January 2014 Newsletter

Happy New Year 2014!  I hope that this new year brings you closer to your goals!

Oh boy, 2013 ended with a bang for us here.  The biggest news, of course, is that our daughter, Florence Vee Anderson was born on Christmas morning!  It was the most wonderful Christmas gift that I could have imagined.  We are recovering slowly but surely.  Miss Florence has already made her way around the barnyard with me.  She’s very content when she is up moving about, I imagine that is a trait that she got from her very active mother!

In barnyard news, we had two calves born in December as well.  Both cows are doing well and their milk is now in the general milk supply.  My Jersey, Reggie, produces a lot of cream, so you will likely see an increase in your cream line over the coming weeks.  These fresh cows have allowed me to dry off Fancee, who is due a break before she has her next calf in March.  These calves are are sired by our bull and they are hairy, just like him.  They look like walking teddy bear calves!

Hopefully you received and read the newsletter last month with the information about the bulk tank.  It is due to arrive in at the end of January.  Please let me know if you have any questions while we work through this new process.

I am still waiting for news from the state on the lawsuit front.  I promise to keep you up to date when there is news.

Have a safe and Happy New Year.

Enjoy your milk!


December 2013 Newsletter

Kalo Mina!  This is a phrase I learned while I lived in Greece.  It means “happy new month” and the Greek people greet each other with these words at the beginning of each new month.  I found it to be a fun and refreshing tradition, and I try to carry it on here at home!

December is here!  My, how this year seems to have flown by!  Thank you so much to those of you who have made the trek out each week this year to pick up your milk.  Of course, the cows are mostly in the barn now while the pasture goes dormant and recovers, but they are eating sat sweet, alfalfa hay, which definitely makes for some sweet, delicious milk.  I appreciate your support and your patronage of our little micro dairy.

Reminder: We will be milking through the Christmas holiday, those cows just don’t ever take a break!

I am sitting here doing the invoicing December 1st, and I realize that many of you might be out of town over the holidays and others of you have asked for extra milk for your holiday hosting.  If you need to make any changes this month, let me know, and I will put it on the schedule.  I will be having the baby some time this month, but I will still be out milking the cows, and I am always available if you need me, I just might not be as quick to get back to you as normal.  Please be patient with me.  And, of course, I will put an announcement out as soon as our new little one has arrived.

You might have been surprised to discover that I filed a lawsuit on behalf of myself and Cast Iron Farm on November 19th.  I am the sole plaintiff in the lawsuit.  We are challenging the Oregon ban on the advertising of raw milk.  The challenge was filed in federal court as a violation of the first amendment.  I am working with the public interest law firm The Institute for Justice on this case, and they are amazing.  We expect to see this senseless ban removed so we can communicate about raw milk in Oregon.  We made quite a splash in the media (including a TV appearance or two), both locally and nationally!  The article was on the front page of the News Register last week and was published in the Capital Press this week!  I must say that I have been touched by the outflowing of support I have received from the public at large as well as those of you most important to me, my customers.  I apologize if this was a surprise to you!  While the case has been under works for a while, I wasn’t allowed to talk about it until we actually filed the case.  I promise to keep you apprised of how things progress from this point on.  At this point, the judicial system can be slow, and we are waiting to hear back from the state to see how the case might progress.  Hopefully I will have a thorough update with more information at the beginning of next month.

We will be making some major changes at some point this month, and I wanted to give you a warning about them.  To make milking easier, and to get the milk chilled faster, we will be installing a bulk tank in the creamery at some point in this month (it is on it’s way from Greece).  This will change the way you pick up your milk.  I have attached a sheet that explains how the process will work.  Feel free to contact me with any questions while we work through this change.

A few of you have inquired about the yarn sitting on the shelf in the creamery.  This yarn is a part of a co-op.  I have German Angora rabbits, and we shear them every 90 days.  I saved up 5 pounds of this amazing fiber and sent it in with our co-op to have it milled into this yarn.  The co-op has finally set the price.  It is $15 per skein.  I have left some info sheets next to it for those of you interested in the technical details.  I just knitted up some projects with the yarn over Thanksgiving, and I was very happy with the results.

I hope your Thanksgiving was full of delicious food to eat and family to share it with.  May December, the darkest month of the year, bring you much warmth! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

The Amazing Baloo

I often wait for the birth of a new calf with wonder.  We tend to keep our calves around for a while, and many of them are bottle fed, and it never ceases to amaze me how different each calf is in personality.  As our cows are staggered to calve throughout the year, there seems to always be a new calf just around the corner.  The case this summer was going to be my first Jersey calving.  I have heard horror stories of Jersey cows and their propensity for milk fever and the lack of stamina in the calves from these small cows.  Needless to say, I was not looking forward to this calf, and was seriously considering selling it at a couple of days old (after it had had it’s colostrum) as a bottle baby.

The day that Hazel decided to calve, I knew she was pretty close, I saw her acting funny in the morning and by the late morning I was headed off to a doctor appointment of my own but I knew that there would likely be a calf when I got back.  But, no, when I returned, she was still laboring away, and two hours later, she’d been working at pushing for a while with no real progress.  I grabbed my OB straps and a halter and went out to see if I could help out.  Of course, the calf was in an odd position and I was not in a position to right it, so for the first time ever, I rang up my vet and asked him if he had anything to do that afternoon.  He came right over and we got the calf righted and started to pull.  He hadn’t felt any movement and I feared that in fact the calf was not going to survive the birth.  As soon as we got his head out he started bawling before we even managed to pull the rest of him.  I was glad to see the signs of life!  He slopped out onto the fresh, green grass and I untied his mama so she could investigate and take care of him.  Alas, she is  Jersey, and she took one look at her wet bundle and walked off in the opposite direction to eat grass.

Great!  Try as I might, she really wasn’t interested in him, but he was a strong sucker and he got up and followed her around and managed to get a good nursing in before he collapsed in the corner of the shed exhausted from his journey.  I locked his mama in with him, but she was not to be convinced that she wanted anything to do with him.  The next morning, he clearly couldn’t nurse and was having trouble standing.  You see, the calf is a Jersey/Angus cross.  The calf should have weighed about 45 pounds, but instead he topped 60 pounds, so he was pretty good sized.  Being cramped up in there for so long sometimes makes them have trouble coming out and when they do come out they can’t stand up well or suck.  He for sure was having those problems, and due to the fact that mama didn’t want him, I decided that I would take on the roll as his mama.  Jared and I picked him up and brought him out and put him on the front lawn where he would get lots of attention as we came and go, and I started to try to feed him.  Because he was suffering from Big Calf Syndrom, he really wasn’t able to suck and I made the decision I was going to tube feed him directly into his stomach.  I HATE doing that more than anything, and I put it off as long as I could.  As soon as I got the equipment ready, I asked for Jared to help and we went out to where he was on the lawn only to find that he was missing.  I looked all over for him only to discover that he had decided that he liked the kids’ pumpkin garden as a spot to sleep and he was curled up under the biggest squash leaves he could find.  An ample hiding spot for a little calf for sure, and after I got his belly full, he settled in for the night in the garden of his choice.

The next several days found him wandering around the farm courtyard trying to find a place to lay down while I went out diligently and tube fed him.  At this point, I was letting him try to nurse from his mom as well, which he was doing reasonably well.  Since she didn’t want to have anything to do with him, I tried tying up my most tame and gentle cow, Fancee, and let her try playing foster mom.  He was happy to get a few sneaks of milk here and there, but Fancee really wasn’t in the mothering mood either!

Finally, he started being able to suck a bottle, and so he was grateful whenever I would show up at his side with a magical bottle full of milk for his belly.  As soon as he got a fully belly, the mischief started.  He knew the property boundaries and was scared of the road, so there really was no reason to put him in a pen, so I left him out.  It was always a mystery where he would wind up next.  The second someone would appear from the house, he would end up at their side wondering what they were up to and asking to be scratched.  Eventually, I weaned my goat kids from their moms, but the moms were not ready to dry up their milk yet, so I started getting the goats out in the afternoon to let the calf have a nurse from the goats.  He, even though he is bigger than them, walks up, drinks his fill and then moves on to the next goat until they are both empty.  When he sees a new animal he hasn’t encountered before, he lines up as though he is going to nurse it.  It reminds me of that book, “Are You My Mother?”  Truthfully, everyone on the farm was becoming the calf’s mother.  If ever he disappears, all you have to do is go look in another garden spot, and you will find Baloo curled up and asleep among the Wisteria or the Impatiens.

When there are no people to keep him company, you can look out the window and find him trying to start a bull fight with the posts of the barn or the tree.  He runs around them and butts at them from all sides expecting them to play back.  If that bores him, he races back and forth from one end of the property to the other.

I recently told my husband that if I ever ask for another dog that he should just buy me a cow, and I think I may have got my wish.  This little calf, has so much personality, it is a riot.  He is my morning chore helper and goes almost everywhere I go.  He stands on the front porch of the house looking into the kitchen waiting for me to come out, and if my chores take me to the creamery, he stands outside the door or window and mooes at me until I return.  I am not allowed to walk past him without giving him a thorough scratching, and if he is hungry, he will not hold back on butting me in the bum to see if perhaps I might let down some milk for him.

He now has a regular spot laying down in the rocks in front of the creamery because he knows that if someone comes to get milk that they will likely stop by to give him a good scratching on their way back to their car.  Just this evening, after he discovered that I had let the cows out into the pasture, he decided he was going to go have a nap under the Mulberry tree where he could see at equal distance, the cows that he feels slightly connected and his real mother who had gone into the house for the night.

I had the vet out breeding cows recently and I was telling him my tale of woe about the calf that acts like a dog.  “Where does he get so much personality?” I was questioning.  After all, the vet had bred the cow for me with semen from his own personal AI tank.  It was at that point that he admitted to me that he had selected some semen recently from some stock that was known to have some extreme personality.


The thing about this farming life is that you expect something to be a pain or a bore or a drag and sometimes you end up with a cross-breed calf that identifies more with being the family guard dog and it is moments like that that make me smile and know that I truly have chosen the right path in life.

Monday, July 9 2012

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

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.

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.


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.


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.



We’re Going on a Cougar Hunt

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

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.


The Farmer

Chris asked me to write a regular post here about farming from my perspective. And since I’m usually involved in some of the crazier aspects of this whole endeavor, it will probably turn out to be quite fun to cover them all again. Before I start off on my wild rehashing of farming a .1 acre plot in the middle of a city or rescuing llamas from a rising river, I thought I’d start a little more domestically.

The root of this whole farming adventure can be traced back to my wife. If it weren’t for her, I’m sure I’d be living in a major city doing who knows what. I should have known when the wedding vows were changed to include a donkey. But it’s been an amazing ride. She’s an amazing organizer, world traveler, fully professional photographer and now farmer, mother and whatever else she decides to take up.

She’s a “stay at home mom”. Which means I’m a “working dad”. Luckily my commute is about 6 feet out the back door to my office so I still get to keep tabs on what happens looking out the windows of my office, but I must say that she takes all doubt out of the idea that “stay at home moms” might be busy. She’s usually up at the unholy hour of four in the morning (you better be missing a limb if you try to wake me up before seven). She’s getting things done before the kids wake up. And then she’s cooking and cleaning and milking cows and feeding the horse and and and. And that’s usually before I head off to work.

Then she hangs out with the kids. I think this is one of the best things about how we have things structured. And don’t take this as any kind of anti-feminism, as I admire women who are accomplished in the business field also, but I love that we don’t hand our kids off to someone else to care for and raise and educate. I’m sure it pushes her tolerances to rarely have a break, but our kids learn an immense amount. Not only are they learning regular school stuff like reading and math at an early age, they are also experiencing “crazy” things like how to drive a pony and cart, how to milk a cow, where food comes from. I love that my two year old son asks in all earnestness on the way to his grandpa’s house if he has cows. And then asks about goats, sheep, alpacas and on down the list of all the animals he knows that people can have. And that my kids came up with the conclusion that since he did have a barn that his dogs stay in, that it is possible he might have other animals.

The types of things that you usually read about kids doing long ago in books; my kids do many of them with their mom. There’s virtually no TV and the only video game is occasionally played on a phone when we are out. It’s hard to beat the amount of attention they get.

And lest you think she just spends time with kids, let’s not forget that she’s back doing animal chores again in the afternoon rain or shine, shearing rabbits, spinning the whole, knitting all sorts of clothing and gifts, remodeling parts of our 100 year old farm house, teaching the minature horse how to pull a cart, off bartering with one of her many connections to bring new animals here or get rid of some more. Nothing surprises me much any more.

And then it’s off to ballet or knitting get togethers or spinning groups after the kids go to bed. She’s amazing and though we only see each other in passing (I just can’t get over that four in the morning thing and she doesn’t last much past seven at night), I must say that I love and admire her more and more as we wend our way through this crazy adventure of farming, raising kids, running a computer company and just generally trying to get by.

So with that proper foundation of respect and admiration, I can now proceed with my series of posts about the wild adventures and incredulous activities that take place at and around Cast Iron Farm. I’m sure I’ll emphasize all the wrong things, but it should be a fun trip down memory lane and for those of you who don’t keep close track, you’ll probably never look at us the same!

The Dark of Winter

Not much from me on the blog front lately.  I’ve been at home, playing with my kids, cooking and knitting in front of the fire.  These dark days of winter seemed to be designed for just this kind of activity.  Leaving the house turns out to be really hard, because abandoning the warmth of the fire proves difficult indeed.  Even the kids are drawn to it, and most days they bring their toys out of their perfectly warm playroom to sit on the floor by the fire and play trains or build Lego towers.

I spend just enough time outside in the barn to make sure that everyone is fed, warm and cozy.  None of the livestock venture from their shelters these days.  Except of course the geese and the ducks.  The more rain and mud we have, the happier they are.  They love to paddle around outside in the muck.  Those of us without oil glands sit and watch the winter weather go by from the comfort of our cover.  New life is just around the corner.  The night temperature are creeping up into the 40’s, which is a sign that the grass is ready to get busy on the important business of growing.  New lambs and kids are in the bellies of their mamas getting a last few weeks of growth in before they are to be evicted into the cold February.  Daisee is enjoying her 60 days off from the milk shed.  She’s preparing to give us a calf (hopefully a bull calf) in the cold February as well.  All the new life is exciting, and I enjoy giving out extra handfuls of grain to these mamas and unborn babes.

Speaking of babies, the rabbits LOVE this time of year for breeding, so we’ve got one litter of rabbits just weaned and two more on the way.  We are picking up our new double color dominant angora buck this weekend, so we will have angora babies just in time for spring and Easter!

My big horse Pearl is really enjoying her new place.  We rescued her, so she spent the first month being worried about if she was going to be fed a next meal.  A hundred pounds later and a constantly full hay feeder has convinced her that she really would like to stay.  That, and I think we own the only horse that really enjoys a good roll in the mud.  She must be part pig because she waits until just after a REALLY good rain before going out for a nice roll in the mud.  She has started to feel like I’m her person.  We even managed to get her saddled up yesterday.  Just a test, I didn’t manage to ride her, but getting the saddle on her was one step closer to that exciting goal.

And so, I continue to clean and bed and clean and feed out in the barn.  I enjoy the greetings of everyone as I close the door and make the trek out to them in the cold and wet.

Farm Help

My son, Mr. Cyprus is reporting for duty to clean the wet, sloppy barn this morning!

Cyprus in Carhartts