Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mulling over rabbits, "warm-water test," & cow thank you's

We have had much time to think about things lately, we have all been very in our snuffy, congested, hoarse voices we mulled over our options - yet again.  What a struggle it can be just making decisions.  Stay here, go there.  Sell this, buy that?

Richard and I have been doing a lot of talking about what we can do now that will transfer on a larger scale when we buy/lease property.  Rabbits and a hoop house were on the top of the list.  Dillon doesn't allow chickens (they're lumped in with goats, llamas and pigs in city ordinances) but rabbits are ok.  Rabbits will help us build soil.  They will feed us.  They will humor us and our children with their wild, rabbit antics.  We'll try to find a breeding pair, they will be the "pets" of the project, Savanna will call them hers I'm certain.

Our milk fat has been gathering in two ways: one semi-solid mass or a collection of smaller masses.  These smaller masses only happen after Ruby is in heat...coincidence?  Hormonal?  Looks like hormonal but I was uncertain, so I asked my online family cow forum friends what these globs could be.  They turned me onto the "warm-water test:"  simply place the cream in question (a bit of it) in warm water, if it relaxes and "melts" then its just fine.  If it remains in glob form then it's mastitis.  Pretty neat huh?  Of course, by the time I got a reply on this I had tentatively figured this out.  As I poured several milkings worth of milk into my large, red enamel cheese pot I saw the lumps.  Figuring that it would have to go to the dogs and worrying over how I would slip in extra milkings along with taking care of a sick family (and self), I left it there on the stove for an hour or so.  Guess what?  They all "relaxed" and it looked just like the normal, solid cream.  This is completely bizarre to me.  I feel like a little kid getting to do new science experiments or something.  There's an odd happiness that fills me when I figure these things out.  I went on to make ricotta with this milk, and it was the most heavenly that we've made yet!  Soft, delicate and crumbly - exactly what it should be.  Lovely.

This morning I raced a large, wet and windy storm to the barn.  As I was just getting in the barn the first drops started hitting its big tin roof, thousands of small soft thuds hurrying me through the myriad of gates to get the girls in.  Both Ruby and Opal (who usually enjoys a game of "who's faster?" before going in the barn) were waiting with their heads at the gate, and ran inside tandem right as the rain started blowing horizontal and cold.  When the weather is poor Ruby doesn't seem to care if the milkings take a while, but when it's sunny outside she is angsty to get back to sunning herself, it seems.  After milking this morning though, both she and Opal stood in the breezeway inside the barn, looking out the open door while I gathered a few flakes of hay.  Not moving an inch.  Just watching.  It wasn't until I tied their gate back and walked towards their shelter that they hopped out of the barn and trotted along behind me.  When I held the blowing door to their shelter open for them, they slipped inside and - if cows could talk - said "thank you" for the hay in the warm little barn.  Had I fed in the bunk outside - by the hay stack - I'm not sure they would not have left the barn without some prodding.  It's very satisfying to experience animals in this way.  To do things for them and know that they appreciate it.  Rarely would I spoil a horse like this, but for some reason - probably because she gives nourishment for my family - doing so for a milk cow seems natural.