Last weekend we took a break from the farm and baking and went to the lake. It was a fun, family filled weekend. I turned my phone on once and saw a stack of missed messages in all forms and quickly shut it back off. This was to be vacation and Mike might lose it if I started baking.
Once we were home it was back to work. The goats were to be sold. The ladies that were taking them were there and waiting. The loading of the goats went pretty well. They are all very friendly so catching them wasn’t a problem. Hoisting them into the kennels in their SUV took a little extra muscle. Mike got that job. Hank is a big guy. Lyle, well, he never quit eating, so he had some heft behind him. Sweet little Scarlet and Lily were pretty easy.
Rain, rain, stay away. Come again another day. Papa wants to hay today.
By Friday night we had the first cuttings bales of fresh hay in the loft. I think this was the first year nothing broke and we didn’t have the worry of rain. I should probably write that down because who knows if we will ever be so lucky again. I guess I am jumping the gun a little bit; the hay on dad’s fields still needs to be put up and the sky is looking pretty dark.
Personally, I love haying season. As with anything there are some not so great parts but I do my best to overlook those. Things like a million cuts on my forearms from the scratching hay, the constant heavy lifting in the summer heat, the chaff that clings to sweat and itches and the sneezing and snot. Yeah, haying isn’t always pretty, easy or comfortable. All that aside, it’s great. (Yes, I know, I probably am outnumbered everyone to one on this.)
During the winter months the cow are kept in the corral to keep them from damaging the pasture. They do quite a number on the barb wire fence during that time; scratching and rubbing on it all winter long. When spring arrives the fence is always in need of tightening. As soon as we can get some savings set aside I want to put boards up for the corral fence instead.
We have yet to have a calf that has not slipped out at least once. At least when they a new they are easy to catch and carry back. The yearlings are a bit more challenging. They are too big to carry and don’t come to the shaking of a grain bucket yet. These spunky little guys can make life on the farm rather exciting.
Last Friday night I raced home from work to pick up Mike so we could go pick up our bees. It’s only about a 45 minute drive but the way things go we wouldn’t have much time before the beekeepers close up for the night. I came flying down the driveway watching for kids, ducks, dogs and a cat, so the cow in the yard was a surprise.
“Caroline’s out.” I called towards the house as I headed towards the barn. I tossed some duck feed into my milk pail, grabbed the rope halter and headed back out. The second surprise of the night, I should have known better. Sweet Caroline doesn’t get out unless I leave the gate open and invite her. Elwood, our yearling steer was out.
I tried a couple times with the pail of duck feed and then went back to the barn for a rope. The idea was to rope him and then lead him back. By that time I had help and that plan was pretty well out the window too. We chased him into the pig gate and up the hill to the corral gate. Just as we (Mike and I) opened the gate the rest of the herd thundered over. On to Plan C… or F?
We didn’t have time to mess around, our bees were waiting. We closed the pig gate and opened the corral gate and let everyone spend a night on the pasture.
A few nights later, one of those nights when everyone was exhausted, supper was late, because bathes were needed first. We had spent the day working outside, Mike was working on the tractor and cleaning coops and pens, while I was cleaning out the garden. The kids were busy playing in the sun and the baby napping in the shade. The night was winding down everyone was settling into the living room and I was doing a weekends-worth of dishes. That’s when I noticed a new sandbox toy…Thelma…the heifer.
“Mike, Thelma’s out!”
He headed for the door and I kept washing dishes and watched the rodeo unfold out the window. He wasn’t messing around that night. He started with the rope right away. Walking up and down the fence line trying to the perfect time to throw. It wasn’t long and he had her and wasn’t happy about it. I watched as he leaned back, the rope was tight and Thelma was kicking and running. Down through the pig gate and up the hill. (Obviously, the cows know the drill) Then they turned from the corral and headed out to the pasture; Mike still in tow. Then they disappeared.
I don’t know where he left her but pretty soon he was back to the house.
“I’m gonna need some help.” Mike said.
I dried my hands, situated the kids and headed out. I rounded the corner of the barn and there they were again, one on each end of the rope.
A little back and forth and a slight distraction on the other side of the corral and I was able to open the gate. Mike pulled Thelma in and then hopped out just before the rest were over to visit. She was wearing the rope like a Girl Scout sash and we let her. It wouldn’t be too long and she would step out of it.
At this point we should have tightened the fence lines. We didn’t.
On to a couple days later. Coming home after another long day and guess who’s trimming the grass by the chicken coop? Yep, Thelma. We sent the kids to the sandbox and the chase was on again.
It had rained almost constantly for the last couple days so everything was delightfully sloppy. Thelma kicked and bucked her way around the barn, through the yard, into the pig gate, up the hill and around the barn again. Mike fed the cows to distract them…again. Then he started to send her back down the hill to the pig gate while I ran (actually ran this time) around the barn to get to the corral gate and get it open in time.
That spunky little heifer snuck right by and went for lap three! She was half way around and saw Mike at the bottom of the hill and me at the gate and that little $#!* squeezed through the fence and was back in with the rest just in time for more rain.
“Hey! Check your phone!” It was Mike calling me at work.
“Wait…What?! Is that Wheez..Lu..Mar.. no Lucy’s?!” I couldn’t get my words out but through my stammering Mike was able to translate.
“Yes! Lucy had a calf not too long ago. She’s still cleaning it off.”
“Well shoot. I didn’t think she was due for a couple months yet.”
Once again surprised by a calf. Lucy is great for calving, knock-on-wood, she hasn’t needed help with any so far. Each one she gets up and eating right away. She’s a good cow.
When I got home I headed right for the barn rather than the house. The cows were spread about the corral. Lucy was standing next to the feeder outside. I didn’t see a calf anywhere. It’s not unusual for our calves to get out at least twice within their first week. But not usually within the first few hours and when Lucy’s calves are out she’s call’n. I walk up to the fence next to her and looked around. It was then that the hay in the feeder moved. The little guy was balled up in there and she had him covered to keep him warm.