The Gang

The Gang
October 2008 Sweet Potatoe Harvest

About Me

I am a busy mommy of 6, seeking to be a loving, godly helpmeet to my husband and a biblical discipler to my children. God has blessed us with a child with Autism. May the lessons that the Lord is teaching me and our family be a blessing to you and yours!

My Favorite Books

  • Bible
  • Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl
  • Four-Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
  • Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver
  • Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll
  • Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
  • Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp
  • The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Why should a family like ours try to raise our own meat, veggies, and sweets (honey & maple syrup)? One reason we want a self-sufficient farm is so that we can teach our children the value in working hard as an individual and as a family. Every once in a while.... they actually get it and participate with enthusiasm. This springs start of our syrup season has been a time when I have been so proud of the kids and how hard they are working WITH us. Phil and the kids have been going out to tap trees over the past few days. All of us have worked on gathering and cleaning over 70 4-5 gallon buckets to catch the sap. Today will start the harvest! I hope to use this time as an example to the kids of how fun it really is to have great attitudes and work together to get the job done!

Sorry, we don't sell our syrup, it is just for our family use. Each year we have people ask if we will sell some but we have never gathered enough for our own use let alone have extra to sell. Hopefully this year we'll get enough for the year for our family! We use about 10 gallons a year. I know that sounds like a lot but we try to avoid using sugar as much as possible, that is why we have honey bees and why we harvest maple sap. Phil and the kids have tapped over 50 trees and hope to have close to 70 tapped by the time they are done.

Today is the first day the sap should really be flowing. So I expect we will be cooking down our first batch tomorrow. I always look forward to the sugaring season and I'm always glad when it is over! :-) Thankfully it usually only lasts a few weeks, so we push though it so we can enjoy our syrup year round!
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Phil went down to feed Boris on Thursday night and called frantically on his phone: "Shirley get the 22 and some shells and send it down with one of the kids I've caught a possum!" I ran for the gun while Elizabeth and Caleb rushed to get their coats on. Sam and I waited in the house anxiously to hear if daddy shot the animal, hopefully without getting bit by it! He came back up to the house with the large 10+ pound male possum dead. We got to see it through the window. Sam was quite bummed that he missed out on the excitement since he is still confined to a wheel chair for another week.

After Phil disposed of it he came in to tell us that when he got to the stall and looked over the door he saw this huge possum drinking water from the calves bucket! He charged after it. The possum ran for one of the corners of the stall and ended up stuck between the stall wall and the brick outer wall of the barn. Phil grabbed it's tail and the dogs antagonized it's head from the other side of the stall! Phil was determined to show no mercy since we have lost our share of chickens to possums in years past.

Elizabeth told us later that the family she babysits for who lives just a couple miles down the road, lost 5 turkeys and 12 chickens to possums last week. They trapped and killed 3 within just a few days. We are watching our chickens and turkey's closely making sure they are secure as soon as it is dark if not before.

The little boys were disappointed they missed the fun but liked seeing the pictures and hearing the story in the morning.

The good news is the wild animals are coming out of hibernation so spring must be on its way to Wisconsin!!
Some folks read my blog to keep up with the family. Some read because they like following our farm and all that we are learning in the making of it. I'll do my best to keep both groups happy.

This blog is about the first "normal" thing that we have had happen on the farm since December. I said I'd write about our cow trauma's and this is it. In December all was going well with the adult herd, with the exception of some mild cases of mastitis (so we thought) until we lost Holly just before Christmas. She was supposed to calf on Christmas and died just a couple days before. She showed no signs of being sick. The day before she died I watched her eating, chewing her cud and got to feel the calf moving. She looked totally healthy. I checked on her last at 10 p.m. and when I went out in the morning she was dead.

In the meanwhile, the yearlings and calves started to have issues. They are kept at what we call "the other farm" or the "lower farm". There is another barn down at the other end of the dead end where our neighbors rent the house and we use the barn and most the land around the house to graze the herds. We started to loose one summer calf every 5-7 days. The first one was because we thought Caleb had thrown a bail of hay on it and killed it. The others, we weren't sure but started to guess that the bull was killing them.

Two weeks after Holly died we lost another one of our best milk cows, Kipp. She too was eating, chewing cud, drinking and had all the happy cow signs then was dead 6 hours later. This death led to us getting 2 different vets out to the farm to look over the herd. We also had all the dairy cows tested and discovered that we had a severe mastitis issue. We knew many of the cows had mastitis, what we didn't know was that it was an incurable type. You see, when our cows get sick we don't usually use antibiotics. We use natural treatments first and medical treatments as a last resort. Both the vets stated that they thought the reason for our losses was too much stress on the herd due to lack of shelter.

This fall we had hoped to get a hoop barn up for the cows. However, time didn't allow and we hoped and thought with the guidance of our landlord that the herd would do fine. We were all sad when the stress led to us loosing 2 to death, 2 others to cull because their udders were useless and probably one other to cull once she calves in April. We still don't think that it was any one thing. We think it must have been a combination of things that for some reason allowed the girls to get sick and not be able to kick it.

This story sounds bad but when I tell you the numbers...... we started with 8 milk cows and ended the winter with 4. We started the winter with 6 calves and ended with 1, and 5 heifers and ended with 4. BIG losses for a little farm.

I must confess that I didn't handle these losses well. I reached a boiling point which caused us to really talk through and evaluate what we needed to change. I told the kids: "We cannot say that we are learning if we do not change anything based on what we have learned." So by mid-January Phil and I took over all the chores and I learned how to milk the cows with Elizabeth.

Since we have made these changes we have slowly worked the kids back into chores with a LOT of supervision and I continue to milk with Elizabeth every day. The health of the animals seems to have stabilized. However, I cannot explain to you in words how anxious we were about Bonita calving. You see, we hadn't had a normal birth since the summer. We prayed and watched Bonita closely as she got closer to calving. Finally on February 24th we woke to find a nice big healthy bull calf that the kids named Boris. Bonita has been giving us a beautiful creamy 4+ gallons of milk a day!

It is hard for me to express all that we have learned this winter. But I do hope we have LEARNED which means that the changes we've made will allow for a successful winter next year.

We have since added another cow and 5 heifers to the herd to try to get our milking numbers back up to where we want them to be. When all the heifers finish calving by December 2011 we will have 13 in the dairy herd. The next cow is due any day and once again we are praying and being vigilant in watching her for any signs of stress.

On a different note... we are trying to get my Boston Terrier to mate with a local stud so we can sell some terrier pups in June. My children don't need the "birds and bee's" talks... they get cows and bulls, chickens and roosters and now boy dog and girl dog training. :-) It is a great way for us to share with them how beautifully God has designed the cycle of life.