Heifer Diary 2012
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December 31, 2011 Saturday, New Year’s Eve
Our morning milking protocol is working well.
First I milk Jasmine. Fern is in her stanchion hopefully getting into the mood to let down. Ella has been separated all night and is hungry. She is tied where they can touch noses. Then I milk Fern who now seems to understand that she gets Ella only after she has been milked. I now get 2 gallons from her instead of the measly quart or so that I was getting when they ran together 24/7.
I was determined not to establish a habit of letting Ella in to start the let down process with her sucking. This does work. It will make a cow let down for sure. But then you have to milk (or wash) slimy teats, or have a bumptious calf on the other side of the cow, or worst of all, ultimately have to drag away a calf weighing a couple of hundred pounds. For the first couple of days there was some bellowing. But I explained to Fern that she was quite simply not getting Ella until she has let down and agreed to being milked. She got the picture fast and now on Day 4 is solidly in this pattern. I am leaving behind some milk for Ella so that she does not tear up Fern. Also Fern and Milton (who wears an anti-sucking guard) share a pan of some fancy calf grain I bought. They don’t eat much.
The area from house to barn remains a sheet of ice. I twisted my knee last week and making the trip to the barn is a challenge. I am using a ski pole.
Our New Year’s Eve festivities consisted of finishing off a bit of champagne left in the bottle we all shared at Christmas dinner. We were in bed by 9:30.
January 01, 2012 Sunday, New Year’s Day
It warmed up a lot today, in fact got over 40F. By evening much of the yard ice had melted but it is still tricky walking to the barn. We put down some sand.
Jasmine and Fern gave 2 gallons each. The new routine is going smoothly. Fern likes coming into her stanchion so well that every time one opens the door into the beefer pen she tries to dart through and come in. In the evening Ella goes right into the pen with Milton and they have some calf grain.
After milking, and after waiting an hour or so waiting for the ice to melt so they would have safer footing, we shut the cows outside to encourage them to try a little grazing or at least get some sunshine. Otherwise all they want to do is stay in and eat their hay.
Sally and the dogs took a nice long walk around the snowless fields. I am still favoring my gimpy knee so had to see the world from the deck. Sally made me a knee band from an old sock.
I made some soup to try out an idea I had. Yesterday I cooked navy beans and squash and today I puréed each, sautéed onions and combined all with some chicken stock to make a lovely winter soup. I included some of the pesto I made last summer with olive oil and garlic scapes. That’s what we had for supper.
I also made another pound of cream cheese and churned butter. Because of the skimpy milk supply I have had until now, this is the first butter I have made in a very long time.
Good news for the sheep: My friend Georgiana is going to lend me a ram, Mr. Reilly, a distinguished Cotswold gentleman. We only hope the season is not too far advanced for breeding. Mr. Reilly is to come on Wednesday.
January 02, 2012 Monday
Jasmine’s production this morning was way down. It might be because there were two mice in her water tub.
Sally got lots of exercise. She took a long walk this morning around her field and flushed a fat pair of partridges. Later she had to search for Ella at the midday cow moving. She had gotten herself on the wrong side of the north fence. Sally found her because she was answering Fern’s mooing. Then after dark during suppertime chores, Willie ran off - same thing he did last night. Sally went out with a flashlight and had to walk all the way down to PocketField before she heard him panting. He probably found a woodchuck hole. With this oddly warm weather they are moving around. This was quite annoying but Sally forgave him. Nonetheless, tomorrow evening he will have to either stay in the house or be on his chain.
The weather today was positively balmy, apart for an odd little token snowstorm about 3pm which changed to hail. It only lasted a few minutes.
Sally made beautiful bread with freshly ground flour. I spent all afternoon catching up on my filing. Had to do it. One of my tax documents was not in the folder where it belonged. Hurrah! When I finally came to it near the bottom of the “File me” pile I felt like popping a cork.
We had a call from DD Abby during a little break from her work. She gets to do a lot of cooking. But she does not get enough sleep. She has two patients at once.
January 03, 2012 Tuesday
All fine with the animals but very cold today. We had to leave the farm on its own because I had an eye appointment in Rumford– just a check-up. The gal said it would be “Just a brief appointment.” I hate to think what a long one would be like. It was for 2:30 and lasted until 4:30, mostly due to waiting in small rooms for somebody to come and move things along. My eyes are still a bit dilated I think and Sally and I are both too tired to think… Of course we left home early enough to do at least a few of our errands and missed lunch. And I am still limping. I’m making it an early night. I did manage to get butter made when I got home, a pound and a quarter. That is what my churn makes.
The good news was that there is no deterioration in my vision.
DD Marcia in CA has ordered a cheese press. She is going to learn to make cheese with her local goat’s milk. Isn’t that lovely? She ordered the Dutch style. I am so anxious to find out how she likes that press.
January 04, 2012 Wednesday
It was 0F this morning with wind. My fingers objected strenuously but other than that, things went well.
The big news today is that I got to meet Georgiana McN, whom I have long wished to know. She and her daughter Jaime generously brought over Mr.Reilly, her Cotswold ram. She is lending him to me to service my four ewes. We do hope it is not too late in the year. Mr. Reilly, a magnificent fellow covered in lush ringlets, seemed to find the ewes quite interesting. He bounded about sniffing and flehming in an encouraging manner and mounted Agnes. Agnes did a certain amount of butting but neither she nor Mr. Reilly have horn sand all have quite deep fleece so no harm is done. By evening feeding they were all lined up snugly at the hay. Mr. Reilly is friendly and gentle. Sally says she likes the Cotswold fleece and the meat is said to be the world’s best. That is what people are already saying about my Suffolk lamb this year. Clearly we are in for a treat.
DD Marcia is interested in having a dairy animal at her new home in CA and Sally has suggested dairy sheep. That sounds exciting to me. I have had sheep’s milk and it is excellent.
My gimpy knee is much improved today
January 05, 2012 Thursday
Milk production remains good and temperatures low.
We put the sheep in the paddock for a few hours today. Mr. Reilly stuck right with the girls, no trouble there. A few hours later when we called them in the ewes came bounding as usual, Mr. Reilly with them, but he overshot the ramp and required some guidance to find his way in. Agnes came back out to look for him. Between us we soon had them all in.
We now have to keep Ella penned at night without Milton. He keeps her off of their hay. Now he will spend the night with the cows. It is a little more nuisance feeding him his milk with cows around as they are inclined to steal it if they can.
I baked one of the fat Luick chickens tonight on a bed of vegetables. Yum! I still had one of the Japanese sweet potatoes Marcia sent a month ago from CA and baked that with it. Those sweet potatoes are the best I remember eating.
Three ambulances and a sheriff’s vehicle went by around noon. I learned just now that my neighbor to the West, Elwyn Brown, passed away. He had heart trouble. He will be missed.
I skipped taking Ibuprofen today and was sorry. I walked to the garden to see the woodchuck holes Sally told me about. Truly vast excavations. But I could not make it down to the river.
Friday, January 06, 2012
It snowed today. The previous meager snow was gone, nothing left but patches of ice. It looks like we got an inch and a half. All the animals seem happy. Mr. Reilly stays bunched tightly with the ewes when they run. Tonight he did not overshoot the ramp. They all seem so happy together.
I witnessed Tamworth, the young male cat, try to catch a chicken. I grabbed for his tail but missed. The chicken got away.
DD Marcia in CA has signed up for a cheese making class and a beer making class. Such a nice thing to do in winter.
January 07, 2012 Saturday
It was about 20F this morning and the new snow has not melted so far. The world seems so much brighter when there is snow on the ground.
Jasmine gave 2 gallons but Fern only 1 ½ . I decided to leave more behind for Ella so she won’t pound on her mom so much. Right now we have more milk than we need anyway. I have made butter 3 days in a row. Of course I can use just about as much butter as I can get my hands on.
Max came over and brought grain and split wood. We were running low on both chicken feed and split wood. I am going through what seems like a huge amount of chicken feed what with nothing outdoors to scrounge and a couple of dozen teenage birds.
January 09, 2012 Monday
Much of today was devoted to plans related to our final parting with good old Helen. It is very sad, but she is over 15 and in a lot of pain with her feet and maybe something else. She groans a lot. Most of the time she is lying down but when she is standing she is either eating hay or faced into the corner. There is nothing wrong with her appetite but facing into a corner is not a good sign. DS Martin is coming tonight to assist in a pre-dawn kill. DS Max will also arrive in time. I want her killed here on the farm to minimize stress. Martin is bringing a trailer. Castonguay (the abattoir) wants her by 6am.
January 10, 2012 Tuesday
Today started at 4am. I did not participate, nor did Sally, but the men reported that all went exactly according to plan. All the other cattle (Jasmine, Fern, Milton and Ella) spent the night in the lean-to. Helen was alone in the beefer pen which did not stress her because she has been staying in by herself a lot of the time lately. Martin took the shot. He had studied the butchering book to be sure he got it right. This job had not fallen to him before and he wanted to make sure Helen had a dignified end. They did the bleed, then transported her to the abattoir in the farm truck. It was still pretty dark at 5am when Martin left with the truck. I came out to thank Martin and Max but did not look at Helen. Max went directly home to start on his own chores.
Helen was with us since her birth 15 years ago. Among the animals, she was the main character, much loved but never an easy cow. Without my experiences with Helen I would not have learned how difficult a heifer can be, how much determination is sometimes required when starting off a dairy cow nor discovered some of the ploys I have written about to get that milk and keep it coming.
Helen was intelligent and often outsmarted me by doubling back at the gate just when I had trotted a quarter mile to get her up for milking. I think she loved me but enjoyed the adversarial position. She could hide in the woods and keep so still that her bell didn’t make a sound.
We will always miss Helen but she was clearly suffering. It was time to say goodbye. As one of our forum members said, one of the things we’re able to do for our four footed friends is to spare them terminal suffering.
Martin spent the rest of the day here splitting wood and moving hay. Max came back over and brought me the pork I had swapped with him and Mitra for lamb.
I did not sleep last night so am off to bed.
Mitra wrote this on the KFC Forum
I am so sad about Helen but I know and understand that it had to be done. It's so hard to see a beloved cow in pain and now she's not in pain. I appreciated Max's description of how things went. She was relaxed and laying down. She got up and came over to Max and Martin who put down a pan of grain for her and then it was over with one shot.
She was ornery but lovable and she was the cow "I learned on". I had the pleasure of having her here at my farm for just over two years. She was my introduction to raw milk and it was and is the best milk I've ever tasted.
There are many other kind expressions of sympathy on the forum.
Later on Wednesday my vet, Dr.Cooper, stopped by to neuter our two young male cats. They were starting to wander around the neighborhood. We did the surgery on newspapers on the kitchen table. By eight-thirty at night they were recovered enough to go out. During the afternoon we kept them in the house to look after them. We’ll leave the light on for them in the garage.
I gave Dr. Cooper an easy, quick but elegant lunch of ham steak from our new pork that we got from Max and Mitra. I baked it with pomegranate syrup. Besides the outstandingly good ham, we had cole slaw and pumpkin rolls made by Sally.
During the afternoon Willie had intestinal problems that necessitated his having a bath. He is very good about baths and stands nicely, merely looking aggrieved.
This evening I talked to my sister Barby in CA and had her explain what was going on in Downton Abbey. We decided to join the reset of the known world and start watching the series but we got pretty confused. Sally also talked to her daughter Rose at the South Pole who was anxious for news of the snowstorms in Cordova, Alaska, which is where she lives when not peregrinating. She has her own fishing boat there; a neighbor was kind enough to go out and check on it, but the snow was too deep to see where it was!
I am reading Joel Salatin’s book The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer. He has a lot of good stuff to say.
It seems kind of empty now in the barn.
January 12, 2012 Thursday
It snowed today. All the previous snow was gone. It is welcome news to all the snow related enterprises in Maine. The X-C races in Rumford last week had to compete on man-made snow. I don’t believe we got as much as a foot but it is enough to make a difference to the plants and pasture which is what I worry about.
My knee has taken a turn for the worse so I am not very frisky.
January 13, 2012 Friday
I started a new teleme cheese and made a big pot of lamb and barley soup. Apart from the standard chores, I lay down a lot. Actually, DD Sally is doing the lion’s share of the animal care anyway. The temperature lingered around 20F so the snow is not melting.
Martin speaks of Helen:
Helen is the ‘Heifer’ of the ‘Heifer Diary’. Since the inception of this, one of the oldest Blogs on the web, she has been the center of the story. Joann has been writing an entry every single day for fourteen years - more than5,000 entries - since before the term Blog was even invented. Helen has been featured in pretty much every one.
So it was not an easy decision to send her to the slaughterhouse. We’ve butchered any number of steers on the farm (including, frankly, many of Helen’s male offspring), so we’re not new to it. However, for a variety of reasons, we have never needed to make this decision with one of our prized milk cows. But as a practical matter, when the ground is frozen, a 1,000 lb dead cow is not the easiest situation to handle. And with continuing problems with her hooves that couldn’t be solved, we didn’t want her to suffer any more.
There was another reason it was a very difficult decision. As a general rule, we make it a policy to kill our animals on the farm. It can be less stressful than having them waiting at the slaughterhouse knowing what’s coming for twelve hours. Although, having been nominated as the trigger-man, I can tell you those twelve hours are plenty stressful.
I must have taken Helen’s picture 1,000 times; fed her I don’t know how many apples. She was always very sure of herself. We as humans may sometimes have a crisis of self-confidence, but this is rarely a problem for the Jersey Cow, and Helen was no exception. She was always in charge and she knew it.
So if it was going to be me sending her off I wanted to do it right.
Like most of us who have spent a lot of time in the barn, I know that farming is not always pretty. I remember my father hurrying back from the hayfield, with the remains of his finger in his mouth, victim of the sickle bar mower. I remember any number of animals, including pets and prized dairy animals (and one in particular that was both), dying. There’s as much grim as there is beauty in farming, but there’s a beauty to that too.
I wanted it to be like flicking a light switch, at the end of a life well lived. And I am happy to say that’s how it was.
January 14, 2012 Saturday
Life goes on.
Jasmine was in heat yesterday. Either she was two days late or I failed to notice her activity Thursday or Friday.
It is turning bitterly cold. The sunset tonight was exceptionally fine.
For our supper I reinvented a fish casserole that Sally served me years ago when I visited her in Alaska. If I saw it in a recipe book, I doubt I would have tried it as it does not sound entirely promising. But it is rich and satisfying and goes together extremely fast. Here it is:
(use any white fish)
Peel, slice and simmer in salted water until almost tender enough potatoes and onions to cover the bottom of the dish.
Lay on your fish.
Pour on a pint or so of canned tomatoes.
Sprinkle on some dill, pepper and paprika and dot generously with butter.
Pop it in a fairly hot oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until it looks a bit bubbly.
Sally thinks a crumb topping would also be nice.
January 15, 2012 Sunday
Ten below this morning. I spent ten minutes contriving an outfit suitable for barn chores. I was fine except for my hands. This will require further thought tomorrow. All the critters are comfortable but milk production was down from 3 ½ gallons (total from two cows) to less than 3. I leave some behind for Ella. I just keep the machine on Fern until she is letting down properly (to make my point). Ella has her mother all day and is growing very well. Sally takes a gallon, warmed and split into two feeds, to Milton who gets his in a bucket. The sheep are out in their paddock about 6 hours a day. We put hay down for them through a trap door to the run-in that is under the buttery. Mr.Reilly appears to be enjoying his life. He comes up to have his cheeks scratched.
January 16, 2012 Monday, Martin Luther King Day
Minus 7 this morning but the sun shone and it eventually warmed up to20F. It still felt darned cold to me but I think my gimpy leg is depleting my energy. Milk production has dropped to about 3 ¼ gallons. We got 7 eggs.
DS Max came over. I got a couple of quarts of frozen baked beans out and thawed them for our lunch. I served them with knockwurst from the gift box DS John sent at Christmas. It made a highly satisfactory lunch.
Max brought feed for me. I am trying something called scratch feed for the chickens. I could not find the label but it has a variety of unrolled seeds. It is cheaper than the layer feed, upon which they are not laying well in any case. I hope that with the addition of clabber the scratch will be satisfactory. I am going to try to sprout some.
Sally made a blueberry cream pie. It was delicious and used up a pint of cream that was getting questionable.
January 17, 2012 Tuesday
Peep peep peep! This is what Sally heard this morning when only halfway to the barn. By the time she got there the peeping had ceased so she had no idea where to look. Later she found 3 chicks and their mama out in the snow in the chicken yard. She took a bucket out and caught them and brought them inside the hen house where their mother soon followed. It appears she had been setting under the barn. Today was up to 20F. The previous few days have been sub zero. No doubt there were a whole lot more eggs that froze. The little family appears to be making it comfortably now inside with the othe rhens. They have their own little waterer and dish of clabber. The chicks are more than a day old.
Max came over again bringing a huge round bale of pickled hay. It is sort of like silage. Cows like it a lot although it reminds one somewhat of kim chee. It is reputed to boost milk production. Now Sally will fill the cargo sled with it once a day for them. She gave a bit to the sheep too and they took to it immediately.
Sally and I are getting all excited about sprouting seed for the cows to eat. I already have a couple of pounds going from the scratch grain and as soon as these reveal their viability (or lack thereof) we will expand the operation. I do not expect to have to buy anything except the seed itself. Her tray under lights upstairs is already showing promise of mixed greens.
DS Mark (Dr. Mark) sent me a knee brace to try. At 3pm my leg was too swollen to get it on but I will try it first thing tomorrow morning and see if it helps.
January 18, 2012 Wednesday
Brilliant sun today but cold and windy.
Milk production is steady at 3 ½ gallons/day and 5 to 7 eggs.
The mother hen with three chicks is taking good care of them in a corner of the hen house. They get chicken scratch and clabber and water. I can’t open the outer door or she would probably take them out into the snow so the entire group will have to stay indoors for the present. They would not want to go out now anyway if they have any sense.
The cows and sheep spend most of their time inside too.
I promised Dr. Mark I would see a doctor if my knee was not much improved today and indeed it was a lot better this morning. Then right after lunch I went out to toss hay down the carriage house trap door for the sheep and things went badly. I caught my pant leg on a cast iron grate, tripped and fell wham onto my evil knee. Not good. Actually it was not nearly as bad as I thought it might be but definitely set me back. I will revisit the doctor idea tomorrow morning.
January 19, 2012 Thursday
Well, I didn’t think my knee needed to see a doc today as it is showing signs of improvement, besides it was -10F. Going anywhere when it is that cold makes me tired just thinking about it.
My mother hen is doing a good job. She got some more clabber and chopped hard boiled eggs. I always give some to the other residents of the hen house at the same time to distract them from swiping hers. A couple of cheeky cockerels were very pesky so I caught them and added them to the free range population that lives in the rafters.
This morning I switched over to using the DeLaval to see if it would milk any better. Neither machine is perfectly adapted to my cows. Part of the problem is that my vacuum pump is a bit weak. But getting any cups to hold tight to the soccer ball that is Fern’s udder would be a challenge.
I made a pan of gingerbread using the recipe said to be Mary Washington’s. Just the thing for a cold day.
Rich Sticky Gingerbread (From the Aga Cookbook)
½ pint milk (Crown pt use 10 oz)
12 oz. plain flour (I usewhole wheat pastry flour)
2 t. ground ginger
2 t. ground cinnamon
2 t nutmeg, freshly grated
½ teaspoon salt
8 oz. butter
8 oz. soft brown sugar
4 oz. golden syrup*
4 oz treacle (molasses)
6 balls crystallized ginger, finely chopped**
Prepare the pan (9x12). Measure the milk into a jug and add the soda and set it somewhere (on the Aga of course) to warm slightly. Sieve the flour, ginger, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl. Put the butter, sugar, golden syrup and treacle in a saucepan and stand on the simmer plate. Heat and stir till the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and pour into the flour and spice. Mix together well and then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Next, stir in the warmed milk followed by the crystallized ginger. Beat well! Pour the gingerbread batter into the prepared tin. Bake near the bottom of the baking oven for 30-40 minutes until risen and a fine skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool and store in the tin.
* No golden syrup? Replace with molasses.
**Not knowing what a ball of ginger is I used a bit more that ½ cup ofchopped candied ginger. Also added golden raisins. The batter is quite wet. I weighed the flour on a kitchen scale.
Cook’s Mag says when making gingerbread, avoid center collapse bybeating well.
January 20, 2012 Friday
-10 this morning but with brilliant sun all day. It was also windy, never any fun, but despite the wind, the eves were dripping. It finally got up to 20F but I am still cold.
Milk production was way down, partly no doubt a result of the cold but today due to the machine not functioning properly. I used the DeLaval. It has an air leak somewhere that I simply cannot find. Dear Sally went back to the house and fetched the Surge. It does not fit either cow properly but at least is makes vacuum.
We learned that Sally’s DS Rafe and GF SallyB in AK are leaving early for the turtle study assignment in NV. They usually go in April. It is near Reno and is something to do with the Department of F&G I think. That will be a big climate change from Alaska. SallyB has gone ahead to Reno but Rafe is first going on an overnight pack trip with Sally’s SIL Torsten near Tok, AK. Believe it or not there are guys who like to carry heavy packs and sleep in the snow. I am trying to remember if I was ever young enough to want to try this. Here are a couple photos from the house that Rafe and SallyB are building. The couch showcases Rafe's Mom Sally's (my DD) hand woven fabrics with Gretchen their dog.
For supper tonight we had our first meal from the new pork reared by Max and Mitra. I baked ribs. The quality and flavor of the meat is outstanding. We also had a fresh loaf of sourdough bread that Sally baked using the starter I just ordered from King Arthur flour. That too was very good.
DD Marcia in CA has started making cheese. She made her first one today. She has a new press, the Dutch style. I am so proud of her.
January 22, 2012 Sunday
It was -25 this morning. The hose for watering the cows was frozen to the floor inside the hot cabinet. I started the day by immersing the hose in a bathtub of hot water to clear it. The tap in the hot cabinet was also frozen but Sally was able to free it with brute force, always a risky thing to do with any frozen unit.
I took the Surge milking machine to the barn wrapped in heated towels and carried extra hot water. The machine worked OK on Jasmine. By the time I got to Fern it would no longer establish vacuum. We worked together long and hard trying to identify the problem, unquestionably due to some frozen bit – but what? Sally finally went back to the house for a boiling kettle which I intended to pour over the top of the set–up, pulsator and everything. But while she was gone to the house I lifted the top off and discovered that the lid gasket had lumps of Jasmine’s milk frozen under it preventing a seal. I clawed out the gasket and dipped it my remaining warm water from wash up. I always maintain this water completely clean. I replaced the gasket and the pulsator started up just as Sally returned with the kettle.
By this time Fern, who had been streaming milk, was out of her good mood and I ended up having to milk one quarter at a time and never did get more than half the milk. Thank goodness for hungry Ella. I left her with an extra large breakfast. It was 10 o’clock when we got in with the milk.
Everything is more work during serious cold spells and Sally and I both felt pretty well wiped out all day. Between trips to the barn we sank down to read (me) or knit (Sally) and Sally even fell asleep for a while, unusual for her.
First thing this morning I got out a piece of lamb that is sold in England as “scragg end”, actually neck, and in the US appears, if at all, as meaty bones or else gets boned out. This is a shame as it is a truly delicious bit of meat. I braised it in the Aga, covered, in a heavy pot with rosemary, garlic, snipped up dried tomatoes and a little wine and a dash of olive oil. This made a delicious dinner.
It remains to be seen whether we can stay awake for Downton Abbey.
January 23, 2012 Monday
It was a relatively mild 10F this morning. I continue to have a struggle with both my milking machines. Now even the Surge is reluctant to provide enough vacuum to keep the pulsator going properly. It did function this morning but just barely. It was not an icing issue today, just general weakness and perhaps the need for a new set of rubber fittings. I will order them as soon as I can get my head in gear.
What we did today was to go grocery shopping. We have not been out since Jan 3 and I was low on a lot of items such as copier paper, things available locally only at Walmart now that they have driven out all the small suppliers. Shopping at Walmart is a depressing experience for me. All the carts were stuck together so that we and other customers had to fight them apart, the little man who used to do this having disappeared. The distances are vast and dreary. They have dropped their organic produce. Everything is shifted to a new location and there is no store map and few employees. The goods are mostly shoddy. The only form of vitamin E on offer was the synthetic Dl form which is less than half as efficacious.
We got home before the predicted ice storm and found all the animals to be in good shape. The three baby chicks have learned the local rules and know enough to run out and drink immediately when I bring water or clabber. It is so cute to see them line up shoulder to shoulder dipping their tiny beaks.
January 24, 2012 Tuesday
Suddenly today we got a thaw. Sally heard the spring song of the chickadee. It got up to 40F with bright sun and all the snow slid off of my new (2 years ago) metal barn roof. The milking machine behaved very well, suggesting that most of our woes were weather related. Jasmine gave 2 full gallons and so did Fern despite my leaving plenty behind for Ella.
One new woe may or may not have been weather related. The door by which we enter the chicken room from inside the barn got stuck shut so badly that it seemed more likely to splinter than to open. Sally managed to go around through the chicken yard which meant she had to slither through an ice blocked gate (wish I had a picture!) and then armed with tools, jimmy open the exterior door. This is the door I keep latched to prevent the baby chicks from going out or the cats from coming in to snack on chicks. These three new cats I have don’t know the rules. From inside the hen room Sally managed to pry open the inner door. We surmise that the barn has settled into a new position.
Sally caught and dressed off three young roosters. The balmy temperature made this outdoor job possible. I think the birds were five months old.
I made another cheese today and have it in the press. But I don’t really feel I got a lot done. My knee remains annoying.
Mitra explains Max’s Snowman in a Jar:
The "ice jar" was taken out of a frozen bucket about a week ago. Max set it on the railing and every night we've been putting a votive candle in the ice jar which looks pretty cool, I must say. Then this morning he felt compelled to make a snowman to set on the railing as he often does. They often sport a lot of twigs on top for snowman hair. Max decided he ought to set this one inside the ice jar to showcase it.
January 25, 2012 Wednesday
One little chick was missing this morning. There is no clue as to what happened. Even though the door to their room is now defective we had it well blocked from cats. So it was either a rat or cannibalistic larger hen. We are sad.
The calves, Fern’s Ella and Jasmine’s Milton, are penned separately from the cows at night. After milking we let them out and Ella gets her milk. (I don’t milk Fern out completely). Lately Milton has been sniffing around Jasmine but he has an anti-sucking device in his nose. Guess what. Today he figured out how to suck with that thing in. I don’t actually mind so long as he does not cut up her teats, which he was doing before he got the nose guard.
Martin picked up the beef today from the butcher. Much to my surprise, the butcher had high praise for the meat. He said he grew up on a Jersey dairy farm and they always had mature cow and it can’t be beat. So Helen’s last gift to the family will be something pretty nice. Thank you Helen.
Martin spent most of the day at his camp in Weld and rejoined us for supper, but not before doing a repair to the chicken house door. I popped a small lamb roast into the oven for us. It was one of our free form mystery roasts with more bone than meat but we all had plenty. I also made sweet and sour red cabbage with apple. Sally made a lemon sponge cake.
January 27, 2012 Friday
We have had odd weather spiking way above and way below freezing. Patches of ice have developed. Last night and this afternoon new snow fell which becomes treacherous on the ice. I wear my creepers and carry a ski pole. The good part is that it all looks lovely and I have a good man to plow. So far none of the animals have gone down. Behind the barn where they go to sun themselves the snow is deeper and is safer. The sheep are always charming as they bound in and out from the barn to their daytime paddock and vice versa. I love watching them. They all seem fond of each other although I never see evidence of ram activity. I believe they are shy. I feel sure that come May there will be lambs gamboling about.
We had a pork shoulder roast tonight from our Luick pork. What a treat. Home reared apple fed pork is incomparable. We also had sweet potatoes sent by DD Marcia from CA and cole slaw made by Sally.
Sally also made bread using the King Arthur sourdough starter. I recommend it.
My "Snowman in Jar" piece morphed into what I now call Snowman Sumo. It is still high art.
January 28, 2012 Saturday
It stormed and blew and snowed last night but is not very cold. It got above 32F today and the sun shone.
Jasmine and Fern each gave 2 gallons. Fern has more but I leave some for Ella. I have not seen further evidence of Milton nursing on Jasmine.
We have been sprouting a pan of grain and served it out today. I ate some and found it tasty but the cows were not interested. However it is typical of cows to refuse new foods. I would not have considered 4” tall blades of grass to be new food exactly but maybe it smells different or maybe they think grass is meant to grow in the ground, not in a plastic box. We will keep trying. The chickens were enthusiastic.
Max came by today with my feed and a repair kit for the sink spray hose. I find the spray hose to be an amenity that is hard to live without.
Joe Mills, Sally’s former renter, also stopped in and brought us up to date on their family life. Their pretty little daughters are now 16 and 20. Joe is looking for work, like so many. Sally gave him a logging chain that has long been half buried at the former rental property. Joe intends to log their farm.
We watched another episode of Downton Abbey (Season 1) on a Netflix DVD.
January 29, 2012 Sunday
Windy today, but otherwise not cold. It stayed at 20F or above all day. The word from Alaska is that it is 45 below and has been the coldest winter since 1971.
Sally and I mostly spent our afternoon tidying up the carriage house and catching up the laundry.
January 30, 2012 Monday
Fern acted like the heifer she is and kicked the machine apart with her left rear when I was only halfway through milking. The surge bucket was already too heavy for me to lift back onto the surcingle support bar so I had to quit. She was not really violent. She got her foot caught up in the air hoses and did not fight me when I grabbed her ankle and lifted it free. But if this happens again I will not hesitate to institute control measures. For starters, tomorrow I will ask Sally to remain with me and lean on Fern’s hip to displace her weight to the left so that it is harder for her to pick up her foot.
Sally continues to dress off extra roosters as the young fry mature. We ate a delicious one tonight. It was a Lakenvelder. They have a particularly meaty conformation and clear marble-like skin. I fricasseed him. The flavor was outstanding and the meat was not tough. She had aged him in the fridge for a week rather than our usual 3 days. Aging of free range layer breed cockerels is essential to edibility. I believe if I were to send for chicks I would get Lakenvelders. My birds reproduce for me so freely that it has been several years since I have been tempted to send for new chicks. It seems there is always some hen sneaking a nest and the mothers are faithful to their job. I do have a current concern that because three of my current four cats were not raised in the barn they are not afraid of the mother hens. Kittens raised in the barn get a very sharp lesson from the hens if they approach her chicks. It is quite entertaining. The mother hen flies squawking at any cat that approaches her family. The cat gets this injured look and walks away pretending it couldn’t careless. I don’t know if this performance by my wee hens will have the desired effect on these three fat cats.
January 31, 2012 Tuesday
It snowed all day and into the evening. The weather was cold and raw.
Fern was well behaved today.
I made butter and ricotta. Sally has been dying wool.
Sally pulled the woodstove forward and did a chimney clean-out. The stove has been smoking outrageously. We found that pieces of tile had fallen down in it and were clogging the draught. Now the stove is once again being good. What a relief.
So far I don’t know the circumstances in detail, but on the way home this afternoon, the school bus in which Roshan was riding was struck by a tractor trailer, head on! Max called to tell me that Roshan had called him on her cell phone to please come and get her,t hat she had hit her nose on the seat in front of her and had a headache. I told Max to take her to the ER and hope he did. The accident was reported on the evening news. They said there were no serious injuries.
February 01, 2012 Wednesday
Both cows produced well but I had trouble with the machine and no idea why.
The bus accident was on the front page of the paper this morning. It could have been a dreadful tragedy, a tractor-trailer fully loaded with logs coming head on into a school bus. Fortunately the bus was stopped (with yellow lights flashing) and the truck was not going very fast. It pushed the bus back 30 feet. Roshan did not go to the ER but Mitra consulted with her pediatrician and was told what to be watching for. Roshan has several contusions including a bruise between her eyes. She saw the bus coming and had braced herself. Road conditions were poor yesterday and worse today. Here is a link to the local Farmington on-line newspaper:
Sally’s DD Rosemary has now left the Antarctic research station and has reached McMurdo. Departure was delayed due to bad weather. A military plane ultimately diverted to pick them up. The research project is completed.
February 02, 2012 Thursday
A lot of pullets are at point of lay, all birds that hatched her 5 or 6months ago and were raised by their mothers. I get 4 to 6 small eggs every day now. I need to find more customers.
The weather was mild and settled. Sally and I and the dogs took a tour of the garden and fruit trees and Sally brought up a bucket of rich soil she had stored in the tool shed last fall. She wants to start some seeds. So do I, but lately have felt tired a lot of the time. I sent in my Fedco seed order last week and now am having fun with the beautiful Baker catalogue.
We made ourselves a beautiful veg soup with a meaty lamb bone left from a recent roast. It was perfect with Sally’s fresh bread.
February 03, 2012 Friday
A sunny winter’s day around 20F.
14 eggs. The hens are definitely picking up production.
DD Abby is now working in Blue Hill near the coast. She called this morning to tell us to try to try to listen to WERU to hear a MOFGA sponsored call-in about keeping a family cow with Diane Schivera and Megan Gerritson. I was able to get it live streamed on my computer! There were several enthusiastic callers including one who gave an endorsement for my Keeping a Family Cow book, referring to it as the must-have cow bible. So that was fun.
Sally and I are both complaining of the Winter Blahs. Time to increase the vitamin D.
Although so far as I can see she is doing as much as ever, what with sprouting things, doing most of the animal care and knitting whenever she sits down.
February 04, 2012 Saturday
The temperature remained about 20F today and there was lots of sun.
I made another recipe of whole milk ricotta from the Mary Kaplan book. I am going to send it home with Max when he comes tomorrow. DD Sally has made a pumpkin pie. She also made yeast raised pumpkin fruit bread. And I just got the wonderful news that DD Marcia is starting to make bread.
Sally was looking at our dinner this evening and observed that everything on our plates was home grown. This included the meat in the meatloaf, baked squash, frozen green beans, zucchini relish, and butter. And of course the milk.
February 05, 2012 Sunday
It was -5 this morning so milking was a chilly business and production was down. Eggs are still coming fast though.
The sun shone brilliantly and it warmed up to 20F. DS Max came with chicken feed for me and potting soil for Sally. I have several mines of it here and there on the farm but we never manage to stockpile enough of it in the fall. Max moved a new round bale in for the cows. They do love their hay and now the calves are eating their share too.
Sally took a walk around the fields with Willie and followed moose tracks much of the way. I wish I could see it.
Sally has been growing a tray of mixed greens under lights and tonight I was able to sprinkle a delicious handful on our dinner.
February 06, 2012 Monday
It got up to 38F today under a brilliant sun.
Both cows were up in production, perhaps a combination of warmer weather and the new round bale. Jasmine gave over two gallons and Fern gave two even though I leave quite a bit for Ella.
The eggs are getting ahead of us. I got 2 dozen today. Sally boiled 2 dozen for the chickens and dogs.
Sally washed a lot of floors and I shook rugs. Sally made lard from stored fatback and I made a custard. I got a bit of writing done.
February 07, 2012 Tuesday
The news today was that Jasmine was in thundering heat. Sally was nervous about going in with her.
19 eggs today and both cows gave 2 gallons.
Sally gave Willie a much needed bath and trim. She also dressed off two more roosters.
A tiny bantam that she found starved and cowering a couple of weeks ago is responding to her sneaking it food where the big hens can’t see. It looks much peppier and is gaining weight.
I made spaghetti for dinner.
My Fedco seeds arrived.
It was very warm today, perhaps as high as 40F.
February 08, 2012 Wednesday
The cows are all settled down again.
My poor lonely guinea hen has started calling again. She has established several hopeless nests but of course her eggs are sterile. Originally there were two guinea cocks but they would not settle here in their new home and flew away into the woods and were eaten.
It was zero this morning but was sunny and soon warmed up to 20F.
Max organized a new front gate for me. The one I had was an awful sight all wreathed in extra wire to keep the dogs in and sagging on its hinges. He picked it up for me at Tractor Supply in Skowhegan and came over and mounted it. What an improvement! He also stopped at Hannaford and got 2 organic cabbages. I want to make sauerkraut.
I started cream cheese with 2 quarts of cream. Sally wants to make something nice for Valentine’s Day.
February 09, 2012 Thursday
Jasmine gave only 1 gallon making me think that Milton has been sucking. I am considering taking off his anti sucking device to test if he still cuts up Jasmine’s teats.
My cream cheese turned out really well. So easy, too.
Sally and I shopped today for fruits and vegetables and went to the Free Store.
Sally mailed a bunch of Steinbeck books to her DS Gabe in Kazakhstan for him to use in teaching English.
February 10, 2012 Friday
We didn’t expect it to be so cold last night and did not leave on the light in the warming cabinet in the barn. Consequently there was some thawing to be done before Sally could water the animals. Fortunately it was only a one hour delay. We still have two baby chicks. We both noticed how well they are coming along. They have wing feathers and race all around by themselves.
Sally takes the cargo sled into the beefer pen with the pickled hay for the cows. This morning little Ella got her head through the rope and ran away dragging the sled around and around the round bale frame. I missed this but it had Sally highly entertained.
We finally heard from my granddaughter Rosie that she has left McMurdo in Antarctica and is in New Zealand. It was a brief message and that is all we know.
It ended up being over 40F. I was running around in a tank top for a while. I planted a flat of leek seeds. I envision a stately row of King Richards come fall.
DS Martin and family stopped in on their way to camp. Of course I gave them milk and eggs. Little Henry was pretty mad about having to leave so quickly before he got a chance to play with the toys or ride the tractor. He just about had a fit. Well, he wasn’t that bad. He doesn’t scream. But he had to be carried to the van like an armload of wood.
February 11, 2012 Saturday
All the animals think it is spring. They were frisking around in the sun. But it is getting cold again tonight. I hope we really do have an early spring. Otherwise I may run out of hay.
I cooked one of the cockerels Sally dressed off recently. I simmered it in well flavored stock and served it in a sauce over rice. It was amazingly juicy, tender and flavorful. I am so pleased to have finally worked out how to make barnyard roosters turnout delicious. There are so many of them all the time. Every time we think we have them thinned out another wave appears. Of course they are a different dining experience than the Luick meat birds. Those are tops.
I am rereading The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler. He does not flinch in his predictions for America’s future. All the same, he is very good reading. If you are already convinced of the importance of owning land and planning for food production, he doesn’t sound too daunting but I think to those trapped in suburbia he could be unsettling.
February 12, 2012 Sunday
It was zero this morning, finally made it up to 10F with the sun shining, tonight is back down to zero with a strong wind blowing.
By now all have heard my complaints about my milking machine. I pretty well ruled out the Surge unit itself by talking to Parts Department and buying all new rubber. Yesterday the vacuum was so weak that I had to milk just two quarters at a time in order to be able to maintain enough pressure. Martin and family are at camp and Martin agreed to see what he could do.
Martin arrived here expeditiously this morning just before milking. In about 10 minutes he brilliantly justified his degree in engineering by taking out a couple of screws to open up the intake on the pump and, using a wooden chopstick, cleaned out a bunch of gunge. Hurrah! Again I have a functioning system. Both cows milked out rapidly and completely. Later I carried the DeLaval machine out to see if it too would behave. As those with this type will know, without reliable vacuum the cups don’t just flop down and hang there as on the Surge, the whole cluster hits the floor with potentially messy consequences so even though it is in many ways a better design, I have not been able to risk using it. But tomorrow I intend to.
Sally and Martin combined efforts to remove the anti sucking device from Milton’s nose. So far as I can tell, he did not nurse Jasmine today. He will be happier without it. If he does resume sucking, I have a problem.
February 13, 2012 Monday
Zero again today but it did not seem so bad. I must be getting used to it.
I used the DeLaval machine today and it did a good job. It is not quite suited to Jasmine as there is barely room under her for the claw but it’s OK so long as she stands still which she always does. Well, almost always. Don’t want to tempt fate here. It is distinctly better suited to Fern than the Surge which does not reach her teats properly even at the shortest setting on the surcingle. With either machine, on Fern I need Sally’s help to hold the unit in place while attaching it.
After letting the cows out Sally called me to see what Ella, Fern’s calf, was doing. Ella had finished nursing on Fern and decided to try Jasmine. Jasmine was making no objection at all. So far as I can tell her calf, Milton, has not nursed even though he could now that his nose ring is off. I actually have no objection to either calf nursing so long as Jasmine does not get bitten. That has been the problem.
The most recent ricotta I made from the Mary Karlin book is a big success. Sally used it today in her Valentine cheesecake along with my cream cheese.
February 14, 2012 Tuesday
Not so cold today. It started out at 10F and got up over 30F.
Sally took the trays of sprouted wheat out to the sunny windows of the buttery to harden off for a few hours.
DS Max and DIL Mitra came to visit and to bring me some supplies. These included a giant cabbage from the farmers’ market. Max put another round bale in the barn and turned over the baleage to make it more accessible to the hay fork.
We all ate some of Sally’s delicious cheesecake.
We are so very far ahead on eggs that we decided to hard boil a lot more, chop them up and freeze them in quart containers for future animal feed when there is a protein shortage.
February 15, 2012 Wednesday
Now the weather has warmed up again. It was over 30F today.
Georgiana and Jaime came today for their lovely Cotswold ram, Mr. Reilly. He has been here about 6 weeks (I think) visiting my four ewes and we feel sure he has met all his obligations, if their rapidly increasing appetites are an indicator. Jaime caught and led him to the trailer very easily – she is clearly a pro at animal handling.
Us four ladies had a lovely tea party and chat and ate cheesecake that’s ally made with all home produced ingredients.
We heard a lot of bleating from the ewes this evening. I think they were missing Mr.Reilly.
February 16, 2012 Thursday
My gracious, it was spring like today. It was over 40F for most of the day and everything was dripping.
Both cows gave more than usual despite the fact that the pulsator on the DeLaval was wheezing. Sally had to push down on it the whole time. Furthermore I could tell from Jasmine’s chapped teats that Milton sucked yesterday (and we saw him later today thus occupied). He is still getting his two bucket feeds as well. The milking machine bucket was filled to within 2” of the top.
Sally replaced the clappers on a couple of lovely cowbells and put them on Milton and Fern. Now as soon as I am able to sleep with the window open I will be able to hear the cows at night.
I chopped and shoveled snow off of the deck to make a path down the middle. Then I reclined in my deckchair in the sunshine for 10 minutes or so. What fun.
Sally has garden plans going. The tomatoes are up in a tray and today she planted sweet peas in plastic cups.
February 17, 2012 Friday
Last night I disassembled the gasket fitting in the pulsator and gave it a thorough scrubbing in case there was invisible scum interfering with the air seal. Sally, who has better hearing, said she suspected that air was leaking past it. Today the machine worked very well so it must have done some good. Or possibly it had not been seated correctly.
Once again this morning the garage door was frozen shut necessitating treatment with boiling water and beating it with the maul. DS Martin says that next summer he will install a rain gutter over the door so the drip goes somewhere else. Besides locking us in, an ice dam builds up dangerously. I have to spread ashes or sand several times a day.
It was warm again today, 40F. I was able to do some barn floor scraping in the milking area where shavings were frozen on. Sally did a big clean-up in the carriage house storage area.
Sally now has bells on both cows and both calves. They make a sweet chorus.
Georgiana reports that Mr. Reilly is in a bad mood.
February 19, 2012 Sunday
Bright sun all day but it is cooling down again. It may go to zero tonight.
Milton is beginning to cut jasmine’s teats. This morning I slathered her with a lot of Uddermint and he sniffed her and turned away. He may have come back later. But he does get his bucket of milk in the early morning so let’s hope his nursing motivation is weak.
Yesterday DD Sally made a delicious apple pie using apples we collected in the fall and she cut up and froze in pie-ready bags. She marked each bag with it provenance. These were unattractive greenish apples with a faint blush that came off a tree in an abandoned orchard in Wilton. They looked and tasted much like Cox’s Orange Pippen.
This morning Sally dressed off the last of the young cockerels that cause trouble in the barn. I have lost track of how many she did in all but it was probably around 15. She is mighty speedy.
We watched an episode of Downton Abby this afternoon on Netflix.
Sally’s husband Tom is back up at Prudhoe Bay where he is foreman of a construction team. Sal’s DD Rosie stopped in New Zealand on her way home from Antarctica. She is having a good time on Stewart Island.
My recent attempt at cream cheese was a failure due to using rennet that was too old. What I got was 2 quarts of crème fraiche. I made mashed potatoes with some of it which Sally hailed as a success.
Sally has been hearing an owl every night and has called various knowledgeable people in the effort to identify it. We are pretty well convinced it is a snowy owl. Many have recently been reported this far south, not their habitual range.
February 20, 2012 Monday
Bright sun today but cold and blowy. The actual temperature was over 20F so Sally stayed out of the wind by working in the attic. She is sorting books. That is slow going for an inveterate reader. But really, I have too many and some are just not worth hanging onto… and we are running out of wood.
Speaking if which, Max came over and sawed and split enough for a couple of weeks. That was a big help. He has not been called back to work. Of course we all hope for the call but in the meantime it sure is helpful to have him come over to help.
Before attacking the woodpile he rescued us from a different emergency. Despite our constant efforts, the kitchen sink was stopped up again. He had to break open the outfall line and use the snake which fortunately he found; I had no recollection of where it was.
Sally made bread. The chickens are laying like crazy. The cows are doing well but I am finding damage to Jasmine’s teats. Not serious, but worrisome. Dear little Milton is a joyful calf now that the device is out of his nose.
February 22, 2012 Wednesday
Sally jumped up this morning and made dried cherry scones using some of the 2 quarts of crème fraiche that resulted from my failed cream cheese of last week (I used old rennet). They were so good!
Dr. Cooper came today and dehorned Fern’s heifer, Ella. He always anesthetizes calves. They go into a 3 or 4 hour snooze with occasional waking. We laid Ella out in the main aisle of the barn. Fern was in the beefer pen as usual and did not see what was going on but she knew she didn’t approve. She bellowed on the other side of the door for a couple of hours. After Ella was semi awake we let Fern in to the“recovery room” so she could lick Ella. Later when they were all back in the beefer pen and Ella was nursing, Jasmine was licking her too. She probably licked off all the vitamin E that Sally put onto the horn sites. We left them together for the night. There won’t be much milk in the morning for us but that’s OK.
After the operation, Dr. Cooper came in and ate scones with us.
I made another cheese yesterday using one of Homestead 2’s recipes. It is now out of the press and looks beautiful.
February 23, 2012 Thursday
For two days we have kept Milton penned up to prevent his sucking. Sad to say, after removing his nose device he was soon back at it and made cutsi n Jasmine’s teats. I have been treating her with coriander oil. Sally thought we might try a product sold to prevent dogs from licking their surgical wounds to see if that would discourage him. I sprayed some on Jasmine this morning before turning her back out and Sal and I watched as Milton made a lunge for his mother totally undeterred. Sigh. Sal got a rope on him to try to drag him away. Milton provided a rodeo display of racing and dodging and nearly pulled Sally’s arm out of its socket before I was able to head him back into the calf pen. He will have to stay there until I come up with a new plan.
I have been searching the internet for guidance with controlling codling worms in my apple trees. I am especially anxious to defend the bearing tree that Sally pruned and restored last fall. The consensus is that it is nearly impossible with organic methods. One approach that some have tried but which was treated dismissively was to pen chickens under the trees to eat the pupa that overwinter in the grass and in the bark. My chickens are free ranging but do not habitually visit my pet tree. Right now with much of the snow gone they are getting as far as the south side of the house. I got a canister of wild bird seed and dribbled a Hansel and Gretel trail from the house to my tree. I plan to do this consistently until the chickens get the idea.
One year we penned Penelope, DD Kamala’s pig, under a big old apple tree in the pasture. This resulted in bumper crops of clean apples for about three years. So I feel I have a basis for optimism.
DD Abby now has a laptop courtesy of her brother Bret. She has been off line for weeks at her live-in caregiver job in Blue Hill. We will now hope for more news from the coast of Maine.
Granddaughter Shireen just finished her racing season in cross country skiing. She raced today in the high school State championship races at Black Mountain in Rumford. Her team did well.
February 24, 2012 Friday
Jasmine’s cuts are still touchy so I smeared her teats with Thuja Ointment and kept Milton penned up. Next we are going to try putting the cow bra/udder support on her to see if it will stay in place well enough to prevent sucking. My efforts with this in other years have all failed but Sally is prepared to work on modifications as needed. The weaning problem is one of the most persistent frustrations of family cow ownership. If there is no practical way to rear the calf apart from its mother, there is a great deal to be said for starting it right out on a bottle.
Jasmine and Fern each gave 2 gallons today. I get close to 2 dozen eggs a day and we are way ahead on them. Sally has been hard boiling and chopping them up for the chickens. They go nuts for them. In this form the chickens don’t identify them as eggs so it does not induce egg eating from the nests.
I made us a delicious and refreshing tomato aspic for supper using home canned tomatoes and Knox’s gelatin. I included chopped parsley, shallots and peppers. Sally provided dainty greens from her tray under lights.
February 25, 2012 Saturday
We awoke to the sight of 8” of fluffy new snow tinged with dawn pink. By the time chores were done a blustery wind had arisen and the temperature had fallen. The wind was so strong that where it came up under the wooden floor of the buttery it lifted the 5’x8’ carpet and walked it along the floor.
DD Sally and I strained our brains for 20 minutes this morning trying to get the “cow bra” onto Jasmine. She was remarkably patient but we finally ran out of our own. Sally continues to study the matter. We concluded that a piece is missing. So Milton spent another day in his pen. At least he was not lonely. In this weather all the others stayed in where he can see them.
February 26, 2012 Sunday
I found another two illustrations of different kinds of cow bras in various catalogues. Using their pictures Sally was able to work out an arrangement of straps for the cow bra that seems to work. She also added a bit of elastic to the bra across its front so that it didn’t droop- our cow is much smaller than what they had in mind. Before putting it on we again slathered Jasmine with thuja ointment since Milton doesn’t like that. We also made him wait an hour or so to get him past his impulse to nurse when Jasmine came back into the beefer pen. So far these seem to be working. Milton was wildly excited to be let out of his pen and raced around in circles kicking up his heels and chasing Ella.
I waxed my last cheese and got another one ready.
The weather continues unpleasant, cold (10f) with a very hard wind. I have to put jars of hot water in the milk refrigerator outside to keep the milk from freezing.
We took off Jasmine’s bra for the night.
Fern is showing early signs of heat.
February 28, 2012 Tuesday
No doubt about it today. Fern is in heat.
This was the 3rd day that Jasmine has worn her “bra”. Sally has got it fitting well enough that Milton can’t get past it. Hurrah! Tonight, despite Fern attempting to mount, Jasmine seemed to understand that Sally was trying to remove it for the night and stood as well as she could with Fern on top of her.
Max came over and brought me more supplies. We had a nice tamale pie lunch. He moved in another round bale for the cows.
I stewed a rooster and made creamed chicken for supper. We also had steamed carrots and cabbage and Sally made biscuits. All very simple yet tasty.
Sally’s DD Rosemary is now on her way home from Antarctica. After stopping for a week or so in New Zealand, she has now got as far as Los Angeles, where she phoned from a beach. Tomorrow, onward to Cordova AK where she keeps her fishing boat.
My DS John is on his way to the United Arab Emirates where he will be instructing in the use of the tidal study program he has developed. Like every advanced nation with a sea coast, the UAE monitors tides.
March 01, 2012 Thursday
It snowed all day and is expected to continue.
Both cows are milking well and I seem to have made peace with the machine. I am leaving more behind for Ella since she had been topping off her diet with milk from Jasmine but now cannot because of Jasmine’s bra. I don’t want her to get so hungry she does damage.
DS John is now in the UAE. Sally’s DD Rosemary is back in Cordova and they put her straight into the EMT rotations. It was snowing there too.
It snowed most of the day. Schools were called off.
March 02, 2012 Friday
Daylight is much earlier now. The first thing I saw this morning before I even had my hair combed was my plowing neighbor coming to the door for his check. He plowed us out on his way home from the night shift at the mill.
We are now between snowstorms so decided to take the opportunity to go grocery shopping. We had not been out for three weeks and have company coming soon, Francis Scott, grandson Tommy’s friend from Australia.
I put beans in to bake before we left. For supper, besides beans, we had other easy food: ground beef patties and baked squash, both being farm produce, avocado salad and rhubarb sauce. This is plain food but thanks to homegrown quality (except for the avocado), is priceless. Thinking of our friends in to the west, we listened to Bruce Springsteen’s song, My Oklahoma Home, from his album We Shall Overcome. It is about a destructive tornado. In fact we listened to the entire album, and danced. I love the Mariachi orchestration in many of the numbers.
March 03, 2012 Saturday
We were recently given a couple of boxes of regular commercial flaked breakfast cereal. Figuring we wouldn’t be likely to eat it ourselves, Sally took it to the barn in the early morning for the chickens to use for scratch feed. They were very hungry for their breakfast and launched themselves at it but then refused to eat it once they had a good look at it- it was quite funny. That tasty fresh wheaty smell it has right out of the box, when on the barn floor with its nice barny smell is revealed to be faked up with chemicals. Kids don’t know the difference, but the chickens sure do.
The cows and sheep are all doing well. The calves are getting so big that that when they are all together it seems like quite a herd.
March 04, 2012 Sunday
Sally and I and Willie Dog took a tour around the garden and fruit trees. Everything looks as it should at this season. I did not see any deer damage thanks mostly, I am sure, to DD Marcia hanging blocks of Irish Spring soap among the branches.
I made up a new batch of laundry detergent.
Sally made an apple crisp using apples she sliced and froze last fall. They were from my pet tree that I hope to bring into full production this year. It was badly damaged but nonetheless produced a couple of dozen lovely apples.
My new batch of cream cheese turned out well. We put it on the crisp.
March 05, 2012 Monday
It was unexpectedly cold this morning, around 10F. Sally and I are having a little trouble being good sports about it.
My grandsons in Australia’s good friend Scott is visiting for a few days. He has already visited many family members around the world and the U.S. so now we all have a new friend. Max will have to take some pictures tomorrow when he comes over. They plan to go snowmobiling. Scott did me a favor and took some pictures of Jasmine sporting her cow bra.
I set my egg basket down in the barn while I did something else. When next I looked a bunch of hens had rained down from the rafters, tipped over the basket, and were breaking and eating the eggs. Horrifying! Now I will have to pick up eggs all day until they are broken of the habit, if they ever are.
March 06, 2012 Tuesday
Beastly cold again this morning- zero. However it warmed up to around 30 pretty soon. Max came over and he and Scott worked on cutting firewood. Sally made a pie with raspberries and my new cream cheese which came out very well. Then the boys went over to the lake to check on the camps- all was fine. They took out Martin’s snow machine and went for a spin on the lake.
They took turns zipping around and on Max’s turn when he was about two miles down, the motor died. The drive belt had shredded up. He walked back phoning Martin when he got to somewhere with cell phone coverage, and Martin said a new drive belt was under the seat. But Max walked the rest of the way back so as to let Scott know what was going on. Then they walked the two miles back, fixed the machine and rode back to camp.
Had a nice roasted Luick chicken for dinner with couscous and cauliflower, and more pie.
March 07, 2012 Wednesday
We woke up to a warm day- ten degrees. Very soon it was up to 40. Max came over and split the wood he’d cut yesterday. Then he and Scott went for a little show shoeing around by the river. The dogs stayed home- Sally had taken them out in the fields the day before and they’d had trouble with the snow. Then Max and Scott went in the truck to Weld and parked at Center Hill and admired the view and took pictures.
DS John had extra time on his hands while in Saudi Arabia and looked on the weband found the following story:
Having read here about Jasmine’s cow bra, he was trying to find a picture of one and found this story. Apparently it is so cold in this place in Russia, Yakutia, that the women make cow bras out of rabbit fur to defend them against frozen teats.
I spent much of the day making a chiffon cake. It’s an elegant-looking ten egg cake with lemon flavoring and was much admired. We had it for dessert after having the last one of the Alaska sockeye salmon that Sally brought when she came.
March 08, 2012 Thursday
It was marvelously balmy today, sunny and warm. Warm means about 45F but is sure felt good. There was lots of melting around the house, driveway and barn. There is a thick ice berm in front of the rolling door of the carriage house that is going to take a week of days like today, I’m afraid.
Our guest, Scott, took a drive today up north to Rangeley and then all the way down to Portland to see the city.
The sheep were sick today with some unknown disorder. They were shaking and off feed. Sally did a late check and reports that they seem to be recovering. I hope there were no miscarriages.
March 09, 2012 Friday
The sheep seemed pretty well recovered. If you didn’t know they had been ill you would probably notice nothing. We kept them in to be on the safe side. I went down into their paddock to look for problems. I found some old bark on the ground next to the granite that might be cherry, very old and rotten. That is the only possible culprit, I believe. All the ground is covered with snow and there is nothing but strewn hay in their run-in.
We said goodbye to Scott today. He spends tonight with the Luick’s before flying out of Bangor tomorrow. It was lovely having him to visit.
Mitra’s addition: Even though Scott was the guest, he insisted on treating us (our family of four plus DD Shireen’s friend Abby) to a lovely dinner at the local Thai restaurant. He tried their Masaman curry, his favorite Thai curry, and declared it to be quite good. After a great dinner that involved good food and quite a bit of drinking, it was so nice to have Shireen drive us all home. We really enjoyed his visit and were sad to see him leave the next morning.
March 10, 2012 Saturday
Sally stacked a lot more wood. She has been stacking every day. I think we now have more than enough.
I went down with the cargo sled and gathered up what I could of the bark on the ground in the sheep paddock. I still don’t trust the sheep in there. It needs either to snow and cover it up or thaw enough so that there is a lot of bare grass to nibble even though brown. Right now the only bare ground is where the bark is lying. Today we kept the cows inside the beefer pen half the day so that the sheep could be outside in the barnyard. Then Sally brought the sheep into their stall and let out the cows. They can’t all be outside together because then the sheep would run into the beefer pen and despoil the hay in the feeder. They climb into it. It’s complicated.
Martin and the kids came up to camp for an overnigiht. Sally and I joined them for supper at camp. Martin bought fresh haddock from the fish market in Biddeford. Amy stayed home because she is running a 5K race tomorrow.
March 11, 2012 Sunday
Sally wants to stop bringing Ella in when Fern comes in for milking. Our plan was to tie her in front of Fern to prompt Fern’s letdown and this worked but we think Fern no longer requires this prompt. Sally wants to simplify everything for me as she will be leaving at the end of April. As a compromise Sally tied Ella to the stairs where Fern can still see Ella but just barely. This caused a lot of complaints and pooping. I got so much splashed on me that I had to throw my outfit in the wash. I suppose this new plan will require the usual three days to become accepted.
Sally took soiled hay out and spread it on the bark on the ground in the sheep paddock and put the sheep back in there. They were not ill this evening so something is working.
Sally also began unraveling a section of fence that she wishes to replace. This is part of a plan that she and Marcia have long wanted to carry out. This is to create an ornamental garden in the old foundation next to the carriage house. It will be below grade with a granite wall on three sides, very inspiring to the gardeners in the family.
I stood out on the deck today just in time to see the cows all making their way down to the river pasture. The ground is still covered by snow but the sun was so warm they couldn’t resist.
Martin went to the Luick’s and he and Max went for a bike ride while Roshan watched the kids.
Martin (in left corner) used his phone to take a few shots of their ride.
March 12, 2012 Monday
It was balmy again today and a lot more snow melted. I have switched from pulling the sled to the barn and am back to using the wagon.
Max came over and brought feed and a bag of kindling that he purchased along the way.
Sally fed out some pickled hay to the sheep and later noticed them acting shaky. We now think it must be the pickled hay that is upsetting them. They were OK by bedtime.
March 13, 2012 Tuesday
Sally was up early and baked a pumpkin cheesecake flavored with fenugreek. Big success.
After chores we went to Farmington and shopped at the health food store and the thrift shop. We both got lots of stuff. We left the cows wandering hither and yon on the mostly bare pasture – nothing for them but dead grass of course but they keep hoping. There may be snow tonight. The sheep were fine. They are already looking wider.
March 15, 2012 Thursday
I did not write yesterday because the day passed so uneventfully that there would have been little to say except that the sky was dark and heavy and by late afternoon it began to snow gently. We got about an inch accumulation of damp 28F snow which today is already melting away.
Here is a snippet of information that all should know:
Sally just wrote to her DD Rosie who will be going out as cook (as soon as the weather clears) on a small Alaskan research vessel called the Auklet. She explained to Rosie a truth that was drawn to our attention a year or two ago in an article in Spin-Off, her wool magazine, that wool is fire retardant. ALL synthetic fabric is basically oil and when confronted by fire turns back to oil (essentially Napalm) resulting in terrible burns. The US Navy requires that uniforms be wool for this reason. I keep a wool blanket on the settle outside my BR door to wrap myself in case of fire, also have one by the window in my room.
Speaking of the navy, Patrick O’Brien in his series of novels about the British navy in the days of sail told us that seafarer’s wives used to provide them with feather or down filled comforters. These can double as flotation devices, as it takes a long time for down to become waterlogged. No doubt if the fabric covering were oiled it would float much longer. Even an ordinary down filled pillow would float a long time.
This afternoon I took a walk to visit the fruit trees and garden, hoping to find sings of spring. Nothing to report yet except slight swelling of the buds on the Balm of Gilead trees. I broke off and ate a bud. They have an intense aromatic principle capable of numbing the tongue for hours. I barely got rid of the sensation in time to eat one of Sally’s superb cinnamon rolls.
Both cows are giving 2 gallons. In the case of Fern I am leaving perhaps 3 quarts behind for Ella when I milk. Then Fern and Ella are together all day.
The weather today was not cold but was clammy and mostly cloudy. An inch of snow fell last night but all melted.
March 16, 2012 Friday
There is a sense of spring in the air even though the weather was clammy and overcast. The grassland is once again half exposed but completely brown.
I started a new teleme cheese from my Mary Kaplan book. I had to run an errand in Dixfield in the middle of it and got the sequence of events and the temperatures thoroughly confused. Whatever it is I have produced is now in the press.
Sally continued a project she has been working on of dog and chicken proofing the entire fence of the former horse paddock. We hope to keep chickens out of what we plan as a small grain and corn patch and dogs in, in case we want them with us when gardening.
March 17, 2012 Saturday
Beautiful warm day, got to about fifty. We took the storms off the kitchen windows and let the sunshine in. I’ve been looking every day for daffodil noses and found several today, also a crocus in bloom. This will probably be my only crocus.
Sally continued with the fencing project. She finished the dog proofing and started the chicken proofing which involves running a wire of electric fencing along the top of the fence to stop chickens from using it as a staging area for attacks on the garden. She also walked the fence line around the North Field and then turned the electric fence on and the cows explored all around all the pastures looking for little green shoots. There may be a few around the rocks. The calves raced around and kicked up their heels.
I continue to find more eggs, nearly always two dozen a day. I am grateful to have found a big customer who will take all she can get.
Sally made haddock chowder to eat while we watched the last installment of Season 1 of Downton Abbey. Mitra has ordered us Season 2 on Netflix.
March 18, 2012 Sunday
Fern was naughty this morning during milking. She was resistant to letting down. She tried to kick off the machine with her right foot and got it all tangled in the hoses. No harm was done but it was annoying in the extreme. The only good part is that so far at least, she only aims at the machine, not at me.
It got up over 60F today. We were both running around with bare arms and feet. It was warmer outdoors than in the house. Max came over and took three weeks of trash to the dump, big help. He made a second run and carted off some rotting pallets.
I have three weeks’ worth of hay left and another six weeks until there is good grazing.
We let the cows and sheep mingle today. They all spent a lot of time exploring the pasture in an animated manner.
I started seed indoors for cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
March 20, 2012 Tuesday
We have just had two more warm, in fact very warm days. High temperature records for New England are toppling fast. Amazingly, many of the seeds I planted on Sunday are already up in their plastic cups.
Today was also the first day of Spring. Celebrating Persian New Year, called No-Ruz (New Day), are granddaughters Shireen and Roshan and their cat Harriet Nuisance.
Fern was in full heat today. Nonetheless she was perfectly well behaved during milking. Yesterday she was kicky. Both cows gave over 2 gallons.
Dr.Cooper came today and gave Ella her Bang’s vaccination and ear tag.
I gave him lunch. We had baked beans, fried rice with sunflower seeds and my sauerkraut, which now is nicely fermented. Sally made brownies yesterday and we had some of those too.
During the afternoon Sally and I worked outdoors. She is doing more fencing. I did some things in the garden including raking around an apple tree that Sally has been rescuing in hopes of exposing the codling worm larvae to hungry birds; I also cut back shrubby herb growth that I left on for the winter. New oregano has already come up thickly.
The sheep are so hot in their wool that they won’t come out from under the granite foundation of the buttery where it is always cool. They didn’t even want to come out to eat. Sally went under and poked them to get them moving, and then put them in the barn. They were still too hot to want their hay. She ran the hose on them, especially on their faces where the wool is short, and got them bouncing around at last and then they began eating their hay. I have an appointment in two weeks for shearing.
March 21, 2012 Wednesday
I doubt there will be much milk tomorrow. Fern was in even more enthusiastic heat today than yesterday, although I would have thought this impossible. Then as the day wore on Jasmine joined the party and by evening she too was in standing heat. Sally was reluctant to go near them for fear of becoming the object of desire. Neither cow spent any time eating.
I tried a new recipe this morning that DD Marcia gave me last night over the phone: Carrot Cake Pancakes. I had yeast raised whole wheat batter from Tuesday which I amended. It is just a matter of adding grated carrot and typical carrot cake spices to pancake batter. The original recipe had one adding nuts and raisins too but I didn’t bother with that. My cream cheese was the perfect topping. Very good. I will definitely make these again. (I used clabber instead of the buttermilk called for.)
It was again sunny and almost hot. Sally did a lot more fencing work. I pinned dryer sheets up in Sally’s apple tree and raked in front of the house. Guests are coming this weekend and we are trying to vanquish some of the horrors revealed by the melted snow. Despite the warm weather, streaks of snow and ice persist.
Here is a picture of my great granddaughter Violet in California. She is almost one. Isn't she cute?!
March 22, 2012 Thursday
All quiet among the cows. Production was only down about a pint each which is surprising in that they did not eat all day yesterday.
Max came over to help with a few things. He put the last round bale into the feeder and the remains of the pickled hay too using the tractor. Sally has been feeding out the pickled hay using the fork so this saves her some work and lets me clean up the smelly spot on the lawn where it had been on a pallet.
Then Max set out for the woods to have a look at the spring line. Wonderful news! As usual there was a leak in the line permitting the spring water to run wastefully away. But for the first time ever, although it is only March 22, the distal segment of the line leading to the house was thawed out so that when he repaired the break we got water to the house. I could scarcely believe my ears when I started to hear gurgling in the line. We never get the water back before some time in April and often not until May. This spell of hot weather did the trick.
Sally’s DD Rosemary in Cordova, AK recounted the following: A woman in her 90’s was interviewed and here is her story: In Valdez which is near Cordova there was a newspaper story about a lady, the oldest inhabitant. When she was young she lived in the lower 48 somewhere, married with two little babies ages one and two. One day she went to the store to buy groceries leaving her babies with her husband and when she came home they were gone, he had stolen them. For years she looked for them- I'm sure she never stopped- but never found them. Eventually she divorced her husband in absentia, I guess, and married again and moved to Alaska. And then one day after this newspaper story, the phone rang.
The little boys had grown up without their mother, but after their father died I gather they found out what her name was, or what it had been, but they never could find her- this was a long time ago of course, before the Internet. Somehow someone saw the newspaper article way down in Florida where they lived. It was a grandson who called her. One of her little boys had died, the other was 75 years old. She flew all the way down there and met the whole family. Isn't that great?
March23, 2012 Friday
Very fine weather. We spent most of the day preparing for our overnight guests tomorrow. Went to the garden for a while though and found that the chives were up, and also that the February Daphne is starting to bloom, also a scilla next to it. I worked picking up plastic and the boards that held it down that had covered beds during the winter. Sally worked a bit on her fencing project.
Martin arrived at the lake late last night, and Amy and the kids came today in mid afternoon, then they left for a dinner of pizza at their house. While Martin was working from home this morning at camp he was able to watch the ice going out at the lake.
Thanks to Sally Willie, my Westie, had a nice bath in honor of the spring. Now he’s all white and fluffy and curly.
Last but not least, we received photos from our Aussie friend Scott from his visit to Maine. Sally, Scott and I in the music room.
March 24, 2012 Saturday
Our guests, Steen and Carla Bentzen, Sally’s DD Rebecca’s in-laws, and Joanne Gardner and Tom Boisvert, Sally’s son Rafe’s in-laws-to-be, arrived right on time this morning at 11AM. We had coffee and snacked on cheese and salami and other good things. DIL Amy and the kids popped in briefly on their way back to Biddeford.
On a midday trip to check on the animals, DD Sally heard unmistakable peeping. Somebody had stolen a nest in the disused mow on the north side of the barn. There is nothing up there but bare floor and a plastic tarp which I hoped was sufficiently inhospitable that no hen would choose it. Wrong. Sally climbed up a ladder and put the family into a cat carrier which she lowered down on a rope with the assistance of Carla. There were two chicks and 5 eggs still to hatch. They are now established in a roomette we have for such occasions. The hen settled right down to her duties in her new home.
All of us took an excursion to Weld and viewed the lake and DD Marcia’s camp which of course they loved. We then drove up Center Hill and parked near the cemetery to admire the view of the lake and mountains.
Back home we had tea and snacks and Sally and I did chores. I had the dinner in cooking already, a leg of lamb. I also served baked squash and brown rice. Joanne brought the salad.
March 25, 2012 Sunday,
Steen, Carla, and Joanne came out to the barn and watched how the milking went. Joanne took a lot of pictures which I look forward to seeing. They stood out of the way so that the cows would come nicely and not worry. Jasmine’s milking went fine, and when we got to Fern they had to step way back because she’s still a bit shy. The mother hen still has just two chicks; the other five eggs do not seem likely to hatch.
Tom fried some of the Luick bacon while we were milking. After breakfast they went for a walk over on Sally’s field but had to use umbrellas because it was drizzling. Then we all had a fine lasagna lunch provided by Carla. They left about two o’clock for the long drive home. Sure was fun.
March26, 2012 Monday
Turned out we overlooked Jasmine’s bra last night so she had to sleep in it and it was filthy this morning. All day there was a ferocious cold wind and the feed hopper blew over inside the chicken house (It stands by the open door). It was about 20 degrees and all the plants from the buttery had to come back into the house. The spring sink froze up too.
March 27, 2012 Tuesday
Everything was frozen up this morning. I think it was about 13F. The icy wind was still blowing. However there was bright sun and with the longer days we now have the various buckets thawed out. And very much to my surprise, in the late afternoon the spring sink water again began running.
DS Max came over and brought COB and dog food and helped Sally with her fencing project. What was needed was a strong man to remove what was left of the old fence and roll it up to be hauled to the dump. This Max did and made Sally very happy. She had already put up the new fence outside ofthe old fence. When removing some boards Max uncovered a nest of hibernating garden snakes, 15 or so in a ball, all small. He picked them up and moved them into the tool shed under a bundle of plastic where we hope they will be warm enough. We call them brown garter snakes but no doubt there is a proper name.
March 29, 2012 Thursday
It was another day of intermittent damp snow, temperature around 20F. There was very little wind until late afternoon. Sally worked on the new sunken garden area in the old granite foundation. She plans to start a willow tree this spring but this year we will use the area for potatoes.
The cows and sheep did some exploring around the various pastures. I think they hope to find spring just around the next bush.
A couple of hens have found a way to sneak into the haymow. Sally found a nest with 7 eggs. She found another hen all be herself on the north edge of the pasture. Any hen that starts a nest over there falls victim to the fox.
I made curried lamb with leftovers I saved from last Saturday night. Sally made pumpkin cup custards.
March30, 2012 Friday
The weather continues cold and blowy but with bright sun. The spring sink has frozen and thawed several times. We exclaim with joy every time it returns.
I have been working hard on writing an essay for the NYT contest: Why it is ethical to eat meat”. It is about done. Thank goodness for Word Count. I have to stay under 600 words. I think there will be many entries.
We continue to get a total of 4 gallons each morning from two cows milking OAD. Fern has her calf Ella on her during the day but Jasmine’s calf Milton has his milk in a bucket twice a day. I get 2 dozen eggs every day.
Sally continues to work on tidying up the sunken garden area. Everywhere she clears the ground a flock of chickens begins happily scratching.
March 31, 2012 Saturday
Nancy came to help with field work. She cut way back on the blackberry canes along the outside of the garden - a very prickly job. Meanwhile Sally got a permit and had a bonfire and burned up most of the last of the slash from various clearing projects in the fall. It was a warm day and the cows and sheep spent most of it out in the field looking for grass which is still too short for meaningful grazing.
April01, 2012 Sunday, Palm Sunday
When Sally did the early pass taking Milton his milk and giving the cows and sheep their breakfast and so on, the guinea hen had some string wrapped around her leg. There was a stick stuck to it but not long enough to step on and she couldn’t get close enough to catch her. Eventually the stick broke off but the string is still there. She continues to call every morning for a mate but so far none has appeared.
Max came around noon with a nice new round bale of hay. We are getting pretty low. He says he can arrange to bring more. He also brought fencing supplies for Sally to fix the electric fencing around the North Field so the cows can use it again. He fired up the tractor to put the round bale in the barn and also took it to the garden and brought up all the old fencing and fence posts, and then did another run to bring up the black locust that he’d cut in the fall. Then he helped Sally by bringing some large dressed granite blocks for her walled garden project. Part of a wall needed repair. She was thrilled. These granite blocks had been out in the pasture for years.
After he left we went to Weld to buy coffee and cheese. Coming back, looking over the fields, Sally thought they looked beautiful. They are still mostly brown. I agreed that they at least looked promising.
April02, 2012 Monday
It was a bit warmer last night, about 30F in the morning. The sun shown all day yet it did not get above 40F. Not bad though, for working outside. Sally continued with her work on the wall of the sunken garden. She has moved a lot of big pieces of granite, well not huge, but too big for most people her size. She used a crowbar. It will be charming once I get plants in.
At last I am able to report some leaves. Today there are little green clusters opening on the lilac bushes. What is it I am supposed to plant when the lilac leaves are the size of a mouse’s ear? Peas?
I worked for a while in the veg garden, mostly more clean-up, but I dug a few small parsnips. They were a tasty addition to the haddock chowder I made for dinner.
April 03, 2012 Tuesday
I don’t believe the temperature got above 45F and there was constant wind but the sun shone brightly. I took Sally to her eye appointment in Rumford. She needed a driver of course. The doctor told her her vision has not changed. This is always gratifying to hear. Meanwhile, I did the shopping.
When we got home I sent in my essay to the NYT contest. The subject is “Why it is ethical to eat meat”. The panel of judges is not the least bit promising. They don’t say when they intend to announce winners.
The cows have good hay to eat and they fill up before going out but prefer to spend the day in their favorite places outdoors. The sheep stay close.
I tried the blue cheese I started 2 or 3 weeks ago. I did not choose to pay $30 for blue mold so experimented with adding crumbled blue cheese from the supermarket. I blended it into warm milk and added it at the beginning of the cheese making process. I also did not have the proper mold so formed it with the cheesecloth into a cushion shape. Other than that (!) I followed the Mary Kaplan method. It developed a lovely white velvety surface like camembert but never showed any signs of blue. I aged it in a Visions glass stockpot on a bamboo sushi mat, turning it every day and wiping down the glass. It was creamy like camembert and had a light taste of blue cheese. Sally and I agreed that whatever it is, it is excellent.
April 04, 2012 Wednesday
It continues to be about 20F every morning but warms up to about 45F during the day. Today was clear and windy.
The cows were cooperative this morning and gave the customary combined 4 gallons. They each get a couple of pounds of COB. Let no one suggest I am pushing them at this rate. Of course Fern gives more than 2 gallons. I leave almost half behind for Ella and then she has her all day.
Last night a clever KFC forum member described filing down her calf’s teeth using a Dremel tool. I have long thought of filing those wicked sharp incisors to make them less likely to slash their mother’s teats but figured I would have to use a flat or rat tailed file and it would be an extremely difficult 2-man procedure. I had never heard of a Dremel but Sally was perfectly familiar with it as was Max. So this morning I commissioned DS Max to go buy one for me, which he very kindly did, and brought it here and did the job. He did it so fast that I didn’t get there in time to watch. He just put each calf in a headlock under his arm and reached his hand around and put his fingers in its mouth to hold it open while with the other hand he performed the dentistry.
Tomorrow we will leave the cow bra off of Jasmine and see how it goes with Milton.
Max also tried the cheese and gave it high marks.
Nancy Hutchinson came today and helped Sally with soil prep in the sunken garden she is making. She has finished with the stone work.
April 05, 2012 Thursday
Good news so far on Milton. We left the cow bra off of Jasmine today. Milton made for her immediately and she kicked him repeatedly but he sucked anyway. However, this evening there were no cuts and she even had some milk. Obviously he had not gotten it all, either through indifference or discouragement. Time will tell.
The weather continues chilly and windy, not inviting to work outdoors. Sally put up an electric wire along the top of the fence along the paddock where we plan to put corn and squash. This is to discourage marauding chickens. Free range has its downside, which also includes hidden nests. I got only 18 eggs today so I will have to go on a pre-Easter egg hunt.
I spent some time in the veg garden doing clean up. There are bunching onions to be had and parsnips are up. The lovage is just beginning to show. I believe I could plant radishes.
April06, 2012 Friday
No new cut teats on the cows. Great satisfaction so far. Now Sally can stop carrying buckets of milk to Milton. He can get it from the Source.
Sally and I worked outside a lot, especially Sally. Actually, I spent a lot of time looking out the window while endlessly on hold with a banking matter but managed some more clearing in the veg garden. There are still more beds to uncover. The cold dry northwest wind continues. One is amazingly shielded when working in the sunken garden. Sally and Nancy have it mostly dug over now.
When Sally went out to the barn this evening she heard chickens nearby but could not see them. The poor things were under a feed tub. It had flipped over on them.
DS Martin and DIL Amy stopped on their way to camp for a little visit and so that I could send along milk and eggs. Hannah and Henry are as cute as ever.
April 07, 2012 Saturday
Early this morning Sally made lovely hot cross buns for tomorrow morning but we ate some today.
Mark, our sheepshearer came. Martin and family and Sally and I were present to assist although all Sally had to do was carry away the wool and put collars back on the sheep. Martin stood by to hand up the clippers as needed. Amy and the kids and I mostly watched. My three Sussex ewes are huge and hard to wrangle. The one Finn Dorset cross ewe is smaller but struggled more. She was last in line and watched all the others including her mother leave and not come back. It all went well except that Mark nicked Martha badly while trimming her hoof and she bled a lot.
Afterward we all went into the kitchen and had pie or buns and tea.
The weather continues bleak and windy.
Jasmine gave only one gallon instead of two, reflecting having had Milton with her all day yesterday. It comes to the same thing for me because Sally has been taking him milk in a bucket. Since we have plenty, she took it anyway last night and this morning but now he won’t drink milk from a bucket any more. So that is one less daily chore.
April 08, 2012 Sunday, Easter Day
There are no new cuts on the teats of either cow.
Two of the ewes had nicked teats and are limping, one worse than the other. At first Martha would not stand up this morning. Sally carried her hay to her. Later in the day she moved around more. She does not act sick, just in pain. Sally thinks she will recover OK. We kept the sheep in because the weather is blustery and they might get pneumonia without their wool.
We kept busy all morning with dinner preparations. DS Max and DIL Mitra and girls, DS Martin and DIL Amy and kids, got here about 12:30. Shireen hid the eggs outdoors while Roshan played with Hannah and Henry in the house. The weather remains bleak and cold with no flowers or leaves and barely any grass but the kids didn’t mind and at least it is not raining, although in fact we need rain. It is dry for the time of year. Fire permits are not being issued.
We had a wonderful dinner. Mitra brought baked ham. Amy brought salad and roasted Brussels sprouts, I made a casserole of pureed squash and a brown rice pilaf and a cake. The cake was a lemon cake with a coconut meringue filling. I served it with fresh pineapple and strawberries topped with crème fraiche.
Sally did the major cleanup after the guests left. I took a nap.
In her spare moments Sally has begun washing the wool. She has done two dishpansful of Linda’s wool. Linda had the best fleece, being only half Suffolk. The other half is Finn/Dorset.
April09, 2012 Monday
It is drizzly. We decided to keep the sheep in another day. Two are still limping but they are all eating.
Sally planted a patch of oats about 50’x50’.I planted radishes (Misato Rose).
April 11, 2012 Wednesday
Yesterday we put the sheep out to run with the cows and get some grass. The cows hadn’t seen them since the shearing and were quite astonished at the change. They were completely puzzled by their appearance and checked them over carefully to see if they were really the same sheep. It was very funny. Later on we saw the calves teasing the sheep and chasing them around which was very hard on Martha’s bad foot, so we brought them in.
Sally finished planting the wheat just before it started to rain. It is another 50ft.square. Fortunately the sheep were already in so they didn’t get a chill, being very bald just now.
Ev came to lunch and I made quiche with leftovers of Luick ham from Easter.
Today the little hen that we have been keeping housed in the grain room came out and called her chicks to follow, but they didn’t manage it. Perhaps tomorrow they will have more courage. There were swallows in the barn today, very excited to be back. We also heard the spring peepers over past Sally’s field.
The walled garden is making great progress with Nancy’s help- she finished digging over the beds so now Sally can finish them. I got Australian Yellow Lettuce planted. This is a new kind to me. Our order of plants arrived from FedCo including a very nice pear tree to be a pollinator for the pear we have (our original second tree died). It was a substitute for the one we ordered, no doubt a fine variety but saddled with the name “Luscious”, which Sally does not like. Since it was she who ordered the new trees, I will call this “Sally’s Pear”. Other trees in the order include a shrub willow, a tree lilac, a grape and more. I will have to write down the names.
April 12, 2012 Thursday
Both cows were in heat today, first Fern in the morning, then Jasmine at noon.
There are new cuts on Jasmine so I asked Max to buzz Milton’s teeth again, which he did, at some cost to himself. He got a cut on his hand from Milton’s incisors..
For a long time I have pondered the feasibility of using a shop vac as a vacuum pump for washing the milking machine. I finally asked Max to pick one up; I could use one in any case. He brought it today. For some reason I envisioned it involving the tub but Max arrived with a homemade conversion unit with which to attach the large new vac hose to the small port on the pulsator where the regular vacuum hose fits. We tried it out and it works perfectly. I will use it tomorrow morning. I felt I should use a new shop vac to be sure of avoiding contamination of the milk. Since it is only air that is passing through, a new vacuum hose might have served as well. I also don’t know how much vacuum is required for the wash-up. This new vac is powerful.
At Sally’s suggestion, I also asked Max to pick me up a slingshot. Modern slingshots are a far cry from the wooden contrivances that enlivened my youth. I can’t so far imagine nailing a crow with this thing at any distance but crows are smart. Perhaps Max can wing one and then all I will have to do is wave it at them. Or place it in the hand of a scarecrow?
One more row planted today: Kuroda carrot.
April13, 2012 Friday
Sally wants to take the slingshot home to Haines. She says that what she envisioned doing with it here was hitting one of the boards of the fence, not a crow. Whap! Very scary.
There was a handsome gentleman barn swallow sitting on a wire in the barn this morning chatting it up with the barn crew. Then he flew over and talked to his wife. We are told that the barn swallows are very scarce this year.
I planted a row of Bloomsdale Long-Standing spinach and dug weeds for about 10 minutes. I try not to dig too long so as to build up the strength in my back. I harvested beautiful volunteer parsnips and also Japanese bunching onions. They both survived the winter outside and are especially delicious. Little clumps of Johnny Jump-ups are coming up all over the garden. We transplanted one up to the new walled garden.
Sally dug up an outrageously overenthusiastic cimicifuga from outside the kitchen to a spot in the new walled garden. It should like it there as it prefers it damp and a bit shady. The one tiny clump from last year had turned into enough huge roots to plant about a 15’ bed. She also planted a Japanese tree lilac and a rose, ‘Jens Munk’. Also she fed cutworms to the chickens who were thrilled.
Martha is still limping and last in line.
April 14, 2012 Saturday
This morning I looked out my bedroom window and the sun was shining and the grass was more green than brown. Before the day was over several daffodils had opened.
I planted beets (Three Root Grex).
For dinner I cooked a half shoulder of Luick pork with my homemade sauerkraut. It was so good.
I cut into one of my cheeses today, the one that was intended to be teleme. It is a long way from being teleme but is nonetheless delicious. It reminds me of a Caerphilly.
Martha was limping less today but still last in line.
April15, 2012 Sunday
Sally started the day by making almond cookies. What a treat.
Still no rain but much warmer. It reached 70F.
Martha is still last in line but definitely moving better. The state of health can be hard to judge in a prey animal. They do their best to conceal illness and injury so as not to draw the attention of predators.
Here are a few pictures from last week's sheep-shearing.
Sally planted four kinds of potatoes in the sunken garden. It does not get full sun but the soil is excellent and I think they will do OK if this continues to be a dry year. If wet, I will have to get Max to do some trenching. There have never been potatoes there so the beetles should be delayed in finding them.
I usually get help from Max with laying hose to my lower veg garden but he is out of town and my seeds are going to come up and frizzle if I don’t get water down there. The radishes are already up. I spent most of the day organizing hose fittings, dragging hoses and all the things we all hate about hoses. Then Sally helped me drag it down to the garden. I filled the dustbins that I use for reservoirs and carried water in sprinkling cans to the rows. Now our helper, Nancy has called to say that we may have snow next week. The weather is wobbling in its orbit.
April 17, 2012 Tuesday
Milton is not cutting Jasmine’s teats now that Max filed them (twice) but is eroding the skin around the top of her teats and attacking her too violently. She tries to kick him off but then gives up trying. We put the cow bra back on her this morning. It’s a nuisance I had hoped to avoid after Sally leaves but at this point the only other options I can think of (besides freezer camp) are equally troublesome. A huge advantage of preventing Milton from sucking is that I will now get an extra gallon a day of milk. Milton will be 6 months old on the 23rd of this month and ought to be weaned.
It was very warm again today. Sally and Nancy H. laid a double strand of barbed wire along half the length of my north property line. I had a new survey this past winter to clarify it. The person I sold it to (not the current owners) moved the stakes to take more land for himself and then built a shed half on my land and cut down some of my trees to improve his view and then became threatening when I complained. I am so relieved to have at least the first half of a new property line fence. Sally and Nancy came in exhausted. They had to make their way through the nearest thing that Maine has to a jungle and it includes some swamp although not as much swamp as there used to be because the former owner without permission drained a lot of it to make himself a lake at the lower end of the property.
April 18, 2012 Wednesday
Not so warm today but full sun. We got an extra gallon from Jasmine thanks to putting the cow bra on yesterday.
Lots of excitement in the garden. I dug up a three foot long self-seeded volunteer parsnip, just perfect. Lots of perennials are up- peonies, Michaelmas daisy, lychnis. The 100 year old crabapple tree is leafed out well. The tamarack tree is a nice froth of green. Sally planted lupine seeds and more potatoes in the paddock garden, transplanted baby Helenium to a larger pot, and so on. We are thinking of potting on the tomatoes into larger pots as they are anxious to have more spacious quarters and we don’t trust the weather yet. They are from mixed heirloom seed from Fedco and we are most anxious to see what they turn into. They are fine plants.
The cows got down to the pocket field today for the first time this year. The grass is already quite lush down there and they seemed delighted with it. None the less they came running when called in for their evening grain snack; it was quite funny to see them all running, the two calves way ahead and the moms not liking that and galumphing along. The grain is mostly to get them in so the calves can be separated for the night.
April 19, 2012 Thursday
We got a frost last night. It was down to 22F. There was one early morning warning but all day the prediction was for a low of 45F. Fortunately we did not trust the weather and brought in or covered all the seedlings and did not lose anything. It would have been a heartbreaker. Sally gardened like crazy all day and I dug and watered for an hour or so.
My spinach is up. I am trying not to buy any more vegetables. Mostly this means I am serving sauerkraut or parsnips.
April 20, 2012 Friday
We got another light frost last night but suffered no real damage. Sally had taken all the same precautions as the night before.
Yesterday I feared that Jasmine was getting mastitis, perhaps as a result of the pummeling she had been getting from Milton. Last night I applied Uddermint, a strongly scented peppermint lotion approved for organic practice. She was in good shape this morning but I applied it again anyway. She will continue to wear her cow bra for protection.
DS Max was here for hours helping with a long honey-do list. He got the old tarps off of the veg garden. DD Marcia put them down two winters ago to solarize a big patch of comfrey, a task which they appear to have accomplished.
DS Martin and the kids came this afternoon without Amy. She is home cooking for Hannah’s 6th birthday party which will be at the lake on Sunday. I joined them for pizza and sunset watching on the deck. Sally stayed home to work on her packing.
April 21, 2012 Saturday
There was some sad news this morning. One of the ewes died during the night from unknown causes. She was eating yesterday, they all were. We think it was Martha, the one that had the hoof injury, but can’t be sure as Martha and Susie are identical twins and she appeared to have fully recovered. She was only recently dead and probably could have been butchered but neither Sally nor I had the heart for it. She was quite pregnant almost certainly with twins. Martin very helpfully came over and helped dispose of the carcass. I decided that our best option was to take the occasion to move the winter manure pile to its final location and bury the ewe under it. This is now the way most farms dispose of dead animals. After a year there is no trace.
Hannah and Henry stayed in the house while Martin buried the ewe. Henry and I sang rounds (in unison) while Hannah tirelessly dragged a string for Tamworth (the cat) to chase.
I was greatly discouraged (although should not have been surprised) to find that the essay which I submitted to the NYTimes “Why it is ethical to eat meat” contest is not among the list of seven finalists. They published all seven. I found them mostly shallow and derivative, although one was rather sweet. The public was encouraged to vote on them but I did not. The panel of judges consists of committed vegans plus a couple of meat apologists. Pollan concedes that he doesn’t do science and Bittman is always fashionable but incoherent. After the Times publishes the winner I will post my essay here.
April22, 2012 Sunday
No new tragedies today.
We are getting 4 gallons OAD from the 2 cows, more than enough for current needs.
It was rainy and around 40F all day. All the local family met at DS Martin and DIL Amy’s camp for a birthday lunch in honor of Hannah’s 6th birthday. Max grilled hamburgers and sausage on the deck, ground meat was from Coburn Farm and sausage from a charcuterie in Biddeford, very good. Amy made a great green salad and mac and cheese and a chocolate pudding cake with ice cream. While waiting for dinner we ate one of the cheeses that I had made. It was the Rikki Carol cheese from my book, a farmhouse cheddar. It was aged from January 12th and was a big success. I was particularly pleased because the mesophilic starter that I used was one I’ve been maintaining by reculturing, for at least ten years. I freeze it in ice cube trays and use one per gallon. I reculture it with sterilized milk as needed.
All the animals were fine when we came home. The mother hen is now trying to persuade her children to fly up over the half door of the grain room where they live. We put a bale of shavings as a staging area for them to see if that will help.
We just noticed that there’s a major storm coming so will have to bring the rest of the plants in from the deck. Most of those still outside are huddled under a table but we don’t think that will be good enough for the size of the storm as described.
Warning! Don’t try to garden wearing Crocs! DD Marcia just called to say that she had just driven her spading fork right through her Croc and through her big toe when violently attacking a root clump. She says she is up on her tetanus shots. At least it is her left foot. She and my sister Barby are about to go on a 3-day driving trip.
April23, 2012 Monday
When Sally did the first pass at the barn this morning she heard peeping from under the floor. Couldn’t see how many but we threw them some feed. In the evening the mother brought them out for a proper meal, and there were eight. She was so desperately hungry she could barely stop eating long enough to call her children to come and share. They are all shades of pretty light brown. We’re making some more clabber so as to be sure to have plenty for them in the morning.
It rained hard all night and all day, with a big wind in the night too. Some parts of the state are flooding. We had to go to town and so I didn’t get down into the garden to see how things are down there. The new walled garden is a series of moats. Sally was out there a couple times trenching. I saw my first flowering tree of the season, a flowering cherry at the library.
The wheat is well up in the paddock, with the oats just becoming visible.
I talked to Marcia and she says her foot is better and shouldn’t prevent her from going with my sister Barby on an expedition to see our old friend, Billy Burten. She lives up in the foothills of the Sierras.
Seemed pretty cold today, we had to light a fire. It doesn’t help that most of the plastic has been taken off the windows in honor of spring.
April 25, 2012 Wednesday
I had to say goodbye to DD Sally today. DIL Mitra drove her to the bus this morning for the trip to Boston from whence she flies to Seattle, then Fairbanks. SIL Tom will meet her. Her DD Rosemary will also be there. She is on a brief visit to Fairbanks herself for medical care.
It seems very empty here without Sally. Willie lay on the lawn near the gate all day waiting for her to return. I had her help this morning with the chores but now am on my own. Things went alright this evening.
I did a bit of gardening but the weather continues cold and windy. No rain today and the puddles are not draining much. The grass is coming along well. This evening for the first time the fields glowed green as the sun went down, a fine sight.
April 26, 2012 Thursday
I started chores a half hour earlier than usual and finished an hour later, working alone, counting from letting out the chickens until the last piece of stainless steel was clean and airing. I will have to get more efficient or not much gardening will get done. I did plant cucumbers. It is taking a big chance. Snow is predicted for tonight. If they come up and freeze I will just have to replant. That is all the gardening I did except for resetting a dense clump of self-seeded garlic into a tidy row. A bird sang charmingly while I was in the garden. The sun shone but it remained cold.
Sally just called from DS Bret’s house in Fairbanks to report a safe trip and that the meat she took stayed frozen.
I fried some leftovers in ghee and plan to go to bed early.
All the animals are fine.
April27, 2012 Friday
I got the chores underway as soon as I had my tea and was off for my early pass at the barn by 6:30, back in at 7, ate a pancake, and back out to milk at 8am. Everything was done by 9:45, an improvement on yesterday. All the animals were cooperative but there are a lot of them, what with little families of hens and chicks to cater for. The one with 8 chicks that brought them out from under the barn last week is a smart little mama. This can’t be her first clutch. A lot of my hens are several years old, as we never kill them. She takes her family into the edge of the pasture to forage under the parked equipment but if I call “book book” she comes skimming over the ground with her chicks streaming after her for their handful of grain.
There is a hen gone broody in the layer room that is the most ferocious I have ever seen. I have several holes in my hand from reaching under her to look for eggs. Yesterday when I reached under her she flew at my face, landed on the floor, then jumped from the floor to attack several more times. Today she repeated that performance this time dragging her wings on the floor like a fighting cock. I kicked at her and she then flew to a high place the better to attack my face. I don’t hurt her, just try to defend myself. I understand that she just objects to egg thieves. If she does manage to hatch out cockerels with her temperament there will be some action in the barn when they grow up. I once saw a pair of cockerels square off at about 8am at a distance of 6ft, race at each other, meeting midair with their spurs leading and they kept it up all day. By afternoon they were merely limping weakly towards each other unable to boost themselves off the ground, but neither would say “Uncle”. They did all this with no audience, apart from my periodic observation. All the other birds ignored them.
The weather today was miserable, cold and very windy. I made a tour to the lower garden and saw that the new pear tree is covered with tiny leaf buds about 2mm each. But I found my first spear of asparagus. It was in my little wild patch off where Sally had the black locust taken out.
Nancy H. came and did some trenching in Sally’s sunken garden. The water was not draining and I feared for the potatoes. Nancy discovered that water is running like a tap from underground from a place in the granite wall. She made a canal to lead the water away to the pasture.
April 28, 2012 Saturday
All the critters are doing fine but the cold weather continues. It froze pretty hard last night and there was a violent wind. It is expected to be even colder tonight.
Nancy H was here checking the electric fence for me in case branches were down. She found a section near the river mashed right in where a moose had gone through. She took Willie dog down with her to work on it. Jasmine took exception to Willie when he came up to say hello and bowled him over several times. Then she turned and headed towards Nancy whom I guess she considers to be a stranger. Nancy is smart and held up a white nylon electric fence post. That stopped Jasmine in her tracks. Later she was able to make friends with Jasmine. I have never known Jazzie to be anything but friendly as a hound. Maybe the presence of Willie or the high wind blew her mind.
April29, 2012 Sunday
It got down to 20F last night. I had all the sensitive plants covered that I could think of. At 10pm I remembered the sweet peas and went out with an afghan. There was a howling wind all day and it did not get above 40F so I did little outdoors.DS Max came over and helped for a long time. He made two runs to the dump. We took a tour around the garden searching for asparagus but it was not up far enough to pick.
I got nearly 5 gallons of milk this morning and was able to give a lot of milk and clabber to Max.
May01, 2012 Tuesday
When I let the chickens out Monday morning there was a plump looking Barred Rock sitting in the hen yard looking like a tea cozy. I broke off one of last year’s weed stalks and tickled her to see if she would move. As I suspected she had a family of chicks underneath her, five little puff balls. I brought the necessities of life to her to give the chicks a start. It soon started to rain and is still raining today. She has a bit of barn overhang to crowd under. There is no way I could catch them. The chicks would scuttle right under the barn but the hen would not be able to get through the crevices. They are still doing fine today.
Dear Max and Mitra came over this morning, arriving just as I was hauling in the milk. They then proceeded to do all the lifting and pouring. Mitra has a similar machine and wash-up system so all I had to do was tell her where everything belonged. Afterwards we ate some fruit bars that DD Sally had frozen for a treat.
Sally called from Haines to tell me she was safely home.
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Last night did not get below 40F and it did not rain today. It was overcast and windless, pretty good for working outside. Nancy H came and did a lot of digging in the borders. The standing water in the sunken garden has drained away but the ground remains sodden. Nancy dug up a potato and it showed no sign of rot I am pleased to report.
I made butter but mostly am working on editing and of course the daily round of skimming, washing up, and feeding things.
May 03, 2012 Thursday
Dear Max came over this morning and helped me with a lot of important things starting with moving Milton to the small former sheep paddock. Milton has a run-in, water tub with a convenient filling arrangement that Max set up and convenient hay. Milton doesn’t much like it but he can see the other cattle most of the time. The grass is excellent. Having him separated means that I don’t have to put the cow bra on Jasmine. Jasmine was in heat today so it would have been dangerous for her to be wearing it, with all that jumping.
Max will be leaving on May 12 for a job in Libby, MT.
I have been falling behind on my seed planting but got a row of calendula in today. The weather remains bleak.
A nice man from New England Organics dropped off a lime spreader this morning. Lime is shortly to be delivered to Sally’s field.
May 04, 2012 Friday
It rained pretty much all day.
Milton has not gotten out of the paddock, so that is good news. He bawls when he sees somebody but otherwise grazes. I have an over view of him from the deck. I see no backbone.
Both cows were perfectly behaved this morning. Also they both come when called.
All the baby chicks and their mamas are thriving. I take them clabber when I have it and throw them scratch a couple of times a day. They spend most of the time pecking around the manure pile.
May 05, 2012 Saturday, Cinco de Mayo
At last a fine clear day, bright sun and not too hot. I got into the garden briefly and began the task of digging weeds out of the asparagus bed. I managed to clear about 3 ft. The asparagus is trying to come up.
Mid-morning I noticed Milton was no longer bellowing. Yep. He had hopped over the fence and joined the others. They were so pleased with themselves and the weather and the rapidly growing grass that they wouldn’t come when I called them tonight. So I did not get to inspect Jasmine for damage. I suppose there will be no milk in the morning from either of them. Sally McD, Jasmine’s former owner, is coming next week to take her back so that will solve the problem of weaning. I believe I will put Ella on Craigslist. Because she is separated at night, I will be spared a great deal of cow wrangling.
I have been putting off making bread but after two days of dry crusts I activated my sour dough starter and made a couple of loaves. While making it I ran back and forth to watch the Kentucky Derby. I love watching it.
May 06, 2012 Sunday
On this beautiful bright spring morning the cows were nowhere to be seen nor did they come when called. They had started a new little cow community down in Pocket Field and saw no reason to leave . Eventually, being cows, the force of habit compelled them to return to be milked. They each had a half full udder so it was worth milking. I succeeded in impounding the calves. Later Max came over and helped me install Milton in the small stall where he will have to live until Sally McD comes for his mom. He spent the afternoon broadcasting his fate from his small window. It points towards the neighbors as is only fair. Daily their son runs a public address system that blasts in our direction.
I got another couple of feet of asparagus bed dug.
My hundred year old apple tree has started to bloom.
May 08, 2012 Tuesday
After two fine clear days, steady rain all day and expected to continue.
DS Max has a new job and will start next Monday. It is in Libby MT and he will be away for 2 months minimum. I forget the name of the company but it is a contractor whose client is one of the large mining companies. They monitor wells, visit landowners, take water samples and various other things that need doing.
DS Martin came for part of the day and helped out with the animals. He is staying overnight at camp but was here for lunch and supper. We ate a couple of pork chops from the Luick pork. I made a brown rice pilaf that he likes and an apple crisp.
Nancy H. helped out with badly needed vacuuming.
May 10, 2012 Thursday
Monday and Tuesday I worked on preparations for the departure of Jasmine to her new home in PA. On Wednesday Sally McD and Kip came to pick her up. During the drive up here Sally remembered that she had not arranged for transportation documents for Jasmine. She asked me to call my vet about it. He came over here to see if he could help. I had arranged the animals and everything for easy loading and while awaiting my vet, dear little Jasmine, tempted by grain, hopped right onto the trailer with just a little pushing from Kip and me. I say hopped because Sally’s trailer has no ramp and was fairly high. Dr. Cooper was unable, on short notice, to make out the papers for a trip through four states.
I had lunch ready but Sally and Kip were in too much of a hurry to stop. Dr. Cooper and I ate it by ourselves: baked beans, brown rice pilaf, sauerkraut, fresh bread and apple crisp.
Jasmine’s trip home was dramatic. Sally McD stopped at Kip’s place in MA, the halfway point, parked her rig in his driveway, and went to sleep on his couch. Around 11pm he awoke her to say Jasmine and his cows were mooing loudly at each other. He is in a suburban neighborhood (his place is the last vestige of agricultural zoning) and the cows were disturbing the peace. Sally put on her shoes and began driving south. It was a dark and stormy night. Soon she could barely see the road. The rest stops were full of truckers but she finally found a slot and slept for a few hours. She called me mid morning from her home to tell me she had milked Jasmine and gotten a gallon and a half, half of her usual amount, not surprising in view of events.
We are grateful to Kip for his help with the transport of Jasmine. He was indispensable.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Fern, Jasmine’s daughter, and Ella, her granddaughter and Milton her son, were grieving mightily. They gave me reproachful and pleading looks and did a lot of mooing.
This morning Fern gave two gallons before quitting let-down. I always let her save some for Ella.
It has rained steadily all week. I picked a handful of asparagus spears
DD Sally in AK called to tell me she is making cold smoked salmon from our book, Chacuterie.
It took a lot of calling tonight to get Fern to come in and bring “the kids”. She is used to hearing me call Jasmine, not her.
May 11, 2012 Friday
The cows were fairly settled this morning. Fern gave 2 gallons. I did not get into the garden but got in a couple of hours of editing.
My five sons, John, Bret, Max, Mark and Martin got together and sent me a magnificent bouquet. Somebody will take a picture, I hope. I will see Martin and Amy this evening for pizza. Mark can’t get away from the hospital and Max leaves tomorrow for his job in Libby MT.
Later: I got the sheep in easily but Fern and the calves did not come. I left the cows roaming and went on to Weld. It was a lovely evening at the lake. After eating, which included memorable cheeses brought back from their recent trip to Mount Tremblant, we all went out in the canoe. The lake was still and lovely and there was a fine sunset and view of Tumbledown and Venus.
The cows are still out.
May 12, 2012 Saturday
Fern and Ella spent last night together so there was no milk this morning, well, I got 1 cupful. Tonight I had better luck getting them in.
Martin and the kids stopped in and went swimming in the river, walked the fields looking for turkeys, and Martin helped me out with some new computer skills.
Nancy came for 6 hours and did a lot of work. She dug up all of Sally’s potatoes, some of which had rotted but some of which are doing well. Then she mowed the lawn and dug the invading grass and clover clumps out of the new asparagus patch. I am finding a few spears.
May 13, 2012 Sunday
I got off to a fast start this morning so as to be ready for a brunch invitation to The Front Porch restaurant in Dixfield with DS Martin and DIL Amy. Martin rode his bike down to help with chores but I was largely finished by the time he got here. We discussed various plans for further simplifying my animal chores. Getting the calves separated away for the night and consequently carrying their feed is a nuisance.
Amy and the kids came along about 10am. The place was crowded due to Mother’s Day. The kids patiently drew pictures on their napkins while we awaited our food, which was very good.
Back at the farm, Martin filled a tub with manure for the azaleas and rhododendrens that Amy is planting at camp. Martin put the weaning ring on Ella. So we will try this for now. I won’t need to separate anybody but will have more milk to deal with. Fern gave 2 gallons and a quart this morning after 13 hours without Ella. It will be interesting to see what she gives with Ella weaned. If I am once again swamped with milk, no time will have been gained. I always feel strange complaining, or hearing anyone complain, that we are getting “too much milk”. A thousand generations of ancestors would be shocked at the concept. But thanks to the FDA, yet another part of the natural order is mutilated. A product of inestimable value cannot readily reach those who would most benefit.
May 14, 2012 Monday
Clearly I have not solved the cow/calf separation issue. With the nose job on Ella I expected to find Fern full of milk this morning. Instead I got a ½ gallon. That was partly because she resisted letting down but I surely got half of what was there. I can’t be sure if Fern put up with jabbing by the nose ring or if Milton got it after all. It has been my firm belief that Fern would kick Milton off. Tonight I will separate the calves again. I will try to separate just one of them so as to identify the “culprit” sooner.
I did not have to wait for tomorrow morning to discover who is sucking and how. I went to collect eggs midafternoon and caught Ella nursing more or less with the side of her mouth. A few people on the forum report success with the weaning rings but only with the spikes facing the calf and mostly not even then.
This morning I did not see anything of the hen with 8 chicks. I don’t know where she has been in the habit of spending the night and thought she might have taken the chicks out early to forage. Sadly, not. This afternoon the chicks were foraging by themselves and I found a pile of feathers that used to be their mother. The chicks are about 3 weeks old and have wings and are impossible to catch. The weather now is not terribly cold, around 40f at night, but torrential rain is predicted for tonight.
Update #2: I take it all back. Ella wasn’t really getting anything. Fern is stuffed with milk. We’ll see how it looks in the morning.
May 15, 2012 Tuesday
Fern was still stuffed this morning but I only got 2 gallons. She let down fairly well at least to start with.
Four chicks made it through the night. They were smart enough to come into the henhouse tonight so will be warm and dry. The other mama with five did not show up today.
I picked some very nice asparagus.
May 17, 2012 Thursday
Fern is giving slightly more each day. Until I got the weaning ring on Ella, I was taking the machine off Fern before she was all milked out so as to leave some milk for Ella. So she is habituated to not letting it all down. I wonder how long it will be before she lets down fully.
Of the two free range hens with chicks, there remains one lone chick. He runs around grabbing a bite where he can and looking nervous.
We had fine weather today. Yesterday Nancy and I set out the sunflower plants. Today she staked them and we put on floating row cover. There is a chance of frost.
I have not been feeling well. I am suffering sporadically from hives and have a toothache. Actually, I believe I am on the mend but feel tired. DD Sally in AK has been sick but today reported feeling a lot better. Her DS Gabe is on his way home from Kazakhstan for a visit.
May 18, 2012 Friday
The sun was shining beautifully at 5:30 am. After several trips to the barn and much calling I finally got Fern in at 8:30. This is annoying. I used to walk way, way down in the pasture to fetch Helen, who was notoriously stubborn and contrary but I was younger then. A pasture walk on a fair morning was seldom a hardship. Now I don’t feel much like it. I wish I had proper gates close up. Then I could keep her nearby at night. I don’t wish to lock her in the beefer pen. All three would have to stay in together and I would have to put down hay and maintain another water tub. Grr.
Fern continues to give a bit over 2 ¼ gallons. I don’t think Ella is getting any.
Both my toothache and my hives were less troublesome today.
Nancy H did a lot more mowing . The place is beginning to look good.
Here is the essay I submitted to the NY Times Magazine contest, “Why it is ethical to eat meat. The winning essay was not exactly bad. It employed a point I introduced in several essays and articles in the last few years and I am glad to see used, namely that by eating grass, cows translate the energy of the sun into useful form and the author touched on another of my frequent points, namely that vegan agricultural production is by no means more efficient than animals production.
Why it is ethical to eat meat
In the 1950’s, nutritionists, reflecting the anti-breastfeeding zeitgeist, assured us that formula was fully equal to mother’s milk. In fact one prominent Berkeley expert theorized that cows’ milk was superior because human milk was too low in calcium. Mothers were made to feel guilty for breastfeeding, hearing “You’re starving that child!”
Mother’s milk and meat are two foods upon which humankind has flourished since the year Dot. As with breast milk, the fact that we now need defend the ethics of eating meat presupposes that there is a fully reliable, even superior, alternative. If there is, vegans may safely invite meat eaters to join their party, enticing them not merely with a cleaner conscience but with better health. If meat does not support better health, then meat eaters must make their ethical case under the vegan threat of meat-induced illness, perhaps maintaining that damaged health is the price for expressing solidarity with the habits of ancestors.
There is plenty of precedent for such self sacrifice. Many people have chosen to pay a high price for sticking with an awkward ethical position. Often children must bear the shibboleth for parents’ ethics, be it nudism, free love, political or religious extremism, veganism or for purposes of this example the gratifications of eating meat. Shall I compel my children to eat meat when vegans have declared it a stain on the soul, a threat to personal and planetary survival and lacking in dietary importance? Or is it vegans who are injuring their children by imposing their dietary choices? If either group is injuring their children the ethical position must be reconsidered. As someone who has observed first hand the effects of the above listed enthusiasms, I wish to defend the children.
Take it as a given that children should be nourished in a manner that optimizes their chances of reaching their potential for growth. While nobody is tracking overall outcomes, vegan kids are clearly under stress. What else am I to think after 50 years of observing the dear things’ pale skin, easy fatigue and often desperate craving for meat? Compare this with the rosy cheeks, cold hardiness, strength and stamina of children on a diet of milk, eggs and meat.
The environmental impact of meat raises an equally compelling ethical concern. If any of the accusations against meat, that it causes ill health, unbalancesCO2 or methane, competes unfairly for finite resources, had the smallest basis in Natural Law, herbivorous mammals would have been Darwined-out long ago. Yet the allegations against meat perpetually pile on and are believed by people so innocent of biological reality that if we were discussing babies, they’d be seeking them under cabbage leaves.
Now that we have killed the buffalos, the patient cow at the bottom of the food chain living on grass has become the indispensable converter of cellulose, Earth’s largest crop, into food digestible by humans. Do we allow them to die and leave them to vultures or do we eat their uniquely valuable meat? The ethical choice for ourselves and our children is to eat it and thrive.
There is an additional consideration. We know that a diet founded on animal protein is successful. Historically, we do not find any long term breeding population of vegans. Veganism as practiced today remains experimental. By definition, the burden of proof is on the experimenter. If a vegan diet can neither support reproduction nor prove sustainable, as is doubtful (see Holy Shit by Gene Logsdon), it must resign its claims to ethical sovereignty; eating meat will take its place by default.
May 20, 2012 Sunday
Nancy was here on Saturday for two hours mowing lawns. As she was preparing to leave she noticed that the eclectic fence was down on the north side of the field. She set out with extra poles and insulators to make repairs. It was a mess. Fortunately it had thoroughly shorted out because Fern was standing in a bog with fencing tape wrapped around her legs. When called, she came on out like a good little cow, picking her feet out of the tape as she came. I walked down to Pocket Field with grain to entice them all home, which was anaerobic adventure, and shut them all inside the barn, including the sheep who never like to be left out of anything. It took Nancy another two hours. If she had not noticed the problem I would have had a bad night as the cows were already edging onto the neighbors’ property. Past experience had shown me that from there instead of coming home the way they came, they follow the neighbors’ driveway out onto the main road. Close one.
Another mama hen appeared, this one with six tiny, eager little puffballs.
Fern gave 2 ½ gallons this morning. One quarter is still not letting down fully.
Martin will be here tomorrow night following some meetings in Augusta and will join me for supper. I have some nice asparagus for him.
It was hot today. I actually had to water a couple of my seedbeds. I planted dill.
My lilacs are not doing much this year. Nancy stopped by and left me a lovely great bunch. She lives on a high hill. I suspect that the weird warm spell we had in March followed by serious cold damaged the buds of both my lilacs and my fruit trees.
Nancy reported seeing a bear up by her place. It was missing half of one front leg and was wearing a transmitter.
May 21, 2012 Monday
Again this morning the cows were waiting in the barn for me at 6am. I don’t know yet if they are establishing a nice new habit or it was just a comfortable spot to lie down and cud. Fern gave something over 2 ½ gallons.
The sheep are getting close to lambing. Linda, the smallest one, mostly Finn Dorset, now wants to be boss sheep. She is the one that broke her leg when a small lamb.
DS Martin had meetings in Augusta today and came around this way afterwards. I fixed dinner. He is going to do his best to get through my Honey-Do list in the morning.
May 22, 2012 Tuesday
We had warm gentle rain much of the day. Some parts of the garden needed it. At last my lilacs are starting to bloom. Most are way high up where I can’t reach them.
Mitra stopped in for a nice visit and brought grain. She and I and Nancy ate some of yesterday’s savarin with coffee. Nancy found that the electric fence on the north side was once again torn out and spread around. This is deeply puzzling.
May 23, 2012 Wednesday
Fern continues to produce her 2 ½ gallons/day. Her udder is not in trouble so far as I can tell but I am applying Uddermint just in case.
The fence was pulled down again. Nancy has closed off Pocket Field.
One of the cats, Tamworth, had a quarter pound frog in the buttery. It was still in pretty good shape. It was slimy. I grabbed it with some paper and put it back in the pond.
Nancy set out the tomatoes and I set out the broccoli. I must go down and water everything before I go shopping tomorrow.
May 24, 2012 Thursday
At 6am an adventuresome white chicken was already scratching around the tomatoes. She ran away when she saw me.
I went out on errands for the first time since Sally left and stocked up on paper products and a few frivolities. It will be months until I have tomatoes so I bought a few grown in a local greenhouse.
In the evening Nancy brought three local school girls over to help with evening chores such as filling water buckets, strewing bedding, collecting eggs and letting in the sheep. I think they had a good time.
May 25, 2012 Friday
The mystery of the torn out electric fence is solved. With the cows locked out there was no damage. So the cows were the culprits, no moose was involved. But even after it appeared intact there was no charge. As so often happens in this life, we were looking at the wrong end of the problem for the trouble. Finally Nancy spotted it: right up by the barn the pretty little tamarack tree had thrown one of its newly leafed out branches, heavy with rain, onto the line. So now the cows can go back into Pocket Field, their favorite grass.
Here are two pictures. One is a painting DD Marcia’s DD Caiti did as a commission for a restaurant in VA. The baby is Violet Anastasia Miranda, Marcia’s granddaughter, my great granddaughter, aged 13 months. Doesn’t she look like a force of nature?
May 26, 2012 Saturday
There was a foggy start to what became a fine day. DS Mark drove up from Portland to join me for lunch, which was especially lovely. He does not get many days off at the hospital. Annie had to work. We walked around the garden and picked asparagus for lunch. Before leaving he got out his stethoscope and cuff and checked my heart, lungs and BP. All perfectly clear, BP 105/58.
About sundown I discovered one of the 2 week old chicks entangled in some bird netting we put up to defend the dahlias. It must have taken me 20 minutes to free him, the first ten trying to unravel him without using scissors. That stuff is dreadful. After I freed him he settled right down in my hand. Icould not find his family. I suppose they had already settled for the night. I took him for a drink of water and left him alone in the feed pan eating cracked corn as fast as he could.
May 27, 2012 Sunday
I let the sheep out at 6am as usual. At this time I shut the cows into the beefer pen so I don’t have to call or chase them in later.
At 8am when I went out to milk, the entangled chick was back among his siblings looking fine. At this time I always let the sheep back into their own stall for a snack to keep them out of the cow traffic. They are wonderful about always bounding in or out as occasion demands.
After milking when it was time for the sheep to go back out Agnes was lying on her side and would not move so I figured she was lambing. The others would not leave her so I left all doors open for them to come or go. The cows don’t come in that way because there is a ramp. Cows hate ramps.
Forty minutes later after milk chores were done I discovered that Agnes and friends had left the stall and were out in the lean-to. It is not so clean there, the ground being covered with dry sheep dung, but it is dry and airy and inaccessible to Willie who has been known to squeezes into the barn. Maybe Agnes thought of that. She is now lying on her side with Susie facing her. Linda, the one that concentrated the Cotswold Finn/Dorset genes and is smaller is standing in front of her and made a point of stamping her feet when I approached.
4:30 pm. The ewes went all day alarming me with their panting. Twice I brought them water which of course they refused, being sheep. Finally when Mitra and the girls came over we all went into the lean-to with them and I made the hot steamy cows go out. I tried sprinkling water on the sheeps’ heads to cool them down. They got up and trotted away as though there was nothing more to be said. I opened the sheep paddock which has been closed for several weeks and now sports lush foot high grass. I figure there is no way anybody is going to graze close to the ground and get parasites. Now all the sheep and cows are in there gobbling. Ella is racing around being in heat.
Mitra brought my eggplant seedlings from Amy LeBlanc and some herb plants. I gave Shireen seed packets for her garden. She harvested pigweed from the paddock for their supper. I must go out and get some too. We all admired the oats and wheat patch.
May 28, 2012 Monday, Memorial Day
Once again Dot Mason and I were invited to ride with Steve Brown in the town flivver in the Weld parade. The old thing, I guess it is a Model T, bops right along. It has a windshield in front but has no windows on the sides, just the doors, and the top is canvas.
Dot is a great sport at 92. She was town treasurer for 52 years and had a hair dressing salon. She is always perfectly turned out.
The parade consisted of a flatbed bearing the Old Crow Band, a few Legionnaires on foot and kids on bikes, the Town pumper and the flivver. About 100 people watched the parade and listened to the speeches, not too bad for a town with a population of about 400. A State Rep, Tom Saviello, spoke. Light rain started as we were leaving.
The sheep appear to have lost interest in having babies, which was convenient today.
The weather improved and I spent an hour or so in the garden.
May 29, 2012 Tuesday
It was thunder, lightning and rain all day. I kept the sheep in all morning but then they wanted to go out and graze in the rain. No signs of lambing.
Nancy worked here all day doing indoor things. She vacuumed up a lot of spiders. They area early and huge this year. She defrosted and cleaned my milk frig. My repeated efforts to get rid of an unappealing odor had not been entirely successful. She utterly dismantled everything even taking out screws. She fashioned a tool from a wire coat hanger and opened up a clogged aperture. We have declared victory over the smell.
I mostly worked on my editing.
May 30, 2012 Wednesday
I overslept and was behind all day but managed to get some editing done. I visited Marcia’s camp and found her garden looking perfectly charming. Most of her perennials won’t open for another week or two but her many under plantings, hostas, bergania and more are shining green and filled in with clouds of forget-me-nots.
Nancy worked here today and focused on eliminating spiders. We dislike them a lot. She used the vacuum. In the evening she brought the three girls again to do evening chores. They are a jolly lot.
No lambs yet.
June 01, 2012 Friday
When I opened the door this morning for the sheep, Agnes hesitated. Then I noticed that a lamb was staggering after her, a still wet but sturdy and vigorous lamb. I believe it is a ewe. I expected Agnes to have twins, she was so big and in fact still looks big but this lamb already acts like she is a day old. I am assuming it is feeding because Agnes stands pretty well and the lamb seems to have the right inclinations but will just have to keep watch. Unassisted I can’t intervene.
I kept Agnes in. The other two ewes went out but hung about doing little grazing. Agnes is the leader. I set Agnes up with some good hay and fresh water. This evening I put out more good hay and they all had a bit of grain.
Nancy worked here all day but spent part of her time taking my weed trimmer to be repaired. She also filled the gas cans for which I am most grateful. She went in my truck. She is borrowing it tonight and tomorrow to get her archery equipment set up at the Farmington Fair.
I got my peppers set out and did a number of other things in the garden such as transplanting kale. The weeds are getting way ahead of me. None the less I don’t expect to have to buy any more vegetables for a long time.
DS John calls every Friday from Adelaide and this evening I was also able to talk with grandson Harper who was visiting from U of AK. Harper had just given a seminar to the oceanographic institute where John works. We were on Skype so all three of us were able to participate.
Here is a photo DS Martin took of me and my Savarin cake (French Ring Cake) last week.
June 02, 2012 Saturday
The new lamb is definitely nursing. She looks and acts as though she were several days old. I have named her Bertha. The Cotswold predominates. She has a wide white face.
I ran in and out all day checking on the sheep. Agnes still does not want to take her baby outside. I left her with hay. I left their door ajar and the others came and went.
It rained all day.
I made oatmeal bread.
Dot Mason called to see if I wanted to go with her to a public supper in aid of the son of one of my neighbors. Actually neither of us knew who it was in aid of until we got there. There was a large crowd. The menu was mostly beans. I don’t know whose beans I ate but they did not go to much trouble. There was also mac’n cheese and spaghetti, cole slaw and rolls. No real butter. Many, many pies, some home made. I saw a lot of folks that I had not seen in years and could not remember all their names.
June 03, 2012 Sunday
There was heavy rain all day. Many parts of the state report flooding. “Lake Coburn”, the poorly drained part of my front yard is above my boots.
At about 9am, Linda, the white ewe sired by Bildad, the Finn Dorset, had a nice little ram lamb that is half Cotswold. It is not quite as big as Bertha but is bigger than I expected from her since she is small and never looked very pregnant. It was nursing within a very short time and I saw it feed several more times. I sure hope Susie does as well.
Nancy returned the truck about 9am. She said her children’s archery class at the Farmington Fair was enthusiastically received. She was thrilled.
Granddaughter Shireen stopped by following her job orientation session at Kawanhee Camp for Boys at Weld. She and several others will be working in the kitchen. She thinks it will be a wonderful job.
I just learned that DS Bret and kids will visit in August. This is wonderful.
June 04, 2012 Monday
Martin had planned to come up last night but ran a stick into his eye while cycling and stayed home to see the doctor. It is red and ugly but not a dangerous injury, thank goodness. He came up this morning.
For the last couple of days I have had a lot of trouble getting Fern in for milking. I got her in today about 9am and Ella had gotten the weaning ring out of her nose and left Fern with only 3 quarts of milk. She is going on Craigslist. Martin got her into the calf pen for me.
Both lambs seem to be doing alright. Linda’s wee ram jumped through the tiny viewing window which landed him in the calf pen. I carried him back to his worried mama when I found him. I got worried about the sheep’s’ water bucket and had Martin suspend it up higher where I don’t think a lamb can jump into it. Last year one did and nearly died of chilling.
Martin tried to do some tilling but it is way too wet. It is no longer raining but a Scotch mist persists and nothing is drying. There is a lot of flooding around the state.
Martin put in a new doorstep at the entrance to the carriage house. The old one was rotting away dangerously.
For dinner Martin and I ate chili, biscuits, asparagus and yogurt.
June 05, 2012 Tuesday
It hardly rained at all today and the sun even came out about 4 o’clock.
Nancy dug out the drainage trench in the paddock garden so Lake Coburn can begin to drain.
Ella was separated last night so I got some milk this morning. Now she is in the sheep paddock. It did not hold Milton – he jumped out so we’ll see what morning brings.
Martin experimented with the lime spreader in late afternoon and was thrilled with how well it goes. He says he will come back Saturday and do the field.
DS Bret sent me a NASA link for watching the transit of Venus. So fascinating.
June 07, 2012 Thursday
Not much rain today, even some sun. I mailed a box of comfrey to DD Abby, also went to Rumford on errands. I fell for a few types of fruit at Hannaford. Disappointing. They all taste fake.
I let the sheep outdoors today. The lambs had fun skipping around but then they lay down for naps and Agnes lost her lamb, “Bertha”. I helped her look for it for about 10 minutes and found it back inside the barn behind some tools. By then Agnes was in such a state that she couldn’t seem to see it when I carried it out to show her and she could not remember how to get back up the ramp. You have to go to the low end, not jump up at the top, you silly sheep. I have renamed Bertha. Nobody liked that name. Now she is Beulah.
June 08, 2012 Friday
I invited the sheep to go outside again today and this time only Linda’s ram lamb went out. Linda was quite upset about this .Eventually he came back in by himself. It was warm and sunny until about 2pm when the world erupted into a brief but intense electrical storm. It swept through the French doors from the deck into the buttery, rolling up the heavy braided rug as it came and sluiced 10 feet of floor. Pushing those doors shut against the wind made ne think of what sailors have to do in a storm. In the barn a lot of things were hurled around but there was no real damage that I found. I had heard that a storm was on the way and had the sheep shut in. The cows seemed indifferent to the whole thing.
Nancy’s troop of little farmer girls came in time for evening chores. They put out hay for the sheep , did the water for the sheep and chickens and collected eggs.
June 10, 2012 Sunday
Last night I had a lovely dinner at the lake with Martin. He is up this weekend by himself in order to get the lime spreading done and get their dock out. He grilled a small roast of CF lamb. It was excellent. I brought a cucumber salad and we ate down on the dock. The weather was perfect.
Today Martin got the lime spread and some left over. He says that he did not see where he disturbed any nesting birds but there are many butterflies. He was on the field early. I fixed him a late breakfast of crepes with strawberries. Then he joined his friend Brett in Weld and the kayaked down the Webb River. It is quite high but not like it was a few days ago. There are significant rapids. They paddled about seven miles and got out of the water here at CF. I defrosted beans for his supper.
The ram lamb is now named Jacob and the ewe lamb is officially Beatrice. No further lambs yet. Susie spends a lot of time staring at the wall and Agnes stays in with her so I have to give them hay. Linda and Jacob went out together to graze yesterday and today, a pretty sight.
Usually in the morning the sheep are quiet and sleepy but this morning all three ewes were much disturbed. This was because Beatrice had got herself trapped under the stanchion and could not back out. She was wedged in tight. I had to pull hard on her back legs to dislodge her. After wobbling about a bit she went over and had a long drink from the water bucket. I was surprised by this. I saw her do it twice. She does nurse.
I got my pole beans planted and also planted out two pots of sweet potatoes DD Sally had started early. I have never before attempted sweet potatoes and don’t know what I am doing.
I am going to bed early if I can as I have a sore throat.
June 11, 2012 Monday
This morning I woke up with nasty laryngitis. It makes me so mad to be sick. I think it is a couple of years since I have had any illness. I get very little therapeutic milk fresh from the cow now as Fern stops letting down when she thinks she is done. I am lucky to wring a quarter cup out of her. And this morning she ran outside before I could kiss her on the nose.
Granddaughter Helena and her family arrived today for a few days visit. They have three restaurants in Carlyle PA. Two have managers or partners that can get along without them for a few day but Helena had to close her popular creperie while she is away.
The sheep are still resisting going out to graze. Today I shut them outside for a while but I did not see them graze, the silly creatures. Tomorrow if I feel better I will walk out with them.
June 12, 2012 Tuesday
The weather was very fine but unfortunately I spent it mopping my nose.
First thing this morning Helena made a batch of her excellent honey scones.
They took a day trip to LLBean, leaving the kids with her dad. Helena came home in a cute new dress purchased for 2/3 off. Now they have all gone to meet Mitra at a restaurant in Farmington.
The sheep are stubborn as ever about going out. I am down to my last bale of gourmet hay. I was unable to lead them out to pasture with grain because the cows were interfering.
June 13, 2012 Wednesday
A nice surprise this morning. Susie, the Sussex ewe, had twins. There they were standing up and dry. I do hope they are both sucking ok. One is a male and the other a female. She seems to prefer the ram.
Linda, the small white ewe, is willing to go out and graze now. Her lamb, Jacob, actually led the way when I opened the door.
June 14, 2012 Thursday
My cold is completely gone. I don’t know where to give the credit, the vitamins C & D, the GSE, the cedar tea, Advil or immune support from Fern’s milk. Because she was not entirely cooperative, I did not get a full cup of presumably fortified milk until yesterday.
The lambs are constantly getting themselves wedged into small spaces and needing me to pull them out by the back legs while the moms stand there bleating. This evening when I went to close everybody in all the lambs were outside. Now I have to figure out how to get them back inside. I am hoping that by the time it gets darker they will come in by themselves, wagging their tails behind them. The twins are doing well.
Later: Agnes and Linda and their lambs came in but Susie and her day old twins had gone around into the beefer pen and were running every which way. I had to catch the lambs one at a time and carry them in. Back at the house people accused me of shortness of breath. Hah!
June 15, 2012 Friday
Fern gave 2 ¾ gallons, up a quart.
I had to say goodbye to the Twigg’s, Helena, Ryan, Natalie (6) and Logan (4). They were wonderful guests and I hope they had a good time on their brief Maine holiday. The kids are staying on for a few days with Grandpa Tim and Dalene.
Helena took pictures of the sheep and summer scenes around the farm.
Nancy planted the squash for me today.
Granddaughter Shireen is now staying here while working her summer job at Kawanhee Camp for Boys. She is on the kitchen crew.
June 16, 2012 Saturday
Another very fine day, just perfect temperature with a light breeze to blow away bugs.
The sheep area showing some progress in keeping their lambs organized. Linda and Jacob go out regularly.
Nancy worked all afternoon and into the evening. She planted the corn, Bodacious and some saved seed from last year of variegated.
Mitra called to tell me of her day of taking her meat birds to be dressed off. She received 103 chicks from the hatchery and took 103 birds today. This is unusual. One six pounder had a heart attack while she, Roshan and her helper, a young man named Lou, were loading the birds into crates, but she was able to keep him alive until they reached the processor.
June 17, 2012 Sunday
Some people I met for the first time arranged to borrow the hay elevator. They live nearby and have horses. They are buying local hay.
Shireen dug a bucket load of burdock for Nellie’s calving. It is supposed to suppress edema.
When Shireen came home from work she found the sheep all over the front lawn. The lambs can get through the flabby front door of the barn. No doubt a couple of them got out and the ewes then forced the door the rest of the way. Shireen helped me get them back in.
June 18, 2012 Monday
The weather continues fine.
Fern came in with her right flank so dirty that I had to scrape her with the flat side of the shovel. And Nancy had just spread new bedding. Eew.
I could only find eight eggs. Somebody needs to go on a serious egg hunt.
Shireen brought me my grain and eight boxes of local strawberries. They are absolutely delicious.
Mitra is still awaiting Nellie’s calf. It must be any minute.
June 20, 2012 Wednesday
Definitely the hottest day of the year. In the 90’s. It was hard to function.
Fern gave her customary 2 ½ gallons. Nancy worked on clearing brush along the electric fence until the heat became too much. We froze 8 pints of strawberries.
Right now I am waiting for it to be dark in hopes that the sheep will come in by themselves. I tried earlier to get them in but no luck. Half ran back every time half came in. Either they come in by themselves or the coyotes can have them. It is too hot.
Later…. They did come in but not before forcing open the flappy front door irretrievably. Tomorrow I will have to devise a new closure. Some were on the front lawn. Willie did his best to help round them up.
Shireen arrived in time to share my supper. We had asparagus and a bit of steak.
June 21, 2012 Thursday
The weather continues wilting hot, in the 90’s with high humidity. I can barely function and got little accomplished today. My fingers stick to the computer keys.
I found a tiny chick this morning that was lost from its mother hen. I caught it and carried it around looking for a hen but no luck so I helped it to get a drink and let it go in hopes that its mother would turn up. This evening I found another tiny chick and caught it and set it up with yogurt in a big tub. Then the one I released this morning appeared at the edge of a weed patch with Tamworth, the fluffy cat, eyeing it closely. I grabbed the chick and added it to the tub and helped it eat some yogurt. In this heat they will not be cold. Maybe tomorrow I will find their mother. The best time to reintroduce chicks is at night.
Nancy was here working on brush clearing along the electric fence line. She came early and got out of the sun at 11.
Tomorrow I will be away overnight to Mark and Annie’s graduation party to honor the Senior Residents. After a brief holiday they will take up Fellowships as Hospitalist and Geriatric Specialist.
I was away from my computer Friday night. This is being written on Saturday. Friday was even hotter.
After morning milking I let Ella out of the paddock where she has been living alone so that she would not drink all Fern’s milk. This was the only way I felt able to leave. Ella was in roaring heat. Before leaving I discovered the missing mother hen with 8 chicks and took the chance of setting the two that I had in a tub down amongst her flock, praying that they would be accepted. One has an injured leg and barely walks but is very game.
DIL Amy and the kids came to pick me up. We had some lunch before setting out for Biddeford. Shireen was here to watch over the farm and I asked Nancy to check in on Saturday morning. It was my first night away from the farm in several years. I saw Martin and Amy’s home for the first time. It is a large new house in a suburban neighborhood in the New England style of architecture and backs up to heavily wooded public land, very charming. I took a quick walk into the woods before taking a shower and nap and getting dressed for the dinner and ceremony at a country club in Falmouth.
It was a joyful occasion with a larger crowd than I expected, everyone smartly dressed. An amazing number of people came up to me to say how much they love Mark and have enjoyed working with him. John and Woody Dhyrburg, who have been so very helpful to Mark over the years, were there. Unfortunately DIL Annie’s parents could not make it this time; they would have heard an equal number of favorable comments about Annie. Mark’s daughter Hailey was also there looking very sweet, home for the summer from her first year at UVt.
Little Hannah and Henry were with us and were very well behaved. The presentations lasted until quite late, 10pm. I guess H&H are party people.
While we were at the gala, Mitra’s cow Nellie calved at 6:00 p.m. She describes it as “textbook”. Mitra and her DD Roshan stood back mostly and watched while cheering Nellie on. Roshan took some amazing pictures of the birth. They left Nellie to clean and dry her calf. Two hours later Nellie and her calf were standing outside the barn and the calf was trying to nurse. With little help or interference from Mitra or Roshan, the calf figured it out. It’s another heifer. They have named her Winnie.
June 23, 2012 Saturday
Amy and the kids brought me back to the farm arriving about 2 o’clock. The heat continued until mid-afternoon when a thunderstorm burst over us. I had been expecting hay but it could not be delivered.
We all went straight to the barn and found the mother hen under the mock orange bush. I guess my prayers were answered; she had all 10 chicks including the little cripple. With the help of Amy and Hannah (Henry was inspecting the tractor) we herded the little family into a private stall where she is safe with a buffet of water, yogurt and scratch. A hen with that many chicks is hard put to make a living for them all in competition with 20 or so other hens. Any attempt to give her extra help is impossible. All the other birds swoop in and grab it.
Shireen got all the sheep in last night by herself.
The real news is that Mitra’s cow, Nellie, had her calf last evening, a heifer named Winnie. Winnie is strong and healthy and was out chasing ducks already this morning.
Mitra’s parents, Marie and Alex, are here now so Mitra will have more fun. Max will be home for 10 days at the beginning of August and then back to work in Montana until Thanksgiving. He is now to be in charge of a working group.
June 24, 2012 Sunday
To my surprise and gratification, Ella did not nurse last night. When I popped out early in the AM Fern was still full of milk. I quickly put Ella into the calf pen and made plans to milk. Fern was only down a quart from her usual amount.
The weather is cooled to the point of being bearable even for Mainers. The only thing to deplore is the mosquito population explosion. I am sure I have never seen such hoards even in Alaska. You can’t do anything including opening your mouth.
My 225 square bales from Claude Averill for which Martin arranged came this morning.
It is from a local field and Martin drove the rig over here. DIL Amy and he unloaded half of it; then their friend Brett arrived to help. I did my part by standing on the hay floor grabbing the bales with the hay hook as they reached the top of the elevator. If no one grabs them they have a tendency to fall back to the ground and sometimes bust apart.
Mitra is having a stressful day with Nellie who shows signs of milk fever. The vet came twice. Mitra has taken so many precautions and is so attentive that I feel sure Nellie will pull through. Roshan is helping in every way. The calf, Winnie, is in fine health.
Martin and the kids are staying over at camp. Amy has a meeting to attend so had to return to Biddeford. She stopped in and had supper with me on her way. I had some steak defrosted.
June 25, 2012 Monday
The rain has returned. Perhaps that and my hay exertions yesterday caused me to oversleep. By the time I raced to the barn it was a quarter to 7 and Ella was trying to nurse. Fern was attempting to kick her off. I got her into the calf pen. Fern still had 1 ¾ gallons.
It rained all day.
June 27, 2012 Wednesday
Last night I penned Ella and got more than 2 gallons. I penned her again tonight. It’s a nuisance but I need the milk.
My hen with 10 chicks is thriving in her private room.
It rained hard both of the last two days and a bit today. It is heavily overcast, extremely damp. Some of the paddock garden is flooded. All the squash is up but some hills are underwater. The potatoes look good. Lots of blooms with few bugs so far. The heat has moderated.
My lawn is dotted with rugs. I put them out for the rain to wash. My poor old dog, Bagel, is losing control of his bowels or else has forgotten the rules. He has gotten so he will poop in the house right in front of me. Now he has to stay outside. Fortunately it is not cold. Whatever will I do next winter?
Cousins Holly and Richard arrived back today. They stopped here for milk but I did not see them. I must have been in the barn. Very frustrating.
June 28, 2012 Thursday
The weather today was very pleasant.
Fern gave almost 2 ½ gallons. This is very close to what she was giving before Ella rejoined the party. It isn’t that Ella is not nursing. She certainly is. Fern is responding to the extra sucking by producing more.
Holly and Richard came over this morning with strawberries and pastries and we had a lovely tea party. It was so nice to see them.
I am reading The Devil in the Milk about A1A2 milk.
June 29, 2012 Friday
Fern gave only slightly over 2 gallons but was beautifully behaved as indeed she is most of the time.
She was a bit naughty when evening came and it was time to separate Ella. They were all in the beefer pen. While I got the sheep in, which I have to do first as they otherwise swarm around and are pushy, all three bovines vanished. I finally located them in the sheep paddock. I outfoxed them this time. Fern thought I had a treat for her and led them all back to the gate. When she came through I shut the gate behind her trapping Ella and Milton. Now those two are isolated and can just stay there for the immediate future and Fern can graze where she pleases.
I went today with DIL Amy to Farmington where we visited the farmer’s market and saw Mitra making Kettle Corn. What an awesome device. The bowl is the size of great great grandma’s wash kettle. We all tried tasty sweet and salty popcorn. There were Marie and Alex whom I finally got to greet and even Holly and Richard were there.
It was very hot today. When I got home, Nancy was here whacking out weeds in the sunken garden. I don’t know how she managed to work so hard in the heat. She liberated my cabbages in the nick of time. The slugs are attacking. Tomorrow I will fight back with Sluggo.
July 01, 2012 Sunday
The crows have eaten every single corn plant. Very discouraging. I don’t think I will try to replant, it is so late now.
The cabbages are badly damaged by something, slugs I think. I dusted them with DE and sprinkled Sluggo around them.
My first calendula opened. I have a nice row of them and they are doing well. The tomatoes look good. I visited the lower garden very briefly. Eventhough I sprayed myself well, the mosquitoes were terrible. I raced around picking a few last asparagus spears and ran for cover. I have certainly never seen them this thick.
The planters on the deck that Sally planted with carnations and nicotiana are blooming splendidly and scenting the night air.
I had a box of exceptionally good strawberries and decided to make biscuits and make myself strawberry shortcake with whipped Jersey cream for a lonely supper. Delicious.
Sally called. She told me that her DS Rafe in Haines AK is getting a new tractor tomorrow. There are many bears around.
Shireen called from work when her shift ended. The campers are having a bonfire and she wanted to join her friends in the company of a young man.
July 02, 2012 Monday
It has been another blistering hot sticky humid day with clouds of mosquitoes. But nothing like the suffering in some other parts of the country. However there is something about too many mosquito bites that fries my disposition.
Fern gave 2 ½ gallons. She and the two young ones are beginning to accept their new reality (separation!) and are doing less bellowing. Fern went farther out in the pasture to graze. She has been hanging close by. The lambs are getting a lot better about charging in with their mothers instead of orbiting off in silly directions when I open the door to let them in. I am going to let out my hen with 10 chicks tomorrow. They are getting restless in confinement even though it is a big airy room. Some of the chicks keep squeezing out through cracks to explore.
DD Marcia in CA now has layer pullets, ducklings and bees. She is about to get meat birds and after her visit here next month plans on rabbits. She also had a veg garden and is canning wild fruit. She has a big crop of grapes coming along too. But there is a pack of coyotes in the surrounding woodland.
DD Sally in Haines AK was walking along the beach yesterday watching her feet and almost ran into two young male grizzlies. Maybe she should just move to Tia Juana where it is comparatively safe.
July 03, 2012 Tuesday
Not so hot today. Mitra’s folks, Marie and Alex, came over with Shireen’s new car so she could test drive it. They will keep the car during their stay in Maine. We had tea and cookies that Shireen made.
The baby chicks and their mother did not choose to go out after all so tomorrow I will just keep them shut in.
Nancy thinned out some trees near the road.
Wednesday, The Fourth of July
The day started out rainy but cleared about 11am.Holly and Richard picked me up and together we went to Martin and Amy’s camp for a cook-out. Holly brought quinoa salad, Richard brought strawberry buckle, I brought ground beef, beans, ice cream and raspberry sauce, Marie brought pre dinner snacks, Mitra brought potato salad and cole slaw, Martin and Amy had local sausages made in Biddeford.
Martin took people out for boat rides. Roshan played with the little kids for hours as usual. Shireen was able to break away briefly from work in the kitchen at Kawanhee Boys’ Camp. Everyone had a fine time. Neither the heat nor the mosquitoes were so bad at the lake. It started to rain again about 4pm after I was back at the farm. Neighborhood fireworks caused me to bring in both dogs and hold Willie in my lap.
July 05, 2012 Thursday
Hot and sunny today. My grandson-in-law, Ernie, arrived for a 10 day visit with the commission to pickup one of DD Marcia’s Chihuahuas that she is getting back. Friends dropped him off here.
Mitra stopped in as did Shireen, and they went to the DMV for their licenses. Afterwards we all harvested a big bag of comfrey for Nellie. The consensus among experts studying her symptoms is that she has a uterine infection. While in the garden I was able to pick some marigold flowers for my tea.
The chickens are really hiding their eggs. I only found 3.
Nancy came for a few hours and vacuumed. She even vacuumed the driveway where I broke a glass jar.
July 06, 2012 Friday
Today went well. Ernie setup my A/C window unit. I had him put it in my office window. Now my fingers don’t stick to the keys as sweat runs down my face. The unit easily handles this little room. What with the A/C and taking showers, I gained the courage to suit up in mosquito proof pants and shirt and worked in the garden for nearly an hour. So far this year the potato bugs are few. The Japanese beetles are hitting the roses. I observed the chickens springing into the air, pecking at a rose to knock loose the bugs, then all pouncing on them. Useful chickens!
I have to get up early tomorrow so as to be at the fire house by 9am. Saturday is Carthage Old Home Days and Dot Mason and I will ride in the flivver.
July 08, 2012 Sunday
Saturday was so full of adventures that I did not have time to write. I got the milking done an hour early. In fact I could have skipped it entirely had I known that I was to discover Ella in with her mom. She and Milton had escaped their paddock and she had of course drunk most of the milk. She left me three quarts.
Nancy came down at 9am and drove me up to the village to Dot Mason’s house where Steve Brown picked us up in the Model T. There was a little parade for Carthage Old Home Days. Martin and family and Shireen were among the onlookers. There was an extensive flea market but the sun was so hot that I did not shop. Martin returned me to the house.
At 2:30 another 200 square bales arrived on two wagons. Holly and Richard, Martin and Amy and their friend Brett and of course Ernie, who is staying here, were a wonderful crew. All I had to do was make lemonade. I also had a big bowl of Mitra’s Kettle Corn popcorn for them.
Then as if that weren’t enough, Martin and Amy invited me out to the lake to have supper with them. Martin took me for a sail in the Hobie Cat. There was a brisk breeze and we skipped along amazingly. Henry (4) was with us maintaining a tight hold on the tiller.
Brett’s wife Sarah joined us for dinner bringing a beautiful quiche-like tart and we also had some sausages and ground beef patties and salad. Hannah and Eli, Sarah and Bret’s son, served a gelatin dessert they had made.
Sarah had just returned from nearly a month in Tanzania where she is working with a group attempting to establish schools and libraries. They are pretty much starting from zero. Few know how to read and that includes all of the women. The women are virtually slaves. The men get all the meat. The women are given only the guts. The dogs are fed better. The women do beautiful bead work which the men sell and then keep the money. One good thing; quite a few of the homes have cows provided by Heifer International. Things are better in these homes.
Back home, I succeeded in getting Ella into her old calf pen and this morning got about 1 ¾ gallons of milk, what Fern had accumulated during the night. I let Ella loose for the day but separated her again around 3pm. I need someone to find the breech and repair the fence.
The weather today was very lovely. I went to the garden to weed and harvest but could only take the mosquitoes for 15 minutes
July 09, 2012 Monday
We had beautiful weather today. For much of the day there was enough breeze to dispel the mosquitoes. The only gardening I did was watering my many potted plants because the hay crew was here again and I made lunch for them. I made a big batch of mac n’ cheese. I got another 75 bales. Holly and Richard helped out again. They spent a few minutes picking currants and gooseberries. I am hoping to have enough time to make a pie.
I now have over 500 bales.
Ernie repaired the paddock fence and he and Martin’s friend Brett got the critters sorted so that Ella and Milton are once again confined. Fern is very upset about this.
Shireen has gone home for a couple of days (her days off).
July 11, 2012 Wednesday
It was a sunny day and reached about 80F.
Fern is still doing a lot of mooing for Ella thanks to their two days together. They can touch noses over the fence but that is not good enough it seems.
It was so sunny that I had to water everything on the deck twice. Sally’s pot of fluffy carnations and the nicotiana and scabiosa are all blooming well. My Peace rose has its third big bloom. The sweet peas are struggling in the heat.
I am now leaving the door open for my family of hen and chicks and they are beginning to emerge but all scuttle back when they see me. They expect to be fed in their room.
The sheep are so funny. They want desperately to be let into their loose box by 6:30 at the latest even though it is still broad daylight. Two of the lambs, the twins I think, are a bit foolish and don’t come with the others. Instead they run under the ramp and I have to reach under with a broom and poke them out.
Ernie and Shireen were both here for supper. We had pork chops cooked by Shireen. Ernie brought a bunch of live crawfish from the river and boiled them. Apparently the river is full of them. Who knew? I had never eaten them before and had to be persuaded. Of course they were very good.
July 12, 2012 Thursday
It was hot again today, quite debilitating. Yesterday Nancy staked up the tomatoes and today I carried water to them. The plants look good and many have green tomatoes. Such a thrill to see them.
Ernie left today for California taking the little dog, Whiskey. I never got to see the dog.
Old friend Lester Averill dropped off a huge amount of rhubarb for me. I somehow missed seeing him.
Don Houghton, who has been bush hogging the fields, reported that one of the front tires on the Kubota degenerated around the rim and must be replaced. So no more field work until Martin gets a replacement. In fact he intends to replace both of the tires now. Martin and the kids came by on their way to camp and picked me up to join them for supper, once again a cookout with the Shifrin’s. It was lovely at the lake, not as hot as here. Amy stayed back in Biddeford so as to attend her exercise group that meets on the beach, and a board meeting. Shireen brought me home when she got off work.
July 13, 2012 Friday
Another very hot steamy day.
Fern is back up over 2 ½ gallons.
Nancy worked today, mostly weed trimming. She also cut out most of a rapidly growing patch of sumac and pitched it over the river bank. I did not get down to the lower garden but worked around the house a bit mostly watering. I stewed one of the Coburn Farm roosters from the freezer and cooked garbanzo beans. I am making progress in the A1A2 book, Devil in the Milk by Keith Woodford.
Shireen has been lent a very nice viola by Laurie K. She immediately began practicing when she got home from work at 9:15.
July 14, 2012 Saturday
Very hot today, over 90F.The mosquitoes continue in clouds. I managed about a half hour of digging grass clumps out of my eggplant patch but did not make it down to water the tomatoes. Nancy reached under the potato plants and pulled out a half dozen beauties.
Martin and his friend Brett Shifrin rode their bicycles in the 100 mile loop around Mt Washington. I don’t know how they endured the heat. It is mostly highway riding and not so very appealing. They don’t plan to do it again.
Shireen came home mid-morning with three young co-workers and practiced her viola while one of the boys played the piano.
I am not getting many eggs but apart from that the animals seem not to be suffering.
Ruth Snell brought me 6 quarts of blueberries. She sells them to me every year. What a treat.
July 16, 2012 Monday
My goodness, another hot muggy day. The humidity is so high it turned to a wet mist for awhile. I heard on NPR that most of the bats have died and I realize I have not seen more than one or two. The speaker said this is why we have so many mosquitoes. Each bat will eat 1000 per night.
I feel mean bringing the sheep in at night. It is for their safety and they want to come in but it is so hot in the barn.
I made five quarts of rhubarb sauce this afternoon. I finished digging around the eggplants and now am in a hurry for them to grow. I have a new recipe for eggplant Parmesan that I want to try. I tried a new method of making cottage cheese involving rennet. I don’t think much of it.
DD Sally says they have been catching lots of Sockeye out in front of her house and she is canning and freezing. They are extra big and red this ear. She in on the Chilcoot.
July 18, 2012 Wednesday
On Tuesday the humidity finally curdled into rain which fell for a half hour or so. Then the sun came out and all the plants looked happy but the heat returned undiminished. If the crows or ravens had not eaten my corn it would have been audibly growing. Nancy put in some replacement sprouts she had too many of. We have renewed hopes for them. The folks out west have lost 30% of their crop, so I read. I feel like if we have the conditions for growing corn we ought to at least keep trying.
I finished reading The Devil in the Milk, a discussion of A1A2 milk by Keith Woodford. He has followed the story from the beginning and knows well or has met personally with most of the scientists and dairy people connected with the matter. The book is exhaustively referenced and quotes relevant statements and publications. A1A2 refers to two forms of casein found in milk. The A1 form can cause gastric distress and bloating in some people. If it passes through the gut barrier and enters circulation, it may result in inflammation to veins and prompt destruction of the insulin producing cells in the pancreas as well as other damage. Affected persons need to avoid all dairy products that contain casein; alternatively they can drink milk from cows which are homozygous for A2 casein.
I had a visit from Tracy Wilkerson and her nice kids. She is farm manager at the Gould Academy farm. They are considering adding dairy animals. They arrived early in time to watch me milking.
Dr. Cooper stopped in and I gave him lunch. That is always a pleasure.
The only gardening I did was to harvest my marigold blossoms for drying.
When Shireen returned she brought me a gift from her Grandma Marie, some unbelievably delicious oranges she had brought from California.
I made a pan of scones using granddaughter Helena’s recipe. They were good but hers were better.
July 19, 2012 Thursday
At last, fine weather. It did not get above 60F, the sun shone and there was a light breeze. Dear Cousins Holly and Richard came over this morning and picked currents. What joy to get them picked. Holly brought muffins and we had them with tea and my scones. Here is a nice photo of me and grandkids Hannah and Henry, taken by Holly when they were here last week helping put up hay bales.
Out in the paddock garden, the individual sprouted corn plants, seeds really, that Nancy set out mostly look good. The crows seem not to have noticed them.
July 20, 2012 Friday
Very fine weather again today. The mosquitoes remain bad.
Ella and Milton have pretty well finished the grass in their paddock. I started today to feed hay.
I got tired of not having anything but store bought bread and made a couple of loaves. Shireen and I used it for our hamburgers for supper.
She is pretty tired. She and Roshan and DIL Mitra went to the Batman movie last night at midnight, the night of the Aurora massacre.
July 21, 2012 Saturday, My Twins’ Birthday (Abby and Marcia)
‘Twas another very fine day, perhaps a bit too warm for much exertion. I got steamy while digging in my eggplant border. I am not good for much more than a half hour. I am preparing a spot for a lavender plant that Nancy gave me. The crab grass has such a lock on every un-dug section, that planting something is not straightforward. Another year I will put the eggplant below the granite wall, if I grow it and use this hot area for heat loving herbs. I already have rosemary, tarragon and sage doing well. Even mint is surviving thanks to an occasional bucket of milky rinsings. It has established itself inside of a great big phlox that keeps it cool.
DD Abby has been away in Blue Hill for six months caring for an elderly lady with Alzheimer’s. Grace passed away this morning about 6am. So Abby will soon be back up here near the farm.
July 22, 2012 Sunday
Another hot day. Things are beginning to get very dry. I carried water to my peppers. The tomatoes looked like they could hold out another day. The mosquitoes are still bad but not as bad as last week.
This morning in the barn I spotted one hen with her eye gleaming out from a crevice in the hay. I had to move six bales to get at her nest and it only held six eggs so there must be a couple more nests hidden among the bales. Hens can be so aggravating. Mitra reported today that a little hen whom she thought had been eaten by the fox emerged with 13 tiny chicks. She called them pencil toppers. I supposed that is what I too must expect. It sure is amazing how a dozen eggs can turn into a dozen chicks merely by having a hen sit on them for 21 days.
Today I am 84.
July 23, 2012 Monday
Very hot again today. I did a little gardening and a lot of watering. The kitchen was unbearably hot. I could scarcely think.
The power went out for a couple of hours beginning just as I was about to open the door and let Fern in for milking. The machine was already running. I postponed everything until 11 o’clock. Fern was totally relaxed about the delay.
I had a notion that DD Abby would leave Blue Hill sooner than she earlier stated and I was right. She is on her way here now. I expect her any minute.
July 24, 2012 Tuesday
The day started off hot and sticky but has gradually cooled.
I made two more loaves of bread.
Abby set up additional fans that she managed to locate. Later we went to the lake to have a good look at Marcia’s camp. She has a beautiful garden there with much in bloom including late lilies, ligularia, campanula, bee balm and on and on. I waded in the lake while Abby checked on the (damp) cellar and arranged things she had brought.
We also treated ourselves to a bit of shopping at a local antique/used junk store. Abby bought a little folding table and small rug. I bought a lovely wool bedspread and two teapots. For the latter, no case could be made that I need them. But I could tell they wanted to come home with me. They were about $5 each. One says Satsuma on the bottom, Japanese of course, with a fine peacock decoration. The other is a small Staffordshire.
I spoke to Don Houghton who just finished bush hogging for me. Tomorrow morning he is going to start on cleaning out the deep bedding in the beefer pen.
July 25, 2012 Wednesday
The weather today was very fine.
Don Houghton mucked out last winter’s deep bedding from the beefer pen. Now there is a fine new pile of manure at the edge of the North Field.
DD Abby went shopping and brought home lots of fruits and vegetables from Rumford, also an antique chicken feed dispenser, much needed for my free range birds. It is just like a modern one but 3 times as heavy. My chickens range great distances but there are now so many young ones that some extra feeding is needed.
Shireen also brought fruits and vegetables. Some were from Sam’s Club courtesy of her grandmother Marie. Some were dazzling local tomatoes, two of which she grew herself along with a bunch of her own Swiss chard.
She also brought me a birthday present of an oil pastel she had done. It is a 20” x 14” view of my house, all framed.
July 26, 2012 Thursday
Damp and overcast today with some drizzle.
Fern pushed down the veg garden fence to reach a patch of comfrey and then climbed into the garden. I found her enjoying the grass around some young apple trees. She knew she was naughty and raced all around throwing her feet in the air. But then when Abby opened the gate for her she exited politely. We propped the fence with boards which won’t last long.
So far as I can tell I have no apples this year.
I made a dinner that Abby really liked. I boned a (mature cow) chuck roast and made chicken fried steak. That may not be the correct name; maybe it is Swiss steak. I dredged the pieces in well-seasoned flour and gently browned them on both sides in olive oil and beef fat in a cast iron skillet. I covered them with well flavored chicken stock and wine and simmered them in a slow oven for 3 hours. We served the steak with mashed potatoes and the resulting gravy. It is really hard to match the flavor of good beef cooked this way and mashed potatoes are the perfect accompaniment. I also served the Swiss chard that Shireen grew and it too was delicious.
July 27, 2012 Friday
Very hot again today, partly because I was in the kitchen. I made bread and blueberry squares. I ground the wheat last night for the bread and soaked it overnight. It turned out exceptionally well, as did the squares.
DD Abby and I joined DS Martin and DIL Amy at the lake for a dinner of fresh caught haddock from the fish market in Biddeford. I brought my blueberry squares. Our message to Shireen somehow did not reach her so she did not join us. Such a shame.
Blueberry Bars The crust: 1 cup sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder 3 cups all-purpose flour, scooped and leveled 1/4 tsp salt zest of 1 lemon 8 oz cold, unsalted butter (2 sticks) 1 egg, beaten
The berrymixture: 1/2 cup sugar 4 tsp non-gmo cornstarch Juice of 1 lemon 4 cups fresh blueberries
Special Equipment - a well-greased 9- x 13-inch pan
Making the crust - Preheat oven to 375F. Whisk together the sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and lemon zest. Then using your fingers or a pastry-cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. (To save time, you can pour the ingredients into a food processor, as I did, and pulse the butter into the mixture).Stir in the beaten egg.
Forming the bottom crust - Turn half the crumbly mix into the greased pan, and pat it down with your fingers to coat the entire bottom of the pan.
The berries – In another bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Then stir in the lemon juice. Add the blueberries, and gently move them about with a rubber spatula until all are coated with the sugar solution.
Finishing the bars - Spread the berry mixture on the bottom crust. Then sprinkle with the remaining crust. Bake on the lower-middle rack of the preheated 375F oven for 45 minutes, or until the top crust just begins to color. (only took 30 minutes in my oven) Don’t let the top crust brown all over, as this will indicate the bottom crust has burned.
Allow the pan to cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack
From: A garden for the house (blog)
July 28, 2012 Saturday
Hot and sticky until late afternoon when we got some rain.
Abby and I spent most of the day going to lawn sales and to the Trash and Treasure at Weld Heritage Days. The latter was a great trove. One was urged to carry away as much as possible and leave a donation. Abby scored several lamps and a bedstead, many blankets and sheets and an all-wool afghan of granny squares.
I got some baskets, trays, plates for under flowerpots so I can have my dinner plates back, and an antique serving platter. Abby admired the platter and I gave it to her.
We proceeded on to Farmington but were too late for the farmer’s market. We went to the gourmet shop and created lunch with a couple of ounces of St. Andre cheese, a bag of shortbread and some cherry tomatoes.
Late this afternoon following our expedition I found a single newly hatched chick in the main aisle of the barn, peeping hard. No doubt somewhere there is a hen with a mass of its siblings. I hope we find her in the morning. In the meantime the peep is in a bucket with a dish of clabber, a rack over the top in case a cat should forget the rules.
Shireen just ran downstairs to announce the presence in her room of the biggest spider she ever saw. Abby, the spider expert, was summoned. She trapped it in a jar and declared it to be a standard model summer sized Coburn Farm barn spider.
July 29, 2012 Sunday
Another steamy, muggy day which started out with a couple of hours of drizzle. I feel like I am living in a greenhouse. It rained last evening and the sheep came in wet. This morning their wool was still wet. They did not dry out.
Martin was here this morning to do some tractor work and I made everybody a pancake breakfast. I put raspberries and blueberries into the pancakes.
Later, Ruth Snell brought freshly picked blackberries, beautiful ones, for $5 a quart.
July 31, 2012 Tuesday
Abby and I are both so tired today that we hope to retire early. She went out and did some power shopping while I did heavy weeding. We made world class hamburgers for supper. Before supper we dug potatoes. They are small and sad to say, they will not be growing any bigger. My lovely row of potatoes has been hit by leaf blight. The tubers themselves are clean, but oh deary me, what a disappointment. So, it’s few potatoes and, thanks to the crows, little if any corn this year. So far the squash crop is promising. How terrible it would be if we had no other options for our food. To keep things in perspective, bear in mind that as these vegetable crops fail, the animals, dependent on grass, are thriving. Throughout all of history, animals have been the default food crop. Beginning with nomadic people and always where there is drought or other hardship, animals continue to convert the remaining resources and to store food on the hoof. They are the final bastions against starvation. Tyrannical central governments, to gain full control over the people, always take away, or take ownership of, or otherwise control the animals. I believe there are no exceptions to this rather sweeping statement.
DS Max and DIL Mitra’s brother David, who is visiting from CA, stopped in. David spent some time at the lake while Max dismantled the calf pen that is inside the beefer pen in order to muck out that corner. It was a long hot job but is all done now.
There were many other visitors too. I tried to squeeze in some editing in the “cracks”.
Abby found another vast egg nest today with 19 eggs. So many have been laying in it that most eggs are very fresh. So annoying. Of course it is in a highly inaccessible spot
We rescued a lost chick yesterday. Abby located the hen this morning with just one other chick. She was unwelcoming toward the little rescue. Abby has been feeding the lost chick all day with clabber and wheat germ. For a while it seemed to be dying but now has perked right up.
DD Sally wrote the following from Haines AK where she lives among the grizzly bears on the Chilcoot River. A group of family members has been visiting her for the salmon run:
This morning we had an exciting time!!! We went to the sand flats- me and Tom and Becky and the two kids and Ahku (their Buhound) I was a bit ahead with Becky and said, "Look at Ahku bouncing through the grass!" You could just see the tops of her ears at the top of each bound, it was very high grass. Becky said, "That's not Ahku, that’s a bear!". So I peered harder and dang, she was right. Bounding right towards us. Oops. Well we all crowded together, proper muskox defense formation with Ahku in full defense mode- she's a VERY protective dog. But the bear was one which is very habituated and not impressed, we were in the way of where she wanted to go and she was going that way. So we moved aside and eventually she went by, way too close. Had to yell at her... She's one Bret met, called "Speedy's cub", three years old. Of course I had left my bear spray in the garden; I'd been up there when they decided to go for a walk. Sigh. Not that I want to spray her and anyway I might have hit Ahku. Probably would have. Hard not to.
August 01, 2012 Wednesday
The hot weather continues. DS Max and his brother –in-law David and Shireen (it’s her day off) stopped in mid-morning on their way to climb Tumbledown. Roshan stayed home sick.
Abby and I went shopping for a few birthday gifts. Max’s birthday is on Saturday. We will be getting together Friday evening for shish kabobs at Luick’s .
Along about 5pm it started to rain. Abby and Nancy H went to the dump and came home soaked.
I am finding the nests better now. Today I got 17 eggs. But Fern’s milk is dropping off a bit. She has fallen below 2 ½ gallons. Perhaps it is due to the heat.
August 02, 2012 Thursday
Continued hot, in the 90’s with high humidity.
All the same, Abby got lots more cleaning done. I accomplished little apart from a brief stint of spading up crabgrass, always deeply satisfying, and a little reading.
In the late afternoon Abby took me to my doctor for a routine visit, first in five years. She said I was in good shape, in fact I’d say she was rather impressed with my condition. I got a pneumonia shot. She said many younger persons are in much worse shape. I recommended that they milk a cow.
August 03, 2012 Friday, DS Max’s birthday
The weather continues sweltering. Fern was in heat.
I spent much of the day making a chocolate cake for Max’s birthday. I put the tins in the oven without having folded in the beaten egg whites. I noticed the omission after 5 minutes. Abby grabbed the tins out, dumped the batter back in the bowl, and I folded in the egg whites. This worked out just fine. It was Devil’s Food Cake Cockaigne from the Joy of Cooking. Next I screwed up the frosting by putting in double the amount of cream (thought ounces instead of tablespoons).So then I had to add more melted chocolate and more powdered sugar and it was still runny. I put the cake in a deep dish and just poured the frosting over it to form a lake. I have to say, it made a hit.
Abby, Shireen, and I and Shireen went to Max’s birthday party in the evening. They had a sumptuous dinner featuring four kinds of meat barbecued by Max. Mitra made her perfect Iranian rice. We all had a good time despite the heat. Shireen drove home. Abby and I both have trouble with night driving.
August 04, 2012 Saturday
Another hot, sticky day. It was hard to find motivation to do anything useful. I went down to the lower garden and was thrilled to find three cucumbers and two yellow heirloom tomatoes. I harvested the marigold flowers for drying. Then I studied A1A2 for a half hour or so before falling asleep in my chair.
Abby has been preparing Marcia’s camp for summer guests and was alarmed to discover that the refrigerator was not working. We drove out tonight with frozen gel packs for emergency cooling and found to our joy that it had gotten cold after all.
For supper we ate yummy leftovers from Max’s birthday party.
August 05, 2012 Sunday
It was a few degrees cooler today but still humid.
Fern’s production was up a quart. This might be because Abby emptied and scrubbed out her water tub. It looked perfectly clear but day before yesterday Abby saw her sniffing it and turning away. Or there might be some other reason. I will see what tomorrow brings.
DD Abby spent most of the day on tasks related to fixing up her sister Marcia’s camp for habitation. Marcia had left it bare and for sale. It has not sold so she and the family might as well have some use of it. It is right on the lake in a beautiful spot. It has a marvelous garden too.
I worked in the lower garden for over an hour this afternoon tending the peppers and tomatoes. I made dikes around the peppers and carried water to them and tied up the tomatoes a little better. The pole bean leaves were being eaten by something. When I brushed the bush probably 5 thousand Japanese beetles tumbled out of the plants. It was awful. I wished the chickens were there. I am hunting for my traps now. I got too hot in the garden and feel totally wiped out tonight.
I fixed curried Thai flavored chicken with coconut milk, using Friday’s leftover chicken, and a fresh salad of new cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes (not my own tomatoes) for our supper.
We got a light rain for a half hour at dusk.
August 06, 2012 Monday
The heat wave eased off today. Living was easier.
Abby took another flying trip to Rumford to exchange the hat we got for Max’s birthday. She was able to get a size smaller. DS Bret and kids are due to arrive tomorrow and it is Max’s last day before returning to Montana. Tomorrow afternoon will be the only opportunity for Bret and Max to see each other. Abby has organized a picnic and cookout at Marcia’s camp at the lake, so much of today was devoted to preparations for that. Abby has made a vast potato salad and I have started beans.
Cousins Holly and Richard popped in this morning with jellies Richard had made from various fruit they picked here a few weeks ago. We had tea and blueberry buckle (made by Richard).The heat had eased enough to permit us to sit on the deck. Also, the mosquitoes have retreated to manageable numbers.
DS Mark made a surprise visit, it being his day off at the hospital. This was a treat. We walked all around the garden and then had a delicious dinner mostly prepared by Abby. We had breaded scallops, salad , couscous and custard. I made the custard on spec this morning knowing it would be needed for something.
Nancy H came this morning and checked the electric fence line. Thanks to the major trimming she did last time there was little to do except for one 100’ stretch that something had torn out. It is a good thing my animals are not especially adventuresome.
August 07, 2012 Tuesday
There were several nervous phone calls and a bit of worry but also some careful planning that paid off for DD Abby’s expedition to Portland to meet DS Bret’s bus. Until yesterday we had been unable to confer with him about his arrival plans from Alaska. He was incommunicado for over a week. What he had not told us was that he and the kids, Roger 14 and Maia (16), had gone sailing on his boat that he keeps at Whidbey Island. This morning I got the following account:
We (Maia, Roger, Bret) sailed out of Oak Harbor on Whidbey island on Tuesday, we got there on Monday, 30 July. We took the Swinomish channel through La Connor, stopping to talk with another Rawson Pilothouse owner, same as our boat, the kids ran along the main street and bought ice creams. We continued on to Anacortes where we stayed the night in the city marina. Hot showers and a meal at a cafe. In the morning I walked in to town to a coffee shop with internet and did work for a couple hours, then returned to the boat, woke the kids and made breakfast. We walked to a couple stores for errands, paid our mooring fees, and cast off.
We crossed Rosario Straits and sailed in among the San Juan islands. We anchored at Spencer spit, chatted with a gal there digging her toes into the sand. Ally, just starting as an ecology student at UCD. She's working as a camp counselor and giving sailing lessons. I spent the evening scrubbing the outside of the boat. In the morning the autopilot refused to work, oh well, but it is handy, very handy. We sailed up to 'Olga' where some nice people gave us some onions, arugula and 2 kinds of basil out of the garden they were tending. On the dock we chatted with a retired Englishman named David who manufactured self-steering wind vane equipment for sailboats. I would like to have talked to him longer because his invention was seminal to single handed long distance sailing. We sailed out to Stuart Island, anchored, and went for a hike. Next day sailed to Friday harbor, anchored, sent the kids in for ice cream and fish & chips while I fiddled about on the boat. Anchor became fouled during the night with a dock mooring chain. Long story, but in the end elected to slip the anchor as the safest option. I'll hire a diver to get it back, I'll be $400 ahead. I have an old acquaintance there I met through Tom McGuire by the name of Kurt Schwalbe, the right reverend Kurt Schwalbe, who is a diver. We sailed all day, all about, past Olga up East Sound and finally back to Spencer Spit to anchor for the night. I used one of my 2 spare anchors. I finished my Woody Allen book. Sailed all day yesterday, back in behind Whidbey Island and anchored at Hope Island.
So much sun during sailing that I finally had to cover my legs with a towel. I gave Maia lessons. After we anchored we took the skiff to the far end of the island, it is a state park, to a rope swing I know and where there is an exposed fossil bed. We collected some mementos, including a bottle of crushed shell sand for Maia's teacher. Roger and I walked back along the island while Maia ran the skiff back. I think that made her feel good, to give her a reasonable level of responsibility as skiffing about on the ocean is a bit spooky, even if an island is near at hand. Roger and I had fun speeding along a game trail through the woods. We slipped a bunch but did not shoot off the various banks into the ocean. Maia picked us up. This morning I pulled anchor and ran us back to Oak Harbor. Roger got up and made us all breakfast along the way, he was pretty proud of himself. We refueled the boat, 23 gallons for a week of cruising, pretty damn good; then I cleaned the boat for hours while the kids ran errands. We had a bit of lunch and went to the shuttle, and barely made it, but we did. Now sitting at SeaTac waiting for our overnight flight. Abby called and is very excited to be meeting us tomorrow in Portland, ME. She knows all the best bakeries along the way. Bret
Abby picked them up as planned following a bus trip from Boston. As many as possible of the family then met at Marcia’s camp in Weld and had a grand picnic and cookout organized by Abby. This provided an opportunity for Bret and Max to see each other. Max has to leave before dawn tomorrow to travel back to Montana.
August 08, 2012 Wednesday
The weather today was quite pleasant although hot for garden work. I weeded and tied up tomatoes for as long as I could take it. Abby and the kids spent last night at camp but were back down here before ten to help with chores.
Dr. Cooper stopped in for lunch. I gave him ratatouille with my first zucchini and second eggplant. For the family dinner, which took place here, I served braised lamb shanks, brown rice and carrots.
Abby did all the farm chores today except for milking Fern.
I got in about an hour of writing.
During the afternoon, Bret took the kids to Coos Canyon to jump off of the rocks and swim. Back here, the girls helped out with whatever needed doing. Roger netted a large frog in the muddy ornamental pond (catch and release) and taught the girls how to play poker. Roger also played the piano for a long time. Shireen practiced her viola.
Everyone except me is sleeping up at camp tonight.
August 09, 2012 Thursday
The weather remains much the same only a little muggier. The paper says that climatologists say we have so far had the hottest summer on record. I think many of us already knew that.
Even after scrubbing, I noticed that Fern was giving the hairy eyeball to her water tub. Abby changed it out yesterday for the galvanized one. This morning it was drunk down 4” and on their way out the sheep stopped for drinks. For now it looks like they prefer the metal tank.
Sally called to tell me that she picked a bunch of flowering stalks from the edge of her garden in Haines AK and put them in a vase next to her former bakery shop. She thought them to be naturalized from angelica she had planted several years ago. Her friend Judy, a naturalist, saw them and said they were deadly water hemlock. So I guess Sally will be doing some plant eradication.
Dear Holly and Richard picked up DD Marcia and my sister Barby in Portland and brought them here.
We gathered this evening for grilled chicken at Marcia’s camp. But first, Barby and I went down and soaked our feet in the lake. Her feet were a bit swollen from air travel.
All are staying at the lake except Barby and me. About the time we finished eating a thunderstorm began and it is still rumbling.
August 10, 2012 Friday
It stormed violently all last night and continued to rain off and on all day. We needed rain but perhaps not this much. Sally’s oat and wheat patches were ready to harvest and I hope will be able to dry out again. At least they were not lodged.
DS Bret built a railing for the stairs to the carriage house attic. They were a bit scary without one so everyone applauds this improvement.
This was Shireen’s last day of working in the kitchen at Kawanhee Camp for boys, all over for the summer.
I baked one of the hams from Luick’s home reared pork. It was superb, the sort of ham that makes understandable the worldwide fondness for pork products. We all ate at camp again, this time a buffet around the house and porch because of the rain. Driving home in the dark and rain was a challenge. The road is very dark. Fortunately there were few other cars.
The sheep were still out. One did not come in with the rest. I could hear frantic bleating. A lamb had gotten himself trapped in the calf pen that is inside the beefer pen. The light had burned out in there but fortunately I had worn my little head lamp and got everybody sorted out with the only mishap being that I was not shod for this little adventure and was wearing my white linen pants.
August 11, 2012 Saturday
First thing this morning DD Abby and DD Marcia came down from Weld and sorted out the calves. I may have a buyer for Ella and need to get her in and into a halter. Bret finished up the stair railing to a high standard.
We were worried that it might rain on our vast family picnic at Marcia’s camp. It did not. Neither did the sun shine but the temperature was very pleasant. Little children ran around and were given boat rides by DS Martin. Older children got towed on an inflated ring. Adults sat around drinking various delicate beverages and eating the enticing nibbles brought by DIL Mitra and DIL Amy. Cousin Holly made cucumber salad and I made Spanish rice (DD Bret’s recipe). Martin and Amy brought artisanal sausages and I made three lamb roasts. DS Mark and DIL Annie brought artisanal bread from Standard Baking Company in Portland, a truly world class bakery.
Granddaughters Shireen and Maia made a three layer yellow cake from The Joy of Cooking with chocolate cream cheese icing. It was a group birthday celebration for grandson Roger, July 25, granddaughter Roshan Aug 14 and me. DD’s Abby and Marcia did all the setting up for this lovely occasion. There were 25 of us.
August 12, 2012 Sunday
Last night after sister Barby and I came home from the lake, the four teenagers, Shireen, Roshan, Maia, and Roger, accompanied by DS Bret went down to DS Martin’s to swim. They like to swim at Martin and Amy’s because they have a float. It was 9:30 and dark. My sons were on land and not swimming. All four kids stood on one edge of the float and jumped off together causing the float to flip up and capsize. They were all slammed by the flipping float and knocked under water but Roshan was hit hardest by a metal pipe arrangement that sticks up. It swiped her head. Maia was struck on the shoulder. All four had at least a bruise but it could have been so infinitely much worse. There is something sinister in realizing that the float always had this potential, it just awaited the day when they were all big enough for their combined weight to capsize it.
Barby and I stayed home today. DD’s Abby and Marcia visited and helped with chores and took my trash to the dump. Bret visited and worked on pruning the black current bushes, his favorite fruit. I worked for a while with my heifer calf, Ella, to make sure she remains friendly. There is an interested buyer coming tomorrow.
The weather remains damp and threatening.
I picked three zucchinis and a huge yellow tomato which Barby and I ate for dinner.
August 13, 14 and 15, 2012 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
On Monday and Tuesday we convened for dinner at Marcia’s camp and when I got home it was so late and I was so tired that I did not write.
As anticipated, the folks came for Ella. It was a nice young couple named Mark and Ruth Straub. They have a baby named Ella. They have other animals but are new to bovines. With Abby’s help, Ella loaded pretty well. They reported on Tuesday that she also unloaded remarkably well and permitted herself to be led to her new quarters. They promised to provide updates on her.
We got together for a lobster dinner.
Tuesday was Bret, Maia and Roger’s last day. Roger mowed the lawn while Bret pruned the black currents. I provided rib eye steaks for our dinner. Afterwards Maia demonstrated her Science Camp project. She built from scratch a little catamaran about 15” long that is operated from shore by a handheld device. She even molded the plastic hulls. There are little propellers on each hull that operate independently so that the boat turns and dives. It has a submersible electric power cord.
Fern and Milton keep squeezing into Ella’s pen and lying down. We figure that they are remembering her.
Wednesday morning Bret and the kids left for Alaska. Abby drove them to the bus in Portland.
Fern and Milton are still lying down in Ella’s pen.
Fern’s production is now down to 2 ¼ gallons OAD.
August 16, 2012 Thursday
It rained all last night, a warm rain interspersed with thunder and lightning.
At milking time all the animals were quiet and orderly. Fern gave almost 2 ½ gallons. She and Milton were both packed together in Ella’s pen again this morning.
Marcia, Abby, Barby and I met Mitra and her mom, Marie, for lunch at Wicked Gelato in Farmington. We all had paninis. Mitra and Marie then had to do other errands, Mitra picking up her popping corn order, Marie home to make over Roshan’s room. The rest of us went to the Thrift Shop and had fun finding things to bring home. Marcia found a nice Polar fleece jacket. Abby found a charming lamp in the Art Deco style, quite old. I got a lobster shaped cookie cutter. Not sure why.
Max wrote this morning from Montana where he is currently working:
There is a family of Peregrine falcons that live in a tree across the river. They were setting up such a squeaky ruckus this morning that I looked out to see what was going on. There was a big raccoon in their tree. While I watched they set upon the raccoon with such ferocity it changed its mind and climbed back down.
The Kootenai River runs past his house.
August 17, 2012 Friday
The day started warm and sunny but by evening reverted to rain.
The front door of the barn has been sticking badly. It’s the one Ernie, Marcia’s SIL, rebuilt this spring. Because the barn is post and beam construction, when the barn got filled with hay the bottom edge of the new door, which is built into the big main barn door, began to scrape the floor. I have been having to kick it and use my hip to get it open. The last few days of rain have further swelled the boards and I had to fight with it to get it open for the wagon this morning. By the time I was ready to leave with the milk, the warm sun must have swelled it just too much to allow it to open at all. For about 20 minutes I employed every trick I could think of. Lately I have been thinking of Archimedes so asked myself what he would do. I found a heavy old flat coal shovel and slid it under a bit of a crack and managed to lever the door along until I got it open. It is going to stay open now.
During the sunny portion of the day I went to Weld with Marcia, Abby and Barby where we bought huge ice cream cones before driving to the Center Hill overlook. One can see a great panorama of the finest Maine mountain scenery including Lake Webb and Tumbledown. Lastly we picked up my car from Mt, Blue Garage where Mike had been working on it. He had to replace the entire muffler. I had been driving around make noise like a flock of Harley’s
All day I simmered bean soup made with the ham bone from earlier in the week. It was a big success. We convened for a soup supper on the porch at camp, Marcia and Barby’s final evening.
Fern gave 2 ¼ gallons this morning.
Two weeks worth of HD posted on 9-1-12. The weeks of August 18 and August 25.
August 18, 2012 Saturday (See note above)
First, here are some photos Holly took last Saturday, August 11, at our lake birthday party.
From left to right: DIL Mitra, Granddaughters Shireen and Maia, DD Abby, Grandson Henry, and DIL Amy Grandson Roger with his travel guitar. Granddaughter Roshan & her dog Zoe.
DD Abby drove her sister Marcia and my sister Barby to Portland today to catch the bus for their flight from Boston. It was hard to see them go. Abby will now be staying at the lake alone and I am alone now at the farm.
I picked a gallon of elderberries this morning. I made cordial with one quart and the rest into juice for jelly. Ordinarily I would have crabapples to provide pectin but this year there are no apples of any kind so I may end up with syrup.
Yesterday Nancy H brought a group of people from the Bible Camp where she assists. Their leader is a Master Gardener and they volunteered here to pull of some of my weeds. They worked around the tomatoes and peppers in the lower garden, then weeded the corn in the Paddock garden. There is some question if the corn will mature but now it has a better chance.
When DD Marcia stopped in yesterday we looked at the lower garden and she noticed beans on one of my poles. I did not think I was going to get any what with late planting and the Japanese beetle attack. I picked one large handful and tonight cooked them for my supper. These are a lumpy unattractive bean. I will have to look up the name, it was something like Aunt Annie. From the looks of them I expected them to require long cooking and to be stringy, but no. They were tender and had excellent flavor. I will try to save some seed as I have never seen this variety before.
August 19, 2012 Sunday
Late last evening there was the sound right outside of the house of a chicken being murdered. Willie about went nuts but I did not let him out. In the morning there were feathers strewn around. Puzzling why a predator would carry the chicken from the barn before killing it.
The weather today was particularly fine.
The travelers are safely home.
I made blackberry jelly and a big bowl of cottage cheese.
Around 8PM when I called in the sheep my ewe Linda did not come. I found here out in the lean-to lying down unwilling to move. I petted her and tried to get her up but no luck. When a sheep gets like this it is hard to save them. It’s the Four S’s my vet said he learned in school: Sick Sheep Seldom Survive. I could not see a thing wrong with her.
August 20, 2012 Monday
Linda moved during the night but was stretched out dead this morning. Still no idea why she died. In thinking back I realize she was less perky yesterday. I always let the sheep out early, then bring them back in when I go out later to milk and she came right in at that time.
Her poor lamb mourned dreadfully. He stayed by her body all morning and returned regularly during the afternoon, bleating. He is four months old so it won’t hurt him to wean.
DS Martin came up this evening and will bury Linda in the morning. In the meantime he fixed my printer and trimmed the barn door so that it swings properly. I gave him a nice lamb and rice casserole for dinner that I had in the freezer.
August 21, 2012 Tuesday
Martin and his friend Brett S buried poor Linda this morning. Such a disappointment to lose her. Her ram lamb is doing well.
Martin also did many other helpful things such as replacing the sprayer on the kitchen sink. Most especially appreciated, he cut some of the wheat and oats that DD Sally planted. They are laid out to dry upstairs in the carriage house.
It’s DIL Mitra’s birthday. Abby went over and took our gifts and saw a magnificent bouquet sent by Max.
August 22, 2012 Wednesday
Very fine weather.
Poor old Bagel Dog seemed very ill this morning. He was not even interested in his breakfast of boiled ground beef. He ate some liver a little later and perked up noticeably. He also drank some milk. We are defrosting some pork liver for his breakfast tomorrow.
DD Sally’s little house across the river where DD Abby has been planning to live got a big boost today from an insulation crew. They are doing the attic and under the floor. This will be the boost to livability it has needed. The men also moved away the old Round Oak stove and moved the Kalamazoo wood cook stove into its position. It will now be possible to actually cook with this darling stove that is complete in all its parts but has until now been purely ornamental. I bought it five years ago from the old Grange Hall when the contents were dispersed.
August 23, 2012 Thursday
DD Abby has received what sounds like a nice job offer as a caregiver in Oregon. She will be leaving right away. She is cantering around as fast as she can finishing up with closing camp and helping me. There is so much to do.
August 24, 2012 Friday
The fine weather continues.
I am getting several large tomatoes every day now. Most are huge yellow and rose colored ones that have to be eaten quickly, delicious.
I made another savarin, this time a belated birthday cake for Abby. It turned out well.
As Martin and Amy were on their way today to camp they passed somebody selling lobsters. They stopped and bought some and we had an impromptu lobster dinner. Abby did not join us as she is so very busy and besides she doesn’t eat lobster. We ate down on the dock. It was a perfect evening except that Henry, 4, fell in the lake just when nobody was looking. He was doing a cartwheel on the deck of the Hobie. The water was not over his head but he swallowed some and was frightened.
Fern’s production is dropping lately. Today she only gave 2 gallons and a pint. I am losing vacuum somewhere on the claw or pulsator. This may be a factor.
August 25, 2012 Saturday
In the last week we have had three more hens present us with little flocks of chicks. One lot that was established out in the chicken yard and has vanished. Yesterday DIL Mitra was awakened at 5:30 in the morning by the sound of a fox making off with one of her mother hens. The hen had set herself up under the blackberry bushes. Likely that is what happened to mine. Mitra now has five motherless chicks to care for. As of this telling, Roshan has them in her lap while she does her homework. And they follow her around the house.
Martin came down from camp and gave my sheep their worm medicine. Well, he caught them (the hard part) and I administered the medicine. The lambs struggled as hard as they could but the ewes stood like ponies, once caught.
Last night I joined Martin and family at the lake for grilled steaks. It was a fine evening. They had climbed Tumbledown again. It was a 6 hour hike and the kids made it just fine. DS Mark and DIL Annie were with us and stayed over until today for a nice mini vacation.
Tonight the lambs were very naughty. They did not come in with their mothers. It was fully dark by the time they showed up at the barn bleating their heads off.
August 27, 2012 Monday
I have been having trouble at milking time with inadequate vacuum pressure. I have addressed every little thing I could think of in my machine or procedure that could be causing vacuum loss and not seeing much improvement. Three days ago I switched machines and began using the Surge on Fern. She accepted it like a lamb although she had never had the surcingle on her before. But it didn’t milk any better. This convinced me it was the fault of the pump. I thought maybe it was worn out. Martin was quite concerned, as he had already tweaked the obvious things. Late last night he wrote saying he had realized it was not a matter of pressure but of volume. In other words it was clogged somewhere. He and the family stopped in here at 8 o’clock on their way back to Biddeford and he set to work disassembling the gullet on the thing and using a chopstick removed a bunch of gunge. For the first time in weeks I had no trouble with teat cups falling off. Huzzah! His sisters and I agreed, his RPI education was not wasted.
My garden in general this year is a disaster, the shining exception being the tomatoes. The vines have no evidence of blight and there is no blossom end rot – I scarcely dare breathe this for fear of jinxing them. I am not sure what we did right. DD Sally planted a mixed packet of heirloom seeds in a box last February. Nancy and I planted them out in June in soil that had formerly been a comfrey patch. Two years ago DD Marcia got rid of the comfrey by solarizing the patch (cooking it) with a double layer of tarp. Sally further prepared the ground last fall with rotted cow manure. The tomatoes look like catalogue illustrations. Many are those huge yellow and pink ones that usually go squishy before you can race them to the table.
For supper I made salade nicoise with lots of tomatoes and cucumbers– my cukes are pretty good too. Here is a picture of the eggplant parmesan I made the other night from my homegrown eggplants.
Tonight I made a point of putting the sheep in earlier and got them in all nicely together.
August 29, 2012 Wednesday
Two days of superb Maine weather to brag about, bright, dry, around 65 – 70F.
Nancy H was here and worked all day harvesting the oats and wheat. It was a perfect day for the work. I kept trying to make her stop and rest but she said she was enjoying it. It is all spread out now on sheets upstairs in the carriage house.
For dinner I am making ratatouille and roast breast of lamb, all of it from the farm.
Abby went to Rumford on errands. The cats were out of food.
August 30, 2012 Thursday
My poor old Bagel dog has a tumor and has become weak and disoriented. Last night he leapt through an open window of the carriage house and fell about 8 ft into the sunken garden. Now he can scarcely drag himself around. My vet is out of town.
Abby has written to decline the job in Oregon she was offered. There were some major uncertainties of wage and expectations. We are all relieved.
The weather today was once again very fine.
August 31, 2012 Friday
Bagel lay down on the lawn yesterday and would not be moved. It was a warm night so we got him onto an old quilt and left him there. I slept on the couch so that I could go out every couple of hours and check on him. He moved only once all yesterday and all last night and that was to drink a little water. Today we gave him an analgesic to ease his pain. I do suspect he is in pain. I guess most people would euthanize their dog at this point. It is a struggle to decide whether to let nature take its course. Last time I had my dog, old Muffin, euthanized I did not feel good about it. I did not expect Bagel to be alive this morning. His eyes are shut. His breathing continues to be rapid. Now it is starting to rain. We have constructed a little tent over him.
We gave Bagel some pain pills we had on hand but they didn’t help so far as we could tell. As the day wore on we foresaw another night of worse suffering. We explored the options and finally called Dr. Patterson in Farmington. He agreed to euthanize Bagel if we would bring him over. He would have come to us but he was exhausted from doing a 3 hour C-sec on a cow and he is as old as I am. Abby and I were able together to lift Bagel on a sheet and put him in the back of her car. Dr. Patterson gave Bagel a tranquilizing shot and a little later sodium pentothal in a vein in his lower leg. So now his suffering is over. Dr. Patterson figured that Bagel did not absorb the pain pills.
Martin’s former partner, Mike Herkes is staying at camp and will come down in the morning and bury Bagel for me.
September 01, 2012 Saturday
Mike and his wife, Shannon, did come down to bury Bagel. They were very kind.
Later Abby chatted with some of our neighbors across the bridge. They had lots of Bagel stories. Bagel was an incorrigible man-about-town, well known to all. He used to wait at the convenience store, The Blue Moose, at the end of the day. They would give him their unsold steamed weenies. There is an attached campground. Once Bagel ate a whole pan of brownies somebody left at dog-level. Not everyone was amused. There were herbs baked into those brownies.
While over there checking on Sally’s house, Abby discovered that somebody has been stealing the kerosene.
Abby made a batch of zucchini relish. I canned it for her. I also canned a few pints of tomatoes. But it was hard to get anything done. I keep thinking about Bagel.
The weather was beautiful.
September 02, 2012 Sunday
Nice weather. Off and on again rain and sun.
Missing Bagel of course.
Abby and I are planning a farewell picnic tomorrow for Alex and Marie, Mitra’s folks. They are returning home to Oakland, CA for the winter…. Don’t know what it is about a Maine winter that scares people away… :=(
September 03, 2012 Monday, Labor Day
Our picnic at the lake was a success. The weather was fine. I discovered that I had another Luick ham in the freezer and baked that with some of DD Marcia’s marmalade. We had two salads, a beet and carrot salad and a tomato and cucumber salad all from the garden. Also baked beans and cottage cheese. My cottage cheese has been turning out well. Mitra made a sort of instant trifle with sliced doughnuts, fresh blueberries and cream.
Present were DIL Mitra’s folks, Marie and Alex, Mitra and her girls, Shireen and Roshan, and cousins Holly and Richard, DD Abby and I.
September 04, 2012 Tuesday
Willie dog continues to act dejected. We have his fleas under temporary control with baths, laundering of his bedding and application of the comfrey and wheat germ salve I made.
A short while ago I went out to determine the cause of Willie’s frantic barking and there was Fern on the front lawn. I got her back into the barn without too much trouble, grateful for her fondness for grain, then went for the flashlight to try to figure out where she got out. Not surprisingly it was in the same corner of the veg garden where she got out last time. I had never repaired it properly and there is a juicy patch of comfrey just inside to tempt any cow. I dragged some more slimy old boards and things over to prop it up again and walked back up to the house as night closed in.
I think I will finish off the ice cream.
September 05, 2012 Wednesday
And there was Fern on the lawn again when I got up. I guess she was not impressed by my fencing. I got her back in the barn easily, she trotted right in and was disappointed when I told her it was too early for milking.
Later in the morning Abby repaired the fence. I did not reopen access to that part of the pasture, River Field, until evening so I won’t know until tomorrow morning if the fence will hold. She did not linger long in the veg garden. She pulled up some carrots and ate them before making her way up to the front lawn. I had left the garden gate open because I preferred she mess up the lawn to knocking down my bean poles and tomatoes.
DD Sally called quite early this morning. It was about 6:30 AM Alaska time. Before daylight she had been awakened by two grizzly bears having a savage fight under her bedroom window. I am pleased to tell you her bedroom is on the second floor. She said it was scary. It really must have been, because she does not make a habit of complaining about bears.
Willie is still having a struggle with fleas. Abby gave him another flea bath and used up the last of the herbal flea powder. I can’t go out to buy Frontline until Friday.
September 07, 2012 Friday
The weather is warm and balmy between rain showers, hot in the middle of the day.
Yesterday and today Fern did not show up for milking. She made me call and wait for 20 minutes or so. I used to walk down in the field when this sort of thing happened but now I go back to the house and read the paper.
Sally sent a picture of a grizzly bear in her renter’s truck parked next to hers at the edge of her garden. They’re getting closer. At least it looks like a fairly young one.
DD Abby and I spent the day shopping in Farmington .We saw DIL Mitra at the Farmer’s Market and took her a milk shake.
I made a pound of butter.
Martin and the kids joined us for supper on their way to camp. Amy will be up tomorrow. A friend from Mt Holyoke (her college) is visiting.
September 08, 2012 Saturday
On again off again showers this morning before drying out enough for Nancy to mow the grass.
Martin, Abby and I finally got organized to band the tails on the four lambs. It was hard work. What big bounders they are now at close to five months. Abby had to trim some wool off of their tails before Martin could get the Elastrator on them. When it was done they did not act as though they even cared. But maybe they are feeling insulted and ashamed of their funny appearance. This evening the ewes are standing at the barn blatting to come in and the lambs are not showing up.
With major help from Abby, I canned eight pints of tomatoes and four quarts. They are beautiful with all the different colors, red, pink and yellow. More tomatoes are coming on but just since yesterday the vines have been hit by blight and are all yellowed and withered.
I joined Martin and the kids for pizza at their camp. A great storm is whipping up with high wind and whitecaps on the lake. Martin secured the boats more tightly. The lambs finally came running in.
September 10, 2012 Monday
The weather has cooled down a lot. It got down to 45F last night.
The recent rains have brought on a lot of new grass that the cows and sheep are enjoying.
Last evening I heard a fox bark and this morning a lovely family of a hen and 9 chicks had vanished. Such a disappointment. Those chicks were among the prettiest I have ever seen.
Another new family of 10 chicks showed up while I was milking. I heard all kinds of peeping and found the hen in the main aisle clucking to her chicks on the floor above coaxing them to plummet down about 6 ft. They all did it.
Abby and I took a walk along the river with Willie dog. I thought we might find the fox’s den or some feathers or some apples or at least some mushrooms. But none of the above. All we brought home was more tomatoes from my garden. There are no apples at all this year on my farm unless there is a wild tree somewhere that I have missed. I have never known it so barren of apples. This is due to the hot spell last March followed by very cold weather. The buds were killed.
Abby made an excellent cheesecake yesterday using quark instead of the ricotta that the recipe called for. To make quark all I am doing is draining well flavored clabber through a linen cloth for a few hours.
September 11, 2012 Tuesday
I witnessed something interesting with the sheep. The old ewe, Agnes(4), has been spending a lot of time by herself because the others have been ignoring her and following Susie (3). She blats for them endlessly. This morning when I went to let them out instead of lying around chewing cud they were all on their feet. The lambs (4 ½ mos) were watching Agnes and Susie having a fight. They were butting heads like rams. I thought I could hear Agnes saying, “What’s that you called me?” Wham...and Agnes answering, “You heard me right”.. Wham. They kept it up until I got tired of watching and ran them out. Later today I was out on the deck and Agnes was by herself in the cavernous area under the carriage house blatting way. The others were far down near the river. She marched out to the brow of the hill and blatted for them and they all came trotting up to her. So for now at least it looks like she won the battle over who is boss.
DD Abby and I both saw the optometrist today. He says my WMD remains stable in my left eye and the MD in my right eye also is the same as six months ago.
September 12, 2012 Wednesday
More fine weather today, warm but not hot with blue sky.
Nancy set out the big box of blooming Helenium that DD Sally planted last spring from seed. They are a perennial and I hope prove hardy. She attempted to set out the showy Rudbeckia, also planted from seed by Sally. She just got everything arranged in the bed I suggested when she noticed a big hornets nest in the lilac just above her head. The residents were buzzing around her but thank goodness she did not get stung.
September 13, 2012 Thursday
The excellent weather continues.
One of our three cats has gone missing, Cecil, the sleek grey fellow. I suppose a fox got him. We are sad about this. He was Abby’s favorite.
Abby and I went to Rumford again and I ordered glasses for use at the computer. We stopped at the fish market on the way home and bought scallops and corn for our supper. We have one great meal after another that money couldn’t buy. We also had sliced tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden.
September 14, 2012 Friday
It was actually hot today, 80F and humid but I still enjoyed it. I walked down to Pocket Field, the farthest field. There are some apple trees at the edge of the gully that I thought might be bearing, but no. I also checked the sand bank as there are often woodchuck holes or a foxes’ den but I found none of those either. However there is an animal trail all the way from the barn that something is using. What I did find is another place the fence is down. It is only between the North and South fields, not somewhere they could leave the farm. One good report: the grass in Pocket Field is up 10” and in fine condition. I did not walk its entire periphery so did not leave the gate open for the cows but will hope to get someone soon to walk the line and report. Fern could use some better grass.
Abby and I had a lovely 2-woman picnic at the lake. I made a yogurt and cucumber salad, she made wonderful spaghetti and we stopped at the Weld General Store and bought ice cream for sundaes. We had hopes that Cousins Holly and Richard would join us but probably we called too late for them to make plans.
September 16, 2012 Sunday
Yesterday (Saturday) Nancy H walked the north fence line all the way around Pocket Field and found that it needed very little help. Now the gate is open but the critters haven’t noticed. Tomorrow DD Abby is going to lead them down there. I want them to have that lovely grass.
Frost was predicted for last night but we didn’t get it. Tonight the warnings were even more specific so I dragged in all the potted plants. Abby picked more tomatoes and some sunflowers. It really does not seem very cold. It has been a beautiful day. Abby made an apple pie with flavor enhanced by reduced cider I made last week.
September 17, 2012 Monday
We did get frost last night. It went to about 30F. It took all the leaves on the squash and cukes but that was to be expected. I had moved the potted plants into the carriage house and Abby put sheets over several things.
The cows failed to notice that they had access to the Pocket Field. Abby finally led the cows and sheep down there late this afternoon. They were all thrilled.
DD Marcia in Sonoma County CA sent a picture of one of her roosters, Murray. She says, “He has taken over motherly duties to the three Sebright chicks and one black silkie. He is just adorable. I have NEVER owned a sweeter chickie. He is a Polish. He is living in the rabbit pen now as he is scared to death of the layers and Bertie Wooster.” Bertie is a Rhode Island Red, I think.
September 18, 2012 Tuesday
Ferny Fern was so in heat this morning that it took me a half hour to separate her from Milton (who wasn’t helping) to get her in for milking. I got them into the Beefer Pen, the big room where the hay ring is, but then getting her the rest of the way into where we milk was a challenge. The hay ring takes up the middle of the room and round and round we went, 20 times, no exaggeration and I could not get her to turn aside and go the rest of the way in. I was so sweaty! Even after I got her in to the milking room she ignored her grain and would not put her head in the stanchion for a long time. I guess she had to weigh the satisfaction of racing around with Milton against eating her grain. I stood quietly blocking the door holding my ski pole until she finally made up her mind. Once I had her locked in she was her usual perfect self.
Dear cousins Holly and Richard came for a goodbye lunch, bringing all the food. Richard made a very fine pizza and a cake called blueberry buckle. They are about to leave their summer place and return to Minneapolis where they are active members of the chorus and theater community.
In the late afternoon I went out with the wagon and harvested the squash. Frost is predicted for tomorrow following rain tonight so I thought it best to get them in. I filled half the wagon. This is about half of last year’s crop but I think it will be plenty. A wind driven rain has hit so it’s a dark and stormy night.
September 19, 2012 Wednesday
It rained and blew hard all night but is quiet this morning. Fern is once again her old self. After milking she led a stately march down to Pocket Field, stopping on the way to have a drink from the little stream before gliding off with Milton and the sheep to graze.
We went to Rumford for my new glasses. On the way home we bought big pots of chrysanthemums. There is a new moon and the coyotes are howling in a chorus.
September 20, 2012 Thursday
It did not get as cold as predicted, only down to 32F here at the house with very little new damage. Abby made butter today. I potted up my rosemary plant for the winter. It has done well. I have been reading James Howard Kuntsler’s new book, Too Much Magic :Wishful thinking, technology and the fate of the nation. Once again, he nails it.
My new glasses for use at the computer are a big improvement.
September 21, 2012 Friday
9:30 AM I have not milked Fern yet. Both bovines and all 6 sheep are down in Pocket Field enjoying the grass so much that they are ignoring my calls. Some fence repair would control this. 10:30 AM. The sheep finally paid attention to me and came bounding home. Fern said, ”Oh well, if you insist”, and trundled along fairly soon too. She was up a half gallon from yesterday.
I picked the last of the beans and cukes. Abby and I dug a few potatoes. Our backs gave out after digging about 15 pounds. They are beautiful potatoes. Last month the vines were struck by blight so not many are large. They are clean but of course could not get bigger once the leaves were dead.
Martin and the kids arrived for supper. I had braised some breast of lamb, made Bret’s Spanish rice recipe, cooked some of the beans and Abby made a corn pudding. The kids were pretty lively.
Another picture from DD Marcia in CA of her Granddaughter, my Great Granddaughter, Violet pouring water for the bees.
September 22, 2012 Saturday
The day was softly warm and slightly moist, nice Fall day.
Once again the cows and sheep were all down in Pocket field at milking time and didn’t want to budge. After only a few minutes of my ringing it, the sheep responded to the sound of Linda’s bell, their lost sister. Fern didn’t move her head. She raised her head and stared when I beat on the bucket and waved my arms but did not move. I went back in the house and made blueberry muffins using Grandson Harper’s recipe. When I came back out about 9:30, Fern and Milton were in the Beefer Pen.
Martin and the kids arrived at 10AM.The kids and I ate muffins while Martin hitched the manure spreader to the Moline for an experimental run. He has done a lot of work on the spreader, a classic old thing, and now it works. Hurrah! The photo shows a tractor painted John Deere green by a former owner but it is really a Moline and should be Prairie Orange. Someday we’ll get it repainted. Martin’s pointer, Milo, is next to the wheel.
Martin did lots of work including repairing the fence and chain sawing firewood. He went out with Milo for a while and put up some woodcock.
September 24, 2012 Monday
DD Sally sent this link to an interview with her son Gabriel (my grandson) who lives and teaches in Kazakhstan. It’s all in either Russian or Kazakh – neither of us understands a word of it but maybe somebody does. Anyway, we are proud of him!
I glanced up while milking this morning and saw framed in the tiny open window a hawk sitting on the top rail of the chicken run. She was staring straight into the henhouse and did not see me until I got up and moved to the window for a better look. She was small but bigger than a sharpshin. She flew off without getting any of my chicks.
The weather is getting colder. I brought in the last of the peppers and cukes.
September 25, 2012 Tuesday
It’s been another day of fine fall weather.
Once again this morning the cows were down in Pocket Field. Last night we did not get the gate that keeps them near the barn shut in time so I was late with milking. If somebody else had been around to let the sheep out I could have slept in which would have been lovely. I stayed awake last night to listen to On Point, a forum led by Tom Ashbrook that is rebroadcast at midnight. He takes on hard subjects, this time global warming. He interviewed four involved scientists. The Arctic ice cap is at its lowest point in recorded history and is melting about four times faster than projected. At this rate it will be completely gone in another decade. Antarctica is adding enough new ice to compensate in surface area for possibly a quarter of the missing Arctic ice but it is much thinner ice. It was hard to go to sleep after this news so I was tired today. However, I did manage to finish one new section in my editing (writing about machine milking.)
A few days ago I sent DD Sally a spray of aromatic blue flowers from a plant I was puzzled about, since my description over the phone was inadequate for her to identify it. It turned out to be Petrovskia (Russian Sage), a very fine plant. She had actually sent for it last winter and potted it up and forgotten about it. It has been blooming in its pot on the deck. I then looked up its requirements and set it out on the south side of the barn. It wants full sun and not too damp a soil. It is only hardy to Zone 5 and we are Zone 4 so I hope I can keep it going. It is a truly stunning plant that makes blue spires that can be 4 ft tall.
Each morning after I let Fern out of her stanchion she always diddles around in the aisle as long as she can. One of the things she likes to do is go and sniff the old “cow bra”that her mother, Jasmine, used to wear.
September 27, 2012 Thursday
Since my last entry we have had a night of rain followed by clear cool weather. Nancy came and sawed up a fallen tree by the river. I set out a beautiful potted rudbeckia and dug some more potatoes. This evening I started a large batch of chutney. I promised it to Martin for his birthday last June and am just getting around to it.
I did not see anything of Abby yesterday. Tuesday evening when she got back to camp, fortunately before dark, there was unmistakable evidence of an intruder. In fact she has been suspecting this and has been making a point of getting there before dark for that reason. She spent all day Wednesday dealing with this. The sheriff was there and went over everything. Abby found the house open including the front doors wide open. It appears that the intruder(s) fled out the front of the house when he heard Randy S arrive to mow the lawn about 4 o’clock. There was damage to the lock. The house is totally empty except for the room in which Abby is staying and she did not miss anything. The sheriff thinks it was probably a thief looking for copper.
On a lighter note, Abby found a sheep today in the carriage house (garage). Later she wrote me saying,” I was walking back from the barn at one point and she or he (one of the young 'uns) was bawling loudly & plunging about in there. I quickly closed the garage door. Then I closed the door to the buttery. Then I opened the back door to the field to ponder if he/she could jump down that far. He/she immediately ran over, screeched to a halt upon seeing the perilous drop, glanced sideways at me standing there, then squeezed his/her eyes shut and leaped. Ran off.”
September 28, 2012 Friday
Abby and I raced off to Farmington today and saw Mitra at the farmer’s market. It was a pleasant day and there was a steady stream of customers at all the stalls. Besides Mitra’s popcorn, there were many fine displays of vegetables, meats, dairy and baked goods. Afterwards we went to the gourmet shop and had coffee and picked up some elegant cheese before driving out to White Water Farm for grain.
The price of grain is getting scary.
Now that (the steer) Milton’s collar is off he is a lot less touchy and head shy. That is always a symptom, being head shy, if the collar is getting tight. One has to check collars constantly.
I started chutney yesterday and canned it tonight. I made 12 half pints.
September 30, 2012 Sunday
Last night we all convened at Kawanhee Inn for a dinner dance. It was a benefit for the Weld Library and it was in every way a resounding success. There cannot have been fewer than 200 people. DS martin and DIL Amy were our hosts. The buffet was excellent and so was the band. It was called Chicken Pie. We all danced a lot, myself included. Only Abby did not attend. She was immersed in moving back down from Weld to DD Sally’s house across the river from me. She is now all moved.
It rained much of yesterday and all of today. The temperature is about 55F.
Yesterday when DIL Amy and the kids and her dad and Glenda and the kids arrived they had Martin’s setter, Milo, with them. Amy and I both forgot he can’t be trusted around chickens. He ran around the yard for about 20 minutes without incident, then so forgot himself as to grab a cockerel and run off with it. We screamed at him but by the time Amy got control of him the chicken could not be saved. I laid the dead bird on a bin in the feed room. This evening when Martin stopped in for supper (the rest of the family has left but he is staying over until tomorrow to go hunting) he rescued the breast of the cockerel. It looks like perfect meat. Martin did not wanted it all wasted.
While here he made a number of improvements to the lighting over at Sally’s house. Abby will not have to go in and out in the dark.
DS Max sent me the following account from Libby, MT where he is working:
The deer are rutting and there are way too many on the roads. They are mule deer, and, judging by the number of them on the roads, the population seems to be much higher than our white tails in Maine. Yesterday on the way in to work I was behind two vehicles travelling about 60 when we all did a panic stop. The leading car, one of those little economy cars about the size of a VW, had hit a large buck. The woman was OK, but the damage to her car was serious. She was already on the phone and waived off offers of assistance. The buck was sincerely dead. I proceeded on with a heightened sense of readiness. I had to stop twice more to avoid other groups crossing. They are in town almost as much as the highways. In addition to this being rut season, the daylight hours have changed as summer winds down. Now when I travel in to work it is just after dawn. The deer are always on the move at that hour and wherever they are going happens to be on the other side of any given road. Their behavior reminds me of sheep.”
Max has four and a half more weeks on this job.
October 01, 2012 Monday
It rained last night and most of today but it is not very cold.
This morning there were 22 wild turkeys in the pasture behind the barn.
I made the white meat that Martin rescued into chicken piccata for supper for Abby and me. It was very tasty. I pounded it flat, dredged it with flour and sautéed it in butter with chopped fresh tarragon and paprika. I deglazed the pan with lemon juice. Since the meat had not been aged, it was necessary to pound it to tenderize it. Very successful.
Abby made a marvelous salad with greens from the farmer’s market. She is all moved down now from the lake.
My day was wasted from the standpoint of editing. I spent a lot of time searching for a new book on cheese making that I need as a reference. What can I have done with it? I guess I will skip along to another section until I find it.
October 02, 2012 Tuesday
Every time I go into the garden with my basket I think I won’t find anything to harvest or if I do, it will be the very last things. And then like today I find that the green beens are still coming on and I missed some cucumbers and there were four more fine squashes or pumpkins. So I keep on lugging in more vegetables. I also dug another two hills of white potatoes, which was all I had strength for. There are volunteer parsnips all over the garden and I dug a couple of them although I was sure they would be woody. I just cooked a couple and they are delicious.
But the biggest surprise was the sweet potatoes. Last winter DD Marcia sent me a few sweet potatoes from CA and DD Sally cut one in half and rooted them in a glass on my window sill. They made vines about 10 ft long. In May I rolled up the vines like wreathes and planted them on the south side of the house against the hot brick wall. They got busy and made a great carpet of dense vines. Today I decided to try digging one up. This was very hard work. The vines would have been safe for Tarzan to swing on I think. But to my amazement I found big beautiful sweet potatoes. I am just amazed. I have never grown sweet potatoes before. I didn’t think they would grow here.
About 4PM Abby came back from a shopping expedition which included a stop at the Free Store. She brought me three excellent pairs of shoes that fit, mirabile dictu.
Then she went to the barn and heard the desperate peeping of a baby chick. Oh dear. Not again. She finally found it and then spent the next half hour looking for its mother. She finally spotted a small hen wedged down among hay bales. This little hen has been trying various spots for weeks to have a nest with eggs but has been sitting on nothing, just persistently broody. She saw the chick that Abby was carrying around and instantly demanded it. It happily went under her. Abby of course provided water and moved bales so it will be able to escape. However she knew there must be a new mother with chicks somewhere and finally located it in another highly inaccessible place. This hen probably has a vast number under her but Abby could not see. It will have to move downstairs tomorrow.
The weather today is very warm, about 70F and overcast.
For supper, besides the parsnips and beef liver, we had rice croquettes that Abby made from her beautiful Australian cookbook.
October 04, 2012 Thursday
It has rained all day. Everything is soggy. Abby has set up housekeeping arrangements for two more hens and chicks, as mentioned on Tuesday, and they are thriving. She is out there now topping them up.
We just came back from Weld where we checked on DD Marcia’s camp. On the way home we paused by an abandoned apple tree and she filled a large shopping bag. They seem to be a few bearing trees in Weld. I am hungry for applesauce.
October 05, 2012 Friday
We were told to expect rain but after a cloudy start the sun came out beautifully. The fall colors are lovely now in both misty and bright weather. The recent rains have brought on the grass again and the critters are enjoying it. But I am sorry to report that what I presume to be a raccoon is taking chickens. There was a pile of feathers just inside the barn door this morning. There is a crack wide enough for a fox or a raccoon but Abby says there are feathers upstairs in the loft too. I doubt a fox is going upstairs. I have a Havahart trap here but I did not get it set tonight.
Down in the garden I harvested more marigolds (calendulas) for my tea. They are coming on as fast as ever. I also picked dill and a few more beans. I am still getting things out of the garden despite it being a jungle of weeds.
I finished digging the sweet potatoes. I probably got 10 pounds total from my two vines. I can see why one is told to plant them atop hills. The tubers form so deeply that it is hard to dig them. I don’t even know if I got them all. Abby finished digging the white potatoes yesterday.
Martin sent a picture of Milo from their hunt on Monday.
October 07, 2012 Sunday
The weather is unsettled and turning colder. Yesterday I started digging the potatoes that DD Sally planted in the sunken garden, the old granite foundation. There is a vining weed in there, Gill-over-the-ground it is sometimes called, and it has formed a dense mat. I can only dig a little at a time. Yesterday I dug about 4 ft and the same again today. Due to neglect the crop is small. They are purple fingerlings. This is also the area where I have cabbages and Brussels sprouts. About a week ago I topped the sprouts and they are already noticeably enlarged. Of course I should have done this a month sooner. During the afternoon Martin and Tom, Amy’s uncle, came down here with Milo, Martin’s setter and went hunting for a couple of hours. They had a nice walk.
Last night I joined DS Martin and DIL Amy and her visiting dad and uncle and their ladies. Dad (Ken) made Arizona-style green chili. I brought along cheesecake made by Abby. It too was a hit. The main ingredient is quark cheese, the product of draining clabber.
Today I dug a few more potatoes and stewed a rooster, one Sally put in the freezer last winter. We had chicken soup tonight.
I expected Fern to be in heat today but she was not. There is some reason we think that now, 8PM, she may be starting. Very inconvenient.
October 08, 2012 Monday, Columbus Day
Fern never did show any signs of heat.
We had some cold sun. It was pleasant but not tee shirt weather.
Abby and I drove to Weld partly to rescue Martin who was hunting with Milo on old pasture across the lake.He got two woodcocks but when ready to come home the truck would not start. We drove up with the cables but he had already flagged down nice local people named Conant and they already had it jumped. We proceeded on to Marcia’s camp to get the big chair that is still there but Abby had forgotten the key and there are no longer any hidden keys. She removed them all at the time of the prowler.So we came home with nothing. Then I had trouble with the lock on my door and could not make it behave until Abby drowned it in WD40. Up to that point, not a rewarding day. However I went down and dug more parsnips and carrots for our supper and that was a treat.
October 09, 2012 Tuesday
It was down to 33f last night but I did not lose anything. The flowers were covered.
The spring sink stopped running for unknown reasons but Abby got it going again by back flushing the line. I suppose leaves had clogged the outfall in the spring.
DD Sally will be here in about 3 weeks. She sent herself a package which arrived today. It was mostly amazing balls of hand spun hand dyed wool yarn for her winter textile projects.
Abby went out on errands and came home with Swiss chard. It was delicious for supper. She also bought a 14” diameter enameled metal bowl in gold tones that simply glows. She got it at a second hand store for $3.
I made a classic meatloaf to go with our chard for supper.
October 11, 2012 Thursday
Yesterday afternoon Abby and I drove up to Weld – this time we remembered the key – and had a look around Marcia’s camp. The day was rainy and cold and all the autumn leaves were wet. The lake was lapping quietly. Somehow it was sad.
Ev, my vet, came by for lunch and brought me some things. I had hoped for worm medicine for the cats but he had none on board. I made a nice lunch with sautéed cabbage, Arborio rice and meatloaf.Abby made a custard.
Fern was back in heat today four days late.The AI tech came about 3 o’clock.I had Fern in the beefer pen and it was no trick getting into her stanchion. Breeding was difficult.Phil worked a good ten minutes to get the straw into her crimpy cervix. I did my best to hold Fern steady but by half way through the procedure she had exhausted her patience.I kept on rubbing her back and offering words of encouragement. Success was finally announced.
Abby came home from shopping with a pair of artichokes for our supper. They were the best I have had in years.
October 12, 2012 Friday
All quiet among the animals. If Fern is bred her calf will be due July 18, 2013.
It rained again last night and was cold and blowy today with frequent sun. A hard freeze is predicted for tonight.
The small hen with 11 chicks has not lost a single one. They are feathered out and troop after her when she comes to Abby’s call. What a sight they are. The hen to whom Abby gave one leftover chick, after she had been setting for weeks on nothing, is a highly attentive but timorous mother who never leaves her little room.
I dug a few more potatoes today in case the ground is frozen tomorrow.
I work every day on my editing but my progress seems glacially slow.
October 13, 2012 Saturday
Fern had to break ice on the stock tank with her nose this morning.
We saved the chrysanthemums by covering them with sheets. Unfortunately the sheet on the dahlias blew off so it froze. The sheet on the big mounded chrysanthemum on the millstone apparently looked like a hassock to Willie. When Abby arrived this morning she found him curled up on top of it mashing it down of course. I can tell you, he heard about it from Abby.
It did not warm up much today and is cold again tonight.
Martin came up by himself to do winterizing at camp, mostly getting in the docks. We fixed him a good dinner. I braised some shoulder cuts of lamb, Abby made a rice pilaf. I simmered mixed vegetables in ghee. My sister Barby in CA sent four giant quinces. I baked one in butter and date sugar and served it quartered with home made crème fraiche and raspberry sauce. I forgot to say, Martin brought two woodcocks and we had them as hors oeuvres sautéed in butter with a little soy sauce. What a treat.
Abby is making plans to go to CA. She has a ticket for October 27. She will be in Guahalas near DD Marcia, her sister.
It is freezing again tonight.
October 14, 2012 Sunday
It rained last night instead of freezing. Fern did not come in when I called her for milking. Even the sheep, who always come bounding, ignored me. After three trips to the barn and a lot of hollering I came in and read the paper. When Fern finally showed up at 9:30 she was all pissy, like it was my fault that milking was late. Then during milking she kicked off the machine. I wonder if this is a sign of pregnancy.
It rained or drizzled all day and feels Novembery. DS Martin worked on getting his dock in, also Marcia’s. DD Abby is hurrying to stain the deck on Sally’s little house before she leaves for California for the winter.
October 16, 2012 Tuesday
We think a hawk is taking chickens. I did see a hawk on the fence one day and there are piles of feathers on the lawn where the chickens free range.
After a warm two days it is getting chilly again and there is a cold wind.
Abby is packing boxes.
Yesterday I made a big pot of soup with lots of vegetables. Last night I made whole wheat muffins to eat with it and tonight Abby made sour cream biscuits.
There is still plenty of grazing.
October 17, 2012 Wednesday
A perfect bright October day. I got outside for a while. Most of the leaves have fallen so the colors are subdued. I strolled around the garden and attempted to walk along a little path that leads through the lilac hedge to a view of the pasture. This spring Max felled a big black locust tree that was taking over the space and DD Sally and helper Nancy carried away all the wood from the area. I had not visited the spot for over two months. It has become nearly impassable. It has become a thicket of locust saplings, thorny little things they are, many higher than my head. Amazing growth. Nothing but a goat could eat them.
I went around behind the barn and filled a bucket with some of my AA++ composted manure. This is for renewing the soil in my houseplants.
We expected DS Martin for supper but he took a detour up to Presque Isle to buy a duck hunting gun and will be very late if he makes it at all. Abby made some mighty good lamb meatballs in a paprika sauce and roasted root vegetables. I am waiting up.
October 18, 2012 Thursday
Martin arrived at 11:15 bringing several sample bags of potatoes from Presque Isle.
The weather today was again fine, very fine.
Martin and his friend John Robinson hunted with Milo up near Tumbledown. They talked with the forester about where to hunt and got five partridge, two woodcocks and a rabbit. Martin is getting to be a lot better shot but John is an expert marksman. He was formerly a guide in Africa. He is a writer with a day job in real estate.
I joined them for dinner. I had already marinated steaks for them yesterday not knowing there would be game. So we had steaks and several types of game deliciously grilled by John. I brought along baked potatoes and coleslaw from one of my own cabbages. Abby sent along some of her popular Snickerdoodle cookies. She did not come along because of packing for CA.
I got seven eggs today which is the new average.
October 19, 2012 Friday
It’s been another mild drizzley day.
Fern came in nicely and was a perfectly behaved girl despite my having inadvertently left open the north gate, the gate that prevents her going to the bottom of the property.
Abby and I went to Farmington on errands. At the last minute we decided to take Abby’s car and I forgot to move my utility wagon tires into it. I needed at least one to take to Tractor Supply to order replacements. Darn. Now somebody will have to make an extra trip. We got everything else on the list though. First we stopped and saw Mitra at the farmer’s market and bought lots of stuff. I also bought cider and 30 lbs of Northern Spy apples from the corner vender. Mitra pointed out that Abby had a very soft tire so we stopped for air. A nice elderly man put the air in for us. We next went to White Water Farm supply for grain and local pork products. On the way home we stopped at Mt. Blue Garage in Weld and Abby made arrangements to bring the car in on Monday to repair the tire. It is a new one they put on recently.
I am cooking Martin’s rabbit and he is late for dinner.
Later: It was good that the rabbit had extra time to cook. I made what was really a fricassee with creamy gravy. Abby made mashed potatoes and a fine salad with things from the farmer’s market. It was all tasty. Martin was very pleased with the way the rabbit turned out. We are all looking forward to the next rabbit.
Before leaving, Martin set the Havahart trap with the remains of a woodcock. I lost another hen last night.
October 20, 2012 Saturday
It rained all night. Perhaps this discouraged predators. Anyway, we did not catch anything. The rain let up around 9am and remained mostly cloudy but very warm.
Martin spent the day hunting with another friend and brought in some more birds. He stopped by here for a late snack before driving back to Biddeford. Abby made another beautiful salad. I made an omelet and baked blue potatoes that Martin brought from Presque Isle.
DS John called from Adelaide. One of their exchange students has left, the term being over. They were not too disappointed, as she had become a vegetarian with all the accompanying inconvenience and high mindedness. Every meal now included tofu, “a little white quivering blob almost spiritual in its perfection”, as John described it.
October 21, 2012 Sunday
The day began warm and moist and then turned rainy and cold. There had been so much rain and warmish weather that the grass is pretty good. The animals all look pleased as they spread out to graze. I have not had much trouble calling them in.
Abby and I went to the dump and then to Weld to check the sump pump in Marcia’s camp. While Martin was around this weekend he heard the sump beeper going but could not get in. We did find water in the cellar but I was able to start the pump thanks to Martin’s hints on how to do it.
DD Marcia sent me a marvelous picture of my great granddaughter Violet Anastasia Miranda Boles, age two and a half. I call her my Russian princess. Such eyebrows.
October 22, 2012 Monday
The cows and sheep came in perfectly. Fern’s production has dropped off a quart, often a sign the cow has settled. Sally hopes she is not preggers. She wanted me to wait and breed her so that the calf would be born when she is here but I forgot.
For the last couple of days when I let the sheep out there is a lot of butting and mounting taking place.
Abby was over here from her house earlier than usual. She immediately announced that she is moving out of Sally’s DLH (Dear Little House) and in with me. Night after night she has been troubled by a vehicle hovering in front of her house. There was no reason to think it had anything to do with her but nonetheless seemed sinister. Last night around midnight she was awakened by somebody violently rattling the light weight back door to the old porch and partially removed shed. The intruder would have had to climb 4ft. up the siding to get to it. Of course she was terrified. She crept off her bed to find her cell phone, turning on the light to do so, and yelled “Who are you and what do you wan t?” The rattling ceased. She got back onto her bed because she knew the intruder would not be able to see her from there. Unfortunately cell phone coverage from her place is nearly non existent, especially in that part of the room but she prayed for bars to show on her phone and on her third attempt she got one bar and was able to call 911. The dispatcher was very sluggish in her response. Abby kept telling her “The man is here, he is still outside the house”. Then the dispatcher figured out that Abby was in Franklin County not Oxford County and transferred her over. Abby was so terrified she could barely speak to give her story all over again and then tell the sheriff, “No, it is not the wind shaking my door.” Twenty minutes later a sheriff arrived, an old guy. He seemed doubtful of her story. Maybe he didn’t like having to go out on a call. Pretty soon another younger sheriff arrived who was much more disposed to find out what had happened. Abby reminded them that last year there was a prowler and a shot was fired next to the house and she did not report it until morning and was admonished to call immediately next time something happened. By this time of course the prowler had vanished. One can’t help wondering if the intruder at DD Marcia’s camp was the same one and is in fact a stalker. Just a thought. My vet, Dr. Cooper, stopped by today to drop off some meds. When we told him about it he said we needed a German Police dog. (Some corrections were added on Tuesday to this account)
I made a nice simple supper of sausage, mashed potatoes and fresh spinach.
October 23, 2012 Tuesday
DD Abby got a better night’s sleep. All was quiet here. However when she went over to her place to continue packing she found evidence that someone had again attempted to enter. She is beginning to feel nervous about going over even during daylight hours.
It was a fine day. Hard frost is predicted for tonight followed by a warming trend.
Fern’s production was up slightly today, 2 gallons and a quart.
Abby is in the kitchen making an apple pie – perfect comfort food.
October 25, 2012 Thursday
It was down to 25F this morning, a really hard frost. Later the sun came out and right by the house it got warm enough for bees to visit the margarita flowers. It is cold again tonight.
The animals are all fine.
Abby went out on errands and brought home a heavy brass hook and eye for my kitchen door which she mounted as a safety lock. That door is now impenetrable.
Abby has her suitcase all packed. She had left herself very little to do tomorrow, her last day. Friday she wants to go to Farmington to the farmer’s market to say goodbye to Mitra as it appears that Shireen will not be able to drive her to the airport as previously planned.
October 26, 2012 Friday
It was bright and warm today. Abby went to her house to run the vac and saw that someone had again tried the door.
DD Marcia sent a box with a jar of her superb quince sauce. I served it over a sponge cake that I made from a recipe in Guideposts. It is incredibly easy:
2 sticks of soft butter 2 cups of sugar 6 eggs 2 cups of flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla And I added 1 tablespoon of King Arthur powdered lemon juice. Beat these together in the order given and beat with the stand mixer for 15 minutes. Note that there is no leavening. Bake in a prepared Bundt pan, oven 325F, about 45 minutes Let cool 10 minutes in pan before inverting onto a rack.
Abby raved about this cake.
Marcia also sent one of her SIL Ernie’s hand blown glass pumpkins. It is a lovely thing like a paperweight, solid orange, weighing ¾ lb.
We are off in the morning to meet SIL Amy G and Martin at the Bread Shack in Auburn. They will take her the rest of the way to the airport.
I closed the cows into the barnyard so when I go out extra early I won’t have to call them.
October 27, 2012 Saturday
DD Sally called last night after I was asleep. Abby talked to her. While driving from Haines to Tok a wheel came off the truck.I don’t know many details but they were not hurt.Because of the impending storm, Sally has moved her flight forward. I now expect her on Monday.
This farm will run OK without electricity apart from the freezers and the milking machine. In a pinch I can milk by hand. The freezers, well I just don’t know.
DD Abby and I drove to the Bread Shack in Auburn and met DIL Amy and the kids. After coffee and croissants, they drove Abby to the airport for her flight to CA. Later Abby called and said all was well, her flight was about to be called. I drove home uneventfully but cruised on past Towles, forgetting to stop for chicken feed, so will have to go down tomorrow. All the livestock was in good shape and happy.
October 28, 2012 Sunday
The weather today was warm and quiet.
I ran in to Dixfield to pick up the feed that I should have stopped for yesterday. I can’t think of anything extra that it might be helpful to stock up on except if we really do lose power for a long enough time to melt stuff in the freezer, Sally and I could can things. So I bought some more jar lids. I already have a lot of jars, since I did very little canning this year. NPR is issuing repeated warnings to take this storm seriously and I am trying to, but for as long as I can remember the weather service has a perfect record of hyping storms that turn out to fizzle while not being able to predict the really messy ones. I presume others are reacting similarly.
The cows were doing a lot of running today. Maybe that means something.
Later…. Sally went to the airport in Fairbanks to check in and her flight was cancelled. Now it is to be Thursday. I will have to wait a few more days but am glad the airline is taking all precautions. I talked to Bret. She was going to have to miss Bret’s dinner party so the nice thing is, now she can be there. Not only that, she will have a couple of days to spend in Fairbanks, something she always looks forward to.
The headquarters of Martin’s company is in New Jersey and they are all closed down for the storm so he is thinking of coming up here with Milo tomorrow for a day of hunting before the storm. Bret has been studying the NOAA map and says it looks like the main thing I will get is a great deal of rain.
October 29, 2012 Monday
Like the rest of the citizens of the northeast, I spent a lot of time today nervously listening to the radio for updates on Hurricane Sandy. Most of the day was perfectly ordinary with merely light winds, low cloud and occasional light rain although now at 9PM, the weather is worsening. DS Martin drove up from Biddeford with his dog Milo to try for birds and see what I needed done. The woods and fields were full of deer hunters and the birds were in hiding so he did not stay out long. I fed him a delicious dinner of lamb shanks simmered with rice and veg. He installed a heavy bolt on the front door.
I talked to DD Sally. She told me all about their accident last Thursday while driving from Haines to Tok. While crossing Canada the left rear wheel came off their truck at 50mph with a semi not far behind. The car did a 360 followed by a 190 and ended up on the same side of the road. Tom should have been an Indie driver. The semi managed to stop and no one was hurt. There is very little traffic on the AlCan. All those who passed stopped to offer aid but no aid arrived. Sally finally got a ride with a woman from Border Patrol who actually knew how to contact a towing service. Sally went to a motel and Tom waited 7 hours with the truck. Turned out the tow truck driver had been in White Horse. Tom got pretty discouraged as he had no communication but fortunately had his cold weather gear as he will be going north soon. Back at the garage, it proved possible to put the wheel back on and they proceeded to Tok for a big dinner on Saturday. Then on Sunday they all went to Fairbanks and had another wonderful dinner as planned.
Sally now has a ticket for Thursday.
October 31, 2012 Wednesday, Halloween
Yesterday the people in five states were assessing their hurricane Sandy damage. Maine was lucky. I lost power here very briefly. There was heavy rain but minor flooding. The rain continues today but much lighter. Last night the sheep came in wet and were still wet this morning.. The barn smells like wet wool. They did not want to go out today. I had to push them out the door. They just stood there bunched up.
Today is Halloween. I made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies which I over baked. Sigh. That is what the kids will get. I can’t make a new batch.
I also made the same cake again that made a hit last week with Abby. This time I flavored it with orange extract and candied ginger.
Twice in a week Fern’s production has dropped below 2 gallons.
November 01, 2012 Thursday
Fern was down to 1 ½ gallons this morning.
Mitra has gone to pick up Sally in Portland.
Later: We had a nice lunch of soup and cake. We said goodbye to Mitra who had to get home to her animals. Before leaving she popped the worm pills down the cats for me. She really should have been a vet. Sally went directly out with Willie-dog to check the north fence. Nancy, my helper, had already reported that the farthest posts next to the river were under water. The river is over its banks.
The cows need hay now that they are shut out of the north field pending fence repair. I gave them half a bale.
Notes on Mary Pipher’s essay on the anatomy of denial entitled: Our world is dying and we’re all in denial
Thank you, Mary. This may be the best thing yet written on the anatomy of denial. I especially appreciate that you avoided specifics as to which personal actions are the greenest.
I just came in from milking my cow. I brought in two gallons of life supporting nourishment produced by my cow Fern. Fern translates the sun and rain that falls on my small acreage into milk. With superb efficiency she borrows the energy in cellulose (think grass, upon which humans starve) and reinvests it into a food more perfect than anything in the supermarket. No mangrove swamps or rain forests were destroyed in the manufacture of this product. No water to float a battleship was diverted for her purposes. No grain that might otherwise have been cracked into ethanol or bargained to the starving was apportioned to her use. Her daily eight gallon drink of water was given back as milk, exhaled into the atmosphere to fall as rain or peed onto the pasture to encourage the grass. Fern accomplished this feat without burning any gas miles. She did this through the magic of wild fermentation in her rumen, the same process employed by cabbage worms and everything else that lives by splitting cellulose. Right now is the moment to abandon the fiction that cows are high on the food chain. The only things that live lower on the food chain than cows and caterpillars are bacteria. It’s sun-grass-rumen fermentation-complete protein-milk, your one stop food factory; the cow did all the work and tomorrow she will do it all over again.
Fern’s predecessor, old Helen Hefferlump, finally got so arthritic that we knew making it through another Maine winter would be a painful hardship and we needed to end her suffering. Should we wait until she broke her hip on the ice? The options were burying her (impossible in frozen ground) or putting her into the freezer where she would feed many people for a year. Why would Helen prefer to be wasted? Our local butcher said he and his family were raised on aged dairy cows and the meat would amaze us. He was right. And it needs to be made crystal clear that avoiding meat in the belief that one is taking strain off the planet is an urban myth. Something eats everything. Life and death merge. Taking animals out of the equation just leaves a vacuum to be filled by insects. Our prevailing livestock production system is grotesque but at its worst does not remotely approach the waste attributed to it; those mega water requirements and fossil fuel demands attributed to livestock are scary memes, their numbers too vast for mental arithmetic. Efforts to discover any research basis for these beliefs will founder because none exist. Food policy based on fictional numbers is doomed. Pursuit of an anti-meat agenda will delay effective investment of our energies much as creativity has been squandered on the falsities of corn-based ethanol. Because the choice is not between “getting over the meat habit and freeing up grain for hungry multitudes.” and never will be. A plant-based diet depends on stoop labor or fossil fuel. Apart from animal traction, there is no other way to achieve it. Equitable distribution of either sweat or petroleum based crops depends entirely on who owns them. Is there a government somewhere – anywhere - you trust to distribute food without fear or favor, now or ever?
The real waste in our existing food production system comes from pulling food out of the loop between soil and eaters, commodifying it, bashing it around to its nutritional detriment, and selling it back to consumers who have already paid for it once with subsidies and then will fork over at the cash register and will pay again at the doctor’s office. The assumption that glues together the corporate food system is that you and I will not and should not be bothered with home or strictly local food production. I have spent most of my eight decades living the real food truth that yes, you can produce your own food without any help from agribiz and with minimal dependence on fossil fuel, or none.Not only can you do this but it is a source of satisfaction, even joy. You always know you are doing something worthwhile. But why should you believe One Cow Granny in Maine? If you doubt my facts read the essays at www.real-food.com. The small local farm including animals is the only reliable land-based food production unit. It is a microcosm of the natural world. It creates no environmental debt. It is safe. And you will own it.
November 02, 2012 Friday
Yesterday was Day 21 from Fern’s breeding. Her production was way down yesterday but up a quart today to 1 ¾ gallons. I got 10 eggs. All the hens and chicks are doing well.
DD Sally was off doing fence repair by 9:30 am. Later we went to town and picked up more fencing. She has temporarily closed off Pocket Field and brought all the critters in to clean up the Paddock Garden. She found more squashes that I had missed. We still don’t have as many as a last year but more than I thought.
DIL Amy is up at camp with two of her lovely friends for Girls’Weekend. They stopped in to visit for a bit. I gave them milk and eggs.
Today is Grandson Tommy’s 22nd birthday.
©Copyright 2012 Joann S. Rogers