Shades of Ireland

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Faces

Since we are milking again, Adam has taken on a little more work. These are just two of the four dairy cross bull calves he is bottle feeding. Sweet faces.......

At first, I called this girl, Belle. Since we have been milking and handling her for a week now, her name has changed....... she is definitely a "Bertha".

This sweetie pie is still "Bambi". She is smaller in size and much milder in temperament.

I still have a hard time believing that I have sheep AND Jersey cows.......

The cows still have very sore feet. I am still afraid that poor Bambi is not going to heal up. They are gaining a bit of weight-- which is good and bad. Good because they look and milk better but bad because it is harder for their sore feet to carry the added weight. Each day, they wander out a little farther grazing. Last night, they went too far and were unable to get themselves back to the barn for milking. Since they are not anywhere near full production, it wasn't a problem and it did not hurt them to skip a milking. I felt that it would be cruel to force them back to the barn so I let them lay out in the tall grass. This morning, they limped back over and were happy to come in. 

Tonight, they were still a good distance from the barn but managed to make it back on their own in time to be milked. Afterwards, I filled the feed bunk with alfalfa hay and they ate with gusto. They may not be much better physically but their attitudes and appetites are much improved!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Chicken Cheese"

The milk barn is busy! I had not planned on milking more than the two late goats this fall. Honestly, I was considering starting to dry those two off after they were bred. That happened last week. Since the Jerseys have arrived, we are back to milking twice a day.

That is not a bad thing--- I am just not prepared for it! I have torn down, re-arranged and cluttered up the barn kitchen while remodeling things. I was planning on getting major stuff done to prepare for spring milking. Now, I barely have room to set the milk buckets. I really don't have a way to handle all this sudden influx of milk. It ends up being about six extra gallons of cow milk a day plus a gallon or so of goat milk.

So..... to help get rid of the extra milk with out pouring it out, I have been making "chicken cheese" at least once a day--- usually in the morning. While we are doing chores and milking, I put the milk left from the night before in a huge pot on the stove and let it be heating up. I keep a check on it and stir occasionally on my way by...... When it gets really hot ( too hot to touch), I pour in a dollop of vinegar, stir it and set it off the burner. By the time I finish up chores, it has seperated in to curds and whey. I dip off as much whey as I can and I give the laying hens the big lump of warm curds left in the pot. They LOVE a hot breakfast!

I then take the warm whey out and put it in the meat birds waterer. The barn cats get some, too. All of them are just glossy with good health! I am thinking that we will be butchering the meat birds in about two weeks.

I am hoping that I won't be making quick cheese very much longer. We still have one calf on the bottle and this afternoon, Adam bought two more bottle calves and also took in two more to raise as a job. So, we now have 5 calves on the bottle which will amount to about 5 gallons of milk a day.

I still will have a gallon or so to use for "house milk". That is quite a process in itself. Since these milk cows came from a commercial dairy, there is absolutely no way that I will use their milk raw until after their blood tests come back from the vet. Since they are so sore footed, it would be cruel to haul them the 15 miles to the vet's office and I am too stingy to pay the expensive farm call bill, I am double filtering and pasteurizing the house milk.

Nothing is ever easy around here....... LOL!    

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Friends Are Good To Me......

I haven't said very much about losing my beloved Holly. It has been a tough summer and I frankly just didn't want to dwell on her death....... my menopausal heart can only take so much hurt.

Recently, I was tidying up in the barn kitchen and found the Grand Champion ribbon that she won at the fair this summer. This may sound a little morbid but I plan to hang her skull up in the barn. I figured that I should hang her ribbon with her.

I have missed having her come to the gate and bellow for treats. I regret not taking more pictures...... Holly was old and her death is not a total shock but I very much grieve for the loss of the heifer calf that she was carrying.

I consoled myself with the thought that I still have Noelle...... ornery beast that she is. I decided that I would just push aside my "big cow prejudice" and go ahead and milk Salena's shorthorn cow, Wilma, next year, too.

I had talked about buying a young heifer still on the bottle to raise for a replacement but..... just didn't seem to do much more than talk about it.  

I have very good friends...... people who understand that my girls-- both bovine and caprine---- are not just livestock. They are not pets like the dogs are but something else...... something that I just can't quite describe at this point.

Last night when I got home from my trip to St. Louis, one of my friends called me and told me that he was bringing something to me. He also told me that I needed to open the gates over at the barn.... He unloaded two first freshening Jersey cows that needed lots of TLC.

I am not going to post pictures of them. I have taken some just to use to remember how this project started.

They both injured their feet and are not able to get around very well. Living on concrete at the dairy just did not allow them to heal and they are very thin. My friend was visiting the dairy and saw them...... he said that he knew just where they needed to go.....They needed me and I needed them. He is going to maintain ownership and we are going to split the milk. He told me to breed them and get my heifer and stop just talking about it.

The poor things are sooo incredibly sweet. Seth and I milked them this morning with very little effort. This evening, they limped into the barn on their own. They spent the day easing around my barn lots grazing for all they were worth and already look much better.

I have named them "Belle" and "Bambi".

Just thinking about this kindness makes my so full that my eyes overflow....... 

Baetje Farms

At 4:00am on Monday morning, I was sitting in my truck at my neighbor's sheep dairy. It was dark, the wind was blowing and I could barely make out the outline of the guard dogs making their patrol around the barnyard. I was waiting for Veronica Baetje ( pronounced Bay-gee) to come wheeling in with her big refrigerated van/truck to pick up her monthly supply of sheep milk ----- and me, too!  It didn't take long for things to start stirring at the dairy as the hired hand flipped on the lights and started moving around. Soon, the farm owner, my friend Chester drove up, too. He handed me his camera and told me to take lots of pictures. Before long, Veronica arrived and they loaded up two pallets worth of frozen sheep milk in to the truck. By a little after 5;00am, we were on the road and heading for Bloomsdale, Mo! It took just a little over 7 hours for us to get there. What a wonderful time we had visiting and catching up!

I met Veronica several years ago at an American Dairy Goat Convention in Kansas City. It was the one and only convention that I have ever attended. At that time, starting an artisan cheese making operation was still in the planning stages. She and her husband, Steve, have worked grueling hours and make tremendous sacrifices to accomplish this. It is still a small business but I count it a resounding success. Her world class, award winning cheeses are.........beyond description!!

This is where she took me:

The original part of this beautiful barn was built from a Sears barn kit. The additions on the right were built since the Baetjes bought the property. The additions look as if they are part of the original design.

                                       See those big open doors??? This is what is in there:

They milk somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 Saanen does.

Now, I want all of my goat lady friends to join me in drooling with envy over this spotless milking parlor. .

How about a quick look at the bulk tank room?

At this point, I had had about all that I could take in. We unloaded the frozen milk into their freezers and Veronica and I gave the truck a quick wash out. After that, we both had to have a long nap.

Much later, I got a chance to visit and get to know Steve while I followed him around doing the chores. After a supper, Neil finally arrived to pick me up. Unfortunately, he ended up taking the scenic route-- very scenic--- in the dark---- to get there. It only took us about an hour to drive to our hotel in St. Louis. 

Next morning, after breakfast, I hopped back in the truck to drive to Baetje Farms and Neil stayed for his conference. I managed to get through early morning rush hour traffic in St. Louis without an incident or a nervous break down.  My goal was to get there in time to help set up for the bus tour that was supposed to arrive at 9:00am. I was early enough and they were a bit late.

It was cool and rainy but the three bus loads of ladies still had a good time sampling cheeses and taking a look around. It was an action packed hour and half and sales were brisk. Since I have never met a stranger and enjoy conversation--- I had a ball!

After all that fun, it was time to go to work. I finally got to get into the cheese plant.

                                      Not even Angelina Jolie would look good in a hair net!!!

I am not even going to try to explain how all of this works but I will show you some of the pictures.

            I got to help put the curds into these molds to drain. This variety is known as Bloomsdale. 

                    This is what it looks like when it is aging. The dark stuff is Pine ash...... from France.

They make several varieties of aged cheeses. Veronica has to move them everyday on the cheese mats to help them keep their distinctive shapes. Some of the other varieties have to be "washed" everyday with a salt water brine.

Then there are the fresh cheeses.... Chevre in different flavors.

This is what I brought home--- chives!!

I had a wonderful visit. I learned a tremendous amount. I have no intention of ever working as hard as Steve and Veronica but I definitely came home with lots of ideas and plans for our farm.

I had to make my way back to St. Louis before the evening rush hour to go out to dinner with the folks at the conference. After dinner, I sparingly shared my cheeses with them. We had our own little tasting party in the lobby of the Double Tree Hilton.

My hat is off to these wonderful people who have dared to make their dream come true!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Out Of Pocket..... Again!

I love that phrase. I had a friend in Georgia who used this phrase when ever she was not going to be at home or busy somewhere on a project.

This is where I am going tomorrow:

Veronica and I met at an ADGA convention several years ago and really hit it off. We sort of lost contact with each other over the years. Recently, I realized that the "lady from St. Louis" that was coming down to buy sheep milk from my neighbor to make fancy cheese was Veronica!!

 Neil is going up that way to a conference for the next few days. It is a nice opportunity for us to get away as a couple for a few days. While he is at the conference, I am going to see Veronica's farm and cheese plant.
As it turns out, she is coming down to pick up milk in the morning..... very early in the morning. I am going to ride home with her so we can visit during the ride and Neil will pick me up later in the evening on his way through.

I am leaving at about 4:00 am. I am hoping that Adam will survive a few days with his older brothers.......

Friday, October 19, 2012

Handy Fellow To Know......

My Seth has been working off farm quite a bit lately but today he stayed home. He had things that he wanted to get done.
Adam and I ran into town to the laundry mat to use their commercial machines for our big comforters, blankets and sleeping bags. When we got back, this is what I found:

When we moved in, we found a huge stack on kiln blocks in the garden shed. The previous owner had planned on building a fire ring south of the house on the rocks. We agreed that this was a wonderful idea..... but somehow, nearly 2 1/2 years have passed and we still hadn't gotten it done. For some reason, Seth decided that today was the day!

He carefully measured and calculated while he set the blocks. It looked beautiful but.......

when he got to the end, there was a slight problem..... I was still very impressed. Considering that he was using only a tape measure and calculating in his head, it was pretty darn close.

A little reshuffling all the way around and it came out just right.


All ready for hot dogs this weekend!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Bit Here, A Bit There........

I have not been doing much exciting around here for the last few days but I am getting things done. I think that I prefer this slow, steady, unremarkable progress over the break neck pace that I had all summer.

I am still cleaning on the auction items. I can't adequately tell you just how very dirty these things were. I forgot to mention that I also bought an upright freezer at the bar auction. I needed another one because at least one of the freezers in the garage is going to quit soon...... the door doesn't catch as it should and the alarm often goes off. I figure that it is just a matter of time before we have a mess. So, I really had a good excuse to bid on it but I must admit that after reading the sign stuck on the front, I knew that I just had to have it.....
It said, " $50 Fine For Fighting! The Manager". I figured that it would just fit right in around here......

Many years ago, I bought a kitchen island to use at our old farm. The kids were much younger and thought that it was really cool that it was called an "island". As a joke, we named it "Madagascar". This was long before the movie came out. Since the big move, Madagascar has been over in the barn kitchen with a tablecloth spread over it. I stored a few items in it and used the top as a counter while making soap. As hard as I have tried, I just can't seem to get this lovely kitchen in the house to work....... I have re-arranged things, sorted, culled stuff, hung up a pot rack and even built those storage/pantry cabinets. It still just doesn't WORK. This kitchen is designed to heat up frozen dinners and make popcorn in the microwave. It just doesn't flow well for a serious cook. So, I decided to import Madagascar. I had to modify it a bit and remove the drop leaf but after much scrubbing, Neil hauled the island to the house.

It is like having an old friend back. It had been so long that we had to explain to Adam about the name.....
Just having a handy place to put the cutting board and the cookie sheets has been worth the effort.

Over at the barn, I am slowly cleaning up the garden shed/bachelor pad and moving the soap shop in there. Hoping to get the big new sink in the kitchen this weekend but it will take a major cleaning to get the space cleaned out enough. I have a portable dishwasher stored over there (also from the old place) that I may try to fit in there to clean up all the milk processing stuff. (You all know how I feel about washing dishes....) Still trying to plan just where the new refridgerater/cheese caves are going to go. 

Today, the wind is blowing fiercely. I had thought that I would take a break from all this domestic duty and spread ryegrass seed for winter grazing. I decided against that because this stiff wind would send it  everywhere but where I want it planted......  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Frost On The...... Beans!

While we were gone to Topeka for the State Shooting Match, there came a frost. Maybe even a killing frost. Not just one frost but three mornings in a row. You may remember that we have a field of late planted soybeans that I was sure didn't make it through the drought.
Lo and behold--- they did make it with quite a few beans, too. As if that were not enough row crop drama, now we are waiting until harvest to determine if they had matured enough before the frosts got them. Farming is gambling--- no doubt about it! My nerves just can't take it so I ignore that 25 acres as much as possible. I have even quit shrieking at the deer that graze on those beans early in the mornings......

Next year, there will be alfalfa out there. Then I will watch and fret over the weather forecast even more! Nothing like having hay cut in the field to bring on a rain shower......

When I last posted, I was on my way to an auction. Actually, it was two auctions with just a couple of blocks between them. Took the entire day to get everything sold. A restaurant and a bar/grill were foreclosed. I had a great day and scored BIG! After all these years of longing for a 3 compartment, commercial stainless steel sink, I now have TWO of them.

While I was bargain shopping, I ended up with 5 small dining tables ($7each), 8 wooden chairs($2 each), a stainless steel prep table, a large wire shelf, a bread cart, and 41 small plastic beer pitchers...... The beer pitchers were a surprise purchase that I did not realize I was bidding on until too late. For two whole dollars, I figure that we can use them for feed scoops.

I have been cleaning on the sinks and wire shelf for the last two days. They were layered with grease and I cannot believe how nasty that restauraunt was. It was enough to make me reconsider eating out ever again.

Two walk in coolers were also auctioned off but I chickened out of buying one of them. All that I could think about was how much the power bill for the barn would be if I plugged one of those monsters in.....

While I have been letting the new items soak in degreaser, I cleaned out the two used refridgerators that I bought a month or so ago. I also managed to get a coulpe of batches of soap made, cut and stacked for curing. Slowly but surely I getting things cleaned up and reorganized. I am hoping to get the old "bachelor pad" fixed up as a soap shop and the barn kitchen set up for a processing room before the holiday stuff starts.

Meanwhile, the house is falling in around my ears. I have promised myself that I would do only the absolute necessities at the barn for the rest of the week and concentrate on house work....... Bummer!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Wish Me Luck!!

Today, Adam and I are off to an auction! Not just any old auction either! Today, they will be auctioning off the contents and property of two restaurants in a nearby town. Times are hard in small towns these days......

I have had big plans for my "barn kitchen" ever since we bought the place. Normally I would not plunge off into buying equipment with out more thought and research but since this is happening so close to the farm, I think that it would be a mistake not to go and at least consider buying some of this stuff. I would eventually like to have a commercial type kitchen/milk processing area. All of that requires lots of stainless steel stuff..... this might be a chance to get some with out spending a fortune.

Besides....... I just cannot resist bargain hunting!!! I may not get a thing but I will enjoy the process and maybe at least bring home some good ideas.

Monday, October 8, 2012

4-H--- It Runs in the Family

A comment the Joi made last week on one of my posts has really got me to thinking.......

We are a 4-H family. I know that you all have probably noticed that by the number of times that I have mentioned various 4-H activities that I am always having to haul at least one of these kids off to....

I was a 4-Her for over nine years. My mother and grandmother were 4-Hers. Three of my four children are or have been 4-Hers. Salena has "aged out" and Seth will in about a week when he turns 19. Charlie was never very interested. Adam will soon be my only 4-Her left......

I do not think that I have enough words or space to accurately say all the good that this organization has done for our family. If it had not been for 4-H, I am afraid that I probably would have been one of those kids who "got lost" along the way. I am not going to air all of my family's dirty laundry on the Internet but frankly...... on a GOOD day, we were dysfunctional. My folks did the best that they could..... I wasn't an easy child, finances were tight, tempers were short and life just HAPPENED.

My county agent's name was Patricia Barkaloo. She was the toughest, strongest, finest woman that I have ever known. She had very high standards and somehow managed to convey to us how deeply committed she was and how much she cared for us. In my life, she filled in the gaps. She managed to do miraculous things.... with only one arm. She was born with this deformity but somehow, we all forgot that she even had it.  We called her "Mama B".

Through 4-H, I was able to take any interest that I had and explore it fully. I figured out that, quite frankly, if there was anything that you wanted to do...... chances were pretty darn good that you could do it if you applied yourself. It was the making of me at the time......

Neil and I have worked hard to provide our children with a much more stable family life but I am still very grateful to 4-H and our county agent ( love you, Cheri!!) for the many opportunities that they have given us....

This past weekend, we hauled up to Topeka to participate in the State Shooting Match. Both boys were in recurve archery and Seth shot one last time in black powder muzzle loading.

It was cold that morning! Poor Adam had a bad case of nerves....

They don't realize it now but these pictures will be very sweet reminders of good days when they are older.

After the competition finally got started, Adam settled down and began to enjoy himself. This is the FITA target. I have no idea what that means but they shoot arrows at it at 20 and 30 meters for juniors like Adam.
Seth is a senior so he had to shoot at 30 and 40 meters.

The second part of the competition was called "silhouettes". They were actually 3-D models of different critters. As you can see, Adam was feeling much more like his old self by the time he got to this station.

I always like to watch Seth shoot. He is very serious about the whole business. I am always amazed that this composed, competent young man is actually MY SON.......

He only has so much patience with is mother....

When he got to his last shot, he stopped for just a minute. He has a certain routine that he does before each shot. Deep breath, bend at the knees and straighten, take another deep breath and raise the rifle to shooting position, take aim and fire. This time, he just stood for a long moment looking down the line at the chicken target. This was his last shot as a 4-Her. End of the line....... all done..... finished. He wanted to make it count--- and he did. Hit the target square on and sent it flying. Bravo, my boy, bravo! You don't always win but you ALWAYS finish strong. My heart can't hold in much more pride.......

Budgets are tight. Funding is hard to come by. The Extension Service regularly comes under scrutiny and often is criticised as being old fashioned and out of date. Some states have almost completely eliminated their 4-H programs........ It would truly be a sad day if we as a county were to lose this valuable investment in our young people.

Friday, October 5, 2012

We Are Off---- Again!

Yesterday was a strange day. It started early for me because something roused me up at about 4:00am. I had my friend, Beverly, heavy on my mind. I just knew that her time was very short...... so I sat and prayed and thought about life in general. About daylight, I hit the chore list pretty hard and then began to make lots of phone calls. I wasn't exactly sure where Bev was. I spoke with her on Monday and we pretty much said our farewells then. I knew that she had been taken to Wichita but that covers alot of ground......
I never did get to speak with her and I knew in my heart that I never would again. I did get in touch with a relative and they had several errands that needed to taken care of on Bev's behalf. Charlie and I spend about half of the morning on the road handling things......I had to unlock her house and let the Hospice guys remove her bed and other equipment. The house was cold, empty and very quiet. We went into town and paid a bill for her..... Late yesterday afternoon, I got  the call that she had passed away. Grief and peace make for an odd emotional combination.......

Before I got the call, I had been over at the barn kitchen mixing up a batch of soap...... good therapy.

Salena came home late last night, too. So early this morning, we went over and unmolded and cut the soap. I had tweaked my recipe a bit and I am thrilled with how it turned out. I tried a new scent as well. My whole barn has the faint, haunting scent of Forget-Me-Nots......... It is a lovely scent and it makes me feel very sweet and feminine---- that is quite a stretch!!

Back into town to handle a banking matter for Bev...... her dog and cats are taken care of....... I don't think that there is much more that I can do for her.

Now we are getting ready for a little trip---again! The boys are competing at the state level in shooting sports. They all have to be on the archery line at 8:00am. We are going up tonight to spend the night with a friend and have a little fun. Tomorrow will be Seth's last 4-H competition. He will be an old man of 19 in just a few short days.......

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Just Stuff.....

I have not been very faithful to update my blog lately. I have lots of good excuses but I will just stick to the most recent one for this entry.

If you recall, I have been keeping two extra milk goats for most of this summer for a friend who has been battling cancer. She is losing the fight and her days left are few.....she is also pretty much alone... I have been helping out as best as I can. I sold the goats and some of her chickens....... actually, I bought one of the goats and a few of her chickens....sold what I didn't want or need.

This morning, Bev called me to tell me that she was in the hospital in a bigger city and probably would not ever be going home again. She told me that she was leaving all her critter stuff to me and another fellow who has been helping her. I told her that I would sell as much as I could as quick as I could to help her out. I told her that I loved her and was sorry that this was happening to her...... we both cried. I plan on getting to see her just as soon as I figure out where she is.

My sons and I went over to her place and began loading up things that might "walk off" since no one is at home. We will inventory things and start putting things on Craig's List in the morning. Time is short and so is her money. I want her to be able to have whatever she needs or wants in her last days.....

I hated being at her little homestead and loading up her things. I felt like a vulture circling ...... but it has to be done. She is resting better knowing that things are being taken care of, loose ends tied up. The neighbor is feeding her dog and cats.

I had to keep reminding myself that this was just stuff.... things that Bev would no longer want or need.

Just stuff......