Sunday, April 29, 2018

What on earth IS this thing?

Last week as I was splitting firewood, I glanced down at the ground and saw a revolting creature.

It was about an inch and a quarter in length, and as you can see, had a big oversized head which "pulsated" in a manner reminiscent of a miniature Star Trek monster -- you know, one of those predators from Planet Zortog or whatever.

You can see its mandibles which open and shut in a suitably fearsome manner, making me glad I was a zillion times bigger.

I haven't the faintest clue what this thing is. Anyone have any ideas?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Little opportunist

As you well know, our cow Amy has been nursing two calves (as well as providing us with an odd quart of milk a couple times a week). Little orphaned Anna is doing fine and everyone's settling into a routine.

As a reward for Amy's patience as well as to supplement her nutrition, we purchased a couple bags of COB (corn-oats-barley) with molasses.

Needless to say, Amy thinks this is a spiffy idea.

But she's not the only one who likes COB. This morning I noticed a little opportunist enjoying the bounty.

Granted, at the moment the bags of COB are just leaning against the porch, so I can't blame the chipmunk for taking advantage of the opportunity.

But yeah, time to put the COB out of reach.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Update on Little Orphaned Anna

Many readers have asked how things are going with little orphaned Anna, whose mother Polly died last Sunday. If there is a shortage of photos with this blog post, it's because things have been somewhat of a rodeo around here and taking pictures was not a priority.

Anna was born on March 2. This puts her at about seven weeks old, far too young to lose her mama -- or her mama's milk.

Therefore our priority was to get Anna to take a bottle. We mixed up calf milk replacer (formula) and heated it to the right temperature, and poured it into a calf bottle.

Then we got Anna into a small pen, put a rope around her neck, pushed her against the wall (which takes the "fight" out of a cow), and tried to get her to drink.

We tried and tried and tried. We massaged her jaw and throat; we held the bottle at different angles; we squeezed milk into her mouth (not enough to choke her, of course). It wasn't that Anna was necessarily fighting us; it's just that she wouldn't drink, no matter how long the nipple was in her mouth. After ten or fifteen minutes' of trying, we would get maybe -- maybe -- two or three ounces down her. We tried this five or six times throughout the day, same results.

Okay, time to rethink.

Anna wasn't alone in the corral. We also had Amy (Matilda's adult calf) and Amy's little unnamed bull calf in there as well. Our last hope was Amy.

Monday night we separated Amy from the two calves, which were tucked into a small pen. This added an additional noise level to our farm. Now it wasn't just Anna bawling; it was also Amy's calf, indignant at being separated from his mama; and Amy herself set up a lot of bellowing. Suffice it to say no one got a good night's sleep.

Yesterday morning Don got up early and we got Amy into the squeeze chute and tried, for the first time, to milk her. Considering she was agitated and annoyed at being separated from her calf and stressed from being in the unfamiliar squeeze chute, she did splendidly. I milked out just a little over a quart, not bad for a first-time milking.

We returned Amy to the barn, released her calf to her, strained the fresh warm milk, and poured it into the bottle. Then once again we tried to get Anna to nurse.

"Come on, little baby, this isn't formula, this is fresh milk," we told her, but she would have none of it.

Frustrated, we released her out of the pen -- and she dove, literally dove, for Amy's udder. She began nursing like there was no tomorrow.

Now lest you think this option hadn't occurred to us earlier, we should point out that Amy hasn't been overly kind to little orphaned Anna. She tends to shove the little brat away whenever she notices her. Therefore we coudn't depend on Amy's uncomplaining cooperation when it came to letting Anna nurse.

But we discovered something yesterday -- when Amy's own calf is nursing, she doesn't really care if there's an extra calf back there. And Anna, canny lass that she is, always positions herself in the very back, as far away from Amy's line of sight as possible.

So we devised a new strategy, and so far it seems to be working. At night we separate the calves (this morning all was quiet in the barn until 5:45 am and I slept like a rock). In the morning I milk Amy. Then I lead her back into the barn, release the calves, and hold Amy's lead rope so she'll stand still, so as to allow both calves to take as much milk as they want and need.

Then we release Amy out of the corral to join her herd-mates and graze on the very small amount of fresh grass that's finally starting to grow. The calves stay in the corral, where they have food, water, shade, and shelter.

(Amy's unnamed bull calf on the left, Anna on the right.)

Once or twice during the day, we go get Amy and return her to the corral, where the calves attack her avidly, then we put her back outside.

In the evening, we fetch Amy again, and let the calves nurse on her while holding her lead rope.

Then we let her loose in the corral with the calves, where everyone settles in with their dinner. Just before dark, we put the calves into the small pen for the night.

So far so good.

Despite her occasional aggression -- more like annoyance -- toward Anna, dear Amy has been an absolute trooper. It's asking a lot of her -- nursing two calves as well as being milked in the morning for us, but her body and milk production will adjust.

Nonetheless we're going to start graining Amy, something we haven't done for any of our cows in years. We'll also watch her health -- if she gets too skinny, we'll stop the morning milking and just let her nurse the two calves.

This schedule will severely restrict our movements away from home for the next few months, but needs must when the devil drives. We're just so -- SO! -- grateful Amy was in the wings, ready to rescue little orphaned Anna from the loss of her dear mother.

Such is life on a farm.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Little orphaned Anna

We lost Polly, our Jersey cow, yesterday afternoon.

Her death was completely unexpected. After looking so ill last week, she seemed completely recovered after receiving antibiotics. She was eating, chewing her cud, nursing her calf.

And then boom, she was down, dead before we knew it. Don removed her halter. After all, she won't be needing it anymore.

A kind neighbor brought his backhoe and dug her grave.

But unlike when Matilda died – taking her unborn calf with her – Polly leaves behind little Anna, less than two months old and far from being weaned. And Polly was my last trained milker.

However Amy (Matilda’s daughter) offers hope. She’s not trained to milk, but she’s lead-trained. She’s also – like Matilda – something of a “universal donor.” So yesterday afternoon we experimentally led Amy into the squeeze chute and I got some milk from her udder without a problem. By “some,” I mean a single squirt from all four teats. Since she’s actively nursing her own little calf, it's not like she’s walking around with a full bag waiting for me to milk her. For that to happen, we need to separate her from her calf at night. But at least she wasn’t fighting me trying to milk her. Amy has a sweet, gentle disposition, just like her mama did.

The squeeze chute was missing a bottom (the boards were rotted when we got it)... Don cut two sheets of OSB and we slid those into position.

We ended up putting Amy, Amy's calf, and little orphaned Anna into the corral together.

We had hopes Anna would willingly nurse off of Amy, but the grieving baby doesn’t seem inclined to do so, even though she's undoubtedly hungry. Instead, so far she has spent the entire evening and night lowing pitifully for her mother. It's heartbreaking.

We always keep calf milk replacer on hand, so today we’ll bottle-feed Anna. She’s not going to take that indignity lying down, so it will be a bit of a rodeo until she understands what we’re trying to do, but at her young age there’s no possible way she can get sufficient nutrition from solid foods.

We’ll also start separating Amy from the two calves at night, and I’ll milk her in the mornings, with all the milk going to Anna (fresh milk is always better than milk replacement).

In the meantime, we’re all mourning Polly’s loss. Matilda and Polly, our two beloved Jerseys. Sometime farm life isn’t much fun.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day!

What shall I do on this Earth Day?

For all you cretins out there, today is Earth Day, the day everyone pretends to be green and virtuous and love their “Mother.”

Earth Day is now touted as the “world’s largest environmental movement” and is often characterized by mass gatherings of people who expended untold amounts of carbon to travel to Washington D.C. and protest the carbon footprints of everyone else (usually followed by photos of the amount of trash left in their wake).

Alternately, for those unwilling or unable to go to mass protests against environmental pollution, supporters can engage in something called “iActivism” in which they can tweet or post their disgust at pollution on social media, using their mass-produced electronics and the Internet Al Gore created. These tweets, of course, will make people think they’re actually doing something useful as they take pictures of themselves holding pieces of paper with “#hastagactivism” written on it.

Meanwhile protesters/supporters will laud the continued legalization of marijuana while condemning wheat or vegetable farmers, since apparently it’s “greener” to grow pot than to grow food. It’s the old “Leonardo DiCaprio has huge yachts, jets, and homes, and Al Gore has villas without solar panels. Where do they get off telling us what to do?” problem.

Yet apparently we, the Lewis family, are the hypocrites because we don’t support Earth Day twaddle. This, despite the fact that we don’t commute, don’t use disposables, have almost zero garbage output, never use our clothes dryer, have no personal electronics (except computers and one “dumb” phone), shop second-hand stores, heat with wood, keep our electricity usage between $30 and $50 every month (LED lights!), and otherwise subscribe to nearly every recommendation the environmentalists make.

But as “green” as these accomplishments may be, activists probably won’t approve. The difference, of course, is we support green living – not the green agenda. The green agenda is nothing more than a watermelon: green packaging around a red center. It’s socialism, prettily wrapped up in 100 percent recycled wrapping paper, with a communist bow on top and backed up by governmental force. Open that green package, and the gory red insides spill out: the blood of hundreds of millions people who have died from collectivist rĂ©gimes in the last century.

Somehow it’s become unacceptable to live green lifestyle without having a suitably militant red attitude.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, we’ll celebrate Earth Day by going about our ordinary lives: Feeding the livestock, planting peas and potatoes, gathering eggs, and living the life God intended for us. I can think of no finer celebration.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Update on Polly

So many people have offered prayers, consolation, and advice concerning our sick Jersey cow Polly -- thank you all! I'm happy to report she seems much better.

She still had me worried yesterday afternoon. I stepped out into the woods and watched her -- she was nibbling the still-short grass, which was a good sign -- but she was still hunching and passing bloody urine on a frequent basis. (Don't be alarmed by how bony she looks -- that's just a "Jersey" thing.)

Last evening when Don went to feed, all the other animals bellied up to the feed boxes -- except Polly. At least, at first. After a few minutes and some calling from us, she made her way under the awning and, to our delight, began eating. (That's her calf Anna with her.)

This morning I went to feed the animals, and saw only four cows with their heads in the feed boxes. Four cows, not five. My heart sank a little -- where was Polly? But to my delight, she was right there with the rest of them, eating vigorously, at the far end where I didn't see her at first.

A couple hours later, I hooked her up to the lead rope and put her into the squeeze chute again. This time Don administered the antibiotic shots, and a very fine job he did of it too. After that, I backed Polly out and returned her to the herd. Her eyes are clear and the swelling in her jaw is down, and her urine looks much more normal.

We'll finish out the bottle of antibiotics on her tomorrow and keep an eye on her, but it looks like the crisis is over. She seems well on the road to recovery, thanks to the awesome power of modern medicine.

And reader support.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Polly is sick

Polly, our remaining purebred Jersey cow, is sick.

Yesterday morning when I went to feed the critters, I noticed Polly wasn't among them. I found her in an adjacent pen, looking miserable. Though she was facing away from me, something seemed unusual about her head.

I entered the pen and was horrified to find her face entirely puffed up, her eyes like slits and her jaw with a huge soft bulge. I ran into the house and placed calls to every large-animal vet in the region, only to find none available.

Meanwhile a man stopped by to visit some neighbors. Luis has something of a local reputation as a "horse whisperer" -- he's magic with equines -- and as it turns out, he's highly experienced with cattle as well. He looked at Polly and said she had a large infection, and recommended we get an antibiotic called LA 200.

We ran a string around Polly's midsection, a method for estimating weight in cattle. By this determination, we guessed she weighs 927 lbs.

I went into town and purchased the antibiotic. Luis promised to come out this morning to show us the best way to administer it.

This morning Polly's swollen face looked better, but she kept hunching over and passing bloody urine. Not good.

At least she's on her feet. A cow off her feet is very seriously ill indeed. But she's off her food, lethargic, and often just stands slumped.

Luis arrived this morning, and I walked Polly into the squeeze chute. LA-200 supposedly stings going in, and I didn't want anyone (bovine or human) getting hurt in the process.

Based on Polly's weight and the recommended dosage, Luis filled the syringe...

...then he injected her intramuscularly in three different places (apparently the medicine is best administered spread around).

Polly jerked a bit, but she's lethargic and didn't fight. I backed her out of the chute without a problem and returned her to the corral.

We'll give her the next few shots ourselves, repeating the dosage for the next couple of days. According to LA-200 information, she should show "marked improvement" in the next 24 to 48 hours.

I don't want to lose Polly so soon after losing Matilda. We'll be watching her like a hawk.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

That streak of gray

So yesterday I was in a thrift store in the city, purchasing a replacement coat for the one I have with a broken zipper. I brought the garment up to the register, and the nice lady asked me if I was 55 or older. "Actually, I'm exactly 55," I said. "Why?"

"Because you get a 20 percent senior discount," she replied, punching the keys on the cash register.


I suppose it was inevitable, but honestly, that's the first time I've been "rewarded" for being a "senior." I put "senior" in quotes because I sure don't feel like one. But I guess that long streak of gray in my otherwise brown hair is a giveaway. I wasn't sure whether to be flattered or insulted.

But if there's one thing I've learned from my dear mother, it's to age gracefully. Mom never dyed her hair or fought the wrinkles. I guess now it's my turn to do the same.

But still. Ouch.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

It's the little things in life

Almost exactly two years ago, Don built me a little shelving unit to store gallon jugs of bulk staples: oatmeal, brown sugar, whole wheat flour, tea, pasta, raisins, etc.

I was making some oatmeal-raisin cookies for the neighborhood potluck last week. As I always do, I pulled the necessary jugs of ingredients from this shelving unit and placed them on the table until needed.

And it occurred to me how much I took for granted this extremely useful piece of furniture. What a blessing to have a woodworking husband who can make such needed items.

This inspired me to look around the house and realize that everything -- with the exception of a sofa and loveseat we bought new in 2004 -- is either a second-hand purchase or handmade by my talented husband. The result is eclectic and unpolished -- and yet it somehow represents us very well.

After all, we're kind of eclectic and unpolished too.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Winter isn't done with us yet

Typical for spring, we're alternating between nice warmish days of sunshine, and days of rain and/or wind. This morning we woke up to howling wind and snow. Wheee.

The flakes were flying sideways.

The vehicle was getting plastered. If I'd waited an hour longer to take these photos, the vehicle would have been even more plastered.

We have a stack of wooden pallets leaning against a barn pole. They got plastered too.

Our brave stand of daffodils, pushing up, also got plastered, poor dears.

The neighbors across the way were simply obliterated.

And now -- a few hours later -- everything's gone and we even have periods of weak sunshine (though the wind is still blowing). If you don't like the weather, wait five hours. Or something like that.