Saturday, December 24, 2011

Buttercreams and Bon-Bons

My column in this issue of the Dairy Star is about making Christmas treats — and memories. [I'll post the link when the online version is published.] [Read the column here.] For now, here are the recipes I wrote about and a few photos to go along with them.

[Can you guess which helper had the red sprinkles?]

Peanut Butter Bon-Bons and Turtle Bon-Bons

Peanut Butter Bon-Bons

This recipe is my less-sweet version of a Buckeyes recipe that we got from our good friends. I dipped the bon-bons like Buckeyes this year for simplicity's sake, but they can be completely covered with chocolate, too.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups (16-18 oz jar) creamy peanut butter
2 ½ cups instant dry milk
3 cups powdered sugar
2 cups milk or dark chocolate chips

Mix butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Combine dry milk and powdered sugar. One cup at a time, add dry ingredients to butter/peanut butter. Dough will be very stiff at end. Roll into one inch balls. (I use a small cookie scoop to measure.) Chill balls for several hours, or freeze. Dip balls in melted chocolate. Place on wax paper-lined pan. Decorate with sprinkles immediately after dipping. Chill to set chocolate. Store in fridge. Makes about 8 dozen.

Turtle Bon-Bons

I created this recipe after seeing a similar recipe in one of my mom's cookbooks.

3 cups finely chopped pecans
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk or dark chocolate chips

In heavy saucepan, mix first three ingredients. Over medium heat, cook and stir for 8-10 minutes or until mixture forms balls around spoon and pulls away from side of pan. Cool 10 minutes. Shape into one inch balls. Chill. Dip balls in melted chocolate. Place on wax paper-lined pan. Decorate with sprinkles. Chill to set chocolate. Store in fridge. Makes about four dozen.


This recipe came from Land O'Lakes. I tweaked it a little.

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 3 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 tsp orange extract*
2 tsp raspberry extract*
couple drops red food coloring*
one drop yellow food coloring*
4 cups powdered sugar**
1 cup real semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup real white chocolate chips (these are getting harder and harder to find)***

Mix butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add extracts and food coloring; continue beating until well mixed. Gradually add powdered sugar. Chill. Roll into one inch balls, then flatten into patties with the bottom of a glass. Place on wax paper-lined pans, cover with plastic wrap and chill again, at least two hours. Dip half of each candy in melted white chocolate. Chill to set chocolate. Dip other half in dark chocolate. Chill to set. Store in fridge. Makes 5 dozen.

*Substitute vanilla, almond, rum, mint, just orange or any other flavor extract. Adjust food coloring to match flavoring.
**These candies are very sweet. Substitute instant dry milk for up to half of the powdered sugar to make them less sweet.
***To tint white chocolate, add a tsp or two of coconut oil or vegetable shortening (not butter, unfortunately) to prevent chocolate from seizing.

Enjoy! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Star-plus status for Dimple

A while back, I wrote in one of my columns that when Dimple calved for the 11th time with a heifer calf to start her 12th lactation, she would attain star-plus status in our herd.

Well, she didn't have a heifer calf, but, two nights ago, Dimple delivered calf number 11 out under the oak trees in the pasture. (At least our brown winter has been good for something.)

Oddly, for as much as I write about Dimple, this is the only decent picture I have of
her. (I'll have to do something about that.) This photo was taken the morning we
moved the herd to Stearns County; she was nine years old. She hasn't changed
much in five years.

The only bad thing about Dimple calving on pasture was the extra time and effort it took to get her into the barn. Glen brought her calf into the barn first so it could warm up. Instead of going to the barn herself, Dimple kept running back to where her calf had been. And by running, I mean sprinting. For being 14.5 years old, she can really move!

It took both of us to finally get her into the cow yard and into the barn.

As Dimple stepped into her stall for the first milking of this lactation, I couldn't help but think of how different the situation was when she started her ninth lactation and we almost lost her.

But she's still here and this lactation is off to a great start. She's certainly earned her star-plus status.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How bad was it this summer?

When farm work piles up outside, the first thing to get ousted from the to-do list is housework.

I was going through the photos on my computer to pick out snapshots for our annual family photo book when I came across these two pictures. Upon seeing them, I immediately remembered taking them with the intention of blogging about them, but never got around to it — for the same reasons that the dishes got so out of hand. Between field work and special projects, we were swamped!

Dish mountain!

I asked our neighbor to watch Dan and Monika one scorching afternoon so Glen and I could haul some soon-to-calve heifers and dry cows home from pasture. I told her to ignore the condition of the house. She said she understood, since she was once a farming mom with young children. I came home to find she had washed every single dish that had been piled on the counter. Needless to say, we have wonderful neighbors!

Oops! That was supposed to be part of supper.

I have no idea how long this dish of vegetables sat in the microwave! They were supposed to be part of a quick supper after a long day of chores. Apparently, I was so deliriously tired I didn't remember to take them out. When I found them, I had a hard time deciding whether to laugh or cry.

The other sign that this summer was truly grueling? I forced myself to drink coffee one afternoon in a desperate attempt to find the energy to complete evening chores. It didn't take long for me to remember why I don't drink coffee; even when mixed 50:50 with chocolate milk, it still made me sick to my stomach.

I'm happy to say that farm chores take a much more reasonable amount of time now. We're still busy, but I'm managing to keep up with the dishes. (I can't say the same for the laundry, but that's a whole different post.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Giving thanks

I added the last of the leftover turkey to big pot of chili yesterday. Another Thanksgiving celebration has come to an end.

It almost seems like Thanksgiving never happened. The retail world packed away the Halloween paraphernalia and jumped right into Christmas, with hardly a nod to one of our most important holidays. Apparently important doesn't always equate to profitable.

Maybe I shouldn't be irritated that Thanksgiving got lost in the rush to start Christmas. Maybe I'm too old fashioned. But I think we need to spend more time giving thanks for what we have and less time focusing on what we want.

As a parent, cultivating an attitude of thankfulness in our children is a daily challenge. Dan wants everything right now – everything he sees at the store or in a catalog or on a commercial. I tell him to put it on his wish list for his birthday or Christmas.

I must repeat that line a lot, because now Monika has started telling me what she wants for her birthday. (I don't think she quite understands, though, because tonight she told me she wanted one of the newborn calves for her birthday.)

This overwhelming desire for everything they see, coupled with the fact that they've never had to go without, makes them less appreciative of what they have.

I think Dan is old enough now to understand what I mean when I tell him that some kids don't have any supper and some kids don't have any toys, but I don't think he can fully grasp the concept. For that matter, though, I have a hard time imagining what its like to live without adequate food or the comforts of belongings.

For that, I truly am thankful. And I'm thankful we can provide for our children.

Some day, I hope they will fully appreciate the abundance in their lives. For now, I try to encourage thankfulness with this bedtime prayer. For as long as I can remember, I've said a prayer of thanks before drifting off to sleep. This is a simplified version of that prayer.

Thank you for our family.
Thank you for our friends.
Thank you for our farm.
Thank you for our animals.
Thank you for our food.
And thank you for our lives.

Sometimes Dan says it with me; most of the time he repeats the lines after me. He almost always interjects after the line about animals because he wants to say thank you for the jungle animals and the ocean animals and the forest animals. Monika joins us for the Amen. (Interestingly, when we come to the end of a story book and say The End, Monika says Amen instead.)

Regardless of how we say it, what's important is that for at least one moment each day we're focusing on what we have instead of what we want.

How do you practice thankfulness in your life? How are you fostering thankfulness in your children?

Monday, November 14, 2011

The biggest comeback ever

This is Peanut. She's one of the Brown Swiss-Holstein crosses in our herd. She recently celebrated her 6th birthday and is in her 4th lactation.

Unfortunately, Peanut inherited her Holstein mother's poor feet and legs, so there are times when her feet get pretty sore. This summer was one of those times. (For the non-farmers reading this, heat hurts cows feet and we had a lot of hot days this summer.)

Not only were her feet sore, but she also developed a large cyst on her left rear knee. We gave her aspirin every day to help ease the pain and even kept her in the barn on some of the hottest days so she wouldn't have to walk so much in the pasture. But Peanut's milk production still fell. (When cows don't feel good, they don't eat, and when they don't eat, they don't make milk.) And she didn't come in heat.

So, we put Peanut on the 'Do Not Breed' list, which meant that once we were done with the grazing season, we would say goodbye to Peanut.

But, then, with a little therapy, the cyst on Peanut's knee went away. And then her feet started to feel better. By mid-October, Peanut was pain free. When she came in for milking, her udder was full. And when she came in heat, Glen took her off the 'Do Not Breed' list. 

When we tested milk last week, we were astonished by just how much better Peanut was feeling. On the October test, Peanut gave 50 pounds of milk. On our November test, Peanut produced 90 pounds.

Peanut's lactation curve (in red)

[Chart from McGill Univ. Dept. of Animal Science]

So, now we don't know what we'll do with Peanut. We're in the process of reducing our numbers to get back down to our winter size, so every cow's performance is under evaluation. If Peanut's pregnancy test comes back positive in a couple weeks, she'll probably get to stay. And if she does, she'll complete the biggest comeback ever.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Meet Beth

A couple weeks ago during evening milking, our neighbor and a couple of her family members from out of state came over to watch milking. Our neighbor's nephew's wife, Beth, had never visited a dairy farm before.

Beth had lots of great questions. And since she's a nurse that works with newborn human babies, many of her questions were about lactation and baby calves. I answered Beth's questions and helped her milk Harley, one of our cows. When milking was done, Beth and her sister-in-law, Kayla, took turns feeding one our newborn calves his bottle.

Beth asked how we come up with names for all of our cows. I explained that we name all the calves when they're born, most of the time with a name that starts with the same letter as the calf's mother's name. Calves' names often reflect what's happening in our lives at the time of their birth.

Beth then asked if we would name a calf after her. I told her I sure would; Bloom, Belle and Bitsy were due to calve in the next couple weeks and at least one of those calves should be a heifer.

On October 12, Bitsy had a heifer calf and we were able to grant Beth's wish. Beth, the calf, is off to a great start. She's a curious, spunky calf.

And she's a constant reminder of our visit with Beth, the nurse, and the opportunity to introduce her to dairy farming.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kids, then cows

For the past four years, we arranged our kids' schedule around the cows' schedule. I used to tell myself that our kids were learning adaptability and flexibility by living their lives around the cows' schedule. And, honestly, I think that's true. It wasn't a disaster if our kids didn't go to bed exactly on time or have their snack on time.

But now that Dan is in school and we have to abide by the rest of the world's schedule, a lot has changed. The kids' schedule comes first now.

It became clear after the first couple weeks of school that Dan couldn't just go to bed early on the nights before school. Going to bed early one night and going to bed later the next night was like having a kid on a yo-yo.

So now bedtime is early every night, with an occasional exception. That means I handle bedtime by myself most nights and Glen ends up finishing chores by himself. I wasn't in favor of this type of division of duties, but it's actually working out quite well.

Dan and Monika have adjusted to the new schedule. I'm still adjusting to them waking up earlier on the days Dan doesn't have school, but that will come. The improvements we made to the heifer facilities this summer make it a lot easier for Glen for finish chores alone and allow me to focus on the kids without worrying about how chores are going outside.

"We'll figure it out when we get there," is one of the mottos I live by. And as much as I fretted about how we'd adjust to Dan starting school, I held to the belief that we'd figure it out. And we have.

Halloween fun

Dan and Monika had a blast trick-or-treating this year. (I had fun, too.) We made a record number of stops to see our friends and family, and we didn't have any incidents involving tears, tantrums or tired kids. At least until we got home; the minute Monika got out of the car, she refused to take another step and insisted that I carry her to the house.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sneaky salamander

Last night, just before we started milking, Glen went to round up the kids and bring them back to the barn. When he found Dan, Glen asked his usual question: "What have you been up to?"

Dan's reply caught him a little off guard.

"I put a dead salamander in the fridge," Dan said. (Thankfully, he was talking about the small, dorm-style fridge we have in the barn, not the fridge in the house!)

"Come look, Dad," he said next.

Glen said he only half-believed Dan, so he followed him to the barn office to confirm the story. When Dan opened the fridge door, there wasn't a salamander there. Glen was starting to think maybe Dan's imagination had run away with him again, until he saw the look of pure shock on Dan's face.

"Where did it go?" Dan asked.

It didn't take them long to find it.

Right after Dan asked the question, the boxes of vaccine in the back of the fridge started moving. Soon, the salamander had crawled to the front of the fridge.

Dan snatched him up, saying, "How did that happen? I thought he was dead!"

Glen told Dan he couldn't leave the salamander in the fridge, so Dan took him back outside and put him in the grass.

When I got back to the barn to tie up cows, Glen was still chuckling about the sneaky salamander.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ride of a lifetime

I spent most of this week working with the Dairy Star at World Dairy Expo. This year's theme was Around the World in 5 Days. I feel like I've been spinning around for the past four days; this Expo was filled with projects. One of those projects gave me an opportunity to see the world from a new point of view — or at least the world around Madison.

On Wednesday, the Dairy Star had an opportunity to take aerial photos of World Dairy Expo. I was the one who got to ride along in a Cirrus SR22 while Ed Shaw of the Canadian Forage & Grassland Association took the plane for a test flight. Chad Friedrich of Cirrus Aircraft co-piloted the plane.

 Sadie Frericks

Sadie Frericks

We circled around World Dairy Expo a couple of times so I could snap a few shots and then flew up to Wisconsin Dells for a few touch-down landings. The Wisconsin countryside was breathtakingly beautiful.

Sadie Frericks

Sadie Frericks

Sadie Frericks

Sadie Frericks

It was really neat to listen to Chad and Ed speak in pilot tongue. It reminded me of dairy farmers talking to each other in farmer lingo. Since Ed was test driving the plane, he did a lot of things with the plane — like banking, stalling, and the touch-downs — that I'll probably never experience again. It was absolutely the ride of a lifetime.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Until one has loved an animal...

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." ~ Anatole France

If there's one character trait I want our kids to develop from growing up on a farm, it's a deep love and respect for all animals. I don't know how to teach kids to love animals. I think loving animals comes from living with animals and caring for them. Dan and Monika spend countless hours outside with our animals and, as the pictures below show, I think they're well on their way to becoming animal lovers.

Dan and his favorite cow, Love. He insisted that I take their picture together one night in the barn. Love is the cow Dan always wants to milk and the first one he identifies out in the pasture. I think her red neck strap helps Dan pick her out. She is as docile as her name implies.

Dan and Monika with two of the pullets we raised from chicks this spring. They absolutely loved watching the chicks while they lived in the stock tank. After we moved them to the chicken coop, Dan and Monika were always in there playing with them — Dan trying to catch them and Monika sitting in her little blue chair like the Poultry Barn Superintendent.

Dan and his favorite kitten, who doesn't have a name other than 'Dan's Kitty'. Dan was the first one to find this kitten after it wandered out of the nest one day. It's been his ever since.


Monika napping in the stroller with her favorite kitten, Black Kitty, who napped with her for quite a while before she wiggled her way out of Monika's arms.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thinking of our friends out east

Originally, this post was going to be about how exciting it is to see our summer projects coming together. And about how exasperated I am that our washing machine retired itself just in time for the start of the school year.

But it's hard to write about that excitement when there are dairy farms out east whose summer projects — and entire farms — were washed away by Hurricane Irene. And it's hard to be exasperated about dirty laundry when there are families who no longer have any clothes to wash.

We have several friends who farm out east, so we cringed when we heard the first reports of how hard the New England states were hit. It was hard for us to go 16 hours without electricity; a friend in Connecticut said they were told to prepare for a week without power. I can't imagine.

So, instead, I'm just going to write this: My thoughts and prayers go out to the families who are trying to put their lives back together in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A blur of firsts

Like the photo below, July turned out to be a blur of a month. But even though it didn't quite turn out like I thought it would, it still turned out to be a remarkable month — one with lots of firsts.

For the first time since we've been farming, we took the 4th of July weekend off and did what the rest of our society seems to do that weekend — spent it at the lake. We swam, we boated, we kayaked, and we grilled. It was a blast. And we all have the tan lines to prove it. (No photos provided. Sorry. I forgot my camera at home in the rush to hit the road.)

We came home from our mini-vacation and jumped right into second crop. (And I swear it feels like we haven't sat down since.) We decided to try making individually wrapping bales. It was a good decision. Everything went remarkably smooth and we now have a pile of marshmallows stored right next to the farm, separated by field — a luxury we've never had.

We finished hauling the marshmallows off the fields a mere three hours before the worst storm of the summer (to date) blew in. We lost power for 16 hours and had to use our generator for the first time. Between the pastures and the yard, we had 17-some trees damaged or uprooted, including our apple tree which was severed near the ground and landed in the ditch across the road.

On a brighter note, Dan found the first litter of kittens of the year, living under the silo blower in the machine shed. For as old as they were when he found them, and for how wild the mama kitty is, the kittens were remarkably tame.

Another highlight of the month was having our friends from up north come stay with us for a couple days. They entertained the kids and helped outside so I could get our balance sheet and cash flow statement updated, a task that needed to be completed before we could start our heifer yard project. (There might not be anything more maddening than being stuck in the house doing bookwork on some of the nicest days of the summer.) One of the afternoons, Sammy and Jennifer helped Dan and Monika make cupcakes for the first time.

The morning after Sammy and Jennifer went home, Mother Nature dropped four inches of rain on the farm in less than three hours. There was water everywhere. The photo below is of the lake that formed near the inlet that drains to the pond. The inlet simply couldn't keep up. I think it was Mother Nature's way of telling us we shouldn't have tried to re-route that waterway when we built our lagoon.

After the rain, came the heat. And all the extra work that went into keeping everyone (animals and people) as cool and hydrated as possible. We went through gallons of Gatorade, chocolate milk and electrolytes (we added a mid-day feeding of electrolytes for all of the baby calves to make sure they got enough fluids).

One night, Monika decided she needed more than fluids to keep cool. She took the milk house hose, filled a pail half-full and climbed in. It wasn't long before Dan wanted a pail of his own. They spent the better part of chores that night sitting in those buckets.

My reward for all of the time I spent doing bookwork was the start of our heifer yard project. My second post when I started this blog was about someday pouring concrete for our heifers. That was back in the fall of 2008. After nearly four years of putting up with the muck, we're finally pouring concrete in the heifer yard. The excavators spent two days last week prepping the yard and the concrete crew started pouring last Friday. I teared up when the first cement hit the ground.

It looks like the blur will spill over into August; third crop is due on Tuesday and we'll probably test milk on Wednesday. Hopefully, they'll finish pouring the concrete early this week. Then we'll have to put the yard back together and move the heifers back. It'll be a crazy-busy blur, but, by the end of August, we'll look back and say that it, too, was a remarkable month.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Great farm dads

I started working on this post well over a week ago, with plans for posting it on Father's Day. And here I am finishing it up now. That's kind of how everything feels right now — about a week behind.

But, just because Father's Day has passed, doesn't mean I can't celebrate the great farm dads in my life. I think these photos are too great to not share. And, if you want to read the column I wrote about farm dads, you can find it on the main Dairy Star site.

Glen and Dan milking Dinah. Dinah was Dan's first favorite cow.

Glen and Dan taking a break together.

Glen and Monika unloading TMR for the cows.

The moment which inspired Glen to say,
"I think we're going to need a skidloader for each kid someday.

Break time in the barn. Ice cream is always better when it's shared.

Dan and Papa Dad going out to check the
beef cows on one of our trips up north.

My dad's idea for toting Monika's sippy cup along while carrying her.

Dan helping Papa Vern fill the hoppers on the corn planter.

Dan telling my Grandpa Erwin about the fly swatter.

Happy belated Father's Day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Well-behaved goslings

Usually, when I'm in the pasture getting cows, the geese and their goslings are in the ponds. But one day, while heading out mid-morning to check on a close-up cow, I stumbled across the geese moving from one pond to another.

As I was watching, something occurred to me — dang, those goslings are well behaved. When the goose and gander ducked down to hide in the grass, so did the goslings.

When the goose (or gander, I couldn't tell which) decided it was time to make a break for the water, she honked and the goslings hustled.

I wish Dan and Monika listened as well. Maybe if, like the goose and gander, Glen and I devoted all of our time to parenting, our children would be as well behaved as the goslings.

Then, again, maybe not. And parenting would be a lot less interesting if they didn't have minds of their own. But, once, just once, I would like to only ask them one time to put their barn boots on, or wait by the door, or _______ (fill in the blank).

At least we've got several more years to work on listening well before they leave the nest.

In the field…
As much as I love baleage, I have to admit that putting our first crop of hay up as haylage was a good decision. We haven't tested it yet, but it should be some pretty high quality feed. We finished cutting on a Tuesday evening and started chopping on Wednesday afternoon. The last box went in the bag at about 1:15 a.m. I think this is the first time we've harvested first crop without Mother Nature washing (or threatening to wash) the windrows first. The regrowth looks good, and this rain will help immensely. Before we know it the second crop will be ready.

In the barn…
Switching cows is going much better this year thanks to the nifty gates Glen and our brother-in-law put up in the barn this winter. Its amazing how switching cows sharpens our math skills; every milking finds us doing the math to figure out how many cows to leave outside and to make sure we didn't forget a cow out in the pasture. We just started calving in a group of heifers. The first three had heifer calves – and even better than that, one of them is a red and white out of my old show cow's granddaughter. The next couple weeks will be especially busy with new heifers and new calves.

I hope your summer is off to a good start!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Signs of summer

Memorial Day is always heralded as the official start of summer, even though the calendar says otherwise.

Balloons start popping up at the end of driveways, marking the location of graduation parties. Church parking lots start to fill up on Saturdays for the summer wedding season.

It's also the time of year when farms all around the state open their doors for Breakfasts on the Farm. Here in Stearns County, our Breakfast on the Farm will be held next Saturday, June 4th at Schefers Dairy near St. Stephen.

For me, I know summer is officially here when the discbine starts laying out swaths of alfalfa and orchard grass. We're going to try making haylage with our first crop. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Along with the smell of fresh cut hay, there are some other tell-tale signs of summer:

• The kitchen floor could almost pass as the barn floor since nobody thinks they're going to be inside long enough to warrant removing their shoes and nobody wants to stay inside long enough to sweep the floor.

• Despite the sunscreen, Dan and Monika are developing farmers' tans from all of their hours "working" outside. But it's hard to tell what's tan and what's dirt until you hose them off in the shower.

• I have a list of ideas to write about that's two pages long, but I don't want to stay in the house any more than the kids do, so the items on the list keep increasing faster than I can check them off. Ditto for the photos to share.

• Heat and humidity. We had our first pressure cooker of a day yesterday. As we were sitting in the grass under a tree, Dan asked simply, "Why is it so hot?" (I'm not sure, since I had to put long underwear on again last Friday.)

• The bugs are back. First the June beetles started showing up in the sandbox. This morning there was something buzzing around my head while I brought the cows in. Dan even had his first wood tick of the year.

Without a doubt, summer is here. I hope your summer has plenty of sunshine, dirt and bugs (not the biting ones, though).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bovine waterbirth?

I won't say that it would be boring, but dairy farming would be a lot less eventful without the pasture.

When I brought cows in yesterday morning, Laugh wasn't with the herd. So I walked back out to look for her.

I found her on the bank of the back pond, just standing there and shifting her weight the way cows do when they're in early labor.

The back pond. (This isn't Laugh, but it's the only photo I have of that pond...)

She ambled away when I got a little closer, so I left her there to labor in peace.

When Glen asked where Laugh was after I got back to the barn, I jokingly told him she was out by the back pond planning her waterbirth.

He only half laughed.

During our first summer here, he ended up waist-deep in one of the ponds trying to prevent a bovine waterbirth. The calf's feet and nose were out and the cow was just standing in the pond like she had every intention of delivering the calf right there.

I offered to go check on Laugh an hour later, but Glen said he could do it a when he went over to the neighbor's to feed the heifers.

After he'd been gone for awhile, my phone rang.

"Was Laugh actually IN the pond when you checked on her this morning?"

"No, she was just hanging out on the east bank."

"Well, she's in the pond now! Can you open the gate to the waterway? I'm going to bring her up to the barn." (We're using our grassed waterway as a calving pen for the summer.)

Not more than a couple minutes passed before my phone rang again.

"You're not going to believe this…" Glen started.

He said that when he got up to the pond to chase Laugh out, her calf was standing right next to her, up to its ears in the water. From a distance he hadn't been able to see the calf at all because its black head was camouflaged by Laugh's shadow.

He grabbed onto the calf and pulled it out of the water. Since he didn't dare leave it on the bank, he carried it all the way back to where he had parked the truck.

At least the calf was dry by the time they got home.

We're not sure if Laugh delivered the calf in the water or if it rolled down the bank and ended up in the pond. Hardly enough time had passed for the calf to be delivered, get up by itself and walk into the pond. (Enough time had passed, though, for a leech to find its umbilical cord. Eew.)

Regardless of how it happened, we're just glad the calf is alive. We named her Lilypad. Her sire is one of Glen's favorite bulls, so he said he would have been more than a little upset if things hadn't turned out okay.

Hopefully, the rest of the summer's deliveries are a little less remarkable.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Green knees

We finally got the cows out to pasture on Wednesday — a full two weeks later than last year. The event has become something of a holiday around here. It means that summer is finally on its way and the cows are finally out of the barn. Life seems so much simpler when the cows are on grass.

However… putting the cows out to pasture means we're once again switching cows. But I'll take switching cows over the alternative, which is selling the extras.

Last night while we were feeding cows in the barn, I noticed something that brought a smile to my face. The cows all had green knees!

The grass is so lush right now, that when the cows lay down, their knees get grass stained, just like Dan's pants this time of year.

But I won't be watching their green knees for much longer. Since we were able to find some used J-bunks last fall, we'll have enough bunk space in the cow yard to feed all of the cows outside. That means, pretty soon, we'll be done forking and carting feed until we close the pasture gate this fall. Woo-hoo!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Lost and found

Like every farm family, we lose things. We look around for awhile in hopes of finding the lost items. When they don't turn up, we write them off as lost forever.

The objects most likely to disappear around here are sippy cups. The kids bring them out to the barn and they never make it back to the house. A couple of sippy cups, we later discovered, were snatched by Skippy and devoured. But the others seem to have simply vanished into thin air.

So it brought us a good chuckle this week when one of the lost sippy cups was found — in the manure pit.

We emptied the manure pit onto our fields this week and as the last of the manure was pumped out, one of the pumping crew members pointed out a small purple object floating in the corner of the pit.

Glen crawled down the pit wall, retrieved the completely undamaged sippy cup, and crawled back up laughing.

The crew member, laughing with him, said, "I wouldn't drink that!"

Glen thought maybe we could clean the cup up and put it back in the rotation, but I thought otherwise. The sippy cup went into dumpster.

At least I know now what became of it.

The sippy cup wasn't the only thing that turned up in the pit this spring. The small red gas jug that we keep in the back of the barn for the straw chopper, which had mysteriously disappeared this winter, was found in bits and pieces floating in the pit. Apparently, it didn't go through the manure pump as easily as the sippy cup.

And, wouldn't you know it, the evening after the pumping crew finished the job, we were joking in the barn about finding our lost items. Just after that, I started up the barn cleaner and heard a big ka-chunk. The messy investigation revealed that the manure pump tried to eat a No. 2 shovel that had fallen into the gutter. It left the handle in the hopper and swallowed the spade.

Unfortunately, I'm sure the shovel won't be the last thing lost to the manure pump.