Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hodge-Podge Update

It has been too busy to keep the blog sufficiently updated. A few tidbits to catch up:

While filling the  stock tank inside the loafing shed a couple weeks ago, my alzheimers-ish brain got distracted, forgot  about the water filling, and it seriously overflowed in the shed.  Bethany and Brendan got to help me muck out the shed, and I do mean muck. Actually, first we had to do some bailing. Our new slogan is "When life gives you manure, make manure tea." We filled up the  big wheelbarrow and made manure tea for the tomatoes, squash and rhubarb.
Last week, Rog's mom Ruth visited from Oregon and our daughter Sara visited from North Carolina.  The weather  was not very  kind  - both of their flights were cancelled the first day, then delayed for hours the second day (the day we got 5 inches of rain and had fierce winds). The entire time they were here the temperature and humidity were  extremely high, reaching a record heat index of 118 F one day.  So, we spent most of our time indoors trying to keep cool, playing Scrabble and cards and just talking.
Sara got to meet our surrogate summer kids, Bethany and Brendan.  They collaborated cooking some delicious meals and braved the heat to go blackcap berry-picking.

Ruth and Sara's visit was far too short, and of course the morning they had to leave was wonderfully temperate and sunny.
The elderberry flowers are now done, but before  they ended Bethany explored their many culinary  uses: elderflower tea, elderflower syrup, elderflower cupcakes and these yummy elderflower fritters. To make the fritters, the flower heads are dipped in a light beer batter (or use club soda instead of beer), fried and sprinkled with confectioners sugar. 
A pretty barn swallow has chosen our milking parlor for her nesting site. She built her nest directly above where I set my bucket to sit on while milking.
 (If you ever see me with a bird dropping in my hair, this is probably where it came from.)
Rog repaired and reconnected the outdoor faucet, so now we have hot and cold running water on the patio--meaning we no longer have to haul those 5-gallon buckets through the house from the kitchen to clean the bucket milker. Yay!
One morning before it got unbearably hot, I persuaded Rog to lay out the stones to border the little birdbath garden that was totally disrupted when we  had to work on the septic system last spring. One clever little hen assisted by nabbing the worms he turned up.
I planted a few perennials and filled the birdbath, floating a little piece of wood that the honeybees can land on to gather water. This is the improved view out the dining room window.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Guinea Hen and Calf Wranglin'

It's not even noon yet as I begin this post and already we have had an impressive morning of accomplishments, beginning, of course, with the usual chores of cow-milking and poultry feeding. Oh, and Bethany annihilated all the potato bugs in the garden.

Bethany and Brendan noticed last night that one of the guineas had a feed-bag string wrapped around its foot. They chased it but could not catch the wily bird.  The next strategy was to nab it after it roosted for the night, but the guineas tuck their feet under them when they roost and  it is impossible to tell which guinea to nab. As soon as you grab one guinea, it alerts everyone to danger and all hope of capturing a guinea is lost.

This morning I found the big chicken-landing net and the Great Guinea Chase was on, around the  coop, through the barn, over the chain link fence, behind the garage, under the electric fence, through the pasture...
Finally, the guinea made the mistake of running inside the chicken coop; we shut the door and Bethany netted him.  Brendan held him down while Bethany gently clipped the string and released his foot.

Our second livestock wrangling adventure of the day involved the cows.  The objective was to get a halter on Lindyhop.  The interns have been working with the calves a bit and have put a nylon rope halter on Lindy before, but we will keep this fancy halter on him so he is easier to capture and control. After 5 days of weather so stifling hot and air so thick you could barely move, today is heavenly and the calves had a lot of pent-up energy to burn, racing laps around the pasture -- challenging to catch!
Finally we herded Lindy into the corner by the barn and Brendan corralled him with a gate.
Bethany slipped the halter over his head and adjusted it to fit.
Lindy had a lesson in leading
followed by a bit of brushing.
Then Mark, our dairy farmer neighbor arrived to help us with the real reason we had to get Lindy into the halter.  Rog and I had banded Lindy (to turn him from a bull calf into a steer) when he was a few weeks old, but it was becoming obvious that we had failed- he seemed very bullish.  Mark used a Burdizzo, a tool that castrates by crushing the cord that supplies blood to the testicles. There is no cutting and supposedly little or no pain after the procedure.  Mark tied him up tight to the gate and Brendan, Bethany and I held Lindy still against the barn wall while Mark  accomplished the task in just a couple minutes.  We are so fortunate to have dairy neighbors, willing to share their expertise with us.  And I am so relieved to now have a steer calf rather than a bull calf!

A side note about the miserable heat and humidity that has been dogging us:  The radio stated last night that 1000 cows had died from the heat, mostly in southwest and south central Minnesota. Mark said he knows of at least 10 cow mortalities on local farms and a nearby turkey farmer who lost 6000 turkeys day before yesterday.  That just breaks my heart.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cow Coolers

Yesterday was a record heat index for our region --with  the 95 degree temps and the incredible humidity, it felt like 118 degrees. Today is supposed to be even warmer - possibly  reaching a heat index of 120.  It only takes a few moments being outside before you are absolutely dripping in sweat. We people have been hunkering down inside with the comfort of our room air conditioner, but the cows and poultry are out there all day and night in the sweltering heat.

Last night all the cows, but especially LaFonda, looked totally bedraggled and miserable.  Even the nights haven't offered them much relief, cooling down only to about 85 degrees.  Last night I decided I needed to get another  big fan and direct it on the cows so at least they would have a breeze. The only place open by then was Walmart, so that's where I went.  They had lots of the inexpensive box fans I was looking for, but then I discovered an oscillating  stand fan with a mister, designed for use outdoors. A cold water mist from the hose combined with the breeze from the fan sounded the most cooling, and the outdoor fan seemed safer, so that's what I got. 

I set it up to blow through the gate next to the water tank. It is already muddy there and is a place where the cows often choose to stand to cool off.  They were a bit skittish about the fan, but were lured closer with a bit of hay, and soon discovered the refreshing mist. I believe they stood there in the cool spray and breeze all night.

This afternoon I moved the  fan to the  back yard in the shade. While Lariat and Jitterbug  munched in the spray, Lafonda cooled her tootsies in the kiddie pool.

Sorry, the photos are a bit foggy -- as soon as I step outside into the tropics, my camera instantly fogs up!

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Keep Cool

We're wilting! We are in the midst of a week-long stretch of steamy, sultry weather. It was 85 degrees at 8 a.m. and is expected to get into mid 90s with dripping humidity making for a heat index of  up to 115 F.  But we have some strategies for keeping cool:

1. Find a shady spot.

2. Turn on a fan.

3. Get wet.

4. Avoid physical exertion - read rather than weed.

5. Eat light, healthy meals, such as a beet-greens-squashblossom garden salad and snow peas stuffed with cream cheese and herbs.

6. Drink plenty of liquids. The beverage that sustains us through hot summer days is limeade made with club soda, on the rocks with a sprig of bruised mint.
7. Remember it will be cold, cold winter soon enough.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hot Cows

When we woke up this morning at 6 a.m. it was already 80+ degrees and drippingly humid out.  Way too hot to do any gardening today, but I let my live lawnmower out and she went to work on the back yard.

I moved all the cows to the back yard because there are many large trees providing shade and it is on the crest of the hill, so usually has a bit of a breeze.  I worry about all the animals in this sauna-like weather, but especially the cows.  I know they like to lie in wet, cool places when it hot - this morning when LaFonda came in to be milked she was covered in mud and poo from choosing the wettest,  muddiest spot possible to spend the night.  I had to give her a bath before I could even milk her.

Someone on The Family Cow online message board mentioned that she discovered her cow standing in the water tank when it was hot, and others responded that cows like to keep their feet cool by standing in cool streams when it is hot.  So, Rog hauled out the old kiddie pool we used to confine day-old chicks last year and I filled it with water.  LaFonda dipped her toe in to test the water, then climbed right in.  All the cows were curious and investigated, but LaFonda is the only one to go wading so far.  She has been standing in the pool, chewing her cud, for three hours now.
Meanwhile, Lindy played with his old friend, the tire swing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Rhapsody of Rhaspberries

We are currently blessed with an abundance of red and black raspberries!

Last night,  Brendan and Bethany made the loveliest, most delicious, magenta-colored soup:  RaspberryBorscht, from a recipe found in The New Vegetarian Epicure.  The raspberries, beets, and onion came from our garden, and each bowl was artfully dolloped with a bit of creme fraiche  (compliments of our  cow LaFonda) and a garden basil leaf.  So delicous!

To accompany the soup, Brendan baked a loaf of his signature Irish Soda bread (made with home-made buttermilk) and Bethany made some queso fresco.  For dessert, we had a cherry -raspberry clafouti, but I was so enjoying eating it I forgot to snap a photo.
All this week, when they weren't picking berries (note Bethany's clever "blickey basket" contraption for berry-picking),
Bethany and Brendan were jammin.'  Some of the raspberry, black raspberry, and raspberry-hot pepper jam will be sold at the Farmers Market tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Peddling My Wares

At Sargents' annual Garden Party yesterday, where  I was invited to be an exhibiting artist.