The City Girl Farmer


Blizzard of 2012
February 4, 2012, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Weather | Tags: ,
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Barn

Be careful what you wish for! It has been so dry, we have wished over and over again for rain or snow. Looks like we got what we wished for. Now the digging out begins.

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Chicken coop

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East garden

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Drifting by the south garden

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Snow in the south garden

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Car, half buried

Update: Neighbor just came by with a HUGE tractor and scooped out our driveway. : D

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Finally Got Tiddles Bred
January 30, 2012, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Cows

Tiddles

Whew!!  What an ordeal!  I’ve been trying since last summer to line up the availability of the guy who does AI with Tiddles’ ovulatory cycles.  We finally had a date, confirmed that she was in heat and ready to be bred.  When the guy got here we were all ready to go and, due to a misunderstanding (he thought I had the semen, I thought he was bringing it), it looked like it would fail again.  Another cycle would come and go and we would have to wait another six months to try again, because I didn’t want her to calve in the winter.

Bovine semen isn’t something you can just run to the store and buy, so I called my neighbors and nobody had any.  I had recently got the  name of a guy (first name only) and his number and had been told that he does AI too.  I called him, explained my predicament and it turned out that he even had Jersey semen.  He kindly trusted me with his semen tank and we got the job done and had the tank returned in a hour.  I am so relieved.  If all goes well, we should have a calf around Halloween and a refreshed milk supply.



So Long, Sam
January 30, 2012, 3:10 pm
Filed under: Cats | Tags: , , , ,

A basket of kittens

Our favorite cat (and that’s saying a lot because we have many if you count the ones populating our barn) died on January 12th at 7:00 in the morning.  He was a seal point Siamese and I can remember the intense anticipation with which we awaited his arrival into the world.  I am generally not a purebred snob, but I love Siamese cats and so he was ordered in advance of his birthday, December 23, 2002.  The breeder sent us this picture of a basket full of kittens which we printed and posted on our refrigerator while we endured another two months of waiting.

Bringing Sam home

We finally got word that he was available to be picked up and Thomas and I made the trek up to Fort Collins to retrieve him.  He (the cat, not Thomas) cried all the way home.  I still remember that.  He has been around since the kids were little (they’re big teenagers now), always ready to warm a lap or to play and there is a hole around here that is empty because he is gone.  He was a sweet, affectionate and intelligent cat.  We will miss him so much.

Sam's grave

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Butter
July 28, 2011, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Cheese & Other Dairy Products, Cows | Tags: , , ,

Butter ready for the freezer

Some readers have been wondering what I’ve been up to lately.  Well, here you go!  I’ve been making cultured butter and lots of it.  Tiddles gives us about 5 gallons of milk a day and making butter is one way to use it all up.

Cultured butter can be made by adding a store-bought culture to the cream but it can also be made the old-fashioned way of using cream that has been allowed to sit at room temperature for 1-2 days.  The advantage of the store-bought culture is that you control what bacteria is predominant in flavoring the cream.  The advantage to the old-fashioned way is that it’s quick, easy and cheap.  I have been quite pleased with the results of the latter method so that is what I have been using.

Here is how I do it:

  • skim cream into a separate bowl and chill
  • add cream to food processor, and using the bread dough blade, process until the butter breaks
  • line a sieve with cheesecloth or butter muslin and dump the butter and butter milk into the sieve
  • allow the buttermilk to drain away from the butter for a few minutes
  • wash the butter under cold running water and add salt to taste (if desired)
  • form the butter using a mold or by hand and store

That’s it.  Simple as can be and really tasty!

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I Make Cows Pee – What’s Your Super Power?
May 22, 2011, 6:44 pm
Filed under: Cows | Tags: , ,

Sometimes you have to laugh if you don’t want to cry.  Tiddles, our recently freshened Jersey cow, was diagnosed with ketosis last Wednesday.  She had quit eating her grain about two weeks before that but I thought that cows knew what they needed to eat instinctively and she was still eating plenty of hay, so I dismissed it.  That was my first mistake.  A few days later, I noticed that her milk production seemed to drop and that the milk smelled funny.  I was the only one who smelled it, though, and she was producing so much milk that I was making lots of cheese just to keep up, so I dismissed it.  That was my second mistake.  Last Sunday, I noticed that her breath had the same funny smell her milk did and she wasn’t eating very well.  I made a mental note that when I wasn’t so busy I needed to look up ketosis.  I had a faint memory of reading up on it before she had her calf.  Unfortunately, I was still busy and it wasn’t until Wednesday that her condition had deteriorated to the point where I thought I had to call the vet.  While I was waiting for a call back, I went back through my book and Tiddles’ was a classic case.  When I went out to feed her and milk her, she looked like a cow from India–emaciated.  She walked with a bit of a limp, too, but I couldn’t see any injury.  She had been a bit listless and she’s usually a very curious, active cow.  She greets strangers and will follow you around the corral or out into the pasture like a big, ungainly dog.

For my readers that didn’t open the link to the official definition of ketosis, think of it as a metabolically induced anorexia.  The cow starts to suddenly use her fat reserves as her sole source of energy.  She loses her appetite for everything, not just grain.  Ironically, the thing she needs most is carbohydrates—-lots of them—-right now!  So the treatment is to inject her daily with Vitamin B Complex, force feed her a molasses brew until there is no more trace of ketones in her urine, which brings us to the part where we can laugh.

I am a member of the “Keeping a Family Cow” yahoo group and while I was waiting for the vet to call back, I was pestering my fellow group members for help.  They told me to go get ketone test strips and to test her urine twice a day to gauge when I needed to force feed her the molasses brew and when just the injection of B Complex would be sufficient.  I was already almost in tears thinking that I should have acted much sooner and here I was pondering the idea that I would have to stare at my cow all day, armed with a test strip waiting to catch her pee.  Isn’t that pitiful?  And then I read that you can actually make a cow pee on demand by rubbing her briskly just below her vulva.  So out to the barn I went, armed with ketone strips and my newly acquired knowledge to give Tiddles a massage.  I felt a little awkward.  I don’t know, call me puritanical, but rubbing around animals’ privates is a wee bit on the perverted side, isn’t it?  But I carried on and a few seconds later she went into the characteristic squat of a cow about to urinate.  I stopped the massage and stuck my test strip into the stream and voila!  Urinalysis complete!  So if I ever join the circus, I am now armed with the most amazing trick, don’t you think?

So I think I’ve learned my lesson now.  The next time she calves I’ll be watching her like a hawk.  I might just feed her some Snickers to keep her sugar up (kidding!) prophylactically.  I have been told that once they get ketosis, it is a long road back to optimum bovine health and that I am looking at weeks, not days, of giving shots until she is back to normal.  Anybody who reads this blog knows that I *hate* giving shots.  So if you’re the praying type, pray for the City Girl Farmer.  She is very unhappy at her lot right now and she will be suffering a little bit each day until Tiddles is back to her old self.



Started the Reblochon!
May 12, 2011, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Cheese & Other Dairy Products | Tags: , , ,

More improvising

One of my neighbors kindly built me a cheese press since that is what was really holding me up from making more hard cheeses. The followers are too tall, so I ended up substituting some canned food and a book.   I made a Gouda a couple of days ago which is happily aging for a week before it gets waxed and off to age some more.

Today, I finally found a recipe for Reblochon, which is a cheese I had in France and found absolutely fabulous.  Recipes for making Reblochon are surprisingly hard to come by.  Both the American and French search engines return results on how to use Reblochon in a recipe, not a recipe for the cheese.  Anyway, I found a cheese forum, filled with cheese experts and intimidating information, on which there was a recipe.  I can tell I lack sophistication, so I just thought I’d print the recipe and give it a go.  I don’t have the tools to test the pH at different times during the process.  If it doesn’t end up tasting like Reblochon, I’ll just rename it and maybe start something new. 🙂



Thomas Got His Bees
May 12, 2011, 2:40 pm
Filed under: Other animals | Tags: , ,

Thomas getting his hive ready

The call finally came and last Saturday was the day. The Green Bee Co. is a (somewhat) local company that rescues bees from people who don’t want them and re-homes them to people who do. The proprietor, Buz (yes, that’s his real nickname which actually preceded his interest in bees), and his wife, Cathy, came out to help Thomas get them into the hive. This involved cutting pieces of the comb and attaching them to Thomas’ foundation and then, once his hive was ready, dumping the bees into their new home. Apparently it was a very healthy, thriving colony.

After Buz tapped the box twice to send the message to the bees that it was time to get out they got understandably agitated. I was standing about 15 feet away and some of them came over and attacked me. I was stung about a dozen times before someone was able to wave them all off. Thomas and Buz who were right at the epicenter were unharmed. We don’t know why they didn’t like me. Could be because I wasn’t wearing white. I had been fighting a cold and there was some speculation that the essential oils I had been using were disagreeable. I came into the house where we iced all the stings, applied lavender to them and I began my descent into a Benadryl induced haze. I was pretty much unconscious for the following two days because of the massive quantities of the drug I was taking. I avoided a trip to the emergency room, though, and did not have to pull out the EpiPen!

Attaching the comb to the foundation

Tying the comb

We are in the middle of a snow storm (yes, I know it is the middle of May) and Thomas has checked them several times. All seems to be well in the bee world. Not that I have any first-hand knowledge of that fact! For the time being, I’m content to take his word for it.

Bees going to their new home