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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Pure Jersey Cream, Part 2 of 4

Part 2 of 4 - Farm work begins!

Travel dates: May 17 – June 2, 2010
Day 1 (Monday)
After venison pies for lunch, we rode bicycles down the way to move electric fences to shift the 10 month old calves onto a new grassy paddock.  These girls (around 40 of them), as well as all of the other cows, get moved onto new grassy paddocks every day or two, depending on how many are in the herd.  As we walked up, there was so much commotion that I thought the calves were in trouble.  MOO! MOO!!!  40 of them were synchronously mooing at Stu and I; it was perplexing!  What is happening?  WELL, It seems that cows are just regular chatterboxes, and the mooing was to ‘talk’ to Stu & I, and to let us know they were hungry and wanted to be on greener pasture!

Stu has about 165 cows in his herd that are currently being milked twice a day, and at 5pm we headed to the Milk Shed for the evening milking.  My nerves were on edge, but  I was so excited for this new milking adventure!  There was a lot of following-Stu-around involved, explanations, and nods.  There were neither pretenses nor excuses, and after my lessons, it was my turn to have a go at it.  Grabbed a hold of the first teat, cow didn’t jump around nor sense that I was a first-timer, or try to kick me.  All good signs.  After a few cows, I was starting to feel relatively comfortable, and liked the process.  Good thing, because there was a lot of cow milking to come.
Cook big delicious dinner, drink wine.  Go to bed before 11pm.

In the milking shed, wearing full bib & overalls

Day 2 (Tuesday)
At 9:30am , I was shocked to have heard absolutely nothing all morning, so by the time I went downstairs, the morning milking was completely finished, and Stu & Pierre were coming in for their second breakfast of the day.  Feeling bad for missing the chores, I took up some domestic duties and made “Stu’s Favorite Muffins,” and did the many dishes in the sink. Later in the afternoon I slightly modified a painted sign that would be carried in an anti-1080 (poison) march in a northern town a few days later.  I also chased sheep around for Brother John, as he was trying to bring back 2 lambs to his house (out of 7 in the pasture).  One of the lambs in question, a girl with a pretty brown face, was an easy target, or so I thought.  Pierre & Brother John had the sheep cornered in the pasture, and they stood on the other side of a house in the corner.  I stood around the other side, the sheep between us all.  Sheep moved towards the guys, then moved towards me, and then I did a quick inventory of Scared-Sheep-What-Do-We-Do-Next thought processing. 

Two guys on one side?  One girl on the other side, waving her hands trying to look big?  The answer is obvious… let’s just say that the last thing I had imagined would happen in my life was getting rushed by a herd of sheep!

The little brown-faced one came my way, and I knew I had to do something as part of my job (and not be a wuss).  I starting moving as they were running at me, my muck boots got stuck in the mud, but I ran harder, and then I lunged myself onto the back of the unwary lamb.  Who knew sheep could run so fast?  As my face planted into tufts of woolen white, my arms were outstretched, hands grasping for fistfuls of wool.  My grip slipped, and suddenly I was peeling myself off of the muddy ground.  Lost the sheep, no!  I felt something pulsating above my right knee, but had no time to regard it.  The sheep were slightly heading towards the barn doors that we opened up in a last resort, which may work after all.  Pierre, Stu, John & I ran to the shed to corner sheep, gently carouse them inside, and select both lamps in question.  Catching a lamb, flipping it over, holding it snuggly between your knees, torso and arms, is no easy feat, particularly when these “lambs” were nearly full-size!

Twenty minutes later we are back at the house sipping on a cup of tea, and I raise my pants leg.  OH MY.  Massive immediate bruising and swelling in all colors of blue, purple and red, thanks to one swift strong-hearted brown-faced lamb.  Later in the afternoon I went on a visit to see Stu’s two 10 month old bull calves (cows).  I didn’t enter the fencing with them, but reached through fences to pet the sweet young bulls.  As I lost track of any attention around me, becoming completely absorbed by one of the young bulls sniffing and licking my fingers, my sweatshirt-covered arms lean down on to the discriminate wire attached to the fence nearby.  *%&%*^*  Holy good lord!  I am now picking myself up off the ground after stumbling and falling 6 feet behind me after getting hit with shock from the electric cattle fence.  The young bulls jumped about as much as I did; there was no more petting this day.

Second milking of life occurred that evening, followed by cooking a big delicious dinner with Pierre and Stu, drink a few glasses of wine.  Go to bed before 11pm .

Day 3 (Wednesday)
Wake up for a piece of toast and morning milking at 6am .  Eat delicious second breakfast of day after milking.  Stu shoots 2 pukekos for cats.  Pukekos: 0, Cats: 2.  Not sure how I feel about the innoncent shooting of the “pukes”.

Drive in several new fence posts.  Stu chainsaws dead totara tree that fell over in a recent storm, and Pierre and I run around chucking the firewood onto the back of the tractor.  No room for wussies here because there was an ENTIRE tree to disassemble.

Second milking of the day at 5pm .  These cows are really wonderful and cute, but I could do without their poo.
Cook great dinner, with the most delicious potato pancakes ever! (mashed potatoes, leftover carrot, parsnip & ginger mash, fresh parsley, chopped ham, eggs, s & p).  Go to bed early from sheer exhaustion.

Total cows in herd: 168 milking cows (ages 3-16 years old).  40 heifers (nearly 2 years old, 1st pregnancy).  43 calves (10 mos old, not in-calf).  2 Jersey-Hereford crossbred calves for steaks & sausages (10 mos old).  14 cows not pregnant last year (not milking), but in-calf now.  3 old ladies.  2 bull calves (10 mos old).  4 bulls.  286  Whoa

Day 4 (Thursday)
Wake up at 5:45am for coffee, toast and morning milking.  After milking we head to town to walk in a protest march against “1080”, a poison that the Department of Conservation (“DoC” government agency) is planning to drop all over the West Coast from May-Sept 2010.  200-300 men, women, children, babies in strollers, and farmers in gumboots chanted “Stop the Drop” on the ½ mile walk to the City Council.  Stu talks relentlessly about this poison, the conspiracy behind the DoC, and banning the chemical in the area.  Based on the City Council’s receipt of 92% Against 1080 petition, the struggle looks likely to be worth it.  This poison is banned in many countries around the world, is manufactured in Alabama , and New Zealand uses more than 90% of the production supply.

Pierre (French wwoofer) is scheduled to depart tomorrow morning after working for 1 month on the farm.  We have a feast in his honor: rack of lamb (Brother John’s last season lamb), drink lots of wine, vodka and port, have a 3-person dance party to George Thoroughgood & The Rolling Stones, then go to bed quite late dreading the early wake-up.

One of Stu’s favorite cheers: “In heaven there is no beer, that is why we drink it here.  And when we are all gone from here, all of our friends will be drinking all the beer.”

This routine is becoming normal for life on the farm:
Drink wine every night, eat cheese & crackers, dine like kings on porterhouse steaks, rack of lamb, fresh venison sausages… Work hard all day, laugh and play hard all night

Day 5 (Friday)
As my ‘alarm clock’, Stu calls up the stairs, “Jessie?  (yes)  Are you well? (ugh…)  Time to milk.”  We all had a much needed, but inadvertent, extra hour sleep-in.  Pierre sadly left this morning after an extra long sleep-in and all the milking was done by Stu & I.  Milking almost 200 cows by 2-3 people can take some time!  Two of Stu’s friends came over for the night, and arrived as I was spraying cow shit off the milking shed cement block.  They hesitated to shake my hand; I don’t blame them.  In preparation for their arrival that afternoon, I baked a homemade apple-blackberry pie and made hummus.  And I can milk cows and throw hay bales!  Damn, I’m a good homemaker.

Pure Jersey Cream, Part 1 of 4
Pure Jersey Cream, Part 3 of 4
Pure Jersey Cream, Part 4 of 4

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