January 2, 2003 Thursday: Wednesday the world was so icy that I sat down on the back ramp of the barn and slid down on my bottom, this being the safer option when I went out to scatter cracked corn for the bantams. I now have them all trained to assemble out back of the barn in the morning for their grain. That way I can close the door on them and have a quiet milking, free of the cacophony of contending roosters. Milk production was up somewhat today over the last few days. Helen gave 2 ½ gallons again. Somehow two of the sheep have gotten into the paddock where I have Cletus and Virginia. They can’t remember how to get back out and stand around bleating piteously. If I open the gate Cletus will get out, so they are out of luck. 10 eggs today.
January 3, 2003 Friday: Leah’s teats look somewhat better. Certainly not worse. She is totally cooperative when I apply my vitamin E oil mixture. Maria is nursing, so Leah is getting milked. Obviously this is a short-term answer. Maria just turned six months old and must be weaned pretty soon herself. Cletus still bellows some to get back in with Leah and Maria. Maria continues to stand where they can touch noses through the fence. Some of the sheep jumped over into the paddock to join the others already stuck in there. Eventually, all but Delta (sheep) figured it out. Today Helena and a friend went into the paddock to open a gate and let Delta out. They took along a broom to steer off Cletus in case he thought about leaving along with Delta. Delta took one look at the approaching broom and sailed over the fence on her own. The weather today was briefly sunny in the morning, then got cold and overcast and looks like snow. Helen barely made two gallons today. I got nine eggs.
January 4, 2003 Saturday: We were greeted this morning with six inches of new snow. Snow has continued all day. The wind is blowing strongly out of the northeast causing drifts, so I don’t know how much we have received, maybe ten inches. Neither cattle nor sheep spent much time outdoors. They hung around the hay feeder snapping up however much I put down for them. Nobody came to plow us out. Helena shoveled a path to the barn. She also broke out the berm across the front of the driveway by driving her car out. Helena helped me add some wire to the inside of the chicken room where there is a screen for air circulation to the next room. Chickens had made a hole in the wire and some hens were getting out while some banished roosters have been finding their way back in. There won’t be any more of those shenanigans. Helen gave two gallons again today. Thee were eight eggs.
January 5, 2003 Sunday: The hens exploded with eggs today, I got 14. I have no idea what accounts for this. Helen gave a little over two gallons. Leah came in this evening with two quarters stuffed. Maria has clearly sucked only two. I decided to try milking her a little bit. She stood like a lamb, but I was milking one handed and holding a container with the other. My back gave out in this awkward position by the time I had three cups. It was perfect milk. I put pink liniment on the two empty quarters in hopes Maria will take the other two. If not, I will make another attempt in the morning to milk her. I amused myself today by making the Italian bread featured in the February Cook’s Magazine. It resulted in an impressive looking loaf worthy of a photo. Last week I made the Pain de Compagne from Cooking With Julia. That was equally handsome and I think has the edge for flavor on the loaf I made today. But, the dough has to be taken through so many stages lasting several days that I may never get around to making it again.
January 6, 2003 Monday: I milked Leah again this morning, a two finger job on her right rear Quarter. I got about two cups. Maria had nursed the other three a little bit. Leah stood quietly. This evening the same thing again, except the other three quarters had been pretty well emptied out while the right rear was again not touched. I think I got about three cups. Leah was perfectly cooperative. I have not been using the kicker. Once I get the noisy roosters cleared out everything is totally calm and quiet during milking, nothing to be heard but the milk hitting the pail. The cuts on her teats appear unchanged but do not seem to bother her. Helen gave barely two gallons, but I added in Leah’s of course. It was perfectly clean because she stood so well. There were ten eggs today.
January 7, 2003 Tuesday: While I was milking Helen this morning a small white hen came limping past me. All was quiet and she was alone, so I observed what otherwise I might not have. Entangled around her feet and hobbling her was a cotton string, the type sewn across the tops of feedbags. After I was finished with milking I searched her out and easily caught her in my handy landing net. The string was much entangled around her toes impairing her circulation. The next really cold spell would have left her with frozen feet. I make a point of putting all those strings in the trash as this sort of thing has happened before, but either this one blew out or I missed the can. I have fixed up a rope with knots in it to assist me when going up and down the icy steps that lead off the deck and down into the paddock where Virginia and Cletus are. They are both now seven months old and exactly the same size. Helen gave two gallons today. I milked about three cups out of Leah this Morning, but this evening she came in with an empty udder. That was a relief to me. Maria does a better job on her mama than I do. Six eggs today.
January 8, 2003 Wednesday: First thing this morning Helena’s brother and uncle came over with a .22 rifle to do me the favor of thinning out my over-population of semi wild roosters. The census had risen to about 15 and the cacophony was deafening at times. The worst part has been their annoying behavior when I serve out the cows’ grain. They are all over it like Grackles and continue even while the cows are eating. They also drive off the cats and eat the cat food. This was despite my strewing several scoops of corn for them. I think the boys shot ten of them. I plucked one of the larger roosters to make soup and gave them all the others to do with as they chose, but with the caveat that the birds not be used as bait for trapping.. I was much gratified to discover that they had not thrown them into the woods, but had skinned them all out, saving the breasts, thighs and legs. They took it all to a family member to cook up. Helen gave 2 ½ gallons today. Leah did not require milking tonight, but I worked over her udder a bit anyway to keep her accustomed to the idea. There were a dozen eggs. Not a single rooster showed itself this evening. I know at least five Survived, so they must be lying low. Some were extremely beautiful, but enough is enough. The little hens are a lot less troublesome.
January 9, 2003 Thursday: There are still a few roosters left and of course all the hens, maybe six. They kept a low profile this morning. They would not even come out when I scattered corn. This evening two roosters showed up at chore time and were as pesky as ever. Helen gave about two gallons today. Leah came in with an empty udder. I can’t be sure if her cut teats are healing, but they are not any worse. I got 10 eggs. I have not mentioned the pigs lately, but they are doing very well.
January 10, 2003 Friday: I am in despair. Leah is back in heat. I know it is because the AI technician had trouble inserting the straw properly. She has a crimped cervix. I was told this last year by the now retired technician. Nonetheless, he managed to do it and she had Maria. I tried to call him today, but no luck. Leah caused a lot of trouble while in heat. Maria busted through the fence to join Cletus and Virginia, her buddies that she misses so much. Then Leah busted in another place to be with her daughter Maria. I tested Leah’s heat by going up behind her and putting my weight on her back while she was outdoors. Normally she would not allow me to walk up behind her like that, let alone put down my weight. Helena and her friend repaired the fence and the cows stayed put the rest of the day. My grandson Rafe just arrived back from a marvelous month long trip through Europe. He loved the food, the people and the architecture. The only scares were some death threats by street Arabs in Morocco who wanted money and a near miss of the train connection to Paris for his flight home. The German train was late!
January 11, 2003 Saturday: My old technician called back this morning and wanted to come right over and try breeding Leah. (He is not actually old, just moved on from doing AI to the field of embryo transplants. But he has returned to doing some breeding) It was a bit late in Leah’s heat to be even attempting a breeding, but he felt there remained a fair chance of success. This time he used the sire Mollybrook Poseidan Adventure. He was able to insert the straw with little trouble. It has been pretty cold all day, about 10F. Cletus still spends much of the day hanging around by the fence hoping for a visit from Maria, his “sister”. Not wishing to be alone, Virginia comes up and hangs out with him and Maria is right across the fence, all three standing in an exposed spot. They have very thick coats like plush and are fat so I don’t worry much about their getting chilled. But, I look forward to the day they can all be in the same paddock. Helen gave about 2 gallons and a quart. I got 14 eggs.
January 12, 2003 Sunday: This morning while I was milking, Maria, Leah’s calf, pushed through the wire gate to get in with her buddies Cletus and Virginia. Then when I let the cows back out Leah pushed down the entire section of fence to get in with Maria. Helen, of course followed. It was a very cold day with a lot of blowing snow but the sun was brilliant. Under the garage and buttery where Cletus and Virginia now live is a popular spot in such weather because it is a suntrap. Leah and Helen were clearly pleased with themselves for getting in there with sun on their rumps as they ate the calves’ hay. I decided electric fence was my best bet in the circumstances i.e. frozen ground. I detained Rafe and Tony who were heading back to school and got them to help Helena and me string it up. Cold work. I knew the cows would respect it because they got acquainted with it last summer. Helena and I stood by the wire preventing Virginia and Cletus from barging under it until they had each touched it with their nose. They did not try again. Maria was the weak link in this program as she missed the learning experience with the others. Sure enough, after dark we found her in with her buddies again. She had knocked out our feeble struts and gone through. We lured her home again, but will it last? She must have gotten zapped at least once. Helen gave two quarts and I got ten eggs.
January 13, 2003 Monday: Every day is a few degrees colder. It was about 8F this morning. Virginia was in with her mother but had not drunk the milk. I think she had just arrived. The sheep ignore the electric fence. Six or eight inches of wool seems to be good insulation. By various subterfuges and ploys I succeeded in Getting Virginia back in the paddock with Cletus, where she remained the rest of the day. Helen gave a bit over two gallons and we got 13 eggs.
January 15, 2003 Wednesday: It was 10F this morning and the water to the barn is frozen. I did not actually discover the freeze-up until 1 o’clock when I tried to fill the stock tank. The remainder of the day until now, 6:30 PM, I spent dealing with the problem. There is no hope of thawing the barn water. I have no outdoor hose connections and never have had. They would be useless in winter. What I have done is run a hose through the cellar and up through the kitchen, out through the breezeway and down under the buttery. All livestock will have to walk over here to drink from a black rubber tub. The kitchen floor is a mess. The logistics of this are such that I can no longer keep the calves separated from the cows. I put Helen’s heifer calf Virginia into a stall with Cletus for the night so I will have the morning milk. Cletus also will be back with Leah tomorrow and I hope does not further damage her udder. This is the only arrangement possible apart from carrying water to the barn and this I cannot do. It is too far to run a hose because all hose has to be rapidly dragged back indoors when the water is turned off or it will freeze. Most of my five hours of work today involved teakettles of boiling water on frozen hose. I will only need to carry water to the chickens. There is a Grange meeting tonight. I don’t know if I will make it. One dozen eggs today. I did not milk Helen tonight. I am going to once a day milking.
January 16, 2003 Thursday: This was another day dominated by water issues. With help from Helena I got the old ice out of the tub I am using. This was a problem that yesterday prevented me from filling it properly. They were all thirsty this morning and pushed each other out of the way to drink. With help from my neighbor we made progress on establishing a plumbed in system that will, I hope, deliver water under the buttery without wrestling hoses, as we now have to do. This morning after skipping milking last night I got 1-¾ gallons. Only six eggs today. I am pretty tired today. Last night’s meeting lasted three hours! Followed by refreshments. I believe most people do not have to get up very early.
January 17, 2003 Friday: Once again a day devoted entirely to water problems. The breakfast dishes are still in the sink. It is discouraging, but help is on the way. Sons Martin and Mark will be up tomorrow to help. I am pretty tired. The temperature tonight may go much colder. Some are predicting -25F.
January 18, 2003 Saturday: My sons Mark and Martin arrived this afternoon and set to work at once on the water system. After a couple of hours of crawling around under the buttery in the cold they triumphed with running water to a tub. Helen came over and drank it all. It was 14F here this morning, plenty cold enough. Helen gave 1¾ gallon this morning. I got nine eggs. Little Hailey, Mark’s daughter, was here to help with evening chores.
January 19, 2003 Sunday: Mark and Martin worked manfully and established a professional looking water system under the buttery. It appears to be proofed against most any cold winter sends us. They also built a fence barrier that will forever prevent sheep and calves from getting way back under the crawl space as in the past, and amusing themselves by chewing off the insulation and biting holes in the heat tape. Biting the heat tape was done in the summer when it was not plugged in, or I expect it would have performed as a self-teaching aid. All I have to do now to get water is go down the back stairs, turn it on, and sit and wait for the tub to fill. I have to do this a couple of times a day. Helen gave 1 ¾ gallon and I got six eggs. Weather continues very cold.
January 20, 2003 Monday: No water emergencies today and no other kind of excitement either. Helen gave 1 ¾ gallon. I got nine eggs, but there was evidence of egg eating. Weather continues very cold and is now accompanied by a high wind.
January 22, 2003 Wednesday: Last night I attended a Historical Society meeting and potluck. The temperature continues to hover between 4F and 10F, but there is a very strong icy wind, enough to take the fun out of most everything. The meeting was shifted from the old schoolhouse building where we ordinarily meet into the town office building that heats better. I took a big pan of dinner rolls. The meeting was surprisingly well attended. It was originally planned to include a tour of my home. That has been mercifully postponed. The new water system continues to perform well. Helen gave two full gallons Tuesday on her new once a day schedule, and again today. Leah came in with one quarter stuffed last night, this morning and again tonight. Each time I have milked some out to relieve the pressure. Tonight I got a quart from the full quarter. Leah appreciates this and stands like a rock. However, by the time I have milked Helen I am so cold I can’t keep going. I am feeding extra hay and the cows are withstanding the weather OK, but I notice they lie down in a cluster actually touching each other. Eggs have dropped off to six or seven a day. We are topping up the pig’s meals with cracked corn.
January 23, 2003 Thursday: Poor Leah’s cuts were torn open again by the calves and there were new ones. I feel terrible about this and don’t know what to do. The way the cuts are placed I don’t think it would be possible to milk her by hand. The wind has let up and the temperature rose to 4F above zero so the weather today seemed much more pleasant. Well, not exactly pleasant, but bearable. Helen gave about 1¾ gallons today. There were nine eggs.
January 24, 2003 Friday: My daughter Marcia made a suggestion for a way to separate Virginia and Cletus from the others so they can be weaned without requiring me to carry water to the barn. The idea is to restore a bay (stall) in the carriage house that serves as my attached garage. Helena and I worked all morning on making this habitable for the two calves, but did not quite finish the job. We will be able to move them in the morning. I had already been separating them at night, so I simply kept them in today. This meant I could milk again this evening. Helen gave 2 ¾ gallons today, all of which was sold before it had time to chill. I have a number of devoted customers. Unfortunately, nothing has occurred to me that will enable separation of Maria from Leah. Her teats had been clearing up a bit but were worse again this morning and this evening were actually bloody. I just don’t know what to do about this. I need a miracle. Only four eggs today.
January 25, 2003 Saturday: With very little difficulty Helena and I moved the two calves, Virginia, eight months, and Cletus, seven months, to the new quarters we prepared for them by fixing up an area in the carriage house (now my garage). They settled right in and look cute. The cold weather continues although somewhat moderated today. The chickens are laying poorly. Only three eggs today. Their water keeps freezing up. I am hoping to implement Sally L’s suggestion for using an old crock pot. So far I have succeeded in borrowing the outer electrical unit part.
January 26, 2003 Sunday: My grandson Rafe and a college friend are here. They carried out an idea we both had for stabilizing the manger in the beefer pen. It is a heavy box shaped thing about 5’square with head slots. The cows get their heads in the slots and carry the thing across the room. Then every time I feed out hay I must first go in and shove it into position under the hay drop. This is annoying, and it is heavy. Furthermore, the sheep are always climbing through the head slots and eating from inside so that the cows have to eat their hay from among the legs of sheep. The boys have now put a bottom into the thing which it did not previously have and have run ropes from each corner up over the rafters. Now when the cows put their heads in the slots and push the whole manger swings. The sheep do not care to be in a swinging basket, so it appears, and are now less pesky. Helen gave only 2 gallons yesterday and today. I got only three eggs today.
January 27, 2003 Monday: It is hard to speak of anything but the weather. It snowed a few inches yesterday and last night and this temporarily brought the temperature up above freezing. Today it was back below zero with a return of a strong wind that threatens to slice one’s face off. Nothing daunted, the boys ate a lot of spaghetti and snowshoed up Mt. Blue today before returning to school. Helen gave about 2 ½ gallons. We got five eggs.
January 29, 2003 Wednesday: Helen gave 2 ½ gallons today. This morning Leah came in with one quarter (the same one as before) stuffed with milk, so I milked out a quart. She was cooperative. Both cows are coming in filthy every time. I am taking ever-increasing amounts of hot water and cloths to the barn and must work about ten minutes on udder clean-up before I can milk. It is mostly because they are loose and do not choose to spend their days outside in bad weather. While inside they consistently favor the same spots to hang around or lie – in. I carry out plenty of fork loads and spread around mulch hay but have yet to see much benefit from these exertions. Only three eggs today. One chicken was sneezing.
January 30, 2003 Thursday: It was 10F this morning, but the sun was bright and the temp got up over 20F by afternoon. The weatherman says it will be cold again tomorrow. I bought Virginia and Cletus a salt block and Helena put it into the wall frame where it fits. They were so excited about it and so pushy they soon knocked it down. Somehow today Virginia got a cut on her ear. It was dripping blood. It seems as though a nail must have caused it but we examined the walls of their pen and found nothing. Thank goodness it was her ear and not her eye. Helen gave something over 2 ½ gallons today. I only got three eggs. I have changed to another brand of chicken feed. This always gets them excited even though it is hard to really be sure if it is any better. I am taking even more trouble about their water. I think they are just tired of the cold.
January 31, 2003 Friday: Helen continues to come in for milking very dirty. I take about six quarts of boiling water to the barn with me. It is hand hot by the time I am ready to wash her udder. First I get off what I can by brushing. I have four clean cloths, one for each teat. This way I do not have to sozzle a cloth that is already soiled when I wash the next teat. I also have a roll of paper towels handy.
Tomorrow I hope to set up a slow cooker according to the suggestion of Sally L for the chicken water. I keep breaking open their water but so much of the time it is frozen. Today or tomorrow is the day Leah will come in heat if she is not bred. She bellowed two or three times this evening and my heart sank. Her calf, Maria, darted in with the cows at milking time and spent the time nursing on her mother. This saved me a lot of trouble. Helen gave only a little over two gallons today. I got five eggs and one was frozen.
February 1, 2003 Saturday: I heard no bellowing from Leah (indicating she was in heat) until after milking chores were over and I was back in the house. But, it turned out that she and Helen had a good excuse. They were standing beside their water tub which was empty. Some bad actor had knocked it out of alignment with the dripping tap that has been keeping it filled. Not only this, but they had bent the copper pipe, which is not all that strong, into an L shape. I very slowly bent it back. The moment I turned it on both cows put their heads into the tub and drank the water as fast as it ran. I had to crouch there about ten minutes defending the tap. For the remainder of the day I heard no further mooing so I am permitting myself cautious optimism that Leah may be bred. It was much warmer today. I did not check the actual temperature because of my day-long focus on the tragic news of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia. But it had to be over thirty. Even after dark the eves of the barn were dripping. Helen gave only two gallons today and I got only four eggs.
February 2, 2003 Sunday: Still no signs of heat in Leah. So it looks like Mollybrook Poseidon Adventure is the man of the hour. I am also happy to report that the cuts on her teats are a lot better. Only one still looks weepy. It snowed all day today. Heavy wet snow creating a classically beautiful winter landscape. It is not very cold. Just about 32F. Helen gave a bit over two gallons. There were eight eggs.
February 4, 2003 Tuesday: A lot of new snow has fallen since yesterday. It is blocking the big gate into the barnyard where we go through to feed the pigs. My buckets and I can barely squeeze through. The pigs are looking shiny and sleek although one is a lot bigger than the other. All the animals look great,except the cows are getting dirty. It takes me about ten minutes to get Helen clean at each milking. I must say, her manners are excellent. She stands like a rock. Leah also allows me to handle her udder and teats with a minimum of wincing. All but one teat look well recovered. The snow is now deep enough to cause me to make a floundering, ungraceful progress to the barn. But, it is much warmer. It has hung around 30F now for three days. No one has come to plow me out. I went to town for feed today and to feed my cousin’s cat. I made it through the berm at the end of the driveway by driving at high speed, but could only make it half way back up the driveway when I came home. Helen gave 1½ gallons today and I got five eggs.
February 5, 2003 Wednesday: I picked up the phone and called my neighbor that plows. He said his truck had been broken down but now was working and he arrived not long after. He broke open the berm and plowed a few swathes before getting himself hopelessly mired down in snow exactly in front of the overhead door where we put hay into the barn. He walked home to get help, but the vehicle he brought was too light to tow his truck and merely succeeded in digging its way down into my lawn. His truck kept spinning its wheels and then breathed its last. They both went home in the tow vehicle. As it happens, my hay man called and declared his intention, oft deferred, of bringing my hay order next Monday or Tuesday. There is no way to get hay in past that dead truck. My neighbor sent his young nephew over on a riding mower fitted with a little blade. He cleared a path to get my car into the garage. My car had a deep layer of snow on it so I could barely open the door. For those living in a warmer climate I must tell you that around here if you have a garage it is best to put your car into it. A storm such as we just had is quite likely to freeze your car doors shut. And worse, freeze your lock. Forget operating the windshield wipers. They also did not get around to plowing me a trail to the barn. The snow has drifted well above my boots. It has drifted against the paddock gate making necessary a detour through the barn to feed the pigs. Helen gave her usual 1½ gallons and there were eight eggs. I tossed a white Leghorn cockerel out from life among the layers. He was standing outside the box waiting for a little white hen to lay. Often the cockerel is waiting to eat the egg. I did not wait for his explanation but grabbed my handy landing net and scooped him up.
February 7, 2003 Friday: Winter continues to be the main topic on the minds of Mainers. Today got to me a bit because my car heater quit. We had a little new snow, just a dusting. The cows pushed their water tub out of line again. I heard them down there rattling their bells and stomping around. Like last time, when I began filling the tub Helen and Leah with their heads tight together drank as fast as the tap ran for about ten minutes. I crouched there holding the faucet and tub so they would not shove everything out of line again. Helen only managed 1 gallon plus one quart today. I got nine eggs.
February 9, 2003 Sunday: When I stepped outside to do the midday feeding I heard all kids of bellowing from the barn. I stuck my head into the beefer pen to have a look and there was the pink pig, Phoebe, greeting me at the door. She had escaped her own pen and come to visit the cows. I was not terribly surprised, because last night when I fed them I saw that they had broken down a 2×4 above their trough. The board was dangling and it was obvious that they would soon figure out that they could leave whenever they wanted to. The presence of a displaced pig was annoying to Helen and totally infuriating to Leah who has her daughter Marie to think about. Who knows, maybe pigs are dangerous to heifers? Phoebe looked perfectly at home and stuck her head right into the manger when I threw down hay. This was way too much for Leah and she ran full speed around the feeder and slammed her head into Phoebe. Phoebe backed off a bit and looked up at me. In fact they both looked up at me. Then Phoebe went back to eating. It is very hard to distract a pig from eating. I explained to Leah that there was not a blamed thing I could do about the party crasher until some help showed up. I am not able to deal with the damage to the pen and there is no use tempting Phoebe home until it is fixed. I also pointed out that cows have been co-existing with pigs since the year dot. Later: Fortunately my grandson Rafe showed up with some friends. He repaired the pigpen and I was able to tempt Phoebe and Emily, who soon joined Phoebe for their outing, back inside. Phoebe especially is very friendly and probably could be allowed out often if it didn’t drive the cows nuts. They bellowed all day. I did not even bother milking Helen tonight after all the excitement. I got seven eggs.
February 11, 2003 Tuesday: All peaceful here today. Thermometer read 6F this morning and there was considerable wind early in the day. The sun was brilliant and the wind calmed down enough so the cows stood outside during the afternoon. Nonetheless it is a big task trying to keep the indoor area (beefer pen) clean enough so that they can lie down in a dry spot. The manure pile by the outside ramp is now about five feet high. That represents considerable aerobic activity on my part. For this opportunity I do not need to attend a workout class. Yesterday following an evening of skipping the milking Helen gave three Gallons, but today only two. I got nine eggs.
February 12, 2003 Wednesday: My hay arrived today at last. It is not as good as the hay I got last fall. It is first cut timothy with some reed canary. I fed it out tonight and Helen turned up her nose at it. She went around to the other side of the feeder to see if they were getting something different over there. Leah did not appear to have a problem with it. My hay man brought a helper and I had my granddaughter Helena and her brother David to help also. So, it was soon stacked in the barn. My hay man says he ran across some good alfalfa and I asked him to bring me some of that if he can. Helen gave 2 ½ gallons today and I got seven eggs. It was down to 10F this morning, then started to snow and got up around 15F for a little while.
February 13, 2003 Thursday: I gave the cows extra hay today because of the cold weather. Helen does not like the new hay, but I notice it did disappear. She gave only a bit over two gallons today. I don’t know if this is because of the cold weather or the lower hay quality. I called and increased my alfalfa order. This morning started out at 6F, but never got above zero even though the sun was bright. The wind was blowing too. I wonder how the wild animals in the woods are faring. For the first time in my life I saw crows on my bird feeder. They must be really hungry. I suppose they could have been ravens. I am not sure how to tell the difference. My granddaughter Helena made a rich chocolate cake to warm us up. My vet stopped in and I fed him a big slice.
February 14, 2003 Friday: Thursday and Friday were much the same. Helen gave two gallons and about a quart. Today there were only five eggs. It was -20F this morning. The critters are having a hard time being good sports. A persistent wind keeps them from being very comfortable. They do go stand outside whenever it dies down. The weatherman says that perhaps there will only be a couple more of these cold days.
February 16, 2003 Sunday: Helen’s production is dropping. She did not reach two gallons today. I don’t know if it is the cold or her dislike of the new hay. Maybe both. Surprisingly, the hens are not laying too badly. I got seven eggs yesterday and nine today. It was not quite so cold this morning, -10F and the wind has diminished. The sun shone for several hours too. The cold is building up in the walls. The water to the kitchen sink was frozen again and the feed line to the radiator in the kitchen. Both are on the Western exposure that faces the wind. I spent all my free time today getting the pipes thawed out but was successful at last.
February 17, 2003 Monday: Nobody speaks of anything but the weather these days so why should I be the exception? It got up to 10F today and I broke into a sweat while mucking out. Helen continues to object to her new hay. I throw it down and she looks up at me and goes “Moo!” I have taken to throwing down a couple of flakes of her favorite stuff to top it off. Only three eggs today. I don’t think the chickens care much for their current feed either. Darn it. It’s $1.50 cheaper than Nutrena (Cargill). The vast snow storm muffling the East Coast is supposed to reach us tonight. If it doesn’t snow us in I will go buy feed. Helen gave two gallons today.
February 18, 2003 Tuesday: The snowstorm hasn’t amounted to much so far, even though it snowed all day. Three inches maybe, no wind and 20F. I called and had the feed delivered, so did not have to go out. All the animals including the dogs seemed happier today. I got ten eggs. Helen gave one gallon plus a quart.
February 20, 2003 Thursday: At last a warm sunny day. It got up to 40F. I sat on my deck for a few minutes just to be able to say I had done it. My feet were in six inches of snow yet it seemed warm. My alfalfa arrived today. I have never before been able to get alfalfa in Maine, but my hay man came across somebody with a barn full and bought it up. I was warned that the cows might not take to it right away but they actually lunged at it. Both yesterday and today Helen gave about two gallons and I got 11 eggs.
February 21, 2003: A young woman whom I have known many years stopped by with her two small girls and we did a farm tour. Both girls are fascinated with the animals. They petted the velvety noses of Cletus and Virginia in their garage stall and saw pigs for the first time. Like all visiting children they consider it a very special treat to collect the eggs. Her mother tells me that the younger girl, Emma, does not care for milk except when she gets a glass of “Helen’s milk”. It is mighty fine. Helen gave two gallons today and I got seven eggs.
February 22, 2003 Saturday: At last I can say that the cuts on Leah’s teats are truly healed. I have washed her udder every day and applied vitamin E. Maria’s style of nursing has not caused any new ones. Today was in the 40’s and heavily overcast. I felt a bit of spring in the air and opened the outer door of the chicken room so they could step out onto the snow if they wanted to. Mostly they just stood in the doorway. Two of my best Black Australorp hens noticed the door behind me to the barn left ajar and escaped to join the seven birds that live “free”. They knew exactly what they were doing and were unwilling to be shooed back where they belong. At dusk they got up high with the others but did not settle down. They stood there eyeing me so they could fly away in case I had in mind catching them. Now we are having a sleet storm. Helen gave two gallons and there were nine eggs.
February 23, 2003 Sunday: Sleet has fallen since yesterday and now a great wind has arisen, but I can report that I smell spring in the air. The animals are friskier too; even my old dog Muffin who takes two minutes to stand up in the morning tries to bounce a bit. Helen gave two gallons today. I got seven eggs.
February 25, 2003 Tuesday: Winter has blown back in. Maine was down in the single numbers today with an icy wind and sub zero expected tonight. I saw grim faces in town today. We Mainers are having trouble staying good sports about the Winter of 2003! A lot of people have frozen pipes and are out of luck until spring thaw. My water is running, I am pleased to report. But I’m afraid Helen is feeling the effect. She gave only 1.75 gal. today, and I had to squeeze hard for that. Poor Leah is looking thin, but her calf, Maria, of course looks great. The chickens are doing ok. Their room has a lot of hay in it and that helps keep them comfortable. They have no more frozen water since I tried Sally L’s idea of using a crock pot. I got 11 eggs yesterday, 10 today. The sheep have a new trick. They crowd around when we feed the pigs and try to get the pig food. At first it was just one sheep, then another day it was two. Now all six try to get a taste.
February 26, 2003 Wednesday: Another cold morning, -10F. But, with brilliant sun all day and more hours of daylight it warmed slightly. By afternoon there was melt water running off the eves and long icicles forming. When the sun got low it shone so brilliant on the hard crust that I could not look in that direction. The cows knocked their water tub out of the way again. They heard my feet over their heads and began mooing, so I went down to check. As before, they were so thirsty that after I turned the water on they both put their heads down and sucked it off the bottom of the tub as fast as it ran in. They did this for about ten minutes before finally raising their heads. I had to crouch there holding onto the tub or they would have scooted it away from the tap. The few hens that are free ranging among the cows are up to their old tricks. This morning I found a nest with six beautiful eggs, all frozen. I put them into the pig bucket.
February 27, 2003 Thursday: Those bad hens that run around loose have hidden their eggs so I can’t find a one! I really tried today. When I do find them they will be frozen. Tomorrow I will take a flashlight, better still, I’ll send granddaughter Helena with the flashlight. They aren’t getting away with this! Nine eggs from the confined hens. Just over two gallons from Helen. I rather imagine Leah is giving as much or more than Helen. I saw Maria nursing this evening. When I opened the door to let them in at milking time Leah did not stir. Ordinarily she bolts in even sometimes getting ahead of Helen in her hurry for her grain. But, she would not move until Maria was finished nursing. This required a good five minutes. It was 15F this morning.
February 28, 2003 Friday: Fifteen minutes with a flashlight did not reveal any new nests, but I did find two eggs in nesting spots where I have been checking. In these I have put fake eggs. Hens free to choose won’t lay in a nest from which the eggs disappear. Their genes tell them the fox is about. But they are easily fooled by wooden eggs. I got eight eggs from the housed birds. Helen gave two gallons. She is not getting thin like Leah. She has always been a bit of a meatloaf compared to Leah who is very dainty. Leah is getting about 8lb/day of grain and pretty much all the hay she can eat. The hay I am now feeding is good quality. She is putting it all into milk for Maria. It was 8F this morning but got up over thirty this afternoon under a bright sun. I made 4lb of lard from some pork fat I had in the freezer.
March 2, 2003 Sunday: Four of my family went out on snowshoes yesterday and followed the river for a long way. Bagel dog went along and had a wonderful time. He is so happy when events like this occur. I know he thinks I don’t take him for enough walks. Nonetheless, he faithfully accompanies me to the mailbox and waits in our driveway while I cross the road. He waits in front of the barn while I do the chores. That is the most excitement he gets much of the time.
Another nice big snowstorm arrived today. It is warm, only about freezing, so the flakes are big and wet, just right for snowballs. The cows went out today and stood on the manure pile. I suppose heat rises from it. They looked pretty funny. The snow has blocked the gate we go through when taking the pigs their meals. We are going to have to make a big detour now until we get a thaw. I had so much help today that we lost track of the number of eggs but I know Helen gave a bit over two gallons.
March 3, 2003 Monday: This morning the temperature started out at zero, but the thermometer fell all day. There was a strong wind too with wind chills about -30. By evening it warmed back up to zero. There was bright sun all day. On Sunday when it was so warm we opened up the window in the new calf pen in the carriage house/garage where the calves, Cletus and Virginia now live. This morning they looked kind of miserable with all that wind, so visiting son Bret has tied it shut again. It is not a real window, just a flapping shutter and is tricky to keep closed. He devised something with hay string. All the animals got extra feed today to cheer them up, but still Helen gave under two gallons. I got seven eggs. The chickens were all looking mumpish huddled together with their feathers fluffed.
March 4, 2003 Tuesday: Thirteen eggs today! The hens must be telling me that spring is on the way. Helen gave a bit over two gallons. I nearly forgot the pigs tonight. My son Bret went out in the dark for me and took them their dinner. They are very friendly pigs and appreciate every attention. It was 18F this morning but was sunny and warmed up to 20F by afternoon. There are magnificent icicles in the south side of the house.
March 6, 2003 Thursday: My grandson Rafe and a friend were here today and tried to dig loose the big metal gate to the barnyard that froze shut in the last storm. But, there was too much ice. The gate is shut now until be get a real thaw. We will have to continue making a detour around the back of the house to feed the pigs. The new route follows the path the cows have made to come up to the buttery for their water, so there is a well beaten path.
When we feed the pigs the sheep crowd around hoping for a few grains of pig feed and usually they get a bit. When I throw down hay for the cows inevitably quite a lot falls on the sheep. I have worried that this will spoil their wool. Yet the wool looks quite clean. I notice they nibble the bits of hay off each other’s backs. It is almost as though they are grooming each other. I don’t know enough about to sheep to know if this is common behavior. Helen gave two gallons and maybe a pint. I got one dozen eggs. The weather today was cold and bleak, about 15F.
March 7, 2003 Friday: My granddaughter Helena introduced the calves, Cletus and Virginia, to apples today. We had some that were beginning to spoil. Cletus went for them right away but Virginia started out by just licking them. They seem to like them better when they are starting to spoil. It can be hard for cows to eat apples whole. It is better to cut their apples for them. There is a slight chance of choking. If the apples are on the ground they can eat them better. They dearly love to clean up under apple trees. Helen gave 2 gallons and maybe a pint. I got 13 eggs. This morning started off at 10F but warmed up to about 20F during the sunny part of the day. Maine gets a lot of sun in winter.
March 8, 2003 Saturday : It was wonderfully warm today, about 40F and sunny. Now that I go the back way to feed the pigs along the back of the buildings, I am seeing things I have been overlooking. The cows are tearing shingles off the back of the carriage house. For some reason they love doing that. It is a form of bovine cribbing. Cows do not have upper incisors so cannot crib like horses on the upper edges of things. But they can get their lower incisors under the edges of shingles and rip them off. The ground back there is littered with cedar shingles. They are not eating them, just throwing them around. I brought in a bunch to dry out for kindling. Tonight when I let the cows in for milking Maria followed her mother at a run and began feeding. She is big and rambunctious now, and I have not been allowing her in with the cows for weeks. She has her mother all day outside. Helen was annoyed by this departure from the usual protocols and did not let down very well. She gave a bit over two gallons today. I got 11 eggs.
March 9, 2003 Sunday: Helena found Fraidy Cat’s kittens. Fraidy is so fearful that we rarely find her Kittens, but this time she could not resist a box of hay Helena had put in the attic in the carriage house. There are three kittens. They are black and white like all the rest of the cats around here. Helena set out all kinds of food choices for Fraidy. Actually, I am able to pet Fraidy and probably Helena soon will be able to also. But, mostly she bolts away for no good reason. Today started out warm. It was actually 32F at 6AM but is turning colder tonight. Helen gave a gallon plus a pint and I got 11 eggs.
March 11, 2003 Tuesday: Sub zero overnight temperatures continue, but it gets up over 20F by afternoon. That is not warm enough to tempt me outdoors, except of course for chores. At this evening’s milking I found a small cut on Helen’s near front teat. It looks like something a nail or splinter might do. By the end of milking she was having a hard time controlling her impulse to kick. I slathered it with vitamin E and zinc ointment. Leah did not want her grain tonight. She put her head into her stanchion, and then walked away. She did go back and stand in place but did not eat. This morning’s grain was still there too which I failed to notice when I poured in more tonight. It is somewhat dark where she stands. She doesn’t act sick. I can’t imagine why she did not eat unless she just hates the grain. It is a new kind I have not bought before, Purina, and is only 14% protein. I picked it up the other day when I was in a hurry. Helen’s production is dropping. Yesterday and today it fell under two gallons. I got a dozen eggs yesterday and eight today.
March 12, 2003 Wednesday: Up to 40F today under cloudy skies. It felt springy and so I ventured to flounder down to look at my little fishpond. Of course it is still frozen solid under a goodly layer of snow, but at least I reached it. Every few steps I went into the snow above my boots. Up against the house there is some bare ground showing. Helena took a hammer out to the barn and did a pig pen repair. One of the 2″x 8″s about four feet off the ground has been looking wobbly. Phoebe, the larger pink pig can put her feet on it and I figured it was only a matter of time until it came loose. If you have not raised pigs yourself it is hard to believe how strong the pen needs to be. One may think of a pig as fat but in fact it is an arch of powerful muscle on short strong legs in the service of a snout that can lift at least its own weight. If you pat a pig what you feel is as solid as a soccer ball. No way would you ever lift up a bit to pinch the way you can on other animals. Helena also pitched a lot of manure out the window of the calf pen. Helen gave a bit more milk than yesterday, 1 ¾ gal. I got 11 eggs. Helen’s injured teat was looking better. I am continuing to apply vitamin E and zinc ointment.
March 13, 2003 Thursday: There was not much melting today, but enough to expose a ruff of dry grass along the fence line near the barn. The sheep got all excited about nibbling at it. All the animals pine for spring now, I can tell. Count me in. Helen gave 1 ¾ gal. today and there were 10 eggs.
March 14, 2003 Friday: A possible sign of spring today; when I brush Helen a lot of hair comes out. Perhaps she is expecting warmer weather. She did not get it today. It started out about 8F and eventually made it to 18F with a cold wind and little sun. I could tell that Helen and Leah were feeling really crabby. They kept chasing the sheep around the feeder and changing places all the while shaking their heads in annoyance. Helen gave a little over 1 ½ gallons. I got a dozen eggs. I did not think the chickens were feeling too cheerful either. But they did look cute lined up shoulder to shoulder to take advantage of a strip of sunbeam that hit their window about 8am.
March 15, 2003 Saturday: Lots warmer today. The snow is still a foot or more thick in most places but the sun has created an icy surface. As a result I have done some unexpected gymnastics while carrying pails. I spread ashes on the path to the barn for traction. At the noon feeding today I stepped out the back door of the barn and Bagel thought surely I must be setting out on a walk. When I turned to go back in he looked so crestfallen that I changed my mind and set out across the pasture following a path the cows and sheep have pounded down. It leads over to a row of pine trees. The sun beats in there making a sun trap and melting away the snow. The cows love to go there and stand. The ground is warm with pine needles. Helen gave 1 ¾ gallons today and there were nine eggs.
March 16, 2003 Sunday: Helena went in with the pigs today, Phoebe and Emma, and pitched out about 2 inches of manure. The pigs are actually tidier than the calves. The cows and sheep made several more sorties to their sun trap over by the woods. They go in single file like an ant train. It got up to 40F today. Helena set out buckets under the eves and caught two buckets of water for the calves. Helen did a bit better today. She gave almost two gallons. I got a dozen eggs.
March 17, 2003 Monday: It got up to 60F today! Everyone is smiling. The animals all stood out in the sun and baked. Helen’s production responded well. She gave over two gallons. A few bare spots are appearing where the snow is thinner. My flock of eight unconfined birds were out exploring the exposed ground. On sunny days I open the door for the confined layers so they can go out in their run if they choose. So far none has bothered. They see no point in walking on snow and their yard is still a foot deep. I got ten eggs today.
March 18, 2003 Tuesday: Not quite so warm today, but warm enough to tempt me out onto my deck in the early morning with my tea. Unfortunately, on my way back in I stumbled and struck my right hand against the doorjamb with painful results. My third finger feels really insulted and it was hard to milk. Helen came in very dirty and became impatient with my prolonged clean up. She flipped her filthy tail at me a few times. Usually if I touch her tail and say “No”, she remembers that I hate that. I think in this case she was expressing her annoyance and already knew jolly well I didn’t appreciate it. I got a hay string and tied it around her tail and the other end to a nail. Then I had quiet milking except for the pinging in my third finger. There is already an arthritic lump on the first joint, but ordinarily it is not painful. Helen gave 2 gallons plus about a quart. I got a dozen eggs.
March 19, 2003 Wednesday: With weather getting warmer and some patches of bare ground appearing, I felt it was time to check on fences. My granddaughter Helena and I made an expedition this morning along the fence that borders the road. This often gets badly damaged by the snowplow. It was hard traveling. In places the snow is now thin but elsewhere it is deep and dense. You take a few steps, and then sink in. Often we went way over the tops of our boots and even above our knees. We went around the North Field and decided to leave the rest for another day. I flagged some problem areas, but there is little damage compared to last year. Upon returning, I looked in on the calves and saw something dangling out of Virginia’s mouth. It proved to be a truly loathsome slimy old rag covered with dried on dung. I grabbed it and pulled it out of her mouth. Half of it was already down her throat and she was struggling with it. She could easily have choked if I had not happened along. Helena and I went to a lot of trouble cleaning the stall before moving in the calves but it has a dirt floor and I suppose subsurface detritus is being stirred up. Cows have no way of removing something from their mouths once it gets past their tongue. They often swallow string just because that is all they can do with it once it begins to head down the throat. This is so scary.
March 20, 2003 Thursday: Today was overcast, but not cold and now it has started to rain, the first rain. But, just to give an index to what a relentless winter we have had, on the day after Thanksgiving I boiled the turkey bones for stock, then to get the bones out of the way I put them in the buttery in a big stainless steel bowl. That night they froze, effectively postponing my decision as to how to dispose of them. Those bones never thawed out until this week. Today I brought them in looking much as they looked in November and threw them into the wood stove. Now for a real sign of spring, a bantam hen has gone broody. She is in a box of hay near where I feed the barn cats, but they never bother the hens. The finger I smashed two days ago is some better. I was able to milk without favoring it. Helen gave just barely two gallons today. There were ten eggs.
March 21, 2003 Friday: The Vernal Equinox is today. That always seems exciting to me. It rained last night, just the end of the terrible storm that has plagued the rest of the country. Now today was warm and sunny and much snow melted. The animals have been walking here and there. The chicken yard is on the north side of the barn and still under snow, but I took them a treat and they all went outside. The treat was a tray of sunflower seed sprouts about 4″ tall. There was nothing left next time I looked. Even the soil less mix was gone. Helen gave a bit under two gallons today and I got only eight eggs.
March 22, 2003 Saturday: Another sign of spring today, when I stepped outside this evening I smelled a skunk. I guess they are waking up. I spent a lot of today cooking. My goal was Tres Leche Cake. It calls for the hottest new ingredient, Dulce de Leche. I was unfamiliar with this and so were the authors of all my cookbooks. But, the description of it was “caramelized milk”. Back came memories from the 1930’s of my father, the country’s first house husband, making a Lucullien sweet by boiling an unopened can of Eagle Brand condensed milk for hours. I had a dusty can of Eagle Brand in my cupboard and read the label: Never heat an unopened can. Unopened it went into a saucepan of water whereupon I simmered it in the Aga oven for about an hour and a half. (My infant memory was that my father simmered it for four hours and my sister has confirmed this.) After cooling the can I opened it. It was still pourable, not thick and fudgy as I remembered, but the flavor is perfect. I feel sure I have achieved Dulce de Leche on my own. Helen gave only 1 ¾ gallon today. I fear that the finger I bashed a few days ago is still inhibiting proper milking. There were 11 eggs.
March 23, 2003 Sunday: Helen gave a bit over two gallons today. There were nine eggs. A great deal of snow melted today. The ice has gone out of the river, but the water level is not at flood stage yet, or anywhere near. I don’t believe we will have flooding this year.
March 24, 2003 Monday: There is a little brown bantam gone broody. She has been broody nearly a week and other hens have stopped laying under her. For a few days after they go broody other hens pop eggs under them hoping to get a free ride for their egg I guess. This hen seems faithful to her task, so tonight I went out after dark and put six large eggs from heavy layers under her. I marked her cardboard box with the date in big letters. For the first time this year the sheep were all out on the knoll nibbling. Helen gave two gallons. There were seven eggs.
March 26, 2003 Wednesday: It rained most of the day, a gentle steady rain that will not cause flooding. The thermometer stood around 40F. I’d say that 90% of the snow is now gone. The hen yard is still half ice, but there are some holes in the fence and most of the chickens went exploring the wider world. Some adventurous ones were halfway over to the woods. I should have picked up pig feed when I went out Monday but persuaded myself we had enough for a couple of more days. I was mistaken. So the pigs have been eating dog food for their last four meals. They really like it. My grandson Rafe and a friend from their school in Bar Harbor popped in last night on their way to have fun somewhere in Vermont. I cobbled together a square meal finished off by rice pudding. They plan to return at the weekend to shear the sheep. It is a big awkward job for us tyros. My daughter, Sally, the true owner of the sheep, has just completed weaving a blanket from the wool from last year. She is a master spinner and a highly competent weaver. She turns out wool projects with impressive frequency. Helen gave two gallons today and there were 13 eggs. I found one of the hidden nests. It contained four beautiful blue eggs.
March 27, 2003 Thursday: Helena and I walked along the river to the confluence with Hutchinson Brook. I wanted to see if my spring line was leaking in any of the exposed places. I did not see any damage. However, where it crosses the brook the line was not visible because the water is muddy. The ice in the river is moving slowly downstream. The river is high,but still three feet below the top of the six-foot bank. We spotted some fence damage that I will have to go back and repair. The barbed wire is full of wool tufts the sheep have left. There were also dog prints. It appears that Bagel has been doing a tour down there. There are always a few dead deer in the woods that have been shot during hunting season and not successfully tracked. Now they emerge from the melting snow. Bagel dragged home a foot yesterday. All the animals have been spending time on the pasture. I saw tufts of old brown grass in Leah’s mouth. They do so long to graze. They also prefer the melt water to their civilized tub. Helen gave two gallons today. There were ten eggs.
March 28, 2003 Friday: To welcome spring I daringly removed the plastic from one kitchen window. We usually have at least one late snowstorm in March or April, so I may regret this, but it is so nice to be able to open the window when there is warmth in the middle of the day. The sheep voted for spring by not showing up for hay this evening. For the first time since last fall they were not there crowding in with the cows annoying them. I suppose they must have filled up on old brown grass. Helen gave a scant two gallons today. She is much cleaner now that she spends a lot of time walking around outdoors. There were eight eggs. A Black Australorp has gone broody. She had been laying well.
March 29, 2003 Saturday: When I let the dogs out this morning I did a double take. There was my Grandson, Rafe’s white pickup in the driveway but I was unaware of any extra people in the house and certainly had not heard anybody come in. It turned out that they arrived about 2AM, did not want to wake us and did not know where the key was. So, he and his two friends Tom and Silas got their sleeping bags and slept in the haymow. When they showed up in the kitchen they claimed to have slept very well except for periodic disturbance by the roosters. They came to shear the sheep. Rafe and I went out after a hearty breakfast of pancakes and bacon and attempted to separate the sheep from the cows. I had locked the entire lot inside the beefer pen after morning milking. The cows badly wanted to get out and went for the door as soon as I opened it. We tried to hold back the sheep but two got through by running among the cows’ legs. After that it required a half hour of ingenuity to get all the sheep collected up in the small box stall. The men then brought them out one at a time and sheered them with my power clippers. It took about three hours for the six sheep. The guys did a good job, but the sheep always look pretty funny without their fleeces. Later it started to rain, but is not very cold, and of course they have shelter. The men also repaired the hay feeder that was falling apart again. Helen gave two gallons of milk. I lost track of the eggs but it was about a dozen.
March 31, 2003 Monday: An unwelcome sight this morning when I looked out my bedroom window: a snow covered world. It snowed almost all day yesterday, but there was no wind and the temperature remained mild. The snow landed as slush and a lot of it melted. The newly shorn sheep did not appear to suffer. Today the thermometer fell and a cold wind blew and I saw the sheep shivering. They are all fat so I hope they are able to adjust quickly. When I entered the room where my layers are the wind blew open the door behind me. A fat Black Cochin hen and a trim Black Australorp grabbed their chance to try life on the loose. At evening chores the Cochin was huddled by the door wanting to get back inside but the Australorp had gone into hiding. I caught a different free hen to make up for the loss. She was easy to catch because she always roosts on a ladder in plain sight. Helen gave 2 ¼ gallons and there were 16 eggs.
April 1, 2003 Tuesday: It was back down to 18F this morning but did not feel as cold as yesterday as there was no wind. But, the farm is once again under snow and my stairs off the deck that I use to visit the pigs were thick with ice. As usual, when I went to the barn this morning I went straight in to administer to the chickens. I soon became aware that cow and sheep bells were very close, much too close, right outside the door in fact! Apparently I had not hooked the interior door to the Beefer Pen, their nighttime home, and when they heard me in the barn they all came traipsing in. I was glad that my habit of always latching the door to the grain room had not failed me. I am so paranoid about this that I close it even when just going in and out with grain pans. If they ever got in there they would not come out until they foundered. Plus the floor is weak and it is unlikely it would hold two cows not to mention a heifer calf and six sheep. Whew! I did go back for a last look at them all last night to see if the sheep were still shivering. They were not, nor were they today. The adventuresome Black Australorp was ready to go home this morning but fled when I advanced to open the door for her. Later I saw that she had found her way back to her friends through a hole in the chicken wire run. She was back on her perch tonight. Helen gave about 2 ¼ gallons today. I found eight eggs.
April 4, 2003 Friday: I call this English weather. It has been gray and overcast, the thermometer hanging right around 30F, just so the cold seems to penetrate. I have been keeping a close eye on my hay and figured that if warm weather were to get here by the middle of April I would have enough. Even though there won’t be any grazing before May, the cows and sheep spend sunny days poking around the pasture and don’t eat as much when they come in. The sheep, especially, seem to fill up on something. Now another two-day snowstorm is predicted. So, this morning I picked up the phone and ordered another fifty bales. A week or so ago I planted a tray of seeds and all are up. The seedlings are of lettuce, tomato, cabbage and cardoon. Cardoon is a big elegant looking plant thought by some to resemble artichoke in flavor. I grew it once years ago but can’t remember that I got around to eating any. So this should be an entertaining experiment.
April 5, 2003 Saturday: Snow fell last night, all day today and is still falling at 9:00 o’clock at night. It is pretty cold too, so I expect it will linger awhile. I saw the sheep out in the paddock pawing it away as they looked for grazing. They get plenty of hay. They just want to graze. Helen gave about 2 ½ gallons today and I got eight eggs. One young but very large rooster who was a chick last summer has found his way in with the layers. He has been a free-living guy and has decided he prefers a hopper of feed and the company of hens to the bachelor lifestyle. The two old roosters look worried. They now spend the day under the bench.
April 6, 2003 Sunday: It might as well have been February today. Snow everywhere and a great cold wind whipping it up. I drove to town to take custard to my cousin who was coming home from the hospital. It was the worst driving I have encountered all winter. Later the sun came out and the weather settled down. My hay man brought the fifty bales I ordered. I helped stack them. I did not have to do much because he brought along his teenage son. I have been giving the calves, Virginia and Cletus, my poor quality hay so I have enough good hay for the cows. After the new hay came I felt generous and scattered a whole bale of poor hay in with the calves for bedding. They were so thrilled that they ran around in circles playing in it, kicking up their heels. Helen gave close to 1 ½ gallons today and I got 13 eggs.
April 7, 2003 Monday: It seemed that winter had us once again in its grip this morning. It was 20F with snow everywhere. By late afternoon spring had fought her way back and large bare patches of field again are to be seen. The sheep and cows were all out looking for nibbles.
My vet stopped by and was good enough to bob the young tomcat that Helena nurtured all through the fall and winter. She calls him Koffee. He was badly afflicted with worms and the Lord only knows what else. Without her care he would never have made it. Now he is a very lively fellow who rushes the older cats and wrestles them to the floor. At present he is spending a quiet evening recovering from his operation. No doubt greatly to the relief of the old cats, all four of whom are getting a quiet evening for once. Helen gave a bit less than 2 ½ gals today. I got 13 eggs.
April 8, 2003 Tuesday: I saw the sheep doing a bit of running today and a few grandmotherly hops. This is surely a sign of spring. Only seven eggs today. Helen gave a good solid 2s ½ gallons. She stands so beautifully for milking, just a perfect lady, that it is hard to realize what a pill she was when first I milked her. In those days her legs were always flying.
April 10, 2003 Thursday: On the way to the barn this morning under a sunny sky I heard geese calling. I looked up and there was a perfect V of Canada geese flying purposefully due north. What an inspiring sight! I have been getting fewer eggs lately than I think I ought to, so I went on a search. I found two nests in the outside north wall of the barn. There is some winter-loosened cladding there. In one nest the eggs were cold so I took eleven bluish white ones. The other nest had a black Australorp on it and she was full of fight. She finally got off and I saw about a dozen eggs. I don’t know how long she has been setting but the eggs had the dull surface of eggs that are not freshly laid. They may be close to hatching. I let her keep them and will check daily for chicks. When I looked a few minutes later she had settled back onto her nest.
Helena went into the attic over the carriage house and found a kitten. It is one from a litter born about a month ago to Fraidy Cat. There are two more, or were. Helena was able to pick up the kitten and she could hear others scrabbling around under stuff. This kitten was adorable with very long black fur and a little white chin and feet and horrified blue eyes. It was a female. She put it back in its nest. In the hen house I got 13 eggs. Helen gave a bit over 2 ½ gallons of milk today. The sheep were so contented in the pasture that they did not come in for evening hay. We have put the pigs on three meals a day. They have a date with destiny on April 22.
April 11, 2003 Friday: Helena caught another of the kittens today. It was almost the same as the one she caught yesterday but is male. The cows spent most of the day outside in the sun. It sure makes clean-up easier. Helena and I walked along the river and looked at my spring line where it is exposed. It is thawed and water is spurting from two big leaks. If it is not raining tomorrow perhaps we can go together and do a temporary repair by wrapping it with duct tape. I doubt I could do it alone because the bank is steep and high and the river is rushing by. My part will be to carry the duct tape and maybe give her a hand up afterwards. Only nine eggs today. I know they are laying somewhere else, darn ’em. Helena gave 2 ½ gallons.
April 12, 2003 Saturday: I took a tour around my lawn and garden and discovered that some rodents have completely girdled two of the new apple trees I put in last spring. Such a disappointment. They had been doing so well. If only I had wrapped the stems. This is the first time I have lost trees to rodents in so many years that I had stopped worrying. In fact, the last time was about twenty years ago when we had a pet rabbit. All my fruit tree losses, and there have been many, were due to cows or sheep eating the tops. They eventually grow back. That won’t happen with these poor little trees. Helena and I walked back down to the spring line taking duct tape. She gamely climbed down the muddy bank and wrapped the leaks. No luck though, the leaks are very determined. She did have luck catching the kittens today. She brought all three into the kitchen and fed them canned cat food off the tip of her finger. The third kitten, not previously caught, is a shorthaired male and very wild.
This morning Leah came in stuffed with milk. Actually, I did not notice until I was turning them out. She just walks in with Helen and goes to her stanchion. I guess Maria must be weaning. Tonight Maria had sucked one quarter only. I sat down with a bucket and began milking Leah and she never moved a foot, she was so grateful to be milked. She did not let down well, though. I only got two quarts. Helen gave 2 ½ gallons. I got 13 eggs. Today was beautifully warm.
April 13, 2003 Palm Sunday: A fine warm day. I raked part of the lawn and did about an hour and a half of vegetable garden clean-up that I should have done last fall. I milked Leah this morning and this evening, getting a little over half a gallon each time. She wants desperately to be milked and stands like a statue, but she does not let down well at all. This evening Maria had drunk from one rear quarter, but the other three were hard as a rock. I worked long and hard with plenty of massage. I did think that she let down better tonight than before, but still every 2-teaspoon squirt was an effort. It is such a relief that she is not kicking that I don’t begrudge the effort. Holding up as she does means I am not getting much cream. I kept her milk separate yesterday and it rose only a half inch of cream. My granddaughter Helena left me today in order to take a new job, there being none around here that pay better than minimum wage. It was hard to say goodbye. However, the new job sounds good. It is in my son Martin’s wood composite products plant in Biddeford, Maine. So, I expect her back for Easter and other weekends perhaps. With Leah’s contribution today I got nearly four gallons of milk but only six eggs. I wish I could find some of those hidden nests. The farm is going to be a-swarm with baby chicks while my egg customers will have to go to the store.
April 14, 2003 Monday: There was a shock waiting for me in with the layers this morning. One of my best hens had been mutilated by something, presumably a rat. I have not seen evidence of any rodents for a long time, years really, thanks to my army of cats. Perhaps they are too busy yowling under my bedroom window. There was no way this hen could live and she died quite soon. One of my cousins came this evening with a Havahart rattrap. Not that I have much sympathy for this rat but the old fashioned type of trap would end up catching a hen most likely. I have left the light on with the hens. They won’t move in the dark and get eaten alive. On a pleasanter note, a bantam hen that has been setting for about 21 days began hatching her clutch this afternoon. When I checked on her some little fluffy heads were peeping out from among her feathers. I picked her up chicks and all (they climb up under the mother’s wings and hide) and put her in a cat carrier for the night along with one egg not yet hatched. She had six large layer’s eggs that I had put under her. This morning Leah came in with one rear quarter milked out. Despite 20 minutes of effort I was able to get almost no milk from the other three quarters. This evening I did not do much better. I think I got two cups total in 20 minutes. She stands so nicely but won’t let down. I will just have to keep trying. So far she does not have mastitis. Helen gave 2 ½ gallons today and I got 11 eggs.
April 16, 2003 Wednesday: No rats in my trap but no more savaged hens either. I am leaving a dim light on in their room so as to give them a fighting chance. Actually, the trap is so hair trigger that I suspect it closes by itself before the rat shows up. I don’t know if the rat has scared them out of laying but I’m not getting many eggs. Only nine today. The bantam with five chicks is still in the cat carrier. I will let her out when they seem crowded and restless. At each milking I make an effort to milk Leah. A couple of times she has come in with one or two quarters already empty. Tonight she came in with all four quarters empty but I made an effort just the same. She is getting a bit better about letting down so I don’t want to lose that advantage by skipping a milking. Helen gave a bit over 2 ½ gallons.
April 17, 2003 Thursday: Us folks in Maine had to get out our winter jackets again It was back down in the teens this morning and cold is expected to continue several days . But, I am sure spring will break through again. When I looked out the back door of the barn after chores, a singularly beautiful view across pasture and mountains, the setting sun was making a halo of pale gold from a few trees. Bagel Dog and I walked down to see what they were. They were gray birch covered with long fluffy catkins. No branches were low enough to pick or I would have brought some to the house. The small goldfish in my little pond all made it through the winter. One of the big old ones about 7″ long is floating I am sorry to say. I did not catch a rat last night. It had gone into the trap and taken the bait without springing it. I hope this gives it the nerve to try again tonight. I just reset it with peanut butter and a piece of turkey. Although I went out well after dark some hens hopped off their roost to see what was going on because of the light on in there. More than likely they will investigate the trap and spring it themselves. I will just keep on trying. Helen gave over 2 ½ gallons. I got only eight eggs. Once again Leah would not let down, but I just keep trying with her too.
April 18, 2003 Friday Still no luck with my rat catching but I set it again tonight. It is still cold, quite bleak really, but the cows and sheep prefer to be outside anyway. It saves me a lot of clean up. The pigs are looking sleek and cheerful. The hen and chicks are getting crowed in the carrier. Helena came home tonight and we will try to get my big chicken coop repaired for them. It holds a hen and chicks from getting out but now I need to make it so a rat cannot get in. Helen only gave 2 ¼ gallons today and I found only eight eggs.
April 19, 2003 Saturday: I gave my bantam hen with five chicks to a friend who has two little girls. It will be their Easter surprise. They live in Massachusetts. Their mother hopes the chickens will help with a problem they are having with ticks around the house.
Easter Sunday: The animals at Coburn Farm had an exciting Easter. The barn water began running, prompting me to gather up the visiting family and move the calves out of the carriage house pen and into the paddock behind the house. With the barn water running I can maintain a divided population. Well, it didn’t work out that way. Maria, Leah’s nine-month-old calf came into roaring heat, her first. A fence separated her from Cletus, the steer, and jumped over to join him. Then Leah set up a bellowing that resounded through the neighborhood. After about two hours she jumped over to join her calf. About all I could do was open the gate and allow the populations to merge. All this time Helen lay in the lovely spring sun chewing her cud and ignoring the ruckus. The long separation of Cletus and Virginia from Leah and Helen was for purposes of weaning. Morning will tell if it worked. Son Martin and his friend Amy spent a long time today repairing the spring line that was leaking spring water into the river. Still no water is reaching the house though. Maybe some ice remains somewhere. We all lost track of how many eggs we got, but it was at least ten. Helen gave her usual 2 ½ gallons. Martin did the morning milking.
April 21, 2003 Monday: So far, so good with the weaning. No milk taken from Helen. I could not be absolutely sure about Leah. I don’t know if Cletus got any. She certainly did not have any milk when she came in tonight, but that could be just Maria. Helen gave her 2 ½ gallons. I got ten eggs. The weather today was beautiful. I did some more garden clean up around the pool..
April 22, 2003 Tuesday: Today was the pigs date with destiny. Thank the Lord for Helena’s dad, Tim! He is so skilled, strong and agile. It was not possible to get his truck lined up quite straight to the pig’s door, but close enough. He set up a ramp he had made. He cornered them and put a 5 gallon bucket over their heads, then backed them up the ramp and into the truck. First he got the bucket on Emily’s head, then she eluded him and he got it onto Phoebe instead and backed her aboard. By then Emily knew what was coming and was skittish, but Tim soon had her backed into the truck as well. Tim’s son Steve, John, friend Loren Briggs, and Tim’s wife Dalene were all a big help. Myself also, lining up and pushing on the pigs’ back ends to guide them backwards up the ramp. Backing pigs up with a bucket or basket is a time-honored method of getting them to go where you want. From the time the truck was parked it was barely ten minutes until both pigs were loaded with no yelling or cursing. Tim just said things like, “Come on girl.” Dalene then accompanied Tim to drive the pigs to a small local slaughterhouse that does an excellent job. I sent along the cutting instructions.
I have been going through the motions with Leah at every milking time in hopes that she would begin to let down. This morning she did. I had gotten discouraged and stopped bringing along the second pail, so milked one handed into a quart yogurt container that was handy. Thirteen eggs. It is raining today.
April 23, 2003 Wednesday: It has been another wet day. The cows and calves are enjoying their renewed acquaintance and so far there has been no suckling by Virginia and Cletus. They and the sheep spend a lot of time on the pasture looking for any new grass that shows itself, but only the sheep are having any success. They are able to graze so much more closely. Helen gave 2 ½ gallons again today and I got 11 eggs.
April 25, 2003 Friday: When I looked across the pasture today I saw a faint haze of green. The birches at the end of the field have a light green halo. There has been no sun this week until today. I raked the garden for about 45 minutes. The soil is still too wet for tilling. Helen’s production is creeping up. There were seventeen eggs. I have found three new nests.
April 26, 2003 Saturday: It rained all day, but was cozy in the house with a fire. My spring water is still not running, so first thing this morning I hiked down to inspect where the repair is, taking Bagel. No new breaks. The fiddleheads will be up in a very few days. Another hen has hatched out her clutch. I saw the first chick early this morning, but did not disturb her. She was inside one of the outer walls of the barn. Next I drove to Livermore Falls to the small slaughterhouse to pick up the fresh pork. Helena helped me pack it into one freezer. It just fit. I don’t think it would have but for the fact I defrosted the freezer yesterday. When I went out to do midday chores two poor little chicks had fallen from the nest and died of exposure in the rain. I tried for a long time to revive them in a basket on the Aga but no luck. Helena and I put the hen and six chicks into a cat carrier with a dish of yogurt. Virginia, Helen’s ten-month-old calf, was in standing heat this morning. I see the little red fists of rhubarb are breaking through the ground in front of the barn. I covered them with a tunnel of chicken wire to prevent the loose chickens from eating it as fast as it comes up.
April 27, 2003 Sunday: Helena caught one of Fraidy’s kittens on Friday and we have it in the house for socialization. I don’t believe it has been getting enough to eat. It seems no bigger than the last time she caught it two weeks ago. At that time we decided to put it back with its mother to do some growing. It eats canned cat food well. It is one of the most adorably cute kittens imaginable. It has long fluffy black fur with very attractive white markings. Its underside is an unusual tweedy pattern of black and white hairs that I don’t recall seeing before. We think it is a female. One more of the eggs hatched that I put in with the mother hen. I fed the family scrambled eggs with wheat germ for breakfast and more yogurt, and also gave them water. So far they are doing well. I can’t tell how many chicks there are but they will soon be crowded in the cat carrier where they are now living. Leah continues to stand beautifully for milking except I have to work on her about holding her legs far enough apart. She always starts off with them as close together as possible. She is letting down a little better each day. Helena hauled a cartload of well-rotted cow manure down to the garden for me. I did about a half hour of digging. Helen gave 2.5 gallons and I got 11 eggs.
April 28, 2003 Monday : It was truly warm today. All the animals reveled in being out in the sun. I let my hen and chicks loose and they were a great sight hopping along and pecking. In the evening I saw the hen trying to induce her family to climb the ramp into the hen house to go to bed, but the chicks could not figure out the ramp. After dark I sought her out with a flashlight and found her nestled in a bale of hay. My barn is very permeable to raccoons except in the real chicken room so I scooped the protesting family back into the cat carrier for the night. Since they get up a lot earlier than I do, I put in a plate of yogurt for their breakfast. The spring peepers are now out in full force. This morning I was fearful that Leah might be getting mastitis. Maria now nurses quite seldom and Leah still lets down incompletely for me. One of her quarters was persistently hard. But thank goodness this evening Maria had nursed all four quarters, so no more worries for the moment. I wandered around with the pruning shears this afternoon and trimmed back a lot of forsythia, flowering quince and rambling rose. This place is beginning to look like Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
April 29, 2003 Tuesday: Leah has been so good about standing quietly for milking that I have been milking her into the same bucket after I am done with Helen. Big mistake this morning. Just when I was nearly finished with her, Leah with no warning put her foot in the bucket and spilled almost two gallons of milk. I was pretty mad and she knew it. Each time I looked at her during the day she had a pathetic “Have you forgiven me yet?” look on her face. Tonight I did notice she had some little raw scratches on the teat I was working on at the time she kicked. So I don’t know if it was that or that fact that I was about 45 minutes late getting to the barn. Tonight she was perfect. 17 eggs today
April 30, 2003 Wednesday: My grandson Rafe came down from his school in Bar Harbor with a plan for re-hanging my front gate. It has been without hinges for several years. I have had it lashed up to the gate post in lieu of hinges. Opening and shutting it was no easy matter. Last night and the night before all the animals slept out on the pasture. It is nice to see them all out there when I look out of my window in the morning.
May 1, 2003 Thursday: My first daffodils opened this afternoon. Rafe did a great job on the gate. He attached a chain from the post to the back of his truck and pulled it out. Then he dug the hole bigger and bolted a cross bar to the post. Then he set it back in an enlarged hole, mixed concrete and poured on it (These things he did last night.) This morning the concrete was set and he re hung the gate. Big improvement.
May 2, 2003 Friday: It rained all day long. The cows decided to stay in and bellow for hay. I have been cutting way back on hay because they are getting some grazing. I put a pan of chicken feed inside the barn for the hen with seven chicks. The hen was pleased. She did not want to take her family foraging in the rain. Helen gave her usual amount, 2.5 gallons. I got 17 eggs.
May 3, 2003 Saturday: My granddaughter Helena came home for the weekend. The first thing this morning we took a walk down to the brook to see if the fiddleheads were up. They are very slow this year. It will be at least three days before we get any. Later she and her dad worked for hours on my vegetable garden area. They hauled a lot of rotted manure down in a little trailer behind the lawn tractor and ran the tiller over an enlarged area. No more excuses for me. I must get planting! While they did this I dug around my young raspberry and blueberry bushes. I found some nice little baby spinach plants that had self seeded from last summer’s spinach. I transplanted them into their own little row. Helena reports that the interior of the large manure pile from last year is still frozen. So, maybe there is still frost in the ground that is preventing my spring from running. Later this afternoon I took time out to watch the Kentucky Derby. I love a horserace. It made me an hour late to the barn. This brought signs of annoyance from Helen and Leah. Helen gave about 2 ¾ gallons today. There were 15 eggs.
May 4, 2003 Sunday: Another perfect day, third in a row. On the way to the barn I could see that the animals had all found a way to get into the North Field. They were having a fine time grazing. I have access to these fields closed because I wanted to string electric fence to protect some young trees. Before I reached the barn I could hear desperate peeping. One of the seven chicks was trapped somewhere. I searched for almost half an hour. I have hearing only in one ear, so it is impossible for me to know where sounds are coming from. Eventually I gave up and since Helen chose to pretend she could not hear me calling, I took a nice walk down to fetch them. When I got about 100 feet from her she lifted her head and said, “Oh all right!” And walked straight to the barn. When she moves they all move, so we had a parade. Maria has not nursed for about two days, so milking Leah is more of a job. After milking my granddaughter Helena came out to the barn and quickly located the desperately peeping chick. It was under a part of the floor that I had stuffed with hay last winter to insulate around the faucet. I pulled out all the hay and there stood the chick just beyond arm’s reach and not planning to be caught if he could help it. But then Helena said, “There’s a cat down there. It’s dead. No, it’s breathing. We could both see a small pile of black fur. Helena stroked it and it turned out to be two little black kittens, very much alive and quite plump. Their eyes were barely open. She put them back but when next we looked their mother had moved them. A couple of hours later there were once again seven chicks with the black hen. I guess once he could see daylight over his head the chick managed to hop his way out. It is quite amazing that in over four hours away from his mother no cat ate him. This evening Helen again ignored my calling, but I kept trying every few minutes and finally she came. Maria still had not nursed and Leah was very anxious to be milked. She mooed all the while I milked Helen as she waited for her turn. I milked over two quarts from Leah, stopping only when my hands were numb and she was beginning to switch her tail. Her teats are so tiny. Helen gave 2 ¾ gallons today. I found 15 eggs.
May 6, 2003 Tuesday: Rain was predicted for today, so after breakfast I ran down and put in a row of spinach and one row of carrots. Then a nice soaking rain began. I got an early Mother’s Day gift of a spading fork and can hardly wait to get digging. It is from Smith & Hawkins and appears strong enough to wrestle the biggest comfrey roots. When closing in the chickens tonight I fortunately stood for a while in their door gazing over the field to find the cows. There in the top wire of their fence was my big red rooster hanging upside down, soaking wet of course. I expected to find him dead when I went to free him, but he still had considerable life in him. He had entangled one of his great three-inch long spurs, so that it acted like the barb of a fishhook. As I climbed back up the ramp to the hen house with him in my arms I slipped on their ramp that was slimy with rain and fell forward and dropped him. Poor old thing went floundering off into a corner using one leg and a wing. After milking when I looked in on him he had made his way up to his usual high perch and was settled down next to his favorite plump hen. Helen gave her usual 2 ½ gallons, or a bit more. I think I got 14 eggs. The rain continues.
May 8, 2003: My barn swallows are back! This is gratifying because if they die out due to predation by my cats or if something kills them during their southern migration, then I wont have them again. The young always return to their natal spot. The only thing I am able to do for them is to always be sure that there is a gap high up in my barn door through which they can fly in and out. Their nests are totally inaccessible. I doubt even a rat with climbing gear could reach their nests. Maria is nursing less and less frequently. Consequently, I have to really work to milk Leah to make sure her milk does not back up on her. This is not easy. Sometimes my hands get numb and I give up. This is a bad practice, which I do not recommend. She stands beautifully. The problem is her tiny little teats. The black Australorp hen with seven chicks continues to do well and has lost none of her family. It is so amazingly cute to see them settled down for the night with several little fluffy heads poking out among her feathers. This evening I gave away the small kitten we have been nurturing in the kitchen. A teenage girl now has her. She was very thrilled. The people who brought the girl say she has an unhappy life and needs a kitten. It is a particularly cute and playful kitten, but rather weak. I did not want to give it to small children. I got a second row of carrots in today and prepared a row to plant tomorrow with beets and chard. Helen is keeping up her 2 ½ gallons a day and the hens are outdoing themselves. The weather was beautiful today.
May 9, 2003 Friday: Tim came and went over the garden one more time with his tiller. It looks pretty good. I dug out some more comfrey roots and planted parsley and a kind of beet called Bull’s Blood. They are edible, but intended primarily for dying wool. The seed looks completely different from usual beet seed. Helena came home from her week down in Biddeford where she now works at my son Martin’s plant. My grandson Rafe and his friend Sam also arrived and we all had a yummy lobster dinner. Rafe bought the lobsters down at the coast. For the first time in several days, Leah came in at milking time all milked out by Maria. This saved me a lot of time. I spend twenty minutes milking her and am lucky to get two quarts. I guess she would stand longer but at the end of twenty minutes I am out of patience and hand strength. Helen gave over 2 ½ gallons. I found 13 eggs.
The rat has not been back to molest the hens. Perhaps this is because I have been leaving their light on at night so they can see to move out of his way. I set the trap a lot of times but without success.
May 11, 2003 Sunday Mother’s Day: My son Martin and his friend Amy came Saturday night. They brought beautiful tuna steaks for Sunday dinner. I sliced the tuna thin for sashimi and was able to serve a Japanese dinner with all the little extras. During the afternoon they climbed Tumbledown and Martin took a dip in the icy lake at the top. I gave Martin my little black hen and her family of seven. He wants them to scratch around his house and get rid of the many ticks. This year everybody is complaining about ticks. Martin persuaded me to advertise my two Jersey heifers, Virginia, 11 months and Maria, ten months. It will be a wrench to part with them. Leah has a new cut on her teat from Maria’s teeth. Maria does not nurse much now but is really too big. I expect the best answer is to sell her before she does more damage. Martin milked both times today. I now have more milk than I know what to do with most days.
May 12, 2003 Monday: Joy! I was greeted this morning by the granite spring sink running full. It is so wonderful to have this amazing fresh spring water supply in the kitchen. I miss it so much when it freezes up. Today is Helen’s 7th birthday. Leah came in this morning stuffed with milk. She had some little cuts yesterday on her teats and Martin had to put the kicker on her. The cuts were better this morning, but I ended up putting the kicker on her myself. She stood very well and I got over a half gallon of milk before we were both too tired to continue. This evening she came in sucked dry. I was very grateful to Maria. Combined total for milk today was well over three gallons. I got 15 eggs. It rained all day. I put three eggs under a broody hen.
May 12, 2003 Tuesday: My spinach is up and I picked my first asparagus spears. Rain again most of the day.
May 14, 2003: Rain again most of today. I am in a frenzy of housekeeping thanks to my open house next Tuesday for the Carthage Historical Society. I did get some lawn raking done between showers. Leah did not need to be milked today. I guess Maria is feeling hungry.. Helen gave something over 2 ½ gallons. The fresh grass is making her milk creamier and more golden. There were 15 eggs.
May 15, 2003 Thursday: The shadblow was in bloom this morning. These are small trees that are scattered along the road and in the woods. They bloom like a white cloud and are the first trees to bloom. I have put an ad in Uncle Henry’s, a booklet of classified ads that circulates throughout New England, for Virginia and Maria, my heifers aged 11 and 10 months respectively. I can hardly bear to think of selling them, but know it is unwise to wait until fall. Helen gave 2 ¾ gallons today. There were 15 eggs.
May 16, 2003 Friday: I see that the discussion forum is down … yet again. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org I didn’t want to put it on the front page because it was inviting spam. Helen and Leah have taken to coming in for milking very slowly and reluctantly. This always happens in spring when the grass gets really lush. Grain scarcely appeals to them. I often have to go out in the pasture and get them. Once I get within 30′ Helen says “Oh, well”, and starts walking towards the barn.
I finally got my peas in today. The ground has been ready for a week but I have been devoting myself to house cleaning in preparation for the Historical Society house tour next Tuesday. Helen was crabby tonight and did not let down fully. I only got a bare 2 ½ gallons today. Leah came in stuffed with milk like a soccer ball. I managed to get about a quart out before we were both exhausted. I hope Maria will come to the rescue during the night.
May 17, 2003 Saturday: Leah came in this morning packed with milk, but Helen was exceedingly coy and I finally gave up calling her and started on Leah. I spent about 25 minutes milking her, always tiny little squirts, and got less that two quarts. But, at least I eased the pressure. Finally Helen agreed to come in. She had not let down well last night, so had an extra lot this morning. I ended up with well over three gallons total. A nice lady came this morning by arrangement and I gave her Koffee, a half grown, black, fixed male cat that Helena and I put a lot of time into. He had a sickly start and we brought him to good health and he became very friendly and well mannered. He went to a kind country home. Also this morning, I drove to Livermore Falls to pick up my cured pork from the small slaughterhouse where I take my animals. It is a 45-minute drive. I baked one of the ham hocks for my dinner. It was like a mini ham and very tasty At this evening’s milking it was Leah who wouldn’t come in. She pawed the ground and walked away. Her udder did not appear to be over filled, so I think Maria must have nursed. I was in no frame of mind to chase her around because I was in a hurry to get back to the house to watch the Preakness. I did manage a little time in the garden. I put in some more peas. The weather today was perfect in every way.
May 18, 2003 Sunday: Such perfect weather again to day. I worked for a while in my small, rockbound beds next to the buttery and filled one of my planters with purchased plants. Helen and Leah came in reluctantly this morning, but were very good. Leah stood with the best patience she could mange despite cuts on her teats. I am using the kicker on her to assist with her self-control. She was stuffed with milk and I milked out about ¾ gallon. By this evening it had risen virtually no cream, which shows I quit long before she was empty. I got about another quart this evening. Helen gave 2 ¾ gallons today. I set another broody bantam hen with three large eggs. She has been sitting tight on a fake egg for three days, so I know she is serious.
May 20, 2003 Tuesday: My open house was quite successful, I thought. We streamed though the cellar and looked at the amazing granite blocks that form the walls and the supports of the three stories of fireplaces and chimneys. We looked at all the rooms of the house right up to the two attics. We went on the deck and out to the barn. Herchial Noyes was very knowledgeable about the kinds of wood that form the beams and made suggestions about where the granite came from, things I had not known. Some of the pine boards in the ceiling of the buttery are planks two feet wide. Earlier in the day, some girls came to the door and told me that one of my sheep was caught in fence wire and struggling. So, I grabbed my wire cutters and went looking. The girls had driven back up the road to point out where she was. It was Agnes, the leader with the bell. One of her feet was hung up in wire which was dangling from a tree. She was on her back. I cut her loose, but, sheeplike, she just lay there and refused to move. I rubbed her ankle for a while and nudged her to get going, which she finally decided to do. She was hot and limping, but she had not been there long and her skin was not cut. It was extremely fortunate for her that these girls saw her, as what with the open house I probably would not have counted the sheep again before tomorrow. I cut out a great tangle of old electric fence wire from the bush, but did not get it all, being pressed for time. But it was drooping out of the top of a young tree about 12 feet high. There is no way it could have gotten into the top of that tree except by having the tree grow u p under it. It is at least 15 years since I have had electric fence in that part of the pasture. One does find the strangest things on a farm. Leah came I n completely milked out by her calf this morning. But, this evening she was stuffed, so I had to milk her. I did not get much because her cuts were worse and she was very touchy.
May 22, 2003 Thursday: My cows now just stare at me when I call them to come in, that is if they turn their heads at all. They are just so happy on the pasture. Mostly I have to walk down where they are and give Helen a poke. Leah always gets up, then may or may not head for the barn. If Maria has nursed, I don’t try to milk Leah. But half the time her udder is stuffed. Even though she is touchy about her sore teats I keep talking to her and can tell she is trying to be brave. Tonight once I got started she stood well. Helen is now consistently giving 2 ¾ gallons a day. She is not standing very well because her hooves need trimming. She acts like somebody standing in line with painful feet, shifting her weight all the time. Now she is six months pregnant she is getting quite heavy on her feet. She is rather fat, too. Leah is not quite as skinny as she was in March. But, she is still skinny. She is still giving a lot of milk.
May 23, 2003 Friday: It rained most of today, a quite warm soaking rain. It would have been a perfect day for planting the garden had I not been away on errands. Some of my plants are up. Spinach, carrots and beets are showing and I expect by tomorrow to see peas up. The Cardoons, my experimental plant for this year, transplanted nicely. I started them in the house about six weeks ago. Leah came in tonight packed with milk and very touchy about her off hind teat. It looked pretty well healed up to me and I did not think it should be bothering her any more. I told her to stop being silly and tapped her leg with my finger and said “No kicking, you silly baggage”, and she gave it up and stood still. Both cows and all the calves and sheep came tonight for a change when I called them.
May 24, 2003 Saturday: Drizzling rain all day, but warm. This evening at milking time none of the animals were anywhere to be seen, although I could hear a faint bell in the distance. After a half hour of intermittent calling and doing other chores they finally hove into view and every single animal wanted to come in. While they were milling around I grabbed the opportunity to loosen up Cletus’ collar to the last hole. He is getting big. But, he is very gentle. While waiting for the cows to come home I noticed that the thermopsis Carolinius is beginning to bloom. The chickens scratched it all out of the borders, but it has naturalized in a part of the pasture. It took me years to learn the identity of this plant. It looks nearly identical to lupin, but is buttercup yellow. The lilacs are also opening and they make a great bouquet together with the thermopsis. I put eggs under another hen today, a Black Australorp. They are good setters. I now have four hens setting. I gave them each three large eggs. So the chicks will be of a layer breed. I expect there are some bantams setting somewhere with their own eggs.
May 25, 2003 Sunday: At last I got my lettuce seedlings planted. I had a tray of them, which I started from seed and they have been pleading with me for a week to get into the ground. Just as I was finishing with setting them out, who should arrive but my stepdaughter Kamala whom I had not seen for some time. She and her husband and little red haired daughter and I had a nice visit. I gave them a division of my lovage plant that I brought from England 28 years ago. Helen gave her usual 2 ¾ gallons. I could not get Leah to come in this evening, but I could see that Maria had nursed.
May 28, 2003 Wednesday: Two more days of showers, but I did manage to set out my cabbages today. This evening when I called Helen all the animals came right away for a change. I was astonished to see a deer leaping along with them. I don’t recall ever seeing this before. I have seen deer grazing in proximity but never bounding along with the cows. It peeled off into the edge of the woods when they turned toward the barn but stood there in plain sight until we all went inside. Maria was frisking around in heat. I wonder if that had anything to do with it. Helen is now giving pretty close to three gallons a day. She was barely making two gallons before the new grass came on. My best milk customer moved some distance away and now comes only once a week. I have been making a lot of cottage cheese and am starting to freeze it. I have finally got a culture going that tastes really good. Before that, several batches went to the chickens. I also made butter yesterday and today. Also today made three pounds of lard from fat off the recent pigs that was stored in the freezer.
May 30, 2003 Friday: More rain, but it was light and intermittent. I prepared a nice patch of veg garden and planted coriander and have space for several more things. All my transplants so far look good thanks to the endless drizzle. I also dug part of my perennial border and planted my largest dahlia rhizomes. At noon the weather cleared and I stood out on the deck to look things over. Down in my farthest field I could see what I thought must be the same doe I saw last evening. I tiptoed back into the house for my field glasses. She was walking in a dignified manner toward the woods, having seen me I suppose. At her side I could see through the field glasses a tiny fawn. I’ll bet it was just born last night when I saw her behaving in that somewhat unusual manner. The fawn was prancing along with its head up with that look of pure joy one sees in young creatures with their mothers. Helena came home for the weekend in time for dinner. For a vegetable tonight I served tender young pigweed, also known as lamb’s quarters or goosefoot (chenopodium). It is as good or better than spinach but usually loses its bright green when cooked and turns a depressing grey. I did it another way this time, flash blanching it in a couple of inches of rapidly boiling water until tender but still bright green. Then I drained in a colander and sautéed it briefly until it dried out. It stayed a good green color. Helen dropped back to 2 ½ gallons today. I suspect the bugs are stressing her.
May 31, 2003 Saturday: Helena, my granddaughter, came home for the weekend. To my joy it did not rain and she was able to hop on the lawn mower and do most of the lawn for me. The almost daily rain had resulted in some spots that were about a foot high. But first, earlier in the day, we raced over to New Sharon to try to mow the lawn at my son Max’s place. The house will be empty until the family moves there in August. That lawn was also long but the battery on his lawn tractor was too weak to start the engine. Helena washed the bathrooms while I mopped the whole house, upstairs and down. It was tracked up following a winter of visits in snowy weather. Also, the warm moist weather has caused re-emergence of the cigarette smell left by the previous owners. I mopped with Oxyclean and did think it made an improvement. Workmen had delivered a unit of the new siding produced by my son Martin. It is the same material as his decking, a sawdust acrylic composite that looks good and is impervious to weather. It goes up like wooden siding, so does not have the artificial appearance of vinyl siding.
June 1, 2003 Sunday: The weatherman promised us a huge rain with wind and thunderstorms today, but all we got was a quiet drizzle. This did not disappoint me. But, of course it was too wet for further mowing, so the grass around the veg garden continues to look more like hay. Helena and I worked for a long time digging in the garden. Helena removed a great patch of comfrey. This will permit me to move some raspberry starts and lengthen the row. This is the second year for the raspberries and I am hoping for a real crop. After about an hour of digging I went back to the house and made cottage cheese, but Helena kept going until 2pm. She came in wet and muddy and had to take a shower. She has now gone back to Biddeford to be ready for work tomorrow. My cow Helen continues to be hard to get into the barn at milking time. I push and cajole and scratch her ears and jab her in the flanks with my thumb and she just stands there. Part of her reluctance may be due to her overgrown hooves. My grandson Rafe said he would be stopping in here in a few days on his motorcycle trip. I will try to get him to trim her. I don’t quite have the strength to cut those toenails with the equipment I have. Helen gave 2 ½ gallons today and I got 15 eggs.
June 2, 2003 Monday: The rat is back. Now it has taken three baby chicks that just hatched under one of my black hens. The poor mother was much grieved. She stayed on her nest until evening despite no babies. From two other setting hens he has taken one and two eggs, respectively. Another hen that I guess he overlooked has all three of her eggs and two hatched today. I put her and her chicks and remaining egg in a cat carrier for the night. I set the rat trap with a tasty meal of peanut butter, hard-boiled egg and pork fat. I suppose it is more likely that the rat is a female, or that there are several, what with so much predation all at once. It must be a very large rat for my cats to be avoiding it, or possibly they are a bunch of lazy wussies. I had a word with them. Actually, I told them I was going to shoot them all in the head and throw them in a hole but I doubt they believed me. There was a dead laying hen this morning but she appeared unwounded. I suspect she was egg-bound. Or possibly it was just old age. In my agitation over the rat I managed to drop my basket of fresh eggs and broke all but three. Helen gave 2 ½ gallons today. She still makes me push her about every step of the way from pasture to stanchion. She stops every six feet for another munch of grass.
June 3, 2003 Tuesday: No rat. One flap of the Havahart trap did not fall so the rat walked in and dined sumptuously, then left. I have set it again this evening and hope that his happy experience last night encourages him to enter again. No more chicks or eggs that I know of were missing. Perhaps he had enough to eat. I baited the trap the same way tonight. The hen, a bantam, that is in the cat carrier hatched her third egg in the night and now has three chicks. I have heard that there is a type of sticky trap that a rodent steps on and can’t get off. I called around today and was able only to locate the mouse version. I believe I know a way to lay the trap without hazard to other creatures, if I can just find one. Now for my big news: my son John in Australia put in the winning bid on eBay and together with my son Bret in Alaska, has bought me a milking machine. This will enable me to better face the prospect of milking Leah with her teensy heifer teats. I will have to dry off Helen before long and it will be wonderful to put Leah to work. Her heifer, Maria, is overdue for weaning. I have her advertised. Helen gave her usual 2 ½ gallons. Mosquitoes and black flies are biting her udder badly. They are a worse problem than flies at present.
June 4, 2003 Wednesday: Rafe and one of the buddies arrived back here last night. I fed them pork chops about 9PM. They had a jolly time in Vermont helping a nice young couple build a highly unusual house. It is to have a thatched roof and rammed earth floor. Rafe and Sam helped them move beams from an old barn that the owner wanted dismantled. This morning I asked Rafe to try shortening up Helen’s overgrown hooves. Somehow this went wrong and Rafe drew blood. Only once before in my life has this ever happened to me. That was a goat and it was 35 years ago. Rafe and I were both terribly shocked. Blood seemed to pour out for a couple of minutes and poor Helen was making a moaning sound. I grabbed handfuls of diatomaceous earth, which is a powerful drying agent, and threw it down on the injury. After I got through petting Helen and apologizing I put her back out and cleaned up the blood. I figured there was not more than ¼ cup probably, but at the time it seemed much more. By this evening there was no sign of the injury and she was not favoring it. So, I guess she recovered. In more pleasant news, I bought a pony today from my feed man. She was very cheap and very adorable and very small, only 10 hands (42 inches). She is 12 years old and a pretty golden color with pale beige mane and tail. My feed man had taken her in trade and didn’t know her name so now I must think of one. Of course all my tack is long gone. And I’m sure my family is convinced my wits are long gone too.
June 5, 2003 Thursday: There was something in the trap this morning. It was a very small, very agitated kitten. It skittered away before I could grab it and bring into the kitchen to civilize. There was also a strong scent of skunk in the barn. However I know it is not a skunk that is eating chicks. Skunks don’t climb up on shelves. Helen is definitely limping on the injured foot. It may just be from the overgrown toenail. When I push on the site of the injury or tap it with something she does not react. I spoke to my vet and I sensed that he felt that I was worrying too much. I am also worrying about my poor old dog Muffin. Worry is the wrong word. What I know is that she is dying. She is very old for a big dog, probably 11 or 12, but she was abandoned so I don’t know her exact age. She has a bad time getting up and stumbles and is frequently unresponsive. Helen gave her usual amount of milk today. I got 10 eggs. I put a request around the family for name suggestions for the pony. Three grandchildren in separate households offered “Goldie”. Not my sort of name, but I may be unable to fend it off. Max (who does the occasional drawings) suggested “Lunchmeet”.
June 6, 2003 Friday: The weather was beautiful today. I did a lot of digging and planted some more flowers and half of my tomato plants. Then I went out and bought a lead rope for the pony. I have decided to name her Tallah. I also picked up a sticky rat trap. There are several cute kittens in the barn and today I caught one. Helena came home for the weekend and is working on taming it. I don’t think it has been getting enough to eat. It took to milk right away and I think will be easy to tame. Another setting hen is due to hatch her eggs tonight. Only two eggs are left because the rat stole one several days ago. I left a bright light on in the barn, which may give her a chance. Helen gave 2 ¾ gallons today and I got 10 eggs.
June 7, 2003 Saturday: Muffin perked up a bit today. She followed me to the barn. That is more exertion than I have seen recently. I gave her three meals in a row of liver with one half aspirin in it. One of these interventions, or both, was helpful. Helen is limping even worse and her production this morning was down although she made it up this evening and gave 2 ½ gallons today. Helena and I spent most of the morning making ready for Tallah, my pony. The ceiling over the stall in the carriage house/garage is just rafters over which boards and pieces of plywood are laid. On top was piled a lot of stuff such as sleds, rolls of tarpaper, wire, Rafe’s canoe and boxes of mystery junk. Helena backed up the van and we loaded a lot of it into that for the dump and stored the remainder elsewhere. When the calves were in that stall they succeeded in pulling down a few things and of course a pony is far more mischievous. I believe now Tallah will be safe.
June 8, 2003 Sunday: Tallah arrived about noon and I walked her straight into her new quarters. She was perfectly quiet but so far not interested in walking up to the bars and taking carrots or sugar. She is clearly not familiar with sugar, but wants the carrots. As soon as I lay them down on her hay she comes and eats them. She drank her water without hesitation. Often horses are slow to accept a new water source. It is nice spring water. Her stall is right where I can talk to her whenever I go in or out and she can see everything. This morning there was another kitten in the Havahart rat trap. Now the one I already have in the kitchen is a lot happier. The new kitten understands drinking from a dish and used the litter box, so no doubt the first one will quickly learn by watching. Helena did a huge amount of lawn mowing and I got some more plants set out. The place is looking a whole lot better. Helen gave just shy of 2 ¾ gallons today and seems better. However, she is very restless during milking. I got 15 eggs today.
June 9, 2003 Monday: It rained all day, not what the weatherman predicted. It has really brought along my lettuce and spinach. Tallah is very shy of me in her stall. First thing this morning I went in to try to catch her to measure her for a horse blanket and bridle. My daughter-in-law Amy thinks she may have things that fit. I was not able to catch my pony. She kept going from one corner to another and showing me her rear end, even though I could tell she really wanted the carrots. I tried again after lunch and included a pan of grain in my plan. With this temptation I as able to take hold of her halter and put on the lead rope. I was able to stroke her face and neck but did not succeed in getting her to stand still for measurement. Maybe tomorrow. She does nicker when I speak to her as I go in and out. Helen’s limp is much the same, but she stood better for milking. That might be because she wanted to be brushed before milking rather than after, which I did. Also I strewed lime on the floor to provide a more non-slip standing. Her production today was below 2 ½ gallons. I caught another kitten in the Havahart trap. At least it is good for something. I got 11 eggs.
June 10, 2003 Tuesday: Three more kittens have joined my boxed collection in the kitchen. They can’t resist the cat tuna. I have my Free Kitten sign out. I sure hope it pulls in the traffic. These kittens are so cute. Tallah had her first walk around the lawn today. She enjoyed the green grass. Helen is not limping as badly. The ground is very soft from all the rain. That helps. I worked in the garden for a couple of hours. I got my glads in, planted six more tomatoes, planted rutabagas, moved a raspberry bush to a site Helena had prepared by digging out a big clump of comfrey, and pruned out some over aggressive blackberry canes. All this was fun and the weather was gorgeous, but I got some stickers in my hand that made it hard to milk. Helen gave a bit over 2 ½ gallons today. There were 11 eggs. I also found a nest with about a dozen bantam eggs. One bantam has been setting on just one egg in a hole in the barn wall three feet above the ground. She proved to be a stupid mother. I guess the chick hatched yesterday and fell to the ground. I found the poor little thing today rain soaked and dead while the fool hen continued setting with no eggs under her.
June 11, 2003 Wednesday: My vet came today to look at Tallah. He said that so far as he could tell she is healthy. With him in her box stall with me I thought she might be less, rather than more, manageable. She has been hard to catch. But, she in fact was easy to catch. I held her rope and a pan of grain in one hand and her halter in the other and Dr. Cooper gave her a tetanus and rabies shot. She scarcely seemed to notice. My Surge milking machine came today. The seller failed to include the hose in the box, so I will have to have that sent or buy it locally before I can get set up. This morning all of the kittens that I had in a box in the kitchen had done a Houdini and were hiding under furniture. All but one very small weak one. That one does not run away, so it will get special attention and feeding. I will just put out milk tonight for the others. No doubt they will emerge after I go to bed. I wish I could send Laura in Idaho some of my excess lush grass and rain. So long as I don’t wear my glasses (so can’t see the untrimmed borders) my place is really a picture at this season.
June 12, 2003 Thursday: After making a research phone call, I located a nice man at a farm supply store not too distant. I took my milking machine over there and he fitted on the necessary hose and set up the machine, adjusted the vacuum and pulsator rate, and charged only $3. I left feeling a lot better. This evening I tried out the machine on both cows. To my amazement, neither lifted a foot. Well, Leah was wearing the kicker, but even so, I thought she would express some objection. Neither cow let down, and so the result was disappointing in that regard. Maybe next time. But my pony is gone. When my vet was here yesterday he looked at Tallah’s teeth and said her teeth were past figuring her age. This morning I called the seller and told him this and asked if in view of this information he would wish to revert to my initial offer on price. He went into a towering rage and said he still had my check and was coming straight back for his pony. He had a lot of additional things to say about my judgment, the incompetence of my vet, assertions regarding his own impeccable honesty, and hung up on me. Shortly thereafter he and his large son arrived with their trailer. I could not stand up to this self-indulgent anger, which appeared to be more important to him than anything I could say. He handed over my crumpled check and hustled Tallah into his trailer. Now I know why his wife always looks so sad and depressed. Anger has clearly made a well worn path in his life. He said he had another home for the pony and I hope that is true.
June 13, 2003 Friday: Leah came in this morning completely nursed out, so I did not set up the machine. Helen still had a lot of last night’s milk and gave two gallons and more. This evening both came in full of milk, so I used the machine. I am still inept with it and the cows must put up with a lot of my fiddling around. It is the type that hangs under the belly on a strap, is noisy, and if improperly attached makes a screechy sucking sound. Somehow neither cow made a move to kick at it. My theory is that to them it seems so scary and huge that the safest thing is to stand still and not annoy it. They let down slightly better tonight, two quarts from each. Leah has a new cut on one teat. I was pleased to see that the machine in no way appeared to irritate it. Lots of eggs lately. Another dozen today. I worked in the garden for nearly three hours.
June 15, 2003 Sunday Helena, my granddaughter, was here this weekend, also my son Martin and his girlfriend Amy. I gave them lots of farm food and they accomplished wonders in the way of repairs and improvements. Chief among these is a new ramp on the back of the barn. It is made of Martin’s composite decking product, CorrectDeck. The cows were highly suspicious of it, being of a conservative mind. But they eventually accepted it. It appears likely to outlast the barn and possibly me. Martin helped me to solve some little problems with the milking machine. It gets easier every time. Leah is not any closer than she ever was to letting down. She would never let down for hand milking either. Some cows are unwilling to ever let down for anything but their own calf and that is Leah. I will never again allow a cow to keep her calf, or so I believe now. I have rarely had luck with it. Even a little holding up of the milk and you dont get the cream. For me at least, it is not worth the flexibility of skipped milkings. With Martin’s help I as able to get Maria into a box stall so now she is weaned. There was a beautiful double rainbow today arching the whole sky.
June 16, 2003 Monday Such a fine summery day it was. I went down to the garden to plant seeds and stayed an hour and a half. It was a bit tricky getting Helen in this morning because of New ramp suspicion. Leah hopped right up. She was anxious to get closer to Maria who remains confined. Leah is doing a lot more bellowing than Maria is. She is now quiet and resigned. Her stall is very large but rather dark. I will move her to the pony stall as soon as I have help. I never taught her to lead as well as Cletus and Virginia. I must also first get her a proper collar. This evening Helen was waiting inside the run-in. She had already braved the ramp. I milked her by hand because her quarters are uneven and also because I wanted to keep Leah’s milk separate so I can tell how much cream I am getting from her. She is letting down somewhat better. Without Maria on her, her udder is huge. No wonder it has been hard for her to put on weight. She is a big producer.
June 17, 2003 Tuesday This was a chick saving day. When I was setting up this morning before getting the cows in there was a white bantam all spread out obviously sheltering chicks. I don’t know where she had been setting She was a big surprise. She had six chicks under her and did not choose to move. I gently moved her along with a shovel so she would not get trampled. I brought her a pan of clabber to start off the chicks. I guess I gave them too much because later I found one bogged down in the pan all stuck in clabber even though there was no more than three fourths of a cup. I took the chick into the kitchen and gave it a rinse and wrapped it in a warm towel and left it sitting on the warm Aga with a sieve over it. Having the Aga means I don’t have to put it under my shirt! After it was dried out and fluffed up I found the mother but she would not let me near her. I waited until she was near a big clump of weeds and reached my arm through the clump and stuck the chick under her. Later when I looked it had re-integrated with the others. But then I found another chick collapsed and dying. I don’t know whose it was. I put it on the Aga in a wool sock until it warmed up and was peeping up to speed. I found a hen to put it under but I don’t think it was the right one. Last night I inadvertently got the pulsator on my Surge wet and this morning it did not work properly. I had to sit there flipping the slide back and forth. Later I dismantled the pulsator and gave it more oil and this evening it worked great. Helen did not want to come in so I gave up on her. She is supposed to dry off anyway. Leah is producing plenty but it is skimmy because she still does not let down all the way. Maria and she still bellow to each other.
June 20, 2003 Friday Leah is adapting well to machine milking except she still does not let down well. But she stands solidly. She lifted her foot only once this week and kicked one of the cups off the machine, but no harm done. Today I got two gallons from her but her udder is by no means empty after milking and the cream line on the jars if milk is skimpy. Helen has not been in for milking now for two days. This evening I was a bit worried about her udder. Lordy lord, I hope she is not going to have mastitis. I will bring her in tomorrow morning for sure and milk her out by hand. My daughter Abby is visiting. Today she very carefully swept the barn floor including the area where I milk. When Leah came in she thought she was in the wrong place, I guess. She whirled around and left. Fortunately I had locked her exit door. This morning Abby and I attempted to move Maria to the pony stall, which is in my carriage house/garage. She is not so well trained to lead as are the other calves and is a bouncy heifer. She pulled away while still inside the barn. I was able to shoo her back into her same stall. We expect Max tonight for a weekend visit. I will ask him to help. Max is in the East for a month for his company. All the hens and chicks are surviving except that the hen with six had only five this morning.
June 21, 2003 Midsummer’s Day It is also my son Martin’s birthday. He was not with us today because of going to a wedding. His brothers Max and Mark and little Hailey are here. We ate cake and thought of Martin. Today I sold Virginia and Maria, my two heifers, to a dairy farmer in the town of New Sharon. They will have a dairy future. It was easy to lead and load Virginia because she is well trained to lead. I neglected that aspect of Maria’s training and she was hard to move. Fortunately the buyer had a halter with him. Maria broke away from Max and he got a rope burn. It is my hope that with Maria away, Leah will begin to let down better. I hand milked Helen out this morning. She had not been milked for three days and her udder felt hot causing me to worry about mastitis. There was no sign of it. She gave 2.5 gallons, which filled the bucket. The weather today was perfect. As Longfellow said, “What is so rare as a day in June, Then if ever come perfect days.”
June 22, 2003 Sunday This morning Leah let down the best so far but this evening she went back to holding up her milk and I got only one half gallon. This made a total of 1 ¾ for the day. She was giving a lot more than that only a couple of weeks ago before I separated Maria from her. This evening I had trouble getting the vacuum pressure and pulsator settings right and she made have been annoyed by that. Or maybe she came into the barn feeling impatient. She immediately went pee when I closed her stanchion but I was quick with the old bucket and caught it all to put on my rhubarb. All my company has left now except Abby. They all did lots of things around the farm including mowing my vast lawn. I made an excellent cheesecake that calls for three pints of cottage cheese and two cups of cream, just the recipe for the month of June with a dairy cow. I will write it out for everybody in a day or two.
June 24, 2003 Tuesday Leah gave a reluctant gallon this morning but this evening she let down a lot better. She reached a total of 2 ¼ gallons today. If I can get her up to 2 ½ gallons she will be the equal of Helen, which will be a blessing because I suddenly have a couple more milk customers. Helen now makes no move to come in at milking time. She just looks at me and chews her cud. I have cut out all grain to her except a little bit in the morning to which I add her kelp. Abby and I did about an hour of weeding and watering this afternoon. The weeds are almost overwhelming in some rows. My lettuce is the best looking crop. I picked two lovely little heads of Romaine and we had a salad supper. It was very hot today, perhaps 80F
June 25, 2003 Wednesday Leah let down poorly this morning but quite well tonight. Still, I got only 1 ½ gallons today. I think the many days of holding up her milk have depressed her production. It’s a shame, because I have several new people wanting milk. Leah is very friendly and beautiful. Abby worked a long time on the tomatoes despite the heat. They are now all staked. I believe it was over 80F today, possibly over 90F. During the hottest part of the day I forgot to look at the thermometer. Abby also went around to all the windows that lack curtains and pinned up tablecloths and random items to turn back the sun. I declare, Maine was not hot like this when I was a child. The chickens continue to lay well. All the hen and chick families still survive. One hen that has five chicks has got them to hop up into the hen house now at night. When they were smaller she spent the night with them outside under the ramp and every morning I expected to see nothing but a pile of feathers.
June 26, 2003 Thursday It was 92F in the shade today. Helen appeared to be suffering. She wanted to come in to her stanchion this morning and did not want to leave. I put down hay for them so they would not need to graze during the middle of the day. This evening she did not choose to even get to her feet and was panting fast. She is a bit too fat and seven months pregnant. Now it is dark and all the animals have vanished into the night to graze. I have been putting the lemon soap-vinegar fly dope on Leah and on Helen when she comes in. It seems to help some and they like it. Leah let down well this morning but not this evening. But she did give nearly 2 ½ gallons today.
June 27, 2003 Friday It started out as another hot day but in the middle of the afternoon we got an electrical storm and a half-inch of rain. What a relief! The cows and sheep became so comfortable that they took a walk down to the bottom of Pocket Field and at milking time I had to holler my fool head off to get them home. Leah did not give as much as yesterday, only 1 ¾ gallons but she seemed to be letting down OK. She is behaving perfectly. Abby and I worked a long time this morning in the veg garden. Abby has rescued my peas. They were being overtaken be weeds and grass. My best crop is my lettuce. I have some dozen heads of perfect lettuce, all at once of course. I will have to find people to give it to. We are expecting both my son Max and grandson Rafe tonight for a late supper.
June 28, 2003 Saturday The weather was not so unbearably hot today. My sons Max and Martin are here and went for a ride on their mountain bikes and now are cooling off in the river, Martin’s second swim of the day. Earlier, when he and his friend Amy were in the water, Martin caught a crawfish mother with about 100 tiny crawfish clinging to her underside. I did not know they took care of their little ones that way. My milking machine refused to work today. I did everything I could think of for it. Now my grsnddaughter Helena, who is very handy, has done one last thing and that is removing the pin and set screw that regulate the rate of pulsation and cleaning it. But that was past milking time. My daughter Abby and I milked Leah by hand, one of us on each side. Abby has very small hands better suited to Leah’s extremely small teats but she has not milked for a long time. I hope she does not have achy hands all night. We got 1-¾ gallons tonight. This morning we gave up after ¾ gal. But that is 2 ¼ for the day, not bad.
June 29, 2003 Sunday Late last evening Martin went to the barn and worked on the milking machine with the vacuum pump connected. He eventually got it working properly. He thought that the most important thing he had done was, with the pulsator dismantled, to bend out the leathers. At any event, this morning I was again able to milk by machine and Leah was clearly gratified. Cows hate changes of routine. She let down so fast that I could hardly believe we were done She gave her entire 1.25 gal. in three minutes. This evening she gave only ¾ gal. but she gave it fast.
June 30, 2003 Monday Once again this morning the milking machine did not behave. Abby helped me by milking on Leah’s left while I did the right. During the day I worked on the pulsator but when I tried it at evening milking it would not function at all. I went out at four o’clock in order to be on time to assist with a Grange supper we were putting on before Town Meeting. Abby again helped me to milk by hand. Leah does not like these changes and she clearly prefers the machine probably because it is so fast. The Grange supper menu was spaghetti, cole slaw, bread and pie. There was a choice of vegetarian or meat sauce on the spaghetti. There are many Seventh Day Adventists in Carthage and they are vegetarians. There were at least eight kinds of pie. My job was putting slices on paper plates. There were kinds of pie that I never make or even heard of, for instance chocolate with Dream Whip and something called peanut butter pie. It had no visible peanut butter in it and appeared to be composed mostly of whipped topping. I did not have the courage to taste it. One pie I did try was Louisiana Pecan Pie. I give that one an A+. The Town Meeting was noisy and contentious. A committee in which I participated has worked for over a year to prepare a town plan designed to direct growth of the town in healthy directions and protect the river front. This was not up for vote but was merely stapled into the Town Report for people to think about. A proposal to employ a part time Code Enforcement Officer was interpreted by one noisy faction as part of the above plan to inhibit their freedom to use their property as they choose and a toe in the door to institute zoning, a concept some find objectionable. In fact, the planning committee was the object of an impassioned speech in which the planning concept was declared to be a communist plot and the committee members to be at best communist dupes. The proposal to employ a code enforcement officer was defeated by a large margin. Local freedom to discard cars in the front yard and trash out back appears safe for the present.
July 1, 2003 Tuesday: Our weather for two days has been perfect. I was able to use the milking machine morning and evening by flipping the slide on the pulsator back and forth with my finger. Leah seemed a little annoyed by the unsteady rhythm but let down pretty well with a total of 2 ¼ gals for the day. I hope to get the milk supply stabilized soon. I have some pretty disappointed customers. We actually ran out of milk this morning and what is worse, ran out of cream. Abby ran up to the store this morning and bought some for her coffee. What a shock!
July 2, 2003 Wednesday: This was another beautiful day. There was a lovely little shower during the afternoon after which the sun came out again. Once again this morning I milked Leah by toggling the pulsator by hand. Before this evening’s milking I dismantled it and changed a little something inside it but it still did not work. Then I gave it four wee drops of oil, dismantled it again, wiped down all the parts that showed oil, fiddled with the leathers again and put it back together. This time it ran like a champ. Don’t ask me why it changed its mind. Leah came up to the barn when she heard me running the vacuum pump and was waiting to be let in. She now lets down her milk very fast for the machine. It takes only three minutes to milk her. Her total today was slightly over 2 ¼ gals. Helen is looking well and her udder is softer every day. I take her a very small bit of grain every morning, about a cup and a half, just enough so that I can feed her her kelp supplement. I add maybe two tablespoons of kelp to the grain. One of the chicks was missing today, a cute little black one.
July 3, 2003 Thursday: Hot July weather returned today. Leah was waiting to come in both morning and evening and behaved perfectly apart from lifting her tail and going pee. I am getting handy with the bucket to catch it. Her total production was slightly up. I am hoping she gets up to 2 ½ gallons. We got far enough ahead on milk so that I was able to skim cream again. There is plenty of cream on each jar now but with a machine you don’t get that heavy layer like Devonshire cream that you do with hand milking. It whipped OK though. I made strawberry shortcake and piled it on. I have had my Free Kitten sign out now for two weeks and still have two kittens to give away. My poor old dog Muffin perked up a bit after I last wrote about her but now she seems to be getting discouraged again. It won’t be long until I must call my vet. I don’t want her to suffer.
July 4, 2003 Friday: Fourth of July Leah gave only two gallons today. I don’t know what her excuse was. It has turned hot again but the cows have plenty of feed and cool water and good shade. After evening chores Abby and I joined four family members out at my daughter Marcia’s lake house where we had a fine cookout. Max grilled swordfish steaks and some handmade sausages brought by son Mark. We were six including granddaughters Hailey and Helena. Dinner also included salad with home grown lettuce, corn, fresh rolls and strawberry shortcake. Off in the distance around the lake we could see bursts of fireworks. Back here at the farm we are making do with fireflies. They are twinkling everywhere.
July 5, 2003 Saturday: Martin took over the evening milking chores, shooed me right out of the barn. He got along OK with the machine. Leah likes him. We got almost 2 ½gallons today. It was over 80F so we took our dinner out to the lake where it was cooler. I served the first of the hams from the pigs I raised earlier this year. We had a few belated fireworks and Martin persuaded me to try one of the kayaks. I took a little tour in the direction of three loons that showed an interest in our activities.
July 6, 2003 Sunday: The cows were off at the edge of the woods this morning and did not come when I called. Before walking out into the sunny but wet pasture I wiped myself down with the Lemon Joy/vinegar mixture in hopes of discouraging biting insects. It worked very well. I did not get any bites. The no-seeums are particularly bad in the early morning if I go out without repellant and this stuff worked as well as deet and better than citronella. Martin milked again this evening. He is learning to use a milking machine. Max and Helena did a nice fence improvement project in the area below the deck. There was an unsightly jungle of old wire fence, burdock and sumac down there and now there is a neat looking rail fence made of Martin’s CorrectDeck. Elena and Martin’s friend Amy then added some barbed wire incase the sheep might think the wide spacing of the rails made an inviting challenge.
July 7, 2003 Monday: My bantam hen that is raising five non bantam chicks has for several nights succeeded in getting the two black chicks to get up into a nesting box with her at night. Initially she sat with her chicks on the layer room floor but the bantam hens always try to get their chicks to roost higher up, as high as possible. The three yellow ones couldn’t make it and had to stay huddled down in a corner. Tonight all five are up in a nesting box. It is about four feet above the floor. I have not seen how they get up there but I think they must have to fly. Leah was far away in the pasture tonight. Both cows, Cletus the steer and the six sheep were all under a very old apple tree and had the area trampled and grazed flat. I think green apples must be falling in a belated June drop. As soon as I got close to her Leah turned and politely walked back to the barn. Her total production today was about 2 ¼gallons. My daughter Abby, who is visiting, is helping a lot with thec ows. She puts the vinegar fly repellent on them every day, even on Cletus.
July 8, 2003 Tuesday: Sticky hot again today but the garden is loving it. There were two rain showers and everything is moist and steaming. The lilies and coreopsisare opening. Muffin has perked up a bit but she eats very little. Abby has been feeding her mostly meat. She eats this better than dog food. Leah was very well behaved. She gave nearly 2 ½ gallons. I got over a dozen eggs.
July 9, 2003 Wednesday: A fine bright brisk Maine day, the sort I remember as a child in the days before the weather changed. Leah was not very well behaved tonight. My old friend and neighbor from California is visiting and asked to watch the milking. Leah likes it to be just us two. She did not kick but managed to shake off a couple of the teat cups. While the machine was dangling, she raised her tail to pee. I keep an old bucket handy and managed to catch it all. But she shuffled around and knocked it over while I was saving the milking machine from disaster. She then settled herself and let down but lifted her tail and made another contribution on the way out the door. She gave a little over two gallons today.
July 10, 2003 Thursday: Another very fine day weatherwise. The milking machine vacuum pump was reluctant to start this morning and this evening refused to function at all I had to milk by hand. Leah hates this. I had to put the kicker on her but still she tried to kick and never entirely settled down. I milkedf or twenty minutes by which time we were both out of patience. I got half a gallon. Back in the house, I called the man who sold the machine. I had the pump in the kitchen and turned it on and held the phone up to it. He said it sounded as though the vanes were stuck and the pump needed flushing. I am supposed to take off the muffler and get an aerosol solvent called Inhibisol or brake and parts cleaner. Come to think of it he didn’t exactly tell me where to spray this stuff. But obviously I will need to milk by hand again tomorrow morning.
July 11, 2003 Friday: Steady rain all day. The animals grazed in the rain but I put down hay anyway in case they wanted a dry bite. Abby and I milked together again this morning and got most of the milk but it took twenty minutes fourhanded. Then Abby went out and bought the aerosol cleaning stuff. I had no luck disassembling the pump. Abby wanted to take the car and go shopping so I called a farm equipment place that has a milking machine specialist, albeit Boumatic, to see if she could drop off the pump for him to look at. He proved very helpful. He discovered that the internal vanes and rotor were basically toast and called the seller in Wisconsin. They worked it out that Ashley at the local place will send out my pump to Wisconsin and Bill in Wisconsin will send a replacement pump and keep my old one. What with the weekend, it will mean continuing to milk by hand until Tuesday or Wednesday. At this evening’s milking Leah was more resigned to hand milking and stood fairly still. Our total for the day was a bit over two gallons. I never feel we get all the milk when hand milking Leah. I can tell she is fed up with standing there.
July 13, 2003 Sunday: Abby and I milked extra early this morning so that my guest from California, Gina, and I could get to church. Leah came in very dirty. That is unusual for her. She had been lying in a cow pat. She came in dirty again tonight. First I rubbed her down with hay, then we used a lot of paper towels, and then I began with my usual cloths. She did not let down very well either time. I did not get much above 1 ½ gallons total today. I sure hope that vacuum pump arrives soon. The weather today was superb. The veg garden is looking good, thanks mostly to Abby. And today Helena weeded the carrots. The Asiatic lilies are starting to bloom.
July 14, 2003 Monday: Super weather again. All the flowers and vegetables are looking good. My dahlia plants are 3 feet high but I don’t see any buds. Lots of red lilies have opened, and poppies and clematis. Leah’s production is falling slightly each day. I sure hope the new pump comes tomorrow. My daughter Abby plans to stay and help me milk until it arrives but her husband is getting anxious for her return. I think we got less than two gallons today.
July 15, 2003 Tuesday: My friend Gina and son Max left today for California. I spent four hours in the afternoon waiting at Max’s new house, which is forty minutes distant, for the telephone people. They never showed up. I took along some paper work but the house is bare of furniture until they move to Maine. So, my activities were limited. I walked around the edge of the vast lawn and found more than a dozen different tree species and many wild flowers including St. Johnswort. I am not in the habit of having nothing to do for even fifteen minutes, never mind four hours. Fortunately, the weather was perfect. I was so late getting home that Abby had milked Leah by herself. She did as well or better than I could have, but Leah’s production is a bit less each day. I talked to the man who is sending a replacement pump. He says he mailed is on Saturday. He also said I would need to assemble it. I don’t know diddly about assembling pumps so I suppose I will have to take it to somebody.
July 16, 2003 Wednesday: It rained most of today. My replacement pump did not arrive. Leah let down very poorly today. I did not get much over a gallon total for the day. I sure hope I can build up her production again once I have the machine. I made a lovely stir fry for supper using snow peas and the flowering sprouts of mustard, both from the garden. I planted Chinese red mustard about five years ago and it self seeds every year. The leaves are fiery hot but the little florets are delicious.
July 17, 2003 Thursday: Still no pump, but it was another beautiful day. That is, except that my daughter Abby left this morning for Pennsylvania. I will miss her a lot. I have gotten used to having company. And of course she was a great help in house, garden and barn. A picture of her can be seen at www.abigailluick.com A skunk has been hanging around. Last night when I let the dogs out the dingbats grabbed the opportunity to chase it. Thank the Lord they did not get directly sprayed but it let off an awful stink somewhere near the house. Visitors will be commenting for days.
July 18, 2003 Friday Another day of lovely weather but still no vacuum pump. I talked with the sender to be sure he used the right address. Unfortunately he mailed it Parcel Post with is a guarantee of slow movement. Leah’s production is still declining with hand milking even though she is not uncooperative. I did not get much over a gallon today. Very disappointing. I still have my Free Kitten sign out. Some lovely children came to the door and I gave them the last two kittens along with some free Amoxicillan for the runny nose one of them has. But, half an hour later they came back with the kittens. The parents had rejected the idea. Sigh.
July 20, 2003 Sunday: Still milking by hand here and with increasingly discouraging results. Saturday Leah gave a bit under a gallon and today even less. The good news is that the weather is very fine. Everywhere I look trees, fields, lawn and flowers are looking lush and healthy. The hens continue to lay although I cannot always find their eggs. I usually get a dozen. My daughter in Alaska, Sally, called. There is an eagle’s nest in a tall fir by her garden with two baby eagles in it. The mother bear with triplets that has been hanging around and acting threatening for several weeks has been staying on the other side of the Chilkoot River. This means she can work in her garden. Son Mark was here this weekend with young Hailey. Mark mowed a lot of lawn with the riding mower while Hailey picked currants and my granddaughter Helena mowed the rest. I now live in a fine setting at least for a week until it all grows back. If the pastures were not so good I would feel guilty about wasting all this lawn grass. I planted Bull’s Blood beets this year for the first time. This is a variety intended for use as dye. There were very few seeds in the packet and even fewer came up, maybe six beets. They are amazingly brilliant with the sun on them.
July 21, 2003 Monday: Good news tonight! The replacement vacuum pump arrived. Its gauge, air filter, muffler and base were all wrapped separately. I decided to call an auto mechanic I know and see if he would come to my rescue. This he kindly did. It took him an hour to get the pump ready. We had a drawing showing where the parts went but it did not tell the order in which to put them on. They have threaded fittings like water pipes and required Teflon goop which fortunately Lester brought along. The instructions did not mention the order in which things went on, which was important because the parts get in each other’s way during assembly if the order is wrong. Lester put things on and then had to take them off to make room for other parts to swing around while being screwed in. This sounds muddled. I guess you had to be there. Anyway, we got it going and I milked tonight by machine. Leah let down better. She gave twice as much as last night, which is not saying much since last night she only gave one quart. I hope to be able to build her production back up. When I get it up as far as it will go I am going to drop the evening milking.
July 23, 2003 Wednesday: The milking machine is behaving like a champ, but Leah’s production is not responding. Tonight I skipped the evening milking. I expect that soon I will have just about enough milk to put in my tea, but hey, it beats store-bought. For that I am prepared to wash the big old machine, although of course if Leah responded well to hand milking I would not bother with the machine. Our weather continues to be prime. It rained a while today and then the sun came out. It has been raining just enough so that the lawn has not developed brown spots. I have done no watering. I have taken down my Free Kittens sign. The last two kittens looked a bit sickly and one had sore eyes (Max named her Crusty when he visited here). I got Amoxicillin from the vet and now both kittens are little fireballs. They growl and struggle over their wet food in the morning.
July 24, 2003 Thursday: Soft warm rain on and off today. I weeded the raspberries for a while. The weeds are easy to pull. It was too wet to pick any gooseberries. Leah gave slightly over a half gallon this morning. The cows and sheep have plenty of good grazing, although it would be a lot better if the field were bushhogged. I made Hazelnut Golden Raisin Baguettes from the recipe in the new Baker’s Catalogue (King Arthur flour). They turned out just like the picture, and very tasty. Also, I made a loaf of banana bread to use up some bananas and a big pot of baked beans. I might need these things this weekend if family arrives. My romaine lettuce is pretty good. I am not a great fan of romaine, but I do find this to taste a great deal better than what is in the market. Everyday lately I have patrolled the potatoes looking for beetles and today they appeared. I drowned a handful. I don’t plant a lot of potatoes. These are from seed sent me by my son John when he lived in Alaska. He said he thought that they were Yellow Finn, but they look more like illustrations I have seen of German Fingerling. They are a very nice small, waxy type. If anyone would like some to plant next year, write to me and if the crop does not fail I will try to send some in the fall.
July 25, 2003 Friday: A hot summer day, over 80F, with a couple of very brief showers. I took the machine off Leah too soon this morning and got not much over a quart. So I milked again this evening to get the rest of it. She has already decided she likes not coming in and ran away. I had to go after her, which I did not appreciate in this heat. I caught up with her in the run-in under the buttery and she decided to be a good girl after all and trotted back to the barn. Still, her total for the day was not much over two quarts. It would be silly to use the machine and do all the wash-up for this amount of milk, except the alternative is no milk at all. Or, of course, the tedium of hand milking, which she does not let down for. I guess I will carry on in hopes of keeping her going until Helen freshens. Leah calved about a year ago and this is her first lactation. She has really done well given the circumstances. I made myself another lovely salad tonight with romaine lettuce. This time I put on blue cheese and walnuts with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing. I may have to change my opinion of Romaine. These heads are perfect and have a nut-like flavor.
July 26, 2003 Saturday: Leah was reluctant to come in this morning and led me a merry chase. She gave less than two quarts. Now this evening, looking at the glass jar, it appears to be mostly cream. She seems to be trying to dry off. My granddaughter Helena and I picked peas today. I found the first zucchini, still too small to pick. I love the first zucchinis. We also picked some of our berries. Helena saved a hummingbird that was caught in a spider web in the buttery. She noticed it because the kittens were leaping into the air trying to reach it. She took it out on the deck and released it. It did not appear damaged by the experience.
July 27, 2003 Sunday: It was hot and muggy today and threatening to storm. Helena and I drove up to camp to take clothes off the line. All the cleared area where the ground is covered with pine needles had sprouted mushrooms. I have rarely seen such a stand of boletus. They ranged from the size of a shirt button to as big as a salad plate. A man who works with Martin stopped by with his two children, Hannah, 8, and Daniel, 11. Martin took them down to the river to show them the crawfish. They all had fun wading after the crawfish, especially Daniel. Martin when he was a boy loved to make little rock walls to confine the crawfish he caught. Now he likes to introduce kids to what lives in the river. I don’t think Hannah liked crawfish quite so well as her brother did. Leah did not give any more this morning than she did yesterday. I only milked in the morning. What she gives is more than half cream. I fixed a comprehensive dinner if Indian food, biryani (rice with lamb). After everyone left the rain finally started. I was so hot I went out on the deck and stood there until I got soaked.
July 29, 2003 Tuesday: Leah’s production this morning on once a day milking crept up from a miserable five cups of mostly cream to a bit under a half gallon with a normal amount of cream. I am leaving the machine on for five or six minutes and she does not seem to mind. Egg production is slowing down or else I am not finding the eggs. Only eight or nine a day recently. A very favorite cat of mine, Suki, has not been seen for four days. I fear something has happened to her. I walked down the road and did not see any little dead body. At times I have lost cats to coyotes and foxes. Suki has not previously been a wanderer and she is spayed. While out walking, I checked on my wild apple trees that grow near the bridge. A young one is bearing a good crop for the first time. The old tree is practically dead and in danger of tipping over into the river so I was glad to see the new apples and hope they are fit to eat. Last year there was another wild tree slightly closer to the bridge that had just begun to bear exceptionally delicious apples that also were large. I pleaded with the bridge crew not to cut it and they promised not to but the next day it was gone all the same. I think they just promised in order to get rid of me.
July 30, 2003 Wednesday: Yet another very fine day. I am grateful for each one. My daughter Abby returned today and will be staying here. She loves dogs. Before arriving she had stopped at a McDonald’s and picked up a bag of 99-cent hamburgers. She requested plain, nothing on them. The girl at the window was sure there was some mistake until Abby explained they were for her dogs and they don’t like ketchup and relish. The dogs, Muffin, Bagel and Izzy, appeared to appreciate her thoughtfulness. Leah gave such a measly amount of milk this morning that I have decided to dry her off. My goodness, this means I can sleep as long as I want tomorrow. What do you bet I get up as early as ever?
July 31, 2003 Thursday: As I suspected would happen, I was unable to sleep past 5:30. Maybe better luck tomorrow. I went out and opened the chicken door. Leah was waiting patiently to come in but I explained that would not be necessary. Later in the day Abby went out and gave them all a bit of grain so they would stand still for their vinegar fly preparation. It does help. Today was sticky fly weather, hot and muggy. I only got eight eggs. A lot of hens are broody. This is being submitted on Thursday rather than Friday because Max and his family are about to leave on their trip to their new home in Maine.
August 2, 2003 Saturday: Now that I quit milking Leah her udder has not filled up at all. She was really ready to quit. Helen is now about three weeks away from calving. She is bagging up just barely discernibly and I noticed for the first time a little bit of vaginal discharge. Last time she looked ready long before she calved and still went a couple of days past her due date. …There was an interruption here. Abby and I decided we had to have some milk and drove to Walmart where they sell Horizon. We left all three dogs in the house. When we got home I unlocked the door and all three burst out. It turned out that it was not just that they were glad to see us. They knew something was in the buttery. I am sorry to say it was a skunk. It sprayed before our eyes right into Izzy’s face that’s Abby’s dog. It has beagle blood and went right for the skunk. Abby is out there scrubbing everything. I had saved a formula that is supposed to kill the smell. It is 1 squart hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda and 2 tablespoons liquid detergent. I had only one cup of peroxide on hand but it seemed to help a lot on Izzy’s face. The skunk got her right in the eyes. My kitchen smells terrible and my throat even hurts.
August 3, 2003 Sunday: After she used up the peroxide mixture Abby turned to scrubbing with Oxyclean. We give it high marks for efficacy too. Despite a direct hit the smell around the door is quite faint. Nonetheless the air in and around the house took all night to clear despite running fans.( Izzy spent the night in the garage with Bagel for company.) But I think as a result of the smell, Abby and I both had severe headaches this morning and could not eat breakfast. All three of the run-ins that the cows have are getting disgusting because they retreat there often to escape flies. Yesterday I distributed an old bale of hay around in one of them to create a clean bed. For some reason they did not notice this until this morning. I saw them discovering it at 7am when I tottered out to the barn, rather later than usual since I am not milking. They were quite cute as they sniffed and explored the hay and tried to decide if it was edible. Some folks that were staying at camp collected up their food scraps for our chickens. This included some of those hot dogs that are dyed red. One chicken made one peck and no more was eaten. I have learned that a letter I wrote to Atlantic Monthly in reference to an article by Michael Pollen has been published. Pollen’s excellent article describes how corn is taking over the world of agriculture, animal feeding and processed food. He asserted that feedlot beef is being stuffed with corn like a goose being fattened for foie gras, but that at least corn is the natural food of geese whereas it is highly unnatural for cattle, whose natural food is grass. In my letter I pointed out that as it happens geese are perhaps alone among birds in that, like cattle, their natural food is also grass. They have a gut and digestive process that includes a system to ferment grass and create nutrients, as do herbivores. I also mentioned that corn is a crop developed by man and is not the natural food of any species
August 5, 2003 Tuesday: It has rained now for four days. Everything is soggy but warm and muggy and stays hot all night. At the risk of sounding like an Old Fogy, I must say, we never had weather like this when I was a kid. It used to cool tight off at night. Abby has begun a project, long overdue, of cleaning the chicken room. She is learning a lot about chickens, including how when a hen is broody you can pick her right up and set her down somewhere else and she won’t say a word. While in he garden today, Abby discovered how much cows love cabbage. Helen, Leah and Cletus got very excited when she started feeding them leaves. We are now getting a lot of arugula but all the lettuce has bolted. The giant dahlias are beginning to open. Helen is looking huge. She is a little too fat so I hope this will not cause a problem when she calves. It is nice to have a little break from milking but I miss the fresh milk and cream desperately.
August 7, 2003 Thursday: Abby and I got disgusted with store milk and cream and took a drive yesterday to Turner and bought four gallons of milk from a Jersey dairy. It is a lot better than store milk but we still look forward to our own milk from Helen. It should be only about two more weeks now. There is already a daily show of mucous. I am giving her a little grain every day now and she still gets her kelp too. My granddaughter Helena swept in from camp where she is visiting friends and mowed the lawn. What a gift! It really needed it, thanks to the constant rain. Abby is continuing with her chicken house cleaning. Two bantams have gone broody as a pair and spend all their time side by side in one nest.
August 8, 2002 Friday: Helen is making a low mooing noise that cows use for talking to a calf. I don’t know if she is calling it now, teaching it her voice, or perhaps parturition hormones are building up and prompting this call. Maybe all of the above. It is a pleasant sound. She now spends a lot of time lying down.
August 9, 2003 Saturday: Max and his family (wife, two little girls and wonderfully helpful mother-in-law) arrived last evening at their new home in Maine following a cross-country car caravan. Max drove the larger vehicle with their five cats (or is it six?). How did they end up with so many cats? Its that rescue bug that is loose among us. Maxs wife, Mitra, used to work in an animal shelter. My daughter Abby and I took dinner to them in their still empty house. Max will be back to his duties managing my web site as soon as their furniture catches up with them. Earlier in the day, Abby rescued another humming bird, or perhaps the same one, from a cobweb. She thought she had brushed them all off, but this time when she released the little bird he fell to earth into a tangle of morning glories. She could hear his desperate twittering but although she searched for a long time she could not find him. We hope he freed himself. Helen is mighty big. She waddles when she walks. She has bagged up just a little. I bought some of the calcium paste to give her when she calves. I also bought a magnet for Leah. I had never gotten around to putting one down her but Johnnies recent loss has reminded me, even though we dont know for sure what happened to SirLoin.
August 10, 2003 Sunday: We just had another warm wet steamy day. Abby is continuing with the chicken room cleanout but there is still more to do. We still have not been able to find anybody with a front-end loader with teeth to clean out the manure in the Beefer Pen, the cows main winter run-in. Helen is bagging up more each day. She has trouble getting to her feet now but still stood right up for her favorite treat, apple peelings.
August 11, 2003 Monday: My Goodness, another steamy day! But we got a little shower at 5pm that helped a lot. Last evening the little copper outfall line that delivers spring water to a granite sink in my kitchen began sucking air. This is a sure sign that the line from the spring is broken. The spring is 5/8 of a mile away, which offers a lot of possibilities for trouble. But I always look in the obvious places first. Abby and I explored along the line this morning where it parallels the river. We found the break where it crosses a tributary brook.. There has been so much rain that the brook has undercut and softened the bank and a large tree has toppled on the line. It had separated at the point of an earlier repair and will require a three foot splice. The over burden from the tree stump has anchored the line to where the two ends no longer meet. Abby gamely waded into the river in her clothes to find the loose end. She said the water felt pretty good. It will be some days before I can get help to repair the line. Max is tied up putting fresh paint in his new home. I dropped my egg basket today and broke five eggs. I was very mad at myself!
August 12, 2003 Tuesday: An entire day without rain here on the farm but it is still incredibly muggy. I whacked out a growth of wild raspberry canes that grew higher than my head in a month. They were suffocating my tree peony. Helens tail is getting wobbly, a sign that parturition is near. She was even dripping a little milk.
August 13, 2003 Wednesday: No rain today but still hot and steamy. We ran out of vinegar fly spray for a day and the flies attacked the cows badly. Even with the spray, they suffer. Helen spent most of the day lying down. Thanks to the rain, the muck is about a foot deep by the back ramp. Abby lost her clog in it while trying to cross with the grain pans. She had to hose off her shoe and foot. She did not notice until too late that the grain is moldy. I will call my grain merchant tomorrow but I suppose he will say its the weather. Egg laying is not what it was two months ago, but I got nine today.
August 14, 2003 Thursday: At last, a day of superb Maine weather. Low humidity, a light breeze, and sunshine. The cows grazed cheerfully. They all look good. I ran the lawn mower and hacked out bittersweet and Virginia creeper for about two hours. This place would look like Sleeping Beautys Castle if allowed to. I found one of my five foot high giant dahlias all mashed down, apparently by a dog making a nest. I was sick about it. Dogs may be incompatible with gardening. Abby and I tied it back up with many sticks and lots of string and she gave it water since it has not rained for two days. All the same, I have little hope for it. Sigh. The grain that Abby reported as moldy yesterday was from a bag she had poured out into a bin so I did not call about it. Later I opened another bag and it was OK on top but farther down it too was moldy. Tomorrow I will definitely call. A mouse ran up the brick wall by the Aga right before my eyes and into the cold fireplace. I set my big cat, Gingerbread, on the hearth and he wiggled his whiskers a bit but did not raise the mouse. I guess its time to set a trap.
August 15, 2003 Friday: Somewhat to my surprise, the flattened dahlia looks fine today. I suppose I will need to keep watering it. Maine is mostly sand so two days after a rainy month the garden is dry again. At dusk when Abby and I called the cows for their grain and kelp snack there was no sign of Helen. We went back in the house and changed into pants and boots and grabbed flashlights. Could she be calving early? No. We found her in the North Field. Either she was being lazy or just did not hear. We walked back in the dark followed by Helen, Leah, Cletus and six sheep. Cletus was bouncy and aggressive towards Abby and did not back off when she yelled at him and said, Back! I gave him two good thumps with my heavy flashlight and he said, Oh alright, Ill behave. And he did. I am very glad our forum participants have just had a thorough discussion of cow control. I had intended bringing it up anyway. The current Guidepost Magazine has an account by a woman who was attacked by a beef cow in her herd when she went among them during feeding. She had many years experience and the attack seemed unprovoked, except the cow was near parturition. The writer nearly lost her life. When working around any large animals safety comes first. At least we are not wrangling grizzly bears. My daughter Sally in Alaska lives by a salmon river and must watch out for bears every day. Last night two had a big snarly fight in the very spot where she and a friend had been standing on the previous evening.
August 16, 2003 Saturday: Max and I took a bucket of tools and walked down to the brook. Max repaired the broken spring line. When we first found the break, spring water was pouring out the pipe and adding itself to the brook. Today no water was coming out. I thought maybe the spring had run dry during the week. Max and Abby took a drive up to the mountainside where the spring rises and found plenty of water in it. The problem is likely an airlock. We did not have time today to deal with this because of preparing for my granddaughter Roshan’s birthday (Max’s daughter). The weather was beautiful again today. Abby and I did about an hour of gardening before the party. Abby’s three rows of corn had tipped over during a sudden brief wind. She stood them up and hilled up dirt to keep them standing. I made a butter cake, baked one of my hams, and brought garden vegetables for dinner. We met at camp with a total of twelve family members.
August 17, 2003 Sunday: The spring is again running. Max attached a hose from the dug well (artesian) source and the other end to the spring line where it comes into the cellar. With the water turned on from the well, the water and air embolism were driven back to the spring. When the hose was detached the spring ran properly. We have done this before. Our well water is OK, but a bit sulphurous, so it is a treat to have our spring water back. I find I drink a lot more water if it is spring water. Today was again lovely. The cows are much more willing to graze when there is a light breeze and the temperature is in the low 80’s. Even Helen, who is lumbering around practically dragging, seems downright cheerful. I pulled out another great lot of giant weeds, fed a lot of people, and made bread. I have an ancient Osterizer that does a great job of grinding one cup of wheat grain at a time. It takes just two or three minutes per cup. Most modern blenders can’t do this nearly as well. Abby and I took a drive this evening and bought two gallons of milk from a friend with a Jersey cow. Can we make it last until Helen freshens? I doubt it.
August 19, 2003 Tuesday: After dark this evening I could hear Helen’s bell in a strange place, but could not find her. Only Cletus was in the barnyard by himself looking worried in the flashlight beam. I got Abby to come out and help me locate her. She and Leah had pushed through into a fenced off area that is an old foundation where we used to put the pigs. It is now full of shoulder high weeds. In the dark they could not seem to see the hole they had made to get in. I got Helen to come out by letting her sniff my fingers as I backed up. Leah just bolted around in there acting nervous so we gave up and left. Fifteen minutes later Abby went out with grain to lead her forth but before she reached her, Leah barged out and ran off into the night looking for the others. Cows sure hate to be separated. Today I got my first pole beans, I also pulled a bunch of dear little pure white round turnips. I think I planted Gilfeather. The tomatoes and zucchinis are now coming thick and fast. I also picked the first cucumbers. All these things were delicious. I got a dozen eggs today. Our weather was perfectly lovely.
August 20, 2003 Wednesday: Another fine day, but warmer. My hay man said he would be here at 8AM and good old Max came over here to help stack. The hay did not show up until 10AM, but he had a good excuse. His tractor was spurting oil. He did not bring quite all of the hay because he had to put it on a different rig. We were pleased that he brought along two young men to help unload and throw bales, and he also brought a hay elevator. This is an electrically operated conveyor belt with a spiked chain. You just set the bale on the chain at the bottom and soon it is up to the hay mow and another person lifts it off in a coordinated effort. The young man who stood in the hay mow must have been throwing a lot of bales this summer. He could throw them to us about 20 feet inside. Max and Abby then stacked them. It looks like nice hay. Some is first cut, some is second. Abby made a good repair of the fence the cows trashed last night.
August 21, 2003 Thursday: The hot weather is back with us along with more flies than ever on the cows. This morning I noticed that Helen’s bag was filling up very noticeably all except the near rear quarter. That seemed a bit hard and lumpy down near the teat but the upper part of it was slack. By evening the difference was less noticeable. Abby and I both worked for hours outdoors. She worked in the veg garden while I tore out Virginia creeper.
August 22, 2003 Friday: Another steamer of a day. We were told to expect thunder storms but they didn’t happen. I dug new potatoes for supper and my, they were delicious with butter. These are my little heirloom potatoes something like German Fingerlings. They cook very fast. We also had a salad using one last late lettuce. It was an iceberg type. When home grown, these are truly delicious, nothing at all like the watery supermarket product. Using a broken ladder, we made a barrier so the cows can’t get under the buttery. They like that cool underground area lined with huge blocks of granite. But it is impossible to keep up with mucking out, consequently it is six inches deep in damp, cool mucky mud. I don’t want to risk Helen calving in there. She is now overdue, well bagged up, and breathing hard.
August 23, 2003 Saturday: I let the chickens out this morning, clear and sunny it was, and stood in their door to view the pasture. There were all three cows grazing, Leah, Cletus and Helen. Helen’s udder looked huge, like it would fill a wheelbarrow, and I thought, “This can’t go on much longer.” Then out from behind her peeked a little pair of ears. She was standing in deep grass, a nice clean place, and the calf could not have been more than 15 minutes old. He was still perfectly wet. Abby soon appeared to have a look. Helen was pretty mellow about the whole thing. We got grain and tempted her towards the lean-to. At one point she seriously considered leading her calf off into another field but I managed to change her mind with grain. We worked a long time to help the half nurse and he did. He is very big and strong, at least 60 pounds. He was born ready to boogie, although one back ankle was wobbly for an hour or so. I milked out a couple of cups of colostrum into a pitcher. Later in the day when Martin arrived we got teamwork going and got her into her stanchion. Martin carried the calf in. We named him Albert. He had another big feed and I gave Helen grain with the contents of a tube of calcium paste mixed in. There was no way I was going to get that down her mouth following the printed instructions. I tasted it and it is vile. She ate it in her grain just fine. I milked out 1.25 gal. of colostrum by hand. Helen never lifted a foot. Nothing like the kicking derby after her last calving. Now she is a mature matron. A lot of family got together at the lake for another birthday party, this time for my daughter-in-law Mitra, Max,s wife. They have just moved here from California. After a lovely meal, we went to the barn with flashlights and checked on Helen and Albert. They are both perfectly lively. Helen wanted badly to get out of the lean-to. Abby held back Albert while Helen went out and got a big drink. We could tell she wanted Albert to come along and probably go for a midnight stroll. But, when that didn’t happen she came back in with him and Abby spent ten or fifteen minutes making sure Albert sucked. Helen is eating some of her new hay. There are no signs of milk fever.
August 24, 2003 Sunday: What a busy day! We got Helen into her stanchion and I milked 1.5 gallons of colostrum by hand. Albert had a pretty good feed. We put them together in the lean-to until about 10 AM, and then I let Helen out to graze. I did not put them together again. Albert is now in the big stall in my garage/carriage house and starting on a bottle. Helen has made remarkably little complaint about this and there has not been a sound out of Albert. But, he is no good at taking a bottle. Abby and I tried four or five times, each time until our backs were in rebellion, and got maybe 24 ounces into him by bed time. Helen was difficult to get into the barn tonight for milking. Although she has not been bellowing, she was worried about her calf and not sure her stanchion and grain were so very important. Abby and I tempted her with apples, also brought Cletus along part way, and finally she changed her mind and raced in. This time I used the machine. She didn’t like it, and shifted around a lot and almost decided to kick, but not quite. She did not let down well at all, but all four quarters are somewhat relieved. So far she is not as engorged as I have often seen cows be. I got a little more than 1.5 gallons. This part of Maine has a frost warning, just when the garden is bursting with tender vegetables. After milking, Abby and I put tarps over everything we could. This is so aggravating. One dozen eggs today.
August 25, 2003 Monday: It did not freeze last night after all. I got up when my alarm went off at 5AM and looked at the thermometer, saw 45F, and sank down on the couch for another hour. Helen gave 2.25 gal. this morning and the same this evening. I am using the machine and definitely am not getting it all. I can’t tell if it is the fault of the machine, or because she is not letting down very well. Albert is getting a bit more efficient at taking his bottle. He has a good appetite once he gets his tongue arranged for sucking. It still takes two of us to control his bouncing. We fed him three times today. The last feed was at 10PM. When we went out to his stall he was gone. That was seriously alarming because the front door of the carriage house was open and he could have gone anywhere. But we found him behind the lawn tractor looking confused. One of the slats to his stall was wide enough to get through. I once lost a calf that got loose. They can and will run a great distance. A neighbor told us he had seen a woman get out of her can and pick up a calf. So, he did not end up in the woods. That was more than 30 years ago in Oakville WA. Albert drank over six quarts today. There were ten eggs.
August 25, 2003 Tuesday: Helen only gave 4.5 gallons today. I am a bit worried that she is too fat. The grass this summer has been unusually good due to high rainfall. She has had very little grain. But the problem may just be flies. Abby had Albert out on a lead today on the lawn. He bounced around a lot. She stuffed some grass in his mouth, which he didn’t please him, but after it was in his mouth he liked it pretty well. I had company today and was unable to collect eggs until evening. As always happens when I leave egg collection until late, I did not get many, only six. One of my guests put up a board so now Albert will not be able to get out of his pen.
August 27, 2003 Wednesday: Very fine weather today. I picked a lot of tomatoes and a collection of other vegetables, which I made into a stir-fry. Little Albert is shiny and bouncy. Today he learned to get the nipple on his bottle with only a little assistance. Abby is giving him a fourth bottle, making two gallons today. He seemed to be hungry. She dearly loves feeding animals. She takes him for several walks each day. Helen came in for milking with less confusion and coaxing and she seems to stand better each time. I guess she is beginning to accept the milking machine. But, she still whips her tail at me all the time on purpose, so I sit there with my arm up over my eyes.
August 29, 2003 Friday: Last night I was too depressed to write the diary. The milk was slow to strain and there were little clots. Sigh. I slathered Helen’s udder with liniment. The milk strained a lot better this morning and tonight was nearly perfect. But she is not letting down evenly and that is asking for trouble. On top of this, this evening she showed up with a little cut on her left front teat. I had to put the kicker on her before I could attach the machine. I sent her out with plenty of ointment on her udder. It seems to help with a mild mastitis. Her production is building. She gave 5 gallons yesterday and today. Today I made butter. My vet stopped in and did a pregnancy check on Leah. She was bred last February and has not come back into heat that I ever noticed, but I wanted proof. Good news. He said she has a big calf. Another bull in the family I suppose.
August 31, 2003 Sunday: On Saturday morning Helen again did not milk out properly and it felt like mastitis to me. After finishing with the machine both front quarters still felt hard. I thought it best to bring Albert in to suck. There is nothing like her own calf to get a cow to let down and to cure early mastitis. I think he drank about a gallon. In the evening both back quarters were in trouble so I brought him in again. He worked at least fifteen minutes on one hard quarter. This morning I decided to milk by hand, since Helen is not letting down well for the machine. All four quarters were fine. The milk strained perfectly. But, of course now she wants Albert back and after 20 minutes of my hand milking she quit letting down and began bellowing for him. I only got 2.5 gallons and know I missed a gallon. About 3AM this morning Muffin began crying and moaning. Finally I realized it was not going to stop, so I put on a bathrobe and went downstairs. She has become so arthritic that when she gets on a shiny hardwood floor it’s like she is on ice. She was in a corner under a window in a cold draught calling out, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” I got her back onto her bed and she settled right down after a drink of water. But, I could tell from the temperature of the air that we were probably getting a frost. I got up again at 5AM and saw 34F right by the house. So, I put on a wool sweater and socks and went down and sprayed water all over the vegetables. This is one of the few times that I have actually gotten out early enough to save the crop. My cucumbers and zucchinis survived. But, I guess summer is officially over. Also, on Saturday morning I was greeted by a bantam hen that was calling down her chicks. She had hatched them high up inside a wall where I could not reach. It was a busy day with lots of company, so I left her to it. A couple of hours later she had them collected together in the chicken yard. They had to fall about five feet. Three of them must have knocked themselves out or something. They were lying around growing cold. I put them in a basket on the Aga and after 45 minutes they revived and were raring to go. Except for one that had egg shell stuck to it and peeps all the time There were a dozen in all. I gave them a plate of cottage cheese and yogurt.
September 1, 2003 Monday: Last night (Sunday night) Martin milked Helen by hand. He said she got restless towards the end and he put the kicker on. But, he said she was deadly accurate with her tail. This morning I milked by hand again and she let down so well the milk was in great puddles on the floor. I could not keep up with it. But, it took me so long to milk that eventually she quit letting down. There was at least another quart in her left hind quarter. I went back to using the machine tonight, and after a slow start she let down satisfactorily. She gave a bit over five gallons, two gallons of which I gave to Albert. The hen and chicks stayed outside last night. There was one less this morning. The damaged one that peeps all the time was still alive but it won’t eat. Tonight the hen brought them all inside the barn and bedded down in a stall in the corner of the room where I milk
September 2, 2003 Tuesday: I used the milking machine this morning on Helen. She danced around a lot because I put the machine on wrong. Then I saw that her right front quarter was not milking out at all. I mean nothing. I could not tell if she was simply not letting down or if it was mastitis again. I left her in her stanchion while I took the milk in and strained it. There were 2 ½ gallons from the three quarters that milked. Then I went out with the bucket and worked on that quarter. The teat was completely stopped up with clots. I massaged the teat to break them up but it still took all my strength to force them out. She did not like this and I had to put the kicker on her. Abby gave her a bunch of crabapples to cheer her up. I finally got out all the clots but the quarter was still hard, so Abby brought out Albert. Even though he had already had a half-gallon of milk in his bottle he worked hard for ten or fifteen minutes and got her quarter much softer. It was difficult to keep him on that front quarter. He wanted to try the other easier ones. Before letting her out I slathered on the Phoenix thuja ointment. This evening that quarter seemed normal again and the milk strained fine. The hen and chicks are thriving. The sickly one started eating today from the pan of clabber. Most of the day the hen herds them around behind the barn. She works constantly at trying to find bugs and seeds. I don’t see how she can find enough for 11 chicks, so we are helping out with scratch and clabber. She brought them back inside the barn tonight. They are just too cute for words.
September 3, 2003 Wednesday: Helen gave over six gallons today. No wonder she stands at the gate and moos. Tonight her right hind quarter had clots. I think these may be clogged ducts clearing out. The milk strained just fine. The milking machine cannot extract these clots. I have to work them out by hand. Once they are out she milks ok and the quarter ends up soft.
September 4, 2003 Thursday: Last night we had a major electrical storm with heavy rain. Great claps of thunder were right over the house. There were three inches of water in a bucket I left outside. This was another six gallon day for Helen. At both milkings I took off the machine when she got irritable and finished the last couple of quarts by hand. Tonight was the first milking that I did not put the kicker on. I never put it on until she starts lifting her foot. Tonight she stayed pretty quiet. I made butter yesterday and today. I have been skimming all the milk except Albert’s share and what we need for drinking. I am clabbering the skim for the chickens. The milk chores, including milking, wash-up, and doing things with the milk now takes about four hours a day. I picked six quarts of elderberries for jelly, a favorite of my son Bret.
September 5, 2003 Friday: Helen has been forcing her head through the fence by the garden in search of greener grass, or so she supposes. Abby worked on reinforcing it today. While down there I saw that a little apple tree that was totally girdled last winter by rodents has put up a new leader. It was lost in the grass. I hacked the grass away and gave it some air. It looks good. Helen did not let down well this morning and I am not sure why. I suspect mastitis, but her milk strains fast. I put a lot of ointment on the two quarters that did not milk out. This evening I milked by hand and got less than usual, although the total for today was close to six gallons. It could be partly because I milked an hour early due to a family dinner at the lake. Another possibility is that she could be in heat. I did see Leah mounting her this morning. Two of our baby chicks drowned in a pan of clabber. Now there are nine.
September 7, 2003 Sunday: Martin was here on Saturday. He did hours of bushhogging and did both milkings. Helen is still struggling with mastitis. As soon as I get it cleared up in one quarter it shows up in another. Saturday morning Martin milked by hand and then I went and got Albert. He nursed for about 20 minutes. At the evening milking Helen’s udder seemed fine and the milk strained perfectly. This morning I milked by machine and got 3 ½ gallons. It strained perfectly. Now this evening I got 2 ½ gallons. Helen indicated that the machine was bothering her after five minutes and I took it off and milked the last two quarts by hand. I strained this separately and it was slow. The pasture looks a lot better. The cows love to graze where it has been cut over.
September 8, 2003 Monday: Helen was entirely free of mastitis today, so far as I could tell. The milk strained properly and the filter revealed no lumps. I did both milkings by hand. After this morning’s milking I had only 2 ½ gallons because she quit letting down after about 15 minutes. We put Albert on her and I think he got about a gallon. At one o’clock he still had a desultory interest in his milk. He was tied outside most of the day. He does some nibbling of grass. Also, he plays with Bagel. They bounce around together and provide considerable entertainment to the humans. At this evening’s milking I got a bit less than two gallons. Once again Helen quit letting down long before she was milked out.
September 9, 2003: We had frost again last night. I went down to the veg garden about 5:30AM and sprayed everything. This saved the tomatoes and zucchinis, but the cucumbers lost most of their leaves. The flowers up by the house were not touched by frost. Abby observed Albert chewing his cud today. While I was away doing errands, Abby worked for hours resetting a post and re-hanging one of the gates to the barnyard. We really need new materials, but this will be an improvement. The milking machine behaved very badly today. It is possible that the pulsator got water inside it. I milked partly by machine and partly by hand. The machine ended up not working at all. Because of a milk jar shortage and pouring out milk for Albert I don’t have a precise measurement of today’s milk, but it was over 5 ½ gallons.
September 10, 2003 Wednesday: I got up at 5am again in case I needed to spray frozen plants, but nothing had frozen. Hand milking again today. Helen is edgy and my hands are tired, but strength is returning. Mostly my shoulders are sore. The bucket stands in a pool of milk spraying from whichever two teats I am not working on. I got a bit less than six gallons total but I know she had more. I spent considerable time taking apart the pulsator. It spent last night on the Aga on the theory it might have moisture in it. Then I re-oiled it on the theory that the Aga may have dried out the leathers. I eventually got it to where the slides inside it would move. Initially they behaved as though they were locked in place. I brought the entire unit into the kitchen for the night in case it does not like to be cold.
September 11, 2003 Thursday: It has been another perfect day, clear and sunny, not hot. I picked beans and a big basket of tomatoes. Albert is doing so well. I think he is the biggest 19-day-old Jersey calf I have ever seen. He is getting about 2 ½ gallons a day of milk and spends most days on the lawn where he nibbles grass. When I went out to milk this evening I discovered that a door had swung shut trapping the cows inside the barn. I don’t know how long Helen was without water and grazing but she was down a couple of quarts this evening. I got 5 ½ gallons today. That’s with hand milking. I called the man that sold the milking machine, but only got his answering machine. I have gone over all the instructional materials that came with it and followed all suggestions to no avail.
September 12, 2003 Friday: The man who sold the Surge pulsator says he is overnighting me a replacement. Last time he said this it took ten days to arrive. Sigh. I thought with hand milking I might finally say goodbye to mastitis, but one quarter was back in trouble tonight. I slathered it with liniment. If it is not better in the morning I will have to get Albert back on the job. Albert is in a new pen now for his daytime exercise. Abby worked on an old foundation area that is right next to the carriage house/garage. Now he will not have to be tied. Helen gave about 5 ½ gallons today. I have been averaging seven eggs a day. Yesterday I got 11, then today only three.
September 13, 2003 Saturday: We planted corn way late and some said we would not get a crop. It was actually Abby who planted the corn. She did a lot of work digging out weeds and hauling cow manure, and then nurturing each seedling. Martin saw her crawling along the rows and accused her of making incantations. Today we had our first corn dinner and it was excellent. Home grown corn is such a treat, especially with home made butter and dainty zucchinis. We also had some little lamb chops, which Abby grilled on my tiny $1 lawn sale hibachi. What a great dinner. The weather remains perfect. I also have a fine stand of sunflowers. My cardoons, a new idea, were very handsome but they tasted awful even after blanching under black plastic. My carrots, the ones that got thinned, are fine stately specimens. I pulled one flawless 10 ½” carrot and took its picture as proof that cow manure is all it takes to get prize vegetables. No fancy additives required. Helen did not seem to have much wrong with her udder today. She milked out better than yesterday, but I am still not totally confident she is over mastitis, so I put on liniment again. She gave slightly less than six gallons. The filter was clear. I always take two buckets with me to the barn. When there is over two gallons in the first bucket I switch to the second. By this time, after fifteen or twenty minutes of being milked, she becomes restless and begins dancing around. At this point I usually put the kicker on.
September 14, 2003 Sunday : Helen was not at the gate tonight at milking time. This was alarming. Abby set out to search along the river and I stood at the barn looking and calling. Then I saw her peaking around some bushes way down in Pocket Field. She seemed very reluctant to come when called. As she haltingly approached I could see that she was limping badly. After I got her into her stanchion we saw that half of one of her hoofs was broken off. The quick is showing pink and oozing blood. I called my vet but his answering machine message said he is away. I hope he is back tomorrow, Monday. There is a procedure where they glue a lift to the good remaining hoof. This takes the weight off of the injury. Helen stood OK for milking and gave six gallons today. There were eight eggs.
September 15, 2003 Monday: My vet called first thing this morning and set up an appointment for around noon. Helen was in a lot of pain this morning, I could tell. Production was down half a gallon, probably because it hurts her to walk around and graze or walk to the water. Her urine looked dark, Abby observed. What Dr. Cooper did was raise up her rear left leg with the injured foot using a rope attached to his beam hook. The beam hook is a set of sharp calipers that locks onto a beam. Then he trimmed both sides of her hoof, cleaned out the wound and doused it with iodine and Panalog. A lot of blood dripped onto the floor. Most of this I could not see because I was on the far side of Helen trying to stabilize her from tipping over. She was standing on three legs and being hurt. I was afraid she might tip right over although Dr. Cooper assured me she would not. He made a tight bandage on her foot using a lot of gauze pads and adhesive bandage. I could tell her foot felt better right away after the bandage was on. The bleeding stopped. But she still limps just as badly. After being released from her stanchion she settled right down and showed no sign of resentment. After a bit she lay down in the pasture and I brought her some hay, which she ate lying down. This evening after milking she could not be persuaded to leave the barn because there was a bale of hay in the aisle. The vet gave me sulphdiazone in tablet form for Helen and an anti-inflammatory, phenylbutazone. I am to dissolve it in water flavored with molasses. My replacement pulsator arrived today and this evening I once again milked by machine with no trouble at all. Helen gave six gallons today and I got eight eggs.
September 16, 2003 Tuesday: We awoke to steady rain today. Helen was waiting at the gate and hobbled in. I don’t feel any heat in her foot, in fact, she was walking a little better than before her vet treatment. After milking she flatly refused to leave the barn, so we set her up with hay and water. I tried every two hours to get her to go out, but no, she thought not. She was very comfortable on a bed of hay and was chewing her cud, but her breathing is very fast. She was fussy about the water in a bucket and tipped it over twice before being willing to drink it. She was still in the barn for evening milking. She stood very well both morning and evening. I think her sore foot is slowing down her dancing. I insisted she go out. She had a good hour of sunlight left for grazing. Once out, as I suspected she would, she took a giant drink from the stock tank. Her production today was down nearly a gallon. I had the impression she was favoring her foot at least partly because she was afraid it would hurt if she put her weight on it, not that it really hurt so much any more. When not walking she stands perfectly square. The rain stopped at about 5pm.
September 17, 2003, Wednesday: Helen was walking a little better this morning and by evening I saw unmistakable improvement. She was even shifting her weight onto that foot during milking. After milking this morning Helen once again insisted on staying in and eating hay. She seemed quite hungry. I allowed her to stay in until about 10 o’clock, and then I insisted she go out because I had to leave for an appointment and the weather today was truly perfect. So far we have had not a whiff of hurricane Isabel, a great concern farther south. This afternoon I picked another lovely basket of tomatoes and probably have enough to can another six quarts. Perhaps because of the extra hay, Helen was back up to six gallons today. I took a bowl of her lovely cream to Grange tonight. We served it over scones. I also took butter. I am pleased to report that not one person made remarks about fat or cholesterol. I do believe that change is coming. I also took three kinds of jelly and jam that I made this year; black currant, red currant and gooseberry. These were unfamiliar to most people.
September 18, 2003 Thursday: Helen outdid herself today. She gave about 6 ½ gallons. She still wanted to stay in and eat hay after milking this morning. I put her out at about 11 o’clock because the weather was too beautiful to stay indoors. She is limping about the same. Albert is getting almost too bumptious to lead back and forth to his enclosure. He is not learning to lead too well. I may have to break down and buy him a halter. I can’t find the one I already own. I am giving him a little less than 3 gallons of milk a day and he grazes a bit and drink plenty of water. He has no interest in the calf starter grain.
September 19, 2003 Friday: A steady rain is falling this evening, our modest share of Hurricane Isabel, which has caused much damage farther south. Helen did not prove resistant to going out to graze today, although she is still limping pretty badly. She gave 6 ½ gallons today. I made two pounds of butter and a pound of queso blanco. I have been making butter nearly every day. Because it was a rainy summer there is still a lot of green grass and the butter is bright yellow. I will never forget the day a dinner guest insisted I must be coloring it and refused to be persuaded this was the natural color of Jersey butter from a cow on grass. Others stood up for the truth of my assertion, but he had a hard time not getting aggressive. “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
September 20, 2003 Saturday: The big excitement today was a skunk in the hen house. I noticed it there around noon when I collected eggs. It was rolled up snoozing in a corner. I thought it best not to disturb it. I called my cousin who was of the opinion that if I shot it, it would spray anyway. I then succeeded in forgetting about it until evening milking, when Abby joined me in the barn. She went into to the hen room to attend to their water. We looked and found it still there. By this time Max and family had arrived for dinner. It was generally agreed that shooting it was the only option, so Max loaded my shotgun and blasted it. It did not spray. Max said it just woke up dead. He took it away on a pitchfork and buried it at some distance from the house. Helen gave six gallons again. This was the last day of her medication. She is still limping. The bandage is still on her foot. I have been trying to snip it off, but she does not cooperate. I made steak and kidney pie today for a large crowd of my nearest and dearest. I planned and executed this dinner alone, as Abby was away all day to the Common Ground Fair. (this is was what made me forget about the skunk) It was declared to be excellent even by a second grader, mostly I think because of the crust. I made a pate brise using butter and beef fat. The combination of flakiness and flavor simply cannot be achieved with vegetable shortening, which in any case I don’t use because of the hydrogenation (trans fats). The beef fat was some I rendered from suet I had in the freezer. It was fat from around the kidneys. Rendering beef fat or lard is easy. Just put pieces of fat in a low oven and pour off the fat as it accumulates. Mashing the fat down with a potato masher extracts it easily. I add the contents of a 400 USP vitamin E capsule to each pint.
September 21, 2003 Sunday: This morning I got Abby to help me by pushing Helen’s weight onto her sore foot so that she could not lift it and I snipped away at the bandage some more. I developed a theory that the tight wrap might be encouraging her limp. I thought I might get it loose enough to shuffle off. Later this morning my granddaughter Helena and I took a tour around the fences and we found the cows way down in the woods. The bandage had fallen off. This is the first time in a week she has ventured that far, so maybe her foot feels better. However, the limp is about the same. I continue to see flecks on the milk filter about every second or third milking. Today I ground up a lot of comfrey in my Cuisanart and slathered this on her udder. Comfrey is a valuable medication for some things. I have sometimes found it useful for mastitis.
September 22, 2003 Monday: It was not such a good idea to take off Helen’s bandage. She was limping badly this morning and there were drops of blood on the floor next to her foot. I felt her foot and it was warm. So I called my faithful vet and he came back and hoisted up her foot again and replaced the bandage. Helen did not appreciate any of this attention. She got some extra grain to get her into her stanchion, and even with that it took a thump on the butt to get her in. I had her waiting loose in the barn, but when she heard the vet’s truck she knew what was coming. This time I am to leave the bandage on until it falls off. It protects her foot against knocking into things. A wee bantam hen has been sitting on three eggs. Yesterday the first one hatched. Late today I removed the other two because they did not hatch. I picked off some shell on each and found perfect chicks, but dead. They were always warm, so this is puzzling. My daughter Abby went up to camp by herself for the afternoon. The lake was very quiet. She saw a mink. No one has ever seen one there before that I know of. I made fourteen pints of red tomato chutney.
September 24, 2003 Wednesday: Helen has shown no trace of mastitis for two days now. Perhaps the comfrey helped. Her production has not suffered. She gave over six gallons today. She is limping about the same. I am kept busy taking care of the milk. I made two pounds of butter today. My some Bret from Alaska and his wife Amy and their two children arrived today. Amy and I and the kids picked a lot of vegetables for supper. I cut the veggies in big pieces and tossed them with olive oil, herbs and a bit of balsamic vinegar and roasted them. They were very good with roasted brisket. Most people cook brisket with wet heat, but I find it tastier roasted. A lot of the fat comes off it and it gets a brown and crispy top.
September 25, 2003 Thursday: We had two frosts at the beginning of September and none since. Each new fall day is a gift. I am still picking zucchinis and lots of tomatoes. Helen gave six gallons today. I think she is walking a little better. The hen that hatched one chick two days ago is doing OK with it, but it is about the puniest little thing I have ever seen. The hen with nine chicks is doing fine. Every evening when I am milking this hen comes trailing her family under Helen’s front feet on her way to her favored roosting spot. She is now able to coax all her brood up high onto a ledge. They do not look very comfortable. Some cling to chicken wire behind the ledge. The mama is wedged behind an upright board. As many as possible wad themselves under her. Albert will be a month old day after tomorrow. The task of leading him from his daytime paddock to his stall fell to my lot this evening. I won’t do it again until I get a halter on him. He first butts me hoping for milk than tears away and twirls me around. He shows no sign of learning to lead properly. I can’t find my calf halter, so we have to lead him by a collar, which offers no control. I am getting six eggs most days.
September 26, 2003 Friday: My son Bret, visiting from Alaska, and his family got back from a visit to Max’s place just in time to assist Abby with Albert. He was racing about like crazy. We all agree that a halter will be our next purchase. When I have company I have to serve food that can be prepared in the afternoon before chores. Tonight I did a dish that I worked out years ago, lamb shanks baked with brown rice and tomatoes. I just put the meat, about six tomatoes (or a can of them), a couple of chopped onions, garlic, some other veg if available such as peppers and eggplant, and a cup and a half of uncooked brown rice. I prefer short grain rice for this dish. Add salt and pepper and some herbs and pour in four or more cups of stock. Then I put it into a 325f oven for about three hours. I start it uncovered, then cover it when it is bubbly, and uncover it near dinnertime so it can brown. If I am not going to be around the house I just leave it covered. I leave the vegetable in large chunks so that fussy children can have a serving they like. Helen gave six gallons today. I got six eggs. My old orange Buff Orpington rooster has disappeared. He probably failed to come in at night and something got him.
September 27, 2003 Saturday: Helen was in heat today. Her barn behavior remained excellent, but there was a lot of circling around and mounting in the barnyard. She gave her steady six gallons again today. I think. I managed to spill some. I found a nest with 15 eggs in the hay loft. I took them all and left three fakes. I hope it fools the hen. I took the eggs to the house and made son Mark a birthday cake that takes ten eggs. Max made ice cream in the old fashioned freezer. My daughter-in-law Amy, Bret’s wife (they are visiting from Alaska) made us a five course Thai dinner. This included pork chops in a peanut sauce. There were thirteen of us counting children. I defrosted eight big (home produced) pork chops and cut them each in half. Everyone had plenty.
September 29, 2003 Monday: Helen stayed in all day Sunday due to rain. She just ate hay. Today her production was down an entire gallon to five gallons. This was a sad day for me. I had to say goodbye to Cletus. I can barely speak his name now and think I am getting a headache. I had hoped he might be killed here on the farm thus saving him a ride with strangers to an unfamiliar place. At least this small local butcher provides water to the animals. Usually steers become such a nuisance by Cletus’ age of 14 months that one is somewhat relieved to see them go. Cletus remained very gentle and only a little pushy. Now I must sell Leah. I can’t take so many animals through the winter again. I hope I can find people that appreciate her. She is exceptionally beautiful and has good manners. She is due to calve in October. My Buff Orpington rooster returned. He spent a couple of days in the rain somewhere, so it appears. He is much bedraggled.
September 30, 2003 Tuesday: Helen’s ankle is a bit swollen. She is limping about the same. But, she gave six gallons and seems cheerful. I made tomato sauce today. I have devised a very simple way to do it. I just wash, core and halve a large pot full of tomatoes. I boil them up and simmer them for about a half hour, then leave the pan to cool overnight. When cold, the tomatoes are standing in a large volume of clear tomato “whey”. I then pour this off through a colander. This removes about 3/5 of the volume of the tomatoes. I then put the tomatoes through a Foley Food Mill, which removes the skins and seeds. The resulting sauce is the correct thickness without any further boiling down. I bottle the clear juice separately. It tastes very good. It is turning colder now. This afternoon I picked about a bushel of tomatoes. There is beginning to be slug damage and many are splitting due to recent rain, but they will be fine for sauce. My son Bret and grandson Roger visiting from Alaska surprised a Great Blue Heron standing next to my little goldfish pond. They were just in time to see it snap up the resident frog. Then it flapped gracefully away. They were unable to spy any goldfish. I guess the heron got them too, unless they are hiding in the ooze at the bottom of the pond.
October 1, 2003 Wednesday: I thought sure it would freeze last night, but it did not. So, we had another day to admire the giant dahlias. They are real showstoppers. Many are 10″ in diameter, fully double, and as tall as I am. They are all shades of cream and yellow. I thought Helen was at least no worse today. Her production stays about the same. I managed to get some liniment onto the corona of her hoof but she does not want it touched. I need to find a new owner for Leah. I shall hate to part with her. She is exceptionally beautiful and has become very friendly and ladylike.
October 2, 2003 Thursday: I really think Helen’s foot is slightly better. She had a day of rest inside the barn. After morning milking she made it clear she did not want to go back outside. Abby filled a big water tub that I dragged in and Helen spent the day eating hay. After evening milking she seemed ready to leave. Before letting her out I put some mushy ground up comfrey on her foot. The way I got it onto the bottom of her foot was to put handfuls of it on the floor for her to step in. I would touch her foot, she would pull it away, then set it down on a blob. Comfrey does have some curative powers, but I’m not sure if that includes hoof repair. When Abby went out this evening to bring in Albert she found him stuck in the fence. He had his head and one leg entangled and was very cold. A cow does not thrash about like a horse. He was just standing there drooping. The rest of us were too far away for Abby to call and she did not want to leave him, so she worked him loose by herself. It took quite awhile. But he was fine once he got his warm milk. A big Canadian air mass is moving in and we were warned that tonight the temperature might drop into the 20’s. A killing frost is very late this year.
October 3, 2003 Friday: The killing frost was over-advertised. I did not even lose my basil. However, the sky today was cloudless blue and a cold wind is blowing. I expect frost tonight. Helen may be walking slightly better today. At least she is not worse. I walked behind her all the way back from the pasture and several times she took a normal step. Abby and Amy worked on improved fencing for Albert’s pen this morning. Bret has rented a Bobcat, something like a small tractor with wheels. It has a bucket on the front. He plans to clean out the Beefer Pen. That is the big run-in. It still has 18″ of last winter’s build-up, a horrible mat of manure and hay. I am really thrilled to be getting this done. Helen gave 6 gallons today.
October 4, 2003 Saturday: Working with the Bobcat today was a heartbreak. No sooner did Bret get it going on the beefer pen than it started to rain. This was torrential rain. It made the job into a slimy quagmire. Bret worked for hours against heavy odds before having to give up. The Bobcat is a nice machine but the conditions were intolerable. Martin milked Helen this evening with the machine. I was able to devote myself to making dinner for an unusually large family group, 15 in all counting the kids. They ate at their own table. I baked one of my large hams from the last pig, baked beans, fresh corn, tomato salad, and I made two apple pies. My amazing dahlia patch escaped frost but is now a sad clump of wet yellow mops following this day of rain.
October 5, 2003 Sunday: Bret is back at mucking out with the Bobcat. Progress is slow but steady. The other guys are sawing and splitting wood. They have stacked several pick-up loads in the shed. They have also eaten most of the leftovers from yesterday. Helen’s production was down a full gallon today. Martin said one quarter did not milk out well last night. This morning she definitely had mastitis. I milked what I could and rubbed my comfrey mush on that quarter. She also had a scratch on one teat. I can’t imagine how she got that. The people who are buying Sally’s Jacob sheep want to come tomorrow. I managed to get them all into a small stall with help from others. They ran back several times before they decided it was safe to come inside the barn.
October 6, 2003 Monday: Helen’s quarter with mastitis seemed OK this morning, but she gave only 2 ½ gallons.. Usually she gives 3 ½ in the AM. The folks came for the sheep. Bret backed their borrowed horse trailer up to the open barn door for them. I led them into the trailer by backing in, crouched down and talking to them. I held a pan of grain in one hand and let Agnes, the leader, follow my other hand, sniffing. Once in, the new owners closed the ramp door and I exited through the escape door. The sheep remained very quiet. I think they have a good new home. They said Sally could have the fleeces if Rafe would come and shear them in the spring. Bret worked a bunch more hours on barn clean-out, then ordered in a load of sand. Max came over and did some ditching out back to improve the drainage around the water tank. Nobody could cut any more logs because the chainsaw broke. Helen gave a bit more this evening, 2 ¾ gallons. She seemed better in every way.
October 7, 2003 Tuesday We had a killing frost last night. The many dahlias had an hour or so to be admired as amazing popsicles before collapsing in the morning sun. Yesterday morning and again today Abby and I found scat in the barn that is almost certainly raccoon. This does not bode well for the free range chickens. We decided to try something different with Albert, Helen’s bull calf now two months old. We put him out with Helen and Leah. We watched him a lot to see what he would do. He did a lot of running back and forth between us and the cows. He finally decided he was a cow and stayed with them. He did get into the wrong field a few times and could not figure out where the gates were. Abby went out and led him back, and also carried him his bucket of milk at meal times. He showed a clear interest in nursing from his mom, but she kicked him away each time. She came in tonight with a full quota of milk. She showed no evidence of mastitis and is walking a little bit better, at least I think so. The only treatment I gave this mastitis was the comfrey poultice rubdown. It gave every evidence of working as well as the expensive Phoenix liniment and cost nothing. The weather today was beautiful and the fall colors are more vivid each day.
October 9, 2003 Thursday: My Alaskan son, Bret, the Food Science and Nutrition Specialist, and his lovely family left today. While here they installed a big stainless steel commercial sink in the kitchen and fine new dishwasher too. The dishwasher came without its intake hose. Hopefully this will arrive on Tuesday and we can then turn over much of the sterilization to the dishwasher. The weather today was superb and the fall colors are near their peak. Helen is limping noticeably less. Her production has picked back up to close to six gallons. This is good, because several of my missing milk customers have come back and we were down to one gallon in the fridge before evening milking. When I went in to close up the chickens, well before dark, there was a truly enormous skunk finishing off all their scraps. I was not pleased.
October 10, 2003 Friday: This was another particularly fine fall day with leaf color brighter by the hour. Helen’s foot is noticeably improved. Albert disappears with the cows all day. Abby says she is tired of wandering around fields and woodland with his lunch bucket looking for him. So, we are going to drop the midday feed. He grazes well. Helen gave six gallons today and a bit more.
October 11, 2003 Saturday: This was another warm sunny day. I believe it reached 70f. The leaf color is marvelous. The cows are having a lovely time. The people who bought the sheep report that they have settled in well, are getting friendly, and are admired by passersby. They intend to lease a “Watch Llama” for them. Llamas, it seems, will defend sheep. It appears to me that cows will do the same job, at least the sheep obviously thought so. After they no longer had a ram with them, they spent all their time close to the cows. Prior to that when they had a ram they grazed as a separate population. Cows do their best to scare away dogs. Statistically, dogs are the chief enemies of livestock with losses far greater than to wolves, bears or coyotes. Helen gave over six gallons today. I am getting four to seven eggs a day now, not very good.
October 12, 2003: I was up extra early in order to get the milking done. It was a foggy morning and the cows were nowhere in sight. I walked the fields calling for 25 minutes before finding them at the farthest point in the woods. They were standing still and their bells were silent. Bad cows. But it was a lovely walk. Helen gave over six gallons today.
This was the day I talked about cows to an interested group at the Maine Food Festival. This is sponsored by the Maine Organic Gardeners and Farmers Association (MOFGA). It was at the MOFGA fairgrounds at Unity, a two-hour drive from here, which I made into a 2 ½ hour drive by getting lost. Maine is the original “You can’t get there from here” state. Fortunately, the assembled group waited patiently. One of the organizers, a gentleman with Dexter cows, kindly warmed up the crowd with stories about his herd. They were a pretty interested group and asked good questions, but I was a bit flustered by being late and forgot to put in a word for Leah. I might have found her a new owner. Afterwards I tasted various cheeses made in Maine. These included goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheeses and all were excellent. The uncut wheels were impressively beautiful.
October 14, 2003 Tuesday: Our fine fall weather continues. Probably today was the peak of color. High wind is predicted for tonight, so that will tear off the leaves. Helen now does not mind putting her weight on her damaged foot. Tonight that meant she was able to lift her near hind foot and kick during milking. I think she has been saving this up. Her behavior this evening was very annoying, a fact of which I informed her several times. Her production is staying up. She and Leah are eating very little hay. There is still green grass adequate for grazing, better than usual for October in Maine. Helen is due to be in heat Thursday. Maybe she is starting early. Leah is looking very ready to calve. I am beginning to notice mucous.
October 15, 2003 Wednesday: Helen once again this morning had mastitis in her front right quarter. I suppose it was already touchy last night, accounting for her bad behavior. I rubbed in a lot of thuja ointment after milking. We lost the power this morning right after milking, greatly curtailing the day’s activities. I did get four pints of tomato sauce made and two quarts of juice. The light was dim due to heavy rain and wind, but the Aga stove is not affected. I milked by hand tonight. The mastitic quarter was better. I rubbed it with tea tree oil infused in olive oil. I could not make a comfrey poultice because of no electricity to run the food processor. I did go out in the rain and cut a bundle to have ready. Milk production was way down due to mastitis, plus Helen is now used to the milking machine and did not let down well for hand milking. Total for he day, under five gallons. The power came back on about 7 p.m.
October 16, 2003 Thursday: Helen behaved perfectly this morning. The only sign of mastitis was a tiny white fleck on the milk filter. But, her production is way down, just a little over five gallons. My daughter Abby found a great trail of black feathers in the barn. Night before last there was some predator in the buttery (summer kitchen). It knocked over the cat food even though the cover was weighted with two cast iron pots, and it gnawed into the oatmeal bag. It pretty much has to be a raccoon. Tonight after dark Abby went to the barn with a flashlight to see if one was lurking. I was prepared to follow with the gun, but fortunately I was not called upon to shoot. This is not one of my areas of expertise. All I could find for the shotgun were slugs and I would be better off with shot. The weather is much colder now. Some parts of Maine are to expect flurries tonight.
October 17, 2003 Friday: It is getting a lot colder now. I dug potatoes for about an hour, hauled them up to the house, washed them with the hose and spread them to dry on the deck. It looks like ¾ bushel. Some are purple, some are the yellow fingerlings. This was one row. There is one more row to dig, but I decided I had done enough digging for one day. I also dug the dahlias. The corms have to spend the winter in the cellar. I am still working on the tomatoes a few a day as they ripen. Leah and Helen are confined to the run-in and barnyard tonight. Leah is due and I don’t want her to have her calf way down in the woods like she did the first time, leastways not at night. She looks ready in every way except her udder is not engorged, merely a lot larger. Abby caught a small kitten in the barn. We had thought it was a singleton, but later with the flashlight she saw two more with the mother. Later still she went out to see if she could catch another and encountered two large skunks licking out the cat dishes. She scared them away by rattling a rod on the ladder. Helen should have been in heat, but I saw nary a sign. She gave 5 ¾ gallons today. The hens are doing poorly. I got only four eggs. Abby did a lot more cleaning out of the hen house today and uncovered many mealworms. The hens had a field day pecking them up. Perhaps this will boost production.
October 19, 2003 Sunday: Yesterday son Martin arrived following a truck and trailer that was delivering a tractor with a front end loader. When there is another big manure moving task we will be ready. The tractor is almost as old as my Moline, (1949) but tractors, if cared for, seem to go on forever. This one is a 1953 Ford Golden Jubilee with a front end loader and 2-point hitch in the rear. After dark in the rain Martin instructed Abby in how to run it. Helen gave over 6 gallons on Saturday. Later: Still no calf, but Helen was trying to mount Leah. She was due to be in heat yesterday, but there was no evidence. Leah has not calved. I hope there is no ruckus of a sort that would stress Leah. Helen gave six gallons today.
October 20, 2003 Monday: Leah had her calf today about 1pm. I looked at her through the binoculars and could see that she was in early labor. By the time I rounded up my daughter, Abby, she had gone into the bushes. We were able to walk her back to the barn and tempt her into the lean-to with grain. Despite the grain, as soon as she saw that she was going to be locked in she tried to bolt. We got her all set up with hay and water. She did not seem to be calving very fast, so we returned to the house. Next time I checked there was a small damp heifer! It was shivering and a cold wind was blowing. With Abby watching (It is unwise to go in with a new cow mother alone) I went in and tried to get the calf up and sucking. Leah stood a lot better than with her first calf, Maria, and did not kick, but kept moving out of range. She did not snort at me, but did repeatedly paw the ground. I got a rope and clipped her to the wall. I worked for about half an hour and got the calf to try two different quarters. Leah’s teats are still small and the calf is inefficient, but she was finally satisfied. Getting a calf to feed is very hard on one’s back! This evening I tried again to get the calf to feed, but she absolutely was not hungry. She was warm and dry. Leah began to kick at me, so I tied her up and put the kicker on. Abby and I each milked some colostrum into a bucket and left them for the night. Little Albert, Helen’s calf, is in the habit of spending most of his time with Leah and he bellowed all day at the separation. Helen gave six gallons. She took no interest in Leah.
October 21, 2003 Tuesday: Leah and the calf really belong to my daughter Sally in Alaska, but unless I hear an objection, I am naming the calf Gitte. Cow and calf were in fine shape this morning, but Leah very much dislikes being confined. When I let her out of the lean-to at milking time she headed straight for the pasture. The offer of grain changed her mind. The calf appeared to have already fed. There is already a cut on one of Leah’s teats. It is possihle that I caused it yesterday while assisting Gitte to nurse. After milking Helen, I poured her milk into a five gallon stainless steel vessel which was part of a long ago milking machine that I had. Then I put the machine on Leah. She kicked it off a couple of times, but then settled down. I went through the same procedure again this evening with Leah once again bolting for the pasture. Morning and evening I milked out about a gallon of colostrum. Helen gave a bit over six gallons. After the evening milking Leah refused to go back in the lean-to even though her baby was in there. She went straight out to graze. Abby and I put her back in with her calf a couple of hours later. Tomorrow I will leave her loose all day unless she bellows to be let in. There was not a sound out of her tonight.
October 22, 2003 Wednesday: I decided to just let Gitte follow Leah. She was hanging about bellowing and not grazing. So we let Gitte out. Leah walked extra slowly down the pasture so Gitte could keep up. She is small, but well coordinated and frisky. We saw through the binoculars where Leah hid her. This evening I was so pleased to see Leah leading her home, thus saving me much trouble. But instead, Leah led her right past the barn to the north field and hid her again. After I got both cows in their stanchions, Abby and I walked out and brought Gitte in. Abby had to carry her most of the way. I then tied her next to her mother in the stanchion, but this made Leah all upset. Every time Gitte nuzzled, she kicked. Then Helen also got upset and both cows made big splashy messes all over everything. Abby took Gitte away to the leant-to. Leah made very little objection to the machine. This morning I got about three gallons of colostrum and this evening a bit over a gallon. Gitte had nursed a lot. Helen is keeping up with her six gallons. The weather is cold, rainy and miserable.
October 23, 2003 Thursday: Our weather continues the same, only colder and nastier. Gitte trots along nicely after Leah. She looks adorable. I never see her nurse, but her sides are not empty. She is lively as a cricket and the poops are normal, so I know she is feeding. I got about three and a half gallons total today from Leah with the machine. The rest is going to Gitte. It is excellent milk. Getting Leah in for evening milking was slightly easier than last night. She almost followed Helen through the gate with Gitte trailing. At the last moment she decided she wanted to put Gitte back in the woods and made a run for it. This forced me to run too, an activity that I no longer spontaneously choose to do. When bringing in cows I carry a 4′ white nylon wand meant to be an electric fence post. I am able to throw this with considerable accuracy to land in front of a cow to turn it. I got her into the barn after a spell of rounding up, with the calf following. But tonight we kept the calf out of sight during milking. Everything went a lot better. Helen gave six gallons. I got only one egg. I must remember to set my hen house light timer. Last thing tonight my dog Bagel lost an argument with a skunk. We scrubbed him down but he is sleeping out in the buttery.
October 24, 2003 Friday: Another in a succession of cold, bleak days. Some in Maine got snow this week, but we did not. I have harvested most of the beets and carrots. There is still a great deal of handsome kale. To my surprise, chervil has proven able to withstand considerable frost. I have not been in the habit of growing it until this year. Leah has grown so protective of Gitte that it is almost funny. Even if I come near she paws the ground and sends great clouds of hay and dust into the air. She can’t even bear to have little Albert, now two months old, come near. He is fond of her and can’t understand her rejection. I moved the stock tank indoors for the winter and shut in all the cows for the night with hay and water. This will make it easier to get Helen and Leah in to be milked, I hope.
October 26, 2003 Sunday: Leah came right in this morning and this evening with barely a hint from me. She did not seem at all bothered by leaving Gitte behind. The combined total of her milk today was five gallons. Presumably, Gitte is taking a gallon or more, so this speaks well of her production. There is one quarter that I think Gitte is not nursing much, if at all. I have to massage it a lot while the machine is on. Tonight I tried the trick of putting molasses on it to encourage nursing. Leah stands perfectly for the machine. This morning I left her alone and went outdoors to open the gates. When I came back she had not moved. We saw Albert do something charming this morning. When the group left the barn heading for pasture Gitte raced around in circles about eight times and ended up going through the wrong gate. This put her in a fence corner unable to figure out how to get to her mother, and Leah began to be agitated. Albert went right over to her and nudged her along (in the direction away from her mother) until she got back to the correct gate. I have never previously observed this sort of helpful behavior among calves. It was unmistakable intentional assistance. I made a cheese this morning, a cheddar type. It is now in the press.
October 27, 2003 Monday: Leah is now nicely settled down. I usually milk a little by hand, which she accepts, and she likes the machine. She still has one quarter that it seems to me her calf is neglecting, but I can’t tell for sure. It does not milk out quite as well as the other three. Her milk is excellent. I have been standing it for cream and there is a lot, an indication she is letting down well. It rained again all day. Abby spent a long time making a drainage trench from the stock tank inside the barn and out onto the lawn. Helen had a touchy quarter again this morning and her production for the day was down a half gallon. I attribute this to the fact that I am unable to adjust the vacuum pressure gauge properly. The valve is unresponsive. It has a mind of its own. For days it stood at 10 lbs which is where I want it, but then day before yesterday went up to 15 lbs. Helen hates this. Max came over and we used a borrowed splitter to finish splitting my wood. He worked with great speed. I operated the lever and Abby threw the wood into my old van and drove it into the carriage house. We worked in the rain.
October 29, 2003 Wednesday: Yet another day of rain. The river is up to it banks, a rise of about 12′. Everything is squishy. However, it is oddly warm and new grass is coming up. The cows stayed out all day grazing in the rain. They shed the rain well except for Gitte who got soaked. But, she seems to be all right. Today I saw Albert nursing on Leah. He has always spent more time with her than with his own mother, Helen. Leah has been in the habit of butting Albert away, but I knew if he could see Gitte nursing he soon would try and despite discouragement from Leah, would soon be at the dairy bar. Leah had a couple of quarts less tonight than usual. Abby is still taking milk to Albert in a bucket, but we will stop that if he keeps this up. Helen gave almost six gallons today.
October 30, 2003 Thursday: No question this morning. Albert was covered with milk foam like a guy with a face full of shaving cream. I got a total of about 2 ½ gallons today from Leah. Needless to say, Abby has carried him his last bucket of milk. Helen had less milk today too. I don’t know what her excuse was. She gave about 5 ½ gallons. I walked down to see the river, and then carried up more carrots and cabbage. No rain today. It was colder, but with some sun. The trees are almost totally leafless. Everything looks flattened and sodden with the rain we have had.
October 31, 2003 Halloween: It was like spring today, comfortably warm and mostly sunny. There is new grass and the cows did not stop grazing to come in until it was fully dark. Around sundown I stood on the deck and watched them. Both cows grazed steadily and so did Albert. Gitte ran in great circles always with her mother in the center. She was obviously having a wonderful time. She of course lives on a high quality food and need not take time out to graze. I thought of all the little calves who never get to run and play like that. It was hard to get Leah into the barn tonight. Helen marched right in but Leah was suspicious of the trick or treat action and ran back out into the dark for a while. Helen was back up to six gallons today. Leah gave barely two gallons, thanks to Albert.
November 1, 2003 Saturday: I have been having a lot of frustration with the pulsator on my milking machine and this morning it would not function at all. I milked by hand. Later in the day I disassembled the pulsator. I spread it out on the kitchen table, wiped all the pieces, ran wire into all the tiny holes, sprayed WD40 into all the inner holes and channels, air dried and wiped it again and put it back together and tightened all the screws. I took it to the barn and tried it out with the vacuum pump. It ran like a champ. I don’t know what I did right. Maybe it just wanted cleaning. But, I thanked the Almighty. My hands and arms are out of practice and I was not able to finish milking out Leah this morning. By the time I got through with Helen I was tired. I hoped the calves would complete the job on Leah, but they did not. She was so stuffed this evening that she was very uncomfortable and kicked the machine off three times until I got Abby to help me. Once the machine was on, Leah felt better right away and stood perfectly still. I rubbed her bag with the comfrey mush just to be on the safe side. Helen gave about six gallons today and Leah gave 2 ½. The weather was unseasonably warm. Deer hunting season has started. Jersey cows and calves and my dog Bagel are all the color of deer. Abby picked up some orange flagging tape today with which to decorate everybody. Thank goodness there is no Sunday hunting in this state.
November 3, 2003 Monday: The rain continues and it is getting colder, but the cows still prefer grazing to eating hay. They graze for about four hours, and then come inside the big run-in area that I call the Beefer Pen. They chew their cuds, then eat hay for a while. Albert now grazes all the time like the cows. Gitte takes a few nibbles. Abby and I took a walk around the wet fields and saw many mushrooms. The river is still high and another tree has tipped over and taken out more bank. Milk production was way down today. In Leah’s case I know the calves are getting it. Helen is just down for no good reason I could tell. I don’t have the calendar marked for her to be in heat for several more days. She gave a bit under five gallons. She was very restless tonight and switched her tail a lot. The machine continues to run perfectly. Abby has been going out to feed the barn cats before dusk so they can eat before the skunks come out. But, tonight a big skunk showed up before she even walked away. It ignored her banging the dustbins so she took the five-tine manure fork and tried to nudge it away. It just looked up as much as to say “Can’t you see I’m still eating?”
November 4, 2003 Tuesday: I had my vet come today to put my old dog, Muffin, to sleep. She has obviously painful lumps on her rib cage, some kind of cancer apparently, and pretty much quit eating. But, my vet really hates to do this and suggested we try cortisone. He gave her a shot around 2PM. By suppertime she had perked up amazingly and was hungry. We know this is not a cure, but it was awfully nice to still have the old thing around this evening. Helen gave about 5 ½ gallons today, Leah about 2 ½ . Leah was restless tonight and for once did not let down well. Maybe she is coming in heat. The weather is getting steadily worse. All day is was cloudy and bleak, about freezing, with intermittent rain. My vet said that as he drove this way from farther north his windshield was covered with sleet.
November 5, 2003 Wednesday: As I sat on my stool next to Helen this morning while the milking machine chugged along, Leah put her head right in my face to look at me. I had forgotten to put the pin into her stanchion. She had finished her grain and thought she might as well leave. I got up and pushed on her and whispered to her to please put her head right back into the stanchion, “that’s a good girl”, while I just shove in a little pin. She was as good as could be and did as I asked. Before this evening’s milking I caught a bantam hen for my son Max to add to his flock. She shrieked and fought, getting every hen in the barn squawking and the roosters crowing. I wish I had waited until after milking to catch that hen. The cows came in all nervous. As Leah rounded the aisle next to where I line up the milking equipment she let loose with an extended cow flap. It got all over everything including the middle of my milking stool. I spent the next fifteen minutes cleaning up and regretting my poor judgment in grabbing that hen before milking instead of after. This evening I found that the mastitis I thought was cleared up in Helen had come roaring back. Her front right quarter was swollen and rock hard. She was very touchy and I had to put the kicker on her before I could attach the machine. The afflicted quarter is her best, and I could not get much milk out of it. I rubbed it with comfrey and thuja liniment and used hot towels. In the morning I am going to try a cayenne preparation as recommended by a reader, Heather, in Canada.
November 6, 2003 Thursday: I dreaded what I might find this morning with Helen’s mastitis. To my amazement, to feel her udder one would not guess there had been any trouble. I don’t know which to credit, the comfrey or the liniment. After milking I applied comfrey again and then rubbed in lard followed by quite a lot of cayenne, close to two tablespoonfuls I would say. The milk strained ok this morning and again tonight. There was barely a fleck on the filter. I rubbed in the same combo this evening. This morning I started another cheese. I am becoming more efficient at it, but only time will tell regarding the flavor.
November 7, 2003 Friday: Lovely weather today. Helen was down near the veg garden when I was cutting some herbs so I threw a bunch of mangels (Or are they sugar beets? I forget which I planted.) over the fence for her, also half a dozen ears of corn. Leah and the calves were resting some distance away and did not notice her treat. She ate every bit. According to the calendar she will be in heat tomorrow. I have to be gone much of Saturday and do very much hope I don’t miss the signs. Her udder felt fine today. There was scarcely a fleck on the milk filter. This morning I gave her a rubdown with the various preparations but tonight I inadvertently let her out of her stanchion before she got her treatment.
November 8, 2003 Saturday: Sorry about the delay in posting, we had a power outage due to high winds here in Maine. (Max) According to the calendar Helen should have been in heat today, but I saw no sign of it. There was almost no sign of mastitis, but I don’t trust this recovery. I again rubbed her udder with comfrey and also lard with cayenne. I called my farm supply store in search of an antibiotic treatment, but they said they had nothing. I could not believe this and sent the lad back to the shelves to explore further. Nada. I’ll get some from my vet I guess. It was much colder today and the barn water faucet was frozen. We got it thawed out with heat tape. Winter is not a lot of fun on the farm.
November 10, 2003: Helen’s mastitis has not returned. She gave about 5 ½ gallons yesterday and today. I saw little Gitte eating hay from the feeder this evening when I let in the cows for milking. She did not even try to follow Leah, just stayed focused on eating. I have not caught her in the act of chewing her cud, but she must be. She is now 20 days old and has doubled in size. The weather today was a lot nicer. The cows stayed out all day. I gave a few chickens to Max and he has built them a little plywood house. They come out during the day and work along the edge of his woods and under their bird feeder. The four chickens that he started with that appeared out of the woods were all cockerels. I have seen “our” wild turkeys again. This morning there were at least five. My poor old dog, Muffin, is very low. The vet gave me cortisone for her last week and for several days it helped. But now she has lost her appetite and has diarrhea. We have lined the kitchen floor with newspaper to help with the accidents. She looks sad and so do I tonight.
November 11, 2003 Tuesday: My vet came and put poor old Muffin to sleep. She was so sad and weak and in pain. She could not eat. She would still gamely get to her feet once in a while and ask to go out, but often would collapse. I would help her to her feet. She would gasp if I touched her in the wrong place. First he gave her an anesthetic shot so she would be deeply asleep. I had her lying on a sheet on the plastic sled. Later he gave her a shot of something directly into her heart. We were both weeping by this time. We all said goodbye to Muffin. I tucked her in when she was gone and went to serve lunch to some of my dear family who were here. Later, Abby and I pulled the sled to the bottom of the pasture where last week Max had prepared a grave. We buried Muffin neatly and deeply. I don’t want wild animals to dig her up. Muffin was a rescued dog, so I never knew her exact age. We think she was 13. While here my vet also castrated and gave a tetanus shot to Albert, Helen’s 2 ½ month old bull calf, and castrated and gave a rabies shot to Smithers, a well domesticated stray cat that showed up here two weeks ago. All efforts to find its owner failed. Helen gave 5 ½ gallons yesterday.
November 12, 2003 Wednesday: Bagel, my other dog, and I walked down this morning to look at Muffin’s grave. It was undisturbed. There was a light covering of snow and there were not even any tracks except our own. I hope that Max will be able to help me this weekend to put some rocks on it. Coyotes will dig up most anything. The sun came out and the snow melted, so the cows grazed all day. I could not get Leah to come in at milking time. Gitte was running around in the dark being naughty and not minding her mother who was calling her. Leah would not come in without her. I finally went ahead and milked Helen alone. By the time I got the whole crew inside and Leah into her stanchion I guess I had lost my focus. I forgot to throw the pin to close her in. When she finished her grain she started backing away with the machine attached and swinging from her underside as the Surge unit does. I stood up quickly and patted her and suggested she put her head right back in her stanchion. What a good girl! She did it. The bucket already held Helen’s milk, all of which would have dumped if Leah had kept walking backwards. Helen’s production was back up for some reason. She gave six gallons today. Albert and Smithers are not yet feeling 100%, but are eating normally. Smithers even played with catnip that Abby bought today.
November 13, 2003 Thursday: The weatherman told us to expect a violent windstorm today and we have everything battened down. Instead, the sun shone much of the day and the cows grazed as usual. I made another cheese. There was no disturbance of Muffin’s grave.
November 14, 2003 Friday: The wind arrived in the night and took out our power for many hours. This morning I milked by hand. Helen stood perfectly. I am out of practice with hand milking and only got 2 ½ gallons. I skipped Leah because the calves had taken three of her quarters and left the one that has a cut. It is nearly healed and the machine does not bother her, but hand milking would. The weather was so bitter that only the calves went outside. Leah stood in the door mooing at them to get back inside. They finally did and Abby shut them all in for the day. The barn water was frozen up. When the power came back on at lunchtime the heat tape kicked in and Abby put a heating pad over the faucet and soon got running water. Bagel and I walked down to look at Muffin’s grave and found it undisturbed. I guess this weather is too much for coyotes. Tonight the ground will freeze deeply. On our way back by the river I saw where a beaver has started cutting one of my birch trees. Chips are everywhere. I hate to lose this 8″ tree that is holding the bank, but I don’t disturb beavers.
November 16, 2003 Sunday: A nice family in Bar harbor, Maine, has bought Leah and Gitte. They are farm managers for the College of the Atlantic farm and intend to start an organic dairy. It was definitely a “small world” experience. It turned out that they know my grandson Rafe, a student at the college, although they had no idea of the connection when they first called about Leah. Then when the husband, Lucian, came here to take a look at her, he saw my son Martin’s Gould Academy sticker on his car, which was in my driveway because my granddaughter Helena had borrowed it for the weekend. It transpired that Lucian had been a classmate of Martin’s. Leah is still here. They have to find somebody to haul. The weather today was beautiful though cold. Tonight may go down into the teens. The cows are eating a lot of hay. We fill the feeder three times a day. They eat up the hay, then go out to graze when weather permits. Abby and I caught Gitte and loosened her collar. I believe it is important to have a collar on animals for management reasons, but with growing animals the fit must be monitored often.
November 17, 2003 Monday: The temperature went down to 15F last night, the coldest night so far. We are keeping a woodstove and a fireplace going. My cousins brought me a large box of apples purchased at a warehouse. I don’t know what kind they are. They are little small bright red ones. I was afraid I would not get any this year. This morning I took my share of the proceeds from selling Leah and Gitte and bought a new washing machine. My old one, of which I am the third owner, requires manual advancement of the timer, or it just keeps on agitating or spinning. Last night I forgot about it and it spun for 40 minutes and reduced the clothes to crispy critters.
November 18, 2003 Wednesday: This was another cold, but fine day. It was above freezing and I hoped to be able to get the last of my root vegetables lifted. The ground was still too frozen from yesterday. After some unproductive hopping on and off of my spading fork I had to give up with just three more rutabagas. I started another cheese today. This was the fifth this fall. I have evolved some improvements to the process. I never liked the lumpy surface left on the cheese by folds of cheesecloth. I find that after the initial or second pressing at moderate pressure, once the curd has formed a mass that can be handled, I can just bandage the sides with a band of wet cheesecloth and then set it into the cheese mold on a 6 ½ inch dairy filter. I put another one on top. With this method the top, bottom and sides come out perfectly smooth. I save and re-use the bandage.
November 19, 2003 Wednesday: Leah and Gitte are to go to their new home on Sunday. Leah has been behaving perfectly for me with the milking machine and everything else. Gitte is growing very well. I doubt any one-month-old Jersey heifer looks much better. Tomorrow will be her one-month birthday. This evening as I was leaving the barn in the dark I bent over and swung one of the buckets onto the cart and struck my head on an iron projection by the door. It felt like I had been hit my Mike Tyson. It drew blood right through my felt hat. I had to sit down for a while. I guess this shows I have strong bones. Helen gave about 5 ½ gallons today. She too is behaving very well. Every morning now they eat hay before going out to graze. Grazing is their joy and they do it rain or shine, except in the very worst weather. But, the grass has pretty much stopped growing.
November 20, 2003 Thursday: The weather day was mild and almost spring-like. Bagel Dog and I walked down to visit Muffin’s grave. Before we set out and again when about 50 feet from the grave I reminded Bagel where we were going. He knew, of course, as we have done this walk often. This time he walked right to it, delicately sniffed the earth, then stood at attention for a few seconds. I felt sure he knew it was Muffin’s grave. I am getting a lot of milk. I look forward to when Leah goes to her new home in Bar Harbor. Today the combined milk came to seven gallons. Leah has become increasingly reluctant to allow Albert to nurse. I do see milk foam on him, but probably he is getting less and Gitte wants more. I got 2 ½ gallons today from Leah, the remainder from Helen. Mostly I skim it and save the cream for butter. I clabber as much for my chickens as they will eat and give the rest to a friend for his pigs.
November 21, 2003 Friday: It was so balmy today that I read the paper out on the deck. Nothing like a year ago when everything froze solid and did not thaw until April. The cows are enjoying this weather. With my daughter Abby’s help, Leah now has a halter on her. I was not sure she would stand still for me to wrestle with the buckle, so I wanted to put it on her while she had her head in the stanchion. Trouble is, her stanchion is set up so she is sort of putting her head into a little closet with a pan of grain on the floor. Abby is so slim that she was able to skinny in there and work on the thing. I had washed and soaked the old leather, but it was still pretty stiff and Abby had to find the buckle holes in the dark. Leah was a perfect sweetie and hardly made a fuss, but I don’t think we could have done it free standing. She has always had a collar and bell. I want her to be in a halter for transport as it is safer.
November 22, 2003 Saturday: Tomorrow morning somebody is coming to pick up Leah and Gitte. I have copies of the breeding slips showing her sire and grandsire and Gitte’s sire in an envelope ready to go. I must remember to keep her in the barn. It will be hard to say goodbye to her. She is so friendly and sweet. My son Max and I went into the pasture today with my new digital camera and took a lot of pictures of them. I don’t know which is harder, selling one or putting one in the freezer. There are a lot of goodbyes with animals. The weather was fine and sunny and everyone seemed happy. We said goodbye to Smithers today. He is a stray that arrived about a month ago, a skinny grey tom. Abby tried hard to find his owner and explored animal shelter options. We finally decided to keep him and I got him neutered. He is a beautiful animal who soon filled out under Abby’s feeding program. Now Max and Mitra have agreed to have him. It was hard for Abby to let him go to his new home but I already have about 15 cats.
November 23, 2003 Sunday: A trucker just picked up Leah and Gitte. It was less traumatic than on some occasions, but still very traumatic. He started out by telling me he was only hauling Leah and Gitte, then it emerged while I was chatting with his assistant that he is stopping at Floyd Eller’s (who bought Virginia and Maria last August) and loading nine more. I specifically asked him if he was taking any other cattle and he said no. It just seemed odd that he brought such a huge trailer. It looked to be about 40′. I hope little Gitte is not going to be trampled. He said he would put Gitte in the overhead space over the cab, but I can’t see how they will lift her. She must weigh 100 struggling pounds now. I just called ahead to Eller, and his wife assured me they would manage to lift her. I hate this. Later: Maggie, the new owner, and I talked on the phone and she too was disturbed when she learned that other cattle were also being hauled. It was news to her. She promised to call me when Leah arrived. This she did. Leah was delivered last of course and was on the truck about seven hours when it should have been a three-hour trip at most. However, Maggie said she seemed fine, though dirty. She was clean when she left here. Thank goodness she had a big drink just before the trucker arrived. I wonder if they milked her. I know Gitte is going to be with her at least for the present. Maggie remarked on how beautiful Leah is. This afternoon Abby worked for hours tearing the old insulation off the water tap in the barn. Then she put on new insulation and generally improved the arrangement. She also stuffed a lot of hay into the walls to stop drafts. Helen gave 5 ½ gallons today and I got 6 eggs.
November 25, 2003: Helen has not called for Leah or expressed emotion, but she is somewhat off her feed. Yesterday and today she has been way down in milk. I think this is because she misses Leah. She seems impatient with Albert and with me. Albert of course especially misses her because her absence has resulted in arbitrary weaning. He is a full three months old, big for his age and eats well, so weaning is not unreasonable. He moos piteously.
November 26, 2003 Wednesday: Helen is still looking for Leah and pining, I can tell. She barely touched her hay. Her production was up from yesterday, although that might partly be because I milked extra early yesterday. Abby and I went to a movie, a highly unusual activity for me. This was the first movie I have seen since The English Patient four or five years ago. But I had to see Master and Commander. The days of fighting sail are an enthusiasm of mine. I have read the entire O’Brian series two or three times. I had never even heard of Russell Crowe, that’s how out of touch I am, but he did a great job as Jack Aubrey. Helen gave five gallons today. Martin arrived this evening for the holiday in time to milk.
November 28, 2003 Friday: Our Thanksgiving feast was memorable with four of my children, Abby, Max, Mark and Martin, wives and girl friends and four grandchildren. Three little granddaughters sat at a nearby table and there were ten of us at the dining table. I roasted a turkey and one of my own hams and there were many fine accompaniments provided by others. Afterwards we all danced to old records. All the ladies, young and old, were dressed in unaccustomed finery. Before dinner Abby reported that the skunk was in the barn eating cat food again. Max went out and shot it, which did not improve the atmosphere in the barn. Martin milked Helen while he was here. She is still looking for Leah. She gave five gallons of milk both Thursday and Friday. Yesterday I got five eggs, six today.
November 29, 2003 Saturday: Both Albert and Helen had runny manure today. They have not been eating their hay very well. Maybe it is moldy. That would account for the runny manure, also that Helen’s production was way down, only 4 ½ gallons. That could be partly due to my having to milk by hand this morning. The power went out just as I was about to go to the barn, so of course I could not use the machine. Helen now prefers it and gets antsy during the extended period of hand milking, and I do not get as much. The weather all last night and most of today was wild. The trees were tossing about and there was intermittent sleety rain and snow. Nonetheless, it was over 40F and Helen chose to graze. There were even short periods of sunshine.
November 30, 2003: Helen and Albert’s digestion seems to have normalized, but Helen still did not give much above 4 ½ gallons today. We got seven eggs. One little hen was laying on a shelf where I fear her eggs have been rolling down and breaking. I discovered this in the morning when I saw her getting ready to lay while two hens waited below with a predatory eye. Needless to say, I installed a barrier so no more eggs will roll from that location. The weather continues bleak, but above freezing.
December 1, 2003: I think Helen is still missing Leah a lot. She seems mournful and her production is still down. I saw the wild turkeys again today. I have not seen them for a couple of weeks and thought perhaps they had not survived Thanksgiving. But there they were scratching and preening down near Muffin’s grave. We are told to expect temperatures down in the single numbers tonight.
December 2, 2003 Tuesday: It was as cold today as promised and tonight we are told to expect -0-F. I put up more plastic on my windows, but some are still not done. Tonight will be a severe test of our barn water system. I filled the stock tank tonight just in case by morning it has become impossible. The spring water in the kitchen is still running. If that lasts the night it will be a miracle. About ten yards of pipe are exposed. Bagel and Izzie were naughty this morning and ran away. I hollered and whistled my fool head off for an hour before they came home. Time for retraining, I guess.
December 3, 2003 Wednesday: It was just about as cold this morning as predicted. Helen ate her morning hay, then went out to look for grass as usual. The sun was shining, but did little to warm things up. Abby and I spent a lot more time winterizing the house. It makes a striking difference in each room as we get the plastic up. Abby then spent considerable time stopping drafts in the hen’s room. There is still more to do. I got eight eggs today, but one was frozen. In this kind of weather, at least until their room is slightly warmer, I will need to pick up eggs every couple of hours. We are going to set up a crockpot for warm water as suggested by Sally L. I did that last winter with good success. (see Jan 31 of last winter) After milking this evening, Helen stopped to look at Leah’s collar. It was hanging by the buckle on a wall she passes. She sniffed it carefully, and then daintily licked its entire length. Abby remarked that people take great interest in the memory and social bonds of elephants, yet take no notice of intelligent social animals in our midst, our cows. They too have memories. When I say goodbye to one of the herd I hang his or her collar and bell on the wall. Even three years later I have seen a cow throw up her head to listen if I accidentally ring the bell.
December 4, 2003 Thursday: A cold sunny day. Now that the weather is staying below freezing there is nowhere for the “outside” chickens, mostly bantams, to drink except the stock tank. They perch on the edge to drink, and then turn around and squat, I am sorry to report. Abby emptied it today by carrying buckets of water outside before rinsing and refilling it. She is going to see if putting pans of water around will make better citizens of those birds. But of course these will soon freeze, whereas the stock tank has a submersible heater in it. Helen gave five gallons today and we got seven eggs.
December 5, 2003 Friday: Another cold but sunny day. Helen and Albert did not stay out very long. Abby spent hours making life more comfortable for the chickens. She managed to chase most of the young cockerels out of the room. There are far too many of them and they are making life miserable for the hens. Then she went to the loft above the hen room and laid down tarpaper, then laid asphalt shingles over that to hold it down. The roof over the hens is very thin and drafty. This should help keep the heat down where it belongs. I went back to work on covering windows with plastic, but soon ran out of staples. A blizzard is predicted and we were low on feed, so I jumped in the car and went shopping. Helen gave 4 ½ gallons. We got four eggs. The hens were much excited by Abby’s work in the hen house and kept jumping off their nests. Perhaps they will make up tomorrow for their low production. Despite repeated attempts, I have been unable to reach the people that bought Leah, so I have no report on her.
December 6, 2003 Saturday: A nor’easter that has been moving up the Northeast corridor reached us today. Heavy snow began about 10AM and at 9PM it continues. Sometimes it seemed to be coming down so fast that there was no room for air among the snowflakes. It is blowing around and drifting too. But, as the saying goes, it’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. At least it made transporting the milk from the barn a great deal easier. I just put the machine on the plastic akio sled and it slid effortlessly. Abby and I started the day with a pre storm trip to Dixfield to the church Xmas fair. We bought an armload of goodies, then raced home before the storm. Abby decided to risk going out again later for more cracked corn and founds the roads to be pretty bad. We both spent the remainder of the day until chore time on further winterizing. The animals are all cozy. There were eight eggs but one bad hen ate one. Helen gave 4 ½ gallons. Dressing for this weather is becoming serious business. Until today I have been scampering out in an old hunting coat that used to belong to one of by sons-in-law. Today I was swathed head to foot in my Drizabone.
December 7, 2003 Sunday: It snowed all night. Many drifts are three feet deep. No telling how long we will be snowed in. Snow was above my knees all the way to the barn and in many places much deeper than that. Inside the barn there were drifts wherever cracks had allowed in the wind. All the animals were comfortable though. The water is still running. Getting back from the barn with the milk was the hardest part. Without a proper path and with the snow this deep the sled just wants to tip over. I had to push the sled to keep the milking machine bucket upright. The milk was completely cold by the time I got it back to the house, a distance of about 150 yards. -Later- Abby shoveled for two or more hours and made a path to the barn for the sled. This made evening chores a lot easier. The akio slid along a nice track. The snow is finally stopping after 30 hours. There are a good two feet on flat areas such as my driveway and many drifts that look to be more than four feet. We are totally snowed in. The berm across the front of the driveway is hopelessly high. A neighbor I called about plowing was unavailable. Other neighbors across from him had a bad fire and he is a fireman. Traffic was stopped and four fire engines were there for a couple of hours. All the animals are happy except three kittens are sickly. Abby is giving them nursing care. Helen gave 4 ¾ gallons today and I think there were six eggs. Tomorrow I will flounder my way out to the mailbox, at least. Ron Schmidt’s new book is on the way to me. Furthermore, we are out of good coffee and have a mail order coming.
December 8, 2003 Monday: While Abby was shoveling snow out by the road she flagged down somebody with a blade on his pickup. He was on his way to another job but later came back and plowed us out. We were snowbound only two days. We ended up getting about 25 inches so far as I could tell with all the drifting. Up at Max’s they got 30 inches, as did many places in Western Maine. Of course I can’t visit anywhere on the farm except the buildings unless I use snowshoes or skis. It is impossible to walk through snow this deep. Not impossible for Helen, though. The sun came out brilliantly and she decided to cross the north pasture to stand under the trees. I don’t know why the cows always want to do this in winter. It may be because under the big pine trees there is a sun trap. Even when the ground is covered with snow it is lovely there. Or perhaps Helen thinks that maybe over there the grass is still green. Anyway, she plowed on over belly deep but soon came back looking frowny. She gave us her 4 ½ gallons today and there were six eggs. Abby and I have five roosters penned up. I have been grabbing them one by one as the opportunity occurs. There are still a few more to catch. They have been driving the hens crazy and us too with their racket. The hen house is now a lot more pleasant.
December 9, 2003 Tuesday: We were greeted this morning by a thermometer reading -10F. I am pleased to report all the water is still running. Helen is eating a great lot of hay and so is Albert. They both are in good condition. Albert is almost fat. I didn’t manage to catch any more roosters today, but did get one little hen. I put her in with the other hens. I got ten eggs today, but one was soft shelled and broken.Helen gave only 4 ¼ gallons today.
December 11, 2003 Thursday: The newest weather pattern is warm and wet. It rained all day and squashed down the snow, which was of a fluffy nature. Thirty seconds after putting the machine on Helen this morning it quit. I tinkered until I was sure her patience was near its end before going for the bucket. By then the floor was covered in milk she had let down. I did not get as much as usual because she quit letting down. But, she made up for it this evening, again by hand. During the day I dismantled the pulsator and cleaned it. It still doesn’t work. Helen gave 4 ½ gallons today. The hens are doing well. I have gotten 10 eggs now for several days in a row.
December 12, 2003 Friday: Helen gave only about four gallons today. The machine is still not working, so I am milking by hand and Helen gets a bit impatient with the prolonged milking time. Tonight I had a guest who enjoyed having a go at milking. Helen was a sweetie and did not lift a foot. But, when she thought things had gone on long enough she quit letting down. After I took the milk to the house, Abby was still working around the barn. Helen noticed that her door was not locked and came back up and stood by the door to the hen room. She knew Abby was in there and when she came out, Helen made it very plain she expected an extra grain treat. In fact she marched right over and stood by the door to the grain room until she got it. My grandson Rafe is here. He is helping me analyze the problem with the milking machine. He succeeded in getting it running, but now it will only go at racing speed.
December 13, 2003 Saturday: Rafe got the milking machine going pretty well last night, but it still did not work right this morning. I milked by hand both times today. The weather is not too cold, so it was not bad. He tried another improvement this evening, so I will attempt using again it in the morning. Rafe brought a classmate with him, Myra, and they dressed off seven roosters and a hen for me. They did a fine job. I am very grateful. I gave most of the birds to them to take back to school and make into soup. Rafe is experienced at this job but it was new to Myra. She said she believes that if she is going to eat meat she should be willing to be involved in the killing and preparation. After dressing off the birds they took a long hike, then went sledding. Helen gave about 4 ¼ gallons today. With others helping to collect eggs I lose track of how many I am getting, but it is about eight most days.
December 14, 2003 Sunday: It was -6F this morning. The barn water was frozen causing deep depression on the part of Abby and myself. But, good news, I put a heating pad on the faucet and about three hours later the tap started flowing, causing great rejoicing. Myra tried her hand at milking both yesterday and this morning. She showed considerable aptitude. She is hoping to learn to make cheese, so last night I cut into the first of my cheeses. I am delighted with the texture and flavor. It reminds me of a Caerphilly, but creamier. Who knows if the next one will be any good. Rafe left today for Christmas with his family in Alaska (that is my daughter Sally who has a goat). I sent along one of the cheeses. I got eleven eggs today, a recent record. Abby has done a lot for their comfort, which no doubt is the biggest factor in productivity, along with the extra light I set up for them. Once again the milking machine did not work. I milked both times today by hand. Helen let down all right this morning, but not this evening. The total for today was only 3 ¾ gallons.
December 15, 2003 Monday: Gloom returns. The water was frozen this morning and it stayed frozen despite all our efforts and prayers. Abby set a plastic dustbin in the Gardenway cart, filled it with water and wheeled it to the barn. It has snowed all day, but we had a trail to the barn because a neighbor with a blade broke open the dooryard snow. I think we got about 18 inches this time. I have an alternative stock watering system under the buttery (summer kitchen) that Martin put in a couple of years ago. It works fine, but the cows have to walk over here from the barn to get water. They actually don’t much mind this, even in deep snow, but it does mean I can’t close them in at night. Well, I can close them in, but they won’t have water. In such bad weather as we have been having I like to close them in at night. About milking time this evening the neighbor with the plow returned and finished the job. There remained icy patches covered with snow on the trail. Abby was carrying the full bucket of milk towards the house and did a perfect pratfall. But she managed not to spill the milk! Helen’s production has dropped off badly. She only gave 3 ½ gallons today, still milking by hand.
December 16, 2003 Tuesday: The heat tape and heating pad did their work! This morning the water again ran at the barn. How we hope we can keep it running! Helen gave 3 ¾ gallons today. The weather was much improved. There were 16 eggs today. We were gone all day shopping but found everything in good shape when we got home. The few remaining roosters now flee when they see me, the master rooster catcher who sent the others to their fate.
December 17, 2003 Wednesday: Nobody in six counties went anywhere today if they didn’t have to. It warmed up and rained all day on frozen ground, converting much of the world to a skating rink. I got around OK using a ski pole. Helen only managed about 3 ½ gallons. The chickens overdid themselves yesterday; today I got only five eggs.
December 18, 2003 Thursday: The rivers are way up due to rain on frozen ground. Some local towns are cut off and people are being evacuated by boat. The Webb River, which runs past Coburn Farm, is over its bank and half way across the field. But, my house and barn are on high ground. I was in town and saw our river foaming over the rocks as it enters the Androsgoggin. Abby persuaded Helen and Albert, the little steer, to try out the new path she made for them so that they can once again hang out under the buttery if they want to. If we lose our barn water that is where they will need to come to drink. My driveway and front yard across which we walk to reach the barn are one big ice flo. I have been carrying a ski pole as I go back and forth but so far have not fallen. Helen gave pretty close to four gallons today. There were 15 eggs.
December 19, 2003 Friday: I was hoping to see signs of heat in Helen today but no luck. Maybe tomorrow? It was pretty mild today. Abby put up a storm window on the bathroom and plastic on her bedroom windows. This completes winterizing the windows. Better late than never. The hens took a day off. Only seven eggs. The driveway and lawn area to the barn are still a sheet of ice, but the river has dropped slightly. My cousin Marcia has left her dog, Dakota, with me for the winter. They are going to Florida. Marcia is not very well. Perhaps the warm climate will do her good. Dakota is large and heavy. He is part mastiff. He is very friendly and obedient, so I don’t anticipate many problems unless he pines too much for his mistress. Marcia brought along his bed. We put it next to Bagel’s bed. Bagel lay down on it right away and when he saw Dakota coming to lie down he deliberately stretched himself across both beds, the bad thing. Dakota was very polite and found a place on the floor. *To those who may have noticed the link to Dr. Ron, I do highly recommend this book”
December 21, 2003 Sunday: Helen has figured out a new trick. While Abby is mucking out the Beefer Pen, her run-in, she goes over and nudges open the door back into the main hall of the barn. There she stands insisting on a bribe before she will go back where she belongs. Abby has to give her a handful of grain to get her to move. Last week I called Bill, the man in Michigan where I got my Surge milker. I told him he needed to either give me some ideas of how to get my pulsator going again, or send me another pulsator. He did not answer the phone and there was no phone message either, but after a few seconds I heard a beep. I left him a polite message asking him to call or email. Nothing happened. The next day I repeated this tactic and still nothing. Then yesterday I received a replacement pulsator in the mail. There was not so much as a business card in with it. Bill is clearly a man of few words. I used it this morning. Helen let down very well. She gave her now customary morning contribution of 2 ½ gallons. It took me over a week of hand milking to get her worked up to that level, as she had gotten used to the machine and was slow to get fully cooperative with hand milking again. She never lifted a foot, just did not let down fully. Now this evening I decided not to bother with the machine since she gives less at night. But darned if she didn’t hold up her milk. I got barely a quart. I suppose she is telling me she now prefers the machine. She will make up for it tomorrow morning, no doubt Eight eggs today.
December 22, 2003 Monday: Helen gave three gallons this morning making up for last night. This evening she gave one gallon plus one quart. I used the machine. The weather is pretty warm, up to 30F today, but not warm enough to melt the sheet of ice in the front yard. I pull the machine to the barn on a plastic sled. The chickens laid a dozen eggs today.
December 23, 2003: It was very mild today, up to 40F. Helen and Albert spent most of their time outdoors. Abby put some hay out in the lean-to for their convenience. We actually did not see much of them because we were off doing last minute shopping. Helen gave about ¾ gallons today. We got eight eggs.
December 24, 2003 Christmas Eve: My Goodness, the ice sheet on the front yard is slicker than ever. Abby found her crampons and put them on my shoes. Until I had them I was leaning over and pushing the machine ahead of me to provide traction. I was just skidding in place. It is raining on the snow and ice, consequently it is warm and foggy. My son Mark arrived about 9pm and said he had never driven in such fog. My granddaughter Helena is en route driving to Virginia. She reports heavy rain with almost no visibility. I hope there are no accidents. Despite the mild temperature I shut Helen and Albert in the barn. I don’t want them to go out and slip on the ice. Helen gave 4 ¼ gallons today. I got 11 eggs.
December 25, 2003 Christmas Day: Such a lovely day for myself and my family. Except for poor Max and his family. They have the flu. Sons Mark and Martin are here, and Martin’s friend Amy. After gifts, they went X-C skiing, and then ice-skating on a large pond that had frozen on the pasture after a previous rain. I am keeping my cousin Marcia’s old dog, Dakota, for the winter. He and my dog Bagel went along on the skiing expedition. I was given a butter bell for Christmas. I have never had one and look forward to trying it. This one is called a French Butter Dish. The makers have a website at www.classiclinespottery.com. Martin milked Helen both times today to free me up for cooking. He got about the usual amount of milk. I baked sticky buns for breakfast, chowder for lunch, and roast beef for dinner. With the roast we had Yorkshire pudding, squash, salad, and mince and blueberry pie. I have a mincemeat recipe that I brought from England. It does not have any meat in it but does have grated suet. Helen did not kick Martin but she peed and waved her foot around a bit. She always wants it to be me milking her.
December 26, 2003 Friday: How the year is speeding past! All the guests have left. Abby and I are leaving the tree up for now. It always makes me sad to take it down. The hens continue to do well. There were 13 eggs today and Helen gave 4 ½ gallons. She seems very warm and fuzzy these days. I am giving her half a dozen or so apples every day. She knows the word “apple”.
December 29, 2003: I missed a couple of days writing the diary due to meeting a writing deadline, also helping Abby get started on a trip to Virginia where she will house sit while her sister spends the winter in Florida. She finally got her truck packed about 3:30 yesterday, and then decided it was too late to start. She started this morning about 9am. All the animals and I will miss her many attentions. The driving weather is perfect. But, guess what! Sunday morning while brushing Helen I noted slime on her tail. Her behavior was irreproachable during milking, but when I turned her out she took an unusual interest in Albert, now four months old. They began chasing and jumping. This was the first time since Albert was born on August 20 that I have seen any convincing signs of heat. I called the AI guy right away because it was Sunday and I thought he might be slow to arrive. But he came within an hour. I do hope he was not too early. I really hope Helen settles on the first try.
December 30, 2003 Tuesday: Abby arrived safely in Virginia today with her two cats and dog, Izzy. She stopped over one night in Pennsylvania. (I was not alone long enough to become depressed. Son Martin and his girlfriend, Amy, and Austrian friend Julian arrived last night for dinner. Besides doing considerable eating today, they did a lot of winter sports. They went up to Lake Webb and skated across. Max and his little girls joined them. Everyone had fun. Their last expedition was a lengthy snowshoe trip through the back roads behind the farm. They took Bagel Dog along and as they returned along the stretch of road leading to my driveway, Bagel got confused and got hit by a car. By then it was 5PM and totally dark. The driver did his best to stop but could not. All they could see was Bagel running into the night. We searched on foot and by car for two hours. Then as Martin was looking again below the house, Bagel appeared. He is very subdued and yelped when I felt his sides, but I think nothing is broken and that he is just badly bruised. He is a large strong dog in excellent condition (a yellow lab mix with yellow eyes with black rims) He drank some water but would not eat anything I offered until I fried some deer liver. Just minutes after he reappeared, the folks in the car that struck him came back to see if we had found him. They were very thoughtful. Helen was her usual fuzzy self today, but for some reason her production was way down. It seems a bit soon to be seeing the pregnancy drop. A violent wind has come up. I closed up everything at the barn. I got 13 eggs.
December 31, 2003 New Year’s Eve: All last night the wind rattled the ancient windows of my house. It was hard to sleep. In the morning Bagel was on his feet. He is as stiff as an old grandpa, but nothing is broken. He ate all his breakfast. I do hope that he will have learned to stay away from cars. All the company has gone away. I thought I was being very efficient by myself in the barn. I set the doors so when I turned Helen out of her stanchion she could march into her run-in, the beefer pen, pushing the door open ahead of herself. But the door stood wide open and Albert, the calf, was gone. My visiting dog, Dakota, sits in the front door of the barn, so I was pretty sure Albert would not have gone past him. But I could not find him out back in the barnyard in the dark. What a worry! After ten minutes he showed up from somewhere out back. Odd that he did not come when called. He is such a chowhound. I won’t depend on that door again. Helen gave only 3 ½ gallons today. I got 10 eggs.