Lucy’s in the sky

Lucy- Big Mama

I started the day with cow shit in my bathrobe pocket and ended it with a bottle calf named Ole.

I was in the kitchen just waiting for the coffee to finish and trying to get the kids out the door on time. One of my favorite views is that out the kitchen window, looking out to the front yard, the barn and corral. This morning the corral didn’t look well.

I slipped on the first pair of shoes I came to and headed out.

Lucy was down. Not laying down like she just hadn’t got up for breakfast yet but laying down like she was dead. Her calf, later to be named Ole, was tucked in next to her. It was cold and had been raining off and on so everything was a muddy sloppy mess. Lucy was still breathing but it was labored.

Mike met me at the fence with the same worry I had.

She was laying on a slight hill with her legs on the up hill which would make it rather difficult, if not impossible for her to get up. Mike climbed the fence and was able to roll her over to give her a better chance of standing.

The way she was looking she was not going to be up any time soon and her calf was going to need to eat. Sweet Caroline has fed almost any calf that’s tried to get a snack so we decided to put Ole in the barn with her and her calf in hopes that she would take him on for the day at least.

Mike picked up the Ole and handed him over the fence to me. Both of us thinking about getting the calf fed and neither of us remembering that I’m still restricted from lifting anything heavier than baby for another week. (On the other hand, it wasn’t specified who’s baby was the weight limit.)

Once on the other side of the fence, Mike carried Ole to the barn. The poor little guy was hungry. He followed Caroline around, but she was having nothing to do with him. We tried distracting her with feed but even then she did not want him close by.

My guess is because she knew he belonged to Lucy and Lucy would run Caroline off without hesitation. Obviously Caroline had no idea that it wouldn’t be an issue this time.

We went back out to check on Lucy and decided that the vet needed to be called right away. I reached into my bathrobe pocket (no I was not dressed and ready for the day yet) and came out with my phone, a pacifier and cow shit. Ugh.

I called the closest large animal vet and got his voicemail- he was booked for the next six weeks. (If you know of a large animal vet that’s looking for a change of scene, we could use a couple more in the area.) I then tried the vet in a neighboring town. It was outside of business hours but thankfully he answered.

“I can be there at ten.”

“Perfect! Maybe call before you come. If she doesn’t make it I don’t want you to waste a trip.”

At that point there wasn’t much else I could do for her. I just kept looking out the window in hopes I’d see her up and checking my phone for the vet’s call.

I’d checked on her just minutes before the vet called and she was still breathing but not looking well.

When he arrived, he checked her over and gave her an I.V. of calcium and other minerals. The symptoms pointed towards milk fever, which was a slight relief. A good dose of calcium should have her back on her feet in no time.

After the calcium, we rolled her a little more upright but she was still too weak to hold herself up. As Dr. Ralphson held her semi-upright I shoved some hay under her for support.

“Give her a couple hours and if she doesn’t get up call me.”

A few hours past and I called to let him no she’d made no progress. He would stop back when he was done on his current farm call.

Another bottle of calcium, some vitamins and antibiotics and a handful of prayers was what we had to offer.

“Do you have a skid steer?”

“Yes”

“When your husband gets home, put a chain around her horns and pull her out to the pasture. Don’t pull her legs, you’ll tear her up. That calf is going to need a bottle too. Go to Rhodes and get the milk replacement there. They have the good stuff.”

Mike had a neighbor coming to try and help him get Lucy up later in the evening. Since I really wasn’t going to be much helping lifting the cow we did our best to pack straw under and around her until she could be moved.

The little boy C, baby Q and I headed to town to get the feed before they closed. Mike was in the corral when we left and was still there when we arrived home.

The guys tried for quite some time to right her. But eventually it just came to the point where they made her comfortable and we’d have to see what morning would bring.

Ole’s first bottle went well that evening. Little miss S was so excited to work with Ole. A bottle calf wasn’t in our plans but even after these first few days I can see that it’s a great joy for the kids.

The next morning I checked on Lucy first thing. She didn’t make the night.

Mike and my dad with the skid steer, loaded her up into the back of the truck to bring her to her final resting place. I watched them drive out and a short while later the rain came again. Mike said it started the same time she hit the ground.

Feeding Ole
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Spee-Dee Delivery

“Your daughter is going to need your help on Monday” Mike told my dad. Not sure just what I was getting into now I can imagine dad was a little hesitant to ask “now what does she have going on?”

“She ordered 500 pound of flour to be delivered and needs help unloading the pallet.”

Yes, I did that. 500 pounds of organic, non-GMO, heritage wheat flour from Minnesota! I’ve been sourcing my flour from Montana to fill in the gaps of what I’m not growing yet. I loved their flour but was searching out something more local and finally found it. Considering I’ve got a summer of baking planned starting with 500 pounds seemed a logical choice.

Any other day I would have planned to try and unload the pallet myself because really ten bags of flour isn’t that much, but being a week over due to have a baby I needed help.

Dad agreed to run up and help with the load and Spee-Dee Delivery was going to call when they were on their way. Perfect!

Well the delivery was delayed a day and that really wasn’t a big deal. I had enough flour on hand to make it through one more day.

Tuesday morning the little boy was acting sick so he stayed home with me while the rest were off to school and daycare. I figured it once the cake order was out the door and the flour was delivered all I had to do was plan something for supper. We’d have time to rest and play trucks and such.

Well, as with any of my plans, those went out the window. The cake order went without trouble. The little boy was not sick, in fact he was a little ball of energy. I called Mike to come home at about quarter to eleven. My water had broke and we both knew he didn’t have much time.

Just as I hung up the phone with him the delivery truck pulls in the yard. They didn’t call when they were on their way. I called dad and let him know and he said he’d be up shortly to help.

The little boy was at the door making faces at the driver when I got there.

“I’ve got a pallet for you. We’ll get it unloaded and then I’ll have you sign.”

“Actually, my water just broke so if I could sign first that might be better.”

“Don’t worry about it! You don’t need to sign.”

They had it off the truck were headed out in no time. (I’d bet they’ll call before going on the next delivery.)

Mike arrived home and dad was shortly after. It was a slight chance of rain so they loaded up the flour sacks to be stored in the freezer at his house and he agreed to take the little boy too. Blankie and skid steer in hand he was excited to go with papa.

The midwife was in route and her assistant was only about ten minutes away on stand-by.

“Do you need Millie to come now? She’s close.” she questioned.

“I think we’re fine. No contractions worth timing yet.I think we’ve got time.” (idiot- I should have said “yes, come now” contractions or not!)

Dad had left at about 11:30 and Mike had been unsettled and pacing since. At some point he did ask Millie to come “just in case”.

Twenty minutes later and Mike was catching the baby. This one came just as fast as the others but he did have to unwind the cord from around the neck this time. That could have been a scary situation had he not been there.

By noon he was holding a crying little baby. I was still leaning on the bathroom sink when I said “You caught it so it must be a girl huh?” And as any farmer would do, he lifted a leg and checked. “Yep, another girl.” (He’s caught all of our girls.)

Millie and Molly took over the doctoring as soon as they arrived, only a few minutes later.

And there you have it. Healthy baby girl the third of five to be delivered by her dad. (and 500 pounds of flour that I’ve been loving baking with!)

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Another Season Closer

Once again I’ve read through another stack of books all with a farming and baking themed books this winter. The last of which I have to start is all about using horses for farm and field work. I might need to look over the ol’ Amazon wish list and see what’s next considering it’s the beginning of March, we’ve got 5 feet of snow… and we don’t have horses.

Through all that reading I’ve found a few passages that will prove quite helpful in the wheat fields. I’m so excited. We’re one planting closer to WildFlower Farm landrace grains! This year will be a year to grow for seed rather than flour. That changes the harvest time by a few weeks and the harvest method now too.

I’ve been growing (or trying to grow) modern wheat for flour with some success and a fair amount of failure. While it’s non-GMO and grown with organic methods it’s not the end result that I’m after. This last winter’s book stack has pointed out why this isn’t working for me. Modern wheat is engineered (even the non-GMO ones) to fit modern standards for commercial use. They have shorter stalks in hopes of reducing the chances of lodging (tipping over/breaking in unfavorable weather), the short stalks don’t tend to tangle in the combines used today for harvesting. The properties of the grain itself have been changed to make it more suitable for commercial bakeries and the heavy mixing the dough endures, thus standardizing end loaf.

Despite my planning and efforts the weeds are killing me and the modern wheat crop. I’ve also learned that I’ve been planting the heritage wheats wrong causing a pretty sad yield there too. This year not only am I excited to plant once again with the hopes of a fruitful harvest but I’m also excited to use my newfound knowledge to do so! (I’m also ditching the modern wheat for the foreseeable future.)

Developing a landrace grain takes years and is a never ending project really. That may be one more reason I was drawn to them to begin with- there’s always something that changes and yet everything stays relatively the same.

Let me explain. Landrace wheat in the vaguest of descriptions is a variety of wheat that is grown year after year in the same location. The best of the best in the crop is saved for seed for the following year. Sounds like seed saving and heritage wheat, right? However, when you dig deeper into it you’ll find it’s more than that.

Each field will be different. The variation of soil composition, nutrients in the soil and the amount of rain are different between fields and years and makes a surprising difference. Those variations between locations will produce variations in the wheat properties for the year. Over time the landrace varieties will adapt to the growing environments resulting in specific tastes, textures and ultimately breads. Allowing the seed to evolve from year to year gives the crop the ability to grow resistance (an immune system if you will) to the variety of local pests and plant ailments that modern wheat would required a chemical intervention to control. Modern wheat doesn’t see these variations mainly because the seed cannot be saved from year to year to allow it to adapt to the specific offerings of the environment in which it’s planted.

From a commercial grain buyer and commercial bakery view these variations would wreak havoc on production. When the grain from many different locations and different varieties are mixed to produce flour by the ton there would be no consistency in the resulting product. Another reason why there is very little variation in modern wheat. There is virtually no change from year to year creating the uniformity needed for the mass quantities needed.

It’s scary to think that 95% of the wheat gown in the world is of the same variety- what happens if there is a few bad years of seed production? In the absolute worst case that leaves 5% of wheat, of the landrace varieties, to produce seed and flour?! A “fishes and loaves” miracle perhaps? I’d rather not find out.

The variations of the landraces are amazing! As a baker they are a challenge. The recipes need adjusting from harvest to harvest to account for the variations in the grains. The variations, although slight as they may be sometimes, keep the baker involved in baking rather than just going through the motions so to speak. It keeps the bread ever evolving and the process alive. I love it!

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Why Not?! We’re Already Late

“Oh no you didn’t big mama!”

We were already late, like later than the usual late, and there she stood staring at me as I was flying down the driveway. I hit the brakes and slid a bit on the ice, then put ‘er in reverse and was up to the barn in seconds.

The kids were curious about what was going on but not too excited. They’re used to ma’ skidding to the barn anymore.

Lucy doesn’t have a set due date but by the looks of it it was to be soon. She usually looks ready for a good month or so.

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Merry Christmas

We wish you a very Merry and Blessed Christmas!

I would like to also say- Thank you so much for the support we have received over the year. It has been overwhelming. Everything from orders placed, “likes” and “shares” on social media and especially just telling your friends and family about our farm. We have received a tremendous amount of help in labor and borrowed specialty equipment as well.

We are truly blessed with family, friends and farm patrons alike.

Thank you!
Mike, Anna, and family

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