Archive for Milk Cows

Farm Friends


One of the (few) advantages to not having our own farm yet is that we are not burdened down with a ton of morning chores. Some friends of our recently experienced “a wind event”. I’m pretty sure this is just a fancy way of saying “we can’t confirm it was a tornado, but some pretty serious winds went through and created tons of damage”. Any ways, this so called wind event ravaged their trees, tossed their tool shed over top of their house and into the tree line on the other side of their property and left them without power or water for themselves or their animals. Because we have mad milking skills, we hopped in the truck and milked their cow for the last two days. We also came home with 2 1/2 gallons of golden yellow milk! I think I’ll make butter.

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Sadie was a part of my daily life for 6 months before she went back to the farm where she was born.  The farm where she had stayed with me decided they didn’t want cows on their property and I couldn’t find any farms nearby that were suitable to board her, so she had to leave.  I am not ashamed to admit that I cried, openly wept, when we loaded Sadie and Honey into the trailer to leave.  I spent about 20 minutes every single morning sitting on a stool with my knees tucked under Sadie’s massive belly, hands on her teats, forehead resting against her warm flank.  When she first arrived at the farm, she would run away if we touched her.   Here’s a clip of my 4 year old son holding out a big handful of lush grass for Sadie- she snatches it and then jumps away quickly.

Slowly, over time, she became less skittish.  Eventually, she grew to enjoy being brushed every morning from nose to tail before we milked her.  She would even look for the slice of organic apple she knew was in my coat pocket for her.  She was not much of a morning cow.  She really liked to sleep in and as the sun rose later in the morning, I really had to encourage her to go into the barn.  Sometimes I would take advantage of her sleepiness to rub her face and hold her horns until I’d annoyed her into getting up.

I'm NOT a morning cow.  Just 5 more minutes and THEN I will get up!

I’m NOT a morning cow. Just 5 more minutes and THEN I will get up!

It has now been 6 months since she left me.  When I arrived to help milk this week (I drive just under 2 hours each way once a week to help milk all my mentors cows and see Honey and Sadie) he had just finished milking Sadie and shooed her from the barn.  Sadie walked all the way around the barn, pushed through the crowd of un-milked cows, poked her head in the doorway and watched me.  When I was done milking an hour later, I went out to see if Sadie would let me touch her.  She did.  She stood stock still as I scratched around her nubby horns, brushed her sides and itched the bottom of her neck.  As I stepped back to admire her – fat and sleek from all the lush spring grass – she disappeared back into the herd.  Yep, I’m pretty sure she remembers me.  (smiling through tears of happiness)


Sadie waiting patiently for me to come visit with her

Sadie waiting patiently for me to come visit with her


Why June, you sweet cow, what are you hiding behind you there?


Well done June! It’s a sweet little heifer, who already has her legs under her and a full belly of milk.


Heat, hormones and heifers

A bunch of the cows were in heat today. While it can be comical to watch these feminine, giantess beasts mounting anything that moves, it can be very dangerous business for their keepers. Imagine: intentionally positioning your knees directly under an 1100 lb behemoth. Now add enough hormones to make her wild eyed and skittish. Now add two or three more cows in heat waiting outside the barn. We scooted behind the big metal bars twice while milking Isabelle. The first time was because she backed out of the milking shoot and exited the barn. For no particular reason other than she had something else she wanted to sniff and wasn’t really “into” being milked when there was so much passion in the air. The second time because another cow-in-heat was trying to mount a third cow right in front of us. They were a combined weight of slightly over 2000 lbs- “dancing” in the most clumsy foxtrot imaginable. My mantra is: respect the cows, respect the cows space.

When we were leaving, I saw this beautiful young heifer, placidly chewing her cud in a different field. So young and innocent of the flood of hormones that will someday make her behave like the love crazed ladies just one pasture away. Isn’t she pretty?


Fun at the Farm


We drive once a week to my mentors farm to help him milk his herd of cows and visit with him and, when the weather is nice, we walk out into the pasture to see our cows. This week, FlyingBoy went with me. He loves petting the calves faces, but mostly he loves that he can RUN. He spent some time “decorating” me with burrs. He carefully placed some on my t-shirt as if he were pinning on a delicate corsage, adjusting and re-placing until he got it just how he wanted it. He also seemed to think they looked lovely in my hair. The dry cows are in a pasture about a quarter mile down the dirt road. He ran the whole way there and back, arms alternately outstretched like an airplane or clutching the imaginary handles in front of his chest to steer the jet pack he frequently uses to 3-2-1-blast off. Farm life is especially good for little guys!

Horns serve a purpose

One of the herding dogs was laying down in the pasture in the middle of the herd of 20 or so dairy cows when we walked out to see some of our favorite cows. She was preoccupied with a very enjoyable ear scratching, and making a rather odd, repetitive motion so a curious calf snuck up from behind her to investigate. When the ear scratching ended, the calf was stretching her neck out to sniff the dog. The dog didn’t realize the cow was there and leapt to her feet, snapping at the calf and in turn startling HER. Honey was one of the cows we were in the pasture to see and we were still standing fairly near her when this happened. Had we been between her and the dog, I’m fairly certain she would have trampled us. The calfs mama was far away, and Honey was the closest cow to this calf. She raced toward the dog and lowered her horns……within seconds the entire herd of lumbering, giant beasts had risen to their feet and began to encircle the dog. Do not mess with a cows calf!


Spring snow, lush grass and bloat

We have had lots of rain this spring. The rivers are swollen and the fields are a beautiful green. The grass just burst through the ground a few days ago.

Yesterday it snowed in the lower peninsula of Michigan, but its supposed to warm up again this weekend.


With the appearance of lush, green grass we had some very happy cows who were anxious to get at it.

So here is my question: How do you prevent bloat? What are your experiences with animals that got bloat? How did you treat it?


Stay in our current home and buy land vs. moving to a farm

As we chip away at painting Every. Single. Room. in our house, the thought has crossed my mind….wouldn’t it just be easier to find acreage near our house and drive to milk the cows? I mean, hey, that’s what I’m doing now, right?


Well, here is one “Con” for driving to the cows every morning. Deer wake up early in the morning too.

Windy, wet and cold: spring in Michigan!

Cold temperatures and sideways blowing rain this morning made for miserable conditions. Back roads are flooded over in places, farm fields have standing water and streams are frothing with the heavy flow of overnight rain. Luckily, the cows don’t care. They just keep giving delicious milk. Today would be a great day to warm a pot of honey-cardamom milk and serve it in steamy mugs. There isn’t really a recipe: fill a pot with as much milk as will fill your mugs, add some cardamom seeds… Maybe a 1/2 teaspoon? And a couple spoonfuls of honey and warm to just below boiling. Enjoy!


Milk Cans and Muddy Roads


Milk cans and muddy roads

Milk cans are wedged in the back of my SUV, with old quilts stuffed between to keep the clanking and rattling to a minimum. It was a nice sunrise, not spectacular, but a mild, pink sunrise.

By the time we finished milking, my left hand wasn’t working properly. After two weeks of sleeping in on the weekend and wielding a paintbrush all day instead of milking, my hand muscles are soft again. I was disappointed because I couldn’t finish milking and had to ask M. for help. I know he is glad for even one or two cows less to have to milk, but I felt discouraged.  What if we buy a farm and move the cows here and I can’t finish milking them by myself?  When I was learning to milk, K. lived with us for 2 weeks and was drawn into service for several days as forearm and hand muscles grew accustomed to the extra work load.  Worry doesn’t help anyone though.  Deep breath.  I rest knowing that it’s in God’s hands.

At least we are making good progress getting our house ready to sell. We are half done painting and we picked out new flooring this weekend. I can’t wait to start looking for a farm to buy!


Crisp spring morning sunrise