On Tuesday, ready or not, Buttercup arrived at our new little off-grid homestead. We purchased her from friends who sold their small raw milk dairy (pet food only, of course… legally raw milk must be labeled as such in Florida). She is an eight-year-old Jersey and bred by a miniature Jersey bull, ready to calve in July. Buttercup is the perfect name for her, because she is going to hopefully be the fulltime supplier of butter for our family!
We were told she is a gentle cow, easy to milk, except for one teat which was dried early this season because of some injury which led to mastitis. We traded her for 18 pieces (oz) of silver purchased in 2010 for emergency purposes. We figure if the economy totally falls apart we’d prefer a food-producing cow. It’s hard to eat silver.
Silver Oak stayed home Tuesday, mostly because we were having a deck-load of company that evening. My brother and family from Ohio came to visit, so all of my local extended family came for dinner to celebrate our six-year-old’s birthday (he’s known here as Farmer Boy). Now, Silver Oak is intelligent and very optimistic in contrast with me, the cautious pessimist. If it weren’t for him we’d never have adventures. Well, in this case I felt like we may be going overboard to introduce a new cow the same day we were hosting a party for 27, but Mr. Optimist thought it was no big deal. Ha! I got the last laugh on this one, as you will see.
When gentle Buttercup was unloaded from the trailer, she was not in a gentle mood. This new place and all the animals staring made her jumpy. She immediately tore the lead rope out of Silver Oak’s hands and fled. It’s a good thing we had closed the gate from the runway back into the paddocks.
For the evening milking Buttercup was not interested in entering the stall Silver Oak had hastily built. A small oak tree partially blocked the opening, and she was not going in. Ok, no problem, just give her a bucket of feed, sit down and milk. Unfortunately she positioned herself against a tree making it impossible to milk on her right side, so Silver Oak crouched on her left (the wrong side) and Evenstar reached in from behind.
She ate too fast. All at once she was done and ready to move on, but there wasn’t much milk in the pail. Ok, so cut down the little tree and try again to get her into the stall. But now she was no longer hungry and saw no reason to enter. By this time all of the guests (my family) were here shouting out good ideas and enjoying the show. I wish so badly I had been out there with a video camera, but I was too busy with dinner.
It took over an hour and several volunteers to finally get the elusive Buttercup into her stall! What a circus! Then she was so upset she kicked at Silver Oak and knocked over the milk pail three times. The head gate was not made yet so Buttercup had too much freedom to move in the stall. Evenstar remedied this by poking her hind end with a stick to keep her at the front of the stall. Hilarious! But it was 7:30 pm before the party could really begin!
Things did improve. The next morning it only took five minutes to lure her into the stall (she was hungry), and that afternoon Silver Oak made a head gate and added a fence wall on one side of the barn to complete the stall situation. Now she goes in easily and is proving to be the gentle cow we were expecting after all!
Two days after Buttercup came she and the two horses were nowhere in sight at chore time. After a long search and tracking their hoof-prints through the woods in the paddocks, we discovered they had skipped the country. Almost. You may recall that Silver Oak worked hard last month during his days at home to build fence on the unfenced north side of the paddocks. He did enough that it took the animals a few weeks to discover they could still get out and explore elsewhere.
The horses had turned west and found a gap in the neighboring orange grove fence. Silver Oak and Evenstar found them happily munching nice green grass at least ¼ mile away on the banks of the canal bordering the grove. Can’t blame them. There’s not much grass around our place yet. But Buttercup was nowhere to be seen.
Silver Oak and I went back to the woods and retraced hoof prints. We discovered cow tracks that turned east where the horses had turned west. When she got to our neighbor’s west fence she turned north and Silver Oak finally found her in a mucky swamp. When he called she lifted her head, turned, and slowly followed us back to the end of the unfinished fence, around through the woods, and all the way home. What a nice cow.
Since the great escape we’ve had to keep the gate to the paddocks closed till the fence is finished. Which explains why Silver Oak stayed home Saturday and today working on fence, in spite of his landscaping work not being done for the month of March! The animals don’t do the best cooped up in the small runway with only hay (not good for the pocketbook either).
Saturday when Silver Oak went to build fence he launched us on another unscheduled adventure. That’s for another post. For now, let me tell you we LOVE all the milk! Saturday we made a big batch of deliciously creamy butter, and we have real buttermilk to make cornbread and pancakes with. Yum! Fresh cottage cheese with nearly every dinner is such a treat. We’re living like kings! Except kings probably never milk their own cow. :)
The dogs and cat love the skim milk after we remove the cream. We’ve cut back on store-bought pet-food already. What a life!