Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22459 – 851:
Here’s the haps:
When I was growing up I had the opportunity to live on my uncle’s dairy farm in central Wisconsin one summer. I think I was around eleven or twelve. It was educational in a lot of ways and I think everyone would do well to experience it. I learned how to be a morning person and I learned how to milk a cow. I learned some about pigs and some about dogs and cats. I got to drive a tractor, although I don’t think I knew how to really drive it like my nine-year-old cousin could. Up until then, I had pretty much grown up in the city of Milwaukee except when we visited my grandma and grandpa.
When I was very young I can remember my grandma going out to milk the two cows they had. The milk went into a bucket which was then emptied into a milk can. The milk was picked up by the cheese factory. Grandpa and later on the older boys would clean the barn and throw it out the side in a big pile which was later used on grandma’s garden. Grandpa would call the cows and bang the side of a feed can with his cane and shout, “Come, Bos! Come, Bos!” They would mosey their way up to the fence be led into the barn for milking.
There is so much about those days I strain to remember sometimes but I never paid much attention because I had one uncle who was a year younger than me and we were raised liked siblings. All the stories and all the daily activities were old-hat to him so we mostly went and played and climbed around and rode bikes. Now of course I know I should have paid a lot more attention but as a kid you don’t know that. You just think the old folks will always be around to tell and re-tell their stories and show you things. Sometimes the old cliche is true, “Youth is wasted on the young.”
One year when we went to visit, the cows were gone and he had gotten a couple of Shetland Ponies which we rode around on. Another year he had pigs. Visiting in the winter was different, of course, since they only had an outhouse and central Wisconsin winters can easily get down to -30F at night or colder.
My uncle’s farm was different. He had, if memory serves correctly, about 50 cows and a pipeline milking system. The milk machines were hooked up and the milk went directly to a stainless steel holding tank and the dairy would come and pump it into their big truck. The cow’s leavings went by conveyor belt into a specialized trailer called a manure spreader that hooked up to the tractor. It had a kind of chopper/spewer thing on the end and when it was full we drove the tractor out to the field and fertilized it. I thought that was a pretty cool idea. Nothing went to waste on the farm, it seemed. The greens left in the field from harvesting the corn were harvested and chopped up real small and put up in the silo. Silage supplemented the cows’ diet. I am forgetting an awful lot more than I can remember, but in my defense, I am talking about events that happened fifty years ago or more.
I got to reminiscing about these things when I learned about something I had never heard of before. Before I go too much further into that I want to say that I am an adopted Coloradan. God called me here to Colorado Springs by a series of peculiar circumstances and decisions made by prayer and fasting. I have no desire to move back to Wisconsin and seldom miss it. This is where I belong now. However, I still take pride in being from Wisconsin and my country roots. I was especially proud the other day.
The other day I learned about a Wisconsin dairy/cheese company farmstead operation that has an interesting system that I think should be held up as an example of what can be done right. By serendipity, I learned about a Wisconsin farm and cheese company called Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese. You can learn all about their operation by visiting their site but the thing that caught my attention was a machine called a Manure Digester. a typical Holstein cow that weighs around 1400 pounds can produce 115 pounds of manure a day so 3,500 cows produce 400,000+ pounds. They have two 750,000 gallon digesters. These methane digesters in turn power an 800hp motor that generates enough electricity consistently to power the entire operation of the dairy farm, the cheese factory, and 300 other homes. It also makes liquid fertilizer for the fields as well as bedding for the cows.
Many of you, especially longtime friends and readers will know that I am not particularly green or an environmentalist type. But I do like seeing things reused. I really hate to see waste, whether it’s a kid’s plate full of food getting thrown away or a widget from a broken gadget. I’ve been known to say (occasionally to the consternation of parents), “Go give that to your dad so he can finish that for you” or, depending on what it is, “Grandpa will eat that if you don’t want it.” The place I work at donates tons of food to food banks and homeless shelters instead of just destroying it or tossing it out. More and more places are doing this and it makes a difference. I think Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese company makes a difference as well.