Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The cow has landed

Our new Jersey milk cow came home today. She’s a three year old and is pregnant. She is also still in milk. Her name is Fancy and she’s as sweet as can be. It’s been a lot of work getting ready, but the work ahead of time paid off and her homecoming was smooth…more or less. She’s sad to be leaving her barnyard friends at her previous home, but she is always happy to see us when we go out to visit her.

Everything went smoothly until milking time. Milking a goat who is accustomed to you is different from milking a stressed cow. I guess the milking for Fancy went well enough. We didn’t get much milk, but we didn’t get kicked either. The fun started when we tried to finish chores…in the dark.

Whisper, our goat that’s still in milk, was nowhere to be found. She must have gotten scared by the cow, because she had escaped to my neighbor’s wheat field. It took a while, but I finally got her rounded up and headed back to the barn. Problem was, Fancy was in between me and Whisper and Whisper’s milking stall. By shoving Whisper through a gap in the wall of the barn I was finally able to get her into her milking stall. She was still scared of the cow and was bucking and dancing the entire time I tried to milk her. I eventually got her milked and headed for the house.

Oberon and Titania, our two dogs, refused to be put up and disappeared into the night to investigate the new cow. Half an hour later I finally got the dogs rounded up and the milk filtered. I was worried about Fancy and whether the dogs had run her, so I went back out into the dark to find her. Fancy was fine, still lonely though, and I was able to get her to nuzzle me a little bit.

Our chore list for the morning is pretty long, but I am starting to relax and feel more optimistic about it than I felt an hour ago.

We will be applying for our Department of Agriculture small herd milk license tomorrow. Hopefully it will come through soon because we will be swimming in milk if it doesn’t.

I went to a great meeting and focus group put on by our local farmer’s market. We are getting pretty excited to try the market again. We took the year off last year, but I think between eggs, milk, soap, and vegetables we should be able to bring in a few dollars.

I meet with a group of men on Mondays and our meditation was on giving up the illusion that security is possible in this life. Embracing the fact that life is unpredictable and enjoying the journey instead of trying to be in complete control. Life is a wonderful journey. I’ve been acting out of feelings of fear rather than faith for the last few days. Trying to manage all the details instead of enjoying the ride. Tonight I am focusing on letting go and letting God. Letting go and living in faith instead of fear.

On this night of welcoming home are latest barnyard companion, I can’t help feeling incredibly blessed now that I’ve had a chance to relax and reflect. Gratitude for farm, family, and friends.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Well, it looks like I've mis-managed things a bit. I don't know if I'll be able to get my goats bred in time to have a consistant supply of milk this year. Goats generally only come into heat from September to December...sometimes a bit later if you're lucky. I picked up a small billy goat for free (pass the buck lol) though I'm afraid he may be too small to successfully breed Carissima. Basically, it's all a mess. So I'm rather frustrated. I hate making mistakes. I'd like to beleive that I can perfectly manage every micro-detail successfully. Rather arrogant I suppose.

So what's going right? Our friend, who is helping us locate a milk cow, has a lead on an older Jersey cow who's 6 months pregnant. That could be a huge break on the milk front. It would be nice to get a pregnant heifer, but a pregnant older cow might have the advantage of being more docile and used to being milked.

Who knows what the future may bring our way. It's all a grand adventure.

One of my meditation books suggested adding "my relationship with my God" as something to be grateful for. And I am grateful. It is wonderful to know that no matter what happens God is with us. We are truly cared for and carried whether times are easy or tough.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Having a cow II

Well, after much prayer and deliberation, we decided to wait on the raw milk license. The license itself is not particularly expensive, but the vet visit to test the herd would be. One of our goats will be drying off soon, and they all need to be re-bred. The heifer won't be bred for another few months as well. We decided to wait until the goats are all fresh and the cow is closer to calving.

I've been pretty worn out after some long days of working on the farm, raising a child, and a touch of insomnia. I've got another few days of extra work. I may take a break and do a little goose hunting though. The weather has been mild and sunny which is great for getting work done on the farm. Not so good for goose hunting though. The geese are still all up North as the lakes havn't frozen yet.

I've been shoveling a 1/2 ton of gravel out of the back of a pick-up truck. The tractor is still down with a flat tire, so I've had to get it out by hand. We are building a gravel and earthen ramp into the barn for the heifer.

Our enjoyment and satisfaction with our prayer life continues to grow. It is an integral part of our daily routine. I don't think God tells us what the right decisions are, but he can certainly help calm my heart, mind, and soul which, in turn, helps us come to the come to the right decision. I don't like waiting once I've decided to move on an idea, but in the case of the milk license waiting seems like the best course.

We are feeling so incredibly blessed with our farm, family, and friends. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Having a cow...

We have been doing our homework and shopping for a Jersey dairy cow. We've got a heifer picked out and should be going through with the purchase soon. We are just waiting on some blood tests. Assuming they come out clean we will be picking up our girl in a couple of weeks.

We'll be having to re-arrange some areas of the barn and fix up some of the fence on the pasture. We'll be doing some major barn cleaning, some fencing, and some barn fixing. When spring eventually comes we will be pouring a concrete floor for a milking stall and running electricity and water out to the barn. I'm not much of an expert at major electrical and plumbing projects, but it sounds like this is something I can do if I just take my time and breathe deep.

We are in the process of applying for a license to sell raw milk from the farm. Both from the goats and eventually the Jersey. We would also be able to sell butter and cheese products as well.

It's all an amazing adventure. I have been feeling so truly blessed lately. Blessed to have the family that I have, all the friends that I am close with, and this wonderful farm to live and work on. It is truly through God's grace that I have been saved from the scrap heap to lead a life like this. My life is beyond my wildest dreams and expectations.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I made a batch of goat’s milk soap yesterday. It wasn’t rocket science, but the chemical reaction produced by the lye and the milk was kind of scary. Lye can burn the skin and do much worse than that in the eyes. It goes without saying that swallowing it would be a really, really bad idea. Anyway, when I mixed the lye with the goats milk it produced a boiling, bubbling reaction that filled the pot with orange foam. There are many recipes available in books and on the internet. The one I used was from the Storey’s Dairy Goat book. Besides the basics of fat, lye, and liquid, I added oatmeal and lavender essential oils. I used pig lard for the fat and goats milk for the liquid. There are number of options for the fat, lard being the most obvious. Goose fat tallow sounded like an intriguing possibility.

I canned a large batch of applesauce too. We like to use applesauce for moisture in bread recipes. The applesauce turned out wonderfully. Naturally sweet with no added sugar.

We are contemplating selling the soap at the local food co-op and farmers market. We are also going through the process to get a permit to sell raw goats milk. We are really hoping to make a few extra dollars this way.

And, of course, a happy new year to all. It has been an amazing year for us. Ups and downs to be sure, but so many blessings. A helicopter ride to the children’s hospital for breathing problems for our newborn son and several other trips to the emergency room for stitches for the other boys. I think we are going to have to learn to stitch them up ourselves. How hard could it be?

Among the many blessings: My beautiful son was born in our kitchen in an amazing home birth; Jenny and I were married and she moved out to the farm with the boys; the animals are all healthy and productive; the pigs were successfully raised and turned into pounds and pounds of delicious bacon and chops.

There have been many, many opportunities to learn. We’ve learned about how difficult it is to make any money on a small farm. We’ve learned to live on an almost non-existent income, We’ve learned to count our blessings.

We are so truly blessed. We wish all the very best for you in this new year.