Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Silver Lining to Every Cloud

We've had mostly cloudy days this past week, but there's a silver lining to every cloud.

This winter sunset holds a promise of spring in its pretty pastels.

Who would imagine that this dusky sky . . .

. . . would go out in a blaze of glory?

There's nothing like Dexters at dusk to keep me looking at life through rose-colored glasses.

If You Don't Like the Weather, Wait a Minute!

These photos taken between Jan. 31 and yesterday, Feb. 4, remind me of the old saying about Texas, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute!"  It could be our motto here in NW Georgia, too!

Dec. 31 - We had a strangely warm December--warm enough for the grass to grow!  Visitors Ayano and my nephew Adam enjoyed a visit with the Dexters, making friends with Seb.

Jan. 19 - Sunny and cold.  The Little Boys "help" move our homemade covered hay feeder into the Home Pasture, which is temporarily the Weaning Pasture.  Wellie scratches where it itches, Seb supervises and Remy exits stage right.

Jan. 20 -  Freezing rain encrusts a dogwood branch.

Jan. 23 - The snow storm that wasn't.  This was the sum total of our snow from the storm that was supposed to shut down the Southeast.

Jan. 28 - A hard frost looked more like snow than the snow did!

Feb. 3 - Torrential rain.  We got 3" in a few hours overnight.

The rain ended before morning, but the runoff increased, culminating in some flooded roads near us.

Feb. 4 - Sunshine and cold again.  The Little Boys watch something exciting down below . . . stay tuned to find out what!

Between one thing and another, especially the weather, there's never a dull moment!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

If I Can't Be A Good Example . . .

One of my favorite sayings is:

"If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning."  Catherine Aird

Although I would rather be a good example, in this case I'll just have to be the horrible warning. So here goes . . .

If you're 50 years old or older, GET THAT SHINGLES VACCINE!

RUN!  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200!  RUN to your nearest pharmacy and get that vaccine!

I thought about it last year.  I thought, "I'm 60 now.  I should probably get the shingles vaccine."  But of course I was too busy, and I didn't.

So for my New Year's present, I got shingles on my head, on my face, and in my eye.

Everything you've heard about it is true--and then some.  It is excruciating.  It felt like someone was stabbing an ice pick through my right temple into my eye at the same time that someone was ironing the skin of my face at the same time that it itched like crazy and I felt like clawing my skin off.

Luckily my eye doctor, an ophthalmologist, got me in right away and diagnosed shingles even before I got the tell-tale rash.  He put me on an anti-viral agent and prednisone eye drops, as shingles in the eye can cause blindness.

I'm finished with all of that and have finally been assured that there is no permanent eye damage.  However, I still have the pain, which can last for months, as well as fatigue and exhaustion.  The pain is mostly controlled by a prescription I take at night, but unfortunately, it leaves me dizzy until noon the next day.  I continue to take L-lysine and Boswellia (frankincense) tablets.  The itching has been almost completely taken care of by essential oils.  (I use Young Living oils.)  Here's a lotion I made that really helped the itching:

Susan’s Shingles Lotion
Base: 1 T. coconut oil, melted (Or 1 T. melted shea butter plus 1/2 T. glycerin, whisked together)
4 drops of lavender essential oil
3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
3 drops of geranium essential oil
5  drops ravintsara essential oil  

Melt the coconut oil or shea butter gently in the microwave.  Let this base cool, as heat compromises essential oils.  (If using shea butter, as it begins to cool, whisk in the glycerin; this keeps the shea butter softer for easier application.)  Once the base has cooled down but is still liquid, add the oils one at a time, whisking to blend.  While still liquid, pour into a small clean glass jar and let solidify.  Use a fingertip to apply to the rash as often as needed.

A month after this started, I look a whole lot better than that photo.  In fact, I look almost normal on the outside, but appearances can be deceiving.  I am more than ready to get my life back!  I'd love to wake up in the morning and have my usual energy back again.  I'd love to walk out to the barnyard and shovel a bit of manure without feeling winded or drive out to see the cattle in the Back Pasture without it wearing me out.

I'm not writing this to complain.  I'm writing it because if I can convince one person to go get their shingles vaccine, I will have been something more than a horrible warning--I'll have been a good example!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Friends in Far Places

Like a good number of my posts on this blog, this post is about cows . . . by way of Africa!

In 1985, we lived in Bangui, Central African Republic, on the campus of Bangui Evangelical School of Theology (which we called FATEB, for its French abbreviation).  Our three children (at left, pre-Kara) Jimmy, Katie and Jenny, were about the age our grandchildren are now.

In September of that year, we flew halfway across the continent of Africa to Mombasa, Kenya, for a three week language acquisition course.  As part of that course, we had to find a local language helper to help us learn a few words of their language.  It was rather intimidating to walk up to a perfect stranger and try to ask them to help us learn a language when we couldn't even speak it, but we found everyone we met to be extremely friendly and eager to help. Helen Karabok, shown here with her children, taught me a few words of her language, Kikuyu, and helped me practice my few words of Swahili.

At the end of the course, we spent a week on Shelly Beach at our mission guest house, and we discovered the Indian Ocean was as beautiful as the people who lived near it--

--although definitely less welcoming, as Jimmy discovered a lethal lion fish while we were snorkeling in a tidal pool!

While we abandoned that tidal pool for another one, it didn't stop us enjoying the beauty of the beach.

To this day, shells that we gathered on Shelly Beach glow softly in the curio cabinet by the front door, and Jim's children like to "listen to the beach" in them, just as he and his sisters did.

"What does Mombasa have to do with cows?" you might ask.  A week ago I received a new comment on an old post from a reader named Sylvia, mentioning that she has dealt with self-sucking cows, too, and had benefited from my post about combating self-sucking.  Out of curiosity, I clicked on her name and discovered to my amazement that her farm is outside Mombasa!  For more photos of their cattle, check out her blog.

I wrote back to Sylvia, telling her that we had been in Mombasa in 1985 and had loved it.  Today I heard back from her with photos of what she did for her cows.  Since she offered to share her experience with my readers, I decided to reprint part of her letter here, along with the photos.

Dear Susan,
Thank you so very much for your mail, unfortunately I only manage a reply today. Internet service for my laptop is giving me a really hard time and I am still to learn writing prolonged letters on my Smartphone…
It‘s really unbelievable that you have been to Mombasa in 1985! That year was the first time I came to Kenya too; we may even have met by chance… And for me it was love on first sight and no looking back ever since. You are so right, what a small world it is!
Thank you so much for your warning about the bra [Tamm Udder Support] and its dangers, it is so sad to hear about what happened to your beloved Siobhan.  I have come across this dreadful Pseudomonas mastitis, too.  First time was from utilizing a reusable cotton udder cloth for cleaning the udder before milking and which was dipped in an Iodine solution between cows.  Since then we are only using disposable kitchen towels.  Second time and years later Pseudomonas affected two cows and came out of the iodine filled teat cup for dipping the teats after milking!!!  So both times the things that actually were meant to improve sanitation and prevent mastitis were the actual cause of it!  We lost the pregnancies in all three affected cows, almost lost the cows themselves but managed to nurse them back to full health and production (minus one quarter…), which was much aided by the use of high doses of Gentamycin intra-mammary infusions.  That actually was the only antibiotic which seems to be able to do any good to treat Pseudomonas. 

One of the three cows, Barre, is now 10 years old and still with us today and has given birth to two bulls (which we both kept for breeding) and two lovely heifers, all since her misfortune. We have in-calf heifers now which are daughters from that first bull!
The bra I am using on Cholle might have the advantage that the part covering her udder is actually a nylon fishing net, which dries instantly and Pseudomonas doesn’t seem to like synthetics much… or we were just lucky so far. But I will replace it by that fabulous invention of yours as soon as I get the parts together.

The bull ring inserted in the way shown in the pictures doesn’t impair your taste test; also rumination is not disturbed in any way, although the cow is sore for a couple of days after placing it. Well I thought it’s a little revenge for the hours of headaches and heartaches she had caused us beforehand, not to speak of the 10 liters of milk that disappeared miraculously day after day…

The cow will still try to suckle initially, so your food color test can’t be applied right away, but eventually she will get frustrated as she can’t really produce the vacuum needed to remove the milk from the teats, or so the theory goes… We have tried it twice, with a 50% success. (That’s why the bra is still in use with one of the two…)

Ario which got totally cured from self-sucking with this ring, started the habit when she was on the ground for two months after she had broken her hip when making acquaintance with a nymphomanic herdmate days before her calving date, so your observation that self-sucking might often be caused by boredom, seems to fit right for her. Two months later she was back on her feet, but all the milk was gone and being recycled…
Well, as you can see, I love talking about cows too; actually it is the one thing I love talking about most in my life! If you want to use any of my observations or pictures in your blog, please you are most welcome, I think it is so important to exchange ideas and observations, as one lifetime is much too short to experience and try out everything by oneself…
I am so much looking forward reading more Adventures on Zephyr Hill Farm and it is so great to having finally met a true soul mate!
Thank you so very much again and my very best regards to you and all your loved ones,
If you've ever sought help for a self-sucking cow, you know that most people will advise you it's an incurable problem and tell you to butcher the cow.  Compared to that solution, the brief pain of a nose ring seems preferable to a death sentence!  That's why I felt it was worthwhile to share Sylvia's photos and solutions.  She is a true "Cow Mama" in the fullest sense of the word--going above and beyond what most people will do.

This last photo is the most recent one Sylvia sent me, testament to her healthy, happy cows!  It is, indeed, a small world when I find a friend in Mombasa through my blog.  And since we met because of our cows, I might add, "Cows make the world go round!"

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Year-End Reflections on Farming

This peaceful photo (screen shot) of dairy cattle grazing on pasture overnight comes from an Organic Valley "Who's Your Farmer?" virtual tour of an organic dairy farm.  This virtual dawn-to-sunset visit to an organic dairy farm came to my inbox through the web-based journal, "On Pasture."  (Here's the "On Pasture" article as it came to my inbox.)

One of the best moments of the tour is toward the end where the little boy sings the cows in for their evening milking, just like his father did in the wee hours of the morning.  Farming is hard work and something most farmers do because they love the way of life, not because it's "fun" or lucrative.  It touches me to see young children growing up into it naturally.  They are our future farmers, absorbing a wealth of knowledge and experience and a love for their animals that is irreplaceable.

What Herb and I have here on Zephyr Hill Farm is a dim reflection of that kind of farming.  Our farm will not be carried on by our kids and grandkids.  It's our dream, not theirs.  We came to it late in life, and we don't expect them to pick up where we leave off.  We're happy that we can share it with them for now, and we love to see them enjoy it.  At least our grandkids know where milk and eggs and meat come from because they've watched me milk a cow, they've picked up warm eggs from under a chicken, and they've eaten meat from animals that lived on our farm.  Our grown-up daughter Katie recently laughed out loud for the pure fun of riding beside her dad, watching the manure spreader spray its contents behind them.  We realized years ago that our children and grandchildren are our "customers."  Our farm (sometimes) feeds us and them, but even more--it feeds all of our souls.

We'll never make any money doing what we do, although we do make lots of joy and lovely memories.  That's reward enough for us.  But at the same time, we tip our hats to the "real" farmers who spend their lives on the land to feed people they will never meet.  I have so much respect and admiration for them.  I also have a wistful wish that I'd known so many years ago what I know now--how much I love farming!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Soggy Christmas!

Merry Christmas from water-logged Zephyr Hill Farm!  Come along with us on our Christmas Day swim drive!  For the record, these photos were a lot darker, but I lightened them enough to show details.  It never got this light all day!

At 10 this morning, the creek through the lower part of our property was overflowing its banks after several days of rain followed by almost 3 inches of rain in the last 24 hours.

By 2:30, there was a lot more water.  No wonder, since the rain never let up all day!

We headed out to take a look at things.  Looking down at the Lower Pasture from above, we can see channels carved by runoff from the neighbors' adjoining hill that was deforested this year.

The Lower Pasture has a creek running through it where no creek should be.

Normally the "creek" is a dry bed that runs along the fence before it cuts across the Lower Pasture, but today it was a torrent.

Standing at the Back Pasture gate, we could see the water pouring out of the pond.  So far, the dam is holding . . .

We parked the Doodad and waded to the gate.  Misty is such a faithful companion, always ready to come with us and check on things, no matter the weather.

Ebby, Royal and Ebby's calf Seb are in the Back Pasture.  They're going to need a new hay bale soon, but at least we don't have to fill water troughs!  That tipped-over thing is a heavy wooden mineral feeder that was here when we bought the place.

Herb really likes his Muck boots and his LLBean rain coat and rain pants!

"This deep."

This photo shows the pond runoff on the left.  The drainage pipe discharges water coming in from the hunting preserve off to the right.  Those two streams of water join up here . . .

. . . and pour toward the front of our property, overwhelming the normally dry creek bed.
We headed back up toward the house, very thankful for hills!  Royal and his band have a hill and wooded shelter; Wellie and Remy are in the Home Pasture which is a hill with a shelter up top; Siobhan is in the barnyard, which may be soggy because it's flat, but she's got the barn.  The chicken coop is in the barnyard, too.

Just beyond Wellie and Remy's shelter, the horses are on the highest part of the farm.  They may be wet, but their hay is high and dry in their new Hay Hut.

A flood like this brings worries about whether fences will stand, whether trees might fall, and whether the dam will hold.  It brings slogging mud and damp and inconvenience, but up on our hills, we and the animals are safe.

I must admit that after days and days of rain, I've looked around and imagined how the people back in Noah's day must have felt as the water crept higher and higher.  Of course, they had no idea it was going to keep coming until it drowned them.  It makes me thankful for God's promise never to flood the earth again.  I'll be eagerly looking for some sun and a rainbow, but meanwhile, we have so much to be thankful for!

Christmas may feel different when it's soggy and muggy instead of cold and brisk, yet the reason we celebrate is still the same.  "Joy to the world, the Lord has come!"

Merry Christmas!

*We ended up getting 4.14" of rain in less than 24 hours on Christmas Day, about twice the all-time high.  We're still here, the only casualty being the overturned feeder you can see behind the cattle in the Back Pasture.  We got another torrential rainfall on the 28th with an even higher flood level, so we sure were ready for the sunshine we're getting today, Dec. 29!