Last night, we went out to the barn for milking and I knew from the start that something was wrong with Frances. She didn’t want to come in the gate and that’s beyond unusual. There was dinner waiting.
Furthermore, she was breathing heavily and rapidly.
I got her milked, she ate her dinner. Milk supply was normal. I took her temperature. It was 100.3 F, which is on the low side for a cow (normal is around 101.5 F). And when we were finished and let her out of the stanchion, she didn’t want her alfalfa hay. She just stood there, breathing.
So I went to the house, got my stethoscope and called Jason, who came out about 20 minutes later. In the meantime, I listened to her chest even though cow lungs are in a weird place compared with people lungs and I honestly wasn’t sure where to get the best sound.
Jason got there, listened to her briefly, and said, “She has pneumonia.”
We just did this two months ago.
I was afraid that’s what it was.
So, we had to make a decision. Either Jason could give her some intramuscular penicillin and probably have to repeat it for two or three days, and she would slowly get better (maybe), or we could spend the big bucks and get the 12-year-old vet out here.
We knew he could bring the big guns (prescription only) and she’d be much better in just hours, not days.
We called the vet.
He came out about three hours later and poor Frances suffered the indignity of having a prong thing put in her nose (literally tongs) to tie her head so she wouldn’t move while he gave her not only a nice powerful IV antibiotic but also IV Banamine. That’s a livestock pain medication, something like Ibuprofen, and it’s great stuff. Given IV, it makes them feel better really fast.
He also gave me a brief lesson in listening to cow lungs. Interestingly, cow lungs are tiny. They are located way the hell up in the upper chest, and are about half the size of horse lungs. This, of course, is why Frances cannot run in the Kentucky Derby.
He said that I did well by realizing she was ill so rapidly, that she didn’t have a fever because she simply hadn’t been sick long enough to develop one, and also that she was probably going to be more susceptible to this going forward than she has been in the past.
This means that except on very nice summer nights, she gets to be in the barn at night, which made Dave sob with grief, as she does massive amounts of poopy. But cleaning up some cow shit is cheap compared with vet visits.
By this morning, she was looking way better. Not perfect, but a lot better. She hadn’t eaten a bite of hay all night, which worried me a little bit, but overall, she looked better.
The light splotches on her side are shavings from her bedding last night. She slept comfy.
It was a pretty, sunny day and she made a beeline for the pasture and immediately went head-down and grazing which was a good thing to see.
So, we came back to the barn tonight for milking. At 5 p.m., it’s pretty much dusk here, and Dave didn’t realize that I hadn’t brought her in yet, so he dumped the two little boys’ grain in the feeder, opened the gate and Frances came barreling in with them, literally knocked them out of the way and ate all their grain.
She ate all the little boys’ grain and pushed them out of the way to do it.
I fixed her ass, though.
I simply removed an equivalent amount from her dinner pail and dared her to complain, and Dave fed the boys again.
She doesn’t have the slightest idea. She thinks she got away with it.
Keep in mind that Frances gets 12 cans (about one pound each) of grain a day, six at each milking. The two little boys get one can daily each. One can. And she took that from them, and they are babies.
Do you understand why she refuses to look at the camera?
I regret to inform you that we have realized that Frances is a Republican. A Republican who feels a whole hell of a lot better than she did at this time last night.
I have been baking bread for decades. There is no way to make bread that I haven’t tried.
I’ve worn out a bread machine completely. Bread machines are fine. Mine was a Zojirushi (an earlier version of the one pictured above), which is a fairly high-end machine. The drawback to them, and the reasons I never replaced it, involve two things. First, they aren’t any good for anything else and they’re big. But more importantly, you put the ingredients in the bread machine and then you shut the lid and you can’t feel the dough.
Flour absorbs a different amount of moisture depending on several things. One is how much moisture is in the wheat in the first place. And second is how humid the air is.
I like to have a way to tell if the dough is right. For years, that meant actually hand-kneading it.
I’ve tried no-knead breads. They’re fine, too, I guess. I never did any of them more than once.
We like bread to be something that we can slice and use to make a sandwich, not a crusty round-shaped loaf. If I want that, I know how to get it, but for daily use, we want a regular loaf of bread with a much softer crust and even crumb.
I’ve made bread about a million times totally by hand. This, in fact, was my go-to method for many years. Kneading by hand. I own a very large stainless-steel bowl that I used for that purpose almost exclusively. I mixed the dough in it and kneaded it right there.
In all that bread-making, with all those bazillion loaves, I still had problems with the way homemade bread behaves, how it feels when you slice it, and most importantly, how it tends to tear and crumble when you spread it with peanut butter. There is a different texture to store-bought bread, and it’s a texture that both Dave and I prefer.
That doesn’t mean that we didn’t eat the bread I made. We did. We just got used to having peanut butter sandwiches with torn places in the bread. But always I had the idea that it could be better. The store bakery does something I wasn’t doing.
So, I tried all sorts of things. There are lots of blogs and websites that purport to help you, like this.
More about this later on.
One day, about three years ago, I decided that I wanted a mixer. Maybe. Mostly, I thought I wanted a nice pretty Kitchen Aid. I looked at them. I read about them. I wanted one.
But while I was reading about them, I kept seeing them being compared to other stand mixers.
And one of those was a Bosch.
I remembered years ago that a friend of mine had one of these, and I knew it was a quality, good machine. But it’s not pretty like that beautiful yellow Kitchen Aid. I wanted the Kitchen Aid. The Bosch just looks like a white lump.
There were drawbacks to both machines, from my viewpoint.
The Kitchen Aid will knead bread, but I read too many accounts of people who blew the motor doing so. There were lots of caveats about whole wheat flour. You’ll see in a minute why I had a big problem with this.
The Bosch doesn’t care one bit about whole wheat, but that Bosch doesn’t do one loaf of bread very well. It’s made to knead a lot of flour. Small quantities don’t work so well. Besides, it’s overkill. I don’t want to bake four loaves of bread at once. I want one.
Then I found this.
It’s pathetic looking. It looks like a child’s toy. It looks like a piece of plastic junk. Seriously. Even out of the box, in real life, it looks and feels like a joke. And compared with the other two mixers, it’s cheap.
It’s not a joke.
It is hands-down the best mixer I have ever owned and it has kneaded whole wheat bread about twice a week for about three years. If it died tomorrow, I would go into mourning, have a memorial service and order another one immediately.
You can’t do four loaves of bread in it. You can do two. I have never done two. I have done a large loaf once or twice (about 1 1/2 times what I usually do) but that’s as much whole wheat flour as I’ve tested. You’ll notice that the motor has half the watts of the bigger Bosch. I don’t push it.
This, by the way, is the top-selling stand mixer in Europe.
So here’s how I make bread, combining everything I’ve learned the hard way.
I measure very few ingredients, but one I’m accurate about is water. The more water, the more flour will be required and the bigger the loaf will be. We prefer to have loaves that are slightly smaller and more compact.
I use 1 1/4 cups of water. But I divide that. I heat 1/2 cup of that water to near-boiling and put it in the mixer bowl. To that, I add about a tablespoon of fat.
What is pictured there is ghee, but it really doesn’t matter. Butter is fine. Lard is fine. I don’t know about oil as I’ve never bothered with it.
I put the ghee in the hot water so it will melt. While it’s melting, I grind the wheat.
Not surprisingly, the author favored the red wheat. We like the white. The only real difference in the two is color and taste, as the red wheat has more whole wheat taste to it. White wheat tastes more like white bread, sort of. Nutritionally, they are virtually identical.
One note: I have made whole wheat bread with flour from the store. It’s possible. It’s also not as good as freshly-ground wheat. I don’t grind wheat ahead of time. I grind it as I use it. It’s one time when fresh is definitely best. If you choose to try all this using flour from the store, go light with it at first. Not much of it, unless your family likes dense bricks.
Note: God, the floor. Dave is ripping up the floor in that room and preparing to extend the hardwood you see in the hall into there. I may be dead before he’s finished.
This is my grain mill.
When I bought mine, I ordered it directly from the manufacturer. I called there to see if they had any seconds or “blems.” To my astonishment, the owner answered the phone and we had a lovely conversation. And yes, he had a blem and I bought it for a lot less than the Amazon price. I’ve never figured out what the blemish was.
It’s quite simply the best grain mail made, period. It will outlive me and probably all of you and all your children and maybe your grandchildren.
It’s manual, but can be motorized although you’d have to be a little crazy to do that, I think. I am elderly and I can turn the handle just fine.
For bread, I turn the handle 200 times. I have never measured it. I suppose it’s about 2 1/2 cups, maybe three, of flour. It takes about 5 minutes or so to do that.
Meanwhile, the ghee has melted.
At this point, I pour in the remaining water, cold, 3/4 cup, and start the mixer on low.
Salt. I don’t measure it except using the method shown. What is that? Maybe 1/2 tsp.
This is wheat gluten, as you can see. It looks like flour, actually. It comes in a giant bag.
I put three tablespoons in the bowl, one for each cup of flour (approximately, since I really don’t know how much flour I’m using). As you can see, I keep a small amount in the cupboard and store the big bag in the freezer. A bag like that lasts a long time.
Yeast needs something to eat, so I put in a spoonful of sugar. Any sweetener will work, even the very last bit of jam in the bottom of that jar in the fridge. It does not flavor the bread. It just feeds the yeast.
I pretty much measure the sugar. Too much would make sweet bread and I don’t want that.
Yeast. I buy the huge containers of it (restaurant size if I can find them) and store it in the freezer. It lasts for years and years. That small jar lives in the refrigerator. One loaf of bread requires one teaspoon and I do measure it.
So far, if you’ve ever done much baking, you’re probably yawning.
But this is the secret ingredient.
This is dough conditioner. This is how commercial bakeries do it.
It’s a great big can. Four pounds. Notice when I last bought it? I store it in the freezer along with the gluten. It’s the same amount as the gluten but I use only a fraction of the amount so it lasts for years. In my case, it might be a lifetime supply.
Yes, it’s “chemicals.” I do not care. What it does to the bread is practically miraculous.
Here are the ingredients:
NUTRITIONAL FACTS for HONEYVILLE DOUGH CONDITIONER
Serving size…3 tsp Serving per container…150
Per serving…40 cal Total Fat…5gr,Sat. Fat…1g, Trans Fat…0g, Cholesesterol…0 mg, Sodium…150 mg, Total Carb…5g, Dietary Fiber…0g, Sugar…0g, Protein…1g INGREDIENTS: Wheat enriched Flour, ascorbic acid, Calcium Sulfate, L-cysterne hydrochloride, dextrose. mono and didyscerides, salt, tricalcium phosphate, enzymes.
Oh, nooooooes. We’re all gonna die. I can’t even pronounce some of those. I’m laughing. You know I’m laughing.
This is great stuff.
If you look online, you’ll find all sorts of “natural food” sites warning you that this will kill you. If you want to believe them, then you will just have not-perfect bread. That’s okay with me. I’m gonna stick with perfect.
I put 1 teaspoon per cup of flour (in my case, that’s 3 teaspoons in the bowl). Yes, I measure it pretty carefully. I want that can to last as long as possible because it costs about $25.
And finally, the freshly ground flour.
At this point, I did a little video so you could see the mixer do its thing.
We left the bread rising as you see.
Rising takes a couple of hours, depending on how cool the house is. I made this bread on a chilly day. We had a fire in the wood stove, so it was fairly warm in the kitchen, making for a slightly short rise time than usual.
There’s the dough in the pan. I don’t do any very elaborate shaping of the dough. I just punch it down, wad it up, shape it like a submarine and plop it in the pan.
Another hour or two and it will go in the oven.
Ready for the oven. It will rise a little more in the oven, so I try not to let it get away from me before I get it in there, although it sometimes happens.
Our wood cook stove. That’s where I baked this loaf of bread. It was a chilly day, and we had a fire. The large white dial on the right shows the approximate temperature of the oven. It’s not the most accurate thing on earth but gives some idea of what it is. It’s reading right at 300 degrees. I like it hotter than that for bread, but you take what you can get with a wood stove.
In the regular oven, I bake bread at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.
In the wood stove, well, it’s a little more hit and miss.
I have never actually tested this thing. I just know that once it gets to a minimum of 300 degrees, I can bake bread. Other stuff is more forgiving.
I put some small wood on the fire so it won’t lose heat and then preheat the oven.
Preheating the oven just means pulling that knob out in the position you see. That opens a damper and makes the hot air flow down and around the oven before exiting through the chimney. Preheating takes only a few minutes to do.
So it goes in. It’s a nice sized oven, actually larger than the oven on the regular stove. The heat circulates around all four sides, and it cooks very evenly. This is an Amish-made stove and has heated our whole house for about a decade now, as well as baking and cooking who knows how many meals.
There’s the baked loaf. See how much it rose in the oven?
That’s after a bake time of about 40 minutes.
After baking, I sometimes (maybe mostly) pop the loaf without the pan back in the hot oven for about 5-10 minutes. That just firms up the crust along the sides and bottom a little bit. It’s not a requirement, and I don’t always do it.
The finished loaf, cooling. This is when I have to leave the kitchen. Otherwise, I will cut a heel slice (my favorite) and pile on some butter and let it melt.
Time required: several hours.
My time: less than 10 minutes to grind the wheat, another five to dump everything in the mixer and start it, a few minutes to monitor the mixer and add white flour as needed. And then a minute or two to shape the loaf after rising and another minute to put it in the oven. Mostly, it’s something that is just there, needing to be done.
I have done this so often and so regularly that I hardly think about it anymore. Most of the time, I make bread while I’m cleaning the kitchen, so by the time I have the dishes done, the mixer is done.
I do try to remember to set a timer so I don’t forget it and leave it to rise for four hours (!!!) but usually, I just see it as I walk through the kitchen and plop it out, or turn on the oven or whatever.
In terms of cost, it’s inexpensive after you have plunked down the plastic for all those appliances. The bread itself costs just pennies. The accumulated appliances run the cost up to about $10 per loaf.
That’s a joke. I really have no idea and don’t care.
Somebody will inherit all that stuff because it will outlive me, and I just hope they grind wheat, make bread, and live happily.
A while back, I was involved in an incident with seven year-old bull calves.
There they are, photos made a day or so after the incident occurred. All seven were sold to the dairy not long afterwards and all of them were purchased by a very large dairy in Missouri and have gone to live there.
Our bull calves remain intact (we don’t castrate them). They are all registered Jerseys, and carry pretty nice pedigrees, so they are typically used for several years for breeding.
I posted something about it, along with the top photo, on Facebook when it happened.
The guy on the far left (in the upper photo) and in the foreground (in the lower photo) is Frances’ calf.
Anyway, when I posted an account of what happened, I found it a little bit astonishing that Cathy Harris decided the story was not only hilarious but also total bullshit and she has derided me for it ever since.
The reason I find this interesting is that she insists that not only did she grow up living on an active dairy farm (she did) but also that Cleo forced her to do all the milking and clean-up every morning before school.
See what I mean?
I doubted the veracity of this story the first time I read it, for several reasons.
First, dairy cows are expensive. Cleo was a tightwad. If a cow is not milked properly, she is very likely to come down with mastitis. It’s expensive to treat and sometimes impossible to cure. Nobody would ever entrust the milking of an entire dairy to a sixth-grade child.
On some farms, children help with chores, and it’s entirely possible that people allow their young children to do basic milking with a machine, but not without supervision.
Even if the dairy is fully automated like our dairy is, milk handling is an exacting chore. If it’s not handled correctly and it gets contaminated, the somatic cell count of the milk climbs up and then when the processing plant truck comes and tests the milk (and they do test it every time they come), they won’t accept it and all the milk has to be dumped. In the case of our dairy, that’s 500 gallons.
She is wanting us to believe that a woman who was aware of every penny being spent on her farm was willing to allow many thousands of dollars worth of dairy cattle to be cared for by a sixth-grader, including their feeding, cleaning their teats prior to milking, drying those teats off properly, attaching the milking machine, terminating the process at the right time, applying teat dip to each teat, getting the cow out of the stanchion and another in her place, handling all the milk (hundreds of gallons) if it didn’t go directly into the tank and finally cleaning all the equipment.
But there’s something else. Cathy makes it clear here that she had to do all the chores. She had to feed and care for all the animals.
Let me tell you what you have to take care of on a dairy farm in addition to the cows.
Calves are a normal by-product of dairy production. A dairy cow’s normal cycle is to lactate for about 10 months, be dried off for two months, calve, and be back lactating again for ten more months. One calf every year.
Frances goes a little longer than that, but that’s because we aren’t pushing her to make the most milk possible in the shortest time possible.
Lactation starts right after calving with a bang. Lots of milk. Production generally peaks within a couple of weeks of calving and then starts a long, slow decline for the next ten months.
Some cows dry themselves off naturally at about ten months. Others, including Frances, can go a good bit longer than that. I think the longest we’ve ever had Frances lactate continuously was 14 or 15 months, and she could have gone on longer. We had to dry her off. However, by that time, even she was only producing about 2 gallons of milk a day, instead of her peak which is six.
At any rate, this means that if you have a small dairy like the one near here, and probably similar to Cleo’s, you have about 70 to 100 cows being milked at any one time.
They are nearly all pregnant.
All the time.
That means that a dairy that size is having a calf born on average of once a week.
Sometimes they come in bunches. Sometimes there are short spells with no calves being born. But it doesn’t last long.
And each calf has to be bottle fed for weeks and weeks.
Most dairies do exactly what our little dairy does and gets rid of the young bull calves. They generally sell them when they are about 4 days old (that’s enough time for the calf to get that all-important colostrum). People often buy them to raise as steers for beef.
But dairies keep the little heifers. That’s how they replace their cows.
So, a dairy always has at least three pastures. One for the current milking cows. One for the dry cows. And one for the young heifers, being raised as replacements. Usually, that heifer area has to be subdivided somehow, because calves need to be reasonably close to the same size or the bigger ones bully the littler ones.
I’ve never heard of any dairy that does it any differently.
We didn’t know what that was. He didn’t know we didn’t know. He was raised milking cows and he thought everyone knew.
But Cathy had no idea what I was talking about. She assumed that the calves were “chasing” me. That’s because she never hung around cows very much and didn’t know that they typically don’t chase people. She’s just read stories and thinks they do. Because our babies are intact bulls, she thought immediately of the stories she’s heard about grown bulls in herds going after people. That’s not how our bull calves behave.
Her assumptions were exactly those one would expect from somebody who has never milked a cow in her life or handled a bottle calf or dealt with them at all.
The video below includes an appearance from the very famous Frances toward the end. She continues to bitch about royalties.
1. I talk about whatever I wish on this blog. Not what you wish, Karen. I wished to talk about my magic paddle, so there it is. If you find dairy-farm dynamics so incredibly boring, I suggest you quit lurking about here.
2. At no point have I ever implied that Cleo is my “hero.” I didn’t know the woman. She seems like a crusty sort. I’m not sure I would have liked her much, especially with all the Jesus stuff.
3. And yes, you and Cathy have used the “impossible task” defense before. I know that. It doesn’t work, though. The problem is that Cathy implies in what she has written that this demand that she do all the farm chores, including caring for the dairy portion of it, went on for quite some time.
And she couldn’t have done it even once. Not one single time.
My point here is that her complete ignorance about bovine behavior tells me that she never did any farm chores to amount to anything. She lived there, yes, and it was a working dairy farm to some extent. But she didn’t do anything up close and personal with those cattle. I know it. She knows it. You don’t know it because you have no experience with cattle either and so you just believe whatever she says.
Even if Cathy had never had to do all the chores herself, as she claims, and even if she had always had help, if she had even spent a small amount of time paying attention to what they were doing, she would have known immediately what I was talking about when I described what those calves did. Everyone else I’ve ever talked to about it that had any farm experience at all knew exactly what happened.
She didn’t. What she didn’t know shows me the lie.
By the way, when did Frank get out of Facebook jail or the mental institution, whichever it was?
We didn’t plant a garden this year. There were several reasons, including the fact that we had too many irons in the fire, and not enough time to deal with it. So we just didn’t.
But there was one tomato plant that just sprouted in the remains of the old compost bin. One tomato plant.
Dave saw it, left it alone, and then said, “Oh, for Pete’s sake,” and staked it.
And then every now and then, he watered it because it was right there near the water faucet (which is over to the right out of the photo).
Of course, he then had to add another stake, and then another, and then he started tying it up. Finally, he got sort of fond of it.
Here’s the first couple of tomatoes that ripened.
We have eaten tomatoes off that one tomato plant all summer long. There have been two or three ripe ones on the kitchen counter all the time.
But tonight we’re expecting a good frost. It might not happen. That plant might survive. But it’s starting to look really sad. Tomato plants do not like cool nights. They don’t set fruit when it’s really cool even if they survive and the fruit that is already there tends to not ripen.
And besides, we like fried green tomatoes.
It’s a good thing we like them.
This is not bad as the last gasp of one very brave, determined tomato plant.
Interesting stuff here and I recommend reading the whole article, but I wanted to focus here on the first three children. They all died in October, 1896.
There was an epidemic in 1896-1897 in that area. Dora Ann, Ammon Leroy, and their parents somehow survived, but their siblings all died.
Devastating. Terribly sad.
But not as sad as this.
The Kershaw family were the neighbors of the Stephens family. Mrs. Kershaw had a baby girl in 1878 who lived for less than two years.
She then went on to have eight more happy, healthy children.
They homesteaded. I’m sure they were all crunchy, back-t0-the-land folks who unschooled and raised some livestocks and probably hens along with their roosters. I’m sure all that wonderful homesteady living meant that they all had wonderful robust immune systems, right? I mean, you just let children play at will and get in the dirt and they’ll be fine. Right?
But then, diphtheria came calling, and Mr. and Mrs. Kershaw watched in horror in late February, 1897, as their son Edmund (7 years old) got sick and then died. Five days later, William (9) and Joseph (12) died.
Maybe at that point they thought it was over. They probably buried their children, and then realized that George (14) was sick. On March 4, George died.
Two days later, on March 6, Lillie (a month shy of her 5th birthday) and Francis (a little over 2) followed their siblings. Baby Frederick (11 months) succumbed on March 9. And finally, the oldest, Harriet (16) was the last to die. How much you want to bet that poor Harriet was exposed over and over again taking care of her younger brothers and sisters as they died?
They lost all their children. Every last one of them. That couple watched their eight children die one after another in less than two weeks from diphtheria.
The Kershaws went on to have two more children. One was either stillborn or died shortly after birth (birth and death date are the same day). The other one didn’t make it to be two years old.
All their children died before they did. All of them. Mrs. Kershaw lived until 1929 and her husband until 1941.
The saddest part of all this, for me, is embodied in this.
Are we sure that reverting to living like it’s the nineteenth century on the prairie is a good idea?
Here she is with her mother, Cheney. Georgia is the larger, darker one.
Georgia and Cheney were the first farm animals we got when we moved here nine years ago. We were told that they were mother and daughter, and we really have no idea how old they are, except that they are more than nine years old. The guy said he thought they were something like four and six or six and eight and I knew he probably was lying and they were more like fourteen and sixteen.
The farriers have told us that they are well into their teens and probably in their twenties.
We have loved them. We love to hear them bray. I used to worry that their braying would bother the neighbors and then I found out that our neighbors love it too. Braying donkeys make me smile.
Dave was out at the barn after milking tonight, filling water buckets. I had come back to the house to deal with the milk and clean the machine.
And Dave heard Cheney braying.
He knew something was wrong, just by the way she was braying. So he went looking for her. He found her with Georgia.
Georgia has died.
She was lying down near the back fence, and Dave said that she looked like she simply dropped.
She’s been doing poorly for quite some time. She foundered, we had two different farriers out to fix her feet, she’d be a little bit better for a while and then she’d start looking ill again. When the vet was out here with Frances that day, we had him take a look at her.
He said that donkeys sometimes get adrenal problems and that it looked like that might be the problem. I asked him if it was treatable and he said, well, yes. Sort of. It was the “sort of” that stopped me. He kind of shrugged a little and said, “You know she’s pretty old.” And that was my answer.
What he was telling me was “Yes, we can treat it, if that’s the problem, but she’s old, it will cost a pure fortune and it probably won’t give her much time anyway, and maybe no quality of life.”
Georgia was sweet and we loved her, but she and Cheney were and are farm animals. They have a job. They aren’t house pets. We can’t run an old folks home for farm animals. If we try to do that, we’ll go broke and not be able to have any animals at all.
We gave her nine very good years. She was petted and pampered, as far as the average farm donkey is concerned. We provided shelter for her in winter when the weather was bad. Most don’t get that. She and Georgia have their own stall, which they always shared.
We will miss her.
But not as much as Cheney will.
I suspect we’ll have to find another donkey soon. They are herd animals.