Thursday, 20 March 2014

The milk machine is working! Yippee

We finally have the milk machine working now. 
We got a service man out to overhaul the system. It needed a new regulator, gauge and the pulsator needed a service. We have enough pressure to milk 4-5 cows at a time now, not that we need it :-(

This is our bucket milker. My dad milked using this over thirty years ago so it was nice to get it back to work. It holds about 30 litres of milk, perfect for our small setup. I keep it in the house and carry it out to milk with. 

Machine milking is so easy compared to hand milking and I have her milked out better than I ever could hand milking, in just minutes. 
I bring amber in and tie her up while she eats her feed. I clean her udder and strip some milk from each teat.
I turn the motor on at the wall and connect the vacuum tube to the bucket milker. I can hear the pulsator clicking immediately as the vacuum builds up. Then the tricky part, putting on the four clusters without them falling off again. I need help from hubby to do this at the moment but I'm sure within a week I will have mastered this.

It only takes 4-5 mins to milk her out. I watch the milk line and wait till the milk slows or stops passing through. I then pull a valve on the claw that releases the vacuum and allows me to take off the clusters.
Amber is still eating her food and is not nearly ready yet. So I turn off the motor and bring the bucket milker into the house. I then feed the hens, pigs and pony. Usually by then amber is ready to go back out to her yard or field depending on the weather.

My twice daily jobs are cut from 40 mins down to 15 mins.

When I get back to the house, I now have the milk and cleaning to deal with. This suits me as I can do it while the children are around me. 
I take of the lid and leave it in the sink to clean.

That leaves me a large bucket of fresh milk. Last night we milked 8-9 litres and this morning I milked 6-7 litres. That is a lot of milk and much more than I was able to hand milk.

It takes about 10 mins to strain and bottle the milk, and clean the milker. I leave it in the kitchen till the next milking to keep it clean. The hens would enjoy perching on it if I left it in the shed.

I am not saving much time by machine milking because of the extra cleaning but it allows me spend more time in the house with the children, preventing them causing mayhem. 
Also it is just easier, hubby will happily milk now so it shares the work load, it milks out more milk than hand milking and the milk that is produced is very clean and hygienic. 

The point of this post is that I LOVE my new milking machine!
I am making 2 litres of Greek yogurt, but that's not nearly enough of milk used. The pigs are enjoying all the milk.

Monday, 17 March 2014


Hubby has been busy all day. He has planted three extra fruit trees and staked fifteen more, of apples, plum, cherries and pears. Did you notice amber in the background? She is looking over the stonewall. 
He then brought a wheelbarrow of muck to each tree and spread it at the base.

The orchard is looking loved now. I'm very proud of his work!

I noticed that some of the willow cuttings are starting to take. I need to keep the pony out of the paddocks as he keeps stepping on them!

Amber went out today for the first time in the big field. She was not very happy about this! She spent the day mooing and following hubby around by the fence line. I think she might be in heat!

We still do not have the milking machine working. It is not producing enough vacuum. Hubby has tried tightening the belt and did a total disassembly and still doesn't understand why! 
Either way, we know it is a sample problem, just too damn simple for us to fix. He will visit a neighbouring dairy farmer this evening to see if he has any ideas. We have asked about five people so far and they all assure us it is a simple problem/fix but don't have any suggestions.

I spent some of the day with my little girl building a woodpile by the porch door for the approaching week. The boys were busy exploring for bugs!

Happy St.Patricks Day...
It was too cold and wet for us to bring the children to the parade this year.
What did you do for St.Patrick's Day if anything ?  

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Reflections of hand milking

So I have been hand milking everyday, twice a day for nine days now. My arms have gone through the pain, tension and numbness of extreme exercise inflicked upon them for forty minutes at a time. 
They are now strong and more efficient, with milkings only taking twenty minutes.
I have cursed my hubby for not learning how to hand milk and I have felt self pity for carrying all the milking responsibility on my shoulders, I mean forearms!

Hand milking a cow is not as romantic as one might think. Yes, amber is very quiet and willing. She has never once gone to the toilet while inside the milk shed but hand milking is work, sweaty work! And I have to do it twice a day, everyday regardless of how much it doesn't suit my mood or schedule on that particular day.

I get up earlier than everyone else and head outside to check on the animals. The hens are waiting for me at the doorstep and follow me to the shed. I turn on the lights and get the feed ready. 

A scope of grain is thrown out in the yard for the hens to pick at, one bucket of nuts for the pony and a large amount of nuts for the cow. I have a bucket of milk and barley already soaked overnight for the pigs. 

The pigs are shouting for breakfast from their sty as soon as they hear me in the shed. I get their bucket and pour it into their trough. They are very excited!

Next into the cow yard, where max the pony and amber the jersey are. They have been waiting impatiently. Amber mooing very loudly. I gave the pony his nuts in the yard while amber makes her way into the milk house.
She stands into her stall where her breakfast is waiting. I tie her in and take a seat down at her udder.
I usually take off my jumper or jacket. Milking is hard work! 
I clean off her udder and wash and dry it. I put a bucket under her and milk hard for twenty minutes. Once Amber's nuts are eaten, she starts on her hay. She looks back at me frequently while chewing. Once I have milked her out, I put her back into the yard or if the fields are dry she might go out for a few hours. I leave the bucket of warm milk outside the shed where our dogs are waiting. They drink 2-3 litres at each milking. The rest I use to soak barley for the pigs next meal.
We are not using much of the milk at the moment. Because she has a rear teat that has two openings, it makes hand milking very messy as it sprays everywhere. She needs to be machine milked to produce milk of a good hygiene  standard for our home.
I occasionally milk a few litres from her front teats into a bottle for the house.

We have a milking machine! I have being begging and pleading with hubby to get it functional as soon as possible. There is a problem with either the motor or vacuum pump.
Hubby is gone away today to a neighbouring dairy farm to figure out how to fix the machine and get spare parts. I, hopefully, will be a very pleased wife this evening when the milk machine is fully functioning. 

Fingers crossed!

And then I can consider making some Greek yogurt or some soft cheeses. Or even taking a bath in milk :-) I always wanted to do that !

Friday, 7 March 2014

Some cow photo's

Amber enjoying a few hours out at grass today. She is still nervous and is doing more bellowing than grazing.

Amber in her winter accommodation. She has a shed and a concrete yard to roam.

Amber being milked last night. Such a gentle girl, she didn't even need to be tied and I was able to bring her in and milk by myself this morning!

Christopher watching me milk from the top of the hay with Anita the hen last night. 

Me riding out this morning. I have a show jumping competition later tonight. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Cow has just arrived!

Amber the cow has just arrived in the last few minutes. Isn't she pretty?
We put her into a stable to relax for an hour before I hand milk her.

It was a long journey for her and she is stressed. She seems very quiet and will let me pet her and even let me put on a pony head collar so I can tie her later to milk.

She is about the same size as the kids pony,Max. 
I'm nervous about our first milking. Fingers crossed it goes well!
She has a nice udder but small teats so hand milking might be challenging.  

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

New cow arriving tomorrow

Our new jersey cow is arriving late tomorrow evening!
She is a five year old and a third calver. She freshened about three months ago and is producing about twenty litres a day. 

Expect a post on her to follow soon :-)

Sunday, 2 March 2014

We lost a hive

While doing my regular feeding at this time of year, I discovered that one of the hives died out. 
It was very disappointing! But I know why and its nice to be able to learn every time I visit the bees. 

They had plenty of capped honey and pollen, so they didn't starve. 
We stuck our fingers in and had a good taste of the honey. It was light and tasted of flower blossoms. Yum!

This hive was a late nuc that I ordered for my sister but ended up keeping to over winter for her. Her hive body was very late in being supplied so this colony spent too long in a nuc late summer and it was aug or sept before it was moved into a full hive.
By then it had planned to swarm due to the lack of space. It had tried and I'm still unsure if it succeeded but there was a period of little brood and therefore went into winter with a modest amount of bees, maybe three frames of bees and not many frames of stores. 
My sister bought an ashford feeder so I used this in autumn but took it off in nov as it had caused so much mould and damp in the hive. 
I know that these bees died due to damp and condensation within the hive. Upon inspection there was no vents in the roof, which surprised me. My other hives have these.

There is mould in the cells containing pollen in the above photo.
Ireland is very wet and I have stopped using syrup to feed my bees due to the condensation it caused. I use fondant blocks but I try to leave them with enough stores by using all double brood boxes. They don't usually need feeding but I always leave them a block, just in case. 

I took the roof off a neighbouring hive which was making use of the fondant left on the crown board. They are a very active and strong colony.

I placed the now vacant brood box on top of the crown board. This hive now has three brood boxes. They will clean up the frames and make use of the stores.
In May I will move the brood box back to make a spilt.
I am hoping to experiment with two perone style hives this season. 

The bees are flying everyday now for a few hours. I haven't seen them bring back pollen yet but the dandelions are now coming into bloom.