Saturday, January 6, 2018

Venturing Out

Like millions of others who live in the eastern third of the U.S., we've been "in the freezer" all week. Temperatures here in the mountains of Virginia have struggled to get into the 20s during the day and plunged to zero and below at night. The wind has been blowing as well, making it feel even colder. Engines don't want to start, furnaces and heat pumps are running nonstop, and wood stoves are burning hot as folks battle the cold. It creeps in and spreads through houses despite best efforts to insulate. Many a door and window have rugs, towels, or rags stuffed around them to keep the icy air at bay.

Because I could, I've been hibernating inside the house since Wednesday, not even venturing out to the mailbox. Unlike so many others who must go out, I've been able to stay in these last four days. Today, however, I did venture out for maybe half an hour because Robin came in from farm chores and said, "Get your camera. There's a big ice flow on the creek bank." And so the bundling began. First, the "tube" that keeps the wind off my neck:

Then my favorite fleece jacket that I got for $3 at Twice Is Nice, a local second-hand store that benefits our medical center:

Next came my goose-down coat that reaches almost to me knees. After that, I added my hat.

For my hands, there were these nifty mittens.

They have a flap over the fingers that can be folded back...

which makes them perfect for taking photos in the cold. For my feet, I started with knee socks. They've been standard dress all week.

Over these I put some heavy-duty cold-weather socks...

and finally, my muck books that are lined with neoprene and keep my feet warm for quite a while.

The last step in bundling up was to pull up my hood. Now you might think I was overdoing it a bit for such a short excursion. We did go when the temperature was at the high for the day...but at only 8 degrees above zero and in a farm truck with a heater that doesn't work very well, I was glad to have all those layers!

After all the trouble I'd gone to, the ice formation didn't seem too impressive at first sight.

But, like most things, a closer look revealed a wee bit of wonder.

Either there is a wet-weather spring in this hillside, or rainwater drains through the ground and emerges about halfway up. At the base of the bank is a small creek which, of course, was frozen solid.

Robin had to help me across since the ice was quite slippery. I'm glad there wasn't anyone else around with a camera to record that little trek!

But I got some nice photos from the middle of the creek, don't you think?

Once on the other side, there were only a few places to put my feet that weren't slick, so I couldn't move around much to take photos. Even so, here's what I was able to capture.

Of course the big dogs went along for the adventure. Although they didn't appreciate Mother Nature's ice sculpture, they were totally absorbed by the smells and sounds.

This is Ernie. He'll be five in a few days.

Here's Leah. She's Ernie's mama and she just turned seven on December 28th.

And this is Ernie's papa. His name is Red. He's one good dog in so many ways! He's 11 1/2
and though he's showing some signs of aging, he's still going strong.

All three dogs were sniffing and scrambling, but Ernie...

...well, Ernie had a little trouble.

His nose was getting all his attention when his back feet hit the slippery ice. After some scrambles, a somersault, and a flying leap of several feet, he landed (on his feet) on the frozen creek beside Robin. Thankfully he's fine, but he didn't venture back up the hill!

By the time Ernie's acrobatics were over, the cold was seeping into our coats and boots. We skated (if you can call it that) back across the creek and headed home. Then came the undoing of all those layers: first off were the mittens, then the coat and hood, the hat, the fleece jacket, the "tube," the boots, and finally the extra socks.

In less than an hour, the entire adventure was over. I sat down at the computer with some hot spiced cider and started on the part where you come in: getting the pictures out of the camera and into this post! Stay warm out there!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Finally Here!

Way back on the first of December, our Jersey milk cow was artificially bred. That was over nine months ago...and ever since then we've been waiting. First it was waiting to see if she "took," then it was waiting to see her tummy grow - that took a long time. For the last four weeks or so, we've been waiting for her baby to arrive.


and waiting,

and waiting,

and waiting some more.

It was obvious there was a baby in there, especially when
we took into consideration the size of her udder...

but it seemed as if it would never come.

For weeks Robin checked on her at bedtime, in the middle
of the night, and early in the morning. Yesterday morning it
was the same conversation when Robin came in:
Me: "No baby?" Robin: "No baby."

Robin went back to the farm to shock corn stalks and I sat down
to eat my breakfast. The phone rang: "Hurry up! You've got
a baby and he's trying to stand up!" I gulped my last bite
of toast, flew upstairs and threw on some clothes, and
grabbed the camera. The farm is just under two miles
from our house, and my car didn't piddle. And just look
what was waiting for me!

Mama Star had delivered her baby all on her own,
probably around 6:00 am. When I got there,
around 8:30, he was working hard at standing up.
It didn't take him very long to figure out how to get up,
but staying up was another story. All that effort on an empty
stomach was just too much, so a short nap was in order.

A hungry tummy is a powerful motivator, though,
and it wasn't long before he was up again and searching for breakfast.

He knew which end...

and he knew how to suck...

but he couldn't quite get in the right spot.
After several minutes of trying, he needed some more rest.

This time Mama joined him.

Later, in the afternoon, Robin got both Mama and Baby
in the barn. He helped the little guy out a bit and soon he was
feasting and filling up his empty tummy.

Because Star had so much milk, there was no way this
new baby could drink it all. Mama needed some relief!

Robin milked out over a gallon of the golden colostrum,
the rich first milk that is filled with all a newborn needs.

Although it was probably uncomfortable at first,
Star was mighty glad to give a bucketful of milk.

Later, she got a little treat of grain for all her efforts.

At home, I strained the colostrum and put it in bottles for the freezer.

It is highly prized by fellow farmers to nourish a weak calf or lamb
that needs an extra boost. We're thankful to have so much to share.

By evening, our new baby was stronger and more sure of his legs.

He's a mighty pretty boy!

This afternoon, he could go in and out of the barn by himself.

It's amazing how quickly this baby is gaining independence.
But he still needs his mama.

Just look at those eyelashes! What a miracle to behold!
We're so glad you're finally here, little guy.