Simply Sunday

Weekends don't count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless. ~Bill Watterson


Friday's Featured Farmer~Stephanie Appleton

We are a homeschooling family of six. We live on a property in West Virginia that is about 100 acres consisting almost entirely of forest and steep hills. We share this property with other family members. Together we raise gardens of vegetables. We gather the wild blackberries that can be found anywhere the sun reaches the ground through the trees. We raise a variety of animals. Name a farm animal. Odds are we have it here.

We work together. We sometimes find time to play together. We cry together, and together we share the blessings that come from living life on the farm.

Today, out of nowhere, my twelve year old said to me, "Funny how people think that way we live is crazy. We really are the luckiest people ever." I certainly did not have that kind of wisdom at twelve.

We lived on my grandparents farm through my elementary years. I enjoyed my years there, but really did not appreciate them fully until much later. After the family farm was sold and we moved, I didn't give much thought to farm life again for a very long time. I had big plans, and they didn't include any chickens or cows. I wanted to travel the world. I was going to be a big executive with a big salary to match. Little did I know how deeply rooted the love of the land and of animals was in me. Nor did I have any concept of the things in life that were truly meaningful to me.

The love of the land wouldn't stay hidden despite my big plans. It seeped out whenever possible. It started in college, and continued in our early years of marriage. Anywhere we lived that had a piece of dirt I could putter in was filled with flowers and sometimes vegetables. If there was no place to plant outside, I got my dirt fix in pots with indoor plants.

It was motherhood that brought those hidden loves of dirt and animals gurgling to the surface again. As my oldest child approached his elementary years, I longed for him and his siblings to have the same experiences and freedom that I had enjoyed as a child. I also realized that it wasn't just about the kids either. I longed for the quieter, simpler life of raising animals and gardens. My parents were also longing for a similar lifestyle.

We moved to this property five years ago with my parents. Since then we have jumped in, and probably tried to do way too much way to fast. I've found that the quieter and simpler life doesn't not mean a restful and easy life. I've learned that the freedom of farm life remembered from childhood does not exist with the adult responsibilities of farm life. Farm life is a lot of work. Sometimes, even after all the hard work, there is disappointment. There is failure. There is frustration.

But there is satisfaction. There is joy, and many rewards.

There is nothing more satisfying than serving a meal to my family that consists entirely of food we've grown ourselves. I love that the kids can go out and run, play and learn in the woods for hours on end. I like the strength of body and mind that we all have earned through our labors. The lessons learned from our experiences here could never be taught in a classroom or through a book. I wouldn't trade this lifestyle for anything. We really are the luckiest people ever.


Thank  you, Stephanie, for your delightful guest post!

You can follow Stephanie and her farming adventures on her facebook page, Mil-Ton Farms.

You will also enjoy the farm's blog site at Adventures in the 100 Acre Woods.


Friday's Featured Farmer~Claire Weldon

It started with chickens. Chickens, I’ve found, can be a fast and slippery slope into farming. When I was just about to turn 12 my family moved from the suburbs of Cleveland to a more rural area about 40 minutes to the south. Up until this point the largest animal I’d ever dealt with was a German shepherd dog and farming felt like a very foreign concept- relegated to flashing past the car window on long drives or at the two local historical villages. I was introduced to chickens and a whole host of other livestock at a friend’s house and immediately fell in love. After 3 years I managed to talk my parents into building a coop and getting chickens. We were gifted about a dozen assorted hens and a rooster from the same friend who had introduced me to them and the flock rapidly expanded as we bought or were given more hens, raised a batch of chicks every year or two from local hatcheries, and produced our own interesting crosses when some of the hens went broody.
The cow started as a joke. Every year when my mom asked me for a list of things I wanted for birthdays and Christmas I would put in a few never-going-to-happen items, like a giant squid for the pond, a pet camel, or a milk cow. It remained a joke until September 11th, which started my family thinking about if we would be able to feed ourselves if some sort of large-scale terrorist attack or natural disaster shut destroyed the infrastructure of the country. Later month I found a book called The Family Cow (by Dirk von Loon) at a bookstore. I read it and thought to myself that having a cow was something I would really like to do, that it was actually feasible to do, and it would be a wonderful way to be sure we would have milk, butter, and beef. Somehow (and today I am still amazed) my parents agreed with me and in an whirlwind over the next two months we built a barn, fenced a pasture, and had a cow in the backyard just before Thanksgiving. My 16th birthday occurred in the midst of all of these preparations and I still think getting your own milk cow beats out getting a car any day.
My cow is a now 12.5 year old Guernsey named Isabelle. We found her by looking in the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) guide to certified organic farmers- she was at the 2nd farm my dad called enquiring about cows for sale. When we brought her home she was a shy 3 year old in her first lactation and pregnant with her 2nd calf. I was completely and absolutely inexperienced and unprepared when we brought her home, but somehow I lucked out with the world’s most gentle, calm, patient cow that survived all of my blunders and taught me more about cows and myself that I could have ever imagined. She gives me delicious golden milk, births and raises gorgeous calves (and even accepts fosterlings, though grudgingly), and in her old age is so mellow I let her wander around the backyard dragging a short lead rope while I work nearby. I’ve milked her through 4 years of full-time college (and coming home to a cow and chickens and evening chores kept me sane even through the stresses of finals, papers, and projects) and we are still going strong together 9 years later now that I’m out of school and working as a biologist for a county park district.
My family’s farm has grown from a dozen chickens to a flock that ranges from 30-60, the wonderful Isabelle, two steers (Friedrich and Gustav) that are nearing their date with the freezer, 5 hives of bees (Russians and Italians), two gardens, and 15 rented acres down the road where we grow hay. I do all the daily work with the cows and chickens and my parents take care of the gardening and beekeeping. My three brothers all pitch in for major projects- stacking firewood, making hay, putting up fencing, etc. I hope in the next few years to be able to save up to buy my own land and continue farming- the chickens and cows will always be a feature. I would love to experiment with raising geese or ducks or turkeys or pigs and to raise more steers for beef than just a steer or two every few years. I already have lists of heritage breeds that I want to try out. There are many days when I am exhausted from work or slogging through deep mud trying to carry hay and I wonder what life would be like if I was like most people and could just come home at the end of the day and do nothing, but I know that I would not feel complete and content in my life if I wasn’t a farmer. Being outside for every sunrise and sunset, how bright the stars are in winter when I’m heading out to milk the cow, seeing the cow sleeping in a warm bed of hay, the dramatic lives of my chickens, the smell of newly baled hay, eating a meal of my own eggs and milk, I can’t imagine a richer life.


A big "thank you" to Claire for the wonderful post! If you would like to get to know Claire better, you can follow her blog Pitchforking, follow her on Facebook, and read her very knowledgeable and helpful post on the Keeping A Family Cow Forum.

My apologies for the lateness of this post.  I have been having technical difficulties with my blog and just today found the remedy!


Thursday This & That ~ Let's Talk Bull (Again)

If you have read my blog for very long, you know that I am always "preaching" about bull safety. I am a proponent of Temple Grandin's methods of raising and keeping bulls and have referenced her article several times on this blog and many times in numerous other conversations. If you have not read Dr. Grandin's article, please do so by following this link.

The following article is an example of what can happen when bulls are not raised or handled correctly. Yes, even a bull that has been raised and handled correctly can become aggressive and dangerous, but one's chances of keeping a bull successfully increase when one follow the correct methods of raising them. As hard as it is not to play with them when they are young and cute, it is absolutely necessary. It is of utmost importance to make sure that the bull never becomes comfortable or familiar with his human handlers.

Harris County deputy recovering after being gored by bull


Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle

Nov. 16, 2010, 8:13PM
Harris County Sheriff's Office
Harris County Sheriff's Sgt. James Dousay was in critical condition Tuesday.

Share Del.icio.usDiggTwitterYahoo! BuzzFacebookStumbleUponEmail Close [X]Sgt. James Dousay has dealt with some tough killers during his 21 years with the Harris County Sheriff's Office, but by far the roughest character that nearly claimed his life over the weekend was a 1,600-pound bull nicknamed Peanut, who repeatedly gored him in the groin.

Dousay underwent surgery at Memorial Hermann Hospital to reattach severed veins after he was attacked Sunday at his farm in Liberty County. The homicide sergeant, 44, remained in critical condition Tuesday but was showing improvement, his wife, Kimberly Dousay said.

About six years ago, the Dousays began raising miniature Herefords and Dexters as a hobby on their 10-acre Little Patch of Heaven Farm about 35 miles east of Houston . They are breeders and had about a dozen head, including three other bulls, as well as two goats in their pasture when the accident occurred.

"We are animal lovers and had a 'no eat' clause in the ones we sold," Kimberly said, recalling how other officers used to teasingly ask her husband if he was producing miniature steaks. "Ranchers are attracted to the miniatures for enjoyment, because you can grow 2½ more head per acre than they can with a full-size animal."

'Didn't back down'
Yet from a young age, Peanut, one of the miniatures, started to develop signs of aggression that they didn't notice in their other bulls.

She recalled how at first her husband treated Peanut "like a big puppy" as they played together by rolling a plastic trash receptacle back and forth between them.

"But then the bull started sending that trash can up in the air and taking that barrel out by goring it," she said. "Then a few times, the bull decided he was not done playing and charged my husband, nicking his legs. Still my husband is a tough guy and thought he always had it under control."

But Dousay learned he was wrong Sunday afternoon. The pair were repairing a hole in the pasture's fence from which a new calf had escaped when they noticed Peanut appeared agitated and was pawing the ground.

"Usually Peanut would get back if we waved a 4-foot steel rod at him, but this time he didn't back down," Kimberly said. "We think it was because we were interrupting his routine. He's very territorial and never liked us messing with his fence."

Peanut began charging at her husband from about 10 feet away, knocking him to the ground.

"Then he kept digging at him with his horns," said Kimberly, who was standing 200 feet away. "It lasted about a minute and a half but seemed like a lifetime. Finally the bull backed off, and I helped my husband limp into the barn and called for help."

Airlifted to hospital
Emergency workers say Dousay experienced a cardiac arrest in the ambulance and would have bled to death if he had not been airlifted to the Houston hospital.

Although still on a ventilator and unable to speak, James managed to reassure his wife by turning his head toward her and squeezing her hand, she said.

"It's amazing how well he's doing," said Dalton Gregory, spokesman for Tarkington Volunteer Fire Department which responded to the 911 call. "We literally had to replace all the blood volume in his body four times before he was flown to Houston."

Gregory has seen other bulls who "head butt" their owners, but these bulls have clipped horns and the only damage was usually to the owner's pride.

"We knew our bull had shown some signs of aggression," Kimberly said. "But my husband wanted to keep Peanut, because he was the first one that we got, But this time if he doesn't get rid of him, I will."

Harris County Sheriff Sgt. Curtis Brown and other officers were thankful Dousay survived this ordeal as he did once before when he had an on-duty motorcycle accident and had to be airlifted.

"He's a dedicated officer who works hard and loves his wife and two children," Brown said.

While Kimberly was raised on a horse farm, her husband was a city boy who had never raised farm animals until they got their miniatures. He now understands "you can't get out of their way fast enough," she said.


After reading both Dr. Grandin's article and the article in the Huston Chronicle, are you able to see the mistakes that the handler made and the signs of aggression that were evident in this bull before the accident took place? It's serious business and almost cost this man his life.


Simply Sunday

He that rises late must trot all day. ~ Benjamin Franklin

(Photo taken this morning as the sun was just peaking over mountain range.)


Scrumptious Saturday~Twice Baked Potatoes using Lactic Cheese

One of the best parts of having plenty of raw milk is that I can experiment with making various types of cheese. Sometimes I have found that experimentation leads to disaster. (Thank goodness for pigs and chickens that eat my mistakes and help me feel like I am recycling rather than being wasteful!) Many times my cheese making failures have spurred me to use the ideas from that particular project and come up with something new. Technically, there is nothing new under the sun, but these "new" methods at least get me out of a rut and help me to think outside of the box I have made for myself.

Such was the case when I attempted to make a particular cheese that I saw on the internet. The recipe called for using either vinegar cheese or lactic cheese as the basis for this particular recipe. I tried it first with vinegar cheese and didn't care for the results at all. So, I tried it with lactic cheese. Although I still didn't like the final product, it was much better than the first made with the vinegar cheese. Making the lactic cheese was so easy that I decided to make some and try it for cheese spreads/dips. Still not completely satisfied, I decided to alter the recipe just a bit and try it again. The resulting cheese was not too strong and was perfect for making the cheese spreads. In addition, I decided that the cheese would also make a great sour cream and was very delighted with that as well.

After all my experimentation, I ended up with more cheese spreads, sour cream, etc. than we could possibly use and needed a way to use up these products (other than eating massive amounts of crackers, chips or even dipped vegies.) That's when I came upon the idea of making twice baked potatoes.

I am going to provide the original recipe for lactic cheese, my modified version and then instructions for making the twice baked potatoes and several dip/cheese spread ideas as well.

From Ricki Carroll's book Home Cheese Making:

Lactic Cheese

1 gallon milk
1 packet direct set mesophylic starter or 4 ounces prepared.
3 drops liquid rennet dissolved in 1/3 cup cool water

* Heat milk to 86 degrees and add starter. Mix thoroughly.
* Add 1 teaspoon of the diluted rennet and stir gently with an up and down motion. cover and let set undisturbed at room temperature at least 72 degrees for 12 hours or until a solid curd forms. The curd will look like yogurt.
* Slowly pour the curd into a colander lined with butter muslin. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and hang the bag to drain for 6-12 hours or until the cheese has reached the right consistency. A room temp of 72 degrees will encourage proper drainage. If you want the curds to drain more quickly, change the muslin periodically.
* Place the curds in a bowl and add salt to taste.

Store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. If the cheese is too hard and rubbery, add less rennet next time. If the cheese is too moist, add a little more rennet.

Yields about two pounds.

While this recipe was very good, I found that the cheese was a bit more "tart" than I really wanted. So, the next time I made it, I didn't add the mesophylic culture. I believe with the milk sitting overnight, it became naturally cultured, much like when I make clabber. However, the addition of the rennet to the milk made the curds firmer and easier to work with to make the lactic cheese.

Then, I remembered that I had a recipe for making a similar cheese that did not use the mesophylic starter. (See, my idea was not so original after all!) Sure enough, when I began digging I found it in another cheese making book entitled Cheese Making at Home put out by Center for Essential Education.

Here is the recipe from that book along with some interesting history behind the cheese:


Cuajada is pronounced kwa-ha-la, is a Spanish word meaning "to set up". This recipe came from a friend in Nicaragua. He uses the milk right from his cows and makes Cuajada in five gallon buckets. The cheese is finished within an hour, and his children sell it on the streets for 75 cents a pound. The Nicaraguans love this cheese in tortillas with re fried beans or sliced and fried in hot oil.

1 gallon milk (straight from the cow or 80 degrees or warmer)
1/8 tablet of rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
salt to taste

*Take one gallon of warm milk from the cow and add dissolved rennet.
*When the curd is firm (approximately 1/2 hour) cut it into approximately 1 inch cubes and stir for five minutes gently.
*Pour into a strainer or colander and move it around to expel the whey. Get out most of the whey and then salt the curds. Leave the curds in the colander or put them in a cheese mold and let them drip until firm. (approximately 45 minutes)

Now here is my version. I make things in large quantities:

4 gallons of milk straight from the cow or warmed up to between 88-98 degrees
Stir in 1/8th teaspoon of rennet that has been dissolved in 1/4 cup cool water
Let set overnight
Strain through cloth until thick
Salt to taste

Ok............now that you have all of this cheese, what do you do with it? I admit that it's pretty boring by itself. First of all, the cheese makes perfect sour cream just like it is. Or, if you want to get a little fancy with it, throw is some fresh chives! (Now we're talking!) I had plenty of fresh chives from the summer that I chopped and froze to throw into some of the cheese.

Some additional ideas for making great cheese spreads:

Ranch (4 tablespoons dried parsley; 1 teaspoon minced dried onion or grated fresh onion to taste;1 rounded tablespoon of minced garlic;1/2 teaspoon salt;1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper). You can make this thick and use it as a dip or make it thin and use it as a salad dressing.

Jalapeno (Process seeded fresh jalapenos in the food processor and mix in cheese. Salt and pepper to taste)

Garlic, onions and bell peppers run through the processor and then mixed in with the cheese also makes a good dip. Actually, the sky is the limit. Just use your imagination and make up small batches until you find the ones you really enjoy. Sometimes I mix the cheese with a bit of Mayo. This gives it a slightly different flavor than just the cheese alone. Either way , it is good. (A tip about the cheese spreads: They are better after they have set for 24 hours and even better after several days.)

Now, all of these dips and spreads that you have made lend themselves perfectly to making twice baked potatoes.

Twice Baked Potatoes:

Phase One

* Bake your potatoes until done. I usually bake a few extra so that I can have "extra" filling for my baked potatoes. In other words, I may bake six potatoes, but only use the skins of four of them but the insides of all six.

* After the potatoes have cooked and cooled down to a manageable temperature so that you don't burn your hands, scoop out the centers. Because our potatoes are homegrown and newly dug, they don't have thick skins on them. I simply leave some of the "meat" in the potato to hold it together rather than scooping all the way down to the skin.

* Take the potatoes you have scooped out and place in a kitchen aid (or similar) mixer of food processor. Dump in your sour cream and chives mix or even your ranch mix of cheese to taste. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix until smooth and creamy. You can add butter, milk or cream to bring potatoes to the desired consistency. This is phase one of your twice baked potatoes. You can now refrigerate until you are ready to complete the final step.

*Spoon potato mixture back into the potato skins.

Phase two:

*Place your prepared potatoes in the oven at a temperature of around 350 degrees. You will know the potatoes are warmed through when they begin to get golden on top.

*When potatoes begin to get a pretty gold color, sprinkle with Mozzarella or any other cheese of your choice and bake until the cheese is melted.



Friday's Featured Farmer~Blaire in Idaho

It’s a Tuesday morning in late September. The valley is smoky and cool, about 38 degrees. The sun is barely up and streaming through the trees in my backyard, highlighting their fall foliage. My three sons are off to school, the dishwasher is humming and I’ve just skimmed a gallon of cream off of about 4 gallons of milk. I poured a dollop of buttermilk into the cream jars, shook it up and it is now sitting on top of my fridge. I will make it into butter tomorrow, God willing.

I’ve been milking cow/s for about 5 years now but have only recently decided I could start calling myself a “farmer”. Ginger and Ingrid are my girls. I really, really love them. It sometimes seems a rather smallish thing, to milk cows. I don’t always grasp the big picture of what it means to do this job, not just the work but the responsibility. The education of myself, my family, my neighbors and my milk share families is as much a part of being this type of farmer as the actual milking.

It all started rather simply. I only wanted to make yogurt. Seemed harmless enough, I thought. So I buy some culture and read the instructions. In big bold letters in the instructions it says “Do not use Ultra-Pasteurized milk”. My yogurt wouldn’t turn out if I did. So, down the road I go…”Why?” “What is Ultra-Pasteurized milk?” “Why is it different from regular old pasteurized milk?” and then I read “Raw” and it resonated so deep in my being I knew I had more to figure out. I somehow found Ron Schmid’s book “The Untold Story of Milk”. I loved it, but more than that, I “believed” it. I found I could get raw milk at a local CSA and once a week with my jars in tow I would go. I would also buy hunks of butter and cheese curds. The kids loved it. I began dreaming of cows.

We lived rurally at this time but only on 2 ½ acres and most of that space was taken up by our ever expanding horse herd. The “cow dream” was not only about cows but about chickens and larger gardens and storing home grown food through our long Idaho winters. Our dreams were outgrowing our acreage and our neighbors’ sensibilities. Our dreams moved us 10 miles due West to what we called “the 20 acres” during the 2 years it took us to get there. So we sold, and rented and built and dreamed and built fences and gardens and barns and moved and planted trees.

First there was Ginger, my sweet Jersey girl, who I found because of my penchant for talking too much. We’re at 4-H horse camp with our boys and the man camped “next door” was also a talker. Somehow we got on the subject of cows and that I wanted a milker. “I’ve got one Jersey springer in my beef herd” he says. Of course he does! Here comes Ginger, a little rangey and not hugely friendly but she was a Jersey and she did get in our trailer. The next June she had a little black heifer calf, Roxy, and I began my milking career. By that September, I had the bug and heard about another Jersey cow for sale about 50 miles away. I was already headed there when I called my husband and told him what I was up to. “Don’t take the trailer” he says…”Too late”. I return later that day with Ingrid.

Ginger has had another heifer calf who is now a year old. Birdie was born last September. Ingrid had a bull calf this past May. Ginger is bred back to another Brown Swiss bull and is due to calve again next April. Ingy is still not bred as I’d like to wait until December and have a Fall calf. Birdie will need to be bred in the spring. Although it’s not entirely interesting, the breeding of the cows is the most important part. No birth, no lactation. No lactation, no milk. What many people who pick up neat little bottles of milk don’t realize is that milking is not the only job to be done with a dairy herd. The management of the lactation, the breeding, the calving, the worrying, the post calving, more worrying, care of newborn calves, management of cows and calves. It’s all important! I keep my calves on my cows and work out an agreement with the cows. They get milked twice a day for a month or so, then, I start separating the calf at night and milking only in the morning. The calf gets to spend all day with the cow and have all milk he/she wants. It seems to work, most of the time. Cows are fickle and calves are a pain, you just gotta take it day by day and cow by cow.

One of the great joys of farming, of being someone’s “farmer” is the kids. There is a whole new group of kids out there being raised knowing the names of the cows their milk comes from. They pour out of the cars to pet the cats and goats and chickens…to see the farm. Some want to be near the horses and their distinct aroma and presence, some prefer the smaller animals, others just want to run and climb. Initially, I felt apologetic for the drive to our place as we live 12 miles from town. Now I see that it’s a perk. Of course, sometimes they’re in a hurry and sometimes it’s raining and sometimes they’re asleep in their car seats. But when they do get a chance, it sure is a learning experience and it is kid heaven. It’s no wonder so many children’s books are written about farm animals and farm experiences.

So, here I am living the life of a children’s book character. It is not always idyllic and we “cow” girls commiserate often over sick cows, dead calves and yes, spilled milk. Fortunately, the good days outnumber the bad. And the good ones are really, really good.


Thank you, Blaire, for contributing to this Friday's Featured Farmer series! What a wonderful post!

You can follow Blaire on her Facebook Page.


Simply Sunday

Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week. ~Joseph Addison

( Photo of Beau, the Miniature Jersey Bull calf that we are in the process of purchasing. Photo courtesy of Marion Kanour.)


Friday's Featured Farmer~Liz in Texas!

Our journey, ok my journey with cows started many years ago when my hubby brought home a hog-tied calf in the back of his pick up truck. It was a little Hereford cross "Rosie" that eventually went to our freezer. I was so enthralled with her and scared of her! Just a few short years later the horses were dwindling out of our pastures and we found ourselves hip deep in 4-H with the kids raising rabbits, chickens, dairy goats, pigs, ducks and turkeys. Our daughter did the dairy goat project for 4 years and decided to move on to non-livestock projects so she sold her herd. I knew I could not live without the fresh milk so we found a Dexter in milk that was bred back. This Dexter had not been milked before, but through perseverance she taught me how to do it without being a freak and I taught her how to stop windmilling her foot around in the air (at my head). It was not a relationship to last, but it was an education I will never forget! The milk from Dexter proved not to be enough for our family so I started looking for a dairy cow. The looks and the comments we get to this day run the gammut, though I will say the public in general is becoming more savvy to real/whole/fresh food. We did find a cow or 3 and have had every joy and every disappointment that can be imagined along the way. I would not trade it for anything. Thankfully, we continue to learn and continue to be thankful.
This past spring I accepted a transfer with my company and we prepared to move to Florida. We decided at the time to live a slightly different lifestyle--to be a consumer of farm goods rather than a producer of farm goods. Sounded good to me, 5 minutes from the Atlantic and local food/milk! We sold all the livestock, equipment and everything we could in preparation of the move. 6 agonizing months later the house has not sold and I am losing my mind because I don't feel like I belong anywhere. No connection to the farm, the land, the new state, in fact no connection to anything except my work computer, my new ulcer and the airport!
My beloved husband came to the rescue by suggesting I search Craig's List for a few hens "just so we can have our own eggs again". I think he must have been missing the farm-ish life too, though he never complained. When I picked up a bag of chicken feed I also bought a 6-pack of tomato plants and a 4-pack of cilantro (love that the feed store has plants!). Once back home I uncovered one of the garden beds and planted the first of what has now grown to 4 large garden beds being planted with herbs and vegetables. Hmmm, I wondered as I toddled happily about the farm, "I know what will make this a farm again....but how do I tell Dave?" My husband that very night came in and said "you know, what you need is a cow"! I could have cried with happiness!
It is not just "having a cow" that is the key. It is being steeped in the farm, in our nutrition, baking from scratch, having access to real food, being outside, being active, being involved in animal husbandry. A cow does become a friend of sorts, a life giver to the rest of the farm with her milk, cream, butter, yogurt, clabber, whey and fertilizer. And, not being "just a cow" she is personable, funny, sassy, friendly, curious, a good mother, a provider of meat via offspring, and just plain happy to see and interact with her people. It is a truly unique relationship, and it is the whole world of cow ownership that does it for me. I should mention there is one more aspect of cow ownership that has had a huge impact on me: my cow friends that I have met and come to love online. That I ever thought I had to undergo any of this lesson or pain on my own is silly, there is a whole world of beloved friends and compatriots out there that have supported me, loved me, helped me, chided me and made me a better person. They are my balcony people and my heroes!
The weekend I planted those first fall plants has been a month ago now, and I am happy to say we have a spotted jersey named Ginger (due to calve in May), several loaner cows to mow the pastures for us, a few hens, a barn full of hay, a garden all planted, and a new pig on the way. I have a few physical reactions from the stress to get over still, but the symptoms are minimizing. I have "that feeling" when I walk outside and see the cows in the field, and hear her collar bell after dark, that feeling that reinforces in me I am right where I need to be, doing what I need to do to keep my family and myself as healthy and happy as we can be. That feeling that daily brings tears to my eyes because I appreciate it all so much.

Epilogue--if and when we do get to Florida, it will be on enough acreage to support 1 cow, 3 hens and a garden!


Thank you, Liz, for your wonderful guest post!

You can follow Liz on her blog Lucky Lizard Ranch.


This & That on Thursday

Sometimes you just have to let all the responsbilities go and take a "mental health day". When you farm, it's hard to get a whole day to just relax making it necessary to take segments of time when you can.

Monday was one of those days for me when I just needed to get away from everything for a while. For a few months, Mike has been helping his dad work sporadically on a hunting cabin on his dad's remote farming property. So, I took some drinks over to the place and the men took a break and we sat around in the cabin talking for a while before they went back to work. When the men went back to work, I took the opportunity to take a walk and get a few photos.

I can see some more "cabin time" in my future!


Tuesday Tutorial~ Animals Make Us Human (Cont.)

Wanted to continue for a few more weeks with the overview of the "Cattle" chapter in the book by Temple Grandin, Animals Make Us Human.

Dr. Grandin gives some great information on regrouping cattle which is often necessary whether you are dealing with dairy or with beef herds. She indicates that while re-grouping is not traumatic for cattle, it can be stressful, just as it would be for humans. She makes the point that any time cattle are re-grouped you will see some hostile behaviors in the form of pushing, butting and chasing. (We often see this when we regroup our cattle and say that the cattle are establishing "herd dominance".) The "newbie" always has the hardest time.

Dr. Grandin gives the following suggestions for raising and grouping cattle:

1. Calves should be raised with other calves and not in isolation. Isolation reared cattle are more agressive and less able to adjust to new social groupings. All animals have to be socialized from a young age and cows are no exception.

2. Groups of cattle should be no smaller than four.
(Dr. Grandin goes on to explain that within reason, larger groups are more peaceful than smaller groups.)

3. Larger is better but groups can be too big. She suggests based on research that no more than 200 cattle should be grouped together.

4. If possible, young dairy heifers should be regrouped a few times to get them ready to join the herd.

5. If you can, keep cattle together with some of their buddies when you regroup them. Cows are calmest when they are with cows they know. pp. 160-161