Archive for May, 2011

I’ve been milking Ellie for almost a month now, just in the mornings, and letting her calf (Cranberry) have the rest.  Ellie is a gentle girl, and I milk her in the field tethered with about 8-10 feet of rope.  She’s never kicked at me.  I give her a bit of grain and start in milking.  She moves around some once her grain is gone, but stands reasonably well for me.  I separate Cranberry and let her nurse in the morning when I’m done and in the evening she gets everything.
My first day I got a cup.  The next (almost) two weeks I only could get a pint. After some helpful advice from some people who’ve “been there,” I’ve been getting about a quart for the last week.  Ellie, for all her good traits, is also a good mama and doesn’t want me to get much of the milk that should be her for her baby.  So she “holds up” on me.  I work my little hands as hard as I can to get a bit of milk (the 2 cups).  I knew she was capable of “holding up” because there were times I could barely get a drop working as hard as I could, and she had not had access to her calf for over 12 hours.  I was informed, though, that she was probably STILL holding up, even though I was getting some milk.  The suggestion was to let the calf “start” her for me for a few minutes so she would “let down”.  Then wash her up and milk until it was too difficult again, let the calf on again, and repeat.  Lo and behold, It was 100 times easier to milk her after Cranberry got her “started” for me!  So since then I’ve been working to get my hands/wrists/arms to cooperate so I can milk more.

I broke the “quart barrier” a couple of days ago (Just a bit too much to fit in a quart jar when I put it away).  I haven’t made it for the last 2 days, but this morning I hit a new record.  I’m now up to almost a quart and a pint!  Woohoo!  If I’d get at it and freeze a bunch of ice, we could make some fresh milk ice cream to celebrate!

My hands/arms are getting a bit longer lived now, despite my bad wrists.  I’m a little more productive when I milk thanks to the easier milking from letting the calf start and the rest time while the calf nurses.   I tried a new strategy this morning that helped me get that extra (almost) pint.  I only gave her a bit of grain to start with, and held some back so that each of the 3 times I had my “turn”, she had some grain to eat again and would stand better for me.  Maybe I’ll finally get a makeshift stanchion made soon so that she can’t move around as much on me.

I’m hoping to get to a solid 2 quarts every morning.  That’s my goal to hit in the next few weeks.  By the time I’m ready to wean Cranberry, maybe I’ll actually be able to milk enough to provide all the milk we use at our house!  And when Cranberry’s not getting all that rich cream, maybe some fresh churned butter.  Mmmmm.   I’ll have to bake some bread.  Then try some cheese and maybe some yogurt.

Until then…. I’ll keep dreaming of a milking machine!


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I put the chicks outside for a bit the other day- until it started to rain.  It was their first time out.  Some hid in the weeds, some tried to fluff themselves in a little dirt, but it was damp dirt so they couldn’t get in much of a dust bath.  They mostly huddled in a corner and didn’t know what to do.


The White Chanteclers are just under a month in these pics, the banties are less than a week younger.  The size difference is pretty big right now.  Here’s my biggest Chantecler and my smallest banty:

Here’s their little colored heads so I can try to tell them apart.  Not natural, but effective.

I gave them worms this morning.  The Chanteclers watch them, but won’t eat them or pick them up yet.  The banties will pick them up, cause a chase, and eat them.  I think they’re probably teaching the Chanties how it’s done!

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I’ve started a few seeds inside and planted some of my “cold crops” outside today- I’d intended to get them planted several weeks ago, but between the weather and pressing critter needs, it hasn’t gotten done yet.

I tried making newspaper pots this year.  I used a small spice container that had a recessed bottom instead of buying one of the wooden pot makers for $15 plus shipping.  It worked beautifully.  My campmor catalog was a convenient size when I took out the stapes and cut the pages in half.  I wrapped the paper around the spice container, tucked one end under like the coin rolls, and had starter pots.


We’ll see how they hold up.  I put them in box flats and then in an old garden flat for stability.  Here’s onion transplants from John’s co-worker (started from seed).

Here’s broccoli just starting to sprout.  I’ve got tomatoes, peppers, celeriac, and watermelons in the others.  Yup, a little late, but still better now than later.


Outside in the raised bed I put in 3 types of carrots, a mix of salad greens/lettuces, and strawberry spinach.  I made a few garden markers from carved twigs and sharpies.  Basic idea is here, but I didn’t get fancy with the copper wire and beads.


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All 10 chanties are still going strong and getting big!

I got 6 bantam ameraucanas to join them- something fun, a little color, and maybe some blue/blue green bantam sized eggs.  They’re about a week younger.  I lost one bantam the day after I got them- fine one minute, and dead half an hour later.  I lost a second one 2 days ago- not sure why.  I can only think maybe it got trampled?  John turned on the table saw to use in the basement and scared them.  Other than that, it, too, was healthy, then very sick/dead within hours.  I also had one bantam that got “pasty butt” that I had to clear off several times, but it’s still going strong.  Here’s hoping the rest stay healthy and alive!  John just wants one of them to look like the corn flakes rooster.

We’ve been making progress on getting a coop built.  Here’s what it looked like last week

And here’s what it looks like now

We’re planning to work on it some more this evening!

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MOPS creative activities details  and pics over here.  Just added: Necklaces, plantable paper, and Resurrection eggs.  As usual, contact me if you want more details about a project!

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We started our pen quite a while ago in anticipation of getting a few pigs this year.  Updates on how the pen has fared over here.


I haven’t gotten my Old Spot yet, and I’m not sure if I will, that’s yet to be determined, I guess.  But in the mean time, I did get two other pigs.

The little one was free with the big one.  She was scrawny and her head cocked to one side.  She’d been doing okay for 2 weeks- gaining weight and seemed okay, but then started behaving oddly.  We’ve had an educated guess that it might be an iron deficiency.  I couldn’t get an iron shot over the weekend, but did get some tablets in her and she seemed to improve a bit.  I was able to get iron and gave her a shot, but she died today 😦

The spotted pig is doing wonderfully- huge compared to the photo I have from 2 weeks ago.  He eats and scratches and grunts and sleeps, that’s about it.  I’d had some suggestions for names from friends, but I think I’ll be taking my brother-in-law’s suggestion of Chester.  Not because I love the name, but because we have a book about a spotted pig named Chester, and it seems to fit.      

The girls have been having a wonderful time watching the pigs and pulling up grass to throw in and “feed” them.  I think they could sit and watch those piggies all day!


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Here’s some new pics of the girls, closer up.

Ellie Mae



Eleanor “Lannie”

I’ve been a cow owner for almost 3 weeks now, and have been milking Ellie for over 1 1/2.  I’m SUCH a wimp- I can only get about 2 cups worth of milk before my arms and hands give up on me.  In my defense, Ellie’s been “holding up” some on me, but mostly it’s because I haven’t milked a cow since I was a teenager (and didn’t do much then, either!).  But she is very nice, workable cow.  I milk with her tethered in the field (no stanchion built yet) and she usually stays pretty still for me, even when the grain is gone.  It by no means is meeting our 5+ gallons a week that we use, but it’s a start.   Here’s my first day’s produce.  I get about twice that much every day right now.

They cows are much happier now that they can be free and together in a pasture rather than on a tether.   I think they missed being able to interact with each other and it made them a little crazy.


The first section of fence got posts (compliments of John, my parents, my kids, my brothers tractor and my grandpa’s post hole digger) while I picked up my Chantecler chicks the day before Easter.


John helped me to string the top wire for that section and he and my dad put in posts for the second section this past weekend.  I’ve been plugging along at stringing barbed wire since then.  I got a small section done when Norma unclipped her halter on the water bucket one day.  Rather than try to catch her, I just figured I should get the pasture done. The cows have eaten anything edible in the small section already, so I got the rest of the fence done yesterday afternoon so they wouldn’t hate me for starving them.  They were so happy to have fresh grass!

The calf is still tethered so I can keep her separate from mama, or I’d get NO milk.  We managed to catch her once to get the halter on, but couldn’t catch her again without that lovely rope clipped to it!  Cranberry is gentling down a little, but has a ways to go.  Norma and Lannie won’t really let me touch them yet, but at least they’re in the pasture now so I don’t have to try to move them anymore!

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