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Can You Eat Potbelly Pigs?

Candi Johns





Can you eat a potbelly pig?

This is a great question.

Potbelly pig

I have owned potbelly pigs. Not too long ago, I had twelve.

My sow was your run-of-the-mill, standard potbelly. My male was something else entirely. He came with papers. He was a Juliana micro-mini potbelly pig ... who weighed 200 pounds. The story of my boar is unusual; go here to see it.

It wasn't my fault he weighed 200 pounds. Like many potbelly pigs, he was intended to be a pet, indulged on too many groceries ... and ended up being homeless. He lived on a couple of farms before making his way to our place.

The world of potbelly pigs is adorable and sometimes sad. I love those cute, tiny pigs. I want one in my living room! The problem is that without constant management of their caloric intake, those tiny piggies can get large. This is where the problems happen. More potbelly pigs find their way to animal shelters than people realize. Poor pigs.

I know there are many people who raise, keep, and love potbelly pigs. These pigs are typically pets. They live, sleep, and dwell in the living room alongside the family dog, or maybe in the yard, but they fall in the category of "pet" not "food." I'm not suggesting you eat your pet pig who thinks they are the family dog.

There are also people who don't eat meat, or maybe they do eat meat, but not pork. If you fall in that category, you will probably also not want to eat a potbelly pig. This post isn't a consideration on whether or not to eat potbelly pigs; this post is not trying to decide if eating a potbelly pig is right or wrong. This post is not determining whether or not potbellies are Kosher. I'm pretty sure they aren't.

For the purpose of this post, I'm assuming you eat pork ... Your pig is not your dog ... And you just want to know if you can eat the meat from a potbelly pig.

Or maybe you've already decided to eat it and you would like to know how it's gonna taste. Should you have the whole hog made into sausage? Can you get bacon? Is it gamey? Is it weird? Does it taste like chicken?

Well, here we go!

Farm life is an ever-changing adventure. There's a blurry, fine, almost non-existent line between pets and food at our homestead. Our dogs and cats are probably nervous. The chickens are probably in a constant state of panic. There is just no telling when we may wake up and decide to eat someone.

When roosters turn mean — we eat them. When there's not room for seven rabbits in the four-rabbit habitat — we eat them. When you have 8-inch tusks and charge my baby — guess what? You're dinner.

So why would someone want to eat a potbelly pig?

I can think of a couple reasons. I'm sure there are more that aren't coming to mind.

Potbelly pig

Price: Potbelly pigs can sometimes be purchased for 15 dollars (or free); a "feeder pig" can cost 90 dollars or more.

Small Space: If you have a small homestead or just a little area for pigs, potbelly pigs may be a good fit. They don't get as large as most feeder pigs.

Small budget: because potbelly pigs are smaller, they generally don't require as much feed. They can be raised on garden scraps, vegetable scraps, grains, milk, and many other inexpensive food items.

Size: If you want to raise a pig that won't get too big, a potbelly could work.

Temperament: If you have potbelly who turned mean and aggressive, eating them can be a viable option.

Circumstances: Somebody was given a potbelly pig and they don't want it any longer.

But can you eat a potbelly pig?

Short answer: "Yes. It's a pig. You can eat it."

It reminds me of the movie Home on the Range. The cow was explaining to all the other animals that the farm owner was going to have to sell them. Then the cow explained to the chicken that if she (the chicken) is sold, she will most likely be eaten. To this, the shocked and offended hen replied, "Who would eat a chicken?"

Ha! Everyone! Chickens are about as close to the bottom of the food chain as you can get.

So the answer to the question, "Who would eat a pig?" is, "Lots of people."

"Who would eat a potbelly pig?" Lots of people.

Some even boast that they are the tastiest, best, cream-of-the-crop, most fabulous pork you'll ever eat.

I'm no expert; I'll stick to my experience and what I know. We have eaten Berkshire crosses, Yorkshire crosses, Poland China crosses, standard farm pigs, and potbelly pigs. I have not raised a full-bred Heritage breed, quite frankly because I haven't been able to find a breeder near me. I would love to.

There are many different breeds within the category of "potbelly." I hear some potbelly pig breeds are more suited for eating than others. I wrote an article about "How to Buy a Cow" last year. In it, I talked about buying meat in bulk and things like that. Go here to read it. I also discussed a variety of livestock and how much eating meat you can expect from different animals.

One of the remarkable things about pigs is the sheer amount of usable product you can get from a feeder pig. Whatever your hog weighs "on the hoof," you can expect to get 71-78 percent of that number back in the form of meat inside vacuum sealed packages. This means that a 250-pound hog can yield 195 pounds of pork. That's impressive! When you compare the "usability" of the hog to other animals (deer, cow, lamb, etc), it wins without any competition.

Our experience has been that potbelly pigs do not fall into the same "consumable" category as feeder pigs. They are heavy on the fat and low on the meat.

Does this matter? Not really. It doesn't make them any less edible. It doesn't make them any less yummy.

It did effect the bacon & lard situation for us. Where the bacon should have been there was nothing but fat on the potbelly. This meant two things: less bacon and more lard.

I have also read that if you raise the right potbelly pig breed and feed it the right diet, you can get bacon and not just fat.

Potbelly pig

How do they taste?

Like pork.

My processor falls into the wonderful, beloved category of "lived 70+ years and has earned the right to say whatever he wants." For more on that and why some of my favorite friends are over the age of 70, go here.

When we showed up at our processor, he took one look at the massive, potbelly boar with 5-inch tusks and said, "You're gonna wish that one fell off the truck."

I said, "Can't you just throw the meat in with the others when you make sausage?" (We were having 2 feeder pigs processed at the same time.)

He said, "I don't recommend it. He'll ruin your sausage."

I said, "OK, so should I just have the potbelly ground into sausage and packed separately?"

He said, "I would."

So, we agreed. I didn't want to ruin 100 pounds of wonderful sausage by mixing in a bunch of strong, gamey boar into it. If the boar sausage turned out horrible, I could deal with it separately. Our processor marked all the "boar" sausage so that we would know which was which.

A couple weeks later, when I picked up my pork, he explained how strong the boar smelled during processing. He said it was awful. He said it was probably gonna taste as bad as it smelled. Then he looked at me and said, "You're not gonna be able to stand to be in your kitchen while you're cooking that boar."

Then he told me to be sure to call him as soon as we ate some of the boar sausage and let him know how bad it was.

I cooked some that night. I had to know.


It tasted like sausage. Seriously. It was great. And I didn't have to leave the kitchen to cook it.

Just in case you think I've gone "taste-blind" to normal food and my taste buds have become accustomed to eating all things weird — I don't think I have. I do not like gamey meat. I don't eat "old" bucks (deer). The bigger the "rack," the less inclined I am to eat it. I am super sensitive to that "gamey" flavor and smell. Ick. No thanks.

The boar sausage wasn't gamey. It wasn't strong. It tasted like sausage. It tasted like pork. It was more "fatty" than the sausage made from the feeder pigs, but the flavor was the same. In the future (if I process another potbelly), I would probably try to get more cuts (chops, steaks, hams, or other cuts).

There are lots and lots of people who would find it disappointing that a potbelly pig found his fate as food. But I am not one of them. If you want to roast your potbelly pig, I am behind you. If you want to raise a potbelly to eat, it's OK with me! It's a pig ... you can eat it.

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Pumpkin Pie with Real Ingredients

Candi Johns





pie slices infographic

If you want to enjoy pumpkin pie without the processed ingredients, then this is for you. This is everything you expect in a pumpkin pie — it's creamy, pumpkin-y, and wonderful.

I avoid all things processed whenever possible. I like food made by people like me and Mamaw. I don't like food made by companies. However, I love Libby's Pumpkin Pie. I have always made the Libby's Pumpkin Pie recipe. As my diet has changed, though, I have had to adapt many of my favorite recipes to include real food instead of processed foods.

If you want to eat the best pumpkin pie ever, but don't want to eat evaporated milk  or pie crust with hydrogenated, non-food substances, you have come to the right place!

pumpkin purees

You can use the pumpkin from a store, or you can use the homemade stuff. I grew a pumpkin patch this year and have been having all sorts of fun with pumpkin from the garden lately.

What I've learned about homemade pumpkin puree:

1. Homemade pumpkin is definitely healthier, fresher, and more organic (since I know exactly how the pumpkins were grown, harvested, and handled as they became puree).

2. Every blog everywhere says that homemade pumpkin puree makes a better tasting pumpkin dish.

3. Homemade puree is more colorful, brighter, and less firm than the canned stuff.

4. It tastes just like squash baby food.

5. In the pumpkin bread contest we had earlier, the homemade stuff beat the canned variety.

6. A wonderful bi-product of making pumpkin puree is a crunchy, salty, tasty snack in the form of roasted pumpkin seeds.

Just for fun, we have been having a friendly, pumpkin puree contest in our home. So far, the homemade puree is leading. In our pumpkin bread competition, the homemade pumpkin puree beat the canned stuff by a nose. The color was a bit brighter and the overall bread tasted a little sweeter. The homemade variety definitely won the first round.

Today, I am making pumpkin pie from scratch.

I'm baking two pies, which will be identical except for the origins of the pumpkin. The contest will end with a blind taste test and we'll see if homemade pumpkin puree is superior to the canned stuff once again!

pumpkin pie ingredients


• 1-1/2 cups cream (I am using raw cream from my Jersey cow; you can use heavy whipping cream if you prefer)
• 2 large eggs
• 3/4 cup sugar (I am using organic cane juice crystals)
• cinnamon
• salt
• pumpkin
• pie crust (homemade)

First, I made the pumpkin pie filling. I am basically making the Libby's recipe with a few adaptions:

• Instead of evaporated milk, I am using raw cream.
• Instead of sugar, I am using cane juice crystals.
• Instead of using cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, I am using just cinnamon. (When pumpkin pies have too much spice, they taste like a clove cigarette to me.)

pumpkin pie process

Combine cream, eggs, and sugar and whisk. Add salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin and whisk again. Done!

pir crust process

Next, it's time to roll out the pie crust:

1. Lay out a piece of foil.
2. Sprinkle on some flour.
3. Plop down your pie disk.
4. Sprinkle it with more flour.
5. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin, beginning in the center and rolling toward the edges.

To move the crust into the pie pan:

1. Lift one side of the foil up and drape the pie crust over the rolling pin.
2. Continue to let the pie crust drape over the pin until it is balanced and you can move the entire piece.
3. Slowly unroll the pie crust off the rolling pin over the pie pan.
4. Press crust gently into the pan.
5. Trim off excess pie crust with a knife.
6. Crimp edges if desired.

pie crust

Time to pour the pie filling into the unbaked pie crusts.

pumpkin pies

Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 for 50 minutes to 1 hour. It's done when the edges are brown and only the very center of the pie is a little jiggly.

The long awaited moment is here. Drum roll please ...

Who will be our winner, homemade pumpkin puree or the canned stuff?

pumpkin pie slices

I am going to burst the bubble of every homesteader raising pie pumpkins everywhere with my next words:

There wasn't a difference.

Two pies — one from homemade pumpkin puree, one from a can — identical flavor.

Some of our taste-testers chose the homemade, some chose the canned, but everyone had the same remarks: They were both delicious. They were so similar that it took several bites from each pie to even try to pick a favorite. Three people couldn't choose because there was so little difference.


I was really surprised. The pumpkin bread from the homemade puree was better; I thought the homemade-puree pie would be a landslide winner.

I can say that homemade pumpkin puree is still fresher, healthier, and more organic. I know how my pumpkins were raised and processed. I feel better about eating the homemade variety, but as far as flavor goes...

It's a tie.

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Happy Baking!

Small Changes. Big Impact.

Candi JohnsI went on a personal challenge to raise all the food I ate for 101 days. It was quite an adventure, and you can read all about it if you want:

Homesteaders Food Challenge – What it is.
Headaches, Cravings, Cooking & Starvation – Survival – Week 1
Can I Grow All My Own Food – A Diet is Born – Week 2
Never Diet Again – Weight Loss, Sugar Detox & Finding your Ideal weight – Week 3
One Month – No preservatives, no additives, no artifical ingredients, no sugar, no GMOs, nothing but homegrown goodness – Week 4
• Growing all my Food – What Country Does Your Food Come From?
Can You Say, “NO?” Losing Weight, Feeling Healthier & Having more Energy
10 Days Left!!!
A New Way to Live
Homesteaders Food Challenge Wrap Up

I made it past the finish line and have crossed over to a new way of eating and thinking. I haven't felt this good in a decade. I lost over 10 pounds. I ate what I grew and raised and picked on my own farm. I learned to cook new foods. I learned to eat new foods. My skin and hair even improved. I have increased energy. I sleep better.

Most of all: my sugar cravings are gone.

You don't have to move to the country and grow all your own food to experience amazing changes in your life. I think we can all work toward making healthy choices each day. Even if you only make a couple of these changes now, I believe it will matter. You don't have to change your entire life in a day. You can implement bits at a time.


My 101-day Homesteaders Food Challenge was also a bit on the extreme/radical side and partially miserable. I thought I was pretty healthy before I started it, but my eyes opened. Now that I'm here, on this side, leaner, healthier, better ... I don't want to go back. I don't want to fall back into old habits.

If you want to make some changes that can remodel your health — this is for you. There are some easy things you can do to improve your overall wellness. Most people do not have the ability to raise everything they eat. Most people would not consider trying to raise everything they eat.

The good news is that you don't have to.

Here's a look at eight simple changes you can make that your body will thank you for:

Small Change #1: Eat at Home

Before any of the other seven changes can happen, you probably first need to start preparing and eating your foods.

It won't make much difference if you are buying organic flour, grass-fed beef, and coconut oil if you continue to eat your meals at restaurants — unless you are eating at all organic establishments.

Eating at home doesn't have to be hard or time consuming. For me it means: just go home.

I'm not saying never eat out; I'm saying if you want to reclaim your food and change your health, you're probably gonna need to prepare some meals.

Small Change #2: Flour

ground flour

Flour is in so many things I cook. It thickens sauces. It's in bread, pasta, muffins, pancakes. Flour is a part of our meals, and I don't want to stop enjoying it.

If you are like me and want flour, it is important to know what's in your flour and what's not.

There are two choices to getting healthier flour:

Grind your own wheat. Every six weeks or so I mill my own flour and bake 24-30 loaves of bread. Did you know that fresh-ground flour has over 40 vitamins and minerals in it? Of the 44 known essential nutrients needed by our bodies, only four are missing from fresh-ground wheat. It even has protein!

I also use my fresh ground wheat for sauces, gravies, batter, and whatever else calls for flour.

If grinding flour and baking bread sounds daunting, you can still improve the flour you are feeding your family.

Buy organic. What is done to "non-organic" grain before it is ever ground into flour is enough to make a girl reach for the organic every time. You can read about it here. I think organic is worth the investment.

Small Change #3: Sugar

maple syrup

I don't eat a lot of sugar, but I need something sweet in my coffee every morning.

If you are like me and want a little something sweet, one of the best ways to get some sugar without eating sugar is by using maple syrup or honey. Both are sweeter than sugar (so you will use less), and both are healthier. They both contain vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.

If you happen to be baking a cake for your child's birthday and need some sugar, a healthy option is to reach for the raw cane sugar (sucanat) instead of the white stuff. Sucanat hasn't been through the over-processing of white sugar and even contains trace minerals. There are arguments that cane sugar is not "raw" enough. There are many "healthier" and "less processed" alternatives to sugar. Turbinado, rapadura, or molasses are a few.

Remember, even healthy raw sugars are not health foods, so they still need to be used within reason.

Small Change #4: Fat

If you cook, you will need fat. Sometimes some good, old-fashioned butter is the perfect solution. Other times (like in breads and baked goods) you need something lighter, like oil. Changing to healthy fats will go a long way to improving your health.



We eat around 3 pounds of butter a week. It completes me. Our butter is raw. It has not been homogenized, pasteurized, or changed in any way. I know this because I spend part of every Sunday making it. It comes straight from the cows in my front yard, it is never heated, treated, or altered. Just churned and eaten.

My butter is a different color than the pale stuff at the grocery — it is yellow. This is from vitamin K. Raw butter has all the vitamins intact, so it glows. The reason the butter sold at most stores is a creamy, light yellow is because it is made from milk that has been pasteurized. The pasteurization process not only kills bacteria (good and bad), it also kills many of the vitamins.

If you don't have a cow and don't want to make butter, it's OK. You can still purchase good butter. Look for raw butter, cultured butter, or even Amish butter.


Another healthy cooking fat I love is lard (not the stuff from the store, only pastured and organic). Boy oh boy. If you haven't yet heard me scream and shout about how stinking healthy pastured pig fat is, you should. It isn't just "not bad" for you; it's actually good for you.

More on pig fat:

Why you should save the bacon grease
Introduction to raising pigs
How to make lard

Other Oils:

Other oils I use include: olive oil, beef tallow, bacon grease, and coconut oil.

The only other fat I use occasionally is grapeseed oil for baking bread. I make most of my bread products from scratch, and they require a light oil for baking.

The truth is that sunflower oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, and cottonseed oil are all terrible for you. For more on bad oils go here.

Small Change #5: Eggs

basket of eggs

The key word is "pastured eggs." This is what you want. Free-range could mean they have a small outdoor area they never see. Cage-free could mean 2000 chickens are crammed into a building instead of cages. Organic could mean the chickens were fed a diet that was organic. Omega 3 means the chickens were fed a diet high in Omega 3.

These are not the best eggs. The best eggs come from pastured chickens who are allowed to scavenge, scratch, and peck for food. They eat a diet of bugs, grubs, green things, and such.

Instead of yellow "yellows," pastured eggs will usually have bright orange "yellows." The color of the yellow in the egg is a reflection of the quality of the hens' diet. Hens who eat an insect-rich diet will have the darkest yellows. Our chickens, which are literally all over the place, eat whatever they want. They have no cages, no yard, no boundaries whatsoever. This of course means they are in my flowers, eating my tomatoes, and pooping on my driveway. It also means I have some pretty healthy eggs with yellows that glow in the dark.

I have heard an argument that the reason free-range eggs have the brighter color yolk is because they are fresher. This is not true. When DH attempts to grow grass, we always lock our chickens into a fenced in area. During this time, we feed our chickens a healthy diet of bagged chicken feed from our local feed mill. All the yolks turn pale yellow during confinement. All of them. Guess what happened when we let the chickens back out? The yolks went orange again.

So, it's the confinement of the chickens that affect the color, not the "freshness."

Small Change #6: Milk

strained milk

We have two jersey cows who eat grass everyday. This is where our milk and dairy products come from.

If you live in a place where you can get your hands on raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk, you are blessed. These diary products are illegal to buy and sell in many states (including mine). Which is why I own milk cows.

If you haven't heard of CLA — the wonder fat — let me introduce you. CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) increases muscle growth, decreases body fat, improves insulin sensitivity, inhibits and prevents various cancers, enhances immune system, and lowers cholesterol. Top natural sources for CLA in the diet are meat and raw milk from grass-fed animals.

CLA alone is enough of a reason to drink raw milk from grass-fed cows. It's a miracle. I have a friend who's father grew up on a diary farm. That man drank raw milk his entire life; he has never taken antibiotics.

For more on the benefits of raw milk go here.

So many of the foods we prepare have some sort of dairy product in them. If you begin using healthier dairy products, this one change will overflow into many of the meals you prepare.

Small Change #7: Pastured Meat

You don't have to move to a farm and raise pigs in order to eat healthy, pastured meat — you just have to find a farmer (or market) who does.


Raising pigs is an adventure. They have personality, are easy to raise, and can grow from a 30-pound piglet into a 300-pound hog in 3-4 months. If you like dogs, you will probably like raising pigs. They bark, growl, and want to play with you. Raising pigs is also a good idea if you like bacon, sausage, ribs, pork-chops, and ham.

If you can raise pigs, you should. If you can't, go buy some pastured pork.


There are good feeder pigs for sale if you want to find them. I see them at the sale barn. I see them on Craigslist. I hear about them at my local feed mill. Many farmers markets even have folks raising & selling pastured pork. If you do some looking, you will probably be able to purchase a pastured hog or 1/2 a hog for your freezer.

Possibly the best part of pasture-raised pork is the lard. Lard from pastured pigs is not the same as the stuff sold in cans at grocery stores. Lard from pastured pigs is incredibly healthy. It is high in cancer-preventing nutrients, Vitamin D, and CLA. It is very good source of monounsaturated fatty acids — that same heart-healthy fat found in olive oil and avocado. Once you have jars of lard in your basement, you can use it for everything! Frying eggs, baking pies, french fries, chap-stick ...

I think it's worth the search and expense to invest in a healthy hog for your freezer.


We let our cow raise our beef for us. Our steers are raised on pasture and mamma's milk. They spend their days grazing and napping on the soft grass in the sunshine. Research has shown that meat raised on pasture provides up to five times more nutrition than meat raised in confinement.

cow and farmer

Finding pastured beef is even easier than finding hogs. If you have the freezer space, buying a cow or a half of a cow is always the cheapest way to buy steaks. Go here to learn how to buy a cow and what you'll get.

A phone call to the local extension office may be all it takes to find a list of farms in your area raising grass-fed beef. Because of the growing demand, pastured beef is pretty much readily available.


Organic, pastured, antibiotic-free chicken is pretty easy to find these days. We raise our own meat chickens, but if I ran out I wouldn't hesitate to purchase the good ones from the supermarket.


To get the most for my dollar (or efforts), I will use one chicken to make several meals. The first baked. The leftover meat as chicken salad. The leftover bones as bone broth.


It just doesn't get any more organic, natural, or chemical free than shooting your own meat in the woods. Fall is deer season here in Kentucky. Even before we moved to the country, DH made it a point to find areas he could hunt. We were eating fresh venison for years before we owned our own land.

Small Change #8: Grow a Garden


One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to obtain healthier foods is to start a little garden. It doesn't have to be fancy or huge. It could just be a few vegetable plants added to your landscaping or a few pots on the back porch.


I love, love, love my garden. There are few places I would rather be. I enjoy growing food and preserving it, too.

When you grow your own veggies and fruits, there is no question as to how it was grown, what was sprayed on it, when it was harvested, or how far it traveled to get to your plate. It's fresh, farm-to-table food at its finest.

Imagine how healthy your meals, baked goods, and even desserts would be if you only changed these four things:

• Fresh organic flour
• Honey or maple syrup instead of sugar
• Raw dairy
• Free-range eggs

You could eat chocolate muffins for breakfast and it would be healthier than just about any box of cereal.

A lot of work and expense goes into eating healthy. Although it is not an easy road, I think it's worth the sacrifice. Even just making a few changes can have a big impact on your health.

Start small, start today. You'll be glad you did.

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Why You Should Have a Milk Strainer (Even if You Don't Have a Cow)

Candi Johns





Using milk strainer

I've been milking for years. I've been straining milk for years. First, I would like to add that a milk strainer is, by far, the best way to strain milk.

I tried to use a coffee filter among other things to strain my milk. Go here if you would like to hear me complain about those experiences. There are other DIY hacks for straining milk, but I don't like any of them for one reason or another.

A milk strainer makes life much easier and I have found more uses for my milk strainer than just straining milk. It has helped in so many ways.

Here are my top 6 Reasons to Consider a strainer:

1. You can will do a lot more with your strainer than strain milk. What can you do with a milk strainer?

Milking a cow

... Strain milk

Straining jelly

... Strain berries (for making jelly)

... Strain tomatoes (for canning tomato juice)

Straining lard

... Strain lard (to get the whitest, cleanest lard

... Strain beef tallow (for clean, white tallow to eat, make candles, or repurpose)

... Strain curds from whey (when cheesemaking)

Straining syrup

... Strain maple sap to make syrup

...Strain maple syrup after cooking

... Strain bone broth (for clear broth)

... Strain anything!

As you can see, there are many more homesteading uses for a strainer than just milk. If you happen to own a diary animal, I think a strainer will make your life easier.

2. I want clean, debris free, hair free, floater free, raw milk.

To read why we went "raw" go here.

Milk strainer

I don't pasteurize or homogenize my milk. I drink it raw, straight from the tap, so it needs to be perfectly clear, clean, and lint free. Using a "milk filter" to strain your milk is the answer. It is made for clarifying milk. It catches it all.

3. Consistent results.

These items do more than just net me perfectly clean milk — they also can indicate if there are any problems with my milk.

Slow straining? Won't strain? Mastitis? All these symptoms are clear to see by using milk filters & strainers regularly. Problematic milk may work itself through cheesecloth or other lint free cloth without notice, but it won't make it through my milk strainer undetected.

Which is a great thing! If my cows are sick or in need of attention, I want to know ASAP. If there is a mastitis flare up teasing an udder, I can often keep it at bay with frequent milkings. My straining setup is the indicator I sometimes need to let me know something may be wrong.

It's not perfect, and certainly can't diagnose any illnesses, but can give me a warning when the milk is acting odd.

4. It's quick and easy to use.

When we lost the centerpiece to our old strainer, I was scouring the internet looking for other methods to straining. Let me tell you, if they work (some didn't) they can be a royal pain.


Trying to balance the coffee filter, or the mesh strainer, or the towel, or the cheesecloth over the container catching the milk is miserable at best. If it teeters off balance, you are cleaning milk off the world. If it falls, you are cleaning milk off the world. If you don't stand there and hold it, you are cleaning milk off the world.

Did I mention that the DIY solutions took approximately 10,000 times longer to strain the milk (than a real strainer), so not only are you babysitting the apparatus you just created, you are babysitting it forever.

I have other things to do.

5. It will make your life simpler.

If you're going to do this homesteader thing and milk your own cow (or goat or sheep) and make your own dairy products, cheese, lard, tallow, and food for a foreseeable amount of time, it makes sense to invest in the right products to make it as easy and simple as possible.

Homesteading is hard. It is a lot of work. It takes a lot of time to do these things by hand. If there is a tool available (like a strainer) that will streamline the process, make it easier on you, or get the job done faster, I think you should take advantage of it.

6. Easy clean-up.

Just stick the thing in the dishwasher and send it through a sanitize cycle. Done. Clean.

If you are milking something and need to strain milk every day, and you are using a homegrown concoction, you may want to consider a real strainer.

Milk strainer

I am sure there are even more reasons to justify purchasing the right milk strainer. I know it makes my life on this farm easier. I know that living four months without it was agony; it took me and one of my children to get the milk properly strained each day. I'm pretty sure neither of us wanted to be standing there watching the milk strain.

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Happy Milking!

Make & Can Your Own Pizza Sauce

Candi Johns


If you are like me, you have a couple of bushels of tomatoes in the garage waiting to become something. This sauce is a perfect way to use them up. The best part — no blanching, no peeling.

I don't want my pizza sauce to be spaghetti sauce. It is not chunky, lumpy, or full of green peppers and odd stuff.

Making pizza sauce

Pizza sauce is simple, smooth, spreadable, and not complicated. This pizza sauce is simple, and you're sure to love it.


• tomatoes
• onions & garlic
• olive oil
• fresh basil
• salt
• lemon juice (for cans)

It doesn't take a lot of fancy ingredients to make fabulous pizza sauce. I grow pretty much everything I eat, so this sauce is no exception. Almost everything in these jars came from my garden. Which brings me endless joy.

Homemade pizza

Homemade Pizza: handmade crust from fresh flour, fresh pizza sauce from the garden ... This will not last long!

I have made two batches of sauce this summer, and we are quickly inhaling the first batch. If I don't want to run out by next summer's harvest, I'm gonna need to keep making this.

Perfect, Simple, Homemade Pizza Sauce

First, let's prep the tomatoes.

The great thing about pizza sauce is that peeling your tomatoes is completely optional. I peeled my first batch. I left the peels on the tomatoes when I made my second batch. Guess what? I can't tell a difference. If anything, the batch with the peels is more appealing because it's more of a red color than orange. The taste is the same.

The reason peels don't matter in pizza sauce is because everything is going to get blasted with an immersion wand. I emulsify this into nothing but a thick, red-orange sauce. You will never know there was a peel in the pot.

Making pizza sauce

Begin by washing and removing the cores from the tomatoes.

Next, quarter your tomatoes & squeeze out most of the seeds and juice.

You really don't want to skip this step. If you make your pizza sauce with all that juice, then you will have some seriously watery sauce ... or you will have to cook your sauce for 6 hours to get rid of all the juice .. or you will have to add a can (or 10) of tomato paste to get it to be sauce.

You could use a food mill. If you are like me and do not have a food mill, you can just shove all the seeds out with your thumbs and toss the tomato meat/flesh into your giant sauce pot. No need to get EVERY seed out, but try to get most of them (they will make your sauce bitter). We're going to puree this with the wand, so the seeds will be turned to paste like everything else.

Go here to see how I can the juice.

Now, we have a giant pot of clean, quartered, de-juiced tomatoes.

Making pizza sauce

Wash your hands and dive in. Squish all the 'maters into mush. When all the big hunks are squashed into goop, move the sauce pot to the stove top and turn the heat to medium.

Go grab a cutting board — we need to chop the garlic and onions.

Making pizza sauce

Chop your garlic and onions and saute them in a hot skillet with the olive oil. Once the onions are clear, dump it all into the pot of tomatoes.

Add the three tablespoons of salt and bring it back to a simmer.

Making pizza sauce

This is the time to get out your immersion wand and go to work. Blend the contents until you have ... sauce. There will no longer be hunks of tomato, bits of onion, or pieces of garlic. It will be a wonderful, full-flavored sauce.

Now we add the basil!

We blended everything before adding the basil on purpose.

You do not want to blend the basil with an immersion wand, or anything else for that matter, or you will have green pizza sauce. It would taste the same but look like it died last year. To avoid green sauce, add the basil AFTER you blend everything else up.

Making pizza sauce

Wash fresh basil, remove stems, and chop into bits. Shove as many of the basil bits as you can possible get into a 1/2 measuring cup. You want lots of basil — it's wonderful. Toss the chopped basil into the sauce and continue to simmer.

Making pizza sauce

The sauce will have a red-orange color with pieces of fresh basil floating around and making everything fabulous. Taste your sauce; add more salt if needed. Cook until desired thickness (if you removed most of the juice, it won't take long).

Add one tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint jar. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars. Leave 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims clean and adjust two-piece lids. Process in boiling water bath for 35 minutes. Begin timing after water boils.

For a step-by-step guide on hot water bath canning go here.

Making pizza sauce

Now we just need to make some pizza crust, and we'll have dinner!

Homemade pizza for dinner (or lunch) is always a hit.

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Happy Canning!

Homemade Yeast Rolls

Candi JohnsBasic Yeast Dough - Slightly Sweet, Homemade, Easy

If you have always wanted to get started into bread-making, this is for you.

This is a detailed post that will walk you through all the "hows" as well as the "whys" that are often wondered when someone dives into the world of fresh-made dough.

You don't even need a bread machine! These will bake lovely in your oven.

This may be the most versatile, most-used recipe in my home. It is very basic yeast bread dough, with a bit of sweetness that can be used to make all sorts of baked goods.

Yeast bread

What I make with this dough:

• Buns — regular buns, hot dog buns, slider buns
• Pita bread
• Pizza crust
• Flour tortillas
• Pan-fried doughnuts (goodness gracious glory and beyond amazing)

All of these magnificent delicacies come from this one simple dough.

You may have noticed that "loaf bread" is not on this list. This particular dough isn't built for loaf pans. If you want to make the most glorious, soft loaves of bread in your kitchen, go here. Today I want to introduce you to the recipe and let you get your hands dirty!

Making homemade yeast breads is an art. I believe it is more of a skill or craft than it is a recipe.

I make all my yeast breads with freshly ground flour. It is so healthy and easy to do. Go here to learn four reasons to grind you own flour. Go here to see which mill I use and how to use it.

I only use fresh milled flour for this recipe. I have no idea what the end result would be if you used store-bought wheat flour. I would think it would be similar, but that stuff's not good for me so I'm not eating it.

Here's the recipe:

Slightly Sweet Bread Dough

• 1 cup very warm water
• 1/4 cup honey (real maple syrup works too)
• 1/2 cup butter (melted and warm)
• 1 cup very warm milk
• 1-1/2 tablespoon quick rise, active, dry yeast
• 2 eggs
• 2 teaspoon salt
• Around 6-7 cups fresh milled flour (add flour until dough begins to "clean" the sides of the mixing bowl)

Now, you can't just grab your bowl and start adding ingredients. Homemade yeast breads require order and process.

Things to know about yeast breads:

• Salt kills yeast — but there is salt and yeast in this recipe ... tricky.
• If your liquids are cold, your yeast won't activate.
• If your liquids are too hot, your yeast will die.
• If your liquids are very warm, your yeast will activate become foamy, bubbly, and make you a light, soft bread.
• If you add too much flour, your dough will be hard and your bread will be tough.
• If you add the right amount of flour, your dough will be sticky and your bread light and fluffy.

See, I told you yeast breads are crafts.

Don't fret — I've been making this stuff for years and years. You can do it too.

Another tricky thing about homemade yeast breads:

There is no "correct measurement" for the flour in this recipe. That's why the recipe says "around 6 cups of flour." It is going to be different nearly every time you make it.

Many factors will effect what is the "right" amount of flour to add to your bread dough. Some include: humidity, sea level, time of year and temperature in your home. The amount of flour I use for this recipe varies depending on the time of year. Sorry. You can't just add the same amount of flour every time and get the same result. You're gonna need to watch your dough, look at the sides of the mixing bowl, and know when it is done.

You can do this!

Let's start at the beginning. So you don't get overwhelmed, here's a quick overview of what we are going to do:

1. Put warm wet ingredients into mixer with yeast and let the yeast activate.
2. Add eggs, flour and salt.
3. Knead for 5 minutes.
4. Let rest.
5. Shape into buns and bake!

First, grab your mixer and insert the dough hook. You can use a Kitchen Aid if you have the big one. Don't ask me which one that is; I just know that some Kitchen Aids can handle bread dough and others can’t. The mixer I use is this one. It is amazing. It can knead and handle enough dough to make over 10 loaves of bread at once!

You want the water, honey, butter, and milk to all be very warm when they go into the mixer. This will do 2 things:

1. Encourage the yeast to activate.

2. Create a "warm" dough. The dough will stay warm throughout the kneading/rising/punching/working. Warm dough rises better and faster. Warm dough is easier to work with. Warm dough will lift and give you soft bread products.

Add the (very warm) water, honey, melted (warm) butter, (very warm) milk and yeast to the mixer. Turn the mixer on for a few seconds, just to mix everything. Cover and let this sit for 10-15 minutes so your yeast can activate.

Bread dough 

If you are grinding your own flour, this is the time to do it! While the yeast is doing its thing, go grab some wheat berries and dump them in the hopper of the mill. Turn the mill on to the finest setting (I want powdery flour, not gritty) and grind up the flour.

If you are using flour from a supermarket, you get to skip the milling.

At this point, the yeast should be done activating.

First, I'm gonna mix in the eggs. Drop them into the mixing bowl and give it a spin.

Then it's time to begin adding the flour. Add half the flour (3 cups), mix for a few seconds, and then add your salt. This will prevent your salt from killing your newly activated yeast.

Bread dough 

Now that the salt is in, let's add the rest of the flour.

Bread dough

Add one cup at a time, mixing after each cup so you can see the consistency of your dough. When you get close to the 6 cup mark, begin to pay attention to the sides of your mixing bowl. Sprinkle in the flour slowly and watch what is happening to the dough. I leave my mixer running on low as I sprinkle in flour.

When is the dough "right?"

Here is what you want to see in your mixing bowl:

• It is perfect when the dough begins to "clean the sides" or "pull away" from the sides of the mixing bowl as it's kneaded.
• You want the dough to be sticky to the touch, but not stuck to the sides of the bowl.
• When the mixer is turned off, you want the dough to relax back into the bowl.
• You do not want your dough to be hard or firm (hard dough makes very dense, tough bread)

The beautiful thing about electric mixers kneading dough for you is that they don't care how sticky the dough is. Mixers can knead the stickiest dough. The stickier the dough, the softer your bread will be.

The goal is to leave the dough as sticky as possible (so the bread will be soft) but not too gooey (or you won't be able to form any loaves/pitas/etc). It's a delicate balance.

Once the dough is the right consistency, set your mixer on medium and let it knead your dough for 5 minutes.

Bread maker

Alright - we've got it. Now, remove the dough hook and cover the bowl with a towel so it can rest. I don't let this rise until it doubles in size. I just let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

Thoughts on rising:

Some people let their dough rise until it doubles, punch it down, knead it again, and then mold it into buns or shove it into a loaf pan and then let it rise again.

Two rises:
• The first in the mixing bowl cover by a towel.
• The second rise happens on or in a pan before baking (covered by thin towel or plastic wrap).

This is absolutely fine and your bread will be fabulous. But you don't have to let it rise twice. If you don't feel like doing two rises, you don't have to. You can finish mixing your dough, shape it into buns, let the buns rise on the pan, and bake them.

Why do people let their bread rise twice if it's not necessary?

Flavor. I think two rises allows the yeast to further develop and spread, and the result is a more flavorful bread. But I think the bread tastes great with one rise. I don't like extremely yeasty bread.

After the 15-minute res,t it's time to get our hands into that dough. If you have children, they will all love this. It's like Play-Doh.

You can make so many baked goods with this recipe, but today I'm going to make slider buns.

Rising bread

First we need to "punch down" the dough so we can shape it and let it rise in our pan.

Bread dough

Work your way around the dough and punch it all down with your fist.

Now we can shape some buns. For hamburger buns you want your dough to be ball shaped. For hot dog buns, just shape them into an oval.

Bread dough

You want to stretch the dough around itself and pinch it off at the bottom, creating a nice smooth top. Be careful not to stretch your dough too far, if you over-stretch it, the yeast will tear.

Now, do that 30 more times!

Cover the cute dough balls in some plastic wrap and allow to rise until they double in size. I use plastic instead of a towel at this point for 2 reasons:

• I can see the dough through the plastic
• The plastic is lighter and won't squash my buns.

It should take 20-30 minutes (depending on the temperature in your kitchen) for your buns to double in size.

When they have doubled, remove the plastic and place in a 340 degree oven. Bake 30 minutes.

For best results, bake all your dough today. You can cover it and put it in a refrigerator for use later, but beware, the yeast will continue to grow and multiply. The longer this dough hangs around without being baked, the "yeastier" it will get. I don't like super yeasty breads, so I bake all my dough the day I make it.

If you don't want to bake all of your dough, and you like yeast, you can put any remaining dough into a large, airtight container and store in the refrigerator to use later.

Here are some other great baked goods you can make with this dough today. Just click on the link to go to the recipe:

Homemade Pizza Crust
Pan Fried Doughnuts

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Happy Baking!

My Cow Just Calved! Now What?

Candi JohnsIt is an exciting time when you welcome your first calf to your homestead or farm. It can also be confusing and stressful. Here are some things you can expect and how we handle them around here.

Please contact your vet if your cow needs medical attention. I am not a vet and not qualified to diagnose or treat any medical issues. This article is intended for informational purposes only. These are some generalizations as to what you may be able to expect the first week after your cow calves. Your particular case may require a professional — please don't hesitate to call the vet.


By far, the most asked questions on my blog come from folks dealing with a cow who just had a calf ... also know as "became fresh" ... also know as just gave birth.

The first week is a tricky one filled with shock, surprises and sometimes panic.

I have been through this whole "first week" thing several times with several cows and no longer panic at the sight of an udder about to burst open. Or the fact that my hands, and even the electric milk pump, are powerless against the explosive characteristics of a newly enlightened udder.

If you're in the throws of your first week, here's a few things we have come to expect, and how we have managed to muddle through.

First things First

Congratulations! If you have a healthy heifer or bull-calf on the ground, it's time to celebrate. We are so blessed to experience this birth of new life on our homesteads. It is an amazing and wonderful thing.

• The first few minutes after our cows give birth, it's perfectly normal for them to just lay there. Don't panic if they need some time to catch their breath before attending to the new, slimy puppy on the ground.

• Once she's up, Mama should begin licking and nudging on her new little bundle of joy. We have had to smear molasses on a calf to get one of our mamas to get with the program and start loving her new baby (he was adopted); however, if the mom gave birth to the calf, it should all happen naturally. Most websites will tell you that you want the new calf up and nursing in the first hour. Our vet is a bit more relaxed and likes to see them nursing in a few hours. We have had calves who only had meals when no one was around. This can be stressful because you never see the calf on the udder. We have a trick we use to see if our calves are eating. We smear a bit of molasses on mama's teats. Pure molasses is dark, dark brown. When the calf suckles he cleans those teats. I can come out to the field & if mama's teats are clean - I know the calf is eating. If you need to tie up mama and help the little guy or gal out, do so, just be careful.

• It shouldn't take long for the calf to stand up, and fall down, and stand up, and fall down, and finally stand up and stay up. Hang on, he's getting there.

• Once the calf is up, it should wobble it's way to the udder. Ours usually land around the brisket for a bit in search of food, but eventually make it to the south side of the cow where the goods are.

• Afterbirth buffet. If you want to throw up — watch your cow eat her afterbirth. DH almost lost his dinner at the sight of it. There are all sorts of good things in that glob of squid that just came out the back of the cow. Don't remove it from her field. Don't take it from her. Don't yank it out of her mouth. She needs to eat it. Gag.

FYI, there are situations where you may not want your cow to eat the afterbirth:

1. If your cow had a miscarriage.

2. If she was sick.

3. Or there is a reason to believe there could be some infection or problem in the afterbirth.

Some folks have differing opinions on the afterbirth-buffet, so talk to your vet to see what he/she recommends ... ours is all for letting the cows partake in the glob.

If your cow needs to abstain from eating her afterbirth for whatever reason, bag the squid and get it far away from the field. It's probably best to just throw it in the trash. If you toss it in the woods, it could bring in coyotes (or something else). Coyotes have been known to kill and eat calves. I don't want to draw any critters near my new baby cow, so in the trash it goes.

Whew! Now the excitement is past. The calf is on the ground. The baby girl (or boy) learned how to stand, walk, and bounce. The calf has found the promised land — the udder — and is slurping like a champ. The mama and baby are doing fine.

Cow and calf

Before you start making butter and cheese and yogurt and ice-cream, you must survive a couple more hurdles.

Some things to expect the first week:

• The milk is not milk.
• The udder is not working.
• The cow is going to explode.
• My cow is defective.

HELP! What is going on with my milk cow?


ONE — Engorgement

If your cow just calved and her udder is huge and hard as a rock and milking her isn't alleviating the situation — don't freak out. This has been normal for me every time.

Whether you are milking by hand or by machine, if your cow is in the "engorgement phase" then there's not much that can be done. It's like the milk is stuck in there.

This has happened with all of my cows. The first few days after that calf is born, my cow's udder is so engorged she can hardly walk. Not only is her udder about to pop, there is no way to deflate the monster. Hand-milking is futile. Electric milk pumps do nothing. That milk is happy to be there and doesn't seem to want to leave.

Don't panic.

Here's what I do:

I don't milk on the day the calf is born. For the first 24-36 hours, I just let my new pair bond and hang and I let the baby have all the colostrum. Mama has been through a lot and I'm gonna let her have the day off. I can't say if this is right or wrong, but it's how we have always done it.

After a day of bonding with her new little one, our cows are fully engorged and ready to meet (or be reunited with) the milker.

This is the milking season. Regardless if you are a share-milker, a once-a-day-milker, or a keep-the-calf-with-the-cow milker, the first few months after your cow calves you are probably going to be milking every day. Why?

1. To keep an eye on the udder, the milk, the cow, and the calf, and to make sure everyone is healthy and doing well.

2. Most calves can't drink the amount of milk that a milk cow produces until they are older; someone has to get that milk out of the udder, so you don't have other issues (like mastitis).

3. If your calf does drink all the milk your cow produces, you could have some new problems to deal with, like scours.

4. Most calves around here don't realize there are 4 teats until they are 3 months old ... so my poor cows would spend 3 months walking around with one enormously inflated, completely ignored quarter if I didn't do something about it. You must empty the neglected quarter at least once a day, or get another calf to put on the udder so none of the teats are forgotten.

Daily milking is your life now. At least for a bit.

So, each morning I bring my milk cow into the barn and milk her. If evenings are better for you, you can milk then. The time isn't as important as being consistent. If there's one quarter (or 2) that the calf is neglecting, you want to be faithful to remove all the milk every 24 hours at roughly the same time of day. If your cow seems particularly engorged and uncomfortable, you can milk her more often.

WARNING: Although you may want to milk her like crazy and relieve her from her giant udder problem — don't do it.

Milking cow

Those first few days that I milk my cow, I am not trying to "milk her out." I am just trying to relieve some of the pressure. If you were to milk her completely out, you could cause her to go into milk fever. When you milk, only remove about a pint from each quarter and leave the rest.

This way you are not depleting her body of calcium (calcium deficiency is the trigger for milk fever) and you are leaving plenty of colostrum for the calf.

Even if I only get 1/2 a cup of milk, I still go through the process. You will be doing several things:

• Teaching her where the milk barn is and that she needs to come there.
• You will be able to keep a close eye on her udder to look for changes, inflammation, etc.
• You will have an opportunity to see how the milk looks (color, texture, etc).
• She will be getting a nice serving of grain each day while you milk her (which I feel is important especially when they are fresh.)
• You will begin training her udder to respond to you milking her (by hand or pump), so her milk will begin to "let down."
• You will be able to check her condition closely. Wobbly? Shaky? Fever?

On day 4, you should see some changes. This is the point when our cow's udders become softer, they respond well to milking, and will be flaccid after milking. You may also notice a decrease in the size of the udder.

TWO - Milk Fever

I had a cow who fought some battles with milk fever. It is dangerous and can lead to death, so please be aware that this is a real threat.

What is milk fever? Milk fever is the (cow's) body's response to an extreme lack of calcium. It takes a lot of calcium from your cow's body to make milk. When a cow first goes into production, this calcium strain on her body can cause her blood calcium levels to plummet. When those levels are depleted, it causes milk fever.

Some things that increase your risk of milk fever:

• Cows who are bred for production & make an extreme amount of milk.
• Jersey Cows older than 5-6 years who have had several calves.
• Cows who are not on a good mineral program.
• Cows who have had milk fever in the past.

Be watchful — milk fever is not picky. It can effect us all.

If it is caught early, milk fever is usually treatable by IV or calcium tube. If you have a cow with a history of milk fever, you may want to talk to your vet about administering a calcium tube (or 2) for prevention.

Milk fever is usually easy to spot. Your cow will be wobbly, shaky, or seem unstable.

If you suspect milk fever or have a history of it, remember not to fully milk out your cow during those first few days. If you were to empty her udder of all that milk, you could be taking too much of the calcium from her body. These first few days, only take a pint from each quarter (a couple times a day if necessary). Leave the rest so you don't reduce her blood calcium levels too much.

THREE - Colostrum

The first milk may be pink, orange, peach or yellow. This is colostrum.

Yellow space
Fresh colostrum

The colostrum is the first milk and is full of great things, including antibodies and other healthy stuff a baby cow needs to grow into cattle.

I usually save some colostrum and freeze it. It is a miracle food that can be used for other things and other animals on the farm in the future. Having some frozen colostrum is never a bad thing.

The milk will slowly change from deep orange to light orange to beautiful, creamy milk. It generally takes a week before the colostrum is over and you have some normal-colored milk. All cows are different, so just watch your milk.

FOUR - What Barn?

If you are training a heifer, she may have never set foot in the milk barn. She doesn't know what it is, why it's there, or why she should go in it.

If you are milking a cow that you have milked for 3 years in that barn, she may not go in the milk barn either.

Even if you have milked the same cow for 3 years in the same place on the same farm tied to the same wall ... she may not remember where the dang milk-barn is.


How could she forget?

The break.

When a cow has had a calf she is "fresh." This means that she is making milk. The standard routine is to "breed her back" when the calf is 2-3 months old. This schedules her to have a calf every year at about the same time.

When you are milking a cow who is pregnant, it is important (we feel) that she get a break from milking before she delivers the calf.

This break from making milk is good for her and her unborn calf. It allows her body to rest and focus on growing a baby. It also helps reduce the onslaught of some illnesses due to overproduction. I do know that there are people who milk right through and don't break, but we have always given our cows a 3-4 month break before they give birth.

Since they haven't been in the milk barn in 4 months, they sometimes don't recall that they should go back in.


This is easily corrected with a bucket of grain. If the food isn't working, there is a never-fail solution: pick up the calf and carry him/her to the milk barn. It works every time. Mama will follow that calf wherever you take it.

As soon as the first milking is in the bag, our cows usually come bounding for the barn every time they hear a human. If you have a heifer who has never been milked it could take her a week or longer to get the routine — but don't worry. She will get it. Before long you will be frustrated because you can't get her out of the milk barn.

FIVE — Mastitis

If your milk is weird, not straining, salty or orange, it does not necessarily mean she has mastitis. Especially the first week.

I'm pretty sure all my cows would fail a CMT (California Mastitis Test) the first week after they give birth. The milk is going through so many changes. The udder is just coming back into full production. Things are gearing up and getting flowing. I wouldn't even waste my time or money with a CMT that first week. By the time you order it, buy it, or administer it, the milking issues will probably have cleared up.

Expect weird milk that first week (or two). Mine goes through 5 stages:

• orange/pink/peach colostrum
• yellow and thick
• normal looking — but takes forever to strain
• normal looking — straining great — but not really normal tasting
• sweet milk — praise the Lord!

If your calf is 2 weeks old and your milk looks like milk, with a beautiful cream line and all things jersey ... it still may not be normal milk. It may be Gatorade.

Trinka's milk was salty. Her cream was salty. Her milk had problems.

Fresh milk

Turns out this can be normal.

Two weeks into milking, even though the colostrum was gone, the milk was still not normal.

Once the colostrum yellow, thick phases are over, the milk turns into a salty version of normal. I was told that this is due to all the electrolytes in it. It's just one more step to make sure that baby cow gets everything it needs for a lifetime of health. It's like Gatorade for baby cows.

The salty milk/Gatorade phase can last from 2-4 weeks. Around here, it's over in 2 weeks. There is no "gradual transition" into sweet milk. It happens overnight. You'll just take a swig one day and say, "Hey, it's milk! It's not salty anymore. Go get the ice-cream maker!"

SIX — Where's the Butter?

About the time your milk isn't salty anymore, your mama cow will probably have figured out how to "hold up" her milk. This means that she will let down all the milk for you to drink, but may hold up all the cream for the baby out in the pasture. Ugh.

Cow and calf

When you milk a cow, the first thing to come out is the milk. It's sweet. It's thin. It has little fat. At the end of milking, the last milk to come out is the cream. It's thick. It's rich. It has more fat. It's butter. It's ice cream. It's the gold.

Getting the cream out of a cow who knows there is a hungry calf in the field waiting is doing something. We have this one figured out ... Go here to see how we do it.

Basically, I only milk three of my cow's teats. The last teat cup gets a plug shoved in it. This leaves one teat open and available for the baby cow to suckle. When mama feels that baby on her teat, she will give up the goods. When she lets down the cream, it comes down from all four teats (three of which are connected to your milker).

You could also do this by hand. Just let the baby cow suckle off one side of the cow while you milk from the other.

Does this net me less milk? Probably, yes ... but I would rather sacrifice the milk in one of the quarters in order to get the cream.

SEVEN — Scours

Watch your baby cow for scours. If you've ever bottle fed a calf, then you will know that a calf does not need that much milk. Many dairy calves will eat themselves literally to death. They just don't know when to stop.

Cow and calf

Calf scours is a dangerous sickness that can be caused by simply overeating.

To check for scours, just look at your baby's cows backside and the state of their manure. A calf with scours may have runny poop, a raw backside, a bald backside, and/or a fever. It can be treated. Please call your vet if you suspect scours.

Your vet will be able to prescribe some meds and/or advice to help get your little one the help they need.

EIGHT — Where's the Milk?

At about 8 weeks old, your baby calf is going to get quite the appetite. Not only will he or she be able to go longer between feedings, they also may be able to consume an unbelievable amount of milk. Maybe even all the milk your mama cow is making (especially if she is a heifer or a low producer).

The good news is that since the little guy isn't quite so little anymore, you can begin to separate mama and baby for some periods of time so you can get more milk. Don't worry about taking the milk from the little one; many calf-raising folks wean their calves completely off milk at this age and provide other food.

I don't want to completely wean my calf because I want the help with the milking.

As long as I have a nursing calf, I can take days off milking. I can take weekends off milking. I just let the calf do the milking for me.

At the same time, I want some milk too, so a little separation is going to be a win-win.

To read all about how we separate our calves from the mama, go here.

I'm hoping this provides some encouragement and support for anyone surviving through that first week. If you've experienced something in the first week that I am forgetting — please share in the comments below.

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Happy Milking Everyone!

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