Canning, Calving and Whatnot

This is “Old Cow”. She lived in our yard for about a month while we waited for her to calve. She is pretty ancient as far as cows go, and this will be her last calf. She snuck back behind our trailer to have her calf about a week ago, and did so with no fuss. We were a little surprised and very relieved to find them back there, nursing away–especially since Old Cow was a week overdue and last time that happened it ended very badly. We gave Old Cow some hay and they got off to a fine start. It is still amazing to me that a calf born in the early AM can be up and rough housing before it gets dark. ย She even tried to follow me into the trailer. . .


Yesterday we put them back out with the herd, although we are still a little nervous to have Old Cow out with the rowdy heifers and bossy #16 (aka The Mutant Uddered One). They seem to be very happy to be out on better grass and it’s important for the calf to learn about being in a herd.



(Isn’t Chirpy handsome? Depending on where we move, we might take him with us. He wont have any broilers to guard over the winter, so they probably wont keep him here. If we do take him, he is definitely getting renamed.)

This week I had a Three Day Canning Epidemic. The farmer’s wife was out of town and I had the whole industrial kitchen to myself. It was lovely, and exhausting. Spence cracked one too many “barefoot, pregnant in the kitchen” jokes, and I started making him wash dishes. On top of making cookies, home made yogurt (it came out like Saint Benoit!) and meals, I canned:
7 pints of relish
9 quarts of dill pickles
4 pints of watermelon rind pickles
9 quarts of various kinds of canned peaches
9 half-pints of tomato preserves (the best preserves EVER!)
7 half-pints of cantaloupe-peach preserves
4 quarts of cinnamon applesauce
5 half-pints of summer fruit preserves

Everything came from the garden except the sugar, spices, vinegar and some peaches from a local orchard (they get dropped off here by the trailer load). Next year I would like to be using my own vinegar as well. I think for 3 days, I did ok. There are more tomatoes, peaches, apples, cantaloupe and watermelons on the way, so I hope to can more before we move.


*WARNING* Reading further in this post may give you a headache…

In other news, I have been working on our business plan. We have carefully budgeted out what we would need to begin a small farm business (pastured eggs and pastured milk) that would pay our bills and rent within the first year, and after itemizing out every expense we could possibly come up with for start up, we reached the magical number of 18k. Which really isn’t that much if you think about it. That’s less than a lot of people spend on a new car. When you are down to your last 500 though, and petrified to get in any debt for anything, it seems like too much. But, for tax, time and sanity purposes it seems it would be worth it to get in that much debt, just once, rather than trying to work full or part time next year to save up that amount while maintaining a rental farm and attempting to raise our kids without going totally nuts. I mean, more totally nuts than we already are.

We tried to save while working and renting in CA, and it was a total joke. The only thing that ‘saved’ our butts was the hefty tax return we cash-acquisition challenged folks with offspring get, and some very generous (and possibly insane) relatives who offered for us to live with them rent free. In 6 months we saved about 3k that way, plus the tax return of about 6k.

Then we bought that huge trailer for 4k, still under the dumb impression that we were moving to MN to build a small house on it, while working for Whole Foods part time. That fell through at the last minute (not because of WFM, bless their giant grocery chain heart), and so we ended up spending about 2k to get all the way to Maryland (1k fuel plus 1k to support Motel 8), and once here, we paid for storage up-front (cheaper that way), paid to get our truck’s plates changed to MD plates so that our insurance would still cover us, paid up front for a MD car insurance policy (cheaper that way), and ta-da! Like magic, we are down to $500 again. Try as we might we have not been able to put any of the 400 a month stipend into savings yet. The majority of it goes to our fuel, cell phone bill, and food costs (yes, yes, yes–the farmers are technically supposed to be feeding us. It’s a long story, don’t ask).

Ok, that was an unholy Whine-O-Rama. I apologise. Now, does anyone have any sound advice on getting a farm or small business loan?

P.S. we are going to get part time work over the winter, so don’t worry about us living off of dill pickles, huddled around a bonfire of children’s books and furniture, sleeping in our truck, or anything horrid like that. Well, maybe the pickle part ๐Ÿ˜‰

P.P.S. We are driving to the furthest corner of Virginia on Wednesday to look at a farm for rent there. More soon. . .



4 thoughts on “Canning, Calving and Whatnot

  1. I am so proud of you and not because I’m insane. ๐Ÿ™‚ We’re not insane, just a little crazy! ๐Ÿ™‚ Based on what I read in your businesses plan I bet you guys could try doing the Kickstarter method and raise some money that way.

    Love You!!!!!

    • Haha–you’re totally insane, but in a wonderful, generous way! I hope we can be that insane one day. . .or at least close.

      I hope your day got better.
      Love you too!!

  2. I don’t have any advice about the farm loan, but I wanted to pass on a book I just finished reading (not assuming you have time to read, but just in case). It’s called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s about a family who moved to a farm in the Carolinas and started living self sustainably. Sounds like a boring and trite synopsis, and I thought I had already read all the books about that, but this book is AMAZING. Plus Barbara Kingsolver is an AMAZING writer. If anything it would help keep you guys inspired and encouraged to pursue the farm. ๐Ÿ™‚ You could probably find it at a local library.

    • Awesome! I need something new to read–I’ll look it up at the library here. I’ve actually heard the title before but I didn’t know what it was about. I’ve seen your guys’ bookshelf so I trust that if you thought it was amazing, its worth the read.

      I do have time to read some days while the girls are napping. If I can remain conscious. . .

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