Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cheese and Yogurt

*said in the best Dexter voice*

That was the first thing that ran through my mind yesterday as I looked down upon 2 gallons of well coagulated milk. Hmmm, that sounds fairly disgusting doesn't it? Allow me to explain. About 2 weeks after Amy showed up, I discovered that I was going to need to find a way to use up milk, not a problem I've run into up to this point. Ice cream was a natural first, I've made it before and it's a nice treat to have around. Yogurt was a second, but I ran into the problem of incubation so I had to ruminate on that for awhile. Cheese....okay....cheese. That's a good one, stores longer and you just can't deny the comfort factor of anything containing cheesy goodness. So off I wander into the expanse of the internet to find my information. Oh dear. Hours of video, reading and learning later, I'm thinking that pigs would be a good idea. However, I'm not one to be put off by a challenge and so enters my Mozzarella Frustrations.
I've figured out that hard cheeses are going to need to sit on that proverbial back burner. I have the molds, just need the pressure gauge....of course I do. Fresh cheeses are my only option on short notice. I start with a vineager cheese, super simple but not up there on our list. I move on to cream cheese, great only I'm running into the same problem I have for yogurt.
"Next, please..."
Mozzarella shows up.
Little did I know, so naive, that this cheese would turn me into something akin to a mad scientist, hissing and snarling in the spot lighted recesses of my kitchen during the late hours of the night (and at times the daylight hours, but I prefer to not scare or worry the children...much less my husband.)
They (all those wonderful people that have posted instructions so graciously) make it sound so simple! I read about people with great results first time out, I read cautions, I read trouble shooting......I was not one of those fortunates. All of the problems I read about stemmed from pasteurized milks. Mine isn't, shouldn't be having problems with raw! Aarrgg!!!
It was the curd you see. I couldn't get a "clean break".....basically, my milk wouldn't cooperate with me. It didn't want to set right. Too soft, one batch just simply refused to anything at all...just sat in the pot staring at me, quite content to remain, well...milk, liquid. That just defies the science of it all! Introduce acid to milk, and what do you get?? Curds. Then you put in the rennet and it solidifies into a curd mass, the glue to get all those little curds into one big one. Riiiiiiiiight. No, not here, not at my house. I'm still harboring feelings over that pot of science defying milk.
I had minor successes, meaning edible successes. We ate them, melted over pizza, and what we didn't eat the chickens were more than happy to gobble up, so I probably shouldn't complain too much. Still, it wasn't right and me carrying those perfectionistic genes, slowly started morphing...Jekyll and Hyde syndrome.
Finally, yesterday, born of frustration, fatigue and a slight glimmer of hope from something I'd read that morning, I achieved a "clean break".
The clouds parted, choirs of angels sang, I'd swear a beam of sun shone through the windows down on my pot of fully, beautifully coagulated milk.
I took a knife and started cutting (very apprehensively), solid all the way down, smooth all the way through (those angels were really belting it out by this time). The rest is history. I separated the curds from the whey (can't say that without thinking of Little Miss Muffet). Heated and stretched a wonderful batch of cheese, reheated my whey and have almost a full quart of Ricotta....yeah I'm thinking lasagna too. The chickens had the leftover whey with their feed that night and I'm feeling a little more sane.
So the tally from those 2 gallons of milk?
6 oz of butter, cream skimmed from one of those gallons, and from the gallon of drinking milk for the day.
2 lbs of mozzarella
1 lb 10 oz of ricotta
Now the fun part, can I do it twice??? ;)


So now I arrive at yogurt. Well I put off yogurt, even though it's purported to be the easiest thing to make from milk, for practical reason as well as others. Namely, plain yogurt...what am I supposed to do with plain yogurt? I know all the cools kids are using it, but I'm coming to the realization that we really are at the core, non-conformists. Passive, but non-conforming none the less. For those of you in my life that have figured that out already, quite laughing.
This came last night when Justin asked how the deliciousness of smoothies had escaped our household until now? They were all the rage a while back....oh....that's probably why. It was one of those light bulb moments.
Moving on, yogurt came into our life, last week, mostly because I need to find alternate sources of protein and amino acids for myself and a couple of the kids (no I'm not vegetarian, just don't really like most meat forms, bacon, I could eat bacon all day). Knowing this, then came the searching for ways to get the yogurt into the system. Fruited yogurt is a natural conclusion, but eating can be inconvenient at times, drinking works better and so I found smoothies. I should have figured this out faster, it was a trick my mom used when I was growing up to sneak all kinds of nutrients into me. Hindsight is always 20/20...that should read 30/30 it's usually better than perfect.

Making the yogurt was simple enough, until it came to the incubation part. A yogurt maker is out of the question, I'd need at least three of them to make enough for a couple of days. There's the cooler method, but I don't want to go buy a cooler. Light bulb in the over, right but that means a trip into town, and I've forgotten the last couple of times. That leaves me with a heating pad. I'm smart, I can figure this out.
Heating pad and lots of blankets, what do I have to loose? A gallon of milk? It doesn't sound like much, but I don't like to waste things and there's at least 45 minutes of my life in 1 gallon of milk. Failed yogurt could go to the chickens I suppose, but I'd rather not, it just seems wrong to feed them a failed bacteria growth session. On the other hand, they'll eat mice, snakes, all manner of bacteria infested things...makes you start to look at eggs differently.
I finally settle on my method, heating pad, infrared thermometer (I love shopping the tools section for possible kitchen gadget candidates), towels and blankets to keep the warmth in.

Check and

Follow the steps, pray the store bought yogurt is live, pour into jars and don't peek for 6 hrs. The not peeking just kills me. I hate not peeking. At the end of 6 hours (we don't like tangy yogurt, more hours, more tang), things are looking pretty solid! Into the fridge and now I have to wait til morning.
Yay! I made yogurt! I'm so easily amused and pleased. Frozen strawberries await, a little bit of honey or sugar, a little bit of vanilla (eventually, when I remember, a little bit of flax seed), a touch of milk and a nice long whir in the blender and I have a wonderful strawberry smoothie. Yumm! They do get more complicated, I'll keep it simple.
The only problem I have now is keeping enough yogurt around to make them, or that I can't turn the blender on without having half of the household appear in the kitchen instantly to see if smoothies are in the making.

Captain Von Trapp, he had a just flip that little switch. ;)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stomach flu and Twisted Stomach

I'm guessing that March is to be the month of stomach upsets.

Bruce came down with an awful case of stomach flu this morning, here's to hoping and herbs that it stays away from the rest of the house. In all fairness to the stomach flu virus, it's been a couple of years since we've had a nice little tete a tete, maybe it's just making sure we aren't feeling ignored. :) Still, that was one sick boy! Just laid on the couch and slept until this afternoon, ignoring the marathon of UFO shows (well he did watch a couple, but only half heartedly) and X-box. He's looking better this evening and had a bit of dinner, so now we'll see.

Amy's displaced abomasum, or Twisted Stomach. I mentioned it briefly before, but not with much detail about the situation. That was an interesting, induction into cow ownership and happened, of course, in the middle of a couple other life insanities. It went something like this.

We'd been getting Amy ready for AI, Lutalyse shots to make sure we had the ovulation day right, when I went out for evening milking to find Miss Amy looking...well she was off. She'd settled in nicely by this point, even shown a little sass. Attacked her food with a healthy dose of gusto. Well there she is, just looking at her grain, nosed a couple of mouthfuls, pushed the alfalfa around but not even breaking the flake open, for the entire milking. Her head was down, something was definitely off. So I wrapped up, and started checking her over right side first...since I'm there already. No cuts, no change of breath smell, eyes look dull but good, her tongue is always dark, gums look good. Over to the left side. Same deal (working head to tail this time), until I hit the pins...she seems a little bloated. Now I did a goat with bloat, I don't like bloat, so now I'm starting to get to worried. So I double check the udder for anything more unusual than her norm, check under her tail and she kindly offers up a stool sample. Normal cow flop, but I've been listening and watching. No burps from either end, well there's something to take note of.
Nothing more that I can really do out here for the time being and it's best to call the vet and see what he has to say.
I wrap it up out at the barn and get back up to the house, talk to J and grab the phone. I'm straining the milk as I dial, no use in wasting it..."Waste not, want not" those old sayings pop up more and more with the face of my Great-grandma. I'll hold it in the fridge until I know whether or not it's safe to drink.
The conversation goes something like this, keeping in mind, our large animal vet doesn't move or talk very fast. I'm sure he can, I just haven't seen him do it yet. He's a fantastic vet though.
"Hi Doc, Amy's not acting well, she's off her feed and ." (such oratory skills I know)
I list off what I've noticed, nothing new she's been eating this batch of grain for about a week, hay is good, in short.....nothing new but the shot. I'm sure I blathered, I blather when I'm out of sorts or worried. I'm also starting to think I'm sounding like a worried hen.
"Yaaa..h.........(oh man, worry levels are going up).........weee..ll......"
We discuss her feed rations.
"Okay, well I'm thinking....she's a dairy cow an'all....sounds to me like a, well commonly known, twisted stomach...
(oh that doesn't sound good, can I not do this right now?! please?)
it's a displaced abomasum..
(that sounds worse, thank you for giving me the other name first).
Odd though, usually we see it in cows on a higher concetrate diet.
(well doc, I hate to break it to you, but 'usual' doesn't hang around here very long)."

The conversation goes on from there, no she's not down at the moment, okay we'll watch her and have you check her in the morning. I'm okay until the word Surgery comes up. My brain climbed into the basket for the rest of the night.
Through the night I check up on her every so often, J stops by and checks on her in the early morning, still not eating and mopey.
I head out at morning milking time, don't see her (please can I not do this right now??), take a breath and walk in. There she is, only now she looks like she should have "Goodyear" painted on her sides. I milk her out, not much there and I'm trying to keep a level head at this point. I brush her a bit and now she's got diarrhea, vet asked about that last night.

At this point I'll add-I worry (probably bordering on paranoid) about being over-reactionary. Am I going to sound like a fretting mother hen?? I'm really worried though and starting to wonder what's with me and milkers??

Another call into the vet, he wants to see her.
We get her up there (it's about a 40 minute drive from here, I'm sayin', he's good). He "pings" her. Thumps her sides and listens with a stethoscope. A displaced abomasum makes a sound similar to hitting a beach ball, it's what he said.
What it is: that part of the stomach normally sits towards the right. Sometimes, usually from diet, it swings itself over to the left and you get a traffic jam in the gut.
Remedy: open her up, put it back and tack it so it stays where it belongs. (Breathe, breathe)
About this time, she pitches another nice little fit. I guess I can't blame her, she looks like the Goodyear blimp, that's got to be uncomfortable and here's this guy who keeps thumpin' on her. So she stepped off the end of the trailer and emits this smell......I can go my whole life without smelling that again (but really, what do you think the odds are?).
He's keeps at his "pinging".
I can't help it, every time he says that I see Cary Grant, making the pinging sounds in a scene from "Operation Petticoat". I probably look like I've lost my mind, I'm trying really hard not to giggle, oh yeah, I also giggle during times of stress (I've hit my stress load by this point)....boy did that get me into trouble when I was a kid!
Verdict is in, it was a displaced abomasum (wait a minute "was" ), but she seems to have put it back herself. Ruling, when she stepped off the end of the trailer, it was enough jog to swing everything back the other way ("Like the pendulum doooo...." my brain goes into a odd place during stress).
He went on to add, cows will do that, sometimes a nice bumpy trailer ride will joggle things back in place. If they ran across a cow that kept at it (displace, place, displace, etc), they'd tack the stomach anyway.
All that and I still got the potato salad made for the Saturday potluck. I was rather proud of that accomplishment, considering I felt like I'd been drug through a knothole sideways, then hit by a mack truck.
"When it rains, it pours."....there goes Gramma again. Maybe I should find a nice, big umbrella.

Well there's the first time for Displaced Abomasum and that's always the worst. ;)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Update that's almost a novel

Well judging from the large gaps in posts, you can gather that last year was a bit on the hectic side. So here's an update and summation on 2008.

Spring saw the arrival of our first goats. Justin gave up his anti-goat campaign and I bought two SaanenXOberhasli does, well one was a doeling. Becca, the milk goat and Gretta the will be milk goat. Becca is the one with bells on. ;)

Sadly, we lost her a couple months later to a stroke. We enjoyed what she gave, learned a few lessons and Justin learned that goats are actually fun. As goats don't do well without companions, I bought a BoerXNubian, Mildred, doeling to keep Gretta company. The two girls last summer.

Justin found a goat bell at the feed store, so Gretta has become our bell goat. Rightly so since she is the herd queen. That bell is a handy thing to have! If there is upset (had some strays come through last summer, or if it starts raining) that bell and her voice will let you know. Some days I hear the bell before I hear her though.
We didn't breed them last fall. Mildred wasn't born until April and they were both slow in growing. So we decided to play it safe and give them a year. My FIL just bought a very nice little Boer buck that I'll breed them with. I'm unsure which way I'm going with the goat herd at the moment, but there's always room in the freezer for more meat. Gretta, I'll keep in milk when she kids. Anna likes goat milk and I want it for soap, plus I could always make cheese. I'll be training the kids to milk on the goats as well. They aren't as demanding or difficult to milk as the cow, it's a good fit.

The two misfits, yesterday...just in case something edible was in the cards.

August saw the arrival of our first bovines. There are three of them, one we lost to scours, the black we almost lost. The remaining two are hale and hearty, destined for the freezer this fall.

We named them Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

Got milk?!?!

Left to right, back to front.
An amazing milk/cream ratio, butter, this morning's milking (pitcher (gallon size) and half gallon jar)

Another bovine wandered her way over to our insane corner of the world. Maybe if she'd known, she would have run the other way, as it is...she's here to stay. Her name is Amy, short for Amaryllis. She's a Jersey and we bought her this last January, late in her lactation her production isn't full right now, but she's still giving an average of 1 1/2-2 gallons a day. She has a dry cell (there's 4 on the udder), so I'm guessing that she'll freshen at 3 a day...maybe just a hair over. This month she threw in a curve and ended up with a displaced abomasum, 4th chamber of the stomach flips over to the left side where it isn't supposed to be. She fixed it by pitching a fit at the vets and stepping off the back of the trailer, better than surgery, I guess pitching a fit can work in your favor sometimes.

Here's a close up of that cream. This was a milking, between the displaced abomasum, AI and the full moon she made sure I had a week of interesting events.

You can barely make out the cream line, it's just below the counter top line on the wall.

The one who supplies us with our milk, along with one of the steers. Take note of that "cow lick" on top of his head! She keeps those two little guys very well groomed, the locks on their heads are always standing straight up. LOL

We also had a couple of new additions to the family along the way. Seamus, is a Chocolate Lab, who adores fetch and anyone willing to play it all day. He was dropped off at the Tribal pound one night, we agreed to trade for Loki...who had aggression issues.
Then there's Sparky. Poor Sparky. Sparky is a Siamese who was set on fire just before last Halloween. Justin took the call and ended up taking the cat as well. A local vet volunteered to help his initial recovery, if there was going to be one and we ended up with a great small animal vet and a new cat. He lost his exterior set of sphincter muscles, so...well...his butt fell off. The interior set survived, no noticeable tail nerve damage (that was a big concern, as the nerves that control the bowel double back through the base of the tail), and aside from slightly spastic moments (unsure if these are breed or trauma traits) he's done well in his mending! There are some spots where I don't think he's going to grow hair back. He's a bit mangy looking on the back end, but a cat that can still find it in himself to purr and love while still smoldering and in pain...well how can you not try to do something?!

Our chickens took a hit this past winter. In talking with others, we weren't the only ones to end up with chicken popsicles this year either. We'll do some work on the coop this summer to try to avoid this in future. I think that between the cold winter and fewer bodies to keep the temp up in there, it was too much.
Last summer I had planned on replacing much of the flock to begin with. I've found that the Rhode Island Reds are prone to frost bite on their combs, they're really obnoxious and pushy and J would like a more traditional looking rooster breed. So I finally settled on Speckled Sussex. They're a good duel purpose breed, have great marks for foraging (I can't free range because of strays, but may do a traveling yard one of these days) and have mild temperments. The barred Rock (Zebra chicken) is also another I'll keep a couple of, as the Americuanas. Oh, I've thought about Buff Orpingtons, rare and exotic and if I'm really honest with myself, I'll probably end up with a raggle, taggle looking chicken mob when it's all said and done.
Anyway, the chicks are showing up the end of April and we're all excited about it! Nothing says Spring like chick peeps.

My garden last year was a dismal shadow of food production. Our season was late, took a while to get started once it showed up and then ended on time. My melons never even bloomed, the pumpkins didn't get much larger than table ornaments and tomatoes didn't ripen. The earlier crops did well. I also found the perfect pea for us! Wandos. They can handle the heat and love the cold. I should be able to pull two crops out this year, something everyone is looking forward to.
So, alas, those canning jars I collected last year sat mostly on the shelves, empty and upside down. It was just a depressing sight to see. We're putting in raised beds for everything but the potatoes and corn this year. We'll also be bringing in topsoil for them, since anything decent that's already on the place is growing grass. The big garden space grows things like onions, corn and potatoes very well, it's everything else that really suffers. On the bright side, it puts the veggies up by the house! While a lot of lawn can be pretty, it's a lot to take care of for no input. The next addition project is going to be Jerusalem Artichoke in the flower beds. Great for animal feed, people, decoration and is a good source for fuel grade alcohol...if J decided to do that for the farm (need licenses and all that). The beds around the house are raised cement, so invasion won't be an issue. 'Course if it turns out to be such a helpful little plant, invasion may not be an issue either!
I've been putting the stall muckings into the garden spot, that will be worked in in the next few weeks and then I really have to pick a spot for compost! Next winter, between the cows and goats I'm going to have a great booster for that.

Oh wow, this is turning into a novel.

Okay for the family side of things......well they're getting bigger, even Malina! Here's Bruce snuggled up to Daisy for family movie night

Both of the dogs curl up into these little balls and the kids have found they make excellent pillows...the dogs think it's fantastic as well.

Bruce's feet are now bigger than mine, he's almost as tall as me now. Lars isn't that far behind at a men's 6, Anna...well she's growing steady and Leif is keeping pace. Malina is still no bigger than a minute, complete with a Keebler elf voice.

There's the year in a not so small nutshell. This year, goals are woodshed, hayshed, pigs, a rooster, milking room at least (I need something I can heat just a little), raised beds...looks like it's going to be another busy year. One of these years, we'll be down to just running the farm....maybe. :)

A Product of my Milking Musings

As I sat here this morning, wishing there was some way to hard line myself to the coffee pot, an odd sound kept registering in the foggy edges of my mind. Once the caffeine had hit my auditory nerves, it hit me. Bird song. It's different than the little Juncos hopping around all winter, varied bird song. We've had a pheasant cock that has wintered over here (it's been fun watching him get his colors) and he was out scolding Fluffy the farm cat, I heard robins in the mix and a song bird of some kind...with the Juncos joining in. This was a 7 in the morning though, until now, nothing has been singing before at least 10. Well there's a pick me up right there.

So as I'm pouring the hot water over Amy's beet pulp pellets, I realized how routine life has become. Lars has gone out and put them in the bucket for me, somehow he morphs out of his pajamas into his clothes's a little unnerving, truth be told. Bruce is stumbling around trying to find his feet, he's got his shoes, but his feet seem to have wandered off. He's working for his Dad to buy a laptop for himself and morning feed is one of his jobs. Much like his mother, morning is not a good time and if it were possible it would be completely eliminated from the day. Anna's just come flitting through the kitchen with her standard round of cheerful good mornings to all present, Bruce and I are thinking the same thing " should be illegal to be that sunny first thing out of bed", we don't say it, think it maybe. Even if you don't like it you can't help but enjoy it on some level. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since her name means Gracious and Bright.
Bruce heads out, I help Leif finish getting dressed, there's one child you definitely don't let leave without an inspection. Everyone gets loaded onto the bus and morning continues.

I grudgingly let go of my lounge pants and don the work jeans, my coffee cup is floating near by and, I hear it, three bellows. You could almost set your watch by that cow. Her bellows are followed by calf bawls and goat maaas and as I pass the back door I see Amy's hind end lumbering into the barn. I grab the milking supplies, the feed bucket and cut up some carrots.
Out the back door, the goats who don't have nearly the faith the cows do...or maybe they're just more impatient, are now madly calling for breakfast. The chickens have all run up to the fence and I grab the grain for the cow, corn for the chooks and head out.

I get out to the barn and every morning it's the same, the hens are clucking over the fresh corn, the steers are lowing and the goats by this point are just flat out obnoxious, Gretta is the worst. I pour the feed into the bin, grab the hay and "Katie bar the door" I just opened the gate for Amy. You'd think I never fed her, or that she's put on weight, or doubled her milk in the last month. The goats are snorting, everyone is munching and everything settles down for a while.
She's munching merrily, nice warm food after a cold night. I brush her off, and start cleaning her udder off. Wash and dry her teats, give a good massage to help with let down and time to grab the pail.
Milking starts and I can feel my blood pressure drop to comatose. It's still cold enough that steam rises out of the pail as I go and after awhile there's a good little foam on top. Amy usually gets impatient towards the end, which usually means I get hit in the head with her tail. The guys chuckle that I keep her tail brushed out and only takes getting hit in the head once with a nasty, soppy tail at 8 in the morning and one cup of coffee into the day, to figure out why. Not my fault they didn't figure that one out back when they were milking.

I have two times a day where life slows to a crawl, morning and evening milking. You can only get the milk to come out so fast and there's a rhythm to it that either empties your mind or gets you to thinking.
Over the last couple of weeks, my thoughts have been leaning towards all that going on in the world around me. The good, the bad (seems mostly bad these days), the conversations I hear snipits of in the grocery store, the fact that Bruce has lost another friend because they've moved away to where there are, hopefully, more job opportunities. Then there're the dairies that are closing their doors, sometimes after generations of operation, because they can't maintain. I wonder about ways that I can feed the animals come next winter, that aren't as reliant on feed stores and companies. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't be worrying about something more significant than struggling farmers, but then if they aren't growing food or dairy, where is it going to come from? I think about what an alternate fuel/electric hybid combine would look like? Makes me giggle to think of farmers across the nation plugging their massive equipment in at night.
I wonder what this is all going to look like in the end. I'm not a fatalist, the world will keep spinning until, it either quits or the sun dies. Even if we destroy it, it will keep spinning. I've heard the comparisons of now and pre-Depression, but people didn't live on credit like now and there wasn't an attitude of entitlement. People still gardened and canned, they could provide much for themselves and that was how life was lived for many instead of the few. I've been sitting and watching fingers being pointed every which way, but when it comes down to it fewer would be in a bind if they'd been responsible in their own finances and choices. You can't stop loosing your job, you can't help it if your company folds and you can't always forsee a time when a seemingly secure, good income will just vanish. There have been a lot of responsible people who have gotten a raw deal, there have been a lot of irresponsible people who've gotten slapped upside the head with it. Life isn't fair, find a way to deal with it. J and I have had our share of both, some of our discomfort has been of our own making, some through no fault of our own. Tomorrow has no guarantees either, loosing his job is a possibility as much as anyone else. So we make do as we can, plan as we can and hope for the best.

Usually by this point, Amy is just about finished milking out and it's time to get that funky teat worked out. I don't milk that one into the bucket because.....well it's hard to aim the sucker. I dip her teats, put on the bag balm, strip her gently and dap a bit of balm on the tips as an extra precaution. She's still chomping away, so I brush her out a bit, put her the goats back in, toss the rest of her hay over, grab all the pails and buckets, dump the teat wash and tromp back up to the house. Grace is a hard thing to pull off in barn boots by the way.

Fluffy is waiting at the end of the yard, she figured out about three days in to the milking business that there's warm milk after this, so she'll lead the way.....thank you very much. The snow is starting to melt and fast, the last couple of mornings it's been raining or drizzling. This morning? Sun and birds.

I get inside and strain the milk, weigh and record it and the day just unfolds from there. Every day is the same, every morning takes the same course. There's part of me that thinks it should feel stifling, some days it can be. Funny thing about this life is that just when you think nothing ever changes, it does. I don't like surprises anymore. LOL Change is a cow down, unexplained drop in milk or the water doesn't turn on. Breaks in routine are like when we had a calf go down with scours. For reference, an animal going down and not getting up is always bad and usually means you have a small window for action or risk loosing them.Out to the calf every couple of hours, even through the night to drench him (give fluids through a syringe with no needle) for two days straight. I didn't walk straight for a week after that. Doesn't matter though, the rest of life goes on. It doesn't care if the calf is down, or whether or not you're standing to loose an investment, it just keeps going. Kids still need breakfast, laundry still needs to get done, J still has to go to work and can't always help out. I've since learned other tactics, picked up information, but I still saw double while I was doing it....maybe next time I won't have to. Live culture yougurt, by the way.

With all of that, there's a pay off. Take the calf, I'll never forget how it felt when I went out there at 3am on day 2 to find him standing up and have him moo at me. It wasn't a guarantee and he wasn't out of the woods yet, but he was up and that meant hope. I gave him his water and electrolytes and ran into the house to call J. Then there's the perspective. To a rancher who deals in 300 head, one calf down doesn't mean much. To us, it means meat in the freezer for almost a year. That perspective can really carry over to a lot of areas and I'm seeing parallels in life right now. The higher up the ladder you are, whether or not the ground at the bottom is muddy, well it just doesn't matter as much. If you're down towards the bottom, well it's a big deal...unless you like mud.

I guess the last couple of days, I've been amazed at the fact that although life has gotten busier but that the type of busy I'm doing has given me more time to the entertain the contemplation I'm so fond of. It's not harried, just busy.

Some days I wonder about whether or not I should be questioning my own sanity. I really questioned it when it was 9 degrees out and I was dunking my already chapped hands into water again, only to watch it freeze in the cracks (Amy I wipe and dry so that doesn't happen on her teats). Opportunity knocked a little early, so the nice warm milking parlor isn't quite finished yet.

The signs of Spring are showing all around, namely I can see the ground again and I'm getting itchy to go play in the dirt. My early crops will go in very soon, peas, potatoes and onions, then another period of sit and wait. Then comes the fretting of whether or not anything is going to come up, just when I can't take it anymore, Justin goes and gently digs around to ensure that indeed they've germinated and "if you can be patient for another couple of days the plants will start breaking through".
Hopefully, this time next year, I'll have a nice little calf, maybe just maybe a heifer, on the ground and a couple of kids (of the caprine variety, not homo sapien) running around.