I’ll start ‘from scratch’ here. Most sites have a core of people who regularly post there, and this one is no different. We’re all nicely acquainted, but for those who are occasional posters, or the browsers, I think this needs a bit of background.
I’m English. My husband is Hungarian from Romania, and we have a small homestead in Transylvania, Romania. Long story how this happened… but it did… and although most of the time I’m very happy with the situation, sometimes I swear I’ll go home to England and H*** will freeze over before I come back.
We had a farm in our family when I was a child, and I spent a great deal of time there ‘messing about’ and getting in everyone’s way. Because I loved it there, a fair amount of information soaked in. They say farm children take the life of farming into their souls, and although I don’t strictly qualify, certainly I learned to love the place, the animals, the life.
When my husband and I married, we decided to buy land at his village, and start this small farm. We built a home, the barn, the outbuildings. The place is small… by British standards.
And not modern… at all. Think 1880, with intermittent (lousy service) electricity for the milking machine and lights in the barn. We have only 10 cows, but that puts us as 3rd highest producer amongst the **Edit** local community. We have a generator for back up and could not farm sensibly this many cows without it. Most people in this ‘old country’ have between one and three cows. Our ten makes us filthy rich by local standards.
We have the 10 cows, and since cows must be pregnant every year in order to produce milk, we also have calves. We generally raise them on their mothers’ milk and a small amount of grain and hay, to about four months old, and then slaughter them for our freezer. Every so often we keep one longer, either to raise up and add to the herd, or to sell just before her first calf, when it is most financially advantageous.
Our milk is sold to a dairy. There is a milk truck coming to the village every day, and it picks up from a central collection point – a big tank at the bar where everyone takes their milk in canisters on little carts. We generally have about 8 cows in milk at any one time, they give on average 17 litres per day. Nothing like in America or England, but these cows are dual purpose – both milk and meat. They’re called Baltata Romaneasca, and they are superb animals. They aren’t ‘pushed’ to produce, so they live up to 8 years, some as long as ten years. They don’t go lame and they get pregnant without fuss: something no western farmer can boast.
We milk with a portable milking machine. It takes us about 2 hours morning and night. Whilst one of us milks, the other prepares the cows for milking by brushing them a bit and washing udders. There’s also the need to clean out the stalls (lots of wheelbarrows of lovely manure for the fields and garden) give calves their bottles and muck out their pen, share out the 2-3 litres of milk for the cats, let everyone out to go to the water tank and put down fresh straw for them for bedding because right now in winter they can’t stay out too long. Just enough to drink and stretch their legs.
On the weekends, my teenaged daughter helps milk, and very often one of our neighbour men shows up. I love it when he does – I drop everything and disappear into the house. I have enough housework to do here to keep me well and truly busy without needing to work in the barn too! He isn’t married, so as part thank you, when he milks mornings, I make him a huge breakfast. Seems to make every happy – my husband has help, I can stay in the house, he gets a super nice cooked breakfast.
There’s also the pigs to feed and muck out.
Horses the same – feed and brush them, let them out for awhile, clean their stalls and put down fresh straw. These are working horses, semi-heavy, 7 and 8 year old ladies and we work the fields with them. They also pull the farm cart and in general do everything a huge industrial farm would do with a tractor.
Right. End of introduction and I have housework to do.
P.P.S I started out thinking I would go into details of how to make moonshine – the national sport of all Hungarian men in romania – but decided an introduction was more important. I’ll get to the Moonshine next time! Promise!