Well. I knew it had been awhile, but really? Where has the time gone and why is it that there never seems to be a spare minute to sit down and write?
Spring is here. Sort of. Today it’s sunny, the ground is starting to dry up – but still, this Spring is taking its time, and I mean really really taking it’s time. The weather man is calling for snow on the weekend, and although I generally don’t complain too much about winter weather, I am truly sick of it.
So what have we been up to? Well I mentioned that Bruce was due for knee surgery – it went well, the rehab went well and he’s generally happy with the results. His biggest beef with having blown out his knee? Not being able to do stuff. Not being able to work with the draft horses, not being able to stay on top of the numerous things one has to stay on top of with the farm. But we’re getting back to it.
Of course as things usually go around here, the morning after the surgery, when he was supposed to be ‘resting’ the knee – our draft mare Sahra cycled into a heat and decided she would rub her big arse on the gate post separating our field from neighbor to the South, until she had it down flat. Literally. Then she set about heading across a ten acre field along with her half brother Sam, to visit the two mares over there – just because she could. Naturally, I’m at work. Naturally Bruce doesn’t think to call a friend who has horses who would have been happy to come over and help fetch them – no. He gets a call from the neighbor letting us know the drafts are over there and no they can’t close their front gate to the road because of the deep snow, and he has to take the wife to work.
So – he bundles up, fetches up halters, lead ropes, hammer, nails to fix the gate and painstakingly heads off through four foot drifts, trying to use the holes the drafts made with their platter sized hooves, likely looking like a drunken sailor had anybody been watching, and finally makes it to the neighbors barn. Well they aren’t the least bit interested in getting haltered, and being smart, know very well that he’s not moving too quick through the drifts and if they just stand there like bricks then maybe they can stay and visit a little longer. Now my gelding Colter is no dummy either – it’s not that he’s not inclined to get into trouble, he’s just more inclined to notice that the cranky mare has vacated the big round of hay and promptly takes advantage of the fact that he can stuff his face into it and eat until – well the horses come home.
So Bruce tries – and tries to halter the drafts. He finally gets around to Sam and pops the halter on, the lead rope on and like horses sometimes do, Sam decides that he’s not going anywhere if Sahra isn’t going anywhere. Sahra decides that if every time Bruce makes it through the snow around to her head, she simply has to turn a one eighty and he’ll be looking at her big butt. Exhausted, knee killing him, almost at his wits end, he finally remembers a trick he watched me do once to get the horses moving, and simply started twirling the lead rope through the air until it started making that weird noise they don’t like and voila! Horses bolt for home.
So much for resting the knee.
April 7th, our little heifer Daisy Duke gave birth to the cutest little calf – another girl in the family – and despite us not knowing when she was due, and being just this side of worried we would be at work or some fool thing when she had it, turns out she picked a Monday morning before work to calmly pop it out with nary a peep. Great excuse for me to take the day off! Amazing how quick they get up and get to the chow line – hardly five hours later she was jack rabbiting around like nobody’s business. Of course with the calf, comes the milk – and lucky for me, one of my fellow bloggers was able to offer some sound advice on the ‘who’s in charge of the cow/calf dynamic’ when it comes to deciding you want some of that milk for yourself. I’m an old hand at goats – much simpler if you ask me…..I leave the boys on momma for six weeks, the girls for eight and simply wean them and start milking. For Daisy – I decided in the end I would take the morning milk for now – gave the two of them a week together then we pulled the calf off overnight and let her sleep in the milking parlor. Haha on us – wow. Daisy hollered for the entire night – I turned up the TV and closed the windows trying to tune it out, kept expecting neighbor to the South to phone over and ask us what the hell was going on – seriously it sounded like we were sticking her with a pitchfork until dawn. It was ever so tempting to simply head out to the pen and let her have the calf, but I stuck to it knowing that in the end neither of them were going to die of an eight hour separation. Come morning I brought Daisy in, tied her up, tied the calf next to her and milked away. Next night – not a peep out of Daisy, smart cow.
Now Bruce is all about the BUTTER. Before I can blink he manages to round up the loaner of an antique cream separator from a farmer down the road who despite purchasing the finest cow in the land last year, has yet to be able to catch her and milk her – though he’s holding out hope for her calf. In the meantime we’re welcome to use the separator – which would be just awesome if I were actually pulling a whole gallon off of Daisy every morning, but I’m not yet, and there’s no sense in getting the separator dirty for a couple quarts of milk – seriously, that thing has a zillion parts that ALL have to be cleaned after each use. Still, I managed to skim the cream the regular ‘with a spoon’ way, and last weekend we made butter. Yep – it’s good. I also have a block of Muenster cheese aging away in the back room – going to give it a try this weekend.
The biggest issue I’m having with Daisy really – she’s not much interested in standing all that still for all that long. She’s not a huge cow, but I recall it being a whole lot easier to wrestle a stubborn goat into standing still than I do wrestling Daisy. She’s a sweet personality, but once she decides she’s had enough, well it’s amazing how far she can back up, go forward, back up, hang a left – all while being tied up. Last weekend she took advantage of a moments inattention on my part and planted her hoof straight into the bucket of milk. ARRRGH! Sigh…… Bruce looks at me – ‘what happened there?’
‘Thought I’d give the cats an early Christmas’
Yeah. Here kitty kitty kitty – nine times as we have nine cats – oh yeah, they know what fresh cow milk is and don’t much care if it’s had a foot in it or not.
Training training and more training, on both our parts. Now Bruce swore he was going to be the one to milk this cow. I swore I wasn’t going to milk anything again until I had running water. Let’s see here……I’m milking the cow and I still only have running water in the shower. Good thing I’m an easy going sort (ha ha not). I have a plan. Once Miss Daisy Duke is standing still for longer than it takes me to haul milk out of her like my pants are on fire, I will turn at least part of the chore over to Bruce, until he has the hang of it. I don’t know – I guess there are people that can milk and people that can’t. Seriously, every time he tries, he swears Daisy is EMPTY of milk. I point out that if I can get milk and the calf can get milk, she’s not out of milk. We’re working on it.
(well you can see what I mean about finding time to blog……it’s now a month since I started this one 🙂
So – just in the past month or so – I have running water in the kitchen. No kidding. And a drain. Wow! Hats off to all the way back homesteading women who did everything without the luxury of running water. It’s been almost ten years to the day and I will say – I like having running water in my kitchen.
Update on the Muenster cheese. Now I don’t know what exactly muenster cheese is supposed to taste like, but I’m pretty certain I didn’t hit the mark. One of the reasons I picked that one to try was it uses a whole gallon of milk, and it’s ready in a week. Sooooo……make cheese, press cheese, dry and turn and salt cheese for a week and voila!
In theory. We got home on a Friday night and I brought this perfect little wheel of cheese into the kitchen, sliced into it – I was happy to see some cheese loving bacteria hadn’t helped itself to the goodies – I took a bite. I chewed. I made a face.
‘Well?’ Bruce awaits the verdict.
‘It tastes,’ I said, ‘like dirty socks would smell like.’
‘Really? Give me a slice.’
I hand over the other half of the slice and wait.
‘Yep.’ he says. ‘That’s actually a really good description of what it tastes like.’
I took the remainder of the slice and tossed it out for the cats – my cats actually eat nearly anything. Except smelly sock cheese. It was still there the following day and the day after that. I cut the wheel in half and split it with the dogs. It got eaten…..but that doesn’t say much considering the dogs are less fussy than the cats.
Now, I’m back to making the regular cow milk version of soft cheese – similar to a goat Chevre, but with a few different steps. Good enough for the moment – it’s quick, I can let it do it’s cheese thing overnight and drain it the following day while I’m at work, it freezes well. I am still trying to find a reliable, quick, easy to make ‘hard, sliceable, cheddar type cheese’ for Bruce who isn’t a fan of the soft cheese.
So in the last month, Summer has arrived. Because it took so long to get here, getting the garden in was a bit of a panic. For starters we had to dismantle four of the garden beds – two of which had collapsed, and rebuild them. These aren’t garden beds Bruce built – things that Bruce builds will be here long after we’re dead. These beds were built by a fellow who used to bring us firewood. I had a truck I wanted to sell. He wanted the truck but couldn’t afford it – not that it was worth that much. So I made him a deal. (Note to self – stop making deals because you want to help somebody out) Aside from bringing us wood, which we paid him for, he also in his spare time built log furniture, beds, garden benches etc. I said to him that if he build me four garden beds similar to the ones Bruce already had in place, he could have the truck. Well he thought he was getting the better deal – so he also offered to build us a nice log bed for the house. Fair enough.
Now I don’t know what got lost in the translation, but the garden beds he made us began to collapse almost from the minute we started filling them with dirt. As did the double bed frame he made us for our bedroom. Sigh. Regardless, I spent an entire day off shovelling the dirt out of them, Bruce spent an entire day rebuilding them and we both spent a weekend digging them over with manure and more dirt and finally got the garden planted. The greenhouse needed attention too – every fall we cover it with tin as the poly won’t survive the snow load – but this year the poly needed to be replaced altogether. That got done, and planted. Potatoes got planted. Now we water and wait, water and wait.
Daisy cow update: We’re getting along just fine at the milking thing, no more foot in the bucket issues – she has a new game. A minute or so into milking and she flips up her tail and drops it across the back of my neck. Stop milking, move tail, keep milking. A few seconds later – thump. Tail on the back of my neck. Stop milking, move tail…… today she has a new idea. Swing tail between legs and drop in milk bucket. Stop milking move tail, start milking, tail lands in bucket, repeat. Thankfully I have a really deep milk pail and at least the tail isn’t actually in the milk.
Daisy has come a long ways – she’s now tame as can be, halters, un-halters, comes when called, knows the routine. I’m now on Bruce about her feet. Our soil here is not conducive to wearing feet down on the four leggeds – hers are going to need a trim. Now cows are not horses, or goats…..I’m pretty sure there’s a guy around this area that has a table that flips over horizontal for trimming cows. I’m not going to call him – it reminds me of the time we called a farrier to pull the shoes off of the drafts and trim them up. “Sure,” he says, “I’ll have a go at that.”
He arrived, got out of the truck, walked down the drive to where the drafts stood waiting. “Oh. Those are some really big horses!”
It all went rather sideways. The drafts took an instant dislike to the man, he was instantly afraid of them. Next thing we know they decide they want nothing to do with him, back up as a team and break a twelve foot post rail we had them tied to. I thanked him for coming, suggested maybe we would work with the drafts a little more and call him in the future. I wondered what part of ‘DRAFT’ horses he didn’t understand during our phone conversation. Point being, I’m expecting Bruce to train that cow to let him deal with her feet. Oddly enough – last night he thought he’d let her out of her evening time with the calf – early. Into the barn, into the milking parlor and Daisy is laying there chewing her cud and has no intention of getting up and heading out to the field early. Her internal clock says it’s not eight o’clock yet. On a whim, Bruce parks his rear on the floor with her and proceeds to clean out her feet with a handy hoof pick. Daisy didn’t even blink. Huh. The man is good at this stuff, I’ll give him that. Still can’t get a drop of milk out of her, but I’ll trade that for feet that are trimmed and in good shape anytime.
Horse update: Anybody who’s owned horses knows they cost money. Totally blew the budget this year on just plain old regular horse type maintenance. Vaccinations, booster shots, tetanus. Float teeth. Remove wolf teeth from Sam. Deworming. Last but not least, we had Sahra implanted with a slow release hormone so she will stop cycling for the summer. This will save our fence posts, save her tail from rubbing right off, save any injury to her privates, save her the trouble of moving our fifteen hundred pound horse stocks several feet in the other direction because she CAN. Some mares cycle and you wouldn’t know it. Sahra is not one of those mares.
Bruce has now got the stone boat built – just need a pole and a few other small items and the drafts will be going to work hauling it around as we start clearing the bush of dead wood – something we did not get to doing this winter. A couple of weeks ago I managed to blow another day off, thrashing through said ‘bush’ and digging up, pulling up, cutting up a fifty year old barbed wire fence that was mostly overgrown and buried in the undergrowth – and no, I did not have too many pleasant thoughts about the previous owners for letting the fence rot where it stood. What a mess – but now I can comfortably consider letting the cow and calf and the horses should they want, hang out in the bush and clear it of poplar saplings and the such.
Well on that note – I’m waiting on the bread to rise in the pans (this is how I managed the time to write this) it’s about to go in the oven, the house is so hot I can barely stand it and once the bread is out I’m escaping to the great outdoors and a never ending list of chores – until next time, hope all my followers out there are having a good day.