1/1 Friday New Year’s Day -6f this morning, bright sun, but it feels bitterly cold and worse is predicted. Thank God we now have some snow cover although not enough. Helen gave less than a gallon this morning, shy by about 1 cup. I suppose because of extra trips up and down the ladder to deal with the hose, I forgot to throw down the hay. I don’t believe I’ve ever forgotten that before in my life. They did have some left, rather stemmy. After breakfast when I remembered their hay I also set up the layer hens with a bird bath waterer. In this weather, even indoors, they have water only about 15 minutes at most before it becomes ice. The bantams and cats can reach the cattle water. In this weather it seems everything I do is related to dealing with cold, then I feel like going to sleep.1/1 pm It’s still bitterly cold. The tenant called and had lost her water. I sure hope I don’t lose mine, especially in the barn. For some parts of Maine -30f is predicted with a wind-chill bringing it down to -80; the “parts” they are referring to are usually this part. I believe all the animals are comfortable except some of the bantams but there isn’t a thing I can do for them way high in the rafters. I put out old sweaters and things for the cats to nestle in. So far the thermometer registers only -6 but the wind must be about 35mph and the cold hits me in the face very hard. Total milk today about 1.6 gal.
1/2 am Saturday It’s no colder today than yesterday but I’m liking it less. However the sun is shining brilliantly and the critters don’t seem to be minding the weather much except I notice the cats are pretty bunched up, old animosities forgotten. 1 full gallon this morning.
1/2 pm Everything I do seems cold related and consequently miserable but so far no frozen pipes. Three eggs today, one of which was frozen solid and burst. That’s what they do in this weather if not picked up promptly. They aren’t good for much then because the yolk goes solid just as though it had been boiled. 1.6 gal today.
1/3 am Sunday Down to -10f this morning. A major storm is said to be on the way so I delayed going to the barn until I had started wash, showered, and filled the teakettles before going out. While still in the barn, our tenant arrived cold and hatless. She had locked her self out of the house when she went out to fill her bird feeder. After finding her a second key, I tried to water the cattle but found the tap frozen. It behaved as though the thread was stripped. But thank God I was able to get it to function after ten minutes or so of pouring hot water over it. A little over a gallon of milk this morning.
1/3 pm Right about noon with snow falling heavily, all three of the cattle, Helen, Henry and Herbie, marched purposefully up to the north end of the field and disappeared from view. I don’t know if perhaps Stewart feeds them apples there. I haven’t noticed them do this before. It made me nervous because a cow we once had, Hope, used occasionally in winter to break out and head up to a neighbor’s pasture about a half mile away, a place to which she had occasionally made illicit summertime visits. I always surmised that she was checking to see if perhaps it was still summer up there. This time ours reappeared after five minutes and marched home. At 6 pm it’s still snowing hard. 1.75 gal tonight. 5 eggs.
1/4 am Monday 25f this morning and feels warm! We got close to a foot of snow. It took me 20 minutes to shovel out the mailbox. When I let Helen in for milking, Henry followed close on her heels instead of heading for his own grain as usual. I rounded him up and chased him back out with a few words. As I ran him down the ally to the beefer pen where he is supposed to be I narrowly missed being run over be Helen. Due, I suppose, to the ruckus, instead of heading for her own grain she turned and followed me and her son. Something made me look back over my shoulder in time to see her pounding down the ally about two feet behind me. She put on the breaks when I waved my arms at her. I got less than a gallon of milk.
1/4 pm Helen and the boys seemed agitated today. Henry kept running around and kicking up his heels trying to get Herbie to play. Herbie always acts depressed. My new rooster that is so beautiful acts like he is dying. I can see that his amazing rose comb got frost bitten. Poor thing is huddled in a corner and one of the bantam hens that came with him was tucked under his wing. I took him some warm milk but he wouldn’t drink much. I won’t be surprised if he is dead in the morning. Two eggs today. 1.75 gal milk.
1/5 am Tuesday -9f this morning. All the animals are coping except for the lovely new rooster. All that ornamental comb chilled him severely. I brought him into the kitchen this morning but could not save him. He had painful frostbite I could tell. Poor old thing. The phoenix which slept in the spruce next to the house wisely moved to the barn when the nights got severe and sustained no damage except to the very tips of his comb. He will lose those tips. It is staying cold. There is a crust on the snow that was brilliant last night under moonlight and is blinding now under sun.
1/5 pm Helen and the calves looked very contented when I said goodnight. They were standing in a pool of light munching hay. I closed their outer door against the weather. But today I got only 1.5 gal. Three eggs.
1/6 am Wednesday It was -15 when I got up and had dropped to -18 by the time I left the house. The bantams were huddled miserably on the hay and weren’t even sure they wanted to move to get their cracked corn. Plenty of them wanted their warm water though. For the first time I was unable to get the water running in the barn. I went back to the house for a fresh kettle of boiling water but that has not helped either.
1/6 pm No water. I wrapped the faucet in a heating pad and left it all day to no avail. It’s frozen farther down. I carried 10 gal. of water in a clean plastic trash can with a snap-down lid. It leaked when it tipped over. I had to make my way through a foot of crusty snow and then the thing was too heavy and slippery to pour properly. Now I feel pretty stiff. 1.76 gal today. 5 eggs, two were frozen and split.
1/7 am Thursday -8f this morning and the water remains frozen. Helen was mooing. Thirsty no doubt. It came to me that I had a collection of 1 gal jugs. These were spring water empties left behind by some people who stayed here last winter while I was gone. There were a dozen of them and they had their lids. If they had been used for milk or were without lids they would have done me no good because milk jugs stink too much and I have to pull things to the barn on a wobbly plastic toboggan. As I filled them all with spring water Handel’s Royal Water Music came on the radio which I considered a strong endorsement. I dragged them to the barn and poured them into Helen’s tub. This only provided about 4″ of water but she seemed satisfied. All this has taken most of the morning.
1/7 pm I went for feed, then came home and began filling jugs again. This system works but is so time consuming. Son Martin called from Eau Claire WI. He will be here Sunday, weather permitting, and hopes to develop an alternative water system for me. Not to the barn, that’s too far away, just to the run-in behind the house. Helen will have to walk over here to drink. I didn’t get much milk tonight, just half a gallon. Helen didn’t get enough water. Got three eggs, one was frozen.
1/8 am Friday -12f this morning. Milking plus waterworks took and hour and a half. I hope the winter boots I ordered arrive soon. My toes don’t like the weather. Right now it’s fine and sunny but a big snowstorm is predicted for this evening. Henry is a terrible pest. He is pushy and I can’t turn my back on him lest he jump me. He knocks over the water jugs. He wants his bad little face in the middle of everything. 1 gal. milk this morning and Helen was touchy and almost kicked.
1/8 pm It warmed up to about 20 today and the sun shone but a major snowstorm is on the way. Although it is a lot of work the water in jugs is working out OK from Helen’s standpoint. Production was back up today to close to what it’s been: 1.7 gal for the day.
1/9 Another day of water carrying. More snow has fallen followed by sleet. Nonetheless, Martin thinks he may come tomorrow to work on the water system. A special thrill today: I received a galley proof of Keeping A Family Cow that son Bret has printed. Soon people will be able to buy it. I’m pretty tired. 1.75 gal milk today. 4 eggs.
1/10 Sunday. I carried water again today but sons Mark and Martin arrived around noon and have worked all day on plumbing in a new system and also adding in some electrical service so that me and the cows can see. The weather was cold but clear. 1.75 gal today and two eggs.
1/11 am Thermometer said -8f this morning but it felt colder. The new cow water in the run-in under the garage was clear and unfrozen with the submersible heater in. The boys had banked sand around it which may be what made the difference. Or is may just be warmer under there. Ordinarily the heater only keeps the water open in the middle. The cattle had not drunk any. I shall go out with some apples and lead them over to it. My kitchen hot water line is frozen this morning.
1/11 pm It’s painful to state, the new water system froze along towards evening. Probably tomorrow I can thaw it but tonight I carried water down to the tub in a five gallon bucket. It seemed I didn’t get a whole lot done today. Got 1.75 gal milk today and 3 eggs.
1/12 am Tuesday Of course everything is still frozen. I don’t have time to work on defrosting today so am just carrying water to the tub in a 5 gal. bucket. It is much easier than filling 12 jugs and sledding them to the barn because it is much closer. The cows visit the water often. The sun is out and the day started at -0-f.
1/12 pm One of the red roosters was cold and discouraged this morning. I was able to pick him right up. I set him down next to the food and after awhile he ate a bit. Then I set him next to the water and after awhile he drank. About 20 minutes later he appeared well recovered but the tips of his formerly elegant comb will fall off. 1.75 gal today and two eggs. It’s turning colder.
1/13 Wednesday Today seemed to go on forever. It was cold and blizzardy and I spent a great deal of time working on my frozen stock water system. Cousin Marcia gave me a hair dryer for pipe defrosting. I climbed up under the buttery where the pipe lies. It’s dusty dry sand under there. Helen and the steers hung around watching almost all the while I was at it. Henry kept crowding in and was his usual great nuisance. I gave him a whiff with the hair dryer every so often and he would back off for a moment. Helen of course was hoping for water. The sandy slope has clearly been used as a litter box by the cats forever, fortunately all frozen. What a horrible job! But after well over an hour I was finally rewarded by the sight of small cylindrical ice bits emerging from the pipe soon followed by water. I guess the thought of the alternative, carrying 5 gal buckets of water, kept me at it. The weather report warns of -45f in some parts of Maine tonight. Let’s hope they didn’t mean here. 1.75 gal milk today and 4 eggs.
1/14 am It was -26f at 5:30am and had dropped to -28f by 7am when I went to the barn. Now at 9am it has risen to -20. I wore my full length down coat to the barn and Helen didn’t recognize me. Instead of walking in to be milked she circled around as though inclined to flee. But my voice finally reassured her. She was shaking with cold and hadn’t stopped by the time I turned her back out. I got less than a gallon. I could have worked for a little more but she was so miserable and even kicked a little bit that I quit. My toes were cold even in my good new boots. I was able to fill their water tub with no trouble, then blew through the line from inside the cellar. So far that is working. The cattle had not been over to drink this morning. It’s probably 150 yards for them to walk. I expected to find frozen bantams but all seemed OK. I put out hot water and cracked corn. Corn is a very heat producing feed.
1/14 pm It finally got up to 8f today and the sun shone for awhile. Helen and the steers stood in the sun to chew their cuds after finishing their hay and got all warmed up. I went out to the barn about every two hours to take more warm water to the chickens and make sure the cows had water. In between times I worked on final editing of Keeping A Family Cow and am making good progress. I gave all the animals extra grain to help keep them warm. I cannot close the cows in the barn now because they need to be able to walk over for their water. Another storm is on the way. Total milk for today, 1.75 gal. Three eggs but one was frozen.
1/15 am Friday Another big storm has started. Snow is falling very fast. It’s warming up and the snow is almost like sleet so we may lose power. Helen was in much better shape this morning and gave slightly over a gallon. Henry and Herbie continue to molest the power plug to the new water system. They had knocked out the plug in the night which means the submersible heater is unplugged so their water was frozen this morning. Later today I hope to have time to invent a barrier that stops them but not me.
1/15 pm For a while today the stock water was frozen but this time I got it going with the hair dryer after about 15 minutes. The sleet continues to fall making it a nasty trip for water for Helen. I rigged up a barrier to stop Henry and Herbie knocking loose the lighter and water heater plug. So far it has stopped them. Today I began top dressing Helen’s feed with wheat germ oil blend for added vitamin E in her diet. I probably should have started two weeks ago. The snow now has a thick crust. I stumbled over it going into the barn and the bucket lid skidded away quite a distance. 1.75 gal today and two eggs.
1/16 am Saturday Very brilliant sun today on crust so thick I could walk on much of it without breaking through even while carrying buckets. All the critters seem satisfied. Got a bit over 1 gal of milk. When going down the steep part to check their water I used a ski pole and had to jab hard.
1/6 pm I had to use the hair dryer twice today to start the cow’s water. I think the valve may seep slightly. A drip always freezes. But in this case Henry and Howie keep horsing around the tub and bending the pipe so any drip is going to puddle in the line and freeze. My barrier doesn’t stop him at all. I left the bulb unscrewed tonight. It seems to be the light bulb that they want to lick and nudge. I wish it would burn their noses but it just seems to attract them. 1.75 gal again today and five eggs. One was frozen but I fried it anyway.
1/17 am Sunday Once again brilliantly sunny on a glittering crust now thicker than ever. This time when I slipped going into the barn the lid of my pail slid even farther down a slope. I had to crawl back up on my hands and knees. One place I stomped through the crust for a foothold my whole leg went down into the drift. It’s much warmer, 38f in the sun, and the eaves are dripping. Some folks that came for a cat couldn’t get back out of the driveway until I created a trail of ashes for traction. But now Stewart has plowed and made it a lot better.
1/17 pm It got over 40f today and there was considerable melting off the barn roof. The barn floor is a mess thanks to the bantams congregating in there. I’m plotting ways to thin out their ranks. I can advertise to give them away but must first find a way to pen them. Then I can send people in among them with a butterfly net. Just over 1.5 gal today and three eggs. I made 1.5 lb. of butter and have enough cream to make it again tomorrow if I can get around to it.
1/18 Monday I have a new milk customer, old friend Nancy. She bought a half gallon of milk and a pound of butter. I rarely even mention selling butter because I am not willing to part with it for less than $4/lb. But Nancy said that was fair enough so I sold her a pound. Temp was over 30f all day. Yesterday’s plowing was a help but it didn’t reach to the garage and the warm temp created ice and heavy crust there as everywhere. It took me 45 minutes with the axe and shovel and ash bucket to get my car out of the garage. The ice crust on the snow is a good inch thick. I broke it up with the axe. Helen didn’t give much over 1.5 gal today. I got 5 eggs. After dark I caught Blackie’s midsummer daughter who should be about ready to lay and put her in with the layers. Herbie and Henry are getting harder to manage. Herbie kicked me tonight after I served out their grain. I swung the bucket at him, not that he noticed.
1/19m a mm tu[esdayum im gu[essm im æu[stm canmhj’tm ritem onnm this nmrhj’ing. (no you’re not going nuts, roof leaks on keyboard here…) The driveway is a sheet of ice. I didn’t write the diary this morning because last night just as I was about to go to bed and I came in to turn out the light next to my computer water was pouring down on my head. I guess it was ice back up in the roof . it was swamping my computer but especially the keyboard. I had on my bathrobe and whipped it off and put it over the computer. there was so much water I had to towel dry my hair. I didn’t even dare go for a towel. I tried putting my raincoat over it all but it wasn’t big enough to divert all the water. I went and got the shower curtain. off and on all day I’ve been working on the keyboard with the hair dryer. a first I held it up and water simply poured out. it typed nothing but garbage. it has improved as the hours go by. but one letter does not work at all (it is ‘w’ – I’m going through and adding them so you don’t have to read ‘it asn’t orking at all’!!! -ed.) I guess you can guess hich one. also the caps don’t work. 1.75 gal 4 eggs very warm. driveway a sheet of ice.
1/20 am Wednesday the driveway is worse than ever. on the way in with the milk I did slip but managed to save the milk albeit at some cost to my elbow. the lid of course fell off the bucket and the milk rose straight up in the air. most of it came right back down into the bucket so I lost very little. there is no good way to detour around the ice because the parts not plowed have crust so thick it is as hazardous as the ice. It would hold me up walking on it but is not flat like the driveway so is worse. I can stamp through it but then I sink in to the top of my leg. Helen didn’t ant to leave her stanchion after milking. She wanted to finish her special hay. 1 gal milk this morning, less whatever I lost.
1/20 pm I plugged the stock water heater back in tonight. the weather report is for temps in the single numbers tonight. I also found someone to shovel off the roof. Helen seems very hungry for her good hay that she gets in her stanchion. I need to think of some way to feed her separately once in awhile I think I got 1.75 gal today. 2 eggs.
1/21 am Thursday Stewart was out there first thing this morning putting sand on my driveway so I don’t slip again going to the barn. this really helped. in the barn, Blackie had already laid her egg and was waiting to go back inside. I managed to get the layer’s outer door opened so the can have more light and air. it had been frozen shut for a week. I worked things out so Helen could have a longer time this morning to eat her hay but wouldn’t you know, she wasn’t that interested and strolled right back out to join the boys. 1 gallon exactly this morning.
1/21 pm it stayed warm all day contrary to the forecast so no trouble with the water. my elbow that took the fall yesterday shows considerable black and blue but isn’t bothering me. total milk today 1.75 gal. 2 eggs
1/22 am Friday I was nearly 45 minutes later than usual getting to the barn this morning but Helen was as relaxed as ever. it is sunny today and above freezing but another storm is on the way. the steers had knocked away the plug of the water heater again. the water in the tub was not frozen but the copper pipe as. I soon had it going using the hair dryer but it sure is irritating. 1 gal. plus 1 cup this morning.
1/22 pm another warm day in the 30’s. the chickens don’t go out at all. they just hang out in the barn messing up the place. henry and Herbie are getting very pushy. I suspect their combined weight now exceeds Helen. I’m on the lookout for the day she defers to one of them at the hay feeder. 1.74 gal today and four eggs
1/23 am Saturday it’s another warm day. The weatherman is starting to refer to this as ‘atypical weather’. We got an inch or so of snow in the night causing treacherous footing on the ice. Helen gave a skimpy gallon this morning. The steers have discovered where I throw the carrot peelings and other vegetable trimmings out the back window of the buttery. I see them checking it now every day. Their most recent find was a couple of stalks of Brussels sprouts that had frozen and thawed once too often.
1/23 pm Son Martin came and worked for hours on further improvements to the stock watering system. He also put up barbed wire to stop the steers going around behind the waterworks and pushing things over. He also installed an industrial strength weather and stockproof light which has a cast metal grill around it. Let them try and bust that! Also today the vet came and we got one cat spayed. That was Crumpet. Helen gave 1.75 gal again today.
1/24 Sunday It has rained all day, a slushy rain that no one could love. It is still warm, 36f. 1.75 gal again today and 4 eggs.
1/25 am Monday Now we have bright sun, but colder. Yesterday’s rain has extended the ice area. Once again I have to go down the steps on my bottom when going around back to check the cattle water system. Last night it did not freeze the pipe even though it was 24f this morning and the heat tape is not plugged in. Martin replaced the foam lagging on the pipe. That must be what is saving it. 1 gallon of milk this morning. All three lying down cudding comfortably at 11:30 when I put out more hay.
1/25 pm 1/75 gal of milk today and one egg; it was Blackie’s. She is very faithful. But so pecky to the other birds, never cuts them any slack.
1/26 am Tuesday A fine sunny day, 10f. The new water pipe was frozen but it required only about three minutes of heat tape to start the water. Everywhere is still very icy. I take little fairy steps coming in with the milk. 1 gallon plus 1 cup this morning.
1/26 pm Hurrah! I have a properly functioning keyboard and mouse again following a week of struggle. Writing this diary has been a severe trial for me and for my editor who had to deal with text with no W . And the mouse would barely function. After milking and straining the milk I went straight down to check the water. We expect cold temperatures tonight so I plugged in the submersible water heater, as usual testing for stray voltage by putting a finger in the water. Not good enough. Helen walked up behind me and put her head down for a drink and jumped back like a jack rabbit. I immediately unplugged the heater and sozzled my hand around in the water to show her it was safe while talking gently and promising never to plug the darned thing in again. She came back and in very gingerly fashion touched the water with one edge of her lip. Then she took her drink. Thank God I saw this happen. 1.75 gallons of milk today and 4 eggs.
1/27 am I got up exceptionally early today, about 4am. That was before daylight. I filled the water tub last thing last night and it was nearly all drunk during the night. So Helen comes during the night to drink. I have a light on in there although with moonlight on the snow it is scarcely needed I think. 1 gal. this morning.
1/27 pm It warmed up to about 36f today. The ice melted off part of the barnyard where Stewart plowed away nearly all the snow. It created a puddle. Five roosters from the bantam flock came out to drink and wade. They played around for at least an hour. No hens came out. I don’t understand this. Helen seems happy but I only got a little over 1.5 gal today. There were 5 eggs including one from one of the hens that was given me before Christmas; I think she is a Lace Wyandotte. She is certainly very pretty. I believe this is the first time she has laid for me. The egg was small, pointy and light brown.
1/28 am Thursday 10f this morning and the stock water flowed. However the tub itself was frozen over now the heater is gone. I gave it a kick and broke up the ice. A couple of bantam hens followed me in with the layers this morning. A rooster came too but I shooed him out. There is already one big red in there, one of Blackie’s all male clutch from last May, and I don’t want any fights going on.
1/28 pm Helen, Henry and Herbie have managed to push their hay feeder way out of line again with the hayloft hay drop hole. They rub their sides on it and away it goes. Then I have to do acrobatic moves to pitch the hay into it. I didn’t foresee this when grandson Rafe built it. I thought it was so heavy it wouldn’t shift. Too heavy for me, but not for them. 1.5 gal. milk today and three eggs.
1/29 am Friday This morning the stock water was frozen over lightly. Nobody had been there to drink since last evening at milking time. No wonder I had to fight for my one gallon this morning. She was thirsty. I carried a kettle of hot water down to take the chill off it.
1/29 pm The cattle have pushed the feeder so far out of line now that all I can do is throw the hay down, then go down and move it. Also, the steers (I never blame Helen for these things) pushed the water pipe out of line so the water was running on the ground. They are as bad as horses when it comes to worrying things. All three of them are doing something I have not noted in previous winters. They are stripping bark off of trees and even posts and beams. They have completely debarked the stand of sumac near their water tub. Fortunately it isn’t poison sumac. 1.5 gal today and four eggs.
1/30 am Saturday Another cold day (-10f) and once again Helen didn’t touch her water until after milking and after I had broken up the ice for her. It was thin ice. The tub is in a run-in area under the garage, a former carriage house, and does not get as cold as the true outdoors. I have often seen her break ice like this with her nose so I don’t know why she isn’t drinking at night. 1 gallon
1/30 pm Around noon I just happened to be in the layer room when one of the new bantams from the group given me before Christmas jumped off a nest cackling. This was a nest I have not looked in for a long time because in the past it was at an unusable pitch with a crack in the side that any egg would roll through. Furthermore it is way up above my line of vision. I climbed right up and found more than a dozen eggs in various stages of frozenness. Many had burst and stuck together so I couldn’t even pry them loose. I removed what I could and covered the rest with hay and we’ll see if they continue to use it. Sure makes me cross to have all those eggs wasted. The stanchion didn’t seem to want to close right when I was locking Helen in for milking. I fiddled and fiddled with it and thought I had it. But Helen knew it wasn’t. She was through eating before I was through milking. She just picked up her feet real high so as to avoid me and the bucket and tiptoed away. I still got more than her usual half gallon tonight. Son Martin arrived with plans for further improvements to cow and barn related structures.
1/31 am I discovered what was wrong with Helen’s stanchion. The upright that is supposed to hold her in has lost a bolt at the bottom. It’s very cold this morning, -10f, and I didn’t feel like handling cold bolts so I just used her old collar clip. Production was very poor, not much over 3 quarts. Also there were some little clots on the filter. Maybe her teats are getting too cold. But she and the boys always have a warm place to lie down. They spill so much hay it’s a regular cow nest.
1/31 pm Martin arose late but then spent most of the day fixing things. He installed a type of breaker plug near the cow water which prevents stray voltage. The submersible heater kicked it right off every time it was plugged in so clearly it cannot be used anymore. In the meantime I continue to go down and break up the ice and pour a kettle of boiling water in several times a day. Martin anchored the hay feeder in position so I doubt a rhinoceros could move it. No more acrobatic hay pitching required. And he repaired the stanchion. We tried out his new Toyota 4X4 with a drive to Weld and a walk on the frozen lake. Then I sent him home with lots of dairy products for himself and his brother. Helen made up for this morning; almost 1.75 gal for the day. Got five eggs. Blackie has now decided to lay in with the other birds.
2/1 Monday am It’s not so cold today, about 20f, and the sun is shining. There is one red rooster who did nearly die of the cold about three weeks ago and he has been limping around afraid to get in with the others and eat. I often set him next to the water and he takes a drink. I also let him eat with the cats and he drinks milk. Today he has gone outside to sit in the sun. Stewart picked up a new submersible water heater this morning for me at the Farmer’s Union. It cost $40. It better work. I pitched out all the old stemmy stuff from the cow’s hay feeder so Helen and the boys can have a fresh start in their newly stabilized feeder. Helen gave less than a gallon this morning.2/1 pm The new water heater also is generating stray voltage. The instructions with it require more grounding than we have. I stuck one finger in damp earth and one in the water and I got a definite buzz. 1.5 gal today. Three eggs.
2/2 Tuesday am Helen gave closer to a gallon this morning. But she is not drinking during the night. The water this morning was just as I left it last night, full. But now iced over.
2/2 pm This was a quiet day. In late afternoon it began snowing hard. Prediction is for it to turn to rain and ice. I’m a little low on dairy feed and layer mash and very low on cat food. But I’ll manage somehow in case driving tomorrow is too treacherous. Helen gave a little over 1.5 gal. today. I got seven eggs but a couple of them were bantam eggs back in a corner and may be left over from yesterday. I put more hay in the layer room on the floor and in nests. That should cheer them up.
2/3 am Wednesday It snowed several inches in the night, than changed to slush. I’ll have to see if I can get out though. I’m out of cat food. All those reproachful pairs of cat eyes … not sure I could stand it. My smallest bantam in with the layers is starting to get her courage up. She comes right out of her corner for food and gets her share. She is buff colored with a puff of feathers on each cheek and fluffy legs. Helen gave one gallon this morning. The stock water did not freeze last night.
2/3 pm Son Bret, on the phone from Fairbanks, described how to ground my water heater. I ran out of time before I could find the copper wire. But I don’t expect it to get very cold tonight. In the hay mow I found a bantam nest with four eggs. Two were cracked and leaking from having frozen. I left one egg in the nest. Five eggs today. More than 1.5 gallons
2/4 am Thursday It’s another mild day, but overcast. The driveway and lawn all the way to the barn is a vast ice sheet making walking hazardous. So far no more spills. Helen gave a bit over a gallon this morning.
2/4 pm Total milk for today 1.75 gallons. Helen seems to be regaining the production she lost recently for no obvious reason. Only one egg today and I think it was Blackie’s.
2/5 am Friday It’s up around 40f again today and the ice floe on the driveway is slicker than ever. The hens all seem a lot more cheerful in this weather. When it’s really cold the roosters don’t even pursue the hens. Warm weather has gotten the tom cats to fighting. I heard some awful yowls this morning. Helen gave a bit under a gallon this morning.
2/5 pm Eight eggs today! including two bantam eggs from the loft. I took both and left an alabaster egg. It’s turning cold and a real egg would freeze. I devised a way to ground the stock water. I jammed one end of some copper tubing into the ground and bent it over so the other end is in the tank. It’s goes right to the bottom. 1.5 gal. milk today.
2/6 am Saturday It was down to 9f this morning but by 10am was up to 20f. It feels like winter is losing its grip. I had 6 eggs by 10am which is encouraging. I’ve been worrying that perhaps I was giving the layers too much cracked corn. They do love it so but too much will stop them laying. The cattle seem to be drinking their water OK. Looks like I’ve been successful with my grounding method. 1 gal. milk this morning. There continue to be occasional clotty traces on the filter. Their is no other evidence of any problem.
2/6 pm It snowed for awhile today, just enough to dust the ice. It’s treacherous. The red rooster that had frostbite is improving. He walks to the food and even hopped off his perch tonight when I filled their water basin. He now manages to perch on a sawhorse. He was huddling under a bag last week. Helen gave about 1.75 gal. today. No more eggs, just the six.
2/7 am Sunday A fine sunny day in the 20’s. I observed clearly this morning what I have been suspecting. Herbie, the Holstein steer, is beginning to shove Henry, the Jersey, out of the way. He even shoved Helen two or three times but each time she came back and finally stood her ground. He has always been bigger than Henry but had such a timid temperament that there was no problem. He has never been dehorned and they are starting to grow. I’ll have to call the vet. 1 gallon milk plus 1 cup this morning.
2/7 pm It was brilliantly sunny all day but at sunset a slicing north wind started up and the temperature is dropping rapidly. I doubt Helen and the boys will make many trips across to the water. I filled it three times during the day so they won’t be too thirsty. Stewart and Melody, owners of the steers, agree to getting Herbie dehorned. Seven eggs today, all from the layers. 1.75 gal. milk
2/8 am Monday It’s a bright clear day, temp 0f. No problems at all. Perhaps because of the cold, I found no eggs before 8 o’clock and Helen gave slightly under a gallon.
2/8 pm Three eggs today. 1.75 gal milk Everybody happy.
2/9 am Tuesday 8 Below this morning but it is warming up fast. The vet comes this morning to dehorn Herbie but I didn’t the cattle in. I figure I can get them in anytime with fresh hay, or grain if necessary. I want them to be able to walk to their water. The barn is such a mess with all those bantams loose in there. I hope I can remedy this soon. One gal. milk this morning. And at last I can report two days in a row when I find no clotty bits on the filter. Stewart was over early to get bales of hay and borrow my heatlamp. He has new piglets.
2/9 pm Dr. Cooper came and removed Herbie’s horns. I didn’t hear him drive in. He’d been to the barn where I had all three shut inside, chased them around the room a few times with the hypodermic at the ready until he cornered Herbie, and administered the jab. Then he came to the house. By the time I got on my boots and coat he was back to the barn, had Herbie’s nose in a clamp and his feet roped and had one horn off. I held a light while he found and pinched the veins and did the other horn. He dusted the holes with blue powder, gave Herb an antibiotic shot and set a perky wad of cotton on each horn site. Then we went back to the house and had some lunch. By supper time Herbie was awake enough to get to his feet and stagger to his grain pan where he shouldered Henry out of the way as though nothing had happened. Five eggs today and not much over 1.5 gal. milk.
2/10 am Wednesday Up to 34f this morning but it’s windy and bleak. Herbie is fine. Helen gave 1 gal.
2/10 pm A cold wind came up today which made it feel pretty cold. I bought more cat food which is getting tiresome. But I can’t withstand those wistful cat eyes. Despite all these cats, there was a mouse in the kitchen last night. I saw his little footprints in some flour I left out. Helen only gave 1.5 gal today. A lot of people would dry off a cow that didn’t give any more than that. But it’s enough for me. I hate it when there’s no fresh milk. I made a couple more pounds of butter today. Five eggs today.
2/11 am Thursday About midnight my dog Muffin began barking like crazy. I ran downstairs and there was Melody, my neighbor, at the door. There was a bad fire. Stewart and Melody’s place burned to the ground with a total loss of everything. The saddest part was that their lovely dog and one cat also perished. Stewart is also much grieved about the loss of all his guns and tools but of course the dog is worst. It was a lovely Samoyed. Sows and piglets were in the attached buildings. At first it was thought that the sows burned up but they were later found in the woods. Onlookers found the piglets around in snowbanks and caught all six. They are somewhat singed, some of them. They are only about 2lb each and are now in a box next to the Aga. Melody is handling things better than Stewart. He seems totally dazed but now, with help from their friends, is building a place to put the pigs. The the smell of the fire is everywhere. Maybe that’s why Helen was very reluctant to be locked into her stanchion this morning. She gave less than a gallon.
2/11/pm Stewart constructed a pen for his sow and piglets but could not get her to enter it until he took the box of piglets over. I have not had a further update. We did call the vet for one of the sows who was badly burned. Dr. Cooper was at professional meetings so was unavailable today. He nonetheless called in the evening and would have come but I was unable to give him a report on the sow’s condition. I think Stewart and Melody finally collapsed in sleep in their borrowed camp. Dr. Cooper will await my call in the morning when I have solid information. Helen gave a bit over 1.5 gal. today. Five eggs.
2/12 am Friday It’s warming up. Some predictions are for 50f. The ice is even worse. I slipped with the buckets on my way to the barn and sent hot water flying. I have strewn hay on the cowpath from the barn to the water. Even on packed snow imbedded with dung it’s very slippery. There is a nearly invisible skim of ice on everything. One gallon of milk.
2/12 pm The vet was over to look at Stewart’s scorched sow which is pregnant. It’s walking around but is clearly going to lose a lot of skin. There wasn’t anything he could do for it but prescribe some antibiotic to put in her food to help with inevitable infection. It is hoped she will be able to deliver her piglets. My knee that I struck this morning when I slipped is stiffening up. A bit over 1.5 gal today and five eggs. That’s from 14 hens. Some are pretty old. I don’t believe I’ve lost a single hen this winter, only the beautiful rooster. I used to lose hens regularly until I discovered they are very susceptible to food poisoning and can’t be fed questionable scraps.
2/13 am Saturday All quiet on the farm. We’re still having a thaw. The barn roof dripped so much during the night I was able to water the chickens with water collected in pans set under the eves. Walking is still treacherous, ice everywhere. A scant gallon from Helen this morning.
2/13 pm I didn’t see anything of my neighbors today but Stewart was to the barn. He has left a new supply of feed for his stock stored with me, and I see where he has taken some hay for his pigs. It’s blowing up cold now and it looks like snow to the southwest. About 1.6 gal. today and one egg only.
2/14 am Sunday Bright, clear, about 20f. All the animals are in fine shape. Helen gave 1 gal. I went over to have a look at Stewart’s burned property. It’s a shocking mess and enough to send anybody back home to check their smoke alarms. He showed me his burned sow. She’s walking around helping suckle the other sow’s piglets. They are all in there together. Her skin is kind of hard to look at but if she is suffering she didn’t say. She is due to pig quite soon herself.
2/14 pm Something over 1.5 gallons today and five eggs. It’s blowing up cold. Today was nothing like the weather prediction which was for cloudy and warmer.
2/15 am Monday Down to -0- this morning. There is a beautiful rime on all the branches lit up by the sun. The cold- impaired rooster was back to huddling in a corner this morning. Yesterday he was walking around quite perky. I set him by the water in the sun. Helen gave one gallon. Muffin found and ate the pigskin and cracklings I had given the chickens. They made her throw up.
2/15 pm 1.75 gal today and five eggs. I think I felt Helen’s calf kick today but t I’m not sure. I let one free living bantam in with the layers today. She has been trying to get up her nerve for weeks. At one point today she was between me and the door so I shooed her in. She can easily escape tomorrow if she wants to.
2/16 am Tuesday The little tan hen flew back to her friends. I guess the layers weren’t nice to her. This morning I saw that the cow water had not been touched, always a clue to stray voltage. Sure enough, one of them, a naughty steer no doubt, had pulled out the loop of copper tubing I’ve been using as a ground. I found it half way across the room so I suppose whoever did it got a buzz. I replaced it, then called Helen and told her to come along, the water is fixed. I guess she believed me because a half hour later when I looked, they had drunk it down. Helen gave 1 gal. this morning. It was 10f this morning but now at 8:30 the eaves are once again dripping. 2.16 pm 1.6 gal milk today
2/17 am Wednesday All the barn critters are fine. It’s not very cold, about 20f. The bantams are even venturing outside to a bit of bare ground. Helen gave one gallon. Back in the house, I accidentally slammed the bathroom door on Gingerbread, my young yellow tom cat just as he was darting in. I have to slam that door because otherwise it doesn’t latch. I caught him amidships and he gave an awful squawk and vanished. I had no luck finding him and was afraid he was mortally wounded. But about 11:00 he emerged from hiding, looking very subdued, and asked to go out. Thank goodness. Later I made doughnuts and will take some to my good neighbors who lost their home.
2/17 pm I found out why the frostbitten rooster who lost his comb limps so badly. His leg is falling off. It looks shocking. The leg below the hock is dangling by a bit of skin. But actually be is acting fairly healthy. He makes his way to the feed pan now and gets right in there and pecks. 1.75 gal today and 4 eggs.
2/18 am Thursday It snowed during the night and still continues. I’m glad I’m stocked up on grain and cat food. There is no wind so this promises to be a beautiful storm. Most storms this winter have been accompanied by wind or followed by rain. Helen gave 1 gallon this morning.
2/18 pm Contrary to prediction, it snowed all day. It looks like about 6″ accumulation. For some reason Helen didn’t drink much today. Every time I peered through my peek hole the tub was still full. I went down twice to inspect it and I tested it for stray voltage by putting one finger on the damp sand and one in the water. No buzz that I could detect. But I unplugged the submersible water heater just in case. Finally this evening I see she has drunk. I don’t believe it will drop below 25f tonight so shouldn’t freeze up. 1.75 gallons today. Five eggs.
2/19 am Friday Bright and sunny today on the new snow, right around freezing, and the air suggests spring. The hens laid six eggs before 8am. Helen had not touched her water during the night. Very puzzling. She gave her usual 1 gal.
2/19 pm Water consumption during the day today seemed normal. We’re about to get our cold weather back and I’ll have to plug the water heater back in. I’ll soon know if it’s causing a problem. 1.5 gal today and no further eggs. Helen was nervous during milking. She switched her tail around and even mooed.
2/20 am Saturday About 20f today and looks like snow. Air feels raw. Helen was very silly this morning. When I turned her out she stopped in the narrow passageway to her loafing area which I call the Beefer Pen because she saw the chicken feed pan which I had placed on a shelf which I thought was inaccessible to her. Not so. She got her face into that pan and would not be moved. I had to climb along her back to reach the pan and more or less ride her. She totally ignored me until she had licked up every chicken pellet. The lame rooster is still dragging his dead foot. He hops in among the cats and shares their food and milk. I guess they consider him harmless because they tolerate him. 1 gallon milk this morning.
2/20 pm Ten eggs today! But not much over 1.5 gal. I can easily sell extra eggs. Much easier than selling milk. The US has become so terrified of cream. The only way I can sell milk, apart from a couple of loyal and enlightened customers, is if I undersell the supermarket.
2/21 am Sunday I guess the hens over exerted yesterday. The only egg waiting for me this morning was in the bantam nest with the ivory billiard ball as encouragement. It was down to 10f this morning but the sun is brilliant.
2/21 pm The free living bantams are very hungry lately. I filled their pan four times today. There are about 20 pullets but despite frequent searches I have found only the one nest. Somewhere there is probably a giant nest. The layers did lay six eggs today. Helen gave 1.5 gallon plus a pint.
2/22 am It’s back down to zero this morning. It doesn’t bother the cattle the least bit but I did plug their water heater back in. The poultry hate the cold. No eggs at all before 8am but around 8:30 I began to hear cackling and found three. When it’s cold if I don’t pick up the eggs regularly they freeze. Then the yolks become stiff like soft boiled. Or if they freeze solid the shells will crack open. Old Miserable, the struggling rooster, can barely function at this temperature. He huddles down so flat that another rooster jumped him thinking he was a hen. He turned his head around and gave the guy an indignant look. It walked away looking unapologetic. I set Old Mis by the cat’s warm milk. He likes that. I don’t give the cats warm fresh milk. I warm skim by bringing it to the barn in a jar set in Helen’s hot wash water. Helen gave one gallon.
2/22 pm It’s getting colder by the minute and a nasty wind. The prediction is for -30f. I stuffed a box with insulation and put Old Mis in it. He made no attempt to get out so I guess he approved. I got four hen eggs today and two bantam eggs. 1.75 gal milk.
2/23 am Tuesday Seems like a tough morning. -2f this morning, well that’s not so bad as I feared. But poor Old Mis didn’t make it. He got out of his box, a wrong move on his part and froze solid. The grey water outfall line at the house was blocked with ice. I worked on the pipe from inside the cellar with my hair dryer until that died. I also worked on it from outside with kettles of boiling water. About 8″ of the pipe sticks out, then the water is led away by gutter pipe. After about the tenth kettleful I slipped on my granite back step. A bit of water had slopped on it and frozen invisibly. Now I have a stiff bruised knee again. Back indoors I noticed blood on everything. I hadn’t even felt where I had cut my hand. I sat down and cried and cursed for a few minutes before bandaging myself up and carrying out more hot water. Now the pipe is flowing again.
2/23 pm It’s still cold and we are to expect another day of it. Helen gave 1.75 gallons of milk. They are drinking their water just fine. 4 eggs.
2/24 am Wednesday -4f this morning. The cattle are fine but the hens are huddled up. The same pipe was frozen again this morning setting me back only an hour this time. It’s a cold messy job that tracks up the kitchen and I’m tired of winter. However I did not slip on the ice. Lacking a hair dryer, I draped a towel over the indoor section of pipe and poured boiling water over it.
2/24 pm Helen gave a trifle under 1.75 gal. today. It could be that my milking is impaired by my scraped and bandaged finger. I poured sawdust all around the foundation where the guilty pipe comes out and tucked a feed bag over it. It’s supposed to be cold again tonight. 6 eggs
2/25 am Thursday 8f above this morning. Seems much milder. I lost one hen during the night. She’s been acting discouraged for a week or so, a Barred Rock. I think she was pretty old. This is the first hen I’ve lost all winter (the others were roosters) which is a better record than most winters. 1 gal this morning. I was very late getting up today and didn’t get to the barn until 7:45
2/25 pm One fluffy headed bantam that lives among the layers was missing this evening. She is always picked on by Blackie. I can’t imagine where she can have gone. Not quite 1.75 gal today. Seven eggs. I sold 2 doz today.
2/26 am Friday It’s much warmer today. We got another couple of inches of snow in the night but it’s already up to 34f and the eaves are dripping fast. I made another search for the missing buff bantam this morning and finally found her wedged up under a low shelf. She seems to have lost her nerve among the big hens. Twice this morning I have pushed her back down. She runs out and grabs a peck of food, then returns to her safe haven. Once the snow melts and the hens can go back out in their yard she’ll be OK. In the mean time I’ll have to find more feed pans to spot around. That usually helps the timid soul. Helen gave 1 gallon this morning.
2/26 pm Just over 1.5 gal milk today. Helen was a bit nervous tonight because son Bret was in the barn and she doesn’t know him. Eight eggs today (1 bantam)
2/27 am Saturday We have a bright sunny day in the 30’s, lovely on the new snow. All the animals seem comfortable and happy except the one timid buff bantam. Sons Bret and Martin are here splitting wood. I was down to my last stick.
2/27 pm Now I have a nice pile of wood. We even went to the lake and fetched home some wood from daughter Marcia’s place, according to her offer. The boys have put up chicken wire on one of the run-ins to create a a place to confine the free bantams. I hope to give them away, also clean up the barn. Helen was very interested to watch the boys fencing. After milking she ran right back out there to see what she had missed. 1.75 gal. today and 8 eggs.
2/28 Bret was at my computer all day getting me better organized so I have no entry except 1.75 gal and 8 eggs.
3/1 am Monday It’s been raining all night and the world is covered with icy lakes and thick mist. The bantams were all outside drinking from puddles. 1 gal3/1 pm 1.75 gal, 9 eggs including 3 from a new bantam nest inconveniently (for me) located under a big roll of fencing wire.
3/2 Tuesday This is the third day the temp had not fallen below 34f even at night. The brooks are overflowing and the river is high. The driveway is very treacherous. This morning when I was nearly finished milking a rooster flew down on Helen frightening her so that she quit letting down. This evening it is striking to see how little cream has risen on that milk. Only about a half inch when there should be 3″. Most of the cream is in the hind milk. 1.5 gal today and 8 eggs (3 bantam)
3/3 am Wednesday Son Bret returned to Alaska today leaving many things repaired. He even did some important barn clean-up of the area below where the bantams have been perching. That should provide some good dressing for the roses later on. It’s warm today, almost 40f. I can see the river is right up to its banks. Helen gave a bit less than a gallon this morning.
3/3 pm Helen didn’t want to come in for milking this evening. It might be spring fever. Or it might be that she hasn’t gotten used to the way Bret changed the stanchion. The bar that swings open to admit her head is now mounted on her near side which is more convenient for me. But cows hate any change and it makes her feel a bit trapped, or will until she figures out the best way to twist her head. 1.5 gal today and 8 eggs.
3/4 am Thursday It rained all night on snow and ice so walking to the barn this morning was tricky. It’s warm, 44f and still raining. Helen again was hesitant to come in. I closed the outer door making full retreat to outdoors impossible. Then she walked right in. Henry, the Jersey steer, started to follow her but responded to my verbal command of “Back!” I’ve been training them both to “back” when I carry in their grain so that I don’t get mobbed. But that is the first time I’ve tried it in a non-food context. 1 gallon this morning.
3/4 pm What a mess it is around the barn! Four inch deep puddles on ice. 1.75 gallons today and 8 eggs counting one bantam eggs which the pullet obviously laid while sitting on her ladder perch. It was broken.
3/5 am It’s turned cold again and “Lake Coburn” (my driveway and barnyard) is once again a sheet of ice. Helen walked right in this morning. She is adapting to her revised stanchion I believe. A scant gallon this morning.
3/5 pm My milk customer Nancy told me there was a white cat lying beside the road near my driveway. I thought it must be Celeste, a timid barn cat which I have been trying to befriend. But it was not one of mine after all. It was a full grown healthy cat which had bad luck. Unfortunately there are some people who will hit them deliberately I find. People who hit them by mistake almost always stop and tell me. My cats are very rarely struck. They have developed a strong cat society and teach each other how to cross the road safely. They hunt across the road on the riverbank where there are many voles. Helen gave close to a gallon tonight making about 1.9 gallon today. Eight eggs.
3/6 am Saturday The sky is a heavy gray. Lots of snow is predicted for later today. Temp about 10f this morning. Helen gave 1 gallon.
3/6 pm Snow began falling about 11am and has not stopped. There is only about 2″ accumulation. I cancelled plans to drive to Portland today because of storm warnings but it isn’t that bad. The animals don’t mind it a bit. Because I had planned to be away I put out masses of hay and the cattle are stuffed. 10 eggs today (3 bantam). The usual eight bantams that perch on the ladder are down to seven this evening. I hope one hen hasn’t gone off to brood. It’s pretty early in the year for that.
3/7 am Sunday It’s still snowing and has accumulated about a foot. This is a beautiful storm but now the wind is starting so the decorations on the trees will soon be gone. The bluejays and chickadees are feeding. It’s not stopping them. All the animals were perfectly snug this morning. Helen gave over a gallon. My little buffy bantam now comes out of her hideout to eat once in awhile, poor little thing.
3/7 pm It has stopped snowing but you can’t tell by looking out the window. A strong wind has come up and is rearranging the snow all over the map. It feels very cold. The hens all look miserable but the cows are unaffected. I’ve been doing some baking to fight back against the cold. I made cream scones and started whole wheat bread. I ground the grain for the flour. One of the things Bret did while here was mount a hand cranked grain mill that was in a barn attic. It had been there for 25 years since we bought this place and I never paid any attention to it among some dusty iron stuff under the eves. I finally pulled it out last fall thinking it looked like some sort of grinder. I’ve been wanting to have a way to grind grain and I thought it looked like some sort of grinder that could perhaps be adapted. What did it say on the side but “Family Grist Mill”! It must be 100 years old and the grinding plates are very hard. I’ll have to build up better muscles before I can say it’s easy, but it does a great job. The flour does not require sifting. It has a 20″ wheel with a hand grip on it. I am using a San Francisco sour dough starter for this bread.
3/8 am Monday Down to 8f this morning but feels much colder because of a strong wind. I can’t even make out what direction the wind is coming from it is swirling the snow around so much. I had to gather my resolve before stepping out into it this morning. I guess the cows don’t much like the wind either. They have not been over to drink since last night. However the sun is out and I don’t see a cloud. Helen gave 1 gallon this morning and I picked up 5 eggs by 8am.
3/8 pm The cold wind, a north wind, has kept up all day but the sky remains clear. It’s disagreeable weather. I got 10 eggs two of which were laid by foolish bantam pullets in the middle of the floor. They were frozen and cracked. Helen was touchy tonight on her off front quarter, the one that had the severe laceration last Fall. 1.75 gallons today.
3/9 To my great relief, Helen’s front left quarter was fine this morning. I took an extra bucket to the barn to milk it into in case she had signs of mastitis. I also made up a mixture of 3 tablespoons of olive oil with about 1000 USP of vitamin E and several drops of neem oil to rub on her bag. After milking I rubbed it on just in case. But she was not the least bit touchy on the teat or quarter. Last night I attended a town meeting on the subject of bridge widening and improvement. The north end of the bridge is on my property, subject to easements. The state engineers show every sign of planning to destroy my hedgerow of mature wild cherry and remove the beautiful Norway maple in my front yard to create bridge access. I am not amused.
3/9 pm One of the bantams which always roosted on the ladder is still missing. Seven remain. If she had been taken by a predator there would be another missing each night. Probably the little sinner is setting on a nest. I am now finding bantam eggs in all kinds of odd places. The pullets haven’t quite got the hang of it. Most of these eggs are frozen. I found one new nest today with six in it. I left two eggs. I find that if I leave just one egg some of the bantam hens get suspicious. It seems they can count better than big hens. Eight eggs today and 7 or 8 bantam eggs. 1.75 gal. of milk.
3/10 am Wednesday It’s another faultlessly clear cold day about 10f. None of the animals are complaining. The wind has died down. Little Buffy hen is getting her nerve up to hop off her perch without being pushed. She darts around and grabs some feed and water but not enough to lay eggs on. As soon as she has had a few bites she goes right back to her hiding place. She is an odd looking bird about 10″ high with a fluffy head, skinny neck, round body and fluffy legs. She has an upright posture which makes her look rather like Big Bird.
3/10 pm My new milk customer, Nancy, came back for two more gallons today. Helen gave 1.5 gal today. Ten eggs. I need an egg customer.
3/11 Thursday This morning I polished up my collection of eggs and took four dozen down to a little health food store that opens on Thursday. They gave me a dollar a dozen. They are nice eggs, all different sizes and colors and taste great. I sorted out all the bantam eggs and made a four eggs custard using eight little eggs. My vet was here today and I gave him some lunch with the custard for dessert. As he was leaving I saw a long new trailer home gliding into position on the lot of my burned out neighbors. It snowed much of the day, slushy snow. Temp about 30f. Eight eggs today plus several bantam eggs. About 1.5 gal milk.
3/12 am Friday It’s overcast today with more snow expected. Temp last night did not fall below freezing. Helen gave a bit over a gallon this morning. Helen’s total today was about 1.8 gallons.
3/12 pm We did get a little more snow today and did not see the sun. Eight eggs from the layers plus four bantam eggs that I know are fresh because I’ve been watching the nests. I made my favorite lemon bar recipe today using a collection of bantam eggs that I didn’t dare sell because they were cracked from freezing or of indeterminate age. I broke each one separately into a cup. All were fine except two had stiff yolks because of freezing. I used six where the recipe calls for three eggs. I am going to post this recipe on my web page because it is so easy and very tasty.
3/13 am Saturday Fine weather today, well above freezing and bright sun. Helen gave 1 gallon + 1 pint this morning. Either her production is responding to the breath of spring or she is not having to put so much energy into keeping warm. To rejoin the steers, Helen has to walk down a narrow passageway. I go down it and open the latch leaving the door slightly ajar, then walk back out and ascend the ladder to the hayloft. She leaves when she is ready. This morning Henry, the adventuresome Jersey steer, nudged open the door and came racing up the passageway to join her. I jumped off the third rung of the ladder and landed in front of him. He was so startled he pranced backwards down the passage pretty much on his hind legs. I had to laugh at him. Later I noticed Helen out my back window chewing bark off a cedar post.The boys put barbed concertina wire along the back of the garage shed which has cedar shakes so the cattle can’t get at those any more.. They had been tearing them right off the wall. What can it be about cedar?
3/13 pm This morning I spied a little hen sitting on top of some hay bales and later when she was off the nest I counted 10 eggs. I took eight. None had been frozen. I found three more bantam eggs here and there but only five from the layers. I guess they are having a day off. My neighbors whose place burned last month are now connecting up their temporary home, a very commodious trailer. They also have an adorable new puppy, an eight week old Samoyed, same breed as the one they lost in the fire. They gave me a goose egg and promised a couple more.. I’m going to try to hatch them.
3/14 am Sunday Once again last night it did not freeze. I can tell without looking at the thermometer because the cow wash cloth which I leave out in the unheated buttery freezes stiff as a board most nights. I always pour a gallon of boiling water over it in the wash-up bucket . This is what I take to the barn. Helen gave one gallon plus one glassful this morning and the hens had laid five eggs by 8am. The bantam roosters are responding to Spring. Now every morning a couple of them are assuming classic poses for a little cock fight. They jump at each other a few times but forget about fighting when I throw down cracked corn.
3/14 pm Helen and the boys were out there stripping bark again today. Not only have they eaten all the cedar they can find but they have also stripped the staghorn sumac. I doubt there will be a surviving bush. This has never happened before. About 1.6 gallons today. One dozen eggs counting nice fresh bantam eggs.
3/15 am Monday This morning I awoke to a heavy snowfall. It is coming straight down and is very beautiful. Helen was crabby this morning for no reason I could think of unless it was that I was a half hour late milking. She hit me across the face with her tail which was wet from standing out in the snow.. That is very annoying because even a light switch of a tail is painful when it hits one’s eyes. But it’s a waste of time getting mad at a cow although I did say “Helen!”. I had just combed out her tail as I do every morning when I brush her so at least it was clean. She gave 1 gallon plus 1 pint. The layers were back on the job. I got seven eggs by 8am.
3/15 pm I had eight grosbeaks at the feeder today. This is the first time I have seen them in months. Also, the chickadees are getting up their courage to come for the black thistle seed and black sunflower seed. The cover for them near the feeder is poor, just a tangle of bare rose canes. I spent time today getting a place ready to house the bantams. The boys nailed new chickenwire over the front of a run-in area behind the barn two weeks ago. I put some boards up into the rafters to serve as perches. It will take some more work before I can start putting birds in there. I find there are lots of places bantams could still escape. Helen gave 1.75 gallons today. And I got 13 eggs counting the bantam eggs. I sold two gallons of milk today and a dozen eggs.
3/16 am Tuesday It’s colder and a violent wind is rearranging yesterday’s snow. I wouldn’t be surprised if we lose power. The cows don’t seem to be bothered but all the chickens make clear they hate it. But Helen gave a scant gallon this morning.
3/16 pm The wind is still howling. The chickens are miserable. All the same I got about a dozen eggs, I lost count. Helen gave 1.75 gallons. I always spend extra time stripping so that she doesn’t dry up. It’s supposed to come on warm after this wind settles down. If the cold weather doesn’t return I will have plenty of hay. I’m using two bales a day for the three animals.
3/17 am Wednesday Sunny, still windy, definitely warmer. With longer days and thawing the barn begins to look awful. Time for some housekeeping out there. A gust blew open the door of the corridor where Helen exits and Henry, her nine month old steer, came prancing in before I could stop him. He frightened the bantams so 20 or more flew into the air squawking and making a cloud of dust. He seemed to enjoy this and circled around saying Ha Ha, or so I imagine. Got a bit over a gallon of milk this morning.
3/17 pm The wind let up and we now have lots of slush. I worked on the bantam area where I hope soon to confine them. My work was to a low standard and included chinking some gaps with rolled up paper feed bags. Later I saw Henry out in the barnyard shaking one like a dog with a sock. He had pulled it on through from the outside. You’d never see Herbie, the black and white Holstein, playing… Helen gave 1.75 gallons today. Seven eggs today plus three bantam eggs. I have a goose egg that Melody and Stewart gave me. They said it would hatch if I could find an incubator. I can’t find one. But a bantam has gone broody. She was sitting on the ivory billiard ball. After dark I returned to the barn and took it away and gave her the goose egg. I wonder if she is up to the task. She is pretty small. The egg must weigh half what she does.
3/18 The hen was off the nest but the goose egg was warm. She was off having her breakfast. Her husband was hanging about watching the nest. He must be some proud of that egg. By the time I left the barn she was back on the nest. When I move the bantams I’ll have to try not to snatch her husband. They all look much alike but he is somewhat larger and shinier than most. Helen came in and left in orderly fashion this morning. She gave one gallon. It is so balmy and so much snow has melted off the plowed section of lawn that the bantams were all outside and even the cats were slow to appear for their breakfast.
3/18 pm Some other hen popped her egg under the setting hen. They do that. I took it away. We had warmish slushy weather today, not weather to love. Helen gave 1.75 gallons. I got 14 eggs and sold four dozen to the healthfood store.
3/19 am Friday Weather here not all all nice. 34f, blowy, damp, muddy, slippery. There are patches of lawn showing which is encouraging. The fields are still entirely covered with snow. The bantams are having so much fun outside that they had not eaten the pan of feed which as usual I had left out for them. This is the first time this has happened. I spied a new nest this morning. The clamour of a dozen roosters surrounded me and Helen during milking but we ignored it. They get up on high places and scream at each other. One gallon of milk this morning. The bantam on the goose egg remains faithful to her task.
3/19 pm I milked extra early so as to go to the benefit supper for Melody and Stewart who got burned out in February. Helen wasn’t quite ready to give me 1.75 gallons; she missed it by a pint. I think I got 18 eggs today half being bantam eggs. I used a bunch of bantam eggs in a double chocolate pie for the supper. It went fast.
3/20 Saturday Gusty all day with flurries. Little Buffy was in a laying box this morning. I checked back later and she had laid an egg! So she must be getting enough to eat. She darts out and gobbles as fast as she can especially very early or late when others are eating. I got 20 eggs today and not from finding a big nest. It was all in ones, twos and threes. More than half were bantam eggs. Stewart stopped in with more feed for his steers. He said the benefit dinner brought in close to $1000. But he is still depressed about the loss by fire of his dog, guns and memorabilia from his father.
3/21 Sunday I got to the barn a half hour late. All the bantams were out foraging. There are patches of grass showing. Helen gave slightly under a gallon. Later I put a few things on the pulley clothesline which I seldom use in winter, but now spring is officially here and there is some pale sun today. The line runs out the back of the garage and over the paddock where the cattle walk to drink. Henry stretched his neck up and did his best to pull things down. I won’t be surprised if this afternoon I discover tea towels on the ground. And this from my son in Australia who read about my bantam and her attentive spouse: “That is very funny about the bantam with the goose egg. We had a pair but something killed the little half-bantam rooster. He was just the same about his little girlfriend – so funny to watch. Especially because he was such a scruffy little bugger. Half mini-silky, I think. A very unfortunate cross, looks-wise.
3/21 pm The predicted flurries did not occur and the temp got up to 44f but the sky was mostly dark. Spring is holding back. Helen gave only 1.5 gallons. I got 15 eggs including the bantams. It is quite fun looking for their nests and picking up eggs. Too bad there are no kids here to enjoy it.
3/22 am Monday I awoke this morning to discover the power was out and the phone was dead. The snow turned out to be hard rain. It makes one aware in a hurry how many tasks are electricity or phone dependant. I am fortunate to have a constantly running spring which fills a granite sink in my kitchen and an Aga cooker which operates without electricity. I also have a fireplace in the kitchen. (Before anyone feels envy, I must add that apart from those lovely features my kitchen is awkward, almost devoid of counter or cabinet space or proper lighting.) The stock water is provided by a drilled well with electric pump so that is a problem in case of a prolonged outage in freezing weather or a drought. The rain had melted most of the ice around the barnyard water trough, a huge Rubbermaid product which spent the winter upside down and frozen into the mud. I was able to free it up and position it under the barn eaves to catch rain water. But the outage only lasted about 2 hours. Helen gave a bit less than a gallon this morning. The hens are all crabby. They hate rain.
3/22 pm It rained all day and the river is ready to spill over its banks. One of my “fraidy cats” that has never let me touch her had kittens today on an old blanket in the garage right where everyone walks past. She is less than a year old and small. This is her first litter. I suppose she didn’t know what was happening to her. My first hint of the event was hearing that high pitched desperate mewing of a lone kitten. I suppose she jumped up and ran when Muffin or I walked by. I left it where it was, put Muffin in the house, and tiptoed away. Soon she came back and laid down with it. She remained curled around so I can’t see how many there are. Helen gave 1.5 gallons today. I got one dozen eggs not counting the one that broke when I stuck it in my pocket where I had some nails. I got a pocket full of egg.
3/23 am Tuesday Helen and the boys have been drinking rainwater from the tub under the barn eaves. The rain has quit but the tub is still half full. After I threw down hay this morning I noted Herbie, the Holstein steer, butting Helen away from the feeder. He is getting aggressive again even though he was dehorned. About once a week I make a gallon pot of skim milk yogurt for the layers. I took them a quart or more this morning along with other scraps. It makes a good use of skim milk which they otherwise would walk in, spill, or simply not drink. They like the yogurt. I give them a pound or so of cracked corn every morning which they love. This would be enough to depress laying were it not for the added protein from the yogurt.
I set a saucer of cream down near Fraidy Cat. She growls and huddles with a look expressive of both fear and pleading. She wouldn’t move ten inches to reach the cream. I carefully moved it closer and a few minutes later when I peaked around the corner at her she was drinking it. Later I gave her more and some ground meat. She ate it all without moving off her kittens. After awhile another cat knocked a lawn sprinkler down the stairs from the attic right next to her. This scared her right out of sight. So I was able to count the kittens, an unbelievable five. One is grey stripy, the rest are black. Helen gave over a gallon this morning.
3/23 pm Today I noticed that one hen among the bantams is growing bigger and looks almost like a layer. When she perched on a ladder I caught her with my ‘grabbing her legs from the back’ trick. Then, with the pruning shears I keep in the barn for this very purpose, I snipped offer her pinion feathers. I put her in with the layers and she settled right down. She is a quiet bird. Helen gave more than 1.75 gallons today. And I got 15 eggs.
3/24 am Wednesday It’s a fine sunny day. Helen and the boys have returned to use of their high tech water system under the garage. It’s got a warmer in it. I suppose they didn’t choose to use their soft noses to break the ice on the tub of rainwater under the eaves. Fraidy Cat hardly growled at all when I put ground meat down in front of her this morning. I wonder if she will move her family tomorrow? They often do on the third day. Then, half the time inexperienced mothers forget some of the litter leaving me wondering what to do with a couple of blind and weeping kittens. Helen gave one gallon this morning.
3/24 pm Dark and blowy today, not very cold. Buffy, the timid bantam that resembles Big Bird in miniature, was milling around with the others at midday when I collected eggs. She is laying about every other day now, and eating regularly. I have a pair of piliated woodpeckers living in a dead tree. They are very handsome. Helen gave only about 1.6 gal. today. 15 eggs
3/25 I raced off to town this morning with four dozen eggs for the health food store. My eggs are better than those fancy high priced eggs from hens said to have a “pure vegetarian diet” (they lie) and “receive no animal fat in their diet” (there’s none in the ordinary layer mash either). Later when I collected eggs Buffy was on the perch next to the highest nest waiting in line while the other bantam laid her egg. There is this second bantam that was given me with Buffy. She doesn’t seem to have any self esteem problem and is always front and center. She is red. Most of the snow is off the front lawn and the free living bantams are all over the place now. I found a nest with 9 eggs so ended up with 25 eggs today. 1.6 gal from Helen.
3/26 am Friday One of Fraidy Cat’s kittens died. I found it stiff and cold at the edge of her blanket. It appeared to have accidentally crawled off in the wrong direction. A wrinkly old dog blanket wasn’t a real smart choice for a nest. It’s bright and sunny today but colder. Helen gave over a gallon this morning.
3/26 pm On my way home from Farmington what should I see out in the north field but Helen, Henry and Herbie running around like crazy and kicking up their heels. The sun today has some power in it and melted off at least half of the snow in that high field. I’m afraid I spoiled their fun by closing off the gate after they came back to the barn. Tomorrow I’ll take a tour around the field and check the fence before I let them back in there. Suki, one of my house cats, was running in and out crying. She was ready to have kittens and yesterday I opened a file drawer and lined it with a towel but of course she spurned that. There is a playroom over the kitchen, a sort of attic space which cats like, accessed by stairs from the kitchen. I went up the front stairs to remove the styrofoam panel that blocks it off in winter. By the time I was back to the kitchen she had caught the scent of playroom air and was up there checking out boxes.. Within about 15 minutes she was having kittens in a box of books. After milking I looked at her again and as I suspected, kittens were slipping down into cracks among the books. One poor little wet thing was standing on its hind legs in a crevice trying to get out. I emptied out another box, lined it with a towel, and moved Suki and her partially delivered family to better quarters. She herself was hand raised so isn’t shy of me. About an hour later she raced down to the kitchen and demanded a snack. I gave her a saucer of cream. She drank it and raced back upstairs. Helen gave more than 1.75 gallons today. I lost count of the eggs but it was well over a dozen.
3/27 am Saturday Helen was happy this morning even though I was late. The sun is bright. Got one gallon of milk. Off I go with my bucket of tools to mend fence.
3/27 pm All three cattle had been right round the fence inspecting it. Helen had stopped short of the farthest north corner where the snow is still thick but Henry’s tracks went all the way. Fortunately there were no serious breaks in the fence. I only had to drive one new staple. At a few points I broke off branches along the woods to make crutches for low wires so there is at least the visual effect of a fence. But it is not into the swampy woods that they are likely to head. Although the field is now three quarters bare, a lot of the walking was on snow, step, step, step, sink over my boot. So it was slow going. As usual along the stretch that borders the road there were beer bottles and cans thrown into the field. I guess people around here aren’t really poor. Maine has a bottle deposit and every one of those has a 5 cents or more deposit. I put them in my bucket. I went around all three fields and along the river. I saw no moose tracks or damage and few other tracks except of crows. The cattle had been along the riverbank. The river is very high and is flowing swiftly and silently. Suki is taking good care of her family of four. Some little cousins came today and picked them up but she just lies there and purrs. Helen gave slightly over 1.5 gallons and I got 15 eggs. It was up over 50f today.
3/28 Palm Sunday When I let Helen out of her stanchion after milking on her way back to her quarters she has to pass the pan of food I keep out for the bantams. I always whisk that pan out of sight or she will stop and eat it. In the evening the birds are already roosting so they don’t remind me to put it back out. Consequently about half the time I forget. That means it isn’t there at their breakfast time. Now that the snow is melting I always know if I forgotten to put out their feed. A great committee of bantams comes nearly to the house to request food. They make it real clear what they want. One gallon of milk this morning.
3/28 pm I put a purple dress and blue towel on the line today and wheeled them way out to the end so they would be too high for Henry to molest. Henry could reach. So I wheeled them back in but they caught in a tree. I could barely get them down with a broom. What a pest he is!. It was warm today, up to 55f. A bantam has gone broody in the hayloft. If she’s still sitting tight by tomorrow night, I think I’ll set her with a few eggs from the large layers. The bantam on the goose egg is still sitting tight. She gets off only for a fast snack. 1.75 gallons today and 15 eggs counting bantam eggs.
3/29 am It rained an inch or so during the night and carried off a lot more snow. A black and white speckled bantam hen has been laying her egg in Helen’s feed pan. There is always a bit of hay in there because she gets a flake of her special treat hay at milking time. That little hen was sitting in the feed pan when I went to pour Helen’s grain in. I lifted her out and set her in another likely spot but she wasn’t satisfied. All through milking she loitered around us and the minute I let Helen out she hopped right back in the pan to lay. The hen in the hayloft which I hoped to set was off her nest this morning and the eggs were cold. So I’ll have to find another broody hen. I know I am not finding all the bantam nests. I’ve been searching the ads for some sheep. Daughter Sally wants wool suitable for rugmaking. So far the sheep advertised are either purebreds three or four hundred dollars each or are already sold when I call. One gallon this morning. Twenty-one eggs today (found a nest with 9 and took 7) Over 1.75 gallons milk.
3/30 am Tuesday It’s damp and overcast today, well above freezing. I have planted seed trays of leeks and Savoy cabbage. The bantams are now ranging very far from the barn and appear to be finding bugs judging from the way they scratch and peck. One gallon this morning and a bit more. Helen is very friendly lately. She has rubbed off some patches of winter coat. Redwing blackbirds are at the feeder. I saw one robin but Cousin Marcia has a whole flock.
3/30 pm After this evening’s milking I tried to take pictures of Helen and the boys. But they wouldn’t pose. All they do is try to lick my hair. I’ve continued checking periodically under the bantam on the goose egg in case other hens have put their eggs in her nest. But after the first few days there have been none. I wonder if they somehow know that after about three days the eggs would not get fully incubated. A hen will remain on her nest with chicks under her for as much as two days if she believes more will hatch. Then she and the chicks move off the nest to feed and any unhatched eggs chill. 1.75 gallons today. 15 eggs.
3/31 am Wednesday Another fine sunny day. Quite windy so it seems colder than the thermometer reading of 45f. The bantams have divided themselves in three separate flocks of about 10 each. The layers still hate going out into their run which is part mud, part icy snow patches. But I make them come out by sprinkling their corn out there. I’m making them a couple of gallons of clabbered skim milk today. I’ve gotten pretty far ahead on skim. A couple of customers didn’t make it last week. Anybody with a cow needs to have a plan for the extra skim or it will break your heart. The cream of course can be made into butter which is easily stored. If I don’t want to make cheese I can always clabber it for the hens.
3/31 pm I went out about 4:30 to milk and the bantams were already in the rafters. The roosters all came raining down ahead of the hens in case I was passing out feed. I guess a couple of them must have bumped into each other because they immediately started a proper little cock fight in the declining sunbeams. They were a perfectly matched pair (Poorly matched ones don’t fight.) They really are very entertaining. Heads lowered, golden hackles extended in a ruff, they jump at each other in unison striking chests together. A tempest in a teapot. These only jumped about two feet into the air. But I once had a pair that started fighting in the morning with four foot leaps. They kept it up most all day. By afternoon they were still making weak little stumbling rushes at each other. Just didn’t want to quit. Reminded me of some people. Today I ordered 20 broiler chicks to be delivered in May. The last supermarket bird I bought was utterly tasteless, I might as well have been eating tofu. About once a year I fall for one of those beautiful looking roasters and am always disappointed. Not sure how much milk I got tonight. I underestimated what was in the bucket when I strained it and it went all over the table.
4/1 am Thursday I found the speckled bantam already sitting in Helen’s feed pan this morning. Helen doesn’t like that. I picked the little hen up and set her in another comfortable spot but she would have none of it. All through milking she dithered around us waiting for Helen to leave. Within seconds after I let Helen out that little hen hopped back in the feed pan and soon laid her egg. The barn water is running again. That was a surprise. The ground is still partly frozen. As I came in with the milk granddaughter Rosemary, traveling from Chicago, called to say she would be in Lewiston in 45 minutes on the bus. Lewiston is 45 minutes away so I left immediately. She is a farm work dynamo and set right to work digging in the garden, muddy though it is. Then I had another surprise. A lady who saw my “free kittens” sign stopped in and the only kittens I could show her barely have their eyes open. Then she saw pregnant Martha and I quipped “How about Martha? Take her and you’ll have all the kittens you want.” By golly she did! I lent her my cat carrier. Martha, who is not that used to being handled and never saw the lady before allowed herself to be picked up and set right in the carrier. Helen gave 1.75 gallons today. There were 15 eggs.
4/2 am Friday Rosie was in the barn at milking time last night so shy Helen circled around instead of coming in. It looked as though she was about to go back outdoors so I ran over and closed the door to their loafing area. Unfortunately I forgot to go back later and open it. This meant the cattle couldn’t go out to their water all night. I got one gallon this morning. They had not finished their hay. I guess they ran out of spit.
4/2 pm Such a fine day, nothing but sun. Rosie did a lot more digging. She also worked on the pen for the bantams. I sifted some lovely compost. Helen made up any deficit from this morning: 1.75 gallons today. 16 eggs.
4/3 am Saturday Henry, the 10 month old Jersey steer, stood in the barnyard bellowing this morning for no reason I could figure out. I went out there to have a look at him and he danced all around me acting excited. Sometimes I think he forgets he isn’t a bull. I reconnected the cattle watering tub in the barnyard this morning for the first time since last fall. The faucet just thawed out a few days ago. They haven’t been drinking from the tub under the garage much lately. They like the snow puddles in the field. Helen gave a little over a gallon this morning.
4/3 pm Helen and the boys went all the way down near the river today to lie down and chew their cuds. They wandered all around the field first to see if there was any grass which there isn’t. They are just so pleased to be back on the field on any terms, I guess. Rosie spent hours digging and after adding some lime and chicken litter I will be able to plant peas and carrots and spinach. The raised bed approach is a winner. The ground dries out way ahead of the rest of the ground. To call mine raised beds is a misnomer since they are just defined areas surrounded by turf.
4/4 am Easter Sunday Last night after dark Rosie and I went out and caught about ten bantams and put them in the new section. What a fuss. Most were roosting too high to be removed even with a broom. The ones on a rafter which I could reach had their feet locked on was a grip which surprised me. This morning I caught a couple more when I threw out corn but I’m afraid that now they have told each other that I am in league with the fox. I’ll have to think of another ploy. The landing net comes to mind. Once into their new quarters they are perfectly quiet. We aren’t going to church today. I was defeated by the time change and a 9am Eucharist. I found another litter of new kittens in the barn. The mewing of one which had crawled away from its nest alerted me. This is another first time mother, frightened and nervous. Helen gave one gallon this morning.
4/4 Sons Mark and Martin came for the day. WE went up to the lake and climbed Center Hill, a rocky promontory. There was lots of snow and ice and despite good footgear I was thoroughly puffed by the time we reached the top, about a half hour climb. For dinner we had one of my hams from the pig I raised last year. It was pronounced delicious. After dark I went back to the barn with some larger eggs to put under the setting hen in the grain room. She has been sitting tight now for three days. The same kitten had strayed again from the nest and was mewing plaintively. The mother of course fled when she saw me. I put the kitten back and by the time I left the mother had laid down with them. I managed to catch one more bantam. I had to give up because while up the ladder I dropped my flashlight and it quit. I already had one under my arm so groped my way back down the ladder but had to turn on the overhead light. A sporadic flashlight glimmer merely causes them to murmur but with an overhead light they fly like pigeons. Helen gave 1.75 gallons today. She and the boys spent Easter in the farthest field.
4/5 am Monday Another kitten from the new litter in the barn was cold and dead this morning. I saw how the mother drags the sucking kittens with her when she jumps up at the approach of anything, the silly creature. At least she doesn’t dive into the hole in the wall behind her. If the kittens fell down there I wouldn’t be able to reach them. She dragged one away when she saw me coming. I put it back. She is now down to two babies. To get into the new bantam pen I have to climb through a window and down a ladder. I have arranged some cardboard boxes with hay in them for nests. A rooster had overturned one on himself and been trapped in there since yesterday. He was pretty mad when I let him out. I had to break a half inch of ice on the outdoor water tub. Helen gave more than a gallon this morning.
4/5 pm Rosie and I fixed up a box of hay for the barn kittens and put them in it. Somewhat to my surprise the mother cat accepted this and is feeding them. Rosie did lots more digging in the veg garden. I’ll be able to plant all kinds of early crops as soon as I haul down some manure. It’s been a beautiful day. All the snow is gone except for where it was piled up. The cows make a great show of grazing even though there is virtually no grass. They enjoy trying. Helen gave more than 1.75 gallons today. Only one dozen eggs.
4/6 am Tuesday Another beautiful day. Both barn kittens made it through the night in their new box. A rooster was trapped behind some chickenwire in the new bantam pen. Rosie and I managed to get him out. He was noisy and flappy and mighty glad to get out. We’re off to Portland for Rosie’s connection to Chicago and back to school.
4/6 pm I left at 9am and didn’t get back until 5. All the critters got along fine except Muffin dog missed me so much she had eaten none of her food. And Suki, the cat with kittens upstairs in the house, had gone out before I left and didn’t come when I called her. I started calling a long time before leaving but she didn’t show up. When I got home she was standing by the door pretty well puffed up and I expect the kittens were mighty hungry. There was a surprise in the barn. Stewart, my nice neighbor, had put a female piglet in the box stall. It is just small, maybe 8lb. It too had been alone all day and was frightened but soon overcame its fear enough to drink a dish of milk. I think I’d better get a second piglet but can’t reach Stewart this evening. Helen’s production is rising. 1.9 gallons today. Only about a dozen eggs. Some were broken, as always happens if I can’t pick them up midday.
4/7 am Wednesday Stewart says he has another piglet which I can raise for daughter Sally but the rest are all males. He wants to get them bobbed before bringing one. The piglet was pretty well buried in hay this morning. I brought it a pan of warm milk with bread. It hopped right up when I held a piece to its nose. The weather today is cold and blowy. Helen gave 1 gallon.
4/7 pm Stewart brought over another piglet. I found him snuggled right down with his sister. I gave them a supper of warm bread and milk, after which they dug themselves back into the hay. I sprinkled more hay over them in hopes they will be warm enough. It’s rather cold and there is a high, gusty wind that is sweeping through every crack in the barn. Helen and the boys came inside, I noticed, to chew their cuds. Only a little over 1.5 gal. today. Twenty eggs. One little bantam flew over the fence to the layers and I found her in one of their nests. She looks like the one that was laying in Helen’s feed pan.
4/8 am Thursday It’s raining hard today. The freaky barncat mama has moved her kittens. I suppose they are now under the barn floor and if I see them again it will be as little wildcats, darnit. The piglets burst right out of their hay for their breakfast of sourdough wholewheat bread soaked in warm milk. They finished it off completely. The male is a more persistent eater. I have decided to name the female Gilda. She stops and wanders around while chewing. Helen gave one gallon. She must be finding a few green blades to nibble as her dung is now looking more like a normal cowpat, less dry.
4/8 pm Rain and wind all day with thunder and a few intermissions for five minutes of sun. I didn’t get very many bantam eggs today. Time for another big nest search. But I did sell two and a half gallons of milk and another gallon yesterday and four dozen eggs. So I gave stale bread with curds and whey to the piglets for dinner instead of milk. Today I made two loaves of dense Bavarian rye. 1.75 gallons today and 10 eggs.
4/9 am Friday It’s a fine sunny day. The bantam on the goose egg was out this morning grabbing some breakfast so I took the opportunity to water the nest. I also turned the egg. To what extent egg turning is a requirement I don’t know. I’ve read that this long honored assumption is now being questioned. A damp nest is definitely a requirement for goose and duck eggs. Anyway, I poured a little water around the edge of the egg. A skimpy gallon from Helen this morning.
4/9 pm All the layers got out of their pen today. They got out through a hole made in their wire by an animal. I forgot to mention that two days ago I noticed all the eggs had disappeared from two bantam nests where I usually find eggs. I always leave two behind. I was suspicious that it was a raccoon because the nests were in the hayloft. Now I’m sure. Also the cat dishes have been licked clean which cats rarely do. I do hope he doesn’t get my hen on the goose egg, or the egg. There is chicken food out and milk in the cat dishes so perhaps that will satisfy him. I dug a fine barrowload of well composted manure out of a corner of the beefer pen where the cows eat hay. Well buried, I found a cowbell. It was covered with verdis gris and has a good tone. Helen only gave 1.5 gal today so I guess I spoke too soon about rising production. One dozen eggs.
4/10 am Saturday No raccoon destruction during the night that I could see. I went out very late with a flashlight. The bantams have taken to roosting about 30′ over my head in the rafters. How I’ll catch them I do not know. I noticed timid little Buffy bantam who lives among the layers has got up her courage to roost up among the other birds instead of in her hidey hole near the floor. One scant gallon this morning.
4/10 pm It felt like November today. I dug in about half of the manure that I hauled yesterday along with some lime. I see my kale wintered over. That’s a delightful surprise. Almost 1.75 gal today. 10 eggs.
4/11 am Sunday I’m slow today, too late for church and even missed the trash collection. It’s sunny today but cold. The prediction is for clouds and flurries. I had to break nearly a half inch of ice on the outdoor water tank. Helen gave a skimpy gallon. I can tell by the behavior of a couple of the banty hens when I scatter corn that they are on their breakfast break from setting. I can’t stand there with the milk long enough to follow them back to their nests. No doubt they will lead forth another generation of chicks one day soon. Daughter Sally tells me that the incubation period for geese is 35 days. I hope that bantam on the goose egg can stick it out. We’re already past when chicks would have hatched.
4/11 pm It has stayed cold all day (high of 44f) but there was little wind and the sun stayed out. Nonetheless I made a fire in the kitchen fireplace. Those piglets are amazingly hungry. There isn’t going to be any further problem of what to do with extra milk. Starting tomorrow morning I shall be feeding them in a regular black rubber grain pan rather than my Pyrex baking dish that I started them off with. Their favorite is clabbered milk. They don’t really go for the pig pellets.
4/12 am Monday It’s still cold today with scattered clouds. There was ice again on the stock water but quite thin. The piglets bounced around for their breakfast. Otherwise they mostly stay buried under the hay I gave them. Helen gave a scant gallon again.
4/12 pm Helen and the boys have started leaving hay. A couple of times now I’ve gone to put more hay out and the feeder was half full. Whenever the weather is halfway decent they are out grazing, little though there is. This evening one rooster was walking around confused and I saw that his head was all bloody and he could barely see. I guess I missed a major fight. Helen gave slightly over 1.5 gallons today. Nine eggs. I did find a nest with six bantam eggs but I’m not counting them because I’m not sure they are all fresh
4/13 am Tuesday I didn’t see anything this morning of that bloody rooster. Either he recovered enough to go out scratching with the others or he found a dark corner or the raccoon got him. I saw no pile of feathers. The (assumed, I haven’t seen him yet) raccoon was right in the buttery last night where the cats eat adjacent to the kitchen. A dish of ham scraps I had left on their feeding table was licked clean. Those were tough old bits which no cat could have eaten. The weather today is raw and windy. The hens are all projecting a mood of dissatisfaction, something hens are good at doing. Helen gave a scant gallon.
4/13 pm It stayed cold all day and no fine weather is in the offing. Many parts of Maine got snow today. I found a ladder and stopped up another couple of gaps in my bantam confinement pen. The inmates now number only four. I hope to catch a few more tonight after dark. Helen gave a little over 1.5 gallons today. I think she might have given more but while I was milking a great cacophony broke loose behind our backs. It sounded as though a rooster had landed on a cat. The roosters are heavy and don’t fly as well as the hens. There was a great screech followed by an answering squawk and cackling from every bird who heard. Helen jumped pretty much straight into the air.
4/14 am Wednesday We’re having another cold blowy uninviting day. The cattle did not half finish their hay last night. I can cut way back on what I give them now. I got one gallon from Helen.
4/14 pm Weather no better but the cows are grazing. I threw down a little more hay although it was scarcely needed. I think I saw the rooster that was in a fight on Monday. There is one that is limping and acting worried but the blood is cleaned off. A couple of layer hens got out and when I opened their door this evening to let them back into their side a bantam noticed them and I could see him thinking “Ha! New girls!” He chased them all the way into the hen room before he realized I had closed the door cutting off his retreat. Big Red, the resident rooster, sent him flying out the other door in a big hurry. Helen was back up to 1.75 gal. today.
4/15 am Thursday More dreary weather. The cattle scarcely touched their hay last night but this morning Helen didn’t want to leave her stanchion until she had finished all her special treat hay that she gets. I’m also giving her apples that didn’t make it through the winter very well. She gave a scant gallon.
4/15 pm Again Helen didn’t wish to leave her stanchion until she finished off all her hay. I don’t like to rush her. Actually, it’s almost impossible to rush a cow. She gave a total of 1.75 gal today. I think there are 14 eggs. The health food store didn’t want any today as they had not sold out from last week. Perhaps I can give them away.
4/16 am Friday I find that the bantam rooster who is in with my layers is the one that was bloodied in a fight. He still has a lot of dried blood on his head and part of his comb is missing but he can see. There does not appear to be any other physical damage but his spirit is broken. He has taken to hiding his head in nesting boxes. He is part Phoenix so quite a lot of elegant tail can be seen hanging down. The other limping rooster is perhaps his rival. I checked the goose egg while the hen was off this morning and it didn’t feel as arm as usual. I hope she is not becoming discouraged. She did get back on. Helen gave 1 gal. this morning.
4/16 pm The defeated rooster is convalescing well. I noticed this afternoon he was ready to sit up and take nourishment. I managed to catch two bantam hens today. One was standing on the ladder and I grabbed her legs from behind. The other was on a nest. 1.75 gal. milk today. 1 doz eggs. I am three dozen ahead now on eggs so will give them to the food bank.
4/17 am Saturday That recuperating rooster jet propelled himself out into the chicken run when I opened the door this morning, flew over the fence, and I haven’t seen him since. Last night it rained and this morning Helen came in all wet. Cows will usually keep grazing in the rain if it’s not too heavy and there isn’t much wind. She gave a gallon this morning plus an extra glassful for me.
4/17 pm Around midday I discovered what I didn’t notice this morning. The raccoon had destroyed the nest of the hen sitting in the grain room. I had put seven large eggs from the layers under her and was hoping for some new young layers. I don’t believe he ate the hen as I did not see feathers. But he ate six eggs, left shells around and one intact eggs. She had only about a week left to set. I’m pretty mad about this. Also. I don’t know of another setting hen to start eggs under. I have left out chicken food but I think I will put out a bunch of cat food. This may save the hen on the goose egg for one more night. I’m afraid that at this stage of her setting if I move her into a cage she’ll get mad and give up. The bloody rooster hopped back in with the layers tonight. Helen gave 1.75 gals. I got 11 eggs. I’m not having much luck finding bantam eggs lately.
4/18 am Sunday We’ve got some sun today. I will surely get into the garden. My hen on the goose egg made it through the night without getting eaten. The panful of cat food was empty so I guess that slowed down the raccoon. This could be an expensive security measure. Helen gave a scant gallon this morning.
4/18 pm Helen and the boys had a lovely day. The sun shone about half the time and there was a lot of wind but they don’t seem to mind that. I did a bunch of pruning of grapevines and roses. I don’t like wind at all. The bloody rooster didn’t choose to sleep in with the layers tonight. I caught two more bantam hens today, one with the landing net, one while she stood on the ladder and I grabbed her legs from behind. It’s amazing how strong those little bitty birds are. Helen gave about 1.6 gal. today and I only got nine eggs. I imagine this reflects the fact that I am giving milk to the piglets and less to the hens so they get less protein. I watched the girl piglet, Gilda, for a while after milking and it seemed to me she was trembling. I put another bale of hay in with them so they will be sure to be dry. I heard spring peepers tonight for the first time.
4/19 am Monday When I went out late to close in the hens I noticed The Bloody One had scooted back in with them under cover of darkness. He seems to have lost all his nerve but he still has his long tail. Instead of just leaving out cat food for the raccoon, I also left chopped apples covered with peanut butter. I hope to get him (more likely her) interested in some delicious food that cats don’t eat. I have found where I can borrow a Havahart trap but all I will catch is cats if I put cat food into it. This morning the peanut butter had been licked off but the apples were not eaten at all. While I was milking the hen on the goose egg hopped off to cackle, highly unusual behavior. I went over to check the nest and sure enough she had laid an egg. This means her broodiness is breaking up. She may leave the egg. Helen gave one gallon plus a large glassful.
4/19 pm Today was truly springlike. My first daffodil is opening. There is only one small streak of ice on the north side of the house. A lovely bird was singing while I planted spinach. I believe it was a song sparrow. The piglets spend a lot of time scratching their backs on the wall. The male piglet has bloody scabs. I don’t know what this is caused by. I’m not a pig expert. Today Helen gave just one cup short of 2 gallons! 14 eggs, mostly bantam.
4/20 am Tuesday There was a skunk in the barn last night. The smell was so strong my nose is burning. All the cat food, peanut butter and raisin bait was gone. So now I have two predators to worry about. But the hen with her goose egg made it and she is still setting. Last night I cooked up frozen vegetables for the piglets breakfast and added vitamin C and Beta carotene to their food. Helen gave 1 gallon plus about 10 ounces this morning. I’m beginning to see a haze of green across the pasture.
4/20 pm My female piglet, Gilda, doesn’t seem as hungry as the male. Also she was shaking a bit although it is not cold and she has plenty of hay. I’ll look in on her late tonight when I hope to have the trap. Helen again gave just under two gallons today. I got 14 eggs.
4/21 am Wednesday All I caught last night was a small, worried cat. But the goose egg survived another night. I called my neighbor about the scabs on my piglets. She tells me its scabs left over from burns they got when their place was burned out in February. Several of the piglets were scorched before escaping. It is a very fine sunny day today. Helen gave a gallon plus a pint this morning.
4/21 Helen gave two gallons today. I milked a bit late this evening. She was very touchy on her left front quarter. That is the quarter I always worry about because she had a severe cut on the teat last fall. I was able to milk her. Then I left her in the stanchion and went in the house for hot water . Also I made up a mixture of olive oil, vitamin E and tea tree oil which is irritant and may help increase blood flow to the quarter. I gave her a good swabbing with hot water then rubbed in my oil mixture. I rubbed the remaining oil on the backs of the piglets. They seemed to enjoy this. Later I called the vet to get his advice on using some intra mammary infusions I have on hand; he said to use them. Unfortunately I had let her out before phoning so can’t stick one in until morning. I hate mastitis.
4/22 am Thursday A miracle! I looked out the window at 6am and there were the cows grazing peacefully in the lower field. I thought “So far so good”. At 7:30 they were still down there. I guess the grass finally is getting interesting. No amount of calling would budge Helen so I finally had to go down and drive her to the barn. She really didn’t want to come and almost fled back down several times. Once into her stanchion I was amazed to discover her afflicted quarter felt perfectly normal. She milked out normally, no trace of heat or hardness. I never recall this happening before. I had come to the barn armed with ampoules of antibiotic but needless to say, instead I went back in the house and made up another batch of oil like last night. This time I added buckwheat honey. Science News and another respectable source has had articles indicating that the folkloric benefits of honey have a firm scientific basis. I slathered this on and let her back out. She gave 1 gal plus 3 cups. I rubbed the piglets with the remaining oil again.
4/22 pm Once again Helen didn’t want to come home for milking. I called for 20 minutes but this time she finally came in. Her bag is still fine. I rubbed in my oil formula again and used up the remainder on the pigs. They are looking better, definitely. A neighbor brought a little girl over to see Helen while she was in her stanchion. Helen behaved well but the little girl was nervous. Some new trees sent by Sally arrived today, Mountain ash and a species of maple.
4/23 Helen was far away again this morning but when I called her she turned toward the barn and began walking. The “boys” of course, follow. Her bag is still just fine but I rubbed in my oil mixture just the same and rubbed some onto the piglets too. Today is the day the goose egg should hatch it is going to. The hen and egg made it through another night. I floated the egg in my warm cow wash water and it stood on end, a very bad sign I think, little that I know about this particular subject. My Havahart trap contained another embarrassed cat this morning. They certainly don’t care for the peanut butter bait so it must be cat curiosity. Helen gave 1 gallon plus about 1 cup.
4/23 pm The goose egg shows no sign of hatching yet. Helen gave just under two gallons again today. 14 eggs counting 6 bantam eggs.
4/24 am Saturday We have an icy wind today straight out of Hudson’s Bay. It is dry and sunny and 32f but feels much colder. It must have been colder during the night because I had to break ice on the stock water this morning. Helen came in without being called and all three ate hay. I guess it’s no fun out in the pasture. She gave 1 gallon + 3 cups. I caught two more bantam hens this morning with the landing net. They were sitting on nests so it was easy. Son Martin and a friend turned up last night so that they could head up this morning to Sugar Loaf for what is probably the last day of snowboarding. I pounced on them to load the tiller into the van and I took it straight over to the repair shop this morning.
4/24 pm The cold wind kept up all day. I did manage to get another load of manure onto the garden. Helen acted flighty as cows (and horses) do in the wind. I had to walk way down into the field to call her. Then she tried to run back just as I had her to the door but I managed to head her off. Then she was fine. She gave 2 gallons + 3 cups today! I guess I’ll have to take away the goose egg. I feel badly for the faithful little hen and her rooster who perches above her head every night. 10 eggs.
4/25 am Sunday When I entered the barn this morning there was such a clatter from the trap that my hopes soared that I’d caught the raccoon. But it was just a bantam hen hurling herself at the sides of the cage. One more bantam into my penned up group. I have not caught as many as half and the free living crowd is wreaking havoc on my emerging tulips and every thing else. It’s still cold today, in fact the prediction for northern Maine includes flurries but the sun is out and the wind has died so it’s good weather for working outside. Helen came up to the barn when I called but was reluctant to come inside. She may have been worried about the flap from the trap. She gave 1 gallon + 5 cups this morning. I took away the goose egg.
4/25 pm The weather remained fine all day and I got some peas planted. It’s old seed so I may have to replant. The pigs are definitely looking better. They still do a lot of rubbing but don’t act as though they are miserable and are growing. I caught a bantam rooster this evening. He was pursuing a hen and she jumped up on a ladder. He jumped up behind her and was on top of her when I caught him by the leg as they wobbled on a rung. Helen gave 2 gallons + 1 quart today. 10 eggs.
4/26 am Monday I didn’t set the trap last night because the little hen is no longer on the goose egg. She was perching up where her mate always sat but now that she isn’t sitting he went somewhere else. I put her in with the confined bantam tribe. Helen came in better this morning. I realized I have been overlooking the obvious as to why she has been hesitating. She didn’t like that skunk smell. It had now nearly faded out.
4/26 pm I gave away three kittens today. Nine to go! I have to work out a better plan for pig feeding. When I open the door to go in with their food they try to rush out. I say “Back! Back!” but only my foot in their face stops them. Trying to teach manners to a pig is not easy. We had an electrical storm today with brief but violent wind and hail. Helen gave 1 gal. + 1.5 cups today. 14 eggs.
4/27 Tuesday Most of the day I was gone to Portland to pick up Daughter Sally arriving from Alaska. She is a great admirer of cows and appreciater of raw milk, cream and butter. Things are looking better around the farm. The fields are greening up and all the animals are looking sleek. I got ten eggs from the confined bantams. They must be accepting their new quarters. Helen gave a bit under two gallons today. 17 eggs in all.
4/28 am Wednesday It’s a fine sunny day for Sally to walk the lines. Helen heard her voice in the barn and she is so shy it took me five minutes to coax her inside. I think she suspects everybody else of being the vet and likely to do something she won’t enjoy.
4/28 pm We did find a few fence problems and made temporary repairs. Helen and the boys followed us everywhere just about in our pockets. We also walked down to the brook to see if the fiddleheads were up. They are barely up. Two more days I think. The weather was fine most of the day. Sally filled several planters with new plants and set out two Therese Bugnet roses and a new rowan. Helen gave a bit under two gallons today. 10 eggs.
4/29 am Thursday Today is mild, damp and overcast. Helen was at the outer barn door like a good cow but I still had to coax her the rest of the way. She gave 1 gal + about a pint.
4/29 pm The cows had an interesting day following Sally around as she repaired fence. Also a crew from the Town came and rolled up snow fence. They aren’t used to so much company in the pasture. 2 gal today and 14 eggs.
4/30 am Friday A very fine day. Sally came to the barn after I had Helen safely in her stanchion, this cow being so very shy of strangers, and milked the front two teats. Sally is a good milker. She has kept goats for years. The free living bantams now scarcely touch the feed I put out for them. I guess they now get so many worms that they don’t need it.
4/30 pm Superb weather today. Unfortunately we couldn’t do much gardening because of a car appointment. But on the way home we stopped at the lake and admired the early spring silence and clarity. I was nearly an hour late to milk and Helen was nowhere to be seen nor did she come when called. Sally walked out and located her behind a group of trees. She gave over two gallons today. When we got home with the car there was a note on the door from folks who had come for kittens and helped themselves to two including one that was promised, a long haired grey. Fortunately I had the number of the lady who wanted him. It all worked out OK because she said “Oh, I was going to call you. They won’t let us have a kitten here.”
5/1 am Saturday Another very fine day. Helen was grazing in the farthest field but came right home when I called. She gave a gallon plus a pint this morning. The confined bantams are laying lots of eggs. It makes me wonder where all the eggs are going from the hens that are still running free.
5/1 pm The cows had a fine day. Sally had to go after them again at milking time because I was late getting to the barn. Sally again did part of the milking. Helen gave two gallons plus 3 cups today. 14 eggs. Sally planted about 15′ of a new windbreak to the west of the veg garden. One bush is Siberian Pea Shrub. The others are Balm of Gilead.
5/2 am Sunday Fair again today. This is such a dry spring. Helen was very reluctant to come inside the barn today. She arrived at the door without being called but it took me at least five minutes to coax her in with grain, all the while I am fending off Herbie and Henry. Once cows get worried about something they are as bad as horses always shying at the same old harmless post. She gave 1 gal plus 1 quart.
5/2 pm Very fine all day. I got lots of digging done and more seeds in, carrots, Brussels sprouts and dill. Whenever I’m not doing something else I am trying to dig out comfrey. It’s a plague here. Sally has been fencing all day. We still hope to find some sheep and would have bought some before this if we could find some available without a four hour drive. This evening Helen was actually waiting in the beefer pen (run-in area) and walked right in for milking. She gave 2 gal. + 1 qt today. The defeated bloody rooster that was hiding out in with the layers has left. I’ve seen him once scuttling behind a dustbin. All that stuck out was his tail.
5/3 am Monday Helen came in when I called her this morning but Herbie, the black and white steer, missed the call and missed his breakfast. Helen gave 1 gal + 1 qt. Two more kittens appeared in the barn. They are small but not newborn. I’ll have to buy more canned cat food and tame them. So far I have given away six kittens. Sal found two more yesterday and brought them in the kitchen for taming. Now this means I have to find homes for eight. I hope I can capture some of the mothers for spaying. Some are very wild. This is discouraging. Every single one is black or black and white. Most are long haired.
5/3 Suki, the mother cat with four kittens in the house, has agreed to feed the two additional kittens. I went to town and bought her some canned cat food. This gave her the courage to feed the extras. They are all eating out of a dish too. Two people inquired today about grazing their animals on my fields. I said no to both. In late summer my poor fields give out if the weather is dry. But even if they didn’t, I have a daily rodeo separating Helen from the steers at milking time. They would like to follow her in, and do if I am not quick. Then I have to be quick to pour out their feed without being mobbed when I have their feed bucket in my hand. I tried carrying a stick but pouring the grain takes two hands and the stick just gets in the way. Helen gave 2 gallons plus a quart today.
5/4 am Tuesday The defeated Phoenix rooster was huddled outside the layer’s door into their run this morning. I suppose he has decided that convenient access to feed and water is his priority. He is now blind in one eye. Helen came in pretty well but Henry, her Jersey steer, darted in ahead of her. He always prances along proudly. He doesn’t seem to realize that her feed is in her stanchion, he is just seeking adventure. If he ever gets his head into that feed I won’t be able to shift him until it’s eaten it. Helen gave 1 gal + a bit over a quart.
5/4 pm A nice soaking rain at last! The woods were dangerously dry and of course the ground needs it. Sally has been working all day on the fence of the sheep paddock. We have found a place selling Jacob sheep and will go tomorrow to buy some. Hope the van is up to the trip. Also hope they don’t hop around too much. The woman who owns them said somebody who bought a ram from her reported it broke the window of her station wagon on the way home. These are the kind of sheep with four horns. The Phoenix rooster has moved back in with the layers. He just cowers in a nest. Helen gave 2 gallons plus more than a quart today. 10 eggs.
5/5 am Wednesday Helen gave 1 gal plus 1 qt this morning. But as I milked her left front quarter got harder rather than softer. She gave no evidence of pain. But before letting her out I went back to the house for the tea tree oil and rubbed it in well. She was very patient. Sally and I are off this morning to look at the Jacob sheep, a rare breed. It’s a long way off and will take all day.
5/5 pm It did take all day. The drive was 2 1/2 hours each way. But the people turned out to be log cabin dwellers with no proper driveway and little sense of organization. The woman has permission to graze her flock on neighboring land which is unfenced. So she stands there several hours each day shepherding them. The land is quite barren. We had to wait until the sheep had grazed another half hour, then another half hour while she and her children caught the sheep of our choice, two ewes with lambs at heel and a handsome four horned ram.. We got them into the van, which I had been able to drive part way onto their property, just as it started to rain, a real cloudburst. The van, a huge ’86 Dodge with rear wheel drive, immediately got stuck. More and more of the family showed up to put things under the wheels to provide traction. They and Sally pushed while I alternately backed up and attempted to race forward all to no avail. Finally Sally walked back to the main road and flagged down a motorist, a nice man with a new 4X4 Toyota. The sheep people had a chain and with this the stranger soon had us out. The sheep people had no vehicle of their own, no phone or electricity and besides they lived, deliberately, far from any amenities such as a towing service. Once back here at the farm the sheep started right in eating our good grass. Sally put bells on them. They aren’t as wild as I feared. Helen’s bag was in good shape again tonight perhaps from the tea tree oil application. She gave 2 gal and 5 cups today. 16 eggs.
5/6 am Thursday The sheep are still happy this morning and enjoying their improved grazing. They don’t seem to have figured out where their water is so Sally carried them a bucket. Helen was inside the beefer pen waiting for me this morning. No doubt curiosity about the sheep brought them in. Helen’s bag was in good shape. This morning I have to get set up for my Cornish X meat birds. They have to be picked up this afternoon.
5/6 pm The chicks are as cute as expected. We dipped each beak in water to get them started. Otherwise sometimes they don’t figure it out, and die. They seemed remarkably thirsty. I also got some started on mash but the rest figured that out by themselves before very long. Within two hours they understood eating, drinking and going to the light bulb for heat. So unless the electricity fails they should thrive. Helen gave 2 gallons + 3 cups today, down a bit.
5/7 am Friday It’s a misty moisty morning. Helen gave 1 gal. + 3 cups. Fortunately it’s not very hot today. Otherwise the sheep would suffer, the two still in wool.
5/7 pm It stayed damp all day which all the animals seemed to enjoy. The chicks so far have all made it. They don’t seem as vigorous as former lots I’ve had. I know they are warm enough because they aren’t piled up and they do leave their inner room where the light is to eat and drink. The sheep are doing fine. Sally spends a lot of time admiring them. Helen gave 2 gal + 5 cups today. 26 eggs thanks to my finding another place the confined bantams are laying; up inside a crack in their wall!
5/8 am Saturday Another warm overcast day, quite pleasant actually. Helen gave almost 1.5 gallon this morning. She’s really responding to the new grass. All three bovines are becoming nearly indifferent to their grain as the grass gets more lush. Sally and I took a walk into the lower field after breakfast and examined a tiny lily that grows by the river. I hope to learn its identity. On the way back we visited the place where wild asparagus grows and I picked a big handful. The chicks are showing their first feathers today. So far I have not lost any.
5/8 pm I had to leave today to pick up a friend in Lewiston and on my way stopped at the Farmer’s Union in Auburn. Much to my surprise I was able to buy sheep shearing sheers. They are the ancient classic design, spring steel, $20. When I got home Sally and Rosie had partially sheared the ewe using sewing scissors. We are all looking forward to trying again tomorrow with the new shears. Today Helen gave almost 2.5 gallons. 15 eggs.
5/9 am Sunday Daughter Sally and granddaughter Rosie were up before six, breakfasted on rice pudding and are off into the woods tearing out old barbed wire. It’s very wet or they would be shearing. Helen gave almost 1.5 gal. this morning.
5/9 pm It rained a lot including an electrical storm so we didn’t get any shearing done. Sally and Rosie are digging up a good sized patch by hand for me to put in field corn for Helen. I’ve heard nothing from the repair shop about fixing my tiller so I guess it’s hand digging or nothing. They picked a spot where comfrey has been growing. Comfrey shades out everything else so in the spring before it comes up it is grass free and looks a likely spot. But it is impossible to get out all the roots. They have dug out a formidable heap of roots though so the corn should have a good head start. One good thing about comfrey is that for some reason it improves the soil. Helen gave very close to 2.5 gal today. Later tonight we are going to try to catch the rest of the bantams. They roost in the rafters. I picked wild asparagus today, enough for four at supper.
5/10 am Monday Clear and breezy today. We are all groggy this morning because we drove granddaughter Rosie to the emergency room in the night. She was taken with an attack of severe abdominal cramps. The doctor was unable to determine the cause and eventually they subsided but it was scary. Helen and the gang marched right up to the barn this morning at the right time. Then they all laid down and chewed their cuds. They were so full of good grass that even shaking a bucket of grain right under the nose of greedy Henry got him to his feet only slowly. Helen went to her stanchion OK though. She has taken to urinating about halfway through milking. I jump up and catch it in a bucket but it’s an annoying habit. The male piglet got past me when I opened their door and ran around the barn exploring. So Gilda got a had start on the feed until I herded him back in.
5/10 pm Sally and Rosie revised the bantam area to house the pigs as well. Now they share the same space. The pigs were delighted with their new quarters but the bantams don’t think much of it. The pigs gobbled up their feed and they flew up in the rafters. Sally also mowed a bunch of lawn and she and Rosie finished digging a plot for corn. I think they over did today. Helen again gave almost 2.5 gal. 15 eggs.
5/11 am Tuesday My new arrangement for feeding the pigs and confined bantams still involves climbing over a barrier. This is right where the cattle walk in. My efforts this morning proved to be of immense interest to them. I climbed through a crowd of curious wet noses. The air was full of freaked out birds. I left them a pan of dry pig feed and another pan of dry chicken feed. They’ll have to sort it out. Later when I looked the hens were pecking cheerfully. Helen gave almost 1.5 gal.
5/11 pm Sally and Rosie and I managed to wrestle the ram, now named Dick, down on a tarp. I more or less sat on his horns while Sal and Rosie sheared him with the difficult sheep shears and with my Gingher sewing scissors. They got him about half done before we all gave up in exhaustion. Dick was beginning to seem badly stressed. He looks ridiculous half sheared. Friend Jean took some pictures and also sketched the sheep paddock as a background for the sheep pastel she plans. Helen gave 2.5 gal + 8oz today. All three cattle were so satiated with lush grass they barely ate their grain. I’m now feeding a token amount just for management purposes.
5/12 am Wednesday Helen exceeded 1.5 gallons this morning. She was in the farthest field but came immediately when I called. Still, she stopped at the beefer pen door and had to be coaxed the rest of the way.. The pigs aren’t happy with their new feeding program. Instead of mixing their slops up warm, I’m giving them a large pan of dry pellets to eat ad lib with plenty of fresh water about 4′ away. Most pigs are fed this way so no doubt they will adapt. I also have a pan of poultry feed in there for the bantams. They are ignoring that in favor of the pig feed.
5/12 pm Tonight Helen brought her day’s total up to 2.5 gal + 1 pint. Our vet stopped for lunch today and gave us advice on worming the sheep. Sal and Rosie pulled vast quantities of barbed wire out of the woods. Over on her field a careless earlier effort to fence for horses had wire wrapped around several noble trees. It had killed them. They are making a new fence on my property line to the north. Besides defining the line it will make will make a boggy area available to the cattle. Then they can water there in a pinch. I finished mowing the lawn. Several of us have worked on it over the last week. We have nearly and acre comprising several garden “rooms”.
5/13 Thursday Helen gave very close to 3 gallons today. Sally and Rosie spent much of their last day completing the new fencing.
5/14 I left at 4:30am with my three guests to drive to Lewiston where they caught the bus to Boston. I took the occasion to begin drying off Helen as it was impossible to milk her at the usual time. I milked her at 11:00 am and she gave 1.75 gal. Then I skipped the evening milking. She is acting confused and hanging around the barn. The sheep appear to miss Sally. They did a lot of blatting when they saw me. During the afternoon I dug two 5gal bucketfuls if dandelions and comfrey and took one bucket to the pig/bantam combo, one to the layers.
5/15 Saturday The fine weather continues. I am doing some watering. Helen came in fairly well this morning. She had a tight udder. She stood nicely and gave a little more than 2 gallons. She was back at the gate this evening wondering why I didn’t bring her in. We are all already despairing at the prospect of not having any fresh milk, cream and butter. About mid afternoon I heard sheep bells where they should not be (Thank God we put bells on them!) The two ewes and one of the lambs were up by the back door. As always when animals are out, the first thing I did was run and close the big front gate to at the driveway. This prevents confused animals running into the road. Then I opened the nearest paddock gate and began herding the ewes back in. It was quite easy as soon as they were sure the lamb was following. They appeared relieved to be back in familiar territory. I walked down to the river today to see if the linden was blossoming yet but it is not. I did find some wild asparagus.
5/16 am Sunday We have another beautiful day. Helen was very slow to make it through the door this morning. I’m using this idle time while she makes up her mind as an opportunity for barn cleaning and tidying. I should have thought of this before. She gave more than yesterday, 2 gal + a quart. The defeated Phoenix rooster who has been hiding out in the layer room is convalescing well. He waits until I open the door and let the others into their yard, then hops down to eat and drink. Yesterday I even saw him jump on a hen but Big Red soon put a stop to that.
5/16 pm Today I gave away five kittens! I suppose because it is Sunday and more people are driving around. I got some more garden dug and took a bucket of weeds to some grateful hens. They make a highly contented noise when they get something they like. Also mowed a section of lawn. Helen came up to the barn at milking time and watched me feed the pigs. After about a half hour of looking at me she went back to grazing. The sheep are getting used to me. One ewe came running when I called and the rest soon followed. They have learned to go under the garage barn where it is cool and there are few flies. Their water is under there too.
5/17 am Another sunny day, quite cold this morning as have been all recent mornings but no frost. Helen took 40 minutes this morning to come in. I’m not certain what she gave because many have not returned my milk jars and I had to put milk in a pitcher. But it looked about the same as yesterday.
5/17 pm I’m feeling very tired today but did get a few things done including some very rough carpentry. There is a window from the grain room into the pig/bantam pen. I got together materials and my drill and Skilsaw and built a nasty looking shelf outside that window which is about 6′ above the ground. Now the bantams can fly up there to eat and I can put out their feed through the window. Not that the pigs like their pellets, in fact they totally ignore them but that won’t last. Chances are they will soon be eating the chicken food or possibly even the chickens! So far the pigs have not even figured out they can eat eggs. There are always a few in the ground level nests. Mostly the hens lay inside the wall cladding, compelling me to reach my arm into a dark spidery hole. I also got another section of lawn mowed. When I finally looked up from my fog of black flies there were the two ewes and two lambs on the lawn. They had found another place to wriggle under. Their paddock is fenced with woven sheep wire. There are some flabby areas at ground level. After herding them back through a gate I pinned the wire down with old electric fence rods. Presumably the ram’s set of horns prevented him getting under.
5/18 Tuesday Helen isn’t slowing down much. This morning she again gave more than 2 gals. She came right in, no dawdling. I heard the piliated woodpecker again this morning. I was afraid the pair living in my dead elm had left. The apple trees are in full bloom. Every breeze brings down a cloud of petals. The ewes and lambs were out again today. As before, I got them back in easily. I found where they got out and fixed it. When I gave the sheep their evening scoop of grain I added a handful of ground kelp. They went crazy for it. I don’t know if this means they lack salt or iodine. It was fair again today but with a strong wind.
5/19 Wednesday am It looks like rain. We need it very badly. Helen gave 2 gal.+ a pint this morning. She is giving more now on once a day milking than she was six weeks ago on 2X. What a gal.
5/19 pm We had a good soaking rain most of the day. The sheep acted as though they remembered last night’s grain with kelp. They required no calling in fact they stood by their pan calling me. The broiler chicks are growing so fast that I shall have to move them out of the brooder in a day or two. Neighbor Stewart who has raised them many times thinks I don’t have to rig up heat for them in the barn. That is very good news. I devised a new high up place for the caged bantams to lay eggs. Up where their roof meets the hayloft there is an aperture in the wall. From within the hayloft I placed a big computer box against the hole facing so that they can go into it like a little room. Then I packed hay around it to keep them from sneaking into the hayloft. This is very low tech. A raccoon could push right in in case he noticed it.
5/20 Thursday Helen gave exactly 2 gals. this morning, a slight decline. I sold 3 doz eggs and gave away a dozen. I’m getting about a dozen a day still. The rain stopped so I ran down while the ground was moist and moved the spinach seedling around so they aren’t all bunched up. Now they are in a nice double row. I made 2 1/2 pounds of butter. It is once again bright golden. Then I spent about 2 hours cleaning out a room in the barn which formerly housed the piglets. This involved a lot of pitching of dirty hay. Some of the floor is quite rotten. I scraped and swept the area and have left everything open to dry. There is a good wind. This is where I plan to put the broilers.
5/21 am Helen gave 2 gallons + 1 cup. She’s not slowing down much. It’s a fine Maine day but more rain is predicted. All the animals are happy. Five toddling kittens were poking their noses out in the sun in front of the barn this morning. This is discouraging. How will I ever catch them?
5/21 pm I worked all afternoon on the box stall for the broilers. I decided I had better repair the floor. First I had to saw and rout out some old parts of floor joists, then put in some new supporting pieces. Then using the Skilsaw I cut two 6′ boards and fit them in, then patched in some more pieces. It went better than I expected. I fancied the spirit of my father, always noted for creative patching with lumber discards, was offering guidance. The floor is now solid enough to hold a calf if not a pony. I finished up by putting up chickenwire on all walls where a raccoon or cat might get in. After that I set out a dozen broccoli plants and watered my spinach seedlings. The lawn needs mowing again very badly (I’m not doing it! -ed.).
5/22/99 am Saturday It’s another beautiful day. Helen was waiting nicely to be milked and came in after only about three minutes of staring at me and chewing. She again gave two gallons. I forgot to mention last night, the bantams have taken right away to their penthouse laying box. There are 11 little hens and I got 11 bantam eggs.
5/22 pm I limed the new quarters for the broiler chicks and spread sawdust. Then I made several trips with the garden cart to transport their operation out there, bringing the birds in a cat carrier. To my chagrin one bird did not survive the trip. I am aware of the hazards of a chick pile-up and thought they had enough room. Now that the chicks have the whole room and their feeder is not inside the brooder they aren’t going into it. I do hope they don’t chill. The sheep are getting quite aggressive about their grain. The ram, Dave, is really using his horns. My missing cat, Suki, showed up. Very hungry of course. One more kitten found a home today.
5/23 am The remaining 19 broiler chicks all survived the night. They are such foolish birds compared to bantam chicks which are so lively and enterprising. These chicks don’t even know enough to walk back inside their brooder to get warm. They just huddle in heaps outside it. Last night at bedtime I went out to the barn and repositioned the brooder and put them all into it. But they all straggled back out. It was not an entirely wasted trip as I discovered I had left the barn water running. Helen continues to give two gallons in the morning.
5/23 pm Today I finished mowing the lawn. I did the hardest part, all around the veg garden and fruit trees and by the time I was finished I had black fly bites and the deer flies had found me. I couldn’t seem to stop until it was done. The consequence of this was that I didn’t get much else done today. The chicks are beginning to like their new quarters. I hard boiled half a dozen bantam eggs for them and ground them shells and all in the Cuisinart. The chick starter mash is not really adequate for them. I also replanted carrots and zinnias. The sheep can see me feeding the pigs and Bernadette, the ewe most likely to get under the wire, was making a concerted attempt to escape. I suppose she thought this would speed up her supper. Now I know another spot to reinforce.
5/24 am Monday It is raining this morning, a steady soaking rain. I am very glad I got the lawn mowing done. Helen gave her 2 gals. this morning but was very irritable. I don’t know if this was because I cut back her grain further or some other reason. The broiler chicks light had gone out due to a loose connection but they did not seem very distressed although some were huddled next to the cold bulb.
5/24 pm Rain continued all day. It’s a little cold, 55f, but no wind. None of the animals appear to mind it. I got an egg customer today who prefers bantam eggs. Most people don’t want them even though their flavor is usually conceded to be superior, and I have been eating them myself and giving them away. I called a dairyman friend of mine to consult about Helen’s refusal to dry off. He said keep her in and restrict her to dry hay. I actually knew that but had kind of forgotten. She will hate this. I’ll wait a few more days. He told me about one cow he had that came into production as a heifer before she was ever bred and was a big producer. This is a rare but not unknown circumstance.
5/25 am Tuesday. With animals you have to be ready to revise your job list. Mine was scrapped this morning when I saw the two ewes, Agnes and Bernadette, off in the cow pasture grazing. I couldn’t fail to notice because Dave, the ram, and one of the lambs were bleating piteously about being left behind. Since the ewes seemed quiet and happy, I ignored the situation until after milking and feeding. Then I locked the cattle in the barn so they would not complicate matters with their curiosity and herded the ewes back in. Then I spent until 10 o’clock repairing fence. Bernadette hung around and gave me a demonstration of her escape method. She selects a spot in the woven wire fence, jams her head through and hurls herself forward to enlarge the hole with her shoulders. There is a great deal of their fence which will not be proof against this tactic. Helen gave 2 gallons plus a quart this morning.
5/25 pm I got some more planters filled with flowers and put in some more lettuce and carrot seed. A wild Canada goose was parked in the pasture today not far from the barn. It was eating grass. Now 9pm, I just filled the chick’s feeder for the fourth time today. They seem very happy. I’m about out of the chick starter mash. Yesterday I went two places to get it without success. I had to buy regular layer mash which is 16% protein. The chick starter is 20%. This type of chicken will die if they don’t get enough protein. I’ve had it happen before when I ignorantly gave them the layer mash. I’ll mash up some hard boiled egg tomorrow to augment their protein.
5/26 Two gallons again from Helen. It took me until after 9:00 this morning to get all the chores done what with cleaning the chicks waterer, mashing their hard boiled egg, skimming the cream and so on. The sheep were in their paddock. It’s been raining steadily although lightly. Perhaps this dampened their sense of adventure.
5/26 We had curious weather today. About six showers interspersed with sunshine. During dry periods I got out and dug two flower beds. One had not been dug over in years and was matted with grass. It felt like a day’s work clearing that plot. It is against one of my granite block walls and deserves to be a beautiful bed of iris. I was lucky enough to catch one of the barn kittens. It had gone to sleep amongst a nest of two week old kittens and was so groggy I was able to pick it up and bring it in the kitchen. All Suki’s kittens are now gone and I am hoping she will feed it.
5/27 am Thursday I caught another kitten this morning, this one a bit older. I popped it into the kitchen where it promptly disappeared under the cupboard. There is food waiting for when it decides to come out. Yesterday’s kitten is still crying. Suki has not been willing to have anything to do with it so far. Helen gave 2 gal again this morning. Her bag is in very good condition.
5/27 pm I caught a third kitten and now there are three somewhere in the kitchen mewing in turns. Whenever I find one I give it some canned catfood to encourage it.
5/28 Friday Superb weather today. Helen, Henry and Herbie were way down in Pocket Field this morning grazing in the lush grass. They looked so beautiful. Helen came right up when I called her, in fact was again waiting this evening at milking time. Perhaps she thought I had changed my mind about evening milking. I did more work today in the garden, began a new round of lawn mowing, made bread and also made 13 pints of chutney. I used the recipe in the new Christopher Lloyd book, Gardener Cook. He is sniffy and patronizing about Aga stoves but it’s the ideal stove for simmering chutney.
5/29 am Saturday Another fine day. Helen finally dropped to about a pint less than a gallon this morning. She came right in when called. Every morning when I let her back out she has been in the habit of dropping a series of plops along the aisle. This morning I let her out another door so as to break up the habit. Although most likely I’ll skip milking entirely tomorrow. I have so much to do in the garden I hardly know where to start. My Grammie used to say she felt like the old woman who had so much to do she couldn’t decide what to do first so she went upstairs and took a nap.
5/29 I got 15 bantam eggs and six hens eggs today, just about average for the last month. I give the sheep a little grain each evening to help fatten them up. They were very thin. It’s also to keep them tame. The ram, Dave, destroyed one tub with his horns and I have switched tubs around now to provide them with a black rubber one. Dave doesn’t act aggressive towards me, only towards the ewes and the tub. I’ve given them their own tub. One of the lambs now eats grain and for some reason Dave allows him to share.
5/30 am Sunday Memorial Day Well, I didn’t milk this morning. Helen was disappointed not to come in and kept circling around towards the door. Her bag did not feel packed. I’ll check it again this afternoon. I left her shut into the beefer pen with the two steers for company and gave them some hay. My big black altered tomcat, Mouncey, has been missing for several days. This morning as I was assembling the trash for pickup I shifted the cat carrier. It was much heavier than it should have been. There was poor Mouncey stuck inside for heaven knows how many days. Bags of clothes for the thrift shop were pushed against the door. He must have curled up in there to go to sleep. He never made a sounds that I heard. He flew out of the cage and leapt onto the cat feeding table and began eating.
5/30 pm I left Helen in overnight still on hay and water. I felt awfully sorry for her. But her bag is not in trouble.
5/31 am Monday This morning I brought Helen into her stanchion and gave a her a little grain which I probably should not have done but I expected to need to milk her. However her bag although very heavy is not in trouble. So I let her out without milking. All three were glad to get out. It’s a very fine day.
5/31 pm Temp up to 84f today. My gardening efforts were pretty well fried out but I did a lot of watering. I brought Helen in again and decided to let her go another night, this time not locked in. I will milk her out in the morning. Son Mark took a turn around the pasture and found some fence down. It had the look of deliberate damage.
6/1 am Tuesday Another hot day is headed our way. I milked Helen this morning. She came right in like a lamb. I got 2 gallons + a quart. I had thought I would just give it to the pigs since milk that’s been inside a cow for three days tends to taste a lot like boiled grass. But I strained it and put it in the frig anyway, experimentally.
6/1 pm It was very hot all day. I got my corn plot planted. It’s just four rows of 28′ each. This seed is called Mandan Bride. I hope to grow a little feed for Helen.
6/2 am Last night’s temp low was 62f. Time to plant all the warm weather vegetables. At dawn the sky was cloudy and we had a light drizzle. This soon cleared to a hot muggy morning. I brought Helen in to check her udder. One quarter, the left front, is firmer than the others but not hot. The steers are looking about as fat as you could expect a dairy breed to look. They are very friendly. The pigs, Hamlet and Gilda, are growing and look healthy but Hamlet is much bigger than Gilda. Nonetheless, they bicker very little when eating. They dislike the dry pig pellets and waste a lot unless I pour something on them. Now that Helen isn’t producing, they get water. I add a pint of Milk Plus, a high protein amendment. The bantams that live with them seem scarcely worried about them at all.
6/2 pm We had several showers today so Helen was eating wet grass. She definitely made milk. I have kept them all in on hay and water. I got my bush beans and cucurbits planted today. Even during the rain the temp did not drop below 70f.
6/3 am Thursday Helen was mooing in a complaining tone this morning from inside the barn. She hates to miss the June grass. I put her in her stanchion and felt her bag all over. She made little or no milk last night. But I kept them in another day. Even though they are in a large room, three cows make it too warm. The hay drop is open above their heads and I opened the hay access door upstairs in the mow to let out the warm air. We had an electrical storm last night and a lot of rain. There are great puddles everywhere. The roses are opening. The sweetest rose in the world is out next to an area formerly used for pigs, now part of the sheep paddock. I always call it the Pigpen Rose. It has tiny thorny ferny foliage. The rose is about 2″ across, semi double pale pink. The bud has a carmine stripe.
6/3 pm After delivering eggs and picking up feed I came home and made a little expedition to the river. I needed to get some grit for the broilers. I found some nice sand and some lovely decayed wood to plant a begonia in. I also took along a saw and cut down a nice poplar to use for bean poles. I hated to cut it but it was in a crowded position. I also pruned out a rampant honeysuckle bush that has been blocking the view from my office window. The peonies are starting to bloom now. So I have oriental poppies, iris, roses, the first day lilies and the first peonies. At dusk I set six eggs from the laying hens under one of the two free living bantams. I’ve been collecting from her nest always leaving two or three eggs. She has been setting for three days. If it had been darker probably she would not have stirred, but she fled squawking. I took her own eggs away and left the six new ones.
6/4 am As I thought she would, the setting bantam returned to her nest and is on the new eggs. Helen did not make milk last night to any appreciable degree. I have let them all out. The weather has cooled and is perfect.
6/4 pm The other free living bantam hen has now gone broody. So have several confined birds living with the pigs. That’s the trouble with bantams. They have a full set of instincts and will only lay for a limited period even if one takes away the eggs. They insist on going broody, quit laying and just sit there. Helen’s bag was not too overfilled tonight so I let her stay outside. I got some of my tomatoes in and now they are talking about overnight temps in the 30’s. This is scary.
6/5 am Saturday Helen’s bag was full this morning but not rock hard or dripping. I decided to let her stay out. She sure doesn’t want to dry off!
6/5 pm At last we are making progress on the drying off. Helen’s bag was less hard tonight than this morning. And that’s on grass all day. Only four bantam eggs today from the pigpen birds. Only two are broody in there that I know of so this is puzzling. Weather today was very fine. I finished planting the tomatoes. I drove a stake next to each one and tied the plants to the stakes with old knee-high stockings. Also replanted carrots. Although since the rain a few of the first lot are coming up. Everything looks very promising in the garden. The little old fashioned roses on the stone wall by the house are now in full bloom, very profuse this year. Also the crabapple tree has set a lot of fruit. Last year thee was none at all due to a combination of rain and wind on the blossoms.
6/6 am Sunday D Day Helen’s rear quarters were very tight this morning but not hot. I let her go back out.
6/6 pm My corn is up. I planted it on June first. I have watered it every day. We had a nice rain today which was good because I had company today and no time to water anything. The bugs are terrible. Helen’s bag was not much tighter tonight than this morning. The front quarters were actually softer. I let her stay out.
6/7 am Monday All four quarters of Helen’s bag were reasonably soft, no lumps. What a relief! I will keep bringing her in twice a day anyway.
6/7 pm This has been the hottest day of the year, almost 90f and high humidity. I worked in the veg garden until 11:30 digging over the strip for the pole beans, setting the poles and planting the beans. This was hot work. In this weather everything ought to come on fast. The broilers were so hot they were lying on their sides with one foot raised to let air into their feathers. I created more air circulation for them by propping an old screen door into their doorway. During the afternoon we got a major electrical storm with heavy rain and winds about 35 miles an hour. Except for Muffin, it didn’t seem to bother the animals and did cool things off a little. Helen came in soaking wet, her bag even softer than this morning. She seems very happy. I’ve been letting her explore around in the barn after I let her out of the stanchion. She loves that.
6/8 am Tuesday Helen is being charming. She returned to the barn as soon as she saw me arriving for chores, came right in and ate her mouthful of grain. He bag continues to soften and shrink. After dark I keep forgetting to set better eggs under the #2 bantam that’s setting in the grain room. This morning I did it in broad daylight and she fled the nest of course. I took away her three bantam eggs and replaced them with 5 large eggs. It’s turning out very hot again today.
6/8 pm Yesterday’s storm blew down a Balm of Gilead tree next to my veg garden. It was considerate enough to fall on a comfrey patch rather than onto the peppers which it could so easily have done. I paced it out. It was about 35′ tall. This leaves very little shade in that area. The bantam in the grain room went back in and sat down like a good girl on her five new eggs. The weather continues hot and muggy, awful. but the plants love it. The bugs love it too, and great big spiders have spun webs in every doorway right about the level of my hair. Helen’s bag was not quite as soft this evening as it was this morning. The bantams that live in with the pigs are no longer laying well. I got only four eggs today from them. I have arranged their own special water up on their feed shelf. The pigs do chase them for sport, I notice. But the pigs spend so much time sleeping that surely they have plenty of opportunity to quietly pursue their chicken business.
6/9 Wednesday Helen’s bag was nice and soft this morning but this evening it was swelled up again, not a lot, but she definitely made milk. The weather is much cooler. The high was about 65. The vet was here and he spayed one cat, Suki, and neutered Gingerbread. I decided to have him done because he made the mistake of spraying in the house. The broiler birds seem restless and a bit unhappy today. I gave them a bale of hay to see it that would cheer them up. One bird has a crippled leg.
6/10 am Thursday The cattle were way down at the bottom of the field this morning perhaps eating wild strawberries in the sunshine. Helen’s bag has softened up again nicely. Phoenix, the defeated rooster who has been convalescing amongst the layers, now ventures out occasionally. But when the other birds are actively feeding he hides in a crevice he has found where he can stick his head out and watch. He looks very funny. His head and ruff are all that can be seen.
6/10 pm A scarlet tanager sat on a branch near the feeder today. What I assume was his mate also sat nearby. There are great looping sprays of rosebush near the feeder which keep them safe from cats while they consider whether to try the seeds and suet. I went looking for wild strawberries today. I found enough to eat but not enough to pick. They were very sweet and juicy. I don’t recall ever seeing so many wild flowers in the pasture. Buttercups, daisies, purple vetch, Indian paintbrush and many small purple and yellow things I don’t know. The weather was perfect. Helen’s bag was really soft and flabby tonight. So she is putting energy into herself and calf. I got my heirloom potatoes planted. I got only three bantam eggs today. I guess they have simply got tired of laying.
6/11 am All the critters are cheerful this morning. The pigweed (lamb’s quarters) is coming up everywhere among the veg. I pull it for the pigs but can’t keep up. There was a dead bird in the garden obviously killed by cats. I could not identify it. It had a beak like a blue jay but was slate colored. Could it be an immature blue jay?
6/11 pm Finally I got at the edge trimming today. It was too hot to finish every part of the lawn and garden but I got the worst done. Slugs have eaten most of a row of bean seedlings. I’ll have to replant. I put a heavy layer of ashes to protect the survivors. I got seven bantam eggs today. Most were in the feed pan up on their shelf. I nailed up a nest box next to the feed to see if they will lay in that instead. Helen didn’t seem to want to come in so I didn’t bother checking her this evening.
6/12 am Saturday Misty moisty this morning. The no-seeums were out in force. Hopefully, the sun will come out and drive them away. They are about the worst. Helen walked right in. Her bag is now fully non-productive. Upon leaving, she headed down her exit alley while I was still in it (I always have to run ahead and open the door which is latched to prevent Henry from nosing it open and entering) This passageway is not wide enough for us both and I barely made it out before I got mashed by her wide body. Helen is shy and has never before started to walk through until I am behind her. Getting caught between a wall and a cow is not much different from being caught between a wall and a pickup truck. The width of a cow depends upon a solid structure of ribs. I will be more careful.
6/12 pm It was very hot today, certainly in the high 80’s. By the time I got everything watered I was too hot and bug bitten to mow the lawn. There are a couple of kinds of biting flies that don’t mind the heat. Thankfully, my neighbor Stewart came over and did it with his new racing mower, a huge Craftsman. Also today, I swept out the garage and buttery including the ceiling which was loaded with big spiders. One got in my hair and another climbed up my leg. I’ve spent years trying to get rational about spiders but today may have put me back to the starting post. Six bantam eggs and six big eggs. The bantams have accepted their new laying box on the shelf.
6/13 am Sunday Another truly beautiful day. High temperatures predicted for later. The roses and peonies and iris are going by very fast due to the heat. All the animals seem happy except the pigs aren’t crazy about their boring food. When I go in there with nothing but pellets they take a nibble of them, than snuffle around my legs to see if I can’t come with something more exciting. On occasions when I show up with a lot of table scraps they are very evidently pleased. Their top favorite was always pellets swamped in milk which they won’t get until Helen freshens. I do pour water on their dry pellets and there is a handful of ground kelp mixed in. Until I pour the water on they don’t eat the pellets. I also add a pound of Milk Plus which is a high animal protein feed with dried milk as the protein source.
6/13 pm I have a very nice row of spinach and today cut about half of it and froze 10 packages. In this heat it is sure to bolt soon. I also dug a section of one of my perennial borders which had been badly neglected. It was pretty near solid turf. I set out two of my clumps of dahlias. I scalded the last 3 quarts of skim saved from Helen’s last milking to prevent it going sour. We need rain; everything is dry. Seven big eggs today and seven bantam eggs.
6/14 It was hot and muggy today. I set out the last few of the dahlias. I made a couple of loaves of sour dough French bread which was such a success I took their picture. Cousin Marcia stopped in and helped try it. We had coffee with the last of the cream saved from Helen’s last milking on June 1, two weeks ago. It was still in very good condition. Only eleven eggs total today. Towards evening we got quite a hard shower which saved me a lot of watering and prevented me mowing the lawn. I celebrated this reprieve by reading my new book lent by Sally, Uncommon Fruits Worthy Of Attention by Lee Reich.
6/15 am Tuesday Last night about 10pm I went outside and don’t remember ever seeing so many fireflies. They were everywhere, from treetop level down to my feet. Helens udder was rather swollen this morning. Could this be her own hormones already getting busy, or plant hormones of which there are many. She is very friendly. This morning is lovely and fresh after the rain but the peonies are bowed down.
6/15 pm Helen’s udder was still rather swollen tonight.
6/16 am Helen’s udder was perfectly comfortable this morning. She and the steers came immediately when called. It’s very beautiful today and a lot cooler, down to 42 this morning. The broilers seem to be doing OK. They sometimes sound discontented but never sound particularly cheerful. Mostly they just sit there like loaves of white bread rising.
6/16 pm Very fine weather. I’ve been invited to do a cow care demonstration at Maine Organic Gardeners & Farmers Association Small Farm Field Day on August 15. I was pleased to accept. Back here on the farm, I almost got the lawn mowing done but ran out of gas so I quit for the day and made gingerbread. I caught the four kittens in the barn. They are very tiny but I thought I’d better grab them while I had the chance. Soon they get too wild. They are exceptionally cute. Two are yellow tigers, one is long haired grey and one shades from black to grey. There was a ferocious tomcat hanging around the house today chasing one very meek female and acting generally menacing. He even threatened me. I had half a mind to go load up and might have if I had a better idea of how to do it. He has markings exactly like one young female so I guess he’s been here before.
6/17 Thursday I took my eggs in as usual for sale this morning. All the animals seem contented however the broilers don’t seem to be eating as much. They are now about the size of a gallon plastic milk jug. The pigs find pellets to be boring. Tonight there were a lot of bread slices for them and they were clearly delighted by the change. So were the bantams. They kept darting in for pieces. The no-seeums are bad especially around the pigs. I sprinkled more lime around their muddy area as this seems to discourage bugs. The new group of four kittens I have in the kitchen are precocious compared to the last lot. They scarcely needed any encouragement to eat from a saucer and to use a litter box.
6/18 am Friday It’s still misty and drizzly this morning. I expect everything is growing like mad. This includes no-seeums, midges and mosquitoes. Before feeding the pigs this morning I defended myself with a head scarf and bug spray and only got one bite. Going in the pigpen is as much of a hassle as ever. Hamlet (she thinks she’s very clever for coming up with this name for a pig… ed.) and Gilda snuffle up to me and make prints of their muddy noses on my pantlegs. Helen and the boys were nowhere about this morning so they missed their breakfast. They showed up an hour later. My four kitchen kittens are thriving. I feed them a slurry of canned cat food and milk. All the outdoor cats plead pathetically for something besides dry feed. We all miss our milk but I have so little I give it only to the kittens.
6/18 pm I rushed through the evening chores in order to go to a dinner at church. 14 eggs today, maybe more, I skipped looking in the upstairs nest.
6/19 am Saturday Cool, lovely and sunny today. Helen came right in. She is getting very wide and hates to come up even the slight rise of the indoor ramp. She won’t use the big outdoor exit ramp at all.
6/19 pm At midday when I went to the barn to top up the broiler’s feed what should I see but Helen’s huge bulk in the chicken yard. She had mashed down the fence and walked in and was nibbling the tops off the big stand of goldenrod that is always in there. Not that she or anything else would touch goldenrod in the normal course of events. I think she just wanted to establish that she had really gotten away with something.
6/20 am Sunday It looks like a lovely day but the no-seeums are fierce! I forgot to put on bug spray before chores and came in with my scalp, ears and elbows on fire. I wonder how the Indians could stand it. They must have spent the hours until the sun is high with their heads in wood smoke. Helen marched right in and all the animals were perky.
6/20 pm Son Martin repaired the chicken yard fence destroyed yesterday by Helen. He also chainsawed the remaining trunk of the Balm of Gilead tree which fell next to the tool shed. This help was a real spirit lifter.
6/21 Monday We had about the loudest thunderclap over the house today that I ever recall. It was literally out of a blue sky. The noise was like a bomb going off and shook the house. I looked out the window and thought, my God, what is falling on us? It was giant raindrops which at first I took for the stuffing in the roof raining down after some explosion. And out the windows on two sides the sky was blue! A half inch of rain fell, then the whole sky was blue again. Apart from Muffin dog, the animals appeared unfazed. This seemed like a long day. Dr. Cooper , the vet, stopped in and operated on a cat, the one Sally calls Sooty; she wanted Sooty spayed. Sooty turned out to be male which I had in fact recently figured out based on his attitude. He isn’t a house cat and when he came out of the anesthetic I had to put him outside before he began knocking over vases. I can’t imagine how I will get near him to give him his canned cat food laced with teramycin. He may be on his own now.
6/22 am No sign of Sooty this morning but the thunderclap brought home Sissypuss, the old spayed grand dame, who has been gone for two weeks. Helen gets more ungainly every day and doesn’t like to ascend even the minor ramp from the beefer pen. She has to stop half way up the 4′ distance and rearrange her balance. I continue to bring her in for her one scoop of grain. She is plenty fat but it’s about time to start bringing her ration up to lactation level. I am not giving her any special mineral supplements. So we’ll see how she calves. The pasture is still excellent. This morning I initiated a system whereby I don’t have to get in with the pigs to feed them. It involves hauling up their feed bucket by a chain to clean it. At least the bucket now won’t wander to the four corners of their pen.
6/22 pm So far the new pig feeding method is no less work. When I’m not in with them I can’t drive them back from the feed pan. They crowd in and I end up spilling pellets which bounce off their heads. I started giving Helen two scoops of grain. Also a little ground kelp. Not the proprietary mineral mix that helps prevent milk fever. She is really not a candidate for milk fever. The vet says it seldom occurs before the third calving.
6/23 am Wednesday Another hot day is upon us. So far my pig feeding changes aren’t saving either time or reducing inconvenience. They are developing a very muddy area around their water bucket because they insist on spilling their water. This makes everything I do there yucky.
6/23 pm This evening I jumped in with the pigs again to arrange things and collect bantam eggs. Fortunately these pigs are friendly and cheerful but they can’t resist making nose prints on me. Helen is hot and steamy. She’s bagging up a bit. Yesterday and today a total of only 9 eggs each day.
6/24 Thursday This morning I checked under the sitting bantam whose clutch is due to hatch today. She didn’t like it a bit and flew at me jumping in the air and flapping her little wings and wouldn’t stop until I was 15 feet away. Meanwhile her nest was unguarded of course. It was full of fluffy balls and popping eggs. I had just fed the cats so they weren’t paying much attention apart from eyeing the excitement. They are typically quite deferential towards the bantams which always appear to believe the best defense is a good offense. But they could easily swipe a chick. Maybe after dark tonight I can move the hen family into a cage. My female pig, Gilda, is really losing ground to her brother Hamlet. She just doesn’t have the temperament to stand up for herself. I’ll have to devise a double feeding arrangement.
6/24 pm I repaired a big cage today for the bantam and her chicks. So far she is still sitting tight. Later when it is dark I’ll move her.
6/25 Friday The little hen seems well settled down although I did not risk reaching in to add to her food or water. Maybe later. A light rain fell all last night, exactly perfect for the garden. And of course the weeds. My promising parsnip patch is so choked with small pigweed and grass that clearing it without damage to the parsnips is the weeding version of micro surgery. I got about half of it done this morning. Also did an hour of weeding down the broccoli row. That is much easier. There I easily filled a 5 gallon bucket of weeds for the pigs. Helen seems about the same. The steers are getting very big.
6/25 pm This evening I climbed into the pigpen for what I hope is the last time for awhile and did some very ugly looking carpentry; I nailed boards over those holes in the wall where the bantam hens go in to lay eggs. And I devised a second basin and chain so that I can serve out two containers for the pigs. This ought to give Gilda a better chance.
6/26 am Saturday This morning I got up with the sun and finished weeding the tiny parsnips. I had inter planted with coriander the seedlings of which are nearly identical to parsnips. Not very smart. It took me exactly 30 minutes this morning to do the animal chores which include letting out the chickens, topping up feed for the broilers, bringing in Helen for a little grain, feeding the barn cats and steers and feeding the pigs. The pigs are a little easier now that I don’t have to climb in with them. It would be a lot more fun if I were to fix up better flap doors in the chicken wire that runs above their wall. The wire has to be there for the bantams. I also need to think of a way to control the lake of mud they make. Now with the rain it’s muddy right through to where the cows and I walk. This sucking mud reminds me of accounts of men in the Civil War who were exhausted having to march through Georgia. You feels it wants to pull your boots off.
6/26 pm I went under the garage to the sheep run-in to clean their water tub and walked right into a big spider. I then could not see where it went until I felt something pinching my neck. I whapped it off, but yikes, I’m glad our spiders aren’t known to be lethal. They are great big. At their evening feed the sheep were especially hyper. Dave, the ram, was hurling himself back and forth madly from one feed pan to the other. He is no respecter of persons. I had my hand struck be a horn but it wasn’t his, it was Bernadette trying to get out of his way. I am giving them some kelp in with their grain. I gave away the last available kitten this afternoon, a sweet little short haired tiger. I hope it is a good home. There are a few more I can’t catch.
6/27 am Sunday Such a beautiful morning. I did more early morning weeding and got quite a lot done in a half hour using the scuffle hoe. But the air was very still and my forearms were on fire with bites by the time I’d had all I could take and started the barn chores. I had been wondering why I never saw the sheep grazing in the morning. But I find they graze very quietly at first light and are back in their cool quarters by 7 am. They are so spotted that it is not easy to see them. The caged bantam hen that hatched out six chicks on Friday seems contented. The cage is about 5’x3′ by 18″ high. So she can move the chicks around. I am feeding them the 20% protein broiler grits.
6/27 pm A real scorcher today. Muffin and I went swimming. The broilers are sitting around panting and not eating much which is just as well. I ran out of their feed so today fed them layer pellets top dressed with powdered milk. I also ran out of pig feed but that was easily solved. I cooked up a big pan of cracked corn on the Aga. They considered it a great improvement on their usual fare. Even though I now have two buckets in there for them, Hamlet has figured out how to set his rear end in Gilda’s while he eats his own. The patch of corn I’m growing for Helen is looking good. It’s up over a foot. Roger Swain on Victory Garden said to thin out corn to about (I think) 8″ apart. I didn’t get around to it and mine is much thicker. I actually think thinned out corn might blow over in sandy Maine soil but what do I know? I’ve never grown corn before. One confined bantam has somehow escaped.
6/28 am Monday I was down in the veg garden early again today and got so involved with weeding and hilling that I was late doing barn chores. Helen is getting awkward and her tailhead is now very wobbly. She is making bag but not alarmingly. She seems very hungry and was even eating a bit of stale hay at the edge of her grain trough. Most of the critters had substitute feed this morning. The pigs had steamed corn and the broilers had to make do with layer pellets. They certainly are a cheerless lot. I saw the sheep again out very early before the sun hits their wool.
6/28 pm We had a couple of nice showers today but it’s still very hot, close to 90* today and extremely high humidity. Daughter Marcia said some of her broilers died in the Virginia heat. So I set up a fan in with the broilers. Two of to baby chicks got out of their cage and were standing next to it very worried. Funny tat no cats ate them. When I put them back in with their mother she was so furious she flew repeatedly at my hand. But she is too little to do any harm. She was so cute tonight with all six chicks lined up sticking their heads out from under her bosom. At feeding time to ram was very rambunctious. But he respects a stick.
6/29 am Tuesday I saw the old beat up Phoenix rooster up on a rail this morning, the first time I’ve seen him off the ground. I put my hand up by his bad eye and it is definitely blind. Maybe that has been inhibiting him from flying. I weighed one of the broilers this morning. 7 1/2 lbs which means about 5 1/2 lbs dressed weight. 629 pm This morning a lad about 12 came to the door wanting employment cleaning out the barn. He worked hard for a kid and got seven or eight wheelbarrow loads out of a dried up former pigpen area. He worked about two hours and says he will be back. Very hot and steamy today with thunderstorms and rain. The rain came down in sheets while I was doing the chores. By the time I was through with pig and sheep feeding the only dry part of me was inside my boots and under my hat.
6/30 am Wednesday At last, a fine Maine day. I doubt it will make 80f and humidity is low. Poor Helen is moving pretty slow. The pigpen is drying out a little. It’s just the front three feet that is a mire but that is where they drink and eat. I have until now put water on their feed but have stopped. After chores I greased the lawn mower transmission which I have never done before, not knowing it was needed. But when it wouldn’t start this morning I consulted the book and noticed that. I mowed for an hour.
6/30 pm Another hour of mowing and still not finished. The little bantam hen is so funny. She goes berserk in defense of her chicks when I put my arm in to change her water or add feed. She shrieks and beats my hand with her wings. I think in chicken language she is saying “Child murderer!” Every other hen and rooster within earshot takes up the warning. It’s working out a little better with the pigs. I’ve got their pans far enough apart so that Hamlet can’t set his bum down in Gilda’s to prevent her eating.
6/30 am Thursday Helen showed up late this morning. She didn’t offer a good excuse. Other than that everything was fine apart from several bits of minor damage done by my young helper.
6/30 pm I combed out Muffin again today and scooped up enough white dig hair off the lawn to fill a grocery bag. She seemed grateful. It was hot today but not as bad as last week. About another 40 minutes of mowing and I finished up this round. All the sheep are better muscled than when we got them except Dave, the ram. It’s surprising because he gets the most grain. But I guess he puts it all into growing longer horns.
7/2 am Friday The air today is soft and moist without being hot, much like Hawaii. The sheep were blatting at an unexpected time this morning. I went down to their run-in and found they were out of water. I don’t know if they are smart enough to ask or were just lodging a general complaint. Helen continues wide and awkward but her bag although enlarged is not hot and there has been no mucous or show. This is unusual in my experience. It made me go to her records and check the date. Still July 6.
7/2 pm The Hawaii weather turned to warm rain. We had an inch in a hour. After that the New Jersey weather resumed but I braved it and transplanted lettuce. I don’t believe it even knew it had been moved. The second setting bantam was due to hatch chicks today but I don’t see any. After the way the other one took on, I’m afraid to disturb her so there may be some under her.
7/3 am Saturday Helen’s udder was a lot firmer this morning but it has not become warm. I’ve got her up to about 5 lb/day of 16% mixed dairy ration. The second bantam that I had marked down to hatch her clutch Thursday still had no chicks as of this morning. Either I marked the wrong date or she spent too much time off the nest. The eggs were good.
7/3 pm Son Martin came and he spent most of the day building a proper door into the pig pen. It will make watering the pigs a lot easier and less messy. Perhaps their wallow will dry up. Helen is about the same this evening. The hens aren’t laying so well now. For the last few day I have gotten less than a dozen in all.
7/4 am Sunday So far a very quiet 4th. The sky is overcast and the air quiet. Yesterday while Martin was doing the new pig door the bantam hen which escaped over a week ago came and stood looking clearly wanting to get back in. We stood back and she did go in. Now this morning she has escaped again and I don’t know how. At 6am the lambs appeared to be outside their fence but I ignored them and later I saw the whole flock together. Helen is the same as yesterday.
7/4 pm This was a very hot day, almost 90. I decided to let the bantam hen and six chicks out of their cage now they are nine days old. The hen moved them right out onto the lawn where they were joined by her black and gold husband who has been faithfully hanging around. He did a lot of his hanging around perched on top of their coop and I fear put more than a few droppings on their heads. The hen is obviously much pleased by having her freedom. I just hope the chicks are old enough not to fall down cracks the way some did last year.
7/5 am Monday I woke up to rolling thunder and lightning at 5 am. There must have been a high wind during the night because rose petals and leaves from the Dutchman’s pipe vine were all over the lawn. I thought it best not to turn on the computer during an electrical storm so made a date cake I have wanted to try again. When I went to the barn about 7 am the bantam was safely clucking around with all six of her chicks. Helen seems about the same. She comes into the stanchion very cooperatively for her grain.
7/5 pm High winds last night caused much of my corn to lodge so I spent a good part of the morning standing it back up again. Mostly I used my bare feet to heap soil and stomp it in place but even so my back feels it. The two lambs were out again. I watched until they came back in, then wove the fence back together using hay string, that wonderful stuff. Helen showed a little bitty bit of mucous tonight and acted differently. She didn’t choose to leave the beefer pen right away after I let her back out so I took her some hay. She kept looking at me. This has been a very hot day.
7/6 am Tuesday No calf this morning and no mucous. But Helen looks a lot more ready and her tail is somewhat raised up. It’s raining yet very warm and even hotter weather is predicted.
7/6 pm I’m keeping Helen in the barn tonight. The steers are outside and they don’t like it a bit. I put down lots of hay for her to lie on. I don’t think she will calve tonight but it may be good for her to get a taste of separation before the stress of calving. Only seven eggs today in all. The bantam and her chicks are thriving.
7/7 am Wednesday No calf yet. I let Helen back out at 5:30 then let her back in at 7. She was waiting at the door. She doesn’t look any more ready this morning than she did last night except her udder is bigger.
7/7 pm Helen spent a lot of time lying in the beefer pen chewing her cud today. Typical late pregnancy lethargy I think. I kept her in again tonight. It’s much cooler and more pleasant to work now. I began a new round of lawn mowing.
7/8 No calf today. Helen’s bag is bigger but still not hot. She and the steers are mad about being separated but they’ll have to get used to it. I need to find a better way to feed the sheep. Dave, the ram, hammers away at the gate while I’m trying to open it making it impossible. I must remember to go early in the day while they are out grazing and move their pans near the fence so I can throw over at least enough grain to amuse him. Only 8 eggs today. The weather is much cooler, cool enough so that the sheep were running again this evening.
7/9 am Friday That bad Helen still has not had her calf. I let her back out at 5 am. Then brought her back in at 7 for her grain. All the critters are fine and frisky. It was down to 45 this morning and the sun is bright.
7/9 pm Today, more lawn mowing, bread made, hilled up potatoes, to Weld with supplies for camp. Frequent checks on Helen. She spent much of the day chewing her cud in the shady beefer pen looking quite comfortable, the steers close by. They all hate it when I lock them out and circle the barn bellowing. But I don’t want them in her hair when she calves.
7/10 am Saturday This morning I didn’t wake up until 6:30. I went straight to the barn and let Helen out but then she didn’t come back for her usual breakfast time. We got a nice rain last night and the pasture looked very inviting. Later I went to my cousins’ and borrowed chicken crates. Tomorrow morning the broilers have a date with destiny. I fear Helen is waiting until I am loading the broilers to start calving.
7/10 Son Mark arrived and between us we have nearly finished the lawn mowing. I t looks like rain. The family has arrived at camp so I will be very busy. Only three bantam eggs today, six from the layers. The mother bantam with her six chicks is doing fine. She hasn’t lost a one.
7/11 Sunday Up at 5 am to start chores. Helen and the calf which Mark named Hector both looked very bright. Helen came right in to her stanchion but she did a lot of kicking. I quit after getting a gallon the first quart of which she spilled. The calf had the appearance of having sucked so I decided not to worry about him until later. Mark got up and helped me load the chickens into crates. I got started at 8 am and was early for my 9:30 appointment to have them dressed off. It is a small family operation. I had to wait one hour for my 19 chickens so I suppose that means they are able to do about 20 an hour. I watched and the birds certainly show no sign of pain or struggle. They are stunned with an electric shock. My birds weighed between 7 and 8 pounds apiece. Back home again, it took me over an hour to tie up the bags and pack all the livers and necks and I was not done until around 12:30. Mark finished all the lawn mowing. Then he helped me with slipping a support under the cellar bulkhead which mysteriously collapsed two days ago. I brought Helen back in at 4 pm. I could tell by her udder the calf had sucked. He is a frisky little guy. Helen’s manners weren’t very good so I put the anti kicking device on her. It looks like a giant C clamp. I got about a gallon. Then I turned her back in with the calf without remembering to remove the thing. She shot all around the place in great annoyance until I managed to catch up with her and pull it off.
7/12 am Monday Helen was on her feet ready to walk in at 7 am. Her bag was very clean but her feet were mucky. I put the kicker right on and she did not attempt to kick. The milk ended up very clean and even the outside of the bucket was clean. Previously she somewhat fought the kicker. It destabilizes her hind legs which made me a little nervous that she might topple onto me. But this morning she barely moved her feet. She is so much more mannerly this year than last that I probably will try milking without the kicker if she comes in with clean feet. I got about a gallon and a half. The off front quarter remained quite hard. The quarter isn’t hot, she just wouldn’t let down. I let her out another door so that she could graze while the calf remained by himself. I was mobbed by cats this morning. I had to give them half rations because I was so low on cat food.
7/12 pm This morning I cleaned the room vacated by the broilers and spread lime and hay so the calf can have his own quarters. Late morning I opened the beefer pen door and let Helen and the steers all in with the calf. But Henry proved too excitable and I had a job separating them again. I finally got Hector into his new stall and fed him a quart of colostrum from a bottle. Later when I let Helen in for milking she did a bit of bellowing when she realized where he was but nothing like her performance last year. I put the kicker on before milking and she was very quiet. I got two gallons but she did not let down well in either of her front quarters. I expect there was another gallon there. After I let her back out and strained the milk which was very clean I gave the calf another quart from a bottle. He got the hang of it better this time. It’s hard on one’s back trying to organize a confused calf while holding a 2 qt bottle in one hand.
7/13 am Tuesday Last night when I was closing things up for the night I saw that the cats had killed and dragged in a half grown rabbit. I don’t know who killed it but Gingerbread was eating it. He is a large neutered one year old male, in my experience an unlikely hunter. So perhaps he drove off the owner. This morning Helen was bellowing relentlessly for Hector and he was answering call for call. I warmed a bottle of colostrum and fed him before I milked thinking this would quiet him. About halfway through milking he did stop bellowing. Perhaps the feed reached his bloodstream. But then Henry off in the distance began to answer so it was a long musical interlude. I wish I had had that kicker device last year. They had to send off for it at the Farmer’s Union and it didn’t arrive until she was settled down weeks later. It has made a great difference to milking ease. It’s enough work to milk that giant bag without having to dodge feet, brace one knee on the bucket and maintain balance for snatching it away. Helen is less tottery. I don’t think she welcomes the idea of tipping over much more than I do. I got 2.75 gallons. Her teats are far better than last year. All four of them are now long enough to grasp. Last year a couple of them were two finger jobs. I was able to give the pigs colostrum and skim on their feed this morning. They made it clear that they were happy about the better breakfast.
7/13 pm I gave Hector another half gallon of milk at midday with assistance from Cousin Marcia. He was bouncy and eager. I didn’t feed him again until after evening milking. He and Helen bellowed at each other all through milking. They were joined by Henry who came around and stood outside the window. Helen did not let down at all well. I got 1.5 gal. but there was at least a gallon I didn’t get. For the pigs’ supper I steamed cracked corn in the Aga and added milk. They liked this a lot. If I can keep up with the job of steaming it will be a saving in feed costs.
7/14 am Wednesday Helen didn’t start bellowing this morning until 7 o’clock, an hour at which she expects me to show up. I fed the calf first. He didn’t bellow as much during milking but he thundered around his stall getting a lot of exercise. This got Helen very excited and she bellowed relentlessly. Henry once again stood outside the window adding his commentary. Helen let down very poorly. I didn’t think I was getting as much as yesterday but actually did get the same 2.5 gal. But t was hard work, took close to an hour and her udder was still quite hard even though her teats were dry. The pigs were evidently so satisfied with last night’s corn and milk dinner that they were still sleeping when I went to feed them even though it was late. I was afraid they were sick. But then they hopped up and ate their corn and milk breakfast. I have put a collar on Hector. His behavior reminded me that Henry used to do the same thing last year and I used to tie him up during milking.
7/14 pm Hector the calf is doing well. He and Helen hardly bellowed at all during this evening’s milking. Henry, her yearling steer, tried to start up some bellowing but Helen didn’t answer so he quit. She still did not let down well. I got 1.5 gal. the same as last night. The pigs are happy because they had a supper of great variety thanks to scraps from the family at the lake. The sheep acted up some. Dave, the ram, threw his horns around like mad to defend his chosen feed pan which was right by the gate. It was tricky getting past him. When he puts his head down those four horns twirl like a pinwheel. Earlier, the lambs were out of the paddock and grazing in the field. I ignored them and they came back by themselves. I didn’t have time to repair the fence although I did see where they were getting through. It was in the 80’s today and very fine.
7/15 am Thursday Milking this morning was noticeably quieter. I still have the impression that Helen would kick once in a while if she didn’t have the anti kicking appliance on. But she doesn’t fight it and stands pretty square most of the time. She let down pretty well in three quarters but not in the near front. I got 2.5 gallons + about another quart. Helen shows her dissatisfaction by dropping dung on purpose. Sometimes I wonder how she can keep it up. I fed Hector first then tied him up. He didn’t fight like yesterday and stayed more quiet. Flies are bothering him. I waved tansy fronds around in his stall to drive them out, then laid the fronds on his window sill. If that doesn’t keep them out I will have to put up a screen but I hate to do it as it cuts down a lot on air circulation.
7/15 pm Hot as blazes tonight. Tomorrow morning I am going to try milking those front quarters without the appliance. Perhaps it is impairing letdown. I did get slightly more than last night, 1.5 gal. + a quart.
7/16 am Friday Helen showed excellent manners this morning without the anti kicking appliance. I milked the front quarters first and the near front which has been resistant did milk out better but perhaps it was going to anyway. Using a second bucket for better maneuverability I then milked the rear quarters. She shifted around a bit but made no offer to kick. She went through a period of bellowing with the calf responding as he cavorted around. When I changed buckets I went in and tied him up and everything got quieter. The milk was extremely clean and there is no sign of mastitis. The pigs are bolting down their mixture of steamed corn and milk so much faster than they ever did their pellets that it’s hard to know if they need more feed or just think they do.
7/16 pm Wicked hot today. Helen came in filthy. It took me five minutes of scraping with hay wads, currying and washing to get back the natural pink color of her bag. She gave 2 gallons plus a pint. She didn’t kick and only called Hector a few times but I could tell she was irritable. The heat probably, even though I had a fan on us. She didn’t even try to see Hector when I let her loose. It was kind of sad. Only six eggs today.
7/17 am Saturday Another frying hot day. Grandson Harper and his family are here. Little Eli loves the “ammels”. The flies were suddenly very bad this morning. I waved tansy around in the milking area which drives them off temporarily. As direct control I have freed all the bantams so they can work over the manure pile. Helen was patient considering she is nervous of company and gave three full gallons of milk. Harper is now out in the sheep paddock repairing fence and cutting milkweed with the trimmer.
7/17 pm Helen was very irritable tonight mostly due to heat and flies. She started to kick so I put the anti kicker on her. Then I realized I had forgotten to turn on the fan and that did help both of us. She gave just under 2 gallons tonight. So five gallons almost for the day. Harper got lots accomplished. He cut just about all the weeds in the sheep paddock and sawed up a fallen tree. Although I opened up two windows for the bantams that live with the pigs to go free they haven’t left. Maybe the roosters know they’ll have to duke it out with the five free roosters.
7/18 am Sunday Helen stood nicely this morning but didn’t let down too well. Hector slipped his collar and was racing and skidding and bawling right next to us in his stall which was very distracting. I had already fed him. He just likes to exercise. Got 2.75 gal. Those bantams still have not left the pigpen. We have another hot day ahead of us. If I don’t water the veg a lot of things will dry up and die.
7/18 pm Another hot sticky milking session. I put the kicker on Helen. She was waving her off hind leg around, perhaps at flies, but why take a chance? 1.75 gal. She is still not letting down well in her front quarters. Great granddaughter Amara fed the calf his bottle. I made butter today for the first time since she freshened. It is a rich yellow and made in the Cuisinart it came in 30 seconds.
7/19 am Monday It was only 60 this morning, much more pleasant. Helen stood beautifully despite Hector prancing and skidding and vocalizing in there. She did answer him. She gave 3 gals. Those bantams that I opened the windows for have still not come out. They act like the screens are still on.
7/19 pm Helen was excellent again this evening. She gave 2 gallons. The sheep also were more orderly. But both ewes have lost their collars and bells. Harper found one bell. We got a half inch of badly needed rain today. All my broccoli is suddenly ready.
7/20 am Tuesday Helen offered to kick this morning so I stood up at once and put the kicker on. She remained in a touchy mood and gave about a quart less than 3 gallons. She didn’t let down very well. After milking she hung around talking to Hector and was reluctant to leave the barn. A couple of the bantams finally came out of the pigpen causing a lot of crowing back and forth among the roosters. It was quite deafening. The pigs had a very comprehensive breakfast of table scraps from the family at camp. Pig heaven! It is beginning to dry up in their pen. The outdoor area where I walk no longer sucks my boots off but that is partly because I laid down a pallet. It is exceptionally beautiful today and not hot.
7/20 pm Muffin dog and I walked down to the river today and spent about an hour. I found a large patch of Bouncing Bet in the field near the river. There had never been any on the farm before that I saw. At the edge of the river I also saw Joe Pye weed for the first time. The river is very low. The cattle have found a way down the bank to drink at the river. Helen was edgy this evening but I did not put on the kicker and she did not actually kick. She gave 2 gal.+ 1 qt so that made 5 gal. today. The calf, Hector, is growing remarkably fast. Only 6 eggs today. I got my first cucumber. Chores still take a lot of time, not less than four hours a day and that doesn’t count anything I do with the milk such as making butter.
7/21 am Wednesday Another very fine day. Helen was restless and touchy again and I put the kicker on her for awhile, then took it off when she settled down. It’s much in the way of my head plus any time she steps around it impairs her balance. The combination of a galloping calf and the long time it takes me to milk seems to put her in mind of kicking; it’s just by way of commentary. There were no flies this morning. It’s mostly after she has eaten all her grain.
7/21 pm The weather was beautiful all day and not too hot. Both the cattle and the sheep were out grazing in the full sun during the morning. The cattle I presume drank again at the river since the stock tank was untouched. Judging from yesterday’s tracks they have only just begun to do this. The bank was not much broken down and the tracks were fresh. Fortunately they found a spot where the opposite bank does not invite exploration. It is high and tree covered. They river being so shallow they could easily wade across if they were tempted by grass. Helen and I were both hot by milking time and I used the kicker almost from the start. But she let down well. She gave 2 gal.+ 1 quart. I give the calf 1.5 gal/day in three feeds. This evening I tied him up during milking so he didn’t gallop around and kick the walls.
7/22 Thursday Helen was hesitant to come in this morning. I think it is because she dislikes walking through the mucky bit next to the indoor ramp. There is an upthrust of water under there and it is never entirely dry. She gave 3 gallons + 1 qt. It took me about 45 minutes to milk. I did not use the kicker but I do use two buckets in the morning. I get the first one full while she is more quiet, then start the second one. She is giving more than will fit in one bucket in any case. Hector was quiet because he was tied. The weather is clear and breezy, not hot.
7/22 pm My corn is now as high as my head and all tasseled. There are some ears showing silk. By evening it had turned hot again. I milked with the fan running and the kicker on. Got 2 gal.+ 1 qt, so 5.5 gal for the day. Helen has 3 scoops of 16% dairy feed at each milking, about 4.5 lb., and a flake of choice hay which she always eats.
7/23 am Friday I was out in the barn by 7 this morning and done with all chores by 8:30 so it’s taking a little less time. Yesterday I strewed tansy on the floor where Helen stands to discourage flies. It worked, there were no flies underneath her during milking. This morning I picked more tansy and covered the floor where my stool sits so neither of us will have flies. I milked without using the kicker this morning despite Helen’s restlessness. Just 3 gallons this morning. Helen’s hooves are getting very long. It’s making her stumbley. It’s very hot again today.
7/23 pm When I carried the pigfeed to the pigpen Hamlet got so excited he tried to jump the barrier. He got half way over and was balancing on his chest. I pushed on his nose and tipped him back in. Gilda tried too but is a little shorter so merely got her feet up. I’ll have to nail on another rail. Helen was not very mannerly. Halfway through milking I got up and put on the kicker. She gave 2 gal + 1 quart.
7/24 am Saturday It’s overcast this morning and there is a chance of rain, very badly needed. However there is dew on the lawn which there isn’t supposed to be if it is going to rain. Helen was bellowing when I woke up and didn’t stop until I had her in her stanchion eating grain. It is two weeks today since she calved. She could be in her first heat. While I am feeding Hector his bottle of milk he bunts repeatedly as calves always do. This morning I got two cuts from his razor sharp incisors. I guess I should buy one of those racks that holds the bottle or else switch to the teat bucket. It would help if he were out grazing so he could wear down those teeth a bit. Helen gave 3 gallons + 1 qt this morning.
7/24 pm We did get a nice rain today. One of Helen’s overly long toenails broke off today. It was crossed over like a scissors bill. She can walk better now. This evening she behaved well at milking and I did not use the kicker. But she was very hard to get into the barn. Then afterwards she didn’t want to leave. Funny old cow. 2 gals.+ 1 pint tonight. I made butter today.
7/25 am Sunday About halfway through milking Helen got agitated and began waving her feet around so I put on the kicker. She does not let down so well when it’s on which probably accounts for my getting just 3 gals. I think her restlessness was due to her rear quarters letting down and dripping while I am milking the front quarters. However because of the enormous size of her udder and the shortness of her rear teats which are half effaced I have to milk the front first. Let down is best during the first seven minutes. This is one advantage of using a machine. I do well to get her milked in half an hour in the morning. The sky is still heavily overcast and everything looks green and lush and drippy. Temperature this morning 62.
7/25 pm Helen gave 2.5 gal this evening completely making up for this morning’s shortfall. She stood reasonably well and I didn’t bother with the kicker. I gave the calf Hector a pan of Helen’s sweet feed after his evening bottle and he ate a little. He also eats an occasional bite of hay. My old hen Blackie has disappeared. I saw her walking around followed by two attentive roosters the other day. I expect she has stolen a nest. Grandson Harper and family left today. They were great milk drinkers so now I will be looking for more things to do with milk.
7/26 Monday This morning is warm and moist and cloudy. Growing weather. Helen gave barely over 3 gallons but perhaps because we had a visitor during milking she didn’t let down so well. Despite no wind, a honeysuckle bush was waving around in the sheep paddock. Inspection revealed one of the lambs, Ramses, climbing inside the bush like a goat eating the leaves. I was glad to see this. Honeysuckle is a pesky weed around here.
7/26 pm Helen was highly irritable tonight and started waving her tail and legs around while I was still washing her up. I but the kicker on. Her left front quarter had clotty bits in it. I milked out about a pint for the cats. Maybe all that holding up her milk has caused this. It is also the quarter that the teat was injured and stitched last September and it may have scar tissue that impedes milk flow and permits this. Later when I strained the milk it strained just fine and the filter showed very little. Puzzling. I rubbed her bag with my tea tree oil mixture. I see chicks sticking their heads out from under a bantam that stole a nest in the hay mow. I promised her I’d bring her some yogurt but I forgot. She’ll have it in the morning. I raced up to the lake for the family’s last day at camp.
7/27 am Tuesday Sunshine this morning on a wet world. Helen was well mannered this morning. There were no lumps in her left front teat thank goodness. Yesterday I bought a feeding bucket for the calf, the kind with a teat. The half gallon nursing bottles were getting very hard to hold onto. He butts so hard and knocked it out of my hands lots of times and each time his teeth struck my hand I got another cut. I started him with the bucket this morning. I can put 3 quarts or more in the bucket and will now skip his noon feed. The bucket hangs on the wall but until I can invent a way to stabilize it I will still have to stand there. Otherwise his butting will spill it all.
7/27 pm Hector has adapted well to the teat bucket. Helen came all crusty with dried muck and it took forever to get her cleaned up. She hates having the end of her teats scrubbed and really wanted to kick, and tried, even with the kicker on. She gave 2 gal.+1 quart, the usual. A bantam that had a nest in the haymow hatched out four chicks. I took them a dish of yogurt so the chicks don’t dry out. If I can find her after dark I’ll try to move them downstairs.
7/28 am Wednesday Last night I got the hen and chicks into a box and moved them downstairs. I set the box on edge so she could move them out when she was ready. Helen started right out touchy this morning for no reason I could tell. She began by being reluctant to come in. It’s obvious she hates walking through the squishy area and I don’t blame her. I milked with the kicker on. She cannot kick her near hind leg but she can stand on it OK. She has been practicing kicking with the other three, less effective but still a nuisance. When I went out with the pig food the bantam with her new chicks was in the process of persuading them to come along after her through a gap in the wall into the beefer pen. A couple were still on the wrong side (my side) peeping. A half grown kitten that had not learned the facts of life made a rush for one of the chicks. The hen darted back on a frontal attack and a rooster arrived out of nowhere and landed on the back end of the kitten. It fled, wiser I hope. It’s extremely rare for a hen to lose a chick to cats around here. All the chicks popped through to the beefer pen and landed in an empty bucket . The hen then attacked me when I reached close to her to set it on edge.
7/28 pm It was sticky hot again tonight at milking time. If it weren’t for the kicker I would have had a struggle. Last year I used a rope cinch which works the same way to prevent kicking but this device is superior. I had the fan going to cool us and Helen never ran out of food but she tries all the same to kick. Because of the mucky way she has to come in her feet are inevitably dirty. If she could kick it would be messy. The new chicks are doing fine. They are so much more precocious and cute than those broilers. They hop around their mother scratching and solving their little problems.
7/29 am Thursday Helen came in promptly and clean. But about halfway through milking she started waving her legs around so I put on the kicker. She gave 3 gal+ 1 qt. The milk is always very clean despite her unreliable behavior. Last night I made excellent crème fraise by setting a pint of heavy cream + 1 tablespoon of yogurt on the Aga. The pigs love their current diet which is skimmed milk with cracked corn steamed overnight in the Aga. The sheep are always calling loudly for their smidgeon of grain which I give them in the evening. The two ewes and two lambs crowd into their feeding pans so that grain spills on their heads. I try to brush it all out so that the wool stays clean. The ram, Dick, gets a pan to himself because he won’t share and he has the horns to carry his point.
7/29 pm All the new chicks are present and accounted for. We had such a beautiful day. Helen had to be scrubbed again tonight which made her mad and she really aimed a kick at my face. She missed but hit my hand which tempted me to give her a good one upside the head but I said nothing, just instantly put on the kicker. She isn’t crazy about that device; is it possible she will learn self control? She gave 2 gal plus 1 qt tonight, 5.5 gal today.
7/30 am Friday Helen was really unnecessarily crabby this morning. She came in clean but started right in whipping me with her tail. What a pill she is being. She gave 3 gal + 1 qt.
7/30 pm It’s amazing the way that 8″ high bantam has kept her four 3″ high chicks alive. They are so cute scratching around with her. Of course were a skunk or raccoon to find her in the night they’d all be done for. But my large cat population seems to have discouraged the skunks. I haven’t seen one for nearly a year. I guess the barn angels are looking out for us. I went to turn on the fan to keep Helen and me cool during milking and it didn’t work. I could smell the wiring and it was warm. I suppose I left it on yesterday and it quit during the night and has been sitting there smoldering ever since (gawd… 200 year old barn – ed.). Helen was a pill but I managed to milk clean all the same. Tonight she gave 2 gal.+2 qt. That’s 5.75 gal. for the day so production is still building.
7/31 am Saturday Another wilting hot high humidity day. But Helen came in clean so I didn’t have to annoy her by scrubbing her teats. She steps around constantly almost as though her feet hurt. But she didn’t actually kick. I was able to complete the milking without resorting to the kicker appliance. The bantams in the pigpen finally all stepped out through their window into the grain room. There they were all standing looking at me with the “now what” look of people who had just heard their flight had been cancelled.
7/31 pm Helen came in terribly hot. She stood pretty well. By the time I was done she was panting hard and I insisted she take the outdoor exit so she would pass the water tank. She drank a long time, still panting. I was overheated myself. I had to stop every two minutes and mop my face while milking. It was in the nineties and very high humidity. In other places they have it worse. At least I have no water shortage. The garden is in some trouble. All the broccoli has burst into bloom and is pretty well ruined. Helen seems to be suffering from the heat more than the other animals. Making milk is hot work. The sheep have a cool cave under the garage. They are drinking quite a lot. The pigs don’t seem to mind. Helen gave 5.75 gal today. I have increased her grain a bit.
8/1 am Sunday. It did not get below 70 last night. Helen stood OK for awhile but the flies are getting bad. Also after she begins to let down and I am milking the front teats the back quarters become painfully engorged. I have to switch back and forth to relieve the pressure but she doesn’t like it. 3 gal + 2 qt this morning.
8/1 pm Helen was truly awful this evening, filthy feet and filthy mood. The flies were bad which surely contributed. Without restraint I really doubt I could have gotten the milk out of her, certainly not without getting very dirty myself. But all the trouble seems worthwhile after tasting the ice cream I made today with heavy cream. Son Martin agreed, so did Cousin Marcia. I found two of the baby chicks peeping desperately all by themselves near the pigpen. It took me 15 minutes to catch them. The rest of the family has vanished. I don’t know if the mother went into the pigpen. If so, the pigs will have eaten the chicks. Pigs are not easily intimidated by a hen. I have put the chicks in a box to see what tomorrow brings.
8/2 am Monday Well, working away this morning in the beefer pen with two chicks was the little hen and two chicks. So I don’t know how she managed to lose track of the two I found under the ramp. I suppose she went around a corner and they lost sight of her like kids in Wal-Mart. The two I kept overnight in a box of hay were just fine. I chucked them out next to her and they ran right back their mom. Helen was particularly evil this morning, totally restless and irritable. Maybe she has lice. This evening I will sprinkle her with diatomaceous earth. Because of the heat the cattle haven’t laid down outdoors for weeks. Old surfaces certainly harbor lice.
8/2 pm Helen’s behavior wasn’t too bad. I rubbed in diatomaceous earth in case she has lice although I see no signs of any. Also today I bought some fly spray and gave her legs a good whiffing. But she was so dirty that I didn’t feel like taking a risk with her lifting a foot and so put the kicker on.
8/3 am Tuesday Helen was strange this morning. Despite being packed with milk and bellowing she was reluctant to enter the beefer pen, her access area. While waiting for her to make up her mind I strewed old hay over the nasty area where she has to walk and she was able to (finally) walk in with clean feet. Later, after milking, she insisted on exiting through that same door rather than out the ramp where I usually send her. She isn’t fond of the ramp either as it is steep for her. I think she remembered the comfortable hay walkway I made for her. She gave 3 gal + 1 qt.
8/3 pm Helen was reasonable this evening but the steers were on a tear. It’s tricky to get Helen in without Henry. He always wants to come in. I throw down little handfuls of grain to distract him trying not to throw down enough to interest Helen. One of the ewes was out. I couldn’t find where she got out and she couldn’t remember either. I finally got her onto the lawn where there is a granite wall. She saw where she was supposed to be, stood on the wall and sailed gracefully over.
8/4 am Wednesday I set the alarm for 4 am today because I am going to Portland to meet my sister at the airport. All the animals were pleased with the early start. Helen was near the barn and came in clean. I strewed hay for her to walk on so her feet weren’t bad. She stood very well. There are no flies at 5 am. She wasn’t quite so packed with milk either. What with hurried pouring back in the kitchen I spilled some so don’t know exactly what she gave. One small chick was peeping desperately. It had jumped into the steers feed pan and couldn’t get out. I left the pan tipped up in case they get foolish again.
8/5 am Thursday We got home late for chores and very tired last night. Helen was packed with milk. I wasn’t milking until 5 pm. I brought in close to 3 gallons. Her volume for the day certainly topped 6 gallons. But her front left quarter was very hard and did not milk out properly. I’m going to the barn now and will see what morning brings. Last night I rubbed it with my tea tree oil/olive oil mixture which has helped before. But there wasn’t much left in the jar. … Nature or tea tree oil, Helen’s quarter was back in business this morning albeit with a few lumps. She stood quietly. But I only got 2.5 gal; usually I get about 3 in the morning. I let the calf, Hector out to join his mother and the steers. Helen licked his nose immediately and obviously expected him to follow her like a good calf. But he has been by himself so long he had forgotten his calf business and just ran around scaring chickens. Early this morning a couple of sheep were out again. They had forced open their gate, the same way some got out yesterday. Later I went under the garage to count noses and all had returned to home base.
8/5 pm The calf spent the day with Helen but did not suck. He came back in and fed from his bucket. I don’t think he had much fun. Helen is very friendly to him. For the pigs supper I made a big pan of stale oatmeal. I poured a couple of gallons of skim milk on it but didn’t check the temperature. Poor old pigs burned their snouts. They went straight over and each drank a half a bucket of water to cool their mouths. Helen gave 2.5 gal. tonight.
8/6 am Friday Perfect weather today. Helen came in nicely and stood nicely. I had to coax Hector in with his bucket. He has not remembered about getting milk from Helen. Also he is not following The “herd” but hangs around the barn. This last two weeks I have sold more dairy products than usual. I don’t have many customers but there are a few loyal ones. The bantam with four tiny chicks are still doing fine. It seems amazing. They are so tiny and their world contains so many hazards.
8/6 pm Hector was missing at chore time. I went ahead and milked. Helen was well behaved. I fed the pigs, collected eggs, then sister Barby and I went searching. It was raining but not very hard. We decided to walk the perimeter of the fields. I checked the river. Due to draught it is too low to drown anything but the bank is too high in most places for a calf to climb back up if it went down. I managed to get my boots full of water is all. Barby and I trudged for about an hour and finally while I was walking along the north edge repeating “Hector, Hector” he broke cover just like a deer, running fast. His instincts are a bit deranged to due separation I guess. I kept calling and he remembered that I am his surrogate mother and pranced along behind me back to the barn. Helen belatedly began calling him when she heard his feet in there. But we decided to leave him in. About 5.5 gal of milk today.
8/7 am Saturday Helen showed up late for milking and was a pill the whole time. I had to jump up to catch pee in a bucket, then jump up again to shovel away manure. I started out without the kicker but soon had to put it on. I love the person who invented that thing. It’s like a big C and goes on and off very simply. It absolutely prevents kicking with the near hind leg which is what’s important. I think Helen was upset because I kept Hector in last night. I let him loose to follow her out after milking. He has forgotten about proper following of his mom which she finds puzzling. 3 gal this morning.
8/7 pm I never saw the mother bantam with four chicks today. I’m afraid something got them. Hector spent the day with the other cattle and came in with Helen at milking time for his bucket. Not, however, without some well placed guidance. The same when I put him out. I had to do some pushing but out he went. Helen was touchy again this evening but let down well. She gave 2.5 gals.
8/8 am Sunday My little bantam with her four chicks was back this morning. Hector is beginning to get a better idea of how to come in and out and find his bucket of milk. He must weigh 100 lbs now and still has the calf trait of setting his legs and pulling backwards if I attempt to lead him by the collar. This makes guidance difficult and mostly involves my foot. Helen gave 3 gal + 1 qt this morning. I put the kicker on halfway through milking as she seemed to be considering raising her dirty foot. I’m expecting some hay today even though it is raining hard.
8/8 pm It rained most of today. Total for the day 5.5 gal
8/9 am Monday Hector trotted in without hesitation. It takes him about 30 seconds to finish his milk. I’m going to increase it slightly. He follows the herd now most of the time. Stewart came this morning and took one steer to slaughter, I didn’t see which one. I hope it was Herbie as I saw Hector sucking on him. Helen gave a bit under 3 gal.
8/9 pm Stewart didn’t take a steer after all. He tried to load Herbie, the Holstein, but had no luck. Hector didn’t show up at milking time. I was all for saying forget it, let him get good and hungry. But sister Barby went walking around the fields with Muffin and after about 20 minutes found him down near the river. He then came trotting home apparently pleased with himself and drank his milk. Helen gave 2.5 gal.
8/10 am Tuesday It’s bright and sunny today, down to 40. Well before 7 am neighbor Stewart and a crew were out by the barn trying to load Herbie. There were a number of false starts. I started milking during a break in the proceedings where they had caught Herbie and had him tied in the passageway while they went away to weigh the merits of just shooting him and taking a carcass to the slaughterhouse. Henry, the 15 month old Jersey steer, got past Herbie and was nosing around all the while I was milking. I kept expecting Helen to kick but instead she stood like a rock and let down just fine. She loves Henry and seemed pleased he was there. I had to whirl around and wave my arms at him frequently. I don’t trust him much. His usual expression of friendship is to try mounting the object of his affection. Helen gave 2.5 gals. tonight. The ewes and one lamb were out this evening. They have pretty much destroyed their gate. They had a lovely time grazing on the lawn, then went into the barn and ate chicken food. With Barby’s help I herded them back where they belong. Then we did a cheap gate repair by tying a board across with baling string.
8/11 am Wednesday The twice a day rodeo with the cattle when I bring in Helen to milk is now worse rather than better with Herbie gone. Henry tries even harder to come along and bellows all the time I’m milking. Then when I turn them out Helen gets all confused at the open door with Henry racing in. So she expressed cow confusion by making a big plop for me to clean up. However she stood nicely this morning and gave about 3 gal.
8/11 pm I put down a bale of the new hay and they all seem to like it although it is quite stemmy. We had the same rodeo situation tonight getting Helen and Hector in while keeping Henry out. This is not amusing. Helen was restless but did not really kick . I have not used the kicker for the last three milkings. Hector finishes his bucket in about 30 seconds but now that he spends his days outside he doesn’t cavort in his stall like he used to. He just lies down quietly. I fed the sheep in a new place tonight that does not involve opening their gate. They always follow me closely when I go into their paddock.
8/12 am Thursday Henry stood aside politely this morning, Helen was quiet except while I scrubbed her teats which she hates, and Hector trotted to his bucket and later out the door without a hitch. Helen gave a bit less than 3 gal.
8/12 pm Henry was a major pest again tonight causing me to have to chase around in a very messy area. I hate this. But Helen was good. Production is down a bit. Slightly under 5.5 gal.
8/13 am Friday Helen was already bellowing for me at 6 am. I got to the barn at my customary 7 am. Her manners were excellent. She gave an even 3 gals. Henry also cooperated: I took along an old shovel handle to poke him out of the way. He’s a sweet, friendly intelligent guy and very cute but what a pest!
8/13 pm An electrical storm appears to be about to hit judging by the look of the sky. The air is heavy. Helen was well mannered this evening even though I had company during milking, a young man hoping for a kitten. I will try to catch one for him to take on Monday. After I let Helen out I noticed what for some reason I failed to notice for the last three days: when the men took Herbie they closed some gates so Helen has been unable to get out in her pasture. No wonder she has wanted so much hay. I am cross with myself for not noticing immediately and cross with them for going off and leaving my gates wrong. 5 gal 1 qt today.
8/14 am Saturday It’s turned hot again, 72 at daybreak with maximum humidity. Helen came in nicely and Hector the calf and Henry the steer were well behaved. Hector is now over a month old and mighty exuberant. He bit right through the teat on his milk bucket this morning. I was holding the bucket in place so he wouldn’t dump the whole thing as he did last night. I got him to finish his milk with his head in the bucket and he got most of it. I’ll have to build a frame to hold the bucket. Helen gave 3 gal. + 1 qt.
8/14 pm We had rain today, quite hard, but it stayed hot. Helen whipped her tail around all the time I was milking and threatened to kick but I managed to control her without the kicker. The flies may have been bothering her but I think it was mostly ill temper. She gave over 2.5 gal. 5.75 for the day. They do tend to give more on a rainy day if grazing continues. I suppose it’s the wet forage. Hector drank from a bucket tonight, faster than ever. I didn’t have time to build a frame so I just held onto the bucket. Feeding the pigs was messy business due to muddy conditions. I came in and took a shower.
8/15 Sunday Up extra early today so I could go do a family cow seminar for Small Farm Filed Day sponsored by Maine Small Farm Field Day and Cooperative Extension. It had been a warm dry night and the cows slept outside. So Helen wasn’t waiting for me. I fed the pigs while I called her. After about 15 minutes she came in and gave 3 gal + 1 qt. Sister Barby and I then set out for Unity where the fairgrounds are, It was a two hour drive. We thought me talk went well. About 20 people listened, a “guest” cow was there for all to admire, and I sold five books, also got interviewed for TV. Fun. This evening Helen gave 2 gal 3 qts. That’s 6 gallons today. It takes a good half hour to milk. I am extra tired tonight so will turn in early. Long day!
8/16 am Monday We’re having a fine clear summer day. Helen and Hector walked in politely, Hector finished off his milk and spent ten minutes knocking the bucket around his room, Helen stood quite nicely. Production was down some, just about 3 gal. this morning. Helen went out the back ramp without argument. I sprinkled lime on it to reduce slipperiness and this helps. I’ve been steaming cracked corn for the pigs quite frequently. The hot corn warms up their slops in the morning which they clearly appreciate. Pigs make very contented noises when they are happy.
8/16 pm The weather today was very fine and all the animals are happy with the exception of one kitten I caught the morning and put in a cage. Somebody said he wanted it but he has not showed up. Helen gave 2.5 gal tonight. That’s a little under 5.5 gal. today.
8/17 am First thing this morning when I went into the buttery I found a crying newborn kitten in the middle of the floor. The cat I call Funny Face had her kittens back in a corner and just like her last batch, every time I come in sight she leaps up hoping for food and drags kittens along with her. She then seems not to know how to collect them up so I have to do it. There are three this time, two black, one grey. Milking was interrupted by Helen making a big plop for no apparent reason. In a couple of minutes I saw why. Neighbors Stewart and Ed had backed up a trailer for Henry, the 15 month old Jersey steer. The slaughterhouse had an opening in their schedule. Henry loaded a lot more easily than Herbie last week. He was sweet and I feel bad but such is the fate of all steers, if not sooner then later. It will make less work for me as he was the prime cause of my twice a day rodeo. I will be taking half the meat. Just 3 gal. of milk this morning.
8/17 pm The barn is a lot quieter this evening. Helen gave 2 gal. + 2.5 quarts
8/18 am Wednesday Helen gave just 3 gals. this morning. Hector is now perfectly trained to trot right into the barn. He finds his bucket without error. He goes ahead of Helen. She always has to stop and contemplate the problem of hefting her bulk up the ramp, any ramp. Cows hate ramps. The three kittens in the buttery survive. I’ve already put them back in their nest three times this morning though.
8/18 pm It’s so much easier getting Helen in now and the place she waits is less messy. Before letting her in I sprayed for flies. They are getting bad. It did make her quieter I think. Also there was some breeze coming in the window. She gave 2.5 gal. tonight. I tried putting a leather halter on Hector. He is almost too strong for me already. I managed to get it on but couldn’t hold it still to make the size adjustments and it fell off. It has a nice bell attached. The halter struggle frightened him and he wouldn’t come when I called him to go out.
8/19 am Thursday First thing this morning I discovered that Funny Face, the cat with new kittens, had left them to chill. The two black ones were cuddled together and still wiggling but I didn’t find the grey one for another 15 minutes. It was alone and colder. I put them in a basket on the Aga to warm up and they all revived. I figured to offer them back to their mother after milking and after they were warmed up. She was sitting on the driveway sunning herself, the baggage. I shall go back to calling her Ugly Face, her original name. She really is the worst looking cat. She continued to refuse them. By the time I could get around to feeding them the grey one was dead. One black one probably will not make it. Helen was a good girl this morning. She gave 3 gal. + 1 quart. For the first time this morning I saw Hector chewing his cud. That’s good news. It means he is grazing.
8/19 pm I warmed and fed those kittens and replaced them in their nest three times while the mother was roaming around and she didn’t go near them. I also fed them a bunch more times. I guess they are my job now. I have a tiny bottle. I hope they like Jersey milk. Both of them are now vigorous. Helen danced around all through milking but did not actually kick. She gave 2.5 gal and a bit more. Son Martin arrived in time to help with pig feeding and also with the sheep. The ram, Dave, still races from pan to pan sweeping all before him with his four horns as he tries to get the most.
8/20 am Friday Another fine day in Maine. I got a bit of a late start due to kitten feeding and Helen and Hector were both bellowing for me. They are making it OK so far on Jersey milk. Helen gave 3 gal + 1 qt this morning.
8/20 pm Son Martin was able to pet Helen out in the field today. She tends to be afraid of men and hand shy so this was a victory. She gave 2.5 gal tonight. The kittens seem OK but I’ve diluted their milk to half water in case Jersey milk is too strong. Their urine seems too dark. I’ve fostered quite a lot of kittens but never any quite this young. They are now just four days old. I have 200 bales of hay coming at 8 am so must get to bed early.
8/21 am Saturday Up early today to feed kittens and finish milking before the hay arrived. I just barely got the milk strained when it came about 8 am, 200 bales of second cut loaded on a pickup and trailer. The farmer brought a hay elevator and I hired on two lads from the neighborhood to help. It took about an hour to get it all stacked. The hay looks quite good. I threw down a broken bale for Helen to try so we’ll see what she thinks. The boys found a nest where the bantams have been laying. It had six eggs. I found another with 14 eggs. I took all the eggs from my nest and replaced them with two ivory billiard balls. I need to find some fake eggs for the other nest too.
8/21 pm There was drizzly rain today. Helen was not in the beefer pen at milking time, in fact was out near the front of the barn where there is another gate I rarely use, in fact could not use while the steers were here as it would have been impossible to hold back Henry. Entering the front of the barn from that gate includes a free walk across the lawn and open access to the road unless I close the driveway gate. Today I offered Helen the option of coming in through this little used gate which is a straight walk into the barn with no ramp. She walked in nicely after brief meditation, Hector behind her. She gave 2.5 gallons + 1 qt., close to 6 gals. for the day.
8/22 am Sunday What with overcast sky and drizzle, feeding kittens and putting out the trash for pickup, I was almost an hour late with the milking. Helen was a good sport about it and gave her customary 3 gals. 1 qt. When I let Hector back out I noticed orange baling string hanging out of his mouth. I grabbed it and pulled a good foot of it out that he had swallowed. It looked pretty funny. This was the string I’ve been using to tie up his milk bucket. so he doesn’t slam it around the room after he finishes his milk. I never thought he could suck on it hard enough to untie it. I should never have used plastic string. With the sisal string if they swallow it eventually gets digested. Plastic is a hazard. The pigs liked their breakfast. Son Martin brought lots of stuff for them from camp where he has been staying, even chocolate chips.
8/22 pm Helen gave 2.5 gals. tonight. The sheep were very rowdy at feeding time. They had pushed one pan far away and both were full of rainwater which made me slow to serve out their grain. Dave, the ram, dances around aggressively whirling his horns and butting. I go in armed with a cedar shingle to fan them back but it doesn’t slow Dave down much. He caught one of his four horns in my skirt and I gave him a swift kick in the forehead, a bad mistake. It was like kicking a concrete abutment even though I had on my heavy plastic clogs. My big toe is still numb an hour later. Next time I try kicking him I will be wearing steel toe boots.
8/23 am Monday Helen gave 3 gal + 1 pint this morning. I was one time. She was very irritable for no reason I could tell. Maybe she is in heat. She has not declared unequivocal heat since calving. The tiny kittens I am fostering are still doing OK.
8/23 pm Helen gave 2.75 gal tonight. The kittens have been crying a lot and seem generally miserable. The smaller one is definitely weaker. At their last feed I gave them plain boiled water which they seemed to like. I’ll give them one more feed tonight.
8/24 Tuesday The weaker kitten didn’t make it through the night. The survivor is pretty lively. I had guests here this morning who came to watch me milk Helen. They had never seen a cow being milked. The wife, Holly, fed the kitten his bottle. Helen behaved perfectly. Unfortunately I spilled some of the milk, my own fault, so I don’t know just what she gave but it seemed to be the usual amount. The sheep were more orderly this evening. However my toe is turning purple. I took an Advil today because I was on my feet making pickle relish. My fields are getting bushhogged and they really look nice. The sun shone all day and the temp reached 88f.
8/25 Wednesday Another beautiful. The tractor is no longer parked here so I think my fields must be done. They sure do look good. About mid morning when I glanced out the window I saw Helen and Hector on the lawn, Helen eating grass, Hector exploring. I ran out and closed the gate at the end of the driveway so they could not get onto the road. Then I opened one of the field gates and they marched back where they belong. But now Helen knows the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence. Helen gave 5.75 gals today. I’m having to make butter more often than I feel like it.
8/26 am Thursday Today is a little cloudy but still very nice. I milked pretty much on time. Helen was well behaved. I changed Hector to a different bucket and it took him a couple of minutes to decide he could drink from the it. He took one slurp from the new stainless bucket, then ran all around the room looking for his blue plastic one. He’s a very frisky little guy. But I must get the vet over for that operation he’s due for. Helen gave 3 gal. + 1 qt.
8/26 pm Another very fine day. All the animals were happy. I got 13 eggs. Most days for the last month I have not gotten over eight or nine. Helen gave 2.5 gal tonight, 5.75 for the day. Fine cow. I walked down to the river today with Muffin dog. It is very low. The cardinal flowers are still in bloom. Hector has a new trick. I’ve been in the habit of leaving the sliding back door of the barn open just enough to allow the bantams through. Now he puts his nose in the crack and opens it wide for himself so he can get into mischief. I guess the bantams are going to have to find a new route.
8/27 Friday am Last night the moon was superb through a light mist on the fields. I thought about Helen and Hector sleeping out there somewhere no doubt enjoying it. They both trotted in nicely this morning. Helen’ production was down slightly. Just a little over 3 gals. The kitten I am fostering in a box on the Aga is actually growing a bit. He drinks about 2 teaspoons at a feed and is energetic. He goes right back to sleep after feeding but often wakes up if he hears me at the stove. If he doesn’t get a gut infection he may make it. Also the pigs look good. Most of the time I cook up cracked corn for them. It’s a nuisance but they prefer it to commercial pellets and it saves money too. Three pints of cracked corn which must be about 3lbs swells up into enough for two feeds. If feeding the pellets I have to give them 3 or 4 scoops, at least 4 lbs, for just one feed. Either way I mix it with one or two gallons of skim milk, often more.
8/27 pm I got back my share of the steer, Henry, that was butchered last week. 210lb of new beef now in the freezer. Neighbor Stewart who raises a lot of pigs looked at mine today and said they need at least another month of heavy feeding. Helen gave 2.5 gallons tonight plus a bit. The kittens eyes are beginning to open this evening.
8/28 am Saturday A very fine day. Helen and Hector came right in. Helen gave well over 3 gals. I’ve quit warming Hector’s milk. I just put a shot of boiling water into it. I always give him milk from the night before. As soon as I finished milking neighbor Geo. Averill arrived with six cords of tree length logs for us to cut up for the wood stove. It looks good.
8/28 pm Helen gave 2.5 gals tonight and was very well behaved despite heat and flies. Hector follows her very closely now. They are never far apart. Grandson Rafe is here now. Despite jet lag he is out on his second walk with Muffin. Also he carried and poured the pig food. This evening for the first time they showed they can stand up and put their feet on their top rail. Time to add another rail.
8/29 am Sunday I was an hour late getting up this morning but Helen didn’t seem to mind at all and had perfect manners. Grandson Rafe watched me milk and carried buckets. He is full of ideas for improvements. There were a couple of baby chicks peeping madly in the grain room. Rafe found the sneaky mother behind an old window sash. I must take them some milk. It’s a fine day, light breeze, not too hot, just a breath of fall in the air.
8/29 pm Rafe got the springline running again. Hurrah for spring water! Also Rafe found four one month old kittens in the vines at the edge of the garage. I believe they emerged because their mother has vanished. Poor little Martha did not show up today. I heard what sounded like coyotes last night. I fear they have got her. I feel terrible about this. I didn’t even know she had kittens. I thought they had died. I had not been giving her extra food so probably she was hunting. The kittens are very cute and will be easy to find homes for.
8/30 am Monday A fine cool clear day. Helen was perfect. She gave 3 gals plus 1 qt. The new kittens cry a lot but are learning to drink from a saucer.
8/30 pm Helen gave 2.75 gal tonight. Wow. That’s 6 gal! She was perfectly quiet and well mannered. I’m feeding quite a lot of the new hay now, also the grazing is improved by the bushhogging. No doubt that is the reason for her good production. I think her production is about as good as could be expected from a cow of her size. This is gratifying because I reared her from birth keeping her on milk much longer than the authorities recommend and throughout her growth period she was fatter than is recommended. Poor production and calving difficulties are said to result from fatness. She has had no calving problems and has excellent production.
8/31 am Tuesday I was on time for milking (I consider anything between 7:00 and 7:30 to be on time), Helen and Hector walked in perfectly, and Helen gave an amazing 3.75 gal! I’d better increase her grain so she doesn’t lose condition. Rafe got the calf halter onto Hector, not without a struggle as Hector is now well over 100 lbs I think, and all muscle. But so is Rafe, and finally the halter was on. I thought all the thumping around next door would stop Helen letting down but it didn’t. The halter has a bell attached so this made Hector more excited.
8/31 pm Helen gave 2 gal + 1 qt this evening, a clear six gallons today. I increased her grain. She really eats her hay too. Rafe worked much of the day on a pig trough. Tomorrow we will get it into the pigpen.
9/1 am Wednesday Another fine clear day. Many days now without rain. The pasture is dry and the veg and flower gardens looking desperate. My lovely corn patch begins to look worried. Helen was bellowing for me this morning for an hour before I got there only 5 minutes late. She gave 3 gals. + 1 pint. All the kittens are doing fine. Little Martha’s one month old cuties are beginning to get the hang of drinking from a saucer. One or two of them understand the litter box.
9/1 pm Rafe finished the pig feeder and installed it in the pig pen. It is sturdy and also I will not have to lift buckets up high. I can now pour in their slop from low down on my side of the fence. He also made a new sheep feeder. It is situated so that, at last until winter snow and ice, I can pour in their feed in compartments without entering the paddock. Less leaping about for me, better sharing for the sheep. 2.75 gal milk tonight.
9/2 Thursday Up early and off early today to fetch granddaughter Rosie at the bus station in Lewiston. She’s Rafe’s sister and a similar dynamo. After a 20 hour journey from Alaska she went straight to canning tomatoes and raking the lawn. Helen gave 5.75 gals. same as yesterday.
9/3 am Friday Another beautiful day with both grandchildren doing great repair and canning projects. Such energy! Helen gave her usual 3 gallons plus. I forgot to close Hector’s door where he goes for his bucket of milk so he wandered away and paid a visit to the laying hens. He is very friendly and curious. He seems to have gotten used to wearing a halter with a bell. The kids are going to try giving Dave, the Jacob ram, another shearing today. He has grown a new thick fleece and will have time to grow plenty more before snow flies. All my bantam chicks have survived. Six were hatched in the grain room last week. I’ve been leaving that door open in case the mother wants to move them out but so far she doesn’t. There is plenty for them to find to eat on the floor but no water. I take them a dish of milk twice a day. All six chicks hop right in up to their tiny knees and tank up.
9/3 pm Helen gave 2.75 gals tonight. Not quite 6 gals. total today. It was blasting hot all day. Everything is very dry. The kids picked 10 gallons of crabapples. We walked in to inspect our spring which is about 3.4 miles away on a mountainside. It is low but clear. It is not running well but we can’t tell why. The kids also went swimming in the river and reported seeing corn cobs on the riverbank and raccoon tracks. Sounds like the raccoons are raiding my corn patch. No one else in the neighborhood is growing corn.
9/4 am Saturday Another fine day, but promising to be hot.. Helen gave 3 gals. and a bit. Rafe and Rosie caught Dave, the ram, right after breakfast. They planned to shear him. But there were so many bugs attacking Rafe that they postponed the operation. Rosie turned to bread making. 8/4 pm Today was very hot, nearly 90. Sons Mark and Martin and his friend Shawna arrived and together with Rafe and Rosie made a big dent in the cutting and splitting of the tree length logs we had delivered last week. They cut and split with the maul nearly 2 cords and it is all stacked now in the garage. This did not leave time for sheep shearing. Rafe and Rosie plan to get up at 4:30 to do it. We must leave by 9 am for Bar Harbor where Rafe will attend College of the Atlantic. Helen gave somewhat over 2.5 gals tonight. Afterwards we all ate a big chicken dinner.
9/5 Sunday I didn’t see much of my farm today. I spent all day driving to Bar Harbor to take grandson Rafe to school and Rosie to the ferry for Nova Scotia. They both accomplished many great improvements in the short time they were here besides giving me much assistance with daily chores. Cousin Marcia came in and fed the small kittens whose mother died and kept the tiny one at her house where she gave it a real bath. Helen gave her steady amount: 5.5 gallons and some more, I lost track. Rosie and Rafe got up at 4 am to shear the ram as there was no time yesterday.
9/6 am Monday Labor Day Today is overcast and slightly cooler. Helen came in perfectly clean. Her production was down to a bit less tan 3 gals. Could she be in heat? So far no other evidence. My smallest kitten is now almost 3 weeks old but very small for his age. He is getting more active and doesn’t want to spend all day sleeping in his box. I let him socialize with Little Martha’s five week old kittens which are also in the kitchen. They tried to play but he isn’t ready for that. He did seem interested to meet them.
9/6 pm Today turned out unexpectedly hot but has ended up with a bit of a drizzle. I didn’t see any signs of heat in Helen but she was low again tonight, barely over 2.5 gallons.
9/7 am Tuesday Helen gave slightly less than 3 gals. this morning, the least in a long time. This is puzzling. Weather today is overcast and very muggy. We had a sprinkle last night, just enough to wet the grass.
9/7 pm The pigs need another board on their new feeder. There is a chance they could squeeze out through the feeder. I didn’t get it done today so I hope they stay in another night. I gave them a big dinner so they should sleep well. Helen gave 2.74 gals tonight. So production is still down a bit. The weather was hot and muggy all day. Maybe it takes away her appetite. My corn patch is largely dried up. The ears are full but not very big. I probably should have thinned the seedlings. The corn is beautiful, all different colors. I don’t see any sign of raccoon damage.
9/8 am Wednesday It’s even hotter and muggier today, 70 at 6 am. Helen gave 3 gals this morning. She and Hector seemed very happy and friendly. She wanted hay. All the baby kittens in the kitchen are doing OK. I started them on canned cat food yesterday and today they were following me around mewing for me to open another can. This morning I am beginning preparations for cheese making. I have sent away for everything I need I think.
9/8 pm Helen gave just 2.25 gals tonight. Less than usual. It is still hot and muggy. One of the ram lambs now 7 or 8 months old broke off half of one of his horns in battle with the other ram lamb the same age. His horn and much of his head and everything he touched is covered in blood. I sprinkled powdered lime on it. It was the only thing I could think of.
9/9/99 We have another steamy muggy hot day. Helen gave only 2.75 gals. this morning. She seemed happy and was clean. Hector, two months old tomorrow, is very bouncy and growing fast. I am trying to train him to some voice commands but so far to no avail. “Stand up” and “walk on” are what I’m working on. After his bucket of milk he lies down and doesn’t want to move. All the kittens are healthy. There is also a new litter of four in the barn. I think they were born last Friday or Saturday.
9/9 pm Just 2.25 gal tonight. Puzzling. Every milking it seems Helen is slower to leave. Neither she nor Hector want to go back out. I guess they just like exploring around in the barn. I am getting fewer eggs now too. Maybe it’s just fall coming on. The pigs are looking better every day. It’s lots easier to feed them now with their new feeder.
9/10 am Friday Hotter and muggier than ever. Flies were thick and tempers thin during milking. I finally put the kicker on Helen for the first time in several weeks. She was very annoyed when I began milking her off hind teat with my left hand instead of my right. Both left hand quarters ended up with milk after the near quarters were done. Cows are often very touchy about the least change in procedure and seem to be saying “You’re doing that wrong!” I told her to learn to live with it. Later it started to rain which should help. I am making cheese today. 2.75 gals.
9/10 pm I’m not very confident about the way this cheese is turning out. I gave the pigs whey tonight instead of skim milk. It took all day to get it into the press. I put all the kittens except the very smallest one out into the buttery. They aren’t happy about it. It rained all day. We got more than 2″ and it has not stopped. This is the first real rain in over 3 weeks and many things have dried up or died. I forgot to feed the sheep their grain. There was none of the usual baa-ing to remind me. They must have been staying dry in their run in. Helen gave a bit less than 2.5 gallons. The bantam hen with 6 chicks in the grain room finally ventured out with them into the main hall of the barn for a while today. The grain room is awash with rain leaking through the roof. After the rain stops I must remember to climb up and find out if there are leaks anywhere that I have hay stored.
9/11/99 am Saturday We got another 2″ of rain in the night and this morning everything is bright and fresh. Helen and Hector were well mannered. Helen gave 3 gal. The bantam hen in the grain room led her six chicks right out this morning for a look around. My attempt at cheddar cheese making was a total bust. I know I over heated the sliced curd at one point. I expect that was the problem. Late in the evening I made another batch of queso blanco, a failure proof cheese similar to ricotta, and that turned out fine. I got 18 oz of cheese from 1 gal. milk. This morning for breakfast I rolled some up in a pancake like blini and it was excellent.
9/11 pm Very fine weather all day. I made 5 lbs of butter and canned 8 pints of tomato sauce. Also picked more tomatoes. The beans are getting ahead of me. The new sheep feeder that Grandson Rafe made is watertight and all five sections were holding rain water. I didn’t notice this until the sheep were standing there waiting for their grain. So I poured it into the sections with the least water and they had mush for dinner. Stanley, the lamb whose horn broke yesterday, has got it bleeding again. It was all dried up this morning Helen gave a little less than 2.5 gal tonight. Only 3 eggs from the layers. I allow them to run free now so I don’t know if they are hiding a nest or just slowing down.
9/12 Three gallons this morning, 2 plus 1 quart in the evening. Helen is looking extremely good. The bantam and her 6 little chicks ran all the way down the big barn floor to meet me when I went in at milking time. I always give them some of the milk I am bringing for Hector. A woman came today looking for a kitten so one of Little Martha’s orphans has a new home. Stanley, the ram lamb that broke his horn, is no longer bleeding and looks fine. Today was clear and sunny but did not get hot. I picked another half bushel of tomatoes and some more of my field corn, Mandan Bride. It is very ornamental and looks too good to feed to a cow.
9/13 Monday 2.75 gals. this morning. 1.75 this evening. There is plenty of decent grazing so I guess she is just naturally dropping off. I measured how high Hector is. He is 35″ high at the backline. I picked a lot more tomatoes today but there are plenty left. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not too hot.
9/14 am Tuesday The day is starting out fine but we are to expect weather associated with hurricane Floyd before the day is over. Helen was very orderly this morning. She gave a little over 3 gals. The sheep were complaining for food this morning, unusual. I took them some hay. They were disappointed that it wasn’t grain. I look later to see if they ate it.
9/14 pm Helen gave 2.5 gals. tonight. 5.5 total. I brought another shopping basket of tomatoes up from the garden today. There is a lot more corn to pick. I will need help with that if possible. I made eight pints of salsa today using only home grown ingredients except for the onions and of course sugar.
9/15 am Wednesday No weather yet. Expect rain tonight, ’tis said. This is a heavily heralded storm. In my entire experience, such storms don’t prove as damaging as sneak storms. But this one is said to be the biggest (Hurr. Floyd – just dumped a lot of rain). Helen was mannerly this morning and so was Hector. She gave a bit less than 3 gals. I gave my runty foster kitten a bit of boiled scraped duck liver this morning. He totters around and finds my foot to sit on now but I’m still afraid to give him a name.
9/15 pm The air is close and heavy but no rain or wind so far. Cousin Marcia made me a gift of about three bushels of threshed oats straight out of their field. I hope to do something clever with them. I suspect they need drying. Helen gave not much over 2 gals. tonight.
9/16 am Thursday It rained a slow soaking rain all night, temp 55. Helen and Hector were out grazing in it and were a little slow to come in. They like that sort of rain as it stops the flies but does not chill them. Helen gave a little under 3 gals. this morning. I have used it all to start another cheese attempt. My tiny kitten was greedy for his mashed liver and cream mixture this morning. I suppose he got down a good two teaspoons allowing for dribbles. I gave him his fresh warm milk in a bottle before and after the liver and he has crept back into his little box next to the Aga. I must try weighing him. He has picked up noticeably in the last two days of liver feeding. It had been a week or so since I had given him any.
9/16 pm Helen gave just over 1.5 gal. this evening, 4.5 for the day. It rained all day but she had the hay option. I think it is possible she is in heat. She was following Hector in and odd way. Hector was very confused and slow to come in. But apart from the low production there are no other symptoms. The tiny kitten has begun to follow me around the kitchen and tries to ride on my foot.
9/17 am It rained all night overflowing all buckets and dog dishes. There was a lot of wind too. For the first time ever it lifted my rolling garage door off its track. No way can I lift this back on. Fortunately I had left the car in the driveway or it would be stuck inside. It is still raining. Helen gave a solid 3 gals. this morning. No additional signs of heat. Rain blew rain into the pigs feeder. I had to bail it with a shovel before pouring in their breakfast. They got pretty excited at this delay but they don’t bite. This is fortunate since I have to reach way in. They are friendly pigs. The tiny kitten now runs around the kitchen a lot hopping on my foot and meowing. It wants more liver.
9/17 pm I gave the pigs half a bale of hay this evening to snuggle in. The weatherman says it may drop into the 30’s tonight and it is certainly still very windy and rainy. Helen gave 2.75 gals.
9/18 Saturday A bright new day, temp 55. There is new grass in the pasture. Helen and Hector are doing a lot of happy grazing but still want hay. The grass in the sheep paddock is getting very short. But they aren’t much interested in the hay I’ve given them. Helen gave 3 gals this morning. She was very clean and mannerly.
9/18 pm I picked another basket of my beautiful Indian corn this afternoon. Opening up those ears it like a party. Some of the colors are unbelievable. At chore time I noticed that two of the six grain room chicks were missing. Later as I finished up the last of the chores it occurred to me for no particular reason to look behind some boards that lean up against the back of the barn. There was one of the missing chicks. It fled under the barn as soon as it saw me. I went for the landing net with which I am often able to catch things. It came out from under the barn and raced around the corner to the pig pen. It darted in with the pigs and one gave a great snort. It raced back out with a squeak, rather funny actually. But then it vanished somewhere. At least I don’t have to blame the cats. They obviously just got separated from their mother. It often happens when she takes them outside. 2 gals. tonight.
9/19 am Sunday It’s bright and clear today. It did not freeze last night. The missing chicks are gone for good. Helen gave 2.75 gal. this morning. I saw the sheep eating their hay this morning. pm 2 gals.
9/20 am Monday A foggy start followed by sun. The fields are now covered with new quite lush growth. Yesterday Helen barely touched her hay. Helen had excellent manners this morning. She gave a bit under 3 gals. She seldom wants to leave immediately after milking. She always wants to nose around and sniff everything. I push and cajole while she stands looking.
9/20 pm Helen gave 2.5 gals tonight. The grass is growing fast. She and Hector were way down in Pocket Field, mere dots in the distance but when I called here she immediately turned for the barn. People are always surprised at how fast a cow moves without showing any sign of hurrying. Of course Hector bounces all around as he follows.
9/21 am Tuesday Helen gave 2.75 gals this morning, very mannerly. I have kept Hector in as the vet is probably stopping by and I hope to get him castrated. He has not developed any horns and appears to be polled. Helen of course was reluctant to leave without him and is grazing near the barn so they can moo at each other.
9/21 pm The vet castrated Hector today. He gave him the usual anesthetic shot to lay him down, then afterwards an antibiotic shot. This was about 1:00. By 5:00 he was ready for his bucket of milk even though he was still a bit wobbly. I turned him out with Helen. There is less stress in allowing him to follow his usual habits and a pasture is a cleaner place than the stall on the whole. Helen gave 2 gallons plus 2 pints. That’s 5 gals and a quart today. It has rained steadily all day. The poor sheep were unhappy about their dinner. There was only one dry section in their four section feeder so I poured it all into that. To my surprise, Dave, the ram, took turns eating.
9/22 am Wednesday When I went into the buttery early this morning to feed the cats I was greeted by a moo and it was much too close. There was Helen outside the window on the lawn. Hector wasn’t with her. He was back in the beefer pen complaining of being alone. I went at once and closed the big front gate on the road so she couldn’t get out in traffic. After chores I did a fence survey. I think I see where she went through, a fence wire gate that I was able to close but I doubt is secure. Hector seems fine, almost as frisky as ever. Helen gave 3 gals. this morning.
9/22 pm Helen didn’t get out again today. Hector seems entirely his old self. It rained most of the day but is warm. I started my tiny kitten on canned cat food and it ate about a tablespoonful once it got the idea and now has slept about four hours. It was beginning to bug me by running up to be fed its bottle every time I entered the kitchen. I also tried milk in a dish but it wouldn’t even try to drink it. It is so small and spindly and its feet are nearly transparent but it tries to climb my leg. Helen gave 2 gal + 1 qt tonight.
9/23 Thursday We have had a beautiful fall day and I got a great deal done including making four pounds of butter and another cream cheese. I have a fabulous new recipe. It calls for a quart of heavy cream. Helen gave 5 gals. + 1 quart today. Hector seems his old self except I notice he isn’t making his customary leap over the muddy spot in the beefer pen. I am still getting six to eight eggs, usually half of them bantam eggs. These bantams seem to keep going better than most. I’m glad of that because I have one customer who prefers the little eggs.
9/24 am Friday Another very beautiful day. Helen gave only a little over 2.5 gal. this morning even though I was 45 minutes late getting to the barn. A noise woke me up last night and then I couldn’t get back to sleep.
9/24 pm I have a pulley clothesline that runs off the back of the garage and is accessed by a sliding barn door. Below the sill is a granite wall that drops about 5′ into the sheep paddock which slopes downhill at about a 1 in 20 grade. This afternoon I hung out a big wash and ran out of clothespins so I climbed down to see if any could be found on the ground below. I also took the occasion to have a look in the run-in which is next over under the buttery. That is where the sheep hang out. I check under there frequently to see if they have clean water or if any old wire has emerged from the sand. The sheep all crowded around to have their ears scratched. Dave, the ram, took a few steps backwards, then suddenly lowered his head and charged me. He hit me in the knees and I went right over backwards. While I was picking myself up he charged again. This time I caught him by the horns and held on. He has four horns, two that curve under in the conventional manner and two about 20″ long that stick up like prongs and are about 20″ apart at their tips. While still holding on, I backed over to where I could pick up a big branch with which to defend myself. Then I let go of his horns and he backed away… but only to get a good run on another charge. I actually can’t remember if he knocked me down three times or four, but he tore a strip out of my skirt and I have two bruised knees and a bloody scrape on one hip. After the last charge I again caught him by the horns. By this time we were about 20′ away from the building and downhill. He and I are close to the came weight I think but I may weigh a bit more. He set his feet but I dragged him uphill to a tree next to the shed and near the clothesline door. Then I let go of his horns and got behind the tree. He danced around the far side of the tree but he couldn’t get me because the space between the tree and the shed wasn’t quite wide enough for his spread. After catching my breath for a couple of minutes of this game I made a break to climb back up the wall to the garage. His last charge missed me. I have a feeling that if this had happened to one of my boys we’d be taking his head to a taxidermist. He has not been aggressive before. No doubt it is to do with breeding season which should start soon. Helen gave 2 gals 1 qt tonight. She was very mannerly.
9/25/99 Saturday am 2.75 gals. this morning. I believe Helen is in heat. I have called AI. I shut her in the beefer pen with Hector. She is eyeing me with that attentive gaze, following me and mooing. Can there be any doubt? But will the technician get here today?
9/25 pm The technician arrived sooner than expected. Fortunately I had left Helen in. I chose a bull named Top Kick said to father cows with higher protein content in their milk. The techie said her uterus seemed to be ready. I do hope she settled. That would give me a June calf. However it does mean a shorter calving interval as she calved in July. I will have to compensate with a shorter lactation and longer dry period. There was no further evidence of heat this evening. She gave 2 gals. + 3 pints this evening, 5 gals + 1 pint today. This afternoon I dug my little potato crop, a 10′ row of a type I have been planting and saving seed for almost 20 years. They are a fingerling type with yellow flesh.
9/26 am Sunday Another beautiful day, a little cooler. We almost had frost last night. Helen’s production was the same as it’s been. This is not good news for a successful breeding as commonly there is a noticeable drop after settling. 3 gals minus 1 pint.
9/26 pm Helen gave 2 gals + a pint tonight. This could be a dip in production. 5 gals for the day. But she is on a downward trend anyway. Today was very fine all day. I walked out to the edge of the north field to check for mushrooms but saw none.
9/27 am Monday. Helen gave a full 3 gals this morning. It is again bright and clear. She has been coming in very clean lately. The flies have nearly disappeared yet it is comfortable cow-sleeping weather outside so she has not been spending so much time in the Beefer Pen, her run-in. She is not touching her hay. Hector is another inch taller. When off grazing his resemblance to a deer is striking. Must buy more posting signs.
9/27 pm This afternoon I went on a search for hidden nests. In the loft I found one with a hen just hatching out her chicks. They were probably hatched yesterday and she was just sitting waiting for the last egg to hatch. I brought them a saucer of milk so the chicks wouldn’t dry up. After dark I went up with a cat carrier and scooped them in and put them in the grain room. I couldn’t tell how many chicks were under her wings. I’ll go out early tomorrow with more milk for them and let them out. Up in the loft they are pretty well doomed as the chicks fall through cracks. Helen gave 2 gals plus close to a quart. I finished picking the corn today. Also made a cheesecake using all homemade ingredients such as cream cheese and queso blanco.
9/28 am Tuesday Helen gave a quart less than 3 gals this morning, definitely down. Also, she let down poorly. I had to fight for it and my hands were numb before I was done. Also she talked to me in the soft m-m-m voice a cow uses with a calf. I consider these to be hopeful signs of pregnancy.
9/28 pm Helen came in clean and in a timely fashion. She gave something over 2 gals. making the total for today a shade under 5 gals. This afternoon I took a tour of the veg garden and discovered that deer had eaten the leaves off the pole beans and a lot of swiss chard, broccoli etc. I have strung nylon thread criss cross of the garden. We’ll see if that inhibits them. For some reason I have never had deer problems before.
9/29 am Wednesday This morning is cool and moist with a drizzle starting. Helen gave only just over 2.5 gal. An early morning check reveals no new deer damage. The threads are still up and unbroken.
9/29 pm Helen gave 2 gal. + 1 qt tonight. 4.75 gals today. Her production has clearly taken a dive whatever this means. Pregnancy I hope. She is very friendly and doesn’t want to leave after milking. I picked the last of the tomatoes today except for lots of cherry toms which came up as volunteers. They are very good. A light drizzle kept up all day.
9/30 am Thursday Helen gave 2.75 gals this morning. She continues very friendly, wants her head and ears scratched for a long time after milking and is reluctant to leave. In the meantime Hector is buzzing around finding mischief. This morning I had to chase him out of the hen room. Helen was clearly annoyed with him for being naughty and going in there. After I ran him back out she gave him a good drubbing with her head and pushed him ahead of her to the beefer pen.
9/30 pm Helen gave 2 gals + a pint this evening. Missed 5 gals by a pint. It was rainy and windy all day. I had to skip the sheep’s evening grain feed. Their trough was full of water and I’m not going in with the ram to empty it. They are still calling half an hour later.
10/1 am Friday The sky is once again clear. Helen had to wait until nearly 8 o’clock for me today, late again. But she made no objection. Production was 2.75 gals.
10/1 pm Beautiful weather all day. Muffin and I set out walking towards the river and two housecats, Gingerbread and Suki, followed. We walked to the river and followed the outskirts of the fields all the way around to the north side taking nearly an hour. The two cats followed the entire way. I saw lots of mushrooms but no edible ones. I did find two unbroken pint whiskey bottles from long ago. The fall color is slow this year. This is the first time anyone I have spoken to recalls a September with no frost. Helen gave 2 gals + 1 pint, that’s 5 gals less a pint today. She is in excellent condition. Hector also looks good. He is 37″ high now , top of the hip.
10/2 am Saturday We’re having another fine day but cooler. I see quite a lot of color on the mountainsides this morning. Helen and Hector trotted right in. Helen let down better than she has for the last few days so milking was easier. Also she gave a bit more than yesterday, just a pint shy of 3 gals.
10/3 Sunday Sons Mark and Martin were here all day and we got lots done including rehanging the garage door and putting the rebuilt bulkhead door in position. Martin cut more wood and Mark mowed the lawn which was in sorry shape. It was beautiful today but we are told to expect a freeze tonight. Helen gave a bit over 5 gals today.
10/4 am Monday No freeze last night, instead a steady cold rain. Helen and Hector were glad to stay in with hay. Helen gave 2. 75 gals this morning.
10/4 pm Steady cold rain all day but Helen and Hector grazed anyway. The sheep don’t mind the rain. They graze much of the day but they are now very short of pasture. I brought home granddaughter Rosie today. She will help me do some sheep fencing. It wouldn’t take much to contain them in the veg garden area which they might as well have now that the growing season is at an end. There are still some cabbages in the garden and some chard but little else. 2 gals tonight. 4.75 gals today.
10/5 Tuesday Sweater weather today. Rosie picked up 5 gals. of wild apples for sauce. She and I fenced off the garden entrances and opened the sheep paddock gate to the garden. Dave, the ram, entered briefly and one ewe reached her head in and ate a comfrey leaf. But then they went back to their regular pasture. It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to start grazing in there. Rosie also opened up for Helen the extra area in the woods that she and her mom fenced last spring. Helen gave 4.75 gals. today.
10/6 am Wednesday It still didn’t freeze but the weatherman promises tonight for sure. The day started with heavy fog which has now raised enough for good ground level visibility but the sky is still grey. Three of the sheep were on the lawn near the buttery this morning having found a gap in our new system. It must be a small gap as Dave didn’t come through. His rack requires a really wide gate. Helen gave 3 gals less a pint.
10/6 My little tiny kitten, Pesh, appears to have doubled in size in the last week or so. I have been feeding him raw hamburger. He gobbles it right down. We found where the sheep escaped and fixed it. They have not gotten out again today. I was an hour and a half late milking tonight due to taking Rosie to her violin lesson. Helen was mooing when we got home but was otherwise well mannered. She gave 2 gals + 1 pint. So that’s 5 gals + 1 pt today.
10/7 am Thursday Helen came and left this morning in mannerly fashion. She gave 2.5 gals. For the first time this morning I saw the sheep chasing each other around and mounting. The ram wasn’t doing much; this was the ewes and lambs.
10/7 pm Helen gave 2 gals tonight. Dave is smelling quite strong. His chest is all dirty. I think he may be mounting.
10/8 Friday We got our frost last night. The thermometer outside the kitchen said 28 but I think it was colder at the barn. The hose was frozen solid and chickens were standing around waiting for me to break the ice on their water. Helen gave 2.5 gals.
10/8 pm The sheep were so engrossed with eating cornstalks in the garden this evening that they didn’t come when I called them for their grain. Helen was mannerly while some little children with their grandmother visited at milking time. The children were very quiet. We had sun most of the day. Rosie canned applesauce from the wild apples. It is excellent.
10/9 am Saturday No frost last night. Light rain. Granddaughter Rosie and I got up at 5am to get through chores early. I am taking her for an eye examination at 9am. Helen came right in but Hector was all confused and mooed piteously around the barn for 10 minutes until he figured out where everybody was. Then he came in at the gallop. Ever since he was castrated he never has gone back to leaping across the ramp. He still inches up and down it. 2.5 gal this morning.
10/9 pm 2 gal. tonight. Before feeding the sheep their grain I reread the label on the dairy feed which I have been using and it read “This product contains copper. Do not feed to sheep.” I never knew this before. I don’t know why this is. They love the grain. The sheep were all very frisky tonight. I saw the ram chasing one ewe for about 5 minutes until she was run to a halt but he did not mount. There is a nest of kittens in the barn that I have been bringing occasional canned cat food to. There mother was absent when I fed the barn cats this morning and again this evening. The kittens were crying. I have brought them all into the kitchen now. They are very cute. The poor little mother must have lost her life. Perhaps the fox got her while she was hunting for voles on the riverbank.
10/10 am 2.75 gals this morning and another fine day. Hector and Helen very mannerly except after milking instead of going out she went around the corner and finished off the cat kibbles. The sheep are grazing in the veg garden much of the time now. They return to their lair under the garage to chew their cuds. The four new kittens in the kitchen are eating well and very playful. The small foster kitten, Pesh, is puzzled by them. He has never had any playmates. One patted his face and he ran away.
10/10 pm It has turned dark and windy but not cold, 58 degrees. Helen was irritable and kept hitting me with her tail. I pulled it a few times. She dodged back in to swipe cat food again. She gave almost 2 gals.
10/11 am Monday Columbus day Bright and windy today with high cumulus clouds, a typical October day. Helen came right in. She has lost her bell. Hector’s halter broke yesterday so it is off, bell and all. I must replace these before deer hunting season begins. The chickens aren’t laying at all. I am making them some queso blanco for added protein. The pigs can have the whey. Helen gave a bit over 2.5 gals this morning.
10/11 pm A high wind has come up out of the southwest and it is getting colder. The sheep now have access to the veg garden area and while they were napping I went in to inspect for damage. They have pretty well destroyed the swiss chard, kale and have eaten the tops off the cabbages down the Equators. They have finished off the corn and cornstalks. I guess they aren’t going to eat the lush grass until they have eaten all the veg. But I had to let them in. Their pasture is nibbled right down. Since I read on the mixed feed label (sweet feed) that sheep aren’t supposed to have it, last night and tonight I gave them a mixture of whole oats and cracked corn. They don’t like it but eat it. Helen gave over 2 gals tonight, 4.75 today.
10/12 am Tuesday It’s a fine bright day just above freezing. Helen and Hector were both perfectly mannerly. She gave 2.5 gals. I have a call in to Cooperative Extension to research the matter of copper in sheep feeding.
10/12 pm Extension didn’t call back. My vet stopped by and he didn’t know either why sheep should avoid copper. The weather remained fine all day. Helen gave a little less than 2 gals. tonight so that’s a little less that 4.5 gals today.
10/13 am Wednesday Showers today, temp about 40. I looked at the sheep about 5 am just as it was getting light. They were chasing each other around in a tight bunch. Helen was well mannered this morning but gave a little under 2.5 gals.
10/13 pm Poor Helen had to wait until after 7 o’clock to be milked. Just as I was leaving for the barn with my bucket I got a call from grandson Rafe down from college. He had gotten a ride as far as Lewiston an hour away. It took extra time to find him because he was at a different Shaw’s Market than I thought. Helen was a good sport though. She gave 2 gal. + 1 qt. It was dark when I called her in and she has lost her bell so I had no idea where she was. Finally she emerged from the darkness. Before letting her out I put on an old bell from a former herdmate. It was surprising how much this upset her. She jumped several times when it rang and kept sniffing at the ground as though expecting tracks from the past. I don’t even remember whose bell it was but she certainly did.
10/14 am Thursday Hard rain began just as I was heading for the barn. Helen was over in the woods and came in very wet. The towel was soaking after I dried her off. She was nice and quiet. She gave only 2 gals + 1 pt. We’re having a struggle to find any eggs. I do think some bantams are laying but I can’t find their nest. I guess I’ll have to buy eggs.
10/14 pm As the weatherman predicted, the rain stopped, the wind swung around to the northwest, and it’s blowing up cold. Helen gave 1.75 gals tonight, a big drop. Milking so late last night might be a factor but more likely the declining quality of the grass. She still prefers it to her hay just because it’s green I think.
10/15 am Friday I was a bit late again this morning but Helen didn’t seem to mind. It was down to about 30 degrees but I think she must still be sleeping outdoors because she comes in clean. She was slow and reluctant to leave her stanchion, just wanted to hang around and nibble. She gave 2.5 gallons.
10/15 pm Helen gave a little under 2 gals. tonight. I won’t give any more milk to the pigs for the present. My visiting grandchildren are big milk drinkers and I still give the calf a gallon and a half a day.
10/16 Saturday Helen had what she thought was an awful experience this morning. While in her stanchion her bell caught in a crevice forcing her head to stay lowered. Neither she nor I could pull it back out. She started to panic a little bit but I talked her down. It was necessary to persuade her to keep lowering her head rather than pulling back. Otherwise I couldn’t release the catch on the bell. But she was a good cow and let me hold her head down. She even kept it down when I needed both hands on the clip. Her total today about 4.5 gals.
10/17 am This morning is dark and overcast. The prediction is for increasing cold. Helen slept indoors last night and evidently lay down right on a cowpat. It was a lot of trouble to clean her up. She gave slightly less than 2.5 gals.
10/17 pm It seemed to get warmer all day rather than colder and the air feels like a storm. Helen was in the barn at milking time waiting. She gave 2 gals. Nobody came for kittens this weekend which is a shame. They are especially cute.
10/18 am Steady rain today, temp about 50. Helen and Hector trotted right in. She gave 2.5 gals. and had perfect manners. Tomorrow makes 21 day since she was bred. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
10/18 pm The rain has stopped and the mercury is falling fast. We’ll have a hard freeze tonight I’m sure. Helen gave 1.75 gals tonight, 4.25 today. I bought some feed intended for sheep at the farmer’s Union and gave a bit to them tonight. Dave, the ram, was vicious towards the others. It was hard for them to get any.
10/19 am Down to 27 this morning but so far a fine day. Helen gave 2.5 gals. I was late getting out to the barn so this is probably why she wasn’t stubborn about leaving after milking. I saw no hint of heat. Hopefully this means she is now in calf.
10/19 pm Rosie looked out the window about 3:00 and what did she see but Dave out in the front yard where we’ve been splitting wood. He was repeatedly attacking the chopping block. The ewes and lambs were with him. By shouting and waving a shovel we chased them back to where they could jump down the granite wall into their paddock. At one point Dave did attack the shovel. It took us until nearly dark to find where they got out. I don’t know when we would have figured it out except they got out again later and after further shouting and noisemaking from a safe distance by us they retreated to their exit spot and went back into their paddock. Helen gave a bit under 2 gals. tonight.
10/20 am Wednesday Helen fell about below 2.5 gals by a cupful this morning. It’s raining. We need to do sheep fencing but probably will wait for better weather.
10/20 pm Steady rain all day. The sheep were confined to their paddock since it was from the veg garden area that they were escaping. We didn’t feel like fencing in the rain so we gave them some hay. They ate quite a lot. Helen gave a bit less that 2 gals tonight. The hens are hardly laying but one small Auracana is now giving me one egg a day.
10/21 am Thursday Today is cool dark and overcast. Temp about 40. Helen was down to 2 gals. 1 qt this morning. I had let her water get low. That might be a factor.
10/21 pm Rosie and I repaired the sheep fence and they did not get out again. Our repair is not beautiful and involved reinforcements with old posts and baling twine. In the spring comfrey will grow up and cover it. Helen gave a full 2 gals. tonight. Rosie went out to feed the pigs after dark and slipped while changing their water and took a mighty and very muddy fall. She was a good sport about it.
10/22 am Friday Down to 26 this morning and damp. All the animals and the chickens stood about with an air of grievance, the chickens mostly on one leg. I had to break ice on their water. Helen gave 2 gals plus a bit over a quart.
10/22 pm I was gone much of the day taking Rosie to the bus station so the animals were on their own. But all were fine when I got home. Helen gave a bit under two gallons tonight, about 4 gallons for the day. 1 egg
10/23 am Saturday I awoke to steady rain. The prediction is for it to continue all day. All the livestock seemed cheerful although the pigs are beginning to snort a lot louder. I’ve been sharing the pig feeding chore with Rosie and there was a day last week when we both forgot to feed them and they missed their breakfast. I think it has them worried. Now when I go into the barn I can hear them snorting around right away. Formerly they preferred to sleep until their bucket approached. The sheep were not out grazing in the rain, too heavy I presume, so I gave them hay. They ate most of it right up. Helen gave 2 gals + 1.5 qt.
10/23 pm It rained at least 2″ today judging from that fact that a two inch deep pan was overflowing. There was a short break during which I went out and disconnected and drained the garden hoses. I gave the sheep more hay too. Hector is terrible about butting his milk bucket and spilling lots of his milk. This evening I moved it to a new place, a corner, which I hope will help. Helen gave 1.75 gals this evening. 4 gals + 1 pt today.
10/24 am Sunday Helen gave 2 gals + 1.5 qt this morning. The sky is beginning to clear. Temp in the 40’s. The pigs are looking very large. I’m gradually increasing their feed. This morning I used up the last of the over 2 bushels of threshed oats from cousin Marcia so back to cracked corn. I’ve been mixing the oats half and half with corn and boiling it up daily on the Aga for added digestibility and palatability. This is about 6 qt of dry grain per day. After boiling it swells to over 3 gals of porridge. This makes two feedings together with whey and scraps. I am now making a gallon a day of milk into queso blanco. This is a terribly simple cheese made by heating a gallon of milk to nearly boiling and adding about a half cup of vinegar. Stir, and the milk proteins coagulate. I then pour off the whey for the pigs and give the queso blanco to the chickens. I hope the added protein will start them laying again. The bugs are now hard to find. The chicken feed no longer contains recycled animal protein, instead has lysine added to create fake protein. I suspect they can’t lay as well on this. Queso blanco is a tasty cheese for the family and quite versatile and I now keep it on hand all the time. For the pigs I make it with skim. Detailed instructions for the above cheese may be found in Cheesemaking Made Easy by Ricki and Robert Carrol published by Gardenway of Charlotte, Vermont.
10/24 pm Helen gave 1.75 gals tonight. 4 gals + 1 pt today.
10/25 A bit over 4.5 gals today. Weather was bright and cold. All animals well except Muffin dog is getting arthritis in her hips. She limps a lot and appears to be in pain. Got 1 egg. The pigs are getting large. They loved their dinner tonight. They had a half a bucket of high grade leftovers from my cousins’ family weekend.
10/26 am Tuesday Another bright clear day. I was about a half hour late getting to the barn. The only thing I notice about Helen on these occasions is that she walks on out with less dawdling after milking . I had break ice on all water this morning.
10/26 pm About 4 gals total today. Muffin and I tool a long walk around the fields and into the woods. I found some mushrooms but have not identified them. I cleaned out the laying nests and put in sawdust covered with hay.
10/27 am Wednesday Bright, clear, colder. Helen gave 2 gals + about a quart.
10/27 pm Helen gave 1.75 gals tonight. About 4 gals today. She is eating quite a lot of hay now but still grazes most of the day. The fields are still green. I went down in the veg garden to see if the sheep had let me any green onion. I found a few. Also wanted to see if they had damaged the parsnips or merely eaten the tops off. They have eaten them right down but not started in on the actual parsnip. I put some dirt over them. Also planted some tulip bulbs in the perennial border.
10/28 am Thursday Bright and fair today but colder; thermometer said 20. Helen gave close to 2.5 gals this morning (I think). I spilled some when I overfilled the straining hopper.
10/28 pm One of the ewes, Agnes, was out this evening. I managed to persuade her to hop off the granite wall and down into her paddock with the others. She was motivated by the sight of them below her eating their grain which I threw down. My cousins went to an orchard and picked up falls which were very cheap. They brought me what looks like over a bushel of Macs for $3. They are in beautiful condition for falls. Daughter Sally in Alaska is always amazed by the availability of so much cheap food in Maine. Helen gave a little over 4 gals today. I haven’t found an egg in three days.
10/29 am Friday Helen gave 2 gals, 5 cups. As I look out the window I see only Dave the ram and Stanley the ram lamb in the paddock. The others have all gotten out into the field. That means they are in with the cows. Unless the rams get out they will not stray far. In any case I’m not doing anything about it by myself.
10/29 pm I returned from errands to the daunting sight of Dave and Stanley patrolling the front yard. After unloading things I finished the butter making which I started this morning. The butter was slow to come last time. It took two and a half hours before it was all churned. We do it in batches. This time I tried culturing it all (2 gals) with mesophilic culture (as in cheesemaking and buttermilk). I left it on the Aga last night and this morning it was two gallons of perfect cultured cream. After chilling it made butter quickly. However the buttermilk is thick and doesn’t pour off readily so it is hard to wash the butter free of it. I didn’t weigh the butter but it looks like 4 lbs. By milking time Dave had gone into the bushes. He advanced threateningly but didn’t charge. I didn’t know how I would get past him to feed the pigs but fortunately grandson Rafe arrived from college and helped me. Armed with shovels, we herded them toward the granite wall. Agnes jumped and the rest followed boing boing boing, Dave last. It was too late to work on fence but I think I know where they broke out. Four gallons today from Helen.
10/30 am Saturday Helen gave almost 2.5 gals this morning. Around 8:00 a neighbor asked if he might shoot one of a group of deer down in Pocket Field, the bottom field. I gave permission. It was a long shot and he didn’t get it. Later grandson Rafe and I repaired the sheep fence. Too late, I discovered they have girdled one little apple tree and nearly girdled the cherry. They will have to stay in their paddock and eat hay.
10/30 pm Rafe cut and split more wood and brought it in and stacked it. Helen gave a total of 4 gals today. Hector has become very affectionate. I’ve been having trouble getting him to go back out after his meals. I push and push and he keeps turning back. Tonight I walked ahead of him and let him lick my fingers. That worked better and he followed me on out.
10/31 am The time changed last night, a boon to me in the morning if not to Helen. She always shows up faithfully at the time she thinks I ought to be out there. The early dark in the evening is less welcome. The sheep look quite disconsolate now in their limited pasture. They are eating their hay.
10/31 pm It was mild and warm all day. Rafe split lots more firewood. The sheep did not get out. It’s Halloween and Rafe carved an interesting pumpkin but we don’t get many these days for trick or treat. The ones who came were children of the ones who used to play with my boys. Helen gave 4 gals plus a quart today.
11/1 am Monday A fine clear day with light frost. Helen gave 2 gals + 1 qt.
11/1 pm Finally I got at some veg garden cleanup today. I spent about an hour at it. It was lots of fun seeing the beds emerge from the remains of tomato vines and broccoli stalks. Helen gave a little under 4 gals today.
11/2 am Tuesday These kittens I have in the house including the one I raised from scratch are getting too energetic. They hurl themselves around and leap up my legs. I hope I find homes for them before they break any lamps. Myself and all the animals were up before 5 am. They all seemed happy. It’s still sunny and unseasonably warm but a storm is on the way. Helen gave 2 gals 1 qt.
11/2 pm I got some more garden cleanup done, then went to Rumford for chicken feed. I don’t trust the Blue Seal brand at the Farmer’s Union in Farmington. It relies on augmentation with lysine rather than including animal protein. Cargill’s Nutrena is made with animal protein. Rains started about 5. With the time change I ended up the chores with the flashlight. Helen gave a little under 4 gals today.
11/3 am Wednesday It rained all night. Now at 10 am it has stopped. There was a lot of wind too and we lost power for a couple of hours. It is oddly warm, about 60. The chickens don’t like this weather and the pigs were disappointed in their breakfast which was just pig pellets and water, not their customary cooked cracked corn and whey. I never got around to cooking their food last night. The sheep like their hay but we need a feeder so they waste less. Helen gave 2 gals + 3 cups. I put a pan of Morton’s kosher salt in the sheep’s run-in. They never touched the block salt.
11/3pm I spent most of the day setting up my new computer. While waiting for things to happen I made butter (got about 5 lbs) and sour dough rye (3 loaves). I figured out a new way to get the risen loaves into the oven without a peel. The idea came to me while milking. I laid a piece of parchment paper on my cookie sheet that has no rim at one edge. Then I put the shaped loaves on the parchment. There they rose undisturbed. I was able to shoot the whole sheet with the loaves riding on it straight onto the floor of the Aga oven. I don’t find I need tiles in the Aga but this method would work equally well on tiles. Four gals. total today from Helen. It’s no fun slogging around in the dark, rain and mud feeding the pigs.
11/4 am It’s gloomy and Novembery today. Two gals. and a bit this morning. Hector has lately decided he is very attached to me and doesn’t want to follow Helen back out after he comes in at milking time. I still give him about a half gallon of milk with some hot water added and a small scoop of grain. I find I cannot drive him out to the beefer pen where the hay feeder is, their exit. He just doubles back towards me. I hold my fingers by his nose and he follows me that way. I guess it’s the combination of my and Helen’s smell that he likes. I think the sheep might be eating their salt. I think some is gone.
11/4 pm Helen’s total today: 3.75 gals.
11/5 Friday Today was very busy with family arriving. I went for feed in the morning. Weather was fine all day. Helen gave 4 gals. Hector still wants to leave the barn by following and licking my fingers. He won’t just trot out.
11/6 Saturday November is definitely here. I started teaching grandson Rafe how to milk this morning. Helen made no objection and he picked it right up. He has often milked his mother’s goats. Son Mark and Rafe split lots more wood today and stacked it in the wood bay. We had a fire most of the day. Rafe gave granddaughter Hailey lots of fast rides in the cart bringing the wood into the barn. Because of fixing a family dinner I was very late to the barn in the evening, after 6pm. Helen and Hector were mooing persistently but aside from that they had perfect manners. Helen gave a bit over 4 gals today.
11/7 am Sunday It’s another Novembery day but with some sun. Leaves still cling to the rose bushes but most all the other leaves are down. Helen’s production is dropping. Just slightly over 2 gals. this morning. Rafe is splitting rocks for a geology project. I learned that granite splits on three fault lines: parallel lines, 90 degree lines or 45 degree lines. The foundation of this farmhouse and barn is great granite blocks. I always wondered how they got the blocks so perfect. Now I know it is the nature of the rock to behave thus.
11/7 pm About 3.5 gals today. Rafe fixed Hector’s halter with bell today and this evening tried to get it back onto him. He was horrified! It looks like I’ll need help getting it on now.
11/8 Monday This morning I forgot to put the filter into the milk strainer and didn’t notice until I was washing up. I couldn’t see any hay in the milk though so I guess I got away with it. But I’ll have to be careful not to sell the milk marked 8 am. Total for today 3.75 gals. I stopped in at the Farmer’s Union in Auburn today when I went to fetch granddaughter Rosie from Greyhound and picked up a vitamin E supplement for Helen. I’ll probably keep her on that all winter.
11/9 am Tuesday 28 degrees today and overcast. I had to break a half inch of ice on the stock tank and chicken water. Everything, especially the cats, seem extra hungry. Helen gave 2 gals this morning. I have lights on now with the chickens. Maybe we’ll begin to get some eggs. There is one Auracana bantam laying, she’s this year’s bird, but no others that I know of.
11/9 pm Rosie and I did quite a lot of digging in the veg garden. Rosie did the most. I will have more of a head start than I did last year … if I have a garden. Sometimes I think I won’t bother. Helen gave 3.5 gals today.
11/10 am Wednesday 30 degrees today under a bleak sky. Helen and Hector had good manners this morning. Rosie is helping with chores. Helen gave 2 gals this morning.
11/10 pm We did no outdoor work today. It started to rain in the late afternoon. Helen gave 3.5 gals today. The sheep have totally finished off their pasture. I saw one lamb eating a thistle. I am giving them all the hay they can eat but they would rather try to eat something that is growing.
11/11 am Thursday It’s a fine clear day but cold. I need to work on setting up the stock water for winter but am very busy today. I do hope the sun will defrost the hose although it is barely 30 f in late morning. We are having the vet today, mostly for the dog, but I will give him lunch. Poor old Muffin is getting arthritis in her hips. She is half German Shepherd half yellow lab we think.
11/11 pm Cold all day but enough sun to melt the ice in the hose to the stock tank, hurrah! The vet gave me Azium powder for Muffin. Helen gave a bit over 3.5 gals today.
11/12 am It was down to 20 this morning, the coldest morning this fall. The sheep weren’t even attempting to graze. They were just standing around bleating for hay. Helen isn’t finding much either. Helen gave a little over 2 gals this morning.
11/12 pm A bit over 3.5 for the day. The sheep are finishing up their hay pretty well. I have lots of winterizing to do still and snow is predicted for tonight.
11/13 Saturday Somebody had to drive Rosie to the bus stations in Lewiston early this morning. Rafe said he’d rather milk the cow than take Rosie as he has no experience with city driving. Also we had out first snow and it was both foggy and slushy. I did give him a brief lesson in cow milking last week. He got along just fine. He got a mere pint less than I usually get. I made it up in the evening. Total today 3.5 gals. I cleaned out and moved the stock tank this afternoon but instead of dragging it inside I put it under the eves of the barn. The hose stayed frozen until about 4 o’clock but the snow on the roof was melting so fast it filled it to about a 4” depth before I got the hose running.
11/14 am Sunday Today is very mild. The snow has nearly disappeared. Perhaps because she likes her new scrubbed out water tank or because she just ate hay yesterday because of the snow and got more calories, Helen’s production was up this morning. It was 2 gals + 3 cups.
11/14 pm Rain all day, very mild. Helen’s total for today 3.75 gals.
11/15 am Monday Cold bleak and windy today after a sunny start. Helen gave 2 gals this morning.
11/15 pm It’s blown up cold this evening and we’re told to expect two or three inches of snow tonight. Daughter Sally and her husband Tom arrived from Alaska full of enthusiasm for farm projects. They brought three dogs and a cat so this should make for excitement around here. The cat is Lemur who came from the farm two years ago. She was born with disabilities which make her look like an FAS child. She is almost completely blind and deaf. Sally joined me in the barn. Helen gave 1.75 gals tonight, 3.75 today.
11/16 am Tuesday Bleak and windy today with a few snowflakes. But just above freezing so I have another day of grace on winterizing the stock water system. I always wait until the last minute because it makes such a mess in the Beefer Pen (feeding area) in the barn. Helen gave a bit less than 2 gals this morning. Despite the weather she and Hector have gone down near the river to graze. She ate hay for about an hour first so I guess the cold short grass is dessert. Animals do so much prefer the real thing even when hay is available.
11/16 pm After supper when I went out for firewood there was Helen standing in the garage next to my car eating the sheep’s hay. She looked glad to see me. I called son-in-law Tom to come help me immediately with the front gate which was off its hinges perhaps from the wind. That’s the first thing to do when one of my animals is out; close the front gate so whatever silly thing they do they can’t run in the road. Helen ran all the way around the house. There is a high wind and bright moon and it’s cold. Sally came out to help me herd her back to the barn. It wasn’t difficult. I first turned all the lights on in there and I think she was glad to get home. But I have no idea how she got out. 3.5 gals again today.
11/17 am Wednesday Down to 26 this morning with an icy wind. Everything frozen of course. Helen was very placid and I still don’t know how she got out. She gave a bit over 2 gals. The sheep seem to enjoy the weather. The ram , Dave, and ram lamb, Stanley, were chasing the ewes around. Neither ewe was standing so I hope this means they are already bred and the activity is merely a ram idea.
11/17 pm At my suggestion Sally tried letting the sheep out of their paddock which they have nibbled bare and letting them graze in Helen’s field. They quickly took advantage of their opportunity and ranged far up to the north end of the field. As evening drew near she and Tom went to herd them home but they were already headed this way and readily returned to their lair under the garage. The pasture fences are designed to hold cattle not sheep and giving Dave free access to persons entering the barnyard to tend to the water or pigs could be dangerous. One dare not turn one’s back on him. But perhaps it will work out . We can cope with most anything except their running away. Helen was good as usual tonight. She gave 3.75 gals today.
11/18 am Thursday A bit of a mess in the kitchen this morning when Sally poured two gallons of milk into a one gallon container … easy to do if one isn’t paying attention. I do it myself about twice a year. The straining hopper holds a full bucket but it sits atop a one gallon stainless steel pitcher. The flood of milk onto the table was stained pink thanks to a home dyed dark red tablecloth which was all part of a harvest display. We of course had to dismantle the display which included a large pumpkin which proved to have sneakily rotted out at the bottom. So pumpkin guts joined the pink swamp. We moved the furniture for a total floor mopping. I carried some things out to the buttery, an unheated summer kitchen inhabited by backup supplies and numerous cats. There I discovered that the cats had eaten a mole and been sick in about six places. I was so distracted I forgot to throw down Helen’s hay. She reminded me by mooing but by the time I got back out there she had gone off to try her luck on the frozen pasture.
11/18 pm The sheep had lots of fun today. Sally let them out into the big pasture again and they spent less time exploring and more time nibbling the last of the grass than yesterday. At one point we did find them on the lawn but the front gate was shut and they were easily herded back with no trouble from Dave the mean ram. After this evening’s milking, Tom and Sally joined me in Hector’s stall and locked arms around him so I could replace his halter and bell. We’re worried that he looks too much like a deer. Helen was worried that we were doing something awful to her baby and tried to come in with us. She went through a rotten board on the floor with her front legs. She fled in horror before I could see if she was injured. Then we let Hector go and he fell in the hole she made. Maybe she’ll be too scared to come back in tomorrow morning. Total milk for today: 3.75 gals.
11/19 am Friday Helen and Hector trotted in without hesitation. There are no scratches on Helen’s shins, thank goodness. She is drinking from her water tank now indoors. Lots of times animals are slow to accept changes in their water supply. Sally didn’t let the sheep out this morning because she had to go out on errands and needs to improve the fence where they got out onto the lawn yesterday. They look disappointed. 2+ gals of milk this morning.
11/19 pm Sally did a couple of more hours of fencing in sections that didn’t look sheep proof. She had them out in the pasture for about three hours and they grazed in a businesslike way. At one point Dave, the ram with four large horns, tried to put his head through a rail fence to get with his flock. He showed rather more intelligence than I thought he owned in working his head through (followed by the rest of him). Tom split a lot more wood this afternoon. Muffin is a lot friskier now that I am giving her Azium (cortisone) for her arthritis. It was hard to see her struggling to get up and down before. I could tell she was putting off asking to go out. Helen gave 3.5 gals today.
11/20 am At 6 am the sheep were sleeping in a group by the gate where Sally lets them out to pasture. A couple of them actually had their heads on the ground and were so quiet I thought “Oh no, they’ve eaten something poison, they’re dead!” So I went close by and of course they stood right up. Later when they were out grazing, several of us went walking in Sally’s big field across the river. From there we spied the flock wriggling under the 3-wire barbed wire fence where it reaches the river and edges the woods. Rafe found some stones to hurl across the river at them. He succeeded in turning them and sending them bounding back where they belong. This morning Helen came in a mess. I had to scrape before scrubbing her flanks. But she ended up clean and so was the milk. She had laid Helen gave 2 gals and a pint this morning.
11/20 pm Helen and Hector were bellowing for a long time this afternoon and I didn’t hear them from the kitchen. Sally told me later. It turned out that she had closed a gate preventing them from coming in for their hay and water. I’ve done the same thing myself a couple of times. They settled down fine once in the barn. Helen gave 3.75 gals. today.
11/21 am Sunday A fine sunny day likely to reach 60. Helen gave 2+ gals. Sally is taking advantage of thawing of the ground to prepare some holes for fruit trees I want to order. The sheep are out grazing and ranging very far. Sally got worried and went out with a bucket of grain and called them. As soon as they got they idea they began to run towards her. She ran fast ahead of them to their paddock and thus got them home. Later she and Rafe dragged out from the sheep run-in an old wagon axle with wooden wheels 4’ in diameter. I’ve been trying for 20 years to get somebody to drag it out. It was in perfect condition when we moved here 25 years ago but now both the wood and iron tires are rotted away where they touched the ground. I presume it was the front axle of a hay wain as it has a long draw bar.
11/21 pm 3.75 gals today.
11/22 Despite getting up at 4:30 I didn’t get much done today apart from the essentials. But I did bring home the turkey. We had the sheep out for about three hours. They went right down into Pocket Field, the farthest field. Sally walked down with one of their dogs, a buhund, reputedly capable with sheep, to defend her in case of a charge from Dave, and a bucket of grain. After considerable calling and bucket shaking, they decided to come home. What they really like is good grazing. There is still plenty of green grass in the pasture too short for the cows. We are having unseasonably warm weather. I believe it reached 55 today and considerable sun. In the afternoon all the family except myself climbed Tumbledown. They were gone from home about four and a half hours and the moon was up when they got back and I was milking. I was getting distinctly worried. Helen gave a bit over 3.75 gals. today. I am cutting back on Hector’s milk with so many milk drinkers in the house, five counting myself. He is getting less than a gallon a day. Most people would have a calf fully weaned by now, four months old.
11/23 The farm didn’t get much attention today from me. Sally and I went to Farmington and bought feed at the Farmer’s Union. I guess that counts. On the way home we picked up some Fish & Game signs warning hunters against shooting near dwellings. This morning Sally and Tom again saw hunters on Pocket Field. On a neighboring property we found an old van seat set up as a hide not two feet beyond my line so that a hunter could sit there and watch my field. I will speak to the neighbor as soon as possible. The sheep had to stay in while we were away but Sal let them out for about an hour when we got back. Helen gave 3.75 gals today. And I got one egg!
11/24 am Wednesday It’s still unseasonably warm but has begun to drizzle. The sheep are in because Sally and Tom have left on errands. They are standing in the rain at their gate, moping. Helen and Hector have slept down by the river the last two nights. it’s that warm. Helen gave 2 gals this morning.
11/24 pm Sally let her sheep out for an hour or so and they were very orderly. She is so pleased. She and Rafe milked this evening. She says they will now take over the milking for me. Of course today I was up to my ears with Thanksgiving preparations. But next Tuesday I am going away for seven weeks to see my family in the west. Then Sally with Rosie, Rafe, Tom and later grandson Gabe will take care of the farm until I get back. Sally said Helen behaved perfectly. Sally is an experienced goat milker. Rafe is just learning but is a well muscled 18 year old and is not finding milking difficult. Helen gave her 3.75 gals today and that’s the proof.
11/25 am Thursday Thanksgiving We have another mild day. I milked this morning again. Helen gave two gals.
11/25 pm Festivities required my whole attention today. We were ten at dinner including for college friends of son Martin from Xavier University in Cincinnati. Sally did all the animal work with some help from Rafe. The sheep were out to graze for a couple of hours and the weather stayed mild. Helen gave 3.75 again today. Everybody is drinking a lot of milking including the boys and for once we are nearly keeping up with her production. I whipped a quart of cream for the pumpkin pies.
11/26 am Rainy today, quite steady. Still no snow; temp about 40. I milked this morning while Sally put out hay and cared for her sheep. She has started weaving on her new loom but so far not with wool from these sheep. Helen gave 2 gals this morning. Sally and Rafe did evening barn chores. Milk was production was down a bit, 1.5 gals tonight, 3.5 today.