Saturday, March 30, 2013


The incubator works!  I started 14 eggs on March 7th.

In the process of removing the egg turner, (the eggs aren't supposed to turn for the last few days) I dropped two eggs on the floor.  They weren't fertilized.  Or formed?  Or developed?  They were still eggs, at any rate.  Stinky, rotten eggs.  What are the odds of that?

The first egg hatched in the wee hours of the 27th.  The Littles stayed up half the night to watch.  I had already gone to bed when the egg started chirping, so I missed all of the excitement.

I left that chick in the incubator for nearly 24 hours, waiting for the rest to make an appearance.  A second chick hatched late in the day, and two had started pipping (cracking the shell).  The shell provides all of the nutrition the chick needs for the first 24 hours.  At the end of the day, the first chick went to the basement all alone.

The next morning, the other two chicks had hatched and a fifth was pipping.  I took the second chick to the basement to join the first.  Three and four stayed in the incubator all day, waiting for five.  Five seemed to be stuck.  There was no progress for hours.  I finally decided to meddle with it a bit, and found the chick to be dead inside the shell.  Three and four joined the first two in the basement.

I still have the incubator running today, but I don't see and pips or cracks in any of the remaining eggs, so I'm not really hopeful for any other hatchlings this round.  Tomorrow we'll take the remaining eggs outside and open them up.  I want to see how many were starting to form and didn't hatch.

In the meantime, I have four balls of fluff to tend to.
Probably all roosters, lol.

The next batch will include 5 goose eggs!  They're too big for the egg turner, so they'll all be loose on the bottom of the incubator.  That means I have to turn them every day by hand.  I hope it works out.  There are few critters I love more than baby goslings.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Are the girls pregnant?  Time will tell.  Here's what we do know.
Casper, March 28, 2011
Casper was born on March 28, 2011.  He was the product of Dorie and our neighbour's angus cross bull.

Toothless, June 13, 2011

We bought Toothless at the auction, days old.  He is probably a holstein cross.
Steaks, far right, August 13, 2011

We bought Steaks, a 14 month old  charolais cross on August 13, 2011.  We butchered him on November 15, 2011.  He had 3 months with the girls, and produced Sharlotte.  He won't be anybody's daddy this year, but I thought I'd include him in this bull post any way, just for the history.

Casper, September 30, 2011, 6 months.
He was growing up fast and strong.  
Toothless, Dec. 2011, just weaned, 5 months.
He was obviously not the same kind of stud as Casper.
Casper, red bull in background, October  2012, 19 months.
When we butchered Casper he was old enough to reproduce.  We did catch him trying to climb on Nelly a few times, but he showed no interest in the other girls.  We found out his castration had been a failure during butchering.  Any calves born before July 23, 2013 could be his.

March 18, 2013
Our newest arrival, Monsoon.  I don't know whether we'll be keeping him, or one of the other bull calves we plan to raise this year, as Toothless' future replacement.  I was hoping to get a meat bull calf for future breeding, however, now that we have a jersey, a smaller breed is more suitable to our overall needs.

Toothless, March 2013
Toothless, now 21 months old.  He's still pretty small, and therefore might not be able to get the job done.  We witnessed him climbing on Nelly and trying to climb on Dorie last fall.  He could be any calf born this year's father.

Toothless, March 2013
We have not seen him trying to climb on anyone since Christmas.  That may be an indication that all of the girls are pregnant now, with the last calf due as late as October 2013.  It's also possible that we just haven't SEEN him trying to climb on top of the girls since December.  Toothless will most likely be the 'breeding stock' for this fall, possibly longer, depending on his attitude and behaviour, and if or when he produces a heifer calf that we plan to keep.  I would really like to get a heifer calf from him and Mildred for future milk.

A cow's estrus (heat) cycle is every 18-24 days year round.  I don't usually watch for it.  I figure, I provided the bull, the rest is up to them.  I may try keeping a better eye on things if there are no bulges appearing in the next few months, especially with Mindy.  If she doesn't produce this year she'll likely be headed for the freezer.  Without a definitive cut off date for delivery, we may have to get her vet checked to make sure she's not pregnant in the fall.

Although I lean toward believing that Sharlotte was Mindy's calf, due to colour, size, and we believe that Dorie is now dried off, she still hasn't proven herself as a 'good' mother.  Which means she's been living here 'rent free' for four years.  It may not be entirely her fault- the bulls may not have been up to par, and Dorie may have been a thief- but the end result is the same.  We need beef for the freezer and she hasn't been producing.

If she does produce this year, we will likely buy another yearling in the next few months, for this year's beef.  It will be male, and possibly not castrated.  If not castrated, it could breed with any open girls before butchering, for 2014 calves.

Sharlotte and Shiloh

Last year's babies are growing up.
Sharlotte is much friendlier than we expected she'd be.  She's friendlier than her mothers.
That could be due in part to her best friend here, Shiloh- the trouble maker.  The two of them (and Smitty) like to race around the pasture, kicking and jumping, driving all of their mothers crazy.
But she's still a big baby, too. Still nursing.
I'm pretty sure Sharlotte's still nursing, too.  I just haven't caught her in the act lately.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pregnancy Check

Miss Dorie looks pretty thin to me.
From both ends.

Mindy looks a bit heavier.
But not much.

Might explode!

I don't want to get my hopes up- she tricked me last year.  But seriously, if she doesn't calve this year, she might be too fat to get pregnant!

(Notice my hay feeder has been demolished?  Apparently Husband wasn't aware it was only designed for one bale, not three.  Add that to the spring chores list.)

Can you tell the weather's getting nicer?  I'm outside taking pictures everyday, lol.  We're even starting to get a few drips by mid afternoon.  That's right- we're above freezing!

Making Cheese

I bought this little cheese making kit a while ago.  It's not the kit I wanted, but I couldn't find the one I wanted in Canada.  It was very affordable though, so I guess I shouldn't complain.  It just has more of a 'science experiment' kind of feel to it than a serious 'let's make some cheese' feel.  I guess you could say it's kind of cheesey, lol.

The kit includes a little recipe book, rennet, mesophilic culture, thermophilic culture, calcium chloride, thermometer, cheesecloth, and a little mold.  It has everything I need, just not in the proportions and sturdiness I desire.

Monday I made my first hard cheese- Farmhouse Cheddar, followed by some Whey Ricotta

I found it interesting that the cheddar curds were very bland tasting, while the ricotta had a cheesier taste right away.

There was almost as much whey produced (7.2L) as there was milk to begin with(7.6L).  It's fascinating how milk can produce so much butter or cheese, and still leave so much of itself behind. 

What to do with the whey?  I've been reading that some people bake with it.  Lacto-fermentation, of course, but it's not exactly harvest season here.  What would I ferment?  Use it to water tomatoes?  Or feed it to the dogs and chickens?

Honestly, the chickens will probably get most of this batch.  I have butter to make today, so baking is pretty well covered by buttermilk.  I might experiment with one tomato plant, but I don't want the whole lot of them to start growing fungus or mold. 

Feeding milk (or whey, or buttermilk) to the chickens cuts down on my feed bill.  I was feeding the chickens a mixture of corn and duck feed.  The duck feed is made from high protein vegetation, no medications.  Along with their daily sprouts, it seems to keep them healthy and happy.  Since I've been adding milk to their water dish their feed dish doesn't seem to need refilling as often.  Egg production remains at the same level.  Everyone seems happy, including Mrs. Goose, who has started laying eggs.  I'll continue giving the chickens any milk that gets stepped in, and whatever else I need to use up.

Next time- mozzarella?  No, probably more cheddar.  It needs to age at least two months before we can even try it, 6 months would be better.  I'm not making big plans for cheese storage the way I am with butter.  Yes, we use a lot of cheese, but it doesn't make sense to make a lot of cheese that we may not like.  Still, only making a little and having it turn out really well would be pretty much heartbreaking when it's gone.

I have recipes for parmesan, colby, gouda, monterey jack, and a few others.  I think, I'll try a couple of each, then search the web for variations and different recipes.  Hopefully we'll find something we really like and be ready to make a lot of cheese in 2014!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What's in a Name?

Some critters, you just know, the minute you see them.  Like Mildred, Mama, and Dorie.

Some critters take a bit more time, requiring names of great significance, like Mabel Victoria Anne.
Some critters need to grow into their names a bit, changing them to suit themselves- like my children.

And some critters go nameless for a bit, because nothing seems to quite fit.

Montana?  Major?  Monty?
Muffin?  Monkey?  Mozart?
Mischief?  Meathead?  Marley?
Several days passed with many attempts at an "m" name.  Since I named Mildred on sight, that makes 2013 an "m" year.  Which is going to be confusing later, since Mama and Mindy both came along before I decided to stick with a letter for the year.

He perked an ear the first time I called him Monster.  No response on the second time.  Still, it was better than the complete lack of response I had been getting from him.  Another two days, more names, no response.  And then, just jokingly, at the end of a long list, "Monsoon!"

He spun his head around and stared at me, as if to say, "What did you call me?"

I repeated, "Monsoon?"

He bobbed his little head up and down.  "Yup, I like it."

It's not my fault my critters have strange names.  Honestly.

Then, to add insult to injury, he hasn't been drinking much, seems listless, and has a touch of the runs.  
It seems he has found his own food source. One that never empties and doesn't seem to be aware that he needs to be cut off.
I noticed the milk production had gone down over the past few days.  I just assumed it was the excitement of being outside, meeting everyone, and wandering around in the snow.  Nope- we have a thief.  Or a relief milker.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hay for Mildred

Husband cleared a bit of snow so he could drop a round bale into the chicken pen this weekend.  Now Mildred gets to go outside and munch, and chat over the fence with the rest of the critters.  Well, after she stopped trying to swim through the snow to explore the entire pen. 
Toothless and Mindy were quick to come and say hello.  Or maybe to ask who the heck the 'royalty' was who got her own bale of hay!  Sharlotte tried to visit, but Mindy chased her off.
Toothless was very friendly.  They rubbed noses through the fence.
Shiloh came to visit, bringing Tori and Knightmare along with her.  Shiloh is the self appointed welcoming committee around here.  They shared some hay with their long necks reaching over the fence.
Mildred mooed and mooed, calling to Dorie, we think.  Our herd matron will NOT EVEN LOOK AT MILDRED!  #1 thinks she's jealous.  I think she's stuck up.
After Mildred went to bed the first day, as we were getting ready to milk, Mindy decided she just had to have some of that hay.  You know the old adage, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence...  Well, miss Mindy got herself STUCK on the fence.  The snow is deep enough that she could balance halfway with her back legs on one side and her front legs on the other.  On the pasture side where they've got it all packed down good- no problem.  But then she sank through on the chicken pen side, leaving herself in a bit of a predicament.  Luckily for her she was able to roll off onto the pasture side.

#3 got to help #1 with the milking while Husband and I cut some small poplars and put up a new top rail.  The fence is still sagging under the poplars, but there's not much we can do about that until spring.

Hopefully everyone will stay where they belong until then.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Making Butter

The first time I made butter, I started by shaking the jar in my lap.  It's doable, but time consuming.  Then I bought the little red paint mixer attachment for the drill, seen below.  It worked fairly well, and fit right into the 4L glass jars. 
Last time, I stacked the fresh milk in the fridge waiting for the cream to come to the top, then I'd skim it off, and then I'd have three or four days worth of milk to use up.  This time I'm using sun tea jars for the milk in the fridge.  The cream still rises to the top, while the milk below can be used.  No waiting.
This time I'm spoiled, since I now have the kitchenaid stand mixer.  Pour in the cream and set it to whip.  Watch as the cream turns to whipped cream to slush to butter, in just minutes!
It does splatter a bit if you fill it too full, and again once the butter chunks up.  All stop!  Pour off the buttermilk.  And that, right there, is the cause of the backlog of milk in the fridge!  I started with this little jar to pour the buttermilk into and had to grab a clean 4L jar to finish.  I had forgotten how much buttermilk you get back out once the butter forms. 
I switched to the beater attachment to beat the butter with cold water to get out the last of the buttermilk.  Then I beat it dry.  Then I added 1/2 tsp salt.
I lined these square salad containers with saran wrap.  
And smooshed in the butter.  I probably should have let them stiffen up before pulling them out of the containers.  They lost some of the square shape.
Two 'pounds' of butter (I didn't weigh it) went in the freezer, plus a small dish for the fridge.

Now to use up that buttermilk...

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

First Day Of Spring

On the calendar, anyway. I took a few pics the other day- before I declared that it is indeed spring, due to a lactating cow and two hungry babies- to show that spring is a far off dream in the land of snow and ice.

This is the garden, as 'seen' from the road.  In truth, you can't see the garden at all, just the huge snowbank.
From the house to the road.  We are running out of room to pile the snow.  
The corner of our road.  The snow banks are so high this year that you're halfway through the intersection before you can see if anything's coming.  Good thing it's a quiet little road.
And what would the weather bring us on the first day of spring?  More snow!  Just tiny little flakes in a cool north wind, but snow none the less.  I'd be surprised if all of this melts before the end of April without getting any more!  It's certainly a far cry from last year, when we were out quadding in the bush.  This year the birthday boy will just have to be happy with a snowmobile ride instead!  Even that's a bit odd this year, as the snowmobile trails are usually at least softened up beyond use by now.

Everything is looking good on the home front though.  The weatherman is calling for rising temps and sunshine.  The heat of the cow makes the milk room a pleasant place to spend half the day.  And this bundle of cuteness running around makes it easy to remember, spring is on it's way!
Maximus and #1

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Some time last spring I started debating whether or not I was ready for a real dairy cow.  We milked Dorie, a beef cow, the first year when she lost her calf, and attempted it again when Casper was born.  Casper gobbled up every last drop of milk though, turning it into some mighty fine beef.  By the time Sharlotte came along last summer I had pretty much given up on the idea of ever milking Dorie again.

I had my sights set on Nelly, our bottle baby, becoming our next milker, because she's so lovable, friendly, and agreeable.  But she never calved.  She might calve this year.  She might be agreeable.  She might have enough milk for her calf and us.  She might not.

I wanted milk.  I did not want a Holstein, which I could buy any day at the auction.  They're very common around here.  Those udders are just too intimidating for me though.  How many hours would it take to hand milk a Holstein?  And then what would I do with ALL THAT MILK?  Nope, too much.  I was leaning toward a jersey, Guernsey, or a Canadienne.  I've seen each breed at the auction from time to time, so knew they were available in our area.

A couple of months ago I started searching in earnest.  I placed an ad on Kijiji, started talking to farmers, searched the online sale boards.  I had one guy in Sarnia offer me a jersey.  Sarnia!  That's only about a ten hour drive.

Yesterday I was going to stay home and vegetate clean up after March break.  Then Husband found out he had the day off work.  He figured since it was Monday, and sunny, that he would drag my butt outside using the auction as a lure.  Big mistake on his part! lol

Someone came in with a basket full of Saanen billy goats.  We need a new stud.  Doesn't he look like a stud?  Meet Maximus.

Then I bought the first of several calves I'm planning to raise for beef this year.  He doesn't have a name yet.  So far he hasn't responded to anything we've tried.

I so wanted to buy a couple of piglets.  There were about thirty that came through the auction, from kitty cat to nearly ready to butcher size.  Most of them were male.  I sat on my hands.  I really have no place suitable for raising piglets until we lose a couple feet of snow.  Now watch, I won't be able to find any in the spring.

And Mildred.  I named her before I bought her.  It was early.  Hardly anyone there.  She was all alone in a stall.  I talked to her for a bit.  She mooed at me.
I told her her name was Mildred.  She mooed.  I told her she was going to be a family cow.  She walked away.
I told her she was coming home with me.  She came back and let me pet her nose.

She's a little thin.  I don't think she's very old.  First calf maybe?  Or second?
I bid hard and fast against the meat guys.  Once she was over their profit margin it looked like she'd be mine.  Then the other hobbyists, homesteaders, and such got started.  I went slower with them.  I tricked some of them.  Right after she sold one guy came over and asked how much I wanted for my jersey.  He thought I had brought her to sell and was just driving up the price.  Nope, not for sale.  She's mine!
She didn't get home until about 10pm.  Then we had to milk her.  She was in a new place, with new people, engorged, and accustomed to machine milking.  It took three of us until midnight to get her drained.  I brought nearly 4L in the house, after feeding the calf, spilling the bucket, dumping the bucket she stepped in to the chickens, and making a mess while filtering.  Just look at those udders!  How much can they hold?
We got her haltered this morning and brought another 4L in the house.  Round two went a little quicker.  She's very calm and agreeable.

After the auction strangers started coming up to us and telling us what a good cow we bought.  That's never happened before!  One lady told us she had three jerseys from the same farm as Mildred.  She knows the people who owned them.  They sold Mildred because she produces TOO MUCH MILK for their dairy line!  This lady has the jerseys raising other calves, two to three at a time.  She says they're great adoptive mothers.

I am declaring this the official first day of spring.  I am going to ignore the snow that is currently falling, the snow that is forecast for the next three days, and the bitter north wind that is blowing.  I have babies and a cow to milk.  It is spring.