4 June 2014

Sorting Pairs

We spent last weekend sorting cow calf pairs out of the herd to go to pasture. It’s been a mad rush around here trying to get everything done. With all the late snows and getting the farming taken care of the cows are very late getting to pasture. Sorting is very careful work, it’s very important to get the proper pairings. If we grab a calf that is standing next to a cow assuming it is hers and are wrong the calves will be orphaned. Especially if they get hauled off immediately. So we cruise the pasture carefully looking for nursing calves to run up to the corrals.

I may have been there physically riding that four-wheeler, but mentally I was mounted on Jerry back in the glory days of our youth working those cattle. In my mind instead of wrestling heavy unwieldy handle bars I gently gripped the supple leather of my reins. Turning to head off a cow required only a shift of my hips and the squeeze of a leg. My horse eagerly anticipated the cows every move as she slid to a stop and spun back around easily preventing the balking cow from escaping. In my mind Jerry and I were once again beating out all those good quarter horses to win the open class and take judges choice for best ladies horse at the show.

Now Jerry and I are both old and crippled up. She will never again thunder down a fence to turn a calf right at the flag swapping directions at full speed as we take it the other way. I am no longer sure that I would be capable of riding a good cow horse and be able to walk the next day. But we can remember. My good old Jerry girl will still try to pull the reins out of your hands to go get cattle and I will still think a four-wheeler should stop and spin on its hind quarters after a cow.

When not riding Jerry I was up on Coyote. We were back in thousand acre pastures moving a couple hundred head of cattle with just one other rider and a good cow dog. He could go for miles, move the cattle by himself, I was just along for the ride. Down steep draws he walked sure footed and steady. I remembered galloping across the winter pasture on footing of ice covered in a greasy layer of mud to turn the leaders as they tried to escape. Over the most treacherous of ground he carried us safely. He fought off cows on the fight and drug calves to the fire, he carried calves and tired dogs on his back and was always had more to give no matter how hard a day we put in.

He is getting older now. I dread the thought of life without him. He doesn’t mind taking life a little easier. He is no longer a full time cow horse, now he gives me and the main reason I no longer get to ride so much rides around the yard. He is still hot and cowy with lots of energy that no longer gets used up and I pray he lives into his thirties.

As we bounced across the pasture full of holes and ruts I was also glad not be riding a horse. Trying to avoid all the badger and prairie dog holes would be nearly impossible. Also, Daisy rides along with me all day, somehow balancing on the back of the four-wheeler. I don’t know how she stays on with all the speeding, fast turns and slamming on the brakes. With a horse I’m afraid she would have to walk, she wouldn’t like that.

Despite me spending the days day dreaming we got the pairs sorted, calves worked and cows hauled to pasture. The remainder of the cattleare still out there waiting for us. Maybe I can convince Cowboy Bill to come ride with me and we can play with the horses. That’s all any cow work on horses is isn’t it? Play?

28 May 2014

Building Fence

We only meant to stay for an hour or so.

What can I say? We got caught up in the excitement and wound up staying all day. The Goblin Child loves riding on the four-wheeler with her father, we both do. What could be more fun than spending a whole day following him around and “helping” him? My father-in-law and the neighbor were out there somewhere also working on the fence. We would catch glimpses of them occasionally on the other side of the pasture and would often come upon them in a corner deep in discussion. I’m sure it was fence related conversation.

The neighbors children got bored and decided to ride with us for awhile. It would have been very crowded on that four-wheeler had we all ridden, with three children, two adults and one dog. Instead we took turns walking and replacing fence staples knocked out by antelope, deer and cattle. Jack left us to help his father put in fence posts so once again my husband was alone in a herd of women.

By late afternoon The Goblin Child was wore out, despite the mid morning nap she took sitting on the four-wheeler, and was getting bored with the whole thing so we headed home letting them finish, somehow, without us.

21 May 2014

Crop Spraying

The Goblin Child and I went for a ride today. As nice as it was sometimes it seems like more work than it’s worth. Coyote hadn’t been ridden for a very long time so I thought it best to mess with the saddle. We rode south along the pivot that is part corn and part wheat, this is important to remember for later. Along the fence we went to the other end of the field and back enjoying the beautiful day.

Back in the yard we noticed a huge bull snake crossing the road and stopped to admire him. Colored like rattle snakes they pretend to be one when threatened but are actually completely harmless, beneficial really, something all those silly people who kill them just because they are a big snake need to remember. The gigantic (maybe three foot long?) snake slithered along and strangely enough came to a garter snake that happened to be crossing the same road and slithered right over it.

As we watched in fascination the sound of an airplane reached our ears. The Goblin Child loves airplanes. They fly very low over our heads more often then seems normal. We wave to the and say “Hi!” This one flew in low and looked like it was getting lower. And lower. I really was starting to get concerned. It buzzed the fence we had just been riding down and sprayed a grey cloud of chemical onto the wheat then left.

The wind was blowing out of that direction and I could see the cloud drifting closer. Tying Coyote to the bumper of the pick up we left him to fend for himself as we rushed inside hoping to get The Goblin Child out of the worst of it. It was already upon us so the attempt was futile, I am sure, hope, it isn’t as bad as I was envisioning.

After putting the child down for her nap and setting Coyote free I sat down to rest for a bit when I heard again the roar of plane engines. I looked out the front door in time to see the plane swoop over the house. I am terrified of airplanes. Of planes crashing onto my head or into the house as I sit inside unsuspecting. I saw La Bamba as a child I remember the kid smashed on the play ground. Not to mention all the times it actually happens. I couldn’t stay in the relative safety from chemicals of the house I had to be able to see if it was going to hit me. So I stayed outside.

I did have a few qualms about leaving the poor innocent child sleeping in the house I was to scared to stay inside of but decided she shouldn’t have to miss her nap because I am neurotic.

I decided that this of all times would be a good time to trim OD’s feet, don’t know why then,  but he was good for it. Trimming came to a halt every round as he buzzed over our heads barely clearing the trees in the yard. It was horrifying, it was fascinating. I no longer cared about the real or imagined threat of noxious fumes I just wanted to watch. I held my breath as my heart palpitated every time I thought for sure he must hit the power lines this time. He dove to within feet of the field heading straight for the lines then pulled up hard to miss them by what seemed to be mere feet. He was insane, he was an artist, most amazingly he is still alive, I don’t know how.

16 May 2014

Yes, Justin, we are Still Here

My brother keeps asking if I am okay, are we still alive out here? We are, it has just been incredibly busy for the last month or so. The cows are getting fed daily now. Not that they weren’t a daily nuisance anyway, with having to move the pivot all the time, but now we’re back in the feed truck for at least an hour every evening.  Goblin Child is a BIG help. Pretty soon we are going to have to start sorting pairs I’m sure.

The rest of the busy I have brought upon myself. I am a silly girl who apparently likes to feed things. Jenny is being cut back to two feedings a day. Poppy, poor Poppy, I am trying to get her fed enough for her to feed both those big calves I am asking her to raise. Being quite cheap (read broke) I am feeding her as much grass as possible. I need to keep her up close where I can make sure the little black calf is getting fed so she can’t go out with the other cows. Every day at, least twice, I am out picking grass like an idiot to get her a five gallon bucket full to go with her cake.

The starving horses want some of that green grass too, so I am letting them out one at a time to graze in the yard. I try to keep a close eye on them, if they get into one of the corn fields I will be in big trouble. Three times a day, when I am home at least, I have to walk clear down to the far gate and switch them around.

The chickens are in their tractor now, they need fed and moved once or twice a day. All these things would, and do, take so much less time without my little helper. What fun would they be to do without her though?

The child and husband seem to think I should be feeding them too, so people meals need to be cooked.

It has been snowing every couple of days. Big blizzard type snows. That tends to slow garden planting down. Not corn planting though. They got done with that just before the first big snow. The Goblin Child had a blast sitting in the tractor with her father as they did something to the soil. Preconditioned? No, that’s what they do to calves.  All I know is that they weren’t plowing. They are never plowing and it doesn’t sound intelligent to those in the know if I say they are. Anyway, she, who hates to ride in the car, sat happily in the tractor all day as they went around and around. They took a blanket along and she even happily lay down for her nap on the tractor floor. So glad they could have their bonding time. She must take after her father, I always hated driving a tractor. Mine never had air-conditioning and a radio either, that might make a difference.

I have been working back at the school a lot lately. The school year is coming to a close and with everything being so crazy they needed some extra help. Goblin Child loves day care. That makes life both harder and easier for me. I swore I would never put her in day care that I would raise my own child. Not pay someone to do it for me. Its like training a horse, one rider makes a great horse. Of course a second rider can find holes the first one missed. She learned to push her chair in after getting up from the table, I know I didn’t teach her that. If it were up to me I would keep her home with me, homeschool even, I hate having to talk to people. She is crazy social. She wants desperately to play with the other kids and talks to anyone. We will continue to try to fit our schedule to both of our needs.

Cade and Ava have been spending every other weekend up here this spring. They are technically staying with their grandparents but mostly that means they spend a lot of time playing with us. The new swing set is coming in so handy. Goblin Child, miss socialite, loves to have them to play with. Jenny does too for that matter. This weekend it is only Cade, I wish I could have taken him with us to day care he is lonely without his sister or The Goblin Child to play with.

I am writing this as I take a break for corn planting. Not in the field but in the garden. My gardener husband is still hard at work out there. The sweet corn is his baby and we are running late this year with all that snow. Potatoes got planted at Easter along with the onions, since then other than two store bought cabbages, we have not touched the garden. Every year my gardener husband sits down with his companion planting chart and decides where everything should go. He lays out such nice neat rows carefully measured. In my little garden I toss things in randomly, it’s a wonder that he puts up with me.

I think that pretty much covers what we have been up to since when ever it was that I got around to this last. I said I was going to do a better job of keeping up this year than last but I don’t think that I am.


30 April 2014


noun: weed; plural noun: weeds
  1. 1.
    a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.
  1. 1.
    remove unwanted plants from (an area of ground or the plants cultivated in it).
Old English wēod (noun), wēodian (verb), of unknown origin; related to Dutch wieden (verb).
          As I was weeding in the greenhouse the other day I was forced to question my definition of a weed. I happily yanked up the Kosha and pig weed but all the others gave me doubt. What exactly qualifies for weed status? The definition seems simple enough.
In reality though even pig weed is edible, it needs cooked and I don’t think I feel like trying it so that was an easy decision.
We planted the Strawberry Spinach a couple of years ago, it has been coming up in a weed like manner ever since. I have even found it growing happily in our yard. It gets little, rather bland, red berries and the leaves are good in salads. Should I pull all of it? Leave a couple of plants? It is so hard to decide.
Purslane is very edible. We have even gone so far as to pick some, just never got around to throwing it in a stir fry. It is so horribly, well, weed like that it has to go.
The hardest decisions come when I spot the dark purple leaves of a baby pepper plant. There are green ones too of course but the purple are awful pretty. All of the seeds dropped from last years plants seem to have taken off and are thriving. If we had tried to plant them they would have frozen if they came up at all.
Intermixed with those are the tomatoes. They too are coming up to early, it’s still freezing almost every night, but nobody told them that. These are things that we are purposefully planting. Struggling to grow even. Everyone of them have very legitimate uses. Do we cherish one plant and kill another? It seems so wrong.
Can you tell the weeds from the desired plants? I have trouble deciding sometimes. For the record, I didn’t pull any pepper or tomato plants. I especially didn’t pull that nice little Mulberry tree in the last picture.
29 April 2014

Farewell Buttercup, Hello Poppy

Buttercup is dead, long live Princess Buttercup*.

Buttercup, by the way was my mostly dead bottle calf.  She is now completely dead, poor thing.

On the bright side my cow, Poppy, had her calf! A big, gigantically huge, bull calf. She had the big boy all by herself, quite a feat for a heifer. I had been hoping for a heifer calf, all the more so when I spotted the bright white calf from a mile away. He is adorable so much prettier than these boring black calves. Unfortunately the market for white calves with brown spots is limited. Those boring black calves will bring way more with no more difference than color. Oh well, it seems rather callous to be thinking about eating the poor boy already but I’m not sure what else there is to do with him.

He and his mother are both sweethearts though. She has been a great mother for a first timer. Calm and taking good care of her calf. Or should I say calves? Hopefully I should say calves. She is a milk cow. She has lots of milk. My hope was to adopt poor Buttercup onto her but that didn’t work out. I kept saying that once she had her calf I would start looking for another calf to help keep up with all that milk. I would see one advertised and think about calling then remind myself that I was waiting for her to calve, then I would find a calf.

She had her calf Sunday morning.

Sunday afternoon a neighbor stopped by to pick up a wandering cow. He and my husband walked her up from the corrals. They just happened to look in the old falling down horse barn. There, in a barn in a pen that hadn’t had cows in it for almost a week, lay a calf.

What can I say, it’s a God thing.

The three of them are locked in the barn toasty warm out of this nice week of spring snow. Poppy is proving to be a great little cow. She walked into the chute as nice and quiet as could be the first time, not as happily the second but that is to be expected. She let the orphaned calf nurse without kicking, in the chute at least, and let me milk her with out kicking me and breaking my arm. I do like to look on the bright side, I was imagining it the whole time I was knelt under her. After the little guy had drunk his fill I got three cups of Colostrum out of one quarter. I don’t know anything about milk cows but that seemed pretty good.

Colostrum is good to have on hand. I carefully labeled it and saved it in the freezer for the next sickly thing like Buttercup.

Like with horses everything needs trained. I am trying to make the chute a pleasant, or at least not miserable place to be. No hotshots or even overly strong encouragement to get in and I keep corn and/or cake in front of her along with her calf. The calf the she likes and knows is hers that is. That black thing is not hers! She is going to be spending a few more sessions in the chute. Or she may just not accept him at all.

We are working on rewarding the right behavior. In this case letting the calf nurse with out head butting the poor thing. The reward is Cake! Who doesn’t love cake? After spending a whole two minutes working on it she happily accepted cake from my hand and even from the hand of the Goblin Child. Although The Goblin Child isn’t sure she want’s to have her hand nearly devoured by a wet slimy cow mouth. As long as she has a steady flow of feed into her mouth she is willing to put up with almost anything.

It will be a long process with no guarantee of succeeding, but having such a sweet agreeable little cow sure makes it easier.

* You know, Princess Buttercup and her mostly dead hero Westley? Princess Bride? She was a girl I couldn’t very well name her Westley.

23 April 2014

Starting to Garden

Well, it’s official.

We put the tomatoes out in the greenhouse and the potatoes and onions are planted. The garden is started. We found time on Easter to get the root plants in the ground. Had to hurry while the moon signs were right (some sarcasm intended). I am having fun planning some cool forts for the kids in the garden. We will have to see if they work and if encouraging them to play in, or even close to the garden is just a really bad idea.

The tomatoes are tucked away nice and cozy inside their Wall O’ Waters. On the south wall of the greenhouse spinach, lettuce and radish are coming up nicely. Garlic in both corners and Peas along the west wall. Still to come are the carrots, south of the tomatoes, and peppers to the north. Cucumbers and Kohlrabi along the north wall. I’m exhausted just thinking about it and that’s just inside.

22 April 2014

My Herd

All the kids were up for Easter and since Ava didn’t have school Monday they stayed an extra day. Mondays are the day we have company so we had a full house with all four children running, or crawling, underfoot.

21 April 2014


The Goblin Childs first real Easter. Between us being sick last year and her being too little to remember much or have any idea what was going on.

We all gathered up at the big house for a noon time feast and then the fun began. Aunt Shannon, always the cool aunt, had a great new way to dye eggs.