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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

The Milk and Human Kindness Part 1

The Milk and Human Kindness

Part 1

by Suzanne Lupien of Scio, OR

Starting in with a dairy cow is a life changing event like getting married and having children all at once. After all the research, the soul searching and the careful preparation — good fences, sturdy, sunny cow house, good pasturage, quality hay in the loft, helpful old-timer down the road, you begin…

Accepting and adapting to the daily milk chore, tending your beloved cow day in, day out, watching closely, caring intelligently, keeping the cow house clean, the cow clean, the water clean, the manger clean, the milk dishes clean, clean, clean, the milk clean. The milk! What a revelation this rich milk is! How your daily devotional is coming right back to you in this heavenly milk! Your life, your world, may well revolve around your cow, as well it might; she is devoting her entire life to you, so generously, so richly, so willingly. How right it is to return it to her in kind.

In the beginning the milking itself — a skill that needs time, patience and muscle — seems like the biggest part of the story. And little by little it becomes easier, taking its place in your everyday, like sweeping the kitchen floor, and the other aspects of this union call on your heart, mind, conscience and strength. Now it becomes understood what an enormous commitment this dairying requires, and in order for it to sustain, and be sustained, one must know so many things, and be able to handle the entire job with good cheer and discipline, and the milk — using this magnificent milk. Keeping a dairy cow is at once an incredible luxury and a serious responsibility.

For your sake as well as hers, I’m hoping that your routine has been established, both you and your cow are happy and healthy. You meet her needs lovingly and generously so that she may do the same for you. Milking times and feeding times are occurring like clockwork, her comfort is always first and foremost in your mind, and is energetically manifest in your daily husbandry.

The Milk and Human Kindness Part 1

Fall and winter are my favorite times for an abundance of milk. The busy summer of haying and gardening are over. I couldn’t possibly make hay and cheese at the same time. So I prefer my cows to freshen late summer so by the time the calf is big and strong, 10-12 weeks, I can cut back on his or her access to the milk supply, begin the process of eventual separation and start my year of cheese-making. Over several years time I have learned a lot about making very high quality cheese on a small scale, ways to be sensible about precious time, ways to save money on equipment, ways to age cheese and ways to share it. Really, there is no finer milk than that from a well tended home cow, and that fact alone will have a major effect on the quality of your end product, whether it is butter, yogurt, clotted cream or cheddar. And knowing that the high quality springs from good basic farming has done a great deal to teach me the depth and meaning of goodness. It is solid, it is fair, and it is life- giving. And it is so meaningful.

I know what it’s like to be trying to find one’s way learning skills without a much needed teacher or experienced advisor. I made a lot of cheese for the pigs and chickens in the beginning and shed many a tear. I want you to know that the skills you will need are within your reach, and that I will spell it all out for you as best I can, through subsequent articles in this journal so you can learn what to do, how to do, why to do, when to do, and sometimes what to do if?? I’m offering to help with step by step instructions that are descriptive and complete. It is essential that these skills are given into your willing hands, and I promise not to hold back — you need to have it all. Perhaps it will take a few years to cover the range of possibilities, and the basic requirements, something I very much look forward to.

I realized early on that milk quality is governed by cow health, and sanitary milk handling in equal measure. The key to vital, clean, beautiful milk is skillful devotion to your cow. It’s not a question of killing bacteria, it’s a question of knowing and caring and doing. There cannot be any comparison between milk from the horror of industrial dairying and a good one or two cow grass based dairy. And such enjoyable and interesting work it is.

Mucking out the cow house, feeding out hay, milking and making cheese all go perfectly together. Contrasting tasks all headed for the aim of honorable contribution in one’s family and to one’s community.

I made a reference to how precious time can be on a small farm and I will show you what I know about selecting cheeses to make that take up a relatively short amount of time — simple farmer’s cheeses which fit nicely in a farmer’s day. We’ll cover everything from what to feed your cow to contriving a cave very simply and cheaply in addition to equipment, milk handling, homemade starter cultures and a wide variety of cultured milk products.

In the next issue I will cover sanitation, homemade starter cultures, yogurt making and a simple French farmer cheese. I hope it’s the next best thing to welcoming you personally at my kitchen door and actually getting to work together.

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Farm Manure

Farm Manure

Naturally there is great variation in manure according to the animals it is made by, the feeding and bedding material, and the manner in which it is kept. Different analyses naturally shows different results and the tables here given serve only as a guide or index to the various kinds. The manure heap, by the way, is no place for old tin cans, bottles, glass, and other similar waste material.

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

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We are approaching this from a seed quality standpoint, not just a seed saving one. Saving seed is fairly simple to do, but the results from planting those seeds can be very mixed; without a basis of understanding of seed quality, people can be disappointed and confused as to why they got the results they did. Both the home gardener and the seed company must understand seed quality to be successful in their respective endeavors.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

Mullein Indigenous Friend to All

Mullein: Indigenous Friend to All

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Mullein is a hardy native, soft and sturdy requiring no extra effort to thrive on your part. Whether you care to make your own medicines or not, consider mullein’s value to bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, who are needing nectar and nourishment that is toxin free and safe to consume. In this case, all you have to do is… nothing. What could be simpler?

Lost Apples

Lost Apples

The mindboggling agricultural plant and animal diversity, at the beginning of the twentieth century, should have been a treasure trove which mankind worked tirelessy to maintain. Such has not been the case. Alas, much has been lost, perhaps forever. Here are images and information on a handful of apple varieties from a valuable hundred year old text in our library.

Of Peace and Quiet

LittleField Notes: Of Peace and Quiet

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Walk with me for a moment to the edge of the Waterfall Field. We can lean on the gate and let our gaze soak up the mid-summer scene: a perfect blue sky and not a breath of wind. Movement catches your eye, and in the distance you see a threesome hard at work in the hayfield. Two Suffolk horses, heads bobbing, making good time followed by a man comfortably seated on a mowing machine. The waist high grass and clover falls steadily in neat swaths behind the mower. What you can’t help but notice is the quiet.

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

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The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

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The old way of selecting seed from open-pollinated corn involved selecting the best ears from the poorest ground. I have tried to select perfect ears based on the open-pollinated seed corn standards of the past. I learned these standards from old agricultural texts. The chosen ears of Reid’s average from 9 to 10.5 inches long and have smooth, well-formed grains in straight rows. I try to select ears with grains that extend to the end of the cob.

Making Sorghum Molasses

Making Sorghum Molasses

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Growing sorghum doesn’t take much work, according to Buhrman. You plant it in the spring, work it a couple of times and that’s about all that’s required until late in the growing season. That is when the work begins. Before it is cut, all the stalks have to be “bladed” – the leaves removed from the stalks. It’s then cut, then the tassles are cut off, and the stalks are fed through a crusher. The crusher forces the juices out of the plant. The sorghum juice is then boiled in a vat for four to five hours until nothing is left but the syrup.

Apple Cider Autumns Nectar

Apple Cider, Autumn’s Nectar

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While autumn’s beauty is food for our souls, autumn’s harvest provides food for our tables. Along with the many hours and days of canning and freezing our garden produce, harvest time also means apple cider making for our family. We have been making apple cider, or sweet cider as it is commonly called, for six years. Beginning slowly, the demand for our juice has resulted in a production of over six hundred gallons this year.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Beautiful Grasses

What follow are a series of magnificent hundred-year old botanist’s watercolors depicting several useful grass varieties. Artworks such as this are found on the pages of Small Farmer’s Journal quite regularly and may be part of the reason that the small farm world considers this unusual magazine to be one of the world’s periodical gold standards.

Marketable Cover Crops

Marketable Cover Crops

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Our cover crops have to provide the benefits of smothering weeds, improving soil structure, and replenishing organic matter. They also have to produce some income. For these purposes, we use turnips, mustard and lettuce within our plant successions. I broadcast these seeds thickly on areas where cover crops are necessary and let them do their work.

Syrup From Oregons Big-Leaf Maple

Syrup From Oregon’s Big Leaf Maple

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There is a great potential in establishment of a seasonal “sugarbush” industry for small farmers of the northwestern states, particularly western Oregon and Washington. Five syrup producing species of maples are found mainly east of the Rocky Mountains. The Box Elder and the Big-leaf Maple are the only syrup producing maples of the Pacific Northwest. Properly made syrup from these two western maples is indistinguishable from the syrup of maples of the midwestern and northeastern states.

Cabbage

Cabbage

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Cabbage is the most important vegetable commercially of the cole crops, which include cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, collard, broccoli, and many others. It also ranks as one of the most important of all vegetable crops and is universally cultivated as a garden, truck and general farm crop. The market for cabbage, like that for potatoes, is continuous throughout the year, and this tends to make it one of the staple vegetables.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

Carrots and Beets The Roots of Our Garden

Carrots & Beets – The Roots of Our Garden

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Carrots and beets are some of the vegetables that are easy to kill with kindness. They’re little gluttons for space and nutrients, and must be handled with an iron fist to make them grow straight and strong. Give the buggers no slack at all! Your motto should be – “If in doubt, yank it out!” I pinch out a finger full (maybe 3/4” wide) and skip a finger width. Pinch and skip, pinch and skip, working with existing gaps and rooting out particularly thick clumps.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT