I would like to have their geese. I could have had 11 more geese. I have too much work to do by myself and must scale back. I drove Rafe to the airport, first putting the dogs in the garage and locking it from the inside. I exited through another door and locked that from the outside. I thought only Houdini could escape, but when I drove into the driveway, dark and late, there were two pairs of eyes dancing in the headlights. I have not figured out how Bagel managed to open the door. It has no latch on his side. The drive home was slow, dark and foggy. All the barn animals were silent as though under orders not to make a noise. None of the cows were there. It is a strange night to lie out in the field. It is now snowing lightly. I suppose in the morning there will be no milk at all.
November 21 Tuesday The cows were all back in the barn this morning but of course there was no milk since they were together all night. I put Leah in a box stall and will now have to bring her all her food and water plus clean the stall but it is all I can think of to do. I may sell her. My experiment with keeping cow and calf together is at an end. I have learned all I need to on this subject. Unfortunately, there was very little milk tonight either. I don't know yet if she was resisting separation from her calf or it is a result of bad hay. There was a lot of dust in the bale I opened this morning and I notice she did not finish it. Bagel is behaving better every day. The bereaved geese were very subdued yesterday after having lost two of their companions but were back to normal this morning.
November 22 Thursday Helen gave 1.5 gals this morning and the same this evening. She and Leah are bellowing as though they were being separated for the first time. I called a dairyman and asked him what I might ask for Leah and he suggested $400, exactly what I had thought. She is comfortable in her stall and it is conveniently located for her care right next to where I milk. I hope the bellowing stops soon. Milking is pretty noisy right now, what with Bagel yelping. Worse in the morning though, with a lot of roosters crowing too. I picked a few more Brussels sprouts today. There are enough left for one more skimpy meal. The snow has not lasted. The ground is partially frozen. It was 30 F this morning.
November 23 Thanksgiving Helen gave a bit over 3 gallons today. She and Leah are still bellowing a lot but Leah is eating better. Son Martin brought 18 bales of hay and he and son Mark put them in the barn. He has more for me but 18 is what fit on his pickup. It is stemmy compared to what I got from my hay man but not dusty and Helen ate it right up. Martin also brought a Troybuilt tiller he had just bought second hand and tilled up my veg garden. What a thrill! The thought of digging it all by hand again next year had me thinking about relying on the farmerís market. Now I know I will not be able to resist putting in a garden. I roasted one of the geese for Thanksgiving dinner. I followed Julia Childís method in The Way To Cook adding a few touches of my own including some of my rowan jelly over the goose. It was incredibly good and would have easily fed four adults. The hoses stayed frozen all day. I was surprised Martin was able to till but the ground was not deeply frozen. I had filled the stock tank yesterday and was able to break the ice and dip from it for the geese and chickens. Tomorrow I will have to think of a way to thaw the hoses.
November 24 Friday It was down to 10 F this morning and now at bedtime is already down to 9 F. Martin and I moved the stock tank inside and set it up with a submersible water heater. Martin also installed an overhead light in there so I wonít have to stumble around holding a flashlight and Wilburís feed while I try to outrun him. It is now dark both morning and evening. Helen gave over 3 gallons today. She and Leah are still bellowing but not as much.
November 25 Saturday It was 10 F again this morning. Chores take much longer since I must carry water for the chickens, geese, and Leah. Also must connect and disconnect the hose to fill the stock tank so I can drain it. I hang over a high ladder and blow through it to be sure there is no water in it. The cows like their light that son Martin installed last night in the beefer pen where they sleep. I let the geese out to wander today. There is some green grass around the lawn. We have only smatterings of snow. The temp got u p to 30 F today before sinking fast. My new dog, Bagel, followed me into the barnyard and Wilbur chased him about 100 yards. He ran about 1000 yards. Steers are obviously a new species to him.
November 26 Sunday Temp was 10 F again this morning but about noon it warmed up and started to snow. It snowed the rest of the day and 3 or 4 inches have accumulated. I let the geese move into the barn. It is a lot of work for me keeping everybody watered and enough hay out and the eggs picked up before they freeze. I got only 1 dozen eggs both yesterday and today due to the cold I suppose and to the henís difficulty in getting enough water before it freezes. I have been getting close to two dozen. I am doing all I can to encourage the hens because at last I have two shops that want my eggs and two local customers. Helen gave 3.5 gals today. Leah is settling down. She is comfortable in her small quarters, just bored and lonely. I allowed Bagel to be loose tonight while I milked and ordered him to stay out of the barn which he did. I have been keeping him tied while I milk and he yelps and barks the entire time which is very distracting to both me and Helen. He kept his eyes glued to the crack in the barn door but did not yelp. Temp this evening is 32 F.
November 27 Monday According to my calender, Helen should have been in heat today. I saw no such behavior unless I count a lot of extra pooping while in her stanchion. Possibly the week back with Leah threw her off track again. The snow turned to rain and made a squishy mess out of everything but saved me lots of work messing with hoses. It was up to 40 F this evening. Helen gave a little over 3 gals. today. Eggs are way down, only one dozen and four customers disappointed.
November 28 Tuesday It has been in the 40ís all day. Bagel abused his freedom this morning. I looked out the window and saw him with his foot on a chicken. I ran out in my slippers and took a young bantam rooster away from him. It had no obvious injury so I laid it in the barn in case it was only in shock. Later when it was obviously dead, not liking for it to have died in vain, I dry picked it and dressed it, feeling quite virtuous. Later I found two little hens he had also killed but by then my fingers were tired so I guess I will pitch them over the river bank for the foxes. I cooked the rooster by braising. He was young but skinny. The amount and variety of feathers on a bird is an amazing fact of nature. Now Bagel is back on his chain. He is acting contrite and depressed. I whapped him over the head with a dead hen and told him what I think of mindless killing. Helen gave only 2.75 gals today
November 29 Wednesday It was almost spring like today. Helen spent a lot of time pretending to graze. There really is hardly any grass long enough. I took the dogs for a walk to the river. It is quite high. The ground is sufficiently frozen that the last rain mostly ran off. Bagel made several rushes at chickens but I yelled at him. He cornered a large group of bantams near the house and they all flew about twelve feet it the air. It looked pretty funny. I am supervising him carefully so that he does not get away with much. A lady wanted a kitten today. She took the little short haired black one. He has great personality. Helen gave 3.5 gallons today. I have let the geese out of their pen so they can come in the barn in bad weather. Helen finds them terrifying. They came and stood quietly in the doorway while I was milking. The first I knew they were there was when Helen made a big plop. I chased them away but soon they were back observing with interest. I got 18 eggs today I think.
November 30 Thursday Helen gave about 3.5 gallons today. Pretty good. I made 4 lb. of butter. I arranged to have my grain delivered and put right into the feed room. I have to buy eight or more bags at a time. this will save me a great deal of lifting.
December 1 Friday Weather not bad today. The dogs and I walked to the river which they enormously enjoy. Old grandma Muffin, age about 10, goes straight to the water but Bagel avoids it. He either has never seen it before or has no water dog blood or both. Helen gave 3.75 gallons. I had about 5 gallons of clabber and made about three pounds of cottage cheese with it and gave the rest to the chickens.
December 2 Saturday Last night when I put the dogs out for a last visit to the bushes Bagel disappeared. I called repeatedly but finally had to give up and left the garage door open for him. I kind of figured he had gone over the bank to find one of those chicken carcasses I threw over. In the morning as I hoped he was in the garage lying on his quilt. He was very tired and subdued. Only later did I discover that he had dragged the bones of a deer onto the lawn. It had been completely chewed but probably had been dead only a few days. The head and legs were missing. I suppose some hunterís shot did not kill it and it went down the river bank to die. It is turning cold. Tomorrow will be difficult. Helen gave exactly three gallons. I got only 10 eggs.
December 4 Monday. Helen gave 3 gallons yesterday, 3 plus 1 qt. today. Both days were sunny and around 32 F. Both yesterday and today I let the sheep have their choice of the whole pasture. The dogs and I walked most of this area both days and I canít see where the sheep are finding water. I donít see tracks down to the river anywhere. I guess I had better set up a their water tub again like last year.
December 5 Tuesday I went to Farmington today on errands and did not get back until 2 pm. All the animals were mad at me. However, it warmed up to 34 so the stock water did not freeze. Before leaving on errands I spend an hour trying to get the water system under the buttery where the sheep are to function. I did not succeed. I did manage to carry two bales of hay up a ladder to the empty hay mow at the north end of the barn. I spread out the hay over the part which is the ceiling of the layerís room. The boards are gappy and they were losing heat. There is a lot more I must do for the chickens, perhaps tomorrow.
Helen gave only 2.75 gals today. That was partly because the geese came in where I was milking and began cackling loudly. She is very afraid of them. I threw my gloves at them but it did not phase them a bit. Then I herded them outdoors and shut the door but somehow they squeezed back in. Any interruptions to milking make a cow quit letting down even if she is not alarmed. I had to actually leave my post on the milking stool twice.
December 6 Wednesday Down to 14 this morning. No luck yet with the water system for the sheep. But I have another idea for tomorrow. Helen barely gave 3 gals today. Leah, the isolated heifer, tends to be shy and crowds against the wall when I go in the stall to take care of her. So she caught me off guard when she jumped me from behind. She had her feet as high as my shoulders but she backed right off when I shrieked. She bellowed a lot today but I thought she was lonesome. More like in heat.
December 7 Thursday Temp 14 again this morning but feels colder than yesterday. The wind is blowing and it snowed for awhile. I got the water running down below for the sheep by running an extension cord to the heat tape on the copper pipe. I also found where the service line has been severed. Now to find somebody to repair it. Everything is much harder when it is cold and takes longer. Helen gave a little over 3 gals today.
December 8 Friday It was down to zero this morning and did not get above 10 F at any time today. The sun came out brightly for a couple of hours which cheered things up. The little family of bantams which I feed seemed rather desperate for food. I threw out cracked corn for them. It takes a lot of time now to keep water thawed out. I take kettles of boiling water to the barn to pour onto the chicken water and onto Leahís. Helen gave less than three gallons today, I think only 2.5 gals. I collected the eggs four times and avoided getting any frozen ones. I am letting the sheep roam both pastures. They came up and looked inside the beefer pen but did not come in. However the cows go down to their place often and eat their hay up. It is mostly Wilbur who does this.
December 10 Sunday. Yesterday Helen gave 3 gallons, today somewhat less. She seems in good humor despite the weather. The sheep are roaming widely and seem cheerful. They are impervious to the cold. The two old ewes, Agnes and Bernadette, are the only ones who come to be petted. Their wool feels about 6Ē deep. Bagel, my new dog, is very smart. If I can figure out how to make him understand what I want, he tries his best to do it. I have pretty well trained him not to yelp his fool head off the whole time I am in the barn. When he sees me leaving for the barn he goes and lies on his blanket next to his chain and waits to get hooked up. When he leaves he starts to squeak but if I turn back with a certain look in my eye he stops. All my eggs are getting sold as fast as they are laid. One customer today drove a mile for 7. That was all I had at 9 AM. I made three pounds of butter today and more cottage cheese.
December 11 Monday A big storm is predicted for tonight. I hope it is not too bad as when I got home today from running errands I discovered I should have bought chicken feed. Helen gave only 2.75 gals today. She was irritable. My hay man came this morning and replaced 35 bales of hay that was dusty. The new hay looks very good.
December 12 Tuesday I donít know what Helen gave today. It looked about like yesterday. But a loop of my bootlace caught on the hinge of the bail on the milk bucket and whipped the whole thing over. I have never had anything like that happen before. I tried not to cry over spilt milk.
December 13 Wednesday A new girl in the neighborhood age about 14 stopped in near milking time to inquire if I might wish to hire her for animal care. She hung around through milking and had a go at it. She showed some talent and and act afraid of the animals. My total for the day was well under 3 gals but that was partly because Helen does not let down well when strangers are about. A hard wind blew all day and the temp did not get much above 8 F
December 14 Thursday The Coburn Farm crew, the animals and I, awoke to snow this morning. It continued all day and the roads werenít very good but I went to town anyway to mail things. Iíd say we have seven or eight inches now and i t is still falling gently. Until this snow, the sheep have been grazing industriously all of every day, besides eating a few flakes of hay. Today they stayed near their barn all day because of the snow cover. I put down hay for them three times and they ate it all. Helen gave a little less than 3 gals. today.
December 15 Friday Much sunshine today. Eggs and milk production are falling a little every day despite my best efforts. Only 2.5 gals.
December 16 Saturday Helen gave a bit more than yesterday but did not quite make 3 gals. Only one half dozen eggs. It was cold all day, hardly above 8 F and a storm on the way. Now towards evening it is warming up for snow. All the animals seem edgy. Maybe they know something I don't. But here in Carthage we are always prepared for bad weather. I am not prepared for a power outage though as that will mean no water since my spring is not running.
December 17 Sunday I awoke to rain and it has not stopped all day. The driveway, which was plowed smooth leaving a couple inches of snow a couple of day ago is now a sea of slush over ice. I tiptoe along the edges where there is remaining snow to reach the barn. The temperature has risen sharply to 40 F so there is low fog. The sheep went out to look for grass under the snow. I think they get bored lying around all day waiting for their next hay feeding. Through the mist all I could see of them was black egg shaped balls. They have amazing fleeces, I think. The new dog, Bagel, follows me to the barn a lot but I tell him to wait at the door. With the rain, he kept creeping in. I was amused to see one of the geese which have never before shown any aggressiveness, snap his head out and bite Bagel in the flank. He yipped and ran out. Helen gave just a little under 3 gals today. I think I got 10 eggs. The animals like the warmer weather.
December 16 Monday Last night was wild. Very high winds, rain and thunder and lightning. Even arthritic old Muffin dog made it up to my bedroom during the night. She is afraid of thunder. To get her down in the morning I held tight to her collar. Even so, she lost her footing and would have rolled down had I not been hanging on to her. Before I left for the barn the power went out. It had been out during the night too. It did not come on until 7 PM. All day Helen had no water. My well is served by an electric pump. No furnace either. Fortunately it was around 30 F all day so nothing froze. My cook stove is propane and I kept a fire in the fireplace. When the electricity came back on the first thing I did was go to the barn and refill the stock tank. Helen drank it as fast as it filled for the first ten minutes. The wind was so strong last night that it lifted my 12' aluminum gate off its hinges and took it 10 or 12 feet away. The wind coming under the buttery where the sheep live was so strong it opened up their heavy wooden trap door to the garage. It just hung there waving. So I weighted it down with my recycle stuff. Bagel went down this morning and faced off the sheep, barking at them. I can't have that. Now he is on his chain.
December 19 Tuesday Today was pretty quiet. Helen gave only .75 gal. this morning probably due to being so dried out yesterday. But she made up for it this evening and topped 3 gallons for the day. Both Helen and Wilbur, but especially Wilbur, spend a lot of time hanging around the sheep fold eating up the sheep's hay. I need to have a barrier built that will keep them out. The sheep never go into the beefer pen, the cow's run-in, to swipe their food.
December 20 Wednesday It snowed all day with a strong gusty wind so there is drifting. The sheep stayed right in their lair as there is no hope of any grass. We have 7 or 8 inches of new snow. I have to plan my strategy for giving them their hay and grain to times when I have just fed Helen and Wilbur so can be sure they will stay in their quarters for a while. Otherwise they race over and eat all the sheep food. Helen gave 3 gallons today.
December 22 Friday The snow is staying this time. It is cold and blowy and may go down to zero tonight. Helen gave 3 gallons yesterday and today. Egg production has fallen to 8 or 10 a day. Cattle and sheep are hungry all the time for hay.
December 23 Saturday It was bright and cold all day. Helen gave only 1/2 gallon this evening, 2 1/4 gallons total. I donít know if this was because she was cold, the hay was bad, she didnít drink enough or what. She appears to be in good health.
December 24 Sunday Cold this morning, about 8 F, but no problems. Helen gave 3.25 gals today, recovering from yesterdayís down turn in production. Leah jumped on me again today while I was in her stall. I donít know if she is in heat of merely lonesome. While my back was turned to set down her water bucket, next thing I knew there were heifer hooves on my shoulders. I shrieked and she backed off looking confused, ďwhat went wrong?Ē I think she was saying. Now it is cold and late on Christmas Eve and my two youngest boys, Mark and Martin, have taken Bagel for a star lit walk. I kept Muffin home as she is getting so old and stiff.
December 25 Christmas A lovely day for the family, but not much fun for the animals. The temperature did not get about 8 F and there was a terrible icy wind. Even inside their room some of the roosters are getting frostbitten combs. One little bantam hen that lives outdoors died of exposure and a little rooster and hen that live up in a fir tree by the house will probably not make it through the night. We kept the barn door shut last night and all day today and again tonight so Helen and Wilbur have less wind to fight. The submersible water heater is keeping the water open in their tub. Helen gave about 3 gallons today despite the cold. My sons Mark and Martin sawed and chopped a lot more wood today and worked up a big appetite.
December 26 Tuesday The weather continues much the same except a bit colder and the wind higher. The bantams in the tree proved to be two little roosters and they were both still crowing this morning. Roosters donít ordinarily snuggle together but in this weather pragmatism rules. I suspect they are widowers. It was from the fir tree flock that Bagel killed one rooster and three hens. Helen stays cozy. I have increased her hay. She gave 3 gals plus a quart today. Wilbur, being in with her, also gets to eat all day and is getting fat. I saw either the wether or the young ram breeding a ewe today. From the distance I was unable to be sure of identities. The wether, if indeed he really is a wether, Thistle, doesnít seem to know it. He and Stanley are now the same size and have very similar horns. December 27 Wednesday This morning the sheep were nowhere to be seen. About an hour later as I was finishing milking I heard their bells as they returned from their exploration. I was afraid I was going to have to track them in the snow. Maybe they wanted to check to see if it was summer somewhere else. I remember once when my cow Hope did that. During the summer she used to periodically jump the fence and go way up the road to a nice field owned by a neighbor. Once in the middle of the winter she disappeared up there and I figured she thought maybe it was still summer up that way. Helen gave 3 gallons today. For some reason she did not drink any water all day. It is usually stray voltage which causes a cow to refuse a tub of water. I tried unplugging the submersible heater but it made no difference. Maybe it is coming through the ground. I have a piece of copper tubing in the tank and looped over to the ground but I canít jam it into the ground because it is frozen.
December 28 Thursday Helen gave barely 2.5 gallons today. She is definitely reluctant to drink her water. When I unplug the heater it freezes over so either way she doesnít drink.
December 29 Friday Helen managed to give three gallons today without drinking hardly any water. I went out and bought feed so as to be prepared for a big snow storm which is n the way. Most times the highly advertised storms donít amount to much but anyway, I am prepared.
December 30 Saturday Helen drank a little water last night but not much. She gave only 2.75 gals. today. The cows keep on visiting the sheep quarters and eating their hay. The sheep go out in the field or the edge of the woods and stay for a long time finding this and tat sticking out of the snow to eat. I hope somebody will soon build me a barrier to keep out the cows. A big snowstorm has started. It might be called a blizzard. The wind is blowing hard.
December 31 Sunday We got eight or ten new inches of snow. It is hard to be sure with a Noríeaster. The was a lot of drifting. Neighbor Stewart came and plowed me out and got his blade stuck on a pile of snow. It took a while to extricate him. Helen gave a little under 2.5 gallons. She is not touching her water. I have unplugged everything around it. I put my fingers in the water and wet fingers on the earth and imagined I could feel a slight tingle. It was hard to concentrate with both Helen and Wilbur crowding me. Wilbur will jump me given half an opportunity. I donít fancy being mashed down into the stock tank. I have filled the tub in the sheep run-in. The cows go there every day to swipe the sheepís hay and that water is getting drunk by somebody. The tub is not big enough to provide adequately for all the stock and is badly located for the cows. The only way the sheep get any hay is if I feed them immediately after feeding the cows while they are still busy with their own.
January 1 New Yearís Day Monday Helen gave about 2.5 gallons. Some of the water was gone from the stock tank so either she or Wilbur drank some. There were some flecks on the milk filter this evening. Otherwise a fair day about 20 F and allís well. The tom cats are marking the new year with a lot of snarling and fighting. I told them spring is still a long way off.
January 2 Helen drank some of her water, or somebody did, I did not actually see her. She gave very close to 3 gals today. She and Wilbur race through their hay so they can race over and swipe the sheep hay. Since I have to carry the sheep hay from the barn this has ceased to be cute. Helen and Wilbur looked very pleased with themselves while the sheep crowd way up under the floor beams. I filled the sheep water twice today. I donít know if cows are drinking it or the tub is leaking. It was -4 F this morning. I got only four eggs. The hens just donít lay when it is this cold.
January 4 Thursday I was out to the barn about 6:30 am because I had to drive to the airport for grandson Rafe coming in from Alaska. The animals adjust so much more readily to early care than late, no surprise of course. Rafe is going to construct something tomorrow to keep the cows out of the sheep fold. The minute they clean up their own hay they are right over here to see what the sheep have. While Rafe and I were down inspecting the sheep area my new young dog, Bagel, showed up to see what was going on. Wilbur, the Jersey steer, took one look, at him and chased him all the way out of the sheep paddock and all the way back around to the barn. Then Wilbur came dancing back throwing his hind legs in the area. It was a very entertaining scene for all but Bagel. When I was serving out the cowís hay tonight in the dark hay mow a bale from an unstable pile landed on my head without warning. One should never permit unstable piles to exist, a fact I know well. I had sent Rafe over for more hay for the sheep and instructed him to take bales from that pile so should have been forewarned. It gave me a headache but could have been worse.
January 5 Friday Rafe devised a barrier to prevent the cows going in where the sheep eat and sleep under the buttery. It is just a long beam hanging in a rope sling at each end. The knot is a clove hitch which he taught me how to do. Helen gave a bit less than 2.5 gallons today. Temp this morning was zero but it warmed up to 20 by afternoon. Rafe chain sawed some more wood for me and tarpapered the inside of the chicken hotel. I am certainly disappointed with the quality of a lot of my hay. Some of it Helen hardly touches even though it is not moldy. It is stemmy and overgrown.
January 6 Saturday It was snowing when I got up this morning about 6 and Helen and Wilbur were standing outside the sheep fold barrier with about an inch of snow on them looking like people waiting in line for tickets. They did not get in. Helen did drink some of her own water and i refilled her tank. I got only about 2.25 gallons today.
January 7 Sunday Today was fine and clear, temp around 20 F. It felt really warm. Sorry to report, Rafeís cow barrier did not last 24 hours. I donít see any immediate way to repair it myself so will have to go back to feeding the sheep only when I know the cows are busy eating in the barn. As I climbed through the sheep feeder to inspect their water one of the rams butted my knee. It caught me off guard. Until now, every time I go in there they flee but this time I think they were feeling aggressive because they were all hungry, the cows having devoured all their feed. Helen gave 2.5 gals today. I made 5.5 lb of butter.
January 8 Monday The sheep fold barrier is up again. I put some nails in the beam so the rope, I hope, will not slide off of it and I added more rope. Also I raised it higher to make it less likely Helen or Wilbur will try to step over it. When coming in to be milked Helen walks down an aisle about 20í long and no more than 4Ē wider than she. Consequently when I open the door for her I must immediately step through it myself so that we do no meet head on. She is ordinarily standing to the right of the door which opens out so must get around it, giving me plenty of time to get out of the way. Tonight she was on the left and bolted straight in. She is always in a great rush because her grain awaits. I was trapped in front of her shoulder with the choice of being swept along or getting squished by her intractable rib cage. I turned and ran ahead of her but two legged does not outrun four legged. Some feet from the end of the passageway her shoulder caught up with me and I was twirled like a toilet paper roll. I was not really hurt, just a skinned knee, but I screamed. After finishing off her grain she seemed contrite. She made a series of different noises. She gave only 2.25 gals today.
January 9 Tuesday I went off on errands today and while i was away UPS delivered a box of dog food. The driver set it down next to Bagel. Naturally Bagel chewed his way in and ate quite a lot. I did not give him any dinner. Helen gave 2.75 gals today.
January 10 Wednesday It was way cold this morning. I could not make out the thermometer but I think it was around zero with a wind which was probably about 30 mph. Cold! The wind is out of the west so is not hitting the hen room but blows straight in on Helen. I shut their door against it. The wind hits the sheep even harder. One of the rams has bashed and broken the back stop of their feeder. When it falls apart the rest of the way I will have rams in with me when I go down there to feed. Helen is in roaring heat today so I am staying out of her way. She is chasing Wilbur around. It is so cold that Wilbur has an icicle of pee hanging from his underside. Helen gave only 3 quarts this morning but made up for it this evening with a total of 2.75 gals for the day. All day she and Wilbur surged about even going out in the grassless snow covered field but the evening she was settled down.
January 11 Thursday Wild weather today. We have high wind whirling the snow around. It is cold. All the same, Helen gave 2.75 gal. today.
January 12 Friday Now Leah is in heat. I know because when I went in with her water there she was in the doorway rising up like a circus pony. I shrieked and backed away so her hooves came down in the bucket, well one hoof, and spilled the water. This morning started out about 8 F and got up to 20 F. We had brillient sun all day.This evening the temp is falling fast. Helen gave 2.5 gals today.
I can't believe it is Friday again!
January 13 Saturday That which I greatly feared has come upon me.... the barn water is frozen up. There is enough in the barn stock tank to water them today but after today I will have to carry water for the chickens and heifer Leah from the house. Helen and Wilbur will have to drink from the small tub in with the sheep. Son Martin installed a foolproof water system under there. It is more trouble to operate and will have to be refilled more than once a day but is very good to have. The worst problem is that with the cows hanging around there the sheep wonít get anything to eat unless I remember to feed them while the cows are eating in the barn. The minute the cows finish they race over to see what they can swipe from the sheep.
January 14 Sunday A bit of a thaw today, 32 F this morning. It felt so warm I took off my coat before milking. After breakfast I nailed up a few boards to prevent sheep from jumping into the area where I stand to feed them. These boards should at least slow them down although the result looks like the work of a 10 year old with a sleep deficit. It does nothing to stop the cows getting at the sheepís hay. In fact I was working with Helenís curious head in my face. She chased all the sheep outdoors with head butting. While I worked I began to picture a scheme whereby I can divide off the area to at least limit the cowís getting to the sheepís hay without closing off access to the water tub. I doubt this thaw will bring back my barn water but I have left the heat tape plugged in just in case it does some good. Later: The water is frozen until May, I fear. I unplugged the heat tape. It is frozen beyond its reach. My sheep barrier did not last out the day. The rams have reduced it to toothpicks. I found a massive beam to jam in there tomorrow when perhaps my courage will have returned. Temp got up to 34 F today. Helen gave 2.5 gals.
January 15 Monday. It has snowed all day but lightly. I believe we have four new inches. Helen and Wilbur are drinking ok from the sheep water. It is such a shame the barn water froze. Helen was just learning to drink willingly from it. I never did find out what was behind her resistance. She gave a little under 3 gals today. I made two pounds of butter.
January 16 Tuesday Stewart came this morning and plowed me out which was a good thing because I doubt I could have gotten through the berm which the road crew made across my driveway. He got stuck again in the same spot as before but this time I was ready with old chains to put under his wheels. I needed to get out and buy cat food. Having hungry cats staring is unnerving. Helen gave just under 3 gals today. The temperature was in the 20ís.
January 17 Wednesday 2.5 gals. milk
January 18 Thursday My other plans for today had to be abandoned when I discovered that the fall back water system under the buttery was frozen up. Helen and Wilbur were standing there looking worried and annoyed. Wilbur kept chewing on the water pipe. The frozen pipe runs through a crawl space which is very dusty and sandy and much frequented by cats. The sheep too have taken to wedging themselves up in there and between the lot have chewed all the foam insulation off of the pipe and exposed the heat tape. It was -10 F this morning. I wrapped the whole thing with duct tape. Later I played around with the gfi switch which had also turned off the power. SInce the light was on I thought the electric was ok but obviously I still have something to learn about gfi switches. Water eventually ran after about an hour. Cows often go into a sulk if denied what they want and that is exactly what Helen did. She put her nose in the air and pretended she could not hear me urging her to come and see the water. Wilbur came right in and had a big drink.
January 19 Friday We got another inch or two of snow today. The temperature started out about 14 F and ended at 20 F. I found another dead bantam and one that was dying. I tried to save it by warming it up and giving it water but it died anyway. Bagel, my new dog, is well behaved in other ways, friendly and loving and generally a good dog. So this is discouraging. Helen only gave 2.25 gals.
I misplaced a week! Martin.
January 27 Saturday The sheep, or maybe the cows, have smashed up the sheep's hay feeder. Son Martin is coming tonight with some more hay. Helen gave 2.5 gallons Only seven eggs.
January 28 Sunday Daughter Sally repaired the sheeps' hay feeder but we don't know how long it will last. I saw an older ewe and a yearling ewe having a spat today. The older one chased the younger one away from the hay, then chased her around in circles and out the door. Then they both came whirling back in with roles reversed. 2.75 gals. today. Seven eggs
January 29 Monday We got the seven month old heifer, Leah, in this morning and replaced her collar and bell with a grown up size. Sally has been handling her a lot and the operation proved fairly easy. Sally is a good milker. That and other factors are reversing the downward trend in Helen's production. We got 3 gals today. The hens are happy too. I got 13 eggs. It was -8 F this morning but no wind and lots of sun. A fine day. Sally took two walks to the river.
January 30 Tuesday. This morning the thermometer stood at zero and it seemed pretty cold all day. Out vet came by and gave Muffin a rabies shot so I could renew her license. I think she is 10 years old now. Both dogs are now fully legal. I get the low rate ($4) because both are neutered. I went right up to the town office today. Helen gave 2.75 gals today and I got 14 eggs but two were frozen. It started snowing about noon and is still coming down hard at 7 pm.
January 31 Wednesday According to the calendar, Helen should have been in heat today but she was not. But milk production was down a bit. We got 2.5 gals. The worst thing happened today. The water was frozen in my back up system in the sheep run-in. So we had to carry water down the ladder to fill the tub. I think I can fix the system with a new heat tape although it will be considerable work. Sally and I and the dogs took a walk along the river and as far as the brook. It was hard going for me and Muffin but Sally and Bagel, who is very frisky, had no trouble. It was very beautiful. The snow is deep and it snowed most of today and all the time we walked and is still snowing.
February 1 Thursday It snowed last night and much of today. Stewart plowed again. However the weather seemed very pleasant. Temp was mostly in the mid twenties and little wind. Sally took two long walks. Helen gave 2.75 gal. and I got 12 eggs. We gave the sheep a protein block to lick and Helen has preempted it. She loves it. Now Sally takes it away when the cows are headed this way.
February 2 Friday My hay man came today and brought 100 bales of very nice fluffy hay, the kind the cows love best. The hay comes up a nice rattley old hay elevator which is like a ladder with a revolving chain down the middle. On the chain are spurs which hold the hay as it rides up. The device is operated by an electric motor for which I supply an extension cord, The hay man and his wife set the bales on from the truck. Sally and I take them off at the top and stack them. At one point I stepped on a weak floor board and my right leg went right through. But I was able to struggle out. I'll fix the floor next summer when the hay is out of the barn. For now i have put a hay bale over the hole. The sheep and cows love the 30 lb protein block we gave them. It is meant to be for the sheep but the cows are always after it. Sally went down in the dark tonight to fetch it up so the cows would go back to their own barn and leave the sheep alone. In the dark she could feel three furry brown faces clustered around it. Helen gave almost 3 gallons today. And 16 eggs.
February 3 Saturday A fine bright day here in the 20ís. Sally walked the young dog, Bagel, down towards the river. Muffin and I did not go along. It was fun to see Bagel leaping like a deer ahead of Sal on the trail. In the afternoon grandson Rafe and his roommate arrived from school and we gave them a big dinner. They did some chain sawing before dinner for which I am very grateful. Helen gave 2.75 gals. and I got 14 eggs.
February 4 Sunday Rafe butchered Thistle, the animal I have been calling a wether. Once he was sheared it was evident he was actually intact. He was sold to us as a wether. His fleece was so long and his units were so much smaller than the ram we butchered last year that this confusion was able to persist despite clear evidence of his interest in the ewes. I guess the ram crop will provide some answer. We do have a young ram, Stanley, now 10 months old and well grown, who certainly looks capable now although he was still a bit small in October when the ewes first came in heat. The former owners of Thistle said they had used an Elastrator (castration device which applies a rubber band around the scrotum). This may in some way have done a half hearted job. Anyway, the carcass looks good. Sally estimates it at 80 lb dressed weight. It is hanging in the cold cellar now. Sally and I will cut the meat in a few days. Helen gave 3 gals today and I got 11 eggs. It was -10 F this morning. Such cold weather discourages the hens.
February 5 Monday Helen really likes her new hay. I usually put down some of the old first and top it up with some of the new. Tonight she sniffed the old hay and looked up through the hay drop and mooed at me. Wouldnít touch it. Later I find she does finish it all. The old hay is not moldy. It is just over mature and stemmy. We got 15 eggs today and 3 gallons of milk.
February 6 Tuesday Last night we got well over a foot of snow. There was no way we could have gotten out of the driveway before Stewart plowed us out. The pile plus drift in front of the kitchen window is too high now to see over even when I stand on a stool. Daughter Sally cut and wrapped the carcass of the ram the boys butchered on Sunday. It looks excellent. Helen gave over 3 gals today. I got 11 eggs. This morning while I was collecting eggs two bantam roosters got into a prolonged cock fight. Well, maybe ten minutes long. One rooster was white speckled with a black tail. The other was black with a superb golden mantle. A great lot of other bantams lined up along the upper level of the barn as spectators. One Black Australorp rooster tried several times to horn in on the fight but thought better of it. Finally the gold rooster gave up and the white one chased him around the barn floor for several minutes for good measure. It was most amusing.
February 7 Wednesday The thermometer said 24 F most of the day but a strong wind blew all day and is still strong this evening. Big drifts are forming. Helen gave over 3 gals. There were 12 eggs.
February 8 Thursday Sally and I agree that several of the ewes are looking pregnant. We are looking forward to lambs in late February or early March. Although with all the doubts we have about the fertility of Stanley, the ram we butchered, who knows? We got over 3 gals of milk today and 14 eggs.
February 9 Friday Cold and bleak all day. Helen gave 3 gallons. I picked up 14 eggs.
February 10 Saturday Stormy weather. It started out almost spring like, then a powerful wind sprang up with gusts to 50 mph. We lost power and Sally milked by flashlight. The barn, which is post and beam construction, was noisy and seemed to be rocking. In the house the plastic in the windows is sucking and flapping. I lit the kerosene lamps. We got power back after only about three hours which was a great relief because without power we cannot water the stock. Helen gave less than 3 gals. and I got 9 eggs. Nothing likes this weather. It is much colder tonight.
February 11 Sunday Winter has us in its grip. It was zero this morning with continuing strong wind. It stopped only for a little while last evening. There is a hard crust on the snow. We had bright sun all day and the world looks like a big wedding cake. The effect is blinding. The hot water line under the kitchen sink was frozen this morning and it took me most of the morning to get it thawed. I had not thought to leave the cupboard doors open so warmer air could get under there. The wind is out of the west but seems to swirl around the house. Sally carried a teakettle of warm water down to add to the stock water tub below the buttery. Wilbur, the yearling Jersey steer, was so pleased with it he came and drank from the spout as she was pouring. Leah, the heifer, took the occasion to reach over and grab Sallyís hat. Helen gave 2.5 gals today and I got 8 eggs.
February 12 Monday The wild wind has died down and the sun continued all day. The thermometer did not rise much but it felt much warmer. Sally was able to go for a walk. She saw a fox and a flight of doves. Down by the river I saw some unidentified dog-like animals. I ran for the binoculars but did not get enough of a look to be sire of their identity. Helen gave 2.75 gals and I got one dozen eggs. There have been frozen ones every day but I donít count them.
February 13 Tuesday It got up to 24 F today and the eves dripped. Then a raw wind came up which was most unwelcome. Sally tried taking a walk to the river on snowshoes but the thick snow and heavy crust took the fun out of it and she turned back halfway there. I think the hens are still suffering backlash from the cold spell. I got only 6 eggs. Helen gave something less than 3 gallons. A nice young man of seventeen took a half grown female cat we have had for about two weeks. She was thin and frightened when she came here but soon turned into a confident and playful little cat, also very clean and intelligent. How sad that someone would have just chucked her out.
February 14 Valentines Day Sally and I fixed a nice lunch today which we were able to share with my vet and a neighbor. Helen gave 2.75 gals. and I got 11 eggs.
February 15 Thursday Sally and I went to the Farmington Farmerís Union and picked up another protein block for the sheep, much appreciated also by the cows. Sally has to keep carrying it up and down the sheep stairs. She removes it whenever we hear cow bells down there. All the sheep and cows are so enthusiastic that it is fun to watch them. I am not so sure what is in the block. It resembles those suet blocks sold for wild birds. Sally has made a great pet of Leah, the eight month old heifer. She can now put her arms around her. 2.75 gals of milk today, one dozen eggs.
February 16 Friday Sally and Bagel, the young dog, broke trail in the snow today as far as the river. Sally returned with some witch hazel branches to force. When feeding the steer and heifer, Sally puts out pans of grain and Wilbur, who is bigger, keeps running from pan to pan forcing Leah away from the food. Tonight Sally led Leah around to show her how to win at ďmusical grain pansĒ. Weíll see how long it takes her to catch on. 2.75 gals. of milk today. Only 7 eggs. I believe the hens are still not recovered from the stress of recent cold weather. It has been my observation that hens respond quickly to stress by quitting laying but take at at least three times as long to recover.
February 18 Sunday Saturday Helen gave 2.75 gals, today a little less. yesterday I got only 7 eggs, today 11. The weather continues cold. It was zero when we got up and reached about 20 F by midday with some sun, then got colder again with considerable strong wind. Sally walked as far as the river with both dogs. Bagel is learning to behave around the chickens. I now have left him off his chain several times while Sally is milking and I am in the barn collecting eggs. He runs around in the driveway area and knows not to come in the barn. Our firewood is going fast. I need some green wood to merge in with it to slow it down.
February 19 Monday Another rather bleak day although temperatures did reach 28 F. Helen gave about 2.75 gals. Got 7 eggs. Nothing likes this weather. My cousin thought she detected a hint of spring in the air by I didnít catch it.
February 20 Tuesday Milk production is back up today along with the thermometer. Over three gallons, and the mercury hit 40 F . I think this was the first time all winter it got that warm. But only 9 eggs.
February 21 Wednesday It started off this morning a balmy 28 F but an Arctic air mass is moving in accompanied by wind. This evening it is down to 10 F and -15 F is predicted for tomorrow morning. Sally is making daily progress in handling Leah, the eight month old heifer. Sal now pats her face. Helen gave somewhat over 3 gals today. Just 7 eggs. Bagel continues to behave well while we are in the barn. He goes neither in the road not does he come into the barn which is off limits. He still chases cats but never catches them. So far as we know he has not killed any more chickens. Sally increased the sheepís grain. They now divide about two pounds among the six of them which is not much. They also have the protein block part of each day.
February 22 Thursday Well, it was only zero this morning but all night the wind howled and shook the house. Neither of us thought to open the under sink cupboard doors or leave the tap running. This morning the hot water line was frozen again. The cold water does not freeze because it runs at the other side of a heavy beam. I spent much of the morning getting the hot water running using a heating pad, a space heater and a kettle of boiling water. The water ran again at 11 am. The high today was 14 F. Helen gave a bit over 3 gallons. I got 9 eggs plus two frozen ones.
February 23 Friday We had a mixture of sun and snow today with highs in the 20ís. Not bad at all, really. I got nine eggs but one was frozen. Helen gave 3 gals. All the animals seemed very comfortable today. Sally is making butter tonight. I made a lot of cottage cheese most of which I will give to the chickens because it is more than we can use.
February 24 Saturday Another bright, cold day with strong wind. One of the young ewes, Dot, daughter of Agnes, is off her feed. She looks very mopey. We donít know what to do about it. Helen gave 3 gals today. I got 13 eggs. Sally made a marvelous banana cream pie today. I piled on lots of whipped cream. This pie (and the whipped cream) was so far removed from the usual church supper item that it deserves some other name.
February 25 Sunday Grandson Rafe and two friends from College of the Atlantic came down Saturday night and stayed until noon today. Besides a lot of high grade eating, they did a lot of work. This including chain sawing some badly needed firewood. They stacked it all nicely. Rafe then killed two large roosters and Sally plucked and cleaned them and they are in the freezer. They were wearing out the hens with their excessive attentions and many of the hensí backs are plucked bare as a result. Having to put their energy into keeping warm is probably why I am not getting more eggs. The sick ewe is still moving around but is not eating and is getting cold despite her wool. It is hard to know what to do. Three gallons of milk today and 8 eggs.
February 26 Monday We had the vet today for Dot, the sick ewe. He figured she had an advanced case of worms but weíll never know. He gave her a bunch of meds and an electrolyte drench and she stood around until evening. I then gave her another drench which the vet left for me but then she rolled over limp and dead. I think I drowned her with it although it is hard to be sure as she gave no struggle. We left her lying on a bed of hay, poor thing. Three gals milk, 11 eggs. Warmer today.
February 27 Tuesday Sally and I carried our dead ewe up to the garage floor and Sally sheared her to save the fleece. She had a very deep fleece. When shorn, there was great doubt that she really was pregnant. We are awfully sorry to have lost her. She was pathetically thin. It is astonishing how much condition she had lost in just a few days. Last week I sent our Dodge van off for body work so that it can be registered as a farm vehicle. It came back today looking great. Now it will be able to pass inspection. Sally and I went up to Weld today and walked in to camp. The first bit of the road had been plowed maybe two snowstorms back and was not too hard to walk but after that every step was a new challenge. The final 150 yards down the driveway was close to impassable. The wind had hollowed out about 8Ē against the door or we never could have got in. We found all in good shape and the woods and frozen lake of course very beautiful. Helen gave 3 gals today. I got 9 eggs.
February 28 Wednesday It is turning colder again and we arenít enjoying it, although inside the house is fine and the sun is bright. It may be well below zero in the morning. Our five remaining sheep are well judging by their appetites. Our vet called today to ask after Dot, the ewe that died. He consoled us by telling me the Four Sís: Sick Sheep Seldom Survive. The heifer, Leah, and steer, Wilbur, are getting awfully frisky. We take a stick now when we go in with them. Helen gave three gallons today and I got 15 eggs.
March 1 It was -14 F this morning but later warmed up to around 10 F above. It was windy, so no walks today. Sally completed a woven rag rug and cut it from the loom and put it in the upstairs hall where is looks very fine. I got the old Dodge van registered so now there is another farm vehicle. The recent body work makes it look practically new. Three gallons of milk today and eight eggs, but one was frozen and one I broke in my coat pocket.
March 2 Friday It was bright and cold all day. At daybreak it was -14 F here but neighbors reported lower temps. I turned up the thermostat a tiny bit. Helen gave 3 gallons, I got 15 eggs. We are making oatmeal for the chickens by cooking it with skim milk. We have a big bag of oatmeal that has gotten weevils. The chickens all love it. We are pondering what to do with Helenís heifer, Leah. She is eight months old now and very promising looking. I donít need two cows. By fall she should be bred.
Sunday March 4 It was -20 F this morning and no fun. But all day was bright and sunny and ultimately warmed up to 20 F. Sally took a walk and reported water running in the ditches. The eaves were dripping so we moved the cows' stock tank outside to catch the drip in case it does it again tomorrow. Highly unlikely, as a big storm is reportedly on the way. Helen gave more than three gallons. I would have had a dozen eggs but a bantam rooster was in one of the nests and an egg was damaged. He is always getting into a nest and this is a no no. Roosters are not careful of eggs the way hens are. Then if they break them they eat them and form the habit. I caught him easily but did not have to heart to wring his fool neck like I should have.
Monday March 5 I found a new nest today with bantam eggs. I suspected that they have started to lay but these are the first I have found except for a couple of highly civilized bantams who lay in the nests with the big layers. There were four eggs in the nest of which three were frozen. I took them all and left a decoy. The nest was in the beefer pen where the cows feed. They took advantage of my preoccupation with the nest to all rumble back in to the main hall of the barn acting silly. Happily, they did not turn towards the front door which was open but turned left towards the grain room so I was able to scoot over and close it. Then, having shown how naughty they could be, all three turned and ran back out to their hay. Helen gave a bit over 3 gallons today and not counting the new nest I got 14 eggs. The temp this morning was 14 F, not so bad. But now it is snowing heavily. Large accumulations are predicted and strong wind.
March 6 Tuesday It snowed and blew all night and all day. It is hard to say how much new snow there is. Maybe a foot. Elsewhere in the state they got over two feet so we won't complain. But the violent is wind has become tiresome and there is a lot of snow inside the barn and the garage despite the door being mostly closed. Last night when I threw down the hay I dropped my gloves and could not find them. This morning Sally found one. Perhaps Wilbur ate the other. I searched thoroughly. Three gallons of milk today, 11 eggs. The roosters are doing considerable fighting. My pretty white Leghorn rooster is bloody and frightened. He is not a match for the bantams with their fighting blood nor of the quieter Australorps and Orpingtons because they are very heavy. A couple of small bantam roosters spend a lot of time hiding in the laying nests. When the boys come I will have to ask them to dress off a few more of them.
July 1, Sunday: Helen now comes in perfectly clean, but all three spend a lot of time now in the sheep paddock bugging the sheep. As soon as I have time I will make a new barrier. They have broken the wooden extension ladder I had set up to stop them entering the sheep's run-in. The run-in is at a lower level from the small attached barn, which is my garage. Out the back is my clothesline on a pulley. It is quite high but not so high that towels and sheets are beyond the reach of Wilbur, the 18 month old steer. He has taken to pulling laundry off the line, the bad thing. Helen gave a little under 3 gals today. The weather today was partly sunny, partly thunderstorms and showers.
July 2, Sunday: My sister watched Wilbur pulling down laundry. He reaches up with a mischievous look and wraps his tongue around the clothes. He doesn't use his teeth. My black Cochin setting hen is down to one egg and I have little hope it will hatch. I notice she takes rather long lunch breaks and sometimes the egg cools off. We have had such hot weather that I doubt that has made much difference but today was much cooler. Helen has been stubborn about coming in for milking, but once to the gate she walks in nicely, also out again later. She gave a bit over 3 gals today
July 4, Wednesday: This morning was perfect. Perfect weather and a perfectly behaved cow. Helen came when called, marched in without incident, showed perfect manners during milking and returned to pasture without being stubborn. She is limping and walks uncomfortably, but I think it is only on the hard barn floor. Her hooves are getting too long again. I hope it is nothing more serious. She gave a bit over 3 gals today. I repaired the ladder barrier, which keeps the cattle out of the sheepfold. My son-in-law Jack saw a large black bear crossing the road less than a half mile from my farm. I hope he does not fancy sheep. I saw a large cow moose by the side of the road tonight.
July 5, Thursday: According to the calendar Helen should have been in heat today. Maybe tomorrow. I am glad she was not, because I was away all day taking sister Barby to the airport so could not have had Artificial Insemination (AI) anyway. Not that they care if the owner is around, but it would have meant leaving Helen in her stanchion all day. It was another beautiful day and all was well when I got home. Helen was waiting at the gate to come in. She gave almost 3.5 gals today.
July 6, Friday: Still no signs of heat in Helen. She gave almost 3.5 gals today. She and the others were hanging around near the gate this morning and came right in. This evening she was far away but came at once when I called her. First thing this morning, about 6 AM, I found one of my Buff Orpington layers dead in a laying box. She was still warm. I can't imagine what caused her to die. She had not showed any prior signs of illness that I noticed and last night obviously was well enough to fly 4' up to the laying box. There was no blood. She was a bit messy around the vent but the chickens often are. If it were a weasel there would almost certainly have been several dead birds. That is the only predator which could get into their room at night except a rat. I have so many cats that I have not seen a rat in years, nor rat sign. I wonder if she could have eaten a piece of glass. Their scratching often turns up glass in the chicken yard.
July 7, Saturday: No signs of mounting today by Helen, but this evening she put her foot in the bucket deliberately and got about two or three quarts of milk full of sawdust from her standing. I was so mad I chunked her good on the ribs with my fist, which she showed no sign of even noticing. So when I stood up to go wash out the bucket I threw the dirty milk at her legs. I rather imagine this bad behavior (on her part, I don't count mine) is a sign of impending heat. Leah lost her nice bell somewhere today. I hope I can find it. The farm has a lot of lost bells on it. But, last year I dug up a beauty from the 19th Century. Yesterday I made a pound and a half of butter and the same again today.
July 8, Sunday: About noon today Helen came roaring into heat. I called AI without much hope or response, it being Sunday. Furthermore, they have retracted the insemination program due to the precipitous decline in the number of cows and for all I know won't even come at all. When I called Gentex all I got was a series of key punch numbers. About 4 PM a man I have not seen for a couple of years stopped in to say hello. He was brother to a friend of mine who passed away with leukemia some years ago. As we were having coffee I noticed my spring sink was making a sort of hissing and gurgling noise. I have a granite sink in my kitchen which ordinarily runs with a constant trickle and is gravity fed by a distant spring.. I surmised that what we were hearing was air racing into the outfall pipe due to a break at a low point in the line. My acquaintance, John, offered to try to fix it. First, I had to bring in Helen and lock her in her stanchion just in case the AI technician should chance to arrive. Then, we got tools and walked down along the river to the point we fixed a couple of months ago where the pipeline is exposed due to soil erosion. This is a ten or fifteen minute walk. As we approached the spot we could hear voices not far away. Looking over the bank I could see the water in the river roiled and muddy. And, there was the pipe gushing spring water from the feed end. John climbed down with the tools. The voices proved to be some young boys swimming in the river. Their footprints were all along the river bank. I suppose they expected words from us for they all skedaddled when they saw John. I expect they grabbed at the pipeline to steady themselves on the slippery river bank. It had separated at the previous repair. John had it fixed in no time. What luck for me! Climbing up that bank looks impossible to me. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Helen was pretty cross about being locked in her stanchion for a half hour extra. I got only about one quart of milk partly because she would not let down, but mostly I think because of having been in heat. She is quiet now and I seriously doubt if AI shows up tomorrow that she will conceive. Another chick is missing from the little bantam family. This is so puzzling.
July 9, Monday: Helen made up for yesterday by giving nearly 4 gals today. The bantam hen had four chicks again today. I wonder where the missing chick spent yesterday. We had a violent electrical storm which pelted everything for about a half hour and knocked out the power for two hours.
July 10, Tuesday: The thunderstorms continued all last night and most of today. I relented and allowed the cows back into the lean-to as they have no other shelter except trees, not that it is actually cold. But, Helen seemed crabby. First I threw around a dustbin full of sawdust on the floor. I put out some hay for them too which Helen snapped right down My Black Cochin which is setting has now lost her last egg. Something got it during the day today. So, it is either a rooster or else Bagel has found a way to sneak into the barn. Helen gave about 3 gals today. I have had a phone conversation with Genex, the Artificial Insemination provider which failed to provide. Hopefully I can get it sorted out by the time of Helen's next heat. The rain and storms appear to have ended. The sun came out as it set lighting up the world with sparkling raindrops. Everywhere is shades of green or gold. At this time of year Maine is the equal in beauty to anywhere on earth. Leah was in heat today and bellowed a lot!
July 11, Wednesday: We have had another 24 hours of intermittent rain and thunderstorms. At this evening's milking Helen was so comfortable in the lean-to that I could not her to get up. I rocked her back and forth and tapped on her hooves and blew in her ear. She kept on chewing her cud. I was very tired from gardening, so, after ten minutes I said, "OK, you win" and went back to the house. It is not like she is ever overly full of milk at night anyway. Somebody laid a fresh egg for the Cochin. So she is back to spending her life setting. Actually, this must have happened at least once before or she would have had chicks by now.
July 13, Friday: Helen's production is down a bit probably because I skipped milking on Wednesday night. Barely 3 gals today. I am getting lots of lettuce and spinach now from the garden. Children and grandchildren are here and they are helping to eat the harvest. Today granddaugter Shireen, age 5, helped in the barn at morning and evening milking time. Even tiny Roshan, age 3, went up the ladder to the loft, closely supervised. We found a nest with 10 eggs. The children are also helping to pick the currants.
July 14, Saturday: All the animals were happy today. There were some brief showers but mostly the sun shone and the temperature did not go above 65 F with a light breeze. My California visitors marvel at the many shades of green. Helen gave 3 gals + a quart. Granddaughter Shireen and I found 18 eggs. It was a lovely day. We notice that the sheep choose to graze quite close to the cows most of the time. Sometimes Leah and Wilbur, the heifer and steer, chase them a bit.
July 15, Sunday: Last winter I bought a tractor and bushhog attachment from a neighbor. It is the same equipment which has been used for several years on my fields. Today, son Max, who is visiting here this month (together with his family) made a start on my fields. He did the section most visible from the kitchen window, so it looks a lot better already. After bushhogging, cattle will eat the cut grass which they ignored while it was standing. But, the main thing I saw them showing an interest in today was a low spot in the fence near the vegetable garden. After supper Max and I propped it up with a metal pole. Helen gave about 3 gals plus a quart today.
July 16, Monday: Helen was exceptionally well behaved today. She was nearby when it was time to come in and was very cooperative. She gave about the same as yesterday, 3 gals plus a quart. I have lost one of my milk customers because they don't like the flavor of summer milk. I guess people have come to expect total standardization in food and are offended by changes in flavor. I read somewhere that bottle fed babies whose food never has any variations in flavor grow up tending to want food that always tastes the same. Mother's milk tastes different according to what she is eating, so breastfed babies are more accepting of varying flavors. Perhaps this is true. Max got in a couple more hours of bushhogging this morning before we got a new round of showers.
July 17, Tuesday: We had three or four more inches of rain today. It came down in buckets. As on other recent days, it is intermittent. Between showers the sun comes out and everything seems greener than ever. Son Max was able to do two more hours of bushhogging. The equipment is able to cut wet grass, to my surprise. Helen gave a bit less than 3.5 gals. of milk. I got 15 eggs.
July 18, Wednesday: An entire day without rain, cause for celebration. Son Max continues bushhogging and has about 4 more hours to do on the home fields. Then he will start across the river. Granddaughter Shireen and I picked more red currants today and more spinach. It is bolting but I think I can get one more picking out of it. This morning I made very successful sour dough French bread using my San Francisco starter. I made two loaves and baked them on the floor of the hottest oven in my Aga. All this rain has made the plants grow. Especially the weeds. Some are now shoulder height to me and are like trees, but they are very easy to pull. Max repaired a fence today that the cows had pushed down some weeks ago to get into an area where we had planted an apple tree. It used to be a pig pen and is very lush. Amazingly, the cows did not notice the tree so it survived. The top was stripped last winter by the sheep walking around on the snow.
July 20, Friday: No rain yesterday or today, and up to about 70 F today. Helen gave just 3 gallons of milk today, perhaps because we had little visitors at both milkings. This makes her stamp around and lift her tail. The dogs go in an out all day trying to find a cool place. None of us likes the heat, even though we know it is nothing compared to elsewhere in the country, Bagel, the young dog, has secret cool nests behind certain large plants. The young folks went to the lake.
July 21 Saturday: Such perfect weather today. We had a large family cook-out this evening so I milked Helen at 3:30. She was perfectly cooperative but I got only 3 gals and a quart for the day. Son Max repaired the chicken run, so that at least the sheep and cattle cannot get in. The chickens have a standard sized door for access to their run with a small trap door at the bottom, which can also be used. I have been making them use the little door for several weeks, which means their room stays quite dark. This induces them to go to bed early. I have been getting fewer eggs and I think it might be because their day has been shortened by lack of light in there. Max also put the roosters outside the fence. We may have to increase the height of the chicken wire fence to keep them from getting back in. There are too many of them.
July 24, Tuesday: Son Max worked until mid afternoon on the chicken run setting new posts. It was brutally hot, in the 90's. I finally told him to stop. About that time Helen got into the veg garden by breaching the fence where there is a wire gate. The others did not notice how she got in and she was not there more than 15 minutes before I noticed her. I felt badly for removing her because she was enjoying a lovely patch of clover on the unmowed lawn and ignoring the broccoli. The last three days have been equally hot, so we welcomed a cloud burst at 6 PM. What a relief. But milk and egg production has suffered. Helen gave barely 3 gals today and I got only a dozen eggs. Neighbor Stewart gave me two half grown goslings. I have put them in a secure room in the barn until they learn to know me.
July 25, Wednesday: There was a violent windstorm last night, enough to frighten the dogs and cause them to come upstairs and push open my bedroom door. I found them both on my rug when I woke up. However, I saw no damage from the wind. Right after milking I went down in the River Pasture to pick up apples from the ancient tree in the middle of it. I wanted to get there before the cows. They check under it every day. Thanks to the wind I was able to fill a bucket. They are still immature and not yet edible but will yield good pectin for my currant jelly. Max worked much of yesterday and all of today rebuilding my chicken run so that not only will it hold chickens, but is proof against cows and sheep. They have been forcing their way in and eating the chicken food. Also, it is a very handsome rail fence.
July 26, Thursday: Such fine clear sunny weather today without excessive heat. I found my first ripe tomato, the small red kind. I ate it at once, full of warm sun. Granddaughter Shireen came along to get Helen for evening milking. We had to go quite some distance and she was lying down. As usual, she was reluctant to get moving. Bagel, my large young dog, came along to "help". Leah, the yearling heifer, turned and chased him a long distance. What with one thing and another Helen was quite nervous by the time I had her in her stanchion. Shireen wanted to try milking again so I put the kicker on Helen as she frightened Shireen last time by waving her foot around. Helen refused to let down at all, which I attributed to ill will. I had to send Shireen back to the house so I could try by myself. I then realized that she has mastitis in the quarter Shireen was trying to milk. That is by far her best quarter and there has been no problem with straining the milk nor any clots on the filter. However, that quarter never gets as soft as the others. Tonight there were numerous clots and what little milk I got refused to strain. I slathered that quarter with Phoenix salve and also about a half ounce of tea tree oil. There is no good reason I can think of for her to have mastitis. Sometimes there just does not seem to be an obvious cause.
July 27 Friday: Helen's hard quarter was a whole lot better this morning. But there were terrible clots in it, which I could feel inside her teat. They were too big to squeeze out. I broke them up by pinching her teat and milked onto the floor. It was disgusting. But the quarter which was rock hard last night was all soft. I rubbed it with teat tree oil. This evening it seemed normal again and I saved the milk. I rubbed the quarter with the Phoenix salve, which is a follow up treatment. It was much cooler today and all the animals were happy. It felt so good to put on a sweater at dinner time.
July 29 Sunday: A bright clear morning, 50 F. At 6 AM all three cows were hanging around near the barn. By 7 AM when I customarily milk they had all gone down to Pocket Field, the farthest point they can get. I could see them grazing with deer. I watched for a couple of minutes using the field glasses. Rather than hollering for them, I walked down there to fetch them. It takes a lot of hollering to bring in the cows but the sheep never fail to respond, always hoping it is them I want. Son Max finished bushhogging that field yesterday and it looks good. I rescued a clump of black eyed susans felled by the mowing. Today makes 21 days since Helen was in heat but I saw no signs of it this morning. Genex, the artificial insemination company I have been using for over two decades, has dropped Western Maine due to the drastic decline in dairying. I have spoken to a local man who now does it as a side line using Genex sperm.
I have two half grown geese given me by a neighbor. They have been confined indoors for several days to get used to their new home. Saturday I gave them the freedom of the lawn but already this morning they were making it clear they would like to spend their time right by the house where they could be more sociable. This morning I put them in a big outdoor pen used last year by my geese. Geese are messier than chickens and not only eat plants but plop down on then and mash them flat. At supper time here at the farm we were interrupted by Wilbur, the steer, galumphing around outside the window and looking at us. Max put him back in the north field and drove all of them over that side. Tomorrow I will have to do some fencing.
July 30, Monday: I found the place that Wilbur got into the garden. The only damage I noticed was where he stepped in the middle of a Buttercrunch lettuce and destroyed it. I did a feeble fence repair. Later granddaughter Shireen, looking from the kitchen window, said "Wilbur is looking at the fence and thinking about jumping!" Indeed he was, and Max ran down and did a better repair. It was just dusk, and a sleeping bee stung him. He is allergic to bee stings. I gave him Benadryl and a glass of water with about 5 grams of vitamin C dissolved in it. He developed symptoms of a tight chest for a little while but then that passed and he got drowsy and has gone to bed. I picked more red currants today, also made applesauce of the green apples I picked up last week. I canned three pints and have two quarts for fresh eating. It was excellent. One rooster who has been living by himself in the copse near the driveway was killed today by a hit and run driver. Some departing guests found him and he was still warm. He had been hit in the head and I think did not suffer. I considered plucking him and dressing him off until I discovered a compound fracture of one leg. Then I decided it wasn't worth it. Helen gave a bit over 3 gals today and I got 17 eggs. Still no signs of heat. Surely it must be tomorrow.
July 31, Tuesday: Helen has disappointed me by not coming in heat at least visibly. Leah the heifer was in heat today and did not make a secret of it. Helen gave 3 gallons today. I got only 9 eggs. I was gone all day and undoubtedly some were cannibalized. This morning I found scat in the barn which I could not identify. It was the size one would expect from a small dog such as a Jack Russell and it smelled doggy. The hen room is tight but other than that the barn is easy to get in and out of for small animals.
August 1, Wednesday: It got pretty hot this afternoon but was a really beautiful perfect summer day. The trees by the river look huge and green and under their dark shade Helen, Leah and Wilbur spent much of their day. I kept running out to catch a glimpse of them hoping for signs of heat in Helen, but there were none. My old, old crabapple tree had triple the number of apples this year, perhaps making up for two years with none. They were hanging in a great green shawl until today when the largest branch gave way. If only I had taken a picture of them. I don't expect to see such a display of little green apples again in my lifetime. For the last two years poor weather prevented pollination. In '99 it was too cold for honeybees to work and in 2000 it rained incessantly. As a temporary expedient I have put my two young geese in the chicken yard so they don't have to be locked indoors until I can get at better fencing on their own pen. I tried them in it their own pen other day and they got out and son Max found them marching down the road, back to their parents no doubt. My chicken yard has a board ramp for birds to go in an out but the geese show no signs of mastering this. Now before locking up at night I have to go capture them, one under each arm, and put them inside. They feel just like pillows. Helen gave 3 gals today.
August 2, Thursday: First thing this morning was misty moisty and I could neither see nor hear the cows so had to go searching. This was a pleasant task at that time of day. This evening once again they were far away and would not respond to calling. Granddaughter Shireen (age 5) went after them and it was hot sticky work as the temperature had climbed to 90 F. Helen, at last, is in heat which did not improve her cooperativeness. Nonetheless Shireen wanted to try milking and managed to get a few squirts. By that time Helen was pretty edgy and I finished milking by myself. I let Helen out of her stanchion after milking but left her wandering around in the barn just in case my new AI man is disposed to come this evening. This is always assuming he even got my call. A little kid answered his phone. Helen gave 1.75 gals this morning but only 2 quarts this evening. She has not gotten used to little helpers. Shireen is getting more skilled at milking each time though. There were 11 eggs.
August 3, Friday: At 5:30 AM when I let out the chickens the cattle were next to the barn. When I went out with my bucket after having a cup of tea they were nowhere to be found. It was already 75F so I was not pleased to have to go looking for them and might have waited for them to show up when they were ready had not the AI man been expected. I could not even hear a bell as I took a racing walk around the entire periphery of the fields. This takes a good half hour. Once in a while I could faintly hear a bell but could not tell from which direction it was coming. Then I returned to the house and called son Max at camp to come and help me before setting out on a second circuit. I surmised that they must be hiding behind some bushes that I had missed. By this time I was definitely not having fun. At one point where I cut around the fence where it ends at the river bank I lost my footing and fell down about 8' feet first. Bagel dog peered over the edge speculatively like, "Are you having fun down there or should I be worried?" I hauled myself back up holding to roots and saplings. I did not slide down as far as the river which in any case is low right now, not more than two feet deep, but this detour wiped out the last of my patience. When finally I got back to the house I had been walking for an hour and was pouring sweat and there came the AI man. When I spoke to tell him my cow was missing I totally lost it. Through sobs I begged him not to leave. He was very nice and went off to look for Helen himself. His wife had come with him. She seemed to find me a bit embarrassing for which I can't blame her. The AI man was not hampered by monaural hearing and it took him only about 15 minutes to find the cattle bedded down in a swampy area where I had in fact been twice. By this time Max had arrived and soon Helen was in her stanchion. The technician, Phil Miess, said so far as he could tell she was still fertile. I sure hope she settles. When I finally got around to milking she only gave a gallon and a quart but this evening she made up for it with 2 gallons. I got 11 eggs today. The bull's name is Zukar.
August 4, Saturday: Another stifling hot day. Sons Mark, Martin and Max and myself loaded about 375 bales of hay into the barn today. I don't have a hay elevator so the boys took turns throwing the bales up from a flatbed trailer. I was the person standing in the upstairs door grabbing them and moving them back to Max who did all the stacking. This is not top quality hay but I only paid $1.75/bale. It is last year's and the owner wanted it out of his barn. I will order 50 bales of choice for Helen. Helen has been limping a lot. I think, and hope, it is just overgrown toenails. The spring line separated again today and the boys repaired it, but it needs some new parts. I think it may have already fallen apart again.
August 5, Sunday: The spring line did separate again. We bought some new fittings and Max and I went down and repaired it. I think this time it will last longer. I do miss my spring water when it quits! Max is going to cycle down the seven miles from camp early tomorrow so he can get some bush hogging done before we make him babysit. His wife Mitra and I are going shopping tomorrow. It was terribly hot again today. I milked late this morning due to my having a migraine headache. Then this evening Helen was nowhere in sight and I skipped milking and went up to the lake. But I was back by nine to lock up the poultry. During our walk to the spring today I saw two places where chickens had been eaten by some predator. I assume it is the young bantam hens as some are missing, as are two pullets.
August 8, Wednesday: We have just had three more days in the 90's. We are all wilted. Son Max finished bushhogging the Oxbow field today across the river. He managed it by taking a dip every time the tractor came around by the river. He said it was very interesting while he was mowing to observe the behavior of the field mice. They scattered before the oncoming tractor. A hawk, which he did not identify came stooping down repeatedly to grab the mice. Max was mowing in a decreasing circle. When the remaining patch got very small it was full of mice. When they got too crowded they scattered in all directions. Helen has just about stopped limping. As I hoped, it was caused by overly long toenails and now her front hooves have chipped off down to a proper short length. The back hooves remain too long, but bother her less. She continues to give about three gallons a day. I am pretty sure she has settled, although I can't say for sure why I think this.
August 9, Thursday: Hot again today, still in the 90's. The flies still are not bad in the barn. Only two or three at milking. But, there are plenty of face flies in the pasture and they are beginning to bother all three cattle. Helen gave a bit over three gallons again today and there were ten eggs. All the fields look lovely now that they are bushhogged.. I ran hoses on the garden today, but a lot of things are drying up. The heat is discouraging everything except the zucchini.
August 10, Friday: We got a brief shower today with a thunder storm and then the sun came back out. It did not reach 90 F today I think, but felt if anything hotter as now the humidity is even higher. I am going out this evening and almost decided to skip milking but am glad I did not. Helen had a very hard quarter, the same one that was in trouble two weeks ago. I slathered it with ointment and am hoping for the best. Because that quarter milked poorly I got only 2.5 gals today. Ten eggs.
Heifer Diary insert by son Max.
Mom missed a couple of days on the diary because of a busy schedule and exhausting hot weather. It doesn't cool down at night much when it gets that hot and humid. Even with fans blasting all night the bedrooms are hot and sticky. A good nights sleep is elusive under these conditions. I'm told Maine usually has about two weeks of brutally hot weather to balance out the extremes of the winter months.
Our month long visit from California has come to it's end. We are back at our place in the San Francisco Bay Area now. We had been dividing our time between the farm and the lake, trying to get a lot of work done and still have fun. Our two daughters, ages two and five, had a grand time with the country life. What a great place to be a kid Maine is. Pretty nice for grown-ups too. The kids have developed dark tans and a healthy glow from the fresh milk, eggs and vegetables. They also loved all the animals. Especially Mom's two dogs, Muffin and Bagel, who seemed to enjoy all the attention.
Maine has a vivid green intensity that comes with having about five month's time for growth and regeneration before the killing frost of winter returns. The seasons are much more pronounced than in California. There are also much fewer people and a general sense of calm and well being. California is a bustling place where the slow drivers only go 70 mph. Don't get me wrong. I love California. But, I think I love Maine more.
I had grand designs of major fence revamping while I was at the farm. But, besides figuring out that it is a nearly impossible task to undertake single-handedly, there were many other pressing tasks which demanded my attention. I got a lot accomplished, but only a relatively small amount of fencing. Mom's steer, Wilbur, likes to make a sport of fence busting and gets all saucy when made to return to the pasture. It's not as though he doesn't have plenty of green grass to eat, he just does it for the fun of it all. One can't help but think about fine steaks when dinner is interrupted by Wilbur cavorting through the garden.
The biggest thing I got done was to bush hog the fields, which needed it badly. The milkweed was very thick, and the Alders were doing their best to reclaim the open field. The Oxbow field across the river was particularly heavy as it had lapsed for two years without being mowed. One more year of unchecked growth and it would have required heavier equipment than Coburn Farm's old John Deer to clear. It took many hours of tractor wrestling, but all the fields look remarkably better. It's been a long time since I drove a tractor.
We all had fun. I miss being at Coburn Farm. It is so very peaceful and green there. My sister Sally says you have to kiss the old wooden door post as you leave. This means you are coming back.
August 11, Saturday: It did not get quite so hot today, only 85 F. The humidity is lower too. Helen's production has dropped. Only 2.75 gals today. Her quarter which was hard last Wednesday has softened up and is giving no trouble, but the production loss appears to be in that quarter. I got 14 eggs today. I am having trouble keeping up with things in the garden, but the zucchinis are growing like mad without any help from me. I also have beans ready to pick.
August 12, Sunday: Helen was back up to 3 gals today but there are still some flecks on the milk filter. I slathered her with medicated udder cream and tea tree oil. Helen loves pea pods. I was given some peas and when she knows she is going to get pea pods she trots right along. Otherwise, she tends to be extremely slow or just stand there meditating. She absolutely does not understand "Hurry up" unless there is a bribe. Only 11 eggs today. But, the weather was perfect. I did not get out much as I was busy in the kitchen making jam, butter and bread.
August 13, Monday: I got my first picking of beans today. We had them for dinner and they were excellent. I think the high was about 75 F today, pretty nice except when working in the garden, which was still hot. On the way down from camp after dinner I nearly hit a moose calf. It and its mother were running along the road parallel with traffic. If it had swerved at all or if I had seen it an instant later we would have collided. As it was I missed it by less than a foot. Helen gave slightly under three gallons today.
August 14, Tuesday: A beautiful day today on the farm, temperature about 75 with occasional clouds. Tonight the sky is clear with many stars. It is supposed to cool down into the 40's tonight. I am hoping to cool the cellar down. It is now 65 F. It is rarely that warm, but the prolonged hot spell warmed it up. Granddaughter Rosie and her new husband Nate have offered to butcher a sheep tomorrow and I hope to get the cellar cool enough so we can hang it a few days. Daughter Sally who owns the sheep wants them to butcher the ram now before breeding season because she does not wish to increase the flock beyond its current manageable number, which, after tomorrow will be eight sheep. Rosie and Nate picked a 5 gallon bucket of my wild Golden Delicious (type) apples today and another bucket of crab apples. Helen gave a bit over 3 gals today. I got 14 eggs thanks to finding a nest in the new hay. The chicks of a little bantam hen which I have been watching on a nest on a shelf began hatching today. Two are hatched, one to go.
August 15 Wednesday We butchered the ram, Dave today. He was about 18 months old. I had expected that Nate would be able to shoot him behind the ear while he was happily munching his grain. But no, he was deeply suspicious. He and all the other sheep retreated into their run-in under the buttery. We pondered long and hard how to catch him. I do not own a shepard's crook and he was a large ram with big horns weighing over 150 pounds. It does not do to shoot a ram between the eyes and a heart shot would spoil a lot of meat. Anyway, all Nate had was a .22. At length we decided to block the entrance to the run-in with a long ladder and a step ladder in such a way that only about a 3' wide gap was available for them to leap up and over about 3' off the ground. I went in among the sheep and moved them around until they decided to race for it out the gap in the ladders. As the ram flew through the gap Nate caught him by the horns, a feat requiring great accuracy and speed, not to mention determination. The ram was so strong that Nate could barely hold him but he says he wrestled in high school which helped. Rosie and I together sat on him after Nate got his head down. There could be no question of shooting him then. Not only could we women not have held him down, It was not a situation for shooting. Nate had to kill him the old fashioned way by cutting his throat. I had anticipated this possibility and had the knife handy. The three of us managed to haul him uphill into the garage using a rope and all of us pushing and lifting him about 5 feet up. Then Nate fixed his hind legs to the spreader bar and hoisted the carcass by running the rope over a ring he had placed in a rafter and tying the other end to the bumper of the van and backing up. Nate and Rosie then sheared the ram and got a pretty good black fleece for this time of year. I went off to town then to do errands and when I returned they had skinned the carcass, eviscerated it, and hung it in the cool cellar. They did a beautiful job. The ram was very fat on grass (I rarely give the sheep any grain). The carcass weighs over 100 lbs, maybe 120. Helen gave 3 gallons today. I got 11 eggs.
August 16, Thursday: The little bantam hen hatched only two chicks. I put them in a chicken coop until this morning to protect them. This morning they seemed vigorous and obedient to their mother so I let them out, but they are locked in a skunk proof stall for the night. Actually, the principle hazard to chicks is falling down cracks in the barn floor or hopping into a tub of water and drowning. If they make it past the first week they tend to survive. The cats do not bother them. The sheep were very upset this morning and clustered around me bleating for a long time. They are leaderless for the time being. Today got up to 80 F. We have had no rain for weeks. Nate found a very pretty dead kitten today which looked to be 5 or 6 weeks olds. I have two cats which I know had kittens recently and I have seen neither for a few days. Perhaps something got one mother and the kitten starved. But, it was right in the garage and I never heard it cry, poor little thing.
August 17, Friday: We are cutting the meat up tonight. The cellar is staying about 65 F and the humidity is high so we dare not hang it longer. There has been a light drizzle all day, great for the garden but bad for the meat. We had a light supper of vegetable soup so as not to get so full that we cannot work. Helen gave a little over three gallons. Only nine eggs.
August 18, Saturday: Today was a lovely day except I forgot to watch Victory Garden, my favorite program. I got considerable weeding done. I saved my okra plants just in time I think. I planted red okra from seed. I have never grown it before with any success, but it has been so hot this summer that the okra probably thinks it is in South Carolina. So far each plant just has one 4" pod, but they look good. The tomatoes are beginning to come on. I did not have time to pick beans, but I need to. Besides climbing Tumbledown early this morning (about a one hour climb for a strong walker), granddaughter Rosemary and her husband Nate did some more chain sawing and lawn mowing. They also made applesauce for canning. Helen gave a little under 3 gallons and I got 13 eggs.
August 19, Sunday: Helen gave only about 2.75 gals today. She did not let down well this evening. I put Thuja zinc ointment on her troubled quarter.
August 20, Monday: It was cooler today and we got a few sprinkles. Helen's production is still down. She gave barely 3 gals and I got 13 eggs. A bantam hen I have been checking daily up in the hay loft began hatching today. This evening two out of five eggs were hatched. Tomorrow I will bring her down and put her in the "nursery stall" with the hen with two chicks that hatched last week. They are doing well. But, the hen never wants to take them outside. Consequently, I have to keep bringing them water so the chicks don't dry up. I think this is her first clutch. Granddaughter Rosemary and her new husband Nate cut down another dead tree today. They cut, split and stacked it in the garage for winter firewood. It looks like very good quality wood. They also hung new chicken wire in the pen where the geese will live. Rosemary has canned about 2 dozen quarts of applesauce and a dozen pints. When I went out to close up the chickens there was a big skunk in the chicken run. He scuttled under the barn when he saw me. I must remember to block the hole with a rock.
August 21, Tuesday: About noon Nate and I brought the hen downstairs. Yesterday she had two yellow chicks but today one of them was dead. Maybe it had to go too long without water. It is still very hot. Anyway, she has two new ones that are all black. She is now well established in the nursury with the other hen. One rooster wanted to be in with them, so I let him stay. Perhaps he is her mate, I have not paid attention to which rooster has been visiting her. These semi wild birds pair up and when the hen sets he hangs around a lot. Helen gave a little under 3 gals today. I got 13 eggs.
August 22, Wednesday: I had to leave the house at 5AM to get Rosie and Nate to the bus for the first leg of their return flight to Alaska. As a result, I was not back to milk Helen until 8AM. She and Leah and Wilbur were down in Pocket Field and all my calling was to no avail. When I walked down there she went into the woods instead of coming up to the barn. I guess she was telling me what she thought of late milking. Once I got her in she was resistant to letting down. Nor did she make it up with this evening's milk. I got only 2.5 gallons today. But, I got 15 eggs. In addition, I found a nest with six. I took them all and replaced them with three fakes. The two families of hens and chicks appear to be doing fine. The hen with the older two brought them out today, but I herded them back into their stall when the sun got low. There is still that big skunk hanging around.
August 23, Thursday: It was a beautiful day, but still warmer than comfortable. Helen gave 3 gallons of milk. But I got only 9 eggs. The hens and chicks are moving their families around a lot now, but still put them to bed in the stall so I could close them in safely./
August 24, Friday: Eggs were up today. I got twenty. I put fresh hay in the nests and sprinkled diatomaceous earth on several birds which are missing feathers. I don't see any signs of mites aside from the missing feathers, but the treatment can't hurt. I think their bare spots are mostly due to excessive attention from roosters. Some of the hens were doing a lot of cowering in corners, so perhaps they are coming out now and eating and laying more. I also caught three hens who usually roam free and put them in with the other layers. Two got away the next morning, but one is still in. I found where they got out have the two escapees trapped again in a box stall. I will put them back with the layers after dark. Rosie and Nate dressed off three chickens about two weeks ago, which now reside in the freezer. I am pretty sure Helen is pregnant. Today is three weeks from the day she was bred and there was no sign of heat. Her milk production is definitely down. Only 2.75 gallons today.
August 25, Saturday: Another perfect day and no signs of heat from Helen. I am now quite confident AI took. Milk production today fell just a little short of 3 gallons. Actually, not too bad for the 14th month of lactation and three weeks pregnant. Only ten eggs though. One of the two free living hens got away again but I have recaptured her. This time I will cut a pinion feather before putting her back in among the layers. I moved the geese today to their own pen. Neighbor Stewart, who has kept geese for several years, doubts a racoon or fox will take them. I sure hope he is right. They will be much better off in their own pen. I am getting lots of delicious ripe tomatoes now. There are yellow pear, some kind of cherry, yellow Italian paste type (I don't remember planting these) and Brandywine which is pinkish red and of outstanding flavor.
August 26, Sunday: Just before milking time some gusty wind came up, so as soon as I let Helen back out I went down into the pasture with a bucket to see if the wind had brought down any apples. Helen too, is wise in the ways of wind and apple trees and she beat me down there and was standing under the tree. But, none were on the ground. I suppose if there were any she had already eaten them. So, as my last task of the daylight hours I went back for my apple picking pole, figuring to pluck a few out of the tree. But this proved impossible. As soon as I reached up with my pole, a two handed task, Helen had her head in the bucket swiping apples. I had to admit defeat. I think I came in with seven apples. Helen gave 2.75 gallons again today and I got 15 eggs,
August 27, Monday: Helen gave 2.75 gals and I got 11 eggs./
August 28, Tuesday: So much for my powers of intuition. Helen did not settle. This morning she gave only one gallon of milk, down two quarts at least. And as soon as I let her out a lot of mounting activity occurred. It was hard to be sure whether it was Leah or Helen who was in heat. It was not the right day for either one. I watched them frequently with the field glasses until it became unmistakable: it was Helen. So, I went in and called the inseminator, the same poor guy that had such an adventure last month finding my cow for me. He was here by 12 noon anad this time I had her in her stanchion. He said she was good an ready, but he said that last time. I chose the same bull again, a Jersey named Zukor. Helen's production was back up this evening, total 2.75 gals today and 16 eggs.
August 29, Wednesday: A small miracle greeted me this morning in the chicken yard. When I let out the chickens I found a Black Australorp hen already outside sitting alone. When I poured out the scraps she stood up and there was one new baby chick. How she could have escaped attention for 21 days anywhere in the chicken run is mysterious. The cover out there is not good and there have been two big fencing operations too, not to mention the skunks. I took them their own little portion of food. Then, this evening after dark I scooped them up and moved them to the nursery stall. The bantam with the slightly older chicks tried to have them roost upstairs in the hay mow tonight. She led them up the ladder which they achieved in little hops. But then she flew to the rafters which was well beyond their abilities. Later I saw she had relented and had the chicks under her wings in the nursery stall. I closed them all in for the night. Helen gave 3 gals today and I got 11 eggs.
August 30, Thursday: Helen gave 2.75 gals of milk today and I got 14 eggs. I am dejected because when I went to close up the hen and chick nursery, none were in there. I had left the front door of the barn open so Bagel dog could have walked right in and scattered them if he chose.
August 31 Friday This morning I began teaching Leah, 14 month old heifer, to come in with Helen. She needs to learn quietly so that when she gets bred she will already be used to being tied up. It took a while but I coaxed her in and she ate some grain very quietly. Helen was not at all disturbed by her presence. But no hens and chicks were to be seen and I felt very depressed. Then when I checked again at 10:30 AM all three sets were out back in the barnyard with the babies. They had all sat down for the night outside. This evening the hen with the two week old chicks got them up the ladder to the hay floor. Then, got one of them up higher to the lintel above the big door. When I left the barn the other one was still hopping around trying to get up the courage to flutter up higher. Helen did not let down well this evening. It took a long time for me to coax Leah in, during which time Helen finished her grain and began to worry. When I finally got Leah in she stood quietly after eating her grain just as though she were tied. Still, I got less than 1 gal tonight and a lot of milk remained behind. I got 13 eggs. There may have been more eggs upstairs. I usually look, but did not want to frighten the chick that was jumping up and down and peeping.
September 1, Saturday: All three hens made it through last night once again. The black layer with the single yellow chick did not come inside last night, so was out in the rain. I tried bringing her in to dry off, but when I picked her up her chick jumped out from under her wing, so she got all upset and I set her back down. I took her a handful of feed and they ate that right up. This evening I sat down and watched the bantam who is teaching her chicks to flutter into the rafters. She flies up onto the lintel over the barn door and clucks for them They make it to the top rung of the ladder, then up onto the ladder end post where they wobble like swimmers getting up nerve to dive off the high board. Both chicks managed the four foot flight to a higher point after less than five minutes of peeping and dithering. Then, they got right under mama's wings. They are not bantam chicks, they are big yellow ones. I set layer eggs under her while she was broody. So, it is surprising to me they fly as well as they do. I brought Leah, the heifer, in again this morning to eat grain next to Helen at milking time. She was hesitant, but finally I got her out the field gate and through the barn door without either of us doing much running. This evening she seemed to suddenly remember the new plan and jumped in the air bucking as she ran through the gate and trotted right into the barn and found her place. Then, she stood there the entire time I milked. I got nearly 3 gals today, and 15 eggs.