Drying off Dottie

Today begins the last period of milking Dottie for this lactation. Sunday morning will be our last milking. Then we will dry her off and give her two months to eat and put some weight on. When we received her she was way down on her body condition and it’s the nature of Jerseys that the more food you throw at them, the more milk they make. We have to take advantage of this two month window while she isn’t milking to put some meat on her bones. And to grow the baby she’s carrying in preparation for birth.

Not milking is also a time off for the milkers. To sleep in, or to get going earlier not waiting for milking depending on your sleep schedule. This morning I could have slept a bit more myself.

Spring is coming. Hopefully during these two months off Dottie and the milking crew will have a good time of it.


Ugh. I’ve had enough. I’ve just spent three days in Chicago where it’s still very much winter while the farm had a chance to warm up in my absence. Upper 60s to low 70s was just devine to come home to after enduring a bonus blizzard in the windy city.

Before I left, I took this photo just after milking. Despite it still being “winter” it is not pitch black when we milk in the morning anymore. A simple change in the routine that signals that spring is around the corner. Its a joy to see beautiful sunrises again. A sign of things to come.

Butter mold

I’ve been making a butter mold for a year. Its 75% done, like its been since the day I started on it. Looking at my to do list, I noted that I still have many chapters to it and it wasn’t getting shorter. I also noted the Lehman’s had a German made butter mold that was already done and reasonable priced. I will still make mine because it is smaller for smaller batches but for large batches the one I purchased is great.

I didn’t have a large batch of butter this time but still, I’m pretty happy with the decorative butter that this mold produced. It certainly looks better than the “play-dough” log that I made before.


I figured everyone is putting up pictures of beautiful snowy scenes, with the world washed in white and made anew. So for our farm, how about a snow covered milk cow, glad to be in the barn scarfing up some food.

The milking parlor

On our farm we have an old horse barn. It doesn’t house horses anymore but it does hold the occasional sick calf, new pigs while they transition, chickens nearly all the time, and our milking parlor. When we first got a milk cow we struggled with how and where we were going to milk. Finally I looked at the old horse wash rack and realized it was perfect.

All it needed was a head gate and a place to hold food. I have some welding experience so off to the shop I went to fab up an appropriate field expedient modification.

Two pieces of angle iron and some boards rough sawn from logs on our farm and we had a simple head gate.

A bit more work and a trip to Agri-Supply and we had a food trough.

Two more pieces of angle to hold the bottom of the head gate. It’s worked like a champ since day one and only took about half a day to complete. The sliding door that covers up the entire room took about a day and a half to build but it was worth it. It really seals up the parlor and keeps the pesky chickens out.

We were very fortunate to have the base for this milking parlor. We have kept all the original parts for the wash rack so we can still bring animals in and treat them when we need to. It’s certainly nice when we have a really sick animal that needs extra attention, or when there is only a couple that need attention and the weather is nasty.

This room has power and water so its a real convenience having it right in the center of the farm. It’s not as fancy as I’ve seen some people have but it fits us perfectly and is a real luxury compared to hand milking under a tree.

15 degrees

This is the heater in the milking parlor. Now before you think we have lounge chairs and hot toddys in our plush parlor, this heater was in response to the frozen pipes of a few weeks ago. At 15 degrees this morning, the heater has managed to keep the pipes thawed, barely. It’s still mighty cold for milking but we do have water for wash down so mission accomplished.

Making cheese

So it was time to use up some milk. I’d already made plenty of yogurt so it was time for cheese. Mozzarella to be specific. I started by sterilizing everything and getting 4 gallons of milk ready. I also had the capable help of The Princess and Bok Bok.

I heated the milk to 90 degrees then added my renet solution. 5 minutes of sitting undisturbed (actually 15, oops) and I had a clean break. After cutting and draining I had this.

Into the microwave for heating and stretching which gets the whey out of the cheese. It took about 4 rounds in the microwave till I had this. 20140106-191202.jpg
It’s like working taffy except its a bigger mess and less sticky.

Now for the salt. No measurement. It’s to taste, which is an excuse to eat some cheese. Warm and just salted its the best it will ever be. Like grandmas cookies hot from the oven vs stale Oreos. If you ever thought about making cheese. This is the reason to do it. 20140106-191415.jpg

Here we are incorporating the salt, mixing it into the still warm cheese.

The final product, with a cup of whey in each bag. Stretched into long string cheese lengths and vacuum sealed.

The big time

We’ve finally hit the big time and bought an honest to goodness milk pail. Hamby Dairy Supply had a scratch and dent sale and had their milk pails marked half off. I bit the bullet and bought the pail you see and couldn’t be happier with it. It is neither scratched nor dented and appears perfect in all ways. It’s quite an improvement over the plastic pails we were using because it has a handle and takes up less space. At half off, it cost four times more than the pails we were using so it better be better!

Dottie’s breakfast

This morning Dottie was standing at the fence waiting for me to show up. This is the best part of training a new cow, when she’s already waiting for you and is totally in synch with your schedule. Since we were waiting for Bar-B-Jew to show up (we were early) I took the feed bucket out and gave Dottie an early treat as a reward for being ready to milk. She was most appreciative.

One issue we are having is that Dottie does not like Cotton. Not even a little bit. Yesterday she kicked at her and today she balked every time Cotton got near. Of course Cotton is fascinated with Dottie and won’t leave her alone. Ah animals. There is always something.