Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spring is coming!

I'm anxious for spring! Can you tell?? I don't mind winter too much, but I do love spring.

You can tell that spring is getting close, because we are having babies born left and right! Mostly bulls, but that's ok right now. We're hoping to have more heifers later on. We're really not into the busy calving yet, that comes in about 2 weeks. Starting the second week of March through the end of April we have about 30 cows due to have their babies. I like this time of year because of all the babies. But it is a lot more work! Bottle feeding that many babies can take some time! But we're excited to have the milk coming in. We've been down to only 23 cows milking, and that just barely pays the bills.

Some baby calves. Both pictures were taken in 2005. The bottom picture
appeared in an article on Artisan cheese making in the Ohio Magazine in 2005.

Emily had an exciting (and freaky to me) find the other night in the barn. I was pushing hay into the cows and Emily started screaming "What is that in the hay!" Ok, it scared me, a lot. She continues "it's a mouse, no it's a rat!" Then more calmly..."oh...maybe it's just a turd..." Then I heard the squeaking noise, and told Al to turn on more lights so I could see, we moved the hay gently, and there lay the biggest bat I believe I have ever seen in our barn. His teeth looked pretty mean too! Scared me because Emily had just been playing in the pile of hay. Now, I know how to scare her.... (I'm so mean!!!), but she'll start climbing around in the hay, and I'll ask her if there are any bats. She stops in her tracks and gets a weird look on her face!

This is not Emily's bat that we found in the barn, but one that we found in our garage about 2 years ago.

We had some timber buyers stop in and walk our woods, giving us estimated prices on our timber. Unfortunately, timber prices are down. We'll probably have to settle for less than we had hoped, but that's how it sometimes goes.

The timber buyer that stopped in today did buy some cheese! We love to have customers stop at the farm. It don't happen too often, we live two miles from town on a dirt road, and this road is mud right now! Can't blame folks for not wanting to venture our way.

I'm getting our supplies all ready and going over my list of things to do before we make our first batch of cheese for 2009. We're getting excited!! I'm pretty much all set, much better than last year. I've got plenty of our starter (culture), rennet, salt, antibiotic testing stuff, and supplies for our PH meter. I think I'll be more organized than last year! I hope to add at least one more cheese this year. We'll see how adventurous I get, I think I said that last year.

We're working on our taxes...ugh!! I usually don't mind it, but this year it's a pain! I've been working on them at our kitchen table, and little Miss Emily likes to sit with me and she talks and sings non-stop. I know that I have had to re-add columns about a dozen times. LOL

We had our federal and state inspections for the year/winter. It's for the year with Federal and the winter for the State. The state will be back in this spring again. We scored 100 on both, we are pretty excited about that. Now, our State inspector will be in for our cheese house soon. I don't mind it a bit, they usually have some helpful bits of advice.

Now I am off to do some laundry in my new washer, since my old one kicked the bucket on the same day my dishwasher was fixed. Go figure... I'm almost afraid of touching anymore appliances.

This is an owl that came to visit us back in the winter of 2001.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sun & Snow

The sun is shining today, and it's snowing at the same time. Go figure! Ohio weather can be so odd at times!
At least it isn't icy out and I don't have to worry about falling down if I go outside.

Valentine's Day came and went. We usually don't do too much for it. The reason is we just don't have a lot of time, especially on Saturday's. I spent most of the day at the farm market. Made up some Valentine gift baskets, but they didn't sell. I did sell some of the cheese out of the baskets! Hmm.. You never know unless you try, I suppose. I picked up a few little things for Al and Emily for Valentine Day gifts. Emily had a lot of fun with the gift bag that had hearts on it!! I should have just stopped with that! We did go to our local restaurant for dinner. First time in several weeks we had been there.

We didn't make it to church yesterday. A first calf heifer had her baby early that morning ( she wasn't supposed to calve for another 6 weeks according to the vet). Her baby is doing just fine. Started out a little weak, but she's now up and eating good. Had to fill up some jugs of warm water to lay next to her to warm her up. Around noon I went outside and saw that another heifer was laying down flat, she was having a baby too. We walked up to the lot she is in, and saw that the baby's back legs look weird, they were over top the baby's back. Not a good thing. Well, baby came out, and we found that there was a baby #2 following behind. Unfortunately, the toes were pointed the wrong way, breech. Al was able to assist mama cow, and the 2nd baby was born, but only lived for about 5 minutes. Poor little guy had sucked in so much of the fluid that he suffocated. We tried so hard to get him to breathe. The first baby (a baby bull) is doing good, and so is the mama. It's amazing, that after so many babies are born on the farm that I've seen, and even helped with, it's still a miracle to me. And even though we've lost baby calves before, I am always sad when one doesn't make it. That first breath of life is amazing. And how that mama cow starts mooing softly to the baby.
I feel so blessed that I am able to witness this. Emily was fascinated too. So many lessons a little one learns out here.

We're contacting timber companies this week. Hoping to have some of our farm timbered. We don't do clear cutting, just selective. Hoping to raise enough money to help with our feed bill. Groceries for the cows just seems to cost a lot! Sad thing is, the cost of feed goes up, but the price we get paid for milk goes down. I don't know how we're expected to make ends meet.
One thing I can tell you, if you are into farming, don't expect to ever get rich!! haha!!
A lot of folks have asked us, and other farmers, "why?"
I suppose in a lot of ways, staying in this business does seem crazy. I've even thought it myself at times. But, it isn't an occupation to us, it's our life. We love what we do so much that we hang in there. We believe in what we do is for others, providing food, is important. Each day is never the same old, same old. Each season brings it's own blessings and hardships, sometimes all at the same time. Being in contact with the animals, and outside, I feel and see God in everything. Even though we are facing some really difficult times this coming year, and beyond, I feel my faith getting stronger each day. In the near future, we may not be able to continue farming, and that makes me so sad, but I still keep hopeful that things will work out for us for the best. Farming to us is just something we absolutely love. We have to, I don' t know if I could wait up half the night watching a cow that is calving and help her give birth when she is in trouble, if I didn't love what I do. Or stand out in a lightning storm, holding a bottle of medicine high above my head so it would go in the IV properly and help a sick cow. I felt like a lightning rod that night!! But, that is why we do what we do. We truly love the animals, they get better care than we do most of the time, we love working with nature and we love knowing that what we do brings food to others. That is my answer as to why.

Now, I am off to get a cheese order ready to ship out tomorrow, and we're getting a few last minute stuff done. The county inspector will be in tomorrow, so I need to get errands done before his scheduled time. Also, have to finish up the dishes. :P Rosy the dishwasher died on my during the windstorm we had last week, and Sears won't be here until Thursday to repair it. I sure do miss Rosy!! I'm such a BRAT!!!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted anything. I guess the week went by fast. Our ice and snow has finally went away, all except the patch of ice behind where we park our van. We call that our very own "skating rink". It will eventually melt, come July.

We picked up a new store this past week, and we are very excited about that! Had an inquiry this past Saturday from someone who has a friend opening up a new Restaurant and may be interested in using our cheeses. So, we are experiencing some "positive" moments this week. Yay!

Last Tuesday was the first day in almost a week I made it out to run errands. I was shipping out cheese when my cell phone rang. My friend asked if I wanted to head to Denny's to take advantage of their free Grand Slam breakfast. Yum! After waiting outside, in the cold for a few minutes, we got our free meal. It was very good, and the price was perfect. And it just felt good to get out for a bit, child free and have a grown up conversation! hehe..

I was working at our cheese house today, and have found that I can combine my love for photography into our business. I enjoy taking pictures of the cheese. Setting it up, making it look nice and such. On the good note, cheese won't wiggle around like children and pets! And it don't blink. Maybe something I can work on for the future.

Busy week planned here this coming week. We're getting ready for Federal inspection. They will be in sometime between now and March. This week we are painting the milk house. I know, painting in February doesn't sound like a usual thing to do, but our temps. are supposed to be in the 50's all week, and the painting is mostly inside. It's been a few years since we've painted the milk house, so it is due to be done. After that is done, we'll be getting the feed room cleaned out, it is always a wet mess after snow melts or after a big rain. I've also been currying the cows. Cleaning them up nice, not too hard of a job this time of year, they are starting to shed out for spring.

Now, I'm off to get some dinner planned out for tomorrow. I think we'll be having some chili with corn chips and cheese. That sounds like a yummy thing to put in the slow cooker in the morning.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunshine! Finally!

The sun is shining so bright and warm today! Beautiful day! A lot of last weeks snow and ice if melting, and I can finally see our van. We did make it out yesterday, just 2 miles to our town to our Convenient store to get some bread. It was either that, or I was going to try my hand at making bread, and since I've never tried my hand at yeast breads, we figured venturing out was for the best! Our road was not the best, just a sheet of ice. Our township had plowed our road, but didn't get a chance to put stone down. Nothing like driving on a skating rink! We took our old pick up truck. Poor thing has an oil leak somewhere, and by the time we made it to town, we slid in the parking lot, and had smoke coming out from under the hood. Felt like the Beverly Hillbillies pulling in, almost herd the song playing.

We were supposed to go to Zanesville for an Ohio Farmstead-Artisan Cheese Guild meeting, but ended up doing it over the phone since it wasn't worth going that far. It's just the four of us that hold an office so it was easy that way. Got a few things done and we're hoping to get our guild moving forward again. I guess you could say we are "re-grouping".
We did run across an article today that is online. Very well done. The lady who did the article is from one of the stores that handles our cheese. Very exciting to see our name mentioned when we aren't expecting it. Here is the link to the story if you would like to see it.

I can't believe it is February already! In just over a month we will be back to making cheese. Wow! Already! I'm actually looking forward to it. I enjoy the time off in the winter, but it is something that we do that I enjoy, so that helps me look forward to it. Plus, cheese making time means....springtime!!!! I am a spring type of person. My favorite season of all! Don't get me wrong, I love each season for what they have to offer, but after being cooped up in the winter, I love the warm weather, green grass and flowers.

Today is Superbowl Sunday! I do root for the Steelers. We live close enough to Pittsburgh that our area is generally Steelers country. In this particular superbowl, given the circumstances of each team (Steelers being our local team, and the Cardinals being the underdog), I have to say I will be happy with whoever wins. I know, what fun is that? But, I always have a soft spot for the underdog team. So, best of luck to both teams! Personally, I'm looking forward to the commercials!! haha! Our neighbor who helps us here on the farm is coming to watch the game with us. He'll be helping Al get the milking finished up so they can get up to the house in time for the game. I've got deer kielbasa with sauerkraut in the slowcooker, and need to put a couple more things together for munchies.

Well, now I'm off to get some goodies fixed for this evening and tidy up the living room. It looks like a Toys R Us store exploded in there!!
Hope everyone enjoys the game tonight!

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