Archive for October, 2009

Sally, our new dairy cow, is definitely food motivated. I have had to run to keep up with her a few times on the way to milking (which is when she gets breakfast and dinner). Some days she is perfect, other days she gets a wild hair and does something a bit unexpected from a quick kick to bolting. And then there are the times when she cranes her head around to watch me milk her. Thankfully, each time she is easier to handle. Always good, especially since Sally weights around 1200 lbs!

Right now Sally is averaging 45 lbs of milk per day. We get 30 lbs in the morning and 15 lbs in the evening. All the visitors to the farm seem to like her. Although nobody has expressed interest in milking her. They prefer our Jersey cow, Dandy, since she is much smaller. Besides, Sally is still too new to be milked by the public. But, like I said, she is coming around. I just hope she gets over this “run to get food” phase. There is only so much muscle and weight I have to keep her from getting too fast!


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Just a peek. I wanted to check on our Chester sow in the farrowing house (a shelter that is also in a private area of the farm so the sows can feel safe for birthing) to make sure she was comfortable, that the temperature was okay and to check her for any milk production. Milk meant that she would go in to labor within 12 hours.

No milk.

As I start to leave the farrowing house I glance over and see a little pink face staring at me, hidden behind mom’s back legs. Thirty minutes later the sow was producing milk and more piglets were on the way. So much for using milk as an indicator this time! After a few hours she had delivered 11 healthy babies out of 13 total. Unfortunately two were born extremely weak and they both died within a few minutes of being born.

The rest of the piglets were walking and nursing within five minutes of being born. I find it amazing how quickly they are able to coordinate their little bodies, wag their tails and suckle at mom for milk.

The sow was pretty good through the whole birthing process. In the beginning we were worried that she was going to be riled up too much and potentially injure her babies. But as soon as the first piglet began to nurse she settled down to become a good momma.

In a couple days we are going to give the piglets a shot of iron and begin giving them a liquid supplement to make sure they stay healthy. We are also upping the amount of food the sow eats so she can keep up with feeding 11 hungry piglets!

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Seeing Red

I am seeing red. Barn Red. The weather has been, somewhat, cooperating with us and so it is finally time to get all our new pens (and some of the old) painted. We built an addition to our duck pen, lengthened our turkey pen and built some new houses for our game birds.

As a historic farm we are sticking with the well-known “barn red.” It use to be that farmers would use rust scraped from various tools and equipment to help prevent molds from growing in the wood. This rust would taint the linseed oil (sealant) and so the barns would appear to be a burnt red/orange color.

The red is also perfect for this time of year. At least I think so. I get a little kick each time I look at my hands and see the red paint. With Halloween just around the corner the paint makes a perfect “dried blood” appearance. Thankfully it is water-based and washes off easily. But if it didn’t, at least I could blame it on the season!

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I just finished peeling and slicing twelve Gala apples. There are approximately 48 left in the refrigerator. But before I let you know exactly what I am up to let me rewind and tell you how I ended up in this predicament.

Over the past weekend we celebrated Fall Harvest on the farm. The last hurrah before the long winter months. A chance for us to show off the old saw mill, turn on the apple press, use our corn shelling equipment and much more so the public could enjoy a fun day on the farm and children could learn a bit about what happens before food reaches the grocery store. Well, we did do all that! But it was mainly for ourselves due to having the coldest, most rainy days we have had all year. Still, it was a lot of fun to crank up all the antique equipment… even if we were cold and wet.

Also over the past weekend I was supposed to go apple picking with friends. We scratched that idea due to the nasty weather (an understatement). However, since the public turnout did not match our expectations we had seven bushels of perfectly good and incredibly tasty Gala apples leftover.

No! I did not bring home seven bushels of apples. I would never do such a thing. Clearly I do not have the space or resources for purchasing and processing seven bushels of apples.

I brought home just one bushel. Just one, thankfully!

Did you know one bushel of apples is about 130 apples? I didn’t, but I do now. I made the decision before seeing the boxes thinking the apples would be in a milk-crate sized box or smaller. Well, it wasn’t too much bigger (I lie, almost twice a big) but that is still a lot of apples! Enough to trip the sensor on my passenger seat so that the annoying seat-belt noise turns on. Thankfully I have good friends who tolerate my impulsive decisions and I was able to unload half of the apples. Which left me with around 65 apples. Did you know most recipes using apples only need 2 – 4 apples? I know that now. 65 apples make a lot of recipes.

Other things I’ve learned:

12 apples chopped in to a 4 quart pot

12 apples chopped in to a 4 quart pot with cinnamon and sugar on top

*12 apples may fit perfectly in a 4 quart pot, but there will come a time when you need to stir them! It takes skill not to spill.

*65 apples takes up a lot of refrigerator space.

*Any guy who tolerates having their apartment kitchen taken over by apples, cinnamon, sugar, other various ingredients and the use of their pots and pans is a saint. (Thank you, sweetie!)

*Core first, then peel. You can put your thumb where the core used to be and stabilize the apple for peeling without getting juices everywhere.

*Handheld emerson blenders are your best friend (way better than my original plan of using a fork). Just be careful when blending things that are near boiling temperature.

So, what have I made/am making? Well, I started with Apple Coffee Crumb Cake the other night. Simply amazing. But two cups of apples = less than two apples. Determined to use up my apples, I chopped up four and it was absolutely fantastic. I would take photos but we ate it all so quickly there was no chance to document. However, here is the recipe:




– 1 stick plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter

– 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

– 2 large eggs

– 2 cups all purpose flour

– 1 teaspoon baking soda

– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

– 1/2 teaspoon salt

– 1 cup sour cream

– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

– 2 cups peeled and chopped apples (I used 4 apples, about 3 cups)

Crumble Topping:

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened Brown

Sugar Glaze: (optional, I did not use)

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons water


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish with 2 teaspoons of the butter. In a large bowl, cream together the remaining stick of butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after the addition of each. In a separate bowl or on a piece of parchment, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla. Fold in the apples. Pour into the prepared baking dish, spreading out to the edges.

To make the topping, in a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake until golden brown and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.

To make the glaze, in a bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water and mix until smooth. Drizzle the cake with the glaze and let harden slightly. Serve warm.

Back to those 12 apples, chopped and peeled. While I have been writing this post I have also been getting up to stir those apples. I added them to…

2 1/4 cups of water

1/3 cup of sugar

2 teaspoons of cinnamon (with a little extra thrown in for good measure)

and set in a 4 quart pot, pictured above, to simmer on the stove. I definitely recommend a larger pot when working with this many apples. After about 20 minutes they were soft and using an emerson blender… Behold! Apple sauce! Enough for all my family at Thanksgiving. Too bad it isn’t Thanksgiving!

There are 48 more apples left in the refrigerator. The Great Gala Adventures will have to be continued…

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Minutes after being born.

Minutes after being born.

Yesterday was a great surprise. And here I am, exposing both the “new animal” on the farm I hinted at in an earlier post as well as her new baby. At 9:30am we checked on Sally, our new Brown Swiss (dairy) cow, and found that she was going in to labor. We had been keeping her in the main barn to monitor her but had been expecting her baby today. It was not until around 12:35pm that the front feet were visible. At first we thought the calf was up-side-down but he righted himself as time went on. Within ten minutes Snickers (named after his great grandmother) was born. However we helped pull him out because he is a very big calf and mom would have had unnecessary trouble birthing on her own.

As with all dairy cows, we removed Snickers from his mom within an hour after birth. We will bottle feed him with his mom’s milk. Sally will produce 3-4 times as much milk as what her calf would be able to drink on his own. Because of this we are milking her by hand/machine and distributing that milk to other babies who will need it. This includes the litter of piglets born a few weeks ago. Depending on how much milk she is producing, we will also get a few calves to feed as well.

Sally did just fine with the separation. There was a single moment of “what?” but shortly after she was eating hay and acting as if all was right in the world. We milked mom to get colostrum that contains immunoglobulins and other nutrients necessary for the well-being of the calf. Snickers also took to bottle feeding without a problem. We started just as soon as he was standing.

When I left, Snickers was dozing under the heat lamp and Sally was resting in her stall. I will keep you posted on any future updates. Hopefully there will be more pictures to come.

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Finally! It is time for a fully disclosed update.

The Virginia State Fair was so much fun! It was held in Doswell, VA on the new show grounds. Great food, great people and tons of fun. My boyfriend and his family came to see the pig show (and subsequently laugh at me in case Olivia, the pig I was showing, ended up going crazy in the arena). Other friends showed up. A girl friend from NC drove up for the weekend and a crazy kid, Johnny C, came down from NY to help show our pigs.

Johnny C showing one of our pigs. *photo courtesy of JCs iphone*

Johnny C showing one of our pigs. *

Long story short, we lost. Actually, ALL of our pigs lost because our line of breeding isn’t “in style” right now. We aren’t too upset because we really do have nice pigs. Two years ago we cleaned up, champions. Now they want a different type. What was really nice was that a few people expressed on Sunday that our pigs deserved better placement and that our pigs were genetically better for breeding and longevity. We’ll take overall soundness over a blue ribbon any day.


Beyond that. Olivia was a star. Especially because another crazy pig spooked her before we entered the arena which sent her running around the pig stalls in the back. But I managed to get her in to the ring. She was a little quick, mainly trotting… oh and she bowled over a few guys who weren’t paying attention. But, no fights, no racing around and I even steered her to go opposite of the other pigs right in front of the judge! She earned her marshmallows.

A moment when I am actually close to Olivia *photo, thanks to my boss*

A moment when I am actually close to Olivia *

Also, Olivia was definitely the crowd favorite (maybe I am biased). Everyone who walked by seemed to barely be glancing at the pigs, sometimes they’d stop at a certain stall for a second or two but most often they’d just keep walking. Until they saw Olivia. She had so many people ooing and aahing over her. Olivia would lift her pink nose up and snort for the pictures people were taking of her (for the record I hardly saw anyone taking pictures of other pigs!). It was a lot of fun to watch.

So, perhaps our pigs didn’t place as well as we would like but overall I am really happy with how the event went. Everyone had a great time. Even my friend from NC got in on wrangling pigs. And of course she and I had the obligatory funnel cake at the end!

Olivia, happy to be back home in her mud pen.

Olivia, happy to be back home in her mud pen.

*photo courtesy of my boss.

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Snapshots of some of our sheep. I took these toward the end of September.

She is thinking... do you have food for me?

Ewes and ram with hay baler in the machine shed.

Ewes and ram with hay baler in the "machine shed."

Young Dorset Ewe

Yearling Dorset.

Another young ewe.

Another yearling.

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