Annie welcomes her brand-new calf, Wissouri (a Jersey-Hereford cross).
When I think of nature’s power, many images from my life come to mind: a strong gust blowing through tall trees, ocean waves crashing on the shore, a forest fire burning through the night. But, this weekend, I was reminded of another: the power of the uterus. Notably, the bovine uterus.
Last Friday morning our (favorite) cow Annie showed signs of impending labor, three weeks before what we believed to be her due date (calculated based on when we first introduced her to a handsome bull named “Lighthouse Hardcopy” last summer). But, as with so much this
spring winter, life was ready to come — ahead of our schedules and expectations.
The whole family went over at the end of the work day to check on her, and I had the foresight to pack a snack and warm clothes. Good thing, because we arrived at the barn to find her having active contractions. Within a minute, we saw hooves show. We pulled out the almonds for the kids and found a good spot to watch in the event we were needed to assist.
No assistance was necessary. After a few more powerful contractions, Annie got serious and laid down to do the rest of the work. We watched as her massive square body tensed with the work of her uterus, and slowly we saw those hooves reappear, followed soon by a nose (hoorah!). Then more powerful work by those bovine muscles, and the whole head was out. As the body slid out, Annie stood up, her instincts telling her that gravity could be her friend for the last bit. And, then the calf was out! Annie went to work immediately with her large cow tongue, licking and licking and licking the calf, drying the wet slimy hide and welcoming her to the world.
We all basked in the glow of this successful birth and headed home after we’d seen the calf get up and nurse. The miracle of birth and new life never grows old, and we felt in awe once again of the powers of nature.
And, so, it was quite distressing the next morning to find that very same force of nature laid flat on the ground. Annie was down, completely down, with what we quickly realized was our farm’s first case of “milk fever.” This is a very common emergency created by a quick and massive depletion of a cow’s calcium reserves after birth (as all that calcium gets pulled to the milk glands). It causes quick, sudden and severe shutting down of a cow’s muscles, ending in death if not treated immediately.
Since this is a common situation, we had materials on hand to treat it. However, we learned quickly that we didn’t have quite the exact right materials (what we had were products intended to prevent milk fever, not to treat it after the fact — but we did not realize that when we bought it!). With my retired anesthesiologist father’s help, we got some calcium products into Annie subcutaneously, and I rushed to town to buy the exact right products as we also waited for the vet to arrive.
The vet, the retired anesthesiologist, and the farmer keep watch over Annie as she gets her IV of calcium gluconate.
Casey rubbed and talked to Annie the whole time I was gone, keeping her breathing. When I arrived back at the farm, Casey and my father got an IV into Annie and we slowly began the appropriate treatment. Too much calcium too fast, and we could have risked sending her into cardiac arrest. So, we sat by her, watching the drip drip drip of the slow IV and hoping.
Eventually, we started seeing hopeful signs: Annie burped — a sign that her digestive system was kicking back into gear (cows have giant stomachs). Then we saw some muscles quiver and shake. Soon after, the vet showed up and brought us some more supplies, and we all watched a medical miracle take place: a cow who had been at death’s door, stood up and began eating again. Not just eating, but gently shoving around her cow friends to get to her food (which, if you know Annie, you know this is 100% her personality).
Back up, just a couple of hours after her milk fever!
Several days later, Annie and “Wissouri” (Rusty named the calf) are still doing great. And, I have no idea if extra warm weather could stimulate an early birth, but the early birth feels like part of a bigger pattern here on the farm right now. As you all know, we have been experiencing unseasonably warm and dry weather here in western Oregon (at the same time that the rest of the country has been experiencing the opposite apparently!). We’ve been picking daffodils from our yard, and today we noticed that the raspberries by our house are already leafing out. All of this in February! Between the unexpected calf and the early signs of spring, we are having a hard time keeping our heads on straight about what month it actually is. Casey and I both have been “feeling” as though it is late March rather than mid February.
As people who must plan ahead, we can’t help but wonder all this wonderful warmth suggests for the rest of the year. “Drought” has been on the minds of many as we look at snow-less mountains and experience these dry February days.
Rusty sows pea seeds on our front porch in the sun this weekend.
But we don’t really know what is to come, and this week the warm weather has felt mostly like a little blessing (because, let’s face it, late winter can be just plain hard). We’re tending our greenhouses and sowing and looking forward to the beginning of the spring flush of work. We’re also waiting for one more calf to be born, who may come soon or may wait those extra weeks. We’re keeping on eye on that mama cow as we do all this
winter spring work. Many more miracles to come! Calves! Blossoms! Greens! Grass! The world shouts with abundance and growth already! (And, yes, it is Ash Wednesday today too, the beginning of Lent. Hard to believe it amidst all the splendor already, but Easter will arrive amidst even greater displays of spring, I am sure.)
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla~ ~ ~Looking for more greens? Exciting news this week — Harvest Fresh Grocery in downtown McMinnville has begun stocking our seasonal greens in their produce department!
Awesome greens, available 7 days/week at Harvest Fresh!
Meet this week’s vegetables: Remember to check our recent newsletters for more servings suggestions and cooking ideas!
- Chicory mix — “Chicories” are a unique family of greens related to lettuce. The most famous chicory is radicchio, that pretty red and white leaf that graces many salad mixes. In Italy, however, chicories are a diverse and beloved category of greens to be cherished and highlighted on their own. They offer a wide range of colors, shapes and flavors, all featuring the more robust flavor and texture of a chicory. Over recent years, some of those diverse chicories have made their way to the states via dedicated foodies, farmers, and chefs. We love chicories because they offer the opportunity of salads grown outdoors in the winter (they are hardy enough to not even need a greenhouse in Oregon!). Chicories can also be braised (delicious with pork, winter roots, garlic, and green onions — oh my!). We have grown many chicories over the years and have settled on a few varieties that we especially love — they range in color from buttery yellow to bright green to pink to deep red and white. This particular mix features escarole and treviso. The easiest way to eat chicories is as a salad. To reduce any bitter flavor in the chicories, we’ve heard it recommended to soak them in ice water before chopping. We’ve never taken this step ourselves, however! We like to chop them into small strips (again, “chiffonade”) and dress liberally with a creamy dressing before our meal. Because chicories have much more body than lettuces, they stand up well to being fully dressed and even letting wilt a bit. Bacon is a classic accompaniment to chicories (chop it and mix it in), as well as nuts and dried fruit of all kinds. Or, of course, you could top with crumbled cheese.
- Chard — Another green that does well in our Willamette Valley winters! We’ve chosen to grow some especially hardy chard varieties for our winter fields, and we love picking them this time of year. It is so satisfying to make bunches of greens in February. If you’re new to chard, as a cooking green it is remarkably similar to spinach (although it doesn’t wilt quite as fast or as completely), so you can substitute in most recipes that call for cooking spinach. We love to braise/sauté it in a cast iron skillet and then poor in beaten eggs for making a frittata (cook it at first on the stovetop and then when the eggs begin to pull away from the sides finish the top under the broiler).
- Field greens — The same mix of greens we’ve offered the last two weeks, suitable for salads or cooking!
- Celery leaf
- Green onions — In the winter, what can be more enervating than green onions? They are onions, and yet they are a green! We love the color these add to all kinds of foods — salads, frittatas, and more. We recommend chopping them fine and using them everywhere. And please use the whole thing. These onions are tender and flavorful all the way up.
And this week’s extra goodies from the farm: Remember to bring containers when appropriate! We will have some jars for sale for fermented items and such at pick-up, but we know you’ve got loads of empty jars in your pantry already!
- Corn flour — $5 lb
- Oat flour — $5 lb
- Walnuts — $5 lb
- Kohlrabi “sauerkraut” — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ Another batch of last week’s yummy kohlrabi sauerkraut. This was a hit! We think it is notably sweet, and the texture of the kohlrabi is so delightful when fermented.
- Beet pickles — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ Fermented beets … just sliced beets, good quality salt and water!
- Parsnips pickles — $5 pint; $3 half pint ~ Fermented parsnips … just sliced parsnips, good quality salt, and water!
- #2 Apples — 4lb bag for $6
Hens (and a rooster!) on pasture. Good stuff.
Eggs — $6 dozen ~ Our supply is up! The hens have noticed (and appreciated) all this warm weather too, I think. So, if you’ve wondered whether we have enough eggs for you to buy what you want, the answer is now yes. And, if you haven’t tried our eggs yet, we encourage you to do so! Farm-fresh eggs are a revelation. Our hens are on pasture all day every day, resulting in deep orange/yellow yolks that are loaded with heart-healthy Omega-3 fats. We feed our hens grains (and pasture!) that we grow and grind ourselves and supplement their feed with fish meal for extra protein and oyster shell lime for extra calcium (ocean derived nutrients for us all!).
- Pork, roasts & chops — We’ve got more pork in the freezer! Lots in fact! Chops, roasts, and more. Last time, the chops went fast, so if you want pork chops, this is your week to get some!
- Lamb roasts — We still have many different cuts available, at varying prices (ranging from $5 – 14 lb). Ask Katie at pick-up to walk you through what’s in the freezer!
Ground beef — We are temporarily out. More coming next week!