Sometimes I think people, as a whole, tend to forget how blessed they really are. I know I do. I have days where I think my world might be imploding around me, especially while looking at the mud and barn grime that is tracked into my house, the toys in the living room that didn’t get picked up the night before, the drainer full of dishes needing put away, the meat thawing on the counter waiting for me to cook a meal, the clothes in the basket waiting to be folded because whomever used the dryer most recently just threw everything in the closest basket instead of folding it. It all can be quite overwhelming if I let it. However, most of the time (NOT all the time… MOST of the time), I choose to be happy and count my blessings.
As most of you know, we are a mixed family. We have mine, his, and ours. The song “Bless The Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts truly fits us. While our failed first relationships were heartbreaking, we truly are blessed that those failures led us to where we are today. Now with the “ours”– the Wild Child, I find I am able to take more time to really appreciate the blessings. When “mine” were little I was overwhelmed with trying to survive, raise my kids, support my family, etc. I missed so much. It saddens me every time I think about it. I vowed not to miss that stuff with the Wild Child.
Slowing down to not miss out on the Wild Child’s growing has allowed me to be more aware of how many blessings I truly have. My faith, my husband, my children, my health, my family, my way of life… the list goes on and on. I also try harder to capture those blessings with my camera. It helps me to be aware, and it helps those I capture “remember”. I live in a place that shows me glimpses of heaven every single day. I see the most glorious sunrises and sunsets. I see new babies being born. I see heifers becoming new mommas for the first time and see the wonder in their eyes with the miracle that just happened. I get to see the wonder in the Wild Child’s eyes with these same sights. I see the miraculous forgiving earth that one day is cracked and brittle with drought, and the next day trying to shoot up new grass spears with even the slightest bit of moisture. I see wild flowers that grow out of rocks. I got to witness not only my kids’ first steps and first words, but also first time barefoot in the grass, first time on the back of a horse, first time riding alone, first time swinging a rope, first time dribbling a basketball, first time shooting a takedown, first time losing a match and first time winning, the first time taking care of an animal, first time pulling a calf, first time holding a pitchfork, first time cleaning a stall. The list goes on and on. And yes, — even the work is a blessing.
So on this glorious spring day (it is 51 degrees here and the sun is shining!!), I challenge you to remember your blessings, notice your blessings, and be thankful for your blessings. GOD is GREAT.
We all have them– cows that are good mothers, but can be extremely nasty when they first have their calf. Take hell bitch #545. She needed to be gone, LONG gone, for a couple of years. I can laugh about her now, but didn’t laugh quite so much for two years, and then sent several emails and made a couple of calls to Karen at the south ranch to make sure they were looking out for her when she calved.
Hell Bitch #545 first earned her name in the middle of the night four years ago. I went down to check cows in the middle of the night, and as is my usual pattern, stopped at the top of the hill while opening the gate and did a quick flashlight shine around the corral to see what was waiting for me. I saw a cow standing way down in the corner that looked suspicious, but had a lot to check between the top of the hill and her. While working my way through the herd, I was sure my flashlight glassed over some little eyes down below. There stood #545 (she hadn’t earned her nickname yet) down in the corner of the corral with a new calf lying half way under the gate to the arena. It was very fresh, covered with membranes and hadn’t been up, so I walked into the barn to get some baling twine. A piece of baling twine hooked over a calf leg makes simple work of dragging a wet calf into the barn, plus gives you a little breathing room between you and the snot-blowing, bellering cow trailing behind.
I stepped out of the barn and headed for the corner and she was on a mission to meet me at least half-way. I went back to the barn and grabbed my weapon of choice– an old cane that the bottom has broken off of, but has had the splinters duct taped back together to make it strong again. This has just enough reach to tap those mommas on the nose if you need a little breathing room. I headed back out with my cane and here she came again, anxious to meet me in the middle of the corral. It was then that I made the executive decision to call for backup. Smart move.
I went to my in-laws house (it is closest to the barn) and called Pine to let him know he needed to come to the corral. Then, as it was a fairly nice night and I was way too overdressed to be in the house and way to lazy to take off some layers, I settled on the front step to wait for Pine. My goodness men can be slow sometimes, especially when you are sitting on the front step on a nice, but still nippy, spring night waiting for some backup against a potentially mean cow. It seemed like forever, but in reality was only about 10 minutes, before he came walking across the yard. ”Is she on the fight?” he asked.
“Well, not really” I explained. ”I just don’t think she is bluffing.” I could see the subtle eye roll portraying the ‘seriously! You got me out of bed for this’ look. It was then that I started sending up just the tiniest, minute, half-hearted prayer for #545 to show her stuff and send my eye-rolling husband up the fence JUST ONCE to prove to him that I wasn’t just being a wimp. I knew GOD was always listening, but who knew how well he was listening in the middle of the night, out in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of a calving lot!
Mr. Cocky said “I’ll go get the calf if you set up the panels to wing the cow into the barn.” No problem. With confidence and a touch of swagger (honestly– you had to see it– he seriously thought I was just being a chicken), he made a beeline for the calf in the corner of the corral. Don’t know what #545 was watching– me I guess– as she didn’t notice him until he was just getting to her calf. Then the fun started. She ran him up the arena gate, and I guess she didn’t take to well to me laughing hysterically as she blew out of the corner, around the panel I had just set up, and ran me up the panel. Things weren’t quite so funny anymore. The panel I was on was hooked (with the top hook only) to a panel that we swing out of the barn. The panel in the barn is not really “hooked” to anything– just tied on the corner. These panels aren’t meant to be a safe haven, they only provide a wing off of the barn to help get the cows and heifers in.
“Keep her there and I’ll get the calf” he yelled! Keep her here? Seriously? She was trying to kill me! I was on top of a panel balancing on one corner and trying to protect myself with my cane. The cane that always seemed just long enough, but all of a sudden wasn’t quite long enough as it was allowing her to knock into me and my panels in between swings. Pine had the calf and was running for the barn. I was yelling, screaming, and swinging at the cow. She finally turned and ran away from me, then she headed back down to the corner bellering in search for her calf.
“Here she comes” I called in warning, and into the barn she blew with me slamming the shed door shut behind her. Cussing, more cussing, panels ringing, more cussing. I didn’t dare open the door. We didn’t dare take the chance of her getting out. Then Pine yelled at me from close to the door and told me to open the walk-through door; he was going to make a run for it. Out he came, cow close behind slamming into the door and he jerked it shut. We made it. On the walk back to the house he confessed that she ran him up the panels three times before he just climbed from jockey pen to jockey pen until he got close to a door. My humor was light and I started laughing, then had to confess I had sent up just the smallest of small prayers asking for that just so he didn’t think I was being a wimp.
The next year the weather was beautiful and some of the cows were calving out in the pasture. Pine and I would go out every morning while Papa was feeding and tag and vaccinate calves. One morning I reminded him that if I wasn’t along and he came up on Hell Bitch #545 to remember— SHE ISN’T BLUFFING. He hadn’t remembered. Silly man. She was first cow we came upon that morning with a new calf. We stopped well back from her and loaded syringes and tagging pliers. ”You don’t stop” I said. ”Grab that calf and keep driving.” (We were in our Mule, which is the best thing ever for fencing, putting out mineral, and even occasionally tagging calves.) We pulled up beside the calf and Pine jerked it in the seat and took off. Hell Bitch #545 followed hitting the mule. We got the calf tagged and vaccinated, and dumped him out the side. Ugh.
She was always fine after a few days and raised nice calves. You just had to watch her right after she calved. Last year she was at the south place. As above, I warned Fred and Karen to be on the lookout. She finally bought herself a one-way ticket out of paradise by stomping her calf in the jug while trying to get to Fred in the other part of the barn. Hell Bitch #545 is no more. Thank heavens.
Baby it’s cold outside… and that is with 17 pounds of extra clothes and boots, not to mention the extra padding I always carry around. Now imagine being a newborn, wet, shivering, frost in the air, negative 30 degree temperatures, and a mom who doesn’t want to own you. This was the name of the game last night. Pictured above is a calf with some ear savers on. It has been so cold that if we didn’t put these on the calves they risk the chance of freezing their ears.
Pine came in from pulling a little bull calf around 6:30 p.m. last night. He was going to eat some supper and try to catch a shower so I ran down at 7:15 to make sure the calf was up and the heifer was owning him. No such luck on either front. The heifer was in the opposite end of the alley turned away from the calf, and the poor baby hadn’t been licked off, been up, or had any warm food in his belly. I walked in the pen and headed the heifer down to the calf to watch what happened. Nothing. She didn’t even acknowledge him. So I got to work getting him up and trying to dry him off a bit.
Then the battle started. I would get him up; she would knock him down. I would get him up; she would knock him down. Nasty momma. She wasn’t mean to me, just didn’t want anything to do with her calf and didn’t want him in her pen. So went the battle between this ornery ranch wife and that ornery heifer. Stand him up, knock him down. Stand him up, knock him down. Ugh.
I ran to the house to get a bottle of colostrum to get this poor baby some nutrients and some warmth. He was hungry, cold, and wanting to eat and sucked down the bottle. No tubing required. He was warmed up and still hungry, trying to get to the heifer to eat some more. I stood back and watched as he would struggle to his feet, make his way through the deep straw to find his momma, only to be knocked down and roughed around. I decided to give them some distance in hopes that she would come around. I went back to the barn about 45 minutes later and there they were just like I had found them the first time… him lying at one end of the alley and her lying at the other end. This baby needed some warmth and drying time.
I ran and got the calf sled, loaded him up, and hauled him to the other barn to spend some time in the calf warmer. By this time it was about 10:00 p.m., but the calf had some colostrum in him and was loving the warmth of the calf warmer. After some time in the calf warmer, Trent took him back to his momma during one of his night checks. We have gotten a couple more feedings in him, and at this point we are going to get a halter on the heifer, tie her up tight, and see if we can get the calf sucking her. Wish us luck.
This baby needed some extra TLC over a few days. He spent the better part of 12 hours in the entry getting extra heat, regular feedings, and some lullabies from the Wild Child. He finally was deemed well enough to go to the barn. The WC and I checked on him a couple of times in the afternoon, had him up and walking around, etc. He still was struggling to suck a bottle, but we were getting milk in him via tube feedings. Late yesterday morning he gave up. We found him down flat and couldn’t get him going again. It was a sad morning.
A few nights ago, my night checks started with getting a calf out of the hot box and trying to get some colostrum in him. The calf hadn’t been up to suck yet and got a little chilly so Trent got him in the hot box to warm him up. I went down to try to get some food in his belly as Trent headed home to get some sleep before coming back to help with morning chores.
For those not in agriculture, calves do not get any antibodies or immunity through the placenta before birth, thus these antibodies must be ingested as soon as possible after birth– optimally within the first few hours of life. The colostrum is the first milk from the mother and contains the necessary antibodies. If the calf doesn’t get up to suck we make sure that he gets a bottle of colostrum to get him on the road to good health. Often this blast of warm milk in his belly stimulates the calf enough to get up and get going. We always try to get the calf to suck the bottle first, but often we can’t get his suck reflex going right away. When this happens we tube the calf. We pour the milk from the bottle into the container that is lying down in this picture. We attach the tube and put it down the calf’s throat. The milk is then tubed into the calf’s stomach. So was the start of that calf’s feedings. I’ll let you know how it goes.
“Go back to bed, Mom. I will take the next check for you.” Sweet words from my son. He was referring to whom was taking the next night check of the heifers. For the 2-year-old heifers, this is their first calf. Calving heifers is time and labor intensive because, like a lot of first time mothers, they are unsure what the heck they are supposed to be doing. We check them, at a minimum, of every two hours around the clock. If something is going on (we have one in the shed that is trying to calve) we check them more often than that. It means a lot of sleepless hours for everyone.
Trent, our oldest son, is here helping us. It is wonderful. He is young, likes staying up late, jogs to get gates, jumps over fences instead of having to climb them, and can carry 3-4 bags of mineral for me when I’m loading them in the morning to fill feeders while doing chores. This means my number of trips in to the van trailer to haul out bags is greatly diminished. He has made my life pretty easy. He has taken the first several checks each night and letting me sleep several hours uninterrupted. Last night he took the cake by telling me to go back to bed when it was my turn to check. What a good kid. He came in at 1:45 a.m. to give me an update on what was going on as he was heading home for a few hours of sleep before chore time. He had a heifer that had just calved and one still waiting.
I headed to the barn at about 3:30 a.m. to assess the situation. The heifer that had calved before he left had her calf up and going, and the calf was sucking when I got down there. A great start. I headed down to check the drop bunch and to check the other heifer he had put in the shed down below. Walking into the corral I spotted eyes on the ground down in the corner of the corral. Rats. There was a calf on the ground, and he had two heifers fighting over him. Double rats. Then imagine my surprise when I got down there and found they weren’t fighting over him, but that two heifers had calved in the same corner. Uh-Oh. Now to straighten out the mess as both heifers were owning both calves.
I got the shed opened up, both calves drug in, the heifers rounded up, and started trying to match the right momma up with the right calf. I got things figured out and ran to the house to make a couple of bottles of colostrum as those babies were a little chilly and I wanted to get something warm in their bellies ASAP. I rubbed them down good with some towels as I fed them, got them on their feet, and now with some warm milk in their bellies, they took off looking for some more nourishment. All was well.
The heifer that had been in the shed for a few hours had finally settled in enough to start calving so I went outside and camped on the feedbunks to give her some time. At 4:15 a.m. she had feet out so did another walk-through of the drop bunch, checked on some pairs we had put out yesterday morning, went back up and checked the calf that had been born a few hours previously, and ran to the closest house for a drink of water.
I headed back out about 4:45 to check my patient, snuck in through the other barn, cracked open the walk-through door, and there was the heifer with her hind end facing me, chewing her cud, and a calf out to the hips. I tip-toed through the straw to try to help her out and she came flying up, spun around with the calf still hanging out, ran me up on the panels, and then rammed them a few extra times to let me know she wasn’t kidding. The calf didn’t shake loose. There he still hung, alive, but not liking the situation one bit. I snuck back over the panels to try again. Nope. She was having none of it. Back over the panels into an empty jockey pen I went. Now what? Ugh!
I started crawling from pen to pen to try to get back close to the walk-through door to see if I could sneak out and call the house for some help. I got to the pen closest to the door, but she wasn’t about to let me out the door. I crawled back the way I had come, and then started crawling over panels the other direction to get to another door. I made it past the alley where she was, over the last panel, and out the side door. We have no cell service in the barn, and have no cell service close to the barn. It becomes a game of trying to find the spot in the corral where your phone will work. I had just started playing the two steps forward and one step back trying to get some bars on my phone when I heard a barn door open in another corral.
“PINE! HELP ME!” I yelled, not ever thinking that I might actually spook my poor husband. Yep– he still likes me. He came running to the gate, I suppose thinking I was hurt, and only shook his head when he saw that I was standing by the barn door. ”Sorry, Honey!” I explained. Then told him my predicament. There is nothing a rancher likes to hear more at 5:15 a.m. than that there is a heifer on the fight with a hip-locked calf and you can’t get in the pen without getting ran back out. We went in to assess the situation.
Divine intervention. The heifer was back down and straining, and fortunately her hind end (and thus the calf) was right up against the panel. A rope around the calf’s front legs, a couple of strong pulls by Pine, and that poor baby was out and looking no worse for the wear. The heifer, by this point, had made a bee line for the other end of the alley and was lying down at the other end. Pine crawled in, pulled the calf down to her so she could get a good look at, and lick at it, and he made it back to the panel with her hunting him full steam. Nasty thing.
Good news is that she had calmed down considerably by the time we tagged her calf later this morning. They are both settled in to a jug pen to hang out for a while longer before we turn them out and put them down in a north lot for some more further watching.
“Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears.” – Arthur Koestler
Big words, Arthur. I bet your actions would be to run up a fence if a mad heifer was chasing you. Thanks for your thoughts, though.
It pokes. It tears. It cuts. It rips. It scratches. Yeah, yeah… it also keeps the cows where they belong. But for goodness sakes! Ugh! Barb wire is my daily morning adversary. I open and close several barb-wire gates each morning while feeding. It definitely shortens the amount of time it takes to do chores if the person in the tractor doesn’t have to get out to open the gate to the hay corral, get back in the tractor and get out some bales, climb back down out of the tractor to close the gate, get back in the tractor to drive to the feed ground…. you get my drift. I try to keep the gates open and ready to the hay corrals and to the right pastures, and then go back and close the gates behind the tractor. And for this ranch wife, not much is worse than opening a gate where the top wire at the gate post is barbed wire and not smooth wire.
The weather has been warmer the last couple of days. Yesterday morning I had my coat unzipped for a bit as my layers were getting a little on the warm side. Then it happened. It bit me. The damn barb bit me. Good fences and good gates are stretched tight. If you are one of the big strong men around here you can walk up, put your hand on the gatepost, and just with one push get enough slack to open the gate. Now I’m no slouch. Matter of fact I like to think that I’m fairly strong. However, we have gates that require me to reach around the gatepost and grab the fence post in order to pull them close enough to make enough slack to take the wire off and open the gate. So picture this if you will… walking up to a gate post, wrapping your arm around the gate post (the one in the picture to be exact), and those damn barbs biting right through your sweatshirt. Yikes. The picture is true. NO RANCH WIFE EVER asked that the top wire closest to the gate post be barbed wire. I’m serious… NOT EVER.
The picture below, on the other hand, shows a great, ranch-wife friendly gate. This gate never bites me. See the SMOOTH wire leading up to the gate post? See what good men there are around here? They fixed this gate and pieced in a piece of smooth wire at the end of the barbed wire. See that! There is smooth wire close to the gate post. This is the place where my arm, arm pit, and other anatomy pushes. Now that’s love!
Winter has many sounds— snow crunching, limbs creaking, ice cracking, cows and horses eating hay, the chains on the tractor tires clinking, and for most of the last month, incessant wind blowing! It is depressing to wake up in the middle of the night to hear the wind howling and realize that it didn’t even lie down with the sun. It makes even sunshiny mornings cold and brutal. The last few mornings, albeit very cold, were virtually windless (only 5-10 mph winds and not 20-30 mph) and thus much more comfortable.
Crunching snow, if you have never experienced it before, is actually quite loud. There is no sneaking up on anyone with the snow crunching underfoot. They say that snow crunches when it is really cold and dry. No I haven’t researched it. I’m good with this explanation. It is really cold, and the snow is really powdery and dry, and I hear it crunch really loud. That works for me. Lots of things keep me awake at night… why snow crunches when you walk on it is not one of them.
A couple of days ago a new “winter” sound met us when we were out doing chores. The feeding tractor left before me, which meant that Huck The Wonder Dog (which is a perfect name for him because he really does make me wonder sometimes) headed out with the tractor. I was heading to the shop when Huck came tearing back to the yard. I didn’t think much about this other than to wonder how he knew I was out and about as I hadn’t whistled for him yet. We headed out and stopped over south at the water tank where Pine was putting out mineral. I needed to grab some goggles out of the pickup as it was snowing some and hitting me in the eyes. And yes, sometimes I’m a wimp about things hitting me in the eyes. I can admit it. Wimp.
Pine was on the other side of the fence (the tank waters two pastures) and motioned for me to shut things off and listen. I’ll be danged if a coyote wasn’t howling like crazy, and he sounded like he was awfully close. Being married to a man who LOVES to coyote hunt has its advantages. Hours of coyote calling videos enabled me to correctly GUESS that it was a challenge howl (which my coyote calling husband confirmed), and the coyote did not like Huck. Pine said he had been howling for some time farther away and when we showed up (Huck and I) he had come in closer. The picture below shows exactly where we spotted him. He was only about 350 yards out (confirmed with Pine’s range finder).
This is the breeding season for coyotes, thus probably the reason the coyote was so bold. Needless to say, Huck and I didn’t see him again as we were bringing cows to feed in this area later in the morning.
Thought I would share this picture with all of you who don’t follow me on Facebook. This was my fun, obviously snarky, picture I posted this week. It has been shared close to 200 times so I’m not the only one who could relate to it! :)
Please continue to comment on the USDA’s proposal to allow importation of beef from Brazil. At this point, the website only shows 221 comments. I would love it if we could all FLOOD the website with comments. You do NOT have to be a livestock producer to comment. Consumers need to comment, as well. As a consumer, as well as a producer, I need to know that the food my family eats is safe. Pleasecommenton the USDA website. Let them know that the US does not need Brazilian beef imports.
For more information, please follow the link below to read my article in the Tri-State Livestock News this week regarding foot-and-mouth disease. Feel free to share it with as many people as you can to help educate both producers and consumers alike on what is happening with the USDA.
Like father, like daughter. My heart is smiling.
Until next time, or as my JARW friend Carolina from NY taught me, Ate a proxima (that is “until next time” in Portuguese!)
What is it about bale stacks and kids? I remember how fun it was to climb the stacks. Now, though, I’m pretty sure I am no longer capable. The Wild Child thinks it is a glorious escape from the drudgery of feeding. While we are feeding, walking through the cows, cutting bale wrap and twine, opening and shutting gates, and checking salt, mineral, and water tanks, she likes to spend her time climbing the bales with her bestie, Huck. That crazy dog loves jumping up the bale rows as much as the Blonde Bomber, only he is a little more adept.
Mr. Huck then comes down for a few pats and “atta-boys” for taking care of our Wild Child.
It started with rain and then turned to snow. The roads were junk. The finger drifts were starting to build across the road when Pine and I headed home from town two nights ago. I was in front in the car with Pine following behind. We were trying to get the extra car home that had been in town for a couple of weeks. The first 15 miles passed by at a whopping rate of 40 miles per hour, but we were safe and sound. Then my car started sliding sideways, spinning the other way, back and forth, and finally… there I was STUCK in the dang ditch. The best part of my misfortune was that my sweet husband did not say one thing. He just stopped, got out the chain, and tried to get the car jerked out. Unfortunately we only had a 6-foot chain with us so we left the retrieval from the ditch for the next morning’s after chores project.
I keep talking about all the ice. Here are a couple of pictures showing what I’m talking about. This is what the pastures look like.
Two days ago was a beautiful morning. I had my camera along, fortunately, as Huck kicked up a coyote so got to get a picture of him, the does were out grazing, and “Earl the Eagle” was flying about. Pine’s grandma started the stories about Earl when Pine was a little boy. They continue today. Miss Wild Child asks for stories about their adventures often so she and I are in the process of writing a children’s book about their adventures. It is so much fun.
GOD sure fills our world with beauty. Have had some requests for pictures of the snow and have been lucky enough to have to turn them down over the past couple of weeks as we haven’t had any snow. Now that has changed I will try to take my camera along tomorrow and get some new pictures of the white countryside.