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Homesteading – The Cows
This is another episode in the saga (follow-up post to the original post) “Our address changed (both home and internet)” and how we started our little homestead. If you didn’t see that post or the Homesteading – The Chickens (episode 2) or Homesteading – The Goats (episode 3) articles (and you prefer reading things in their chronologically-correct order) feel free to go back and catch up. We’ll wait right here for ya.
So, in a nutshell, we moved to the property and a month later we got chickens (and then a chicken book), then a month later we got goats, (and then a goat book) and – you guessed it – a month after that we got our first cow (and then a cow book)!
We wanted miniature Jersey milk cows because they are not technically bred-down like toy lap dogs but are actually more the size that family milk cows were before being bred up to produce large amounts of milk for commercial dairy production lines.
We bought Buttercup as a just-weaned Heifer (young female) and she was still so small that we actually brought her home in the back of our truck with the boys holding her! By the time we got home they were covered in calf pee and poop and she was in love.
We wanted to wait until she was about 15 months to breed her because (even though she would technically be able to breed earlier) studies show that they have easier pregnancies and calving when they are a bit more mature and fully grown. Of course there would be another nine months wait after that before she would calve and freshen. Tick-tock.
We got impatient about 6 months after we bought her and bought a full-size Jersey milk cow that we found on the internet.
There should be a huge sign on the top of every computer ad saying, “Caveat emptor” – buyer beware! They told us over the phone whatever we wanted to hear and they were located at the other end of Florida so we couldn’t make the trip just to test-drive a cow. They told us she had just had a calf and was hand-milked (because we asked if she had been hand-milked!).
So, early in the morning on a beautiful day just before Christmas, Dwayne and the boys hooked a borrowed (and well-used) trailer to the back of the old Tundra. That morning was the first time we had actually seen the back of our good friends’ single horse trailer – there was no tag on it and they didn’t have one for it! No time for red tape and standing in line. Besides that, the tag offices wouldn’t open for a couple of days. A last minute decision (those are never the most well-thought ones!) found us grabbing the tag off our family van and slapping it on there with a “promise” that we’d not even *think* of speeding lest we be pulled over and questioned! Now, much like everything you may read in any of these how-we-started-homesteading posts – don’t do as we did, do as we say!
Despite the less-than-legal start, Dwayne and I headed up I-75 and the boys stayed back to hold the fort. The drive was easy and we stopped for a BBQ lunch before we turned left at the panhandle. It was a beautiful drive through the back roads (read: less trafficked and policed) of old Florida.
We arrived at the ranch (according to Google maps) but weren’t quite sure if it was the right place. Don’t you hate that feeling of driving up a loooonnnnngg drive, with a barking dog escort, and not being sure if it’s the right place? Don’t get me wrong. Dwayne and I both grew up in a little Florida Cracker redneck town (Hi Arcadia! Love y’all!) and were used to the “watchy’all want?” treatment but this wasn’t our neck of the redneck woods! We could have been a couple Yankee transplants for all they knew! A safe bet on their part considering there’s more of them than of us these days.
Eventually someone meandered out, then another, then some more, then pretty soon the whole stinkin’ audience was there for the impromptu rodeo (that’s my attempt at foreshadowing the story ; ). They showed us the cow and she looked good. We had the Mother Earth News printed out checklist of “what to look for when buying a dairy cow”. Check. Check. Check. Ok. Let’s check each teat and make sure they all work. The crowd begins to snicker and giggle. Well, more like hock, spit, and chuckle. “Sure, little lady, go on in there. We’ll just put her in the chute for ya.” I was the designated milk tester so in I went. I strode right up there in my best “you ain’t gonna intimidate me” attitude and started to pet her. Her name was “Polly”. Sweet Polly Purebred. I gradually worked my way down to her bag and gently touched the udder. So good, so far. I gave 1 good squirt on the 1st teat and that’s all she wrote. She kicked me and then slammed me between her and the chute boards. The crowd went wild! Where’s Underdog when you need him? Sweet Polly Purebred my hindquarter.
I came out shoutin’. “What do you mean she’s been hand-milked!?!?!” By the time they calmed the laughter the husband and wife duo both answered at the same time. Different answers. One was obviously lying. I gave Dwayne the “I’m outta here” look and headed for the truck. He followed after me and said God told him to get her!
I had legitimate questions as to why he and the Lord were chatting on the sidelines while I was the rodeo clown but knew in my heart I should have been doing the same thing instead of getting all up in the “flesh”. My spirit confirmed that I should go with his leading on it even though my pride was ready to kick some, uh, rump roast.
We made the cash transaction and headed home. It was a b-u-m-p-y ride! She did not like being chauffeured. The little rodeo burned up too much daylight and it was almost completely dark as we pulled onto our property and through the gates to the back pasture nearest the
barnhouse. She came out buckin’. The calf could barely walk out on his own. Oh, did I forget to mention the “free” calf that came with her? A nice little bull calf.
First question from the boys, “Mama, why is that calf’s poop white?!” Answer, “Dwayne can I use your phone a minute?” Google search. It’s scours. Of course it is. Going in one end and coming out the other. We’d deal with that tomorrow in the daylight. For now we needed to milk her out. Right. Me: “Honey, you get to milk her this time!”
That didn’t work, so we called our buddies down the road that owned a raw milk micro dairy of Jerseys. Lori could do it! Bless her heart, she came in the dark and told us what to do. After the stars were well out (and the mosquitos!) she declared, “That cow is demon possessed! Try again in the morning.” That’s when it occurred to us that we were fighting this situation from the wrong angle.
During our little chat with the previous owners they spilled the beans that she was a “rescue” cow from a nearby dairy. It seems she (as a smaller framed Jersey) didn’t produce like the big Holsteins and they were going to send her to market. They buy these cows for near to nothing and resell them for the going family milk cow rate. “Polly”, as they instantly named her for internet sales purposes, had never actually been hand milked – she had been on a commercial milking circuit. We were told that none of the dairy workers there spoke English – so besides everything being very different everything even sounded different to her!
First thing the next morning we promptly changed Polly’s name. We decided that it was fake to begin with and she needed a brand new start! The boys named her “Lucy” from the character in the Chronicles of Narnia. We prayed over her and literally “cast out” anything that didn’t belong attached to her! The next thing I did was put a custom mixed Bach Flower Remedy in her drinking water. Then we tried milking her. Lucy let us milk her and was as sweet as she could be!
Now we were milking a cow and 2 goats and loving it! Fresh milk, homemade butter, cream, sour cream, cream cheese, clabbered milk, ice cream, cheeses (squeaky cheese curds are a fav!) and more!
We needed to breed Lucy back and would have to breed Buttercup once she was old enough so we bought a miniature Jersey bull and named him Beauregard. He turned out to do his job well, he is quite a beau! We eventually used him for stud services for others and he sired all heifers but one out of many rendezvous! (Heifers are preferred in the dairy cattle world). As perv as this sounds, it was actually very interesting to see the mating process! Once a heifer or cow was in standing heat they would run to each other like a love story in slow motion – galloping across the full length of a pasture! It didn’t take a total of 5 minutes for the actual event to occur but then the interesting part was how they were like love birds from then on. They would be inseparable; cuddling, necking, rubbing and munching fresh green grass side-by-side non-stop. It was precious!
We had to dry Lucy up several months before she was due to calve so that all of her energy could go to growing the calf. So with 2 dairy cows we had no (cow) milk for that whole time. This is how people wind up with a whole herd of dairy cows! Luckily we had the goats still producing milk.
For the 1st year or so we just milked right out in the pasture since, technically, we live in the only barn on the property. Once time and finances allowed, Dwayne and the guys built this milking shed. It has a gate we can close and doubles as a birthing stall for when the goats or cows have newborns and we need to keep them safe from critters for a while. (I decorated it!).
Fast forward 9 months and it was Christmas Eve. The guys were all out doing evening chores and I was cooking in the barn-house. Bradley went out to clean the automatic waterer in the front pasture and came back screaming that Lucy had a calf! We all went out and found newborn little “Noel” being cleaned up by her mama. What a Christmas gift! We were also able to have fresh, cold, rich creamy cow’s milk with our homemade grain-free, sugar-free Christmas cookies!
Eventually our sweet little Buttercup calved and had Bleubelle, the most beautiful mini Jersey heifer in the world. Seriously, we’re sure of it! There are 2 registries for mini’s in the US and we’re on both of them. If we had more time at home we would have loved to start a whole herd of minis but the milking takes time! Once the calves were weaned and growing strong we adopted them out to wonderful homes. Noel went to the East coast of Florida (Jupiter Farms area) and Bleubelle went to North Georgia. The owner of one of the 2 mini registries bought Bleubelle and hopes to make many more minis! We still keep in regular contact with each family and the girls are growing into beautiful cows!
By this time we had milk coming out of our ears so we made the decision to sell our lovely Lucy. She went to another great family in Okeechobee, Florida. As time went by the family that bought Lucy’s calf (Noel) had another (human) baby and needed to sell her (Noel). Since we were in contact with all of the “adopted” families we were able to get them in touch with Lucy’s new family – who bought Noel!!! Now Lucy and Noel are together! That family now has a thriving little raw milk micro dairy!
Buttercup is giving the creamiest milk we’ve ever had! The 1st 1/3 of every 1/2 gallon Mason jar is all cream! She is bred back and is due to calve again in early May of 2015.
Okay, after all of this talk about our fresh cow’s milk. Have you ever drank it? Do you know how amazingly healthy it is for you? If not, visit www.WestonAPrice.org to learn all about raw milk! While you’re there sign up for membership! It only costs $40 a year and you get well over $100 worth of real food coupons and discounts with it! Besides that you get all of the latest real food research and information plus resources to all of the healthiest local food sources in every area. If you are in the Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte or Desoto county areas in Florida you are welcome to join us for our chapter meetings, classes and events! Contact me for more details! All classes, events and meetings are free to the public.
Another great resource to find fresh raw milk in your neck of the woods is www.RealMilk.com.
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Too funny! I loved reading about your adventure and was rolling laughing. The “rodeo” was hysterical! Glad you made it through it. You guys are always an inspiration to us!!!
Gee I’m still laughing. What a story. Isn’t it funny how God speaks to people at the funniest times LOL! It’s sounds like the experience was quite enlighten but I’m glad it turned out good in the end. I look the little calf and the name Noel fits perfectly. Pinned & twitted.
Marla – We laugh a lot about it all now – but I can’t say I was laughing then! Yes, “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord…”!
Thanks for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop!
The things we do when we are on our homestead journey
Sandra – Thank you! It’s always a pleasure!
We definitely don’t have room for cows (yet). Thank you for sharing at Real Food Friday! Hope to see you again tonight.
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They are so adorable and love the colors of these jersey cows. I bet that milk and cream tasted so good. Merry Christmas.