May 2013 Newsletter

May1

It is Mayday!

Sometimes in the depth of winter it feels like the warm sun and flowers of May will never be reality again.  Yet, here it is for us to love and appreciate!

Miss Fancee, my very favorite cow calved yesterday.  She gave us yet another beautiful heifer calf that I named Laurel.  Laurel is doing very well.  Each new calf brings me such joy is a highlight of milking.

The ducks and the chickens are on the ground and growing like crazy.  The ducks are already eating the grass in our orchard and are growing bigger by the second.  The chicks aren’t too far behind and will be on the grass this week as well.

We are expecting some pigs due this June and are taking reservations on some weaner pigs.  They are purebred American Guinea Hogs and we have had a blast raising them.  Feel free to contact me if you are interested in them as we now officially have a reservation list for them.

Please note that it is unlikely that we will have eggs for sale until the fall.  We are transitioning into a new flock and have thus passed on some of our older hens who were providing the surplus of eggs.

We have had some problems recently at the farm and wanted to take an opportunity to remind us all of some of the rules.  Please take the time to read these simple rules and help me follow them.  This farm is also our home, and we would like to keep it nice and be able to continue to provide milk.

Please try to pick up your milk between the hours of 8:00am and 8:00pm. I realize that it is a bit of a drive for some of you to come and get your milk and that it can be sometimes hard to fit into your schedule.  That said, we have had quite a few people picking up milk at midnight and later (3am!).  If you cannot make it in the above hours, feel free to text or call me so that I know when you plan to come and can be aware.

Please ONLY return your jars to the yellow fridge in the creamery.  The jars sitting on the pour table are clean and sterile jars that have come out of the dishwasher and are ready for the next milking.  If someone puts their returned jars on that table I cannot always tell what is clean and what is dirty, and I often have to rewash the whole batch.  If the yellow fridge is full, feel free to put the jars on the floor beside and in front of the fridge.

Please return the CAST IRON FARM engraved jar including the lid.  If you cannot find a jar, I would rather wait for it to turn up then to get a jar that has been used for something other than milk.  I had someone return a jar that was not my jar that had stored chopped onions in it.  I discovered it only AFTER I had poured milk into the jar.  The milk and the jar had to be discarded.  If you lose or damage a lid, I ask that you replace it.  The lids are actually almost as expensive as the jars themselves.  Please take good care of them and return them clean and in good repair.

Please keep track of your family and your children while on our farm.  Feel free to poke around and say hi to goats or cats or cows, but watch your children.  Our electric fence tests at 9000 Volts and it hurts (and can be damaging to kids).  Also, we have had some property damage from children who were unattended.  This is our home, and while we are happy to share it, it is disheartening to see our property damaged or destroyed.  Also, while we make an effort to keep the property safe, there are unsafe elements at times.  We would hate to see anyone get hurt.

Please do not open barn doors or gates without permission.  If you don’t see me around to ask, you can always call me to get permission, but if the barn is closed, there is a reason.  If you do get permission you are responsible to close the door or the gates back up securely behind you.

Also, please put your payment in an envelope with your name on it  and put it in the wire basket on the shelf.  I pick them up every day or so.

We did have a bit of a milk shortage through April as Hazel had a bit of inflammation.  Now that Fancee has calved everything is back on schedule.  Feel free to text me with any requests for extra milk.

Lastly, Christine will be out of town from May 30 through June 5.  Our very able relief milker, Emma will be milking.  Christine can always be contacted on her cell phone at if you have any questions.  Invoices will go out before May 30, which is a little bit early.

Have a good month and enjoy your milk!

 

April Newsletter

April5

Oh my!  I hope sincerely that you have been enjoying all of this wonderful weather we have been lucky to experience.  I have had a list of farm projects that needed to get done sometime in the spring.  I never imagined that we would be well into the list by the 1st of April.  That’s part of what is awesome about farming, you are always being thrown curve balls, some are good and some are bad. I’m enjoying this good one.  In fact, the Easter Bunny delivered baskets full of annual flowers to the children to plant in their gardens.  The flowers have already been planted!  That’s a first!  I so look forward to those lovely little blooms greeting me all summer long as I walk out my front door.

April and May are my favorite months of the year.  I so enjoy the green grass, the blossoms, the bees buzzing and all the new life awakening after a dark, rainy season.  I will install 4 more hives of bees this weekend, so honey is in our future.

Our chicks and ducks are on their way and will be here on April 12th.  You will see them roaming around the farm eating up bugs and grass converting it to food on your table.  There are a few extras so feel free to add on.

All of the goats but one kidded this past month.  We have 7 happy, bouncing babies running around and growing like weeds, and it’s been fun to get to play with them again and to enjoy the goat milk from our two milking mamas.  You will no doubt see these guys running around out in the pasture from now on.  We are also still looking for names for almost all of them.  Hint..hint…

As of today, our RAWMI listing has been finalized and is official.  It was actually official  on March 11th, but they have now posted it on their website and announced it themselves.  Our bacteria counts are now public on the web (www.castironfarm.com/test-results).  We have really learned a lot in the listing process, and I am so glad that our farm walked that path.  As a listed farmer, I now have a donation box with envelopes for RAWMI.  This will live in the creamery.  I know that things are tight, but do consider making a contribution, even as small as $5.  If everyone made a small donation we could pay for another farmer to go through the listing process.  We are slowly educating and proving that raw milk can be produced safely (and deliciously).

I did a bulk order of the wide mouth ReCap Mason jar lids.  They are awesome to put on the milk jars to help with the pouring.  They are on the shelf in the creamery and you can grab them for $6 each.  That’s a steal, as they are $7 on the ReCap website.

I wish all of you a happy spring.  I hope that you find some time to grab some good food with someone you love, and as always, Enjoy your milk!

March 2013 Newsletter

April2

March has arrived!

The groundhog was kind to us this year and seems to have told the truth when he announced the imminent arrival of spring.  Of course we are still having some temperature drops (it froze this morning), but all in all, this farmer is grateful to be experiencing this mild weather that makes it pleasant to be out of doors.

The most wonderful part of the weather change is that the cows have made it out onto the good pasture!  The grass is growing, albeit a little slowly.  The ladies are appreciating being moved into a fresh patch of grass every morning, and I must admit that I love this time of year when they finally return to being visible from my kitchen window.

Be sure to check out the test results for the milk this month.  The numbers we are seeing in the milk quality tests are indicators that the milk you are taking home is fresh and clean!  I do hope that you enjoy your milk every week, as I think kindly of each of you when I write your name on the top of each jar.

The RAWMI listing process has been completed, and at this point, we are only waiting for it to actually show up on the website.  I am excited to be a member of the group that is proving raw milk to be a safe and healthy option.

We did some more work this month on the cow barn and it now has good lighting.  What a difference it makes to turn on the lights and actually be able to see!

We are expecting some little goats this month, so keep your eyes out for those happy, bouncing souls as you pick up your milk.  The goats and the sheep will transition slowly onto the sheep pasture over the course of the next 4 weeks.  On that note, we will be shearing the goats and the sheep this month and have some beautiful coated fleeces still available.  The fleeces will be the best I have ever produced and I can’t wait to start processing and spinning my chosen fleeces.  I plan to make many pairs of socks to keep my feet warm during next winter’s milking and barn cleaning.

I am going to order chicks this next week, so you have the chance to get in on that still.  They will get to take advantage of the green spring grass, and I am looking forward to having chicken in my freezer.

Enjoy your milk and the arrival of spring this month!

February 2013 Newsletter

April2

Happy February!

We’ve been having some nicer weather lately.  It feels to me like it is the calm before the storm, as I know we have more freezes and more rain ahead of us, but the cows and I have nonetheless been enjoying the weather.  They’ve been out to pasture for almost a week straight which has given me a break from barn cleaning.  They’ve been kicking up their heels on the way out to the pasture every day, which always makes me smile.

Lots happened in January!  Our adorable Fritz (Daisee’s bull calf) finally joined us 14 days late.  He is a troublemaker, and he is simply gorgeous.  I’ve really been enjoying having him around the farm.

We took advantage of a short lull to add fully automatic water plumbing in the barn and in the pasture.  The system works wonderfully and is already saving me a lot of work and time.   We also completed some plumbing projects in the creamery.  We now have plentiful hot water in the sink, and the dishwasher is working diligently sanitizing those jars brought back.  Oh! We have also installed an ice machine!  You are welcome to throw a few scoops of ice into your cooler on  your way out to keep your milk cold.  We have been using the ice to chill the milk in record time!  Our milk is down to 36 degrees within 30 minutes of leaving the cow!

Our RAWMI listing should be made final in February!  Our January test results sealed the deal and we were officially invited to complete our listing.  We are just now fine tuning some paperwork, but you should see Cast Iron Farm listed on the RAWMI site soon.

Spring will soon be upon us.  We have decided to do 1 batch each of spring poultry for sale.  We are going to do a batch of heritage Freedom Ranger chickens for $5 per pound as well as a batch of ducks for $6 per pound.  We will start them in late March, early April.  They will be fed non GMO feed and will be heavily pastured (the ducks even have a pond). We are currently taking reservations on these guys.  I will require a deposit to hold your spot.  Space will be somewhat limited, so if you have interest, let me know sooner than later as there will be no extras, I am going to order based on reservations.  They will be available in mid to late June.  Also, we will have a limited number of rabbits available for $22 each, ready throughout the spring and summer months.

The cows will gradually transition to more and more pasture this month.  May your butter become more and more yellow!

Enjoy your milk!

January 2013 Newsletter

April2

Happy New Year!

May 2013 bring you lots of smiles and many delicious meals!  I know I have a long list of things we’d like to see done around the farm.  I’ve already started working on many of them.  I also hope to spend lots of time participating in the growth of my kids.

December was a big month for Cast Iron Farm.  As you have no doubt noticed, the milk pick up has now moved to the new creamery space. I am loving this new arrangement.  I spent many hours over 2012 designing the perfect production spaces, and the creamery is the culmination of many hours of careful thought.  We should have hot water and a dedicated dishwasher in there by the end of next week, which will complete the space!  Remember to put the empty jars back into the yellow fridge for cleaning.  The jars I have sitting out on the granite countertop are the clean, sterile jars ready for the next milking.  Additionally, I have stocked the space with some basic office supplies for writing a note or a check, etc.  Please put any payments in an envelope and put them in the metal wire basket next to the office supplies.  I will pick them up on one of my many daily trips through the creamery.  If you are paying in cash, please use the receipt book to write yourself a receipt so that I can credit to your account.  Ask me if you have any questions about this.

In other news, on December 19th, Mark Macafee flew up here from California to do an inspection of the farm.  He was here while I milked, and we went into excruciating detail about my milking practices.  He was very pleased with the set up here and he extended an invitation to me to become the 2nd nationally listed farmer with the Raw Milk Institute.  This is a very exciting opportunity for Cast Iron Farm to be a part of proving that with careful practices, raw milk can be produced safely.

I am also working as a technical advisor to the Oregon Raw Milk Producers Association to help develop standards for all raw milk producers in Oregon!  I am a big advocate of testing.  As such, you will now find our test results posted in the creamery space.  I test the first non holiday Monday of each month.  If you have questions about interpreting the results, I would be happy to direct you.  Last month’s results showed VERY clean milk with no coliforms detected (!) and only 8000 colony forming units on the standard plate count.  We are meeting the standards required to milk after it has been pasteurized!

Lastly, we are expecting a calf VERY soon from Daisee (the white roan cow) any day (she was due December 24th.  Feel free to ask to check in on her and see the soon to be born new baby!

Enjoy your milk

Monday, July 9 2012

July10

Well, the sun finally hit, and summer, as we usually think of it, has arrived in the beautiful Willamette Valley.  The sudden onset of heat really does dramatically change the chores that I must start doing.

I REALLY don’t like to work in the heat so I try to rearrange my schedule so that I get up early and work while I am fresh in the morning.  The problem is that instead of then taking a rest at some point in the day, it means I try to cram as much as possible into a day and reach a potential burn out.  I burned out about September of last year, and it was really hard to recover from.  I have less tolerance and more burn out these days, so I try to be really careful.

The need to water seems urgent, and I find myself carrying water to our various plants that demand attention because of their new delicate conditions.  I planted more trees this week.  While it feels incredibly pointless to plant something now that won’t produce on a large scale for year.  I like to believe that the sweat and tears I put into setting up my farm this summer will mean that future summers will be full of delicious handfuls of freshly grown food.

Speaking of… we picked blueberries this morning.  We started off picking 25 pounds, and I got 30 pints into the freezer.  Not too bad for a first pick.  We plan to return tomorrow, so it will be good to possibly wrap up the blueberry pick this year for good.  We sure have been enjoying the sweet, summery blueberries this day.

Passage of Time Saturday, July 7, 2012

July7

It has been hot around here, and when the temperatures start to climb above 80 degrees, the garden needs some watering attention.  I usually attack this chore first thing in the morning.  The plants can get a nice drink of water before having to endure the heat of the day.  It is also a time of day that no one else in my house dare be awake, so I get to work in solitude.  As I was watering the perennial herb garden I took note of my rosemary plant.  When we first moved in, some very thoughtful person had planted a rosemary, but it was planted in a shady spot with no drainage.  The plant was surviving, but barely.  When I started my perennial herb boxes, the top of one box called out as a place to transplant the rosemary.  I planted it, put some rabbit manure around it, and wished it the best of luck in it’s new home.  The next month, my friend Rebecca gave me some pruners for my birthday, and she suggested I test them out on the rosemary.  She told me to cut it back considerably and see what happened.  I was loath to torture the poor plant more, but after a few months of deliberating, I took her advice.  The poor plant, that was spindly and thin to begin with, was lopped back to almost nothing.  It didn’t look particularly attractive, and I was sad to think that we would have to do without rosemary for quite some time.

That image of that sorry rosemary was what stuck in my head, and every time I went out to the garden, it was what I saw the perennial herbs through.  Well, this morning, as the sun started to make its grand entrance into the world and I was out comfortably watering my rosemary, I realized that it had come alive!  With the love and attention and the food from the rabbit manure, this rosemary bush went from looking like a sad plant on its way to death to a healthy, vibrant, productive plant.  It is beautiful!

While I see a lot of the big changes that go on around here, new rock on the driveway, posts for barns being put up, new additions on old buildings, it is easy to miss the little things.  The project that I planted a year ago that has made it through one full season and is looking healthy and strong ready to please the eye and the palette.

I moved on to watering the blueberries, and I really took note of how the plants that I planted last year with scant foliage have come to grow into bushes, not yet full size, but big enough to bear some fruit this year, yet just a teaser for what we will see next year!  It has been easy to focus on what we will get in the future from things we have planted or are growing, but today, I am appreciating what I’ve got right now.

IMG_20120707_074725
Blueberries planted last year waiting to be picked.

The strawberries I planted this spring have decided to surprise me as well. I expected nothing from them this year, but was surprised this morning with this little gem.
IMG_20120707_075509

 

A post including the perennial herbs would never be complete without a view of the echinacea that my friend Rebecca gave to me a few years back. What a joy and a surprise to see it so happy in my care.
IMG_20120707_075606

 

And of course, I’m looking to the future.  While blueberry season is upon us, we’ve decided to expand our patch by another row.  That will go in the ground in the next day or two.

I will also be heading off to pick some lavender from a farm today, but 22 fresh lavender plants wait on my porch to be planted this year.  Oh what will they look like next year after surviving the seasons we have yet to experience.

 

 

Notes from July 6, 2012

July6

July!?!?  REALLY!?!?  Though the years seem to go by so fast, it is hard for me to get used to the idea that it is July already, and July 6th at that!  I’ve been meaning to write more notes here, so I’m just going to start writing notes, and not make any promises about what I plan to do in the future.

Exciting things are going on around here.  The crew showed up at 7am this morning to put the very long posts in the ground for our new barn.  The ground work to get to this point has been long and exciting, and I bet that the building goes up very quickly from this point, but it is hard to believe that the posts I see NOW will be barn in a few short weeks.  The view around the farm will change a lot, but this new barn means so many exciting things for the farm.

We are now on day 2 of rather warm weather.  I’m a true Oregonian in that I really can’t stand the sun.  I am happy for the 9 months a year that it is cold and rains and is mucky, but the days it tops 80 degrees, I just can’t take it.  I guess that’s why I’m not running a veggie farm here, I’d rather be in the barn with the livestock!

Speaking of livestock, I got a call today from someone asking if I would take in her 9 angora rabbits and help find homes for them.  I begrudgingly agreed to help.  I’ve had some unfortunate turns in my breeding this year that has left me wondering where to go next, this rescue might just lead the way for me.

The kids’ Papa is in town for the visit.  He surprised us all by bringing a play structure for the kids.  They are so excited they just can’t bear it, and I have a feeling that I won’t be seeing much of Cyprus in the next week or so.  He’s just climbing the slide and going down over and over again.

With the chores all done now for the day and the cows out happily munching their dinner. I’m going to head off and celebrate the 4th of July weekend with a good old fashioned visit to the St. Paul Rodeo.  Yep, even farmers take a break to go have fun, even if it is by going and looking at more animals!

We’re Going on a Cougar Hunt

April21

Yep, you read that right.  A COUGAR.  I’ve been flapping my lips lately about how our location close to the city means that we have few predators.  While I did deal with a skunk last June, I haven’t lost any thing to any of the usual suspects.  We can hear the coyotes call out the bedroom window regularly, but our professionally built fence keeps them on the outside.

Enter the cougar.  I was alerted about 3 weeks ago that the News Register had run a story about some sheep and house cats being killed by what looked like a cougar.  The kill matched a cougar’s MO, and they had some tracks verifying.  Concurrent to that, a cougar was seen walking down the road.  What’s more the kills and the sighting were less than a half mile from our property.  I started to lock the livestock up tight at night thinking that the danger would pass eventually and that that would be the end of it.

On Tuesday, we discovered that our neighbor had a ewe and a lamb killed that night.  It looked to be the same cougar and the kill happened about 45 feet from our property line.  My reaction–HELL NO.  I called it in to the police and fish and game and then I called all the friends I have that hunt.  Very kindly, one of my dear friends headed out that night and had a go at calling it in, but it had just got a big kill the night before and wasn’t interested.

This all led me to hone up my shooting skills and get out the rifle.  I headed out and got a cougar tag myself.  While many of the people around here have livestock just for fun or for lawn mowing, my livestock is valuable breeding stock, and a loss of just one animal is a huge loss for me.  That coupled with the fact that I have small kids and I spend a lot of time outside at night (cougars are nocturnal), has led me to decide I’ll be doing a little hunting of my own.

We have a friend who has first hunting rights on our property each year, and I called him up, and he was game to catch a cat, so we headed out at midnight to have a go at it.  We got some things set up and potentially saw something in the distance, but it never came in close enough to get a good shot on it.  We had a few visits from some other wildlife and almost got a shot or two off at a coyote, but no cougar.

And so, until I’ve got myself a cougar rug, I’m going on a cougar hunt!

Meet Pascha

April16

We had another adventure at Cast Iron Farm this morning.  Yesterday, we had a large gathering to celebrate Greek Easter or Pascha.  We were all having a great time, but my cow was getting ready to calve any day, and on Saturday, I was starting to think that she might calve during our large party.  I pulled her into the barn as the party was drawing to a close, and I got the idea that she was really ready to calve.  Her udder was rock tight and she was acting kind of funny.  In fact, she stuck her head under the gate and was trying to get out.  Silly cow.

I happened to get chicken pox on Saturday as well, so I was laying in bed at 4 something this morning feeling kind of crummy, and then I had a thought come into my head “I’ve got to go check that cow.”  I then tried to talk myself out of it, and the calling from the barn was too strong, so I opted to head out and check.  I told myself that of course she wasn’t calving and that I would get to crawl back into bed when it was all over.  I also happened to be wearing my standard calving check attire, a shirt, no pants, a house coat and some flip flops.  The rain started again in the night so it was wet outside.  I grabbed Jared’s big flashlight and headed to Fancee’s stall only to discover that the stall was empty!  The cow had lifted the gate off it’s hinges and escaped.

I searched the entire property for her, and I couldn’t find her.   Oh great!  I had just happened to leave the gate open to the big pasture last night, so I thought I’d check in there again.  Finally, the flashlight shone on two big eyes down by the bottom of the field.  I rushed down through the wet grass to see that she was laying down working on pushing a calf out.  To the looks of it, she’d been working at it for a while.  I rushed into the house, woke Jared and got the OB straps and some towels and we drove the John Deere down to the cow.  He left the lights on while I got the straps around the calf to pull her out.  I managed to get the straps on, but even with all that force from the cow, the calf wasn’t budging.  Finally, with all the strength Jared and I had, and all the force Fancee could give, we got the calf out.  That’s the thing about extremely small cows like Fancee, sometimes they have calving problems because they are just so small.

After a little clean up, we got the calf in the John Deere and brought mama and baby back up to the nice clean barn with a heat lamp.  The calf, a heifer we have named Pascha, got all cleaned off by mama, and was up nursing like a champ while I was milking the other two cows.  And so, meet Pascha, the most recent addition to our herd.
Pascha

 

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