Thursday, September 30, 2010

From drought to deluge...

Oh. My. Goodness!

When it rains, it pours.  Literally!

Wasn't it just a few days ago that we so desperately needed rain?  We had a nice 1.7", and were so grateful.  Now today, we're beginning to wonder if we'll ever see the sun again!

Almost 5" of rain and four changes of clothes later, it's STILL raining.  And blowing.  And raining some more. 

Just about an hour or so ago, I decided to take my camera for a walk.  The rain had slowed to a slow drizzle, and I walked outside, looking for the perfect picture to capture the day.  I was out behind the barn when the heavens let loose again.  I ran for the house...or tried to anyway.  The big barn doors were blowing wildly in the wind, and I was bombarded with pieces of hay in my eyes.  Several large branches blew down in the yard, and the rain was literally blowing sideways.  Jim ran out and we closed the barn doors, propping them shut with the pickup.  Schools even dismissed early due to the weather...I don't ever remember that happening before, other than for snow of course.

I am now temporarily clean and dry, and looking forward to seeing the sun, hopefully tomorrow.

And...I never did get that perfect picture, so I guess you'll just have to use your imagination!

It's a girl! And she needs a name...

The population on the farm grew in number by one yesterday.

Last evening during milking time, we got to witness the birth of a new heifer calf.  It was so nice that it happened like this; in view of the barn, with no complications, and before midnight!

I really wanted to get a picture of the actual birth, but I was milking and couldn't get my camera in time. Jim was feeding and Eric was replacing a hoe blade, so Jenna ran for my camera and had the honor of taking most of these pictures.

Calving isn't especially pretty, so if you don't like to see "messy", don't bother looking any further!


5 minutes old...

10 minutes old...

About 30 minutes old and trying to stand.  Can you imagine if our kids did this?!

Only 40-45 minutes after birth!!  A bit wobbly, but she did it!!  Mama is proud...

She's a big, strong heifer calf with a good set of lungs, and a healthy sucking reflex.  She downed her two quarts of Mama's milk in no time this morning. 

Now, all she needs is a name.  Any suggestions?

Monday, September 27, 2010


Ok, so you ask, "What's the big deal about a puddle?  Or a rain gauge for that matter?!"

If you live in Lancaster County, you already know...

Last night as I sat at the computer beside an open window, I heard the most wonderful sound...I heard rain falling outside!  Oh what music to my ears!  I was really hoping that it would still be raining in the morning, and it was.  It's now just after 3 pm and it's raining still!

This is the first significant rainfall we've had in quite some time.  The brief thunderstorm we had last week doesn't count.  That just settled the dust.  This is an official rainy's dark and dreary outside, and the rain just keeps on falling.  Even the dogs went into hiding!  It's been a great day for both Jim and I to take a little bit of a break...when the sun is shining it's hard to justify taking "time off" during the week.

Hopefully this rain will help to make up the deficit we have ...and hopefully it will replenish the well at the "other farm" where we keep our dry cows and heifers.  They've been out of water over there off and on for several days now.  A stock tank filled by a water tanker will provide water for the heifers for now, hopefully conserving the rest of the water for use in the house!

It is so easy to take things like having plenty of water for I'll take this opportunity to say, "Thank you God for the rain!"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

More fun at the fair...

Although it’s not life on OUR farm, it’s life in our community!   This week we hurried through the barn work so we could spend as much time as possible at the fair.  Here are just a few highlights…

Our friend won Reserve Champion for her Dairy Beef!

Another friend and her pig…

And another…

Sheep belonging to another friend…

We enjoyed the personality of this curious goat…

These alpacas are beautiful animals!  The baby is only one month old…

Beautiful handiwork…

A sampling of creative, original pumpkins…our favorites were the pink mouse, the penguin and Lady Liberty...

It wouldn't be fall without some gourds...

Farmall row...

And the fair wouldn’t be complete without the long milkshake lines!

So until another year, we say goodbye to the Lampeter Fair!  I hope you enjoyed it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

West Lampeter Fair

This week has got to be hands down one of our family’s favorites, every year!  It’s West Lampeter Fair time!
In late September, the tents go up, the animals are brought to the fair grounds, the committee chairpersons call on their volunteers, the bakers heat up their ovens, the fair queen contestants practice their speeches, old friends reconnect, and the community comes together for a week of hard work and fun.  The smell of funnel cakes and french fries fills the air. This is a true farm fair; no fairways or rides at Lampeter!

Antique tractor parade

Tuesday and Wednesday of fair week are two days that Jim knows I’m simply not available to help him much on the farm.  It is my job to line up the judges and volunteers to process all of the delicious baked goods that are entered in the baking competition.  Jim becomes the kids’ taxi, the chief cook and bottle washer and does most of the barn work without my help.  And, I must say...he does it quite well!

Baked goods ready for auction

Yesterday (Tuesday), I was at the fair almost all day.  We accepted items in 70+ categories for judging.   This morning, the items were judged and prizes were awarded.  Tonight, the items were auctioned off to the highest bidder…the prize winning cake in the Hershey’s Cocoa Contest brought an amazing $83!  It was purchased by the father of a delighted young lady who won, and is now eligible to compete at the State Farm Show in January!  (I wish you could have seen her face as the price went higher and higher!)
As the last items were being sold, a fast moving thunderstorm blew through, sending people scurrying for shelter, the fair queen competition to the dairy barn, and me to my car!  While it put a damper on things a bit, we desperately need the rain, so we won't complain!  Perhaps it will also bring relief from the 90+ degree heat we had today!
I was at the fair by myself tonight.  Both kids were at home with Jim, under the weather.  They were so disappointed to miss it, but hopefully tomorrow evening we'll all be there!  The kids enjoy wandering through the tents, collecting candy, pens and other "goodies".  Jim, among other things, enjoys looking at the old tractors, and I for one, am looking foward to not having to cook supper two nights in a row!
For now, however, it's off to bed.  My eyes are falling shut as I write!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A few of my favorite things...

These are just a few of my favorite things from this summer and early fall...

Cousins came to was fun seeing them enjoying farm life:

gathering eggs...

just hangin' out...

getting ready to feed hungry calves...

feeding hummies

Murphy had nine puppies which we all enjoyed:

Well...we enjoyed them anyway...she was a bit overwhelmed!

By the time they were ready to be sold, we had all become quite attatched!

And then...just a few random shots:

Jim takes a minute to enjoy the cat with twelve names.  I can't remember them all, but I know they start with Percy Peter Punky Buster Bobo...

Jenna has a new hangout while we're milking...and she gets there from the ladders for her!

Happy perennials, BEFORE it got so hot and dry!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Meet Lazarus...

There are lots of cows in our barn, and all of them have a number, but only a select few have names.  To have a name around here, you need to earn it!
Meet Lazarus...

Lazarus, affectionately known as Lazzie, is a first calf heifer with a story.  When she was born on New Years Day 2008, she was no different than any other calf in the barn, save the unusual markings on her face.  But in a few short weeks, that all changed.
One of the first signs of a sick calf is a change in eating habits…a calf that is not hungry has a problem!  So, when she got sick, we started the usual regimen of treatment; electrolytes and antibiotics.  This calf, however, had a nasty strain of something that quickly turned into full blown pneumonia.  We isolated her from the other calves, putting her upstairs in the barn where she would have fresher air to breathe.  Jim barricaded the hay hole so that she wouldn’t fall through to the stable below…not that she was going anywhere!
For close to a week, she hovered on the brink of death.  Numerous times, we were sure that the next time we checked on her she would be gone!  She, however, had other ideas. 
One morning when Jim was feeding the cows, he heard a loud crash.  Imagine his surprise when he saw a groggy and dazed calf standing in the cow stable at the bottom of the hay hole!  She apparently felt lively enough to explore, and pushed through his barricade, plunging eight feet to the concrete below.  Somehow she managed to land on her feet, and was not injured!
That was the beginning of her recovery, and this “miracle” calf earned her name…Lazarus.  Although she didn’t rise from the dead, she might as well have! 
Lazzie is now doing well, and expecting her second calf this winter.  Wonders never cease!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fifth cutting hay

It seems like just yesterday that we were looking ahead to the summer, thinking about all the hay that we would need to bale to keep the ladies fed and happy...and here we are...just yesterday Jim and Eric unloaded the last load of fifth cutting!

Knowing when to mow the hay this summer was a challenge.  Jim likes to have at least three consecutive days (mininmum) of sunshine in order to get the hay dry enough to stack in the mow, and earlier this summer, those forcasts were few and far between.  He ended up wrapping lots of round bales of balage instead of filling the mow with dry hay.  Thankfully, the cows love to eat it, and it seems to do just fine for making milk!

Lately, however, it has been extremely dry, so fifth cutting was a breeze, and the hay turned out to be beautiful! 
It was also about two weeks ahead of schedule...normally we get five cuttings off of some fields, but not all. This year, we could possibly even get six cuttings from some. I don't remember that ever happening before, but I guess there's a first time for everything!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Weeds and All

Up until just a week ago, my kitchen was cluttered with piles…canning jars, jar lids, pressure canner, blancher, hot water canner. I figured why should I put it all away, just to get it out again tomorrow? Boxes of ripening tomatoes sat under the window, ripening pears (from my neighbor’s tree) sat in a corner, peaches that were bartered for ear corn in yet another. The light at the end of the tunnel seemed distant. ..

In late spring, when the garden was planted, I had so much energy!  My hopes were high for a weed-free garden (wishful thinking!) So I planted yet one more thing, because oh, how I love to watch things grow!

Then summer came. I watched my Amish neighbors keep their gardens immaculate (but who’s comparing?!) Mine became overrun with pig weed, so I hauled out the rototiller and beautified it once more. I watched the tomatoes struggle again this year, (Did you ever hear of someone who couldn’t grow nice tomatoes?) so I bought some. There were interruptions, such as: “Could you and the kids feed the heifers while I rake hay?”, and “Can I please have a friend over today?” The heat and humidity seemed some days to be unbearable, but somehow it all got day at a time.

The garden is again overrun with grass and weeds, but my mindset is different now. I feel a sense of accomplishment with the bounty that was harvested. Just today I looked at my canning shelves in the basement…I counted over 150 jars of green beans, tomatoes, salsa, pickles, hot peppers, pear butter, pizza sauce…and there are fresh frozen lima beans in the freezer!  God knows what He's doing when He makes things grow!

We will be eating well this winter. As I open each jar of beans, tomatoes, peaches and pickles, I hope I remember how blessed I am to have had gardening modeled to me, and to have the space for a garden, weeds and all!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ag bag tag...

This labor day weekend was just beautiful!  We spent Sunday afternoon with my family...cooked over the fire...ate outside...and decided to overlook the fact that the kids aren't really supposed to be up on those ag bags. No harm done, and they had a blast!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dairy Farming 101 - Part 2 Keeping the ladies happy...

There’s something you should know about cows. They are food driven animals!  Dogs want to be fussed over and cats want to be treated like royalty. But cows? Just feed them. A lot, and on time…

The specifics of the cows’ feeding program differs from farm to farm, so don’t get excited if this isn’t how your neighbor does it…but this info will be helpful for you to know when you come over to do the feeding next time we need a night off ! (thanks for offering!)

First off…I need to add one item to Dairy Farming 101 – Part 1…

Someone reminded me that I forgot to include Hummies – a PA Dutch term for young calves.  We usually called them this when I was a girl…how could I forget this one?!

Water – cows drink between 23-50 gallons of water each day

Hay – alfalfa is mowed and left to dry; then raked into windrows, baled into small manageable bales, and stored in the hay mow (usually in the upstairs of the barn). This process takes about 3 days from cutting to the mow.  Rain really throw a wrench into this process...that's one reason why you hear farmers talking so much about the weather, and why their ears are glued to the weather radios all summer long!

Balage – alfalfa is mowed and left to partially dry. It is then baled and wrapped in airtight plastic. We bale it into round bales…these are the marshmallows you see lined up along the edge of the field. After the balage has cured for a few weeks, it is fed to the cows. They love this stuff!

Haylage – the same as balage, except instead of baling and wrapping, it is chopped and blown into the silo.

Corn Silage – the entire corn stalk is chopped and stored in the silo. Excess silage is often stored in an ag bag – that white worm that you see sitting out in the field. In the winter, after our silos are emptier we transfer the silage in the ag bag to the silo

Cob Chop– dried ears of corn, ground to a fine texture by a hammer mill. Minerals and molasses are often added.

Toasted Corn – shelled corn, dried and toasted (smells a little bit like peanut butter when the bin is first filled)

Toasted Beans – soybeans, dried and toasted (they’re actually quite tasty!)

Pellets  or Top Dress– a nutritional supplement that looks like overgrown rabbit food! This is the only feed that we regularly buy for our cows. All the rest is grown on the farm.

Calf Starter and Calf Grower – special feed that we buy for feeding young calves; usually several different types of grain flavored with lots of molasses…it gets them used to eating solid food…kind of like giving kids candy!

Silo Unloader – the machine inside the silo that throws silage down the chute via augers and into the cart so that you don’t have to climb up and fork it down by hand!

*Now that you know a little bit about keeping them happy...and are likely bored to tears, let me know what you'd be interested in "learning' in Dairy Farming 101 - Part 3!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Last week I had our daughter to the doctor for a check up. After dropping the bomb that she needed several shots, Doc leaned back in his chair, propped his feet up, and said, “So, you’re a farm girl? Tell me what you like best about living on a farm!” I thought I knew what she would say, but listened closely anyway.

“Space!” she replied.

We have space to... ride a dirt bike…have a fort (even better that it was built by Grandpa!)…be far enough away from our neighbors that we can’t look in their bathroom window from ours…throw football…have some chickens…raise a litter of puppies…have a garden…play capture the flag…get away from our brother (or sister) when they’re being annoying…build a fire pit in the yard…plant a perennial and shrub border…have a couple of dogs…sled down the barn hill…enjoy the quiet…and the list goes on…

The distraction was great…we were reminded again of how fortunate we are to live where we have lots of space. But the shots still hurt!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bring on Fall!

The newspaper this morning says we’ve had the hottest summer on record. I could’ve told you that! The heat and humidity has sucked the energy right out of me; I’m tired when I wake up! Thankfully, we’re almost out of the thick of it…last week was beautiful, and with hurricane Earl threatening, we’ll likely get some relief this weekend, but oh my. Bring on fall! Please!

It’s a busy time of year…refilling silo, baling yet one more cutting of hay (this year it looks like we might get 6 cuttings!) picking corn, shelling corn, baling corn fodder, cleaning out heifer pens , combining beans, and the list goes on. Although it can get a bit hectic, it’s satisfying to see a lot of what we’ve worked for all summer come to completion.

The kids are back in school as of this week, so there are changes for all of us. They’re adjusting to new routines, and I’m adjusting to being back in the barn every morning. I sure got used to them doing the morning “chores” every day! (Sometime I might even find time to clean the house!}

It’s also Fair season. In three short weeks, it will be time for the   We enjoy spending as much time there as possible. The kids are old enough to go off on their own now…they enjoy going through the tents and accumulating all the candy and “junk” that they can, while Jim and I walk around and catch up with friends. It’s a win-win situation! And of course the food is wonderful…can’t leave without a sausage sandwich and at least one milkshake from the dairy bar!

If we can just hang in there a little while longer, this heat will be replaced by beautiful fall weather, and we’ll be so busy that we'll eventually forget how hot it has been.

I say bring it on!