Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to (not) preg check cows.

I had both of our jerseys artificially inseminated last month and now it's time to pregnancy check them.  I have options.  The first is to trailer them 50 miles to the vet so he can stick his hand down into their uterus and feel the calf.  The second is to do a blood draw from their tail and send it to a laboratory in Idaho.  The third was just a rumor, but sounded somewhat plausible, take a urine sample (preferably the first urine in the morning) and use a human pregnancy test.  The fourth?  Wait 9 months for a calf to pop out....or not.
Yesterday, I attempted the blood draw.  I watched the videos on how to do it and the cows on it seemed to not feel a thing and didn't make a move.  Hmmmm, well, Flower-bob did NOT get that memo and although she was locked in her stanchion happily munching grain, she bobbed and weaved her backside around so much that every time I got the needle in, she would jerk away and the needle would fall out.  It didn't help that I was paranoid that she would kick me, break my leg and I'd have to drag myself up to the house for help.  I tried again last night, using a numbing spray, to no avail.  I didn't even both with trying Clarabelle, she's really squirmy!

That left getting up a 0-dark-thirty this morning and try to catch some urine in a cup.  I've come to the conclusion that the cows watch the house in the morning to see when the light goes on, because Flower-bob was up and waiting for me in the dark (meaning I probably missed her first pee).  I hung out with them for about 40 minutes before Clarabelle was nice enough to make her contribution....but Flower-bob kept looking at me suspiciously.  After another 30+ minutes, she finally lifted up her tail....so I moved quickly into place, but she put her tail back down and ran FULL BORE across the pasture.

Imagine if you will, the cow running full tilt with me chasing after her with a cup in my outstretched hand, and Clarabelle bringing up the rear as if this were all some new game we'd just invented.  Finally Flower-bob couldn't contain herself any longer, lifted up her tail.......and pooped.  Grrrr.....then another 10 minutes and she finally urinated.  Success!!!  Well, it was all for nothing, because both tests came up:

I'm pretty sure that Flower-bob is pregnant and Clarabelle is not....she's still showing signs of heat.  Last time with Flower-bob, we used the 4th option, and even at 8 months we were still debating whether or not she was preggo.  I'd rather know NOW so I can re-attempt the AI, I'm really missing all my lovely raw milk and the cream.

Oh, and I am NOT sticking my hand in there!!

I'm going to try the urine pregnancy test on the goats next year after I breed them....can you imagine me buying 4 pregnancy tests at the store with 3 kiddos in tow?  That should be fun....or maybe I'll just send my hubby.  ;-)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Growing tomatoes

The last few years, I've tried growing tomatoes in the greenhouse, but it never works out, the plants get gargantuan, take over the whole greenhouse and rarely produce any fruit.

This year, I took a chance and planted 12 plants out in the garden, chancing the high wind that is normal for us.  I planted mostly Roma (or paste) and a couple yellow pear, big boy and cherry tomatoes.   I had started seeds, but I have never had good luck and this year was no exception.  I ended up buying plants at our local nursery.  I thought that our high wind was going to be the end of them, but the plants grew compactly and the buds were numerous.  I received a lot of help from the honey-bees!!

Since the plants were so small, I neglected to stake them up....something I regret, since now the vines are loaded down with fruit, it almost takes 2 people to harvest, one to hold up the vines, the other to pick the tomato!
 I have plans to make sauce, paste and salsa with all the 'maters!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Got Goats?

Many (many, many) years ago as a kid, I convinced my Dad to get me a baby goat.  At the time we were at a wedding and the neighbors of the bride had a goat that needed a home.  My Dad was socializing with his friends, not really paying me any attention, and certainly not knowing what he was agreeing to (sneaky me, huh?).  The next morning, I reminded him what he had agreed to....he had a vague recollection of saying 'yes' to me the night before and without further discussion, he went to work building a pen for a little goat.  Well, the little goat turned out to be not-so-little, already about 4 months old and big, I named him Max.  I didn't really know anything about goats and kind of fudged my way through the next 7 years.

What I really wanted was a horse, but we didn't enough property for one, so I settled for a goat.   Max grew to be very large.  I used to hook him up to my wagon and he'd take me for a ride or I'd just hop on his back, hold on to his horns and ride him, almost as good as a horse.  When I had parties at my house, we would play 'stay away from Max' as he would try to run us down and smash us with his horns.  A few times my Mom even called me home from school because he got out of his pen and she was afraid to go outside.  He was really jealous of my boyfriend and tried to hurt him as often as possible.  I didn't know it when I got him, but he had CAE, or goat arthritis, and he wouldn't live past 7 years old. 

Fast forward a few (ahem) years, my hubby wanted goats for milk.  After my ordeals with Max, I really didn't want them.  But I got two Nigerian Dwarfs, a Mom, Patches, and her unbeknownst to us pregnant daughter, Greta,

....then 2 more, Twinkle-toes and Divinity

...and now we have 6, two are bucks, Zeke and Max.

I plan to start breeding them, both for the milk and to create more milkers.  Their milk is delicious, very similar in fat content to our Jersey cows, although we don't get much from them.  Mostly I've been making yogurt, ice cream, butter, cheese, soap and saving the left-overs to drink.

For Christmas, my sweetie bought me an Angora and her Nigora daughter.  I can't wait to shear them and start using their fiber.  I've already started looking for an Angora buck, so I can have some more of these beautiful creatures!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


When I was a child, my Aunt gave my Father a plaque with this old saying: When you cut your own firewood, you are twice warmed.  Boy is that true!  My parents heated our home with firewood and one of my chores was to split and stack it after school.  The buzzing of chainsaws cutting up the logs would fill the air every weekend.

Fast forward a few decades and I'm still splitting and stacking firewood!  When you heat with wood, the job is never far from your mind.  You're either worried about getting more for the next winter, worried about finding the time to cut and split it, or worried that you're burning through it too fast.

The first few years we would get a wood-cutting permit through the Department of Natural Resources. We would be entered into a lottery for permits and the areas we might be allowed to get the wood ranged from 10 to 100 miles away.  The areas had already been clear-cut and we would get the rejects.  Most of it was fast burning pine.

Two years ago we hired a man to deliver logs by the semi-load.  However, we still had to cut, split and stack it!  On my hubby's days off this summer he's been cutting into fireplace-sized logs.  When he was done (or too tired to cut more) we rented a splitter and spent ALL day splitting logs.  Now we just have to move it stack them into nice rows closer to the house.