May is here. Summer is at the door; yet even through the rising heat and sunshine, I feel melancholy somewhere deep inside, knowing I am yet another year away from the last time I got to hug my mama. Today was the last time I got a text from her back in 2017.
All of this farming life would not be possible without her… and my grandparents and great-grandparents before her.
Sometimes I feel she’s watching, yet I still wish I could just talk to her and see her reaction myself to all the changes here and all the crazy things we are doing.
I think the farm gene was suppressed in my grandma and my mama. Both of them were more about the potted plants and crepe myrtles. I am a bit of an eccentric… and ALL OR NOTHING. I tend to dive in and learn to swim while I barely tread water. Pawpaw would have been proud… and a little shocked to discover that the only one of his grandkids who wanted to farm was the city slicker. Ha!
What did you do for Mother’s Day, friend?
Farmer Kev’s parents came out of hiding to come see our farm… and to meet the new grandkid cows (THREE OF THEM). His mama even went OUT to eat with us in our newly re-opened local Mexican joint. Thank God for queso and guac… and the fantastic people who make it for you so you can sit down and eat warm salty chips while you visit with the fam. I have sucky luck with home made guac. Avocados hate me. They are always too ripe and rotten, or too hard and yucky.
I was so excited to see my favorite Baby Boomers. Even uncle Walter and Aunt Arlene came. We had all sorts of chats about the good ol’ days when they were all young and they gave me tips on milking, gardening, cooking, and such. Arlene brought me some volunteer tomatillo plants that she’s had in her garden in the hill country for a while. I’m still looking for a perfect place to grow them because hers are so large they wouldn’t fit in my raised beds. Glad I found that out before I planted seeds of my own!
Betty brought me some cactus kitchen towels and a mug as a Mother’s Day gift. How sweet, right?!!
I’m so glad they came, because I don’t subscribe to this:
They got to see us milk Big Mama in the “snack chute”. I shared a little about her this week on my social media accounts. For those of you who don’t follow me there, I’ll repeat it here…
Big Mama thinks the farmer man is her boyfriend, I reckon. She pulls and tugs on his shirt when she wants his attention – with her teeth. She body slams the other two youngsters (the longhorn heifer and Guernsey one-year old bull) if they get in between her and the farmer or if he pets on the other two. She’s a jealous girl; a big fat milk shake full of sass. She looks like a innocent deer, but she acts like a primadona.
I don’t care, however, that she’s so bossy and has designs on my man.
I’m just in it for the butter. I guess that makes me a butter pimp.
Move over Paula Deen.
Kev always says after he brushes her and gives her extra treats, “Happy cows make happy milk.”
Jersey milk is amazing. We get about 2 gallons a day (only milking once), and about 4 sticks worth of butter every two days. That’s nothing compared to what she could produce if I milked her more often. Some Jersey cows can produce up to 8 gallons a day.
So far, I’ve made sour cream, butter, and ricotta cheese, but I am still wanting to try so many other recipes. Have any favorites you want to share with me? Surely some of you out there are much more seasoned homesteaders, gardeners, fermenters and farmers than I am.
One of my friends that came to visit and pick up some free raw milk brought me a kombucha scoby also. I’ve had quite the ferment process going on over here with sour dough, kombucha, and sour cream on the counter all at once. Kev thinks I’m starting up a science lab. I just hope we all survive the learning period without salmonella. Hahahaha
Fermenting may be in my blood yet: I managed not to kill the scoby even though there were moments I thought for sure that thing smelled more like cat pee than a potable beverage. I actually made a legit green tea kombucha with it. I did cheat a bit and added some store bought (just a fourth of a cup or so) to the final product to refine it. I’m trying to wean myself off all the store bought things I can so we can live more sustainably.
I’m really in to sustainable living, farming, homesteading, and the whole idea of permaculture. Seriously… Youtube permaculture channels are like a rabbit hole I can’t escape. Those and garden channels have been my farm education source since grandpa isn’t here to talk to about things anymore. You can learn just about anything online.
I’ve managed to keep the sour dough starter alive since last NOVEMBER. Sadly, I have yet to be able to master a delicious HOLEY sour dough bread, though. We eat the heck out of sour dough pancakes. I try and make them once a week.
(I’d love some sour dough recipes from those of you who have the skill down. I’m still waiting on my friend who makes a lot of bread items to come over and teach me in person.)
It took me awhile to realize that I have chained myself to farm life with this dairy cow and these 28 chickens. Like I said, I tend to jump in to the deep end and learn to swim as I nearly drown.
Chickens are a mess, but the eggs will be a delight. Rainbow eggs are what we are hoping for, and although we have a ton of roosters, I’m sure, we will figure out how to handle that when the time comes. One of my friends raises meat birds, so she will likely teach us the art of chicken dinner when the roosters start making a problem of themselves. So far everyone is basically getting along. No eggs yet… and by my calculations, none until late June. Can’t wait to see what colors they will all be.
Milking is a daily thing that can’t be skipped, and no one else can do for us. The machine makes it a zillion times easier, but there’s at least thirty minutes of prep work that surrounds those five minutes of machine milking. It takes the two of us to feed, prep, milk, and do clean up on the machine every day. Our boys have helped daddy do it on days when I was cooking or running errands, but we have become anchored here on the farm now.
Getting away from home is a lot harder for anyone wanting to live the farm life. A lot of people who hate all this quarantining would not want to be stuck out here like we are… but I’d much rather be stuck in the country than stuck on concrete (especially when some governors and city hall people are banning gardens and preventing people from going to parks). As a plant mama, I can’t be without my daily dose of green space.
The list of pros and cons weighed, my poor road-trip loving soul has been tamed into submission. I still long for those field trips like old days (a homeschool mama always will)… but my roots have begun to grow. I’m usually OK until Facebook reminds me about all our past field trips and journeys together as a family.
When I get a little cabin-fever each week, I hop into the car and go run a few farm errands. Since we are about 45 minutes to civilization (I’m not counting the tiny town nearby since all they have is Walmart), it almost feels like we are on a road trip.
Our tiny town nearby isn’t all bad, either. I already said they have great Mexican food (but then, is there anyplace in Texas that doesn’t?)…
I make the most of our little outings to the post office, the feed store, the tire place, and Tractor Supply…
A poor farmer has to take what they can get. [i.e. No fancy trips to Lake Tahoe are in the forecast.]
We did take a little trip to get a truck bed full of compost. It was like a family vacation, but much, much stinkier. It ended in back-breaking manual labor. Ok, maybe it wasn’t like a vacation.
For now… I’ve resigned myself to the joy and difficulty of farm life. The joy part far outweighs the difficulty.
I know now why farmers do what they do even though there’s really no money in it for them.
I’d rather pour my expensive, time-consuming, pristine milk on the compost bin than ever return to drinking the store bought kind. In fact, I didn’t even drink milk for three and a half years after my cancer diagnosis until we got this cow. My boys drank the store bought stuff, though… and my husband. I wouldn’t want them returning to the store bought stuff, either.
After milking my Jersey mama, I can’t imagine drinking milk from a thousand different cows mixed into a tanker truck and driven around across the country for who knows how long. Sorry, dairy farmers. I know you are doing your best… but a small farm is my jam. I’m pretty sure it’s Diva Big Mama’s jam, too. She has become the boss; boss of the beasts and boss of us. I’m a real cow’s-girl now.
In the sad event that we are never able to afford to get the dedicated barn built, the expensive raw milk license paid for, or the fancy refrigerators… we will just keep milking for ourselves and our friends. God can either open the door or not… and it’s all good.
The tomatoes and pumpkins don’t mind a drink of calcium rich milk, either.
Bossy Betsy Big Mama is happy to be free of the muddy diary farm. If animals could be activists, they would create a petition to be moved to small farms; I’m sure of it. Small farming makes the animals happy, the farmer’s family happy, and one day, maybe it will be profitable enough to share with the community at large… but even if it isn’t… that won’t stop us from keeping on keeping on.
Ask me again about that Texas farm grit come August, though. I may be begging for mercy.
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Thanks so much for reading my blog and cheering me on!