Monday, December 29, 2008


Here's a puzzle for someone: why did my cows give butter in their milk last night? I am as serious as serious can be.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Hard Winter

* I feel for the Ingalls family.
* What better way to meet new neighbors than digging their cars out with our tractor.
* I love snow when we still have electricity.
* Rhododendrons certainly can balance a lot of snow on their leaves.
* Hand-milking is really, really tough when the temperature is 17 degrees F.
(yes, our machine chose to stop working for a couple milkings)

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:6-7

* God's mighty hand is seen over the storms.
* We are so very small and helpless.
* Hard times demand our decision to give our cares to God, or take them on our own inadequate shoulders.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I'm now thoroughly convinced that I worry far too much. Before you start to laugh behind your hand, try diving headfirst into a project like dairy cows and feel comfortable about the responsibility laid on your head when you are providing food for a dozen families who are counting on you to keep them healthy in the process! Run-on sentences are notorious at 8:20 PM for me. Late night? I'm extremely tired the next day without at least 9 hours of sleep starting at 9 PM at the absolute latest.

I think finally, finally, finally... I have discovered the world-famous secret on what keeps a cow producing the amount she should!!!!!!!!!!! *starts to shout for joy and jump up and down*

If ever you should decide to be a crazy person and go buy a cow, I'll let you know. In fact, I'll even come over and spend a week showing you all the RIGHT things to do and how to avoid all of the WRONG things.

Enjoy sanity. While you possess it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

White Gold

Mattie has brought us a beautiful little bull calf who eats like a... well, a calf :) He stayed with his mother for two weeks, drinking 2 1/2 gallons a day until we separated them. Now we get to feed him from a bottle, and he is only allowed 1 1/2 - 2 gallons a day. Considering Mattie is producing from 4 - 4/12 gallons a day, besides the 1 gallon from Jani, I feel free to allow him as much as he wants and is healthy! We have nine gallons in our refrigerator. Time to feel overwhelmed with blessings :D

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Mattie is due to calve any day now, and of course that means every family member is anxiously watching her for any signs of pain or distress... oh brother!

Monday, September 22, 2008

We Are In Business!

Emerald Veil Manhattan Glass has arrived! We'll call her Mattie for short. She is doing well, is ruling the roost (except during feeding time, when Meatball gets the upper hand on account of his being so ornery). There's a feeling of excitement to have two dairy cows on our property, especially since the milking machine is up and running. I'm having a rough time introducing Jani to the new milk parlor, so I'll take my time to introduce the milking machine :) Jani led me in a merry chase across the field at 6 AM on Sunday when I tried to halter her and lead her into the parlor. Did I mention that she is a prima donna?

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Like it or not, I am free this year to work on submission to family. Time to realize that there are others around me who are very important to God, and the realization that I am far more selfish than I previously thought. Praise God that He does not give up on prideful humans, but convicts and chastens, then guides and empowers to have victory over sin.

Simplicity is allowing quiet to fill your heart and allowing God to show you areas that need to change. For me, being busy (as one friend put it, Being Under Satan's Yoke) can lead to blindness in a hurry. Living on a farm and being home schooled all of my life has perhaps restrained my tendency to constantly be moving. It is hard to become involved in a lot of activity in town, when the nearest store is 15 min. away!

Yesterday I was blessed with 20 lbs of fresh Early Girl tomatoes! Most were cooked into tomato sauce, the rest I gave to neighbors and used fresh. Jani is finally in a comfortable routine, so less time is spent milking. Apples are picked, four large laundry baskets-full! It reminds me of one of the books in the Rose Wilder Lane series, where they bought a whole wagon-load of apples, made most into cider, then spent days peeling, slicing, drying and storing the rest in sacks for winter apple pies :)

Today Dad has smoothed out the upper fields and Nathan and I need to re-seed them in preparation for spring. We also need to make the double-stanchion for the dairy parlor. The milk machine and vacuum pump have arrived, and Glass (the new Jersey) is due to be picked up tomorrow!

It is possible to be quiet and still before God without being lazy.

Psalm 46:8-10 "Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"

Monday, September 15, 2008


After two months, at last I am milking correctly! It is a lot easier, so I get the milk in half an hour by myself. It is hard to explain the correct way to milk either in words or in pictures, but experience eventually gets you there sooner or later :)

If I hold the bucket between my knees and keep it a ways away from her, I can aim the milk pretty well into the bucket, and when she lifts up her feet they miss their aim. So far she hasn't proven me wrong on this theory.

I watch the dawn emerge over Mt. Hood as I milk. The air is cool and clean, and peaceful quiet lays over the world like a blanket. There are rare moments like these that make any effort worth it, even rising up earlier than all the neighbors! Jani also seems more relaxed and moves around less when I get out to the barn early in the morning (she always seems to get the last word in these matters).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Jani's Granddam

I just visited the AJCA website and found a picture of Black Rose of Briarcliffs, Jani's Sire's Dam. She was a grand champion in 2002. Jani has a great pedigree and genetic potential, so even though she is not going to give as much milk as other cows, it looks like she'll have good offspring! Her SCS (Somatic Cell Score) is 2.9. Zero is the lowest, and the lower the better. It's hard to tell, but 2.9 looks like a good score.

Diary of a Cow

June 15th, Sunday

Let's see, how did it all start? I suppose I should blame this crazy idea on my health research - namely the beneficial aspects of raw milk, keefir, butter, and cultured yogurt. I've noticed that pasteurized, homogonized, antibiotic and steroid laced milk from pesticide-filled protein-meal fed Holsteins irritates my skin and contributes to all sorts of other health problems. Hey... they say the stuff has added vitamins A & D :) So the story comes to this: I want to buy a Jersey cow.

Three weeks ago I received a reply from our local raw milk distributer to my inquiry on local farmers who own three or less dairy cows. I called one lady, she sent me to the library to read 'The Family Cow' by Dirk van Loon. I offhandedly mentioned my interest in buying a cow to my Grandma's care home provider: she had me call a nearby organic dairy. No luck there. Back to the first lady: she gave me the number of another organic dairy that raises Jerseys. I left a message begging for the farmer to sell me a cow. Anything will do, even (as Dad puts it) a 'cow on three cylendars' :) Dad is as anxious to begin as I am (though the minute the going gets rough & its 20 degrees outside, he'll give me full credit) and called Farmer John to reserve 2 tons of hay for the winter. Time is running out before we need to cut the new grass in the fields. You'd think a standard Jersey cow was endangered around here!

June 22nd, Sunday

I'm bouncing off the walls in excitement!!! The second farmer replied today... he will sell us a cow! She's a two-year-old heifer that damaged a teat during her first calving but is gentle and giving 3 gallons of milk a day. He wants us to call in a week once they are done with the haying. I hope to get the heifer bred again before we bring her home.

June 30th, Monday

Remind me if a farmer says one week, he probably means two! I have ordered a yogurt maker, cultures, 1/2 gallon glass jars and lids. The grass has grown rapidly because of an entire week of 90-100 degree weather. Our good friends and neighbors, B. and H., are willing and ready to take some of the milk off our hands in trade for either work or feed, and Dad bought 3 tons of hay from a neighbor's field.

July 5th, Saturday

Jani, the Jersey. Kind of has a pleasant ring, don't you think? She and I had a date today... not that we fell in love at first sight or anything! As one of 250 milkers, she resented being singled out at milking time for inspection. She's been machine-milked for 4 months and has the will and vibrance to resist a change in that system!

She was bred three days ago, so that would make a possible... hmm... April 10, 2009 calving. I'm praying she has a heifer, that way we could have milk all year long and be able to sell extra to neighbors when she is grown. Dad, Mom and I stopped at the feed store on the way back, picking up a brush, mineral salt block, hanging scale and large galvanized feed bucket. The bare essentials. As soon as Dad gets a steer, Farmer John will let us use the same cattle trailor to pick up the cow. Monday could be the day (it's times like this I wish I could drive a stick shift). Well, I'm off to talk business with some neighbors! Oh, before I forget, Jani costs $1000, a decent price for a three-teated cow.

July 9, Wednesday

The excitement and effort wore me out yesterday. Jani boarded our borrowed trailor easily enough on Monday night. I think the only things I've done right were asking the farmer to have her milked out before we brought her home, and buying a bucket of her usual grain mix from the farmer to tide us by! I sat cringing as we clattered over a couple miles of gravel road, but Jani only seemed a little wide-eyed when we ushered her through the maze of boards and hay crates that blocked off all exits but the one that led her into the barn. I sat inside, talking to her for an hour before bedtime.

That night I hardly slept, I was so apprehensive about my first milking attempt to come. All things considered, I wasn't quite sure if Jani would tolerate me. The next morning I went out at 6 AM, timidly offering a bowl of sweet peas and carrot pulp (who in their right mind could refuse that delicacy?). The animal only daintily sniffed at it and waltzed away. Not even Meatball (our new steer) wanted some. In addition, my offers of a good brushing were met with disdain. By 7 AM I was full-fledged nervous. Dad saw my pain and took pity. He dug out an old goat stanchion left over from the former farm owners, made the head opening wider, put a feed bowl on the platform and voila! A stanchion fit for a... cow. With a bit of coaxing to Jani and shooing to gawking family members, Jani was in the stanchion and I began to milk for the first time in my life.

Now, several words to the wise: 1. Do not bring your cow home until you have in your possession a good, stainless steel pail (around here, they are only available online). A plastic pail starts to leach a plastic smell into the milk pretty soon. 2. Attach your stanchion to an immovable object so the cow does not try to break her neck by dragging it around with her when she tries to get out. 3. When books tell you to buy a cow at the end of her lactation, THEY ARE RIGHT!!! It takes off so much pressure when you aren't required to get 3 gallons out of the old bag the first day of trying. It took my brother, Nathan, and I an hour just to get a good half gallon. Poor Jani. Still, the act of getting the milk out of the cow is not that hard at first. Getting the milk out fast, as cleanly as possible, and stripping the last drops as thoroughly as possible is difficult, and downright frustrating.

July 11th, Friday

Well, Jani stepped in the bucket after a gallon of clean milk had been efficiently milked out of her by Nathan and myself. Then of course Nathan yelled, Jani jerked her foot out and dumped it over (wondering what on earth she had done to make us so upset), and I stood trying hopelessly to calm everyone down. If it had not all been emptied, it would have made great dog, cat, pig and chicken food! I must remember that when this happens again. Eventually, we realized that Jani was lifting her back feet to kick at the flies on a couple injuries on her belly, not trying to kick at us at all.

July 14th, Monday

Well, we figured out what caused the sores on her belly - flies! When I called another neighbor to get a vet's phone number, P. knew right away what was wrong and raced down with her caddy of horse and cow vet supplies. We ripped off Jani's makeshift stomach bandage (the duct tape was Nathan's idea), and P. diagnosed her bloody sores as fly irritation and prescribed a bath. P. is an expert in halter training horses, so here's how we did it: we closed the cow in the barn and P. started thumping the rope against Jani's back to get her used to the feel, and realize she did not have to be afraid of it. Running in circles, we finally managed to get Jani into a corner to try to tie the ox-bow halter around her neck. She ran away again, but on the third or fourth try, we had her by the neck. Eventually, the halter was on, and we had to open the gate and lead Jani to a nearby grove of trees to tie her up. Did I mention that Jani is stubborn with a capital A Attitude? With the halter rope around my arm (palm facing away from me so I wouldn't break a wrist if she yanked), and the ox-bow rope around P's., we were forced to zig-zag back and forth so Jani would be forced off-balance and have to step forward. She did... about 6 inches at a time. Eventually we made it all six yards to the tree, tied her up and soaped her down. That done, Jani was doused with Betadine (an antiseptic to treat the really bad fly-bites all over her neck) and Permectrin (a fly-repellant and dewormer). By this time, the poor thing was trembling with stress, so we dragged her back out into the sun to dry off, giving her plenty of head freedom. Later in the afternoon when I went to check on her, she was sulking on the grass. She refused to move until I removed the halter :)

Lesson 1: Let the cow know who is boss.
Lesson 2: If she acts stressed, relieve tension on the rope until she calms down.
Lesson 3: Do not walk behind her with the halter rope, she thinks you're stalking her and want to eat her for dinner.
Lesson 4: After a few back-breaking sessions of training, the cow starts to get the idea. Like the Yamhill farmer said, "Their brains aren't that big!"

So. I need to halter train her, learn how to properly milk her, have a vet teach me how to file her hooves, have her checked for TB, Brucellosis and pregnancy, and put another couple hundred pounds on her before I can rest in peace. And here I though all she needed was food, water and regular milking! I guess the books sort of forgot to write about all of the necessary tasks and assume you will know all about it. By the way, to all of you crazy people who wish to buy a dairy cow I have two words of advice. 1. Get a cow with large, hand-sized teats no matter what the cost (Jani is small-teated: better for machines, impossible to work with for hand-milking!). 2. HAVE A CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH, KNOW WHAT POSSIBLE INJURIES TO LOOK FOR, OR HAVE A VET CHECK HER OVER BEFORE BRINGING HER HOME!!! I'm telling you, this journal needs to be published so every other impatient young cow lover will have a fair word of warning before rushing headlong into this sort of investment.

Inventory of Vital Supplies
  • Stainless steel pails (two in case you want to save at least half of the milk before she steps in it)
  • 1/2 Gallon glass jars w/ lids
  • Cattle halter and lead rope (yes, she does need these!)
  • Cattle soap
  • Fly repellant/dewormer (I'm still trying to find an natural solution to this)
  • Milk strainer/filters
  • Bag balm
  • Brush
  • Feed pail
  • Stanchion
  • Probiotic (for after birthing or high stress)
  • Cooler and ice (quick cooling method for milk)
  • Vet phone number
  • AI number
  • 'Helpful neighbor' phone number
  • CMT (California Mastitis Test)
July 19th, Saturday

The vet came on Thursday. Now, it was basically a wasted trip costing $80, but I'm telling you, my peace of mind is worth it. The vet found the tattoo in her ear which showed her Brucellosis and TB testing numbers. He and his boss tested all of the Jani's farmer's cows. So, when you get a cow, you won't have to worry about calling a vet if you have the farmer show you the proof of previous testing. I found out that the seller is required to have that all done in order to legally sell an animal to another. Well, I asked for another TB test (yikes, I'm a bit overcautious, aren't I?), so he stuck the needle near her tail and stayed with her while she flew into a corner of the barn (she stood motionless for the next half-hour, even after I and the vet left :). If the area is swollen tomorrow, then she's positive for TB. If not, then she's good to go! The vet thought her hooves were a bit long, but not enough to worry about right now (I think he said 3 inches of hoof is a good length). You can also see Jani's ribs. I measured her around the chest (heart girth) and she is 63 inches = 748 lbs. Jerseys should weigh 800-1000 lbs, but the vet said organic cows tend on the lean side, and since she's dewormed, she should fatten up. I need to be careful not to give her too much grain or she'll get a toxic overdose. At 6 lbs of grain a day, we probably need to lower it as she is giving an average of 2 gallons (16 lbs) of milk a day and getting steadily lower (AUHHGGHHAAAA!!!). It's a helpless feeling when you've tried to ask other cow owners to help you learn how to milk correctly and no one has time.

Funny note: Jani is a prima donna when it comes to being haltered. P. taught her that there's nothing she can do to prevent it, but when I slip it on, she nuzzles against my leg with a hurt look in her big brown eyes, pretends that it keeps her from eating, yet as soon as I leave it on and exit the area, she starts munching a treat happily! Well, I'm off to train B. and H. how to milk. Ha, as if I really know how to do it myself!

July 28th, Monday

You've heard that he who buys a dairy cow, marries a dairy cow. To take that one step further, I would say, "Married in haste, repent at leisure". Never more true than now. On Saturday I thought she had mastitis, and the lady farmer told me to buy a CMT to check. Well, I hadn't been dipping her teats in disinfectant after milking, so I started that and the tiny white flecks in the milk of the suspicious teat went away after the second milking (perhaps it was only dried milk from the outside of the teat). We should have thrown away the milk from that teat just to be sure, but Jani keeps giving less milk than expected, and we did not suffer any harm from drinking it. Instead of the promised 3 gallon cow, we have a 1 1/2 gallon cow! Oh well. Next year is sure to be better. My family took off for '5 milkings' (time has a new measurement these days) to a family camp and B. and H. did well at the milking in our absense. Yesterday was discouraging, yet this morning Jani gave over a gallon! I can't figure this cow out. Boy, finding the time to halter and give her a weekly bath is taking some effort. I guess cows like to be clean, horses like to be dirty. A bath is supposed to help keep the flies away from her.

August 5th, Tuesday

What do you know? I was starving my poor cow! When the books say, "As much grass as they can eat and a little grain", they really mean, "As much tender, green, nutrient rich pasture as they can stomach plus a little grain". Our pasture has a lot of brown stuff, but no nutrition, and I was supplementing 6 lbs of grain a day. Now she's getting a flake of alfalfa, as much hay as she can eat, and a 10 lbs of grain. Her milk production is 2 1/4 gallons a day now!

August 6th, Wednesday

Washing all the stainless steel milk utensils with an organic soap and then sterilizing with a tea kettle of boiling water seems to keep the milk fresher for longer. The fastest our milk soured was in 3 days. That means the bacteria count was pretty high. The highest it is legal to be is 1500, but a nearby family cow owner sent milk to be tested for SCC (Somatic Cell Count) and it came back as low as 400! The lady farmer doesn't bleach her equipment, is organic, and her count was 100! I also learned that I needed to squeeze the teat higher up with my thumb and forefinger. I was told in 'those cow books' to be careful not to hold too high or you could damage the udder, but the milk won't flow quickly enough if your hand is too far down. Jani is much easier to drag around by the halter now! Yeah!!! Oh, if your milk stays fresh for a week or more, you're doing splendidly.

August 18th, Monday

August is the worst month to be new at milking! In hot weather, the flies are impossible to handle, the milk sours more quickly in the heat, the cow and the people milking are more irritable, and I am paranoid about mastitis, pink eye and Jani not gaining weight. Some things about milk: though she is pretty consistent in amounts right now, her let-down affects milking time and cream amount. It's really hard on my hands to milk her when she is all tense.

Good news! It looks like Jani is pregnant!!!

August 30th, Saturday

I'm losing sleep, I'm thinking so hard about htis cow project. B. and H. want to get another cow that will come fresh about 6 months after Jani. That means; 2 calves to feed, train, raise and sell; the need to borrow our neighbor's pasture; 4 tons of hay, 3 tons of alfalfa and 4 tons of grain to purchase and store (who knows if my calculations are even correct); a milking parlor to be established; CMT, monthly SCC, and perhaps yearly TB testing; and a clientele to build and maintain if there is extra milk to sell. Not to mention the purchase of a $2400 four-quarter Jersey and $1600 milking machine! Considering Jani steps in the bucket every other week, is not giving milk consistently, and the milk keeps souring too fast, a milk machine is necessary anyway. So much to do, and I start piano teaching on Tuesday!!!

September 3rd, Wednesday

We visited Jani's friends on Monday. According to her former owner (and a picture in the Encyclopedia), an organic Jersey cow who is a healthy weight should show the outline of her ribs and have pretty bony hips. So... all this time I've been fretting over Jani and she looks more fat than this other cow we are getting! The problem is, when I cut back on the grain, she gives less milk, yet I know all the grain is just adding to her fat stores, which is not healthy! This other cow is due to give birth on October 12th, is more orange/brown all over than Jani and is a lot more mellow. She almost let me touch her! Her hooves are overgrown, so the farmer said he would have them trimmed before we get her. We also visited the lady farmer's parlor and it looks like we could replicate it for about a $1000. We'd need a concrete pad, refrigerator, ice maker, dishwasher, counter, stanchions, and overhead water pipe with connecting hose (though insulating it against freezing temperatures could be a problem. Hmmm...).

September 13, Saturday

Now to the present. The concrete is laid for the parlor, the surge bucket milking machine and 1 HP vacuum pump are ordered, we are picking up the new cow in about a week, and Jani has dropped in milk production from 2 1/4 gallons to 1 1/4 gallons in about two weeks. Sigh... I've cried over spilled milk so much, I just have to accept that Jani will dry up involuntarily well before her time. I think that by moving milking times from 7AM and 7PM, to 8AM and 6PM, to 6AM and 5:30PM, I have contributed to the drying up. I've heard the biggest factors are food/water and changing milking times. Between B. and H's. family and ours, we consume about 2 gallons a day, so I'm praying with all my might that this new cow will give more than 4 gallons a day at first.


How shall I begin? They say experience is the best teacher, but learning from another person's experience is a lot less painful! If there is anything I can share that others in the same situation will benefit from, then so be it.