Thursday, December 6, 2018

December 6, 2018

The best laid plans of mice and men. . .

We got a new kink in the plan of milking the cow, our Brown Swiss bull jumped the fence and joined the cow.  She must be in heat.  Since he is being very protective of her, I think I should just stay out of his way for the next few days.

I keep thinking of the t-shirt I saw at Wal-mart the other day.  I saw the back of the t-shirt which said, "God's got my back."  I am thinking this is a blessing to give me time to regroup, fix the milking stanchion and come up with a new plan.  They look like a very happy little family. . .

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

December 5, 2018

Learning something new always comes with questions and frustrations when you are feeling unsuccessful.  Here is a post I made today on Botanical Bovines Facebook group:

OMG, I am feeling so unsuccessful. So today is only the third day I have tried milking. My milking stanchion needs reconfigured, so I haven't been using it. So I am basically holding the bucket in one hand and milking with the other. Yesterday I got a cup of milk and today less. She keeps raising her right foot. I read somewhere you should only milk from the right side of the cow, is that true? Should I only worry about the cleanliness of the udder and teats? She came with some manure encrusted into her hair on her right leg, now that it is not warm out, what should I do with that? How do I achieve let down? I am getting a little milk, but it seems that since I separated her from the calf all night, she is preserving her milk for him. . .I am sure this sounds frustrated, which I am, but I keep trying to take a deep breath and calm down when milking as I am trying to get her to relax. I've tried singing and could have sworn it was working yesterday. . .

Anything that is worthwhile usually takes lots of practice and tweaking (I keep trying to remind myself.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

December 4, 2018

Another day in the milking adventure.   Well, last night I was able to get Brownie (the calf) in the correct stall by putting Sage in the milking stall, and basically running the calf around the barn enough times unitl he got tired and just gave in.  LOL.  I had the stall gate open and it is at the back of the barn, so that worked.  Plain old dumb luck probably.  I told my husband that I was working hard at getting all the stupid mistakes out of the way so it would lead to success.  ha ha.

This morning I went out to the barn knowing I could easily lure Sage into the milking stall with a bucket.  I remembered to close the stall gate this time (points for me), but it didn't take me long to realize that I had designed the stanchion on the wrong side of the stall.  Sage did not want to turn to the side to get on the platform.  However, the basic premise is good (I think), and I don't think it will take much to move the headgate part to the other side of the stall.  I learned yesterday that the manger could not be independent of the stanchion and fixed that with a couple of screws (it was getting knocked over).  So today, I will try to find time to rearrange the stanchion and further organize the area.  Life is a series of tweakings, isn't it?

Well, I didn't let the stanchion stop me in my tracks.  While Sage was in the stall, I gave her a bucket of grain and milked her anyway (or tried to).  She seemed to let down better when I sang to her.  She liked the chorus from "Brass in Pocket".  Today I achieved one goal.  I now have enough milk for my coffee for the next couple of days!!  A whole cup of milk.  I got my dairy filters in the mail yesterday so added them to the wide mount jar funnel I am using to strain the milk. 

Progress. . .

Monday, December 3, 2018

December 3, 2018

Adventures in milking.  We just got our Jersey cow, Sage and her calf (we named him Brownie) on 12/1/2018 and this is the first time we have had any dairy animal.  The first night, we put the two in a stall with some grain and water and let them out in the morning, as we felt they had been through enough stress with the move.  That also gave us time to finish the milking stanchion and other modifications to the barn.  Then on the evening of 12/2, I went out to try to get the calf into a stall in the barn.  Mom was not happy that I was after her calf and showed her displeasure by pooping.  So I changed my tact and decided to put mom in the stall (I had left on the rope halters tied short.)  Pulling on the halter did not do well, so I decided to try to lure her with a bucket of grain.  That worked.  I put Mom in the stall that I had prepared for the calf, thinking I would bring in the calf and add it, then let mom out.  Alas, the stall was too small.  So when I brought in the calf, it ended up going in the milking parlor, then I let Sage out of the stall so she could wander around the pasture and get to the two hole waterer.  However, since I achieved my objective of getting the calf separated from mom, I counted myself a success.

This morning I prepared to be out at 7:30 (after I got my husband out the door with his lunch and breakfast).  While my dairy supplies have not arrived yet, I wanted to get in at least a token milking so mom could get used to me.   I put together supplies that I had to get the routine started.  I washed a bucket we had for the other cattle to wash her up with a small amount of mild soap and hot water knowing it would cool on the way out.  I got out my brush, and I had a stainless steel bucket and found a shower cap we had gotten from a motel to cover it to keep debris out.  (I wonder what year that was from?  Definitely prior to starting this homestead. . .)  I even prepared my milk filter with a wide mouth funnel and a strainer to filter the milk, since I read to do that before milking in the Keeping a family cow book. 

As I was walking through our yard, which happens to have our Brown Swiss Cattle in it due to being the only place right now with good grass that is separate from the new cow, I realized I had made my first mistake.  I was so focused on my first milking, that I didn't realize until the cattle started following me that I was walking past them with two buckets in my hands.  I managed to escape through the gate before I got trampled.  Whew!!

I lured her into the milking parlor with a bucket of grain.  When she got in, I poured it into the manger attached to the stanchion, thinking she would get in position and start eating the grain and I would closed the stanchion.  Sadly, I had not thought ahead to close the stall gate.  Sage wisely went right back out of the gate where she could get to the grain in the manger on the other side of the stall.  Oh my goodness, I am having a good lesson in what not to do.  Still, I tried to use what I had and while she was eating the grain, I brushed her, I washed her udder, and I was able to get my hands on her teats to do a cough, cough, token milking.  You will know what I mean by the picture of the bucket.

Nevertheless, progress was made and I am determined to do better.    At least I can laugh at myself. . .

Saturday, December 1, 2018

December 1, 2018

We are so excited (and a bit overwhelmed) that we finally bit the bullet and got our first dairy cow for milking!  Thanks so much to Tucker ( and his kids) at Lilly Den Farm for helping to make this happen, helping to add to our education and make sure we had what we needed! Welcome home to Sage and her son to Powell Acres!  For tonight, we have tucked them into a stall (a wee bit unfinished as we have been adding a milking stanchion) with food and water to try to shake off the stress of the move.  We are hoping to get everything completed tomorrow, and work on getting into a milking routine.  Wish us luck!  So glad to have found friends along the way who have gone out of their way to educate me in the art of having a dairy cow and how to milk.  Thanks so much to Jeannette and her cow Fern for being so patient with my milking attempts and helping me get ready for the big day.  Thanks again to Joe and Michele.  It takes a village!
Their cozy new home in our pasture.

We finished the library, including adding some new lighting, that we of course found for a bargain which meant there was some bead stringing to do.  However, my handsome, free electrician installed them for me, so they really put the icing on the cake.

A friend came over (Thanks Jeanne!) and we worked on items for the church bazaar together.  Jeanne was creative with the faces on her snowman marshmallows.  We were able to put the food coloring on them with toothpicks.  We put them in white hot chocolate mix, as well as on their own and made some jars of chocolate chip cookie mix.

We were having trouble with way too much water in our barn area as well as the water draining off of the roof and landing right in front of the barn door which made for a mucky entrance and a floor you could sink into up to your ankles.  Knowing we had a cow and calf coming, we knew something had to be done.

John and I put some cheap plastic gutters on backwards as the water was draining under the metal trim.  The great thing is, you could hardly tell they were up there.  We attached them with some self tapping screws.  They did a great job of channeling the majority of the water away from the door.

This inspired me in turn to try do do something with the wet mucky floor.  So when I was trying to figure out what to do, I got a vision in my head of the Egyptians stomping straw into clay to make bricks.  So I started peeling layers of hay off of our round bale of hay, laying it down on the floor and stomping it in.  As I was stomping, I was working to flatten the floor.  If I found a place where I would sink, I added more hay and stomped some more.  The floor is much better!  Sometimes we don't even think about the cheap solutions.  Cost us less than the $25 we paid for the bale of hay.

I took a name off of the Angel tree at church and the child asked for a Barbie and some clothing.  You should have known that I found a Farmer Barbie and found the little girl some clothing to match.  I even threw together a matching chicken.   When the boots arrived, it really was a perfect matching outfit.  I sure hope she likes it.


With the cold settling in, I have been having trouble with getting cold shoulders as my shoulders stick out from the bed covers.  I knew I needed some pajamas that covered my shoulders a bit, but I wanted something that looked more attractive and used warm fabric.  I bought a long flannel night gown for $1.99 at the Goodwill store and remade it into an updated farm girl look with the no trespassing sign removed.   No tangling up in a long skirt in the middle of the night!  The things we do to save money so we can spend it on cows!  Ain't life Grand!


Monday, November 12, 2018

November 12, 2018

Busy times.  (Seems like I am always saying that, lol.)  We finished our new shed.  We ended up spending a little over $300 for metal roofing and screws, which is a lot cheaper than the materials for a whole new shed and gained a shed that is 12' x 20'.  It solves a lot of problems with housing some of our tools and may even provide us with some wood storage that is out of the weather.  We have a greenhouse next to the house, but still end up growing most of our small plants inside due to the fact that we already heat that area, and didn't want to add extra expense or work to heat another area. We chose not to get enough panels that go all the way to the ground, as we did not think they would add value in proportion to the money spent since our main objective was just to keep the rain off of our tools.

As we were getting ready to harvest our sweet potatoes, we decided to clear the field by first taking up the vines.  We tried both our pigs and our cattle to see if they would like to eat the vines, and the cattle consumed it more thoroughly, so we ended up bringing them about 5 truckloads.  The pigs acted like they were going to eat it and really didn't, but the cattle ate the leaves, vine and all.

In our preparations for winter, we decided to try insulating our fig trees with leaves this year to see if it would prevent them from dying back to the ground next year.  We love figs, and we would like to get more of them.  We had to go rake leaves at a neighbor's house, as none of the trees we planted are big enough to produce enough leaves.  We used fencing that we had laying around to created areas around the trees to contain the leaves.  One of the pieces of fencing had holes in it that were a bit too big, so we added some bird netting that we had.  Zip ties held both our fencing and netting together.  For the larger trees, we put rebar in the ground to hold the circle shape of the fencing.

Our newly planted ginger and turmeric also got a layer of leaves to insulate them for the winter.  The horse trough we planted them in worked well to contain the leaves (as was planned.)

I have been working on turning an unused space into our library (well, it was being used to drop off junk that we didn't know where else to put - but I want to create a better space to organize said junk.)  I was quite proud of myself for building the 16 feet of bookshelves myself (with input from my husband, of course).

While I was priming these, I also primed the last of the windows that were bare wood, as well as repainted the gold wood on a chair to white so I could incorporate it into another room.

After I finished the shelves and painting, I also decided I needed a zebra hide rug for that space, so I painted some fabric I already had, primer coats on both sides, followed by stripes projected onto the fabric and painted with acrylic paint, followed by two coats of polycrylic to preserve it while being stepped on.  I cut it out last, and was very pleased with the floor cloth I ended up with.

To furnish the room, I found a drum table from Amazon Marketplace for $50 which was just what I had envisioned, along with two wingback chairs for $25 each that I am working on slipcovers for.  They were plaid when we bought them, and I wanted them to be charcoal gray to go with the zebra hide rug.  I spent $60 on fabric to get this accomplished.  $110 for two wingback chairs that are made very well (Hickory Tavern) in the color of my choice is money well spent in my opinion.  I also loved that they had straight legs as I am going for a British Colonial style decor.

I am quite pleased with how the room is turning out, but there is still work to do.  I will update with a video when I finish all the details.

Monday, October 15, 2018

October 15, 2018

It is quickly becoming that time of year where we are having to add some heat to the house.  Currently, we are just opening our bedroom windows to glean the heat from the greenhouse.  Soon, we will have to stoke up the wood stove at night.  Having a lean-to greenhouse on the south side of the house has worked very well for us.  You can see in the picture that we are drying the cayenne peppers in there.  Drying the produce, drying clothes,  and getting some sun in the winter months for vitamin D has made it so useful that we haven't yet gotten around to growing plants in there!  Maybe this year. . .

Recently I wrote to my favorite Facebook Group Homesteads and Sustainability about whether we should bother to use cover crops, as the earth seems so good at providing itself with just the right plants to turn the top dirt into top soil.  Never was it more evident than across the place where we dug this summer to put in a water pipeline.  The volunteer plants, Senna Obtusifolia, seem to have nitrogen fixing capabilities.  Despite all of its uses in folk medicine and food, such as in cassia gum, or a coffee substitute, it has become known as an obnoxious weed.  The group pointed out that while nature is good at providing the plants that it needs, if you choose a plant in the same group, you might get more out of it such as a forage for animals or a food source you would rather have.  Also, planting seeds tends to hurry the process along.

I recently ruined my cell phone (and it was only about ten years old) by carrying it in the same bag as my water when I was going to stain the calf barn.  When I found a new one (my first smart phone that will still work on my $80 per year pageplus plan), I decided I needed something else to carry it in and pulled my hiking bag out of the camping equipment.   It was a great way to be able to function hands free while mowing.  I had made it out of the end of a shirt sleeve with a tab on it to slip onto your belt. 

We are in the process of turning our old greenhouse into a storage shed.  I am picturing it with a metal roof with a solar charging station for my golf cart with room for the trailer and a few other items.  I am having to rid it of thousands of blackberry vines and passion fruit vines, but I hope to be able to add the metal roofing by next weekend.  Then we have to get the old golf cart running again.  I found a service manual online that I hope will help with this.  How hard can it be?  Compared to our other equipment it seems to have so many fewer parts. . .Cross your fingers for me!

Our two pigs, Freckles and Red, are growing up a storm and are in their third pasture rotation.  We are experimenting with feeding them goat feed since it was what they were using when we got them, as well as has a higher protein percentage with a lower cost.  I was also recommended to feed them Bull rations, and will check on that next time we need to buy feed.  We have had them since 9/3, and they are only on their 5th bag of feed, as they are eating so much from the pasture.  We are thinking they will be ready by March 3rd, but we'll see. 

We got a new barn kitty from one of our friends at church.  The kittens were abandoned at her house and she was looking for homes.  Meet Merlin!  We kept him inside the first week, and for the last few days have been transitioning him outside, trying to get he and Guinevere used to each other (no worries - she is spayed).  He is so cute, but was beginning to show his velociraptor tendencies to the furniture.  Tonight might be his first night outside in the barn.

In our journey to self-sufficiency, we have yet to add a dairy animal to the farm.  With the help of our friends Joe and Michelle Sroka, I was able to try out milking a cow to figure out whether it would be a good fit.  Thanks to Joe and Michelle and your very patient cow! 

Additionally, I have been working on a new business to help fund the farm and have just gone live with the website:  Check it out!  I also added a new capability for people to be able to follow this blog by getting an email when I update.  The link is in the upper right hand corner.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

September 25, 2018

How to do a cheap neighborhood potluck to get to know your neighbors. Since the weather was iffy, it was great motivation to clean out the basement. As you can see, there is a piece of pvc pipe with a rope running through it and attached to our ceiling rafters with old curtains on it to hide our junk. Our tables are a bit beat up, but color unifies and we had a roll of brown kraft paper. The flowers were perennial balloon flowers I found at Lowes that they were marking down for $1 each and I intend to plant. I decorated them with some tulle netting that I had and some Christmas curling ribbon that we had. The candle holders and candles were leftovers from my daughter's wedding here two years ago. (We made the candle holders out of some old bunk beds we had found at the thrift shop.) We bought bottled water at Aldi's (about $5.00 spent - and these are the leftovers) and used an old planter as the method to keep them cold (washed out, of course). Then we just threw some hot dogs on the grill, made the fixings, and asked everyone to bring a potluck dish and a drink to share. Had a great time and even met a new neighbor. We sent the invite and reminders by Facebook messenger this year, with a few phone calls thrown in and asked neighbors to invite neighbors. We did buy paper plates, forks, and cups (for other people's drinks they were bringing.) I also made two chocolate pies. Another year we didn't want to clean out the basement and the weather permitted us to move our equipment and have it under the Tractor shed for shade since we don't have a lot of trees. We also had benches left over from the wedding, but in past years, we have asked them to each bring a chair.

We had a Dinner for Eight party at our house this weekend on Saturday, and a neighborhood potluck on Sunday afternoon.  The hit of both of these parties were our new pigs, Red and Freckles.  It gave the kids something to do to go pick some tomatoes to take to the pigs.  The pigs showed off by showing us how they drink from the water barrel with the pig nipples.  We so enjoyed seeing this.  The pigs have also been entertainment for our cattle.  The cattle rotation came close to the pig area this week, so they were busy getting to know each other.

Sherri Powell picked a peck of peppers to pickle.  Where did Peter Piper find a peck of peppers already pickled?  I mostly pickled these jalapenos for one of my brothers who loves them.  We have gotten around to just canning them right in with what we used to mix the pickled peppers with.  This year's peppers have fresh mixed horseradish that we got from our neighbors  (Thanks Don and Carol!).  I planted some of the leftover pieces in my kitchen garden to grow.  

So we went and picked my mom up from SC to keep her out of the path of Hurricane Florence. My mom is a busy person and needs something to do (wonder where I get it from?) Anyway, when she came, I mentioned I needed to clean the fabric up in my sewing room. I thought that would keep her busy all weekend. Ha. She finished that the same day, and called me up to help her. Then she wanted to vacuum, and before I knew what happened I was taking the vacuum cleaner apart and fixing it and she was directing me where to vacuum. Well then she proceeded to direct me on how to clean the dish drainer with a paint brush to get those tiny metal pieces. My husband took a turn when she wanted to clean out the refrigerator.  Anyway, we got so much done she ended up being more of a blessing to me than I was to her.   For those times when I just needed to sit down a minute, I found my husband's homemade blueberry wine to be delicious.  LOL.   It even gave me the subject matter for the children's moment I did the Sunday after, and left the house cleaner than ever for the events we had at our house the next weekend.

Life is so good. . .