The Last Homestead: Sept 17

Sat September 17, 2016, at 7:25 AM

Good morning, Ducks,

I daresay when you see the opening time, you are impressed. Actually, it’s even more impressive than that. I have been up since 5:30, speaking with cows and people and watching the milking operation.


As Rose says in her book, Diary of a Redneck Englishwoman, [yep, she also wrote a book] she likes milking by hand but the machine ensures that the milk stays pristine. She uses commercial filters when she gets the milk (in its large closed teakettle-ish container) to the kitchen and transfers it to the stainless steel bucket that she’ll cool it in. The Howes have cranked up their water heater as hot as it will go, so the washing and rinsing of the equipment is done with extremely hot water. And everything is air-dried over the wood stove (on which she cooks most of the winter).  She stores her milk in those big glass containers like I fill with dried flowers at home. And she makes cheese often, perhaps a couple of times a week.


Part of the Automatic Milking machine

This morning, I met her at the crack of dawn (actual crack, sun through clouds) and followed her on her 4-wheeler down to the long shed, which at the end near the bunk house houses Mona and the piglets. The other end, closer to the barn yard gates, is the milking stall; and between these two working spaces is a storage area. The cows greeted us with long loud “good moanings”.

I waited for Rose and Heidi at the door to the milking stall. I was warned to stand back — Heidi can be eager to get to the stall, where a good lot of grain awaits her. She’s fast and not terribly polite. I stood back and was very polite! Even a young cow is a big animal. Heidi did take a hard look at me, but as I was not between her and the stall with the grain, she went in and put her head through the stanchions into the grain bin with haunches extended. She isn’t roped in or anything, but her grain bin was well filled and she didn’t move from the requisite spot.


Rose explained that because Heidi’s a jersey and a milker, she has a hard time keeping weight on. And indeed I saw ribs, although her belly looked full enough. Rose allows her to eat as much as she wants at any time.

Heidi’s teats and udder are washed, some milk from each teat is expressed onto the ground, and then she is hooked up to the machine. The milking machine has 4 hoses that go to the cow’s udder, with long tubes returning to the enclosed container. The hoses are hooked somehow to a suction machine which can be monitored. Everything is set at the right temperature.


She, Heidi, was uninterested in this process, being quite happy to eat. Rose then washes her around the backside a bit and checks just to make sure all is OK. Rose does a lot of handling of the animals – she massages Heidi’s teats as she milks because the cream stays at the top of the cow’s bag and Rose wants some of that cream for her own milk. She pats Heidi and talks to her as the process goes on. Rose stops milking Heidi before she is empty because Heidi still has a calf that is taking milk and stopping early leaves some for the calf.

Apparently Darrell does not milk except as a necessity and indeed does not seem to deal with the animals much at all, except for Rose, whom he treats with great care. That was a joke, OK?

Once Rose has decided enough milk has flowed into the container, she removes the equipment, turns off the air hose, and waits for Heidi to finish her breakfast. Then Heidi goes back into the yard (giving me a stink eye as she passes). The animals are all well-trained by Rose, who seems to have different commands for each of the groups. With the cows, who must allow Rose to go through the gates first, I laughed out loud when I heard her say to Heidi sharply — “Manners!” Heidi understood immediately and stepped back, waiting for Rose to lead her.


Rose, leading a docile Heidi, through the barnyard gate

So that’s my morning adventure, all told. The milk is tested by official inspectors and Rose has them test the first expression of it, rather than what comes after. That way, she says, the test is truly a good one. Everything about this operation seems to be carefully thought out; a good deal of attention is paid to making sure of the ultimate “rightness” of the milk. It’s a good combination, I thought. The same seems to hold true of the rest of the work – no fussiness but a good deal of care about the things that count.

So that was my morning and it’s only 8:04. Bella got into trouble again for chasing deer and was sent to the dog house where she was “gated”. Chasing deer seems to be a prime sin; when I asked Rose why, she said that if chasing were allowed not only might the dog get too far from home, but that she would invariably come to chasing fawns and finally injure one and perhaps get a taste for deer meat. That would be the end. Can’t have dogs who have that kind of interest in deer.

Now it’s 11:30. I went down to the house after breakfast and tidying to ask Rose if I could buy some milk; Of course, she said “of course” and then we chatted a bit.

She’s never had sheep or goats – Darrell said (when they got married) that she could have any kind of animal she wanted except sheep – which they both think are stupid – and goats, which like to climb on cars.


Luke, under his favorite juniper

I learned a bit more about the horses, particularly Luke. Darrell had a stallion, Cucaracha (Cuke), the father of Luke. Cuke lived to be 36 and since then, although Darrell will ride to do essential chores, he can’t find another horse that he feels about like he did about Cuke. Plus he has arthritis in his back and hip (and wrists) which almost certainly makes riding less fun.

We also discussed the hens, who are molting – an obvious condition, even to a city slicker. One at least is destined for the pot because she is laying eggs with very thin skins, so they break. This encourages eating of the eggs by her and others, which can lead to the chickens deciding to break open other eggs. Which means fewer eggs for Rose, who needs them for her Christmas cakes. So, unsentimental, chicken stew is coming up.

After getting more of the scuttlebutt on various animals, Rose sent me down to the house to wait while she finished up. I sat on the porch until I was chased off by mock fights between Brandy and Bella.


After lots of growling and mock biting on the porch, Bella ran figure 8s into the yard, back between bushes and around me and back to the porch where she and Brandy went into a heap of growling barking and rolling around again. This must have happened about 10 times, Bella each time taking a new and interesting run, at a really fast clip, tearing around the yard in figure 8s, and then back onto the porch where she pushed at Brandy until Brandy tussled with her. And then, as suddenly as it started, the mock battle was over.


The two of them wandered out into the yard, Rose came and gave me milk in a charming bottle, and I came home.

I’m sorting photos again. Last night the moon was freakishly red – fiery red as it rose. I can only see it between the trees until it moves higher into the sky (if I were a better human being, I’d walk up the hill at sunset and get the moon rise clear of the trees). And the brazen deer came trotting through next to the deck as usual. They click quietly, so if you aren’t paying attention, you miss them.


Moon, Deer, just barely able to get both in the lens

And now I shall off-load yesterday’s photos and sort them. I think I’ve gotten better with my camera as the week has gone on – more knowledgeable about where the light is and just what I want to photograph. But I won’t know for sure until I have time to look at them more fully. I have them sorted into categories; that helps me sort out the good from the bad.

6:01 PM,

I did some more photo sorting and then I heard Darrell out in the shop, so I went out and chatted him with him. I know more about him now — he’s 80 years old, as wry as we are about age and its disagreeable aspects. He was changing a transmission, on a 1960 Chevy, probably an Impala — the white one. He’s going to do some fine detailing on the (gorgeous) red one and sell it for something like $50,000. He doesn’t like his cars painted red, but customers do, he says. This week he moved everything out of one bay of the shop (including a non-working refrigerator that he said he didn’t know what to do with) so he could get the ’60 vehicle in. He started up the recreational vehicle, alongside the shop, to rev up its battery. And he played around with the truck in the shop, doing mysterious things. He has many projects going, all at once.


Darrell’s father was a garage mechanic and they didn’t get along, so he had his mother sign the papers to get him to Korea. The old story. He never finished high school, but before he could become an electrician, he had to take classes at Lane County Community College, where he liked the math but sweated a lot over it. He was married at the time with a couple of kids, most of whom have college degrees now. Clearly he was a successful businessman, running an electrical company with a crew of 15. That was the hardest part, he said, keeping his workers in work. He retired in, I think, 1979. He’s not much into animals – says (with a bit of a smile) that he gets impatient with them. When he’s trying to get some medicine into them they kick him and it makes him mad. Cars are his thing — I’m trying to get a handle on how many he has around, worked on or is working on. Rose has her ’55 Chevy that she drives to sell stuff at the farmers markets. There’s the truck in the shop. There are odd trucks that don’t look like they run. And then there are the other Chevys, like the ’37, to be fixed. And there’s the red 59 Chevy, the year you and were driving Chevy — clunkers.


The fanciest car on the ranch, a ’59 Chevrolet. Darrell doesn’t like red, but after he details this one, with exquisite care and an eye to what makes a difference to the aficionados, he’ll sell it.

Tomorrow Darrell and Rose are moving the ’37 Chevy to one of the stalls under the Arena for the winter. Apparently the car will actually move that far under its own power if a battery is jerry-rigged and a gas tank hung underneath the engine. Darrell showed it to me. I was impressed.


My favorite photo of Darrell

Darrell isn’t shy, just quiet. He’s got thoughtful blue eyes and a nice smile. And I suspect, although I don’t know, that he’s a stout conservative, although not much interested in politics in general. He is definitely a gun person (probably multiple guns) and that may be enough to make him vote conservative. But neither he nor Rose nor June have said anything remotely political, nor will we.

So after some photos and the chat with Darrell, I went back and cleaned up some bad paintings. Had to work on the porch because of the threatening weather which turned out to be rather pleasant. I put out some protection on the table and worked flat and was productive.


“The Barn Yard,” 12 x 16,” oil on Masonite 2016 , a “cleaned up” painting

It’s pattering rain on the roof of the porch of the big house, where I’ve moved to protect the computer. And now I’ll hang up. I may have to walk back to the bunk house with my computer wrapped in my hoodie. Ah well, I’m not made of sugar. And it’s not really cold, so a little rain will help my complexion.

monumentmountain12x16blog“Monument Mountain,” 12 x 16″, Oil on Masonite, 2016. Another cleaned up work

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7 Responses to The Last Homestead: Sept 17

  1. Love these photos as well as the text.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. snicklefritzin43 says:

    What a great visit to the homestead today. Morning milking was a favorite event in my many days spent at the home of a friend over the years. A quiet time with so much attention to cleanliness and keeping the animals peaceful. I was a good milking helper. Your story and photos pulled me back in time.
    The photo of Darrell is wonderfully expressive – truly looks like the stories you have written during your stay. The red finned vehicle is another pull me back to my history photo. My father had a powder blue one of the same vintage – a great family ride.
    The moon-rise and deer are a great welcoming to the evening. The dog photos and story of their playful adventures brought your life on the homestead much activity, much beauty and then the trips to your painting locations…what a fantastic gift you gave yourself to be here.
    Monument Mountain is fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ditto on the Monument Mountain painting. Don’t know if that’s a compliment to say I mistook it for a photo but then when thinking of the actual photo you posted earlier, your painting is so much more, really stunning. I like what you’ve done with the barnyard one too.

    Goodness – that red car! Very striking and those fins! I was quite young when fins became the thing, and I think we even had a family car with fins, but rather small ones. So when one of dad’s friends drove up in his big big car with the biggest fins I’d ever seen (bigger than your red car fins), I was all agog. I still remember running my hand along them, my mouth probably hanging open, and later my brothers teasing me about my reaction. Now it’s hard to believe it was such a thing, but it was.

    Liked by 1 person

    • june says:

      I did so love that red car. I had to laugh at Darrell’s dismissal of it — just too red! It felt like some car out of the “movies.” — California, of course.


  4. Kit Szanto says:

    Redneck Englishwoman is a wonderful phrase, and makes rednecks seem a term for exceptional multi-skilled people. Rose certainly is! One might guess English for the use of “Manners!” to get Heidi back where she belonged.

    It is a #1 photo of Darrell. And the “cleaned up” paintings are great – Monument Mountain seems almost a photo – so very vivid it is. And Moon, Deer is amazing, getting both there perfectly. Ah, thank you again – so very soothing of the soul to read, look at all these, and both of us are having such pleasure in these blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • june says:

      Ah, you hit on all the highlights, Kit, all the things I couldn’t resist reporting to Jer. You would do “manners’ very well, but I’d have to summon up my dear ol’ Ma’s voice to manage it. The picture of Darrell is exactly the way I felt about him, which I guess is why it’s my favorite. Glad you are both enjoying.


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