Saturday, May 25, 2013

Snow May 25

That's right. Snow. Weird, not impossible.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We Killed Robert Plant

I really like to have a rooster around, and a rooster who is a little mean is still a rooster. However, Robert Plant had it in for Sylvie. He had attacked each of us, but the older four were able to convince him to leave us alone. Sylvie just got more and more afraid.

We did plan to kill him, but we just never seemed to get around to it. While neither of us particularly minds the job, it is not one we relish either. So, one day last week, I watched Robert Plant chase Sylvie at least 100 yards; it was personal for him. After that, I promised her that Jason and I would kill him within the next 24 hours.

Then, I was coming out of the big garden, and I apparently offended him and he launched himself at me. I whacked him three times with a stick before he gave up. It's a little funny how scary an six pound rooster can be. I always think of the folk tale about how all the other animals were afraid of the rooster because he carried fire on his head.

Anyway, Jason and I killed him that evening. Now, he's in the compost pile. I'm watching Mick Jagger pretty closely, because we just cannot tolerate a really bad rooster.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Calf's Hoof to the Mouth

No loose teeth, a little swelling, a little bruising.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Another Post to Make My Mother Roll Over in Her Grave

Avert your feminist gaze.

I feel such gratitude that men exist. I like to be saved. I like it when someone, man or woman, holds a door open. I like that I can appear hesitant about some physical task, and someone swoops in to address it. I like that I can declare "Blue job!", and Jason takes over.

Tonight, I got a flat tire en route to ballet. I had the owners manual, figuring out where to put the jack. I had the spare. I can definitely change a tire. Still, my heart fluttered with relief when a man stopped and offered to take over. He did it in five minutes; I had already spent that long perusing the owners' manual. On the VW, the tire has to be held up in order to put the lugs in. I could have managed this with a little help from Phaedra, but this fellow had the upper body strength to mostly manage it himself. I just steadied the tire. Really, five minutes, and he was gone.

I think I do plenty of tasks that are "traditionally" masculine to be excused this attitude. I do not need to bristle when a guy offers to help me, I just need to remember I CAN do these things myself. Then, I can step aside and be rescued.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Violet on Grass

Yesterday, I just couldn't stand it, and I gave Violet a very small section of grass. This is usual, actually, but the section was VERY small. I'm giving her a little at a time under the old apple trees. I want to graze her in the orchard ASAP, and she has to walk past this patch of grass to get to the orchard. If the grass there is ready to graze, she can be extremely difficult to move forward.

The hard part of surrendering now is the management difficulties. We are not ready to milk two times a day- not until ballet is over for summer- so we do not want to wean the calves. The calves are also still small enough that keeping them in electric fence will be trying at best. This means I let Violet graze a few hours, then move her back with the calves. Today, I put her with the calves long enough for them to nurse, then moved her back to grass. Tomorrow is a really crazy activity day, so she'll stay in the paddock with the calves all day. I figure she'll protest a lot, but it's worth it to actually have her on grass almost every day.

I read in another blog how some people dole grass out slowly when the grass isn't coming on strong. This is definitely our situation, so maybe this will be good for the pasture, too. I'll still cut her grass from the lawn or from around the trees so she has something green on the days I need to leave her in the paddock. Mostly, it was lovely to see her rumen looking filled up when I put her with the calves; that's good for all of us.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Banding the Calf

Perhaps you remember that when I banded Gusto, I did not manage to get his testicles. So, he was still a bull just minus his scrotum. This caused a few problems. He was not easy to manage, not that calves are supposed to be "easy", but he really got more threatening as he got bigger. He also broke lots of fence. When he got to the point that I felt uncomfortable asking the children to give the cows water, we knew it was time to kill him.

We wanted to be sure Nick was actually a steer at the end of the banding process. After asking around, one of our neighbors agreed to assist in the process. His only stipulations were that one of us had to do the actual banding so that we would feel sure of ourselves with the next bull calf and that we get a collar on Nick.

This week the calves are just shy of two months old, so we called our neighbor and Nick is banded. It was delightfully easy. First, Nick and Nora are the friendliest calves we have dealt with, so it was not that hard to get a collar on him. Second, Nick is much smaller than Gusto was. As our neighbor put it, "Violet is sucking two calves," so all three of them are lacking in condition. Third, our pen situation makes separating the calves pretty straightforward.

So, at chore time, we pushed both calves into the barn, but we only let Nick into the calf stall. Then, Jason got hold of Nick's collar and backed him into a corner and against a wall. Our neighbor had prepped the tool. The bander is kind of like the tools they use to put rubber bands on lobster claws; it uses very small bands but stretches them quite wide. So, when you squeeze the handles, it's relatively easy to slip the calf's scrotum into the band. Once this was done, our neighbor showed me how to check that both testicles were in the band. Then he showed how you pull the tool down from the belly just a bit so that there is a little more flesh when everything is healed. He was showing me all of this through a shower of calf diarrhea, as Nick was so upset by all this he completely covered my arms and hands in manure.

We let Nick go, let Nora into the calf stall, and got ourselves cleaned up. In awhile, the scrotum and testicles will fall off, and we'll have a steer.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Cow and the Mower

I wrote here about how my mower and cow work together. It has been a good relationship. I have now found a new way for them to benefit each other.

It makes me CRAZY this time of year, and in late summer, to mow the lawn when Violet so desperately wants green grass. The grass around the house and gardens and orchard trees stays pretty green straight through the summer and grows taller faster. Also, I want it cut before it is actually the height we want the pasture grass, so it is cut pretty frequently.

I wondered late last summer what Violet would do if I offered her grass I bagged from the lawn mower. Then, this past week, the children and I have been using grass clippers to make Violet one or two baskets of grass a day from the various places the grass grows fastest. I've been thinking how nice it would be if Violet were the type of cow I could just stake in one place or another around the property. Today, I decided the lawn really did need cutting; I'd been avoiding it- not because I dislike the chore, but because it seems SO dumb to mow grass the cow would like so very much to graze. And I indulged in my little experiment.

I filled a wheel barrow with grass clippings, which was about two mower bags full. Then, I hauled the grass down to the cow. She's eating it, and so are the calves. Maybe it's not what she wants most, and maybe she won't eat all of it or she won't ever eat it again. But, at the moment, she's very happy for some green grass.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Healthy Animal Will Not Starve Itself

At least this is what I believe. I have applied it to dogs and children and cows.

The problem when applying it to cows is that a cow spends an amazing amount of energy digesting and there is some number of "chews" a cow will make in a day. So, if she is eating rich food, her number of chews will result in a different condition from a cow eating lower quality food.

Violet is definitely eating with more interest since we are offering up an entire round bale for her to sort through and waste at her leisure, but she still is not looking all that great. This is our first year using wrapped bales, but the bales are from the same fellow we got hay from the year before. My guess is that the hay is fine, and my cow is just suffering from being the mother of twins at the end of winter.

People keep telling me that two weeks on grass is all she needs, but we're at least two, and more likely three or four, weeks from being able to graze. We're offering trace minerals, loose salt, and kelp, but I wonder if better hay would help her.

The real answer is to not have a calf in March again. November was fine, June was fine. Next time, I think we'll try for April or May; everyone will still be confined while the calf is very small, but it won't be so long before Violet can get back on grass.