Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Just Kidding ebook available

For those of you who like reading the goat birthing stories on here, I've created a collection of 17 kidding stories. In addition to the original birth stories, I also added commentary to each one. What went well? What would I have done differently? What would not have made a difference?

And if you ever wondered what happened when Coco gave birth two years ago, I finally tell the story in the book. If you've been reading my blog for that long, you might recall that she died of a ruptured uterus after giving birth to five kids. Actually we had to take her to the University vet hospital, and they pulled the last four kids there because they were quite tangled up. Although all five kids survived, Coco did not, and I was so upset, I was unable to write her birth story at the time. The book also includes the complete story of another goat that had birthing difficulties a few years ago.

I wrote the ebook because there are so many questions from new goat owners about what to expect when their goats give birth. The book includes several normal births, including those that are not textbook perfect but still not problematic. Those are the births that seem to confuse new people the most. And because everyone worries about the possibility of a caesarean section, I included stories of our two experiences.

The ebook is available in all formats, from a simple PDF to those that will work with a variety of ereaders from Kindle to Kobo. If you don't have an ereader, you can download a PDF or get the free Kindle reading app for your computer or iPad. The ebook is only $4.99 and is about 40 pages long. Click here to learn more and to order your copy.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Catching up ...

Since my last kidding post, six more goats gave birth and I hurt my back twice. I can't possibly provide all of the details on everything, so here is a short summary ...

 Emily's doe 
This year's goat births have been going extremely well! Of the ten goats that have given birth, no one has had any problems that required assistance, even though they had some challenging presentations, such as an ear first, a posterior, and a couple of breech kids. We had two sets of quintuplets, three sets of quads, three sets of triplets, and two sets of twins. That's an average of 3.5 kids per doe, which is unbelievably excellent! Even better, we've had 22 does and 13 bucks. Since these are dairy goats, the does are the most coveted because obviously boys don't produce milk. Of course, I should not get too excited because we still have eight does left to kid, and they could have lots of bucks and flip that ratio on its head.

 Scandal's doe 
Two weeks ago I stepped in a hole, which threw my back out, and I spent two days in the recliner on the first floor of our house because I couldn't walk upstairs. After a week I was doing pretty well, other than feeling like someone was following me around and randomly stabbing me in my lower back. Then on Tuesday I was doing chores, and the mud was just too much for my back. I was able to make it back to the house under my own steam, but then I spent the next 48 hours incapacitated, either in the recliner or in the guest bed on the first floor. Who knew that walking in mud could throw your back out? The chiropractor said I have a bulging disc, so tying my shoes could throw my back out. I am really hoping it won't get that bad.

In the meantime, Mike and I are talking about adding a first floor master bedroom because between my knees and my back, going upstairs is getting harder and harder. After 10 years, the house is still not entirely finished, so adding on sounds a little funny, but I need a first floor bedroom more than trim on the windows, so an addition sounds pretty important right now.

If you missed Friday's post about our upcoming farm dinner, click here for more details and to make reservations.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tickets available for June 14 on-farm dinner!

 Chef Monika's créme brûlée 
I've been wanting to have on-farm dinners for awhile, and we are finally doing it. They are scheduled for Sundays, June 14 and August 30, starting at 4:00 with hors d'oeuvres and a farm tour. Dinner will begin at 5:00.

Monika Sudakov of the Chestnut Street Inn will be our chef for both events. We are still debating the main course for the August dinner, but the June dinner will feature heritage Plymouth Rock chicken for the main course and créme brulee for dessert, made with our fresh eggs. The Plymouth Rock chicken is on the Slow Food Ark of Taste. Although it was quite popular a century ago, you can't buy it today in supermarkets, and in blind taste tests, most people agree that the flavor is superior to modern hybrid chickens.

In addition to dinner, guests will get a tour of the farm so they can see the garden where their dinner salad and vegetables were grown, and they'll get to see the new baby goats that are due to be born in late May.

Dress is casual, as we will be dining outside. Because GPS has trouble finding us, don't hesitate to contact us for directions, if this will be your first visit to the farm.

Click here or page down for tickets to the June 14 dinner. There are only 36 seats available, and rumor has it that farm dinners sell out rather quickly, so it's a good idea to buy your tickets soon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Victoria's twins

 February 9, 2015 
The day before Victoria kidded, I realized that I had not appreciated my senior does enough. You see, when a goat has given birth before, they are usually very stoic until the last minute or two before the kid is actually born. Victoria was a first freshener and completely freaked out by every little contraction. Sunday night after Cicada gave birth, Victoria was screaming her head off, sounding quite unhappy. I went running out to the barn a few times only to find her standing there screaming as if to simply express her displeasure. She was standing like a normal goat and just screaming. She wasn't pushing or laying down or pawing the ground or anything that a goat normally does when in labor. Even though she is not a friendly goat, she was very unhappy and would scream more whenever I left her. So I wound up staying with her for three hours! And then she was quiet. I came inside, and we went to bed and went to sleep.

Monday morning shortly after Mike left for work, she started screaming again. I decided to take a book out to the barn office and read because it was obvious that she was not going to stop screaming anytime soon. Even though it was a really dreadful scream, her body language just looked like she was mad about something, so I wasn't taking it very seriously.

An hour and a half after I went out there, she finally got serious, and it was obvious she was actually pushing. She's lay down, throw her head back, curl her tail over her back, and stretch her legs out in front of her as she screamed. She also quit eating. And then things got interesting.

A hoof was sticking out, but it was upside down. That meant that the kid was either posterior or breech. Breech would not have been such a bad thing, especially if it was feet first. It would actually be pretty easy for Victoria. However, after ten minutes of pushing the foot was sticking out about three inches, and there was no sign of progress. I ran my finger along the leg and bumped into a nose and mouth. That meant it was a posterior kid. The books tell you that in those situations, you should reach in and flip the kid over. Since I was home alone, the odds of Victoria standing there while I did that were somewhere between zero and never. The idea of doing that also worried me because of the risk of tearing the uterus. I went looking for some disposable gloves and some iodine, but I wasn't entirely sure what I'd do when I actually had them. In the meantime, Victoria kept pushing. About fifteen minutes later, the kid was born. The head actually came out sideways, which I don't recall ever seeing before, and the body came out with the kid's belly facing Victoria's tail, which is basically upside-down. The little doeling was in great shape, and as Victoria and I started to clean her up, I noticed another upside down hoof sticking out of Victoria's back end.

"Seriously?" I asked Victoria. "Another one?" I ran my finger along the leg, and when I came to a joint, I bent it. Since it bent in the direction of the top of hoof, that meant it was a hind leg, and I knew the kid was breech, which should be much easier than the posterior kid that she just delivered. And a couple minutes later, the breech doeling was born.

Victoria has been an excellent mom from the very beginning. I think she heard that I'm planning to seriously reduce our goat herd this year, and she wants to be sure that she makes the cut and gets to stay here. After all it was pretty impressive for her to give birth to doelings that weighed 3 pounds, 4 ounces and 3 pounds, 9 ounces, especially since one of them was posterior, which is never easy, even with smaller kids.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cicada's quads

Six days after Vera kidded, it was Cicada's turn. Unfortunately, she was not as thoughtful as Vera, who gave birth in the late afternoon. Around 4 a.m. February 8, I woke up to see Mike getting dressed. I wondered if it was morning already and asked why he was up. He said, "Listen." The video monitor was on because we thought Cicada might give birth during the night, but I had not heard any screams. I listened carefully and heard a faint moan coming from the television. Mike headed outside while I got dressed. I took my time because it didn't seem like Cicada was in the middle of actually pushing out a kid. 

I arrived in the barn a few minutes before she gave birth to the first kid -- a buckling that weighed 4 pounds, 10 ounces! Yeah, that's big for a Nigerian! She took about a fifteen minute break and helped us clean off the kid. Then she plopped down and three kids -- all doelings -- shot out only about a minute apart. Two of them weighed 3 pounds 12 ounces, and one weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces, which are all excellent sized kids -- and pretty unbelievable sizes for quads! Cicada had been as big as Vera and Agnes, which both had quintuplets, but their kids didn't weigh as much as Cicada's. When you add up the weights, they were all actually carrying about the same number of pounds of kids.

Cicada is one of our top milkers and has successfully raised quads in the past, so we were not worried about leaving all four of the kids with her. Since they were all big and healthy, I wasn't worried about everyone getting their fair share, and they are all doing really well.

We will be keeping one of the doelings because Cicada is 8 years old, and I've never kept a doeling from her, which has been a terrible oversight, especially considering what an excellent milker she is. Time flies! It's hard to believe that she is already 8, and she is a third-generation Antiquity Oaks goat. 

Unfortunately I don't have any other photos for you because I upgraded my computer with the newest operating system and now Photoshop doesn't work. Hopefully I can get that fixed before more kids are born. I'll be telling you about Victoria's kids within the next couple of days -- they were born the day after Cicada's. 

Now we are waiting for four more does to kid -- yep, right now. I don't think anyone will kid within the next few hours, but they are due now, so we'll have more kids within the next few days. From the looks of it, there will be some more multiples. We're hoping that four is the most anyone has, and I'd be happy with triplets, but I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A second set of quintuplets!

I'd been thinking that Vera was carrying quintuplets for the past three months. I can now still say with total accuracy that whenever a goat looks pregnant at two months, she is carrying five kids because it's happened five times now. And when I say that a goat looks pregnant at two months, I'm not saying that you look at her and think that maybe she is pregnant. Nope, I mean that they look like they could actually give birth tomorrow! The picture on the right was taken on November 10. I have goats that are due in two weeks that look like that.

Agnes looked just as big as Vera at two months, but I was dismissing the possibility of her carrying quints because no one else in her line has done that. However, I had not looked far enough back in her pedigree. Her great-great grandmother is Vera's great grandmother -- a goat that had quads several times and then had six once!

On February 2, Vera gave birth about 38 hours after Agnes, and she also had quints. I am really enjoying our video monitor because I got to the barn about ten minutes before Vera actually gave birth, which was especially nice since it was 14 degrees out! I am grateful for every minute that I do not have to spend out there. I'm also grateful that my camera recorded the times the photos were taken because it verifies the fact that Vera torpedoed those kids into the world at light speed ...

At 5:03 p.m. she was pushing ...

By 5:14, two had already been born ...

I had no time to take pictures of the third and fourth ones as they were born because by 5:18, five had been born ...

And then she scared the daylights of me because she gave another big push only a minute after the fifth one was born. I screamed, "Oh, no!" as a big bubble emerged. "You are NOT having six!" Nope, she wasn't. It was just a big bubble of water, and I was so relieved when I discovered that there was nothing in that bag other than water.

Final tally was three bucks and two does.

We brought two inside to bottle-feed -- the little doe that weighed only 1 pound, 12.4 ounces and the buckling that was 2 pounds, 1.2 ounces. The three that we left with mom weighed 3 pounds, 5.2 ounces; 2 pounds, 15.1 ounce; and 2 pounds, 8.2 ounces. That was a lot of babies for Vera to be carrying around!

Here is a picture of the four bottle babies today. The two on the left are Agnes's, and the two on the right are Vera's ...

And now we're waiting for Cicada to give birth. She is as big as Vera and Agnes were, but I don't recall thinking that she looked pregnant at two months, so I'm hoping she only has four in there.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Agnes had FIVE!

Yesterday I had a speaking engagement about an hour from home, and there was a snow storm in the forecast. It started raining as I was heading home at 3:30, and I watched nervously as the thermometer on my car went from 37 to 34 degrees. I was very happy to pull into the driveway before the roads started to freeze. Mike told me that Agnes had been in early labor for a good chunk of the day, so I came into the house and changed into my farm clothes and went out and checked on her. Yep, early labor. 

Agnes is a Sherri granddaughter, and all of the Sherri does are very stoic until the first kid is actually being born, so there have been many mad dashes to the barn in the middle of the night when we heard a scream over the monitor. We've had a video monitor for the past couple of years, but that doesn't help you when your eyes are closed. I decided to go to bed last night at 9:30, assuming I'd be awaked at midnight or so. When I woke up at 2 a.m. from a hot flash, I started to worry that Agnes had not kidded yet.

I sat on the bed and watched her on the monitor. I could see her stretching her legs out in front of her body as she was silently pushing. Then she'd stand, turn around, lay down, and push her legs out in front of herself again. Yep, she's pushing. But after 30 minutes, I started to wonder if maybe she was just uncomfortable. It really didn't seem that she'd be silently pushing for that long simply because the Sherri does usually have pretty short labors. So, then my brain switched back to worry mode. But then I reminded myself of my mantra -- if the doe's happy, I'm happy. And Agnes was clearly not unhappy. If I had just walked in on the situation, I wouldn't be worried in the least. Then she stood up, turned around, and stuck her nose into the straw. Ah, ha! She's licking up fluid! Her water broke! About that time, Mike woke up, and I told him I was headed out to the barn.

As soon as I walked into the kidding pen, I could see a bubble sticking out from under Agnes's tail. Agnes bleated when she saw me. A minute later, I could see a black nose in that bubble! I grabbed the towels, and within five minutes of arriving in the barn, I was drying off the first kid! I placed it on a towel in front of Agnes, and she started licking it while softly bleating.

Just as I snapped this picture, she gave a little push, and I saw another bubble sticking out from under her tail. Less than one minute after the first kid was born, kid number two made its entrance into the world! The shiny black blob that Agnes is licking in the picture below is the second kid. Sorry the picture quality is so terrible, but I only managed to snap two pictures before I realized that kid number three was about to make her appearance!

I covered the three kids because it was happening so fast that I couldn't adequately dry each one before the next one was presenting. I didn't know it at the time, but after downloading my pictures on my computer I could see that the first picture was taken at 3:01, and the one with three kids (below) was taken at 3:04!

And then a fourth kid.

And then a fifth kid! As soon as the fifth kid was born, Agnes stood up to continue licking the kids. 

That was when I realized I was going to need some help. There was no way I could get five kids nursing on my own. I had been having enough trouble simply getting the kids dried off. In past years, I was out there crawling around on my hands and knees drying off kids as they were born, but my right knee, which was injured last March and has grade four arthritis, was not willing to let me do that. It doesn't bend completely any longer, and simply trying to make it bend that far is quite painful. I quickly realized I was limited to either sitting in the straw or laying on my stomach. So, I called over the monitor to Mike, asking him to come help.

We eventually ended up milking Agnes and giving each kid 3 ccs of colostrum in a syringe to try and get them interested in nursing. The two smallest ones -- a buck at 1 pound, 15.6 ounces and a doe at 1 pound, 15.1 ounces -- just wanted to go to sleep. The three larger does, between 2 pounds, 9 ounces and 2 pounds, 13 ounces, were alert but not showing any interest in nursing, so I told Mike that I was going to take the two smaller ones into the house and bottle-feed them. I don't usually make the decision that quickly, but the two smaller ones were clearly having more trouble than the larger ones, probably because their smaller body mass made them more susceptible to hypothermia. So, I took the two little ones in the house with some colostrum from Agnes. Mike stayed in the barn trying to get the other three to nurse.

Once the kids got warmed up in the house, they took to the bottle like ducks to water. I put the nipple in the little buck's mouth, and he immediately started to suck. When he finally let go of the nipple, I looked at the markings on the side of the bottle to see that he had consumed 2 ounces. Then the little doeling did the same thing, only faster!

I still had two ounces of colostrum left, so I went back to the barn. One of the doelings still had not nursed, so I gave her the last two ounces, so that Mike and I could come back into the house and go to bed. By then it was almost 6 a.m.

Here are a couple of pictures of the two kids taking their bottles this morning ...

Did I mention that the snow storm did hit. And now it has turned into a real blizzard. And Vera is at day 148. Mike went out to the barn an hour ago and said that he couldn't find Vera's ligaments. I really hope that's because of his inexperience. The temperature is falling into the single digits tonight, so I'd really prefer to stay in my bed all night! 

And Vera looks like she has four or five kids in there again this year, so it's going to be a production when she does kid.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Making decisions and waiting for goats to kid

Here I am on January 13, and I've already messed up on my resolution to blog on here twice a week! I was hardly home last week, but that doesn't mean I could not have posted on here. I was at the Illinois Specialty Grower's Conference, and I had a great time meeting like-minded people who like to grow food. I am also in the midst of a big life-changing decision, and being there helped me to clarify a few things. I was attending a session on growing tomatoes hydroponically, and once the speaker got into all sorts of technical stuff, I had a huge urge to leave and head to another session. I wound up listening to someone talk about marketing your crops, and my brain said that I should let someone else grow the tomatoes. Considering my physical challenges, that's probably a good idea. Give me a phone and a computer, and I can market.

What's the big life-changing decision? I'm at a crossroads with the farm. I have to either cut back to almost nothing, or I have to ramp it up to the point that we can hire someone. Mike is frequently late to work, which is not acceptable because we need his salary to live. And I know I'm just one fall away from being incapacitated again. I suppose that might be true of everyone, but I know how true it is because after falling in March and June, I was unable to do anything on the farm for many months. And I used to fall a lot! I had no idea that my knees were so fragile, and now there's the sciatica. When you can't bend over and you can't squat, how can you garden?

As I'm writing this, I'm thinking that maybe this is why I don't blog that much any more. I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, but this is the type of stuff that goes through my head every day.

So, what's up with the picture? 

The black and white goat in the middle is Agnes. She is due to kid in two weeks. I'm betting there are four kids in there, and I wouldn't bet against someone that said there were more than that. The poor girl is huge. She had four a couple of years ago, so it's not crazy to think that there could be four in there again. Vera and Cicada are also due at the end of the month, and they are equally huge, so we could go from zero to a dozen kids here really fast. Vera had quints last year, and Cicada usually has triplets or quads. So, hopefully I'll have some happy, healthy kid pics near the end of the month!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Hello, 2015! Best year ever!

When I wrote my new year post a year ago, I thought that 2013 had been the worst year ever because both of my in-laws died, as well as several animals that were very special to me. Little did I know that I had one heck of a roller coaster ride ahead of me in 2014!

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease in January, but the good news was, I didn't have thyroid cancer. In February, I was diagnosed with reflux, and in March, asthma. I had my first cold in five years and my first flu in about ten. Towards the end of March I also hurt my knee and learned that I already had grade four arthritis. The good news was that I didn't have bone cancer, which they thought they saw when they did the original x-ray. I spent April on crutches and in a wheelchair, and then I fell again in June. Ultimately my knee was swollen for about six months. But I'm getting ahead of things chronologically as I wound up being diagnosed with celiac in April and having my gall bladder removed in May. The good news was that I didn't have reflux! All of those digestive issues had just been caused by my misbehaving gall bladder. More good news was that after six weeks of thinking I had celiac, I learned that I didn't. However, I am gluten intolerant. Heading into fall, I started having problems with sciatica, which means there are some days when I can hardly walk because of nerve pain in my lower back that makes it impossible for me to put weight on my right leg without excruciating pain.

I spent a lot of time laying around feeling sorry for myself and feeling worthless. When my knee was so swollen that I couldn't bend it, I couldn't even work at my desk. Plus it was a major production to get myself down the stairs in the morning and up the stairs in the evening. I've had knee problems my whole life, so I knew my knees wouldn't last forever, but I was hoping they'd last longer than this. And the thyroid stuff hit me out of left field.

After I got through my little pity party, however, I did a bunch of reading on my various problems challenges, and I am working really hard to overcome them. I eliminated wheat, potatoes, and soy from my diet, and I'll be starting an elimination diet once all of my holiday house guests leave so that I can figure out what else is bothering me because my digestive system is still not firing on all cylinders. I've also started taking a rather long list of supplements ... glucosamine and chondroitin for my arthritis; fish oil and systemic enzymes for my sciatica; and selenium, plus vitamin E, D, B12, and zinc for the thyroid. And just for good measure, I've even thrown in a multi-vitamin and a calcium-magnesium supplement.

The really great news is that I've cut my TPO antibodies in half! (Those are the antibodies that my body is producing to attack my thyroid.) My TPO antibody level is now down to 75, which is still high but amazing because I actually have not met anyone with Hashimoto's who has a level that low. Research shows that when your level is below 100, your thyroid will probably continue to work for another ten years, so that is very, very good news. The goal is to get the antibodies down to less than 30, although closer to zero would be even better, so I still have more work to be done, but things are definitely looking up!

On another positive note, I've more than doubled my vitamin D level and by doing regular blood work and playing around with supplement dosages, I'm learning exactly how much I need to take to keep the level steady and to increase it even more, which is actually what I need to do.

In family news, the nest is now officially empty. Our son went away to college to finish his theater degree, and our youngest daughter graduated from the University of Illinois with honors and is now at Colorado State University working on her Ph.D. in chemical biology. Even though she lived in Urbana while attending U of I, we knew we could call her when we needed her to come home and help with something on the weekend. My oldest is loving her electrical engineering job in Ft. Worth, TX, but we have been able to see her several times this year, so I can't complain too much.

As for the farm, we are downsizing with some of the animals. I sold seven milk goats, bringing the number of milkers down from 21 to only 14. But then when I made up my breeding list this fall, I realized I was going to have five first fresheners, so that's going to bring us back to 19 milkers! Argh! I have decided to limit the number of milkers to 12, so that means more hard choices after goats freshen in the spring. I just couldn't bring myself to sell any more this past fall.

I will also be selling the Shetland sheep except maybe Winnie and Kewanee, a set of two-year-old twins that were bottlefed. I know I've said this before, but we really will do it this time. For the first time in my life, I'm actually thinking about taking animals to an auction. I haven't kept up with registrations on them since my daughters left home, so most of them are not registered, which might be making them harder to sell. I've posted a few ads on Facebook, but so far, no takers.

I am most excited about our plans to start incubator farms and form partnerships in 2015. I've come to realize that I can't count on my body to always be capable of doing farm chores, so in order to keep Antiquity Oaks running as a farm, we need to start reaching out to others. Regardless of how bad my knees or back get, I will still be able to help with the mental tasks involved in running a farm. And as I said to a friend recently, it just seems selfish to turn this 32 acres into our own little private park when it could be put to good use growing organic food for people.

Even though I felt like I was being punched it the gut over and over again in 2014, I think that most of it is turning out okay. On the bright side, I've gained a lot of empathy for people who need to change their diet, as I am now one of them. Although it has been hard at times, I've also discovered some amazing foods! Brownies made with flour are not even close to being the best brownies out there. When they are made with almond butter or black beans as the main ingredient, they are totally amazing! And I don't know if I ever would have tried them if I could still eat wheat.

So, I am really looking forward to 2015 and honestly think it will be the best year ever. But this blog post is already long enough, so I won't bore you with all of the things on my to-do list for the next 12 months. I will, however, make this resolution -- to blog at least twice every week this year, so you'll get to hear about all of those thing as they happen (or don't happen).

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A couple of farmers went to a party ...

Beauty and Beau (one month old) on November 5

Why has it taken me so long to tell you about our new milk cow Beauty and her calf Beau? Maybe because I still have a hard time believing that the first Saturday in October we went to a party at another farm, and before the night was over, I had my heart set on this beautiful Jersey cow and her one-week-old bull calf. I've spent a lot of time thinking, I can't believe I bought a cow on impulse! and wondering if I'd made a huge mistake. So, here is the story ...

PrairiErth Farm in Atlanta, IL, was having a harvest festival on October 4, and Mike and I decided to go. We had to do chores before heading up there, so we arrived when the party was already in full swing. We parked our car and were walking past the barn on our way to the hoop house where all the food was set out on tables, and I heard a voice yell, "They're going to milk the cow. If anybody wants to see them milk the cow, come on over to the barn!"

I knew Dave the farmer had a couple of Jerseys, but you would have thought that I had never seen a cow in my life. I got so excited and told Mike that we had to go see the cow! We walked into the barn, and a few minutes later, Dave came into the barn with a bucket, and his 12-year-old son started to milk Beauty the Jersey while her sweet little calf walked around visiting with everyone. Then Dave asked if any of the children wanted to milk the cow, and I stood there watching in amazement as children walked up to the cow and were yanking on her teats while she just stood there quietly chewing her cud. I looked at Mike and squealed like a 5-year-old, "I want that cow!" Mike just smiled at me. "Really!" I said, "I want that cow! Can you believe that? She's letting those children try to milk her!" I went on and on as Mike simply smiled. Then I said, "Honey, you have to milk her!" And he just kept smiling, but he did eventually walk over there and squeeze her teats a few times while I said, "Isn't she easy to milk?" Mike just kept smiling and said, "Yes, she is."

Dave said that Beauty had been sold, but she calved about three weeks early, and the buyer backed out of the deal. The calf was perfectly healthy, but it was a bull calf, and Dave figures that the buyer had been hoping for a heifer calf. Anyway, Beauty and the calf were for sale. I was thrilled that the calf was a bull because we sold our cattle more than a year ago, and there is very little beef left in our freezer, and I've been wondering what I'd do when we ran out completely. I haven't purchased or eaten commercial beef since 1989, and I'm not going to start now.

October 11, the day after we brought them home
I talked to Dave about buying the cow and her calf, but I don't think he completely believed I was interested. But, seriously, how many people come to a party and decide to buy a cow? Mike was probably hoping I was just joking. But I had a terrible time falling asleep that night because I kept thinking about Beauty. I woke up early and went downstairs and made a list of pros and cons for buying Beauty. The "pro" list outnumbered the "con" list by a lot. One of the advantages of buying her would be that she would obviously be great for teaching people to milk. Another thing is that we could make cheese with cow milk. If she produced more milk than we needed, we could get a calf from a dairy and raise it for beef. We could also feed extra milk to the pigs. The only down side is that we'd have to milk her, but on the pro side, it would take less time to milk one cow than several goats. Of course, the goats are going nowhere because I do still love my goat cheese, but I have always loved Jersey cream and butter. I love goat milk, but it doesn't have that "buttery" flavor that Jersey milk does.

So, after a couple of days of deliberation and discussions with Mike, I called Dave and told him that we wanted to buy Beauty. He sounded surprised and happy. He said he had hoped she would become a family milk cow rather than going to a dairy.

It's been two and a half months now, and we are enjoying her and her calf. She has learned to go into the barn every night. In fact, she gets downright loud when the sun is going down and we are not there to let her in. She heads straight to her stall, as soon as we open the door for her. And then I give her a hug every night as she starts to munch on her hay. We are enjoying her milk, which are using for yogurt and cheddar.

Beau is growing up so fast, and he is starting to get darker like his mama. Here's a picture of him on Dec. 10. We separate him from Beauty every night and milk her in the morning. The two of them are together in the pasture during the day, so he can nurse as much as he wants during that time. He will probably become beef in late summer as the grass starts to slow down. And at some point, we'll have Beauty artificially inseminated so she'll have another calf.
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