Life still happens when your Job is being a Farmer…

This post needs to be written, maybe so that I’ll keep writing and not give up entirely.
Frankly, I don’t care if its even good… it just needs to be said.

That’s depressing. I assure you my intentions are heartfelt and genuine. I have not given up, nor will I ever give up on farming. Or writing for that matter… But some things push you to the edge and you need to find a way to vent out the pressure.

Life still happens when your job is being a Farmer. 365 days/year.

I opened this blog to you with excitement. I am proud! I am proud to work 365 days per year at a job where family comes first, dinner is at the table, the coffee is always on, and neighbors are always neighborly -despite the weather. What a job. The work is HARD, and never done. And to be honest with you there is nothing, besides my family, that makes me happier. I am proud to be a part of something that’s important. Important to Canada’s economy, important to the everyday life and health of Canadians, and important to the animals that provide for us. I wear my job, like my heart, on my sleeve. Prepared to share it with anyone. I am proud to be a Canadian Dairy Farmer.

I have mentioned in a few posts, some of the trials we’ve faced since we started our very own farm from scratch. From break downs, to loosing beloved cows, to the fears of infertility, to broken legs, to cancer. What I would like to share with you is how farmers keep working and keep going despite whats going on in their lives. I would like to mention, respectfully, an incident that happened earlier this year on a farm near us. When three little girls lost their lives, and a family was left in grief. Somehow… someway that farm had to continue on. Whether its with help from the community, friends, and family, a farmer may be dealing with the deepest feelings one could imagine, but often… they somehow keep going.

At some time during the fall of last year, the date I am not sure I can remember, my mother was diagnosed with terminal Cancer.

The news came as a shock, I had just discovered I was finally pregnant and would be giving her the first grand child-ren… I was pregnant with twins. My mom had been sick for awhile, and it amazed me because while I was dealing with morning all day sickness and my husband was broken legged… she would come over to help me feed the other animals, while my father in law milked and fed our cows. I remember waddling with her to her biopsy appt, and holding her hand while they stuck her with a needle. As the weeks stretched on and my Husband’s leg began to mend enough that he was able to pick up his work on the farm, I set out to be there for my mom as much as I could. My mom had started chemo right away in the hopes to be here to meet her granddaughters. I have never seen someone fight so hard for something in my life. My mom was a farmer at heart. She grew up raising horses, sheep… and she loved animals unconditionally.

In February the girls were born. My Husband milked and fed and cleaned the cows that morning, and we headed into the hospital. He had it arranged that his parents would milk in the evening and we hoped that if all went as planned, he would be back milking the cows the next day. Our girls were coming that night, and were born the next morning. Thanks to my Mother, Father, Brother and Sister in law my husband was able to stay with me and the girls the next day. My mother came to visit me immediately after the girls were born because she was at the hospital doing radiation therapy. Her first rounds of chemo had worked and eradicated the cancer. They were trying to keep it from growing back too fast. She met her granddaughters.
My husband left the next morning to return to our farm to take care of our animals, and I stayed in the hospital with the girls, who spent 5 days in the NICU. He returned for a few hours every day to visit us, then went back home to milk. Once we finally got everyone home it was a whole new world. The girls were up every 3 hours at night to eat, my husband helped me because there was two babies to feed… then he got up every morning to milk the cows at 5:30am. To say that neither of us slept at all for 3 months would be completely accurate, and we never worked so hard.

My Mom found out after those 3 long months that her cancer had completely returned, all of it and then some. She would head in for more rounds of chemo, trying to buy more time. I’ll never forget that she would still come over and try to help me with the babies.
Our life truly became a blur. But she was so brave, she made me brave.

I could have used a break just then. Thrown my hands in the air and said “I cant do this!” Sometimes I wanted to just send in mine and my husbands resignation (Dear cows: we hereby resign as your caretakers… please start trying to find someone to replace us. Life is just too stressful right now…Do you think maybe we could take some paid personal time?) You don’t get to take time off when you are a farmer. There are no weekends without work to catch up, take a breath, every day all the chores need to be done. Each day that a family member covered for us was a day away from their farm. And break downs can’t wait till tomorrow to be fixed. It was a lot of work. Well I could compare being a farmer to… being a Mom. Someone else dictates your hours, and your schedule… some small little creature. You don’t get to choose what catastrophe happens that day, what mess is made… what calf is being born. Farmers and Mothers, are dedicated caretakers. While I was tied up with two babies (they literally tied me up and held me hostage) inside our warm cozy home, he was pulling it all together outside himself. And we were both dedicated to being there for my mother.

Don’t get me wrong, this time… this time was probably the most happy, the most real and beautiful time of my life. The impending death of my mom, made every moment she spent with the girls more beautiful. The new love that we felt for them, wow. Nothing could blow out the fire we were burning for our family in this time… no amount of work. We were learning and growing so much so fast. A farm trouble seemed like such a blip on the radar compared to the bigger picture.

My mom continued on to discover that the chemo was no longer working. And in fall of this year, she moved into hospice. I was there for her, I dropped her off there girls in tow. Meanwhile my steadfast husband was harvesting the last of our crops at home, without my help. I often felt a pang of guilt. I visited her, my (second born) daughter took her first inches forward crawling on a blanket on the hospice floor. My mom cried, and told me I was such a good mom. She told me that she was so proud of us, what we had. That she wasn’t worried about me, because I had my farm, and I had him. She told me that we worked so hard.

We had an early Christmas the weekend before thanksgiving, and my husband, tired from working in the field, cut a Christmas tree and put it up for my mom. We spent the entire day here on the farm with family eating, drinking, laughing. My husband slipped out to milk the cows and then back in for Turkey dinner. I was overwhelmed with memories of growing up on my Grandpa’s boarding ranch; walking with my mom to feed and brush the horses. My mom candling eggs over a milk carton to see the tiny duck embryos inside, and the day they finally hatched. Dancing with my Grandma on the straw bale stage. Chasing rabbits through the horse paddocks. Family dinners. All the things that prepared me for the life I lead today.

She had told me it was one of the best days of her life. She passed away a few days later with her family at her beside.

Life still happens, when your job is being a Farmer. 365 days/year. And somehow… we will keep going. Cheers to you mom ❤ I’ll always remember your strength when my knees feel weak and my heart feels tired.

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Dedicated to my Mom. Our biggest fan.

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Returning to the writer’s desk… with Minions….

Well, it’s been a long while since my last blog post on Milk and Koekjes… let me tell you a story.

I started Milk and Koekjes with the intentions of painting a picture of life on a family farm in Canada. It’s so amazing and worth sharing! It’s so important to me to show you what farming life really is.  But I started finding it hard to write posts because (and wait for the bomb to drop…) we were having some trouble becoming a ‘family’ farm.  In all honestly we were waiting, impatiently, for this momentous event in our lives to happen and… it wasn’t.

I decided with all that was on my mind I needed to take a break from social media and think, find my priorities, and focus on our farm. So we did… and a whirlwind of events has happened.

A few months after I ditched you all, we found out that we were indeed going to be a family farm. Hooorah! I could have shouted it from the barn rooftop. Not that anyone would hear me out here in the country…
You may ask me why I didn’t decide to continue my blog once we had discovered our family pending? Well… a few reasons. Shortly after finding myself barfing all over the place, it was quietly announced that my mother was fighting cancer. This is something we are still helping her through. Shortly after that, my dear Husband broke his leg.
Usually when you break your leg you take some time off work…

“Uh excuse me Ladies (Cows)… do you guys mind just feeding and milking yourselves while I rest up on the couch for 6 weeks and my wife hangs her head in the bathroom? ”
Cows: “Sure thing! No problem… you take allllll the time you need….”
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Yea… That’s not really how it works in the farm world, so our AMAZING family literally took care of our farm for us every day. Did I mention they are AMAZING??? Did I mention EvErY day???

Anyways to make a very long story short the truth is a blogpost continued to be the very last thing on my mind. But in the end, to quote a famous meme; I made this:

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Yes, we had twins. Twin girls to be exact… two farmers daughters to worry about. Oh dear hubs, you’re in for it. The girls are now 6 months old and we are officially a Family Farm. ❤

Why is this so important? Well because Farms have been run by generations of families forever. My Husband learned to farm from his parents, who learned to farm from theirs… his brother will take over their farm and we will start new. But we are still a part of a line of farmer’s, and we hope our children will continue in some way. It was and continues to be my dream.

Most Canadian Dairy Farms are run by families, children helping their parent’s with chores, learning life skills through hard work. These families put their heart and soul into their product. Our Supply Management system in Canada allows us to preserve the family farm, and this is so important to our food supply and our heritage. And its important for me to share with you the families that are behind your milk jug or cheese, when you pick them up at the supermarket.

And so, I return to you Milk and Koekjes. I’m now a  mom, a dairy farmer/wife, a caretaker, frantically in love with my life. I think my blog will change a bit, and include various things such as:

-Being a Dairy farm Mom
-Twins 101 -staying sane
-Family Farming
-Milking cows with terrorists

And so on …

I hope that you will forgive me, and continue to read my humble blog!

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September Dairy Employee of the Month February 2014…

You may have already heard (through our excited shrieks!) of our special employee of the month for February 2014. She has helped us to achieve a very important first milestone in our farming career. Our first Excellent cow (occurring on our own farm).

Well I guess February sort of entitles two employee’s of the month, because everywhere she goes- her sister goes with her.
Let me introduce you to our September Dairy February 2014 Employee(s) of the month:

Benthemmer September Miracle EX 90.
(and her sister Benthemmer September Magic VG 86)

 

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Benthemmer September Miracle EX 90

One early spring morning in April 2007 my hubs was taking care of his parents farm while they were away in Holland, when he came out to a cow calving. She was a bit early and he had to give her a little help. The calf was an embryo calf whose mother was a black and white cow from the Mojo Mardi Gras family with the ‘red factor,’ meaning she had a percentage of red and white genes.

Her father was also a black and white cow named September storm, also with ‘red factor.’ How exciting it was to discover that the calf being born was in fact a red and white!

But the surprise didn’t end there…when the mother still seemed in distress, my hubs checked things out in there and felt… more legs! There was a second calf to be born. He helped mama to have her second calf which also turned out to be red and white, they were twins. The chance of the calves being red and white and the chance of having identical twins with an implanted embryo was making this all a very very exciting day!

My husband went quickly to phone his parents to tell them the very good news, and when he returned to the barn there was yet another calf waiting for him… a third red and white calf which the mother had on her own. Triplets had been born! All identical from the same embryo, red and white, alive and healthy.

Sadly, one of the calves was a bit too small and weak and despite efforts to sustain her strength, only survived into the next week…she was the smallest of the three. When me and my Hubs started our farm it seemed fitting that we purchase the beautiful red and white twins with which he shared a special story. The happy ending to the story is that both Miracle and Magic are together in our barn today, and they are inseparable.

 

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Miracle and Magic enjoying an afternoon sun bath…

Miracle and Magic share a special bond, and go everywhere together. They can be found eating side by side, milking side by side, and sleeping side by side. When one is in the milking barn and the other is in the dry barn, they will be found meeting outside at the fence to have a gossip chat. Its truly amazing! If you can find Miracle, Magic is guaranteed to be close by.

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This February 2014 we had our first classification of the year after a difficult, and seemingly endless winter … and we were delightfully surprised to be told that our Miracle was moving up in points to Excellent 90, and would become our first cow to be classified excellent on our very own farm September Dairy. How fitting for our farm that she is from September Storm.

 

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Sharing some cuddle time in the straw.

The look on my husbands face when the classifier shook his hand and said congratulations, he was so pleased and excited! I knew that Miracle had reminded him why he loves to be a farmer, during a time when motivation was hard to come by.

Miracle and Magic were probably the smallest calves my husband has ever seen, and have since become two of the largest cows in our barn. And Magic has not let Miracle’s new status make her jealous… she still loves her sister with all her heart. It brightens our days to always find them together sharing their bond. Miracle has a VG 85 2 yr old daughter from Wisconsin at the parent farm and we are also blessed to have Miracle’s two daughters; a heifer from Jotan, and a calf from Chardonnay. We are expecting great things from these two beauties!

Miracle and her twin Sister Magic win Employee of the month for February for being the special couple that they are, Excellent, Very Good, and a pleasure to have in our barn. ❤

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Uh, hey Spring! It’s Canada… yea uh, whenever you get the chance… call me?

I would first just like to say, to all those dairy farmers out there;

We did it! We’ve almost made it through! And p.s… you guys ROCK.

I had started several posts this month of March that trailed away unfinished due to an immense cabin fever. Oh how I have longed for spring. This post even began as an exciting “Spring has sprung!” But alas, two days later we were covered in snow again. What?! At the risk of sounding crude : mother nature… wtf? This Winter 2013/14 was a difficult one for all Canadians. Cold snaps, blizzards, and ice storms… even Vancouver saw its share of snow this year, which I’m terrible to say… brightens my day a little. (Sorry Vancouver, you know I’m just jealous.)

1000’s upon 1000’s of Canadians were trudging through their front yards covered in layers upon layers, to dig or chip their cars out of the ice or snow in order to go to work that day. All winter long we cheered ourselves on with hilarious internet memes questioning our existence in Canada… and those who could, escaped to the South for a few weeks of sweet sunny salvation (and beer). I wanted there to be more memes about cold Dairy Farmers across Canada.

 

 

The truth is that your Canadian Dairy farmers got up every (EVERY) day at 5am, blizzard or not… and went out to milk/feed/clean their cows, on top of making sure everyone was warm and had a soft blanket of straw to sleep in all winter long. When we woke up in the morning, our first concern wasn’t really if we remembered to plug in the car that day; its if the tractor will start, if the cows are ok, if the waters are frozen, if their is an unexpected calf that needs to be rescued from the cold, and if everyone is out of the wind and cold safe and accounted for. Its like having about 100 children…
Your Canadian Dairy farmers layer up, trudge out, and keep going all day whether their fingers and toes are frozen -or not. (‘Just throw some coffee on that and it will fix you right up.)

This year about 16 Albertan Dairy farms suffered from collapsed Dairy barn roofs due to the immense build up of snow. I saw many other buildings collapse, shop buildings, old sheds, arenas. But nothing hurt more than to see a large Dairy barn roof collapsed in on itself. Were any of the cows hurt? Were any people hurt? You feel the ache and pain of those farmers, wondering what it would be like if it happened to you. I can tell you that if I had come out to a collapsed barn this winter, my heart would drop to the floor.

After the first collapses, 100’s of Dairy farmers were out on their roofs risking their lives to remove snow in order to prevent a collapse. A small price to pay to ensure the safety of their cows and livelihood. But this winter in some cases that wasn’t even enough.

 

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Snow removal on our parent’s barn.

 

Dairy barns are there for the purpose of shelter. A milking cow needs shelter from the elements in order to be relaxed and comfortable because her body is working hard to produce a rich and nutritious substance. In our barn the cows have a large run outside, but I can guarantee you on a cold winter night they are all happily laying inside without a care- or a worry that the roof is going to come down on them.

 

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The Ladies stay warm inside, with fresh clean straw.

 

You may say, shouldn’t the farmers have prevented the collapse? Well… a fire or disaster can happen as easily in your home as in a barn, and there isn’t always a way to prevent it or know that its going to happen before hand. That’s why its a disaster…

The thing that gets me even more excited and passionate about farming, is the resilience of Canadian Dairy farmers. Even after one of the most difficult winters I’ve ever experienced as a Canadian, after money losses, equipment losses, barn disasters, frustration, hard work, and sadness… they don’t quit. They rebuild, renew, improve, and keep moving forward. What a bunch.

Spring hasn’t exactly sprung yet… no she is probably in hiding, in some far off tropic somewhere drinking her cares away and forgetting to call Canada. But we are confident she will come crawling back soon. She does love us after all.

Maybe this year we were tried, and we asked ourselves a few times… why am I doing this? Why on earth did I become a Dairy farmer? (Whilst rubbing away snot-cicles that have formed on my face)

But as the snow melts and we deal with the mud and months of frozen poop, there is a renewed sense of tranquillity throughout the entire farm. You can feel it! The cows are jumping, and playing… the baby animals are about to start appearing. And we as farmers are ready for another year, another crop, and a fresh start. Whatever you throw at us Canada, we will make it…

 

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A new Hereford/Angus cross spring calf. (No I’m not a milk cow, but Im cute!)

 

 

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Employee of the Month January 2014

Well thanks to the Olympics, another cold snap, and waiting for my new camera, I bring this post to you late. But better late than never!

I have been meaning to post about our first Employee of the month in 2014. This one was a tough decision, we had a couple cows in mind… but ultimately the beauty we chose was chosen based mostly on her character.

I would like to announce our January 2014 Employee of the Month:

#651 Benthemmer Secure Marleny (otherwise known as ‘Marleny’)…..

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I may be small but I am Gorgeous!!

Some of you may already know the story, if you follow me on other forms of social media, but for those that don’t, Marleny was love at first site. My love, that is.
When me and my husband started our farm, we bought our lot of cows from his parents farm. This was the easiest for us because my husband had helped to raise and breed all of them. He knew them and their backround, and we were able to purchase them at a fair price.
Him and his brother had previously arranged which calves we would receive, and there were a few yet to be born. Some of them with special pedigrees and some of the from a special embryo. My husband waited in anticipation for those calves, like a little boy waiting for Christmas morning!

One day, before we were hitched and just as our farm started up, we were at the parent farm taking a normal stroll around the farm facilities. When we happened by a little calf box inside the barn where the very newborn calves are kept, and there she was. Love at first eyelashes…

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Love at first sight. Me and Marleny first meet.

She was a red and white, of which I have a special fondness, she was soft and sweet with big eyes, and luscious long eyelashes! It was only 5 minutes in and I had already chosen a name for her. But alas… she was not ours. She wasn’t one of the calves that we were entitled to…  -sad face.

My husband listened to me chatter on about her for a week, “oh that little calf this, and that little calf that… and do you think if I ask they will give her the name Marleny?”
When one day, he came into the house and said e he he hem… “There is a little piece of *bleep* in the barn, waiting for you.” (Please don’t get the wrong idea … she was very small and brown.) I said “What!?” And I ran outside to find little Marleny sitting in the straw in the back corner of the barn.

My husband traded Marleny for one of his specially chosen calves, just for me. What love, and how romantic. ❤ (And yes… Cows can be a token of romance. I don’t want chocolate or diamonds, Cows are a girls best friend)

I bottle fed Marleny like any other calf, and I rubbed her and pet her all the time. I said to him… “she won’t kick in the barn, because I have rubbed her.” My husband rolled his eyes.

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Marleny enjoying some winter sunshine just outside the barn.

Marleny was all grown up now, and was due to calf in January. We thought she would have trouble calving because she is so little, so we waited in anticipation to help her out. But my husband went out after morning milking on January 22nd and she had popped out little Malbec all by herself – with not a single problem.

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Marleny’s first Daughter, “Malbec.”

When Marleny entered the barn for her first time and was ushered to approach the milking parlour we thought she would be nervous, like any other heifer new to the barn. We anticipated her being scared, and were there to teach her how to enter the parlour. But instead… she walked right in, took her position and was milked without any kicks or fuss. Somehow she knew just what to do, and since then Marleny is in the ‘first line’ every day for milking. She is already giving over 30L of spectacular milk.
She is a perfect little milker.

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Marleny is ready for winter to be over so she can run and play in the paddock.

Marleny is our Employee of the month because while she may be small, we have never seen a heifer as calm, confident, and collected as she is. She had no trouble calving on her own, she seems born to be a dairy cow, and well… we love her.
Marleny’s mother (from the parent farm) is from a VG 85 Arrow, and her Grandma graces our barn. She is a VG 86 Tait whom we call ‘Big Fat Red.’ She is another favourite of mine and has a similar soft calm, friendly mentality. Here is a picture of Big Fat Red (who is not small at all):

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Big Fat Red, known for barn snuggling, and ONLY milking on the left side of the parlour.

In Dairy Farming you often strive for the best cow, and the highest classification scores. You can get so excited about the beauty of a nice tall strong pure bred Holstein, that it could be easy to overlook the potential of a smaller little cow. But Marleny has, and will, show everyone with confidence that; although she’s small she has a place in the order of the barn. Marleny may never be an ‘excellent’ cow, she will grow but still may be too small for that. But she has made her way fearlessly, she is a perfect milker, mom and sweetheart.  We will cherish her just the same as any other wonderful personality in our barn, and as a significant memory in our book. And well… I have to say that she will always be, my first farm love.

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Warm Red Marleny, relaxing in the clean straw after a days work.

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Saying Goodbye, not every farm day is a happy day …

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Our first September Dairy Award

Probably one of the hardest things about farming is saying goodbye. Let me tell you a sad story…

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Sharing a hug with Haiti

It happened last month just before Christmas that our ‘very best’ cow was about to calve, by Very Best, I mean that she had the highest score in our barn. She was an Excellent 92-2 times Excellent cow from Lheros. In the dairy world she was, if I could quote the famous movie character Borat, “Verrrry Niiice!” Not only was she beautiful, but my husband had spent time training her and taking her to cow shows, she was halter broke and extremely friendly. She greeted you with hugs, nuzzled your shoulder every morning, and licked your face. When you came to the barn she was always the first to greet you, and she was always pleasant in the milking parlour. We took our engagement photos with her standing by our side. And we talked about one day taking photos of our kids on her back; she was that tame. She was a pet, a valued employee, and a family member. She was the barn Diva, and she knew it. She won us our very first September Dairy Award, a significant part of our farm.

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Haiti enjoys some choice feed… yum!

If there was ever a cow that you could fall in love with, #702 Suncountry Haiti Lheros was it.

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EX 92-2E Suncountry Haiti Lheros

But December was a difficult month for Alberta farmers last year. For us it was the most difficult month since starting our farm… we spent countless hours trudging through the huge snowfalls that Alberta experienced. Back and forth we rushed to get warm dry straw to our animals again and again in the unusually frigid temperatures. We worked tiresomely to ensure everyone could make it through. We fed, cleaned, milked, and cared for our cows through each huge snow storm. One night it reached -47 C with a wind chill and we blanketed all our calves in their hutches and brought the tiny ones in to our shop so they wouldn’t chill. The only ones on the farm who weren’t covered in frosties were my giant Bernese Mountain dogs… who love the cold weather… they embraced it! In my 28 years living in Alberta – I can’t remember a more difficult winter.

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Haiti enjoys an early sunrise

On a very very cold night, Haiti was about to calve. I walked out to check on her several times that day and I just knew, because her breathing had changed, that she was going into labour. She was all bunked up in our heifer barn, surrounded with dry warm straw and ready. What I didn’t know was that inside of her a fever was starting that would debilitate her before night time…

She was 8 years old, which is getting a bit older for a Dairy cow, but at first she gave no signs of illness, she stayed standing and alert; she was eating and drinking. She was healthy, and she was happy. We prepared ourselves for her calving, and were prepared to help her out.
But when we came out again, we were surprised to see she was laying down and in distress. I remember the look on my hubs face… his favourite girl, his pride and joy, his friend – was in trouble. We rushed about in the cold – cold – COLD – and immediately began to treat her. A milk fever can happen in any mother of the animal kingdom, whenever the mother is producing milk and doesn’t have enough calcium. It is common, but usually happens just after the baby is born and her body is producing rich collostrum. There is a simple and effective treatment, in which we give the cow extra calcium to replenish her stores. Typically, within minutes the cow feels better. But this situation was different. Haiti was in the middle of labour, and this is very uncommon. We gave her calcium and ran inside to put on extra layers of clothing… it was going to be a long and cold night.

We waited by her side, providing her with everything we could think of to make her comfortable. It wasn’t until the early hours of the next day that we realized she was not going to have enough strength to push the calf out by herself, but she was ready. So we helped her by pulling. I remember my hands hurt so bad from the cold, and my feet were numb. But we couldn’t give up on her. We would not leave her side. The calf was healthy and quite large, but Haiti was not interested in licking her calf off like most mothers. In fact, she didn’t want anything to do with it. We took the calf in to dry off and put him in a blankie with a heat light so he wouldn’t chill. Then we returned to Haiti, who would not get up. We treated her again…nothing. We checked her for signs of any other illness… no signs. By the time all was done it was morning, and time to milk the cows again and start a new day. Cold, sleepless, and sore, we headed to tend to the other cows. Haiti was no longer sick from Milk Fever, she had quickly recovered – however, she still would not get up.

Sometimes, when a cow lies down (if they have experienced some illness or stress, or sometimes for no apparent reason at all) they don’t get up again. You have to try to get them up because the longer they lay down the shorter they have to live. I can never describe to you in words, the agony of trying to get a cow you love – to stand – when she herself has given up. You can urge her, beg her, slap her, push her, pull her, get angry with her… because you NEED her to get up. PLEASE GET UP! PLEASE, PLEASE GET UP!! You can fall to your knees…

Days passed. We doctored her over Christmas, giving her food and water and keeping her warm. We couldn’t bear to admit that she was finished. Haiti was family. We tried everything we knew we could without hurting her. We lifted her, an 1800 lb cow, in a sling held by a tractor, but she simply would not stand on her legs. She ate only small amounts of food. We had her checked to see if anything else was wrong, but the vet found nothing. She was deteriorating more and more each day. It was evident that she had just decided that this was her time. And she wasn’t budging.

And just before New Years, it was time. My husband and I said goodbye to our favourite cow, sad, defeated, and devastated.

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Our engagement photo’s with Haiti by our side.

I am sharing this story as a memorial to our #702, our Haiti. And I am sharing this story so that my readers can further understand what a cow means to a farmer. We are forced to make hard decisions, how can you save this animal? What are you going to do next? Why isn’t it working? Why has she given up?? Why won’t she listen to me? Is it time to say goodbye? Does she continue to have a good quality of life? But never for one second does this not phase us or affect us. A farmer may spend all night reviving a chilled calf. A farmer will brave frigid temperatures to assist a mama who’s in distress. A farmer will restlessly spend hours upon hours, days upon days, nursing a cow that can’t get up. A farmer will shed tears, over their animals. It doesn’t matter if the cow’s purpose is for milk or food, or auction, or money, or show. What matters is our animals, and we are their primary caretakers. We do NOT take that loosely.

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Haiti enjoys a green snack.

We will never forget our Haiti. Not just because she won an award, or because she made us proud, or because she was our best cow… but because she had character, personality and made a difference in our life. She gave us motivation and passion to farm, and greeted us each morning happily and contently. She will be in our hearts forever.

And we will never ever forget that cold cold night that we spent with her.

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On our farm- you will always be remembered Haiti. As one of the reasons that we decided to start farming.

Posted in Ag For Life, Agvocate, Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farming, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Employee of The Month

So I’m going to stray slightly from all the lesson planning, and show you something very important about Canadian Dairy Farmers. I was trying to think up a way to express how we value our Cows, almost as if they were employees. In fact! I think we probably value our cattle more than most businesses value their employees (and if your one of those employees I suggest you storm out) -we treat them like family.

You see… our cows are our livelihood, if they don’t produce milk then we don’t survive. If they are not healthy and comfortable… then they don’t produce milk.

*Milk truck driver pulls up and finds no milk in our tank*… well now, this is awkward.

It is beneficial for us as much as for our cows that they are happy, healthy, clean, well fed, and comfortable milk machine ladies. I don’t know if you’ve ever taken care of a cow, but this definitely means a LOT of work! You can’t really let them out the backyard and bring them inside when they’ve done their ‘business.’ No sir.

Plus… we have meticulously bred them, pulled them from their mama’s womb, bottle fed them, been chased by them, and hand raised them to be the 1800lb animals that they are-we love them, they are in fact like family.

I will say that I am a bit of an animal activist myself. What’s that you say?? You can’t be an animal activist and a farmer at the same time…. oh! but you can! You see most farmers really care for and appreciate their animals. They share a special relationship with them in which the animal gives them what they need to live, and in return they extend to them the best care and life they could possibly have. The animal (which has been domesticated for 100’s of years) depends on the farmer for his/her food, water, shelter, safety from fires, predators, and extreme weather conditions. They depend on us to make sure they have clean bed’s to sleep in, and good quality food in front of them. They depend on us when they get in a scary situation, or when they are sick or having trouble calving. You’d be surprised that the most skiddish fraidy-cat cow in the barn will come to you with needful eyes and a “please…. I’m so sorry I stepped on you the other day… I’m sick and I don’t want to go to school.” look on her face if she is not feeling well. They know us and that we bring the food each morning, and the fresh straw to play in… they Know that we take care of them.

And of course, we owe them! We owe them our lives, our time, our money, and everything we can give them- Because they allow us to be farmers and live the life that we love. They feed us, nourish us, and give us what we need in return. This is why we go out 365 days per year, all day, every day to take care of them and make sure their every need is  met. And let me just say that when you recognize this special relationship and respect for the providers of your food, it all becomes more meaningful.

Now I’m not saying you should stop and say “thank you” to the burger you eat at A & W before you take a bite, or that glass of chocolate milk your about to blow bubbles in- some people might think your a bit crazy. But knowing where your food comes from and having a genuine appreciation for that animal and what its given you- well that’s a special thing!

I would like to assure you  that Most if not All Canadian Dairy Farmers- are a hard working caring and respectful group of farmers who’d do everything necessary to ensure the quality of life of their cows. I know this from personal experience. Its an adventure I would love for any of you to have. I have a deep and strong love for my cows. In Canada our regulated system ensure’s that all the Dairy Farmers here are working hard to meet industry standards that keep their cows among the healthiest and happiest in the world!

So in order to show you how we value and know our cows, I would like to nominate a cow each month as our “Employee of the Month.”
This cow will be chosen on her Milk production, her health, her temperament in the barn, her bacteria count, her butterfat and protein amount, her calves, her stunning good looks (her score’s). She will also be chosen on her actions that month (believe me or not), her personality, and her time with the “company.” Basically all the things that you would judge your Human staff on. We will meticulously pick each month, from our many beautiful cows, who is on top of her game.
This will show you a little bit about just how closely we know, and monitor our cows. I will be introducing them to you by their names- which we have given them- and tell you a bit about each one and why we have chosen her. So stay tuned each month!

And now, without further adieu- and long boring explanation, I would like to present to you our first winner of the: “September Dairy Employee of the Month Award,” for December of 2013 the Beautiful… the Hardy….

#369 Benthemmer Abrianna Toystory

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Now this pretty lady has been with us since we began our farm 1.5 years ago, but she is in fact 6 years young. My hubs helped to breed her and raise her on his parent’s farm, where she gets her home-grown Benthemmer prefix.  She is in fact an Embryo cow- which means that she was a fertilized embryo taken from a nice strong cow line, and put inside a young heifer to gestate. Just like when human’s do In Vitro Fertilization or Embryo adoption! Sometimes we do this on our farm so that we can breed more cows with a healthier and stronger genetic line. Abrianna is from the Rudolph Anna family and was given a ‘classification’ (score) of Very Good 85 when she was 4 years old.

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Abrianna is one of the slowest cows in our barn… she always gets up from slumber each milking time, and stares at you waiting for your response. She likes it when you talk to her and ask her to move, and smack her bum… and then maybe yell at her a bit…. and eventually beg her- basically she likes to not move. Abrianna is a bit Lazy, but she makes up for it in her milk production and her friendly demeanour. She enjoys hugs, and long naps.
This month in December she was one of the highest producing cows in our herd, showing over 50 Litres/day of milk production on our last DHI test. Her bacteria counts are very low- meaning that her milk is healthy and delicious!

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Abrianna was suffering from sore feet in November, and with a little TLC has made a striking recovery in December. She is now walking fine (and slow as usual.) She was AI’d in December so we will be hoping to discover she’s pregnant with a little baby to come in 2014! We have kept one of Abrianna’s Bull calves, one of the few Bull’s that will ever be kept on our farm as a herd bull (for reason’s mentioned previously). His father is Ludoplex.

Abrianna also enjoys eating, and standing, while all the other cows jump and play- she likes to stay calm and chew her food. And beside’s being slow, Abrianna is most recognized in our barn for always waiting in the doorway of the milking parlour- after she has been milked- to poop. Yes. To poop right there in the doorway, every. single. day. She will not leave the parlour until she has done her business, so that we have to shovel it out. We love her ❤

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Here is Abrianna at the end of the day relaxing.

We hope to have many more years with Abrianna gracing our herd. She is very special to us!
Please stay tuned for more and Happy New year’s to Everyone!!!!

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A day in the life of a Dairy farmer(‘s wife)… a follow up lesson.

Well as you may know, my previous posts touched on the basic things you need to know to start a dairy farm. Of course there is so much more to learn. Remember I said my life had become an endless study? This is an understatement :). Every day there is a new adventure on the farm. A new hurdle to jump, road block to overcome, or lesson to learn. But a long day means a long blog post… so take a deep breathe…

Let’s get talking about what your first day may be like! Or any given day of the year for that matter. Each day will change and differ with the time of year, what needs to be done, the weather (oh its -45 outside?… you still have to work!), if you are getting ready for a big show, or harvesting your crops ect. ect. But there are some basic things that will need to be done every single day 365 days/year on a dairy farm.

First of all let me say that on some farm’s you get to be a Dairy wife- which don’t get me wrong, is still a LOT of work! But the farm may be big enough that it employs a worker or two, and your duties may be more directed towards your home. But most farms in Canada are still run by families, which means that you and your kids will always have a part in the farm work. In my case we have just started our farm together, and well… we are the only ones here. Thus it is safe to say I get my wellies dirty each day. I don’t milk twice every single day, sometimes I attack a mountain load of house work or have a baking party instead… but I am always a part of the day to day farm work. This is why I have categorized myself as a Dairy Farmer (‘s wife). Which is probably more fun, because I make sure that my opinion about farming procedure’s is well heard:

-“Um honey this calf is cold.

-I don’t care if there is 4 feet of mud I want to let the cows out to play.

-I want ducks.

-You missed a spot.

– No, I don’t like that fence there.

-Let’s use THIS bull for breeding, its pretty…. erm I mean… it has high genomics.

– Did I mention I want ducks?”

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(My ducks are so cute!) My hubs is so wonderful and patient. But what’s great is we really get to work together and make the farm our own, we build ourselves and our relationship stronger through our farm. So lets get started… A day in the life of a Dairy Farmer (‘s wife);

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Imagine sleeping sooo soundly, cozy in a big warm feather bed – you know the kind that feels like happiness. And then, your alarm clock screams at you at 5:00 am. Yes. You smack it across the room angrily, and you want to crawl under your covers and escape the cold morning… but you know that you have to get up now because there are some cows waiting in the barn for you with full udders. They will actually be waiting in line if you are late- because they know the routine and they like punctuality. Cows need to be milked a minimum of twice per day, at least every 12 hours. Too long and they are getting uncomfortable. You will crawl out of bed and put on some work clothes, maybe a couple layers if its a cold day (who ever said long johns couldn’t be sexy?) Your Husband might go to the barn first to get started while you make some early morning coffee to bring in mugs. When you and your Husband get to the barn you need to put on some coveralls and wellies, for in fact you may be about to get into some poo. You get everything set up and sanitized and … you head to the barn, when you open the door you find 50 (at our farm) beautiful ladies waiting for you. You walk and make loud calls to herd all the ladies into a waiting area. They know what to do and come easily and sleepily, they stretch out and wake up -nuzzle you good morning. There is always one cow in the herd who slept on the wrong side of the bedding, and feels a little grumpy… she might stare at you like you are an idiot – but eventually she will come too. All the ladies line up in the milking parlour, and now the day begins. Once you have pulled on your ‘smashing rubber gloves, and start the first group of ladies milking, you are officially having your first milking coffee date. When we are milking early in the morning the cows don’t mind if we sneak a few kisses here and there. 😉

When milking is finished the cleaning begins. Everything is cleaned and rinsed, and the equipment goes through an after wash. And you will get some bottles of fresh warm milk and go to feed your babies. Each wobbly new calf gets bottle fed by hand, and if you’ve ever nursed a baby animal you would agree that its a bonding moment. Our calves get handled daily and grow to know us well, as we grow to know them. We know each calves number and name, and chances are she will stay in our herd until she is old and grey. Even the squeamish can appreciate the little snot bubbles a baby calf wipes on your arm while nudging you for more milk. And I will tell you that each cow has her own personality and it means a lot to know them from the beginning.

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Now once you have fed all your fur babies, your Husband will go to make feed for all the rest of the cows. They are hungrily waiting, and they eat before you do. If your farm is anything like mine, now is the time to feed all the Other animals. What’s that you say? You have 50-100 cows and calves and you feel the need to have other animals? Insanity?

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Maybe… I go to feed and water my ducks, sheep, turkey’s, dogs, barn cats, and chickens, collect the eggs… and head into the house to make breakfast. Ok farmer lady, you’ve done the dirty work and now you need to feed your giant man baby- and by that I mean your husband. Breakfast around here usually consists of toast and fresh farm eggs, fresh milk and of course coffee. We eat and relax, take a short break… talk about the day and devise a plan. Some days there is a specific task to be done, such as seeding, combining… building a shop… the list never ends! We decide what tasks need to be done that day over breakfast, and then my husband goes back outside to clean the barn and refresh the straw that our ladies sleep in. Each morning usually goes about the same, its nice to have routine when there are so many things that need to happen daily (and your as forgetful as me!). During the rest of the morning your activities might vary, maybe you will do some cleaning and laundry- I hope you don’t get too surprised when you realize that farm work comes complete with mountains upon mountains of filthy clothing. You may do some internet blogging… or playing with your kids (I don’t have any of these yet by the way… and imagine my day will be crazy x 500 once I do!), and by 10:30 am it is again coffee time.

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Wait what? Its only 10:30 am??? … well yea you got up at 5:00 am, who does that?
You may want to have a piece of cake and a coffee for your husband when he comes inside, he’s already been working all morning. At our farm, morning coffee usually includes reading material. And my husband reads about dairy news, farm news, or sires that he could choose to breed to his ladies. He may do some research, or read the newspaper… and then its back to work! This is where it gets really busy, because now that you have accomplished the morning milking/feeding/and cleaning of your cows- you can do other jobs. Lets say for time’s sake that you aren’t in the midst of any huge spectacular all day jobs, but that its an average farm day. So today you may go outside to help your husband sort some heifers before lunch…

You once again get all dressed up in your covies and wellies, and head outside. Cows are very social animals, but the heifers (young cows) are split into groupings according to their age- the reason is because a little heifer gets picked on by a bigger heifer and sometimes isn’t allowed to eat (let’s say this is Junior high school for cows). So we sort the heifers according to their size and age, so that each has a chance to eat and grow all they want, without someone taking their lunch money or giving them a wedgie.  You are going to need at least 2 people to sort your heifers, they like to run circles around you and they think sorting time is play time. But cows also poop a lot, in fact… they poop just about every 15 minutes… (they especially love to kick poop at you) so when you get done helping your husband usher heifers into another grouping… please head inside to clean yourself up.

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After you have chased cows and cleaned up, your going to need to make Lunch. At our farm Lunch is the biggest meal of the day because in the evening we don’t get in until late and we don’t want to eat (nor do I want to cook) a huge meal. So you will want to be in from the morning work by at least 12:00 pm, and have lunch prepared by 1:00. Lunch may consist of meat, potatoes, bread, and vegetables, it’s pretty well rounded because you are working a long day. We usually conclude lunch with a Yoghurt. Dairy is a definite necessity in this house. Mmm mmm good.
Finally… it is one o’clock and you are tired. But the day is only half done. Perhaps if it is a slow day you may lay down after lunch for 15 minutes… but don’t get too comfy because many days this can’t happen. It is crucial that all your herd is taken care of at all times. There is no -I’ll-do-that-tomorrow, in dairy land.

You head back outside with your husband and, you guessed it, get back into your wellies and covies. (You might as well buy a nice pair, because your going to live in them.) Your husband needs your help to herd a cow in a stall to be A.I.’d. What is A.I. you ask? Well on a Dairy farm, we usually don’t keep a wide array of Dairy Bulls. The reason is because they are incredibly mean. A Holstein bull can reach maturity and full mean-ness as early as 6 -8 months of age… and even if you spent your entire life cuddling him, he can not be trusted. Farm’s that do keep a bull around will have him behind a very strong fence, and it is VERY dangerous to work with him. There are professional’s out there instead that breed Dairy bulls, they know how to keep and handle them, and instead of us risking our lives every day in the pasture- we purchase Semen from a catalogue of Bulls that we would like to breed to our cows. Just like if you go to the sperm bank and look through a book of potential… erm… potentials. Lets just leave it at that. Our bull calves are still bottle fed and picked up after a few weeks by someone from a farm that is set up to raise bulls specifically, there they will have better care than we will be able to give them.

Having had special training in A.I. -artificial insemination, you or your hubby will do a very routine and clean safe procedure to A.I. a cow who has been showing a lot of, well… friskiness. And you will keep track of each cows heat and cycle very closely. For this and many other reasons you will keep a close eye on each cow every single day. And a few months from now, you will be able to check to see if she has happy news! My Husband usually does this, and I go to work with some calves by walking through them or haltering them so they are always calm and easy to manage.

Now you are walking around the side of the barn and the young lady you have been expecting to calf will be hunched over and breathing hard. A new baby Is coming!!!

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Oh … to see the look on my own face the first time I saw a birth in action. You may want to have someone there with a camera. It could be hilarious. It must have been a twisted mix of awe and disgust, oh-my-gosh-that-looks-painful, fear, and happiness. It is truly a blessing to witness life being born. You will watch mama cow for a bit to determine if she needs help. Most of the time she will not have any problems, but sometimes if the calf is taking too long to come out… it will be your duty to step in and give her a hand. In this case your mama cow is doing ok, so you will get a pail of cold water just in case. If the calf is having trouble breathing after it comes out you can shock it into taking a breathe with a little dump of water. And it will, in most cases be just fine. We like to leave mama and calf together for a bit so she can clean and lick it all off. But then, just like a baby is rushed away to the nursery in a hospital, we pick up the baby and take it to some clean comfortable warm dry straw and safety in a little hutch. You will need to dip his or her little umbilical chord in iodine so it can’t get any infection, maybe if its cold put on a little calf blankie to keep its body temperature up, and then feed it a bottle of colostrum. Mama will go into the milking parlour to be milked tonight. And she is ok with that, because she knows we are taking care. For anyone who has any questions about why we don’t allow a calf to stay with its mama for too long, I will be making a longer post about this in the near future. But I assure you it is in the best interest of the calf, who is now safe and warm with a full belly.

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After you have helped to deliver a little life, you are checking all the other cows and you discover a cow who has a sore foot. You will have to treat her foot right away by ushering her into a stall, cleaning her hoof and trimming it… then putting some ointment on to keep her from getting foot-rot or infection. She will walk away feeling much better. A dairy farmer needs to make sure that all his/her cows are comfortable and happy all the time- because a happy healthy cow gives scrumptious healthy milk. Plus you will love her like she is part of the family… and you wouldn’t let your brother or sister limp around on a sore leg would you? (unless maybe you afflicted said soreness yourself in some brotherly battle of epic proportions… )

By now it MUST be coffee time again! So… you will head in for a coffee and maybe a small cookie or cake. I know, I know, it gets tedious. But you will appreciate the break!
At our farm we have a coffee around 4:00pm… and then head back out for the second milking. Wait… you forgot there was a second milking? I told you this!
Get those wellies and those covies back on and get back out there. Sometimes before afternoon milking we like to do some extra cleaning in our parlour. Sweeping, scrubbing the milking units, or general maintinance. My husband may do some paper work (paper work?!…. you mean all this and there is also paper work?!…. why yes, and accounting too!), while I clean the tank because the milk has been picked up. And then we begin milking. Milking usually takes around 2 hours completely, once everything has been cleaned up. And of course you need to feed your fur babies again! All the little babies get a bottle, and sent to bed for the night. All the cows and calves have their feed pushed closer in case they need a midnight snack.
You’ll want to take a walk around the farm to make sure that everyone has everything they need before dark, all the animals still have water. No one is calving or in distress.
And then… you are finally allowed to head inside.

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You may want to have a shower, you stink.

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And a bed time snack, because it is around 8 or 9 pm by now. And if your anything like us, you will like to sit in front of the T.V. and vegetate or read for a half hour. Maybe have a beer… and then head to…. the cows. Because every single night, before you go to bed, you will quickly check on your cows one more time… push their feed, make sure everyone is ok, because they mean that much to you.

And finally… you will crawl into bed tiresomely, and drift off into a deep and happy cozy sleep. Dream about warm things like milk and cookies, happiness. Until… your alarm clock screams at you at 5:00am.

Posted in Ag For Life, Agvocate, Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farming, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Lemon Ricotta Cheese Cranberry Muffins…

Lemon, cheese, and cranberries all wrapped up in a little bun? Why yes!

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I would like to start by saying that this post is a prelude to “a day in the life of a Dairy Farmer (‘s wife). And that post will in fact be coming right up! When I became a Dairy farmer I of course already knew the simple pleasures of cheese, milk, ice cream (nom nom nom), butter and one of my favorite’s -yoghurt. Oh me and cheese have been having a passionate love affair for some time… But I even gained a few poun*cough*… I mean a new found appreciation for these things when I was the one producing the milk that they are made from!
You have no idea really, where your food comes from… well of course you have some idea, but you didn’t milk the cow or feed the chicken yourself did you? In this day and age, unless your a farmer, it is unlikely to have that sort of experience. So picture spending a day tossing some feed to a lovely lady, enjoying her cow-lick kisses and her soft muzzle nuzzles, cleaning and milking her, then coming inside to enjoy some fantastic Canadian cheese with a tall glass of vino (or some delicious milk and cookies for the young at heart!).
Aaaaah… it doesn’t get much better then that unless you had picked the grapes yourself (or the chocolate chips- because those grow on trees right? he he)

My point is that it gives me the utmost pleasure to use 100% Canadian milk products, after I have seen that big milk truck take my milk away every other morning. And  know that I am contributing to something great.

Now I fancy myself a chef. Not really the ‘I have 3 ingredients and PRESTO I have made something that you can serve in a restaurant for 50$/plate chef,’ but more like the… ‘I’m tinkering around until something good happens, or… I burn the house down,’ sort of chef. I like to take inspiration from recipe’s or idea’s I have seen, and mix or make them my own. If they work out I make sure to jot them down -most of the time that is. Hopefully I will be more diligent about saving the ‘keeper’s’ when I am sharing with you. And as you can probably guess, my recipe’s will all involve a scrumptious and nutritious dairy product. Playing with milk products has been even more fun since I became a dairy farmer. And thus here is my first recipe, a very healthy hearty one too!

Lemon Ricotta Cheese Cranberry Muffins. (makes about 12 muffins)

Firstly you will need:

3/4 cups rolled oats
2 cups all purpose flour (I like to use 1 cup white unbleached and 1 cup whole wheat)
2tsps baking powder
3/4tsps. baking soda
1/4tsp salt
Lemon zest and juice from 2 lemon’s (you could also use oranges!)
1/4 cup milk
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
3/4-1 cup of honey (depending how sweet you like them)
1/4 cup coconut oil (or butter softened)
1Tbsp Vanilla extract
2Tbsp Chia Seeds (you could also use poppy, or flax!)
1 cup cranberries halved and dusted with flour

Preheat your oven to 350F, and in a big mixing bowl mix together your dry ingredients Flour, baking soda, baking powder, oats and salt. In a separate bowl mix together well the wet ingredients zest, milk, cheese, eggs, honey, vanilla, coconut oil.

Using a stand mixer or your super strong self, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just incorporated. Then fold in your chia seeds and halved cranberries (dusted in flour). The cranberries are dusted in flour so that they don’t sink to the bottom of the muffin mix.

Your mix should be thick enough for you to easily scoop into muffin tins that are greased with fresh butter or a healthy cooking spray. Fill the cups all the way to the top with little peaks for nice sized muffins.
If you like to make them look pretty like me, then take a few extra rolled oats, and sprinkle them on the top of each muffin. Just a few!

Bake them in the oven for approx. 20-25 min, or until the tops are set or slightly golden brown. These muffins won’t brown too much.

Let cool, and enjoy.
Whole wheat flour and rolled oats add a lot of nutrients and heaviness to these muffins, great for breakfast or for a filling energy snack. The ricotta cheese adds protein while making the muffins moist and delicious! Cranberries and lemon are a great and healthy taste combination, and the chia seeds add omega 3’s. These muffins are top notch, filling, satisfying and healthy! Better yet they are Husband approved and go great with … yes, coffee.

I hope you learn new ways to use that goodness that is Ricotta cheese, and enjoy them as much as we do!

Stay tuned for more fun recipes from my adventure’s in a dairy kitchen ❤

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Part #2 How to Start A Dairy Farm From Scratch

Alright alright, now … here is part two of my post much much too late due to a) hubs having spilt an entire cup of coffee on our laptop, b) learning how to use windows 8 and a fancy new computer, and c) my accountant being psychic and knowing the perfect moment to ask for an update on our books which I lost in said coffee incident. And thus… it had taken me mountain loads of time to get back to you. But I persevere!

How to start a dairy farm from scratch Part #2

3. Learn the Lingo…. So this is funny on my part because once I said to my Husband that I liked a calf because she had “pretty eyes,” which of course he well informed me was a mistake. Not to mention the time that I referred to an Excellent cow as having a “nice A…um… Bum,” eeeeeeeee wrong again! If you want to be a Dairy Farmer you most definitely have to learn the language, or risk embarrassing yourself or significant other at a show.  You must learn the names of every High Breed Sire such as (in stern superhero voice) “September Storm,” and “Goldwyn…” You must learn various abbreviations, the names of each brand of machinery and which is better than the other and why. You will even benefit from learning various Dutch and Swiss words- of course this is depending on where and who you farm with, our cows respond to certain Dutch commands such as “Schiet op!” and “Hup!.” Not to mention a wide range of un-determinable sounds and non-English swears for when something just doesn’t go right …. (remember that the word ‘s**t’ no longer applies as a swear word in this world, and will most likely be one of the first words your little ones learn. True story.) That’s tradition!

4. Get fit… To be a Dairy Farmer you will spend any given day lifting various weighted objects ranging from an awkward milking unit, to a bale of hay, a tractor tire, or a calf, maybe even a cow. You may have to pull, push or chase a cow out of some situation. You may have to wrestle. You will shovel poo and feed, you will climb various high objects… you will clean, walk miles a day, and you will work hard! So get fit! When I got married my friends asked me if I had been working out… but really I had only been milking cows.

5. Pick up a Java… what’s that you say? I’ll have a steamed hazelnut latte americano with no foam please… AH no. If you want to become a Dairy Farmer you had better drink your coffee like you like your cows… strong and black, erm … well with black spots… or red ones, or Jersey. Ok that sounded way better in my head! The only other exception is a shot of fresh milk. We have a schedule around here which consists of : milking with coffee, breakfast with coffee, feeding, coffee time, lunch (possibly with coffee), farm work, cake and coffee time, milking, dinner with c…just kidding… with beer- definitely beer. But you get the idea right? A Dairy farmer puts in a long hard day and drinks a lot of coffee. And don’t underestimate the comradery of a coffee break! When another farmer, salesperson, feed specialist, or family comes to visit we will of course have hot coffee in the pot. Coffee time is the best time. (next to beer time of course)

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6. Get Social with the Ladies… Now, throw away that old social life. Dairy Farming takes dedication. No more late nights out dancing and drinking or you will be a wobbly milker in the early morning (trust me)… no more dinner dates, no more spontaneous road trips. Look at those cows out there! They need you. Dairy farming is a different way of life and it’s not for everyone. I’ve been farming for a year milking every day at 5:00 pm and my dad still calls me at 4:30 to come over for supper (hint hint dad) . If we go shopping, to the zoo, to my cousin’s house or on a date… we have to leave after everyone is well taken care of and then be back by milking time. Our most frequent hang out is the ice cream shop just a few miles down the road, where we can enjoy an ice cream and a walk down the river… then hurry back for more work to be done. And a vacation is no small feat, finding someone to milk the cows and take care of the farm until we get back- someone you trust with your lively hood- It just can’t happen all the time! But… don’t get me wrong, I love it… and If you’re a real Dairy Farmer nothing could be more fun than a date with all your ladies (cows) sitting on the silage pit with a blanket under the stars-cold beer in hand of course.

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7. Open up your boundaries… for serious. You are going to do many different jobs and  to be a Dairy farmer you are going to have to get down and dirty sometimes. There`s no time for fear when a mama is calving in distress.  Get in there grab a mini hoof and pull that little baby out!! When you’re a Dairy Farmer your also a mid-wife, a veterinarian, a production manager, a grain specialist, a brick layer, a mechanic, an electritian, a feed specialist, an environmentalist, a  fertility specialist, a carpenter, a landscaper ect ect. And if you’re a Dairy Wife don`t forget baker, cook, housekeeper, and personal shopper (`Honey… please go get me this part thing for this tractor…. I don`t know what its called just ask the guys there at that one place I don’t remember the name… oh… and its very heavy…), and mama –even if only to fur babies in the start. My husband says that the most important part of opening up your boundaries will be to learn to love the long pink glove and its benefits – I won`t explain that one.

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8. And my last and most important step in becoming a Dairy farmer is to Own it… Dive right in, don’t hesitate, don’t be scared… Dairy farming is exciting and you will learn new things each day. Clean those teats, pick up a unit, and start milking. Shovel that poo, and don’t be afraid to get some on you- in fact learn to love poo – good poo means healthy cows. Fall in love with your animals. See the equal beauty in a newborn calf and an old lady who has served you well. Feel the sadness of an animal in pain and the happiness of a playful cow on new grass in the spring. Love your barn, love your farm, love your life… love your coffee. The work is never done, and you’re in it for the long haul. Breathe in deep when the first silage has been cut. Let yourself get frustrated but don’t ever loose heart… because you have built this… and it is beautiful.

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And there you have it, of course there is so much more to farming but I find these lessons have been particularily helpful in my journey. Basically you are now ready to farm… but… there is so much to tell that I couldn’t fit it all into one post. Next up I will cover what your very first day of farming might be like. I don’t want anyone to go into it without expectations!

‘A day in the life of a Dairy farmer (‘s wife)’ a follow up lesson for Beginners.

Posted in Ag For Life, Agvocate, Dairy, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dairy Farming, Uncategorized | 4 Comments