Friday, May 23, 2008

Variety pack

I've got a whole range of things today, so hang on tight...

First, I've been invited to join Chile and her gang on her Oregon Trail wagon team. Thanks Chile! Can I bring my family too? Can we trail the cow behind? I have so many questions!

I also wanted to point out that my semi-dormant doomer blog is ramping up a bit again as time allows. Hopefully.

And rated this blog an 8.1 out of 10... so I've decided to double the price for reading. You always get what you pay for here at Green, Blue, Brown.

We're settling into our cow routine, and she's settling in to her people routine, more or less. She's decided she's not totally thrilled at grazing alone, and she's not impressed with the neighbor llamas as pals. (Besides which, they're too busy with mating rituals to pay much attention to her anyway.) She's doing okay, but complains a bit when given the chance. Or occasionally at 2am outside our bedroom window. An interesting solution is in the works, but that's another post.

The good news is that she's pretty well-behaved. There are some mornings when she thinks milking time is an audition for Dancing with the Stars, but for the most part she does well despite our inexpert hands. She's not very impressed with the grain we've been giving her, but she does like the alfalfa hay quite a bit, so that can keep her occupied for part of the time.

Unfortunately, we're still working on getting the milking time down. She was used to having two people milk her at once - one on either side - and two experienced people at that. So now instead of the 15-20 minutes she was used to, it takes us more like an hour at this point. And she lets us know with some shuffling and sighs by the end.

But at least I've finally built up enough arm strenght to get through the whole milking without asking Lori to spell me. My forearms are going to look like Popeye's by winter. I may need to get some anchor tattoos.

Did it ever seem odd to anyone else that cream is white, but we call something "cream colored" if it's like a light beige color? Wouldn't that be like naming something that was yellow "an orange"? Well, I'm here with the answers. This is what our milk looks like straight out of the cow:
I guess not all cream (or milk) is white, eh?

We get a very high percentage of cream, so while some friends were visiting, we decided to try making butter. You basically make whipped cream and then keep going. It took quite a while even with the stand mixer, and we began to lose faith that it was actually working. But our patience was rewarded with some vivid yellow butter. The photo doesn't quite do it justice, but here it is:

For those who asked on the last post, I think the mama robin abandoned her nest. Not surprising to me, but I'm pretty sure she wasn't going to like it driving and jiggling around our property aboard the tractor either. And speaking of the tractor, I've been seeing a particular rabbit hanging around a lot lately. (It'll make sense in a sec.) I first noticed him hanging around last year, and running in terror any time I was out clearing grass and weeds with the rotary mower:

I call him Lucky... I thought about "Buzz," but he does still have all four rabbit's feet.

In other news, Fatty Lumpkin's smile has finally been caught on camera:

Aawww. Let's enlist e5's help to get a big grin....

Okay, now it's just getting gratuitous...
He's not really old enough to warrant any good stories so far, but he's got cuteness down pat.

I've got nothing to follow that right now. Another post coming soon. Maybe.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I've got your stimulus package right here!

Er... no wait...

Right here:

Yes, we got a cow.

Not the one we were looking at before. The timing just didn't work quite right. He needed to sell sooner than we could be ready to buy. So we moved on.

I've spent the last few weeks putting in several hundred feet of fencing to enclose some additional pasture and connect our barn to our existing fields. I also built a pen and a milking area in the barn.

Ok, I guess I should tell you about the cow. She's a Jersey, about three years old, hand-milked by an Amish family who lives about 75 miles from us. She may or may not be bred to a Holstein.

How did we find her, you ask? Craigslist, of course. Yes, really. The Amish don't use computers or most technology, but sometimes their neighbors do. This man's neighbor posted the listing for him, I saw it, and next thing I knew I was talking to an Amish farmer on a cell phone.

We all drove up to see the cow a couple weeks ago, and I ended up driving back a week or so later to try milking her. (They were selling because she was slightly awkward to milk. Well, any cow would be slightly awkward for me to milk, so...)

And now, here she is, settling into her new surroundings.

In 2005, this is where we lived:
...on three-tenths of an acre in suburban Cincinnati. Most days I don't think about how strange that is given where we are now. Today is not most days though.

As of today, we have a sweet Jersey cow to milk twice a day. Six gallons per day - an essentially unlimited supply of milk, butter, cream, yogurt, buttermilk, cheeses, ice cream... assuming we can figure out how to make them all. After our yogurt experience, I'm pretty confident we can figure it out. Then we just have to find ways to use the other 90% of it.

What about the baby, you ask? He's doing really well. Fabulously. I don't know that we'd be doing this if he wasn't settling in as well as he is. I think after having twins, one high needs and one special needs, with a couple hospital visits thrown in, this has been a cake walk. Sure he's still a baby and still needs time and attention. But we decided we could manage an hour or two a day between us to handle our Jersey girl.

Are you crazy?

In fact, I've already been using milking time every morning and every night to get the fencing and other work done. It's worked very well, and now that all that stuff is taken care of, I guess the fun can begin.

I should also mention the truck driver. He brought his pickup truck back to our barn, pulling a three-horse trailer, into an area that I can barely turn my pickup truck around in. There are four small apple trees along one side of the area, and two tiny Chinese chestnut saplings on the other side. He noticed them, pulled up within a foot of one of the saplings, backed to within inches of the apple tree, and then somehow cut sideways so that the other sapling passed through the gap between the truck and it's trailer. And before I knew it, he was turned 180 degrees and perfectly positioned to unload the cow. He did all this without stopping & starting, or even hesitating. It was about the most impressive piece of driving I've ever seen.

Now, in the middle of all this, I have let a couple things slide. The grass is getting very tall, which will hopefully yield us some usable hay, but there are a few areas that need a little more regular maintenance. And I know I've gotten a bit behind on a few things, but come on! A robin's nest in the tractor?!

I don't know if it'll do any good, but I relocated it to a slightly safer location. Not sure if it'll do any good, but it was done in full view of mama.

Anyway, off we go on another adventure. Stories of our incompetence to follow...


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Thursday, May 08, 2008

...a needle pulling thread

So this year, knowing we had a baby on the way, I didn't figure on much of a garden. Oh, I hoped for a garden. I pined for a garden. But realistically, I couldn't be sure I'd be able to pull off a full-blown garden.

So we decided to join our local CSA. We didn't actually know this existed last year, but we eventually found it. So it should be interesting, especially since this year they've added strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and peaches. So we are ensured a steady supply of fresh fruits and veggies from June to October. (Meanwhile, I'm hitting our favorite farm market to feed my local cider addiction, local meats, and for whatever else they might have.)

So I guess I'm going to start every paragraph with the word "so" today.

So anyway, due to some creative scheduling, it looks like I'll have my produce and eat it too. I managed to plant the garden anyway. So far I've got garlic I planted last fall, along with onions, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, chard, bell peppers, jalapenos, a couple cauliflower, a few cabbages, popcorn, pole beans, winter squash, and carrots planted. Still to go in the ground are a variety of bush beans, some summer squash, cucumbers, melons, herbs and flowers. And maybe some other stuff that I forgot about.

So I also think I may actually get to try my grand field corn experiment, planting up to a half acre of it depending on how far my seed corn goes. I'll probably fill the rest of the tilled area with sunflowers. Assuming I get the tractor running long enough to turn over the soil.

So if that's not enough, I've also got a whole mess of nut trees and a few cherry trees that I'm going to plant over the next several days or weeks. So that'll be fun.

So in case you are wondering, it's amazing how much you can accomplish with one hour first thing in the morning before the kids are up, and one hour after dinner in the evening.

So... I can't decide whether to reveal the big surprise project yet or not. But I will tell you that my muscles are sore, my hands are somewhere between leather and sandpaper, my tools are scattered, and I have to be on the road at 4:30 tomorrow morning. I guess you'll have to wait for my next post.

So I'd better get to bed.


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Friday, May 02, 2008

Living right, or... something

Well, I must be doing something right in the eyes of the Universe, because:
  • Little Mr. O has learned how to smile, and is happy to do so many times a day. Though never when I have a camera. And also, he's getting huge.
  • We took our resident barn cat in to get her spayed - but she was already spayed
  • A tiny tree that planted last year - and promptly ran over with the truck - actually survived.
  • Both the tiller and the tractor started on the first try this year. (And let's not start a big debate on tillers. Been there, done that.)
Of course, the tractor stalled out for unknown reasons within an hour, and the tiller has a belt that's so loose it comes off at the end of every other row. No worries though, it's all good. Or at least manageable.

On top of all that though, my mom came to visit recently. She helped with some fencing and potato planting, and she helped e5 to write down a story he made up - complete with stickers of animals to illustrate. Here's his story:
Saving the Puppy from the giant Robot. The Puppy thought the Robot was going to hurt hime and then what happens is the Puppy runs away and the Robot wants to play tag with it and the the puppy knows it's a game. Next, a couple of kitties came to play and also a couple of dogs came to play. And also some other animals came. It was a couple more kitty cats. Then some cows came up to play. Then they all ran to a game of sports for the animals. And they want to get a hundred thousand balls. And they want to play the sports game. The End.
If you're not smiling now, then you should go to the doctor because there might be something wrong with you.


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