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.

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