Friday, August 21, 2015

Bonding with cows: an afternoon at Meadowood Farms.

As you may recall, last summer I milked a cow for the first time. This summer, I figured it was time to bottle-feed a bunch of calves.

At the beginning of July, Melissa and I spent an afternoon at Meadowood Farms in Lodi, Wisconsin, where Melissa conducted her Master's research in finding the best nutrition plan for calves using a robot feeder (more on that later). The family-owned farm belongs to Sandy, Tim, and Greg Enge. The farm is home to 450 cows, which is considered a medium-sized dairy. 

First of all, the view was great:

Okay, now for the cows. We were greeted by cow #2598, also known as Olive, who Melissa raised as a baby. She is now all grown up and works as a show cow at various fairs.

Olive says hello.
Left to right: Holstein, Brown Swiss, and Jersey show cows.
Olive is a friendly gal.
Taking a selfie with a cow is challenging.
After hanging out with the show cows, I was pretty excited to meet some barn cats:

Mama was a leg climber.

And her baby was a snuggler.
We saw large groups of cows walking to and from their milking area. They are good at following each other in lines.

Then, it was time to head to the calf barn. Calves ages 1-66 days old live in this barn. Calves under a day old have their own area where they get bottle-fed. Prepare for cuteness.

Lounging calves.
Up close and personal. This baby was excited to be fed.
The calves drink from a DeLaval automated feeder, also known as a robot feeder. Calves are trained to use the feeder, then they can walk up to it for milk meals. Each calf wears a collar so that the feeder knows when he or she has had enough to eat, giving them just the right amount of milk. Calves drink anywhere from 1-3 gallons of milk a day.

The feeder!
Supper time.
Then, it was time to bottle feed the 4 calves who were less than 1 day old. 

Melissa (wearing her "Moo Expert" shirt) was very excited to mix up the formula.
We fed the babies! It's much harder than it looks. They were young, wild, and hungry, but didn't know much about using a bottle.

I did alright for a rookie, but I ended up seeking help from the expert.
Then, it was time to head out, but not before I got a quick video of feeding time. The Meadowood cows live in "free stalls," so they can go wherever they want, whenever they want. They're living the good life.

It was a great, moo-worthy day with the cows!

Monday, June 22, 2015

I went biking. Kinda.

As I've mentioned before, I don't bike. However, I live in a city surrounded by bike enthusiasts. Two of those enthusiasts are my good friends, Scott and Elysha, who recently visited The Cargo Bike Shop and invested in a highly coveted WorkCycle Kr8 like this:

Why yes, this is a bike with a giant bucket.
Elysha has been biking around town sporting a bucket filled with two children, groceries, library books, and an assortment of other things that fit in its spacious compartment. And by "spacious compartment," I meant this: large enough to hold an adult.

So, it happened: I went on a bike ride, but I was not pedaling the bike. Instead, I sat in a bucket and Elysha pedaled me around her Near East Side neighborhood.

Always wear a helmet! 
I got in the bucket and we were ready to go:
Side view of the contraption.
And we were off! Here are videos of the ride from two perspectives:

We made it back safely!
Elysha's celebratory reaction to me riding in a bike.
Now that this has happened, it gives me a new answer to the common Madison question, "Do you bike?" Thanks to my biker friends, I can now say, "I don't bike, but I have been pedaled around in a bucket."

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My first trip to Door County

Wisconsinites love talking about Door County. It's a popular vacation spot known for beautiful scenery, an abundance of cherries, and an infamous Swedish restaurant with goats on its roof.

In honor of my 28th birthday on April 13th, Melissa and I decided to have our first Door County experience. Being there in the off season meant that some businesses were closed and the goats weren't on the roof yet (bummer!), but it also meant no traffic and an amazing deal on a room at the Edgewater Resort in Ephraim, which had this amazing view (as always, please click the photos for a larger view):

We spent Saturday exploring Peninsula State Park, which offered up some great photo ops:

And after a day of exploration, Sunday was all about horses (avid blog readers will note that I love barnyard animals). 

We made an appointment for a trail ride with Kurtz Corral.

Super cute barn!
Melissa is an experienced rider, while I'm a total rookie (unless the ponies at my 5th birthday party count). Because of our different experience levels, Melissa rode a vibrant young horse and I rode an apathetic, middle-aged horse.

Melissa's horse, Shadow.

My horse, Goldilocks.
Climbing on top of Goldilocks was a challenge, but I made it!

Goldilocks was very patient.
Ready to go!
We hit the trail with our guide, Kayla.

Goldilocks preferred to stay at the back of the group.
I really wanted video documentation of the event. We got a short video in before Goldilocks staged a small protest.

We got back on track and had a great trail ride, despite getting whacked in the face with a few branches (ah, nature). We made it back to the barn and gave our horses lots of treats.

Goldilocks LOVED her treats.
The horses were great, but my favorite part of Door County was the gorgeous sunset:

We will definitely return to see the goats, as well as all the businesses that don't open until May. Until next time, Door County!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Turkey traffic jam: a story in photos.

I heard the stories and saw the photos, but we never crossed paths until today. That's right: I finally encountered the famed urban turkeys of Madison, WI. My fascination started when my friend Scott (he lives under a mile away) took a photo of them in his front yard. It was then that I knew I needed to meet the turkeys, take a turkey selfie, and write about these unique feathered friends.

Today's turkey selfie.
Madison's turkeys are city-dwelling birds who freely (and at times irreverently) roam streets and neighborhoods. My friend Elysha recently saw them chase her mailman. It's a feisty bunch.

Through the Turkeys of Madison, WI Facebook group, I watched their travels and learned about their favorite local places. It was in this group where I learned that the turkeys are fond of the drive thru at the Schenk's Corners branch of Monona State Bank. When I passed the bank on my way home today, there they were: the fab 4 in all their glory.

I wasn't the only person who stopped to photograph the birds. I may have been the only one to take 34 photos, though. I'll take you through some highlights (click photos to enlarge):

The fab 4 took a leisurely walk to the bank drive thru.
They did some preening, strutting, and fluffing.
There wasn't enough excitement at the bank, so they headed into the street. 
An ambulance came and they refused to move. Sirens and horns meant nothing to the turkeys. 
Then, the traffic came. 
And the traffic stopped.
And a kind civilian shooed the turkeys out of the way. 
Nice guy. All the turkeys made it safely to the sidewalk.
As I walked back to my car, the turkeys returned to the street and blocked a bus. They refused to move, so the bus had to back up and go around them. Turkeys own the neighborhood!

I really couldn't have asked for a better first turkey encounter. Hopefully I will see them more often, take more photos with them, and capture video footage of local gobbling. This city is weird.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Madison's best kept secret is a bar.

I must start by saying that is my 100th blog post! Hot damn.

When I was little, two friends and I had a secret club. We held meetings in a shed, took notes, tracked our money, and didn't tell anyone about it.

I think I've found adulthood's answer to the secret club: an under-the-radar bar in a quasi industrial wasteland in Madison. Meet the Old Sugar Distillery: a nondescript bar a few blocks from downtown. Signage is small, hours are limited (Thursday-Saturday), and the surroundings are fellow nondescript buildings. Offices? Factories? Haven't figured it out yet, but that place where a lot of buses park is within sight. The bar itself can be tough to spot, but it's worth discovering.

It's a small local business at its finest. All of the Old Sugar Distillery's liquors are made in-house and aged in Minnesota oak barrels, which line the bar like low-key wallpaper:
Booze barrels!
The atmosphere is friendly and the drinks are top notch. My favorite is the Honey Cap: muddled lime, honey, lime juice, soda water, and the in-house honey liqueur.
My honey cap: perfection!
It's everything I want in a bar, really: a delicious drink menu, locally made snacks, and a mellow place to have a good conversation. The 3-day-a-week exclusivity just makes it more special. It's my secret club, and I like it that way.