Monday January 31, 2000
The farmer is home again and is greeted by many changes, most of them wonderful. Daughter Sally and her energetic family have taken great care of Helen. She is giving approximately as much milk as when I left, 3 gallons and something a day. Such sustained production is always a tribute to good management. Hector, the steer her calf of last July, looks as good a Jersey calf could look. Sally acquired two piglets (Susie and Bertie) and they appear to have tripled their weight in five weeks. She also bought a Jersey bull calf, now two weeks old, and he appears to have at least doubled his weight. The farmer asked only five dollars for him but Sally thought this was criminal and gave him twenty. She named him Wilberforce. He had three days of colostrum and is getting 1.5 gallons of milk. Sometimes this shorts the household so I bought a bag of milk replacer for him. Calves are better fed than many human babies. The formula contains no soy.
Grandson Rafe built a fine new manger for the sheep. Dave, the Jacob ram, has managed to bash down part of it. This week we had him castrated (crushing the tubes method) to see if we can soften his disposition. Rafe went in with him and wasn’t attacked, in fact Dave fled. Perhaps that is merely reflects a recently acquired association of men with painful procedures. I’ll have to go in with him myself, I guess, and check his response.
I reviewed my hay situation and decided I’d better call my hay man. He came Saturday while Rafe was here to help and we put in 100 bales. This should be more than enough, but I hate having to worry that I’m running out.
One gloomy report: the water to the barn froze up again this winter, like last. Sally has been hauling water in gallon jugs, 12 at a time, twice a day on most days. As soon as Dave has settled down we will open up fences so that cattle can water under the garage using the system Martin put in last year. The sheep are under there now.
Yesterday I cut into the cheddar cheese I made in September. Apart from being a little dry, it has received excellent reviews. It’s good enough so people keep eating another piece.
I’m wallowing in seed catalogues at every opportunity. I’ve already marked more than I can possibly dig space for without a tiller but I guess it doesn’t hurt to dream. I can always cross off half of it later. We have new fruit trees coming in April, too. It’s wonderful to be back, snow and all.
2/1 Tuesday This morning I heard prancing footsteps outside the kitchen door and opened it to find Wilberforce (the jersey steer)had followed Rosie right up to the house. He is so friendly and inquisitive. But Sally says that today he ate some pink fiberglass insulation so I hope he is not poisoned. He is safely in his stall all day except at feeding times when Sally lets him run around and get some exercise. Sally reports that he now eats his calf grain from a bucket. It didn’t take him long to learn. Helen loves her new hay. It is light and fluffy and green. Today she gave 3 gallons plus 1 pint. I only got one egg. I’m sure the hens are hiding their eggs somewhere. Tonight I found a hole under the barn floor which I will further investigate tomorrow. I may have to tear up a board.
2/2 Which date I am told is the first time since the year 888 that there has been a date composed entirely of even numbers. Helen gave somewhat over 3.5 gallons today. She also stepped on Sally’s foot. Sally says she stepped on the same foot last night. Sally says it’s her own fault and Helen is not to be blamed. I got only two eggs today and one was frozen. The chickens have a heater in their water and all they can eat. So what’s their excuse?
2/3 Thursday. We took granddaughter Rosie to the airport so Wilber the calf and Susie and Bert, the piglets, for the first time did not get lunch. Of course they were just fine this evening. I had Helen and Hector piled up with hay and they had barely finished it when we got home. Helen gave over 3.5 gals today, very good. I got only one egg, though. Darned hens. Sally reports that Agnes, one of the ewes, finally begins to look as though she might be pregnant. She had been looking discouragingly flat sided. The other ewe, Bernadette, is promisingly wide. Stanley, the young ram, was off his feed tonight. This is worrying as he is ordinarily an aggressive eater. It was cold all day. 8f this morning and no warmer this evening and even colder weather promised for tomorrow.
2/4 Friday Today was sad. Stanley was dead this morning. We have no idea why. Sally got right down there after milking and carried him upstairs to the garage and laid him out on feed bags. Using the hand clippers, she sheared off his lovely fleece, very soft, white with black polka dots. Meanwhile I sharpened the knife. Then she skinned and butchered him. It took her about 45 minutes to shear him and an hour an a half to butcher him. I helped, and there was no internal evidence of what killed him. He was not more bloated than one would expect from an animal on its side. All the organs appeared perfectly healthy. We’ll see how the meat is. Right now it’s cooling in the cellar. She cut it up warm. One of the ewes, Bernadette, acted slow this evening. Helen did well today, 3.75 gallons. I got three eggs. Weather is cold, about 10f all day.
2/5 Saturday First thing this morning before I was out of my bathrobe I climbed down the ladder to see the sheep. Three were at the feeder but at first I could not find Bernadette. I shone the flashlight into all the corner and suddenly she emerged from somewhere. No telling why she wasn’t feeding with the others. Sally decided not to give them their sheep feed, instead gave them Helen’s feed. And we brought them a bale of Helen’s new hay which is very nice. Soon all four sheep were eating enthusiastically. All were still lively this evening. When Sally was coming back from the barn tonight with the milk after dark she saw showers of sparks coming out of the chimney. She ran to the kitchen to tell me we had a stack fire, indeed we did. I started to call the fire department but she said she thought we could put it out with water and soda. She immediately carried out the largest log and put it into a snowbank. Two boxes of soda and a quart of water added one cup at a time did not put out the fire. We closed the draft on the woodstove which shares the chimney. And I put the facing board onto the fireplace; this is a board I use in the spring and fall to stop all draught up the chimney. These measures in combination succeeded in putting out the fire in the chimney but an hour later the remaining logs were still burning. Helen gave a bit less than 3.5 gallons today. It was very cold today, -15 this morning.
2/6 Sunday It remained cold all day with a strong wind blowing the snow into drifts. We didn’t let Helen and Hector out. We had a nice visit from a reader of Keeping A Family Cow who lives in New Hampshire. She gets fresh skim milk from her neighbor who makes butter. I intended to give her some cream but forgot. For dinner I roasted a saddle of lamb from poor Stanley. We both gave him full marks for flavor and tenderness, sadly though we miss him. Sally washed some of his fleece today in preparation for carding it. She reports it to be exceptionally fluffy and spongey. We carried water to the barn today twice, 14 gallons each time. Helen gave 3.5 gals today and I got 2 eggs.
2/8 Tuesday Helen gave 3.5 gallons today and I got 6 eggs. the weather remains cold and blowy. Nonetheless, Helen stayed outside quite a while. The sun was shining much of the day and she finds spots out of the wind. We carried out jugs of water twice today, usually 14 gallons each time. Tomorrow I have to go to the dentist and will stop afterwards for a big new water tub to have ready for when we get a bit of a thaw. Then we will set up watering for the cattle down with the sheep where son Martin installed a freeze-proof system last winter.
2/9 Wednesday. Zero degrees this morning. Helen’s production was down a bit under 3.5 gallons. But I got seven eggs. Hector the calf is now close to a month old. Sally is giving him 1.5 gallons of milk a day split into three feeds. She has got him eating some calf pellets. She is still feeding the piglets three times a day. We think we should keep this up until the weather is warmer. But from now on the midday feed will be simpler, just pig pellets and warm water. For their other meals she cooks cracked corn and adds fat and protein from various animal sources, usually milk or buttermilk and meat trimmings. They also get all the vegetable trimmings. Son Bret has looked up the answer to a persistent question on sheep feeding. All the sheep feeding materials warn against letting sheep have feed containing copper but we have been unable to find out why. Even the material from Cooperative Extension merely said avoid copper. The problem is that sheep have an exceptionally low tolerance to copper. It builds up in the liver causing rupture of liver cells and of red blood cells. One may note blood in the urine. Death occurs within 3 to 5 days following this symptom. We do not know if this is what killed Stanley last week but cannot rule it out.
2/10 Thursday I found a bantam nest today with eleven eggs up in the hayloft. I doubt I would not have found it except I saw the tail of a black cat sticking up out of a gap among the bales. She had her head down there licking eggwhite off the eggs some of which had frozen and cracked and thawed. I left three in the nest. Perhaps that will be enough to encourage the hen to continue laying there. Helen gave 3.75 gallons. I got four eggs from the regular layers.
2/11 Friday It began snowing last night and has scarcely stopped. I expect we have a foot of fluffy new snow. It’s warmed up to the mid 20’s. Helen is eating a lot of hay. I guess it’s a bit over a bale a day. One can’t be certain because Hector the steer eats his share. We got 3.5 gallons of milk today and five eggs. Wilberforce, the bull calf, is one month old today. He ran out of the barn today and straight up to the kitchen door. Sally couldn’t get him to come back where he belonged until Tim, the reindeer dog, got on the far side of him and moved him along.
2/12 Saturday It seemed very cold today, I suppose because of a light wind and the new snow, but it was in the 20Æs and the eves were dripping. Helen gave 3.5 gallons and I found 5 eggs. I also found a new bantam nest with its first egg in it, still warm. I took it so it wouldn’t freeze and put in a goose egg. It remains to be seen whether the little hen will consider this an inducement to lay again. We ate our second roast from the unfortunate little ram Sally butchered. It was perfectly tender and very tastey.
2/13 Sunday At 6am it was -18 but by midday the temp had risen well into the 20Æs. It ended up being a nice day after a painfully cold start. Helen gave 3.5 gallons. I got two eggs plus some eggsicles. Sally has been trying to check her ewes for signs of lambing without overly disturbing them. So far no luck on checking their udders even with a flashlight. They are flighty.
2/14 Monday It began snowing last night and snowed until about 5pm leaving us at least a foot of sticky new snow . Nobody has plowed us out so we won’t be going anywhere right away. Fortunately we are fixed alright on feed for a few days. The temp warmed up some. Much of the day was in the high 20Æs. Helen gave 3.5 gallons and I got 7 eggs. The animals don’t mind this weather. Helen even went out and stood in the snowstorm for about ten minutes. The dogs have to be swept before they come back in the house. Ted, the llasa apso, had snowballs on his underside. He took a nap on my new Atlantic and soaked it.
2/15 Tuesday Today was bright and sunny and about 30. A neighbor plowed us out. Everybody in the barn seemed happy and Helen gave 3.75 gals. and I got 5 eggs. I do hear a lot of cackling from the bantam hens and have found two nests from which I am getting an egg each. But there are a lot more little hens than that. The cats are romancing. There are a couple of fluffy black males swearing at each other every night now. The vet stopped in today and Sally tried to catch one of the females to be spayed. It got away, but not before clawing her hand pretty badly.
2/17 Thursday Yesterday it snowed all day. We got more than 3.5 gallons of milk. Today was brilliantly sunny and cold, around 10f with an icy wind. Helen gave less than 3.5 gallons today. We mostly stayed inside and answered email. Also I made lemon bars using 5 eggs now that I am getting a half dozen most days. And I gave a half dozen to my cousin who was ill. We would like to go down to the river and see if the witch hazel is getting buds. But the snow is too deep to go without snowshoes and I don’t have any. I also don’t have a snow machine to break open a trail.
2/18 Friday We’re still carrying water and see no end in sight. We switched this evening from filling gallon jugs to carrying 5 gal. buckets half full. Sally can carry two while I carry one. Maybe I will decide I can carry two soon. Today I slipped on the driveway while loading the cart with gallon jugs, of course spilling a couple of gallons and slamming my butt and shoulder. Now, after the fact, I have put a lot of ashes around. I suppose some people would have broken their hip or other key apparatus but I think years of raw milk have given me tough bones. So far I don’t even detect a bruise but maybe that will come later. It was -10 this morning but has now warmed up and started to snow again. Helen gave 3.5 gal and I got 5 eggs plus a couple of eggsicles. We put those in to boil with the pigs’ cracked corn. I fried Sally and myself some home grown pork chops for dinner and she made a pumpkin pie from some pumpkin we froze. I also ground wheat and made bread.
2/19 Saturday Yesterday’s snow continued for 24 hours and left us about another foot. The old Dodge van looks like a giant marshmallow. There was no wind with this storm so all the snow stayed on branches and fenceposts. I took some pictures in case along about next August I am ready to appreciate its beauty. I slipped yesterday and slammed down fairly hard on my right side but fortunately I don’t seem to have any bruising or stiffness. Sally and I focused on indoor activities. She did more carding and weaving. I tidied up in the garage and buttery since with this snow the weather is warmer. Our man Barry plowed us out and the berm he created down at the barn is a good six feet high. Helen gave 3.5 gals and I got a six eggs; three were from bantam nests I have located. I chopped up a bunch of carrot tops for the hens and they ate every bit. I baked popovers in the Aga which we had with soup for dinner with lots of butter.
2/20 Sunday Sally and I speeded through the morning chores in hopes of getting through in time to go to church but we didn’t make it. So we put on the snow shoes and walked down to Pocket Field, the bottom field, and around by the river and back up by the sleeping veg garden. Sally went ahead of me and broke trail. All four dogs came along. Poor little three legged Liz and short legged Ted hopped along behind with Muffin, the old lady. Big strong Tim plunged ahead until we got to the the woodchuck holes. There he stopped to sniff and bark and declined to accompany us further. The view on the way back up towards the farm buildings was very fine and I was sorry I had not brought my camera. About an hour later we could still hear Tim down there barking so Sally put the snow shoes back on and went down with his leash. He must have had a sore throat by that time. I expect the woodchucks gave up on hibernation and were probably laughing. I made queso blanco again today using a gallon of whole milk. I fixed a half of one of my home grown chickens for dinner, just oven fried in butter and olive oil with a bit of curry powder. Those home grown birds don’t require much effort to be tasty. We also had baked potatoes with creme fraiche which I made on the Aga warming plate. And cole slaw which I dressed with a bit of horseradish sauce and mayo and the juice of an orange. I got a dozen eggs today. Helen gave only about 3.25 gallons. I can’t think why she should be down in production.
2/21 Monday. We had beautiful weather today and all the animals got some sunshine. Sally tried to see the udders on her ewes with a flashlight this evening when she grained them but wasn’t able to get a good look. In theory lambs could arrive any time now so it would be nice to have a few advance clues. I spent most of the day at the computer composing a letter to the editor in response to another letter slamming dairy products. Because I was away I had not had one of the new pork roasts. So I cooked one tonight and served it with carrots and mashed potatoes. It was excellent. I cooked it in my clay cooker so there was no work to it at all. Helen gave 3.5 gals today and I got 9 eggs.
2/22 Tuesday. Helen was was back down to 3.25 gals. today and I got only five eggs. Two bantam nests among the hay bales were exposed by some bales falling away. Neither hen was willing to lay out in the open. It was so warm today that we ripped the plastic off one kitchen window so we could let in some sunny air. What fun! I am sprouting a pan of sunflower seeds for the hens and made them a big pan of yogurt too. All I did was refill the last pan with skim milk without washing it and set it on the Aga warming plate. In a few hours I had a new pan of yogurt. Sally lets Wilberforce, our bull calf, gallop around in the barn while she milks. He thunders back and forth ringing his bell and skidding to a halt and having a grand old time. Helen doesn’t approve of this behavior. She may be holding up her milk. Tonight I cubed and fried some queso blanco in butter and curry powder. This is particularly good and Sally likes it a lot.
2/23 Wednesday Helen gave a bit less than 3.5 gals today. I got 7 eggs. The weather warmed up and the wind blew. Sally said it was a Chinook. Quite a lot of snow and ice melted. I am not sorry to see it go. But with the ground still frozen we have to fear flooding if this continues. I expect the sap is running.
2/24 Thursday We had a thaw today. We set buckets under the eves of the barn and caught more water than the cows could drink. Sally put Wilberforce the Jersey calf outside with Helen and Hector today for a get-acquainted visit. All three got very excited and ran in circles throwing up their heels. This is a remarkable sight in a pregnant cow. Tim is now addicted to running down the trail to check out the woodchucks at the bottom of the field. He went by himself. When he came back he couldn’t figure out how to get back through the fence. Sally found him cowering in terror while a couple of big animals stared him down. Helen gave 3.75 gals today and I got 10 eggs. I will now start selling them again.
2/25 Friday Dave, the Jacob ram, is still constantly ramming the pilings under the garage and buttery where the sheep live. Being castrated does not appear to have changed this behavior significantly. He does hang back and and walks out the door when people go down there rather than attacking. That would seem to be the only change. But we doubt he is to be trusted. The cattle drank ‘roof juice’ today, run-off from the barn roof which filled a container we put under the eves. They didn’t touch their tub inside. They have always preferred the melted snow or rain to well water. There was enough thaw today to reveal some dead grass on the plowed part of the dooryard. All the chickens went out there and pecked and scratched and had a party. We had a party too. We invited some neighbors in and had coffee and tea with lots of cream. Helen gave 3.75 gals. today and I got 10 eggs and sold a dozen bantam eggs to an old fellow who deeply believes that bantam eggs are superior.
2/26 Saturday We let Wilberforce out with the big cattle again today. He appeared to be having a wonderful time. I think he would have sucked Helen but she kicked every time he got close. The bantam hen that has been laying in the feed room sat down today. We’ve had a goose egg in that nest as an inducement. So I took that away and gave her five other eggs, just the ones that happened to be in my poclet. Most are bantam eggs. If she is still sitting tight tomorrow I think I will replace them with large eggs. Sal and I visited our neighbors today and were given two goose eggs. These are not fertile so we hard boiled them. Helen gave 3.75 gals and I got only 6 eggs. I guess the hens are having a day off.
2/27 Sunday It got up to 50 today, amazing. But the snow pile by the barn made by the plow is still up to my eye level. Sally continued her heroic cleaning of the buttery, actually a shed area which separates the old barn we use as a garage from the kitchen. She moved out a lot of furniture and greatly disturbed the cats. Sal got behing Agnes, the obviously pregnant ewe, with a flashlight and reports no sign of udder. So I guess we wont see lambs for a while yet. Helen gave 3.5 gals and I got 7 eggs. I took away most of her own eggs from my setting bantam and gave her four large eggs. She is sitting tight and didn’t move at all.
2/28 3.5 gals, 7 eggs
2/29 Tuesday Helen gave more than 3.75 gals today, nearly 4 gals actually. It’s interesting to see how both Helen and Hector sort through their hay to find the new better grade of hay. I usually put down about half and half of each. Wilberforce is growing so fast. Sally now needs to but on his third collar, a larger size. He is clever. Today was the third time that I let him outside to play with Hector. The first time I had to nearly carry him down the ramp. Today I just pointed him and gave him a tap and down he trotted.
3/1 Wednesday We started the day with a surprise. I was drinking my tea and looked out the window to check the thermometer and there was one of the sheep. Soon all four appeared staring at the kitchen window. We got our boots right on and Sally got them to follow her back the way they had come. The way they had come was right across the high granite wall of the old foundation that I formerly used as a pigpen. Despite our week of thaw the snow is still so deep there that it forms an easy ramp up and over the wall. Sally thought their hooves would sink in to prevent them from walking across but this morning there was a heavy crust on the snow. As they trotted home I was struck with the resemblance sheep have to guinea pigs. A very similar expression and like guinea pigs they move forward as though on rollers. We moved the cows’ water tub outside today. It will catch some roof runoff and the sun will be good for it. Helen gave about 3.25 gals today. I got 6 eggs.
3/2 Thursday Another surprise this morning. A big new snowstorm. It continued most of the morning, then turned briefly to rain before stopping. The temperature remained above freezing and the animals seemed hardly to notice it. Sally now puts Wilber out with the big guys while she milks. He has lots of fun but Helen worries. She feels it’s her job to supervise him. We went next door to see Stewart’s new litter of pigs. Thre were fifteen. He keeps two sows and a boar all together in a fairly small space anad never loses a piglet to overlying. He says the boar is perfectly mellow so long as he can be in with the girls. But he only minds Stewart so if he gets out only Stewart can tell him to get back in his pen and be obeyed.
3/3 Friday Sally says she thinks Dave, the Jacob ram, is finally getting more mellow. It must be a month now since he was castrated. But come to think of it I have not heard him mashing away on the underpinnings of the garage lately either. The weather today was dreary and damp, right around 33f. English weather I call it. I cheered us up with a three layer carrot cake. I believe it was the best one I ever made (recipe on request). Helen gave 3.75 gallons today but I got only four eggs.
3/4 Saturday Sally had to loosen Wilber’s collar again today. He is growing fast. This is a small management task which is easily overlooked. I have done it myself. An animal outgrowing its collar is very uncomfortable and of course soon becomes unthrifty. Also the animal can become very hard to handle. It is always safer to use a halter because it cannot strangle an animal. Sally cut back on the pigs feed today. They weren’t quite finishing it up. She has put them on two meals a day. It was a lovely day. Wilber spent a couple of hours outside. Helen gave 3.75 gallons and I got 8 eggs.
3/5 Sunday Sally put hay outside for the sheep today and Dave, the ram, was obnoxious and wouldn’t let anybody near it. Helen gave 3 1/4 gal and I got 8 eggs.
3/7 Tuesday The air is light and balmy but there is still plenty of snow on the ground. While walking down in the field we found chicken feathers. A fox or a racoon must be after the hens. Most likely a racoon, unless there was a hen setting somewhere at ground level that I didn’t know about. Many of the bantams roost where a raccoon could get them. There is nothing I can do about this. One of the barn cats was struck on the road today. A neighbor reported this when we got home from doing errands. The cat was not killed. It was seen dragging itself. However we could not find it. We think some passing girls may have carried it away. All the animals including Wilber had to miss lunch. They made up for it with a big dinner. Helen gave 3.5 gals and I got six eggs.
3/8 Ash Wednesday Sally always feeds the barn cats first thing in the morning and stands by for awhile to fend off marauding bantams bent on pecking up cat food. As she stood there being helpful she noticed a drip coming from the frozen barn faucet. She plugged the heat tape back in (I unplugged it weeks ago because it serves only the upper end of the system) and low and behold, the tap ran again within a short while. I at once connected up the hose and filled the stock tank. Helen had a huge drink. Later we took a walk to the bottom of the property. Right by the brook we saw where a beaver had felled a 6″ tree. His lodge must be quite a way downstream because we could not see anything of the tree. The dogs also pointed out a muskrat den. They seemed to have been quite active. We came home with pussy willows and witch hazel, all signs of spring. Along the riverbank we did find several trees which have either tumbled over uprooting themselves or seem about to. We are trying to think of ways to assist the bank to hold. We are considering chaining one tree that’s already in the water to another farther inland. Perhaps this will help hold the bank. Helen gave 3.5 gals. today and I got 6 eggs.
3/9 Thursday There are some big bare patches now on the fields, all brown of course, but Helen was so pleased to get out and walk around on the ground. She even tried to graze. Sally walked part of the fence line and found only minor damage so far. Wilber now eats his grain with much enthusiasm. He is still getting 6 qts a day of milk. One ewe, Agnes, is getting huge but still no signs of making up udder. Helen gave 3.75 gals and I found seven eggs.
3/9 Friday The pigs are getting so big and frisky now they want to jump their barrier. When they see Sally with their dinner they climb into their trough and seem about to slither over the wall in their enthusiasm. Grandsom Rafe arrived this afternoon and he has offered to reinforce the pigpen. They are also rooting around their wall and nibbling holes. Helen now takes regular strolls out onto the brown fields. WIlber gets to play outside part of the day. He is six weeks old now and energetic but having been people-raised he isn’t clear on the cow rules. Helen gets very worried when he gallops far away. We haven’t finished checking the fence line so Sally closed off the north field to stop him running so far. Helen gave 3.75 gals today and I got 6 eggs. \
missing week!! Hope nothing exciting happened.
3/18 Saturday It was 5f above thismorning, not as bad as predicted but cold enough to be no fun. I tried all day to get the barn hose to run. Finally at night I connected up a brand new hose with no ice in it and filled the stock tank. Helen seems to be improving steadily but is as touchy as ever about having her teat handled. We still have to use both the kicker and Sally holds up her tail while I insert the cannula. Her production was good: 3.5 gals today.
3/19 Sunday Today was warm enough in the afternoon so that I was able to fill the stock tank with only a little trouble with the hose. Helen came in for milking without much urging and put up with all my ministrations with only the kicker, no tail holding, and for the first time she didn’t make a cowflop. I have gotton better at inserting the cannula. I squirt milk out with one hand so as to clealy identify the end of the streak canal and twirl the little cannula while inserting it. We got almost 3.5 gals today. Wilber now excercises by running way down the field and back. He has a wonderful plushy healthy coat. Hector has gotton very crabby. Sometimes I have to take a stick in with me when I look for eggs. Only 5 eggs today.
3/20 Monday Sally had to go to the bus station this evening so I did the milking with help from grandson Gabe. Helen missed Sally and was very naughty. When I had about a gallon milked she deliberately kicked over the bucket. I told her exactly what I thought. I went on to get another half gallon so figure I would have had 1.5 gals, 3.5 today. After I was through milking I took scissors and removed the remains of the bandage on her sewed up teat. the cut is not inflamed. She did not wince when I took a couple of squirts but I think milking normally might traumatize the injury. We’ll see in the morning.
3/21 Tuesday Sally milked this morning normally. Helen didn’t complain. OK again this evening, but we used the kicker both times. Sheforgot and left the kicker on when Helen left this evening and it took some galloping around to snatch it off again. Helen was right up again in production today, 3.75 gallons. What a fine cow. Hector, the 9 month old steer, is becoming a pest at milking time always trying to charge along in with Helen. Tonight at Sally’s suggestion I created a tie-up for him in the beefer pen, their feeding area. I put out a bucket of grain and snapped the rope onto his collar ring. The day before yesterday the little hen in the grain room hatched out two chicks from her four eggs. To keep them safe I put them into one of the hen coops. One poor little chickie got out and was immediately eaten by a cat. So she has one left. I fed them chopped hard boiled egg the first day, then yogurt, wheat germ and layer pellets. Of course, too late, I fixed the coop so it is safe I think. Temp got above 40 today.
3/22 Wednesday The vet came today and dehorned Wilbur. He gave him an anesthetic. He was one sad looking calf afterwards but by chore time he was bouncing around and ate all his dinner. the vet also looked at Helen’s teat and said it was unwise to be milking it. He said it could still easily split open and I should use the cannula. He also gave me more medication so I can continue the shots. This was a big disappointment to all of us, not least Helen, I am sure. The milk did not run out well from that quarter as it had been. This is not a good sign. We only got a little over 3 gals today. When I called the cows at noon so as to have them in for the vet all three were way down by the river. I was amazed that Helen came. I couldn’t even see the others for about 15 minutes and was getting distinctly worried by the time they trailed up.
3/23 Thursday I got slowed down a bit today by falling down the ladder-like steps into the sheepfold this morning. Actually I fell only from two steps up with my head into their water bucket but I feel rather stiff. I was going down to take a picture of daughter Sally and grandsons Rafe and Gabe and his girlfriend Sara sheep shearing.(The camera got wet) Gabe and Sara had scissors and Sal had hand shears of the type in use since Roman times. Rafe sat on the sheep’s head. The sheep was Dave, the big ram. They also sheared the young ram, Thistle. The fleece of each filled a trash bag. And Dave was sheared last fall too. Sally and Rafe worked on fencing today. Sal wants to make it possible for the sheep to use a larger area of pasture this year. Helen came down to stand by and inspect. Helen gave 3.5 gals today. I got five eggs. Two more bantams have gone broody so they don’t lay. But I’m sure there are some nests I’m not finding.
3/24 Friday We’re sweating out possible mastitis. The milk went through the filter rather slowly this morning. Helen is extremely irritable with me at present. No surprise as I keep having to give her a shot and stick that plastic drain up her teat at every milking. Then I stand by to help. I push the draining quarter over so it goes in the milk bucket and not on the floor. Tonight she whipped me in the face the whole time with her tail. She knows exactly where my face is whether I crouch or stand. We got only 3 gals and one quart today but I know we lost at least a pint onto the floor. Only six eggs. She spends a lot of time now out in the field even though there is no new grass. She wanders around finding things to nibble. The sheep are doing the same thing. They all are fed up with hay and long to graze. Sally and Rafe did a lot more fencing. 3/25 Saturday Now that Dave the ram has been sheared he has got his friskiness back. He has resumed his attacks on the foundation of the the buttery. You can hear him whamming away down there. The sheep all spent much of the day grazing in their paddock. There isn’t any grass but they are trying anyway. Helen gave 3.75 gallons today and there is no trace of mastitis. the bantam I have caged up with her one chick had blood all over her head today. We have no idea how this can have happened. The chick is fine. I found only two eggs today.
3/26 Sunday Today was quite springlike but there is lots of mud everywhere. I stuck a rod down among my parsnips and it went in 5 and a half inches. I let the little bantam with one chick out to forage today. She was getting squirrely in her coop. She and her chick had lots of fun and in the evening settled down in a cozy spot in the milking area. Then after locking up the barn we got to worrying about the raccoon. Night before last something reached through into her coop and bloodied her comb. So I went back out and returned her to the coop for the night. I piled some screens on it. If she makes it through tonight I will add some more security to the coop tomorrow. I checked a bantam nest which I have been forgetting about and got six eggs out of it and two elsewhere. Helen gave 3.5 gals.
3/27 Monday It was so sunny and warm today that we carried some of the seedlings outside for awhile. I set tomato, calendula, marigold and Stuart’s desert pea against the south wall and stood up a piece of plexiglas in front of them. It’s amazing how much more green they are after a few hours of full light. One bantam hen with a nest in the hayloft may be hatching her brood tonight. I frequently check her eggs and I think one was pipping. The bantam with one chick took her baby into the layer’s room to settle for the night. She should be safe in there. I lock that door. Helen gave 1 gal + 1 qt today. We’re trying doing part of the milking without the drain in her mended quarter to see if the incision can stand the strain.
3/28 Tuesday Lots of rain today and the river has risen over its bank in one place. It has joined with a vernal pond that forms on the field. I think the ice must be coming out of the lake. I watched great floes go past. The river is flowing faster than I would be able to run. Now this evening the wind has come up and is howling in some of the windows. No new chicks today. And no lambs. But both ewes are bagging up a bit. It was so bleak today that the bantam with one chick barely moved out of her corner in the layer room. She just huddled in there keeping it warm. She was pleased when I put some feed down in front of her. She clucked for her chick to “come and get it”. I ordered some new chicks today. The roof leaked in the feed room worse than I have seen before. Two bags of feed got quite wet. Helen is still touchy about her injured teat. She gave only 3 gals. 1 qt. They cattle couldn’t go outside at all.
3/29 Wednesday We and the dogs walked down in the woods beyond the fields to see how much flooding there is. The brook and the river have merged to form a sheet of water among the trees. In many places near the fields the river is almost over its banks. The banks are about 10′ high. Most of the fields are much higher than this and the farm buildings are higher still so the only actual flood damage will be to the banks themselves which are increasingly eroded. This is of course a result of heavy logging in the watershed area. Sally and I got the chick brooder down from the loft where it was stored so I can check it over. Some parts are missing so I will have to do some inventing. The parsnip patch is now thawed down 8″. Helen gave almost 3.75 gals today. We decided to start milking normally and no more shots. I think she was grateful. Eight eggs.
3/30 Thursday The river is still high but not flooding. I listen every night for spring peepers but have not heard them yet. The ground in the parsnip patch is thawed down 9″. It is gaining an inch a day it seems. Sally saw the ram, Dave, performing an antelope-like step which we have not witnessed before. He bounded forward with all four feet together like a pogo stick. It was intended aggressively toward the other ram. For the first time we tried putting the calf , Wilberforce, out with Helen and Hector. He has been spending all day with them but Sally has been bringing him in at night for fear he might wander off. Milking is once again a pleasant interlude with no doctoring to do. Helen gave 3.5 gals. I found 6 eggs.
3/31 Friday Sally and I both have colds so we didn’t do a whole lot. However Sally found an ad for two pairs of geese in Uncle Henry’s Swap It Guide. So we called and have made preliminary arrangements to buy them. Grandson Rafe will have to pick them up in Brooklin on his way down from school in Bar Harbor tomorrow. So then we had to go out and do some fencing for them. Sal strung one section of fence about 50′ long to cut off a short spur of field. Then together we took the old chicken wire off of the chicken run and applied that to another part of the yard which had only boards. There are two pairs so they need plenty of room. We also did some brush removal in the area. Helen was a lovely cow today and gave 3.5 gals. I got 8 eggs, all bantam. Bantam hens are going broody all over the place. Usually they are wild as hawks but once they go broody you can pick them up and they just plop down wherever they land. Speaking of hawks reminds me, Sal saw a bald eagle circle the barnyard today. She thought he was looking at the chickens. I would even sacrifice a chicken for him if he wants one.
April 1 Saturday Both ewes lambed today. Bernadette, the one which scarcely even looked pregnant until last week, started first with a lamb about 9am. The rams were awful pesky and would not leave the ewes alone. they kept chasing them in circles and trying to mount. We succeeded in driving the rams out of the sheep fold and Sally stood guard while I went around in front of the ban and removed a 12’ metal gate and dragged it around. That just fitted nicely across the front of the sheep fold locked in place by two convenient trees. Pretty soon Bernadette produced a second lamb. Agnes decided that one must be hers and kept nudging it away to her own corner. Sally had to stand guard for a long time until Rafe finally arrived from college about noon. He helped devise a private area for Bernadette. By early afternoon Agnes had begun lambing herself and now has her own set of twins. Both ewes are excellent mothers and stood very quietly while Sally assisted the lambs to suck. The ewes are not shorn and there is a lot of wool in the way. It must be 6” deep with lots of tags. All four lambs seem frisky, three female, one male. Rafe would have arrived earlier but he stopped on the way to pick up four geese for which we had made arrangements. We spent part of the day fencing off a secure area for them. It includes a low wet area formed by melting snow. This is now a 6” deep puddle and quite large. They were very pleased with this.
April 2 Sunday The lambs all look perky. With Rafe here to help, Sally decided we’d better shear the ewes. We were fearful of doing it before in case we disturbed them too much in late pregnancy. With all three of us clipping and Rafe also holding down their heads we managed to get both fleeces off. Agnes has a much bigger fleece. We still have the new families separated and the rams excluded. Rafe fixed the rams a cozy run-in in the front corner of the sheep fold but the last time I looked they were standing in the rain. This morning Helen’s recovering quarter produced some significant clots and the milk was slow to strain, a sign of mastitis. I worried all day but she was OK this evening. I was ready with a mixture of olive oil and tea tree oil with which I massaged her teat and quarter. That has worked for me before against mastitis and I hope will again. Right now when she is close to being dried off would be a bad time to get it. All three of the cattle went right out this morning while the weather was good without stopping for hay and spent most of the day trying to graze. Perhaps this is why she was way down tonight. Only 3 gals today. And 7 eggs.
April 3 Monday warm and drizzly today, turning to hard rain. Sally and I walked down to the brook and found the water has retreated somewhat since last week but the fiddlehead bog is still partly flooded. We opened up Pocket Field for the cattle in case they want to explore. Still no grass anywhere of course. All four lambs are apparently quite well but not all are equally bouncey. The two little families have been separated but today Sally let them mingle. One of the geese laid an egg today on the hay pile Rafe put in the old feeder which is in their pen. Rafe returned to school early this morning. Helen was touchy this evening and the filter showed renewed evidence of mastitis. Her bag does not seem inflamed. She gave only 3 gals today. I got five eggs.
April 4 Tuesday Rain rain all day but hurrah, the line to the spring sink thawed and once again the joyful noise of springwater running into the granite sink in the kitchen was heard. A goose laid another egg, this time right in the middle of their paddock. There is a vernal pond in that area which appears every year with snowmelt. I call it Lake Coburn. A mallard drake has joined the geese in their pond. He is a fine greenheaded fellow with an elegant curled tail. Sally saw a pair of bluebirds today. Helen gave 3.75 gals , probably up because the rain kept her in all day eating real hay instead of the slim pickings on the pasture. The tines of my spading fork now go all the way down in the parsnip patch but that is still insufficient for my parsnips I think. I dug a bunch of jerusalum artichokes. We have found a way to make these bland and tasteless vegetables edible (I feel badly saying this of them since they are the first free spring gift.) Saute them in plenty of butter and when they are golden pour on a generous amount of soy sauce. 5 eggs today.
April 5 Wednesday Neighbor Stewart who also has geese says we have one gander and three geese. There were no additional eggs from them today. It was cold, windy and generally bleak with intermittent rain. Nonetheless Helen spent all day on the pasture. Probably as a result, we got only 3 gals today. I dug my first parsnips and we had them for supper. Very nice. Stewart came over and admired all the animals.
April 6 Thursday A cold bleak day with drizzle and flurries. Helen gave 3 gals . The filter has been completely clear now for several days. The geese have decided the like cracked corn. They now come running to the fence when they see me. Five eggs today.
April 7 Friday We are starting to dry off Helen. We are going to once a day milking and skipped tonight. She is due to calve about June 25. I hope to give her two months off this year. Last year she only got about five weeks off because she insisted on keeping on producing!
April 8 Saturday Sally has been worrying about leaving me with Dave, the mean and ugly ram. She asked Stewart if he would shoot it so she could get him into the freezer. Stewart arrived with alacrity bringing his buddy Dwayne and a very small, almost toylike, .22. He gave Dave one shot in exactly the right spot. He and Dwayne continued to help. They got Dave’s carcass hauled up using an improvised spreader and a comealong which Dwayne happened to have in the truck. They skinned him and saved the head. Dwayne is thinking of having the head mounted as it is so amazing looking with its array of four large horns, the top two sticking up like some antelope, the lower two curving down gracefully. We left the carcass hanging in the garage. It’s the best we could so. It’s plenty cold. We’ll probably cut the meat tomorrow. It looks like excellent meat. We had Dave castrated six or more weeks ago and it is generally believed that the carcass will not be tainted by excessive masculinity. The cats may nibble the shanks a bit but appear more interested in the bucket of offal. I cleaned the chick brooder and got it set up for Monday. Some of the parts disappeared last year when Stewart lost everything in a fire. He had return it minus the feed trays. I have improvised replacements. So far, though, I cant get it to be as hot as I think it ought to be. Sal did some more fencing today. Helen gave close to 3 gals this morning. We skipped milking tonight. I got five eggs.
April 9 Sunday Between us, Sally and I got the sheep all cut and wrapped. There must have 150 lbs of meat, perhaps more. It looks to be very high quality. Because we don’t have a bandsaw we had to forgo lambchops. I guess if we had a better handsaw we could have cut them. We made roasts, stew, and some ground meat. There was virtually no waste because I used the cleaver and chopping block to whack up the neck bones. My apparently authentic book of Indian curries calls for bones in nearly everything. Helen was down to 2.5 gals today. Drying off is going much faster this year because there is no green grass grazing to boost production. She grazes every day but it is mostly just pretending. She still eats her hay. I am using the poorer stuff until shes all dried off. The geese have decided they like cracked corn and layer pellets and clean them right up. The weather today is rotten. This evening it is blowing hard and the rain has turned to snow.
April 10 Monday We awoke to a snow covered world today. The post office called at 8am to tell me my chicks were there. The road had not been sanded so it was a sloshy drive. I had the brooder all warmed up and ready. Sally and I picked up chicks and put each one’s beak in the water before releasing it. If this is not done some may collapse before they get the idea of how to drink. I had contrived a waterer for them by filling an ice cube tray with pebbles. Actually, it was Sally’s idea. She has done this before. They like to stand on the pebbles to drink. Soon all were drinking and eating their chick starter mash. I topped the mash with clabbered milk as a source of lactobacillus. It has been found that colonizing the chick gut with lactobacillus is a successful way of preventing disease. The weather continued stormy and two hours later we lost power. So we put all the chicks back in their packing crate and set it on the Aga. They were comfy there for an hour until we got the power back. One chick was DOA and we lost two more. It’s hard to believe the fixes they can get themselves into and if not saved at once, they die. This evening all seem well and happy. There are 35 chicks. One large spruce went down last night. It took out some fence and lay halfway across the dirt road that runs north.
April 11 Tuesday Today was an improvement on yesterday, weatherwise, but Spring still seems to have lost ground. I did get some more bags of sawdust off the foundation and onto the asparagus patch. And I discovered scilla blooming. The new chicks seems perfectly happy and are so very cute. They now race around in the brooder from food to water to warming light. But another inexplicably died. That’s three that have died since arrival but the other two had good excuses. The vet came today and docked the tails on the lambs and gave them tetanus shots. They are growing amazingly, especially the little ram lamb. The vet stayed for lunch and I served some of my parsnips. Helen gave 2.5 gals this morning. I got 5 eggs.
April 12 Wednesday My goodness, the weather today was awful for April. Snowing this morning and a bitter wind all day. We went around doing encouraging things for all the animals including giving a bale of hay to the pigs to make a nest. The baby chicks brooder is covered with blankets and they have a microclimate that is perfect. They are totally frisky. One little setting bantam in the barn finally hatched one chick this morning. I saw the damp little thing. I tipped her up this evening enough to see its tiny feet hurrying out of sight under her fluff but no more had hatched. If by tomorrow morning there are no more Ill take the other three eggs away and install her in the nursery coop. Helen gave a little over 2.5 gallons this morning. I got five eggs.
April 13 Thursday Helen is most reluctant to dry off. She was up a quart this morning. She’s determined to get at that green grass. I might have to keep her in a few days. Two bantams hatched chicks yesterday, the second one has two. Sal cleaned out Wilbur’s pen and we have made it into a nursery. Later the chicks in the brooder are going in there. Only three eggs today.
April 14 Friday I think the bantam chicks are doing alright. Two were in the feed pan this morning. The other spends all its time under its mother and I haven’t seen it since we moved her in there. I hope she brings it out once in awhile for a meal. Our trees came today. I bought three apple trees and two cherry trees. Sally bought all kinds of things including a lime (linden) tree, a black walnut, two elderberries and some black locust. Helen gave 2.5 gals this morning. She gets no grain now at night and was very cross when she smelled carrots on Sally’s hands. So Sally went and got her some. We walked down to the brook this morning along the river. Everything is eroding badly. We took along willow cuttings and a shovel and stuck them in. Maybe they will grow and hold the bank and be beautiful.
April 15 Saturday This was the first true spring day. It got over 60. Tonight for the first time I hear the spring peepers. The two bantam mothers sat facing each other about a yard apart just like mothers in the park as all three chicks scratched around on the bare spot their mothers had cleared around their pie pan of feed. I let the geese out for the first time. They fooled around on the lawn looking pleased for an hour or so until we herded them home singing “Susie, little Susie”. Sally has tied big bows of orange flagging tape on Helen’s kicker so that it will be very noticeable. We rarely use it, but the great dread is forgetting to take it off when we let her out. She gave 2.75 gals this morning. She doesn’t want to quit. I found 8 eggs.
April 17 Monday Sally has completed a big segment of fencing so that one large field is ready for the sheep. Yesterday and today she let them out for awhile and they had a great time exploring. Because of all the lambs, the ewes prefer not to move very far or fast so this makes it easier to keep and eye on them. I’ve been letting the geese out about 3pm and today when I didn’t I could tell they were very disappointed. I picked up a 50′ roll of chicken wire to string from the corner of the house to the front fence so that they don’t jump in my goldfish pond. Yesterday they went marching in that direction. I think they smelled the water. I know they would love it but one hour of geese and that little pool would be a mess for the rest of the season. Plus they might eat the goldfish. After dark tonight I went out and caught my biggest rooster for Cousin Susan. She lost hers. This boy has a bloody comb. Fighting, not doubt. One cat, Fraidy Cat, has had kittens in a nearly inaccessible spot. She won’t leave them. They are at least three days old. I can see down in the hole. One was dead. I took her a bowl of chopped meat swimming in cream and reached down with a goldfish net and removed the dead baby. Fraidy hissed madly but didn’t scratch. She knows I am her friend. She just can’t overcome her fear.
April 19 Wednesday. Yesterday I put up the temporary fence to prevent the geese from heading for my goldfish pond. But they didn’t even bother. Instead when I let them out they figured out how to get around behind the barn where they found the stock tank and had a lovely swim. Of course they got it all muddy so Helen wouldn’t touch it . Sal and I dumped it out and I rinsed it out and ran it full again. Later they took a long hike down the pasture. They may have been heading for the river. Sal rounded them up and drove them home but they were afraid to go past the cows in the barnyard. Nor would the cows get out of their way. They associate Sally with supper or at least carrots and all ran over to see her. She came in later and made herself a cup of tea. She said unraveling the animals took her twenty minutes. Helen’s production on once a day milking won’t seem to fall below 2.5 gallons and this morning was closer to three. Tonight I left her with access only to the barnyard; that means hay and water, no nibbles of grass. We’ll see if that does the trick. I did the chores alone tonight. Sal has gone to the airport for husband Tom.
April 21 Friday For the third day I left open the stall where two bantam hens have been staying with their chicks. Today they finally decided to bring out the chicks for a slightly expanded horizon. The chicks now mind very well and run to their mothers at her cluck or run after her like fluffy wind-up toys. The geese come and go to their pen without getting away into the field. I did the feeding alone this evening because Sally and Tom went shopping for a new water pump for their house. Tom was seriously bummed out about having to replace it, poor guy. Keeping Helen confined to the barnyard at night with just hay and water has not so far depressed her production very much. She still gives over 2.5 gallons in the morning.
April 22 Saturday Last night it started to snow and slushy snow kept falling until about 2 pm when it turned to rain. It is still raining now at 10:30pm. I have never know snow this late. Once on April 15, 1976, we had about 6″ of light fluffy snow but it melted right off. The poor little spring peepers have had to go back to sleep. This morning I discovered that three setting bantams in the hayloft were gone as well as all the eggs from one nest. It has to be a raccoon. One nest had three cold eggs but the hen was gone. Later she returned and sat down but she is wasting her time of course, poor little thing. I borrowed a Havahart trap and baited it with peanut butter, a raccoon favorite. I doubt I catch it. Usually I either catch a cat or the trap closes by itself. The setting is very sensitive and my old post and beam barn is shaky. The geese seemed to like the weather. All the low spots in the front lawn have become lakes again. I brought in a couple more goose eggs leaving four in the nest. Helen didn’t choose to go out at all. I think she is as disgusted with the weather as I am. The sheep minded it less. Their wool is plenty warm despite shearing. Even the lambs are warm enough, it would appear.
April 23 Easter Sunday Cold rain continued all day. None of us went to church because of many problems with the McGuire’s water system. The Havahart trap contained an embarrassed and disgruntled tom cat this morning. I set it again tonight. Helen gave a little over 2.5 gallons. The chicks in the brooder are getting long legged. We will have to move them soon to larger quarters. There is a dog in the neighborhood which runs loose and has killed some small animals. Its owners have been reluctant to tie it up. We have been worried about what would happen if it got in with the sheep. Today we heard that it had tangled with a porcupine and had to have stitches removed by the vet to the tune of $160. Now they tie him. Rough justice, but perhaps better than being shot which is what we would have done if he killed sheep.
April 24 Monday Sally worked a long time today on the room in the barn where we will put the chicks. This is the same room where Wilber used to live. Now it is used by the two bantam mothers with three chicks between them. She is making it so chicks can’t escape. This morning when I went in the barn the three chicks had squeezed out a crack and were hopping around in the milking area. Their mothers were frantic because they couldn’t get out. The chicks heard them calling but couldn’t remember how to get back in. When I opened their door those mothers simply flew around the corner to their babies. It was rather funny, actually. But it’s amazing no cats noticed their chance. Helen gave a little over 2.5 gals this morning. I’m not getting many eggs as the raccoon has cleaned out all the nests she can find and eaten some of the hens. The remaining hens have found new nests and I don’t yet know where they are. The trap was sprung this morning but nothing was in it.
April 25 Tuesday Helen at last shows signs of dropping off in production. Three days of cold rain and second rate hay might have something to do with it. We moved the brooder and chicks out to the barn. Sally worked on the stall some more and has made it proof against most anything but a weasel. We put the two hens with their three chicks into the layer room where they are safe. We set up the brooder with the food out on the floor and four hours later they hadn’t stirred outside to get it. Some chicks were beginning to look wobbly. So we put the food back inside where it is warm and put an old quilt over everything. Then they went right to eating and drinking. It was sunny all day today but not warm, maybe 40f. Only three eggs. I released another cat this morning from the trap and have set it again.
April 26 Wednesday The chicks in the brooder got through the night just fine. So did the two mamas in the layer room. But later in the morning when I looked in on them I saw that the bantam with only one chick no longer had her tail fanned out. I couldn’t find her chick for several minutes until I saw its little wing floating in the water basin. I felt terrible. But I had put out a pie pan for chick water and a big tool in the older bird’s water so that a chick could climb out. But the poor little thing was just too small I guess and got waterlogged. This evening the bereft mother was once again snuggled up with the other mother helping keep the two chicks warm. Sal and I took a late afternoon walk down to the brook and found our first fiddleheads. I gave two eggs to a hen that has been sitting on a shelf in the pig pen. She has been faithfully sitting even with no eggs.
April 27 Thursday The sheep got into the veg garden area today. We found where they squeezed under the fence. Now we have more fencing to do before Sally leaves. Agnes, the larger ewe, gave us a scare. She wouldn’t touch her grain this evening, wouldn’t let her lamb nurse, and had foam around her mouth. We walked all around and could find no evidence of wild cherry that she might have got at. This was my first thought as it is toxic. The only other thing I can imagine is a mild case of bloat due to too much fresh grass. The grass is very short but of course sheep can graze very close. Helen was back up this morning to nearly 3 gals. What a cow.
April 28 Friday Despite a gloomy weather report, we did get a bit of sun today although I don’t think the temp got above 45f. Helen gave 2.5 gallons. I’m not getting many eggs, what with the raccoon, also lots of bantams setting. The geese are laying. There were seven eggs in their nest today and I took three. In case the goose sets, I don’t want her to have more than four. Sally spent hours working on the veg garden fence to make it sheep proof.
April 29 Saturday ‘Twas a very fine day, against all predictions. I dug up part of one of my flower borders. I am removing the brick edging. At one point I hit rock and dug up a large piece of flagging about six inches down. Tom lifted it out for me. I have started digging a good spot for it where it will be part of some stone steps. All animals are perfectly happy I think. The bantam with two chicks insists on putting them to bed out in the milking room but I am able to pick her up carefully with the chicks under her wings and but her in with the layers where she is safe. Each day I let the geese out for a few hours and each evening I heard them back into their pen. Tonight as soon as they saw me thy started dutifully marching home. Tom and Sally spent all day getting ready to leave early tomorrow for Haines Alaska. It will seem pretty quiet.
April 30 Sunday Sally and Tom got off before 8am. The sun was bright all day and my first daffodils were open. They took their three dogs but left me their blind cat, Lemur. She finds here away around here pretty well and it seemed a shame to move her again. She was born blind and has extraordinarily large unseeing eyes. She also seems deaf and retarded but she knew they were gone. She kept fumbling around to find me and show affection. She doesn’t ordinarily do that. Doing all the chores alone took me a long time. I skipped milking this morning but milked this evening, making a 36 hour interval. Helen was bellowing steadily. I can’t say if it was because she wanted to be milked or because she was cross about being confined to the barnyard on hay and water. SHe stood like a perfect lade for milking but was resistant to letting down. She gave 2.5 gals. There were flecks on the filter and it looked coated. I hope this was just an artifact of delayed milking.
May 1 Monday The barn swallows were back today. I love seeing them. There was frost on the grass this morning so I fed the sheep hay as a preventive against bloat before letting them out in the big pasture. The sheep and geese have both learned their noon routine. The sheep come back to their fold and the geese expect to be let out for the afternoon. Then around five I drive them home. Today when they saw me they began walking back. At evening feeding Helen crowded past me to go to her stanchion. When she found no grain waiting for her she came back out by herself. She had not made much milk today. Her bag was quite soft. A couple of more days of this hated regimen and perhaps I can safely allow her to graze.
May 2 Tuesday Helen was very filled up with milk tonight. I’m not much encouraged this evening with her drying off. I didn’t milk her. I hope she isn’t suffering too badly.
May 3 Wednesday Helen was miserable this morning. I brought her in and milked her. She gave a good 3 gallons. The bucket won’t hold that much so rather than go back to the house I finished milking in a feed bucket. I then gave this half gallon to Wilber who was glad for it. I took it to him out in the Beefer Pen where Hector was also. Pretty soon Hector pushed Wilber away and finished it off. I was surprised. Hector hasn’t had any milk for months. Helen was clearly a lot happier after being milked. Her bag felt fine and the milk strained perfectly. I drank a glass just to see how it would taste after two days inside a cow. The only difference was it seemed salty. My young friend Kelly visited with her baby girls this afternoon. The older girl is 22 months, articulate and fearless. She had to see and try to feed every single animal. All the animals were surprisingly cooperative except I was little worried about the geese. The gander has not so far bitten anybody but he runs at people with his head down. Kelly darted ahead and stood him off just in case. I got my peas planted today.
May 4 Thursday Helen’s bag was encouragingly soft all day. She sure is fed up with staying in the barnyard and eating hay. Everytime I walk by she moos to ask me why I don’t let her out. This morning I got in a row of carrots.
May 5 Friday Helen’s bag was quite full this evening. I fear that in the morning it may be back in trouble. She sure doesn’t want to dry off. I think one of the geese may be setting. All four spent most of the last two days huddled around the nest. Today was quite warm. It got up to 70 in some sunny corners but a strong wind made me reluctant to set out plants.
May 7 Sunday Naughty Helen mashed down part of the barnyard fence and joined the sheep in in their pasture. When I found her she was looking rather sheepish. She wasn’t sure she liked being in the pasture no matter how good it was without Hector and Wilber. There was clearly no way I could get her back so I thought ‘what the heck’ and let the others out with her. She gobbled grass all day. By evening she had made a lot of milk of course, but I didn’t milk her. Most likely I will have to by morning. I don’t know how long she might have stayed out had it not been for a fairly violent thunderstorm starting at about 4:30. That brought everybody in. One of the geese is setting. When she got up to take a drink I checked the eggs. There were five plus a broken one. I can’t imagine how it could have gotten broken. They are very hard. I did an hour and a half of digging today partly in the perennial border, partly in the veg garden. I found my first asparagus spear. No doubt the inch of rain we had with the electrical storm softened up the ground and I’ll be having asparagus every day.
May 8 Monday Helen was out grazing in the North Field this morning, this time my fault for not shutting the gate. Very possibly I should have milked her this morning but decided to let her go until this evening. Now she won’t come in. It’s so warm today and the bugs aren’t bad yet. She might even stay up in the field. I got 9 eggs today. That’s better than I’ve been getting. I bought some wooden eggs and put them everywhere that I know they lay so they have resumed using the nests. I had to stop leaving real eggs in the nests for decoys because it was just drawing the raccoon. But I know he is still around because when he comes in the barn at night to steal eggs he (or she) throws the fake eggs out of the nests and I find them on the floor. I got in about another hour today of digging and set out some herbs. I made an astonishing discovery. Out front where last year I had morning glories climbing all over the lilies and dahlias there are dozens of self seeded ones coming up. I have never before seen this happen in Maine. Snow was piled up there by the plow to a depth of about 6′. Maybe that had something to do with it.
May 9 Tuesday Helen did indeed stay out all night and this morning she ignored my calling. So I got my boots on and walked to where they all were, still nearly out of sight in the North Field. She let me feel her bag. Three of the quarters were softening up satisfactorily. The right rear was pretty tight with milk. It rained all day and around 1 o’clock they all came in and wanted hay which I gave them. Later they went back out to graze and did not return this evening so I hope she is OK. I removed the plastic from the window in the chick’s stall. They are growing fast. They stand about 8″ tall and flutter all around, hop up on things, play and have little bird fights. Altogether different from the Cornish X I raised last year which spend all day sitting by the feed trough like loaves of bread rising. I removed the plastic from their window so they would have more air circulation. Also added a lot more nails to the chickenwire on their window so the raccoon can’t get in. It’s still raining tonight! Three days ago I planted peas and today they are sprouting. But they are rolling out of their row and into the aisle. I made holes with my finger and put them back.
May 10 Wednesday Another sodden day. First thing in the morning I took some apples and went down in the pasture and got Helen to stand still long enough so I could feel her bag. It’s coming along OK. She came in and asked for hay and grain about 5 o’clock. Had enough of wet grass. An electrician came and installed motion sensitive outdoor lights. That should slow down any future hay theives. The temperature today didn’t get above 42F. Combined with the rain it felt pretty cold.
May 11 Thursday Rain continued all day. The river is high but I didn’t have time to walk down there. The pastures are now all green like one giant lawn. The sun came out for about 10 minutes just before sinking and I took a picture to show how green it is. The leaves are still tiny. Helen scarcely came near the barn. I put out some hay in case she got tired of grass but she never did. The geese don’t come out of their enclosure much now even when I leave their gate open for them. They like to stay clustered around the one who is setting. I don’t think a fox of raccoon could get near her.
May 12 Friday A fine sunny day all day. I did some ferocious digging in the veg garden for about an hour and a half until the bugs got to me. They aren’t yet out in full force but there are plenty of black flies. I found self seeded kale in last year’s kale bed and transplanted a few to another bed. I t looks like I won’t have to plant kale. Another bed is covered with what looks like baby lettuce. I picked my first serving of asparagus this evening. Like yesterday , Helen did not eat any of her hay. She seemed to be asking for some so I threw it down but she just sniffed at it. All three come inside the Beefer Pen to chew their cuds as there are fewer bugs. With all the lush grass they are a bit messy. The sheep are getting more confident around me. The wether, Thistle, walked very stiff legged and was a little threatening at first when I took over from Sally. They come very well when called and all stay together in quite a compact flock. Part of the time Helen and the boys are in with them and then the two groups usually stay together.
May 13 Saturday Helen gave me a surprise today. I went down the ladder to where the sheep live and there was Helen lying in the middle of the room. Hector and Wilber were there too of course. I was bringing the sheep their grain which she noticed in my hand so rather than risk having her damage their manger reaching for it I gave it to her. It was chilly today with some rain.
May 14 Sunday All the animals had a lovely day in sunny pastures. Martin took lots of pictures with his new digital camera.
May 15 Monday The flock of chicks is growing so big I must start calling them pullets and cockerels. They flutter all around in their room and seem to have a good time. There is quite a lot to do in there with various things to perch on. I still keep two lights on partly for heat. I tried it with one light. I don’t believe they were cold but they didn’t seem to eat as much in the dim light. The hummingbirds are back. I just wonder what the poor things find to eat. There are hardly any flowers now except dandelions. I wonder if there is nectar in the maple tree blooms. My bird feeder is full of bluejays, often six or seven.
May 16 Tuesday After Sally left I decided to make life easier by feeding pig pellets rather than cooking cracked corn for the pigs. I could tell right away they didn’t really like this change. A few times I cooked corn and they would get all excited about their meal. Either way, I always add other stuff, milk if I have it. My perception is that pig preferences apart, the cooked corn goes farther than the pellets. Today I bought a bag of each and am going to keep a careful record by weight of how long each bag lasts. I am feeding 12 lb/day to two pigs about 5 months old. I’d guess they each weigh not less than 100 lbs. Today there was a dead chicken in the layer room. She was a 1 year old bird with nothing wrong with her that I could see apart from a somewhat dirty back end. Among the pullets and cockerels I found one bird today that doesn’t walk properly. It goes backwards in a huddled posture. I got it to drink water by holding its head. The sheep are getting a lot friendlier. The wether doesn’t seem wary of me now. He stops to sniff my hand and lets me pat his head. I’ve kept the geese in the last two days because of needing to leave the front gate open. They make it very plain they want to come out. I took pity and let them out for a while this evening and they had a good sozzle in the big puddle. Then they waddled home to attend the nest.
May 17 Wednesday I spent a good deal of time today getting the lawn mower to work. And a lot of time mowing the lawn which has gotten almost out of hand. Two weeks of rainy weather gave it a headstart. The lawn mower keeps on choking. I didn’t get even half done today so I hope we don’t get more rain tonight. I took some grass clipping to the pullets and cockerels for a change of diet. The crippled pullet is still alive but can only walk backwards. She eats and drinks a little when I hold her head.
May 19 Friday There has been a little hen sitting on two eggs in a crevice in the outside of the barn wall 4′ above the ground. Today I found her with one chick under her around the other side of the barn. I don’t know what happened to the other chick. There is no unhatched egg in the nest. Maybe a cat got it during her negotiation to get it out of the nest and down to the ground. The chick she has is very beautiful with stripes like a partridge chick. I would have caught them and put them in a safe cage for the night but she was too wild to catch during daylight and at evening I could not find her. Wilber came up to the barn all by himself while the others were way down in the field. He took a big drink and asked for some grain. I gave him a large serving. The pullet that is bent out of shape and travels backwards still lives. Occasionally it seems able to relax enough to manage a little food. I push its beak in the water a few times a day too. The bantam with two chicks tried roosting in the rafters tonight. They can fly short distances. Somehow she persuaded one of them all the way up there, using the ladder part way no doubt. The other could not figure out how to get to the rafter so finally she gave up and they went back in the layer room to bed. I mowed the lawn for almost two hours today. I quit with about an hour’s worth left to do. Then I heard my neighbor on his big riding Craftsman finishing it up. That was a treat. The part that was unfinished is a noticeable part of the lawn surrounded by pool and garden so it is nice to have it looking professional. I had to set my small mower very high to prevent stalling and my results look like a bad haircut. Some of the grass was over a foot long. I look at Helen many times each day in case she gets bloat on the lush grass. So far she has not shown any signs of it. Tomorrow morning will be the test. Frost is predicted.
May 20 Saturday The hen with one new chick was right out there this morning. But later I did find her other chick dead near the wall. It must have gotten separated and chilled during the time she was moving away from the nest. We had quite a frost last night. I didn’t lose much because I put garden cloth over the morning glory seedlings. I thought the becopa was a goner but now I think it will recover. In late afternoon Helen came up to the barn asking for grain. Soon I will need to start building up her feed in preparation for starting to milk again. But she should not get any fatter so this is a quandary. The pigs would eat more if I gave them more but they are not seriously dissatisfied as judged by their dispositions. They fight less than any pigs I have had. This afternoon I added a salad course to their dinner, a 5 gal. bucket of weeds I dug. It was mostly dandelion and comfrey.
May 21Sunday The little hen with one chick is still with us. They are such a cute pair. The pullets and cockerels began to look bored so I opened up their door and set up a screen door to give them a view. The crippled bird is occasionally able to relax enough to un roll its head and eat. But of course the other ones aren’t very nice to it so it only gets a few pecks. Mostly it hides in a corner. I hauled a big cartload of chicken litter down to the veg garden today and spread part of it. The lilacs are starting to open. The scent is wonderful.
May 22 Monday This morning when I opened the gate to the barnyard with the pig food I left it ajar. I didn’t notice little Wilber, the calf, around the corner. He walked right out the gate and before I could reach him ate one of the flowers of my black tulip Queen of the Night. Fortunately he is totally tame and friendly so I had no trouble catching him. We had a little bit of sunshine today but mostly it was overcast and threatening rain. My row of peas is all up and I don’t believe the birds noticed them. When they were sprouting I went by every day and pushed down any pea seed that was showing. The carrots are up too.
May 24 Wednesday Rain part of yesterday and all day today. I planted some nasturtium seeds in a planter and put wire around some vulnerable little trees but that was the extent of my gardening. The apples trees are blooming but it has rained so much and been so cold when not raining that I doubt the bees were able to pollinate. Two years ago this happened and we got no apples. A bantam in the hayloft to which I gave one egg when she got broody has hatched out her one chick. I have been checking under her every day lately and this morning there was her chick. I fixed up a cat carrier cage with food and water and put her and her baby in it. The chicks are at risk upstairs. They have to flop all the way down to the main floor and may die in the attempt.
May 25 Thursday More rain today, some of it quite hard. But we did get a little beautiful sunshine just before sunset. Helen had figured out that I give the sheep a little grain at noon to reward them for coming in. Now she and the guys come running up to the barn to get some. I bring Wilber in for his and give Helen and Hector a little to share out in the beefer pen. The bantam with a new chick which I put in a cat carrier last night preferred to remain inside it all day. I opened the door for her but the main thing that happened was that the other birds came in and ate her food. Another bantam that has partly grown chicks, the one I have insisted sleep in the layer room for safety, has been trying to get her children to fly up into the rafters to roost. Every few days she tries but one always falls back so she gives up and takes them in with the hens. Tonight they made it up into the rafters and are lined up looking very clever. Three more bantams are setting. I gave one an egg today and took away the wooden egg she was sitting on. Another one is sitting on a light bulb. I always ask her if it has lit up yet.
May 26 Friday Just a sprinkle of rain today a few times, mostly sunny and a great deal of wind. I did an hour of digging in the garden and and hour of running the weed trimmer, later more digging. I also planted cabbage plants and onions. The bantam with one new chick which spent a second night in the cat carrier finally took her chick out today. I did not see them all day. After dark this evening I went out to close up the chickens and discovered something astonishing. She had found where I put that cat carrier and taken her chick back in there for the night. Fortunately I had left the door ajar. I rounded up water and food and put it in there with her so when daylight arrives she won’t have to wait for me to let her out before they can have breakfast. I did not see the five day old chick and its mother anywhere today. I hope something didn’t get her chick. There was a distracted looking hen around this morning but so many of them look alike that I could not be sure. When I went out this evening I also discovered that the three ganders were shut out of the goose pen. I had propped their gate open but the wind today was quite violent and had swept the gate shut despite the prop which was driven well into the ground. Thank goodness the sitting goose was not out taking her break or she would not have been able to get back to her nest.
May 27 Saturday Our little hen with one new chick settled down for the night in the cat carrier again. Again I put in food and water and shut the door. This morning before I let her out at 6am I carried it out on the grass. She ran right out, circled the box a couple of times flapping her wings to stretch, then darted back in with her chick. Later they spent the day scratching around. She prefers to be inside the barn where there are many more hazards than outdoors. At noon when I went to the barn I could hear desperate peeping from some distance away. The chick had somehow gotten inside an old cage made of chicken wire which is meant to be chick proof. I guess it’s not. I reunited it with its frantic mother. I dug, fertilized, and planted more seeds today: spinach, coriander and fenugreek.
May 28 Sunday When I let the little hen out this morning she raced around the carrier as before, then dove back in with her chick. She returned to it several times today to rest but settled down for the night somewhere else. The geese were hanging around at her early bedtime. Probably she didn’t want to take her chick anywhere near them. I could not find her. One of the cats had three kittens six weeks ago. One died right away. She moved the others where I couldn’t find them until today. I caught one little cutie. It was very strong and I nearly got bitten. I brought it in the house and gave it a dish of irresistible canned cat food. I shoved the dish under the magazine stand where it is holed up and it ate it all, and a second dish later. Its mother is worried and wouldn’t join the other cats for their supper. I tried to explain to her that I could not find a good home unless I could get it friendly. The cows and sheep look happier every day. They have more beautiful grass than they can eat. Nonetheless they come pleading for grain when they catch my eye. The lilacs are in full bloom for Memorial Day, and the lawn is mowed.
May 29 Monday Memorial Day Most of today was sunny. It got up to about 60F. I finished the lawn mowing that Stewart didn’t get done. Both my little hens and their chicks were out scratching this morning. At bedtime the cat carrier hen took her chick back in and I locked them in with food and water as before. At lunch time when I visited the barn a found one of the half grown pair of chicks struggling with its head stuck in a crevice. It was on the wall outside of Helen’s stanchion and some grain had dribbled out. I had to force up a board to free him. He ran off with no damage but ruffled feathers. Within five minutes he was back at the same crack looking for grain but managed not to get himself stuck again. The mother of those two chicks no longer spends the day with them. But I notice she cuddles up with them at night high in the rafters.
May 30 Tuesday The kitten I brought into the house day before yesterday has gotten very friendly. It no longer cries unless it sees me and wants food or cuddling. It plays by itself. I can’t find its brother. I think the mother has moved it somewhere. I’ve gone back entirely to feeding the pigs cooked cracked corn. I’ve worked it out that it costs just half as much as the ready to eat pellets. I am cooking 6lb a day of it in a big pot which I steam in the Aga. I add some powdered milk to the water and anything else I have. They much prefer it to the pellets too. Helen now acts as though she hardly knows me. But we’ll get reacquainted before long. This morning the sheep forced a hole in the page wire fence and got from their field into the barnyard. Then they didn’t know what to do with themselves and stood there saying baaa until I ushered them back into their field. I saw only one hen and chick today, the one that goes into the cat cage. She did not go in this evening because I had left it outside. But I saw where she settled down and after dark I put her and the chick into it. I’ve used up the last of the milk I had frozen in pint jars and today bought a gallon of commercial milk. Not being used to it, the flavor of plastic and cooked milk was disgusting. It is like the difference between fresh country air and the air in an underground parking garage. Our country air right now is especially nice because the lilacs are in full bloom.
May 31 Wednesday. The other little hen and chick were out this morning happy as ever. They do seem very happy. The mother hens cluck and the chicks hop and run after them bouncing over the tall grass. The confined pullets and cockerels have been hoping very much to get out and run around. Today I opened their door and let them out. Mostly they stood around in small groups like people waiting for the bus. But then the little cockerels started to fight. They all wanted to fight the one “rare breed” cockerel which McMurray added to the order as a freebie. He can’t weigh above 10 oz and the other birds maybe 12 oz. But he is a little feisty. He lowered his head and flared his hackles like an Elizabethan ruff and took on the others one after another. I watched through three fights. I don’t know his breed but he has black and white checkers over most of him, white hackles and a bright red comb. These birds are too young to have spurs. They leap in the air at each other coming down facing each other from the opposite position. Then they push their chests together while flapping. They muscle each other around in a circle. At bedtime I had to shoo the whole crowd back into their room. They didn’t seem to think of returning on their own even though I turned on their light. Cousin Steve came today and tilled a patch of turf 30’x30’ for me for additional garden space. What a treat. He has a big Ariens lawn tractor that carries a 6’ tiller. I hilled up two 30’ rows and dug in chicken dressing. Tomorrow I will plant sweet corn. This new plot will enable me to plant a lot of squash and cucumbers which formerly I did not have room for.
June 1 Thursday Both the little hens were on the job this morning. I guess I’ll stop worrying about the outdoor one. The cat cage one goes in every night so long as I don’t put her cage in a new place. We had a marvelous sunset this evening. The entire sky was filled with small fluffy apricot colored clouds while the sky itself was turquoise. I sat outside and listened to cowbells and spring peepers until the light faded.
June 2 Friday Now that the pullets and cockerels are loose they are hard to get to bed. They aren’t clear about what to do when everybody else is going to roost. I walk forward holding a feed bag in front of me and sweep them ahead of me. It took me about 10 minutes tonight and some I had to catch and carry to their room. The chicken that was crippled got well again. I can’t even tell which one it was. Helen is looking large these days. She seems aloof. The air is still scented all day with lilac. But I still have not seen any honey bees.
June 4 Sunday I inquired of the lady from whom we bought the geese what to feed the gosling. She suggested bread and milk. What I did was mix dry powdered milk into the laying mash which I have been putting out. The free range chickens and the big geese of course ate most of it but I’m sure the gosling ate some as he was standing in the middle of the dish when I went back. I also fixed up a different water container for them as the one they had was empty so very often I thought maybe it had a leak. I put it right next to the mash for the convenience of the gosling. It is a low flat thing as was the other one. I don’t want him to drown. Apart from such a mishap, I don’t think much but a mountain lion could get past his honor guard. It is highly entertaining to see how the goose and all three ganders position themselves around him. He stands in the center looking quite important although only about 5” high. At midmorning I discovered a very sick looking raccoon behind the barn. I called for Rafe who shot it with his .22 I called our animal control officer several times but never got a response so the corpse is still there. Dear Rafe has repaired the springline so once again we have our lovely water. It runs better than ever.
June 5 Monday Early this morning I took Rafe to the airport for his flight to Alaska. Later I dug over one of the perennial borders. At chore time I found a small lonely black kitten behind a feed bag. I expect it belongs to Little Ruby, A very shy female who probably never gets enough to eat because she won’t push in among the others. She came out and looked at me when she heard te kitten crying. I had put it in a bucket to wait while I finished the chores. I brought the kitten in the house and tried to teach it how to drink warm milk. It drank some. When I was feeding the pigs a left the gate open. A bit later when I went out to bring in the laundry I heard a big mooo much too close. All three were standing in the garage. It took me about 20 minutes to herd them back. Hector, the yearling steer, knew exactly where he didn’t want to go and had a good time racing around and snapping the tops off plants. Helen also ate a big share. I never could herd Wilber along with the others. He is so people oriented that I had to come back and give him a special escort leading him by the collar. He wanted to be led at the run so I got hot and tired and out of temper. But it serves no purpose to get mad at cows. It only frightens them and then they act worse. So I didn’t tell them what I thought. Of course it was all my fault anyway.
June 6 Tuesday I found two more kittens down inside a wall in the barn. I was peering in there for eggs. They are almost certainly part of the same litter as the little one I found yesterday. I could barely reach them. So now there are four in the kitchen. They aren’t ready to eat from a dish so I suppose I must try the eye dropper for them. The one I brought in yesterday got pretty hungry until I fed it with the eye dropper this morning. It then fell asleep instantly and slept for two hours. If I get a chance to catch them at this age, probably six weeks, I grab them. Another week or two and the chance of catching them drops to nearly zero and they grow up wild and can’t be given away to good homes.
June 8 Thursday It’s past time for another round of lawn mowing. During recent rain the lawn jumped up in some places to 10” . I decided to start today by going around the periphery to outline the job. I ran out of gas before I got all the way around. It is a big area. Before I could get back to the job it bagen to rain again. I now go out about 7pm to close up the chickens but am finding that is too early. The older birds are all on their roosts but the pullets and cockerels don’t want to go to bed. I have to wait until it is pitch dark. Lately I have been getting 10 eggs a day. I guess I’ll have to find some more customers.
June 9 Friday One of the ewe lambs isn’t doing as well as the others. She is the only one who doesn’t crowd in for grain when I serve out their small feed. She hangs way back. I prepared another 30’ row in my veg garden including spreading down black plastic garden fabric. I hope to warm the soil enough for cucumbers and squash. They will be going in nearly two weeks later than I would have liked but it has been too wet and cold. The corn has not sprouted. The peas look good. I did another hour and a half of lawn mowing today. It looks very nice where it is mowed. So far this year I have not seen one single honey bee and only one bumble bee. This is scary. There used to be hundreds.
June 11 Sunday It rained all last night and most of today making outdoor work impossible. I had a fire in the kitchen fireplace and practiced making Middle Eastern flatbread using my sourdough starter and whole wheat flour. The Aga cooking plates make perfect griddles for this purpose. I made several different types using the same basic dough. It was easy and the breads looked authentic. Helen came in for her grain this morning and I medicated her teat. She was quite cooperative. This evening she ignored my calls so got no treatment. I found the gosling dead this evening. I can only assume one of the geese killed it. It was eating and drinking this morning and was perky but lay dead at 5pm. They had all seemed so attentive. The only other possibility is if the mother wasn’t brooding it and it got too wet and cold. This is upsetting.
June 12 Monday This morning I let out the caged bantam and her two day old chicks. I was acting on the advice of people who say I am doing too much fiddling around with bantams. There was a crack in the barn floor which I noticed just too late and before my eyes one chick fell through. It hopped in the air several times in an attempt to get back up but was too small. I was able to pry the boards apart by hand far enough to get my fingers down and caught the little thing between two fingers. It was hardly bigger than a moth. Then I put loose boards over all the cracks I could see. This evening I could not find the little family at all. I hope she is safe somewhere. Despite two days of rain my corn has not sprouted. But the black plastic is warming the soil. If I hold a hand over the slits I made I can feel little fumeroles of warm air. When driving around town I can see some gardeners have put in their tomatoes but I have not. I got Helen in today for a look at her torn teat and an application of my oil and comfrey remedy. It looks better. She let me put the stuff on without kicking.
June 14 Wednesday The roses are starting to bloom, the little pink ones that run riot in the stone wall. When I went to feed the pigs tonight I was greeted by two heads peaking through the wire of their door. They had made matching holes in the chickenwire that covers the upper part of the door and looked about to follow with their entire bodies had I not poured their dinner into their trough. I have now made a low rent repair, another door fastened over the damaged door. I then wrapped chain across the whole thing. But when a pig wants to get out it is hard to stop. Pigs are immensely strong. They may decide to bash out their side wall. I did a lot more mowing today but did not finish. Neighbor Stewart came by and completed the job with his big riding mower. I gave him some asparagus.
June 15 Thursday It was another cold overcast day. I did some errands and everywhere people were deploring the fact that it wasn’t warm enough to plant tomatoes. I did put mine in Tuesday and Wednesday despite unpromising weather. It appeared to me that they were getting smaller in their pots. Speaking of getting smaller, I have been fostering four kittens in the house. They are not all from the same litter. The largest one is doing fine but the other three have been in a holding pattern. They have sore eyes and modest appetite. The smallest one yesterday seemed hardly hungry at all, had a stuffy nose and did begin to look smaller. This is the first time I recall ever noting ‘failure to thrive syndrome’ among any of my fostered kittens of any age. It is also the first time I have not had raw milk to give them, Helen being dry now. Last night I defrosted some liver and for breakfast I gave them all the juice that seeped out of the liver. There was a noticeable difference in their appetite and friskiness within hours. The smallest one is once again a constant pest trying to climb up my leg. His appetite came roaring back. He attacks me for food because I feed him with a bottle. I gave him the liver juice with a medicine dropper. He was crazy for it. I have been getting Helen in every day for a grain feed and treatment of her cut teat. The teat is healing as well as can be expected. The cool weather means flies are not as bad as they might be. With her grain I have been including the anionic salts designed to ward off milk fever. If I give her as much of the salts as she ought to have she refuses the grain. Next time I will cut way back on the salts.
June 16 Friday Helen wants to come in for her grain now. She eats it right up if I don’t put on too much of the anionic salts. She is beginning to look very pregnant and walks wobbley. Two of her quarters are swelling including the one with the injured teat. This morning within minutes after I let the sheep out of their paddock into the big field they had breached the fence and were standing in the barnyard. They were bunched up by the gate looking confused. I have been getting nervous about putting myself in a vulnerable position with the wether, Thistle. He has been giving me the wall-eye. My saving his life from twisted wire did not improve his attitude. I went in among them anyway because I didn’t want to spook them away from the gate. I got the gate open for them and was rewarded by Thistle ramming me in the thigh. He was only three or four feet away so I only have a bruise. But I have definitely begun to picture him in the freezer.
June 17 Saturday Yesterday Helen’s torn teat looked pretty good and I was able to handle it wihout her kicking. This morning it was red and puffy. Clearly my treatment is not adequate to the situation. I called the vet but unless I declare an emergency, he will not come before next Tuesday. I have mixed up a stronger solution of tea tree oil for tomorrow morning. She is eating her grain enthusiastically.
June 18 Sunday Helen’s teat definitely looked better today but still feels hot. She did not want it touched. I used a much stronger mixture of tea tree oil on it to day, cut about 2 to 1 with olive oil, and put it in a little bottle which I can use for a total teat dip. There is no way the injury will be healed enough for normal milking by the time she calves.
June 19 Monday I didn’t even mention yesterday that one of the kittens I have been fostering was gone Sunday morning. It was the one I was feeding by bottle, the smallest one. It had rained during the night. I looked and called and when it was still missing by evening I felt sure it was dead. Then today at 5pm the animal control officer showed up with it in a little cage. A fisherman had found it under the bridge about 500 yards down the road from the house. It was in great shape but plenty hungry. It still will not eat from a dish, only from a bottle. Shortly thereafter I got a call from Martin, who does this web site, from the hospital. He had had a serious accident to his foot and ankle caused by catching his foot in an auger at his extruded wood products plant. His foot and ankle are broken and he is lucky it was not a lot worse.
June 22 Thursday Martin is out of the hospital and doing well considering his injuries. He couldn’t stand being away from his plant so rented a wheelchair and went in for a while. Here at the farm, Helen is looking close to calving. She is starting to show mucous and moves slowly. Her torn teat looks about the same today as yesterday but she allowed me to handle it with almost no flinching. My kitten that was lost still won’t eat from a dish. He has chewed the end off the nipple on his little bottle so can’t suck any more, just slurp. But he is sticking with his principles, no lapping from a dish. I got my pole beans in today about three weeks late. It got up to 80F today so maybe the beans will catch up. I also worked on my water system and have a sprinkler going on some of the flowers. In this heat with our sandy soil the beds dry out in a day.
June 23 Friday Such a beautiful day here. I finally got my potatoes planted. It is not straightforward planting. The newly tilled turf they went into requires a lot of preparation. It is only a 20′ row. They are very crowded because i didn’t feel like doing anymore digging. The cucumbers and squash are up. I transplanted my two gooseberry bushes to a sunnier place. They were being swallowed up in my windbreak row which has filled in since we set them out there. I also transplanted a rhubarb plant which was unhappy in its site. I long to have a big stand of rhubarb one day. Helen appears to be i n early labor. She spent the day lying down in the beefer pen not chewing her cud. I threw down a lot of hay sweepings from the hay mow and forked it all over the floor to make a clean surface. I also shut the two steers out in the pasture but when I went back an hour later the bad things had pushed down the fence to get back in. They hate being separated from Helen. While observing Helen today I saw her struggle to her feet after she had been lying down for a couple of hours. It is clear that she could indeed have cut her teat with her hoof while rising. It is a common occurrence in cattle with large udders. I have shut her inside the beefer pen with the steers outside. They get too excited. No further signs of calving at 9:30pm except a mucous string which might mean nothing.
June 30 Friday As soon as I approached the barn this morning at a quarter to six I knew from the rapid steady ringing of Helen’s bell that she was licking her calf. There they were with Hector and Wilber close by sniffing and admiring the new member of the family. I could tell that the calf had just hit the ground not more than five minutes earlier. A warm wet grope and I was pleased to discover we have a heifer. Last night Helen seemed almost to be staggering she was so heavy. This was partly because her hooves are overgrown but mostly because of the calf. Then we had a major electrical storm starting about 10pm which seemed capable of shaking a calf loose. To get the steers away from the scene I put out a pan of grain and Hector ran right outside. Wilber was unwilling to leave Helen and the calf and I had to drag him out. The calf is strong and well coordinated as a June calf should be and was ready to suck within 10 minutes. I pushed her head down and got her started several time but Helen kept circling as cows will. So I put her in her stanchion. I baited it with a lot of grain, then picked up the calf which I would guess weighs 50 lbs and raced ahead of her down the aisle to her stanchion. She ate with good appetite while I put the calf on successive teats. Happily, she is willing to allow the calf to suck the cut teat. The cut is on the front side therefore the calf’s razor sharp incisors do not touch it, only its toothless upper gums. Nevertheless, she was not anxious to have me touch that teat. After the calf could drink no more I went for the bucket and milked out a gallon of colostrum. I put a little collar on the calf and tied her near Helen’s head while i milked. The calf certainly had more than half a gallon, then sucked some more after I milked. I then set Helen up with hay and water in the central aisle of the barn. Daughter Sally was to have the calf if it proved to be a heifer so I have put in a radio call for her in Alaska so she can name it. I have checked Helen every hour for incipient milk fever. So far so good. Mostly she and the calf were napping. About 2 pm I milked out another gallon of colostrum out. The calf had sucked again. The calf has a classic Jersey appearance including a black nose. 5pm Her ears are still warm.. I’m going out to dinner.
July 1 Saturday At 10pm last night Helen’s ears were warm and she was snuggled up with her calf in some hay I had put down to stop draughts. They appeared relaxed and comfortable. I set the alarm for 3am and returned to the barn at that time and found no signs of milk. At 6:30am I got Helen into her stanchion and gave her three scoops of grain, an increase from her former two. I put the calf on the cut teat and another quarter which was tight and she had a good feed. I then put the kicker on Helen and got about 2 gallons of colostrum. She might have behaved without it, she is being very good, but it does increase peace of mind to use it right now while she is still nervous. I am grateful for the flags Sally tied on it. It is remarkably hard to remember to remove it although Helen reminds me by standing and staring after I open her stanchion. I was late feeding the pigs this morning and in their impatience they had bashed out their top fence board. I have nailed it back but don’t trust it. Later: So far no signs of milk fever in Helen. It has hit my cows so often in the past that I hardly dare trust this good fortune. My hay man called about noon and wanted to know if I could accept delivery today on 200 bales. Son Mark was on the way so I said yes. It is nice hay and with the help of his hay elevator and with the man’s wife, me and Mark and little Hailey all helping we got it unloaded and stacked in less than an hour. At 4:00 I milk Helen for a second time today and got a gallon and a half. I did not use the kicker. One front quarter hasn’t been touched by the calf. She is already so skittish I could scarcely catch her to put her on the teat. She ran round and round her mother and then would not suck. I was unable to milk that quarter out very well.
July 2 Sunday Helen continues healthy and happy. I milked her about 6:30am. The calf was already full and didn’t want any more. I tied the calf by her head during milking but it would not settle down, just stood there sagging back on its collar. Hector was bawling outside the window. All this made Helen jumpy so I used the kicker. The calf has now made a little cut on one back teat. It is not bothering Helen so far but appears to be a little infected and I soaked it in tea tree oil after milking. I got two gallons and was able to get the quarter which was blocky last night to soften a bit. Helen has been eating hay well and chewing her cud, a good sign. She wanted to go out to graze after milking and when I opened the door she called her calf to come along. I kept it tied but it did not bawl and after brief hesitation she marched on out and is grazing with the boys. I released the calf to run around inside and Helen has not called again now three hours later. She is a far more relaxed mother this time and trusts me. Last night I made “beestings” (colostrum pudding) from some of the second colostrum milking. This pudding sets up without eggs. Just add sugar, vanilla, and a sprinkling of nutmeg and bake like a custard. Do not add salt. I took several ramikins of it to camp last night where daughter Marcia was having a party. I don’t believe anybody ate any. Too bad, as I think these were the best I ever made. There was a lot of other food including a fancy bakery decorated cake. Helen stayed out grazing not much over three hours. I offered her the option of returning to her calf and she came right in. Later I looked at her and she was lying down looking ill. It is a very hot day and she had her mouth open panting like a dog and breathing fast. I was alarmed and much puzzled about what to do. Then I thought of the water hose and gave her a light sprinkling. This brought her to her feet and I put her out again. At milking time I let the calf go first. She did not seem terribly hungry but sucked awhile. I got only 1.5 gals. There was a lot she did not let down. I have been straining through a fine nylon mesh strainer because colostrum goes only reluctantly through the paper dairy filter, if at all. Tonight I used a filter and it strained perfectly. The one miserable looking black kitten I have been feeding with a bottle finally drank from a dish today. I got it lapping the tip of a spoon a few times, then slowly lowered the spoon into a bowl of milk. I had to leave the spoon in the bowl or it would quit. This morning I made queso blanco and made butter from the cream off of the colostrum. It is dayglo yellow. From setting up to finishing washing up the farm chores took me exactly two hours. I hope to get more efficient.
July 3 Monday As soon as I realized today was not a holiday I went out for feed, especially cat food. I can’t stand fifteen cats all staring at me. The greatest invention of the new decade would be would be a blow dart that sterilizes cats. Some of these cats cannot be caught. At least I don’t have any rodents and even the skunks have called it quits. Helen was cooperative today as well as could be expected with two sore teats, she is so much better than last year. I did have trouble getting her to go out and graze and leave the calf. I had to push and cajole for ten minutes. Once out she grazed and chewed her cud happily for four hours. I brought in 2 gals. this morning and 1.5 this evening. The calf is ad lib except while Helen is grazing. Helen is still engorged but today she let down a great deal better. She and the calf spend the night together. It surely takes more than a gallon.
July 4 Tuesday Helen had a fairly good day. I put her out after morning milking. She bellowed for a few minutes but then grazed and chewed her cud the rest of the day until 4:00 o’clock when she began bellowing for her calf. I let her in and milked at about 5:00. It was suffering hot in the barn, there were flies, and the young poultry were pesky. She was very restless during milking. I did not get quite 1.5 gals., 3.5 +/- today. The calf is to be named Leah. The sheep showed up in the wrong field today. I just opened all gates and they found their way back where they belong and I don’t even know how they got out. I have a huge beautiful crop of mesclun and nobody but me to eat it. I must find somebody to give it to.
July 5 Wednesday Today dawned very fine and I decided to try letting the calf, now named Leah, out with Helen. Today is day four for the calf and Helen already had accepted the idea of going out without her. She marched right out after milking. Then I pushed Leah after her, the boys joined her and they set off into the pasture. I watched them often through the binoculars as they moved around. Leah was just a tiny brown scrap trotting right along with her ears back. Hector, Helen’s yearling calf of last year, is friendly and loving. He knows only one way of expressing his affection, to mount. Poor Leah must have gotten knocked down a number of times but she is athletic. Getting them back in at milking time was tricky. Helen was not at all sure this was a good idea. She would not come when I called and I had to go fetch her. Once up to the barn I could tell she was considering whirling away. But I am sly and had brought a hay string to put on Leah’s collar to force her along with me inside the barn. Of course she set her heels and I had to almost carry her. But I got them all in at last. It took me 25 minutes and I was covered in sweat. Helen let down better and I got almost two gallons tonight, close to four today total. Helen and Leah are staying in tonight. I don’t care to have to drag the calf in the morning. Once a day is enough.
July 6 Thursday Another fine bright morning, not too hot. I had to fight for my two gallons this morning because Helen wasn’t letting down in the near front quarter where the cut is not quite healed. The calf seems to prefer the back teats but all three other teats are milking out well. After milking I slathered the quarter, not the teat, with salve similar to Bag Balm. I put wheat germ oil (blend) on the teat. I no longer put tea tree oil on it because I don’t want to discourage the calf from sucking that teat. Leah no longer fights being tied up during milking. She lies down quietly . Helen walked straight out after I turned her loose and I pushed Leah along. I then closed the barn door and observed her through the window for several minutes. She took a long drink. I timed this at 43 seconds during which I interrupted the count twice while she turned to make sure where Leah was. She then turned and waited for Hector to show up. She is never mean to Wilber but it is Hector with whom she has the close relationship, he being her calf. While waiting she watched Leah licking the mud. She licked mud for more than two minutes. Then Hector showed up and began greeting Leah by sniffing and poising himself to jump her. Helen made a slight gesture with her head telling him not to do that and touched Leah’s butt to move her along. She then made a gesture toward Hector to move aside. He minds her perfectly. Wilber then arrived and they moved off slowly in a tight bunch surrounding Leah who trotted at Helen’s shoulder with her ears back. At evening milking Helen was not at the barn. I called to her and she came right away but along the way she stashed Leah and came up to the barn with just the steers. After about 10 minutes of me wheedling and cajoling she walked in and stuck her head in the stanchion. But she seemed to regret not having brought Leah and was agitated. I finally put the kicker on her. She let down well in her hind teats but poorly in front. I can tell the calf is only sucking the rear teats. Both front quarters were quite hard and blocky. I got only1.5 gals tonight, 2 gals this morning. That is down a half gallon from yesterday and that milk is still inside her. I sent her out with tea tree oil on the rear teats in hopes that will make Leah prefer the front ones. They will all be spending the night outside. Maybe now I can get the main hall dry and clean again. I pulled my first lovely beet greens today.
July 7 Friday Another bright Maine day. Helen and the group were down by the river at milking time this morning. I called and she brought them all up and Leah was first into the beefer pen (holding area) and first through into the barn. Of course this made Helen come right along and she was relaxed and let down well. So will that the bucket was so full I had to stop or go get another bucket. I sprayed the rear teats with my citronella fly spray to discourage Leah sucking. This evening all the group was waiting in the beefer pen and Helen marched right in. Leah was lying down and did not move. After she was in her stanchion and had grabbed a few bites of grain Helen became agitated and bellowed, peed and dropped a big plop. By then the boys had taken off for the pasture with Leah following or I would have brought her in. I had to put the kicker on and fought for every drop of milk after that. I didn’t get much over 5 quarts but it is still nearly 4 gallons for the day. I had to send her out with front quarters still full. I put citronella on the hind teats again as it did appear to have caused Leah to suck the front today. This morning I churned a gallon of cream in my Cuisinart and made 2.5 lb of butter.
July 8 Saturday Milking time this morning was a day’s work. At 5:30 am when I let out the chickens Helen and the crew were inside the barn. I should have locked them in. A bit later when I went out with my bucket they had gone into the north field to graze and no amount of calling would budge them. Finally I walked up there and drove them home while trying to think nice thoughts about the dewy wild flowers. Getting them started and moving in the right direction is complicated because Leah keeps racing off and causing Helen to go her way. When I finally got them to the barn Helen would not go in without Leah, no doubt remembering how much she didn’t like it last night being in there without her. I coaxed and wheedled for ever so long. Leah kept hopping inside but just as Helen would start to come in with her, Leah would dart outside and run 40 yards. Then Helen decided to skip milking and turned the whole group back toward the pasture. I got in front of her just in time to close the barnyard gate. I went and got a rope, cornered Leah, and dragged her inside. She set her weight against this the whole way. I could not get behind her and nudge, which works far better to move a calf along, for fear of the crowd of big cattle behind me, especially Hector. The last 30 yards of this operation Leah flopped down and I had to literally skid her along. When I dragged her like bait along the passageway to the big barn floor Helen followed and so did Hector and Wilber. I had to push them backwards to get them back where they belong. All this took over half an hour. Once in her stanchion, Helen let down well except in the off front quarter. I ended up with 2 gallons and a quart. I managed to get through all this without letting on to the cow population that I was angry but when later I ran my shin into the dishwasher door I had a few things to say. As it happened, two tomcats were persistently carrying on outside the kitchen. I dashed outside snatching up a couple of unbreakable objects as I passed through the buttery. My aim today was good. I got them each in the butt, one with a paint scraper, one with a yogurt container. This evening’s drama was mostly just long and boring. Helen finally responded to my calling after 15 minutes. But when she reached the barn instead of coming in the whole group peeled off and went way down in the field in the other direction. I think Leah was the cause of it by not knowing here to to turn so Helen had to follow her. Further calling by me was unfruitful but a sudden storm came up and Helen showed good sense by heading for the barn. I shut gates to trap the lot and milked 45 minutes late with Leah tied at Helen’s head. The calf had sucked the front quarters and Helen let down fairly well. I got over 1.5 gallons. There were some flecks on the filter no doubt from the unblocking of the two front quarters. I made three pounds of butter today.
July 9 Sunday The cows were down by the river this morning but came when I called them. I put down feed for Hector inside the beefer pen to keep him busy. Helen came in with Leah and I raced around shutting the door behind her, then led Leah in to Helen’s stanchion and she followed her calf. I got over 2 gallons of milk. Later I remembered an advantage I have been overlooking. Daughter Sally trained Hector to accept being tied up for his feed. This evening I was able to call the cows to the barnyard and shut all gates behind them. Then I took advantage of Hector always being first into the beefer pen. I had his pan ready and clipped him to a rope. I then faded back and the others came on in. I shut the door behind them. Helen of course went straight over and swiped the rest of Hector’s grain but then she and Leah marched straight in to the milking area, Leah going first. This was a smooth operation. Leah now lies down quietly during milking. Now if I can just think of something to do about the muck Helen has to walk through to get in. She comes in perfectly clean except for her feet. So I am in constant dread of her kicking for fear she will throw muck into the milk. If she does I will carry the bucket right around to the pigpen. As I have mentioned before, there is one lamb which has steadfastly refused to join the others for ther grain. They troop in and she peels off and lies down in a corner. Lately she has been approaching the feed trough and tonight she came up to the far end and took a nibble.
July 10 Monday This morning I overslept. It was 7:30 before I was ready for Helen. My ploy to forestall Hector with grain proved unnecessary. Helen had stashed Leah somewhere and walked right in like the old pre-calf days. She had clearly just fed Leah. She didn’t feel like letting down what was left. I had to fight for my 1 gallon + 1 quart. Nor did she feel any need to go wake up Leah after milking wherever she was. She lay down in the beefer pen with Hector and Wilber and chewed her cud. And chewed. And chewed. It started to rain quite hard. One part of me was sure she knew what she was doing leaving Leah. It was warm rain with no wind. I went out about eight times during the morning and still she lay there blissfully until 11:30. When at last she left the barn she began bellowing for Leah. Leah did not respond. Helen obviously knew exactly where Leah was and ambled over to the tall marsh grass halfway to the river. I was in suspense watching through my binoculars. Like a sensible calf, Leah did not move until her mother nudged her. I feel sure that calves who trot unattended toward their mothers across open fields have left few heirs. This evening Leah was waiting with the others. I hitched up Hector and Helen and Leah came right in. Leah tried to put her little head through a slot at the side of the stanchion so she could stand like her mother. I got all the missing milk, 2.5 gallons which is all the bucket will hold.
July 11 Tuesday The cows came when I called this morning and Helen and Leah walked in in an orderly manner. I could not ask for better manners. Leah lay right down in her spot. She was stuffed with milk and although Helen let down fairly well I got just 1.5 gal. Leah is growing fast. I loosened her collar a notch. After Milking Helen was deeply reluctant to walk back out. She hates going down the ramp which leads directly outside because it is too steep. Back out through the beefer pen means stepping in disgusting muck. She stood pondering her options for more than ten minutes while I pushed as politely as possible on her back end. Finally I got creative and went up to the loft and threw down some floor sweepings aiming for the general area. That did the trick. The feeble kitten I have been looking after in the house has not been thriving. It has from the start had infected eyes. I wash its face with a wet paper towel every morning so it can get its eyes open. I have figured to get some medication from the vet but he has not been by. Day before yesterday (Sunday) I squirted the contents of a vitamin A and D capsule into its mouth. I saw no change yesterday but this morning for the first time its eyes are open and clear. When I was ready for Helen this evening she was nowhere to be seen. I called and she did not come. I finally decided to see how she does when I skip a milking. Now at 8pm I can spot her down in pocket field. It is a superb evening. Maine is so beautiful. Sleep well Helen. I will take out two buckets in the morning very early.
July 12 Wednesday Helen was down by the river this morning in the sun but came right away when I called her. She mooed all the way to the barn. She was so full of milk that her udder looked like a cow caricature. One rear quarter where Leah had sucked was not very full but but her off front quarter was touchy and did not let down well. It was touchy enough to cause me to put the kicker on half way through milking. I took an extra bucket to the barn and got 3 gallons. I smeared thuja zinc ointment (aromatic) on the upper part of that quarter where it feels blocked. I also put it on the teats of the other three quarter but not on the teat of the affected quarter. Maybe this will encourage Leah to suck that one. I am not too optimistic about this, however, because Leah was so full that by the time she feeds again most likely all the salve will have washed off in the dew. This afternoon around four the cows were all inside the beefer pen and I closed the barnyard gates so they were trapped until milking time. When I brought Helen in an hour later Leah wanted to eat so I guided her around to the quarter I was worried about. I think my earlier ploy had been successful as the quarter was well softened up and by the time Leah got through with it it was empty. I got 1.25 gals tonight.
July 13 Thursday Leah trotted right in with Helen this morning. She had been stuffing herself and consequently I did not get much over a gallon. This evening Helen came in alone. She had stashed Leah somewhere hours ago and was very full. But without Leah there she let down badly . I had to send her back out with lots of milk still in her. I got less than two gallons tonight, about three for the day. This is the sort of thing which has stopped me in the past from letting the cow and calf run together, not letting down. But I am not ready to give up. It isn’t as though I need more than three gallons, I just fear mastitis. Those tight quarters are not preferred by the calf so it is not as though I can count on Leah to solve the problem. Leah clearly favors the rear quarters.
July 14 Friday Helen and Leah were waiting this morning and came in together. Helen seemed relaxed. She gave 2.5 gallons and none of her quarters seemed to be in trouble. This evening she was again waiting in the beefer pen but without Leah. We were having a major electrical storm. She had left Leah napping somewhere outdoors so she will have had a good soaking. Helen came right on in. Because of waiting in wet weather she was very dirty and it took me a long time to wash her up. She gave two gallons, 4.5 for the day. No problem with any of her quarters and the filter was perfectly clean. The last three milkings it has been very hard to get her to walk back out into the beefer pen. I had to push and coax for more than five minutes tonight. I even tried climbing on her back in the narrow passageway like a rodeo rider. She had no objection to this at all so it was a useless ploy. I must figure out something to do about the squishy mess she has to walk through. That is why she hesitates.
July 15 Saturday Everything went pretty well today. Helen showed up nicely for both milkings and I got Leah in although she is shy and frisky and doesn’t always follow her mother. Total 3.75 gallons of milk today. All four of Helen’s quarters were in fairly good shape.
July 16 Sunday. We have been having a lot of rain which has interfered with fencing. The sheep keep getting out of their field and today ended up in the beefer pen with the cows. The cows had a disgusted “There goes the neighborhood” look. Once I discovered them, I did not have much trouble herding the sheep back to their own side of things. Because of the rain I put out hay for the cows and sheep. They ate quite a lot. Total milk today 3.75 gals. Helen was well behaved. Helen stepped a hole through a rotten plank in one of her ramps. Fortunately she was not hurt. Granddaughter Rebecca who is visiting cleverly repaired the damage with a new plank. This is the first calving when I have not had to deal with any milk fever or ketosis at all. And Helen shows signs of ultimately settling in to a regimen of milking along with the calf. Unlike Clarinda, she has not refused to come to the barn with her calf.
July 17 Monday Granddaughter Rebecca and I went shopping today for feed and supplies. I currently have a couple of milk and butter customers so Helen is self supporting at the moment. I have been thinking I saw Leah chewing her cud the last couple of days but today I observed her for certain. She grazes quite a lot and has for a week. This is much earlier than a calf would chew its cud if raised in a hutch on pellets. Also much earlier than a calf would graze without its mother’s example. I put a bell on her today. Helen came in well both times today although I was 45 minutes late this morning so had to go fetch her. This evening she left Leah (chewing her cud) with the others in the beefer pen when she came in for milking. Bu t she was not nervous and let down ok. She gave 3.75 gals today. Leah looks very sleek. No telling what she is getting but probably a gallon and a half. Rebecca repaired the fence where the sheep are escaping but she thinks there are some more weak places.
July 18 Tuesday I could not see Helen anywhere early this morning and she did not come when I called. If we make eye contact no matter how far away she is she will usually come but not otherwise. After awhile I spied Wilber at the edge of the woods near the river. He started to come, then they all did and Leah came all the way to Helen’s stanchion. This evening Leah stayed in the beefer pen where all had spent the afternoon. We had a violent electrical storm which went on about three hours. Whether through ignorance or faith, the cows seemed undisturbed and chewed their cuds. I put out hay for them. The storm was accompanied by hail an inch in diameter. Rebecca froze some for ice cubes. The hail made hash of my roses and lilies. I have not had the courage to look at the lettuce and beans. The cut on Helen’s teat which she got three weeks before calving is finally healed down to a small scab. It is nice not to have to favor that teat when milking.
July 19 Wednesday We have fine weather again but the pasture grass is already past its prime. Helen sorts around and finds juicy clumps of clover but the grass has all headed up. I am serving a little hay every day. A bantam hen which I have been checking daily was finally rewarded for her faithful sitting with one chick this morning. I have set them up in the coop condo where they are safe. This evening Leah came in with Helen then stood there and drank milk for five minutes. I still got 2 gallons so I suppose the bucket would have been up to the brim. I didn’t try to stop her as what to do with all the milk can be a problem. Rebecca made a nice cheese with 2 gallons yesterday. 3.75 gals. today.
July 20 Thursday Helen was perfect this morning but this evening she was a pill. Without the kicker I never could have milked her. I figure she is coming in heat. Tomorrow makes 21 days since the calf was born. To be on the safe side I closed her out of the north field. That field is a little less secure and if there are other cattle in the neighborhood they are to the north. She gave 3.75 gals today. Becky and I tried to repair the springline today but the river is too high to find the broken part where it crosses the brook. It crosses right where the brook enters the river. We found the end that is pouring out springwater but could not find the near end of the polythene pipe.
July 21 Friday Well, I don’t think Helen was in heat after all. Once again this evening she was crabby about being washed up. After an afternoon in her run-in, the beefer pen, she needs a lot of washing and I don’t stop until she is clean. She reminds me of a little kid trying to avoid getting his faced washed. I had to put the kicker on again. But I had some nice hay in front of her to eat when her grain was finished. Then when she would not stop prancing I yelled “Knock it off!” quite loudly and she was so surprised she stood still. I got about 3.75 gals. again today.
July 22 Saturday The flowers and vegetables are recovering somewhat from the attack last week by big hailstones. The spinach still looks shredded. Helen continues restless during milking especially in the evening when I usually have to scrub her teats for a long time. Her early morning grazing brings her in beautifully washed by long dewy grass. Today she gave over 4 gallons plus whatever the calf had. That is surely a gallon and a half if not two.
July 23 Sunday Helen outdid herself today. 4.5 gallons plus feeding the calf. Son Martin brought some more hay which he had bought for Helen from a neighbor of his who hays. Two bales were broken so we put those right into the feeder. Helen went right for it and by evening between the four of them it was largely gone. From the state of Helen’s bag (dirty) Leah had not fed since midday but she was chewing her cud at evening milking time. So she must have been eating hay too. She did not get up to come in. A skunk has been hanging around the barn at night. Both this morning and yesterday the barn smelled terrible. The bantam with her chick in a coop is safe but I expect she had a nervous couple of nights. It was around her that the smell was strongest.
July 24 Monday Just over 4 gals. today. I have everything set up for 5am milking tomorrow as granddaughter Becky must start her return journey to Alaska very early tomorrow. I closed the gates to the barnyard so Helen is shut in a small space and I won’t have to hunt for her in the morning.
July 25 Tuesday This morning I milked Helen at 5:00 rather than my usual 7:00. She was stuffed with milk. I stopped milking when the bucket was full. It was the same this evening. She gave over 5 gals. I hope the calf is getting enough. I let my hen and chick outof the coop today, she was so desperate. Sadly, the chick drowned in a water dish while I was milking. This is a terrible problem with chicks.
July 26 Wednesday The poor little bereaved hen was still hanging around the water basin this morning, clucking for her chick. It just about ruined my day to see her. At milking time I left a door open and Wilber, now 6 months old, ran in after Helen instead if waiting for his grain in the beefer pen. He kept circling around the spot where we used to grain him when he was tiny and I had a hard job to get him back where he belonged. I ended up chasing him around with the barn broom. Helen gave 4.5 gallons today. I started a new cheddar cheese. It seemed to take all day. Maybe I will become more efficient.
July 27 Thursday It had to happen sometime. When I went to feed the pigs there in the tall grass was a white bantam attempting to marshall a huge clutch of chicks. I suppose she hid her nest behind the nearly sheets of corrugated iron. I’m afraid she’s on her own. There is no way I can catch that many. She is the little hen who always shows up at pig feeding time to snatch stray tidbits. Today I shut the door to the beefer pen in the afternoon so the cattle had to stay outside. They didn’t mind because there was a light misty rain to keep off flies. For the first time in days Helen was clean. Leah came in for milking with her and because I did not have do that scrubbing she was in a good mood. I got about 4.75 gals today.
July 28 Friday Today was the day I have been planning for, the day of the Parade Of Tall Ships in Portland. Helen threw a monkey wrench in my departure plans by not showing up for morning milking. I could not see or hear her anywhere and my calling brought no response. Of course I was extremely busy trying to get ready and I did not wish to get all hot and sweaty circumnavigating my pastures. A complete circuit would take 40 minutes. I had about decided to try skipping morning milking when she finally showed herself. She was well behaved once she came in at close to 9 o’clock. Because of being gone all day I left the sheep in their small paddock with additional hay. They have been finishing off all I give them. When I got home this evening I was very tired. It had been my plan to skip milking and leave it up to the calf and this is what I did even though in fact it was early enough so I could have milked. I heard no bellowing from Helen. Nor did she come in although she was hanging around no doubt expecting to be called.
July 29 Saturday Helen was no mores stuffed with milk this morning than usual. She gave 2 gallons. She appeared perfectly happy. The new family of bantams are incredibly cute. There are five yellow chicks and two black ones. This morning I gave them a handful of clabber from the pig bucket, later a handful of layer mash and this evening some bread soaked in milk, also from the pig’s dinner. She runs to the food, then clucks to call them. They hesitate for a moment to think about it, then all run fast to the food and imitate her pecking. I thought I had better help her to feed them. She works constantly to scratch up morsels in the dirt but I am not sure she finds enough for that many to share. This evening Helen was inside the beefer pen waiting for me but I pretended I could not see her.
July 30 Sunday At 6am when I made my first trip to the barn to let out the chickens Helen and the others were all waiting. When I finally got back with my bucket it was 7am and they had all gone to the bottom of Pocket Field and had no interest in returning to the barn. It was a beautiful morning and I was a good sport about traipsing down there to drive her home. Of course all came. Helen was really full of milk. I eventually realized it would not fit in one bucket and went back to the house for a second. She gave 3 gals. plus 1 qt. Through most of the milking Helen was uncooperative but finally settled down quietly. It is a great blessing to have the kicker contraption. It does not prevent her shifting around and acting annoyed but it really prevents kicking. Another setting bantam, this time one I have been watching, hatched out one chick in the hay mow. After dark tonight I moved them down to the coop for safety.
July 31 Monday Helen was easy to get in this morning and gave 2.75 gallons. The sheep are so good at getting out of their pasture that I just left all gates open between pastures. All the cows then went in and visited the sheepfold and chewed their cuds in there. The small kitten I have been taking care of in the kitchen died this evening. I think he had pneumonia. He died in my lap this evening. He was very affectionate but could not seem to thrive.
August 1 Tuesday Because I have to leave here at 6am tomorrow for the airport, I milked twice today and will skip tomorrow morning. I got only one gal this evening, 4.75 for the day. Helen was cooperative. The bantam with 7 chicks has not lost any, I don’t know why. She is quite harebrained. If she sees me she will race towards me leaving the chicks fifty feet behind. Halfway to me she remembers the chicks so races back and tells them to get moving. Then she races back towards me. She always thinks I might be bringing her food which I often do, usually a handful from the pig bucket. Then all the chicks pick up speed and race my way stumbling and bobbing in the tall grass. It is too cute for words.
August 2 Wednesday As planned, I did not milk this morning. I was home in plenty of time to milk early this afternoon, 4pm. I got only about 2 gals and it did not strain well. This is a worry. Helen was anxious to come in for milking. She was some distance away in the pasture when I fed the pigs so I took a chance and left the gate open behind me. It is a great nuisance to open and shut. Bad idea. Helen and all the others arrived behind me while I was still pouring the pig food. They streamed past me and on through the gate, ecstatic at the chance to be naughty. As is always my first move, I sped for the front gate and got it closed before Hector who was cavorting behind me loped through. Then they all started gobbling the lawn except Leah who ran back and forth like mad. They all did some running. Maybe Helen got overheated. I was able to lead them back to the barn in two groups using grain. I caught another small kitten this morning in the barn and have it in the kitchen. And another bantam has emerged with a large clutch. This one appears to have about 10.
August 3 Thursday Helen gave only 1.75 gals. this morning but it strained perfectly and she had to touchy quarters. So I guess she does not have mastitis. Last night’s milk was exceptionally creamy I see today now that it has set overnight. The weather is hot and muggy and this afternoon we had heavy rain with thunder and lightening. I gave hay to the sheep and cattle. Leah has taken to napping in the hay feeder and looks terribly cute. She gets in through the feeding apertures along the sides. The new family of bantams included 11 chicks all different colors. I doubt the mother can find enough bugs for that many so I gave them some handfuls of mash. She is extremely attentive and keeps them well bunched up around her. Periodically she gets them all under ger wings. You can see some tiny feet sticking out at ground level.
August 4 Friday ‘Twas a fine day for all the animals. Recently it has rained nearly every day and was muggy but today was fine. Helen is reluctantly adjusting to once a day milking. She gave 2.5+ a bit this morning. I would not be surprised if Leah gets 2 gallons. I cut Helen’s grain way back . She of courses misses the evening graining because of not being milked. In the morning I am giving her less than 5 lbs.
August 5 Saturday This morning’s chores got a late start thanks to my getting to bed late last night. I was at a family gathering and my car was blocked and I didn’t want to break up the evening by asking for people to move their cars. I didn’t start milking until 7:15. Helen was in a foul mood which far exceeded anything which could have been caused by late milking. While I was washing her udder she did not just wave her legs around, she aimed a direct kick at me. She was especially opposed to having her rear teats milked and danced around as much as she could. I got up and moved the kicker to a tighter setting and did the same with the stanchion pin. This barely did any good. Her behaviour continued awful but she did not cease to let down. Then Wilbur squeezed in through the partly opened back door and poked his nose in further annoying Helen. She had an amazing amount of milk. I had to return to the house for a second bucket. She gave 3.75 gallons! Today is fine and clear.
August 6 Sunday Last night I ate with the family at camp and did not get home to feed the pigs until after dark. Helen and the other three immediately emerged from the darkness making questioning sounds. I guess they were worried their caretaker had quit. Around midnight I hear Helen’s bell where it ought not to be, so I thought. I crouched by my open window for about a half hour trying to identify the bells. It was very puzzling. In the morning I discovered that Helen had been on the lawn but the others had not gotton out, a highly unusual circumstance. Ordinarily if one is out all are out and there is a lot of racing around by the young stock. Helen had leaned over the veg garden fence until it semi collapsed. There was surprisingly little damage to the vegetables. All I could see that she ate was about half of the brussels sprouts. I have now shut them out of that end of the pasture until I can pick up some new posts at the Farmer’s Union. I also cleaned up a lot of cow pats on the lawn. A the morning’s milking Helen was even worse behaved than yesterday. She took to whipping me with her tail. I got up and found some hay string and tied it to the wall but she continued pissy almost until I was finished milking. She clearly does not want her teats scrubbed and she does not want her left teats milked. In fact it is only the front right that she does not object at all to my milking. It may be because the calf prefers those others. Another theory is that the no-seeums are driving her wild. Her less hairy parts are much inflamed with bug bites. What I have noticed with my bites is that although the mosquito bites itch badly, the no-seeum bites both itch and burn and seem to cause me to feel hyper irritable. I think they have some psychopharmacological effect.
August 7 Monday Helen was, if possible, worse this morning than the last two days. It took me nearly an hour to get about 2.75 gallons. As previously, she was worst about her left rear teat. I got up and further tightened the kicker and tied up her tail. She twice lost her footing and semi collapsed. For a brief period towards the end of milking she seemed to relax. I turned off the radio and sang to her, also got up and rubbed her ears. I have made up my mind that the core problem is that once a day milking has eroded her attachment to me and strengthened her attachment to Leah so that she just hates anybody but Leah milking her. This is the point where most people solve the problem by separating or selling the calf. Neither is likely to forget their bond. Whether I can get Helen to become reasonable again remains to be seen. I am going to get a second kicker, the kind that attaches to her hocks, and see if that helps. I came in exhausted.
August 8 Tuesday Milking was easier this morning. Sister Barby helped out by standing next to Helen and leaning a bit on her to shift her weight onto her left hind foot that she kicks with. Also, I brought Leah in and tied her nearby. Helen started off kicking when I washed her udder but she seemed to have altogether less fire today. I suppose I should consider the possibility that she was in heat but there were no other signs except general pissiness. During the last ten minutes of milking I removed the k icker and she stood nicely. She gave almost 3.5 gallons. It did not strain perfectly and there were some lumps on the filter probably because yesterday I could not milk her out entirely ; she quit letting down and the left hind quarter remained somewhat hard. Today I was able to milk her out completely. I doubt there will be any further problem. Leah was well behaved.
August 10 Thursday. Yesterday Helen behaved better than the preceding three days. Barby assisted and Leah snoozed nearby. I got 2.75 gallons. Leah had just fed. Today Barby did not come to the barn because she had back pain. Helen came right in for milking and Leah followed with just a touch from me. She was easier to catch and lead and did not jump around and get entangled as she had yesterday and the day before. Everything was quiet. I decided to try milking without using the kicker and Helen stood very well. She had recently come up from wet pasture and was fairly clean so I didn’t have to do a lot of scrubbing. She did not kick at all and although Leah had recently fed I got 3 gals. The hen with 11 chicks still has them all and so does the one with 7 chicks. She is the one who is a scatterbrained mother. She trusts me and runs to me asking for food everytime she sees me. She leaves the chicks far away but calls them while she eats the grain I give her. Then she remembers her family and races back to them, then races back to her feed, calling them to hurry. It is very entertaining. The geese are all well and talk to me every time I appear. They have lots to eat but the female has not started a new round of laying. I expect it is now too late in the year.
August 11 Friday Once again last night I heard cowbells around midnight and thought they sounded too close. After 10 minutes of listening I concluded it was better to go in search of Helen than to worry. It was a bright moonlit night. I found her under the crabapple tree on the lower lawn and she was alone. She was reluctant to head for the barn, instead turned into the veg garden where she gobbled half a cabbage before I could stop her. After I managed to get her halfway back to the barn Hector came galloping out of the shadows from somewhere. He moves as fast as a pony and comes dancing around kicking so I stay out of his way. After I finagled them into the barnyard it still left the problem of finding and letting in Leah and Wilbur. Unlike horses, cattle will take big detours back to where they know there is a gate. The little ones soon turned up at the field gate ready to be let in. The next trick was getting them in without Helen barging back out to join her baby in the same field from which she had just escaped. I don’t know how I accomplished this unless perhaps St. Francis was helping. Barby and I spent this morning setting new posts in key spots. I hate fencing. This morning I had to use the kicker with Helen but once it was on she was perfectly quiet. She gave 3 gallons.
August 12 Saturday Helen was OK without the kicker this morning but she gave only 2 gallons. Leah had recently sucked but that doesn’t usually make so great a difference. Perhaps it was because of the low grade hay she ate yesterday. I threw down a bunch of old stuff to improve her barn environment and she ate quite a lot. The one-chick bantam settled down for the night in a rather vulnerable place so I hope she makes it through the night.
August 13 Sunday This morning’s milking was pretty awful. Helen’s left front quarter is completely blocked with mastitis. Sigh. Not only was she dirty but very irritable. She did not act as though she were in pain. I thought maybe she was crabby for the same reason I was, a plague of no-seeums. But even with hot compresses I was not able to get more than 2 cups out of the affected quarter so brought in only a scant two gallons. I had to put the kicker on her and also tie her dirty tail. Leah came in nicely and was easier to catch and hitch and she ate her half cup of grain. I slathered the upper part of the mastitic quarter with aromatic salve and also put it on the three good teats but not on the teat of the quarter with mastitis. Maybe this will make Leah prefer to suck the mastitic quarter, I hope. Unfortunately I turned Leah loose ahead of Helen, then opened Helen’s stanchion before removing the kicker or the string on her tail. She went charging three-legged after Leah and all the way out in the beefer pen, inadvertently body slamming me along the way and knocking me down. The string to her tail broke. Thank goodness at least I had followed my custom of stowing the bucket of milk well out of the way so it was not spilled. Once she was out in the beefer pen and standing next to Leah I was able to walk up to her and remove the kicker. I left the string tied to her tail. My own injuries were mostly to my dignity. I landed i n a wet spot, none too clean either, and had to change clothes. Now two hours later I do feel a bit stiff. A half grown bantam pullet was stuck in some chicken wire and I had to cut her loose. She was high up above a shelf. I have seen her there every night. It is where she roosts. So I don’t actually know how long she was there. She was able to skedaddle away so perhaps she had not been caught for long. I milked twice today. This evening Helen’s bag was improved. But there were some clotty lumps I had to work out of the mastitic quarter. I milked that quarter mostly onto the floor. It did not milk out completely but was improved. I again put on the counter irritant salve and salved up the three unaffected teats in hopes of causing Leah to choose the bad quarter. I got a total of 5 quarts this evening. Helen was quite relaxed but was quite dirty so I used the kicker while washing her. The milk tasted perfect.
August 15 Tuesday Now that I have returned to twice a day milking Helen obviously prefers it. I am getting about the same amount I was before, approximately 3.5 gallons. Leah has not come in every time and I don’t see this mattering much to Helen. This morning I had to put the kicker on her because she hates so much to have her teats scrubbed. This evening after being out all day she was pretty clean so she didn’t get fired up and I milked without the kicker. Last night I found three new kittens in a disused manger i n the barn. It has rained nearly every day. I don’t know how anybody is making hay. The three bantam mothers (one mother has only one chick because I took away the rest of her eggs.) have not lost a single chick so far. I make sure to feed them every day. One runs to me in front of the barn and I give them layer mash. The other runs to me when I feed the pigs and I give them a handful of the pig’s food.
August 16 Wednesday Helen was waiting at the door for both milkings today. Total for today, 3.5 gallons. That is not far different to what I was getting on once a day milking but she is unquestionably much more relaxed. She has not come in with any overstuffed quarters. Leah has not come in with her for several milkings. She climbs into the manger for a nap instead and Helen does not seem to care either way. I have been teaching Hector not to rush me when I arrive with his and Wilbur’s grain. For awhile I was getting scared of him, he was so bouncey although not malicious. I was afraid of tripping on the rough footing. Wilbur is at all times shy. This evening when I went to scoop up the grain I found a poor little bantam hen trapped in the grain barrel. She was underneath a basin I had tossed in there in the morning without noticing her. She was ruffled and limping from close confinement but was able to flutter away. It has rained nearly every day for weeks. Then the sun comes out. I wonder if I will be able to find any more hay. The weather is not conducive to hay making.
August 17 Thursday I saw the hen that was trapped yesterday in the grain barrel. She came to the pig pen to scrounge tidbits when I fed the pigs. She has lost some feathers and still looks scruffy but is otherwise ok. Also, darn it, I noticed another new bantam mother over in the sheep paddock among the thistles. I couldn’t tell how many she has but it’s a crowd. Helen was restless this morning at milking and highly irritable this evening. I got under 3.5 gallons today. I made cottage cheese and ricotta today.
August 18 Friday Helen’s production is way down for some reason and she is grumpy. Only 2.5 gallons today. I put down about half a bale of hay tonight to see if some hay would make a difference. The pasture is not very good but is much better than usual at this time of year because of all the rain. She spends a lot of time in the beefer pen. I have not seen her lie down in the field to chew her cud at all lately. So she may be inside hiding from the bugs in preference to grazing. I have never seen so many mosquitoes since the last time I was in Alaska. A friend stopped in to see if I had any butter. She said “I saw the cutest little marten darting down the river bank twice now when I went by”. This is a weasel. This is extremely bad news for the chicks and even for the adult birds. I have been fortunate in not having a weasel around here before. There is no way I can weasel-proof either of the two chicken rooms. And the bantam families sleep outdoors. I tried to feed the latest bantam mother but she is wild and furiously attacked my hand and her chicks ran and hid.
August 19 Saturday Another fine bright day. This morning Leah clearly wanted to come in with Helen. She was waiting at the door and is getting easier to lead and stand. I also loosened the collar on Wilbur one notch. He continues to be very quiet and friendly so this was no trouble. It is well worth taking the time to keep all calves friendly by frequent handling. Otherwise collar adjustments can be a rodeo. Helen’s production was way down the last two days but up again this morning to 2 gal. 1 qt. Leah had not touched the left hind quarter. It is inconvenient to have one quarter much fuller because I have to keep changing hands to keep up a rhythm while never quitting on the full quarter. Helen hates this and gets cross if I attempt to milk the left quarters with my right hand. It feels different and she instantly begins switching her tail and dancing around. I don’t know if production picked up because I put down hay for her last night or because she was holding up her milk. I was not aware of her holding up but there was way less cream which is good evidence. I forgot to mention yesterday, I went down to pick peas and blackberries and noted that one part of the garden fence which I had fixed in July in a slipshod manner was about to give way to Helen’s reaching over for greener grass. I set two new posts. Along another section that is going I simply stretched concertina barbed wire which I hate to do but I am out of posts. Evening: When I returned to the house following a brief midday barn check, less than 10 minutes, on the threshold of the garage lay a newborn kitten. It was still wet and dragging its cord with its sac everted behind it. I could not imagine what to do with it so I put it in a nest of wool while considering my next move. It was lively but getting chilled. There was no sign of any possible mother. I decided its best chance was to put it in the nest with three five day old kittens in the barn. That mother is crazy wild and flees if I get anywhere close. I checked them at milking time and the foster kitten was still in the midst of the others acting lively. The rams are getting frisky. I can’t tell if the ram or the wether or both are pounding away at the foundation of the buttery because they stop when I go down. They are also butting heads. At milking time I had the shock of finding Hector on the back lawn. It took me a lot of running to herd him back where he belongs and I don’t know where he breached the fence. He ran repeatedly through the vegetables. I closed the cattle out of that field. Very discouraging. 3.75 gals today.
August 20 Sunday I found where Hector got out yesterday. It was the same place among the lilacs where Helen got out and where I had put two new stakes. He had simply bent them over. When I attempted to straighten one it broke. What a crummy stake. I will have to buy or find some more. In the meantime the cattle are still shut out of the field. It was cooler today with two brief rain showers and it was breezy. This is no doubt why Helen stayed out a lot longer today and came in quite clean. Both this morning and this evening her left hind quarter was much the fullest and is not letting down well. I put udder cream on the upper part and on the three other teats in hopes of warming that quarter and directing Leah’s attention away from the other three teats since I doubt the stuff tastes good. 3 gals 1 quart today.
August 21 Monday Helen was quiet and well behaved today except while washing her. She gave 3.5 gals. The abandoned kitten that I added to another litter seems to have now merged right in. I leave an extra dish of food for that mama. I have made arrangements for butchering of Hector and the two pigs.
August 22 Tuesday As I was tidying up in the barn I picked up an overturned bucket that was way back in a corner behind some lumber. Underneath was a half dead Buff Orpington pullet. It must have been there two or three days. It could still hobble. I brought it some water and five minutes later it was still drinking. Later I set it by the feeder and it ate a bit. This evening I took it some cottage cheese and it ate quite a bit. Helen was pretty good today. She gave 3 gallons.
August 23 Wednesday My pullet that survived under a bucket is still wobbley and appreciated being brought food and water and cottage cheese. I kept her in the grain room most of the day but back in with the others for the night. She is safer there from predators and it is a stress to be isolated. I thought she seemed stronger. Helen gave 3.5 gallons today. Her left front quarter was blocked again tonight. I don’t think i is mastitis. For some reason she just did not let down in that quarter. I have been having fairly good results with smearing smelly salve on the other teats to direct her to the neglected one. I have made an appointment to dress off the cockerels. The first time available is September 10. It is raining again now.
August 24 Thursday According to my dog dish rain gauge, we got another half inch of rain last night. Helen was well behaved except while I was scrubbing her. Total for the day 3.25 gals. Leah is drinking a lot but there is still plenty for the house. She completely fixed yesterday’s blocked quarter. She trotted into the barn tonight with Helen. I picked about a quart of blackberries this evening at some cost to skin and shirt. Our blackberries have dagger thorns. My cousin down the road says bears are visiting her patch at night and setting off the dogs but I saw no sign of bears here.
August 25 Friday. Helen only gave 2 gallons today. I guess Leah is getting a lot or else her production is being knocked down by the plague of mosquitoes. They were terrible tonight. I put down some hay for the cows so they wouldn’t have to brave the bugs for a little while at least. There is one half grown bantam pullet that lives with the sheep. She even goes out with them to graze, just trots right along. Now that I have become more familiar with sheep I see clearly the relevance of certain Biblical expressions. The sheep just don’t leave their home paddock even if I open the gate until I have called them in the morning. They need to hear my voice or they just stand there. Then the lead ewe also comes and sniffs my hand. She likes to have her ears scratched too but I don’t believe there is anything about that in the Bible.
August 26 Saturday Helen gave 2.5 gallons today. She was quiet and let down well. The weather was perfect for people on holiday but too hot for cows and me. I got my first pole beans. And a little boy came and spoke for one of the kittens when it is old enough. The mosquitoes are still awful. I made out my list for the butcher telling h im how to cut the meat. The steer, Hector, and the two pigs go the first of the week.
August 27 Sunday Helen was very good at both milkings. She gave 3.75 gals today. The weather is beautiful. But I was gone most of the day to Portland to pick up grandson Rafe who is returning to college. Neighbor Stewart left a horse trailer on the lawn a few days ago for transporting Hector to the butcher tomorrow. Rafe moved it around so its open back end is up against the open front door of the beefer pen where the cows hang out. I wish this cold have been done a couple of days ago. I want Hector to be used to it. I put his grain in there tonight. I don’t want a big brawl loading him. It is separation that cows fear most and I had hoped to have him butchered at home but that is impossible this year. I want him to be as happy as possible. I did not raise him for a pet but it is sad all the same to say goodbye to him.
August 28 Monday Helen was very good this morning but didn’t give much over a gallon. Also she was clean. This evening it took me forever to srub her clean and she remained restless because there were flies. She had a lot of milk. I finally got up and put the kicker on her and tied up her tail because she kept whapping me with it. Her total for today about 3.5 gals. Stewart came and got Hector. Rafe and I followed my plan which succeeded in getting him into the trailer quietly. I reached in the front with his grain and Rafe closed the door behind him. Stewart came back later for the pigs but was able to load only one of them. He did not tell us he was here or we would have helped. He had never told me which day he was coming so I did not know not to feed them. So he took away one pig and will return tomorrow for the other. I am not very happy about this glitch which seemed unnecessary to me. Hector was Helen’s calf of last year and they were close. She has never encouraged WIlbur at all, he just follows along at a distance. I was surprised at how little worrying Helen did when Hector left. She bellowed for about 10 minutes only. Before he left I removed his collar and bell and stuffed the clapper with paper so it would not ring. It upsets cows greatly to hear the bell of a missing herdmate.
August 29 Tuesday Another fine day. Rafe repaired fences and the chicken run. Helen was most pleased to once again have access to the river field. She has been shut out of it for a week because of Hector breaking out. Now Hector is gone and the fence is fixed. Stewart came for the second pig this morning. I was instrumental in getting her loaded. I crouched down next to her and led her forward with dribbles of grain.
August 30 3.5 gallons today.
August 31 Thursday Yesterday and today were hot, well into the 80’s. Rafe went up on the barn roof and worked on patching a bad leak which has plagued me for more than a year. He tied a rope to the bumper of one of the vehicles, then threw the rope over the barn gable using a lead line. So while working on the roof he was roped around the waist. I have the beefer pen closed and off limits to the cattle. Maybe eventually it will dry out. I have tried to find somebody to muck it out with a front end loader but there is not one in town. This points up the decline of agriculture. My own agriculture is declining too with this muck build-up. It ought to be spread. Helen was crabby with the heat. She gave 2.5 gals today. Leah is looking mighty sleek. She is the size of the usual 4 month old Jersey heifer but she is only two months old.
September 1 Friday Today was even hotter than yesterday . Rafe worked for hours on the barn water system to get rid of a persistent leak which last winter led to a freeze-up. We think he may have fixed it. This is his last day here. He has fixed lots of things. Helen did not come in for milking this evening despite all my calling. I did not feel like walking down to the bottom of the field to drive her home so I skipped this evening’s milking. So we’ll see what comes of that. She gave 1.75 gals this morning.
September 2 Saturday Rain last night and most of the day breaking up the heat. I let the cows stay in the beefer pen tonight with some hay to eat. She will be dirty again in the morning. I picked up the pork today from the butcher. The combined carcass weight of the pigs was about 500 pounds. I carried it to the freezer in small quantities. It filled the upright freezer. I made a second trip to town for grain. The sheep were completely out and the others were low.
September 3 Sunday Helen was perfectly clean this morning. She had been out grazing in the warm rain. Leah did not come in with her. When Leah comes in she lies down quietly and Helen pays no attention to her. But her presence does seem to influence Helen’s letdown. Two quarters remained quite blocky. Leah did come in this evening. The same two quarters had not been touched all day by Leah, I think, but she let down better. Total for today, 3 gals. By the next day the gallon jars in the frig give clear evidence of poor letdown; there is noticeably less cream. While he was here, Rafe worked on the barn water system. His repair required epoxy so I was not able to try it until today (I ran hoses out from the house for the stock). It does not appear to be leaking.
September 5 Tuesday Helen did not come when called last night for milking, just ignored me. I’m not even sure where she was. This morning tried to ignore me but the calves came running so she felt constrained to follow. She was in plain sight this time. Her udder was in good condition, no quarters having been neglected by Leah. She gave only 1.5 gallons. We got some frost last night for which I was not prepared. Now 9:30 am. I have not surveyed the damage.
September 6 Wednesday Another beautiful day. And despite predictions, it did not freeze last night. Helen came right in this morning without Leah and let down just fine. Her udder was again in good condition. She gave 1.5 gallons. This is an amount I can deal with. At 5 o’clock she was bellowing to be milked, or at least to come in. I followed her around and felt her udder and could tell it was not in trouble. But I let them into the beefer pen where she wanted to be and gave them some hay. This seemed to satisfy her but she still thought she ought to come in to her stanchion. I really hope to be able to stick with once a day milking. I made lard again today, also bread. Also covered the plants as hard frost is predicted.
September 7 Thursday Such a perfect day, no frost but crisp clear air. I did a bit of cleaning in the perennial beds. Helen was mooing eagerly this morning. She came in without Leah but let down well and was well behaved except when I tried to milk her off rear teat with the hand to which she is not accustomed: my left. Right away she began kicking. Got close to 2 gals. The bantam hen with 11 chicks is sending them off on their own most of the time now. She has been an attentive mom but when they all try to get under her all they can manage is their heads. It sure looks funny. They are about tree weeks old. One Buff Orpington pullet laid her first egg today.
September 8 Saturday Helen gave almost the same as yesterday, a little shy of two gallons. The frig is gradually clearing of excess milk. I made some skim milk clabber which I fed to the chickens and geese. The chickens took toit right away but the geese were suspicious of it for hours. I notice they finally cleaned it up. Unless, that is, the chickens hopped in and ate it which they often do. It has been another very fine day. A few more like this and I will have a decent crop of tomatoes.
September 9 Saturday Helen gave a little under 2 gallons this morning. Yesterday was densely packed with activities, a luncheon guest, dealing with a surprise plumbing problem in a house I am renting, food prep for a house party son Mark is having tomorrow at camp, and by evening I was very tired. Then I remembered that Saturday was my appointment to get the cockerels dressed off. Out to the barn then to repair a chicken coop to put them in. Before making this effort I should have determined it the thing would fit into my car. It would not. I then rounded up three cat carriers. By now it was dark so it was not much trouble catching the birds but I had room only for eight. Then, as usual before hopping into bed I listened out my window for cow bells. And I heard them in my veg garden. So back on with the clothes and out into the warm moonlight where Helen was munching up my garden and Leah was drinking from the rain barrel. I decided I was not up to cow chasing and to heck with my garden. The chicken people wanted me there at 9:15 and it is more than an hour’s drive so I set the alarm for 5 am, did milking early, and made it on time. They kept me waiting for an hour and a half, then another 45 minutes while they dressed off the birds. Then back home to make my barbecued pork ribs and just as I was loading the car I got a call from my hay man. He was coming with 100 bales. I said he would have to unload them himself of I could not take them. He was nice enough to do that. I got home late and climbed up to look at it. I’m glad he brought it. It is beautiful hay.
September 10 Sunday I have not figured out how the cows got out Friday night. I am keeping them in the north field indefinitely. Helen ate a lot of big zuchinnis I had laid on the grass. That’s OK. But she also ate the little bit of corn I had and all the leaves off the Brussels sprouts and tromped around in the tomatoes sampling them. I think this may be the last time I do a vegetable garden.
September 11 Monday Helen gave 2 gallons this morning. I picked up the new beef this morning. 390 pounds after cutting and wrapping. Amazingly to me, I was able to get it all into the freezer. This afternoon I noticed Lemur, the blind cat, outdoors where she never goes. Probably she got out while I was carrying in the boxes of meat. She never lets me pick her up, being terrified of having her feet off the ground. I had to try to carry her and got lacerated. After that I sort of scooted her along to the door. The skin on her neck is too tight to pick her up by.
September 13 Wednesday Yesterday Helen gave over two gallons, this morning slightly under. She now seems completely relaxed with our arrangement. I am not always happy with the way she lets down but it has been a couple of weeks since she has totally resisted. That makes two months of daily, often highly emotional, effort to gain her full cooperation. I suspect it is a maturational thing as much as the result of my tact or insight. Leah is now so big that that perhaps neither she nor Helen feel threatened by brief separation or milk sharing. I have never before persisted in the attempt to run the calf with the cow while also milking. So far as I can tell, most people who report good success are keeping the animals in a small paddock and/or putting calves on the cow which are not her own. In such cases she has no emotional investment to make her hold up or kick.
September 14 Thursday We had another mild sunny day with Fall in the air. Every frost free day now is a gift. I was slow moving this morning causing Helen to have less milk because Leah takes extra snacks. About 1.75 gals. Lots more than I can drink of course. I have been making cottage cheese and butter and clabber for the chickens and geese. One litter of kittens which was born about August 14 has now emerged to toddle around. I decided that instead of catching them (easy now) I will seduce them with canned cat food and hope to keep them friendly enough so I can grab them when they are older. One is now friendly but one is already fierce. I felt sorry for Helen being denied her favorite field and opened the gate to the south. Within three minutes she was back in the garden. This time at least I saw where she got in. But the whole fence is of questionable strength. Wilbur finished off the Brussels sprouts and snapped a mouthful of leaves off a baby apple tree as they were leaving with me behind them waving a stick. It is amazing to see how with Hector gone, Wilbur’s personality has changed. He was always so meek. Now he is assertive. This morning he actually slammed me with his head which I totally did not expect. Fortunately he is hornless.
September 15 Friday Fraidy Cat’s kittens in the garage are responding to canned cat food. There are four and all came eagerly to the plate today. The ones in the barn also took a real interest today in their canned cat food. Soon I can put out the kitten sign! It rained all day so I gave Helen and the calves some hay. Leah does eat hay but mostly she lies in the manger. She is now so big she can barely squeeze in and out. I throw down the hay until she is nearly covered up and the others eat it off her. They look funny. I also gave the sheep some hay because they don’t like to graze in the rain. I am surprised how few signs of the breeding season I have seen among them. The hens are laying better now including a couple of the pullets. This morning Helen gave 1.75 gals. I have been making some good cottage cheese.
September 16 Saturday Helen gave 2 gallons plus a quart this morning. One quarter provided most of this. Leah had clearly not touched it since yesterday. It rained a lot yesterday and last night but today just a few sprinkles, mostly fair. One of the four kittens in the barn is missing. I did not count them this morning, just stroked the whole pile. But it was there last night. It it the smallest, the foster kitten. I looked all around with a flashlight. I gave away one kitten from the group in the garage. It was the largest and friendliest. 15 eggs today.
September 17 Sunday Three of Helen’s quarters were sucked dry this morning. All the milk was in the left rear, the one she hates me to milk with my left hand. My right hand got so tired working alone, which is much harder than two handed milking, that I put the kicker on her so I could trade hands. That made her stop letting down. I got a little over one gallon. I got Leah in with Helen this morning and loosened up her collar. I had to punch a new hole. I brought the runt of the garage litter into the kitchen today. It looked so hungry. In by the Aga it stuffed itself with canned cat food and creamy milk. When I lay down to read my book it took a little nap on my chest. This evening I found a nest with 22 eggs. As usual, it was right where I should have seen it, right behind a piece of board that was leaning against the wall about 8’ from my milking stool. I left four in the nest in hopes of fooling them. From the regular nests I got nine eggs. Muffin and I walked down to the river in the late afternoon. It was very lovely. I noticed a place where the cattle have been getting down to the river to drink. Not just lately of course, because they are now shut out of this field. Muffin took a swim.
September 19 Tuesday. Yesterday morning Helen gave about 1.75 gals. and this morning 1.5. Both mornings she was clean and very orderly. I am feeding some hay most days because they are shut out of half of their pasture. The runty kitten in the kitchen has learned to drink milk and eat canned cat food. I also gave it some raw hamburger. It got particularly excited about this and kept looking around for more. Today it even chases me around for it. It has started to play a little bit. But has not got the hang of a litter box. This morning another of the barn kittens was missing, the biggest feistiest one, a long haired gray, presumably male. I did not know what to make of this. But then this evening when I gave them their canned food all four were back. The smallest black one which had been missing was distinctly bigger so the mama has been feeding it somewhere. How it possibly got back in that manger is quite a mystery. The tiny mother surely could not lift it and it would have had to cling along toeholds more than 3’ up the wall.
September 21 Thursday Yesterday morning I saw all four barn kittens at milking time. I decided they were big enough to give away and went back two hours later to get them. By then they had all disappeared. Later in the day I caught two but the two I most wanted are gone with their mother under the barn floor. A disappointed little boy who had been waiting for one of them will have to wait a little longer. I am trying to tempt them forth with canned food. Both yesterday and today Helen gave a bit under 1.5 gallons. We are still having warm weather. It rained a bit today but it was till in the high sixties. This is not the weather pattern we are used to. In the past gardens were usually completely frost killed by now. Muffin was quite ill yesterday and this morning. She was willing to eat a little raw ground meat and milk while lying down. This morning I gave her one of her Rimadyl arthritis tablets. This afternoon she was noticeably more active and ate her dog food. I feed Annamaet
September 22 Friday Wonderful company arrived for me today, son Max and family and grandson Rafe. They all love farm food and farm work so I’ll soon be reporting improved fences. We’ve already had the first big farm dinner. And Rafe has already made a start on restacking the hay. The hay I got two weeks ago was just thrown in by my hay man. He was good to put it in the barn at all: most won’t. But as a result I have been unable to get to the back part of the hayloft. Granddaughter Shireen lost no time in climbing right over this high wobbly stack to look for eggs. You can’t stop kids on hay. That is the main reason I am a stickler for proper stacking. I now have five kittens in the kitchen. I caught two more today. But I still have not seen a trace of the ones I most want. The little boy’s dad called again today.
September 23 Saturday Rain today. I fed nearly a bale of hay. The pastures are getting weak. Helen didn’t give us much milk this morning. I can’t tell if Leah is drinking more or she is producing less. Not much over a gallon today. I have five kittens in the kitchen and today three grandchildren to play with them. Daughter-in-law Mitra, here on her first ever visit, stepped out from the buttery to the back garden, looked up, and said “What’s that?” In the cornice return outside the kitchen there was a hornet’s nest the size of a basketball. They must have been working on it all summer not far above my head. These were white face hornets. I had three sons and a grandson, Rafe, age 19, here today, and they hastened to form and execute a plan for getting rid of it. I believe it made their day. As good as a hunting expedition.
September 24 Sunday Grandson Rafe did some fencing so I tried letting the cows back into their favorite field. They did not go straight to the veg garden. They waited about three hours before bashing their way in again. Max helped me chase them back where they belong. I guess this calls for some very serious fencing now. The little boy who was disappointed about his kitten came with his parents and picked out another. Well, his mother picked it out. It is an adorably cute black long hair. I asked him if he thought he could learn to love it instead. He said no. I promised to keep trying for the other one that he wants but i am about out of ideas how to get it out from under the barn.
September 26 Tuesday Helen gave us 1.5 gallons Monday, less than a gallon today. The last fence repair did not stand up to Helen. Son Max worked on it again this morning and so far it has held. After I opened up that pasture to her she marched her and the calves straight down there to check out the repair. She saw at once that she could not get through and gave her bell a noisy flounce.
September 27 Wednesday Another perfect warm fall day. No cows out. Since we destroyed that hornet’s nest it is astonishing how many flies there suddenly are. Shireen age 4 and I stayed home and dug carrots and collected eggs while son Max and wife Mitra climbed Tumbledown with little Roshan on Daddy’s back. It is a demanding 2 hr. climb. Helen gave 1.5 gal. this morning. Shireen came out to help milk.
September 28 Thursday Helen gave a bit less than 1.5 gal this morning. I was away to Portland all day so didn’t see much of the animals. But when I got home and fed the barn cats I succeeded in catching three more kittens. One was pretty fierce and bit my finger so typing is difficult. But it was just frightened. Once in the kitchen I was able to stroke it and it ate canned food. It is much colder tonight. I am saying goodbye to my dahlias. One small feeble kitten died this morning. The children had a little funeral while I was gone.
September 29 Friday It was down to 24F this morning so I lost all the flowers til next year, always a sad moment. The the leaf color is picking up fast. Helen gave less than a gallon this morning. Leah is stuffing herself. She is the biggest sleekest three month old Jersey heifer in the world I think. I’m getting lots of eggs. 14 today.
October 1 Sunday On Saturday morning I got only .75 gal. of milk and this morning I got 1.5. With family visiting, this amount of milk doesn’t give us enough cream. So today after milking I kept Leah and Wilbur in and let Helen out. I put hay on the ground near the barn because I knew she would just hang around the barn mooing and not go off to graze. I was right. About 4:00 she finally did some grazing. I got about 1.75 gal tonight. They are all together tonight.
October 3 Tuesday I separated Helen and Leah all day Monday and got a total of 3 gallons for the day. They remained separated Monday night. There was not much bellowing until 4 am. Then they both bellowed back and forth until I milked at 7 am when I got over two gallons. They were together all day today until I brought Helen in at 4 pm. She does not hesitate to come in because she is hungry. I gave her a full feed of grain and milked but did not get much over a quart. They are spending the night apart. She went right out to graze and did not hang around the barn. My plan now is to separate them at night, milk in the morning and let them spend the day together. But when I bring her in at night to separate them I will give her grain. She has been getting grain only once a day with once a day milking and is losing condition.
October 4 Wednesday Our fine weather has given way to rain but we do need it. It seems to make the fall colors brighter too. The trees seem slow to turn this year. We moved the five kittens out to the buttery. They are bouncing around looking totally cute but nobody has asked for one lately. Helen did some more bellowing last night but did more grazing today. She gave 2.5 gallons this morning. I brought her in at five and gave her grain and put out hay for her but did not milk. Leah and Wilbur are shut in the beefer pen with hay and water. There is a separate run-in for Helen so she is not standing in the rain. A cute bantam came forth with nine new chicks yesterday but today I did not see her. I hope she is safe. I would put food in front of her if I could find her.
October 5 Thursday I have still not seen the hen and new chicks. Now it has started to rain. It certainly is puzzling what can have become of her. Helen spent the day with her calf and ignored me when I called her to come in. I had to walk quite a ways to fetch her in for her grain. I put her out by herself for the night. At 8:30 when I went out to close up the chickens it was raining and she was not in her run-in. Its door had blown shut so she could not reach her hay. I blocked it open with a cement block and called her. I think I could hear her bell somewhere. I hope she came in. This morning I had to stop milking when the bucket was full. The lid sat on the foam. That is nearly three gallons. I did not take granddaughter Shireen to the barn this morning because I wanted to do everything possible to keep Helen calm. Separation is making her agitated and she bellows loud enough to be a fog horn but she did not kick.
October 6 Friday This morning Helen had so much milk the foam piled up over the top of the bucket before she was out of milk so I left the rest for Leah. 2.75 gal. in the bucket. It rained most of the day but is not terribly cold, 40’s and 50’s. We discovered another hen with eight newly hatched chicks. I could hear a lot of peeping from inside the wall of Helen’s run-in the former pigpen. The mother was on the ground with a few chicks and the others could not figure out how to get out from their nest. Son Max tore off a piece of wall and reached in and fished out a couple of handfuls of chicks to a total of eight. Later he brought them a dish of wild bird seed. Helen came up to the barn tonight and was easy to get in for her grain. We are seeing some signs of hormonal activity in the young ram, Stanley II. He stamps his foot when he sees me and has been seen sniffing the ewes.
October 7 Saturday No shortage of milk now. Helen again gave 2.75 gal this morning. But the cream remains scant. She is holding up a bit. Also I did not milk her out completely either yesterday of today because the bucket was about to overflow. Tomorrow I will try to remember to carry a second bucket to the barn. Helen is being very cooperative apart from some holding up of her cream. The newest hen with eight chicks is doing well. She has moved her family from the pigpen to the tansy patch at the back of the barnyard. The weather today was excellent and the fall color at its peak. No more people have come for kittens so we still have five.
October 8 Sunday Helen gave 2.75 gals. again this morning. I am still getting very little cream. All my company is leaving tomorrow so I will change my management somewhat. I may try evening milking after the calf has been on her. Or I may put the udder support on her to prevent Leah sucking. I need to find a way to get Leah eating more grain. She takes very little interest in it. It was cold today. Not much over 40F and 34F at bedtime. I still have plants to lift
October 10 Tuesday Monday morning I milked an hour early because I needed to drive son Max and family to the airport. Helen and Leah had been separated for 24 hours but what with wearing herself out bellowing and holding up her milk, I got only about 1.75 gals. I milked again in the evening and got about the same, still holding up her milk. This morning the bucket was full and I was able to strip properly. So we will see about the cream when it rises. Cow and calf remain separated. Both bellow every time they hear a door open at the house. I am warming a bucket of skim for Leah. Yesterday I saw some jumping by Stanley on one of the young ewes. Evening: Helen ought to have a sore throat by now. She bellowed for hours. Leah refused milk in a bucket. This evening Helen let down fairly well. I got 1.75 gal, total of 4.5 gal today. Hopefully I will see more cream tomorrow. in case I have not made it clear, my quest for more cream which has now necessitated total separation of cow and calf is due to the fact that when she holds up her milk what she is mainly holding up is the cream. My frig is full of gallon jars with about on half inch of cream on. Interestingly, her resistance to being a house cow, as opposed to a nurse cow, has not included kicking. She has not lifted a foot lately. It was cold and blowy all day but the predicted snow did not arrive, nor even rain.
October 11 Wednesday Helen gave 4.25 gals. today. She has something wrong with right rear foot and hates putting weight on it. I walked her all the way around the barn to come through the front gate and door so she would not have to come up the ramp. It is hard for her and she hates it. If her limp is worse tomorrow I will call the vet. I finally caught sight of the grey kitten which I couldn’t catch, brother of Oreo and the others. It was by itself in some tall grass. Of course I still couldn’t catch it. Maybe it will get hungry and come into the buttery. I am beginning to see more cream.
October 12 Thursday I now have enough cream to make butter tomorrow although the yield will be lower. The cream is not as heavy as it should be. Helen gave 4.25 gals again today. Her limp was much better. She had one overgrown toenail (hoof) and this evening it had chipped off to the proper length. That was probably all that was bothering her. There continues to be considerable bellowing around milking time and any time I head for the barn.
October 13 Friday I made 2 lb of butter today. I usually get 2.5 from that amount of cream. But her cream production is definitely on the increase. This evening at milking time she remembered to come all the way around to the front gate so as to walk in without a ramp. Smart cow. She only gave 1.5 gal. tonight though, 3.75 for the day. The weather today was lovely. About 70F with a light breeze and all the bugs are gone. I planted some hyacinth bulbs. Also made two loaves of extra healthy bread with lots of raisins, dates and nuts. It is extra tasty too. Of course I do not spare the butter. At dusk the sheep were cavorting like mad. The young ram, Stanley, is chasing ewes and the older wether is chasing him off. It is hard to believe that guy is wethered. The ewes are not standing.
October 14 Saturday Helen gave 4.5 gals today. It was another warm beautiful day. The moon came up in a spectacular way even more dramatic than last night when it was full. The sheep made a new fence hole today and spent the day in Helen’s field. They are now back in their small paddock where they will stay until I can get around to fixing the fence.
October 15 Sunday Production down today a bit, 4 gals. I set out to the field to repair the fence and to my astonishment was pursued by Helen and narrowly avoided being jumped. Suddenly she is in heat, the first time since she calved June 30. She had the calf running with her until less than two weeks ago but now they are completely separated. I doubt it is a coincidence that now she comes in heat. She has been losing condition but is far from emaciated and I’ve seen cows a lot thinner than she is be in heat. I strongly suspect this is the same hormonal thing which occurs in breastfeeding women. While feeding the baby ad lib at three or four hour intervals around the clock few women ovulate. The frequent nursing keeps prolactin levels high and ovulation is suppressed. If the baby begins sleeping through the night and there are intervals of seven or eight hours during which the baby does not nurse there is often a drop in prolactin levels sufficient to permit ovulation. I don’t know if this has ever been studied in cows. I have not read of it anywhere. After all, there is no commercial situation where calves run with the dairy cow. My 10/14 hour spacing of milking may be what induced heat. I have read of beef cows being rounded up to separate the calves but don’t know if it has to do with ovulation. I don’t intend to breed Helen now. I am going to try milking her through the winter, and longer. I don’t want her dry this year just when family arrives in summer and I don’t want a winter calf. After repairing the fence I let the sheep out of their home paddock and they all ran straight along to another hole they knew of. Then when I went back through the barnyard I had to run fast to stay ahead of ardent Helen. She came right on up the ramp after me as I slid the door shut, silly old cow. The sheep did not want to come in tonight. I called them and tempted them with grain all the way out in the big field which I would rather not do because of the ram and wether that thinks he is a ram. It must be the effect of breeding season. Ordinarily they are afraid of the dark, at least they ordinarily bed down inside, don’t stay out in the dark grazing.
October 17 Tuesday Late this afternoon I repaired the other hole the sheep made and let them back into the pasture. They did not go through. Today a friend of mine told me old timers around here used to put a wooden frame around the neck of the lead sheep to prevent her going through fences. That would be Bernadette. Helen gave 4.5 gals today and was very well behaved. She and Leah still moo some at each other but not much. Mostly now she moos at me to get on out for milking. She would prefer both morning and evening milking were an hour earlier. I made butter again today.
October 18 Wednesday I woke this morning to cold hard rain and it has continued all day. Helen had no inclination to graze but the sheep ignored the rain completely. The bantam with eight chicks was pretty discouraged. I took her a scoop of cracked corn. I had to take about two cups, more than she needs, because every other chicken in the neighborhood swoops down on her. At night she takes her chicks into Helen’s leanto. 4.5 gals today and I made more cottage cheese and ricotta.
October 19 Thursday A lot of my hay is proving to be mouldy. What I threw down today for Helen was really dusty. She walked away from it. I should have gone up the ladder to the haymow for a different bale but I was lazy and didn’t. Not surprisingly production was down this evening, 1.5 gals. 3.5 gals today. I saw the sheep inspecting my fence repair. They decided not to try it. It is just laced up with hay string if they only knew. I made butter again today and have nearly two gallons waiting. However I sold a gallon of milk yesterday and today and also a pound of butter. This is encouraging.
October 20 Friday I now have 2.5 gallons of cream ahead of me and more arriving all the time. Tomorrow I will have to dedicate to butter making. 4.5 gallons of milk today and more fine weather.
There’s a missing week due to computer problems.
October 28 Saturday Since I didn’t have any help I tried letting Leah out just to see if by any chance she had forgotten about suckling and I could skip the nose plate. No such luck. She ran straight to Helen. So I did not have to milk this evening. I separated them again at night.
October 29 Sunday Today we are getting our first snowstorm of the year. Accumulations of around a foot are predicted but it has been snowing all day and so far it has melted on the ground and not accumulated. Temperature is around 30F Two of my neighbors helped me put the nose plate onto Leah. Then I let her out with Helen. She chased Helen all around trying to suck but could not. She was so obviously angry that it was rather funny. She kept backing off and jumping up and down, then would try again. As of this evening the device is still on place. I got about 3.75 gals. today.
October 30 Monday It was still snowing this morning but turned to rain, Now all the snow has gone. The animals were in a hurry to get out and graze. Helen gave 4 gals.
October 31 Halloween Tuesday Last night I stayed awake half the night reading and this morning felt like I had a hangover. I am pleased to report that milking a cow has great restorative powers and got rid of my headache. 4 gals today
November 1 Wednesday Four gals again today approximately. I am getting about one and a half dozen eggs every day. All the young birds are laying I think, even at least one of the Cochin hens. The Cochin roosters are very active. They are so silly looking with their upright posture and fluffy pantaloons chasing the hens. They look as though they are in drag. Helen did a lot of bellowing today for no reason I could see. I am putting out lots of hay and begin to think I must buy more.
November 2 Thursday To my astonishment, the neighbor who bushhogs the field arrived today. I called about getting it done about the end of August but there was serious illness in the family and they had forgotten to mention it to the workman. So I looked out this morning and there he was going around and around the field. Thank goodness all the snow melted. I also arranged for him to take down a piece of fence so he can get into the sheep’s night paddock and knock down the thistle. I’m afraid they have already picked up quite a bit of it in their wool. I called and ordered another 50 bales of hay. The young stock and sheep are eating a bit more than I had taken into account. Helen gave a bit over 4 gals today.
November 3 Friday Another beautiful day, bright and warm. The bushhogging continues. I think it will be done early tomorrow. For the first time today I saw the young ram, Stanley whom I call Hornet because of the menacing white band down his face, seriously butting heads with Thistle, the wether who thinks he is important. The real leader is Bernadette, the largest ewe. I still have not seen any convincing mounting. The geese are happy but I am worried about what winter will bring. I have asked other people and been told they put theirs in with the chickens. That won’t work for me. I don’t have enough floor space.
November 5 Sunday Don finished the bushhogging on Saturday without doing the sheep paddock. He didn’t want to take his equipment in there. It is pretty rough. To make things easier for myself I started on Saturday to strain the evening milk into a second bucket. I can skim the bucket and have fewer jars to wash. This time of year I can just set it in the buttery, no need to put the milk in the frig. I fell part way down the sheep steps again today. A couple of weeks ago I bought a 33 lb protein block for the sheep and have been waiting for somebody to show up whom I could ask to carry it down. Nobody came around that I could ask so I decided what the heck, I’ll just drop it down. This I did. It bounced off the lower tread which is about a foot above the ground doing unseen damage. When I stepped on that tread it gave way and I barked my shin pretty good, the right one this time. Last time it was the left. I am trying to use up some of the skim by putting it in the pan with Wilbur and Leah’s grain. Wilbur is now nearly a year old and Leah close to 5 months. Yesterday they drank some but not today. With four gallons a day of milk and only selling 7 or 8 per week, and no pigs, it is a job figuring what to do with the skim. Today was the day I had marked on my calendar for Helen to be in heat. No signs except slight swelling around the vulva.
November 6 Monday Leah has figured out how to suck despite the anti sucking gizmo. I got under one gallon this morning. At 2 pm watching the animals through the binoculars I see Bernadette repeatedly standing for the wether. I am seriously doubting his wetherliness. Or if he is, then Hornet who is definitely uncut doesn’t have much chance. Thistle, the wether, chases him 50 feet away every time he gets near Bernadette. I also see Helen acting in heat. She is chasing Wilbur around.
November 7 Tuesday Election Day. The animals are ignoring it. It was a beautiful day, sunny, about 55 F. Thanks to Leah, total milk today was 1.75 gallons. I made 4.5 lbs butter. I started the day by fixing fence so that I can go back to giving the sheep the south pasture in the morning, then opening it for the cattle.
November 8 Wednesday Another gorgeous day. I managed to squeeze only about 1.5 gals out of Helen in two milkings. I have separated her and Leah for the night. I don’t hear any mooing. I guess they now know how to survive a night apart. Helen kicked tonight. This was the first time in weeks that she has lifted a foot. It was not a real kick. She just lifted up her foot and set it on my arm. It scattered a bunch of debris in the milk, though, so I threw away what I had and wiped out the bucket with paper towels before continuing. When I fed the barn cats this evening, what should I see but a small black and white kitten. I managed to catch it without getting myself clawed or bitten and carried it to the kitchen. When I got back there was another. I caught it too and carried it in. Then when I got back there was the mother feeding two more. With great good luck I managed to catch them too so now I have four little sinners to civilize and find homes for and I still have two from the last lot.
November 9 Thursday Because of being separated last night from Leah, Helen gave two gallons this morning. I got her in for milking this evening but there was no milk so I did not bother even trying, just let her back out, the other are locked in. The sheep are looking well. They easily remembered their training to come back in at noon for their grazing. As soon as they hear me call they all run as fast as they can. That is no doubt because it is cooler now. In summer they ambled. They have learned to drink at the river. The four new kittens in the kitchen took to canned cat food right away and one drank milk from a saucer. They still hiss when I stroke them with my finger but cower rather than scratching.
November 10 Friday It rained off and on all day. The temperature was around 42 F. It is great fun to see the flock of seven sheep all bounding this way when I call them. They usually run until they are near the gate, then stop and all look my way until I call some more. I suppose they need to verify that it is really me. Then they all race to jostle for positions at the feeder where I put out a small amount of grain, the real inducement. Helen gave only 1.75 gals this morning and I did not even bother taking the pail to the barn in the evening. If the downward trend continues tomorrow and is combined with a poor cream line I will have to return to full separation of her and Leah.
November 11 Saturday Milk production was down to 1.5 gals this morning but neither of my usual customers came so I don’t need any more milk today. She seemed to be letting down OK but at evening I can see that the cream line is skimpy. The four kittens I have installed in the kitchen are very playful and one of them had gotten friendly. After watching my favorite program, Victory Garden, I was reminded about digging up chicory to force. It comes up all around my garden. I went down today and dug up a pailful of roots which are now in a dark pail in my laundry room. November 12 Sunday Helen gave 1.75 gals this morning, up from yesterday, so I postponed full separation from Leah. It is so nice having less milk to deal with and if they are fully separated I have to set up a separate water system indoors for Leah and Wilbur. But the cream line is definitely skimpier. Today I was given a dog. It is a male about one year old maybe. He was found lost on a highway by cousin Susan. She kept him for a week during which she made an active attempt to find his owner. During this time he became very fond of her so adjusting to me is disorienting to him. But he seems likely to be a good boy. He shows some interest in chasing cats and chickens but not in a vicious manner so I expect he can learn not to. He has a short rough yellowish coat, short lop ears, a large head and big feet. He looks likely to get bigger and he is already about the height of the average Lab which is the size of Muffin. He and I and Muffin took a walk around the fields and down to the river. I have named him Bagel. Keeping him exercised will be good for me and Muffin.
November 13 Monday Helen only gave 1.5 gals this morning and I could tell she was holding up a bit. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt because Bagel who was tied outside the barn was doing a lot of yelping and she doesn’t know him yet. He as really been pretty good. He sneaked into my room last night and was quiet as a mouse. He is a bit shy about eating. The first dog food he has eaten was this afternoon. But he did eat raw ground beef that I gave him. Outdoors he plunges against the leash trying to chase cats. He doesn’t chase the baby kittens in the kitchen. Muffin hardly acts jealous of him at all.
November 14 Tuesday Helen gave just a little shy of two gallons this morning but it is still low on cream. I was away all day on errands. Before leaving I put the dogs in the garage and went to a lot of trouble to secure it, even tying the big sliding door shut with a rope. But when I got home Bagel was gone. He had worked on the door until he stretched the rope and knot. I called the animal control officer and learned he is at the shelter. Tomorrow I will go bail him out.
November 15 Wednesday When I reached the barn this morning I found the young stock, Leah and Wilbur, cavorting around in there. I must have failed to close their latch properly. I was glad that at least I had followed my immutable rule to close the grain room door so they didn’t get in there and make themselves sick. Helen gave just a tad less than 2 gallons again this morning. There is about one miserable half inch of cream. In a few days I will have to return to 2X/day milking but in the meantime I am enjoying the break from evening milking. First thing this morning I drove to the animal shelter for Bagel. It is a small operation run by one woman who apparently has an arrangement with local towns to bring in animals. It was quiet and clean. She only charged me $14. Bagel acted subdued and anxious to please. Later today while I was in the barn I left him fastened by his leash to a post. As I returned across the lawn he came running to me, having bitten through that nice heavy nylon leash in what appeared to be one bite. But I was gratified that he ran to me and not straight out the gate. He also ate well today and drank a lot of water. I took both dogs for a nice walk which did us all good although there is a bitter wind. November 16 Thursday Helen gave about about 1.74 gals this morning, down a little. Probably due to a lot of cold wind yesterday and all night. My hay man came today and took back some of the hay. I had complained it was dusty. He will bring some more to replace it.
November 17 Friday Helen did not give much over 1.5 gals this morning. I had Dr. Cooper here today to give Leah her immunization against brucellosis. The vet volunteered that this is an outdated procedure but at least it comes with an ear tag and tattoo. He also helped me take the anti sucking flap off of her nose since it is useless. Leah was mighty hard to hold. I was afraid the rope would break. Dr. Cooper also neutered Bagel for me. It took him longer than I expected. I expected a brief procedure like he does for bull calves or like I have often helped with in piglets, zip, snip. This is my first male dog in many years and the first I have had neutered. People did not used to consider it important. Dr. Cooper anesthetized Bagel and put in a lot of stitches. I had to hurry away to take my eggs to Farmington where a gourmet shop wanted them. I left Bagel stretched out on the garage floor. When I got home he was on his feet looking reproachful. I put a little blurb in each box of eggs telling how wonderful they are. I mentioned that they contain naturally occurring EPA and vitamin E. These are what they add to the diet of some hens to produce those $4/dozen eggs. I sold mine for $1.
November 18 Saturday Helen was really stingy this morning. Only one gallon. Grandson Rafe arrived from college and did many helpful things around the farm. He repaired the sheep steps that I fell down twice. Repaired the back ramp that the cows use. It was bad. He also got the barn water system ready for winter with heat tape. He dismantled and removed the pig house that was taking up space in the leanto where Helen sleeps. I don’t plan to get pigs again very soon. I did my part by feeding him when he arrived, all afternoon, and for dinner roast beef and pumpkin pie. Rafe is getting through my list of things I need done so fast that maybe he will have time to replace the pane in the buttery that some bantams have broken. A few teenage bantams keep coming into the buttery to swipe cat food. When I go in they rise like a covey of quail.and dash themselves at the glass. I have suggested to Rafe that he take the shotgun to them. Two people came today for kittens That still leaves four. Bagel is recovering from his operation pretty well. He ate some meat but would not touch his kibbles.
November 19 Sunday It was down to 18 F this morning and so I had a lot of extra work carrying water and thawing hoses. However the faucet in the barn did not freeze so I was able to fill buckets. Helen gave a little over 1.5 gals. Most of today was sunny. Rafe put hay up against the foundation where a draft comes down on the sheep. He also brought 10 bales of hay over from the barn and piled them up next to the sheep’s trapdoor. He also did some chain sawing. But the chainsaw started smoking. We concluded the gas was too old so he went to town for a fresh supply. Rafe also walked the dogs down to the brook to inspect the spring line. My spring line is still not delivering water and we do not know why.
November 20 Monday Helen gave slightly under a gallon this morning. But for the first time, when I let her back in with Leah, Leah did not run to her to suck. This morning Rafe, although it was his last morning, dressed off two of the geese for me. We saved the down. Thank goodness there was no wind. Even so he was covered with down and so is the garage. I feel rotten about dressing off the geese but there is little chance of my selling them or giving them away. I was about to advertise them in Uncle Henry’s when two other local people called me to ask if I would like to have their geese. I could have had 11 more geese. I have too much work to do by myself and must scale back. I drove Rafe to the airport, first putting the dogs in the garage and locking it from the inside. I exited through another door and locked that from the outside. I thought only Houdini could escape, but when I drove into the driveway, dark and late, there were two pairs of eyes dancing in the headlights. I have not figured out how Bagel managed to open the door. It has no latch on his side. The drive home was slow, dark and foggy. All the barn animals were silent as though under orders not to make a noise. None of the cows were there. It is a strange night to lie out in the field. It is now snowing lightly. I suppose in the morning there will be no milk at all.
November 21 Tuesday The cows were all back in the barn this morning but of course there was no milk since they were together all night. I put Leah in a box stall and will now have to bring her all her food and water plus clean the stall but it is all I can think of to do. I may sell her. My experiment with keeping cow and calf together is at an end. I have learned all I need to on this subject. Unfortunately, there was very little milk tonight either. I don’t know yet if she was resisting separation from her calf or it is a result of bad hay. There was a lot of dust in the bale I opened this morning and I notice she did not finish it. Bagel is behaving better every day. The bereaved geese were very subdued yesterday after having lost two of their companions but were back to normal this morning.
November 22 Thursday Helen gave 1.5 gals this morning and the same this evening. She and Leah are bellowing as though they were being separated for the first time. I called a dairyman and asked him what I might ask for Leah and he suggested $400, exactly what I had thought. She is comfortable in her stall and it is conveniently located for her care right next to where I milk. I hope the bellowing stops soon. Milking is pretty noisy right now, what with Bagel yelping. Worse in the morning though, with a lot of roosters crowing too. I picked a few more Brussels sprouts today. There are enough left for one more skimpy meal. The snow has not lasted. The ground is partially frozen. It was 30 F this morning.
November 23 Thanksgiving Helen gave a bit over 3 gallons today. She and Leah are still bellowing a lot but Leah is eating better. Son Martin brought 18 bales of hay and he and son Mark put them in the barn. He has more for me but 18 is what fit on his pickup. It is stemmy compared to what I got from my hay man but not dusty and Helen ate it right up. Martin also brought a Troybuilt tiller he had just bought second hand and tilled up my veg garden. What a thrill! The thought of digging it all by hand again next year had me thinking about relying on the farmer’s market. Now I know I will not be able to resist putting in a garden. I roasted one of the geese for Thanksgiving dinner. I followed Julia Child’s method in The Way To Cook adding a few touches of my own including some of my rowan jelly over the goose. It was incredibly good and would have easily fed four adults. The hoses stayed frozen all day. I was surprised Martin was able to till but the ground was not deeply frozen. I had filled the stock tank yesterday and was able to break the ice and dip from it for the geese and chickens. Tomorrow I will have to think of a way to thaw the hoses.
November 24 Friday It was down to 10 F this morning and now at bedtime is already down to 9 F. Martin and I moved the stock tank inside and set it up with a submersible water heater. Martin also installed an overhead light in there so I won’t have to stumble around holding a flashlight and Wilbur’s feed while I try to outrun him. It is now dark both morning and evening. Helen gave over 3 gallons today. She and Leah are still bellowing but not as much.
November 25 Saturday It was 10 F again this morning. Chores take much longer since I must carry water for the chickens, geese, and Leah. Also must connect and disconnect the hose to fill the stock tank so I can drain it. I hang over a high ladder and blow through it to be sure there is no water in it. The cows like their light that son Martin installed last night in the beefer pen where they sleep. I let the geese out to wander today. There is some green grass around the lawn. We have only smatterings of snow. The temp got u p to 30 F today before sinking fast. My new dog, Bagel, followed me into the barnyard and Wilbur chased him about 100 yards. He ran about 1000 yards. Steers are obviously a new species to him.
November 26 Sunday Temp was 10 F again this morning but about noon it warmed up and started to snow. It snowed the rest of the day and 3 or 4 inches have accumulated. I let the geese move into the barn. It is a lot of work for me keeping everybody watered and enough hay out and the eggs picked up before they freeze. I got only 1 dozen eggs both yesterday and today due to the cold I suppose and to the hen’s difficulty in getting enough water before it freezes. I have been getting close to two dozen. I am doing all I can to encourage the hens because at last I have two shops that want my eggs and two local customers. Helen gave 3.5 gals today. Leah is settling down. She is comfortable in her small quarters, just bored and lonely. I allowed Bagel to be loose tonight while I milked and ordered him to stay out of the barn which he did. I have been keeping him tied while I milk and he yelps and barks the entire time which is very distracting to both me and Helen. He kept his eyes glued to the crack in the barn door but did not yelp. Temp this evening is 32 F.
November 27 Monday According to my calender, Helen should have been in heat today. I saw no such behavior unless I count a lot of extra pooping while in her stanchion. Possibly the week back with Leah threw her off track again. The snow turned to rain and made a squishy mess out of everything but saved me lots of work messing with hoses. It was up to 40 F this evening. Helen gave a little over 3 gals. today. Eggs are way down, only one dozen and four customers disappointed.
November 28 Tuesday It has been in the 40’s all day. Bagel abused his freedom this morning. I looked out the window and saw him with his foot on a chicken. I ran out in my slippers and took a young bantam rooster away from him. It had no obvious injury so I laid it in the barn in case it was only in shock. Later when it was obviously dead, not liking for it to have died in vain, I dry picked it and dressed it, feeling quite virtuous. Later I found two little hens he had also killed but by then my fingers were tired so I guess I will pitch them over the river bank for the foxes. I cooked the rooster by braising. He was young but skinny. The amount and variety of feathers on a bird is an amazing fact of nature. Now Bagel is back on his chain. He is acting contrite and depressed. I whapped him over the head with a dead hen and told him what I think of mindless killing. Helen gave only 2.75 gals today
November 29 Wednesday It was almost spring like today. Helen spent a lot of time pretending to graze. There really is hardly any grass long enough. I took the dogs for a walk to the river. It is quite high. The ground is sufficiently frozen that the last rain mostly ran off. Bagel made several rushes at chickens but I yelled at him. He cornered a large group of bantams near the house and they all flew about twelve feet it the air. It looked pretty funny. I am supervising him carefully so that he does not get away with much. A lady wanted a kitten today. She took the little short haired black one. He has great personality. Helen gave 3.5 gallons today. I have let the geese out of their pen so they can come in the barn in bad weather. Helen finds them terrifying. They came and stood quietly in the doorway while I was milking. The first I knew they were there was when Helen made a big plop. I chased them away but soon they were back observing with interest. I got 18 eggs today I think.
November 30 Thursday Helen gave about 3.5 gallons today. Pretty good. I made 4 lb. of butter. I arranged to have my grain delivered and put right into the feed room. I have to buy eight or more bags at a time. this will save me a great deal of lifting.
December 1 Friday Weather not bad today. The dogs and I walked to the river which they enormously enjoy. Old grandma Muffin, age about 10, goes straight to the water but Bagel avoids it. He either has never seen it before or has no water dog blood or both. Helen gave 3.75 gallons. I had about 5 gallons of clabber and made about three pounds of cottage cheese with it and gave the rest to the chickens.
December 2 Saturday Last night when I put the dogs out for a last visit to the bushes Bagel disappeared. I called repeatedly but finally had to give up and left the garage door open for him. I kind of figured he had gone over the bank to find one of those chicken carcasses I threw over. In the morning as I hoped he was in the garage lying on his quilt. He was very tired and subdued. Only later did I discover that he had dragged the bones of a deer onto the lawn. It had been completely chewed but probably had been dead only a few days. The head and legs were missing. I suppose some hunter’s shot did not kill it and it went down the river bank to die. It is turning cold. Tomorrow will be difficult. Helen gave exactly three gallons. I got only 10 eggs.
December 4 Monday. Helen gave 3 gallons yesterday, 3 plus 1 qt. today. Both days were sunny and around 32 F. Both yesterday and today I let the sheep have their choice of the whole pasture. The dogs and I walked most of this area both days and I can’t see where the sheep are finding water. I don’t see tracks down to the river anywhere. I guess I had better set up a their water tub again like last year.
December 5 Tuesday I went to Farmington today on errands and did not get back until 2 pm. All the animals were mad at me. However, it warmed up to 34 so the stock water did not freeze. Before leaving on errands I spend an hour trying to get the water system under the buttery where the sheep are to function. I did not succeed. I did manage to carry two bales of hay up a ladder to the empty hay mow at the north end of the barn. I spread out the hay over the part which is the ceiling of the layer’s room. The boards are gappy and they were losing heat. There is a lot more I must do for the chickens, perhaps tomorrow.
Helen gave only 2.75 gals today. That was partly because the geese came in where I was milking and began cackling loudly. She is very afraid of them. I threw my gloves at them but it did not phase them a bit. Then I herded them outdoors and shut the door but somehow they squeezed back in. Any interruptions to milking make a cow quit letting down even if she is not alarmed. I had to actually leave my post on the milking stool twice.
December 6 Wednesday Down to 14 this morning. No luck yet with the water system for the sheep. But I have another idea for tomorrow. Helen barely gave 3 gals today. Leah, the isolated heifer, tends to be shy and crowds against the wall when I go in the stall to take care of her. So she caught me off guard when she jumped me from behind. She had her feet as high as my shoulders but she backed right off when I shrieked. She bellowed a lot today but I thought she was lonesome. More like in heat.
December 7 Thursday Temp 14 again this morning but feels colder than yesterday. The wind is blowing and it snowed for awhile. I got the water running down below for the sheep by running an extension cord to the heat tape on the copper pipe. I also found where the service line has been severed. Now to find somebody to repair it. Everything is much harder when it is cold and takes longer. Helen gave a little over 3 gals today.
December 8 Friday It was down to zero this morning and did not get above 10 F at any time today. The sun came out brightly for a couple of hours which cheered things up. The little family of bantams which I feed seemed rather desperate for food. I threw out cracked corn for them. It takes a lot of time now to keep water thawed out. I take kettles of boiling water to the barn to pour onto the chicken water and onto Leah’s. Helen gave less than three gallons today, I think only 2.5 gals. I collected the eggs four times and avoided getting any frozen ones. I am letting the sheep roam both pastures. They came up and looked inside the beefer pen but did not come in. However the cows go down to their place often and eat their hay up. It is mostly Wilbur who does this.
December 10 Sunday. Yesterday Helen gave 3 gallons, today somewhat less. She seems in good humor despite the weather. The sheep are roaming widely and seem cheerful. They are impervious to the cold. The two old ewes, Agnes and Bernadette, are the only ones who come to be petted. Their wool feels about 6” deep. Bagel, my new dog, is very smart. If I can figure out how to make him understand what I want, he tries his best to do it. I have pretty well trained him not to yelp his fool head off the whole time I am in the barn. When he sees me leaving for the barn he goes and lies on his blanket next to his chain and waits to get hooked up. When he leaves he starts to squeak but if I turn back with a certain look in my eye he stops. All my eggs are getting sold as fast as they are laid. One customer today drove a mile for 7. That was all I had at 9 AM. I made three pounds of butter today and more cottage cheese.
December 11 Monday A big storm is predicted for tonight. I hope it is not too bad as when I got home today from running errands I discovered I should have bought chicken feed. Helen gave only 2.75 gals today. She was irritable. My hay man came this morning and replaced 35 bales of hay that was dusty. The new hay looks very good.
December 12 Tuesday I don’t know what Helen gave today. It looked about like yesterday. But a loop of my bootlace caught on the hinge of the bail on the milk bucket and whipped the whole thing over. I have never had anything like that happen before. I tried not to cry over spilt milk.
December 13 Wednesday A new girl in the neighborhood age about 14 stopped in near milking time to inquire if I might wish to hire her for animal care. She hung around through milking and had a go at it. She showed some talent and and act afraid of the animals. My total for the day was well under 3 gals but that was partly because Helen does not let down well when strangers are about. A hard wind blew all day and the temp did not get much above 8 F
December 14 Thursday The Coburn Farm crew, the animals and I, awoke to snow this morning. It continued all day and the roads weren’t very good but I went to town anyway to mail things. I’d say we have seven or eight inches now and i t is still falling gently. Until this snow, the sheep have been grazing industriously all of every day, besides eating a few flakes of hay. Today they stayed near their barn all day because of the snow cover. I put down hay for them three times and they ate it all. Helen gave a little less than 3 gals. today.
December 15 Friday Much sunshine today. Eggs and milk production are falling a little every day despite my best efforts. Only 2.5 gals.
December 16 Saturday Helen gave a bit more than yesterday but did not quite make 3 gals. Only one half dozen eggs. It was cold all day, hardly above 8 F and a storm on the way. Now towards evening it is warming up for snow. All the animals seem edgy. Maybe they know something I don’t. But here in Carthage we are always prepared for bad weather. I am not prepared for a power outage though as that will mean no water since my spring is not running.
December 17 Sunday I awoke to rain and it has not stopped all day. The driveway, which was plowed smooth leaving a couple inches of snow a couple of day ago is now a sea of slush over ice. I tiptoe along the edges where there is remaining snow to reach the barn. The temperature has risen sharply to 40 F so there is low fog. The sheep went out to look for grass under the snow. I think they get bored lying around all day waiting for their next hay feeding. Through the mist all I could see of them was black egg shaped balls. They have amazing fleeces, I think. The new dog, Bagel, follows me to the barn a lot but I tell him to wait at the door. With the rain, he kept creeping in. I was amused to see one of the geese which have never before shown any aggressiveness, snap his head out and bite Bagel in the flank. He yipped and ran out. Helen gave just a little under 3 gals today. I think I got 10 eggs. The animals like the warmer weather.
December 16 Monday Last night was wild. Very high winds, rain and thunder and lightning. Even arthritic old Muffin dog made it up to my bedroom during the night. She is afraid of thunder. To get her down in the morning I held tight to her collar. Even so, she lost her footing and would have rolled down had I not been hanging on to her. Before I left for the barn the power went out. It had been out during the night too. It did not come on until 7 PM. All day Helen had no water. My well is served by an electric pump. No furnace either. Fortunately it was around 30 F all day so nothing froze. My cook stove is propane and I kept a fire in the fireplace. When the electricity came back on the first thing I did was go to the barn and refill the stock tank. Helen drank it as fast as it filled for the first ten minutes. The wind was so strong last night that it lifted my 12′ aluminum gate off its hinges and took it 10 or 12 feet away. The wind coming under the buttery where the sheep live was so strong it opened up their heavy wooden trap door to the garage. It just hung there waving. So I weighted it down with my recycle stuff. Bagel went down this morning and faced off the sheep, barking at them. I can’t have that. Now he is on his chain.
December 19 Tuesday Today was pretty quiet. Helen gave only .75 gal. this morning probably due to being so dried out yesterday. But she made up for it this evening and topped 3 gallons for the day. Both Helen and Wilbur, but especially Wilbur, spend a lot of time hanging around the sheep fold eating up the sheep’s hay. I need to have a barrier built that will keep them out. The sheep never go into the beefer pen, the cow’s run-in, to swipe their food.
December 20 Wednesday It snowed all day with a strong gusty wind so there is drifting. The sheep stayed right in their lair as there is no hope of any grass. We have 7 or 8 inches of new snow. I have to plan my strategy for giving them their hay and grain to times when I have just fed Helen and Wilbur so can be sure they will stay in their quarters for a while. Otherwise they race over and eat all the sheep food. Helen gave 3 gallons today.
December 22 Friday The snow is staying this time. It is cold and blowy and may go down to zero tonight. Helen gave 3 gallons yesterday and today. Egg production has fallen to 8 or 10 a day. Cattle and sheep are hungry all the time for hay.
December 23 Saturday It was bright and cold all day. Helen gave only 1/2 gallon this evening, 2 1/4 gallons total. I don’t know if this was because she was cold, the hay was bad, she didn’t drink enough or what. She appears to be in good health.
December 24 Sunday Cold this morning, about 8 F, but no problems. Helen gave 3.25 gals today, recovering from yesterday’s down turn in production. Leah jumped on me again today while I was in her stall. I don’t know if she is in heat of merely lonesome. While my back was turned to set down her water bucket, next thing I knew there were heifer hooves on my shoulders. I shrieked and she backed off looking confused, “what went wrong?” I think she was saying. Now it is cold and late on Christmas Eve and my two youngest boys, Mark and Martin, have taken Bagel for a star lit walk. I kept Muffin home as she is getting so old and stiff.
December 25 Christmas A lovely day for the family, but not much fun for the animals. The temperature did not get about 8 F and there was a terrible icy wind. Even inside their room some of the roosters are getting frostbitten combs. One little bantam hen that lives outdoors died of exposure and a little rooster and hen that live up in a fir tree by the house will probably not make it through the night. We kept the barn door shut last night and all day today and again tonight so Helen and Wilbur have less wind to fight. The submersible water heater is keeping the water open in their tub. Helen gave about 3 gallons today despite the cold. My sons Mark and Martin sawed and chopped a lot more wood today and worked up a big appetite.
December 26 Tuesday The weather continues much the same except a bit colder and the wind higher. The bantams in the tree proved to be two little roosters and they were both still crowing this morning. Roosters don’t ordinarily snuggle together but in this weather pragmatism rules. I suspect they are widowers. It was from the fir tree flock that Bagel killed one rooster and three hens. Helen stays cozy. I have increased her hay. She gave 3 gals plus a quart today. Wilbur, being in with her, also gets to eat all day and is getting fat. I saw either the wether or the young ram breeding a ewe today. From the distance I was unable to be sure of identities. The wether, if indeed he really is a wether, Thistle, doesn’t seem to know it. He and Stanley are now the same size and have very similar horns. December 27 Wednesday This morning the sheep were nowhere to be seen. About an hour later as I was finishing milking I heard their bells as they returned from their exploration. I was afraid I was going to have to track them in the snow. Maybe they wanted to check to see if it was summer somewhere else. I remember once when my cow Hope did that. During the summer she used to periodically jump the fence and go way up the road to a nice field owned by a neighbor. Once in the middle of the winter she disappeared up there and I figured she thought maybe it was still summer up that way. Helen gave 3 gallons today. For some reason she did not drink any water all day. It is usually stray voltage which causes a cow to refuse a tub of water. I tried unplugging the submersible heater but it made no difference. Maybe it is coming through the ground. I have a piece of copper tubing in the tank and looped over to the ground but I can’t jam it into the ground because it is frozen.
December 28 Thursday Helen gave barely 2.5 gallons today. She is definitely reluctant to drink her water. When I unplug the heater it freezes over so either way she doesn’t drink.
December 29 Friday Helen managed to give three gallons today without drinking hardly any water. I went out and bought feed so as to be prepared for a big snow storm which is n the way. Most times the highly advertised storms don’t amount to much but anyway, I am prepared.
December 30 Saturday Helen drank a little water last night but not much. She gave only 2.75 gals. today. The cows keep on visiting the sheep quarters and eating their hay. The sheep go out in the field or the edge of the woods and stay for a long time finding this and tat sticking out of the snow to eat. I hope somebody will soon build me a barrier to keep out the cows. A big snowstorm has started. It might be called a blizzard. The wind is blowing hard.
December 31 Sunday We got eight or ten new inches of snow. It is hard to be sure with a Nor’easter. The was a lot of drifting. Neighbor Stewart came and plowed me out and got his blade stuck on a pile of snow. It took a while to extricate him. Helen gave a little under 2.5 gallons. She is not touching her water. I have unplugged everything around it. I put my fingers in the water and wet fingers on the earth and imagined I could feel a slight tingle. It was hard to concentrate with both Helen and Wilbur crowding me. Wilbur will jump me given half an opportunity. I don’t fancy being mashed down into the stock tank. I have filled the tub in the sheep run-in. The cows go there every day to swipe the sheep’s hay and that water is getting drunk by somebody. The tub is not big enough to provide adequately for all the stock and is badly located for the cows. The only way the sheep get any hay is if I feed them immediately after feeding the cows while they are still busy with their own.