Monday, August 26, 2013

Have a cow, man!

The best part of having a house cow is the fresh cream for your morning coffee!

I'm not sure when or why it happened, but at some point I started wanting a milk cow.  

John thought I was crazy.  Maybe I shouldn't put that in past tense.   

I started doing my research and decided I wanted a Guernsey.  They have a very high cream content to their milk as well as a high calcium and protein content.  MUCH healthier than holstein milk.  Guernsey cow milk is also quite golden as it has a high beta carotene content.  Guernsey's are also known for having an unaltered genetic profile for the A2 protein.  Basically, this means that some amino acid chain is unbroken in their milk and it may be easier to digest for some people.  Nothing proven, but it is what it is.  Here is an article worth reading.  

So, we started looking and found Maybelle.  She was in Iowa, a 4 hour drive.  We went up to visit, she has one 'blind' quarter, so only gives milk from three teats.  Aside from that, she is a doll.  She let me milk her in the field, stood still for all of my fumbling.  We came back 2 weeks later with a trailer and brought her home.  

She has been a dream.  What a lucky woman I am to have gotten such a sweet, docile cow.  

She gives two gallons per day, sometimes more.  More than we need really.  A post to follow on that!  

She stands still for Paisley to pet her, lets strangers try to milk, and loves being brushed and petted.  

Not to mention that her milk and cream are the most delicious ever!!!  

She is due to calve in late December.  Be on the lookout for a post about building a milk shed!  

Here I am milking her in Iowa.  

Here is my dad, learning to milk.  
Maybelle makes everyone smile!  

Sweet Maybelle under her pavillion tent.  

Paisley brushing Maybelle on her first day home!

 Ahh... That delicious cream line!

Milking was slow the first few days as I learned what the heck I was doing.  I slowly got better and fast and now I can do my milking chores (including feeding the calf) in about 30 minutes.  

Here is the best video ever!  Paisley is calling "Maybelle! Milk time!" and I love that Maybelle gets as frisky as her cow self can allow and skips a little!  Also, we were feeding her some undeveloped ears of corn from the garden.  She loved them, shuck and all!  I also noticed in this video how much better Maybelle looks since living with us for the last 6 weeks.  Her coat is shinier and she is in overall better condition.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013


I love food.  This is no secret.  I have a passion for good food and good cooking.  Cooking meals for John and Paisley has always brought me joy.  Of course, meals made from whole ingredients takes better than packaged foods.  I am taking it a step further and providing some of those ingredients myself!  It is very gratifying and delicious!  

The garden I made is 12 beds.  They are raised beds that are about 3x15 feet.  This spring we did lettuce (delicious), onions, carrots (a big flop), new potatoes, garlic, and tomatoes (OMG!!!).  It was more of a 'tasting' garden this year.  I'd like to double the number of beds and really try to make a dent in our grocery shopping next year.  For the fall, I have some corn, beans, and squash going in two different 'three sisters' beds.  So far, I have one huge zucchini and a few tiny ears of corn.  Not really pleased with those beds yet.  I have planted several beds of brussels sprouts, red beets, golden beets, carrots, kale, spinach, and lettuce.  I will plant garlic in a few weeks. 

I have also been learning to preserve food!  Fun!  

Here is a 4lb cheddar wheel!  I have made two other cheeses, but they didn't seem to come out as well. Maybe they didn't get pressed enough, but they are almost twice as tall as this one.
Cheese is still a big experiment to me.    I have also been making butter and freezing it in the deep freeze for the 8-10 weeks we will be without fresh milk when Maybelle is dried up before she calves again.

6 quarts of chicken bone broth from one of our unlucky hens. 

The first egg laid on the farm scrambled in Maybelle's 
(our Guernsey Milk cow) butter with a garden tomato!!!

 Onions!  Small but mighty!

 Making yogurt in my awesome yogurt maker!  
Maybelle makes the most creamy yogurt!  
I get my yogurt culture from New England Cheese Making Supply.

 Garden potatoes to potato chips! Yum!

 10 pints of green beans from the neighbors garden

 Paisley with the first egg!

 6 of 12 pints of Sweet Lime pickles from 
Pioneer Woman's second cookbook

6 pints of tomatoes
I think I have done 12 pints and 6 quarts of tomatoes so far.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

We built a fence!

The second major project we did on the farm was to build a fence.  I got to do the 'fun' work of digging holes with the tractor.  John got had to do the grunt work of setting the posts and tamping them in.  All 300+ of them.  It was a monumental undertaking.  We now have our 20 acres fenced into 3 pastures.  A 4 acre pasture, a 5 acre pasture, and an 8 acre pasture that includes 5 acres of woods.  The remaining 3 acres is a small wooded area in the front of the property, our driveway, and the 'yard' around the house.  

We fenced the farm with HorseGuard electric fence.  We hung 4 strands 14" apart on wood posts.  We have been very happy with the fence thus far.  It has kept our lovestruck cow and foster beef calf separated.  

Counting posts...

Digging holes...


 Hanging gates

Finished fence line.  To the left is our back yard, the right is the big pasture.  
I sprayed the fence line with roundup (gasp!) to kill the grass and weeds below the fence.  
This will keep the fence from shorting out and has made mowing easier as we don't have to get the tractor that close to the fence.  

 Fence from inside the back yard.  
To the left is the big pasture, straight ahead is the 'side yard' next to the garage.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Chicken Coop!!!

John started the chicken coop in March, right when we moved in.  You can see that the weather this spring did NOT cooperate!!

Get these birds outta my basement!!!
Setting posts for the coop.  Note the shorts and t-shirt.

Beginning framing.  Note the jacket and hat. 

Framing the roof.  Umm... Snow?!

Phew, back to normal weather!!


All ventilation and windows have two layers of hardware cloth for predator proofing. 

We used truckbed liner for the floor coat.  I found a few branches in our woods and used those for roosts.  We have three nest boxes for 8 hens.  

We used left over sheet metal from our garage to do the roof.  This was laid over plywood and an insulation board.  The insulation is actually sandwiched between sheets of plywood to keep the chickens from pecking it. 

Daddy's shadow!!!

Adding the run.  We wrapped it entirely in hardware cloth.  

We even buried hardware cloth around the base.  
After 5 months, we have had no losses to predators.

Rain barrel system.  
We have since built a stand for the barrel to sit on.  
It takes about 1.25" of rain to fill the barrel.  
This is just uphill from my garden and I use the water for the garden frequently.

New home!

My little Chicken Farmer

We started with 15 chickens, 14 hens and a rooster.  They were silver and gold laced wyandottes.  We ended up butchering 7, including the annoying rooster.  We now have 8 hens and they are laying about 2-4 eggs per day.  They have been laying for about 3 weeks now so production will still probably increase.  

Stay tuned to hear about the next 26 chickens we got!!!

Friday, August 16, 2013


Wow!  I never thought I would be one of those bloggers who gets months and months behind!!!  But, here I am!  Life on the farm is busy and amazing!  We love it out here!  

The lifestyle shift is huge.  We slow down in some ways and have sped up in other ways.  There is always something to be built, fixed, done, etc.  There is also so much beauty and joy that life demands you stop and look around every once in a while.  

The work out here is so gratifying.  We are providing some of our own food.  We are caring for animals and cultivating the land.  We are spending time as a family, building something that is greater than us all.  

You just don't get that kind of satisfaction from coming home and sitting in front of the screen all night.  

We have had am amazingly mild summer which has allowed Paisley and I to spend countless hours outside enjoying life.  

I am going to work on catching up on blog posts.  Look forward to meeting our laying hens, meat chickens, milk cow, baby beef, and garden.  I will also post pictures of Paisley being her silly, sweet self!