Farm in the Fall


I went to Jackson’s Mill this week to speak to the “Purposeful Reading” group at a WVU Extension Service conference. They were a great group, very curious, and bought nearly every book I brought with me. If you’ve never been to Jackson’s Mill, it’s a neat place. It’s an historic 4-H camp, once the homestead of Stonewall Jackson, and now the home of the state 4-H camp every year. It’s near Weston, West Virginia. They have a farm there, hold weddings, and all sorts of things. I’d never been there before, and didn’t get to stay long this time, but it was an interesting trip. There were two young cows in the interstate on the way home and I’m still wondering about them. Traffic was swerving around them, dangerously. Where did they come from? Did their owner ever come get them? And how do you retrieve cows from the interstate? Did they survive? (Did all the drivers survive that had to maneuver past them?) I would be freaking out if my cows were on the interstate.

Back here on the farm, I’ve been busy working with new mama Blossom in the milking parlor. She’s still figuring out how to promptly (and without side trips) enter the alleyway and go into her milk stand, and still fussing over where’s baby while she’s doing her new job. Like any new mom, she never has her mind far off baby.
The flies are so bad right now. I spray Blossom and the baby every day, but they come right back.

The rest of the cows are lounging in the pastures. Moon Pie and Glory Bee are enjoying some time off.
The calves are growing and the cows are all bred–except Blossom, so she will be enjoying some time with Beau the bull soon.
She had her mouth full there, heh.

With baby near her water tub.
My days feel as if they’re revolving around running water for the cows. They invited me to have dinner with the group at Jackson’s Mill and I told them, “I have to go home and run water.” It does not feel like fall around here with the continuing heat and dry weather.
It’s dry, dry, dry here. For those of you remembering the flood four months ago, the area is slowly recovering, but far from recovered. Some businesses in Elkview and Clendenin have re-opened, but many are still closed, and some may be closed forever. There’s a “new normal” around here, and only time will tell if things will ever be–if not the same–at least close to what used to be called normal.

Meanwhile, back in the studio, I’m getting ready for a Taste of Sassafras Farm this weekend, a hard cheese workshop next weekend, and more goats and cows and soap workshops coming up all the way to early December when this year’s workshop season ends. (See Retreat & Workshops — there’s still time to sign up for one of this fall’s workshops!) This winter, I’m planning to focus on more writing and ramping up my little side businesses selling goat’s milk soaps and goat’s milk fudge and other things.

Lemongrass & Honey Goat’s Milk Soap.
See more in the Soap Store.

Vanilla Toffee Goat’s Milk Fudge.
See more fudge available in the Fudge Shop.

The latest batch of laying hens is feathered out and mostly hiding in a corner of the chicken house.
They’re scared of the big hens!

And I’m getting ready for the last batch of baby hens for the year. Until last year, I hadn’t gotten any new laying hens for a number of years. Most of my hens were six to eight years old. I had these chickens at Stringtown Rising, that’s how old they were! They’ve been dropping from old age this year. Recently I found one dead in a nesting box. She died where she was happiest–where she did her work! I got a batch of Golden Laced Wyandottes last year, who are laying now, and this batch (pictured) is Buff Orpingtons and Araucanas. (There were more Buffs, but the pigs had a taste for Buffs….) The new batch of chicks coming in is a mix of Silver Spangled Hamburgs, Speckled Sussex, Brown Leghorns, White Rocks, and New Hampshire Reds. It’s an interesting mix of breeds I’ve never had before. I’m also getting a new batch of ducklings–Blue Swedish, Black Swedish, and Cayuga.

It’s the late in the year to get chicks, which makes it slightly crazy. I’ll have to house-raise them until they’re big enough and feathered enough to go to the barn for further growing before being introduced to the scary big chickens in the chicken house.

Of course, if the weather keeps up, I could put them in the barn when they arrive. But don’t you know that once I have new chicks, that’s exactly when the weather will finally change?!

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The Poster Child


It was interesting timing that I caught this incident (which surprised me) on camera several days ago:
I haven’t seen Moon Pie get under Glory Bee in a very long time. Generally, these days, how I wean is that I don’t wean. Once mama gets pregnant again, the older baby will give up to the younger one. For example, when Moon Pie was born and Dumplin had to step aside.

Note Dumplin’s distress here as she realizes a new baby is in town and she’s been edged out:
However, in Moon Pie’s case, there was a year when I missed out on a bull. Glory Bee didn’t get bred again until the following year, so Moon Pie never had a new baby come in to take over at a time when she would have gotten herself out of the nursing habit. Apparently! Because apparently she is still taking nips at mommy’s milk wagon. She probably isn’t doing it very much, since this was the first time I caught her, but she’s doing it.

There are all sorts of reasons for weaning more actively than I do. For one thing, it’s just hard on the cow to never get a break, their drying off time before their next calf. And of course, an older calf doesn’t even need the milk from mommy. And when there’s a new baby, it’s the new baby who needs it, not an older baby who is old enough to have babies herself.

Unless you completely, and longterm, separate a mommy and older baby who isn’t wanting to wean, they might never stop. (Evidence: Moon Pie.) Many people are much more active about weaning than I am these days, but I did attempt to be more active toward it when I first had cows and I used a calf weaner. Also coincidentally, when I posted the photo of Moon Pie sipping on Glory Bee’s udder, someone mentioned calf weaners in the comments. And also also coincidentally, I’d recently had brought to my attention that Glory Bee is (also apparently!) the poster child for animal rights activists opposing calf weaners.

See this post here for my attempt at using a calf weaner in Glory Bee’s young heifer days: Silence of the Calves.

If you’ll note the date at the very bottom of that post, it’s October 2011. (Glory Bee was born in September 2010.) And also note how big Glory Bee is. She’s almost as tall as her mama, BP, and still attempting to nurse. Glory Bee was over a year old at that point. At the time, we were trying a calf weaner on her. Here is the original photo:
Here is the same photo, stolen and used by activists opposed to calf weaners.
Really?! Seriously?!

You can find the post with Glory Bee’s photo used to oppose calf weaners at a website called Vegan Street here.

Did they actually look through the entire post from which they took the photo? Again, my original post is here: Silence of the Calves.

Glory Bee is quite obviously an OLDER CALF, in fact a plump ripe young heifer ready to be bred with a baby of her own. And in case anyone wonders, that weaner is not drilled into their nose or anything. No piercing. It’s got little plastic balls on the ends of this thing you hang from their nostrils. It’s annoying to the animal, I’m sure, but it doesn’t hurt them. And honestly, Glory Bee flung that thing off her nose and into the woods within a few days. I eventually found it and I keep it in the milking parlor along with some other things that I show workshop attendees as curiosities. As I stated above, I now use the new calf route for weaning older calves. Which apparently doesn’t work all that well either! I’m not real intense over weaning anymore.

But, for Glory Bee of all cows–the most spoiled brat cow on the planet–to be used as an activist poster child against weaners?

I don’t know whether to laugh or just roll my eyes.

What do you think about calf weaning tools like this one? Mean, useful, whatever, hit me with it. I’ve got the poster child cow, that must make me the hotline….or complaint desk….or something!

By the way, when I posted about this on my personal Facebook page after I was made aware of it, Morgan just went off, dying of laughter over someone using spoiled brat Glory Bee as a poster child, and began a long round in the comments of puns, mostly by her and my friend Sarah (who also has milk cows). Here are a few of the best ones:

Morgan McMinn: This is funnier than the people coming to the farm complaining that the barn is dirty.

Morgan McMinn: And even funnier than the lady who thought we were starving our very fat horses.

Suzanne McMinn: I’m not sure what to do right now. My cow is so offended.

Morgan McMinn: You need a cow lawyer.

Morgan McMinn: Some one with real mootivation for for this case.

Suzanne McMinn: Someone who would really milk it for all it’s worth!!

Sarah Farris Manry: Someone who won’t let udders get away with this infringement!

Morgan McMinn: Gotta be some one who isn’t afraid to hoof it through the work!

Sarah Farris Manry: Someone who’s ready to horn their way through the mess!

Suzanne McMinn: Glory Bee is so upset, she might never be the same. The bull might have a suit for loss of consortium!

Morgan McMinn: Someone who has a real beef with it!

Sarah Farris Manry: If something isn’t done there’s going to be a lot of crying over spilled milk!

Sarah Farris Manry: I bet Glory Bee is so mad she’s seeing red! Or maybe she’s so mad she’s seeing spots and the bull is seeing red!

Morgan McMinn: Our dairy beloved cows are being disgraced by this propaganda!

Sarah Farris Manry: No worries! With the right lawyer, Glory Bee’s side of the story will be herd!

Sarah Farris Manry: Plus, I’m sure that Glory Bee will post pictures to assure the public that she is treated bovinely.

Morgan McMinn: We need to ring the cattle bell to raise awareness of the offense!

Sarah Farris Manry: More Cow Bell! More Cow Bell! More Cow Bell!

Betsy Ross Pensiero: Well, this is sure a great cowllection of advice.

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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