Baby watch over!


Maxell is his name.  He was born on Thursday morning at about 6:45.  The first twenty four hours were as they ought to be.  Beautiful.

Then Fern went down with milk fever.  From Friday morning until Saturday night we fought with medicine and love to get her back on her feet.  At 10 o’clock Saturday she stood.  That is the briefest summary possible of an exhausting and difficult situation.  I am too tired to detail it!  If interested I’ve been working the Keeping a Family Cow community and the details are posted there.

But this morning I had rich yellow cream in my coffee and I got to pat that handsome little devil on his soft white head and say good morning!

PS:  His front hooves are black and his back ones are white!  How cute is that?


Bonnie Boot No More

Well, I have some catching up to do here with my Bonnie news.  Considering that I still can’t drive and am not too stable on uneven ground it is amazing how busy I have been.  I have been making wreaths, bags, and Christmas costumes for the church pageant.  Have also cleaned and organized an extraordinary number of floor-level shelves in this house.  Have also organized over 3000 photos into some sense of order.  Digital photography is great but too many bad pictures taken, too easy to download them here and there and not label them etc..  all this to say that I’ve not let this broken ankle time go to waste.

And I’ve left you wondering what on earth is going on with Bonnie Boots!  I’ve almost lost track myself.  The Thursday before Thanksgiving Sarah and I had a hard time convincing her to come into the barn.  In fact each morning and each evening she took longer and longer to appear at the barn door.  Thursday evening she was particularly slow.  Friday morning she marched right in, I opened the gate leading to her stanchion and waited for her to come in.  Remember there is grain awaiting – cows love grain.  Candy to kids – grain to cows!  She just stood there.  Looking at me like I was a complete dolt, an idiot at worst, a very slower learner at best.  Animals speak clearly if you take the time to listen and the time to hear.  Bonnie distinctly said, “I don’t want to be milked anymore.”

I heard this message on November 22nd.  Her calf, Stormy, was born May 22nd.  Six months of milking.  Exactly.  

Beef heifers often wean there babes at six months.  How?  By kicking their calves’ cute little noses away.  Yup.  She has been trying to say she was done.  I wasn’t hearing it.  Didn’t want to hear it.  Bonnie has a fair dose of beef in her, Bonnie has low milk production which is what I wanted and I knew and overall she has given me more milk than I expected from her first freshening.   

All this to say, I’ve stopped milking her.  It’s is terrible thing to wake up to no cream in my coffee. And I miss those moments under my cow.  I do not missing the kicking. 

Such is farm life – highs and lows, abundance and scarcity, etc…  Eating in rhythm with natural cycles is probably a good thing.  We are so spoiled or perhaps I should say confused by the transportation of food.   Having a few months off from dairy products – probably okay for the body.  Going from fresh raw milk to store-bought milk is a bit like buying ‘fresh’  tomatoes in New England in February.  An ‘iffy’ proposition!

Bonnie is now happily coming in for a tiny bit of grain, she is happily being brushed, and she is ever so happy I finally stopped and listened to her!



Putting the ole Fixies to Bonnie Boots

Sorry to have neglected my blog.  I’ve spending my writing time on a creative piece that I am not quite ready to post yet but will.

But tonight I need to vent about Bonnie.  What a naughty, naughty girl she is being!


Photo taken by my daughter Sarah this morning.

Okay that is not fair.  I think the problem is this:  she is one hairy cow.  Including her undergarments – if you know what I mean.  I can’t grab a teat without also grabbing a few hairs.  Undoubtedly this hurts.  Surely it hurts.  So she kicks.  And she is getting good at kicking.  At first it was little stomps and stamps.  Now it is  – without a doubt –  a full on attempt to take my head off.  POW!

So I  bought these nifty little clippers.  Battery operated.  Pretty quiet.  I tried it on my leg and didn’t feel anything.  Not saying my leg is as hairy as her teats or my legs as sensitive as her udder.  These are pretty good clippers is my point.

She let me buzz the first teat with no problem.

The second teat I successfully dodged multiple kicks to the head and shoulders, I got some hair off but didn’t complete the job. I left off with the shaving and milked her out.  This morning I just milked, she kicked some.  And I’ll admit it – I am getting scared of her hooves.

This evening was a nightmare.  It hurts her to milk her.  I need to get the hair off.  She doesn’t like to get buzzed.  And though I don’t blame her, I don’t want to get kicked.  How embarrassing would it be to show up at my orthopedic doctor’s with a broken collarbone or wrist!

I tried to hobble her with rope.  Fail.  Scared her.  Angered her.  Puzzled her.  But didn’t stop her from kicking.

So I brought out my last resort.  THE KICKSTOP.

This tool is designed to stop cows from kicking.  It catches under a leggish part and catches up on the spine.  When the cow kicks they are thrown off balance and in theory they stop kicking.  First attempt and Bonnie flipped.  A couple kicks later and the kickstop fell off.  I tightened it up and put it back on.  She stood and thought about it for a while.  Still.  Her breathing calmed.  We decided that given my broken ankle issue I might not be able to get out of the way fast enough for a second time.  So Eric leaned in with the buzzer to get some hair, she didn’t move.  He took off a bit more hair.  She drove a foot into the air – at head height.  Again, and again, and again.  She swung her whole body around – continuously kicking.


This was not going well.  And I still needed to milk her.

This is when it is handy to have a handy husband.  We decided that if we couldn’t stop the kicking we at least had to block the kicks.  Eric grabbed a few two by fours, some tools, and some decking screws.  In no time at all he built a small sturdy wall that prevented her from landing those hooves on humans.  And prevented her from swinging her body around.

I managed to milk her out.  She threw her hooves into the wall a few times then switched to half hearted attempts at kicking.  I tried to not pull hair.  I can’t say I look forward to what the morning will bring.  I’ve got to buzz more hair off.  Just hope I can keep myself intact  on that adventure.

Sunday Morning

It’s been a week since I resumed some barn chores since ‘the break’.  Milking has finally sorted itself out, Bonnie is back to her sweet angelic self, munching her hay while I milk.  Haven’t been kicked for a couple days.  Not even this morning when the time change gave me the excuse to sleep in a bit, getting milked an hour later didn’t bother her in the least.  Whew!  It is so NOT fun to sit under an unhappy cow.  It offers that weird conundrum of having to be a calm bull’s eye.  Egads!  What did I just write!?  I will be right back once I know.

Okay, I googled it, and here is what I found on Yahoo Answers!

“The English longbow yeomen were directed to practice frequently, and it has been stated that there was often a practice held immediately after church services in small hamlets, the only time during the week when many of the archers would gather. A common target was the white skull of a bull, and the greatest skill could be illustrated by getting a “bull’s eye”.

Another common shooting term derives from this activity, when the archer is far from the target, the arrow must be pointed high, due to the arched trajectory of an arrow. When the archer is very close to the target, then he may point directly, without aiming above the white bull’s skull, hence “pointing at the white”, or “point blanc” as it was stated in those times. The term is now an established military term, “point blank” range, or the distance at which a firearm can be directly aimed at the target without consideration of the arched trajectory. Modern firearms often have a point blank range of a few hundred yards. ”

Bull's Eye

Bull’s Eye

Hmmmm… very interesting.  So here I am saying I have to be a calm bull’s eye…  it’s funny how these terms come to mind without any point of reference for them.  Now I’ve totally distracted myself from my point, which was being calm when being vulnerable.  It is hard!  What I have found with cows is that you can’t respond with tension.  One day this week I lost my temper; the milking had been going okay, a few tail whacks to the ole nose, but no kicking and then Kapow!  she kicked me in the rib cage – hard.  Off my bale of hay.  Granted, I am not the most balanced milker at the moment and I was more concerned about protecting my leg than balancing my seat, so off I went.  I came up MAD.  I gave her a good whack and said NO!!!  She kicked at me again and again and again.  I yelled, NO! and NO! and NO!, I let the first few kicks pass – then grabbed her leg and held on.  She is a little cow, so this is not as exciting as it might have been if she were a twelve hundred pound animal.  I held her leg and quietly told her this just can’t happen.  She gave me another good whack with her tail.  Evening the score sort of thing.  We finished the milking, not in peace, rather a reluctant truce.  Neither of us happy.

No cream in my coffee from that milking.

Twelve hours between milkings gives a person time to calm down.  When my babies were babies I’d sing to them and to myself through the stressful moments.  At bedtime that meant rounds upon rounds of Hush Little Baby or Baby Beluga.  In the daytime that meant either Garth Brooks or Annie Lenox,.  Mind you I can’t sing worth a hoot but it usually worked.  So the next milking  I started to sing Hush Little Baby to Bonnie.  Couldn’t do it.  Too tense.  Counting works wonders, too.  I ditched the singing and started counting, in French.  The need to focus is greater, the calming results faster.  I forgot all the forties entirely and messed the seventies up pretty badly, perhaps beyond recognition.  A lot was tumbling around in my head.  I did not want to get kicked off the bale again –  a) it hurts, and b) it makes my milking with a broken leg SO not a joke.  As my brother said when I sent him the pic of me milking,” there is a fine line between stupid and hard” – and I was starting to think I had crossed it.

What on earth am I going to do if this cow can’t be milked?  Get the calf back? Get rid of her?  Dry her up?  Buy a machine?

It’s hard to shut up inner dialogue and be in the moment.  By the time I got to the nineties in French I could feel hints of calmness returning to me.  I ditched the count in favor of making up my own song.  It went something like this,

“Here I am milking my little cow,

my little cow,

my little cow, my little cow,

Here I am milking my little cow,

so early in the morning,

this is the way we milk a cow,

milk a cow,

milk a cow, milk a cow,

this is the way we milk a cow

so early in the morning!

Here I am milking the one white teat,

the one white teat,

the one white teat,  the one white teat,

here I am milking the one white teat,

so early in the mornnnn-ing!

Now we milk the little black teat,

the little black teat, the little black teat,

Now we milk the little black teat,

so early in the morning,

Now she whacks me with her tail,

with her tail,

with her tail, with her tail

now she whacks me with her tail,

so early in the morning.”

Pretty soon both Sarah and I were laughing.  And yes – the rest of the milking went fine.

Bonnie's Udder

Bonnie’s Udder

That was all a few days ago.  After that there have been good milkings and okay milkings.  Then we had that warm day, Thursday.  In a farmer’s life, warm means flies, and flies mean switching tails, and switching tails hurt.  I’ve tried tying up Bonnie’s tail in the past, this just makes her really mad, she stomps and moves around – A LOT.  Fly bites hurt and the tail is a very effective tool against them.  I can’t blame her.

Thursday night the milking went okay, I took some hard whacks to the head but oh well.  We made it through it.  My husband had work issues and was in a bad mood.  But we made it through it.  That night I didn’t sleep well, the cast was loose and uncomfortable, my leg throbbed, my shoulders and neck were in knots from the crutching around, from the weird milking position, from the weird sleeping position, but I made it through it.  The dog had leaned on my bad leg  and hurt it.  I wanted to cry, but I hadn’t cried once during this whole saga and I wasn’t about to start crying six days into it.   My upbringing had never suggested that one should, or even could, cry over spilt milk, the mantras in my family were:  God Helps Those Who Help Themselves; No Pain, No Gain; You Gotta Be Mentally Fit To Be Physically Fit, You Gotta Be Physically Fit To Be Mentally Fit; MIND OVER MATTER ; What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger; etc- all those wonderful New England/Yankee ways to the tenth degree.  I was not going to start crying now.

I sat down to milk.  My wonderful assistant Sarah was tending to the pigs and the chickens.  I settled in to wash Bonnie’s udder and WHACK!  Her tail, not the nice fluffy end of it – the bone of it, hit me in the forehead.  I cussed under my breath.  Then KA-WHACK! that Gosh-Darn-Dang tailbone hit the end of my nose.

I burst into tears.

And sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.  Poor Sarah.  She knelt and hugged me.  Mothered her mother.  Petted my hair, told me it was all going to be okay.  Petted my hair some more.  I had myself a good old fashion cry.  Then I milked my cow.  I angled my head into Bonnie’s body so the tail-whacks missed me or hit the back of my head.  By the end of the milking I was leaning heavily on Bonnie and she was leaning heavily on me.  When I finished I slowly pulled away so she wouldn’t fall over.  Ahhh…

I’d love to say the milkings have been flawless since then;  they haven’t been bad, last night and this morning was flawless but they haven’t all been great.  What I will say is this, it never ceases to amaze me how my cow makes me the best version of me.  When I left the barn that tear-filled morning I left it with a new sense of power and hope.   I left it feeling like I had won, I had been pushed hard, I had cried, but I done the job I meant to do, and I had done it well.

Moving along

Things are moving along. Slowly.  Crutching around is hard work.  Getting down to the barn and back is slow going but worth it.  It amazes me how energy and clarity come with those moments out in the barn.  By the time I get back to the house my arms are tired, but I feel so much better.  

Bonnie Boots, as my friend Monica dubbed her after hearing about poor Kathleen and Sarah,  is being a bit of a dic-a-doo.  She is lifting feet more than she should, not really trying to hit me but clearly trying to get out of being milked.  Don’t tell my mother or my doctor but her hoof has landed on my right leg a few times, nothing below the knee but still… so not cool.  I can’t quite figure it out.  Perhaps some tenderness from the ‘holding up’ over the weekend, perhaps the idea that kicking might have gotten her extra grain or less time in the stanchion, perhaps simply the change of routine, I wish I could understand her language better.  In the past I’ve been able to make eye contact and chat with her a bit; with my back to her I can’t.  Before I was ‘flapped’ she would often stop mid-way through milking and lick my face or hands, perhaps my back offends her?  I just don’t know.

The other character that has been interesting to watch is Dory.  When I’ve been laid up in the past she has been right there, laying near my bed or door, watching and waiting.  Until today she has been watching and waiting patiently.  Just as Bonnie decided to give me one full day off before I had to come and milk, Dory decided that today was the day I had better play with her.  From the moment I got out of bed she was crazed, she put on her whole wiggle-butt, tail-waggety-whack routine – “we are going for a RUN!”  Food didn’t satisfy that itch, a quick trip out to pee didn’t either, she was certain that today was THE DAY that we’d be on the move again.  So, after William got on the bus I spent about half an hour outside throwing the ball for her.  Now she has calmed down and is napping.  And once again, her medicine was just what I needed.  

What happens when people are stuck in nursing homes, houses, hospitals?  I can’t possibly be the only one who benefits from fresh air and outside activity. Convalescing without clarity and energy hardly seems like it can be convalescing.

I have not been able to visit Abba and Per yet.  I miss rubbing their ears and bellies.  I have to go through a mucky spot so haven’t ventured there yet.  I’ve thrown apples over to them but that’s it.  They are surely missing our excursions.  They got out of their pen on Saturday so Eric and Sarah had to move them and set them for being penned pigs, at least for a while.  Poor Per must be losing his mind, he is one high-speed pig, her run circles for the sheer joy of it, his little piggy spirit must be suffering a bit.  Their new pen is nice and big and all un-rooted ground, for the moment that is the best we can do.


Hades is roosting alone these days.  It's taken me a few days to remember to take the camera down for evening milking.  And a few shots to figure out the best nighttime settings on the camera.  The Greek Ladies and Mary Penguin have moved to the rafters to roost, leaving Hades alone.

Hades is roosting alone these days. It’s taken me a few days to remember to take the camera down for evening milking. And a few shots to figure out the best nighttime settings on the camera. And it is still blurry because he kept moving.  Bear with me – as you’ll see the photos get better.   The Greek Ladies and Mary Penguin have moved to the rafters to roost, leaving Hades alone.

The Greek girls roosting with Mary Penguin, in the rafters.

The Greek girls roosting with Mary Penguin, in the rafters.

My son, William, came into the barn and felt bad for Hades, he picked up, a bit of a flurry there! and moved him to the rafters,  Mary Penguin moved away!  William's interpretation of this was that Mary Penguin moved so he could settle between herself and the girls and no one's feelings would be hurt.  I gave up trying to photo all their roosting spots because Mary Penguin went out so far out of the frame.

My son, William, came into the barn and felt bad for Hades, he picked him up, a bit of a flurry there! and moved him to the rafters, Mary Penguin immediately moved away.  William’s interpretation of this was that Mary Penguin moved so he could settle himself  next to Hera, Hecate, and Hebe,  and no one’s feelings would be hurt. I gave up trying to photo all their roosting spots because Mary Penguin went so far out of the frame.  My interpretation – Mary Penguin does not want to roost near Hades at all!  And if you look carefully at the photos, you’ll see that Hades’ Ladies moved down the rafter as far as they could, I don’t think they want to roost with him either.  He may need to check his BO!

Hades and his Ladies

Learning to Milk

My husband is a sport.   He has milked Annabelle four time since August- with me standing right there.  Tuesday night, before my mini-vacation, he did a trial run without me.  I cozy-ed up with Dizzy, That Naughty Little Mini-Horse, and spectated from a distance.

Oh, did Annabelle give him the horrors!  Not enough trouble to call her a mean cow – just enough let him know who was boss.  She lifted her foot a few times –  yes, you could call it a kick – but it didn’t have any real omph behind it.  Then she stepped back as far as she could, only stepping forward after he had re-organized pail and stool to her new spot.  Then she pranced around – testing how quickly he could move his toes and buckets.  She thought about whacking him with her tail – but didn’t.  She beat the heck out me with that tail the first two months I milked her.  Man –  she knows how to turn that seemingly benign appendage into a weapon!   For some reason she stopped her tail mid-swing and decided he didn’t need that particular punishment of hers – perhaps because it wasn’t covered in poop?!

She did treat him to her amazing hip-check-off-the-stool-move.  I never figured out how the heck she did that until the other night.  I can’t tell you how many times I found myself sitting on the floor with no clue how she did it – flipped me right off the stool as fast as you could blink.  Whoosh!  I thought it was some sort of hip check but know now she swings her mammoth Jersey belly into motion – ba-da-dang- ba-da- BOOM – off the stool goes the milker!  Ha!

Fortunately my DH came off the floor laughing or I might not have gotten my break.  It would be hard to be mad at such a skillful move but it is a tad bit frightening to be on the receiving end of such skill from such a large beast.

Tuesday was the only night she put out this kind of effort.  He kept with it and she never tried anything like it with him again.  Hip-hip-hurray- I can occasionally get away!