Friday, December 30, 2011

A tribute to Rosie

I got this poem from Lynn Patrick, one of the founding members of our dairy herd association, and a milker during the first year of our existence.  I asked her if I could pass it on, and she agreed.  Here it is.

Ode to Rosie

Hail Rosie! 
Righteous bovine.
First of our Herd.
Independently - minded.
She would go where she would go,
And I would chase her through the pasture,
While Baby Doll, ever obedient, followed Rosie's every step.
Now, Rosie is following Baby Doll
Into the great hereafter.
I pray for green grass, pure water, gentle rains.
The great herdsman is there - and there is no sorrow;
And all calves survive.
So may our herds increase.
For we must have cream in our coffee in heaven!
And it couldn't be heaven without our sweet cows,
Our dogs, our cats, all our animal friends.
I will then honor her and all the others with my tears.
Until we meet again.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rosie's final journey

The average "factory farm" cow lives about 36 months.  They are bred too young, given hormones to bring them back in heat and get them bred quickly after they freshen, are milked three times a day, and then are thrown away.  Enjoy that McDonald's hamburger.

Rosie is our oldest cow - she is now 12.  She was our first cow, too.  Two of her offspring are part of our herd now.  Romeo, a bull calf, has already proven himself and the two heifers he was penned up with will freshen in March and April.  Lucky, the first calf that Rosie had once she was down here, has freshened twice, will have her third calf in March.  I am so glad that we will have these reminders of Rosie.

Rosie is getting frail, and she didn't settle (that means to get pregnant) this year.  I should have sent her to the butcher six months ago, but I kept thinking, "She will get better soon."  Talk about denial.  If she is getting a bit crippled and losing weight, why do I think that being six months older will "fix" it?

I called the hauler and the butcher.  Rosie will be gone on Monday.  My heart is heavy.  I console myself by remembering that she has had a very good life here, living in the open, well fed, shown love by every milker who handled her.  She was a favorite of every one of us. 

Lucy is the cow who just freshened on December 4.  She is not a friendly cow, never has been, has always been a bit of a loner.  But she doesn't like being in the barn alone to be milked.  So I've been bringing in Rosie to stand in front of her and Quattro to stand behind.  Then she behaves perfectly, is very easy to milk. 

This morning I looked up while milking and saw her resting her head on Rosie's neck.  Very unusual behavior.  Then the reverse happened, and Rosie was resting her head on Lucy's neck.  They both know.  Don't ask me how they know, or how I know they know, but they know - and I KNOW they know.

But I must dwell on the good things. Here is my favorite picture of Rosie, taken right after we brought her down here to my farm four years ago.  We didn't name her because of the mark on her head, I didn't even see it until a new shareholder said, "Oh, you named her Rosie because of the upside down rose on her forehead!"  Can you see it?  I can, now that Justin mentioned it.

Our bull Sam and Rosie have always been close, just like to hang out together, even when they are not making babies.  This is one of my favorite pictures of the two of them, off from the rest of the herd, grazing on the edge of the woods, just the two of them.  Sam will miss Rosie.  We will all miss Rosie.

Rosie & Sam on a date

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Yule

Tonight we celebrate Winter Solstice, or Yule, at my house.  Nothing fancy, just opening my door to visitors at 7:00 p.m.  I made lentil soup for my vegetarian friends, collards with smoked ham for my omnivore friends, and a big pan of pulled pork.  Of course, there is also homemade bread - two loaves, French baguettes.

French Baguettes

Tonight is all about sitting around eating and talking, no bonfire, no ritual, just enjoying the fact that the Wheel has ticked to another Sabbat and we are all still here to enjoy it.

Blessed Be.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Frustrated chickens

I am pretty frustrated, too.  Those darned chickens keep hiding eggs, and this time I can't find them.  So I penned them up, closed up their little door in the big gate.  Some of them have flown the coop (literally), but most are in for the day.  They have a nice big area in which to run, but those Campines long to find new hiding places for eggs.  Look at them standing at the gate.  Do they really think I am going to let them out?

The crew staring out at me.
Goldie & Ricky munching away

Look at all those eggs from captured chickens!

Nine eggs yesterday, and nineteen today.  I only hope I find the latest hiding place soon.  Rotten eggs smell, well, ROTTEN!

Just thought I would add that I decided to dress the tree.  It's full of homemade ornaments, and a few of my store bought ones.  Isn't it pretty?  Got those two holiday cards out to my aunties today.  The rest can wait a day or two.  Well, out to milk, then I can come in and enjoy the evening.  I'm going to start wrapping gifts tonight.  The holiday spirit is upon me!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree . . .

Every year, I have cut a tree from my farm and brought it to the house - some years, two trees.  A white pine for the family room with all of the ornaments my kids and grandkids have made for me over the years -- and a second one in my living room, my Yule tree, all in gold, gold lights, gold tinsel and gold ornaments, to celebrate the return of the Sun.  Next Friday, the day will be longer than the day before.  It is a welcome change, after this daily shrinking of the daylight hours since last June.  But I digress.

This year, I have been so busy that I had decided I wasn't even going to cut a tree.  Last year, my granddaughter Kate was staying with me while she did her family practice rounds in a nearby town, so it was just magical to go out on a moonlit night, the two of us tramping through the deep snow, saw in my hand, and flashlight in Kate's.  Knowing that there was no way to top that had more than a little to do with my lethargy about cutting a tree this year.

Androo and Clay were here working on some fences and they asked what else I wanted them to do before they quit for the day.  I impulsively pointed to a small cedar and asked them to cut it for me.  They did.  When they brought it to the picnic table in the yard, they pointed out that it was really two trees growing together, neither of which had a trunk that would fit in the stand - far too skinny.  We put shims in the holder and turned the screws in as far as they would go.  Then we hauled it to my living room.

That evening (thank goodness before I had decorated it), it fell over.  I put it up.  It fell over again.  I put it up again.  It fell over again!  I picked it up and threw it over the balcony rail.  There!  Done with that!!  No tree this year.

The next night, I was in Meijer's, and they had artificial trees half price.  I saw one I thought was quite nice.  Why should I kill a tree every year when I could get one that would serve me for years?  Having never found an artificial one that I truly liked, I thought, "Now is the time.  This is a worthy tree.  I shall buy Tree P."  There were no tree boxes marked with the letter "P" under the bench.  I went to customer service - were there any in the storeroom?  No, everything was out.  Were there any at the other Meijer's store on Grape Road?  Long wait, finally an answer, "No, we are all out of P."  I guess I am not the only one who thought it was beautiful.

I went back to get the next best thing, had it in my basket, and I balked.  I do not want the "next best thing."  If I couldn't have what I wanted, then I would go for cheap.  There was a rather pathetic little white pine, had a few real pine cones on it, and it was dressed with some mini lights.  Only $40.  I took it.

I got it home, and when it was not surrounded by all of those honking big trees, it held its own in my living room quite nicely.  It took me five minutes to set it up, another two minutes to figure out how to get both strings of light going, and I am happy.  I may go downstairs and haul up the box with the kids' ornaments - or I may not.  But I have a tree.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.  I shall.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday rush

Christmas is almost here.  I am not ready.

Not only do I have personal things to attend to, but my business is booming, and I am running low on many of the items at my market, especially bath bombs.  I have a special order for my new Honey Harvest lotion, also the new giant size of lotion is going over better than I thought it would and I have to pump out (pun intended) a few of those before Saturday market.

My assistant has quit, going back to school full time, and while I have eased my hours by getting a little housekeeping help, the soap room is all mine.  I am enjoying it, but it is taking up time I need to be spending on things like wrapping presents and getting out my Yule cards.  I have not written to my two aunts in months.  One is 90, the other 94, and I am so thankful to still have them.  I have received cards and notes from both, and just simply MUST get to my letter to them before the sun sets today!

The mountain of stuff to do was looking formidable.  My friend Sarah stopped by my booth at Purple Porch on Wednesday night and asked if I needed any help. Is the sky blue?  Does a pig oink?  Is the pope Catholic?  Hah! Do I need help!!! She came home with me after market yesterday, and we wrapped one batch of bath bombs, made two more and then I said I was out of gas, we would do the last batch tomorrow.  Well, she said, "I think I can do it alone."  And she did.  We will wrap all three tonight, after they have had 24 hours to dry.

This morning, three batches of lotion, one of soap (how could I let Patchouli Trip get so low?), and some organic yarrow cream will get me back on track.  The lip gloss and yarrow sticks can wait until next week.

I told Sarah my objective was to get done with everything by noon (and it might actually happen with her help).  I'll be taking the housekeeper home at noon.  Hopefully we will be free to do as we wish after lunch.  Sarah wants to spend some time hiking.  I want to take a nap!

Ah, memories of warmer days!  Here is a photo of Sarah and me working in the herb garden last summer.

Hope your holiday season is not too overwhelming, that you find the time to enjoy life.

More later about my Yule tree.  Funny story.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa . . .

I was walking through the pasture on a windy day when I saw Mona Lisa in my garden!  Yup, there she was.  I ran to the house for my camera and took this shot.

All the while, I was singing "Mona Lisa," the Nat King Cole version, and hoped that the wind wouldn't die down before I could capture this pic.

We are putting tarps over the new garden area to kill the grass, since I will be expanding the garden next spring.  A friend of mine has a shop near a company that puts up billboard signs, and they had an abundance of tarps.  The price was right - FREE - and I took as many as I could.  We put down the biodynamic preps, some sea salt with humate, and then nailed down the tarps with tent stakes.  The wind caught one and laid it over my tall and bushy asparagus plants.  This tarp happens to be for some innocuous message ad about smiling.  Well, this event certainly made me smile.

Lacey, so beautiful!

This afternoon, I caught Lacey running in circles, like a merry-go-round horse gone wild.  It is pure joy to watch, and you just know there is pure joy in her heart. 

She is so smart!  I guess I keep saying that.  But she is already grazing, was nibbling on hay within 24 hours of her birth, and has finally managed to start nursing from her mom.  Sure makes my life easier!  I didn't milk at all today.  Last night Lucy's udder was quite loose, except for one quarter, and I checked that one this afternoon.  Not at all tight.  Lacey has found them all!

Lacey's new owner will be picking her up next Sunday.  I will miss her.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lucy, Lacey and winter wonderland

Winter is definitely here!  We've gotten about five inches of snow so far, and it is still coming down.  Even the Campine chickens are staying in the Moop.  They are the hearty breed that are usually out scratching in the snow, but not today.  I set up the heat lamp for them, and the water heater has been under their big metal waterer for a couple of weeks now.

I also set up a heat lamp for Lucy and Lacey, but typical of our hearty Heritage mixed breed cows, they are out in the snow.  It doesn't seem to affect them at all.  I think the cold is contributing to Lacey's voracious appetite!  We still do not have enough milk to distribute any to the patient shareholders.  Lacey won't be leaving for another week, and that is probably a good thing.  A December birth is not the best, so having mom's milk for an extra week should give her a boost.  She is so smart, and so sweet!  As soon as I go into the pen, she runs up to me and lets me scratch her head.  I will miss her when she is gone.

This morning Androo and I put some tarps over the big round hay bales we got from a new supplier.  The jury is still out on whether we will get our final load of hay from him.  We have another option, and those hay bales are a little easier to handle, but this last hay we got is nicer, I think.  We will make our decision once we have gotten through the first one-ton bale.  Here is a picture of the newly draped bales, sitting in the pasture waiting to be fed to the cows and bulls.

Well, I just went to take a picture of the bales, and look what I found - the cows have escaped their paddock and are helping themselves.  I have no idea how I am going to cope with this.  What I would like to do is just go to bed with a book and not have to worry about it.  Sigh . . .

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's a new calf - first pictures

I usually don't name the little ones that are going to leave the farm, but the name Lacey just popped in my mind, so Lacey she is until Dan and his dad give her the name they choose for her.

I was a little worried that Lacey might be in a weakened state if she still hadn't eaten, but she was fine when I went out about 7:00 a.m.  By then she was about 15 hours old.  In fact, she was so feisty that I was sure she had eaten, in spite of Lucy's huge and low hanging udder.

I had taken out six pounds of warmed colostrum, which we froze when Quattro had her calf last spring.  Lucy wouldn't let me near her with the bucket of warm colostrum.  I had to separate them.

I took Lucy into the barn to milk her.  Whether or not she had fed her calf, that udder needed some relief!  Once she was secured in the barn, I went back outside to deal with the calf.  It took a little doing to get her trained to take the nipple, but finally she got the hang of it.  After a few false starts, she latched onto that nipple and drank the bucket dry!  So I went back to the barn for the other three pounds of warm colostrum and took at back out to her.  I didn't even have to straddle her to get her to drink it.  She found the nipple and took it all down.  She did slow down a bit for the last cup or two, but she was obviously hungry.  I don't think Lucy is going to be able to feed her.  So for the next week, until her new owner picks her up, I will get to hand feed Lacey.  She is already following me around.  So sweet!

Here are pictures.  I wish I had gotten a few while I was getting her from Paddock 2 to the nursing pen, but I had too much on my mind at the time.

Learning her way around.

Yup, it's a girl.  Peeing from the right spot.

So nosy!  She was already trying to strip bark from small trees.

That udder is just too close to the ground!

Can you see Dad in the background?

Lucy and Lacey - Lacey's first day.

It's a new calf!

One of our cows aborted her calf midway through her gestation.  I wasn't aware of it.  One of the milkers told me that Lucy was in heat, and I pooh-poohed it, saying that it had to be a false heat, since she was settled (that means pregnant).

In June, no calf, nor July, nor August, nor September.  In October, I called the vet to check her, and he thought she was due in January, maybe as late as February.  So it wasn't a false heat the milker saw.  I was very disappointed, but at least she was definitely pregnant.

About two weeks ago, I saw her udder begin to fill, and I knew she was not going to make it to January.  I called it for the second week of December, and definitely there would be a calf here by Christmas.

Yesterday afternoon, I looked out the window and saw a little one, still wet and wobbly, following Lucy around.  Of course, she was easy to spot because Sam has made his mark yet again!  We will have a whole herd of cows that look like full blooded Guernseys before long - a lovely caramel tan with big blotches of stark white.  She is beautiful, just beautiful.  The calf is already sold, to one of our shareholders.  She will leave us in a week. 

In the meantime, I am going to have to milk Lucy out, because her udder is so huge!  And I’m not sure the calf can even suckle - might have to milk her, then turn around and fill a nipple pail and feed the calf that way.   I am leaving mother and child together even if I hand feed.  Right now I am heating some frozen colostrum that we saved last spring, just in case the calf was not able to nurse.  Just waiting for daylight to go out there with it.  Calves can go about 24 hours before they have to eat, so we still have some time.

Yesterday, I moved the cows to Paddocks 2 & 3 because the weather was warm and the grass was okay in there - I wanted to give them just a little treat before the winter weather hits this week.  It entered my mind that I should put Lucy in the nursing pen, but I thought she would enjoy that good grass - and surely the calf wouldn't come today!  I was wrong, hey?

That meant I had to get the calf away from Lucy, into the wagon and then take her up the lane to the nursing pen.  Lucy is a very protective mother.  Well, they all are, but she is more than most.  I was surprised that I got the calf away from her without too much trouble - so glad my wagon tilts so I didn't have to lift her far.  Lucy was bellowing but she didn't come at me, thank goodness.   About halfway there, the calf jumped out of the wagon.  I wrestled her back in, got up to the nursing pen and then got her out of the wagon.  Taking a few steps at a time, I got her into the nursing pen.  Of course, Lucy followed her right in.   She didn't butt me once.  I am surprised.  It has been an issue in the past.  But maybe it was because it was just me handling her.  She doesn't like strangers, so when I brought in help, it might have disturbed her more.  Or maybe she is just getting less aggressive as she gets older.

All of the cows and the two bulls were very interested.  They are such sociable animals.  They ran along the path while I drove the calf up to the pen, a few of them bellowing in concert with Lucy.  They stood by the fence looking over at the nursing pen instead of eating their hay.

I was just telling someone that this is my slow time of the year.  The vet predicted Lucy would freshen January or February.  So I was even hoping she would wait until February so I could enjoy my slow time to the fullest, but getting fresh raw milk again is worth giving it up. 

Well, I am heading out to the barn to feed the calf and milk Lucy.