The Heifer Diary 2007
January 6, 2007 Saturday
Very strange weather today. It rained last night and created a new layer of ice in the dooryard. Intermittently all day the sun came out only to be followed with more rain. The warm wet weather has permitted my spring to run again, an event that was greeted with general applause.
Grandson Rafe built a new box platform for my bird feeder. Sissy, my very old long haired calico cat, manages to launch herself up the pole and into the feeder. She sits in the box all day unmoving, presumably in the belief that eventually the birds will think she is just a mound of fur and will stop in to eat bird seed from between her front paws. This is the third day she has sat there. Today I think she stuck it out for 12 hours until she was soaked with rain.
With help from granddaughter Rebecca, I served dinner tonight to 12 of my nearest and dearest. I roasted two of the ducks that Max and Mitra raised. Rebecca made a huge pan of roasted vegetables almost entirely from my garden. Mitra and granddaughter Shireen have raised salad making to an art form and made us one tonight. I made the 10 egg chiffon cake from the Joy of Cooking. I served it with fruit and whipped cream. DS Martin and Amy and baby Hannah drove up from Biddeford to join us, Max and family were here of course, Rebecca and her DH Torsten, and Grandson Rafe and his friend Tony. Rafe's GF Sally had to go to a family funeral. We ate up everything except the cake before she got back, poor lamb, but she said there was a potluck after the service. Baby Hannah ate a little of everything. She especially enjoyed sucking on a duck bone and being fed whipped cream.
I was out to the barn several times today. The cows are warm and cozy and all look happy. Jasmine is bagging up noticeably and getting puffy. The calves are plump and friendly to all visitors. The chickens are not fond of the damp weather and ice. I used a ski pole to get to the barn this morning. Helen gave a mere gallon and I got 6 eggs.
January 7, 2007 Sunday
It rained all last night. The temperature this morning was 38F. Certainly not typical January weather. I understand that around Boston apple trees are in bloom. The experts tell us the ice is not safe on any Maine lakes. Rafe is not complaining, though. The mild temperature makes it more fun to work on his boat. The crew worked hard today applying insulating paint to the inside of the hull. All agreed that it was remarkable how much less cold the painted steel feels to the touch.
In the afternoon the young folks piled the dogs in the car and drove to Weld to show the camps to Rebecca and Torsten.
The cows stood outside whenever they were not eating hay. Helen gave almost 1.5 gallons this morning. I can't tell if the warm weather influences her production or what.
Rebecca made a tasty apple pie with Northern Spy apples brought from MA by Sally B. The crust was perfectly flaky with an inviting flavor. She used my lard.
Max left today for three weeks in Savannah, GA. We already miss him.
January 8, 2007 Monday
We awoke to three inches of beautiful new snow. It turned to rain before the morning was over and now we have a lot of slush. It was above freezing all day. Torsten and Rafe cleared the driveway using the Kubota bucket, then they went around behind the barn and removed the manure pile which I have been building to a considerable pyramid with daily fork loads from the Beefer Pen, the cows' run-in.
In the afternoon all four drove to Rumford and took Sally B to a chiropractor to see what might be done for her headaches. She also has numbness in her left arm. Last summer a sledgehammer fell on her head. It had been left on top of a stepladder near where she was working. She has had daily headaches ever since.
This evening the young folks went out and captured eight roosters. They plan to dress them all off tomorrow. What a job that will be. But I will like my barn a lot better without those pesky birds. Also, we will have chicken in the freezer.
January 9, 2007 Tuesday
The kids set up a work table in the garage for plucking and drawing the roosters - there were seven. Either it was a miscount or one escaped. They were all done quite soon as all four are experienced at the task. What a treat to have these birds on hand. I put them into the freezer rather than aging them which may have been a poor decision but they look fairly plump.
It was very much quieter today in the barn. Not only was there less crowing but the remaining hens and roosters were unusually subdued and a bit nervous. When I picked up eggs one hen which had been standing on the perch that runs along in front of the nests moved right away from me. Ordinarily I reach right past them without their budging an inch. I wonder if I will get a further increase in egg production. One of the problems with having too many roosters is that the hens are fearful of getting off the roosts as they get tired of being molested. Consequently they don't get enough to eat.
At dinner, both couples regaled us with accounts of caribou hunting last fall. Each couple got two caribou, the limit, hunting in separate areas of Alaska. Rafe and a friend also got a fat black bear which had been living on blueberries. Reportedly, it was delicious.
I cooked a tasty pork roast and Sally sautéed cabbage with butter and cider. Rebecca made a chocolate cheesecake.
Helen gave a bit over one gallon and I got eight eggs.
The weather continues above freezing.
January 10, 2007 Wednesday
Helen so far is maintaining production at a bit over one gallon a day. We have to be stingy with cream, which I hate. I continue to milk some from each quarter into a cup to do a taste test. I am gratified to report that the milk from all four quarters tastes good. Her mastitis appears to be gone. The quarter that was worst, gives as much as the others now. I am no longer able to detect any lingering hardness in any quarter. The place where the abscess was is totally normal, no trace remains. I got Helen over her mastitis using only herbal treatment (comfrey), vitamin C and cod liver oil, and some dietary enhancements such as apples, carrots, free choice minerals and consistent milking. A dairy would have shipped her six months ago. I started working on her in August (so far as I recall). Her poor production is largely a result of her holding up after I separated Melvin. I made matters worse by letting him back in with her after two weeks to make less work for myself at the time I had cataract surgery, hence a second period of holding up. In former lactations she was still giving at least 3.5 gallons at this point (6 months into lactation.
The young folks all went over to Max and Mitra's place today to put siding on the garage. Rafe got the boards milled by a local man who has his own stand of pine. They did not get quite finished because it has turned cold and even the men had to pop inside to warm up now and again. They all raved about the fajitas Mitra made for their lunch.
I stayed home and made braised short ribs which also got excellent reviews.
Sally's head is bothering her a lot tonight. She sees the chiropractor again tomorrow.
This was a happy day for me. For the first time since I had gum surgery on December 11 I was able to wear my denture all day and even eat meat with it in. Thank God for a large favor.
January 11, 2007 Thursday
It was down to zero this morning causing the crew to borrow coats for working outdoors on siding Max and Mitra's garage. But I heard that they were soon stripping off layers as the work and the sun warmed them up.
Sally B did not go with them as she had an appointment for an Xray of her cervical vertebrae. She learned that they are compressed and showing signs of deformation. She is feeling discouraged. She has now decided to try to get help from the State of Alaska so that she can see a real doctor.
I don't think the cold is bothering the animals at all. They look perfectly comfortable.
Two huge ravens visited the bird feeder today and a male cardinal. The ravens are so wary and have such good eyesight that if I move while watching them from inside the house they fly away.
I made tamale pie for supper, Rebecca and Torsten's last evening. It was a great success. Tamale pie used to be a popular pot luck dish back in the 50's. It has pretty much the same ingredients as lasagna but I add chipotle peppers and usually also add kernel corn. It has layers of cornmeal mush on the bottom and top with a layer of ground meat in the middle. It has the advantage over lasagna that you do not have to buy pasta.
Barn note: I have not heard one single crow from any of the remaining roosters. I think they are saying "I'm a hen, I'm a hen."
January 12, 2007 Friday
We had to bid adieu to Rebecca and Torsten today. They must return to their studies in Alaska. They are a beautiful couple and highly energetic.
Two of the remaining young roosters resumed crowing this morning, a rather tentative crow, I thought. Helen is keeping up her OAD production of something over one gallon. The steers, Melvin 6 mos. and Freddie 1 year and looking almost plump. I may be giving them more hay than they need. I am thinking about the old saying, "Have your wood and half your hay, Still in the barn on Candlemas Day." I hope to be able to say this.
Sally was feeling better today. She made the whole dinner, which including a fillet of Rafe's salmon.
January 13, 2007 Saturday
The oil pressure in the truck has been consistently low despite adding oil. Rafe took it in today for repair. The sending unit has to be replaced along with a couple of allied problems. Rafe was impressed that the mechanic either had the part or was able to get it right away so the job was done in a couple of hours. He said in Alaska one would be lucky to get the part in a week. "That's why everybody in Alaska has several vehicles", he said.
Sally's head hurt all day. DS Mark, having read in this diary that Sally is still in pain, is going to move fast to see what he can get done for her at his osteopathic med school in Biddeford.
I made two loaves of bread today, pretty standard whole wheat. I am reading a book Sally just bought called Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer. It is making me feel like I don't know a thing about bread.
I stewed up the smallest of the roosters the kids dressed off for me and was surprised how much meat there was. Rafe made chicken quesadillas with it for our dinner. But he complained that there was no dessert so Sally made fudgy brownies from Baking with Julia.
The calves love their free choice mineral mix. I just refilled their trough. I poured it out at the same time that I put out their hay and they both chose to eat mineral first. I just called in a new order today. The mix contains Organic Kelp, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Magnesium Oxide, Hydrated Sodium Aluminum Silicate, Diatomaceous Earth, Sulfur. Garlic, Dehydrated Apple Cider Vinegar, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, and Sodium Selinate.
Jasmine was always friendly but now she especially seems to crave affection. She only has a couple of more weeks to go till calving.
I just had a look at my kombucha mushroom. It definitely looks like something is going on in the jar. I have it in a wooden cupboard that sits next to the kitchen chimney and stays a bit warm. Thank you Rena!
January 14, 2007 Sunday
It snowed much of the day and did not turn to rain this time. It is right around 30F.
For some reason Helen's production was way down this morning, only ¾ gallon. The only thing I can attribute this to is a change of feed grain. The kids accidentally picked up Coarse 16 from a source in Quebec instead of the usual pelleted Vermont organic. For two days now I have merged it 50/50 with the organic. She likes the Coarse 16 because it has a lot of molasses but it will not yet be fully supported by rumen bacteria, no doubt. I don't have enough of the old grain left to merge it more slowly.
Friends of Rafe and Sally, Shane and Sarah, are visiting here from Portland. All four of them and the dogs took a long hike today over the nearest little mountain. Most of the way they had no trail, just had to make their way through slash. Sally made a nice spaghetti dinner including baguettes. I made a big bowl of whipped cream to serve over her fudgy brownies from last night.
Mark has taken a full medical history from Sally including all the medical treatment she has received. This will help them think about her case. Perhaps someone will see her. She has a lot of pain.
January 16, 2007 Tuesday
Monday morning we awoke to steadily falling snow. It continued all day and left us with about 6" of cover, the first of the year. The temperature is falling. The sun came out today but there was virtually no melting. We are told to expect it to be colder tonight, perhaps about zero. So far I have had only minor cold related difficulties. The hose I attach to fill the stock tank broke in half due to cold and had to be replaced.
The cows all need more hay in the weather. I find Jasmine standing by the hay feeder scouting out the last of it whenever I go out to feed. They are all in good shape, though.
I'm never sure how well I trust a weight tape. It seems to me that the position of the cow's head influences the reading. If her head is down her scapulas rise and make her bigger around, or such is my impression. My readings for Jasmine are as follows: 9/6/06 837 lbs 10/3/06 840 1/15/07 905
For Helen I have: 9/6/06 1013 lbs 10/3/06 1035 1/15/07 1046
Emily, her daughter, expects her first calf April 6. Helen is due September 8 if she is in calf. She has now missed two heats so it's looking good.
Jasmine is bagged up a little more each day but nothing spectacular yet.
Mark has spoken with some people at his medical school who have taken an interest in Sally's health problems. Her head is in constant pain at the site of her injury, her neck and shoulder muscles are painful, her left arm is numb and weak and her small motor control in her left hand is gone. She will see a specialist on Monday. We all feel much relieved to know that help is in the offing.
January 17, 2007 Wednesday
It was pretty cold this morning, -9F. Not like what some folks are enduring but seriously cold. I fed extra hay and grain. So far the barn water has not frozen up. The tap is wrapped with a heating pad. Helen gave less than a gallon this morning, a result of the cold I suppose.
It is hopeless to write just now because Rafe and Sally are watching Casablanca, one of my favorite movies. I have to watch it.
January 18, 2007 Thursday
Today was all about frozen water in the barn. Despite the heating pad wrapped onto the pipe a little lower down, the tap was not only frozen but burst. This was an expensive brass fitting that Martin bought for me. I guess we might as well stick with cheap stuff. Amidst a geyser of cold water I managed to get the stock tank full. Rafe went to town and bought a replacement tap and installed it tonight. I felt very grateful that the line was not frozen underground and that Rafe was here to fix it for me. The temperature has not moderated very much yet.
My first amaryllis is blooming. They are such a nice mid winter treat.
Sally B went to another chiropractic appointment today. I don't believe it did her any good, from what she said. She is sleeping poorly because of pain. I think the Monday appointment will be none too soon.
While out today on these errands, Rafe and Sally bought 10 lbs of Northern Spy apples. We all wanted to try some as Northern Spy is the name Rafe has chosen for his boat.
Sally gave Willie a bath this evening. Now he is all white and fluffy again. But he went right back to scratching fleas.
At Rafe's request I made meatloaf tonight. For the sausage component I used three locally made chorizo sausages. I served it with brown rice and peas. Here is how I do brown rice. I use short grain.
I sauté the uncooked rice in a little fat of some kind with salt and seasonings. I used Herbs de Provence. When the rice is hot and well coated with fat I pour on boiling chicken stock. I add stock at 2 to 1, for instance for one cup of rice use 2 cups of stock. I bring it back to a boil, cover it tightly and put it into my moderate Aga oven, around 275F for 45 minutes. It always comes out perfectly with every grain separate. It can be done on the top of the stove using a heavy pan and low heat.
January 19, 2007 Friday
It was not so cold today, up to 17F. Funny how a temperature like that can feel like a heat wave after a cold snap.
Rafe made me a beautifully crafted cabinet to enclose the barn water system. It is about 4' high and 20" wide and deep. There is room inside it to coil up the segment of hose needed to run over to the stock tank. It has a light inside to keep everything toasty. We are calling it the W.C. I'll bet by morning it will have cats perching on top.
Jasmine is bagging up more noticeably every day now and looks like a great pudding when she is lying down. I only bring the cows into their stanchions OAD. At that time I now give her about 2 lbs of grain, a handful of kelp, a glug of cod liver oil and a couple of carrots. She has minerals free choice and the cows are never out of hay more than long enough to chew their cuds.
As Claire has often remarked, it is so much easier to do barn clean-up when the weather is cold enough to freeze the cow plops. It takes only half the time.
I made cottage cheese by the Homestead2 method and showed Sally how to do it just in case they ever have a cow. I also have a batch of cream cheese in the works made according to AnnB's recipe. It is chilling right now.
For dinner I made Pad Thai chicken with rice noodles and one of the roosters that the kids dressed off. The sauce calls for peanut butter and garlic chili paste. We all had seconds. But perhaps it was not very authentic. Sally made a broccoli stir fry that was excellent and an apple crisp of which there is not much left.
Sally seemed to have more energy today. She took the dogs for a long walk.
January 20, 2007 Saturday
The thermometer hovered around 9F to 10F all day but there is a high wind. It feels very cold. When I threw hay down the trap door to the calves it blew right back up at me. The animals seem to be comfortable. My lovely new water system is a great convenience. I milked about 8AM. Jasmine had about an 8" string of mucus out the back, the first of any consequence.
Today seemed like a good day to do things in the house. I opened up the hide-a-bed in the music room to remove the bedding that was folded inside it. I just about managed to get the thing opened up. When it came time to close it I found that I really did not know how to do it. I have always gotten one of the guys to do it for me. I must have been a sight dancing around on the thing trying to make it fold back up. At one point while I stood on its main joint I began to slither down inside and thought I might have to yell for help. I shifted my weight the other direction and it flattened out again and I abandoned the project and waited for Rafe. I told him I was not sure if brain or brawn was required but I knew he had plenty of both. He soon had the darned thing closed up. He wanted to open it back up to show me how but I said "Never mind, as far as I care it can just stay a couch."
At evening feeding for the first time in history Jasmine did not get up to eat. She is usually first at the feeder. So after supper (a potato, sausage and egg frittata with roasted red peppers) I asked Rafe to do a late barn check. He was soon back to report that Jasmine was gone. So he and Sally both put on heavy coats and took flashlights to go look for her. They tracked her out to the pine grove where they found some fence down and Jasmine standing in the woods. Emily came along to make sure all was well, I suppose. None of the cows really knows Rafe and Sally. They were able to bring Jasmine in accompanied by Emily. She is not calving, so far at least. But she must be thinking about it. I have them all shut in now and left their light on.
January 21, 2007 Sunday
This was another cold day, right around 6F with a lot of wind. The sun was brilliant. Anywhere out of the wind was pretty nice. The wind blew the pasture gate back open and the cows again went over to the pine grove to soak up rays. Mitra and the granddaughters came by for lunch. Afterwards we walked across the pasture to take pictures of the cows. The snow made for choppy walking and our ears and noses got red but I think we got some good pictures.
I wanted one of Jasmine while still pregnant.
She is mighty wide but does not look ready to calve despite her behavior last night. I popped out to the barn at 5:30am to check on her but won't bother with that again until she looks imminent.
Grandson Rafe and GF Sally have gone down to Portland to spend the night with Mark. They took along one of Rafe's salmon fillets and I expect will make dinner. Mark warned them that he will be watching the celebrated football game. In the morning all three will go to see one of Mark's osteopathic professors who is familiar with injuries such as Sally's. We are hopeful that she will now get significant help.
January 22, 2007 Monday
The weather today was bleak with occasional flurries. The temp was right around 20F which makes for damp, penetrating cold. None of the animals spent much time outside. Jasmine lies down most of the time. For some reason Helen has become more assertive about being boss cow. She keeps making Jasmine change slots in the hay feeder. This morning Helen picked up her foot several times during milking. I began to wonder if she could be coming back into heat, although this would not conform to her pre breeding schedule. Oops! I just studied the calendar and yesterday would indeed have been the day. Drat. I was not watching closely. I will have a good look tomorrow at her posterior.
Sally and Rafe got home from Biddeford and told me all about her appointment. They liked Dr. Pelletier a lot (He is a DO). He did some joint manipulations, asked a lot of questions, told her not to take any more Ibuprofen and to give up caffeine, including tea, for at least three weeks, to take 2000 units a day of vitamin D from fish oil and to apply heat to her neck rather than ice. Mark was also in attendance although he had to miss a lecture. Sally brought along her neck X-ray which the chiropractor had said revealed bone damage. Dr. Pelletier said her neck bones were in perfect condition. Mark, who was formerly an X-ray tech, concurred entirely. Although it is not so far possible to determine what is causing Sally's arm to be numb, the doctor does not believe it is due to a head injury. Her headache may be referred pain. She is to see him again next Monday.
January 23, 2007 Tuesday
We saw some sun today and it got up to 22F. I now have the cows confined to the small barnyard so that Jasmine won't go hide in the woods to calve. I put extra bedding around in the beefer pen. She does not look ready.
There were no further hints of heat from Helen and her behavior was exemplary. This makes me all the more suspicious that she was in heat. She was bred December 3. I watched closely on Dec 24 and there was no evidence of heat then so I let down my guard.
Sally reports improvement in the function of her arm but her headache was, if anything, worse.
January 24, 2007 Wednesday
Helen has apparently decided that she has been good long enough. For the last three days she has been threatening the bucket with her foot. I have had to speak to her several times. This morning she deliberately kicked it, spilling some milk. I had only been milking about five minutes so there wasn't much and I thought she had spilled it all but I was wrong. I leapt to my feet, swung the bucket and landed it on her hip bone. This sprayed the remaining milk all over my face and down my front. A little milk goes a long way. I also screeched at her. I also explained to her that if she did not behave I was going to have her turned into 1000 lbs of hamburger. Of course I put the kicker on her immediately. Every time she even hinted at moving her foot I screeched again. I ended up with only ¾ gallon of milk. Sometimes it has turned out that she kicked because she had an injury. I could not find one today. I think she is just being crabby.
The bucket got a big dent in it from Helen's hip bone. Dear Rafe kindly took it over to his workshop and using wooden wedges on the inside, got it smoothed out.
My vet stopped by and I gave him lunch. I had a hard time thinking what to feed him on short notice. What I did was get out one of the frozen hams from Max and Mitra's pigs and cut off some slices with my band saw. This was a huge success. That ham is the best. I also made a custard.
January 25, 2007 Thursday
The weather is still cold and getting colder. I keep Willie in the house most of the time now. He has become buddies with my old long haired calico, Sissy, not noted for her good disposition. But now she and Willie snuggle in front of the Aga.
Helen and I are friends again. I did put the kicker on her just to be on the safe side as I can't spare any milk nowadays, but she was perfectly quiet and friendly.
I am feeding out a lot of hay.
Rafe decided it was too cold to work inside his steel hull boat. It is about 0F and windy. He is putting up track lights in my kitchen. This will revolutionize my vision for sure. My kitchen has never had enough light. The new lights don't match my early American theme but I am sure all the women who ever lived here would rejoice with me in being able to see what we are doing.
January 26, 2007 Friday
The day started off at -10F. It got up in the teens for awhile when the sun was out but by evening has sunk down to -10 again. This was hard on my toes and I don't think the animals are enjoying it either. A wind came up after dark and I have closed in the cows.
Rafe and Sally went to Farmington so that she could see a new massage therapist. They picked up my organic grain too. Sally seemed perkier today. She started the day by making blueberry bread for our breakfast. She reported that this therapist was much better informed and more helpful than any she has seen to date.
With persistent stripping I am managing to eke out a gallon now from Helen. The hens are not laying well in this cold. The calves, Melvin and Freddie, don't think much of the hay I am giving them but they eat it. It is a year old and was poor to begin with although not dusty. They have good shelter under the buttery and plenty of water. I have to save the better hay for the cows. The calves look good in my opinion. They are also getting a little cracked corn every day.
Rafe is still working on my new lighting. It was too cold today for him to put in any time on his boat.
January 27, 2007 Saturday
Helen gave only a half gallon this morning and I had to work hard for that. With such a deflated bag to begin with it is hard to know if she is holding up or just not making milk. Looking at the milk jar now more than 12 hours later I don't see a lot of cream so she must be holding up. There was some mooing going on from the calves although they had their hay, grain, and water. I had Rafe bring them some nicer hay so maybe that will cheer them up. Helen and all the cows have plenty of good feed. I even increased Helen's grain a bit this morning to see if that will help. If I don't see any better production in the morning I will just have to blame the cold weather. It was about -15 this morning. All through milking Helen was saying Mmmm Mmmm like something was bothering her, though.
Rafe and Sally went up to the lake to go skating but did not stay long. The surface was rough. Rafe completed the lighting system in my kitchen. I am dazzled. There are now six little spotlights which can be aimed at work areas.
I am sitting up waiting for the oil truck from Dead River. For the second time in a month they have let me run out of oil. It is about 10:30. I will have to let the driver in to bleed the line and restart the furnace.
January 29, 2007 Monday
Helen gave a little more on Sunday but not quite as much as a gallon. It was cold again, about -10.
Sally and Rafe went down to Biddeford for another appointment with the osteopath. They stayed with DS Mark and were joined by DS Martin and Amy and baby Hannah for a potluck dinner. I sent along pulled pork which was a hit. Sally made a load of bread and an apple tart. Mark made brown rice and Amy brought a salad. They had a wonderful evening. Hannah ate some of everything except the tart. For dessert she drank a glass of Helen's cream.
Pulled pork is an easy entrée. You just put a pork butt or shoulder into a crock pot or in this case in a heavy pot with a good lid, in the Aga simmer oven. I added a small amount of salt, some pepper and a bay leaf and left it undisturbed for about six hours. It formed a lot of lovely meat juice. Then I put it on a board and shredded the meat, which was tender and almost creamy. I flavored it up with a very mild sauce using a little chipotle in adobo, 2 tablespoons of chili powder, a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste dissolved in chicken stock and some cumin and coriander. Oh, and some dried epazote.
Sally and Rafe returned today and brought us dinner from a Thai restaurant in Portland. That was a treat for me.
It was cold again today, about -5F. Helen gave about ¾ gallon. Jasmine looks a little bit more ready every day but nothing dramatic. I got nine eggs.
January 30, 2007 Tuesday
Before milking I worked longer than usual cleaning and brushing Helen in hopes of getting her into a good humor. Nonetheless I put the kicker on her. I can't bear to risk losing the wee little bit of milk I am getting. Her production has been curiously erratic so I can't be sure if extra grooming did the trick or something else, but she gave a gallon this morning. Rafe and Sally have gone to Bar Harbor today to visit their friend Tony. Tony wanted badly to have some raw milk so I sent half of this morning's along with them. They drove the truck. Rafe hopes to buy a planer that he has been dickering for over the phone.
This morning Sally reported a lot less pain in her head, following her treatment yesterday with Dr. Pelletier. She was so pleased at her improvement that she made several calls in hopes of fitting in another appointment with him before they leave. She succeeded in getting squeezed in on Friday, the day before they return to Alaska.
No sooner had Rafe and Sally left then I discovered that the light had gone out in my lovely w.c. box that keeps my barn water tap and hose ice free. Something made everything on that line go out. The light bulb was dead. I replaced the bulb and reset the little breaker but it took all the rest of the day and many trips to the barn before it was finally thawed and I could fill the stock tank.
This is the day that Jasmine is due. Her vulva is amazingly puffy. Perhaps it is because she is so small, but I can't recall ever seeing one quite so puffed. Reminds me of pictures of baboons that I have seen. Her udder is not nearly as tight as it becomes with most cows just before they calve. But that is a variable trait. She could have it any time now. I made a yeasted pumpkin bread this afternoon. The recipe is from the King Arthur cookbook. They call it Jack-o-Lantern Bread. It made two lovely light loaves. The recipe called for water but of course I used milk.
January 31, 2007 Wednesday, the last day of January……..
……… and didn't it fly by? I got up at 5am so as to check on Jasmine. The cows stared at me with a "So what's this all about" look. Jasmine looked the same as last night, not really ready.
It was -6F this morning and the house was cold, 45F. The furnace had developed some problem. When I hit the reset button it lit up and the entire interior where the burner is was full of fire. It turned itself right off and I made sure it did not try to go on again by shutting off the wall switch. Then I called my furnace repair man. It took him several hours to get here. By then I had raised the temperature in the house by about 5 degrees with the woodstove. My furnace man said that running out of fuel was undoubtedly the root cause of the furnace problem.
With considerable effort I got a half gallon of milk from Helen this morning. I did extra grooming the same as yesterday. There just wasn't any more.
Rafe and Sally came home from Bar Harbor without the planer. The owner did not show up. But they had a good visit with old friends. I had a nice meatloaf waiting for them when they got home.
Around dinner time when I checked Jasmine she had some slime and her tail was more wobbly but nothing dramatic. I will go check on her now.
February 1, 2007 Thursday
Rafe checked on Jasmine during last night and she was just as I had last seen her. There wasn't much change this morning except her bag is bigger.
I don't know what to make of her this evening. Her vulva is super puffy and opening up so I can see more than an inch inside and there is a blob of thick slime emerging. This observation was while she was standing up so it was not being squished open by her posture. Yet her tailhead looks far from ready. Her appetite is good.
My grandson Rafe just read the preceding paragraph over my shoulder and said if somebody is mining the internet for porn they are in for a surprise when they find this.
It is not quite so cold today. It got up into the 20's. This meant that the Beefer Pen, the cow's run-in, was not cold enough to freeze up the manure the way it has been doing. I put around plenty of bedding.
This is Sally and Rafe's last full day. I will be driving them to the bus in Lewiston tomorrow, barring cow emergencies, in which case Mitra offered to help out. For tonight's dinner I made Rafe one of his favorite desserts, an English trifle. I made the chiffon cake from The Joy of Cooking for the sponge layers. I used frozen strawberries to make a sauce for the fruit layers. It also had custard sauce layers and whipped cream. I assembled it in my glass soufflé dish.
February 2, 2007 Friday
No calf this morning. The kids ate trifle for breakfast and spent the morning finishing up their packing. I left them off at the Lewiston bus depot. I trust that Sally made it to her doctor's appointment.
Now I have done one last cow check and closed the barn door because it is snowing and who knows, Jasmine might decide to have her baby outdoors. Jasmine's former owner warned me that she is not an attentive mother and we don't want the calf to get wet. She also told me that Jasmine had her last calf very fast and with little warning.
February 3, 2007 Saturday
Little Jasmine does not seem to be in any hurry to become a mother. She looks the same today as yesterday. Helen spends a lot of time standing next to her, lined right up with her. Jasmine spent a long time licking Helen and Helen was making the "calf moo" sound. I was hoping the calf would respond by kicking and starting things along. Jasmine has chosen to lie in the same place for two days. It is hard to keep clean. I have to pile bedding around her or catch her standing. Last night it was snowing hard and I closed her and Helen in. Emily has been sleeping outside in the lean-to so this meant she had to wait until morning for the hay bar to be open again. Today there was a strong wind with a lot of drifting. I shut them in again tonight with Emily outside. Her former owner, Sally McDonnell, called to ask about her and tells me that Jasmine is not a very attentive mother. So perhaps it is best that she does not have the option of calving out in the snow.
I started my second batch of Kombucha today. The first batch was a big hit but then I mislaid Rena's instructions. She kindly sent them again.
February 5, 2007 Monday
This morning Jasmine showed no change from yesterday. At 6PM she showed no change from this morning. At 9PM when I went to check on her a slimy heifer had just hit the ground. Jasmine was eating bits of yucky stuff that came with the calf. I don't think the afterbirth could have yet emerged. The calf is large and lively. It made several vigorous attempts to stand while I watched. Jasmine was licking it and drying it off. That always knocks a calf over. I got a good look with my flashlight and then a feel. It is definitely a heifer. Jasmine made a lot of trumpeting moos of the sort they do during labor, a sort of agonized sound. In fact I could hear this as soon as I got near the barn. I think maybe she meant these moos to sound triumphant. Anyway she is obviously an attentive mother and I am not worried about a thing.
Helen and Emily were standing by with interest and sniffed the calf. I threw down a bale of low quality hay and fluffed it up all around Jasmine, then another good bale in the feeder. It is about 2F outside and quite windy but inside the Beefer Pen it is calm and comfortable.
Jasmine's tailhead never did become very wobbly and her ligaments did not sink in much at all.
February 6, 2007 Tuesday
The calf was on her feet when I went in this morning. She appeared to have nursed. Her sides ere not caved in the way they would be if she had not had anything and one of Jasmine's teats was shiny. Jasmine is an attentive mom and had her calf well fluffed up. Still, I thought the calf was cold. I was easily able to walk her in with the others when I called them to come in for milking. She toddled around while I milked Helen. Helen gave nearly a gallon. I think I could have gotten a full gallon if I had tried longer but I was in a hurry to try to get the calf to suck while I had Jasmine in the stanchion. Although I worked for a long time I could not get it to suck. I then hand milked 1.5 quarts of colostrum.
DIL Mitra came over at 10AM. I got Jasmine back into her stanchion and we tried together to get the calf to nurse. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with its sucking reflex. She sucks like a champ on my thumb. I went back to the house and warmed up the colostrum that I got earlier and she downed this like a champ. I then milked out some more for her bottle and she took a half gallon total. We also put a red cardigan sweater on her.
Later in the day when I worked on milking Jasmine some more and helping the calf to nurse I did a little fact checking and discovered that we have a bull not a heifer. My goodness, I have not made that mistake since 1978. Oh well. I know a couple of people who will be disappointed but it does not make much difference to me especially since this is a big calf and no mini. First thing this morning I measured his chest and cannon bone. They were 28" and 6" respectively. I would guess his weight at around 50lbs but have no scales.
All our and my efforts to get the calf to nurse failed. I ended up giving him two bottles with a total of one gallon of colostrum. Funny how they can often manage a bottle but cannot figure out nursing. His sweater fell off by evening so I gave up on it. He must not be very cold or hungry. He was poking around curiously every time I looked in on him.
The cows' water tank was leaking today. The floating water heater obviously had burned a hole in it. This creates a dangerous situation so I had to do something about it. What I did was swap out the one the two steers have, a plug in tub with an internal heating coil. This all took considerable work and time. The steers are having to spend the night with no water as I could not devise a new system for them in the dark.
My goodness I am tired. Anyone who has tried to do it knows how exhausting it is to work on getting a calf to suck. That with all the extra hand milking and wash-up and dragging tubs around have me wiped out.
February 7, 2007 Wednesday
Before any other chores this morning I opened the trap door down under the buttery where the steers have their run-in and discovered that their water was running! That explained why they were not bellowing. I turned on the tap last night to see if I could water them using this alternative system and apparently did not turn it off again. There is a heat tape on the line so I guess that fact combined with a night of water pressure got it running. This was happiness. It was -20F here this morning so I was not expecting any favors from nature.
Out in the barn the calf was on his feet standing next to Jasmine and under her was a big pile of foam. Only one thing does that, a calf sucking. So I knew he had fed. I brought them all in to their stanchions and tried to milk Jasmine by hand. I got a gallon and a half from her front quarters before she had any relief from pressure but the rear teats were impossible. They were almost totally effaced. What I could get from them was measured in tablespoons. Little No-Name-Yet still acted hungry so I gave him one quart in his bottle. He immediately recognized it as a feed source and I was able to hold it for him without having to back him into a corner like yesterday.
Helen had her turn for milking second. I think she was peeved. She gave only 2 quarts. If Jasmine gets through the next few days without trouble I will probably just dry Helen off, bred or not. By this time it was 10AM. I put the cows back out and went back in the house to organize the machine.
At 12:30 I machine milked two gallons of colostrum. At 5:30 I machine milked another gallon. I gave half of it to the calf right away because he was hungry. But I could tell Jasmine was holding up her milk for the ungrateful little fellow.
There were more water problems today. Because it was so cold the hose that leads from the hot box to the cows' tub froze before I could get it unrolled and turned on.
I now have 7 quarts of colostrum frozen and more in the fridge. I made another delicious batch of cream cheese according to AnnB's directions.
February 8, 2007 Thursday
I had a nice surprise this morning. DS Martin arrived at 8AM and helped me with all the heavy lifting chores such as deploying feed into barrels. He came in his truck with a plow and did a great job on my driveway. It had not been plowed since the last storm and had drifts and a berm across the front. He was up this way to attend board meetings at his alma mater, Gould Academy. He offered to bring dinner back here, an offer I did not hesitate to accept.
Jasmine was bright and healthy this morning as usual. She is trying to be an attentive mother to her new son, Wesley, but he seems to have abandoned all ideas of nursing. I am pouring him a bottle of colostrum at milking time and also took him a noon bottle, 1.5 gallons total. He is strong and vigorous and friendly to everyone. His Aunties, Helen and Emily are good to him too. Jasmine is holding up a bit, more this morning than this evening.
Because it has been so very cold and windy, hardly above zero, I have been keeping the cows shut in for the sake of Wesley. This morning I opened their door so a little sun could come in but I don't think any of them bothered to go out. I have also been leaving their light on until tonight. Their new water system is working out well although for three cows I have to fill it three times a day.
Martin brought barbeque from a man with a truck by the side of the road. The man had been cook at a restaurant in Portland that burned and was also a blues guitarist. His bbq was excellent. We had an impromptu party. This was the day my DD Sally arrived from Alaska. DIL Mitra drove her all the way here from Bangor. So we had Mitra and the girls, Shireen and Roshan too. Fortunately through the magic of cell phones Martin had bought plenty of dinner.
Jasmine gave 3.5 gallons of colostrum today. She still has considerable engorgement. I skipped milking Helen because I wanted to get back to the house and help Martin get some breakfast.
February 9, 2007 Friday
Today seemed so long that I can barely remember back to the beginning. DS Martin stayed overnight. He asked to be awakened at 5am to he could go to more meetings. When I went in and pinched his toe he said, "Mom, would you mind calling me at a quarter to six?" So I went downstairs and made tea and coffee well before sunrise.
DD Sally came downstairs much earlier than I expected when you consider that Alaska is four hours earlier. She was up by 7am which was 3am by Alaska time. She was a huge help with chores. Everything was done by 9:30 including all the washing up. It has been taking me at least an hour longer.
I then set out on errands leaving her to do the midday animal care. Everything went perfectly except the water system for the steers is frozen again.
In the late afternoon DIL Amy stopped in with baby Hannah. When we started talking about her daddy, her resemblance to him and other such universal topics, she clearly said Dada a number of times. Right now she is 10 months old. Of course I thought she was quite clever.
Amy brought me a plastic utility sled from Wal-Mart. It has nice high sides and is wide enough for the milking machine. Willie, my West Highland terrier, grabbed it by the rope and towed it far across the snow by the time Sally was able to call him back.
Mitra located a farm near her where the farmer is willing to sell three good round bales. Martin is going tomorrow to get them for me. I am thrilled. I have been quoting often: Half your wood and half your hay Should be in the barn on Candlemas Day
That was last Friday. I definitely have used up more than half my hay so getting these bales is a blessing.
Jasmine gave five gallons today. It is beginning to taste pretty good although the cream is still bright yellow.
Wesley remains healthy and sparkly. He went outside today.
February 10, 2007 Saturday
Cows are all still doing fine. Jasmine gave over 5 gallons and Wesley had three bottles. Martin and two friends went over to New Sharon where Mitra and Max live and bought me three big round bales of hay from a dairy farmer. Martin has a little trailer that pulls his snowmobile. That held one bale and the other two fit in his truck bed. He put one bale right in with the cows and they went for it. The other two are outside on pallets.
Then we all convened here for dinner. That included DS Martin, DIL Amy, baby Hannah and three of their friends who are with them this weekend at camp. Also we had Mitra and the girls. I made a lamb curry and brown rice pilaf and there were plenty of other nice things brought by others. Hannah fed herself handfuls of brown rice and lamb, also cottage cheese. She picks up her sippy cup and drinks from it unassisted. In fact she clearly finds assistance annoying.
It was not quite so cold today. It was about 17F with little wind.
February 11, 2007 Sunday
It got up to22F today and the sun shone much of the day. DD Sally managed to winkle me out of the house and we and the dogs walked to the river. We had the goal of seeing if any berries remained on the barberry bushes that grow wild down there. Answer: not a single berry left. The small birds can get in among the thorns and eat the berries. The snow is about a foot deep. It was funny to see Willie hopping like a rabbit to make himself a trail.
The cows love their new round bale. Sally snipped out the strings and put some stock fencing wire around it. Martin stopped in on his way home and covered the ones outdoors with tarp.
DIL Amy visited a few minutes on her way home and Hannah had a nice snack of fresh milk and banana. I had an organic banana and cut off more and more little pieces for her until she had finally eaten the entire thing. She picked up the pieces with alternate hands and popped them in her mouth. Whenever she ran out of banana she slapped her palms on the table to demand more. Every time she heard the word "milk" it reminded her of it and she reached for the glass. It was fun watching her enthusiasm. Her cheeks are a fine shade of pink. To me, babies are a great deal more fascinating than discussing establishment of outposts on the moon.
Helen has a terrible limp favoring her left front foot. I was unable to pick up her foot. Her ankle is not hot and she did not flinch when I tapped here and there around her foot. There is no stink. I will try again tomorrow to figure it out. Perhaps she stubbed her toe on one of the frozen lumps all over their floor or slipped somewhere on ice.
Jasmine gave a bit over 5 gallons of milk today. Helen gave her usual 3 quarts. Sally is milking her.
February 12, 2007 Monday
Helen is still on OAD and Sally is milking her. She has consistently been giving three quarts. This morning she gave about a gallon. I don't know whether this could be a response to the round bale in there providing all they could eat all night. Or maybe it was the sunflower seeds I have been sprouting. I gave both cows a quart measure of them yesterday. These are black sunflower seeds that I sprouted in the kitchen in a big colander. All I did was spray water through them a few times a day.
I guess it won't come as a huge surprise that this afternoon Wesley worked out where milk really comes from. When Sally offered him his evening bottle he did not finish it. He did not look sick. One of Jasmine's front quarters was less than full. And I had the distinct impression with the machine that Jasmine was not letting down. So there it is. No more bottles. I took a last look at the cows a few minutes after they were all back out in the Beefer Pen. There was Wesley prancing around and nursing. I thought Jasmine was looking pretty smug.
February 13, 2007 Tuesday
Following the first full day with Wesley ad lib on Jasmine, she was down two gallons. Since we had been giving him 1.5 gal. by bottle that means he took an extra half gallon. He sure is frisky and no sign of scours.
The first of my group of milk customers returned today and bought two gallons. Sally made our first batch of butter. Some of the cream was from colostrum and the butter is bright yellow.
We have been told to expect a lot of snow tonight. It is still around zero F.
February 14, 2007 Wednesday
Sometimes it takes all day just to get through the day, as I am wont to say at times like this when just carrying wood to keep the fires going, watering the animals and getting through the basics leaves no time for anything else. When we got up it was snowing hard and has not stopped yet. We got about a foot today and were told to expect another foot by morning. We had to carry water for the steers, Freddie and Melvin.
I did manage to make a batch of cottage cheese and an out-of-season fruitcake. This recipe is virtually all dried fruit held together with applesauce and makes a great snack. I thought Sally and I should have some.
For some unknown reason my pulsator would not work tonight. I bought it new within the year and this is the first time it has let me down. It was discouraging to confront a stuffed cow with 1 inch long hind teats during a blizzard. Fortunately I keep a standby bucket in the barn for such emergencies so did not have to flounder back to the house in the dark for one. Jasmine was a great little sport about standing for hand milking for which I was grateful especially since she favored me with two plops and had filthy feet, having stepped back into them. All the animals are snug and warm and so far we have not lost power. Sally filled several things with water for domestic purposes but there is no way to run water for the cows without electricity and no way to store enough for even one day.
Sally and I were wondering how we would get plowed out. DS Martin thought that between us we could master plowing with my pickup that has a plow blade. Sally met this suggestion with a blank stare and this is a woman who is rarely daunted by anything. She thought this was too much snow for a learning experience. Consequently we were much pleased when a neighbor, Ted Flagg who has plowed for me in the past showed up unbidden well after dark and began plowing. We fell all over ourselves trying to pay him but he said to wait until tomorrow when he would be back to plow what falls during the night.
February 15, 2007 Thursday
More snow did indeed fall during the night and there was a high wind that caused deep drifting. It was about 9F. I had to milk by hand again and it took over 40 minutes. I lost track of time. There was probably some milk left in Jasmine from last night because when milking takes that long the cow tends to stop letting down. Besides being short, Jasmine's back teats sprout right next to each other so there is no room for both hands on the hind teats at the same time even with two finger milking. Once again she remained very quiet for the whole procedure apart from making more plops. These freeze onto the floor before I can get them up even though I maintain a layer of shavings. If for no other reason than cleaning the barn I look forward to a thaw. The weatherman is not offering any hope for the near future. A great drift in front of the barn was above Sally's 20" boots, which I had borrowed, my boots being short. The drift outside the kitchen window is halfway up the sash.
Thinking that very possibly the problem was in the vacuum pump, not the pulsator, and more than likely involved freezing, I set up a heater with a blower and left it aimed at the pump all day. It has been much colder than this without affecting the pump but neither has there been any wind such as we are having. Snow sifted into the barn through every crack. Martin suggested I loosen up the ports on top of the pump and when these could not be budged even with pliers I knew ice was involved. About 3:30 this afternoon I tried the pump again and instead of making an ominous Nnn it actually ran. What joy! At milking time I brought a nice warm milking machine out wrapped in a big towel. I had warmed it for two hours on the Aga. I did not think the pump sounded quite normal but it performed its mission.
I started my first cheese of the year today and made another batch of cottage cheese to freeze. Sally is finishing up a churn of butter now at 9PM.
February 16, 2007 Friday The wind continues and the drifts are building but the vacuum pump is behaving so long as I go out early and direct the little space heater onto it.
Jasmine is not so far giving me a problem with holding up her milk. She is giving 4 gallons on top of what the calf takes. He will be taking not less than 1.5 gallons, probably more. I make sure she has hay and water at all times. I always do this in any case but it is an extra challenge now because the tub I am using is marginal for the requirements of three cows. I believe we filled it four times today, if not five.
Helen has been limping, as I mentioned a few days ago. I have not been able to identify the cause but she is somewhat better.
Sally and I took advantage of being plowed out and went shopping today. We both love the thrift shop. She found some nice shirts and full size flannel sheets. I found a couple of good German glass mugs. Kitchen stuff is my weakness.
For dinner I served one of the cockerels that grandson Rafe and gf Sally B dressed off for me last month. I made a cream sauce for it. We also had Brussels sprouts, which Sally loves and never gets in Haines.
DS Max has been working out of town ever since New Year's Day, mostly in Savannah, GA. Mitra picks him up tomorrow at the airport. He will be back with his family for a week. Of course I have a few things for him to do around here too.
February 17, 2007 Saturday
Huzzah! The weather eased off a bit. It got up to about 20F. It sure is less tiring. DD Sally and I put on lunch for DIL Mitra and DS Max who is home for a week from his job in Savannah. He has a dark suntan. He has been eating out every day and was in the mood to enjoy home cooking. I made a small pork rib roast. With it I served brown rice cooked in chicken stock, golden cauliflower and sliced tomatoes. I would ordinarily not buy tomatoes in winter as a matter of principle but these came from a large new greenhouse operation quite close by. They weren't bad.
After lunch everybody went out and visited the cows. Young Wesley was cavorting around like crazy. His mom wishes he would stop. She moos at him to settle down. I weight taped him this morning at 103 lbs. I guestimated his birth weight at 50 lbs 10 days ago. I don't know how accurate the tape is on a young calf but in any case he is growing fast.
Jasmine was irritable this evening and twice kicked at the machine or perhaps at my arm. She did not make contact and I spoke sharply to her. She did not let down very well. Either she is starting to hold up for Wesley or she is coming into heat.
February 18, 2007 Sunday
Neither Sally nor I observed any real signs of heat in Jasmine but there was more slime today. Most likely she was in heat.
My friend Kelly and her family stopped in this morning. She has finally found a good learning situation for her oldest daughter who is dyslexic. Sarah, 8, now looks poised and happy. Kelly grew up on raw milk and loves it. Now all the family does. The three kids had a great time sliding down the giant snow piles left from plowing my driveway and yard.
Later DS Max and his girls Shireen and Roshan came over. Max used the Kubota bucket to remove tons of snow from in front of my truck, my daughter in Florida's Jeep and the double barn doors in front of the Beefer Pen. Then he moved another round bale inside for the cows. They like those bales. Wesley was lined right up with the others, eating.
The girls spent a couple of hours playing on the snow piles. Willie got to play with all the children and had a lot of fun.
I just took from the oven the King Cake from the King Arthur Baker's Catalogue. This time it turned out better than the first time. It is a showy ring shaped yeast raised cake with a tunnel of cream cheese filling. It is meant to be for Mardi Gras. It is still too hot to eat.
The vacuum pump has continued to give trouble and tonight the pulsator itself was dragging. We finally figured out how water has been entering the system. Sally has been doing the wash-up and submerging the cups. Water is able to enter the little ports where the small vacuum hoses attach to the shells. This will probably make sense to anybody with a Surge. Hopefully now things will take a turn for the better.
Besides feeding Wesley, Jasmine gave 4.5 gallons today.
February 20, 2007 Tuesday
The weather continues bitterly cold. There has been no sun today and the sky is low and full of snow. The light bulb inside my w.c. that houses my barn water tap and hose had shifted against the plastic cage on the trouble light, burned its way through, and zapped itself. There was no sign of scorching in there. It just went cold and froze the hose. It was some hours until we were able to water the cows. It is running again this afternoon. The tub I am using has an internal heating coil and is an excellent design but is not big enough. It has to be refilled three or more times a day. DD Marcia in FL offered to buy me a new large galvanized tub and Max has located one at the Farmer's Union. He is on the way over with it now. Hurrah!
My vet stopped in and I gave him lunch. I had some tuna steaks in the freezer, also was able to contrive strawberry shortcake with leftover King Cake, some strawberry sauce and plenty of whipped cream. This was fun.
Later: Max arrived with the new stock tank and some badly needed feed just as we finished milking. Much to the surprise of us all, himself included, he was able to chip loose the old tub thus creating a position for the new one. At this point I realized that the submersible water heater was frozen into a tub under the buttery, relic of a failed watering effort down there. Sally and Max combined their efforts to carry this tub up through the steers' trap door. The tub and embedded heating unit is now in the kitchen where I plugged in the trailing end of the heater. It is now trying to cook its way out.
February 21, 2007 Wednesday
At last today was much warmer. It reached 25F and the sun shone all day. Sadly, I had to spend all day in the house trying to restore the dial-up connection on my computer. About 4:30 I finally identified the problem, a faulty wire. By then it was nearly time to go to the barn.
Jasmine was very good. She has been pooping every time I put the machine on causing me to have to go for paper towels to get the splashes off of the machine and also making me go around with a shovel to clean up. This morning I barked at her about it and tonight I tapped her sharply on the tailhead before sitting down. I instructed her not to poop. I guess she understood. There was no mess. She gave 4.5 gallons today besides feeding Wesley. He is growing so fast. This morning Sally had to let out his collar.
The new galvanized water tub is very satisfactory. This morning I was able to free the floating water heater from the surrounding ice lump and get it installed in the new tub. The cows did not drink a great deal of water today. Animals are always suspicious of an unfamiliar water source.
Emily is bagging up and looking very round.
February 22, 2007 Thursday
A very nice lady who is also a KFC forum member came with a friend today to look at Emily. She decided to buy her. I am so happy that Emily will have a good home where she gets to graze and is appreciated. Let's hope Emily does not take too long to develop good dairy manners. Sally works with her every day to accept handling of her udder. I will write more soon about Emily and her new home.
Both ladies have children but only one baby came along. We hope next time that more children will come. We had a light lunch of chicken soup.
Later on Max and the girls stopped in. They had been tubing at Black Mountain, a nearby ski resort. For those who may wonder, tubing is sliding down a prepared trail in an inner tube.
While Max was here Willie, my West Highland terrier just one year old, climbed up on the couch and swiped a pin cushion. He dismembered it on the rug. We were able to find only two of the three needles that were in it. The missing one is an upholstery needle which is dull at both ends. Nevertheless we will be worried until we find it.
February 23, 2007 Friday
Emily's new owner is MooMaine, Cara L of Washington, ME. Her friend Lauren and Lauren's baby Royal accompanied her. What a pleasure it was to meet a forum member and for it to result in a new home for Emily. We are all so happy about this. Transportation is a problem as I have no stock trailer and neither does Cara. Surely some answer to this will emerge.
Emily waved her leg around while Cara was inspecting her. But today Sally made a point of feeling her udder and Emily didn't stir. Hopefully she will settle down for Cara. She is still pretty heiferish. But she is only just two years old right now. I had her bred last summer because she was well over Jersey weight. I taped her last night at 1076 lbs which was exactly the same as Helen.
While going through the Heifer Diary to establish Emily's date of birth I came across an entry about Helen limping just as I have been writing about recently. At that time I determined that the pain was in her shoulder. It must be arthritis. I have started her on cod liver oil again.
My new stock tank is a tremendous improvement. It is so much easier to get the hose into besides needing to be topped up only once a day. The former tub had only a 16 gallon capacity and often had to be filled three times a day.
Sally and I went out today on errands and stopped at St. Theresa's Parish Free Store in nearby Mexico ME. We scored a serviceable food processor for Sally. The brand is Regal. What fun.
It remains almost as cold. The wind is too fierce for walking.
February 24, 2007 Saturday
Sally and I are sick of this weather. Every morning the thermometer hovers around zero. The last couple of days it has been sunny and the temp got up to 20F but there is such a strong cold wind blowing that being outside does not appeal. As soon as the weather mellows a bit I will open up the gate and let Freddie and Melvin, the steers, merge with the cows. I have been waiting until Jasmine calved, the calf's gotten big enough to hold his own, and I got a bigger water tub. All those conditions are met but in this weather the cows will not go out even with their door open. They don't like cold wind any better than we do. The clean-up gets out of hand when they stay inside all day.
Jasmine gave 5.5 gallons today besides feeding Wesley. So far she is not losing weight but probably will if this keeps up. I believe that tomorrow I will increase her grain a little bit. I would be glad for her to ease off a bit in production but at this stage of lactation and with a calf on her she will keep on producing irrespective of feed level and get too thin. The sucking of the calf compels milk production. In a few more weeks I will separate them at night.
Helen is giving a solid gallon a day.
I made gingerbread today and whipped a big bowl of cream to go with it. Sally and I stuffed ourselves with it.
I made a cheese today. It is my third. I did not get it into the press until 1:30. I am also making cottage cheese nearly every day and freezing it. Sally has been making butter. Not all of my customers have trickled back. Six gallons of milk a day is a rare challenge, temporary I hope.
February 25, 2007 Sunday
One of my goofy steers, Melvin, hopped over into the restricted area from where we feed them and could not figure out how to get out again. He had to spend all day there. Sally went down and removed part of the barrier but he still just stood there unhappily. I went down about sundown and pushed him around into the right position for hopping out. I could tell he wanted to but still he just stood there. Finally Sally went down and tried again and at last he hopped out. He was awfully thirsty. Both steers love getting in there because it is cozy with spilled hay. Grandson Rafe reinforced the fence repeatedly, higher each time.
Sally is making a point of handling Emily's udder in hopes she will not overly object to milking. She reports that Emily allowed her udder to be patted from both sides with no kicking.
I made another batch of cottage cheese today and two loaves of herb bread. We had it for supper with soup.
The weather today was much improved. The wind died down, the sun was bright and it got up to 28F.
February 26, 2007 Monday
It started out near zero again today but the sun shone and by midday it was up in the 20's. I don't think winter is going to be able to hold out forever against the longer days. I expect those with taps got a good flow today from their maple trees.
It was warm enough for me and Sally to go into the attic. Sally reapplied colored paper to the rose window in the gable. We looked at old pictures and Sally swept up spiders and flies.
We took a walk across the bridge to a neighboring property where the folks have just opened a new little general store. It is bright and fresh and I hope they do well. I will try to pop in for extras whenever I can. I bought a handsome pair of cobalt blue glass mugs. They said they will sell my eggs. Hurrah!
I took my first cheese down in the cellar to store. I hang my cheese from the ceiling in onion bags. Darned if there wasn't another left from last year hanging there! I brought it up and tried it. Not bad at all. It was 13 months old.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons today. Wesley is getting a bigger share all the time. My goodness but he is growing. He is wonderfully plushy and bouncy and so curious about everything. I must soon arrange for that little operation, though.
Sally made us a world class rabbit pie for dinner. It was full of nice gravy and vegetables and the biscuit topping was made with our own lard.
February 28, 2007 Wednesday
This morning started out around zero again but the sun shone brightly and it soon warmed up. Sally and I took an excursion to Farmington where I bought grain, went to the health food store, and we met Mitra for lunch. It was a very nice day. It is such a relief to have the large new stock tank so that I don't have to worry that the cows may run out of water. Also, because it was above freezing, we didn't worry about leaving the dogs chained.
Speaking of chained, the last two nights I have experimented with allowing Willie to run free in the house. I had been keeping him on a leash in a warm spot. I am happy to report that he "held it" all night.
Sally found a nest with 20 eggs in the hay mow. Most were frozen.
March 1, 2007 Thursday Maine cannot seem to get over being cold. It was 3F again this morning but with bright sun it got up to 30F at one point.
Sally put in a lot of time organizing my tools in the buttery, a long overdue task.
I hard boiled all the eggs from the nest in the hay mow and Sally peeled them. The chickens are going to have them.
I made another hard cheese and two more lbs of cottage cheese.
March 2, 2007 Friday
It started to snow at 6:30 this morning and came down hard all day. Now at 8:30 it appears to be slowing down. We got pretty close to a foot. My neighbor that plows came after supper and plowed us out.
Martin had planned to come today with a trailer and move Emily to Cara's farm but the weather was too bad. Nearer to the coast they had freezing rain. Schools everywhere were cancelled, even Mark's med school. He now plans to come tomorrow and bring along DIL Amy and baby Hannah and spend the night at camp. He will also pick up DS Max who will be arriving home from Savannah. I don't know if he will load and drive Emily tomorrow or leave her until Sunday when the weather is supposed to improve.
We got news today that Sally's son Gabriel is coming here for spring break. He is a grad student in Bloomington IN. How wonderful it will be to see him. He is the one who learned Kazakh so that he could go study Middle Eastern anthropology in Kazakhstan.
For the last few days Jasmine has given about four gallons. Wesley obviously gets the rest. He is getting well filled out hips and shoulders. Sally continues to milk Helen OAD and she has worked up now to over a gallon. I don't have very many customers so most days I have to make some kind of cheese. The chickens are getting lots of clabber and I am cooking up oatmeal for them with whey.
March 3, 2007 Saturday
Martin arrived about 2pm bringing Max who he picked up at the airport. DIL Amy decided not to come because it was just too much driving for baby Hannah. Martin brought a borrowed stock trailer packed with three more round bales purchased from the farmer who owns the trailer.
Mitra and the girls were slightly delayed in their arrival by a dramatic event amongst the chickens which occurred as they were about to leave home. The rooster made awful alarm sounds and Mitra looked out to see an enormous bird swooping down on a hen. She ran out to chase it off which it reluctantly did but not before mauling the hen. She said it was the biggest bird she had ever seen. From her description it was almost certainly a juvenile bald eagle. The hen survived.
For lunch I baked one of Max and Mitra's hams and Mitra brought the bread so that the hungry travelers could have sandwiches. I also made cole slaw and warmed up an oatmeal date cake that I made yesterday and accompanied it with a big bowl of whipped cream. That ham sure is a treat.
Martin decided it would be a lot more efficient to deliver Emily to her new owners tomorrow so that he can proceed directly home from there. After lunch he and Max moved a lot of snow using the Kubota and Martin's truck, which has a big plow. They put one of the new bales in with the cows. It was greeted with enthusiasm. The weather turned worse with sleet falling but Shireen and Roshan spent a good two hours outside anyway building a large and elegantly classic snowman. They came in soaking wet.
I roasted a duck for Martin, Sally and myself for dinner. We all love duck. This was one of the ducks Mitra raised last summer. I served it with beets, brown rice pilaf and stewed apples.
March 4, 2007 Sunday
The weather today was fine for moving Emily. Loading her went as smoothly as anyone could hope for. Using the Kubota bucket for just a little more snow removal from the barn door of the Beefer Pen (where the cows hang out) enabled Martin to back the trailer right up to the deep bedding. Sally forked a pile of bedding to make a bit of ramp. All the cows except Emily remained in the other part of the barn in their tie-ups and Martin stood back out of the way. Sally tempted Emily forward with a pan of grain while I rubbed her tailhead in what I hoped was a soothing fashion. Pretty soon Emily hopped aboard and Sally advanced to the front of the trailer with the grain. I followed and snapped shut the half way door. I'm sure this whole ploy was assisted by the fact that Emily, being only four weeks from her due date, is ravenously hungry. Sally was then trapped in the front of the trailer with Emily until Martin went around and opened the escape door. Following Lee Anne's recommendation, we did not tie Emily up, just left her in there with a bale of her favorite hay. Martin stopped after about an hour of driving and reported that Emily was lying down comfortably.
At Cara's house they had everything arranged for Martin to back up to the barn and Martin said that Emily walked right into her new stall. I understand that she is to remain confined until after she calves.
After Martin left with the trailer Sally opened the gate permitting the yearling steers, Freddie and Melvin, to merge back in with the cows. They lost no time getting reacquainted and having lunch on the new round bale. Helen and little Wesley then explored the steer's paddock which got Jasmine all annoyed because she couldn't see him. Pretty soon everybody was back under the buttery probing the possibilities. Helen made a dive for the steers' salt block which makes me wonder if hers in the barn has fallen out of sight when I was not paying attention.
March 5, 2007 Monday
Helen's salt was right where it belongs. She just thought the boys' salt tasted better.
Sally and I went to Rumford on errands this morning and picked up a half gallon of our milk from a drop off point. It was 15 days old. The customer had never come for it. It still tasted perfect. It had been well refrigerated but I still think this is a pretty good tribute to our practices.
Emily's new owner, Cara, says she is being a sweetie pie and they love her. This makes me very happy.
Now that we have merged the cows and calves (Freddie and Melvin), Sally reports having a rodeo every time she cleans out. She does the clean-up while Helen and Jasmine are in their stanchions but the fellas including Wesley take the occasion to run circles around the hay feeder. She has to be quick to get past them with the fork. As soon as I can get some more collars she will train them to stand in position to be tied up and get a snack.
One of our gardening books says that grated orange peel kills fleas. There isn't a big flea problem at present but Willie still scratches a bit. We picked up oranges today and Sally grated some peel and put it right on Willie. He seemed offended. He said it was not his favorite scent, just not Me, he said, plus it turned him orange. I will report on its efficacy as occasion warrants.
March 6, 2007 Tuesday
There is not much to write about today except the weather. It is well below zero with a wind howling in gusts of probably 40 mph. One has to force oneself to go out for an armload of wood. Even the dogs didn't want to stay out any more time than it takes to pee. The cows are very comfortable in the barn with their round bale and plenty of water. But I got a lot of frozen eggs and the chickens' clabber froze before they could eat it. On the radio they said it was the coldest March 6 on record.
A new customer was asking about how to make butter. She arrived just as Sally was starting the churn so she got to see a full demonstration. The cream had been sitting all day in the churn and was at 62F so the butter arrived quickly.
Jasmine's production dropped to 3 ½ gallons today. Greedy Wesley takes more every day. It will not be long before I start separating him at night.
I started another cheese.
March 7, 2007 Wednesday
The weather continues to dominate the day. This morning it was -20F with considerable wind. I took clabber and other goodies to the chickens twice but in both instances it froze before they ate much. I feel like I am not getting much done. The wind seems to drain the energy out of me. Sally is as busy as ever. She has finished two pieces on her loom and is nearly done with a lovely and complex handspun knitted hat. Most of the wool is also hand dyed.
The cows finished off the round bale that Martin and Max installed last Saturday afternoon. It lasted through midday today, four days. The last one they had lasted 5 ½ days. There are four now eating, Helen, Jasmine, Freddie and Melvin, whereas before it was Helen, Jasmine and Emily. Emily, being bigger than Freddie and pregnant would, I should have thought, eaten as much as two steers. Either that is a mistaken surmise or the bale did not weigh as much.
We are going through the wood pretty fast. Unless the cold eases up I will need somebody to saw up some more logs.
Sally made two loaves of bread today and I made duck soup with the rack from last Saturday night.
Leaving Willie loose at night didn't work out after all so I started putting him on his leash again to sleep in a spot near the stove. Last night when he saw I was ready to go up to bed he went over and waited in his spot. It was so cute. When tied up he never has an accident.
March 8, 2007 Thursday
It was even colder today than yesterday. At dawn it was -25F and the high for the day was zero. The wind has not let up. The hose for watering the cows stays warm in the warm water closet but it started to freeze during the minute it took me to unroll it, jam it into the tank and turn on the tap. Immediate vigorous shaking got it going. The cows remain contented. I put down an extra bale of hay. The chickens are miserable. Six gallons of milk in the fridge in the breezeway froze.
DIL Mitra came today for milk and joined us for lunch. I served soup and bread and DD Sally made an apple crisp. We had lots of fun chatting.
Jasmine gave four gallons today. Helen continues to give one gallon or a little more.
March 9, 2007 Friday
At last it has warmed up a bit. It was above zero at dawn, reached 30F by noon and is now 17F after dark. What a relief to all.
Cara Lewis, Emily's new owner, wrote again to say that Emily is friendly and her little daughter Megan is able to brush her all over. I am happy to hear this although not really surprised since I know Emily is intelligent and good natured. She just hasn't had much training.
The new little store near us took another two dozen of my eggs today and a milk customer bought a dozen. I am so pleased not to have them piling up. They are wonderful eggs.
I made another big batch of cottage cheese and froze 16 pints of stock, some duck and some pork.
Sally made a pan of date bars and a pan of biscuits and froze them for guests we expect on Monday. She also went through a lot of clothing, curtains and bedding to see what needed to be repaired, stored or gotten rid of.
For dinner I made a casserole of fried eggplant in a tomato and cheese sauce.
March 10, 2007 Saturday
It felt like a tropical holiday today with the thermometer above 30F and the eves all drizzling. Sally washed the windows in the buttery. It has two great long windows with many panes and French doors. She has everything tidied out there and has been waiting for a mild day to get at the windows.
Max, Mitra, Shireen and Roshan all came over for lunch after soccer. I asked Shireen to stand back to back with me. As I suspected, she is taller now than I am. Max moved a round bale into the hay feeder using the Kubota spike. He also put a chain on one of the tree length logs stacked for firewood, dragged it out and sawed it into stove lengths. We are to pick up Gabe, Sally's son, tomorrow at the airport. Perhaps he will be looking for wood to chop.
I gave everybody lunch. They ate the other half of the eggplant parmesan from last night, cole slaw, cottage cheese and hot pasta salad. I was in a great hurry to get the food on the table as the girls were ravenous after soccer and had to invent a fast dressing for the pasta. I heated a cup of cream to boiling and stirred in two tablespoons of honey mustard. I must say, this made a tasty dressing. I also added the rest of the queso blanco and a couple of hard boiled duck eggs, still hot.
Sally made a blueberry pie using local berries that I froze last summer and our own lard in the crust. All of it was eaten including every crumb of the crust.
Jasmine is getting hard to keep clean now that the temperature has eased up. Their deep bedding has begun to ooze here and there.
Sally thinks she saw Wesley nursing on Helen today, not that it really matters. Wesley also eats the Healthy Mineral mixture.
The hens dropped way off on laying during the cold spell. I only got five eggs today.
March 11, 2007 Sunday
Today I got only three eggs. Once egg production drops I find it takes a while to recover. I have known a three week lag. But surely with the longer days working in favor of laying they will pick up fast. It was mild again today. I was not here to look after them, though.
Sally and I drove to Portland to pick up Gabe. Last night was the time change (Spring forward) so we were playing catch-up with our schedule. Then we had to wait an extra hour at the airport because his plane was late. Fortunately I had put a beef shank and vegetables in the Aga last night. It was ready this morning so for supper I only needed to make the mashed potatoes and gravy. Dear Gabe was awfully hungry. I don't think he gets enough to eat in Bloomington, IN.
With their round bale and stock tank the cows were happy. It was sunny much of the day and we could see where the cows had been marching around forming new trails in the snow.
Cara sent pictures of Emily in her new digs. She looks perfectly contented.
March 12, 2007 Monday
Sally and I laid on a nice lunch for her friend from Alaska. I made chicken soup again and we had the biscuits Sally made on Saturday and froze. She makes a great biscuit. I added a jar of capers to Saturday's pasta salad. For dessert we had Sally's date bars with whipped cream. Sally went to a lot of trouble with the table setting, ironing linens and rousing out some of my nice china that mostly pines away in the cupboards. It looked lovely. I was able to pick some blooms off of the heliotrope that I am wintering over for a little centerpiece. Through some miracle of coordination we got the house tidy enough so that Sally could show her friend both upstairs and down. She even showed her the cellar which was in fact not cleaned. But my cellar always amazes people, tidy or not. It is walled with huge blocks of granite and has granite supports for the chimneys that look like Stonehenge.
Before lunch Sally and Gabe went with her friend to visit the Weld cemetery. Somewhat to my surprise because of the heavy snow cover, they were able to find the Jones family plots.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons today. Helen is up to 1 ¼.
March 13, 2007 Tuesday
We thought we had better take advantage of another day of somewhat spring-like weather to go to Farmington. Gabe wanted to go to the bookstore. I needed to buy supplies. Sally and Gabe both hoped to borrow snowshoes from Mitra's family and we all wanted Mitra to join us for lunch again. We did all of the above and had lots of fun. I popped into Reny's discount store and bought six milk tumblers. It was borne in upon me when we set the table for our lunch yesterday that I don't have two alike of any drinking glass. I found some handsome blue ones for .99 each.
Back home, Gabe lost no time in putting on the snowshoes and going for a walk.
My DS (sister) in California is lightening ship in preparation for moving to a smaller place next year. I arranged for her to send me one of her Western saddles. It arrived today, a fine looking tooled leather saddle with matching breastplate. The cinch has a fleece lining and she included a whole fleece for it to sit on. What a fine sight it is. Lee Anne has instructed me in how to clean and oil it. It does not have any damage that I can see but is rather dry.
Jasmine gave barely 1 ½ gallon this evening for a total of 3 gallons. The rest of those gallons are hopping around throwing his feet in the air. The refrigerator is stuffed with milk so I might as well let him enjoy it a bit longer. Helen is giving over a gallon OAD so it adds up.
I did a small pork roast tonight and baked a tasty winter squash that was given us yesterday by CJ, our guest at lunch. It came from her family's farm in Vermont. I picked up some locally grown salad greens in Farmington so we had a very welcome salad. Sally made a gooseberry pie with added apple and dried apricots. My, was it good!
March 14, 2007 Wednesday
Everyone agrees, the real news today is that the temp got up to nearly 50F! We saw very little sun. It was misty, even steamy. The snow banks settled down considerably. I could see the ground most of the way to the barn. Of course the cows were filthy and the barn clean-up, which Sally now does, gets harder the warmer it gets. But there are no complaints.
Grandson Gabe walked down to the river to see if there was any open water but so far there is none. He and his mom, DD Sally, drove up to camp to look around. Everything looked to be in good shape.
Sally made another batch of feta. She also worked for hours reorganizing and cleaning the buttery. By the end of winter it has always become a repository for all sorts of random stuff and looks like a goat exploded. She bought a collection of plastic storage boxes and is organizing the pasta, rice, small bags of grain products, and anything that might be subject to vermin. What a thrill to see the improvements! She even put Contact paper on the shelves. I tell you, it was getting scary out there before she got involved.
March 15, 2007 Thursday
DD Sally and grandson Gabe took a walk on snowshoes around her field. It was heavy going. The snow is deep and every few steps the crust broke and they went way deep. They took both dogs. Little Willie, my Westie, was game all the way but came home very tired from all the hopping he had to do. Bagel has long legs.
Sally has started putting molasses on the cows' feed. They love it. She put some on their hay yesterday because they were tired of the hay in their round bale. It did not seem to be quite as good as the previous one. All five bovines including little Wesley went for the hay with molasses.
I started another cheese. Customers took 3 gallons of milk, thank goodness. Jasmine gave only 3 ¼ gallons today. So for the first time this week the refrigerator is not overwhelmed. I was getting scared to open the door.
For dinner I made meatloaf with half beef and half pork sausage. It made a big hit with Gabe. Sally made a pumpkin pie using frozen pumpkin. She is a fine pie maker.
March 16, 2007 Friday
Our thaw was brief. Today was cold with a penetrating damp. Nonetheless, DD Sally and her son Gabe took the dogs for a long walk up some snow machine trails into the hills. Two other dogs from homes they passed joined the expedition, a young female pit bull and a golden retriever. Once again Willie proved indefatigable. When he got home he was still jumping around trying to get Bagel to play.
Sally has made Willie some flea spray with olive oil and oil of lavender. At least he smells good. We think he is scratching less.
A new storm is starting. It is snowing heavily and there is a high wind. DS Martin and Amy and baby Hannah arrived for dinner. He drove his truck with the plow and will plow me out tomorrow. He will also be able to get in to camp using the plow and what is equally important, get back out tomorrow when the snow may be quite deep.
I gave them a nice vegetable soup with chicken and chorizo sausage. I served it with English muffins that I made from a recipe on the King Arthur web site. It is very easy. Everything goes into the bowl to mix, it rises until puffy, and then you drop blobs of the dough into muffin rings on the griddle. No kneading on the board. The recipe made 14 perfectly professional looking muffins. I also made custard. Baby Hannah stuffs food in her mouth as fast as you put it on her tray. She likes everything and is very cute. She ate meat and veg from the soup, muffin, cottage cheese, milk and custard.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons. I got a lot of eggs. Sally found a nest upstairs in the barn with about a dozen in it and I found a nest with three in the grain room under the empty feedbags. These are from the rafter birds. Their eggs are much brighter orange even in winter and I scarcely feed them. They scratch in the hay and the cow pats. There were also the usual 7 or 8 from the layers.
March 17, 2007 Saturday
It stormed all last night. DD Sally in her bedroom here and DS Martin up a camp both got up in the night to see what was hitting the window. It was hail and flying ice. Snow continued until about 10am before turning to rain for a couple of hours. We got around a foot of snow. Martin came early with his truck and plow and plowed me out nicely. Then he took the Kubota and removed snow from in front of the barn so that he could open the big doors and put in another round bale.
The roads were bad so DIL Mitra and the girls were unable to come for dinner. We missed them. I followed some suggestions from DD Marcia in FL on how to serve the frozen shrimp she bought. It was delicious. First I made a pan of polenta using stock and I stirred in a couple of kinds of cheese. I spread this on heated plates as a base for the shrimp. I finely chopped red onion, celery and garlic in coconut oil, added spicy curry powder, sautéed that a bit longer and added a little white wine. Next I added chopped fresh tomatoes and when these were hot added the shrimp. I cooked the shrimp for about 90 seconds. Each serving was topped with a little bit of oyster mushroom sautéed separately.
I made a cheese today. A new milk customer came, a local mechanic that Martin knows.
March 18, 2007 Sunday
Poor Helen is limping badly. She has arthritis in her left front shoulder which troubles her more on some days than others. In addition she is now lame in her left hind foot. The pain is evidently in her pastern or hoof. She constantly shifts her weight during milking. For a while I was putting cod liver oil on her feed. She seemed to get better but of course it could have been mere coincidence. Anyway, I poured it on tonight. Sally puts a lot of effort into their bedding but tonight she put down even more. Their newest round bale has a lot of dust in its outer layers so she pulled off some of this for bedding.
Mitra could not come over last night because of icy road conditions so she and the girls came today and brought her salad. We were joined again by DS Martin, DIL Amy and wee Hannah. Besides the elegant salad, we had Sally's rye bread, three days in the making, and I sautéed chicken breasts. Sally served a trifle founded on chiffon cake I had frozen.
Hannah eats everything on her tray with quiet absorption and does not make a sound unless the food runs out. She ate mostly avocado, cottage cheese and fresh bread. She crawls pretty well too.
After lunch Martin, grandson Gabe, and Shireen and Roshan went out sliding in the backyard. There was a glaring crust of ice as a result of yesterday and last night's rain and wind. It was so thick that even the men did not fall through it. Roshan, 8, had so much trouble getting back up the Glass Mountain that her sister sent down a rope for her to grab and they all towed her back up. The dogs would be standing at the top of the hill and then begin to gently disappear down the slope.
This is Gabe's last evening. Sally is making oatmeal cookies for his travel food and I am making strawberry sauce for a pancake breakfast tomorrow.
March 20, 2007 Tuesday
We got Gabe on his plane for Bloomington yesterday. Then we stopped in Turner at Nezinscott Farm Store to shop and eat soup and bread. It is a wonderful farm store selling all local and/or organic foods. Gloria has a large bakery going with breads and dessert goodies that you can really believe in. She also sells many kinds of meats and cheeses from their own farm. There is also a variety of teas and coffee beans and a full range of environmentally friendly cleaning products. One could do one stop shopping in her store.
The calves pulled the submersible water heater out of their tub a second time, once again with disaster narrowly averted. The thing does not turn off by itself. It happened to land in a bucket and had melted through when we found it. So no more heated water. Winter is not over. We got more snow, very high wind and tonight we are promised zero temperatures by morning. We will just have to break ice in the stock tank. But as Sally said, ice water is not fatal. Burning down the barn might be.
My new customer that bought a gallon on Sunday came back today and bought two gallons. He also wanted eggs but the chickens are way slowed down again. One egg customer today had to wait in her car while Sally searched the barn for enough eggs to make up a dozen. I think we will eat cereal now for a few days while we catch up.
Helen is limping worse than ever. One shoulder and three feet are affected. Sally and I cooperated this morning to pick up a foot while I picked at it with a knife to check for hoof rot. There is absolutely no stink. Her hoof is hard and there did not appear to be any trouble between the claws. There is nothing wrong with her appetite or manure.
Jasmine held up her milk noticeably this morning. This is annoying because I don't need any more skim milk. There is cottage cheese aplenty in the freezer and the chickens have all the clabber they can eat. What I need is more cream. This evening I massaged her udder the entire time the machine was on and bounced it around a lot to simulate a calf. She let down better. I hope to see a better cream line on it tomorrow.
March 21, 2007 Vernal Equinox and birthday of JS Bach
Temperature at dawn: Zero
Jasmine's cream line is the same today. I suppose nothing but separating her from Wesley will get us more cream and even that will involve days of waiting. Sigh. As soon as Mitra gets her pigs I will have a destination for the skim. Hurry, piggies!
Helen's walking is discernibly improved. Could it be the cod liver oil? I picked up another bottle. Heaven knows vitamin D from sunshine has been in short supply this winter.
The sun shone most of the day. Sally and I went to Rumford to do our errands. By afternoon the temperature was up to 30F. Sally and the dogs took a walk around the perimeter of her field. She has 17 acres across the river from me that used to be part of this farm.
March 22, 2007 Thursday
At last a mild day! During the night it rained and was cold enough to coat everything. The Jeep looked like a giant Popsicle but the sun came out brilliantly and did a good job of melting the ice. But the snow is still a foot deep at least. The deck furniture has snow halfway up its legs. Nonetheless, my old cat Sissy, was out in her favorite chair sunbathing. I think she is trying to draw down spring. Sally decided it looked like fun and took her tea out there. Not to be outdone, I brought my coffee. We had a lovely time with our boots in the snow and our heads bare.
The cows are not enthusiastic about their round bale. Sally is encouraging them by pouring molasses on it. This really works. All five heads were busy on it when we left the barn tonight, Helen, Jasmine, Freddy and Melvin (the two steers) and young Wesley.
My neighbor from whom I often buy hay stopped by. He put chicken manure on one of his fields last spring, the smelly waste from a layer operation, a CAFO. I asked him what he thought of it. He said "They feed those chickens some things I wouldn't feed mine." But he said it more than doubled the yield off that field in one season. Sally is toying with the idea of getting a load for her field which is in poor shape. Of course it would be much better to improve the pasture by stocking it but then somebody would have to tend the animals. There is no water laid on and no fencing. It is a field that had hay taken off it for a great many years and nothing put back. It is nonetheless a property of great beauty. It is surrounded by fine cherry, pine, maple, ash, birch and wild apple trees with mountains in the background. On a fine summer day it is a piece of heaven.
I tried a make-ahead biscuit recipe today. It is from a new Cook's Magazine cookbook. It calls for 6 cups of flour and 4 ½ cups of heavy cream. I used half whole wheat pastry flour. It made 38 biscuits which are now in the freezer - well, not quite all are in the freezer. I cooked half a dozen immediately for ourselves just to make sure they were good. They were. There aren't any left.
March 23, 2007 Friday
More lovely warm weather today, what joy. So much snow melted that we pulled the sled with the milking equipment across muddy grass rather than ice. Helen was walking much better today, almost normally. Jasmine gave only 1 ½ gallons this morning. Wesley is getting most of it.
Max got home a day early from his job in Cape Cod. He and Mitra and the girls came over for their milk and for lunch. I asked Max to make a little window in the horse stall so that I can begin to separate Wesley overnight. The vet also came to do some work. He did a pregnancy check on Helen. Good news. She is pregnant. She was bred December first so it will be a late August or early September calf. He also castrated and disbudded Wesley. I know it was awful for Wesley despite the anesthesia but he recovered with amazing speed. About an hour later Max put him back in with the cows because they were mooing for him. They licked his head. The vet also spayed a sweet young cat that we had waiting in a carrier.
Then we all had a simple lunch of fish chowder and biscuits. These were the biscuits I froze yesterday. That recipe is a keeper. The biscuits go into the oven while still frozen and bake up nicely. I got good reviews on the chowder too.
After everyone left, Sally took a walk to the river on snowshoes with the dogs. She inspected some of the trees she planted in previous years and found them all to be thriving. There is a small amount of open water on the river but mostly just overflow on the ice. She walked almost all the way around the fields. She had her brother Max's snowshoes and said without them she could not have done it.
Sally took away from Bagel the front half of an Eastern cottontail rabbit. While walking she reported hearing a shot. Around here, rabbit hunters throw away the front half of the rabbit. This appears to be what Bagel found. It was very freshly killed and still bleeding. The Dept. of Fish and Game has asked people to go easy on killing cottontails. They have become very rare but I don't think hunting them has become illegal. I have not seen one in several years.
After milking tonight I weight taped Wesley at 200 pounds. I could not believe it and did it twice. He is about 6 weeks old. Then we put him in the horse stall where he can see his mother through the tiny window that Max made and they can touch noses. We have not heard a peep out of them so far.
I am sorry to report that one of the dogs went upstairs in the barn today and killed a chicken. It was almost certainly Willie. Well, Willie, no more little free runs I guess, until this problem is history.
And I have to report a third death. The little cat that my vet spayed for me today did not emerge from the anesthesia.
March 24, 2007 Saturday
We had another sunny day. Definitely a blessing. I took a notion to flounder down to my veggie garden. Sally broke trail. The heavy crust is gone. Now you take three steps and then sink above your knees in the snow but it was fun. Of course there was nothing to see except the tidy shed full of patiently waiting tools. We discussed which small brushy trees need to be removed. The plastic protection on my quince tree has unwound but it has escaped rodent damage. I took a detour over to look at the fish pond but it is covered with a foot of snow too. There is water running in the river but it is too far away to tell if the ice has broken up or if water is running on top of the ice.
We did not hear anything from Jasmine and Wesley until a few minutes before milking time. When I brought Jasmine in she marched past him without a glance and went straight to her stanchion for her grain. She gave 3 ¼ gallons. Later when I put him back in with her he did not seem frantic.
We are beginning to doubt whether Willie did kill that chicken I found yesterday. Sally took him to the barn on a leash and he ignored the chickens that were pecking around. She took him upstairs into the haymow and he showed no awareness of the spot up on some hay bales where the chicken had been although he was sniffing around. This is a dog who remembers where all his bones are buried.
March 25, 2007 Sunday
Jasmine was mooing this morning at 5am in chorus with Wesley. She gave 4.5 gallons! I think she had been suffering but Wesley although hungry mostly wanted company. He certainly was not in nursing attack mode either yesterday or today. Freddie, 14 month old steer, loves him and was back to licking his head and other wound while he was nursing.
Sally has been pondering events and now believes the chicken died due to being crushed on its nest by a falling bale of hay. That would explain the absence of visible injury.
First thing this morning I made dulce de leche. This is a caramelized product made by boiling cream, milk, sugar and a vanilla bean, very popular in the Spanish speaking world. I fear it is not very nutritious but it is mighty tasty. I found the recipe in the Penzy's magazine called One. It requires more than three hours of simmering, a task to which the Aga is well adapted. Mine turned out a lot more flavorful than the kind now swirled into ice cream.
Sally made a perfectly marvelous apple cranberry pie which we served to Max and my granddaughters Shireen and Roshan. They came here after visiting a farm open house on Maine Maple Sunday. Mitra stayed home to rest up. The girls helped Sally to shampoo Willie out on the deck. Then they worked on him with towel and brushes until he looked as though he had been to a dog grooming spa. The sun shone brightly and we all sat around eating our pie and looking down at the cows while Sally tossed them apple quarters. Helen is walking much better but still picks her way along.
The girls also helped me make marmalade. DD Marcia sent me Seville oranges from Florida, a rare treat. I have a heavy old cast iron marmalade cutter with steel blades which clamps to a table. I brought it from England. Shireen took over the slicing and got about 2½ quarts of slivers. These now have to soak overnight.
Wesley has not yet learned the trick of sucking his mom dry before he parts company for the night. We bring the cows in for their supper and a general once over even on OAD. Jasmine had quite a lot of milk. We brought over Wesley to see if he would nurse but he wasn't hungry. Rather than go back to the house for hot water and the milking machine I washed Jasmine with cold water from the barn tap and hand milked her into a bucket that I keep at the barn wrapped in a towel. I got a gallon and could have gotten more but she was getting restless.
Sally and I ate a duck egg omelet with Coburn Farm cheese for supper. Mitra sent over three dozen eggs from her ducks.
March 27, 2007 Tuesday
Jasmine was stuffed this morning but let down really well. She gave over four gallons. Both she and Wesley are adapting smoothly. The weather continues mild which is most welcome even though it does mean the cows come in dirty. Sally's best efforts at clean-up and bedding cannot entirely stay ahead of the mess.
Max popped back over yesterday and replaced my sink spray hose. I use mine a lot and hate the way those things don't last.
Sally has been taking the gallon jugs of whey that I have collected from my cheese making and feeding selected plants, trees and shrubs. The ground is still frozen of course but it will soak in later. Whey is marvelous fertilizer.
I made 5 pints of fantastic marmalade from the Seville oranges.
In case anybody needs proof that I live in a rural area, try this: Somebody wrote in to our newspaper's helpful answers column, Sun Spots, asking where to find a privy digger. By golly, the column's editor came right up with an answer: Jean and Joe's Privy Digging Service!
March 28, 2007 Wednesday
Helen let me down! I have a streaming cold, no doubt the same one that laid DS Max low last week. In fairness to Helen, our current management doesn't make it easy to kiss noses of either Helen or Jasmine unless I make a special point of it (which I did, once symptoms began). I am hopeful that I at least won't be as sick as Max was. So far it is just a nuisance. Watch this space.
We could do with some more customers. I hate seeing nine gallons of milk in the fridge. Sally made feta today and I made cottage cheese. If somebody does not come for milk tomorrow I will have to make another hard cheese in the morning. When I consider that our milk is truly exceptional quality and that people elsewhere are paying twice as much as I charge, or more, and that elsewhere people are pleading to be able to buy raw milk, it seems pretty pathetic to have this complaint. The chickens can barely finish the amount of clabber they are getting and the dogs and cats get plenty of milk too.
The ice has gone out of the river. It is flowing high and fast.
March 29, 2007 Thursday
Jasmine's production is easing off a little bit. She has been giving 4 ½ gallons OAD, today only 4 ¼. Neither she nor Wesley does any bellowing except he moos a little bit after I let her in.
The weather today was unappealing. It was mostly clear but with a sharp wind.
I definitely have a cold. So far it has not slowed me down much but it makes me mad.
I made another cheese today. Afterwards we went to Dixfield, the nearest village, and I bought a new manure fork. This evening Sally said the pitching went like gangbusters. I also bought several gladiola bulbs and a few perennials in packages with pretty pictures: salvia, oxalis and a dahlia. Sally put the glads in the fridge and the other roots to soak in wet peat moss.
Using the old damaged stock tank as a mixing trough, Sally created some fine, rich planting soil by sifting well composted manure that has thawed and a bucket of fine river sand. I now have no excuse for not starting some seedlings.
March 30, 2007 Friday
I can't say I feel very well. I may now have sinusitis. My face hurts and even my teeth. For two days I took various OTC pills and don't want any more so I'm toughing it out. It occurred to me that the breach in my immunity may have been due to starting to milk OAD. I still drink plenty of cold milk from the fridge but my practice of drinking a glass warm from the cow has perforce been restricted to once a day. I guess I could milk a little into a Dixie cup at night.
Sally and I and the dogs walked to the river this morning. I sat on the bank and watched the water for a while where the bank was bare of snow. I stopped by the veg. garden hoping to find some thawing but the ground is still rock hard.
I ran in to town and mailed a quart of frozen colostrum to my daughter in PA. She is quite ill. She says her chest is burning.
Max came over and moved the last round bale inside for the cows. This is a good one. The previous one was fit only for bedding, of which Sally needs a lot every day. Before the new bale came in she forked the remains of the last one into a corner of the beefer pen. Freddie, 15 mo. old steer, was thrilled with the fluffy pile. Sally said he was like a kid jumping on the bed. He rolled and bounced on it.
Sally has been repainting a small cabinet that belongs in one of the bedrooms. She has now finished that project and started on a nice old wooden chair that looked so bad I kept it in the buttery. She is using a sort of ivory shade. It is such fun to have freshly painted furniture. She says she felt a bit ill this morning but she certainly did not slow down.
March 31, 2007 Saturday
Jasmine was in standing heat all day. When we brought her in this evening for her supper I saw that the skin over her tailhead and pinbones was rubbed raw, poor lamb. She actually flinched when I smoothed on a lanolin salve. I have never had this happen before. But then I do not usually have two steers bouncing around. Next time she is in heat I will separate her from the others.
Every chance she gets, DD Sally has been whacking out bittersweet from the frontage rail fence. Because it is along the road she puts both dogs on their chains while she is working. Today while she was out there Willie, sure he was missing something fun, began piteously wailing “Woo woo woo”, so she came back and brought him out on his chain to where he could watch. Now, one needs to know that Bagel never makes a sound. He is as nearly a mute dog as I have ever known. But when he saw what worked for Willie he found his voice enough to try saying “Woo woo woo” himself loud enough for Sally to hear him. So then of course she had to have both of them chained beside her. She still managed to collect an impressive heap of the choking vine.
I am over my cold so this afternoon went with Sally to walk the fence around the north field. There is still a lot of snow in patches with some bare ground showing. We found one place about 20 ft long where the fence was destroyed and numerous places where lesser repairs are required. Maybe tomorrow we can work on it. Today was sunny, although still windy and only about 30F, and tomorrow is predicted to be much the same. Then we are promised a lengthy storm. If this proves to be rain rather than snow it will take much of the remaining snow. If that fence is fixed I can allow the cows into that field.
We found a recipe in Annie Proulx’s Complete Dairy Foods Cookbook for mytost, a cheese-like Scandinavian whey product. Sally started some three days ago and it has been simmering down in one of the Aga ovens. The result from one gallon of whey was about one cup of a caramel colored paste with an unexpectedly salty flavor. It reminds me of miso. I am going to try adding it to some chicken broth and see if I get a cup of instant soup.
For our dinner I made beef teriyaki using finely slivered round steak. I tossed the meat with mushroom soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, grated raw ginger, garlic, sliced mushrooms and red onion. For those enjoying raw beef, among whom I count myself, it is then ready to eat. For Sally and everybody else I stir-fry it in a hot skillet with coconut oil.
We also had the leftovers of moussaka from a couple of days ago and Sally made a lovely gooseberry tart.
April 2, 2007 Monday
Jasmine’s cream line has been getting skimpier by the day as she holds up for Wesley. This morning Sally suggested a management change which we put into immediate practice. Sally has been hand milking Helen while I machine milk Jasmine. Helen only gives a bit over a gallon but I have been reluctant to dry her off until she was confirmed in calf, which she now is. I had figured to dry her off when Sally leaves on the 15th of this month but we decided to start today. Instead Sally used her time to do some hand stripping of Jasmine. We moved Wesley right under her nose to see if this would help. Sally got ½ gallon. After setting* all day in the frig it is about 1/3 cream. We hope this variation of Jasmine’s schedule will lead to her being willing to part with more cream.
*If there are any English teachers among my readers, you “set” milk to raise the cream.
We had a treat today. Forum members Sally McDonnell, former owner of Jasmine, and Kip/Chris whose cows Melissa and Gwendolyn stayed here for awhile as heifers, paid us a visit. I made soup and biscuits for lunch and we did a lot of talking about cows. Sally visited with Jasmine and I showed Kip my cheese making equipment and described my methods. DD Sally greatly enjoyed meeting them. DILMitra had to work or she would have joined us.
During her walk today DD Sally saw a woodcock.
A new customer stopped in and bought two gallons of milk.
April 3, 2007 Tuesday
Jasmine is coming in for her supper with less milk. Wesley is getting wise to filling up last thing. I only got 3 gallons this morning plus the half gallon that Sally stripped by hand. Like yesterday, the stripped milk was about 1/3 cream.
Dawn greeted up with a fresh snowfall, the beautiful snow that lines every twig. I must be getting old. I have a hard time admiring April snow.
I did mostly domestic tasks today such as cleaning out ashes and paying festering bills. Sally carried on with fencing and pruning. One small apple tree now looks like a tree instead of a bush. She also sawed down some Balm of Gilead saplings. I tasted one of the leaf buds. They contain something like salicylic acid. My tongue was numb for an hour. I had to season the dinner by guesswork. We had rabbit creamed on mashed potatoes, namasu (shredded vegetables with rice vinegar) and instant strawberry ice cream. I blend frozen strawberries with cream and some kind of sweetening to make softy ice cream.
My grandson Harper who lives in Fairbanks AK has enjoyed cooking from an early age. He contributed the following:
Here are a few pics from my recent 5 day recreational extravaganza. Day one was downhill skiing, day two was winter paddling in Haines. You can see cousin Rafe & canine in the foreground and my friend Henry in a kayak with a few seal friends. Days 3 and 4 were snowshoeing and winter camping in Kluane Park, YT.
We returned home utter husks. Jeez.
I have been working on perfecting my cream pie recipe. I think I have finally nailed it.
Last night's version: banana cream pie with freshly toasted coconut flakes (in lieu of whipped cream or meringue) I would have done whipped cream topping, but I didn't have the foresight when I was shopping, so improvise, improvise.
Pat-in pie crust, suitable for tarts or other pie bottoms.
This recipe requires a food processor with knife attachment & will fill a large pie pan. I imagine that after the apocalypse or marooned on a desert island without a food processor, I could make do with sharpened clam shells and an old board. Though if the desert island maroonment resulted from an airplane crash, I would probably want to spend my first afternoon building a dynamo to power the food processor (built on day two) out of the coils from the engine. Day two would be working on constructing the food processor. You could build one hell of a food processor out of a turbo prop. I almost look forward to it.
Preheat oven to 375.
Place in processor and blend: 2c flour 1 generous dash salt 1/4c sugar
In about 8 stages, add: 1 stick butter, chopped up thinly.
Add: 1 egg yolk 2 tbsp full fat (preferably) sour cream (daisy is really good)
Whiz till it goes from fine meal to looking like it is hinting at starting to come together as a dough. Do not let this happen! This is a pat-in type crust, and it is supposed to hold together only when you compress it. It will look a bit like coarse damp sand with some clumping. It should not look like cookie dough. Though if it does, don't panic. With that egg yolk and sour cream in there, there should be little gluten formation.
Dump the crust into your pie pan, and spread it evenly over the bottom. Shift a bit more towards the edges and start pressing it into pan. Around the edge I place a thumb over the lip, and press my fingers into the edge to make the rim. Smash it down with your fingers in the middle. It is perfect when it no longer looks granular -- it should finally look like tart crust. This dough is very resistant to over handling, but I suppose that you could have managed it if it starts to look translucent -- this means that the butter has started to liquefy = bad. Actually, a few spots here and there are no big deal. Turn down oven and bake at 350 till it looks dry and starts to color ever so slightly (10 to 15 to 20 minutes?) watch the bottom carefully after 10 minutes! The sugar will make it want to turn brown and taste roasted surprisingly quickly.
Cream filling: 2 1/2 c milk 3 1/2 tbsp corn starch 2 eggs 1 pinch salt 1 pat butter 3/4 c sugar 1 tsp vanilla
Use 1/4 of the milk to dissolve the corn starch, mix in the sugar, salt and eggs in a mixing bowl. Heat the remaining 2 1/4 milk to scalding. Add small amounts of hot milk to the eggs/corn starch/sugar mixture, beating furiously to avoid curdling the eggs, especially during the first few additions. Once the hot milk has been incorporated, return to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring very very often. I alternately use a rubber spatula and a whisk to make sure nothing is curdling at the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture has begun to boil, let it go for a few minutes, stirring constantly. You want the corn starch to cook or it will taste ... starchy. Unlike a traditional custard, you should not have much trouble with curdling as long as everything stays moving constantly. Ask Harold McGee, but I think the sugar and cornstarch help somehow. After it starts to look like it is thick enough, remove from heat, mix in the pat of butter and the vanilla, and transfer to a mixing bowl or large (4 c) pyrex measuring cup. After ten minutes or so, cover with plastic wrap in contact with the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Cool to at least room temperature over an hour or two.
3 bananas: Slice the first one, cover with 1/3 of the custard, slice in another banana, repeat ending with a layer of custard. Cover with whipped cream or freshly toasted coconut.
Variation: instead of bananas, stir 1c of freshly toasted coconut into the custard. I particularly like Bob's Red Mill flaked coconut, but the shredded is ok too, at least on the inside. I particularly dislike the moistened sweetened garbage from the regular baking section. I would shell, peal, and grate a fresh coconut before resorting to such means. If you are lucky you will a few thousand to choose from.
Final notes: If marooned, I think pounded and dried manioc root or other starchy tubers (desert island flour substitute) probably does not have much in the way of gluten, so don't worry about the crust getting tough. With all those coconuts and bananas, you are going to have plenty of time to practice. Given the choice I highly recommend crashing in the South and West Pacific for good banana cream pie ingredients. If the Polynesians passed that way, you will be in good shape. Not sure what to recommend about their pigs though.
Grandma’s note: DD Sally and I would do the custard a little differently. We would add the eggs after cooking the cornstarch mixture, then merge in the egg as described and cook very briefly.
Also, Harper agrees that one should be sure to use organic bananas. The regular kind taste of ethylene or possibly tarantula poison.
Rafe - winter paddling in Haines:
April 4, 2007 Wednesday
No doubt spring will finally assert itself but it is having a struggle. We are getting another major snowstorm right now. Sally and I pounded up to Rumford this morning to get ahead of it and stock up for Easter, always assuming that the family can actually make it. We plan to have one of DS Max and DIL Mitra’s home raised hams.
Poor Mitra reported that her computer has crashed. It is now in the computer hospital. She works from home so this is a whole lot more than an inconvenience.
Wesley now makes an obvious point of getting in a last meal before we bring him in to his stall for the night. He is really cute the way he trots right into his stall after following Jasmine in. But the light has to be on in there. If it is dark he won’t go in.
April 5, 2007 Thursday
It snowed all last night and part of today. We got about a foot and a half of heavy new snow. We needed to get a shipment of colostrum mailed to my DD Abby and so Sally stood out in the road to hand it off to the mail lady. There was no way anyone could have gotten in or out of my driveway. My man who plows had already taken the plow off of his truck. One does not expect a snowfall like this in April. But he did come.
We are continuing to do some hand stripping after machine milking Jasmine, hoping to get a bit more cream. Sally stripped this morning and Jasmine tried to kick the bucket. She wants to save it for Wesley I have no doubt.
Despite the deep snow Sally carried on with patching the periphery fence to my lawn and now almost has it to a point where I can let Willie out with confidence that he can’t run away or get in the road. This will be wonderful relief. Sally also gave Willie another flea bath. He had gotten rather grey looking during the recent days of mud and is also having trouble keeping his rear end clean. I held him so Sally could give him a trim with the scissors.
There was a great noisy flap around the bird feeder and Sally saw a hawk circling, then settling down in a nearby tree. Sally says I need a Sibley’s and better field glasses but I would say it was a Cooper’s hawk. Shortly thereafter and much to his disappointment Sally took a dead blue jay away from Bagel. Perhaps it was mortally wounded by the hawk but fought free.
Sally made a pudding from puree of wild Virginia persimmon that has been in my freezer since the year dot. It is very good with cream.
April 6, 2007 Good Friday
The sun shone for a while but the weather has not warmed up. All that snow is still with us. It fell on thawed mud in the driveway so everybody who comes here gets stuck. What a mess. My lawn is going to be a moonscape this year.
Wesley taped at 240 lbs this morning. That’s a 40 lb gain in three weeks. He is a friendly little guy, not unduly headstrong and easily guided. When I turn him in with Jasmine in the morning he is not violent, so far at least. If I walk up he stops sucking and lifts his head to look at me.
I sure wish it would warm up. At this rate my hay is going to run out.
All morning I had a miserable sinus headache. I felt really sorry for myself until Mitra showed up for her milk. Between her and DD Sally, I got talked into taking two Tylenol. This greatly improved my day. I made a big pan of gingerbread for tomorrow.
Mitra expects to be back on her computer tonight, so she said, but I have not heard from her.
April 7, 2007 Saturday
No new snow, but the thermometer remains below freezing and none has melted
Jasmine gave four gallons this morning, one half gallon of which was what Sally stripped after I took off the machine. She continues to hold up.
DD Sally and I spent most of the day preparing for our Easter dinner. We had it today because DS Max has to drive back to his work site on Cape Cod on Sunday. We were joined by Max and Mitra and the two girls, Shireen and Roshan; DS Mark and daughter Hailey; DS Martin and DIL Amy and baby Hannah. Hailey, 14, is highly devoted to her sports and probably would not have been with us but for the fact that she seriously injured her knee last week when she was pushed down while playing indoor soccer. She has a big Velcro cast or brace on her leg.
Sally couldn’t find a rabbit among the stuffed animal collection so she put a big teddy bear in the hanging basket by the door. I made him some pink tissue paper ears and stapled them on.
The three dads went out for a tour on snowshoes. Then they hid Easter eggs in the barn and the kids had lots of fun hunting for them. Max kept track and announced that 10 eggs are still missing. No doubt as the months pass I will find some mementos in the hay. They all had a snowball fight until dinner was ready.
For nibbles I cut two of my cheeses, one a year old, and the other about 60 days. Both were OK but not great.
I served one of the home raised hams. Amy brought asparagus and curried sweet potato. I made curried red potatoes with cauliflower. We had not conferred on this, but fortunately everybody likes curry. For dessert we had gingerbread with whipped cream. Hannah sat between her mother and me and fed herself her dinner as fast as Amy could cut up the food. Later she demonstrated her stair climbing skills, stopping on each step to clap for herself.
Mitra still does not have her computer back. She is stressed.
DS Mark, the med student, brought Sally and I each a bottle of orange flavored cod liver oil as a gift. I took a spoonful. Not half bad.
Sally received news that her daughter Rosemary has received a grant and a living stipend to study and teach at the University of Oregon at Eugene. This is a wonderful and amazing thing because she is not a scientist but an English major. Some may remember Rosie’s letters from Croatia, Haiti, Bolivia and elsewhere.
April 8, 2007 Easter Sunday
Jasmine gave 4 ¼ gallons this morning.
The following is Mitra’s account of their first encounter with a fox as posted on the KFC forum:
Mr. Fox was one of
my favorite books as a kid. I remember my third grade teacher reading it to the
class. The anticipation of hearing another few pages each day used to nearly
kill me. I was very sympathetic to Mr. Fox and his family and the lengths they
had to go to, the dangers they faced, in order to steal chickens from Farmer
Bean. The book is by Roald Dahl, author of many amazing books like Charlie and
the Chocolate Factory, and James and the Giant Peach.
My sympathies are now with Farmer Bean. On Sunday at 8:30 a.m. I was filling up my water bucket for the ducks, while staring out the kitchen window. I had not released the ducks or the chickens yet. I had to do a double take when I realized that I was staring at the tallest fox I'd ever seen walk out of the woods and head straight toward the duck coop. There was no time for guns so Max let our Lab out the back door and yelled, "Sic 'em Lulu!" and she took off like a greyhound at a racetrack. The fox gave an annoyed over-the-shoulder look and just trotted into the woods without too much concern. Lulu was all bristled and growl-barking as she tried to follow it into the woods but the snow made it hard going because she kept sinking up to her chest while the fox never broke through the surface at all!
A couple of hours later, I let the ducks and chickens out of their coops but all the while feeling very stressed. Max put on his snowshoes and took the dog into the woods to track the fox and also to do some "perimeter peeing".
I keep thinking this is the beginning of the end I've had such a good run with no casualties to predators. My chickens and ducks have always roamed free during the day and been closed up at night.
The weather today is even colder and bleaker than yesterday. This is shaping up to be a record breaking cold April.
April 9, 2007 Monday
The cold miserable weather continues. Helen went out and tromped around in the snow for awhile no doubt hoping to find greener pastures. She called to the others to follow but they ignored her.
Cara continues to send good reports on Emily. She is giving about 1.5 gallons each milking and doesn’t kick. I am very proud of her. DIL Amy reminded me that Emily was born on Easter Sunday two years ago. Now her calf was born the day before Easter two years later.
Despite the weather, Sally worked outside for a couple of hours. She is whacking back my out of control spirea.
I am exploring semen sources for Jasmine. I hope to breed her to a mini.
April 10, 2007 Tuesday
The weather has not changed. It hangs around freezing with occasional splashes of sunshine so there is some dripping from the roof. I also felt drops on me head in two places inside the house. There must be ice build-up between the floors.
About mid morning somebody pulled into the driveway and tooted. I ran out in my fake Crocs in case it was the mail carrier deigning to deliver the mail (she has been refusing to set her wheels in a little slush by the box) and an elderly man said “Did you know your cows are in the road?” Can somebody tell me why people always say that, like maybe I send them out there to graze? I ran back for my coat, boots, rope and car keys and backed my car out of the garage where it had been sitting since last week. Have I mentioned the sea of mud? I managed to slew the car around so that it was at least headed in the right direction before I attempted to gun it through the mire. All I got was a muddy windshield and a car sunk to the axles. I got out and went back inside for the keys to the Jeep which I should have taken in the first place. Fortunately my guardian angel let me get my car stuck right where it did. Two more feet and it would have blocked exit for the Jeep. Up the road then, only to discover that the cows in fact were not outside the fence at all. They were at the end of the snow covered pasture where it is out of sight from the house. Maybe the man couldn’t believe cows were meant to be out in the snow. Maybe the cows thought spring had sprung out at the end of the rainbow. Maybe I’m nuts to have cows.
Anyway by the time I drove up there and saw plainly that there was no fence down and no tracks in the snow, the cows had slunk back to the barn. When I got back all four, Helen, Jasmine and the two boys, Freddie and Melvin, were lived up mooing at me saying “We can’t find Wesley!” So, more racing around, this time on foot, until I saw him coming back from the south pasture. He had gotten through the median fence and of course had forgotten how to get back. He is no dummy. The moment I untied one of my bits of repair wire to create an aperture he walked right on in without my having to say a word or touch him.
When Sally came home from spreading manure on the snow for the baby trees over at her property, she took a hike along the north fence to see if there were any holes likely to tempt a cow with wanderlust. She made a couple of little repairs. She was excited to report that she had scared up at least a dozen woodcocks in two flocks. One was reluctant to fly so she had the opportunity to observe it closely. Definitely a woodcock.
April 11, 2007 Wednesday
It dropped to 15F last night so I thought perhaps the ground had frozen enough so that I could get some traction and drive my car out of the mud hole. But no, all it did was churn up more mud. At least the sight of my poor little blue car prevents others from driving in and getting stuck. They stay way, way back and tiptoe around the edge on the snow.
Sally and I drove to Farmington for supplies. Sally hesitated to go as the sun was shining, making it a fine day for pruning, but in the end she came along. We met DIL Mitra at the health food store and handed over four gallons of milk. The store has a freebie newsletter which this month inveighs against dairy products. I spoke up for mine and got a pretty rigid smile out of the store owner. He’s a nice guy, but honestly, the people I see in that store, especially the children, all look tired and wan.
On the way home we stopped in Weld at DS Martin’s camp to turn off a water valve he had forgotten. Sally went bounding up the road through the foot deep snow to check on the camp belonging to her sister, DD Marcia. The sun was bright. I went down by the lake and communed with the shoreline where the ice has melted back about a foot. All the variegated pebbles were shining up through the water looking just as they have all my life.
April 12, 2007 Thursday
Working to beat a new storm, Sally grabbed her bucket of tools and set forth on further fence repairs. She is now quite satisfied that the cows will not get out. She also transplanted two black locust saplings into the fence line where they will block the view of neighbors. These neighbors have made no secret of the fact that they think we are all nuts so perhaps they will be pleased to view foliage.
A kind neighbor who noticed my car stuck in the driveway stopped by with his pickup and a chain and pulled me out. What a relief that was. I gave him a dozen eggs, not much but all I could think of.
This evening I counted my hay bales. I made it to 50, give or take a bale. DS Martin said he may be able to transport three round bales for me if I can locate some. Mitra is pursuing this for me.
It has snowed hard most of today. A foot of new snow is predicted. How I hope it turns to rain.
April 13, 2007 Friday
The snow did not turn to rain but somewhat less than a foot fell, perhaps 8”. It was very dense and heavy. We lost power for awhile but things could have been worse. It is melting fast, however a new worse storm is predicted for Sunday. The cows, led by Helen, made another sortie into the pasture in hopes of grass but they soon saw the futility of it.
Wonderful hay news! Martin brought me two fine looking round bales from a farm down near Biddeford. He located the hay through one of his employees, Marc Hanna, who owns a matched pair of Belgians. Marc’s brother has a vast dairy operation. The hay was stored in a big shed and is dry and unweathered. Marc said for the first time ever he hitched up his horses at Easter and gave sleigh rides, thanks to the snow.
Martin’s truck holds two bales. One is now in the barn making the cows happy.
Martin came without DIL Amy and baby Hannah. They are at home watching the Will Shortz movie about the World Crossword Championships together with his brother DS Mark. Martin and Amy already watched the movie last night and Martin was totally astonished to realize that the contest winner was a fraternity brother of his at Phi Mu Delta at RPI.
I braised a large piece of brisket for dinner. I love that tasty cut. It is so tender and juicy after about four hours in the Aga. I accompanied it with mashed potatoes and green salad.
Martin has now gone up to check on his camp at Weld. A friend is joining him tomorrow. They plan to go snowboarding at Sugarloaf. Bagel went along to camp. He loves riding in a truck.
April 14, 2007 Saturday
“Next verse, same as the last”. The thermometer continues to hang between 20F and 32F with overcast skies. Sometimes there are brief periods of sun. The new snow is melting fast and revealing mud. A severe new storm is predicted for tomorrow night, Sunday and lasting at least through Monday. This is alarming to Sally as Mitra and I are sharing the driving to get her the four hours from here to Bangor on Monday. Her flight is early Tuesday.
Martin stayed here overnight after bringing the hay yesterday. I made cottage cheese pancakes for his breakfast. His friends then picked him up for a day of snowboarding at Sugarloaf.
Jasmine’s creamline gets thinner every day. This morning I tried a ploy which has worked for some people on the forum. I left her in her stanchion after milking and then came back an hour later to see if she would let down some cream. She had held up plenty of milk but five more minutes with the machine did not succeed in extracting more than another quart. She was perfectly patient. Neither she nor fat Wesley made a sound. But I think she would have to stand there all day before being willing to let down properly for me. I think this approach might work better when the calf is very young. Jasmine’s total production this morning: 3 ¼ gallons.
I find that my feed store now carries COB (corn oats barley). It is lightly dressed with molasses. I am going to change Helen over to this. It is not organic so I will keep Jasmine on her current feed which is organic. The COB comes from Canada.
DD Sally has been digging up baby pine trees and setting them in along the fences. Under the snow the ground is thawed enough to extract their shallow roots. She was unable to dig up any baby oak trees astheir roots go down into the frost zone.
DS Max and DIL Mitra and the girls joined us for an early dinner, or perhaps it was a late lunch. Because of seeing Mr. Fox they wanted to be home before dark. Mitra brought a lovely chevre for snacking and a salad. I baked one of granddaughter Rosemary and Nate’s wild caught salmon fillets and made brown rice pilaf. Sally made the apple cake posted by Cutiepie6. She made it in my bundt pan using Northern Spy apples which are sweet and tart without being mushy. She used chopped walnuts rather than pecans, which I did not have on hand. We always use melted butter rather than oil and another time I will use pecans and probably use whole wheat pastry flour rather than white – and oh yes, Sally cut the sugar to about half. Also, we had no cream cheese so served it with whipped cream. I don’t think any of these changes altered the essential character of the cake which is indeed excellent. It is handsome and moist without being heavy. It is now all gone except for a couple of slices Sally froze for emergency use.
A powerful new storm is predicted for tomorrow night. New to us, anyway. It has already wreaked havoc in the Midwest.
April 15, 2007 Sunday
There were many storm warnings this morning. Sally worked on pruning as fast as she could. In the late morning we walked the perimeter of the Pocket Field, which can barely be seen from the house, and back along the river checking fence. We inspected the wind chime which hangs near Muffin’s grave, my old dog. It was intact. Bagel and Willie had a great time. When we got home is started to rain but Sally worked outside for another hour. She improved the tie-down of the tarp on the second round bale. Strong winds are predicted. She continues to be doubtful about her Tuesday flight but the airline is non committal and changing her ticket is both costly and problematical. They offered her things like an overnight in Dallas. Talk about wasteful. You want to get from Bangor, Maine, to Juneau, Alaska and they want you to go through Dallas.
I made meatloaf for dinner and a small one for her to have for travel food. She made oatmeal cookies.
Wonderful news! DS Bret is going to come here for three days as part of his trip from AK to Washington, DC later this month. Sally is leaving him a list of recommended activities such as getting a burn permit and making a bonfire of all her prunings.
Just in case the storm is as bad as predicted, we just moved everything from my upright freezer back into my chest freezer where it will be safer in case of a power outage. In the last storm we barely lost power but 250,000 Mainers were out for several days, some for more than a week.
Last thing tonight Sally changed her ticket to Thursday leaving from Portland instead of Bangor.
April 16, 2007 Monday
It rained hard most of last night and today. I would estimate a total of 7”. Occasionally it turned to snow. Periodically the wind was pretty strong. In fact it blew over a section of fence. The rain was so heavy that even dauntless Sally found things to do indoors. It was during a slight let-up in the rain that Sally took the dogs for a walk and discovered the fence down. She immediately set about repairs. Then the steers including Wesley noticed the activity and began walking her way soon followed by Helen. Jasmine was inside chewing her cud and didn’t notice. Willie began bouncing around causing Helen to make a purposeful advance. She does not tolerate dogs in her pasture even far off and with snow on the ground. For once Sally had neglected to have a hay string in her pocket to make a lead for Willie so she picked him up and ran for the gate. She was afraid that little Willie would not understand the danger he was in and might allow himself to get squished. Willie must weigh 25 pounds and is shaped like a piglet so it can’t have been easy exercise with snow on the ground.
Perhaps due to the new hay, Jasmine’s production was up nearly a gallon today to 4 ¼ . I am getting about 10 eggs a day, mostly pullet size.
April 17, 2007 Tuesday
It rained all day! It’s a monsoon. The cows are indoors in their cozy barn with plenty of hay so the worst they suffer is boredom. The people, dogs and chickens are having a hard time being good sports. But when I think of what others in the northeast have suffered I have to admit we are fortunate. Many are still out of power. Like many of my KFC forum friends, I am set up for nearly any loss of modern conveniences. The cows have already finished off the first of the two big round bales Martin brought but with this steady rain, unless it turns back to snow, we will soon see some grass.
And it’s an ill rain that pours nobody good! It has thawed out my spring line! When Sally walked into the kitchen this morning she was greeted by the cheerful trickle of spring water from the overflow of the granite sink. The spring itself is 5/8 mile away and is gravity fed to the farm.
DD Marcia told me about a tasty recipe she tried from the March issue of Gourmet p. 103. Of course I tweaked it a bit. You spread warmed hummus on the plates. Then you top it with a mixture of roasted red onion and pepper seasoned with cumin and coriander. You stir fry the veggies with cubes of chicken breast. One could use deli hummus but I made mine from scratch, first cooking the garbanzo beans. I diluted it to a soft consistency with chicken broth. The veggies were some I had roasted last summer and frozen, mostly tomatoes. It was so good that Sally and I over ate and are too full to eat any of the beautiful apple cranberry pie she made. So I guess it will be our breakfast.
April 18, 2007 Wednesday
It looks like the rain has stopped for the present. The cloud cover is higher. There is a light breeze which will help dry things out.
This is the day I say goodbye to Sally. Mitra drove over to say goodbye this morning. Then I drove Sally to the Auburn Mall where we met with DIL Amy and baby Hannah. She is spending the night with them and will leave from there for her early flight.
While at the mall I bought a dear little Mugo Pine in a gallon pot.
On the way to Auburn we stopped at Nezinscott Farm, the large farm and comprehensive farm store run by my friend Gloria Varney and her husband. It is such a wonderful place. Gloria has been certified Organic for some time and now is Biodynamic. Interest in Biodynamics is increasing rapidly.
At chore time this evening I got all set up to invite the cows in for their supper and there were no cows to be seen. The rain melted 90% of the snow and they had all gone on a walkabout. I called for a long time and was about to hoof it down into the pasture when the little herd came around the corner by the garden. As they made the turn Wesley peeled off and ran towards the river. He ran along the river bank for some distance before he realized he was alone. I kept calling him and finally when the others reached the barn they missed him and joined me in bellowing. He finally began moving toward the barn but seemed surprisingly stupid about it. I walked across the barnyard to encourage him and got stuck in the boot-sucking mud. To avoid falling over I had to pull my foot out of the boot and set it down in the mud. After freeing my boot, I put my foot and muddy sock back into my boot, preferring that to walking back to the barn through icy mud. This is definitely mud season.
Every one of the cows had a rumen full of something. It can only have been dead grass. Wesley had not nearly emptied out Jasmine.
It seemed strange to be doing the chores without Sally.
April 19, 2007 Thursday
What a fine sunny day this has been. But how sad that Sally did not get one such day during her visit. She called from Denver. I have never been there and neither had she. She said it was flat with little to see. She was glad she had brought food along. There was nothing to eat in the airport except hamburgers.
The day being so fine and knowing the chores would take me longer being alone, I made a point of getting to the barn early. Everything went well. I was just trundling the Surge bucket back to the house in my wagon when a milk customer arrived. I hailed her and said “I haven’t any milk to sell unless you can wait while I bottle this!” This she was glad to do and so I had some help at the critical point of lifting the bucket with 3 ½ gallons of milk up onto the bench.
I pictured a day of working outside on post storm clean-up but instead my vet stopped by and I gave him lunch, as is my usual practice if he is here. I came up with salmon in a cream sauce, curried cauliflower and some of my frozen biscuits. I also had one remaining slice of the cranapple pie Sally made the night before she left. At first I thought my cream sauce was turning out too bland. Then I got the idea of adding a cup of soft cottage cheese. This was an excellent flavor blend with the salmon and I recommend it.
I’ve been noticing how much milk Jasmine has when she comes in for her supper. Wesley never empties her out. I decided to milk a second time today and got another gallon. That makes a total of 4 ½ gallons from that little cow plus whatever Wesley took during the day.
Barn clean-up was easy. The cows spent most of the day outside.
After milking the sun was still shining so I toured the vegetable garden. All around the tool shed there are big puddles of melt water. The footbridge DS John made last summer of CorrectDeck boards is proving useful. There are still big patches of snow here and there under the trees and on northern exposures but none on the garden. I got my first taste of new green; the chives are pushing up. I flipped the boards off of the garlic so it can grow.
April 20, 2007 Friday
Another fine balmy day. Once again I milked Jasmine in the evening as well as the morning. It was not worth the bother. I got a mere one quart. Later I remembered to look at the calendar and see that tomorrow, Saturday, is when she is due to be in heat again. This may be affecting her.
There are still big piles of snow left from plowing my driveway and places where thick snow lies on cold ground. Most of the snow is gone and the cows are spending their time outdoors. My eleven free chickens are ranging far and wide in search of worms, ignoring the pan of food in the barn.
Of the seven young birds from a hatch last summer that all moved in with the layers, two- a male and a female, have Lakenvelder markings. I don’t know where this genetics came from. The pullet has now started to lay. Her little egg is green.
April 21, 2007 Saturday
Today was the day marked on my calendar for Jasmine to be in heat but I saw no signs at all apart from a drop in production last night and this morning. Last night she gave only one quart and this morning 3 gallons + 1 qt. Puzzling. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. It could be due to her (until today) high production. Wesley taped at 250 lb. yesterday. A good management plan might be to wean him to a bucket and ration him to 1 gallon/day. After a few days it would undoubtedly get him going on grazing. There is still no grass to speak of so this plan will have to wait.
It was beautifully warm today. More of the snow retreated. I try to rake a little each day to get rid of the nasty detritus that emerges from the snow. Mostly it is dog bones and dog deposits. My perennial border benefits.
A couple of weeks ago one of my cheeses swelled up like a soccer ball, burst open its wax shell and wept whey all over the floor. I poured hot wax into the cracks and set it in the fridge on a tea towel. It was seven weeks old. Today I decided to cut into it and see what it had to say for itself. To my great surprise, it is delicious, one of those cheeses where you want to keep coming back for another tidbit. Go figure.
April 22, 2007 Sunday
At 9:30 this morning when I finally finished the chores and was settling down for coffee on the deck in the sunshine, it was borne in upon me that the distant barking I heard was probably my dogs and could not be ignored. I stepped out onto the knoll and could just make out Willie racing up and down the fence in a fury unable, thanks to DD Sally’s fencing exertions, to get out. Bagel of course had sailed over and was out on the road with a pair of strange boxers which were doing most of the barking. True to character, Bagel just wanted to play. I had gone out without a leash so had to carry Willie back to the house in my arms. He weighs 27 pounds, so Sally found, is shaped like a piglet and was squirming wildly. He was in such a rage at those boxers that I was almost afraid of getting nipped. I could tell he was struggling to remember his manners.
By now the three large dogs were 1000 yards away across the bridge and I was hollering my loudest for Bagel who finally came back trailing the other dogs. Cars were slowing and honking. I captured Bagel and began making phone calls. Then I heard the cows bellowing. Still in my leaky Crocs, I grabbed the only weapon I could see, a hoe with half the handle gone, and headed for the barnyard. There were the dogs milling around with Helen and Jasmine acting aggressive. Wesley had mounted to the top of the manure heap. The dogs saw me and my hoe and seemed to know they were busted. They ran off down the field. At this point a man drove into the yard inquiring if I had seen some dogs. I directed his attention to their fleeing forms. He began shouting at 85 decibels and one dog came. I held her collar while he shouted up the other one. I find that they live fairly close by. At least they did not kill any chickens so far as I can tell. Max came by later and told me that those dogs have chased him on his bike and that he had given one a resounding kick on the head, a highly developed skill of his.
I have observed only one sign of heat in Jasmine. Late this afternoon I saw her try to mount Wesley.
I am making no further attempts at evening milking for the present. When Max stopped in he moved the second round bale inside for the cows. It is good hay and they were so busy eating it that I did not bother bringing them in for their evening grain. Helen does not need it anyway. I have been bringing her in just because it makes it much easier to bring Jasmine in and she needs the calories. I caught Wesley and brought him in by himself. He leads fairly well.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons this morning.
April 23, 2007 Monday
There was a little more quiet jumping today involving Jasmine. It is an undefinitive heat, not that I want her bred now.
The weather remains warm with a warm wind. The soil dried out enough to allow me to plant my radishes and mesclun (mixed salad).
I took the dogs with me on an excursion to camp to check on the rhododendrons at DD Marcia’s place. I first stopped at DS Martin and Amy’s camp. The ice on the lake has retreated about 20’ and the water has risen above the lower step of the stairs down to the water. I was unable to drive to Marcia’s place due to lingering snow. Bagel, however, ran down there and would not come when I called, or more accurately, yelled my head off. I finally had to walk on down to get him. By then I was so mad I was ready to take him to the pound. Instead I am plotting to get one of those electronic dog training set-ups. DD Sally tells me that her DD Rebecca used one to train her dog not to chase moose and it was effective. Bagel is chronically bad at coming when called. I still have a headache either from yelling or just from being mad. Willie was a good dog and came right back. There were a lot of moose tracks around.
Speaking of snow, I received the following today from her:
I found half a small fish in the garden this am (the birds drop them sometimes), probably a eulachon which means the eulachon run will be soon! Very exciting. Sally * saw bear tracks yesterday. The snow is still incredibly deep; walking (on snowshoes) to the greenhouse, your feet are about on level with the eves of it. And the berms on the road, you can't see over even if you jump up and down. If -without snowshoes- you step off the trail (heaven forbid) you sink in up to your armpits. When I first got here I could see laundry hanging on the line up at Sally’s, looked very cute but unusual- normally you can't see anything like that looking uphill and over a high hedge. When I got up there I realized she had raised the clotheslines and was tending her clothes in the sunshine on snowshoes, 4' above the ground! Rafe left on the ferry I came in on; he was off to Juneau ("Merry was he at last to be free, on mad adventure bent") - meaning, I was there at last to care for the animals. He was going to look at a 30' sailboat which in fact he has bought. And incidentally, Sally says his current plan is to be in Maine in Oct.
I won't be able to tell if Irene (the ewe) is preggers till I get her sheared, maybe? Still, she feels pretty solid in there!
*The other Sally is Rafe’s GF. Twenty-seven feet of snow was recorded at Haines this winter.
There are signs of spring at DS Max’s house, as viewed from the balcony outside his bedroom:
We got a new screen door installed yesterday on the bedroom deck door. Mitra made immediate good use of it and hung out my work clothes to dry out on our rail mounted clothesline. It’s a custom made door, as that opening is non-standard, so it wasn’t cheap. But, it’s a beautiful door with attractive hardware and very well made. The guy did a nice job in spite of being named Kermit Greenleaf. The name sounds like a character from a play about rural Maine. He is a friendly, talkative old guy who lives over in Jay and makes the doors at a workshop at his house.
We have a resident woodpecker who likes to bang on our metal gutters first thing in the morning. I think he likes the way it echoes through the woods. He seems to prefer the downspout that is nearest my head. The last two mornings I have walked out there naked and sleepy to shoo him off. He is an aggressive little s*** and refuses to move unless I get within a couple of feet of him and flap my arms. Hard to go back to sleep after that.
April 25, 2007 Wednesday
I’m so thrilled! DIL Mitra just called to tell me that the Better Living Center, the health food store, has a customer who is looking for milk that tastes the way she remembers it from her youth in Poland. She is 90 years old and her name is Mrs. Heinrich. She has to be the mother of Bernd Heinrich, the naturalist who wrote Ravens in Winter! Everyone who tastes the milk from my cows says it is leagues better than any other they have been able to buy and I have to agree, all the commercial samples of raw milk that I have tasted were far inferior. The only thing wrong with my current milk supply is that Jasmine is still being stingy with the cream. However I can now see a tinge of green on the pasture. As soon as the grass reaches 4” long I plan to wean Wesley.
Ever since I got that annoying cold a couple of weeks ago I have been pondering why my secondary immune system, my cow, could have let me down. I count on my cow to produce antibodies in her milk for any infection I might be harboring. The other day I came across something I wrote exactly two years ago in March in which I said I had a cold and thought it was because Helen was dry. When I started machine milking Jasmine after she calved in early February DD Sally took over hand milking Helen and I no longer got my glass of milk straight from the cow. Furthermore, the way the cows are lined up with Helen next to the door I can easily give her a kiss on the nose. Jasmine’s head is down in her pan and inaccessible. Jasmine likes to kiss and I am now making a special effort to kiss her. So we’ll see if I get any more colds.
I just took the brand new edition of The Joy of Cooking out of the library. It starts right off with a nutrition section and I regret to say that following an introductory statement saying that cholesterol is vital to one’s health, it launches right into advice to avoid red meat in favor of fish and beans and states that vegans can get their calcium from soy milk and fortified OJ.
I drove over to see Rumford Falls. With the snow melting fast the falls are incredible, awesome. The roar and rising mist add to the effect. There were a number of tourists viewing them.
April 26, 2007 Thursday
It was a lot cooler today, barely broke 40F. I finally got the front yard raked. It was getting embarrassing. But I did not get any gardening done. The grass is really trying to grow. I see a distinct haze of green as I look across the pasture. The herd split up and each went their separate ways in search of grass long enough to be rewarding. I think they got a few bites. There are no leaves on anything but some of the early flowers greeted me. Purple and yellow violas are coming up around the edge of the vegetable garden where they wintered over. The daphnia is blooming and a patch of bluebells. I dug one of my bunching onions and picked a handful of chervil. They are both completely cold hardy.
Jasmine gave over 4 gallons this morning.
April 27, 2007 Friday
It did not get above 40F today and was overcast with occasional drizzle. Rain was predicted, the residue of the storm which hit hard on the Midwest this week, and it still may rain tonight. Last year right after I planted seeds we got a pelting rain which washed most of them away. Not wanting this to happen again, I covered my little patch of radish and lettuce with protective row cover.
Late last night I heard the spring peepers for the first time this year.
I cut back on the hay I am feeding out. It is obvious I will run out despite the two lovely round bales DS Martin brought two weeks ago. The cows don’t mind the damp weather and spent a few hours outside exploring for grass. Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons this morning.
Last night little Willie dog decided he wanted to sleep out in his bed in the garage and it looks like that is what he is doing again tonight. Bagel prefers to stay in the house.
April 28, 2007 Saturday
The weather today remains the same, overcast with drizzle, maximum temperature 40F. We are told to expect no change for the next week. This is very unMaine-like weather. But the grass is coming on, albeit slowly. I noted some steady grazing today although they do not come in with full rumens. They eat whatever hay I have put in the feeder.
I had some little barn adventures. Upstairs I found a nest with 15 eggs. Then down at the far end of the room where I milk I saw a hen sneaking away and found another nest with four eggs. Next to it, a little mother cat was curled up with two new kittens, black of course. DIL Mitra and little Roshan came over for milk and got to see the kittens. Then they went out among the cows and took pictures.
April 29, 2007 Sunday
The house is getting clammy with all this rain but I am still resisting turning the furnace back on. I have the little fireplace in the kitchen going.
From the cows’ standpoint it is not very cold. It got up to nearly 50F for a little while today. Mostly when I look at the thermometer it says 40. I noticed they grazed quite purposefully for a while under the old apple tree. That grass always greens up first but it is as short as a putting green. Jasmine gave 3 gallons plus about a quart this morning. I am giving her and Helen a couple of quarts of alfalfa cubes with their grain when they are in their stanchions twice a day. I bring them in even though I am not currently milking in the evening.
Wesley has now turned nearly black.
DD Sally called. She got her generator going and she and Rafe finished shearing her ewe with her electric clippers which she took with her from here. She thinks her Oberhousli goat is pregnant. If so it will be by her ram so will be a cross breed. She has read that the offspring of such a union usually die. I guess at least she will have milk. She has a goose setting.
Both dogs ran away yesterday so they had to spend the day on their chains. I walked to the river with them on leashes. They were orderly once they understood that this was going to be a very quiet walk. The river is high but I don’t see any more trees falling in. These floods we now have every year have badly undercut the riverbank and I have lost more than half of my noble trees.
April 30, 2007 Monday
Cold rain continues and now there is a strong wind too. But I think it will clear tonight. I saw the cardinal again on my feeder. The cows were out much of the day. Jasmine’s production dropped under 3 gallons this morning. I am holding out on not turning on the furnace but the house is cold.
I finally collected up enough cream to make butter. Now I will have butter for DS Bret whom I am expecting this week. I also made bread.
May 1, 2007 Tuesday
At last, sunshine! As I hoped, yesterday’s wind cleared out the sky during the night and around 1AM I saw the full moon. The strong wind blew all day and it did not get above 40F but the sun shone and I was able to dig in the garden. I dug for more than 1 ½ hours and planted a 15’ row of leeks. For the first time, I ordered living plants. A thready looking bundle of dried up wispy shoots grown in Texas arrived last Saturday. The accompanying note assured me that there was nothing wrong with them; just plant them, so I did. I ordered from Johnny’s Selected Seed.
Max’s job in Cape Cod got done and he is home for a week or so. He stopped in for milk and brought me my feed, filled the hoppers, carried in firewood and split some kindling. I gave him a sandwich made with homemade bread and homemade cheese with homemade zucchini relish. That is the end of the relish. It is more popular than cucumber relish around here. It is gratifying to know there is something to do with excess zucchini that people actually ask for.
Max also brought me a copy of People Magazine that I had asked for. I wanted to see who they thought were the 100 most beautiful people. Max said he was going to have to rethink his opinion of my literary discrimination.
The cows grazed steadily today but they don’t come in with full rumens. It will be another week at least before I can stop feeding hay. I have not seen much bloat here. My theory, unproven, is that by spending two or three weeks working hard for every bite, by the time the grass gets lush they have adapted to it.
Jasmine gave three gallons this morning.
May 2, 2007 Wednesday
The weather today was beautifully bright and clear but still barely topped 45F. The nearest I got to gardening was filling another cartload with chicken house cleanings, my third. I am hoping to haul out one a day. The litter is very heavy due to the roof leaking in the chicken room. I have been fearful of it fermenting as happened three (?) years ago when the barn caught fire under my soggy broilers. I had been adding dry bedding but there was a heat lamp and the underneath layer heated. We had the fire department and they saved the barn. What I have been hauling out is cold so I am not too worried. The cart I am filling is my nifty horse barn tub that fits in a rack with wheels. Marcia gave it to me last year.
Instead what I did today was go to Wal-Mart. I picked up a few plants and some food items for the family dinner on Saturday. With very careful shopping and label reading one could stay alive quite a while on the food they sell but optimum health would be unattainable. There are no top quality meats or dairy foods. Any time they have top quality produce it appears to be an accident which is not repeated. Nearly everything is ready to eat microwavable stuff. They even have frozen sandwiches.
DD Sally called with the thrilling news that her son Gabriel, Rafe’s older brother, has received a Fulbright Scholarship for a year of study in Kazakhstan. We are so happy for him. He went last year for a couple of months and for that trip he had learned the Kazakh language. But he found that due to the years of Soviet occupation almost everybody speaks Russian. So he has just taken a year of Russian.
Gabe was home schooled right up to college entrance.
May 3, 2007 Thursday
I think the thermometer is stuck on 40F. The sun shone brilliantly all day but there was a 30 mile wind. I hate working in the wind and besides I wanted to get ahead on the cooking in preparation for the arrival of DS Bret and a family dinner on Saturday.
Bret arrived about 8PM. He had been to FASEB meetings in Washington DC (Society of Experimental Biologists). He gave two papers by poster, one on Omega 3 fatty acids, the other on Vitamin D. I will report on these after I get to see them.
May 4, 2007 Friday
The grass has now grown sufficiently that this evening I had to call the cows from far down in Pocket Field and they ignored me for about 10 minutes. Finally good little Jasmine came home with Wesley bounding along. The others followed in due course just in case they were missing something important. Freddie is getting pushy. He always wants to come in with Jasmine and Helen and get grain. I often have to smack him a little bit and say back in a firm voice. If he does not soon mend his ways I will do some retraining. He is now 16 months old.
This was another clear bright day. It almost got up to 50F but the wind blew hard. Bret went up to camp to check on things. He looked longingly at Martin’s sailboat. If conditions are the same tomorrow they might put the boat in the water.
May 5, 2007 Saturday
What a full day! The weather was fine except it is still stuck on 40F. The wind was down at last.
DS Bret helped me with some clean-up and rearranging in the barn so that it will be easier for me to get the Surge bucket from the cow to the garage. DD Sally left me with a milk pouring set-up in the garage so that I have only to lift it onto a little table. Bret and I filled two of the large clean-up tubs and I spread them on deserving plants including the hop vine and peonies.
DS Max and DIL Mitra and the girls arrived about 1:30. Bret and Max then got the Kubota out and moved some gravel to create an easier front access to the barn with my milk wagon.
Max cleared away a manure pile from behind the barn representing three months of Beefer Pen housekeeping. Then they packed the back of the pickup with a mass of bittersweet prunings which DD Sally had left on the lawn, there being nothing else she could do with them at the time due to deep snow. We had hoped to burn them but Max learned that they will accept them at the dump. Hurrah! Bittersweet in an invasive species from somewhere else. It wraps itself on trees and strangles them.
Shireen and Roshan gave Willie a badly needed bath. Bret said he looked like a grey Brillo pad. He is once again white.
I had the TV on all afternoon so that I could watch events at the Kentucky Derby. I got to see several little views of Queen Elizabeth and finally saw the race itself, which I hate to miss. Then we had a big family meal with Max and family, DS Martin and DIL Amy, eight of us in all. Baby Hannah has been sick ever since she went to a party a week ago and ate a lot of strawberries. It was not an allergic reaction. It was more like poisoning. She has alternated being droopy and tearful, not herself at all. I have never heard her scream as she did this afternoon. However she settled down and ate a huge dinner with no help. She also drank a lot of Jasmine’s milk.
Our dinner consisted of Mitra’s pulled pork which was the best ever, a big pot of beans which I made, brown rice and a big salad provided by Amy and many condiments and extras. For dessert I made a lemon pound cake which I served with a strawberry and raspberry mixture and whipped cream.
Because of being glued to the TV, highly unusual behavior for me, I didn’t do the cows until 7:30 but they were very good and came right in.
May 6, 2007 Sunday
The weather today was again fine but started out below freezing and never got very warm. Bret fired up Martin’s Troybuilt tiller which lives here at the farm and triple tilled a section of garden that had not been dug over for two years. It was all grass but not yet taken over by comfrey. Now I have enough room for my potatoes and tomatoes. What a treat to have this done.
Bret also took the pickup load of bittersweet trimmings to the dump where they will be burned. Then he moved all the farm equipment and extra vehicles to the north side of the barn where they do not impair the view. Hopefully, the lawn will recover.
Martin is arranging to get lime delivered here for pasture improvement.
About 11 AM while I was doing my part in the garden by digging weeds with the fork, I noticed that in the adjacent sheep paddock were Freddie (16 mo.) and Wesley (3 mo) all by themselves. That is exactly the pair that I had been planning to install in there to separate and wean Wesley and I had been wondering how I was going to single-handedly get them separated out. It was too good a chance to pass up even though I had in mind to wait until Bret leaves, he being afraid he would have to listen to a night of bellowing. So I ran up and closed the gate on them. So far the only bellowing has come from Freddie. He is good buddies with Wesley and always licks his face but that doesn’t mean he wanted to be trapped. Wesley and Jasmine looked mopey this evening but neither made a sound. This of course means I now must milk TAD. Jasmine came right in at 5:30. I know she did not let down her cream but still she gave over two gallons for a total of 5 ¼ gallons today.
This is Bret’s last evening. I made beef teriyaki and a vegetable stir-fry. He really liked it. Then we listened to my CD of the seaman’s ballads and chanteys collected from the Patrick O’Brian series of novels about the days of British fighting sail.
DIL Amy stopped in with Hannah who now seems fully recovered from whatever was wrong with her. Amy said that after she ate that big dinner last night with lots of pulled pork, cottage cheese, whole wheat naan and Jasmine’s milk, she turned the corner.
May 7, 2007 Monday
It started out at 25F this morning but by mid afternoon was over 50F. It was a beautiful day marred only by my having to say goodbye to DS Bret who left for Fairbanks AK. I made him two big meat sandwiches.
Poor Wesley bellowed most of the day. When I was in the barn this morning sweet Melvin stuck his head in the back door and relayed Wesley’s messages to me by repeatedly mooing. He obviously wanted me to know something was wrong. There are painful aspects to animal husbandry. Jasmine returned to the barn a few times to check on Wesley and briefly answered his bellowing. He has Freddie in with him who also helps moo whenever he sees me. Towards afternoon Wesley finally got serious about drinking his water. He must have a sore throat by now. He also ate his grain which he previously refused. I watched him graze. He takes three bites then stops to moo.
Jasmine gave 3 gallons this morning and over 2.5 this evening. What a lot of milk from a wee cow. I think she is still holding up her cream though. She is cooperative but making quite a few “statements” in the form of pooing and peeing. I didn’t say much to her about it, as I am sure it is just part of her transition to Wesley being weaned. However, it is clear that she does not mind nearly as much as he does. He is suffering not only separation but hunger.
I dug in lime and manure in the rows where my potatoes are going and laid out the seed potatoes in their positions. It was lovely down in the garden. So far there are no bugs.
May 8, 2007 Tuesday
I noted some increase in cream in Jasmine’s milk from yesterday but she really let down today. She gave six full gallons! The pasture is now looking truly green. The new grass has grown up to obscure last year’s dried brown leftovers. It was much warmer today, too. I think it hit 70F at one point. Max stopped in for milk and to bring my feed and he said it hit 80F at their place. My big maple out front unfurled its chartreuse leaves in a haze of glory. I love that tree.
My potatoes are now planted. I included half a dozen purple ones from the supermarket which had sprouted in the pantry. I also planted spinach.
DD Sally in Alaska told me of her DS Rafe’s latest adventure. She was sitting on her deck facing the river absorbed in her Tin Tin comic. Rafe and his sister Becky and her husband Torsten were out in Rafe’s old wooden boat with an outboard motor, a boat which Rafe made years ago when he was a teenager. The river at this point is a wide inter-tidal zone. You would scarcely be able to recognize anybody on the far side and the water was choppy. She heard the motor cut out but did not pay much attention. Motors are always cutting out and the boat was a long way off. Then she heard the motor start up and looked up in time to see Rebecca and Torsten leap from the back to the front of the boat. “How odd”, she thought and resumed reading. The motor was again silent. Eventually the crew reached shore using the oars. What had happened was that when the motor was restarted and went from neutral to forward the old wooden transom fell out. Quick thinking Rafe somehow managed to grab the motor, which stopped running possibly by action of the kill switch, and he simultaneously yelled to the others to jump to the front of the boat so that the back end would be out of the water. Nobody has any idea how he was able to grab the motor which is large and heavy and has nothing to grip.
I asked Sally if they had life jackets. They did, but Sally says that in Alaska these are referred to as CFD’s; corpse flotation devices. They cannot save you unless you are rescued quickly because the water is so cold. Fortunately they were not far from land.
May 10, 2007 Thursday
The shadblow (Amelanchier Canadensis) bloomed today. It is the first tree to bloom and appears while the other trees are not fully leafed out. It is covered with dainty white flowers. This is a nice time of year. The spring peepers are in full chorus and spiders are spinning webs in anticipation of Maine’s famous cloud of black flies and mosquitoes. But so far there is scarcely a bug.
I got a row planted in my veg garden and another prepared. That will have to wait for Saturday. Max and Mitra have invited me over tomorrow for lunch and to watch Mitra’s DVD of Mansfield Park.
Max wrote today of his exciting morning: As the dust settled in the driveway from Mitra taking the girls to school I sat down to check my email. But I could hear chickens and ducks calling the alarm, so I looked out the window from the office towards the woods. I saw the chief rooster, Dandy, run out of the woods very fast, so I stood and watched. There in the woods behind him was a small, beige colored fox. It was one of those stupid moments when you stare dumbstruck, almost unbelieving of what you are seeing.
The elapsed time spent staring stupidly was probably fairly brief. Even so, I sprinted all the faster upstairs to get the shotgun. I have a breach lock on the gun because of the kids. I had to fumble with that for a few seconds. Once I had the thing loaded I stepped out onto the upper deck to see if I could get him from up there. By this time he had a dead white hen in his mouth and was standing on top a granite boulder. The blast knocked him off the rock and the chicken from his mouth, but he got up and ran away.
I ran downstairs and pursued him into the woods, thinking I would find him not far away. But, I could not. I know I hit him ‘cause of how he flew off the rock. I was dressed in shorts and rubber clogs, so I was getting scratched by sticks and bit by the newly emerged black flies. I walked back to the house and changed into jeans and boots, then went to go look some more. I left the dead hen and a spent shotgun shell on the porch.
Mitra came home at some point and found the dead hen and the spent shell. She had put together a scenario that involved me shooting somebody’s dog that had killed one of our hens when I emerged from the woods to set the story straight. I would probably not have shot a neighbors dog over one chicken, giving the owners a chance to do the right thing before destroying all hope of reasonable dialogue. If it kept happening I might.
It was just a stroke of luck that I happened to look out at the right time to see that fox. Two of our ducks have gone missing and we would not have missed today’s hen until Mitra did a head count tonight. This fox was not the same one that came into our yard a couple of weeks ago when we still had a lot of snow. That was an unusually tall fox with black legs. The one I shot and apparently wounded today was small enough that it may have been a juvenile. In which case we have a bigger problem if some mamma fox is training her kits how to hunt at the Luick’s Fast Food Dining and Hunt Training Park.
The chickens did not put up the sort of ruckus I would have expected when faced with furry death from the wild woods. Dandy makes more noise over stupid little things when I’m trying to take a nap. But, he was standing at guard about ten feet from the fox. Some hens continued to peck at things on the ground. I feel like they should have been acting more concerned.
I told Max I hope he keeps all the excitement over at his place.
One of my bantams went broody three days ago. I waited until I was sure she was sitting tight, then today took away her wooden egg and put six eggs under her.
The comfrey is starting to show itself. I cooked some for dinner. It wakes a pretty good spinachy green, one of nature’s freebies. With my improved cream supply, I started a batch of Ann B’s cream cheese.
Jasmine gave 5 ½ gallons today.
May 11, 2007 Friday
Despite all the rain in April, Maine has been drying out so showers today were welcome. I was not working in the garden anyway. I went over to visit DS Max and DIL Mitra and had a delicious lunch of chicken and sausage soup followed by lacy oatmeal cookies. Mitra and I then watched Mansfield Park while Max followed more manly pursuits. I enjoyed it even though they played fast and loose with the story line besides making Fanny a great deal more assertive than Jane Austen’s creation was.
It was especially nice to see the Luick farm. The ducks and chickens wander the vast rolling lawn. The meat birds are improbable looking creatures. They are in a large chicken tractor where they spend their time getting bigger and uglier. They don’t put much of their resources into feathers. You can see considerable pink skin. Their feet are very large. Mitra and I agreed that she will ask to have the feet. These represent a lot of feed. I have heard that in the Orient they are cooked and eaten. If nothing else, the pigs ought to get them.
At Roshan’s request I brought along a basket suitable for her to carry Ruby, the crippled chicken.
After the girls got home from school they put Ruby in the basket and took her to visit all her old haunts around the premises. Apart from her inability to walk, Ruby is alert and healthy .
Back home, all was well. The cows are a fine sight dotted around the pasture enjoying the grass. Only Jasmine comes up at milking time. She wants her grain. I am giving her about 8 pounds/day but she is still losing weight. The grass is not yet at its peak and with Wesley off of her I expect her weight to soon stabilize.
An interesting observation I have made is that ever since the grass came on none of them are eating the mineral which is available free choice. Neither are they drinking from the stock tank. There are plenty of vernal ponds and a tiny stream which apparently they prefer. They do all come inside a couple of times a day so they could eat the mineral if they wanted it. I have kept it shaped into a neat pyramid and this has not been disturbed. All winter I refilled it once a week and they all ate it.
Jasmine gave somewhat more than 5 ½ gallons today.
May 12, 2007 Saturday
Today is Helen’s 11th birthday.
May 13, 2007 Sunday Mother’s Day, sunny and fine
There were lots of lovely phone calls today from my kids but I did not expect to see anyone. Then Max and Mitra came over with the girls and two of their little friends. The kids looked at the new kittens and played with the dogs and then asked to go to the river. For this they need adult supervision so I offered to go with them. Of course the dogs came too. The river is back down to its normal level so is not actually dangerous but we take no chances. The girls had a great time wading in the riffles, throwing sticks for Lulu and getting wetter and wetter. By the time I was warning that it was nearly time to leave they were flopping down in the icy water and squealing and getting their clothes soaking wet. Back at the house the two eight year olds took a hot bath. I handed out dry tee shirts to all.
For a snack today I made the apple cake contributed by Carrie on the forum. It was still warm from the oven so crumbled when sliced and I served the cream cheese frosting with a spoon but it was very good.
Max lost no time in getting out the lawn mower and giving my lawn its first mowing. It looks so much better.
In cow news, Jasmine was so packed with milk this morning that she stood at the gate mooing for me. She gave 3 ¼ gallons and tonight another 2 ¾ . If my start with cow ownership had been with her I would have thought everything about cowmanship was a snap. I might have been like these people whose first baby sleeps and eats perfectly and never cries and lulls the parents into thinking they know it all about babies.
Somebody has laid two more eggs under my broody. She is sitting tight so I can put my hand under her and pick her up like a tea cozy but in the dim light I still could not see my markings well enough to make out which were the new eggs.
May 14, 2007 Monday
This is a vibrant time of year. In a land with a short growing season – it is barely five months – once winter loses its grip you just about need to jump back. The shiny new leaves burst open all tender and green and the grass is an eye popping green. I loved Hawaii with its year ‘round flowers and delicious climate. But only in a place with cold winters will you see everything bran new and fresh all at the same time. Today the buds on the apple tree are still bright pink balls but the scent is escaping. Jasmine was reluctant to come in and leave the grass. She gave 5 ¾ gallons today. Helen barely bothers to look up. Jasmine ought to have been in heat yesterday or today but she gave no sign of it unless it was that the two steers mooed when she came into the barn. They followed her around a bit but there was no jumping. I suppose I won’t see a heat until she starts to gain weight. She is not painfully thin but I can count her short ribs.
I shopped today in Rumford. I hated to take time from the garden but when you are running out of toilet paper and dishwasher detergent you know its time to go. I did get one more 15’ row dug and manured. I’ll run down tomorrow and plant beets. It is still too cold for things like beans and cucumbers.
May 15, 2007 Tuesday
It rained last night and most of today. It was just a soft drizzle which did not add up to much but the garden was grateful. The broccoli raab is already up.
Still no sign of heat in Jasmine except for Freddie and Melvin standing close by. Helen also looked very alert. They probably know something I don’t. I have ordered semen from Ann B’s mini bull, Private Pyle. This is so wonderful. It will be sent directly to my AI technician. I am not in a hurry to get her bred. I don’t want a winter calf and of course must await a more overt heat display. The way she is producing no doubt is suppressing heat. Today she gave a full six gallons. I am afraid to cut back on her grain for fear of sending her into ketosis. It might actually be better to increase her grain for the energy.
DS Martin arrived for dinner. He has taken this week off to work on his deck at camp. We expect Amy and Hannah tomorrow.
May 16, 2007 Wednesday
Another day of rain and lots colder. I have had a fire going all day. In the morning, I drove to Weld and bought three fleeces from a lady with a small farm. She has had a business for several years selling her garden produce, eggs, dressed chickens, pies, etc. The State has closed her down now for want of a license. I feel badly for her as she has been trying to earn money as a stay-at-home mom. I bought one black Icelandic fleece and two grayish white Shetland fleeces.
Afterwards I stopped in to see DS Martin at camp. He had been working in the rain on dismantling his deck. We took a walk up to DD Marcia’s camp and picked some daffodils.
Little Jasmine gave nearly six gallons today. Although I sold three gallons the refrigerator was still crammed with milk until Max came over this evening and took eight gallons and two buckets of clabber. Those pigs of his eat better than most people.
Nina Planck sent me a draft of an op ed piece she has done for the NYT on the health of vegan babies. It is a good hard hitting article. It was prompted by the starvation death of a baby being fed a vegan diet. I have believed for a long time that pediatricians should be proactive in correcting the feeding of vegan infants. I think vegan diets for babies constitute child abuse, which is reportable in every state. How odd that it is illegal to sell an unlicensed pie to a tourist but not illegal to feed a vegan diet to a baby.
DS Martin, Amy and baby Hannah were with me for supper. Amy brought a lovely Pollock fillet from Portland and I made a gooseberry pie.
May 17, 2007 Thursday
At 6am the first thing I noticed was that the rain had stopped. The next thing I saw as I looked across the pasture was Jasmine crazy in heat. Freddie the steer has forgotten he is not a bull after all. This was a 24 day interval from Jasmine’s last quite weak heat. I can’t imagine that two meals with extra grain could already have made a difference to her physiology. She must have just been saving this up.
Bagel has run off or is hiding out of sight in the bushes. Willie got in with the chickens this morning by squeezing under a fence. The chicken yard was full of feathers when I found him and he had a small hen down on her back with her feet in the air. I scolded and screeched at him and dragged him back to the house by his collar and put him on his chain. Then I went and got the hen and brought her over where he could see me loving on her. She was not much injured, mostly in shock, and later appears to have recovered. Willie soon forgave me for my outburst but Bagel, the sensitive New Age dog, ran off. I don’t believe he can be far away. My vet came over for lunch and Bagel emerged to get the dog biscuits he was expecting but then he left again.
For lunch I served some more of the pollock and pie. Martin and family joined me for supper. For them I made my lamb shank casserole which is always a hit. It cooks covered several hours with brown rice, stock, veggies and a can of tomatoes. Amy brought a rhubarb crisp which was excellent. Hannah was in her high chair when Martin squeezed past with his plate of food. She waved her arms at him and plainly sad “Daddy, Me!” She wanted the dinner. As usual, she drank a big glass of milk and ate a surprising amount of dinner. She especially likes meat.
Martin bought 100’ of plastic drain hose to lay in the trench that runs through the horse paddock. This will be a vast improvement.
May 18, 2007 Friday
Nothing but cold rain all day and the temperature did not break 40F. This did not appear to deter the cows from grazing but I saw where they slept inside last night. At midday they came back in to chew their cuds. Jasmine gave 6 gallons again. Melvin and Freddie tag along when I call her at milking time. When I let her back out they are pests and get in the way. I have to say “Back! Back!” to Freddie until he backs up enough to let her pass down the ramp.
I did not see Bagel until this morning. I gave Willie his piece of raw chicken and laid Bagel’s in his dish. When I came in from milking the chicken was gone but still no Bagel but I knew he must be nearby; Willie was on his chain where he could not reach it. I called him some more and this time he came. I let him in to snooze by the fire.
Martin continued with his deck tear-down at camp and brought the old boards here to store. He worked on a lot of things including getting my spring water line going. It required back flushing and is now running fine. He also connected the hoses for my water to the veg garden (for someday when the rain stops).
Nina Planck’s NYT op ed piece on the dangers of a vegan diet for babies is to run on Monday May 21.
May 19, 2007 Saturday
A couple of days of increasing Jasmine’s grain has had the effect of raising her production by half a gallon. She gave 6.5 gallons today. The extra calories are not putting fat on her ribs and I don’t need more milk. Tomorrow I will scale back to two scoops per feed.
It was 60F and raining again this morning. The house is cold. I went back to wearing long johns. Rain was predicted through the weekend but in fact the sun came out for a couple of hours and warmed us up to nearly 60F. It was lovely. I went down and planted my beets. Unfortunately after putting in most of the seed I discovered I was planting on top of some other seeds that were not yet up. Now I guess I’ll have beets mixed with radicchio.
Granddaughter Helena and little Natalie arrived at about 11pm and went straight to bed. They will be here 4 ½ days.
May 20, 2007 Sunday
Mostly rain again today, but slightly warmer. It even let up for awhile and I saw a segment of rainbow. But mostly it rained. The chickens are strangely indifferent to the rain. They scout around in the rain puddles feasting on drowned worms.
Helena and Natalie have colds. I boiled a chicken for broth and we ate chicken and rice for supper. Natalie does not act sick. She keeps busy acquainting herself with the novel aspects of my kitchen drawers. One must pounce ahead of her removing rasps and peelers. She is a cute little thing just 17 months old with strawberry blond hair and a dimple in her chin. Helena pulled her around in the wagon in the rain. She wore a little green polka dot raincoat and very much objected to coming back indoors. Helena has taught her a lot of words in American Sign Language. Sign language is just the thing for babies.
May 21, 2007 Monday
What joy, the sun shone nearly all day. I found some more beet seed and got it planted, also dug for a half hour in a section that is matted with burr clover and crabgrass. Then I took the dogs for a walk to the river. They were well behaved. The river has risen about two feet.
Despite the sun, it remained very cool. The apple trees are in full bloom but I did not see a single pollinator. I fear this will be another year without apples.
DD Marcia sent me a huge ripe papaya from the tree in her garden in Florida. I have been eating it all day.
I spent considerable time today writing a response to Nina Planck’s op ed piece which was published in today’s NYT. It is hard work writing something short.
May 22, 2007 Tuesday
Superb weather today. By midday the temperature got above 60F. I stood under the apple tree and was able to observe a few pollinators. I saw no honeybees. There was a black bee the size of a honeybee. I saw a few of these last year. The tree, which is an extremely old crabapple, was in full and radiant bloom. There is another tree out in the pasture which is of a similar age. It has excellent apples but I seldom get any even in years when it bears because the cows make a practice of visiting it every morning to eat any that have fallen during the night.
Everywhere the grass is full of violets, white, yellow and purple.
Helena has taken Natalie up to visit her dad’s family. They seem to adore her. She marches around in her pretty little outfits looking like a wind-up toy. If I am lying on the couch she stops to give me a kiss. Blue eyes, red hair and an apple green dress make a mighty cute combination. She seems recovered from her cold.
I finished digging another row in the veg garden but stopped short of hauling manure to it. Max stopped in for milk and I gave him 10 gallons most of which was skimmed. He mowed a large section of lawn.
Jasmine was perfect as usual. She gave over 6 gallons.
Helena is a skilled fixer. She found the problem with my big copier. It had a scrumple deep inside where I could not see it. The machine is a great big Sharp that can copy book pages, not just single sheets, and I love it when it works. DS Martin gave it to me because it is touchy and so often behaved badly for office work at his plant.
May 24, 2007 Thursday
We actually had hot weather today. It was warmer outdoors than in. Helena had to leave today. Her new baby is due in July. She plans to be back for a week in November so I can look forward to seeing my fourth great grandchild at that time.
I got another garden row completely prepared with manure and lime dug in.
In the barn yesterday I found two perfectly adorable kittens. Both have beautiful grey and white markings. They are probably six weeks old and just at that brief moment in time when they are catchable. I put them in a cat carrier and this morning Helena helped them learn to lap cream. I’d like to keep them just because they are the first kittens I have had here in several years that are not black and white. Yet the thought of feeding any more critters was making my hair fall out. Then a thought struck me! Granddaughters Shireen and Roshan can raise them! Good job for them. Max came over for milk tonight and I figured to be able to persuade him of the merit of my plan. As it happens he has a cosmic connection to cats and instantly spied the cat carrier in the shadows. Soon he was on his knees helping them to drink from their saucer. He left with them in his van.
My little Jasmine gave seven gallons today. It seems almost unbelievable.
My wandering dog Bagel is home. He was gone for two nights. This afternoon I drove around asking people if they had seen him and found a second party who has been feeding him. This man, who is crippled from a car accident and lives alone, drove over this evening on his 4-wheeler and told me “I’ve got your dog!” I took my car over and picked up Bagel who is now back sleeping under the table.
May 25, 2007 Friday
I started cream cheese this morning and feta this evening.
It is very warm, in the 80’s, and now the bugs are out in force. I have seen the cows running a couple of times. I did not get into the garden until evening and even then only to water the seedlings. This was the first time this year I have used bug spray. I brought the dogs down with me. They only got two little walks today, this and one this morning. Otherwise they were on their chains being bored.
The lilacs are in bloom. These and the apple trees are scenting the air. Time will tell if the apple tree got pollinated. I stand under it and gaze up at the blossoms and see a few little guys flying around but no honey bees and, oddly, no bumble bees. The only bumblebee I have so far seen was in the kitchen this morning. I caught her in a glass and put her outside.
Jasmine gave something over six gallons.
May 27, 2007 Sunday
It cooled off today and even sprinkled a bit. The petals are coming down like snow from the apple trees. The lilacs are about half open.
Jasmine gave seven gallons yesterday (Saturday) and again today.
There is a pair of my standard issue black kittens in the empty bay next to where I milk. One of the kittens is small and feeble and I have been attempting at each milking to get it to drink from a saucer. So far it barely tries. I had better luck tonight squirting milk directly into its mouth. I keep returning it to its nest but it toddles back under Jasmine. I noticed tonight that she would not move from her position until I picked up the kitten from under her. She did not want to step on it. With her head in the stanchion she cannot see the kitten but somehow she knows where it is.
We had a family dinner tonight out at Martin and Amy’s camp. It was her birthday dinner. Martin and Max barbecued two of Max's home raised chickens. Max took their first group to be dressed off yesterday so this was our first taste of them. They were delicious. I was also able to contribute feta to the salad. I made a carrot cake (from the new edition of Joy of Cooking which I have out of the library) and used my fresh cream cheese in the frosting. I rarely use veg oil. If it is called for in a recipe I use melted butter. In this case I used a mixture of melted butter and coconut oil. Everything tastes better with butter and is more nutritious.
I contributed the makings for potato salad and green salad and DIL’s Mitra and Amy did the preparation with help from granddaughter Shireen. I sat on the couch and enjoyed the fire while chatting with Mitra’s dad, Alex.
Here is a letter from my grandson Harper in which he tells of his recent voyage on the South China Sea. Harper is the same age as my youngest son Martin. He and his mother lived with me when we had our dairy farm in England. The boys were about five year old at the time. After school they always wanted the same thing: a glassful of cream, which they would drink right down.
Here is a photo album of my field work in the South China Sea.
Many adventures. Foul weather. Marooned on Dongsha Atoll. Adrift with a stuck propeller. Lost instrumentation. Communication "challenges". Two-way culture shock. Hardware stores that were like Alaskan junkyards.
It was all more than balanced by the fact that we got to witness a profoundly awesome physical phenomena: internal bores in the South China Sea. The first sign is that a line of white appears on the ships radar. This is the surface chop induced by internal bore. The boat cannot hold station due to the transient currents. We saw a whirlpool form at the surface. It was like being in the Inside Passage in Alaska viewing a tidal rip, but we were in the open ocean. As the wave goes by, the sea goes from flat calm to choppy and back in a few minutes.
That funny patch on my ear is me experimenting with sea-sickness medication. Note that it is flat calm in most of those pictures! I promise you that it wasn't before! I had two episodes of being sick. The first was within 8 hours of leaving port. The second was when I got back to shore. The main effect of "the patch" near as I can tell is to make you hellishly thirsty.
May 28, 2007 Monday Memorial Day
Jasmine’s production dropped to 6 ¼ gallons today. I have been expecting this because of the flies. They all spend less time eating and more time trying to get the flies off of themselves.
That tiny runty kitten seems determined to get itself stepped on. I put it back with its mama before turning Jasmine loose this evening. She stopped in the doorway of what I fancifully call my "milking parlor" and would not budge. I finally went for the little twig that I sometimes use to encourage her and realized the darn little kitten had run all the way out there and was under her feet. Jasmine started to move when she saw the twig. I swooped the little branch down and held the kitten still while Jasmine stepped around it. I think it lost one of its nine lives. I once had a kitten get stepped on by a cow. I then had to finish the job and put it down. I have not forgotten how awful that was.
I found a nest with ten eggs. It was located very inconveniently inside the barn wall so I removed all ten in hopes of discouraging the hen. Not only are those nests inside the wall hard to reach but they are accessible to predators. Last year a little hen with a large clutch ready to hatch got eaten along with all the eggs. It was no doubt a raccoon that got her.
I finally got some of the plants in that I bought a week ago. DIL Mitra told me how many of her tomato plants she already has in which made me feel way behind the curve. DS Max came over and brought me four fine wire tomato cages that he had made. I have no more excuses.
A neighbor stopped in with about six bushels of grass clippings that he wanted to give the cows. With some misgivings I let him do it. I hope they don’t all bloat. This grass is no better than what they are already eating so maybe they won’t over eat on it. I could not seem to think how to say I didn’t want it.
Yesterday was so busy with family at the lake that I did not get to the cemetery so I took my lilacs down today. They have cut the fir tree next to Grammie and Grampie’s headstone. It was my landmark and I wandered about quite a while before locating their grave. Nearly every grave had artificial flowers.
May 29, 2007 Tuesday
All went smoothly in the barn this morning. Afterwards I went to Rumford to shop and go to the library. While I was gone from home, DS Max came over and began the vast task of mowing my lawn. He spent hours on it and now it looks wonderful. I got about half of my tomato plants set out. I only ordered 12 so this is not saying a lot. There are also peppers and eggplant to set out. My potatoes are now mostly up. They are Yukon Gold.
DS Martin stopped in on his way down from camp. He tells me he has ordered tines made for the Kubota bucket. This will make it a lot easier to get volunteers to clean out the barn.
Speaking of the barn, the cows were in there a lot today and Jasmine came in tonight totally disgusting. I think somebody pooped on her rear end while she was lying down. I started by scraping her off with a tomato can. I was already late to the barn and by the time I was satisfies she was clean enough to milk she was in an uncharacteristically bad mood. She whapped me several times with her tail. Needless to say, I will be taking a shower tonight. She gave 6.5 gallons today.
I made two pounds of butter. The flavor is delicious but I could not get all the buttermilk out so it will not keep well.
May 30, 2007 Wednesday
More fine weather today although not quite warm enough to plant beans. I planted basil and hope it will warm up enough so that it can germinate. The lettuce is doing fine. By evening, rain threatened. If it does not rain in the night I will have to water tomorrow.
I started more feta.
Jasmine gave six gallons.
DD Marcia and Jack started driving from Florida to Maine. Marcia is driving. Jack is very ill with cancer. He will be able to lie down on an air mattress in their van whenever he wishes.
I saw no other people all day, only animals. This is often the case.
May 31, 2007 Thursday
It was cool again today. I don’t think it got above 50f. I set out the rest of my tomatoes and the peppers and eggplant. It was perfect gardening weather apart from the bugs and I had lots of fun. I have been encouraging a couple of kittens in my milking room. One is big and strong but the other is feeble. This morning I thought it was dead. When I picked it up it was limp and seemed to weigh about 2 oz. But then it moved and cried. I sat down with it under Jasmine and squirted milk directly into its mouth and it kept swallowing until I was afraid of over feeding it. It is much too weak to nurse. I expected it to be dead this evening but actually it was sitting up so I fed it again. I still doubt it will make it. Its mother remains attentive. She sits with it all day.
I have due date notes pinned up over my setting hens. One hatched her clutch today right on schedule. I lifted her up a couple of times but she did not seem ready to move off the nest. I could tell there were a couple of chicks under her that didn’t make it but I left everything as it was as she was getting flustered.
June 1, 2007 Friday
My little hen had her family all organized this morning. It turned out that none had died. She started out with seven eggs. She had chucked one out of the nest which must have been a dud. Under her were six fluffy chicks, five. One had already hopped down onto the floor. I put down a rusty old cookie sheet with chicken mash and clabber, then moved the family out of the wall and caught the little stray and put it with the others. Later after a busy day when I checked on them I could not find them. But at milking time I discovered them tucked up in the hay feeder. It was too late to offer more feed so I will try to find her again in the morning. Sometimes I catch and confine hens and chicks but in this case she is going to free range from the start.
Max was here for more clabber for their pigs. He dug a hole for my new pear tree, also carried some more of my heavy house plants out to the deck.
The sickly kitten is not going to make it. It had only a whiff of life left in it this evening. Its mother was sitting right with it. She did not even leave for her warm milk. It had fed last night, I could tell by its tummy, and did not want Jasmine’s milk this morning. Poor sad little thing. The sibling is very vigorous.
The kittens I gave my granddaughters are doing well. With any kind of luck, Mitra will add some pictures here.
June 2, 2007 Saturday
The weak little kitten didn’t make it. This morning the mother cat was still snuggling with it and keeping it warm but it was dead. She really did not want me to take it away and kept looking at me and returning to the nest even though she knew I had already put out food for all the cats. Ordinarily she runs off for a few minutes to eat kitty X’s. She did not even take an interest in the bowl of warm milk that I always give her when I strip Jasmine. The surviving kitten is strong and healthy except for sore eyes.
The bantam hen with six chicks is well established in the hay feeder. First thing this morning she had the chicks under her wing and did not move when I set down their mash and clabber. She could see two cats watching from about 12’ away and did not like the look of them. When I let Jasmine out the mother hen had barely moved. Jasmine couldn’t resist sticking her nose into the feeder to sniff the hen or perhaps the pan of mash and clabber. I could not be sure from where I stood. But the hen exploded into her face and she backed off in dismay. This was enough to also cause the cats to think better of whatever they had in mind and they slunk off. At evening chores there were still six chicks. Three are black and three are yellow with black stripes.
DS Martin, baby Hannah, DS Mark and 14 year old Hailey, arrived for the weekend. DIL Amy has joined her mother at their alma mater, Mt. Holyoke, for a class reunion so dad is baby sitting. He has much help from Hailey. I brought them some chili for their lunch from the little store across the bridge. Then they all went up to camp so Hannah could nap but Martin hopped on his bike and rode back down here. He had some teeth made to attach to the Kubota bucket for more efficient barn cleaning. He worked on that for a couple of hours. I fixed them dinner. We had tuna steaks, potato salad, green salad and rhubarb crisp. I was given this rhubarb yesterday. My own patch needs to be moved. The chickens attack it and it is getting shaded by bushes.
I saw fireflies tonight for the first time this year.
June 3, 2007 Sunday
I went up to camp to join the family there. Max brought his girls over so that they could see their cousin Hailey, the soccer mad girl. She is still in a knee brace from her injury about six weeks ago; otherwise I fear we would not have the pleasure of her company. She is a dedicated nursery maid to wee Hannah. When I arrived the kids and DS Martin and Mark were all playing badminton. When my sister and I used to play, it was known as battledore and shuttlecock. Soon we convened for grilled hamburgers with Coburn Farm beef. DIL Mitra and her parents and aunt were unable to join us. Mitra’s mom and aunt (they are identical twins) just got in from a grueling return trip following a two week tour of Italy and Sicily and were not ready to party.
When I went out to do evening chores I was shocked to discover that something had eaten the mother hen and all six chicks. There was a trail of feathers about 12 ft long at the end of which was a pile of her feathers. There were no chicks left but without their mother they would likely be prey to cats. It was unquestionably the work of a dog. I just hope it was not Bagel. I took Willie along to the lake but Bagel had gone walkabout and I had to leave him. He has not molested a chicken in many years but on the other hand he has not been left home alone either. I really have no clues except that there are two large matching dogs that I sometimes see at the far edge of the field. If I yell at them they leave. I feel quite desolated.
Come to think of it she could have been taken by a hawk but I have never lost any chickens here to hawks. Dogs and raccoons have been the only predators.
June 4, 2007 Monday
Last night when I was ready to go upstairs Willie began barking hysterically. Both dogs were in the garage. I went out several times to ask them what was wrong. They were both highly agitated and wanted me to let them out but of course I did not open any outer doors. I’d say Willie kept it up for an hour. I began to get distinctly nervous but I did not see or hear anything outside.
This morning the box of supplies in the room where I milk was overturned and scattered around. That is usually raccoon work but there was no scat, which raccoons tend to leave. Raccoons are not about at midday and when they take a chicken you see a long trail of feathers heading purposefully away. The feathers yesterday were in a short arc. So I don’t understand the overturned box unless there was a cat fight in there. Fighting cats can be pretty violent.
Jasmine gave nearly seven gallons today. She wanted me to scratch around her ears and face this evening. She stretched her neck out and turned her head this way and that for more scratching. She was in bliss.
It rained all last night and most of today. Right now it is raining very hard. The area DS Bret tilled is growing up to grass and comfrey again because I can’t garden. I did go down and harvest a little of this and that and make a great stirfry. It had asparagus, pigweed, kale tips and lots of other goodies. I fried it in coconut oil with a dash of my home made chili oil.
I made two loaves of sourdough French bread and a fruit loaf. Max came over for milk and clabber. I sent one loaf home with him along with some butter.
June 5, 2007 Tuesday
On my first pass to the barn about 6am I saw deer grazing in the pasture. Later when I was back out to milk about 8am, I looked out and saw that pair of large dark brown dogs approaching. I yelled at them in a hostile tone to go home and after staring at me for a few moments they trotted away. I’m sure they could not actually see me. I was calling from inside a small dark window. Next time I see them I will allow them to fully approach and see what they are up to. I know the owner.
There were periods of sun today between showers and I got seeds in for chard and parsnips and did some more digging. I am preparing another row for potatoes in the area DS Bret tilled. It looked discouraging. Grass and comfrey have rapidly grown 8” high. But the digging turned out to be quite easy. I also set out a dozen glads that DD Sally had started in a pot. They were desperate to get out. I put them in the veg garden next to the gooseberries.
At evening milking Jasmine was nowhere to be seen. I called for several minutes between doing other things in the barn. She finally emerged from the bushes with Freddie in tow and I saw the problem. She is in raging heat two days early. Instead of answering my call she joined the other two and they all swirled around for awhile. Finally Helen started walking home and they all followed albeit haltingly, as every time Freddie caught up with her and jumped, Jasmine stopped still. It was tricky getting her into the barn unaccompanied. She was antsy during milking and I thought wasn’t letting down well but she gave three full gallons for a total today of over 6.5 gallons.
Jasmine has stopped losing weight and looks smooth and shiny. By fall she ought to have gained back some lost weight. I am giving her about 10 lb/day of grain. It is a mixture of organic dairy ration, organic wheat and COB with molasses. The pasture is lush and vivid green.
June 6, 2007 Wednesday
As I was heading for the barn about 7am, a neighbor lad rolled into the driveway on his bike. He said one of my cats had been struck on the road but was alive. I went right out and found Iris, a long haired black and white female struggling to move and apparently in extremis. She had blood coming from her mouth and one eye. Cats are fragile and it is highly unusual for one to survive any impact with traffic. I carried her over and laid her under a rose bush. If Max had been here I would have asked him to put her out of her misery. When I looked at her after milking she was holding up her head so I took her a bit of warm milk which she ignored. Fifteen minutes later she was staggering around in large circles. I thought she must be trying to run away from her pain. Her spine seemed to be injured in addition to her head. A little later it was evident she was trying to get back to the barn. She reappeared at evening milking still staggering and veering to the left. The blood was dried on her face and she wanted to eat.
I was gone much of the day to Farmington where I had lunch with Mitra’s visiting family. Her mom and mom’s twin told be all about their two week trip to Italy. They said it was just beautiful. The flowers were bountiful. They were teasing each other about how many pictures of flower adorned balconies they took. They said every scrap of land had a little garden growing on it mostly with tomatoes and eggplant. They saw lots of herds of just three or four cows. There were dairy products at every meal, especially cheese. They said veal was on the menu everywhere they ate but they do not eat veal.
Jasmine gave a bit over six gallons today. It was mostly sunny today but is turning colder.
June 8, 2007 Friday
I skipped writing last night because DS Mark unexpectedly came up for dinner and overnight. Those two dogs were here in the morning but I had both of my dogs with me when I saw them so had no option but to yell at them to leave, which they did. I did not see them this morning.
DD Marcia and SIL Jack arrived yesterday afternoon and are up at camp. I put plenty of food in the fridge for them. Today Marcia came here to visit and planted my pear tree. Max had started the hole last weekend. Then she dug for about an hour to prepare another row for potatoes.
At 9pm this evening, DS Martin called from camp to tell me had come up unexpectedly to work on his deck together with the friends who are staying there. But he had not had any dinner, and would I please whip up one of my instant gourmet meals? Okaaay. Now it is 10:30 and he is eating spaghetti made with our own ground beef, whole wheat pasta, garlic bread and a little salad of fresh greens I was going to eat for dinner but fortunately did not.
Jasmine gave 6.5 gallons both yesterday and today.
June 9, 2007 Saturday
Rain again today but during a break DD Marcia came over and finished digging the new row for potatoes. I did not even have time to go down to admire the job. DS Max came with little Roshan. He dug out the drainage trench that runs through Peter’s paddock and laid in the new drainage pipe that DS Martin brought a couple of weeks ago. Now it is all covered over and Peter can come home any time. The project may require a little more gravel so Max ordered a load to be delivered tomorrow.
I had about 10 gallons of milk and clabber for Max to take.
I didn’t see the injured cat today. I hope she is alright. Being a barn cat she is not totally tame and I would be hard pressed to even handle her enough to get her into a cat carrier unless she is very weak.
There are two more setting hens that I know of and I think one lot is hatching out her chicks tonight. She got into quite a dither when I tried to look under her. After her chicks hatch I will put her into a cage. She won’t like it and it makes extra work for me but until the predation issue is settled it is the only safe option.
I went out to the lake this evening and had supper with DD Marcia and SIL Jack. He ate a little dinner. Marcia had made a lovely stir fry with chicken. After dinner DS John called from Adelaide SA. He has a new job starting Tuesday. He will be the expert for computer modeling near shore tidal currents and mixing. This is significant in order to know where municipal or industrial effluents go.
I am trying something different with the milk. I am putting the morning milk into a new plastic dishpan after straining. Otherwise I am forever filling jars, skimming jars, dumping out jars and washing jars. Big waste of time. Until such time as I get more customers I will just put it all in one vat. This morning I skimmed yesterday’s milk from the basin. Under these circumstances the cream has to be lifted out with a perforated ladle or skimmer. It is extremely thick.
June 10, 2007 Sunday
Perfect weather today. Bright sun, not too hot, puffy clouds floating by. This was my father’s birthday. He was particularly fond of wild strawberries and they are usually ripe on this date. I took the dogs for a walk down to Pocket Field where they grow the best but there were none. We had a good time anyway. Willie got very muddy.
Marcia came over and prepared some spots for planting squash and cucumbers. I planted another row of potatoes in ground she prepared yesterday. These were the heirloom fingerling variety DS John gave me about 1978.
The injured cat showed up this morning looking tattered and ill groomed but otherwise OK.
Jasmine was so stuffed with milk this morning that she was step dancing while I cleaned her up. I was a little late. She gave a total for today of over 6 ½ gallons. Now that I am using the plastic dishpan to rise cream I don’t know the exact volume.
Marcia said that Jack has gained 1 ½ lbs. He has been steadily losing weight for months. He has lost 50 lbs since last year so any gain is noteworthy. He attributed the gain to drinking raw milk. I hope I will be able to report further gains.
June 11, 2007 Monday
This was another fine day but I was unable to get down to the garden at all. I did a bit of pruning near the house. I took the dogs with me on a visit to a neighbor who may be available to do some mowing for me. He is going to think it over. Then the dogs and I took a walk on DD Sally’s field. Her roses are in bloom, also a great mass of yellow day lilies. There are many things growing along the edge of her field that I don’t see much of on my side of the river. She has lots of grey reindeer moss and wintergreen and many blueberry bushes and an aspen grove. Of course when I got ready to leave both dogs were gone. Just as I was giving up I spied Willie in the distance bobbing through the grass, just his close set pointy ears showing. He hopped right into the car. Bagel showed up about a half hour later back at the farm.
I made blueberry scones with a recipe in the current Cook’s Illustrated. The method is a bit fussy. You shred frozen butter to achieve flakiness. They were mighty good, though.
After milking I drove out to the lake to take DD Marcia some dairy products. I had not intended to stay to dinner, but did. She served sautéed Coburn Farm liver.
I took the occasion to go stand on their splendid dock and absorb the view. What with rain and always being in a hurry, this was my first opportunity to really view the lake scenery this year. This means it was the first time I had looked at it properly since I got my lens implants last fall. I could see everything in the sort of detail that was never previously possible to me without field glasses. I spent my summers on this lake since birth but always had Monet vision.
Jasmine gave close to seven gallons today.
As daylight was fading I saw four deer in the pasture near my garden. Bad news.
June 12, 2007 Tuesday
Good news! I found somebody to bushhog the fields and for once it is happening before the perennial weeds go to seed. He got right busy today and did a repair to the hitch which will solve a long standing annoying problem of the attachment jumping off of the tow bar. He went to town, bought the new hitch, got it modified to fit by our local heavy equipment man who arrived fortuitously with the load of gravel Max ordered last Saturday. So this has been a busy farm day.
The weather today was excellent. Poor Willie did not get a walk because I was so busy and had to go to town. Bagel had a lot of fun because he is so fond of the man who is bushhogging. I let him loose so he could follow the guy around.
Jasmine gave 7 gallons today. I really worked for it. Both times she came in filthy. There is little I can do to prevent this. With the lush grass their poops are too soupy to remove with the fork. All I can do is spread spoiled hay and it sogs right up. The humidity is high with our frequent rainy days and neither the Beefer Pen nor the lean-to dry out much. The bugs are getting so bad that the cows walk all the way back to chew their cuds indoors.
The two steers got all excited about the new pile of gravel. It is right in the North Field where they can play King of the Mountain on it.
….well Willie got his run after all. I put him out into the garage for the night forgetting I had left the door open. Pitch dark of course. I spent the next half hour calling and praying he was not across the road on the riverbank. Finally he showed up from the bushes, damp and dirty. Whew!
June 14, 2007 Thursday
Superb weather again today. DD Marcia came over and worked in the garden and planted shell beans. I still need to plant more squash and set the poles for pole beans.
This morning I got a good look at the injured cat. She was doing her best to clamber up to the shelf where the cats eat. She was having a struggle and I gave her a boost. The fur and a patch of skin are torn off of her left side. I still would not try to handle her. She is too wild but it rather appears that if she continues to eat she will mend. The one kitten whose sister died is doing OK. I pet him every day and now he comes to the feeding pan on the floor and eats next to his mother. She remains very attentive to him.
Another hen is hatching chicks, this time in the grain room. I find that other hens have been popping Lord knows how many eggs under her. I will have to impose some sort of triage on them I suppose, as I can’t let her sit forever with chicks under her. I know where there is another setting hen so maybe I can put them under her. Then the current hen can be moved, perhaps tomorrow, I will put her into the halfway house cage for her own safety. She will hate this.
Max stopped by with Roshan. They came to pick up milk and clabber. I had about 12 gallons for them. He has not been here for about a week and their pigs were down to dry feed.
My neighbor who is bushhogging is making great progress. It is always so inspiring to look out and see mown fields. The cows all look perfectly happy. Jasmine is very shiny but still thin. She gave 7 gallons again today.
June 15, 2007 Friday
“What is so rare as a day in June, Then, if ever, come perfect days…” James Russell Lowell. I quote that every year.
In this perfect weather DD Marcia, DIL Amy and baby Hannah, and I went to meet Mitra at the farmer’s market in Farmington. Then we went to lunch. While we were eating Mitra looked out the window and said “There’s Shireen!” Her older daughter, age 11, was with friends looking in shop windows looking very poised and grown up. Mitra fetched her inside to greet her aunties and grandmother which she sweetly did. It is hard to believe she is now old enough to be off on little jaunts with her friends. She just finished sixth grade and swept up all the highest school honors and certificates for her scholastic achievements. (I give the credit to raw milk and cod liver oil!) Afterwards we adjourned to Max and Mitra’s house where we had coffee and admired all the poultry and the pigs.
Mitra and I bought our tomato plants on the same day at the same place and I got mine planted first. Just like last year, the ones she has in big pots on her deck are twice the size of mine. Sigh.
On the way home we stopped to see Marcia’s horse Peter where he is staying at the barn of friends. He looked as gorgeous as I remember. The farm where he is staying is a classically beautiful New England treasure. I expect to see Peter here next Tuesday.
Back at camp I was just in time to glimpse my grandson Harper arriving for the weekend before I raced home to milk my cow and tend to my poor dogs who were tied all day. Dear Jasmine was right at the barn to be milked. Most of my dairy obligations got neglected today and the dishes from Thursday are still in the dishwasher.
I then returned to camp for supper. Jack had had a restful day and ate a good dinner. I expect that Harper’s conversation about the things he ate during his recent scientific trip to the South China Sea perked Jack up. Harper said that at the front of the restaurants there would be a vast array on ice of all sorts of creatures ready to cook, many unrecognizable. He said he learned never to point at something and say “What is that?” or he could count on finding it on his plate. That is the way he got served giant fried leeches.
June 17, 2007 Sunday
The farm is so beautiful now. The fields are all bushhogged and Max and Mark mowed the lawn. The sun was warm all day except for a half hour shower which providentially arrived and saved me the trouble of watering the garden, so I took a nap. I just watched the sun go down. The pasture surrounded by large trees with the grazing cattle, was like a painting by Constable. I could never get tired of looking at it. The small nearby paddock where Jasmine’s calf Wesley lives, did not get mowed and is a sea of buttercups. The lilacs are slowing down but the roses and peonies are fully out. I have a lot of massive peonies, mostly the puffy white ones with a red streak called Festiva Maxima. Every morning I wash my face in peony dew. The roses are also at their peak. These are all no-care hedge roses or hardy Canadian’s like John Franklin. The evening air is much scented.
DS Mark and his daughter Hailey took the dogs for a long walk on DD Sally’s field. They thought they wore Willie out but that is unlikely.
Sweet little Jasmine trotted right in as always. She gave six gallons today. I sent a gallon and a half home with DIL Amy for baby Hannah. She is now weaned and drinks Jasmine’s milk when available.
We had a nice family dinner last night at camp. We served a ham from Max and Mitra’s pigs of last fall. DD Marcia made scalloped potatoes that were wonderfully smooth and creamy. I must ask her how she did them. I suspect Coburn Farm cream figured in the recipe.
SIL Jack came to the table and ate a good dinner. Baby Hannah put on a show of her peek-a-boo skills. She covers her eyes, peaking between her fingers until she is sure everyone has noticed, then flings open her arms with a loud laugh and yells something that must mean peek-a-boo.
Grandson Harper left for Woods Hole. I sent him with many dairy items in a small cold pack. He hopes to be able to renew the ice units here and there on his trip, which extends another week.
June 18, 2007 Monday
DD Marcia gave me an old cast iron bathtub found in a shed at their camp (every farm needs one). DS Martin placed it behind the barn for an outdoor water trough. I put duct tape over the drain hole and after milking this evening I attempted to fill it. This meant disconnecting (using channel grips) the hose in the nice warming cabinet that grandson Rafe constructed last winter to prevent freeze-up of my barn water tap. Then I dragged out a good long hose to reach outdoors from the tap, screwed it on and turned on the tap. Disaster! Water spurted everywhere. I finally gave up on that hose as apparently having a defective fitting and dragged out another hose. This behaved the same as the first one if not worse, drenching me and the cabinet. By this time I was way out of patience but somehow I needed to fill that bathtub because I found a man to muck out the Beefer Pen and this job will prevent access to the indoor water tub. I tried a third hose. No better. I have no idea why this formerly dry fitting cannot accept a change of hoses. I ended up leaving it running in the tub, leakage and all, and went in and changed all my clothes. None of my brave waterproof sons are expected here for days. I’m bummed.
I overnighted frozen colostrum to my DD Abby. It helps her Clostridium dificile infection but it never seems to stay cured. DS Mark, the med student, hopes she will see a doctor very soon and get aggressive treatment as C.dif. is dangerous. DS Bret called today. He told me that when he was a grad student he studied rabbits. When C.dif. hits rabbits one third of them die. He also endorsed the colostrum because although not a cure it supports the integrity of the gut wall.
I got into the garden for a little while today and planted a few more seeds, did some digging and watered the neediest plants. It was such fun. I hated to leave.
June 19, 2007 Tuesday
Weather-wise this has been another perfect day. I did have a bit of a struggle putting a length of fence back together. This is the segment that I needed to close so that the cows won’t be able to get into the North Field for a couple of days. Donny H is coming tomorrow to work on mucking out the Beefer Pen and he needs a cow-free area to pile the manure in. I went down there equipped with rope but forgot to take gloves. Three strands of barbed wire were down for 30’ and tangled like concertina wire. I succeeded in putting up something that at least looks like a fence. I don’t think it would survive a 20 mph wind, not to mention a cow that really cared.
DD Marcia brought her horse Peter. He is as elegant as ever. Marcia tried everything that I tried last night to get the tap to stop leaking. She got about to the same point I did when neighbor Leonard stopped by. He had the idea of doubling up on washers. This solved the problem. Thank you Leonard!
My duct tape job on the bathtub didn’t hold so I invented something new: a plastic bag held down by a plastic cup full of rocks jammed into the bung hole. This held water all day. Jasmine adapted right away to the new water set-up.
Jasmine and Peter were in love last summer and were back to nuzzling noses tonight. I always have the worst time getting her to leave after milking anyway. Sometimes I think I am going to have to carry her out. Now she has a new excuse to hang around.
She gave 6.5 gallons today.
June 20, 2007 Wednesday
Another day of excellent weather to report. Just when it was getting hot there came a little Hawaii type shower to refresh everything and save me from needing to water the plants on the deck. When it cleared I dug some more in the garden. I was hoping to get my first pole for beans set up. After preparing the site and digging the hole I was unable to locate my poles. Perhaps tomorrow.
Donnie Houghton worked the entire day cleaning out the beefer pen but was unable to finish the huge job. It was too torn up to bring Jasmine through but she detoured nicely around the outside for me. After evening milking I invited her to leave via the back ramp which is much more convenient. Remembering the recent experience of Laura G, I thought it best to work with instinct so spread old hay down the ramp. I spread it only halfway down. By tempting her with grain I got her to go down to where the hay ended. Then she jumped off the side. I guess that tells us something.
DD Marcia came this morning to tend her horse and spent an hour sweeping my barn while he grazed. It needed it badly and looks much better now. During the afternoon I put Peter back out for an hour and a half. He leads sweetly.
DS Max is having an exciting week on the job down in Savannah GA. They are taking water samples among tall reeds near the river. There was a great sweeping sound and a large alligator rushed past. I guess he was not hungry or perhaps he doesn’t fancy northern boys. For his next trick Max stepped on a nest of fire ants. We don’t have these up north either and he got about fifty bites before he figured out what was happening to him. But he still likes Savannah.
June 21, 2007 Friday Midsummer’s Day
Today is the birthday of my youngest son. It is so hard to believe he is 39. He was born on a hot sticky day at home in Los Altos Hills, CA.
This morning Jasmine again was confronted with the ramp. There was a brisk wind blowing. I could not make hay stay on it and she was not feeling adventurous. Finally I went and got Donnie off the tractor so he could push while I led her. This proved unnecessary. As soon as she perceived a man behind her she marched right down.
The weather here today was again perfect. Donnie Houghton completed mucking out the beefer pen. Then he spread a load of sand on the floor. The cows were pleased to get back inside again.
I forgot I was to turn Peter out early this morning so he could graze and exercise. Marcia came down prepared to ride and could not. She was a good sport about it and longued him instead. There was a brisk breeze and the tractor was still going in and out so perhaps he would not have been able to concentrate anyway. I turned him out for three hours in the afternoon.
Mitra and Shireen came over for milk and clabber. I had about 12 gallons for them. Thank goodness for those pigs. She also brought 10 quarts of perfect locally grown strawberries. I had made bread pudding and rhubarb sauce so there were plenty of treats. I also made butter, one batch in the electric churn and another of the very heavy cream in the KitchenAid. This went through an irresistible whipped cream phase which everybody gobbled in coffee and on the pudding. Shireen took the opportunity while here to give Willie a bath. He was filthy from digging big holes where he is usually chained by the garage. I hope to keep him white a day or two.
Jasmine gave 6 ½ gallons today.
June 22, 2007 Friday
Cool, windy and bright today with a few showers for relief. Donnie H. mowed part of the pasture a lot shorter for Marcia so that rocks and dips will be more visible when she rides Peter, which she did today. He looks good.
I took Willie along and opened the gates so that the cows again have the use of the North Pasture. They lost little time in returning to it. They cruise pretty much all of their pasture every day. I found a few wild strawberries.
Marcia set out the strawberry plants that she bought for me last week at Agway. It will be fun to have strawberries again.
I made custard pies for the Historical Society supper tonight. They always request them from me as I guess nobody else makes them. If they did, they would not taste like mine anyway unless they bought some of my eggs and milk. I followed the recipe in the 1945 edition of The Joy of Cooking. It has a lot of my Grammie’s comments written into it and is held together with duct tape.
Jasmine gave 6 ¾ gallons.
June 23, 2007 Saturday
I hopped right up this morning and was drinking tea by 5:15. I wanted to stay ahead of my usual schedule because we planned a family get together at DD Marcia’s place at the lake. Today was the wedding of SIL Jack’s son Sean in Tiburon, CA. Jack is too ill to travel so we decided to get dressed up and have our own wedding reception dinner here in Maine.
Marcia came over in the morning and rode Peter. Afterwards we worked together in the garden for a bit. She mulched a row of shell beans with Peter’s stall cleanings which are damp shavings with horse manure trampled in. I dug out comfrey to give my cucumbers a little more room.
I tried to turn Peter out for some afternoon exercise. Ordinarily if I stand in front of his stall door chain and hold up his halter he comes right over and puts his head into it. Not today. He was too busy watching the cows. He has a big open window through which he can watch them when they are in the Beefer Pen, their run-in. He really loves watching them especially Jasmine. If he is in his stall after milking I always let her sniff noses with him on her way out.
Max is home for the weekend and came over for milk and to help with chores. He and Mitra and the girls, Shireen 11 and Roshan 8, came to dinner. Marcia made marvelous Creole shrimp. We had a salad of my mesclun lettuce with a highly professional dressing made by Shireen. Mitra brought her signature pomegranate and walnut dip which we also used as sauce. We toasted the newly married couple with a bottle of champagne someone left at Christmas. For dessert I served cake and strawberries with whipped cream.
On the way to camp I passed the Kawanhee Inn where we have often been to dinner in the past. Their parking lot was crowded with cars. I am sure none of them had a dinner as good as ours.
The girls told us all about the ballet they will be in on Monday. It is some part of the Nutcracker. Roshan showed me all the steps she has learned and pranced around en pointe in bare feet which I told her not to do as it ruins your feet. She is both light and strong so I suppose she can’t resist. She is to be a lamb in the ballet, although I do not recall any lambs in the Nutcracker.
Jasmine was her usual perfect self all day. She gave 6 ¾ gallons.
June 25, 2007 Monday
DD Marcia found a nest in Peter’s stall. A sneaky hen has been laying out of sight under his manger. There were 14 eggs in it.
My wonderful lilacs bloom in succession. Last week the white ones came out. Now a different variety of lacy light purple has started. The bushes are 12 to 15 feet high. My John Franklin rose is huge this year with several 8’ canes. I collected a basket of petals this morning. In June 2005 the granddaughters strewed rose petals from my garden as they processed ahead of DS Martin and DIL Amy.
For lunch today Marcia and I ate cubes of marinated feta wrapped in leaves of buttercrunch lettuce from my garden. Such a treat.
DD Abby reports that she is completely recovered now from her illness. What great news. We are grateful to DS Mark, the doctor-in-training, for his guidance in her cure.
Peter was somewhat agitated this evening and didn’t want to settle down. For the first time since he came I heard him whinny. The cows were also in the barn and Jasmine was of course in for milking. I had today marked on the calendar for her to be in heat as it is Day 21. Last time she had an almost 23 day cycle but I noticed the steer Freddie taking an interest. I just wonder if Peter is picking up hormones in the air.
Jasmine gave 6 ¾ gallons today.
June 26, 2007 Tuesday
It was actually hot today, in the 80’s. I put Peter out at 8am. Marcia wanted his fly mask on him. At first when I showed it to him he turned and put his head in a corner. I started to hang it back up and forget about it but he thought better of it and put his face over the barrier chain for me.
Jasmine lost her sweet little brass sheep bell a couple of weeks ago. Today I got my act together and put on her new bell using a heavy carabineer. I bought this bell at an antique store. It is hammered brass and looks Middle Eastern.
Helen is now seven months pregnant and beginning to look wide. She is getting fat. She has not been milked since February nor has she had any grain. She was pretty skinny last fall.
My vet stopped in for lunch. I had some nice chili with andouille sausage, cottage cheese, egg salad and green salad and brown rice. It is always good to see him. He dislikes waste and always saves me the Styrofoam boxes in which he receives refrigerated meds. These are so useful to people transporting milk.
DD Sally in Haines AK tells me she is milking her one sheep. There is a lamb on the ewe. He only leaves her a cup and a half but she is pleased. She has never had a sheep before to milk. She also has a goat in milk.
My black hen in the grain room with three chicks has a war going on with a tan bantam that has been laying in there. Wherever Tan lays, Black parks her family on that spot for the night. I set up fake eggs at either end of the long freezer basket where the nest is and there is plenty of room for them both. But Black moves all the eggs to her side. Now I see that Tan has settled down on top of her.
Jasmine is not showing any more signs of heat. Maybe tonight. She gave 6 gallons today. Jasmine smells so lovely, like meadow flowers. Her coat is glossy and clean. She does not look quite so skinny. She and Helen have become fond of each other, at least if licking each other’s faces means anything.
June 27, 2007 Wednesday
The two hens squabbled all day but it is too hot tonight to cuddle. Even the chicks aren’t under their mom. They are lined up on the top wire of the freezer basket. The humidity today is so high I can’t tell if it is drizzling. All day the radio gave ozone warnings, also many thunder and hailstorm warnings but in this area there has been no rain. We are watering everything.
I taped Jasmine’s weight tonight and it said she was 820 lbs. When I taped her in April she was 740. Her grain has stayed the same and her production is slightly down so this gain is attributable to spring grass.
Peter was only out for 1 ½ hours. He did not come forward for his fly mask so I put him out without it. He was miserable and asked to come in the moment Marcia arrived at 9:30.
Donnie Houghton made some further improvements to the Beefer Pen. The water tank is removed and the floor leveled with more sand. I picked up shavings today.
Donnie has completed the bushhogging of DD Sally’s 17 acre field and it looks good. Today at DD Marcia’s request he trimmed a large section of my pasture to make it better for riding Peter.
June 28, 2007 Thursday
After three hot muggy days there is now a fine breeze tossing the trees and bringing in cool dry Canadian air. Everyone will be happier especially the cows and Peter. Although the cows have not been suffering badly since the Beefer Pen got cleaned and a layer of sand added. Today Marcia helped me spread two bales of shavings. Four more would just about be enough. They make it so much easier to keep clean.
I got another bean pole set today. That makes two and all I plan to do. They are very high. The beans are planted around in a large ring. I will next run strings attached to something like tent pegs and up to the top of the pole like a Maypole. I have planted four different kinds of beans. Some are now up.
Peter was rather naughty. Marcia was not able to enjoy her ride over the mown acres as much as we had hoped. Dogs barking on the other side of the woods seemed to bother him more than usual. But horses are always having off days, dogs or no dogs.
Max is back from Cape Cod and stopped by for milk. I had about 10 gallons of clabber for him and he also took milk for the house and for the German lady, Hilda, who so appreciates it. I believe she is 96.
While here, Max dug a hole for the pear tree I bought three weeks ago and haven’t planted. Now I have no further excuse.
Jasmine was very touchy this evening and whapped her tail around so that I pulled it up between her leg and udder. She even picked up her feet a little bit. She has still not exhibited any real signs of heat. She gave 6 gallons today.
June 29, 2007 Friday
Today was Carnivale with Jasmine. As soon as I saw them all in a tight bunch at 6am, I knew she was on. By the time I was ready to milk around 8am I could scarcely get her to leave the fun and come in. Once in her stanchion she was well behaved except that as soon as I turned my back she made a big splat on purpose, but I overlooked it this time. She seems to be on a 24 day cycle. Marcia came down to ride and informed me at 10:30 that Jasmine was standing.
Following her ride, Marcia and I left for a day in Farmington. We met Mitra at the farmer’s market. There is a dairy and meat booth, two plant and herb booths, a soap and essence booth and a bread and cookie booth. I believe that was all. We went to a nearby restaurant, The Granary, where we enjoyed chatting over excellent beer but the food was mediocre and the service slow as always. Mitra recalled that one time when we went there with DD Abby, as we sat down she quipped, “Let’s ask them to bring the bill right now.” The place is under new management so we thought they might be running a tighter ship.
While we ate we could see and hear in the distance a lot of kids playing soccer. Mitra said her girls were somewhere in that group. Later while parked nearby at the Farmer’s Union we saw the girls in a trailing line of about 75 kids. Shireen and her friend Hannah saw us and broke away to run across the street to greet us. Little Roshan with Hannah’s little sister were restrained by their monitor. They waved.
It was about 4:00 when I got home. The weather all day was perfect but Peter was left inside for safekeeping. I turned him out for a couple of hours. I got all set up for milking but the cows were gone missing. All I could see were three wild turkeys feeding in the pasture so I went down and watered the garden for a half hour. I then located the cows but they ignored my calling. I had to traipse all the way down the knoll for Jasmine and even then had to tap her with my rod to get her moving. I guess they were all exhausted from a day of partying. Ordinarily if one comes all come but not tonight. They did not even stand up. Jasmine’s production this morning was down to 2 ½ gallons but it was up tonight; she gave 3 gallons.
After milking, neighbor Leonard came over and I arranged to buy a load of hay. Max and Martin will help with it tomorrow.
July 1, 2007 Sunday
We have had two beautiful days in a row, perfect for haymaking. We bought quite a bit locally and it looks good. Max, Mark and Martin got together and put 123 bales in on Saturday and 340 bales today. For today’s work they were able to borrow a hay elevator. It is so hard to get along without one in this barn. I used to own one. Selling it was one of my dumbest moves.
The kids also helped with the hay.
It took a lot of food to keep the crew’s energy up. It seemed like I cooked all day yesterday and today. Last night we all went out to DD Marcia and SIL Jack’s camp at the lake. Mitra made DS Max's celebrated paprika chicken (he was throwing hay bales). Mitra also made a huge pot of saffron rice in the Iranian style.
As a lunch guest today I had Chris/Kip, my friend from the forum. I tried out a lot of things on him. As a vegetable I served broccoli raab. I have found the best way to cook it is to cut it up, lay it in a stainless steel frying pan, cover it with water and boil it until it is tender, then drain it and sauté it in a well flavored oil. I used the olive oil from the marinade on my feta (which I made last week). At the last minute I added some of the feta cubes. My broccoli raab is bolting fast so I will have to try this on everybody and get it eaten up.
July 3, 2007 Tuesday
Like everybody else I guess, the days are so packed with comings and goings and obligations that I scarcely know if I am afoot or horseback, just running. So many things are not getting done. But one triumphant thing did get done. With the help of sons Max, Mark and Martin, I now have 463 bales in the barn. Martin’s father-in-law Ken also helped. I believe that will be enough. I won’t be taking Freddie and Melvin through the winter.
I fed the crew baked beans for lunch yesterday which made a hit. At dinner most of us convened at Martin’s camp and ate a pork dish prepared by Ken using one of Max and Mitra’s pork butts. Ken lives in Arizona and this is popular down there. You simmer the pork with green chilis, which amazingly Amy was able to find at the market.
The weather right now is superb. Yesterday afternoon it was so perfect that all the cows settled down to chew their cuds way down in the pasture and Jasmine did not come when called for milking. I had to walk all the way down there and to within 6 ft. of her before she stood up. She is maintaining production at around 6 ½ gallons a day.
While DD Marcia was in Florida before coming up here for the summer, she saved six broad beans from some she bought at a market there. She gave them to me and I planted them. Five came up. The sixth is totally missing. A crow must have got it. I am so amazed that they made it. I hope I can defend the rest. I have not grown them since England. They are an interesting bean, being the only one known in Europe before trade was established with the America’s. Broad beans have been grown in England since Neolithic times. Unlike New World beans, they will grow in cool, damp conditions. They are also known as fava bean.
July 4, 2007 Independence Day
Pretty good weather lasted most of the day. Sons Max and Martin and DIL Amy and visiting friends of theirs all went on a mountain bike ride in the Mt. Blue area. They encountered a field that was loaded with wild blueberries and strawberries. They ate all they could and brought me and Amy’s dad, who was babysitting, back some in a water bottle. They hope to return tomorrow to pick more. Amy is a gifted berry picker, an inborn trait I think.
Much of the family met at Boles’ camp for a fine cookout. A strong wind came up raising whitecaps on the lake. Despite the rather cold wind, the granddaughters, Shireen and Roshan and their friends Hannah and Katie, bounced around in the water. Max grilled Coburn Farm ground beef and sausages from somewhere else, while the rest of us nibbled DIL Mitra’s excellent spinach dip. We had a big salad primarily composed of Coburn Farm lettuce and spinach, I made potato salad and we had the first corn of the year. We also had strawberry shortcake for which I brought currant scones. Of course there were mountains of whipped cream.
Max stopped by afterwards for milk. I forgot to remind him that the fence on Peter’s paddock has developed a weak spot which Peter is challenging. I don’t know if I should put Peter out in the morning or not.
The cows had a fine day. It was not too hot and there was enough breeze to discourage flies. Speaking of flies, besides the chicken patrol on the cow patties, I notice that the red winged blackbirds are also on the job.
July 5, 2007 Thursday
A couple of weeks ago a customer said that her gallon of milk was going sour after 3 or 4 days so she was freezing half of it to keep it fresh. I decided to try a test half gallon to see how long it would keep. Today made two weeks in the fridge. I did the taste test this morning and to me it seemed as good as ever, not even flat tasting. That’s both the cream and the skim. So I am puzzled as to what could be causing her milk to go off so fast.
Marcia came down to ride as usual this morning. Peter seemed to go OK until the end. When she got off him he seemed logy. He walked into the barn acting almost dopey. When he got into his stall he just lay down flat on the shavings. I was upstairs making my bed when Marcia called up the stairs to ask how to reach Dr. Cooper. I ran down and made the calls, reaching his answering machine and his assistant. I went out to see Peter and he stood up in a wobbly way but he did not want to be touched. Marcia took him out and walked him for about 15 minutes before deciding it was not an emergency so she called Dr. Cooper back and they discussed treatments she could try. She keeps lots of meds. Peter had no fever.
She went home to make lunch for Jack who is very ill. She took the opportunity to look up Virginia Creeper and Bittersweet, both of which he can reach from his paddock. DD Sally in AK happened to call and reminded me that there is also a black locust nearby. I went out and examined that but it is too far away for him to reach. We decided the VA Creeper was the most likely culprit and I have even seen him nibbling it a little bit.
Marcia came back down and decided that Peter was still not quite himself and called Dr. Cooper again, asking him to come. But before he could leave on this call, Peter perked up and began eating, peeing and pooping nicely so Marcia again cancelled. He said to call anytime if Peter went down again. Marcia got busy and whacked out all the creeper from the side of his paddock. There was not a lot. There is also a small half dead wild cherry near the paddock. Peter might possibly be able to reach a twig. I will ask Max to cut it down.
I worked in the garden and planted some more spinach. We had a little rain last night which helped a lot.
Jasmine was touchy this evening and I had to pull her tail up between her leg and udder to stop her whapping at me. She gave 6 ¼ gallons today.
I will do one last check later tonight but at 8:30PM Peter seemed fine. He was teasing for an apple, which I gave him.
When I looked across the pasture at the cows grazing at sunset there was a big fat doe grazing nearby, saucy as could be. I must give more thought to electric fence around my garden.
July 6, 2007 Friday
Very unsettled weather today with electrical storms.
Max rode his bike over from New Sharon so that he could borrow my pickup. It is 35 miles. He arrived at 10:30 just before I left to go to Farmington with Marcia to meet Mitra for lunch. While we were still at the farmer’s market, Mitra got a call from Max. On his way home with the truck the brakes had blown out. He discovered the problem with the brakes when the car in front of him slowed to make a left turn across the highway. When he hit the brakes nothing happened. The emergency brake was obscured by the plow lift and he couldn't immediately locate it. He quickly threw it into first gear, squawking the tires. The car that was about to turn left decided he should perhaps get out of the way instead. Disaster was narrowly averted. When he was able to pull over and stop, his look under the hood revealed brake fluid splattered over the whole engine block. He limped back to the farm with the truck and waited for Mitra to come for him. Now they have a problem. He was borrowing the truck to transport his meat birds to slaughter tomorrow morning. I guess he will line his van with a tarp.
Peter seemed perfectly well today but Marcia gave him a day off from riding.
I got taken out to dinner by DS Martin and his FIL, Ken. We went to beautiful Kawanhee Inn where Martin and Amy were married. It overlooks the lake. Baby Hannah is a perfect restaurant guest.
July 7, 2007 Saturday
My Wild Colonial Boy Grandson Tom, 15, in Australia, gallops bareback through the malee.
Last week I wrote about the black hen with three black chicks that spends the night in the grain room and had a war going with a little tan broody that covets her nest. No more war. About mid morning today something snatched her. DD Marcia was in the barn caring for her horse Peter when she heard peeping. She found one chick in the beefer pen by itself but the hen and the other two chicks were gone. At the foot of the back ramp lay a pile of feathers just like last time. This is a great mystery. I can’t in good conscience rule out Bagel as the predator because he was not on his chain but he was not around. I have known of coyotes running to the barn in broad daylight and snatching a chicken even though there is an open field to cross. The only other thing I can think of is a chicken hawk. We have not seen or heard one at any time. But this would account for the absence of any blood or (in the case of a dog) abandoned body parts.
Whatever happened, Peter knew something about it. He was agitated. Marcia thought it best to longe him before riding. He went around for several minutes at a full gallop. I wish I had seen him. He is usually very quiet. Marcia decided against riding today.
After a while the two missing chicks showed up. This evening one of them is in the grain room perched next to the tan hen. I could not see the other two tonight.
I now realize that several of my free range chickens are missing including the pretty pair of young Lakenvelders.
Jasmine is now at a good weight with only three ribs showing. I have been giving her six scoops of grain a day and was reluctant to cut back because each time I have tried she kept right on producing the same amount of milk and losing weight. She has been giving over six gallons a day. I don’t need that much milk and would like to feed less grain. But cutting down on grain was merely making her milk off her back. And I certainly do not want her in a catabolic state at the end of this month when I plan to breed her. Last night I decided to try again on giving less grain. I gave her just two scoops instead of three last night and again this morning. I am pleased to report that tonight her production dropped more than a quart. She is starting her sixth month of lactation. It has taken this long for her to build up her weight and give up some of her drive to produce.
We had an electrical storm yesterday but hardly any rain and today a five minute shower. The garden is very dry despite watering. I set out basil plants that I bought because my seedlings dried up, also six red cabbage plants. I missed two days of potato bug patrol and now there is an exploding population of nasty grubs. I picked off dozens.
Max and Mitra took fifty of their meat birds to slaughter today. At 7 weeks and 3 days old they averaged 5lbs each.
July 8, 2007 Sunday
Today Jasmine’s production dropped below six gallons to not much over 5 ½ . When it gets down to four gallons I will go OAD.
I have learned that DS Bret and his two kids will be here for a two-week visit at the end of July and DD Sally has made reservations for two weeks here starting August 22. She wants to be here when Helen calves. She hopes we can find an extra calf to graft onto her.
We got about two hours of drizzly rain today. It soaked maybe the top two inches in the garden. But everything looks happier.
July 9, 2007 Monday
It rained most of the day so I took the opportunity to go to Rumford for supplies. Everyone including myself was wearing jackets and sweaters. But I understand that the Western heat is headed this way.
Good news! My missing Lakenvelder hen and rooster showed up! She appeared only briefly to stoke up on chicken feed. Probably she has a nest. He is up with the other roosters tonight in the rafters. They both fly well and do not choose to live in with the layers.
Jasmine gave 5 ¾ gallons today.
She hates to leave after milking. She dawdles around and inspects everything and kisses Peter. I just discovered that if I give her half a carrot and then walk ahead of her with the other half just beyond her reach, I can move her along pretty well. Don’t know how long this will work, though.
Last night Willie, who sleeps in the garage, barked frantically starting about 2:30am. I finally got up and peaked out the window but saw nothing moving. He must have kept it up 45 minutes. It was rather alarming. There was a lot of skunk smell around this morning so I suppose that is what he was telling me about.
July 10, 2007 Tuesday
The hot weather arrived. I worked in the garden for an hour and a half. I planted a pear tree that has been on standby next to its hole for three weeks, transplanted Swiss chard and cleared a mass of comfrey using my sickle saw. I was trying to liberate two blueberry plants that really should be moved. Every year they get nearly suffocated with comfrey and I promise I will move them and then don’t get around to it. When I emerged from the garden I was so hot and sweaty I about swooned. I stayed up until 11pm last night to watch the Rembrandt episode in the art series on PBS. It was good, but I paid for it by being stupefied this morning. Once I got at that comfrey it revived me. Despite its undoubted virtues it is a thug. Yesterday’s rain penetrated the soil and the garden looked happy.
Max and granddaughter Roshan came over for milk. Max noted the shaggy aspect of the lawn and when he found out I was planning to hire somebody to mow it, he was quite indignant and hopped on the mower. It is a huge lawn and it took him two hot hours. He and Roshan did take a break to swim in the river. I made them a big batch of noodles with cheese sauce, like mac and cheese only I had no macaroni. I thought it was better with noodles.
DIL Mitra tells me they roasted one of the new chickens last night. The four of them could only eat half of it. She said it was a marvelous dinner. All she did for the chicken was put salt and pepper on it. She made gravy for the mashed potatoes and they had broccoli from the farmer’s market. We agreed that when you have first rate fresh food the flavors stand alone and you don’t need fancy recipes.
July 11, 2007 Wednesday
Jasmine gave 6 gallons today. The air has been heavy and muggy all day with a sense of impending thunder. I went up to DD Marcia’s for dinner and could hear it in the distance. Now back home I see no evidence of heavy rain or alarm among the animals but the cows were all inside. They are safer indoors so I threw them down some hay. Much of it will be wasted because their hay feeder is still outdoors as a result of the barn cleaning operation. But I would rather they waste hay and stay inside. Peter seemed quiet.
It took me six times as long to churn the butter in this stormy weather.
July 12, 2007 Thursday
There was a considerable storm last night. My rowan tree next to the barn was blown down flat. It was an eight year old tree about 12ft. tall and rather protected so why it broke off is puzzling. It was as though a mini whirlwind had grabbed it. Of course the folklore is that the rowan tree defends against evil. However, the break really did not resemble a lightening strike.
I planted eight more cabbages today, green ones. The previous six were red. I am running out of prepared ground. The section where I planted them had been tilled and further dug over by DD Marcia but I still had to dig out a bushel of comfrey roots. One nice thing about comfrey: it improves the soil, in case you are able to wrest it away from the comfrey. I did not bother hauling in any manure for the cabbages.
I also but in 6 cucumber plants. The row that I had previously planted suffered a mysterious death.
I also made butter and whole wheat bread.
For dinner I fried up four livers from Max and Mitra’s recently killed chickens. I just sautéed them in butter and added soy sauce. They were delicious and creamy.
July 13, 2007 Friday
There were thunderstorms off and on all day interspersed with brilliantly clear weather. Now at sundown it is especially lovely looking across the fields. The cows arrange themselves in a picturesque manner and I can also spot deer and wild turkeys almost any time.
Marcia took Peter to a riding clinic this morning. This is something like a horse seminar or master class. They took a wrong turn, very easy to do in the Maine countryside, and she arrived with only 15 minutes to spare. But she got Peter ready in time and he performed perfectly. The director praised him to the skies. SIL Jack went along too.
I worked in the garden a bit. Those potato beetle grubs are the worst I have seen in years. It takes 20 minutes of picking every day and I never get them all. I will have to find some sort of spray. The diatomaceous earth isn’t touching them, not even the small ones.
I got a new customer today. He is the man where Bagel dog goes every time he gets off his chain. The man has lost one leg and runs about on his four wheeler. He and his GF just noticed that I sell milk and came over today for a gallon, she riding on the back.
Mitra is making pulled pork and Max is making strawberry rhubarb pie for a family dinner tomorrow. He reports that the girlie sleepover Wednesday night at Martin and Amy’s camp was a rousing success. There was not a lot of sleep involved.
July 15, 2007 Sunday
On Saturday Max and Mitra made a fine dinner of pulled pork, potato salad, green salad and strawberry rhubarb pie and brought it all to Boles’ camp. Max made the pie and Mitra made the rest of the dinner. Granddaughter Shireen was with a friend so only Roshan was with us. We ate at 3pm so that the Max could get home to close up the poultry and Mitra and Roshan could go see the new Harry Potter movie. When time to depart Roshan could not find her shoes, you can’t get into the theater without them, there was not time to go home for others and Mitra had already bought the tickets. I have not heard how this contretemps was resolved. Not, I should guess, without tears.
Marcia worked here for hours doing a complete cleanout of Peter’s stall. She spreads the soiled shavings around all my trees and borders besides on the garden. Everything is looking good. Today the asparagus bed got the benefit of Peter.
Marcia had a couple of acres near the barn bushhogged a second time at a lower setting to make a better surface on which to put Peter through his paces. This has now grown back to 7” high pasture and the cows are spending a lot of time on it.
I did night check on Peter about 9pm. As always I stood for a few moments gazing out the back door of the barn admiring the evening. Moving towards the barn was a strange black and white undulating thing about 4 ft long. It reminded me of a black and white furry alligator. I could not imagine what it was and stood riveted as it reached the ramp. At this point it broke up into a mother skunk with four cute babies! I think Freddie the steer was as puzzled as I was. He put his nose right down within 6 inches of them. I felt like yelling “Don’t go there!” but thought it best to say nothing.
The really big news today is that Granddaughter Helena had her second baby, a boy, right on DD Sally’s (in Alaska) birthday. It is a big healthy 9 lb boy. They named him Logan Michael.
July 17, 2007 Tuesday
I had somebody in today to clean out a nearly impenetrable jungle of bittersweet that marred the entry to the farm. This non native species is a curse. It strangles trees. It propagates by roots and by berries. I can’t throw it over onto the riverbank as it will get established there and destroy the trees. It has to go to the public burn pile at the town dump. There is now a large truckload of it piled up on the lawn.
The weather today was a fine 75˚. Max and his daughter Shireen and her friend Hanna came over with Max. He bushhogged Peter’s corral. I was away getting my driver’s license renewed and had neglected to tell him about the new place for the Kubota key. They went down and swam in the river until I got home. Max told me that on Sunday on the way to Harry Potter, Mitra stopped at Walmart and bought Roshan a pair of $2 flip flops so she could get in.
My TV has not worked since last week. I think the electrical storms did something to it. Clever Shireen, 11, called Direct TV and found out what to do to get it functioning again. Thank you Shireen!
DD Marcia brought me some pyrethrum/rotenone that I mixed into a spray for my ravaged potatoes. When the sun was nearly down I sprayed them and everything else I could until the bottle ran out. Something is eating my garden. I would say it is a rabbit or woodchuck except for the fact that a few tall things have their tops nipped off, for example my red shiso. So it almost has to be deer but I found no tracks. It ate the tops off of my beets. I am hoping the whiff of spray will take away the appetite of whatever it is.
This evening Marcia told me of something terrifying that happened to her good friend Louise who has a lot of horses. She went into the stall with her stallion that has always been trustworthy. She spoke sharply to him because he was getting in her way while she changed his water buckets. He took exception to her tone of voice and picked her up by the back of her clothes and hurled her across the room against the wall. She can’t remember what happened next but she has bad cuts on the back of her legs. She was able to throw a bucket at him and he ran out into his exercise area giving her time to escape. She is fortunate to be alive.
My nice gentle cows were good today. Jasmine gave six gallons.
July 18, 2007 Wednesday
Last night my largest Swiss chard got eaten. It has rained most of the last 24 hours which may have washed off the pyrethrum. The potato grubs were at least no worse.
I’m starting to get carrots. I save the tops and dry them. In the winter they are a nutritious addition to soups and stock, being exceptionally high in vitamin A.
DS Martin and his wife Amy and baby Hannah came to camp unexpectedly last night, having been visiting friends up this way. They brought a truckload of excellent maple firewood given to them by a neighbor on their street. Martin split it this morning and Marcia helped stack it after her ride.
Marcia made chili rellenos tonight and invited me to dinner. They were excellent. She reports that Louise is feeling better. She is taking a lot of Advil.
Jasmine gave 5 ¾ gallons today.
July 19, 2007 Thursday
This morning there was more deer damage. This time there were many tracks and all my lovely Swiss chard was gone. I am so sad. Between us, Marcia and I covered most of the garden with Remay floating row cover. That should protect it tonight, besides which it is raining, as it has all day.
I could not be sure if the potato grubs were any fewer in number. It has rained so much that the pyrethrum/rotenone may have washed off. I went along and knocked them off. At least they will have to spend all day climbing back up.
July 20, 2007 Friday
I did not even look at my garden today. But Marcia was down there spreading more stall cleanings on the potatoes and she did not see any new deer damage. I don’t suppose they challenged the Remay. The potatoes are not covered but they rarely touch anything in the nightshade family.
This was a busy day. I had agreed to take custard pies to a Public Supper. I made them early this morning so that Marcia and I could go to Farmington and meet Mitra at the Farmer’s Market. One nice farmer to whom I was whining about my deer damage said that what one must do to discourage them is hang up cakes of soap. I will try it, but suspect it will take more than soap to discourage these marauders. The urine of a top predator is known to work well. I think I will have to ask Max to save me up some pee.
We all had a nice lunch at The Homestead Bakery. It is the most popular place in town. We were told we would “need to wait 10 minutes for a table.” It must be the summer people. It has never previously been this popular. We were standing in numb indecision when a group of people apparently disgruntled by their slow service left en masse. We were given their table, ta dah! The waiter fairly flew about serving us. Mitra had a gorgeous calzone, Marcia had three cheese quesadilla with green chiles and I had a chicken pot pie. It was perfect. After lunch Marcia and I bought each other birthday earrings. She did the driving and took us home by a route that passes beautiful farms and country homes all beautifully tended with flower gardens and mown fields.
Back home (Marcia had forgotten her cell phone) Jack greeted Marcia with the news that the boyfriend of their elder daughter, Caiti, had called asking for her hand in marriage. Jack said "yes" without hesitation. Caiti has now accepted the young man’s proposal and he has given her a large family diamond engagement ring. The young man’s name is Mark and he is a chef but I confess I don’t know his last name yet. The family is from Winchester VA.
In cow news, today makes 21 days since Jasmine’s last heat but she appears to have a 23 day cycle. I hope to have her bred this time with Private Pyle semen from Ann Bledsoe’s mini Jersey bull. I will be watching attentively for the golden moment now.
July 21, 2007 Saturday
Not much today in the way of signs of heat from Jasmine. We do think that Peter is onto something. Marcia had to walk him in from her ride, he was so bad. I did not see him acting up, but Marcia can subdue any run-of-the-mill misbehavior. She recalls that last time Jasmine came into heat he was also very bad. She brought him up near the barn and longed him at a gallop to take the starch out, then left him in his paddock. Max was here working and put him back in the barn after about two hours. He said Peter was very subdued and possibly contrite.
Max was here to repair a bad bit of my front fence. He tore out the entire old fence and set eight new posts. The rails will not be delivered until Monday so he put up some temporary boards in case any livestock gets loose on the lawn. It was hot and sweaty work but what a difference it will make.
Max also put a bucket load of sand inside the entrance to Peter’s paddock. Why do paddock entries always turn into damp slimy mud even while everything thereabouts is dry? I nearly slipped a couple of time when bringing Peter out. So, good that he did that.
July 22, 2007 Sunday
At 2pm as I was leaving for a family gathering at DD Marcia and SIL Jack’s camp on Lake Webb, Jasmine started to bellow. I was very pleased that she waited until afternoon. The timing works out better for AI. When I got home about 5pm she and the three others were in a rowdy knot down on the knoll. Jasmine totally ignored my calls so I went down with a stick to fetch her. I got her all the way up to the barn which was hot work. There she turned and sped past me to return to her buddies. I did not feel like further involvement with their party and told her I would see her in the morning. Now at 8PM I see they are still at it. I have called my AI man but got his answering machine. I hope he can make it in the morning. I long to have this breeding over with.
We had a very fine afternoon dinner party at camp. Max and Mitra, their girls and young friends were there. The weather was perfect and the kids swam for hours. Also present were two other couples who are devoted horse enthusiasts plus Marcia’s friend Louise who was bitten and tossed last week by her stallion. She is recovering but has three cracked ribs. The strength of a horse is astonishing. Louise is about 5’ 10”, not overweight but solid, and that horse hurled her to the other side of a large stall.
The dinner was great. Marcia and Jack cooked a turkey in their Webber. It was falling apart tender and took only two hours. She also served tabouli, a beautiful molded fruit salad, and corn roasted on the grill. We had a big green salad from my garden dressed by Mitra. There were trays of snacks too numerous to mention for pre dinner nibbling. These included a platter of deviled eggs which I brought. These are a particular favorite of granddaughter Shireen’s.
The corn was done in a new way. Marcia peeled back the husks and made them into a knot with string, then basted the ears with a mixture of melted butter and pesto. We turned them a few times, and then lowered the lid over them for 10 or 15 minutes.
July 23, 2007 Monday
My AI technician arrived promptly at 8:30. He inseminated Jasmine with semen from Private Pyle, Ann Bledsoe’s mini Jersey bull. Jasmine was full of fluids, he said, but I could not get a commitment as to how open she seemed. I noticed he made a point of marking his calendar for her next possible dates.
Jasmine was stuffed with milk this morning and gave 4 ¾ gallons. After skipping milking last night, I thought of just sticking with OAD but went ahead and milked her tonight. This evening she gave 2 gallons. Currently I am well ahead on milk most of the time. A lot of company is coming soon. If I continue to stay ahead after the folks arrive I will definitely go OAD. Jasmine is still losing a little weight, I find, even though she looks OK.
My vet stopped in for lunch. I managed to come up with a pretty good stir-fry, thanks to the garden. There are a lot of little broccoli-like buds on the kale and I picked all of these to put in it plus some of my baby carrots. It was pretty tasty.
July 25, 2007 Wednesday
Summer is really here now. It was 80˚ today. Nonetheless, Marcia rolled a couple of tubs of horse stall cleanings down to the veg garden in her wheeled dolly cart. We both worked in the garden for over an hour. I watered the smaller things and Marcia dug weeds. I think I am gaining on the potato bugs. One thing that helps is using DanMA’s suggestion of knocking them off into a bucket (rather than a can). I have an old fashioned coal scuttle that is perfect. I put a few inches of water into it and a couple of tablespoons of kerosene. I also took somebody’s suggestion to hang up cakes of soap to deter deer. I hung up two.
The male flowers are now blooming on the squash.
The cows stayed in the Beefer Pen all afternoon and did not go out to graze until 6:30 after milking. I also kept Peter in. He has a large fan and some air was coming over through his big open cow viewing window and making the cows happier too.
I opened the gate between Wesley’s paddock and the barnyard. Jasmine has not forgotten Wesley and visits him every day over the fence. When I let him out she came directly over but then they parted without his showing any interest in nursing. I do hope for his sake that he is weaned and can now run with the big boys. We will all be happier. He looks OK but has not grown very fast. He has been separated more than three months.
Little Jasmine gave 5 ¾ gallons of milk.
I made two pounds of butter and two loaves of dill bread using my fresh dill. I also made my Ricotta Pudding substituting Homestead2’s no-heat cottage cheese. It was better than with ricotta. Here is the recipe:
Chocolate Pudding with Ricotta
1 pkt plain gelatin ¼ c water 1/3 c (real) cocoa, use the very best you have ½ c sugar ¾ c whole milk or half and half 1 ¼ c ricotta 1 tsp vanilla
Soak the gelatin in the cold water in a cup for 2-4 minutes.
In a saucepan, combine the cocoa, sugar and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring, and simmer a minute or two. Add gelatin mixture and heat and stir another minute or so until thoroughly blended.
Chill in the pan or in a bowl until barely set. In a food processor or whatever you have, beat the cheese until smooth. Add vanilla and chocolate mixture and blend well. Chill again.
I ate some with whipped cream and raspberries and it was perfect.
July 26, 2007 Thursday
News flash: The Wesley experiment was a failure. I need not have bothered to milk this morning. I got two quarts. Jasmine and Wesley were separated for close to four months. Sigh. He is very docile and wanted to follow his mom in at morning milking. I clipped his collar to a tie up and put a halter on him. When DD Marcia arrived to do her horse care I got her to help me move him back to his lonely paddock. We created a sort of cross tie with a second lead rope on the halter and were able to lead him OK. The only hard part was keeping Jasmine, and soon all the others, from crowding through the gate with him.
I have mentioned my three orphaned black chicks. They are still running around together. There is also one black kitten. It was quite sick with sore eyes but time and Neosporin have cured it and it is now lively and personable. I have also mentioned that the cats never bother baby chicks because the hens are so fierce. But these chicks have no mother to defend them and this kitten makes a big game out of chasing them. Currently kitten and chicks are all about the same size and the chicks are not in danger but I hope we are not about to see a break in the Coburn Farm “safe chick tradition”.
It was in the 80’s today and muggy. Marcia and I both got headaches from the heat while working in the garden this morning. I found only one potato beetle grub!
Tonight Jasmine was back to her usual 2 ½ gallons. Her customary three plus gallons in the morning went down Wesley’s little red lane. She seems resigned to his renewed absence. All I noted was extra tail switching.
July 27, 2007 Friday
Jasmine held up her milk a bit this morning. Combined with the effect of heat, she gave only 4 ½ gallons today. She did some mooing for Wesley.
Marcia and I did not work in the garden today although it surely needs watering. Instead we went to Farmington to the farmer’s market and to lunch with Mitra. While I was gone dear Max came and mowed the lawn, leaving off his girls to swim at DS Martin and DIL Amy’s camp. It was hot and sunny (in the high 80’s).
Later in the day there was thunder and lightening. When Marcia got home she discovered that their camp had been struck by lightening and Jack’s computer went black. It also took out their satellite, TV and hot water heater. To Jack, as it would be to many of us, damage such as this to the computer is a near death experience. Jack drove it straight to the repair people in Farmington where we are all praying it can be resurrected. If this happened to me, goodbye world. I believe I would just go sit in the sandbox and suck my thumb.
July 28, 2007 Saturday
This was another hot one. I watered a few especially needy plants among the veg but did not linger both because of the heat and because of making preparations for the arrival of DS Bret and grandchildren Maia and Roger from Fairbanks, AK. Mitra drove to Portland to pick them up along with her brother David from CA, who fortuitously arrived at the same time. We all convened for dinner at DD Marcia and SIL Jack’s camp on Lake Webb.
My contribution was a pork butt, from a pig raised by DS Max and DIL Mitra, cooked according to a method suggested by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, British cook and cookbook author and published in the New York Times magazine for 7/8/07. The method is simplicity itself, although I embellished it somewhat. It consisted merely of simmering the meat in milk.
I boned out the pork butt and cut the meat into large chunks, put them into a large pot and covered them with a gallon of full fat milk. I added salt and pepper, a couple of bay leaves, tarragon, dill and lovage, all fresh. I also added a couple of wedges of lime. I brought this to a slow simmer on top of the Aga, then covered the pot and put it into the simmer oven for about six hours. It was then very tender and there was a delicious custard-like layer about 2 inches deep. Ideally the surface is supposed to brown but mine did not. Before serving I removed the chunks to a wooden platter and sliced them.
Marcia made a brown rice salad with roasted vegetables and Mitra made slaw with green and purple cabbage. DIL Amy brought an array of appetizers and an elegant pinot grigio that I forget the name of. We ate on the porch overlooking the lake.
Shireen, 11, made a perfect chocolate cake with raspberry jam filling between the layers and a raspberry cream cheese icing from scratch. It was decorated with fresh raspberries.
Bret’s kids shot toward the water with barely a greeting for their aunts and uncles despite having flown all last night and had a grand afternoon with Shireen and Roshan. Martin and Amy’s little Hannah had a good time watching and eating.
Poor Jasmine did some more mooing today for Wesley. I am not sure where this will all end. No good answer occurs to me at the moment.
There are three new baby chicks under a little hen that has been sitting in the grain room. They hatched exactly on their due date.
July 29, 2007 Sunday
This morning I went straight in the front “main door” of the barn as usual but did not stop for anything, just went straight to the back and rolled open the door. What did I see but a fox leaving the barnyard!. No doubt this is what has been taking my chickens. I was not early this morning, it was broad daylight, so this is a cheeky fox. The little pair of Lakenvelders I have mentioned disappeared for over a week. Then the hen came back alone. I suspect she was setting and the fox took the rooster who was guarding her and also ate her eggs. She is back now living with the layers.
July 31, 2007 Tuesday
Roger, 9, has taken up with the friendly kitten in the barn. Yesterday he came to me and said “His name is Stanley”. I said, “How do you know?” Roger said, “He told me.” “So how did he tell you his name?” “I held out my fingers like this (pointing with his two index fingers) and I said names, and if that was the wrong name he licked this finger (left) meaning No. And when I came to Stanley he licked this finger (right), so he told me his name is Stanley.”
Today Roger came to me and said “His name isn’t Stanley anymore (just when I had learned to call him Stanley). “He says he wants his name to be Panther.” (same procedure) Oh well. I guess Panther it is.
DS Max told me of new poultry predation at their place. He was out tending to the two remaining meat birds when all the ducks ran out of the woods and the chickens got noisy. He went back in to explore and met up with an enormous bird, presumably an eagle. It had landed on one of their hens but when Max got close and made eye contact with “that psychotic raptor gaze”, as he calls it, it rose and flew out of the woods leaving the hen behind, bumping into branches with its huge wingspread. Max thought it was as great as his outstretched arms. The hen appeared dead but was only in shock. He put it into a nesting box and not long afterwards it was back to normal. But only an hour later there was again a great disturbance among the poultry. This time the eagle had killed a mother hen that had five chicks. At first there was a lot of peeping but when Max prowled around looking for them they went silent. He rescued four. Probably the eagle took the fifth (remained silent?).
We think the bird is a juvenile bald eagle. It is speckled brown.
This evening I did not milk. It is very hot and Jasmine let down poorly this morning, very unlike her. I got only 2 ¾ gallons. I hope she can adapt to OAD.
It is hot even in the beefer pen and flies are riding in on the cows. I sprayed them with that blue mouthwash, causing the flies to leave temporarily. The cows spend so much time inside during the day that I cannot keep up with the cleaning. Helen does a lot of panting. I found her inside alone and gave her some hay for which she seemed grateful.
Bret took his kids to the river where they played around catching things with the dip net and bathing Willie. I worked in the garden as long as I could stand the heat.
My grandson Harper and his family, Jen and the two kids Amara, 16, and Eli, 9, arrived today from Alaska. They are staying with DD Marcia and Jack. DS Bret and kids and I went up there for dinner. I took along a blueberry pie. Bret and the kids have been picking the black currants and I added some to it. A few black currants vastly improve blueberry pie.
August 1, 2007 Wednesday
There was a little extra presence this morning in the beefer pen: little Wesley. At some time during the night he had joined the others and of course there was not much milk left for me. It appeared he had chewed the tie on the gate, although I have never known a bovine to try this particular trick. Bret helped me to put him back in his paddock. With someone leading and someone else (me) pinching his butt he moved right along. Jasmine was disappointed and wanted to crowd in with him.
I put a bale of shavings in the beefer pen and Helen was delighted. She rubbed her face in them and kicked it around to make herself a fresh bed.
The grandchildren played at the lake. Bret took Roger, 9, sailing in the Hobie Cat and taught him sailing moves and terminology. Roger told us all about it at dinner. Shireen is spending the night here with her cousin Maia.
I made butter, bread and cottage cheese, then during the afternoon joined those at the lake. Marcia and I drank tea and watched the boating.
I am down to one gallon of milk so hope Wesley does not find another escape route.
August 2, 2007 Thursday
Wesley did not get out. Poor little Jasmine was stuffed with five gallons of milk. I sure hope I can get that down to three before long. I’m reducing her grain. There is still plenty of grazing of pretty good quality. DD Marcia just had my fields bushhogged again for me. It makes the place look nice and it suits her better for exercising Peter. Of course it will also bring on the grass if we ever get any more rain.
I only worked in the garden about a half hour. It was about 80˚. I should have my first zucchini in another day or two if nothing gets it. The patch of gladiolas is in bloom. Up on the deck I have a pot full of superb lilies, Stargazer, highly scented with cinnamon. One of my Explorer roses called John Franklin is blooming again. DS Bret cut down a sumac tree that was crowding it. There is so much that needs doing in the garden and so little is getting done.
Marcia took Peter down to New Gloucester to her friend Louise today to get his shoes reset. It was Louise who was injured two weeks ago when her stallion picked her up by the back of her clothes and hurled her across the stall. She is still creeping about with painful ribs.
We all got together this evening for spaghetti at Marcia and Jack’s place at the lake. DS Martin and SIL Amy and baby Hannah arrived just in time for dinner.
DS Mark has now finished all the testing that completes his two years of medical course work. Next they all do three month stints in the various specialties.
August 4, 2007 Saturday
I am writing Saturday morning instead of Friday night because we lost power all afternoon and until 1:30AM. We had a violent electrical storm lasting about 18 hours. The thunder and lightning was relentless. I asked DS Bret to throw down hay for the cows to encourage them to stay inside. They did not seem especially afraid of the weather and like grazing in the rain as there are no flies to bother them. They all survived.
Up at Weld where most of the family was gathered at the lake, the storm was worse. Lots of trees are down. Marcia told me this morning that her beautiful garden with many beds of flowers and a thriving vegetable patch is essentially destroyed. They had repeated bouts of nickel sized hail and violent wind. My grandson Harper who is there with his family said that looking at the lake he estimated it as an eight on the Beaufort scale. Harper does oceanographic studies. The Beaufort scale is I think 1 to 9. At 9 the turbulence is so great that the surface of the water becomes indistinguishable from the air.
I have not yet been down to look at my veg garden, however we did not have hail here, just heavy rain.
Yesterday morning Jasmine gave only 3 ¾ gallons, this morning she gave 4 ¼ .
August 4, 2007 Saturday
Yesterday’s storm took out the lights about 3:30 in the afternoon. It did not much affect evening chores since I have gone OAD with milking Jasmine. With the Aga, cooking is not affected and I have my lovely spring sink always running in the granite sink. After dinner Bret and grandkids Maia and Roger and I sat around the table with the kerosene lamps and sang rounds until we were ready for bed. Power returned about 1:30AM.
A branch laden with crabapples broke off my old tree. I will ask the kids to harvest them for me to cook down for pectin.
This afternoon everyone met at DD Marcia and Jack’s camp for a birthday dinner for Max, one day late. They barbecued some of Max and Mitra’s home-reared chicken. I made a carrot cake. DS Mark arrived with his friend Ann, a fellow med student whom we were pleased to meet. Bret and Max each went for a sail in the Hobie Cat and grandson Harper tried windsurfing. The kids swam for hours. Mitra was unable to come because she needed to drive her brother David, to the airport.
Marcia showed me the storm damage to her garden, which was severe. Adding insult to injury, the deer were not deterred and mowed off her peas and Swiss chard. I was so shocked that I came home and did my best to cover my veggies with floating row cover.
August 5, 2007 Sunday
The weather today was perfect. DS Bret worked on my fence in the morning, then took his two kids to the lake. At dinner time he returned with five kids for a sleepover. All the little cousins: Eli, Shireen and Roshan. Fortunately I had enough baked salmon. I also had steamed new potatoes and my very first zucchinis and yellow crookneck squashes. I had also made a blueberry buckle, so there was enough to eat.
The deer did not come into the garden last night but I must go down again now before dark and spread out the floating row cover.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons this morning.
August 7, 2007 Tuesday
With five to seven grandkids here for much of the last few days including three sleepovers, life has been even busier than usual. They range in age from nine to 16 so do not require to be amused but do have remarkable appetites. They did also spend many hours swimming at the lake. Today they swam here in the river which is also a lot of fun. Grandson Harper and family set out today for Fairbanks, Alaska, their home, and Bret’s kids Maia and Roger have joined Max and Mitra’s girls for a last sleepover tonight at their house.
I dug more potatoes today and picked more crookneck squash but they were not needed after all. Everyone went somewhere else for dinner.
Helen is only three weeks now from her due date and is clearly uncomfortable. She is often alone in the beefer pen while the others are out grazing. She is too fat despite having had only grass, no grain whatsoever, since I dried her off last winter. This is what happens to a cow that is not lactating. All the same I intend to start light graining now so that I can give her some supplements. I just hope she does not go into ketosis. She never has before. When she is lying in the beefer pen she often has flies on her. They ride in if there is bright afternoon sun, which makes it bright in there. If I go in and spray her heavily with blue mouthwash, it drives them off at least temporarily. So I guess there is some value in the stuff.
August 8, 2007 Wednesday
We had rain all last night again, then hot and sunny all day with increasing wind. Bret leaves tomorrow so this was the last day for the cousins to play together. Mitra brought them back from their sleepover and Bret took them to the lake for a swim and a sail. The wind was brisk and they learned about the importance of prompt obedience to the captain. At one point the two prows on the Hobie Cat nearly took a dive but the kids moved quickly to the back.
Meanwhile back at the farm, I took a quick check on my garden and had to make a major potato bug assault. There is a new hatch of mature beetles and I knocked lots of them into my can of water and kerosene. Later when admiring my clusters of baby crookneck squash, what was my amazement when I found two large cucumbers that had been growing unobserved.
Mitra and her girls had to go home so our last meal with Bret was just him and his kids, Marcia and Jack and me. Dinner included sautéed crooknecks and potato salad, both veg from my garden, and Alaska King Crab. I had never had it before. You eat it with melted butter like lobster. I also made a cake with black currants and lime.
Bret completed my front fence which Max had begun work on in July. What an improvement to the appearance of the farm! DS Max is stuck in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The team works very slowly. He is greatly frustrated.
Jasmine gave four gallons this morning.
August 9, 2007 Thursday
Fine weather today but I had to say goodbye to DS Bret and kids, Maia and Roger. I packed them a comprehensive lunch of items said to be allowed on airplanes. The list of prohibitions is bizarre. For example, you cannot take jam unless it is made into a sandwich. The prohibition on milk is also ridiculous. Even a lump of cheese it appears is forbidden. I gave them hard boiled eggs, sliced cucumber, whole wheat bread sandwiches, apples, that sort of thing. I made fresh bread yesterday for the sandwiches.
After they left I went to Rumford for groceries. I had not shopped for three weeks and was in danger of getting hard stares from hungry cats. At the fish counter I discovered they had sockeye salmon (red salmon). It looks like granddaughter Rosemary will not be able to send me any this year from Cordova AK so I thought I had better buy a piece while I had the opportunity. I ate a bit for dinner and froze the rest.
When digging weeds in my garden I have always left a few mullein plants. These are a wild meadow plant with a rosette of fuzzy grey leaves which in its second year sends up a spire with undistinguished looking yellow flowers. It can become a noble looking plant over 6’ tall but by this point in summer the flowers are gone and the whole thing begins to dry out. Yesterday I began digging them out. Then we noticed that the little downy woodpecker was creeping up the spire eating the seeds as fast as he could. Now of course I will leave the remainder standing.
I went through my potato patch twice today, morning and afternoon, hunting for potato bugs, kerosene can in hand. I found as many this afternoon as I did the morning. I find it is important to be facing the sun. If my shadow is ahead of me and falls on the beetles they drop to the ground before I can reach them.
Every day I look with apprehension to see if the deer have eaten my Swiss chard. It has recovered from being eaten off once by the deer. I am not always able to make it down there at night to cover them with Remay. For my supper I cooked the first batch and it was tasty and tender.
The cows are enjoying the new grass following the second bushhogging and several days of rain. But they also spend a lot of time inside, especially Helen. I gave them half a bale of hay today and they ate it right up.
Jasmine gave four gallons this morning.
August 10, 2007 Friday
The veg garden made it safely through another night. Once again I made two hunting expeditions down the potato rows and got almost as many bugs as yesterday.
DS Mark came this afternoon with young Hailey, 14. They went swimming, and then Mark mowed the lawn while I got dinner. Everything on our plates was home grown: sautéed yellow crookneck squash, new potatoes, sliced cucumbers and pork chops. The pork was raised by Max and Mitra. For dessert we had mixed berries. The blueberries were from a neighbor’s patch, the raspberries were from Weld (where the lake is) but I’m afraid the strawberries were from CA. I swore I would not buy anymore CA berries but there they were yesterday at Hannaford’s, hundreds of perfect boxes for $1.50/quart. I must admit they were very tasty.
Little Jasmine seems unstoppable. She gave 4 ¼ gallons this morning. The heat has retreated and the grass is pretty good.
Helen looks enormous and does a lot of lying around grunting.
August 11, 2007 Saturday
There were far fewer bugs on the potatoes today. I picked three more squash. First thing you know it will be zucchini overload season. Perhaps this year I will have enough to make relish.
Max got back safely from San Juan PR. He did not find the work to be rewarding but said that the food was outstandingly good and the ladies all beautiful.
August 12, 2007 Sunday
Max and Mitra and the girls came over for a late afternoon meal. I served them the last of the pork I had in my freezer from their last year’s pigs. This was country style ribs. I fixed them same way I did last Friday for Mark: fried brown and doused with a commercial marinade in which they simmered a few minutes. They were mighty good. We also had sautéed crookneck squash, steamed new potatoes and a fine plate of sliced tomatoes from Mitra’s garden. These were the first I have had this year. I made my blueberry lemon cake in a bundt pan. It turned out perfectly.
This is the week when I will know if Jasmine is bred. Tuesday will make 21 days but she goes 23 days. She has been doing extra tail switching and made a big plop while in her stanchion so I am not entirely optimistic that she settled.
About a month or more ago one of my milk customers bought two gallons of milk to take to her son’s family in Boston for their baby. Mom had gone back to work after a month and put the baby on formula. No formula agreed at all, it cried all the time, and the parents were trying something which when described by my customer (the granny) sounded like Sally Fallon’s formula but she knew no details. She has taken it down to them a couple more times. Today the son and family stopped in for two gallons and I was able to talk to him and see the baby. He had indeed gotten the formula from the westonaprice.org site. The baby is now nine months old. We all went out to the car to see him. He looked wonderfully healthy and was outgoing and smiled at everyone. So that story had a happy ending.
I made a gallon of yogurt today using starter which is now being carried by King Arthur Flour. I started it yesterday. It took almost 24 hours to thicken.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons.
August 13, 2007 Monday
Just inside my loose gappy barn door this morning I found the scat of some unknown animal. It was about the right size to be a fox but was very squishy so could have been a raccoon, however I am no scatologist. There were no feathers about. While on the subject of predators, I find that two of my new young fruit trees have been badly nibbled. I hung soap in one of them this evening but that was all the soap I had so the rest of the trees are on their own until I can get to a store.
I made butter, Neufchatel cheese from my tasty new yogurt and cottage cheese from a fresh bucket of clabber.
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons today.
August 14, 2007 Tuesday
Jasmine has a 23 or 24 day cycle but last month she was wafting out hormones detectable by Marcia’s horse, Peter, on day 21. He reacted so strongly that he was unridable and she had to walk him back to the barn. So far there is no reaction from him at all. Marcia said he was a lamb today. So I am still hoping.
Jasmine gave four gallons.
The weather today was perfect.
August 15, 2007 Wednesday
As evening approached I stood at the back door of the barn looking at the cows dotted around the pasture. A light mist was forming and they were all grazing quietly. Not the least sign of heat in Jasmine!!!
My Minneapolis cousins, Holly and Richard and Holly’s mom Jan joined me today for lunch. Last night I had gotten out of the freezer what I thought was a chicken. It was big and round. This morning it was still mostly frozen so I put it in a roasting pan and popped it into the lower right oven of the Aga. About an hour later I took it out to check its progress and saw that it was a duck! I had to do a little revision of my menu. I had saved the extra pan drippings last Friday from the chops I fixed for Mark and Hailey. I had used a very good commercial marinade called Soy Vey, an Oriental Jewish blend. First pouring off a quart of duck fat, I painted this on the duck, covered the roasting pan with another pan to form a lid and left it to roast, which it did to perfection. For vegetables I served steamed new potatoes, sliced yellow crookneck squash sautéed with basil and Swiss chard steamed in chicken stock. Richard brought along a blueberry buckle with blueberries they had picked early this morning (in the rain).
At lunch we talked about eating locally. The duck was raised by Max and Mitra. All the vegetables were from my garden. We drank Jasmine’s milk. Only the flour and other baking ingredients in the buckle and the tea we drank with it were “from away”.
Holly and Richard brought me a wind-up flashlight. I have never had one and look forward to trying it.
Later in the afternoon while working in the garden, all the cows came and stared over the fence at the comfrey and at me. I cut about ten armloads for them which they gobbled as fast as I tossed it over.
Yesterday I sprinkled dried blood around the garden, reputed to deter deer. It rained hard this morning. I don’t know if this removed or enhanced the smell of blood. I saw no new deer damage today.
August 16, 2007 Thursday
While working in the garden today with Willie nearby I heard him say, “Woof!” I followed his gaze and saw a very large bird carrying something white. I could not make out what it was but it must have made a noise or Willie would not have said anything; he has no interest in birds fifty yards away. Also, although no more than 5” in diameter it must have been fairly heavy as the bird was laboring to gain altitude. It was flapping along about half as high as the old apple tree and I watched as it disappeared among the trees by the river. I still have no notion of what the bird was carrying. I have no white kitten and my light colored chickens are all full grown and not gone missing.
My granddaughter Caiti, daughter of DD Marcia, is visiting at camp with her fiancé who is a chef. He very kindly displayed his skills this evening by making a lovely dinner of tilapia fillets stuffed with crab accompanied by asparagus and rice. I was able to provide mixed greens for the salad. It was a very professional meal enjoyed by all five of us.
Jasmine remains quiet and ladylike, grazing peacefully.
Max came today with my feed and took electric fence elements with which I hope he is able to make a pen for Wesley. I think Wesley will be happier with Max’s family where he will have more interaction with people than he gets in his paddock behind the house here.
August 17, 2007
It rained last night but then the sun gave us a bright shining morning such as I will return to in memory next winter.
Despite my earlier announcement that I would bring Helen in for a snack and supplements, I have not done so until today. She hates to get on her feet and ascend the ramp. Freddie and Melvin, on the other hand, want badly to come in. Of course I had eventually to settle for bringing them all in, getting Helen into her stanchion, then driving the boys back out. I hope Helen will have the idea in her head tomorrow. I am giving her a scoop of COB with a glug of cod liver oil.
It being Friday, Marcia and I met Mitra in Farmington for shopping at the farmer’s market followed by lunch at Homestead Bakery. We picked up supplies for a family cookout tomorrow. We stopped in at the little gourmet shop where I bought several kinds of tea in preparation for DD Sally, whom I expect next Wednesday. Sally is a great appreciator of tea. Back at the farm, rain was starting but I went straight to the garden to check on things and pick squash. The zucchini plant is really revving up now. The rain was accompanied by thunder and lightening and portentous radio interruptions from the National Weather Service but this time we did not lose power.
Ode Magazine for September has an interview with Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement. I liked it a lot. It is his belief that food must be produced in a way that is fair to farmers, is sustainable and preferably local, but that it can and must first and foremost be satisfying and delicious. He has no use for any food doctrine that relies for its success on abstemiousness. He says too much of current food advice and projections about the future of food are based in entrenched Calvinistic thinking: anything you really enjoy must be bad for you. He asserts that you can’t build a successful food movement on self imposed misery.
He did not have much to say about cows, but those of us with a cow or access to one, know that rich luscious dairy foods conform to all the sustainability criteria with none of the dreary self denial embedded in most assumptions about the future of food.
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons today.
August 18, 2007 Saturday
Before I even went to the barn this morning, DS Martin arrived to install a new under cabinet radio he and Amy had given me for my birthday. It is very trim and out of the way. He also helped me by putting out Peter and lifting the Surge bucket. I have developed a gimpy hip and knee ever since I went OAD with Jasmine and she puts four gallons into the bucket all at once. He helped me bring in Helen too. She seemed a little uncertain if she was really meant to come in. Martin took the occasion to trim the rear hooves on both Jasmine and Helen. One of Helen’s toes was beginning to form an elf slipper.
We all got together for a family dinner at DD Marcia and Jack’s camp. We had very elegant hamburgers with several toppings from which to choose including sautéed peppers and onions. Everyone brought something especially nice. Mitra made her walnut pomegranate dip and cole slaw with red and green cabbage, DIL Amy brought an exceptionally fine green salad. I’m afraid I slipped away without thanking her. Marcia made a hot bean dish with a variety of beans. We had local fresh picked corn from Whitewater Farm. They take special pride in the quality of the corn they sell.
I brought a tabbouleh salad which was highly successful. I followed the method given by Sandor Ellix Katz in his book The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. He said his mother taught him to soak the bulgur overnight in lemon juice. Here is his recipe:
Enough for 8 to 12 servings 1 cup bulgur wheat 1 ½ cups lemon juice and/or vinegar, brine or other flavorful liquid ½ cup olive oil 2 cucumbers, diced Chopped parsley Chopped mint Chopped scallions Grated carrot Salt and pepper
I doubled the recipe and soaked the bulgur in a mixture of half fresh lemon and lime juice, half duck stock, and added coarse sea salt and olive oil last night. This morning I added cubed tomatoes and cucumbers, various green herbs, more olive oil mashed with fresh garlic and soft green coriander seeds and probably a few other things I have forgotten. At the last minute I was able to add bell pepper very professionally minced up by Marc Mulvey, the chef, granddaughter Caiti’s fiancé.
From now on I will always do this overnight soaking. Bulgar is wheat which is cooked and then cracked so does not require any additional cooking. It is not the same thing as couscous which is actually pasta made with flour and cracked up small.
For dessert we had a beautiful lemon cake made from scratch by granddaughter Shireen, 11. It was a slightly belated ninth birthday occasion for her sister Roshan.
DS Max was pretty tired. He had spent all day working on a fenced pen for their poultry. The hens are being picked off by a young eagle and all the forum members agree there is no way to defend them except for a covered pen.
August 20, 2007 Monday
Last night, while alone in the house and just as the Miss Maple mystery on PBS got exciting, there was a great thump upstairs. I did not go up to find out what it was. But there were no animals in the house, which I knew for sure. Not until this morning did I find out what it was. A heavy painting had pulled out its nail and fallen. I hate that.
I started the day with a migraine headache, the first I have had in about a decade. Fresh air and association with Jasmine helped but I skipped bringing in Helen. I didn’t feel like doing one extra thing. She gave me a disappointed look.
The word is out that we are to expect frost tonight. Marcia made an extra trip down this afternoon with an armload of sheets. I got together an armload of mine and together we covered everything in the garden that is frost sensitive.
DD Sally called from Haines AK. She sets out tomorrow on her trip to Maine. First she takes the ferry to Juneau, then has a flight to Seattle that leaves her sitting all night in the airport. Her next flight is to Chicago where she has a very tight change to Boston. In Boston she gets a bus to Portland where she will be met by Mitra. What an exhausting trip it will be. I am certainly honored that she wants to come badly enough to endure it.
I made a couple of loaves of bread this afternoon and a gallon of applesauce. I used the apples from the old tree out in the cow pasture. It is mighty good. I canned two pints. One of the things you can do with an Aga is can in the simmer oven. This makes it easy to put up a small number of jars any time it is convenient.
August 21, 2007 Tuesday
This morning Helen spited me by being way at the bottom of the pasture. I felt sorry for her having to walk all the way back to the barn in her condition so I didn’t call her. Tomorrow I will for sure.
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons.
We did get some frost last night but had covered everything so well that only the edges of some winter squash leaves were touched. Tonight it is not as cold.
August 22, 2007 Wednesday
The weather is warming up again and today was very fine. DD Marcia came over and together we loaded 7 month old Wesley into her horse trailer. I had planned ahead with halter, ropes, gates and pan of food all pretty well organized. It nonetheless took about a half hour of patient wheedling and pulling on ropes to persuade him into the trailer but he never became really frightened and only pooped once. Max and Marcia easily led him to his new little pen which Max had constructed beneath their hillside screen porch. He will remain in there a few days to get acclimated and to give Max time to finish setting up the electric fence.
We also got to see the vast new enclosure he has built for the poultry. It does not have netting over the entire top but has netting in bands. I think that although the eagle could fly down into the pen between strips of netting, because of the wide bands he could not gain altitude adequately to leave with a prize.
The two 12 week old Cornish Cross roosters are enormous. They look like turkeys.
The pigs continue to look smooth and contented in their large area. They are very friendly.
All around Max and Mitra’s place there are clusters of mushrooms of a sort I have never seen before and have so far been unable to identify in any of my several mushroom books. The top side is smooth and darkish brown and resembles saddle leather. They are of uneven shape but many have a saddle-like form. The gills are neither vanes like agaricus nor spongy like a boletus but a merge of the two and the color of dark mustard. I brought one home and have it sitting on white paper so that I can see what the spores look like. I don’t much trust it. Mitra said that her dog Lulu ate one and was sick all night.
Before we left this morning, Marcia noticed a hummingbird struggling on the window in the buttery. It was caught in the web of one of my big fat barn spiders. This has happened before. The spider looked as though she was about to roll it up in her thread. Marcia picked it out of the web and we watched it fly away into a treetop.
Back home again, I found that Jasmine had by no means forgotten about Wesley. She bellowed repeatedly.
The daughter of an old friend of mine wrote that she has found the love of her life, a Frenchman. She is now immersing herself in everything French. She sent me the following quote which she came across last night. (Children, cover your eyes. They do things differently in France).
“Dear Joann, I ran across a quote I thought you might enjoy. It is about the French national symbol of "Marianne"
For being the fearless, shirtless symbol of the French republic itself, she's invariably depicted on everything from national currency to school text books with her patriotic, freewheeling breasts exposed. While Marianne is most famously depicted as Delacroix's Liberte, a number of celebrity French femmes have represented her over the years, including Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve. Top model Laetitia Casta was recently voted to depict Marianne because (in the words of one French mayor) "She obviously has the nicest bust of all." Casta, who once declared that her breasts were raised on butter and creme fraiche -THIS IS WHERE I THOUGHT OF YOU JOANN!- was thrilled to represent this treasured national icon. "To represent France, liberty and a certain idea of what a woman is," she said, "that's a hell of a responsibility”
Right now dear Mitra is off to Portland to meet DD Sally’s bus from Boston airport. If things go as planned, they will be here at the farm by about 8:30PM.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons this morning. Helen was way across the pasture under a tree chewing her cud and declined to even look my way when I called her. I was still feeling too limpy to go over and get her so she missed another day of her cod liver oil.
Later: DD Sally arrived in fine shape. I had dinner ready for her and Mitra (a bread, milk and cheese soufflé and a garden salad). The dogs were thrilled to see her. She promised them walks tomorrow.
August 23, 2007 Thursday
Sally hit the ground running this morning at 6:30. She said taking Ibuprofen made all the difference. She did not travel with painful legs and hips. After touring the farm with the dogs and checking out the wild apple trees around the pasture, she set to the task of whacking out bittersweet, that strangling vine.
Sally helped me get Helen in this morning. She is looking very sleek and healthy.
There was an email from a sleepless Max. He said Wesley bellowed all night. When I talked to Mitra later she told me that even while they brushed him he continued to bellow. Max was fed up with it and was muttering about veal. I hope I get a better report tomorrow.
I froze corn.
We joined DD Marcia and Jack at the lake for supper. She made okonomiyaki pancakes (I think I have that name a bit wrong, but it is cabbage and other veg bound with egg). I took along a baked custard.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons this morning.
August 24, 2007 Friday
Such weather! It started out feeling like Hawaii (warm and moist) and ended up feeling like New Jersey (hot and steamy). It rained last night. The plants are loving it.
Sally’s jet lag hit her today, so she said, but she did a lot anyway. She is replacing dog proof wire along the area that was newly fenced. This has meant removing the wire from the old fence posts, all of which has been wadded up in my front yard for a month.
She also made butter.
I am feeling pretty limp myself, perhaps due to taking Tylenol and Motrin for my painful hip and knee. I so rarely take any pills that I was surprised to even find them in my cupboard. I did make a double batch of feta using Homestead’s recipe.
Max and the kids came over for milk and to swim at the lake. While they were here, Max and Shireen did some trouble shooting and got my spring sink running again.
Mitra reports that Wesley is quieter. Last night I suggested she leave a light on for him and she also played a radio tuned to a classical station. I guess this helped. They also found him some different hay and he ate some of that and some COB.
I had to skip two days of picking off potato bugs. Today they were back in force.
Jasmine gave four gallons.
August 26, 2007 Sunday
Last night DD Sally and I went up to camp for a belated birthday celebration for DIL Mitra at DD Marcia ‘s camp. The weather all day was heavy and muggy. As we left to go there I thought I heard thunder but ignored it. When we arrived at camp, DS Max and his girls were swimming but by the time dinner was served a violent electrical storm had started. A strong wind blew down from the Notch whipping the lake to a lather and obliterating everything beyond the shoreline. The Hobie Cat broke her mooring and raced away. The lightening was constant and blinding. Marcia fixed a nice lasagna and Granddaughter Shireen made a perfect chocolate cake for her mother but Sally and I left quite shortly after dinner. I was worried about the animals. All the way home we were driving towards sheets of lightening. As we reached the Carthage line all the houses were dark. I had not turned off my computer so that was a worry. But I especially worry about the barn even though it has three lightening rods. Peter was alone in there. The cows never come in when it storms, at least not until they get cold, which considering that it had been 85˚ all day, was not until much later. Also Bagel Dog was chained to a tall tree.
Fortunately all was well with the house, barn and animals. I could not know about my computer until today when the power was back on. We went to bed with candles and oil lamps. What I most dreaded every time I woke up in the night was how I was going to milk four gallons out of Jasmine if the electricity was still off and I could not use the machine. Happily, the power came back on in the night and my computer was undamaged.
Sally worked like crazy most of the day on bittersweet eradication. It seems almost hopeless. It is far worse than comfrey which is at least a useful plant. Bittersweet climbs trees and suffocates them and covers the ground like a great mattress. We also picked two five gallon pails of apples. We picked from old neglected wild trees that are on the riverbank. One is like a Yellow Transparent. The bank is so steep that most of the apples roll down to the river and float way.
I invited DD Marcia and SIL Jack down here to supper. It was a simple meal made a great deal simpler by Sally doing all the kitchen clean-up. I served Swiss card, mashed potatoes and creamed scallops. All turned out perfectly. To do the chard, I finely chopped the stems and coarsely chopped the leaves. I sautéed two huge cloves of my new garlic in duck fat with Madras curry powder, then added the chopped stems. Later I added the leaves and covered the pan until all was tender and most of the water was gone.
The potatoes were my new crop of Yukon Gold. They mash well, are not watery and have excellent flavor.
The scallops had been caught by a fisherman friend in New Jersey. I defrosted them by covering them with skim milk. This improves the flavor of frozen seafood. The skim milk then goes to the chickens or dogs. I use whole milk for the sauce. I made a roux with butter, fresh dill seed, flour, chicken stock and milk and simmered the scallops briefly in this. To serve, I made wells in the mashed potato. It is really coquille St. Jacque without the scallop shells, more country style. For dessert we had apple gooseberry pie with a lard crust made by Sally. It was all mighty good but Jack could not eat much. He was very tired from having rescued the Hobie Cat from where people farther down the lake had tied her up. He sailed her home. The rest of us had plenty of appetite.
Mitra reports that Max got the electric fence working fine before he had to leave town on his job. Wesley is cheering up. All their poultry is now confined except for the two huge Cornish Cross roosters. They are now keeping company with Wesley.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons yesterday and today.
August 28, 2007 Tuesday
Sally made six quarts of applesauce. It is sitting in a bowl waiting to be canned tomorrow. We ran out of time because Sally had an eye appointment in Rumford and we took the occasion to shop a bit. The shopping in her home town of Haines is poor; neither is there much in the way of eye care. She has been plugging along with the glasses and contacts she got here five years ago. I did manage to get down to the garden long enough to renew the sprinkling of blood meal meant to deter deer. I also followed somebody’s suggestion and hung up cakes of soap. It is a repellant smelling soap called Irish Spring.
The garden is looking charming right now. The crook neck squash plant is hatching them out by the dozen and the zucchini plant is not far behind. In a couple of days there will be green beans. Getting a crop of hot weather vegetables in Maine is always a race with frost.
There are not many elderberries this year but Sally picked two quarts this morning. DS Bret is fond of them and we expect him back on Saturday for a brief visit on his way to scientific meetings in Washington D.C about vitamin D.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons.
Helen looks a lot more ready this morning than she did yesterday. Her vulva puffed up during the night in a way that reminded me of hemorrhoids. Sally remarked that she did not look as wide. I agreed. Tomorrow is her due date. We confined all the cows to the area behind the barn including Wesley’s former paddock.
August 29, 2007 Wednesday
My hip pain was not nearly so noticeable today so I got more done.
Sally got up early and walked over to her property with an insect fogger. Wasps have made a large nest between the front door and screen door and she saw no alternative to getting rid of them. Although I suppose they would provide a high degree of security in case one were to post a sign: “Beware of wasp nest inside screen door”. The wasps around here build a classic big round papery nest that is slightly pointed on the bottom.
Sally and I went over later and picked apples on her field. She just had it bush hogged for a second time and it looks beautiful. We picked a five gallon bucket full from her wild apples. Some are especially tasty. If a person had the time and inclination they could fill a truck bed and make great cider. The dogs had a wonderful time but of course were gone when we were ready to leave. Five or ten minutes of shouting brought Willie racing up as though he had just noticed we were calling. As we were finally leaving Bagel also came loping up with his nonchalant gait.
Marcia mowed my lawn and Sally hacked out another massive pile of bittersweet and wild cherry seedlings. She also canned seven quarts of applesauce and has another great pot cooked up to put through the Foley food mill in the morning. About the biggest thing I did was digging some more potatoes and harvesting another trug full of squash. Marcia is taking us to visit a renowned garden tomorrow, unless Helen has other plans for our time. If we have to cancel the garden tour I will try to get a batch of zucchini relish made.
Helen looks the same as yesterday. They all came pounding up towards the barn about 6pm trying to outrun the flies, poor Helen galumphing at the end of the line. Sally put down a bale of hay for them so they can eat indoors in peace.
August 30, 2007 Thursday
Helen was still the same this morning so Marcia, Sally and I went forward with our plan to visit McLaughlin Garden in South Paris. We had a lovely drive down passing small farms all the way. Few had any kind of animal. Mostly it was hay fields or potato fields. It is late in the season for gardens but it was lovely all the same and the food in the little lunch room was of good quality. Sorry to report though, that when we asked the frisky young waiter for butter he answered decisively, “We don’t have butter”. He brought an ampoule of olive oil.
Mitra could not accompany us because of the need to deal with her computer problem. She popped in here before we left and picked up her milk and looked at the forum. She is seeking advice for their honey bee problem. A very large hive has established itself in the chimney that serves their woodstove. It was discovered by Smitty, the chimney sweep. Of course it must come out, but how? Extension Service and the state official who advises on these matters agreed that poison was the way to go. Since she could not get on line I put the question to the KFC forum and as I was certain would happen, many excellent suggestions were posted. Mitra hopes to avoid killing the bees or at minimum to save the honey, of which there promises to be a great deal.
Sally and I will now go do a late check on Helen. Sally says she definitely saw her straining.
August 31, 2007 Friday
Most of the day was warm, overcast and moist, a perfect day for calving. Helen did not oblige. I could not close them into the barnyard tonight because they stayed way down in the pasture.
The potato bugs are back on the rampage. I had to miss two days of picking them off and they really took advantage. I probably could just go ahead and dig the potatoes but they have green tops so are still growing, I think. Every hill that I have dug so far has been rewarding. The potatoes are large and clean. The flavor is excellent. They are mostly Yukon Gold. I have some purple ones and a row of heirloom fingerlings.
There were so many squashes and cucumbers today that I could not carry them all up from the garden. Sally went down for a load. I got everything organized for making zucchini relish but then decided to postpone the job until tomorrow.
Lots of company will be here this weekend, some with me and some at the lake. I cooked up a lot of food to have ready. DS Martin and his family stopped in this evening for supper so we got started on the eating. Granddaughter Helena and her husband Ryan and their two babies (from Carlisle PA) are on their way. They got stuck in the horrible traffic at Hartford, CT so will be late. DS Martin and Amy and baby Hannah had supper here with Sally and me. I made baked beans, meatloaf surrounded by roasted garden veg, brown rice cooked in chicken stock and cucumber salad.
Mitra reports that a beekeeper came by to evaluate their bee situation. He owns many hives in the county and conjectured that these were his bees. It looks like he will employ the method described by a forum member that involves a one-way exit affixed to the hive and alternative housing nearby. He said it would take about 3 weeks to get them out. He apparently expects to keep the honey, estimated to be 100 pounds.
September 1, 2007 Saturday
A fine late summer day, not too hot. Granddaughter Helena and her DH Ryan and 21 month old Natalie and 7 week old Logan arrived last night at 11:15 after an arduous trip in heavy traffic. They all popped up early in good spirits. Helena has cut her mass of nearly hip length brown hair and given it to the group that makes wigs for cancer victims, Locks of Love. Wee Natalie has strawberry blond hair and is small and dainty. Logan was 9 lbs at birth and must be nearly twice that at 7 weeks on mom’s milk. He is friendly and cuddly.
All day today Sally worked on mowing the lawn and pruning shrubbery, Marcia ran the riding mower and Bret sawed logs. They will be splitting tomorrow. Helena’s dad has lent us a splitter.
We were greatly relieved to hear from Sally’s daughter Rebecca that she and her DH Torsten have safely reached Baker Lake, Canada. They have been out for two months canoeing across Canada. They put the canoe in the water at Yellow Knife. They now fly back to Yellow Knife.
We all gathered at DD Marcia’s and SIL Jack’s place at the lake for dinner. DS Bret is here from Fairbanks and the party also included DS Max’s and DS Martin’s families plus DD Sally is still with me. It was a lovely occasion. Sally’s daughter Rosemary sent frozen Alaskan salmon and we had some grilled for dinner. Ryan cooks professionally on weekends and did a fine job grilling it. Bret took Sally for a sail in the Hobie Cat. Now all the stars are out brilliantly.
I hear Helen out there somewhere in the dark. I did not see any new symptoms today; in fact I thought she regressed. Bad cow. She does look marvelously healthy now.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons. She is finally slowing down, as she should when pregnant.
September 2, 2007 Sunday
Jasmine did not stay slowed down. She gave 4 ½ gallons this morning. The sun this morning was bright and shiny, the weather brisk. All the cows were grazing in the Pocket Field, the farthest they can get from the barn and still be visible. Jasmine came trotting up like a good girl but Helen would not budge. “All that way on my poor old feet for a nibble of grain?” she said. “I don’t think so.”
Sally started her dough last night for her famous sour dough bear paws, a filled pastry she used to make at her bakery. This morning she flew around and had them ready for everybody’s breakfast. The filling is cream cheese and fresh blueberries. I had a good supply of drained yogurt “cream cheese” on hand. Sally is a highly professional baker and moves at the mad speed of a restaurant cook. Needless to say, all the bear paws soon disappeared.
DD Marcia comes every morning to care for her horse Peter and spends considerable time in the barn cleaning his stall and measuring out his feeds. This morning she heard peeping from the hayloft and soon located a nest stuffed with chicks. They were in a cardboard box containing hay. We put the chicks in a bucket and she carried the hen under her arm while I brought the smelly old nest with a few broken eggs and some silent eggs there were apparently duds. We established the little family of black hen and 12 chicks in a large poultry cage that is built into the back of the grain room. I gave them a pan of clabber and some feed and Marcia dumped the contents of the nest box into the trash bin which she was loading up for the dump and drove home to Weld. About an hour and a half later she came back with a chick in her pocket. She had walked near her still loaded truck and heard faint peeping. One of the discarded eggs had hatched in the sun-baked trash can! It seemed like a miracle. The chick is yellow with black stripes. Sally crept into the enclosure with the hen and chicks and was able to pop him under mama and he snuggled right in.
The whole family was here today sawing logs, splitting and stacking. What a wonderful hard working crew! Sally had made a sandwich loaf with some of her dough and I had a big plate of thick sliced ham. I put out one of my farm cheeses and there were plenty of other fixin’s for Ploughman’s Lunch. The men kept with the woodpile most of the day but I am glad to report that about 3PM they drove up to camp for lake activities. The numerous cute grand children and great grandchildren, all female except for wee Logan, were in need of time on the beach. DS Martin’s camp has a little strip of beach about 30ft. long and 2 ft. wide, perfect for toddlers. Most of Lake Webb is bounded by rocks.
Before leaving here, Shireen cut a bushel of comfrey for their pigs and picked up 5 gallons of apples.
Sally continued her efforts to mow and improve neglected parts of the lawn. Martin made her job a lot easier by removing a bunch of old string from the shaft of the walk-behind mower. We couldn’t understand why the darn thing was so hard to run this year.
At 1PM Helen still had not moved from the bushes where she had parked herself, so Sally and I went to have a look. We had a nice walk with nothing to report in the calf department.
September 3, 2007 Monday Labor Day
Helen had frequent periods of separating herself from the others but still no calf. The weather is perfect, not too hot and not too cold. Again this morning she declined to come in.
Jasmin gave 4 gallons.
The new baby chicks are doing very well. There have been no losses. There are 13 of them, 6 yellow striped ones and 7 black ones.
Unfortunately, one of the three bigger chicks which their mother has been taking outside the grain room to forage drowned in the old bathtub that I use for a stock tank. I keep a board floating in it for rescue purposes but it did not help. Such a shame.
We had one last family cookout tonight at the lake. Sally made a world class apple pie with a few added blackcurrants. It had a lard crust (homemade lard). The apples were from the wild tree on the riverbank.
Granddaughter Helena and family left this evening and DS Bret leaves tomorrow. He worked like crazy again today. He bought climbing gear and went up on my roof and repaired a leak around the chimney. Then he sawed all the remaining logs and split them. Using the tractor bucket, he piled up all the rubble. Various items had been set down beside the woodpile, an old pickup truck cap, a truck tire, some pallets and etc. These are gone too. Soon I will have a nice big lawn area again. There will be room for the boys to play football if they want to.
Martin sold his Ford 9N Century today to our First Selectman. It runs fine and I am glad someone will get some use out of it.
September 5, 2007 Wednesday
We had to say goodbye to DS Bret today. He worked like crazy on the woodpile and got the last of the logs sawed and split. Using the Kubota bucket, he removed most of the remaining rubble. Sally has worked for hours now grooming the ground. Yesterday DD Marcia drove us to Farmington where we went to the Farmer’s Union. Sally bought lime and grass seed. Now she has spread horse manure and lime followed by grass seed. I will attempt to defend it against traffic.
While Sally slaved away on the recovering lawn area, I went to lunch in Wilton at the home of my cousins Holly and Richard. They served me an outstandingly good clam chowder, fresh green beans and one of Richard’s famous apple pies. While eating, we discussed Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, Animal Vegetable Miracle which Holly is reading. We all continue to be puzzled at the resistance so many people have to actually taking food preparation seriously as an activity worthy of a serious time commitment. They make time for sports and exercise and numerous forms of entertainment most of which are not as much fun as food prep, yet view food related activities as “taking too much time” and “too much work.”
On my way home from Wilton my car began making an odd clunk accompanied by a loss of power. I emailed Bret about it. He told me not to drive it. Borrow one of the Boles' cars, he said. I need to take Sally to an eye appointment in the morning.
While getting dinner I also made seven jars of jelly. I used one quarter red currant juice and ¾ crabapple juice. If you cook up crabapples with just enough water to cover them, then drain them overnight in a colander lined with a linen tea towel, well weighted down, the resulting pinkish juice is nearly pure pectin. I use it in combination with other juices to make jelly. I have not bought commercial pectin for many years.
Helen remains in her holding pattern but looking more uncomfortable every day. Sally has extended her visit by six days. Come on Helen!
The weather today was clear and cool.
September 6, 2007 Thursday
No calf to report. Helen remains aloof.
Sally and I got going extra early. She made two loaves of bread with a sponge she had left overnight. Then we shot off to her eye appointment in Marcia’s borrowed Jeep. My car is misbehaving and sons Bret and Martin agreed it was best if I did not drive it until it is repaired. After the appointment we went to the What Not Shop, a thrift store, where we both scored items of at least slight value. I bought a set of four woven cotton placemats in a Southwestern pattern for 25 cents each and a Fisher Price doll house with all the people. Sally found flannel sheets and some shirts.
Neighbor Leonard who makes hay stopped in and persuaded us to buy the rest of the second crop on his field for $3/bale. I don’t seriously need more hay, or so I think, but last year I ended up having to ask Martin to bring round bales last winter so perhaps this is a good idea. Now we have the problem of handling the bales and deciding where to put them. I don’t want any more weight in my hay mow. Peter is eating a lot so Marcia plans to temporarily stuff her horse trailer full for him.
Sally finished the anti deer fence around the veg garden. She nailed pre drilled surveyor’s stakes to the existing posts and wrapped two strands of monofilament fishing line onto them. The top strand is about 6 ft 6 in. above the ground.
Another neighbor spotted an old piece of farm equipment that emerged from the log clean-up; Bret had perched it on a big piece of cement but I am surprised that anyone could see it from the road. He asked what I wanted for it. He is handy and wanted part of it to replace the point on his existing plow. He has been looking for a long time for such an implement as mine. I sold it to him for $30.
DD Marcia and SIL Jack joined us for dinner. I fixed pork poached in milk again. This dish could not be easier. I laid four pork shoulder chops (still frozen) in a pan and covered them with whole milk. I added salt and pepper and various herbs and put it into the Aga oven that is about 275˚. After 4 hours the pork was falling apart tender and the milk had a bubbly brown crust. I suppose if one were making this dish for the first time it would be a good idea to allow five hours as circumstances will vary. Once cooked, the dish can be kept warm for a long time.
I served the remaining bubbly milk in a pitcher like gravy.
Jasmine gave 4 gallons today.
September 7, 2007 Friday
No calf today.
Sally and I went over on her field this morning and picked wild apples. I think we got a bushel and a half. The weather was a little too warm but it was lovely and the dogs had a fine run. We keep finding more apple trees in her hedgerows. This is a huge year for apples. Under one tree that had branches bowed down with apples I noticed a greater than usual number of wasps. Then I spotted a huge round nest probably 10” in diameter with wasps going in and out. It was sitting right on the ground. I don’t know if they built it there or it fell out of the tree. Needless to say we left that area. I think we picked a bushel and a half. The buttery is now lined up with buckets and basins of apples, probably a total of five bushels. Sally hopes we can make cider with her sister Marcia’s press.
The day grew steadily hotter as we made plans to pick up hay off neighbor Leonard’s field. None of the boys were around so if we wanted the hay it was up to Marcia, Sally and me. We went over with Marcia’s horse trailer about 4:30 and picked up hay while Leonard finished baling. They would not let me pick up bales although my gimpy hip is a lot better, so I drove the truck. They were able to stuff 79 bales into the trailer. Then we took it back to the barn and unloaded it and went back for another 64 bales, I think they told me. There are still about 75 bales on the field of this excellent second cut hay.
I think a baler is an awesome sight. I love to watch it chugging forward, all its improbable parts doing their relentless tasks and bales emerging. The field is idyllic. It is about 15 acres next to the river and is surrounded entirely by trees.
When we got back with the second load we could hear a fox screeching from the woods beyond my north field. It is a horrible sound. Sally had never heard it before.
I am very tired but Marcia and Sally far more so.
DS Martin and Amy and baby Hannah arrived about 7:30 and we had a quick meal of hamburgers with fresh tomatoes and my new zucchini relish. This afternoon Sally made an apple cake using the recipe contributed to the forum by homestead2. She used melted butter rather than oil and made it in a bundt pan instead of pint canning jars. Everyone agreed it is an excellent recipe I served it with whipped cream. Hannah expertly shoveled whipped cream into her mouth with a demitasse spoon.
September 8, 2007 Saturday
DS Martin came down from camp this morning and unloaded the trailer full of hay. He carried the bales upstairs to the hayloft one by one. He said it was good exercise.
It is very hot and muggy today. We are all wilting.
DS Mark and daughter Hailey came this afternoon. Hailey is recuperating from knee surgery to correct a soccer injury, poor lamb. We all got together for a lovely dinner at DD Marcia’s place on the lake. The dinner was especially to honor Mark who has completed the two years of course work for his medical degree. He has now started his two years of rotations. SIL Jack cooked a turkey in his Webber. It was moist and perfect. Marcia made a stunning molded fruit salad for dessert. She used Knox’s gelatin.
Helen is still the same. Jasmine gave four gallons this morning.
September 9, 2007 Sunday
Martin and Max loaded about 50 bales of hay on Martin’s truck and drove it to Max’s place for Wesley. It started to rain halfway there but Max thinks the hay was not damaged. It has continued to rains steadily the rest of the day. We needed the rain and it has cooled us all off. Sally and I went down to Pocket Field about 4pm to have a look at Helen, who was unchanged, and the cows were so nice and cool that they began bucking and running, except for Helen. They ran all the way back past the garden.
Sally made four pints of wild cherry syrup and made scones for our supper. I shredded zucchini for another batch of relish, made two pints of tomato sauce with my red and yellow paste tomatoes and made braised lamb shanks for our dinner.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons this morning.
September 10, 2007 Monday
It was cool and overcast today. No calf, but Helen is increasingly miserable. She twice returned to the barn apparently just to rest.
DD Sally and DD Marcia and I made cider today in Marcia’s cider press. We had collected up a lot of apples from around the farm and Marcia had received permission to pick up falls from a home in Weld. We had lots of fun and made nearly five gallons of cider.
When we got home with the cider Sally decanted and strained it into gallon jugs. At that time the cows were far down in Pocket Field but all came speedily back up. We think they smelled the cider way down there. Sally took the opportunity to close the gates so they will spend the night close to the barn.
Sally made three pints of elderberry syrup and I made another batch of zucchini relish.
After dark when I was doing late check, I went out into the barnyard with my heavy flashlight. Cows can get strange after dark. The cows were bunched together and Freddy came crow hopping towards me shaking his head. I gave him a good crack between the eyes with the flashlight and barked “Back!” which he did. He will be two on January first but I think he will be in the freezer by then.
Jasmine gave more than four gallons today.
September 11, 2007 Tuesday
It rained steadily all day. Yesterday evening while Sally was out on the deck she heard a crash and witnessed a tree falling next to the river. We went down today to have a look. It was a mature wild cherry about a foot in diameter at the base. There is not enough straight wood for boards so it will be firewood.
Despite the rain, I spent some time in the garden picking the tomatoes and squash. There is a volunteer plant of Russian kale that is higher than my head. I never saw such a giant kale plant. I have not needed any kale this summer so have harvested no leaves, only occasional bud clusters for salads. It has so many flowers that next year I expect to see dozens of seedlings. Kale is quite hardy. If covered by snow, kale will winter over.
We had a nice dinner out at the lake with DD Marcia, SIL Jack and Granddaughter Abby Rose, newly arrived from California. Abby Rose’s Aunt Abby (Sally and Marcia’s sister) will be gratified to know that when we returned home after dark Sally made me stop the car before we drove through the rain puddles. She got out of the car to make sure we were not running over frogs. Frogs were seen this morning.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons this morning. Mitra refigured Helen’s dates to make her due September 8. According to that she is now 3 days late. She did not look any more ready today than yesterday.
September 12, 2007 Wednesday
Sally has been pounding around all day packing and unpacking and baking and doing last minute outdoor projects in preparation for her departure tomorrow. The outdoor project is reinforcement of the peripheral fence of the lawn so that Willie can be released for a morning run.
Marcia and I plan to drive Sally to Lewiston tomorrow where she will catch the bus on the first leg of her return trip to Haines AK. She goes Lewiston Boston Seattle Juneau. From Juneau, SIL Tom has made her a reservation on the Cessna to Haines in case the weather is favorable. If not, she must wait for the ferry. Despite its being the state capitol, there are no roads out of Juneau
My accompanying Marcia and Sally tomorrow is of course entirely dependant upon Helen. Tonight her tailhead it noticeably cocked up. Sally said from a distance it looked as though a cat were sitting on her back. Her udder is twice as big although not tight yet. After keeping us waiting this long I would appreciate if she would hold off another day.
It is much colder today but I took no frost precautions.
September 13, 2007 Thursday
Because of Sally’s departure, I set my alarm that goes “Moo” for 5 AM. We were down checking on the cows as the sun came up. They were down by the river. Helen was the same. She was reluctant to come home but we moved them up to the barnyard to confine them while I went to Lewiston. Even though she was next to the barn, Helen did not choose to come in for her grain. There was no frost.
We saw Sally off on the bus. It seems pretty flat around here without her.
On the way home, Marcia and I stopped at Gloria Varney’s Nezinscott Farm store. Every year it gets better. You could totally live out of that store. She has every king of food including a great variety of meat and dairy products and even cleaning supplies, coffee, tea and wine. Everything is organic. She also has a comprehensive bakery and serves lunches. She even offers my book for sale. Her husband operates the dairy. She has five healthy looking children.
Marcia’s horse, Peter, has thrush quite badly in one of his hind feet. She cleans his stall relentlessly every day but it stays damp in there. We plan to get more sand put in, then put down rubber mats and see if that will make a difference. Today while cleaning in there she found a perfectly nasty sharp steel object. Old farm things periodically emerge from the ground. I cannot imagine what purpose this thing ever had. It is about a foot long and extremely sharp on each end, much sharper than any fork tine. I would suspect it could have been a tool for sticking hogs, but why is it sharp on both ends?
After getting home from Lewiston I took my saw toothed sickle and removed the weeds and grass from one of my young apple trees. I took the dogs down to watch. All four bovines, Helen, Jasmine and the two steers, filed purposefully past and headed for an apple tree by the river. They make daily rounds of the wild trees.
I shredded the zucchini and other veg for my third and last batch of relish. It has to sit overnight with salt on it. I also hung up some clabber in a linen napkin to see what it tastes like. This clabber was started with whey from my last batch of yogurt so the clabber is more like yogurt than cottage cheese, which is what one usually makes from clabber.
September 14, 2007 Friday
Some time during last night I stopped being able to hear cowbells in the River Field nearest the house. At 6AM I could not hear bells at all and there was a heavy ground fog. I figured the cows were down in Pocket Field. When all but Helen emerged from the mist an hour later I felt certain Helen was calving. After milking when Marcia arrived and the sun was bright we walked down to look for Helen. As we got near the woods we could hear her bell but because of my monaural hearing I could not see where she was. Marcia soon spotted her down the bank in the woods with the calf next to her. It was wet and shivering but Helen was busy licking it. Interestingly, Helen’s vulva and udder looked unchanged from yesterday. There was nothing to show she had given birth. There was no blood, no slime, no strings of placenta. I guess she had already eaten it. The calf is small. I slid my hand under its tail and was pretty sure it was a heifer. I was wrong. Later inspection proved it to be a bull.
Once upon a time I would have carried him up but neither Marcia nor I felt up to that. We returned to the house. About 45 minutes later Marcia ran in from the barn to tell me that Helen was up in the pasture and the calf was hooning around, as Midge calls it. I watched for a while with the field glasses. Unfortunately, Freddie and Melvin wanted to join the fun and it was evident that the calf would never be able to feed nor would Helen get any rest with those two around. I even saw Melvin mount Helen.
Marcia and I walked back down with grain in hopes of bringing the steers in. They absolutely refused to leave. Each time we got them 100 feet away they circled back and bunched around Helen and Jasmine who were standing by the calf. I was glad nobody had horns since I was in among them trying to drive them off. Marcia volunteered to drive her SUV down there. I stayed with the cattle until she got back. When the car arrived they all scattered. Marcia contributed her belt so that I could catch and restrain the calf who is a mighty frisky little guy.
We hoisted him into the back of her car and I sat next to him with the tailgate down. Marcia drove slowly and Helen marched behind with the others following closely. On many earlier occasions I have found a cow to be essentially blind to her calf as it is transported away, always running back to the birthing site. But Helen is an old pro. Marcia drove right into the barnyard and we closed all gates behind us. Marcia quickly and cleverly finessed the steers into the side paddock formerly occupied by Wesley and they are now isolated there. There had been a lot of mournful complaint.
I took Helen a couple of scoops of grain drenched with molasses and she took a big drink from their tub. The calf appeared to have sucked at least two teats but continued to act hungry all day even though I got him sucking several times. Marcia made a return visit in late afternoon and helped me to assist him to a really good feed. Granddaughter Abby Rose was there with her digital camera so we hope for pictures before long.
So far Helen has not developed milk fever. At 8:30PM she and Jasmine were standing next to the calf. Her ears were warm and she was alert.
I have named the calf Oak Avenue because he was born on 9/14. 914 Oak Avenue was the address in Davis where we lived when my older kids were growing up and where Max was born.
September 15, 2007 Sunday
Today started early and has gone on long. Helen so far has not had milk fever or mastitis although she is prone to both. I got her in three times today to milk and took a total of 1 ½ gallons of colostrum. I kept Oak Avenue in so that Helen and Jasmine could graze without my having to worry about where she had hidden him. She was satisfied with the arrangement. After the first time she came in and saw where he was, she came in promptly each time. She did virtually no mooing. She did not kick or threaten to kick during milking although her tail sailed around a lot.
During a lapse in my attention yesterday Jasmine got the grain I had put out for Helen (when she did not come in). In direct consequence of this grain Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons this morning, up between 2 and 3 quarts from her current average. It is unusual for a cow to be so responsive to a feed increase in the 8th month of lactation.
September 16, 2007 Sunday
Today was all about cows. Helen continues to maintain her health. I milked out a bit less than a gallon of colostrum this morning before turning Helen out and keeping Oak Avenue (Oakly) in. At 1 pm she had no interest in coming back in to be milked and Oakly was sleeping. I brought her in at 5:30 and Oakly latched onto her off side from teat and never let go for a good ten minutes. I worked on the other three and got about 3 quarts. Still no sign of mastitis or MF. This time Oakly followed her out like a good boy so they can spend the night together.
The other big job today was preparing for a hard frost tonight. I picked all the tomatoes that showed the color break and some green ones too. I also had to drag in a lot of potted plants and covered a few things that I could not lift. My back tells me I should have chosen to cover a few more.
The weather was perfectly beautiful.
Big family news: DS Martin and DIL Amy are expecting #2 on April 14.
September 17, 2007 Monday
We did get frost but it did not take everything. Most of the squash leaves are gone and the basil.
Helen seemed fine this morning. Oakly trotted right in behind her. I hand milked a gallon of colostrum. Her udder is pretty hard even though she had her calf all night. He clearly had not touched either of her quarters on the right side. She stood perfectly.
I still have the steers separated and they bawl a lot. About 9:30 when DD Marcia had Peter in the crossties, who should stick his head in the front door of the barn but Melvin, Helen’s son now 15 months old. I happened to be in the barn too. When he saw Peter he fled. I asked Marcia to run and close the front gate which she did and he skimmed past it and made a turn around the lawn as far as he could go. I knew he would soon come back. When he did we managed to get him into the barnyard which put him back in with Helen which I did not want. This left Freddie, 21 months old, alone in the small paddock bawling relentlessly. Very careful inspection by both me and Marcia failed to offer any clue as to how Melvin got out. I have to assume he jumped the fence. This means it is not safe to put him back in the same paddock so now they are all merged together. I can hardly wait for those two steers to be in the freezer.
It was an altogether busy day. I made a baked pudding with colostrum and two batches of butter. With the second batch the shaft on the electric churn broke so I made butter in the Cuisinart instead and wrapped it in parchment paper. It is a reasonably good substitute for butter paper. I doubt the churn is fixable. I also made qvark. I thought I might make a cheesecake with it.
At this evening’s milking Helen was perfectly cooperative. The calf nursed from her left side while I milked on the right. All her quarters are still hard but when the calf came around and tried to nurse from the right front Helen repeatedly kicked him. I immediately put the kicker on her and tried to get him onto that teat again but he kept trying to move to another. Naturally I am now alarmed that this is mastitis. It is nearly impossible to distinguish between fresh cow engorgement and mastitis but this looks bad.
DS Mark came up for dinner and overnight. His rotation at Central Maine Med is only 45 minutes away so I expect to see him from time to time.
September 19, 2007 Wednesday
Everything now is about cows or milk or washing up. As was my experience before, I find that I cannot use my Surge on Helen. Her udder is too low and her teats too far apart to fit the machine. I had to give up and milk by hand. I don’t mind milking by hand but I am slow and my hands are out of condition. Also she is typically always dirty. It does not help that I have had to merge the steers back in with her and Jasmine. Because I am keeping Oakly in all day for his safety and my convenience, this means she comes back to the barn to rest instead of resting out in the nice clean pasture. So that means all four come in, since she is boss cow. This makes a mess I cannot keep up with all the time. For the present I have to just not try to do much else but cow related stuff.
DD Marcia and granddaughter Abby Rose and I went to Farmington yesterday, a nice break from my dairy maid duties. I had a lot of milk and clabber for Mitra’s pigs. Her pigs look great, just as happy and sleek as can be. Wesley appears to be happy with his new home. Marcia returned the four hens she borrowed from Mitra for the summer, which have now increased by two chicks. They were too hard on her garden.
Wesley in his new stall at Max and Mitra's. The stall is located next to the basement walkout.
Wesley enjoying his new paddock.
For the last two days I have had no time to spend in my little garden. Today I discovered that the deer have gotten in and eaten all the Swiss chard, all the spinach and all the beet and carrot tops. DD Sally put up a barrier of nylon fishing line but they chose a place that it was a little weak. I had no time today to make repairs. No telling what they will do tonight. Hit the cabbages I suppose. The cabbages are already under attack from cabbage worm. The Bt and DE were no defense. Sigh.
I joined Marcia and Jack and Abby Rose for dinner at camp, a nice break. Marcia made delicious bbq spare ribs, sugar peas, and baked sweet potato. Abby Rose made one of her attractive salads.
I must now finish making butter. It is washed and sitting in a colander awaiting pressing.
September 20, 2007 Thursday
It was not until sundown that I found time to reinforce the nylon fishing line designed to protect my garden. It is attached to wands that stick up about 3 ft higher than the existing fence. While under attack by midges and mosquitoes, I wound on an additional double line of line. Actually, it got dark before I finished the western side of the garden but that is a stretch they have never previously chosen for entry. So we will see in the morning. In fact thanks to frost last week that hit the squash and peppers and what the deer have already eaten, there is not much left of the garden to defend but cabbages. By now it is mostly a matter of principle. If they get in tonight I have plans for deployment of more line, ha ha.
Helen was a little less trouble today. I did not bother to use the machine on her at all. Morning and evening I hand milked a gallon and a half. So much milk to deal with! But somebody came today and bought 4 gallons for cheese making. They are going to make 50/50 goat’s and cow’s milk cheese. They are Biodynamic farmers and find my milk to be acceptable in their program. I bestowed some of the colostrum on them that I had saved in the fridge.
I have been allowing the calf, Oakly, to spend the night with Helen. All the cows are together and I have been keeping them closed up in the small barnyard. Tonight I opened up the sheep paddock for them. I did not do this earlier partly because I did not want a lot of hassle getting Oakly back up to the barn in the morning, however he now follows Helen pretty well and is beginning to be leadable. In addition, the sheep paddock is what Melvin jumped out of. I doubt he will do that again because he is back with Helen. But if he does it just puts him on the lawn and the front gate is shut.
The chores were a little more manageable today but still took all but 2 hours of the day up until now, 8:30, when I have pretty much quit for the night. I have oatmeal cookies in the oven. I decided I needed some kind of treat.
DD Marcia has been spending time every day routing weeds and grass from my neglected perennial borders and piling on Peter’s Perfect Product. There is less now that she has laid rubber mats in his stall but still at least a bushel a day mixed with shavings. What an improvement in appearances this has made!
September 21, 2007 Friday
Melvin was on the front lawn again this morning. It was evident that he had hopped from the sheep paddock into the veggie garden and then busted through the garden fence onto the lawn. I easily got him back into the barnyard but later inspection revealed new damage in the garden. I expected he would have attacked my poor beleaguered cabbages but he mostly just made big hoof prints and plops.
I allowed Oakly out with Helen today. He was cute hopping around and having fun but not to my surprise Helen did not come when I called her at milking time. I had to get all sweaty rounding her up. She is totally cooperative once in the stanchion so long as she can see Oakums. Tonight I left everybody shut in the barnyard and put down hay. I don’t fancy chasing them in the morning. As it is, I don’t have time for anything but milk and cow stuff. This afternoon I got fed up with looking for jars and bags in which to freeze the colostrum that I was saving in the fridge. I just skimmed it and poured it into Max and Mitra’s pig buckets. I did freeze some of course. I’m still keeping Helen’s milk separate and straining it with a new filter each time in order to monitor for mastitis. So far, none. The flavor is not yet completely transitioned from colostrum.
DS Martin and Amy and baby Hannah stopped in for supper on their way to camp. They brought nice Indian food from The Jewel of India in Biddeford so I had no cooking to do. That was a treat. Hannah is a marvelous eater.
September 22, 2007 Saturday
Another very long cow day but thankfully the fine weather continues. I am tying Oakly next to Helen’s shoulder while I milk using a half sized bucket, the full sized bucket being too high for her udder. I get a gallon and a half each time which so far seems to be adequate to keep her udder healthy. There continue to be hard areas in the upper front part of her two front quarters. It is most likely due to her holding up. The milk strains perfectly.
This morning I had extra help in the form of DD Marcia and DS Martin and his friend John who drove down here early from the lake. (John is diabetic and had forgotten his syringe. I have a collection of them including a couple of brand new ones that my vet forgot to take with him. I save them for him). We were all in the barn. Somehow I forgot to put in the pin after Helen went into her stanchion so when she got finished with her grain she just marched away. I think John was pretty surprised to find a great big cow in his face.
After the cows were back outside and Marcia’s horse, Peter was in his corral, something started them all running. I think it was because Oakly was running and Helen felt the necessity to go galumphing after him. This started Peter racing around and bucking. He kept it up for about a half hour even after the cows were out of sight. Marcia had left to take her daughter Abby Rose to the airport. I finally went out and talked Peter down, saying walk, walk walk over and over again slowly. It seemed to do the trick. He settled down.
DS Mark and his daughter Hailey arrived about noon as did Max and his daughter Roshan. Roshan immediately sought permission to bathe Willie. Yes! He was filthy. Max carried buckets of warm water to the tub on the deck and the two girls soon had Willie snow white again.
Mark and Max then worked together to repair the fence where Melvin has been getting out. I don’t believe he will ever go over that part again. This means I was able to again allow them into the sheep paddock tonight for a bit of grazing and less pooping in the barn.
Once again tonight I had to go down nearly to the river to bring Helen in but she made no effort to escape and Oakly followed perfectly all the way back to the barn and through the barn where he stopped by her stanchion. Both steers follow closely and take a protective position but are not overtly aggressive. I carry a white nylon electric fence post, the end wrapped with duct tape.
Besides taking care of milk the only other thing I got done was to make two pounds of butter, which in fact I still have to press. I had planned to go with Marcia to the Weld Fireman’s Ball but she had to excuse me due to fatigue.
September 23, 2007 Sunday It was bound to happen. Helen is starting mastitis in her right front quarter. All I have done so far besides trying to get it milked out thoroughly this morning and again tonight is rub the hard upper part of the quarter with Bag Balm. Then tonight I left the calf with her again and put Bag Balm on her rear teats in hopes of making them distasteful. I suspect both front quarters of being in trouble.
This evening I had less trouble than previously getting Helen and Oakly in. I thought that if she gave me a lot of trouble I was just going to lock Oakly in a stall to insure that morning does not bring another merry chase. But then while milking I thought that maybe she is learning the drill and just maybe having him all night will be better for the mastitis even though Oakly is unlikely to favor the infected quarter. At no time has there been any trouble straining or any evidence on the filter and tonight the milk from that quarter tasted a lot better than this morning.
I took a nice break at lunch time and joined DD Marcia and Jack at camp for lunch with two couples who are horse people. We sat out on the dock for a while before being seated on the porch to eat. The weather was perfect. Marcia made a lovely soup with chicken and sausage in a broth with leeks. She also made whole wheat biscuits which we ate with farm butter. One guest brought an apple pie with a crumble crust which she made with the recipe her mother used to follow in the old Betty Crocker Cook Book. I left immediately after lunch so as to have a little time in the garden before evening chores.
September 24, 2007 Monday
Helen cooperated with my plan by being at the barn this morning. At least I can say the hardness in her right front quarter is no worse and the milk tastes less salty. The left front is also somewhat hard but there is no off flavor to the milk. She gave 1.5 gallons. Definitely she is holding up.
This evening I called the cows and little Jasmine trotted right up to the barn as usual. Helen and the steers were nowhere to be seen. I walked along the river which was pleasant and noted the barberries are ripe but saw no cows. I walked back to the barn to close a gate and cut off their retreat and there they were at the barn. I told Helen she was a good girl. Her udder was about the same as this morning but she resisted letting down and I only got one gallon. I sure don’t need the milk so I don’t care how much she keeps so long as she doesn’t have mastitis. I again put lots of Bag Balm on the hard parts of her front quarters and slathered it on both rear teats in hopes of making Oakly suck the front ones. This mastitis treatment is not up to my usual standard. I am hoping for help from the lovely natural environment and the calf doing his part. He already appears to have doubled in size.
Last night and tonight I watched Ken Burn’s The War. They showed one of the Japanese internment camps but not the one I lived in. They also showed a British air base from whence American bombers set out for bombing missions over Germany. It appeared to be my first husband’s unit but I did not glimpse him. He was a marksman and had the task of training gunners.
September 25, 2007 Tuesday
The fine weather continues so it was not unpleasant traipsing through the wet grass to fetch Helen and Oakly up from the river’s edge. I could have forestalled this hike had I acted more quickly. They were all up at the barn at 6:30 AM but I had so much catch-up to do from last night before going to the barn that they got tired of waiting and all left. Marcia was here to tend to her horse, Peter, and she went down with me. Helen marched right in when we surrounded her. At least she did not bolt for the woods as she has been known to do in former years. Maybe she is getting more dignified.
One reason I was late this morning was that I had to skim and empty out milk jars to have jars to receive this morning’s milk. My customers are forgetting to return them. I put a big sign on the fridge pleading for jars.
Helen’s mastitis was better this morning judging by the flavor of the milk. I could not get much milk out thanks to her holding up, only one gallon total from all four quarters. This evening I again had to fetch her in for milking but she let down much better. I filled my little 2 gallon pail to the brim and could have kept going. The flavor of the milk in the bad quarter was significantly improved and the quarter much softer. I am still not selling her milk.
I made butter again today and started a gallon of yogurt. I also spent a short time in the garden. I dug two more hills of potatoes and picked a few beans and tomatoes.
September 26, 2007 Wednesday
Apart from the one time I reported, Helen has not spontaneously presented herself at the barn for milking. On the other hand, she comes in OK when I go down and round her up. She is usually at the farthest possible point. On the plus side, the weather is fine and the walk is pretty nice. And when they are not in the barn the clean-up is far easier. On the minus side I don’t have much of a life right now beyond cow and milk efforts so would be glad for anything that saves time, like having Helen come when called. This morning she came without Oakly. He was sleeping somewhere. After she got all the way to the barn and finished up her grain she began bellowing her head off of course. About 10 minutes later he showed up at the barn.
Her mastitis seems to be gradually getting better. The quarter was softer and the flavor improved although still not perfect. I am still keeping her milk separate and not selling it.
Helen gave 4 gallons today. Jasmine gave another four. I am skimming cream for butter and making clabber for Mitra’s pigs.
We had record heat. It reached 84˚ this afternoon. Now an electrical storm has started.
September 27, 2007 Thursday Helen’s troubled quarter was harder this morning and gave less milk but the taste was about the same, which is to say better than a week ago but not perfect.
All the others except Helen came up when I called at milking time this evening. However she turned and walked towards the barn as soon as I got close, no need to wave my magic wand (a white electric fence stake) and Oakly trotted right along. They came all the way into the barn and to her stanchion. I hope it will not be many more days until I don’t have to go fetch her. By the time I sit down to milk I am hot, tired and sweaty. I got a total of less than three gallons from her today.
Jasmine is holding steady at 4 gallons. I have a new milk customer, a lady who can’t drink commercial milk without distress. She decided to give Jasmine’s a try. She says she has really missed not being able to eat cereal. She is now on her second gallon and reports no gastric rebellion.
Dear Mitra came today and brought her parents who are visiting from California. She took six gallons of milk and about 10 gallons of clabber.
I made 2 pounds of butter.
DD Sally sent me a lovely new cheese press today from Hoegger’s. As soon as I am able to manage my time a little better I will make some cheese. It is clearly a better design than Cheesey Press; Sally hates Cheesey Press. She is sure it is going to fly apart and knock out somebody’s teeth. The only safe way to use it is with a second person stabilizing it while it is being assembled. It works OK. It is just annoying and tricky. Also the manufacturer does not answer his email.
September 28, 2007 Friday
It rained last night. It has rained enough in the last month to keep the grass coming on. There are still some things in my garden which benefit. I don’t know what to say about the cabbages. They were so lovely and now are so riddled by slugs, they are just lacework. And even if the insides are usable I have no time to make slaw. I have had the crock and the slaw recipe sitting in the kitchen for three weeks without being able to get at it.
My leeks are looking fairly good. They could have done with more water but nothing seems to be munching on them. I pulled one and gave it to Marcia.
Helen still does not care enough about her grain or presumably me to be willing to come in when called for milking. She does start to move when I get within 20 yards and has not tried her old trick of sloping off in another direction just when I have her to the gate. Oakley trots right along. Her bad quarter is about the same, maybe a little better. It is declining in production. I doubt I got more than a quart out of it tonight if that. I got 2.5 gallons total from her today. I must tape Oakley again. He taped at 83 lbs on Tuesday. I can tell he is ignoring the bad quarter.
September 29, 2007 Saturday
Last night there were dogs barking somewhere on the field down near the river, the current night pasture for the cows. They sounded like they were attacking something. I listened for sounds of distress from the cows but there was no bellowing, not even any bell ringing. They cannot have been far away but must have been holding their collective breaths so as not to make a ding. This was about 9PM and pitch dark with ground fog. My flashlight had quit and new batteries didn’t help. I listened for a long time. I can hear the cow bells from my bedroom when they are in that field and did not hear them until about 4AM although probably I was sleeping some of the time. This morning all the cows and Oakley were fine. I did not have time today to scout around.
Helen’s condition this morning was unchanged. Max came over this evening and milked her for me. He is a strong fast milker. When he got done the mastitic quarter was softer than is has been. I can’t tell if that is as a result of his milking skills or whether she is improving.
Frost is predicted for tonight. I do hope we don’t get it. My big Aussie squashes need a little more time.
We had a family dinner out at Boles’ camp at the lake (DD Marcia). She made a delicious seafood lasagna and we had all home grown vegetables. Mitra brought the appetizer – sautéed eggplant(from her garden) slices with a cucumber yogurt dill sauce on homemade pita chips. I made a qvark cheesecake. I cannot now remember if the recipe came originally from Midge or Claire. It is exceptionally delicious, goes together fast and is ready to eat within an hour. No baking.
A pan of raw milk left loosely covered with a tea towel for one to three days at about 72F will become colonized with wild lactobacillus and form a solid curd resembling yogurt. This is clabber or curds and whey as favored by Miss Muffet. For this recipe you will need to clabber about a gallon of milk.
Qvark, also spelled Kvark, is a soft cheese favored in Europe and the Middle East. It is made by slightly heating and then draining clabber. Heat clabber by placing it in a large bowl over simmering water. Heat slowly to 90F without stirring. If the temperature reaches 100F I find that it is still OK. Drain it by lining a colander with tightly woven cheesecloth (butter muslin) or a linen tea towel. The cloth should be damp. Tie up or pin the corners and hang to drain until the curd resembles the consistency of cream cheese.
For crust: ¼ cup melted butter 1 ¼ cups fine cookie crumbs Mix and press into 10” cake tin or flan dish Chill
Filling: 2 cups qvark 7/8 cup milk Grated rind of one lemon or lime 2 packets plain gelatin such as Knox’s ¼ cup boiling water ¾ cup superfine sugar (castor sugar or bar sugar) 1 cup heavy cream, whipped 1 teaspoon vanilla
Dissolve the gelatin completely in the boiling water. In a food processor or by hand, blend the quark, milk and lemon rind. Add the dissolved gelatin and sugar. Add the gelatin through a strainer. Whip the cream and add vanilla. Fold into qvark mixture. Pour over the chilled crumb base. (Fruit may be added)
Chill for one hour or more. This makes a smooth and delicate cheesecake which is ready to serve hours sooner than a baked cake can be eaten. If there is too much filling for the prepared pan just make a little snack dessert in another dish.
Note: Your clabber and your qvark should be bland in flavor. It will need to hang 12 to 18 hours to get rid of the whey and provide a thickened product.
Top your cheese cake with minced candied ginger or a fruit sauce.
If you accidentally overheat your qvark it will become grainy. You may, if you wish, just turn it into cottage cheese by heating to 110F (soft curd) or 120F (firm curd). Drain it as described and add a bit of salt.
September 30, 2007 Sunday
Both morning and evening Helen came right along with Jasmine and the others, bringing Oakley, when I called. This morning she hesitated at the gate to the barnyard (Do I really want to do this?). This evening she filed right in. This morning she gave two gallons, one gallon this evening. Her mastitic quarter was definitely less hard.
We got some frost last night. It took the cucumber vines and the foliage of the Jarrahdale squash.
DS Martin’s Australian Correct Deck rep and his wife are staying at Martin and Amy’s camp on the lake. They came down this afternoon and we had tea. Unfortunately I have no time for baking so was not much of a hostess but at least was able to give them some things from the garden. The cows were too far away at that time for me to show them off but they liked Peter.
DD Sally called. She continues to enjoy using the blender I gave her to take home. Now that they have electricity in their home she is finding many interesting uses for the little appliance.
October 1, 2007 Monday
This was another very full day with many important tasks left undone, like paying bills. Sigh. I just had to spend a bit of time in the garden now that the last rose of summer is dropping her petals. I dug a few more hills of potatoes and picked a few beans.
The cows were up at the barn ahead of me this morning. I was slow because of wrestling with fulfilling an Amazon order. They change not only their format but also their terminology every couple of weeks leaving me way behind. Once an order comes in I attend to it immediately. Sorry, cows. They got tired of waiting and left so I had to trot down and fetch them. This evening they came when called. They are really very well behaved although I do put the kicker on Helen. Oakley taped at 101 lbs.
I made a couple of more pounds of butter today and shredded zucchini for another batch of relish, even though I said last time I was quitting. This really will be the end as the vines are now all brown following the recent frost.
DS John in Adelaide, Australia wrote today about his ride with his son Tommy, 16.
Tommy’s bridle was broken so he just had a halter with a couple of makeshift reins but he still kept wanting to gallop all the time. And jump over tree branches and whatnot. The boy’s crazy. I brought his reins back to fix.
Both horses were splendidly well-behaved. A highly poisonous snake (brown snake) crossed the little road just in front of us in hot pursuit of a desperately fleeing lizard (the type called “bearded dragon”). Moments after disappearing they went back the other way. It was a little comical. Then the lizard shot back a third time, but I think the snake sensed the horses’ hoofbeats as it did not follow it. Do you remember all the brown snakes in the road en route to the Flinders Ranges? And the wedgetail eagles that must have been living off road killed snakes?
October 2, 2007 Tuesday
DD Marcia and I went to Dixfield on errands. We stopped at the cemetery so that I could show her where her great grandmother is buried. That was my very dear Grammie Abby with whom my sister and I spent the happiest days of our childhood. On the way home we stopped at DD Sally’s 17 acre field across the river from me. We picked wild apples from several trees in the hedgerows. At first we thought of just getting some for Peter, her horse, but there were so many that I began to consider applesauce. It was a beautiful day. When last Sally and I were there, we spotted an enormous wasp nest. I took Marcia to look at it and we found it had been torn open and all the wasps were gone. I wonder what animal did this.
October 3, 2007 Wednesday
The fine weather is holding. In the morning Marcia and I repaired the fence that separates the North Field from Pocket Field. We created a gate. She let Peter have the whole field for a change instead of just his paddock. Melvin, the 18 month old steer, found a way to get in with Peter perhaps to play or perhaps because he considers himself the main man. He appeared to enjoy chasing around with Peter for a few minutes, then Peter got too scary and Melvin hurled himself at the fence causing some temporary damage. At least now we know where the fence needs reinforcing. After Melvin left, Peter ran up and down bucking and kicking.
I went out to Marcia’s camp this afternoon. I have so many milk related tasks now that it never ends. I realized that not once all summer have I spent any time at the lake during the day, only going out there for dinner. I lay in their hammock for an hour and soaked up the breeze and the sound of the waves. Then I came home and did more skimming and made three pounds of butter.
Jasmine gave her customary four gallons in the morning and Helen gave 1.5 gallons AM and PM.
October 5, 2007 Friday
After pelting through morning chores, which took me until 10:30, DD Marcia and I packed up the Jeep with milk and clabber and drove to Farmington. We went first to New Sharon and delivered 8 gallons of milk to Mitra and about 10 gallons of clabber. This made me feel lighter than air. Then we convened with Mitra in Farmington for a stop at the farmers market, lunch, and a great series of errands. I did not get home until about 5PM.
I put into practice an idea that came to me during morning milking. This was to skip milking Helen tonight and keep Oakley in. Then in the morning I will try to make him work on the mastitic quarter and the other front quarter that I never have any luck with using the machine. Depending on how stuffed she is, I may try the machine on her rear quarters. Her rear teats are shorter with a better spacing, although low to the ground.
Possibly this will dampen down Helen’s production. At minimum, I won’t have a ten minute walk to fetch her up to the barn. Because of her calf, she will be waiting.
At worst, the mastitis will flare up and I will be back to TAD hand milking.
This evening DS Martin and DIL Amy and Baby Hannah arrived bringing me Vietnamese take-out. It was a delicious meal starting off with the famous soup, Pho.
They also brought me a 98 Subaru Legacy to replace my old car. It was too dark to admire properly. That pleasure awaits me in the morning.
October 6, 2007 Saturday
My experiment yesterday and this morning with separating Oakley, having him preferentially nurse Helen’s front teats, and then machine milking her rear ones was not a great success. Oakley did his part manfully and I think he did some good for the mastitic quarter. The flavor of the milk this evening from that quarter was noticeably improved. As for using the milking machine, I’m afraid not. Her udder is just too low. The teat cups get scrunched down which pinches off the vacuum. I had to crouch there supporting her udder to enable the machine to function.
While crouching, I recalled AnnB writing about an udder support she devised. It involved a belt around her cow. As I remember, it went right around between the front and back quarters. I am not picturing how to easily cinch up the rope using a quick release knot. What I did this morning was more work than milking by hand. As for separating Oakley, I will need to be pretty sure I need his assistance before I do that again. Helen bellowed for him half the night and the others periodically joined in. I don’t imagine I am very popular with the neighbors today.
I drove my new car up to DIL Amy and DS Martin’s camp where we all convened for a cookout. Martin and his friend Peter and three other friends took a 100 mile bike ride up to Rangeley arriving back in time for a late lunch or maybe it was an early dinner. We had all kinds of sausages and Coburn Farm beef patties, an Asian rice salad made by Amy, macaroni and cheese made by DIL Mitra and various vegetables which I provided. I also brought some of my feta and a bowl of particularly nice qvark. Baby Hannah liked it. DD Marcia made a pumpkin pie with a quark and whipped cream topping but I had to leave before it was served. I actually completely skipped milking Helen last night (Friday) but thought it best not to do that again.
Helen tapes at 1083 lbs. Jasmine 823 lbs Oak Avenue 130 lbs.
Jasmine continues to give 4 gallons OAD, my share of Helen’s production is 3 gallons a day. I suppose Oakley is drinking around 3 gallons.
When the house was still and dim at bed time, I was shocked to see a frog hopping across the living room rug! I have never seen a frog in the house before and cannot imagine how it got in. My only theory is that Willie brought it in. It was undamaged and frisky. I dropped a washcloth over it the better to grab it but it got way and slithered under the baseboard heating panel. It appeared to be in good health.
October 7, 2007 Sunday
Martin and family stopped in to bring me leftovers and that frog came hopping into the kitchen. It was moving more slowly this morning, probably drying out. I said, “Martin! Catch my frog!” He responded with alacrity and got it on the first try. It is now in the frog pond.
I was late with milking because the morning mist obscured the pastures and I could not tell where to look for the cows. When the fog burned off, there they were not far away. They all came in nicely. It rained about a half inch last night so they had been grazing on wet grass which always increases production. Jasmine and Helen were both up a quart.
I got a new idea for treating Helen’s mastitis: I slathered the teat on that quarter with molasses to see if Oakley would stop ignoring it.
Max stopped in and picked up more milk and clabber. The pigs have their date with destiny tomorrow. Max moved things around in the garage and put my new car inside. It is a beautiful hunter green.
Sally McDonnell (Sally mcd) and Chris Shustak (Kip) came for lunch. They drove up together from the Boston area. Chris brought along his three well behaved Shelties. I made another loaf of No Knead fruit bread and oven roasted vegetables. I tossed in olive oil: zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, leeks, garlic, bell peppers and mushrooms. I added purple basil, rosemary and pieces of sausage and roasted this in a flat pan for about an hour. Before serving i added some of my own marinated feta. Everybody ate a lot. We also had Indonesian brown rice salad (from yesterday) made by Amy from the Moosewood Cookbook and the rest of Marcia's pumpkin pie with whipped cream and qvark topping. We were all stuffed.
Kip and Sally then kindly helped me by mucking out the Beefer Pen. The cows had stayed in last night because of the rain so it was a mess. Then before returning home they took Bagel, Willie and the three Shelties for a half hour walk up past the cemetery where they reported passing many of my neighbors riding four wheelers.
My experiment with applying molasses to Helen’s teat was an apparent success. The bad quarter had definitely been sucked. In fact I only got 2 ½ quarts from Helen. This is very encouraging. I may be able to drop the evening milking.
Mitra has agreed to accept the black hen with 13 chicks which have been living loose in the grain room. Marcia came back down this evening bringing a large cat carrier. She waited until dusk when it was quite dark in there. The hen tucks up for the night in an old wire freezer basket lined with hay. I provided a piece of netting to put over it. The plan was to pick up the entire thing and slide it into the cat carrier. This did not work quite right but I was able to grab the hen by the neck as she was escaping while Marcia crept around picking up the chicks one by one. They are now about he size of pigeons and have been making a proper pigeon mess of the grain room floor and all the feed bags. Poor Marcia’s knees! But the whole family is now in the carrier. Marcia is taking her trailer over to Max and Mitra’s house tomorrow to haul the pigs and the hen and chicks will ride along.
My chore list is getting shorter!
October 8, 2007 Monday Columbus Day
Today went well with the cows. I am pretty sure Oakley is nursing all four teats. In any case, the mastitis is no worse and I think marginally better. He is taking more every day. I decided to try skipping evening milking. What liberation! I do hope the morning brings endorsement for my decision and her udder is in good shape.
I also put two gallons of this morning’s milk into plastic gallon jugs from the sleeve of new milk jugs and lids I have. I will provide milk in plastic for my customers from now on unless I am able to get some more of my jugs back.
This was the day that Max and Mitra’s pigs had their appointment. Marcia took her trailer over to collect them. As so often happens with pigs, they did not choose to get into the trailer. After being fed many tempting eggs, the crew was able to get two in. They had to give up on the other two. The nice people at Luce's butchers said if the pigs could arrive early tomorrow morning they would still take them. So Marcia left her trailer parked at the pig pen and, Mirabile Dictu, this evening the other two pigs entered the trailer on their own. Max was working on Wesley’s electric fence when he noticed a pigs butt sticking out of the trailer. He crept towards the trailer with all deliberate speed so as not to freak the pigs with the sound of pounding feet. He quickly raised the ramp to shut them in. They began hurling themselves around frantically and one repeatedly sprang up and appeared about to launch himself over the gate. The upper doors have tricky catches which Max had never operated before. Just in time he slammed them shut. Marcia will return early tomorrow to drive the pigs to Luce’s.
Wesley eating beans. Wesley's paddock that needed fence repair/adjustment.
Marcia also delivered the hen with 13 chicks to Mitra and Max. and the birds are now in the chicken tractor.
October 9, 2007 Tuesday
Early this morning Marcia and Mitra drove the second batch of pigs over to Luce’s. Once there, the pigs had changed their minds and refused to leave the trailer. The men at the abattoir finally had to get in and to assist. They were gentle and the pigs unloaded calmly. After Marcia brought the trailer back here and parked in my field, Peter came over to inspect it. I don’t think he had smelled pigs before. He walked up to it and put his ears forward in astonishment, then turned away in disgust. I think he said “What ever have you been doing with my trailer?”
I started a cheese in order to try the new press which Sally sent. I had gotten no farther than adding the rennet when I got a call that my vet would be stopping by. I had to finish the cheese making in odd intervals for the rest of the day. I finally got it in for the final pressing at 7pm. But I had a nice lunch with my vet and Marcia was able to get her horse a travel certificate. Peter goes to Florida at the end of this month.
October 10, 2007 Wednesday
I was going to say that my nylon fishing line webbing around the garden had stopped the deer – that is until I visited the garden today. They had bashed their way through it and feasted on the brassicas. I have only one Brussels sprout plant and now it has no leaves. Half the cabbages have their middles eaten out. The pole beans were still bearing but now most of their leaves are gone for the second or third time. I am going to be quite disappointed if somebody does not shoot at least one of them for my freezer.
So far things are going fine with OAD for Helen. She comes in streaming milk from one or two quarters that have been ignored by Oakley but the molasses seems to be keeping him interested in the front right, as I had hoped.
I removed my cheese from the press. It looks nice but it seems softer and wetter than it ought to be, not to my surprise. I have recorded everything I can remember about its manufacture… not that I ever seem to learn much from my errors. There is such a long gap between manufacture and consumption.
A restaurant in Farmington wants six quarts of cream and three pounds of butter on Friday as part of a special day of serving local food. I am giving them a significant break on the price ($30 for the cream and $5.50lb each for the butter) plus I agreed to deliver to them, a 45 minute drive.
October 12, 2007 Friday
It rained all last night and most of today with periodic thunder and lightening. I fed out a couple of bales of hay so that the cows would have an option about grazing in the rain. They stayed in while it was dark, grazed most of the day in the rain, but were back in the barn by late afternoon. Helen was still up eating hay at 6:30 but the others were resting and cudding. Helen is certainly producing at least five gallons a day, possibly more. I get about 2 ½ gallons OAD. Oakley is growing at a rapid rate. This morning he taped at 140 lbs. He is smooth and perfect. He grazes, eats hay and chews his cud but it is milk that is making him grow. The off flavor in her right front quarter is scarcely noticeable now. She is 11 ½ years old and shows few signs of wear and tear. Her feet could be in better shape (my fault). Her udder is pendulous but this is not a health issue. She is no longer fat but is by no means thin. I have cut back her grain to about 2 ½ lbs a day. At this point I don’t fear ketosis, don’t care if she loses a little weight, but most especially would be glad if she produced less. Hand milking is not a bad job in the fine fall weather we have been having but it takes at least 20 minutes and nobody needs the milk.
The mail lady brought me a lovely package from my sister. She sent a woolen blanket from my grandmother’s collection (Grammie Sills) and six superb quinces from her tree. I gave one quince to DD Marcia to bake for her dinner and baked one for myself. I will probably make jelly with the rest.
Marcia and I went to Farmington where I delivered my six quarts of cream and three pounds of butter to the Granary restaurant. They are doing local food dinners to commemorate an aspiring chef, a nice young man who lost his life in a motorcycle accident.
We met DIL Mitra for lunch. She told us that her poultry is again under siege from a predatory bird. She thinks this time it may be a Cooper’s hawk as one has been seen and unlike during the eagle attacks, the blue jays made a great clamor. She found Witchipoo on her back in the woods surrounded by feathers, bleeding and her eyes shut. She is now in the hen infirmary and appears destined to live. Witchipoo has an overdose of attitude, accounting for her name. Her two partly grown chicks eventually emerged from the woods. Mitra managed to find two more very small chicks belonging to another hen; they were posing as fallen leaves. Now all are in confinement again, sad but necessary.
BAKED QUINCE Cut the quince in half and lay it on a tablespoon of butter in a heavy baking dish such as a Pyrex pie dish. Add a fairly generous amount of brown sugar, honey or molasses and a couple of pinches of cinnamon. Quinces are sourer than apples. Bake at about 375˚ for 45 to 50 minutes or until perfectly tender.
Before cooking, quinces are hard as wood so I find it easier to core them after cooking.
Serve warm with lots of heavy cream.
October 13, 2007 Saturday
It feels like fall now. The mountainside is a blaze of color. People are wearing sweaters. There is talk of snow showers tonight and because today will be my last opportunity to see Max for a week, I harvested my winter squash. Ideally they should stay on the vines until the stems get corky, but I don’t see that happening before a freeze. I lined them all up next to the garden to await Max’s arrival.
This morning I started another two gallon cheese in my new press. I was able to attend to it a little better than last time, but still had to leave it while I joined the family for dinner at Boles’ camp. DS Max and DIL Mitra and the girls were also present. Jack was looking well.
Marcia made tamale pie, a lovely salad and a pumpkin pie. For the salad she sautéed red onion rings in olive oil, then deglazed the pan with balsamic vinegar. She then strewed this over the salad creating a nice dressing. She made a topping for the pie by beating up Neufchatel cheese with a little cream, then folding this into whipped cream with a bit of walnut flavoring.
Yesterday Marcia and I stopped at Wal-Mart and I bought four bags of spring bulbs to put in the inspiring border that Marcia has cleaned up and manured. Then last evening when the newsletter from Johnny’s Selected Seeds appeared on my screen I fell for his fall bulb offer. It has been years since I have bought any new bulbs and most of the old ones have fizzled out. The opportunity to have a proper spring display seemed too good to pass up.
After dinner at Boles’, Max and family came here for milk and clabber. Max hauled the winter squash up from the garden in a cart. We put them in the downstairs guest room. Winter squash rots in cold storage or in a hot place. I hope that bedroom will be about right. Max also carried in a couple of heavy plants from the deck.
Jasmine gave only three gallons this morning. Helen gave 2 ½ . That is about what the bucket will hold and at that point she ceases to let down well. She has plenty more.
October 15, 2007 Monday Nothing is stopping the blasted deer. Last night they gobbled up my strawberry patch, denuding the plants and eating ripe berries which were still coming on. I threw around the remainder of my expensive bag of blood meal. It seemed to slow them down before. Right now there is little left to destroy except cabbages and most of them have floating row cover under which no doubt the slugs are picnicking. Gardening can be discouraging.
Recent nights have come close to freezing, but did not quite freeze. I don’t believe today got above 50˚. There is still plenty of grazing for the cows and now Peter is staying out a lot also. The flies are about gone. Until recently he would stand at the gate and ask to come in after an hour. Now he is in a hurry to get out and did not even walk up at first when Marcia showed him the halter. Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons and Helen gave two. Oakley takes more every day.
I started another cheese, the third with the new press DD Sally sent, also made a big pan of gingerbread with chopped candied ginger in it. It is my Aga recipe, which calls for both molasses and golden syrup. I cannot find golden syrup around here so doubled the molasses.
I suspect that Helen is coming into heat. Oakley is now one month old.
October 16, 2007 Tuesday There are no overt signs of heat in Helen but Peter seemed to think otherwise. He was very agitated this morning, kept looking through his cattle viewing window and wanted to be let out. He did not even want his delicious breakfast, Ultium with carrots and apples (he finally ate it). He was out all day in the big pasture which is shut off from the other pasture where the cows are. He was perfectly calm the remainder of the day.
I have continued to keep Helen’s milk separate and not sell it, but have been milking it all into the same bucket because the salty flavor from the right front quarter became insignificant. I also strain hers last after I have bottled Jasmine’s. Yesterday I thought it strained a bit slowly and today there was no question about it; it was very slow. The filter had a few small blobs on it. Tomorrow I will go back to milking that quarter separately.
I finally visited a young apple tree that I have neglected all summer, cut the tall grass around it and put a plastic spiral trunk protector on it. I don’t know how that little tree keeps going, I have so neglected it. When we used to have the sheep they nibbled the top off it. The snow was deep and crusty that year and only the top was showing.
The chickens are not laying much. I thought I’d scout around their yard which is full of thick chest high goldenrod to see if there might be a hidden nest. No such luck. But I realized I was stepping on something different and oddly crunchy. I found that I was walking on two enormous recumbent self seeded tomato plants covered with large green tomatoes. All those with signs of ripening had their pink cheeks pecked out.
This evening Marcia and I and her friend Diane attended a garden club meeting in New Sharon. The speaker hybridizes day lilies. He hybridizes with huge enthusiasm and showed us hundreds on his power point display. Rhizomes of the more impressive hybrids go for $250. For an encore he showed dozens of pictures of his hostas. My borders of common roadside day lilies would blush with shame. My hostas too, as they are all lacy with slug damage. After the middle of August I never got any more diatomaceous earth onto them.
October 17, 2007 Wednesday We had a killing frost last night. I was pretty well prepared for it. A lighter frost a couple of weeks ago had already done in the squash vines and Max and the kids helped me carry up the big pumpkin/squash called Jaradale. I really don’t know if they are more pumpkin or winter squash not having eaten one yet. The spinach and chard would have been unaffected had not he deer already eaten them, the buggers. I lifted the dahlias (Bishop’s Children) that I grew from seed and see that they have made nice little tubers. I trimmed up the glads that I lifted yesterday. They have made large new corms.
DD Marcia planted all my new bulbs in the perennial border which she has so beautifully dug up and prepared. Half the bulbs came from Wal-Mart. These inspired me to order more from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. His were greatly superior and no more expensive. I hope to find some forget-me-not seeds to put among them. In the home I had in England the spring bulbs were thickly interplanted with forget-me-nots. The bulbs stood as though in a blue cloud. I have always hoped to be able to recapture that effect.
Today was all dairy. After morning milking I started another cheese in the press, made a couple of pounds of quark and made butter, also did a lot of skimming and started a new 5 gallon bucket of clabber. This took me most of the day by which time I was tired of milk.
October 18, 2007 Thursday The low last night was 40˚. Today was a beautiful fall day. I went out on errands and everywhere I went people were congratulating each other on the fine weather. I bought mousetraps at Towle’s Hardware and was told that everybody is having a mouse invasion. I am not being singled out by fate. Then I went to Wal-Mart and bought plastic bins for food storage.
Helen was not stuffed with milk this morning. Oakley was the one that was stuffed. I only got a gallon from her three healthy quarters and about three cups from the troubled one, which I gave to the cats. I will continue to put molasses on that teat. It definitely makes Oakley suck it at least a little bit. At this rate I will soon be able to stop milking Helen and leave the job to Oakley. I will continue to bring her in and keep an eye on them.
October 19, 2007 Friday I got only ¾ of a gallon from Helen this morning not counting the waste milk from the right front quarter. She does not hold up her milk. That’s all she had available. Oakley is doing a good job of soaking up the milk. He taped at 152 this morning, up 12 pounds from last Friday.
We had warm drizzly rain all day.
I set two traps and caught no mice.
The following is a response I wrote today to a poll by Organic Consumers Association. They presented a four question multiple choice to the question “Is it OK to eat meat?”. They were responding to a recently published Cornell study which conceded that if New York State were to provide all the food calories required by the state’s population, this could (still) be accomplished if a little bit of marginal land were devoted to animal production.
The poll asked for a vote on:
People were meant to be vegans People were meant to be vegetarians It’s OK to eat a little ethically reared meat Eat all you want of lean meat
In the readers comments a number of respondents stated, as I did, that it was time people got over the idea that meat and animal fat were bad for you. Several quoted Sally Fallon.
Here is my commentary:
The premise of the Cornell study omits key facts which make impossible a legitimate answer to the poll. The assumption that more people can be fed on a given unit of land by growing plant products has been around for a long time and does not take into account the work involved in production. The issue is between agricultural productivity and agricultural efficiency. They are not the same thing. American farmland can be enormously productive if you have no need to count the cost of the inputs (fuel, chemicals, irrigation etc). The efficiency of a system means the ratio between the work or energy put into a system and the work or energy got out of it.
To give oneself a hint of the discrepancy between productivity and efficiency (what you can get out of, let us say, an acre of vegetables without fossil fuel inputs) imagine preparing the ground, planting the seeds, watering, weeding and harvesting this all by yourself without anything but your own physical labor. You will not find this an efficient way to produce food; neither will it support your body’s hard work.
Agricultural distribution theories based on calories per person ignore the fact that plant derived calories require huge inputs in terms of fossil fuel or human labor; historically this has been slave labor. And as in the example above, you will produce calories but not life supporting protein and fats.
In the case of food production, the more energy we get out of a given unit of land compared to the work or energy we put into it, the greater the efficiency. Commercial agriculture as now constituted is productive but not efficient.
If an acre of land in good grass supports my 700 pound mini Jersey enabling her to produce four gallons of superb creamy milk per day while she cheerfully does all of the work and I do no work except milking her for 20 minutes a day, this is about the most efficient system you will ever find. This was so lambently obvious to our ancestors that they would not have known whether to laugh or cry at claims that the cow was a waste of resources. It must be forcefully noted that methane is produced by fermentation and is present in the guts of all species. The largest source is swampland. Methane is produced by ruminants of all kinds (cattle, buffalo, giraffes etc) in the rumen where they ferment grass or other sources of cellulose, thus converting food which humans cannot eat into animal protein. This has been going on for as long as there has been grass on earth. Before we arrived and killed them off, there were more American bison than there currently are cattle. All were chewing their cuds and belching methane (out the front end, not the back, folks) without unbalancing the universe. As for carbon, at appropriate stocking rates on grass, cattle sequester carbon at a rate which enables carbon balance. All declarations about environmental damage by cattle are based on our current unsustainable animal husbandry practices. Properly maintained cattle and other species improve the soil. That’s how the bison built the four feet of topsoil underneath the prairie grass.
It is gratifying to see in the Cornell study at least a fairy step towards recognition that meat might deserve a niche in the human diet. It is especially rewarding to see so many responders to this forum speaking up for meat and animal fat. People feel better right away on any diet that cuts out processed food. For sustained physical work either in that vegetable patch, in sports and (very importantly) to produce full term normal birth weight babies, there is quite simply no substitute for animal products.
©opyright 2007 Joann S. Rogers