The joy of spring

Some people live for the weekend. I live for spring.

This is my greatest joy:

Breathing the first hint of forest after the thaw,

hearing the stream break out after a winter muffled by ice and snow,

the sound of cranes,

three day old lambs bouncing with all the joy of creation,

the first blades of grass,

the feel of a warm breeze on bare skin,

blue skies and torrential downpours,

the sound of cows munching on fresh grass,

the strength in his eyes

long days on the fields, with soil

the colour green,

good meals around a big table and knowing we earned every bite.

 

DSC_4443

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The passing of winter

As the sun rises higher in the sky each day, winter is gradually replaced by spring. Some days the birds sing joyfully, seemingly to announce each drip from the roof, each water droplet freed from it’s crystalline form, each new rock that emerges from beneath the snow. Spring is on it’s way, but winter still rears it’s head regularly. Some days all is still and grey, the cold takes hold once again, and snow falls slowly from the sky.

The farm awakens from it’s slumber, and animals and people fill the farmyard with life. The animals mainly stand around lazily, while the people move back and forth carrying things here and there and conversing with one another. If we look closer we can see the trees also busying themselves within, mobilising for a new surge of growth.

DSC_4331.JPG


3rd April

Threshing is finished, and two stacks of freshly split wood are growing rapidly on the edge of the forest. We had very little snow this winter (only about 1 metre haha) so it seems as though it will finish melting earlier this year. Already a strip of ground on the south side of the house is bare, which doesn’t usually happen until mid april.

Threshing went fast this year with the new threshing machine. We also found a way to remove the awn from the barley, by cranking the threshing machine really fast and passing the threshed grain back through, twice. After that, nearly all of the barley is awn-free. Now we are just about finished with drying the grain, and that’s all the grain-proccessing until next harvest!

Last year we grew naked oats, but when we threshed we found there were quite alot with husks on. We think maybe the seed was not completely pure, and there were some hulled varieties mixed in. Now we have a project to sort at least 2kilos of naked oats, for sowing this year. We are removing all the ones with husks, and will only sow 100% naked oats, to get some pure seed for sowing again next year. Then hopefully in about 3 years we will have enough for a field of almost pure naked oats. I also spent some time experimenting with removing the husk from the oats. In the end I found the best way with the equipment we have, is to mill it twice very coarsely, and then winnow it. That way you get rid of most of the husk, then when I want to use it I throw it into a pan of water and scoop off any remaining husk, which will float, while the oats sink. Now we can have homegrown oat porridge again!

DSC_3910

DSC_4033

Before and after proccessing.

 

A few weeks ago we slaughtered our much loved ram Ramson. He had become too strong for his own good, and was breaking alot of gates and escaping, which meant we could no longer keep him outside, and had to lock him in the ram cage. We thought it better to slaughter him than keep him confined like that, and either way we want to get a new ram, so we can increase the flock a little. He died well, and though it’s always sad to kill, we feel it was the right thing. I made haggis from the lungs, liver and heart, and the meat went in the freezer. The meat is good and quite different from lamb. It has more texture and flavour somehow, though not the same juicy tenderness of corse.

We tanned the skin, though it was very difficult to scrape since it was completely fresh. With the lambs we butcher in the fall, we nail the skins up to dry them, then moisten them a little before scraping them. This method is considerably easier from our experience, and it means we can tan whenever we have time. We tanned our first sheep skins last month, three so so far, and we have about 9 left to do! The first one went a bit wrong as the wool loosened from the skin when I was washing it, but the other two are good. I will try to put together a post soon about how we do it.

There is alot of natural variation in our sheep, since they are an old breed (vilsau). It makes for really interesting sheepskins!

Auðhumbla had her second calf almost a week ago. The calf is strong and lively and independant. This time, to our surprise, she gave birth by herself and everything went well, but her mothering skills didn’t seem to have improved much on last year. (See Audhumbla’s first calf) She was crazy, bellowing angrily and pushing the calf away and we had to tie her so the calf could suckle. Then we put the calf in a separate pen and milked the cow. Just two days later she had calmed down and seemed more interested in the calf than afraid of it, so I let them be together. She mooed alot but perhaps in a motherly way, and let the calf suckle. It was amazing to see her change so fast, and become a loving mother, after last year.

Now we have them together in the morning, evening and night, but separate them during the day, so we can also train the calf to bottle feed. We saved all the colostrum and milk from the first 4 days that the calf didn’t need, and soured it to feed to her later. We milk Auðhumbla twice a day, but let the calf feed first, and right now we can take about 12litres a day. It’s great to have milk again after four months without it! Yesterday I made cottage cheese, and now we have started to eat porridge again. Fortunately, we have been well stocked with butter over the winter, since we saved alot of butter from last year. We still have about 10 kilos left in the freezer!

We plan to keep the calf at least until July, when Hornfagr will calve too. Then maybe we will slaughter them both, or keep the youngest. When we have both cows milking (finally! (hopefully!)) then we will try to make lots of hard cheese and brunost for the winter. It will be the first time with both cows milking during the summer, so it’s exciting, but a big challenge. Especially since it will begin in July, when we also plan to cut our hayfield entirely by hand for the first time!

9th April

The chickens are laying alot of eggs now! We have just put 73 eggs in the incubator, so we’ll see how that goes. We want to try and sell some chicks, and also sell some hens later in the year. And the cockerels will most likely end up in the freezer again.

The house is filling up with seedlings of all kinds. Yesterday we transplanted four types of cabbage, brusselsprouts, romanseco, broccoli, lettuce and rocket; about 120 plants in all! I also have tomatoes, parsely and sage which I started from seed and I’m trying out an heirloom soybean variety which might possibly be able to grow here. I have no idea if it will come to anything, but it’s worth a try! Soon I will start off courgette, pumpkin, beans, and also a rare flint corn variety from north america/canada, which is one of the earliest I’ve heard of. Again, no idea if it will work. Last time I tried to grow corn it barely even flowered before the frost came.

DSC_4350DSC_4351

This year I’m trying to grow onions and leeks from seed (again). The previous years have not been a great success especially with the onions. The first year I sowed masses, but at some point they seemed to just stop growing, and when I planted them out most of them died, or barely grew. Some though grew to full size, which gave me hope. The next year they seemed ok but once I planted them out they didn’t grow much, and ended up as baby onions. This year I hope to succeed! I found out the problem may well be that they didn’t get enough light as seedlings, so earlier in the year I bought some growing lights (LED grow panel) and they seem to be thriving! I also started them off much earlier this year (end of february), so hopefully they will be big and strong by the time I plant them out in may. The leeks I have in the window, and they seem to be doing fine there.

Recently I made the first sourdough bread from our own wheat. Previously I had experienced that the bread made from only homegrown wheat (dalalandhvete) was very sticky no matter how long I baked it. But with the sourdough the texture was much better! Last year we got a very poor harvest from the wheat, because so much of it collapsed on the field. We were advised that it mght be due to over-fertilisation, so this year we will use less manure and see if they manage to stand up until harvest!

Over the past few weeks Dan has been working up at our portable sawmill, sawing planks and materials for repairing the buildings. This winter he is working on the top of the hill, where the spruce trees are slow grown, which makes for very good quality timber. He is making new panels for the storehouse, and a new tabletop for the kitchen, among other things. Since he has been away in the forest sawing timber, he taught me to use the chainsaw so I can continue proccessing firewood. I thought I would hate using it, but it’s actually fine. (Though I much prefer splitting wood with an axe! Unfortunately the woofers get to do most of that.)

We have a Logosol portable sawmill, which consists of a chainsaw that runs along a rail, and an adjustable bed to hold the logs.

We are fortunate to own enough forest for all our firewood needs, as well as for building materials too. Over the past couple of winters Dan has cleared a patch of the forest close to the farm to make a new pasture for the cows. The rest of the forest we intend to manage sustainably, by taking trees here and there, rather than felling large areas. In this way we will be able to preserve the natural ecosystem while still supplying the farm with wood. The horse will play a big role, by dragging the logs out to a place where we can proccess them, and by bringing the wood back to the farm.

We are expecting lambs any day now, and hopefully two from each ewe. Previously we have only got one from each, so if all goes well we will have 10 lambs this year.

 

 

 

 

 

the new year

1 January 2017

We celebrated the new year with our own roast lamb and vegetables. And (selvfølgelig) homemade beer. At midnight we went outside and watched as the whole valley became an explosion of light and sound. From up here we are able to watch about 50 firework displays at once from Follebu all the way to Lillehammer, and over the hill at Hafjell. It’s magical.

I figured that since my posts are so infrequent now, it might be a bit difficult for you to follow what’s actually going on here, so here’s an overview of what we did in 2016 and a mish-mash of pictures.

Ploughed all our land with the horse

Hatched and raised about 60 chicks

Grew a year’s supply of potatoes, carrots, parsnips, garlic, swedes, turnips, barley

Roughly half a years supply of onions, cabbages, squashes, peas, wheat, oats

And satisfactory amounts of pumpkins, greens, lettuce, radishes, snow peas and grew outdoor tomatoes for the first time

Grew crazy amounts of parsnip seed, and pathetic amounts of carrot seed

Cleared forest for a new pasture and made 300 posts for the fence

Fenced in the new pasture

Made a year’s supply of firewood

Made enough hay in the traditional way to feed 1 horse, two cows and  6 sheep through the winter

Fixed part of the barn roof

Fixed part of the roof of the house and put up new gutters

Raised and butchered five lambs, made sausages and salted meat

Delivered a breached calf

Milked one of our cows for nine months and made a years worth of butter and pultost, plus made the first successful brunost and gamalost and some extremely dry hard cheese.

Fixed alot of fences and made alot of gates

Hosted 24 volunteers through wwoof norway

Treated both of our cows for mastitis

Made around 20litres wine and 40litres beer

Picked alot of blueberries and currants and made a year’s supply of jam

Moved portable sawmill to the forest and started cutting trees for timber

Sold the car and bought a moped

Finally succeeded in destroying the mower

Finally unblocked the drain!!! (had to get a digger to dig the pipe up, and fix it)

Had our first chimney fire!

made stock out of elk bones

Made two crockfulls of sauerkraut

Produced all our own eggs

Got a new threshing machine

 

 

At the year’s end…

23 December 2016

The darkest day of the year has been and gone, and so the sunrise makes it’s slow journey to the east, rising ever higher in the sky, and setting ever further to the west. Winter came early this year, and brought us a fiercly cold November, that felt more like january. And so somehow we ended up fixing the roof in -15°C. The roof over the front of the house was rotten, and the gutters were completely useless, so we took off the old roof plates and everything that was rotten and replaced it, with new gutters we got from a friend. It was bloody cold thats for sure, and took longer than expected, but now we have a shiny new roof. It’s really satisfying to know that we can restore the buildings ourselves, even if it’s not professional.

While Dan and I were working on the roof, our woofers were taking care of the firewood supply, bringing down all the wood we made last winter, and stacking it in the woodshed. This year gravity was on our side, and they could just throw the wood on a sled and pull it down to the farm. It was lucky we already had a good layer of snow too.

This year we branched out with the salted lamb, and made sausages too! It’s a kind of Norwegian sausage (spekepølse) that is salted and dried, and so you eat it on your bread (like salami i guess). We made some just from meat, and some from offal- liver, heart, kidney and lungs. They take some time before they’re ready, especially when it’s so cold, so i’ll let you know how it turns out. Besides the sausages we made the usual salted ribs (pinnekjøtt) and legs  (fenalår).

Our cow Audhumbla dried up at the end of November, so now for the first time in 16 months we dont have any milk! We should have been milking our other cow Hornfagr, but she had a miscarriage in the summer and so didn’t start producing in July like we had expected. Now we have to wait until April, when Audhumbla should calve again. Fortunately, we managed to save plenty of butter and pultost, for the next few months, but it is a pain not to have fresh milk, or cream. What is nice is that we don’t have to get up so early to milk, and there’s no dairy work at all, so that gives me quite a bit more time!

We had the vet here recently because both of the cows have some kind of infection in their hooves. At first I thought that Audhumbla was lame, and thought maybe she had just twisted her foot or something, but later I noticed that she had a nasty looking wound just above her heel, and there was some strange yellow crust all round. I checked her other hoof and it was not so bad, but had some kind of lesion. Hornfagr also had the same kind of crusty stuff on one of her hind feet. The vet advised to give them foot baths once a day and  try to keep their stalls as clean and dry as possible. It seems like it’s healing now, but slowly, so we just have to keep an eye on it. For me keeping animals is the most challenging part of the farm. I get so worried when I notice something is wrong, and it’s so hard to know if it’s serious or not. Animals are so complex!

On the day that the vet came, Ramson (our ram) disappeared. The sheep spend most of their time outside even in the winter, and it was mating season so we had him together with the ewes. He was there when i fed the animals in the morning, but after breakfast he had gone. He likes to explore so we didn’t think  much of it at first. And we thought he can’t have gone far, afterall, where would he possibly go?? Quite far it turns out! Not long after the vet had gone, we got a call from a farmer down in the valley. He wondered if we were missing a Ram.

We left as soon as we could, following the walking path down the snowy hill. He had rammed the gate until it broke, and toddled off  2km to the nearest sheep farm. By looking at his tracks in the snow, it was quite clear he knew where he was going.  When we got there we apologised to the farmer, remarking that he might get some interesting looking lambs in the spring (since our ram is an old breed with horns, and long black/grey wool). Oh that doesn’t matter, he said. Then came the long trek back home, with the frustrated ram on a lead. Fortunately he’s very tame, but that doesn’t mean he made it easy for us. He was naturally upset about having a rope tied around his horns. Or so we thought. Dan led him as far as he could bear, and asked me to take over. I was not keen, seeing how difficult it looked, but when I took the rope he followed politely after me, stopping now and then to nibble some snow. After that, it was only the hill we had to fight against.

When we got back to the farm, we closed off the large enclosure and reunited Ramson with his ladies. We covered the main gate with a tarp, because they don’t ram if they can’t see through it.

In the morning he was gone. Again. This time i went by myself, and not long after i left, i could hear the sound of bells, and far down in the valley there was a flock of sheep running round and round their enclosure.  As I led him back to the farm, I wondered how many perplexed people glanced out of their windows and spotted me walking my Ram.

Now we have shut him up in the barn. It’s sad and he hates it but we don’t have a choice. Our gates and fences are not designed to contain a determined fully grown ram- if he wants out, he just butts and butts until the gate cracks, or the post loosens or the catch breaks. Now we are thinking maybe it’s time to let him go, and get a younger, calmer version.

dsc_3796

Ramson, (3yrs) enjoying his summer freedom. It cost us many gates.

 

December has otherwise been very relaxing, and I’ve taken time to spin wool, and learn tablet weaving. It’s so nice to finally slow down and enjoy the long evenings indoors, with a fire, the cats and sackfulls of wool! Im experimenting with different techniques, and making different kinds of yarn. Until now I’ve only spun knitting yarn, but I’ve just started practising to spin weaving yarn too. The warp especially needs to be very strong, as it has to stand up to quite alot during weaving. In the olden days they had a special technique to prepare the wool where you use combs instead of carders, and it is spun slighly differently too, and often much tighter to make it extra strong. Dan knows alot about the old techniques they used in Norway, so I’ve learnt alot from him. The old norwegian sheep breeds have very different wool, made up of two layers. One is shorter, finer and crimped, and the other is longer, straight and coarse. These are called cover hairs and protect the sheep from rain, while the undercoat is mainly for warmth. They used to separate the wool to some degree and use most of the cover hairs in the warp, since it makes a much smoother, stronger yarn. The rest would be spun and used for weft. Until around the 1700s all yarn was spun on a spindle, rather than a spinning wheel. I was completely dumbfounded when Dan told me that the yarn used to make the sailcloth for the viking ships was spun on a spindle!!

dsc_3901

this is my first tablet-woven band, with a two colour pattern

dsc_3892

and these are the long awaited first socks from our own wool!

 

The harvest begins

1st September 2016

It’s been a long time since my last post, and much has changed. As we glide into autumn, we are met once again by the familiar sight of rowan trees laden with red berries, golden barley fields, swelling vegetables and ripening seeds. Nature offers her finest gifts to see us through the long, cold winter.

We’ve had a good season! We managed to finish haymaking earlier than the previous years, due to the good weather and also because we dried alot more on the ground than before. The grains are ready to be cut, and thanks to the warmer summer, we are harvesting one month earlier than last year! Thats how much weather matters.

DSC_3742

this is an old norwegian barley variety called “trysil bygg”

The berries were alot earlier this year too, so we have already picked them all, and preserved them for the year ahead. I made alot of blueberry jam, since we still have tonnes of dried blueberries from last year, and from the redcurrants I made mainly juice, but we are also embarking on our first wine experiment!

In the garden the cabbages are growing to rediculous proportions, and I look forward to make crockfulls of sauerkraut, surkål and probably many fine heads for the cellar too. This year I’m seedsaving parsnip, carrot, chicory, parsley and an old norwegian pea called lomsert. The parsnip seed is almost ripe but the rest has a way to go. It’s enough for a whole field of parsnips!

DSC_3745

The pumpkins are doing really well this year- I gave them some extra compost, mulched them, watered them, and also trimmed the vines. It worked! I found out that with our short growing season, there’s no point in letting them grow really big vines, because they will set more fruits than they can possibly ripen, so I just cut off the end of the vine once the first three fruits had set, and made sure to trim back any new growth after that. It also helps to hand-pollinate if the weather is bad, because often the pollinators dont come out if it’s raining, and if the flowers are not pollinated the little fruits just drop off.

dsc_3808

The garlic is already harvested and hanging up on the wall of the house. It needs to cure for a few weeks before it is ready for storage. I think this year I have managed to grow a year’s supply, but only time will tell! I love growing garlic because it is so easy, and grows so well here! The first year i tried planting garlic from the supermarket, and when it didnt work, i thought i’d done something wrong . But then I realised that all the garlic in the supermarket is grown in China! There’s no wonder it didn’t want to grow here in Norway! After I got hold of a more local variety I saw a massive improvement. Hopefully we will never need to buy it again.

I have also harvested the first onions. I pull them up and cure them in the sun for a couple of days, and then  bring them in to dry them. This year I made a makeshift bunkbed/drying rack in the woofer room. Fortunately our german woofer loves onions! They need a few weeks in a warm dry place, to dry up the leaves and the skins. Then can trim the leaves and the roots and store them in net bags in the store house.

DSC_3767

this is about one fifth of the garlic harvest

DSC_3749

The bad news is that our cow Hornfagr who was supposed to calve at the beginning of August, must have had a miscarriage because there was no calf, and thus no milk! I started to have my doubts a couple of weeks before, when I realised she was not really fat enough to be carrying a calf, and her udders failed to swell as they should. We are not really sure when it happened but I don’t think it was too long before I noticed, because she definately was pregnant during the summer. Now we just have to manage with the milk we get from Audhumbla, until she dries up in the winter. Then we won’t have any milk until she calves again in April. We are trying to save up butter and cheese for that gap, and I think we will manage to make enough.

5th September 2016

Today the vet was here to inseminate Hornfagr again. If all goes well she should calve in June, which would be a great time for us, when we have just finished with spring work and before the madness of haymaking! There will be plenty of lovely fresh grass too, so we can make lots of golden butter, hard cheese and brunost!

10th September

In other news, the new pasture is rapidly being fenced in, which is quite a miracle considering how unbelievably rocky it is. In fact it is just rock, with a layer of humus on top. But somehow they managed to ram in about 200 posts! Some places it was just impossible so we will make a barrier from felled trees and branches. We will also lime the area to bring down the pH, and help to get the grass growing. It can take a long time for freshly cleared spruce forest to become a good pasture. Most of the areas around here which have been cleared in the past few years still do not have much grass, as it is acid loving plants like blueberries that thrive. The lime will just speed things up a bit. It will also help to graze animals in there, as they help the right plants to grow.

dsc_3800

now we are finished with cutting the barley and oats. Only the wheat left to go.

Is that cheese?

4th April 2016

Audhumbla (one of our cows) had her first calf at the end of February. (For the post about the birth see here: Audhumbla’s first calf) Now she gives us around 12 liters of milk per day,  and Hornfagr gives us about 3 liters so it’s been alot of work processing it all! I’ve started making hard cheese again, and have finally succeeded in making brunost! For those of you who still don’t know what that is, I will explain. When you make cheese, you have to coagulate milk in one way or another. For a hard cheese with fresh milk I use rennet, which is an enzyme that naturally occurs in the stomach of a calf. We haven’t tried making our own yet, so we buy it.

DSC_1371

Here you can see the the curds in the whey after stirring to break it up with a “tvare” a traditional norwegian stirring implement!

After the milk has set it forms a soft jelly-like curd, which you either cut or stir to break it up, and allow the whey to be released. The whey is the liquid, and accounts for most of the mass of milk. Thus from 15 liters of milk i got around 1.5 kilos of cheese, and about 13 liters of whey! Often, whey is seen as a waste product, but the norwegians discovered a clever way to utilise it. Whey is full of lactose, which is milk sugar, so still contains quite alot of energy. The problem is all that water! So what they did (and what i do) is to boil the whey down to evaporate the water, until it is thick and brown at which point the sugars are concentrated and caramelised to create a sweet and delicious bread topping! Usually it is eaten in the form of a solid block which you can slice with a cheese slicer. But if you take it off the heat a bit earlier you get “prim” which is a spreadable version. We make brown cheese in a huge iron pot, and we have to boil it for at least 6 hours, depending on how much whey we have.

DSC_3187

DSC_3198

When it is near the end, we have to stir it all the time to stop it burning, and we add a whole lot of fresh cream too, which makes it more creamy and mild (and fatty). After we take it off the heat, we continue stirring until it is cool as this stops it from becoming hard and sandy. Our homemade brown cheese is somewhat saltier and more sour than the shop-bought variety, but in a way it is sweeter too.

DSC_3208

8th April

The other crazy norwegian cheese we are trying to make is Gamalost. It is a very old type of cheese, and dates back to the viking age. It looks like a block of orange-brown coloured crumbs, and tastes a bit sour and bitter and the texture is more like a stale cookie than cheese. But of corse it’s nothing like a stale cookie either. It is made from sour milk, which means we sour the milk every day and save it up in big containers where it matures until we have enough to make cheese. It’s great because sour milk keeps forever really and doesn’t need to be kept cool (due to the lactic acid which is what makes it sour). This means we can save up a lot more milk than if we were making a cheese from fresh milk. When we have enough, we transfer the sour milk into a huge iron pot, and heat it slowly until it boils. Then we scoop out the curds into a cheese mold and leave them to drain. The next day we take the cheese out of the mold and paint on a gamalost solution (just gamalost mixed with water) as this contains the mould nessecary for the cheese. The primary mould is called mucor, and grows visibly on the cheese after a few days in a humid environment.

DSC_3215

The fur-like mold has to be stroked down after about two days, and a couple of times after that until it no longer grows back. It then grows into the cheese, imparting a whole new colour and flavour. The mold turns the cheese orange/brown, and after a month or two it is ready to eat. I think the cool thing about this cheese it that it is essentially half cheese, half mushroom! Gamalost is special in that it is 50% protein, and it’s meant to be extremely healthy.

12 April

Asides cheese, the house is also filling up with seedlings of all kinds. This year I made my own potting compost, which is extremely satisfying, and the plants are thriving just as well as if i had sown them into specially formulated nutrient balanced expensive shop-bought compost! I mean, it is essentially just soil, right? All I did was mix roughly 50% well rotted garden compost, which had a good deal of manure in it, with some spent compost from previous years, and a bit of garden soil. I sifted everything to get the rocks and lumps out, and to make a nice fine textured soil for the seeds to start off in.  I also pasteurised the compost by heating it to 70-80 degrees celcius for roughly an hour. I had it in a large basin over a huge pot of water on a wood fired stove. I had it only 2-3 inches thick to make sure the heat was even throughout, and measured the temperature with a thermometer. Once it reached 70 on the bottom I would stir it and leave it for another half hour before taking it off, and putting the next lot on. It does take some time to pasteurise it all, but I use ALOT of compost every spring, to raise a years worth of cabbage, brussels srpouts, lettuce, leeks etc. The good thing about making your own compost is that it means your plants are already used to the kind of soil you have in your garden, which means they should adapt quicker and easier when you plant them out.

This year I am trying outdoor tomatoes for the first time, so I got my hands on some early varieties. I’m going to have them against the south facing wall of the house where it’s very warm in the summer, so I hope they will like it there. I have my doubts after last summer, but I have to try! This year I am trying out five varieties of cabbage! One early cabbage which I have grown before which we eat up in the summer, and im trying out some others for autumn and winter storage, and for making sauerkraut! I also got some seeds of an old norwegian variety, just to see what it’s like. Oh, and I’m trying out perrenial kale.

Outside, the snow is melting fast, and my garden is rapidly emerging from it’s winter sleep. Already the first flowers are starting to bloom by the wall of the house and everywhere buds are getting ready to burst. The animals doze in the renewed warmth of spring, and the ewes prepare for motherhood once again. This year they are expecting 10 lambs, so it’s not long before the farm is filled with mischievious little ones! I look forward to their high-energy antics!

Audhumbla’s first calf

4th April

Audhumbla had her first calf at the end of February. She went into labour in the evening and I checked on her every half hour after that. I was nervous that something would go wrong, so once I saw the feet coming out I sat in the corner and watched her. Just to make sure. When an hour passed and the calf hadn’t come any further, I started to worry and went back to the house. I did some quick research and realised the calf was the wrong way round. The way to tell is that the feet should be pointing downwards. But they weren’t, they were pointing upwards.

I woke Dan, and we prepared to pull the calf out. I was scared, for the cow and the calf. I washed my arms up to the elbows and felt inside, to check the position. (First time for everything!) I felt the legs and yep, it was the back legs that were coming out first. The only thing to do was to pull it out, while she was contracting. For me it was an almost overwhelming experience, but Dan was calm and focused as ever. The calf was out in under 10 minutes. It was a beautiful, slimy heifer. I thought that once the calf was out, that was our job done. But I was wrong.

Audhumbla reacted very strangely to her baby. As soon as she saw it she started bellowing desperately, as if horrified by the helpless creature that just came out of her. She seemed extremely upset and was pushing the calf away violently. She was so crazy that we had to tie her while we rubbed the calf dry with some old towels. It was so sad to see her rejecting the calf, and it was so helpless! We tried many times to leave them together, just to see if she would come round, but every time she pushed the calf hard with her head and bellowed and roared at the poor thing. In the end we helped the calf to suckle and then took her to the house, as she was starting to shiver. We wrapped her up in woolen blankets to keep her warm, and I slept downstairs with her to keep the fire going. In the morning I was woken by stumbling and clattering noises. She was standing up and exploring the kitchen!

DSC_3078

The first day I carried her to the barn and had to tie Audhumbla so the little one could suckle. Then I milked Audhumbla, and took the calf back to the house. After that, when the calf was stronger, we kept her in a small enclosure next to her mother, where she was safe but they could see each other. We started to let Audhumbla outside again during the day, and her daughter could jump about in the large pen while mama was gone. It was wonderful to see her healthy and springing about, especially since our first calf (Hornfagr’s first calf) was so weak. Audhumbla did calm down in those first few days, but still made strange noises whenever she saw the calf! One day I decided to give her another chance, so I opened the door to the little pen and let her stick her head in to see the calf. She did a lot of sniffing and mooing and eventually licking, so I moved away and just stayed with them a bit, and realised finally she had accepted her baby! She still got a bit angry when the calf jumped around, but she wasn’t violent anymore and we could leave them together.

She certainly wasn’t the best mother in the world, and behaved completely normally when she was separated from the calf. She didn’t seem to mind at all when we took the calf away after a week, to slaughter it. It was of corse a terrible thing to have to do, but that’s how it is if we want to have milk. And we got a good deal of meat too! We loved and cared for that baby as fully as we could, and when the time came, she died well. Now we have half a years worth of schnitzel and we boiled stock from the bones. The cats got the head, feet, lungs and tail. (They weren’t so keen on the latter). I made a rather good heart and kidney pie, and the liver is waiting in the freezer for inspiration.

Now Audhumbla gives us around 12 liters of milk per day, so it’s been alot of work processing it all! I’ve started making hard cheese again, and have finally succeeded in making brunost! We’re getting crazy amounts of butter too, and I’ve made cream cheese, cottage cheese and two norwegian cheeses Pultost and Gamalost. For more about my most recent cheese-making adventures, read my next post!