2/28/2010

Barn Momma/Cow Granny



Everyone knows how much I love my animals. I consider myself "momma" to all of them. Want to know what is sweeter than being a barn momma? It's being a barn granny.

About a year ago, I sold a couple of young, open heifers (heifers that have not been bred) to a wonderful family in West Virginia. I was blessed to not only find these girls a great home, but also make some great friends! Last night, via the internet and telephone calls, I was able to "witness" the birth of Scarlette's first calf, a heifer sired by an Angus bull. Joelle and Cassandra faithfully called me and kept me informed of the progress while baby was being born.

Oh what a happy day and I can truly say that I am very proud of them and the rest of the family! They had never owned cattle before and took a tame but untrained heifer and have successfully turned her into a wonderful family milk cow! Couldn't be more proud of Miss Scarlette or of this wonderful family!

(Here you can see a picture of Scarlette when she was about six months old. She is the red heifer.)

Photos courtesy of Joelle.

2/26/2010

He Puts Up With My Crap



The proof of my dear husband's undying love lies not in the gorgeous engagement ring he bought me five years ago. Neither do flowers, dining out, or expensive gifts prove his devotion. The real proof is the extent to which he goes to put up with my crap!

Well, it's not actually "my" crap but since they are "my" cows, that means I also own the crap. I have been faithfully doing my part to "shovel" said crap every morning and evening so that the stalls are clean for the Jerseys. However, due to the weather and not being able to remove those "crap piles", we are now owners of small mountains of the stuff! (Ok, not so small mountains of the stuff!)

The chickens like to climb up the mountains and scratch around. The Corgi, Spencer, loves to climb them as well. (What dog doesn't like to be "top dog" and what dog doesn't like crap?) In fact, I don't think anyone is particularly concerned about these huge piles except for Mike and I.

In past years, we have had fewer bovines and thus less crap. In the summer, there is not really an issue because the cows are out grazing in the field and distributing their crap on the pastures and thus fertilizing the grass. We don't ever deny our girls access to the pasture, but they have just not been interested in going far from the shelters with the exceptionally hard winter that we have had. In the past, we really have had no need for a manure spreader except maybe twice a year. Mike would just borrow one from a farmer friend. This year, Mike decided that he was tired of putting up with my crap and was going to do something about it!

So, Monday, we became the proud owners of a used manure spreader. I told you my husband loves me! I mean how many husbands would let their wives continue to collect Jersey cows, put up with their crap (and mine too), AND go to the expense of buying such an expensive piece of equipment all in the name of love?

I know all you ladies are jealous! Sorry friends, he's taken! ;-)

Breakfast Burrito



Yummy, yellow eggs from our free range hens scrambled in butter from our Jersey cows and topped with Mozzarella cheese made from said cows. Garnish with garden salsa and sour cream (or soft chevre & chives if you like)! All of this on homemade burrito shells. Life doesn't get any better!

Another Act of Kindness





Sometimes it's easy to focus on all the negativity in the world. However, there are so many good people who make the world a better place. We are so blessed to have a number of these wonderful folks in our lives. One such person is a dear, sweet lady who began buying produce from us several years ago. Quickly she went from "produce customer" to "friend".

I was quite surprised when she dropped by the house not long before Christmas and asked for some photos of Hope, my little dachshund momma that passed away last June. She said she was working on a surprise for me. It turns out, that her son is an artist and yesterday I received a painting that he made for me. He pulled the original photo of the old car off my blog and added Hope to the picture.

What a delightful gift! I feel so blessed to know such kind and caring people.

Painting by Brian Demory

2/23/2010

Great Grandma Armstrong's Baked Custard



Baked Custard (Serves 6)

4 eggs slightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar (I use honey. Experiment and see how much you like. You can always drizzle more honey over the custard after it's baked if it's not sweet enough.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups warm milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Nutmeg as desired

Combine eggs, sugar and salt. Stir milk in gradually. Add vanilla. Pour into custard cups or quart casserole dish. Set in larger pyrex dish and surround with water. Bake at 325 degrees 30-40 minutes or until the tip of inserted knife comes out clean.

Eating this simple but delicious dish takes me back to my childhood.

2/21/2010

Life Among the 'Yakkity Yaks'



Link to Article

By BARI WEISS

'Who do you think made the first stone spear?" asks Temple Grandin. "That wasn't the yakkity yaks sitting around the campfire. It was some Aspberger sitting in the back of a cave figuring out how to chip rocks into spearheads. Without some autistic traits you wouldn't even have a recording device to record this conversation on."

As many as one in 110 American children are affected by autism spectrum disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. But what causes this developmental disorder, characterized by severe social disconnection and communication impairment, remains a mystery.

Nevertheless, with aggressive early intervention and tremendous discipline many people with autism can lead productive, even remarkable, lives. And Ms. Grandin—doctor of animal science, ground-breaking cattle expert, easily the most famous autistic woman in the world—is one of them.

Earlier this month, HBO released a film about her to critical acclaim. Claire Danes captures her with such precision that Ms. Grandin tells me watching the movie feels like "a weird time machine" to the 1960s and '70s and that it shows "exactly how my mind works."

At the Manhattan screening I attended, Ms. Grandin was dressed in her trademark look—an embroidered cowboy shirt, in this case brown with a red neck kerchief—and was holding forth confidently, cracking self-deprecating jokes. Parents of children with autism thanked Ms Grandin for her books; she's the reason they can relate to their children. Teachers asked for specific recommendations: How can they capitalize on their autistic students' obsession with dinosaurs? A boy, perhaps 10 or 11, sought Ms. Grandin's advice on how to deal with the bullies that pick on his nonverbal brother.

Her cadence is unusual, staccato-like, and her pale blue eyes sometimes drift off into the distance. But she seems a different person from the young woman in the film, for whom being hugged, let alone schmoozing at a cocktail party, seemed physically painful. What's changed?

"The thing about being autistic is that you gradually get less and less autistic," she says, "because you keep learning, you keep learning how to behave. It's like being in a play; I'm always in a play."

Her rehearsal began early and in earnest. Born in 1947, she did not speak until the age of four. All of the doctors recommended permanent institutionalization; her father agreed.

But her mother refused and hired a speech therapist and a nanny who spent many hours a week taking turns playing games with her daughter. She insisted that Temple practice proper etiquette, go to church, interact with adults at parties. "I'd be in an institution if it wasn't for her," Ms. Grandin says.

She has always thought socializing was boring, and she famously described herself as "an anthropologist on Mars" to neurologist Oliver Sacks when explaining her interactions with typical people. As a teenager, while her peers fixated on boys and pop culture, Ms. Grandin was consumed with scientific experiments.

Her first major invention, at 16, was a "squeeze machine"—a device she modeled on the squeeze chutes used to restrain cattle that she first saw on her aunt's ranch in Arizona. "I noticed that when the cattle got into the squeeze chutes they got calmer," she says, "so I built a plywood device I could get into that was similar, because I had these horrible, horrible anxiety attacks." The physical pressure calmed her tremendously.

These days, Ms. Grandin is known as much for her professional work—she revolutionized livestock handling equipment—as for her expertise on autism. "I've always thought of myself as a cattle handling specialist, a college professor first; autism is secondary," she says. But she does credit her autism for her unique ability to relate to cattle.

Ms. Grandin wondered what made the animals moo and balk. Kneeling down to see things from a cow's eye view, she took pictures from within the chutes.

She found cattle were highly sensitive to the same sensory stimulants that might set off a person with autism, but were inconsequential to the average handler. They were shockingly simple revelations: light and shadow would stress the animals, as would grated metal drains. Prodding and hollering from cowboys, intended to move cattle along, only alarmed them further.

Her designs reflected these insights. A curved, single-file chute mimicked the cattle's natural tendency to follow each other. She replaced slated walls with solid ones to prevent cattle from seeing the handlers and cut down on light and shadow.

Today, half of the cattle in this country pass through the slaughter systems that Ms. Grandin invented. She's a consultant to companies like McDonalds and Burger King. Yet—and she might well be the only person with these two associations—she's also been honored as a "visionary" by PETA for making slaughterhouses more humane.

When Ms. Grandin isn't teaching at Colorado State University, she's traveling the world lecturing or promoting her (10) books. Whether discussing animals or autism, though, she always comes back to the defining feature of her mind, the characteristic that allowed her to create such accurate equipment designs: she literally thinks in pictures.

Nancy Minshew, a professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh, conducted tests on her brain that showed a "gigantic, huge trunkline going back into the primary visual cortex," Ms. Grandin says. Translation for the layperson: "I basically have a gigantic graphics card."

So when Ms. Grandin says "Google me," as we sit down for a more intimate conversation after the film, she's not suggesting I look up the half-million references to her on the Web. She's challenging me to test her photo-realistic brain. "And don't pick something easy like house or car," she instructs.

Ok, how about love? "Herbie the Lovebug. My mother." God? "I've got this Hubble Space telescope poster of 100 galaxies." What about something even more abstract, like responsibility? "I see people that have done bad things with terrible consequences: Michael Vick. Tiger Woods. Bill Clinton."

People on the "spectrum" tend to be just as obsessed with things and the way things work as they are uninterested in social relationships. And, as Ms. Grandin observed, people interested in things make important advancements—particularly in engineering, science and technology.

Which is not to say she romanticizes this disorder. The politics around autism are fraught with landmines, and Ms. Grandin follows the issues very closely. She approaches them like the scientist she is: exacting, realistic, pragmatic. What sets Ms. Grandin apart is that she knows what autism feels like, and, unlike so many others with the disorder, she can articulate it.

Last week, the American Psychiatric Association unveiled its proposed revisions to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the bible of the field. Up for revision are Aspergers and autism. The association recommends scrapping both and replacing them with the umbrella label of "autism spectrum disorders."

"From a scientific standpoint, Aspergers and autism are one syndrome," Ms. Grandin says, reflecting the scholarly consensus. "Aspergers is part of the autism spectrum, not a separate disorder." But "the problem is you have a whole lot of people that have labels and identify with the label."

Perhaps more significantly, earlier this month Britain's esteemed medical journal, The Lancet, formally retracted its 1998 paper that linked vaccinations to autism. That paper, whose primary author was Dr. Andrew Wakefield, studied 12 children who exhibited autistic behaviors. The authors suggested they were caused by the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. The paper set off a firestorm, fueling the antivaccine movement perhaps best associated with the actress Jenny McCarthy, whose son is autistic.

"Scientifically, there's still some things to be done," Ms. Grandin says. Scientists need to study "the kids where they seem to have language and then they lose it at 18 months to two years of age." She adds: "I've talked to too many parents that have talked to me about regressions that I can't just pooh-pooh that off."

But, she adds emphatically, this does not mean parents should stop vaccinating. "We can't stop vaccinating because we're going to end up with all these childhood diseases. I mean, I grew up with iron lungs. . . . That was horrible, dreadful . . . We can't go back to that."

So what does she recommend? "If you have autism in the family history," or other auto-immune problems, "you still vaccinate. Delay it a bit, space them out." There is, she says, a "strong genetic basis" for autism, and she has a "very typical family history" that includes anxiety and depression on both sides of the family, intellectual giftedness, lots of food allergies and engineers ("my grandfather was an engineer who invented the automatic pilot for airplanes"). This is why, she says, "there tends to be a lot of autism around the tech centers . . . when you concentrate the geeks, you're concentrating the autism genetics."

Many talk of an autism epidemic—has there been a spike in autism lately? "You know the geeks have always been here. They used to call them geeks, nerds and dorks. Now they're getting labeled Aspbergers—there's just a point where it's just normal personality variation."

But, Ms. Grandin adds, "some of the severe autism has increased." As to what is causing it, she mentions the possibility of environmental toxins interacting with "susceptible genetics." A study released last week by researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that women over the age of 40 who give birth are twice as likely to have a child with autism as those under 25.

While she's adamant that there is no magic cure for this disorder, Ms. Grandin says she has seen some "very big improvements" with special diets, like wheat-free and diary-free. She says the low doses of antidepressants she's been on for over 30 years are "magic," and have saved her from constant panic attacks and anxiety.

Mostly, though, her advice is simple: It's about hard work. Young children need 20 or 30 hours a week of one-on-one time with a committed teacher or mentor. Money, Ms. Grandin says, should not be an obstacle. If you can't afford a professional teacher, find volunteers through your church or synagogue, she says. Parents need to teach 1950s-style social rules "like please and thank you, basic table manners, how to shop."

There have to be high expectations. She's worried about the "handicapped mentality" that she thinks is increasing. "When I see these kids with 150 IQ and their parents want to put them on Social Security [disability], it drives me nuts." These kids "will come up to the book table and start talking about 'my Aspergers.' Why don't you talk about becoming a chemist, or a computer programmer, or a botanist?"

She continues: "It's important to get these autistic kids out and exposed to stuff. You've got to fill up the database." Silicon Valley and the tech companies are like "heaven on earth for the geeks and the nerds. And I want to see more and more of these smart kids going into the tech industry and inventing things—that's what makes America great."

Ms. Grandin lives in a simple apartment in Fort Collins, Colo., and has used the profits from her books to put students through school. "Four PhDs I've already done, I'm working on my fifth right now. I have graduate students at Colorado State—some of them I let in the back door, like me: older, nontraditional students. And I've gotten them good jobs."

"You know what working at the slaughterhouses does to you? It makes you look at your own mortality."

"When I was younger I was looking for this magic meaning of life. It's very simple now," she says. Making the lives of others better, doing "something of lasting value, that's the meaning of life, it's that simple."

How about meaning, I ask. What's the picture for that word? "Ok, now I'm seeing a mother saying your book helped my kid go to college—that's meaning. Or my kid got a job because of one of your lectures—that's meaning. Or a rancher comes up and says that piece of equipment works really well—that's meaning. Concrete, real stuff. On. The. Ground."

Picture by Zina Saunders taken from article link.

Note: I believe Ms. Grandin is an expert on raising bulls and attempt to raise my young bulls in the manner she describes in her article "Preventing Bull Accidents" that you can read here.

2/20/2010

Always Been a Farmer but Have Not Always Farmed

I have always been a farmer but I have not always farmed. From the time I was a child I don't think I ever even gave a second thought to the fact that I wanted to live a sustainable life close to the land growing and preserving my own garden and raising animals. My earliest memories are of chickens laying eggs, pigs being fattened for slaughter, rabbits being raised for meat, gardens being grown for vegetables and fruit being picked for long term preservation. Then when I was seven, my family moved to a farm. We didn't own the farm, but rather were caretakers on that farm and worked side by side with the farmer and his family. We lived there for seven years. I can't say that I have wonderful memories of every thing that transpired on that farm because living there turned me off completely to commercial poultry houses. At eleven years of age I worked two shifts (my own choice) in the poultry house making 1/2 penny per chicken for everyone I caught. My dad tried (insisted) that I quit because the pay was not enough, but I begged to be allowed to continue. I hated the stench, the filth and the living conditions of those poor birds, but I loved the paycheck that came in when the job was finished. I also loved being able to do something physical rather than being stuck in the house or behind a desk studying! I learned that hard work is rewarded (although maybe not as much as it should have been) and I learned that I would rather be "farming" than anything else.

During the seven years we lived on the farm, I was able to roam the woods and hills and learn about nature on a personal level. I spent many hours alone in the woods and meadows or wading in the creek. Sometimes my little brother joined me and sometimes the farmer's kids. I have always been one of those people that needs equal time of solitude and social interaction.

I also learned to drive an old Farmall tractor while living on that farm, feed orphaned calves, help with hog butchering and lard rendering, butcher the roosters to fill the freezer, gather the eggs and learn the basics of a small family farm. When the rains came and the creeks rose, we couldn't get out and had to stay home from school. The secretary at school did not believe me when I told her that I couldn't get to school because the creek was too high and called my parents to verify that I had not been skipping!

I was sad to leave the farm as a 14 year old but my dad bought property in a rural setting and we still had a huge garden and access to the neighbor's woods to gather firewood for the winter. I remember my dad taking me out and teaching me the names of the trees as we indentified them by their bark and leaves.

As an adult I tried living a sustainable life in Alaska, at times living more sustainably than others. Then I spent some years in some places that I would not have chosen for myself including a stint in Chicago and San Jose.

After a tumultuous 15 years with my ex husband, finding myself divorced and ready to date again, there was no doubt in my mind what kind of man I was looking for. Fortunately for me, God allowed me to find my soul mate and farmer husband at a time when I needed him and the farming life the most. I am finally centered and able to focus on the things that are so important to me. For this, I am very thankful.

Bran Muffins


Original recipe with my changes in parenthesis. My philosophy is that a good recipe is "begging" to be owned. We own it when we make changes that suit our individual tastes or nutritional guidelines. So, don't be afraid to experiment!

Start with a small box of either All Bran cereal or Raisin Bran cereal.

In a large bowl combine 2 cups of boiling water and two cups of the Bran cereal. Let soak. (Reduce to 1 3/4 cups of boiling water if you use honey in the recipe.)

In another large bowl, combine 1 quart buttermilk (or clabber) and the rest of the bran cereal. Let soak.

In third bowl add the following:

3 cups flour
2 cups whole wheat flour (I use half whole wheat and half white for a total of five cups of flour)
1 tsp cinnamon (I have included up to a Tablespoon. Depends on individual taste.)
1/2 cup Wheat Germ
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon salt

In mixing bowl combine 1 1/2 cups shortening (I use 1 1/2 cups of butter)
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar (I eliminate both brown and white sugar and use 2 cups of honey instead.)
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Add buttermilk bowl to contents, then flour mixture and finally the bran soaked in water.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. This makes a very large batch but will keep in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. You may add fruit of choice to small batches before baking (ie: blueberries, bananas, raisins, etc.)

Note about using honey: Sugar to honey conversion is 1/2 cup honey equals 1 cup of sugar in a recipe. When using honey, you must reduce liquid ingredients by 1/4 cup.

Pie Crust

Single Crust

1 1/4 cups flour (Do not use self-rising!)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup shortening (lard)
4-5 Tablespoons cold water

Double Crust

2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening (lard)
8-10 Tablespoons cold water

Sift together flour and salt. Cut in shortening until pieces are pea size. Sprinkle one Tablespoon of water over part of the flour mixture. Gently toss with fork. Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening using one tablespoon of cold water at a time until all the flour is moistened. (You may have to use more than the recommended amount but you don't want your mixture too become too wet or sticky.) Form dough into a ball.

On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to flatten dough. Roll dough from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.

Fold crust in half and place in center of pie plate. Unfold. Trim edges and crimp or press down with a fork along edges of pie crust.

For pre-baked shell: prick bottom and sides of pastry with a fork. Cover with foil and bake for eight minutes. Remove foil and bake for five more minutes (or until golden) at 450 degrees.

Note: I am not an expert at making pie crusts, but it has been my experience from knowledge passed down to me from my grandmother that the less the crust is handled, the more light and flakey it will be. The goal is to roll the dough out once. Using lard instead of shortening also makes a flakier pie crust.

Peach Pie and Ham/Spinach Quiche





1 single pie crust
4 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups cream, half and half, or milk
1/4 cup onions
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped ham
3 cups fresh spinach (I used blanched that I had in the freezer)
1 1/2 cups Cheese (I used Mozzarella)
1 Tablespoon flour

Prepare single pie crust. (I actually had enough of the quiche that I could have filled two crusts!)

Stir together eggs, milk, onions (I sauteed mine first), slat, and pepper. Stir in ham and spinach. In a small bowl toss together cheese and flour. Add to egg mixture; mix well.

Pour egg mixture into hot, baked pastry shell. Bake in 325 oven for 45-50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Cowgirl Up

This has been a tough week for me on a personal and an occupational level. It's one of those weeks where I have questioned everything including my chosen occupation.

I will always be a "farmer's wife" and support my wonderful farmer husband, but this week I questioned whether I was cut out to be a farmer myself?

Monday, Edy calved, and I knew when the calf was born that he was weak and that the likelihood of his survival was not good. We struggled with him but lost him on Tuesday. I was not prepared for the loss I felt. I have never lost a calf personally with my Jersey herd, although we have lost a few over the years in the beef herd. I am just so bonded to my Jerseys and anything that affects them also affects me deeply. Even a call to my wonderful vet who assured me that I was doing everything right and that it was not my fault was not enough to make me feel better.

"What am I doing?" "Why am I opening myself up to this pain of losing animals?" "Am I doing something wrong?" Is God trying to teach me something and I'm just too stupid to get it?" "Why am I so emotional about my animals?" "Why can't I be more detached?" Why is it the things that bring me the most joy also cause me so much pain?"

The questions have battered my weary brain all week and struggle as I might I can't seem to find the answers. I know how strange it must sound to those who are not emotionally involved with their farm animals, but I have actually lost sleep over it this week.

I guess those are answers we will never know. We live in an imperfect world and bad stuff happens. It's just a fact of life. And no matter how much it hurts to lose some of them, farming is so much a part of me that I don't think I could ever go back to just being a farmer's wife.

Guess it's time to "Cowgirl Up".

2/18/2010

Soda Crackers from Scratch





Inspired by my blogging friend Jo over at 14 Acres Blog Spot when she posted a recipe for homemade crackers, I determined that when I got the time I was going to try as well. I forgot about it for a few days and then was looking through an old book I own and found a recipe for Soda Crackers using clabbered milk. Awesome! Now I was sure that making homemade crackers must be my fate. I have posted Ms. Firth's recipe below and since I can never make a recipe without "tweaking" it, I have put my own thoughts and changes in parenthesis.)

Soda Crackers from the book Stillroom Cookery by Grace Firth

Preparation time about one hour. Makes about one pound.

Mix 3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon oil (I used one Tablespoon of melted butter)
1 cup clabber (The flour was still to thick and would not mix, so I added a little milk to get the flour to a kneadable consistency.)

Mix thoroughly. Divide into two parts. Roll out thin on a floured surface. Transfer to a greased cookie tin. Salt if desired by brushing with milk and salting with a shaker. (I brushed with butter and then salted.) Prick all over with a fork. Cut with a pizza cutter into desired size. Bake at 350 degrees for eight minutes or until done. (It took my crackers longer than eight minutes to bake. I am sure it depends on how thin you make them.)

I divided my dough into three different groups and made plain salted crackers, Parmesan crackers (by sprinkling the Parmesan directly on the crackers before baking, and garlic/onion crackers. I just sprinkled garlic and onion powder on the crackers before baking but I think it would have been better if I had put the garlic and onion powder in the butter and then brushed them. All three flavors turned out delicious. I think this recipe could be so versatile. One could make whole wheat crackers and crackers with a wide range of different flavors depending on what herbs and spices are used.

One final observation: I cooked two pans of crackers at the same time. The pan on the top rack of the oven got very crispy and have the texture of a store bought cracker. The crackers on the bottom rack are softer and "chewy" instead of "crunchy". Both textures are very good, depending on one's individual taste and preference.

2/17/2010

Making Sour Cream




Sour cream is simply...............soured cream. Not rocket science to make, it can be made either from thick cream or from milk.

First you need to clabber your milk. I do this by taking my raw milk either directly from the cow (after straining to remove any impurities) or from milk that has been refrigerated. You can use milk with or without the cream. I pour the milk into stainless steel bowls and then cover loosely and allow to sit until it clabbers. Sometimes this takes 24 hours and sometimes, if the weather is cooler, it takes up to three days. You can view pictures of "clabbered milk" here.

After your milk has clabbered, take the curds and place them in a cheese cloth. Tie up the ends of the cheese cloth and hang somewhere to drain until the whey has separated from the clabber. When the whey as separated after several hours what remains is the sour cream. (The longer you let the cream drip, the thicker the sour cream will become. You can do this in the refrigerator is you do not want your sour cream to become as tart.)

Take the sour cream and mix in salt to taste whisking with a wire whisk until smooth.

2/14/2010

Love Is In the Air


It's Valentine's Weekend and love is in the air.

Friday it became apparent that one of the open cows was in heat. Since we do not have a bull old enough to service the cows at this time, that meant that I needed to call and get the girl a date! First of all, I had to determine which cow was in heat which is not always an easy task when all three bovines in that particular pasture were going through the antics of mounting each other. It also was made more difficult because It had been not quite three weeks since we artificially inseminated Butter. My first thought was that Butter was coming back in heat. After watching the girls and their antics for most of the afternoon, it finally became apparent that Maya was in standing heat.

I got on the phone to call the match maker. The match maker is my niece's wonderful husband who knows how to AI cattle and was gracious enough to volunteer to help us out. The last time he came to AI Butter, it was pouring down rain and there was mud up to our knees! This time when I called there was snow up to our knees in the barnyard and although he had a long list of things he needed to do, Matt was gracious enough to arrange his schedule so that he could come by and help out.

The actual Romeo chosen for the occasion was 7JE1044 Schultz Jevon Chili-P. Chili's dam is pictured at the top of this post. I chose him because he is a polled bull and I am really trying to get to the point where my entire herd is polled. He is a standard size bull and Maya is also a standard registered Jersey.

I am not sure if Maya enjoyed her romantic encounter or not. She calmly ate her hay while Matt played match maker. I guess that was her dinner before the romancing started!

The cows were not the only one's getting in on all the romance this weekend. This morning my wonderful husband rolled out of bed, went to the barn and began milking the cows. When I got down there in my lovely Carhartts with my mud boots and winter hat he gave me a big smile and said, "Happy Valentine's Day! I love you!"

Ah...........nothing sweeter than my farmer expressing his love while sitting on a bucket and milking my cows. Love is in the air!

2/13/2010

End of the Line Casserole



You can use a few simple ingredients to make a simple casserole that always receives compliments.

Slice enough potatoes to cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish.

Chop one onion and sprinkle on top of the potatoes.

Chop up between one and two cups of ham and place on top of onions and potatoes.

Cover all of this with a can of cream of mushroom soup mixed with 1/2 can of milk.

Salt and Pepper to taste.

Place in preheated 400 degree oven and bake for one hour. Make sure dish is covered with a piece of aluminium foil for the first hour.

After potatoes have cooked for an hour and are close to being done, take the aluminum foil off the casserole and top the casserole with grated cheese. I usually just turn off the oven at this point and let the casserole sit in the hot oven for an additional thirty minutes to thicken and to melt the cheese.

This casserole tastes even better the next day and recipe can be adapted for use in a slow cooker.

I have also made the recipe without the ham.

Ben's newest photo

Chevre


Chevre is French for "goat" and is also a generic term for cheese made from goats milk.

It will be a while before I have any goats milk so that I can try to make traditional Chevre, but I decided to get some practice in by making it from my Jersey milk. If I had realized how easy it is to make, I would have tried the recipe a lot sooner!

Chevre

Heat two gallons milk to 86 degrees F.
Add 1/4 tsp. direct set Chevre starter.
Stir well to combine.

Cover and let set at room temp (Not less than 72 degrees) for 12 hours.

Line a colander with cheese cloth and pour curds into colander. Tie the corners of the cloth and hang curds to drain over the sink for 6 - 12 hours. A shorter draining time gives the chevre a spread type consistency. A longer draining time gives the cheese the consistency of cream cheese.

Chevre can be used in place of cream cheese or ricotta cheese in recipes.

Cheese yields 1 1/2 pounds and keeps for about 1 week in the refrigerator.

(Pictured: Soft Chevre made with Jersey milk. Use in place of sour cream or make a great spread for crackers using herbs of your choice. I really like mixing a few chives in and let set for 24-48 hours. Yummy!)

2/07/2010

And more snow pictures................





Still Waiting on Edy...............



Edy looks like a blimp. Her udder is starting to fill in but is not to the "full" stage they get to right before calving. This newest storm dumped about 24 inches of snow on top of what we already have. In this picture Edy has found "higher ground" out of the snow but when she gets around back of those buildings where the snow has drifted, it is up to her belly and I can't even see her udder! The lastest forecast says we will get another snow storm on Tuesday and then maybe another one next weekend.