30 May 2015

Run Ragged

I am noticing that I am happiest when quite busy, with days of nothing mixed in for recuperating, but the way we’ve been going lately is more than a little ridicules.

We, which doesn’t always mean me, have been getting cattle sorted and worked to go to pasture. I have taken my turn at providing that always necessary child care. It makes more sense for me to stay home anyway since I am the one with the baby. I have not gotten in on any of the sorting but the goblin child went along this morning to play cowgirl, until she fell asleep on the front of the four wheeler.

Princess Onna is at the vet now waiting to be bred. We have many conversations around here about how the vet is going to put a baby in her tummy. She had a couple of small issues but I guess things were looking good and she should be ready to go. I on the other hand was woefully unprepared. I didn’t get the money and paper work mailed off until the last minute and it just barely got there in the nick of time. Here’s hoping for a healthy beautiful foal. I really don’t have a color I’m hoping for, I bred to a grulla for the bloodlines not the color weird I know, but I would like a little filly and am really liking Ruth Ann for a name at the moment.

It keeps raining and the guys are  frantic to get in the fields. Even if not for the rain the fancy new (used) planter is still not working despite the days they have put in working on it. Maybe they will be back to the little old one if they can ever start planting.

The garden is nearly nonexistent. A few bedraggled potatoes, some onions and cabbage all planted before the snows. The tomatoes and peppers sit in the greenhouse waiting for warm weather and dry soil getting a bit lanky and pale. Even the plants planted in the greenhouse are wishing for some sun so they can grow.

I have way too many chickens to take care of. It takes me hours, slight exaggeration, to feed them once I am finally able to get 8 to sleep so I can get out in the cold rainy weather. Warm days are easier.

I have traded Whackster, Poppies calf from last year, for a pretty little Normandy heifer. I should probably mention it to my father in law, make sure he’s willing to give me pasture for yet another cow before I finalize the deal.

But the thing that makes it all difficult, the straw that broke the camels back and keeps me up nights worrying is summer camp. For some insane reason I agreed to teach a class. It was pity, they were desperate, probably the only reason they asked me anyway. But still, what was I thinking? I am terrified of talking in front of people, I have never taught anything in my life. It may be glorified babysitting for, hopefully not very many, pre-K kids but still. I can brand, I can castrate, I can drive a semi, manual or automatic, I can start a colt and turn a cow on the fence, once or twice I have even managed to watch the nursery at church with all the children surviving unscathed but this I don’t think I can handle.

None of this on it’s own would be such a big deal if not for one little time drain. How does one small child take up so much time? The time I spend getting him to sleep alone would allow me to get the house clean. How do people do anything with a baby to watch? He a cute little thing but so amazingly high maintenance. Who would’ve thought it.

There’s good reason people don’t ask me to babysit. Our idea of fun involves getting dirty and collecting lots of ticks!


24 May 2015

Woman’s Work

We branded my cow herd Thursday. All four calves, and the cows. The last one had calved and I wanted to get it done as soon as possible. Snow put it off the first time I planned to try. I talked to a friend and she was free Thursday. The two of us would have no problem running such a small bunch through the calf table. Then I thought I would see if the girl who has been coming out to ride with me wanted to come. Then her sister was there when I asked and I couldn’t not ask her. Then I asked another friend and she wanted to come play with us too. Then finally it occurred to me that we had a big enough crew to do a lot more than four head.

I talked to my father-in-law and volunteered to do one bunch of his cattle for him. He then invited himself to our branding. You really can’t tell a man he can’t come brand his own cattle so he came and invited a friend of his own. So much for our all girl branding. Since the boys were crashing our party we were thrilled when my husband with many jobs was able to get away from one of them to come play with us too.

The girl who’s been riding with me rode Jerry to help get the cows in. We got mine in first with the help of the worlds only cow goat. Then we braved more of the deep mud to get the big bunch. The goat came right along for that too. So did a couple of the guys. The gate to that pen is at the bottom of the hill. The mud and muck was indescribably deep. Not quite as bad as quicksand, there is a bottom to it down there somewhere. It was half a corral that was as bad as the gate that gave us so much trouble trying to get the cows out of the corrals last week. Even the top of the hill had deep, greasy mud.

Most of the cattle went out the gate nicely. All except for the last two calves who were delighting in out running us in the muck. Unwilling to run our horses they had no trouble until along came Daisy. She had no trouble running on the slick ground and the calves soon discovered it was no fun after all and ran straight out the gate.

We got back to find my cows in the chute waiting. They wanted me to brand my own and that would’ve been great but our much beloved Poppy was up first and I could barely stand to do it. Unfortunately The Goblin Child’s first introduction to branding was me saying “Poor Poppy” and she repeated it somewhat distressed throughout the whole process.

I took up position in the back pushing calves in and Paula came to join me, leaving Heather to brand and vaccinate with the father-in-law. That left four people to get the big bunch sorted and ready to go. It worked great. When we started the big bunch the children were happily foisted off onto the two youngest girls. That I consider child care a job to deserve more thanks than working cattle shows just how twisted we are doesn’t it? Maybe it’s just that we do it all the time, and love it, but the chance to play at things we got to do before children came along makes it seem like more of a chore. It was sure nice to have someone to help watch kids.

With the big bunch nearly done I snuck out behind the barn with my husband to, well unfortunately to start loading cattle. Oh well, you can only have so much fun in one day. The Goblin Child’s favorite playmate, Whitten, was sad to have to leave as we were climbing in the semis to haul the cattle so we invited him to come along while his mom ran errands. It was all fun and games until we stuck the semi.

Even with all the moisture we’ve had lately the driveway looked dry. We pulled in to back across the road into the pasture to unload. Unfortunately the exact spot we stopped to start backing had a small puddle just big enough for all the back tires and they sunk. We unloaded there and there were enough of us to carefully guide the cows and calves across the road through the gate. I then called Whitten’s mom to tell her we were stuck and she may never get her son back. She came to rescue him immediately. Like rats fleeing a sinking ship we begged rides from her. As we prepared to escape the men got the semi free and we decided to stick around after all.

That days work may have been finished but the next day brought more calves and the next. Paula made it back for another days work at the calf table even though she would far rather rope and drag calves. Hopefully the others will come back again too. We are now out of sorted pairs to work and get out to pasture and the rain has set in again. That’s just fine we all have injuries and sore muscles that need a days rest to recuperate.


20 May 2015

Just Wrong

That’s all that can be said about this it’s just plain wrong. We are going into Memorial Day weekend. Today is the last day of school, they are supposed to be outside enjoying a track and field day. Playing in short sleeves on green grass. You really can’t have a snow day on the last day of school.

18 May 2015

Cleaning Corrals

We got the pairs out of the well flooded corrals this week before more rain came in. They had weathered the storm pretty good with minimal losses, only one dead, one very sick and two lame probably stepped on. All four of those were in the same pen.

I saddled Coyote and put on his big cow working bit. I mock all those people who move up to bigger bits to control their horses and here I am with my big cow working bit. Sigh. But let me explain. We usually ride in a halter, bareback. He walks, mostly, quietly and responds to the lightest touch of leg or shift of seat. He loves to work cattle, it is very exciting and requires clearer commands under higher stress then trail riding. Halters, like hackmores, don’t give  clear commands. He has told me he does not like a snaffle. So here we are in his big cow working bit. (this is about like it, ours isn’t as fancy) He responds nicely to it no matter how hopped up he is. And he gets slightly crazed.

Anyway, we waded through knee deep mud pushing the cattle out. Pretty simple, they wanted to go, I fought to keep Coyote to a walk. He has beautiful, perfect, sound legs like iron but he is getting a bit of age on him and this was horrible, sucking, leg sticking mud. The last thing I want to do is lame my beloved pony, he wanted to go. Fast. We pranced.

One bunch of cattle, the ones with all the problems, had one gate they had to go through. The mud in it was awful, worse than everywhere else even. All the cows and calves struggled through and got out it. Except our three problem children.  The sick one said no he was not getting up his mom ran over to stay with him, problem solved. The not so lame calf followed the others out the gate. Or to the gate. Once in the gate he sunk to his belly in the sticky mud and was stuck. My father-in-law started to follow him but was persuaded to let me do the honors. He’s no spring chicken and doesn’t need to be trying to walk in that mess. I am no spring chicken either, but I am slightly springier.

I tied Coyote with his reins, hooked to his halter I know how quickly he can slip a bridle off, I didn’t need him stepping on me in his crazed state, and wadded in. And promptly got stuck, lost a boot and nearly fell over a couple of times but was able to get the calf free. Making my way back to Coyote I found him looking disappointed to still be tied with his bridle plopped into the muck beneath him. I was a little grouchy by then and short on clean places to wipe it so I put the bit back in his mouth, filth and all.

We pushed them out to the corrals that were dryer and open to the pasture then came back for the last calf. He was of course stuck in the mud. Once again being young and agile, it’s all relative, I dove in. The father-in-law started to follow but was happy to wait on dryer ground to serve as anchor. I reached a hind leg and drug the calf towards me gaining a foot or so then grabbed the outstretched hand of my father-in-law and pulled as I let go of the calf grabbed a boot and yanked first one foot than the other free moving slightly closer to high ground. This was repeated over and over as we gained inch after precious inch.  Finally he was free of that mud hole. We were still in the same pen though with the gate between us and freedom.

Thank goodness for payloaders. It plowed it’s way into the gate and gave the little guy a ride out of there. We found the problem, a broken leg, and set it before hauling him out to the cows. I haven’t heard any news of him and with 8 I can’t get out to see for myself hopefully the leg heals nicely.

17 May 2015

Oh Hail

I don’t think that’s the first time I’ve used that title but to bad. What else can you say about this type of weather? Last weekend we had a foot of snow this weekend it was hail. The guys are getting antsy about getting the corn planted. With all the time spent getting the “new” drill working and the weather these last two weeks it’s getting late and still too muddy. Just talked to a neighbor who has been pulling 24 hour planting sprees in between storms.

The sound of the hail is deafening

It doesn’t stop once the storm has passed. Better to hear this roar going than coming.

15 May 2015

Monkey Princess

The great and terrible, death defying feats of the amazing climbing monkey princess:

The child terrifies me. But she’s good at it, fortunately.

14 May 2015

Laughter is the Best Medicine

8 is getting so big! He is growing up much faster than his sister did, of course we had an extra two months of her being a tiny baby. This is easier. He laughed for the first time yesterday. A delightful giggle done many times while I changed his diaper. Of course he wouldn’t do it again for his father, or me.

He slept through the night Friday night! Clear till five thirty. Somehow that leads to less sleep not more. I wake up and lay there worrying about why he hasn’t woke up yet. Then when he gets up late he is ready to be up and the Goblin Child wakes up and we are all up for the day. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was five thirty but he hasn’t done that again. It’s been four, four thirty every day this week. I’m tired. Oh well, at least he’s only up once. And surely his laugh will cure even complete exhaustion?

12 May 2015

The Great Mothers Day Blizzard of ’15

Or something like that.

We got a lot of snow. Wet, heavy, tree limb breaking, flower smashing, sick calf making snow. It wasn’t too bad around here but neither was the one in October a couple of years ago that killed so many cattle so it’s hard to judge. School is cancelled for Monday so we might get to sleep in a little. (we didn’t the phone rang shortly after six)

It started Saturday with lots of cold rain to get the animals soaked through and well chilled. The official winter storm warning started at six, we had a birthday party to go to at four. I was totally not worried but thought I would take the pick up because of all that mud. My devoted husband said of course he was coming with he would far  rather attend a children’s birthday party than stay home and enjoy a little alone time, besides he didn’t want us driving home in the snow if it got bad. We were so glad to have him come, we always enjoy his company.

The party was great, the food was delicious and The Goblin child got to use up some energy. We watched out the window as the rain turned to snow but it didn’t seem bad and it had been so warm surely it was melting as it hit the ground. Finally we drug ourselves away and started home the highway was snow packed. The tires spun as we pulled out, it was solid ice and slush. We didn’t get above thirty for the entire, usually short, drive home.

Before we left for the party I locked the shivering horses in the barn. When we got home I let them out to eat and drink. Before bed I bundled up and went out into the cold dark night to put them back in where they could be warm and dry, if without food and water. I didn’t bring a hater, they usually go in willingly, if a little hesitantly. I shooed them away from their hay bale and they left reluctantly. Coyote walked straight to the water trough and took a long deep drink then wadded through the knee deep mud around the corner and right into the barn where he stood waiting for the others. I was impressed. I spent the next half hour floundering around in deep sticky mud, hoping my knee held together as I continually got stuck and had to yank my over flowing mud boots free, chasing those dang mares around in circles as they refused to go back in.

Coyote really wanted them to join him. He stood inside the door calling them frantically. The goat stood under his feet baaing. If they were wading knee deep it was well up to her belly. I finally gave up and left them out. I left the door open for Coyote and Baa though and prayed that they didn’t destroy anything with free run of the barn. (they didn’t)

All night it snowed and right into morning giving us a good foot of snow that didn’t melt more that melted as it came down. Once 8 finally fell asleep Sunday we headed out to explore/check the damages. We waded out into snow that was taller than The Goblin Child. The horses given the option to stay inside were hunched against the wind eating but not shivering. The child and I fed our millions of chickens and then just outside one of the doors she spotted there on the ground a bird. Sitting motionless in the snow was a turtle dove. Of course we bothered it. The poor thing tried to fly crashed into the roof and fell to the ground. The cat and Daisy immediately dove for it. I chased them off and, breaking a rule that’s been drilled into me since childhood, scooped up the bird.

The poor thing barely fluttered in my hand. Brushing clumps of snow out from under its wings I tried to decide what to do with it. I decided it was probably just cold and I would risk the chickens. One group of them at least, if the bird was sick it could just as easily expose them while they all were outside anyway. I sat it inside the shed with a pile of food in front of it. when I came to check on it later it was perched on a chair and the next time it fluttered around my head at the door. I stepped out of the way and it flew off. This morning (Tuesday, it’s taken three days to write this stupid thing) I found one not so lucky laying dead in front of the house.

All in all we came through good. Cows are mostly caved so the biggest trouble there is going to be sick ones from the cold and wet and mud. The potatoes got their tops frosted it’s going to set them back but the asparagus looks alright.

9 May 2015

More Genetics!

And more exclamation points apparently. I must be in a very exciting mood.

So, I have been reading up on the genetics behind gaited horses. Fascinating stuff almost as fun as color genetics. I do spend large portions of my days sitting on the couch and I might as well spend it reading something educational. The problem is that the time I spend sitting here is constantly interrupted by the very reason I am sitting  here in the first place. I am always loosing my train of thought, started the first couple of sentences yesterday adding some more today. It’s one thing when I am saying oh look my kids are so cute another when I am trying to make sense of the genetics behind gait in horses.

Those cool sweeds, I guess along with some others and lead by a guy named Lief Anderson a name I can remember because every time I read it I think he was the guy that discovered America then I remember no that was Lief Erickson, anyway they discovered a gene mutation that is responsible for ALL gaiting in horses. So we have a starting piont. But how does it pass?

I have been theorizing that it must be recessive because of the way it can pop up in families of non-gaited horses like the way red pops up among black cattle. But, the way I am interpreting this at least, it looks like it’s dominant. If you don’t read the whole article this is what it says in part:

“The DMRT3 gene variant we have identified is permissive for alternative gaits in horses. Traditional three-gaited horses such as most dressage and show jumping horses, draft horses and Thoroughbreds are homozygous for the C-variant (CC). Horses that can perform alternative gaits have the A-variant.  Most Icelandic Horses with two copies of the A variant (AA) can perform both pace and the ambling gait tölt while horses with one copy (CA) can only perform tölt.”

I am taking all this to mean that the gait is either there or not and can’t be lurking in the background. Like grey it can’t be hidden, non grey horses can not have a grey baby. I remember when we bought Onna and Grace, another mare same age by the same stud and definitely not gaited, nothing on the place was gaited. Of course I don’t remember any of them being broke to ride either. Is it possible that both of her parents carried one of the gaiting gene and preferred to trot, no one paid enough attention to them running out in the pasture to ever notice if the occasionally moved funny? I did find one article that touched on this a little. It said:

“In tests on Icelandic horses, the researchers found that all horses that paced (2-beat
lateral gait) were homozygous for the mutation—they had two copies. However, the majority of the horses that did not pace,
but only racked, had only a single copy of the mutation. In practical terms this means that all horses that can pace can also
rack, but not all horses that can rack can pace. Furthermore, all of the progeny of a pacer will be able to rack, even if bred to
a non-gaited horse.”
I propose that both of her parents may have carried the gene because of her ability to pace, I have ridden her very few times gotten into a gait even less but of those few times she has offered a hard pace twice.
As further evidence I offer Jerry. She does not pace, when starting her I was pretty sure she was able to gait but had to work hard to get the gait as she preferred to trot. Her colt was decidedly not gaited. When I was looking for a horse I was talking to a lady who was very familiar with gaited Morgans she didn’t have any for sale but she had been out to the Arapaho Ranch and when looking at the horses running in pasture had noted one mare break into gait as she ran through the pasture. The very observant lady had mentioned it to the breeder and remembered it to tell me much latter, I wound up with Jerry.
If not for that one lady would anyone have known? The ranch manager was not breeding for gait and hadn’t noticed. She is from strongly gaited lines but not out of a known to gait mare. I remember the ranch manager telling a story about a stud, but not who the stud was it could’ve been her sire that qwould explain why we were talking about it, who had never gaited until he was having a fit being ridden one day and suddenly broke into gait.

One thing that bothers me about all the discussion on this subject is that almost every article says it has been eliminated in the wild because it produces a lack of coordination and is a hindrance to survival. Huh? Seriously? I have always been under the impression that there were many gaited mustangs? I have no personal experience in this area it was just one of those things I thought I knew. In her heyday Jerry was a pretty good cow horse. When boxing or cutting a cow I distinctly remember her gaiting along beside the calf until she buried her butt in the ground and spun around to turn with them. She was and is an extremely quick and agile horse that is not at all deterred by her gaiting.

Unfortunately I have not been able to find any information other this one study. Apparently nobody else breeds non gaited horses hoping for gait so there isn’t much information about it. After all of that I really don’t have anymore answers than I did before. I will keep looking and maybe find enough for another post that only my mom and I will find to be of any interest.