Fall is here and boy am I crashing. The summer was long and hot.. too hot and too wet. Weeds overtook our pastures because the heat along with last year's flood sucked the life out of the ground. We now have an operational tractor thanks to good friends who like working on engines and lots of dents on my Tahoe. We decided I could drive a dented up vehicle and Andy could drive a tractor. Seemed like a fair swap.
Here is his new toy. It also now has a loader with a bucket and grapple useful for moving bales of hay around all winter.
It's officially an antique... but it runs smooth and gets the job done. It can pull the mower from the little tractor and Andy has already knocked down the weeds in the pastures. This will be a huge help to us this year and next and help us keep atop of pasture management.
Hay has gone through the roof and we are having to feed it already with the pastures so poor in nutrition. So, we had to raise our milk prices by $1 per half gallon. A very tough choice... two weeks of upset tummy and fried nerves for me in the decision... but really there was no decision. It was do it, or not be here to provide milk all winter. Our customers have been so supportive and understanding. A few have dropped out but for the most part were immediately replaced by new folks waiting for milk. I never fail to be amazed by how good God is and how He cares for us. In reality winter is a really scary thought for me. We have fifteen cows calving between Christmas and March. We will have to be on top of things, watching these mamas closely to keep those new babies safe and warm. It's gonna be a wild ride!
Andy has been busy! He is making amazing progress on clearing junk and debris from the "once a hay barn" reckage. Tonight he was working on clearing out our basement so our junk can go down here. We need to clear the area so we can demo the area and hopefully construction can begin soon. I am really hoping we get a barn with doors that keep chickens out! The old barn was open and a favorite roosting spot for about 20 chickens... POOP CENTRAL. All of Andy's tools were in there and the work benches were a constant source of needed cleanup.
I got the chance last month to dabble in event planning again. The Nebraska Food Coop was in need of a fundraiser and I wanted to see the movie Farmageddon.. so an idea was born. :-) I threw out the idea to try to get a screening planned and to serve a dinner or something with foods from farmers in the coop and try to raise funds. It worked out better than I could ever have imagined. I got the opportunity to work with and get to know some amazing women as we planned and orchestrated the event. We screened the movie at Aksarben Cinema in Omaha. We charged $15 per person. We had tons of amazing foods donated and the Top Chef team at the culinary school in Omaha wowed everyone! The food was just out of site! Gorgeous and delicious.
The movie really broke my heart. I knew what it was going to be about... but to watch what other farmers and families have been put through was just gut wrenching. What a wake up call! I hope everyone here has an opportunity to see this film. As a nation... it's time for us to stand up and say NO MORE! There are things we can all do. Check out our Activism page I just created. There are links there to petitions, a House Bill being introduced, and a grassroots Ballot Initiative with ways we can all get involved.
We had a little media blitz last month. First the barn segments on the news. Then two magazine article interviews, one about Farmageddon and one about raw milk laws. I was invited to be a guest on The Morning Blend.. and Omaha morning program. They have a Village Pointe Farmers Market segment every other week and I got the be the farmer that week. Here is a link to the segment on The Morning Blend . I found the experience scary and confusing. No one warned me there would be no cameras. I had this internal dialogue of "where are the cameras" followed by "look I'm on TV" and "crap.. pay attention!". If invited again, I would be more relaxed and able to function a bit better. It was just unnerving on the first go.. but exciting and fun too!
I was on the radio a couple of weeks ago! I was invited to be a guest on Talk Back Omaha! I very much enjoyed the experience. Here is a link to the podcast if you would like to listen to the segment: Talk Back Omaha Podcast
Other things going on family related: Ashley has her first day of college today! She was able to get a full ride scholarship to SCC in Lincoln. She is taking her classes at the downtown location. She has also signed her lease on her new apartment and is moving out this weekend. Big changes.
Hannah and Jamie are growing too fast. Too fast! Two pre-adolescent girls in one house is interesting... and loud. They seem to fight a lot more lately.. and the DRAMA is off the hook! Jamie is in the "project" stage.. spends her days cutting up little pieces of paper and whatever she can find and creating stuff. Today the boys found a butterfly and Jamie saved it... fed it a pear and nursed it back to health. The picture here was taken by Jamie of her butterfly. Pretty cool shot I thought! Hannah and Jamie have both been such fun all summer at the farmers markets. Now, if we could get them to give the same attention to helping clean the house life would be almost perfect! LOL
The boys are just busy busy busy. Alexander loves helping with barn demo.. his job is to hold the magnet stick and pick up the nails. The hard part is getting him to keep his shoes on while doing it! Michael is talking more now.. a relief. He is suddenly using sentences and even relaying events and stories. He told me the other day about a dream he had. A bad bear was biting him outside. Poor little guy. :-( He woke up crying. At least Mama was right there laying next to him and he settled down pretty quickly... but he talked about that dream all day.
It seems like I am always working on this blog late at night... when the house is quiet. it's 11:30 now... I better hit the sheets... our day starts early around here. My next project is to work on an online store for the off season. We are planning on making monthly drops (maybe more often too) to the spots were we have been all summer at market. I am hoping to create an online store where folks can pre-order what they want and I can drop it off. Wish me luck! It's quite an undertaking.... but a needed project.
Nite nite... Don't let the bed bugs bite!
Well... it seems spring might be here to stay! Our cows are out to pasture and things are beginning to dry up around here. Putting the cows out to pasture is something we look forward to so much around here. The cream on our milk has already turned yellow signalling the return of all those precious CLA and Omegas properties!
We finally completed the finishing touches on our milk room! We now are a Grade A dairy, licensed by the state of Nebraska!
One of the big perks of our new status is that our milk will be tested by the state monthly for both somatic cell counts and bacteria levels. Our initial tests came back with excellent numbers, which confirmed for us what we already knew... our milk is good! Seriously... it is nice to be see our numbers and know we are doing things right.
Andy tests the cows daily for somatic cell counts, anything that is even remotely positive, is milk that we never put in our tank, and Andy uses a separate milker to milk. This has kept us free from mastitis so far. We are able to catch any potential problems way ahead of the game, are able to address any issues with a cow before it turns into a problem, and we keep from spreading anything around the herd.
I know.. boring boring boring.... but there is another reason why we wanted to get to Grade A standards -- CHEESE!
We doubled our herd in March with the purchase of 20 grass-fed jersey girls from Iowa! This was such a scary decision.. I had to completely let go of it and let Andy have the final say-so. Milking 36 Cows! 26 caving in April! What was he thinking??? But then the answer came to us..... CHEESE!
We will have raw milk cheddar cheese available come early July. We have to age the raw milk cheeses for sixty days here in Nebraska so that is why it will have to wait for a little while longer. But I am so excited about this!
Its hard to believe but just a mere two and a half years ago we were starting over here in Nebraska. Milking four cows on a dirt floor in the barn... and now we have 36 cows and a functional real milking parlor and milk room! Its been a long journey to get here, and at times we have been so close to giving up. But here we are..... right where we want to be. God is good - and we are thankful. Yes, I am exhausted.. and yes at times overwhelmed. But thankful.
Ashely's senior prom was in April. Back in March she and I took a whole day just the two of us for prom dress shopping. What a treat! I had dreams of dresses all night, but we found just the right one! My friend Linda graciously offered to do Ashley's hair for prom and ended up doing both hers and her best friend, Cass's hair! She did an amazing job of recreating what each girl wanted. The both looked amazing! Thanks Linda!
Ashley also turned eighteen this month. WOW! I am screaming proud of that kid... it's hard to keep it in sometimes. She has really turned out to be an amazing young woman. Its exciting to watch her make plans for her life, to see her thinking things through and making adult decisions. Its also bittersweet; she is planning on moving out after graduation... to an apartment with friends. She will be starting college in the fall..her life is really taking off. I am incredibly thankful for the relationship she and I share. She is not only my daughter but my friend. I was a single parent from the time she was one until she was six. At times it felt like it was her and I against the world. Now, I get to watch her go out and take on the world.. it's wonderful!
There is one major downside to a TV-free life... I miss out on the daily news. I need to discipline myself to check the news app on my phone regularly. I only learned through Facebook of what happened back home last week. Here is a picture stolen from Ciara's Facebook page of the tornado in Ringgold, Georgia. I was relieved to see that my friend is fine. I am still waiting to hear from family that my Aunt in Alabama is well... I am guessing she is since bad news travels so fast. No news is good news... right?
Bartow County Georgia sustained a lot of damage, and that is where our farm was located. Looking at pictures of the ruins brought me right back to the tornado that hit our home back when Ashley was just a little one and it was just us. I don't ever remember being so scared, so helpless trying to keep her covered and under my body, feeling the walls move back and forth, knowing the tornado was at my house. We were lucky, very lucky. We lost our roof but were safe and sound. My heart goes out to all those that lost their homes or worse, their family members. They remain in my prayers.
On a positive note: Hannah, Jamie, and Alexander had their last week of Awana's this past week. Hannah and Jamie took second and third place respectively. Our neighbor Karen took them to Awanas this year and they really enjoyed it. It hit right at milking time so I never got to go and watch but I am pleased they had fun and did so well.
I will leave you with a shot of Michael collecting eggs on Easter. One would think my kids would tire of egg hunting - huh, But... treat-filled Easter eggs are hard to resist!
One of these days I will have to cut his hair.... not yet. I am so in love with his unruly curly unkemp locks! It took five kids to get curls...
Boy, am I ready for March! This past month has felt like a rollercoaster ride. We have had some exciting moments and some tragic ones as well.
We have some new piggies! We have added some Hereford pigs to our family. Hereford pigs are a heritage breed that believe it or not originated right here in Nebraska. They are known for their gentle disposition and are excellent grazers. IF you are curious you can check out more on the breed by clicking HERE.
They are really fun little pigs... curious and very friendly. They love a good nose scratch so feel free to greet them when you are here... (mind the white fence - it bites).
These guys will be here close to the house for a few more weeks... we will be moving them out to pasture once we have grass. So, say hi while you can!
stole this off her facebook account! :-)
Ashley is home! She decided that she wants to attend college here at home rather than in Georgia so she came home this month. It was a difficult decision for her but she seems very settled and centered and at peace with her decision. Ashe is back at Lincoln High and will graduate from there this May. She only needed 17 credits to graduate so she only has to attend a half day at school.
I cannot begin to tell you all how absolutely wonderful it is to have her home. She is such an incredible, bright, alive, young woman... her spirit and exuberance fills our home! We are all so thrilled to have her back!
We added four new cows to our herd this month. Welcome Milly, Molly, Mandy, and Candy. Four beautiful jersey girls!
They are doing great.. they have adapted to our laid back milking style and are getting along with the other ladies just fine. We couldn't be happier with them.
We had a tragic accident this month. Weirdly enough it was actually the night that Milly, Molly, Mandy, and Candy arrived. The power lines on the road came apart at the insulator and fell on our fences. This caused quite the fireworks show which scared the cows and calves here next to the house. They ran. One hit the fence and was electrocuted and three others ran into her and were lost as well. The whole experience was horrific... we waited an hour for the power company to come shut down the lines and make our farm safe again... very nerve wracking. All in all... we are lucky... we could have lost many more cows than four, as bad as loosing four is.
We are blessed beyond words that this accident happened at night, that Andy did not touch the fences when he went out to check on everyone, and that our children slept through the whole event. We were able to tell them what happened in as gentle a manner as possible, they were spared from witnessing any of it.
The next week was one of waiting. Waiting on OPPD, waiting on the insurance folks, waiting to bury our four lost cows. The children mourned and the other cows mourned.. it was heartbreaking to watch. The children laid roses on the cows and we covered them with a tarp and waited. One of the adult cows lost her calf eight weeks early and we waiting and watched to see how many more would suffer the same fate. Electricity is such a funny thing.... one moment it's a necessity and the next it is devastatingly dangerous.
Miraculously we had a beautiful calf born last week! Her Mom is Tippy and one of our best cows. They were in the area with the accident so we did not expect the calf to survive. We named the little girl Tiffany and I have some incredible shots of her birth. Tiffany's birth leaves us with hope that maybe we have turned the corner and the rest of our cows will be well. btw... she is named after a friend of ours.. Tiffany Baker. This may seem a strange way to pay tribute to someone but she just reminded me to Tiffany... long, leggy and gorgeous!
All is well with Tiffany.. she is a gorgeous calf.. very tall and leggy and full of beans!
She is in the barn keeping warm right now but will join the other calves soon.
All of these new additions means one thing - MORE MILK! Our milk shortage is now a thing of the past! The past two weeks have been a blur of farm tours as we have opened up our waiting list and have been able to accept new customers. It also means the return of one of everyone's favorite things - CREAM!
Our cream separator has been chugging away and so has my food processor with butter! LOVE butter! LOVE CREAM!
We are bottling over 36 gallons of milk a day right now. Our family has been enjoying treats such as homemade raw cream top yogurt again! Last week I made flavors such as honey, maple syrup, and succanat vanilla which were all huge hits. I also tried molasses yogurt....( that one needs work).
Our new baby arrived today! His name is Shep. He is a Great Pyrenees puppy. He is such a big boy.. only eight weeks old but HUGE!
Shep will be a working dog... his job will be to guard the sheep. In a few weeks he will go to live with them and learn their ways. They will be his pack... not us. This is kind of sad since he is such a love... but our sheep need him.
Even though there is snow on the ground and it's 23 degrees outside.... spring is on it's way! The eggs are a sure sign! Look at what Hannah gathered tonight!
It's almost here... it's almost here! Before we know it we will have cows out on pasture, sheep shearing, and flowers everywhere... and milk will go back down in price! I could not be more excited!
Ya'll stay warm out tonight... its a cold one! I am off to make more yogurt.
Artisan Cheesemaker. Lover of all foods dairy..