Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dollop & Scoop – No. 2

Well, I started working on this post on Sunday, with plans to finish it yesterday. That didn't happen, so here I am finishing it today. Oh, well. The one thing I've learned about making plans is that plans always change, especially on a farm.

Winter farm kids

Dan and Monika in barn

When I told Dan and Monika it was time to go outside the other day, they replied with, "There's nothing to do outside, Mom." I can't completely disagree with them. Our frigid temps the past couple weeks have made it too cold to play outside for any length of time and, even if they could, the options are much more limited than they are in the warmer seasons.

But, they needed fresh air and exercise, so I sent them out anyways. They ran around outside for a couple minutes before the cold drove them into the barn. When I took the picture above, they were happily playing some game on the straw bales. It seems like they always find some way to entertain themselves once they get outside.

(P.S. I consider myself very lucky that Dan and Monika are such good friends. I hope their friendship stays this strong for the rest of their lives.)

Cookie thief

Daphne stealing cookie

We are in the middle of our winter calving break right now and we're not milking any extra cows, either, which means I have more time to spend in the house. I've been using my time to play around with new recipes and experiment with photography.

I've found that the best daytime lighting for food photos comes from the large picture window in our livingroom. We have a couch in front of the window, so I just set my photo station up on the couch. But that puts the station within reach of my little cookie thief. By the time I was done with these photos, I had three fewer cookies than when I started.

My little cookie thief has also perfected her pronunciation of 'cookie' in the past week. It is the cutest thing ever to hear her ask for a cookie. (She doesn't always sneak them – sometimes she asks.)

Weird winter

snow covered field

After getting a foot of snow in November, I thought we were in for another snowy winter. The kind of winter where we end up with walls of snow where we've plowed to get to the cows' feed. But, all that snow melted and then it rained. By Christmas Eve, our chickens were out foraging on the lawn and there was hardly any snow anywhere.

We've picked up a couple inches of snow since then. Just enough to make this field look like cookies 'n cream ice cream. In some ways, the lack of snow makes life easier. But, in other ways, not so much.

We're concerned that the dormant alfalfa doesn't have enough insulation to protect it from the bitter cold. And there isn't a single snow pile in the yard right now for the kids to play on, dig in, and slide down. There's not even enough snow on the hill in the field for them to go sledding.

But, we've got a lot of winter left, so I'm guessing we'll see some snow again before we see green grass.

Heifer chores

Julie the calf

Even though it was only 10°F on Sunday, the sun was out and it actually felt warm. (It's pretty crazy that 10° can feel warm!) We used the nice afternoon to move some calves from the baby calf pen in the barn to the heifer pen outside and to put new corn straw down for the heifers outside.

There are a lot of reasons why I like the way we rear our baby calves, but the system still has it's challenges. First, in the winter, we end up moving calves out of the pen later than we should. We try to move calves when it's somewhat warm out, because, with the barn kept at 40°F, the calves' winter coats aren't as thick as they would be if they had been raised outside.

Second, there's no easy way to move calves from the calf pen to the heifer pen. It takes a halter and two people – one to lead (or pull) and one to push. Now that we've got a pallet fork for the skidloader, we've talked about making a little portable moving pen, but that hasn't happened yet.

So, when the calves get bigger than they should because you're waiting for a warm spell to move them and then you have to move them with a halter, it makes for quite the afternoon.

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Thanks for reading this edition of Dollop & Scoop. Barring any major changes to my plans, the next edition will be posted next Monday.

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