Monday, May 31, 2010

My cat has made friends with a skunk . . .

Yes, I think she has made friends - because the smell comes and goes, and it is not intense.  If she was getting sprayed, it would be unbearable.

She will smell fine for a few days, but then it is back, and bad enough that I really don't want her on my lap.  My guess is that she is playing with some baby skunks off and on.  

I always knew she was a weird cat, but this is the weirdest thing I have ever heard of.  Sigh . . .

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's a boy!

I noticed that Buttercup was off by herself, away from the other three cows in their paddock, day before yesterday, usually a pretty good sign that a cow is about to freshen - that is farmer talk for having a calf.

I checked her a couple of times throughout the day, but no calf.  Yesterday morning, I asked Androo if she had had her calf yet when he got here about 8:00 a.m.  Nope, no calf.

We were hard at it all day, I in greenhouse staging orders and sorting out the plants I wanted to get into my garden, and Androo doing the garden work, taking tray after tray of cukes, squash, cauliflower and broccoli plants.  I walked off the rows, estimating how many plants we could cram in per row, and how many rows we can squeeze in.  It's a tight fit!  But I have all of those market baskets to fill, and we will need to have the garden overflowing.  Androo also spot seeded the radish rows, reseeding where I have already pulled radishes for orders.  Hopefully it will cool off a bit again so that we can get this second crop of radishes out before they get woody and hot.

I was really beat, but had to take a quick shower and take orders to Purple Porch.  I had quite a few plant orders, which were all staged from my morning's efforts, and had a few bars of soap and some spices to take in.  I was running late as usual, and heading down my lane with barely a moment to spare.

Wait!  I slammed on the brakes.  There was an animal with a lot of white on it, and none of the cows in that pasture have that much white.  And it was too little to be a cow.  Up and running around already!  Buttercup had her calf!!  How exciting.  But I was late, and so I took off for Purple Porch.

When I got home, Androo and I herded mother and calf to the nurse pen by the barn.  It is a bull.  And he too is the spitting image of his daddy, Sam.  I think he will sell quickly.  He is beautiful, big and healthy.

This morning I brought Buttercup into the barn to relieve her of some pressure, since her udder was full to bursting.  I milked off about two and a half gallons of colostrum, leaving plenty in her for the calf.  Some of our shareholders wanted a quart of colostrum, and the rest went to the bigger calves. 

It was such a pleasure to milk her.  No dramatics, no histrionics like we went through breaking Dolly and Smarty Pants, although they are behaving like perfect ladies now.  :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I've been sadly uncommunicative.

I did take some pics the other night, because I know you enjoy them.  However, I haven't had time to upload them.   I am always a busy person, but I do not remember ever being this busy.  I don't know what to do about it.  I keep thinking in a week or two, I will get caught up.

What did I do last year?  Basically I did it alone, with some after school help from Clay.  Androo is working around 30 hours a week and we are still behind!  The garden is going in this week - that is, the tomatoes are already done, and today being a root day, more radish seeds went in, and lots of beets.

Tomorrow we will get in replacement plants for the broccoli.  The first planting is not doing well.  Thank goodness for a greenhouse.  We will pull some of the early ones, leave the best of them, and put in more where the first ones died.  I was so preoccupied with calves and breaking heifers that I didn't irrigate.  One should NOT have to irrigate in April!  Except this year.

Then we will get in squash, melons, cukes, pumpkins, cauliflower and cabbage.  The garden will be pretty full at that point, with a little room saved for carrots and beans.  One of my compost piles is yielding some topnotch material this year.  So we are really planting tight - cramming in lots more than usual.

Well, I have a ton of work to do.  I'm going to get the camera and add the pictures I promised you, then I need to get back to paperwork.  Sigh . . .

Chickens are busy as usual!

Androo has one row of mulching done under the tomato hammocks.  Look at that heavy coat,  This was just a couple of weeks ago, and he has been planting in 90ยบ weather for the last two days.  Quite a change.

If you look close, you can see the rows of potatoes peeking through the mulch.  Soon it will be a forest of green.

The calves are growing up fast!  Here are Blossom and Caramel.

And here is Delaney.  We are planning on raising these three and breeding them for future dairy cows.  This means in 2012, I will be dealing with breaking in three more heifers. 

Breaking in Smarty Pants, Dolly and Lucky this year is the main reason I haven't had time to write lately.  Oh, well, they are worth it.  They are all well behaved and milking up a storm.  In two years, so will these three beautiful girls.

The greenhouse is emptying out fast.  The empty shelf was chock full of tomato plants just a couple of weeks ago.  Now it is empty.  The peppers will be moved over there, and we will take down the table with the peppers to make room for the brooder box for the chicks.  They will be here next week - 25 more Golden Campines, and 25 Buckeyes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The continuing saga of the raw milk wars

It was bound to happen.  The St. Joe Department of Health stopped at my booth at the Farmers Market and asked if I was selling raw milk.  I told her I was not.  She said she heard I was.  I told her we had an association that owned the cows.  She said, "Oh, you are one of THOSE!"

I said we most certainly were NOT one of those, that it wasn't just a sham to go through a loophole in the law, that we were wholly owned and operated by the shareholders.  I explained that I did not hold title to the cows, but was just a shareholder like everyone else.  I asked her if the person who complained about me had been forced to drink raw milk.  She said, "No."  I asked, "Then shouldn't she have just minded her own business?"  What was she trying to save me and the other shareholders from?  Good health, perhaps?

Then she said that I couldn't distribute it at the market anymore.  I asked why.  She said there was a law against distributing raw milk.  I asked her what that law was.  She couldn't give me any information about it.  I asked her for a copy of the law.  That was two or three weeks ago.  I am still waiting.  Our lawyer has checked on this.  There is no such law.  This is nothing more than intimidation.

When talking to this official at my booth, I recited my mantra.

Since 1992:

Deaths from raw milk  - 2
Deaths from radish sprouts - 3
Deaths from spinach - 5
Deaths from pasteurized milk - 620

At that point, I asked her why she wasn't at the local supermarkets trying to stop them from distributing those other "deadly" foods.  No answer of course.

Then I pointed out that since 1992, approximately 7,225,000 people have died from cigarette smoke.  I asked her why she was bothering me - seemed there were a lot bigger health issues out there.

I will give her credit for this - she said, "I guess I need to do some research."  Yes, she certainly does.

It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I'm running as fast as I can . . .

I thought it would be a little easier this year with an intern.  But I bit off a little extra because he is here.   Bad move.  Then I put him on a lot of long-term one-time projects (like burying the old fridge for cold storage of root crops next fall) instead of staying on top of the day to day things.

Finally, breaking not one but THREE new heifers has been unbelievably time consuming.  This morning we got Dolly into the barn while the other cows were inside.  For the first time we milked her in the lineup, without having to shut down the line to get her inside the barn.  She wandered in all the way while we were milking the other four.  While Kathy kept Dolly occupied, I sneaked outside and came up behind her and closed the door, keeping her completely inside while we finished milking the other four.  I know, doesn't sound like much, but that was a monumental improvement.

I am hoping that I can milk alone tomorrow morning.  This is all a strain on me, but Kathy is here every morning, without complaint, and she has a ten mile drive to get here. 

My greenhouse has suffered.  I usually bottom water a few trays each day - by far a better way to water than spraying on the top.  But I just haven't had time.  So today, I started right after milking, and I am about half done.  All of the plants are sorted again, and condensed into ever fewer trays.  So now I can make room for nearly all of the plants that have been on the floor.  It's coming around, and plant sales have been very brisk.  Tomatoes are nearly half gone already.

Milking took a little longer than I expected this morning because Sam and Jack are VERY aware that two of the cows are in heat, and they broke out of their paddock three times in pursuit of the girls.  I keep telling them that the prom is not until July - and THEN they can have a date, but not before.  We don't need any calves being born in February!

I finally decided to get out the fence checker, and not surprisingly it had no juice on the east side.  So I chased the bulls back one more time, then looked for the short.  One of the milkers had closed a gate and let a pigtail of wire lay against a metal post, shorting out the whole east side of the farm.  The pigtail shouldn't have been there, but who has time to check for all of these things, and then when you find them, run to the barn for wire cutters?  No matter how many tutorials I do on how electric fences work, it really just doesn't soak in.  It's the concept that is not understood, so if the next problem doesn't look exactly like the last problem, it goes unrecognized.  Sigh . . .

My son and two of his kids, Kate and Bob, came to see me for an early Mother's Day surprise yesterday.  It was so good to see them!  Kate and Bob helped feed the calves.  Then we came in the house and made brats on the grill, I popped open a jar of homemade sauerkraut and one of my pickled hot peppers, and I sliced up some homemade Colby.  I'm really proud of this batch, very creamy, just a little bite in it.  Practice makes perfect, hey?  We topped off the meal with some of Bill Parcel's excellent angel food cake from the market, blueberries from last year's crop and whipped raw cream with vanilla powder and a wee bit of sugar.

Sometimes my life seems a bit harsh, not enough amenities.  But I eat better than anyone I know - healthy, tasty, and lots of it.  I would rather have good food than a Mercedes, or expensive jewelry, or lavish vacations.  That's what my life is all about right now - providing good food for myself, my family, my guests and the members of our dairy herd association.  :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Is Dolly trained?

Tonight Leifschon and Justin were on deck to milk.  I have been in the barn morning and night for weeks, and it is taking its toll.  This morning went pretty well with Dolly - we think we have the magic combination.  We hide her calf and feed her a bit to keep her quiet, then bring cows in barn minus Dolly.  She won't come in at that point.  But we leave the door open, and she sticks the front third of her body in the door - no more than that, though.

Last night, after running her all over the pen, she finally went into the milking parlor once we let the other girls out, so this morning I went ahead and let the other cows out without shutting down the system, and as they walked out, she walked in.  Androo was behind her and shut the door.  We got her behind the holding bars and voila! she was milked in no time!

I relayed this whole routine to Leifschon and Justin and told them I was going to stay in the house, to call me if there was a problem.  An hour later I saw Justin taking all of the cows, including Dolly, back to the paddock.  Hurrah!  All done, no phone calls.  This is the first day that has come in under 14 hours of hard labor for me in a long time.  :)  :)  :)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Falling behind and jumping ahead

Falling behind . . .
It is a mess around here.

My garden has never looked worse.  There will be no pictures of it for awhile.  It is usually completely mulched by now, with the edges neatly mowed.

I usually clean up the greenhouse every Saturday after market - getting the plants that didn't sell back into alphabetical order, consolidating trays and making room for what we will be potting up in the coming week.  But I haven't straightened it in two weeks, and that is just shy of infinity in a greenhouse. 

The lawn still hasn't been mowed.  I am lamenting the lack of rain.  However, given that the service man still hasn't shown up (after three broken appointments), I am thankful that the grass hasn't been growing very fast. 

Why am I so behind around here?  Well, I'm adding two pastures with 12 paddocks in them, in part because of that lack of rain.  The cows need fodder and the pastures aren't growing.  Less than 3" of rain the whole month of April. 

Okay, the pasture project has taken up some time, but the big time consumer has been training the three new cows - our heifers Lucky, Smarty Pants and Dolly, a.k.a. Larry, Curly and Mo.  Lucky was a dream, and I had high hopes that having hand raised these little darlings would mean that training them to milk would be a piece of cake.  Oh, my, was I wrong!  Smarty Pants is finally trained.  It is hard to believe that just a week ago it took four of us to milk her. It was tough work, and tiring.  We really needed a rest after that, but Dolly freshened before Smarty Pants was completely trained.   We started milking Dolly three days ago, and she has proven to be at least as trying as Smarty Pants.  I just keep telling myself that she is doing better every day.  She is the last of the heifers.  The rest of the girls will have their babies and come into the barn without a fuss.  Phew!!!!!!!

Jumping ahead . . .
Today Androo and I worked in the greenhouse all day.  Everything is in place.  It was a fruit day, and every last fruiting seedling is potted up.  That is the last step until they are sold or go into the garden.  What a load off!

Allen is coming to mow on Friday, with old blades and old oil.  So be it.  I need the lawn mowed.  Looking at the long uneven tufts of overgrown grass is depressing me. 

As for the pasture, it should be 75% complete by Wednesday night. I suppose I am overly optimistic to think that the cows will be grazing on their new pasture on Thursday, but I can hope.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Here she is!

Dolly, the mom, is one of the three heifer calves that we raised the first year we were here on my farm.  She, Smarty Pants and Lucky got into a lot of trouble while they were growing up, and we fondly called them Larry, Curly and Mo.  Looks like we are going to have another generation of Larry, Curly and Mo - Buttercup, Caramel and Daisy!  Stay tuned for a great "Caramel" story.  No time to write now.  Off to market!

Meet Daisy, or Delaney, or Dottie.  Naming contest is on!