Tied to the Post

In my effort to get the cows halter broke before snow I have made some good progress over the last few weeks. I was advised to talk to my uncle as he has some good advice for such tasks, I have yet to figure out a time to try to sit down a chat with him (I can’t learn over the phone). When I do finally get to talk to him I am sure I will have an “I wish I would have talked to you sooner.” moment. For now I just continue as I am.

Two weeks ago already, I had mentioned Labor Day was the day I was going to attempt to actually put the halter on Lucy. I did… kinda. My cousin said she prefers to put the rope behind the ears first then the nose through. That is what I attempted. She was pretty jumpy that day (the cow, not my cousin), I think it was because the dogs were around and my husband was watching with concern as I was working with her. With the rope tied to the gate post,   I got the halter end around her horns and behind the ears. Then she threw her head causing the slip knot to tighten quickly pinching her ears against her horns; she was pissed. She continued to throw her head and stomp about while tied to the post. I had no choice but to back up and let her calm down. My husband was going to try to loosen the knot from the other side of the fence but she wouldn’t let him get close.

I went about my chores while she calmed down. I got the chicken coop cleaned and scrubbed out the stock tank. By that time the dogs had gone and my husband was working on something elsewhere. She had calmed down and I was able to walk up and remove the halter, of course she pitched her head a bit but nothing like earlier.

The next week went by and continued to pester her with the halter. By the end of the week I was putting the halter on and off of her while she ate. I didn’t leave it on for any amount of time but just got her used to the motion.

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This week I have been able to put the halter on and have her again tied to the post. She pulls at times but then realizes she isn’t going anywhere. For now having her tied to the post is safer than my just holding a loose rope. If and when she throws a fit I can easily get out of the area and she, although unhappy, will remain in one spot where she can’t get hurt. After a while of having her tied to the post, she will understand that when she has the halter on she is stuck. That is when it will be easier for me hold the rope and lead her about the corral.

For now, I would say this has been some good progress with Lucy. Louise, I am sure I could get the halter on her because she doesn’t mind me messing with the rope around her face but I have yet to put it on and tie her up.

Soon though.

I have a tendency to rush things. I know this, which is why I have been trying very hard to take this slow. I admit there have been days where I get out to the pasture and want to skip some steps and other days I get Lucy’s horn to the arm as she’s being crabby and I just want to quit. Give up, get a bottle calf and start with it from the very beginning. Start with a cow the size of a large dog, something easy to handle. But I can talk myself into and out of almost anything. If I give up that easily with this cow how do I plan to milk her? There will be good days and bad days with that too. Not to mention, breaking a wild mustang from one of the rescue programs is on my bucket list. If I can’t halter break a half-pint cow I surely wouldn’t have what it takes to break the horse. So I press on. Slowly. (Well as slow as I can.)

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Even Little Cows Can Jump High

wildflowerfarm.orgAs I said previously, I have never halter broke a cow and aside from the advice of a few friends and family and the bit of reading I’ve done, I really don’t know what I’m doing. That being said I do think I am making some good progress.

Both the girls are fine with me scratching them, nose to tail and their front legs while they eat their treat of grains. Since the beginning I have brought one of the rope halters with me when I go into the pasture to work with them. This way they are used to seeing it, when they are eating it swings by them and they can smell it if they like. My thought is that it will lessen the chances that they get spooked by it. Even little cows can jump high.

Last week I started putting the rope on them, just laying it behind their ears, letting the end hang much closer to their face while they eat and just kinda pestering them with it. This week I’ve been going one step further; while the rope is behind their ears and in their face I have begun to rub their nose, under their chin and their cheeks, pretty much where that actual halter will go. The thought again is that they will get used to me handling their face and the rope at the same time.

Surprisingly, it’s going very well. If we keep progressing like this, I plan to put the halter on them this Sunday. They will be tied to a gate post; it should work well. I am assuming they are going to be rather unhappy at first having them tied there will mean they aren’t running loose about the pasture with the halter rope dragging, possibly sending them through the fence. They are also going to be in a spot without electric or barbed wire to prevent those injuries.

Last night it felt like a cool fall night with spring rain/mist not the greatest weather. I decided the cows needed more pasture and last night was the night to do it. Our beautiful wood post fence line isn’t quite done with. We had such an amazing crop of alfalfa that we decided to get a couple hayings off it before we put the barbed wire up. They had eaten pretty much everything in the space they had and were belloring at me when I would do the chicken chores.

I moved the girls into the corral and we removed a good portion of the old fence. The neighbor was out on his tractor with his brush mower and offered to mow a path for the new fence line. After that was done it was pound a few posts restring the wire and add some.Then release the cows. This is how I know even little cows can jump high.

The girls really haven’t had me worried until last night. Usually when I have a bucket of grain for them they coming running, literally. Last night I had no grain for them and when I opened the gate out they came, running, bucking and all out jumping after me. I know cows have a great view range but their sight really isn’t that great. I made sure we removed the old posts so they didn’t think the fence was still up but there was still a definite line of tall grass the used to be on the other side. So in all my helpfulness I calmly lead them out to the new pasture, jumping and bucking the whole way and yet staying behind me. That was the kinds scary part, they were making all this ruckus and making sure they didn’t go ahead of me.

It all worked out. They chowed down on the new salad bar. Mike brought the extra posts to the barn, the boy and I brought the rest of the fencing pieces. By the time we got in it was time for a warm bath for the little boy and the usual late supper for us. I can’t wait for the day that we have family supper at 6 regularly again.

It was a good day working with the cows and they went to bed happy too.

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My Favorite Quinoa Recipe

For those unfamiliar with quinoa (keen-wah) it is an ancient grain a little bigger than a mustard seed.  The plant looks like amaranth, another ancient grain. The seeds or grain must be harvested by hand. It has been getting a lot of press about the health benefits it has lately. For how much I like grains I thought I should give this one a try too.

I have had some very well prepared quinoa in burgers and salads in restaurants and at a potluck or two. How hard can it be? I work with a wide variety grains daily and have for years.

My research about this grain said it is best soaked and well rinsed or it can be bitter tasting. I heeded the warning, even though I don’t mind some bitter flavor. The recipes I had, I followed to a “T”.

The breakfast quinoa with dried cranberries and walnuts I thought would be great! I love oatmeal prepared like that.

Bitter and not good.

The quinoa bulgur salad. Yum I thought, I like salads with bulgur and barley why not quinoa?!

Bitter and not good.

Add it to a veggie bean burger I thought.

Bitter and ruined the rest of the burger.

I even tried different kinds of quinoa. After all this I was about to give up and then I came up with the perfect recipe!

Chicken Feed.

I put it in with the chicken feed. The meat will not taste bitter, nor the eggs. I will not feel as though I have wasted what is said to be such a wonderful grain! Problem solved!

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And with that I don’t plan to try my hand at this grain again for a long while.

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Wilma and Her New Roommate

My husband and dad were able to get the last wall up in the coop. It’s all insulated and ready for birds. Tonight we moved the temporary run outside over. They now have a new batch of fresh orchard grass and alfalfa to snack on. By moving the temporary pen the first round of wire can be put into place  for the permanent run.

Wildflowerfarm.orgWith the move of the pen the chickens needed to be moved to the other side of the coop. That was a very easy job. I open the door in the morning, they all run outside to greet the day and I close the door behind them. I then opened the chicken the door on the other side and in they went. Couldn’t be easier.

Up until now Wilma was penned in the corner of the “new” side and Sir Thomas Thanksgiving was in his kennel healing and hating every minute. With the addition of the rest of the flock to the “new” side both birds needed to be moved out as they are not ready to rejoin the rest yet. The turkey hates the kennel, no roost and he can’t fly in there. Wilma could use some more room to  stretch her legs too. So together they are sharing the “old” side. Neither of which can go outside because of the rest of the flock but this gives them much more space and they get their fresh alfalfa delivered.

Wildflowerfarm.orgI also put together a surprise for Wilma! She has been “nesting” in he food dish no matter what I do so I put together a nesting box for her. A milk crate with a little hay to lay in and a good layer of hay on top in case Thomas decides to sit up there, she won’t get pooped on. Hey, it happens, those birds go any where and every where and on anything! Gross!

You may also notice that Wilma looks much different in the picture above than she has in the rest of her. The one above is really her and Thomas. I just didn’t want to post a picture of her all mangled for those who are a bit squeamish.

Get the full story of Wilma here:
The Story of One Winged Wilma and the Guinea
An Update on Wilma
Wilma and the Dog

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Lucifer- The Last Guinea

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Out of the mere 6 guinea hens we started with this spring we are down to one and I’m ready to ring his scrawny little neck! I have heard that raising guineas with chickens makes them easier to train; for things like going into the coop at night and such. I have also read the females can be territorial but the males can be down-right nasty. When ordering most birds you can have them sexed; guineas you only get a straight run option (meaning you get whatever hatched).

I have had chickens loose feathers before, usually due to a rowdy rooster trying to mate with a hen. But this group seemed to have a bigger problem than the usual rooster. After watching the chickens while I was on a “steak out” trying to kill the fox, I found the problem. It was the one remaining guinea.

The one we have left I have named Lucifer because he is the meanest bird in the flock! The roosters are a rowdier bunch than normal but they peck and run for the most part. Lucifer locks on to his target and doesn’t quit until his feet are planted on the back of the bird and he has a mouth full of feathers.

He is so mean that even Thomas Thanksgiving (the last of the Turkeys) has no tail feathers and had to be removed from the group because he was starting to bleed due to the relentless pecking. See more about blood and birds in The Story of One Winged Wilma and the Guinea.

Now that I have found the problem, the situation will be remedied. I am going to set Lucifer free.

From this there are a few possible outcomes:

1. He will get eaten by the dogs or the fox.

2. He will scare the dogs enough that they will forever leave the chickens alone and he will eat the fox.

3. He will survive and wander about the place until he freezes to death or chokes on a mouse. (I don’t think they eat mice but I wouldn’t put it past this one.)

This may sound harsh especially when I try to give each animal the highest quality of life we can provide, but I have limits too and he has reached the end of the line! With a bird this mean around the laying hens will not lay and that is a problem all it’s own. Not to mention how is anyone going to “Shake a Tail Feather” when they don’t have any left?!

We plan to try again next year with the guineas and rework the system a bit. They really are pretty birds. We had the pearl breed, they have little poke-a-dots on each feather and when they are not trying to kill one another are quite fun to watch.

It’s time to enjoy the get outdoors you mean bird!

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