Home of Willa and Winona
Hi everyone. This is Willa. We've had a crazy couple of months since we last talked with you. Our barn was nearly destroyed by fire!
A few weeks ago, Jonathan's father noticed smoke coming from the barn. He rushed out to us, while Jonathan's mother called 9-1-1. Within 10 minutes, the firefighters were here, and we cows were all herded out of the barn to safety.
Taking some rare time away from the farm, Jonathan and Karen had left that morning for Ithaca College, where their son Justin would be auditioning for the music program. As soon as they heard about the fire, they turned around and were home by 3:00 that afternoon.
All was relatively quiet by then. About ten volunteer firefighters had sped to the farm that morning—a greater than usual number. They'd put out the fire quickly and kept damage to a minimum. Some of the barn's rooms had been damaged. The firemen had had to cut open several of the grain bins to get at the fire within them, and now those bins need rebuilding.
The fire was started by an extension cord that burned through near a couple of the calving pens in the main barn. The fire quickly spread up the walls, into the ceiling, and above the milking parlor. A hole burned through the ceiling caused grain (stored above) to rain down into a utility room.
The repairs are time-consuming and costly, but they have to be made now, even though this time of year is one of our busiest. We see Jonathan's brother—a professional carpenter—and his brother-in-law here most weekends now, helping to remove and replace the barn's damaged parts. Insurance will cover the estimated $25,000 or so in damage.
Another 15 minutes of burn time would probably have meant the end of the barn and its equipment, which would have meant the end of dairy farming here. Like most farms, ours is not insured enough to cover today's replacement costs. Jonathan feels very, very lucky, and so do we.
Oh, and Karen did head back to Ithaca College that afternoon with Justin, who was accepted into the music program the next day! Congrats, Justin!
A shortened maple sugaring effort
The fire and rebuilding work have meant Jonathan and crew haven't been able to devote as much time to maple sugaring. He'd hoped to produce 80 to 100 gallons of syrup this season, but now predicts he'll make just 30.
In addition to the fire repair work, it seems the weather is also somewhat responsible for this second consecutive mediocre sugaring season. For good maple sugaring, you need stretches of warm days with cool nights. We've had only one really good stretch so far.
An end-of-summer calf on the way
I'm due to give birth around August 22. In about 2 months, I'll be dried off to prepare for the birth. At the moment, I'm producing a good amount of quality milk for Jonathan to sell. The whole milking group is contributing about 50 gallons of milk a day, which is a good rate. It has high butterfat and protein content, so Jonathan is getting the premium price for it, which is good.
Spring fever in the herd
Recently, three cows in the herd went into anaphylactic shock, which is a severe allergic reaction that humans can get too. The faces and eyes of the cows swelled up. They broke out in hives and had trouble breathing.
Luckily, Jonathan caught these attacks in time and was able to administer epinephrine to restore the cows to good health. It's hard to know what caused the attacks, but Jonathan thinks it may have been mold in our feed.
See you when it's warm
All the snow is finally gone, and we're starting to see hints of green in the pastures. The buds have started to swell on the trees, and some of the birds are back. We've seen redwing blackbirds, killdeer, geese and turkey vultures.
All of that makes us antsy, because we know spring grazing can't be far away. Jonathan hopes to open the pasture gates around the last week in April, but, like most things on the farm, it depends on the weather.
We'll be back in June with our first warm weather report of the season!