We had five milk cows. Two were Holsteins, two were Jerseys, and one Guernsey.
The Holsteins gave too much milk and were hard milkers for a boy. The Guernsey, my favorite, was real quiet and easy to milk. The two Jerseys, the older one was a nice cow, the younger one was her daughter.
She was a kicker. You didn’t know when she was going to kick, today or maybe tomorrow, but she was going to kick the pail over.
The hired man milked in the morning. When we boys got old enough, we milked in the evening.
If we were in a hurry, we could milk with a boy on each side. Eventually we aged out of the job and younger brothers took over. Brother Carl will tell you that he milked for the longest time.
We turned the cows out to pasture during the green season. We had to go out with a tractor, truck, horse, whatever was available to bring them in to the barn. It was never a problem, as soon as the cows saw you they started for the barn.
We took the milk to the house and Mom would run it through the separator to get the cream for making butter. The skim was fed to the pigs and chickens.
We sold cream on Saturday evenings in Grand Ridge to about five different customers, 45 cents a pint or 80 cents a quart. Its funny, I can’t remember what I did this morning, but I can remember the price of cream from seventy years ago.
Like most Americans, I save too much stuff. But I’m glad I saved this old snowboard I made one winter night, so many years ago.
“It shouldn’t be that hard to build a snowboard,” Jimmy said.
“Yeah, we could do that,” Doug said.
Jimmy, Doug and I were all home from our respective colleges on winter break.
We always got together when we had a chance to hang out, practice our songs, (we had a house party band), and whatever else intrigued us.
I had been lamenting that I would like to have a snowboard, when the engineer and the architect decided that a snowboard was definitely doable.
“We can use my Dad’s tools, and he always has extra boards lying around,” Jimmy said.
“Ok, let’s do it tonight! We each have until dawn to build a snowboard. Then we find a hill and race down!” I said.
“Yes! The Snowboard Challenge!”
We drove to Jimmy’s home farm. Jimmy suggested we work in the dairy barn in the middle alleyway since it was super cold outside and the barn stayed relatively warm since the cows were kept in overnight.
Plus the barn had electricity, pretty good lights, and a radio with surround sound. Jimmy loves to tinker. When he learned that sound can be transmitted via metal, he taped a speaker wire to the metal milk line and taped a speaker to the milk line at the other end of the barn.
It worked perfectly. Sound on both ends of the barn.
Jimmy now works as an electrical engineer for a dairy equipment company, so he’s still tinkering with pipelines.
Doug has his own architect firm out in Vermont, still enjoying building things.
Jimmy got us set up with power tools and boards and misc other supplies.
Its a good thing Jimmy’s Dad’s cows were quiet and used to machinery, as we made a lot of noise when we set to work on our boards. Jimmy’s Dad was super easy going about stuff like this.
We all were in high spirits as we started. But I’m not a night person, so about 3 or 4 am I started feeling it.
“Matt. Are you all right?” Jimmy asked.
I guess he found me standing, holding my board, not moving for several minutes. I was nearly asleep on my feet.
But somehow each of us finished with our prototype snowboard.
“Where should we race?” Doug asked.
“Let’s go to my farm,” I said. “We can borrow warmer clothes for you guys.
Mom was surprised to see us. We braced ourselves with hot coffee. Then I got some of my Dad’s coveralls for Jimmy and Doug and we set out for the steepest hill we could find.
It wasn’t so much of a race. More of see who could actually ride their board down the hill.
Doug and I kept practicing. We gave each other’s boards a try.
Jimmy is not a morning person, and the night finally caught up with him. I remember him lying on his back in the snow, one arm up over his eyes to shield the sun, napping.
Now middle-aged with life’s responsibilities, I don’t get to see my old buddies as often as I wish. But we keep in touch and always have a good time when we do get together.
I set this round bale of straw down after the big snow. We had a big melt this past week and all the snow around it melted, leaving the bale sitting on its own block of ice. It got me to thinking about the insulating properties of straw.
There is an old building on my Dad’s home farm. The building is called the Icehouse. Back in the days before rural electrification, people would cut chunks of ice out of lakes or streams and put the ice into their icehouse. Then they would insulate the ice with wood shavings or straw.
People had an Icebox in their house to keep food and beverages cool. There was a place to put a block of ice. When one block of ice melted, they would go get another one. Maybe you’ve heard someone refer to the refrigerator as the icebox.
In Henry David Thoreau’s classic, “Walden,” he tells about the time he let a young man warm up in his cabin. He had fallen in the cold water of Walden Pond when he was out cutting ice.
Thoreau provides details about the process of cutting out ice, which he observed 100 men doing over a span of 16 days. They made a stack of ice weighing 10 tons. They covered the stack with hay and boards for insulation, and didn’t open until July. Even after it was exposed to the air and sunshine, Thoreau says the stack didn’t fully melt until September of the following year.
Timothy is one of my favorite grasses. I mix its small seeds in with alfalfa, when I’m planting the new hay seeding in the spring. Look at the broad, beautiful leaves. Look at the seedheads, covered in pollen.
I’ll lay it down, sun-dry, rake, and roll up, into a big, round, bale. Summer sun, tucked away, waiting to be fed on a cold, winter’s day.
My favorite poet is Robert Frost. I plan on writing a post, inspired by one of his poems. The first person to guess which poem, will win a $25 gift certificate to Kiva. One guess per person. The poem is not “Mending Wall.” I’ll give you a hint, the post is about genetics. Good luck!
School started two hours late today, let out an hour early. My 4-wheel drive SUV made it half-way down my quarter-mile lane before the snow proved too deep. My Dad pulled me out with the tractor, and pulled us back in. It’s supposed to start snowing again tonight, with wind. If you want to visit, and you don’t have a snowmobile, you’re going to be walking. We’re stuck.
I’m stuck with this blog, and having trouble getting restarted. There is a reason I post every week, and it’s not because of popular demand. It’s how I’m wired. I like starting every day with chores.
And so, I’m publicly announcing my intention to post every week, even though I still feel stuck.
I think this blog works best when I’m answering a question. Some questions I want to answer:
How much wood does my outdoor wood boiler use?
How much fuel does my farm use?
What is the feed efficiency of my hogs from 250 to 300 lbs.?
Why can hogs digest acorns without processing?
How long did the “wild west” last? Side note: I think a major contributor to the wild west was post-traumatic stress disorder from the civil war veterans.
Another thing I want to look at more closely is how a square foot of land changes throughout the year. I think I know, but forcing myself to look every week, and take a picture, may prove eye-opening.