Saturday, January 27, 2018


I used to breed and show registered Shorthorn beef cattle and my Father and I raised commercial beef cattle before that. All my life there had been cows some where around me. As a little girl I remember the arrival of Samantha the Jersey Milk cow, with a bow on her neck, a gift from my Father to Mom, because she always wanted a Jersey and Rosie our  Shorthorn x Hereford milk cow was getting old.

I have milked cows for family use, learning on Samantha who was a sweet tempered little cow. Then moving on to Candy {Holstein x Angus] who loved peppermints and Karen who was turned into a Milk cow when she lost her first calf. She was a purebred Angus cow and when in the mood stood still and when not in the mood could kick like a freight train!

My Father and I used to enjoy fresh milk, pinched from a gentle show cow called Grace. A lovely red, polled shorthorn who would stand in the pasture and  let me get a gallon of milk if I needed it.

Ralph and I had talked milk cows for our farm but had decided they were too big and we really didn't need cows at all. We would get goats and sheep. Well it seems Kentucky had other ideas. One of the biggest things we have learned here is the prolific growth of vegetation. Bush hogging cannot keep up with the grass and then the weeds take over. To bush hog grass seems a waste to us and to let it just grow kills out the good grass and turns functioning, useful pastures into weed patches a rabbit cannot get through.

So adjustments were made. Cows again have entered  my life. Our "Feed Guy' told us of a dairy not far from here that has outstanding Jersey cattle, well bred show stock. They sell their mature cows to make room for up and coming young stock. Dan gave us the number and said they always have a few for sale.

We went up to see Mr. Rider after a phone call discussing what we were looking for. It was early December. He had picked out a 7 year old who was a solid cow. He runs 300 head of Registered Jersey's and they are beautiful. The cow he had pulled from the herd for us to look at looked at us with big, dark, liquid Jersey eyes and we liked her right away. I asked about her age, the average age of an American commercial milk cow is 5. He said that for family use she would produce well for another 10 years [ I felt a bit of the used car salesman in that statement but if she produced well for 5 more years it would be just fine.]

We made a deal and the cow would be delivered between Christmas and New Years. Well that didn't happen. The delays of barn repair and fence build due to weather dragged all the projects on for weeks longer than expected. Mr. Rider had said he would give us a bull calf for company for the cow, and that he would call us when he was going to deliver her. No call came...we were not too worried because we really were not ready. Ralph had found a lovely heifer calf, a Holstein x Angus, that one of the young barn builders had for sale. We decided the price was right and decided to buy her. She got delivered in the middle of the construction. We put her in the Apple orchard and she adjusted quite well although the first attempt at getting her up to the barn could have gone better.

We called her Mischief and she is the very first cow Ralph has ever owned. He is quite taken with her and spent a lot of time talking to her. In just three trips up from the orchard she learned which stall was hers, she would run and buck, acting like she was never going to come in, then follow Ralph right to the barn.

Ralph talking to 'His' cow.

The  first week of January saw Ralph call Mike. He had had several unforeseen crisis and would deliver the cow as soon as possible but it would be closed to the end of the month. That was fine by us because of our delays.

Well this week saw the arrival of our new Jersey. She was supposed to arrive Wednesday but got here on Thursday. She looked so thin...he had taken her off feed the day before to get preg tested, then missed the vet. So she got here after a delayed preg test and worming as well as 8 way and about as empty as a cow could be. The bull calf had just been castrated and was the saddest sight. I cannot say I was particularly pleased at this moment.

 A very very empty cow, but you can see she has class!

Then I realized that I was seeing her at her all time worst. We got her in the barn and then herded the poor little steer into the barn as well.

Its going to take time, this cow has come from a commercial dairy and is not really used to hand milking. She is quiet though and as we gently handle her she seems to realize that we can scratch her itchy spots and brushing feels pretty good.

Somehow it felt good to know they would only look better as time goes on.
Now we have three bovines...I  have had three milking sessions and I think things are getting better. We are not using the milk yet because of the pour on Wormers and shots that she had.  The barn cats took just one pan of milk to figure out milking is a terrific thing! The Jersey has decided that Mischief is okay but she does miss her herd.

The herd out in the South Pasture for the first time.

So our adventure continues...We have named the cow "Kate" after a dear friend of mine who things I am slightly crazy. The calf is now "Ben" although Ralph calls him Bambi half the time. The sound of a cow mooing when you reach the barn is pretty cool. We still have a long way to go to get this "dairy Rescue" turned into a farm milk cow but we think it will be worth it. Watching them out grazing in the pasture beside our new fence then bringing them into the repaired barn at night through the new gates and sliding doors is immeasurably satisfying to us.

Remember plans have to be flexible, we had no idea that we would need more livestock to keep our pastures healthy, now we have seen the growth capability of this region the cattle fit the plans perfectly. I have to evaluate how turning a commercial trained milk cow into a Family milk cow goes, it is not going to be trouble free but I believe it is doable. Not getting to attached to Ben is going to be a bit difficult....but we could use an ox, right? Mischief will be halter broken this next week and since she is four months old we will have time to gentle her to become our next milk cow.

We are so blessed to have this chance to try things. Take care and don't be afraid to try things you might not have expected to have cows....again!

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Tale of Our Tobacco Photos

Well here are some photos, I think I have winnowed them down to a manageable amount. If you follow this blog you know we love the old tobacco barn. It was here when we bought the farm. It was built before people leveled the building site, this barn was built on a gentle slope and accommodates that in its character.

It needed work...should we tear it down and build new or should we rebuild and repair it? After the 'Barn Guy' came and spent time looking at it the verdict came in. With repair it would easily handle another 30 years, maybe more! So the date was set, the deal was made....we were redoing our beloved barn.

Facing the barn, this end is the North end. It has three bays, all three have double doors mounted  on hinges. The wood on this end was in the worst shape. The doors were awful to open but still solid.

The Northwest corner with the three sets of doors. The west side had a big double door to the breezeway. The doors were gone and there is a steel gate to close the ally-way.

The Southeast Corner. It had two sets of tobacco doors here, one set gone and the other falling or fallen off. We had a load of large gravel dumped here to bring the slope to level. We felt it would also help drainage. It should stop the entry becoming a mud hole in wet weather.

The south end, this was the worst wall of all. Bales were stacked against it when we got here and the build up of debris had torn and rotted the steel. The peak of the roof was in bad shape as well. In wet weather the drainage enters the barn here so we decided to build a lean to for two reasons. 1- For extra shelter and storage. 2- To stop the water coming into the barn.

The roof is gone, it was rather beautiful in a geometric sort of way, but its always disturbing to see a roofless barn.

The old sheet metal...they ran a roller magnet over the ground here after they hauled the metal to the recyclers. It was good to see it hauled away but we expect we will be finding nails yet. They were very careful but nails have a mind of their own.

This group of young chickens were mystified, they roosted and cooed and clucked and looked at the sky through their normally sheltered barn!

Fear of heights is not something you can have working on a barn roof.

One day we had to go to town, this is the front of the barn when we left.....

This what we came home to!

 The inside view of the south wall, the awful tin is gone and you can see the rafters of the lean to going up. We were very pleased to find less rain damage then we had expected.

Looking out of Bay 2...the poor chickens were traumatized and would come out to eat when ever there was a lull in hammering.

From the south side, the lean to rafters going up.

The roof and siding going on. I think I love brown and green for a barn. I had always thought of white and green before. We thought the brown would look more like a wooden barn and had chosen green for the roof.

Meanwhile the front of the barn was getting fixed as well. We decided to close of the third bay [the right side] from the front. It has good access from the breezeway so it is still easy to get into. The new lumber will weather to a gray patina in a year or so.

The work was steady despite miserable weather. Ralph set up our burning barrel out back so the men could get warm.

 Our Construction Boss....Kinky. He would sit on the deck rail and watch intently. There was just too much going on so the barn cats visited the house a LOT!

As you can tell he was not terribly impressed!

The second tier of wood going up. The young man doing the high work, stood on a 2x10 scaffold nailed on uprights. It made me cringe to watch but it was secure and is how the wood had been put up on these barns for ages.

The South west angle, the barn is finished on this side now. The lean to completed and the ends closed it. The new track door will shut in the breezeway in bad weather and we still have the gate for air flow in summer.

The South East corner. The collapsed double doors are gone and closed in by a new wall. The door is hung and it slides beautifully. This door opens to the corral and will be the most used by the sheep and cows.

The Bay 2 door has been hung and is almost finished.

The finished project....this photo was taken 25 minutes after the men left, a snow squall blew in and we were so glad it was finished and closed in. The East side or bay one has a big door but the wood above it was still sound so it has not been replaced. That is the area that looks like a big black hole. We still have some clean up to do and some salvage of wood but it will wait until better weather and the snow melting.

We are so pleased we decided to save the barn. It was not cheap but still cheaper then building  new building of the same space. This barn will more than fill our needs and it adds value to the farm. Thats exciting to me, this little place is becoming a farm again. The barn has a new life ahead of it, with all sorts of new adventures. The calf eating grain at night, adds to the nose of the chickens and the antics of the cats. The Milk cow arrives next week if all goes well.

The fence build is still ongoing but should be finished next week with this warmer weather.

And on one odd note....after all the fighting we went through to get the turkeys to move to the barn, the doors plus the bitter weather did the trick. We locked them in for two nights and they have figured it out. They have moved off the deck. I miss them sort of! They are enjoying the loft which they discovered and they go back to the barn at dusk after their shortened walk abouts because of the snow.

I just hope this helps you see what an old barn can become. Its the best way to recycle. 

God Bless everyone and keep safe.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Happy Crazy New Year

I seemed to have completely missed the holidays, we hope everyone had a marvelous time with family and food.

It’s amazing to be well into 2018. We have had a horrible run of cold weather, usually this area has a few days at a time then gets mild again. We have had serious cold since mid December.
So this turned the holidays into a blur of changed plans and project delays. We finalized the fencing project. The fence contractor and Ralph took our designs out to the fields and went to work seeing what we could do and what would not work. The very back of the property about 2 acres is our woods. It was not fenced when we bought the place. Now we know why,  the steep lay of the land combined with the probe hitting rock continually made us re-evaluate the design. Now the new fence runs close to the trees and is angled across the south end of the farm. 

I have built fence, hiring a contractor is not a cheap option but we knew, for us, it was the only option. Our design made sense to our fencer and with only a few modifications we confirmed a price and final design. Mr. Byler arranged to be here and have the fence done the week before Christmas.
That did not quite happen. He had to delay due to the cold, the oil in the hydraulics of the pounder simply would not get warm enough. There were days where I was in awe of the men as they tore out old fences and set out posts in bitter weather with horrible wind chill.

The project is getting closer to finished and to see the design take shape is so exciting. We have 6 wire high tensile fence between pastures, double lock woven wire on the perimeter of the back and a new fence energizer waiting to heat it all up. The gardens will be fenced to keep out poultry or keep them in, depending what stage the gardens in.

The other huge event was the barn rebuild and renovation. We spent hours pricing things out, to build new or repair and restore the old. Old won and I know I am very glad it did. We found a barn builder, another Amish contractor. He knows barns and in the middle of November he came to look at the barn. It was worth saving was his opinion. So a new roof, new doors [track not hinge] and the south end metal torn off and a lean too added on. The north end wood was to be replaced with new lumber and the sides patched where needed.  He was finishing a job in early December and would be at our farm before Christmas.

Well he  traumatized all our poultry when they did the roof but it was done between Christmas and New Years. The rest of the work was finished on Friday of last week. It is beautiful. The doors close now with out a huge struggle and in the recent snow we were able to shut the breezeway to the weather.  It will take about a year for the new lumber to loose its brand new pale look and start to weather the wonderful silver grey of the old barn.

We bought a calf.....yes we will be having bovines to help with the grass situation. Ralph found a lovely Jersey cow as well. She will arrive when the fence project is done. The calf was initially to keep the cow company. She arrived early, a Holstein x Angus heifer calf we call Mischeif. Ralph is really enjoying her and can almost touch her. The barn is starting to sound like a barn when we can listen to her eating her grain in one of the box stalls. The sheep pen is ready too. We salvaged two old pipe farm gates from the fences. Ralph was thinking they were not much use but we were thrilled to find they fit two holes in the barn we needed gates for. One closes the sheep fold and makes a perfect wing to move the sheep into the pen, the other shuts bay 3 which will be the Jersey’s pen for now.

So tonight we relaxed by working on our seed selection for the next cycle. Our garlic went in and we are looking forward to it. The fig trees areca concern. We made thermal blankets for them. Round fences of chicken wire, filled with shavings. This was before the extremely long cold spell. They are buried by the shavings about 2 feet thick around and over top them. We thought it was too much but now we are not so sure.

Now I will sign off....the poultry is all well and tonight the turkey’s stayed in the tobacco barn by their own choice. That tells you how the cold has effected everyone. They love their deck rail perch....but even turkey’s get tired of cold weather.

God bless you all and keep safe in the new year. We are looking forward to more adventures as our plans continue to come together.