Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bona Fide farm / April Part II

Our little heifer Sarah, who we raised from a bottle and is around 19 months old now, was about to become a young mother.  All the signs were there for a newbie farmer to get anxious and wake up several times a night to hike through the fields to check on her.  I had been doing this for about a week, and then we had a night out at the Chamber of Commerce banquet and Snookie and Mary Lou William's after party, and I slept through the night.

The next morning when I went out to check on everyone, there was a brown lump in the back of the field.  It was Sarah, flat on her side, legs straight out, head flat in the mud, rain pouring down, and she was barely breathing or able to pick up her head.  At that point I could not tell if the calf was still inside her, and a quick check only told me there wasn't a calf ready to come out.

It took an hour of wrestling with Sarah in the mud and rain, tucking her feet under her and getting her rolled onto her stomach, and then much heaving and horn pulling later she finally struggled to her feet.  (In this time the battery on my phone died, but after both local vets proved unavailable.)

She was very weak on her feet, but up. And she was skinny, which meant the calf was out, somewhere.

And then Eat Cow, our jersey/angus bull, who we also raised with a bottle and is the father of the calf, came over and jumped on Sarah's back, crushing her back to the muddy ground.

I locked him in the barn, and with a better idea of what was wrong with Sarah, i.e. she was exhausted because she had given birth and then been knocked down over and over by the freaked out and confused young bull.  

She got back to her feet on her own as I approached her, so I headed into the woods to look for a dead calf.  100 ft from where I found Sarah, there was a dark little shape curled at the base of a tree, and against all my expectations, when I picked it (him) up he stuck his little legs out and started squirming.  I set him down, and he wobbled his way out to his mother.

We walked back to the barnyard, and I started pumping her full of grain.

Eat Cow, as beautiful and well formed as he is, was now officially too dangerous to stay on the farm. And I was fighting the urge to put a bullet in him.  So I posted him on Craigslist, and the next morning at 8 a trailer was driving away with him, having delivered a supposedly pregnant heifer in trade.

So this is our beautiful bull:

And the new cow in the background is our new heifer, half angus, half jersey.  We're pumping her up with grain to put some meat on those bones.  

The whole process was hugely stressful, and it was nice to curl up with the family on movie/pizza night to unwind and watch Crocodile Dundee.

The next morning we had another issue: Sarah was grazing, and her calf was nowhere to be seen.  The kids and I headed out to hunt for him, and found he had slipped under the fence in the very far corner of the property, (where a post had pulled out of a low spot in the soggy ground,) and he was curled up on the wrong side of the fence.  I hoisted him back over the fence, and Sarah came to collect him.

The Airstream, near its final resting spot. And Alexe, and her dogs, and her glowy-box.  And her cute pig tails.

Our little boy is clipping his own nails now. 

And building towers with every single block in the box. 

We had another search for a missing baby cow, now named Beef Turkey, which is what the kids call beef jerky.  Annaliese found a turtle.

And eventually we found Beef Turkey and pointed him back to his mother again.

Sarah is producing far too much milk for one calf, so we needed a system for milking her.  Voila, a little milking stall.  The first day we had to drag her in, the second day we had to tie Beef Turkey next to the feed bucket, the third day she walked right in on her own.

A side project, turning the thicket-ish 5 acres in the back of the pasture into a lovely park-land.  It's going to take a while.  The kids help when they get home from school.  And with the bull gone they can safely come running through the pastures without having to worry about being stomped.  The departure of the bull has been very relaxing.

The next few pictures were taken by Annaliese while I was milking.  Since the calf started latching and we worked out a milking routine, milking time has turned into one of my favorite times of day. I lean into Sarah's side and start milking, and the time flies by as the kids prattle on about what happened during their day, the chickens fight over the bits of grain Sarah drops from her nose when she picks her head up, and the goats and sheep circle around waiting for anything they might snack on.  

Chicken. We have two home-hatched chicks that are large enough to roam with the flock, and 15 freshly hatched that are growing in the shop.

Penny, our first goat.

A couple of the other girls.

Our new billy goat.  

A family dinner.  Breaking out the chainsaw and hitting the woods has been fun, and built up an appetite.  This is my attempt at a Little Home on the Prairie style massive farm meal.  The fresh apple pies are cooling on the counter behind Caspian.  

My good friend Cliff and I took a trip out the the river, and the previous episode of actually catching fish was not a fluke.

We started out small:

And worked our way up.  We didn't end up with enough to make a decent meal, so they all went free.  

From fishing, to ice cream cones at the drug store with the family after school, to walking home.  

To milking Sarah, and for the first time, bringing the milk inside to drink. (The early milk went to the pigs.)

The kids went to church in the evening, and Caspian came home in a vest to match his sister's.  They're awarded for memorizing bible verses, and Caspian has been jealous of Annaliese's for a few weeks now.

This little man needed an extra snack before bed time.  

At some point on this lovely day Annaliese's teacher sent me a text to say our little first grader's testing results were back, and she's reading at a 4th grade level. Of course.

I finally got around to filling the planters in the courtyard at the Blu Buck buildings.  Alexe and I took a shopping trip, just the two of us, in the middle of the day while the kids were in school.  It was so decadent.  

Grape vines, which will grow up to cover the wood awning out front, and herbs as cover crops around their bases. 

Cliff and his wife Ramona have a booth in the back of the BTC.  His labels invariably make me smile.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

April, Part 1

Firstly, persevering in my 9th year as the worst fisher-person in MS, I took my rod out to the river to see how many fish I could scare off.  Three managed to bite my hook, ruining my dry spell, and hopefully leading to many fish caught and released in the future.  

Also in my plentiful time, I cleaned the pantry.  It took several hours.  

In the final week leading up to Easter, Caspian came down with a stomach bug.  He missed the egg hunt at school on Friday, and was not up to the egg hunt on Saturday.  Annaliese suited up in a sporty outfit, let me put her hair in a tight ponytail to help with aerodynamics and increase her efficiency as an egg hunter, and promised her brother she would bring back enough eggs for the both of them.  Which she did.

The airstream necessitated a trip to HD for paint, and after walking by this HD sponsored art school thingy twice, I couldn't keep the children from participating.  They put it right next to the check out.  

Dinner on the porch.  Note the homemade bread.  

Then the kids excitedly went to bed, and Annliese left this note on the foot of her bed.

After a morning of Easter baskets and candy, the kids suited up in their new Easter outfits, we all posed for Alexe's picture taking...

And we headed to a little primitive Baptist church in Bruce, MS, for a few hours of Sacred Harp singing.  If you've never heard or witnessed this, I highly recommend.  Don't expect to be able to sing along without lots of practice; it's too loud, too fast paced, and the sheet music is too hard to follow.  But it's powerful, and worth being present for even if you feel foolish every time you try to sing along.

There was a classic church potluck in the middle, which made for a lovely Easter dinner, with no dishes or cleaning required at home.

We made it home for a lazy afternoon of games and reading.  This was the latest addition to the board game cupboard, courtesy of u.Jim and a.Caitlin.

I came home one day to find Annaliese waiting with a pile of materials, a cordless driver, and a pocket full of screws.  She wanted to build a check out bench so she and Caspian could play HD.  I helped knock this together, and they carried it across the yard, donned their orange branded aprons they had picked up on our trip to that box store, and played HD.  Everything about this was fun and cute, except for the corporate branding.

Ah tax season.  Alexe has moved into my office above the BTC.  She doesn't like me having any space that doesn't include a nook for her. 

One of my favorite sights, a parking lot filling up with tenants. All four apartments are occupied, three of the five downstairs spaces are leased, and the hotel is trundling along.

The screened in sleeping porch.  

One afternoon while tinkering on the Airstream, I looked up and saw this troupe walking up the driveway.  Caspian was hanging back, shooting things with his stick.  His sound effects are marvelous.

Fridays are now officially pizza and family movie nights.  The kids talk about it all week.  The last couple weeks features Sister Act and Crocodile Dundee.  Three Men and a Baby is scheduled for this week.

The kids are still working through my Mad Magazine collection.  Our compromise on Saturday mornings, they can join me in bed at 7, but shush while I try to continue sleeping.

We got started on the floor of the Airstream, after turning the inside a lovely blue.  Several sections of the floor had to be replaced.  

We set up our mobile overhaul station...

And started laying down the new floor.

We gathered at Kevin and Carrie's house to celebrate Carrie's completion of her undergraduate work at Cornell, 30 years after starting.  After dinner, when the various musicians started breaking out their instruments, the kids got into the hot tub.


Sunday morning, someone found the basket of blocks. 

A family we are very hopeful will move to Water Valley invited us up to Oxford for a Sunday brunch.  The kids had a ball, and Caspian impressed everyone with his basketball skills.  

They seem pretty happy to us.

Instead of doing paperwork in the evening we drove out to the river and took a family walk.  Which included much whining from kids, many ant piles being stomped on, and a number of sword fights.  We also decided to get to the bottom of Caspian's "Dragonsaul" obsession.  We have no idea what he's talking about, a game, or movie, or cartoon.  After much time quizing him on character names and telling us snippets of plot lines, we, and Google, still have no idea what he's on about.  

Round two with the incubator, we have 15 healthy little chicks.

Until this latest cold snap. we've been sleeping on the porch.  

One of our last pictures of Eat Cow.  He's off to a new life with a larger herd to tend.  More on that later.

The floors are in, the painting is done, and the cushion covers have been laundered twice and reinstalled.  After a new telephone pole and transformer were installed, I moved the airstream to it's official resting spot, and we'll finish hooking up the power and water at some point.

Thursday night, with a babysitter locked in until 10pm!, we went to the Chamber of Commerce banquet, where we pondered the absence of diversity in the audience, enjoyed visiting with many of the older folks in town, and listened to a truly soul-crushing speech from an elected official, the lieutenant governor of the state.  

To pick us up, we stopped at our local brewery for some lovely tastings, then headed on to the after party at Snookie and Mary Lou William's house.  This after party has been going on for over 30 years, and attracts more people than the Chamber banquet. 

The next morning I got up to find our first calf had been born earlier that morning. More on that later.