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December 26, 2009

A project for next year

After watching the movie Julie and Julia (twice) and being inspired to learn some new techniques, we have ordered the book (Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking).
A few friends have agreed to cook and learn with me next year! I am excited about the challenge. We are going to do a couple of recipes a week, and work our way through the book. I don't expect we will do all the recipes or several recipes a day like Julie did, but it should be great fun!
The Julie and Julia Project that Julie Powell did was 500+ recipes in a year. Her original blog of the project is still online (big surprise!). The top post, which is her last post is is quite poignant:
There have been blogs about the blog, some even arguing that Julia Child did not like or agree with Julie Powell's project. Whether she did nor not, I am of the mind that both of them, Julie Powell and Julia Child are inspiring through their humor, teachable moments and life lessons. Besides, if we don't keep learning and growing where does that leave us?
(Bored and boring).
Anyone wanting to join in is welcome, this is a very relaxed type of challenge: cook two recipes from the Julia's cookbook each week, and share comments/tips with the rest of us. The first few weeks will be soups. While watching/owning the movie is not mandatory (though it is a good chick flick), owning the cookbook, or having regular access to it is.
Bon Appetit!

December 24, 2009

Week of 12/20/09

Julius wanders in to help Dave milk...

Super beefmaster steak with chipolte butter!

New farm tool!

The last week has seen me getting much stronger and more independent each day. Dave has been a great nurse, and I am so thankful he has been off for a week.
We traded the old suv in for a new/used truck. I am glad we dont have to worry anymore about having a vehicle with 180K miles on it. This year is also the last to get a tax credit according to the dealership. Every little bit helps!
We ordered a new couch for the living room, the family Christmas gift that will keep on giving. It should be here in a week or so, yippee skipppy!

Dave thawed and grilled ribeye steaks last night, these were from the beefmaster we butchered. The steaks were enormous! Delicious too with a little pat of melted chipolte butter on top.

We welcomed the winter solstice with a nod and the knowledge that the days will start getting longer now. We have not had too much of a winter yet; rather than a change in temperature we really look forward to more sunlight hours.

We wish you all a very peaceful and joyful holiday season!

December 20, 2009

Travel to a foreign land, and halfway back

The last week has been like travel to another land, or planet. I have been completely out of my comfort zone on this trip. This trip to the hospital for surgery last Monday (abdominal hysterectomy). Vital, healthy, nervous one minute and the next thing I know I feel like a mewing kitten relying completely on others for the most basic needs. I was thankful to see Dave's sweet face and know all was well. I tried very hard to be a good patient, and do everything they asked of me! It is not a role I am used to or comfortable in, I could not have done it without the excellent nursing care and Dave's encouragement.
We came home wednesday and suddenly everything looks like a hazard. I cannot stand up straight yet, and am leery of anything that I may trip or stumble on. It is a different perspective to be sure. My surgeon gave me vitamin supplements for healing, as well as arnica for pain/bruising. I am also using arnica gel. I love that they hand out homeopathics!
The only drawbacks have been the deep cough once or twice a day that make me feel like my guts are coming undone, and when I laughed a belly-laugh, which made me cry.
Dave assisted me to the back porch to get some sunshine; I felt a little like a cat taking a sun bath and a little like an invalid at a solarium! Either way, I soaked up as much Vitamin D as I could.
On a really positive note, a friend shared the name of an iPhone app she uses to track calories; it is called "Lose It". It tracks calories, nutrients, exercise, weight, goals, etc. I am using it to track all that, but especially my water intake; I love this app.
Dave has been in charge of milking and all farm chores; he and Vera are doing quite well at milking, as evidenced by a fridge full of milk! Dave banded Julius, so he will soon be a steer. Dave reports all is well in the barn and pasture, except that Julius does not want to come near anymore.
I am thankful for my family and friends and all the help and support they have been. It will be a very different holiday for us (I am not running around preparing, shopping, readying, decorating, baking, entertaining). I am certain the nice, simple holiday we have ahead of us will be very meaningful though different. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!

December 12, 2009

Another week flies by...

Another week has flown by, amazing!
All is well here, Vera is doing very well at milking. No kicking, no tap dancing, just pooping and/or peeing to show her displeasure. That only lasted the first five days, this morning she did not do either! We are getting a gallon at each milking. Her edema is improving with the red raspberry leaf tea we feed her and the mint udder cream. She is not really letting down the milk supply yet, though I expect her to fairly soon. She is more relaxed with the routine daily.
Dave named the calf Julius since he was born on our friend Julie's birthday. Julius is asserting his independence by sneaking out of the pen when I am milking. He is so cute when he runs and scampers about! Hattie and Elsie have been relegated to the back pasture to simplify milking/feeding time. Hattie was in heat 2 days ago, argh. I will worry about that in a month or two.
We have had a lot of rain in the last week, the barnyard and pastures are very soft and squishy. It seems like it has been 2 weeks since we have seen the sun shine. The good news is that there have only been a couple of nights we had to drain pipes due to freezing temperatures.
Have a great weekend all!

December 6, 2009

Its a boy!!

Vera calved this morning!
We found him when we went out to feed and milk, just a hour or so fresh.
Vera and Ben are doing great; I'll update later when we have more cute pictures!

December 5, 2009

Snow, frost and calf watch

The last week or so has flown by!
Vera is definitely "springing" (getting ready to calve)! I hope to have calf pics up in the next few days, at the most a week. She is grunting, acting agitated (especially with the dog, barn cats and life in general). Today she kept going to the back pasture alone, one area in particular...I think she was nesting. Now she is peeved that we have confined her to the front pasture. Her udder is remarkably bigger, and her ligaments are obviously sunken. We just came in from checking her again and her stand-offishness from Hattie is a pretty big clue. When I put my hand on her side I can feel her contracting a little.
We had snow here yesterday! I was in Beaumont for work and when I exited the hospital at 6 pm there was about 6 inches of accumulated snow on the cars in the lot, big fluffy flakes were falling and the excitement in the air was palpable. This does not happen much in SE Texas!
This morning I took pics of the frosty flowers, pasture and the frozen fence (don't put you tongue on it)!
The cats we have been fostering for the last 3 years went home with their owner today. Lisa is so glad to have a home stateside to take them to. It was a frenzy getting them into the carriers, I hope the settle in quickly for her! It will be weird tonight sleeping without cats snuggled in the bed with us.
Have a great day and I will update when we have a calf!

November 27, 2009

The company and the mission I work for

I often get asked what do I do as a Nurse Liaison. This recent article about the owner and founder of the company I am blessed to work for does not answer that question, but it does give you a glimpse of the mission, and the man behind the mission, Dr. William Schumacher.

The answer to the question is: everything I can in collaboration with the team to fulfill our mission statement:
"To provide continously improving quality health care to all patients in a cost effective manner and to maintain the highest ethical standards by upholding patient's rights and treating them with dignity and respect."

I love my job!

no black friday, just sunshine!

The Thanksgiving feast yesterday was a feast. Mom, Stephen, Charlye, Josh and I enjoyed the roasted bird, mashed potatoes /gravy, cranberry, peas, rolls, and choice of two pies (apple and pumpkin). I just love the way the aroma of the baking turkey fills the house!

We did dishes, fed the animals, deboned the bird and then watched a chick flick (The Ugly Truth). It was a relaxed, enjoyable day! The only down side was that Dave had to work.

No black Friday for us, I just cannot get out in the traffic and mayhem of excessive consumerism. I will stay home today and enjoy the sunshine, do some reading, catch up on gardening and homework and have turkey for lunch!

No calf yet! We are not down to the daily or hourly watch yet, though I am anxious to be!

Her udder continues to grow, mucus continues to flow and the calf is just not ready yet.

Patience, patience I keep telling myself.

November 21, 2009

Fun times!

I love this picture.
It is a knock-out rose next to the back porch,
pic taken with the iPhone and the Camera Zoom app.
Vera and Hattie having a rest and a cud.

Hattie and I trying to get a self portrait!
I think we would have done better in a photo booth!

She gave up on posing and decided to try tasting!

I gave up and was laughing too much to concentrate!

Well there is nothing like a cow adventure to get the blood pumping! Last night I looked out toward the garden where the motion sensor light had been on for awhile (cats trip it all the time) and noticed a cow rump in the garden! Vera was out there having a grand time eating kale, carrots, sunflowers and comfrey (found all that out this morning in light). Another cow was laying down by the driveway under the peach trees chewing her cud and the third was still in the pasture wondering how to get out and join the rest! We don't have escape artist cows, just supreme opportunists--we had left the gate unlatched!

We had some great dinners this week: homemade sloppy joes, chicken breasts sauteed in garlic, ginger and turmeric, enchiladas, and this weekend will probably have another version of sloppy joe and a roast.
Vera is still about the same, slow and steady progress.
Happy weekend all!

November 16, 2009

Milking again!

I started trying to bring Hattie back into milk a few days ago, and we finally are getting 1/2-2/3 gallon of milk once a day. She is doing really well with the change in routine. We moved her to the other side of the pen in order to get Vera ready to be milked on the main stanchion side. Vera does not fit in the stanchion yet, she tried but her belly is still too round. That was a sight to see, a round cow tring to fit in a rectangular chute with her head and tongue stretched out trying to reach the treats! We compromised, she is eating at that bunk from the side now.

I worked in the garden this weekend and got 4 more beds cleaned out! I found a couple of tiny onions growing and one large (and unhappy) balck widow spider.

Our friend Shalali from NM stopped by on her way to the AI class at College Station. It was great to see her if only for a few short hours! She passed the class and is now a certified tech.

Dave got home from Iowa on Thursday, he was relieved to be back after 17 hours in the truck. He came in the door with a box of dutch letters from Jaarsma Bakery in Pella, Iowa. Dutch letters are a flaky 'S' shaped pastry filled with almond paste. A very special treat indeed!

We castrated the piglets the next day, and now they are finally trusting us again. They love eggs, milk and kitchen treats.

I made smothered pork steak in the oven, lentil soup and chili this week. My cooking took a downturn after the trip to the dentist. Thankfully I am able to chew again and no longer require advil to get through the day.
This morning a cold front moved through; it is supposed to get down to 37 tonight! If Dave gets off work on time we will see what that feels like from inside the hot tub!

November 7, 2009

Busy Farm Day

The hen's pen is clean, the cow pens are clean, the sheep pen is clean (and brush pile burned), the interior pen is cleaned, new shavings and new occupants--piglets! We got two red wattle piglets from Melissa, they are cute and very talkative! The sheep frequently went to the adjoining fence to see what the piglets had to say. They figured out their feeder and waterer quickly, and even though they are timid of me they did let me scratch their backs when they ate eggs. For those of you on facebook, I put up a video of them. They did not squeal and squeak as much as I wanted them too--but cute just the same.

The garden has a new look. Several of the beds are covered in black plastic now to kill the weeds and solarize for winter. I moved the grapes into what used to be the strawberry bed (I found 2 survivors of the drought!). I'll plant strawberries back there next spring. I also discovered one artichoke plant, so it was transplanted to the fall garden bed where I hope it will thrive.

Vera and Hattie stayed in the close pasture most of the day, munching and keeping an eye out for me, in case I decided to bring treats (I did). Vera still looks to be several weeks away from calving. I am looking forward to milking again!
The spa maintenance took me all day, but that is accomplished as well, it should be back up to glory temperature tomorrow! I made lentil soup for dinner, nice and smooth since my tooth still hurts from the visit to the inquisitionist (dentist)chair on Wednesday. I think I will make chili in the crock pot tomorrow.
Dave says he and Rylee had fun on the drive to Grandma's house (Rylee applied her make up); they have since driven the tractor, played with tinker toys, played with dolls and I am sure 100 other things! I wish I was there to hug and kiss her!

November 6, 2009

On the farm this week

NancyPants helping the garlic grow.

Monarch butterfly!

Breakfast at pondside.

Max and the bay leaf tree.

The weather continues to be gorgeous. The monarchs are here, flitting about on flowers and in the air. They are beautiful!
I have been trying to get outside several times a day to get little chores done here and there. I get a little stir crazy when at the computer all day. Dave is off to Iowa to help his folks combine corn and beans (I think the new combine was too much, he had to go drive it!) The weather there has been nice too. Dave is going to pick up Rylee (granddtr) tomorrow for a day or two, I am looking forward to hearing all about their adventures and imaginary playtime!
Tomorrow I plan to work outside on the garden and clean up the hen pen.
Have a great weekend!

October 31, 2009

Weekly update

It should be titled 2-week update, I have been neglecting my blogger duties!

The last two weeks have been very wet, the last 2 days we received 4+ inches. There is much mud and occassional mosquitos--I don't dare complain about either because the memory of the drought this summer is still too fresh. The icky, sopping cow pens and pasture will eventually dry out.

Vera is still in full bloom, I look at her closely daily and see minute changes but nothing that says the time is imminent. She holds her tail off to the side all the time now, and though that is a good sign when it is the only consistent sign it meas we still have some time to go. We have about run out of the milk supply from Hattie. She was dripping milk last evening at feeding time and I almost brought her in to milk, but decided against it.

We had homemade lasgna, enchiladas, smoked ribs and brisket last week. Tonight I am going to bake chicken, make a chicken salad and have butternut bisque on the side. I also have a bunch of veggies to chop and bake (squash, etc).

The weather today is absolutely beautiful! I spent time cleaning up the back yard, prunning the fig tree, apple tree, grapes, and wisteria. The confederate rose in the front yard is blooming. Very pretty!

Have a safe and fun halloween!

October 30, 2009

Keeping a Family Cow calendar!

The Keeping a Family Cow calendar is ready!
The proceeds from the sale of the calendar go to make the forum ad-free for a year and any additional will go to Joann Rogers author of the book Keeping a Family Cow.

Please conside ordering a calendar or sharing the link with friends!
All the cows pictured are milkied on family farms from around the world.
Thank you!

October 17, 2009

Fall weather is gorgeous!

Two days ago we had high humidity and temps in the 90s; thankfully a cool front from Canada came through and pushed all that aside! This morning it is 57 and no humidity--gorgeous!!

The sun is shining and there are many projects to work on: soupy cow stalls that need to be cleaned out, weeds to pull, garden beds to cover and solarize (cook), roses to trim, the list is endless. I haven't decided which project to work on yet, guess I'll have another cup of coffee on the back porch and contemplate it some more.

I stopped milking Hattie on Tuesday, she was rather engorged for several days. One evening when I went out to feed I spoke to her (she was standing at the gate by the barn looking in) and all four teats began to run milk. Talk about a letdown! Poor girl, I feel for her but have to be diligent and let her get dried off. Her food intake has been dramatically reduced, she is still not happy with that and can finish her 2 cups of feed/beet pulp by the time I get to the hay barn and start putting hay out. There is plenty of grass right now, thanks to the recent rain turning around the drought. If it was winter and she was on dry lot she would dry off faster without doubt. This morning it looks like her udder is reducing in size, and she did not leak milk when I talked to her.

Vera is about the same--wide load (calf not in the birth canal yet), udder developing and mucus strings on a regular basis. She has decided she will tolerate me touching her, especially when I rub her tail head.

Have a great weekend all! I am heading out doors to enjoy the weather!

October 11, 2009

Busy Saturday

Dave and I went to Houston to volunteer for a day on the Habitat for Humanity worksite. It started out as a way to get extra credit (one of my instructors is a regular volunteer). It ended up being a great way to help a great program. We worked on the neighborhood's perimeter fencing. It was very muddy from all the rain, but did not rain for the workday. We were tired by the end, but left with that wonderful feeling of being a part of something great.
To learn more about Habitat or to volunteer in the NW Houston area:

October 6, 2009

Changes in routine

Cows don't like changes in routine, especially when it involves a change in feeding!

Hattie's foster calf left on Sunday, so we are milking her once a day and have cut her feed in half to help her dry off. She is not in agreement with this particular form of cruelty.

I noticed Monday evening that she had a bloody show in her tail, so even though I saw no signs of mucus she was in heat 2 days prior. I've marked the calendar to expect the next heat and AI again.
Hattie gave 3 gallons today and yesterday, with about a quart at the stripping. Time to make cheese again!

Vera is a wide load, she looks comical when walking or running straight towards me. It reminds me of a stick drawing of a cow! Big round tummy and little stick legs underneath. I don't dare tell her this.

October 2, 2009

So far so good....

Hattie is at 22 days in her heat cycle, I am almost afraid to say anything until we know for sure...oops I guess I just mentioned it! Either way, she has no signs of impending heat; no puffiness or mucus.

Vera on the other hand is extremely puffy, and for the first time had a 12" mucus rope. With Hattie this always meant 2 weeks until delivery. We shall see what it means for Vera and what her body does to get ready for calving. I guess she will calve in October after all!