The Cat’s Meow

On our dairy farm we have a lot of cows, obviously.  We also have chickens for fresh eggs, guineas for fly control, and lots and lots of cats. The barn cats live on the dairy, eat what they hunt, and generally avoid people.

My husband and I were never really cat people, but Lucy stole our hearts. As a very small kitten, she decided to adopt us. She was born on the farm to a long line of barn cats. She liked people, and she liked us. She would jump on our laps, if we sat on the patio. She made figure eights on our legs, if we went outside. One day Scott came home with cat food, and it was official — she was ours.

Lucy was a good mom and had many litters. We always kept at least one kitten from each of her litters. Some didn’t make it. Some stayed around our house. Some ran off with the other barn cats. She even adopted a stray baby that was the same age as her kittens.

Unfortunately, Lucy got an infection and never recovered. She left behind two 6 week old kittens, Harley and Sake. There was no way I was giving them away.

Harley and Sake were inseparable. They played together, snuggled together, and took care of each other. They even came in heat together. Soon we noticed that both Harley and Sake were expecting.

As time passed, I anxiously awaited the kittens. I checked for signs everyday. Yesterday evening, Harley started acting differently. She was very affectionate with me and her sister. I knew the kittens were on their way. I watched as she found her spot and delivered her first kitten. It was getting late, so I went inside and went to bed.

That morning, as I put the boys on the bus, I decided to check on Harley. Boy, was I surprised when I found Harley, Sake, and ELEVEN kittens! You see, Harley and Sake had both had kittens over night (they do everything together). They are both taking care of all their kittens. I have checked on them several times, and one mother is nursing and one is taking a break. (Wouldn’t that be nice, ladies?) They clean each other’s babies and each other.

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Sake (black and white) and Harley (gray) take care of their brood together.
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Harley takes over while Sake gets a break

I think that Harley had 4 babies and Sake had 7 babies, but I can’t be sure. Either way, they will be raised by the both of them. And the kids are already asking, “how many can we keep?” It’s hard to say no to babies! So now I have 15 cats — Harley, Sake, their older sister Minnie, their adopted brother Sonic, and 11 babies.

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We Are Proud Dairy Farmers

Elyse came across an article in the magazine, Hoard’s Dairyman,that perfectly captures our life, love, and family tradition of dairy farming. It captures our blood, sweat, and tears. It captures our hopes and our dreams, and we want to share it with you. WE ARE PROUD DAIRY FARMERS!!

“I am proud dairy farmer”
by Joseph Giemza

I am a dairy farmer. That’s all I’ve ever been. There once were a lot of folks who could say that. As of March, there are 9,600 of us in Wisconsin. Wow! In March 1999, the numbers indicated there were 22,000.

You’d think someone would build a fence around us and charge admission to view us in our natural habitat or Congress would put an endangered species protection act on us.

Yes, I am a dairy farmer. It’s my job, my life, my career, my religion, my passion, my home – all rolled into one. Most people are too busy to get to the basics of life, too busy trying to get rich quick. I get to deal with the basics of life every single day: birth, death, soil, sun, growth, mud, storms, calm, parched, wet, and above all, stress.

I am proud to be a dairy farmer. My contribution to society is very simple, yet it’s as grand as that of anyone who graduated from an elite liberal arts college.

I tend a heard of dairy cows that produce what evolution has chosen as the most naturally nutritious food for the most developed animals in the food chain – people. Evolution took thousands of years of trial and error, millions of genetic events to decide that milk is it. Its nutritional value puts milk above coffee, energy drinks, beer, or soda. Milk is it!

Milk doesn’t cause fatal car crashes or domestic violence. You don’t need an identification card to purchase it any time of the day or night. It won’t stain your clothes if spilled. Consider all the great products that are made from milk, whether they are hot, cold, cultured, or frozen.

Today, the American farmer feeds 144 people every day. Fifty years ago, each farmer fed 22 people. We’ve come a long way. The American farmer is expected to feed, fuel, and clothe the world, take all the risk with no guarantee of receiving fair compensation for their hard work.

One hundred percent of the people on this planet eat food. Where do they think this food comes from?

Not from a store, it’s from a farm. Yet, the farmer is the least appreciated person on earth. Not many people become famous for milking cows, but a lot of famous people couldn’t do what we farmers do. Professional athletes make tens of millions of dollars per year and contribute little to society.

Dairy farmers work extremely hard just to survive. What industry works for less than minimum wage, puts in hours well beyond the traditional eight-hour work day, seven days a week, with no overtime pay, no benefits of any kind, and no retirement fund?

Farmers have no control on the price we receive for our products; we have to take what the processor gives us. Is that fair?

We do it because we have passion for the land and what we do.

Published in Vol. 161,No.14 Hoard’s Dairyman

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Can You Handle the Cuteness?

Who doesn’t love baby animals? Baby calves have the most precious little faces with big eyes and long lashes. We had a weekend full of brand new baby calves and I just have to share the cuteness. Get ready to say, “awwwwww”!

One of Scott’s responsibilities is to check all of the expectant momma cows. The whole family decided to tag along on Saturday, and boy are we glad we did.  All six grandkids got to witness a baby calf being born!

Then we headed back to the barn to visit two more calves who were about a day old. The babies of our family, Claire and Clayton, enjoyed meeting this sweet baby.

We continued driving around looking for calves and witnessed this sweet moment of a momma nursing her baby.

The next morning, Grandpa, Krisie, and Claire rescued two calves that had been abandoned by their moms. One of the babies was still wet from being born, so Claire helped dry her off.

What do you do with abandoned baby calves? You take them to your house and bottle feed them! It started to rain so we moved them to the shelter of the patio. Grandpa gave Eli a lesson on how to hold the bottle. The little bull calf was shaking, so he was wrapped in a towel while Krisie fed him. The kids had so much fun (I’m pretty sure the adults did too), and they learned a lot.

Just to push the cuteness factor up a notch, we had a baby bull calf born a few weeks ago that was so teeny tiny. He was about the size of a dog! Can you handle all of the cuteness?!

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Butter Me Than You

Have you tasted homemade butter made with fresh cream? Oh. My. God. It is so delicious! We have excess cream for sale at the dairy, so if you have been entertaining making your own butter, now is the time!

Homemade butter is so much better than store bought, and you know exactly what’s in it– just cream and a little bit of salt. You can even make a giant batch and freeze individual portions. Just look at how pretty and yellow it is!

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So how do you make butter you ask? It always sounded like a big undertaking to me, but it’s really not that hard. The first time I made butter with my mother-in-law, Elyse, I couldn’t believe how easy it was.  It was such a great bonding moment for us too.  Knowing that I would be moving to the farm soon, I realized that she was teaching me one tiny lesson on how to be a dairyman’s wife. I will always treasure that memory.

Okay, enough of the mushy stuff, let’s get down to the details. All you need is cream, a food processor or blender, a little salt, and a wooden spoon. **Let the cream sit out for a bit before making butter. This will allow the cream to churn faster.**

1. Pour cream in to the food processor approximately 2/3 full.  Run the food processor for a few minutes. You will notice the cream becoming thicker and eventually separating into fat (butter) and liquid (whey). You can also hear the difference in your processor. This should take a few minutes. If you are a visual person, check out the prairie homestead for pics of the stages the cream will go through.

2. Strain off the liquid. This is old fashioned buttermilk. You can save it for baking or discard it.

3. You will need to wash the butter in order to remove as much buttermilk as possible to prevent premature spoiling. Place butter in a large bowl and add a a few cups of cold water. Press butter with a wooden spoon in order to remove as much buttermilk as possible. Discard the liquid and repeat until the water is clear. This will take about 4-5 times. Use very salty water for the last wash.

4. Place butter in small containers and refrigerate or freeze. Enjoy!

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Chasing Chickens

One of our daily chores on the farm is collecting eggs. The twins and I frequently participate in this job. Head out to the chicken coop, open the back of the boxes, and deposit the eggs in a bucket for collection. Easy enough, right?

 

Well, not when you have crazy chickens who like to hide their eggs! The boys and I have a real life Easter egg hunt on our hands. Just when you find their hiding spot, they move to a new location.

With Grandpa’s help, the boys raided their newest stash–under a tractor in the tall grass.

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Well, at least it keeps them busy! On a side note, aren’t the eggs just gorgeous? And with all of the roaming our chickens do, they are simply delicious!

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Breaking Barn

So you’ve heard of a barn raising before, right? Well, have you heard of a barn moving?!

Gene and Scott, with the help of three other guys, drove to Mississippi, disassembled a milk barn, loaded all of the parts on to two trailers, and drove home, all in three days! Talk about hustling!

The day after getting home, the guys starting unloading the trailers at the dairy.

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The plan is to install the milking equipment in our current barn between milkings. Since the cows are milked twice a day at noon and midnight this will be quite a feat!

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