Saturday, March 19, 2011

Susan's Archery Dress

I was commissioned to design and create a second Susan's Archery Dress from the new 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe'. What do you think?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Opal Update

Opal has officially adopted me as her 'baby' after being here for two weeks ;)

She is boss of the herd, no doubt about it.

Mattie and Jani get shoved away from the three-cow feeder, and Opal stands sideways in front of it, blocking the whole thing with her huge form.

However, Miss Opal is forced into a tough decision when I start brushing Mattie behind her... what to do? Hay... or brushing... hay... brushing???

Jealousy wins, she picks grooming over food, sidles away from the feeder and comes in between me and Mattie (who happily takes her place at the feeder while Opal is distracted). I brush her neck and she raises her head in sheer ecstasy, eyes rolling back into her head, leaning into me. Then she contorts her body so that her neck wraps all the way around me, and starts licking my arm. Eventually she is leaning into me so much that her hoof is on my foot... hey, there's a limit to how much love a person can take ;)

Having only owned cows that came as adults from a commercial dairy before, this is such a sweet experience for me. Gaining her trust so soon, being able to touch her all over, give her hugs (which she adores), and feel totally safe with her :D

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New Room

It's so tiny, there was no way to get any full-view shots, but I love it! So excited to have an inner sanctuary for the first time in eight years :) It still needs a lot of touch-ups and fixtures, but it's livable.

Many, many thanks to my girlfriends, Christi, Julia and Sarah, for helping me do the hard jobs of mudding and sanding! You guys are awesome.

Oh, no comments on the wall color. I've already heard all the cow slobber jokes ;)

This will be the closet... eventually...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

How went my Saturday...

It's not often that I give a real journal entry, so here's what happened on this good day.

I woke up at 6:00, realized I was in my own new quiet room, and thustly rolled over and snuck another 30 minutes of sleep. My bed is right under a southeast facing window, and come summertime I'll be rising at 5:30 with the sun, like it or not. Best to enjoy sleep while you can.

Marcus and I headed out to the barn around 6:45 after some Bible time, and Mattie and Jani were waiting by the gate. Luckily Opal hasn't caught on to the routine yet, and by the time I had let in Mattie and Jani, she finally caught sight of what I was doing and starting jogging up the hill "MOOOOO" (which is cow-ese for "NOOOOOO"). She is miffed already about being put on dry cow rations, and to listen to the sound of Jani and Mattie munching grain without her... well, it was just too much.

A milk customer came to pick up their milk order while I was milking, and we chatted about the new farmette they are moving into soon. Milking done, I headed into the house while Marcus finished taking water to the calves. Showered, changed, and helped mom tidy the house while I waited for the tuba player to arrive.

I guess I need to explain: for the past three years, I have been paid to accompany a tuba player for his public school instrumental competitions. Great experience, and I have to say that contemporary music is awesome because if you goof up on the numerous cadenzas and ridiculously complex million-accidental chords, no one can tell! Anyways, so he and I performed at the local high school this morning.

Afterwards I stopped at the local farm store for some stakes and wire for inner fencing, had a good chat with a guy about spring and cows and all that jazz. Then on to the grocery store for some Breyer's ice cream since Daniel is treating us to Organic Root Beer floats tonight :D At the store I bumped into Charlotte, a gal I've gotten to know over the past year since she also started up a raw milk dairy. We chatted while the ice cream melted and got updated on each other's cows and when calves are due.

I drove home, changed again, headed out with my arms loaded with stakes, wire, and wire cutters. The spring weather is beautiful. It felt so good to be outdoors again in a t-shirt, working out in the fields. The fence needed some repair from the winter, I had to lower the top wire since we no longer have a 6' tall Holstein, and I set up several internal paddocks. I'll test the fence charger on Monday.

Back home I went, moved Mattie and Jani from the corral to the lower field with Opal, spent some time with the calves, cleaned up a bunch of wire from the summer chicken house, some that the calves had torn out, and the temporary orchard wire. Then a milk customer came to pick up some manure and I helped them get situated. Mulched a patch near the raised beds with leaves to kill the grass so I can plant some squash later, and mulched part of the center island. Tulips and daffodils will be here soon! Tidied the hay barn, cleaned up the last of the wood shavings, watered the calves, and scratched the cows' ears.

Inside, I grab a second lunch (I'll admit it, I eat more than my brothers), and a friend calls me on the phone :D We talk for a while, and then I head out to snap some pictures of Opal and plaster them all over the internet :P Now I'm waiting while the chicken stir-fry fries without me stirring it.

Did I mention we get root beer floats tonight? :P

It has been a good day.

Introducing the Third Moo

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dairy Cow Feed 101

I have learned so much this year about feeding and caring for dairy cows.


And this time last year I thought I was an expert ;)

Next year I'll look back at this moment in time and wonder why I thought I knew so much... now to implement some of what I am about to share with you...

Here's some facts about feeding dairy cows:


Your best friend is premium grass hay, cut before it goes to seed and dried quickly under optimum conditions, baled in square bales and kept under cover. This will look extremely soft (not brittle), green, you will see a majority of leaves, not stems or seed heads. Here in the hay fields of Willamette valley, you can't get this kind of hay. Our wet haying season and lack of warmth in June means optimum haying conditions are very rare. Look for a supplier of quality eastern OR hay (you may have to go with someone selling horse hay, as horse owners are EXTREMELY picky and you are likely to find top quality stuff) and buy a bale to take home to your cows. Set out a couple different types of hay and see which ones they eat first. It should be obvious. No amount of grain or alfalfa can make up the difference in the lack of HIGH QUALITY HAY. I am experiencing this right now, and next year I will gladly pay the $230 per ton for good hay, and my cows will be the healthier for it. Remember, a cow may get as much out of 2 tons of poor hay that they will out of only a ton of premium stuff, so you aren't usually saving money when you buy the cheapest you can find. Dairy cows are not beef cows, so don't treat them as such.


Your next best friend is Eastern OR alfalfa. Look for alfalfa that is mostly leaves, and small-stemmed. Usually they will be able to tell you the dietary analysis of the batch, and check for high protein (21%). Obviously the most important thing is that it is high-energy and high mineral-density, but that is harder to discover. Since alfalfa quality changes with the year, season, number of cutting, and field harvested from, be willing to change supplier if quality to that which sinks less than acceptable. Our suppliers usually begin with awesome stuff, and each successive order becomes more and more course, until finally the cows spend all their time nosing through the stems trying to find the sparse scattering of leaves.


A cow should not need pounds of grain daily to gain the appearance of health. We have made them that way. It is a travesty against our bovine friends, shame on us! Unless you are blessed to find a cow raised from day one on grass, that is truly healthier because of it, and genetically seems in every way to be created for a grass-only diet, here's some options. Make your own grain mix, but watch that the protein doesn't creep much above %16 unless you don't feed alfalfa in addition. If you feed lots of alfalfa, nix that additional amount of protein. Grains to use are wheat, oats, barley, triticale, and include sunflower seeds, some liquid blackstrap molasses, and kelp meal for minerals. Watch your cows' condition, but I'm beginning to think that if they lose weight on this blend, it is the fault of poor hay, not necessarily the lack of corn/soy in the diet. However, something like Calf Manna may boost a dangerously thin cow to a better condition from which you can then make more lasting diet changes. If your cow needs grain, the rule of thumb is to give a Jersey 1 lb. for every 3 lbs. of milk she produces (up to 15 lbs. or so, though many people disagree where the cap on amount is). Obviously you can give Holsteins or other large breeds more. This means if she produces 4 gallons of milk, you need to be giving her about 10 lbs of grain.



What? You want more information than that? Sorry, I'm not going to make it more complicated just 'cause you want it to be ;) Try offering kelp meal (I've heard Thorvin is best, but my cows usually prefer other brands), a mineral blend like Redmond conditioner, and naturally dried unrefined Redmond sea salt in a three-compartment mineral box, and see which one disappears. Kelp wins out every time. Their coats are shiny, milk is more nutritious, and they roll with the punches easier. Kelp is such a wonderful substance, that I add it to their feed, even if they get it free-choice 24/7. Do yourself and your cows a favor, throw out the mineral blocks.


Raw apple cider vinegar. Use especially before/during/after calving and breeding.
Aloe Vera juice. Immune booster during times of stress; moving, new animals on the farm, and before and after calving.
Various herbs. (mastitis treatment/prevention, sweeter milk, gain weight, anti-microbial, anti-parasitic)

A couple key points on FEEDING...

During cold spells, a cow will eat up to 30% more calories in order to keep warm. They will choose carbs (like good hay and grain/molasses) over alfalfa, and you should cater to those needs. Protein usually = more milk production, and you need to gauge protein needs at each season and lower the protein/up the carbs if cows start losing body condition. Ketosis is caused by a lack of caloric intake esp. during lactation, up the molasses and grain. Milk fever can be caused by feeding a cow too much rich feeds such as alfalfa and grain during the dry period, thus causing a major imbalance of calcium/magnesium after calving. To prevent this, slowly switch to feeding only good hay/minerals during the drying-up period (6-8 weeks before due date), and stay on this until 1-2 weeks before calving, where you slowly introduce a little more grain/alfalfa each day until they calve. Then pack on the calories, momma cow (does this sound familiar, you moms out there???)! Dairy cows are big animals who tend to give and give until they have given all of themselves, so don't underestimate how much food your girl truly needs to bless you with plenty of milk, food for the calf, and keep flesh on her own bones.

...aaand in closing...

Here is the #1 advice I have to give a cow-owner-wannabe... do your research, find a trusted friend who knows some small-farm cow owners who may have a family cow to sell, look for one that was raised on grass and is an 'easy keeper' who does not need corn/soy in her feed to maintain body condition during lactation, is kind and easy to handle, and PAY WHAT THAT COW IS WORTH. I just shelled out $2500 for a beautiful new Jersey today, and she has been raised in the optimum setting for a healthy and vibrant life. If you go to a big dairy and ask for a good cow, they will either sell you an obviously cull cow dirt cheap, or a slightly better one for the full going rate. Even if you get what is considered a 'great' cow, she may need large amounts of optimum feed in order to keep from rapidly losing body condition and health. Avoid all these options and you will likely avoid many sleepless nights and headaches.