Monday, December 30, 2013

Is intelligence a good thing in an animal?

We were at a party the other night and a guy told a story of a man who was bragging to his vet about how smart his puppy was.  The vet shook his head and laughed.  He said, "you want a dumb dog, not a smart one".   Most of us who have owned dogs (any animal, really) understand why this might make sense.  We may not want a dumb dog but we probably don't want a dog that's so smart it gets bored easily and wreaks havoc on our home or can outsmart us. 

But how smart is too smart or smart enough?  Here's a smart little guy of mine.
He seems content to stay in his cage most of the time, chattering away.  When I let him out he eventually heads back to his cage.  I don't think he's bored in there.  I think he feels safe and happy.  He knows hundreds of words and sounds but usually they're random  and not always appropriate for what's going on.  He may ask me where I am when I'm standing in front of him.  He will also ask this 20 times in a row.  But then, how smart am I when I answer him every time?  He knows if he asks me questions he'll get a response from me, which seems to make him happy.  Smart?  Maybe.

People say pigs are smart.  I'm not sold on that.  My pigs test the electric fence over and over again.  I've seen a few touch it with their nose and squeal in pain more than a few times in one day.   I think a lot of what pigs do or how they react is more instinct and food motivated than anything else.  They recognize my car as a deli on wheels.   They know I'm their waitress.  If they learn to do tricks it's because they receive a treat as a reward. They open gates, build nests and wallows and do all kinds of things I'm fascinated by but I'm not sure if it's because they're smart, strong, or trying to make themselves more comfortable.  Here's a blog posting by someone else about how dumb/smart his pigs are  He says it better than I.  He's raised hundreds and hundreds of pigs.  Those of you raising pigs will enjoy his blog.

When I told a friend I was getting a cow he said, "cows are dumb".  Well, I certainly don't think Raisa is dumb but I haven't figured out yet if she's smart either.  She acts very much like most of my other animals.  That is to say, she's affectionate, comes to me for treats and learned our routine quickly.  I'd say she's as smart as I'd like her to be.  Today she head-butted me.  She'd never done that before.  I know why she did it though.  She thought I came to feed her and when I didn't she let me know how she felt about it.  I was sure not to give her any treats after that.  Raisa does have a lot of personality but whether that means she's smart or not, I don't know.  The farrier thought she seemed way more playful and bouncy than a 7 year old cow usually is.  She raises cattle.

I can definitely see how some of my goats are smarter than others.  Luti, the herd queen, is probably the smartest.  I just went back over old blog posts and saw I've blogged about my animals' intelligence more than once so apparently I'm one of those people who brag about how smart her animals are.  Here's one of when I blogged about how smart Luti is because she can open stall latches.  Luti follows Keri very closely, knowing what Keri's job is.  The other goats follow Luti. 

Turkeys?  Not smart.  Funny though.

I'm told donkeys are smart and I'm pretty sure this is true.  Willo is one of those animals who, because she's smart, is also feisty, bossy and knows how to push my buttons.  She's also the boss of other animals.  I'm finding that the smartest in a bunch seems to be the leader.   Luti and Willo are examples of this.  In the pigs' case, Roxie is the boss but that mostly has to do with size, I think.

Of all my animals Keri gets the opportunity to show me how smart she is the most.  If you're a guest here and only have a short time to get to know her you'll think she's just a bouncy, lunatic of a dog.  But if you have the chance to spend more time with her you'll see there's more inside that fluffy head than you may have first thought. 

Today the farrier was here and Keri danced around her insanely as usual then disappeared to find her charges.  She laid in the grass and watched them graze.  Soon Mattox and Black Olive (two black piglets) showed up and Keri began pawing and chasing them.  I yelled at her to leave them alone until I realized what she was doing.  She got on the far side of them and herded them back to the fence where the other pigs were.  After they ducked under their fence Keri turned, looked at me and wagged her tail.  I've seen her herd chickens where she thinks they belong too.  I didn't know this was instinctive in a Great Pyrenees.  I thought they just guarded.  I told the farrier about Keri and the raccoon and we decided that maybe Keri knew the animal was sick and she knew better than to bite it and that's why she kept putting herself between it, and the goats and me.  I believe Keri is much happier in the field than up here in the smaller fence.  There's more for her to do over there.  I wonder how she'll feel about moving back here in March when it's time for the goats to kid.  She's one of those dogs that might be trouble inside a house. 

I've been raising livestock for 6 years now and I love how they keep entertaining, surprising and teaching me things.  I guess I'm one of those creatures that isn't so smart that I get bored easily.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas - a time for Scrabble

Last week when someone learned James played piano he asked, "what's your go-to song?"  James didn't really have an answer to this except to say, "something classical, I guess".  When I took classical guitar lessons many years ago my teacher said I needed to have one song I could play when someone asked me to play them something.  I never did have a song (a go-to song) I could just rip off.
Adam and Melissa were here to spend Christmas with us. 

It was great having them here.  Melissa has picked up her guitar again and she said the only song she said she can really play is Wagon Wheel.  Now that she and I sang a few lines of it I've had the song stuck in my head all day.  Would you like to join me in singing?

What does this have to do with Scrabble?  Nothing really except that I'd have to say for my whole life Scrabble has been my go-to game.  It's my Wagon Wheel.  I've loved playing it ever since I was young.  My mom and I used to play it a lot.  Every now and then when I go back to PA we play.  When we have house guests?  Yup, you guessed it - Scrabble.  After a nice day yesterday we ended our Christmas with a game of it.  James' first move was ZA (used in 2 directions for more than 40 points).  Adam went on to tell us how he hates playing us because we use all these "Scrabble words" - you know - words only Scrabble players know.  We also bog down the board real tight so it's hard to find places to make words.  I spoke to my mom today and she informed me that one of my sisters also hates playing Scrabble with me and James.  Is there anyone else out there who hates playing with us that we don't know about?

Words With Friends is an online Scrabble game that James and I are hooked on.  We always have a game going between the two of us - him upstairs and me downstairs.  As I type this I recognize that that sounds very weird.  My other sister, who hasn't yet verbalized that she hates playing with me, also always has an ongoing game with me.

I don't think I'm addicted but I understand it IS an addiction for other people. 

Can we interest any of our friends in a game? 


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Too much togetherness

This is what greeted me at the gate this morning.
The tall grass to the right is where the pigs belong.  My solar battery must not be electrifying their single ribbon fence and this made for some chaotic feeding, a little snarling and a lot of shoving.  The goats were smart and stayed away.  I think they're afraid of Roxie.  Even I was a little unnerved by her this morning.  She followed me everywhere and was a little more mouthy than usual.  I'm afraid I spoke too soon in my last blog post.  I'm pretty sure Roxie is in heat and my AI was a failure.  I did some reading and discovered the reason she came back into heat so late in the month.  Her body waited a few days to terminate the pregnancy, I guess.  I'll now probably wait for Wendell to grow and take over the job of inseminating.

So, the reason she was following me so closely was because she's in heat and she's a little amorous this time of the month, mostly with me.  I even carried a broken shovel handle to pop her in the nose if she became too rough with me.  At one point I was bent down checking out the solar battery and Roxie put her giant nose against my leg and held it there for a while.  I don't know what she was doing but it was cute.   I kept waiting for her to bite me though. 

Keri is not at all thrilled with Roxie being on the move.  The young pigs don't bother her but I think she's concerned Roxie will hurt her goats.  Any time they're near each other Keri gives her a vicious bark.  Sometimes Roxie pushes back but most of the time she walks away.  I don't know if Keri realizes Roxie has a 500 lb advantage and could do some serious damage.  Sometimes I thought Roxie was hanging around just to piss her off.  Keri once barked at her and she laid down not more than 10 feet from Keri, looking not at all concerned.

I did some repair to another solar charger today so I will replace the one that doesn't seem to be working.  One of my best discoveries this year is liquid tape.  It's probably been around forever but it's new to me.  It's way better than using electric tape for repairing the damaged wired from where animals chew on them. 

We relocated the chicken coop because the chickens also decided to leave their fence.  They kept walking in the road and cars would have to stop for them.  I was afraid folks were soon going to complain so we moved them.  It took them 2 days to figure out where they were supposed to go to bed.  I think they've got it now and so far I haven't seen them in the road again. 

Even though it's cute seeing the animals hang out together (sometimes), it makes feeding much harder and I really need to get pigs back where they belong.  I saw the pigs had been doing some rooting in the house the goats sleep in and I hope they haven't kicked them out.
Big pig, medium pigs and little pigs sharing food with chickens. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

All things pig

Last week we moved Roxie, Wendell and Mickey out of the garden to a new location with more grass to eat and root up.  They did a good job tilling the garden.  We were expecting some bad weather and I didn't want them to have to walk around in mud so it was time to move. 
Before bed Roxie quickly picked a bunch of grass and made an even bigger nest in their trailer.  They seem pretty happy with their new accommodations.

Yesterday James and I drove 1 1/2 hours to pick up two more piglets, a barrow (neutered male) and a gilt (young female).  The male is being raised for the wedding of some friends of ours.  We'll probably breed the female with our Gloucestershire Old Spot boar when they're both old enough.  These two are Large Black Hogs.  That's the name of the breed.  They're known for being good grazers like our GOS pigs.  They're pretty darn cute.  Note their long floppy ears like my other pigs.  Theirs will be way longer than Roxie's.
We haven't come up with a name for the girl yet.  The little boy is Mattox.  They came from the town of Appomattox so I suppose we could call her Appy or Abbie but since she will live here a long time I want to think some more on her name. 

They're very busy little pigs.  I had a piece of pasture ribboned off just for them, separate from the other pigs, with their own house.  They do sleep in their house but they don't stay in their own yard.  Today they covered lots of ground.  They visit with the other pigs and then move on to other pastures.  They're already moving a lot of earth.  I've seen the girl test the electric ribbon several time and even though she's been zapped she continues to do it.  Wendell used to do this too.  Now he respects it.  Keri has always liked pigs so I'm sure she's been following them around.  They're not very tame and I can't pet them but I hope to change that. 

I'm kind of afraid to write this next paragraph in case I'm jumping the gun and jinxing myself.  It has been 3 weeks and 3 days since I artificially inseminated Roxie and it doesn't appear she has come back into heat.  She's usually very consistent in her 21 day cycle.  Every day I lift her tail and look for swelling and pink.  Today she looks slightly swollen but not like when she was in heat last month.  I hope it's because she's pregnant.  I can't wait for 3 more weeks to pass so I can be sure.  Better yet, 3 months, then I'll really know for sure. 

Wendell and Mickey have been practicing making babies too but I don't think they've perfected it yet.  It should be another moth or two till they're mature enough, I hope.  One litter of pigs at a time would be nice.  The guy we got the Large Blacks from had about 18 little piglets running around.  The 2 sows farrowed 2 1/2 weeks apart.

I wonder how many pigs will be roaming our field in another 5 years. 


Monday, December 9, 2013

A raccoon, Keri and a 2x4

Keri had a hard day today.  When I went out to feed her and the goats this morning Keri started barking at something under their trailer.  A raccoon had been hiding under it and the 2 of them were playing chase around and about the trailer.  The goats, chickens and I all watched and waited for Keri to kill it.  The raccoon wouldn't back down.  I've never seen the goats shiver like they were.  I'm convinced the raccoon was rabid.  Keri is up to date on her rabies shot but my goats haven't been vaccinated. 

I checked Keri's neck to be sure the raccoon hadn't broken her skin.  He hadn't.  It's good she has such thick fur.  It definitely gave her a scare though.   The raccoon went back under the trailer and Keri decided to leave it alone for a while.  I had to feed pigs and milk Raisa so I left too.  I assumed the raccoon would leave after being harrassed by a huge dog.  I went back 3 or 4 hours later and it was still there.  When I entered the field Keri decided to protect us again and coaxed him out from under the trailer.  She charged and retreated but wouldn't bite it.  Once bitten, twice shy, I'm sure. 

I called my neighbor and asked if he'd come over and shoot it but before he had a chance to come over the raccoon began going after the goats, which sent Keri over the top and me too.  I grabbed a nearby 2x4 and like a crazy woman went after it.  Unfortunately Keri charged it at the same time and got hit in the head by my 2x4.  This is why I probably shouldn't own a gun.  She ran off and I had a clear shot at the raccoon.  I missed and it came after me but I didn't miss the second time.  I hit it at least 10 times before it died.  I went to Keri to apologize and check her out.  She was fine but ducked her head when I went to pet her.  I spent at least another hour petting Keri and the goats until my blood pressure returned to normal. 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Different strokes

Unlike the annoying song, There's A Hole In The Bucket, that was stuck in my head for days, I've had another, much more pleasant children's song tap dancing in and out of my cerebellum for days -  maybe weeks.  Did you know the word cerebellum is Latin for "little brain"?  I sang this song in my elementary school chorus and I've probably sung it thousands of times since.  It has stayed with me most of my life.  I doubt you'll be surprised at the song. 

If we could talk to the animals, just imagine it
Chatting to a chimp in chimpanzee
Imagine talking to a tiger, chatting to a cheetah
What a neat achievement that would be.

If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages
Maybe take an animal degree.
We'd study elephant and eagle, buffalo and beagle,
Alligator, guinea pig, and flea.

We would converse in polar bear and python,
And we could curse in fluent kangaroo.
If people asked us, can you speak in rhinoceros,
We'd say, "Of courserous, can't you?"

If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages
Think of all the things we could discuss
If we could walk with the animals, talk with the animals,
Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals,
And they could squeak and squawk and speak and talk to us.

I spend much of my day talking to my animals and I doubt they really know what I'm saying any more than I know what they're thinking, but I know there's some connection - some comfort we find in each other's company - some understanding of noises.  Most days (not all) I find milking my goats or cow meditative.  Milking, petting or watching my animals is probably one of the most relaxing things I do in my day. 

I've learned though, this isn't something that everyone would find relaxing.  I know some people who don't like being massaged.  I can't even fathom how someone could not like a massage but I have friends who hate it so it must be a personal preference, like foods..... like wanting to talk to animals.

James loves his vegetable gardens and green house.  I think he finds working in them meditative.  He probably talks to his plants.  Maybe he has a gardening song tap dancing in his much larger brain.  I don't know the Latin word for "big brain".  I can assure you I've never had a gardening song stuck in my head.  Maybe because gardening is not something I find enjoyable.  I actually find it to be a four letter word, W-O-R-K.  

I told a friend today that I'd love for James to milk Raisa and see how relaxing it is.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that he might find milking to be a four letter word if he had to do it every day.  This brings to mind another song.



Friday, December 6, 2013

A new house for the goats?

Since we moved the goats over to the field they've been sleeping in a cramped, less than 8' x 8' shelter, even though there are other shelters in the field.  Goats don't like to be separated.  The herd must always be together even if they're uncomfortable!   

We're expecting temperatures to drop and some winter weather is approaching which always makes me worry about the animals.  Goats don't like to get wet.  Ever.  Last time we got heavy rains I moved them back to the yard so they'd have their bigger barn.  I'm not doing that this time.  There's way more to eat in the field.  Last week we bought another old horse trailer to use for a moveable shelter so animals can be rotated.  I thought this would be perfect for the goats.  It's bigger than the shelter they've been sleeping in and will let in less rain and snow.  Today I drove it over there and put it very close to the tiny shack.  I didn't see any animals about so I walked to the front of their house and there were all 8 goats and Keri packed in like sardines.
They all came out to see me and I showed them the trailer filled with nice warm bedding.  They inspected in and seemed to like it.  Hooray, I don't need to worry about them this winter.  They'll be just fine in there.

They finally seem content to be in the field and tonight as I left the field none of them followed me to the gate or cried.  Were they settled all nice and cozy in their trailer?

Of course not. 

We've been having warm weather for the past several days but today was the last of the warm temperatures for a while.  I've been craving something chocolate and mint so I made some mint chocolate chip ice cream from Raisa's cream and milk.  It's delicious.  I may not want ice cream once it gets cold so we should probably eat it all tonight :)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cream separators

 I got some new toys.  The folks we got Raisa from had 2 antique De Laval cream separators and, like Raisa, they've found a home here.  One is electric.
And the other is a hand crank table top model. 

At first I felt very intimidated by them.  They came with no instructions or lists of included parts.  I watched many Youtube videos and looked for online manuals, which were helpful, but the only way to really figure them out was to take them apart, clean them and put them back together.  It was actually kind of fun and I was able to reassemble them with no extra parts remaining.   Every time you use them you have to wash 33 parts from the electric one and something like 26 parts for the hand crank one.

James bought some oil for them but I think I need to try something different.  I can't get the electric one to work properly yet but I was able to use the manual one.  First I had to warm the milk to at least 90 degrees, as if it had recently come out of the animal instead of the refrigerator.

I was thrilled it worked.  I can't see any reason why I'd want to use the electric one when the manual separator was so simple.  I still want to get it up and running though.

We now have more butter. I had to chill the cream before making butter.  I'm learning a lot.   Last night James whipped some cream for our pumpkin pie.  Yum.  It sure is exciting having our own cream.  I can't wait to try separating the cream from the goats' milk this spring and see how it compares. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Yesterday I made my first cow's milk butter.  It has taken me about a week and a half to turn Raisa into a real milk cow.  Actually, she and I worked at it together.  We're a team now.  The last 3 mornings she's been an angel and I've been able to milk her in her stanchion while she stood very still and enjoyed her breakfast.  Not one stomping foot.  This is a big change from about 5 days ago when I ended up lying on my back looking at the underside of a red, furry 600lbs that could flatten me.

Her milk is so much yellower than goats' milk and it took me a while to get used to that.  I got about 2/3 of a quart of cream from 1 1/2 gallons of milk by skimming off what had risen to the top.  It will be fun to see how much cream we get when we use a cream separator.   I also made some string cheese with the milk I had removed the cream from. 


Monday, November 25, 2013

I'm thrilled with my fat

Two days ago a friend gave me 30lbs of fat.  Everyone should have such a generous friend.  I didn't even know I needed it, but clearly, he thought I could use a few pounds. 
This is the tallow after I rendered it.  From 30 lbs of beef fat I got more than 2 1/2 gallons of tallow.  I'll use it for cooking and soap making.  His beef are raised on grass so the tallow has many healthy benefits.  See

He also gave me some homemade scrapple which was delicious.  Growing up in PA, I was familiar with scrapple but thought I didn't like it.  Mostly it was my mom who ate it.
Last night's dinner was scrapple and potatoes, both fried in tallow with a healthy dose of ketchup, as fried potatoes and scrapple should be served with.

Today I'm wearing sweatpants and no one has told me I needed a few more lbs of fat.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Unlikely companions

Moving the girl goats to the field made Cooper very happy.  Unfortunately, he was driving the girls crazy with his unwanted attentions.  Today I decided the girls needed a break and so did I.  I put him on the other side of the fence with the mammoth donkeys.  He and Willo have aways been buddies and I figured they'd both be happy with the arrangement.  I was right.  It was a happy reunion.  I stood and watched them for a long time because it fascinates me when different species bond.  You may find these videos boring but I thought maybe someone would enjoy watching as much as I do.

After a while they stopped and went out to graze side by side. 

Willo isn't this fond of all goats.  As a matter-of-fact I'm pretty sure she injured Jimmy a month ago.  He now walks crooked and limps.  I think Willo hurt his back and I'm guessing it's because Jimmy and Cooper were probably doing what boy goats do and Willo didn't approve.  I moved Jimmy and the younger boys to a new pasture once Cooper had moved to be with the girls and I became suspicious of Willo being abusive toward Jimmy. 

I like that Willo loves Cooper but I wish she wasn't so possessive of him.  If Jaz goes near while they're playing Willo kicks her away, as you'll see in on of the videos. 

Jimmy seems happy to have the girls' company but, unlike Cooper, leaves them alone.  It's a much more relaxed herd.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Big day. HUGE!

I couldn't have asked for a better day.  It was a warm, pretty day and it ended just as well as it started.  I'll try to keep this short even though there's so much I want to say about it.  Maybe pictures will tell the story.

I got a halter on Raisa, which was something to celebrate, but then she also let me hook her up to my milking machine which sent me over the top.  I couldn't wait to show James that I did it.  I felt like a child at show-n-tell.  It wasn't all that simple but we made huge strides today and I hope tomorrow will be even better.  I didn't actually milk her on the stand but I was encouraged that she actually ate her grain up there.  I think the difference was that I cut a window in her wall so she could look out.

Yesterday I laid in her yard with her for about hour.  She let me rest my head on her neck and put my face next to hers so I could take pictures of us.  Every time I took a picture I'd show it to her.  She actually looked at the it but she may have just been looking at my phone and not seeing a picture. 
I see a resemblance in our big nostrils.  It was very relaxing lying next to her.  My donkeys won't let me do that.  They jump up whenever I sit down next to them.

Now if you don't think that's exciting then how 'bout this?  Today we artificially inseminated Roxie and it went without a hitch.  I'm not sure she even knew we were doing it. 

Here's all we needed.

That long, catheter-like thing with the spiral on the end went all the way in her with maybe 2 inches to spare.  The tube of stuff is lubricating jelly and the container with the red lid is the semen. The Label reads Speed Dial.   Poor Roxie, never even got to meet Speed Dial.  Here's a picture of him.  I think he's pretty awesome looking.
He resides in Indiana at Purple Power Boar Stud, LLC.  For anyone considering artificial insemination (for pigs, I mean) I'll tell you what I can.  I ordered the semen 3 days before I knew she'd come into heat.  It was delivered by FedEx the next day.  It sat in my basement in a styrofoam cooler with ice packs until I was ready to use them.  I was told by Purple Power people to wait 24 hours after she showed signs of estrus and then give her the first dose.  Now we're to wait 24 more hours and dose her again.  After that we wait 12 more hours till the next dose.  If she were a gilt (never had piggies before) we would have given her the first dose after the first 12 hours instead of 24.  I'll let you know if it was successful in 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days, give or take.

How much did it cost?  $3.00 for 5 spirettes, $5.00 for the lubricating jelly, $35.00 per dose of semen and $50.00 for shipping.  So, $163.00 total, which is much cheaper than keeping a boar.  Yes, we have a boar but he's only 5 months old and probably 100 lbs to Roxie's 600 lbs so he'd need a step stool to get on board.  In 6 more months he can have his way with her. 

I also spread wheat seed in the pigs' old pasture they had dug up and got lots more things done that were on my to-do list.  Adam called and we talked for 45 minutes to end my day.  Did I say today was a great day? 

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Lots of changes have been made on the farm in the last few days.  Yesterday we relocated animals.  The pigs moved to James' field garden to clean things up.  They should be very happy there for awhile.  When I last visited them Roxie was eating mangel beats we'd left and some fingerling sweet potatoes.  There's also lots of old corn James didn't pick and corn stalks.  We put the stock trailer in the garden for their shelter like we did last year.  I'm sure Roxie will make a nest in it very soon.
It's funny how animals don't like to leave what's familiar, even though they move to someplace I think is better.  We couldn't get Wendell to cross over the electric ribbon we had laid on the ground.  Roxie and Mickey walked over it and we walked them one by one to their new home.  Wendell would accidently cross over it (or James lifted him over it) and he'd jump right back in.  It made no sense and was funny for a while but then got frustrating.  Eventually food won him over and he followed the bucket to find Roxie and Mickey already setting up house. 

I felt kind of bad about moving them because Roxie had continued to work so hard to fill their other house with grass.  It was so full there was just a small space behind the grass and I can't imagine how 3 pigs could get in there.  Maybe that was the point; she didn't want the little pigs in there with her.  This picture doesn't do it justice.

I emptied a good deal of the grass to make room for goats to use it.  That was another change.  I moved the girl goats and Keri across the road to the field.  They were pretty happy about that during the day but I don't know how they feel about it at night.  When I went over there to put the chickens to bed all the goats were waiting at the gate.  They have 3 houses to choose from but I bet they choose the one closest to the gate which has no comfy hay in it.    I love that they follow Keri everywhere.  I'm sure they're all close by her tonight.
They'll get used to being over there eventually.  They've eaten most of the grass in the yard close to the house so now they have way more to eat in the field and their old pasture will have time to recover.  I may do some re-seeding too.

Keri seems to be very happy in the field.  She loves to run and dig for groundshogs and moles so she'll be very busy.  She's a great guardian dog and I don't worry at all about the goats over there.  I'm very proud of how she's taken to her job.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Got milk? Nope.

Raisa still isn't ready to share her milk with me, though we're making progress, I think.  I had been worried about her not liking her new shelter but that ended up not being an issue.  This seems to be her favorite spot.
I spent most of yesterday in her house and she stayed by my side all day.  I let her in the milking stall and fed her.  While she was eating I washed her udder.  She was fine with that;  BUT she was not fine with me squeezing her teats (can you blame her?) and my thigh has a bruise to show how offended she was.  I didn't even think about cows kicking like a horse.  She did a lot of calling out for her baby she left behind.  I hated that.  Once she did it right in my face as if blaming or begging me to find her.  I decided maybe she wouldn't let me milk her because she was saving it for the baby.  Of course I'm only guessing at all of this.  I should mention she hasn't been milked in several years, just nursed babies. 

A milking stanchion seemed in order, with a board in place to protect me from flying hooves.  I was in the barn for at least 5 hours while she watched me work.
I finally got her to walk on the platform but it took lots of coaxing and she still wasn't open to sharing.  I milked her a little here and there the rest of that afternoon and again today (not in the stanchion) and she no longer kicks but she keeps moving her udder away from me.  She'd let me massage it or wash it as long as I like but after I stole about 1/4 cup she'd walk away .   It's hard to believe this animal who is so cute can be so stingy.  I can be patient though.  I know she's still nervous and everything is new to her.  I need to get a halter on her but so far she's not having that either.
She follows me like a puppy and is very curious.

She lets me hug her, scratch her ears and face, rub her whole body and even drape myself across her back so I think I'm gaining her trust and that's what we need to get over this milking hurdle. 

She was much quieter  and relaxed today and went out to graze instead of sticking close to her barn.  She and the donkeys were very interested in each other. 

She seems to like me sitting in the grass next to her while she grazes.  I probably like it even more.

Maybe tomorrow she'll be desperate for relief and will let me milk her.  We'll get there.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Raisa's here

When Raisa saw the river she stared at it for a little while.  I wonder what she was thinking.

This is Stout.  He's the father of her baby-to-be.  Isn't he awesome?  He's on his way to Canada soon to make some other girls happy.

When we unloaded Raisa she took off to check things out and we hardly got to spend any time with her at all.  I guess tomorrow we'll start the bonding process.  So far I'm thinking cows and goats are very different.  I have so much to learn.

Speaking of things to learn.... I ordered the boar semen today and hope to be making piglets by the end of the week.  Hopefully all the goats are bred, Raisa's pregnant and soon Roxie will join the club.  Come spring Elk Cliff Farm will be a babypalooza. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The barn is ready for a cow

All it needs is some paint, maybe a little more bracing and a few finishing touches.  Today I put the final screws in the roofing and hung some gates inside for the milking space.  While I enjoyed the view, I'm glad to be off the roof.

iI hope Raisa likes it.  The mammoth donkeys sure have been enjoying checking it out.  I'm pretty pleased with how it came out.  It took us 3 weeks and 2 days to build and less than $3,000.00, which I thought was pretty darn good.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Oh what a beautiful moooorrning, oh what a beautiful daayy

When I'm dressed right I don't mind doing chores on cold  mornings.  Today it was sunny, there was very little wind and I was feeling good and singing.   When I turned the radio on and said, "let's get this party rolling", I swear some of the goats began dancing.  They dance about as well as James and I but I appreciated their enthusiasm.  It was 22 degrees and the water buckets were frozen, as were other things.  Needless to say, Cooper was not dancing this morning.
Shortly after singing, "I've got a beautiful feeeeling, everything's going my way", my phone fell into the only bucket of water that wasn't frozen.  Because of my super fast reflexes I can still receive phone calls so maybe things really are going my way.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What I don't like - this may not be pretty

I try to stay positive in my blog, for the most part.  I don't think tonight is going to be one of those nights.  As I type this, dinner is on the stove, I'm having a glass of turnip wine with a blanket on my lap and a fire in the woodstove, nice............... but I DON'T feel like getting up and locking the chickens in their coop because it's 35 degrees out and breezy.  I want to stay in my cozy little nest.   I don't like being cold or uncomfortable.  Note:  James just read this and went outside alone to close the chickens up.  Sweet!

I don't like when people tell me how to do things when I think I know how to do it best.  Ok, maybe I'm a bit insecure.  

I don't like when people think it's horrible when I eat animals I raise humanely, yet they buy meat from the grocery store that is raised under horrible conditions and they think it's ok because they never met this poor, unfortunate animal.  Hands over eyes and ears.  La la la la la.   And they aren't vegetarians.

I dislike that many vegetarians think that all livestock are treated inhumanely and suffer a terrible death.  I often wonder what they think should happen to cows and pigs if we didn't eat them.  Would they become like deer, over populated?   Would they end up in animal shelters?  Do we neuter all the cows and pigs and let them become extinct?

I don't like when animals get injured or sick and I don't know what to do for them or whether to call the vet and spend lots of $$$$ on them and then they're better the next day.

I hate when some of my favorite animals pick on others of my favorite animals.  I wish they'd all be nice to each other all the time.

I don't like that cold weather makes my milking machine stutter and take a while to do its job.

I don't like worrying about whether my animals will have enough hay or bedding to get through the winter and where I should get hay when I need it.  

While I'm being whiney, I hate the mess of firewood in our house.  I hate letting the fire die down so we can empty the ashes from the stove, only to fill it again.  On this note, I hate when we can't get a fire to "get going".

I get annoyed when Lex, our old boxer, stands staring at me whining for a treat or for no reason that I know of, and I get mad at him even though he's the sweetest dog in the world. 

I know there's a lot more I could complain about but all these things I typed made me think of things that I'm grateful for.  Seriously, I have way more things that I like than dislike.  It all depends on my mood. 

Tomorrow's blog may be about what I like.  That would be a long one.

Soup from our home-grown vegetables is almost ready.  James is baking chocolate chip cookies.  All the animals are in their shelters with full tummies on our beautiful farm.  I should feel bad about what I just wrote, shouldn't I?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The 15 minute "homemade" cracker

I've taken this cracker to two recent gatherings and my friends thought they were my homemade ones.  Sometimes I don't feel like making real homemade crackers, or I don't have the time, so I've discovered something almost as good.  All it takes is some flour tortillas, fresh rosemary, an egg white and some coarse sea salt.
Make an egg wash of one egg white and about a Tbl. of cool water.  Lightly brush the tortilla with the egg wash then top with some rosemary and sea salt.  You could use toasted sesame seeds or whatever your favorite topping is, but everyone seems to like the rosemary best.  Cut the tortillas with a pizza cutter into cracker sizes.  This is important to do before you bake.  Place in a preheated oven at 400 degrees and bake for 8 to 9 mintutes till lightly golden.  That's it, you're done.  Serve with your favorite cheese and they'll be a hit.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Spider identification

First off I want to say, thanks for nothing.  I'm still singing There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza.  No one helped me out removing that irritating song from my head.  We went to see a great concert the other night where some awesome soloists sang selections from Les Miserables.  I thought for sure that would do the job.  Nope.  As I type this I have earphones in and listening to some of my favorites on Spotify. 
Yesterday I grabbed a piece of wood and found a pale pink egg/cocoon-like thing stuck to it.  I pulled it off the board and then saw that it had been attached to a beautful orange spider.

The spider didn't run away and it was very slow moving.  I thought I had killed it by removing the egg but it didn't shrivel up so I think it was in hibernation, cold, scared or pretending to be dead.  I know nothing about spiders.   I Googled Orange Spiders in VA.  There was only one spider that slightly resembled the one I'd found; the pumpkin spider.  When I looked up pumpkin spiders most of the pictures that came up were jackolanterns carved with spiders in them.  This is the only thing I found that looked anything like my spider but it still wasn't exactly like it.  It's also known as a marbled orbweaver.

Any spider experts out there reading my blog?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

So we think we can dance

I love that show, So You Think You Can Dance.  I'm so amazed at how these young dancers can learn any style of dance in a few days.  I watch them and wonder if I would have been any good if I took dance as a kid.  I also wonder if one of those choreographers spent a week with me could I even learn a simple dance routine.  I'm pretty sure I'd be awesome :)

That's the beauty of being 50 or older.  You can pretend you may have been good at something but, oh shucks, it's too late to get started now.  I might as well stick with raising animals.  I wouldn't have time to be traveling all over performing anyway. 

James and I got a note yesterday from Kate and Brittany thanking us for coming to their wedding and "showing off our dance moves!"  HA!  You see?  We were teaching the young folks something.  Really,  I'm pretty sure they were making fun of us.  It reminds me of a night many, many years ago when we lived in Salisbury, NC.   Our nextdoor neighbor shared a birthday with James.  One night he and his familly were celebrating Jimmy's birthday and invited us over.  There was music and dancing and I recall doing the Electric Slide and other line dances with Jimmy's family.  This is where I should mention we were the only white people at the party.  When we went to say our goodbyes everyone was so nice to say how much they enjoyed "watching us".  Not having us, but watching us!

Sure, we can dance.  We just can't dance well. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The kindness of others

I think I blog about this at least once a year but I can't help it.  Yesterday I saw a Facebook status that said, "trust no one".  I keep thinking about that.  I can't imagine ever feeling that way and  hope I never have to.  How sad would that be?

I'm sure this happens all over the world but I see it here so often.  Many of our friends and neighbors invite total strangers - cyclists, hikers, etc.  -  into their homes for a meal or even offer them a bed for the night.  I don't mean just a few people we know, I mean a lot. 

Last night I emailed a woman I'd met just one time several years ago.  We're friends on Facebook but other than that we've never seen each other since meeting at a workshop that one day.  I don't think we've even corresponded in over a year.  I asked her a favor and she got back to me right away saying she'd do what she could to help me out.  She hardly knows me but responded so favorably I was really touched by her generosity. 

Yesterday my metal roofing was delivered, unfortunately there was a mistake in the order.   The deliveryman happened to be he owner of the company and didn't seem the least bit upset at either me or the receptionist who took my order.  He said he'd sell the roofing at a sale and he'd get me what I need next week.  I wasn't upset because we have to get the siding on before putting the roof up anyway. 

Once a friend of mine lost her car keys while we were hiking.  A week later she got a call saying someone had found them.  She had her YMCA pass card on the keychain and the person who had found them (who didn't even live around us) called his YMCA and they were able to track my friend down by the code on her card.  He didn't find the keys on the trail.  He found them hanging on a tree near the parking lot at the trail head, so someone else had found them and put them there.  

Some of these things surprise me but as time goes by I'm less and less surprised by the kindness of others.  People are basically good, I think, and want to help others.  I hope the person who wrote trust no one will have many really good experiences and change her mind.

p.s.  This is my 16th day in a row of blogging.  I was ready to quit yesterday because I felt like my life isn't iteresting enough to write about every day.  James told me to hang in there so I am.  My life may not always be interesting but the people and animals in my life are.

Friday, November 8, 2013

There's a hole in my bucket

Mark Twain wrote a story, A Literary Nightmare.  It's about a jingle one can get rid of only by transferring it to another person.  So that is my goal with this blog post; to get rid of this earworm of mine.  I've been singing it for 2 days.  Like a dream, I'm wondering if there's a hidden meaning behind the theme of this song. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Recurring dreams

I have this recurring dream.  I re-discover this whole larger part of my house that I'd forgotten was there.  It's not new to me, just forgotten.  I always have a really good feeling about this large space, though it's outdated and could use some redecorating.  The funny thing is it's all very familiar and every time I have the dream I can picture this one very open, very large room.  I love this dream.

I have another house dream.  This other house is, again, very large but in severe disrepair.  In some rooms the ceiling is about to cave in and needs my immediate attention.  The room could be lovely if only I'd get around to fixing it up.  I can't though because it's just too overwhelming.   I feel solely responsible for getting this work done.  I haven't had this dream in a while but I think I've had it since rehabbing this house however many years ago that was.

Recently I had a dream I'd never had before.  James and I were on a ship getting ready to leave on a cruise.  At some point I remember some friends are coming to see me so I get off the ship to say hello to them.  It's more like I leave a building to say hi to them on a city street (these are neighbors of mine.  Jeanette, you are one of them).  I go back to the ship and it has left without me.  I jump in the water and begin paddling on a raft (?) or something and now I'm in a river in a jungle and getting close to catching the ship and I feel hopeful.  My only interpretation of this dream was that "I missed the boat".  I don't know what that boat was though.

Just a few nights ago I had a dream that James was mad at me because I hadn't been making cheese with all the milk we had in the refrigerator.  Guilt?  I made cheese the next day.

James and I are big dreamers (in many ways) and we often wake and tell each other our dreams.  I love to dream as long as I feel rested in the morning.

If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time.
- - - - Marcel Proust



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Glass ceiling

It sure would be nice if we could put a clear roof on the cow barn.  Today was one of those days I had very little energy.  I laid on the ground in the barn and enjoyed the view while I rested.
I don't have energy for much of a blog post either.  I saved just enough to do my 40 seconds of planking.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Shopping for semen

Yes, you read that right.  It appears it will be a while before Wendell is ready to breed Roxie so I've decided I'd like to attempt artificial insemination.  I can predict Roxie's heat to the day.  When she's in heat she'll stand very still as I stand behind her and push on her back as if a boar is mounting her.  I'm hoping this means she'll stand very still while I do this

If you watched the video above you may have seen that the woman turned the catheter as she put it in the pig.  This is because (I've recently learned) a boar has a corkscrew penis.  I KNOW, that's what I thought too.   Crazy.  Check this out.

I will have to do this 2 or 3 days in a row so I have to buy 3 doses to be sure it takes.  It's kind of pricey but I guess for most people it saves money because you don't have to feed a boar year round.  For me it's definitely worth it for a blog post, don't you think?  Last year Roxie was bred with a neighbor's boar but he sold him so that's not an option this year.  I went online and searched for boar semen.  I can't find any in VA.  I've contacted someone in Indiana and I imagine they can ship here overnight.  I haven't heard back from them yet. 

Roxie should come back into heat November 21st so stay tuned for that video.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cow barn helpers

The cow barn is really coming along, thanks to James helping me with the rafters this week.  Tomorrow we should get the purlins on and then we'll be ready for siding and roofing, which we're waiting to be delivered.  Siding and roofing go very quickly.  The hard stuff is done now. 
I had some other volunteers who did not make things go any quicker.
When I run the circular saw Willo brays at me.  I don't know if she likes it or doesn't.

I quit at sunset and the mountains are just beautiful this time of night.

Tonight James and I drove up to the cabin and the leaves along the forest road were beautiful.  I wish I had a picture of them to show you.

I think we're about 2 weeks away from when we can pick Raisa up.  It all depends on the guy who runs the sawmill for our siding.  Today one of my nieces sent me this video.  I wonder if Lex and Raisa will do this.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Poker with girlfriends is way more fun than doing crunches

Two nights ago one of my friends invited me and 5 other women to play poker.  I've never played and neither had a few other women so we had to have cheat sheets to remember what hand beat what.  I'm not sure any of us are better players after that night but I can tell you we probably all had more fun than any seasoned poker player.  At one point our fearless leader commented that laughing as hard as we were was better than any abdominal workout we could do.  I don't know how long we played but I'm pretty sure we laughed the whole time.  When I look at this picture I can't remember when we had serious faces on.  These must have been our learning faces. 
This is my winning face.  It only happened one time.

 Because I won't be playing poker a few times a week and working out my abs with laughter, I've decided to challenge myself with something else.  Remember when my mom and dad were here last year and my mom was a planking fool?
I saw a challenge on Facebook and I think I'm going to start today. 
The 30 Day Plank Challenge will send your core strength through the roof! 
Day 1 - 20 seconds 
Day 2 - 20 seconds 
Day 3 - 30 seconds 
Day 4 - 30 seconds 
Day 5 - 40 seconds 
Day 6 - REST 
Day 7 - 45 seconds 
Day 8 - 45 seconds 
Day 9 - 60 seconds 
Day 10 - 60 seconds 
Day 11 - 60 seconds 
Day 12 - 90 seconds 
Day 13 - REST 
Day 14 - 90 seconds 
Day 15 - 90 seconds 
Day 16 - 120 seconds 
Day 17 - 120 seconds 
Day 18 - 150 seconds 
Day 19 - REST 
Day 20 - 150 seconds 
Day 21 - 150 seconds 
Day 22 - 180 seconds 
Day 23 - 180 seconds 
Day 24 - 210 seconds 
Day 25 - 210 seconds 
Day 26 - REST 
Day 27 - 240 seconds 
Day 28 - 240 seconds 
Day 29 - 270 seconds 
The 30 Day Plank Challenge will send your core strength through the roof! Day 1 - 20 seconds Day 2 - 20 seconds Day 3 - 30 seconds Day 4 - 30 seconds ...Day 5 - 40 seconds Day 6 - REST Day 7 - 45 seconds Day 8 - 45 seconds Day 9 - 60 seconds Day 10 - 60 seconds Day 11 - 60 seconds Day 12 - 90 seconds Day 13 - REST Day 14 - 90 seconds Day 15 - 90 seconds Day 16 - 120 seconds Day 17 - 120 seconds Day 18 - 150 seconds Day 19 - REST Day 20 - 150 seconds Day 21 - 150 seconds Day 22 - 180 seconds Day 23 - 180 seconds Day 24 - 210 seconds Day 25 - 210 seconds Day 26 - REST Day 27 - 240 seconds Day 28 - 240 seconds Day 29 - 270 seconds Day 30 - PLANK FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE!!
One more thing, I'm not going to smoke any cigars or drink Fireball whiskey for these 30 days.  Well, maybe I will on the days it says rest.