Friday, July 30, 2010
One of the 50 Freedom Ranger chickens adopted the guineas as his buddies and formed a ballet troupe.
Lariat went into heat two weekends ago and we called the Artificial Insemination technician that our neighbor recommended. Because a cows heat cycle is only about a a day long, the AI guy is always on call. He showed up and it took him about 10 minutes to warm the straw and administer it. If all goes well, Lariat will have a calf at the end of April! LaFonda should go into heat this weekend.
The sires we chose for Lariat and LaFonda are mini breeds-mini Dexter for our Dexter, Lariat, and mini White Park for our Jersey mix, LaFonda. Our reasoning was that we have such small acreage, our pastures will better support mini cows. As novice farmers we are also a bit nervous about calving and we figured there would much less likely be problems if the calves were small breeds.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
It has taken me a couple of days to be able to compose myself to write the follow-up post about the steers. It went both harder and easier than I expected.
Friends lent us their horse trailer to transport the steers. It was a challenge to get them inside--Reuben had never been inside a trailer and Lasso only when he was a week old and came to our farm. An old heavy-duty barn door was used for a ramp.
Lariat mooed herself hoarse all night. I lay awake worrying that sometimes her voice sounded far away and maybe she had broken out--so I got up five times during the night, put on clothes and went out to check on her. I would stroke her and talk to her and she would quiet until I went inside and the bawling would start again.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I tried to write this post last night but I couldn't because looking at these photos made me cry. Actually, I am crying now, too. Today is the day our two steers, Rueben and Lasso, go to the processor.
Everybody tells us you shouldn't name any animals you plan to eat, but honestly, I don't think having a name or not would make a difference, we would still know them as individuals, and how can you not name them when you have so few?
We spent the weekend giving them extra attention and cow cookies. We let them into a new pasture with fresh yummy grass and gave them some of the new, sweet hay our farmer friend Bill delivered.
They have grown into such handsome animals. Last weekend when the AI technician came to breed Lariat, he noticed Reuben and remarked how he is a good looking Jersey steer---and is going to make excellent, lean beef.
So far, Cadence seems to be handling this impending event much better than I am. She comforted me, reminding me that when they were calves we made a contract with Reuben and Lasso, promising that we would feed them, shelter them, brush them and give them treats. We would lead them to green pastures and protect them from harm and love them, and in a year and a half, they would let us eat them. Now it is time, the contract is up--but the time went too fast.
This is truly the most heart-wrenching aspect of farming. I think from now on, when I can face eating beef, I will eat my hamburger or steak with a lot more reverence.
I am going to miss looking out the window and seeing four amiable bovines ambling across the yard.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Another really fun thing to do on a hot, muggy day is bake 48 loaves of sourdough bread in a wood-fired oven. First you build a big fire and let the thick oven walls heat up to 500 degrees. Then you pull out the fire.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Since raising the steers was originally her project, Cadence has been researching all the options, figuring out the costs, and making all the preparations. She composed a marketing message that I emailed out and posted on Facebook and she made some posters to hang at her work. I sent the email out last night and already have two responses reserving quarters. And two emails from friends who have met our steers and said they don't really want to know their meat that well.
This is going to be tougher than slaughtering the pigs last summer because we have had over a year to get to know these cattle. We have talked about whether we should sell the steers to somebody else so we don't have to deal with this part, but we agree that this was our intent, and we raised them so we would know exactly how our beef was raised--in this case, with no antibiotics or hormones, on green pasture, sustainably-grown hay and creamy milk, with love and affection and plenty of pampering. They have had a pretty idyllic life.
I ran to the edge of the woods, hoping to head them off before they got to the highway, but then I heard horns honking--they were on the road already. The highway is just two lanes with no shoulders and the cars come very fast over the hill, not expecting to suddenly have obstacles on the road, so this was very dangerous for them and for my cows. By the time I got to the edge of the woods I could see that the cows had safely crossed over and were running along the ditch to Douglas, the village at the bottom of the hill, where they tromped into a soy-bean field and started munching contentedly. As I ran the quarter mile along the road, I breathlessly phoned Rog at work and told him I couldn't pick him up yet - I had a cow emergency and was all alone and could he give me our dairy farmer neighbor's phone number?
When I called the neighbor's cell, Nancy wasn't at home but she said her husband and son would just be starting milking; when she arrived home she would see if anyone could come help me. I tried everything I could think of to herd the cows toward home but they were not interested in going that direction and dispersed every which way. I had no treats to lure them, no halter to lead them. Finally I tried rationalizing with them, telling them that I really needed them to follow me home, and miraculously, they did! for a little ways, to the ditch.
Our road is not a very busy road except in the morning and evening when people are driving to and from work in town. It was evening rush hour and cars had started to whiz by- many drivers craning their necks curiously as they passed, but nobody stopping. My biggest fear was of the cows suddenly bolting up from the ditch into the traffic.
Finally, a couple pulled over and asked if I needed help. I said YES! I would be so grateful, if they weren't afraid of cows. Well, the man turned out to be a dairy farmer from the next town who has 3,000 holsteins. He was so calm and knew exactly how to keep them moving together back along the ditch. His wife followed along in their vehicle, slowing the traffic. We finally got the cows across the intersection, where they immediately ran into the dairy farmer neighbor's cornfield, just as he and his family arrived to help herd them up. Getting the cows out of the corn was a bit tricky because our cows are so small and his corn was so tall, much taller than a man, they just disappeared. Finally, I located them in a row and drove them toward Mark, who turned them toward the road and his kids chased them up the embankment and across the road to our driveway. Then they all rushed back to do their milking while I lured the wayward cows into their fenced pasture.
After that hour-long chase scene, I was totally red, drenched in sweat, plastered with dirt, and had been crashing through ditches of dangerous wild parsnip, so I took a long, cold shower and let the adrenalin subside. Now I feel a teeny bit less sad about the idea of harvesting those steers next week.
Monday, July 19, 2010
My sprout orders have tripled in the past few months, with sprouting taking over almost half of the kitchen counter space--a big problem during Farmers Market baking season. In addition, the weather has been so hot and humid, the sprouts are growing too fast. So, this weekend we transformed the unused little bathroom in the nice cool basement into a sprouting room.
The spot where the toilet used to be makes a nice alcove for wire shelving for the sprout trays. We removed the door from the shower surround and set up the sinks inside. The sinks drain into a pipe that will empty into a 5-gallon bucket so I can capture the rinse water for watering my plants (sprout rinse-water is supposed to be full of plant growth enzymes.) If we ever move or I discontinue c growing sprouts, it will be very easy to revert this space to a normal bathroom.
After sanitizing all the surfaces I painted the walls with scrubbable paint--bright alfalfa sprout green with white wainscoating.
All I need now is a small work surface for spinning out the spouts and a radio to keep me company during the rinsing hours.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
We dined at a little coffeehouse and while we were there, a bunch of the bikers from the ride came in to fuel up a bit. There were 5 intrepid women in crazy mohawk helmets and they allowed me to photograph them.
Red Ribbon Ride, an annual 4-day ride from Minneapolis to Rochester and back that raises money for HIV-Aids service organizations. The women are known as "Team Milkshake" and this is their 6th year participating. This year they raised $13,400 in pledges. They also raise money by organizing an art auction in the Twin Cities. Over the 6 years they have raised over $120,000 for this cause!
Today is an incredibly steamy day - I wish them cooling tail-winds.
Friday, July 16, 2010
The farm has a new character--Gourdetta, who stands patiently in the middle of the veggie garden with the mission of keeping the birds away from the raspberries and tomatoes.
Gourdetta is much too skinny to be mistaken for me, however. Perhaps I should stuff her a bit to give her a more womanly figure.
She keeps the birds away, the turkeys help keep the bugs at bay.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
It was such an oppressively hot, sultry day yesterday that sweat ran down your body even when you were sitting still doing nothing. The temperature was upper 90's but it was extremely humid; the heat index was 115 degrees F. It sure felt like tornado weather, and there was a tornado watch called for all of southeastern Minnesota.
This is our week for taking off from the Farmers Market -- happily, we will have time to clean up the fallen tree branches.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Last night as we closed up the chicken coop and barn for the night, Cadence noted with a bit of concern that the turkeys had elected to sleep on the pile of brush in the bonfire circle by the big trees in the back yard. Last year we lost 25 chickens to a family of great horned owls, many of them nabbed in this exact spot. But, we haven't seen or heard any owls this summer and the turkeys were all settled in for the night so we didn't make them move.
Terrible mistake. This morning we discovered three of the nine turkeys beheaded and one totally missing, presumed eaten. Cadence was especially upset - she adores the turkeys and they follow her everywhere. She was most outraged that the owls are so wasteful, only eating the heads and leaving the bodies. One turkey they killed but didn't eat any of it.
Sadly, Cadence buried the turkeys under her grapevines where at least they will provide a bit of fertilizer. We will have to start herding the turkeys into the barn at night, at least until they are considerably bigger.
The five remaining turkeys seemed pretty calm for having just survived a night of carnage. Above, one of them is doing what I call "Turkey Tai Chi"in the morning sun. The turkey balances on one leg and very slowly and gracefully stretches the other into an arabesque.
Monday, July 12, 2010
There's nothing like an impending garden club tour of your farm to inspire a flurry of weeding, mulching, staking, thinning, planting, mowing, chicken-coop-cleaning and patio-powerwashing. That's how we spent yesterday. This morning before 7 a.m. I weeded the new asparagus rows planted this year (celery growing between.) I didn't take a "before" photo, but trust me, you would have had a difficult time recognizing it as an asparagus bed. Tonight I will mulch.
The yard, patio and garden are looking pretty presentable. Tonight I tackle the chicken coop and barn...