Tag Archives: Alexis

Gratuitous cuteness

Several people have asked about our recent arrival.  Since Lexie had health issues around calving the last few times I didn’t post a big birth announcement.  It is terribly awkward to have to say to people, “The calf is doing great.  The cow is trying to die though!”  Sort of a conversation killer.  Fortunately this time she came through birth and transition with flying colors and is milking up a storm.  Heifer calf Persi (short for Persied – as the meteor showers were happening the night she was born) is getting fat and sassy and all is well with the world.

Without further ado:

Sambo’s Dazzling Alexis and her relatively adoring family are delighted to announce the birth of Princess Persied on August 12, 2013 at 6:30 am (or thereabouts as I missed the actual delivery this time).  Mother and baby calf are doing very well indeed.

Lexie and Perci2

The Taste of Summer

Blackberries and heavy cream.  The taste of summer.

Blackberries and cream

There are many reasons that I own a Jersey milk cow, and this right here is one of them.  Seems a silly thing to feed and milk a cow twice daily for two tablespoons of heavy cream on a bowl of blackberries a couple times a year but you do what you have to do!

As a kid we picked gallons of blackberries.  Dad would head out to check the cattle and we would all pile in the truck with plastic buckets and pruning shears.  We would chop our way into the thicket of brambles along the pasture and pick for an hour or so.  Every. Night.  Mom made jam and froze the whole berries for winter. It was hot and murderously scratchy work – and our nightly reward was a bowl of berries with a bit of sugar.  If we were milking a cow we would go to the fridge, open the milk jar and scoop off a dollop of the heavy cream of the top.  So thick it folds into leathery pleats as the spoon skims the top, this cream is the food of the gods.

Giving Thanks

Early this summer I posted about the busy-ness of farm life in the summer.  Now that we are in late fall there is much less going on but there is still some activity.  Here is a sampling of what happened this week on the farm.

We got a new rooster the other day.  Until now we have only had roosters on a temporary basis.  When you raise chickens straight-run (from eggs instead of buying them at the feed store) at least half of the flock will be roosters.  But, on our farm – when they crow, they go – straight into the freezer!  However, a good rooster takes care of the hens in his flock.  He will call them to tasty tidbits, send out the alarm when predators come around and for natural flock behavior hens need a rooster.  So when Shannon ended up with an extra roo this year we offered to take him.  Foggy (a nod to Foghorn Leghorn!) is a handsome fellow with golden plumage and a dark brown tail.  Perhaps we will have some chicks in the spring if we get a broody hen!

Time for once a day milking!  Alexis has been dried up for about a month now, Ellie is on her way.  We went out of town for Thanksgiving after morning milking so Ellie is now down to once a day milking.  She is still giving almost two gallons a day, most of which is going to Frank.  He is the bucket calf we got last summer after I had a moment of insanity and bought a second cow!  Originally the plan was to just graft him on to Alexis and let her raise him so I only had to milk one cow.  After two weeks of tying up a homicidal and unwilling mother cow twice a day while he nursed to make sure she didn’t kill him outright, I decided that I would rather spend 5 minutes milking her than 20 minutes watching her.  Frank took to the bucket like a champ and is growing nicely.  He is scheduled to go into the freezer with the hogs in a couple of weeks.  Everyone is appalled that I am going to process a veal calf because there has been so much press around animal welfare issues on veal but  Frank is not locked-in-a-box-in-the-dark veal.  He is running-around-the-pasture-drinking-milk-being-a-nuisance veal.  We also need to have fewer animals in our pasture during the winter to keep down the mud and because both cows are going to calve in March, Frank has to go.  Besides, by Christmas there will be no more milk.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving with family.  My contribution was PIE.  I spent the last week making apple pie filling with Shannon.  I put 15 quarts in the canning pantry and I think she ended up with about 12 quarts.  I still need to do some apple sauce but that is it for canning for this year.  I called my sister-in-law all excited about the prospect of bringing an apple pie – only to have her say, “…and I will be making apple and pumpkin so how about you bring something else!”  So, I brought Pecan, lattice-topped Cherry, and Chocolate Silk Pies.  The chocolate silk pie was a last minute addition because I had extra pie crust and have been on a pudding binge lately.  When you have gallons of extra milk you get creative – and a batch of pudding uses 2 quarts of milk!  My recipe is adapted from one I found on Culinate for Creamy Chocolate Pudding.  I make a triple batch with whole Jersey milk and omit the butter (there is a limit to how much fat one needs!)  For pie filling I add a bit more corn starch than the recipe calls for and the resulting pudding is more like chocolate ganache than pudding.  It is dense, chocolatey, smooth and creamy.  Heaven!   I brought home leftovers of the pecan and cherry, but the chocolate was GONE!  Our turkey dinner will be either Sunday or Monday depending upon when my bird is defrosted.  Sooner would be better than later because it is taking up precious fridge space but I am willing to wait for turkey leftovers!

My mom’s firewood is finally done and in the woodshed.  After 40 years of heating with wood I keep thinking that she will give up and get a pellet stove.  After all, she will be 78 this year and doesn’t get around as well as she used to.  But, no!  Last year when her woodstove died she bought – you guessed it – another woodstove.  Because she has a small house she has a small stove – with a 14″ woodbox.  This means that we need to make sure that the wood is cut small enough and the pieces are well split.  Every year we put her wood up, and every year we wait until it starts raining.  This year was no exception.   But, the wood is in and she will be warm this winter.  My kids used to grumble about helping split and stack 3 cords of wood but now they are older and appreciate the chance to help their grandma.  It is gratifying to see my grown kids serving others and reaching out!

Our family is blessed by a bountiful life and at this time of year we are very conscious of our fortune.  We have a full pantry and freezer after a summer and fall of “putting up” from the farm and garden.  Our children are growing up to be generous and capable people.  We are part of a wonderful community of farm friends and others who enrich our life.  We have good health, a comfortable home and stable jobs in a time when many don’t have those blessings.

As we approach the holiday season, I try and keep in mind that the most important things in life aren’t really things at all.  We try and give experiences for gifts but if you are going to give this year, be farm-friendly.  Several local farms offer CSA’s or Farm Share programs and I can think of nothing better than the promise of fresh veggies during the depths of winter.  The local farmer’s markets have extended their season so you can still buy gifts from local vendors.  And for the kiddos on your list there are a couple books that are favorites around here and help children learn more about farm life.

Farm Diary – June 6th

Before we start the Farm Diary a bit of explanation about tomorrow.  Tuesday is P-day for the chickens – as in processing day!  Seven weeks from hatch to fry pan.  We raise broiler chickens in “tractors” on the lawn in a method popularized by Joel Salatin in his book “Pastured Poultry Profits”.  Far be it from me to suggest that Mr. Salatin may be making as much on his books as he does on his farm, but chicken tractors make it easy to raise chickens.  Ours are smaller than his – 4x8x2 feet tall with a hinged cover on one end.   They typically house about 40 three-week old chicks or 15 mature broilers, have a hanging feeder and water and are moved daily.

6:00 – Up but not really at ’em.  I burned the midnight oil getting a grant application submitted.  WSU Kitsap Extension is working to find money to do some research on raising chickens on pasture.  We got to the final round last year – perhaps we will make it all the way this year so think happy chicken thoughts.  Kiddo #3 has an early dental appointment this morning so I need to be up early and get chores done.  Wake up the kiddos.

6:30 – Gorgeous morning to be out and about.  Head into the barn and have a surprise – there is a dead barn owl on the floor.  Probably came in the load of hay that arrived last night but it is still sad.  They are beautiful birds with soft, tawny feathers and distinctive feathering around the eyes.  Reassured to hear our resident barn owl hooting in the trees I get back to chores.  Milking goes smoothly, give the extra milk to the happy hogs this morning as the fridge is full of milk and a gallon (!) of draining yogurt.  Alexis the Princess Cow is in heat again.  Depressing that she isn’t in calf.  Feed the chickens, stick my head inside and holler at the kiddos to wake up again.

7:00 – Show everyone the owl and daughter puts it in a bag to take to the science teacher at the school.  Kids out the door.  It is nice having a teenager driving at times like this!  Grab some nice fresh Greek-style yogurt topped with strawberry jam for breakfast.

7:30 – Clean up, check email and get the ‘puter loaded up and head into town.  Pick up the kiddo at the orthodontist, commiserate about the pain and suffering associated with braces, sympathize about her father’s crooked teeth genes and drop her at school with the barn owl.

8:00 – Work.

3:00 – Home.  Fill waterers for the chickens and move the tractors.  On hot days they drink A LOT!  Shannon let’s me know that the plucker and scalder can be picked up today!  This is very good news!

3:30 – Put dinner in the crock pot.  Italian meat gravy with a couple leftover pork chops, some bacon (lacking pancetta), a bunch of hot Italian sausage and the left-over pesto from dinner the other night.

4:00 – Hay delivery out.  Start getting things ready for tomorrow.  Gather up a couple of hoses, set up the tables and locate extra 5 gallon buckets for the inedible bits.  Looks like we also need propane to run the scalder.  Convo with Shannon to make sure we aren’t forgetting anything for tomorrow.  We probably will anyhow!  Take the sad, collapsed loaves of bread from the other day and cut them up and make bread pudding.  Bread, eggs, half-and-half, sugar, cinnamon.  Who knew that such simple ingredients would yield such a yummy dish.  The kids will eat it for breakfast tomorrow – if it lasts that long.

5:00 – Dinner.  Spaghetti or polenta with meat gravy.  Time to go grocery shopping as we are out of frozen veggies from last year and the garden is late this year.  Three stalks of asparagus won’t cut it.  Clean up – send crew off with another hay delivery and kiddos off to band practice.  Tomorrow is the end of year concert.  It is a favorite of mine because the 6th graders come up to the high school and participate in a mass band.  About 200 kids grades 6-12 playing “Louie Louie!”  Then the marching band does their schtick and we turn in uniforms for the summer.  The end of the school year is bittersweet as we wrap up activities and get ready for summer fun.

6:00 – Head into town to get the plucker and scalder.  Have to stop and get propane.  Yes, the tank probably needs to be replaced but please fill it anyhow. Thanks!  Stop at Home Depot and buy some tie-down straps.  Apparently the last person to borrow the pick-up decided we didn’t need the old ones any more.  Pick up the plucker and scalder at Stuart and Michele’s.  He is president of the Kitsap Poultry Growers Cooperative and they raise turkeys and broiler chickens and sell eggs at the Poulsbo Farmers Market.  Because farmers can’t really just pick up stuff and run we have a nice visit.

7:00 – Home to milk and do the rest of chores.  Ellie Belle convinces me that she REALLY needs to eat some of the grass in the yard so I follow her around a bit until the mosquitoes get too bad.  Fed the pigs, watered the chickens and removed the feeders from the broiler pens.  We want the birds to have a chance to digest all of the feed before morning. If they are full of feed while we are processing them it increases the chance of contaminating the carcasses.  Mow the lawn and feed clippings to the cows.

8:00 – Clean up after milking, wash and sanitize the bucket, load the dishwasher, wash some eggs and get them ready for sale tomorrow.  Sit down to blog about the day.

Farm life is busy, eventful, interesting and always entertaining.  Hopefully chicken processing will go smoothly – I have been telling everyone “Rain or Shine” and there is a threat of showers in the forecast but here’s hoping that they hold off until we are done with the chickens!  When things don’t go as planned and farm life gets “busy” (cursing malfunctioning equipment), “eventful” (chasing escaped chickens) and “entertaining” (butchering in the rain) it loses its charm and might not be appropriate to blog for a family paper!  I am sure it will be fine as experienced helpers Donna and Cindy are coming to help Shannon and I.  Our novice, Beth, will catch on quickly enough and it will be done in no time.

Check back tomorrow and read all about it!

Cows are like potato chips…

… you can’t have just one!

Eleanor is the newest edition to our little farm family.  She is a 4 year old registered Jersey and joins Alexis (aka The Princess Cow) and her son, the Count (born 8-9-10) in the pasture.  She is small for a Jersey but she is milking 4 gallons a day which is plenty for the house, the hogs and some cheese!  Her temperament is affectionate and willing, which I can assure you isn’t always the case with cows, and even though she wasn’t halter broken she has learned to lead in record time.

Alexis, for all her wonderful attributes, has a couple of problems.  She gets milk fever and ketosis at calving and we almost lost her last year.  As a result to the rough start to her last lactation she has been really hard to breed back and get in calf.  She also tends to have a serious drop in production late in lactation so she is only giving about 2 gallons a day.  Right now the calf takes most of that.  But she is a love bug and I REALLY like her!

When the new cow arrived I anticipated that there would be a bit of a power struggle in the pasture to see who was going to be boss cow, but much to my surprise it wasn’t Alexis that was the fighter but the Count.  He and Ellie tussled around the pasture for a couple of hours off and on before settling down.  She did prevail in that one, but they did so much running around I almost expected to see whipped cream at the next milking!  Alexis on the other hand merely bobbed her head at Ellie.   I don’t speak bovine, but it was a rather curt exchange and apparently the message was received that Alexis was the BOSS.

Before you think that Ellie has a problem with this please note – cows are not deep thinking beasts.  They behave instinctively and life is best when they know exactly what is supposed to happen and where they need to go.  That is why they follow the lead cow to pasture and back again and the boss cow gets first taste of the hay.  Once Ellie knew her place in the herd she settled down, ate her fill and promptly laid down to chew her cud.  The Count is now hopelessly in love with her and follows her around and bawls pathetically when she leaves to go and be milked.

Alexis is the one with the PROBLEM.  She is used to being the first to get a pat and scratch, getting first crack at the grain in the milking area and being the favorite in the pasture.  When I went out to take the pictures for this blog post she wouldn’t even look at me and this morning when I was out in the barn area she turned her back on me and pooped (a strong message of derision from a cow!)  I am pretty sure she will forgive me eventually but right now she isn’t a happy girl!

At this point I will just have to work and curry favor by bringing her treats of apples and carrots and get back in her good graces.

In other farm news it might be warm enough to start seeing things coming up in the garden this week.  Everything is so late with the cool weather – even the asparagus is just now getting going – though it took a hit when the passive aggressive lawn mowing teenager decided to mow that particular patch of the yard.  I finally got the raspberries trimmed and tied up.  Every year I promise myself that I won’t procrastinate the task – and every year I am late getting it done and break off a bunch of the fruiting stems in the process.  On the other hand, the patch already produces more berries that I know what to do with so I suppose I shouldn’t stress it.  The weather has been warm enough this weekend for the native pollinators to buzz around the fruit trees.  I am excited about that because I hadn’t seem much action from them this year.  Summer can’t get here soon enough for me!

Farm Livin’ is the Life for Me!

“Green Acres is the place to be!  Farm livin’ is the life for me!”  You may not remember Green Acres but the song says it all!  Every day we talk to people about farming, growing their own food, and raising livestock – whether it is in a barn yard or a backyard – they are excited about learning skills for sustainable living.  Join us for a full day of workshops on plowing, planting, harvesting, herding, pumpkins, preserving, cooking, composting or eating at the West Sound Small Farms Expo.

The West Sound Small Farms Expo takes place on Saturday, March 5, 2011 at the Olympic College Campus, Bremerton, WA.  Cost for the Expo is $55 (Youth FREE) and includes lunch. Check-in begins at 8:00am and workshops run until 4:00pm. Online registration and workshop information is available on the WSU Kitsap Extension website at http://kitsap.wsu.edu/.   For the Farmer in all of us!

Dark Days Challenge

Laura over at (not so) Urban Hennery issued her annual Dark Days Challenge – and regretfully I missed the deadline to sign up.  I was spending more time back then farming than blogging.  I think that was the weekend we were butchering turkeys…but that is a whole ‘nother Oprah!

Shannon and I have been talking about a pantry challenge for this blog – but I am thinking that the Dark Days Challenge might be kind of fun too!  The rules say that basically you need to eat four SOLE (sustainable, organic, local and ethical) meals a month.  That shouldn’t be much of a challenge for us – given that we eat that way all the time anyhow!  However – it will provide me with the incentive to plan, take pictures and blog about what we are doing – which is the bigger part of the challenge for me!  I spend hours working on the farm and compose great blog posts – in my head!  But when the time comes to sit down at the computer and get it posted on the blog I just don’t seem to get there!

Tonight for dinner (we don’t have a picture of this because we ate it before I found out about the challenge!) we had broiled pork chops, rice pilaf, cranberry and apple compote, green beans and milk or apple cider.  The pork was from a hog we slaughtered this fall, the pilaf contained scallions and carrots from our garden, and the compote included apples from my mom’s place and Grays Harbor-grown cranberries.  The green beans came out of the garden last summer and went right into the freezer.  The milk came from Alexis (The Princess Cow) and the apple cider was pressed this fall.  With the exception of the rice, all of the food was Washington grown, most within 100 feet (let alone 100 miles!) of the house.

For many folks eating local all winter long is a challenge because the Farmer’s Markets close down for a couple months, and even though Abundantly Green has their farm store open on Tuesdays and several other local farms offer winter CSA’s it is more challenging and you need to work harder to locally source fruits and veggies. In my case (and Shannon’s) winter is actually a time to take it easy.  It is much simpler to open the jar and eat the contents than it was to put it up!

We look forward to sharing of our meals during the challenge and hope you will share what you are doing with us!

Scenes from the farm in winter

Found the camera!  As my mother would say, “It was right where I left it!’  Of course, I used to hate it when she said that because it meant that I was still unable to find what I was looking for….

The hens were unimpressed with the snow.  They spent most of their time fussing about in the new straw and didn’t even leave the coop.  When they did come out they went right back inside because the snow was so cold on their feet.  I have a mixed flock of 19 Delawares, Golden Comets, Rhode Island Reds and Cross-breds. Most days I get 14-16 eggs and we sell them to friends and neighbors.  I have the chickens under lights to keep them laying during the winter and they will molt next fall.  The coop is a livestock panel stapled to a wooden frame with wire fencing for the front and back of the coop.  The door was $5 at the St. Vincent de Paul and the nest boxes were made out of scraps of OSB left over from building the house.  Total cost was about $50.  During the summer it is moved daily to give them access to fresh grass but from now until spring it will be parked on the garden and they will be bedded on straw.   

The snow did a good job of insulating the veggies that are still in the garden – about all that is left is broccoli and carrots.  The broccoli was pretty much done but there were some side shoots still coming on.  The carrots were fine under the snow and we had some for dinner on Thanksgiving.  I need to get them pulled and put in the basement before we have another cold snap but like many other chores this fall, it didn’t happen because I was busy with something else!  

The Princess Cow (aka Alexis) was unimpressed with the white stuff.  She spent most of the day in the cow palace munching on hay.  She came out for some grain but wasn’t thrilled about how cold the water in the trough was.  I had to pack water for her and the calf on Wednesday because the hoses were frozen.  Typically I fill a 100 gallon trough and use it to water the animals during cold snaps.  I also make sure all of the hoses are drained and ready to roll out for watering in cold weather.  We have frost free hose bibs on the house and frost free hydrants in the yard.  When the bathtub/trough gets low I roll out the hoses, fill it up and then drain them all.  Tiresome but better than packing 5 gallon buckets. But, this time I got caught with my hoses full and they froze solid.  I loaded up the utility cart with buckets and hauled it out to her.  She drank 10 gallons and since milk is 95% water and she is giving about 4 gallons of milk a day that accounts for some of it but she was also grooving on the warm water!  

The kiddo was doing laundry when the power went out.  I convinced her that frozen pants were better than having them sour in the washing machine waiting for the power to come back on.  However, she REFUSED to believe that they would dry in the cold weather.  They were on the clothes line all day and came in stiff as a board (which was very amusing for everyone) but when it started to thaw out in the house the clothes were only slightly damp.  By this time the power was back on so we tossed them in the dryer.  We had to bend the pants and stack them in the dryer but the only had to tumble for a few minutes until they were done.  Kiddo was impressed (briefly) and since she is 14 and seldom impressed by anything her mother has to say right now, I made a note of it! 

The final pix is of my Better Half plowing the driveway.  The chains were bought after we had so much snow two years ago. The tractor kept spinning out so we wrapped logging chains around the tires and through the spokes on the wheels.  It worked but we didn’t have enough chains to completely cover the tires.  We didn’t get to try the chains out last year (thank heavens!) but they worked a treat this year.  Tirechains.com! 

Since I am making product endorsements – check out the boots hubby has on.  They are kind of hard to see but they are “Muck” boots.  I have a pair of the boots and some Daily Shoes in pink!  They are awesome!  If you have ever worn regular barn boots you know that there is nothing more bone-chilling than slipping your foot into a pair of boots that have been sitting on the porch all night.  Even with felt insoles they are still cold and stiff.  Mucks are a foam lined rubber boot that are warm and waterproof.  If you have to be on your feet for long periods of time they have enough cushion to stay comfortable and they come in cool colors!  They aren’t cheap but I wear mine every day and they are built to last!  Pair them with a Peet Boot Dryer and you almost look forward to going outside on cold mornings!

Rich Chocolate Pudding

Alexis the Princess Cow had her calf, the milk is rolling in – and I have gained a new appreciation for my mother and her creative and thrifty ways.  Growing up we always had a milk cow and as a result, a never-ending assortment of puddings, custards, and fresh cheeses filled the fridge as she attempted to deal with the continual onslaught of milk.  There was also an unfortunte incident with a batch of cottage cheese that even the dog wouldn’t eat…but that is another story.  Basically, she managed to use gallons of the stuff without breaking a sweat. 

Most folks in this day and age buy milk as needed; as in “Oh, pick up a gallon so of milk on the way home.” or “We are almost out of milk again!”  Almost no one has a family cow and none of my friends ever has to answer the question, “How am I going to use up 3 gallons of milk today?”  I am sharing with the calf right now and he takes a couple gallons a day, and until last week the pigs enjoyed extra milk.   But, they went to the butcher on Wednesday, leaving me with lots of extra milk until the new batch of piglets arrive in a couple weeks.  Now, before you ask, the answer is: “No, I can’t sell raw milk.”  I am not a Grade A Dairy so I can’t sell, barter, trade or give away milk – no cow shares – no wink, wink, nudge, nudge, look the other way.  The WSDA takes their job seriously and I have no desire to get crossways of them.  If you are interested in buying raw milk my farmer friend Karen Olsen at Black Jack Valley Farm sells raw milk, fresh eggs, pastured chicken and beef from her farm off of Sidney Rd.  You can also buy her milk at Farmer George’s Meats in Port Orchard and at the Poulsbo Farmer’s Market.  If you want to buy local raw milk you can reach her at 360-731-3382 or via email at bljkvalleyfarms@aol.com

Back to my dilemma.  I make fresh cheeses like mozerrella and ricotta ( there are 3 gallons of milk in a pan of lasagna!), yoghurt, yoghurt cheese, buckets of white sauce for things like mac’n’cheese and we drink milk at EVERY meal. I have made soap and I also make aged cheeses like cheddar.  And, this discussion doesn’t even take into account using up a gallon of heavy cream a couple times a week!  Now, some folks might enjoy this froathy, white bounty but I am here to tell you that the sheer unrelenting nature of coping with this much milk taxes you.  So, I took a page out of my mom’s play book and made pudding.  As a child there was always the large pyrex bowl in the fridge, covered with Saran wrap, filled with pudding.  Usually butterscotch or vanilla, but periodically we would get chocolate.  Now, my mom was a home ec teacher in a former life so she made good pudding – rich and creamy.  Not like Jello Cook and Serve which has a undertone of artificial flavor, or heaven forbid, instant Jello Pudding with its coat the roof of your mouth unpleasantness.  However, her recipe is lost in the sands of time and she assured me that it was “just a recipe for pudding!”  So, I went in search of the perfect pudding recipe.  After some trial and error (America’s Test Kitchen let me down a bit this time) I came across this recipe on culinate.com.    It is divine, creamy, chocolaty and purely addictive.  This is not chocolate pudding for the faint of heart! 

Creamy Chocolate Pudding from Culinate.com
Serves 6 to 8 ( I triple the recipe and just use whole milk because it is about 30% milkfat anyhow!)


  •  3 Tbsp. cornstarch  
  • ½ cup granulated sugar  
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutched) 
  • ⅛ tsp. salt  
  • 1 cup heavy cream  
  • 1½ cups whole milk 
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 8 oz. (about 1¼ cups) chopped semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine and I only use about 2 cups) 
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract  
  • Whipped cream, for garnish (optional)  
  • Grated chocolate, for garnish (optional) 


  1. Put the cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk the ingredients together thoroughly, making sure no cornstarch or cocoa-powder lumps remain. Whisk in the cream and milk.
  2. Heat over medium-low heat, whisking steadily and scraping the sides of the pan occasionally. When warm (but before the pudding comes to a boil), whisk in the egg, the butter, and the chopped chocolate. Increase the heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring until the butter and chocolate have melted and dissolved into the mixture.
  3. When the pudding has come to a low boil and begun to thicken, remove from the heat. Whisk in the vanilla extract and pour the pudding into dessert dishes or a single large bowl. (I pour it through a strainer into a big bowl – catches any bits of egg that get over cooked.)
  4. You can let the pudding cool slowly on the countertop and serve it soft and warm, if you like. If you prefer to serve it firm and chilled, cover the pudding with plastic wrap (stretched taut if you like skin on your pudding, or pressed gently into the surface of the pudding if you don’t) and refrigerate until set.
  5. Serve garnished with freshly whipped cream and grated semisweet chocolate.

A Good Grey Cat

Every farm I know has some sort of pest problem – mice, rats, racoons, opossum, coyote, bear, mole… the list goes on and on.  We are very fortunate that we haven’t had problems recently with larger predators like bear or cougar, living out here in Crosby those critters are around.  About 10 years ago a cougar actually killed several sheep less than a mile from our house and a friend of mine killed a bear in her back yard around the back side of Wildcat Lake in 2008.   Most of our pests are smaller – rodents mostly.   Until last August we had a barn cat named Journey – a big, fat, friendly fellow who came with four other kittens in a load of hay from Idaho.  He and three of his siblings went home with hay helpers and we kept two of the girls who live  in the house.


The house girls are timid, neurotic and, in the case of Minnie, down right evil.   One would think that we would be entitled to a bit of affection in return for hand rearing her and feeding and housing her, but no such luck!

Fortunately for us Journey came back to live with us when his adoptive family moved and he rapidly rid the barn of mice, the pasture of rabbits and the cat feeder of kibble. Friendly and outgoing, he was the barn mascot and hay customers came to look forward to visiting with him.  Regretfully, he went missing last fall about the time that the coyotes were weaning their pups, along with several other cats in the immediate neighborhood.  It is a sad fact of life for barn cats that they have shorter life expectancies than house cats.

Last winter we had a nasty infestation of rats in the chicken house and hog pen and mice in the hay barn.  Enter Duchess, a good grey kitty in need of a home. 

She was dropped off at a friend’s house and didn’t get along with her cats so we adopted her.  Chance brings some of the best gifts and greatest blessings into your life and Duchess is a good example of that.  About four days after she arrived I was in the barn and noticed a dead mouse on a small pile of hay.  I nudged it with my toe and low and behold, underneath was another, and another and — five!  — dead mice.  Nicely stockpiled for me to find.  Good kitty indeed!

Duchess follows me around while I do chores, including a visit with Alexis, the milk cow.   Cows, being much like large toddlers, are curious and like to put everything in their mouths – even the cat.  Duchess is about to be “tasted” and despite her fearlessness she doesn’t like being slobbered on so shortly after this picture was taken she beat a hasty retreat out of the pen and away from the cow.  Now, thanks to a good grey cat, we have no mice, rats, moles, voles, or rabbits.  The barn is pest free!