Rest in Pieces

Today we say “goodbye” to a great little steer. Elvis and I have had “the talk” a few times and the day has come. Last night he was loaded into my uncle’s stock trailer accompanied by a few more with the same destination. I was both excited and sad as I filled out the butchers order form indicating how I would like him returned… little white packages. The freezer has been unplugged for most of the summer so the thought of it once again full and of our grass fed beef this time is pretty exciting. It will also be nice to not be calling mom “do you have an extra package of burger?” It happens often.

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The Cows Came Home

It’s been just short of two weeks ago that the cows came home. It was nice to have everyone back on the farm where they belong. The girls were bred and are due late spring. They spent their time away with my uncle’s herd of Angus. They were comparable in size to this year’s calves it seemed. So as we drove by they were easy to spot from the road. I didn’t visit them nearly as much as I should have, but one Sunday we did stop in after church. They were all on the other side of the pasture when we arrived. I stood at the fence and called for Lucy. It wasn’t too long before she wandered slowly over, Wheezy followed keeping her distance. She refused to eat from my hand as she used to but I was just happy she still came when called.

While the girls were out Elvis and G.W. settled right in. They have become so tame. I’m so glad we are not going to eat G.W.. He is so friendly, he will walk up to me in the pasture to be pet. I can get the burdock off of him without any fuss. He is so sweet. Elvis is the same. I already dread the day he has to go. That’s going to be a rough one.

G.W. and Elvis
G.W. and Elvis

Elvis took G.W. under his wing and they became good buddies. This was made more apparent when the cows came back. Wheezy’s horns look to have grown 6 inches while she was away and she has learned she likes to use them. Hers have grown much more forward instead of upward as Lucy’s are. As soon as they hopped out of the trailer they began chasing the boys around trying to establish a pecking order again.

I don’t like. Not one bit! Those boys are so sweet and they just get pushed around.

Because the girls get so territorial over the big hay feeder Mike made a couple smaller feeders in the barn. I was worried that the boy’s weren’t going to get any feed. Every time they get in the barn Wheezy runs them out. They look great! And work well. I asked for 2 more once I saw them installed, then we could remove the big feeder and give them a little more room in there.

Hay Feeder
Hay Feeder

Last night Wheezy and I had a little “get to know you”. It wasn’t a full blown “come to Jesus”, I’m hoping it doesn’t get that far, because that will end one of two ways: I come out on top and she will mind from then on out or she will take that round and when I recover she will be turned into hamburger. Lucky for both of us it didn’t go that far. I’m giving both girls the benefit of the doubt that they haven’t been home for too long and are still getting readjusted.

I went into the pen with an arm full of hay for Hank (his feeder is next to the fence most easily accessed through the cow pen). I wasn’t a few feet in the gate when Wheezy lowered her head and came towards me. It wasn’t a leap or real charge, there wasn’t enough room between us for that, but it was obvious she thought she was going to establish a Queen Bee status with me. This time she got an up close view of my boot. Right between the eyes.

Dexter Angus Cross
Wheezy

She wasn’t expecting it and she backed up pretty quick, tripped on her own feet and then stood there for a minute processing what just happened. We had a bat inside the front door of the house, only because shortly after we moved in I found it marking a gopher hole in the field, brought it in and hadn’t thought to move it since. But in the last week Mike had finally moved it to the barn and it happened to be right outside the pen. I grabbed the bat, hay in hand, and told Wheezy to get out of the barn. She left, I fed Hank and went on my way.

I didn’t have to use the bat that night. I hope I never do. I don’t want to hurt any of our animals but my 115lbs up against the 700lbs of horned Wheezy, I’m going to need Jesus and a bat if she gets mad.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and my bat…” well it’s close anyway.

This morning Mike and I moved the big feeder so it’s no longer next to the outside door in hopes the boys will be able to make their way in to the other feeders on the wall. Wheezy came in and said hi. She kept her distance.

Lucy is still skittish and has kept her distance since coming home. Hopefully it won’t take too long for her to warm back up to us and Wheezy will calm down again too.

The Girls
The Girls

Dexter Cattle

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Elvis Escapes… Again

Oh for heavens sake! One more time and I am going to put a bale of hay in front of the kitchen window and call it good.

Elvis is out again. I don’t even get the post done about him getting out a few times over the past couple days and here he is again!

Elvis

The little boy was covered in his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and now in need of a clean diaper as well. The little miss was upset she had to be on the floor for some stretching time, company was on their way and there’s Elvis just out the kitchen window. As every good mother would do (sarcastic), I dropped everything,  tucked my pants into my barn boots, threw on my oversized flannel and ran out the door.

I grabbed a bucket of grain from the barn and a rope halter and headed towards Elvis. Trying to get a cow back into the corral when he is enjoying the front yard can be a task in itself; trying to do it with two dogs who are less than helpful (to put it very graciously) when it comes to any animal, will make you crazy! But I managed, without too much trouble.

The little guy found a few loose wires in the fence and has very little trouble wiggling through.

Later in the evening, our friends were over and there was Elvis, again.

“Elvis is out.” I said with a sigh. Mike and Josh, went out to put him back with the “herd”.

The next day was the same thing; Elvis is in the front yard, send him back inside the fence and out he comes a little while later.

This morning, there I am making breakfast and here comes Elvis to check things over. Until I can fix the fence this weekend, he has permission to be in the front yard and by the barn. He knows where he is supposed to be and how to get there. When he looks like he might start wandering east he needs to be sent back the other direction. I don’t want him at the neighbors or worse, on the road.

Of course this is the time he takes a second look down the driveway. Out I go, rope in hand, pink bathrobe, and shoes that resemble a ballet slipper rather than a barn boot. He knows the drill by now, but he also likes to keep a little distance between us in hopes for a treat to coax him back. Today I grabbed a fresh bale of hay and tossed it over the fence by where he has been escaping. (If the neighbors could see the things that go on over here, they’d think I was nuts!) Lucy and Wheezy came running; it’s always a fight for the freshest hay. It wasn’t too much later and Elvis wanders over for a quick scratching and through the fence he went to get his share.

I just washed my robe. (sigh) I think it will just stay the way it is with a few stray pieces of hay stuck to it for now, as I’m sure I will be making the trip out again.

I’m just going to put these sign on my amazon wish list. I’m sure it wont be the last time someone gets out and I’d rather they not get run over in the yard. A “watch for cows” sign might be a good warning.

He's friendly but it will get people watching for him anyway
He’s friendly but it will get people watching for him anyway

Or maybe this one.

cow sign 2

 

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Spring, Bare Feet, and Farming

Spring! It's so close!
Spring! It’s so close!

Here is it, we made it through winter, spring is here (hopefully) and I am dreaming about this summers work. We made our “Big Project To Do List” for the next few seasons; put together an estimated cost for each project and figured out how much we needed to try and “squirrel away” each month. Let’s just say the lists are long and the budget will be extra tight, but doable.

We have our pasture plans set. We drew up dividing fence lines for inside the main line. The cows will be able to rotate grazing between 4 different pieces daily, to every other day, depending on how things look. This will keep them in nice green grazing all season.

The pile of “barn cleanings” will be moved out to the vegetable garden and orchard plot. Those plots will just be worked this year as soil prep. Turned over every so often and allowed to lie empty and soak in the compost. The vegetables for the season will be grown in the small berry garden for this year; an “eat fresh” garden. It will be much smaller of a garden than I like but it will be something to get my toes in the dirt.

This winter I read “Fields of Plenty” by Michael Ableman. It was not what I was expecting but a very enjoyable read. I was glad to read this:

“”I don’t understand how any farmer can feel the land with shoes on,” he says.”

It just proves I’m not the only one who likes to do my work barefoot. Socks are only worn with boots around here. When my boots come off at the door the socks do too. As soon as most of the snow is gone and it is time to get things going in the garden and yard the boots are usually left at the door. I prefer to feel the ground beneath my feet. Unless I’m in the coop or barn, then I like my polka dot mud boots. Chickens peck the  skin on my feet and as warm as a fresh cow pie is, I’d rather not have it between my toes if I can help it.

I have started to do chores again, not all the time, Mike and I share those for now. I am once again starting over with Lucy. I haven’t been able to work with her for a few months and haven’ been out to visit her much since I handed off the chores. She was doing so well too. I hate starting over, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. This time around it shouldn’t take nearly as long to get her back to “milking calm”… I hope.

Wheezy, may or may not be pregnant. I haven’t been able to pin her down to check. We are going to keep a close eye on her just in case.

Elvis is very friendly, Mike has been working with him when he does chores. Hopefully I can get him halter broke this spring as well.

The new chickens and turkeys are on order, some more layers and a bunch to butcher. The coop is all ready for the new bunch. I am too. We picked out a few different breeds. It will be nice to have some variety out there. The “old” chickens are still laying daily and most will make it through this years butcher, some will be stew birds or canned. Their rowdy behavior is not something I desire around here.

A few more days and the snow will be gone and spring work will be here. I can’t wait!

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Pregnant and Waiting…Impatiently Waiting…

Lucy and Elvis
Lucy and Elvis

Elvis is here. Lucy is producing milk. I could be milking her. I have been dying to have fresh milk on the farm since Lucy first arrived. Actually since before she arrived, but once she got here there was a real possibility of having milk. I got her all halter broke again and she is very used to me handling her and being around her. Yet here I sit, next to Lola the chicken in the kitchen, during the early morning hours before chores when I could be milking a cow.

I have been told by multiple people- Husband, Dad, Mom, friends… that I should/need to wait until after I have the baby to begin the cow milking. I know they are just trying to keep us safe. I am trying to be an obedient wife, daughter and friend, but that doesn’t mean I am any less impatient when it comes to something as exciting as milking a cow.

Waiting is not an ability I am very good at when it comes an activity that I am so excited about. However, they all know that unless I lock the cow or calf outside the barn for the night, I have no way of keeping them separate for a morning milking. They also know that for how cold it has been there is no way I would be able to put one or the other out for the night. I have thought about putting the calf in the meat bird side of the chicken coop. He would stay plenty warm and safe and it won’t be in use until spring again.

You see the problem is I have saved up the money to get the panels for the calf pen and what I will need to put together a make-shift milking stall but I can’t go get them. Well, I could go get them hope that the nice gentlemen working would load them for me but then there they will sit; in the trailer or truck bed. A load of water to the barn and tossing down a few hay bales has already made me wonder if the baby was going to come while I’m mid-chores in the barn. As much as I want to start milking the cow I don’t want the baby to come too early either. Seeing as though my panel unloading help thinks I should be waiting to get kicked milking the cow for a few more weeks, there the panels would sit, just tormenting me.

In the mean time I’ve been trying to think of different indoor projects to work on. Winter is usually the season I’m creating all sorts for things in the comfort of the house. At this point they idea list I have came up with looks like this:

1. Work on the next cookbook(s).
2.Make hard cheese.
3. Carve a butter press.
4. Make cottage cheese.
5. Mend jeans that should have been done months ago.
6. Organize the basement.
7. Make butter.
8. Start a new sewing project.
9. Finish knitting the sweater.

So far the most appealing things on the list require me to milk the cow first. I have been doing some work on the cookbooks, but still. Mending jeans, although it needs to be done is not something I am interested in at the moment. I could plan the 2016 garden because I don’t know how much we are actually going to plant this year. I have been doing my pig and peacock research so this spring I will be all set to get started on those projects. For now everything just seems to revolve around the cows and dealing with the little chicken issues that have been arising.

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