Archive for February 5, 2013

Meet Sadie’s Calf

Meet Sadie's Heifer Calf, Lainey

Meet Sadie’s Heifer Calf, Lainey


Isn’t she a little cutie?  She is shy, but curious.  M. and K. have been taking such good care of her!  They are leading the newborn calves to and from the milk house every morning on a leash to get them use to being lead and forcing them to get used to those strange human creatures.  M. and K. kindly allowed us to name her, even though she isn’t truly our calf.  M. promised that Sadie and Honey would come to my farm as soon as we are able to secure land, but we haven’t discussed any other cows.  I would take them all if I could.  Well, most of them.

Bracing for the tail swatI think this was Sweetie.  She was one of the cows that they considered bringing to our rented land originally and then they decided that maybe she wasn’t really all that sweet.  Maybe she is a teensy bit sassy.

She was annoyed with me because her udder is tender- she just had a calf also- and she is letting me know by swatting me directly in the face with her tail.  Sweetie.  Ha!

It was good to milk Sadie again!

It was good to milk Sadie again!

Sadie, on the other hand is a true sweetheart.  She let me rub her face and her neck and her ears and grab ahold of her horns.  Holding onto a cows horns in like holding hands.  You both gotta wanna do it.

It was so nice to milk her again.  I miss my cows.  Don’t get me wrong.  The weather is crummy.  It’s cold early in the morning and I am NOT a lover of the cold.  However, milking a cow is a duty that is difficult to describe.  You have to love large animals.  You have to be able to read an animals body language to be safe around them.  You must be ever vigilant for a cow that might be frightened and move quickly in a different/your direction.  Not everyone can read animals.  But once you’ve established a rapport with a beast of this nature…..It is a blessing.

Your headache, sleep issues, the sun hormone and how you can feel better


This is a **mind blowing** series of 15 minute videos about headaches, depression, autism, sleep apnea, parkinsons, epilepsy, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

All these conditions ultimately relate back to sleep and a lack of vitamin D.  In a society that pushes sunscreen and turns up their nose at cod liver oil, this MAKES SENSE!!  It is a long lecture in total time, but very, very good. Here is a one page summary from Dr. Gominak’s web site for those of you just can’t spare the time to watch her lecture:

Soft bunny, Warm bunny, Little ball of fur

Leadboy and one of his new does

Leadboy and one of his new does

Leadboy , at nearly 14 year of age, is in charge of our rabbitry.  We have 4 does and one buck.  They are all Silver Fox Rabbits, which is a heritage breed that is considered rare.  I love their fur.   Besides being incredibly soft, the color is stunningly beautiful.   It has a unique quality: if you rub it backwards it does not fall back down until you swipe your hand back the other direction.   The fur just stands on end until you push it back the way it belongs.

FlyingBoy whispering secrets

FlyingBoy whispering secrets

The white tipped black color is the only color that is currently accepted by the American Rabbit Breeders Association, but they come in a variety of other colors.  One of our does is “blue” which means grey with white tipped fur.   According to Wikipedia there is also chocolate, lilac, white and smoke pearl.  I love the chocolate color but haven’t been able to locate any actual breeders of anything other than blues and blacks.

Leadboy feeds and waters the rabbits, but he also has the more distasteful task of helping butcher.  Yep, these are meat rabbits.  They make wonderful pets, but ultimately, whatever doesn’t get sold for show or pets, becomes a source of fur and meat.


Black Silver Fox Rabbit

Black Silver Fox Rabbit

DearHusband, Leadboy and a few of his friends helped me build a portable chicken coop, or chicken tractor last spring.  It worked out great, and now I’m toying with the idea of keeping rabbits inside their own portable hutch.  It seems like a wonderful place to put babies that are too old to be with their mama and need more space to move around than a typical grown out pen would allow.  My sister used to keep a pet rabbit in her dorm room and we have two friends that keep bunnies inside their house like guinea pigs.  Our rabbits are kept in outdoor hutches and occasional visit us inside our house.  The heat and humidity was so miserable last summer that they spent a few days in our basement.  Where do you keep your rabbits?

The Land

We are getting ready to sell our house.  As a Realtor, this is a stressful thought.  What if I can’t sell it?!?  Yikes!   So much pressure!

We are looking for land that is suitable for cows, that is affordable, and within a reasonable distance of Ann Arbor.  The location is probably the least important part of the equation, in complete incongruence with every fiber of my twitching Realtors brain.

But now, I must think with a farmers mind.  The land must be our top priority.  It is sure to be spurned by crop farmers and developers who like relatively flat land.  I can’t compete with them on price anyway.  The land must not have been farmed in the last 7 years by anyone who would have used pesticides or herbicides- this could harm the cows.

The cows want diversity.  Diversity of terrain and diversity of climate lead to diversity of plant life.   If I can find land that has high, dry areas as well as low, wet areas, with both open fields and mature trees….well, this sets up is lots of microenvironments in one small area, which means that there will be tremendous diversity of plants.

A couple of my favorite red heads

A couple of my favorite red heads

When the cow needs a certain nutrient or mineral, she can seek out whichever plant provides it.  If she lives in a flat, open field planted with one crop, say, all alfalfa or all timothy, she will suffer.   We will never use the modern rotational grazing that farmers today employ.  Rotational grazing means that the cows are confined to crop the grass short in one smaller part of the pasture while allowing the other parts to rest and regrow.  It’s not about the pasture, it’s about allowing the cows to feed on what their bodies need at that moment.

Farmers can’t plow steep hills and soggy land, but cows sure can graze there!

Food Is Medicine

If cream was free and you had access to unlimited quantities, what would you make with it?  In what decadent, delicious concoction would you indulge?  My family has two current favorites:  Eggnog and crème brulee.  We can’t get enough.

Cottage Style Creme Brulee

Cottage Style Creme Brulee

What is richer, thicker and creamier than cream itself?  Colostrum.  When a cow gives birth, she produces colostrum for the first several days.  Colostrum, also known as foremilk or beestings, is especially rich in immune factors, or Proline Rich Peptides, which are showing activity against viral infections, Herpes, HIV, AIDS, candida, Hodgkin’s, prostate cancer, allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases and Alzheimers.

Food is medicine!  Prior to antibiotics, colostrum was used to fight infections.  Now that antibiotic resistant strains of pathogens are developing, more interest is returning to the use of colostrum as a natural healer.

One can find powdered colostrum for sale on the internet.  Athletes use it for quicker recovery times and to build lean mass.  I personally would never touch the powdered stuff.  Not only did it come from some nameless, massive confinement operation, but it just doesn’t treat the colostrum with the level of reverence it deserves.  A calf’s birth is a big deal at the farm.  Drinking a bit of colostrum is a rare indulgence or, to a dear friend who has health issues, an extraordinary gift.


Colostrum from a grass fed cow is medicine to me

Colostrum from a grass fed cow is medicine to me

Before you get your knickers in a bunch, I am NOT leaving a calf to go hungry by indulging in a pint of colostrum.  Cows produce an abundance of milk and that holds true for colostrum as well.  What a calf cannot suck down prior to the morning milking would just go to waste.  By the time the calf is hungry again, mama cow will have produced more.  That leaves a bit for us- to indulge in a cup of Nog or crème brulee, or cream filled paczki’s.


MyGirls Magnificent Eggnog Recipe

1 pint colostrum or cream (preferably from a local, grass fed source)

1 pint whole milk

6 eggs, separated

1/3 cup maple syrup

Whip egg whites until fluffy but not stiff.  Beat together yolks and maple syrup.  Add to whites and then add colostrum/cream and milk.

Top with fresh grated nutmeg.

Rich, creamy eggnog made with colostrum

Rich, creamy eggnog made with colostrum

Sadie’s Calf Is Born!

I missed the birth.  I’m nearly 2 hours away from the farm where Sadie is living right now, so the chances that K. and M. would notice she was in labor and I would be able to drive there before the calf was born were slim to none from the get go.  However, it was the first time that K. got to witness a calf’s birth, so that was pretty cool for her.  She said that M. stuck his head in the house and hollered that Sadie was in labor, to come quick.  K. got her camera and ran the whole way from the house to the barn.  90 seconds after she arrived, the calf was born.  She got a couple incredible photos:

Sadie's calf- still wet from birth

Sadie’s calf- still wet from birth


The calf struggled to stand.  She was weak.   She couldn’t even try to suckle.  Sadie did a great job licking her new baby girl.  The licking stimulates the calf’s circulation, stimulates her to breath, stimulates her brain function, stimulates her to stand and nourish herself at her mama’s side.  The licking dries off the mucus and allows her fur to dry.  It was very cold that afternoon.

Welcome to the World Little Heifer!

Welcome to the World Little Heifer!

After awhile, M. and K. made the call to tube the calf and get something warm into her belly.  They milked out some of Sadie’s warm colostrum and mixed it with some honey from my farm, some garlic and a smidge of colliodial silver.  K. said that the tiny heifer received the warm colostrum and immediately stood UP.

“Hot Damn- I’m alive!

Welcome, sweet little cow.  Welcome.





New Ideas for Backyard Chickens

Have you ever considered the true cost of chicken feed? First a farmer grows the grain. Actually, it’s more likely that several farmers each grow just one type of grain. Very likely using massive tractors and harvesters. Then each farmer’s crop is transported to the mill in giant diesel sucking trucks. Then the mill grinds the grain and mixes it. Why do they grind it? Anyone? Anyone? Then you get in your vehicle and drive to pick it up and drive it back home and have a lovely poly blend or paper bag that you can’t reuse. (Or do you? I’d love to hear ideas on recycling the mountain of bags I have accumulating!) So what if we planted a tiny feed plot of our own? What if we planted barley and red clover and oats and sunflower seeds and comfrey in a corner of our yard? Would you cut your spring/summer/fall ration down to next to nothing? Has anyone ever done this? I bet my chickens could survive the winter on a tiny bit of grain if I supplemented them with extra milk every morning. Thoughts? Ideas?

My handsome blue Copper Marans rooster, Cogburn

My handsome Blue Copper Marans rooster, Cogburn

Hospitality and Labor

Leaving Grass Lake early in the morning

Cold morning moon

My alarm goes off at 5:15 in the morning.   I put on my tea pot, wake up whichever child I am taking with me to the farm and get dressed in my cold weather gear.  I make two travel mugs of chai tea with extra honey, coconut oil and cream for the child, prod the stumbling child into the cold, cold vehicle and point it south.  It takes me anywhere from an hour and 35 minutes to an hour and 50 minutes to arrive at the farm, depending on road conditions.  So far, every early morning trip has been challenging with either icy roads, deep, unplowed snow or freakishly late in the winter fog.

Usually, said child drinks their tea and then promptly falls back to sleep as the vehicle heats up and their wool blanket begins to remind them of their warm bed.

My milk cans are in a very different environment.   To keep them insulated from the warmth in the front of the truck, they are snuggled into a set of cold, old, torn and worn quilts under the vinyl cover in the back of the SUV.

I arrive at the farm around the same time the sun rises.   Sometimes we arrive in time to traipse into the field with M. to bring the cows in to the milk house.  Other times, he has already started milking and we scurry in with our milk pails and begin cleaning the cows teats immediately with only cursory pleasantries.

This morning, M. has the cows up to the milk house, but is still putting the herding dogs back in their barn.  Hugs and smiles, warm greetings all around!   We missed seeing K. last weekend.  My Girl  had made K.  a Wool Cozy for her Mason jar.  K.  likes to drink a quart of milk every morning right from the teat….warm milk.  Hopefully the Cozy will help keep her milk warm in this f-f-frigid weather.

The cows are slipping and sliding on the icy cement just outside the milk house.  The milk house is at the top of a sloping hill and the big barn and their water and hay feeder is at the top of another gently sloping hill with an ice rink in between.  Cows on ice.  It isn’t pretty.  We move slowly, with arms outstretched at times, using low voices to prod the cows into the milk house.

Snow Covered Guernsey Cows

Snow Covered Guernsey Cows

Some cows walk right in, confidently searching for an opening to step into.  Others peek inside with wide eyes, cautiously searching to see if their *favorite* opening is available.  If the preferred spot has another cow in it, sometimes we go back and get a different cow, other times we encourage them to “just TRY it, Gertie!”  We chuckle when Flying Boy raises his tiny voice to tell the cows the Dr. Seuss story, encouraging the cow in question to, “Try it here or there!  Try it with a fox, try it in a box!”    Sometimes trying it works, and other times trying it means NOT liking it.  Watching a 900 pound cow turn around in a small space on a slippery cement floor is an event observed with trepidation.   With your back pressed to the wall.  Or standing abruptly with one hand clutching your milking pail and another hand on the side of the cow you were just milking to steady her as she shifts her feet, uneasy with the knowledge that there is a 900 pound cow turning around behind her.

When the labor of the early hours of dawn is completed, we head up to the house.   An almost reflexive,collective  “Ohhhh!” escapes from our lips as the warmth of the cook stove’s heat blasts our frozen faces.  We shed heavy boots and coats to allow the heat to penetrate our frozen parts.   There is something magical about a wood fire.  M. keeps a tea pot on his cook stove at all times and I am guaranteed to be offered a steamy mug of tea while we wait for the milk to cool down and our butts to warm up.  Once we establish how many gallons and how many milk totes we will need to fill, we go about putting together the other parts of the order: sharp cheese, spicy jerky, thick cream, pounds of deep yellow butter and roasts and ground beef.

More tea?  Yes, please.  I comment that I’m getting soft, only milking once a week.  My forearms ached after I milked 4 cows last weekend.  M. laughs and says it gets easier the more cows you milk.  We talk about what books we are reading, homeschooling our children.  “Oh!,” K. jumps up.  “”You’ve got to try the crème Brule that M. made!”  I beg for the recipe, it is so incredibly thick and creamy.  M. smiles apologetically.  He hems and haws.  He doesn’t really follow a recipe.  He ducks his head.   He tells me as best he can what he does with a bit of sugar and how many egg yolks, or was it whole eggs?  I’m toasty inside and out.  We talk about the calves and how much more they grow when they stay with their mamas longer.  My backside is hot from being turned to the woodstove.  It is easy to linger here- my truck is cold and the hospitality is warm.

The Love Between Cow and Keeper

Eclair loves Laura.Laboring cow looks to her Keeper

Eclair loves Laura.
Laboring cow looks to her Keeper


The love between this cow and her keeper runs deep.  Laura was rubbing Eclair’s spine when I arrived before the sun was up this morning. I had seen birth partners do this before… On a human.  I moved quietly into the barn and watched from on top of the straw bales for awhile.  I was reluctant to climb the fence, i didn’t want to come inside *their* space and agitate the laboring cow.  Every few minutes she would stand and move.  Sometimes she would try to rub her hind end against the fence or the barn wall.  The calves hooves were protruding.  During a contraction, the tip of the calves nose would protrude a bit and when the contraction ended it would slip back inside her.  It was about 7 degrees F this morning, so the warm, wet calf’s nose would steam.  At first I gasped because in my naïveté I thought it was exhaling into the cold air.  Eclair would point her rear end into a corner so we couldn’t get behind her and pull.  She was so tired.  She would lay flat on her side and just moan.  When K. arrived she encouraged me to climb in and help Laura pull the calves front feet.  The three of us pulled mightily and the calf slipped out in three contractions.  I rubbed and rubbed its warm, wet ribs.   It’s eyes were open and never blinked.  Eclair was spent.  She didn’t even lift her head once the baby was out.  We all slowly realized the baby was not going to ever take a breath. Three grown women had tears streaking their faces, mourning together and individually.  Laura never left her cows side.  She was constantly rubbing her fur, speaking quietly to her, first encouragement, then words of praise for a job well done, then just words of love.  Eclair would twist her head around to look directly into Laura’s eyes.  It was an incredible gesture of trust and love between the cow and her keeper.  She did it over and over.  We eventually carried the dead calf over to Eclair’s head.  She sniffed and began licking it.  She licked its ribs, its belly, its neck.  I think she knew she couldn’t revive it, but just like me rubbing the wet newborn’s ribs over and over, she couldn’t help but keep trying.  She would lick for a few minutes and then look into Laura’s eyes and then lay her head down and rest.  She kept this up for awhile as we all continued to mourn.  We gave Eclair some homeopathics to help with the pain and to tighten her uterus.  We brought her warm water in a small dish and handfuls of sweet hay.  Eventually we pushed and pulled her onto her feet and left her to finish cleaning the sweet, soft fur of her baby girl.