Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bye Granny

At 7 this morning (her time zone), my Granny passed away. She was 93 years, 6 days old.

Granny Crackers, waving at Baby late last summer.
She isn't in pain anymore, and I rejoice that she's gone to be with the Lord, but oh, I'm sad for me. :] A large portion of my happy childhood memories involve her, and the property she and my grandpa retired on, about the time I was born. My dad's property adjoins theirs, and summers with my dad were often summers-at-Grandma's, if he was working. And a better place for childhood summers I can't imagine. To get to her house from Dad's, we had to walk a path through the pasture, pass through the trees, cross the bridge over the creek, and trek up the hill to her house.

Once I fell in the creek. One minute I was standing in my little red orphan-annie style dress (that Grandma had made me) with my hand full of rocks, and my arm extended over the railing, ready to drop the rocks. The next moment I was in the water, howling for fear a crawdad would get me. Even that day I was astonished that I could not remember *how* I fell.

Her home has a daylight basement, and a 'deck' (long balcony, really) all along the main floor, overlooking the creek, Dad's place, and across the highway to the lake and mountain.

From my dad's, in the lower area
Once my cousin kicked my little brother off the deck. He touched her stomper, and she booted him. I saw him fall, ran to announce the event to the family indoors, and my dad raced home with him in his arms as blood trickled out of his ear. Her mother snatched her up right quick.  His eardrum broke and he spent the night in the hospital, but he was okay. She had her britches lowered, her backside well-tanned, and went to bed without dinner. It is all quite burned in my memory. :)

Grandma's property had a chicken coop, a winding lane, an ancient orchard on a hillside, huge cedar trees, and other old buildings, including an outhouse. One less-enjoyable summer our other cousins were with us most days. My eldest cousin coerced us into the outhouse one day, and abandoned me there for some time, warning me that Bacchus (the ram who spent his time ramming his head into the wall of the old barn on the other side of a fence, not 8 feet from the outhouse) would get me if I came out before she returned. That was a long day. Everyone laughs at the way I demanded to serve my own applesauce at dinner (and not let that cousin perform the duty), but they don't know the back story. :)

Granny became "Granny Crackers" after sending us home with a box of graham crackers for the trip when Big Sister was just little. She confused the Gram with the graham with the crackers, and that became her name.

It works, because my Grandpa was a popcorn fiend.. I was about 2, and Grandma was babysitting me. She was trying to get me to nap with her on her bed, in the room at the far, far end of the house. Apparently I was just about settled finally, when in the very-distant kitchen my grandpa turned on the hot air popper.. I bounded from the bed and raced down the hall yelling "Papa Corn! Papa Corn!" He was always Papa Corn to us. :) (and yes, I do recall that memory, though not the part about Grandma trying so hard to get me to sleep. I am pretty sure she gave up after that though. :) ) He passed away in the fall of 1998, but now we talk of "Granny Crackers and Papa Corn."

Today I will make a rhubarb upside-down cake, from her recipe, for bible study tonight. And I will try not to cry in it, especially if someone brings ice cream...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Church World

There have been so many jokes running around about the Rapture That Wasn't, and on Sunday at church the pastor (?) had an admonishment: He would NOT mock the return of Christ, even if he did think the whole 'calculated time' thing was ill-advised. He said the atheists and heathen do this, and he hates seeing Christians joining them in it.

I of course waved my arm (we have a fairly informal setting, do you think?) and pointed out that if it wasn't this, it would be something else; that the Church seems to go to a lot of effort (or perhaps the lack of effort produces it) to look and act like the world in a lot of ways. The way we mock the rapture-foretelling, how we dress, how we look, how we talk, what we find entertaining, where we spend our money, etc...

This grieves me. And no, I'm not trying to be on a high-horse, proclaiming "biblical" models for dress (shouldn't we wear camel-hair robes, maybe?), just sad at the heart of things. Where is the difference? WHY should the world want what we have? In the quest to be "culturally relevant," are we blurring the lines which might otherwise distinguish us? Or are we spending our lives splashing in the "freedom of Christ" without thinking of our testimony, or building anything that will last?

Don't get me wrong; I know we have freedom, I know we sin, I know God forgives. But part of that circle is repentance. And if it's there, it's hiding. Shouldn't Jesus be more than a Get-Out-Of-Hell-Free card? Shouldn't there be fruit? Why are Christians drinking to drunkenness, and celebrating it? Why are they wearing *skimpy* costumes to role-playing parties? Why would a single (Christian) woman publicly announce her pregnancy on facebook - to cheers and congratulations? I understand sinning, falling. I understand immaturity that doesn't lend itself to wisdom and discretion for a while. But I don't understand the collective celebratory attitudes. Where is the repentance? Where is the humility? And more, what is the Christian's responsibility in it? Do we have a responsibility? How do you respond to this? Is silence a worthy statement? Instead of congratulations, should we offer condolences? How do we show Christ's righteous love without either condoning or condemning? Is it just "none of our business" and we pretend we don't see?

I think maybe the cut-and-dried answers are few, and the Spirit must lead our response. Perhaps the woman announcing on facebook truly thinks sexual activity outside marriage for Christians isn't a big deal. Perhaps she feels entitled to the same expressed joy as any other expectant mother. But... perhaps her heart condemns her thoroughly. Perhaps she is grasping, begging, for anyone to affirm her, to find some good in her circumstances.  I'd guess most of us are not privy to which of these she thinks or feels. What else is there but to be led by the Spirit? And pray, pray, pray...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Udderly Conflicted

The Pros:

  • Unlimited fresh milk
  • Homemade cheeses of many kinds
  • Homemade yogurt
  • Grass fed, 'organic' butter, full of activator X and more
  • Cream, and it's variations (i.e. "ice")
  • Offspring to raise as beef, or to sell

The Cons:

  • No more overnight trips for at least 9 months
  • No late nights at BBQs, church, holidays
  • Not entirely ready; need to evict relocate chickens, clean out shed, finish fence, etc.
  • I've never delivered livestock, and might not know if help is needed when she calves
  • I'm anything but experienced with milking, and pretty much don't know what I'm doing with any of it
  • There's so much to know about nutritional needs at freshening, during lactation, etc. and I'm not sure I can figure it out
  • I'd like to go grass-only (or nearly so), but there's not a lot of 'how-to' literature about that; providing her with less feed can be problematic for milk production, and her body (bred for high production, her body will 'use up' for milk if the calories [grain] is lacking)
  • I'm kindof in this "on my own." I don't have a 'backup' person or friend (that I know of, anyway) who could take care of things if I were very sick, or had a funeral to go to, etc...
  • To get all 'the pros' I might spend every waking moment in the kitchen, letting the house, garden, and children fall away in the process!

She's for sale. Getting her is possible. Am I ready? Is this the right thing to do? Are we prepared for the work and lifestyle she will require? Are we equipped to take proper care of her?

So many questions, and no certain answers...

**She is jersey, or jersey-crossed-with-something, more likely. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Farmish Update

My goodness, I forget how busy it gets in May.

Hubby has been working late nights - he got home at 11 pm one night!

Sir Loin is doing well. He began to munch grass during his daily exercise (MY daily exercise?) last week, though I didn't let him eat much. I need to refresh my reading on calf bloat and all that... We had a guy from church come help us with a little project... Sir Loin has lost his manhood, earlier than I'd originally planned. We decided it might be best to do that while he was still small enough to manage easily (?), considering we have no idea what we're doing. The procedure went well; it's amazing what you can learn on YouTube.

We've had remarkable success with our broilers this year - up until this weekend. I built a floorless pvc/chicken wire pen for the bigger broilers, and put them in the garden, with new grass each day. Found one dead on Saturday, and two dead this morning. I hate losing big fat (expensive) birds... We had some severe weather hit Saturday evening, and again Sunday afternoon. Perhaps they were smothered in the effort to be sheltered/warm or ??? Still ahead of where we were last year, and I even have enough to sell a few - and a very willing buyer, once I can figure out a proper price!

One hen (a black australorp, I think) is setting on a nest (tucked behind the former kitchen sink, up against the broken greenhouse, naturally). I saw it today when she came out to eat, and from my view it seems they might be mostly smaller eggs. We don't really have any pullets, but someone is laying small eggs.. I'm interested to see what hatches!

I have a lead on a milk cow... (!) My stomach turns a bit in thinking of it. Where would we put it? How would it live? Where would we milk it? HOW would we milk it? We have a few ideas and options, but nothing as straightforward and workable as "a barn." Then I thumb through my 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes Book and get excited again. :)

Hubby's work let us use the backhoe when it was in the neighborhood. We have a hole, and a pole stuck in it! Now to wire in the meter base, get it inspected, get power, power the pump, set up the pipe, attach the sprinklers, and irrigate the pasture! (then what...?!?)

I have done almost *nothing* in the garden, except break the push mower. It's been such a wet, cool spring, and the grass and weeds area already knee-high in there! We do have chives, and some self-sown lettuce, cilantro, and parsley showing up. We prepped the carrot box (raised bed) but haven't planted. Today and tomorrow are cool and windy; maybe we'll get it planted soon.

In addition to the push mower, the rest of the house is also falling apart.

  • The ignitor on the pellet stove is haywire (causing circuit overload if we try to use it). Hubby starts it with a propane torch or something, when we need it (how absurd is it to need a pellet stove in May?!). 
  • The dishwasher broke on Mother's Day, and I've spent a week trying to hunt down parts, hoping we have figured out the problem (ribbons aren't dishwasher safe. Rocks, chicken bones, apricot pits, cherry seeds - those are all fine.). I ordered parts online today; MUCH cheaper than any local option (who also would have had to order them). 
  • My favorite stove burner has been dead about 2 weeks now. Haven't even had time to *figure out* how to pull it apart, let alone fix it. We seem to be using some part of that appliance every time Hubby is present :) 
  • Several plug-ins in the kitchen have stopped working. It's obviously an entire circuit, but the breaker isn't tripped.
  • The faucet at the rear of the house is wonky. If you turn it off too much, it turns back on. Getting it "off" just right is tricky. We have a new faucet, but... haven't installed it yet, of course. :]
  • The hydrant in the backyard isn't working right. Not sure if we have to dig up the whole thing or what, but getting water to the calf and other things is getting complicated back there!
These things aren't broken, really, but they need worked on:
  • Part of the garden fence still needs lined with chicken wire. I was working on this when wind, rain, and hail pelted me until I was wet to my underwear. No fun, but I stayed to keep the chickens from drowning. :P
  • The field fence hasn't been worked on in a couple weeks. Nice for backhoe access, but not very helpful in the long run. We've set the gate and gate support-stuff, but actually that's the only place that you *can't* enter from that side. :) I need to get the fencing pliers and go to work during naptime...
  • I need to build another pvc pen for the next batch of chickens. I'm cannibalizing the greenhouse structure for the pvc, and we bought corner-connector things and glue. This one will be 24" high, so turkeys might live in it eventually (first one is 18" high).
Whew! If I don't post here often, you'll know why! :)

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Learning Curve

Wow, what a week! Sir Loin is... 9 days old? He's had a hard time for a good portion of those.

Somewhere around day 4 I think, he changed. He had a smear of poo on his backside/tail, the barn smelled a little pungent, in a different way, and he stopped wagging his tail when he ate.

Then he refused his dinner, the next day he refused his midday feeding. I read and read and googled and read some more. Did he have scours? Something seemed off, but he wasn't *completely* lethargic. He was still eating at least sometimes, and wasn't "pooping water" as one message board read.

This is where book learnin' just can't hold a candle to experience. I just DIDN'T KNOW what should or shouldn't be for such a critter. He wasn't old enough to be dealing with parasites of any kind, he probably has the cleanest, driest, warmest little barn in the state, was enjoying THREE (smaller) meals each day instead of the standard two, had a heat lamp, etc. etc.

I added an egg to his bottle Thursday night, based on Big Sister's recommendation from a mennonite story book (later she told me that calf died), and after I'd seen a similar practice mentioned online (yes, I have high standards by which I base my decisions. ahem). Friday I had an epiphany: I called my neighbor (which I'd done a time or two, but he's a busy farmer) and asked if I could stop by and look at his calves... and their poop. :)

Yes, another rung on the ladder of success that Gi-Gi can mention in her holiday newsletters. *sigh* Sure, her great-niece is the head pharmacist at a local NICU, but *I* compare bovine manure.

My neighbor said that would be fine, so at the end of some brief errands, we stopped by his place. We went into the calf barn, and he pointed to the first, smallest calf, and told me "that one's sick." I peered into his pen and was surprised to see a rainbow of pretty colors - even MINTY-GREEN poop, which mine did not have (ours was more mustard-yellow, though we witnessed some lighter yellow mixed with much water later that day). Minty-green is only after they've been medicated with something however. The other poop in the sick one's pen was quite familiar. I talked for some time with my neighbor, inspected healthy calf-poop, talked about genetics, and stood surprised at the "embryo flushing" he employed to get 3 or 4 calves from the same cow this year (re-implanted in 'surrogate' cows! All on his little bachelor-run dairy!). He gave me a handful of big white pills, and dug around to unearth a tool for giving such pills (and I do mean dug around. His dairy farm is as cluttered with old farm-stuffs as any old bachelor's might be. :) ).

I returned home and tried to give a bottle of homemade electrolyte solution to the calf, but he wouldn't have it (Neighbor affirmed the idea of giving an egg too, so that was included). We witnessed some live-poo (as opposed to finding it in the straw) that was more watery than I'd thought, so without a better option, gave him one of the pills (sulfa, apparently). He took his bottle of electrolytes at evening.

Saturday morning was an early one for me, having Little Artist's 7th birthday party to prepare for, in addition to the other spring chores. :) I made another electrolyte bottle, dissolving another pill in it, and took it out to Sir Loin. I was surprised at how quickly he got to his feet, and how eager he was to eat again! His tail even wagged a bit, and his bunting (is that what you call it? The violent head-butt into the bottle/udder?) was much more forceful again. What a difference. He sucked down the bottle and commenced nosing under my apron in search of an udder I suppose. No luck. :) Midday he happily took a half-dose of milk replacer, and tonight (saturday night) he took a full bottle (and a pill). He even sucked on the corner of my rain jacket, and tried to escape. He's OBVIOUSLY feeling better, though I don't know if his manure has caught up (earlier I saw stuff that was still too loose. Nothing found this evening). I don't know if I need to give him the last of the pills (I have 3 more) or if he is fully better, or what caused it in the first place. There is definitely a learning curve, and I'm glad I have a 'practice' critter. :)