Down on the dairy farm! Thursday, 5/26/16
Oh my goodness, if this wasn't a fun place to overnight! When Jimmy called Jeanne at Hansen's Dairy Fresh Farm in Hudson, Iowa, to ask about us staying there Thursday night, her answer was YES. Hansen's is our fourth Harvest Host stopover this trip, and each HH site has been completely different from the others and each has been good. Hansen's has been the most entertaining, so far!
Where in the state is Hudson? A bit south of Waterloo/Cedar Falls. An easy drive for us from the night before. We had no idea what to expect; neither of us had ever been to a dairy farm. We were willing to give it a try, even tho everybody knows that cows produce, uh ... smelly manure! Well, we'd find out.
Hansen's is designated as a Heritage Farm, which means it's been owned by the same family for 150 years. It's also a designated site in the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area. Jay and Jeanne Hansen are the sixth generation and their grown sons are actively involved at the farm. After Jay introduced himself and we chatted about ourselves and the farm, he asked Jimmy if he'd brought fishing poles with him! Of course he did! The pond is 27 feet deep and full of Bluegill, so have at it! Jimmy made a quick run to a local store for night crawlers, and we fished. First time we've been fishing in I-don't-remember-when. This was just the beginning of a great afternoon.
We caught Bluegills, and I caught one catfish, which we released, and then we both caught "sunnies" repeatedly, which were too small to keep. I figured it was the same dumb fish over and over! Maybe we had enough fish in the bucket for dinner!
This was so interesting to me. The Bluegills were spawning. The males make a depression in the warm, shallow water, hoping to entice a female to join him. Sort of like Salmon, only a lot smaller. The females lurked just beyond. These little guys were fiercely defensive of their nesting holes. If you enlarge the pic, you'll see a male in nearly each hollow. (Tergel is parked on the gravel driveway next to the pond, just out of the picture to the left.)
A beautiful new dome center is adjacent to the farm.
Farm tours are offered and Jimmy and I decided to "do" a complete hands-on tour, meeting in the dome at 3:30, after fishing. The tour included lots of things, beginning with a small cup of their 1% pasteurized but not homogenized milk, quite tasty and no ill effects ....
First was calf feeding! This day-old calf just about pulled my arms out of my shoulder sockets, he pulled so hard on the nipple. Little fella was strong! The milk in the bottle is his own mom's. Jimmy fed a calf, too, and said the same thing. The calves were capital H-hungry! I didn't wear fancy clothes for touring a dairy farm!
Each calf born is named with the first letter of it's mom; as in, Apple would have a calf named Agatha, and so on. That way the farm can keep track of the line.
Next up was the air-conditioned milking "shed." Perhaps a milking "parlor?" Anyway, the cows are milked right here and they're very, very ready to be relieved. Nice to be in where it's cool on a hot day. The cows are milked every day at 4 am and 4 pm. Every single day.
All right now ... my turn! Here I am, and if you look closely, I am actually milking this cow; never have before this day. Milking a cow may not have been on my nonexistent bucket list, but if it was, I can cross it off! Joyce, our excellent tour guide in the background, was amused.
Ohhh, Jimmy's turn! He milked the faucet on the right, but he said the cow couldn't turn off the other faucet, the one on the left!!
Four young people were in our tour group, probably seniors in high school -- one guy and three girls, one of whom was wearing flipflops! Yikes, in a barn, no less! The young lady above was trying to protect herself from an overly-friendly cow kiss! Get back, Bertha!
The Hansen's herd numbers about 175 purebred Holsteins, each with a name.
Hello, Aligator, spelled with one "L".
After visiting the cow barn, learning about silage and hearing about on-farm processing and so much more (most of which neither of us retained, but it seemed interesting at the time), we moved on to: wait, that's not a cow ... it's a 'roo I'm petting! A Red Kangaroo, named Pogo, with soft, velvety fur. A kangaroo serves as mascot for the farm, and they have three here, two friendly females, and one aloof male. Kangaroos squint, who knew? She'd dug this round dirt pit, and was still working at it. Geez, we're on a roll here, we'd never been close to a kangaroo before, much less touched one, or watched one hop around! Cool beans!
Jay, on his tractor, gives trolley rides from the dome to the farm and back.
When Jay returned us to the dome, we were in for a treat. Joyce handed each of us a small container with cold raw milk. We were to hold the container in both hands and shake it like mad, till our arms fell off or till we'd made BUTTER! Both in my case! By golly, we did it. Another bucket list item checked off. Joyce brought a salt shaker to the table and said to add a pinch to our patty of butter, and then handed out saltine crackers. This was good. Real good. Butter and crackers were followed by home made ice cream from the freezer. I picked the butter pecan as you see, and I tell you true, this was THE BEST ice cream I've ever tasted. Bar none. (They only use half the sugar others use.) By now, it was 5 pm, and we've just enjoyed an appetizer and dessert, so supper was "lite!" We left our shoes by Tergel's door and hosed ourselves down in a cool shower, which felt wonderful. It was pretty warm in Tergel.
Believe it or not, while parts of our tour included a free manure fragrance, we slept with windows open and smelled nary a whiff of cow flops. What a great day we had, very enjoyable.
Jimmy cleaned those cute little fishies we caught and we stuck 'em in a baggie in the fridge. Supper the next night at Black Hawk Park was fresh steamed asparagus, baked potatoes and pan-fried Bluegills. Small, but delicious! Yum.