Sunday, June 29, 2008

Finally catching up...

Help! It's going to harvest my brain!!!


A lot has happened in our lives over the past few weeks. Some good, some not. So this post may be a bit like drinking from a firehose.

Let's see...

- We had one late night emergency room visit (for something neither serious nor interesting)

- Our 20+ year old cat Pepper was put to sleep. He had a good, long life.

- One of our chickens died - not from predators, but some other malady. The rest seem fine.

- Our cow got mastitis. She got it pretty bad and we had to medicate her and dump her milk for about 10 days. (A big thank-you to my wife for playing vet.) I was actually surprised that it hadn't happened earlier, what with my inexperience and all. But still it's a pain. As with many bacterial problems these days, it flared up again after the medication wore off, so we're back to new medicine and dumping milk for several more days.

- I took the twins to the county fair over the weekend, where much fun was had and my wallet was beaten to a pulp. And Amelia tried to escape that ride where your back is against the inside of a giant rotating drum, which then tips up vertically. Her escape attempt was basically to sit down, but that put the little safety strap above her head. My brain knew enough about physics to realize she wasn't in any danger, but I still held her arm with a death grip until the ride was over.

- Our hay was cut - though our neighbor who was doing the cutting couldn't fit his equipment through our 10-foot gates. Another neighbor stepped in and cut it for us. Unfortunately it's been rained on like five or six times since then. So, uh... hooray for compost!

- We harvested our first blueberries! They don't really grow well here because they are so picky about acidic soil. But I have such fond memories of picking blueberries with my grandfather in Connecticut (and my grandmother's endless blueberry concoctions) that I had to plant some. So I got three dwarf varieties and planted them in a big planter box full of peat moss and mulched with pine nuggets. Mmmmm. I hate to say it but they're even better than my grandparents' berries...

- Our gooseberries are almost ripe. Let's hope we get some before the chickens eat them all. The blueberries have bird netting over them. I may need to do the same for the gooseberries. And the currants. The grapes are coming along nicely. We'll have to wait another year (or maybe more) before we get apples, peaches, blackberries, or raspberries. Probably two more years for cherries. I'd guess even longer for any of our nut trees or paw paws.

- On the other hand, our "garden" is literally knee-high with weeds. I guess between the baby, the cow, and all this other stuff, something had to give. Thank you CSA for providing our garden veg, since my own efforts are doomed.

- I decided to abandon our worm bin. The chickens end up getting most of our kitchen scraps rather than the worms. A neglected worm bin generates fruit flies and the like.

- Speaking of which, I moved our "compost bin" (quotes because the chickens eat it all so I never have any compost) from it's old location between the house and the barn to a new spot right under the kitchen window. So now when cooking is done, you just crank open the window and dump the veggie scraps out. The chooks didn't have any trouble adapting to the new location.

- We saw our first eastern bluebird today. They might be my favorite bird, just because they're so rare at this point. Here's a really poor photo...

- We made strawberry jam for the first time. We got about 7 pints. Then we followed that up with five pints of black raspberry jam. Oh. My. Goodness. My mouth is watering as I type this.

- Our cow's been bred (artificially) to a Jersey bull. Our neighbor with the loaner Angus was taking too long. We're already a month or two later than we'd like. At this point I may be milking well into January. Next time we'll know better.

I did see something rather interesting the other day. I wandered out to the pasture to find Meadow. Usually when I go out to milk she's already waiting for me, with her head in the stanchion, looking expectant. But for some reason yesterday she wasn't around. I soon found out - she had a new friend. There was a red-winged blackbird perched on her back, gobbling up flies.

The flies have been a nuisance. but the home remedies didn't do anything, and the store-bought fly spray didn't do much either (and is a possible suspect in our chicken death). So instead of spraying anything, I've switched to closing up the barn to keep it as dark as I can get it. I also try to shoo the flies off her before she comes into the barn. Of course that doesn't work if she's already in there tapping her hoof waiting for me. I also hung some 3-inch wide strips of screening material in the doorway (which will make more sense after a future post). The idea was that as she walks through the strips, the flies are brushed off. It does seem to help a little, but I didn't have enough strips to go all the way across the doorway yet.

Another trick that Meadow came up with the other day, which was pretty successful, was to gallop and buck a little while swishing her tail, just before she runs into the barn. The flies all take off and she runs out from under the cloud. It's interesting what can happen when you leave the work to Mother Nature.

Speaking of which, I was talking to the vet about her mastitis problem. She said one thing that can help is to run cold water on the udder - it can get very hot and feel feverish. I thought, well, that explains why Meadow's been in the pond so much - right up to her udder.

And finally, a photo I took of Amelia one day while Lori was out all afternoon with the boys.

I call it, "Bad Father":

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At 6/30/2008 4:46 PM, Anonymous DramaMama said...

Hi - I just stumbled onto your blog and saw the photo of your berry bushes. I planted blueberries and blackberries earlier this spring and I don't have any net on them. If you don't mind my asking, where can I find something like this? Is it something I could make? I realized that though there are few blackberries, the ones I leave 'one-more-day' are gone when I come back out! The birds are smart. I've posted about these plants on my blog. Any thoughts would be appreciated!

At 6/30/2008 8:28 PM, Blogger e4 said...

Hi dramamama - I got the bird netting at a local garden center. I think big box DIY stores sometimes carry it too. Or any online/mail-order fruit tree seller. You might call around to check, but it's not too hard to find if you know it exists. I'm not sure about making it, but I'm sure some creative soul out there has tried it.

At 7/01/2008 9:28 AM, Blogger Robbyn said...


So good to see your family updates, and all the great things underway! I was wondering if you had tried using apple cider vinegar both as a mastitis treatment (you include it in the feed or water) and as a preventive for your milk cow? I've also heard wonderful things about fennel cream as an after-milking balm to prevent mastitis and also to keep the bag healthy and the milk flowing well naturally daily. I've not had a cow, but keep running across these two things...I'll post em on my blog soon but thought i'd pop in and just ask :)

At 7/01/2008 1:35 PM, Anonymous DramaMama said...

Thanks! Maybe I'll get some blackberries yet! Smarter than the average bird...

At 7/01/2008 4:30 PM, Blogger thenn said...

That is one cute baby!

I know it sounds silly, but I never thought of cows and mastitis. Ouch. Been there, done that and feelin sorry for the cow right now.

As for "Bad Father", other names might include "Moment of Quiet Sanity", "Cute Daughter" comes to mind. And "Calm before the sugar storm" also has a ring to it. Although I recently checked and found Quaker Oat Squares I thought were so healthy for my kids have more sugar than Lucky Charms, so how bad can the Loops be??

At 7/01/2008 11:26 PM, Anonymous ~Lori said...

Hey Robbyn, I've heard of the ACV treatment but not the fennel cream. Where do you get ACV in bulk though? Especially organic? I'll have to google fennel cream and see if I can make it myself or buy it.... :)

At 7/02/2008 7:54 AM, Blogger Robbyn said...

Lori, I don't know where to get it in bulk...I'll post the question on my blog, and between your blog and mine, we're sure to hear from some milking veterans, eh? We're not in the position to have livestock (yet!) but we'll want to get them all on the ACV when we do, as a preventive. Come to think of it, I'll post the question on the Path to Freedom site and see if they have a good source? I'll try to hunt down the fennel cream mentions and get back with you on those, too...

At 7/02/2008 10:20 AM, Blogger Robbyn said...

I've been looking all morning for the link I used to have for the fennel seed cream/salve/ointment. I can't find it anywhere, not even with a google search, argggh! (confound it...) But I did see an herbal salve with a seemingly good track for regular use, and one for use with mastitis are the links if you think you might want a look:

Also, posted a general query on my blog to see if anyone out there has a great source for bulk ACV

At 7/07/2008 5:16 PM, Blogger barefoot gardener said...


Ummm, sorry about the cat. That always stinks.

Good thinking on the cow/fly issue.

Cow mastitis? Ouch.

Don't feel bad about the should see my garden, and I don't have anywhere near your excuse.

And...that pic....bad father? No way! That is the way my kids look all the time. In need of a bath, in their pjs, and eating something totally unhealthy. It's the American Way!

At 8/22/2008 5:07 PM, Anonymous Nita said...

Ummm, cows in standing water is a bad idea. The very mastitis you are trying to prevent/treat could be coming from the pond water. She is probably defecating in that pond while she is there seeking comfort and her teat canals may be damaged and the infection is entering that way. Also, she probably had mastitis when you purchased her, hence the slow milk out time, due to scar tissue already present. All the antibiotics and/or topical treatments in the world won't help if she is allowed to get manure or dirty water on her udder...

I've probably said more than I should have, but I couldn't help it. A calf nursing her would help clear up that mastitis, I hope you were able to get her calf too. What ever you do, don't dry her off until the infection is cleared, or she could freshen with an even worse case. Homeopathic treatment might be the way to go, less expensive and easily administered in the animals feed or water.

At 8/22/2008 9:56 PM, Blogger e4 said...

Nita, you're right. We asked our vet about the pond water and he said that could be the problem.

Unfortunately, we haven't figured out how to keep her away from it. Fortunately, she's not going in there at this point, which buys us some time to think about a way to reconfigure.

Also fortunate is that her mastitis did clear up, no thanks to either veterinary or homeopathic treatments.

Anyway, thanks for the comment. Another course completed and another tuition bill paid at Farm College. :)

At 8/23/2008 12:18 AM, Anonymous Nita said...

Is your cow trained to electric fence? Once ours have experienced the "buzz", we can keep them away from places we don't want them to have access to with a fake wire. Fake in this case meaning a electric fence with no power. Sometimes it has to be fake because of fencing considerations. While this wouldn't be a permanent solution to keep her away from your pond. It might be at least a temporary fix.


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