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On the Farm

It seems like a lot has happened in the last two weeks. Right after the last box delivery, the engine on our trusty two-wheel tractor broke down just as Bill started tilling a field. It was an old model, a hand-me-down that we relied on for many garden tasks. It had several chronic problems that Bill, our machine-whispererer (more like machine-curser), had been able to coax it through during the last couple of years. The thought of facing the season without it was both sobering and daunting.

After doing some research online and with a lot of help from Paul at Middleton Power Center, Bill learned a new engine would take several weeks to get (not an option this time of year!) and would cost more than half the price of a new machine. We decided it made more sense in the long run to purchase a newer model BCS two-wheel tractor and tiller. Paul helped set the purchase up, and Bill made an unexpected trip to Middleton to pick up the new machine. When he got home he went right to work mowing old vegetation, shaping beds, and tilling.

And now carrots, peas, turnips, radishes, lettuce and greens have all been seeded. Other crops have been transplanted and lots more will be put in the ground this weekend. Whewww! Our potential crisis averted, we are back in business, and it feels good.

Bill also finished setting up our new seed-starting greenhouse. He squared the frame, installed hoops, attached the plastic, finished the ends, doors, and ventilation windows, and hooked up the heater and remote thermometer. We sorely need it since the one we’d been using is much too small. It was bursting at the seams, and the dozens of flats that didn’t fit went into our living room on some old racks and tables in front of our south-facing windows. It worked but was far from an ideal environment. Getting from one end of the room to the other was our own personal plant maze.

One of our trusty work-share members, Jennifer, spent several hours helping us sort and move flats of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, and onions into their new home. The heat-loving plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant stayed in the old greenhouse for now. We still have one rack in the house with eight trays under grow lights, but it feels good to have most of the living room back. We forgot how big it is!

In other farm news, we now have a Jersey cow and her two-week-old calf. It is crazy to add milking a cow twice-a-day to our chore list, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. We’d been contemplating this for a couple of years because we consume a lot of dairy products and wanted fresh, raw, un-homogenized, full-fat milk. Most of our goat milk is used for soap, and it is easier to extract the cream needed for butter-making from cow milk than goat milk as the goat milk is naturally homogenized (meaning the cream doesn’t separate and rise to the top). We frequently checked local online bulletin boards for a small breed cow not finding one in our price range until last weekend.

Bill, Aidan, and Marlee set off to Viola to collect her. After they talked to the owner, looked the pair over, paid for them, loaded them into the trailer, and set off down the road. Four miles later, a trailer tire blew out. It was Saturday evening and, with no nearby tire-repair places open, Bill wasn’t sure what to do. He decided he’d have to walk the cow and calf back to the farm they came from, drive home with the bad tire, fix it, and go back the next day to try again. Fortunately the neighbor up the road saw him and realized something was amiss. He came over and took Bill to his farm to search his machinery for a similar tire. They thought they had one, even taking it off his wagon before realizing it wouldn’t work. No luck! But the farmer had another plan: he took Bill to a friend’s place up the road a couple of miles, and they started the search again. This time they found one of correct size. Bill borrowed it for the day, put it on, and came home. Thank goodness for neighbors – even ones 46 miles from home proving neighborliness is a state of mind, not a distance!

We unloaded the newly-named Shelby and her son Chance. They settled right in. When we milked her the next morning she gave two gallons of milk. Since then it’s about a gallon per milking. I think my fore-arm muscles are bulking up already and I’ll soon be an arm-wrestler to be reckoned with!

Both Aidan and Marlee get up early in the morning to help with the milking and to spend time with the adorable calf. It is their mission to tame him. The milk is delicious, and we’ve made several batches of rich, yellow butter and creamy yogurt. We’ll be trying kefir, buttermilk, and ice cream soon.

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