Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Watching the baby grow up

A child can be quite a distraction when you are trying to cook, but Cora is growing up and actually enjoys taking part in my kitchen activities.  We had not seen her in almost two weeks, so when she arrived this morning with the usual voluntary kisses and hugs, we were ecstatic.  She is 15 months old. 

I've been craving apple pie for a long time, but that's something we shouldn't have often.  Also, I really don't enjoy peeling enough apples to make seven cups of slices.  But the craving overcame my laziness today.  

I went to my chair in the living room with a couple of big bowls and a knife and proceeded to peel, core, and then slice apples.  Baby immediately became interested and wanted on my lap.  It was quite a feat to find a place for her, what with two bowls on my lap and a paring knife in hand, but I managed.  She was a lot of help, picking up peelings and dropping them in with my sliced apples.  When I cut the stems from the apples, I handed them to her and told her it was a stem.  She looked at it closely, felt it, and even tasted it.  Any time I'm doing this sort of thing with her, I keep up a constant dialogue.  

With sufficient apples sliced, we moved on to the kitchen, where I put Cora in her high chair.  I set the bowl of sliced apples on the tray of her high chair and measured in the sugar, then the cinnamon and nutmeg.  I let her smell each of the spices, and gave her a taste of granulated sugar.  Once the apples were prepared, I mixed up the flour, salt, and Crisco for a pie crust.  I got Cora's home-made play-dough out of the refrigerator, handed her a butter knife, and let her cut while I worked the Crisco into the flour.  Then I scooted the high chair over to the table, which I had wiped off and dried in preparation for the pie dough.  

I set the bowl of Crisco-flour mix on the tray of her high chair and let her watch me add seven tablespoons of water, still talking all the time, telling her what I was doing.  She watched closely as I rolled out the pie crust, and I called her attention to what I was doing when I put the bottom crust in the pie pan.  Then I made sure she was watching when I poured in the apple slices.  "This is how we make pie," I told her.  I probably mentioned pie twenty times while I was working at it, and before long she was repeating "pie" when I said it.  

I asked her several times if she wanted out of the high chair, but she always shook her head no.  After I had scooted her over near the oven so she could watch me put the pie in the oven ("hot-hot", she said), I started a hamburger-rice casserole, and she watched and listened all the way through that, too.  I measured a cup of rice on her high-chair tray.  She poked a finger into the cup of rice, and I sprinkled a few grains on the tray.  She picked a few of them up and dropped them on top of the full cup.  

She sat in that high chair for at least an hour and fifteen minutes.  Every time I asked her if she wanted down, she shook her head no.  

I believe the kid has a future as a chef.  

She also insists on feeding herself.  If she is really hungry, she will let me give her some bites, but once she starts feeling full, she wants to do it herself.  

On another note, she can pee at will now, so if I take her to the potty, she will put something in it.  Her mom and grandma have been working on that, and today I decided to join in the training.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Little suckers

I am sure I have raised over three hundred bottle calves in my time.  There were a couple of years when over fifty of them passed through here.  I had two or three milk cows and, at that time, a bucket milker.  The cows would produce enough milk for half-a-dozen babies, so raising bobby calves gave me something to do with all that milk; I would milk the cows with the milking machine, pour the milk into a bucket, and pour it into half-gallon calf bottles.  If you wonder why I would have so many milk cows, my only answer is that I love Jersey cows, and honestly, back then, I loved milking them.  I especially loved keeping the calves healthy, which is tricky during the first couple of weeks after you acquire them.  They come to a new place with different germs than the ones on the farm where they were born, so their immune system gets a shock.  Scours is the number one problem, but if you get them through that first couple of weeks and do things right, there is no more problem.  

I enjoyed every part of raising calves:  feeding them, watching them learn to eat hay and calf starter (grain), watching them cavort and play, and seeing them grow like crazy.  I went for years with no bottle calves, but in the last few years, I've started raising one or two annually.  

And now for my newest observation about calves, just one of those things that shows you are never too old to learn.

This is the first time I've ever let bobby calves get their milk straight from the cow.  They only get about fifteen minutes with Grace, twice a day, so they don't really get to do a lot of sucking.  Probably not much more than they would get if they were on the bottle.  If you raise calves on a bottle and they are in a pen together, three out of four of them will suck on one another:  They'll suck on ears; navel; immature, almost non-existent, udders; and scrotums.  As soon as that bottle is empty, they look for something to use as a pacifier.  This is a real problem, because some of them will keep doing it when they are put with the herd and are liable to start nursing on a heifer that has never calved.  In the case of my cow Grace, she has one quarter that gives very little milk because a steer, unbeknownst to us, was nursing her while she was pregnant.  When I raised a lot of bobby calves, I housed them in calf hutches with separate pens, which prevented them from acquiring the sucking habit.  

I'm sure this is very boring to city folks, but I'm leading up to something.  Even though my current three calves get no more sucking time than my bottle calves did, they have not shown a desire to suck on anything but Grace's teat.  There is some sort of satisfaction calves get from actually nursing a cow that they don't get from a bottle.  

Things that make me go hmmmm.