Who’s in the barn?

There was a short week where we didn’t have any morning chores. The cows were in the pasture and the goats had been sold. I’m back to morning chores now. We’ve got the steers that are scheduled for burger and Sweet Caroline in the corral and the rest of the herd in the pasture. That means filling a second stock tank and feeding hay and grain to the boys and Caroline. They all could use a little fattening.

Poor Caroline, she’s been so skinny. I’ve dewormed her a few times thinking maybe that was the problem. According to the calendar she was due to calve in a month but she was just too thin. I spoke with the vet and he came out and gave her a look-over. Diagnosis was slight pneumonia, very nutrient deficient and not pregnant. All around disappointing but fixable. His recommendation was give her some finishing grain along with her hay and some extra minerals. And ween that darn calf!!

The other girls kick their calves off when they’ve had enough. We haven’t had much of a problem getting them to ween when needed. Elwood is a few weeks short of a year. There’s no good reason he still needs milk. Sweet Caroline is living up to her name once again. She will nurse any calf that tries and will not kick Elwood off. That is draining her as well.

Long story short, I’ve been trying to keep the two separated for a good month now. It hasn’t been going well. Elwood’s head is still small enough to fit through the fences and gates. He calls from the gate and she stands there and lets him eat. We had finally been making progress when she was in with the steers.

That all went to hell on Sunday morning.

It was my fault. I should have known better.

Caroline went into estrus and G.W. knew it. She’s already his girl. They are usually side by side all the time. He’s been her protector since she first came home. He was running her up and down the fence line all day Saturday. This caused the steers to run and Caroline wasn’t getting the rest that I felt she needed to get back to normal. So, my genius moment I put her in the barn for the night.

Sunday morning Mike left early for work. Soon after he sent a text. The conversation started like this:

“Are you up?”

“No, whats up?”

“The cows not bad but will need a new gate.”

“Yikes. Ok”

“GW is in with Caroline”

“Holy $#!+ ! I’m up”

Lucy and the gate

Minutes later there I was, bathrobe, barefoot staring down the bull in the wrong pen. The gate was still on the hinges and chained to the post but clearly not functioning properly. It was bent in half-ish and upward.  The 1/3 of a bale ring and smaller gate that was blocking the barn door had been tossed aside and there he stood between me and Caroline.

G.W. and the 1/3 of the bale ring.

I should have known better than to take her out of sight.

The only ones that stayed where they belonged were Lucy and Grace (the donkey). It was obvious that I was not going to get everyone sorted out right away. Instead I managed to get Elwood the unruly calf penned in the barn and let the rest go.

Fast forward through my electrocution by fence and bee hive attack to Monday morning chores. I’ve started playing a new game the cows have made up called “Who’s in the barn?!” I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t Lucy or the donkey… Six bovine, a variety of sizes and colors watched eagerly through the fence as I opened the barn door that morning.

I may or may not have started swearing.

I love doing morning chores and love working with our cows, but sometimes it can be a little… challenging. I love the challenge though too.

Calmly and with the help of some hay and a grain bucket I got the whole herd out of the barn with the exception of Caroline. Using the mangled gate as a first defense I blocked the run from the corral to the barn. Then, I got smart and turned the piece of bale ring around so that it fit into the corner made by the fence and barn door. I climbed through the ring into the barn and leaned the other small gate across the door and used a lead rope to tie the two together! Let’s see Elwood get through that! Ha! G.W. could destroy my handy work I’m sure but that’s beside the point. I’ll take a win when I can get one.

As for the rest of them, I just said the hell with it and left them to the pasture until Mike could get home and help.

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Tales of the Pregnant Farmer: A Lesson From Matthew 6:10

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

Don’t I know it! The amount of plans that I have carefully or carelessly put together that have gone up in smoke are endless. I plan all the time and most the time God says “Nope turn left” when I’m stepping right. For a great many years the change of plans that took me a direction I had not planned to go was quite frustrating. I had things to do, it says so on my list.

I pray all day long for what I would like to see happen and so far I’m not seeing the progress that I would hope. It’s discouraging. I’ve been putting in the prayer and the work that I think will make a difference and still I feel no closer to my goal than I did before. Which brings me to “Thy will be done.” Matthew 6:10

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Serious Barn Therapy

Barn.HayWagon

“Maybe you need to sit in the barn for a day.”    – Mike, husband

I have been struggling with almost constant headaches and migraines for a few weeks now. The barn was Mike’s suggestion to my curiosity about an ear piercing that supposedly minimizes or cures migraines for good. He’s right. I am in need of some serious barn therapy. The lack of writing about the farm and animals is a good indication that I haven’t been doing my fair share of chores this winter. It’s true, my pregnant farmer days have slowed to next to none unfortunately, but with the nice weather coming it’s time I get out of the house and get going on things again. Mike has been doing a great job out there and has tamed the girls down again. Finally Lucy (the milk cow) will eat out of our hands again and Wheezy too!

It seems like a very long time since I have been knee deep with my pitch fork. I’m pretty sure when he said “sit” he meant just that. Just sitting in the barn although a great thought, just might do me in. The longer I sit, the more time I have to see everything that needs to be done and think of what can’t be seen that needs doing too. Nope, sitting will come after the barn time. After I waddle my way to the house, just before my back tightens up for the night and I make pancakes for supper because I’m done for the day. (Yes, that happens here too. Mama fails to plan ahead and its pancakes for all!)

Last weekend, Mike was able to sneak me out of the house while the kids napped and bread rose. It was nice to wander through the barn and check on everyone. The goat’s hooves looked pretty good. I will pencil them into my schedule a couple weeks from now for a pedicure. Otherwise, everyone was looking great and eagerly waiting at their fences for whatever handout they may be offered. Lucy and Wheezy are looking rather wide, and healthily pregnant. Little G.W. could use some green pasture for a while. He’s looking good just small yet. It won’t take much summer for him to catch up. Elvis’s horns are more than nubs now; I’d like to keep him around for another year or two just to grow those out before butchering. That isn’t going to happen though.

If you have never spent serious time in a barn you really should! (you can use mine, pitch fork included!) There is nothing like it. When chaos happens in the barn, (yes “when”, there is no “if” there) it passes quickly and once again you are left in a quiet calm. There is peace in there. Time to think and relax, even while working. It seems to be the easiest way to reset yourself, to regain a handle on things and recharge. This is probably why morning chores are my favorite… though I haven’t been doing them in a while. Even a quick “hurry up and get the animals fed before the kids wake up” takes twenty minutes or so and is enough to start your day on the bright side. (again I will offer the barn therapy sessions for free seven days a week)

I’ve now seen how things go when I skip out on my barn time and it’s past time that I get back out there!

 

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Making a Resurrection Garden

Spring can mean many different things depending on who you ask. From our farm view it is the start of the New Year. It brings baby animals, buds on the trees, blooms on the flowering crab trees, tulips (that I forgot to plant last fall! Ugh!) There’s spring cleaning of the house, yard, barn, flowerbeds, and gardens. It can get really crazy as things come out of winter hibernation. Spring is also a time to slow down and be thankful. That’s right being thankful isn’t limited to one day in November, you know the day before people go to town and fight over the latest gadget.

Giving thanks really should be done daily. In fact many studies have shown that the more one takes note of what they have to be thankful for the happier and more content they are. This is everything from a simple act of kindness, good health, an unexpected phone call from a friend or the orange soda you had for lunch. Every season brings something more to be thankful for and in the spring it’s the resurrection and what that means for us.

The weeks leading up to Easter are observed with fasting, self-reflecting, and most commonly the giving up something; such as the ever popular “sweets” or coffee. It seems like kind of a cop-out really. Give up the same thing every year because it requires no real soul searching or thought; “My pants are tight from Christmas, I suppose giving up sweets would be a good idea.” I’m not saying going without coffee or chocolate cake is an easy task, especially when you are still coming down from the cookie high of the holidays. But really, does it do you any spiritual good? Probably not. I knew a gal that for lent she said she was going to go to church every day for a year. Ho-ly Bananas! God bless her! She did it. I for one, am quite positive that a Lenten task such as that I would be setting myself up for complete failure. I mean done by day two failure.

For the past years, I have skipped the usual giving something up in the coffee sense of it. Instead I donate a minimum of one laundry basket of stuff a week. Yes, I would say the first few years were an easy route. I had a lot of clothes that I didn’t wear, old decorations I didn’t put up and so on. As the years have gone by this has begun to get tougher. I don’t collect nearly as much stuff as I used to and with our small house I have been getting rid of things year round. So each passing year is causing me to dig deeper into some of the things that I hold on to a little more dearly. The family heirlooms aren’t going anywhere but my ever growing book collection, cookbooks especially, I hate to part with for example. Going through the shelves is a sacrifice for me. But there is still not much in the spiritual department so to speak.

In addition to my usual (not quite) daily readings I have added a few other quiet tasks to my Lenten list. I needed something more, something that would teach. Something not just for me but for the family as a whole. With tiny ones (1 and 2 years old) teaching the concept to Easter is a tough one. The little boy knows the story of Christmas. He can tell you who’s who in the books and nativity scenes, (some of which are out all year in our home, a gentle reminder). He will tell you Joseph had to sleep in the barn and Mary had baby Jesus. There were animals, angels and shepherds and so on. Easter, on the other hand, seems harder to teach this age. He can learn the story but the story is a violent journey ending in joy that is not quite comprehensible for such a little mind.

We do put a small gift or two in the stockings and one gift from Santa but try to emphasize the true meaning of Christmas. It’s easier with Christmas. It’s a happy story for the entire journey. Easter, comes with bunnies, jelly beans and Easter egg hunts and a man being killed on a cross and then rising from the dead. Such violence is hard to explain to someone who has never experienced something more violent than a flick on the mouth for talking back or a time out. The crucifix in our living room is looked at with a puzzled look when he is told “that’s Jesus”. He hasn’t thought about why Jesus is up there or how he got there or the pain and suffering that put him there.

The rebirth, and new beginnings can symbolized in some of what has become another over-commercialized holiday but it can be found. Empty plastic eggs compared to an empty tomb, bunnies and baby chicks to new life or candy as a celebration for fasting. Ok that last one is a stretch but you get the picture.

Our dining room table always has a center piece and for the Lenten season it is an empty patch of dirt, with a cross of nails and a small cave. Jesus is sad for these weeks, there is no green grass or pretty flowers. When we talk back or push our sister it makes Jesus sad and the empty dirt is a reminder to be nice. We water the empty dirt on Friday and tell Jesus we are sorry for the things we shouldn’t have done, what we are thankful for and good deeds we did. These are simple things- talked back, threw a toy not meant for throwing, thankful for a warm house and family, we helped put the books back on the shelf and set the table.

A week and a half or so before Easter the dirt is heavily seeded with grass seed. As we continue to water during reflection time grass begins to sprout. On Easter morning, the grass is full and green and there might be a butterfly or flowers. Jesus is happy and we are too.

It’s the least violent way I could think of to teach about this season to a toddler. The repent for our sins is made into as simple terms as possible. We are learning to take ownership of our actions and acknowledge all that we have been giving.

Don’t get me wrong, come Easter morning their baskets will be “hidden” with a treat, a dyed egg and new toothbrush. The Easter bunny will have come and left a couple dishes of special candies and with any luck there may be an egg hunt later in the day. We can have the “bunny fun” as a side note of Easter and not the center of attention.

(We always got a new toothbrush from Santa and the Easter Bunny. Give one for Halloween and you know everyone is getting a fresh brush a few times a year anyway.)

Resurrection Garden
Resurrection Garden
Resurrection Garden
Resurrection Garden
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Counting Blessings

The gate we are able to use that was from Grandma's farm.
The gate we are able to use that was from Grandma’s farm.

I have mentioned before that I believe everything happens for a reason and it happens when God decides it’s going to. With this thought we have been blessed by so many. Though we recognize it and thank God for them daily, during the Christmas season I like to look back at the past year and give another thoughtful thanks for all we’ve been graced with.

During our “homeless” time, which was a few months, we were able to live with my parents. The farm came for sale when we needed a home. It was the perfect size and in the perfect location. From the time we packed up in North Dakota with the help of some friends that are more like family, to unpacking here we have has so much help.

The “new” house needed paint. My uncle had painting equipment for us to borrow.  We had friends and family come to help paint and clean before we unpacked.

The time came where we needed a second paycheck, meaning I could no longer be a full time stay at home mom. With the tip from a friend and a miracle I got a job at the local telephone company. The hours allow me to spend the majority of the day with the little boy.

The freezer was a couple days from being unplugged last fall when dad let me shoot the little deer that came to our stand. That put enough in the freezer until another uncle stopped by and dropped of extra beef he had out of the blue. This was just in time as the freezer was again almost empty and the in-laws were coming to stay and they don’t care for wild game. The beef was gone and we were able to purchase 1/2 a pig at a benefit dinner/auction for a friend who help me years ago at the bakery. The freezer continues to empty and fill one way or another. Always just in time and always a blessing.

Winter came and it was one of the worst we’ve had in a long while. We (Mike, I don’t plow snow yet) had help plowing our driveway when he was working through the night plowing for work, from my dad and the neighbor at times. Just to give you an idea of just how bad it was at times, I buried my Escape, hood deep, from the head lights to the back of the drivers door by the barn. I figured I gunned it to make it through the other drifts I could get through that one too. I was wrong. It came to a dead stop and I had a lot of shoveling to do to get out of that one.

http://WildFlowerFarm.org

The fence went up with the help of my dad finding posts at grandmas and borrowing a friends ASV to dig holes. It was some long days and long weekends spent in the cool spring with him, my brother and husband getting that done. A little more scavenging by dad and we had a fair amount of used barbed wire at a decent price.

My best friend spent a beautiful spring day carrying field rocks from piles, across the yard, to fix up some flower beds. That was a huge job. We emptied a few piles into the flower beds.

http://wildflowerfarm.org

Then was the chicken coop. Again the help of family to get that together. Mom and my sister baby sitting last minute so the guys could work uninterrupted while I was at work.

The first haying season was upon us, our neighbor came over with his tractors and equipment, between him, my dad and husband again, hay was put up. We sold some to have something to pay the neighbor for his help. It wasn’t much but we will continue to try to repay him in one way or another.

Lucy- http://Wildflowerfarm.org

The hay was up and we were given, yes given, Lucy! I couldn’t believe it. I had wanted a Dexter and had hoped in a few years we would have one on the farm so I could milk her. Never would I have guessed we would have one so soon and gifted to us. I will be in debt to them for a long time! I am ever so thankful and do my best to “pay it forward” until I can pay it back some how.

http://Wildflowerfarm.org

This fall we butchered chickens again with the help of Grandma, an uncle, cousins, parents, siblings, and friends. With the help of so many, such a not so great job, went really well.

Instulated Stock tank wildflolwerfarm.org

Winter is here again and the cows need water, not an ice block. Dad made an insulated stock tank (using one from Grandma’s farm) and we were again given, a tank heater. Mike and my dad built the cow pen and hay feeder for in the barn just before the snow was here to stay.

The few times that we have left town as a family, my sister has been able to stay at the farm and take care of the (multiplying) animals. Summer chores are relatively easy, winter chores take much more time and effort and she took on the challenge each time.

We have also been blessed with Nana and Grandpa day care. I know baby sitting for a few hours in the middle of the afternoon can interrupt many plans especially when it is days in a row and not just “here and there”.

These are just a few of the many blessings that have came our way in the past year. We are ever so thankful and wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a year full of blessings!

Nativity http://wildflowerfarm.org

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