Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Keeping a Family Cow

Motherhouse's Founder, Debra Tyler, is giving Keeping a Family Cow Workshops this summer for individuals and families to learn about finding, feeding, housing, fencing, breeding, and caring for a cow. You can try your hand at milking, make butter, soft cheese and ice cream, and go home with a slew of recipes and resource lists. The photos posted here are from the last workshop on July 12th and I'm also including online resources for keeping a cow. Workshops are being held on May 3, June 7, July 12, August 2, and September 6, 2008. To register for an upcoming workshop, please send Motherhouse an email or call Debra Tyler at (860) 672-0229.

Debra has always said your number one resource is your local farmer(s) and this is the one resource that can't be provided online!

Here Debra and a workshop participant are giving one of the cows, Parfait, a Garlic Tincture from Crystal Creek for a swollen, infected leg. Go to Crystal Creek for nutritional supplements, both organic and non-organic livestock products and programs, and technical support and nutrition consulting from a highly experienced staff.

"No one can raise a calf as well as it's mother" says Debra, "mother's milk is the right temperature for a calf and when a calf is sucking, the mom is licking the calf, providing stimulation, and also the calf has to work for the milk from it's mother." For more about raising calves with their mothers, not a typical practice today, but actually more "natural", obtain a copy of the Spring/Summer 2008 The Plough and Star, A Newsletter from Hawthorne Valley Farm and Visiting Students Program, and read the article titled "Raising Calves the Old, Modern Way" by Steffen Schneider.

While mingling with the cows, we saw how a cow sticks out her long tongue, wraps it around the grass or hay and eats it up. Because cows are ruminants, they eat and eat and eat... then they relax and chew their cud, miraculously turning the grass into milk. Cows were designed to be on grass and are such amazing animals! Eat Wild has information about all the benefits of raising animals on pasture, that is - the benefits for the animals, for the environment, for farmers, and for your health.

"How much pasture do you need for one cow?" Debra answered, "If you've got good grass and manage it well with rotational grazing, one acre per cow will do. Divide the acre into 8 pieces or more and by the time the cows have been on each piece and back to where they started, 30 - 60 days, the grass will have regrown." Talking about rotational grazing led, naturally, to questions about fencing. Debra showed us a reel of fencing that she uses for temporary fencing and described her experiences with finding the best fencing. Go to Premier Fencing for "equipment that works from folks who use it every day".

Before milking, put your cow in a stanchion and brush her while she's in the stanchion. Wash her udder, moisturizing both her and yourself. "Set up your milking area so it is a pleasant area, it should be like going into a holy area. A cow needs to be calm to let down her milk and milking is a joint pleasure" Debra said, "it should always be a pleasure to you both."

Grab the teat tight, very close to the cow's udder, and then squeeze, trapping the milk into the teat. The milk shouldn't go backwards into the udder. Debra showed us how to use our heads and both hands while milking. It dosn't take long to get a rhythm going and milking will give you muscles like PopEye's! If you can not attend a workshop, buy a copy of Keeping a Family Cow by Joann S. Grohman from Motherhouse Market. This book is part of the package of hand-outs given to each family who attends the Family Cow workshops and it is an inspirational manual for keeping a cow, containing helpful suggestions for milking.

You will need a pail .... and something to sit on ... to milk a cow. Motherhouse is happy to have Stainless Steel Milk Pails available, order online or pick one up at a workshop. Following the September 6 Family Cow Workshop, Motherhouse is offering two additional workshops with Joe Brien, Lost Arts Workshops - one to build a classic Milking Stool with three legs and the other on building a Stanchion.

In the summertime, milk straight from your cow is the perfect temperature for incubating yogurt. If you don't have any yogurt to use as a starter, Debra recommends using Dannon yogurt, it is very lively!

After milk has stood for some time, the cream will rise to the top, and obtaining it by skimming the milk is the first step in making butter. At the workshop we used a Butter Churner from Lehman's.

This video was produced recently to rally support to pass SB 201, a new Fresh Raw Milk Act to make sure raw milk remains safe and legal in California. Nina Planck's Milk Papers: What is Real Milk?, Real Milk is Good for You, How Raw Milk Got a Bad Rap, Food Safety is Important, The Role of Pasteurization, Why is Milk Homogenized?, The Virtues of Raw Milk, and How to Find Real Milk are very informative. And if you don't have a family cow yet but want to find raw milk in your area, go to Real Milk, a project of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

More Handy Items

Here are more handy items for the home cow owner available at Local Farm:

Gallagher's mini-reel for polywire pasture divisions $32.00

Two half gallon bottles, pour spouts and a plastic carrier for $8.00. (Individual bottles $1.50 each. pour spouts and caps are $1.00 each, carriers are $4.00 each or $15 for 5)

Jeffers wire clips for fiberglass fence posts/ $5.00 for a package of 20.

Plastic milk bottle lids; initially tamper-evident but sturdy enough to use again and again. 100 for $5.00.

Milk strainer filter disks, 6 1/4" diameter can also be folded in fourths and used in a funnel. Box of 100 for $5.00.

Tax included in above prices.

Friday, July 4, 2008

New Moon Gathering

Every New Moon, Motherhouse has a gathering. A place women can come together to share in stories, company, activities, good food, and honor our cycles. Yesterday, the new moon gathering was at Perry Hill Farm. We ventured out in a field of ours to pick black raspberries, gather motherwort, mullein flowers, plantain, yarrow, and St. John's Wort. As we gathered our goodies, we spent time sharing stories and support through our friendship.

Once our goodies were gathered, we sat at our outside table under a large white pine tree and begun to make our tinctures and oils for salves. We sat in the shade sipping on mint water, laughing, taking in all the wonderful smells around us and we listened to the birds chirp. We read information from Susun Weed's website about tinctures. We discussed the many uses of these wonderful plants we harvested. We laughed at how picking the black raspberries stained our hands. We especially giggled when we tried a skin conditioner I had made previously from mullein and wild lettuce on our faces with those same stained hands. Now our faces had a lovely berry juice color!

I never realized just how beautiful these tinctures and salves in the making are! It was amazing to see how quickly the St. John's wort started turning the alcohol red. Motherwort and St. John's wort will be soaking in 100 proof vodka for 6 weeks. Mullein/yarrow/plantain will be soaking in olive oil in the sun for 6 weeks.

It was a peaceful empowering new moon gathering. --- Vicki