HEIFER DIARY 2006
January 1, 2006 New Year's Day Sunday
I was not planning to stay up to see the New Year in but it was 10 minutes to midnight when I got through washing bottles, so I stayed by the radio. I feel like I did not get nearly enough done in 2005.
The cows were still antsy this morning. Helen whapped me with her nasty tail. It was not wet, just crusty. I tied it up with baling string after which she settled down. But even Jasmine seemed irritable. She lifted her off hind foot. I said a firm "No" and there were no further shenanigans until I turned them out. Then there was a cow fight between Emily and Jasmine. Jasmine gave Emily a thorough drubbing.
I am trying to get the house cleaned up. The furnace smoke has made a scum on all the mirrors and pictures. Of course the walls and mouldings are also bad, but they will have to wait, probably 'til Doomsday.
Today I got along slightly better with my milk flood. I got pro-active and skimmed six gallons. I set the cream for churning, put some skim into plastic gallon jugs in the buttery to freeze up for a later time. The buttery is a pretty good deep freeze, I just set things on the table and they freeze. Then I poured the rest of the skim into a 5 gallon bucket which I set to clabber for cottage cheese or chickens. All this so as to make room in the fridge for another six gallons tomorrow. I also made butter. The refrigerator is crammed with yogurt, cottage cheese, crème fraiche and kefir along with the usual cream and butter. I was looking today at a very old cookbook, "Cooking With Cream" written by a Wisconsin farmers wife. It contains 120 recipes. If I had any time I would get cookin'.
January 2, 2006 Monday
Jasmine's heat continues. She put on a major show today that even involved Helen. I stayed way out of the way of three revolving cows.
It is so hard to keep their premises even reasonably clean. I went out today on errands, first time since December 22, and bought shavings. When I spread them, Jasmine was ecstatic. She put her face down in them and sprawled around.
There is now some hope I can get Jasmine bred on her next heat. Sally L gave me some straws which are at a farm in MA. I have spoken with the Maine Genex coordinator and he will pick them up and bring them to my technician, hopefully in time although he would not promise.
The dairy farmer where I buy bob calves called today. He has one for me. Now to figure out how to get it here.
January 4, 2006 Thursday
The shavings are making a big difference in my happiness. The poops are a lot easier to carry out and both cows were cleaner this morning. I raced into town and bought three more bales to have ready.
I had more energy today. Maybe it was a "steak high", something that many have reported. I had a package with one steak and cooked it for myself last night, not the sort of thing I often do. On the other hand it might be because Sally is coming so soon. I know she will be a big help in dealing with the milk flood. We now have it worked out that Max will pick her up with his van and they will stop for the calf on the way here.
I have not done much to get ready for her except for vacuuming her room. I remembered how she hates ladybugs ever since last year when one climbed into her ear and about drove her crazy. Clusters of them have been over wintering in there above the windows.
Tonight while milking the pulsator suddenly stopped for no good reason. The vacuum seemed to have failed again. After banging things around a bit it started up. Poor Helen was streaming milk and wondering what was wrong.
After I let the cows out Helen and Jasmine had a head banging fight. Helen stood her ground as she pushed on Jasmine's head, but Jasmine was hopping mad and was literally jumping up and down. I finally got tired of watching and got busy with my fork, but it appeared to be a stand-off. Afterwards I saw Jasmine race over and give Emily a good bump. I gave them one of my best bales for lunch. Maybe they had a "hay high".
Last night I soaked ww flour to make biscuits according the Kendra's recipe, but then I decided to add yeast. This morning I made it into a couple of very nice loaves of bread.
January 6, 2006 Friday
I forgot to mention a horrible thing that happened yesterday morning. My barn water tap was frozen. I had forgotten to plug in the heating pad that I keep draped over it, although it was not a cold night. I am surprised it froze. I defrosted it with a hair dryer. As soon as it was thawed it began shooting a great geyser of water. The brass casting was split like an over boiled weenie. Only a small portion of the stream was going through the hose that fills the tank and I had to just let it spray all over everything until the tank was filled. Later I went down and bought what I hoped was the correct new brass fitting with a lever. Martin says they are all now made in China to a low standard.
Last evening there were many distraught calls from Sally. She was at Logan Airport and unable to find the minibus transport on which she had a reservation for Portland. The minibus was calling me but I was little help. She does not have a cell phone. Finally, the shuttle left without her but continued calling from the road until it got sorted out that she would take a big Trailways bus. It was all so upsetting at the end of a long flight, but she finally made it to Portland where Mark met her and took her to his place. This morning Max picked her up and they drove to the dairy farm and picked up the little bull calf, now a week old and well fed on colostrums. They reached here about 3pm. The calf has a lot of white on him and is lively as can be. I had Sally give the farmer $50 although he only asked $15. But he kept it a whole week for us and the little things are so precious. We introduced the calf to Helen and Jasmine this evening, but did not push the relationship. They all were friendly.
Sally looks good. Her hair is still shiny black. She has already made two batches of butter.
She and Max fixed up the calf, still nameless, in a cozy room with a heat lamp. He has had 3 quarts of colostrums in two feeds now.
Max repaired the frozen, broken faucet using the part I bought. What a relief.
I got a present from my John in Australia: an alarm clock that goes "Moo".
We got about 4 inches of snow yesterday.
January 7, 2006 Saturday
Today's weather: bright and cold, around 17F Sally named the calf Fred. He is a totally bouncy, leaping and running little fellow with tiny twinkling feet. She had him spend some time today with the cows and this evening when Jasmine was in her stanchion and already letting down we brought him in to try sucking. Before he could begin to get the hang of it Jasmine had kicked him three times. She is mannerly with the machine but did not fancy Fred at all. Helen seemed disappointed not to be given a chance and was doing her calf moo. I guess we will let Helen and Fred have a go in the morning although from a management standpoint it would suit me a lot better to have him on Jasmine. Sally fed Fred the last pint of colostrums and hand milked some of Helen's milk for him. So far we have been a bit skimpy with his feed but if tomorrow he still shows no intestinal problems we will increase his milk a bit. I think today he got barely a gallon. His back end is clean. I don't know what he weighs but he is small. He has broken color, fawn and white with nearly half being white.
Sally made more butter today and started a batch of feta. I made cottage cheese according to a method on my forum that involves no heating of the curd, just cold water washing. It turned out very well. It is now in the fridge on paper towels as recommended. Max and Mitra and family will be here tomorrow. I will see how they like it. I plan to feed them one of Rafe's salmon which he caught from the Chilcoot River that runs by their house in AK.
January 8, 2006 Sunday
The thermometer was down to 6F this morning. This is getting pretty nippy. However, things take a bit less time in the barn now with Sally racing around. We put Fred on Helen this morning. I don't know if he ever spent time with his mom, but he did not take long to master sucking direct from the cow. Helen is perfectly cooperative except when he butts her. He butts often. Sally gave him a midday bottle, then we put him with Helen again this evening with the same results. Helen did some more kicking but caused no injuries. The way he butts you can't blame her.
Max and Mitra and the girls came for a late lunch. We served one of the salmon that Rafe caught. He brought it here frozen. It was very good of course. I also served a vegetable medly with some of my rutabaga and a beautiful golden colored cauliflower. Mitra made on of her famous salads and we also had brown rice. Before lunch Max whipped up a couple of excellent tarts, one apple, and one blueberry. We also had some nice organic wine given me by Mark called Our Daily Red.
Mitra liked the cottage cheese made by the method I recently learned.
January 9, 2006 Monday
When we came downstairs this morning the door was wide open and it was 41F in the kitchen (It was 6F outdoors).When Rafe was here he repaired a big draught around the kitchen door with insulation tape. Now the door has to be slammed to reliably latch. Obviously, last night I did not slam it. I hope I do not make this mistake very often.
The pulsator refused to work this morning. Also, the vacuum pressure was way down on the pump, I suppose because it was snowing. I had to milk using the old finger flipping trick. Such a nuisance. This evening I oiled the pulsator and also turned the vacuum pressure way up. One or the other or the combination cured the problem.
It snowed for much of the day and traffic was creeping, so I did not go to town. Sally and Bagel took a walk around the fields. I stayed home. My gimpy hip joint is noticeably better, but not ready to plow through snow. I discovered that if I toe out it is better.
Helen is not so sure she likes Fred. She hung around outdoors this evening, obviously to make a point. This morning I had to put the kicker on her to permit him to suck and did the same this evening. Sally thinks she may decide to just bottle feed him. I have no doubt I could use Midge's method with success on one or the other of the cows, but maybe bottle feeding will be easier all around.
January 10, 2006 Tuesday
We put Fred back on Helen this morning, but I had to use the kicker. Later Sally said this was making her back awfully tired and she said she would just as soon use the bottle. Of course, Helen did not know this. When I opened the door to let the cows in this evening none were to be seen. I found Jasmine alone in the barnyard standing in the dark. When she saw me she came bolting in. I had to jump out of her way she was so anxious to get to her dinner. But where was Helen? She was standing way out in the snowy pasture with Emily at her side. Clearly, she was making a point about Fred. While I got the machine on Jasmine, Sally spent five minutes coaxing her back in with grain. When she perceived it was a Fred-free zone she settled right in with perfect manners. Sally gave Fred his bottle.
Sally and I stopped over at her little house. Everything was in good order. In the middle of the floor there is a great heap of business-like innards to Rafe's boat: cables, galley, head, sails and more. The rain and snow melt swollen river was racing past.
January 11, 2006 Wednesday
Sally and I had planned a trip to Farmington today but cancelled due to a forecast for freezing rain. 9pm now and still no rain or snow, so we might as well have gone. Sally made more feta and churned butter. I got a lot of mailing done.
Sally and Bagel walked around the fields. My hip is a lot better. I can now stand on my left foot. But I am not quite ready for a walk.
This evening when I put the machine on Jasmine she kicked at it. She has never done that before. I tried again and she kicked again. She finally got me to understand I was putting the cup that belonged on her rear teat onto the front. She knew and didn't like it. What a princess.
Fred spends time each day playing in the beefer pen among the cows. He runs in mad circles around the room. The cows show no signs of being mean to Fred and Emily would like to play.
Sally and I cooked the meat for a terrine. We used beef neck meat, beef tongue and tail and a pig's trotter. These simmered all afternoon with interesting herbs and spices including some of the bay leaves that her daughter Rosemary brought last year from Croatia. The stock is fantastic. She has chopped the meat up small and will cover it with the jellied stock. I have a handsome oval French terrine given me by my daughter Marcia.
January 12, 2006 Thursday
Our jellied terrine is delicious. We ate some for dinner. Sally also made a sour cream date pie that is mighty tasty. The sour cream had been in the fridge just covered with plastic wrap for about a month. The top half inch was nasty but the remainder of the cream was perfect. If it had been in a tight jar I doubt it would have been much good.
We went to Farmington this morning and met Max. We took him three gallons of milk. Sally and I went to lunch at Homestead Restaurant. Max popped in and joined us at our table and finished off the leftovers. Sally went to the thrift shop and picked out a new wardrobe of plaid shirts. She also bought a nice print at a new gallery. It is a scene painted somewhere on the Maine coast.
I heard a disturbing report today of the visit by friends of mine to the pediatrician with their week old baby. The baby was crying a lot and the new parents were distraught because the little boy, breastfed entirely, had not had a bowel movement for three days. The baby had passed meconium properly. Nonetheless the pediatrician ordered an X-ray to see if it had a blockage. He also urged the mother to switch to formula. I am shocked that a doctor would order such an invasive measure on a newborn. I am also disgusted that a pediatrician would be ignorant of how normal it is for a breastfed baby to go several days without pooping. Breast milk is a low residue food and is often so completely absorbed that it takes days for volume to build up. I remember one of my babies going 10 days. To urge a switch to formula is deeply irresponsible. It is a recipe for turning the baby over to the medical profession; it becomes the possession of the doctor.
January 13, 2006 Friday
Sally mentioned today how good it was that her shoulders were not aching. Because her goats have been dry she has been without raw milk since she was last here nine months ago. She says it has been impossible to find a comfortable sleeping position. Now after just one week here during which she has been stuffing herself with every sort of raw milk product and many glasses of milk she announced as she leaned over the sink that she was free of pain. Raw milk is well known for overcoming the pain of stiff muscles.
We decided to try Fred in with the cows tonight. It is not a cold night and the cows seemed to be asking for him. Neither of them wants him to nurse but they clearly felt he belonged in with them. The outer door is closed so they are all confined to the barn. We left a little light shining down from the hay mow.
I fixed a couple of Max and Mitra's pork chops for dinner. I sautéed them with a little toasted sesame oil, then removed them to the warming oven and in the same pan sautéed apple slices, onion, and some of my homemade sauerkraut. This was excellent.
January 14, 2006 Saturday:
Little Fred got along just fine in with the others and it appeared to us that Helen had fed him. Tonight we were not so sure, so Sally took him a bottle. He is starting to copy the others and nibble hay. Emily likes him a lot.
Sally made a farm-style hard cheese today, the one from KFC. I made cottage cheese.
No other family members are visiting. It was above freezing and rained steadily all day, so there were no winter sports possible.
January 15, 2006 Sunday
It is a quiet indoor day for sure. It rained all day yesterday and pounded the snow into an ice sheet between the house and the barn. It rained more until much of the ice was gone, then during the night it changed to snow. It has snowed lightly most of today and there is a high wind from the NW. Great swirls of snow are to be seen when looking towards the barn. The chickens are comfortable without any added heat thanks to Max having lined their quarters with insulation. They are laying plenty of eggs, 7 to 11 a day.
16 January, 2006 Monday
Our thaw is officially over. It was down to 6F this evening.
So far as we can tell, Freddie has not been able to nurse Helen again, so he is having a bottle. I have little doubt but that as he gets bigger he will manage it. Helen is not so very difficult. She gives her "calf moo" when she hears him bellow as he does sometimes if he must wait for his feed.
Sally made a fine pumpkin pie today using frozen pumpkin from last year. It was a heritage pumpkin called Long Pie. She made a lard crust and I of course made a pile of whipped cream.
My vacuum pump is making a noise I don't like, a sort of dry chuffing sound. This is not the motor itself. Is sounds more like something chafing on something or maybe dragging. It is not intermittent.
January 17, 2006 Tuesday
Yesterday continued very cold, but today started out at 12F and warmed up to 27F. It sure makes barn work easier.
Sally took another cheddar cheese out of the mold this morning.
Little Fred is doing fine in with the big cows. Emily, now nine months, is attached to him and makes sure to know where he is all the time. They are cute together. Yesterday and today we had sunshine, so we let them all out together for awhile. We shut the barnyard gates so they have a limited area to roam. We saw Fred in the sunny lean-to baking himself.
Sally and I went out on errands today and missed Max. He came for milk and did several things of a useful nature while here including filling the wood box. Sally and I went to the Free Store, a jolly Catholic charity that takes donations but gives away all the items. Sally got some nice flannel work shirts and some wool skirts for her braided rug project. She works on this politely at every meal, waiting for me to finish eating. I am very slow due to my missing teeth. We had a lovely dinner of oyster mushrooms and more of our jellied meat over achioto rice and a salad.
While shopping today I went to Radio Shack and they sold me a good clock radio for half price. The man said nobody is buying them anymore. My existing clock radio is now 15 years old and has become unreliable. I can't get NPR without thumping it. Now, of course, I risk brain cramps having to master the programming instructions for the new radio. For backup I have my new cow alarm son John sent from Australia. It says moo. But it does not give the news.
January 18, 2006 Wednesday
It rained all night and all day and was strangely warm. The thermometer reached 47F this afternoon before beginning to drop.
When Sally brings Fred into the main hall of the barn for his midday bottle all three of the girls stand staring at the door waiting for him to return. She could feed him out there among them but wants him to have the training in leading. Also, it is best he not be among them while still in his feeding frenzy in case Emily might allow him to suck.
Due to poor planning I did not pick up feed yesterday and could not get it delivered in this weather. So, I had to go to Dixfield and pick some up at the hardware store seven miles away. The roads had been sanded, so driving was safe enough but I needed to run the windshield wipers at fast speed.
Sally and I worked over at her little house for awhile today. Everything in there is damp due to the rain and no heat turned on. She will go tomorrow and build a fire.
Last night I studied my clock radio handbook and thought I had everything right, but no, it did not go off this morning.
January 19, 2006 Thursday
In her stanchion Jasmine has been eating out of a small wobbly pan. I found a large square one that has been under the barn eaves full of ice. Two days of thaw allowed me to knock out the ice. I dried it in the sun and put it in her stanchion.
Tonight when Jasmine stuck her head into her stanchion she took one look and fled. I managed to get her back but she stood trembling without actually putting her head through. It took a lot of stroking and coaxing to keep her from fleeing again. Sally crept around behind with the "real" pan and set it down inside the new one with more grain and I popped in the bolt. She tried several times to wrestle her head out of the stanchion which is a bit large for her. She actually had her head out once but did not realize it and I was able to push her forward and snap on an accessory clip. She continued to tremble the entire time she was being milked and I had to clean up a number of "contributions". This was so strange. Sally and I both had the idea that something unpleasant in her past was associated with such a pan. I have never used this one for anything bad. It just had water off the eaves. I wonder what morning will bring. Of course Helen detected trouble and had to add her fifty cents. I even had to tie her tail when it came to be her turn to be milked. She is always second. I need the whole time Jasmine is milking to get Helen Pigpen clean
Jasmine'e production was down a bit this evening I could tell, but with the two of them I continue to have close to six gallons a day to put in the fridge.
January 20, 2006 Friday
Jasmine was a bit hesitant this morning. She had not forgotten the evil pan. She looked through her stanchion and saw the old familiar pan back in its place and stuck her head in. This evening she barely hesitated at all.
While Helen and Jasmine are in their stanchions Sally ties up Emily and Fred in the hall. The cows can't see them but know they are there. Sally feeds and handles them, then leaves them there while she mucks out. After this she puts them back out. The cows really do not like this. They don't think the kids should be sent out alone. This is when Helen begins whapping me with her tail.
We are having another strange thaw. Lots of rivers in Maine are flooding.
I need to find some more hay if I can. I called my hay man and learned that he is in Florida. His friend answered the phone and said he would have a look around but hasn't called back.
January 18, 2006 Saturday
It was warm again to day, 47F and windy. Much of the snow has melted and ice has formed. There is a great deal on the way to the barn and in the barnyard. I was out on the deck tossing away some vegetable trimmings and saw Jasmine slipping on ice in the barnyard. She fell twice, got up, fell again and lay there. I called Sally and we ran out with the bucket of salt. By the time we got there she had floundered to a place with better footing and was standing. Her underside was dripping with brown ice water and she was shaky and limping. We threw salt around in case of future incidents. Sally put out some of the best hay to entice them all back indoors. By this evening Jasmine had only a slight limp. A big wind came up by late afternoon. Emily was in heat all day. This made both cows nervous this evening. They peed and pooped buckets. I had to tie Helen's tail.
As is well known, Helen is goofy for apples. I found another bag of rotten ones; she especially loves these. Sally brought some to her in her stanchion. After I turned her loose she went to Sally, who was directing cow traffic, and sniffed both her hands. She would not leave until Sally opened both hands and spread them out to prove she was out of apples.
Max, Mitra and the girls and Martin and Amy joined us for dinner. Because of barn chores I always fix something ahead of time. This time it was a cassoulet of white beans and vegetables with stewed chicken and shortribs. I braised the chicken, which was a rooster my grandson, Rafe, and his girl friend, SallyB, dressed off in December together with the ribs all last night to insure tenderness. This was a tasty dish. I also made dinner rolls. Mitra made another of her great salads with much chopping help from Shireen and Amy. Sally made an apple gooseberry crisp. It was a jolly meal.
January 23, 2006 Monday
We got our snow back today. Actually, I did not miss it myself, although it did seem strange to see almost bare fields. But after breakfast it began snowing hard and did not stop until we had about four inches. My neighbor who plows came and cleared the front yard and driveway. He always chats a while. He said many of his friends had been terribly disappointed by the lack of snow. Some had bought new snow machines and paid 22K. I had no idea people paid money like that to race through the woods. Yipes.
Sally is going to switch Fred to the teat bucket tomorrow. He is getting mighty forceful with his bunting. He is all soft and plushy now and so far has not had a moment's illness. He is so much happier being in with the cows than he would be alone in a stall. He sleeps right next to Emily. I have not caught him chewing his cud but I think he must be. He does eat hay and his stool looks dark and the way it should for a young hay nibbler.
January 25, 2006 Wednesday
Yesterday we popped in on Max and Mitra in New Sharon. They gave us a lovely lunch which included brown rice prepared according to Sally Fallon's recipe from the Forum. This involves soaking in something like yogurt, which I think is what Mitra used. Whatever it was it was delicious. I will surely try it. I have my own method which is equally good, but it is nice to have a change. I measure the brown rice, two of liquid to one of rice. Using the pan in which the rice will be cooked, which must have a tight fitting lid, I sauté the raw rice in some kind of fat, usually olive oil or butter, but chicken fat is very good as is coconut oil. I add some seasoning, often a little curry powder, coriander or cumin and often some dried or fresh herbs, and salt. After the rice is hot and well coated with fat I pour on boiling stock, bring it back to the boil, and put on the lid. It can then go in the moderately hot Aga oven or be cooked on the stove top at a low temperature for 40 minutes. With this method brown rice does not become gummy; I prefer to use short grain rice for this method. The grains remain quite separate. If any is left over it is excellent cold with vinaigrette and some chopped green onion, cashew nuts and raisins.
Sally has completed the fine wool shawl she has been knitting for her daughter, Rebecca, to wear at her wedding in March. She of course spun the wool herself. It is ivory colored and lacey. The pattern is called "Feather and Fan" and there is also a lace border. Sal washed it and spread it out on a bed to dry. It is triangular and six feet tip to tip.
Max came over today to help with throwing 50 bales of delivered hay into the barn. It is not especially good, but smells OK. He also split a lot of kindling and helped Sally to move some furniture over at her little place across the river. He also took my re-order package for a reprinting of Keeping a Family Cow to the PO.
January 26, 2006 Thursday
Sally and I were putting a few rotten apples on the cows feed, since we had the apples and they love them, but Helen, especially, gets so goofy that we have stopped. Also, Sally has stopped putting Emily and Fred back out early before the cows. This also keeps them quieter. They feel the young 'uns should be close by where they can hear them breathing. When I say these measures keep them quieter I mean less treading, tail swishing and pooping.
This morning during chores Sally noticed Bagel staring down towards the bottom of the field. There was a large white dog like a German Shepard down by Muffins grave defecating. I have not seen any such dog in the neighborhood and wondered if it could have been a coyote. Later Sally walked down there to examine the scat and reported that it was definitely a dog.
This noon I noticed Fred chewing his cud. It is the first time I have seen him do it. He lines up with the others at the hay feeder.
January 27, 2006 Friday
Little Fred has been so very healthy that I suspect the antibody production that I count upon from Helen and Jasmine is surely working for him too. They do stand next to each other breathing. Then he gets milk that is very fresh. If cold, Sally brings it just back to blood heat.
Today Fred did something that might have killed him, antibodies or not. In expectation of a visit from my vet, Sally put Fred into his box stall. He ate almost an entire hay string that should not have been on the floor, but was. The only reason Sally noticed was that a wad of sheep's wool from one of Abby's cat nests was stuck to the end of the string and he had not swallowed it. It was sticking out of his mouth. Sally pulled the string out of course. Out vet said it might have killed him.
We were going to have Fred disbudded and castrated and a supernumerary teat that we had somehow overlooked removed from Emily. As it happened, our vet stopped in only to tell us he would have to reschedule. He had developed truck trouble and needed to head for the repair garage. He took a quick bite of lunch before leaving.
Jasmine should have been in heat yesterday, but there was not a sign. Maybe she blew her circuits with her excessive display last time. The AI coordinator who agreed to bring semen up from MA has not done so. I could not have got her bred in any case.
January 28, 2006 Saturday
Jasmine continues to come in clean, cleaner or cleanest, but Helen is worse or worser. This morning I thought she could not be much dirtier unless she went swimming in a manure lagoon, which is about what it amounts to. The abnormally warm weather means sodden bedding in the low spot where Helen likes best to lie. It is clean when she lies down but by morning is a mess. The "deep bedding" plan that works in the rest of the room does not work there. By golly, next summer I want a whole load of gravel in that room so that the ground level is higher than outdoors by at least 6".
I work on cleaning her until my white terrycloth mops come back white but it gets aggravating for both me and Helen. Not to mention Sally, who is now doing the forking out. I suggested today that she go ahead and put down a whole bale of hay in the low spot and keep doing that every day until it becomes a mound. It made a big difference tonight. Helen was almost as clean as Jasmine.
Granddaughters Shireen and Roshan are here for an overnight while their parents, Max and Mitra, are out with friends. They did a lot of cute drawings and played in the playroom with blocks and cars and little tractors that once belonged to their father. I have lost so much, but amazingly, some of these toys have clung to my life.
January 30, 2006 Monday
Ever since Sally has piled up hay in the low spot Helen has been a lot cleaner. What an improvement! This method saves me about ten yucky minutes and makes the cow encounter more pleasant. I can't spare much more hay, though. I counted bales today. I have enough to last until the end of March. I will have to find some more.
Jasmine acted stroppy today. We did not catch any mounting but she bellowed several times and kicked sharply when I was putting the machine on her tonight. I called my AI man to see if the straws had been delivered but they have not. If she is in heat in the morning there will be no use calling for insemination, darn it.
January 31, 2006 Tuesday
There were no further signs of heat today from Jasmine, but I am pretty sure there were footprints on her back. I am going to mark the calendar anyway. Sigh.
I think I forgot to mention a few days ago that Sally made fantastic cream cheese. We must definitely have some on Feb 14 to make Coeur a la crème.
We got about 4" of new snow last night. It made a picture perfect world. But I fear I am getting to be a grouch. The first thing I think of it paying for more plowing.
February 1, 2006 Wednesday Today's weather was Winter Perfect. Temp was about 28F, the new snow ornamented everything and the sun shone brilliantly. Max came down for milk, then Sally and I convened with him at Weld for a look at the two camps. Everything was in order at Martin's. Marcia and Jack's is a busy building site. They are having improvements done. Two bedrooms are now one with a fine lake view, the house has all new windows and insulation has been added. Bagel and Lulu enjoyed each other's company and were well behaved dogs. Max took measurements to see if a moving van will be able to make it down the access road. Answer: not without removing some neighbor's trees. Perhaps the movers can create a staging area at Martin's camp. Max wished he had brought his skis for a run on the lake. Tonight there is a new moon in a clear sky full of constellations.
Sally has been working daily on Emily to get her accustomed to more handling. I had her in good shape as a young calf, but it did not stick. She now will let Sally lead her to her standing to be clipped to her rope before she gets her pan of feed. She allows brushing and handling all over her body now. She will be a classically beautiful Jersey with nice manners.
Having exhausted the leftovers, I made us a nice dinner of pork chops, home fries done in pure beef fat which produces the very best flavor, and the vegetable dish I invented about 25 years ago called Dazzling Winter Sunset. It appeared in the La Leche League cookbook from whence I notice it has been taken up by at least one gourmet magazine without giving credit. It is a nice use for winter vegetables. Shred equal parts of carrots, beets and rutabagas, stirfry in butter or other fat, adding a little salt and a dusting of nutmeg. It is attractive, fast, and people end up liking and eating those winter veggies.
I did the porkchops by another recipe I made up. Rub the chops with a little Thai garlic chili if you have it, or omit this. Grate about 1 teaspoon per chop of fresh ginger (or a pinch of dried), and pat on a thin layer of peanut butter. I prefer the chunky variety. Fry in the fat of your choice. I use health food store peanut oil if I have it, but coconut oil is excellent, or lard. Don't crowd the pan. Cook gently until lightly browned on both sides. Swirl a little soy sauce in the pan. Pour the pan juices over the chops when they are on the plates.
Every time I have done chops this way they have been a big hit, nice and moist.
February 2, 2006 Thursday
Poor little Freddie is walking pretty carefully this evening. My vet came today and castrated and disbudded him. He did the horn buds with an iron and the castration with a scalpel. Fred was anesthetized. Doc Cooper also removed two extra teats from Emily. He gave her a light shot to calm her down. Sally had installed a new ringbolt in expectation of a struggle but Emily was altogether well behaved. She trusts both me and Sally. She marched right back in this evening to her place, so we know the experience was not too awful. Doc Cooper remarked on what a fine looking Jersey heifer she is. She is the right weight, no pot belly, and has a straight top line. She also has a pretty face with black and white eye liner.
February 3, 2006 Friday
Fred and Emily both seem to have forgotten their surgeries. The wounds are small and dry. None of Dr. Cooper's surgeries here has ever become infected. I am also able to report that my hip pain is gone. I carried the milking machine yesterday and have no after effects.
In other barn news, my hens have suddenly stopped laying almost completely. For the last few days I have gotten only 3 or four eggs and half of those are from the wild hens that live in the rafters. They have had a lot less clabber lately. That doesn't help. Also, following my last electric bill, I stopped providing extra light and heat. Not that is has been really cold. Most nights their water does not even get a skim of ice, so they are not suffering. Milk production is not what it was either. I was getting six gallons a day and now it is not much over five. They don't like that last hay I got. Martin is buying a spike for the Kubota so that we can handle round bales. Now I just have to call around and find somebody to deliver. This should not be difficult.
It started out today with sleet falling, then it turned to rain for most of the day. Great puddles formed on the pasture. Sally and Bagel took a long walk to explore them. Near the river she found a lot of black feathers and thought perhaps the fox had taken one of my black hens, but close inspection revealed that it was a crow. She also found where a naughty beaver had cut down a 6" diameter maple. She was pretty mad about that. The riverbank needs all the help it can get.
Martin came up for dinner and an overnight. Amy had plans for tomorrow with her girl friends. I baked one of my big fillets of Copper River Red salmon and served it with a curried cream sauce and brown rice cooked in a rich stock. And a salad of course. I also made a cheesecake using homemade cream cheese and cottage cheese.
February 4, 2006 Saturday
Martin hopped out early today and went to Osgood's tractor sales and equipment and bought a spike to affix to the Kubota for moving round bales. None of us is quite sure how to attach the spike, but no doubt the guys will sort it out. Now I have to figure out where to buy a couple of round bales. He also bought a serviceable trailer from somebody who makes them locally and puts them out by the road. It is a snappy looking red item made of expanded steel and welded beams. It is the sort of thing people use to pull around their snowmobiles. I did not even know he had a snowmobile, but he says he has a Polaris. I expect that the trailer will be used mostly to move furniture and other domestic items. Maybe he will bring his tiller here for me to borrow. Sally, Max and I today got the idea of planting a patch of some kind of grain as an experiment; something that we could feed to cows and pigs. I have never grown any small grain, only corn, but it has to be a good idea. If I borrowed the tiller, a Wheel Horse, Max might till an experimental plot.
Martin worked some more on his Ford 9N Century tractor, but it still would not start. It has rained so much and wind again tore off his tarp. Perhaps everything about the tractor is too cold and wet. It rained again most of yesterday.
No rain today, in fact it was very warm. The guys were in shirtsleeves. They then went up to Weld to see if it was possible to ski and fly Martin's new kite on the lake, but it was very slushy. They filled two 5 gallon containers for me from a public spring.
I took a shovel and cleared enough of the ice off of the cows' outside ramp so that there is at least an 18" wide path up it that is safe for them. This ramp is made of Martin's CorrectDeck boards. It is in its second or third year and looks like new.
I have another batch of cream cheese hanging up dripping. It is so good! There is a new milk customer now taking milk from the outside milk sales fridge. I have not yet seen who it is but he or she took two gallons yesterday and another two gallons today.
February 5, 2006 Sunday
On Saturday Martin and Max took a walk along the river and noted that the spring line had burst and was pouring water into the river. They came home for tools and fixed it. We all hoped that the near end was also open and spring water would reach the kitchen, but no such luck. Sally and I walked down today to see if it had fallen apart. The place where they repaired the line is now under water. It has rained an enormous amount on the frozen ground and everything is flooded down at the confluence of the river and Hutchinson Brook. I did get to see where a beaver, with whom Sally is much annoyed, has with impressive neatness cut down two trees and nearly felled a third.
February 6, 2006 Monday
Today was fair and bright, but now Canada is sending down some colder air. I think our prolonged thaw may be over. Mitra says her iris is coming up. Many buds on trees and shrubs have also swelled. I do hope all the fruit is not destroyed.
I made a successful chowder with shrimp and scallop bits that my fish man sells at half the price of whole scallops. It was really good. I also made gingerbread according to a UK recipe that calls for treacle and Golden Syrup. This also was a success. It took me twenty minutes, though, to find my tin of Golden Syrup. Lord knows how many years ago I bought it on speculation. I knew it was here somewhere and refused to abandon the search until I found it.
It was so warm and sunny that the cows spent a lot of time outside. When they do this, clean-up is minimal. Clean-up has been a lot more pleasant in any case since taking serious measures to build up the low spots in the Beefer Pen.
So far I have not located any round bales, but surely will soon.
Everyone else in the family agrees that growing grain is a good idea. I think a patch 50'x100' might be a manageable experiment. I am leaning towards trying barley.
The hens are not laying. Mitra thinks they might be in a moult.
February 8, 2006 Wednesday
We have our cold weather back. It was about 17F this morning, but 0F is predicted for tonight. It was clear and bright, so the cows stood in the sun much of the day.
A friend of mine who is a former dairyman and hopes someday again to have a cow stops in occasionally to see if I have any butter to sell. He was here today and we looked at my cows. He admired Emily and remarked on her straight topline. I suppose some day I will have to part with her.
I weight taped Helen this morning at a bit over 1100 lbs and Jasmine at something over 800. They both look pretty good, I think. Production has fallen off a bit. Today we only got 4 ¾ gallons.
Sally started another cheese today. She has been spending a lot of time over at her little house spackling and taping the walls for painting, but today was too cold to work there. She stayed here and worked on her fiber projects. She is well along on a small, light colored blanket with little threads of pink. She is also making a braided rug and a pair of gloves of Jacob wool.
February 9, 2006 Thursday
This morning it was down to 7F, but eventually warmed to near 20F. It was bright and clear all day. Sally took a tour around the North Field with Bagel to check the integrity of the fence. We want to let the cattle out to roam that area. There is so little snow that they will enjoy nibbling the old dry grass. Freddie can get more exercise and Helen has always loved standing under the pine trees that border the field and baking herself on sunny days.
At 10:15 we left to meet with Mitra for lunch in Farmington. My eyes were gravelly due to staying up too late last night, so I asked Sally to drive. One sees so much more of the countryside as a passenger. I ordered fish and chips, Mitra had a chicken pot pie and Sally had a fish sandwich. Sally went across to the bookstore and ordered me a copy of "The Empty Tank" by Jeremy Leggett. We then went to view Mitra's parents' condo on the rural outskirts of Farmington. It has a fine setting surrounded by birch trees. Max completely repainted the interior for them and the place is all newly furnished. The parents don't like Maine winters so will only be using it in summer.
After seeing the condo Sally and I drove out to Whitewater Farm Store where I bought feed and frozen lamb and sausage. All their products are locally grown and of the highest quality. The owner knows all his suppliers and is particular as to feeding practices.
Sally made dinner tonight. She cooked up a variety of meats I had accumulated in the freezer - kidney, tongue, heart and some pork that needed using. She cubed them up small and served them in a gravy sauce over rice. There was enough to freeze for a generous pot pie some day.
We got 5 ½ gallons of milk and four eggs, a high for this week. I found a new nest just started in the hay mow.
February 10, 2006 Friday
No one will guess what I saw today! I went out around 10:30 AM and found Jasmine standing is a sunny spot feeding Fred. She looked totally relaxed. I don't think he got a whole lot but I will be surprised if he stops snacking.
Emily was in heat today. This made for a lot of yelling and stomping about when they were all let loose after evening milking.
Helen had a great string of slime today. I guess it does not mean much. She is not due for another three months.
It was down to 7F this morning and tomorrow we are to expect sub zero temperatures.
February 11, 2006 Saturday
It was -7F this morning. Could have been worse. The sky was clear blue all day and no wind. Sally and I walked all the way around her 17 acre field. It was too cold for her to work inside her house much.
I taped Emily at 669lbs. I guess she is about average for a 9 month Jersey heifer. She is in satisfactory condition and always looks happy. She gets very little grain.
I actually got 8 eggs today. I guess that means the hens are not in a moult.
February 12, 2006 Sunday Most of the northeast coastal area has suffered a severe blizzard today. We got nothing but a few gusts of wind and ½ inch of snow, just enough to make the ice patches more slippery. Max is disappointed. He got back Saturday from a week of work on Cape Cod hoping for some X-C skiing. All he got was a walk in the woods with dog Lulu.
Max and Mitra and I are contemplating getting some ducks this year. I said I would buy them if they would set up the shelter. They have a tiny, trickling stream that runs behind their hen house. So far it has not dried up in the summer, although it is barely a foot wide in places. This should keep the ducks happy without running the risk of stagnant water such as killed my last ducks.
I only got four eggs today and two of these were from my rafter hens.
I made three loaves of whole wheat pumpkin bread today from a Halloween pumpkin that has been waiting patiently on the back stairs.
So far I have not located round bales, but Max says that tomorrow he will inquire in his neighborhood.
Good news on mini straws for Jasmine's next heat. The Genex coordinator brought them up from MA and has left them with my regular technician.
February 13, 2006 Monday
So far we have not detected Freddie nursing again from Jasmine. It would be surprising if he does not.
The cows have a low opinion of those last fifty bales of hay I got. Sally threw down a bale and left for the house with the milk this morning. I looked in on them and all three were lined up staring at the door when I opened it as much as to say, "Is that all we're going to get?" When Sal throws down the top grade hay they know it before they even reach the Beefer Pen. They hurry down the aisle for it.
Max has found a farmer in his neighborhood who will sell me round bales for $25, but will not haul them.
Our dairy products turned out strangely today. Sally's feta went all granular like dry cottage cheese. She put it into my Lithuanian cheese press to see what we can make of it. This press consists of a pair of boards hinged together at one end. You wrap your curds and set the bag between the boards. There is a lock-down screw arrangement that squeezes down on it.
My butter behaved much the same. I set it last night to culture which it did beautifully. It also churned beautifully although it took a long time. But, the butter lumps would not come together when pressed; it tastes perfect and so does the buttermilk. Sally finally packed it in somebody's recycled "Move Over Butter" container.
And then a further disappointment … my Homestead2 cottage cheese to which I had been looking forward formed a beautiful delicious curd but it went all soupy when I tried to wash it. It is hanging up in a bag now to see what I get.
At this evening's milking the pulsator quit when I got to Helen. I isolated the problem in the air hose; it had developed atherosclerosis. I couldn't even blow through it. Fortunately I own a second hose. I have revived the old hose with hot water in the kitchen sink.
The moon tonight is magnificent. It is surrounded my small puffy clouds with silver borders.
February 14, 2006 Tuesday Sally and I opened the gate to the North Field and were encouraging the cows to pass through when Fred came forward and slipped a little bit on an ice patch. Sally ran for the salt so the cows would not slip. And then we saw it: Helen jumping Jasmine. We immediately closed the gate. Even with salt we certainly did not want acrobatics on ice. I made frequent observations during the next two hours before deciding to call my AI technician. He has some straws of mini Jersey semen for me in his tank. He came about 3pm. I hope I did not err in calling him today. Jasmine was certainly sliming and he claimed she seemed ready internally, although I find they usually prefer to say something encouraging. How I hope she settles! If so, she will calve about November 20.
My granddaughter Rebecca, Sally's oldest, is to be married March 25. Sally has always wanted to give her a cow just like Pa and Ma gave Laura in The Little House book which she read with her children so many times. But that is not something one does without being confident of its reception. Now, sister Rosemary reports that Rebecca was heard to say that she would welcome an IOU for a cow! So let us hope Jasmine does not disappoint us. Rebecca met Jasmine during her visit here in November and was much charmed.
There was a Cardinal today on the bird feeder, the first I have seen for a long time.
I made a dinner today that is made early in the day and popped in the oven. It is always delicious.
Lamb Shanks with Brown Rice and Vegetables.
Put one or two lamb shanks in a heavy ovenproof casserole. Cover them with the following: 1 cup of raw brown rice, short grain is best. 1 chopped onion Several peeled garlic cloves Other veg you think of such as celery, carrot, eggplant, fennel, bell pepper Add salt and pepper and rosemary or other herbs Snipped dried tomatoes and/or pine nuts or olives if desired Pour over it a quart of tomatoes or a pint of tomato sauce and pint of stock. It must have a quart of liquid. Cover the casserole tightly and put it into a slow oven for about 4 hours. If you are around, check after three hours to see if it is done early or needs more liquid.
No doubt a slow cooker would suit this recipe.
February 16, 2006 Thursday
Wednesday was a roller coaster ride. The vacuum pump motor has been making funny noises. After I finished milking Jasmine and tried to put it onto Helen it gagged, sputtered and quit. Sally went back to the house for a bucket and milked Helen by hand. I began to think dark thoughts of drying Helen off early. There is a man in a nearby town that travels the state servicing vacuum systems for dairies. I spoke to his wife and got his cell phone number and gave him a pathetic call. Darned if he didn't show up here at the house at 4pm, shortly before milking time. He had been installing a system for a new organic dairy north of here and stopped in on his way home. By now wouldn't you know the motor started right up again, but it was still making its chuffing sound. He diddled around with it for awhile and removed the muffler, a small screwed in fitting made of some porous material. He said it was clogged. He said "I think if it were me I would just run it without the muffler. If it gives you any more trouble, call me." It has not.
Of course I have been checking Jasmine for bleed-out. Sigh. Today I saw it. There goes one straw.
February 18, 2006 Saturday
I could not write the diary yesterday because the power was out. We had some pretty wild weather. First it was 40F, and then a great storm of wind and rain hit the state. Sally went ahead of me to the barn at milking time and discovered that the wind in its violence had blown out the big front door of the Beefer Pen where the cows live. It was being kept from completely opening by bits of board. The wind had also lifted the 12' metal front gate off its hinges and spun it away. So, if the cows had gotten out they would have been free to get on the road. She stood there holding it together until I followed. Together we secured it.
The very moment I finished milking Helen, whom I milk second, everything went black. I did some hand stripping in the dark whilst murmuring to the cows in case they were nervous, but it did not seem to bother them a bit. Sally was in the hayloft where, as my Grammie used to say, it was "darker than the inside of a cow." Finally a shaft of light from a passing car enabled her to locate the trap door that hay drops down (don't want to step through that) and the top of the stairs. The cows walked back to the beefer pen as though they had full daylight.
The Aga does not depend upon electricity and I had made a spaghetti dinner earlier in the day. Sally and I dined by candlelight. Later in the evening Martin and Amy arrived pulling his little trailer with a pile of pallets for farm use. They ate spaghetti and then went on to camp where they found all in good order. Martin is getting together with Max today to bring me some round bales.
February 18, 2006 Saturday
Martin arrived about 10:30 this morning with three great rolls of hay. Two were on the little trailer and one in his pickup truck bed. He got the spike on the Kubota and was soon well on his way moving bales. Max arrived about 11:00 and we all got involved. Max brought along a 60 lb tub of crystallized molasses that he had picked up for me. The cows spent a very happy day going back and forth from the new hay to the molasses. The last time I looked in on them little Fred was finally getting his turn.
It is very cold. The sun shone most of the day but an evil cold wind seldom let up. The thermometer sank throughout the day and now after dark stands at zero.
Despite the cold, Max, Martin and Martin and Amy's houseguest, Florian, went ice skating. They went to a small lake called Hill's Pond that is more sheltered. Martin later took his kite out on Lake Webb and whizzed around on skates.
Everyone came here for dinner. Mitra made pulled pork burritos, Amy made a large and lovely salad and I roasted a pork butt. The pork was all from Max and Mitra's pigs. I totally forgot to prepare the mashed potatoes but we seemed to have enough to eat. For dessert we had the almond cake that Sally made on Friday. It is the one from Baking With Julia. I made it for DD Abby's wedding and Sally made it for her DD Rosemary's wedding. In March Rosemary will be making it for her sister Rebecca's wedding.
For decades I have routinely made a menu list and a list of tasks in order of execution for every dinner party, however small. For some reason I did not do that this time. Had I done so I would not have forgotten the potatoes.
February 20, 2006
News from yesterday… Martin had the breakers off for light fixture repair last evening.
The milking machine behaved very badly both morning and evening. The pressure at the gauge was satisfactory, but insufficient pressure was reaching the cow. At one point when pressure failed completely and I was dancing around trying my various tricks, Sally made the astute observation that Helen had her front foot planted on the hose! It was surprisingly difficult to get her to pick it up. I finally told Sally to kick her on the back of her foot; this did the trick.
Later in the day Martin brought the filter into the house for cleaning. He thought the clogging in the filter looked calcareous and suggested that I put it to soak in vinegar, which I did. I set it on the Aga to dry out over night.
Martin found a manufacturer's site on the internet to order new filters. Great news. The old one is crumbling.
Sally had noticed that Freddie was not as lively as formerly and did not smell good. Martin observed that he was limping on his left front foot. With Sally's help I picked up his foot and sniffed it. It smelled nasty. I thought it best to soak it in a strong solution of bleach. All we managed was a good sozzle before he kicked the container across the room.
Martin and his friend did a huge dump run for me in the morning. Max and the girls came in the afternoon after ice skating and did another huge dump run with the van containing a shocking accumulation of barn trash. I am sure the whole farm feels relief.
Martin and Amy joined us for a supper of glorified leftovers and took some food down to son Mark. Now that he is in med school he must study all the time and I seldom see him.
February 20, 2006 Monday President's Day
I reassembled the milking machine filter this morning and the machine worked just fine.
Freddie appears completely recovered. He was back to bouncing about and his foot smelled fine. It is hard to credit that one little treatment could fix a limp but I guess it did. We stuck his foot in bleach water again this morning anyway.
The weather has been in a near zero pattern for several days but it is sunny. The wind has died down.
Evening Sally and I took a walk along the river on her side to inspect for downed trees following the Friday night wind storm and also to see a unique tree. She brought home a little branch the other day and tentatively identified it as Liquidambar. I have not seen one around here. They are not hardy in Zone 4. This one is leaning over the river which would modify its climate.
There is one very large tree fallen in the river on Sally's side and a large spruce has broken off 6' up and fallen in the river on my side. Both trees would aid in bank protection if we can manage to secure then from floating away.
Tonight the milking machine worked fine on Jasmine but lost its vacuum power when I got to Helen. After some fiddling around I removed the muffler which was extremely hot. After about five minutes the pump resumed making vacuum. I guess the thing was clogged again and over heated. Helen was much irritated by the delay and made her usual comments. We are still getting about 5 gallons a day. Eggs are still way down but today I got five.
Freddie is back to his old bouncy self.
February 21, 2006 Tuesday
The cows love their new hay. So far they are not wasting it. Two bales are secured so they can't be tipped over. One is perched up on top of the hay feeder so they have to reach up to get a mouthful. It is obvious that they are enjoying never having to wait for feeding time. Also, the hay is good quality. Production was up a half gallon today.
The milking machine behaved well today.
Sally and I took another walk along the river today. She picked a bunch of witch hazel twigs to make lotion from a recipe in a book borrowed from Janene in Texas.
February 22, 2006 Wednesday
My 11 month old heifer, Emily, is attached to Freddie. Ordinarily at milking time she is front and center coming in for her grain snack. Tonight Jasmine and Helen came in but Emily would not until Sally went outside to see what was wrong. Fred was on the wrong side of the fence and she would not leave him alone. As soon as she saw that Sally was rescuing him she went on in.
My dear milking machine that means so much to me lost vacuum tonight halfway through milking Jasmine. I finished her by hand and Sally went to the house for a bucket to milk Helen. I will put Helen on OAD milking now if the problem is not solved in the morning. The milk total today was 5 ¼ gallons. We would have had more if the machine had not quit.
February 23, 2006 Thursday
I conferred with Martin about my thought of removing the old filter and just leaving the glass jar on since it appears to be the old filter that is stopping proper vacuum. He seemed to think this would not cause immediate damage so that is what I did this morning. First I had to unfreeze the jar where it screws on. I used a hair drier and wet cow towels. Without the filter it worked like a champ both this morning and this evening. This made me very happy.
Max picked up some heavy nylon rope and brought it today when he came for milk. We figure if we secure our blown down trees to the bank they will divert water and help to stop scouring of the bank. Sal already went over this afternoon and tied a rope on her tree.
February 24, 2006 Friday
Sally L. in California says that it was pointed out to her when she worked at Cow Central, that sometimes there is bleed-out even though the cow has actually successfully bred. So, I will cling to a little hope for Jasmine settling.
I started OAD today with Helen. I will continue to bring her in at milking time for her grain and mineral feeding unless she proves hard to dry off. Evening production was down only ½ gallon, which is just about what I estimated she was giving. Sally for the first time sampled Jasmine's milk and agreed it has overtones of coconut.
On Thursday night I began simmering a large rooster from the freezer in the Aga simmer oven. It took until dinner time tonight to actually get tender. But both the meat and broth were delicious. I plan to follow Rose's chicken hanging advice with the next roosters we kill and see if I can get a tender bird.
For tonight's dinner I sautéed shiitake mushrooms with elephant garlic and created a sauce with the chicken broth. I served this over slices of chicken on rice.
February 26, 2006 Sunday
Freddie's foot is troubling him again. Curing it with two dips really was too good to be true.
I am now drying off Helen. I don't think it will be difficult. The only thing that worries me is that I can't wash her udder without stimulating letdown, so she is going to be very dirty for awhile, which I don't like.
It did not get above 16F today and there was a cold wind. Tomorrow is expected to be the same but colder, and Tuesday more of the same. It is sunny, which helps. The lean-to is a sun trap and the cows stand outside there eating the round bale that is tied to the front of the old Moline tractor.
They are making short work of the round bales. The one that was perched atop the hay feeder was eaten down enough so that yesterday it dropped down into the feeder. #2 bale tied in the corner and defended by pallets is half gone. They love being able to eat all the time and not wait for us to throw down hay.
I took a chance today with leaving the heating pad off of the barn water tap; this was a bad decision. It froze under the hose clamp and now leaks.
February 27, 2006 Monday
During the night something causes the breaker to pop on the circuit that served the barn water tap. This meant the heat tape went cold. I put the heat tape and the heating pad on an extension cord and plugged it into another outlet in the barn. The cows had very little water all day but about 4PM it finally thawed. However, ice had split the brass fitting exactly as happened earlier this winter. This time the whole faucet broke right off. There is an on/off lever ahead of the tap, so water did not just spurt out. But to fill the stock tank I had to jam the hose into the open pipeline and hold it together as best I could. Water went everywhere and I got good and wet, which at 5F was not a lot of fun.
Helen has now skipped four milkings. Her back quarters were pretty full this evening but the front ones were still soft. I will milk her out in the morning.
My vet stopped in and Sally and I gave him a nice lunch. I had made two carrot cakes on Saturday, given one away and frozen one. I thawed that out for lunch. Sally made biscuits to go with a good stew which I also had frozen. It was a nice break from thinking about the barn water.
Something besides foot rot was the matter with Freddie's foot. He was hopping around today with no evidence of favoring any foot.
February 28, 2006 Tuesday
Max came over this morning with parts for my water system and before long he had it repaired. The cows had been waiting for their water and all took a drink.
Something is still popping the breaker on the circuit where the freeze-up occurred. I left it all day with just the submersible water heater on it. Max modified the wall so that it can be plugged in with no extension cord in case that was the problem yet this evening it was off again. All the wiring was new less than a year ago.
Max put the new air filter into the milking machine pump.
Little Jasmine is giving a bit more than 3 gallons a day. That little cow loves to eat. She eats all day. The cows have the two round bales that were indoors eaten down to the point that Sally piled what is left of them into the hay feeder. They will have that finished off tomorrow I believe.
March 1, 2006 Wednesday
After milking Jasmine this morning we poured her milk into a waiting bucket and then I put the machine onto Helen. Her udder was not under stress but was getting heavy and I thought it best that she be milked out. Very likely this will be the last time this lactation. Milk that has been inside a cow for three days begins to taste "cowy" so we saved it for Freddie. He had no objection to it.
The cold weather continues but at least today there was little wind. Sally continues to work on her house. Now she is collecting up old boards and plastic junk from behind the house.
March 2, 2006 Thursday
It was a bit warmer today. Jasmine is holding steady at a bit over 3 gallons. Today it was 3.5. Helen's udder was in excellent condition today. It is soft and she is barely making any milk. Emily was in roaring heat. I got five eggs. One free range layer has a hidden nest somewhere, but I can't find it.
March 3, 2006 Friday
I was told to expect a lot of waste with the round bales but so far there has been none. Sally has made barriers of the pallets Martin brought. They eat the round bales so well that Sally has been spreading some of the poorer quality hay from the loft for bedding.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons today. We have seen Freddie apparently sucking a couple of times and one of her quarters is consistently less full. But he certainly is not taking a great deal, if in fact he is taking any. Sally has been feeding him 1.5 gallons/day in three feeds but we are considering cutting him back to one gallon. He now drinks from a teat bucket, so what we may do is keep giving him 1.5 gallons but split into two feeds. Tomorrow I will weight tape him. He is looking extremely good. He has a thick plushy coat and a cheerful bouncy disposition. I noticed today he was chewing his cud and napping cuddled up with Jasmine. He usually chooses Emily.
The weather was disagreeably cold and windy today, although there was sun for an hour or two in the morning. Sally worked for a short while over at her house but then returned to work on Rosemary's bridesmaid gown in her nice warm bedroom. We thought better of our idea of taking a walk along the river.
I got six eggs today.
March 4, 2006 Saturday
The weather has moderated somewhat, although it is still windy. Sally and I walked down to the river with my new length of rope and she secured the fallen tree so it will help hold the bank rather than washing away down the river.
Sally is concerned for the care of her goats which are at home in Alaska. Her son, Rafe, and his girl friend Sally (another Sally!)have been staying there and caring for them. They need to leave soon and have not found anybody to take over the goat care. It seems that the goat Sally had bred just before she left for Maine may not be pregnant, which will mean my Sally will have no raw milk until next year when she comes back here. Goats only breed in the fall in Alaska. Goats are important to Sally. She has been keeping and milking goats since she was 12 years old and there is not much she does not know about them.
Max and Mitra came over today for milk and a meal. The girls were at a sleepover. I served a tamale pie. It has pretty much all the same ingredients you find in lasagna except it has corn meal mush instead of pasta. I spread a layer of mush on the bottom of the pan, layered on a cooked mixture of ground meat and sausage seasoned with chili powder, then a layer of mixed veg including tomato paste, a layer of homemade feta mixed with homemade cream cheese and four eggs, a final layer of corn meal mush, and shredded cheddar. Everybody liked it a lot.
Sally and Mitra took a lot of pictures in the barn.
March 5, 2006 Sunday
The thermometer reached 30F today and there was considerable sun. The persistent wind still left us feeling cold when outside. I kept a fire going all day.
Emily taped at 725 lbs. She will be 1 year old in April. Freddie taped at 180. He is 2 months old. He gets 1.5 gallons of whole milk/day and a couple of cupfuls of grain along with all the hay her cares to eat and access to the molasses lick. I consider his weight to be pretty good. It is well ahead of the average shown on the tape. But, if he were on a cow he would no doubt gain faster.
Helen is still making milk.
I opened the gate to the River pasture but the cows did not choose to go out.
Jasmine gave 3.5 gallons. It all got used or sold and I had to turn down two customers.
March 6, 2006 Monday
Sally and I went to Farmington today. We stopped in at a horse boarding barn where my daughter Marcia may decide to board her horses. The young woman who is barn manager was socially inept and kept me standing around in the tack shop for more than five minutes while she talked on the phone. This sort of thing makes a poor impression, but some aspects of the place look OK. However Marcia thinks the sand in their indoor arena may be too deep for working her horses on. She says 2" is as deep as they can work on without damaging themselves. Other than that it is a fine arena.
We also went to the health food store. There were more shoppers than usual. I was in a line of six or seven recognizably vegetarian people at checkout. Sally and I both were struck by how pale, tired and generally unhealthy they and the clerk appeared. There seems to be a vegetarian "look". Do they aspire to this or do they just not admire anything about physical appearance beyond thinness? They all had a grey complexion and a couple of them had circles under their eyes too dark to ignore. The checkout gal appears to have lost another 10 lbs since last I was in there and Lordy, she is so slow. She picks up each item and fondles it, turning it over to find the price before deliberately placing it in a bag.
Back at home, Sally found a horizontal beam at ground level in the barn that had a broken and rusted nail sticking out of it. Perhaps the winter storms shifting our post and beam barn have worked it out. It seems likely that this was the cause of Fred's limp. He is fine now. He has not had any immunizations, so I hope he does not develop tetanus. Hopefully, if his injury was from this nail it was superficial.
March 7, 2006 Tuesday
Among some things in the barn attic Sally found a bag of her sheep's wool from two years ago. It is nice light colored wool and she was thrilled to discover it. She is working extra hard to finish her projects. She leaves on the 20th of this month.
Sally is buying me a puppy. She feels I need a little "doorbell". My old Muffin used to bark when people came to the house until she got too deaf to notice. But, Bagel never does. The puppy is a male West Highland Terrier. It will be ready on Saturday. I would have preferred a female but they did not have one. I met both of the puppy's parents. They were nice, friendly family dogs. I hope Bagel will learn to accept it. He is extremely friendly, so I doubt he will stay aloof for long. I think I will name the puppy William.
March 8, 2006 Wednesday
This morning there were little signs suggesting that Jasmine was coming into heat today, the very day marked on the calendar. There was that slight puffiness of the vulva and her udder was obviously less stuffed with milk. Sally and I took frequent observations all day and Jasmine soon dispelled all doubt. I wanted to see unmistakable standing heat before calling AI. At evening milking Sally and I watched the cows in the barnyard through one-way glass (a window covered with old cobwebs) for about ten minutes until I finally saw her stand solidly for Emily. I called my man. He will come in the morning which I hope will be just the right time. He will bring my second and last straw of mini Jersey semen.
Jasmine's production for today was way down, just 2¾ gallons. She has been giving a strong 3½. Her milk tasted a bit different. There was no particular flavor, it just was not as sweet. That little cow does love to eat. She trots in like a pony to get her feed.
I have not had to milk Helen out again. Her udder is resolving nicely.
March 9, 2006 Thursday
The AI man arrived about 10am. He did not sound terribly optimistic about Jasmine's state of fertility. He said he could not find any slime and her cervix was closed. But I will remain hopeful. Her vulva was still puffy, her milk tasted the same this morning as it did yesterday, and her production today remained down; 2¾ the same as yesterday.
Yesterday'S weather was quite mild. I thought to myself, "Much more of this and the skunks will wake up." This morning we were greeted by a strong smell of skunk in the barn. Now it has started to snow, so perhaps they will go back to sleep.
Another hen has started laying. She lays a khaki egg.
March 10, 2006 Friday
It snowed last night, about 3" of damp snowball snow.
During breakfast Sally and I observed a bird fight on the feeder. A blue jay and a much smaller bird were facing off and the jay was giving way. I got the binoculars and saw that the challenger was a starling. Those darn things are back. It must be a sign of spring. A few minutes later a big crow drove them both off. He wanted the piece of suet that still had a large piece of kidney in it. He jammed in his beak and did a backwards lift-off with it but it was too heavy for him and he only managed to carry it about 20'. It fell on the snowy lawn where he stood over it alternately pecking and looking for cats.
Max came today for milk. He installed a new sink spray hose. How we have missed that hose for the last few days. It is hard to wash the milking machine without it. Then he got out the Kubota and removed the manure pile from behind the barn. All is nice and flat again. Afterwards we gave him a piece of my Victoria fruitcake, a lovely cake stuffed with dates and raisins that is made with applesauce. Sally also gave him some of her home made smoked salmon from Alaska.
Jasmine's production is back to normal. She gave 3¼ gallons today, not quite where it was before she was in heat, but close.
The snow is melting fast. Water is seeping down the granite foundation blocks in the cellar.
Martin and DIL Amy are on the way here tonight in his truck bringing my new book order. I have made them saffron bread and peanut pumpkin soup.
Tomorrow I get my new puppy.
March 11, 2006 Saturday
Off we went today for my new puppy, William. He is a nice, plump, seven week old West Highland Terrier. He rode home in Sally's lap. He did not seem unduly alarmed by all his new experiences, in fact he is playful and adventuresome between long naps. He likes Jasmine's milk very much.
Max, Mitra and the girls and Martin and Amy were here for dinner. Mitra made one of her famous salads. I made macaroni and cheese and a roast leg of lamb. The lamb was raised locally and was absolutely delicious. The guys were picking at the bone after dinner. For dessert I served another one of my Victoria fruitcakes.
Lulu, the black dog, came along with Max and Mitra. Neither she nor Bagel seem to have more than a passing interest in William
I plan to put William in a cat carrier in my room for the night.
March 12, 2006 Sunday
Willy had a few bouts of crying during the night. I tried letting him sleep on my bed but even that made him nervous. Bagel did not like the sound of him and asked to leave the room. But really, Willy did quite well. He did not wet in his carrier and in the morning I carried him straight downstairs and outdoors where he immediately widdled.
Sally was up ahead of me. I found her on hands and knees cleaning up broken eggs. Just seconds before I arrived my fat old cat, Sissypuss, had jumped up and knocked over a basket of six eggs. Sigh. Yesterday the hens actually produced six eggs and there they went.
We took a walk around the field. The weather was a quiet, spring like 40F. We took William along, expecting to have to carry him. Instead he insisted on walking most of the way, bouncing along with us on his little short legs. Every so often he would get tired and yip to be carried, but soon was struggling to be back on his feet.
About half of the time he runs to the door to pee on the newspaper.
Bagel is still worried about him and needs plenty of reassurance.
Jasmine gave 3 gallons today.
March 13, 2006 Monday
Last night William yipped for a long time after I put him to bed in his carrier next to my bed. This time Bagel did not try to leave the room. I finally got the idea of draping my bathrobe over his carrier. He settled down at once and did not cry again until morning. There was moonlight coming in the window. I don't know if it was the smell of my bathrobe, being darker or warmer that turned the trick. Tonight, besides the bathrobe, I am heating a brick to put in with him. That was Sally's idea. She was afraid that he might chew on a heating pad. William wants so badly to play with Bagel, but Bagel is not ready. He looks perfectly miserable when William dances around yipping "Let's play!" Mostly Will follows me and Sally around trying to pull off our socks or mortally wound my slippers. I understand Westies were bred as ratters. The way he shakes my slipper, if it were a rat it definitely would not last long.
Virtually all of the snow is now gone. The cows wander the pastures looking for grass. They love to do this even though they have hay. Jasmine gave 3 ¼ gallons today.
March 14, 2006 Tuesday
Last night with Willy went a lot better. I think the hot brick in a cloth bag was a comfort to him. Or maybe he is getting used to his new life. He certainly is a happy little guy.
It was warm again today. Sally is trying to level her driveway for the flatbed that will be bringing Rafe's boat before long. As the ground thaws she scrapes off an inch from the high side of the driveway and moves it to the low side. What some mothers won't do for their kids!
I forgot to put in the pin in Jasmine's stanchion this evening. She waited politely until I took off the machine and got my Dixie cup and filled it with the last few squirts. Then when I drank some and started to refill it she said she'd stood there long enough and began backing away. She moves daintily but inexorably.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallon today.
March 15, 2006 Wednesday
Jasmine dropped back to 3 gallons today for no reason I could tell. It has turned cold and windy. The cows barely left the barn. Perhaps roaming the pasture for last year's leftovers over the last few warm days prompted a rise in milk production yesterday.
There were 8 eggs.
Max came over for milk and as always did some little jobs around here. He nailed up a barrier to stop Jasmine knocking over the cat food and milk from their feeding shelf. The cows pass this on their way back to the Beefer Pen. Reaching out as she goes by and knocking over the cat food is her favorite trick.
Later on, Sally and I went out on errands. We took both dogs with William in a carrier. They were well behaved except that Bagel expressed his disgruntlement over sharing the back seat with a carrier by getting into the front passenger seat while we shopped. He looked quite self conscious and funny sitting there.
When we got home Sally spotted 7 or 8 wild turkeys in the Pocket Field. Last time we walked there I noticed lots of their droppings, but this is the first time Sally got to see them.
William is making rapid progress with learning to use the paper by the door. If I notice when he wakes from a nap I carry him outside at once. That results in a pee just about every time.
March 16, 2006 Thursday
What a surprise we had today! I heard "Hi Mom" behind my back and thought it was Sally. I turned around and it was Abby, my daughter who was here for a long time and now lives in PA. She had just taken a job doing live-in elder care in Castine, Maine, and drove this way to surprise me. She could not stay long. She had three more hours to drive and starts work tomorrow. Abby adores puppies and immediately made friends with Willy.
Later Sally and I took a walk around the fields with the dogs. I expected to have to carry Willy but every time I picked him up he squirmed to be down and running. Only it is more like hopping. His legs are so short and the ground is so lumpy that every tussock is an obstacle. He sure has a lot of energy. He drinks all he wants of raw milk and I have started him on raw meat. I gave him bits of the heart and venison that went into the chili I made today.
Jasmine gave 3 ¼ gallons today.
March 17, 2006 Friday
I am increasing the grain for both cows by a half a pound a day starting today. Helen is no longer making milk, so I am not very worried that she will start producing. But I will keep and eye on her. This only brings her up to 1.5 scoops. I will gradually increase Jasmine from 2 scoops to 3 scoops. At this time of year (from now until the grass grows) it is hard to keep the weight on them.
Freddie was limping again today. We soaked his foot in bleach water morning and evening. I cleaned his hoof thoroughly and there is absolutely no smell or tenderness. I am beginning to wonder if he sprained his shoulder. He is clearly reluctant to put weight on his left front.
Sally and I drove to Weld for a look at DD Marcia and SIL Jack's camp. A crew has been working there most of the winter insulating and putting knotty pine paneling upstairs. Downstairs they are refinishing the hardwood floors from a very dark brown stain to a light honey tone. The floors were still wet but everything looks good. The lake is still solidly frozen.
Bagel is now willing to briefly tolerate Willie's efforts to play. I do not leave them together at all, just in case Bagel should lose patience.
March 18, 2006 Saturday
The weather continues cold and windy, but Sally and I went for a walk anyway, taking the dogs. When we returned through the barnyard all the cows were standing around watching. I was carrying William, but Jasmine could see him. She ran right after us. No dogs allowed, I think I heard her say. I scooted up the ramp and into the barn with him.
March 19, 2006 Sunday
This is Sally's last day before she returns to Alaska just in time for her daughter's wedding. Today was busy every minute getting ready. All the same, we found time for a little walk. Sally recently repaired the wind chime she made a couple of years ago for me to hang by Muffin's grave. She carried it down and hung it back up. It should now withstand many winter storms.
We left William taking a nap and invited only Bagel along. All the cows followed us. It was very funny to see them trying to chase Bagel away. Even Helen tried to run.
At evening milking I forgot to put in the pin on Jasmine's stanchion. When she finished her feed, with the Surge belly milker still attached, she backed out of her position and left . . . just marched away with the machine still maintaining suction on her teats. It pulled off from the vacuum hose which flopped down and started sucking shavings. Out in the main aisle she got stopped by Freddie's rope; it was stretched right out and she thought better of tangling with it. About this time the surcingle let go and the machine flopped down. Amazingly, nothing spilled. I marched her right back to her stanchion and finished milking. Silly little cow. I told her to never do that again. What I am really hoping is that I never again forget the pin.
Jasmine gave 3.5 gallons today. I got 8 eggs. I found two new nests.
There is no snow at all, but the weather remains unseasonably cold. It was 10F again this morning.
There is a great storm sweeping across Townsville, Northern Queensland, Australia, where my son and his wife live.
March 20, 2006 Monday
Yet again today, 10F. Sally left today for Fairbanks. Max drove her to the bus in Portland. It is a complicated trip and she won't arrive until sometime tomorrow. She will have to hit the ground running. Being the mother of the bride at Rebecca's wedding next Saturday she is in great demand.
Rebecca, like all Sally's kids, grew up hearing and reading the Little House series. She longed to get a cow as a wedding gift like Laura. That is not possible for her at present. She and her young Dane, Torsten, have yet to build a house on their land. But Sally and I have a plan. We are giving her a copy of Keeping a Family Cow with a Certificate For One Cow inscribed on the title page. So, one of these days she can claim a Coburn Farm Heifer. I got through the evening chores by myself without too many mishaps. Poor Fred ran in to suck on his blue teat bucket before I had the milk poured into it. He did not give up, no, not Fred. He just kept sucking air until I poured in the milk.
March 21, 2006 Tuesday
Sally called early this morning from her Motel 8 in Seattle and again after her safe arrival in Fairbanks. Her husband Tom met her. He took a little time off from his -50F job at Prudhoe Bay.
Chores this morning were a rush because of my dental appointment, but the cows were cooperative. This evening was another story. Not only did I go out somewhat earlier than they have come to expect, but I was wearing something different and I wasn't Sally. They are accustomed to her letting them in. Jasmine did not hesitate and neither did Fred (this time his milk was ready) but Helen and Emily stood outside and looked suspicious. After a few invitations I gave up and milked Jasmine. While the machine was on I left her alone and tidied the Beefer Pen. Finally when I had the machine off, Helen got up her nerve and came in for her snack. As I was turning them all out Emily slunk in but I told her she was too late, party's over.
Jasmine did not like being left all alone while being milked and pooped four times.
She gave slightly less than 3.5 gallons today.
March 23, 2006 Thursday
Yesterday when I went to the barn I hooked William's string on a branch. I told Bagel to watch him. I don't know if Bagel understood me or was going to do it anyway, but he sat right nearby and stayed until I got back.
Bagel has started playing with Willy outdoors. But he won't let Willy have his bone. I supervise closely. Today Max came over with Lulu. She is friendlier with Willy.
It looks like Emily is coming into heat. She is a week ahead of Jasmine so it will be next Wednesday or Thursday before she gives me the news.
I am sitting here nervously awaiting a trucker with my grandson Rafe's boat. It is to be delivered across the river at Sally's little house. It is now dark. I hope the trucker is not lost. But there is no direct route up from New Hampshire where he picked up the boat. I talked to Rafe about 4pm and he said it was on the way. Sally said the trucker paid little attention when she tried to tell him how to get here. After milking I drove over to her house to see if it was there. It was not. I can see her house from here and I am looking out the window every few minutes to see if there are bright lights in the driveway.
Jasmine gave 3.5 gallons today and it is all sold or spoken for already.
I cooked up a beef kidney from the freezer and gave some bits to Willy. He was crazy about it and it seems to have given him a kidney high. He has now pulled off my slippers and one sock. A Company Store catalogue is in tatters.
March 24, 2006 Friday
The boat, which is a 32' steel hull sloop, was delivered last night after dark. When I finally realized it had arrived I went over to look at it and found the trucker just finishing the job. This boat is enormous. I can't believe Rafe can take it out single handed and hope he does not try, although he seems to think he can do it. The trucker brought the boat on a very long trailer and backed it perfectly into a pretty narrow space next to the house. Rafe intends to attach a roof to the house so he can work under cover. It will have to be a very high roof. Rafe expects to return to Maine next week. Tomorrow is his sister's wedding. Sally called and said all the Danish relatives got together last night for a sit down dinner and there was great jollity and many cries of "Skol!"
Three days in a row now when I have gone out to do the midday chores I have taken William along and tied his string to the little rowan tree that is halfway to the barn. Then I asked Bagel to stay. He sat about 10 feet away and did not move until I came back. This was comforting to Willie and he too sat quietly with no yapping.
Also, today Bagel definitely initiated play with William. They played together about ten minutes until I got tired of standing there.
Mitra and I are going tomorrow to Portland to my DIL Amy's baby shower. Max and the girls will stay here. I am hoping the girls will give Willie a shampoo. He is starting to smell like dried pee.
I saw some very minor signs of heat in Emily on Wednesday. I have seen nothing else unless I count Jasmine deliberately butting her a lot of times. However, this butting seems more to do with Jasmine wanting to take over responsibility for Freddie. Jasmine now will not leave the main aisle until Freddie has headed down the corridor to the Beefer Pen. He wants to fool around and explore. I have to drag and pinch to make him go ahead of Jasmine. Until now it has been Emily that made sure to stay with him at all times.
Jasmine gave 3.5 gallons.
March 25, 2006 Saturday
What a fine day. Mitra drove us to Portland (about an hour and a quarter) to attend DIL Amy's baby shower. WE found our way quite well. There were about 25 ladies present. Amy's friends are very creative and there were many lovely gifts. The most interesting may have been a mustard colored mat about 20"x30" of felted wool. It had lines of stitching running longitudinally of slubbed thread about an inch apart all over it. The thread was cerise and extended from each row as a 3" fringe.
Afterwards we stopped in to see Mark and granddaughter Hailey in the beautiful home where he is house-sitting for friends now in NZ. When we got home Max had a delicious meal waiting of roast beef, mashed potatoes and green beans and excellent gravy too. I poured out a quart of applesauce and Shireen added some of my frozen raspberries for a quick dessert. Afterwards I milked my cow.
During the morning Shireen and Roshan, 10 and 7, with help from Max, shampooed Willie for me. When I got home he not only smelled sweet but was beautifully white.
The cows were all well behaved. I was late to the barn and they were all in a row at the gate murmuring.
I forgot to mention that yesterday I made a pound of butter, the first in about a month. There just has not been extra milk to skim.
By now Rebecca and Torsten will be married. I heard about a few crises that took place earlier in the day. Some of the flowers had died - all the iris - and her sister Rosemary had to scout the city of Fairbanks for more. Rosemary was worried about her cake. It sounded like an engineering triumph. It had four layers of almond cake - the Martha Stewart recipe - including the meringue dacquoise layers.
March 27, 2006 Monday
There is no new grass and won't be for a month. There is plenty of dry dead grass from last year and a few wintered over green wisps at the fence lines. The last couple of days there has been a bit of sun and it warmed up into the 30's. The cows spend quite a lot of time moseying around the pasture nibbling. For the first time this year I even heard their bells out in the pasture during the night. They apparently are eating enough to kill their appetite for my low grade hay. I throw it down but it is not being eaten. They stare back up at me through the hay drop saying, "Well? Expect us to eat this, do you? Think again." So I give up and throw down some of my remaining high quality goods. There is not a lot of it left but maybe it will last until Martin is able to bring some new stuff.
This morning I raced off to the dentist. He numbed my mouth before studying the X-rays given him by the hygienist. He said "Hmmm" and scraped around a bit and announced there was nothing wrong with either of the teeth in question. The hygienist had misread the X-rays. What a thrill! I have no dental insurance so must pay out of pocket. This reprieve was like having a couple hundred dollars handed to me.
The teat bucket we have been using for Freddie has been getting leakier each day and yesterday became useless. Fred is three months old now but I would just as soon keep him on milk a bit longer. This morning I tried serving milk in his grain pan but he could not relate to that at all. He went without milk and mooed at me often all day. This evening I removed the nipple from his familiar blue bucket and put duct tape over the hole. With a bit of encouragement he drank his milk tonight.
Fred's foot still troubles him frequently. There is no heat in it. His ankle is not swollen or tender. Again this morning I cleaned out his hoof and there is no particular smell. Sometimes he scarcely favors it whereas at other times he is reluctant to walk. This is so puzzling. Since Sally left I have taken to putting the machine on Jasmine and leaving to clean up. She has not been completely letting down and I even got worried about mastitis. Then I had the thought that perhaps she was just expressing her objections to my not sitting next to her murmuring sweet nothings. I tried that tonight and proved my theory correct. She let down fully.
March 29, 2006 Wednesday
The pulsator on my Surge has been quirky lately and this morning would not behave at all. I was able to make it function by moving the slider back and forth with my finger, a tedious and ultimately painful exercise. Consequently I was forced to dismantle the thing and clean it. That was the problem all right. This evening it worked fine.
One of my neighbors came over this morning and negotiated to borrow the Kubota so he would have two tractors on site for his manure spreading job. He got a load of chicken manure from the deCoster egg farm. He will now lend us his spreader later for spreading my manure piles. We have been wishing we owned a spreader. Now I can forget about that for another year.
Max came over for milk this morning and brought along his shop vac. When he was farm sitting last Saturday he observed that my vacuuming was not getting into the corners - so true. I have an ancient wheeze of an upright Hoover and its accessory hose attachment is long gone. He did the entire downstairs including ceilings. What a guy. I was as pleased as if I had been given a coupon for a massage.
There were no signs of heat in Jasmine today unless you count her licking Helen a lot. But tomorrow is really the day that will give the news one way or the other.
Willie has been jumping up and down trying to make it up onto the couch. Today he managed it. First he attacked the pair of sock monkeys, then my hair (I was lying down.) I guess I will retire my more valued cushions. Max brought him a little collar and leash today. I had hoped to be able to hitch him while I go to the barn. The collar proved defective so he is stuck with his hay string a little longer.
My grandson Rafe has returned. He is going to do some carpentry for Max and Martin. DIL Amy wants a bay window in her baby's room. Max and Mitra need a new deck which will made of CorrectDeck. Rafe also aims to work on his boat. The people who delivered it failed to bring along the mast so something will have to be done about that at some point. Rafe expects to be here six weeks.
March 30, 2006 Thursday
Yesterday or today Jasmine should have come in heat if she is not bred. I am permitting myself some cautious optimism. I did not see any overt heat activity. I did notice that the cows were huddling more than usual and tonight I thought her vulva looked just slightly puffy compared to this morning.
My vet came by today. I gave him a nice lunch of chili I had frozen while Sally was here. I also had a cake. Rafe joined us. The vet looked at Freddie's sore foot and confirmed foot rot. He gave him a shot of penicillin, gave me some iodine to put on it and Terramycin to put in his feed.
Rafe took both dogs for a nice walk. He reported that Willie kept up without difficulty. He also saw that the spring line is separated where it crosses the brook and no water is pouring out.
March 31, 2006 Friday
This morning I had to stop kidding myself. Although the signs were subtle, I decided Jasmine was in heat. Gloom. I called my AI tech. As always he was slow to arrive. He said he was sure she was in better heat than last time. I used a Genex bull called Roulette. I don't know a thing about him except Phil said he is highly fertile and is short. So we will see.
Rafe left today to visit his friends in Bar Harbor. I made egg salad with 8 eggs and he made sandwiches of it all. I think he will be OD'd on eggs. He went to College of the Atlantic and still is fond of the place. I expect him back Sunday.
Fred was still limping today. By sneaking up with the medicine dropper while he is drinking his milk I am able to get the iodine on his foot. The antibiotic powder in his grain does not slow him down at all.
I found a new nest with six small flawless blue eggs. It is of course one of the bantams. I left her two.
The weather today, like yesterday, was warm and lovely.
April 1, 2006 Saturday
Well, Jasmine certainly pulled an April Fool's joke on me. After showing no further signs of heat all of yesterday, about mid morning today she exploded. I have seldom seen such jumping and humping. She was standing at 10am and still standing at 6pm. I did not call AI back. The prospect of paying him another $40 was too depressing. Darn it.
It is raining today, the first rain in weeks. We had the driest March since 1874 or some such. This is a very light rain.
In order to use up some of the eggs which my hens are finally laying, I made Portuguese Sweet Bread. I cut down on the sugar and used my last two cups of whole wheat flour, the remainder white, and five eggs. I got two beautiful shining golden loaves, a cheerful sight.
I also made 1.5 lbs of butter from 3 quarts of cream, just what my churn holds.
April 2, 2006 Sunday
Freddie is still a little touchy with his infected foot but I am not seeing any actual limping. It is getting better. It is tetracycline I am putting in his food, not teramycin. He walks along nicely now.
The dogs and I took a short walk to the river. Yesterday's rain raised it a bit but it is low for the time of year. I stopped at the veg garden and checked for thawing by sticking in a shovel. It went right in to the top of the blade without hitting ice. I could definitely plant carrots. This is a good two to three weeks earlier than normal.
Sad news came to me last night. My very dear Cousin Marcia, much loved from childhood, passed away last night from cancer. What a void she leaves in the hearts of her family.
April 3, 2006 Monday
Rafe returned today. He had a great time with his friends out on Gott Island, a resort community, where they are doing carpentry. On the way home he bought a table saw, a chop saw, a reciprocating saw, and a bunch of hand tools to add to what he already owns. Besides working on his boat, he is planning to do some renovations for his uncles Max and Martin.
He took the dogs for two nice walks.
April 4, 2006 Tuesday
Winter came roaring back. We are having an all day sleet storm. Rafe drove to Biddeford (2 hours away where Martin and Amy live) to pick up a van and trailer load of CorrectDeck for Max and Mitra from Martin's plant. The driving was not good. On the steep hill approaching Max and Mitra's house it was too slippery and he could not make it. Patrolmen came to direct traffic and the Town came out with sand. He was able to back down the hill to a driveway and turn the load around. There is another less steep access road on the other side of the hill. It was ten extra miles of driving but he made it ok and unloaded the boards.
Fred's foot must feel a lot better. He raced in tonight at the head of the pack to get his dinner. He gets a half gallon of warm milk in a bucket and a small scoop of grain. He also likes the mineral mix I sent away for from Countryside Natural Products in VA. Rafe built a box across one corner of the Beefer Pen for the cows to have free choice minerals. Fred can't reach it. I saw him licking spilled mineral off of a beam lower down so I spread some down there for him. I drew a design with my fingers in the minerals in the box so I would be able to tell if the cows were eating it. On the first day they did not but now they have started eating some. I was going to make up Pat Coleby's mix as recommended by Midge but the man at Countryside talked me into his mix. It seems to have pretty much the same formula. The ingredients are: Kelp, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, magnesium oxide, hydrated sodium calcium aluminosilicate, diatomaceous earth, sulpher, garlic, dehydrated apple cider vinegar, copper sulphate, vitamin E, sodium selinate.
Willie teases Lemur all the time. Lemur is my deaf and blind cat. Today she was on a stool and he was darting around barking at her. She knew he was there. I suppose she can feel his breath. This time she reached out her paw and nailed him good. It was one of those occasions where the cat can't seem to get her claw back. She had him hooked like a bass right on his lip. He was dancing around and pulling back. I was kind of afraid to stick my hand into the middle of this for fear that Lemur would think I was part of the problem. Willie has a strong terrier spirit and did not even squeak although there was blood. I soon took the risk and picked Lemur up and put her in the cellar with a treat. She likes the cellar.
After supper Rafe built a huge fire in the kitchen fireplace and set the chimney on fire. Thanks to my habit of maintaining a lot of backup supplies, I was able to lay hands on three boxes of baking soda. I shook them onto the fire which reduced it but it was in the chimney and burning creosote. Rafe put the logs into a metal garbage pail and carried them outside. We stood out in the rain and watched the chimney for quite a while. It seems to be out.
I think I have had about enough excitement for one day.
April 5, 2006 Wednesday
Sometime during the night a power pole went down. We had no electricity this morning. It took me a while to fit it together in my brain that this meant I had to milk by hand. Then I stalled around until 8 o'clock before facing reality. Jasmine stood to perfection. I had not hand milked since last fall and got awfully tired about halfway through. I quit, leaving some milk behind, kind of a no-no for various reasons. I think I got most of it back this evening; anyway she gave three gallons for the day which is close to her usual production.
I have watched Jasmine closely since she was in heat and have not seen any bleed out. I suppose there is a remote chance that even though bred too early she may have settled.
Rafe took the van and trailer back to Biddeford today and spent the afternoon working at Martin's plant. He enjoyed seeing the plant in action. It is a great hive of cheerful activity that runs 24/7.
April 7, 2006 Friday
Yesterday Jasmine had a very little bit of slime which I wiped off with a paper towel. There was no blood in it.
She is still giving 3 to 3.5 gallons a day. I am giving her, but not Helen, a couple of handfuls of alfalfa cubes on her feed night and morning. I don't know who is eating the free choice mineral but it is disappearing.
Nearly every doorknob in my house has been out of business for years, some for as long as I have lived here. Efforts to fix them have failed. Rafe went out and bought four new sets. But when he took apart the 100 year old doorknobs he was so impressed with their workmanship that he was reluctant to replace them. Their problem was that the spring that is supposed to return the hasp had in each case broken. He devised a way to repair all but one by blocking part of the brace the spring was in so that the shortened spring would function. The house has shifted so much that on one door he had to move the striker plate and another door had to be planed down nearly an inch. Rafe owns a lot of tools, being a carpenter, including a power plane so the work went fast. With the doorknobs functional I was able to retire the system of baby gates I have been using to reduce Willie's opportunities to roam the house. Rafe also fixed a hazardous ramp in the barn and reset the barrier bar where Helen stands at milking time. Now I can get past it with the milking machine more easily.
I pan fried a couple of grassfed Jersey tenderloins for dinner, reaffirming the tender tastiness of same.
This morning I taped Helen at 1117 lbs, Jasmine at 740, Emily also at 740, and Fred at 271. Fred gained less than 50 lbs in the last month perhaps because of his foot rot, perhaps because we cut him back from 1.5 gallons of milk to one gallon. I can ill spare this milk right now and half the time I mix up powdered milk that I have on hand. I prefer not to wean him yet because with any kind of luck when Helen freshens I will again have too much and he will be a good customer for some of it.
Emily is about to have her first birthday. She has long legs and will be as big as her mom no doubt.
April 8, 2006 Saturday
What a busy day! Rafe went over to Max and Mitra's and built their pig house. Max is still out of town. I ran around getting the house cleaned up for dinner here tonight and made lemon bars. My one TV show, Victory Garden, comes on at 12:30 and I watched that. Martin and Amy came up from Biddeford bringing the makings for salad. Amy has one more month to wait for her baby. She seems happy and relaxed. Mitra and the girls came over. The girls bathed Willie again. He looks adorably white and fluffy after a bath.
Mitra helped with the evening barn chores.
For supper Mitra made Iranian rice and another of her superb salads. I made a cauliflower stir fry using one of the new orange cauliflowers. Rafe brought salmon from Alaska which he had caught in the inlet in front of their house. I baked it with lemon butter and fennel.
Mitra's dog Lulu played endlessly with Willie. He seems to be tireless and had a wonderful time.
Right at dinner time Martin stepped out the door and there was a wild bird sitting on the floor, frightened and confused. He carefully picked it up and brought it inside. It was a woodcock. None of us had every seen one up close like that. After we had all had a good look he took it out on the deck to fly away. It disappeared into the gathering dusk. I can't imagine how it happened to fly into the buttery.
Jasmine gave 3.5 gallons today.
April 9, 2006 Sunday
The sun was bright all day today - at last. I don't believe it got above 40F but everyone agreed it was a fine day. Rafe took an early walk with the dogs, Willie bouncing along as usual.
I made rye bread using the recipe from DanMa. It is excellent.
Martin came down and did some farm tasks including moving the stock tank back outdoors for the summer. The cows were much confused by the change. They grazed for a long time today and were sufficiently satisfied that they gave insulting looks to their 2nd rate hay tonight. It does not look to me as though there is enough grass to be worth grazing but they disagree. Obviously they are getting something. Jasmine's cream is changing from the thin cream of winter to the heavy cream characteristic of spring grass. This evening for the first time this year Helen and Jasmine were out grazing side by side on the knoll as darkness fell. Emily and Freddie didn't bother.
Rafe is gone this week to Max and Mitra's house, being joined there by another carpenter friend, to build them a new deck. It will be a CorrectDcck of course.
April 11, 2006 Tuesday
I have now heard the wild geese flying north and the dogs and I saw a large hen turkey cross the field. Monday I did some garden prep. The ground is clear but I need manure brought down.
Today I took both dogs with me to do errands. Willie rode in a crate. He was perfectly behaved and did no yipping even though I was a long time in the library.
April 12, 2006 Wednesday Well, I got a revolting shock when I got down one of my cheeses. A mouse had got in and excavated out about half of it. I never had this happen before. Now I will have to revise my whole cheese storage plan. I have them hanging in individual onion bags from pipes in the cellar. This is so aggravating because my lovely cellar has just the right conditions.
The cows say spring is here. They slept outside. It makes for a lot less clean up.
A man came today and cleaned my chimneys. Mitra found him. It is very hard to get anyone to do it. He spent his working life in New Jersey before retiring to Maine. I guess when he discovered how starved we are for chimney sweeps he decided to take it up again.
Jasmine has given 3.5 gallons each of the last few days.
April 13, 2006 Thursday
Here's another Spring First. The cows did not come up at milking time this evening. I yelled my fool head off, not a musical note I fear, and got no response. There was a lot of wind and I could not see them or hear bells. After a while I gave up and decided to do like Heather (simplynaturalfarm) and just skip it. But about 7:30 I relented and went out to see if they were in. They were, and Jasmine gave an extra half gallon for a total of 4 gallons today. I also got a dozen eggs again. If they are out of sight in the morning I will start closing them into the close-up paddock at night.
With some help from Bagel and Willie, I got a row prepared for carrots. Tomorrow I will run down and sow them, with any kind of luck.
April 14, 2006 Friday
The weather today was perfectly lovely, balmy and bright. The cows were once again sleeping down on the pasture by the river. I could see them from my window when I first got up. Later they ambled up for milking right on time and did the same this evening. Jasmine gave 3.5 gallons. I had very little pitching out to do because after eating their hay they went back outside to soak up rays. They are refusing the poor quality hay so I am dividing the good hay up into more than one feeding.
My daughter Sally called from Alaska. She wanted to tell me about the bizarre decision of some group of state officials. These zealots have formed a committee for bird flu preparedness. They say they plan to quarantine the town of Haines by blocking the access road and right now everyone should lay in a month's supply of food in case they really do it.
Son Martin and wife Amy are arriving shortly for the weekend. I am making them Chinese Hot and Sour soup. It is a last minute thing. I have four little bowls of things to add in succession at the last minute.
Earlier today I made hot cross buns. They are half whole wheat but look like 100%.
Later: The Hot and Sour soup was a hit.
April 15, 2006 Saturday
We did not get much sun and there were some sprinkles but the air was warm and balmy. Max and Mitra and the girls came over for an Easter egg hunt and dinner. Martin worked around here much of the day while Amy stayed at camp with her feet elevated. Her baby is due in three weeks and her feet are swelling. Rafe is back now too.
Martin is trying to run new electrical wire for lights over the Aga. It is proving difficult. The wiring in this house is old and confusing.
Max made two pies for our dinner, apple and blueberry. I had made a nine egg pound cake which I did not serve. I sent half of it home with them instead.
William, my puppy, had a wild good time with the girls and their dog Lulu. He managed to fall into the fish pond and had to be rescued by Shireen. What with the sousing and digging holes wherever he finds a bare spot, he was filthy. Mitra gave him a nice bath and carried him around in a bath towel until he was dry and warm.
Helen also looks like her feet hurt. She is due the same day as Amy, May 10. She is bagging up a little bit. I don't know which of them is eating the free choice mineral but it is disappearing and I refilled the box. The only one I see eating it is Freddie but he does not eat out of the box. I put handfuls of it down on a low beam for him.
Jasmine gave four gallons today.
April 17, 2006 Monday
Big excitement for me this morning. I walked into the kitchen to the sound of running water. My spring line started up during the night and the granite cistern was filled and running over into the outfall as it is meant to do. This lovely spring which enlivens the kitchen with living water freezes along the line in winter. It is a great event every spring when it thaws. The line has a problem with leaks and develops air locks. Rafe worked on it last Saturday and Martin on Sunday. I am not sure what made it start to run.
Our weather is overcast and drizzly but in the 40's and 50's so the grass is able to grow a bit. I see the cows out there with their heads down finding a little. The grass or something has boosted Jasmine's production to close to four gallons. Today it was over four gallons.
Helen is looking huge and uncomfortable.
April 18, 2006 Tuesday
Although it got up to near 50F, today was overcast and windy. It was not tempting to work in the garden. I put the dogs in the car and went out on errands. Willie is a whirlwind when playing around home but goes right to sleep in his crate. I have it on the back seat with the door towards Bagel so he can see that he is not alone.
Sally in AK has a litter of adorable baby bunnies, so she reports. These are meat rabbits. I am not quite sure how she ever manages to kill them. But she somehow does. She has also ordered baby chicks from Murray McMurray. She shortened up her order so as to improve her chances of receiving them before the power crazed bureaucrats decide to prevent poultry shipments.
Grandson Rafe returned this evening to pick up more lumber for his projects at Max and Mitra's house. He is starting a duck house. They are going to have a regular little farm in their beautiful clearing in the woods.
Many buds are at last starting to swell. The willows have a golden cast. Along the edge of the barn there is a little green froth of tansy showing.
Jasmine gave a strong four gallons again today.
April 19, 2006 Wednesday
The dogs and I took a tour down to the veg garden where I have not been for several days due to uninviting weather. I found that my garlic is poking up, also the lovage. The buds of the Balm of Gilead are beginning to swell and get sticky.
I dug a large hole up by the house for a peony that was displaced last year by some septic tank work and never properly replanted. I hauled a cartload of manure for it and added lime. After all this neglect I want it to have a good life.
Before leaving again for Mitra and Max's house, Rafe got my modem line replaced. It had been out for three days. What a nuisance that was!
My neighbor Leonard came again and borrowed the Kubota.
At milking time only Helen and Jasmine were there waiting. Emily was way out in the pasture grazing. Before I was done Freddie showed up but Emily missed her snack. It is good to know there was enough grass out there to hold her interest.
April 20, 2006 Thursday
On Coburn Farm it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The best part was the perfect balmy sunny weather. I did some more fun soil prep for my veggies while Bagel and William observed.
The worst part was that Helen has torn her teat. It is not as bad as last year. It is only about a half inch long. I usually brush her while the machine is on Jasmine. For several days her udder and one teat were dirty but I don't do much with her udder now while she is dry beyond feeling all four quarters daily to be sure they are healthy. But she has come in twice all clean due to lying in the pasture, except for one teat. I decided to wash it off just to be sure there was nothing wrong with it. As soon as I got near it she kicked and my heart sank. I put the kicker on and worked on it both this morning and this evening but could not get off all the caked on manure. Just a little bit is on there but I am just trying to soak it off, not pick it off, in case I disturb a scab. She got me good across the eyes with her tail. That really hurt. She has about 20 days to go on her pregnancy so theoretically it could be healed before she calves.
Before leaving this morning for several days of carpentry work on Martin and Amy's house, Rafe attached another stud on the cow's ramp which will make it easier for Helen to make it up. But there is no proof that is how she stepped on her teat. She may do it when arising. I may put the cow bra on her once I have that teat clean.
This will really mess up my experiment with milk fever prevention and free choice minerals by adding a level of stress.
I made a batch of the yeast raised biscuits that were posted on the Forum by Lesli. I only made half the recipe but it still made a lot. It is an interesting dough, extremely tender yet easily handled. The nearest thing I can compare it to is restaurant rolls but with more flavor. It has that light almost cottony texture even though I used about half whole wheat pastry flour.
My neighbor, Leonard, borrowed the tractor again today to help with spreading chicken manure. When he brought it back he graciously spent about 20 minutes scraping and smoothing my rutted driveway.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons and I got 13 eggs. And I heard my first spring peepers.
April 21, 2006 Friday
I got the scabbed on manure off of Helen's teat. I held sopping wet warm cloths on it. I hope I did the right thing. The wound looks healthy and pink. I applied pure vitamin E to it. I don't believe it still hurts her. I instructed her firmly not to kick or switch her tail and she minded me, which she certainly would not have if it actually hurt. She is getting so big that it is painful to watch her walk and she is beginning to bag up.
Emily has been acting quite naughty when she comes in, dancing around and shaking her head and not letting me catch her to tie her up. She has missed her grain snack a couple of times because I don't give it to her when she is stroppy. She hates that. This evening when she danced away from me I threw the pitchfork at her and chased her out. Then I followed her into the beefer pen and threw it at her again (handle first of course, I just wanted her to know she was in trouble). She stood there looking sorry so I asked her if she wanted to go back in and try again. She walked back in and stood nicely. It will be interesting to see if the lesson lasts until tomorrow morning.
I finally got my row of carrots planted, then dug another row and turned in rotted manure and lime. These are just 12' rows so the accomplishment is not huge. The first row is a cultivar called Bolero, the second is Purple Haze, which as the name suggests is purple. I also got one area of comfrey covered with tarp before it emerged. I pinned the tarp down tight with old steel electric fence rods. I am hoping to kill the patch with solarization.
The dogs were terribly disappointed that I was only walking as far as the veg garden. Bagel went and had a look at the river by himself and Willie, who was tied up, dug some nice cool holes.
Jasmine, who is the hungriest, was the only one who came in for noontime hay. I threw her down a bale of the poor quality just to see what would happen. She refused it, just stood staring up at me. So I threw her down a private lunch of the good stuff.
April 22, 2006 Saturday
Jasmine behaved exactly as last time she came in heat. Yep, today was the day. I saw mild but unmistakable signs of heat about 10AM. Then in the afternoon, nada. This time I vowed to wait for further demonstration of standing heat. I saw just one little attempt, although I watched for a long time. Last time she did this, then quieted down and came into roaring heat the second day after. So, we shall see.
Emily came in quietly to get hooked up this morning, but this evening was again skittish. She did not get her grain.
My little hen that was setting inside an outside barn wall was just a pile of feathers this morning. Something got her in the night, poor thing. I suppose it was a raccoon. I put her cold eggs in the dustbin.
I've been getting a bit of gardening done. I need Max to come and connect up my water hoses. Unless it rains, germination will have to await water laid on. So far I have in carrots and lettuce.
Max got home today from Cape Cod, the job being ended. While he was gone Rafe built their duck house. It is so cute that the girls are claiming it for a play house.
The big news today is that my son Martin's wife, Amy, had her baby. She went into the hospital yesterday with high blood pressure and today was delivered of Hannah, 6 lb 7 oz at 3 PM by C-section. She was 19 days early. Martin held her for 15 minutes, then handed her to mom. She began nursing immediately and was still nursing 45 minutes later when he called. She is reportedly blond with traces of curly hair, and very pink and pretty. Pictures are promised.
April 23, 2006 Sunday
The report from the hospital seems to be good. Martin stayed overnight and held little Hanna for a long time so she would stay quiet and let Amy rest. Like all hospitals, this one makes a specialty of coming in to wake you up and ask if you are sleeping well. This is a teaching hospital so they make an extra effort.
Rafe is at their house doing carpentry. The plan had been for him to get this work done before Hannah was born. He will still be at it when they come home next Tuesday. But, babies usually sleep through anything.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Not a whiff of a sign of heat today from Jasmine. I have dropped them from three bales of hay a day to two. They are grazing diligently, but still come in at meal time to look for hay. If it is the lower quality hay they distain, they just stand there waiting.
I planted a row of golden beet and prepared a row for tomorrow. My rhubarb is pushing up its first knots of crumpled leaves. I tented some wire over it to stop chickens from eating it. There is quite a lot of forsythia in bloom. Most years I get no bloom and I was ready to whack it all out. The mild winter made the difference, no doubt.
Willie is being very cute. Of course now a lot of my sweaters have holes in them and he has pulled much of the fleece off of my slippers. Some of the small rugs will have to go to the dump. Mostly I keep him away from the rooms with the better rugs.
April 24, 2006
Monday After a worrisome period during which Hannah was too sleepy to eat, Martin now reports more enthusiastic feeding and plenty of elimination. She sleeps on mommy's breast and is getting stronger fast.
April 25, 2006
Tuesday Just as Martin, Amy and Hannah were about to leave the hospital a pediatrician came in and listened to Hannah's heart. She said Hannah has a heart murmur. Plans for leaving were set aside. They went for an echocardiogram. Hannah has a ventricular septum defect. It was not detected at birth because apertures, which shortly close, are normal. It is not serious enough to impair her color, which is a nice pink, but they were told to expect her to be drowsy and weak. She will see the pediatrician again in two weeks.
She is very drowsy which we have been attributing to Amy's anesthetic working its way out through her milk and this is very likely part of it. It is difficult to get Hannah to suck properly. She drowses off after a few sucks. But Martin says she is not weak. She can hold up her head.
I heard about the heart murmur this morning from Mark who had heard from Martin. Then I had to wait all day until 5 o"clock to hear more news, so it was a nervous day for me. They called Mark because he works at the hospital in the cardiac unit and is in med school.
It was also a busy day. Jasmine did the same as last month, went into full heat a couple of day following those signs on Saturday. I called AI and he bred her again to the same bull, Roulette, but we agreed if she comes into heat again I will get Dr. Cooper out here to check for cysts and probably go with one of the synchronization protocols. At this point if she does not settle I think it will be as well to wait a couple of months so as not to have a midwinter calf.
While rushing around in the barn my ear, deaf as I am, picked up peeping. There right under the high shelf where the cats feed was a hen and three chicks. Max was here today and helped me round her up. I set her up in a spacious coop with water, chicken feed and cottage cheese.
I made butter today.
Max used the Kubota to clear away my giant manure pile behind the barn, also to take a bucket load down to the garden.
The cows were bad and did not come when called at evening milking. I think Jasmine was still remembering her visit from the AI tech and Helen was just lazy. Also they seemed to have found a good patch of grass. I said to heck with them. I hope they will be good and sorry by morning.
April 26, 2006 Wednesday
As I expected the cows were all front and center this morning. Jasmine gave over three gallons. She dropped off this evening and gave only 1.5 gallons.
Martin wrote this morning that Hannah barely slept a wink last night and would not nurse. Poor Amy was in tears. But later in the day she had a couple of good feeds. At one point Amy sank back in discouragement and Hannah flipped over and latched on by herself. So things are looking better this evening.
Mitra plans to go down and help them for a few days. Everyone is happy about this. Martin has not been able to go to work. She will be able to cook and help out in many ways with the abby. Martin has been bringing in Vietnamese takeout. I must say, it sounds pretty good.
Sally called from Alaska to see how things were going with the new baby. I was glad to be able to provide a good report. She told me the bears have moved back as they do every spring. She lives on the Chilcoot River amidst bears. Two juvenile males destroyed her neighbor's hot tub yesterday for a lark.
Her pair of geese wandered away and she found them in another neighbor's pen. He thought they were his old pair come back. He is a lonely old fellow and was so thrilled that he went straight off to town for a bag of feed. So, Sally gave him the geese.
April 27, 2006 Thursday
It was down in the 20's last night and was bright and chilly all day. The dogs and I took a walk around the fields. Between us, Sally and I devised a way that I can allow William to run free under reduced supervision. I snapped an empty plastic jug to the end of his leash. This makes it nearly impossible for him to get through fences. It does not bother him to have it bouncing along behind him as he races after Bagel. He does not reliably come when called and I don't dare let him out of sight. But I feel sorry for him having to maintain my plodding pace. He is a very high energy puppy.
I was hoping to find some pussy willows but they had gone by. I need something to make an arrangement to take to my dear Cousin Marcia's memorial service on Saturday. I will try to do something with forsythia.
This morning I pinned down another big tarp over a section of comfrey that has taken over part of my veg garden. I do hope this method will kill it. It has gotten to be a pest. I planted a row of red beets and one of rutabaga and dill.
My first daffodils opened today.
April 28, 2006 Friday
Mitra stopped in on her way to Martin and Amy's for a cup of coffee and to pick up milk and other goodies that I sent along. She is going to stay there a few days to help out with the baby.
The dogs and I went down and opened the way into Pocket Field. Until yesterday I had not realized that the reason I never saw the cows down there was that the wire was across. I also walked as much as I could of the fence line. Back in the woods it was so marshy I had to give up. I hope if the fence is down back in there that the cows also think it is too marshy and don't go in.
On my walk I was also searching for material suitable for a floral arrangement for Cousin Marcia's Memorial service. I found nothing. The pussy willows had long gone by and the tree branches still look more like twigs. I mentioned this to my dauther, Abby, in and email and she called a florist and had yellow roses and carnations and white roses and carnations delivered in a nice crystal vase. I personalized it with some of my forsythia and drove it down to the family which was all gathered for tomorrow, many fine people. They are desolated by the loss of their mother to whom all were devoted.
Also today I dug another patch in the garden. This one was more work and I feel it. Part of it had not been dug for over a year and was full of crab grass and dandelions. I planted a short row of tatsoi. I wanted a longer row, but the seed packet was skimpy. I notice that frequently lately.
After I opened up the Pocket Field it did not take Helen long to move the group down there and they grazed all afternoon. They did come nicely when called at milking time. I have closed the field off again for the night in case they overeat. I noticed Jasmine's side over her rumen was very full. I put out hay. I don't want any bloat.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons today.
April 30, 2006 Sunday
On Saturday my son Max, his daughters Shireen and Roshan, and son Martin attended the Memorial Service for my sweet cousin Marcia. She was much loved and widely acquainted; there were over 400 people in attendance. Shortly after the service Max and Martin worked it out that Max would stay at the farm and do chores so that I could accompany Martin back to Biddeford and hopefully be able to help Amy with her breastfeeding difficulties.
Baby Hannah does not nurse very vigorously and often fights the breast. Mitra had already gone down to stay with Amy which enabled Martin to come to the Memorial so Amy was not alone. During Saturday evening I worked with Amy and Hannah to try some different nursing positions and to assist Hannah. She seemed to feed better. This morning she got a really good feed. However Amy will have to pump to keep up her supply for when Hannah becomes a stronger feeder.
Mitra and I then came home together. All was fine at the farm. It was a beautiful day. I observed that Emily is in heat. I had better start keeping track of her heats. I will probably breed her some time this summer.
May 1, 2006 Mayday
May Day was the name of my good old horse, a pinto quarter horse that I gave to my sister. Under her exquisite care, including veggies buzzed in the Cuisinart, May Day lived to about 40.
Sally read in last week's entry that I had opened up Pocket Field. She was filled with consternation when she read this and immediately emailed me that the fencing in that area is not sound. At the time I received her email the cows had just moved themselves down into Pocket Field for the afternoon grazing. I kept an eye on them and at milking time when I called them they come home nicely, never suspecting freedom was at hand. Actually, the fence is intact well into the woods. To access the open part they would have to wade right now. But I sure am glad to know about the problem.
I offered to go back to Biddeford to help Amy today, but they thought they could manage. Amy is much discouraged about breastfeeding. Hannah still nurses weakly. Amy is now pumping and putting her milk in a bottle, which Hannah takes readily. Mitra and I are encouraging her to explore the device that introduces milk into the corner of baby's mouth through a tiny tube running from a plastic bag pinned to your shoulder. The baby thinks it is nursing, and gets some milk. So, later when it gets stronger you don't have nipple confusion. I am praying hard for her success. Martin did say in his phone message that Hannah is peeing and pooping, so she is not starving.
In the barn this morning I found a sweet little kitten about 6 weeks old, just at the age before they flee. Unfortunately, I have found that bringing them into the house at that age does not always have a happy ending. They really need another couple of weeks of nursing, by which time I can seldom catch them at all.
My bantam hen with three chicks is a very fine little mother. She leads her chicks around all day finding places to scratch. Two roosters have been contending to be her consort. Today she was being guarded by a fine black fellow with a sparkling silver mantle. He is an awful pest most of the time what with fighting with the other rooster and stealing cat food. I have my eye on him for the axe. But, I suppose if they stay together I will have to let him live awhile longer. The little hen brings her flock back in at dusk and settles down in her coop. I then barricade the entrance with things. I doubt it is proof against a raccoon but I don't think a skunk will get her.
May 2, 2006 Monday
I was gone most of the day to a luncheon. We stopped at Max and Mitra's while on some errands. I was the guest of my friend Nancy. When I saw Mitra she greeted me with the happy news that DIL Amy had a good night and morning with Hannah and was feeling greatly encouraged. What joy to hear this!
Max and Mitra showed us around to see all the wonderful improvements they have made since last I was there. These include a new bathroom, vast new CorrectDeck (Martin's product), and a new pig house and duck house. The duck house is quite palatial and the little girls have set up housekeeping in it. A small stream runs behind it which the girls have been using as their domestic water supply when making leaf and pine cone soup and tea. Yesterday Max discovered they have been drinking the water. It looks pure and twinkling but runs from across the road from property of people with uncertain habits. It is hoped that they have not contracted a dread disease.
When I got home I was greeted by the sight of all the cows clustered in the North Field in the rain. I had closed the gate to that field because of a section of missing fence. I don't know where they got through and doubt they remember either, but with the gate closed they could not get into the barn. After moving them back where they belong and throwing down some hay I walked most of the fence line in hopes of finding how they got through. No luck, and it was getting very late. I have them confined to the barnyard for the night. It is still raining, so perhaps they will be satisfied to stay in. Drat.
Mama hen had her family settled in the coop and her rooster had packed himself in there with her. When he saw me he flew upstairs into the rafters with the rest of the free rangers.
May 4, 2006 Thursday
Max called last night to tell me how the cows got into the north field. We had opened a small section of fence during the winter where it comes down to the river bank so we could pass through on our much loved river walks. It was still open and they just walked through. I closed it back up this morning.
Amy reported a much better day with baby Hannah. She sounded really cheerful. Mitra will stop in there tomorrow on her way back fro a trip to Massachusetts. Hannah is gaining strength and is able to nurse for longer without quitting.
Max came by today and we surveyed the fencing project down in the pocket. We agreed on an easy way to do it. It will have to be barbed wire and it will have to be supported by brushy trees through a marshy area, so will not be an answer for posterity. He will use proper poles in the dryer sections.
He also trimmed a bit off the end of each of Helens back hoofs using the pruning loppers. Then he put on the Amulets that Sally ordered from Nasco. These are green doughnut shaped things that fit around her pasterns; they are designed to prevent a cow stepping on her own teats. I was quite easily able to get Helen in by herself and she was more cooperative than I had expected. When she returned to the others after her trim she was already walking better and seemed quite pleased with her appearance. Jasmine tried to dart past her and come in herself. I think I heard her say "I want the salon treatment too!" She was sure she had missed something special and stood around bellowing indignantly at the gate for about ten minutes.
May 5, 2006 Friday Cinco de Mayo
Helen is keeping her Amulets on. They don't seem to bother her at all. She is beginning to bag up a little more each day. Her udder no longer resembles a wet grocery bag.
Mitra visited Amy and Hannah in Biddeford today as planned. I have not talked to her yet but I had an email from Amy and called her. She sounded fairly confident. Hannah has gained three ounces since Wednesday.
The weather today was just lovely. All the trees now have baby leaves. I dug the crabgrass from a long row in the garden where I plan to put in mangels.
The barn swallows are back. I wonder where they spent the winter. Now I have to keep the back door of the garage/carriage house open so they can fly in and out at any time.
May 6, 2006 Saturday
This morning I noticed that UPS had put a nursery box out by the driveway, I'm not sure when. However, the trees were in good condition. One is a mulberry tree that Sally ordered. The other is a quince. They are not hardy in my Zone 4 but now with global warming our winters are milder. I might as well try a quince. They need a damp spot and I have just the place. I don't have holes prepared so, I planted them temporarily in the veg garden.
I watered everything down there today with the watering can. Beets, lettuce and spinach are up. I hope the carrots make it. The seed sat there a long time waiting for rain. I fertilized and limed the 15 foot row that I had already dug for mangels, but did not get them planted. It is all turned and ready to plant.
My friend Kelly came by with her three children and they gave Willie a lot of exercise.
This evening I watched a program filmed in Maine about showing cattle. Several of the featured dairies are right In New Sharon, Max and Mitra's neighborhood. It was a charming program. Not until it was over did I remember the lovely sour cream lime cake that I had in the oven. Poor cake was nearly black. But I am trimming off the outside and rescuing the middle.
I am happy to report that Amy and baby Hannah are doing a lot better. Mitra stopped in yesterday on her way home from Massachusetts. She saw Hannah nursing a lot more strongly so that her ears are wiggling. Hurrah!
May 8, 2006 Monday
My old apple tree has fat pink buds that already have a scent and all the trees are covered in a haze of pale green leaves. The fields look truly green. I think it is the loveliest time of year.
Max came over to stay for three days to do fencing. It is terribly hard work, especially alone. His arms are sore from pounding down the sod around each post. He started out by cutting down trees to make the posts. Nothing on the farm is harder work than fencing.
The cows will now not even touch their hay. There is plenty of grass. Jasmine looks perfectly sleek. Helen still has some of her winter coat, but is beginning to look less like great granddad's moth-eaten bear rug. Emily looks perfect. Freddie still has his baby calf plush.
May 9, 2006 Tuesday
Max started his day by building William a nice run out under the maple tree. Max had to retrieve him from the road and decided at that moment to build the dog pen. He finds places to squeeze through the gate in spite of our efforts to make it William proof. Without the pen it was a question of having him tied or on a leash. Max went to a lot of trouble including making a sort of flat, wire apron of inward turned fencing which looks as though it will prevent digging. So far at least, Willie does not mind being in his run.
Before lunch Max and I took an excursion up to Weld to see Marcia and Jack's camp renovations. There is new pine paneling over insulation and the floors have all been stripped and refinished. It looks perfectly marvelous. Not only did the carpenters do a good job but the lighter finish everywhere brings in more light.
After that, Max worked on cattle fencing down in Pocket Field. All the posts are in and one wire is strung. He says he does not feel quite as tired as last night when he complained of his muscles being thrashed, but he is tired. I have him topped up with vitamins E and C to help with the sore muscles. He had to set each post by pounding the ground around it. I made him a blueberry crisp for lunch and beef teriyaki for dinner.
Helen chose not to come in at milking time. I could tell she was thinking that negotiating three ramps for the reward of one pound of grain was a bad bargain. She, like all cows, hates ramps at the best of times. Now while she is 4' wide and extra heavy I can see why she hates them. She does not look much closer to calving today than she did yesterday.
The weather today was again very fine. I worked in the garden for nearly an hour.
May 10, 2006 Wednesday
No gardening today. It rained all last night and most of today. A walk-through of my garden revealed carrots up at last, also spinach, lettuce, beets, mangels and tatsoi.
Max went right out in the rain and completed the fence project. He let the cows in and they spent the day in Pocket Field. Because of the weather I have not been down to admire it. Max has now gone home to his family.
Rafe returned, having completed a lot of carpentry projects for Martin and DIL Amy. They are delighted with his work but no doubt Amy is glad the pounding has stopped. Rafe took the dogs for a long walk. They crossed the brook on a log and Willie did not hesitate.
At milking time the cows were out of sight down in Pocket Field. I hollered and Jasmine came all by herself. She was already in her stanchion when the others, feeling guilty I guess, came trailing up. Jasmine takes milking time seriously. She is giving a bit more every day. She topped 4.5 gallons today.
I weight taped them all today. Helen taped at 1,117 lbs, Emily 771, Jasmine 707 and Freddie 297.
Emily is very well balanced looking and has nice smooth lines. She has a classic Jersey appearance but she is not going to be small. She is not a really quiet little heifer. I have to speak to her several times usually, and lay my hand on her to get her to stand still to be hitched up twice a day for her taste of grain.
This morning I did not detect any wobbliness of Helen's tail head. By this evening it had begun to wobble. Today was her due date.
Freddie also looks well balanced and straight. He is now 4.5 months old. He would be a bit bigger if on more milk. He still gets one gallon a day. I figure to increase his milk after Helen freshens, although he actually prefers his grain now.
May 11, 2006 Thursday
Another day of rain. The apple blossoms are opening, but I think we may get a break so that the bees can work before the pollen is soaked and gone. Last year there was only a half day which was sunny and dry enough for the pollinators to work but they managed to provide us a reasonable crop.
The cows, no surprise, were way down in Pocket Field this morning. After considerable hollering Jasmine and Freddie came up. Helen and Emily ignored me completely. Jasmine gave a lot of milk. I spilled some but even so she made 5 gallons. What a little cow! After lunch when they still had not budged I put on my boots and walked down there. Of course I wanted to see Max's fence anyway. As I knew it would be, it is a fine fence with very tight wire. As soon as I got near the cows they all came to me and followed me back up to the barn. There they settled down on dry hay and I shut the gate so that tomorrow morning they will be up close.
Helen came in this evening. Her vulva is turning a purplish color. She keeps shifting her weight from foot to foot in her stanchion.
Rafe transplanted his mother's mulberry tree over to her little house. He spent last night over there.
May 12, 2006 Friday
It rained hard all day. I made Rafe some egg salad and had meatloaf and fresh bread for his travel sandwiches. I also made raspberry bars. He left at noon on the first leg of his trip back to Fairbanks.
Despite the rain I uncovered my cauliflower seedlings I had them blanketed under black row cover because the seed packet said they require 60F to germinate. But now they need head room. I laid a parade of clear plastic boxes over them, the kind that people buy cookies and things in, and weighted these down with a 2x4.
I was 30 seconds late racing out to close off the north fields so that my cows would not disappear for afternoon grazing. Helen must have heard me coming because when I got there she was marching purposefully through the gate, ignoring me. I thought it possible she had in mind getting into the woods to have her calf. When I went to check on her later she and all the others, who had of course joined her, were just grazing. They gave me a "Who invited you?" look. At milking time they utterly ignored my calls, even Jasmine. I had to walk all the way down there, which involved my third negotiation today of foot deep boot sucking mud at the gate. Even when I got right up to them all they did was move off in the wrong direction. When I finally got them headed for the barn they swept on past the barnyard gate and went far up in the north corner so that I had to round them up again. The whole adventure took 45 minutes, my coat was sodden and inside it I was covered in sweat. When I finally reached Helen I gave her a good whack, I don't care how pregnant she is.
Jasmine gave over 5 gallons again today.
I am notifying my customers that my price is going up on May 15 to $6 gallon. I have not raised my price for about two years. I am switching to organic grain, which is more expensive.
May 14, 2006 Sunday
It rained hard most of last week including Saturday but today we have the sun again.
Ever since Friday when I had a frustrating time of it getting the cows in they have been better citizens although yesterday I did send Max to encourage them up from near the river. He said Helen clearly was considering evasive action but perceived that she was outflanked. Tonight she was right at the barn door.
Max created a temporary gate for the Pocket Field. This will make it a lot easier to herd them in. I can close this so they cannot double back when I herd them home.
Jasmine is maintaining her high production of about 5 gallons a day. I have no hay that any of the cows will eat apart for two bales I have saved for an emergency. I am continuing her grain at the winter level of about 8 pounds per day with a scoop of alfalfa cubes on it and will keep this up unless I notice her getting fat. Right now although shiny and far from emaciated, I see a bit more short rib than I like. Until Helen calves, I am keeping them close up to the barn at night. They have the sheep paddock for grazing. She still does not look quite ready.
Martin and Amy came up Saturday with wee Hannah who is now doing well. She saw the cardiologist on Friday and they were told the heart murmur is no longer anything to worry about and to come back in a year.
We had a nice family dinner Saturday night including Max, Mitra and the girls. I served a leg of lamb, rice mixed with wild rice, a fine salad composed by Mitra and a chiffon cake. This showy cake takes 10 egg whites and 5 egg yolks. I am trying to use up eggs.
This afternoon I dug up some more comfrey and cleared a bit more garden space. It might just do for the eggplants I ordered from a local greenhouse specialist who does heirloom plants.
May 15, 2006 Monday
Getting the cow in tonight once again involved a lot of exercise. I had a good look at Helen about 4 o'clock but at 5 o 'clock the only one I could see was Jasmine. She was by herself on the far side of the new fence that Max made, bellowing her head off. I went down and opened the new gate. She raced through and headed for the barn, or so I thought.
I began a circumnavigation of the field expecting to find Helen calving somewhere. When I reached the place on the river walk where I had wired a gate back together a week or so ago I found it forced open. The aperture did not look large enough to admit Helen but was about right for Jasmine. I continued along the river without finding anybody then went back to the barn. Jasmine was not there. That left only the north pasture. It has a little section that cannot be seen without walking out there. There they all were gathered looking nervous, no doubt remembering how mad I was last time. This time it was not Helen's fault so I just said "Come along now". The gate they had to use to get to the barn has very deep mud. Helen stopped and looked at me like, "Do I have to?" I told her to be brave. She sank to her brisket but cows being cloven hoofed do not readily get mired down.
Jasmine gave 5 gallons again today,
Eggs are being eaten. I think it is marauding roosters. I had hoped Rafe would kill some. I want to try Rose's method of tenderizing by hanging.
When she learned I have raised my milk price, one of my customers decided not to buy. I said it was because I had switched to organic grain. She said "What did you do that for?"
May 16, 2006 Tuesday
At each milking I take about a quart of mostly skimmed milk for the barn cats. I warm it by setting it in the hot water I bring along for udder wash-up. Some goes to the kitten I am socializing and the rest to the big cats. When I got back to the house and looked around for a quart of cream I had set out to put in the churn - well, you guessed it. I had fed it to the cats. I guess it made a hit. That kitten actually ran to meet me this morning.
It rained all last night and much of today. The river may go over its banks. The cows grazed the fields on the north side today away from the river. I spread a lot of hay around in the Beefer Pen so all would be warm and dry tonight and I had no trouble getting them in. They even ate a little of their hay.
I did a 9pm check on Helen. She was showing a little mucus tonight and when I checked on her she was grunting and wheezing but not calving. I left the light on. There were no signs of heat today in Jasmine. It has been 21 days since she was bred. But her cycle has usually been a day or so longer. If she should come into heat in the night she might pester Helen pretty badly and even injure her or the calf. I will check again later and put her out in the lean-to if necessary.
The cows don't think much of their organic feed. They are used to sweet feed. I think I will try pouring on some molasses tomorrow.
May 17, 2006 Wednesday
I went out at 3AM and had a look at Helen. Nothing happening. She spent today just like yesterday, grazing and cudding. She did have a considerable strand of mucus out the back. Max is here tonight. He is staying over just in case.
Aha! No signs whatsoever of heat in Jasmine so far.
The insects are beginning to torture the cows badly. I made up a bug dope mixture of vinegar, Lemon Joy, bottled lemon juice and ground up tansy leaves. It occurred to me that since tansy is highly effective against clothes moths perhaps it would be a good addition to the bug dope. A great deal of it grows around the barn.
Last night when I was in the barn there was a strong smell of skunk. Max has loaded the gun now and gone out for a look around.
May 18, 2006 Thursday
Helen is making slow progress toward parturition. Today her tail is a little more wobbly, her mucus string longer, her udder more massive. But still no calf. Max is still here. It rained hard nearly all day, nonetheless he did a number of outdoor repairs and some overdue garage tidying. He walked down by the river and noted that the bank is very seriously threatened. An isthmus of land that separates the river from swamp that is on my property seems destined to wash away. This will effectually lose me an acre of land.
May 19, 2006 Friday
Friday again already. How the weeks fly. I think it rained every day this past week.
Helen is still holding out. I just checked on her. It is 9:30. She is in her usual position which is slightly up on the dirt ramp that leads out of the Beefer Pen. I guess she can breathe better this way. She is very alert but her ears are a little cold around the edges. I will check on her again in a few hours.
Day before yesterday I tripped on a box of canning jars in the buttery and pitched forward. I sprained my right index finger a bit. It began to bother me today so this evening while walking the dogs I picked a handful of comfrey leaves and thoroughly rubbed them in. I must say, two hours later, the pain is gone.
I got such a nice phone call tonight from my son John in Australia. He is going to give a scientific talk in Chennai (formerly Madras), India.
Max has returned to his family. But I have promised to call as soon as Helen goes into labor and he will jump in the car.
May 20, 2006 Saturday
Helen now has an udder that looks like she should have a wheelbarrow to carry it in. Apart from that, nothing new. She is grazing and cudding normally. I was a trifle worried last night. The edges of her ears were a little cold. I checked her at 9:30, 2:30 and 4:30. It was pleasant to be wandering around in the night seeing everything from a perspective I seldom encounter, I do assure you. Apart from that it was a waste of time.
I had to walk down and fetch the cows home tonight, even Jasmine. However, with Max's help I have them stopped from all but the River Pasture, so it was an easy walk.
Following the comfrey treatment to my forefinger, it remains stiff but pain free.
May 21, 2006 Sunday
Helen has mastitis in her left front quarter, the one that had the torn teat last year. The teat was hugely swollen and the quarter hard as a rock. There was no choice but to milk it out. I think I got a quart of truly revolting stuff out of it. Max came over to help me when he heard. He stopped at a farm near his place where the man has recently sold his cows. The farmer gave him a handful of cow aspirins and lent us his balling gun and a tub of liniment. I have a box of lactating cow mastitis infusions. We milked out that quarter again and Max put in the infusion. He also got the aspirin down her which was a major athletic event since my stanchions face right into a wall. Later in the day Max removed a board from the wall so that cows can be reached from the aisle in front. Somebody should have done this years ago. Now I think I will ask him to take out the big shelf that is over their heads. It was put in as part of a vacuum pipeline for a milking system I no longer use.
I fed Helen a lot of comfrey. She ate some of it. I also poured cod liver oil on her feed and she ate most of it. This evening her udder was somewhat softer and she didn't mind my handling it.
I double checked her breeding date and consulted the calving calendar. I find that her true due date was May 16 not the 10th. My excuse for this error is that the calendar is entirely in French, a language in which I am not fluent. Even with this correction she is overdue.
Emily, 13 months, is in red hot heat and making a great pest of herself. If, when I go out in the night I find she is still being a pest I will put her outside and close the door.
There was a break in the rain long enough for Max to mow my lawn. Some of it was a foot high from all the rain. Now it looks and smells lovely.
May 22, 2006 Monday
Helen's mastitis is much better. Max stayed over last night, so was here to administer the second dose of antibiotic. When possible, I prefer using mastitis treatments that don't include antibiotics. This always involves frequent milking which is not an option with a dry cow. This morning I applied the lard and cayenne rub. My vet was in the area today and although it was obvious there would not be much he could do beyond what Max and I were already doing, I asked him to stop by. He was entirely satisfied with Helen's state of healing. He also said she probably would not calve for another week. I will be a bit surprised. Her udder is enormous and likely the calf will be too. Doc Cooper thought she should have no trouble calving because she has had so many and knows what she is doing. Actually, the fact that she is on her sixth causes me to think that it could happen fast.
I let the cows have the South Pasture by the river tonight, having been assured Helen is not ready. This will give the Sheep paddock, where I have been holding them overnight, time to recover.
The weather today was fine but cool. Max carried on with the lawn mowing around the garden and now all of it has had one cutting. It looks so fine.
May 24, 2006 Wednesday
Helen came and looked over the fence at me yesterday while I was in the garden. She appeared to be interested in the comfrey. I began tearing off handfuls for her. She seemed to have an endless appetite for it. My hands got tired after about maybe a bushel of leaves. Perhaps it is good for her mastitis. We gave her only the two syringes of mastitis medicine, but I have continued to apply the lard and cayenne treatment and to put vitamin C in her feed. I cover it with molasses. I milk out whatever I can get from the affected quarter. Yesterday it began to look more like milk. This evening I got up my nerve to taste it. Blech!! It was extremely salty and tasted medicinal. I had to strip some out of Jasmine to take the taste out of my mouth.
Bagel has taken to running away. He has had spells of this in the past especially in the spring. Last time he was gone for 24 hours. I was afraid somebody had applied the Three S's. Max found him cowering under a lilac bush, knowing full well he had been bad. I have had to chain him up. I find I can give him some freedom by clipping the end of his chain to a plastic bucket. With this arrangement he can neither go under the gate nor through the fence. Today he spent much of the day lying outside of Willie's pen. It was a pretty good arrangement I think, at least Willie did not bark. This evening I took them for a walk around the lawn and garden with me carrying the bucket and Willie free to run dragging his leash. At least this way they don't get tangled. Willie's main interest is to try to get Bagel to play, so he stays close by. They could both use a whole lot more exercise.
The bugs are getting bad. I saw Jasmine, Emily and Freddie running to escape them. Helen continued walking with dignity until she found a big honeysuckle bush to stick her head into.
Max came over today and brought me a new supply of organic grain from the feed store near him. One and possibly three of my customers have quit now that I raised my price due to switching to organic grain. But I may have a new one. And of course Max and Mitra's pig, duck and chicken project can absorb any amount. I have several quarts of excellent cottage cheese frozen.
Jasmine is now giving a little under five gallons a day. She was giving five for awhile there. The slight drop may be due to her having settled or it might be bug stress.
May 25, 2006 Thursday
Fine weather today for a calf but no calf appeared. However Martin showed up. He came with his truck and brought some things to store in the barn, mostly lumber. I gave him some manure for his garden and for his friends.
My favorite rose bush died. I am totally shocked. It is actually a long hedge of an exceptionally sweet old fashioned single rose. All eight feet of it are gone except for one little wisp. The blooming of this rose has always been a high point of spring on Coburn Farm. It must have been something about the snowless winter.
May 26, 2006 Friday
This was the first day it really felt like summer. It was 74F both inside and out. I feel immersed in a sea of green.
That little Jasmine which Sally in CA always called the "world's best cow", deserves her title. Today in her 11th month of lactation she produced 5.5 gallons of milk. This is the effect of green grass. She is getting less grain now than she had three months ago. Jasmine also has excellent manners and is cute and friendly.
Of course I still love Helen too. And some day she will have that calf. Tonight she flatly refused to come in to the milking area. That ramp was just too much. She just lay down.
May 27, 2006 Saturday
It was another perfect summer day.
6:30pm Helen is miserable but she grazed all day. She may be starting calving. Nothing definitive yet. All day off and on she has been calling her calf and tonight she was dripping milk. Her udder is huge. She is standing by herself in the Beefer Pen but the gate is open should she prefer to go outside. There is only minor discharge. She does look very slightly narrower. She bellowed a few times. Now she has lain down. I will look at her in a half hour and give another report.
At 9:30 Helen had been up and down several times. There was little change all day either in the appearance of her tailhead or vulva. Now as she lay down I noted a little mucus. I got a paper towel to wipe it off and examined it for blood. There was a slight trace. I called Martin who is at camp with family and friends and told him Helen appeared to be calving. He said he would call me during the night when he was up with the baby. I also called Max and told him he did not need to come until morning.
May 28, 2006 Sunday
After phoning I went back to look at Helen and a balloon of amniotic sack about the size of a cantaloupe had emerged. I went back in the house to rest for awhile. Next time I came out, which was about 45 minutes later, I heard rhythmic bell ringing from the barn and knew she was already licking a calf. It had just hit the ground. It is a big boy. The top of his hip bone is about level with my own. He was soon on his feet and I did not see him fall even once. I got a bucket of wash water to wash Helen's teats. I had washed them in the morning but they were all crusty again. I also brought warm molasses water which she immediately drank and licked out the bucket. This is the first time in her life she has drunk it. Although I offered it at previous calvings, she was unfamiliar with it and in no mood to try anything new. For the past two weeks I have been top dressing her grain with molasses to acquaint her with the taste and I think this is what made the difference this time. Molasses for cattle feed is not available in this part of the country. Nobody has ever heard o f it. I have to buy it in a health food store or supermarket.
Jasmine and Freddie were with Helen when she calved. Jasmine seemed ambivalent about the calf and at one point butted it. I recall that SallyCa, her former owner, said she does not like calves and I well recall AnnB's awful experience when one of her cows killed a calf. So I put Jasmine outside and continue to have them separated. Freddie gave the calf a couple of sniffs, then went to his corner to snooze.
Helen was very cooperative about letting her calf nurse and letting me help. None of that circling and kicking she did in her younger days. By midnight he had nursed two teats and was well rounded out. I was covered with slime of one sort and another. The dangling placenta was unavoidable. I took a shower and washed my hair and went to bed. Martin called at 3am and I gave him the news. In the morning I learned that he had driven right down but did not awaken me because he did not know where I had put my door key (I recently hid it in a new spot. When Rafe arrived one night it had taken him a mere 30 seconds to locate it.) He went to the barn and took pictures.
This morning we managed to put one tube of calcium paste down Helen. So far she seems well. She is out grazing the small paddock with "Melvin" resting nearby.
Evening Helen grazed hard all day in the sheep paddock with her calf, Melvin, nearby. So far there is no sign of milk fever. I put the other cows in the North Pasture in case Jasmine might threaten Melvin. At 6pm I took a bucket and some grain into the paddock so that I could milk a bit out of Helen and make sure the calf nursed. Helen wanted to kick but when I said firmly, "No kicking", she stood well. Her udder is a bit touchy. The colostrum from the two left quarters contains a lot of blood. I put a collar on Melvin. If following their mothers, they get very hard to catch after a day or so. I left the gate open so the others could come down if they wanted to. Jasmine trotted down as soon as she discovered the open gate and began licking Melvin. So after he was full I left them all together (so much simpler for me) and went out to the lake to join the family.
There I got to see baby Hannah. She is growing nicely now. She is up to 7lb. We had a nice cook-out with Coburn Farm ground beef. Max took his two girls for a canoe ride.
When I got home Helen was bellowing her head off. I raced out there without changing my clothes. She was all in a state because Melvin was inside a big honeysuckle bush where she couldn't get at him and he was not coming when called. I dove in, flouncy skirt and all, and shoved him out.
May 29, 2006 Monday Memorial Day
What joy to awake to the sound of Helen's bell ringing with enthusiastic grazing. I was able to get her in to her stanchion without too much trouble and milk out a few quarts from quarters that the calf has not touched. There was a lot of blood in both the quarters on her left side. I let her loose with Melvin. All day they stayed in the small paddock although the gate to the River Field was open. At evening milking all were waiting at the barn. Helen did not care to run in with Jasmine and Emily so I got them in and went back for her. She was gone.
The next hour was difficult. I could hear her bell in the distance but was not able to identify the location because of my monaural hearing. She was in a large copse of trees next to the river that is criss-crossed with trails. She had Freddie with her. Every time I got her out one end she dove back in somewhere else closely followed by Freddie who acts like he is two weeks old. Eventually with a lot of quiet talking and persuasion I got her headed to the barn and inside and into her stanchion. Then I went back outside for Melvin. I thought it would be good to have him tied near her. It was just as well I had that collar on him. I had to get him up two ramps and through the barn and he fought every inch. I tied him up using hay string but he fought like a bronco. I switched to a ½" rope with a big brass clip. He kept up this thrashing most of the time while I milked Helen even though they could touch noses.
One of Helen's quarters is milking a lot of blood. I got close to a gallon from it (milking one handed into a separate bucket) with no diminution of the blood. Martin arrived as I was quitting, exhausted and soaked with sweat. I was mighty glad to see him. He brought Melvin around to see if he would finish up. Then he held up my basket of today's eggs. I had forgotten they were next to where I hitched Melvin. The whole lot was smashed and streaming out the bottom of the basket.
Melvin nursed about 5 minutes. I then put Helen and Melvin in the small paddock for the night and turned the others into the River field. In the morning I will decide on a management plan for the day. What I am hoping to do is allow them to be together 24/7, yet get Helen in for milking. But I can't be hoofing it over hill and dale twice a day. I wonder what Roseanna would do.
Even Martin was impressed with Melvin's unusual strength, not to mention his fight. I measured him. He is 31 inches around behind his front legs and 31 inches high.
May 30, 2006 Tuesday
Helen led Melvin right up to the barn this morning and walked in without him. Then she turned around as though to come back for him. I said,"Go on in, he's coming". So she walked to her stanchion. He was easier to move this morning and readily walked to the same spot once I had halfway lifted him up the ramps. He did not struggle at all, just lay down after touching noses.
I milked out another gallon of bloody colostrum. The left front quarter that had mastitis before calving does not milk out well. It is not touchy. It just seems blocked and does not let down much. Helen stood quietly this morning and this evening. She brought Melvin up again this evening. After milking she started to lead Melvin into the small night paddock but everybody else came along with her. The task of separating them seemed like too much work. They all went back out together to the big field. I will hope for the best in the morning.
Later in the evening when I was down in the veg garden, Helen walked up to the fence asking for comfrey. I cut her a bundle. The others came over but didn't eat any. Perhaps it is good for her udder which is clearly under capillary stress.
Jasmine has been holding up her milk. This appears to be due to my practice of hand stripping. Sometimes cows will do this. I guess they like the personal attention. For the last two milkings I have done no stripping at all. She came in terribly stuffed with milk last night and this morning.
May 31, 2006 Wednesday Milking tonight was an ordeal of sweat and tears. No fault of the cows. They were all waiting nicely at the barn. Helen was not certain she wanted to come in but I ran Melvin along with Emily so of course she had to follow. I worked on Jasmine and got her letting down like a champ. But the milking machine would not work. It was maddeningly frustrating. The pressure gauge read 12 as it should and the pulsator worked fine. There just was no vacuum in the teat cuts. Jasmine did not know what to make of it. I went and got a bucket and milked her by hand. I am out of practice and slow and her two back teats are very close together. She and I were both at the end of our patience after half an hour and I doubt I got more than half the milk.
I had intended to use the machine tonight on Helen. She desperately needs milking out. Melvin is not even taking a tenth part of her milk. I worked long and hard and got about one gallon of the four or five that she had. I finally had to put the kicker on her. Both she and Jasmine had made several large "statements" by this time. What with fiddling with the machine and my slow hand milking they were in their stanchions nearly two hours. Everything was a mess. I thought I would see if Melvin would suck Helen's most difficult quarter, her left rear. I got him positioned right behind her. There is a barrier preventing his going at it from the side. At this point something warm and brown landed on my hair and Melvin's shoulders. That was the end of milking for tonight. I got an old tomato can and scraped off Melvin and ran my head under the hose. I said sayonara to the cows and went in and took a shower. But first I called Max. Dear Max is on his way over to spend the night so he can milk in the morning, assuming I can't revive the machine. I was unable to get the air filter off, try as I would. Its little insignificant bolt is rusted to a nubbin. But I don't think that is the problem anyway.
Apart from this, today was lovely. I got in a few minutes of weeding and planting.
June 1, 2006 Thursday
Last night I added a little oil to the pulsator and it showed faint signs of life but this morning we milked by hand. I got a half gallon out of Jasmine while Max got five gallons from Helen. Then he took over on Jasmine for a total of three gallons from her. We kept the milk separate although Helen's milk seemed to be fine and strained well.
As soon as I got back to the house I called Parts Department and bought another pulsator. My original one has been replaced twice by the seller. I will keep my current one as a back-up. They promised the new one would come by tomorrow.
Max had to leave to attend Shireen's viola recital at school. I again disassembled the pulsator and fiddled with the vacuum pump and got everything working again. I am not sure what I did right. Max returned before evening milking and took off the filter and chipped out some hard deposit that was in there.
This evening I was again able to milk by machine. Jasmine gave another 2.5 gallons. Max poured Jasmine's milk into another receptacle and I put the machine on Helen. She was highly unwilling to let down. Her teats remained all crumpled up. Her udder hangs so low that the cluster gets squished and can't maintain vacuum. With Max and I lifting up her quarters and massaging them we got her to part with about 1.5 gallons and once again it was bloody. It strained fine and there was no trace of mastitis on the filter. No doubt in a day or two she will once again accept being machine milked.
For Max's dinner I made a tasty dish with rice and ground meat. I set out a buffet including four kinds of cheese for him to try. One was a delicious hard cheese made early in the winter by Rafe and his gf Sally B. It reminds me of a caerphilly. I also offered standard cottage cheese, Homestead2's no-heat washed curd cheese and cheese made by draining yogurt. I do take some credit for introducing this latter cheese to America. I thought I had invented it back about 1955 but later discovered it had been made for generations in the Middle East. I made both yogurt and this cheese for about 20 years before it became generally popular. At that time I was living in Davis CA, a good place from whence to launch ideas.
June 2, 2006 Friday
Max stayed overnight and was here to help me this morning. Jasmine is still holding up on her two left quarters. She gave 2 gallons. It continues to be difficult to use the machine on Helen. Her udder pretty much sits on the machine and consequently the teat cups are at the wrong angle. She gave two gallons but it looked brownish due to having blood in it. I donated it to Max and Mitra's pigs.
During the morning Max mowed my lawns. He spent about two hours and still left some for Mark. This farm has a lot of lawn. They look beautiful when mowed. My azalea popped open today. The bleeding heart gets better every year. I got the rest of my dahlia tubers planted and a few sunflowers. I longed to work more in the garden but I had little time to spare and the mosquitoes are deadly. Max says they are breeding in my rain barrels. So I poured corn oil into them to suppress the larvae.
UPS brought the new pulsator. It looks very different. Max and I gave it a test run with the vacuum pump. It worked fine.
The cows were not at the barn at milking time but came when I called although I needed to walk part way down to where they were. Even little Melvin came bounding along. Jasmine seemed to like the new pulsator and let down a little better. I practiced massaging the milk well as a forum member suggested. I tried this with both cows. It may have helped a bit. Each gave less than 2 gallons. But Helen's milk looked and tasted normal. She behaved very well but really, her udder almost sits on the machine. I have to lift each quarter to permit the vacuum to function. Fortunately Melvin seems to be an equal opportunity nurser, so no quarter is in real trouble.
My sister in CA lives way out in the hills. This week she killed the biggest fattest rattlesnake she ever saw. It lay sunning itself in her driveway. Barby is only about 5 feet tall but she is deadly with a hoe. She would not kill them except for the fact that there are children coming and going and her little Skiperke dog, Susie, cannot resist challenging snakes. Susie has several times had to be rushed to the veterinary ER with a snake bitten nose.
June 3, 2006 Saturday
Hard rain all day. Helen continues to be nearly impossible to milk by machine. She was at least patient and cooperative this morning but this evening got impatient and had a hissy fit and kicked off the machine. I had to put the kicker on her. I end up getting a couple of gallons each time. There is even quite a bit of very heavy cream. As soon as I feel her production is stabilized I will go to OAD milking with her. I might try hand milking her but she is so low slung I might have to milk her into a dishpan.
After morning milking instead of going back out to graze the cows all stood around the hay feeder with a look of entitlement. I threw down a bale of pretty good hay and they ate it. Most of the day they grazed in the rain.
Max brought his daughters for an overnight. Mark is here with daughter Hailey. The cousins love each other.
June 4, 2006 Sunday
It is my hope that I can get Helen to let down for me even though she has her calf with her all the time. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of family cow ownership. The cow always holds up her milk for her calf. Some people do reach an accommodation that provides sufficient milk for the family but so far as I can understand the reports, it is always a family that does not require a great deal of cream. I am getting over four gallons a day from Helen with the machine but it is a struggle. The teats cups keep falling off of her shriveled up teats. Those teats puff right up again as soon as the machine is removed.The cream on the jars is beautiful and very thick but there is only half what there ought to be. In the past I have always separated the calf either over night or completely. Even overnight separation does not stop the cow holding up her milk, it just enables one to get ones share of the volume and to milk OAD. I have no actual need for Helen's production so this is a good occasion for me to experiment with all suggestions. Once Melvin is consuming most of the milk I will start OAD milking and later probably leave it all to him at least until time to dry off Jasmine. He is growing very fast. I already had to change him to a larger collar.
Yes, I believe Jasmine must have settled. No more heats have occurred. Her breeding date was April 25 which according to my French chart would make her calving date January 29, '07. So I will be drying her off some time in November or perhaps earlier if I am not satisfied with her condition. At present she looks perfect.
Jasmine has stopped holding up her milk in expectation of hand stripping. She is now milking out smoothly and evenly. She is the perfect conformation for the Surge.
June 5, 2006 Monday
Helen showed up this morning with a nick on her left front teat. The left back teat has lingering scratches that occurred before she calved. All four teats and her whole udder were covered in dry crusty dung. It was obvious that Melvin had not nursed for many hours. It took me a good ten minutes to clean her up. She was fine with her right teats but she would not let me put the machine on either left teat. I ended up reaching across under her and milking a little by hand. After I turned her out, Melvin, who was indeed hungry, started right in nursing on her right. He is not skittish like Emily used to be. I was able to walk right up to him and move him around to Helen's left. I stood there a full ten minutes while he nursed before I got tired of watching. She did not try to kick him at all even though she was a dervish with me even with a kicker on.
Martin and Amy arrived this evening just in time for Martin to help me. Helen was even worse tonight.
We all convened at camp for an excellent sushi dinner they brought from Portland. What a treat. The lake was so beautiful, as in a dream.
June 6, 2006 Tuesday
This morning all the cows were politely convened in the Beefer Pen waiting for me. All including Melvin walked right in and stood in their positions until I fastened them up. It seemed too good to be true. Helen was not even dirty. Helen continued to be well behaved. I milked two teats at a time with the machine, first the two on the right using no kicker. Then I put the kicker on her left side and milked those two also with the machine. She made no objection. Neither cow even pooped or peed. I did massage the milk well where the great vein enters the abdominal cavity using one finger. I could not tell if it helped with let down but it may have contributed to her calm behavior. Maybe it is some sort of acupuncture point. She gave two gallons which is good enough.
This evening they were again all waiting and came in with no trouble at all but Helen was dirty and no longer in a cooperative mood. Nonetheless she let down well (at last). This time after getting the teat cups well attached on her near side I put the kicker on her left and got all four teat cups milking at once. This saved a lot of time. I had all the chores done in one hour. In the week after Helen calved it was taking me about two hours morning and evening.
It was sunny all day and I managed some time in the garden. I got one tomato plant in and prepared the spot for #2. I also planted a little row of Daisy Zulu Prince.
Martin and Amy stopped by and dropped off the leftover sushi so I got a second chance at it. It was almost as good today.
June 7, 2006 Wednesday
Helen was pretty good this morning. But I was alarmed to discover that her right rear quarter which has been the only one that has been milking out really well was hard as a rock and would not let down at all. I was beginning to think mastitis. After I took off the machine I decided to just see if Melvin would nurse it. This is usually hopeless with a calf running with mom; they are seldom hungry. To my great relief he was perfectly willing and nursed for about 5 minutes. He got it down to a normal condition. I gave him a lot of kisses.
A new rainstorm has started. At milking time the cows were all down grazing in Pocket Field where they have not been for two weeks. It is a light rain and they enjoy grazing in it because it discourages the bugs. I did not feel like squishing my way down there and driving them home so I tried calling. I called every couple of minutes for about 15 minutes, no doubt greatly amusing the neighborhood. Finally Jasmine stopped pretending she couldn't hear me and raised her head. A few more hoarse shouts and she started moving followed by all the others. Melvin said "Whee!" and galloped ahead which got Helen, who is the most stubborn, moving towards the barn. I have lots of fresh bedding down for their nests so they should have a comfortable night. We are to expect hard rain later tonight.
June 8, 2006 Thursday
It rained all day as promised by the weatherman.
None of the cows paid me the slightest attention when I called them in. Not even Jasmine who always comes trotting. I had to slog all the way to the bottom field. At this time of year they think they don't need me anymore and like to set up housekeeping out of sight. Melvin and Freddie were snuggled together near the trees while the females were grazing. But never mind, I did not think they were even cute. They will not get back into this pasture again soon. I have closed the gate.
Helen does seem to have improved on milking parlor behavior.
I am getting too much milk. I am tempted to pour it down the sink like Laurie.
June 9, 2006 Friday
The herd came in politely this morning. Jasmine behaved perfectly as usual. Helen was docile but despite my best efforts would not let down. Getting the machine to stay on her knotted up teats was impossible, almost funny. After ten minutes the bottom of the Surge bucket was barely covered. Later when I measured it there was a mere quart of milk. I sent her out to graze stuffed with milk, suggesting that by evening she might be pleased to change her mind.
This evening she was indeed dripping from three quarter but she raised her foot when I tried to attach the machine to her right front teat. I put the kicker on her but it was no good, that quarter was packed as tight as a soccer ball and I could get nothing out of it. The other three quarters filled the Surge bucket fuller than I have ever before seen it. I could not tell if I was looking at mastitis or not. But I thought that if it was not mastitis tonight, very likely it would be by morning. I brought Melvin around to see if he would nurse. He showed not the remotest interest although I was able to squirt milk onto his nose. Amazingly, the mere presence of his nose was enough to make her let down this quarter which she had apparently been saving for him. I tied him by her shoulder and got the bucket. By now the other three quarters were not letting down much so I milked the full quarter one handed and got over a gallon! What a pill she is. After I let them out, Melvin went right over and nursed that quarter. He taped today at 114 lbs.
Back in the kitchen I had close to seven gallons of milk to deal with. I hope Max and Mitra's pigs and poultry are developing a big appetite for clabber. I am making butter every day.
This afternoon I went to Rumford on errands. We have had so much rain (more today) that I drove over to view the falls. Although this is not well known, Rumford Falls are a natural wonder. I believe they are the greatest falls north of Niagara. A singularly ugly power station makes electricity at one edge of the falls. And Rumford has an unfortunate history of having a filthy sulphite mill so that rather than being noted for its awesome falls it is recalled as the town that stinks. In recent years the mill has cleaned up significantly. One no longer needs to roll up the car windows and hold a handkerchief over one's nose as we did when I went there to the dentist as a child. Rumford is now attempting to rejuvenate itself. It has not torn down its many brick municipal buildings and homes so may succeed. Today the falls were a bounding mass, a couple of acres I would say, of white water.
June 10, 2006 Saturday
Helen chose to be a good citizen this morning and was letting down all over the floor. But the pulsator picked then to refuse its duty. There was vacuum loss somewhere. I began to feel frantic and in despair took the whole claw and cover off of the bucket and slammed it back on. Then the thing worked. Probably I need to order all new gaskets and O rings. She continued to let down fairly well even though she was near the end of her limited patience. She gave 3.5 gallons and Jasmine gave 2.5. They gave nearly as much again this evening.
I am making one or two pounds of butter every day. Today I also made two quarts of excellent cottage cheese and started a hard cheese. It rained again all day, so it was a good day to be in the kitchen.
The little water color Max inserted last week in the paragraph about Rumford shows white buildings that are no more. They were replaced by the power plant I mentioned, a cubic brick building that resembles Soviet era architecture. No doubt it generates a useful amount of electricity.
Emily was in roaring heat today. She is now 14 months old, so will be bred in July or August. Soon I will need to find her a new home unless granddaughter Rebecca in Alaska wants her. That would mean moving her across Canada, so is probably out of the question.
June 12, 2006 Monday
Helen took a civilized attitude to being milked the last couple of times, but tends to have one quarter that she won't let down. It is usually the left front. My efforts on it with the machine this morning were pretty much in vain. She lets it down all over the floor until I try to get the teat cup on. Then her teat shrivels up like last year's gardening glove. After the machine was off her I brought Melvin around to see if he would nurse. He was willing but she kicked him, so I put the kicker back on her and he nursed for more than 5 minutes.
Back in the kitchen I started another hard cheese, two loaves of bread and a double batch of butter. Right in the middle of this the phone rang. It was my vet saying he could stop by today. Much to my surprise the cows were all up at the barn and I was able to get Melvin into his tie-up to await castration. When Doc Cooper got here I had a nice lunch ready for him, which he snapped down. But he decided to wait for another day to castrate. He got a call about a horse that was bleeding badly. He mumbled about people who get their horse home for the summer and put it into a field with old barbed wire or worse. I was glad to let Melvin out. Helen was bawling like crazy.
When I assembled the machine this evening I could not find the check valve. I still have not found it. I had to milk without it. Not a good thing. Helen and Emily did not come when I called them and I was too bummed to go after them. I'll see how she feels about it in the morning. Melvin came all by himself but when he got to the door and saw that his mama was not coming he turned back.
I got my cheese made and the bread, but the second bowl of butter still awaits pressing. After milking I took a walk with the dogs instead. The river is very high, so I kept Willie on his leash when we got near it. He does not always have good sense.
The weather today was beautiful. I am happy for the people staying at Martin's camp. They came in last Wednesday and have had torrential rains until today. DD Marcia and SIL Jack have a camp close by and had a new boat delivered to Martin's damp since Jack is still in FL getting radiation therapy. The boat is a Hobie Cat (sp?), a type of catamaran sailboat, "Assembly required". The guy at camp is handy and loves to sail, so fell upon the project with delight. I imagine they took it out today for its maiden voyage in the fine light breeze. Webb Lake is 7 miles long and 3 miles wide with superb views all around.
June 13, 2006 Tuesday
As predicted, Helen was ready to come in this morning. She gave 3.5 gallons. This evening it was 2.5. I am still not getting a full quota of cream but she definitely is developing a habit of milk sharing. I won't consider this experiment a full success until she lets down all the way.
My DD Abby ordered me a beautiful new refrigerator. It arrived today. The delivery men came earlier than expected and did not call for directions until they were a mere 15 minutes away. I just about had time to strip the old frig of its magnets, photos and the dusty vases on top. I have never had such a nice refrigerator before. It has lots of room and bright light inside. The freezing compartment is at the bottom. Max arrived to help with everything just as the men arrived, then stayed to mow the lawn. We had a break in the rain just adequate to dry the grass. The minute he finished mowing a shower began.
I picked my first lettuce yesterday and more today. What a treat it is!
My modem line has quit. What an inconvenience this is! Max and I spent time looking for the problem but got nowhere.
My peonies opened today. In the morning they were still tight little balls. By evening they had exploded into my favorite white pom poms. Most are Festiva Maxima.
June 15, 2006 Thursday
Still swimming in milk here. We are settling down into a routine. Helen is cooperative about coming in and accepts the milking machine, but still lets down incompletely for me. It remains hard to get the teat cup onto her left front teat. Today I went ahead and milked her left side by hand. I kept that milk separate to see if the cream line looks any better (Answer: no). I have three cheeses made and have frozen a lot of butter and cottage cheese.
I have one regular cottage cheese customer now. She is one of those who made a great point that they wanted old fashioned dry cottage cheese. Last time I gave her the style I learned from Homestead2 without saying anything. Today she called to order more cottage cheese and said the last lot was especially good. That was gratifying. I enjoy making that kind even though it takes extra time.
I got a few more tomatoes planted today.
June 16, 2006 Friday
This morning Helen was very quiet and I milked entirely by machine without putting the kicker on her. This evening she had turned grouchy. I might have been due to a day of biting mosquitoes on constant attack. They are as bad now as I ever remember them. Or, it might be that she is about to come into "calf heat". There was a lot of tail switching.
Most of my time is spent dealing with milk. Between the two of them I am getting about 8 gallons. It's skim, make clabber, make butter, make cottage cheese or hard cheese every day. And then there is the washing up.
My neighbor Leonard asked to borrow the Kubota to do his tedding. He expects to bale Sunday or Monday. He offered to sell me two or three hundred bales at $2 each. I said OK provisionally. He says they are going to be good. But what if it rains?
June 17, 2006 Saturday
Max brought his shop vac over and cleaned my floors. What a treat. That thing gets right into the cracks in the floor boards.
Another treat this evening! After supper at camp with the family Martin took me for a sail in SIL Jack's new 14' Hobie Cat catamaran. It glides along effortlessly. The wind was very light and we did a bit of paddling near the end to get back, but I like paddling. The evening colors on the lake and mountains were superb.
The cows behaved very well today. I milked Helen easily without the kicker. She gave more milk but still it is low in cream.
For supper at camp I was able to provide lettuce from my garden. Mitra outdid herself with the salad dressing. We had grilled salmon and bratworst.
June 18, 2006 Sunday
Hot summer temperatures have arrived. It was 87 F in the shade and the same in the house. I am sitting here with a damp towel draped over my shoulders, a human swamp cooler.
This morning I brought 5 gallons of milk into the house. This evening it was about 4 gallons. The cows were panting like anything while in their stanchions. They were nicely behaved except Helen was deliberately whapping me with her tail. I tied it to the wall with hay string.
My neighbor Leonard made his hay as promised. Dear Max, Mark and Martin went over and picked up 121 bales from his field using his hay wagon and Martin's Kubota. They put it in the barn.
June 19, 2006 Monday
An era ends today. I have sold Helen and Melvin together to my butter customer, Kenny Brackett. He is the one who last year wanted to buy Kip's heifers. He ultimately realized that what would best suit him was an older cow with teats large enough for ease of hand milking. He is a nice man with 17 acres.
I have become overwhelmed dealing single-handedly with 8 or 9 gallons a day of milk. My conscience will not permit me to dump it. I have been all morning and most of the afternoon making cheese, butter, and washing up. Mitra says that Shireen broke into tears when she learned the news. I feel pretty sad myself.
Today I made another hard cheese, two batches of cottage cheese, 3 pounds of butter plus two loaves of bread.
We just had a severe thunderstorm. Now it is raining. Kenny is to come tomorrow morning.
June 20, 2006 Tuesday
After this morning's milking I put all of Helen's milk, in this case not much above 2 gallons, in jars rather than into a 5 gallon bucket destined to be skimmed and made into clabber. It is the last I will have of her milk. I am very fond of it and her cream is heavier and more golden than Jasmine's. Goodbye to all that.
Max arrived as promised and Kenny was as good as his word. He and his wife came in a pickup truck on which he had built panel sides. For loading Helen he backed it up to a ramp that is off the back of the barn on the central aisle. We do not use this ramp for cattle at present but did not question its integrity. This was a mistake. When Helen advanced onto it to reach Melvin, who was already loaded, and to get the apples with which I was tempting her, the ramp collapsed as though it were made of toast. Helen essentially found herself sitting in a pile of rotten sticks with nails sticking up everywhere. She was horrified, but knew enough not to struggle as the men extricated her. We did not find any injuries but the possibility exists that she got a puncture wound we were unable to find. She has had a tetanus shot.
They removed all bits of the ramp and then Kenny backed the tailgate directly up to the barn and brought Helen around through the barn for another attempt. This time she was unwilling to march aboard. I guided her head with my arms around her neck while the men encouraged her forward by holding a long board behind her. It worked and I clipped her halter while she had her head down looking for the apples I had placed for her. All this took a couple of hours. No one lost their cool.
I gave Kenny the kicker and the cow bra I bought and never used. He bought my book a week ago and his wife says he has already read it cover to cover. I have lit a candle for Helen's health and happiness.
At milking time this evening, Jasmine did not answer my hail and was nowhere in sight. Max and I went down and found her with Emily and Freddie milling around by the old apple tree, quite demoralized without their leader. They showed considerable reluctance to come in at all, no doubt suspecting a cow trap. But once up near the barn they entered and stood in their usual places. I suspect that by tomorrow Jasmine will have assumed her duties as boss cow.
Max spent most of the remainder of the day trying to do something for my modem. It has utterly quit. I feel terribly cut off from the world.
June 22, 2006 Thursday I couldn't stand it. I called Kenny twice yesterday. It seems that Helen is getting along pretty well. On her first day there she limped quite a bit probably due to straining a leg when the ramp collapsed. On Wednesday she was walking normally. What a blessing. He did not get as much milk as I was getting, but that is not surprising. We talked about various little management tricks of mine and he listened politely. I told him about the lard and cayenne in case of mastitis, this being a concern when there is a break in the milking routine. He has in mind separating Helen and Melvin pretty soon, I believe.
Meanwhile back at Coburn Farm, milking is taking a lot less time as is clean-up in the Beefer Pen. Helen's manure contribution was always the most significant.
I still have a back-log of milk to process. Yesterday I made two batches of butter for a total of 4 lbs and have the churn full again. There are 7 gallons of skim milk clabbering and another lovely batch of cottage cheese ready to freeze. Jasmine's current production is just a little over 4 gal/day, so I hope to soon have the dairy activities down to a dull roar.
June 23, 2006 Friday
It was hot again today. I made the gratifying discovery that so far as I can tell on a 24 hour test, one of my old refrigerators that had been unplugged appears willing to maintain the right temperature for aging cheese.
I made two custard pies for a public supper. They always ask for them. The pies looked excellent. Usually nobody else makes their own crust.
I got three more of my neglected tomato plants in today and planted my zucchinis. It was fun working in the garden despite the mosquitoes. Usually I can stand them, but this year I have put on a head net. I have never seen them this bad.
After milking, the cows walked right down to graze in the boggy area to cool their feet, I presume. I know the mosquitoes bother them too, although apparently not as badly as they do me or they would not choose to stand in a swamp. I have also been seeing ticks this year. I took one off of Jasmine before it attached. I have never before seen one on my cows. Others have commented on the greater number of ticks.
I have been wondering how being boss cow would affect Jasmine. For one thing, she started switching her tail at me. Also she lifted her feet in an irritable way. I shall have to have a word with her. Other than that, she has been conscientious about appearing at milking time, a habit I much value.
June 24, 2006 Saturday
Now not only has my modem quit, but so has my satellite receiver. It has probably been out for days and I just haven't noticed. I don't usually turn it on except for Victory Garden on Saturday. Grumble grumble. Oh yes, my caller ID has also quit, also one of my phone lines. This damage is most likely from a series of rather violent thunderstorms that passed through the area.
My granddaughter Helena and her baby Natalie and husband Ryan and Ryan's parents and granddad just arrived for a week in Maine. They are staying up at my daughter's camp at Weld. They will love it I am sure. Perhaps there will be fewer mosquitoes there. During their brief stop here Natalie got several bites. This was my first glimpse of Natalie. She is the very image of a plump cheerful six months old breastfed baby.
The men folks said they would like to come down here to the farm to bushhog the fields. They have a farm of their own in Maryland.
DS Martin and his family are moving today to a larger house in Biddeford. I have not yet seen it.
I spent only a short time in the garden today whacking out comfrey which is now shoulder height on me. I was liberating my blueberry bushes. My raspberry bushes are not doing well for some reason. But the wild blackberries are covered with blossoms.
Jasmine behaved perfectly today. She gave about 4 gallons. That is less than she was giving a month ago. I changed the inflations on the Surge to a newer set. I have had them for some time but they were too small for Helen's teats. They fit Jasmine nicely.
June 26, 2006 Monday
Last night I got through milking a little early and joined Helena and her family at the lake for a lovely dinner. I contributed ground meat for burgers and lettuce and herbs from my garden plus milk and cream of course. Even though they had been at camp only one day they served a wonderful meal with baked beans, corn pudding, and for dessert fresh fruit in chocolate fondue. Helena had brought along some superior chocolate from Pennsylvania. Helena's father and family joined us.
It was raining when I got up this morning and it never stopped all day. I did not work in the garden. Max was here today working to prepare a large disused stall in the barn for DD Marcia's horse, Peter. They expect to arrive with Peter on July 6. Helena's husband Ryan also helped.
Ryan makes his living working on computers. He has offered to install my new modem tomorrow when it arrives. So many things have been going wrong that I asked him to back up my files for me in case my computer it plotting something.
For a while I was milking out my cup of warm milk from Jasmine after the machine was off. Then she started holding up in expectation of this, so I stopped. This meant leaving her half full of milk. It took her only a couple of milkings to figure out not to do this. Three days ago I went back to getting my cup of warm milk by hand after milking. By the next milking she was again holding up. This morning I skipped my warm milk and had to leave her partly full. This evening she let down properly. Her production for today went back up over four gallons.
June 27, 2006 Tuesday
How good it is to be back in communication with the world. Helena's husband Ryan installed my new modem and Verizon got my phone going. The kids picked up a new Caller ID device for me and a new satellite receiver is presumably on the way.
Max and Ryan continued the barn improvements and Ryan and his dad have been working on the lawn. The herbaceous borders are still choked with grass but the peonies and lilies are blooming anyway. The edges of the beds are now trimmed. This makes them look almost cared for. It did not rain today, but even so I did not get any gardening done. I ran down there and told the plants not to be discouraged and that I would be back to tend them. I hope I was telling the truth. One thing at least looks good. That is my row of garlic. I have been cutting off the scapes as instructed and putting them in my stir fries.
I made a cake for Ryan's birthday and joined them at the lake for dinner. The men had put out the wharf. That is a great amenity.
Marcia is worried that the doorway to the box stall Max has been preparing is too low. It is only 6' high and Peter is 17 hands. Marcia fears he will strike his noggin. Other than that it looks to me like an ideal stall. It is entirely inside the barn so is fly-free yet has a wide area across the front where a horse can see everything that is going on in the barn. Tomorrow we are going to consider some construction in the lean-to, an add-on behind the barn which may do. They expect to arrive on July 6. When Marcia called today hail was falling in Florida.
Milking time is now very quiet and efficient. Jasmine is giving a steady four gallons.
June 28, 2006 Wednesday
I got in about an hour in the garden around noon today. Ordinarily I enjoy this but the air was damp with no wind and the mosquitoes made it difficult to function. I finished planting my tomatoes anyway. As soon as I got back to the house it began raining hard and kept it up the rest of the day. Helena and her family were off today on an excursion to LL Bean and to Biddeford to see Martin's factory. I hope they could see to drive.
Jasmine and the others did not come up at milking time so I came back in the house and worked on my bread and went out an hour later. I would have skipped milking had she not come in. I would never do that with a fresh cow, but she is in her 12th month of lactation and the worst that would happen is that her production would drop. I did not fancy going to look for them in the downpour. They were all in when I went out the second time.
I made two loaves of bread.
June 29, 2006 Thursday
Helena's dad Tim, her husband Ryan and her husband's father Larry and Ryan's granddad Clarence all came today and worked on my woodpile. Tim brought his splitter. They cut, split and stacked a huge amount of wood. I am not much good at guessing amounts but it is four tiers in the woodshed. What a dynamic crew! Larry spearheaded the team. He loves the Kubota (I think he has one at home) and used the bucket to convey the split wood. They did not quit until 5:30. Larry said they would return in the morning.
I made them a lunch of macaroni and cheese (from scratch) and lettuce from the garden. I also made a rhubarb apple crisp to send along for their supper.
The cows presented themselves at the proper time but Jasmine did not want to let down. She only gave 3 ¾ gallons today. She seems perfectly happy.
June 30, 2006 Friday
All family members now in town convened at Max and Mitra's for an excellent pizza lunch. They made the pizza from scratch. I brought salad greens. Helena and Ryan drove me there and back. I got a wonderful opportunity to look at everyone's garden along the way. When driving one can only see the edge of the road, never the inviting vistas behind people's houses. Sorry to say there are very few animals. When I was a child, farms lined the road and all had one or more cows.
For the first time I got to see Max and Mitra's four plump pigs. Max has made them a spacious pen with numerous amenities. There was no stink. The ducks are cheerful as ducks tend to be. A small stream runs conveniently behind their house. They have the part that runs past them all churned up. The meat birds are in a chicken tractor about 10' square. They look healthy and large but are unappealing birds with no joy in them.
Back home, I was late for milking but all were waiting for me and behaved well, except that Emily is coming into heat. I was suspicious the other day that Freddie was trying to nurse on her, but she was not encouraging him. This evening when I turned them out he dove right at her udder. I kicked him in the head and got him off. When I get them in tomorrow I will inspect her udder. I sure hope he has not damaged it. I suppose it could just be associated with her coming into heat but I will have to take drastic steps if this continues. I have never personally had to deal with this problem before.
While I was milking, Martin, Amy, baby Hannah and Amy's dad arrived. They will be at camp for the long weekend. They all looked very fine. They stocked up on farm milk and eggs.
July 1, 2006 Saturday
Emily stayed in heat all day. I called my AI tech, a former agent who has returned to the area, and he came out about 4:30. It was a little tricky getting Emily into Helen's stanchion, which she had never previously been in, but the AI tech helped me. Actually, if I had had a few more minutes alone with Emily it would have gone quite smoothly, but having a stranger there worried her. Once in she made no struggle. He bred her to Oda Ilslev. I would just as soon have waited until her next heat to make the calf a little later next spring but her next heat would have fallen exactly on a family reunion DD Marcia is planning in honor of Jack's birthday. The AI tech was pretty sure Emily was just right. Emily is plenty big. She weighs over 800 lbs and is a perfect beauty.
I did not see any more signs of Freddie trying to nurse on her, but will keep an eagle eye.
There are two small black hens setting in the grain room. They were both setting on fake eggs that I keep in the nests where they have been laying. I have given them each three real eggs.
Helena came down today with Natalie and prepared a Thai red curry for a big dinner at camp. It contained coconut milk, pineapple chunks and chicken. She and her mother-in-law, Brenda, put on another vast meal for about 20 of us. It was a lovely evening. All of Helena's family including her husband are leaving tomorrow. Helena will stay here until Marcia's party at which time Ryan will rejoin us.
Son Mark has finished his first year of med school and joined us with his daughter, Hailey. He gets all of July off and then it is total immersion again. Actually he is working nearly full time at his former job in the cath lab.
July 4, 2006
When I looked out my bedroom window this morning there on the wire leading from the house were five newly fledged barn swallows. How sweet and hopeful they looked. They did not notice me and I was careful not to disturb them. Only think of the hours of flying about with their mouths open catching mosquitoes the parents have spent to provide for their growth. Every morning, noon and evening for weeks they have been swooping. Later in the day I saw them doing their practice fluttering in the garage. In former times it was the carriage house.
We had a dump truck load of gravel delivered today. It is mostly to stabilize the ground in front of the lean-to horse stall Max is fixing up. This is also where the cows walk out from their area. It was low ground that had become very muddy.
Max brought four bales of white pine shavings for Marcia's horse stall. They are piled in the main aisle of the barn. I don't know what it is about those bales that cows cannot resist. Jasmine took one look at them and began bashing them with her head. All last winter whenever I tried to park one in the beefer pen Sammy would have a fine old time bashing it open and spreading it about.
Max has the stall for Marcia's horse nearly ready. I think it looks inviting. Let's hope her horse, Peter, is pleased with it. They are to arrive Friday quite late, but she has arranged to have Peter spend his first week boarding at a horse property in Weld where her camp is.
In hopes of getting Emily accustomed to a stanchion, I have been putting her grain snack in Helen's former standing. She did not much care for her experience when she was in it for breeding. I am not locking her in, just leaving her to wander. It takes her half way through my milking Jasmine for her to muster her courage to stick her head into it. I can tell that Jasmine is annoyed with this wandering Emily is doing. She just knows Emily is getting away with something.
I now have three hens setting.
I spent about 45 minutes weeding my garden, and then we had another thunder storm. That reminds me, I must bring in the flag. It is quite an old flag made of wool bunting, pieced, and not printed, with 48 embroidered stars.
Jasmine gave four gallons today.
July 5, 2006 Wednesday
Today was a milestone in the life of Willie. This morning he came downstairs all by himself. I have always had to carry him down because he did not trust himself on the stairs and this was getting harder for me every day because of his enthusiastic squirming.
None too soon on acquiring this new skill. My right knee has started doing some horrid old lady thing. Without warning I get a ping in my kneecap causing my leg to buckle. So far this has happened only when ascending stairs.
For about a week I have been aware that one of my front teeth, a crown with a pin in it, was getting wobbly. My dentist fitted me in this afternoon and did a repair. This greatly improved my attitude toward life. I pictured myself at Jack's birthday bash, coming up July 22, and either smiling with gap-osis or with my jaw clamped firmly shut like ladies seen in old Daguerreotypes.
I was gone all afternoon. When I got home Max had spread all the gravel using the Kubota and tamped it down with the bucket. The stall was essentially finished. He said that he no sooner got the shavings spread than the cows rushed in and had a party. They dearly love fresh shavings and sort of wallow in them. He drove them out and cleaned up. While he went for a 2x4 to make a temporary barrier across the door they all rushed back in and messed it up again. They didn't want to leave and circled several times before being forced out the door.
July 6, 2006 Thursday
Granddaughter Helena and I and baby Natalie went to Farmington today. We went to the health food store and gourmet shop and to a plant nursery. There we bought hanging flower baskets for the Boles' camp. Max worked here at the farm all day on a horse paddock. He mowed the area to reduce the grazing and set up stakes and string to mark the perimeter. We also picked up a rental car for DD Marcia, which I drove home.
A couple of more days and I should be able to lock Emily into Helen's stanchion. She now eats her grain there without being so flighty.
Willie may be getting a clue on house training. For more than a week I have kept him almost exclusively outdoors because I was tired of mopping and scooping. Yesterday and today I gave him some times in the house and he has "held it" until he was back outside. Hurrah!
July 7, 2006 Friday
This morning I slid the bolt on the stanchion, locking Emily in and she didn't say a word. Neither did she do any pooping. She just stood quietly after finishing her snack. She did the same this evening, but when I tried to release her the bolt was stuck and she became impatient and did some struggling until I got it free.
When I turned Jasmine out this morning she went straight to the box in the Beefer Pen which I keep filled with their mineral mixture and stood looking at me. The box was empty. I refilled it right away and from the looks of it this evening they all ate some. I am nearly out of the stuff, so called and ordered more. I get it from Countryside Natural Products Inc. in Fishersville VA. Besides minerals it contains powdered vinegar and garlic. I started the cows on it last March, so Helen had it for about two months before she calved. In '05 I nearly lost her to milk fever and this year she sailed through on one tube of calcium paste. Of course, she calved later this time and had the benefit of a month of grass, but I give the minerals a lot of credit. I also gave her a whole bottle of cod liver oil (in spit doses) about 8 days before she calved.
Max made further progress on the horse paddock and took time to mow the grass around my garden. The weather today was perfect. I spent about an hour and a half weeding and planting.
For the first time, Jasmine was not at the barn when time for evening milking. I did a lot of hollering while killing time with putting fresh hay in the laying nests, etc. I don't know where they were. Emily has no bell and Jasmine's makes a tiny sound. I eventually went looking down towards the river. I heard Jasmine moo somewhere in the distance and when I returned to the barn there they all were acting as though I had kept them waiting. Jasmine gave a bit over 4 gallons today.
Helena and baby Natalie are alone at camp tonight so I went up to see them after milking and had a dish of ice cream. Helena bathed Natalie in the sink. She is so pink and roly poly just like a kewpie doll. Helena even swirls her hair up in a peak. She loves to splash. So the floor got a mopping.
July 8, 2006 Saturday
DD Marcia and my SIL and Marcia's horse Peter arrived today. They had to go straight to the temporary barn where Peter will stay for a few days. Because of the size of their rig they could not stop here. We met for dinner at Kawanhee Inn. Helena and baby Natalie were part of the party. Natalie was remarkably good for 6 ½ months old and nearly two hours at the table. Marcia held her part of the time but mostly Helena held her and ate with one hand.
Max came and brought my organic feed. I read in the paper that demand outstrips supply for all organic products. Maybe that is why we had to wait three days. While he was here dear Max mowed the lawn again. He also was compelled to euthanize a barn cat that had severe damage from an unknown cause. He hates doing this.
July 9, 2006 Sunday
I think I have hit on a fly spray that works. At least it does a great job of clearing flies out of my "milking parlour". In a quart spray bottle I put about 80% ACV, 10% Lemon Joy and 10% an inedibly strong lime oil I bought from a health food store and no one likes in salad dressing. I sprayed this around the room and the flies vanished. I actually cannot say for certain whether the oil droplets are knocking down the flies (in which case any oil would do) or they just hate that lime smell.
The spritzer bottle had the added value of getting the cows to move on out after milking. I have such a problem at every milking getting them to leave. They want to hang about in the main aisle inspecting every little nothing, and of course pooping. Sometimes I feel like I am half carrying them out I have to push and coax so much. That spritzer bottle sent them flying!
July 10, 2006 Monday
Max worked inside the barn this morning on improvements to the horse stall. This included making a window so Peter will be able to see into the Beefer Pen where the cows assemble. They assembled this morning. They stood in a tight row observing as much as they could. I really was sorry not to get a picture of all three staring intently with their ears forward.
While milking this evening I fiddled with the vacuum pressure adjustment on my milking machine pump. This is a small spring loaded assembly. It fell apart and the adjustment bolt got sucked inside the pump. I guess it did not hit a moving part. I did not hear a grinding sound and the pump kept running but did not deliver pressure to the pulsator. Sigh. I went in the house and got the bucket. It was about 85F and the flies have been bad. Both Jasmine and I were sorely tried, but we both kept our tempers. Although, she did wave her foot a few times. I am out of condition for hand milking and gave up after getting 1 ½ gallons. That still brought today's milk production to 4.5 gallons.
After turning out the cows I played with the pump and discovered that by holding my thumb over the intake I could get enough pressure to activate the pulsator. What my thumb can do, duct tape can do. I will try that in the morning. However, I have called the man who repairs dairy vacuum pumps and he will stop in when he can.
I was finally able today to plant my pole beans. With luck I will still get a few. It was a fair amount of work even though I set only one pole. The area had already grown up to huge weeds and crab grass which I had to dig out. My zuchinnis are racing to catch up with other people's zucchinis.
July 11, 2006 Tuesday
Marcia thought she would be able to leave Peter at his temporary place for several more days but this morning when she drove over to give him his morning care she found him sweating and frantic. The owners reported that during the night he was thundering around in his stall. Max was over here by 8am to work on making post holes with a rented power auger. He made as many as he could before Peter arrived at 10am. This fence is for a half acre paddock within my seven acre north field. Last evening Max bushhogged the perimeter of the big field to clarify the fence line so Marcia felt OK about letting Peter out to run around. With Marcia around he was quiet and sensible and just trotted around the mowed strip a few times. Peter is a liver chestnut 17 hands high with a thick tail that flows all the way to the ground. He is a German Warmblood. He moves as smoothly as butter.
He was very good about going into his stall. He likes the cow viewing window. All three cows lined up to look at him and remained there all morning. Jasmine seemed quite smitten with him. They were touching noses every time I looked. Peter is young, just rising five, and for a horse that has been trailered for a week with two stopovers at friends, one night at a horse motel, and then two nights with strangers in Weld, he is holding up well.
I had cow problems this morning. For the first time in her life Emily kicked. She was in the stanchion which was formerly Helen's. I have to walk behind her to work with Jasmine. Her hoof did not make contact with me but she was deliberately kicking. I held the steel scoop shovel behind her leg and she kicked at it repeatedly, then began to swing around side to side in the stanchion (the former barrier is gone) and she kicked over the vacuum pump and the box fan. Both appliances continued to work. I milked Jasmine with the machine using my duct tape modification. And then it quit. I hear the motor humming but nothing happens. Tonight I milked by hand. It took me over a half hour to get 1.5 gallons. Jasmine was quite patient. The fan makes a huge difference as it both cools us and blows away flies. I came in and called the vacuum pump man again and told him my problems have gone from orange alert to red.
July 12, 2006 Wednesday
Helena drove to Portland to pick up my sister Barby who arrived from California. That way Max was able to stay here and set fence posts. I made Barby's favorite dessert, caramel custard. Helena went to the Portland fish market and bought us tuna for sashimi. We had this for supper with sticky rice, cucumber in rice vinegar, lettuce salad and custard.
Max brought along Roshan today, age 7. She had a great time with baby Natalie, Gizmo the Pomeranian puppy, Willy and of course she admired Peter.
Peter walked right into his stall for Marcia this evening after she unsnapped his lead. That means he likes it. Marcia came down both morning and afternoon to turn him out for something under an hour. He canters around a bit but mostly grazes.
The dairy vacuum pump repairman came. He says it is the electric motor component that has failed, not the pump. He does not work on electric motors. Because of Barby's arrival I did nothing today about finding anybody to fix it. I milked Jasmine by hand this morning of course, but Max arrived in time to finish up. Then he milked this evening and got about two gallons, more than usual. Tomorrow I will apply myself to the project of finding a repair place.
Max separated Freddie into what used to be the sheep paddock. He has been cutting up Emily's teats trying to nurse and making them all scabby. He was not happy with this new arrangement and walked up and down the fence bawling.
July 14, 2006 Friday
Max and Martin have been helping out with the milking. However I am getting my strength back. I milked this morning. Max arrived about the time I finished up. He had stopped at the feed store and run into Kenny Bracket who bought Helen. He said she and Melvin are doing fine. He milks her from two sides. He finds this easier than reaching under her heavy bag.
Freddie was back in with the others this morning, having found some way to get through the fence. Max found where he had crashed through. The fence along that section is welded field wire with a wood rail along the top. However, there was one spot that lacked a top rail and it must have looked weaker. Max repaired the fence and added a convincing rail to deter Freddie. Then, he dragged Freddie back in there. He didn't want to go.
Helena spent much of today driving to Skowhegan to a place that repairs electric motors. The man took it apart and replaced something and declared it was an easy fix. Then he put it back together and it showered sparks. So, he took it apart again and said something else was the problem, I think Helena said the bearings. But he said, never mind, he could fix it so it would be like new, but it will not be ready until Tuesday. With the help of Max and Martin I will manage. At least it will be a lot cheaper than a new motor.
Our neighbor Leonard will have some more hay for us, probably tomorrow. Max and Martin said they would help pick it up from the field and get it into the barn. Leonard has borrowed a hay elevator this time. This will make the job of getting it into the barn a lot easier.
Yesterday DD Marcia and Jack had to drive to Portland to pick up granddaughter Abby Rose, so Max put the halter on Peter and took him out to the pasture. Peter was a perfect gentleman, gave no trouble, and came back the gate when he had had enough of flies.
Now I am going out again to listen for Jasmine and Emily. When I went out for a night check I found a gate left open. It was probably open most of the day. I did not see tracks in the gravel but neither did I see any cows.
Later they were back in the beefer pen chewing their cuds. Freddie continues to bawl piteously.
July 15, 2006 Saturday
Maine is in the midst of a record heat wave, for length at least. I forget how many days the paper said we have had temperatures in the 90's but it is at least a 10 year record. The humidity is very high, which makes it debilitating. I can barely spend any time in the garden because of the bugs. The cows don't want to graze. When I saw them eating the freshly spread mulch hay on their floor I got the picture and put down new hay into their manger. It is as cool and breezy in the Beefer Pen as anywhere else on the farm, so they are as comfortable as it is possible to be in this heat. The hens have dropped way off in laying.
I did all the milking today for a total of 3 gallons, a drop in production of one gallon. My strength is building, but I am slow. Jasmine stops letting down before she is really out of milk. Martin is coming in the morning to milk. He will get it all.
DD Marcia's horse Peter seems comfortable. He has a big window into the Beefer Pen and the stall is open across the front so it is airy. The main hall into which he looks from the front of his stall has sliding doors open both ends so if any breeze exists it draws through. When the cows are inside he spends all his time looking at them.
Barby and I went out to the Boles' camp for a cookout with numerous family members. We had a lovely visit, but it was not much cooler there than here.
July 16, 2006 Sunday
About 4PM Max and Martin loaded up hay off neighbor Leonard's field and brought it here and put it in the barn. Leonard was able to borrow a hay elevator which made it all possible. They brought two loads. Leonard and a friend helped with the first load. Marcia drove the tractor on the field. How wonderful it is to have all that hay in the barn. I had to leave for dinner at the lake before they were finished unloading, then they both went straight to their own homes. So, I don't know how many bales we got. (Note from Max; It was 272 bales)
This morning while Peter grazed Marcia dug over a patch of garden for me. Despite the lateness of the season I am going to try for some cucumbers. The parts of my garden which have had attention look halfway good, so long as I don't compare my plants with Mitra's. I even found a ripe tomato today. Now that we are in this heat wave I shall have to water.
Sister Barby is now staying out at Martin and Amy's camp with Helena and Natalie. They will have a lovely time. It is a great joy to wake up at the lake.
July 17, 2006 Monday
My fingers are sticking to the keys so that I can barely write.
I finally got my cucumber seeds in today. Everything needs watering. In the afternoon I lay down, but instead of napping I spent my time feeling sorry for my plants. Then tippity tap, I heard raindrops. A brief but heavy shower watered everything. It did not cool things off, though.
While Peter was out in the field this morning he decided to push over the fence by the back of the barn. I suppose he wanted to get in with Emily and Jasmine, his new friends. Marcia was there and succeeded in untangling him from the mess of boards and wires. He was not injured, but we had to go to Plan B. Max picked up electric fencing supplies and set up a temporary area until the board fence can be completed. Peter accepted this well. He may have met electric fence during his life in Germany. But he was disappointed to be on the bushhogged area and no longer able to eat the seed heads off of the timothy. It is very hot for working on fencing, but Max is making progress.
My hand milking is improving but is still too slow to please Jasmine. Last night she waved her leg and nearly got the bucket. She did this again this morning and would have knocked over the bucket except that I jerked it out of the way. I lost about a half gallon of milk from a nearly full bucket. I felt pretty bad because now everybody wants more milk (I knew this would happen once I sold Helen.) Max was here to milk this evening. He is fast and all he had to contend with was tail swishing. Nobody likes this heat. It was around 90F all day and the humidity is about as high as it can possibly get.
My grandson Harper, Marcia's son, has arrived with his family from Alaska. Harper has been at Princeton for the last few weeks and visited the Whole Grocer. He brought me some Humbolt cheese, a famous cheese. I am waiting until tomorrow to try it.
I am glad Barby is now staying at Martin'camp. My room has an air conditioner but the rest of the house is suffocatingly hot.
July 18, 2006 Tuesday
We had a thunderstorm with heavy rain for a few minutes today which briefly cooled things down to 75F. I'm still insisting Barby stay at camp. She had a nice kayak trip this morning up East Brook and a ride in the Hobie Cat. We have a shopping expedition to Farmington planned for tomorrow.
Helena drove to Skowhegan to fetch the milking machine motor. It is not working correctly. I was able to use it but just barely. The pressure was set at 12 lb. as requested but at that pressure it would not activate the pulsator. When I raised the pressure it began to labor and threatened to die. It went into a throbbing cadence which made the lights dim synchronously. I found a point where it would make the pulsator go yet not die but it was touchy. The motor got hot. I don't believe I got all the milk. There were too many moments when the teat cups were on but nothing was happening. Cows hate that. I got 1.5 gallons. I will speak to the shop in the morning.
Harper made a nice vegetable dish for supper with baked layers of squash and eggplant with a gratin topping.
Two of my setting hens hatched three chicks each. I tried to move one by daylight to a private room. She fought and got away from me but I caught the chicks, saw to it that they had a drink, and herded her in with them. I waited and moved the other family in after dark. I had given them each just three eggs, so that is 100% hatch. There is another biddy upstairs whose chicks should also be hatching. I did not take time to check on her. It is so hot up there that I fear her clutch may have gotten poached.
My oldest son John and wife Lou have reached California on their trip here from Australia. I have not seen him for 15 years and have not met Lou. They are with John's cousins in California (Barby's sons) Jeff and Jon Lars. Lou's sister Eve is married to John's cousin Jon Lars. So the cousins are married to sisters.
July 20, 2006 Thursday
Wednesday morning Marcia found that Peter, her horse, had a cut above his right eye. It is about 1.5" long and opened up about ¾". It follows his "eyebrow" line and is a very clean cut. She thinks it looks like a nail, although Max checked his stall very carefully. Still, on an old farm you can never find everything. She is treating it with vitamin E.
The hens and chick are doing fine in their personal stall where the shavings are stored. Although I am now short of milk I am making them a little clabber. The upstairs hen began sitting only a couple of days later but none of hers have hatched. She has about eight eggs because other hens popped more under her after she started sitting. I check them each morning. The weather is now slightly cooler but it is still hot upstairs in the barn.
My milking machine continues to groan along. I found a setting for the screw which is the point where the motor has just enough gumption to operate the pulsator; any further demand on the motor and it would quit. It throbs along, the lights dimming along with its agony. Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons yesterday, 3 ½ today.
I have been so pressed for time that I have ignored my currants and gooseberries. My cousins Holly and Richard stopped in today to pick currants. I went with them to the garden and was stricken to discover that I am almost too late. Marcia and I will pick in the morning while Peter has his session of grazing.
July 21, 2006 Friday
Marcia picked the red currants this morning and Shireen and Roshan picked gooseberries. There are also chokecherries ready. My raspberries are not producing at all, but very shortly there will be a bumper crop of blackberries.
I went out to the lake for supper with the family and everybody gave me birthday presents. I was very surprised. For dinner Marcia had purchased a large roast of goat meat which Harper prepared in a curry sauce. It has been a long time since I have had goat meat and most of the others, never. Lots of pictures were taken but I was reluctant to smile. One of the teeth has broken off of my upper denture leaving a horrid gap. What a plague.
Actually it was miraculous that I found that broken off tooth. I thought it was most likely on the kitchen floor because I remembered dropping my denture last night after which I did not put it back in my mouth. I put it into its cleaning dish without noticing any damage. I swept and searched and so did Marcia until we finally had to give up. I was going out the door with my milking equipment when my guardian angel said I should check the bathroom sink. I have no idea how it got there, but stuck in the rather grungy drain hole was the tooth! Using various small instruments I succeeded in picking it up instead of knocking it down the drain. It was so amazing, considering that I had washed my face and hands more than once. I considered fixing the denture with Gorilla Glue but Max vetoed that. Unfortunately my dentist is out of town.
My dear son Bret and my grandchildren Maia and Roger arrived here from Alaska about 10pm. John and Eve are stuck in Cincinnati.
July 23, 2006 Sunday
When I let the cows out after morning milking, Jasmine went to her corner where the box of loose mineral is situated. Then I saw both cows staring at the wall. I was at once sure that the little hen with a nest in a crevice had hatched her chicks. I checked under her and felt lot of fluff. I could not put her in the room with the two black hens and their six chicks because she would be at too much of a disadvantage. She is a highly competent mother and I would let her raise the chicks on her own were it not for Willie. He would be sure to find and scatter them. Marcia helped me move her to a little enclosure at the back of the tack room. I will have to keep her there until the chicks are a lot bigger. There are five of them.
Yesterday, Saturday July 22, came and went with no sign of heat from Emily. So I think we can look forward to an Oda Ilslev calf.
Saturday evening was the big get together for SIL Jack's birthday celebration. All of my children except for my daughter Abby in PA and my daughter Sally in AK were present. Several friends were also able to join us. There were about 34 people present. Marcia had everything beautifully organized, everyone was helpful and there were no tears among the children. There were six main dishes including my baked beans, Mitra's mac and cheese, her pasta and spinach salad, Amy's brown rice pilaf, sausages, ham and roast turkey, and Abby Rose's red cabbage slaw. Friend Kathy made ice cream and there was a cake made by a woman in town.
Bret made a drive to Manchester to fetch John and Lou coming from Australia. They did not make it here until 9:45 due to lost luggage, but there was plenty of dinner left. Many of us got together for dinner again this evening.
The milking machine has continued to be a pest, barely laboring through its task. John made the suggestion to try it without the extension cord, just moving things so the cord from the motor plugs into the wall. It was amazing what a difference this made. It still needs more tweaking but the motor sounded much better.
July 24, 2006 Monday
The cows were not up at the barn for evening milking but DS John spotted them down towards the river. When Jasmine saw me and heard me calling she actually trotted up to the barn. All those watching were impressed with the way she comes when called. When dear old Helen was here she was boss cow and Jasmine waited for her to move. Now that Jasmine is boss we see this alacrity. Marcia said "Just like Peter!" She is proud of the way Peter comes when called.
Max made a lot of progress today on Peter's paddock fence. He had sub contracted Shireen (11) to help him hang fence rails today but John volunteered, so Shireen got to go swimming with the other kids. I have read that many children nowadays don't play outdoors, but these kids do unless it rains. They swim, play croquet, and walk Willie. They are busy all day.
When I plugged in the milking machine it was back to throbbing and laboring. With my new found insights I ran around and turned off all the lights in the barn and Peter's electric fan. The motor then recovered and Jasmine milked out fine. She gave close to four gallons today total.
Some of the family had dinner here tonight. Martin and Amy and baby Hannah, John and Lou, sister Barby and son Bret and the kids, Maia and Roger. Max brought one of his meat chickens that were dressed off on Saturday. Lou is highly competent in the kitchen and whacked up that chicken into serving pieces in no time. It served us all with leftovers.
Lou is also highly competent with babies. She has worked all her life as a nanny, then in day care. She was great with Hannah, who was fussy.
For dessert I served bread pudding. I was surprised how much everyone liked it including the kids. Every bit was eaten. John reminded that when he was a small boy and didn't want to try it his dad got him to eat it by calling it "The famous army dessert." The name stuck forever.
Bread Pudding Recipe
6 eggs 1 quart creamy milk ¾ cup sugar ½ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla Bread cubes enough to fill a 2 quart serving dish. Any casserole will do but the pudding cooks more evenly in a flat type of dish. Butter the dish. (I use white bread or soft whole wheat that is getting stale but not dry) If the crusts are hard trim them off. If you like using wheat germ add ½ cup to the crumbs. This will help restore the missing nutrients of white bread.
Beat the eggs, beat in the sugar, salt and vanilla, and pour this over the bread. Push down the bread so all cubes are wet. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Let the pudding sit for a half hour before cooking if you have time. Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes. Serve with cream or ice cream.
Note: If the bread is pretty dry you may need more milk and a longer soak. Dry cubes make a sad pudding.
July 26, 2006 Wednesday
On Monday Mitra was visiting and heard desperate peeping in the beefer pen near where we moved a hen family on Sunday. A frightened chick with somewhat dry crusty fluff was running around in there with no mama. Either there was another egg we overlooked which in this heat continued to incubate and hatched by itself, or one chick had hidden farther back in the wall. I successfully put it under the wing of the hen. Now you can't tell which one it was.
Max and DS John working together finished up the new paddock to the point where Marcia was able to put Peter in it for the first time. There were no problems.
SIL Jack has been bushhogging. He has completed a large area.
The heat wave continues unabated. There are periodic thunderstorms. Today one knocked out power for a while. Very hard rain fell. Jasmine was way down in Pocket Field when she heard the thunder. She ran as fast as she could all the way to the barn.
Martin came by and milked her for me this evening. He milked by hand. He sent me and sister Barby out to the lake where we enjoyed good company until time for dinner. The dinner was prepared by DIL Luisa (Lou). She is a wonderful cook in the South Asian style. She made deep fried fish, chicken breast in a brown sauce and a vegetable stir fry.
Before we were actually able to be seated for dinner Marcia received a call from an ambulance dispatcher saying that her daughters had been in an accident. My older granddaughter, Caiti, swerved to avoid a small animal and fishtailed on the soft shoulder. The car rolled. Her sister Abby Rose was not wearing her seat belt but they were able to cling together. Neither was seriously injured. Caiti has scrapes and bruises. Abby Rose went to the hospital by ambulance and received a full body scan but has only bruises and contusions. It was a dirt road and I don't believe they were going very fast. The car was totaled.
Barby had to say goodbye to Lake Webb tonight. She leaves tomorrow.
July 28, 2006 Friday
Barby got home safely but her trip was extended by a four hour delay in Philadelphia. She said she figured that when she got home I was just getting up to milk the cow.
That little hen with a nest in the hay loft, the one I said must surely be sitting on poached eggs because of the heat, brought it off after all. I found her upstairs this morning with six chicks. I took them water right away and later I took yogurt and grain. She will have to stay up there for awhile. I have no more rooms to put them in.
Marcia rode Peter this morning for the first time since bringing him here. She rode on a part of the field that SIL Jack bushhogged. She was pleased with how he went.
DS John's wife Lou made dinner tonight. There were ten of us at the table at camp. She made fish curry and noodles with vegetables and chicken, also rice and a salad all in typical Philippine style. It was delicious.
Martin arrived back from Biddeford bringing me a GM truck for a birthday present. It has a winch and a plow and looks huge. John drove it home from camp. I should make a big impression when folks see this parked on my lawn.
July 31, 2006 Monday
Here it is the last day of July. Time is speeding.
Yesterday I thought I was about to be a cripple. My right knee developed a nasty pain. I limped around much of the day whining and wingeing and even took Advil. But today I am about back to normal. That alone would have made it a beautiful day, but the weather was perfect. Marcia and I both worked in the garden. Some rows are pretty hopeless due to weeds but I was thrilled to see that my zucchini planted in early July has blossoms.
This morning my milking machine set-up worked perfectly but this evening it was back to its tricks. Both times I had turned the fans off to take electrical load off the system. Bret thinks that is a major part of the problem but it made no difference this evening.
Jasmine gave about two gallons this morning but only one gallon this evening probably due to annoyance with the machine.
The four families of chicks have gotten all mixed up. John and I both chased confused peeping chicks that had gone right out of the barn. They are so cute but so silly.
We all went out to the lake to Marcia and Jack’s camp for dinner. She made superb sea food lasagna with scallops and shrimp. I took blueberry pies. They were good too. I used the last of my leaf lard in the crust. Blueberries are enhanced by the addition of a few black currants. I always add a few if I have them and right now I have plenty.
Four cousins are here for an overnight: Shireen and Roshan, Maia and Roger. Bret is the cousin wrangler. I hope he gets some sleep. Right now, accompanied by Bret, they have taken the landing net and gone out to the pond to looks for frogs in the dark.
August 1, 2006 Tuesday
My goodness, it was hotter than ever today. I am typing with a wet towel draped around my neck. It was raining gently first thing this morning and Marcia took advantage of it to transplant more cauliflowers. The rain stopped in time for her to ride.
As far as I can tell all the chicks are accounted for although some are now with different hens.
Bret borrowed the landing net and took the children to the river this morning to catch crawdads. They let them go after catching them.
We all convoyed over to Mitra’s house for lunch. Her mother Marie is there to help her. Max is out of town on a water quality sampling job. It was a delicious lunch. Her eggplant is a great success. She served fried slices without seasoning and it was the best eggplant I have ever tasted. She has it growing in big pots on her deck. Her climbing spinach is beautiful. Lou recognized it at once and told us the name in Tagalog: alogbati.
The ducks marched a cross the lawn in a picturesque fashion and the whole place looked splendid.
The kids pleaded for another overnight and are now spending the night at Mitra’s.
I rode home with Marcia. We stopped at Whitewater farm where I get my organic feed. He also sells many varieties of local meats, all frozen, and fresh raw dairy products. The butter was $4.95/pound which is a bargain. We both picked up feed and fresh vegetables.
On the way home Bret and John found a place that sells steel. They bought 2” angle steel with which to replace the runner of the big front door on the barn. It has been nearly impossible to open and shut that door for years.
Milking did not go well either this morning or evening. It is no fault of Jasmine’s. She stands like a champ although this evening she rather lost patience and peed and pooped. The machine is not milking her out properly. This evening I stripped out about a quart.
My blackberries are starting to ripen. I think it will be the biggest crop ever.
August 2, 2006 Wednesday
John and Bret worked on the barn door. The barn leans in a way that makes it impossible to install a straight track. Bret worked on the steel and the post so that the door has a track. It was not possible to create a straight enough track so that the door rolls easily.
The hot weather continues. Today was in the high 80’s with intermittent warm rain. It was hard to work. But the garden is looking better especially the parts that Marcia has worked on. Most plants like steamy weather.
All four cousins are back here now. I fixed a spaghetti dinner which was highly praised. I did not think there was anything special about it at all. But it is true that having home raised ground meat improves the flavor of spaghetti sauce. Store bought ground meat always has a dead smell and taste that cannot be readily overcome.
Lou and I picked a basket of blackberries which I served at lunch. My vet was here. It was an unexpected occasion and we had glorified leftovers. Oops! I just remembered I put the remaining baked beans in the oven and did not remember to serve them. Ratz. Obviously they are still there.
Yep. There they were, cremated. Sob.
August 3, 2006 Thursday
There was a break in the heat today. After a morning of rain the sun came out and it was “only” 79F. Everyone celebrated. Marcia’s horse Peter ran around kicking up his heels. He was a perfect gentleman when the farrier came and reset his shoes.
During milking this morning John came out and sat with me and this evening Bret did the same. They are applying their minds to possible explanations for the ongoing problems. I have ordered new rubber parts. Jasmine is down about a gallon in production as a result of the poor performance of the machine. Of course it could be partly the heat. I put my customers all on hold while the company is here. They are beginning to call to see when they will be able to again get the real stuff.
Lou picked two quarts of blackberries. I bought 8 quarts of blueberries from a local lady.
John and Lou accompanied the cousins to the river this afternoon. They spent more than two hours with the girls swimming and Roger catching crawdads. Bret, Maia and Roger return tomorrow to Fairbanks.
We had dinner at the lake with Jack and Marcia. She fixed braised lamb shanks which were enjoyed by all. Granddaughter Caiti gave me a slide show of her recent art projects at Savannah School of Art. She does fine work.
August 4, 2006 Friday
The replacement rubber parts I ordered for my milking machine arrived today. When I put them on the machine I noticed that the O ring on the lid was missing and obviously had been for some days. I had a burst of hope that having the new O ring would spell the end to my troubles but in fact it made little difference. The machine actually worked better this morning while the O ring was missing. She gave almost 2 gallons. This evening she gave only 1 gallon. I can’t seem to do anything that enables the pulsator to operate at its proper speed.
We had to say goodbye to Bret, Maia and Roger today. They are on their way home now to Fairbanks AK after a great visit.
Marcia, John, Lou and I went shopping today in Farmington. We went to the farmer’s market where I bought zucchinis and purple pod beans. Marcia drove, and unfortunately I left my vegetables in her car. What a terrible disappointment when I assembled the food for dinner with DS Martin and Amy expected to join us. Lou cleverly cobbled together a lovely meal featuring spicy medallions of pork tenderloin and Aga grilled eggplant, but Oh dear.
I have been having exasperating problems with my modem phone line tying up and giving a “line is in use message” which wouldn’t go away. It caused John to miss a purchase on eBay that he really wanted, namely a projector for home movies. He has some old reels of the family when young and we were all looking forward to seeing them if only a projector could be found. He has now analyzed the problem as described here.
For your handy reference I will outline the interference issue between the electric fence and the internal modem in your pc.
When there is a bad short arcing from the fence to ground, it sends out a burst of electromagnetic energy which is picked up by the phone line. You can hear this when you pick up your phone as a "tick tick tick" at the same frequency as the fence. It also causes your dialup modem to drop its connection to the ISP, and prevents it from reconnecting.
I'm not sure of the part of the phone line which is picking up the burst of EM energy from the short. It is a bit surprising to me as the phone line into the house is a good 50 yards from where the short was. The line running down the road is about the same distance from the short, but the fence itself does run nearly under the road line.
Once the modem has gone down, it must be reset. The most straightforward way is to turn off the pc and turn it back on again (simply restarting, without powering down, doesn't necessarily reset the modem). There is also a command you can issue at a DOS command prompt (Windows XP):
>netsh int ip reset bug.log
This is a bit trickier at first but saves powering down.
August 5, 2006 Saturday
At the morning milking I not only had all new rubber parts for the machine, but a new filter. It seemed to be going a lot better when all of a sudden the vacuum dropped. I turned it up and the motor began to labor. Only then did I noticed that one of the new air hoses, which are hard and stiff, had become detached and was just sucking air. My goodness. If it is not one thing then it is six others. I ended up getting over two gallons. This included a quart of stripping by hand. I have resorted to this because of the erratic performance of the machine. I prefer not to do any hand stripping because Jasmine quickly becomes habituated to it, as I found before, and expects it.
The heat spell appears to have broken, at least for the present. This evening it is down to 60F.
DS John built a good ramp off the back of the barn to replace the one that collapsed under Helen. This is a good long sturdy ramp made of CorrectDeck.
DD Marcia and SIL Jack took John and Lou, granddaughter Caitilin and me to dinner at Kawanhee Inn. This is a nice inn with a good restaurant overlooking Lake Webb. Last year DS Martin and Amy were married here. We all had a good dinner. We all ordered dessert and I, foolishly no doubt, ordered their Chocolate Pate. (Foolish because chocolate gives me a headache) This is like a big slice of truffle. What is worse, I ate the whole thing accompanied by a scoop of ice cream.
August 6, 2006 Sunday
What a fine sunny but cool day! All those at the lake are having a great time. Martin has some sort of kite that can pull him on water skis when the wind holds.
John completed the ramp out the back of the barn. Jasmine showed a great interest and we were able to coax her to exit down it. She seemed quite pleased with her accomplishment.
With a lot of touchy adjustments by me and John I got the machine to work reasonably well today. It milked Jasmine out, but I also stripped by hand. She gave 3 ¾ gallons which is better than most days lately.
Lou made a beef curry and John and I made oven bbq spare ribs. We took these and other dishes including my chiffon cake out to the lake for a meal with Marcia and Jack. They have put in a vast new wharf with space for chairs and a table. It is great for sunset viewing.
At night check I noticed something in Peter's water. A poor little chick had drowned in it. I feel terrible about this because I heard desperate peeping earlier but could not tell where it was coming from. It must have been trying to stay above water.
August 7, 2006 Monday
This is John and Lou's last day. Although I told them not to, they spent it driving to Skowhegan to take the milking machine motor in for a bench check. The electrician put a new cord on it and it seemed to work better. It still has issues. It does not have the gumption to operate the pulsator unless set higher than 12 lbs.
I figured out how that chick happened to fall into Peter's water bucket. During the day while Peter is outside his stall his door stands open. The hen takes her family in there to scratch. If the door is then shut she can get out easily by flying through the space over the manger. She stands out in the aisle clucking for her chicks. To get out they have to flutter up onto the manger where the water bucket hands. John and I saw this unfold this evening. While Peter was busy with his dinner John went in and caught the chicks and restored them to their mother. There are now five of her original six.
August 8, 2006 Tuesday
Well, I am all alone again. Oldest son John and wife Lou left for Alaska where they will be for 2 ½ months. John and a colleague will be writing a book on tidal currents.
I worked in the garden for a while. I found my first 6" zucchini. What a thrill! I brought it right up and fried it.
I made a couple of jars of jelly with the blackberries in the fridge.
Milking tonight without John as observer and assistant went pretty well. Jasmine did not choose to go down the new ramp. Instead she went into the Beefer Pen and stood next to her mineral box, which was empty. I filled it and she got right down to licking it.
The moon tonight is magnificent.
August 9, 2006 Wednesday
The milking machine worked better today than at any time since the motor first quit. All that tweaking that John and others did finally paid off. I also suspect that the clear cool high pressure weather with which we were blessed today may have helped. There was no difficulty keeping the pulsator going at 12 lb pressure. It worked a little better this morning than this evening. Jasmine gave 4 gallons today. I stripped a quart out by hand at both milkings.
August 10, 2006 Thursday
It's déjà vu all over again. After a good start, about ¾ of the way through morning milking the motor quit again exactly as it did before. First a slight hesitation, then nothing but an ominous hum. I unplugged it and went for the bucket. I was so bummed out that I did nothing constructive about it all day apart from calling Parts Department to inquire the price of a new motor/pump unit. The price further numbed my brain. I now have a call in to the dairy pumpmeister for the state of Maine.
Production today fell to 3 ¼ gallons, not surprising since I am a slow milker and Jasmine decides after awhile that enough is enough. But apart from shifting her weight due to long hooves, she still stands like a perfect lady.
Since John left she has not chosen to go down the new ramp. But tonight, although it was raining hard, that is what she wanted to do. I go ahead of her steadying her by the collar.
Freddie has finally resigned himself to a lonely bachelor existence and seldom bawls anymore. For weeks I could see that he was not gaining weight but now he is looking sleeker.
I made myself a nice frittata with fresh vegetables and home made cheese. Since my family left I have been eating leftovers and peanut butter. I decided it was time to cook a meal.
August 11, 2006 Friday
I milked this morning by hand. It went fine except I am so slow that both Jasmine and I got weary. I gave up after 40 minutes having gotten 1.5 gallons.
It was a fine beautiful day but almost too cool for things to grow. I don't believe it got above 60F.
I went to an eye appointment only to discover I had marked the wrong Friday on the calendar. I was so bummed. Marcia and I had been planning to go to the farmer's market in Farmington and visit Mitra's mom's condo. I gave all that up for a non existent appointment. Sigh.
Max and the girls came over. Max mowed the lawn and the three of them finished off the frittata. The girls picked a couple of quarts of blackberries. Max stayed long enough to milk Jasmine and got two gallons, no doubt picking up what I missed this morning.
Martin called to say he had bought a new vacuum pump. Tomorrow we will see how that works. Max took the existing unit to the repair man. Tomorrow we will see what he has to report.
DD Marcia and Jack took me to dinner at Kawanhee Inn. Granddaughter Caitilin was among the party. She is very animated, so we all chatted merrily. She is an art student at Savannah School of Art.
August 12, 2006 Saturday
Martin arrived in time this morning to milk Jasmine for me.
After breakfast he set up the new unit. The new unit looks much like the old one but is smaller and quieter. I can't remember the HP of the old one but this one is ¼ HP. I thought that might not be enough but it got the pulsator popping like I have not heard it for a long time. It was actually too fast. The new unit has no pressure gauge but I was able to slow the pulsator to the correct speed by backing it off its conversion unit so it was sucking some air. I was able to get the pulsator speed to 60 beats per minute as recommended, by timing with my watch. Martin expects to be able to take the pressure gauge off of the old unit when it comes back from repair and install it on this one.
Jasmine milked out two quarters in about 4 minutes. The other two took an extra minute. Jasmine looked shocked by the new sounding motor but soon agreed it was OK.
Ever since Wednesday when I had my teeth cleaned my mouth has been sore. It got worse every day. Last night the pain kept me awake quite a bit. The mucous membranes of my cheek, gums and tongue on the right side of my mouth were burning and the pain was throbbing in both my upper and lower jaw. It was similar to the pain after an extraction with the burning added on. I tried all my usual mouth and skin remedies to little effect. These included vitamin E, vitamin C and cod liver oil. I didn't take any OTC pain remedies. By this morning I could not stand having my partial in at all. Anyway, it wouldn't stay in because of swelling.
After breakfast I lay down on the couch. Eventually it occurred to me that I had not tried comfrey. Comfrey is good at healing a variety of things such as burns and bruises. I cut a fat bunch of comfrey and made tea of it. Chalk one up for comfrey. It was immediately soothing and within an hour most of the pain was gone. Within 2 ½ hours all pain was gone. Now all I can detect is a little tenderness if I push on my gums.
For the tea I used a mixture of leaves and tips.
August 14, 2006 Monday
More fine weather today, temperature around 70F. This is great weather for working in the garden and I did manage to spend over an hour there. A woman where DD Marcia buys vegetables told her that she makes an excellent fertilizer by putting a lot of comfrey leaves into her garden water tub. It rots down and stinks but plants love it, she says. So I stuffed a lot of comfrey into one of my garden shed rain barrels.
Jasmine's production is rising with the new fast milking. She gave over 3 ¾ gallons today. It still seems miraculous to have a pump that milks so fast. It takes four minutes or less to milk her out. I am removing the first cup by three minutes and by four minutes all are off.
August 16, 2006 Wednesday
For two days Jasmine has held steady at 3 ¾ gallons. She has a flirtation going on with Peter. Their only opportunity to touch noses is when I release her after milking and she walks past his stall. Any time he is in his stall and she is in the Beefer Pen, their run-in, he can watch the cows through his window but it is way high above Jasmine. She goes up to sniff him as she leaves but as soon as their noses barely touch she pulls her head back. Tonight I saw them repeat this several times. He was sticking out his tongue to lick her but she did not let him. Then he tried to nip her. I suppose it was a love nip. He is not a biter and I have never before seen him try nipping. She stood just out of reach until I shoved her along.
Two highly ornamental roosters had a prolonged fight this morning. They were well matched. I got tired of watching them and went about my business. When I came back the yellow and brown one was parading around alone and the red and gold one was gone.
I had lunch with friends of mine with a lovely camp on another lake. We ate our delicious lunch of home made pizza in a screened porch set right at the edge of the lake. A kingfisher, which probably could not see us, flew back and forth much closer than I ever remember seeing one. They are a showy black and white bird with a large head and beak.
August 17, 2006 Thursday
The weather today was perfect. Marcia and I both worked in the veg garden. I found another nice sized zucchini. But there is a touch of fall in the air which always makes me sad.
Sorry to say, another poor little fluttering chick drowned in Peter's water bucket. I found it at night check.
August 18, 2006 Friday
My long scheduled eye appointment was today. My car had a low tire so I drove my new truck, a GM Sierra that Martin gave me for my birthday. It is ten or so years old but runs fine. It has a winch on the front and came with a snow plow for later.
My ophthalmologist said my vision was essentially the same as last year except that the cataract in my left eye is getting worse. I have cataracts in both eyes of the clear type and both sit on my central vision. He said by a year from now I won't be able to pass a vision test for my driver's license. So I am going to proceed immediately with getting them removed. He also said that he can't get a good look at the state of my macular degeneration but thinks it is not much worse.
A man came today to buy cow manure for his garden. I had to bring Peter inside because the manure piles are inside his pasture and I did not want them opening gates and driving around him. He was a good boy. Later when I went to put him back out he went to the back of his stall and made it plain he preferred to stay in. It was pretty hot today and at 2PM he had had enough of being outdoors. So I took off his halter and fly mask and left him in.
We had a load of gravel delivered onto the entrance to the driveway. It has great ruts and low spots that become lakes every time it rains. This will make life more pleasant fro people opening and shutting the front gate. Max smoothed it all out with the Kubota bucket.
Jasmine gave almost 4 gallons today and was perfectly behaved.
August 20, 2006 Sunday
Last week DIL Mitra gave me an eggplant she had grown in a tub on their deck where she grows heat loving vegetables with great success. This eggplant was a truly noble vegetable and deserved to have its picture taken, which unfortunately I failed to do. It was large and round like a cantaloupe and had broad purple streaks on a white ground. Its calyx formed a star at the top with each tip upturned. I felt like apologizing to it for the necessity of cooking it but, as I explained to the Eggplant Fairies, nothing lasts forever. I made it into a ratatouille. This was much acclaimed at a lunch at DD Marcia's camp today with her family and a couple who share her interest in horses.
I also made salmon patties using the last of the fillets that granddaughter Rosemary and her husband Nate shipped frozen to me last year. These also were tasty. The recipe called for grinding the raw salmon and adding chopped herbs, ginger and hoisin sauce.
Nate and Rosemary own a boat called the Tommyknocker from which they fish out of Cordova in the Gulf of Alaska.
It rained all day today. The temperature remained in the high sixties. Jasmine, Emily, and Peter the horse seemed to like the rain and grazed all day.
Jasmine gave almost 4 gallons again today.
My chickens are not producing well at all. Four layers are raising chicks, one has gone broody and one is laying soft shelled eggs which break in the nest and get eaten. I suspect this leads to other eggs also getting eaten.
This morning Marcia helped me harvest the horticultural elderberries during a brief break in the rain. We got about two gallons of lovely berries twice the size of the wild ones.
August 21, 2006 Monday
I need to find a few crabapples to cook with the elderberries to provide pectin. Then I can make jelly.
There was another little drowning tragedy here today. This time it was one of the larger chicks. Just before evening milking I noted a pretty little barred rock bird with its mother and siblings hopping around on a pallet leaned up behind the stock tank. After milking I heard peeping and he or she was drowning. Just its beak was above water and still peeping. I immersed it in my udder wash water which was still nice and warm. It continued to move as I held its head above water for several minutes. Then I wrapped it in a towel and laid it on the Aga but it died. I don't believe I have ever before lost a bird in the stock tank. Large and small, they seem able to perch on the side without mishap.
Martin and family including Amy's brother and SIL and 3 year old niece are at camp today. Also, as I belatedly remembered, it is Mitra's birthday. I marinated all the rest of my Alaskan wild salmon for dinner. Mitra made a great casserole of one of her big cauliflowers and there was also corn and lots of other good things to eat. Martin had bought a Vermont made brie and camembert. I was so rattled by my drowned chicken that I forgot to take along Mitra's gift.
It rained some more today but I was able to get into the garden long enough to plant some lettuce. I dug in cow manure and lime and sifted soil over the seeds. I hope we don't get a heavy rain now that washes them all away.
August 23, 2006 Wednesday
This was another beautiful day. I was able to work in the garden for a little while. I planted some Asiatic lilies next to my tool house and dug away more weeds that were encroaching on my zucchinis. My granddaughter Caiti came by with a friend and picked blackberries.
At milking time Jasmine and Emily could just be seen down in the Pocket Field, the farthest pasture. The afternoon sun on the farm cast heavy shadows under the trees reminding me of a painting by Constable. Jasmine came trotting when she heard me calling.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons today. The machine is working efficiently.
Marcia invited me to join them at camp for a duck dinner. It was excellent. I am waiting up now for my bread to bake. I had to put it on hold while I went to dinner.
August 24, 2006 Thursday
Jasmine gave over 4 gallons today. The cows like this weather. It was bright and clear with a light breeze to slow down the bugs. They lay mostly out on the pasture and thus she came in very clean. I was glad they spent their time outdoors because I had no time today to clean the beefer pen. If they had lain down in there it would have been disgusting.
I had my cousins from Minnesota over for lunch and my vet who was in the neighborhood joined us. I had salmon patties left frozen from last Sunday's lunch and they were as good as or better than ever. I also made another ratatouille, this time entirely with my own vegetables and brown rice. My method of preparing brown rice is as follows: Using short grain brown rice and measuring one part rice to two parts liquid, I sauté the rice in a heavy pot. On this occasion I sautéed it in olive oil to which I added 2 teaspoons of curry powder. In another pan I brought chicken stock to a boil, poured it over the rice, covered it closely and put the pan in the medium temperature Aga oven for 45 minutes. I made a side dish of namasu, very thinly sliced veg dressed with rice wine vinegar. For dessert I served a flan.
After lunch Holly and Richard picked more blackberries.
I worked in the garden only for about 20 minutes. The no-see-ums (midges) were too pesky.
Marcia took Peter away in her trailer for a day of riding in her friend's arena. He loads perfectly and has excellent manners but she said if it had been a dressage test he would have flunked. The strange surroundings interfered with his concentration. He is only five.
August 25, 2006 Friday
The fine weather continues. Daytime temperatures have barely hit 70F for the last few days which is perfect for outdoor activities but is slowing the garden. The lettuce likes it. It is already up.
My outdoor activity today was going shopping. Marcia and I met Mitra at the farmer's market in Farmington. We were somewhat late in arriving and I did not find anything to buy except a key chain to support an effort by the 4H children. Marcia bought eight oriental lilies in 8" pots. The price was deeply discounted. She also bought three blueberry bushes which should do well by the lake. Mitra brought me some more peaches. Then Marcia took us all to lunch where I ordered excellent fish & chips made with haddock.
I came home and made cottage cheese. An old school friend of my DS Barby is very ill and has asked for it. He longs for the old fashioned dry kind. I have 1.5 lbs for him now.
This evening I applied Frontline flea poison, obtained yesterday from my vet, to Bagel and Willie. One hates to resort to such measures but fleas are an unendurable curse.
Jasmine was once again a perfect cow. She was not quite so clean this evening but that was my fault. I have been careless with clean-up in the barn, what with all my dashing around.
August 27, 2006 Sunday
There have been four sets of hens and chicks running about here for the last few weeks, three black hens and one buff colored bantam. This evening I confirmed something I thought I had been seeing for several days. One group of four chicks about two weeks old has no mother. The poor little things don’t come into the barn at night with the others, but stay some distance away in a corner of Freddie’s paddock. I fetched a big handful of cracked corn and showered them with it. They all closed in on it, one yellow chick, one brown one and two black ones. Now it has started to rain hard. I hope they found somewhere to shelter. At least they got something to eat. I don’t know whether something ate the mother hen or she abandoned them. I have never known a hen to send chicks this young off on their own, but I have been hearing lately of strange hen behavior.
I finished up today digging over a patch in the veg garden that had grown up to a mattress of weeds. I still need to dig in manure before planting anything. All my new lettuce is up. But the weather has cooled down so much that the hot weather crops are stalling out. Marcia has taken bushel after bushel of horse manure and shavings down and mulched around nearly everything. The huge crop of blackberries is about over. They are now all falling to the ground. Max’s girls and others have picked a lot of them.
Jasmine gave four gallons today. I cleaned the beefer pen this evening so they could sleep comfortably inside, but at night check they were both outside, presumably grazing in the rain. It is about 58F. There is plenty of grass.
I stayed home tonight and made myself refried beans with beans I put in Saturday to soak.
The dogs have ceased scratching fleas.
August 28, 2006 Monday
It rained much of the night but the cows did stay outside. In the morning I had to call them.
Max and Mitra and the girls came down for lunch and a last chance before school starts to see the farm and animals. Mitra brought everything for taco salad including delicious freshly made salsa. We topped it with cottage cheese in lieu of sour cream or queso blanco.
Mitra and I stuffed a big bag with comfrey leaves for her pigs. I added some rutabaga thinnings.
Jasmine is most reluctant to leave after milking. I open her stanchion and bounce it on her neck so she knows she is free. I drag on her collar and say “Walk on”. Lately I have taken to showing her a carrot, her favorite treat, to tempt her back to her own quarters. Today I gave half of it to Peter as she stood in front of his stall. He always tries to sniff her. Usually she tosses her head but today when he reached out his nose she licked it all over. I don’t know if this was love or the influence of carrot breath.
I let out another notch today in Emily’s collar. She is still growing and is more than an inch higher than Jasmine. I wonder how much longer Jasmine will retain moral ascendancy. She has Emily so “cowed” that she won’t even eat a carrot if Jasmine is watching.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons today.
August 29, 2006 Tuesday
This morning even a carrot barely tempted Jasmine out after milking. This evening I abandoned the effort and left her to leave when she pleased. Instead, she squeezed under the rope barrier that I snap across to control traffic and went out on the lawn. I was not entirely surprised as I noticed her this morning sizing it up. There she was in a patch of lush grass gobbling as fast as she could. Of course there was no use pulling on her collar. I went in and got the whip Marcia carries when she rides Peter. I held it up where Jasmine could see it and she immediately trotted back into the barn giving me an injured look. She knew what it was for sure.
My bird feeder is a flat box atop a 6’pole. Recently one side fell off causing it to spill seed, so I quit filling it. Now it has acquired a new role. My shabby, fat old calico cat, Sissypuss, discovered it and now spends all her time up there. She enjoys it so much that she sleeps there all night. This morning I was up so early that the world was without color but I could just make out her ears outlined against the sky. Yesterday she ignored a drizzling rain rather than abandon her post.
Jasmine gave 3.5 gallons today.
August 30, 2006 Wednesday
The four motherless chicks lost no time identifying me as a food source once I threw them some corn. Now they wait for me at the barn. But every time I try to feed them a couple of annoying roosters show up and drive them off the grain. I am really fed up with those roosters. I am going to start rounding them up for slaughter. I have about six roosters too many. Marcia caught a laying hen today in the act of eating an egg, a capitol offense. I caught her and put her in a separate pen.
When I changed to all organic feed and raised my price to $6/gallon there was some suggestion that I would lose customers. Instead I have more than before. Jasmine is hard pressed to keep up with all of us but she is doing pretty well for 15 months into her lactation.
Marcia invited me to dinner tonight and we had ostrich. It is very good. She served it with mushrooms. She also made ricotta ice cream substituting Homestead2’s style cottage cheese. It was very good.
August 31, 2006 Thursday
What a shock when I assembled the milking machine tonight. The O ring that sits on top of the lid was missing. Without this O ring vacuum cannot be maintained. It has shown a tendency to roll up and off and this time it was gone. Obviously it was there during morning milking, so had to have disappeared during morning clean-up. Everything else stopped while I searched and even moved out a heavy cabinet, but to no avail. Finally I cut down an O ring from something else and fitted it into position. I am happy to report that this worked fine, but what a snarl-up. I thought I bought a new one recently when I ordered all new rubber bits, but I could not find that either.
Jasmine gave almost four gallons today. We again enjoyed splendid weather. I did a little gardening including whacking out the comfrey that was choking one of my young apple trees. I discovered a heavily fruiting wild cherry in a corner of the lawn I rarely visit and picked a quart easily.
At dinner Marcia served comfrey as cooked greens with sesame seeds. It was very tasty.
September 1, 2006 Friday
My method now for getting Jasmine to stop playing around and come on down to the Beefer Pen, her run-in, is to put carrots in the manger. It only took a time or two to get her trained to this, especially when she could hear Emily, who invariably scoots right down there, munching carrots. This morning in the manger I found a very tiny kitten just old enough to spit and bristle. I picked it up by the scruff and saw that its eyes were all stuck closed. I washed its face with a paper towel and warm water left over from cow prep until I got its eyes open, then took it into the house and gave it milk with a disused hypodermic syringe. I put it back in the manger in hopes its mother would get back on the job. I believe she did, as he was gone when next I looked.
Max came over today to help me out with driving to my eye appointment. But first he put new batteries in my flashlight and had a good search for the O ring. He spotted it well camouflaged in the bottom of the dishwasher. What a relief, although my invention did work. Everybody should have extras of these little doodads.
My appointment was to thoroughly inspect my cataracts and macular degeneration prior to surgery. I had an amazing lot of photographs of my eyeballs before and after having dye injected into my veins to better display the MD. I now have an appointment for surgery on September 28.
The weather today was again lovely but I did not get a minute in the garden. Jasmine and Emily were waiting in the barn for me this evening.
DD Marcia and a friend of hers went kayaking today and observed the pair of eagles that have their nest farther down the lake. A third bird the size of an eagle but all brownish grey may have been their offspring. It circled around Marcia’s kayak at a distance of about 50 feet. It may have been considering her “crew” of three Chihuahuas. Before flying away it lightened its load with what Marcia described as an astonishing volume.
September 2, 2006 Saturday
Our neighbor that borrows the Kubota to help with his haying sold us about 250 bales today at a good price, the third consignment this summer. This hay is mighty nice. Marcia, Martin and Max brought it home in pickup loads and we were able to borrow a hay elevator to put it up in the barn. We are so happy to have this hay. Little Willie dog had to be tied most of the day because of all the coming and going, so his day was not so much fun. But, everybody else had a good time. The weather was fine.
Some of the kids were here for a while today and had a fine time catching frogs and releasing them. My little pond looks pretty awful what with the trampling around the edge and the stirring up of the muck, but the kids were happy and the frogs did not suffer too much either.
Later most of us met at Kawanhee Inn for dinner and that too was a lot of fun.
September 3, 2006 Sunday
Marcia and Max put in another pickup load of good hay. Martin was in a mountain bike race at Saddleback Mountain. They wouldn't let me help.
Not entirely to my surprise, because I have had a sense that something was wrong, the man who bought Helen called to tell me he wanted to get rid of her. And, did I mean it when I said I wanted the opportunity to buy her back if he ever decided to sell her. He said she had had mastitis constantly since he got her. He asked me to make an offer. I said I would call back with my terms. This I did about three hours later. He was not too pleased with my offer, I could tell, and said he would think about it and that right now she was healthy. I went up to camp for dinner. He left a message while I was out saying that I should come and get her. Marcia, Jack and I will go with her horse trailer very soon.
Starting while she was still here and continuing now that they are in Alaska, DS John's wife Lou has been suffering from a disagreeable succession of lesions on her leg. While she was still here she did not show me her leg and was reluctant even to tell John. Consequently it got a lot worse as the days passed. She described it as an infected insect bite. After it became hot and swollen they finally went to a doctor in Fairbanks who thought it must have been the bite of a brown recluse spider and that the infection had become systemic. John said circular spots were appearing at a distance from the original lesion. Martin had the insight that it could be Lyme disease. I looked this up and indeed her symptoms exactly conform. John is going to explore this possibility tomorrow but he agrees with our long range diagnosis. A Fairbanks doctor would be unlikely to think of Lyme disease.
Martin said that a friend of his from Austria arrived in Portland last year with the infection which he self-diagnosed. He went to the hospital and the doctor there agreed and treated it. Martin's friend said the disease, which has another name in German, has been well known in Europe for 100 years and they find it entertaining that we think we discovered Lyme.
September 4, 2006 Monday
When I let out the chickens this morning there in the yard, up bright and early, was the little hen who has been setting inside the barn wall with all five of her eggs hatched into adorable chicks, two yellow ones and three black. They had to tumble down about three feet to get into the yard. I put out a pizza pan with water for them so they would not drown and threw chicken feed around. Of course all the other hens contended for it, although it is the same thing that is in their hopper. The new mother held her own. After dark this evening, having noted where she settled for the night, I scooped her into a box and put her in a safe room. No telling what predators visit the chicken yard at night.
Speaking of predators, something is eating things in my garden. It is either a rabbit or a woodchuck. It has eaten a lot of beet tops and flowers off my zucchinis.
September 5, 2006 Tuesday
Marcia and Jack drove me to Rangeley to pick up Helen and Melvin with their horse trailer. Her owner, Kenny, thought it was going to be very difficult to load her. He had a friend of his on hand to help. The friend did prove very useful but Helen loaded better than he expected. We had Melvin aboard and tied in place and a bucket of grain waiting. Marcia and I and Kenny's wife pushed on Helen's rear while I said encouraging things and the men pulled and guided her. She had to walk up a bit of a ramp and stopped moving forward for awhile before stepping up. But if she had not been willing it would have been impossible.
Kenny said she had mastitis again this morning in both front quarters and he had inserted two more tubes of treatment. So, there will be no using the milk before Thursday evening.
I milked Jasmine first, then put her milk into another bucket and milked Helen with the machine. Kenny has been milking by hand. Helen behaved perfectly. I put the kicker on her, but I doubt it was necessary. She gave only one gallon plus a quart. There was no trace of mastitis on the filter but I did not taste the milk on account of the meds.
I have picked a big bunch of comfrey to grind up and rub on in the morning.
September 6, 2006 Wednesday
Jasmine expressed her pique this morning by pooping twice while in her stanchion and peeing too. Apart from that she was well behaved. Helen behaved perfectly with no messes, but only gave a gallon. There was no sign of mastitis. I had to call long and loud to get them in.
I made a comfrey mush in the Cuisinart which I rubbed into Helen's udder morning and evening. This evening I put an armful of comfrey on top of her grain and she ate it all. I am sorry to say that tonight her milk strained poorly and there was only a gallon.
My daughter Abby in PA has been suffering from a cold with a dreadful cough. Her lungs became painful and she was very weak. She asked me to overnight her some frozen colostrum as she was taking an antibiotic and her guts rebelled badly. Colostrum cured her last time this happened. The package arrived this morning: She writes:
Forget ambrosia. The true nectar of the gods is colostrum. I went down an hour ago (having called and asked Heidi to ring me when it came), raced out to the car, grabbed the knife, cut past Sally's near-impervious duct tape wrapping, and drank deep, deep. Heavenly! That's all I can say. And then when I got home I poured out another glass in my tulip shaped cut glass goblet, and had another...
She declares that she feels much better already.
My little family of mother hen and five chicks is thriving. The last two nights she bedded down outside, so I was much relieved to see them in the morning. Today Willie got close to her and she puffed herself up like a turkey gobbler and ran at him. He looked at me in alarm. I told him to scram and he did. It was really quite entertaining to see that bantam hen on the attack. As soon as he left she clucked for her chicks, they came from five directions, and she resumed scratching as though nothing had happened.
Sorry to say that the group of four motherless chicks is down to just two.
September 7, 2006 Thursday
I got Melvin into the barn this morning, succeeded in getting him hitched up, and decided to try removing his anti sucking plate by myself. It was clamped onto his nasal septum, the two halves of the device held by two brass screws. I got him into a headlock with my right arm and he stopped plunging around. Then I set to work on the screws with my left hand. They were set very tight by Kenny. I could hardly believe it when I got first one and then the other screw to move, what with Melvin jerking every time the screwdriver slipped and calf snot dribbling on the work site. Helen was watching from her stanchion and making supportive soft mooing sounds. I am pretty sure she knew what I was doing.
This morning Helen's milk strained just fine possibly due to the comfrey. I fed her another big armful both morning and evening. As with the three previous milkings, this morning I got one gallon. This evening it was evident that Melvin had sucked three quarters but ignored the left front, the one that is in the most trouble. Probably due to a resurgence of maternal hormones, Helen did not let down well tonight. She did not give enough to cover the bottom of the Surge bucket. I milked a quart or so out by hand and offered it to her to drink. She said "No thank you." If I try this again I will add molasses.
Now under the influence of Helen again, Jasmine did not come when called. She has been so good that I am spoiled. All my hollering was to no avail. Tonight I had to go fetch them home.
I went to Farmington today and took milk to Mitra and saw all her fine animals. The ducks were paddling about in the little stream and the pigs were rolling around taking mud baths and generally cavorting. All her vegetables were thriving way better than mine.
September 8, 2006 Friday
Was it Chekhov who said "Happy families are all alike?" Nobody writes novels about them. I thought of this when someone hinted that the Heifer Diary was not so interesting with Helen gone. Jasmine never gives any trouble, wants to please, comes when called and is rarely even slightly dirty. Plus she still gives between 3 and 4 gallons a day in her 15th month of lactation.
Helen does seem rather glad to be home and although never demonstrative, has acted a bit friendly. But now that Melvin is back to sucking she is back to holding up her milk as though he were a new calf. She comes in with three empty quarters and the one that is big and hard with mastitis untouched. I have little success working on it because she won't let down. Once again tonight with the machine she gave about enough for the cats and that was all. By hand I was able to get maybe two cups.
Tonight I succeeded in catching Melvin and tying him up. We'll see if a night of separation will break this pattern. Tomorrow morning after I milk Jasmine I will let him go to Helen and stop him sucking anything but the trouble quarter. At least I will try. He is a well grown 4 ½ months old now.
The five tiny new chicks now have each got a little fringe of wing feathers. To see them buzzing around with their little brown mama is just so cute.
I spent all day that I was not in the barn or washing equipment on cleaning my bedroom. There were fleas hopping around on my quilt last night. This was so upsetting I could hardly go to sleep. Today I tossed all the rugs out the window again followed by all the pillows and my featherbed. I laundered everything washable and beat the rest and I vacuumed for an hour. Then I took a shower and washed my hair. If I see another flea I will be in despair.
September 9, 2006 Saturday
In this morning's Writer's Almanac Garrison Kiellor reminded us that my quote last week, "all happy families are alike", was Tolstoy, the opening line of Anna Karenina.
Melvin was wonderful this morning about going straight for the quarter with mastitis and working hard on it. This got Helen to let down and I followed up with the machine and got 1 ½ gallons. This evening he repeatedly dodged to another teat and I had to literally stomp my foot on his head to get him to shift. This is no worse than reluctant cows do and he ignored me. Helen stood like a rock. After washing off the slime I followed up with the machine but got only one gallon. I often read of forum members getting let down started this way, but I have never recommended it much because it always turns into a messy rodeo. I taped Melvin at 375 tonight. He is a wonderful calf and friendly, but once the mastitis is resolved I will not continue this form of exercise.
I have to support Helen's udder to make the machine functional. I feel like I am holding up a water bed. She did her part and there was no need for the kicker, but what a job! I only put the machine on the three good quarters and the milk is lovely. Her mastitis did not get worse during the 2 ½ days when I could not get the milk out and was using only topical treatment. I can only assume that the mass of comfrey is helping. I am keeping it up. It is highly unusual for a rock hard quarter to not get worse. Her quarter is softening slightly with Melvin's exertions.
A week ago Max killed two roosters for me. They have been hanging ever since. I am following Rose TripleH's method. She said that when they are aged enough the feathers will pull right off. Every day I have tried to pull some feathers. The feathers came off a little more easily today, so I brought them out on my deck to dress them off in the fresh air. I took off the feet and wing tips but the feathers are mostly still stuck in hard. I wrapped them each in newspaper and put them in one of my outside refrigerators. I did not notice any smell outdoors but I do now in the fridge. I guess tomorrow I will have to finish plucking, easy or not. Sigh.
Last night DD Marcia made gumbo with chicken and shrimp. I have never had gumbo before. It was absolutely marvelous. None of us wanted to stop eating (It was just Marcia, Jack and I). She said the recipe was from Paul Prudhomme.
September 10, 2006 Sunday
Melvin was as rambunctious as ever this morning when his turn came. After diligently sucking Helen's infected quarter, her left front, he whirled around and took a dive for Jasmine whom I had just finished milking. She was so mad! She proved that she knows how to kick. Her furious efforts were useless against Melvin's strength and determination but with me dragging on his rope he was soon back on Helen. Her infected quarter is softening up. I am continuing to give her comfrey at each milking but I expect that Melvin is the biggest factor because without him she won't let down.
Max rode his bike over here this afternoon, about 38 miles, and Mitra came in the car with his clothes. They had a bite of zucchini frittata that I had ready. We have a frost warning tonight and they kindly covered a lot of things in the garden for me using sheets and tablecloths. I milked an hour early so that Max could help wrangle Melvin. They had to hurry back to pick up the girls from soccer. I was glad Max was able to help. There are only about six feet between the two stanchions and Jasmine did not like the way Melvin was throwing himself around so very close to her. She raised her tail and let go with everything she had.
I had Max put Melvin on both front quarters. The one on the right was tasting salty.
Mitra brought me a lovely rosemary plant from the farmer's market. I had been unable to find one anywhere this year.
September 11, 2006 Monday
Cow chores were more orderly this morning. Melvin has learned to go straight to Helen and he directs his attention to the two front quarters very nicely. Every time he bunts he changes to another teat, so I just have to reach down and flatten the back one out of the way. Helen's two front quarters were significantly softer this morning and Melvin got them both well emptied. The milk in those two still does not taste right, though. I was able to lead him easily back to his tie-up. I put the machine on Helen's back quarters and got 1.5 gallons. I turned Melvin loose to follow his mom today since I am satisfied that he is not neglecting the front quarters in favor of the better tasting milk in the back two.
This evening Helen hung around outside the barn and was a little reluctant to enter. She was afraid I would tie up her baby again. But a word and a pat moved her along and Melvin followed. He walked straight to his tie up position. I slid my hand along his back and clipped on his rope. Helen had no milk of course, but I wanted to inspect her condition. Once again, I must praise the combination of Melvin and comfrey. When I again turned them all loose Melvin immediately set to work on the front quarters.
This is Melvin when he was about a week old.
Everything went so smoothly and quietly tonight that neither cow lifted her tail.
There was only the merest whiff of frost last night and the weather today was beautiful. But the prediction tonight is for a hard frost. I have covered things as best I could.
September 12, 2006 Tuesday Today was almost a repeat of yesterday except I went for my blood work and EKG, prep for my cataract surgery. The gal who did the EKG said I was in great shape.
This evening when I sat down on my stool next to Helen to check her udder and take samples from all four quarters she started waving her foot around as though she wanted to brush me away. She wants all the milk for Melvin. I held up my little plastic cup so that she could see it and said, "Don't worry, I only need a little bit." She seemed to understand clearly. There was no further foot waving and she resumed chewing her cud.
The milk from the left front quarter that was the worst now tastes perfect. Milk from the right front quarter still tastes a little salty.
September 14, 2006 Thursday
Last night Helen actually let down while I had the machine on Jasmine. Milk was streaming onto the floor. I poured Jasmine's milk into my standby bucket and put the machine on Helen. She certainly did not let down for the machine. What she gave barely covered the bottom of the Surge bucket.
This morning I could tell she had quite a lot of milk that Melvin had not drunk so I tried hand milking her into a bucket. This went very well and she gave over a gallon before I gave up exhausted. The flavor was perfect in all four quarters and it strained perfectly too, so I saved the milk.
This evening she once again came in with a lot of milk. This time I tried putting the machine on her after I milked Jasmine and just combining their milk. Jasmine always gives 1.5 gallons at night so it was obvious that Helen gave just over half a gallon. I think it would be better to just milk her by hand. The machine is not well suited to her long large teats and droopy udder. It just does not seem to milk her efficiently even when I support her udder with both arms. She was well behaved and cooperative. All of them were. I am so pleased with the way Melvin just comes and stands at his tie-up.
The weather has warmed up again. I picked two more zucchinis and more 1 inch sized tomatoes. I have found a recipe in a French cookbook for a way to preserve them in olive oil with herbs and a little vinegar. It takes a lot of olive oil, but it will not be wasted. I can use it later. I made three pints of these. They are to sit in a cool place for two or three months. They should be ready for Thanksgiving.
September 15, 2006 Friday
I followed a recipe in the same book for eggplant. It does not call for vinegar, only oil. I really hope these will be good.
This morning Melvin did that familiar trick of racing to his mom to nurse when I called in the cows. I still got a gallon from Helen with the machine. This evening she actually had quite a lot of milk but hardly let down at all. I think I would have done better with hand milking to which she is better suited. Both she and Jasmine were obviously disappointed that there was no comfrey tonight. I forgot to go down and cut it.
September 16, 2006 Saturday
Mitra reminded me that I totally forgot last week to mention that Kip stopped in for a visit. He has been sailing for about two years and is ready to settle down with his cows. We had lunch and talked about cow things. Kip is looking very healthy and fit. Max joined us. He was over for the day to mow my vast lawn. I hope I am not forgetting too many other important things.
The cows were quiet and orderly this morning but I only got about a half gallon from Helen.
About midday I opened the paddock gate for Freddie to join the crowd. Poor little guy must have stood for an hour contemplating the open gate before trying walking through. But by evening he was well integrated with the herd. He and Melvin have been getting to know each other over the fence. At milking time Freddie marched right in with the others and I clipped him to a tie-up. So far he has not tried to suck on Emily, as far as I can tell.
However, this modest change of the program was enough to confuse everybody else. Melvin was reluctant to come in, Helen and Jasmine both peed and pooped. I had their comfrey for them tonight, but I put apple cider vinegar on Helen's grain and not on Jasmine's. She has not been interested in apples in any form. But I think the knowledge that Helen was getting something that she was not probably annoyed her.
The weather has turned beautifully warm and everybody is loving it, but it has resulted in a vast new crop of bugs. Probably for this reason the cows all took their afternoon nap inside the Beefer Pen rather than out under the trees. So, Helen came in absolutely filthy. No way could I get her clean enough to put the machine on her. I didn't even want to get near her but I cleaned her up enough so that I could hand milk and got ¾ gallon which I kept separate and strained last. Then I took a shower.
DD Marcia and SIL Jack invited Max's family and me to their place at the lake for a good old fashioned dinner of meatloaf with mushroom gravy, baked potato, beans from Mitra's garden and pumpkin pie made from scratch by Marcia.
September 18, 2006 Monday
Our excellent weather continues. The beans are producing! I put up only one teepee using four poles about 8' long. All of a sudden there are lots of nice beans, a flat Italian and a yellow wax bean. And my cauliflower is also finally producing. I had despaired of it. But all of a sudden there are half a dozen lovely orange heads forming. I am so pleased to see cauliflower in colors. Now there is also purple. Maybe next year I can grow all three colors.
This morning the milk in all four of Helen's quarters was good quality. I planned to tie up Melvin tonight if I was still satisfied this evening with the flavor. But, the left front was just a tiny bit off flavor again. All five cows now walk in as nice as you please to their tie-ups. I am still cutting lots of comfrey for Helen but she seems a little less eager for it. If she still has any mastitis it is nearly undetectable, yet her two front quarters are not as pliant as the rear ones. Perhaps they never will be again. I am getting poised to make cheese again once I have her additional milk. My customer base is pretty reliable (knock on wood). One lady who stopped coming when I went totally organic and raised my price fro $4 to $6/gal has come back. What with the family, I seldom now have enough milk to make butter, never mind cheese.
My little hen with five chicks still has them all. One tiny chick was taking a dust bath this morning and at first did not come when she clucked. Then he changed his mind and went bounding through the weeds to her. She has them going up the ramp into the hen house now to eat out of the feeder.
September 19, 2006 Tuesday
This morning Helen had virtually no milk, so I did not bother with milking her at all. That same near front quarter still tastes salty.
A neighbor once again dropped off two bushels of large cucumbers. Some are a foot long and 4"thick. There is a Chinese recipe for big ripe cucumbers. I must try to find it. Most will go to Max and Mitra's pigs.
There was a recipe in the paper for muffins made with 1 ½ cups ground flax seed and 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour. I made these today adding some dates and raisins. They are very good.
So often I have said, "Helen came in dirtier than I have ever seen her". I say it again tonight. Many minutes and many rags later, I milked her right out. Almost all was from the troubled quarter. I guess Melvin does not prefer it. I got very nearly a gallon. She was very cooperative although I took the precaution of tying her tail, in this circumstance.
I decided to separate Melvin tonight and try to get more milk in the morning. I may need to isolate the salty quarter and milk that by hand. I kept Freddie in too for company. He is phlegmatic and does not join with Melvin in bellowing, so he quit pretty soon. But when I went to do night check I had Willie with me and when he caught sight of the two calves in the flashlight beam he was terrified. He is a brave little guy all the same and mostly barked at them. But of course they sprang to their feet and started mooing which set off Helen who was not far away outside in the dark. Phew! That is settled down now.
It is raining tonight.
This afternoon I picked myself some pole beans and now I have cooked them for myself for a late dinner.
September 20, 2006 Wednesday
I have a late crop of lettuce seedlings and transplanted some today following the rain. I expect they will do well. I also dug my pitifully small potato crop. It is mostly the heirloom German fingerlings. At least that is what I think they are. Potatoes are such fun to grow and harvest. I wish I had been able to put in more.
The two calves did fine tied up last night in the aisle. Helen came in pretty clean, so after I milked Jasmine I poured her milk into another bucket and put the machine on Helen. She only let down about 1 ½ gallons but was perfectly behaved. I turned them all out together. This evening the milk in Helen's right front quarter was discernibly better flavored. But I felt lazy and did not keep the calves in. Peter was not well behaved for Marcia when she rode him this morning. He even reared. She got off and longued him instead. Perhaps he did not sleep well with the calves in there. Also, they make extra cleanup which she mostly does. She needs to be efficient in the morning. She and Jack are taking their RV and pulling the horse trailer with Peter to visit friends up north in Aroostook County. Marcia will be riding Peter in a clinic.
September 21, 2006 Thursday
DD Marcia and Jack and Peter set off about 11:30 this morning. She called to say they arrived safely at their friend's place. She also said she forgot to take her little bag of flax seed muffins. She said Max should eat them but I guess they were too healthy for him. He didn't like them. He is house, dog and cat sitting for them while they are away
While I was down in the garden all the cows came over to ask me to throw comfrey over the fence. I cut them a great lot of it but I think they would have eaten a good deal more.
We will have a hard frost tonight. I pretty much said goodbye to the garden. I picked all the zucchinis which were big enough to eat and picked the beans I could reach. I also picked some of the tomatoes. I covered a few things. The cucumbers are growing flat on the ground and were easy to cover. I have sometimes had cucumbers make it through a frost with some help. The cukes have only reached 4" in length. It would be nice to get a few of my own. I do have another bushel of huge ones from the neighbor.
I went out and did a few errands and popped into the thrift shop. There I found a dear little pitcher. I love pitchers and teapots.
Max mowed a large section of grass while I was out. The lawns have not slowed down much yet. The few days of warm weather we had gave it a boost.
Helen is about the same. There remains a slight flatness to the taste of her milk from the questionable quarter. I'm still feeling lazy, so I turned them all back out tonight. I saw Melvin working hard on the bad quarter, bless his heart.
My cream cheese turned out very well.
September 22, 2006 Friday
No frost after all. Even the basil was untouched and it screams and turns black at the first whiff. The cows came back to the fence today for more comfrey when they saw me in the garden.
I have been roasting pans of tomatoes, cubed eggplant and peppers. I toss them with olive oil, herbs, garlic, pepper and salt and roast them for an hour so until they get a little bit brown. I cut the cherry tomatoes in half. They are incredibly good. I figure to freeze some jars of these. My crop of these vegetables is so small that it doesn't seem worth canning.
My dear little hen with five chicks was missing today. She has insisted on living outside. At evening one little black chick showed up acting desperate. It went into the hen house by itself and fluttered up onto a perch. I believe it well be warm enough in there.
Helen's milk tasted perfect tonight but I had to work to wring one quart out of her. Melvin has a huge thirst. I separated the calves tonight. I'll see in the morning whether she will let down for me.
I have been hoping to find a recipe that uses these giant cucumbers. I have an entire wall of cookbooks and I looked through a lot of them in hopes of finding something, but no luck. So, tonight I invented something. It is a braised cucumber soup.
I cut one of them in half and scraped out the seeds, carefully saving them and all the juice, which I put in a strainer. I cubed the cucumber and sautéed it in butter with an onion until it was beginning to pick up some color. Then I tipped up the pan so that some butter would run to the edge and sautéed a tablespoon of Penzy's hot curry powder. Next I added a quart of chicken stock (reserving ½ cup of the stock) and the juice pressed from the seeds. This is important because the seeds have all the flavor. I simmered it for about 15 minutes then added 1 tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in the reserved cold chicken stock and a handful of chopped fennel tops. Then I simmered it for another 10 or 15 minutes. It is very good. A little cream is also a good addition.
September 23, 2006 Saturday
I kept Melvin in last night with Freddie for company, but it did not gain me any milk from Helen. I think I got a quart. So, tonight I didn't bother. I am pleased to say that Helen's milk is now entirely back to its old quality.
Max took their ducks to be dressed off this morning. He brought them back here in plastic bags (I think there are seven) and put them in my freezer. They are having refrigeration problems. The ducks were white Peking's and dressed out at 5 ½ to 6 ½ lbs. They look nice and plump. I dearly love duck. Max said they were not expensive to raise because they mostly spurned their duck food in favor of cruising around the lawn and stream after bugs.
Today it rained all day but once again I saw the orphaned chick come into the hen house. He was wet and bedraggled. A bit later when I went back to close in the chickens the opening door alarmed him. He was up where the door almost hits the perch. He is pretty paranoid, poor little thing, and made a pitiful shriek and fled out the door. So, I left it open in hopes he would come in later. I just went back out with a flashlight to close it and he has snuggled up next to a black hen for warmth. She doesn't seem to mind.
September 24, 2006 Sunday
The weather today was beautiful but strange. It started out raining, then turned sunny and hot and of course, steamy. The dogs and I took a walk to the river. There was a lovely mist rising off of it. The dogs ran around on a sand bar and went wading. Fluffy Willie looks very funny with his pantaloons all wet. Not far from us a group of eight wild ducks, unalarmed by our presence, floated around feeding.
Next, a great hot wind came up. It slammed doors and rattled windows.
Marcia and Jack arrived back with Peter at 5PM. They had a wonderful trip and loved Aroostook County. Peter was a great star at the three day clinic. The Instructor went on about him so much that Marcia is afraid all the other riders may have felt hurt. He did cut up once during a ride and kicked out but Marcia was not unseated and no other horses were nearby, just the mirror.
Either because Peter was back or because of the weather, or perhaps because a new crop of flies emerged, the cows were irritable tonight. Even Jasmine waved her feet around and made two big plops. I am not trying to use the machine on Helen. There is so little milk left in her udder that it is easier to just milk by hand into my small bucket. I manage to wring about three quarts a day out of her. But it is top quality creamy milk, so is worth the effort. When Max has time to help me arrange a run-in for them, my latest plan is to put Melvin and Freddie together into the small paddock and wean him again.
The orphaned chick made it through another day. He is a pitiful little thing. Tonight I was cautious with the door when I went in with the chickens. He was sitting on top of a black hen, perhaps the same one as last night, snuggling into her neck feathers.
I just made myself a hot fudge Sunday with bananas. I can't recall that I have ever done that before. It just occurred to me that I was in possession of all the ingredients, including Ben and Jerry's vanilla. And why not? It was excellent.
September 26, 2006 Tuesday
I told everybody we would have a killing frost last night, but we did not. A mist rose and protected the plants.
I milk Helen into a separate little bucket after tasting the milk. This morning the milk in the right front quarter was not sweet. That is the quarter with the most milk. She had so little in the other three quarters that it was not worth bothering to milk her. For the last few milkings I have not bothered with the comfrey. This morning I threw a lot over the fence for everybody. Possibly because of this her milk tasted better this evening.
This morning I picked my pole beans and ate nothing else for lunch but buttered beans.
The dogs and I took another walk to the river. I sat on the bank while they played around in the shallow water. Neither one likes to swim. The day was perfect. Yellow leaves were drifting down.
Willie is getting better at coming when called. I wish I knew some better teaching method. So far all I am doing is squatting down and calling him, then when he does come, I rub his belly and let him go again. I don't want him to think that I only call in order to put him on his leash.
The orphan chick was still around at midday, but I did not see him in the hen house when I turned out the light. I did think I could hear him making contented noises but I didn't want to ruffle up any hens in my search and perhaps send him flying. Morning will tell.
I made 3 lbs of cottage cheese today for my customer who prefers the dry kind. He wants all he can get.
There were two more fleas in my bedroom today! All my sweaters are stored in a bookshelf in my room and I did not disturb them during my anti flea program last week. I thought the fleas would be in crevices on the floor or in my bedding. I opened the sash and threw them all out the window, the second storey window. They are spending the night on the lawn in disgrace.
September 27, 2006 Wednesday
Here's a downer… All the other bovines are clustered around Helen taking turns jumping her. She is standing. Her temporary owner had her bred July 11. Today's date does not come reckon at all with her standard 21 day interval. This is her first evidence of heat since that date. One is forced to the conclusion that she aborted. I did not call AI because I cannot be here tomorrow nor can anyone else. Marcia, the obvious candidate for cow-sitting, is driving me to my cataract surgery. I will just have to wait for her next heat and let's just hope she does not prove refractory to breeding. She is 100 lbs thinner than when I sold her and she has had all that mastitis. The only bright side is that it will hypothetically put her calving six months off from Jasmine. So, if I can recover her production there will be no time when we have no milk.
There was a very light frost last night. Hardly anything was damaged. Despite sunny days the temperature has not been getting above 60F and with the shorter days only the cool weather crops are doing anything. I am quite pleased with my carrots, beets cauliflowers and rutabagas. A new crop of salad greens is coming on.
Max brought the meat from one pig and stowed in my freezer. While here he mowed the rest of the lawn and took the dogs for a walk. He had his Lulu along, a sweet natured mixed breed in which black Lab predominates, and they went to the river. He reported that all three stood in the water with Willie just up to his chest, Bagel a bit deeper and Lulu, who loves water, in the deep part. They all stood in a row facing the current.
I fixed myself a big dinner of fried potatoes, Alaskan salmon and green beans so as to feel less hungry in the morning. I am not supposed to eat or drink after midnight because of my cataract surgery tomorrow.
Jasmine has dropped her production to 3.5 gallons now. It has been that for over a week.
September 28, 2006 Thursday
I got my eye surgery. My left pupil is still so dilated that everything is fuzzy. But it does not hurt. DD Marcia and DS Max helped out with everything. Max is staying overnight to do the cow chores in the morning because I have to leave early for a post op check up.
The only thing that went wrong is that we went first to the wrong hospital. Neither of us knew there were two big hospitals in Lewiston. So, after finding our way to Day Surgery and being stared at blankly, some pleasant people directed us to St. Mary's. The first hospital turned out to be Mid Maine Medical Center and it is the size of a moderate city. Fortunately we had started early so I was only five minutes late after all. Marcia is a good city driver.
The procedure itself is not painful exactly, but the application of stinging eye drops about every three minutes and relentless bright lights boring into one's eyeball takes some application of Zen. All the staff was very pleasant and kind.
September 29, 2006 Friday
When I got up this morning there was no improvement in my left eye vision and it felt gritty. I saw flickering light along the left side of my vision. Marcia drove me back for a scheduled check-up and I was informed that all this was normal and that within a week my vision would be greatly improved. Actually, by evening I noticed that I could see details of the architecture of my neighbor's house with a new clarity.
Max stayed overnight again and milked Jasmine this morning by machine. It was his first time using it. I had given him a demo last night. He and Jasmine got along just fine
Helen's milk began tasting weird again a few days ago. There was a hard lump in her quarter which I believe I already mentioned. I think it is an abscess and it has begun to drain. Max and I both think the lump is smaller today. The flavor was not quite so bad. Melvin must agree, as that quarter has obviously been nursed.
On our way back from Lewiston Marcia and I stopped at the Farmer's Union and bought some Bt to treat my cauliflowers. I gave her a gorgeous golden one the other day and she said it had about 40 worms lurking inside. DT had not slowed them down much, obviously. I mixed up a dose and applied it as soon as I got home.
On our way home we stopped at Nezinscott Farm Store. It is operated by farmwife Gloria Varney. They have a dairy farm and every other kind of animal and a big CSA garden. Gloria makes cheese to sell and has a successful bakery. She started small, but now you could shop in her store for all your family's food. I am sure her store would be a great inspiration to anyone hoping to make their farm provide a living. The Varney's have five very healthy looking children.
Last night deer were in the garden again. They ate the tops off of my beets and pulled some up. I am pretty mad about this.
September 30, 2006 Saturday
The audio on my TV quit last night. I spent more than half an hour on my knees (my only Boneypart, said Napoleon) behind the TV this morning while a DTV techie talked me through the plugging and unplugging of snarled and dusty cables until it finally emerged that it was a problem with the set itself, not the satellite signal. Despair. But then Martin stopped in and tried something else. He had bought me a head set for deaf people to listen at their preferred volume, or anybody to use who does not want to disturb others. It had run out of battery power so he swiped some batteries out of an old remote. It takes its audio signal directly from the satellite w/o needing the TV, so I was able to listen to the last 10 minutes of Victory Garden where they began demonstrating boring old hose spray nozzles.
My DD Abby in PA wrote to tell me what I missed on Victory Garden. She said that in the cooking segment the skinny lady who talks about food asked whether "that mozzarella was low fat". It seems that the visiting cook (name forgotten) defended his full fat mozz by stating that nutritionists at Harvard now declare that 40% - 50% of calories may come from fat. I am very glad to hear about support for fat at Harvard and on Victory Garden and anywhere. Perhaps, like the collapse of the Soviet Union which occurred as a total surprise to everybody including our spies, there will be a sudden flip wherein animal fat is restored to its ancient glory. There is now this bizarre vacuum in nutrition thinking whereby nutritionists and food scientists jump through flaming hoops in their attempts to ban trans fats and offer substitutes whilst avoiding the words "animal fat", the obvious default fat, so much cheaper and more available than olive oil and coconut oil. The latter are of course very nice, but few people are so positioned as to be able to produce them easily and cheaply on their front lawns supported only by sunshine on grass. We are talking of course of the cow, who cheerfully accomplishes this transformation without fossil fuel or 3000 miles of shipping, just using the homegrown magic of her rumen to provide cream and butter.
Helen's milk tasted better tonight, but the lump is still there. Max was here to milk this morning and to do the lifting. Marcia came down this evening to help. The weather all day was superb. I dug part of the area for my garlic sets.
October 2, 2006 Monday
DD Marcia says that while riding she observed scat on top of a rock about 50 yards from the barn. She thinks this is raccoon scat because that is their nasty habit.
In other predator news, the deer have pretty well destroyed my garden. They stripped the leaves from the pole beans, which were still coming on, ate the foliage from the cauliflowers and the tops off the carrots. They jerked a lot of my mangels out of the ground and ate them. I was growing a little row for the cows. They ate my one great beautiful kale plant. They left the lettuce but no doubt are down there eating that as I write. It is so disappointing. One thing they did not get around to was the rutabagas. I put a sheet of plastic over them. Next year I hope I am able to get a solar electric fence. Deer are a big pest.
The eyesight in my left eye is now very sharp. I can see all sorts of things that I have not seen clearly within memory. This includes individual leaves on trees and of course cobwebs up in the corners.
October 3, 2006 Tuesday
The deer did not eat the lettuce last night after all. They ate the fennel, no doubt as a digestive aid. Tonight I put sheets over the lettuce. It is amazing that we have not had a killing frost. This is the latest ever.
Helen is about the same as yesterday. If I really needed more milk I could separate Melvin at night, or permanently, and use the milk from three quarters. Nine days from now one of my steady two or three gallon a week customers is moving away, so there will be a bit of a gain in milk for cheese making unless another customer comes along. Melvin has been stuffing himself with milk. According to my tape he has gained 100 pounds in a month, but that does not seem possible. He is especially cute and friendly. He comes in like a lamb every milking and stands by his tie-up.
Willie is getting better about coming when called. But, I need to make him an appointment for castration. What if somebody's bitch comes in heat? He would be off like a shot.
October 4, 2006 Wednesday
My vet came by. I gave him lunch but did not ask him to castrate Willie. A friend asked if she might use him to father puppies with her Westie. I could not reach her so put if off for the present. My vet made the suggestion that I dry off Helen's troubled quarter and just ignore the abcess. Now that I think about it this seems like a good plan. I will cease my TAD stripping of that quarter. But I will just leave Melvin on her until after my second cataract surgery. This means I will still not get any milk from Helen, but it saves me quite a lot of time and work.
Max came over today and helped me with a bunch of things, most especially taking the right front tire off my car to get it fixed. The head mechanic at the place Max took it said they could lose their license fixing such a badly worn tire. It has a slow leak which is getting faster. Max got it pumped up and I will limp on it to an appointment I made for new front tires tomorrow. Both are shot. Sigh.
The deer came in last night but did not find much that they fancied, since I had covered the salad greens. Instead they grazed the comfrey. They ate a huge amount of it.
October 5, 2006 Thursday
This time I think they really mean it. The moon is about full and the sky is clear. I covered my salad greens and brought my potted flowers inside. It is 43F at 9PM and the air feels pretty brisk.
I'm putting out hay morning and evening now and the cows are eating it. There is plenty of pasture, but the value drops off about this time of year.
I got my two new tires put on. My Tire Doctor said I don't have an alignment problem. I should have had my tires rotated. I now remember he told me that when I bought the last set and I said I would, but I never thought of it again. He ought to call like the dentist, optometrist and piano tuner to say "It's about time you…etc."
All the animals look great. They were hanging around the barn in the sunshine both morning and evening. We all notice that Helen is friendlier these days than in former times. We think she wants to be sure I don't sell her down the river again.
I know I should find a new owner for Emily. She is a very fine looking heifer.
October 6, 2006 Friday
As I was assembling my gear to go to the barn this evening, a neighbor knocked on the door. He wanted to negotiate for manure. He has in mind to put in a big garden next year. He would like to build towards growing enough vegetables to share with others. It is his conviction that we are headed into a major depression and everybody will be hungry. He mentioned various friends whom he says share his belief in impending economic collapse. He said that he hated to point this out, but likely I would be among the first to be knocked on the head in the stampede from cities. "Why would they do that?" I asked. "Because you have a farm and they will be after food." he said. It turned out he meant I have land and "they" will want land for food production. At this point my nerves calmed down. Land is, I feel sure, far down the list of emergency requirements sought by foodless city people. I'm pretty sure they don't look at land and see food. The nearest thing I have to "city people's food" is a box of stale shredded wheat to which they are welcome.
I have been hoping to go to a three hour lecture tomorrow on soil and health; however it does not look like I will be able to get a ticket. But it is good to know that so many people in this area consider this important. I think there are in fact a lot of people in this area who care about the land.
This is a view from Center Hill, Mount Blue State Park, which is near here.
October 9, 2006 Monday
I didn't get to go to my lecture/seminar, a cruel disappointment. But it was a beautiful day here and I prepared the ground for my fall planting of garlic.
Bagel, my old yellow dog, has reverted to his habit of wandering. One of my milk customers has brought him home twice in her car. So, now he is stuck on his chain and feels pretty sorry for himself. I feel a bit sorry for myself as well because now I have a leash in each hand when I walk them and usually at least one is wrapped around my legs.
Peter, DD Marcia's horse, is getting a thick winter coat as I suppose befits a horse from Bavaria. Our days are still very warm, so he gets himself into a sweat and wants to return to his cool dark stall by 2 o'clock in the afternoon. We have a new flush of flies also. Flies aggravate him a lot. As soon as I brought him in he circled about eight times and rolled.
I am still covering my lettuce every night even when there is no frost warning. This is to frustrate the deer. I would not mind having one in the freezer. Which reminds me, DD Sally in Alaska tells me that her son Rafe shot a black bear. I guess there must be a season on them as there is here. My Grammie always used to say that bear fat was the best thing for frying doughnuts.
I have a big pan of eggplant, tomatoes and peppers roasting in the oven. I toss them with olive oil, salt and garlic before roasting. I will store them in the freezer.
October 10, 2006 Tuesday
Max came over today and replaced the section of fence that runs between the new paddock and the barn. The old fence was trashy looking and not entirely safe, so this is a great blessing. The new fence is very handsome. I helped with it to the extent of holding up the ends of boards.
Max helped me to put Melvin and Freddie into the paddock behind the house, which I call the Sheep Paddock. This is experimental. I want to separate Melvin and Helen for at least 24 hours to get a sense of what she is producing. Not that she is likely to let down for me, but I can make a guess based on how stuffed she is tomorrow. There was bellowing earlier, but not now at 8pm. This could either mean that they are all being Zen about the separation or that Melvin has gotten out.
I have been getting very few eggs. But now I know where seven of them went. A little wild black hen appeared in the hayloft with seven adorable chicks, two black and five yellow. They appeared to be at least a day old and could not have had a drink, so I took up a pan of water. Later the mother hen brought them all tumbling down the stairs and they spent the day learning to attend to mom's instructions.
The Carthage Historical Society meeting was tonight and they called urging me to come. The topic of the evening is to be Gliddon Parker, the former owner of my house and farm. I hurled myself around and drove into the village, but could not find the meeting. It was not at any of its usual venues, so I suppose was at somebody's home and they forgot to tell me or assumed I knew. Sigh. So I came home and made a toasted cheese sandwich.
The weather today was very fine.
October 11, 2006 Wednesday
I discovered why I could not find the meeting. I had the wrong Tuesday. It is next week. Sigh.
The mother hen hid last night, so I could not move her to a safe pen. But there she was this morning fluffed out like a tea cozy over her family. Max caught her and moved her to a 5'x 6' chicken wire enclosure that is inside the grain room. He caught the chicks and carried them to her in a bucket. The light in there is dim, so he fixed up a drop light for them. They should be safe from the raccoon, although a neighbor did report a weasel. Nothing stops them.
Max was back here today to complete the fence. The entire stretch is now very perfect with a straight top line done with a level and a string. The re-hung gate now swings both ways.
It took me forever to milk both this morning and this evening. In the morning I put the machine on Helen's three healthy quarters and milked the fourth by hand. It turned out that the machine got nothing out of the left front. So then I milked them by hand. This evening I tried putting the machine only on the two rear quarters and got very little. She was not letting down. I did some more hand milking of the front ones. This was tedious and not very productive, all told. But Helen was extremely patient, more patient than Jasmine who appeared to think things had gone on long enough. She is a jealous little cow and does not like me spending a lot of time on other cows. Tomorrow I will try doing the whole job by hand. Poor Helen is out there now making great sobbing moos in answer to Melvin's angry trumpeting.
I got about 1 ¾ gallons from Helen at each milking, but she held up that much again.
The little black orphan chick seems happier. He sleeps with a nice, comfortable black hen on a roost with the layers and is growing fast. However, when I toss them cracked corn he freaks out. A bird like him must have inspired the person who wrote the story of the chick who ran around telling everybody that the sky was falling after a nut dropped on his head.
My neck and shoulders are stiff and sore.
October 12, 2006 Thursday
I am waiting up for my bread to bake. It took forever to rise. I must throw out this old yeast and get some more.
Last night we got very heavy rain, about three inches in the dog dish. The river had been down to dry sand bars, but came up about two feet.
This morning I did not bother with the machine, just milked Helen by hand. I got over a gallon from the two rear quarters, them turned Melvin loose to finish the job. I would estimate her current production as not less than four gallons a day.
I went out to DD Marcia's for supper. She served a locally grown rabbit in a Mediterranean sauce. It was very good. One does not often have rabbit. What with rushing around, I did not get my veggies covered. Probably the deer are eating the rest of my cute little yellow cauliflowers. They have eaten all the leaves already and last night got in the garden despite the rain and took bites out of the heads. I put little bonnets made of comfrey leaves on them this morning. I also planted daffodils in front of my tool shed.
October 13, 2006 Friday
Peter left today on the first leg of his trip to Florida. Marcia took him today to her friend in New Gloucester, ME. He is in a full care barn with numerous associates to nicker at. It seems rather blank without him. I put the calves, Freddie and Melvin, into his stall tonight. Freddie went right in when he saw his feed pan in there, but Melvin was highly suspicious that it might be a cow trap. Ha ha, he was right, but I soon tricked him into entering without the use of force. It is a really nice stall and they are comfortable. My latest plan is to milk Helen OAD and put the calves in the stall every night until my next surgery. Then I will reduce my work load by letting Melvin go back to running with Helen. In the meantime I will have the extra milk.
About midday I looked out the kitchen window and saw Helen at the garden fence staring up at the house. After awhile when she just kept on staring I gave in and walked down there and cut her some comfrey. There is not much left now, but there was enough for her.
The weather was sunny and cool. I got my garlic planted. I also got the tomato stakes and vines cleared away and a few remaining things covered. Frost is predicted.
Everyone who has tasted Max and Mitra's new bacon is delighted. Unlike some nitrate free bacon, it has a lot of flavor. The fat is especially dainty and delicious.
Marcia plans to take her horse trailer up to Max and Mitra's and park it there so the remaining two pigs can get used to going into it for feed. Then she will return on Monday and drive then to the butcher.
October 15, 2006 Sunday
Our fine weather continues, but now the leaf color is fading. Most of the leaves are on the ground. The deer are still coming into my garden every night and finding something to molest. I am so mad at them.
Friday and Saturday night I put Melvin and Freddie in Peter's now empty stall so I could have some milk from Helen in the morning. I didn't get any, though. She would let down nothing. If tomorrow I still get nothing I will give up until after my right eye surgery. I am not really short of milk now. I even made cottage cheese yesterday. One eager customer drove out here to get his.
October 16, 2006 Monday
I had Melvin separated from Helen again last night and she came in loaded with milk, but I only managed to get her to part with two quarts, the same as on previous occasions. Nevertheless, this is useful because Jasmine's production is dwindling.
Today Max and Mitra's pigs went to the butcher. Marcia had left her horse trailer at their place on Saturday so the pigs could learn to go into it, which they did with enthusiasm. Mitra fed them a delicious breakfast of oatmeal, milk and apples. Marcia hauled the trailer with her Jeep. They drove through beautiful rolling farmland with many functioning farms. They then came over here and did some little jobs around my place. Max put up another rail to prevent Melvin from getting in the chicken yard. He was able to wriggle under a section where the chicken yard fence had to be removed to make way for the new fence. The single rail prevented Peter from going in there, but Melvin is still small enough to go under.
October 17, 2006 Tuesday
Helen was a bit more generous this morning. She let me have ¾ gallon. Her manners are very good. She just does not want to let down. She now has three quarters in good health and milk from the fourth, the right front, tasted significantly better this morning. I am only milking in the morning. The two calves now walk right into Peter's vacated stall.
Did I mention my shoulder complaint? Last week I stood up under an immovable object (the upper half of a Dutch door in the barn that was swinging unrepentantly) and injured my right shoulder. It has been quite painful but is a bit better today. Max nailed the two parts of the door together to prevent this from happening again.
It began to rain this evening. This warmed things up a bit. A week in the 30's and 40's made the house so cold that I finally turned on the furnace for awhile.
October 18, 2006 Wednesday
We had another night of heavy rain and the river is way up. Today is exactly 21 days since Helen was in heat, but I saw no signs today. Tomorrow I get my second cataract surgery, this time the right eye. Once again I may not be able to do anything about it in case she is in heat in the morning.
Marcia is in the hospital. She had surgery this morning to get her innards rearranged and improved. She said it was pretty painful post op.
October 21, 2006 Saturday
I had my right eye cataract surgery on Thursday. Max was here early to help with chores and stayed over until Friday to drive me to my post op check-up. Any kind of surgery is a draining experience, but this one was remarkably easy although, it ate up two days. I can now see clearly out of both eyes and have 20/30 vision in one eye and 20/40 in the other. I am no longer required to wear corrective lenses when driving.
Marcia was only in the hospital one night. They sent her home too soon and she feels awful, although she says she is glad to be at home. Her doctor even called her to say she was not meant to go home, officious nurses overrode his orders.
Wednesday night and Thursday night I left Melvin with Helen so that I would not have to milk her. I milk her by hand. Maybe if she would let down I could use the machine on her, but it sure is not usable now. By hand I manage to get about three quarts. This morning I got over a gallon. Jasmine continues to drop, so I am glad to have Helen's contribution.
The weather has turned cold and blowy. Last night the wind blew so hard that it took a major branch out of my maple tree by the road. I got a pre dawn call to tell me it was lying in the road. Martin was up at camp and came down and sawed it up for me. That was the extent of my damage but Marcia and Jack's place is on Lake Webb. The waves kicked up badly and carried away their dock in segments along with all three of their boats. Martin was babysitting Hannah, but turned her over to me so that he could rescue Bole's boats and dock. They had floated far away. Martin had to do a lot of wading and got very chilled by the end of the day.
I got along fine with Hannah, but accomplished nothing else except braising some brisket for dinner. I took it up to Martin and Amy's and ate with them. No one else could make it.
Max and Mitra had the worst damage. The wind flipped their metal two car garage off of the cars and stood it on end leaning into a tree. A neighbor with some logging equipment is coming tomorrow to help him try to set it back down. Max hopes very much that it can be repaired. It was quite new. I feel very badly for them.
My chickens still are not laying. I am lucky to get three eggs a day. Some are molting and some are just moping, I think. The hen and seven chicks are thriving and so is the orphan chick. A red hen has assumed the duty of mother and it no longer sounds frantic.
Last night the power went out at 8:30. It was out all night. I went to bed early and read by flashlight like a 12 year old.
October 22, 2006 Sunday
I am now serving out more than two bales a day of hay. I make an early trip to the barn so that the cows can munch for awhile before milking. If I did not do this they would be out grazing except when it is raining, but the quality of the grass is now poor. They have only now become interested in the hay.
I must weight tape Helen again. She is not gaining weight. I suppose this is because Melvin is taking so much milk. I should wean him, but prefer not to until I am entirely confident that her mastitis is under control. Her right front quarter could be dried off. That is the one where the hard lump is which I presume to be an abscess. The flavor of the milk from that quarter varies, but probably will not be good until the abscess is resolved. She gives most of her milk from her front quarters, which most cows do not. The milk from her left front is usually good but on some days is a little off.
I took the dogs for a walk to the river where I let them run free. The water is so high and the bank so steep that I got worried about Willie falling in, so I put him back on his leash. He keeps wanting to go down to the water.
October 23, 2006 Monday
I just realized that in the confusion of getting my cataract surgery last Thursday I forgot to mention that Helen got AI'd that day also. I was up early doing chores and saw no signs of heat, although it was 21 one days since her last heat. Then as I turned the cows out after milking she hurled herself up onto Emily. She spent the rest of the day mounting and was standing before I left for the hospital. I called my AI tech and he came that same afternoon about 4 o'clock. I thought by then Helen would have settled down, but she was still in standing heat. I hope we did not breed her too early. I used Lemvig, a Danish bull.
This morning I was just about out of dog meat, cat food and a lot of other things. I was organizing to go shopping even though the weather was awful. It rained again all last night, and then while I was milking it turned to snow. It fell as squishy lumps and did not accumulate. Before I could leave, my vet called and told me he could fit in a house call to castrate Willie, who is now about 8 months old. I spread out newspaper on the kitchen table for the big op. Willie was anesthetized, shaved and cut in a remarkably short time. After he regained consciousness he was much subdued, but otherwise normal, except he walks kinda funny.
October 24, 2006 Tuesday
Willie is recovering fast. I defrosted some of my precious beef liver for his breakfast and fried a piece for myself too.
Snow is predicted for tonight. It takes news like that to jolt me into lifting my dahlias. I did it! I swear I will not grow any thing that can't stand a Maine winter, but I have gotten attached to these 4' tall yellow dahlias.
In the afternoon I raced off to town with a box of frozen colostrum to mail to my daughter, Abby. I did a bunch of other errands too including the supermarket where I bought a piece of fresh tuna. For supper I made myself a pot of sticky rice and sliced up the tuna for sashimi, which I ate with wasabi.
Also today I made cottage cheese and 4 ½ pounds of lard.
October 25, 2006 Wednesday
We got no snow whatsoever here at the farm, although there is a dusting on the mountaintops. There has not even been any rain until now when I detect a sort of Scotch mist. This is fine with me.
Willie now seems to be completely recovered. I am giving him his Terramycin mixed with cream. He licks out the bowl.
Helen gave a detectable let down this morning and I got over a gallon. I can't tell if this was a result of my patience and perseverance or the fact that I was really late to the barn. The power outage last weekend bollixed up my clock radio and I can't seem to get it back in business.
I now have six pounds of lard made and am quitting. DD Sally has expressed enthusiasm for the project. I will save the rest of the fat for her to work on.
Even though we did not get snow I know winter is coming. Each day is a little colder and the nights longer. I lifted most of my carrots today. They look pretty good despite the deer having eaten off the tops. Most have developed a funny tapered top as a response while new tops grew. I have another row to dig of the red carrots. I am disappointed with their appearance. They are a murky shade of red and did not make a stately looking root. They are smaller and somewhat knobbley. I will hand it to them for flavor, though. I would call it sweet and inviting. Cross sections of "carrot coins" display a bright red edge and orange center. I got the seed from Thompson and Morgan.
October 26, 2006 Thursday
Helen seemed resentful to being milked this morning. I got about a gallon, but she waved her foot around quite a bit. The milk I get has virtually no cream. As it happens I have one customer, a young man, who discards the cream anyway, so it is just right for him.
I hauled a box of rutabagas up from the garden. They are mostly smooth and perfect, for once. I shall give most of them away. Half a dozen will get me through the winter.
October 27, 2006 Friday
I skipped milking Helen this morning. This evening Max helped me put the two calves into the small paddock where they will now stay indefinitely. We will see how long it takes Helen to change her mind about holding up her milk. Actually, I had reason to believe she was considering beginning to share a little better but I don't feel like waiting and longer.
DD Sally has several times asked me when Jasmine is due. I had only a vague idea of her breeding date being in June, which it was. It turns out that she is due January 30. Starting tomorrow I will go OAD with her. With any kind of luck I can get enough milk from Helen to at least provide for the family. Jasmine is in excellent condition. She is now only giving 2 ½ to 2 ¾ gallons/day, so it should not be very hard to dry her off. I will not completely dry her off until I get a preg check. She never came in heat again after her breeding, but one cannot be too careful. I have heard too many sad stories of cows being dried off based on the calendar alone.
Max drove me today to my final eye appointment. The doc seemed very satisfied with the state of my vision.
After we got home from this late afternoon appointment, Max helped me with the chores. He located a nest I knew existed, but could not find. It had 11 eggs in it. I knew it was up high on the hay bales somewhere because yesterday I found two eggs that had bounced down to the floor. He set up the step ladder so that I will be able to reach it.
October 28, 2006 Saturday
Yesterday Max put the calves in a separate paddock so I could start milking Helen. The weather today was horrid. I am sick. At some point about 4AM a bout of diarrhea hit me. I am wiped out. Dear Marcia came down to help. I am starting Jasmine on OAD (once a day) so did not milk tonight. I think I am getting better now. But, Max is coming over in the morning.
I don't know what caused this, but am blaming some sushi from Shaw's that I ate. It was outdated.
I let the calves back out so Helen would not need to be milked.
October 29, 2006 Sunday
Max came down this morning to milk. On OAD Jasmine gave about 2 cups less for the 24 hour period than she would otherwise have been expected to give. No doubt it will drop more by tomorrow. Melvin is still with Helen. Marcia came down also to help, so I had nothing to do but read the Sunday paper. My innards have declared a sort of truce. I had only a couple of brief bouts today but my appetite is still gone, so I know I am not well. DS Mark who is in med school did a long distance diagnosis of Vibrio and gave me a link to the CDC page. I must say it fit me perfectly: Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which is a seldom serious (except in the immune compromised) three day gut infection typically contracted as a result of eating raw fish, which causes a watery diarrhea.
Around noon today I got up my gumption to walk the dogs down to the river. I kept Willie on his leash for fear he would run down the bank and slip into the high water. I need not have worried. There was no bank. The water has come up so much that the trees along the bank have their feet in the water. The river must be up ten feet. Willie had no desire to get near it. It is flowing faster than I can walk.
On the way back past the veg garden I stopped to gather a few more beets and rutabagas. Willie dug into the compost heap and found a huge cow femur. He insisted upon carrying it back to the house. My, did he look funny with this huge bone crossway in his jaws! He could scarcely hold up his head.
The rain has started again and there are odd gusts of wind. When I got back to the buttery I stood for a moment at the screen door. A sudden violent wind chose that moment to rip it from its hinges and hang it around my neck, swiping its corner through my baking dishes on the nearby highboy shelves and knocking things to the floor. Amazingly, neither I nor any of the dishes were damaged.
October 31, 2006 Tuesday
About 3:30 this morning I realized I was no longer ill and was not even sleepy. In fact, I was hungry. So, rather than waste any more time lying around I got up and made tea and a pot of oatmeal. The dogs were very surprised to see me downstairs and Willie barked his head off. The sky was completely black and the stars brilliant.
Jasmine's production is continuing to drop a little each day. She gave about 1 ¾ gallons this morning.
Today is Halloween. I forgot to buy candy, so Marcia picked some up for me. I also made a batch of Gingersnaps or Parkins or Parliament cakes from my Australian cookbook. This is a super easy recipe where you boil up the molasses, butter and sugar, pour it onto the flour and stir. With the time change it is dark at the Witching Hour. I got only one group of children.
November 1, 2006 Wednesday
DS John wrote that his research paper on tidal patterns in the Great Barrier Reef has been accepted for publication. He is very happy about this. It represents years of collecting and analyzing data. It is called "Circulation in the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon using numerical tracers and in situ data". The Journal: Continental Shelf Research. He says it is very boring.
Jasmine gave a little over 1 ¾ gallons this morning. The weather improved and they were all able to graze. Even though the rain has been cold it did brighten up the grass.
Helen now tapes at 1,074 lbs. This means she has gained back about 50 pounds of the 100 she lost during the period when she was with her temporary owner. She looks pretty good, but I am not satisfied yet.
Jasmine tapes at 889 lbs. She looks absolutely perfect. So does Emily at 1,013 lbs. Everybody wants me to sell Emily and I guess I would part with her for $2000. She is bred to Ilslev, due date April 7, 2007. She is a classically perfect standard sized Jersey with a straight topline and promising udder. She is not as dainty as Jasmine.
I still have lettuce to pick. It is under clear plastic held up with stakes and held down with bricks along the edges. I have never before had lettuce this late here in Maine. This is partly thanks to the extra trouble I took with covering it and partly because the weather, although nasty, has actually not fallen below 27F. This is the latest I ever remember without really cold weather.
November 2, 2006 Thursday
Melvin is growing so much that I had to take off his collar. I don't have one to fit him now so, will have to invent something.
Max and I so enjoyed the filled cookies we ate at Nezinscott Farm recently that I decided to make a batch. By the time you make the dough, chill it, roll it, cut it out, fill the cookies, not to mention making the filling, they are a bit of trouble but they sure are good.
November 3, 2006 Friday
The thermometer sank to 24F last night but I had covered my lettuce with an extra layer and it survived. It still looks perfect. But tonight the temp is predicted to be headed into the teens, so most likely that will wipe out everything except the kale and rutabagas. I carry up a couple more every day, but there are still at least a dozen yet to be pulled.
While I was in the garden Helen came and jammed her head through the Page wire fence, enlarging it to fit her great big head so she could eat the grass which was indeed much greener on the other side of the fence. I wove some boards through to create a hideous stop-gap repair. While I was making the repair it started to snow and sleet. The weather today was not a lot of fun, but the dogs and I did walk to the river briefly.
My spring water line was frozen in the morning. But, despite the weather it later thawed and ran again by afternoon. There are exposed sections of pipe near the river where the bank has eroded over the years.
I mentioned that Melvin's collar ran out of holes, so I had to take it off. He is a pudgy little teddy bear on his four gallons a day. But, his life is about to change. Jasmine was down to 1.5 gallons today, so I need Helen's milk. Melvin is about 6 months old now.
November 4, 2006 Saturday
My granddaughter, Rosemary and her husband, Nate arrived today from Alaska. DD Marcia and I fetched them from the bus station in Lewiston. They flew into Boston last night. During the summer they are commercial salmon fishermen, but the season is over now. They brought along some gorgeous frozen salmon fillets. DS Martin joined us for dinner. He was up this way for meetings and of course wanted to see them. I roasted one of Max and Mitra's home grown chickens for dinner. These are so very much better than commercial chicken even though there seems no getting away from raising them on corn and soy.
After dinner Rosie and Nate took a walk under the full moon.
Jasmine gave about 1.5 gallons this morning. I got two eggs, those pikers.
November 6, 2006 Monday
Although the weather was bleak, Rosie and Nate worked outside all day. They are repairing the pasture fence around the veg garden. It was getting quite weak and Helen has been challenging it. Yesterday they chain sawed several trees off the north side fence. The recent windstorm brought down several. Nate also tilled up a section next to this year's veg patch. There is nowhere to extend my garden that is not stuffed with comfrey. I will be pulling it out all of next spring as every broken root will sprout. Yesterday Nate and Rosie helped me separate Freddy and Melvin into the small paddock. There was no bawling in the night but Helen and Melvin bellowed non stop today.
I milked Helen this morning and got a gallon. The quarter that had mastitis and an abscess is now nearly normal. The abscess is now almost indiscernible and the flavor of the milk would pass inspection if I were not being extra fussy. I milked three quarters with the machine, after removing Jasmine's milk to a bucket, and milked the questionable quarter by hand.
DS Bret is at scientific meetings in Boston. The meetings are on various public health topics. He will come here tomorrow to visit the old ma and I will get the specifics on some of the talks.
The dogs love Rosie and Nate. They are a high energy pair and every moment that they are not making improvements they are out hiking in the hills on logging roads. They are undaunted by the fact that this is deer hunting season. I make them wear orange. They take along both dogs. The dogs have streamers of orange flagging tape.
November 7, 2006 Tuesday
This morning I tried using the machine on all four quarters of Helen, first the rear two, then starting over with an empty machine bucket doing the front two. The rear two milked OK, but the front ones are impossible. The machine stretched her poor teats way down so that I could scarcely get the cups off. I am not certain if this is more to do with the shape of her teats or her resistance to letting down. For the present I will just do the front ones by hand. What a nuisance this is and very time consuming! At least the weather has warmed up into the 40's. The room where I milk cannot be heated, so in winter my feet and hands get very cold. At least I am not outdoors like some.
DS Bret arrived today from his meetings in Boston. He said one of the public health meetings was on the need to produce food locally and the speaker took a quite moderate position on raw milk. That was about all I got out of him at the dinner table but will try to find out more when there are fewer distractions.
Max stopped by to see Bret, Rosie and Nate. He took the Kubota down and hauled up the bushhog from where it was left near the river. We are working on winterizing everything.
Helen and Melvin spent another day bellowing for each other and I don't think it is over yet. During milking it was a non stop obligato, first a rafter rattling moo from Helen followed in two seconds by a distant moo from Melvin.
For dinner we had one of the lovely red salmon fillets Rosie and Nate brought. We ate the last of my lettuce and I also fixed a big dish of root vegetables: yellow beet, red beet and carrots. Rosemary made the ricotta pie from Julia Child's, The Way To Cook. She used my cottage cheese instead of ricotta. It is a great recipe.
November 8, 2006 Wednesday
My little Westie, Willie, had a bad day. When out walking with Rosemary he fell into the river. He did not make any noise and Rosie did not miss him for a couple of minutes. Then all she could see was his nose and paws clinging to a log. The banks are muddy and steep. Rosie had to climb down and pull him out. Then on the way home across from DD Sally's little unoccupied house two big dogs came out and chased him all the way down the dirt road to the intersection and into the main road. Then after he got home we noticed he was limping and had a bloody paw. Fortunately, an extra serving of meat and a dish of warm milk soon warmed and cheered him.
We had a cold rain most of today. Poor Helen stood out by Melvin's fence mooing for him. I called her to come in this evening when I put down hay, but she ignored me. I am milking her once a day and getting a bit over a gallon from her rear quarters and maybe a quart from the two front ones together. I am still keeping this separate and giving it to the cats. I attempted the machine again today on the rear quarters, but at this point it really is not worth it. Tomorrow I will just milk by hand. When she won't let down the machine risks injury.
Bret spent the entire day getting an abstract ready for the American Society of Clinical Nutritional meetings. He will be giving a poster in June on Omega 3 nutrition among the Alaskan native population.
Rosie and Nate sawed and split more wood. They are busy every minute.
November 9, 2006 Thursday
This morning I milked Helen by hand and got 1.5 gallons from her rear quarters. From the front quarters I got only about 1.5 quarts and it was slow going. By then she had tired of letting down and furthermore the front teats have very small apertures and I can get only a fine stream. She is cooperative and the weather has turned balmy, so except for having to spend time away from my family it was a low stress task.
Bret cleaned out the chicken house and hauled the litter down and spread it on the patch Nate tilled up. We'll see who wins out, my vegetables or the comfrey.
We had DD Marcia and SIL Jack over for dinner. I served one of Max and Mitra's home reared ducks. It was incredibly good. I cooked only one duck for six people so we had small servings. Rosemary and I made a lot of side dishes. I stuffed the duck with sauerkraut sent down from Alaska by Rosemary's sister, my granddaughter Rebecca. Rosemary made a delicious blueberry pie. We always add a few black currants to blueberry pie. This picks up the flavor wonderfully.
Jack, Nate and Bret chatted about sailing all through dinner. I learned of numerous hair raising adventures previously untold in my hearing. Also heard about Jack's adventures in Bolivia. Rosie and Nate plan to travel there in two weeks.
November 10, 2006 Friday
The gallon I milked yesterday by hand from Helen rose a good 4" of cream by this morning. This confirmed that she was letting down. I will continue milking by hand for the present. She did not let down as well this morning, though. Melvin was bellowing non stop, which impaired the concentration of both of us. He was still at it when I got back to the house, so I went down into the paddock to survey the situation. It turned out that he and Freddie had knocked over their water tub and rolled it to the bottom of the paddock. So, of course he was thirsty. No doubt meek little Freddie was equally thirsty but he never made a sound. Dear Nate retrieved and refilled the tub.
Max brought me all the meat from one of their pigs. What a treasure! Both freezers are now stuffed. We are having one of the hams on Saturday for a crowd. Rosemary started immediately to make lard and had six pounds by evening.
Bret and Nate spent all afternoon tearing out a "temporary" stall that was in the attached barn that serves as my garage. What an accumulation of junk there was in there. We will need two trips to the dump I think. They rescued some good lumber though.
I'm trying a recipe for a slack dough bread that was published in the NY Times. It just came out of the oven. So far it does not look especially promising. Perhaps I should not have tried it with whole wheat. The instructions called for baking it covered, but it looks to me like it would have done better with the lid off.
For a week now I have been looking for my favorite cat, Gingerbread. He has never been in the habit of going walkabout, so I fear he is gone forever. He was my favorite cat. Gingerbread was a big, friendly, long haired, orange tomcat, neutered these many years. I miss him a great deal and hope he did not suffer.
November 11, 2006 Saturday
What I did not want to see: Emily jumping on Helen this morning. Hopefully this was just a meaningless anomaly. I did not see any more prancing around.
DS Bret and Grandson in law Nate carried on with tearing out the old stall in the carriage house/garage and creating more parking space. Bret had a load of gravel delivered to raise the area to match the existing floor which is made of heavy planks. The planks are 3" thick, 14" wide and 12' long. Now a new floor of gravel extends out another 15'. The pickup is piled high with rubbish. I can't wait to see it head to the dump.
I cooked one of the new hams for dinner tonight at Marcia's. I don't remember ever having better ham and I don't think anybody else did either. I baked it slowly for a couple of hours, then removed it from the oven and stripped off the rind which comes right off at this point. Then I cut a diamond pattern into the fat and sprinkled it with maple sugar. About a half hour before removing it from the oven I pained it with diluted pomegranate molasses. This molasses is made in Iran and can be found in specialty shops. It is wonderfully flavorful. But the quality of the ham was none of my doing. The pigs were organically raised. The hams were smoked and cured without nitrates. The meat was tender and moist with a flavor that is like ham that went to heaven. Mitra is feeling very positive about doing pigs again next year.
The menu also included a lovely mushroom lasagna made by Marcia, a salad with apple and pomegranate seeds made by Mitra, and pumpkin pie with maple flavoring and a walnut crust made by Rosemary. Everything was super delicious. What a dinner!
November 12, 2006 Sunday
Milking was frustrating this morning. After machine milking Jasmine and getting Helen all prepped for hand milking and thinking that she was beginning to let down in a promising way, Melvin started bellowing. Helen no longer bellows back but she immediately stopped letting down. Melvin never shut up the whole time. Neither did he stop during the next hour. I gave him grain. It stopped his gob for maybe three minutes. All day every time he hears my feet outdoors it sets him off. I wish I had a second farm to take him to. The temptation to make baby beef out of him is strong. And now Freddie, who has always been the silent morose type, joins in the bellowing during milking. There was only one day when Melvin was quiet. He must have slept in. That was the one time I ended up with cream.
Rosemary and Nate took three giant pickup loads to the dump today. Hurrah!
I had to say goodbye to Bret and Max today. Max will be away until Christmas except for a brief return for Thanksgiving. It will be a long time until I see Bret again. I don't know if the FASEB (Experimental Biology) meetings in Washington DC next May will provide an opportunity for another visit.
DIL Mitra drove Bret and Max to Portland. As far as I know Bret got off OK. Max took a bus to Boston for his flight. He called from there very upset. All his travel plans to get to Savannah, GA had fallen apart. He ended up in Jacksonville, FL at midnight.
The granddaughters and Lulu dog stayed here with us all day.
November 13, 2006 Monday
What joy! My vet came by today and confirmed pregnancy in Jasmine and Emily. I will not be milking Jasmine tomorrow. She is only giving a shade over a gallon now so when I drop her grain I think she will dry off quickly. I am only getting a scant 1.5 gallons from Helen so it will be slim pickins' around here for awhile. I do expect to be able to get Helen to increase production once the let down issues are behind us. .
This morning, like yesterday, Helen let down well. Only this time there was no bellowing from Melvin. I set out a nice buffet of grain and fluffy hay for him and Freddie just as he was starting to holler. This quieted him right down. Because I could see Helen was letting down I used the machine and this worked out fine. I milked the front quarters by hand and got another three quarts which I gave to the cats.
Rosie and I made an elegant lunch for my vet. I made a meatloaf with half pork sausage and half ground beef. Rosie made shredded root vegetables and we had brown rice pilaf. Rosie also made Julia Child's ricotta pie again with my cottage cheese, but this time she added candied orange peel. It was truly exceptional. She made a toasted walnut crust. We also had fresh bread made by Nate. He made two whole wheat loaves and two loaves of French bread.
It rained nearly all day.
It turned out that Bret's flight also was delayed and he barely got to San Jose. Max drove to Savannah today where he was able to retrieve his luggage. He didn't get any sleep but he reports that everything is fine with his job and he is happy.
November 14, 2006 Tuesday
Another day of rain. The river is way up on its banks again. Rosie does not give up her walks though. She takes the dogs out in all weather.
I skipped milking Jasmine this morning. She did not seem to mind very much but did make a big plop by way of commentary. She missed the attention. But I have to ignore her to discourage letdown. I again milked Helen's back quarters with the machine and got 1.25 gallons. I got quarts from the front.
Rosie and Nate went to the used book store, Twice Sold Tales, and bought cheap Penguin classics for reading on their trip. They plan to leave them behind wherever they go.
I took dinner up to DD Marcia's tonight. I fixed country style spareribs from the new pork. I baked them smothered in sauerkraut. They were a big hit with all. First I roasted them bare for about an hour, then sprinkled them with chili powder, spread on the sauerkraut and two chopped onions, and poured on some of Mitra's home made tomato juice. They baked about three hours in all.
Before dinner we watched the DVD that DS John made from old family movies. How strangely moving it was to see my kids running around on the beach and riding their horses. Now they are all grown up, and Marcia's a grandmother herself.
November 15, 2006 Wednesday
I just did it again - calculated Jasmine's due date wrong. I was about to spend a month waiting on tenterhooks like I did last spring with Helen. Rosie challenged my date of December 30 and after further consultation with my French language breeding chart, I discovered that her due date is Jan 30. So she gets a proper 10 weeks of dry period. I was definitely feeling guilty giving her only 6 weeks.
Today was her second day without milking. Her udder was pretty tight this morning but she did not really let down while I milked Helen and there was no dripping. I expect tomorrow morning I will need to milk her. I dropped her grain to a token ½ cup with a couple of carrots. I am giving them all carrots.
I milked three quarters on Helen and got 1.5 gallons. She let down well and was actually dripping. This took about two weeks of separation from Melvin. My breakfast bar for him and Freddie is working great.
November 16, 2006 Thursday
The calf breakfast buffet failed today in its mission. Melvin started bellowing halfway through milking and Helen began answering in a low moo with not much more letting down. I got only 1 ¼ gallons.
I still have not milked Jasmine but will in the morning. Her rear quarters felt pretty tight. She is looking very well, sleek and healthy. All are looking healthy but have longer and more uneven coats than she does.
DD Marcia and Jack had us up to her place for lunch with a nice couple. The wife is one of Marcia's trainers so the talk tended in a horsey direction. I brought along and cooked one of Rosemary and Nate's silver salmon fillets. Rosemary made an applesauce tart.
It is still raining. The river looks about to flood. There is no sign of frost.
November 17, 2006 Friday
The rain continues. Everything is damp and Helen comes in discouragingly dirty and wet. It took me more than 10 minutes this morning to clean her up for milking. She gave 1.5 gallons plus over a quart of waste milk. The abscess continues to shrink but is still palpable. I really should start milking twice a day to build production but keep putting it off. OAD is so pleasant.
Melvin didn't bellow. I gave him and Freddie a lot of hay over in their run-in which is under the carriage house/garage and he did not notice that Helen had gone in for milking. I was all set to milk Jasmine but her udder was softer today, not harder, so I left it alone.
DD Marcia and I went to Farmington and met DIL Mitra for an excellent lunch at The Homestead Bakery. The place has been there under the same name for 25 years but with a succession of owners and innumerable chefs, most of whom should have chosen a different career and likely have by now. The current guy is remarkably good. I had a lovely curried carrot soup and a risotto full of tasty tidbits. Until I see the dentist I must select mushy food. Sigh.
All the rivers and streams we passed were bounding along and over their banks. Swamps had become lakes. The weather is almost hot. Last night it was 60F and was at least that warm all day even though the rains persists. No-one remembers such a warm November. I heard somebody say her rhododendron has bloomed.
November 18, 2006 Saturday
The weather is now turning cold. The river and brook are still in unseasonable flood. Rosemary and Nate report seeing a great deal of beaver work down at the confluence of the streams where it is swampy.
Rosemary and Nate had a full day. Rosie gets up early every day for an hour or two of writing. Then she goes for a long walk with or without Nate but she always takes the dogs. After their walk today they dug out a long drainage trench leading from near the barn and across Peter's paddock and out to the culvert under the road. Max had to fill the ditch in last summer so that Peter would not break an ankle. Consequently "Lake Coburn" was swamping a great area and threatening to engulf Marcia's horse trailer. Now the trench is restored. Then they gathered up the dogs and climbed Tumbledown. This is a fine local mountain with several trails. They took Brook Trail which is about 45 minutes for hikers like them but 1 ½ hours for normal people. At one point Willie became frightened of another band of hikers and started to hustle back down the mountain. Rosie ran after him and caught him and carried him back up. Willie is brave about crossing rushing streams on a log so I was surprised to hear that he was fazed by strangers.
When they got home they were greeted by my news that the kitchen sink was backed up (It has been giving trouble) They worked on this for a couple of hours with a snake. The outfall line runs along under the basement ceiling suspended by plumber's tape. It was not professionally installed. At one point where the PVC pipe turns a corner, the pipe has a low point after which the grey water must run slightly uphill. Nate finally had to disect this bit to access the blockage. He hack-sawed right through solid grease. When he poked this with a screw driver it spurted out all over Rosemary. Apart from that everything went well. Nate found glue and spare parts and reassembled the pipe. After they took showers we all went up to DD Marcia's for a lobster dinner with drawn butter, crusty bread, salad with caramelized walnuts and a custard that I made.
As we drove to dinner the subject arose of the load of laundry we left running. This is their last day here and all Nate's clothes were in the wash. Nate wondered if Rosie had checked in his pants for his wallet. Afraid not. Now all his documents and money are spread out on the Aga to dry. He was a remarkably good sport about it. Perhaps he was remembering Rosie's bath in grey water.
I had it in mind this morning to milk Helen by hand if she did not come in too dirty to be approachable. If fact she was dry although it still took me ten minutes to clean her up. I did milk by hand and got almost two gallons not counting the bad quarter. I don't know if she gave more because of hand milking or because I increased her grain.
Jasmine's udder continues to get softer in a satisfactory way.
November 19, 2006 Sunday
Helen's production increased today by a few ounces.
I drove Rosemary and Nate to Lewiston today to catch the bus for the first leg of their journey to Bolivia. Bagel clearly knew they were leaving and Willie soon figured it out. When I got home without them Bagel was rolled up in his bed and would not even open his eyes. Willie also was dispirited. No more power walks crossing torrents on slippery logs. Just granny walks to the barn and garden. It's a dog's life, fellas.
The house seems very empty.
November 20, 2006 Monday
Helen gave about the same today as she did yesterday. I find I can milk slightly less than two gallons in 20 minutes. I am not in very good shape but getting better I think. Then it takes another five minutes to do the mastitic quarter.
Last night I let the dogs in for a while. Willie immediately began scratching fleas. I really thought they were cured. I was too busy today to address the problem. I had to go to an emergency dental appointment. About a week ago when I was attaching leashes Bagel bounced up and hit me in the face with his head and broke off some bridge work.
My partial can be modified to replace the two missing teeth but I will have to go to a dental surgeon to get the roots removed. Sob. I have to go back tomorrow morning at 8AM for impressions. I am going to do my best to get up in the dark and get Helen milked before I must leave at 7:15. If I fail in this endeavor I will have to milk her when I get home which will ruin my day and probably hers. I think I am well on the way to being like the Tin Woodman, all made of replacement parts.
I am trying to get as many of the chores as possible done tonight. I refilled the calves' water tub. This is a miserable set-up at present involving a hose connected in the basement, running out a window and across the garage floor and out a sliding door. This sliding door sticks and is a sore challenge to Christian forbearance.
November 21, 2006 Tuesday
By rolling out of bed at 5AM I was able to get everyone fed and watered, Helen milked by 7AM, and leave home in time to get to the dentist. Getting impressions is like gagging on bubble gum. My next appointment will be with an oral surgeon to remove the roots of the teeth under the crown that broke off.
DS Martin, his wife Amy, baby Hannah, Martin's father in law Ken and I went to DD Marcia's camp on the lake for another salmon dinner. I cooked the salmon and it turned out perfectly. Marcia made very good brown rice cooked in stock and a salad of locally grown greens. She dressed it with sautéed red onions with balsamic vinegar, caramelized walnut halves and crumbled goat cheese. Hannah sat in a high chair eating rice and salmon off her tray and was happy throughout our whole meal.
During the afternoon Martin and Amy went out in their little motor boat. They and Ken, on the shore, saw the bald eagles flying around. There were some families of wild ducks on the lake but the eagles have eaten most of them. They have been observed swooping down and grabbing a duck.
November 23, 2006 Thanksgiving Day
To my surprise, the cows were not waiting in the barn this morning. They were way down in the field by the river, grazing. There must be some new growth. Helen only gave 1.5 gallons.
Thanksgiving dinner was a fine occasion. We convened at DD Marcia and Jack's camp at the lake. Marcia has a commodious dining area with easy seating for eleven. She has just finished staining the walls a warm gold tending towards pumpkin. She did all the work herself and it is perfect. With coordinated curtains, tablecloth and centerpiece made of woodland twigs and moss it looked like a magazine picture.
I cooked two of the ducks raised by DIL Mitra. I stuffed them with apple, onion, fennel and chestnuts and glazed them with a syrup of pomegranate molasses and orange marmalade. I also made an eggplant dip.
Marcia roasted a large local turkey. She made a classic stuffing and gravy and her husband Jack's favorite green bean and almond hot dish.
DIL Amy, Martin's wife, made a green salad that was to a high standard and all eaten. Her dad Ken, who is visiting from Arizona where he works with an heirloom seed program, made the mashed potatoes and mashed squash with ginger. The squash was particularly good.
Max made an apple pie using some of the new leaf lard in the crust and Mitra made a satiny pumpkin cheesecake.
Shireen and Roshan, Max and Mitra's daughters, helped a lot with dinner.
DS Mark was able to break away from his medical studies to join us for the day. We don't get to see him very often these days.
I said the grace.
Amy and Martin's baby Hannah sat in her high chair engrossed with cottage cheese and squash and her thumb. Everyone had reminiscences, mostly about wild animals they had nearly run into on various trail rides and hikes. Martin and Max did a two hour mountain bike ride this afternoon to build their appetites.
Halfway through dinner I observed that one of the candles had set alight something in the centerpiece resembling a bird's nest. I said "Conflagration!" Marcia instantly poured her glass of wine on it and everybody laughed.
Willie is still scratching fleas.
November 24, 2006 Friday
The weather continues cold and clear. I have slightly increased Jasmine's grain to two mouthfuls instead of one. She is clearly annoyed about the second class treatment she has been getting with her tiny serving and less attention. She manages to poop twice at every milking time. Her coat is plushy like a teddy bear. I give both cows and Emily a couple of carrots every time they come in, as I have always done, except when they get apples. Helen only gave 5 quarts this morning. But at least the hens are picking up slightly. I have been getting three or four eggs a day.
DS Mark stayed here last night. Before leaving we had a chat about medical matters. He says he is becoming interested in rheumatology.
DS Martin and family stopped in for a lunch of leftovers on their way home. SIL Jack took lots of Thanksgiving pictures. Poor little Roshan has a terrible shiner. Someone knocked her down on the school playground and Mitra was sent for. All the pictures of her show her black eye clearly.
Tonight on MPBN, on the program Maine Watch, they did an interview with a dairy farmer and the state veterinarian on NAIS*. Both were quite articulate. The State guy was a strong supporter of NAIS of course, and was doing his best to make NAIS sound like something which could protect public health. The dairy farmer did his best to bring out the alarming aspects of NAIS including the fact that it is basically a federal license to kill any animals at the discretion of the State. The vet said he hoped they never had to euthanize any animals (the State does not kill animals, it euthanizes them). Both agreed that killing off a carefully developed herd of dairy cows or grandma's pet family cow was incapable of being compensated by a Federal payment. Both recognized that under NAIS no exceptions could or would be made. The State vet pointed to the recent toxic spinach scare and said that within two days they were able to identify the contaminated spinach field and yet the birthplace of a cow in North Carolina (?) with mad cow disease could never be located. The dairy farmer said that one's chance of being crushed by a flying piano was greater than of getting mad cow disease and the ability to find the spinach field was neither here nor there after the people were already sickened or dead; what it really tells us is that food production should be local.
The woman doing the interview had barely done any homework and came off pretty clunky.
*National Animal Identification System
November 26, 2006 Sunday
It was a fine morning just below freezing. I got out to the barn in good time but found no cows. I called periodically while doing the many preliminary tasks such as throwing corn to the free living chickens, feeding the cats, filling the water tank and hay feeder. Still no cows. I returned to the house to gaze over the farm from the deck and spied them ignoring me under the old apple tree in the bit of field beyond the veg. garden. They were grazing madly within the drip line. Bagel and I walked down to get them moving. The grass did not look very impressive to me but who am I to judge these things? Back in the barn, Helen gave no more milk than yesterday - about 5 quarts. I found a way to arrange the milk bucket and another little bucket so that I can milk all four teats at the same time, just squirting the milk from the mastitic quarter into the little bucket.
Mitra wonders if the abscess and mastitis might have begun as a result of the fall Helen took when we loaded her to go to her new owner last July. The ramp she was on collapsed and she fell straight down in a pile of rubble with her udder on a spike. So far as the new owner could tell when he had her in her stanchion that night she had no puncture wound. I wonder if he may have been mistaken. He said she developed mastitis soon after her arrival at his farm. There is still a bit of a lump remaining which I have assumed to be an abscess.
I had to say goodbye to DD Marcia and Jack and all the dogs this morning. They loaded up the motor home with the horse trailer hitched behind and left about 11AM. They will be sorely missed. They kindly left their Jeep with me so that I will have a four wheel drive vehicle this winter. This is a big step up from my little car and even has drink holders. The ones in my car fell to pieces immediately after I bought it.
This afternoon Max and Mitra and the girls stopped in and brought me a big surprise - a Christmas tree! They even set it all up in a bucket of rocks and the girls decorated it. They did an amazingly perfect job of it with lights neatly arranged and the angel on top.
Mitra unloaded my dishwasher and helped tidy up the kitchen, which I am always behind on. Max found a way to fill the calves' water basin so that I don't have to carry buckets down the stairs under the trap door where I feed them.
And my spring water is running! It froze up four nights in a row then started up during the day. Last night it ran all night. How I love my spring water.
November 27, 2006 Monday
My garden just won't stop. Willie dog and I walked down the hill to see what was to be found. Under some clear plastic a mixed leafy mixture had gone past salad material to become a braising mixture so I picked a goodly bunch. And who should be down at the garden sitting on top of the compost heap but Sissy, my comfort loving cat. I suppose that is quite a warm spot.
I made my mess of greens into soup. I am still on the lookout for food that does not require much chewing. I also made four pounds of cottage cheese.
Helen's production is inching down. I guess it was about a gallon plus a pint this morning.
November 28, 2006 Tuesday
Snow was predicted for today. Maybe somewhere in the state they are getting it but here it is raining.
Things are going well with the animals. The cows were out of sight under the apple tree again this morning but I am onto their tricks and began calling early. They were at the barn by the time I was ready for them.
I have found a larger tub for the calves' water. They were bawling for more a couple of times a day. I think they like to see me climb down that ladder to their quarters.
The hen that was raising seven chicks in the grain room has now taught them to forage and has abdicated her responsibilities. The chicks are no bigger than pigeons and stay clustered together peeping to be fed every time they see me. I throw them some cracked corn. The one little black orphan that lives with the layers still sleeps with her adoptive mother, a red hen, but is independent during the day. She is definitely a pullet, I am pleased to report. I do not need any more cockerels.
November 29, 2006 Wednesday
It was raining this morning so the cows were inside. Helen was predictably dirty. She only gave 4/5 gallon. I have been telling myself that much as it pains me to relinquish OAD milking, if she dropped below a gallon I would resume evening milking. It is dark now by 4:30. At about that time I set out for the barn with my milk bucket and my bucket of boiling water. I had not gone more than six steps when I tripped over something, one of Willie's bones I think, and did a near somersault. Hot water hit me in the right calf, left hand and face. I had gloves and long pants on. I snatched off my glove to get rid of the heat, my face cooled fast, but I was not disposed to pull off my sweats in the middle of the driveway (It was not that dark!)I took myself back into the kitchen, tore off my sweats, cut a leaf off of my aloe vera (Thank you Janine!) and applied the gel. It was very soothing. My leg is red and painful but the only blister is on one of my fingers.
I thought about skipping milking after all but was pretty sure the burns would hurt more if I just lay around whimpering than if I were milking Helen and this was probably the case. However, the fingers on my left hand objected to the exercise so I had to milk two fingered but I got two quarts. This enabled me to top up this morning's jar and start another so there is at least one full gallon in the fridge. Alarm bells go off in my head if there is no milk on hand.
Earlier today DIL Mitra came over and kindly brought me my grain order. The place I get it is near her but Max usually brings it to me. By putting our shoulders together we were able to unload it and get it into the grain room.
I got five eggs today, a record for recent weeks.
Should I take a pain pill? Instead I am drinking a tot of Bailey's Irish Cream. I didn't even know I had any in the cellar or know how it got there. Good, though.
November 30, 2006 Thursday
It is unseasonably warm. The cows slept outside again but came in as soon as I called. Helen responded well to her reintroduction to TAD milking. I got two quarts which brought her day's total to 1 ¼ gallons. Today including tonight's milk she was up to 1 ¾ gallons. Perhaps a pint of this was due to my having included the milk from the quarter which has had mastitis. Either thanks to the extra milking or a gradual restoration of health, the milk from that quarter was so improved in flavor as to be drinkable. It was not absolutely perfect, but since I am not selling milk at present I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. This evening for the first time since the week Helen came home, there were some blobs on the filter. Sometimes I think this means the mammary tissue is healing. Time will tell.
For some reason the cows never want to leave after milking. I have to practically carry Helen and Jasmine out of their stanchions. While this is going on Emily is in the main aisle looking for trouble. Tonight she nosed off the basket with five treasured eggs breaking every single one. I told her she was very bad indeed.
My burns are healing fast. This morning the one on my leg was still touchy and red. Tonight it is still red but only faintly touchy. The blisters on my fingers are shrinking. Milking was not painful I am glad I wasn't wearing any rings.
DD Marcia reports having yesterday reached the farm of her friend in Florida where her horse Peter has been boarding. She hopped right on him for a little ride. They should be in Loxahatchee by now.
December 1, 2006 Friday
Wednesday and Thursday I got more milk than I expected. Now that it has stood in the fridge it turns out to be more than half cream. I guess she was doing some extra letting down. This morning and night she held up. Her total for the day was only 1 ¼ gallons. There was one very tiny blob on the filter this morning, none tonight.
The storm which is sweeping the country arrived here as heavy rain. The cows have hung around inside all day. I had to clean up around their feet. This is a nuisance because I am being careful not to jab one of their ankles with the fork. They are ever so friendly but no help at all.
I got only one egg. Most of the hens now have new pin feathers. I hope they soon get back in the mood to lay eggs. The hen with seven young birds now joins them only if she notices I have given them corn. Then she comes planing down from the rafters and drives them off the food. Tonight when she did this she accidentally went into their chicken wire roomette and I shut her in.
Willie has a cable with a lead so he can get at least some exercise, but not today because of the rain. When I brought him in the house this evening he could not settle down. He pulled out a box of crayons and chewed them into little bits. Let's hope they are not toxic.
December 2, 2006 Saturday
When I looked out my bedroom window this morning the world was white. It was covered with a crusty layer of ice. The thermometer stood at 32F so it did not remain slippery for long.
I worked for a long time on Helen to encourage let down and managed to get about 1 1/3 gallons. The ice crust all melted and the cows spent most of the day grazing. DS Mark came with Hailey, 13, and later DIL Mitra brought Shireen and Roshan for cousin fun. DS Martin also drove up bringing an excellent contribution to the Coburn Farm equipment collection. It is an 18' flatbed trailer. It has an impressive looking steel frame and will be just the thing for hauling hay.
At this evening's milking I managed to get only enough to bring Helen's production for the day up to 1 ½ gallons. At the same time I was treated to unmistakable signs of heat. I guess I missed her heat in November. She was bred October 19. Ratz. I hated to call AI and tell him I needed him Sunday morning but he was a good sport.
We all shared a spaghetti supper with whole wheat pasta. After dinner the girls staged a dramatic skit in which the beautiful Governor's daughter, played by Hailey in a floor length white bouffant gown, was kidnapped for ransom by a band of heartless pirates. The pirates also were in interesting costumes. While attempting a daring escape, I am sorry to say that the governor's daughter met a sad end.
The skit being over, Martin is now out under the buttery working on repairing the water system for the calves. I keep trying to make him give up and come inside but he won't.
December 3, 2006 Sunday
As I went tonight to the barn I beheld an amazing night sky. The moon was surrounded by a vast buttermilk cloud formation. It had assumed a spiral pattern like a Van Gogh. I don't know the formal name for a buttermilk sky but it is as though the clouds had curdled into little puffs all about the same size.
My AI tech arrived this morning just after I washed up Helen and before I milked her. He said she was definitely in heat. He used a bull called Mor who is supposed to be high potency.
Helen gave over a gallon this morning and over a gallon this evening. At last her production is encouraging.
While I was in the barn, Hailey and Shireen made cornbread for breakfast. More good cooks coming along here, I think.
For a week my printer has not worked. I even went out and bought a new color cartridge and installed it but it still did not work. I tried the Help menu to no avail. Then Mark came along and fixed it by pushing the power cord in properly. How sickening. In my defense, the dumb thing went through two day last week of the blinking lights that tell you it is out of ink before going flatline. I suppose I wasted $35 dollars on the new cartridge. I put the old one into a glass jar in hopes that I can use it again even though it plainly says this cannot be done.
On Saturday I made Pizza Rustica using Julia Child's recipe, sort of. Instead of ricotta I used my cottage cheese and some home made feta. It was big hit. The crust was the kind that uses eggs instead of water. I made a fruit tart with the extra dough. The fruit was the last of the Thanksgiving cranberry sauce mixed with blueberries.
I also made another batch of ginger cookies.
Ginger Cookies with Candied Ginger
½ cup soft butter ¾ cup packed light or dark brown sugar 1 large egg 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1 cup flour, white or whole wheat pastry flour 1 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp baking soda ¼ tsp salt ¾ cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
Oven 350 Line two baking sheets with parchment or cool the first sheet before using it for the second batch
Beat butter and sugar together until well blended. Add egg and vanilla and beat until blended.
Combine dry ingredients well, add to mixing bowl and mix well. Stir in crystallized ginger.
Drop rounded tablespoons of dough on prepared cookie sheets 12 to a sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until cookies are lightly browned. Pull the sheet of parchment with the cookies off onto a thick bath towel to cool. This is a lot easier than removing cookies to a rack.
December 4, 2006 Monday
Today was cold and blowy but the cows still had to be called in this morning from a distant part of the pasture. I guess they are finding some grass.
Helen gave only 1 ¾ gallons today. I don't know if the low production was due to the weather or her heat.
I made another batch of fruitcake today. I began assembling it yesterday and finally got the cakes in the oven about 7:30.
I also made a pound and a quarter of butter. There were a couple of days there where Helen gave almost all cream which enabled me to collect enough for butter.
The dogs are disappointed with me. They are not having enough fun. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I will walk the fence line and they can help.
December 6, 2006 Wednesday
The thermometer read 13F this morning. Amazingly, my faithful spring water was still running. Not so lucky with the barn water and the under-buttery calf water. The barn water responded to higher heat from the heating pad. The cows just had to wait a couple of hours. I assembled a new system for the calves. I set up the plug-in tub that Martin bought me last year. It is just like the one Claire uses. I chained it to the stairs that go down from the deck and carried buckets of water to fill it. This took until 11AM. Then I fried myself a slice of liver to restore my strength. Most of my other plans for the day got postponed.
Despite my best squeezing I cannot get Helen's production above 1 ¾ gallons a day. At night it is only about one quart. TAD milking hardly seems worth the trouble but if I give up the evening milking I know she will drop back as she did before.
Here are three letters from Bolivia from granddaughter Rosemary and her husband Nathan. The third one arrived today.
We arrived safe in La Paz this morning. It's a neat city. Everyone seems happy and quiet here. We've been walking around all day, looking at the women selling alpaca goods, and the mountains, and people in interesting hats. Tomorrow we're going on to a smaller town on Lake Titicaca to start hiking. On the plane last night we met a very interesting young man who is in Bolivia with the Heifer Project. I gave him your website address.
Hope you guys had a good Thanksgiving. We were thinking of you. We are now in the small town of Copacabana, on Lake Titicaca. We are planning to start hiking village to village along the edge of the lake, but are waiting first to acclimatize properly. Last night there was a thunderstorm, and the drop in air pressure (I think) contributed to a bout of altitude sickness that hit me like a sockful of rocks. I'm feeling a little better now--hope it doesn't return, but we spent the day fairly quietly, sitting in sidewalk cafes and by the lake. It is really pleasant here, and the food is good.
We are just back in Cusco after a week of trekking in the high Andes. We rented a tent here, and went very far back, around a mountain called Ausengate. I think the highest pass we crossed was over 17,000 feet. It is not possible to travel in that country except on foot or with mules, and we saw no people except the occasional startled shepherd. One night, a young man invited us to make our camp by his hut, saying that there were bandits in that valley. We did so, and had dinner with him and his wife. Both were still in their teens. Their hut was made of a clay bricks thatched in grass. It was a tiny room, with a bed at one end, a fire pit at the other, and a ledge to set the single candle. They shared it with a cat and their three, apparently well-beloved chickens. We sat on hides by the fire and shared their dinner of mate and boiled tubers (potatoes maybe? not sure), to which we added cheese and coca leaves from our packs.
Later we met another shepherd, who asked me for medicine for his two year old daughter who had a fever. All I could offer was vitamin C and more cheese.
Now, we are going to rest for a day before going on to Macchu Picchu. The night bus down from the mountains was grueling. It was standing room only, packed with peasants with bundles, coughing, whispering and vomiting out the window on hairpin turns. I slept with a stranger's head on my knee.
December 7, 2006 Thursday
Helen persists in giving 1 ½ gallons in the morning and one measly quart in the evening and I have to fight for it. She resists letting down. It certainly is tempting to return to OAD, and at some point I will, but I am sure her production will slump as it did before. Her current schedule is 11/13, 7am and 6pm. That should not be sufficiently erratic to account for her behavior.
I had another dental appointment today and took the opportunity to do some errands. I hoped that the Farmer's Union would carry the udder cream that Claire uses or something similar. What they had looked more like ladies' hand cream but I bought it. Helen's teats feel like an old glove that got left in the rain. I also bought aloe vera as a potential ingredient for the udder cream which I will make when I get around to it.
December 8, 2006 Friday
I got to the barn while it was still dark this morning so as to get everything done before a dental appointment. Helen gave 1.5 gallon, a bit shy of her usual morning contribution, very likely because I got her to her feet early. Back in the kitchen I got my cottage cheese draining and butter churned. I wash the butter and left it salted but not pressed. I was anxious to be on my way early as it was starting to snow and the roads looked iffy.
I took the route through Weld to Farmington. It is a mountainous route. There seemed to be a far greater number of steep downhill sections with sharp turns at the bottom than I ever previously remembered. Even though I was driving the Jeep kindly left me for the winter by DD Marcia and SIL Jack, I could often feel it surfing. I took the hills at 20 mph and did not see another car until I was back in flat country. My appointment was for surgery to remove the broken off roots of the bridge that broke last month leaving me with nothing to support my lower partial. Without being able to wear the partial I have been restricted for the last month to soft food. The dental surgeon kept me waiting an hour and a half and the procedure was arduous although not painful thanks to all the shots he gave me. The way he wrenched on those roots reminded me of trying to getting a rusty headless nail out of an ancient board. I got three stitches and instructions to stay with soft food for a couple of more days. The partial, now retrofitted with a full set of molars, fit perfectly.
Once out of there I was in such a hurry to get home to feed and water that I did not stop to fill the doctor's prescription for pain pills, which I rather regret. Now that all the days work is done I am actively considering making a brandy Alexander.
I skipped milking tonight. It was cold, bleak and windy and that one quart of milk did not seem worth it. I gave the three cows a whole bale of hay and left them happily munching.
Rosemary sent another travel report:
Nate and I are now in the village of Aguas Calientes. This morning, we got up at four thirty and climbed the mountain to Macchu Picchu, then spent the day exploring the site, and climbing beyond it up a further mountain. It was truly amazing--it beggared the imagination. The mountains here are steeper than any I've ever seen, but they are crisscrossed with stone ladders, temples, houses and fields. Far below, you could see the jungle and a fast brown river.
This place is actually at a lower elevation than we've been so far, though. It is in cloud forest, not the high, dry altiplano we crossed last week. We took a train here from Cusco, and it was neat to see the forest change. Here there are hibiscus, roses, bougainvillea, and fuchsia trees. UP in the high mountains, all the flowers were under an inch tall, it seemed, though there were plenty of them because it is spring here.
We are now planning to spend two or three days hiking through villages in the Sacred Valley before catching the train back to La Paz and flying home (to Alaska).
Tomorrow I expect my grandson Rafe (Rosemary's brother) and his GF Sally Boisvert. We call her SallyB to distinguish her from my DD Sally.
December 9, 2006 Saturday
Helen gave two gallons this morning. Skipping milking last night plus milking an hour late made the difference. I milked again tonight and to my surprise got over a quart. I have been more generous with the hay because of the cold weather. Maybe that is the reason she gave a tad more.
I weight taped all three cows tonight. Helen has gained 30 pounds since I last taped her five weeks ago. She weighs 1092. She is still showing considerable rib and her thurls are more dished than I like to see, but she looks happy.
Jasmine taped at 890, almost exactly what she was five weeks ago. She is round as a soccer ball when viewed from the rear. I will repeat the taping tomorrow. I think she must have been standing wrong. She is looking very pregnant and is a little grouchy.
Emily taped at 1005, a few pounds less than last time. She threatens to become a butterball, so I am glad to see no further gain. She is five months pregnant and looks great.
Max came over this morning and drove me to Wal-Mart to pick up my pain killer pills. I appreciated this, as I did feel somewhat wobbly, perhaps due to losing sleep. But I really cannot complain about my gum surgery. The dentist led me to expect a lot more bleeding and pain than I had. The pharmacist warned of stomach upset and drowsiness, but all I noted was improved appetite due to being able to eat without discomfort.
Grandson Rafe and his GF Sally B arrived looking wonderful. They lost no time in taking the dogs for a walk. Bagel has attached himself to Rafe, I see. At dinner he lay under the table with his head on Rafe's foot.
I served a pork roast. That pork Max and Mitra raised this year is a whole 'nother pork experience. During the last 20 minutes of roasting I brushed on a mixture of marmalade, dry ginger and soy sauce, but the pork flavor shone through. It was juicy and tender with a delicate enticing flavor that had us helping ourselves to seconds and thirds. Rafe made mashed potatoes to accompany it and I made a braised vegetable mixture of tiny cubes of rutabaga with onion and shredded cabbage. Sally made applesauce with Golden Spy apples they brought from Massachusetts.
December 10, 2006 Sunday
At last I got up my courage to attempt the No-Knead NYTimes bread again. I had a lot of encouragement from Harper, my grandson in Fairbanks, son of DD Marcia (He is the same age as DS Martin). He said to use instant yeast. Last time I used whole wheat and regular yeast. This time I used all white flour. I also followed the procedure Homestead 2 suggested. After the 18 hour rise I added enough flour to be able to handle the dough and put it in a greased glass soufflé dish for 2 more hours of rising before baking at 350F. It rose to the top of the dish and had a brioche-like texture. Rafe and SallyB were crazy about it. Now I am inspired to get creative again and see what happens if I use brioche ingredients, i.e. eggs and butter. A small grief: When SallyB put our dinner casserole into the bottom Aga oven she discovered my last fruitcake still in the back. Of course it was utterly cremated, having been there for a week. I felt so sad. It was one of the larger cakes, too. The Aga ovens are black inside and rather deep and this was the one at floor level. Next time I must remember to count my cakes.
Helen gave nearly two gallons today.
Rafe was discouraged to find that the cement ballast in one of the bays in his boat is cracked and crumbling. This has permitted water to get down to the steel hull and he found significant rust. He is looking into getting an ultrasound reading on it.
December 11, 2006 Monday
Helen did give two gallons today even with holding up a bit this evening. Melvin was bellowing.
The main thing that happened today was that Willie got lost. Rafe and Sally had both dogs with them over at the work site by the boat. They ran off together. Eventually Bagel came home, but no Willie. Rafe and Sally of course spent much of the day hunting for him. The area beyond is all mountains criss crossed by trails. This is where Rosemary and Nate often hiked, so I am hoping that if he went that direction he will eventually find his way home. Our animal control officer does not think anybody is trapping at this time of year.
I walked down to the brook to see if there were any tracks at the fallen log which forms a bridge. Rosie and Nate used to cross there. All I saw was considerable beaver work. I also saw where the line from my spring has sprung a leak and the resulting fountain has build an ice sculpture about 10' high. Obviously the spring line is open to that point at least. It froze and ceased running to the house last Friday night. Today is quite mild. Late this afternoon it thawed out and resumed flowing to the house. How happy we are to have our lovely spring water back! If only briefly.
December 12, 2006 Tuesday
Willie is home! Last evening Sally and Rafe went up and down the road asking neighbors if they had seen Willie and met lots of nice people, but no one had seen him. I left the garage door ajar in case he returned in the night. Right after breakfast this morning Sally took Bagel and set out to search and was gone an hour or so. When she was almost back to the bridge on the approach to the farm she saw a flash of white on the far side of the river. Willie was in a field across the river and did not understand how to get home without swimming. Willie and Bagel had a joyful reunion and soon we were all rejoicing. I hated thinking of him alone all night in the cold. He is a very subdued little dog now.
Using the bucket of the Kubota, Rafe took his huge diesel engine from my garage and moved it next to his boat. This required driving it over the bridge and up the lane. He then arranged for a neighbor with heavy equipment to use his back hoe to lift it up and set it down inside the hull. It had to be lifted 16' into the air and lowered into position. The young man operating the back hoe was very skillful. The main excitement was when one of the back hoe supports sank about 4' into an old forgotten septic tank. After the motor was in position the young operator went back to his gravel pile and brought over a bucket load of gravel to fill in the new hole.
It was beautifully sunny and still today. The cows were in the pasture for most of the day, so I only had to carry out 14 poops (I often count the fork loads I carry.) All three cows were sweet and cooperative except for their insistence upon dawdling around in the main aisle of the barn sniffing and socializing. When I tell them, "the party is over, let's get moving!" Somebody always lifts her tail.
Helen gave two gallons today, third day in a row.
Early this morning I saw a hen disappear among the hay bales while a rooster stood guard. Aha, I thought, a nest. Later when no hens were around I checked and found seven eggs. Goody goody!
December 13, 2006 Wednesday
Willie remains much subdued. So does Bagel for some reason.
I tried the NYTimes bread again, this time with one cup of whole wheat. I also added a bit of sour dough starter. It raised better than the previous loaf and tastes fine, but the crust is too thick for my teeth. I also tried it adding brioche ingredients, butter, eggs and sugar, and that made a big hit with Rafe.
The scabs fell off of my burns today. Now people will stop asking "What did you do to your hand?"
We had cold rain most of the day, so the cows did not go out much. Helen gave only 1 2/3 gallon. I can't think of any reason for the drop off of production.
December 14, 2006 Thursday
I was talking today with Rafe and Sally about my chickens. They were saying they have not forgotten that I want some roosters dressed off. Rafe made an observation of something I have overlooked when wondering why I am not getting more eggs. I have too many roosters.
Max came over today and brought my grain. We all had lunch together, a hearty meal of leftovers from last night. I had made a large pan of braised shortribs, mashed potatoes and a vegetable medly, and there was plenty for all four of us.
Rafe and Sally are making good progress on the shed to house his boat. The posts are saplings cut on his mom's (my DD Sally's) property, where the boat is sitting on jacks next to her little house. Right now they are leaning over the bathtub giving Willie a bath with tea tree shampoo. We hope to vanquish the fleas. He looks so white and fluffy and does not seem to mind his bath.
Now he is warming up by the Aga.
Helen gave about 1 ¾ gallons.
December 15, 2006 Friday
This was a fine day about 30F. The ground is frozen. The cows stood outside awhile but did not attempt to graze. Helen gave about the same as yesterday. Her milk supply is on a downward trend despite rigorous stripping and a slight increase in grain.
Viewed from behind, Jasmine is a perfect sphere
Rafe took the dogs for a little walk early this morning down to the bottom of the property, then he and Sally drove over to Max's place to have a look at his garage building project. I stayed here and worked on dinner.
DS Martin and DIL Amy and wee Hannah joined us for dinner. I made baked beans and we had more of the green rice (similar to risotto with spinach) that Sally made last night, also an interesting puree of beets and applesauce served warm. Hannah particularly liked this. We also had a green salad and an excellent loaf of bread which Sally started three days ago using some of my San Francisco sour dough starter. Sally and Rafe also whipped out an apple pie after they got back from Max's place. Martin and family are staying up at their camp on the lake at Weld.
I have been worried about Rosie and Nate as I heard nothing from them for several days and knew they were traveling through a part of Bolivia which is experiencing civil unrest, but they have made it back to Miami. I must say, I am relieved that they are back in the US. They still have some difficult travel ahead of them as terrible weather around Seattle is preventing many flights to the Pacific Northwest. Once they make it to Juneau they will have an option of the ferry or Cessna to Haines. They plan to join DD Sally and their dad and Rosie's brother Gabe there for Christmas.
I mailed a box of frozen dairy products to daughter Sally today.
December 16, 2006 Saturday
Other parts of the country are suffering terrible weather while here in Maine we are having something like April. People are saying this means we will have December in April. It has been very mild with many drizzly days and the temperature hanging around 30F. The cows lay around on the pasture most of the day which makes barn clean-up easier. They don't graze much.
Rafe and Sally, Martin and Amy (and Hannah) all went over to Max and Mitra's today and worked on the garage project. Their steel garage blew away in a windstorm in October. They dismantled the steel parts of the destroyed building. Then they went into the woods and cut some spruce for use in the roof. The crew dragged these to the point where they could get a chain on them and drag them with my pickup. Max had some tree-length logs on hand to cut as firewood and Rafe selected some of these for uprights. Rafe is a highly experienced carpenter and moves fast. He will return to the job tomorrow but will have less help as the others must leave.
Everyone came here tonight for grilled salmon. This was one that Rafe caught last summer from right in from of his home in Haines, AK. Sally made an excellent dish with cubed and sautéed butternut squash and DIL Amy made a gorgeous salad. DS Max made a peach pie with a crumble topping (made it last night). It was excellent with Jersey cream. It was made with Maine grown peaches, a rarity. Mitra froze them last summer.
Baby Hannah eats lots of different foods now if fed with a spoon. Her little mouth flies open. She loves avocado.
Helen gave 1.5 gallons.
December 18, 2006 Monday
WE had another warm day, for December. It got up to 40F here, 60F down in Portland. Now a sharp wind has started.
Mitra's parents and friend flew in from CA. I hope to see them soon.
Yesterday while searching the woodlot for suitable poles Rafe found a dead five point buck. It had been shot and the hunter had not tracked it. It had been dead at least a week. Mitra called the game warden. He came out this morning to inspect it. It was well past human consumption but all agreed it would do for dog food. The warden tagged it for Mitra, gave her a permit, and took the antlers. Hunting season is over now but the deer was shot during the black powder season. This morning Rafe cut up the carcass and brought what could be salvaged home in the back of the truck where it still is. It does not stink.
Rafe was slowed down on his building project by cutting the deer but was able to raise all but one of the bents. He is working by himself using ropes and the truck. The mechanism on the front of the truck that raises the plow blade proved helpful.
My gums are still too sore to allow me to wear my partial. I am pretty disappointed after all the expense. Considering how hard it is to eat, one would dare to expect a bit of weight loss but I don't notice any.
Helen gave 1 ¾ gallons today. I find no further evidence of mastitis. As of today the troubled quarter had no salty flavor and gives as much as the other front quarter, which isn't much. Only a person who knew right where to feel would find any evidence of what I assume to have been an abscess. There is a little streak of what may be scar tissue up between her two front quarters.
I went shopping today for my granddaughters in a large gift shop. After a half hour I left with nothing. I was reminded of the story of the Texas cowboy that somebody took into Nieman Marcus. When asked what he thought about it he said, "I never saw so many things I could get along without."
Rafe's GF Sally has driven down to Northfield, MA to her parents' home for Christmas. Rafe will follow after he finishes work on Max's garage.
December 19, 2006 Tuesday
Before leaving this morning for his garage project, Rafe cut the venison off the bone. There were two giant stainless steel bowls of meat and we agreed it looked perfectly good. A neighbor stopped in while Rafe was cutting and also said the meat looked perfectly wholesome. He owns a lot of land and lives on venison. I was left with the task of packaging and freezing it. I decided that feeding all that to the dogs would be a sin against the Holy Ghost so I selected about 8 pounds of what looked the best and sprayed it to get the deer hair off and cut it up for chili. Lying out there in the cold woods had tenderized it amazingly. So now I am simmering a big pot of chili. I have Tom Selleck's recipe.
Right in the middle of a busy Christmas week day I lost an hour and a quarter trying to pay my Allstate bill on line. I never did succeed. I ended up exhausted and cross as a weasel. I think I will write to them and tell them their site is a dud. I entered all the numbers exactly right about five times before doing it by phone.
The cows are fine except Helen is not giving much. I am now feeding from a different section of the hay mow. Maybe this will make a difference. She did not give much over a gallon today. I washed out the stock tank in case she doesn't like her water but really, the tank was very clean. I believe the cows are drinking ground water from the rill at the edge of Pocket Field.
Most of the last load of hay we got from my local hay man (our visitor of this morning) turns out to be moldy. I am feeding it to the calves. It is such a shame. It is beautifully green and fluffy but when I shake it, it looks like smoke is rising. The calves eat in a run-in under the buttery with lots of fresh air but I doubt this mold dust does them any good.
Rafe has the garage mostly together now and is happy with it. He is ready to start laying up the corrugated metal roof (salvaged from the old garage). He will take my digital camera tomorrow and perhaps get some pictures.
December 20, 2006 Wednesday
It was colder today, down to 17F, and my dear spring has ceased to run into the kitchen. It has stopped several times before in recent weeks and then thawed again. I hoped it might set a record and keep going until Christmas.
All my best laid plans for last minute Xmas prep had to be set aside today. My vet stopped by, as he always does when in the area, and I fed him lunch. I jumped around and got the chili ready. It turned out quite well. I was especially glad to see him because Bagel is limping. It turns out to be in his joint, not his paw. It seems like a sprain, but how this could have happened I cannot imagine.
Rafe got the roof on Max and Mitra's garage and will leave the siding until after Christmas. He is happy with how it is turning out, but no pictures. He forgot the camera. He came home and ate a lot of chili and a piece of spice cake with caramel icing that I made to use up some sour cream.
December 21, 2006 Thursday
It happened again! The temp today got up to 38F and the spring commenced running. I think of that spring as a personal friend (that goes away for the winter).
Rafe stayed to work on his boat shed another day but will leave in the morning. He wanted to take advantage of the comparatively mild weather. The terrible storm that is hammering the folks out west may reach us by tomorrow night. The prediction is that it will have lost most of its ferocity but we will likely bring us freezing rain. I will try to get Rafe on the road before it starts.
I still can't seem to get Helen's production up much but the hens are doing better. I got six eggs today. I need to get them a light on a timer. Failing that, about a week ago I started leaving their dim little fluorescent bulb on all the time. That may be what finally tipped them toward earning their keep. The layers are not confined, they just lack ambition. They don't go outdoors unless I put scraps in their yard. Their yard does not even have chicken wire on it, just rails to stop the cows. The unconfined birds do lay but I usually can't find their nests. They continue to roam far and wide every day that it does not rain. The seven pullets that I was keeping in the grain room continue to stay together. They are very tame. Morning and evening they plead for their special handful of corn and they usually get it. The one black orphaned pullet that was mothered by a RI Red among the layers is now nearly full grown and perches up high.
Rosemary and Nate finally made it all the way back from Bolivia to Haines, AK. It was an exhausting return trip with many delays and flight changes. She writes that it was a treat to wake up this morning and not have to go anywhere.
December 22, 2006 Friday
We had fine weather again today. I think it got up to 39F. The cows spent most of the day in the pasture sunning themselves but I saw them attempting a little grazing down in the wet area. Everything looks brown from here.
The dogs and I went down to see what my veg garden looked like. Amazingly, the salad greens under their tunnel of clear plastic still had lots of edible leaves, of which I ate several. There was even some nice green cilantro. My cilantro has been self seeding for a number of years so I guess it has selected itself for cold hardiness. Some chervil under a milk jug was also in good shape.
Tonight I am alone. Rafe went down to join Sally in Northfield. He took lots of food to eat on the 4-hour drive including half a cake.
My DD Sally reports that the dairy products I sent her for Christmas arrived safely although they took six days. I included a pint of frozen cream which she was particularly pleased to report arrived in good shape. Our family is particularly fond of cream.
December 23, 2006 Saturday
DS Mark and granddaughter Hailey were here for supper, also DS Martin and Amy and baby Hannah. In the freezer I found what may be the last of the porterhouse steaks and despite rain, Mark grilled them out on the deck. Martin and Amy have a hand cranked device that makes baby food by grinding and extruding table food. They were able to make Hannah a tasty mixture of steak and buttered potato which she ate as fast as Amy could spoon it in. She also eagerly drank a little cream.
I skipped milking tonight. I am going to try OAD milking for the holiday week.
December 24, 2006 Christmas Eve
The weather continues damp, but warm. I slept with my window open and could hear the cows out in the pasture. I guess the grass must be growing a little bit.
Helen gave 1.5 gallons this morning, making up for what I didn't get last night. I expect her production to drop quickly just as it did last time I went OAD. Maybe she is pregnant. Today is the day she would have come in heat. I shall permit myself some guarded optimism. Much as I love her, the prospect of an open and unproductive cow does not appeal.
Mark, Hailey and I joined Martin and Amy for a breakfast of pumpkin waffles at their place by the lake. A brisk wind was whipping up the water. Martin decided to be a polar bear and take a dip. He did not stay in long. Max and the girls showed up with their dog Lulu, half Lab. She of course had to jump in too.
Hailey had to return to her mother, so we had an early gift exchange including Shireen and Roshan.
I made a light supper of pumpkin soup. It was very successful. I made up the recipe. I baked an heirloom pumpkin that DD Marcia had left for me. Its flavor was exceptional, so I could hardly go wrong. I put it through the food mill and added chicken stock, caramelized onions, nutmeg, salt and pepper. I also added a little pumpkin oil which Martin and Amy had brought from Austria where pumpkin soup is a fall favorite. Before serving the soup I added cream and Amy passed the pumpkin seeds which she had roasted in the oven. She was told that you must not wash them first or the flavor is lost. Hannah loved it. I'll bet she ate more than half a cup.
The moon and stars tonight are brilliant and there is a high wind. The temperature is about 38F. If shepherds were watching their flocks on a night like this I am sure they would have been much stressed to leave them. Mark is putting on his coat to take a late walk.
December 25, 2006 Christmas
What a lovely day we all had with lots of family fun, new projects and a fine dinner.
Last night I made saffron buns for our breakfast with the Julia Child brioche dough recipe. I was very satisfied with the way they turned out.
There were many gifts both charming and practical but my particular favorite was a framed print which Martin and Amy ordered from the Russian Museum in Minneapolis. It is of a painting called Milkmaids by Nikolei N. Baskakov. I had never heard of this artist until last month when dear cousins of mine sent me a note card sized print. Martin and Amy saw how much I admired the picture and ordered a poster sized print which they had framed. It is already hanging over the piano. It is an impressionist painting of three healthy looking women sitting on the grass laughing. There are cows in the background and milk cans standing nearby.
There were no signs of heat today in Helen.
Christmas Day and my spring is still running!
Mark and Martin spent several hours digging a trench by the garage to drain water away from the foundation. The garage, formerly the carriage house, has settled a bit. They lined the trench with stones, then three layers of house wrap, a heavy plastic, and covered everything with gravel.
Max and Mitra brought one of their hams for dinner and also a pan of delicious roasted root vegetables. I made curried cauliflower and Max fixed mashed potatoes. Amy made a beautiful salad with much help from Shireen. I cooked a beef rib roast and also a sauce of highbush cranberry puree. (Viburnam trilobum I think it is) Before and after dinner we ate fresh pears sent by sister Barby and sampled a lot of cheeses. We were joined by Marie and Alex, Mitra's parents from California, always a grand addition.
December 26, 2006 Tuesday
A big surprise greeted us this morning. Everything was covered by snow, the first real snow this year. Perhaps not all that real, either. It soon turned to slush and a light rain fell. The temperature was right around 32F, so the snow on the ground remains but it has all melted off of the roof. It was too slushy to even make a snowman. Mitra said the girls stayed in and played chess even though they love all snow activities. It was so warm that Melvin, Helen's six month old calf, lay down outside to chew his cud.
Mark left first thing this morning. He is signed up for a couple of days of 12 hour shifts in the cardiac unit, and then next week begins his last semester of classes. After this it will all be hospital work.
Martin drove down from camp and worked on the calves' water system under the buttery. Hopefully the calves will not tear it apart as has been known in the past to happen. It frees me from having to carry water in buckets.
Helen is being sweet and cooperative, but her production on OAD has dropped to 1 ¼ gallons as I knew it would. But the chickens laid 8 eggs today, so I was able to send Mark home with a dozen. He understands the importance of eating properly including a good breakfast. He even takes cod liver oil.
DS Bret is writing a paper on vitamin D, he tells me. He says "the word on the street" is that the orthodox recommended amounts are way too low to enable it to fulfill its roll in the immune system, which I already knew but was pleased to hear him say.
Bret has had a bad week. First he slipped on the ice and struck his head violently. He was saved by the fact that he was wearing a thick wool hat. Then yesterday as he was leading out the ponies the younger one broke away and ran over him injuring his shoulder. These are New Forest ponies and not all that small, 14 hands I believe. Bret lives in Fairbanks AK.
Grandson Rafe is on his way home from Northfield MA with GF Sally and her sister Marie. I have prepared some glorified leftovers for them.
December 28, 2006 Thursday
Yesterday I indulged myself with a lot of reading. I had intended to go forth on errands but could not find the car keys. After a half hour of searching I gave up and sank down on the couch for a comfortable read. I am reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.
The hens showered me with a half dozen eggs yesterday and today I got eight. The weather was fine and the cows spent much of yesterday in the pasture. They did so again today, although it was much colder. I realized after reading a post from Claire that it was high time I plugged in the water heater for the cows. Maybe this will perk up Helen's production.
Rafe, Sally and her sister Marie climbed Tumbledown this morning, taking the dogs. They had a great time. In the afternoon the girls' parents stopped in for coffee and cake, which was jolly. I made the cream cheese pound cake from the bag of King Arthur flour. For the cream cheese I use my Neufchatel. The egg yolks are as vivid orange as ever which makes for a nice yellow cake.
Rafe and the girls worked on the boat for several hours chipping out old ballast. Rafe has become concerned about the integrity of the hull and has called a marine surveyor to come and do an ultrasound.
I made baked beans for dinner and thought they turned out particularly well thanks in large measure to the inclusion of a hock from Max and Mitra's porkers.
December 30, 2006 Saturday
Yesterday, Friday, I made an expedition to Farmington. The first thing I did was go up to see Mitra and the girls and view the new garage that Rafe built for them before Christmas. It is a sturdily built pole structure with a shed roof. The siding is not yet on. Then we all convened at the little condo Mitra's parents now have in a country setting about a mile from the center of Farmington. It is a cozy place for them to stay when they visit from Oakland, CA. I got taken out to lunch, a great treat even though I am still dentally challenged. The pumpkin soup I ordered was excellent.
Rafe took care of all the critters while I had the day off. Between attentions to his boat he built me a new wild bird feeder, the last one having finally fallen to pieces.
So far her heated water has not resulted in Helen giving any more milk. At least it has stayed steady at 1 ¼ gallons for three days. The hens are doing better. Mitra gave me 13 duck eggs yesterday which Sally B has already make into quiche and challah.
December 30, 2006 Saturday
It snowed most of the day. There is no wind and the temperature did not rise much above freezing. The accumulation was barely two inches. The cows chose to stand outside much of the day anyway, so clean-up was easy. Driving conditions were treacherous. Mitra drove her parents to the airport in Portland, Max was driving up from work in Cape Cod and Rafe and Sally invited a group of friends, so there was a bit of worrying to do around here, but all was well.
December 31, 2006 Sunday
Today dawned bright and sunny, but cold, 14F. When I got to the barn I could see by the tracks in the snow that the cows had been out to greet the sunrise from under the warm stand of pine at the far side of the north field. They came in brightly as they do every day now and mostly clean. Jasmine is so hungry all the time that she comes trotting when I open the door. I have increased her grain just a little to about 3 cups plus kelp. I also put some particularly choice hay in her stanchion feeder to keep her busy while I milk Helen. Helen gave only one gallon today and I got five eggs, none from the rafter birds. The two nests where I had been finding their eggs daily were obliterated in a hay bale avalanche.
Two roosters got into such a fight that they ignored their cracked corn. One was a big red, gold and orange fellow, the other was black and cream-colored with gold trim. They jumped and raked and pecked and sidled for a long time with their hackles in a ruff. I did not see were either drew blood but there were plenty of feathers on the barn floor later.
The seven young birds that I have been looking out for with special handfuls of feed in the grain room have found their way in with the layers, all but one of them, who was peeping forlornly tonight. I expect that in the morning she will locate her buddies. The orphaned black pullet that lives among the layers is now so nearly full grown that I have to look hard to pick her out from the older birds.
I am alone this evening. Rafe and Sally's friends came yesterday as expected and we ate delicious soup and challah made by Sally. They stayed overnight and left about noon, but not before inviting Rafe and Sally to join them tonight in Portland for New Year's Eve festivities.
I made myself a drink with commercial eggnog that Martin left here. It was vile and I poured it down the sink brandy and all. I should have read the ingredient list first. It had HFCS and artificial vanilla.
January 1, 2007 Monday
After writing last night's entry I realized I was cold and that the furnace wasn't not running. It turned out to be out of oil. Despite it being New Yer's Eve,I called the oil company but the very nice man said they are not allowed to take out a truck after 10PM. He offered to come with a pickup truck and put in five gallons. I said I could wait until morning because the roads are very icy.
This morning the roads were even worse. The driver came about 10:30 and said if he lived in Carthage he would be on the phone to the road crew to request sanding. He said the road was scary. I went right in and called, but our Carthage truck did not actually go by until noon.
My tank was indeed empty and the driver put in 250 gallons. The price was not on the receipt but I know it is at least $2. Do the math and it looks like it's too expensive to live in this world.
A light snow was falling, but turned to misty rain. This froze on the remaining snow forming an icy crust. I was very careful and did not slip. The whole state is getting freezing rain. Rafe and Sally stayed down in Portland rather than drive in these conditions. They and their friends went out for Thai food, so we know they are not suffering separation anxiety from Coburn Farm.
The cows did not mind this weather in the least. They stood outside or in the doorway much of the day. I did not see any cats or chickens outside though. The poor dogs did not even get walkies from me.
I sent off a letter to Science News in response to their December 9 story, Milk Therapy. This article describes some amazing therapeutic properties of breast-milk. The thrust of the story leaves the impression that only breast-milk contains oligosaccharides, lysozyme, etc. that could do you any good and that it being illegal to sell breast-milk, these are now to be obtained for the benefit of the world's adults through the marvels of gene splicing, perhaps in goats. I had to explain that my cow is perfectly capable of producing therapeutic milk without genetic modification. Usually they publish my letters but I was a bit slow getting this one written due to Christmas. I may have missed my chance.
January 2, 2007 Tuesday
It is above freezing today but a strong wind is blowing. This has made everything even more slippery than last night. I got back and forth to the barn OK but when I started down the back ramp with the calves' breakfast I lost my footing and went down the ramp as though it were a joy ride at a water park. Being pretty well padded, I suffered no damage apart from my pride, but the chickens ended up with the calves' corn.
Rafe and Sally got back from visiting their friends in Portland, reporting a very good time. I set Rafe right to work watering the calves and carrying in wood. I made a very successful meatloaf for supper and a fresh loaf of the NYTimes bread, which also turned out well, and a baked custard. Sally whipped up an almond cake. Her head is bothering her again.
Granddaughter Rosemary and Nate have set out from Haines driving to Fairbanks. The first challenge is to get through the pass which runs up to Canada. Driving conditions are treacherous. The Border Patrol has sent out a vehicle to lead cars through in a convoy. The pass has been impassable for several days so there is pent up traffic. It is a 13 hour drive to Fairbanks in good weather. DS Bret is going over to build a fire in Rosie and Nate's cabin so it will not be 40 below in there when they arrive.
Here is how I make meatloaf. I am kind of estimating amounts of everything.
2 slices stale bread cubed small 1 ½ cups scalded milk 2 eggs 2 tablespoons best quality tomato paste such as Amore 1 lb ground beef ½ lb breakfast sausage Salt and pepper and herbs as desired
In a large bowl, pour the hot milk over the bread and cover it. When it is well soaked break up any remaining lumps of bread. Beat in the eggs, tomato paste and seasonings. It won't need much salt because of the sausage. Stir in the meat and mix just until blended. Don't over mix.
I seasoned tonight's meatloaf by mashing garlic and fresh rosemary with olive oil in the mortar and pestle I use for making salad dressing.
In a greased flat baking pan, pat the meatloaf into a mound.
I usually surround it with chopped onions or mushrooms.
Bake it for 35 or 40 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads about 180F.
January 3, 2007 Wednesday
This was an amazingly beautiful day. The sun shone and it got up to at least 40F. I went over for the first time in three weeks and had a look at Rafe's boat works. He has built a fine set of stairs up to the deck. The inside of the hull is now scrubbed to it original white and the whole thing looks very promising. Inside his mom's little house he has set up a major workshop.
I also did a walking tour of my garden and lawn. The ground is frozen but just barely. I was able to pull up a few metal stakes I had overlooked. They had been lost among the comfrey, now collapsed. The storms blew away and otherwise mashed my little plastic tunnels over the salad greens. Had I made better tunnels I might still be getting greens. One little protected bit yielded a delicious spray of arugula.
My DD Marcia in Florida called to tell me about the huge bag of star fruit she had picked from the loaded tree of a friend. She says they grow pendulously something like a weeping mulberry. I wish I could see a tree. It so sounded so charming. She is drying some and making jam. In her own garden she has a fig tree.
Last spring I decided to take advantage of global warming and take a chance on a quince tree. I dearly love the sight of a quince tree covered in fruit and also love the things you can do with the fruit. A quince is pushing it in Zone 5 and I am Zone 4. So far my tree is doing well.
The cows stood around outside a lot of today, making clean-up easier. The stretch between the house and barn remains dangerously icy. I spread a lot of ashes.
The hens are really starting to lay. I got ten eggs today. Helen gave 1 ¼ gallons.
Sally B made a very fine rabbit pie for dinner. Rafe ate a lot.
January 4, 2007 Thursday
Yesterday Sally B hung out laundry including two sheets. The line runs out the back of the garage to a pulley on a tree in the calf paddock. The laundry was out overnight. This morning there they were, both sheets pulled down, wadded up and trampled by the calves. I guess I should be calling them steers now that Freddie passed his first birthday on January 1 and Melvin is six month old.
Sally B gave Willie a nice bath in the tub using the spray attachment. It was amazing how he just stood there unresisting. It almost seemed as though he enjoyed it. Despite being wrapped in a large bath towel he managed to shake a goodly amount of water all over the bathroom. He is now all white and fluffy. Sally sprinkled him well with diatomaceous earth and I found him a new blanket to line his tub. He sleeps in a big rubber tub, the kind that looks as though it is made of old tires.
Helen gave a scant gallon this morning. I got 10 eggs.
January 5, 2007 Friday
My granddaughter Rebecca and her husband Torsten arrived today. They are stopping here for a week on their way home to Alaska after Christmas in Denmark with his family. She is the picture of health with shining hair and rosy cheeks. She has completed her PhD work in wildlife biology. Torsten is in the same field.
I made pumpkin soup again for supper and Sally Boisvert made foccacia.
It stayed above freezing today with some drizzle. The dooryard remains slippery. While the young folks took walks and worked on the boat I indulged myself by dipping into one of my new seed catalogues. What joy to imagine the herb garden I hope to create. I used to have one out along one of my granite walls but could not keep up with its maintenance. I will have to cut out sod now if I start a new one.
The cows seemed touchy and disposed to shove each other. Emily, always low cow, shook her head at me. I shrieked at her to make my point, which was: Just because I am forking out the poops does not mean I am lowest cow and don't forget it."
My group of half grown chickens has moved in with the layers, a smart move for growing birds now that there is no foraging. But one is missing. Now there are only six.
Helen gave 1 ¼ gallons today.
Copyright © Joann S. Rogers 2006