“The calf lay shivering while Ophelia nuzzled and prodded. Before long – twenty minutes, at most – he was trying to stand up. I watched as he’d make his way to kneeling, then waver and crash into straw. Ophelia was patient while he found his balance, his long legs awkward beneath him. Finally he found a teat. Not an hour old and he stood strong on his brand new legs, poking his snout into her. I peered in from behind and saw the seal of his tongue against her skin: a perfect suction cup. It took her the better part of the day to lick him clean. By afternoon, snow was dripping from the barn roof and he lay in the straw in his fluffy black coat, fresh as if he’d just come from beneath a blow dryer.” ~ from “Only Half” by Katie Powers, Taproot Magazine, Issue 14::Wild
In a moment of complete serendipity we stumbled on this much loved article where Katie describes her experience of first time calving and milking. So timely as we await the spring time arrival of Tilly’s and her daughter, Tansy’s calves. Spring and the miracle of new birth… so much to look forward to.
If you, also, happen to stumble upon this wonderful article, we were those ‘dairy kids’ she describes getting on the school bus in the second paragraph 🙂
In a stroke of luck, the stockyard was open on New Year’s Day, and the roads were open enough that our neighbors could finally get their trailer into the barnyard. We took the cull ewes and seven more of the ewe lambs to Grantsville. This will surely help our hay bale count.
The stars just seemed to align this weekend, and the combination of snow melt, fairly warm and mostly decent weather blessed these shepherdess/s with hours of pretty comfortable outside farm work. This and the fact that not one single ewe was marked the second time around meant that the breeding was complete and the groups could be moved.
Breeding harnesses came off. (That Davita… she will snuggle with anything that is not another cat.)
Liam, Aragorn and Poseidon, the three older rams, were crammed
and twenty-four hours later moved back to their original pasture.
A brand spanking new, fancy shelter was put together (by Terry) for the goat boys and they were moved to the pine grove paddock via halter and truck. You have no idea how exciting this is to have them in a virtually, inescapable paddock for the remainder of the winter. No longer will we be greeted by surprises in the barn when going to feed in the mornings… no tearing down of fencing… no leading the ewe lambs into trouble. (They only do these things in the winter… maybe they find winter boring.) Right now there is a lot of noisy complaining but they will adjust, and there are plenty of rocks and fallen trees to amuse them.
The 33 breeding ewes and the ram lamb, Braveheart, are all now in the barn pasture. Moving lanes were built with temporary fencing and this all went pretty smoothly. This group of ewes appears to be kind of flighty. Hopefully they will settle down before lambing. Speaking of lambing season… there was much excitement around here that everyone appears to have been caught during the first 17 day cycle… until it sunk in that all 33 ewes will probably lamb within an intense 3 week period. We will have to start planning for that.
And last, but certainly not least, Betty Lou Moo Moo and Beefcakes were brought over the pasture and through the woods from Madison. They followed Jonathan and Megan up the hill to about 50 feet away from the fence line. Surprisingly they came closer and closer by calling “C’mon Betty” “C’mon Beef” (all of our animals seem to equate the word “C’mon” with the word “Food”) and it went pretty smoothly once they were enticed through the open gate with a little grain. More temporary fence lanes were put up to connect the two gate openings and we had a bale of hay waiting on the other side. Ahhh, success.
There is still a little bit of organizing and housekeeping to do, but all in all, considering last year’s winter feeding challenges, we are pretty (pardon our language) damn excited!
I have struggled with writing this post for well over a month. Usually we strive to keep this blog a happy place… not dwell on the sadness in farming and in life, because… well, because it is really just nice to come here and focus on positive things. But, today is my late husband John’s birthday. John passed away suddenly in March, and still on most days life is emotionally difficult. He was my best friend and Sheeps and Peeps’ biggest cheerleader. Most of all… he was a good man.
We all miss him.
Last fall we added some adjoining acreage to the farm and for Christmas John gave me a cow. Well, actually a picture of a cow. He had arranged with friends to get one of their spring calves. You may think this strange, but honestly, to a farm girl, this is about the best gift ever! Our son, Jonathan, worked all summer fixing fence, preparing the pasture. Finally, we were ready and the big day arrived. Needless to say there was a lot of excitement from our neighbor, Roger’s cows and some of them quickly gathered on their side of the fence.
Amanda and family arrived with not one but two beautiful calves! A heifer, which Megan quickly named ‘Betty Lou Moo Moo’, and a steer who, unfortunately Jonathan named (following an old family tradition started by our father) ‘Beef’.
|Betty Lou and Beef on their arrival, August 14th
The calves are doing great! They have a wonderful pasture and beautiful watering trough. Of course there will be more pictures and stories to come. Many, many thanks to Amanda for giving us this wonderful gift in John’s memory.
|Beef and Betty Lou Moo Moo near watering trough, September
Happy Birthday, Honey… and thank you… you would love watching the calves.