Accidental farmer in Hawaii
I never set out to be a farmer. I grew up with animals in Arizona, had a dog, couple cats with my dad. My mom was always the one with the farm animals. Growing up moving back and forth between completely different parents, mom was the eccentric free spirit, dad was very conventional. My favorite times in life were when living with mom I got to have pet pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, rabbits, lambs and at the end 2 steers, that didn’t want to be steers. I always loved taking care of the animals and I learned at an early age that they also served a purpose. I learned how to grow a garden in the hot Arizona summers, and how to treat our animals with respect and love so they could one day take care of us as well as we had taken care of them.
Fast forward 30 years. I now live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, Haleiwa Hawai’i. The road to this point hasn’t always been easy, but I know to live in paradise sacrifices have to be made. My mom has always tried to have some kind of farm animals, and she decided a few years ago she wanted to have chickens again, so we built a coop and ordered chicks from the mainland, then she decided she wanted to raise rabbits for meat, so we added to our farm, 4 rabbits turned into 30 and they outgrew our space. Then 2 years ago, she got a wild hair and decided she wanted a milk cow. None of us had ever milked a cow, and Hawai’i isn’t known for milk cows anymore, all but 1 dairy have closed. So she made some calls and found a local ranch that had a Holstein they were willing to sell. Luckily for us, she was in milk, and she was pregnant, so arrangements were made, a corral was built, and a trailer was borrowed and we had a cow.
I should say we got REALLY REALLY lucky. With no ideas on what to do with a family cow, someone was looking out for us, or Belle, not sure which. A neighbor that had grown up on a dairy farm came by that first day and showed us how to milk. Our cow had never been milked as far as we knew. She came to us, having been separated from her 5 month old calf, new surroundings, no stanchion and probably the most inexperienced milkers in the world. We put some grain in front of her, and she just stood still for us to milk. Those first few weeks had to be excruciating for her, each milking took about an hour, and she was very patient with us. I have always believed things happen for a reason, but this experience has made me more of a believer then I ever thought possible.
Looking back I truly believe “ignorance is bliss”. Those early months were pretty easy, we had no idea what to expect, and this has truly been a learning experience for our family. I was lucky enough to find a group of individuals online that have helped us through the toughest parts with advice and encouragement. We’ve had to learn from our own mistakes as we went. Our girl developed a pretty nasty case of mastitis and trying to deal with that and our own ignorance has been a wonderful learning experience. We’ve gone through our first delivery, and luckily our kids had friends that had family that used to work for one of the local dairies. We would have been lost without “uncles” help. Our calf was born breach, and it took 4 strong fellas, including my husband to pull him out. We had to learn how to deal with the calf’s issues, his front legs were tight from placement during pregnancy, and so I had to spend hours in the corral with him massaging his front legs so that he would be able to stand. Luckily our Belle wasn’t a possessive mom and allowed us to safely spend as much time as was needed to help her little fellow along.
We’ve had to deal with the cost of raising animals in a state that has to ship everything in, where most of our mainland friends pays $4-$6 for a bale of hay, we pay $26-$37 for hay. The expense has been the most stressful part of this wonderful adventure, but I’ve learned necessity is the mother of invention, we’ve been lucky enough to have a never ending area of grass that we can cut for feed and that has helped immensely in cutting our expenses, plus the fact that our girl loves banana leaves and fruit which we have no shortage of. These last few years have definitely been an adventure, and I wouldn’t trade any of it.
Thank you Brooke for taking the the time to write this great guest blog!