Heifer Diary 2010
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January 02, 2010 Saturday
It has snowed all day but not very hard. Six to eight inches are predicted. It is around 20˚ with a light wind. Jasmine gave over 3 gallons this morning. I was a little late to the barn. Furthermore, I left the machine on a little longer than I have been doing. I forgot that I wanted to leave some behind for Fern. All Jasmine’s cuts have pretty well healed up. They were not bad cuts but one has to worry all the same.
Marcia spent hours today cleaning the cellar and stapling up plastic sheeting for our greenhouse effort. She has six plastic window boxes from her camp which she filled with high grade soil from the chicken yard before the ground froze. She has planted various salad greens and even some beets and carrots reputed to be willing to grow in a greenhouse. It looks quite promising right now. There is a little space heater in with the boxes and grow lights hanging over them. My chief concern is damping off. I will set up a little fan in there. Nothing has come up yet.
January 03, 2010 Sunday
Amending yesterday’s statement: Some weeds have come up! This is not sterilized soil.
It has snowed most of the time since yesterday and there were periods of wind so there is considerable drifting. This makes it hard to judge how much has fallen but I would guess 8” only. It is quite warm, about 28˚. It almost seemed to be turning to rain for a while.
Marcia, to her great chagrin, seems to be starting a cold or at least a sore throat. She says her throat kept her awake last night. She is nonetheless very active. She did most of the outdoor chores, brought in the wood, and has completed the cover for another pillow.
As for me, I am not over exerting and am keeping up my CLO. I am about half way through my current book, Slow Money by Woody Tasch. I am learning quite a lot about charitable giving by foundations.
January 05, 2010 Tuesday
Yesterday we scuttled around here and tried to catch up on things. Marcia has set up grow lights in the cellar, as I mentioned before, and now most of her seeds are up. She has created a warm environment by stapling up plastic but I am concerned about damping off. We decided to go to Farmington today and do errands and I picked up a small fan at the Farmer’s Union. I hope it will provide enough air circulation to do some good.
While in Farmington we drove up to see Mitra and take her some clabber for Sophie, her big sow. She gave us a nice omelet for lunch and some of their new cured pork. She is recovering from a fall down her porch steps. This happened on Sunday when she slipped on ice on the top step. She had run back out in a panic when she realized she had dropped the check valve to her milking machine, a small irreplaceable object. Despite pain, she and Max searched in the snow for a long time. Finally Max went to their neighbor, who seems to have the equipment for every occasion and has helped out before, and borrowed a metal detector. With this device they were able to quickly locate the part buried 2” deeper in the snow in a place they had searched before. Mitra was especially upset because Max was shortly to leave for work out of town and won’t be back for some weeks. Then Shireen got an awful allergic rash caused by handling the skin of a mango, a problem well known in Hawaii but not at the Farmington ER. They put her on a strong dose of steroids but she missed a day of school.
The only problem around here besides Marcia’s cold, is that I can’t get my printer to work. First it had the mother of all paper jams, now it won’t print. After a couple of hours of mental exertion with non functioning electronic devices I begin to feel as though ants are crawling on me. There is a wonderful word for this, “formication”, but people never know what you mean and think you are saying another word. They say “What?”
For the last couple of days we have been more or less compelling Jasmine to eat some of her square bales. She is eating them but her production is taking a dive. Today, by the time I left some behind for Fern, there was not much over 2 gallons.
January 06, 2010 Wednesday, Epiphany
It has been another warm day, about 28˚. It is very unusual weather.
This is the day that DD Sally was to arrive and she did. DS Mark picked her up from the bus which she took from Boston and they have all, including DIL Ann, gone out for pizza. I spoke briefly to her on the phone and she sounds just fine except terribly hungry because of nothing to eat all day on the plane. Marcia and I will go get her tomorrow from Portland.
I also got a long and lovely letter from DD Abby who is working in PA as a caregiver to a women in her 60’s or 70’s who is disabled by a stroke. She is a difficult patient with a difficult family who visit only to complain. The house is large and barren and Abby gets almost no time off day or night. She carves out a little time for herself each morning and evening to meditate and study various theological texts. Fortunately it is out in the country and the setting is lovely.
As a Christmas present to me Marcia arranged for good lighting over the Aga. My previous lighting which DS John installed had to be replaced. The electrician came this morning and put up lights which he said are used in restaurants up under the hoods over the stoves. They look bombproof. It is great to be able to see again!
I wrote yesterday about my travails with my Brother printer. I am pleased to report that after a night to get over the aggravation I succeeded in isolating the problem to the black ink cartridge. It was recently filled as were all the colors. I ran the head cleaner a couple of times and voila, it printed. I think perhaps it got clogged by too much joggling as Marcia and I fought to clear the last of the paper scrumple that started the problem.
Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons this morning. All is well in the barn. Marcia is mostly hauling round bale hay to her from its location here in the carriage house. She tears off hay and puts it in the akio sled. She also puts down hay from the square bales in the loft. We got 3 eggs today. We dare hope that the chickens are about to produce better. We see them peering around at nest sites.
More of Marcia’s seedlings are up in the cellar greenhouse. It is now only the carrots which have not ventured forth. Today she planted tomato seeds.
January 07, 2010 Thursday
Jasmine was clean and orderly this morning with the exception of making a big plop. She does this nearly every day about the time I am ready to attach the machine. I have not been very successful lately in preventing this annoying habit. At least she does not move her feet. She gave 2 ½ gallons.
DD Marcia says that when she came here this fall her hands ached all the time. Now they do not ache at all. I hand her 8 oz of freshly squeezed milk every morning.
Marcia and I drove today to South Portland and picked up her sister Sally who stayed over last night with DS Mark and DIL Ann. They are house sitting a very nice place on the broad inlet that is the road for all of Portland’s ocean going shipping. We took Mark and Ann some dairy products and beef but did not get to see them as both were on duty at the hospital where they are interning, she in pediatrics, Mark in sports medicine. The latter is a piece of cake compared to pediatrics; it’s 9 to 5 and no night call. On the way home we stopped at the Bread Shack, a world class bakery. We had tea and coffee and various delicious things such as their Three Cheese Quiche.
I had left dinner in the Aga simmer oven. I put a large piece of pork in the Romertof crock along with sauerkraut and onion. It cooked to perfection. That new pork from Max and Mitra’s red pigs is world class. It is hard to put into words the difference between really good meat and the usual commercial stuff. It is a lot like trying to tell people how much better raw milk tastes. There is just no way to fake up commercial meat with exotic ingredients and have it compare.
January 08, 2010 Friday
DD Sally hit the ground running. She was up at 6 am and had tea made before Marcia or I showed up in the kitchen. While Marcia and I went to the barn she did a garden tour and reported that the deer have not molested my little fruit trees. Winter is not over and they could come back any time.
Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons this morning. All the animals are in fine shape but Jasmine continues to show her irritation whenever Marcia shows up without hay from the round bale. She is very expressive. We got four eggs today which made us ridiculously happy.
My car was at the garage in Weld getting a sticker so we took the occasion to visit Marcia’s camp again, this time with Sally who loves going. All was well. The sun was shining. We even walked along the lake for a bit on the ice.
Back at the Mt Blue Garage, Mike, the owner, very kindly gave us a quart of his maple syrup from last year. It is an unusual product with a rich complex flavor one might term “terroir”, I suppose, the imprint of Weld.
I have agreed to take Hilda Heinrich’s little flock of bantam chickens. She is 92 and is finding it too difficult to make it through the snow to the hen house. Hilda is the mother of Bernt Heinrich, the naturalist. Mitra takes dairy products to her. I sent over cottage cheese today. Until she found us she had despaired of ever again tasting good milk. I believe her childhood was in Poland.
Sally brought along the elements to a blanket she is making. She has woven five panels which will be conjoined into an amazing whole. She spun all the wool and dyed the various colors. She has woven in a pattern of cats at play; each cat about 15” long and each different. It is a stunning piece of work. The background color is natural black wool and there are various colors in the cats, mostly red. She plied Alpaca in with the wool.
Marcia has taken some pictures of the farm, house and barn. You can see the eastern elevation with the new dormer, the south side with the front door, and the barn.
January 09, 2010 Saturday
It was back down to about zero this morning. Jasmine gave a bit over 2 ½ gallons.
I worked on my writing and Marcia worked on her painting. She is currently painting on silk.
Sally dressed off two of the heavy roosters. They are all handsome fellows but interfere badly with the hens getting anything to eat. I believe I have seven, maybe eight, heavy roosters. They did not look so heavy with their feathers off, 4lb each, but promising nonetheless.
I forgot to mention that yesterday Sally made 8 lbs of lard with pork fat from Mitra.
For dinner I curried the remains of last night’s chicken and served it over squash. I also picked over my small sad beet harvest I had stored in the cellar. The sum total was less than 10lbs and they did not store well. Many had been nibbled by rodents before harvest. I cooked what was salvageable. We all declared them to be delicious. So it’s “try again next year”. We all love beets and I believe in them as a valuable vegetable well suited to our climate.
January 10, 2010 Sunday
It was zero this morning but sunny and windless so we did not complain of the cold. I was a half hour late to the barn and Jasmine was unforgiving. She pooped and peed twice while in her stanchion. I definitely told her my opinion of her manners. She gave a bit under 2 ½ gallons.
Marcia caught and Sally dressed off two more roosters. There are still at least 3 to go. Some are so beautiful that is seems a shame to end their lives but living with them is stressful. The ones today were 2 ½ lbs and 4 lbs.
Marcia and Sally went to Wal-Mart for more unbleached muslin and other supplies. I stayed home and made an effort to organize my messy office. I unearthed a lot of interesting clippings waiting to be filed. One was an aphorism I had copied from somewhere: “Experience keeps a dear school but fools will learn from no other.”
I also ran across a clipping in which a team of archeologists announced finding linen fabric in a site in what is now the Czech Republic. It was 28,000 years old. Whenever I read of such finds I think to myself, these were quite sophisticated people. They must have been in a settlement as opposed to nomadic living because making linen can’t be done on the move. Even supposing that flax grew wild rather than having to be cultivated, to obtain the thread, flax must be retted (fermented, dried and combed). Furthermore this fabric had been dyed. A settled community requires meat. This usually means domestic animals are kept. The most convenient of these were sheep and goats. The easiest, most convenient and efficient food from a maintained herd of sheep or goats is milk. People who could make linen cloth would have no difficulty doing some dairying; it is a skill a great deal more self evident than making linen cloth. One of my little campaigns is to dislodge the belief so often stated regarding milk consumption, that milking began 10,000 years ago along with the beginning of growing grain. Based on reading of discoveries such as this linen fabric and from long association with animals, I believe that milking far antedated the growing of crops. For that matter, the advent of plant agriculture has now been pushed back to 23,000 years ago with the discovery of several kinds of grain at a site in Syria, Ohalo II.
January 11, 2010 Monday
Jasmine was more fun this morning. It was not quite so cold, about 17˚. She only gave about 2 ¼ gallons, possibly in response to getting mostly the less desirable hay. Also it is guesswork on how much to leave behind for Fern.
Fern is getting very playful. Tonight she ran away from Marcia when it was time to come in. She raced around everywhere else except into the barn until finally she ran back to the door and stood still for her rope. She and Marcia have a fun relationship.
Marcia and Sally put plastic on two more windows that I discovered to my dismay had none on. It makes such a difference the minute the plastic is up.
Marcia’s seedlings are all up now and all are looking healthy. The next week will tell the story as to whether we are going to have a problem with damping off. The two trays of Asian greens are up the best followed closely by the radishes.
I had planned to serve liver tonight but after 20 minutes with my head in the freezer looking for it I gave up and defrosted short ribs. I have really made an effort to get the freezers well organized. Nearly everything is in boxes or canvas bags, but darn it, I still can’t find what I want. However we all loved the braised short ribs. I fixed them with cubed root vegetables stored from the garden. Sally made a pumpkin pie using one of the pumpkins I grew, “Long Pie”, an heirloom with great flavor and keeping qualities.
January 12, 2010 Tuesday
They told us to expect a warming trend but instead it is getting colder. When we heard of a possible thaw Marcia and I at once had the same thought: maybe we will be able to pry loose the frozen manure in my milking room. As those who have cows in cold climates know all too well, if the cow drops manure on the barn floor and you forget to clean it up immediately it turns into a frozen stumbling block that cannot be pried loose. There is just such an impediment in my milking area. I keep shavings strewn on the floor and this was an aid in getting some loose but one mound remains.
Apart from lifting her tail again, Jasmine was very good this morning. She gave 2 ½ gallons. I probably should have left more for Fern. There was a small new cut on one teat.
We have made an appointment at the abattoir for the two rams next Wednesday. We will miss their jolly antics but they are eating a lot of hay, they are huge, and always assuming that Agnes is bred, there will be lambs in March and by then they must be gone. We have asked the butcher to fold the skins carefully to keep blood off of the wool. Sally will peg them out and sheer them this way. The rams will thus not be cold. Also, they are so huge that unless Max could be here to help hold them, I don’t see how Sally could manage the shearing. We are not highly experienced. After the rams leave, Agnes can live in with Jasmine so she will not be lonely.
I made baked beans today. They were mighty fine. We had them for dinner along with Sally’s fresh bread, always a treat.
January 13, 2010 Wednesday
Zero this morning, but there were no special problems. Marcia and Sally both came to the barn and got everything else done while I milked. I made a point of taking off the machine early so as to leave more for Fern. The little cuts are not very worrisome but must not be encouraged.
After breakfast we piled in the car to go to Wilton for the bantam chickens. We stopped along the way at a spring where we filled one of the carboys. We met Mitra at the Franklin Memorial Hospital parking lot and she convoyed us over to Hilda Heinrich’s farm. Hilda is Mitra’s milk customer. I agreed last week to take her flock of bantams. Hilda is the mother of Berndt Heinrich, the naturalist and is in her 90’s. We had a jolly visit in her house, which as you may imagine is full of interesting artifacts from her years in Africa with her husband who was also a naturalist. Hilda is a highly animated woman with electric blue eyes. The bantams were all nicely boxed up.
Sally had cleaned and stocked the walk-in poultry cage in the grain room for them and she and Marcia released them in there. The birds are small, mostly black and white spotted, and very pretty. Some have feathered feet. There are three wee roosters. They seem to be settling in quietly.
Only 2 eggs today from our own bad hens. Jasmine gave 2 ¼ gallons.
January 14, 2010 Thursday
It was -10˚. Morning chores were not fun and DD Marcia’s fingers were in pain. She pulled off her glove to show me that they were all a shocking purple. Come to find out, back in the kitchen, her fingers were covered with dye from her batik works… we were all laughing.
Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons and was her usual sweet gentle self apart from making one plop after she finished her grain. I have not heard further talk of a thaw.
None of us went anywhere today in the car. However Sally took a long walk with the dogs on her snowshoes and had a look at all the periphery fences. There are trouble spots but nothing can be done now and Jasmine is not one to go exploring.
I am studying options for the cutting of the lamb we will soon be getting. This will be the first time I have had it done professionally.
January 15, 2010 Friday
It warmed up a bit although so far I would not call it a thaw. It was about 20˚. Jasmine has another cut on one teat caused by Fern. I took the machine off after only 5 minutes (I usually go 7 minutes unless the pressure is high; for some reason it varies.) but she still gave 2 ½ gallons. I put comfrey oil on the teat but of course Fern will have that sucked off in short order.
We had some of the new Luick breakfast sausage for breakfast. It is incredibly good. After breakfast we all went to my dental appointment where I at last got my new denture. So far it feels pretty good. I now have a full set of upper incisors and will be able to smile in case a photographer happens by.
After the dentist we met DIL Mitra for a nice quick lunch and did several errands. DD Sally bought some books for her son Gabe who is teaching in Kazakhastan. Then we all went to the thrift shop and found some amusing oddments. Marcia picked over the box of sliver plate cutlery that nobody wants these days and chose a few knives and forks. Sally got a whole new outfit of white cotton sweater and rayon pants. I brought home a denim dress for which I had high hopes but as usual with stuff I buy, it would fit fine were I to lose another 15 pounds.
Marcia’s son Harper (my grandson) in Fairbanks AK, has sewed himself an 8 sided tent which he called a yurt. It doesn’t look like a yurt as seen in the National Geographic but he is having fun with it. He sent the following letter. His son, Eli, my great grandson, is 11. They set the tent up in the front yard.
My friend Henry, Eli, and I spent the night in the nearly completed tent. Here is the report:
It was cold, -12F at our house, with an unusually chilly wind. A lightweight tent (less than 9 pounds) with a wonky little 10"x10"x10" wood stove was able to keep us in boiling water and in an environment that was comfortable for sitting around chatting or reading. The linen pretty well stops the wind, though not as well as nylon by any means. The temperature dropped noticeably within 10 minutes of stopping feeding the fire. I think that this would be better with a better stove and/or a heavier wall. The present setup would not result in a sweater-comfortable environment in much colder weather, though of course one can always camp in such conditions with nothing but insulation. Fuel requirements were large, and we were feeding the fire every few minutes.
It fit three people and a wood stove just fine.
We noted a number of easy to remedy design revisions that are in order with the door and the guying. I think I will fashion a "fly", i.e. a second roof to attach to the first to further reduce air exchange bringing the final weight up a bit. This could simply be a double layer on the roof, or maybe this could be optional for fair weather or when you want to travel light. The stove definitely needs an upgrade.
Eli woke me up at 5am cold, and we got a fire going, problem solved!
January 16, 2010 Saturday
It did warm up somewhat today, maybe over 30˚. There was considerable sunshine and it was altogether pleasant. I believe that I heard more cold weather is just around the corner.
Jasmine was very orderly this morning. As usual lately I left some behind for Fern even though it negatively impacts our cream supply. I have to buy butter now. We did get four eggs today. The new bantams are settling well. They are comfortable and have plenty of room. DD Sally bought them a heated water dog dish at Wal-Mart so they will always have unfrozen water. Still no duck eggs. They are getting the high protein wild bird (pheasant) food.
DS Max is still in PA doing residential water sampling on behalf of a gas exploration company. He wrote today:
I have seen a range of homes from grand mansions to cat infested trailers. Most people are nice, although sometimes I have to listen to long diatribes about the evils of natural gas prospecting in these areas where I am conducting our water sampling program. Several of the farmers I spoke with are receiving royalties that will pull them back from the financial edge. One guy, who has a large acreage with about five gas wells, has gone from staring foreclosure in the face to now building a new home. He had a shiny, new truck and immaculate, green, John Deere tractor parked in his yard.
As you can imagine, there is an aesthetic impact on the land. Each drill pad is about four acres and has a road built to it. They make a lot of noise and work around the clock. The truck traffic is annoying. Some drill derricks have a great plume of flame at the top like a gigantic Bunson burner. At night they can be seen for miles and reflect off the cloud layer. The drillers are mostly from Oklahoma and Texas. They complain about the cold, but I know they are making pretty good money so I don't have too much sympathy coming from the Maine winter.
Max will be gone several more weeks.
We made another expedition to Marcia’s camp today where we dug open a door to her carriage house and located a screen door which we brought home. This will be for cat control. If we leave open the side door to the buttery to let in sunshine and give a good view of the bird feeders, Stanley, my cat, goes out and sits under the feeder. Then the birds all flee. We hope to solve the problem with a screen door.
We had porterhouse steak tonight. This is the first steak I have tried from the new beef we got some weeks ago. My teeth were not up to eating steak. It was an excellent steak and I got along fine with it. I followed a cooking method that DS Martin likes. It came from Cook’s Magazine. You marinate the steak and bring up very slowly to very close to its eventual internal temperature. Then you sear it quickly in a hot pan. I used a large cast iron skillet but I suppose one could use a hot grill. This method avoids an overdone dry exterior that so often occurs while getting the internal temperature up where you want it.
We also had excellent organic Swiss chard that Marcia bought at the health food store. It was so fresh looking that I assumed it was from a local greenhouse. Marcia studied the little wire around it and we discovered to our dismay that it was grown in Bakersfield CA. It was flown across the country. We would never have bought it had we known the miles it had been flown. I don’t care how much mathematical manipulation proves it takes less fossil fuel to bring a big load a long way than to bring a few bunches of greens across the county. It is just plain wrong to encourage this sort of unsustainable food distribution.
Haiti is now tragically very much in the news. Here is a letter written five years ago from Haiti by my granddaughter Rosemary, an intrepid traveler. She is the daughter of DD Sally.
There once were pigs in Haiti. 12/20/05 letter from Rosemary
A friend of mine just wrote me to ask about the Haitian economy. I thought you'd be interested in my reply, although I'm sure it's not unfamiliar to you... So I've cut and pasted it below:
Basically, I don't know much about economics, but here's one story I've heard since coming here. A while back (eighties, I think) the US government bribed the Duvalier regime to slaughter all the pigs in Haiti. They were concerned about swine flu outbreaks, fearing a possible effect on the US pork industry should the flu spread to the mainland. Now, as you know, pigs have been the mainstay of small farmers for millennium, because they are omnivores, require little protection, are reliably fecund, and grow to maturity in a single year. This means that very poor people who could not afford to purchase, raise to maturity or feed a dairy animal can have a pig or two. If necessary, a pig will even live on human feces, and its own manure can be used to grow vegetables without the health risks associated with using human waste. Pigs are a completely vital link in a small farm economy/ecosystem. In Haiti as elsewhere they served a dual purpose--they provided much-needed dietary protein with minimal energy input, and they were essentially a savings bank--a pig butchered in the fall would pay school bills.
The slaughter of the Haitian pigs was one of those policy ideas foisted on the poor by people who have no real contact with the lives of the poor. The US was concerned about swine fever among these pigs, and the risk of it spreading out of the country. Fine, although the risk was never documented. The plan was to replace said pigs with others from US stock. What really happened, of course, was that the US pigs never made it back to the poorest poor. Worse, the Haitian pigs had been living in this particular human/ecological climate for hundreds of years and had adapted to it superlatively well. That genetic resource was wiped out. The US pigs sent as replacements simply died.
At the same time as the loss of the Haitian pig, Haiti was beginning to experience significant climate change patterns associated with severe deforestation. Periods of drought grew longer and more severe, and rain when it did come caused landslides and erosion. The loss of the pig coupled with climate change caused widespread famine. The US responded with food aid, which while it warded off death, also further disrupted the small farm economy. Even successful farmers could not/cannot sell their food crops. They were pushed into an inherently unequal import/export economy. Meanwhile, as any ex-Soviet collective farmer or plantation slave could tell you, whoever controls a nation's food supplies controls its people. A nation of people dependent on government handouts for basic necessities is easily exploited, where a nation of peasant farmers has a better chance of resisting. Farmers were pushed into the city, where they live in slums and work at US factories. The political situation is a mess. And the children whose school fees were no longer paid by the pig? Well, many of them were sent to live with wealthier families, as "restavek". Restavek are children living in another person's home, often placed there by family members in the hope that they will have food and a chance to attend school in exchange for their labor. But in practice, most of them are genuine slaves. So much for bright ideas about swine flu prevention. Obviously, it's not at all as simple as I've made out, but these links are true--it's just that there are myriads of other links, too.
January 18, 2010 Monday
We awoke to find it snowing. It had not been predicted for this part of the state but fell steadily for half of the day. Marcia got out OK to go to yoga but I cancelled my dental appointment. I hated to do it because my new denture hurts quite a bit. So far (now 7:30 pm) I am not plowed out.
Marcia and Sally were not satisfied with the arrangement they had made for trapping the rams in the horse trailer and changed the barriers. I did not see it but they reported a lot of excitement with the three sheep and Fern, Jasmine’s heifer now 2 ½ months old, having a grand old time running in big loops. The sheep ran into the beefer pen where Jasmine was eating hay causing Jasmine to get very angry. She did her best to pound every sheep that went past her which was like butting a pillow, Sally said. When they finally got them all out and the door shut Jasmine ran around kicking up her heels triumphantly. Now the two rams are in the trailer with feed and water and poor Agnes is alone in their night stall. We hope that she will have lambs to keep her company next month. We have all come to love the rams but it was important that they leave well before lambing and before Marcia leaves us to visit Florida. It is she who pulls the trailer with her heavy vehicle. We expect that in a couple of days we can merge Agnes in with Jasmine and Fern so that she will not be alone.
I made a nice chicken curry for supper with one of the small roosters that Sally dressed off last week. Before freezing him she left him loosely wrapped and aging at 50˚ in the cellar for three days. This bird was just as tender and delicious as any chicken you could find although there wasn’t much more meat than on a pheasant.
I also made gingerbread which I served with whipped cream.
January 19, 2010 Tuesday
Jasmine gave about 2 ½ gallons this morning. It is not cold, about 20˚, and all went well except poor Agnes, the ewe, is calling piteously for the rams which are living in the horse trailer while they await transport to Castonguay, the butcher. They are comfortable and quiet because they have each other and feed and water.
I had wanted to see my dentist this morning because my new denture is almost too painful to wear but this was out of the question because of the weather. The snow continues and the roads are bad. I would have changed the appointment for the rams but because of the complexities of loading them and the fact that Marcia, the driver, is leaving soon for FL, we just had to take them today. Sally stayed home. Marcia is a great trailer driver but it took over an hour and was white knuckles all the way. Sleety snow was falling, the roads were slushy and our rig frequently fishtailed on the hills. We arrived at the abattoir at about 2pm and found no-one there. Castonguay is an EMT and had left for an accident, we were told by his old dad. Old Dad did what he could to help us see what to do with the rams. This meant offering them the opportunity to walk out of the trailer and into a pair of barred slots barely two feet wide and 4 feet long at the far side of a highly unwelcoming room with ice on the floor. Amazingly, with Marcia, their hero, standing to the side they stuffed themselves together into one slot and she closed the little gate behind them. I suppose in some ways they are less stressed then they would be in a larger space as they are close together which they chose to be. Old Dad remarked that “When I was young I never thought I’d ever be old like this”. I said “Me neither.”
When we got home after a drive even worse than before, four wheel drive of course, we spent a half hour chipping ice build-up from the front of the horse trailer. A mixture of road sand and slush had formed a pair of large sculptures above the running lights. Guests were in the driveway, folks that used to rent Sally’s little house, and also my furnace man for whom I had put in an emergency call. The furnace has been banging and gurgling alarmingly. The minute the man got here it went on its best behavior, leaving me to describe and imitate the noise.
Before leaving today I set things up to make a pork chop recipe from my Julia Child Art of French Cooking, Cotes de Porc Poelees, p. 386. It got raves from Sally and Marcia. Of course the quality of the Luick pork left little for me to do. I also served brown rice steamed in beef broth and a green salad. I don’t buy mesclun in winter but Marcia keeps popping it in her cart. I believe it will only be a few days until her greens under lights in the cellar are ready to snip.
January 20, 2010 Wednesday
Once again it snowed much of the day. It did not come down hard but can’t seem to quit. The temperature is still around 20˚. Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons. Agnes did some bleating but eventually settled down with Jasmine. She is back into the sheep stall for the night so as not to interfere with moving Jasmine in and out. Jasmine was very orderly this morning.
Today I reread an article by Joan Gussow in Nutrition Today Jan/Feb 2000 entitled Is Global vs. Local the Next Environmental Imperative? Just to toot my own horn, I have to say it makes most of the same points I made in Real Food in 1990. She does make some important additional points one of which is that eating locally is one of the best ways to ensure that local farmers will still be there when you need them.
My own dinner tonight was wonderfully local and delicious. I fixed oven braised beef ribs in a sort of bbq sauce, sautéed turnips with onion and accompanied this with buckwheat groats steamed in chicken stock. New England is an important producer of buckwheat.
January 21, 2010 Thursday
Coburn Farm was a busy place today. The hoof trimmer came and trimmed Jasmine’s feet. They were not so very bad but she will stand more comfortably now. It took me and Marcia together to coax her into the cow tipping device but once into it she was quiet. While she was up there with all four teats in bright daylight I saw that just since morning milking there was a new and worse cut on one teat. I don’t believe machine milking will bother her but I was very glad I saw it. I put comfrey oil on her teats and I separated Fern into the large stall with Agnes, the ewe. She can have her milk in a bucket from now on.
Dr. Cooper, my vet, stopped by for lunch. He was in the neighborhood. Sally made a fast casserole of last night’s dinner and she also made biscuits. I was too busy with the hoof trimmer to fix lunch.
Later this afternoon I made chicken liver mousse from The Way to Cook by Julia Child. It calls for a cup of cottage cheese. I used quark and I recommend it. We had it for supper along with soup which I put together from more leftovers. Sally and Marcia ate it but I was not hungry. My new denture is bothering me.
January 22, 2010 Friday
Jasmine and Fern were separated overnight. While still in the barn we poured out a bucket for Fern. Marcia patiently wheedled her for a long time but she would not drink it. Jasmine was quiet and relaxed during milking. I think her cuts will heal up fast. She stood very quietly. She never moves her feet much but they must feel better.
Yesterday the power company cut a bunch of big cherry trees along Sally’s road frontage that they deemed a hazard to the power line. They left the pieces in the snowbank by the side of the road. Right after breakfast Marcia and Sally went over to her property to rescue the wood before somebody helped himself to it. They brought back what they could in the back of Marcia’s SUV. It is very good wood.
We all dashed over to see my dentist where he made a bit of an adjustment to my denture so that it is less painful. Then we went to Mitra’s where she gave us a delicious lunch of lasagna and salad. We toured her tidy little barn and visited with Helen and Nellie, her cows, and Sophie the enormous (mostly) Tamworth sow. Sophie was too busy napping to stand up so Mitra scratched her ears lying down. The cows are both in excellent condition and quite friendly. They both have big curly topknots.
We got a surprise visit from DS Martin today. He arrived just as we were getting home, accompanied by his new dog, Milo, a Llewellyn Setter. Milo is six months old and very sweet and pretty. They had already been up to camp and gone on a long walk on a back road. Martin took my chainsaw over and cut up the rest of the cherry at Sally’s place and brought home a truckload. We had a nice supper of hamburgers.
Marcia tried a bottle on Fern tonight since she refused her bucket of milk this morning. It took a while but Marcia talked her into drinking it. Fern and Agnes, the ewe, are sharing a large stall that used to be Peter’s. Dear Peter is entered tomorrow in a dressage show in Wellington FL.
My sister in Woodside CA called this evening. Her home is way up in the hills overlooking the ocean. Powerful storms have left her without power or phone until today. We were awfully glad to hear from her and learn that she got along quite well. Tenant in one of her satellite cottages set up a tiny old generator that powered their refrigerators and freezers so they did not lose their food.
DS John in Adelaide also called. He is back from a week’s voyage on the research vessel. The crew fished off the side for tuna which was shared out to all and John brought home as much as their small freezer could hold.
January 23, 2010 Saturday
Jasmine seems perfectly contented to be separated from Fern but Fern is not pleased. Even though Marcia fed her a bottle of warm milk before I began milking, she bawled the whole time. Agnes joined the chorus. I expected Jasmine to be ridden with anxiety but in fact she stood like a rock and contributed no poops. I got a total of 3 gallons but could have hand milked some more. She seems to get a second let down while I am filling our cups with warm milk.
It was -10˚ this morning. Marcia and I were dressed for it. I did get badly chilled fingers on my left hand because I couldn’t find one warm glove and wore polar fleece instead.
The sun was bright and the world warmed up fast. Martin took his new young bird dog, Milo, out on Sally’s field but saw no sign of birds. Milo had better practice in my dooryard where he found the place where the Martin and his friends dressed out game birds last month and also pointed out the spot where Sally killed chickens recently.
I fixed us an unexpectedly gourmet meal tonight. I simmered one of those small roosters Sally killed and made a nice curry which I served over brown rice enhanced with parsnips and golden raisins (sultanas). I also made a composed salad according to her description of one Marcia used to order in a favorite restaurant. Yesterday I bought three little Belgian endive chicons to make this. These are easy enough to grow but I did not have any in the garden this year. Truthfully, although they are of easy culture they are a great nuisance and only worth the trouble in case you really love them which we do. You grow these great inedible cabbagy plants that are a type of endive all summer, then cut the top off and lift the big tap root which you stand up in a bucket of wet sand and store in the cellar. When ready to produce your chicons you move the bucket to a warmer place all the while maintaining it in strict darkness. It puts up dear little heads of tightly folded pale leaves.
I separated the leaves and topped them with minced yellow peppers and little slices of a cheese called Campazola of which Marcia had bought a sliver. I made an emulsion with white Balsamic vinegar and olive oil and drizzled this on the salad and topped it off with walnuts sautéed with butter and a bit of maple syrup. This was a killer salad, I have to say. For dessert I made a blueberry lemon cake that is sort of halfway between a blueberry muffin and a pound cake.
I think tomorrow night we might have frozen pizza.
January 24, 2010 Sunday
Brilliant sun today but awful weather is forecast. Jasmine gave 3 gallons but we are giving 1.5 gallons to Fern by bottle and have had several customers so are down to one pitcher in the fridge and practically no cream. Hurry, Jasmine!
DD Marcia got word that her horse Peter (Donnerhit) placed 5th in the horse show he was in on Friday (score of 61). The show was an Olympic qualifier (Dressage). His rider put him right back into a Grande Pris Special today where he came second despite distractions such as wind and bags blowing around that caused a couple of other horses to be withdrawn. So Marcia is thrilled. Peter is eight years old and a great favorite for his kind cooperative temperament. We had him here for a couple of summers. He used the large stall now occupied by Fern the heifer and Agnes the Suffolk ewe. In the morning I would lead him out to his paddock, which I now use for growing corn and squash.
Marcia and I went up to camp to fetch a few items such as painting supplies for DD Sally. This is not for fine art; it is for the window sashes she is restoring.
January 25, 2010 Monday
It was above freezing all day. This morning the driveway and lawn area all the way to the barn was a sheet of ice and the roads also were icy. Schools in most areas were cancelled. We kept Jasmine shut inside the beefer pen for fear that out in her barnyard she might slip and be injured. She gave over 3 gallons this morning. We are giving Fern a gallon and a half in three feeds. After some initial confusion she began taking the calf bottle. She hated milk in a bucket. She is now 3 months old.
The rain continued all day and has not stopped yet at 8pm. There is sure to be flooding tomorrow since the frozen ground cannot take up the moisture.
January 26, 2010 Tuesday
The rain has stopped and it feels like April, the temperature about 32˚. It feels very mild. A lot of the snow disappeared. Walking is still treacherous as plenty of ice remains.
Jasmine gave over 3 ½ gallons this morning. We got 6 eggs! This is a record for the period since November. Marcia had been taking such great care of the poultry especially when it comes to taking them clabber that I felt they could not hold out much longer, eggs surely would soon appear.
Marcia and I took a drive to Farmington. Sally stayed home to work on painting window sashes. I saw my dentist and got another adjustment to my denture. This time it really is a lot better. I made a quick dinner of chowder with canned salmon which of course did not unduly challenge my teeth.
My furnace man arrived about 5pm in answer to a call. The pipes have been treating us to relentless thumping for days now, driving us all a bit nutty.
January 27, 2010 Wednesday
Jasmine gave only a little over 2 ½ gallons. It is warm and sunny today, about 30˚.
While Marcia was giving Fern her morning bottle she noticed that Agnes, the ewe, who customarily is pushy and blatts relentlessly, was lying down and not moving. She discovered her to be all wet on her back end and took this to be diarrhea. She got a paper towel and gave her a wipe but there were no feces or smell. She fetched Sally from the house and together they put a collar on Agnes and made a closer inspection. Sally decided she was almost certainly in labor. I am thrilled but was surprised because I had a hard time believing that she could have been bred on her first heat which I just looked up again; it was September 6. I was pretty sure she would not lamb before the end of February and was prepared to feel fortunate in case she lambed before Sally has to leave in early April.
11am … Sally just checked on Agnes and reported her behavior to be perfectly normal with no hint of labor.
There were no further signs of parturition today in Agnes. Neither is there any noticeable mammary development, although Sally says that sometimes there is very little before lambing. Agnes is looking very wide.
Marcia went up to her camp for a last visit before she starts her drive to Florida next Wednesday. She reported everything to be in good order. She lingered about and made tea and enjoyed the peace and quiet although there was a bit of excitement. Yesterday’s heavy rain had created a river of surface water on the lake which she could see actively flowing. Yet pickups were driving back and forth to their ice shacks all the same. She found this quite alarming.
I cooked one of our ducks (from the freezer) for dinner and accompanied it with baked squash and a cassoulet using white pea beans. I put a lot of sausage into it but cooked the duck separately by a method I wanted to try. All my cookbooks say duck must be cooked in such a way as to drain out the fat and that by the time the legs are done the breast will be overcooked. I put the duck in my Romertof clay cooker with some garlic, wine and herbs and cooked it all day at about 200˚. I drained off all the juices into a glass pitcher and pulled the meat off of the bones. Using a baster bulb I removed the nonfat juices to a small pan, added seasonings and more wine and reduced it by half. I poured this over the duck meat in the Romertov along with a discreet amount of fat and crisped it a bit in a hot oven. We found this to be very tasty. Also it resulted in my getting all the meat off the bones. There is often a lot of waste with a duck, but not by this method.
We also had our first salad from Marcia’s plant trays under lights in the cellar. This was a great treat. She planted them on January 1.
I called granddaughter Roshan to find out if Mitra had made an attempt at inseminating Sophie. Yes they had, but she was not ready to stand so they will try again tomorrow morning.
January 28, 2010 Thursday
Jasmine gave 3 gallons and behaved perfectly. She does love to fool around in the aisle on the way out and drink the chicken water. I think she just wants to be silly. If I pull her along she tosses her head in a saucy way.
We picked up the lamb today. The rams hung at 110 lb each, big animals. We all agreed we will not take any future sheep there, however. We will arrange for a home slaughter. They can just stay alive until a crew can be arranged. It is just too sad.
Mitra writes: I know you're interested to hear what happened with the Sophie AI'ing. I started a thread on KFC about it a couple of days ago. Here's this morning's update:
Well so much for "anyone can do it"! My first real attempt (this morning - yesterday afternoon was a no-go too) in spite of all my mental practice didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked. But I do have two more doses to administer so I'm counting this morning as "practice". Turns out I have to get her in the mood first. We couldn't just go into her pen and pour delicious things into her bowl and hope she'd stand still while she ate. She wanted some rough romance/foreplay first. Now I know better for this afternoon's attempt. Don't read on if you think you might get too grossed out!
My daughter sat on Sophie's back facing me, holding a pair of scissors and the semen pouch so she could snip the tip off and hand it to me at the right moment. Getting the lubed up spirette up her wazoo was the easy part. I wasn't sure if I cork screwed it in right because I was trying to move too fast. My daughter snipped the tip off and handed me the pouch which I attached to the spirette. I started to slowly squeeze the pouch. There was quite a bit of blowback which made me feel like I didn't have the spirette in there far enough but then she did hunch her back and draw in some of the semen before the pouch fell off. I didn't have it plugged into the spirette well enough and she swiped at it with her tail. I got everything plugged back in but then she decided to walk with me following her. Not fun! She eventually stood still and I was able to safely un-corkscrew the spirette out. I'm not sure this attempt worked at all other than to give me a better idea about how it should be done. I have better hopes for this afternoon. I know that I need to put way more pressure on her back and flanks than my itty bitty daughter can by sitting on top of Sophie. I need to push her around and act more boar-ish. NOW, wish me luck!
A big blizzard has just suddenly blown in.
January 29, 2010 Friday
The wind roared all night and rattled our windows. Jasmine gave 3 gallons this morning. It was around -0- degrees with the knife-like wind continuing. Doing the chores was not much fun but there was no power outage to make watering impossible. All the animals are comfortable.
I have not heard today if Mitra had any better luck with inseminating Sophie. I hope she will add a few remarks. From today’s entry on the forum: The third dose remains unused. It was -25 degrees this morning with the wind chill. I just couldn't do it. Sophie did not want to get up out of her cozy nest either and I wasn't about to "cuddle". Oh well. I'm kind of hoping it didn't take so my DH, her real love, can do it in three weeks. The dilemma now is whether to order the semen and have it ready for her in 21 days or wait and see if she goes into heat and then wait for another three weeks to have the semen on hand. Then I wouldn't get piglets until July which is kind of late. What to do.....
DS Max starts driving home tomorrow from NY. We are greatly looking forward to his arrival.
DS Martin and his setter, Milo, drove up to camp last night. The rest of his family arrived this evening in time for dinner. I fixed a big pan of shoulder chops from the new lamb. I used the recipe in The Grassfed Gourmet. It calls for cooking them on a bed of onion, apple and dried apricots. I also made a green bean and mushroom casserole from our frozen green beans. I have not been using the green bean because I could not find them in the freezer but yesterday when we reorganized for the lamb they emerged along with the frozen corn. So I made a second casserole with corn and peppers.
Earlier in the day Marcia and I shopped. While we were gone Sally made bread and an apple pie.
January 30, 2010 Saturday
They told us to expect -35 but it was only -8. It was still miserable. Jasmine gave just 2 gallons but we got six eggs. The chickens can’t hold out against the combination of the dishes of clabber Marcia brings and increased day length.
I had a series of setbacks which by the end of the day left me feeling quite defeated but DD Marcia and Sally did their best to help me recover my courage. The dishwasher won’t run, I assumed because of a frozen pipe, but an entire day of blowing hot air on it from a milk room heater has not restored it. And my VCR won’t work. I so rarely use it that I got a headache and sore knees trying to restore the various cables people have switched out over time. We were unable to watch Pride and Prejudice (with Colin Firth) that I took out yesterday especially for Sally. These setbacks are so minor considering what others are facing that I fell guilty even mentioning how defeated it left me feeling.
DS Max is on his way home, perhaps has even arrived at his home. The family will come here tomorrow for leg of lamb and will bring me grain for Jasmine. She is down to her last meal. On the lamb, I have put the rub recommended by Shannon Hayes in Grassfed Gourmet. I have a lovely great rosemary plant wintering in the house.
DD Marcia has transplanted a number of her little seedlings she has been growing in her cellar garden. They look very healthy.
We had frozen pizza tonight and ice cream with Marcia’s chocolate syrup.
January 31, 2010 Sunday
This morning was again very cold. Jasmine was almost shivering despite the fact that she is never out of hay and has a heated water tank and the beefer pen is dry and not drafty. She gave 2 ½ gallons. Her manners were perfect. She seems happier now that for one thing her feet were trimmed and she and Fern are separated. From what she is giving it is evident that Fern was not getting a whole lot of milk even though it was my practice to leave some behind for her. No doubt the cut teats were due to Fern working her over. All the cuts are now healed. We are feeding Fern 1 ½ gallons a day.
Agnes, the ewe, has become pushy with Fern. They both get a little grain twice a day. We put a collar on Agnes and leave her tied now until Fern, who is slower, finishes eating.
Max is home now. He and the family joined us for Sunday lunch. I roasted a leg of lamb, baked a squash, made cole slaw and also served rice cooked in chicken stock. We all had a lovely time. Shireen, 14, fixed the dishwasher! She took the manual, studied it for a few minutes, fiddled with the electronics and it started! She also brought along the dress and shoes that she will wear to the Winter Ball and modeled it for us. It is a lovely golden sand shade with spaghetti straps and a princess flare (knee length). Her sandals are a perfect match. She has masses of wavy brown hair and looked perfectly lovely in her dress. Roshan will be just as pretty when she is older. I think she has shot up 2 inches this winter.
February 01, 2010 Monday
It is still cold and blustery. Jasmine’s production was way down, only 1 ¼ gallons. At noon Sally, who was on cleanup detail, said she did not see any fresh manure in the beefer pen. I went out and visited Jasmine and found her nose dry and very little hay eaten. I stopped her molasses a couple of weeks ago and one week ago I stopped her DE because of the magnesium. Marcia had said she had loose manure that was hard to clean up. Perhaps I need to add it back. Jasmine was lying down and did not get up when I came in to see her with a bucket of water with molasses and DE stirred in. She lapped it up more like a dog, not the usual sucking way of drinking. But then she got up. Martin was here and offered the opinion that she needed to stand out in the sun. Her door was still shut due to the wind but I let her out and she went out and stood in her sunny lean-to which is well protected. For her supper I fixed her a bucket with grain, molasses, apples and carrots. She had drunk more water and was back in the mood to eat, in fact seemed altogether well and alert.
Martin and Hannah stayed at camp last night and stopped down here while Martin sawed up more wood for me. We had a nice lunch of baked beans. Hannah ate lots. After they had to leave Marcia and Sally and I watched another episode of Pride and Prejudice. Such a fine production.
February 02, 2010 Tuesday
Jasmine is lots better today. She ate plenty of her hay, drank a reasonable amount of water and gobbled her grain and carrots. She gave a bit over 1 ½ gallons this morning, up a bit from yesterday. When checking around this evening it was evident that her manure is normal. I am much relieved.
When we looked down towards the river this morning we saw that in the night my tallest pine had fallen. Through the binoculars we could see that it had also taken a tall elegant birch down with it. Later Sally and I walked down to have a look. The pine had a split trunk beginning about 15’ up and one half only had fallen but it was huge and when it dashed itself against the ground it strewed cones, needles and branches for about 60’. The end of the broken piece is still hung up at the cleft. Both the pine trunk and the birch are long and straight. It is a sad loss. There are no signs of rot. I think the days of unseasonable heavy rain followed by severe cold probably caused the trunk to part by the force of ice. Sally has read that a split trunk is inherently weak.
February 03, 2010 Wednesday
Jasmine was her old self this morning gobbling her hay. She gave 2 full gallons but we are still short on milk. Marcia set out today for FL so of course I sent some with her and I sold a gallon. We patched together feeds for Fern with defrosted colostrum and warm water.
There are no further hints of parturition from Agnes so evidently we were mistaken. She is not bagging up. We may need to count forward.
Marcia called from Enfield, CT. So far she has had a good trip. She is at a motel and had sent out for eggplant pizza.
The sun shone all day and it got up to 20˚.
February 04, 2010 Thursday
It is still cold with bright sun but persistent wind. It did not get above 10˚ today.
Jasmine gave 2 full gallons this morning. There are no signs of mastitis or any other disorders.
DD Marcia should be with her twin sister Abby by now. Sally and I had a quiet day. I made a big pot of vegetable soup with meaty beef bones. Sally made bread. We are returned to our former life without TV or videos.
February 05, 2010 Friday
Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons today. She is drinking lots of water.
DD Marcia reported that her overnight visit with DD Abby was lots of fun. They had a nice dinner of sautéed scallops and a leisurely breakfast this morning followed by a visit to the horses that live across the road. They broke open their water as Abby does each day. She seems to worry about them rather more than the owner does. Marcia got on the road about 11am to drive to her friends in Middleburg VA. She reported that it was already snowing, the leading edge of what is expected to be a record snowfall. We shall see. Around here it is the sneak storms that do the most damage, not the heavily advertised ones. Marcia’s last report was from Purcellville which is close to her destination.
DD Sally walked over to look at the work on her house. She has decided that she hates the light green shade she painted her window sashes. I guess I will have to walk over and see if I agree.
We got four eggs from the free range chickens, none from those in the henhouse. I am lucky to get even one from the confined birds. They have a sunny run, are by no means crowded and appear to have everything the same as the free range ones that fly all over in the barn and barnyard. I asked Sally if she could think of anything they have that is different. She immediately conjectured the same thing that was in my mind: cow manure. So chalk up one more plus for the cow’s other product. manure.
I hope we have not been entirely deceiving ourselves about Agnes’ pregnancy. She certainly is not going to lamb tomorrow, her predicted date. Sally says she is sure she can feel a tiny hoof kicking so I guess we will mark the calendar for 17 days from now.
Sally sheared about one square foot of wool, or a bit less, from one of the hides she has stretched and drying in the carriage house. She washed it in the kitchen sink. The results were amazing. She described the wool as “sproingy”. After washing it expanded to fill a 4 gallon bowl and looks like whipped cream.
I have whole wheat pancake batter made and waiting on the counter for tomorrow morning.
February 06, 2010 Saturday
The morning started at about -4˚ but the sun shone and by afternoon it was up to 20˚ Jasmine gave 2 ¾ gallons. I got 5 eggs, only one was from the “layers”.
Sally and I walked over to see the work on her little house and then walked partway around her field. The dogs had a great time. I walked for 45 minutes which is more walking than I have done for some weeks. I think I will be a bit stiff.
Sally has now assembled, fringed and washed the blanket she had been working on. It is a thing of great beauty, all handspun with a woven-in design. The basic color is natural brown wool. The figures of cats, each in a different pose, are also woven in. She works from a design in her mind. She just visualizes what she is doing and somehow makes it happen.
DS Max tells me that Shireen did well in her X-C ski race this morning. She went to a salon this afternoon to get her hair tweaked (It already looked great) and tonight is at her school dance called The Winter Carnival. Max promised to take a picture of her.
The back.......... The front............
We have not heard today from DD Marcia. She is at a friend’s house in Middleburg VA in the midst of “Snowmageddon”, an epic snow fall. Many thousands are without power so maybe her friends are too.
February 07, 2010 Sunday
Dear Jasmine was up over 3 gallons this morning. I am proud of her.
DS Max came over to split wood for me and he also brought feed. I am trying a feed add-on for Jasmine that is called baled alfalfa. The alfalfa is ground and has a little molasses in it. I put a couple of handfuls on her supper. She pushed it around with her nose before eating it but no doubt will soon take to it. Max is inquiring in his neighborhood about maybe buying haylage. I have never used it and it could be a big logistical problem. I would have to get it delivered into the carriage house (garage) and haul the daily feed out as we are now doing with hay off the round bale, our last. I do need hay and very little is to be had around here due to the bad summer.
I knew Max would have a good appetite so served soup, beans, greens from Marcia’s cellar garden and a braised breast of lamb. Every scrap of the lamb was devoured. Mitra had sent a quart of heavy cream so I whipped some and we had it with the rest of Sally’s pumpkin pie. We have had so little milk lately that no cream had time to get thick enough to whip so I was grateful for the gift.
DD Marcia got as far as her friend in Middleburg, Virginia, and is now snowed in. The friends live at the end of a half mile lane which gives onto a small local road that is far down the list for getting plowed. It is a rural neighborhood of fine properties that are no longer working farms and nobody even owns a tractor, never mind a pickup with a plow. Well, one neighbor has a tractor but he had left it way out in his field and with 3’ of snow, it is inaccessible. Marcia shoveled snow for a long time yesterday. She says she is in such great shape from doing barn clean-up that she is not even stiff but she has not got her boots with her. Her feet got very cold and wet. I hope she can get back on the road soon. All are being good sports but I doubt there is a lot of food on hand. DC area stores were sold out before the storm was well under way.
February 09, 2010 Tuesday
Jasmine gave 2 ¾ gallons. Sally noticed one member of our new flock of bantams poking around pretending to eat but really heading for a nest. I checked later after she had laid and found a lovely little egg. I left it there for Sally to see and she picked it up and discovered there were four eggs. We are so pleased. I also got 4 eggs from the rafter birds.
Yesterday she distinctly felt Agnes’ lamb kick. This morning she said there was so much action it felt like a bag of snakes. She has had one or two sheep off and on now for several years. She says that her experience is that after having felt the lamb kick it is usually two months before they are born. We so hope that they will not keep us waiting that long.
Our weather at present is quite mild. The last few nights have not dropped below 10˚ and daytime temperatures have several times hit 30˚. The snow has thinned so much that Max and his friend Tim had to put their planned snow machine ride on hold.
Sally and I drove up to Marcia’s camp and measured the front steps for Martin. He plans to replace them for her. She is delighted. I heard from her this morning. She was finally on the road yesterday after having been snowed in at her friend’s home in VA for 3 days and nights. A plow was to come yesterday afternoon, and did, but the snow pack was too deep and heavy to make it all the way up the lane. There was nowhere to put the snow, a common problem. Marcia got out there with a shovel and set everybody a good example with her shoveling. Everyone helped but she is much stronger than most people, although 60. I consider this to be a result of years of riding, months here of pitching manure, going to yoga, and of course eating red meat, butter and raw milk.
Speaking of butter, I made a pound today for the first time in weeks. I also have a teleme cheese in the press.
February 10, 2010 Wednesday
Jasmine gave 2 ¾ gallons. We got 5 eggs none of which were from the “layers”.
Max came over bringing me a nice big round bale and a large glob of haylage from the bale he bought for his cows. Jasmine was so crazy for it that she was snatching it off of the hay fork as Sally tried to feed it. Then Agnes, the ewe, must have smelled it because she began blatting her head off. She even hopped up into her manger like a goat to see over the barrier and get Sally’s attention. I hope I can get a bale. The bales are too heavy to bring here in Max’s light pickup although he was able to safely bring one the mile to his house. The bales come from the Hardy dairy farm in New Sharon.
Sally and I have been pondering the possibility of letting the pair of Muscovy ducks out of their room during the day. Last summer they were consistent in returning to their quarters at night. Bad idea. I left their door open this morning and both took off. Max found one in the road when he arrived. He went to shoo it home and it flew away off down the field. He thought it was the drake but that is not confirmed. The female did come home but by dark there was no sign of the drake.
For dinner I made creamed chicken and biscuits.
February 11, 2010 Thursday
Jasmine gave 2 ¾ gallons. There is no trace of the missing drake.
Sally and I went to Dixfield and Rumford on errands. She bought paint for the inside of her little house. I bought a snow shovel and sand to carry as ballast in my car in case there is a big storm. None is predicted but I thought I would feel pretty silly if I did not stock up on certain necessities, considering what a state some people have found themselves in farther south. I do wish I owned a generator at least sufficient to pump up the water in the well. Right now the weather is great. The sun shone all day.
DD Marcia reached Wellington, FL today. She said the temp was 57˚.
For supper I made pumpkin soup with one of my pumpkins. It was exceptionally good thanks to high grade chicken broth, sour cream topping and some pumpkin seed oil DS Martin and DIL Amy brought me from Austria where I am told pumpkin soup is greatly prized. The sour cream was swiped from some cream I have soured for cream cheese.
February 12, 2010 Friday
Jasmine gave a little less that 3 gallons the morning. The fine weather continues. A lot of snow has melted. Much of the brown lawn is showing and even some patches of pasture.
Agnes is strikingly rounder. She has stopped jumping to her feet when somebody enters the stall. She has a dark hay strewn corner near the manger where she usually lies.
DS Martin drove up from Biddeford this morning. He took a long walk with his dog Milo. Milo just got neutered and is somewhat subdued. I got out a package of liver which Sally sautéed for him to help rebuild his strength. Martin spent some time working on the old manure spreader. He also took the flatbed trailer over to Sally’s place. He is going to pile on the sacks of builder’s rubble. Sally is delighted with this.
Amy and the kids arrived for a nice supper of Maine shrimp which they purchased from the family of a shrimp fisherman near Portland. The season for Maine shrimp is very brief. The shrimp were excellent. I fixed them with a recipe that Amy gave me.
Shrimp - SF style from Amy
It is a recipe that my former roommate in SF used to make a lot that I loved. It's very simple. The basic idea is that you mix sautéed shrimp with a light tomato sauce and some good feta and then toss that all over pasta. Here is how Tom does it, but it is undoubtedly open to variations:
Sauce -- 2 T olive oil, 1 tsp garlic finely chopped, 2 c. chopped tomatoes, 1/2 c. dry white wine, S & P, 1/4 c. chopped basil leaves, 1 t oregano
Shrimp -- 1-1/2 lb. medium, sprinkle with S & P and sauté quickly in olive oil (can also add a dash of red pepper flakes)
Put shrimp in baking dish, crumble 1/2 lb. feta over this and spoon tomato sauce over the top; put in the oven for 10-12 minutes until bubbly
Toss with cooked pasta (rigatoni, penne, etc.).
I included sautéed fennel, celery and shallots in the sauce and substituted cilantro for basil and served it over jasmine rice cooked in chicken stock. For the tomatoes I used a can of Muir Glen chopped tomatoes. It was really excellent.
For dessert I served jellied raspberry sauce garnished with fresh cream cheese that I just made. The recipe was contributed by AnnB and came originally from Ricki Carroll.
You set 1 quart of heavy cream to culture with 2 oz of mesophilic culture (or buttermilk) and 1 drop of liquid rennet diluted in 2 Tbsp water, at room temperature, for 24 hours. Then you ladle 1/2 the curd into a colander lined with butter muslin, sprinkle 1 tsp coarse salt over the curd, ladle in the other half, sprinkle with an additional 1 tsp coarse salt. Tie the butter muslin into a bag and hang to drain for 12 hours (I tie the 4 corners of the muslin to form the bag, then run the handle of wooden spoon through the top of the bag, then suspend the bag over a large stock pot). After draining, remove the butter muslin and place the cheese onto a clean butter muslin, then press at 5 lbs or so, for an additional 6 hours, then chill. It keeps for about a week in the fridge and the recipe works just fine when doubled. This makes one of the best cream cheeses that I have ever eaten -- on a cracker, with a bit of homemade jam, or by itself on toast -- it's better than anything you can buy at a grocery store.
I doubled the recipe and pressed the cream cheese about 8 hours. It has a good texture. I wish I had thought to weigh it.
February 13, 2010 Saturday
Jasmine gave almost 3 ¼ gallons this morning. She seems happy. I got 7 eggs, two of them from the bantam flock, the remainder from the rafter birds. Still none from the “layers”. All birds were outside today scratching around except the bantams. They are still semi confined.
The weather was very fine until a strong wind came up. DS Martin and his friends were planning wind surfing with kites (I forget what they call this colorful sport) on the lake. I fear the wind was too strong to make it manageable. That is what happened last year on their kite weekend.
Sally went for a walk around my fields with the dogs. She saw tracks of a very large canid, not sure what it was.
DD Marcia called from Florida. Peter (Donerhit) had just won his class. She was wearing all her warm clothes.
I worked on my KFC edits.
For supper we had scrambled eggs with Luick bacon. That was a treat.
February 14, 2010 Sunday
Jasmine gave a bit under 3 gallons. I got 7 eggs counting 2 from the wee bantams.
We had visitors this morning. Eric Jacklin and the kids, Sarah, Emma and William (KellyJ’s family) stopped in on their way home to MA from skiing. I showed them DD Marcia’s vegetable garden in the cellar. She planted everything about Jan 1 and now we have daily radishes and today I harvested enough greens for a salad for 6.
Max and Mitra and the kids, Shireen and Roshan, came for Sunday lunch. I served brisket of beef, mashed potatoes, green beans (our own) with shiitake mushrooms, and the aforementioned salad. The salad dressing was made with a lime from Marcia’s little ornamental tree upstairs. Mitra brought a very fine cheese cake. The sauce was made from strawberries I gave her last summer from my garden combined with pomegranate juice from her brother’s tree in San Leandro CA. This tree was planted by Max and Mitra when they lived in that same house.
Marcia called from Florida. Her horse won again today. His score was 66 yesterday and 65.5 today.
The weather today was blowy with occasional sun. It got almost up to 30˚ by 2pm. We have bare grass all the way to the barn. Unless it snows in the night, tomorrow we will switch back to the wagon for hauling to the barn.
February 15, 2010 Monday
Today was fun. DD Sally gave a bread making tutorial to our friend Perce who will be baking this coming summer at Kawanhee, a local inn. Sally is a retired baker. She demonstrated that you can make bread, foccacia and cinnamon buns from a single dough recipe. This is so much more efficient that making three separate doughs.
DIL Amy and the kids stopped in on their way home to Biddeford and had tea and ate some of the buns. DS Martin came along later with his young bird dog, Milo. He took Milo out on Sally’s field to see if he could flush a partridge. Martin had taken him out many times but at last today Milo got the opportunity to point and flush a partridge. Milo was totally thrilled and so was Martin. It is not hunting season so this was just for fun.
Sally and I took a nice long walk around the fields with the dogs. The snow is thin and crusty so it was easy walking.
Jasmine gave slightly under 3 gallons.
February 16, 2010 Tuesday
It stayed above freezing all day and the sun shone. We may get snow in the night. Sally took several walks with the dogs and worked on putting primer on the walls of her house. I worked on my seed order.
Max brought me another round bale and a bag of mineral for Jasmine. I made him a toasted cheese sandwich using the white bread Sally made yesterday for her demo. She chose to make white because it goes faster and she wanted to be all done with the baking by 12 noon, which she was. She made it with milk, eggs and butter and it rose high. Bread like this makes the best toasted cheese sandwiches.
For supper I made vegetable soup with the remains of the Sunday brisket. It was beautiful. I also made a custard.
The rafter birds laid 5 eggs, the bantams laid 2 and at last the “real” layers laid 3. Jasmine gave 3 gallons. I am giving her 5 or 6 large carrots every day to boost her vitamin A following that little bout of mastitis she had in February. An online feed industry newsletter I get reported that vitamin A is of signal importance in controlling infections in cows. One cow does not constitute a clinical trial but the mastitis has not returned and her milk tastes great. I rarely get far enough ahead these days to make butter but a pound I made last week was more yellow than I would have expected for the time of year.
February 18, 2010 Thursday
When Max was here on Tuesday and was watching me make his toasted cheese sandwich he saw a very saucy mouse run right along the windowsill. Yesterday afternoon Sally set out a trap line and came in to where I was sitting at the computer to tell me where to watch out for traps. I walked straight out to the kitchen to have a look and one trap already had a mouse in it! A little later we caught another. Darn it. Mouse wars are such a nuisance.
However, I am pleased to report that I got 7 eggs, 8 today. The represents contributions from the new bantams, the little dears, very few from the layers. One rafter bird has gone broody. If she is still sitting tight tomorrow evening I will give her some eggs to hatch. Agnes, the ewe, begins to look close up. Her next potential due date is next Tuesday.
Mitra’s sow, Sophie, did not come in heat today. This is big news. It means that 3 weeks ago when Mitra and Roshan artificially inseminated their not very impressed pig it must have taken.
My vet, Dr. Cooper, stopped by. He always recycles his Styrofoam boxes to me. His meds come in them with frozen gel packs. They are great for dairy products.
I made another cream cheese. I doubled the recipe and this time I weighed it. Two quarts of cream made a 1 ¾ lb cheese.
I roasted a duck tonight for Sally and me. I devised yet another method, this one very simple. I roasted it in a hot oven for about an hour with no seasoning except an apple, tangerine and bay leaf in the cavity. This was so that I could pour off and save the fat without a lot of extra seasoning in it. After doing this I poured on wine and soy sauce and put it back to get a little crispier. I served only the breast meat. As Julia Child warns in The Way to Cook, when the breast it done the legs are still tough and rubbery; if you roast it until the legs are done the breast will be over cooked. The breast this way was perfect. I will make a confit with the legs tomorrow.
Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons this morning.
February 19, 2010 Friday
What joy! This morning while I still had the machine on Jasmine, Sally stepped in with a big smile to tell me that the drake was in the lean-to. I was so unprepared for this statement that I made her repeat it a couple of times. I thought she was saying “The rake is in the lean-to”. When I finally worked out what I was hearing I was as thrilled as she was. By the time I turned Jasmine out the drake had come into the beefer pen and she immediately chased him back outdoors. We thought it best to leave some doors open to let him come in when he was ready. After putting the milk away in the fridge we went back out and were able to move him in with his mate. They were charmingly pleased to be reunited as evidenced by much neck dipping. The duck has been pining away, even refusing to eat. Hopefully now she will be prompted to lay some eggs.
Sally worked a long time on fencing. What she is actually doing is removing barbed wire which unfortunately was mailed to trees. It should be noted that, although it may take years, every tree to which barbed wire is nailed is going to die. Get ready for it. For days now she has been going around with the cargo sled and the dogs and working on the fence.
We went up to Weld and checked on Marcia’s camp. She is still in Florida. It was bleak and windy and we did not stay long.
At Sally’s suggestion I made a banana layer cake with cream cheese icing. I used the cream cheese I recently made and made the cake with 100% Maine grown whole wheat pastry flour. My recipe calls for canola oil but this is not a product I use. I substituted soft butter. It turned out extremely well, moist and fluffy.
We had the duck legs for dinner. I simmered the carcass including the legs in a heavy covered casserole for about 4 hours with a little sherry and garlic in a rich stock. The resulting meat was perfectly tender. I sautéed shiitake mushrooms, shallots and fennel and added the meat and rich stock and served it with steamed buckwheat groats. This was a successful way to make the most of the back end of the duck. Duck has a great deal more meat on it than is usually realized. Much of it tends to get wasted. This method makes it all available.
Jasmine only gave 2 ¼ gallons today. My little white setting hen got off her nest.
I sent off my order to Fedco Seeds and Wood Prairie today.
February 20, 2010 Saturday
Jasmine gave 2 ¾ gallons today. We have not figured out what causes the variation in volume. It might be something about the water but more likely is to do with the hay. Time of day and her grain ration remain much the same. The weather has not been harsh.
Sally worked on the fence for a long time this morning while it was sunny. Later a cold wind came up and the sky turned dark.
This evening we both had a good look at Agnes’ vulva. It is very bright pink, floppy and slightly everted. If she were a cow I would say she would calve within 24 hours. Sally trimmed away some dirty wool.
February 21, 2010 Sunday
Well, no lambs yet. Agnes looks much the same.
I devised a new management plan for Fern that we will try for a few days. She has been living in with Agnes and it seems best for Agnes not to have to share space with anybody even though it is at least 15 x 20 feet and very comfortable. This morning I left Fern loose in the main aisle of the barn, then put her in with Jasmine at noon, figuring that Jasmine has had all morning to generate milk so hopefully Fern will not tear her up. Then this evening I moved her back out in the main aisle of the barn which is a large safe area.
Max came over and kindly took all our trash to the dump. I gave him some lunch. He brought me some lovely frozen chickens.
Sally brought another load of nasty old barbed wire up from the bottom of Pocket Field. She says that she now has it all.
February 22, 2010 Monday
Jasmine had Fern in with her yesterday afternoon. I separated Fern about 5:30pm. This morning Jasmine gave 1 ¾ gallons. There were no cut teats. Today I shortened up the time they were together. Sally brought her back into the barn at 4pm. I wonder if this will make a difference. I would like a bit more that 1 ¾ gallons. The weather today was quite spring like. Reinforced by Fern, Jasmine and Fern went together all the way down to the river bank. This is the first time Jasmine has ventured out of the small barnyard corral all winter. Right now so much of the snow has melted that she could walk anywhere without stepping on more than a patch. But I think snow is on the way.
The little white hen is now sitting tight. Sally gave her 6 eggs slightly larger than what she herself lays. We need more large birds. The layer group showed themselves to be more enterprising than usual. They all sought out a large manure pile in the field to work over. I got two eggs from them.
February 23, 2010 Tuesday
The weather today was dark and threatening but still above normal temperatures, right around 32˚. Sally and I took a brief expedition to do errands and on the way home it rained but it was not freezing rain. Sally took a long shanked screwdriver with her on her expedition to the river and found that the top 6” of ground near the river is not even frozen. Very strange. The lakes are treacherous. Several people have lost trucks and ATVs when driving them on the ice and at least three people have lost their lives in the last week by going down with their vehicles.
Last night at 3am the dogs woke me up with insane barking. I stumbled and grumbled my way downstairs. Bagel, who is chained at night to a table leg, had reached my pile of seed catalogues and in his frustrations had shredded them. As soon as I released him they both hurled themselves at the kitchen door in a delighted manner like they were going to a party. I let them out into the carriage house and they hurtled into the darkened space. I debated what to do – retreat and bolt the door or turn some lights on and try to see something. I chose the latter and saw nothing. The wild enthusiasm of the dogs suggested the presence of an animal and the most common animal, though not in mid winter, would be a skunk. I feel very fortunate that it was not a skunk. But really, it wouldn’t make sense to tell them to be quiet and go back to sleep. I thought I had better let them do their job.
February 24, 2010 Wednesday
Jasmine gave 2 gallons this morning. Sorry to report she has some scratches on her teats but not bad enough to make her wince. Apart from this concern, having Fern spend the afternoon with her mom is making everybody happy.
Max’s weather report: It is perfectly miserable weather here. Although not all that cold, there is a consistent fall of crud from the sky that cannot decide if it wants to be snow, rain, or something in between. The cows are holed up in the barn laying down. The steer is with them. The radio was playing a rather nice cello piece when I walked in and they all looked at me and frowned, obviously annoyed at the interruption.”
It has been coming down all day here too but it is about 30˚ and no wind. So far at 8pm there is no build-up at all. I read that farther south they are getting hit pretty hard and perhaps it will reach here in the night. We are cozy. Sally is listening to Lucinda Williams while doing dishes.
For supper I made last night’s cauliflower-in-cheese-sauce into cream of cauliflower soup. I topped it with chopped green onions. Yesterday I bought a gigantic papaya at Walmart and served slices of it with a squeeze of citrus juice off of a shrub Marcia has up in her room. I served it on a nice handful of lettuce from Marcia’s cellar garden under lights. Sally made a highly successful blueberry/black currant pie.
Still no lambs. Agnes seems healthy and happy. I got 7 eggs today.
February 25, 2010 Thursday
Jasmine gave 2 ¾ gallons. The cuts on her teats are more noticeable today but really more like red scratches. She still did not wince. But if tomorrow morning I see that Fern has made them any worse I will have to stop letting them spend the afternoon together.
Another rafter hen has gone broody on one egg. We added six more.
Farther south of us in Maine and on down through the eastern states they are having very severe storms. So far our weather, although horrible, is not as bad as theirs. Sleety wet snow has fallen since yesterday and is now accumulating. Every footstep fills with water. My new metal barn roof is shedding snow and water wonderfully. Great globs keep falling off. There is a strong wind so we may lose power. Sally filled a lot of containers and has the kerosene lamps lined up. I turned the big galvanized stock tank right side up under the eves of the barn to catch whatever is sliding off of the roof. The temperature has remained about 32˚ so there is not much freezing.
I started a new batch of kim chee.
But now I find the furnace has quit and the house is chilling rapidly.
February 26, 2010 Friday
‘Twas a dark and stormy night… The wind blew violently and a lot of wet snow fell. The temperature continued around 30˚ so snow build-up was limited. Sally was kept awake by the storm in her northern exposure bedroom. She says she was not cold. Neither was I but I have an electric blanket with which I preheat my bed. Then I turn it off. We did not lose power. Elsewhere in the state and nation folks were less fortunate. Nearer to the coast the winds reached gale force. The buoy in Portland harbor registered 28’ waves. In Biddeford DS Martin’s family’s swing set was blown next door.
We did have one sad bit of damage. The giant pine by the river that lost half of its double trunk two weeks ago lost the other half last night and took a maple tree down with it. It now lies in the river, an approximately 80’ sweeper. I am hoping that we can get a rope and secure it to the old perfectly healthy stump. This would help a great deal to protect the riverbank from erosion. Now that they take all the brush out of the forest as chips and clear-cut large areas the rain pours off the slopes unchecked. It does not help that we now have frequent winter rain which, falling on frozen ground, also runs off.
My furnace man came this morning and replaced a clogged nozzle so we again have a warm house. He chatted for awhile about his work and the economy. His perception is much as is ours that our economy is a house of cards and unlikely to recover without some changes in underlying attitudes and expectations on the part of Americans. He admires our home food production. Sally asked him whether or not he encounters similar misgivings everywhere or whether it is just us folks. “Everywhere”, he said, “everyone is saying this.”
Jasmine gave a bit under 2 gallons. When I turned Fern in with her this afternoon Jasmine tried to butt her away and also kicked her. So today will be the last day of this experiment. Sal still takes Fern a ½ gallon of milk in a bottle in the morning and will resume her evening milk when we have it. Fern is now a full 4 months old and looks excellent. Marcia’s early training in handling makes her a pretty good little citizen for a heifer.
February 27, 2010 Saturday
The temperature remains at 30˚. The skies are low and grey with snow showers. The snow is more like sleet. It was accompanied by very little wind.
Jasmine was nervous this morning. She switched her tail and for the first time in weeks, pooped while in her stanchion. It seemed as though she was not letting down well but she gave over 3 gallons. I did not put Fern in with her. Fern got her exercise in the main hall of the barn and Sally gave her an evening bottle.
Despite the unappealing weather, Sally took the dogs for two or three walks. She said it was hard going in the slushy granular snow.
DS Martin and little Hannah and Henry came today. Amy stayed home alone for some R&R. Martin brought the sheep stanchion he made for Agnes. It looks perfect. Martin took his dog Milo onto Sally’s field where there is grouse (partridge) cover but the birds knew they were coming and disappeared. So all Milo got to do was sniff. I cooked Milo some more liver. Yesterday he was discovered to have worms and has started meds so I thought we should build up his health.
For lunch I served cold fried chicken and beans with a salad of cold veg. Tonight I served lamb shanks cooked with brown rice and tomato sauce and lettuce from the salad garden under lights in the cellar. I also made a cake with sour cream and ground pecans and almonds.
February 28, 2010 Sunday
Jasmine kicked a bit this morning, really just waving her foot to warn me off one of her teats so I was very careful with washing her up. Once the machine was on she was perfectly comfortable. She has some ugly scratches. I am putting comfrey oil on them. She gave 3 gallons.
Martin made a fine new stanchion for Agnes and brought it here yesterday. Now we just need some lambs.
We postponed the bread making demo that Sally had planned today for Max and Mitra. We now plan for Wednesday. Max came over anyway and he and Martin took a huge load of builder’s rubble to the dump. Hannah and Henry stayed here. Henry went to sleep but Hannah and I had a tea party and read books.
I gave them a comprehensive lunch of beans, rice, cole slaw and roast leg of lamb. I already had the roast in the oven before the change of plans, having opted for long slow Aga cookery. I put it in the lower left oven that is about 200˚ last evening and it reached 140˚ about 11AM. I then gave it a blast in the 400˚ oven for a short time to get browner. The result was uniformly medium rare very tender meat.
Max took this picture of the "epic manure pile", from a season of manure tossing by DDs Marcia and Sally.
March 01, 2010 Monday
We drove to Weld for Marcia’s mail, then to Dixfield to buy rope at Towle’s. The rope is for our project of tying the tree that has fallen into the river so that is does not float away. I am hoping that it will slow the scouring of that bank.
I found another beautiful blue egg in the loft. A black hen lays it. That makes two. I put them under the bantam that has gone broody in the grain room. She bursts off her nest like a partridge every time I go near it but seems to sit down again pretty quick. This gives her 4 eggs. Two are her own little brown ones.
Sally made a marvelous banana cream pie for our supper. I made chicken soup.
March 02, 2010 Tuesday
Sally and I took rope to the river and secured the huge section of fallen tree that lies in the river. We threw out the rope and let it float under the trunk, then rescued the end using the apple picker, a little basket on a long pole. Now it probably cannot float away, not unless the ½” nylon rope breaks.
Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons. The sun shone all day. It is spring like.
March 03, 2010 Wednesday
It has been another day in the 30’s with little wind and some sun. Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons. We found another of the new bantams on a hidden nest. There are other nests which I have not located. I only got 3 eggs for the house.
Max and Mitra came over for their bread making session with Sally. We all had lots of fun making bread, pizza and foccacia. They took home a bag of puffy dough to make into pizza for their dinner. I know they will both be turning out all sorts of baked goods now.
March 04, 2010 Thursday
A little black bantam that had made a nest in the grain room is dead. I could tell she had not moved since yesterday. She was way behind a piece of furniture and Sally dragged her out with a stick. Something had gotten in there and torn open her throat in a longitudinal slit from jaw to crop. This is terrible. We cannot imagine what animal could have done this. I have never had a weasel here. Sally says the minks that predate her poultry always take off the bird’s head. There are three more hens setting here and there in the barn but of course from a weasel – if it is a weasel – nothing is safe.
March 05, 2010 Friday
We did not find any more dead chickens. Willie has been showing intense interest in something in the grain room. We have not been letting him in because of the setting hen but I think tomorrow I will. I am also thinking of loading the 20 gauge and having it ready.
The weather continues much the same right around 30˚. My milk fridge has quit. It stands out in the breezeway to the carriage house, an unheated area, so I am just leaving its door open while I consider how to approach the problem.
Agnes’ udder was much plumper this evening.
Jasmine gave 2 ½ gallons this morning.
March 06, 2010 Saturday
The weather today was lovely. Down by the river the ground is sufficiently thawed that Sally is able to pursue her fencing project. We would like to do all we can to defend the riparian zone, not that the cattle hammer the riverbank by clambering around on it but they do eat the young trees.
Sally also made progress with the painting over at her little house. She took a ladder and has done the outside frames of a couple of the windows.
DS Mark and DIL Ann, our young doctors, came up this afternoon. They brought wine and French bread and croissants from Standard Baking Co. in Portland, always a treat. It is unusual for them to both be free at the same time.
Some old friends stopped in briefly, Maxine Moore and Erlon Gill. Erlon has bees and brought a jar of honey. I gave him some cottage cheese.
I fixed dinner of assorted goodies including fresh pineapple, brown rice steamed in stock, green beans from the freezer sautéed with some truffle oil that I got for Xmas, lettuce salad from the basement garden under lights, and a nice center cut of Luick’s ham. Sally and I made a lemon meringue pie for dessert. She made the pie and I put on the meringue.
Mark and Ann are staying overnight.
Jasmine gave only 2 ½ gallons this morning. There were no new losses among the poultry.
March 07, 2010 Sunday
Perfectly lovely weather today. Mark and Ann left this morning. They first went over to visit Max and Mitra, a happy thought. After they got home to Portland they called to ask a cooking question – Ann was making something with cream that Mitra gave her – and they told me about the lovely roasted chicken that Max and Mitra had ready for them to take along.
Sally and I went down to the river and marked with flagging where posts will go for the new fence. She is transplanting little trees and has rooted a lot of red osier branches to start along the river.
I had fun squishing around in my veg garden. It has nearly emerged from the snow, just a few patches remain. Last fall Marcia put a double layer of frost cloth over a row of lettuce and a row of hardier greens like tatsoi. I was able to lift the cloth and see that the lettuce did not make it but the tatsoi certainly did. Some of the plants are perfect rosettes. What a thrill! The ground is thawed down 6” everywhere in the garden. There are many small kale plants that are undamaged. I do hope we don’t now get a vicious cold snap that kills everything.
Last night I forgot to serve my dish of baked squash – not that we didn’t have plenty to eat. So today Sally made some into a lovely pie, always a good excuse for whipped cream.
This afternoon when we let Agnes the ewe and Fern the heifer out of their stall we finally got them to take better advantage of their freedom. Fern went flying around and bucking and getting lots of exercise. Agnes also ran quite a bit. Jasmine is shut in when the others are out and did a lot of cross mooing.
Jasmine gave only 2 ¼ gallons this morning so I carried through with my idea of going back to TAD milking for a while. I milked by hand. It took me 20 minutes to get a generous gallon. I was not too disappointed with myself as I have not hand milked for over a year and feel no pain at all in my hands.
March 09, 2010 Tuesday
The fine weather continues. Sally bought 24 metal fence posts and has been busy setting the posts and stringing barbed wire. It is amazing that the ground is sufficiently thawed to drive posts.
The veg garden is thawed down to about 6” now. The area is not quite as warm as next to the river but things are happening. Yesterday I saw tufts of emerging parsnip tops and today they have doubled in size. Daffodils tips are up about a ½”, the earliest I have ever seen them here. My biggest garden treat today was finding a clump of Johnny Jump-ups in bloom (violas). Mine are tiny little things that have naturalized. They are no bigger than violets.
Sally made gorgeous bread. I made curried lamb and a bread pudding. We are having salads every day from the seedling trays in the cellar. Well, not trays, they are the long plastic window boxes with soil about 6” deep, much better than trays I would say. We used rich untreated soil from the chicken yard which the books say won’t work due to damping off. Nothing damped off. I attribute this in part to the tiny desk fan which runs continuously. A tribe of ladybugs has emerged and can be seen patrolling. There are only 4 tomato plants from seed but they are about a foot tall and look good. I wish now I had suggested Marcia plant more.
I walked down to the river again today but have been spending most of my time doing further research on rumen ecology for my article on methane from dairy cows. A very foolish and unwelcome beaver has been cutting down pretty good sized trees. He is dropping them randomly.
I milked Jasmine this evening, third day of TAD milking. I was going to be discouraged if her production did not tend upward but I did indeed get almost a quart more tonight. This approaches 3 gallons for the day I think.
Sally is beginning to be suspicious that our cat Stanley may have killed that setting hen. I have never known one of our cats to kill a hen but the possibility exists. She would not have been able to get away in the very narrow space she was in, especially at night. The fact that there has been no further predation does rather take the suspicion off of weasels.
March 10, 2010 Wednesday
It has been another fine day. Sally did more fencing. This afternoon I went down and assisted with tree planting. She has rooted a group of Golden Willow branches. They were raring to go and required only a week in water to form significant roots.
Sally has declared that Agnes will have her lamb(s) next Tuesday. Bets, anybody?
With help from Bret I finally got over the difficult bit of editing in my article for MOFGA and expect to be able to send it off tomorrow.
It took me 25 minutes tonight to milk 1 ¼ gallons. Jasmine’s two front teats are easy but her back teats are smaller and smallest. I may start using the machine.
March 11, 2010 Thursday
Max came over and brought my feed and helped Sally with fencing. They got up a couple of hundred yards of 3-wire barbed wire on metal poles. It was a fine sunny day in the 40’s but still chilly whenever the wind was blowing.
We had a nice lunch including an apple crisp that Sally whipped out early this morning.
Each afternoon I have been shutting Jasmine inside so that Fern, her calf and Agnes, the ewe (they live together) can be outside for awhile. Fern can’t be with her mom anymore because she damages her teats. Jasmine hates this routine and today when she heard me coming she ran outside so that I couldn’t get away with my trick of shutting her in.
I milked by machine tonight and got a quart less than by hand. Not sure what this means.
When I turn Jasmine loose after milking, she never wants to go back out to the beefer pen, her home. She dawdles around in the aisle drinking the chicken’s water and eating Fern’s hay. We have to practically carry her back out to “her side”. Sally has taken to putting a ladle of molasses on her hay to give her a reason for hurrying on out. I always say it takes three times doing something and then a cow has a new habit. Tonight, the third night, she was dawdling along and you could just about see a light bulb go on in her head when she remembered about her treat. Out she went.
March 12, 2010 Friday
It was down to 20 this morning but the sun was brilliant all day and soon it warmed up to shirt sleeve weather. Sally and I went out to do errands. She needed glazing points for her repair of the rose window in my south gable. It has been lying on a table awaiting repair for a year while the aperture is covered with plastic. The frame is probably two hundred years old. We think the little panes were holding in place by a combination of spider webs and habit. Sally is scraping and puttying in preparation for painting the frame and canes.
We stopped at St. Theresa’s Free Store. Everything is free. You put in a donation. We both found a few items of clothing. There are always woolen skirts that nobody wants these days. They are good for making into other things or into braided carpets.
For dinner I served slow oven braised pork shoulder chops (home reared pork from Max and Mitra) mashed potatoes covered in pan juices and a composed salad of various bits of veg from the refrigerator on greens from the lettuce under lights in the cellar. I always like to say that lots of great food can be prepared in five minutes but not the last five minutes. This meal took a total of not more that 15 minutes all together to prepare. This morning: 5 minutes to put the meat (thawed last night) into a heavy pan, sprinkle with seasonings (no added liquid) and popped into the Aga simmer oven (could have used a crock pot). This evening: 5 minutes to peel and cut up 3 potatoes and put on to boil, then mash with cream; 5 minutes to cut up various green things and pour on a dash of Balsamic sauce. The meat required no further time, it was all ready to serve. Served meat and potatoes with plenty of pan gravy. Yum!
Sally’s DD Rebecca sent us some pictures from their winter ski trip with another couple, both couples had babies. Torlief will be two in June. Rebecca made his fox parka.
March 13, 2010 Saturday
DS Martin and family came up unexpectedly. I popped a Luick chicken in the oven and we had a nice dinner. I dug the first parsnips today and they were amazingly sweet and tender just fried in butter.
Martin removed the big manure pile from behind the barn and stacked it out near the horse paddock. It was really hot inside. He also got the old Ford pickup running.
DD Sally and I made a late evening check on Agnes. She is very restless. She has the stall to herself at night. We turn Fern loose in the main aisle.
March 14, 2010 Sunday
No lambs today so we’re sticking with Sally’s prediction of Tuesday.
We had rain all day and it has not stopped but it is above freezing. Unless the thermometer plunges, the result will be thawed ground just about everywhere. This is the first time I recall such early thawing. It is rather exiting. Unfortunately, farther south their weather is more severe with violent wind and rain.
Sally and the dogs walked all around the fields despite the rain. They discovered that the woodchucks are out of hibernation and busy renovating their den. No doubt they hope I will be planting my garden soon.
Martin and Amy and the kids stopped in on their way back south and I gave them the leftover chicken and freshly baked lamb riblets. I roasted these with a rosemary Dijon mustard rub from the Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook. They were excellent but had I not added some wine and covered the pan they would have dried out too much. Every bit was eaten.
Jasmine gave 3 gallons today. I got 7 eggs. Two of the tiny bantam roosters had a fight and one died. We did not see it until it was too late.
March 15, 2010 Monday
We got a nice surprise today. DD Sally’s son Rafe is coming for a visit. He has some time off from his job in Nevada with Fish & Game desert turtle survey and we pick him up on Wednesday. Sally is so pleased. Me too. I have not seen him for a couple of years.
The day started with snow and sleet. It did not last and soon warmed up to 40˚ with bright sun.
Sally and I took a nice jaunt around the fence line and I admired her work. Besides setting many posts and stringing barbed wire (with help from her brother Max) along the river she has also planted many little pine trees. The new fence will defend the riparian zone, I hope. At least there will be new trees to replace the beautiful mature trees, most of which have fallen into the river due to excessive scouring, thanks to clear cutting in the headwaters. I am sorry to say that I also saw several more 6” diameter hardwoods cut down by the beaver. Foolish animal does not even drop them so they fall into the river and several of them are chomped off into 4’ lengths like bolt wood. I feel like making a hat out of him.
Sally made bread, 2 loaves of whole wheat.
Jasmine gave 3 gallons today. She is feeling very frisky.
March 16, 2010 Tuesday
Another beautiful day. Although I had to be in the house most of the day catching up on paperwork, Sally was out working on her fencing for hours. She also laid out the rose window from the south gable on a table on the deck and worked on the puttying. She is doing a beautiful job. It was in terrible shape. We doubt it had been touched since it was installed more than 150 years ago. She also took me over to see the paintwork on her little house across the river. She has a full coat of primer on the 12’ ceiling which was a terrible job, and on most of the walls. She switched to painting some of the window frames so as to have an idea of how it is going to look. She has to leave soon and will not be able to finish all the painting. For the frames she is using a nice shade of green to complement the enamel on the Empire wood stove that I bought for her a few years ago from the kitchen of the Carthage Grange when we disbanded.
I have brisket of beef ready to pop into the oven tomorrow morning before we go to Lewiston to pick up her son Rafe.
I made butter again today and Sally pressed it for me. I also made a sour cream lemon cake, very simple recipe that I am tweaking.
Agnes made a few moves today, bunching up a bit, that made us hopeful for lambs but sorry, none yet. A pretty little white bantam hen brought off her clutch today. We have not actually seen much of the chicks as they hid up in her armpits when I lifted her up. But she was sitting on 5 eggs and none are left unhatched. I did glimpse a couple of black chicks and a yellow one and Sally rescued a brown one that had taken a wrong turn. The little family now has a plate of yogurt and there was evidence that they had been pecking at it. I always give baby chicks yogurt or clabber to start them off. They need the liquid and the whey protects against coccidiosis. It is important to set the plate where the hen cannot reach it without getting up and moving. Otherwise she will stretch out her neck and eat and even if she clucks for them, not all her chicks will emerge to eat. If she has to get up and walk to the plate all the chicks will participate.
Jasmine gave 3 gallons today.
March 17, 2010 Wednesday
It was even warmer today, about 60˚ I think. After morning chores Sally went down and worked on fencing. I joined her about 11 o’clock and we walked back up and got ready to go to Lewiston for Rafe. We left Jasmine roaming the pasture. This is just about the first time she has ventured any distance to look for grass but in this weather she could not resist.
On the way to Lewiston we stopped at The Bread Shack, a wonderful bakery in Auburn and bought croissants and bread. We sat at one of their tables and drank tea and ate quiche. After that we went to Shaw’s for groceries and to Waldenbooks where I bought two CS Lewis books. We picked Rafe up at 3:15 and were home at 4:30.
For our St. Patrick’s Day dinner I served brisket, mashed potatoes and cole slaw. After dinner Rafe drew out the plan for a house he and his Sally are planning to build this summer on property they have bought near Haines, AK.
Jasmine gave 3 gallons today, 1 ¾ this morning and 1 ¼ gallons this evening.
March 19, 2010 Friday
Sally triumphed over another section of fence yesterday. Hurrah! Another hen hatched out her chicks. There were four but she squished one. Agnes still looks much the same. Last night her udder was noticeably heavier but this morning seemed to have gotten a bit smaller, Sally thought.
As soon as we finished chores this morning we all three (Sally, Rafe and I) hopped in the car and went to Farmington to do a bit of shopping (health food store, used book store and Reny’s wonderful old fashioned department store) and then to Max and Mitra’s house for a fabulous lunch. DS Martin and family joined us too. Mitra made a pork roast and a roast chicken and she also served sweet potatoes, rice cooked in chicken stock, green beans and cole slaw. Henry, almost 2, sat at the table like a big boy and ate a big lunch. Hannah, almost 4, was so thrilled to see her cousins Roshan 11 and Shireen 14 that she could not eat. Max and Mitra got a chance to visit with Rafe and he got a chance to see the barn he built for them 2 years ago and of course also to see the livestock. Helen, once my cow, and Sophie the big red pig and all the poultry were in fine shape. The weather was almost hot. Everyone was in T shirts.
Last night Roshan, cello, and Shireen, viola, played in the school orchestral concert. I was not there but Mitra said all sounded great. Next week Roshan starts lessons with Laurie Kennedy.
Jasmine gave 3 gallons today, just barely. I see her out frequently now trying to graze. The grass is scarcely up. Looking across the pasture all still looks brown, so I think she must be wasting her time. But apparently she does not think so.
March 20, 2010 Saturday
It was another glorious spring day with bright sun and no bugs. I had one kitchen window open all day without a screen and not a bug came in. The trees are still leafless and the pasture is still brown but other than that it feels like spring. I could not get into the garden because I had Hannah (3) and Henry (2) all day, but from the deck we were able to watch their daddy, DS Martin and Rafe, DD Sally’s son, pull down the huge broken tree by the river. When the tree fell Henry said “Yeah!” Hannah and Henry are easy to take care of. They eat nicely. I asked them to tell me when they were ready to nap and about 11:30 Hannah said “We’re ready for our nap now” and they both trailed into the bedroom carrying their toys and Henry his blankie. Henry went to sleep right way but Hannah resisted for a long time. I read her a story book about a farm that I picked up yesterday called All the Places to Love. It had a picture of a dog in it and I remarked that it looked a bit like their dog, Milo. “No Grandma, that dog is a Dalmation” she corrected me. “Milo is an English Setter.” Hmm. People are starting to say she is like her grandmother, always has to know everything.
Sally and I fed everybody dinner. I roasted two ducks. I also served curried brown rice, braised red cabbage, green salad, and Sally made a delicious cobbler with blueberries and black currants.
I was very pleased with the way the ducks turned out. Various cookbooks including Julia Child’s The Way to Cook, make the point that to get tender and juicy duck breast you have to take it out of the oven before the legs are tender and if you roast it until the legs are tender the breast will be dry. I roasted these two ducks all day slowly in the Aga simmer oven and all the meat was tender and juicy and the pan juices were not scorched. Rafe did the carving and was easily able to get all the meat off the racks. This in itself is unusual. There tends to be a lot of waste on a duck. These were my home reared Pekins.
Jasmine had a lovely day exploring for grass but did not give quite 3 gallons. We found a new nest. Sally watched carefully where one rafter hen flew down from and I went up in the hay mow with a bucket and got 20 eggs, all perfect. At least four hens have been laying there. It is a spot where I checked less than a week ago.
March 21, 2010 Sunday
We had to say goodbye to Rafe today. He caught a ride to Portland with Martin and Amy. We probably won’t hear from him again until he reaches Las Vegas. His desert turtle project is based there.
Showers were predicted for today but instead it snowed hard all day. I was afraid that winter was making a comeback but when the snow stopped about 4pm it all quickly melted.
No big news from the barn. Jasmine barely made it to 3 gallons today. The baby chicks are all fine following some early attrition. No change in Agnes. Sally still gives Fern her ½ gallon bottle once or twice a day when we have the milk but she now eats hay very efficiently.
I made us a curried duck dinner using fragments left from yesterday.
March 22, 2010 Monday
I would not have believed how much more pregnant Agnes could get without popping. Sally says she has never seen an udder as large as hers on a sheep. Sally has to leave for Alaska on April 5. I sure hope she gets at least a few days to milk Agnes before I have to take over. Or hopefully turn the job over to quadruplets.
We needed to get the two mother hens and their chicks out of their cramped quarters so I decided to turn the ducks loose and give their room to the hens. I think this was a good decision. Their nice stall is plenty big enough for two hen families and now the ducks look very happy. We took the precaution of cutting their pinion feathers so that they would not fly too far. This was ineffective. They lost not a moment in flying over the barnyard fence and away down into the marshy area halfway to the river. There they could be seen all day having a perfectly lovely time feeding on something among the puddles. They are easy to see, being black and white. At dusk I could see them making their way towards a small copse. They are of course at great risk from the fox. I just hope that they have a few happy weeks. Even though they were in fine health indoors and have glossy feathers, it was evident how much they hated being confined.
Several things are sprouting in the veg garden. Chives, two kinds of green onions and French sorrel are up a few inches. The bed of Angelique tulips are all up too.
Jasmine gave a little under 3 gallons. The machine has not been working quite right. I could hear it wheezing with an air leak but could not figure out where the trouble lay. This evening after milking Sally with her better ears helped me locate the problem; a rubber cap needed to be jammed on harder. Jasmine gave a bit under 3 gallons and because of pressure loss I had to leave the machine on extra time to get that.
March 23, 2010 Tuesday
Twin lambs tonight! When I went out this evening to milk I peeked in at Agnes and there was a wobbly lamb next to her. I ran in to tell Sally and by the time we got back there was another on the hay still flat. I stood it up and it was fully alive. Both were still slimy. We rubbed them with towels and after I milked we got Agnes into her stanchion. She was very calm and cooperative and making loving noises. I held one lamb under her nose on the feed tray while Sally guided the other to nurse. Then we switched so they both got a good meal of colostrum. Both are equally strong and vigorous. I am pretty sure both are ewes but they were still pretty slimy even though I used lots of paper towels. Agnes tried to eat a paper towel. Agnes took a big drink and ate some grain. She has lots of the best hay if she wants it. Both lambs are black. Sally has more experience with sheep than I do. She says these are the largest lambs she has seen. Agnes’ udder is huge for a sheep. It is nearly down to her hocks.
This morning there was only one duck. We checked many times. The drake remains and he did not seem at all agitated so maybe she had yielded to a pent up urge to make a nest.
Sally made two loaves of bread. I made custard and cooked the old rooster in the Romertof (clay pot). Because of the lambs it was in the oven way too long but we ate it anyway. We also had some lovely asparagus that Amy gave us.
March 24, 2010 Wednesday
The thermometer continues to hang around 32˚ but it snowed and rained much of the day. The sun came out for a half hour at sunset and a big wind came up.
My vet, Dr. Cooper, stopped by to give Fern her ear tag and brucellosis shot. We gave him some soup for lunch. A logger who works with horses, Belgians, came by to look at the fallen pine to see it there was anything to be done with it. He said it was way too heavy for his horses but someone with a skidder might move it up to the road and haul it away. I am puzzled now as to what to do.
Our remaining duck, the drake, wandered around in the marsh by himself all day. Sally took a walk with the dogs and found bloody feathers. So I guess it’s goodbye duck. The drake came up to the barn at milking time and Sally gave him a pan of grain. After eating he went back down to the marsh.
At mid afternoon when I checked on the lambs, one of them that is a little weaker, was wheezing. Sally made it a little jacket. Agnes did not seem put off by this. She is kind and attentive. We don’t know how much that lamb is nursing if at all but it is doesn’t seem totally flat. Sally tried without success to get it to feed. In the case of a calf that is not moribund this usually means it is not hungry, thank you very much. Not wishing to make assumptions, Sally milked out a little bit of colostrum and got maybe 2 tablespoons down it with a cup. I don’t have a lamb bottle. Agnes was touchy about being milked. Probably her udder is painful, although the more vigorous lamb has her full cooperation. The weaker lamb did spend some time walking around the stall. It is not cold in there and there is thick dry bedding.
All three of the new chicken mothers and their families are thriving.
Jasmine gave a bit under 3 gallons today. She did not go outside at all because of the weather. My machine is still not behaving right.
March 25, 2010 Thursday
One lamb still seems weaker and less frisky but both are peeing so we know they are drinking. Both are definitely female. Sally didn’t try any milking today. Agnes continues to be a very good mother
The weather was very fine. Jasmine spent all day grazing. The grass is still too short but she tries her best. The milk tonight began to have a hint of that dainty fresh grass flavor. All winter I gave her 5 or 6 large carrots every day. My hope was to support her vitamin A levels and stave off mastitis. She certainly has not had the tiniest hint of mastitis now for many weeks. I also can report that her butter continues to have more color than the best store bought butter (I have to buy some as at 3 or less gallons/day I don’t collect enough cream to keep us in butter). Today she gave slightly under 3 gallons.
Sally made bread on Tuesday and today I made a walnut cake using home ground flour from Maine wheat that I ordered from Wood Prairie. The bread was excellent and Sally said she would not have suspected there was any whole wheat in the cake (1 cup of ww flour with 1 ½ cup of white) Many artisanal bakers in Maine now use Maine flour.
I got my leeks planted today. DD Marcia prepared some of the beds last fall so the digging was not difficult. I dug manure and lime into about 8 ft of row and put in 24 plants in a double row. My garlic is now up. Everything is 3 or 4 weeks earlier this year. I am going to try to put in spinach tomorrow if the weather holds.
Sally has now started trying to improve the fence on the north pasture. This has a long road frontage and she does not approve of reliance on hot wire alone. What she did today was mostly rescue precious little trees that are entangling themselves in the old stock wire.
March 26, 2010 Friday
We are not quite happy about the health of the lambs. They both walk around exploring and give the occasional hop and can be seen to pee so must be suckling. But both have slightly rattley chests. Maybe I should give them cod liver oil. Today was much colder. It did not get above 20˚ all day and there was considerable wind. The sheep stall is not drafty though.
I went down to my veg garden and dug over, limed and manured a row for spinach. By the time I had it ready for planting my hands were too cold so I left it for another day. I was pleased to see that my lovage is poking up out of the ground. I look forward to it a great deal.
The drake came back! He showed up in the front yard looking his old self. I had not expected to see him again.
Sally is still working like mad on painting inside her house and on fence improvements. DD Marcia is on her way back from Florida. DD Abby is convoying up with her from Carlisle PA. They expect to be here on Sunday in time for dinner.
Laurie Kennedy, granddaughter Roshan’s new cello teacher, called to tell me that her little string quartet which met for the first time yesterday, was great fun for all. Roshan, 11, is not an advanced student but Laurie praised her aptitude and attitude.
March 27, 2010 Saturday
The cold weather came snapping back. It was 10˚ this morning and all the chicken water dishes were frozen solid. But I am happy to say that both lambs were hopping around merrily. I took a medicine dropper to the barn with me and gave them each a little cod liver oil to boost their immunity, anyway. Each day recently while Agnes is in her stanchion eating her grain Sally takes the shearing scissors and shears some of her wool. She has her about half sheared now. She looks funny.
I have been having trouble with my De Laval style milking machine so took my Surge out this morning. It worked fine. This evening something seemed to annoy Jasmine – don’t know if it was the Surge or not. She waved her tail around quite a bit and picked up her foot a little bit and kind of danced around.
Sally has now done as much painting in her little house as she is going to do this year. She will finish it next winter. The trim is done but some of the walls only got their primer. It looks very fresh and nice.
Max got called back to work unexpectedly with very little notice. He left today for Pennsylvania and may be gone several weeks. I did not even get a chance to say goodbye.
March 29, 2010 Monday
Yesterday evening my twin daughters Marcia and Abby arrived. Marcia was on her way home from Florida and Abby has been living in Pennsylvania. They joined up and caravanned up here in time for supper. I had a big pot of oxtail soup awaiting the travelers. They looked as lovely as ever. Abby is staying in Sally’s little house.
It rained all day yesterday. During last night it snowed, and then today it rained again and according to the weatherman is likely to continue for several more days. We have not suffered any of the destructive weather they are having farther south but must expect flooding. Abby, Marcia and I went shopping today for basic supplies including more metal fence posts for Sally’s grand project. There is no slowing her down weather or no. While in Rumford the girls and I took a detour to view Rumford Falls. These are huge spectacular falls that one never hears about.
Yesterday Marcia and Sally heard wild geese and Sally saw a marsh hawk (northern harrier). Today she saw a goshawk.
Sally and I set 6 blue eggs under another broody hen. All three of the hens and chicks are growing fast on a diet of chicken mash augmented with clabber, scrambled eggs and tiny weeds from the garden under grow lights in the cellar. The lambs are now thriving. Sally says she has never seen stronger or more fast growing lambs.
We finished up the evening by watching A Day in the Life of Miss Pettigrew which we all enjoyed (even though I could not hear above half of the dialogue)..
March 30, 2010 Tuesday
The rain continued all day. Sally worked on fencing all the same, coming in periodically to dry her coat. It seems there is always more that needs to be done.
I am giving the lambs cod liver oil with a medicine dropper since they don’t get to go out doors yet. We let the sheep out in the main aisle of the barn today so that the lambs would have more space to play. Fern (5 months old heifer) was thrilled with her playmates and they all ran together. When whirling around Fern accidentally kicked one lamb on the left hind leg. It began limping and dragging its leg and we were afraid it was dislocated or broken but I felt it all over and could find nothing wrong. 45 minutes later she seemed entirely recovered.
DD Abby got a call from her agency in PA telling her of a live-in caregiver job for which they would like to have her. She feels she had better not turn it down. This is such a disappointment. She just arrived on Sunday and now must start driving back to Pennsylvania on Saturday so as to be available for work on Monday. She fixed us a lovely dinner tonight of fresh tuna sautéed in sesame seeds, baked sweet potato, green salad and followed by some exotically beautiful truffle Easter eggs she had bought at Bread and Circus on her way north. Now she is playing the piano, all the old songs we used to sing back when we had better voices, Du bist die Ruhe, a favorite of mine.
April 01, 2010 Thursday
The fine weather has returned! Yesterday it rained all day and the river rose over its banks and flooded half of the pasture. It was amazing how rapidly it rose and how fast it was flowing. Few people could run that fast. We are on high ground so not subject to flooding but a lot of water has seeped into the cellar from around the granite foundation. Compared to much of the northeast, believe me, I am not complaining.
Today we put Fern the 5 mo. old heifer and Agnes and the lambs outdoors in the sheep paddock to get some sun. For the first hour Agnes seemed to have forgotten about grazing and it was also nearly a new experience for Fern although she did follow her mother in November. But she was just a baby and there was little grazing. Before the morning was over even the lambs were nibbling a bit. Jasmine was much disappointed not to be in with the others.
Sally has Agnes all sheared now.
Sally has completed all the fencing she is going to do. The north field is now cow proofed. She plans to spend her last bit of time on pruning out as much as she can of the invasive bittersweet.
Twins Marcia and Abby have gone to Marcia’s camp just for tonight.
We had a nice dinner of oven braised chuck roast, mashed potatoes and frozen green beans. Abby made an apple crisp for dessert.
April 02, 2010 Friday
One might have supposed that we were in the middle of June except that the fields are still brown and the trees are still leafless. It was about 65˚ with full sun. Once again we put Fern and Agnes and the lambs out in their paddock. We had lots of company and frequently observed the animals from the deck. There was water available in two places plus a vernal pond but of course the lambs only nurse. When Marcia and Sally went out to bring the animals in they found both lambs collapsed with heat stroke. They raced them into the barn and poured water on them and they quickly revived, but how alarming. I would never have supposed such a thing possible. Perhaps it has to do with their being black. Tomorrow we will bring them in at noon.
Here are granddaughters Shireen and Roshan with the lambs after their "bath" and Momma Agnes who is a very good mother.
This morning Sally and I walked to the river to see if the tree was still there. Yes, it was. The nylon rope is stretched to its absolute maximum so that the winding is all straight.
Marcia worked in the garden for a long time but I could not join her as I had cooking to do. This was Abby’s last evening so DIL Mitra and the girls and DS Martin and DIL Amy and the kids were all here for dinner. I made something with little squares of cut up lamb which could have been shish kebab except I cooked it in a black skillet in the oven. It was mighty good. Marcia made an eggplant casserole – not sure what to call it but it had layers of eggplant and mozerella and sauce. She peeled the eggplant which made it a lot easier to serve. She also made a pasta dish with olives that was very tasty and Amy made one of her wonderful green salads. Just about every bit of everything was eaten. For dessert I made little egg shaped cakes with chiffon cake batter. I served them on piles of whipped cream and Abby made chocolate sauce for a topping. I had just made butter yesterday and was not sure I would have enough cream for whipping but Mitra showed up with a gallon and a half of cream! She has so much to do right now and Max is away and she can’t find time to make butter so I am the beneficiary.
DS John called from Australia just before dinner so I got to tell him all about the menu. Of course we know his Louisa is a great cook too. He often speaks of her skills.
Earlier this week, DS Martin drove back from PA with a new tractor tire he purchased. He said every toll collector felt the need to comment.
April 03, 2010 Saturday
This was another exceptionally fine day. Everyone was sleeveless. It was hard to be indoors. DD Marcia spent hours digging in the garden and DD Sally worked on pruning the greet tangle of grape vines. But we had to say goodbye to DD Abby. She is off to another caregiver job. We very much hope that it is better than the last one, which turned out to be not only difficult but in many ways frightening due to the characters of some of the family members. When old people and property are involved it seems that human nature is often not shown to good advantage.
Wonderful news today from Australia! Almost exactly a year ago at this time my grandson Tommy, 18, broke several cervical vertebrae while doing back flips. He nearly lost his life and has been in a wheelchair for many months. Due to many factors including Australia’s excellent medical system, the constant support of his family, his father’s unremitting pursuit of knowledge in spinal chord research (bringing certain things to the attention of Tommy’s doctor’s) and also his guidance of Tommy’s diet, but more than anything else Tommy’s unflagging courage and very hard work in rehab, this week he was for the first time able to stand on his own feet while resting his hands on his brother’s shoulders. A year ago Tommy could only move his arms and was on a feeding tube. We are so happy.
A little triumph occurred today in the barn. Sally takes care of a bantam hen with four chicks. The smallest one has trouble keeping up and today got stuck in a crevice where we found it at lunchtime head count. It appeared to be dead but I suggested to Sally that she try to revive it (I have several times been able to bring chicks back that looked dead). Sally put it inside her shirt and before long she heard a faint peep. It wasn’t quite as dead as it looked. Sally put the hen and chicks back into their small coop so the chick would have a better chance for mothering. This evening it was hopping around as though nothing had ever happened.
The spring peepers have started, always a cause for celebration.
April 04, 2010 Easter Sunday
Yet another glorious warm day. There is now a hint of green in the pasture. Gardeners are now beginning to believe in the reality of an early spring. Marcia has prepared a lot of garden rows now. She has not dug in the manure and lime, just gotten out all old weeds and roots. She builds each row into a raised bed and makes them look very professional.
Jasmine gave about 3 gallons today.
We had an Easter egg hunt for wee Henry and Hannah. Then we had a wonderful dinner. I roasted one of my home reared turkeys with all the fixings of stuffing and gravy. Mitra brought one of their amazing hams. If ham is served in heaven, it will be like this. I also fixed mashed squash (a grey Hubbard from last summer), and DIL Amy made another beautiful green salad. Poor Max, alone in PA on the job, found nothing open and was eating cheese and crackers.
DD Abby has reached her new job but I have heard nothing about the situation. She wasn’t feeling very well when she left.
April 5, 2010 Monday
DD Sally left today. Son Martin and DIL Amy took her to the bus in Portland so she could get to Boston where she got on the plane. She does not mind the actual flying so very much but the disagreeableness of the airport experience, the constraints imposed upon carrying proper food and drink and the fear of illness combined to take all possible joy out of it.
DD Marcia transplanted the tatsoi from our cellar garden into the veg garden. Most will bolt no doubt but we should get a few nice meals from them.
We let out the hens and chicks to forage in the sunshine. They are so darned cute. At dusk they brought their families back into their room to sleep.
Marcia and I were finally able to watch Food Inc. There was little I did not already know but the visual impact of the evils is compelling. The photos of leaders of the USDA and FDA and other senior officials who are former CEOs or lawyers for agribiz are especially scary. We have Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas, former counsel to Monsanto, to thank for the decision to permit Monsanto to patent DNA. He wrote the majority opinion. The results of this are frighteningly invasive.
I was glad to see the point made about NAFTA. Hillary Clinton is among those with strong ties to Monsanto.
It is somewhat baffling to see that people are still falling into the chicken rearing trap whereby they get huge operating loans to build chicken rearing facilities, work their tails off for Tyson, to net only $19K/yr. This pattern has been relentlessly repeated since the 1960’s. The “farmers” ultimately either go broke or die or both.
The footage of the happy man who designed his own equipment to extract the final ooze of fat and protein out of beef parts made its point rather weakly, or maybe I need to watch again. This is the plant that manufactures “pink slime” which had now become an ubiquitous component of commercial ground beef.
Altogether it is an amazingly important film. Most of its points are a slam dunk. Its impact is being felt all over the place.
April 06, 2010 Tuesday
While taking our tea this morning on the deck, Marcia observed crows harassing a large raptor perched in the top of one of my big pines by the river. She went for the binoculars and confirmed her first impression: it was a bald eagle. I think he may provide an explanation for some of the predation around here. Marcia immediately thought about her Chihuahuas. She says they sometimes become eagle prey. I was thinking more about the hens and chicks.
Jasmine did not eat any of her hay today. She went straight out to graze and this evening her rumen was full. She gave 3 gallons today.
April 08, 2010 Thursday
Now it has turned cool and damp. It is not fun gardening weather but fine for growing things. The daffodils are opening. Marcia and I took the occasion to go to Farmington and New Sharon for feed. I took along the split pea soup I made yesterday and we had it for lunch with Mitra. We stopped at Wal-Mart and Marcia bought cabbage and broccoli seedlings. At Agway I bought a roll of hideous orange plastic fencing that I hope Marcia and I can use to make a safe sheepfold for Agnes under the buttery. Then I will not have the chore of bringing her and the lambs up to the barn each night. I will soon be here alone as Marcia will be moving back up to her place on the lake.
Tonight on Fresh Air they interviewed Johnny Gimble who played fiddle for years with Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. What fun to hear him talk even though the interviewer kept interrupting him as they will do to guests. When I was a girl I never listened to Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby like my friends. I liked Bob Wills, Maddox Brothers and Rose, Hank Williams and all the Western swing bands. I also like Ralph Stanley.
Jasmine gave 3 gallons today. I have weaned Fern from her gallon of daily milk now that she is 5 months old. There have been loud complaints at meal time. She will be moving over to Max and Mitra’s shortly and Bo Diddley, their steer, will come here. This will further ease my chores. As it now stands we have a lot of extra wrangling to do to keep Fern separate from Jasmine. Bo can run with Jasmine without any nursing issues.
April 09, 2010 Friday
Sally called this morning to tell me that she had just shot the mink that killed all her chickens. She went out extra early in hopes of getting some milk from her sheep before the lamb got it all and there was the mink eating her rabbit. She ran back for her .22 and came back to find the mink still engrossed with the rabbit. She shot and missed and discovered that somebody had been using the gun and left it with only the one shot in it. She ran back again and reloaded and when she got back the mink was still there. This time she did not miss. She sounded mighty pleased. She is sure its next prey would have been the lamb which is very tiny.
It rained here all day and I spent a lot of time at my computer.
Jasmine gave 3 gallons. The chickens are hiding their nests as fast as I can find them but I found one today with six eggs. The two remaining bantam roosters fight every chance they get. We threw the red one outdoors. His wife then escaped and joined him. But he sneaked back to beat up on the little black and white one who has now become quite furtive. I did not see him today.
April 10, 2010 Saturday
The grass is coming on fast now even though it has been rainy and quite cold. Parts of the pasture are getting that velvety green look that seems to glow. Presumably due to her daily carrots, Jasmine’s cream held its color pretty well all winter but today I made butter and it was bright gold.
I also made bread using the slack dough French bread recipe that I like a lot. I used partly freshly ground whole wheat flour and baked it on a pizza stone that I scored last week at the thrift store. That was fun. I am not the baker that DD Sally is but alas she is back in AK.
From Tuesday until today she was marooned at home because her car was buried in snow and she was very low on food. Now her DH Tom is back from Prudhoe Bay and she was able to go to town.
DD Marcia and I had an adventure today trying to get the cork out of a wine bottle. We decided we should have wine with our fresh bread hamburgers but my bottle opener with the convenient lifting arms is broken. All I had was an old fashioned cork screw with a T-shaped pulling handle. She pulled on the cork while I pulled on the bottle. We were laughing so hard you could have heard us out in the road. It took 5 minutes and all our strength to prevail over that cork and it came out with a pop that sprayed red wine all over Marcia’s shirt. She looked like she had killed a chicken. We have decided that from now on we are screw top wine drinkers.
April 11, 2010 Sunday
Marcia and I and Willie dog walked down to the river and saw that the rope is still holding the big pine. The river is high but not at flood.
Marcia planted lots of seeds today. It was cold but sunny. They are all cool weather vegetables but even so will not do much in this weather. Her daughter Abby Rose will be here soon and then she will probably not have time to garden, she thinks.
I spend every possible moment on my KFC revisions but still don’t get in more than 2 hours a day. However I enjoy doing it.
Jasmine gave well over 3 gallons today.
April 13, 2010 Tuesday
The weather is cold but clear. Marcia continues to prepare raised beds in the garden and has some planted. She is getting out a lot of roots of Balm of Gilead. The roots run great distances underground and send up sprouts. The trees are lovely and useful but they will take over, given the opportunity.
Jasmine grazed for hours without moving far. I guess she is able to be satisfied more easily. The grass is coming along pretty well even though the thermometer goes below freezing most every night.
Monday (yesterday) we went to Rumford for my eye appointment. The doc said my eyes were just the same. I was glad they were no worse but am always hoping for improvement even though this is said never to happen with WMD. Many homes that we passed had forsythia bushes in full bloom. Mine always look straggly compared to other people’s, I am not sure why.
I started a big bowl of dough for sour dough bread and started a teleme cheese.
This evening Marcia and I went to a meeting at the home of a neighbor to learn more about wind farms. I used to be pretty sure they were a good idea but now find little to recommend them. The projects are about 75% funded by the Federal government. The companies that put them in are guaranteed profits paid by taxpayers. A company official was quoted in the paper Sunday as saying that the reason they want to put them in Maine is that land is cheaper and there is less push-back from the people. The sites require mountaintop removal. Damage to streams is inevitable and probably also to ground water. According to people interviewed in New York and Pennsylvania the tax benefits are pie in the sky and the jobs they generate are short term road work. Living near the windmills is very disagreeable.
It is so far impossible to find out where the company plans to put their high tension wires. A local man who has made it his business to study the issue has been unable to find any maps showing the location of proposed lines. I had attended planning meetings for 18 months to develop a Comprehensive Plan for Carthage but when it came to the vote a large group of opposed people who had never bothered to attend any planning meetings swarmed in to vote it down on the grounds that the plan might inhibit their property rights. Without a Comprehensive Plan Carthage has no basis upon which to object to placement of turbines. Dixfield, our neighboring town, does have a Comprehensive Plan and this has made it possible to save Sugarloaf mountain from destruction.
Jasmine gave pretty close to 3 ½ gallons today.
April 14, 2010 Wednesday
Cold, clear windy weather continues.
DD Marcia has been running a mousetrap line and in two days has got seven. Not perhaps as dramatic as shooting a mink but by golly I am pleased. We are all tired of having to scrub down the counter every day.
Jasmine continues to respond to the new grass and gave about 3 ½ gallons today at least. I have cut back her grain.
We didn’t do any gardening today. With cold wind like this gardening is no fun. Instead, Marcia went to a salon and got her hair cut. It looks cute. I made butter and more bread.
Tomorrow morning we plan to switch calves with Max and Mitra. Dear Fern will go over there and we will bring home Bo Diddly whom Mitra has been training to lead.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons or maybe more.
April 15, 2010 Thursday
We did our calf switcheroo today. As soon as Jasmine detected the trailer in the yard she began bellowing and as far as we could tell kept it up until we got home. She knew Fern was leaving and she did not approve, even though anytime they are together she butts the stuffing out of her. Fern walked right onto the trailer. We left her loose. We also took about 10 gallons of clabber over for Sophie the sow. Bo Diddly has had a few days of training sessions being tied to a post to acquaint him with the concept of giving to a rope. With Max leading and me patting his back end encouragingly and Marcia holding a bucket of grain we were able to load him without much trouble. Max followed us back here to the farm to help with the unloading. This went about the same. As soon as they were together Jasmine stopped mooing and began licking Bo but added some head pushing just so he was clear about who was boss. We left Bo’s rope dragging just in case he tried to run off but his only interest was in being with Jasmine and eating grass. They went way down into the pasture. This evening Marcia took the rope off. The only further mooing I heard was from Bo while I brought Jasmine in for milking. She gave her usual amount despite spending most of the day mooing, 3 ½ gallons total for the day.
Mitra gave me a gallon of cream and I have nearly that much myself. I will be busy making butter for the next couple of days.
Before leaving this morning I put a defrosted chicken into the Aga simmer oven in the Romertof clay cooker. It was beautifully ready for our dinner. This was one of the Luick chickens. I also served beets and beet greens.
We let the bantam hen with four chicks out today. She got along fine until time to come in. We think she only brought in three of her four. The smallest one appears to be missing.
April 16, 2010 Friday
This morning all the chicks were there! The little chick must have been hiding in her mother’s armpit.
The weather is even colder and rainier today and this evening it turned to snow. Jasmine’s production was down a bit today as I expected after she spent so much time yesterday bellowing for Fern. Now that she has Bo she seems happy. In fact she is willing to step right along when we let her out of her stanchion and heads back to him instead of poking all around into the chicken food and looking for mischief. Marcia took off Bo’s halter. He only needs his collar. He seems pretty well settled except when Jasmine leaves him to come in for milking. Then he bellows.
DS Martin and DIL Amy brought Amy’s charming cousins Gay and John up this evening. They are visiting from their home in Wales. It was kind of a last minute thing so was a simple meal. I did a beef roast with oven roasted potatoes with rosemary and steamed Brussels sprouts provided by Amy. They also brought ice cream and strawberries.
April 17, 2010 Saturday
Well, Merry Christmas! It snowed all last night and all day today until late afternoon. There was no wind so everything was Christmas card perfect. It is heavy wet snow and won’t last; in fact the dooryard has already turned to slush. But I had to return to using the sled to take the machine to the barn. I expect the daffodils to be little the worse for wear when it melts.
Marcia moved back up to camp today but returned to help with evening chores and eat dinner. I made French onion soup based on the bones from last night’s rib roast. It is easy and incredibly delicious but you must have a rich beef broth. Just line up your oven proof soup bowls and put a piece of toasted and buttered French bread in each. Cover this with a handful of onions sautéed slowly until well done and partially caramelized (this is important and can’t be hurried). On top of this put a handful of shredded gruyere (I used Vermont Cabot cheddar). Pour on steaming hot beef broth to fill the bowls. Set them on a baking sheet and put them in a hot oven until bubbly. Serve with more French bread. But give them time to cool to the right temperature for eating before calling the family to the table.
I also made gingerbread and lots of whipped cream.
April 18, 2010 Sunday
The snow was still with us this morning but during the day most of it melted away. The daffodils came up smiling. I put down hay for Jasmine and Bo but she turned up her nose and went out to graze along the fences where the grass is longest
DS Martin came over this morning with the kiddies. Amy was taking her cousins to the airport. Martin tilled and manured the big paddock garden. It looks very inviting. I had a cheese started and carried on while watching the kids. I had saved this cheese to my recipe file as Tricia’s Fast Jack but I think I had better rename it Coburn Farm One-handed Cheese. I did it all with one hand while simultaneously filling glasses of milk, buttering gingerbread, helping with sweaters, putting things higher up, wiping noses and finally hunting for wee Hannah. She seemed to simply vanish and I looked for her for five minutes. I found her in the guest room sleeping in the bed like Goldilocks.
I also made butter.
While here, Martin installed the rose window in the south gable. It had been under repair for a year. While she was here Sally replaced the putty and carefully painted it. Its little panes were at the point of falling out.
DD Marcia went to Portland and picked up her daughter Abby Rose. She will be with us for a week. I am hoping this snow marks the end of our spell of cold wet weather and we have some sun for her.
The little speckled bantam with four chicks got them all up on a high perch tonight. They look so cute lined up.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons.
April 19, 2010 Monday
DD Marcia’s neatly formed raised beds came through the recent stormy weather looking just fine. Our next step is getting them planted. It remains pretty cold, not much above freezing and we have seen little of the sun but when it does show its face it now has some heat in it.
It was brought to my attention that today is Abby Rose’ birthday. She is 25. Marcia had a home birth attended by a Dutch midwife named Julianna. I was also present. It was a beautiful spring day in Upperville, VA. Today we had a nice dinner with braised chick roast and salad made with the indoor raised greens.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons today.
April 21, 2010 Wednesday
Our balmy spring weather returned today but the sun was darkened by a number of brief showers. Marcia treated me to the services of a young man who is doing the spring yard clean-up and the removal of some brush that has been creeping towards the house. In some places the Virginia creeper, bittersweet and honeysuckle were getting so dense that the house was in danger of being mistaken for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
The sheep wriggled out through their gate and spent a day exploring the pastures. They went into the North Field which is far from sheep proof. The young man must have had occasion to go through that gate as neither Marcia nor I would have left it open. It cannot be left open through carelessness since in fact it is normally blocked by an ugly collection of pallets. The sheep came to no harm. They returned to their run-in under the buttery at chore time running and leaping like Santa’s reindeer. The twin lambs are getting very long legs.
Because of all the rain I did not get down to collect early leaf buds from the Balm of Gilead trees. Today I picked young leaf clusters which are also highly aromatic. I stuffed a pint jar full of them and covered them with olive oil. This makes a useful rub for muscle or joint aches. What else it may be good for I cannot say but it smells lovely.
April 22, 2010 Thursday
Everyone rejoiced in a balmy spring day. It is so nice to see Jasmine and Bo pleasantly grazing together. Jasmine now grooms Bo. I saw her this morning washing his ears. Agnes spent some time today with them also but the twins were naughty and did not follow so Agnes had to turn back.
Marcia planted red onion sets. This is sort of an experiment. It will be exciting if we get a crop.
Besides working on my editing, I made a couple of loaves of Lemon Sour Cream Bread.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons.
April 23, 2010 Friday
It rained pretty much all day, light but steady. The cows and sheep were not deterred. It is charming to see all five of them grazing close to each other, Jasmine, Bo, Agnes and the twin lambs. The trees are about one third leafed out and appear as a green haze, very lovely.
I made a successful cheesecake using quark with added cream. I sprinkled the top with candied orange peel that Marcia made during the winter in Florida. She is able to pick oranges in her neighborhood where people don’t want them.
My vet stopped by for lunch and complimented the cheesecake. He also liked Tricia’s Fast Jack Cheese. It has now aged five days and has a more developed flavor.
DS Max detoured to the farm on his way home from a week working in Lowell, MA. He picked up 15 gallons of clabber for Sophie.
I made butter again today.
Jasmine gave well over 3 ½ gallons.
April 24, 2010 Saturday
Jasmine hit 4 gallons today. It’s all about grass. At the last three milkings I have had to call her in. Agnes was so satisfied tonight that she did not finish her grain. I will cut it back. I have been giving her about 2 lbs/day because she is producing so much milk and I can feel her backbone under the wool but I think now the grass will enable her to stop losing weight.
The barn swallows have come back. I am so pleased. They migrate a huge distance. I can’t imagine how they do it and then find their way back to my barn.
We said goodbye to DD Marcia’s daughter (my granddaughter) Abby Rose. Marcia drove her to Lewiston to join a friend tonight before flying tomorrow to NC.
April 25, 2010 Sunday
Jasmine gave 4 gallons again today, TAD milking. I think I will continue with TAD milking because Jasmine seems glad to make the milk and it doesn’t hurt me to make butter every other day even though I do get royally bored with it. Between Sophie the Sow and new inspiration to use the skim as a field dressing, I consider the milk an incredible gift of all the life forces.
Marcia continues to work hard in the veg garden. She bought a lot of plants and set them out today. For two winters she has attempted to suffocate a 3’ wide strip of garden next to the raspberry vines that was thick with comfrey. She has finally succeeded. We think we will put the tomatoes there.
The black currants are leafing out fast. Marcia cut them back drastically last year and fears that she may have cut the wrong wood. I saw some buds but it is too soon to be sure of the crop. The red currants look promising.
I made French sorrel soup for our lunch. It tasted of Spring.
Marcia and I and the dogs walked down to the river to look at the fallen pine. This is the huge tree that fell into the river and Sally roped it to the stump in hopes that instead of floating away it would hang around and slow erosion. The rope is still holding, mirabile dictu, and a little sandbar is forming at the distal end. This means that the bank is building rather than scouring.
April 26, 2010 Monday
When dishing up Jasmine’s breakfast from the nearly empty grain barrel, there was a mouse down there. I stuck my head out the barn door and called “Mouse!” to Willie, my expert mouser. He came running and I tipped down the barrel and he made a dive into it and the mouse disappeared. Usually he just kills the mouse but this one he ate.
DD Marcia spied where the barn swallows are making their nest. It is on top of a light fixture in the carriage house. I have opened a side window so that they can get in and out of the garage more easily. I am not sure how they have been getting in and out. Maybe they have to wait until I open the big sliding door in the morning.
With barn swallows back and spring peepers chorusing, the bugs had to make themselves available; Marcia reported a cloud of black flies around her head today while she worked in the garden.
Granddaughter Caiti, Marcia’s daughter, called to announce that she has sold another painting, her third in a week. She has them hanging in a restaurant. She does very fine paintings. She has a web site: www.caitilinboles.com
Jasmine gave 4 gallons.
April 28, 2010 Wednesday
The evil weather continues. Much of Maine is under a winter storm watch but it is not snowing here, just raining. It is not a very hard rain. Marcia went down and prepared more ground in the garden despite it. She is clearing out an area for artichokes.
I fixed us a nice hot lunch with braised lamb brisket or maybe it was breast of lamb. There was not much meat on it but it sure was tasty. Marcia brought steamed baby artichokes which she fried in garlic butter.
Jasmine was in roaring heat this evening. I thought this morning that it might be coming on. Her heats all winter were subdued and undemonstrative. I don’t plan to get her bred right away.
DD Sally has made reservations to visit again in the fall. That will be a treat. She loves picking apples. I hope it will be a good year.
April 29, 2010 Thursday
The weather today was pretty crazy. We had bright sun much of the day but a very high wind. Then for about 15 minutes the sky went black and we had a blizzard. Snow was whipping at my face.
Jasmine was all calmed down today but her production was down a bit. All the animals were orderly but toward evening they all came and huddled in the barn to escape the wind, even the lonely drake.
A bunch more hens have gone broody all at once up in the hay mow.
I made whole wheat flax seed date muffins today. They are remarkably good. I made them with 100% whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, dates, buttermilk and all the other standard muffin ingredients.
My sister in California who is only one year younger than I and about 5 ft tall tells me that she is contemplating driving out here this summer instead of taking the plane. What a gal.
DD Marcia had the young man, Josh, working for her up at camp so she did not come down until late afternoon. She made us a simple supper while I did the evening barn chores. Then we went to a meeting about wind power. While in principal I have long supported wind power, it is increasingly evident that wind farms are so heavily funded with Federal money (adding to the national debt) that the companies that put them in, in this case First Wind, have little risk. They just need to find a place with scanty population who will offer, as the company rep explained, “Less pushback”. A different entity than the company that owns the wind farm is responsible for putting in the power lines. So far no one has been able to tell us where these will go or whose property may be graced with high tension wires. The power itself is all for use in Massachusetts.
April 30, 2010 Friday
The sun shone again today but the wind blew even more violently than yesterday. I could scarcely get the barn doors open and shut. At times like these I compare myself to a sailor struggling with the sheets. It is amazing how much power is in even a little bit of wind. I think I remember from last night that only something like 8% gets captured.
While touring the premises I made the gloomy discovery that Josh whacked off another of my rose bushes. He must have used a chainsaw. It was an Explorer rose, John Franklin. I will give it half of the alfalfa tea I am preparing for Fantin Latour and follow on with whey. It had 6’ canes. How do you make a mistake like that?
Willie, my Westie, was very stinky yesterday. This morning Marcia gave him a bath. She is so good to do this and he is such a good sport about it. He just stands there as I have seen horses stand while she shampoos him all over using the flexible shower head. There is still one little smudge in the middle of his face where I guess Marcia did not like to spray him.
The fiddleheads are up and in fact nearly done. This always heralds asparagus season. The bed is neglected but still produces quite a lot.
Jasmine gave four gallons. She is now in perfect conditions and nice and shiny, having shed out nicely.
May 01, 2010 Saturday
May Day gave us perfect weather. We hope this presages a lovely month but of course May always is even when it rains.
Marcia and I went to Max and Mitra’s house for a fine hamburger lunch. DS Martin and DIL Amy joined us on their way home from a short holiday in Canada. They visited Ile d’Orleans which lies in the St. Lawrence River next to Quebec City. They stayed in a small but excellent inn where there is a great chef in residence. The food was incredible. Martin took many pictures of their meals. This is a pastoral island with many farms specializing in cheese. They brought a lot of samples which we nibbled before lunch. Roshan played her cello parts for us. She has excellent intonation.
Mitra participated in farmers’ markets both yesterday and today. The one yesterday got no business because the parking lot where it meets was packed with cars belonging to people who had come to see the Farmington Boobie Parade. The whole town was full of people. The organizers of the parade had expected 200 women demonstrating for equality with men in the right to go about topless but in the event, only 20 paraded. Since she had no customers, Mitra went up to see the parade. She was not much impressed. However, another farmer sold quite a few T shirts which on the front said Nice Rack and on the back said Of Lamb.
Today’s market was a newly started one that is meeting in a new location. Mitra was delighted with the way it went. She had fixed up her duck eggs in cute little bags that said Omelet Kit. In each bag she put two duck eggs and a bunch of chives and lovage and priced them at $4 each. Most people were unfamiliar with lovage and liked it. She sold out of everything.
Back home, Marcia ran around watering the garden and I played catch-up with my chores. Besides milking, I had to do a lot of skimming and made 2 pounds of butter from yesterday’s cream.
Jasmine gave 4 ¼ gallons today. I taped her at 760 lbs.
May 02, 2010 Sunday
We were blessed with another fine day. The first apple blossoms have opened two weeks earlier than usual. Nearly every one of the last five years we have had a storm while the apple trees were in bloom making it impossible for bees to work. Plus there were hardly any bees.
I made the alfalfa preparation as suggested by Ellie and today it began to look fermented. So I divided the bucket between my two whacked off roses.
Marcia carried on digging in the garden. The new bed she has prepared is 30’ long and 4’ wide. It used to be a tangle of unproductive wild raspberries.
I found my first spear of asparagus and put it into an omelet. I made 2 more pounds of butter.
May 03, 2010 Monday
Today I got my first mosquito bite.
The pastures are all velvety green. I think it is the most beautiful time of year. My apple trees and the wild apple trees in the woods are starting to bloom. There was some violent wind today but I doubt it damaged the blossoms too badly since they are so newly opened. My tulips and forget-me-nots are in bloom. I did not see the drake today.
This weekend will mark a year since my Australian grandson Tommy had his terrible accident which has left him largely paralyzed. He works very hard at rehab and has made some important gains but is still living all week in the rehab center. Last week DS John and Tommy’s brother Jack took him out in the kayaks. He now has the hand strength to hold the paddle. They had a fine time.
May 05, 2010 Wednesday
Jasmine gave 3 full gallons this morning. Then she came in at 5 o’clock with a full rumen and gave another 1 ½ gallons.
Marcia came early and worked all morning in the veg garden. I hope she took some pictures. She has greatly expanded and organized it. It is all raised beds and no weeds to be seen. She pointed out that there are honey bees working on the black currants. I did indeed see a few. They need to come over and work on the apple blossoms too, but some bumble bees were doing their best. I am much encouraged that we will get a crop. For the last several years besides seeing few bees, there were great rainstorms just when the trees were pollinating. DD Sally is planning a fall visit and hopes to pick apples. Sally called last night and told me about her mail order chicks. She ordered 28 and 7 died due to slow delivery and chilling. The post office used to be better about chicks in the old days. She also told me about her knee injury. The tendon in her knee slipped out of place, very painful. DS Max gave her good advice on wrapping and using cold packs.
Max came here all day and helped me with a long honey-do list including an important fence repair where a cherry tree fell several months ago. He also repositioned the mailbox yet again. Then he hurled himself at the awful job of getting my spring line running. It never ran after the occasion last fall when a moose fell into the well. It is a stone lined well about 10 feet deep and 4 feet inside diameter. The moose got stuck and died and a neighbor removed it with his skidder. Back flushing of the line using water pressure from a hose was of no use. Max had the very sound idea of using the compressor to clear the line. He had to haul the compressor, a huge thing with 2 wheels, way down in the woods to blow back the line. This did not open it up. Then he drove the compressor up on the mountainside where the spring is and climbed down in with the air hose and blew the line from where it leaves the spring. Again, air went nowhere and he got quite wet. It was all very discouraging. It is hard to know what to try next but it will probably involve digging.
May 06, 2010 Thursday
Very strange weather today. Marcia and I went to town to pick up my 6 turkey poults and on the way home a sudden spate of rain and violent wind struck a tree near the road. It fell on a power pole and smoke and flames billowed up along with electrical explosions. Marcia pulled over and called 911. When I got home my power was out, as I knew it would be. It was out about 6 hours. My computer was not damaged so far as I can tell. The power came on just in time for chores.
I had failed to mark “Turkey Day” on the calendar and did not expect them yet. I have them in a box on the Aga and am feeding them a mixture of chicken feed and buttermilk. It took them an hour or so to decide that it was food during which time they vigorously pecked the side of the box. By bed time they had eaten three saucers of this slop.
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons again today.
May 07, 2010 Friday
DD Marcia and I jumped in the car today and went to Farmington where we accomplished several important tasks. I had a couple of birthday gifts to buy and she picked up books she had ordered. We visited with DIL Mitra at the Friday farmers’ market. There was a violent wind that prevented Mitra and the others from setting up their awnings and probably blew away many of the customers. But the vendors were cheerful all the same. We then went and had a bowl of soup at the soup and sandwich place.
Back home all was well except that I was so far behind on my farm and milk related chores that it took me until 8:30 to catch up. Then I ate the half of my lunchtime soup which I had brought home in a carton. It was peanut and bean, not bad, but those healthy little restaurants are all so fat and salt phobic that in the privacy of my own kitchen I added not only salt but a goodly chunk of my homemade cream cheese greatly improving the soup.
The six poults appear to be doing ok on their diet of chicken mash fortified with clabber. One had appeared a bit wobbly at first but now they are uniformly perky. They are still in a box on the Aga. Tomorrow I will make them some scrambled eggs with chopped herbs.
DS John in Adelaide SA called and reported that Tommy, on the anniversary yesterday of his injury, took a driving test that Australia offers for those without use of their legs. The test is done in a modified vehicle. Tommy passed and is over the moon. By this writing he will be off with his mates, who have proved loyal these many months, enjoying a little cookout at his mother’s farm. His friends are going to help modify Tommy’s old Volvo so that he will be able to drive himself.
May 09, 2010 Sunday - Mother’s Day
March came back today to pay us another visit. It was between 30˚ and 40˚ all day with a strong wind and barely 5 minutes of sun.
When I came down this morning I found one of the poults dead with no good excuse that I could discover. It was one of the largest ones. I am doing everything I know to do in the way of chick care. Surely they are getting enough protein with all their clabber and enough calories with the chicken feed. I tried grinding up raw liver for them this evening in hopes of filling any possible nutritional gaps. They made a great mess of it without eating it. They said give us back our clabber and grain. I also gave them dirt in case they need grit and they have water.
I had a lovely Mother’s Day dinner at Kawanhee Inn together with DD Marcia and DS Max and DIL Mitra and granddaughters Shireen and Roshan. It is always such fun to go there. They have a good chef and it is a lovely old place on Lake Webb. We discovered that we had a secret host: DS Martin and DIL Amy were not able to be here in person but treated us all.
May 10, 2010 Monday
It was so cold and bleak today that Marcia had no heart for working in the garden. She stopped in after yoga and lunch with the group and we had tea. She helped me reorganize the poults. They now have a bigger box, a better feeding station and (Hurrah!) are off the Aga and onto the floor. They appear to be thriving. I expanded their diet with the addition of snipped up grass. They ate it right up.
It did not get above 40˚ today. I have stubbornly refused to turn on the furnace for the last month (It’s spring, dammit) so am dressed pretty much as I was all winter except for the long underwear. The kitchen is warm thanks to the Aga and little fireplace but the rest of the house is chilly, including my office. It’s 35˚ tonight.
I defrosted a round steak and slivered it up for teriyaki. This is a quick and easy thing to do with the round. I cut it into slivers while it is still half frozen and stir it up with chopped garlic, soy sauce, grated fresh ginger and toasted sesame oil. While still raw it is superior steak tartare. It needs only about one minute in a hot pan to be done. I gave half of it to Marcia to take home for her dinner and ate my share after evening chores. I accompanied it with a veg stirfy of asparagus, fiddleheads and onion buds. The sun came out for the last hour of the day and the wind died down so I visited the garden and picked the asparagus. The fiddlehead ferns come up all around my granite walls.
My apple trees smell lovely and are pretty but they have suffered terribly from the wind and cold. The lilacs are now opening. It is about two weeks early for both the apple blossoms and the lilacs. Perhaps the warm weather in March encouraged the trees. The grass is doing well enough. It is up 4 to 6 inches and the pastures are green velvet.
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons today.
May 11, 2010 Tuesday
Nancy came and finished the lawn mowing. She had to quit on Saturday due to rain. The place was starting to look pretty scruffy so I am grateful. Marcia and I piled in the car and went to Rumford on a few errands. Hannaford was offering lobsters at $2.50/lb “while they last”. We lined right up and bought two. We came home and had a delicious lobster lunch. Marcia then hurled herself into gardening. She put plastic milk jugs over her artichokes in case it freezes tonight as it did last night. Meanwhile I wrote a comment for a story in the Wall Street Journal about grassfed beef. Somebody named Mark Shackter has written a book. Their story contained an extraordinary number of errors of fact starting with illustrating a story about steers with a picture of a cow. Sorry to say I wasted about two hours trying to figure out how to post a comment. DS Martin has now offered to do it for me. Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons again. I have cut her grain down to a nibble in hopes of discouraging production. In spite of what I said last week, I don’t need this much milk and neither apparently does anyone else. I am making butter nearly every day, in fact am usually finishing it up about 8:30 in the evening.
May 12, 2010 Wednesday
Marcia and I moved the poults to the barn. I was hoping to get them out of the kitchen and she had the time so we set them up in a small stall in the barn with a nice buffet and a heat lamp. They hated it. It turned out the room had cracks and crevices through which they could wriggle out. We spent more than half an hour catching the little Houdinis and chinking holes. Fortunately they are very easy to catch. They don’t scuttle away like layer chicks. I believe they think I am their mom. Finally we decided they were properly imprisoned and Marcia went home. I went in to collect my things for milking. I returned to desperate peeping. They were all over the barn floor and in my milking room. I had no idea where they were getting out and could only catch them one at a time and keep stuffing cow towels into cracks. I have monaural hearing so can’t tell where peeps are coming from so had to wait for them to see me and present themselves. I was not even sure if I had caught them all. There are only 5 but I caught 7. They just kept seeping back out and Jasmine was growing impatient. One thing they absolutely were not doing and that was visiting their feed and water tray or availing themselves of the heat lamp. They were in dark corners. There is a viewing window and I could see 4 and finally nobody was peeping so I felt pretty sure #5 was there somewhere or else was gone for good so I declared victory and retreated. Back in the house I could not stop worrying. About 9 pm I went back out thinking that if they were still miserable I would box them up and bring them back into the kitchen. I crept to the viewing window and there they all were dining and warming themselves as though they had always lived there. Now I have a new worry. What if rats have moved in? I have not seen a mouse for several days. This is a bad sign. If any poults are missing in the morning I am sure it will be because of a rat. I really think I have chinked all the escape holes. Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons again today.
May 13, 2010 Thursday
The day again started cold, high 20’s, but the sun shone. There was a lot of wind. The poults were just fine this morning. They lie around under their heat lamp as though they were in a spa. They have figured out how to eat mash from their dispenser too. All the other animals are also in good shape, however I can’t find many eggs. There must be some big nests somewhere. I took Bo’s collar off today. It was looking a bit tight. For the last three days I have been giving him a nibble of grain and scratching his ears and twirling his collar. At first he would dance away but by this morning he was undistracted and I unbuckled his collar. He does not really need one. Bo is DS Max and DIL Mitra’s steer. Marcia reports having a pair of indigo buntings at her bird feeder. She said the male was an amazing blue. I had a pair of grosbeaks here. The male has a striking red bib. Marcia was here for a long time. She pressed the butter for me and did a lot of skimming and washing up before heading to the garden. Flea beetles are ravaging the members of the turnip family. So far nothing she has tried has helped. Today I suggested whey feeding (I am saving my skim for the Luick’s pig Sophie who is due to have piglets next week.) She gave everything a foliar feed but said the beetles hopped right back on. Nancy came again today and did a lot of garden work including digging. The power tools all have issues.
May 14, 2010 Friday
The day once again started cold, about 32˚, but was sunny and warmed to near 50˚. The poults continue to appear healthy on their diet of chicken layer mash and drained clabber and water offered separately. Sweet little Jasmine showed up at the barn right on time night and morning. She gave nearly 5 gallons today. Nancy came again and carried on with mowing and trimming. Things look a great deal better. I made a tamale pie today according to a recipe in one of the Cook’s Magazine cookbooks. I have been meaning to try it for months. DS Martin and DIL Amy and Hannah (4) and Henry (2) and Amy’s dad Ken, here from AZ, came up for the weekend at their camp so this was a good excuse. They like to stop in for a meal. According to Cook’s, the recipe was originally made by sheepherders in a Dutch oven with pheasant or quail as the meat. They had evolved it for modern convenience and I devolved it. It seemed to me just the dish in which to use a barnyard rooster. Thanks to DD Sally’s skills with the axe I had several in the freezer. I simmered one all last night in the Aga. Cook’s had also switched out salt pork in favor of bacon; I used salt pork. It was a huge success. I will have to rewrite the Cook’s recipe completely. The way they have it written makes it an all day effort. I will make it not only better but easier. Then I will put it into Heifer Diary. Hannah and Henry have amazing table manners. They quietly apply themselves to eating and never spill. Hannah joins in the conversation. Henry only speaks in order to ask for refills. Hannah gets tired and likes to have her daddy feed her towards the end of the meal. Before dinner all but Amy, who stayed in the kitchen to make salad and I who was in the barn milking my cow took a big walk around the pasture. Hannah picked a big bunch of lilacs. They also visited the garden and admired Marcia’s work.
May 15, 2010 Saturday
The weather today was a lot better, in the 50’s and mostly sunny. Marcia continued creating perfection in the veg garden. The peas are up nicely and the flea beetles seem a little less voracious. She has tried everything we can think of, neem, Safer’s, diatomaceous earth, Bt. My suggestion was to give them a foliar feeding with whey water to help them outgrow the infestation. Maybe something is working. Marcia rescued a tiny hummingbird that was caught in a cobweb in the buttery. This has happened before. DS Martin stopped in and fixed a few things including the overhead light in the room where the poults are. They seem fine. I am taking a chance on their getting along ok tonight without the heat lamp because I worry about it so much. They have a corner they cuddle in behind some mill felt. Now I am worried that a raccoon will break in their window. Tomorrow I will do something more effective about its screen. Martin reported some unknown scat near the barn. My grandson Rafe has had his motorcycle stored in various of our houses for the last several years, ever since he graduated from college in fact. It is a nice machine but gets ridden very little so he put it on Craig’s List. A nice couple showed up today and bought it. It is a Honda. Rafe lives in Alaska and is building a house and pigpen and has a nice girlfriend who is devoted to gardening so this leaves little time for earlier pursuits. He also sold his boat a month or so ago.
May 16, 2010 Sunday
The weather today was fine, clear and sunny and in the 60’s. Jasmine gave 4 ¾ gallons and all the animals appear happy. I blocked the window on the poults’ room with a board. Somebody will have to help me with cutting a hardware cloth screen. Marcia came down early this morning and gardened for awhile before returning to her house to work on dinner. We all convened around 2pm. Marcia fixed two of the Luick’s fine chickens in the clay bakers (Romertovs). She accompanied these with shell beans and brown rice cooked in chicken stock. She also made biscuits. We made the Indian spinach dish again. I brought a blueberry crisp that I was quite happy with. The lake was beautiful. Marcia has her long dock out and we enjoyed sitting out there before and after dinner.
May 18, 2010 Tuesday
Both yesterday and today we had excellent weather for gardening. The sun shone and a light wind blew away the bugs which are now starting. Donnie Houghton came today and did some work with the tractor. He brought a couple of bucket loads of well rotted manure down to the garden. He shifted the great tree trunks that broke off in March so that they don’t sit on the pasture. He removed the manure pile behind the barn. He did not clean out the beefer pen because it did not need it. DD Sally and Marcia pitched it out all winter so there is little accumulation. Marcia was here today to work in the garden for a couple of hours. I joined her for a while and dug over one of the few remaining weedy areas. All the animals are doing well. Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons. I am starting to see swallowtail butterflies and gold finches. There are also plenty of bumblebees.
May 19, 2010 Wednesday
It rained all day which made it a perfect day on which to do our errands. I dropped my car off with the mechanic on the way. The front right brake is acting funny. We went to Farmington and all the way, being the passenger, I was able to admire the spring glory of Maine. The lilacs are in full bloom everywhere and many people have azaleas and gardens with spring bulbs. But finest of all is the countryside with is rolling hills, lush pastures and newly leafed out trees in every shade of green. There is an intensity to spring and summer in places like Maine with a short growing season. I love the tropical beauty of Hawaii but having little in the way of seasons there is never quite the same exuberance one sees after a hard winter. On the way home we stopped at a perennial nursery which we had not visited before. Her prices were very good and we loaded the car with lilies, hostas, Oriental poppies, coral bells etc etc. What fun! Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons.
May 20, 2010 Thursday
Perfect gardening weather prevailed all day. Nancy H. mowed the lawn again. Randy Sereno put up a picket fence across the front of the alcove formed by the house and carriage house. This it to defend flowers against dogs. The fence and garden are DD Marcia’s Mother’s Day gift to me. The area has looked neglected for some time now. Bagel is obsessed with digging holes there. He made one recently that was so deep only his head and shoulders were showing when he lay down. Marcia was not amused. She spent most of today in the veg garden. Yesterday she bought a dozen asparagus roots and this morning she dug a 24 foot trench for them parallel with the raspberry vines. When I expressed amazement at her accomplishment she insisted that digging in my garden soil is like cutting chocolate cake. The asparagus is going into an area from which she recently removed comfrey. Comfrey is an invasive plant but among its fine traits is that it builds soil amazingly. I had to laugh at a TV segment I saw tonight where the man was demonstrating making his money sparing veg garden with bags of compost from the garden center and some fluffy stuff, peat moss maybe. I can’t see how home grown vegetables will be a saving if you buy the soil in bags. It made me feel more fortunate than I already do. He was making his raised beds with lumber. I tried that for a few years but now just make the beds by raising up the soil by digging and adding manure. Most of our beds have a bit of a dike around the edge. When I used boards they just made hiding places for slugs and earwigs.
I made pumpkin soup for our lunch which made a hit with Marcia.
May 21, 2010 Friday
I ran around like crazy this morning to get everybody fed and watered and the cow milked. Four more hens hatched chicks in the last 24 hours. I gave them each saucers of clabber to get their families started. Clabber is both food and water and has an important probiotic function. One needs to set the saucer far enough away from the hen so that she has to move to get it, otherwise she will not necessarily bring her chick forward to eat. Three of the hens were in such tight spots that I had to put the saucer right under their necks so I pulled out the chicks and dipped their beaks. The black and white speckled bantam has 2 chicks. One is much bigger than the other and has striking black and white markings like an orca. Marcia and I raced back to the plant nursery. She has reserved some poppies. Of course I bought more plants. I can’t even remember what they all were but they were all tall low maintenance sun lovers.
The MOFGA quarterly paper has published an article of mine entitled “Why we need cows and should not be worrying about their carbon footprint or methane contribution”. It is in the mail and on newsstands now. I expect it will also be on the web site.
Here is the tamale pie recipe I promised:
Tamale Pie, Sheepherder Style
This recipe appeared in a Cook’s Illustrated cookbook called Best Lost Dinners but I have made important changes. The contributor said that her grandfather, a western sheepherder, made a version on the trail. It was printed using modern ingredients (store bought chicken and oil) rather than the original wild game birds and pork fat. I have restored the pork fat. Instead of wild game I made good use of a barnyard rooster which proved to be a splendid substitute. Note that the recipe contains no cheese. If you have home canned tomato products, these are preferable. The ingredient list may look daunting but the ingredients are ones most of us have on hand. And consider: it will serve a lot of people cheaply and is delicious. Most dishes meeting these criteria do substitute effort for money and this is no exception.
What you are doing is making a filling using chicken and sandwiching it between two layers of cornmeal mush. A sauce is passed separately. Little do I know about Mexican food, but I am told that it has an authentic flavor.
Filling ingredients: 1 whole chicken Salt and pepper Chili powder ¼ cup lard for frying 8 slices of best quality bacon or ¼ lb salt pork or another ¼ cup of lard 1 onion 2 cloves of garlic 2 14 ½ oz cans chopped tomatoes or home canned if you have any 1 14 ½ oz can of creamed corn or home canned or frozen 1 6 oz can pitted black olives, drained and chopped
Cornmeal layer 1 cup milk 3 large eggs 2 cups yellow cornmeal 2 cups chicken stock from cooking the chicken
Sauce: 3 tablespoons flour 1 tablespoon chili powder 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa 1 ½ cups rich chicken stock (from cooking chicken) 1 8 oz can tomato sauce Salt and pepper Chopped coriander
Cut up a barnyard rooster and brown it in the oven for a half hour until it begins to look toasty. Then put it into a pot with a quart or so of stock (or water) and a big handful of herbs and some salt and pepper and simmer it for however long it takes to get it fork tender. I left mine all night in the Aga simmer oven. Drain it, reserving the stock, and debone and shred the meat.
For the filling: In a large frying pan sauté 8 oz of salt pork (deeply scored) or high quality bacon (cut up) or heat ¼ cup of lard. Add a minced onion and several minced cloves of garlic and sauté for a few minutes along with a couple of tablespoons of chili powder. Add 2 large cans of diced tomatoes, drained, and one large can of creamed corn (I used home frozen sweet corn). Add 1 four ounce can of pitted ripe olives, chopped. Add the shredded chicken. Set this filling aside.
Get ready a heavy Dutch oven that holds 6 qt if you have one. Grease it well. If no Dutch oven use a stock pot of convenient size
Mix together: In a bowl, beat up 3 large eggs. Add 1 cup of milk. Add 2 cups of yellow corn meal. Bring 2 cups of rich stock to a boil. Add salt if you think it might need it and reduce heat to a simmer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the cornmeal mixture using a circular motion until smooth. Now work fast before the cornmeal sets up. Immediately pour half of this mixture into your Dutch oven, spread on your chicken mixture, and pour on the other half of the cornmeal mixture, spreading it out into a smooth layer. Put the lid on the Dutch oven.
Set the Dutch oven into a larger pan in the oven and pour boiling water into the outer pan. Bake until the cornmeal is firm and lightly browned, 1 ½ to 2 hours. (Oven temp was not given but I’d say 250˚.) I cooked mine in a Visions (glass) pot with no water bath at 250˚ and it turned out perfectly in the Aga and I think cast iron would behave as well. But I think if you are using stainless steel or any other metal the water bath would be important.
While it bakes, make the sauce: In a heavy skillet, heat the flour until light golden brown, stirring constantly. Stir in the chili powder, cumin and coriander, stir until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the chicken broth and tomato sauce and cocoa, bring to a simmer, correct seasoning and keep warm.
I have only made this recipe once and it was well received. The original recipe was one of the most badly written I have even encountered which made it tricky to revise and write out. I will appreciate comments or corrections. The original did not call for cocoa.
May 23, 2010 Sunday
On Saturday Jasmine was in roaring heat. In the morning she was reluctant to come in for milking. In the evening she ignored my calls, something ordinarily she would never do. So I skipped the evening milking. This morning she gave 3 ½ gallons. Both yesterday morning and again this morning she came in dirty. She required a lot of towels and I had to tie back her tail with hay string to avoid getting whapped. Tonight she still had some dried on manure but not too bad. Yesterday and today were both beautiful. Marcia set out a lot of new plants. In fact, yesterday we went to a local nursery and bought some annuals. Today Marcia planted an annual bed in front of the Dutchman’s pipe vine. It used to cover the front of the old carriage house but was badly damaged in the demolition. Last year it started to come back and Marcia has put up some wire to support it but there is still a big bare spot in front of it. Last year I planted a handsome stand of 4 ft. tall nicotiana there but could not find plants this year. Marcia has put in zinnias and snap dragons. There was no company this weekend so Marcia and I decided to have steaks at her house as neither of us had had one from last fall’s steer. I made this decision in the nick of time. It took me 20 minutes of rooting in the freezer to find a package and when I finally did it was a package from ’08. She did a good job of cooking it. We had artichokes as a side dish and sat out on her porch and viewed the lake. Many summer visitors have returned but I saw only one boat. It was a party boat owned by DS Martin and DIL Amy’s neighbor. We saw ducks and heard loons. We ate during the afternoon so I could get back for milking and feeding all my hens and chick families. Two bantam hens and two “rafter bird” hens have hatched 3 chicks each.
May 24, 2010 Monday
I find that there are actually 4 bantam hens with chicks. They are coming out of the woodwork. I counted 12 chicks. I put a cookie sheet on the floor with feed at one end and clabber at the other end and a water dispenser and it all seems to be working out. It’s pretty lively in there. There are two more hens with chicks up on the hay floor and I also have them set up with a buffet. Max reported this morning that at last Sophie began having piglets at 2am and kept on until 5am. He sent pictures but no more news. He had to travel to PA today for his job. Poor Mitra! Last I heard there were 8 piglets. Nine were born but one got layed on. Another was wobbly. Marcia came by today after yoga and worked in the garden for hours. It was very hot, certainly over 70˚ but I forgot to look at the thermometer.
May 25, 2010 Tuesday
I went with Marcia to her dental appointment this morning. I had to get up at 5 to get everything done in time. As it was, I skipped barn clean up in the beefer pen and paid dearly at milking time tonight. Filthy cow! It was well into the 80’s today so they hung out in there. After Marcia’s appointment we stopped in to take milk and cream to Hilda Heinrich and pay a brief visit. She fell 10 days ago and was bed ridden for a week but now can get around with a walker. She’s a fighter. She is 92. Apparently she did not break anything. She collapsed because she lost sensation in her legs so far as I could understand. She was born in Poland and always drank raw milk. She was so pleased a few years ago to find my raw milk. She thought she would never taste such milk again. After I gave Helen to Max and Mitra 2 years ago she began getting it from them but today she had Jasmine’s milk and cream. Next we visited Mitra and took her 2 gallons of milk (Nellie is dry) and 10 gallons of clabber. Of course we paid a visit to Sophie who was in her wallow. Mitra sprayed her with the hose to help cool her off. The piglets were inside her shelter but we could see them despite a dainty white sheet that Mitra has nailed over the entrance as a curtain. After awhile Sophie heaved herself to her feet and hauled herself out where the piglets could reach her. They are still less than 48 hours old and extremely vulnerable. The one that kept Roshan and Mitra up most of last night was still alive today and actually rather perky and friendly but can’t walk properly. Mitra put it on Craigslist as a freebie and some folks were there to pick it up when we arrived. The man was highly experienced with pigs, he said. There was a lot to do when I got home including making butter. Marcia ran around watering everything in the veg garden while I watered the things in pots.
May 26, 2010 Wednesday
It was another hot day. I made butter early this morning but already it was so hot that the butter was all squishy. It tasted great. In fact the buttermilk lately is outstandingly good. But the butter wants to be mayonnaise. Nancy Hutchinson worked here again today. She has done the edging and is now trying to restore one of my perennial borders, the one along the south wall. Marcia worked a long time in the veg garden. She put in the pole beans. I can’t brag about my productivity at all. After my animal related tasks which add up to 4 or 5 hours a day I felt totally wilted. We learned today that DD Abby will be coming here in a couple of days. She will stay in DD Sally’s little house overlooking the river. Mitra said that Sophie was practically comatose this morning. She had to put food and water into her mouth. We were all very worried. Tonight Sophie has perked up, I am glad to report. But another one of the piglets that has been looking feeble seems likely to die by morning. That will leave six.
May 27, 2010 Thursday
The weather today was superb, sunny but not swelteringly hot like the last two days. Marcia came for a little while and did some watering before proceeding on a little trip to visit her horse, Peter. I set out a few plants. My chief exercise was chasing, and finally capturing, several tiny bantam chicks that escaped from the grain room through a crack in the door. It is amazing how fast those wee things can scoot.
Nancy H was here again today helping with the borders. She discovered my rose, Fantin Latour, which a helper whacked off a few weeks ago. It was in the middle of a clump of grass and has put up four healthy new shoots of nearly 12 inches each. I had poured a gallon of whey on the spot where I thought it had been.
DD Abby has aborted her trip to Maine. I will quote from the email she sent (Sorry Abby, but you knew I was a writer when you sent your wonderful letter). She has been staying with her daughter Helena and SIL Ryan in Carlisle PA.
“After packing in the sweltering 90 degree heat all morning I finally hit the road at around 1 o’clock. (No AC in the car, of course.) Got about 20 minutes away and a terrible, scary "CLUNK" occurred-- I pulled over but the car seemed to be okay, so I got back on the highway-- then another 3 miles on, it went CLUNK again, and-- no gas. I was so relieved it hadn't happened in another 4 miles I was practically laughing. If it had, it would have been infinitely worse as I would have either been on the terrible bridge crossing into Harrisburg (under construction and with no pullover lanes and obliterated lines), OR the highway just before and after the bridge. At least on the South side of the river here in Cumberland County there is wild country alongside, and big wide pull-over lanes.
A weirdo stopped to see if he could help. He was driving a van and had two cats, going between Alabama and Binghamton. About my age-- a superannuated, washed-up hippie... long, frizzy, hair with a bandanna around it... utterly wasted, caved-in, skinny body, rags for clothes.. beads around his neck... unstoppable talk. But the weirdest things were his sunglasses, like children wear-- perfectly round circles & bright neon green. Still, he was the only person to stop so I considered whether he was an angel or not-- but he was actually pretty ignorant about cars and he didn't really give off the oft-described sense of being perfectly trustworthy and calm-- and he wanted me to call him if I was ever in Binghamton-- so I had to abandon the hope, albeit reluctantly. ...If I said anything at all, he could take off on it with long flights of fancy about something from his life. So funny. I finally said he ought to look after his cats (it was extremely hot & I doubted he had AC either)
So Ryan came out and popped in a new fuse for the fuel injection system and it fired up, and we drove home! Amazing.”
Back at home she gave Ryan $100 to take Helena out for dinner. It was their anniversary and she happily babysat.
We will hope for a visit from her after her car has regained her confidence.
May 28, 2010 Friday
Another day of really fine weather. This morning in the barn I discovered that one of the chicks from upstairs had fallen down and was racing about peeping in consternation. It was way too fast for me to catch. A black hen with three chicks was cruising around the barn but neither she nor the chick showed any inclination to get acquainted. This story has a happy ending. After lunch when I checked again the black hen had four chicks and there was no more desperate peeping.
At morning milking time I saw that same black hen defeat Jasmine. I had accidentally left the pan of chicken feed in the aisle where Jasmine could see it so of course she made for it. The black hen and her chicks were next to the pan and when Jasmine put her face down that hen went for her like a helicopter. She flapped and squawked in her face so that Jasmine could not even see. Jasmine did not think this was the least bit funny but I thought it was hilarious. Jasmine walked off in disgust. She appeared to be thinking “Oh all right, if you’re going to be like that, I don’t want your nasty old grain anyway.”
My vet stopped in for lunch. DS Martin arrived at the same time. I gave them vegetable soup made from a collection of leafy things I grabbed out of the garden. Martin retilled the paddock garden patch to knock back the weeds. I have all the seed but have not yet found the time or summoned the energy to plant it.
DIL Amy and her kids and dad came along later. I made another pot of soup for the family to take up to camp for their supper. Martin did the evening milking for me.
May 29, 2010 Saturday
I went on an expedition with DIL Amy and her dad, Ken, to buy seedlings from “The tomato lady”, Amy LeBlanc. We go every year. She has many heirloom varieties. The weather continues fine. We passed many fields of new mown hay.
DS Martin came over again and did the evening milking which was a nice break for me. The paddock looks great now that he tilled, very inviting for planting.
I baked a chocolate sour cream cake for Amy’s birthday dinner tomorrow at Marcia’s camp.
May 30, 2010 Sunday
Marcia raced over this morning to do some watering before going home to work on dinner. I had beans baking over last night and this morning made a pureed pumpkin dish and pumpkin chutney. The idea for pumpkin chutney came from the Isle d’Orleans cookbook Martin and Amy gave me recently. I used the giant pumpkin I have been saving all winter which in Australia is called Queensland Blue but here is called Jarrahdale, I think. I started out by making a sugar and water syrup boiled with chopped raw ginger. I poured this over cubed pumpkin and baked it in a big flat pan until tender so as not to mash up the cubes. Separately I boiled a mixture of juice drained off of the pureed pumpkin, apple cider vinegar, salt and chili flakes, garlic, and a cup full of golden raisins (sultanas). Then I poured this over the baked pumpkin cubes. It was tasty.
Marcia roasted a fresh ham from Max and Mitra and she made biscuits. Dessert was home made ice cream on my fudge cake topped with chocolate sauce which Marcia also made.
We were joined at dinner by Mitra and the girls, Shireen and Roshan, and Mitra’s mom and dad, Marie and Alex. It was a joy to see them all looking so well. Of course Martin and Amy and their kids and Amy’s dad, Ken, were all with us, it being Amy’s birthday. Ken discovered that the nice guy in the next camp to Martin’s was in the navy and stationed in Alameda CA at the same time as Ken but they did not meet until now.
We ate on the porch overlooking the lake. It got a bit windy which was fortuitous as it blew away the black flies and mosquitos.
May 31, 2010 Monday, Memorial Day
This has been a busy day. Marcia came down and we went together to the cemetery in Dixfield where my grandparents are buried. I have always taken lilacs but everything has been so early this year that the lilacs are pretty well over. I took Japanese iris instead. Grammie was particularly fond of iris.
Next I joined Dot Mason and her friend Anna and we rode in the antique car in the Memorial Day parade in Weld. Steve Brown drove. He understands the car very well and it did not stall once. The parade and celebration are very small. There were probably 200 onlookers (including DIL Amy) and not much in the parade but a few decorated tractors, a couple of little girls on scooters, The Old Crow Marching Band on a flatbed and ourselves waving our flags. There were the usual speeches and invocations, Pledge of Allegiance, and taps played by the same pair as last year. I fear they had not practiced since then. After the parade we stopped at the ice cream shop in Carthage, Anjul’s Heavenly Sundaes, and then Steve drove us on a little tour of Carthage. Between them, Steve and Dot knew the occupants of every house.
Marcia stayed home and worked like mad on the new flower garden she is making for me. She set out plants and laid a section of brick by the gate to the picket fence. It is just darling.
The sky all day was very overcast and reddish due to smoke coming down from wildfires in Quebec. You can definitely smell the smoke.
Jasmine gave her usual 4 ½ gallons.
June 01, 2010 Tuesday
Much needed rain fell for a while today, long enough to make it unnecessary to water.
I had an unexpected visit today from Ann Jencks, descendant of the people who built this farm in 1820, Julia and Oliver Newman. She stopped in with her friend Russell Field and we had a nice little visit. She is going to have a copy made for me of an early photo of the farm.
Jasmine gave 4 ¾ gallons. I made butter again today.
The rain stopped at sundown and the world was bathed in soft mist as the light faded.
June 02, 2010 Wednesday
Marcia got all the tomatoes in and I planted squash in the paddock garden. I did not quite finish the row which is about 300 ft. Nancy Hutchinson mowed the lawn.
Jasmine gave 5 gallons today. What a little cow.
June 03, 2010 Thursday
It rained most of today. The farm needed it.
Marcia and I loaded up her car with 15 gallons of clabber for Mitra. Then I ran down to the cellar to get a duck out of the freezer for tomorrow night because DS Mark is coming and we also expect DD Abby. Horrors! The upright freezer had quit, obviously several days ago. The packages in the door shelves, mostly liver, were bleeding down. What a shocking mess. Terribly upsetting. Doctor Bret, the excerpt, says it’s ok to refreeze meat under these circumstances, and we did. Not everything was melted, thank goodness, but a lot was. Fortunately there was room in the other two freezers so we boxed it all up and transferred it over. I tried not to let it ruin my day but for some reason the thrift store and 2nd hand book store, Twice Sold Tales, couldn’t get my full attention and I didn’t buy anything except four old pie pans which I needed for serving clabber to my poultry.
On a more cheerful note, my article, “Why we need cows and should not worry about their carbon footprint or methane contribution” which appeared in the summer edition of the MOFGA paper (Maine Organic gardener’s and Farmer’s Association) is now available online: http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Summer2010/Cows/tabid/1614/Default.aspx
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons today.
June 04, 2010 Friday
We had beautiful weather today, perfect for gardening. There was just enough moisture left in the soil to make planting easy. I finished the row of squash and cucumber, 28 hills in all. I hope tomorrow to be able to plant potatoes.
DS Mark surprised us with a visit (Annie had to stay at the hospital all night). And DD Abby arrived from PA. She was driving a U-Haul truck with all her possessions and towing her Volvo. She was utterly shattered. She had no previous experience with towing and very little with driving a truck and it was pretty awful. But I roasted a crispy duck and we all convened for dinner at Marcia’s place on the lake. Abby is Marcia’s twin sister.
Mark’s daughter Hailey, my granddaughter, has been elected president of her senior class in high school.
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons today.
June 05, 2010 Saturday
We had electrical storms and rain off and on all day. Marcia worked in the garden, ignoring the weather. Thanks to her, I think we are going to have a great lot of vegetables. I marked out the row for planting my potatoes in the paddock garden. I made a sour cream chocolate sheet cake to take to a pot luck tomorrow. The occasion is the recital for Laurie Kennedy’s string students of which granddaughter Roshan Luick is one.
DD Abby unloaded her U-Haul into DD Sally’s little house across the river.
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons.
June 06, 2010 Sunday
It rained pretty much without ceasing today, steady but not hard. This did not seem to slow down the cows or sheep. The small white hen with chicks in the hay mow moved off her nest today. When I went up about 7am to encourage her to move she and her family had already eaten their clabber and moved several feet away. I gave her a pile of feed and removed 4 unhatched eggs. I think she has 10 chicks.
Marcia and Abby picked me up at 12:30 and we went to the recital, taking along my sour cream chocolate cake with fudgy chocolate icing. We joined about 40 other friends and family of students including Max and Mitra, Shireen, and Mitra’s parents Marie and Alex who are visiting from Oakland, CA. There were about 10 students, some with limited training and a couple who were very advanced. The quartet was last on the program. These kids (3 girls and one boy) had probably been playing about a year before joining the quartet, which was formed about 3 months ago. When Roshan joined she was less advanced, just about at the “Row row, row, your boat” level. She has worked hard and progressed amazingly so that she was the solid foundation of the quartet. She did not falter in intonation or meter. I will hope for a picture.
Jasmine gave 4 ½ gallons today.
June 08, 2010 Tuesday
DD Marcia went to visit her friend Arlene for a couple of days. Abby came down and helped me all day. Together we planted the rest of the row of potatoes. I put in only one 300 ft row since I have had such bad luck with them the last two years.
We went over to Sally’s little house to see how George Brown is coming with rebuilding the back porch, which was seriously rotten.
Two pieces of roofing blew off Sally’s house recently. One was in the river. Abby went down the bank and pulled it out and up, a hard job on a bank that is nearly vertical.
I fixed us a nice piece of chicken fried flank steak for dinner. Abby served it with mashed potatoes and beets.
It is getting late but I am getting hungry for home made bread so I just ground some flour and put it to soak for tomorrow morning.
June 10, 2010 Thursday
It rained all day which saved Abby and me from a lot of watering. Marcia usually does most of it but she has been away. She got back around 4 o’clock. She was visiting an old friend who lives at the northern edge of Maine at Mars Hill. Her friend is an ob/gyn, now semi retired but she continues to serve the Amish community near her, where she is much loved. Marcia had the opportunity to visit the community and was impressed with the cheerfulness of the folks and the quality of their food.
DD Abby injured her back day before yesterday while lifting a carboy full of drinking water for the farm. (My spring is still not running.) She is in quite a lot of pain. However she made a nice dinner for Marcia and me, meatloaf, corn, pasta and fresh spinach. I brought along the spinach from the garden. Very tasty indeed. I was also able to bring strawberries thanks to Max. He came by today to bring feed and pick up clabber. He took the time to attempt a back-flush of the line to the spring in the faint hope that the line might have opened up and merely be suffering from an air lock. No such luck. He drove up to see if any water was coming through the line but there was nary a gurgle.
June 11, 2010 Friday
The big thing today was that DD Marcia and I went over to Max and Mitra’s and picked up Helen. She loaded smoothly as though she knew she was going back to the farm and once back, she merged smoothly with Jasmine and Bo (M&M’s steer). Actually, I saw none of this because Marcia and I were both starving so when we got home, according to previous agreement, I went straight to the kitchen and made melted cheese sandwiches while Marcia and Max, who had followed us over, did the cattle wrangling. DD Abby had made a big batch of chocolate cookies with chocolate chips and nuts and we lost no time in snapping down a couple of these. Helen is about 3 years out from her last calving but is still producing ¾ gallon of milk OAD so Max got her in and milked her. Abby has volunteered to milk her at least for the present. Helen’s fate is unclear. Doc Cooper says she has cysts. He gave her a hormone shot a few months ago following which she came into heat and was bred but she did not settle. Anyway, Max and Mitra do not envision her as hamburger, ever. She can eat grass here until freeze-up. Then we will figure out what to do next.
DS Martin and DIL Amy and her dad Ken and the kids stopped in on their way to camp. Martin and Amy had reservations at Kawanhee Inn, where they were married; today is their 5th anniversary. Now they have Hannah, 4 and Henry, 2, a pair of beautiful and cheerful raw milk-fed children, just what I wish for all children.
Jasmine gave 4 ¾ gallons.
Marcia had a great visit up in Aroostook County, Maine’s most northerly county, and took a lot of pictures of an Amish farm. One of the daughters works for Marcia’s friend Arlene. She arrives for work in a horse and buggy. Arlene is a horsewoman and has good barn facilities for the horse. Marcia got a ride in the buggy.
Photos and notes from Marcia:
Two of the Yoder boys (Amish). Notice that their backs are turned. They do not let pictures be taken of them showing their faces though apparently if you are at a distance there is not a problem. When we were leaving I looked back and I saw one of the boys backing the horses. He couldn't have been much more then ten.
18#s of butter. Mrs. Yoder was very happy that I wanted to take a picture.
This is the clothes washing setup. The first day we came Mrs. Yoder was washing lots of dresses. The second day was socks day. All of the items were hung out back on the line and was lovely to see.
Horses lined up in the barn. You can see horses being harnessed up to go out and work in the fields.
A group of heifers that are a cross between Jersey and I expect Holstein since there were lots of those around in the fields.
The milking parlor
The milk room
The ice room where the milk is kept cold until it goes to the brand new milk station down the road where all the local people bring their milk in the horse drawn wagons to be picked up by the processor in southern Maine. There was great excitement that they had this addition to their lives. The first day was on the Wednesday I was there.
Horses waiting to go out to the fields with the haying equipment. The horses would stand for ages patiently waiting to be taken off to do their work.
This was an amazing experience to visit these families. They were all so sweet and cheerful and happy with their lives. Kids appeared from everywhere to come say hello, shake my hand and welcome me. They were genuinely curious and friendly. When I asked them if I could take pictures to give to you to include in the Heifer Diary they were thrilled! The Amish are new to the area having only just started their community a few years ago. They are well liked. What is not to like? They are friendly and extremely hard working. They work at many of the homes and farms in the area repairing and building all sorts of things. There is nothing that they can't do, it seems.
June 12, 2010 Saturday
This was a fine early summer day, clear but not too hot. Marcia worked in the veg garden a long time. One thing she did was to spread ashes in the bean rows to discourage slugs. They won’t crawl on ashes. They have already done considerable damage. The radishes are getting plump and the peas are blooming. In fact everything looks wonderful. Abby helped me with getting the corn planted. Martin and Hannah arrived too and helped plant. I only planted about half as much as last year. The two varieties are Sumptuous and Tuxedo. Many of my squash and cucumbers are now up.
June 13, 2010 Sunday
At 7am I took a tour of the vegetable garden. It was magical with heavy dew and early sun. The rows of vegetable are all promising and there are many flowers. The violas, the first flowers that were already starting to bloom under the snow, have now many innumerable bushy clumps and Marcia has moved them to the ends of the rows. In the center of the garden around my quince bush is a large dense bed of poppies in shades of pink and white.
DDs Marcia and Abby both came down this morning and did useful things around the farm despite a family dinner planned for 2pm at Marcia’s camp. I kept myself busy making a braised vegetable dish featuring the last of the stored parsnips. I also made another sour cream chocolate cake. This time I really got it right which was gratifying because I planned to serve it without frosting. This cake is super easy and I like the fact that it takes 2 cups of heavy sour cream, a commodity currently in good supply.
Dinner was grilled chicken from Max and Mitra, a huge salad that Abby made, and creamed potatoes which Abby also made and crusty French bread brought from Portland by DIL Amy. And my braised parsnips. Everything was eaten. Little Henry asked for seconds on the creamed potatoes. We served the cake with strawberries and vanilla ice cream that Marcia made.
Mitra’s parents, Marie and Alex, return to Oakland on Tuesday and are taking Shireen and Roshan along for a visit.
After our big dinner at camp, Max came down and helped me with chores. He milked Helen. She has a bit of mastitis in her right front quarter. I put peppermint lotion on it and gave her a big feed of comfrey. She remembered where her stanchion was and was fully cooperative.
June 14, 2010 Monday
The day was misty moisty so little watering was needed. DD’s Abby and Marcia arranged hoses to the paddock garden and Abby watered the squashes and cucumbers and probably most everything else. She reports that presoaking the corn seed was effective in speeding sprouting. We planted on Saturday. She dug up some seeds and found sprouts already.
I brought Jasmine and Helen both in for evening milking. I milked Helen second, by hand. She is not adapted to the machine. I milked her front right quarter separately and strained it separately. There was nothing detectable on the strainer but it tastes salty and a bit “off”. The milk from the other three quarters was fine. I got a something over two quarts from them and could have gotten more but I was getting tired and she was restless. I think her feet hurt.
June 16, 2010 Wednesday
Jasmine and Helen are getting along fine. Helen’s behavior is not aggressive and Jasmine seems somewhat indifferent. All three, including Bo, the steer, stay fairly close to each other when gazing and the sheep stay close also. I continue to bring the sheep in at night due to fear of dogs and coyotes.
Marcia arranged to have a fine new chicken run built for me. The old one was an embarrassment and the man came and tore it down a couple of weeks ago. The new one has very high sides and I doubt the chickens can fly out but a hawk could get in. I may need netting over the top. Marcia and Abby moved my 5 turkeys into the new pen. This means they can be outside when they wish. Turkeys are sweet natured and charming and make a pretty gurgling noise. They probably now weigh about 4 lb each. I have been feeding them wild bird feed, clabber, leafy weeds and table scraps
Marcia worked in the veg garden today for over three hours. Abby worked at least that long out in the paddock garden.
Marcia caught the sheep grazing under and ignoring the electric fence which we have set up as extra fencing outside of the stock wire fence around the veg garden. The fence is active but they are too well insulated I guess. It may be set too high. Electric fence works best when strung at nose level of the target species.
I made rice pudding which was a big hit and is now mostly gone.
Yesterday I made a big pan of yogurt, about a gallon. Today after skimming and saving the sour cream layer off the top I drained out a lot of the whey so that the yogurt is thickened and more like the consistency of Greek yogurt. I have an efficient way of doing this. I line a colander with a large linen napkin or tea towel so that the fabric drapes all the way down the outside. I set this into an outer dish such as a deep pie plate, tucking the cloth underneath, and put the yogurt into the colander. The fabric must be first wrung out in hot water. With the fabric draped down into the pie plate the whey is quickly led away by capillarity (or do I mean osmosis?) plus it also drips out the bottom of the colander. I have to watch it and pour off the whey often or it will overflow. It took only about an hour and a half to drain the yogurt this way, which is faster than hanging it in a bag or draining it in a colander lined with paper towels.
I milked both cows again this evening. Helen gave about ¾ gallon or a little less from three quarters. I milked the right front onto the shavings although I’d say the flavor is a little better.
Jasmine gave her usual 4 ½ gallons today
Tomorrow Marcia is going back to New Hampshire where she will see Peter and attend a horse show. Peter will not be in it. One of his feet is bruised. Marcia will assist a friend who is entered and also visit her friend Judy who is mortally ill with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
It is raining and so once again I have no network connectivity.
June 17, 2010 Thursday
Rain continued through the night but later today the world turned especially lovely. DD Marcia left for NH to a horse show and visit with her friends. DD Abby and I made a brief sortie into town for chicken feed and paint. I want to paint my white bulkhead to match the pinkish bricky color of the carriage house. Abby wants to paint the interior window frames in DD Sally’s house where she will soon move. They are to be a soft green to coordinate with the enamel on the old wood cook stove. She is having trouble deciding on a shade and ended up bringing home more paint chips.
While I did evening barn chores Abby planted carrots and beets in the paddock garden. If all these things grow there will be little need for store bought vegetables this winter.
Helen was the same this evening as yesterday. She is very cooperative. Once again I milked one quarter onto the floor. Jasmine gave her customary 4 ½ gallons today. For the first time the turkeys now have roosts available. One of them roosted quite high up; the other four huddled on a roost 1 ft off the floor.
I finished the book I was reading, Fruitless Fall by Rowan Jacobsen, an immensely important book about bees and other pollinators. Bees are dying and we are not going to like it when they are gone. The book is exceptionally well researched and full of wit and wisdom along with the bad news. Now I have started The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Kieth. After only an hour’s reading I can say it’s a heavy hitter. She makes many of the same points about vegetarianism that I made in Real Food. Maybe she read my book. I see that it is endorsed by Sally Fallon.
June 18, 2010 Friday
This was probably the most perfect day of the year for weather. I was extra busy because I decided to make a cheese. I started a teleme. Abby came down and worked in the garden. The corn is up and we were shocked at how many greedy crows showed up. Maybe tomorrow Abby can make a scarecrow. I hope they don’t eat it all. Abby also found potato bugs on the emerging potatoes. She killed them. For the first time ever, when I called in the sheep they ignored me. So did Helen and even Jasmine, but only for 3 minutes. So I milked Jasmine and skipped Helen, as I was very hot and tired from clearing around my tree peony with the sickle.
DS Martin came up from Biddeford and went straight to the hay field. I did not see him until supper time. He and Ted Simonik cut hay all afternoon. I had braised a chuck roast in case anybody turned up hungry so was able to feed him. I also fixed brown rice pilaf and a sort of stir fry of mixed greens from the garden.
June 19, 2010 Saturday
Hot day! It may have reached 90. There was a drying breeze so the crew was able to make good hay. Last year haying was nearly impossible because of rain and the year before was not much better. Today they made 240 bales off fields in Weld and put 120 into my barn. The fields around here are small. I went up to Martin and Amy’s camp for dinner and did not get back until almost 10pm and did not even go out to the barn to admire the hay. Martin says it is very good for 1st cut. I am so happy when hay starts to come in.
My contribution to dinner was beef teriyaki, always easy and delicious. DD Abby made a layer cake with chocolate icing. DIL Amy had been to a pick-your-own for strawberries and I brought cream for whipping. The dessert was in honor of Father’s Day and Martin’s birthday on Monday, my Summer Solstice baby. Actually we had to eat without him. He did not get in until we were ready to serve dessert and had to take a plunge in the lake before sitting down.
I have been putting more time into milk related work than is reasonable and getting too tired. Tonight I did not milk any cows. I am going to try OAD with Jasmine. I hope she does not suffer.
My butter this morning was too soft to work. I put the bowl into the fridge and will see what I can do with it tomorrow. My teleme cheese is in the press and sitting on the windowsill. There is no room for it in the fridge.
June 20, 2010 Sunday
Jasmine was seriously stuffed with milk this morning to the point it almost seemed blocked from flowing but she finally relaxed and gave over 3 ½ gallons. I left the sheep out last night for the first time. It is taking a chance but their room in the barn is hot. The same with the chickens and turkeys - I left their door open but only to their new pen which had new wire 8’ high. All animals were fine.
It was very hot again today. Marcia and Abby came down early and watered everything. I made a cold brown rice salad with raisins, herbs, lemon juice, etc. and we convened at Marcia’s camp for lunch with Mitra. I was able to give Mitra two 5 gallon buckets of clabber.
All the corn is up. It does not look as though the crows got more than their share. How does the old adage go? “One for the cutworm, one for the crow, one to rot and one to grow.”
The cows and sheep have now sampled the new hay and they love it. They stood there eating all I gave them.
June 21, 2010 Monday
Fine June weather continues. Nearly all the seeds are up.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons again this morning but I trust will drop off soon. Helen is hardly filling up.
I am finally getting the bantams out of the grain room where they have been raising their chicks. There were two speckled black and white hens each with a bunch of chicks. One hen has taken charge of all of them and the other hen remains inside with the speckled rooster. The hen that hatched 10 in the hay mow is raising them all among the bushes outside the barn. Abby is keeping their feed and water available. The hen is very active but there is no way one tiny hen can scratch up enough bugs for 10 chicks especially considering that there are three other families working the same territory.
I went to a Town Meeting tonight to vote on a 6 month moratorium on putting windmills on a nearby ridge. The moratorium was defeated 42 to 48. I was surprised it was that close. I am not the supporter of windmills that I once was. The financing is scary, the embodied petroleum in their manufacture and maintenance makes them little, if any, better than ethanol and beyond that, I find the argument that it will help us get away from foreign oil to be naïve. I think the way to get away from foreign oil is to stop using so much oil, period. For starters, we could stop the absurd practice of shipping food all around the world and get more family cows.
June 22, 2010 Tuesday
It was hot again today but we did a lot of gardening anyway. Abby watered the paddock garden where all the corn is up 4”, nice and thick. Marcia watered and weeded in the veg garden down below where all the green vegetables are. She found the first little cauliflower today and I saw 2” kohlrabi and picked my first English pea. I set out more impatiens and hostas.
Both twins went to Dixfield and came back with potted plants and seedlings. A local nursery had everything at half price or less. I swore I would not get any more plants that have to be lifted in the fall but when I heard of pink cannas going cheap I relented. Abby lost no time in setting them out in my new “private” garden behind the picket fence. They look lovely already viewed from the living room.
A friend gave us some superb fresh scallops, the great big kind. I cooked my share according to the divine suggestion offered by Jennifer McLagan in her great cookbook, FAT. I poached them in butter. I also had fresh steamed spinach/chard straight from the garden and it too was excellent.
Jasmine gave nearly 4 gallons this morning. I gave the cows more fresh hay from the broken bales. They love it.
June 23, 2010 Wednesday
I awoke to rain, meaning no gardening, and DD Marcia suggested a trip to Farmington. I really needed to go anyway because DIL Mitra needed my #2 milking machine. DD Abby stayed home and accomplished wonders around here indoors and out. We met Mitra at the soup and sandwich shop and had a quick lunch, then went to the thrift shop for the last time. She is closing. Sigh. Mitra then convoyed us over to visit a plant nursery called Robin’s Flower Pot where there are vast greenhouses, so vast in fact that we gave up, promising ourselves we would come back when our stamina was better. On the way home we stopped at the garden of Marion Hutchinson, president of the garden club. She has a charming garden from which she sells plants with an emphasis on lilies. I bought two day lilies and Marcia bought eight. She wants a display of lilies along her lake front.
All the animals are happy except perhaps the turkeys which are now in with a small established group of chickens which I laughingly call my layers. I am lucky to get two eggs a day from the old biddies. However, Abby has noted that the turkeys defer to the chickens at the feed. I think I will evict the chickens so the turkeys can have the place to themselves.
Jasmine gave slightly over 3 ½ gallons this morning, so she is easing off a bit.
June 25, 2010 Friday
Yesterday, Thursday, was another lovely June day. After gardening and other pleasant farm activities with Abby and Marcia, I joined them for hamburgers at the lake.
We have observed that the chickens are interfering with the turkey’s eating. The chickens are not laying anyway so this evening I drove them forth into the great world to join the rafter birds. This is far from a hardship as these birds not only enjoy total freedom but have a well stocked buffet. Nonetheless, the layers were highly resentful and of course the rooster will have to sort things out with the other guys. He is huge but unused to competition.
Abby and Marcia carried on with their watering and weeding and transplanting and Nancy H mowed again. The place looks very fine if you don’t look too hard inside the house.
DD Sally tells me that her DD Rosie has joined a charter plane full of scientists going to Bathurst Inlet north of the Arctic Circle in Canada. She is flying tomorrow from Yellowknife. She plans to do some kayaking while there. I don’t know if she is at this inn (she might be camping out) but it has great pictures of the area.
Jasmine gave a bit over 3 ½ gallons this morning, the same as yesterday. I took off her bell. She has been wearing a highly resonant bell which I want to hang up on the deck in case I want to get Abby’s attention. She will shortly move into Sally’s little house which is just across the river and we want to work out bell calls. There is no cell phone coverage around here.
June 26, 2010 Saturday
Yesterday when I took off Jasmine’s bell, a Swiss casting which could be heard from alp to alp, I quipped that perhaps without having that ringing in her ears with every bite her production might increase. I don’t know if there could be a connection or not but this morning she was up a generous half gallon making over 4 gallons. Can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow morning.
DS Mark, an intern at Maine Med, got a day off and came up today. DDs Marcia and Abby and I fed him dinner out at her camp on the lake at Weld. I oven fried one of Max and Mitra’s chickens, always so good. Abby made strawberry shortcake. DIL Annie couldn’t come nor could granddaughter Hailey. We ate out on Marcia’s porch overlooking the lake in perfect weather.
June 27, 2010 Sunday
Jasmine was back down to 3 ½ gallons this mornings so I guess taking the bell off had no effect. All the animals look sleek and well. The chicken and turkeys are still working things out. Some of the banished chickens have found ways to get back in. The weather continues fine.
I did some cooking today. Early this morning I made butter as I do at least every other day. I canned several pints of chutney for Martin. He wanted chutney for his birthday present. I am also making liver pate with duck and turkey livers from the freezer. Max and Mitra usually give me the livers after they have their birds dressed off, which Mitra had done yesterday, so I thought I had better get some used up. I made up the recipe so hope it turns out well. With the livers, eggs, cream and a bunch of garden herbs I can’t have gone too far wrong.
I also made strawberry jam using a method I have worked out. No doubt others do the same but I haven’t seen it in writing. I never use commercial pectin. Without it strawberry jam either has to be boiled a long time to reduce it thus exhausting the strawberries or else one has to settle for watery jam. What I do is mash the berries with an appropriate amount of sugar, add a little water to get them started and boil for just 10 or 15 minutes. Then I drain the jam in a sieve and set the strawberries aside while I boil down the juice to a nice syrup. I then add the strawberries back into the syrup and boil a few minutes to sterilize everything before canning it. I process it for 15 minutes or so because strawberry jam does not keep as well as other jams and I hate losing any.
I also made mayo for a great chicken salad with chicken left from yesterday.
June 30, 2010 Wednesday
Monday we got a lot of rain, Tuesday was hot and steamy but today was again fine and clear with bright dry conditions, a perfect Maine day.
For both of the last two days Jasmine has given 3 ¾ gallons OAD. She and Helen and Bo all seem cheerful as do the sheep. The entire farm looks ravishingly beautiful with green pastures edged with trees.
I worked in the veg garden awhile weeding, watering and picking strawberries.
I dug burdock yesterday to have on hand for Nellie. It is supposed to control udder edema. DD Abby decided to drive over to take these and other supplies to Mitra to be ready for the calving. I cut a bushel of wild raspberry vines for general parturient support and Abby took these along with 3 buckets of clabber and some milk for drinking.
Mitra is somewhat nervous. She decided to go to a vampire movie to take her mind off waiting for Nellie to calve.
News flash! Mitra just called to say she could see feet. Then she ran back to the barn, and then ran back to the house to let me know there was a calf on the ground. It is very tiny. Nellie gushed a huge amount of fluid which she promptly sucked up out of the shavings. Mitra wonders if there might be a twin since the calf is so small and she had twins before.
….No twins it seems. The calf is staggering around but can’t figure out nursing and Mitra can’t help very well all by herself. She is exhausted. I told her to go to bed and not worry too much but check again at 2 or 3 am and to remove the calf from the stall if Nellie is getting milk fever. Nellie is eating like crazy and drinking molasses water. Mitra was hoping for a bull calf and was planning to name him Edward after the celebrated vampire. But it is a heifer and is named Bella.
July 01, 2010 Thursday
Mitra reports no milk fever. But she is not sure the calf is feeding. Abby and I jumped in the truck and sped over there. Abby is clever and persistent at getting a calf to suck. She crouched under Nellie, who remained composed and cooperative all day with no breach in her good manners, and I stood behind doing the all important calf butt support and pushback. After an hour or so of intermittent snatches of sucking Bella had gotten a pretty good feed and lay down for a nap. She is actually a good sized tall long legged calf. Mitra then put her DeLaval style machine on Nellie to relieve the pressure on her insanely hypertrophied udder. She ran the machine for about 5 minutes and got 4 ½ gallons of colostrum and that’s from three teats (Nellie has a blind quarter). Her udder scarcely looked changed. We left Bella sleeping and Nellie gobbling hay. Back at the house, Mitra whacked up the burdock root and leaves and Abby and I took it to Nellie. She ate it all including the leaves which we understand are not potent.
Abby went home and did some gardening. Mitra called to say that Bella napped for several hours while Nellie went out and grazed on the plantain patch and ate all she could find. When Bella woke up she remembered how to nurse and without assistance found her mother and had a big feed. Max has arrived back home so now everything will be much easier for Mitra, always assuming Nellie doesn’t get milk fever.
July 02, 2010 Friday
It was another day of excellent weather.
Jasmine gave 3 ¾ gallons. I sold a lot of milk and gave more to the family. For once the milk frig has extra space in it.
Max reports that he got up in the night and gave a canister of calcium paste to Nellie whose ears were getting a bit cold. That brought her around before long. But she was not interested in her grain this morning, not good. That is the first sign of ketosis. She is grazing.
These pictures are of Nellie and Bella this morning.
The Grohman’s: DS Martin, Amy, little Hannah and Henry, and Amy’s dad Ken stopped in on the way to camp. I passed out muffins and milk to everybody and we visited the beautiful veg garden. It is sensational. But Marcia forgot her camera so no pictures until next week.
I went out to camp and had supper with Marcia and Abby. We had tuna sautéed with sesame seeds and tamari, a tasty lentil stew, both prepared by Abby, and a vegetable medley of sugar snap peas and kohlrabi (from the garden) sautéed with butter. We ate on the porch and watched the loons and the passing boats. I made beestings pudding with Nellie’s colostrum but it was too stiff. It is better with colostrum from the second milking
Marcia took me on a tour of her garden. It is a work of art. She has paths with plantings among her trees. There are many flowering species including lilies, columbine and astilbe. It is a mature garden but there are many new sections every time.
Abby’s daughter, my granddaughter Helena and her family will be arriving tomorrow for the long weekend. We will entertain them with a chicken barbeque. Abby is going to make a carrot cake. I made cream cheese for the frosting.
July 03, 2010 Saturday
Good golly, another great feast to report. But first, Mitra’s chickens are now getting fame. They were mentioned in GQ magazine.
7. Mitra's Clabber-Fed Poularde and Poached Maine Lobster Tail, Evangeline, Portland, ME. The lobster merely perfect, the chicken astonishing—I never knew birds would eat thickened, soured, unpasteurized milk. Chef Erik Desjarlais says he gets these"beautiful little fat chickens" from a local farm. He says the bones are so strong he has problems hacking through them. The meat is so profoundly rich I had problems resisting seconds.
Read More http://www.gq.com/blogs/the-q/2010/06/dining-desperately-and-deliciously.html#ixzz0sfowW6gV
I should mention that these chickens are the same breed as the flabby Cornish cross of commerce. Mitra’s are in chicken tractors on grass and Jasmine gets the credit for the clabber. Where are those people who don’t believe raw milk builds strong bones? Come to that, where are those folks on Fosomax or other scary osteoporosis drugs? Get real!
Back to the lake. Everyone agreed that weatherwise this was the best day of the year. I am happy for the summer visitors. The last two years were wet and discouraging. Before dinner, DS Martin took me for a sail in the Hobie Cat. The breeze was just right to waft us along at about 5 or 6 knots. Guests included Martin’s family, DD’s Marcia, Abby and myself, and Abby’s DD Helena and her family: Ryan and kids Natalie and Logan. Marcia made grilled chicken according to an excellent method we have evolved over the years. This involves some preliminary cooking in the oven to insure that it is cooked to the bone followed by a session on the grill for flavor. Marcia also made a 5-bean salad and a lettuce salad with a choice of dressings, crusty bread with plenty of Coburn Farm butter, and Abby made a carrot cake. Marcia made vanilla ice cream to go with it.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Jasmine and friends made the best of the fine day to stuff themselves with grass while I picked peas. Everyone was happy. Jasmine gave almost 4 gallons this morning.
Tomorrow is Independence Day. The camp ground across the river is full of revelers getting an early start on the firecrackers.
July 04, 2010 Sunday
It was hotter today, in the 80’s, very summery. Jasmine gave 3 ¾ . All the animals are fine. The small white hen that hatched 10 chicks in the hay mow about 3 weeks ago has not lost a single one. She now takes them on great tours around the lawn and nearly down to the veg garden, a small army of bug snappers. I can’t get the turkeys to come inside at night. They want to roost outside on the railing of their room.
Martin and his friends made another 120 bales of hay from the two little fields at Weld. They put 60 more bales in the barn for me. It smells lovely.
Today’s lobster dinner at the lake was a great success. Marcia is an expert lobster cooker. Abby made a great potato salad and we had corn and crusty bread brought by Mitra who also brought an outstanding cole slaw. Marcia made ice cream and biscuits for strawberry shortcake. DS Mark joined us. He had driven up to Max’s this morning and they went on a 25 mi. bike ride.
The little children spent a lot of time in the water. Everything was perfect including a brilliant sunset.
The midnight ride of Abby Revere: Max and Mitra left early to go milk Nellie. They came in one car, Max, for reason of post bike ride convenience, had left his truck in the University parking lot. It is a midnight tow away zone and he planned to pick it up on their way home. Only after arriving at his truck did he discover that he had left his wallet, phone and keys at Marcia’s camp (he went swimming). He called the camp from his home and explained the situation. Abby nobly jumped in her scary old Volvo and drove over to New Sharon (35 miles) and took him his keys. She waited for their evening chores to be done (Nellie’s udder is as huge as ever) before driving him to his truck and coming home in the dark. It was particularly noble because Abby rarely drives at night out of concern for moths, a favorite species of hers.
By being gone she missed the fireworks set off by the people in the camp next door. They set off what sounded like cannons. The dogs were out of their minds with fear and I don’t know if Anna, the tottering old Siamese cat has yet been seen.
It remains terribly hot.
July 06, 2010 Tuesday
This is the 4th day in the 90’s. Yesterday Abby and Marcia spent a long time on watering. Abby especially stayed out too long and overdid it. She stayed a little quiet today and still looked pale. I went with Marcia to a doctor’s appointment in Lewiston and had a break from the heat with the a/c in Marcia’s car and in the medical building. Apart from that, it is unavoidable. It is in the 90’s outside and 80 in the house. The sheep stayed under the buttery all day lying in the semi darkness against the granite foundation. The cows too stayed in there much of the day. They all trailed out as the sun went down. In this heat I am taking a chance on leaving the sheep out overnight for their comfort.
Jasmine continues to give 3 ¾ gallons.
July 07, 2010 Wednesday
This morning I took my coffee into the cellar and sat on the stairs with my feet on the cool cement. It is 90F again. Typing is difficult. The humidity is high and my fingers stick to the keys. But I know things are truly serious for some people farther south that don’t even have a cellar. The animals don’t like the heat but they do all have water and deep shade.
9pm I went up to Marcia’s place and waded in the lake and then rested in the hammock. Abby whipped up a nice little supper with lots of garden veg and I got cooled off. There was a nice breeze off the water.
Back here at the farm it was as hot as ever and no wind. I visited the garden and picked a quart of peas, probably the last of them in this heat. A note in the frig tells me our dear friends Holly and Richard have arrived and picked up their milk. They are headed to their camp on Wilson Pond so I am sure will be comfortable.
Jasmine was in heat this morning. Helen refused to be parted from her so I brought them both in together to their stanchions. Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons.
July 08, 2010 Thursday
The heat is now getting to Jasmine I think. She gave only 3 ½ gallons. There has been no significant breaks in the weather. It was a few degrees lower on the thermometer today but more humid. Nonetheless, Marcia worked in the garden a couple of hours mostly weeding and staking tomatoes. Abby worked more than 4 hours in the paddock garden. I could not make her stop. She has watered and weeded everything including all those long rows of corn. We discovered a lot of potato bug larvae on the potatoes. I went along and got a lot of them in a can but she went back over the row on hands and knees and found every last one. Of course they always find their way back.
In the part of the site where I had potatoes last year but they got flooded out and overwhelmed by weeds there are now many volunteer plants. Martin tilled it last fall and found that he was cutting up a lot of potatoes. I rescued some but obviously some remained. It is amazing that they survived the winter.
Max drove to Boston this morning leaving at 3am to meet Roshan and Shireen coming home from California. They had a fine time meeting relatives. Max will bring them over to the lake tomorrow for a swim before he comes here to help me with some heavy lifting.
My friends Holly and Richard from Minnesota arrived last evening but I missed their visit by being out at the lake. Maybe they will come tomorrow.
Sweat is pouring down my face and back so I will have to quit writing.
July 09, 2010 Friday
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons this morning. The heat is unabated, however there was a breeze along towards evening.
Holly and Richard came over and picked black currants. The crop is not dense but the flavor is excellent. Besides also picking black currants, Marcia staked the tomatoes. A good crop is coming.
Max came and brought my grain. He kindly offered to put up the fencing that I need on the paddock. This will make it possible to let the cows and sheep into the north field. I need to do this.
July 10, 2010 Saturday
It rained about a half inch in the night which cooled things off a bit but it is as sticky as ever. The animals welcomed it. They grazed at night in the rain and slept outdoors. Jasmine was standing at the door waiting for me this morning. She had come up all by herself. She gave 3 ½ gallons.
I have been leaving the sheep out at night so that they could make their own decisions about how best to stay cool. Tonight they were waiting to come in so I let them in.
I made a teleme cheese on June 20 and left it in the brine until today. It is amazing, much like a brie, very delicate and creamy.
The sunset tonight was dazzling. Willie Dog likes to lie on the deck and watch it until things are completely dark. Then he likes to bark at his echo.
July 11, 2010 Sunday
Jasmine gave only a little over 3 gallons. No doubt the heat is taking a toll on her production. Also I should move them all to the north field pretty soon. Max picked up stock fencing for me today and will be back tomorrow to put it up. He won’t need to set posts, just affix it to the boards of the paddock which as things stand now are highly permeable to sheep. Martin has decided to hay that field, weather permitting, the week of the 18th.
Today was hot again. We got together for a midday dinner at Marcia’s camp. DS Max and DIL Mitra brought pork chops for the grill. While Max was grilling there came an unannounced cloudburst which brought an inch of rain in five minutes. He was standing next to the service table which has a big umbrella. It dumped water down his back and inside his pants and onto the grill, sousing it. The immediate drop in temperature was hailed by everyone else but Max was not amused. Fortunately Marcia has a great big restaurant type stove, a Vulcan, with a good grill so we got our chops.
Marcia also served excellent baked beans and Abby made a massive salad mostly with veggies that Mitra brought from the farmer’s market. Marcia also made chocolate ice cream. Holly and Richard brought nice chewy oatmeal cookies. We all had fun.
Today was my first glimpse of granddaughters Shireen and Roshan since their return from CA. They looked great, Roshan grew an inch and they both sported California tans and bikinis.
One bad thing happened today: I found a flea on Willie. I hate fleas.
July 12, 2010 Monday
The heat continues. Jasmine gave a little over 3 gallons. Marcia and Abby both came and worked in the gardens. So long as they get water, the plants love the weather. It won’t be long until Abby’s eggplants are big enough to eat. She is tending the corn and some of it is 20” high. The potato bugs continue their guerilla tactics but we keep picking them off. Marcia has most of the tomatoes staked. Her garden is a thing of beauty.
Among the vegetables are many calendulas, mostly self seeded from last year. I harvest the flowers for their xeanthin (sp?), believed to defend against macular degeneration. There are also many poppies. One bloomed today which is from seed which must have been in the soil several years. It is a tall Oriental that I think was called Queen of the Night. It is nearly black and very double.
I made a chocolate cake. The recipe calls for two cups of sour cream, something of which I often have too much. I have been tweaking the very easy recipe and this time felt like I got it right.
July 13, 2010 Tuesday
Another sweltering day. I did not even bother looking at the thermometer. Marcia and I took a quick trip to Wal-Mart and could not resist a few more plants. They have literally thousands of fine well grown plants and are taking pretty good care of them this year. I hate to think what happens to all those that fail to sell. There were very few shoppers. Marcia and I both bought an unusual chartreuse leafed coral bell. I also bought a buddleia (Butterfly Bush) and a huge Stargazer lily, also a charming variegated yarrow. I put the coral bell into my new fenced garden by the kitchen which is shady. That soil is full of tree roots so took a lot of fierce digging on my part plus I brought it a bucket of new dirt from the hen yard. That soil behind the barn is beyond price. Then I began digging a section of my long border which is frightfully neglected. It is so clotted with crab grass that I could not complete the job. I just heeled in some plants and will hope for the best. The humidity is so high that nothing is going to dry out much.
Abby once again worked for hours in the paddock garden. I think her stamina is in some degree supported by the hose system she had set up. It has a pistol head spray so she is working constantly with cold water. Today she had an audience. Max and his girls came over and put up the new wire on the paddock rail fence to make it sheep proof. With all three working together it took not much over 2 hours I think. Those girls are good workers. When they got done I gave them some sausages and Max took the girls up to Marcia’s for lunch and a swim.
Marcia picked up 9 more quarts of raspberries for me this morning from the folks in Weld. This evening I got most of them frozen. I quit part way through the task and took a shower and Heifer Diary break. Now I have to go back into the kitchen and carry on with the raspberries and a bunch of skimming so that I can get an early start tomorrow. Marcia and I and we hope Abby are going to Boothbay to visit a famous botanical garden, weather permitting.
None of the animals now are wearing bells. This morning Jasmine ignored my calls so I had a nice farm tour while it was still cool, looking for her. Everything is beautiful. Jasmine gave a bit over 3 gallons. I am feeding some hay.
There are scarcely any apples due to a hard freeze in May but it looks like there will be a lot of blackberries.
Went to Coastal Maine Botanical Garden with Abby and Marcia (Yesterday it rained). It is a two plus hours’ drive but Marcia has a comfortable car with a/c. Today was again blasting hot. The garden is a very fine thing indeed providing lots of inspiration. All the little Maine towns are pretty and at the coast everybody was boating or shopping.
Back here at the farm it was too late to do any real work but catching up on the necessary care of all the critters has taken me until 9pm so this is brief.
DD Sally called so that I could wish her a happy birthday. She went to town and stopped at Mountain Market, the Haines AK whole foods store and bakery. She discovered that they were offering a 10% discount today to persons over 60. This was her 60th so she was pleased to score.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons this morning.
July 16, 2010 Friday
I am barely functional in this heat. The humidity is very high so everything stays wet unless in the direct sun. Abby worked a long time in the garden and can’t be induced to stop. She keeps a basket with lemon flavored ice water and a few snacks nearby. Marcia and I ate a nice lunch of leftovers, well, Marcia did, I couldn’t eat much. Believe it or not I have a cake in the oven; it is needed for tomorrow. It is the chiffon cake from The Joy of Cooking. I have made it a great many times. This time I used duck eggs which I am not accustomed to using so we shall see. Bagel dog has gone missing so I am a bit distracted. It is 9pm. Abby is driving back down from Weld to look for him. Abby gave Willie Dog a haircut today and got a bushel of hair off of him. I have not seen Bagel for hours and have the theory that Bagel observed the haircut and mistook it for butchery. Actually, Willie was totally cooperative, but maybe the heap of curls alarmed Bagel.
Abby found Bagel. He was at a neighborhood cookout and bonfire having a grand old time. The folks said they love him and did not want him to leave. He left the party with great reluctance. She had to have help boosting him into the truck.
The cake looks good although I have known it to rise higher.
Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons today. Now it is 10pm.
July 17, 2010 Saturday
The weather is unchanged – hot and sticky, high 80’s, high humidity. Well, actually I don’t know how hot it got. At 8pm it was 84F. Jasmine gave 3 ½ gallons. I absolutely must order new rubber for the milking machine. The inflations are not staying stuck onto the ports. Perhaps it is because they are hot.
Abby and Marcia came over this morning and worked in the garden for a bit. Then we loaded up the cake I made last night and went to DS Max’s house for a small surprise early birthday occasion. He will be 50 on August 3. That was a hot day too in Davis CA. He was born at home.
Abby contrived to get 50 candles onto the cake. It was meant to be a total surprise but no matches could be found so Abby had to ask Max for the grill lighter which rather gave it away.
July 24, 2010 Saturday
Due to lots of company and late nights I couldn’t keep up with HD this week. Besides our family living nearby, we have seven visiting “from away”. These are Harper and Jen, DD Marcia’s son and DIL Jennifer and their children Amara (19) and Eli (12) and Marcia’s daughters Caitilin and Abby Rose and Caiti’s toddler Lily. They are staying with Marcia, the Hostess With the Mostest, who is ably assisted by her twin sister DD Abby. We are all involved in keeping everyone fed and we hope happy. This has made for many late nights for Great Grandma here. In order not to make this entirely an account of memorable meals I took daily notes of farm related events. Some culinary highlights will follow.
DD Abby and I are contending with potato bugs in the Paddock Garden. One or the other of us spends time nearly every day picking them off, our only form of control. This has permitted good growth of the vines but in this hot weather, which has scarcely abated, this is not a lot of fun. The rather large and vocal population of people who think the world can feed itself with row crops had jolly well better get out and try it.
I have made an interesting observation regarding the potato bugs: so far as I have observed to date, there are none on the volunteer plants. Last year’s drowned crop, many chunks of which turned up last fall when DS Martin tilled the paddock, wintered over and produced plants. Also down in the older veg garden where we had a few potatoes last year and must have overlooked some tubers, there are a dozen or so big healthy plants and none of these have bugs. Somebody needs to explain this.
All the hens that had families of chicks in early June have now sent them off on their own. For days they wandered about in their sibling groups looking bereft and peeping miserably. Many have now moved into the poultry yard with the turkeys and I don’t think any are missing. Four of them have black and white polka dots like the tiny bantams hens, very pretty. I keep pans of feed and water here and there
The flies are very bad, much worse than last year. Mitra says it is the same at her place. The animals spend a lot of time inside the beefer pen or under the carriage house trying to escape the flies and heat. I am feeding hay. Jasmine continues to give about 3 ½ gallons/day. I have made plans to breed her to a Randall bull (also known as Randall Lineback) owned by Farmer Phil. I hope to catch her in August. If a heifer results, it will be a step toward preserving a heritage breed. If it’s a bull presumably he will be a bit beefier, not that I have any complaints about my Jersey steers.
Most of the guests leave tomorrow. It has been a festive week. My grandson Harper, Marcia’s son who is the age of DS Martin, is a scientist by profession but dearly loves to cook. I think he was 10 years old when he took his first cooking class and perfected chocolate mousse. He has made some lovely food this week. He lives in Alaska and brought with him some salmon that he caught and smoked. Last Saturday we had a lamb roast (one of mine) and this was followed by a fine curry. Another day he made a memorable raspberry parfait using about 8 boxes of raspberries and capable of serving 15 of us. Every day brought some new creation. I did some cooking too including foccacia. Marcia’s garden has provided broccoli, cauliflower, baby carrots and chard. Yesterday Mitra, another good cook, brought a birthday dinner over for Abby, Marcia and me including pulled pork and one of her divine hams. Granddaughter Shireen made a layer cake. I think there were 20 of us at dinner including DS Martin’s family and cousins Holly and Richard.
Speaking of cooking reminds me, I talked to DS John in Australia and he told me that his old friend Henry has developed a great interest in cooking. He is taking his sabbatical in Southern France in order to study French country cooking. I hope soon that it will be recognized that we have equally good food and skills here in the US. We just don’t have the panache or something.
©Copyright 2010 Joann S. Rogers