The City Girl Farmer

Calf in the Kitchen
February 18, 2011, 5:51 pm
Filed under: Cows

The heifer calf was born on a beautiful late January day, a teaser, a taste of spring. Unfortunately, our worst winter days (so far) were right on its heels. As my son and I were struggling to milk the unmilkable cow, and had gone to pick up a milking machine loaned to us by the owner of Dallas Dome Dairy, the new calf was shivering uncontrollably in the frigid temperatures we were experiencing. So we brought her into our kitchen to stay warm while the storm passed. I’ve heard from a couple of more experienced farmers that this is not at all unusual. For some reason the mothers give birth at the worst possible weather times and I have since heard stories of calves, lambs and kids in laundry rooms, in the oven, near the stove, etc. so that their owners could rescue them from the elements.

February 18, 2011, 5:08 pm
Filed under: Cows | Tags: , ,

I have made soft, easy cheeses with success but for some reason I found hard cheeses more intimidating.  Reading a cheese recipe is like reading a recipe for soap or beer or wine.  It dawns on you that some really complex chemical interactions (magic for an unscientific person like me) are required for your cheese (beer or wine) to come out right.  You have to pay attention to things like acidity! *shudders as science angst grips her stomach*

I decided that I had to face the giant and all that I really had to lose was a couple of gallons of milk, some rennet and some culture (pun intended).  It had been a long time since we had chicken enchiladas and I decided to make some queso fresco for them instead of buying the cheese at the store.

A conventional cheese press and an improvised cheese press

After completing the first magic step of turning milk into queso fresco-flavored curds, it was time to press the cheese.  I used to think that pressing cheese was necessary just to turn it into that nice cylindrical shape that made it easier to store.  I learned that it, too, is another magical process.  Cheese needs to be pressed so that it chemically “knits” together.  Who knew?  I had too many curds for my press capacity, so thanks to my neighbors at Victory Ranch, I was able to improvise a press with a mold, a souffle dish and some heavy books.  I recommend the standard press.

Finished queso fresco

I discovered you don’t really need to understand how everything works in order to make cheese.  Just follow the instructions of a good recipe and all the chemistry will take care of itself.

How did it taste?  Like queso fresco, only as with all the other things that are home grown, it was somehow richer.  Like the difference between home-made brownies and brownies out of the box.  Raw milk aficionados will understand what I’m talking about.

This, my friends, is why a person would keep a dairy cow.

Freezing Cold and Exploding Udders
February 10, 2011, 1:40 pm
Filed under: Cows, Weather

Poor Rosie. The day she calved her udder was so full the milk just dripped and sometimes sprayed out of her. Her skin was stretched so tight that I thought it would tear. Her udder looked like a blown up rubber glove with the teats pointed outward. She was so full we could only get a thumb and a forefinger on each teat and because they pointed away from her center, we had to milk one at a time. We were milking about a half gallon at a time out of a cow who was producing about 2 1/2 gallons of milk twice a day. Two days after she calved we had her in a stanchion for 5 hours trying to milk her.

The next day we reached our record cold temperatures for the year. (I hope anyway!) The high that day was -7 and the low -16 and the wind was howling at about 25-30 miles an hour. The guy we bought our cow from just happened to be in Colorado and just happened to call to see how everything was going. He offered to loan us a milking machine, and while I had been reluctant to use a milking machine, I decided to take him up on his offer. That is the smartest decision I’ve made in recent history. We drove 2 hours one way to where he was to pick up the machine, came home and milked out the cow. It took three people to work the machine but we made it happen and we did it again the next morning.

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Baby cow asleep in the kitchen

We brought the new calf into our kitchen because we don’t have the facilities to maintain calves at a toasty 40 degrees when the weather is like that.

We are continuing to keep her warm in our kitchen as the temperatures have been below zero and in the single digits at night, but we’re looking forward to relocating her tomorrow when we expect to have low temperatures in the 20’s. I really need to be convinced about this global warming thing…

Rosie Had Her Baby
February 8, 2011, 12:54 pm
Filed under: Cows | Tags: , ,

Rosie had been looking very uncomfortable for several days.  Think whale.   Her bag had been full for a little over a week and the ligaments next to her tail head were relaxed for about the same amount of time.  Baggy vulva, too, and her gait had started to look unstable.  Two days before the calf was born, I took some pictures because I was so convinced it had to be soon. That was Thursday night.

I checked on her Friday evening before I went to bed and she looked pretty much the same as she had the night before.

Rosie's rear end

Rosie two days before calving


Saturday morning Jon went out around 8:00 a.m. and informed me that there was no change in Rosie.  I thought, “Great!  We’ll have bacon and eggs for breakfast and then go out and do the barn chores and milk Tiddles.”  I was still in my jammies anyway.  When we were done eating, I began to clear the table and Jon went out again.  He came right back in and announced, “There is a little calf standing next to Rosie in the corral!!”  That was at 9:30 a.m.  Obviously, there had been a change in Rosie; just one that had gone unnoticed!  So I hurried and got dressed and here are some pictures of what I found.


Rosie and her new heifer calf

Newborn calf


Rosie’s little heifer calf was born around 9:30 a.m. on an unseasonably warm winter’s day, January 29, 2011.  We reached a high of 74 degrees that day.  Unfortunately that great weather didn’t last long….