Peak Hillbilly

Daisy and Mara are living in the front yard. There are a number of reasons for this; primarily, it’s been the safest option for Daisy and the easiest option for me. Poor yard! The yard itself got the short end of the stick, but it was already well on its way to being trashed after being Sid’s playpen and Sunshine’s hospice area and it will come back to life with a little tlc.

When Daisy miscarried, I wanted to keep a very close eye on her to make sure there were no complications. And when Mara arrived, I wanted to keep a very close eye on the two of them to make sure they were bonding properly and that Mara was getting enough milk. And throughout it all, I was milking once or twice a day. And, being that it was the middle of winter, being that February was a frozen hellscape, I didn’t want Daisy traversing the ice if she didn’t have to, and I wanted the shortest commute possible.

The barn was occupied – half by Sir Baby and Jupiter (who must stay separated from the cows this time of year) and half with a haystack. Even if we moved the haystack, that part of the barn doesn’t have an adjoining, fenced-in outside area, and being outside in the sun in winter is actually warmer than being inside the barn during the day. The corrals, which also have shelter, were also occupied, and too far from the house for my liking. The yard was the best option under the stressful surprise circumstances of Daisy’s miscarriage, but if Daisy and Mara were going to winter in the yard, they needed some sort of shelter.

So, we backed the horse trailer to the north edge of the yard, giving the trailer itself full southern exposure, rearranged some fences, filled the trailer with straw, and viola! A portable barn. A portable barn! I now want to learn to weld and retrofit Mike’s older horse trailer (abandoned and unused for a decade) into a deluxe portable barn with a tiny loft for me.

I muck out the portable barn daily and fill it with fresh straw, and Daisy and Mara spend their days in the yard and sleep in the portable barn at night. I’m finding it impossible to describe how cute Daisy and Mara look curled up in there together. (I have tried to take photos of this scene, but it’s too dark for my camera if I sneak out there early, and when Daisy hears the door of the house opening at first light, she stands up, expecting her daily delivery of breakfast in bed.)

I have a feeling Mara will be really easy to load for the rest of her life – if she ever has to ride in the trailer, she’ll be like, “My childhood home!”


Love Fest In My Front Yard


When Daisy miscarried, I immediately began milking her twice a day. In the beginning, it wasn’t even about having her milk to drink. I was dumping it, as she’d been given a few shots by the vet and her milk wasn’t fit for man or beast while the medication was in her system. I milked her to keep her body producing milk so that, at some point, she could adopt a calf.

Calving season doesn’t start around here until February, and we don’t begin calving until March. I did not want to wait that long to find a baby, both for Daisy’s benefit and mine – the difference between milking once a day (when there’s a calf to help me out) and milking twice a day (when I’m on my own) is enormous. And I believed the sooner Daisy got a calf to call her own, the easier it would be on her. So I called a guy.

When I’m not milking Daisy, I buy two gallons of fresh, raw milk each week from a man who has a couple dozen dairy cows (who he milks by hand!! a god among men). He lives two hours north of here and delivers his milk to various towns in the area – selling raw milk is now legal in Wyoming, as it should be everywhere. While beef ranchers aim to have all their cows calve (have babies) once a year at the same time, dairy farmers tend to stagger this and have their cows calve at different times throughout the year, so that they have a constant, consistent supply of milk to sell.

So, I called my milkman on the epically remote chance that he might have a young, female calf that I could buy. He said he did have a heifer calf! Who was ten days old! But he didn’t want to sell her as he was planning to keep her for his herd. He offered to milk Daisy for me if I wanted to bring her up to his place, and I thanked him, but told him I wouldn’t be able to stand being that far away from Daisy and that I’d keep looking. He called back an hour later to tell me that he’d be willing to sell me his calf, after all! I think he realized she’d be going to a good home.

About a week after Daisy miscarried, after I was sure the medicine had run through her system, the milkman and I met halfway and transferred the calf from his truck to mine. She’s a Brown Swiss – a dairy breed (Daisy is 3/4 Brown Swiss, 1/4 Jersey) – so she will grow up to be a dairy cow, too! She was so calm and comfortable during the ride home, mellow and incredibly sweet.

I wasn’t sure how Daisy would react to her. Daisy always accepts orphans eventually, but sometimes it can take a week or two for her to really adopt them. In the past, there have been occasional bouts of dancing and kicking, when a calf loves Daisy but Daisy doesn’t yet love it back. When we put this sweet calf in the yard with Daisy, I was prepared for her to try to nurse and for Daisy to walk away. Instead, it was a beautiful union. Daisy saw the calf and dashed over to her with a mama moo that said, “THERE YOU ARE!!!!! I’ve been wondering where you were!!!!!!!!” And Daisy started licking the calf and the calf started nursing and they have been a total love match ever since.

I named the calf Mara, short for Marasmius oreades, the latin name for the Fairy Ring Mushroom. Brown Swiss cows have mushroom-colored coats (Daisy is an anomaly and though Mara has a light body now, her adult coat will likely match her face). And she is so fairy like! She is gentle and perky and sweet and sprightly (though her bones and joints are huge; I bet she’s going to get bigger than Daisy) and the way she came into our lives is truly due to magic.


Cowpies & Sunrise


Snippets ~ Early Autumn Edition

Daisy is our queen

It’s dark at 9pm and it’s dark at 6am – the light changed while I was gone. It’s not summer anymore, equinox schwequinox.


I’ve been home for a week since my final Star Brand Beef deliveries and, as always, it’s a little weird adjusting from my time as a turtle. My little red reefer truck was my home for three weeks, four delivery routes, 8181 miles – and I loved every second of it, despite the truck having issues every. single. day. (the truck kept me safe and all my beef safe, so, hooray for that). I absolutely love getting to spend time with my customers, long-time readers, email pals, and the opportunity to move beyond the veil of the internet into real life.


I think it might be time to hire seasonal help next year, spring and summer. Maybe even sooner. More details on that as soon as I get logistics worked out in my head. I would love to give someone from “the outside world” a chance to come in and work in agriculture and be part of sustainable, ethical food production…… so much to figure out, though!


Last night’s dinner: organic brown rice cooked in homemade bone broth, served with seared elk tenderloin. Does this sound like a special menu item at an elegant restaurant? Did I mention this was Charlie’s and Chloe’s dinner? Mike had a peanut butter sandwich and I had cereal.


I’ve been home for a matter of days and have already dove head first into a giant new project, which will debut next year and which I know you will LOVE. It is a love project. After 2014 and 2015, when I was barely functioning and just trying to keep myself and my businesses alive, it feels SO GOOD to work hard!


Farmily update: everyone is wonderful and happy and peaceful – Mike held down the fort while I was away, and, thanks to having my own truck, I got to spend time at home with the Farmily between each delivery trip. It made a world of difference for me and them!


AND, since I’ve been getting emails about this already: the 2017 CHARLIE CALENDAR is coming! I would never break tradition! It will be ready to share mid-October….

Sid Has Two Mommies

Little Sid, kitchen calf, lap calf, my sweet little orphan, was a bottle baby the first month of his life, which made me “Mama.” He followed me anywhere and everywhere. If he was still hungry after draining the bottle I’d brought out to the pasture, he’d follow me back to the house, up the stairs of the deck (clip-clopping across the deck on his tiny hooves), in the front door and all the way to the kitchen, where he’d wait at my feet as I prepared another bottle. (It was such a bad habit, but so cute I couldn’t bring myself to break him of it.)

And then Daisy calved. Instead of milking into a bottle for Sid, I led Sid to Daisy’s udder, using the empty bottle as a lure and sticking one of her teats in his mouth. He caught on within two days, though Daisy was a less willing participant (as is normal – cows don’t like random calves stealing the milk that is meant for their baby). But Daisy has more than enough milk for all of us, and I knew she’d accept Sid eventually, as she has adopted orphans in the past. Exhibit A: Frisco and TR, way (WAY!) past the age of needing milk, but don’t they all look so content?


So, I helped Sid dine with Daisy a few times a day – while she was haltered after I’d milked her, while she was distracted as I brushed her, and, at times, using Maia’s super-effective blindfold technique. Meanwhile, Sid and Roxy became best pals – siblings, really. They are side by side every moment of the day. Sid learned to eat when Roxy ate, keeping Roxy closest to Daisy’s head, so when Daisy turned to look or sniff, she’d find Roxy and mellow out. And then one day I caught Daisy licking Sid, and answering his moos, which means she’s decided to be his mama, too.

sid roxy daisy

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