January 2, 2005 Sunday: A well-matched pair of highly decorative roosters started the New Year by having a cockfight in the barn. One tends to think of cockfights as bloody affairs to the death, but that never, in my experience, occurs among free-range roosters on the farm. These roosters fight by dancing up to each other and standing about a foot apart, lowering their heads with their hackle feathers fully extended to form a sort of tutu around their necks. They swipe their beaks on the floor like somebody sharpening a knife. Then they rush at each other and bump breasts and both jump straight up in the air flapping and grappling. While in the air their feet are up so that their spurs jab forward. Or, one leaps over the other’s head and lands behind his adversary. During this maneuver the adversary turns so that they are again facing each other. It is only the bantam roosters or those with bantam blood that fight. The heavy birds just chase each other. This pair drew no blood and scarcely lost a feather. I once saw a pair fight all day until both were so exhausted that they were just walking up to each other to bump chests and could not even manage a jump. They had bloody heads, which they sort of laid on each other’s shoulders during the grapple. Both were back to their customary activities the next day. These Coburn Farm spontaneous cockfights are very amusing to watch. Well, my chicken’s egg laying streak seems to have crashed. Only four eggs today. Helen gave a bit under two gallons.
January 3, 2005 Monday: The chickens redeemed themselves today. They laid a dozen eggs, 10 before 8am. I gave them a bucket of high protein scraps from some freezer rejects to cheer them on. Today was very mild. It got up to 40F. I made yogurt and butter. This will likely be the last butter I make this lactation. Helen only gave about 1 ¾ gallons today. Sammy still carries on bawling while she is in being milked.
January 4, 2005 Tuesday: Our warm weather continues. It was in the 20’s all day (It seems warm to us). I did not even switch on my milking room heater. I did leave the chicken room heater on low. It is such a dark room even with the light on. They are doing so well that I don’t want to do anything to discourage them. They laid 12 eggs again today. At evening chores I discovered a young rooster squinched up on the self where I feed the cats. When I nudged him he barely moved. So I picked him up and discovered that his toes were all tangled up and his legs tied together with one of those flimsy strings that pull off of feed bags. I have seen this happen often enough that I am always particular to put the strings into the trash bin but that one strayed. I had to use the knife to get the string off. It took more than five minutes. It was embedded around one toe so that the toe had turned purple. I had to hold him upside down and he made the dying chicken squawk the entire time. This of course set off the entire barn. Once I set him down again he was able to walk pretty well. During milking Helen was antsy. She never would stop shifting and dancing and of course pooped. I told her to shape up. Later I realized I had forgotten to give her apples. No doubt she could smell them. She gave 1 ¾ gallon today. I find that the Biodynamic magazine, Lillipoh, has given KFC a very kind review. It is accompanied with a photo of cows, underneath which is an Irish saying: “Everybody is nice until the cow gets in the garden.”
January 5, 2005 Wednesday: Lillipoh magazine had a recipe for chai, which I followed. This morning I started the day with it. I liked it a lot. Chai is served sweetened and I never sugar my tea. I put a bit of dulce de leche in that I had also made yesterday. I must say, it was an agreeable start to the morning. UPS, guided by some unseen hand, brought me a fine pair of warm leather gloves today. I think I am on the way to greater comfort in the barn. I just hope I am not also on the way to a frozen water hose. I have a snap-together hose fitting. I always disconnect the hose and hang it high up to drain. Today I could not get the thing apart and had to leave it connected. I tried to shake the water out of it but that seldom works. I expect Max tomorrow. He is a good problem solver. Helen is shaving her production a bit more each day. Today she again gave 1 ¾ gallons but I had to really work for it. There were ten eggs.
January 7, 2005 Friday: I solved the hose problem myself by unscrewing the fitting at the back. The hose was indeed full of ice and I had to bring it indoors to thaw it. It’s only about 15′ long so I was able to coil it in my industrial size kitchen sink. After thawing, the snap-together hose fitting went together OK. Getting it apart again is the problem. Also on Thursday afternoon, the new 16-gallon water tub arrived. I dragged it to the barn but decided against installing it because they had not finished the water in the old tub. I would have had to dump it and that would have created an ice skating rink in that corner. This morning the water was about gone and they were thirsty. I hauled the old tank outdoors and put it under the eves where it will suffice to catch melt water when we get a thaw. They always like that melt water. I stabilized the new tub by putting it in a corner and setting a nail on the walls each side of it. Then I hooked a chain onto each nail. The chain wraps across the front of the tub and locks it into the corner. They took to the new tub right away and drank while it was filling. The only glitch was when Sammy nudged open the door to the passageway where I was running in and out. He did not know enough to back out, instead made the dumb cow choice to try to turn around in what amounts to a chute. Being only one year old he finally managed it by standing on his hind legs but it was not a graceful maneuver. Helen was clearly worried. I could tell she was frowning but I don’t know if she was blaming him or me. Evening: Helen definitely likes the new tub. Animals are usually reluctant to accept a new tub right away. The fact that she did probably shows how much she disliked the former set-up. She drank it right down this evening. But, so far it has not boosted her production: 1 ¾ gallons yesterday and today. The hens are responding well to getting clabber again. Today I got 15 eggs.
January 8, 2005 Saturday: We had about four new inches of snow yesterday and another two inches today. It got up to 25F. No family came this weekend so far but I expect max and Mitra and the girls tomorrow for lunch. Here is an exceptionally easy recipe for a bar cookie that I got off a raisin box. Not counting assembling ingredients, it took about three minutes including time in the Cuisinart and patting it into a pan.
Butter a 9″x13″ baking pan and preheat the oven to 325F
1 ½ cup old fashioned oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salts
½ cup butter at room temperature
¾ cup golden raisins (Sultanas)
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
Mix together the dry ingredients.
Work in the butter
Add the raisins and apricots.
Pat into the pan. I flattened it down with a jam jar.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes
Cool before cutting into bars.
January 10, 2005 Monday: My daughter Sally arrived today from Alaska. She will be here a number of weeks. She loves the farm. She found her old boots and took Bagel for a snowy walk around the field. For dinner we had liver sautéed with onions to get her restored from losing two nights sleep with travel. Bagel got the gristly bits. Helen gave a slightly skimpy 1 ¾ gallons today. I started putting blackstrap molasses on her food. It is from a $6 health food store bottle that I have had on hand a long time. I thought she might as well have it. I got 13 eggs. The weather has turned warm again with a new snow shower every so often and sunny periods interspersed. We now have a good snow cover. The X-C skiers in the family are happy.
January 11, 2005 Tuesday: This was a fine clear winter day. Sally and I went across the bridge and had a look at her little vacant house and field. Everything was as it was left. Bagel enjoyed the trip. Later we took him along on an expedition to buy cat food, which he also enjoyed. When we let him out of the car he took off after a neighbor cat that had been here all day having swearing matches with the resident toms. They both shot down the driveway arriving at the gate just as a truck roared by. The cat swerved but I think if Sally were not yelling at Bagel he would have run right into the truck. That cat ran farther and faster than I have ever seen a cat run. Max reports that the chicken family is growing well. He tells me they are getting necks and wing feathers. The one that was frozen and thawed on the hearth is still the smallest, but he sees to it that it always gets food. Sally milked Helen tonight. She had been out both yesterday and this morning to talk to Helen in the paddock and get reacquainted. Helen was perfectly cooperative and did not miss a beat. I did the mucking out. Sammy hung around as he often does hoping I will play with him. He wants to kiss. He also wants to push me with his head and he shakes his head a lot. I don’t allow him to push me. At these times I remind myself, “Joann, you do not want a cow with horns.” Helen gave 1 ¾ gallons again today. I got 16 eggs.
January 12, 2005 Wednesday: Sally did the milking today and I did the hay feeding, watering and mucking out, cat feeding and poultry care. Helen continues to be well behaved for Sally. It helps that I am now in with Sammy mucking out so he is not alone; otherwise, he still bellows. Sammy still goes out every day and barges around in the cockle burr patch. He stands like a lamb while I try to claw them out. Sally took Bagel for another walk around the field and they saw fox tracks. And in really exciting news… we have had five bags of fleece hanging from the rafters in the cellar since last June when her son Rafe sheared our former Jacob sheep at the farm where they now live. The people did not want the wool. (Contrary to the belief retailed by PETA, shearing sheep is not cruelty. They can die if left unshorn.) Sally went down today to look at the wool and discovered that one bag that was packed especially full was smoking. It had begun to heat up and compost. That was a near thing. My Guardian Angel has her work cut out for her around here. I had just had a look at those bags yesterday. Ten eggs today and 1 ¾ gallons of milk.
January 14, 2005 Friday: We awoke this morning to rain and slush. Either because we are having a thaw or thanks to the molasses I am pouring on her feed, Helen gave nearly two gallons today. There were a dozen eggs. Yesterday on her walk with Bagel, Sally found where the fox had cleaned out a mouse nest. I got one of the roosters out of the freezer and simmered it today. It came out very tender and flavorful. We had creamed chicken for supper. Andae, my sister’s twenty something horse, has had a rather startling accident. She was walking her dogs past Andae’s stall, which looks out on the dirt road that leads to her place. He was in his stall. The very pleasant teenage boys that live in house up the road came walking along with their friendly golden retriever. Barby’s dogs, Comet and Susie, went into one of their frenzied barking fits with the circling visiting dog. Andae clearly thought Barby was under attack. He leapt over his half door striking his head on the lintel. He took out a great section of lintel along with most of the door and fell at Barby’s feet in a stunned heap. After a bit he recovered his senses (using the term loosely, this is a horse after all) he stood up with blood streaming from his head. He had scalped himself right down to the shining bone and knocked fragments from his poll. A long wedge-shaped streak of head bone was exposed. Barby lives in California on the Bay Area’s Skyline Boulevard, a long, twisty road through the coastal hills. It took three hours for the vet, who was in Half Moon Bay on another call, to arrive. The vet gave Andae tranquilizers that allowed him to work on a standing horse with Barby holding a rope. I forgot to ask where and how this rope was attached to Andae. But Barby, who is 75, had to stand there holding him for an hour and a half while the vet cleaned and sewed several layers of muscle and skin back in place. Barby, needless to say, is much in need of prayer and consolation. Andae will take plenty of time to mend and he won’t let her near his head. The vet will have to give the after care, I think. One of the young lads stayed and repaired Andae’s stall while the other took their dog home. Andae comes close to being the most important thing in Barby’s life. Her devoted care of Andae is the focus of her day. Her other horse, Athena, died of a terrible colic two years ago when Barby was laid up with back surgery and had paid help taking care of her animals. These horses’ mother, May Day, lived to 40 with Barby’s care. I surely hope Andae makes it. I don’t even want to think about what it will do to Barby if she were to lose Andae, who leapt to her defense.
January 15, 2005 Saturday: Barby told me on the phone that Andae had an uncomfortable day Thursday, but Friday was pleased to go out to graze for about two hours. So far his wound looks pretty good. Lee Anne says horses have amazing powers of recovery. So also says my daughter Marcia, who also has a barn full of horses. She remembers one that had its facial sinuses caved in by being kicked, and recovered. Barby feels that if she can get Andae through a week without infection she will begin to relax a bit. Two weeks ago my son John sent me a pair of lovely red velvet beaded cushion covers purchased in Indonesia but made in Kashmir. My daughter Sally, visiting from Alaska, has made little down-filled inserts for them. She used the down we saved from plucking my geese after they were killed two years ago. It was very fine down. For any who may not be familiar with geese, traditionally they are plucked each year. You just pull out the down from under the breast feathers in spring. It is similar to shearing sheep and does them no harm. The goose would just moult out its extra down anyway. I found a molasses product that I am about try. It is solidified in a big blue tub similar to the one I bought for Helen’s water. It weighs 200 lbs. Sally and Max got it into my car over in Farmington, but when I got home we just left it where it was. It is too heavy for us to move ourselves. Rosie and Nate are returning tonight from Europe. I am counting on Nate to get it out to the cows. Helen’s production has picked up a bit just as I am nearly ready to dry her off. She gave 2 ¼ gallons today. I got a dozen eggs.
January 16, 2005 Sunday: Rosie and Nate, my granddaughter and her husband, who have been traveling in Eastern Europe and Italy, returned last night. They are energetic and took two long walks at today’s temperature in the low teens. They also got the 200 lb tub of solidified molasses out of my car. They moved it into my Beefer Pen, the run-in where my cows spend most of their time. Helen was onto it trying to lick while Nate was still rolling it across the room. She and Sammy both spent a lot of time licking it today. All they succeeding in doing was smooth out the rough surface. At this rate it will last them a year. I ate a chip of the stuff that was stuck to the plastic covering. It didn’t taste much good to me. It was medicinal and not sweet. At the farm in Croatia where Rosie and Nate spent two weeks, their farmer friend told them to take all of the home made olive oil they wanted. They only felt able to carry two liters. We had some on our salad tonight. It was so very good. They also brought figs dried among bay leaves. My goodness these were good. The people are so poor and war ravaged, but their food is wonderful. They also visited Rosie’s aunt who teaches at the International School in Belgrade. She eats only American food. She has Crisco shipped to her from Germany. They spent their last week volunteering on a farm in Sicily. Italian men were always walking along the street shouting and gesticulating, apparently arguing. Come to find out they were talking about what they had eaten, what they had cooked (they love to cook) and what they were going to eat next. Helen didn’t give much today, not quite 1 ¾ gallons. I got 11 eggs. The weather was cold and overcast.
January 17, 2005 Monday: Barby says that Andae is doing well. There is a little swelling under one edge of the wound, but so far that is all. What she was really excited about is his personality change. Andae has always been the archetypical wuss. He was born on the place with his grandmother May Day and mother Athena always in his life. He never showed the least independence and since they passed away has been notably timid about going out to pasture alone. Barby has often stood at the gate to keep him company so that he would graze a little. Or, if he was left alone he would begin nickering and calling if he heard her hanging out clothes or working in the garden. Now it looks as though he has faced his worst fears and gained freedom. He now enjoys going out in the pasture and does not hang about the gate. She even had to go and fetch him once. Here at Coburn Farm, Nate worked much of the day on the roof trying to clean the flue that serves my wood stove. It smoked so much each time I tried it this winter that I had to give up on it. Nate discovered that a flue tile has broken and fallen in. None of us has any idea what to do about this. I will have to get professional advice. We ate the last of the salmon caught be Rosie and Nate and shipped frozen last summer. They of course had plenty of fresh salmon and had some canned in Cordova AK where they fish. They were pleased to taste the flash frozen fish delivered 2nd Day Air by UPS. It was excellent. Milk was down again tonight. Not much more than 1.5 gallons today. There were 14 eggs.
January 18, 2005 Tuesday: Cold today! The temperature hung around zero all day. Barn chores were not a lot of fun. One egg froze in the chicken room even though there is a heater on in there. The cows are eating a lot of hay to keep warm. The self-heating water tub is working out well, although I have to fill it twice a day and sometimes more. It holds 16 gallons. We all went to Farmington today and stopped in to see Max and Mitra, my son and daughter-in-law. Their house was cozy. I got to see the hen and four checks that he and I rescued. He has a nice warm hen house with a separate apartment in it for the little family. They are thriving. The black chick that was frozen and had to be thawed out is still the smallest. We took them what will probably be their last gallon of milk until Helen calves again. On Saturday I will go to once a day (OAD) milking for a week, then dry Helen off. Back at the farm, Sally and Nate dressed off two small roosters. I have two big black ones that I had hoped to get killed, but I could not catch them. Probably I can tomorrow when I put out the morning corn. Rosie left sourdough rising while we were away and made baguettes for dinner. We ate them dipped in the lovely new olive oil. We had that with bouillabaisse that she also made, plus an applesauce cake. She is a great cook and highly organized. In college she cooked in the school cafeteria and also cooked in the family bake shop for several summers. I didn’t do much of anything. I got so cold that I curled up on the couch with a magazine and allowed myself to be waited on.
January 19, 2005 Wednesday: It was evil news this morning when I discovered the barn water was frozen up. I was not terribly surprised as it was -17F. Sally carried water in buckets to fill the 16-gallon tub for the cows. I left the hose connected that I use to fill it and left the tap turned on and mirabile dictu, about 1:00 it began running again. That was wonderful news. Yesterday Nate made an arrangement of ladders on the roof so he could work on the chimney. He used a cluster of tire chains to clean it, also a screw-together chimney/drain cleaner that I brought from England that has a brush on the end. He found that there was an impenetrable blockage, which seemed to be bricks. Night fell as did the temperature. It went to -17 this morning. Today Nate hurled himself once again at the chimney project. He was on and off the roof many times. Finally he put together a 30 foot length of galvanized pipe, got it up the ladder and put it down the chimney. The pipe was very cold. He had to handle it bare handed. He frostbit his hands when it slid through them going down. He came in and thawed them for about 20 minutes in the bathroom sink. He says they are OK. I gave him vitamin E to rub in which helped. He used the pipe like a pneumatic drill and pounded it through the occlusion in the chimney. There was a huge fall of creosote. The blockage turned out to be all creosote, not tile. Then he came into the house and cleaned out the debris through the aperture behind the stove. As soon as that was done there was a powerful updraft that put out a match. Now a cozy fire burns in the stove and animals are ranged around it. Nate took a break in the middle of the day and he and Sally butchered two more roosters. They were the two big black ones I missed last night. They were still too nervous to come out of the rafters for their corn this morning but later walked into a little room where Sally was able to catch them in a landing net. Helen was again irritable today about being milked, but has not kicked. She gave a scant 1 ¾ gallons today. I got 11 eggs. Sammy is extremely lively. Tonight when I was mucking out he ran back and forth like a pony. That reminds me, I was saying how I miss having a pony. Sally and I were agreeing that we especially miss the wonderful way they make the barn smell. Nate says he will make a million with Eau de Equus which ladies can just spray around their barns and save the trouble of keeping a horse.
January 20, 2005 Thursday: Last night we had several inches of beautiful new snow. Nate got out the Kubota and plowed the yard and driveway. I called my regular man and told him he need not come. Then Nate and Rosemary sawed and split a lot of wood.
The wood stove continues to burn perfectly. The furnace hardly went on at all today even though the temperature did not get above 15F and this evening is back down to 2F. The barn water tap was frozen this morning, but this I was able to thaw it with a heating pad I keep in the barn. Helen has been antsy dancey during milking for Sally, but tonight was quiet. Sally thinks it may be because she avoided putting her shoulder in so hard, the way she milks her goats. Sally thinks maybe Helen felt she was pushing too hard on the calf. Helen does not seem to much like the hay I am now into. It is fluffy and leafy and easy to shake out. I thought she would like it. I suspect it is Reed Canary. I know my hay man sometimes cuts and includes that. She gave 1 ¾ gallons today. I only got six eggs.
January 21, 2005 Friday: For his next trick, Nate took an old blanket and stapled it onto and around my kitchen door so that cold air does not seep in. It made an immediate difference. Rosie and Nate both worked on cutting and stacking wood again today. Nate spent a couple of hours on the Kubota. He cleared the farm gate of snow piled by previous plowings so he could get around behind the barn to my manure pile. He removed the pile to the big storage pile in the field. This is a big help to me. The pile was so large I could no longer pitch out the door of the Beefer Pen and had to carry each forkload out the door and down the ramp. One day recently I tripped in the doorway and went down pretty hard on my knee, which brought the issue into sharp focus for me, I do assure you. Sad to say, the relentless cold weather, around zero every day for some days, with a harsh wind, has frozen up my barn water. There was no getting it going today. Sally and I went out on errands and I picked up two Coleman 5 gallon water containers. Rosie and Nate carried out water from the house. Some friends of mine with 300 acres of woodland raised two pigs this year in the woods. They grew very well on what they could find, that being the nature of pigs. I have often heard that the flavor of pigs raised in the woods is very good, so Sally and I arranged to buy one. It was some time after the woods froze up before these pigs made it to slaughter during which time they ate bag feed. So, perhaps the wild flavor will be lost. He brought the meat today so we will soon be trying it. Max just sent me this account of his day: I did not wish to sit around the house today. So, in spite of the bitter cold I went out on a wood gathering excursion. I thought it too cold for small black dogs, so I left Lulu in the house and set off with my sled and saw for a dead maple I had flagged. I got down there and was just about to start the saw when my phone rang. It was Mitra and Lulu. Lulu was horribly bent out of shape about being left behind and was barking and jumping up and down at the back door. I decided she would rather have freezing feet than be left at home. Mitra released her and she left the door like a shot, following my tracks into the woods. She was on such a charge she almost overshot me in the woods. Helen gave 1 ½ gallons today. After today, no more evening milking. There were ten eggs.
January 22, 2005 Saturday: We came downstairs this morning and discovered that the kitchen hot water pipe was frozen. This happens every year despite lagging the pipe and stopping drafts with wads of sheep’s wool. Rosie washed a lot of dishes in cold water while Nate worked on the pipe. The dishwasher had not run and was full of dirty water. Come to find out the drain line was frozen. Two hours of blowing hot air on it with a little space heater and it finally thawed. Then Rosie went upstairs and ran back to say the upstairs was full of smoke. The chimney above the wood stove goes up through the middle of what we call the playroom. It was very hot to the touch. There was no obvious fire or smoke source but we agreed it would be best to call the fire department. In about ten minutes two towns had arrived. It turned out they were all at a training group in my town. They all ran in and out very politely looking for the trouble. They pulled the wood stove away from the wall and discovered there was a large fall of burning creosote sitting in there. It was totally surrounded by thick masonry so was not an immediate hazard. Nate bent up the edges of my ash shovel so that it would fit into the thimble hole to shovel out the burning material. The fire fighters put a series of ladders on my high gabled roof. As soon as the burning creosote was gone they went at the chimney with cleaning brushes. Nate had not been able to get out all the creosote with our home equipment. All the while the chimney upstairs was getting hotter and hotter. You could not hold your hand on it. Nate removed part of the dropped ceiling so that no wood was in contact with it. Sally, quoting Dylan Thomas, remembered to say, “Would anyone like something to read?” The fire fighters were here about an hour and a half. When they left they said the chimney was now in excellent shape and we could relight the stove but we have not quite gotten up our nerve to do it. Max and Mitra and the two girls, Martin and fiancée Amy, and my granddaughter Helena all arrived for my planned birthday dinner for Rosie. Everyone helped wonderfully. Max and Martin even found time to go x-c skiing for an hour on the river. Martin did the evening chores for me, which now do not include milking. He came back with the cheerful news that the barn water had started to run again. Amazing! The temperature is only up to 5F so it must be that the heat tape and bundle of blankets did the trick. I made a Moroccan dish with lamb and eggplant and Mitra fixed the rice and salad. I passed a big bowl of thick fresh kefir as an accompaniment. Sally made the world’s best trifle. It has started to snow.
January 23, 2005 Sunday: We only got about 4″ of new snow. It is still very cold, right around zero, so the snow is dry and blowy. Down in Massachusetts they got about four feet and the airport is closed. Rosie and Nate postponed their departure. There are cars stranded on the highway and the National Guard is rescuing motorists. Martin, Amy and Nate went up to the lake and skated. They had hoped for enough wind to fly a kite that would pull them on the ice, but were disappointed. The pork is here now from the two pigs that our friends raised in the woods. They gave me half a pig in return for storing it in my freezer. I am also curing the bacon. Sally and I salted it down after supper. The bacon looks good, but we have not tried any of the meat. Max cooked a roast today for his family and said it had good flavor, but was a bit chewy. My daughter Abby in Virginia has gone to work for a very old lady named Rose Loring Heard. She spent her childhood summers on Bartlett’s Island off Bar Harbor. Her grandfather owned the island. When the family returned to Boston in the winter, her grandfather had the milk from their cows sent down to the family. On OAD milking today, Helen gave 1.5 gallons. Helen showed no interest in coming in for milking. Only got six eggs today.
January 25, 2005 Tuesday: The cold eased off slightly. It hovered around 9F today. Sally and I went for a walk around the snowy fields under brilliant sun. When we got way to the bottom of the field, Sammy noticed us and came galumphing down and bounced along behind us. He and Bagel went around and around. I think Sammy thought he should be defending us from Bagel. Bagel thought it was all a game. We saw no wildlife, only deer tracks. Rosie saw three deer on her last walk. Rosie and Nate left here on Monday and are now back in Fairbanks AK. Their house was broken into while they were away and everything of value was stolen, even Rosie’s box of earrings. The thieves took every one of Nate’s tools leaving not so much as a screwdriver. I made sourdough bread today using my milk yeast starter. The loaves turned out well. Yesterday I made some oven barbecued spare ribs with the new pork. Today I started a shank end fresh ham roast with sauerkraut but did not put it in early enough so we will have it tomorrow. Sally made scrambled eggs and we ate new bread. The water supply in the barn has been playing tricks. This morning it was frozen so we carried water. I had left the hose connected just in case and about 10:30 in the morning it began running and did not freeze up again today. Helen gave about 1 ¼ gallons yesterday and 1 ½ today OAD. There were a dozen eggs.
January 26, 2005 Wednesday: No water flowed today in the barn. Sally hauled water twice. The containers go most of the way on the sled. Then Sally carries the two of them, 5 gallons each, the remaining distance. She says she is used to it because of watering her garden in Alaska. Sally went for a walk along the river today although it was snowing. A partridge exploded out from under the snow just in front of her feet. She had never seen this before. Bagel missed the action. He was off somewhere sniffing. The pork dinner got cooked. This pork is so lean that I finally added a quarter of a pound of butter to the pot. It had a lot of flavor but as Max reported with their roast, it was chewier than the usual commercial product. It was also darker in color. All through dinner we pondered ways that I could take care of pigs by myself after Helen freshens. Carrying heavy buckets of skim milk is bad enough. But it means opening and shutting an annoyingly difficult field gate and very frequently having to tromp through mud. That part of the barnyard is a quagmire for days after a rain. Helen was very good this morning. She gave 1.5 gallons. With OAD she comes in dirty every time now. I got only six eggs today.
January 27, 2005 Thursday: Two weeks ago I lost the denture that filled in where last May I broke off an upper incisor. I have been going around with a gap-toothed smile, or more often no smile. Wearing that denture was a disagreeable experience, so this time I opted for some bridgework, even though the dentist still has a lien on my remaining teeth. There in the dentist’s waiting room was one of my neighbors. When she heard it was -21F at my farm she quickly informed me that it was -28F at her house. This afternoon was my last opportunity to get Bagel licensed without a late penalty, so I went to the town office. Three years have elapsed since Bagel’s last rabies shot. I had to promise to get him another shot immediately. I am very concerned that too frequent rabies shots will result in his getting pancreatic cancer. Despite the cold, Sally and I went for a walk. The sun was brilliant. Sally pointed out where my winterberry tree has died. It was so cold that we only stayed out about a half hour. Tonight I closed the cows’ door to keep them a bit warmer even though they dislike it shut. A wind has come up too. Helen gave less than 1 ¼ gallon. We got 10 eggs.
January 28, 2005 Friday: Nine above zero this morning, but it still felt plenty cold. I have developed a system of layered garments starting with silk underwear and working up to a coat my son Mark gave me that appears designed for Polar exploration. Assorted scarves and two wool hats complete my look. Despite the last couple of days of cold, at midday the barn water chose to start running. Curiouser and curiouser. Sally cut her woven piece out of the loom, braided its fringe and hand washed it. I will try to get a picture of it soon. It contains wool/hair from Jacob sheep, moose, mountain goat, polar bear and woolly mammoth. The exotic fibers were given her by wild life biologists, the mountain goat by a hunter. The Jacob sheep were ours at one time. I got a collar and bell onto Sammy this morning. He does not seem to mind it but I think it looks too tight. Tomorrow morning I will take it off and try a different one. The little woodland pig roast had an amazing lot of meat on it. Sally and I had it tonight for the third night. This time I cut it off the bone and made a curry sauce. It was very good once I cooked it long enough and added enough butter and olive oil. Helen gave almost 1.5 gallons this morning. I got 10 eggs.
January 29, 2005 Saturday: Today started out at -9F but warmed up to 27F. Sally and I were stripping off layers. We went for a pleasant walk down the north fence line and across towards the river. While still on the high ground we saw where something had raised a partridge. It left a perfect outline of its wings and body like an angel imprint in the snow. But it only got about four feet before something plucked it out of the air. Blood and feathers were in the snow. There were some kind of canine tracks. Either it was one of the neighbor’s dogs or it was a coyote, probably the latter. The tracks were somewhat ambiguous, but appeared to come out of the woods. We walked only about another ten feet and saw where a second partridge had been taken in exactly the same manner. Then in another fifteen feet there was a third angel print but this bird got away. This evening Sally noticed that Helen was favoring her right hind foot. At first I thought it might be a pulled tendon as a result of slipping on ice. But then I saw her shake her foot. There may be something caught between her toes. She gave only a gallon and a pint this morning. She is definitely dropping off, which she should. There were 10 eggs today.
January 31, 2005 Monday: It started out -7F this morning, but the sun shone brightly and it got up to 27F. Helen and Sammy spent a lot of time outside, Helen placidly chewing her cud and facing the sun, Sammy bouncing around and picking up another lot of cockleburs. I am going to buy him a better comb. Cats were also enjoying the sun in all the best spots. Yesterday I got a good collar and bell on him. I weight taped them both. Helen taped at 1110 lbs., Sammy at 850 lbs. He was one year old at the beginning of January. Both of them are in good shape. I see no further evidence of Helen limping. Max and Mitra and the girls were here yesterday for Sunday lunch. I gave them another pork roast. Max reports that they gave it long slow cooking in the crock-pot the way some people wrote about on my discussion board and it was very good. Yesterday while here Max went snow shoeing by himself along the river. Today Sally and I followed his tracks and had a nice walk. We saw the big ice jam he told us about. Max and Mitra have been talking it over and decided that they will try raising pigs this year. I will supply the skim milk. Max plans to give the pigs a good-sized area of rough ground and woodland. They will be very happy pigs. This was the last day of milking Helen. She gets two months off. She gave under a gallon today. The way she has been dropping off, I may not even need to milk her out again.
February 1, 2005 Tuesday: Another cold start today, -6F, but later it warmed up to 27F. Sally took a couple of nice walks with Bagel, but I was busy and satisfied myself with doing the mucking out. That’s always good exercise. Helen looked very worried about not coming in to be milked. I have her on reduced rations, one scoop of grain and one scoop of alfalfa cubes with a goodly handful of kelp. We will taper the grain even further tomorrow. I will keep the alfalfa going until about the middle of this month and at that point begin adding back a bit of grain. Helen has her grain now out in the Beefer Pen with Sammy. He gobbled his wee bit and then pestered Helen. Tomorrow morning we plan to re-introduce him to his tie-up. Sally has located a good clip for it. Sally and I went to a thrift shop today where she found a number of excellent garments. We never buy new clothes. She also picked up a number of wool skirts and pants to be made into a rag rug. It has been some time now since the hens have had any clabber. Egg production is falling. There were nine today. One little white “rafter hen” is sitting on a nest somewhere, but I have had no luck finding it.
February 2, 2005 Wednesday: It was -6Fagain this morning but, with bright sun warmed up to the mid 20’s. Sally and I took a trip to Weld so she could see Martin’s camp for the first time. We followed car tracks in. I got stuck but managed to zoom free before long. His camp looked lovely. We also walked down to my daughter Marcia’s camp. That too was in good shape. There were no other tracks besides our own. We had Bagel with us. He ran off repeatedly, necessitating a lot of annoyed calling and whistling on my part. He loves exploring around there and does that every time I take him. I don’t know why I don’t just leave him home. Sally made a classy pumpkin pie today with an heirloom pumpkin and the last of my leaf lard for the crust. She also whipped pretty close to the last of our lovely cream. Helen may not need to be milked out again. Her left hind quarter filled up the biggest and was a little warm this morning. It felt softer this evening and there was no extra warmth. She seemed very calm about not coming in. Eleven eggs today.
February 3, 2005 Thursday: Sally and I managed to eat that entire pumpkin pie over two days. I am very pleased with the progress of Helen’s drying off. Both front quarters are soft. Both rear quarters were softer this evening than this morning. She is being very friendly. I discovered mouse droppings on the outside of some food packages out in the buttery (summer kitchen). What is the matter with this parcel of cats that I have? Sally thinks it’s because there are so many mice this year that they are crowding into fresh territory and there are more than the cats can eat. Max has noticed a lot. The snow is deep around his hen house and bird feeder. Mice live under the hen house and eat mash that drops through the cracks. They also have snow tunnels running over to the bird feeder about 75 ft away. They are after spilled birdseed. He and Mitra also have a lot of cats. In summer one sees cats staring up at the bird feeder, which is up on a pole out of their reach. But now they are arranged in a circle around the base of the feeder, ears cupped forward, peering intently at the snow under which the mice are burrowing. Periodically one pounces and pulls a mouse from the snow. Seven eggs today.
February 4, 2005 Friday: At last a break in the cold. It got up to 37F today. Sally and I went to Farmington on errands and to help look at real estate on behalf of Mitra’s parents. That was a lot of fun. I always love looking at houses. I also got to see the chicks Max took over there to raise. They are getting quite large and perky. Soon they will be out running around. I also saw Max’s proposed pigpen area. I took along eggs to sell to the gourmet shop too and this time she bought them from me (last time she had plenty and did not want any more). I have turned off all the various heaters designed for animal comfort until such time as it gets cold again. I even opened the hen room door so they could go out if they wanted, but none did. I looked for their tracks. Chickens see no point in snow. Helen’s udder continues to resolve, but there are still a couple of areas where milk lingers. She is not touchy. I set up a rope and clip for Sammy so that he can’t race over and eat Helen’s breakfast. He bounded around a bit when he discovered he was tied, but settled down quickly. When he was a little tad I always clipped them to a rope while eating. He’s a lot bigger now. Eight eggs today. I am finding a few soft shelled eggs now.
February 5, 2005 Saturday: Now today was truly warm for a winter day. It got up in the 40’s. Sally had tea and I had coffee out on the deck and later she took her knitting out there for at least a half hour. Helen and Sammy came over and watched us. Sally also took Bagel for a long walk around her Oxbow Field. It was a fine walk but she discovered that she still has a great deal of barbed wire to get out of her hedgerow. Once again today I left the chicken room door open. They got well aired out but did not set foot outdoors. I got 9 eggs today. Helen’s udder continues to resolve. There was more milk in the back quarters this evening than this morning but both quarters are still soft. Max wrote me the following account of the chicks first day out of confinement. We let the mama hen and her chicks out for a while today as it is so nice and warm. Unfortunately, it didn’t go all that well. Two of our white hens seemed particularly offended by the black mama hen and they ganged up on her. The black hen is no slouch herself and did quite well for a time. She is very fierce. But, with both of them on her she was getting tired and started getting the worst of it. I waded in and flung the two white hens outside and things calmed down. Interestingly, Rooster Boy came in and came quite close. He carefully inspected the chicks. The mama hen seemed completely OK with him. It’s just those mean rafter hens from Coburn Farm that are the problem. Later I closed them back up in their little area inside. I left the large door opened all day to air the place out. The black mama hen is also a former “Rafter b***h”, as Max calls them. These are the birds that roost in the barn rafters. I managed to catch a couple for Max and Mitra’s flock. They are all or part bantam and fly well. They defend themselves and their chicks very effectively. The cats are all scared of them and defer to them at the water dish.
February 6, 2005 Sunday: When I replaced the cow’s water tub some weeks ago because the heating unit had burned through, I dragged it outside and put it under the barn eves so it would catch run-off. Helen always likes melt water. Today was another 40F+ day and enough of the snow and ice in the tub melted so that Helen could get some water. I saw her out there patiently licking it up around the edges. Her udder continues to soften. There were no full parts today. I might mention that it is not my habit to use any type of dry cow infusion or dip. Once again I left the hen room door open all day. I spread the snow with hay to encourage them to step outside and this time I saw a few tracks. Nine eggs today. Sally and I walked down to the knoll and replaced some fallen parts of the wind chime I have there in a tree near Muffin’s grave. She was my dear old dog, I’m guessing half German Shepard and half Yellow Lab. She was a rescue. We walked back by the river so that Sally could see the Barberry patch in winter. It had quite a lot of lingering berries. She picked some to plant elsewhere. Sally has been taking advantage of the warm weather to get rid of bittersweet, a highly invasive non-native vine. In her three weeks here she has finished three fiber projects, a sleeveless sweater, the wall hanging with Alaskan animal hair, and a 36 inch square hand woven baby blanket. Maybe I can get some pictures.
February 8, 2005 Tuesday: The thaw continues. It was 30F this morning and very foggy. Later it started to drizzle. Sally went walking on her Oxbow Field and reported that the layer of snow was very thin. She and I did mostly indoor projects. She sent off the baby blanket to the expectant mother, a lovely friend whose biological clock was running out without a longed-for baby. Sally persuaded her to eat some real protein and that turned the trick. Now Sally is warping her loom for her next project, a rug made of thin wool strips. I have donated some garments that I need not pretend I will ever get into again. Sigh. This includes a full-length skirt of Black Watch plaid. She also made a lot of cookies and bread. I spent most of the day writing and listening to a lecture on how I should write nothing else until I have Real Food ready to republish. I agreed to tighten my focus. This weather makes the Beefer Pen all sodden. Before morning the fluffy nests I made for Helen and Sammy will be damp and steamy. Helen’s bag is completely flaccid now. One more day and I will start to increase her grain a bit and drop the alfalfa cubes. This morning I tossed corn outside to make the chickens go out, but they came right back in. They laid only six eggs.
February 9, 2005 Wednesday: The thaw continues. It was 34F this morning. It was a mostly cloudy day but once in a while the sun came out brilliantly. Sally and I took a walk in her field following a track by the river. Sammy wants so much to join our walks. He heard our voices and the barking of some dogs that live over there and he ran down to the riverbank on his side and back and forth the length of my pasture. He was quite agitated. We think he believes he should be defending us against dogs. We were worried that he would go down the steep bank and cross on the ice. Getting him home would be trickier that I care to think about. We stopped talking and tiptoed away to where he could not see us. The moment we were home in the yard he was right back up to the gate calling. Helen was standing there looking worried but not very seriously, I think. I went and got them both some carrots. Helen’s udder seemed completely soft and empty this morning, but this evening it as bigger. Eight eggs today. Every day lately there is evidence of egg eating. I have been forgetting to add kelp to their feed. I must do that tomorrow.
February 10, 2005 Thursday: It was snowing heavily at daybreak and shows no sign of stopping at 10 o’clock at night. All day it fell beautifully on every branch but, now a wind has whipped up. We lost power at 3pm and it was out for five hours. When we went to fill the lamps we could not find any kerosene. I think Martin put it all into the Kubota. But I had plenty of candles. The whole world was amazingly quiet while the power was out. No traffic went by, not even the plow, and all the perpetual neighborhood yard lights were out. We did the evening chores by flashlight. When the storm began I filled the 5 gallon water containers, which was a good thing. Helen has been drinking the melt water outdoors in her old tub as fast as it accumulates. Her udder is in very good condition now. I stuffed the laying nests with a lot more hay to confuse the egg eaters and this may have helped. I saw no sign of egg eating today. I put kelp into the hopper with the layer mash and the hens pecked it right up. Then I filled a pan with it and they wouldn’t touch it. Go figure. There were 10 eggs today.
February 11, 2005 Friday: It was blowing so hard this morning it was hard to tell if it was snowing or not. The radio was claiming there were 20 inches of snow, but I don’t believe we got above 14. There were big drifts. I got plowed out about mid morning. He did a sketchy job and charged extra for the heavy snow. The temperature has fallen to just below 20F, but it feels really cold. I kept the animals shut in. All the same, the barn water started running. I have continued to keep the heat tape plugged in and check it a couple of times a day and this afternoon I found it running. Sally and I took a trip to town for supplies. The roads were not too bad. We went to the Free Store maintained by St Theresa’s and Sally picked up an armload of good clothing. You just put a donation in a box when leaving. Some she will wear and some will go into her new rag rug project. My daughter Abby in VA sent a sampler box of butter that she bought in Middleburg. It was over $6 a half pound. It came from Devonshire, England. It was very good. With prices like that a person would be motivated to hop out of bed in the morning and make butter. Only six eggs today but I don’t believe there was any egg eating.
February 12, 2005 Saturday: The most exciting news today is that my amaryllis is blooming. I have had it three years and divided it and it has once again rewarded me with four glorious peach pink flowers. As I think about it, it was last year that me or a cat or something knocked it over and broke the flowers. Right now it is in the middle of the table, three feet high and safe, I trust. The wind this morning was so violent that even brave Sally stayed out walking only 20 minutes. Not too miserable for snow machines, though. The woods are roaring with them. I suppose it is because of the deep snow. Many people in Maine are still without power. This morning I heard that there were 23,000. So, we are fortunate. Eight eggs today, but clear evidence that hens had eaten as least two.
February 13, 2005 Sunday: We had brilliant sun all day today but it was cold and windy. Sally went for a walk but gave up on getting me out. Mucking out the barn was enough cold air for me. But Helen and Sammy were of a mind with Sally. They chose to stand outside and get some sun. Oddly enough, the barn water started running again at noon and stayed thawed all day. I put handfuls of diatomaceous earth on all the chickens. Some have bare spots on their backs. I also added more kelp to their feed. There were no signs of egg eating today and I got a dozen eggs.
February 15, 2005 Wednesday: We were greeted by a nice new snowstorm this morning. It was heavy, wet snow and classically beautiful in the early dawn and later under brilliant sun, although by now my appreciation of snow scenes is slightly jaded. It proved to be a warm day. The eves dripped so much that water ran into the cellar and Helen’s old outdoor tub filled up. The barn water ran today, but she preferred the outdoor water. They both spent a lot of time outdoors, so clean-up was easy. My neighbor came to plow me out, not the man with whom I have my regular arrangement. My neighbor has a long history of getting his truck stuck in a snow bank and today was no exception. After listening to spinning tires for a while I went out and found him on hands and knees trying to dig away the snow from his front tires. I found him a shovel but twenty minutes later when no progress had been made I offered the Kubota. He accepted the offer with alacrity, being fond of tractors. Sorry to say, on the way out of my barn with it he struck the bucket against the upright. It now takes Sally and me working as a team to close the door, but Max will be easily able to repair it when next he comes by. Even with a chain on his truck the tractor was helpless, as the driveway is very icy. So he hiked home for his nephew to help. With Nephew on the tractor and Neighbor in his truck rocking it they were eventually able to shift the truck to a better footing. There are going to be some ruts there next summer. I had them leave the tractor in my driveway as perhaps safest for both barn and equipment. Ten eggs today with definite evidence of egg eating.
February 17, 2005 Thursday: My driveway is a vast ice sheet. So far we have not slipped. We took a walk today around the fields and along the river. It was hard going because every step broke through the crust and each time to a different depth. The sun was brilliant. When we got home I was in a sweat. Just think some people have to pay for exercise like that. Yesterday we went to Farmington. We visited my daughter-in-law, Mitra. She very kindly lent me two books by Carol Ekarius, Small Scale Livestock Farming and Animal Housing, which she has just ordered. They appear to be excellent books and the illustrations are good. I notice the author has a good description of the deep bedding method. Although I was a bit surprised to read that you will need to fork out some manure about every second day. I fork it out three times every day and just about keep ahead of it. For dinner tonight I made a pot roast with my most recent beef, the steer named Albie. This was the animal I was able to arrange to have killed at home without stress. Mitra said their impression was that it was the best beef ever and I am inclined to agree. We think it really makes a difference for the animal to be stress-free. Yesterday in Farmington we ran into an old friend who now farms biodynamically. He had just that morning accompanied his five pigs to the slaughterhouse and assisted the butcher. He has burned lavender and sage as a smudge to create a soothing atmosphere for the pigs at slaughter. I had never heard of this before and neither had the butcher, but he said they were the calmest bunch of pigs ever. I got 11 eggs today. I collected four times. Frequency helps to prevent egg eating. Nonetheless at least one was eaten. I caught a hen at it. She is very old and I doubt ever lays. I guess I should get rid of her right away. It’s a shame as she is a cute little Polish bantam.
February 18, 2005 Friday: Thank goodness for my habit of feeling Helen’s bag morning and evening. This morning she kicked at me, not hard but irritably. I told her to cut it out and stand still. Instead she ran to the other side of the room. It is dark in their room, the Beefer Pen, at that hour. But with effort I was able to see that she had a cut teat. Sally looked and saw blood. I got her into her stanchion and could tell at once that I needed to call the vet. I called him around 7:30 and he did not arrive until about 12:40. Sally and I did all we could to comfort Helen but she was in a lot of pain. I poured warm water over the cut, which circled more than halfway around her left front teat. Later when it became evident that the vet would not arrive for a long time I poured on the corn oil/vitamin E mixture that I use on her feed. I did not want the flesh to dry out. Sally and I took turns brushing her and keeping her company. Finally I turned her back in with Sammy so that she could move around as she chose. Sammy was mooing constantly because of being alone and she does not like that. When the vet finally arrived I could tell he was shocked at how bad her cut was. He was hesitant to knock her out because of the calf (she is due March 28). He decided to work with her standing up with a kicker on and me holding up her tail. With the first few needle shots for the local anesthetic it was all Sally and I could do to control her. She did not become a whole lot more cooperative at any point and repeatedly almost tipped over on us. Dr. Cooper took more than half an hour to put in the stitches. I lost track of time. He is not sure the stitches will hold. He did not act too optimistic about the situation. He left her with a bandaged teat and we all hope she does not kick it or lose the bandage. I have an old cow bra that I brought into the house to launder. I may try that on her tomorrow. I am to give Helen 11 sulfa tablets twice a day. They dissolve readily. I tasted this mixture about 5:30 and can still taste it now that it is nearly 8PM. Horrible! I mixed in some molasses. With a scoop of grain Helen had no objection whatsoever. She is to have this for seven days. I put the vitamin E oil on her feed too, and more kelp. I lost track of how many eggs there were today. I picked up one or two every time I went to the barn. I think there were a dozen, but one was definitely eaten. It was one of those leathery shelled ones.
February 19, 2005 Saturday: Helen is still in pain. I can tell by the way she is standing facing the wall with her head sort of down. She is no longer moaning. Sally threw down lots of bales of the older hay to block the sides of the ramps. Sammy has torn them all apart, of course. I have the outside door closed so they have to stay inside. It has turned colder again. It was 7F this morning. I laundered the cow bra, but have not put it on her. I think she will just kick at it and do herself an injury. I got a little vitamin E on the exposed part of the teat but not enough to do much good.
February 20, 2005 Sunday: Helen seemed pretty good this morning. She gobbles her hay and chews her cud just fine. She let me feel her udder up high above the cut teat. Only with the kicker on and Sally pushing was I able to tip it up and see the end. I did a better job of getting vitamin E on it. Along the top edge of the bandage I put comfrey oil. Don’t know if any of this will help. It doesn’t get to the injury. We spread around masses of hay for extra cow nests, but Helen still managed to make a damp wallow and be dirty. She seems to be in a pretty good humor, though. All the extra trips to the barn mean extra attention to the eggs. I got over a dozen yesterday and today. Sally found two nests that the rafter hens have made. Most of the eggs in these were frozen. They make such cute little nests. One had all blue eggs. My granddaughter, Helena, visited this weekend and kindly bought me a new doorknob and lock assembly and installed it. It was 0F this morning. Sally and I tried to take a walk, but the wind soon turned us back. We saw some tracks that we could not clearly identify. They were either fox or cat. The way the led straight across the open field made us think more of a fox. On the other hand they seemed to originate at the neighbor’s and I think they have a tomcat that might be coming over here to try his luck.
February 21, 2005 Monday: It was about 7F this morning. It began to snow at dawn and kept up all day. Due to the cold it is light dry snow. It coated the driveway 3 or 4 inches deep making for hazardous walking. Sally spread hay along to make a path. Our usual snow plowing man came and cleared it all away and will be back in the morning with some gravel to spread around. He was kind enough to get up on a ladder and put some nails in the dislodged upright that was preventing the garage door from opening properly. Sally has piled hay and manure up around the back door of the Beefer Pen to raise the level of the ramp. This means Helen does not have to pick up her feet so high and will, I hope, forestall any more stepping on her teats. I left their door open for the first time since her injury. She does not like being required to stay in and made up for it by standing outside in the snow long enough to come in with a good inch on her back. We watched her when she rose from her rest and her feet don’t come anywhere near her teats. It seems like she must have done the damage on that door jamb. She was a lot better this morning about letting me touch her teat to put vitamin E on it. This evening I did not even put the kicker on her. She did kick a little, but I think it was only because the oil was cold. I am giving her six carrots a day and a couple of apples on her grain. I hope the varied diet gives her a boost. Sally got me out walking again today even though it was snowing. This time I muffled up better and there was no wind, so we got farther. I think I got 3 eggs.
February 22, 2005 Tuesday: Sally and I took a drive to Farmington today to pick up our raw milk and cream. A day and a half of snow with up-down temperatures left the roads pretty messy, but we made it. It was about 17F today. Helen and Sammy stood outside much of the day. At some point while we were gone Sammy (I assume it was Sammy) busted open the bale of old hay Sally had put in the Beefer Pen to block the side of one of the ramps. He carried wads of it over and dropped them in the water tub. When I got home the tub was stuffed with wet hay. He had to carry it about 7 ft. I have known horses to do this, but this is the first time I have seen a cow souse more that the odd mouthful. It seemed like half a bale was soaked. Helen does not seem to have much pain at all in her sewed up teat, but nonetheless she was annoyingly kicky tonight. I had a sharp word with her and put the kicker on her. We’ll see if she is more reasonable in the morning. I know that putting a little pre-warmed vitamin E oil on it does not hurt the least bit. Sally’s aged goat in Alaska is now dry and she will not breed her again. She located a nice little goat in her area of a breed we knew little about, an Oberhusli. We learned lots of interesting things about these goats with web research. However, she has now been forced to pass up the opportunity because she cannot find anyone willing to commit to caring for it next winter when she comes here. Where she lives there are few goats and no cows. She will have to do without raw milk. Such a disappointment. Haines is especially isolated because to drive to it you have to pass through Canada and we all know what getting a ruminant through the border is like.
February 24, 2005 Thursday: The thermometer was back down to -6F this morning. I should not have been surprised as the moon was full. The sun came out and warmed us back up to 24F and I even opened up the chicken room door to give them a change of air. They won’t set a toe out in the two feet of snow in their yard. Helen and Sammy walked through the snow to a little copse of trees and stood in the sun for a long time. At noon there was no clean-up needed in the Beefer Pen. Today makes a week of sulfa medication as prescribed by Dr. Cooper, so I called to ask him what to do. He suggested keeping it up for a few more days. As I expected, he told me not to disturb the bandage. I was busy writing today so did not accompany Sally on her walk. She is working on another weaving project now, a new rag carpet covering for her dining benches at home. She said she was going to use dark colors because her husband cannot be prevented from putting his feet on the cushions. However, I notice they have wide white bands after all. So I suppose he will hear about his feet.
February 25, 2005 Friday: I have two exciting things to report. Lee Ann, “Wyomama”, is coming to visit Sally and me. She can only stay a few days, as I am sure getting away is as tricky for her as for any of us. I have a job for her that will be a treat for all. I hope to persuade her to write Heifer Diary while she is here. She is coming on March 10. The second thing is that son Max and his wife, Mitra, have bought me a new computer. Granddaughter Helena’s young gentleman will be here with her tomorrow to set it up, as that is one of his specialties. Sally and I are putting on a going away dinner for Helena tomorrow. She is moving back to Carlisle PA where she grew up. I have a fine, large, Virginia dry cure ham to serve, a gift of Helena’s mom, Abby, in Virginia. I am also serving black beans, cole slaw, two casseroles being brought by Helena’s dad and stepmother, rolls made by Sally, and blueberry cream cheese squares also made by Sally. We expect 15 adults and three children, so facilities here will be strained. Helen continues to improve. There were 10 eggs.
February 26, 2005 Saturday: Sally and I organized a going away dinner party for twenty people for my granddaughter Helena. It was a fine occasion. We got to see many members of her dad’s family that we do not meet often. Three of my sons went to the lake to ski and fly a kite. Helena and her young man went separately to go snowshoeing. When they returned Helena was wearing a lovely diamond engagement ring. They have not stopped smiling. Sally noticed last week’s entry about the cushion covers she is weaving. She wished it pointed out that the one with white in it is for her side of the table. The cushion on Tom’s side will be just as comfortable, but will be brown. Because of the dinner party, we curtailed the chores and Sally did them without me. Helen seems to be in good shape.
February 27, 2005 Sunday: Six of the young people stayed overnight, so we had a fine busy weekend with plenty of leftovers to eat today. I put some of the ham in the Cuisinart and ground it up for sandwiches. There were also plenty of beans left. Martin and Mark went skiing for a while. Mark went sledding with Hailey, who is 12. Bagel had a great run both yesterday and today and is flopped flat. Ryan and Helena spent much of today installing this new computer. It is very spiffy looking. What a morale booster. There has been a strong wind ever since last night, but the sun was brilliant. I could not throw loose hay down the hay drop, I had to throw down big flakes or it came right back up at me. I decided to make Helen’s dose of sulfa tonight be her last dose. I will keep on with the vitamin E and comfrey oil. She is almost ready to let me handle her teat without flinching. Although stormy today, it was not cold. I left the back door to the beefer pen open and Helen and Sammy stood in the doorway looking out into the storm. They even went out for awhile but soon turned back. Sally was able to observe some interesting chicken behavior today in the barn. One little yellow and brown rooster, a rafter bird, was leading his wife around to show her potential nest sites. I have observed this before only once. It is really very cute to see the rooster leading her over and her saying “No, I could never sit there”. Helen barely flinched today when I dribbled the vitamin E down her bandage. I taped her today at 1130 lbs., a 20 lb gain from last time. She has been getting more grain than I would have otherwise given her because of feeding the sulfa. Now I am cutting back. Ten eggs today.
March 1, 2005 Tuesday: Last night it started to snow and has now been snowing for 20 hours. It was a proper Nor’easter with high winds and drifting, so I don’t know how much new snow we got. Somewhere between one and two feet, I would say. Yesterday Sally and I went to Rumford to a used furniture store to look for a loveseat (little short couch) for my bedroom. I got this idea that it would be fun to have a comfortable retreat that did not involve lying on my bed and messing it up, not to mention the probability of falling asleep. I must have gone on just the right day because they had three to choose from. I selected one that is ivory white, not a shade I would choose for downstairs. But it is comfortable and a good color for my room. It matches the walls of my tiny bedroom. It was delivered today and the nice men carried it upstairs for me. Sally and I did a lot of vacuuming and furniture moving in there to accommodate it. While at the store Sally got interested in a nice tile top table. Now she is lending it to me. We swapped out my old round table. She did not want the four chairs that were with it, so I bought them myself. They are very strong good looking chairs, four for $50, which I thought was a bargain. We had a lot of fun being snowed in with our new furniture. Sally went out and shoveled away some of the snow from the end of the driveway so the furniture store truck could get in. The men were very helpful, apart from tracking in a lot of snow.
March 2, 2005 Wednesday: No new snow today. It was windy and raw. The sun did come out briefly and Sally and Bagel walked through deep snow to the river. Sally saw where another tree has fallen into the river on her side. The river is scouring badly due to poor timber cutting practices We have both lost many of our noblest trees due to undercutting of the bank.. This evening at chores we noticed that one of the black rafter hens was hobbling around leaving a trail of blood. We caught her and found she has a torn claw. I can’t imagine how this happened. We shut her into one of the stalls for the night, since she didn’t seem to want to roost in the rafters. There were nine eggs today.
March 3, 2005 Thursday: I feel totally crushed. Tonight when we brought Helen in for her vitamin E treatment she had kicked off her bandage and torn open the cut. It was just hanging there open and bloody. It is not so bad as initially, nor does she appear to be in as much pain. It must have happened only a short time before. I just don’t know what to do. It had not had time to get dirty. I infused the open wound with pure vitamin E. I pre warm it and apply it with a dropper so it does not hurt her at all. The cut looks awful. It almost made Sally ill.
March 4, 2005 Friday: This morning Helen’s injury looked awful. I called my vet right away, but he was already out on another call 40 miles away and did not get here until 12:30. He said it could not be sewed again. He just snipped off the torn away skin of the teat end. Now Helen has an ugly bloody stump but he thinks the actual streak canal and orifice are not involved. The vet seemed uncertain as to what might work to get the milk out. Since it is the tip end that is wounded he hopes that I can grasp higher up and milk. (Yeah, right) He also thinks I might be able to use the machine and cause her less pain. I just don’t know. I am going to order some teat plugs anyway. I see that Nasco has a gizmo that is supposed to work with any machine to divert milk into a separate vessel. It costs about $60. So I will figure out something different. My vet thinks teat drains should be my last recourse because you nearly always end up giving the cow mastitis. Doc Cooper said not to use Blucote as it has a drying effect and the exposed flesh should be kept moist. I put together a dip composed of vitamin E, comfrey oil, a few drops of tea tree oil and some melted coconut oil. With Sally’s help and the kicker on her I was able to dip the teat. Dear Sally has changed her departure date from March 20 to April 5 so as to, hopefully be around for Helen’s calving. So very likely I will have some help. Eleven eggs today.
March 5, 2005 Saturday: Helen does not appear to be in pain today. This evening I almost dared to dip her teat in warm oil without using the kicker. But then considering the costliness of the oil I decided not to take a chance on having it kicked out of my hand. She certainly did not flinch at the dip. I think that it is just that she has suffered so much pain that she is flinchy about a hand coming near her teat. Cows always know exactly what is happening all around them. Sally and I drove to Farmington today. I left her to browse in Twice Sold Tales while I drove to New Sharon to get our milk supply from Max and Mitra. It is pretty good milk but I still look forward to Helen’s milk. Only five eggs today. Even though there was no sign of egg eating, I never get as many when I am away. I think that is because Max takes them.
March 7, 2005 Monday: I skipped writing yesterday because I felt so lousy. Today I feel even worse but that’s life. I have a horrid cold. I am coughing and my face hurts. I did everything I could to stave it off but it finally got me. Like the last cold I had three year ago, this one hit when Helen’s milk is unavailable. Poor Sally. I fear that she too is doomed. I know she is worried. Yesterday Helen managed to kick the oil dip out of my hand while I was attempting treatment. Much of it spilled. I was able to compound some more with the last of my supplies. I have discovered it all is easier if I crouch on her right side and reach under her. So far she hasn’t got me. Helen is beginning to slime out the back end and this morning when I felt her udder I noted that she is starting to bag up a bit. I think her injury looks a teensy bit better but no way it can be healed by the end of the month. 10 eggs yesterday, a dozen today. It is snowing hard again.
March 8, 2005 Tuesday: It has snowed all day long and into the night, wet snow that is crispy on top. I have to get out of the driveway tomorrow for a dental appointment that I don’t choose to post pone even if we have to shovel. I am to get the bit of denture to fill in my eye tooth that has been missing now for weeks. I am hoping to introduce myself to Lee Anne not looking like a Halloween pumpkin. She arrives on Thursday. Helen’s injury looks much the same, no worse, but the teat itself is a bit pink and ever so slightly puffy. Sammy, aged 15 months, is noticing something different about Helen, a hormone change I suppose, and has attempted some mounting. If this keeps up I will have to figure out a way to separate them. If he is away from her five minutes he bellows his fool head off so I don’t look forward to separation. There is one little black hen who has taken to laying her egg in the hay feeder. Every day she gets hay piled onto her from the hay drop but she comes right back. I keep taking her egg away but she is not discouraged. I guess she thinks that apart from the occasional inconvenience of being buried in hay, it is the perfect place for a nest.
March 9, 2005 Wednesday: All last night the wind blew violently and the snow continued. This morning deep drifts blocked everything. Snow was two feet up the kitchen window. Sally shoveled a path to the barn. Inside the barn everything was covered in snow an inch deep, swirled in through the many cracks in the barn. I called for our plowing man and he kindly showed up by 8am for which I was grateful because of my dental appointment. I am not sure Helen’s teat is improving. The surrounding tissue does not look infected but there is necrosis in the wound. The roads were bad but I got to the dentist and back ok. But such a disappointment, Lee Anne has had to post pone her visit. I trust that when she is able to come rain will be the worst problem, not snow. She still has her ticket so I will not despair. Here is a narrow escape; my daughter Abby who is house sitting for her sister in VA, heard the carbon monoxide alarm in the cellar. She went around by the outside door to check it out which may have saved her life. When she opened the door the violent wind displaced some of the terrible fumes. She saw that an intake hose, one of the corrugated flexible silver things about 6” in diameter had fallen off. She turned off the alarm, got a screwdriver, and repaired it before calling the oil company. Sally points out that firemen will not enter a room like that without a mask. The oil company man came out in two hours and fixed it but Abby is feeling quite sick. Everybody: check on your alarms!
March 10, 2005 Thursday: I expected today to be able to treat my readers to an entry by Lee Anne but alas she had to cancel her trip. Pressure at work forced a change of plans. She has promised to reschedule. Perhaps by the time she arrives we will have nicer weather. I have had about enough of winter myself. Mud season now sounds pretty good. After reading of Midge’s (MooMad) favorable impression of the effect of vitamin C on her cow Janet, I started Helen on it tonight. We put about 5 grams on her grain. Midge did not say how much she has been giving Janet and I suppose we are all winging it anyway. I have been taking about 2 grams a day with my cold but increased today to 6. I prefer crystalline ascorbic acid buffered with ½ teaspoon of baking soda in water. This foams up and is not sour. The bicarbonate of soda forms a weak bond with the ascorbic acid which breaks when it hits the far more acidic climate of the stomach, releasing the vitamin C. Helen did not leave any of her grain so I guess she liked her vitamin C ok. Helen’s teat looked better to me this evening. Sally thought so too. Sally usually feeds out the hay. She is into some different hay now that really appeals to Helen. She gobbles it as fast as she can. We don’t know if she just welcomes a change or if this lot is really better. My daughter Abby in VA sent several different cow meds for me to try. My order from Nasco with the cow bra also arrived. It would just chafe her if I put it on now. Abby has joined a cow share in VA. It is at a beautiful farm, everything charming, but compared to Helen’s milk it is a disappointment. The flavor is satisfactory but not over the top like Helen’s milk. The cream is thin and weak. They use a separator and offer only one weight. In our family we are used to really thick cream and plenty of it. There is nothing like having your own cow. Don’t know if I will be saying that after Helen calves and I have to deal with a sore teat.
March 11, 2005 Friday: Sally stayed here while I went to New Sharon to pick up my milk from Mitra. I had to make a 10 mile detour because the roads up her hill are still treacherous following Tuesday’s blizzard. Mitra had been unable to get her driveway plowed properly because the Scout lost a rear chain. Max is out of town and worrying from afar. So I was delighted to see a giant loader at work on her massive snow banks, dumping snow back into the woods. It was a neighboring dairy farmer helping out. This quantity of snow would have been impossible for the Scout anyway, I think, unless she had gone out in the night to plow when only half the snow had fallen. I had a chat with the dairy farmer. He is a discouraged man. People do not want to pay for milk what it is worth and the State of Maine cares little for it farmers and does not offer significant tax breaks. He is looking at farms in Upstate New York. I said, “They are struggling there too.” But he said NY sends brochures saying “Come Farm With Us” and offers tempting tax incentives. He loves his dairy and cows. I told him about Helen and her teat. He said since they unchained their cows they have had no more stepped on teats. He said that he had installed a TV monitor with his close up cows. It cost $500 and paid for itself in a year because he never misses a calving. He checks it through the night and is there for every calf and has it drinking colostrums with one half hour. “Haven’t lost a calf since I got the TV”, he said. I suspect him of exaggerating on a few points, but he obviously is a dedicated man. Helen’s teat is looking quite good today. I read on the minijersey list a report from a woman who has achieved outstandingly good control over mastitis by adding 8 drops per gallon of hydrogen peroxide to her cow’s drinking water. I never heard of this before but it is harmless so I took my bottle to the barn and poured some in. It is reputedly especially effective in adding oxygen to water that contains iron. Iron loves to grab oxygen. Perhaps the peroxide gives it something to attach to before it enters the cow’s body and robs the vitamin E. Vitamin E is always sacrificed in preventing free radical damage by free iron.
March 12, 2005 Saturday: Hmm. Dear Martin posted the Diary this past week while his brother Max is out of town. I notice he is taking his brother’s name in vain … added a line about disappearing eggs. I think it snowed all last night. It certainly snowed all day today and is snowing still at 8pm. Bagel likes to sit on the bulkhead outside the kitchen window and watch what we are doing. Now he can sit on top of a snowdrift and look down at us. It looks very funny. Part of that drift is higher than my head. The cows spent a lot of time standing outside in it. It is about 28F and the wind is not so bad as yesterday so I guess they just like fresh air. Only six eggs today. This is not weather that chickens enjoy. I am over feeling sick but have a persistent cough. This is the 7th day of this cold.
March 13, 2005 Sunday: Late last evening my plow man came by and did a preliminary job, so this morning I could have gotten out. But, we stayed home. Most all churches cancelled. There was no new snow today. The sun even shone for awhile and the temp was about 30F. The snow is much too deep for walking. My son Mark gave me some facts about iron and peroxide. Regarding iron, it exists in a plus-3 oxidation state (usually) and readily grabs three oxygen molecules. The 3% drugstore kind is laden with harmful chemical stabilizers and is thus toxic. The food grade kind can be stored frozen. Ask at the health food store about food grade hydrogen peroxide. It would be 35% solution rather that the usual 3.5% kind. It could be a lower percentage. Only use with a dropper for very dilute solutions, do not get it on your hands. 90 % solution is rocket fuel, it produces oxygen explosively. The 35% kind could be explosive if it hits a metal. Thus, you would not put it in your mouth. I will see if I can find it anywhere. Helen was cheerful and warm today. She and Sammy both look fluffy and healthy, except of course for Helen’s teat. I am satisfied with the way it looks. The area without skin is dry and black, but nothing is oozing and the edges of skin look normal.
March 15, 2005 Tuesday: It was balmy today, above freezing with periods of sunshine. Some serious melt puddles have formed, causing one to believe that spring may come at last. My faith was nearly gone. Yesterday Sally even heard a kitten beneath the barn floor. This was just when I was feeding the cats. The mewing soon ceased no doubt because mama returned. There was damage from the storm, though. In the barn today I heard what resembled a stage storm. Come to find out about 20 feet of flashing had ripped off the lean-to building where it attaches to the Beefer Pen. It looked like a big corkscrew and was flapping like anything in a light breeze. I hardly dare breathe this, but Helen’s teat looks much improved. This evening the scabs had fallen from part of the skinless area and there is a thin new layer of skin showing in those spots. I cannot decide if it would be better to put on the cow bra or not. If she hates the bra she might kick at it. Only six eggs today. The rafter birds have a nest somewhere, but I cannot find it.
March 16, 2005 Wednesday: We had another balmy day. Various things are melting and revealing themselves in the stronger light. Sally found where I had parked half a pig’s head on top of the outside refrigerator. At the time no doubt I counted on it to remain frozen. Well, the cats have got it now. Helen’s teat continues to look promising. Martin called. He wants us to go up to camp and see if there is water in his cellar. If sunny tomorrow, we will surely enjoy going.
March 17, 2005 Thursday: Today was fine and sunny. Sally and I went to Weld and I was able to drive in to the lake as far as Martin’s camp. There was about an inch of ice on one side of the cellar floor and the rugs were frozen down, but nothing can be done about it now. We did not go to Marcia’s camp because the snow was too deep and there was no trail. The lake and all the area were very beautiful. I drove up behind the village to Center Hill so that I could show Sally where the old cemetery is. The grandfather of one of her Alaskan friends named Jones rests there. All we could see of the cemetery was the tops of some of the taller headstones. The view of the mountains was spectacular. Helen was about the same today. Sally, whose eyesight is better than mine, said she could see some exudates, so after this evening’s vitamin E treatment I gave her a whiff of Granulex. It is supposed to dissolve out necrotic tissue. In general the wound looks remarkably good. This morning Helen was sliming quite copiously and this evening her udder was noticeably bigger. I picked up eggs four times today and got ten.
March 18, 2005 Friday: Friday was a fine sunny day. The sap is running everywhere judging from the many little buckets we saw today when driving to New Sharon for our milk. We bought some rope at the Farmer’s Union. Sally has been worrying about a large platform area in the barn that has no railing. When we got home she strung a webbing of rope that causes the area to look a great deal more secure. We also bought better rope and a clip for fastening Sammy. Sally has trained him to walk right to the spot where his pan and rope are. At feeding time he cavorts around for a minute, then Sally says “Whoa”, and he goes and stands by his pan. This will be important when Helen is in labor and has her calf. We don’t want him being a pest. I could shut him outside (he could shelter in the lean-to) but I know he would bellow forever and upset Helen no end. I also bought a new mailbox to replace the one destroyed by the snowplow. Every year it has gotten worse and is now beyond repair. When we got home, without telling me, Sally took a ladder and tried to go up on the lean-to roof to do something about the flapping length of flashing. She found it to be too steep and icy and wisely forebore to climb further. She discovered that the roof is peppered with the flashing nails that ripped out of the shingles. She gathered as many as possible. These are going to wash down with melting snow and rain from now on and cover the ground with dangerous nails. This is very scary. Cows and people will step on them and cows frequently ingest nails if they are among the grass. There must be hundreds. I taped Helen this evening. She taped at 1130 lbs. I made a guesstimate of her height. She was 50″. My daughter Abby drew my attention the fact that I never explained what happened to the little black hen found injured just when Helen cut her teat. After a few days of confinement, that hen recovered so that I cannot tell her from the other black hen. One or the other of them has now gone broody in the grain room on a fake egg. Abby also expressed puzzlement at my statement that the cows in Bailey’s Dairy used to be chained up. “Are many cows chained up?” I am afraid so. Traditionally in northern climates cows are chained up or in stanchions any time they are not on pasture. Many dairies had, and more than a few still do have, an overhead milk line. The machine is carried to each cow and the milk is pumped away, rather than the cows marching to a central parlor. An increasing number of farmers use a free stall barn where cows select a little booth of their own to lie down and cud. In these separate bed areas cows are able to get up and lie down more gracefully and without slipping. The beds are full of sand or shavings or spongy rubber mats.
March 19, 2005 Saturday: Son Max and daughter in law, Mitra, came for dinner tonight with their two girls. I slow roasted a large brisket along with carrots and potatoes, a good old fashioned dish. Most all was eaten. We also had a salad with Mitra’s excellent dressing. Sally made an apple cranberry crisp. After dinner we danced to some old 78’s, “You Talk Too Much” and “Chantilly Lace”. Shireen and Roshan were making up for missing a father/daughter dance tonight. Then Max got me started with the CD function on my new computer. I have not been able to play a CD for weeks since my old player died. I just listened to Linda Ronstadt singing her corridas. It got up to about 40F today. Sally and I walked to the river with Bagel. We shut Sammy in the barn so that he would not accompany us. He is a little too bouncy. Helen continues to improve a tiny bit each day. She is bagging up but I think she is still a week off from calving.
March 20, 2005 Sunday: The biggest thing Sally and I did today was go to the dump. My old Dodge van was nearly full, what with a month of trash that included a lot of empty feed bags. Fortunately, there was a man at the dump to help us as everything had to be hurled 10` into the air into a dumpster the size of a moderate freight car. Fortunately also that I had neatly tied up all my bags or a heave like that could have resulted in general embarrassment. An exploding vacuum cleaner bag would have been the least of my worries. There have been two broody hens in the feed room for over a week now. Spring having officially arrived. I decided to give them each some eggs. I hope these are not the sort of clockwork hens that Mitra and others have described who walk off in disgust after 21 days if the eggs don’t hatch. My hens ordinarily will sit all season waiting for chicks. Sally says hers are the same. Helen’s teat looked a bit raw tonight. Eight eggs today.
March 22, 2005 Tuesday: Helen’s teat looks about the same today as yesterday. It looks dry and rather ugly. She shows no sign that it hurts but is very aware of it. If I lean over to get a good look I can count on her tail swishing at me. Possibly because there is heightened blood flow to the teat, that quarter is bagging up more firmly that the others. I don’t much like that. The good news is that although she is sliming daily, her tail is not nearly as wobbly as it will get.
March 23, 2005 Wednesday: We just had another warm day – well, we call it warm. It was 31F at daybreak and melting continues. Parts of the river have lost all the ice. Sally and I both thought Helen’s teat looked a tiny bit improved today. Judging by all her previous calvings, she is at least five days away. Her udder was a lot bigger today but her tail was no more wobbly. I wish she would wait a week. The two broody hens in the grain room are staying on task. They hop off every morning when I strew corn and circle around pecking, all puffed up and making a particular cluck. Then they take a drink of water and go back to their nests which are side by side. Sometimes the black one moves over onto the other nest when it is vacant. I think she likes the fact that her colleague has a cardboard box whereas she just has a pile of hay. Sally worked some more on tearing off an old annex to her house across the river. The house was built as a school and had a little two-holer on the back with child sized seats. It was poorly constructed. Eight eggs today.
March 24, 2005 Thursday: I stopped using the vitamin E tonight on Helen’s teat. The wound looks so dry that I think I need to use a heavy salve. I put on some nice balsam salve that Sally has. Tomorrow I will start using lanolin. She is bagging up more each day, but that is the only change. Sally is still doing some demolition work on her house. From the farm I can clearly hear the hammer and crow bar. She says so much ice has left the river that it is running silent. She saw a pair of wood ducks diving around and going under the ice. Sally sent away for a collection of delightful scented geraniums which have now arrived. Each plant is in its own pot and very healthy. Nine eggs today.
March 25, 2005 Good Friday: Sally and I went to Farmington to do errands and get our milk. Our only religious observance was listening to Hayden’s Seven Last Words of Christ played and spoken by a Chicago group on NPR. Sally bought Helen a new 200 lb molasses block. She loved the last one. She and Sammy managed to lick the entire thing down in about two weeks. What with 4 gallons of milk and our none too sylph-like selves, my little car was heavy laden. I drove slowly to avoid the spring potholes, not endearing myself to other drivers. Some men had kindly loaded the thing for us. When we got home Sally was able to roll it off the back seat into a snow bank where it is going to stay until the men arrive tomorrow. I bought several kinds of frozen meat at a shop in New Sharon. The proprietor has about seven freezers lined up offering an array of local meats. He buys only meats raised according to his standards of care, cleanliness and sustainability. It is gratifying how much quality locally grown food there is in the area. Max and Mitra are able to get home delivery of raw milk from a farm right on their hill. They will continue to get some even after Helen freshens because it is good and so convenient. The dairyman offers heavy cream and butter too. Before writing tonight’s diary we took a last look at Helen. Her bag is really huge tonight and there are strings of mucous. But I still don’t expect her to calve for a couple of more days. All the other times she has looked like she could not go another six hours and then the next day she looks even bigger. I used Sally’s balsam salve again because the wound appeared to be responding well to it. Helen made no objection when I applied it.
March 26, 2005 Saturday: Helen’s calf was born about 5AM. Sally ran out for an early morning check-up and found Helen in the lean-to licking a little wet brown blob. She ran back to get me. I wanted Helen moved indoors to the beefer pen where the floor is covered with dry hay. The lean-to is just old dirt. What makes cow’s choose spots like that? I stayed with Helen about an hour helping their calf to suck. This was not hard to do. Little baby Emily was soon on her feet and quite steady. I got her to suck two teats and figured she got about a quart. We went back out after breakfast and found Helen eating her placenta, so we left her alone for a couple of hours. Around lunch time we helped Emily to feed again. She was dry, but shivery. The temperature this morning was about 21F. Helen is wonderfully cooperative with letting Emily suck. With her first calf she had to be tied to keep her from circling. Now she has learned a lot about mothering. I have lost track of how many calves she has had now. I’m not sure if Emily is the fourth or fifth. Helen will be nine in May, but I deliberately milked her through a second year after her second calf. And this time I lost six months thinking she was pregnant when she wasn’t, so she had an 18 month lactation. With Sally and I working together we helped Emily to nurse again. She nursed the three good teats. Sally reached under Helen and grabbed her sore teat and milked about a pint of colostrums into the ground to relieve the pressure. Helen did not even flinch. Around 3PM Sally and I got her into her stanchion. It looked as though it was going to be easy, but just as she was going in she heard Max’s dog Lulu barking out in the yard and ran back to where she thought Emily was. In fact, Emily was right next to her, but that is cow instinct. If they feel threatened they race back to where they calved, thinking the baby will be there. They seem unable to see the calf right in front of them. It reminds me of how you can put a mouse down in front of a cat and it cannot see it. It took some chasing to get Helen back in her stanchion, but amazingly, once there, she stood like a rock. I was able to grab the injured teat and milk into a bucket with no problem. I got over a gallon of colostrums. Back in the house I drank a cup of colostrums to see if I can banish my cough which is still lingering from my cold two weeks ago. Max and Mark hid eggs out on the brown lawn for Shireen, Roshan and Hailey. They had a lot of fun hunting and collecting them. It was quite warm and sunny this afternoon and everyone was happy. Martin and Amy arrived about 5:30 and took pictures of Helen and Emily. With all the men assisting they held Helen so Sally could get the calcium paste into her. She finally just put it on her hand and squidged it into her mouth. Helen’s ears are a bit cold, but she is plenty frisky. We had a lovely dinner with starters of hummus and baba ganoush, a pork roast, Mitra’s popular mac’n’cheese, Sally’s rolls, salad, macaroons and rather soupy strawberry ice cream that I made. 8PM Sally, Martin and I went out and got Helen into her stanchion again. She is definitely wobbly, although perfectly alert. This time Martin got some paste into her mouth, but she fought it.
March 27, 2005 Sunday: Yes Dr. Cooper arrived by 8AM and immediately gave the CaMg into Helen’s jugular. Mark held up the bottle while Dr. Cooper monitored the flow. He took more than half an hour to let it seep into her vein so as not to cause heart block. I was not watching the time. It may have been 40 minutes to administer. He followed up with another bottle subQ, than a tube of the paste. She was to have another tube two hours later. We gave this while she was still down. At 11:30 while still down she drank the bucket of warm molasses water, then struggled to her feet. Suddenly the calcium miracle was occurred. I had run over to say goodbye to Mark and Hailey, so missed seeing her stand up. But I think she was struggling mostly because of having laid so long on her left leg. It was probably numb. She marched straight for the new molasses block, but then Emily ran up to nurse so she stopped still until Emily was all finished. Next she drank more water, and then started eating hay. Her dung was very dry and hard, followed by some that was very mucusy. Emily was able to feed some while Helen was down, but now is nicely topped up and bouncy. I think I will leave them together at least to start with. But we agree that I can’t let them outside for a while. The barnyard is a mixture of ice covered with nasty brown puddles and big snow patches. Either Helen or Emily might slip badly. Helen’s nosebleed got worse as the calcium kicked in probably because of more blood pressure. Her bad teat looks about the same. We are discouraging Emily from nursing on that one. So far she has not. After Helen got up she ate a lot of hay, but later in the afternoon she seemed too tired to get up. I brought hay to her and she ate it lying down. I immediately became worried about ketosis. But then at 5PM she was on her feet, Emily at heel, and clearly expected to come in to her stanchion. So, we brought her in and she ate a lot of alfalfa cubes and a couple of pounds of grain. I milked out ¾ gallon. It was Dr. Cooper’s advice to only milk her out about 2/3 so as not to encourage production too much. She was so lively that we began to dread getting the last tube of calcium down her without male assistance. Martin and Amy were back up at their camp for the afternoon and when they stopped in for leftovers on their way home we decided the beset thing was to get Martin’s help and give Helen her dose two hours early. It was so difficult giving her the tube last night while in he stanchion that we thought we would clip her to Sammy’s tie-up in the beefer pen. She was having nothing to do with this and ran round and round the hay feeder. Then she tried to escape by crowding in behind the green tractor and Sal pushed on her back end (by now she had the runs – Sally is in the shower) , Martin squeezed back in the corner and controlled her head in a manly way, and I climbed along the wall and onto the tractor tire and got the paste down her. We are very ready for bed.
March 28, 2005 Monday: Early this morning Helen looked perky. I got her in and milked out a gallon and a quarter of colostrums. It is so cute that way Helen and Emily move forward in perfect tandem. Emily follows closely. But she does want to sniff and explore a bit. If she stops moving forward Helen stops until Emily will follow. Dr Cooper came back this morning according to an earlier plan to castrate and spay some cats. Alas, Helen did not stay perky. She quit eating and drinking and her ears went cold. After Dr. Cooper finished with the cats we adjourned to the barn and got Helen into her stanchion. The stanchion was just to control Helen while Dr. Cooper got his nose clamp on her. We then backed her out and tied her head high. He gave her another bottle of calcium IV. That perked her up again. I gave Dr. Cooper some lunch including a beestings pudding. This is custard made with colostrums. I find colostrums from the second milking is about the right thickness. You just add sugar and, if you like, vanilla, and bake it. I used a flan pan. It sets without eggs and has a unique flavor and texture, very special. Dr. Cooper had never heard of it before but he liked it a lot. I wondered if after this mornings’ treatment Helen would ever agree again to enter her stanchion, but tonight she did hesitate. I told her there were apples there for her so she said, “Oh, well,” and stuck her head in. I milked another 1.25 gallon of colostrums. Then with Sally pushing her head around I managed to shove another tube of Ca down her mouth. She ate her grain this time, but not her alfalfa cubes. Sally is working on getting Emily to lead. Those were barn cats that Dr. Cooper fixed. I could not put them back in the barn post op, so they are in the kitchen. I expect I will have some cleaning up to do in the morning. I got 11 eggs today.
March 30, 2005 Wednesday: Helen acted perfectly normal today. All day yesterday she also acted quite normal. Her bag is engorged causing me to worry about mastitis. This morning I rubbed it with goose grease and cayenne – high up so Emily would not get a mouthful. Helen wants to go outside, but I am still too worried about the ice in the barnyard. Also, there is a temporary fence across one gate. We put it up because the gate is frozen open. We are afraid Emily might get under the wires and cause Helen to tear herself on barbed wire trying to get to Emily. Rain is predicted for later this week. Maybe it will melt enough ice so we can close the gate properly. Right now there is a foot of snow in the gateway and the bottom edge of the metal gate is sitting in at least 4″ of ice. But really, right now the worst problem is over near the barn. There a lot of melting has already occurred and the cows would have to walk through a muck puddle of unknown depth. It is deep enough, I am sure, to pull my boots off. The cats in the kitchen proved very well behaved. As soon as they started moving around and eating they recognized the litter box concept. I take that back. On the first night one of them apparently hurled itself at the windows. My extravagantly blooming red geranium was knocked over onto the couch where it strewed red petals and dirt. And one female cat that had the worst operation (because she turned out to be pregnant) hid behind the Aga and we could not find her for 24 hours. Sally got her out by using a landing net, a prodigious feat I assure you. Then the cat promptly hid somewhere else with the result that it got nothing to eat or drink for 48 hours. I fully expected to find a mere corpse, but finally this morning Sally spotted it and set milk near it. Within minutes it was drinking. I have been hand milking and getting a gallon to a gallon and a half each time. Helen is not letting down very well, pulling the “It’s all for Emily” stunt. Tonight I tried the milking machine. Helen was polite, but scarcely let down at all. Sally ran back in and got me the bucket so I could try hand milking her sore teat. At first she stoically allowed Emily to suck that teat, but now she kicks her off, presumably feeling that Emily is well able to endure a little correction. I hand milk a quart from it but could get no more.
March 31, 2005 Thursday: Today was warm and sunny, about 50F and a lot more snow melted. This is wonderful, although it makes getting to the barn more difficult, especially when carrying buckets. The “lake” is nearly a foot deep and the snow pack on either side is treacherous support. First it holds you, then with the next step you are in above the knee. Oh for two yards of gravel. It did seem such a shame to make the cows stay in that I put a ladder across the gate to the North Field where I don’t want them to go, and I let them out. They lost no time in marching out into the sun. The first thing Helen did was check to see if there was water in her old tub. It sits under the eaves and catches meltwater, which she likes a lot. She took a big drink. Emily tiptoed around in the puddles and hopped a bit. After satisfying herself that there was no grazing, Helen let everybody back inside to eat her hay. I used the milking machine again this morning but still only got 1.5 gallons. Tonight she kicked before I even put it on her and I realized that the pressure was too high. The pressure gauge did not respond to my efforts at adjustment. So I milked by hand and then called a vacuum pump expert. I got him on his cell phone at Pizza Hut. He kindly agreed to have a look at my pump. So Sally put it into the car for me and we drove half an hour to his place. He was able to correct the problem in 10 minutes and did not charge me. All the recovering cats are in the buttery now. One of them hurled herself around the kitchen last night and knocked down a bag of sesame seeds all over everything. Not cute. They seem happy out there drinking colostrums and sitting on the sunny windowsill.
April 1, 2005 Friday: Sally saw two robins today. On the way to the barn this morning I went for a swim in Lake Coburn. I lost my footing on the crumbling snowbank upon which we walk in order to avoid the lake, which by now is about a foot deep, and got well soused. But I managed to save my bucket of hot water and supplies from disaster. Helen had a very loose stool this morning, very runny. It spread out to 18″ wide. She seemed a bit low. But later in the day she perked up again and by this evening she was about normal. Using the machine (which gave me no further trouble) I got 1.5 gallons night and morning. Helen gave no trouble at all and tonight came in almost clean. However, she was outside in the barnyard and was hard to get into the barn. Emily, clearly a fast learner, trotted right in which caused Helen to follow. Just as I finished milking a cattle buyer showed up. I told him I had nothing to sell. I was a bit short with him because he had the same last name as a buyer who lied to me 25 years ago. But Sally, knowing nothing of this, chatted him up and I soon realized that in fact he was a man who had been recommended to me as a person from whom it is safe to buy piglets because his animals receive good care and feeding. Because Sally and I had just read the Rolling Stone article (link posted by Sue), we got to talking about oil. He too gives thought to oil and considers himself well placed because he has six teams of oxen. He works in the woods with them doing selective cutting. They are matched teams of Chianinna, Brown Swiss, Durham, and a couple of other breeds. He says pigs are not selling well, which he attributes to the vegetarian influence. He is committed to local food production. He buys and sells cattle and keeps thirty.
April 2, 2005 Saturday: Sally and I took a rainy walk down to look at the river. It is high, but nowhere near over the banks. Flooding is predicted. We will take another look tomorrow. We walked as far as Hutchinson Brook to see the spring line. There are no breaks visible, but there is still a lot of snow in the woods where the line runs. Perhaps this rain will thaw it out. I am becoming anxious for a taste of “real” water. Sally worked in the rain putting up defense wire around some of her favorite young trees. She was especially pleased to find that an oak she transplanted from the woods as a small seedling a few years ago appears to have had a good winter. It is about 12 feet tall now. A couple of days ago I picked some leaf buds from the Balm of Gilead trees. They are just beginning to be sticky, but are already highly aromatic. I suffused them in olive oil and set them on the Aga. The mixture smells lovely. Helen is far from being into full production. She gives a little more each day. Today she gave 3.5 gallons. Nonetheless, the fridge is filling with jars. I set three gallons of skim on the Aga yesterday to clabber. The only starter I had was some mesophilic culture I made at least two years ago with a packet from NE Cheesemaking Supply and had frozen in an ice cube tray. I put three cubes into the bucket. Today I had excellent clabber – just in case anybody thinks frozen starter has a brief half-life. The cottage cheese is now sitting in a bowl. It looks like three quarts. I also made 2 lbs of excellent butter.
April 3, 2005 Sunday: The river has now gone over its banks and across a section of pasture. Some high ground is surrounded by water forming an island. The water is moving fast. Large branches and chunks of ice are floating past as fast as power walking. Sammy, our 15 month Jersey steer, came up by the back deck and carried on loudly. He kept on mooing until I thought he sounded hoarse. I went to the barn and found Sammy and Helen looking fixedly down at the river in the distance. They seemed agitated. I could not be sure if Helen was into a calf heat, although Sammy showed no corresponding interest. Or, if they were just worrying about the river, which is what it looked like. Emily was racing up and down. I managed to free the back barnyard gate and get it closed. But, there are several places that Emily might get through, which would cause Helen to immediately break the fence. I have seen enough pictures of cows and calves being carried away in floods to make me worried that they might head down there and fall in. Even after I threw down fresh hay they would not come inside. I went and got Sally, and with the aid of apples and her help catching Emily we got them inside. Sally is working twice a day at milking time on getting Emily to lead. She was not finding Emily cooperative until I told her about Midge’s suggestion of a rope around Emily’s back end. This is making all the difference. Helen gave a good four gallons today. She was irritable at milking time tonight and pooped all over my arm while I was adjusting the machine. I got ten eggs.
April 4, 2005 Monday: Tomorrow Sally returns to Alaska. She spent her time doing fence repair and putting up little fences around some trees. We walked to the river. It has crested, but is still very high. The cows were able to be out in the sheep paddock, which they enjoyed. Emily got another lesson in leading. Every time she gets tired of cooperating she just lies down. She is so cute. Helen’s cut teat looked red and puffy tonight. Milking did not appear to bother her at all. I slathered it with Thuja ointment. I didn’t like the looks of it.
April 6, 2005 Wednesday: Most of Tuesday I spent on the road. I drove Sally to the Bangor airport. Life around here is pretty quiet now. I wish she could have stayed to see a bit of green develop, but everything is still brown mud and white snow except for the willow trees. Their withies have turned bright gold. She had to overnight in Seattle. This morning she went to her hotel coffee shop for tea. She had a pint of thick Jersey cream along with her and put some into it using a plastic knife, it was so thick. A woman seated near her asked what it was she was putting into her tea. When told, she went into panegyrics about the heavenliness of Jersey cream, the kind she grew up with in the Midwest. They always put it on their kuchen! Sally asked her if she were Swedish. She was, and had visited Sweden many times. In Sweden, she said, delicious food is to be had everywhere with a great variety of marvelous dairy products. Now Sally is back in Haines. The last leg of the trip from Juneau to Haines is in a Cessna, unless the ferry is running. There are no roads in or out of Juneau. Last night and this morning I milked by hand. The new inflations I have on my Surge squawk a lot on the hind teats. I also think perhaps the machine is harder on Helen’s cut teat than hand milking is. Anyway, I am going to hand milk for a while to see what I think. This evening the teat looked pretty good. Helen did not let down very well. She starts to and I think, “Oh good, she’s letting down.” Then she stops. I only got 2.5 gallons today. Not that I need more. My customers have not yet showed up. I made two more pounds of butter this morning and am clabbering milk for my third four-gallon batch of cottage cheese. The group of young cats that my vet recently operated on are now well recovered. I moved them to the buttery last week and today, being warm and sunny, I left the doors open for them to explore. They were all very happy and bouncy.
April 7, 2005 Thursday: I spent all day cleaning and playing with milk. I washed the bathroom rugs and shook out various small rugs in the house and buttery. I swept the buttery, which the cats had made a mess of again, and tidied their litter box, etc, etc. Did a lot of laundry. I made yogurt. It turned out oddly, so I am hanging it up for cream cheese. I made another 3+ quarts of cottage cheese. First thing this morning I took cottage cheese to an elderly customer who has been anxiously calling to see when she could get some. I found her lying on the couch, ill, but she said she was going to start right in on her cottage cheese. Then I went to Hannaford and bought some supplies for Saturday when I am expecting a large family group (Max and Martin have promised to work in the fences), Then I went to Randy’s and picked up grain. Then I sat down with tea and the new New Yorker magazine, but immediately there was a tap on the door: It was Flamingo Foods from whom I buy fish once a month. I bought Pollack fillets. Then I drank my tepid tea. Next I did the milking. I have not got my bed made. Might do that right now, about in time to hop into it. The recently fixed cats, Sooty II, Jamie, Mouncy, Iris and Nameless were all in the barn. Mouselet has been in and out of the kitchen all day. I got three gallons from Helen today and 11 eggs.
April 8, 2005 Friday: Helen is behaving well. I tie Emily close by her while I am milking and she lies down quietly. Today for the first time I saw Emily chewing her cud. I suppose she has been chewing it for several days. She certainly exhibited the composure of an experienced cud-chewer. I switched to hand milking because I was a bit worried about pink puffiness of Helen’s cut teat. It did look better for three days but today was puffy again, so it is not to do with the machine. This evening I put Thuja ointment on it again. This is something similar to Bag Balm, but a lot more expensive, in case that helps. The teat does not seem to bother her at all. Helen is letting down better than with previous calvings when I have left her calf with her. Both times today she continued letting down until I was finished milking, which is 20 minutes. On previous days she stopped halfway through and the upper part of her bag remained hard. I still got a couple of inches of cream and it was very thick, but I knew she was holding up. I don’t give myself any special credit for better management. I think Helen is just showing her maturity. She will be nine on May 12. She gave four gallons today. There is still plenty for Emily. She looks sleek and appears to have doubled in size. I was unable to tape her birth weight because my tape does not go that small. We think she was over 50 pounds. She is very long legged and will certainly not be a tiny Jersey. As mentioned at the time, I did measure her cannon bone and as near as I could tell it was 6 ½ inches.
April 9, 2005 Saturday Morning: I’ve got a crick in my neck from milking with the kicker on Helen. I noticed bloody slime on her tail when I got her in her stanchion, but she had displayed good manners coming in (better than Sammy, who again darted off so got no grain treat). She kicked a bit while I washed her up and I spoke sharply. No sooner had I got the bottom of the pail covered with milk than she kicked powerfully and deliberately to try to get her foot right into the bucket. She failed in this, but kicked it over. I yelled at her and slammed her a good one with the empty bucket. Then I tied up her tail and put the kicker on. Thenceforward she stood perfectly, but she held up her milk. I am sure I left a half gallon behind. She gave 1 ¾ gallons. It is a fine sunny day for the family visit. Martin and his fiancée, Amy, and her mom from Montana, are coming. Also Max, Mitra and her mom from California and little Shireen and Roshan will be here. Later… Max and Martin worked on the North Field fence and got it cow-worthy. Martin opened the barnyard gate and Sammy and Emily had a great romp. I missed this due to being in the kitchen. The guys also dug a remarkable trench from the lake in front of the barn to the culvert out front. Granddaughters Shireen and Roshan enjoyed making improvements to this stream for the next hour. Running water is endlessly entertaining. Martin offered to milk, but Helen was too agitated by all the local excitement and her elevated hormones. She was very uncooperative, so I took over. It slowed down dinner, but everyone was patient. Max and Martin put the grill out on the deck and it worked fine. The hamburgers and sausages were tasty and Mitra made a great salad. I made curried cauliflower. Mitra also made a big hit with French fries. I had rendered beef fat (suet) to fry them in. It makes all the difference to flavor. She used the double-fry technique. I also made a chiffon cake yesterday which I served with frozen raspberries and strawberries and piles of whipped cream.
April 12, 2005 Tuesday: “April is the cruelest month”, wrote TS Eliot. I believe he must have been thinking about a snowstorm like we are having today. I don’t think much will stick, but it seems like a step backwards. Sammy has been resisting standing still by his dish at chore time to be hitched to the wall, as Sally had him trained to do. This morning after chasing him three times around the feeder and finally getting him to stand by his dish he shook his head at me. If he had horns I would have been hurt. I smacked him, and needless to say he did not get his grain snack. Tied or not, he bellows the entire time Helen is off being milked. This morning I tried again with the Surge. Helen is getting into full production and milking by hand is slow going. But I had to take the machine off and go get the bucket when she was only half milked. Her udder hangs so low that I cannot position the claw properly without it either squawking or pushing down on the feed tubes of the inflations, which cuts off vacuum. I told her to hang in there and went back to the house for the bucket and finished by hand. I got over two gallons this morning and even more this evening for a total over 4 ½ gallons. No telling what Emily is getting, but she is mighty sleek and growing amazingly. There is no trace of mastitis today. Two hens that have been setting side by side in the grain room hatched their chicks on Saturday. Each had three eggs. Five hatched but neither hen wanted to move until Sunday when I took away the unhatched egg. All six eggs were laid the same day three weeks ago, so should have all hatched at once if they were going to. I have not done much for the two little families except put out cottage cheese, milk and mash on a plate. Today I set up the waterer. So far as I can tell the chicks are fine. They each know which hen they belong to. The ditch Martin, Max and the girls dug on Saturday has drained the “lake” in front of the barn down to a spot the size of a tablecloth now. What an improvement.
April 13, 2005 Wednesday: Today the front lawn has no puddle. Hurrah! But, it was snowing this morning. That was a disappointment. Later a thin, weak sun appeared, but I liked it better than the snow. Helen took her charges out on the knoll to chew her cud and get a little sun on her face. Little Emily stands right next to her mom at the hay feeder and dutifully nibbles hay. I say “dutifully” because she is not eating hay with enthusiasm. She looks like a tyke that is trying her best to do what is right. I let her collar out a notch today. One more notch and she will need a bigger one. I made two loaves of bread. I was down to dry crusts, the last of which I soaked this morning for French toast. Sally made the bread all winter and I got spoiled. Helen was well behaved today and quite clean too. I got four gallons.
April 14, 2005 Thursday: Milk is backing up in the fridge so I decided to make a cheese today. My frozen starter is quite old but I am using it anyway. I bought Cheesypress last year but used it only three or four times and then lent it out all winter. I have it back now, but am not sure I have the hang of it. The instructions with it were never much good. The process took most of the day and left me feeling wrung out. But I do have a cheese in the press. I am leaving it in over night. The curd seemed too soft. If it falls apart when I take it out of the press the chickens will have a feast. I also made butter. The chicks in the barn are doing well. The two mamas do everything together. For the first time this morning I was able to count five chicks. Previously I could see only three or four at a time. I gave them chopped hard boiled egg. Two new customers for cottage cheese came today. A third lady seems to be just about living on it. A quick tour of the garden revealed new deer tracks. That is bad news. They have nibbled the tips of the branches on all my baby fruit trees.
April 15, 2005 Friday: A lovely surprise awaited me this morning; my spring water was running. It is always cause for celebration when it thaws out in the spring. It brings cold spring water into a carved granite sink in my kitchen. It flows continuously and makes perfect tea and coffee, and everybody suddenly drinks more water. A dear little crabapple tree that Sally ordered for me arrived today. I put it into a bucket of water until I find my big pot. Sally intends it to grow in a pot on the deck. It is meant to grow in an umbrella shape. I went down to the veg garden just to look but soon found myself digging up a patch. Abby put masses of composted manure everywhere last year. The soil was already pretty good and now it is marvelous. I prepared an area about the size of a double bed and will plant lettuce. This morning Helen deliberately kicked the bucket – it only had a half inch in it. I don’t know if she is growing resentful of me getting my share or she is annoyed by Sammy’s relentless bellowing. It really makes her nervous, I can tell. It makes me want to put him in the freezer. I never heard such a crybaby. Half the time he runs away instead of standing nicely by his tie-up, consequently does not get his snack. But even with his snack he is soon bellowing his head off. Helen has started letting Emily suck her cut teat. I saw her give Emily a bit of a kick, but she persisted and Helen cooperated. Helen’s right front quarter remains hard after milking. The milk strains perfectly, but I gave it a thorough treatment tonight with lanolin ointment and cayenne. I got 3 ½ gallons today and 10 eggs.
April 16, 2005 Saturday: Both this morning and this evening the cows were all inside at chore time. I glided in and closed the door so that they were confined. I managed to keep everything very quiet, got Sammy to his tie-up, let Helen and Emily in, gave Sammy extra grain, and what do you know, he hardly bellowed at all. It made a big difference in Helen’s deportment, although I did end up putting the kicker on her this morning to help break up a foot waving habit she is getting into. She let down much better. There was no milk in her quarter with the injured teat. Emily had drunk it all. This evening she completely let down and the bucket was nearly running over. She gave 4 gallons today. Looks like Sammy was annoying her as much as he was me. It was sunny all day. I drove to New Sharon with the milk for Max and Mitra. Max was making a pen for the piglets they will be getting tomorrow. Their dairy farmer neighbor delivered not just one, but two round bales so that they can try the round bale housing that someone on the forum described. These are going to be lucky pigs. Their pen is in lovely light woodland with both sun and shade and a little boggy area. It is about 30′ x 30′. I taped Emily this morning and she appears to be 96 pounds. She is three weeks old today. She is very sleek and shiny and never a hint of illness. So far I have never had a calf feeding ad lib from its own mother show any signs of illness. No scours. I don’t think calves overeat when they have total confidence that mother is always right there with more. Of course, weaning is likely to be a huge problem. I say I will keep Emily, but if she refuses to wean I might have to revise my plan.
April 17, 2005 Sunday: It was sunny and over 60F most of today. I don’t see any grass yet, but the cows are finding something to nibble. The fields are still dun-colored. The cows lying on the knoll look camouflaged. Max picked up their three little pigs today. Yesterday he got their pen at the edge of the woods put together, but then it was decided they needed to be warmer. It is still quite chilly at night. They retrofitted their old chicken coop as a piglet nursery with a small run. The piglets were represented as 35, pounds but Max and Mitra think they don’t weight that much. I made butter (2 lb unsalted w/cultured cream), cottage cheese (2.5 lb) and a cheese.
April 18, 2005 Monday: Sammy was worse than ever this morning. Helen marched right in properly, but he ran the other way. Emily stayed out with him. Helen made no objection, so I thought maybe having Emily’s company would keep him quiet. It did not help a bit. Emily was silent, but Sammy bellowed his head off. Then I tried opening the side gate so he could come around and put his head in the window and see me and Helen. He saw the possibilities of this immediately and put his head in the window and bellowed. He has a roaring bellow with a rising crescendo that ends in a sort of screeching gargle. Needless to say, Helen soon stopped letting down. Milking this morning was not a Zen experience and I am sure there was still a gallon in her when I quit. This evening Helen was ready to march in sweetly and Emily again did not want to come in. This time I abandoned Sam’s training in proper manners and tempted him to his tie-up with grain. This worked. I gave him a bit more than usual so as to be sure he found it a rewarding experience. Emily stood next to him and he hardly made any noise. He is the noisiest steer I ever remember. He hollers a hello at me whenever he sees me during the day. Helen gave a full bucket tonight for a total of 4 gallons today. I made another cheese and planted my lettuce and a short row of carrots and zinnias.
April 20, 2005 Wednesday: This morning I moved the cow’s water out doors. They are now using the big plastic stock tank that has a hole in it. It was burned on the side by the submersible water heater. I would like to know how to patch melted plastic. However by propping up one end I am able to keep enough water in it for at least 12 hours of drinking. Daughter-in-law Mitra came over this morning for milk. We had coffee and watched the dogs play. Her Lulu has always loved Bagel and he reciprocates. They horse around endlessly. We walked down to have a look at my poor excuse for a garden and the dogs sped to the river. Lulu, who is part Black Lab, came back wet, but Bagel never jumps in. Mitra took four gallons of milk and some clabber for the piglets. Yesterday I sold two gallons to my friend with three little kids, so for the first time I am not faced with a stuffed fridge. This afternoon I cleaned my garden shed and dug in the garden for an hour or so and prepared another plot, this one the size of a king-sized bed. I longed to keep on digging, but forced myself to stop before I overdid and had regrets. Later I gave in to the sweet tooth that has been teasing me for the last few days and made a lemon cake from the Silver Palate Cookbook. I ate a big piece, but it is a huge cake. I wonder if it will freeze OK. A gentle rain is falling. Now my seeds will be watered. It is Emily’s first experience of rain. I don’t think Helen took her out in it. The cows all behaved pretty well. Helen gave her usual four gallons. My first daffodils opened and I heard the spring peepers.
April 21, 2005 Thursday: It has turned cold. It rained most of last night, but the trench the boys dug drained the lawn perfectly. I spent another hour on garden clean-up. The soil looks good once I get the trash off of it. Emily trotted right in and stood by her tie-up both times today. For the first time she started right in on her two tablespoons of grain. I taped her at 109 pounds.
April 22, 2005 Friday: Besides getting another section of garden dug over and some raking and clean-up, I removed a 12′ section of stock fencing from a mat of last year’s weeds. There is still more to do but I stopped because I am afraid of over stressing my hands, not to mention my back. I hate stopping! But I have to spare my hands for milking. My upper and middle left thumb joint has been complaining. Helen let down poorly this morning but made up for it tonight with 2 ½ gallons for a day’s total of four gallons. The cows have several large vernal ponds now to drink from. Helen likes these. It is so cute to see Emily doing everything she does. She now eats hay without prompting. I often see here eating by herself. My rhubarb is up and the lovage is just showing.
April 24, 2005 Sunday: It rained hard all weekend. The river is up and racing. Son Mark and young Hailey came for the weekend, also Martin and Amy. And on Saturday night Max and young Shireen drove down and we all convened at camp for a cookout. Martin has a new gas grill. Poor Martin stood out on the deck tending the burgers and sausages while all the rest of of us stayed in by the roaring fire. Little Roshan was sick so Mitra stayed home with her and was greatly missed. The weather did not permit bike riding. The others had to leave but Martin hung around the farm and dug a long trench to lead the water from the driveway out to the culvert. He also repaired the trench they dug two weeks ago that drains the lawn in front of the barn, our Lake Coburn. That trench passes through the pasture and Sammy had stomped it in. Martin also put a new coil on the old Ford 9N Century and started it up. This was a great triumph, especially done in the rain. The tractor had quit last fall with a load of excellent manure in the bucket. Martin was able to dump that next to a flower bed for me. During this rain storm my roof leaked into the playroom. It got a lovely old quilt wet. Helen scarcely seems to mind the rain, she is so anxious to graze. I had to wipe her down with a towel before milking yesterday and today. She behaved reasonably well for milking. I got close to 4 gallons both days. But, the cream line is not what it should be. No wonder Emily is so sleek. I made butter today, 1 ½ lbs.
April 25, 2005 Monday: This evening when I got Helen into the stanchion and took a look at her udder I was ready to swoon. It looked like it would fill a wheelbarrow. She was pretty clean and stood nicely, but holy moly, I though my hands and arms would give out. When the foam on the bucket was high enough to float the lid I had to quit. I had only brought one bucket. It holds 2.5 gallons. I made up my mind to try the machine again tomorrow. I expect she is exceeding six gallons a day, what with Emily. I know some cows give a lot more than that, but six gallons seems like an ocean. Thank goodness for the piglets.
April 26, 2005 Tuesday: This morning I took the machine to the barn and also the pail just in case. Helen had perfect manners, but I could tell the machine was not doing a good job even though I have changed back to the old inflations that used to work OK. I finally took the machine off and milked another half gallon into the bucket. This evening when she saw the machine she was obviously annoyed. I put the kicker on her right away. She was then well behaved. The machine worked OK on two quarters. I ended up milking another couple of quarts by hand. She did not have as much milk tonight as last night. Emily had finished off the quarter with the cut teat. It is obviously now her favorite quarter. I put lanolin on all Helen’s teats. The back two are chapped and leathery. With all this rain the river is way up again and racing past the farm. It has gone over its bank in one place to form an inlet. The cows like to drink there. I went into town today and took cottage cheese to an elderly customer and bought feed. When I got home I finished up the cottage cheese I had been making. I made 2 ½ pounds. I also made 1 ½ pounds of butter. The butter was noticeably more yellow this time. I finally have some butter paper. Mitra got it for me from the dairy near her. The Balm of Gilead buds are now sticky and I picked some, but Sally called while I was down picking. I set them down and forget where I left them. Guess I’ll find them tomorrow.
April 27, 2005 Wednesday: Off to the barn I went this morning without the machine, just the bucket. Helen seemed gratified with my decision and displayed excellent manners. I got two gallons and started Tom’s warm milk cheese. It has been pointed out to me by Cricket that I should tune up my instructions, so I am dedicating this cheese to research. But, my research is not going to be very valuable. I missed a call from my vet saying he would be in the area and I didn’t pick up his message until almost too late to set up for his visit. I have been hoping he would stop in and disbud Emily. My cheese had to sit unattended through one phase after another. I finally got it into the press about 4PM. It rained hard all day, so after an early graze in the rain this morning Helen brought the tribe into the barn. This was most fortunate as it made it easy to get Helen into her stanchion and Emily to her tie-up. They ended up having to wait for over an hour by which time Helen was a mess of course. The vet gave Emily a general anesthetic for the procedure but I think he might have given her a heavier dose. I still had to hold onto her hard. He used an iron that plugs in and burns a circle around the horn bud which is then scooped out. There is no blood, just nasty smoke. It is disagreeable all around. He did such a tidy job that there is almost nothing to see. He also gave Helen a rabies shot. I left Helen in her stanchion while Emily slept it off. She would not have wanted to leave anyway. It was almost 4 o’clock before Emily was ready to toddle out. When I returned at milking time Sammy was licking her head. She stood up and went to Helen to nurse. I saw her attempt to nurse earlier but she seemed unable to manage it, so this time I sat down and waited for her about ten minutes. She then followed Helen into the milking room as usual. Helen was already in the let down mood, so milking was easier than usual. What with Helen not getting to graze much and Emily’s feed, I only got 1.5 gallons. Emily was one month old today.
April 28, 2005 Thursday: Emily seems well recovered this morning. The only difference I noted was that she seemed slightly more docile. Helen had them all outside standing in the rain and bellowed when she saw me coming with buckets. She marched right in for me, but bellowed a number of times. These were the loud bellows meant to be heard throughout the county and reminded me that I have tomorrow marked on the calendar as the day for her to be in heat. After toweling her off, I put the kicker right on. Last time she introduced heat by kicking the bucket good and hard. Her manners were excellent this morning, but I left the kicker on as a safeguard to my disposition. I took an extra bucket to the barn and a good thing I did. She gave three gallons and a quart. Afterwards she marched right out to the pasture gate and stood waiting to be let out to graze. This evening Helen’s contribution brought her total to 4 ½ gallons plus whatever Emily is drinking. I can’t believe how fast she is growing. There were no signs of heat this evening. I got to meet Mitra’s pigs today. She has the cutest little halfway house set up for them with everything a piglet could desire. There is even a warming light in there for them. They run in and out and play around. Later they will move to their “real” pen. I brought them 2 gallons of whey and a gallon of skim milk.
April 29, 2005 Friday: My first glimpse off the deck this morning of Helen was of her standing at attention with Sammy’s chin resting on her back in the gesture that means heat. That was the only sign. She was quiet all day. If there were any other action it must have occurred during the night. This evening for the first time since last fall I offered Helen the opportunity to come in through the gate in front of the barn, a route she has always preferred because it does not involve any ramp. She was standing right there by herself and I opened the gate for her. Rather than go through, she stood and stared long and hard. Her decision making process took so long that Sammy, a highly opportunistic and enterprising teenage boy, tried to go through himself which was not part of my plan. I put down a little pan of grain to distract him and got Helen through. But then Emily began vacillating. By the time she came through the gate Helen had marched on into the barn and out of sight through a door Emily that was new to Emily. She began racing around the lawn. I consider my cow racing days to be over. Anyway, I did not want to act excited for fear of further stimulating Emily, who was circling alarmingly close to the big front gate, beyond which lies an unobstructed route to Canada. I guess my guardian angel is good at herding heifers ’cause somehow I got her to trot on into the dark barn. Once inside she knew where she was and found her mother. By then Helen was streaming milk onto the floor. I ended up with five gallons today, but sold four, which cheered me greatly. I made five pounds of cottage cheese today and 1 ½ pounds of butter. I have 5 gallons of whey on hand, way more that those little pigs can drink. I guess it will go onto the peonies.
April 30, 2005 Saturday: Early this morning I went out on the deck just as a large deer walked across the farthest field. I glanced towards the barn and saw that Helen was staring intently at the deer. The deer stopped and stared back for several minutes before loping off. Helen gave only 1 ½ gallons this morning. She had recently fed Emily and also did not let down well. She gave two gallons this evening, but danced around the whole time. I should have got up and put the kicker on her. All that stepping around and foot waving takes the fun out of milking. Also, my left hand does not feel too good. Yesterday when I was herding Emily back in I tripped over some chicken wire I had dragged over for chicken yard repair. I fell in the mud with my weight on my left hand. It compressed the joint in my thumb and in a couple of fingers. Now it does not feel so good. When I fell, all three pairs of eyes opened wide and stared at me like cartoon characters. I tried to pretend nothing had happened so as not to send them all running. I had some fun out of town guests today. They loved thick fresh cream in their tea and coffee and the pound cake with glorious butter and eggs. We took a little run up to the lake, too. But now it has turned cold and started to rain. Picture me sitting here on the last day of April in a heavy wool sweater, wool socks, and a fire in the fireplace.
May 1, 2005 Sunday: Late this afternoon a weak sun brightened the pasture and the grass has grown long enough to be worth grazing. As I knew would happen one day soon, Helen did not choose to come up for milking. I called repeatedly, then took a magazine out on the deck to see if her conscience would smite her and she would come in. She looked up at me from the distance, but her conscience appeared untroubled. After half an hour I gave up and walked down and got her. Bagel came along, which served only to annoy both Helen and Sammy. Helen gave 4 ½ gallons today. I skimmed four unsold gallons for butter making and set the skim to clabber. This morning I waxed the first of my cheeses. It had developed a pretty good rind. I made it on April 14.
May 3, 2005 Tuesday: On Monday I started another hard cheese using 3 gallons of whole milk. I combined one gallon of new milk with 2 gallons of day old milk. This morning after removing the cheese from the press it weighed a couple of ounces under 3 lbs. I also made butter. My churn takes 3 quarts of cream (I think) and generally yields 1 ½ lb butter. I am enjoying weighing everything accurately now with a nifty scale given me by Martin. It was no longer needed at his plant. Helen’s teats were so dirty and crusty this morning that it was obvious Emily had not sucked for many hours, probably since last night. I worked long and hard getting her clean, also brushed her with a new brush I picked up at a horse tack shop last week. It is much the best implement I have found. It has tough, well separated nylon bristles arranged on “fingers” that splay out during grooming. Helen had perfect manners this morning during milking and I got 2 ½ gallons. I think she responds well to the grooming. In case I am tempted to go soft on the decision to disbud my calves, I got a lesson again this morning in why I have to do it. Sammy deliberately swung his head at me while I was unfastening his clip to the wall. If he had had horns it would have been a nasty experience. I know he was on the rebound from butting Helen out of his dish, but I gave him a chop upside the jaw with my fist, which I immediately regretted as it crumpled up my fingers pretty bad. I must remember to tape Sammy and see what he weighs. After milking, with all the teats nice and clean, Emily nursed for about 5 minutes. As usual, Helen had held up some. Emily had a foamy milk mustache and there were piles of foam between her feet. Helen loves her juicy new grass and once again this evening did not come when called. Also, she was fretful during milking. Grooming made no difference. Her total for today was 4 gallons. Sammy taped at 800 lbs.
May 4, 2005 Wednesday: Bagel and I took the car in today for an oil change. Then we went on to the library where I picked up the new and revised edition of On Food and Cooking, by Harold McGee. This is the foodie bible, and certainly authoritative in most respects. I was glad to see that it no longer contains the infuriating statement found in the first edition: “Of course margarine is superior nutritionally to butter”. I am quoting from memory, but that is close; I guess the bad news on trans fats must have got his attention. This edition makes no effort to discourage the use of margarine, rather, he states that manufacturers are working to reduce trans fats. In an arch “gotcha” tone, notes that ruminant fats also contain naturally occurring trans fats. There is no reference any where to CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), of which these ruminant trans fats are the precursors. McGee avoids condemning raw milk completely. In his discussion of heat treatment of milk and the production of dry milk he makes no mention of the degradation of protein caused by these treatments. Once again this evening Helen was difficult to get in. I took Bagel along in hopes that he might get the hang of herding. He was obedient and did not chase the cattle, but I don’t think he has any herding genes. In other words, he was useless. Helen clearly intended to hold out as long as possible against coming in. She went way to the bottom of the South Field, then instead of allowing herself to be turned she cut through an open section of fence and went to the bottom of Pocket Field. When I eventually got her headed back to the barn she went on past the gate and off in another direction. She then decided she would like to come in the front gate, the one which caused me trouble before because she has to cross unfenced lawn to reach the barn. There really was no practical alternative, so I let her through. I ran in and locked her in her stanchion but was unable to prevent Sammy and Emily from darting after her. But, instead of following her into the barn they went racing around the lawn. I had Sammy’s grain treat handy and coaxed him into the barn with that, but Emily just flew around in big loops. I think she remembered there was a barn door somewhere but could not see it. It is a small door not meant for livestock. By the time I got her in I was plotting a new management scheme: tomorrow Emily stays in all day. Let’s see if that puts Helen in a more cooperative mood. Also I will pick up a roll of stock wire at the Farmer’s Union and see if Martin will help me close that gap on Sunday. I would consider that a fine Mother’s Day present.
May 5, 2005 Thursday: I saw some neighbors early this morning and told them to expect bellowing. Helen did not disappoint. Sammy added his two cents. He just loves to bellow, I think. As she has always done in the past when I separate her calf, she barely grazed and stayed within 100 feet of the barn. I put out hay in her feeder. She came in and ate that between bellows. At evening milking as soon as Helen’s head was in the stanchion I brought in Emily, who nursed about five minutes before staggering away. I could see Helen was letting down like crazy as milk was streaming onto the floor. I could also see she was still irritated, so after washing off the spit I put the kicker on and milked out what was left, which was over two gallons. I let them out to spend the night in the home paddock. By then Emily’s appetite had revived and she nursed for another five or ten minutes. This morning I got 2 ½ gallons, so the day’s total was 4 ½ gallons. That is plenty. I taped Helen to be sure she is not losing weight too fast. She weighed 1117 pounds. That is hard to believe. She looks bony. This afternoon Bagel and I walked down and I did a flimsy fence repair, mostly a visual deterrent. This weekend when the men are here they will no doubt do a proper job of it. While down there I picked up pieces of the wind chime by Muffin’s grave and put it back together. It sounds nice.
May 6, 2005 Friday: Helen hung around the barn mooing until about 10:30, then went a little way off to graze. At 2:30 she went all away down to the old apple tree near the river, her favorite spot. But she was back up again at 5 o’clock bawling for me to get out there. As I did yesterday, I let Emily in before I milked. I still got about 2 gallons. This morning I put a cute little red halter on Emily. I dug a section of flowerbed this afternoon and made two loaves of whole wheat bread and a cake. Our weather remains persistently cold. I kept a fire in the kitchen fireplace all this week.
May 8, 2005 Sunday: The weather continues cold and rainy. It got up to 50F but with a stiff breeze nobody is taking off their sweater. Martin and Amy came for the weekend. I allowed Emily out today with Helen, figuring Martin could help me get them in. Martin was called back to Biddeford because of a fire in the drier, a machine at his plant. One man’s hand is burned. The plant has to close down now for a few days. We all hope the employee does OK. I, of course, hope I can get my cows in single handed. Sally called yesterday with a suggestion that I try one of those electric collar dog training devices on Helen to teach her to come when called. I wonder if it would work. Sally tells me that her daughter Rebecca trained their strong minded Husky not to chase moose. I also wonder what breed of dog can be taught to bring in cows. When I was a child my cousins down to Dixfield had a big collie-type dog that would fetch in the cow. Last night in honor of Mother’s Day, Max, Mitra, Martin and Amy (and Shireen and Roshan) took me out to eat in Farmington. We went to a new restaurant. The food was good as was the service. Everyone had a fine time despite nearly an hour each way driving through rain. The little girls have been going to restaurants since infancy and are perfect little sophisticates. They know how to order and don’t even squirm. They took the occasion to get all dressed up and had perky topknot ponytails. Later… It took me 40 minutes of walking the periphery of the pastures before I found Helen and the crew. She had gone around by the edge of the river and entered the South pasture that way. I knew as soon as I reached the riverbank that I would find her there because Sammy’s fresh tracks were in the sand. Once I got her headed back, she came in OK but needless to say, Emily will be staying in tomorrow. When I got Helen and Emily into their tie-ups it was evident that Emily had developed a wild streak during the day. She would not pay attention to Whoa and struggled wildly. I can still control her but by another week I doubt I will be able to. I held her halter, saying Whoa, and made her stand until she gave in and lowered her head. The hike around the pasture was productive in one way. Such excursions usually are. I see that the new neighbors have put up temporary orange plastic fencing along what they may think is their property line. In fact much of it is on my side. I expect they did it to help control their dogs and that is good thinking. It will also stop my cows going over to their place. But I had better speak to them about it. I got four gallons today from Helen. I made 1 ¾ lb butter. The butter is getting better both in flavor and color.
May 9, 2005 Monday: Martin’s plant was not badly damaged and the employee was not seriously burned. But the TV and news media made a huge event out of it. They are shut down for a few days for repairs. The weather today was very nice. I dug in the garden for an hour or so. I held Emily hostage so Helen was right at the barn an hour early mooing to be let in. Ha! My hen and chick family are so cute. Two hens and five chicks all hatched out together and are still never apart. The two hens share all duties and responsibilities and snuggle together at night. They chose a night nest in a place where they are quite safe. I can close a door on them. The pastures now look more green than brown. Helen is getting so much grass that her dung is getting soupy. She went far off today to graze, only coming back when milking time was getting close. After Emily, I still got four gallons.
May 10, 2005 Tuesday: This was a fine May day. Everyone human and animal was happy with the weather. A neighbor stopped in and arranged to buy a pick-up load of rotted cow manure for his fruit trees. I dug over one of my terrace beds and did more garden clean-up. I made butter again. It is now bright yellow. I did the barn chores, then I sat down at my computer and the next thing I knew it was 9 o’clock. For some time I had been hearing Helen occasionally mooing, which was odd. I finally went to check on her and there she was poking her head into the garage! I could not see the others but the first thing I always do is head for the front gate to close it so nobody gets away. For her part, Helen marched straight for the barn and stood there impatiently waiting to be let in. The others were not with her. They were all inside around the hay feeder where they belonged and looked relieved to see her. Then of course I had to find where she got out and fix it. She had mashed down some wire where her paddock skirts the lawn leading to the veg garden. She was right. The grass is greener there. Fencing while holding a flashlight is next to impossible but I had pliers and some smooth wire and managed to braid things back together. I just remembered I never ate dinner.
May 11, 2005 Wednesday: It was such a fine spring day that I could not bear to leave Emily inside. I reminded Helen that this was just an experiment to see if she would come in at milking time and bring Emily, no running off. She was a good girl. She did not come when called but when I walked down to where she was she started right back to the barn with the others following. Both this morning and this evening she had so much milk the lid was sitting on foam. Tonight I had to leave some but hopefully Emily will finish the task. This means that I bottled over five gallons. She must be producing close to seven. I made three more pounds of cottage cheese. I went to the feed store for cracked corn and he was out of it. He says people are buying vast amounts of it to feed the wild turkeys.
May 12, 2005 Thursday: The sun shone all day but it was not much fun to be outside as a strong cold wind was blowing. Mitra came over for her milk. I had 10 gallons of whey for the pigs and a lot of other things including a cabbage that had spent too long in the fridge and a batch of over heated cottage cheese. We had coffee and cake and I gave her some tomato eggplant sauce that I was making for the first time. It was demonstrated last Saturday by Lydia Bastiani and is delicious and easy. You just sauté onions and garlic and add cubes of peeled eggplant. Sauté that for a while, covering it for a few minutes to help the eggplant cook through. Then add seasonings and an equal amount of tomatoes. Lydia used her fresh bounty but I used my home canned ones. Simmer the sauce for about a half hour. I also added fresh basil. We confined the dogs while we walked down to the pasture to visit the cows. Without the dogs along the cows were friendly and sociable. This afternoon I reassembled my rock garden terrace next to the buttery. I had pulled out the stones to get rid of the crabgrass. Because of the cold wind, I did not set out any plants. At milking time the cows were down in the Pocket Field, farthest away. This meant I had to fetch them in through the difficult gate. Helen went in OK but Sammy and Emily hurtled around the yard. Emily had more sense about finding the door than Sammy did. For some reason Helen was unwilling to let down properly and I got only 1 ½ gallons tonight. I hope this was not because she thinks it’s just her and Emily now. She might just have been agitated by the wind.
May 13, 2005 Friday: Dear Helen showed up at the gate at ten minutes to five. Had I been there to open the gate she would have come right in. I had the buckets almost ready to go and was racing out to do my part when a milk customer arrived. Their two bouncy girls raced out to see the cows while the customers negotiated. He is chatty and Helen does not like men unless she really knows them. She suspects all strange men of being either vets or cattle dealers. By the time I was able to get to the barn is was nearly 5:30 and Helen was gone. I mean gone. I hunted for nearly an hour. Of course I could not be cross with her in these circumstances. My fields are arranged in a sort of cloverleaf design with bands of trees between the leaves, so there are plenty of places to hide. I finally gave up and decided it was time for OAD. I came in and worked on figuring out why my modem line would not connect. The power was out for two hours. The house phone was not affected but the modem line is dead. I switched my modem over to the house line for now. About an hour later Helen reappeared not far away. Leaving Bagel in the house I lured her in by yelling that I had apples. She is a sucker for apples. To my surprise Emily was the first to come, but they all came in and I got my two gallons, four for the day. It was cold again today. I gardened for a couple of hours and got a lot done. The dandelions are out in force and I saw my first bumblebee. The buds on the apple tree are still tight shut but showing pink. I made another batch of cottage cheese and 1.5 lbs of butter.
May 14, 2005 Saturday: The shadblow is blooming but on most of the trees the leaves are still so small that you can see right through them. The gray birch at the bottom of the pasture is a light green haze. Max and Mitra and the girls came over about 3:00 this afternoon. Before coming they had to move the pigs to their real quarters. They were getting smelly in the little pen by the house. Mitra said that moving the pigs was a squealy business. She had never heard pigs squeal before, and was unprepared for how loud it is. The pigs were delighted with their new pen and raced about exploring the possibilities. Max brought over what was left of the roll of fencing he bought for their pigs and put it up where we hope it will prevent the cows migrating from one pasture to another. I was busy milking and helping get dinner on so did not have time to go down to admire it.
May 15, 2005 Sunday: So far so good on Max’s fencing. It rained all day so the cows’ ambition was dampened. There is still a place they could go around the end of the fence if they go down a steep bank. Tonight they were all right up at the barn in the lean-to at milking time. This morning Helen was stuffed with milk and stood like a rock while I milked her. I stopped when the bucket was full and got nearly three gallons. But this evening they all seemed jumpy. Sammy was a brat about going to his tie-up and Emily stood badly for hers. She is usually perfect but tonight sagged back on the rope and hung there with her eyes bulging until I talked her down. Helen danced around and let down poorly. They ate a little bit of their hay today, which they have absolutely not been doing. During my walk to look at the fence I saw sweet woodruff in early bloom and trillium about to open, many wild strawberry flowers, and still a few fiddleheads. I have missed most of the crop. The shadblow is blooming. I also discovered a leak in my spring line where the pipe runs along the riverbank. The spray from the leak has been eating away at the bank. I found an old board in the woods and propped it where it catches the spray. It will help for a while. The wind chime on a tree near Muffin’s grave had blown away in recent high winds and was down a very steep eroded gully. It was raining too hard for me to feel like floundering down after it. I shall go back soon with wire to repair it.
May 16, 2005 Monday: Helen was so good at both milkings today, hardly any shuffling around and better let-down than usual. I got over five gallons. It is hard to know what to do with all the milk. I made a couple more quarts of cottage cheese and filled the churn with cream. But I never got around to making the butter. I put some clabber in with the cream to culture it, since the cream now has to sit overnight. I made a cake from a recipe that was in Guideposts Magazine. It called for 12 eggs and a pound of butter, both of which I currently have in unusual quantity. The batter filled my bundt pan and 12 mini bundts. Because of the season, the butter and eggs are bright gold and so is the cake. The pastures now look truly green. The grass is tall enough to eclipse last year’s old brown. How the cows love it!
May 18, 2005 Wednesday: Right after morning chores I took my car into the shop for a new ball joint and strut. My mechanic left me off at my cousin’s house to wait it out. This turned into an all day visit because there was no-one there available to drive me home. My cousin’s husband came home around 3 p.m. and was surprised to find me still there. They then graciously drove me home. Poor Marcia had just gotten out of the hospital and probably wished she could lie down but kept insisting she was fine. I can’t recall ever having spent a day just chatting, since maybe college. For some reason all the cows were pretty high when I rounded them up for evening milking. I don’t know if it was because Bagel chased Emily or because of the black flies, now out in force. Emily broke into a run when she saw me and raced for the barn. Bagel chased her and I had to roar at him. I threw my stick at him and told him “No Chasing!” He ran all the way back to the house in disgrace but Emily kept right on running in big circles. Sammy raced around me dancing in that annoying way that is vaguely threatening. Helen did not let down well and lifted her feet so often that I got up and put on the kicker. I got over four gallons today all the same.
May 19, 2005 Thursday: The black flies were bad enough today to prompt the cows to go into the lean-to to chew their cuds. This made it very easy to get Helen in for milking. This morning I loosened up Emily’s halter a notch and had another look at her teats. When my vet disbudded her he felt and said she did not have extra teats but now I am not so sure. I did not have much luck getting her to stand still for inspection but will keep trying. I made butter. I am making it about every other day. For the first time in a couple of weeks there is no milk in the fridge. Mitra took five gallons today and somebody else took two. Some days I am in despair about what to do with all the milk. There were several showers today but also some sun but it is not really warm. Right now it is 45F.
May 20, 2005 Friday: The beautiful moon is up but we are told the rain is starting again and will last until next Friday. We have all had enough. The fields look great. My apple blossoms will be open by tomorrow. If there is a week of rain there will be no apples. The honey bees won’t be able to work in the rain nor will they work below 60F. Helen and friends were right up at the barn again this evening taking shelter in the lean-to. I told her she was a good girl. I had Bagel chained up in case I had to go fetch them and he wanted to “help”. My milking is getting faster. Tonight I got 2.5 gallons in 15 minutes. She gave five gallons today. I am pretty well persuaded that Emily does not have an extra teat.
May 22, 2005 Sunday: In my chicken dish rain gauge it looks to me like we got another 2″ of rain since yesterday. The apple blossoms are gamely trying to open, but it looks hopeless for them. The forecast is for cold wet weather through next Friday. By then they will be beaten to death without a visit from a bee, unless there is a midweek break with warm sun. The bumblebees, with their little fur coats, will work in cool weather but do not go very high. For honey bees to work it must be over 60F. Helen does not mind the rain at all. There is no wind. She just grazes away. I put down hay in case they want it, but they don’t. This morning she was antsy and let down poorly. I keep thinking she must be coming into heat, but she hasn’t. This evening once again she would not leave her grazing to come when I called. Of course I finally got her in by walking in a big circle. She was even more restless than this morning. I had to tie her tail to the wall with a hay string to keep from being whapped. She waved her legs around so much that I put the kicker on her in order to have quiet milking. It beats 20 minutes of defensive milking, but I hate to put it on her. I doubt it feels very good and it gets in the way of my head. There is always a dent in her thurl where the nub sits. I massage the dent when I take the kicker off. I got my usual 4.5 gallons today, but I had to work for it.
May 24, 2005 Tuesday: It sure is hard for me to figure out what makes Helen hold up her milk sometimes and not others. With both milkings on Monday I had work hard for the milk. Her total for the day was not above four gallons. This morning she let down well and at this milking alone she gave three gallons. She was mooing for me before I came out. She was standing in the deep mud of the barnyard and letting down into the puddles. When I let her out after milking Sammy tried to mount her and Emily tried to suck. She was intent on grazing and ignored both of them. The world remains sodden. It rained all last night accompanied by a high wind. The cows stayed inside last night and even ate a little of their hay. I had to carry out about ten soupy cow pies and Helen was filthy. It was a 6-towel-morning washing her up. Evening: Most of the day I spent on food. I made about 6 lbs of cottage cheese, two batches of raisin apricot bars and qvark cake. The cake has a wonderful flavor and slightly puddingy texture. The recipe filled a large loaf pan and another small pan. I ate some of the little one for “quality control” and could hardly stop eating it. I used ½ cup of crushed pineapple and ½ cup of rehydrated dried cherries for the fruit called for in the recipe. I froze the bars and will freeze the qvark cake. I am trying to get enough cookies made to serve 75 people at Martin’s Rehearsal Dinner Lobster Feed. Getting Helen in this evening was easy. She still does not come when called, but I soon found them over in the corner of the field near the bridge. I forgot to chain up Bagel and soon he was pounding after me full of joy at the expedition. I told him firmly to get back and he did. Then Emily, also full of joy at the prospect of a playmate, began running towards him. I spoke firmly to her, “Emily, Emily, no, whoa,” and by golly she turned around and went back to her mother. Helen of course does not permit her to play with dogs and was staring disapprovingly. Then as they walked back in the general direction of the barn and Helen had to choose between walking away off down to the field or turning toward home, I spoke to her clearly, “Come on Helen, go on in, go on into the barn,” and she made only a small detour before heading up the hill nicely. She gave pretty close to five gallons today. Emily taped at 190 lbs. She will be two months old on May 28.
May 25, 2005 Wednesday: Tomorrow I have to get up at the crack-0-dawn and milk Helen and race over to Mitra’s. Together we will proceed to another town where we will meet Amy Porter and get massages. We are going together on a massage for Amy in lieu of giving her a bridal shower. I believe I am also to get a pedicure. I have never had a pedicure and only once had a massage. Should be interesting. The weather report is for weather even worse than what we are now having, but I expect to make it OK. It did not get above 40F today. The cows seem untroubled by the weather. When it rains the bugs are not so fierce. And the grass is quite lush. Helen gave me over five gallons of milk today, and of course is feeding great big Emily. I have set myself the goal of making a batch of cookies every day until I have enough for 75 people. That is a tall order. I think some others will join forces with me as they learn of the need. These are for Martin and Amy’s rehearsal Dinner on Friday June 10. Martin has ordered lobsters for all. I am also making cole slaw and if I can manage it, baked beans. So far I have made about 40 cookies. Martin hopes there will be peanut butter cookies included, his favorite.
May 26, 2005 Thursday: It rained torrents all day. I got to the barn an hour early so as to make my 10 o’clock massage appointment almost two hours distant. Helen was good, but did not let down well. I see the results of this in gallons of milk with a mere inch of cream where I should be getting a quart. Most of the jars have at least 2″ yielding a pint. I am collecting as much cream as I can so as to provide butter for Martin and Amy’s wedding dinner. I am ending up with gallons of clabber which I make into cottage cheese or send over to the pigs. Bagel had to be on his chain until 4PM. He was very good and did not shred up his blanket. The massage experience was very nice. The other two ladies have had lots of massages on two coasts and Hawaii and they declared our therapist yesterday to be the best. I also had my first pedicure. The manicurist tactfully suggested clear polish from her rainbow array. I expect she thought drawing attention to my crumply old toes with pink polish might not be doing me any favor. Of those two hens that have been sharing maternal duties for five chicks, the black one has resigned her commission. She now perches in the rafters, leaving it all to the speckled brown bantam. The chicks are now half grown, but the bantam clearly feels they still need constant guidance. One small rooster hangs around standing guard and helping out. A couple of times a day the other larger free living rooster drives him off and takes over for awhile.
May 27, 2005 Friday: My dear granddaughter Helena was married today to her Ryan down in Carlisle PA. I believe she will be happy. It did not rain all day! It was cloudy but not cold. I set out some of the flowers that I bought 10 days ago. This evening I called Helen to come in for milking and she came. I called from the barnyard gate, I had to keep calling incessantly or she would stop and graze. Emily came first, then Sammy, then Helen far behind. Sammy and Emily came only as far as the gate until Helen finally got there. They would not enter without her. She butted Sammy and he came on in. She let down very well for about 10 minutes, then quit. I had to leave a gallon behind but I did get four gallons today. Today I made peanut butter cookies. I tried to decide if I felt any different today after my massage. I did wake up more rested than I expected to, considering that I got to bed very late. Don’t know if that was an effect or not.
May 28, 2005 Saturday: Sorry about the delay in posting, it’s a very busy time of year. Max Helen did not come when called this evening. When I walked down to find her I could not blame her. She was in cow paradise. Today’s weather was truly lovely. The sun shone, it warmed to about 65F, and the rain has recharged the vernal pond in the pasture. Helen stood grazing next to the pond surrounded by lush grass. When I spoke to her she turned resignedly and marched straight to the barn, the others following. Emily was bouncing a lot while I taped her today but she is over 200 lbs now that she has hit two months old. Max and Mitra and family and Martin and his fiancée, Amy, came late this afternoon. Max went down and repaired the leaking spring line. The river is extremely high. Then he and Martin worked on my lawn. Because of the rain and the men having other obligations, my lawn had not been mowed this year. They got a lot of mowing done before dinner. Mitra pointed out that the sun had brought out many bees on the apple blossoms. I went down and looked and indeed many insects were working. None were actual honey bees but I am sure they were doing a good job. To my great surprise I saw a woodchuck in the barnyard. It hiked as fast as its fat person would permit and disappeared under the barn. I have never before seen one this close to any of the buildings. Perhaps the pastures are waterlogged. I made Pizza Rustica. This is something like a savory quiche but deeper and in a pastry crust. I used a quart of cottage cheese and six eggs in it and a nice collection of fresh green things from the garden. It turned out very well. I made an old fashioned short crust using beef fat. The flavor is perfect for something like this. It makes a strong yet crisp and flaky pastry. Last night I rendered some of my frozen suet to obtain the fat. After supper Shireen, 9, played her viola for me. She had brought it along so that I could hear her. I was impressed with her intonation.
May 29, 2005 Sunday: We ate out on the deck tonight. Down below Sammy was doing his best to visit. He eats anything we pass down and he looks longingly at the stairs. I know he wishes he knew how to climb them and come right to the table. The cows came inside today to chew their cuds and escape the bugs. Helen gave 4.5 gallons.
May 30, 2005 Monday Memorial Day: It rained again today, hard at times. Mitra and I went together to pick up our tomato seedlings from a specialist grower named Amy LeBlanc, who has about 100 varieties. We all got drenched. It was warm rain though. Helen was a mess both times she came in. She let down really well both morning and evening. She gave me over five gallons. I made 5lbs of cottage cheese and 1 ½ pounds of butter. I took apple blossoms to the cemetery to dress Grammie and Grampie’s grave. I have always taken lilacs but due to cold wet weather they are not open yet. Fewer people are putting out plastic flowers. Many graves had real flowers planted. I did not put out my flag today because of the rain. It is an antique pieced wool bunting.
May 31, 2005 Tuesday: Perhaps because of endless rain, I have lost telephone service. Last week when it went out it was the modem line that quit. This time it is the house line. I hate Verizon. It took me a full hour to report the outage, first waiting on hold, then jumping through flaming hoops on their web site trying to follow their report procedure. They really prefer not to know about lost service, I think. Helen was so jumpy this morning that I got up and put the kicker on her. This evening she was a little less restless. When I walked away to open doors for her she withdrew her head from the stanchion and followed! I had not put the pin in properly. What a surprise! She could have walked away at any time. Sammy taped at 870 lb today. He looks excellent. That reminds me (Sorry, Sammy!) Mitra has some meat from both Cletus and the more recent steer, Albie. She considers the Albie meat to be superior in flavor. She attributes this to the fact that I was able to arrange for a stress-free home kill.
June 2, 2005 Thursday: I think right now is the most beautiful time of year. The lush expanse of green pasture, the flowering trees, and yesterday and today fair and balmy weather, it’s heavenly. Max came over this afternoon and mowed my lawn. It is always a huge job. This time was more difficult than usual because he was mowing parts of it for the first time this year. It surely is nice to seen that plushy lawn now. I ran around with my Japanese toothed sickle and whacked out the grass and weeds that were strangling some of my favorites such as my tree peony. Down in the veg garden weeds that were barely visible at the beginning of May are now huge and fierce looking. Nobody around here did much gardening in May. Emily had some scours this morning. Her poop was a nasty gray-green and slimy looking, but there was not a lot of it and I couldn’t smell anything. She was walking slowly and I could not catch her chewing her cud. I am plenty mad at my chickens, a certain one anyway. She is eating eggs. I have had a problem with this for months but can’t catch her in the act. Now I have it narrowed down to two black hens, one or the other. Yesterday she hopped right up on the wall where I hang the egg basket during the day with eggs in it and ate several. The rest were all messed up with yolk. Helen gave over 5 gallons
June 3, 2005 Friday: Emily seems just fine today. Her backside is dry and I saw her chewing her cud. I wonder what gave her a belly ache? Helen gave close to 2 ½ gallons this morning and was nice and quiet. This evening I gave up after getting 1 ½ gallons. She was not letting down and danced around so much I put the kicker on her. Before letting her out of her stanchion I took off her collar and changed her bell to one that rings better. Hers had lost its clapper. Yesterday I sacrificed two bales of hay to dry out the beefer pen and today I added another. It is not drying out in there. I think all the urine from last winter is seeping up. I thought maybe it gave Emily diarrhea. I fork out the poops every day, but in no time it is messy again. With three of them in there, and spending a little more time inside every day because of the flies, it gets ahead of me.
June 5, 2005 Sunday: Maine is rejoicing in beautiful weather now This morning when I called Helen she put her head right up and walked towards me. This may have been prompted more by a desire to escape Sammy’s attentions than in dutiful cowness. She is in heat. He followed right along jumping at every opportunity. By the time she reached the barn door it appeared to me she briefly stood. I expected kicking and writhing in the stanchion, but no, she was quieter than usual. She even let down well from all quarters. Usually she holds up in one, two or all quarters, but not today. Go figure. I got less milk than most mornings, though. She gave two gallons and about a quart. This evening was another story. Helen has been slightly favoring her right hind foot. This is not an easy thing to detect because ordinarily she favors her left hind food which has a warped hoof. This evening she was willing to only, very briefly, put weight on her right. It hurt her so badly that after I let her out, confronted with the slight ramp she must go up to leave the barn, she sank down and lay there twisting her head around and waving her foot in the air. I went in and called my vet, asking him to come out in the morning.
June 6, 2005 Monday: My vet had hoped to be here by noon but had so many emergencies that he could not make it until 4:30. He pared away a lot of Helen’s hoof expecting to find a nail, but found nothing. She was actually walking a bit better today than last night, but not by much. I am so glad that she is up on her tetanus shots. Helen’s production was down quite a lot today. She gave less than four gallons. It rained all day, a light drizzle, just enough to keep down the bugs. Helen was very annoyed about the restriction to her grazing I’d imposed on her while waiting for the vet to arrive. I kept her in the night paddock. She kept looking over the gate at the big pasture. Ordinarily I keep her in the stanchion when the vet is coming. But with her bad foot I thought that would be cruel. Vets don’t enjoy being kept waiting. I gave the poor man a plate of warmed over lunch while I rounded up Helen and got her in. He had been on the run since 4:30AM.
June 7, 2005 Tuesday: Helen is putting weight on her foot today. The vet did not have time to pare her left foot to match, although it badly needs it. I will have to see if I can get him back soon. Right now I am extremely busy. My son Martin is to be married next Saturday. Friday my daughter Marcia and I are putting on an informal feed for about 85 people. I have made and frozen lots of cookies and will make baked beans and slaw. There is so much to do that I don’t know if I’m afoot or horseback. Last night I couldn’t sleep, so got up at 3:30 a.m. and made lists. About 5 a.m. I began to feel more organized, so went back to bed for an hour. After the wedding we can all resume planning for the cow lover’s roundup in the fall. Helen’s production was way down today. I can’t tell for sure how much is due to her holding up or if she has some other excuse. Also, my hands ache.
June 8, 2005 Wednesday: Helen’s production was way down again this morning mostly due to her holding up her milk. I had the incorrect impression that actual production was down. Of course Emily must be drinking more all the time. I got a little over two gallons this morning. This evening I skipped milking. I had not intended to, but at milking time she was in the north field which means she wants to come in by the gate that has them crossing the lawn. Sammy was eager to come in. Helen was way the other side of the field and when I called her, came only halfway. It was obviously going to be tricky to get her in without allowing Sammy and Emily to get loose on the lawn. I wanted to go up to the lake to join my daughter Marcia and family for supper. I told Helen “To heck with you”, and left. I was already planning to go OAD Friday and Saturday because of the lobster feed and wedding. I will call this an experiment. It took me pretty much all day, but I made my giant batch of cole slaw. Now I hear the head count is up to 95. I think somebody had better bring me another cabbage. It has four cabbages in it now and a lot of other stuff. So far I am pleased with the flavor.
June 9, 2005 Thursday: Helen was ready to come in the morning. I expected her to be stuffed, but she was no fuller than usual. She was disgustingly dirty. Her tail was truly horrible and she deliberately swiped me with it, which made me pretty mad. I gave her a good whap on the tailhead with Sammy’s grain pan. It took halfway to forever to get her cleaned up for milking. I got two gallons. This evening I again got two gallons. Helen behaved perfectly. Two of her quarters had been emptied by Emily, but I think the mosquitoes are bothering her. After milking she went outside for her drink. Then I saw her walk quickly back into the barn to escape the bugs. My day was devoted to preparing three big pots of baked beans. I looked at the two pots I had started Wednesday night and thought, “Uh Oh, need more beans”. I went through the pantry and found six little bags with varying amounts and types of beans and started another pot with the hurry-up method where you boil them up and let them sit. It was hot today. Helen panted the whole time I was milking her. My sister Barby arrived from California. In the evening we went up to Martin’s camp where some of the wedding guests are already assembling. Everyone seemed happy and enthusiastic. The mosquitoes are fierce.
June 11, 2005 Saturday: We had a huge pre wedding dinner party last night up at my daughter and son-in-law’s camp on Lake Webb. The guest count went over 100. I spent much of the last few days organizing and preparing food for the event. I made vast amounts of cole slaw and baked beans and froze cookies the week before. The beans and slaw got a lot of praise. I scarcely saw the cookies, they disappeared so fast, so I guess they must have been good. Martin’s Aunt Anita also brought cookies. My sister helped me all day with the prep. When I walked out on the porch at the party and saw the number of people seated at the many tables I was ready to swoon. How can there be enough to eat, I thought. But there was, and there were even a lot of leftovers. The first course was boiled lobsters. Mitra brought macaroni and cheese for an army. A lot of people spontaneously remarked that it was the best they had ever tasted. I think most people don’t use quality cheese and sufficient cream. That is what makes it good. Everybody seemed to be having a good time. The young folks all had brought their suits and went swimming in the dark. I skipped the evening milking again last night. This morning Helen came in a lot cleaner and more stuffed with milk. She gave 3 ½ gallons and stood beautifully the entire time I was milking. It is a beautiful day, although hot. The wedding is at 4pm so I will be skipping evening milking again.
June 12, 2005 Sunday: The Saturday wedding of Martin and Amy was beautiful. It was an outdoor wedding at an historic inn by the lake. Rain had been threatening all afternoon, but it was decided to proceed with the outdoor ceremony rather than moving it all inside. (Several of the gentlemen asked my opinion as to the likelihood of immediate rain based on my local knowledge, so I had an important decision). It did indeed sprinkle as the bride, groom, and attendants assembled up front. Two large, matching umbrellas were held over the couple as actual rain fell for a very few minutes. It felt good to me, as it was hot. The ceremony was conducted on a platform next to the lake with the familiar form of Tumbeldown Mountain as a backdrop, becoming visible as the shower ended. There were some lovely readings and address and prayer by the officiant, a childhood friend of Martin’s. Later there was much dancing and eating. While milking on Sunday morning I had as guests my step grandson Sean and his girl friend Katrina. They are staying with me and wanted to see Helen being milked. They watched quiet as mice while I cleaned Helen (my now customary huge job) and milking. I did not milk Saturday night, so there was a lot of milk. I got 3 ½ gallons.
June 13, 2005 Monday: Monday was blasting hot and humid. Martin stopped in and set up an electric fan to blow on me and Helen during milking. She gave 5 ½ gallons. First thing this morning I was greeted by Sammy’s cute little turned up nose poking into the garage. I was unable to figure out where he got out. Helen and Emily were where they belonged. He readily followed me to the barn to be let back in. .Helen is causing me a lot of agro by being so dirty at milking time. It takes me as long to clean her as it does to milk. This morning I dragged the hose to her stanchion and washed her down like a horse. I thought she might object but she appeared to enjoy it. The floor does not drain, so I had to do a lot of sweeping to get rid of the water. But, I enjoyed that better than swabbing my way through innumerable towels. Tonight I have experimented with leaving their gates open so they can graze at night if they wish or even sleep in the pasture. Perhaps they will try an early morning grazing session in the farthest field and Helen will be cleaner. It can be a long walk to fetch them, but I think I will prefer it to cleaning her up. Right now, at 10p.m., they are all in the barn and Helen is lying down getting dirty as usual, so the plan is not working yet. If she is dirty in the morning I will hitch her up in the main aisle and use the hose out there where it will drain better. I got another 6 ft of row dug and planted two more tomatoes. The weeds are now 20 inches high. I dig up clumps and shake off the dirt to clear the ground. It was 87F today with high humidity.
June 14, 2005 Tuesday: Helen grazed some during the night, so was only half as dirty. It was raining and she preferred to sleep inside. It rained hard all day. The cows grazed in the rain. When it was time to get her in for evening milking she totally ignored my calls. I got my boots on and went to fetch her. They were all standing under a fir tree keeping as dry as possible. Helen was standing over Emily to keep her dry. They were reluctant to come in. Helen took an evasive path around thee very outer edge of the field causing me to walk far and fast. When I finally got her in I was hot, breathless, cross and soaked through. She knew I was mad (I made no secret of it) and chose to stand very quietly for milking. She did not give a lot today, just 3 ½ gallons. Emily now tapes at 250 lbs. My little brown bantam has been laying a blue egg every day. Today she went broody and began sitting tight. I let her keep two of her own eggs and gave her two from the heavy birds. My sister Barby is still here with me. We went to Farmington and picked up chicken and dairy feed and a nice big lamb shank, all from a store that specializes in local food.
June 15, 2005 Wednesday: We had lots more rain today. Barby and I put on a nice big lunch for her school friend, and my vet popped in and joined us. I made my Grammie’s caramel custard, a great favorite with Barby. My open gate plan is working pretty well to keep Helen clean, although it rained so hard last night that she slept inside most of the night. At evening chore time I had to fetch her from the maximum distance and she circled through the woods looking for any option besides coming home. Cows are practical though. When she saw that the fence was entire she marched home. Sammy ran back and forth like a big dog. My walk led me through lots of marshy areas and I find that my boots now leak. Yesterday I bought a 25 lb molasses block which I have put into her grain pan. This way it will all be hers. Once again she gave only 3 ½ gallons, not that this isn’t plenty of milk. Hard to know if the drop is due to Emily’s bigger appetite, three days last week of OAD milking, or the mosquitoes.
June 16, 2005 Thursday: Helen was a perfect cow today. She grazed in the early dawn in the endless rain, so was almost clean. This evening she came right up to the gate at a quarter to five. It was a little tricky getting her in because of Sammy’s pushiness and Emily’s flightiness, but it was a lot less trouble than traipsing through the tall grass for a half hour. She stood perfectly for milking. She continues to hold up some each time, but gave me 4 gallons today. My customers are trickling back, so I may have to start keeping Emily in at night pretty soon.
June 17, 2005 Friday: Helen was waiting for me in the barn this morning, but I got a call from my daughter and talked so long that she got disgusted and went out to graze. She does not like having her time wasted. When I finally got there a half hour late she said, “Oh all right”, she marched back in nicely. She was cleaner than I expected considering that we got another 2″ of rain last night. She must have stayed out grazing. This evening she came up to the gate at 5pm, but would not come in until I walked out there and nudged her along. None of them is pleased to have to walk through the foot deep mire at the barn entrance. I get them moving forward, then tiptoe around the edge trying not to get my boots sucked off my feet. Helen gave over 4 gallons today. I gave her a mop-down with vinegar and Lemon Joy. I use this in my udder wash too. It works great for this. I guess it helps some with flies. She only had about a half dozen on her when she came in. She is covered with mosquito bites on the back of her udder, poor thing. My sister Barby and I fixed lunch for Mitra’s parents and our two granddaughters, Shireen and Roshan. At the last minute Mitra could not come as she got a work assignment. I served meatloaf, baked sweet potatoes, salad and strawberry rhubarb pie. For the lattice crust I used what I think was the last of my lard until the pigs are ready. It turned out very well, I thought. One black rafter hen has been setting on a plastic egg for a week. I took pity on her and have given her four real eggs. The hen I caught egg eating the other day has been on death row in a cat carrier with food and water waiting for somebody to dress her off for me. While in there she laid three eggs and did not eat them, so I gave her a parole back in with her buddies. She was desperate to do some real scratching.
June 18, 2005 Saturday: Helen brought the group up to the gate again this evening just before 5PM. I was not quite ready for her, but went pelting out anyway before she changed her mind. She marched right in. It was slightly easier than last night getting Sammy to make the 25 foot trip from pasture gate to barn door. Emily still gets disoriented, but I soon herded her back where she belonged. Max and Mitra report that their setting hen is hatching her clutch. This is their first experience with baby chicks. One of their laying hens was dead on the hen room floor this morning. They said there was not a mark on it but I am suspicious of a weasel. Helen gave 4 gallons today. In the evening my son Mark called to tell me that he had gotten word that he is accepted to medical school. He is overjoyed as are we all.
June 19, 2005 Sunday: What a beautiful day! We awoke to sunshine. Helen came to the barn all by herself both morning and evening and was perfect. I got a bit of gardening done, and then Barby and I went to the lake and spent the day. The water is so high from all the rain that half the dock is under water. We had a lovely time. I set another black broody hen today with four eggs. Helen gave four gallons.
June 20, 2005 Monday: Kip brought his two heifers here today to spend the summer and put on some weight. They are a nice pair of Jerseys named Melissa and Gwendolyn . Helen seemed to consider them to be upstarts, but Sammy likes them a lot. They are the same age as he, although he is larger. The heifers are well behaved and cooperative. Sally called from Alaska to see how things were going with them. Helen behaved very well today and was at her best, apart from frowning at the heifers. She gave four gallons.
June 21, 2005 Tuesday: Gwendolyn and Melissa are fitting right in. Gwendolyn is assertive and likes to challenge Helen, but I don’t see Helen giving way much. Mostly they follow Sammy. Kip had to say goodbye to his heifers for now and go back to MA with the trailer. He had borrowed it from Sally L. While here he nurtured a rather pathetic kitten that was in the barn and named it Frances. Frances is a lot better today. With the weeks of rain and now additional animals the beefer pen run-in is sodden. I carry out the cow pies but this still leaves a wet standing. Today I picked up some shavings and spread a bale. It helped some. It needs six. It was a beautiful day, just perfect. My peonies have exploded into full bloom. Barby and I went up to camp for a while and took a swim. I bought strawberries and we had them with cake and whipped cream. My daughter Abby arrived just in time for dessert. Helen gave four gallons.
June 22, 2005 Wednesday: It rained again last night but cleared in the morning. All the cows were in the barn this morning. Helen and Emily came in easily. She gave a bit under 3 gallons this morning. During the day Sammy and the heifers split up from Helen and grazed independently. At milking time this evening Helen was waiting sweetly in the barn. Sammy and the heifers were out in the north pasture and when I called them they all walked the other direction. The kitten, Frances, is sickly but drank a bit of cream. Abby is trying it on raw liver. The weather all day was perfectly beautiful. After supper we took a drive up to the lake to watch the sun go down. Tomorrow I have to take Barby to the airport. Sammy and the heifers never did show up this evening at the barn, so I had to retire trusting that they would be back in the morning.
June 23, 2005 Thursday: At 5:30 this morning I could not see or hear any cows at all. When the sun got higher I found all of them down by the river. Helen came in nicely and all followed. They had all slept outside so the barn was quite tidy. Some predator, most likely a skunk, destroyed the eggs of one of the setting hens last night. She moved herself over to another nest containing two eggs that somebody had laid. I did not smell a skunk, so it may have been a rat. If so, I will be pretty disgusted with those barn cats. I drove Barby to the airport today and waited in line with her for the security check. I had made a nice lunch for us to eat after we reached the airport but forgot it at home. We shared a banana that I had persuaded her to take and a dry scone from the airport café. I found out when I got home that Abby had vainly chased after us with the lunch for many miles. Sigh. Everything about travel seems tiring and irritating. I have to admire Barby for making the effort. Abby called Max at work down in Cape Cod and found out how to run the lawn mower. She mowed a great amount of my neglected lawn. Despite the admonitions of me, her mother, she mowed too close to the granite steps and was unable to back out when the ground got steep. She called one of Helena’s powerful brothers who came right over and pushed the mower back up with one hand. Helen gave over 4 gallons today.
June 24, 2005 Friday: This was another fine day. All the cows look pleased with life in the pasture. For the first time, Emily did not wish to get up and come in with Helen at milking time, so I left her lying down with the others. I thought Helen might become nervous about her during milking, but she did not appear to mind at all. The same thing happened again this evening. Melissa and Gwendolyn now know their way around the field. There are three pastures interconnected to the barnyard by gates. If an animal gets into the wrong one and is by herself she must go back to square one to go around to where the others are. The heifers do not stand there mooing, they go around. Cows in general are better about this than horses but I have known Sammy to get confused. Helen gave a bit under four gallons today. Emily is stuffed. I cleared some more ground for tomatoes and got one more planted.
June 25, 2005 Saturday: The cows are looking comfortable on upwards of 7 bales of shavings spread over a week’s time. The weather is now in the 80’s. They are taking all their naps inside. Abby is helping a lot with pooper scooping. Once again today Helen was inside lying down at milking time. Sammy, Gwendolyn and Melissa had arranged themselves so that Helen’s way to the door was blocked. She stared at the situation for awhile, then daintily stepped over them. They are very quiet, orderly heifers. It is a great puzzle to me what could have been the objection to them at the farm where they were previously staying. I contrived a barrier across the entrance from the beefer pen, the room in the barn where they come to rest, to where Helen walks in to be milked. Now by leaving that door open there is a nice cross draft to help cool them off. I will have to bend and twist nails to get the wooden frame off that I fixed over the door but perhaps the hot spell will not last long. All but one tomato plant is now in. I dug and stickled more ground but it was too hot to work outside for long. I stuck the peppers and eggplants into temporary holes until I can do more soil prep. Helen gave over four gallons today. Emily preferred to remain with the others rather than follow her mother in at milking time.
June 26, 2005 Sunday: It was blasting hot again today with high humidity. The cows spent a lot of time inside. Helen does much panting but the others mostly rest and chew their cuds. Helen gave only 3 gallons today and it tasted a bit salty. There is no sign of trouble on the milk filter. It might be something to do with the weather or that she is coming into heat. Tomorrow is the day marked on my calendar but Sammy was doing some mounting this afternoon. Abby has been working on mowing the lawn, barn cleaning and house cleaning. Soon she may have me in shape here. The little kitten that Kip named Frances didn’t make it. We could not get him to eat. We tried milk, cream, and fresh liver, as well as dry and canned cat food and we gave him a lot of petting. I buried him this morning under a lilac bush in a nest of grass clippings.
June 28, 2005 Tuesday: The weather is still hot and muggy but not quite so bad today as yesterday, or perhaps we are getting used to it. My kitchen sink has been backing up for a couple of weeks and finally last night got so bad that the dishwasher would not drain. In an unrelated problem, the toilet got stopped up a week ago and all my efforts have failed to cure it. This is a one bathroom house. I have been feeling sorry for my guests. Finally at the urging of Barby and daughter Marcia I called a plumber. He said he would come at 3:30. First thing this morning when I went to start tea I discovered that my Propane fired Aga was cold. The delivery company had allowed me to run out. The plumber isolated two difficult problems at opposite ends of the house. He will be back tomorrow with parts. The Propane driver came but was unable to restart the Aga. He left in despair after about an hour. After he left I decided to have a go at it myself and I had it lit within moments but perhaps it was just ready to behave itself. It has a peizo button and thermocouple. Nothing exotic. What joy, though, to have it going. I had to go the entire day without tea. I expect another day or so will bring us plumbing happiness. When one has this many domestic problems piled up, creative life seems to cease. My Alaskan frozen wild salmon arrived. It was a bit thawed around the edges but we popped it right into the freezer. It is Copper River Red (Sockeye), the world’s best, caught by my granddaughter Rosemary and her husband Nate. They have a gill netter and fish out of Cordova, Alaska. Helen’s production improved a bit today. She gave about 3 ½ gallons. I got 10 eggs. Abby has cleaned the nests.
June 29, 2005 Wednesday: My propane delivery man stopped by early today while I was still in the barn. He wanted to be sure my Aga was going. He told me that one of my cats was dead by the side of the road. It was my sweet little Mouncey boy, one of the young cats that Sally had operated on last March. There was not a mark on him. He must have been struck broadside. I don’t believe he suffered much. The plumber returned today. He found that the job was a lot harder than he expected. He will be back tomorrow.to make another assault on the pipes. My daughter Marcia took two gallons of milk back to Virginia with her on June 14. She told me this morning that she was just finishing it off and it was still good. Pretty good, I thought. A major electrical storm began here about 4PM and lasted until 7:30. It did not appear to frighten the cows but it was hard to get Helen to come in. Abby ran through the wet field with an apple to tempt her but it still took 10 minutes. Helen gave 3 ½ gallons today.
June 30, 2005 Thursday: I am not sure how many more things can go wrong with this house but the list keeps growing. I have had a plumber working for two days and the more he fixes the more he finds wrong. He had to replace the entire length, about 100′, of PVC piping from the kitchen to the outfall line that goes straight down to the septic tank. It had been installed so that it had to run slightly uphill and the whole thing was occluded like a bad artery. There was some problem with the toilet which seemed to resist all analysis. The plumber finally concluded that the fact that no vent pipe had ever been installed here was resulting in air lock. He has now installed a vent pipe running up the outside of the house. I had him spray paint it with brick-colored primer to match the house. After that the kitchen water once again flowed freely but the toilet remains reluctant. At this point water began geysering up through cracks in the cement floor of the basement. At some time before we bought the house a cement floor was poured over the old dirt floor effectively sealing over the drainage tile. It is going to be necessary to get a backhoe here to dig up outside the house and run a new pipe on top of the floor to connect to the tank. My heart sank at this prospect. In the meantime, no toilet, no shower, no laundry, no dishwasher. Just hand washing dishes and carrying out the water to the happy flower garden. Sigh. There is a man who stops in occasionally on his way home to Rangeley hoping to buy butter. I have known him now for years. He used to have dairy cows. I am always urging him to get a cow again. He has the land and makes hay, also has pigs and sheep. He went out to look at my cows today, as it was fine and sunny and not quite so beastly hot. He remarked upon the obvious; Kip’s heifers are way small for their age. The place he had them for the last five or six months underfed them badly. I believe it was a couple that are doing hay/grass and no grain. I cleared a little more ground in the veg garden. What a jungle. But it is fun to whack off that comfrey!
July 1, 2005 Friday: The hot spell has broken and we have comfortable temperatures again. Of course now I must mention the bugs. They are fierce. I have a big box fan in where I milk. I turn it on high. The sound of it reminds me of a jet engine but it blows away the mosquitoes, black flies and noseeums. Flies are not a big problem. Noseeums are extremely small but leave an itching, burning bite. We had some more rain. This brings them out within hours. We have three families of barn swallows hard at work scooping up bugs for their nestlings. They must be getting plenty. Abby dug another patch of weeds from the veg garden and plans to plant some seeds. It is not too late for beets and lettuce. My contractor neighbor with a backhoe will be over this weekend to uncover the line to the septic tank.
July 2, 2005 Saturday: The weather today was totally fine, what my Maine grandmother used to call “a real Maine day”. Helen has become very shiny and sleek now that all her old winter coat is shed and she is feasting on grass. Martin came by this morning and moved tractors around so that I could open up the big doors of the beefer pen where the cows rest. This lets in the morning sun. I hope to get it dried out in there. The bedding was packed up behind the doors about a foot deep and was oozing wetness out the bottom. Sons who read this: Hint, hint! All that old bedding needs to come out. At evening milking all the others were in the farthest pasture, but good Helen and Emily were waiting for me at the barn. She only gave me one gallon of milk, though. Were it not that there are five gallons in the fridge I would have started keeping Emily in overnight. Helen’s total for today was only 2 ¾ gallons. Abby did a lot more digging and soil preparation today and planted beets and cucumbers. It is probably too late for the cukes, but if we have a hot August we might get some. I whacked comfrey out of my raspberries and transplanted five peppers. Mark mowed the lawn for about an hour. What a treat that is.
July 3, 2005 Sunday: Another day of fine weather and we got lots done. Abby worked a long time in the garden. I went around with the toothed sickle and cleared around several valuable perennials that are being encroached upon by all kinds of things such as Virginai creeper, dock, grass, wild raspberry and over enthusiastic day lilies. Mark mowed a lot more grass and Martin went to the dump, He also completed work on the railing of my deck. It had a temporary section in it. As occasion permitted today I weight taped all the young stock. Melissa is 633 lbs, Gwendolyn is 732 lbs. and Sammy 915 lbs. He is the same age as the heifers, 18 months. Emily is 303 lbs. She just turned 3 months old. Sammy is a castrated male which accounts for some of the difference. He was a bob calf from a pure Jersey herd. The farmer only asked $10 for him but I gave him $25. My neighbor who is a contractor with a backhoe came today and dug out the septic tank line from the house to the tank. It turned out that that line was clogged with gunge just like the line from the kitchen. That was the whole problem, apparently, which prevented water from leaving the house. It was that same chalky cheesy stuff we found in the pipe from the kitchen. Like the plumber, my neighbor said he had never seen anything like this gunk. He is the person who put in the septic system, Now I don’t have to have replacement pipe across the cellar floor. He will just put back together what he dismantled today in order to clean it. This will take some new fittings. If anything is open tomorrow he will repair it tomorrow. He made a hole and trench what would swallow two Volkswagons and that remains open. I called the plumber and cancelled the planned indoor work. All the available family met tonight at Martin and Amy’s camp at the lake for a meal of fresh Alaska salmon. It was mighty fine with fennel, lemon and a dash of maple syrup. Later Martin and I went for a canoe ride on the lake. It was flat calm and on every shore people were setting off fireworks. It was wonderfully beautiful. Way back at camp we could see the bobbing twinkle of the girls’ sparklers.
July 4, 2005 Independence Day: My neighbor, the contractor with the backhoe, arrived before 8AM and had the pipe connected before 9AM. Oh, the simple joy of running water in the sink, doing laundry, being able to flush. The trouble went on for more than three weeks. The big trench is still open just in case a further problem arrives, but I think this time everything is up to modern standards. Mark came over and did a lot more wonderful lawn work and Martin attacked the winter accumulations in the barn with the bucket loader. It is now all back in order. Abby put some hay bales around the ramp to aid Helen’s climb. Instead the cows threw it around and ate it. I think they believe they are getting away with something. My little brown bantam hen hatched out two of her three eggs today. She had a fourth egg to start with, but I don’t know what happened to it. This evening Abby and I moved her into a spacious hen coop where she will stay for a few days. I gave the chicks some clabber to start them off.. I bought 100 bales of local hay from a friend of mine in Dixfield, the next town, and he delivered it this afternoon. By the time it arrived all my helpers had left, but he left the hay here on his trailer until Max can come and help work on getting it into the barn.
July 5, 2005 Tuesday: Max came this afternoon with the little girls and helped us put the hay in the barn. He stood on the trailer and threw all 103 bales about 6′ up to the hay floor. I did not have to catch them as he was able to throw them right in. I pretty much handled them all but Abby and Shireen (9) were a lot of help. Roshan is too small to handle bales but was a very good counter. The hay looks fine. It looks to be mostly timothy and northern redtop. It had already headed up when cut but smells lovely and the cows will eat it. I will intersperse it with my leafy second cut when I get it. My milk customer and former renter, Joe, stopped in this evening and helped us review the wiring over at Sally’s house. Abby plans to move there at some point. The electricity was turned on today. Abby did a lot more digging in the garden. She chopped out more invasive roots of Balm of Gilead. The tree forms a copse like cottonwood with roots from the parent tree.. The weather today was very fine. We ended up with a brief electrical storm and rain. Helen gave me 4 gallons. I am having trouble keeping weight on her. I have increased her grain to about 12 lb/day.
July 6, 2005 Wednesday: My granddaughter Rosemary works on fishing boats in Alaska. Last week she took a temporary job as deck hand on an 80′ tender called Chloe while her husband Nate took their own fishing boat, the Tommyknocker, out singlehanded. On July 4th she emailed me to tell me that the Chloe, carrying 3000 gallons of fuel, had caught fire and gone like a rocket. I am not sure which one first saw the fire but the captain ran to find the other deckhand, a 17 year old girl named Rebecca, and saw that the ship was uncontrollably on fire. He immediately sent a Mayday on the radio. He ordered all into their survival suits, which are kept very handy, and they lined up on the bow where they were quickly received by a nearby ship. Within fine minutes the Chloe was totally engulfed in flames. The fire started from the exhaust stack which had defective insulation. The ship was all steel except for the bulkheads which were particle board and caught fire quickly. Nate was in his bunk 20 miles away, but heard the Mayday. He had his anchor up and the ship underway in no time. Happily, before many miles he heard of the rescue but he continued on. Rosie was able to spend an hour with him before having to leave with the rescue ship for their port of Cordova. Rosie lost all her gear, her glasses, and her new laptop. When not fishing, Rosie is a writer and this is the second time in less than a year that she has lost her writing. Last December their home was robbed and her laptop stolen. She was also disappointed to have lost all the groceries and cooked food she had on the tender for Nate and their fishing friends who come to the tender for supplies. Captain Chris Salmon is a grad student in Washington. He too lost his laptop. It contained the only copy of his doctoral dissertation, Crisis Response and Risk Management. The owner of the tender, the captain and Rosemary went out yesterday and went aboard the hulk. She said it looked like a painting by Salvador Dali, all drooping steel. She found her glasses. The frames were intact but the lenses were small glass puddles beneath the frames. Meanwhile, back at the ranch we had a lot of rain. Helen’s feet need trimming and she wishes she did not need to walk anywhere. She only gave me a bit over 2 gallons of milk today. She is saving it all for Miss Emily Lumpkin.
July 7, 2005 Thursday: The weather continues very fine. Abby went to the farmer’s market in Rumford looking for a few plants to put into the newly prepared ground and was given boxes and boxes of onion sets, broccoli, cabbage and summer squash. I did some pruning around the tool shed so that it has a prettier entrance. Mostly I made strawberry jam (10 pints) and also froze some berries. I stewed one of the cockerels that grandson Rafe and his friend dressed off for me last winter. It tasted mighty fine. Max came over and restacked some of the hay to make room for the next lot. He walked with me down to where my old dog Muffin is buried and retrieved the wind chime that had blown down in a storm. It was down in a gully. The wind chime is for Muffin. Max and I went over to Sally’s little house. He weed whacked a path around it. Despite total neglect, Species geranium and something that looks like hibiscus is blooming away and a large oregano plant is growing up through a crack in the brick path. Helen gave me only two gallons today. I put Emily into a stall for the night. Helen gave one loud moo and Emily answered. Then silence. No more fuss. I will be very interested to see how morning milking goes. I heard more from Rosemary. She writes: “We were all awake when it happened. I had been on wheel watch as we ran through the Gulf, and had just woken Chris, the skipper, to bring us in through the bar. I was waiting in the wheelhouse to drop the anchor once we reached sheltered water, while he drove the boat in. Rebecca is a teenager, which is, I guess, why she was awake–she was on deck smoking a cigarette. Chris saw the smoke first–it came billowing up from behind the wheelhouse. I must say he reacted very quickly and well. We towed the hulk in Tuesday night, and now have to clean it, take it out beyond the 200 mile limit and sink it. This will be a large task. Rosemary explained to me on the phone that all toxic residue has to be scraped off of the hulk.
July 8, 2005 Friday: I don’t believe Abby got much sleep last night. She is on the side of the house facing the barn. She said Helen and Emily blasted and bellowed all night. I got 2 ½ gallons this morning and could have gotten more had I persisted. They spent the day together. I got one more gallon this evening. When I brought Emily in this evening she had the squirts for the first time in her life. She must have drunk too much milk too fast. Max sharpened the blades on the bushhog and got a start on the North Field but the pin broke that locks the drive shaft onto the PTO. He expects to be able to get a replacement from Osgood’s in the morning. Meanwhile Abby scouted the field hoping to find the killdeer’s nest. She has been hearing the bird every day. Max will avoid the area if she can find it. Skidgill, the contractor on the backhoe work, came this morning and filled in the hole. He smoothed it all out and spread some loam. I will have to reseed a considerable area. But who is complaining? My sister signed off on her last email, “Keep flushing”. Poor thing had a fairly unsatisfying visit here, plumbingwise.
July 9, 2005 Saturday: It rained lasts night and most of the day. Max bought grass seed and Abby sowed it onto the bare ground left from digging up the septic tank. It is a surprisingly large area. She had to run to town to buy more seed. She hauled out several cartloads of chicken house litter to spread over it. With any kind of luck it will grow, with this rain. Helen adores apples. I saw her with her nose in the fence row seeking the little green apples called the “June drop”, which is way late this year. She looked funny snuffling along there. Abby did not report much bellowing last night from Helen and Emily. They are accepting their lot quite well. I am back to getting 3.5 gallons a day. At first Gwendolyn and Melissa were both too shy to stick their noses in with Sammy to get some grain when I pass it out. A couple of days ago Gwendolyn found her courage and now bombs right in there. I could not get Melissa to eat grain even if I stuck it in her mouth. Tonight Abby shut all the others outside. She discovered Melissa wants her grain if she is alone but she eats very slowly. The two heifers gave me a scary turn this morning. They were not with the others in the barn and I could not see them anywhere. I expected to have a huge search after milking but about that time Abby saw them ambling up together from the woods. Three more darling chicks hatched today. This morning for the first time in a year I made doughnuts. We agreed they are an important food group and should be eaten more often. My daughter Marcia called this morning from Virginia to tell me about her alarming experience this morning while on a trail ride with her husband Jack. She was riding her reasonably steady warmblood, Fritz, and Jack was on his beautiful black 17 HH Westphalian stallion, Grannis. They were about to pass a pasture with some mares, so Marcia moved ahead to change sides so as not to be between Grannis and the mares. Grannis plunged forward out of control and bit Marcia partly on the hip and partly on her saddle. He damaged the saddle but she says he did not draw blood on her. She expects a big bruise by tomorrow. Jack got off and walked Grannis home. Grannis was apparently lunging at Fritz, and not for the first time. Marcia has been riding Grannis regularly in the ring. I hope neither of them will ride him anymore.
July 11, 2005 Monday: Another day of fine weather, but hotter. Max carried on with bushhogging and made great progress. He wishes he did not have to disturb so many vole’s nests but it is inevitable. Last night I only managed to squeeze one quart out of Helen. How fast they learn. Emily had stuffed herself in preparation for a night of separation. This morning I got a full three gallons. Tonight I went OAD. No use getting her in for one quart. Abby and I went to Farmington. I stopped in at a jeweler and had two of my rings cut off. Abby has been urging me to do it. My ring finger and knuckle are swollen noticeably. Marcia reports steady recovery from her horse bite, but has something resembling whiplash injury in her back and neck. Also, of course a big black bruise in her rear end. We took dinner out to the lake tonight for Max and family. Abby made curried chicken with peaches (one of my own roosters from the freezer). I baked a home grown ham and made a brown rice pilaf and a cucumber raita. Mitra made a lovely salad. For dessert I served strawberries with whipped cream and a piece of Scotch shortbread with bits of candied ginger. Mitra’s mom and aunt are visiting, and a little cousin named Santiago. Helen and all the cows love browsing around in the freshly bushhogged pasture.
July 12, 2005 Tuesday: Max bushhogged for about five hours this afternoon. He is making wonderful progress. Abby and I took a walk over a lot of the ground. I wanted to show her a little stream where forget-me-nots grow wild in great profusion. That little hen of mine with two chicks that has been usurping the nest of a black hen is carrying things too far. Last night the black hen was shut outside of the stall. I knew she was missing, but could not find her. Together with her chicks, the brown hen sits on the nest at night but gets off in the morning. The black hen then moves back on. But, this morning she was unable to get to her eggs. I found her after milking bunched up in a crevice outside the stall trying to be as close as possible to her eggs. When I found her and put her back the eggs had gotten fairly cold, but with our current warm weather I had hopes for the chicks. At hen bedtime this evening Abby discovered that one new chick had actually hatched, but the brown hen had as usual pushed off the real mother and was on the nest with her own chicks and the new one under her wings. Abby had tried to barricade her out, but she got past the screens. Now I have caught her and put her over in the grain room where another black hen has a family. That hen is aggressive, so we will see how far she gets with taking over another family. Helen gave almost 3.5 gallons this morning and was very patient. Emily taped at 320 lbs today.
July 14, 2005 Thursday: The other hen had the territorial advantage, I guess. They had a big fight and the brown hen jumped up on the half door and ordered her chicks to retreat through a crack. I let them set up housekeeping in the room where I milk, although I do not much like chickens in there. Melissa was in heat today. She chased Sammy all around. Dear Max came back and mowed again today. Yesterday instead of mowing he took his girls (7 and 9) and their cousin, also age 9, to climb Bald Mountain. The girls have been very anxious to go up. The boy does not have quite the stamina of our “real food” girls so they had to turn back. While mowing, Max keeps a sharp eye out for wild life. Today he saw a large black snake stretched out and not moving. It had a lump halfway down its length. Max had to get off the tractor to move it out of the way. Abby says she thinks that snakes can’t move while they are digesting. Helen gave over 3 ½ gallons this morning. That is a lot to milk by hand. I am thinking of firing up the milking machine tomorrow morning. A neighbor came by this evening and offered me the hay he had just baled. I turned it down because I already have some ordered from my regular hay man. But it sounded like good hay at a fair price. I may have made a mistake.
July 15, 2005 Friday: I called Leonard back and said if he could leave the loaded trailer here until Saturday I would take the hay. Max will help unload it on Saturday, and I hope Mark will also be here. He will not be able to get up early because he promised daughter Hailey to take her to a book store tonight to wait until midnight for the new Harry Potter. Abby and I went to Farmington to visit the farmer’s market and met Mitra there. Only a very few tables were set up, but I bought some excellent lettuce. Then we drove to a vast antique store where I bought six cups and saucers of Japanese import ware, sort of knock-off Imari, fairly old and quite lovely. We also went to a greenhouse and I was able to get Abby some seeds for arugula. It must have been the last packet in three counties. She is down in the garden now planting it, also creating a slug barricade. The slugs have devoured all the beans. She is so mad at slugs that she goes down with a flashlight to find them. When we got home from Farmington the hay was parked in the yard. Abby dragged in a bale for the cows to try and they attacked it before the strings were off, so it must be good. I have been giving them hay nearly every day even though they graze many hours. It is so hot that sometimes they prefer not to go out. All five of them look very sleek. I milked by hand again this morning. I didn’t feel like listening to the vacuum pump. But by the time I was through milking I regretted my decision. Helen let down grudgingly. I got only 3 gallons and it took me 25 minutes to get it. Emily now comes into her stall at night without a fuss. What a sweet little heifer she is.
July 16, 2005 Saturday: This morning I tried the milking machine. Mechanically it worked just fine, but there remains the problem of Helen’s bag hanging down so low that is almost turns off the vacuum flow. Also, the inflations don’t fit her teats correctly. Helen was beautifully cooperative but I only got a gallon in the bucket. I gave up and finished milking by hand for a total of only 2 ½ gallons. I have another set of inflations I will try tomorrow. Mark and Max duly arrived this morning and together with Abby and I, Hailey and Shireen we got the hay into the barn. There 130 bales. The quality is a little uneven but a lot of it is very good. I cancelled part of the order from my regular hay man. Abby continues with slug patrol. Despite her effort last night, slugs ate most of the beans that had just come up. She is pretty mad. Also last night, Freddie, my tattered old black tom cat, got sprayed by a skunk. The poor thing looked so frightened and miserable but he is too wild to be handled and ran off. The only thing I could have done anyway would have been to wipe his face. A group of us went up to Martin and Amy’s camp on the lake and ate dinner together. Mitra made a delicious koresh (an Iranian stew) with beef and eggplant accompanied by crispy rice. I made a salad with all the lettuce I bought yesterday at the farmer’s market. I also made a lemon pound cake. All of us, especially the children, were charmed to be visited by a wild mallard hen with five small ducklings. She was clearly accustomed to handouts along the lake shore camps and hung around with her family for an hour. The ducklings ran about on the beach.
July 17, 2005 Sunday: Helen was not in a good mood this morning. The pulsator on the milking machine would not work this morning, so I had to milk by hand. I got about two gallons of the four that was probably in her. Yesterday we ran completely out of milk in the house. As I sat there milking I decided to start total separation today. The creamline has been shrinking and total volume diminishing. And, Emily is getting bigger and bigger. I even had to buy butter several times lately. Separation from Emily is painful for all. Helen and Emily mooed back and forth episodically all day. This evening Helen was letting down nicely until Emily mooed. Letdown in one quarter ceased like turning off a tap. The switch was not as dramatic in the other quarters but I certainly did not get all the milk. Abby and I picked a couple of quarts of gooseberries. Max borrowed my electric fencing materials. He wants to extend their pigpen. His pigs have only got a couple of more weeks but he wants them to be more comfortable.
July 18, 2005 Monday: Helen has by no means relented and begun to let down properly. I did get a bit over four gallons today but I doubt it has any more cream than before I completely separated her and Emily. She spent much of the day hanging about and bellowing. She bellows more than Emily. Helen is in heat today. This is the first heat where I have seen anything beyond subtle evidence. This evening between bellows she and Sammy are circling and jumping. Apparently even a week of half day separation has made a big difference in her heat expression. Max finished up bush hogging my pastures and has started across the river on Sally’s. Here is the news from my daughter Sally about the bear. She lives on a major salmon river and there are always bears about except when they’re hibernating. It is adjacent to a National Park. howdy;,,, well, I think the goats will be ok. Anthony, god bless him, spent a whole day of his two day vacation on putting a three wire electric fence around them, and the bear apparently hit it that same evening at 10 pm when it came to see if it had missed anything…Anthony followed its tracks (and feather filled scat) down from by his house. I was asleep, of course. I have to say, for once I think you are right to worry. This bear is pretty corrupted in its morals. Last night some total jerk was using his tent in the state park to SMOKE FISH, if you can believe that anyone could be that much of an a: total idiot and b: total jerk. I hope they throw the book at him. He left the campsite and the bear came in and tore it up and ate all the fish, surprise surprise- but this kind of thing is VERY bad for our bears. As is breaking into barns and eating livestock, of course. Anyway, the electric wire goes around the guesthouse too, in case Sally wants to sleep down there, not going through the berry bushes to her house! As for me, I do tend to be pretty careful, and Anthony brought me a bear spray (they cost $50 in town here, so I didn’t have one). Did I say we found a big wasp nest under my deck? Rafe tried to spray it, but we didn’t have a lot of wasp spray. Wasps are horrible here this year and the town is out of more spray and even has waiting lists! Sally is also the name of my daughter Sally’s assistant at her roadside bakery. Anthony is a bear researcher and neighbor.
July 19, 2005 Tuesday: Helen is still holding up her milk to some extent, still bellowing occasionally, and not producing really well. But this morning, the third milking following totals separation, the increased amount of cream was evident before I even strained the milk. I hope by next week to be back to bemoaning having to make butter every other day. The weather is terribly hot and sticky. This may be depressing Helen’s production too. Abby, Max and I met new daughter-in-law Amy in Portland for a Thai lunch and a visit to the Museum of Art to see a Rockwell Kent retrospective. There were a couple hundred works shown, many not publicly seen for decades. Both Abby and Max were art history students and all of us are former art students. It meant a lot to us to see this show. A majority of the large canvases are scenes of Greenland and Alaska. There was even one amusing ink drawing of a cow kicking over the bucket and the milking stool on his farm in Connecticut.
July 20, 2005 Wednesday: Mark drove all the way back up from Portland to mow my lawn and Max came back to continue bush hogging on Sally’s field. Everything looks much better now. Max put up some new fence to make a small paddock for Emily. Then I put a halter on her and brought her out. She seemed glad to be out and ran about eating grass. Helen came across the field and they touched noses through the fence. I took the halter off so she would be less likely to hang herself in case she took a notion to jump the fence, but so far so good. The fence is about 5′ high but I have known a lively heifer to attempt something like that. I brought her back into her stall for the night. Helen gave four gallons today. That is down from what she was giving a couple of weeks ago. The changes in her life and the heat have knocked down production. But she is milking out more easily and I am seeing a lot more cream. Abby and I went over an admired Sally’s partly mowed field just as the sun went down.
July 21, 2005 Thursday: It is Abby’s birthday today. She wanted gooseberry pie rather than a cake, so I made my first in several years. It turned out pretty well despite my having poured the wrong bowl of gooseberries into the crust. I was trying to make the pie while talking on the phone and am not much good at multi tasking. I realized my mistake after the pie had been in the oven for five minutes. After an additional minute of moaning and groaning I took the pie out, cut away the crust, put in the correct filling, rerolled the wad of dough and stuck it all back together. It was not so pretty, but otherwise satisfactory. Emily is learning quickly to walk back and forth to her new paddock. The first day it took me a couple of minutes to catch her and I asked for help to be sure she did not break away and bound around the lawn. This evening she walked up to me nicely, obeyed Whoa, and stood while I put on the lead rope and walked quite well back to the barn, stopping only to sniff a strange bucket. I am giving her several grain feedings a day to help compensate for not getting milk. My vet stopped in today and gave Emily a rabies shot. That is the only shot she has gotten so far. My vet does not feel a lot of shots are necessary around here.
July 22, 2005 Friday: I celebrated my birthday by making 1 ½ lbs butter, my first since June 9, I think. Thank you Helen! I now have a fridge full of jars with three or four inches of cream on them. Emily is getting better every time about being caught and leading across to the barn. This evening she came to the gate when I called and stood nicely while I clipped on her lead rope. Helen gave four gallons of milk today. Abby and I went to a thrift shop and I bought myself several light weight dresses, two flannel sheets and some little baskets to add to the collection I am making for my granddaughter Rebecca. She wants them for the tables at her wedding next March.
July 24, 2005 Sunday: Family members gathered at Martin’s camp for a birthday supper on Saturday for mine and Abby’s birthdays just one day apart. Abby’s twin sister, Marcia, has hers on the same day of course, but she is down in Virginia. Amy brought fresh tuna for sashimi, my favorite, and Mitra made sushi. What a treat. Martin grilled salmon from my trove of Copper River Red. We said goodbye to Mitra’s mom, Marie, who returns soon to Oakland CA, and to cousin Santiago who goes with her, thence back to his family in Mexico. The weather was perfect. Today the weather was again perfect. Amy picked black and red currants. What a great picker she is. She must have picked 7 or 8 quarts, then came in and picked them over so that not a twig is to be found. Max and Mitra and family had other plans but Martin and Amy came here for roast beef. It would be hard to imagine a more perfectly tender and flavorful roast. This was from the Jersey steer I raised last year. I also made a fresh peach upside down cake, Abby’s suggestion. Helen seems grateful when I put down hay for her. It looks like I have plenty of hay to spare and some of the bales I got recently are a little damp. These are the ones I have been feeding. All the cows like it and it won’t keep anyway. Helen gave 4 ¾ gallons today.
July 26, 2005 Tuesday: Our perfect weather has turned back to sticky heat and humidity. Helen stays in a lot more than Sammy, Melissa and Gwendolyn. I put down hay for her a couple of times a day. Emily has a cool nook in her pen with thick shade. She comes in at night. On Monday I walked down to the river. I found something I knew had to be growing but I never actually saw before: hazelnuts. A small tree with bearing branches was right next to where the boys swim. They were still very green and some had been eaten off by somebody. If not the cows, perhaps by deer or moose. There were plenty of tracks in the sand by the river. Helen gave only a couple of ounces shy of five gallons yesterday and today. So, that is what Emily was getting. We are getting lots of lettuce now and a few tomatoes.
July 27, 2005 Wednesday: This was a hot, sticky day that eventually turned to welcome rain. The rain later became torrential. During a period between showers son Mark and granddaughter Hailey arrived from Portland. Mark looked over the back lawn, trying to decide if it was dry enough to mow and observed Melissa and Gwendolyn on the wrong wide of the fence. They were chomping the lawn that borders the veg garden. That was quite exciting for awhile as we all cooperated to get them back where they belong. Abby dashed for a pan of grain. I dashed for rope, which was not required. Hailey dashed to close the big front gate so they would not be able to go out on the road. Abby’s pan of grain did the trick with Gwendolyn. Melissa was a bit harder to move as she had found a particularly delicious patch of lawn. This morning Abby and I went to Weld and bought more raspberries. The people who were selling them have a fine, beautiful farm on a hilltop with many flowerbeds, many fine old oaks and maples and a view of the mountains. I made a raspberry pie which we took to camp. We had supper with Mark and Hailey. Helen gave about 4 ½ gallons today. For the first time since I weaned Emily she was not at the barn at milking time. I had to go way down to the old apple tree to fetch her.
July 28, 2005 Thursday: Everything looks lovely today after yesterday’s rain. It came down very hard but did not damage anything. Farther south they had hail. We walked around Sally’s 17 acre field today. She has many wild apple trees and this year they are cropping heavily. We roused some deer. I got the milking machine going just fine this afternoon while testing it. Once I put it on Helen it seemed to have no pressure at all. The teats cups just fell off and the pulsator did not function. There is nothing wrong with the vacuum pump. It is so puzzling. Helen was extremely patient. She totaled almost 5 gallons today. Another little bantam hen is hatching chicks tonight. One is under her wing now, one egg is partly cracked. Two more to go. She is inside the barn wall, but I can reach her. She pecked me pretty hard when I lifted her up to admire her little yellow chick. Abby made seven pints of raspberry jam today. The turnips and rutabagas needed thinning, so I pulled some and served them for dinner. They were very good. I snipped off the root ends and gave them a lot of washing to get off the sand the rain splashed onto them. Then I sautéed them with butter and garlic, then simmered them in a little water until they were really tender.
July 29, 2005 Friday: I ran into a friend of mine today while shopping in Farmington. He and his wife have had cows for almost as long as I have, but I do not see them often. We agreed that so far as we know we are the only family cow owners in two counties. He told me he stopped all grain feeding to his cows two years ago to save money. He had never heard of CLA. Production is way down but he doesn’t care. He makes his own hay, also sells excellent organic vegetables. On the way home we stopped at his stand and I bought his last three zucchinis, the first I have had this year. I love fried zucchini. We also stopped in to see Max and Mitra and the girls at their place. I wanted to see the pigs before their Date with Destiny. They do look excellent. Mitra gave me some of the Japanese eggplant she has growing in giant pots on her deck. They are way ahead of mine and ahead of her own that are planted in her garden. We bought our seedlings on the same day. I got a sting on the thumb while picking my raspberries. I did not even see who did it, but it was most likely a bumblebee. I chewed up a leaf from my vast jungle of comfrey and smeared green mush on the sting site. It felt better right way. Heaven help me if I can’t milk tomorrow morning. Abby ground up a lot more comfrey later in a juice extractor and I have continued the treatment. Helen’s production was way down today to about 3 gallons. Actually, I don’t think her production was down, she just would not let down. I can’t imagine what is bothering her.
July 30, 2005 Saturday: Abby and I set out for Weld to go to her sister’s camp with a plan for polishing it up prior to her arrival. But on the way we stopped at a lawn sale. As we were leaving we looked at our watches and decided we had wasted so much time that we had better turn around and go home and clean the camp another day. A dog approached the car. Out her window, Abby said “There’s another dog that looks just like Bagel (we have spotted several lately). Watch out fella, stay out of the road.” When we got home I said “Where’s Bagel?” He did not run to meet us. While we were gone Max, his girls, Mark and his daughter Hailey, and Martin had all arrived and were pursuing projects around the farm. Even Max’s dog Lulu was there. No one had seen Bagel. Abby said “Does Bagel have a yellow collar and blue tag?” “Yes”, said I. She grabbed the car keys and drove madly back to Weld. There was Bagel patiently waiting. He had slipped into the car while we were loading up and we had paid no attention. Then at the lawn sale he jumped out the window, a bad habit of his. Sure is odd that seeing him out of context like that, Abby did not recognize him. I was driving and did not see anything but his tail, so cannot say if I would have been equally confused. Mark mowed my vast lawn and Max and Martin built a little pole barn for Emily in her paddock. They worked fast and got a metal roof on it already but no sides yet. Last night Helen resisted letting down. This morning her right rear quarter was very hard. I rubbed it with liniment, Bag Balm and cayenne. She let down pretty well. In fact she gave nearly three gallons. But I suspected a bit of mastitis. I have been forced several times lately to leave milk behind because she would not let down. This evening the hardness was gone from that quarter, but there were clots in her milk and on the filter. Helen topped four gallons today. My finger with the bee sting remains swollen, but mostly it itches.
July 31, 2005 Sunday: We let the bantam with three new chicks out of her coop today. The bantams hate being cooped and she is a wonderful mother. I tried to keep track of where she was, but at dusk I could not find her. All evidence of mastitis was gone today at evening milking. I tasted the milk from each quarter separately and all tasted good. Max had an adventurous day. He was advised to get donuts to lure his pigs aboard the van next Tuesday. He writes: We did get the donuts and it turns out they are a pig’s favorite snack food. We thought they might break the fence down to get more. Their dinner tonight featured raw chicken and cantaloupe. Mitra shopped especially for them today. She wants to make sure their last few meals are very good ones. I just had to blow away a skunk over near our chicken house. We smelled it earlier. Mitra was taking some clabber to the chicks and looked out to see Lulu about to touch noses with the damn thing. I heard the note of hysteria in her voice calling Lulu away and ran to look. Lulu came to Mitra, but the skunk pursued her! I ran outside as Mitra took Lulu to the house. Thankfully, she did not get sprayed. The skunk was then heading right to the hen house. In my panic I was having trouble unhooking the thing that holds the henhouse door open and he just kept coming. I threw the full water hopper right at its head, slowing it enough to get the door closed before it went in. So, it went underneath instead. By this time I was really worried that its behavior was unusually aggressive and I thought it might have rabies. I ran for my shotgun. This takes a minute as I keep the shells and the weapon hidden about as far apart from one another as possible at the top and bottom of the house. I looked with a flashlight to confirm it was still under there and moved back and waited. Eventually, it sauntered out, ignoring some cat food I had sprinkled as a lure. Not wanting to splatter it all over the side of the henhouse, which is upwind of our house, I followed it a short distance into the woods and then let the daylight through its ass. I buried it right there and put a big rock on top. I have looked out at night and seen skunks pass by the birdfeeder and such. But, I just let ’em go as all our animals are inside or closed up at night. They were just passing through doing the skunk thing, whatever that is. This one today showed up in broad daylight and was being a nuisance and acting all weird. There are chicks in the hen house and a supply of grain. Also, I do not wish Lulu to get skunked. I looked at it as closely as I could stand before burying it. It looked normal to me. That is to say, there was no foamy saliva and it appeared in reasonably good health, but not fat like ones at your place. It had a lot of cobwebs on it from under the henhouse.
August 2, 2005: Max and Mitra sent their three pigs to the butcher today. They planned ahead and had help from friend Tim and it all went smoothly. Loading pigs can be a noisy and frustrating event. The little girls felt awfully badly though. A year ago my daughter Abby had an unsightly fungal infection in one of her fingernails. She went to two different doctors and tried several different medications that were prescribed all to no effect. The last thing she tried was comfrey oil. We can’t remember who recommended it. She put it on every night and put a bandage over it. Before long she began to see improvement and now the nail is completely normal. Emily spends time in the shelter that Max and Martin made. She went right in today during a shower and later to find shade. Helen gave well over 4 gallons today. I do not have many customers at present and now with the pigs gone it will be a challenge figuring out what to do with all the milk. I wonder if Emily would drink some from a bucket. I have not tried her on it. I made butter again today. I am making it about every other day. My churn takes three quarts and I get 1 ½ pounds. I weigh it and freeze it. I also made qvark.
August 3, 2005 Wednesday: Such very fine weather today. Just a perfect Maine day. Abby and I went up to camp for awhile to check on some things and do a bit of cleaning that we had postponed. I spent about an hour finishing a second reading of The Homocysteine Revolution by Kilmer McCully. His thesis, well supported by decades of research by himself and others, is that homocysteine, a normal breakdown product of methionine metabolism, is the precursor of arteriosclerosis. Its damaging effect (initiating plaque) occurs only in the absence of adequate Vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12. Cholesterol is present in arterial plaque only incidentally because of the involvement of lipoprotein and is harmless unless oxidized. Helen is very hungry all the time. I give her extra hay when I can to augment her grazing. She is a bit thin. She and Emily bellow back and forth once or twice a day, but that is all. Helen’s right rear quarter now shows no sign of mastitis but her left read quarter was hard this morning. I rubbed it with ointment. This evening it had mostly softened up and I milked out some lumps. I rubbed in ointment and cayenne on her entire udder. She did not show any evidence of pain while I was milking, but was irritable. She gave about 4 gallons today. The newest hen and chicks is determined to bed down outdoors. She likes to get an early start on her day. So far she still has all three little fluff balls.
August 4, 2005 Thursday: Sammy and Gwendolyn were chasing Helen around this evening and Sammy tried to mount. She was not having any. She has not shown but one noticeable heat since calving at the end of March. Other evidence of heat was very faint. I have her marked down for Monday. But there sure is a lot of bell ringing out there. This could be the heat that marks weaning. Both her front quarters had hard areas this morning. I rubbed them with an aromatic salve. There was nothing on the filter and she gave nearly 3 gallons. I mashed up a batch of comfrey in my Cuisinart. I usually blend it with just water but this time I used vinegar (ACV). After milking this evening I slathered this over her entire udder. She gave another 1.5 gallons but was very irritable. I even tied her tail up to the wall. We had a nice visit and tea with three old friends today. Abby played the piano and they sang wonderfully from the Fireside Treasury of Love Songs. I sang a little but mostly croak. All were excellent sight readers. I wish my piano were played more often.
August 5, 2005 Friday: Melissa was in heat today. It may have been she who was in heat yesterday and not Helen. There was a lot of milling around. A lot of family is at camp now. Abby and I spent all day cooking and took dinner up. It was Max’s delayed birthday party, and everybody had just arrived . No time to cook yet. I made oven barbequed spareribs and beans. Abby made potato salad. We had lettuce from the garden and I made a cake that was a hit but low on nutrition, I’m afraid: Devils’s food with 7-minute icing. It was 3-layers with raspberry jam between the layers and raspberries all over the icing.like polka dots. We were twelve at dinner.
August 7, 2005 Sunday: I found a bantam setting on a lot of eggs inside the barn wall. I expect she is not the only one stealing a nest. I am not getting as many eggs as I should. I peered down a crack in the wall and thought I saw feathers. It could have been a bird that died in there. But, I reached my arm in up to the armpit and got pecked, so I knew the facts. I removed a board close to where she was sitting so I could reach under her and felt what seemed like a vast number of eggs. I came back with a box and took away all but six. They were all hers. There is a limit to how many flighty little bantams the farm can stand (meaning me). Helen is now consistently giving 4.5 gallons a day and shows no further evidence of mastitis. Emily is now four months and one week old. Abby is doing most of her care. Emily is getting wild and kicky because she is not getting much handling. I must get back on the job. The weather today was marvelous. I picked raspberries as I do every day from my little patch and got my usual scant two cups. Then I went and looked at the blackberries. Last time I looked at them just a few days ago there were no ripe ones. Today I could have picked a gallon standing in one spot. They are like shining black jewels. These jewels are highly guarded. They have great dagger-like thorns. I picked what I could get in my little basket. Abby says she will brave them tomorrow.
August 8, 2005 Monday: No signs of heat in Helen. The only unusual behavior was that she had to be coaxed in this morning. And when I called her to the barn Sammy followed along behind her. There was no jumping or even raised chin. Abby picked up a lot of green apples and cooked them up for pectin. You just boil and drain then in a colander lined with cloth. My daughter Marcia wanted to learn how to make mozzarella. I printed out the one from the Recipes section of the forum and took all the ingredients up to camp for us to try. I had never made it before either, but as everyone says, it is really easy. It looked splendid and she is looking forward to trying it. It was much hotter today. Helen had a touch of mastitis this morning in her right rear quarter, just when I thought it was gone. I rubbed on the comfrey and vinegar blend. It was softened up this evening and milked out fine. She gave five gallons today.
August 9, 2005 Tuesday: Helen, and apparently all the cows, love green apples. When I let Helen loose after morning milking she went unhesitatingly outdoors, none of her usual dawdling. She could hear apples hitting the ground. Abby was up in the tree jumping on a branch and little green apples were raining down. The cows all got plenty, maybe too many. This evening her whole udder was hard and she would hardly let down at all. I got less than a gallon. But probably I should not blame the green apples. She was in heat. I was gone much of the day but Abby reports considerable activity. The others were still mounting her this evening. By the time I was aware of all this it was too late to call AI. In fact, I had in mind not to try to get her bred until the end of August, but I decided to try this time anyway. The AI man will not be out until morning and tends to be late, so this is a long shot.
August 10, 2005 Wednesday: Helens’s companions had lost interest in her this morning, but she was a bit naughty, which I took as a sign of still active hormones. She actually kicked. She lifted her foot right up and would have set it into the bucket had I not been quick to push it back. As it was she sifted sawdust across the foam onto the milk. I was able to scoop it off the foam with paper towels. None showed up on the filter. I would have hated to lose that milk after yesterday’s short supply. People came and bought me right out and I was down to nothing. Helen made up for it this morning with over three gallons. I turned her out by herself into the beefer pen, her run-in. Phil, my AI technician arrived about 9AM. He used Shane’s Ringo of Sunny Day. Phil declared that she was still in good shape, but he is a resolutely optimistic guy. My daughter Marcia, grandson Harper, his wife Jen and their son, Eli, all arrived about the same time. They came to pick black currants. They got plenty. Harper also devised a tool for shaking the old apple tree. He brought in a good two bushels of apples. He took the fruit back to camp and canned all day. He also made lovely whole wheat hamburger buns. Abby made black currant jam and apple jelly. I made whole wheat bread and a custard for dinner with the family at the lake. We had some of my home reared ground beef with Harper’s buns. Helen gave over five gallons today. There were no signs of mastitis.
August 12, 2005 Friday: During morning chores the faucet at the barn fell to pieces, leaving the pipe shooting a geyser. I looked for a nylon union to jam it back together. No luck. Abby connected up a series of hoses that stretched from the house to the barn. Fortunately, two of my out of town sons are here. Martin and Amy who have a camp at Weld are here. And, Bret from Alaska arrived today with his to little kids, Maia, 9 and Roger, 7. They will surely repair is this weekend. I can always keep track of Helen’s age because she and Maia were born just two days apart in May. For further excitement, Melissa got out on the road. Helen, who is mad for apples, mashed down a fence to get at a tree that drops green apples into an old granite foundation next to the attached carriage house, which I use as my garage. Mind you, that tree drops plenty of apples into her paddock, but I guess the apples are greener on the other side of the fence. Once through the fence frisky Melissa was able to get out onto the lawn and thence onto the road. The first I knew of it was when I stepped out of the kitchen and saw her looking in at me from the garage. Abby had just found her and chased her back in. Abby and I then blocked access to the paddock as a temporary expedient. It was indeed very temporary. A couple of hours later Helen mashed open another section of fence and Melissa repeated her performance, this time brought back from across the road by a considerate motorist. Abby then spent a long time, assisted by Maia, in driving new stakes and repairing the fence. Helen gave well over five gallons today. I guess green apples must agree with her. In the evening we all convened at the camp of my daughter Marcia and her husband Jack and ate lobster. I took a big green salad using nearly the last of my lettuce.
August 13, 2005 Saturday: The fences are holding. No heifers out. Martin came down in the AM and repaired the barn water system. What a relief. In the afternoon we all went to Max and Mitra’s home in New Sharon for a joint birthday party for little cousins, Roger Luick, Bret’s son, and Roshan Luick, Max and Mitra’s daughter. They served their new pork. We had ribs and pulled pork, also grilled chicken. In our family we always parboil the chicken before grilling it. We contributed salad from the garden, potato salad, liver pate and yogurt cheese seasoned with olive oil, garlic, sea salt, rosemary and crushed, dried ancho pepper. The pate was made with beef liver from my freezer mixed with M&M’s new pork sausage. Instead of a cake, Roshan requested one of her dad’s apple pies and her mom’s cheesecakes. There were a lot of balloons loose on the floor. The soccer enthusiasts had a good time keeping them in motion. Mitra showed me the three chicks she is fostering. They look perky and healthy. The one that had the skin on its back torn off by its mother is fully recovered. Skin and fluff have covered over the bare flesh. The only treatment was pure vitamin E dribbled on. I have witnessed many dramatic recoveries using this treatment. One end of the chick’s cage has a heating pad under it and a stuffed Tigger. The chicks disappear under Tigger at night.
August 15, 2005 Monday: Last night my son Bret who is visiting had a look at my milking machine to see what was wrong with it. The problem was in the air filter. He soon had it working. This morning I milked by machine. Abby is going to learn how to use the machine because I am going to go away for a few days. It went on pretty well. Helen stood like a rock and gave 3 gallons. This evening she gave two more. Phyl, a reader from Hawaii wants to come tomorrow with his family and see a Surge demo. Good thing he did not pick a day earlier or I could not have obliged him. Four little grandchildren were here overnight. Abby entertained them and fed them as required, but mostly they played together on their own. They are all quite imaginative and come up with a great string of amusements. The three little girls love the dress-up collection. Last year they used to dress up Roger, but this year he is seven and he isn’t having any of that. The turnips Abby planted needed thinning. I brought in a dear little bunch of perfect 1 ½” white balls and fixed them for our lunch. This evening Abby put up half a dozen jars of peaches from some brought today from PA by her daughter Helena. Also, today I put up six pints of apple butter from my green apple trees.
August 16, 2005 Wednesday: I did both milkings with the machine. Helen was perfectly behaved. However, after this morning’s milking one quarter which had been soft suddenly turned hard. The same thing happened this evening but with a different quarter. This evening the milk was a little slow to strain, so that is a worry. We had the pleasure of a visit from Forum friends from Hawaii, Phyl and Katherine Dwyer. They participate in a Rudolph Steiner school in Kona and milk a cow that is half Charolais and half Holstein. They are very interesting people, as are all our Forum members. Phyl wanted to see a Surge milking machine in use. He has immediate rapport with cows. They all took to him at once, including Emily, 4 ½ months. She is getting a bit shy in her paddock alone. We talked about how much our cows love apples. He said his love avocados. Their muzzles get covered in green “guacamole”.
August 17, 2005 Wednesday: I kept telling myself it could not be true. Then I knew it was; Helen’s bell was much too close to the house this morning. I went out in robe and slippers and there she was munching the lawn. It had not been mowed in over two weeks and she clearly was feeling well rewarded for her naughtiness. I walked her straight into her stanchion. Then I toured the garden to see if she had been in to eat the cabbages but everything was fine. I ate some dawn raspberries and went out later with the milking machine. There was only the tiniest evidence of mastitis on the milk filter, but I am concerned that Abby will have a great struggle with it while I go away to California. The machine is not designed for such a pendulous udder. Later, Max came over and told me he will come over and milk by hand while I am gone. I will try to get her production down and have her on once a day milking before I go. She did not give much over four gallons today. We later found where Helen had gotten through the fence, not far from the site of her last attempt. My granddaughter Helena and I carried out a ladder and tied it across the entrance to the paddock where the weak fence is located. Too bad, the grass in there is good.
August 18, 2005 Thursday: This morning I milked by hand. Helen again held up almost completely in one quarter. She started out just fine. I put her on half rations of grain and it seemed as though she held up because she was mad when she ran out of grain so fast. Whatever her reason, her left rear quarter went hard as a rock and I got no more out of it. I got only 2.5 gallons this morning. The reason I cut back her grain is that I am going to once a day milking (OAD) and am trying to reduce her production. I am doing this because I am taking a trip to California to see a dear friend of mine who going home to die. She had a severe stroke and has been largely paralyzed for two and a half months. She breathes through a trach tube and is fed through a peg into her stomach. She does not choose to continue to live this way. I have known her for fifty years. I will not be gone long. Max is going to milk Helen while I am gone, but he is 45 minutes away so twice a day milking is a practical impossibility for him. We all had supper together tonight at Marcia’s camp. We ate a 2.5 lb filet of Alaska Copper River Red salmon caught from the fishing boat of my granddaughter Rosemary and her husband Nate. Their fishing port is Cordova. It was down to 47F this morning.
August 19, 2005 Friday: Helen goes slightly berserk where apples are concerned. Abby has been giving her apple treats and now every time she sees the little white apple bucket or even hears Abby’s voice she seems to come unglued. This morning instead of coming straight into the barn she detoured to the gate where there were apples on the ground. Plus, she saw Abby walking past. When I tried to head her along to the barn door she butted me! She has never done that. I gave her a good clip upside the head and threw a piece of wood at her rear end as she headed up the ramp. She let down OK but did not really settle down and I milked with the kicker on her. She stood up on a full point the whole time I was milking. I told Abby to not give her any more apples, period. Her 24 hour production was only three gallons, way down from five. I did not get all of it, I know. There were a few blobs on the filter. Tomorrow will tell if this is bad news.
August 20, 2005 Saturday: Dear son Max plans to stay here while I go to California and says he will gladly milk twice a day. So, today I went back to milking twice a day. It rained last night. It was a warm rain and the cows grazed right through it. This always makes Helen have more milk presumably due to ingesting extra water. She gave three gallons this morning. I got another two gallons this evening. Perhaps tomorrow I will find her production has been suppressed by the missed milkings, but it certainly wasn’t today. It is Mitra’s birthday. We all convened at the lake for dinner. Son-in-law, Jack, smoked a turkey and Marcia made an interesting mashed potato dish with mushrooms and sausage. She also did something unusual with Brussels sprouts with bits of pepperoni. Jack ordered a carrot cake locally; it was excellent except for the usual white sugary frosting. I gave Mitra a basket of newly made jam and jelly and a pint of lard that I made from the fatback off of their pigs.
August 22, 2005 Monday: The weather today was very fine. Helen came in right on time morning and evening, almost completely clean both times. She gave a tad under five gallons today. Her brief acquaintance with OAD apparently did not suppress her production. That couple of days of evening freedom was fun for me. But considering that I won’t know until August 30 if she is bred, it’s a shame to risk knocking down production too much. My son Bret removed the accumulated pile of manure from outside the barn where we pitch it every day. He also dug some good trenches to direct overflow water away from the barn foundation. .At suppertime I cut into one of my cheeses. Everybody gave it an A+. It resembles a Caerphilly. The kids spent a lot of time at the lake tubing behind Jack’s new boat, then stayed here overnight
August 23, 2005 Tuesday: Bret raced around today doing things he had meant to do earlier in his visit. Today is his last day. He went around to all the posts under the deck that he built two years ago and put tar on the joins. Max came over and mowed all my lawn again. It looks so nice. He took Shireen and Roshan home. The rest of us went up to camp for a pizza dinner. Marcia made Pineapple pizza for the kids and eggplant pepper pizza for the grownups. A bantam hen that has been incubating her eggs inside the barn wall began hatching them today. After dark Abby and I went and pulled her and her chicks out. I know she had five eggs, but tonight there were only two chicks, one unhatched egg and one egg with a chick half out. The fifth is gone. We established her with her family in a secure, unused stall.
August 24, 2005 Wednesday: Son Bret and the kids left today for Fairbanks AK. They had a great time with their cousins Shireen and Roshan. Roger, 7, kept the frogs in my pond on the move. The girls spent rainy days with the dress-up collection. One day they put on a three girl chorus singing the Star Spangled Banner and My country Tis of Thee. I was impressed that they knew all the words of both, or at least Shireen, the choral director, did and kept them all going, They are so young that they even made it to all the high notes. I told them that few adults could match their performance. The new hen mother does not appreciate close inspection, but so far as I could tell she hatched out the last egg that I brought in with her last night and has four chicks. All the eggs were hers, so the chicks are tiny. Helen was right on time to be milked both times today, clean and well mannered. Her production is down though. Only four gallons today. I saw Helen being driven away from the water today by Gwendolyn, one of Kip’s 18 month old heifers. Gwendolyn also drives her away from the hay feeder. Gwendolyn is now effectively boss cow. It would not be of any significance except that Helen has a job and Gwendolyn does not. Both heifers now look very sleek. Both remain small for their age but Gwendolyn has long legs and is growing fast. Melissa looks somewhat stunted but no longer skinny.
August 25, 2005 Thursday: When I took Emily’s grain to her this morning she ran at me, whirled around and gave a high kick like a pony and knocked the basin out of my hands. This was extremely poor manners. I chased her around her pen until she stopped and put her head down. Then I bopped her on the head with the basin and chased her around again until she put her head down again. Then I took her collar and made her walk around in circles. Her grain was all over the ground, so she got none. Naturally she bawled all the while I was milking Helen, but I paid no attention. Helen was paying attention. She was hearing the, “I never got my breakfast” bawl. I was milking along thinking what a perfect cow she was, standing like a statue and letting down, when she started whipping her tail. Then she picked up her foot and hovered it over the bucket as much as to say “I hear Emily bawling and I don’t like it and I could put my foot down in this bucket if I wanted to.” I grabbed her foot and set it on the floor then put the kicker on her. I told her not to even think about kicking. I finally saw all four bantam chicks today out pecking around with their mother. They are in a box stall. I got four gallons of milk today and a dozen eggs. I made cottage cheese. The weather was again particularly fine.
August 26, 2005 Friday: This morning I was so stiff I could barely move and felt like somebody had driven a spike into my right hip. I was a Z shaped person. I tried to think if I had lifted something yesterday. Then I remembered my cowmanship lesson on Emily. Looks like I’m too old to chase a calf around a big pen. Pulling on my shoes required careful planning and took place in slow motion. “You know you’re old if when you bend over to pick up something you dropped you check around to see what else you can do while you’re down there” Today Abby saw Melissa pushing Helen out of the way. So, now I guess Helen is bottom cow. My daughter and son-in-law, Marcia and Jack, invited me to dinner at nearby Kanwanhee Inn. It was a first class meal with excellent service. Abby is not feeling well so did not come along. When I got home around 9pm she told me there was a new adventure for the diary. She went out to close up the chickens and found Emily grazing on the lawn. As we always do, she ran first to make sure the front gate was closed, then got a pan of grain to lead Emily back into her paddock. The heavy gate had fallen from the post due to wood rot. She now has it lashed on with chains. There is always something around here in need of fixing. Helen gave 4 ¼ gallons of milk and I got 17 eggs, a recent record.
August 28, 2005 Sunday: Our spell of fine weather had given way to much needed rain. This morning after chores Abby went back out with some clabber for the hens and discovered that Gwendolyn, one of Kip’s heifers, had enlarged a hole for herself and was halfway through the barnyard fence to get at the apple tree from a new angle. It was with some difficulty that Abby got her to back out. She then wove an old screen door and a board into the gap creating a low rent repair until Max can come over and do some proper fencing. He has already picked up the materials. The bantam with the next-to-youngest little flock has taken to bringing them into the layer’s room at night. Tonight I closed the door too early, not thinking to look for her. So instead she chose to make them go up into the rafters of the main hall. Abby was out there doing the manure clean-up at dusk and saw her coaxing her chicks to come up. After many an attempt three managed to flutter up but one was too weak. The hen refused to come down. Abby herded the little one in with the layers. I hope they will get back together in the morning.
August 29, 2005 Monday: The lone chick was fine this morning. I let out the hens and it went out, but I guess it did not find its mother. It was gone this evening. I thought it would hear her, or she would answer from over in Emily’s pen where she had the other three. I doubt it will turn up now. Max and his friend, Mike, from Hawaii, stopped in today and repaired the trashed sections of paddock where the cows have been escaping. I had hoped to be able to let them back in there as the grass is good. But, Max thinks another section of the fence is doubtful and I expect he is right. He will be back to fix it. I have decided that Helen is a bit too thin for the time of year. I cannot feed her more hay because the others will eat it first, which would be expensive and unnecessary to their condition. They are all sleek. I will increase her grain, I guess. Max and Mike had hoped to ride their mountain bikes, but it rained all day. Alternatively, they would have liked to sail Martin’s sailboat during breaks in the rain, but I doubt they were able to. There was no wind around here. Mike is originally from the Pacific Northwest, so was very understanding about the rain. At least it is not cold.
August 30, 2005 Tuesday: It rained today but now as much. It is warm rain like Hawaii. Today was marked on my calendar for Helen to come in heat if she is going to. I saw nothing. I should have alerted Max and Abby yesterday while the fencing was going on. This morning when I asked Abby to let me know if she saw any mounting she said that yesterday she saw some, but could not remember who was involved. Max said he heard a lot of bell ringing but didn’t notice anything. There was certainly no bleed-out, but then I never see it with Helen anyway. She was perfectly quiet today. So, I will permit myself some cautious optimism that she is preggers. Her production has dropped some. That can be a sign. Abby is not feeling at all well. She is fatigued and can’t sleep. She has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. Zucchini time! I picked six big ones today. I just laid them on the grass in a row. I made two loaves of bread and a pound and a half of butter
August 31, 2005 Wednesday: Abby continues to feel very poorly. The doctor had no answers, but drew some blood for tests. Friends Holly and Richard brought a blueberry cake over this afternoon and we had it with tea. I probably will not see them until next summer as they return next week to Minneapolis. I spoke on the phone today with my very ill friend Gina and her daughter Kirsten. Her plans to be removed to her home are on hold. The agency that was to supply nursing care now says they have nobody to send. Kirsten is going to get herself trained to attend to her mother’s tracheotomy. Gina sounded sad and disappointed to have to post pone leaving the hospital. Helen has been waving her leg around a lot when I am milking. She showed no signs of heat that I could see but her near front quarter is not milking out properly. The milk strained fast and the filter looked pretty good. I gave that quarter a rub down with hand cream (no lard available) and applied a goodly layer of cayenne.
September 1, 2005 Thursday: Helen’s touchy quarter was much the same this morning. She was kicky, and this evening even kickier. I put the kicker on her and even tied up her tail. When I massage the quarter it does not seem to bother her. I rubbed on ground comfrey both morning and evening. The milk strained perfectly and the filter had only a few very tiny blobs. She gave well over four gallons today, up from yesterday. The same neighbor who brought zucchinis to Helen dropped off a lot of cornstalks today. The cows had a feast when they found them. Abby feels better today. She got a call and starts a part time job tomorrow. I made rose petal jam today according to an Iranian recipe.
September 2, 2005 Friday: I don’t know what Helen’s problem is. I think she has just decided to be a pill. I still can’t milk her out all the way. She is fine until she finishes her grain, then she begins dancing around. Anyway, she ended up with the kicker both times today. There was no pooping or peeing, which adds to my belief that she is just in an annoying habit pattern. Maybe it means she is pregnant?? Tomorrow morning I am going to just start out using the kicker and if she is quiet I will take it off later. Right before supper tonight one of my upper incisors, a crown, fell out. Just what I need when I am about to set out on a trip. I put in a call for my dentist. No reply. I suspect he is playing golf, his favorite diversion. The weather today was again fine. I took pictures of my flower garden and Abby’s veg garden.
September 4, 2005 Sunday: Helen was cooperative today but I could tell her bad quarter is bothering her. I have tried most of my home remedies without really getting that quarter moving properly. Tomorrow is Labor Day so I doubt I can buy a teat infusion anywhere. Also I cannot find my thermometer. It is no longer hanging in the same old place. Max came this afternoon to “job shadow”. I hate to leave him with a problem, but it looks as though I am going to have to. I will be leaving mid afternoon tomorrow to go spend the night with Martin and Amy, son and daughter-in-law closer to the airport.
September 5, 2005 Monday: This is Max. I will be writing the diary for a few days while my mother, Joann, visits her sick friend in California. I spent Sunday night here to sit with Mom through the milking and learn her routine. Helen will not be pleased to have some man milking her, so I want to at least do everything I can to follow the established routine. We saw Mom off at about 4:00 p.m. this afternoon. She was fairly relaxed at the prospect of travel. But, in the final moments she seemed reluctant to leave the driveway. Earlier in the day I worked on some fencing and re-hung a gate that had a rotted post. I used the Kubota tractor to carry the posts and tools and had it parked nearby in the field where I was working. Sammy and Kip’s two heifers, Gwen and Melissa, were very interested in the tractor and milled around sniffing things. I shooed them off when I needed to move the tractor, but found the keys missing. I didn’t remember removing them from the ignition, but I searched my pockets anyway. Then I noticed slobber around the ignition switch and I realized one of them had eaten the key! It has (had) a green, plastic tag attached to the key ring and one of them must have got a hold on that and pulled ’em out. I looked around on the ground hoping they had been dropped in the grass, but no such luck. Our vet, Dr. Cooper, happened to be here at the time. Neither he nor Mom seemed too concerned about it. Dr. Cooper was here to examine Helen and leave some plastic syringes of stuff for mastitis. Helen has one quarter that has been giving trouble for several days and not responding to the usual cures. It was clearly sensitive when we milked this morning. This evening was the first milking on my own. Helen was lying down and didn’t take my efforts to rouse her seriously at first. She also didn’t think she should have to go up the ramp to the parlor, but I didn’t leave her many alternatives. After a minute she went on in looking peeved. I was left with instructions to milk out Helen’s afflicted quarter separately as we have been doing and then put the mastitis infusion up her teat. I’m not sure this is a good way to introduce myself as an alternate milker. She stood perfectly for me while I milked, but understandably did not let down well. After getting as much as she would give, only about two thirds of a gallon from the three usable quarters, I put the kicker on her. She would have kicked me when I put the plastic syringe up her teat, but could only lash me with her tail. I massaged the medicine upwards for several minutes before releasing her. She had saved a parting shot which splattered about as she walked through the barn. I hope she feels inclined to come in for morning milking. I have to give her two more doses of the mastitis infusion, but not until the evening milking.
September 6, 2005 Tuesday: Helen was back up to a solid two gallons this morning, not including the milk discarded from the quarter afflicted with mastitis. I’m sure this increase is in part due to holding up last night. There were a few suspicious looking bits on the filter, but it tasted fine. This evening she was good about coming in and gave about a gallon and a half from the three good quarters. I worked a long time to get the last of it, a lot of very small squirts. I left the afflicted quarter until last and milked it into a separate bucket. It feels a bit softer and not as hot as yesterday. I think I got a couple of cups more milk out of it, but didn’t notice any chunky bits passing as I milked. She stood well the whole time and let down well after a minute or two. She considered kicking once, but I told her nicely that I was a lot stronger than Mom and it wasn’t going to work out. She lashed me with her tail and loudly blew air out her nostrils. She is still getting used to me. I have not milked a cow in about twenty years, but I remember the technique. I am getting used to it all myself. Fortunately, I have not had tired arms or hands. Many years of competitive cycling have left me with a strong grip that is also good for milking cows, as it turns out. I guess this means I can spell Mom more often in the future. For a long time only my brother Martin the cow whisperer could stand in for Mom. When I was done milking out the good quarters I put the kicker on her, swabbed off her teat and put the second dose of mastitis medicine up there. I was a lot better at it this time, but she danced around a lot anyway. It kind of gives me the heebee-jeebeez to do it and I can’t help but imagine some horrific comparisons that make me wince. I massaged it upwards for several minutes before removing the kicker. I brushed her for a few minutes before releasing her from the stanchion and Abby gave her some apples as soon as she was out. Intent on the apples, I think she forgot to leave me her parting shot, so there was no cleanup. There was some minor cow drama earlier in the day. I was using the bucket loader to bring gravel into the beefer pen run-in area the cows use. The gravel pile is just inside a gate which I needed to leave it open while I went back and forth with the tractor. So, I closed another gate behind the barn that also blocks access to that field to keep any cows coming to that side to investigate the open gate. As I was coming back for the second bucket load I looked up to see Kip’s heifers and Sammy running like deer across the field towards me. They had already been hiding in the north field when I thought I had blocked them from it. I figured they were after the other set of tractor keys. I had to move quickly to get the gate shut in time. I went through the barn to open the other gate back up and circled around them to move them on through. In spite of a very soft approach, Gwen and Melissa waited until I was close and then tore off like they had been stung. They were right next to the fence that divides Emily’s weaning paddock from them. When those two nuisance heifers ran like mad she ran too, right into the fence. The section she hit was old field wire, you know, the kind with squares. Well, she is getting big and heavy now and she blew right through it. The way it separated it looked like somebody may have tried to splice the fence between posts sometime in the past. The spot she blew out the fence put her into the barnyard. She looked a bit dazed, but saw the barn open and walked in. I had to vault the gate to get the door shut behind her, then go tearing around the other side of the barn to get that other gate shut behind those horrid heifers. It all worked out and I got Emily into a stall in the barn. I had a roll of new field fence intended for another project, so I fixed up her bad section and more. If she tries it again she’ll bounce right off. Abby and I put her back out there just before evening milking. Abby has been doing all the other non milking chores. I couldn’t do this without her help.
September 7, 2005 Wednesday: Not a lot to report today. Helen’s milk production is on an upswing in the three good quarters. She gave two gallons plus in the morning and two more in the evening. I continue to discard the milk from the quarter with mastitis and gave her the third dose of medication up the teat. I haven’t run that milk through a filter, but I noted a few small, weird bits as I squirted it down the side of the bucket. The hardness in her udder is gradually softening and she is still uncomfortable. Otherwise I didn’t get a whole lot done. I ran several errands and mowed lawns for a long time. Mom called for a cow report and to hear that all is well.
September 8, 2005 Thursday: Helen’s production is still rising from the three good quarters. She gave a gallon and a half this morning and two gallons tonight. The mastitis is still lingering, but seems much improved. That quarter is still sensitive and has some hardness. I notice she doesn’t seem to mind the massaging, but when I squirt the milk out she tries to kick me and shifts about and blows wind loudly. Since she can’t kick me with the clamp thingie on, she figured out she could still get me by stamping on my foot. My boots have steel toes, but she got me on the side of my foot. I always brush her when she comes in for milking as that is part of the routine. I have been brushing her afterwards too, hoping she won’t go away feeling so mad. Things always start well, but I wait ’til last to work on her afflicted quarter and she gets all bent. I just want to send her off with something more pleasant than having a plastic syringe jammed in her teat. She hasn’t minded coming into the barn in spite of possible bad associations when she sees me. She still seems a bit surprised and doesn’t take me seriously at first when I try to get her moving. She sort of huffs along looking all annoyed with her ears back. I don’t think she likes me very much, but she tolerates me. I deployed new field wire fence in an area that has been a problem. The cows have been in the habit of leaning most of the front part of their bodies through holes along there to get at the proverbial greener grass. They won’t be doing that anymore. This is not a repair, but a formidable looking, shiny new fence with big posts. However, I have enough experience at this contest to know the section that will be next on their list. I have to drive to Farmington to get more fencing tomorrow. We have been plagued in recent weeks by a skunk that lived under the barn spraying cats and generally stinking the place up. It keeps showing up when I’m not able to blast it, like when I moving Helen through the barn. After tonight’s milking I went back out and staked out the cat’s dish for a while, but he didn’t show. Later, Mom called and I was telling her about this when Abby came running in saying the skunk was at the cat dish. I quickly got off the phone and went to the barn in time to blast him, it, or whatever. Abby picked it up with a pitchfork and tossed it over the bank across the road, always the dumping ground for small animal casualties around here. It was an excessively fat skunk from all the cat food and milk. It’s always a tossup between just living with a nuisance skunk under your barn or dealing the stench after you have shot one. It was pretty bad. We sprinkled a lot of lime and sprayed Febreeze, a commercial deodorizer and that seemed to help a little. The smell is so strong that even without direct contact we both had to get out of those clothes and take showers. Abby didn’t think she needed to take one, but I told her that her hair stank and she ran off to the bathroom. What are brothers for if not to tell their sisters they stink? The smell hung around the yard for a long time too. I called Mom back and told her about it.
September 9, 2005 Friday: Helen seemed kind of agitated this morning. I had to put the kicker clamp on her and she made a big plop to show how she felt about that. She let down well, although the bad quarter is still sensitive. This evening she got pretty mad while I milked out her bad quarter. The milk seems to be moving more easily, but her udder is still not completely healthy in that part. We ran that milk through a different strainer tonight and closely inspected it. We didn’t see any weird bits. The medication calls for the milk to be discarded for 48 hours after the last treatment, but the mastitis is apparently getting better. I picked up more fencing supplies today and continued my efforts. It is slow going. Much of the fencing around here is old and past due for replacement. Some places just need shoring up with proper posts, but mostly I am just fencing right over the old. The new fence looks tall and formidable, while the old fence sort of draggles along its waist looking tired and rusty. Many of the old posts are rotted off at the base and only stand there drunkenly because of the failing tension of the fence. I am replacing the posts with either metal or wood composite depending on the need. The composite posts are eight foot Correct Deck 4X4’s. They will never rot or bend, but they cannot be nailed to without pilot holes. I am attaching rolls of welded field wire using wire ties. This is a fence even Kip’s heifer’s will respect.
September 10, 2005 Saturday: The first thing I noticed upon walking outside early this morning was Emily in the process of escaping. Or, possibly getting stuck in the attempt. She had been pushing her grain pan around and followed it under the fence, where she discovered another weak link in the system. The field wire had become disconnected from the gate along the bottom rail and she had pushed her front legs and head through the breach. The wire had peeled upward and then held her there. I sort of shoved her back through and spent the next half hour repairing the gate to make it look more convincing by adding some more slats along the bottom and repairing the wire. I thought the gate rails looked too old. But when I nailed to them I found the wood was still “wicked haaahrd”, as we say in Maine. Helen was way down in the pocket field and had to be fetched. I didn’t mind. I had thought to go for a walk along the river before having to change my plans and fix Emily’s gate. Bagel, the large, yellow dog came along. He was very happy to go for a walk. He’s been acting depressed about Mom being gone and trying to sleep on furniture and other places he knows he shouldn’t. He might be worried he is my dog now. He knows I don’t let dogs get away with much. Helen looked surprised to see me, as is usual, and began clanking off towards the barn. I followed along with my hands jammed in my pockets. Although it is only September 10th I swear I saw frost in the grass near the river. Helen danced around a lot when I milked out the bad quarter this morning. But, this evening she stood quietly while I milked it out. I will take this as a positive development. That quarter is considerably softened, but still seems different than the others. I’m not sure if it’s like that anyway. The teat is bigger than the others, maybe it has bigger glands too. We saw nothing on the strainer last night. Perhaps this thing is finally getting better.
September 11, 2005 Sunday: Bagel and I took a walk along the river in the early dawn mist. The surface of the river was all smoky and mysterious. Although the temp registered at 40 degrees at the house I saw frost in some of the low sections of the field. The house and barn are on a bit of a rise over the river bottoms and overlook the fields. I walked along the river and turned up where I knew the cows were grazing from the clanking noises of their bells. Helen began walking towards the barn when she saw me. In spite of dry weather and a cleaned run-in Helen’s back end looked as though she sat in poop last night. It took me a long time to get her clean. I tied her tail back too as one swipe would have sent me running to wash my face. After a minute or two of annoying shifting about I put the kicker on her. She stood well after that. I have been doing the “bad” quarter last after I milk out the other three. This makes for an uneven finish that I think contributes to impatience on Helen’s part. With the kicker on her I felt safe to put two buckets side by side for the front two and thus had a more even finish. I couldn’t say if she appreciated it or not, but I did. Her restless movements may have been because the front two quarters were so stuffed they were dribbling while I did the back two. I guess she is letting down well for me now. That is the first time I have seen her afflicted quarter do that, so things must be moving well in there. I ran the separated milk through a fresh filter for inspection. Neither Abby nor I could see any sign of mastitis under the light. It was chilly enough this morning that I felt justified in lighting a fire in the kitchen fireplace. It was very cozy feeling and Abby appreciated it when she came in from her place across the river. It will be warm later so we’re letting it burn out.
September 12, 2005 Monday: I was woken in the wee hours of the morning by a great, warm wind that made doors bang and the house groan. This is a mildly alarming thing when waking alone in a 200 year old house. I came downstairs to check on things. The only problem was an unsecured umbrella over the deck table. I think this sudden wind may herald the change of season. It scared Bagel and he had made himself very flat on the floor. Bagel is depressed because his Mom is away. He is accustomed to sleeping upstairs on her bedroom floor at night. I would let him do this if he stayed in her room, but he doesn’t. He comes and flumps his great yellow bulk down in my room instead and proceeds to make disgusting dog licking noises in the dark. I can’t deal with that, so I have made him stay downstairs at night. This requires some door locking and barricading to keep him out of alternate bedrooms and off couches. I lay chairs on the couches to reduce his options and he doesn’t like it. I get the feeling he is used to doing pretty much as he pleases. As I go around setting this stuff up before bed he lays very flat on the floor doing his best to look pitiful. He looks like a dog that has been yelled at. Helen was way down in the pocket field at 6:30. I was out on the deck with coffee and called to her. She studiously ignored me and ate grass. At 7:00 she clanked on up to the barn like a good cow. The quarter that had the mastitis is probably fine now, but I continue to separate the milk due to general paranoia. Abby tasted the milk this morning and said it was fine. I do not care for warm milk, but Abby doesn’t mind. Abby has rescued some little scrap of a kitten from a box in the attic over the garage. She kept hearing it mewling and was going into early stages of freaking out, so I helped her find it. It was in a cardboard box up there. It was friendly right away and she is feeding it milk with a dropper by the warmth of the Aga stove. It is undeniably cute, but I remain emotionally detached. We already have a lot of cats both here and at my house.
September 13, 2005 Tuesday: It is very warm compared to recent days when it was feeling much more like fall. Helen was waiting for me to open the door from her ramp into the barn. However, she did not stand well. She shifted about and made lowing noises. I don’t know if she thinks I’m squeezing too hard or what. I have stopped separating the milk and just collect it all in one bucket now. She does this sort of leaning forward thing that makes me have to shift the bucket back and forth while I’m milking. It’s because she’s after some bit of hay she wants, or the last of her grain. She doesn’t move her feet, but shifts her whole bulk forward and back about a foot. She practically comes up onto tiptoes and then rolls back again. Technically, she is not breaking the foot moving rule, but it sure skates along the edge of the idea. She was there waiting this evening like a good cow. Things went without a hitch. It was a nice, balmy evening. This is a good time of year in Maine. It’s still warm and green outside but most of the blood-sucking bugs are gone. It won’t be long now until the leaves begin to turn. Mom gets home tomorrow.
September 14, 2005 Wednesday: Home again! I got in Tuesday night to Portland and stayed over with son Martin and his wife Amy. They still had the remains of a gallon of milk dated September 5, which I had given them they day I left. On Tuesday September 13 it was still in perfect condition. Max and Abby did a super job of everything and dear Mitra and the girls were great sports about lending their dad. I am in severe milk deficit and immediately drank a lot of milk. My dear friend Gina passed away the next evening following my afternoon visit. She was alert during my visit and more dry eyed than I. I will miss her a great deal. She was entirely paralyzed by a stroke and heart attack three months ago except for limited use of her left hand and brief conversation. She had a trach tube, oxygen supplementation, urinary catheter and feeding peg directly into her stomach. She chose not to continue living this way and with the help of her daughter was able to negotiate her way through the medical, health insurance and legal encumbrances which militate against ending life with dignity. Her mind was clear. She passed away on the evening of her sixth day after coming home, attended by her dear ones. Max did the milking one last time this evening while I stood by as an observer. What takes me 20 minutes takes him ten. Abby made butter.
September 15, 2005 Thursday: Everything went perfectly today. I milked morning and evening without using any restraints. Helen gave a bit under four gallons total. We are getting close to a dozen eggs a day. It was warm today with intermittent showers and sunshine. Abby and I picked the beans and she froze six packages. I made excellent cottage cheese. I am organized to make zucchini relish tomorrow. It will use the last of the zucchinis. The plants now all have moldy leaves. Lots of broccoli is going to waste. Slugs and worms are ravaging the cabbages and Brussels sprouts. I shook out the last of the diatomaceous earth on them. I used up the DT before I left, but it did not help so far as I could tell. It may have been too old. Despite these problems there are more vegetables than I know what to do with. For the first time I will be making the relish entirely with my own peppers.
September 16, 2005 Friday: We had fine, comfortable weather today with a few sprinkles. The pasture is maintaining well. Max wrote last week to Kip whose heifers I have been boarding to tell him that they have become a bit much for me. They broke down a lot of fences and got out at odd times, but the greatest problem was that they got so they pushed Helen around and interfered with her getting hay and water. They even stood in her path to prevent her coming to the barn when called. Kip arranged for Sally Lakness to come today with a trailer and pick them up. Abby and I had a nice visit and gave her a little lunch. She took a swim in the river, and then we loaded the heifers. It was not a lot of trouble as the trailer was backed right up to the barn door and they saw their familiar grain pan in the trailer. Gwendolyn, the larger one, hopped right in. Melissa is more shy but soon followed. Of course now Sammy is once again alone while Helen comes in to be milked and bellowed the whole time. Helen ignored him. Helen is now developing mastitis in another quarter. I was too busy every minute today to make a comfrey poultice but I put some liniment on it. I hope to be able to treat it without antibiotic. We’ll see. I did start my zucchini relish. The shredded vegetables have to sit over night before being cooked and bottled. Everything in it except the onions came from the garden. Abby brought the kitten she is fostering over here from her house. She also caught two more little ones of similar age that were in the barn. All three are now upstairs in the playroom looking cute but annoying. The new ones are smaller but savvier. They eat out of a dish. Out goes the Free Kitten sign tomorrow.
September 18, 2005 Sunday: Sorry about the late posting, lots going on as Fall approaches. (Max) Saturday morning Helen’s two front quarters were hard. The milk from both tasted distinctly salty. After milking they were still too firm. I rubbed in some liniment that I have on hand but her production was down. I didn’t need the kicker but she seemed crabby. I made up a large batch of mashed comfrey in the food processor. At evening milking she was about the same. I gave her udder a good massage with the comfrey mush. This morning she milked out a lot better. The milk tasted almost perfect. Her back quarters continue to be fine. The filter looked fine. I applied more comfrey. When putting the milk away, a look at yesterday’s milk confirmed my growing suspicion; there was only an inch of cream. She is holding up her milk. I think she is in love with Max. She is saying, “Where’s that guy that milks in ten minutes? Bring him back.” Holding up the milk often leads to mastitis. What a bad cow. My daughter Marcia in Virginia took three gallons of milk when she left here on August 26. This morning she told me she just finished the last of it. It was still perfectly good. That is 23 days! I was quite impressed with myself after hearing this. Evening: One front quarter is still slightly affected. The milk tastes just the tiniest bit salty. She stood perfectly except for switching her tail. I tied it up with a string. Afterwards I turned her loose without having first untied her tail. I had to yell at Abby to block her departure while I untied the knot. That was a close one. Probably the string would have pulled loose but it was scary. She gave four gallons today.
September 19, 2005 Monday: Today was one perfect September day, the kind where you want to spend it all outdoors. I was out a lot but also made 30 minute mozzarella. I doubled the recipe and it turned into two hour mozzarella, but was good. I don’t have the right sort of pan for two gallons. The only trace of mastitis I noticed in Helen was that the milk from the left front quarter was not quite as well flavored as from the other three. We also thought it was a tiny bit slow to strain. Max came over to milk this evening so I could accept a dinner invitation at the Kawanhee Inn. I left before he came in with the milk so don’t have his report. He rode his road-bike over from New Sharon, about 35 miles I think. Mitra and the girls came over here to drive him home. Abby gave them hamburgers. My dinner at Kawanhee was excellent. It was a set menu for a group, a charitable foundation of which Martin is a board member. Helen gave four gallons today
September 20, 2005 Tuesday: We had warm drizzly rain all day. The grass is hanging on unusually late. I still have late cut hay coming. .He will probably call just when my Cow Roundup friends are here and we will all get hay in our ears. Helen gave four gallons today but I had to work for it. This morning when I was through milking and was stripping into the cup I use for my drink of warm milk (and to taste the milk), Helen deliberately kicked the cup out of my hand. I whacked her on the leg with the flat side of the shovel. This is not her characteristic behavior at all. I came in and checked the calendar and this is the day she would be in heat if she is not bred. I saw no other signs of heat. But now I am worried. There was no evidence at her back end. But this is a cow that never exhibits bleed-out so far as I have ever seen. All of Martin’s board members stopped in this morning on their way home. They all wanted to see Helen. After all the visitors left I made a couple of loaves of bread. This time I made 100% whole wheat and added a cup of 7-grain cereal which I first simmered in clabber. I used clabber for all the liquid in this batch. I expected it to be a formidably heavy loaf but in fact it is almost fluffy. Deer came in and ate the bean plants but fortunately Abby had just picked the last of the crop so they didn’t get much but leaves.
September 21, 2005 Wednesday: Abby and I went to Farmington today and did most of the errands. We even stopped for lunch at the Homestead restaurant and visited the Sugarwood Gallery. It is mostly furniture made by carving forms from tree stumps. Some were very lovely and all were staggeringly expensive. They did have some elegant little tapestry covered balsam pillows. I bought one for my sister’s birthday. My daughter Sally called from Alaska. Bears got into her garden last night and ate the carrots. A bear knocked loose her prize Jarrahdale squash and rolled it all around. Helen was a lot better behaved today. She gave a bit over four gallons
September 22, 2005 Thursday: Last night at milking time I tumbled to the fact that I was on my last bag of feed. I was right in the Farmer’s Union yesterday and could have picked some up. Darn it. I called a nearby supplier who delivers but he said he was all alone and could not bring it. So I had to get in the car again and fetch some feed. When I got to the feed store he was not alone at all. I noticed that he avoided meeting my eye. Helen had perfect manners this morning and almost perfect tonight but her production was down. She gave only 3 ¾ gallons today. Abby spent all day cleaning the house.
September 23, 2005 Friday: Some of my lovely forum members are here. Tom from Maryland, Debbie from Arkansas and Sally from Massachusetts are here. Sally’s parents brought her. Max and DIL Mitra and their girls all came over today. Also Martin and DIL Amy. It was a lovely group. Some took a walk along the river before dinner. Max reported extensive new erosion. Max and Mitra made pulled pork which was delicious. Mitra also made her famous pomegranate walnut dip. I made baked beans and salad and baked custard. My daughter Abby was a huge help. During the afternoon Mitra drove Tom around to view the area and they visited the County Fair.
September 24, 2005 Saturday: Abby, Debbie Marler and I hung around the old homestead today. Sally and her parents left for MA because Sally was ill. I gave her a quart of colostrum last night She thought it made her feel better but I expect mainly that she needs more rest. She has gotten thin working seven days a week. They stopped in this morning and her mom, Anna, saw the piano and said she was a church musician. I persuaded her to play some hymns for us. We all sang. That was great fun. A group wanted to climb Tumbledown. Tom came down from Weld and made pork sandwiches and Max and Shireen, age 9, drove over from their home in New Sharon and they all joined up with Martin and Amy. They had a dine climb and got back here about 4pm. Abby and Debbie picked up a lot of falls from the wild apple tree across the road and Abby made a pie. I made a standing rib roast that turned out perfectly. Mitra made an eggplant casserole with her own tomatoes and eggplant and some of my mozzarella. We were just eight at dinner tonight because Martin and Amy had friends up at camp. Frost is predicted for tonight. The guests helped Abby to cover some of the garden. I hope we can save the cucumbers and zinnias. The weather today was very fine. Helen gave under four gallons but it was partly because I let my granddaughters and Tom all try milking and there was a lot of picture taking too. She will let me have it in the morning no doubt.
September 25, 2005 Sunday: I spent most of the day with my forum guests. Tom attended services at the little church in Weld that is across the street from the B&B where he is staying. Debbie and I kept busy here. I finished up making quince jelly for which I used one of the quinces I brought from California combined with about a quart of the little fruits off my Japonica. Around noon we drove to New Sharon to Max and Mitra’s place. Mitra accompanied us on a walk down their lovely trail through the woods, and then we helped get lunch. Mitra fixed two fillets of the Alaskan Copper River Red Salmon. We also had some of her heirloom Italian beans. Mitra took Debbie on a tour around the neighborhood to see some dairy farms. Tom drove me back to the farm where he helped with the milking before going back to his inn for a good night’s sleep. He will drive back to MA tomorrow morning. Helen gave four gallons today. She was very restless this morning, I am not sure why. It may have been because she was covered with bites. She had slept outside. Her sides were all bumpy. Last night Abby covered a lot of plants but there was only a whiff of frost and tonight is warmer. I am so glad we still have our flowers and tender vegetables.
September 26, 2005 Monday: Last weekend I complained that Helen was holding up her milk because I wasn’t Max; there was only an inch of cream. Then on Monday he milked again for me because I went out to dinner and he took the milk home. Now Mitra tells me that jar was half cream. I knew it. Helen is bad. I do believe she is now over mastitis completely. This morning she let down from all four quarters so milk was streaming onto the floor even though I kept going from teat to teat. She was back over four gallons for the day and there was no further salty taste from the troubled quarter. When I was almost finished milking tonight, after having behaved perfectly, she deliberately lifted her foot and would have put it in the bucket had I not been quick with my left forearm pushing it back. I yelled, “Helen, no!” so loudly that Abby heard me outside. It rained most of today. It was about 55F, not cold.
September 28, 2005 Wednesday: On Tuesday Abby was feeding Helen and Sammy some apples out of a plastic grocery bag. Sammy grabbed the bag and tried to eat it. She had a struggle getting it away from him. He was really trying to swallow it. That was scary. I had told her about the dear old cow that died from eating a plastic bag. Now that the extra heifers are gone and things are quiet around here I decided to try letting Emily back in with Helen. When she got out into the big field she ran and jumped for about 15 minutes, She sped right past Helen several times. It is not as though she had been living in a tiny pen. It was about 200 sq. ft. But she loved having the whole field to run in. So far so good. At milking time she had not sucked. First thing this morning one of my neighbors came and bought a good sized load of manure for his orchard. He thinks it will be better if he puts it on now because often the ground stays wet in spring for a long time. I made carbonnades de boeuf, a beef stew with beer, to take to camp for dinner. Abby made a blueberry cake, or so she thought. It turned out that I had defrosted black currants for her instead. They are pretty sour and she hated it. Actually, I thought it was good. She put on a lot of frosting and I noticed that my son-in-law took seconds.
September 29, 2005 Thursday: We had heavy rain today and wind. Something has been biting me and I can’t figure out what. I gave Bagel a flea treatment. My latest theory is that Helen has lice. I took the magnifying glass out tonight to examine her and did not find any. But she was so wet from the rain that her skin was hard to see. She certainly has been persistently jumpy during milking but I attribute that to Sammy bellowing all the while she is in for milking. Now he has got Emily bellowing too. She was quiet before I let her out with the others. The bellowing started when Kip’s heifers left. What a nuisance. It makes me want to move Sammy’s date with destiny forward.But so far so good on Emily’s weaning. There has been no nursing.
September 30, 2005 Friday: It rained all night but we did not lose power as so many did yesterday in Maine. The weather was fine with Fall in the air. I carried up a big basket of tomatoes and peppers from the garden. Also today I canned a small amount, just two quarts of tomato juice and three pints of tomato sauce. We don’t have as many tomatoes this year as last when I finally abandoned over a bushel in the garden. I milked early. Now I am waiting for Mitra to pick me up for an outing to hear an Iranian author discuss her humorous book about her family’s adjustment to life in America.
October 1, 2005 Saturday: Mitra and I enjoyed the lecture at Hebron Academy last night. The crowd was enthusiastic. Mitra got her book, Funny In Farsi, signed by the author, Firoozeh Dumas. When I got home at 9:30, Abby and I put tarps over a lot of the garden, but in fact we did not get frost. I made a couple of loaves of bread today and a cheesecake. The cheesecake called for 2¼ lb of cottage cheese, six eggs and two cups of whipping cream. What a way to use up dairy products! I will take it to camp tomorrow. I made a mini one for today. My daughter Marcia and son-in-law Jack joined us for dinner and we ate the small one. Abby has been catching kittens in the barn and feeding and medicating them. She has cordoned off an area for them up in the play room. She has now caught six. I call it the cat farm. They are pretty small and all line up in the sunny window. News flash: Son Martin called to tell me that he and Amy who were married in June are now expecting a baby. Baby is due May 17. I am so thrilled! He and Amy resemble each other like brother and sister so we know just about what the wee one will look like: tow haired with pink cheeks.
October 2, 2005 Sunday: Helen’s mastitic quarter was no worse this morning, but I could not get much out of it. I milked it into the cat dish. I came into the house with only one gallon of milk. I left Helen in her stanchion while I went down and cut a big armful of comfrey for her. She ate it while I worked on the quarter with hot towels and applied lard and cayenne. I am still hoping to manage it without antibiotic. Marcia invited us and Max and Mitra and the kids all to her place for a lasagna lunch. I took along my cheesecake and salad greens. After lunch we pressed cider in Marcia and Jack’s cider press. M&M had gone to a pick-your-own apple place yesterday, so they brought the apples. I brought along some grapes my cousins Marcia and Steve gave me yesterday. The press is a good one and it was a great group activity. We ended up with several gallons of cider and a couple of quarts of grape juice which I added to the cider. Abby had reserved some of the grapes for jelly which she made this morning before we went to camp. Grapes lack pectin, so she added a pint of pectin which I had extracted last week from some crab apples. This is easily done. Crabapples contain a lot of pectin. I just cut them in half and put them is a 2 gallon pot with about 3 or 4 cups of water and boil them to a mush. This only takes about 15 minutes. Then I hung them up in a linen bag and let them drip over night. I got about a quart of sour viscous juice. This can be added to any low pectin fruit to make it jell without purchased pectin. The jelly will have better flavor as all you need do is measure equal amounts of mashed fruit or extracted juice and sugar. With purchased pectin like Sure Jell the recipes call for more sugar than fruit. With Sure Jell you get a greater yield. But, with sugar plus Sure Jell pectin it flattens the flavor. With my method, you boil the juice and sugar to the jelly stage which takes only a few minutes and the apple pectin enhances the flavor. Just as I was sitting down to milk Helen this evening Abby came out to the barn with the message that Marcia had badly cut her thumb. Max and family had just arrived to pick up milk, so Max took over for me. Helen’s mastitic quarter did not look good but I had to leave to go help Marcia. Max got less than a gallon from the unaffected quarters and hardly anything from the bad quarter. Don’t know what I will find in the morning. I don’t feel good about this. Marcia cut herself opening a can of Progresso soup with a pop top lid. The cut is at the base of her left thumb and is about an inch long. She thinks just about to the bone. It had started to close up by the time I got there. There were bloody dishtowels here and there in the kitchen. I poured peroxide on the wound and when it was dry dribbled vitamin E into it. Vitamin E works wonders at wound healing if you get it on before the wound closes. So, I may have been a bit late with it. She said it felt more numb than painful, except when I poured on the peroxide. Abby sent along some pain pills and I urged her to take one as her cut is sure to throb in the night. She is fully confident that it will heal in a day or two by the time she is back in Virginia and that it will not prevent her riding her horse. I have my doubts about this. My sister Barby called from California while I was gone. She has started sailing lessons on SF Bay and reported a good time. This, despite the instructor having sent her out in a stiff breeze partnered with a young man from Bombay with negligible English and even less experience sailing. They came close to capsizing. Barby is aged 75, 5’1″, with arthritis in her hands. Whoa, Barby!
October 3, 2005 Monday: My Aga was stone cold this morning. AMERIGAS had neglected to fill my Propane tank. (again) I could not reach them by phone until 8AM and the truck got here about ten. I am on automatic delivery and pay in advance, so it is extra annoying. I was unable to make tea. Reminding myself that hurricane victims deserve the sympathy, not me, just makes me feel like a guilty hypocrite since I still want my tea. I broke down and gave Helen an intramammary infusion tonight. Her quarter did not seem to be getting any worse but neither was it getting better. I got about 3 gallons today from the good quarters, the rest went to the cats. She grazes and cuds normally and does not act sick, but of course she is. I suppose it is like a sinus infection where you keep on keeping on but are below par and the infection just won’t go away. Abby keeps finding more kittens in the barn. The count is now up to seven. She and Max caught one last night while I was up ministering to Marcia, but it was already completely wild and bit them both so badly that they let it go. Marcia’s thumb is doing pretty well. She puts more vitamin E on it periodically and says it does not hurt. However, the end of her thumb is numb, as it has been since she got the cut.
October 5, 2005 Wednesday: Abby and I both went out to camp last night and said our goodbyes to Marcia and Jack. They breezed past here about 10AM on their way back to VA. Marcia’s cut is healing nicely. Each end is closing as it should. The middle is still open and bleeds if she is not careful. Last April I planted my Easter lily in the bed by the buttery. The dear thing has bloomed again with three lovely white blossoms. Last night I gave Helen the second of her two mastitis treatments. This morning the milk from that quarter was near normal in flavor and this evening the different flavor was barely discernable. However, that quarter is by no means softened up. I continue to milk it separately and get barely a quart. Her production for today not counting that quarter was 3.25 gallons. It was foggy all last night. I could not see the new moon of Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah. The fog did not lift before noon today. This had repercussions for me because it caused my hay man to cancel his plans to bring my 150 bales of late cut hay tomorrow. It is not dry, and now, if the weatherman is right, it will get rained on. Now I am really getting worried about my hay. Abby went into the loft today and moved a lot of hay to create space and Max was planning to come tomorrow to help put it into the barn.
October 6, 2005 Thursday: Max milked for me Thursday evening. I went to Portland to attend my son Mark’s White Coat Ceremony. Many medical schools now observe this ceremony wherein the incoming class receives the white coat that symbolizes the doctor. Mark attends UME School of Osteopathic Medicine. Osteopathic training differs from allopathic medical training only by the additional training in bone manipulations. Mark is in a class of 200 and there were at least 1000 people in the audience, probably more. Mark looked great and I was proud of him. I stayed overnight at Martin and Amy’s house. Martin briefly attended his brother’s ceremony, but then rushed back to Kennebunk where his distributors were convened.
October 7, 2005 Friday: Max brought his girls along last night. They stayed over and Max milked again this morning. He moved around some gravel with the loader and mowed my lawn. Abby mowed part of it yesterday. It looks so nice now. I got home this morning in time to make chicken salad for lunch. All the windows downstairs were open. We are having a strange hot spell. Abby has moved her kitten collection to an enclosure in the shed and put out a Free Kitten sign. Nobody has stopped yet, darn it. They are just at the cute stage, which does not last long. She has brought them all into good health. Helen’s right front quarter seems in good shape now. I milked without the kicker. Max got 2 gallons this morning and this evening I got 1.5. I hope I can bring her production back up
October 8, 2005 Saturday: We had rain all last night and today, so I stayed inside and made applesauce and worked on an essay. Abby did some rearranging of hay in the barn to try to get the bales out from underneath a leak. She found a new nest with a couple of eggs. I felt sure some hens were laying in there but had no luck finding the nests. The laying hens are not very nice to each other. A few low order hens and the old rooster were moping around outside in the rain scared to come in. Abby created a lean-to of plastic and cardboard for them and the hens went under it. The rooster stuck his head in and decided it would be undignified to crouch in there, I guess. So he got pretty wet. Abby has created a new Kitty Condo out in the shed/garage. They have many amenities in there including a tree trunk to climb, not to mention a comprehensive buffet. Some little girls I know came to visit and watched the kittens for a long time. Unfortunately, the girls mommy, my friend Kelly, said no to a kitten. Helen’s udder seemed to be in good shape today. She gave 3.5 gallons.
October 10, 2005 Columbus Day Monday: Yesterday Helen gave under three gallons. Today she gave 3 ¾ gallons. This morning Abby went driving around looking for apples. She stopped at two places in Weld and asked for permission to pick up falls from people’s lawns, which they were very glad to give. If we had gone a week ago we would have had a truckload, but she was still able to bring home three very full grocery bags. One looks like an old fashioned MacIntosh from back when they were a superb red and had some flavor. The other apple was an unknown, small, sweet apple. It rained for more than two days. The river is way up on its banks and has gone silent now that the rocks are submerged. Abby has a big kitten sign up and two groups have looked at them. No takers yet.
October 11, 2005 Tuesday: Max came over first thing this morning to pick up milk. They were all out of cream at his house. He hates coffee with skim milk as much as I do. He said he warmed over yesterday’s coffee rather than ruin fresh coffee with skim milk Of course I made him some coffee, also poached eggs. They pressed cider yesterday and he brought over the pressings for the cows. I gave him the apples Abby picked up so they could add these in next time.
October 12, 2005 Wednesday: Helen was annoyingly antsy yesterday and today. This morning my worst fears were realized. She had been in heat and was sliming. Both her heats and her discharge are so insignificant that had I not looked at the calendar and lifted her tail I would surely have missed it. I had so hoped she was two months pregnant. I did hear an unusual amount of bell ringing in the early morning yesterday and she was licking Sammy a lot. That is all I saw. I know it could be Helen’s fault, but it could also be the fault of my AI guy. It is hard to get him here right when I want him and I have suspected that he may not keep his semen cold enough or may keep it around too long. He does very few Jerseys. Yesterday I taped Sammy and today I taped Helen. Amazingly, they are both the same weight, 1046. Helen is a tad longer and longer legged. Sammy is more blocky. Helen definitely does not have lice. I have dusted her twice with diatomaceous earth just in case. But I found out what has been biting me. It is fleas. I finally saw one. I treated Bagel and the cats a couple of weeks ago. I guess it is a case now of vacuuming every day. I had not seen a flea for several years and hoped never to again. Abby has moved the kittens out to a room in the barn now. They have more space and can eventually be let out. They are pretty lively.
October 13, 2005 Thursday: Abby noticed a man out on the lawn taking pictures of the barn, tripod all set up. She went out and spoke to him. He said he had knocked but no one answered. He said he was from California. He had a young Doberman which he was allowing to run freely. Bagel went out and chased around with her. All chickens of course immediately vanished. Then we saw both dogs with their heads plunged into the vines on the garage. I went right over and saw that Bagel, always the perfect host, was helping the dog, Lucy, corner a pullet. They both had a mouthful of feathers. I picked up the pullet which was alive, and carried her to the barn, stopping on the way to ask the man to put his dog in the car. He answered me back, “She wouldn’t kill a chicken, she only chases them.” I just stared at him in shocked silence as he kept right on with what he was doing. I put the pullet in the barn and Abby took her some water but she died of shock I guess. It is so infuriating. She was a promising Auracana, the nicest pullet of the new crop. Imagine letting your dog out to run on a stranger’s lawn! Not to mention helping himself to a camera shoot.
October 14, 2005 Friday: Helen gave about 3 ½ gallons today. One of my customers, a nice young couple who moved away last year to Los Angeles, just moved back and lost no time in coming for milk. Now I have four fairly regular customers plus family. I am always glad when I don’t have milk backing up in the fridg. Of course it means I can’t make much butter and often have to buy it. It has started to rain again. Maine and New Hampshire are petty soggy. I picked the dahlias and gave them to my daughter in law Amy. She and girlfriends are having a weekend at camp. It is amazing that we have not had a real frost. Today I picked my few cabbages, small and slug-ridden as they were. After trimming I had 3 pounds of very delicious cabbage which I shredded and made into sauerkraut. I have never made sauerkraut before, mostly because my family always said “Don’t bother, we don’t like it.” I made this for me. I love sauerkraut (My mother was Pennsylvania Dutch). And what do you bet they will like it too? I also made quince jam out of the remaining quinces that I brought home from California last month from my sister’s beautiful tree. I was so cautious about not over boiling it that it came out syrupy. Abby and I had it over slices of a lime sour cream cake I made yesterday. This was a great treat.
October 16, 2005 Sunday: For the last two nights Helen has been reluctant to let down in the evening. She always has some new trick! Last night I got only three quarts. She pretty much made up for it this morning, but tonight held up again. I did get nearly a gallon this time. I was rather late going out both times due to people stopping by, so maybe she is just mad at me. The rain continues. I am worried about the river bank. Last night the cows grazed near the river despite the heavy rain. I gave them a lot of hay this evening and hope they stay in. I would hate to have them go too close and fall in. Most of it is fenced, but not all.
October 17, 2005 Monday: During the recent storm the wind tore a great strip of flashing off the attached shed on the back of the barn, what I call the lean-to. One end of it remained attached to the roof and the loose part rolled up and rattled wildly in the wind. Abby climbed up there today and nailed it back down. She did not tell me she was doing this or I would have attempted to prevent her or at least hung around to pick up the pieces. Working on a wet roof is not a very good idea. For the last four days I have routinely put the kicker on Helen at each milking. I wanted to break up her habit of stepping around and lifting her foot. I could tell she was beginning to resent the kicker, so tonight I milked her without it. She stood very well and gave more that she has been. She let down better. In addition, she spent much of today grazing in the small paddock which has a new gate. She has been avoiding this paddock despite good grass in there and I finally figured out that the new gate swings too much in the wind. I think she fears it may be a cow trap. Last night I tied the gate and today she was in there grazing. Helen’s production was back up to 4 gallons today. I only got 6 eggs. The weather has gotten a lot colder. The leaf color has been slow and dull this year until today.
October 18, 2005 Tuesday: I milked Helen without the kicker both times today and she behaved well. However, she again did not let down well this evening. She gave a little over three gallons total. Little Emily appears to be in heat. While up in the haymow today, Abby noticed a man’s leather glove much shredded and sticking out of one of the bales. She was after eggs from a nest that could not easily be reached back in a crevice of hay bales. However, today the eggs were gone. This is obviously the work of a rat. I am very sorry to see this. All the remaining cats are either too young to take on a rat or too small. I will not be buying any more cracked corn or scratch as it only draws rats. I will see what the Farmer’s Union has for traps that might catch a rat without enticing a cat or chicken. My vet stopped by and I gave him an awfully good lunch including a veggie mixture with some late zucchini and tomato.
October 19, 2005 Wednesday: This was one of the first fine October days we have had this year. Although it has not been cold it has been cloudy and damp, or pelting rain most of the time. We may get a frost tonight. If so it will be the first of the year. This is the latest we have gone without frost in my recollection. Helen has a couple of very small little scratches on her udder and one teat. I walked down the fence line today to see if there was any trailing barbed wire. I did find some, but there did not appear to have been a cow near it. I fastened it back up where it belongs. On the way back I noticed fox scat in the field. My hay problem/shortage is looking a bit more promising. I got the names of two people that have hay and went and looked at one lot. Then I called my regular hay man again and asked him if he would like me to start looking elsewhere. He said he had 150 bales on his trailer parked in his barn where it had been for some time. He said he would bring it next week. He had not offered this before. Maybe he was waiting to see who was the squeakiest wheel, and it was me. Yesterday I counted what I have in the barn and it does not exceed 150 bales, which will not be enough even with another 150. I would prefer to have more. 300 bales does not leave me much slack if we should have a late spring. Abby found a storm window for one of the kitchen windows and washed it and put it up today. It’s a start. She also did some winterizing in the barn to make the chickens more comfortable. I made kimchee, something I have never done before. I merged a couple of recipes off the internet with Sally Fallon’s instructions. As a general practice, the first time I use a recipe I follow it scrupulously so that I have a clear baseline for future changes. A lot of Sally Fallon’s recipes seem kinda off-the-wall to me, so I rarely follow them exactly. The kimchee looks and smells great but it is mighty spicy. Maybe nobody will eat it. The spiciness can only be blamed on me. I thought it was too tame and added a little cayenne. Abby made more grape jelly.
October 20, 2005 Thursday: I thought we would have frost last night, but we did not. It is colder tonight. It will be a miracle if we don’t get it tonight. Yesterday I got a call from my dentist’s receptionist inviting me to show up at 8:15 today for an appointment. I milked Helen extra early. I had to do a lot of hollering to get her in but when she finally showed up she was in a good mood. As for me, I have stitches in my mouth where the dentist excavated a broken off root in my upper jaw. He also put Novocain in my lower jaw to do a filling, so most of the day I had a paralyzed face. In consequence, I didn’t do much and even watched a movie on TV, Persuasion . I think I was born in the wrong century. It surely looks like fun riding in horse drawn carriages. Abby dearly loves old movies and has been seducing me away from my writing by turning them on. She made supper tonight, scrambled eggs, which is about all I could eat. At this evening’s milking Helen kicked almost as soon as I sat down. I got mad and yelled at her, then felt very bad when I started to milk her and saw blood running down her udder. That little puncture wound I mentioned last week was bleeding again. It appears to be a tiny wound and there is no inflammation. It looks like the work of a prong of barbed wire but I guess it bothers her although she really didn’t act as though it hurt when I put vitamin E on it. I stopped in to see my cousin Marcia, who has cancer. She looked very pale. I don’t think she has ever gotten her color back since last winter when she hemorrhaged followed having been given an incorrect prescription for heparin.
October 21, 2005 Friday: We had a hard freeze last night. All the flowers are destroyed and many cucumbers and squashes. Frost is to be expected now, in fact this is the latest I ever remember, but still we mourn. With the vines dead, I went down today and dug the potatoes. Abby planted some purple ones this year. I baked a couple for supper. They are delicious baked. Helen behaved just fine today. I put the kicker on both times since she caught me off guard yesterday. I have not lost any milk, but I don’t want to. She gave 3 ½ gallons today. Her little injuries are scabbed over and unnoticeable. We had a nice dinner with all locally grown food including pork chops from Max and Mitra. Besides the purple potatoes I also made cucumber salad and pan fried apples and a little Delicata squash.
October 22, 2005 Saturday: It was down to 23F this morning. The sauerkraut is excellent although too salty. I have it in a perfect crock and found a glass lid just the right size. The kimchee is also in a good big glass container weighted with a bag of water. We tasted both today. The kimchee is too spicy. I suppose somebody will like it. Live and learn. Helen seems to feel in an adversarial position with me. I put the kicker on halfway through tonight’s milking. She lifted her tail and dropped a huge plop. She gave 3 gallons and a quart today. Abby dug the last of the potatoes, a nice patch of fingerlings. That gives us a bushel from a miniature patch. I have exceptionally good soil in my veg Garden thanks to 30 years of adding rotted cow manure. Abby kept things well watered. It is amazing how much you can get from a small space with good soil. The potatoes were planted very late, well into July, and I had small hope of a crop. As it was, most of the potatoes did not have time to get very big. An interesting thing though, there were no potato bugs. Perhaps this is because of the late planting. Usually I get lots.
October 23, 2005 Sunday: Hard wind and rain today, about 45F. I made a big pot of soup in which I included a few turnips from the garden. They are perfect turnips, big and round and pure white with a lovely flavor. I also started boiling the pigs heads stored in the freezer from Max and Mitra’s pigs and made some more lard. Abby made a nice apple pie with part gooseberries. We built a fire in the woodstove in the living room for the first time this year. It is so warm in the house with that woodstove going that I took off my sweater. At this morning’s milking Helen came in filthy as often happens when she has spends the night inside. I knew she would not graze last night because of the rain, so I put down a lot of hay. Even though I spent ten minutes cleaning her I put the kicker on her just to be sure she would not lift that dirty leg. She was perfectly behaved. Tonight I did not put the kicker on her and again she was perfectly behaved. Sammy sure looks big. He is bigger than previous steers at time of slaughter. He is getting a bit naughty now, but really is still very sweet and friendly. He has an appointment November 4.
October 24, 2005 Monday: I started out milking this morning without putting the kicker on Helen. When the bucket was half full she very purposefully picked up her foot too high for me to knock back and put it into the bucket, spilling most of the milk. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her and nothing happening to disturb her. It was as though she had planned it. She made me plenty mad and I slapped her on the butt with the back of shovel. The only possible explanation I can come up with is that perhaps she was tipsy from the big scoop of crushed and fermented apples I gave her. She is crazy about it, but I will not be giving her any more. I keep a second clean bucket in the barn in case of such disasters, so I used that. This is the first time since just after calving that she has dumped any quantity of milk. Oddly, despite my being angry, she never stopped letting down. Milk continued to stream out of her. It rained most of the day. Abby dug a long trench to drain away some of the muddy water that the cows walk through to get into the barn. Mitra, my DIL, tells me that Max made a pie with a homemade lard crust. Roshan, who ordinarily spurns crust, ate every crumb.
October 25, 2005 Tuesday: We had heavy rain and wind all day. The river is very high. Helen is acting odd. Even Abby noticed it. She did not let down well this morning or this evening. She gave only about 2 ½ gallons today. All three cows grazed several times in the rain, coming back in occasionally to dry off and eat hay. If she sorts herself out in a day or two I will be more than ever convinced that she is peeved about not getting any more apple pomace. The weatherman told us to expect snow here in the mountains. None here at the farm, but Abby drove to Weld and said snow was piling up along the edge of the road. I picked the last two cabbages and the last of the broccoli. We had it for supper with oven BBQ spare ribs that I made and corn pudding that Abby made. We had been eating leftovers for several days. I decided it was time to do a little cooking.
October 27, 2005 Thursday: At last a bright sunny October day! One of my hay deliveries arrived, just 50 bales. It looks ok. The hay man brought his helper and they put it upstairs in the barn as part of the price. I cracked open a bale tonight and the cows seemed to like it. Sammy is getting pushier by the day. He runs up the ramp and blocks Helen when she leaves by a narrow aisle after milking. I tap her on the tailhead and say, “Push, Helen, push” and she pushes him out of her way. This morning he deliberately pushed back. They are about the same weight but she began backing up towards me. I spoke loudly to Sammy, “Get back, Back Sammy, Back!” He ignored me even though he is thoroughly familiar with this command. I use it daily and insist upon it before I will set down his feed pan. I repeated the command but this time accompanied it by hurling my gloves across Helen’s back and into his face. Then he backed right up and looked apologetic. He is 22 months old now. I think it likely that if he were a bull he would be a serious nuisance.
October 28, 2005 Friday: Sammy tried again today to push Helen backwards down the aisle when I let her through. This time I just yelled “Sammy, get back!” and he backed right up. When I reached him he had a very sheepish expression. I noticed that Emily’s collar was getting too tight. I told Abby I would need her help getting it off. She managed to do it by herself by putting down three pans of grain, one for each, and working on the collar while Emily was eating. Collars on a growing animal are always something to watch. They so easily get too tight. I had another 138 bales of hay delivered. Max came over from New Sharon to help. Son Martin and DIL Amy did not know about the hay delivery. They were whizzing by on their way to camp for the weekend and saw the truck and me waving from the hay mow and did a U turn. With all that help we soon had it stacked. It is nice hay. I hope it will encourage Helen’s production. I increased her grain this week and started her yesterday on the previously delivered hay. She gave 3.5 gallons today, which is a little better than yesterday. My former customer Joe and family bought a cow a couple of months ago and have had a lot of growing pains with her. Tonight he called to say she had eaten 43 pounds of grain that was not locked up.. He had put some laxative cow tablets down her and is keeping her moving. How we hope he saves her.
October 29, 2005 Saturday: Abby, Max and Martin made some improvements to my barn water system to help prevent freeze-up. This is such a problem each year. They wrapped the key section of pipe and added heat tape. They also repaired one of the ramps that had lost a stud. That ramp is made of CorrectDeck and looks as good as new after a year of use but it must have needed longer screws in the studs, or maybe they are called cleats. Anyway, the pieces that are screwed on to form footholds. We were eight for dinner including my granddaughters, Shireen and Roshan. I oven braised a large beef brisket from my last beef a year ago. DIL Mitra made a marvelous salad with baby spinach, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, feta and avocado with her special dressing. For dessert I made a lime sour cream cake from the Martha Stewart cookbook and served it with Pennsylvania peaches that Abby canned last August. After dinner Abby and I went out with flashlights and picked some young chickens of the upstairs railings in the barn where they roost. Something has gotten one or more birds recently. We put them in the secure room with the layers.
October 30, 2005 Sunday: Fine weather again today. Max and Martin went for a mountain bike ride up in the hills. Maine does not permit Sunday hunting, so they were safe. They had initially planned to ride yesterday, but as Max drove down from New Sharon and saw the mountainsides dotted with orange gear he changed his mind. They both agreed, getting shot would ruin their day. Martin split wood for several hours and stacked it in the barn. He also brought the old Moline and bushhog home from Sally’s field. It needs to be parked for the winter. Abby went up to Weld and picked apples from a tree where no-one wants them. So many tons of fruit go to waste in Maine. Helen gave a bit over three gallons today. I saw no sign of more chickens being taken last night. Our friends with the cow that over ate on grain has survived. The family was up all one night taking turns keeping her walking and giving her encouragement. For awhile she went into trembling and shaking. She still will eat little or nothing but drinks water. She refused molasses water. I told them to keep trying to temp her appetite as she risks going into ketosis. I discovered that they were also having her share her pasture with a horse. I talked them out of that.
October 31, 2005 Halloween: For the last few milkings I have been starting without the kicker and then putting it on the minute Helen begins shifting about. Tonight she stayed quiet the whole time. She gave 3 ½ gallons today. Egg production is very poor. I notice the worst looking of the molting hens are getting new pin feathers, so perhaps there is hope. It looks like I have a new milk customer. I don’t know her name yet. My health food store picked up for her. I made pan fried applesauce with some of the apples Abby brought home yesterday. They are a fine cooking apple. To make this you cut up the apples with or without the skin, melt butter in a heavy skillet, toss the apples in the butter and add a little cinnamon, and sprinkle with brown sugar. Simmer slowly until the butter and sugar begin to caramelize. This is wicked good.
November 1, 2005 Tuesday: Only two lots of kids came last night, so I have a lot of candy left over. I wonder how it freezes. Reese’s Pieces, mini Hershey bars and malted milk balls. I got the least vile stuff that was on offer, but still, nobody in my family is likely to eat it. Today is the day marked on my calendar for Helen to come back in heat following last month’s display of attention from Sammy. I watched closely all day and nary a sign. I suppose she may be waiting for tomorrow. I have the vet coming tomorrow to see if his long arm will tell us anything. Her production was down a bit from yesterday, just three gallons. This might mean something. I got some more garden clean-up done. All the stakes are pulled. There is so much yet to do it is scary.
November 2, 2005 Wednesday: Wonderful news today! My vet came by and stuck his arm into Helen and said he would guess she is 10 weeks pregnant! That jibes perfectly with her August 10 breeding date. Who know why she showed symptoms of heat last month? He also gave Emily her Bangs shot and put in a tattoo and ear tag. I wish I had thought to tape her while she was tied up. She has gotten skittish and will be more so for a while now.
November 3, 2005 Thursday: I gave Sammy lots of treats today and kissed him goodbye tonight. This will be his last night. I taped him yesterday. It said 1083 lbs. but I think that must be an exaggeration. Maybe he was standing wrong. Martin and Max are staying here overnight to help with dispatching Sammy. Martin brought his Toyota pickup. Max carefully sharpened my butcher knife. He positioned the Kubota near the barn door and attached the chain. Max’s friend Tim will be here to fire the shot.
November 4, 2005 Friday: I was up soon after 4am and the men a few minutes later. I had the gates closed so the cows would spend the night closer to the barn. Martin went out and moved Helen and Emily out of the barn and left Sammy in the beefer pen, their run-in where the manger is. Tim comes home from work at 5am He stopped by his own house to put on blaze orange and pick up his hunting license. The game wardens are very picky about anybody carrying a gun without wearing orange. He brought his carbine. They opened the big barn door and set down a pan of grain for Sammy. He lowered his head to eat and never knew what hit him. Inside the house I heard a low pop. It was still dark. The men wrapped the chain to the back feet of Sammy’s carcass and hoisted him up. Max cut across both carotid arteries. The carcass looked huge. They loaded it neatly into the truck bed and Martin drove it to the butcher. The butcher was very annoyed that he did not have it earlier, but we did our best. We needed to wait for Tim because he owns every kind of gun. He also lacks the slight inhibition against killing that my sons have, since they are so rarely called upon to do it. Tim is an ardent hunter. Martin needed to hurry back from the butcher because he had to be at a meeting wearing a suit at 8am at Gould Academy 45 minutes away. After Martin left, Max was invited up to Tim’s for a visit. Max said his boots looked pretty bad. With the polite demur of a rural gentleman, Tim said, “Don’t worry about your boots on my floor.” (But we all know that his wife’s floors are magically clean.) Later Max moved gravel with the Kubota and improved the site inside the beefer pen for the indoor winter stock water set-up. Then he scrubbed out the tank and moved it inside. I noticed Helen went right to it this evening. When next Helen saw Max she moo-ed angrily at him and kicked up dirt. She was calm by evening milking. At morning milking, with Sammy gone, Emily bellowed because she was alone. This evening I let her in along with Helen. She went right over and stood in the next place beside Helen where I used to hitch her when she was a little calf and ate some grain. I did not hitch her this time. She is currently without a collar and I did not feel like having any hassles. Emily already has her winter coat.
November 5, 2005 Saturday: Emily followed Helen in nicely this morning and I was able to easily put a collar on her and hitch her up. She stood quietly while I milked, and did the same again this evening. Nonetheless I milked with the kicker on just in case Helen became jumpy. She likes no new thing. However she was perfectly quiet. Since a week ago Friday when I got my best hay I have been feeding it out at the rate of a bale a day. I also increased Helen’s grain to 7 or 8 lbs/day. I wanted to see if this would increase her milk supply. She has now made it back up to about 3 ½ gallons/day. I am not going to continue feeding the good hay any more now, though. I will save it for late winter. I got some more garden clearing done. I have a place ready to plant garlic.
November 6, 2005 Sunday: What fun I had today planting my garlic. I made a row about a foot wide and planted them in a zig zag pattern to make room for more. I look forward to a fine crop next year. Despite the frosts we have had there are a number of things still looking cheerful in the garden. There are Brussels sprouts, arugula, Swedes of course, more beets, and a lot of new chervil. There is not much horseradish. Abby did not recognize it and scrupulously dug out all she could find, but you really cannot get rid of it. I found a couple of skinny roots. I wanted some for a recipe I found for a salve said to get rid of age spots. Little faith do I have, but shall make the salve and see what happens. I found the recipe last night while Googling for a recipe for a Gardener’s Salve. My nephew, a carpenter, is suffering badly with chapped hands. I made some up today to send him. It has lanolin, beeswax, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, honey, and a tea of chamomile and lavender. It just happened that I had all the ingredients. It felt pretty good on my hands. Come to think of it, it is odd that none of the recipes I found called for comfrey. I have such a lot. The tops are pretty well knocked down, but the roots should be huge. I ought to dig some and experiment.
November 7, 2005 Monday: I made a couple of loaves of bread, two pounds of scrapple and 1.5 lb of butter today. Also, I mulched the garlic with piles of comfrey leaves and then put CorrectDeck boards on it to hold down the mulch. This is to avoid frost heave. Now I have changed to a lower grade of hay and Helen stares at me before munching. I think this already being reflected in her production. I had to fight for my three gallons today. The grass still looks green, but the nutrient value has declined. Here is an excerpt from a letter to my son John: While I’m being gloomy, have you been reading anything about oil depletion? I have just finished two books about it. Both authors have the same bottom line message: oil, coal and natural gas are all in depletion. What’s left is the less accessible, less easily refined kind of fossil fuel. World demand is rising with great speed. The most critical fossil fuel is oil and most of it is in places where they hate us. By imposing extremely harsh but realistic constraints on our use it might just last through most of this century. If we don’t slow way down it will run out much sooner. This will not be a pretty picture. Here is a website www.peakoil.net The two books I mentioned are, The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kunstler. It is available at all bookstores. The other is, The End of Fossil Energy, by John G Howe. This is available from the author for $10 post paid. Write to John Howe, Howe Engineering Co., 298 McIntire Road,Waterford, ME 04088 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Put fossil fuel in the subject line. I have written an essay as an epilogue to The Long Emergency. I will send it to Kunstler. He needs to know more about cows.
November 9, 2005 Wednesday: I dug considerably more garden today and dug up some comfrey roots. The digging is not all done by any means, but is in better shape than I managed last fall. It was not ready to plant this past spring. Had it not been for Abby taking over the gardening there would have been little besides tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and beets. I pulled the last of the beets today. The weatherman said to expect snow, so I felt the need to hurry. When I emerged from the barn this evening the snow had begun. I turned on the furnace this afternoon for the first time this year.
November 10, 2005 Thursday: Both last night and tonight Helen has been reluctant to let down. She lets down just fine in the morning. Tonight I got only one quart. She came in appallingly filthy and it took me numerous rags and paper towels to clean her up. By the time she was clean I had forgotten all about actually brushing her. I will be sure to brush her tomorrow night just in case she was disappointed. She gave two gallons both mornings. Strange. Of course she could not graze today. We had out first snow so they stayed in all day eating hay. She will have known I was pretty tense, but I often am in the evening because of needing to get back to the house. Tonight I was waiting for my grandson, Rafe, from Alaska. His girlfriend, Sally B, who is traveling with him, parted company in Portland to visit a school friend, but will be along tomorrow. Rafe will return the following day my car, to pick her up along with his sisters Rosemary and Rebecca and Rosemary’s husband Nate. These two are the ones with the salmon fishing boat. We will have lots of excitement for a while now.
November 11, 2005 Friday: Max picked up Rafe last night and they arrived here safely. I fed them a very successful meatloaf and a veg stirfry. Rafe has grown a beard. He said it was meant to make him look more mature. I am all over that, myself, needing no extra exertion in order to achieve that look. He brought many jars of canned goods his girlfriend made and two great whole salmon he caught off the beach by their house in Alaska. He is an active guy and got up early. Bagel got three good walks today. Rafe fired up his Kawasaki motorcycle stored here, but did not take it on the road. I stood in front of the wheel in case he thought of trying. That bike has been gathering dust in the barn for over a year. In fact, Abby had one of her numerous cat beds tied up between its handlebars. Helen gave a bit of over two gallons this morning. This evening I managed to keep everything very quiet and gave her a lot of brushing. She let down properly and gave over a gallon. Her total for today was about 3.5 gallons. She and Emily went outside for awhile but did not go far. A little snow remains. The ground is all crunchy. Rafe has gone back to Portland for the rest of the crowd. I have a fish chowder and buttermilk biscuits waiting for them. I will have the whole group including Max’s family here tomorrow. Max had contributed an enormous pork loin roast with the bone in.
November 12, 2005 Saturday: Oh, I am so full! We just had a grand feast with an enormous pork loin from one of Max and Mitra’s pigs. The loin was so long we had to saw off two chops to get it into the oven. I rubbed it with olive oil, Chinese mushroom soy sauce and Iranian pomegranate syrup. It was absolutely amazing meat. With it I served my home made sauerkraut, applesauce made by Rafe’s girl friend Sally B, a big salad made by granddaughter Rebecca, and mashed potatoes. For dessert we had a pumpkin mousse that Rosemary made. We drank a 2003 Black Box cabernet which I can entirely recommend. While waiting for dinner to be ready everybody ate Mitra’s tour de force hors d’oeuvre of pomegranate walnut dip. While others were snacking, Sally B and I did the barn chores. She watched as I milked. Helen behaved well. Most of the day Rafe worked on patching the barn roof. He came equipped with his climbing gear and affixed his line to the Kubota on the other side of the barn. All the others worked on sawing, chopping and stacking wood. Currently visiting are my granddaughter Rebecca, a wildlife biologist, her sister Rosemary, a writer and fisherman, her husband Nathan, captain of their salmon fishing boat, their brother Rafe and his gf Sally who both graduated last year from College of the Atlantic and have just finished building a house in Alaska. Also present were my son Max and his wife Mitra, Mitra’s mom, Marie, their daughters Shireen and Roshan, and my daughter Abby. We all had a wonderful time.
November 13, 2005 Sunday: It being Sunday and no hunting, the Alaska contingent jumped up from breakfast and decided to climb Tumbledown. That meant five adults in my small car and they wanted Bagel along too. The three ladies occupied the backseat with Bagel stretched across their laps. He gave me that hangdog look you see on a dog that has been made to put on a sweater. The “This was not my idea” look. They reported that on the hike he was perfectly well behaved. In the afternoon they went up to camp and borrowed their Aunt Marcia’s cider press. They drove around Weld observing the many apple trees still loaded with neglected fruit and stopped at a home where they saw somebody in the yard of whom to ask permission. It turned out to be the lady who owns the health food store and whose customers come to me for milk. She said “So you’re the reason there’s no milk to sell!” She urged them to collect all the apples they wanted. It looked as though they brought home six bushels. They made 11 gallons of mighty fine cider. I made a pot of beans today, Rosemary made cornbread and cole slaw and Sally B made beautiful apple dumplings. Helen lifted her foot up this morning with the clear intent of putting it into the bucket, but I knocked it back in time and put the kicker on her. This evening I put the kicker on just to be on the safe side since we are low on milk, but she was very quiet. I only got 2 ¾ gallons today. I am getting about seven eggs a day.
November 14, 2005 Monday: Another jolly day with the young folks here. They split a lot more wood with breaks for hikes in the hills. Rafe and Sally took the Kubota over to my daughter Sally’s field so that they could pick highbush cranberries by standing in the bucket. They brought home a couple more gallons of them. I went grocery shopping. At lunch time Rafe fried up a big pan of potatoes. I gave him beef fat for frying as this gives superior results. Along towards evening Rafe and Nate went back to Weld for more free apples. For dinner Rebecca made excellent spaghetti and Rosemary made Ceasar salad. Helen was well behaved today but this morning came in dirty as could be. The weather today was dry, bright and breezy and the cows stayed in the pasture all day. So, tonight she was clean. She only gave 2 ¾ gallons today. I have marked all the milk Not For Sale. I need it all right now. Last night as Rosemary sat at the computer two voles came out and played on her foot. I have never known this place to be troubled by voles before. I thought they inhabited riverbanks. But this evening one of the cheeky things was running around the kitchen. What useless cats I have. My son John called me from Townsville Northern Queensland where he has a position at the university there. We talked of free fruit going to waste and he said they have two huge mango trees in their back garden. A quarter of a mile away there is a river with a vast mangrove swamp on the far side. At evening a small trail of fruit bats appears, then more and more until countless millions head out for a night of feeding. Many feast in John and Lou’s mango trees. The fruit bats are very large. They have a wingspan of about a yard. The fruit bats occupy only a minor portion of the mangrove swamp. Most of it is the home of the ibis. Thousands of these fly out by day and are seen on every lawn. I forgot to ask what the ibis eats.
November 15, 2005 Tuesday: Rafe wanted me to ask John if he goes canoeing in the mangrove swamp. John said he did until not long ago when a crocodile chomped up a canoe and ate the canoeist. A huge croc has also been reported in the river so John has switched from kayaking to a motor boat. This seems wise. Helen was perfectly behaved today, but only gave about 2 ½ gallons. It was cold and sleety today, but she and Emily went out for a while anyway. Rafe and Nate were up early making cider again. Rafe tried some more roofing until the weather got too bad. Then they all went to Farmington to shop at the Thrift Shop and Twice Sold Tales, the second hand bookstore. Somebody came and got two more kittens. I am so worried every time, hoping it is a good home. I made an angel cake with a collection of leftover egg whites. For dinner we had tuna steaks, brown rice, Swiss chard and baked squash.
November 16, 2005 Wednesday: Rafe and his GF Sally have left for Bar Harbor. Rafe hopes to make it out to Gott Island where he used to work as a carpenter wile attending College of the Atlantic. Nate killed two roosters for me. Rebecca plucked one and Nate the other. Rebecca cleaned both. All I had to do was put them into the freezer. I am so glad to have this done. Nate has now cut all the firewood with the chainsaw and he and the women have split and stacked a great deal. It will all be done by tonight or tomorrow morning. What a treat! It rained most of last night and today and feels cold and damp outdoors. I worked briefly in the garden and walked around everywhere looking for a missing garden tool. I hoped that with grass and weeds dying it might show up, but no luck. Helen and Emily did not mind the weather and grazed for several hours. Helen gave 2 ¾ gallons today. I stewed up a small chicken I had in the freezer and Rebecca made a very nice soup for supper.
November 17, 2005 Thursday: Rosemary hopped up this morning and made an apple gooseberry pie with a lard crust (my homemade lard). We ate it for breakfast. Helen was perfect this morning and I got two gallons of milk. She did not have much this evening, only ½ gallon. She was jumpy, perhaps because she knew I was a bit upset about having to deal with yet another gratuitously insulting forum member who does not even have a cow. But really, I don’t think she had any more milk. Most of my hay is not really very “milky”. It was sunny and they grazed all day. It rained hard all last night and the river is up to the banks. Rosemary and Nate decided to canoe down the river. Nate dropped a big piece of firewood on his bare toe last night and it looks awful and is probably broken. Consequently they wanted an adventure that did not involve much walking. They took the aluminum Grumman. They went the five miles in about 2 ½ hours with one portage around falls. They missed our Cousin Leavitt’s farm and went all the way to the Dixfield boat landing. Abby fetched them at the end of their run. They arrived home dry. For dinner I made a lamb curry, also a baked custard, a favorite with all here. Rosemary made a spinach/chard/squash medley. Everything was eaten. My daughter Marcia brought me an elegant cowbell with a highly ornamental band from Switzerland. I think it is too fancy for a cow. I shall hang it by the door..
November 18, 2005 Friday: Abby drove her car off the road. She was coming home from a doctor’s appointment, having gotten a new prescription of something for anxiety. The pharmacist told her it would be alright to drive if she were careful. But as she was coming past Spaulding’s right before my place she said the road seemed to dissolve in front of her. She drove through the fence into the field, then attempted to correct and drive back onto the road and took out another section of fence. She was found sitting by the road. A nice lady from Rangeley who was passing stopped and stood by her administering advice etc. Then Kenny Flagg, the fire chief, came and directed traffic. A great many cars stopped. Finally the ambulance came and took her to Rumford. Rebecca and I followed shortly in my car. I was actually in the barn when this happened and could not imagine what was going on across the field. I thought maybe somebody had hit a deer. Then Alton Arsenault came to the barn and said, “You know that is your daughter out on the road.” She was much too dizzy to stand, and very weak. I have a feeling she had not eaten much of anything today. At lunch time she declined an offer of custard which she loves, saying she did not feel well. We found Abby in the emergency room shivering under blankets, but otherwise well. We brought her home and tucked her in. We were expecting my son Martin and wife Amy for dinner. When we got home I discovered that dear Martin had milked Helen, Nate had moved Abby’s car with the Kubota and Rosemary and Amy had dinner all ready. It was a cheerful occasion because we were so relieved that Abby had not gone over into the river and was not injured. Sally Lakness called. I have made arrangements to buy her sweet little cow, Jasmine. She will be up with Jasmine on Saturday.
November 19, 2005 Saturday: Abby is weak from her accident, but otherwise well recovered. Nate looked over her car and found only cosmetic damage. It is an old Volvo, very solidly built. It has a lot of barbed wire scratches. He was able to put the grill back. Sally Lakness came with her mini Jersey cow, Jasmine. Jasmine is a mannerly little thing. I shut her in the barn to eat hay for most of the day because Helen and Emily were grazing far from the house. About 3 pm we let her out to join the others. When I opened the door to let Helen in for milking she was not waiting at the door in her usual way. Instead she was standing on the ramp to the outside door to block Jasmine coming in. However as soon as I brought Helen in and put her in her stanchion Jasmine marched right in and went to her own stanchion as though she knew her business. She did visit here once about a year ago. It is hard to believe she remembers, but she sure did give that impression. Earlier today Nate helped me check out the milking machine and vacuum pump. Jasmine has very small teats, so with two cows I have decided to get it out again. Except for some pooping, both cows behaved perfectly. Between the two of them I got three gallons of milk. Jasmine gives as much as Helen. We had a big family dinner with all of Max’s family including Mitra’s mom, Marie, and her brother David, also Martin and Amy. Mitra made another of her awesome salads. I baked a lovely salmon that Rafe caught outside his house on the Chilcoot River. We had mashed potatoes and I made a curry flavored Bechamel. Rebecca made a three layer Devil’s Food cake. Everything was yummy.
November 20, 2005 Sunday: Sally Lakness stayed overnight and assisted this morning with milking Jasmine. All went easily. This evening I was alone, but had no difficulty. Both cows were well behaved with the machine and it gave no trouble except for a tendency for the vacuum pressure to creep higher. Nate will look at it in the morning. Jasmine mooed a few times after she saw Sally drive away without her. But, cows are pragmatic and she soon followed Helen down the pasture. She is eating her hay and grain without constraint. I have not seen her drink from the stock tank which is inside the beefer pen, their run-in. They also have a number of places in the pasture where natural water is available. Rosemary walked the fence line and found some places in need of repair. She worked on it for several hours and fixed everything that she could. Nate added a hand with some of it. Rebecca had to leave today. Martin and Amy took her to the airport on their way back to Biddeford. I miss her already.
November 22, 2005 Tuesday: I had to say goodbye to Nate and Rosemary today. They are off to do volunteer work for a couple of months in Haiti and elsewhere in the Caribbean. They will be working on an organic farm. Jasmine continues to be a very nice little cow with good manners and lots of milk. The milking machine is behaving well also. I have worked up Jasmine’s grain to about the same as Helen’s. She is used to a lot of silage and not a lot of grain, but I don’t have silage. So, it will have to be grain. I am throwing down three or four flakes a day of the alfalfa that Sally brought. It is dense and caked up like a brick and impossible to fluff out. But the cows like it. A sleet storm started today. It is not terribly cold, but there is a lot of wind.
November 23, 2005 Wednesday: I am definitely going to have to look for better boots. The barn is getting pretty nippy. With every milking I am getting more efficient with the machine. I have been reluctant to leave it on too long so have had to do considerable hand stripping. Nate taught me how to adjust the vacuum pressure too. This evening everything came together nicely for me and the cows and I needed to do minimal stripping. I brought in over six gallons today. This morning I made butter. It has been a couple of weeks since I have been far enough ahead on milk to make butter or clabber. Last night I had four gallons of skim and discovered I had accidentally thrown out my clabber starter. So, I set the whole thing up on the Aga and inoculated it with yogurt. Now I have four gallons of excellent yogurt. Too bad I did not have it in time for the Alaska guests. They love yogurt. I will have to give most of it to the chickens. The weather is turning very bad. Mitra and I are making plans for a midday dinner tomorrow so they will not have to drive home after dark. My daughter Sally in Haines, Alaska, reports that they have had endless days of rain and the highway from town is washed out in several places. Some people are marooned. The house of one neighbor is sliding into a ravine and across the inlet an avalanche has come down on a house. Sally does not feel that her place is at risk.
November 24, 2005 Thanksgiving Day: It was such a busy day that it went by in a blur. We needed to have a midday feast because it was snowing hard. Max and Mitra did not want to go home late. We were ten for dinner. The more athletic among us went for a walk and finished up with a snowball fight. I had the turkey and ham in the oven by 7am. The ham was one from Max and Mitra’s pigs. I marinated it in cider and basted it with cider. Part way through cooking I poured off the cider and reduced it in a frying pan, adding some brown sugar. I came across this method the other day while reading my little cookbook of 18th Century recipes. Mitra’s mom made an excellent turkey dressing and I made lots of gravy and mashed potatoes. Mitra got a marvelous recipe off the internet for maple roasted root vegetables. I must get the recipe. They were supposed to be tossed in a marinade which included a lot of olive oil and garlic besides the maple syrup. In the interest of time I parboiled them before roasting them, which I think may have improved them. Anyway, they were a huge hit. Mitra also made a pumpkin cheesecake and Max made an apple pie. My son Mark brought a bottle of organic French Bordeaux, which was excellent. Mark is winding down his first semester in med school. Today was about the first day off he has had. Everybody admired Jasmine. I got over 6 gallons today from the two of them. It was no problem to supply a big bowl of whipped cream at dinner. The water tubs in the barn had a lot of ice this morning. Abby spent a considerable time today getting submersible water heaters set up. Rafe rejoined us following a week in Bar Harbor. He talked to his mother, my Sally, in Alaska. She says the storm is unabated. She and Tom were getting together with neighbors for dinner. Rosemary wrote from Tobago. They arrived safely after many delays and spent their first night in a B&B. She reports lots of beef cattle each tied to a palm tree.
November 25, 2005 Friday: The temperature went down to 9F last night and we got about 6″ of snow. There was a lot of wind, so it got rearranged. I need a wider plastic sled. It hit a bump this morning and tipped the machine upside down into the snow which stuck all over it. The pulsator action was much discouraged and the teat cups had snow doughnuts. This evening I wrapped the unit in a big bath towel for transport. The cows combined output was slightly under 6 gallons today, but they were well behaved except they have both taken too pooping and peeing while in their stanchions. They each contrive to do it while I am with the other so I can’t catch it. Jasmine is clever and knows she ought to come in first since she occupies the farther stanchion. I have observed her trying to decide whether it was politic to dart ahead of Helen. Until this evening she had hesitated. I’ll be interested to see if she enters first again tomorrow. It was a brilliantly sunny day. No more grazing with the new snow on the fields, but the cows stood outside to warm their faces. They appear comfortable. Abby set up their submersible water heater yesterday, also one for the hens. One gloomy bit of news; the spring line froze. There is a considerable stretch of it that lies above ground. Warmer weather is predicted for next week. Maybe I will get lucky and it will thaw out.
November 26, 2005 Saturday: It was even colder this morning than yesterday. It was down to 6F. But this time I was better prepared. I had roused out a lot of cold weather gear. I even set the milking machine atop the Aga for a while, then wrapped it in a large bath towel. It worked fine. Jasmine knows it would be better sense for her to come in first and was all ready to step up the ramp when Helen gave her the stink eye. She let Helen go first. They gave a combined six gallons today. I am experimenting with canning milk. I thought it turned out great, but son Bret, the food technologist and nutrition guru, has written off to his dairy expert colleague for further instructions.
November 27, 2005 Sunday: This morning Jasmine tried again to walk in first, but Helen shouldered her out of the way. This evening she sprinted ahead and got in first. She is a speedy little craft compared to Helen. There was bright sun much of the day. The thermometer made it up to 28F. It was the kind of winter day I remember as a child in Maine when my sister and cousins played outside for hours sledding and building snow houses. Abby left this morning for Pennsylvania. Now she will be closer to her daughter, Helena, whose baby is expected December 31. Last night before leaving she set my old cat, Sissypuss, up with a heating pad in the buttery. Sissypuss rarely comes in the house anymore and when she does she is incontinent, so I don’t encourage her coming in. But the buttery is cold. She sat right down on the heating pad and has scarcely moved since. I made another batch of canned milk. For this attempt I Googled “milk home canning” and got a Mother Earth News article which recommended 10 lb pressure for 25 minutes. Both today and Saturday I lost one in the canner. I now have 12 quarts canned.
November 29, 2005 Tuesday: Sally B and Rafe made a cheese today. They made Ricki Carroll’s Farmhouse Cheddar from KFC. It looks very promising. They also made ricotta with the whey and got a very good yield. Sally B made lovely little tarts using a Vienna pastry which incorporated yogurt cream cheese. The tarts were filled with ricotta and covered with blackberry jam I made last summer. I called up and ordered some additional cheese making supplies for them. I do hope their enthusiasm does not flag too rapidly, as my pair of little cows are giving me six gallons a day. Twice now I have made four gallons of yogurt in a plastic bucket set overnight on the Aga. The chickens are enjoying pans of yogurt. Sissypuss was wandering around the buttery today mewing indignantly. I discovered that her heating pad had gone off. As soon as it warmed up again she resumed her position on it. She is an old, long haired, three colored cat, pretty close to being a coon cat.
November 30, 2005 Wednesday: Great excitement in the kitchen today, the spring water line thawed out and once again the spring is running. It warmed up and rained hard all last night and much of today, so that that did the trick. It is only a brief reprieve until another hard freeze. I turned up the flow so that it will have a better chance. SallyB, Rafe and I went to Farmington to the used bookstore. While they did further shopping I visited Mitra’s mom, Marie’s, new condo. Max has done his usual superb painting job. Marie has found great buys on new furniture and it looks totally charming. Marie now has homes in Oakland (just behind Mills College) and in Farmington. We hope she spends lots of time here. A big box arrived today from Marcia. She sent me all her winter boots and socks. She says she is not doing winter anymore (they have a place in Florida). I will gladly wear them, but will take good care of them in case she changes her mind. A lovely friend also sent me new kefir grains, so very soon I will be back drinking kefir. The cows continue to be very good. They look contented whenever I look in on them. My vet is coming in a day to two to look at Jasmine and evaluate her for possible abortion. She is quite tiny to be in calf to a Holstein.
December 1, 2005 Thursday: My milking machine is working very well. I do have to adjust the vacuum pressure frequently in response to the weather. I am getting better at knowing just how long to leave it on so I do not need to do as much stripping. Neither cow has kicked it – knock on wood. Thirty-six hours of rain took away all the snow. The sun came out and it got up to 40F. Helen led everybody out into the pasture where they spent the day. Sally B made another cheese. It looks very nice. Rafe was not here to help. He borrowed my car and drove to somewhere in New Hampshire to look at a sailboat that was for sale. He did not buy it. He said it needed too much work and looked slow. I caught and penned up four roosters for Rafe to dress off tomorrow.
December 2, 2005 Friday: Everything continues to go smoothly with the little herd of cows. Jasmine was rather dirty today. I shampooed her tail for the second time. It did not rain today. The cows went out to graze. Sally and Rafe did not make another cheese today. Instead, they dressed off four roosters for me. I had caught them yesterday and had them confined in a small pen. The smallest rooster weighed 3 lbs, the largest weighed 4.5 lbs. They all looked good and the kids did a great job of cleaning them. I will cook one in a day or two. It takes a while before one is in the mood for chicken after the messy job is done. I put up another batch of milk. Each time there has been one out of the seven that didn’t make it. In the second batch a jar broke. In the other batches a jar failed to seal. However, they look very good. When I came in this evening from milking Rafe was doing the happy dance around the kitchen. He had changed his mind about the boat and called and arranged to buy it. It is a 32 ft steel sloop with 9 ½ tons displacement. He plans to move it to his mother’s property across the river from me and work on it, probably next year after he earns more money.
December 3, 2005 Saturday: Rafe and Sally B started feta today. The bag is hanging up over the Aga draining into a bowl. I had my first glass of refreshing kefir from my new grains. It was much colder today and a stiff wind blew. Nonetheless, the cows grazed much of the day. They can’t be getting much. Rafe and Sally helped me to empty and wash out the stock tank. The chickens have been defiling it. I took a walk all around the yard and garden looking for forgotten tools etc. I picked a few sprigs of cold resistant celery which I added to the pot with one of the roosters Rafe and Sally dressed off on Thursday. I simmered it all day in a heavy pot. It was absolutely tender and moist and very tasty. Rafe has been doing a lot of the mucking out for me. He also took measurements for a modification of the lean-to behind the barn to make it into a tractor shed. Rafe admires Jasmine. He says her coloration is exactly like a grizzly bear, blackish brown with golden brown highlights. They have grizzlies around their place all the time.
December 4, 2005 Sunday: Despite cold bleak weather, Rafe and SallyB made plans to run the Webb River today in the canoe. Then they discovered that the paddles were not with it. Severe disappointment. We will look for the paddles tomorrow at Martin’s camp where most likely Rosie and Nate returned them. Then perhaps they may have the extra thrill of running the river with snow falling. It is coming down hard now. My little herd appears contented. They go outside and fool around no matter the weather. Milk production is holding at around 6 gallons a day. The feta cheese looks excellent. Sally B made a delicious pumpkin and apple soup for supper. It included cream and ginger.
December 5, 2005 Monday: My vet stopped in today to have a look at Jasmine. He reached in and determined her state of pregnancy. He felt quite concerned about her being in calf to a Holstein and said he would feel better about it if she were lutalysed.. I agreed. She got the shot. I will try to find mini semen but failing that, I will find a calving ease bull or possibly a Dexter, although that will be hard in Maine. Rafe and Sally B took the canoe down the river to Dixfield today. I am glad they waited. It was colder, but we had sun all day. Max stopped by for milk. The fridg was so stuffed that I was getting scared to open the door. Rafe made vanilla ice cream.
December 6, 2005 Tuesday: It did not get quite as cold as expected last night. I had no trouble with the barn water and even the spring sink is running, It got down to 17F. Tonight is expected to be colder. Jasmine’s production dropped sharply today. Rafe and Sally B knocked down a wall of the lean-to behind the barn and created a tractor shed for the Moline. Rafe could not start it, so he used the Kubota to shove it in with Sally B steering. Helen was delighted to get in there too and tromp around. Rafe and SallyB went to the Free Store. They found a perfect Harris tweed coat for her.
December 7, 2005 Wednesday: The weather is quite disagreeable. There is an icy wind. It remains about 17F but the wind overcame the spring line. This time no doubt it will stay frozen. I shut the cows in the barn. I expect that poor little Jasmine will abort her calf tonight and I don’t want her answering some instinctive call of the wild that has her shivering all night in the woods. My Sally in Alaska is very glad I chose to give Jasmine the lutalyse. She went through a terrible kidding event last year with her goat. She assumed it would be triplets but it was just one large kid. Anyway, I hope I did the right thing by Jasmine. Rafe and Sally B made another big batch of feta today. The first lot turned out well indeed. It looks very professional.
December 8, 2005 Thursday: There was not the least sign of Jasmine’s fetus to be found. Both morning and evening milkings she charged ahead of Helen to be first in line to come in. This is logical because her stanchion is farthest in and if she comes in second she must pass behind Helen to reach it. This is a close fit even small as she is. Tonight during milking she strained repeatedly and dribbled dark blood. She displayed no diminution of appetite whatsoever. In the morning Sally B and Rafe took sandwiches and went on a long hike in the nearby hills. Bagel went with them. Later they went to Weld and returned the canoe and checked on both camps. They hauled the Ford tractor from where it has been parked with a For Sale sign on it using a chain to the Kubota and put it in a less vulnerable spot inside the fence.
December 9, 2005 Friday: Rafe discovered the fetus of Jasmine’s calf this morning during clean-up, which he has kindly been doing. Jasmine exhibited no interest in it, although perhaps she had when it was born. That can only have been about an hour earlier. She darted right in at the head of the line as usual. I heard a couple of little calf moos from Helen. I think I felt a lot worse about it than Jasmine did. I am glad she was not much grieved. It began snowing about 9am. Rafe and Sally set out to do a winter climb of Tumbledown. They returned about two hours later saying the trail was too icy. They brought me a charming Christmas tree. I am so pleased about this. I did not know how I was going to get one.
December 10, 2005 Saturday: Sorry, loyal readers for the delay in posting. I spent the whole day driving. (Max) Because of a weather prediction for high winds last night I closed the beefer pen door. The cows could not stand outside at all. What a mess it was in there this morning! Rafe did all the clean-up. Once he leaves and I get the whole job I think it will have to be pretty rotten weather before I shut that door again. After I milked Jasmine this morning and had the machine on Helen for about one minute, the electricity went out. Thank goodness Jasmine was done because she is tough to milk by hand with her teensy teats. I keep a clean stainless steel bucket in the barn on standby for emergencies and just switched over to hand milking. I did not fill the stock tank because the pump does not run without electricity. To my chagrin, when I got back to the house I discovered I had power. The barn service had popped the breaker. I suppose all my various heating devices cycled on at once. I unplugged the little heater in with the hens. They are going to have to get used to the cold. I can not risk having the heat tapes on the barn water going out. We said goodbye today to SallyB. Her folks came and got her for a visit before she and Rafe fly back to Alaska. This evening Rafe made a batch of lovely eggnog. With all fresh eggs and cream it is incredibly good.
December 11, 2005 Sunday: Rafe borrowed my car to drive to Biddeford, which is two hours away so that he could borrow my son Martin’s heavy van. Rafe needed to go pick up parts to the sailboat he bought a week ago. The largest item was a huge diesel engine. The former boat owner had a Bobcat for loading it. For unloading here Rafe used a system of boards to slide it out onto the Kubota tractor bucket. Now it is safely in my small barn in front of where I park my car. While Rafe was gone I had a lovely visit from Max, Mitra, the little girls Shireen and Roshan, and Mitra’s parents Marie and Alex. Alex was just back from visiting his relatives in Iran, some of whom live near the Caspian Sea. He was given a wonderful little container of caviar which he brought over to share. Only once before have I had caviar and it was not anything like this good. We had it with little slivers of avocado: perfect! What a memorable treat. Thank you Alex!
December 12, 2005 Monday: What a lot of milk I am getting! It is around six gallons. Figuring out what to do with it is a rather depressing challenge. I keep thinking of all the people elsewhere who would love to have this incredibly good milk. My Sally in Alaska is due to come here January 5. She wants me to get a calf as soon as she arrives. That will be a good use for some of the milk. I could try grafting the calf on to Jasmine, although according to her former owner, Sally L, she is not very maternal. Today Rafe drove back to Biddeford to return the van and pick up my car. About 15 minutes from Biddeford on the Interstate my car completely quit. He put his foot on the gas and instead of speeding up it drifted to a stop. Fortunately he was near an exit and he was able to walk to a pay phone. He does not have a cell. After many a conversation with AAA which included using my credit card to put his name on my membership, a tow truck came and took my poor little car to Martin’s house. I am told it sounds horrible. Rafe is staying overnight with Martin and Amy and tomorrow Martin is lending him his pickup to come home in. I am happy that no one was hurt, but am depressed about my car. Rafe assures me that he never gets out of the slow lane. Being from Alaska, he finds freeway traffic daunting and stressful. He was grateful not to have to drive home tonight. .
December 13, 2005 Tuesday: It turns out that my car had a broken timing chain as Rafe suspected. He came home driving Martin’s white Toyota pickup covered in CorrectDeck logos. It is the same model as his own pickup back in Alaska, so he was more relaxed than when driving the big van. He does not encounter freeways in Alaska. Jasmine and Emily, 8 ½ months, were circling and jumping each other so busily today that I could not tell which was in heat. Maybe both of them. Every so often they would get near Helen, whose interest was minimal, and she would butt them apart. I think I heard her say, “Quit making fools of yourselves, you two!” All day they ate little and production was down. I still brought in 5 ½ gallons. It is turning colder under a brilliant moon.
December 14, 2005 Wednesday: It was -2F this morning. It could be worse, but that is cold enough to make everything difficult. Helen came in dirty as she so frequently does and the washing up seemed to take forever. I take the Surge out warm and wrapped in a warm bath towel to encourage it to run. So far there has been no problem. Despite the cold the sun shone brilliantly. A lot of the snow has blown away leaving tufts of grass exposed, but there was no wind today. The cows chose to go out to graze. Jasmine seems especially enthusiastic about getting on the pasture. Rafe drove me to town to do some errands. When we got home he applied himself at once to putting up a chimney on his mother’s little house across the river. It was pretty cold working on the roof, but he kept at it for several hours before giving in to stiff fingers. My daughter Abby called to say that my granddaughter, Helena, is in the hospital in labor. Labor was induced. She has eclampsia, so it was necessary for the baby to be born. The actual due date was December 31.
December 15, 2005 Thursday: Helena’s baby girl was born at 6:44PM today. She weighed 5 lb 13 oz. Her doctors tried numerous interventions to bring on birth because of Helena’s symptoms, but it took more than 24 hours. In the end it was a normal vaginal birth for which we are all grateful. The baby’s name is Natalie. The grandmother, my daughter Abby, says the baby is beautiful and perfect. It was -4F this morning. Chores were not very fun but I kept reminding myself how much colder it is for some other cow owners. And, I do have light and water in my barn. The sun was brilliant all day. The cows went outside and basked in it for awhile. They are not minding the cold, but they sure do tuck into their hay. Tonight there is a full moon in a clear night sky. Over the past week I have been dosing the cows feed with vitamin E. Jasmine’s milk seemed not to have perfect flavor when she arrived, maybe because of her silage diet. The cream on their blended milk had the oxidized flavor I associate with insufficient vitamin E. Anyway, for whatever reason, the milk again tastes perfect. In addition to the other flavor, following Jasmine aborting, she produced a light colostrums for a few days.
December 16, 2005 Friday: It snowed hard all day. I think we got 6″ and the thermometer soared up to 27F. Off goes the furnace. The woodstove will do. The cows are snug in their Beefer Pen munching hay all day. Even the chickens are not minding life. I got 11 eggs today. Baby Natalie is finally in the arms of her mother after six hours of being flipped around in the neonatal unit. When they wheeled her away Abby followed closely and never left her post observing the babies through the glass. She wrote a detailed account of the babies being flipped around, punctured, rapped on the back to expel fluid and generally tortured. They all lie naked on their backs on a flat surface. No wonder they are screaming. The nurses pay no attention.
December 17, 2005 Saturday: I finally figured out an interim measure to take the stress off of my milk excess. I am skimming the cream for butter, which I must make every day now in any case, and putting the skim into those new plastic gallons that Sally Lakness left for me. These I will freeze. In fact, they will freeze just lined up in the buttery, I dare say. Then they will be available for piggies or whatever later on. My granddaughter, Rosemary, daughter of my Alaska daughter, Sally, is a dedicated world traveler and never to anyplace easy. Right now she and her husband, Nate, are in Haiti volunteering at a clinic. They do building and repairs, not medical work. Haiti is a crazy trainwreck, but the clinic has several computers she is able to use, so I hear regularly. Rosie is madly fearless. This is the first place she has been where she really has to remain within the compound for survival. Last year they went to Croatia and trotted around everywhere and found the people outgoing and friendly. In Haiti the people are hostile and/or too frightened to speak.
December 18, 2005 Sunday: Rafe left today, a day earlier than he expected to. His friend, Tony, who was giving him a ride as far as Massachusetts had to come today because he had purchased an orchid collection and had to get them home quickly in a warm car. Tony and his GF, Lindsey, Rafe and I had a nice lunch and then I saw them off. Bagel and I will now be alone until Xmas. I have a great deal to do. Bagel already misses his many walkies. I talked to Helena who is still in the hospital under observation. She and baby Natalie will be going home tomorrow. Her husband, Ryan, is off work for 10 days. She will have plenty of help. She sounded happy with motherhood.
December 20, 2005 Tuesday: My milking machine has been temperamental lately and this morning would not pulsate at all. I always start it before letting the cows in just in case there is a problem. I don’t want them standing there on one foot and the other pooping and peeing while I fiddle with it. This morning my efforts were in vain. I gave the cows one of my fancy bales of hay that I have been saving for later in the winter and took the machine back to the house to work on. At 11AM Max arrived with insulation for the chicken house. I had been back to the barn several times by this time to try out my repairs, but with no luck. I was beginning to lose that Zen feeling with which I attempt to confront mechanical repairs. By this time the cows were bellowing. Dear Max came out with me to the barn and we milked by hand. I put Max on Helen because she has great big old teats and he has large hands and she knows him from of old. Jasmine has teensy teats and only knows me. Max is a terrific milker. He does not mess around. He starts by tying Helen’s tail off to the wall just in case she should so forget her manners as to whap him with it. He had her all milked in five minutes while I had only three inches in the bucket from Jasmine. He offered to take over for me and I did not resist. Jasmine showed perfect manners and somehow Max had no problem with those itsy bitsy teats. Whew! The cows and I were greatly relieved. I spent the next three hours disassembling, cleaning and testing the milking machine. By three PM I had cleaned and reassembled the pulsator several times until it finally began to function. I don’t know what I would have done without Max. I have now lost December 20th to any meaningful assistance to Santa Claus, but at least my nerves are not so frazzed as they would have been had I been all alone. I think mechanical objects hate me and the feeling tends to be mutual. Max brought rolls and rolls of yellow insulation for the hen house. I dare not think how many eggs it will take to amortize this investment. This way lies madness. Later…. By milking time this evening the pulsator had lost its initiative. I was able to use it by sitting next to it and flipping the slider, but I am discouraged. On a more cheerful note, I sold three gallons to customers and another four gallons to Max. I hate seeing the fridge stuffed with unwanted milk. And, the local community church came in two pickups with youthful carolers and sang sweetly. It is getting very cold again tonight.
December 22, 2005 Thursday: For two days now I have been able to get the pulsator to function only by flipping the slider with my forefinger. This is cold work on cold steel and my finger now hurts. I hate this! I have had the pulsator apart several times and have studied the instruction sheets I possess, which I must say are not very helpful. So far I have not had time to wrap a single gift. Unexpectedly this morning I learned that my vet was stopping by. I always feed him lunch. I flung an armload of stuff out of the freezer and into a basket in my frenzied search for some haddock fillets. Since it is way below freezing I set the basket out in the buttery to get it temporarily out of my life. Later I chanced to look out the window at the exact moment to see Bagel prancing away holding aloft a large package of sausage. I chased right out into the snow in my fuzzy slippers. He dropped the sausage and ran. What luck that I saw him! Bagel is not a perfect dog.
December 23, 2005 Friday: I limped through the milking this morning as before, but Max drove over this evening and hand milked for me. What a break. He is so fast. Then Martin and Amy arrived for the weekend and now Martin is working on the problem. He suspects the pump is at fault. I am permitting myself some optimism. One way and another I am getting a lot of milk, 5 ¾ gallons today. Little Jasmine is giving more than Helen. I of course am loyal to Helen, but I think Sally L had a strong point when she said Jasmine was the world’s most perfect little cow.
December 24 Christmas Eve: Martin worked a long time on the milking machine both last night and today. This morning I was able to use the machine, but only as before, by manually moving the slider. In mid afternoon my son Bret called from Alaska. He had worked on the machine last year. He has a reputation for being diabolically clever at repairs. He made a suggestion over the phone regarding the air filter which very quickly resulted in the machine working perfectly. Martin had cleaned the filter but Bret suggested cleaning it again as he thought the filter must be responsible. So tonight I milked without incident while Martin did the mucking out and hay feeding and I was back in the house in about a half hour. Hurrah! DIL Amy washed mountains of dishes and son Mark ran the vacuum so things are under better control here except… ….I still have not wrapped any presents.
December 25, Christmas Day: We had a nice, white Christmas with some new snow dropped at the tail end of the long rainstorm that passed through. I got through wrapping gifts about midnight on Christmas Eve. Martin and Amy came down from camp and we ate breakfast together before opening gifts. I gave Martin and Amy the beautiful oak cradle more than 100 years old from my mother’s family in Harrisburg. My mother’s brothers and sisters all were rocked in it. Then my grandmother gave it to their church nursery, Augsburg Lutheran, where it spent many years. In 1964 my mother asked for it back. I believe at that time the church was closing. The cradle had been painted pink. My mother had it stripped and refinished and sent to me in California for my son Mark. Martin also slept in it. This cradle is well designed. The bed is suspended from a framework by ornamental iron castings. Max and Mitra and the little girls came over about lunch time. Martin backed the Kubota around the field with the bucket floating to make a trail in the snow for X country skiing. The men and kids played outside with skis, sleds and snowboard for a long time. The only misfortune occurred when Martin threw a snowball and knocked the head off Roshan’s snowman. That caused tears. For dinner I served the first big roast from my recent beef. Everyone loved it. Mitra made a beautiful salad, Amy made lots of mashed potatoes, we had green beans frozen by Abby from the summer garden, and Max made a cranberry crisp and a peach crisp from fruits we had canned last fall. We had to run the dishwasher three times. After dinner we opened the last of the gifts from each other.
December 26, 2005 Monday: Son Mark returned to Portland this morning. I spent a long time today catching up and ran the dishwasher another two times. The milking machine is working like a champ. I am getting about six gallons a day and hardly anybody is buying. The temperature in the buttery is just about freezing, so I have been filling up all the plastic milk jugs I can lay hands on with skim milk and standing it out there to freeze. I am also making a lot of butter. I got way backed up with milk over Christmas and today had to deal with 8 gallons of milk. I called back my dairy farmer friend and told him I would definitely take the next bull calf he has. The day ended with a sleet storm.
December 27, 2005 Tuesday: It was colder today and the walk to the barn is icy. Son Mark is back here with his daughter Hailey. Max brought Shireen and Roshan over for some cousin time and a sleepover. I was really tired today and accomplished little beyond dealing with the ten gallons of milk that needed skimming. I only got around to making one churning of butter, 1.5 lbs. Mark fixed dinner and helped in the barn. Now he has gone for a walk under a sky brilliant with stars. Visitors always comment that they are able to see more stars here than anywhere. The Pleiades are very apparent. Before the girls went up to bed Mark read us A Child’s Christmas in Wales.
December 28, 2005 Wednesday: My big excitement today was my furnace filling the house with smoke. Mark and Max first noticed the problem from outdoors. They could see unusual plumes of black, sooty smoke puffing out of the chimney. When I opened the door to the cellar I could not even see to the bottom of the stairs. I turned the furnace off of course. Fortunately, it is not terribly cold, maybe 28F. I found a furnace repairman at home and he will come tomorrow. We are between storms. The sun shone much of the day warming the snow enough to cover the driveway with ice. Jasmine walked far out into the pasture to check for grass. Helen and Emily walked out only a short ways. After a pancake breakfast, Mark, Max and the three cousins went over to Max’s place for another overnight party. The girls all get along well. I never hear any bickering or sulking. They engage in one project after another or race around outdoors and come in with pink cheeks.
December 29, 2005 Thursday: It was just me here alone last night and very quiet. This morning I overslept by nearly an hour. This late in lactation the cows don’t really seem to mind, but it puts me horribly behind all day. It is warm, about 32F, and it rained all day. This created a sheet of wet, shining ice on the driveway and lawn. Me and my plastic toboggan piled with gear made it to the barn with the aid of a ski pole. My furnace man came as promised. He worked several hours chipping away old gunk, using his shop vac and other doing other furnacey activities. He got it going nicely, but says the boiler is nearly done for and recommends a new furnace. It is 30 years old, so I am not surprised. It is far less efficient than furnaces made today. Most of the day, when I was not in the barn, was spent trying to do things with the milk. I made yogurt, cottage cheese and two batches of butter. Little Jasmine was in heat today, no mistake. So, it must have been Emily who was causing all the excitement last week.
December 30, 2005 Friday: Jasmine still showed some signs of heat today. She is very curious about everything. She tried to lick the top off of the cider vinegar bottle I keep in the barn. Both cows really like it. They get some on their grain. We have had two nights that were above freezing, resulting in a very icy dooryard and track to the barn. Now it is getting cold again, so the ice will remain. Max stopped in with my grain and strewed salt and ashes on the ice to make a safe path to the barn. I am still using my ski pole, though. Max brought me a lunar calendar. Usually I get several calendars, but this year, until today, I had none. Sally arrives in one week. I hope I can just hold out until she gets here to help with the milk. I am in danger of milk burnout.
December 31, 2005 Saturday: The cold weather is back. It was 6F this morning. The animals are well and happy, except that for once both Helen and Jasmine were jumpy and nervous at evening milking, almost as though there was something to be frightened of. I did not see anything amiss. All I do is play with milk. I am hanging on by my toes waiting for Sally to arrive and perhaps make cheese. I don’t believe her conscience would allow her to throw out milk any more easily than mine will. I made cottage cheese yesterday, which turned out lousy, so I gave it to the happy hens. I made it again today and it is perfect. I will freeze it before I quit for the night. I talked to my dear cousin in Florida and she is basking in 80F sunshine. My sister in California is enduring torrential rains. I do worry about her access road. It is dug out of the side of a mountain, just dirt with no guard rail. It is New Year’s Eve. Max and Mitra and the girls were planning a bonfire, but it is so cold that they decided to roast marshmallows in their fireplace. But first they went ice skating in Farmington. They always flood the soccer field to make a rink. Martin and Amy are in Quebec City. They sent pictures of themselves and friends climbing on the ancient fortifications, which if my memory serves, proved to be a useless military investment. I made myself a proper New Year’s Eve dinner of baked purple potatoes, newly made crème fraiche, and salad of baby spinach.