Tag Archives: milk

Bucket of Milk in My Face, Big Disgrace, Kickin My Cans All Over the Place

Have you ever had one of “those” mornings?  The ones that seem to start out ok, but early on there is an event where you think to yourself, “self, this might be a hard day”?  Today was one of those days for me.  Nothing like the beautiful title picture that makes me long for that morning last week.

Today started out great.  Got a good night’s sleep.  Felt rested when I got up to milk.  Everyone but my wife was still asleep when I left the house heading for milking chores.  Things were looking good.

My first four steps… still going in the right direction.  Now let me interject here and let you all know that we have been getting rain the last couple days, lots of rain.  And not the rain that brings May flowers.  The kind of rain that brings frozen roads, driveways, and front steps.  The front steps are where I started to have an inkling in might be one of those days.  I very nearly bit it on that top step, I caught myself, but just barely.  I honestly thought to myself, “ok, you caught yourself, you now know it’s icy, you’re good.”

So I shuffled to the barn and got my milking supplies.  On the way from the barn to the cow, even the yard was icy.  I shuffled my way down to the gate and opened the gate.  Prudence, who normally meets me AT the gate, peeked her head out the tarp wall as if to say, “I’m not coming out there.”  Nice.

Our water drains through the pasture down into a swale.  As we have been having melting, thawing, and freezing rain, the part between the gate and the animal shelter/milking parlor is more or less an ice skating rink.  I didn’t bring my skates.

After nearly biting it two or three more times, I made it to the relative safety of the milking parlor.  “Not too shabby,” I thought to myself, “balance like a cat.”

During milking Prudence was a little more fidgety than normal.  On a regular day Bullseye will vacate the milking parlor knowing that he doesn’t get any grain and I prefer he leave so as not to bother Prudence.  He wasn’t interested in going out in the rain so he stayed.

Throughout milking the rain seemed to continue to come down harder and harder.  When I was just about done, Prudence decided she was done as well, and decided to relieve herself.  Bombs away!  Right into the water which was now flowing at a steady pace through the shelter, and splashed poopy rainwater everywhere.

I was hoping that by the time I finished there would be a slight break.  Unfortunately, as I finished, the rain began to beat on the steel roof.  I hung out with the cows for a few minutes longer, and then finally, the break I was looking for.  Just as I was heading out the door, lightning and thunder, which unnerved the cows further.  After skating back to the gate with my catlike reflexes(wink wink) I thought I was home free.

It was on the way to give the pigs the milk that I was greeted with the reality that I neither have catlike reflexes nor was I home free.  I stepped on the slight slope that is between the gate and the pigs, and my foot lost grip.  As I plummeted to the ground the bucket of milk hit the earth first, right next to my head, and an explosion of milk erupted all over my face and upper torso.  It was sweet if you are wondering.

After picking myself up, injury free but knowing I need to work on those reflexes, I headed to the hydrant to rinse out the bucket.  Wet, milky, and defeated, I shuffled to the house.

While aiding my pregnant wife to her car we managed to only almost fall twice.  Fortunately she made it safely to work, the milky clothes made it to the washer, and I am now clean and conversing with you.  All before 7:30.

Now that I have had time to write down the morning’s events, I can see how they might be humorous to others.  So if you have a story like this, that you can now laugh about, share it in the comments below.  I’d love to laugh along with you.

If you are still reading this, if you haven’t already, please consider checking out my YouTube page by clicking on the previous link.  It’s a lot of the same types of things you read and see here, but you get to put a voice and face to the words.  Maybe that’s not such a good thing… well check it out anyways.  I’d really appreciate if you like what you see, if you’d consider subscribing or liking a video.

Have a wonderful rest of your day, I’m going to.  Until next time.

Huge Farming Operation

The other day we had an opportunity to visit with one of my wife’s co-workers and her husband.  They live just up the street from where my wife and I lived not long after we got married so it was fun to drive past there and show the kids.

They have a beautiful new house tucked back in the woods on 16 acres, it is idyllic.  We were able to have dinner and visit for awhile which is always great.  The kids even got to play some pool and meet their grand kids and play with them for awhile.

One of the main reasons for our visit was that they wanted to show us my wife’s coworker’s uncles farming operation.  It was just a few minutes away, and quite impressive.  I am repeating any stats from memory so forgive me if I get them wrong.

They have a large milking operation milking over 3,000 Holstein cows, which they milk pretty much 24 hours a day.  They have about 3,500 of their own acres that they farm, and then lease that many more which to my mind is an amazing undertaking.

We were able to see the milking parlor briefly, and the amount of automation that goes into that is a sight to see.  The stanchions for feeding the cows while they get milking are all automated and raise up when the cow is done milking, allowing the cow to leave the milking parlor.

In the barns where the cows spend a lot of their time, the cows each have their own waterbed for laying on to rest.  Apparently it helps in their digestion.

The kids were then able to see some of the calves in one of their calf barns.  When you have an operation as big as theirs, calves are being born just about every day, and sure enough we saw a calf that was born that morning.  It reminded me of last spring when we bought five steer calves to raise.

The last stop on the tour was the swimming/fishing pond and what I will call the party barn.  They have created an amazing spot for their family to have get togethers and visit.  They have the swimming pond, to which they added a zip line, water slide made out of plastic culvert pipe, and a couple swings that swing out over the pond.  They also have a sand beach volleyball pit and a soccer field.  The party barn was a big open, very nice barn that had bathrooms and plenty of space for the family to gather.  They have a set up that I am envious of, and someday hope to have similar.

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It was a very impressive operation, and I was honored to have it been shared with our family.  I can’t imagine trying to manage that amount of property, animals, or chores.  Honestly, it’s not something I personally would be interested in, but it is very cool to see.  I’m more of a, couple of cows, pigs, chickens, etc on as much grass and pasture as possible but we need some of each to make the world go round.

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Big Addition

We have a new addition to the Homestead.  It is a big addition.  Like 1100 pounds big.  But let me back up one second.

My brother in law has always wanted beef cows.  Recently he found a good deal on some bred Herefords, so he got two of them.  I happened to ask if the guy who was selling them had any other breeds, and sure enough he did.  He had a couple Belted Galloway crosses.  They were half Beltie half shorthorn, so a good smaller beef cow.  I have always liked the Belted Galloway, and despite their relative rarity, we have several farms around here that have them.  I was interested.

After looking at the Craigslist ad, and getting the green light from my wife, I called the gentleman to see if the cow who’s belt was solid, was still available.  She was, so I made the trip up to his place with my brother in law’s trailer.

   
   
All that to say we now have a full sized cow on the farm.  She has been here for a little over 24 hours and seems to be settling down a bit.  The gentleman we got her from called her Oreo, which is a little generic since that is the breed nickname, but that is the name with which we are going to stay.  Oreo had never seen sheep before, so she was very anxious when she arrived.  I let her stay in the trailer for a bit scoping things out, but she was still on edge when she was out.

The sheep for their part were just curious about this new, huge creature released into the pasture.  She wasn’t interested in being friends with the wooly sheep, and mock charged them several times.  That promptly ended the sheep’s curiosity.  I entered the pasture to try and calm her down and make sure she saw the hay bale.  She wasn’t interested in being friends with me either, and mock charged me.  Needless to say the rate at which my heart was beating increases significantly.

   
    
    
 Most of the night she was restless.  Her calf had been weaned a few days ago but the gentleman didn’t realize she started nursing another calf when hers was taken away.  The good news about this is that she has strong maternal instincts.  The less great news is that she is bellowing for her calf, and it had me seriously worried she would try to leave the pasture to find him.  Fortunately she is still here today.  And she seems much calmer.  Yesterday she was curious about the steer calf we have here, but I think after he saw her mock charge the sheep he wanted nothing to do with her.  Today they seem to have made friends, laying near each other and he seems at ease with her.

She has been exposed to an Angus bull, so in the spring we will hopefully have a 1/4 Beltie, 1/4 shorthorn, and 1/2 Angus calf to raise for meat.  My plan is to work with her over the winter and get her used to being handled so that I can see if she will make into a milking cow.  If not, I will start upbreeding her with beltie and continue to get a higher percentage Belted Galloway cows.  Either way, we will have a good beef breed, and at only four years old, I could feasibly get another 14 calves from her.

The adventure continues.

A Very Eventful Day

Yesterday was busy, but in a good way.  First on the agenda was picking up our raw milk.  On the way home I noticed someone had put out a seed tray in the garbage along with a worn down snow shovel.  I will take the snow blade off and keep the handle as a spare but the real score was the D handle on the end of the handle shaft.  I love adding those to shovels to add extra control.

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On Wednesday I had won an auction for a kicker wagon and yesterday was pickup day for said auction.  I like to drive different roads when possible to see different areas around us.  On my way to pick up the wagon I took a way I seldom drive and noticed a dairy farm that I had never noticed before.  I decided to drive by the front and see if there was a sign so I could call, and maybe ask about bottle calves.  Unfortunately there was no sign, so I turned around and headed for the wagon.  Just as I was turning a tractor pulled out of the farm in front of me, so I flagged it down and talked to the man driving.  He told me to come to the farm later that day and talk to his sister, who runs the farm, and she might be able to help me out.  Fast forward to that afternoon, she had several month old calves who are already castrated, dehorned, and bucket trained.  To recap, they are three weeks older than what I had been looking at with a bottle calve, all the work is done, and bucket feeding is easier than bottle feeding.  So maybe we will be getting some cows sooner rather than later.  The woman who runs the farm was extremely nice.  She let my kids walk around and pet the calves, they even had a heifer calf born that morning that the kids could pet.  And they got to see the milking parlor with all the cows hooked up.

Rewind to the morning, I picked up the wagon without any problem.  A kicker wagon is a wagon that trails behind a hay baler and has hay bales thrown into it by a kicker on the baler.  As such it has sides on it and is large.  The trailer is 8’x16′ with sides over six feet tall.  A perfect mobile chicken coop if you ask me, and that is what I plan to use it for.

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The wagon
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They didn’t even charge me extra for all that hay
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Sorry about giving you all the finger

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Late afternoon found me helping my brother in law load arena panels onto a trailer for transport this weekend.  Arena panels are significantly heavier than the tube type panels you can buy at Tractor Supply or the like, so I didn’t need to work out last night.

I topped off the day with a meeting at church with good friends.  When I got home everyone was pretty much asleep and I was greeted with this sunset.  I find myself taking pictures of our sunsets quite often, probably a sign that I am more than happy with where we are living.

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Blessed

Moooooooooo!

Is what the cow says. On Saturday I had the opportunity to learn how to milk a cow and a goat. It was actually a class that covered all things home dairy. A nearby farm, Firesign Family Farm, offers classes on all sorts of self-sufficiency/homestead/farm type things. We talked about fencing requirements for both goats and cows. We also talked about pasture and food requirements, handling, milking stations, routine, and health care. There were twelve of us, including a friend of mine who I was able to to convince to join me, in the class and anyone who wanted was able to trim the goat’s hooves and milk bot a goat and cow.

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The cows waiting to come in for milking

Going into the class I was very interested in goat milking. With goats being smaller and more manageable, I thought, and also producing far less milk I wanted to know if that would be an option that would ever appeal to me.  One thing that should be obvious about goats, and I guess I had never really thought about, was that their udders are much smaller than a cows. Stands to reason that a smaller animal would have smaller udders, but if you don’t think about milking much, it’s not something you ruminate on. While I didn’t have any problem milking the goats, I pretty much used only my thumb and first finger. Not a big deal. We then got to taste both fresh warm and cold goat’s milk. I had never had goat’s milk before but had heard about how “gamey” it tastes. I was surprised that it didn’t taste that much different than cow’s milk. There was a slight difference, but nothing off putting at all.

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Then we moved on to her jersey cow. There is something about cows. Maybe it was watching city slickers when I was young and growing attached to Norman, but those big brown eyes just get to you. I knew as soon as we brought the cows in, if I was going to be milking something it would have to be a cow. As I said, they milk Jersey cows at Firesign. They can supply up to six gallons of milk a day! Even if you share half with the calf that’s still three gallons a day. That is a lot of milk drinking, cheese making, ice cream making, etc. and I am not interested in starting a herd share program at this point so that was something to think about.

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Seriously, how can you not like cows?

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Filtering the milk

 

Milking the cow seemed easier. I don’t know if it was the size of the udders, or my attitude about the animal, but it was a lot of fun. We then got to try fresh warm milk, and cold which we drink as a family anyway.

The class was great. Ruth was a lot of fun, and a fount of information. I will definitely be going back for more classes which are listed here.

Upon getting home I started doing some research on a cow breed that I have looked up before, the Dexter. Dexter cows are a much smaller breed, and thus produce less milk. More along the lines of one to three gallons a day. Splitting that with a calf now sounds more reasonable. Dexter are also considered a triple threat cattle breed. Not only do they provide milk, but they are a good meat breed as well. The third threat is that they can be draft animals. All I can think about now is how awesome it would be to have a fall party hay ride on a wagon pulled by Dexter cows.

This gives me one more thing to think about. It would be really fun to be able to produce our own milk and cheese from right here on the homestead. I know milking is a chore, but with only one to milk it may be manageable. I have also heard about leaving the calf and heifer together if you want to go on vacation so the calf takes care of the milking while you are on vacation. It isn’t anything I am going to do this winter, unless I run into a smoking deal, but something to think about for the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberry Muffins

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Our blueberry muffin recipe is a family recipe.  I am not sure how many generations, but at least my grandma, and I believe my great grandmother.  It is a really good recipe for blueberry muffins and I have been known to eat a half dozen hot out of the oven blueberry muffins on occasion, they are that good.  In fact, I couldn’t blog about them without having one, so I chew while I type, I am multi-tasking(now I have to save the rest for brunch).  For mother’s day brunch my wife asked me to make them, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to blog the recipe as well.  So here it is…

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 can blueberries (I use the berries in light syrup or pie filling)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 4 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1.2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp. oil

Sprinkle some of the flour over drained berries.  Sift remaining flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Beat egg one minute until very light.  Add milk and oil.  Combine wet and dry, mixing just long enough to hold together.  Fold in blueberries.  Bake 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees.  Makes twelve muffins.

I hope your family enjoys these as much as mine does.

Barn-Hop

 

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Self-Sufficiency Book Review

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Self-Sufficiency is another book I checked out from the library when I just happened upon it when I was browsing through the shelves.  This book is edited by Abigail R. Gehring and published by Skyhorse Publishing.  This is a big book, coming in at over 440 pages.  I will be perfectly honest in telling you that I didn’t read this book, every page, cover to cover.  It is a great resource in which you can go to the table of contents or index and find exactly what you are looking for quickly.  It is separated into six chapters followed by two appendices.

One of the cool things that this book does is it has boxes interspersed throughout all of the chapters for “junior homesteaders” and “homeschool hints”.  These are ideas to keep your kids involved in the idea of homesteading.  A few examples are creating a mini greenhouse out of a milk jug, making bread in a bag, or building a treehouse.  For the homeschool hints they have ideas for several science type experiments.  I thought these were pretty cool ideas.

The first chapter is The Family Garden.  This chapter talks about using vegetables to make tepees and tunnels for kids to get involved in the garden.  As most other books on gardening it talks about the decision on what kinds of vegetables you will want to plant, and where you want to locate your garden.  It also touches on soil quality and how you can improve upon what you already have as well as conserving water using things like rain barrels(and how to build your own).  It talks about what organic gardening is and whether or not you should try to garden organically.  There are also instructions on how to use hoophouses or cold frames to increase your growing season.  They then leave the topic of vegetables and talk about growing fruits and grains.  It talks about different types of gardens, such as container gardening, raised garden beds, roof gardens, and hydroponic gardens.  The last thing the book talks about in this section is farmers markets and how you can buy or sell at them.

The next section is the Country Kitchen.  There are extensive recipes in this chapter, all of which look really good including recipes for baking bread and all sorts of dessert recipes.  There are also instructions on how to mill your own grain, and the equipment you will need in order to do so.  Included in this chapter are reasons to eat organically, and eat locally if you don’t produce your food yourself, all of which I agree with and make sense to me.  There is then a section on wild edibles and how and where to find them, including berries and mushrooms.  As any responsible book would do, they suggest making sure you know what you are eating before you do and if you aren’t sure to find someone who is knowledgeable in that type of wild edible for safety’s sake.  There are then instructions and recipes for making sausage, butter, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and your own root beer.  To say that this chapter is packed full of useful information would be an understatement.

The next chapter covers the topic of canning and preserving your harvest.  What I liked about this section is that it had extremely detailed instructions so that even if you have never canned, like me, you would have enough information to feel comfortable that you could do it safely.  There were charts for the length of time each individual food needed to be heated for, the temperature, and then instructions for hot or cold pack canning.  I was extremely impressed, in fact I thought this chapter contained more usable information than other books that I have read whose sole subject was canning.

The next chapter pertained to Country Crafts to which I will admit to glossing over.  The chapter is organized by seasons, so each season had appropriate crafts.  These crafts included wreaths, blown eggs, hammock making, making berry ink and feather quills, homemade potpourri, making a sundial in the snow, candles, soap, and rag rugs.  Even though I didn’t read instructions for each individual craft, they looked to be extremely detailed and would be easy to find again if I decided I wanted to try some.

Now we get to my favorite chapter, The Barnyard.  Don’t get me wrong I liked the gardening section, but I think gardening is something I feel like I am going to have to do.  Barnyard stuff is the stuff I like to do.  I am not going to get into details on this chapter except to say that there are instructions on how to keep chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, horses, beekeeping, goats, sheep, llamas, cows, and pigs.  The book talks about different housing needs, different breeds, and feed requirements.  At the end of the chapter there are instructions on butchering.  I would say that this chapter is a good introduction to all of those types of animals.  If you read this chapter and think that you are interested in raising on type, I would suggest you find another book that is more in depth like The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Raising Small Animals, which I will have a review on shortly.

The sixth and final chapter is The Workshop.  It talks about different tools that are helpful on a homestead.  It also has extensive instructions and diagrams for different projects including shop furniture, poultry housing, farm gates, fencing, building a hay barn, and creating kitchen and bedroom furniture.  They all look like fun, if very time intensive projects.

After the chapters there are two indices, one on alternative energy and the second a farm co-op directory.  The alternative energy appendix is a short and briefly covers solar heat, both passive and active, and solar water heaters.  There are also instructions on building a windmill and evaluating your site for geothermal.  The co-op directory is organized by state and I would have to imagine you are more likely to find a local co-op close to you by using the internet.

All in all, I would highly recommend this book as another great resource to have on your shelf and be able to refer back to whenever needed.  There are too many recipes, projects, and suggestions to read through only one time and remember, but to have at hand to refer back to is really where this book will shine.

Barn-Hop

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The Backyard Homestead – A book review

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I got The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan, from my library a few weeks ago.  It is a relatively long book, coming in at 339 pages, but it is well worth your time to read.  It is set up so that you start with your most readily available homesteading resource, the home garden, and works up to keeping livestock.  The only critique I have of the book is the table of contents(I know right?).  It is a cartoon picture of a homestead with numbers of the pages over each different thing; vegetable garden, poultry, fuits and nuts, etc.  It is probably more of a stylistic thing for me, it is not neatly organized and easy to find all the chapters.  There is no order, and I like order, other than that this book is fantastic.

The book starts with taking a stock of the space you have and the capabilities you have, not to mention what you are allowed to do in your city/town/village/neighborhood.  It then talks about the conditions of your specific space, and how to prepare it.  Carleen suggests taking into account your preferences, what you like to eat, and plan to plant that.  It seems like common sense but I have seen people planting things that they don’t like to eat themselves because that is what everyone else around them is doing.  Unless you are growing it to give away, that doesn’t make sense.

She suggests starting small, especially if you haven’t done this in the past, to make sure you enjoy it and want to keep doing it.  Some other suggestions about growing vegetables are;

  • start a journal
  • grow what you can’t buy
  • plant things you love

She then gives examples of how to extend the growing season with row covers and cold frames, how to start plants from seeds and how to save those seeds to grow next years crop.

There are chapters on growing fruits and nuts, and how to use vegetables in the landscape if you can’t have a proper garden.  She then gives instructions on how to dry fruit and make wine and cider.  She talks about growing nut trees, herb gardens, and grains.  There are then instructions on how to make that grain into flour and make your own breads, along with recipes.

There are then chapters on keeping chickens, turkey, ducks, and geese.  There is a chapter on keeping goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, and rabbits.  In all of these chapters there is discussion on how much work each animal will be, how you must keep them, instruction for housing them and what is needed to process the animal for consumption.

Then there is a chapter on processing and preserving your harvest including recipes for almost everything discussed.  Instructions for making cheese is included with the dairy section(cows, goats, and sheep).

At the end of the book she talks about beekeeping, hunting, fishing, and foraging.  For the book’s size it is extremely informative on such a wide array of topics.  Carleen states right in the book that it isn’t meant to be an exhaustive resource, noting that entire books have been written about each individual topic.  To that end, there is an extensive resource section in the back of the book directing you to more information about each topic.

I have to say, even though I got this book at the library, there is a very good chance I will be buying it very soon.  I can see how this would be a good book to have on the shelf to refer back to when you were thinking about starting a new project on your homestead/yard.  The book is extremely well written and packs so much information into each chapter.  Because of this book I have been reaffirmed in wanting chickens, sheep, goats, maybe a cow, a large garden, fruit and nut trees, along with drying food, making cheese, and flour.  It really is a great book.

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Raw Milk

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I am going to admit something here, our family drinks raw milk.  A lot of raw milk actually, we go through at least three gallons a week.  None of us have ever gotten sick from it, and we haven’t even died yet.  Although if you were to talk to some average Americans, you would think that being in the same room as raw milk would put you at danger.  Raw milk has gotten bad press.  The FDA has restricted it’s use as much as they can in the name of safety.  In the past I am sure there were health risks.  With a lack of efficient way to transport milk, shelf life was probably not very good.  Currently with refrigeration trucks or the ability to power coolers in the back of a truck or trailer, the milk can be kept at low temperatures throughout the delivery process.

We started drinking raw milk because we heard of it’s health benefits.  If you are interested in researching them check the campaign for real milk.  The Weston A. Price Foundation has a lot of information on real, natural foods of all types and they have sponsored the campaign for real milk.  Not only are there a multitude of health benefits, but I actually think it tastes better as well.  Granted if you had asked me that when we first switched, I may not have answered the same.  But I was switching from ultra-pasteurized homogenized skim milk to real, raw whole milk.  There is obviously a difference.  Now on the rare occasion when I drink skim milk, it tastes like water to me.

In Michigan in order to obtain raw milk we have to lease our cow.  We can’t purchase it straight from the farm without a lease contract, and stores can’t sell it directly to consumers.  While I believe this to be silly, I guess I should be happy that we at least have this way to obtain raw milk.  I know there are many other states where people have no way to obtain raw milk other than to purchase and milk their own cow.

We are lucky in that we have a co-op run by a very nice woman by the name of Jenny.  My Family Co Op delivers our raw milk.  She also delivers eggs, cheese, meat, and other things to locations around the metro Detroit area so we can choose a convenient pick up spot instead of having to drive to the farm.  If you click on the link to My Family Co Op, you can read Jenny’s story and how raw milk has changed her life and how she now strives to bring such an amazing product to others.

I know that a lot of people think raw milk is crazy, but really it isn’t.  Take a minute to learn about it and see if it might be right for you, we decided it is right for our family.