There were only two of the old white face cows left. I watch them carefully every year waiting for heifers. Last year there was one. That was when there were three of the white faces. That one is gone now, old and gaunt she barely managed to raise her last heifer calf. That calf was scrawny but I took a chance and saved her anyway. Genetics are still there even if nutrition wasn’t.
This year I didn’t think the two remaining ones were bred. Until one surprised me with a calf. Then she went down. We tried some doctoring but even if it might have helped she kept stretching her hind legs out behind her as she crawled along on her knees. She wasn’t going to be able to get up.
With the payloader we set out to catch the calf. It was awful. She bellowed and crawled on her front legs as I grabbed the calf and hauled her into the bucket. My heart broke for them both, why couldn’t we wait until she was dead? Why torture the poor girl. The path was already set, the calf caught. No point in arguing for turning the calf loose to try to catch again another time. Not much hope of it being an argument I could win anyway.
On the ride back I sat looking at this darling white face calf. I had watched her since birth, wondering if she would grow out good enough to save. She had so much pink skin. Would she burn too badly? Each eye was graced with a whorl. How could I let her go?
So we ended up with her. I had not wanted to feed any calves this year. We are busy enough without another chore. I want to go see my family. I don’t want to be tied down by yet another job. We have her anyway. Somehow everything is managing to fit in. She was named Rose by one, White Face by the other. Depending on who is feeding her she goes by one or both names. The kids are fighting it but doing a pretty good job of doing the feeding themselves.
I feel awful about her being alone. We are all supposed to be taking the time to hang out and pet her. The goats stayed up with her for a little while. They weren’t happy about it and Rose was scared of them. It wasn’t a great arrangement. Then they left. It didn’t seem worth bringing them back.
The Goblin Child has been wanting to show a bottle calf at fair. I’m trying to figure out how to do 4h. Rose is slowly being halter trained.
While we play with her or take turns feeding. The kids like to climb the small A frame calf hut. It has been named Mount Everest and they happily scale it.
We’ll see how Rose grows out. We have had bottle calves that were able to make heifers before. She is growing beautifully and may be able to stick around. If so she is The Goblin Child’s. We get a brand registered and she can start her own little herd.
The Goblin Child is in HAL this year. HAL is short for high ability learners. This is the first year kids are eligible, in second grade that is. They look at test scores and I don’t know what else. There are two other kids from her class, both great kids and good friends of hers, and there are three fifth grade kids. They stay after school on Tuesdays and do fun science projects and other fun things. She seems to be really enjoying it. Even if it didn’t start until the year was almost over because of covid. At least they got a short time and hopefully will get to do it next year too.
Her goal is to have 8 in there next year with her because the boy from her class has an older sister in fifth grade who is in there. She works hard towards that goal prodding him with it as she tries to make him learn to read. It does seem to help. Especially since ‘the field trip’.
Because it’s a small group they got to have a field trip period and choose something really fun for what they did.
One of the after school projects was researching available options, what they offered, when they would be open, how much it cost. They settled on Rushmore cave, suggested by the teacher. I have my suspicions that it was her plan all along but she wanted to make a project out of it. There is the cave, and all kinds of rides to go with it.
We volunteered to go along. I researched it too and found that adults were needed for the younger kids to go on the rides. The teacher preferred that we didn’t so we took 8 and headed up to the hills separately to do our own fun stuff. We went to Spearfish the back way and had a beautiful drive through the hills in the fog and even some snow. Played for awhile. Then headed to the cave to pick up the Goblin Child and enjoy the rides ourselves for a bit.
We got there just in time to be begged to get a ticket and take The Goblin Child on the ride that needed an adult along 🙄 It was fun. 8 got to enjoy the rides for long enough then we ate at Hu Hots. Then finally drag ourselves home, exhausted.
Now she has decided we’re going back for her birthday. With all the cousins. I’m not sure we are quite willing to pay for all of that. We’ll have to see what we can do.
There’s something special about checking cows at night. Although it may still be bone chillingly cold, the wind has usually gone down. Stars shine brightly over head. The silence surrounds you.Any loud noises would be out of place so you stay quiet too, walking soft footed into the dark.
My pet heifer, Ghost, was getting near calving. I wanted to go check her one last time before going to bed. Walking into the pen the rest of the heifers barely looked at me. I walked among them so often I was nearly part of the herd. Ghost was fine. She came over to sniff my hands and ask for a treat or a scratch then walked with me as I made the round.
One of the heifers had the water bag out. The thin weak light from my flashlight, so blindingly bright in the house, could barely enhance the bright light of the moon. I couldn’t see any feet. The bag didn’t look dry. It wasn’t more than a couple of hours since I had been out here last. There was no reason to think there was any trouble. Except that this was a heifer.
So much for going in and straight to bed.
I stopped to tell my husband that I was going to stay up and check her again, he might as well go ahead and get some sleep. I sat on the couch and got some work done. Finally an hour passed, I had given her time to get some work done so I went back out.
This time two front feet were showing. Both facing the right way. Everything looked good. The goal is always to leave them alone to do it their way. A first baby is hard. I’d give her a bit more time to work on it.
This time I tried to sleep. It was getting late and I was going to be feeling this come morning. After fitful dozing on the couch I decided to go check again. She’d had plenty of time to work at it herself, it was getting to be decision time. It was also about one o’clock in the morning.
She was laying down when I got there. Although there hadn’t been much further progress, I could see the front feet clearly. Those things were huge. There was no way a tiny heifer was going to be able to do this by herself.
I might as well start clearing a path to the barn.
There’s reason the heifers are kept separate and as close to the barn as possible. Much easier to keep an eye on them and bring one in when needed. And it will be needed.
I opened what gates I could. There was a heifer in the front corral who had lost her calf and a twin calf we were trying to adopt on her. I moved them out of the way. Turning lights on in the barn I opened everything needed to run her straight into the chute.
The whole time I tried to decide if I should go wake my husband. At first I thought I might as well get everything ready, then I’ll go get him. Then I thought, I’ll just run her up first then I’ll go get him. Then I found myself running her into the chute and I still hadn’t woken him.
I had seen this done and assisted many times. Even though I’d never had the chance myself, surely I could do it?
I had great faith that if I needed him he would show up at my side. Ever since I first met him he has been there when I needed. God taps him on the shoulder and sends him my way. If I got into trouble I trusted that God would send him to me again. So I proceeded with the heifer.
With a deep breath I prepared myself and dove in to investigate. Nothing could prepare me for the heat and I jerked my hand back. Knowing what to expect I tried again. The calf chains (nylon actually) were awkward and difficult to get securely in place. My first try slipped off as soon as I pulled. The second try worked better. She was helping all she could. I pulled, she strained, we made great progress.
In no time the calf, wet pink tongue sticking out as it coughed up fluids and gasped for air, was hanging by it’s hips. I let it hang there, lungs draining, coming to life.
Then the cow went down. The size of the calf was more than her young narrow hips could take. I couldn’t get her up. I couldn’t get the calf out.
Finally I opened the head catch hoping she would get up if she could get out of the chute.
It worked. She struggled to her feet. I hung onto the calf chains following her out of the chute. Those hips would not give though. Her were giving out as she staggered about. The calf’s were wedged tight. After following her about, trying to balance pulling with keeping her on her feet, the calf slipped free.
Keeping my grip on the chains I kept the calf from smacking into the concrete. The heifer was down again. The calf was alive and breathing, and huge!
The night was warm. I was exhausted. I left them both lay there. She could take care of her own calf when she was rested and able to get up. I wouldn’t be able to move him much anyway. He was too big for me to pick up.
Staggering into the house, my husband scared me half to death standing just inside the door. He was coming to look for me. As always, there watching out for me when I need him and MAD that I hadn’t woken him up to help me.
They swooped in from behind, swift and silent.
The horses started but were good quiet horses, perfect for the small children they carried so well. A nice ride down the quiet country lane was almost to its end when the herd arrived. Quickly ushering her children to the side of the road,to the barn we had been almost back to before the attack. My mom turned and dove back into the herd.
Bicycle tires hissed on the pavement as their riders peddled as hard as thy could, never bothering to pull up at all for the small family and their horses who had the misfortune of being in their path. Without manners or concern they sped on.
Or tried to.
On her big red Morgan gelding neither mother nor horse hesitated for a second but leapt into the middle of them. With no way past one rider was forced to apply his breaks at last. Not willingly. The Morgan gelding cut him out and held him like any other dumb animal cut from a herd and worked by a horse. He dared to be mad but mom was madder.
She let him know exactly what she thought of him and the rude inconsiderate friends in his herd. He didn’t care. Like most bikers it was his road, his right, and no way his fault. After holding him there long enough to chew him out and make him lose some of his precious time, mom turned her horse and allowed the steer to go.
Perhaps nothing was accomplished. Maybe they looked for a road without a crazy lady on a horse to ride the next time. But maybe, just maybe, they had some small thought for someone besides themselves on their next ride.
Finally got some warm weather and time in between checking cows. I took advantage of it to get out and play with my ponies.
Also! Today is the big day.
The book I’ve been working on for the last year is done and ready to go! A large part of the reason I’ve been so crazy busy lately is not just calving but calving on top of answer questions like crazy on the horse whorl page on facebook. A post of mine from awhile back got shared and went a bit crazy. That combined with adds we’ve been running for the book has grown the fb page by about a thousand people a week. They’ve been posting their horse whorl pictures and I’m trying to get to them all. As the book was getting ready to come out I figured I needed the name recognition and following.
It’s a good learning experience as I start working on revisions and updates to the current book that is available as a download for now. Once it has been out there for a bit and I see what needs changed and get the information added that I keep figuring out after getting the first one mostly finished I will get it published as a kindle and actual paper book!
There had to be a pausing point though or it would never get finished.
Here is a link to the purchase page on the Horse Whorls website. https://horsewhorls.com/horse-whorls-guide/
It was snowing. The snow falling softly, straight down with no wind to drive it.
I stood brushing the horses. We had all the time in the world. No rush to be anywhere or get work done. Right now the work was waiting. In the next pen over a heifer struggled to give birth. With the horses I waited, watching from a distance. Ready to offer help while trying to stay out of her way.
Spring is a time of birth. New life after a cold dark winter. Giving life is not easy though, only the strong survive, both the birthing and the spring. They are harsh and unforgiving. We need to have the will to make it through in order to enjoy the warmth of summer.
The calving season has been cruel, full of death. Young lives that will never get to lay inn the green grass with summer sun shining on them. The casualties add up in my head, a tally no one wants to keep. The new born with a broken leg. Snapped in half above the knee in front. With little chance of being able to heel the calves drive to live and strong will that had him up and determined to walk guaranteed he would never heel and his drive to live killed him. I sobbed over him, the cold of the barn floor burning into my hand as I held him down to finish his last bottle of milk while he fought to stand, the leg flopping sickeningly as he forced it to hold his weight. He would have to die to spare him more suffering. Better while he was sill so full of energy and enthusiasm than waiting until he was wore down from infection and pain.
But to take the life of something so young and so determined to live. Can there be anything worse?
The young heifer who was devotedly licking the hindquarters of her brand new calf. Only minutes on the ground he had already suffocated, sh was licking the bag off his hind end while it covered his nose cutting off that first breath. I had arrived seconds too late to save him. She spent the day licking and calling to him softy.
The calf who died at a week old. Healthy one day and too weak to move the next. No medications we tried were able to help. His mom spent the next two days calling for him. She called until her voice was broken and hoarse. A cow had twins. To give them better feed and care we brought one in and gave it to the cow. Anything to make her stop calling. After all our attempts at adopting the calf she is still kicking it away as it tries to nurse.
So here I stand. Waiting. Watching. Hoping to prevent another death. It’s hard to hold out until that moment when you know help is needed. To wait and let her try on her own. She was doing good. Two feet were showing, pointing the right direction.
So hear I stood among the horses. Waiting.
Then one last push. The calf was out. She had done it.
Jumping the fence I went to make sure everything was alright. The calf lay there a puddle of after birth and bag. He was still wrapped securely in the bag that hadn’t broken during birth. His mom lay, exhausted, resting from the work she had done.
I grabbed the bag, sinking my hands into the wet slippery home he had lived in for the last nine months and yanked it back over his head. He lay still.
Had he already suffocated? Where his lings too full of the liquids that had been keeping him alive? Would they kill him now? Usually the bag breaks and their lungs drain as they hang waiting to be fully born. I grabbed the slippery hind legs and hefted his hind end in the air. Hoping to help some fluid drain. He wiggled and jerked. His mom, thoroughly disturbed now, stood to see what she had accomplished and what I was doing with it.
I let him down and stepped back She stepped back too. Horrified by this new occurrence. Looking on in curious horror as the other heifers came to see. They wandered off. She went to investigate. Wiping my hands on my jeans I made a mental note to remember to take them off before I went inside. Then I took my curry comb to Ghost who came over to visit.
Again, we waited. The heifer licked her calf. The calf took a watery shuddering breath. This time we would have life.
And the snow kept falling.
It rained all day yesterday. Perfect weather to make lots of mud and get everything soaked through before the snow came today.
We went out this morning to find the cows who haven’t calved yet with their heads to the fence, backs to the driving wind, standing in the full brunt of it.
We had spent the last few days getting the pairs moved to a pen where the calves would be able to get shelter. Then they reinforced the shelter and made sure the wind would be blocked from the east. All of our shelter is designed to protect from north and west winds. When it comes from the east we are left wide open. The cows and calves were tucked away nice and warm and dry. Except for the couple of cows who had taken their calves out to the far side of the pen and left them there in the wind and the icy slush we were getting as the weather decided what it wanted to do for sure.
Since they were mostly good we focused on the cows.
Between the two of us we were able to push them around the corner that was all it would have taken for them to do on their own to find shelter. Once they were all around and through the gate we locked it behind them to keep them from leaving shelter again to go back and stand in the full force of the storm which they greatly preferred.
Then we went to get food. We found a pen we don’t usually use that was fairly sheltered with the wind from this direction and put some bales out. Then we had to convince the cows to move again. They were slightly more sheltered and didn’t want to move.
Once they were finally settled and everything fed I went to check on the calves whose moms had left them on the far side of the pen while my husband went to feed a couple of other bunches. When I walked out there one calf jumped up and ran back to where the cows were eating out of the wind. The other didn’t budge. I tried to get her to stand. She hung limp, deep into calf camouflage mode. Like a faun they will lay perfectly still counting on their stillness and lack of scent to save them from predators.
She may also have been slightly frozen.
After failing to convince her to stand I paused and looked around. The pen isn’t large, it’s one of the smaller ones. That still meant that the calf and I were a long ways from the shelter and other cows. The cow who tried to eat me the other day was inn there somewhere. The quickest rout to the cows was straight across the middle. Far from any fences I could climb to get away. None of the cows had any interest in us though. They were too busy eating to care about a calf freezing out here in the open.
I grabbed two hind legs and began to drag her. She was a small calf. The hooves still hadn’t fully shed their baby softness, she was probably one of the ones born yesterday. She was still more than I could carry. I drug her as far as I could then paused to breath and reassess. The distance to the cows didn’t look any less. There was no way I could get her that far. Against the guardrail fence another calf was laying there. The solid fence was plenty of shelter for a tiny calf. we made a detour.
Knowing there wasn’t as far to go I got both hind legs again and didn’t stop to rest until we got to the fence. The cows had been far away and uninterested. My back was to them as I pulled the calf along. Suddenly there were cows everywhere. Or it seemed like there were. Two or three had come running, the milled about calling for calves, sniffing and checking to make sure everything was alright. I jumped the fence because I’m chicken. Hopefully the calf’s mom would get her and take her back.
The cows and other calf left. I was alone again with this limp still calf. Back over the fence again I drug her right up against the guardrail and propped her up again. I stuck my finger in her mouth to get a quick temp check. Her tongue was cool but there was heat in there. Not good but it could be worse. I stood there trying to decide what I could do.
From behind me I heard a shout. Turning and squinting my eyes against the sleet it took me awhile to spot my husband across the corals in the pickup. He had finished his feeding and w anted to know what was going on. We yelled across the distance, neither having any idea what the other was saying. I’ve always said we commune on a higher plan though, he made it clear he was going to come over.
As I waited, back to the wind, I wrung the water out of my gloves. It was warm still, I was sweating under my coat, but the water was starting to soak through. My gloves were dripping, my legs were wet, my face soaked. The wet slushy snow was changing to solid flakes. The difference was apparent in that short little bit of time. It was getting rapidly worse.
It took awhile for him to get around, park the pickup, walk through the corrals. As he got to the fence though I could see that he was pulling the sled.
My knight in shining armor. I knew we communed on a higher plane. He knew exactly what was needed and had thought it through and grabbed the supplies we would need. what man. Together we loaded the calf on the sled. Of course she then decided she had to stand up. I walked beside holding her on as he drug sled and calf to the shelter of the old barn. He pulled her up into the cows, onto the warm straw, and deposited her there where hopefully her mom would get her. At least she would be warmer and off the mud until her mom decided to go looking.
It was time for us to go inside. Tie to warm up and dry out a little before the next check. From in here the wind is rattling the house and snow is coming down hard enough that we can barely see across the yard. At least we got the cows settled before it hit hard. Now if they actually stayed in the shelter.
He’s getting so big. Almost all grown up.
Such a sweet little boy 8 will usually try to save his sister when I’m torturing her. He is usually much nicer to her than she is to him. He shares and helps her with everything. Even homework. It is fun watching him do her math homework when he’s two grades behind her.
The times that aren’t ‘usually’ he can be pretty mean to her. Those times are rare though.
Over the last year he’s finished preschool at home and moved on to kindergarten. Back in school fortunately. He is good friends with most of the kids in his class. He’s gotten a few sweet notes from some of the girls! 8 can drive a 4heeler and often runs errands for us. He can also ride a horse. Or sit happily on a horse. He has taken over his sisters horse Lady. He loves her zippy walk while it intimidated The Goblin Child.
A hacker at Minecraft, or so he informs us, he loves to play computer games. The is balanced by his extreme amount of energy and time spent playing outside or at gymnastics.
It’s been a good year. Hopefully your six year old year will be good too. Can’t wait to see what happens next!
Gymnastics is going good. I don’t know what else to say. It uses up lots of energy and the kids are doing good. Mostly they like to run around and play. 8 bounces all over the place. Not usually doing what he’s supposed to. Usually causing trouble. He’s so cute doing it though. If we lived inn town I’d have him signed up for the ninja classes they offer.
The Goblin Child does a great job but it’s hard to compare. She’s the oldest one in the class. She wishes there were other girls her age and I do too. To push her to try harder if nothing else. I wish I knew the names of what she’s working on so she could look back and compare in a year or two, or twenty.