Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hay There!

In case any family milk cow owners are curious, I have stopped feeding my girls grain. I believe it encourages the internal climate that parasites like, contributes to difficulty in conceiving, and other random health problems that should not normally happen. Not to mention corn and soy being highly toxic to the system and leading causes of allergies.

Instead, here's what I'm feeding each cow this winter:

1/2 bale of hay a day or as needed

2 flakes (or big bin stuffed full) of high-quality alfalfa (tested at 23% protein)

Molasses (1 C. a day)

Kelp (free choice or 1/2 C. a day), rotated every couple weeks with other herbs like raspberry leaf, chamomile, red clover, stinging nettle.

Raw apple cider vinegar - added to their water at 2-3 C. a day

This means they give less milk - a small price to pay for the comfort of knowing the milk is more nutritious, and the cows more likely to stay healthy.

I'm still not sure about using so much alfalfa in their diets, as the legume family tends to mimic estrogen, and may harm their systems in large quantities, but they seem to be doing well on it right now. It's only a short-term solution: my long-term goal for these animals is fresh, green growing grasses and seasonal milking only April-November, supplementing hay in winter. When the grasses start growing in April, I'm going to see if they do all right on just grazing, as they will not be giving milk anymore and just maintaining weight for their growing calves.

What fun my brothers and I had today - we stocked the barn with the final 2 ton each of hay and alfalfa for our four-stomached critters. They watched us intently all the while, ears quizzical and comical :) Meanwhile we argued about the best way to stack bales, laughed while four of us crammed into the cab of my dad's truck or rode in the back, and I got practice dodging hay bales thrown at me (I'll let y'all wonder at that one ;) ).

I'm digging holes in preparation for more orchard trees next spring, and my cover crops of winter rye and white clover show a green haze on the garden and orchard. Five heavy-duty garden beds have been duly tucked in various nooks and crannies around the place, and I'm almost finished filling them with hay/cow manure, leaves, phosphate, calcium, molasses, kelp, copper and iron. If they compost well in time for spring planting, I'll plant hundreds of asparagus and rhubarb plants grown from seed, and inter-crop kale, beets, lettuce, etc..

Half the garden is neatly buried in a thick blanket of leaves to lie fallow next year - its' year of Jubilee. The upper field is scattered with leaf mounds and a great big compost pile... quite a sight, I can assure you. Ah well, practical over aesthetic, I always say! Next spring I'll spread it over the existing sod, scatter a few grass/clover seeds if needed, and experiment with MI grazing and pastured poultry (or Cow Choppers and Chicken Tractors, if you prefer).

Still there is compost to be flipped, piles of strawy manure in the fields to be spread, sheds to continually be mucked, vines/trees to be trimmed, more mulch to be spread where the chickens have destroyed my earlier handiwork ;), and learning to check a cow for pregnancy (that should be intensely fun... anyone care to join me in exploring the inner workings of a bovine?).

Yep, my family tells me staunchly that I was either born in the wrong century, or that they brought home the wrong baby from the hospital, I'm such an odd soul. Isn't that encouraging?

An early Christmas season greeting to y'all! I hope you are doing well.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cider Pressin' and Good Times!

We all had a blast on Sunday at our dinner-for-four fellowship - tromping through the forest, cider pressin' and yelling at the top of our lungs in a game of Pit :D

That's the spirit!

How many guys does it take to squish some apples? One to supervise, two to turn the wheels, one to put apples in the feeder, one to watch the cider as it comes out...

Even a cow had to get in on the action (what else does a bovine think of besides "food")


Us girls FINALLY got a turn!

"This has to be just so..."

It tasted so good!

Thanks for the fun time!

Monday, November 2, 2009

20 Years

Thou, O Lord, my only trust,

When friends are mingled with the dust,

And all my loves are gone.

When earth has nothing to bestow,

And every flower is dead below,

I look to thee alone.

from 'The Basket of Flowers'

Tomorrow I turn 20.

"Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You". Psalm 39:4-5

"As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness." Psalm 17:15

This past month I have been filled with joy once I looked past the heartache. Without giving you all the details, I finally and fully submitted a part of my life to God. 'twas the hardest thing to trust Him enough to give up all control. Though it hurts, my dearest friends have also faithfully revealed to me sins in my life that I need to address. Respecting parents, guarding my tongue from offending my brothers and sisters in Christ, and being fully satisfied in Christ - not being dependant on peers or wanting a spouse to fulfill me.

Is there anything more beautiful than the prayers of God's people, the powerful heart-work of the Holy Spirit, and the faithful wounds of a friend?

God is calling me to be a farmer. A high and noble calling, it does nevertheless require a shift in my thinking and priorities. I read a book by Joel Salatin called 'You Can Farm', and it made me passionate enough to take the plunge. Next year I would like to start bee hives, expand our orchard, keep refining the dairy business and begin rotational grazing of the fields, raise more chickens and begin butchering some for meat.

As I turn to a new decade of my life, I find a strong new confidence "in the fear of the Lord" (Pr.14:26), and joy that I am being led by Him.

Have you heard the hymn, 'Make Me a Stranger'?

Make me a stranger on earth, dear Savior,

make me a stranger more like Thee.

Help me keep my focus on heavenly treasures,

and not on earthly things may it be.

Lord, I've found myself loving earthly treasures:

simple pleasures taking Your place.

Nothing can measure to heavenly treasures:

hearing "Well done," and seeing Your face.

Lord, lead me onward as a pilgrim

bound for heaven never to roam.

Make me a stranger on earth, dear Savior,

Till I see my heavenly home.

You are all such dear friends - thank you for selflessly investing in my life. I only hope I can repay you someday.