Here on the farm there are two milkhouses. One is now my warm weather studio, while the other milkhouse up the road still functions as a milkhouse. Although I must say, not in the dairy sense as this is no longer a dairy farm. But calves must still have their milk, and that is where this milkhouse comes into play. And here it is, quite unassuming but looking fine with a nice dusting of snow:
Here is the entry as seen from inside the barn. There’s a little annex there between the barn and the milkhouse. Sort of a spot to catch your breath while you say, “omg…look at all those cobwebs.”:
In the entryway, there is a message board. Pete uses it to tack up any receipts, messages or reminders pertaining to his workday. Not a lot of people pass through this entryway aside from Pete and Bowzer B. Dawg, so I’m wondering to whom his current message is directed. Doesn’t matter, the positive reinforcement is a good thing. Pete’s had a tough week and so has Bowzer, so yes, let us have a nice day:
You really can’t get too far past the milkhouse and not encounter Bowzer B. Dawg. He is the dog of the perpetual tail wag. And king of calves, though not very good at herding. In fact, let’s face it…he is not a herder, he’s a lover. He loves you. He hasn’t met you yet, but he loves you already:
Now, once you get past Bowzer (and cobwebs) you step inside the milkhouse and find that it is warm in there. Quite warm. In fact, during cold, winter months the barn cats like to congregate there. So you might see a lot of this going on:
Or this…which frankly, gets me a little nervous because I really think they are up to something:
So let’s get away from the strange cats for a moment and look around. When I first came here, I was intrigued by the row of gloves hanging on the far wall. Now I appreciate them, because sometimes I need to run in there and just grab a pair to pull on when I have to help out. But let me tell you…I stomp or whack them a bit before pulling them on because of, you know, spiders. Enough said:
Flip yourself around and you’ll see a row of milk bottles, or calf bottles, or baby bottles… bottles for the baby calves. That’s what I’m trying to say because sometimes, when a calf isn’t quite ready to drink milk from a bucket, we have to bottle feed it. The first time I bottle fed a calf, I was surprised at how strong they can pull at the bottle. The second time I made sure to wear rubber gloves (see above photo) so that I had a better grip!
And that is the quick, no frills, inside peek into the milkhouse up the road. And lest we forget who rules the roost there:
Our kitchen table is getting loaded up with a lot of print media these days. I’m seeing numerous holiday catalogues, life insurance pitches and quite a few of Pete’s farm journals and magazines. Believe it or not, I do comb through his farm journals for interesting ag articles. That way I can some day tell him how to run his business in case he doesn’t already know. Right. That will fly over well I’m sure. But hey, I mean HAY, that reminds me, it’s time for some Cow Facts!! Let’s get started (oh and by the way, some of the facts may be Wisconsin-centric, because I live in Wisconsin now and it has kind of adopted me as one of its own), Okay and onward;
• A cow is female. A lady as it were. An adult female bovine. Treat her with respect. Bring her flowers. And candy.
• A steer on the other hand, is a male. No bull here. He’s been castrated. Do not bring him flowers. He’ll be insulted. Though he is castrated, he is no girly girl. He is still big, burly and overly curious. He will sniff and chew anything within his immediate radius;
• A bull is a male bovine who is all that. He’s intact. And boy you better not get in his way. According to OnWisconsin Winter 2013 magazine, because of his intactness, his job prospects are much better. uuuh, okay. Never knew that. Now I know why I’m seeing bulls with bling struttin’ up and down the road.
And now, for the Wisconsin-centric portion of our Cow Facts; 90% of the state’s milk is made into cheese! And 26% of America’s cheese comes from Wisconsin. Doink! I really didn’t know that before. That said, here is Wisconsin cheese in action, I present to you Pete’s Platter, a delicious concoction of locally sourced cheese. I’m not kidding, Pete suggested the local brewery add a cheese platter and they did. And named it after him. Good thing Pete himself is locally sourced or this may not have happened:
All right, let’s carry on:
• Calves are young bovines of either sex and not yet weaned off of milk. Their day will come. Meanwhile their job is to grow, frolic about and look cute;
• Cows have four stomach chambers: the Rumen, the Reticulum , Omasum and Abomasum. Digestion can be a very complex thing what with four chambers. Without getting into details, it can take 3 to 5 days for food to process through a cow’s intestinal “mansion”. And one of those “hallways” can be 170 feet in length. I need to pace that out…because if it is what I think it is, I call for more cow nap time.
That’s pretty much it, and now time for my evening snacky before hitting the hay…
I can’t help but be intrigued by the random tools and pieces of metal gathering dust in Pete’s garage, workshop and/or tractor shed. It’s fun to see the accidental vignettes of his collection while they lay in wait for his future use. And believe me, he will find a use for these things at some point. He’s pretty clever that way. As for me, I just like looking at the stuff and the still life scenarios that they assume;
But what ended up intriguing me most about the above image was not so much the tools, but of a certain tree there in the upper right-hand corner. Being that it was not the focal point, it kind of flattened out to an almost graphic image. Not only that, but the very musty, dusty and yes, crusty window pane added an element of texture that I hold dear. That’s just the kind of texture that I often try to obtain in my prints and drawings. So I decided to zoom in and crop to have a better look at said tree:
Oh my gosh, I’m starting to see faces in it, and I see a bat…someone, quick, analyze me! Oh wait, now I also see a fly. I need some more time with this. Perhaps my day job is influencing me but I want to reproduce this in a batik fabric. Or I can print this on fabric, make a quilt block and maybe someone can make me a very interesting, albeit bug-like, quilt?
As a result of that photo, I liked the idea of using old windows, which are naturally wavy and dusty from age, as a sort of filter for my camera. But it seems hit or miss which is as it should be. I went back later to that same window, this time focusing on the actual tree. I didn’t get the same effect, but I did get a nice musty-looking photo, all due to my “window filter”.
It’s not something one can control as one would with a Photoshop filter, nor is it something that one can carry around in the camera bag, windows being big and all. But that’s what I like, the complete randomness of such a “discovery” if you will, and then being able to do run with it somehow. That process to me is the stuff of fun.
And so it begins…the creep crawls in. Every nook and cranny is ripe for the Big Boo. Poor fly, he didn’t have a chance. Not with that overdone webbing. Hmmm, someone got a little heavy-handed with the webbing this year. Even the skeletons are feeling a little strangled, and they’re supposed to be dead already!
And then there’s the barn. Push open those big doors and what do we find?
Oh crap…CROWS…with their little pecking beaks and scrawny claws. I can’t stand it. I need to run for cover. But the nightmare continues…grave stones have popped up in the barn. Uh really? Who put those there? (oh yeah, me.)
So then, how do we tame the Big Boo? I know! Let’s call in a band to hit the stage, invite some friends over for a night of fearful camaraderie and call it the “Moos, Boos and Blues Fest”! Yeah! Sing those creepies away! And lead vocalist Blythe did pretty much that by belting out the tunes with much passion:
Despite Blythe’s strong singing, I still noticed a few random creepies wandering about..
If you didn’t already know, I have a herb garden. It’s my second year growing herbs and it’s been a pretty wonderful thing to be able to step outside my door and grab a few herbs while cooking. I figured I’d focus on herbs for now as I can usually snag a vegetable or two from Lucille’s garden-of-abundance up the road. So the herb thing has been going well. I’ve been able to freeze and/or dry herbs for the winter months. But one day mid-summer a coworker brought in some little tomato plants that she had no room for in her own garden. So I took 4 of the little plants thinking “well let’s see what happens”. What happened was that they outgrew their pots. And it just so happened that I had dug out some plants from my herb garden leaving some empty space. So I thought I’d just plug them in those empty spots breaking my herbs-only rule in that garden. But I figured it would be for this one summer only. Just to see what happens. Here’s what happened, tomato mayhem. They grew and grew to the point that Jack came looking for his bean stalk. (I had to send him up the road) Now the problem is, I planted them late, so it took awhile for the tomatoes to appear. And then even longer for them to blush and turn red. By then I was getting nervous about the cool nights getting increasingly colder. It was getting late in the season and I kept watching for any signs of green to orange to red. I think I actually stared down a few tomatoes till they did turn red.
Now that they are turning red, it’s getting too cold. But there are so many left on the vines and I hate to waste them and all the stare-downs I’ve invested in them. Then someone mentioned that one can pull a tomato plant out roots and all and hang them upside down in the basement, and they will continue to ripen. With another cold night coming, I couldn’t wait much longer. Action must be taken. Dinner must be delayed. The tomatoes must hang. Except they were such a tangle of vines that I couldn’t get the whole plant out of the cage that supported them. Dark was descending (of course with Halloween approaching you knew that I had to get in a line like that), I had to work fast. Okay, cut off the vines and hang them sans roots. Which brings us back to my “well let’s see what happens” frame of mind.
So down the stairs I go clutching my haul of vines. I should explain that I’m a short-cut kind of girl. If I can find an easier way to do something I’ll go for it in order to save time, trouble and get to dinner faster. Therefore the idea of untangling twine and vines and hanging them from rafters encased in cobwebs wasn’t too appealing, I saw an easier approach right before my eyes. My drying rack:
Forget laundry anymore, I think I may buy another drying rack and just hang all manner of herbs, and in a late season pinch, tomatoes. It just seems like such an obvious thing to do I wonder why it hadn’t occurred to me before. I wonder how many others do this, and why didn’t I know about it sooner!? Next year though, the tomatoes get the boot from the herb garden, they really need their own space. And if anyone has any ideas what to do with a lot of cherry tomatoes, let me know! Salsa? Sauce? I better look into that before I once again find it’s getting too late…
I’m trying to pace myself. I’m still grasping on to the last vestiges of summer, but tentatively reaching out to autumn and its crispy, cool days. I’m experiencing that tug between seasons. Let go of one, embrace the other. And then of course there’s Halloween to think about. And we think about it big around here. But it’s too soon…I refuse to buy pumpkins until October hits. But I did eat some acorn squash. So we’re getting there. Meanwhile, there’s some spooky stuff already happening in the upstairs hallway. The shadows fall where they may, and the mask happens to be there. The creep is starting to happen:
If that’s not bad enough, Little Evil Thing is on the prowl. Make no mistake, she can be cute and cuddly one moment, but the next moment she’ll swat you (me) on the backside of the head. What!?? I guess my head just happened to be there. And so was her paw. Ahh the witching hour has begun:
I guess I can buy pumpkins now. And put up the cobwebs. Thanks Gray Ghost, you just whacked me into fall!
Whitewashed, glass-tiled, cool in the summer, cold in the winter. That is the milkhouse that has become my studio where I hope to get back to my basic roots of drawing, painting, and at some point, printmaking.
And just in case you think this is all about my artwork, I'll be posting about daily life on a small, working farm as well. And since I didn't grow up on a farm, and have no idea what to do in many cases, you may find a few amusing anecdotes as I grow accustomed to life here.
This will be an evolving, and in all probability, ever-changing site as I figure things out. So stick around and let's see what happens!