Monday, April 25, 2005

Getting There

It has been more than a month since I last posted to this. It is amazing what thoughts go through your head when you have serious things happen to you. I caught the flu first. It settled in the chest and breathing was hard. Kept having asthma like reactions. Dave got the flu/cold second. It didn't matter that I couldn't even drive my daughter to day care, he decided he was sick and I had to do his work. That or sell the cows.

We got over it, but it makes you think hard about friends, people you think you know, your community, why you are doing things. Sickness isn't good, but when you have a farm and animals that cannot wait in a barn until you get better...

On a positive bent, the dairy plant is almost done. Ken, my father-in-law is a saint. He is the primary builder in the plant. David and Aaron Locker (orgo veggie guy down the road) are the masons. Dave studded up the building after we had a talk... It is looking nice.

I ordered culture for my feta. It'll be the first raw-milk aged cheese I make in the vat. It is an easy make and doesn;t take as much time as some of the other cheeses. I also had Margaret send me those "heart thingy's". I'd say "coeur la creme", only those who can read my french accent would comment on how "cute" my pronunciation is. I like Margaret. She has a nice way about her when you ask her questions about cultures and different molds.

The question of the week is, how can I justify being a dairy farmer (ok supporting Dave's habit), mother, cheesemaker, distributor, sales person, marketer, etc. and then add sitting in a hot parking lot being pleasant while answering questions of urban consumers who have absolutely no clue about you or what it is that goes into making their food. Can I put a dollar figure onto that? How much would I have to make to justify doing a metro-NYC farmers market?

My least favorite question is ~ "do you still milk your cows by hand?"

Once upon a time the average commercial dairy cow made 5-8,000 pounds of milk a year. The lactation was not long, often drying up after breeding. A typical farm had 6 to a dozen milking cows. Cows were milked into pails, which were then dumped into cans and placed into springs. If more remote, they often made cheese or butter for later sale.

Processing plants that sold fluid milk were found near urban centers. I don't have an accurate date, but there have been machines to help farmers milk their cows for about a hundred years or more. Cow production also increased dramatically with the use of AI. Farmers were able to select semen from bulls they would never have been able to afford. Today, there are many cows that produce 20-30,000# of milk per year!

I guess time has made me more of a cynic. I dunno. I do like to talk about farming and my products, I just wish people would truely like to hear about what it is that went into the making of the milk, eggs, cheese, eggplant that they just ate.

Like today. Fisher Farms guy was out to work on our vacuum pump today. We almost didn't get through milking last night, let alone this morning. Dave was able to limp the machine through. Seems there is this odd habit of people out here to place the pump in the middle of the barn, about 60' from the milk room. Condensation then builds up in the line and everntually makes a mess. New vanes and barrings later, we have decided that we will have to move the pump to the place we wanted to move it to this month rather than in 2 years like we were hoping to do. A couple of thousand dollars later...

The silo room also needs replacing. What a hole it was. Something about basic cleaning wasn't in the daily habits of the previous managers. We ripped out most of it. The grass silage is down to the last 5 doors and we have to put the silo-unloader in. Since we come from bunk silo region, we have to have someone come ans show us how this thing actually goes into a silo. Ken will also have to come back and look into the wiring. I understand why there are fires. Some people who think they know something about electricity should leave well enough alone!

One of the kerry cows I bought from Dave in NH aborted again. The vet felt something odd in her. I think my backwards cow is beef. I looked into embryo work for her. I'm not sure we can do that. What do I do? Do I ask for my money back? I was under the impression she would be able to be used in the dairy. His herdsman also said that "the old cow had mastitis issues"... Was it this one? Mmmm. Rare breed conservation is not a cheap hobby. I felt like I should have sent her back, but what was I to do?

Claire had to go to the barn to hug the baby calves. She had to tell me that they "licked my head off". Add significant 3 year old drama and you have my daughter. She also had to take the old Penny dog and bring her back into the house. She is at the height where she can walk along holding the collar without bending down any. Penny had to go out to the poarch apparently for eating something in the gutter that wasn't pleasing. Poor dog. After Claire went into the tub for her bath, I let the dog in and fed her in the back room.

Decent day. Cold wet. Rain and sleet today. Suppose to be nice tomorrow. Dave has to get some wrapped bales from Mike tomorrow for the dairy cows. I'm rambling and digressing...

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