Friday, December 31, 2010

Back to reality...

It comes every year.  The dreaded day when the last of the cousins leave for home. After a whole week of constant companionship, the kids are a little depressed and a lot bored.  Can you tell?

We said goodbye to the Virginia cousins on Wednesday morning, and the Chicago cousins this morning, bright and early.  The nearby cousins are back to work, and we're back to reality here.  We gave the kids a lot of time off this past week, but this morning they were back to the barn...bedding up, sweeping up and helping Jim with a fresh cow.  To add insult to injury, they head back to school on Monday!

We packed a lot into the last week...Christmas dinner...three pictures...seeing the new Narnia movie...watching an Eagles game together (fun even though they lost and one of the cousins is a Chief's fan!)...and so much more...

But...despite the let down feeling that always accompanies the end of Christmas vacation, and the return to "reality", I know that it's because we have been blessed with a family that enjoys being together...and for that I am thankful!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas day...

I'm not sure how they missed it, but our cows must not have seen the calendar yesterday.  They expected to be fed and milked just like any other day...

We rolled out of bed a little early; there was much to be accomplished as quickly as possible.  We wanted to be sure that we were finished with the milking long before the milk truck wouldn't have been a good morning to make him wait!  Christmas day for milk truck drivers can be a real hassle.

We had decided to give the kids the morning off to spend time with their cousins who had arrived from out of town on Christmas eve, so Jim and I headed out to the barn and got busy.  Thankfully, "everyone" and "everything" cooperated, and we were finished with the morning work by about 11:00.  Then it was time to head to our first "family feast". 

We had a delicious lunch and spent a fun afternoon with Jim's family.  All too soon, 4:00 rolled around, and Jim and I headed home to take care of the ladies.  The kids stayed behind to spend time with their cousins.  I made the mistake of getting comfortable on the sofa  "for just a few minutes" and had a hard time getting out to the barn!  That's how it is for me...getting out there can be a slow process, but once I'm there, I'm always surprised at how quickly things go.

After milking, when the kids came home, we spent a quiet evening watching old "Get Smart" episodes on dvd.  Ahh...mindless entertainment!

The celebrating isn't over yet...more cousins arrived from out of town today, and we'll spend tomorrow with my family!  We'll fit in the fun between the chores for the next few days, and then it'll be back to the regular routine.

We are thankful for the few hours we have off between milkings, but I'll be honest with you...we long for the day when we can have a real day off!  But until the cows learn how to "hold it", Christmas will be just like any other day!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas...

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to his own town to register. 

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he bolonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shpeherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."

Luke 2:1-20   

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Right now...

Right now, life is...

Busy...FUN...slower paced... like a maternity ward...cold...making icing for gingerbread houses at skating...CHRISTMAS SHOPPING...anticipating a houseful of cousins...milking sitting a guinea pig...frantically cleaning...celebrating JESUS birth...burning the midnight oil...REWARDING...milking cows...draining water lines...feeding calves...visiting a neighbor daily...MOM'S TAXI...routine... owing $8.25 for a calf sent to market...cozy...milking cows...being flexible...building friendships...violin fences...watching old tv on dvd's...milking cows...HOT CHOCOLATE...tiring...middle of the road milk prices...blogging...burning heating oil...MILKING COWS...gloves...laundry...muck boots...wishing for more eggs from my chickens...hats...whistling wind...enjoying replacement anxious for Christmas vacation...PEANUT BUTTER warmers...flexibility...and did I mention milking cows?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter solstice... marks the "official" first day of winter...the winter solstice. 


I woke up this morning, listening to the wind howling outside, and looked at the clock.  I was disappointed to see that we'd missed seeing a historical event.  If we would have only forced ourselves to get up at 2:15 am or so, we would've been able to see a total lunar eclipse on the winter solstice date; an event that hasn't happened since Galileo's day! Now I'm kicking myself; the kids will be disappointed least one of them will be!

I guess I need to get over it, and start the day...which leads me to my original thoughts...

Our sermon on Sunday began with a comment about how much the preacher enjoys this time of year...the way it gets dark at 4:30 or so...the long evenings...

I have mixed feelings on the subject.  You see, light motivates me!  When I go into a room, the lights go on...when we watch tv, the lights go on...when we're milking in the daytime, the lights go on...there's something about darkness that can be a little bit depressing.  It's the way I'm wired.  (and maybe a little bit because my eyesight is aging along with me!)  When our oldest leaves for school in the morning, it's still dark...when our youngest gets home from school in the afternoon, it's almost dark again! chickens don't lay very many eggs on these short days!

There are definitely some positive aspects of the short days/ long evenings though...when we're finished with the evening milking, it feels just great to be able to shower and pressure to go back outside and get back to work!  The equipment is put away and stays there for the winter...and there's something to be said for curling up with a blanket and a good book (with the light on, of course!)

One thing for sure...tomorrow we will have just a little more daylight than today!

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cold weather hazards...

You know the cold snap has really arrived when you carry around a bucket full of steaming hot water like this all morning, trying to thaw water lines and water bowl valves that have frozen overnight!

Yes, we knew it was coming, and we did what we could to prepare, but the west side of our barn is comprised mostly of windows, which makes it difficult to keep the water lines and water bowls open...especially with the high winds we had last night and all day today.

This morning I was able to get the cows' water bowls open by pouring hot water slowly over the valves, but one of the two remaining "old" water bowls in the fourth row had taken all of the cold winters it could handle.  Jim ended up replacing the entire water bowl this morning when it sprung a leak at a weak spot.  The heifer pens were another story...we'll be carrying water to the heifers for several days until this cold snap is over.

I find it interesting...Jim loses sleep over cows that are sick; I lose sleep over broken or frozen water lines!  Guess who might not be sleeping tonight?!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A completed project...

We’ve been thinking about doing this project for several years now, and finally it has been completed!  Just this morning, in fact, and we’re quite pleased with the way it has turned out!
This fence around the yard/meadow was in place for a LONG time.  We have several old aerial photos of the farm that were taken years ago that show it.  Although undated, the pictures were taken when Jim’s grandparents lived here, so they have to be well over 50 years old...maybe even 60!  Over the years, posts and fence boards have been replaced, and the fence has been painted many times.  There comes a time, however, when the old can no longer be repaired, but must be replaced! 
Neither Jim nor I used to be thrilled with the idea of using PVC fencing…we didn’t think it looked as nice as a wooden fence.  And while we still do prefer wood over PVC, the lower cost and the lower maintenance won out in the end!
Here's the old fence...falling down in places and in sore need of some "help"...

This is the "corner hutch" where we keep some young heifers in the summer time if we need extra space...complete with a ruined calf hutch that blew over in a wind storm.  This is a great time to get it out of there when the fence is down...

Even though the fence might not look so bad from a distance, the posts were rotting off at ground level, the boards were rotting where they were nailed to the posts, and it was bad news if anyone would try to climb over it!

Last Thursday, the old fence was reduced to a pile of rubble…

The guys cut off the fence boards (simple to do, and leaves no nails in the yard/meadow!)…

And pulled out the old posts…

On Friday, amidst snow flurries, they dug new post holes and cemented the new PVC fence posts into place…

Today they returned to finish the job.  The fence rails are now in place…

There are new wooden posts and wire around the “corner hutch...

And a new gate into the chicken pen that will save us a bunch of steps...

Now the "big" question spring when it's time to weed the bed of irises that runs along that fence...and when it's time to trim the rose bushes...will it be more fun to do because it looks nice?! 

 But I guess more importantly, if it keeps the chickens and the calves "in" and the cows "out", it's been worth it!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Soup weather...


That's all I can say this week!

Just call me a cold weather wimp, but I'm not exactly looking forward to winter...and it's not even COLD yet!  I guess we've been rather spoiled by a mild fall, and the below freezing temps and the wind blow right through me! 

Last week I swapped all the summer clothes for winter clothes, brought the hats and gloves out of hibernation, and began to shiver.

One thing I do like about winter, though, is making soup.  There's just something cozy about coming in from evening milking and having some warm soup for supper.  

Here's a recipe for a hearty, delicious, healthy soup that we had for supper last night.  ( I'm not sure how we got so lucky to have kids that not only tolerate, but LIKE lentils, but I'll take 'em!)

Lentil Soup

2 cups dried lentils
7 cups water
1 lb. sausage, browned and drained
1/2 c. chopped carrots
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 c. chopped celery
3 Tbsp. minced parsley (sometimes I skip this)
1 garlic clove, minced

 Heat to boiling in large saucepan.  Simmer for  1 1/2 hours

2 c. canned tomatoes
2 Tbsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Add and simmer 30 minutes more

Yield: 8 servings

* I have a kettle called a quick's kind of like a fast cooking crockpot...I dump the 1st set of ingredients together and bring them to a boil, then add the rest, bring it to a boil again, and then turn it way down, put the lid on, and go out to the barn.  In about 1 1/2 hours it's ready to eat, and I don't have to stand over it the whole time!

Enjoy, and stay warm!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet...

You know that saying about the mailman?  Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet…will stop this courier…I forget the exact wording, but regardless…it applies not only to the mailman, but to the milkman as well.

One of the people that we rely on regularly is the milkman.  It seems like a lot revolves around his schedule…
“Don’t park in the driveway; the milk truck comes today!” 
“Make sure there’s soap and acid in the tank washer; the milk truck comes today!”
“We’d better get started in good time this morning; the milk truck might be here early today!”
This is Tony, our regular milk truck driver.  He’s a nice guy…he comes in the driveway nice and easy, takes care not to drive on the grass, and doesn’t seem too get too worked up about anything!  He’s even stayed for Sunday lunch!

He rinses out the tank before starting the automatic tank washer before he leaves...

We ship our milk to a local co-op.  The milk goes anywhere from Baltimore to New Jersey to several other plants in Pennsylvania, including Turkey Hill, a local plant that processes milk and makes delicious ice cream!

Occasionally, bad weather makes headaches for the milk truck driver and the farmer both...

Last winter, we had two back to back "blizzards", totalling approximately 48 inches of snow in 10 days.  We were expecting the milk truck right in the middle of the worst of the storm.  Jim spent all morning on the tractor, trying to keep the driveway open.  Tony called us about 30 minutes before he thought he would arrive, so we knew when to expect him.  All of a sudden, there he was...

We were his last stop before leaving for the processing plant, so he had to seal the compartments on top of the truck...

And off he went...loaded up with some sandwiches and a fresh thermos of coffee.  Jim followed him to make sure he would make it back out to the main road.  He almost made it, but had to stop just before the top of a big hill to wait for an Amishman who was picking his children up from school on his tractor...

Jim and some other neighbors got him going again, and another farmer came with his tractor and snowblower to help him the rest of the way out to the main road.

When it comes to picking up and delivering milk, the milkman is just as reliable as the mailman.  We rely on him, and eveyone works together in bad weather to see that he can get through!