I was going to write a post about how our dog is crazy. She has made herself a nest. Her nest is perched high on a snow drift outside the front door.
She hates having to be outside alone but when she has to be, she sits in her nest and chews on the random items she has collected there. She has ripped some branches off trees, found a deer skull, her favorite ball that was so fun until her huge teeth popped it, and now she has some piece of a dead cow there. Her collection she has brought home and stored there.
That seemed weird. And gross.
But tonight topped it all.
I walked around a corner to see her chewing on… something.
It wasn’t one of her toys. She will select stuffed animals sometimes. Or clothes. Sometimes the most random of things. I thought I should investigate.
Reaching down I got hold of it. It was slick and rounded, long and narrow, very wet from dog slobber. At first I was somewhat afraid it was a turd. It was gripped between my fingers and I was worried. It was the right shape. But where did she get it from?
Looking closer in the dimly lit room I saw, a hoof?
It was a hoof! A tiny little hoof attached to a leg. It had to be a calf leg? A very tiny baby calf leg. I thought back to the time I saw her walking through the corals proudly carrying some cleaning. I thought at the time that it was odd that there would still be some around from last year. It did cross my mind that maybe one of the cows miscarried. The storms were hard on them, the ice is slick, and sometimes it happens without outside cause even.
I didn’t think much more about it. It happens. Nothing I can do, no way to fond the cow.
How long ago did she find this leg? She had not just come in the house and hadn’t been carrying it earlier. That means the leg has been in the house. Somewhere in the house. A tiny little leg, from the knee joint down. The whole thing fit in her big mouth. That must be how she got it in the house in the first place.
First there was a bad back keeping the job from being done. Then there was the forecast for bad weather. No need to add more stress by doing it with a storm coming on. Then it was the storm, even worse than predicted. Two weeks worth of blizzard and frigid temps. No way to get anything done but survive in that weather. Then pens and lanes full of drifts left us wondering how to even get the job done?
It needed done and that was that. Where there’s a will there’s a way. We had to get the calves weaned.
With the usual places full of snow we had to find new places. A different lane, a different approach. It worked. Mostly because it was not as full of snow. The cows wanted out desperately. Large numbers of them sorted themselves just by running out the gate once it was open. I felt bad disappointing them. They didn’t get to go on through to the pasture on the other side. In time we will get them back out of cornstalks. Cows like the corrals, when they also get to chose to leave.
We brought a few at a time up with the 4wheelers. When I sat a moment on mine and no wind blew, I was able to catch the scent of something. What was that? I sniffed my gloves just to be sure I hadn’t touched something untoward. Not my gloves. It was only occasional that we were still and together. Most of the time I was on foot quietly moving cows about. It’s such a fun conversation to have. Hello old girl, yes you. You can go by me now. Some go confidently, past and out the gate. Others need to be reassured they are the ones you really mean. Yes pretty girl, you can go, no, not the one behind you. Go ahead now.
Then I’d be back on my trust green mount to move the cows to the new pen or get a new batch, and there was that smell again.
Finally I was able to place it. Warm cat pee. How, pleasant. Did someone mistake the engine for a litter box? Nothing for it but to ignore the fragrant aroma and get the job done.
Soon all were sorted. Calves on one side of the fence, cows on the other. It has been well shown in studies that calves are most stressed by separation from their mothers. More than from the medical necessities performed on them. Weaning over a fence allows them to be together, just without the milk. Calves dove right into the feed we filled their bunk with. The cows were looking for their breakfast.
My daughter got a special gift for Christmas this year. Her heifer from last year lost her calf. She loves the heifer and didn’t want to let her go. Not even with the option of choosing from among all the other heifers, after they calved to guarantee a calf. That set her back quite a bit in building her herd. My daughter loved our little yellow bottle calf from this summer. I had told her no, she couldn’t just have a calf. They are expensive and she needs to learn what it takes to build a herd on her own. But, having lost her first calf this summer, I felt bad. Marsh Mellow could be hers.
But, that means she has to help with her. We weaned the last of the bottle calves off of Popcorn too. The kids came out and helped push them through the round about rout we had to take to get them to the others. They did a great job. That left two calves behind that hadn’t been nursing. Pitiful and runty, I wanted to leave them up front so they didn’t have to fight bigger calves for feed.
We got the bottle calves calves out with the others. The children ran ahead to play in snow drifts. I walked home while the guys cleared more snow.
I saw it from a distance. The dog wasn’t up that far yet, it couldn’t be her. Besides, even from the distance it had a very calf like appearance. So what was it doing on top of a snow drift!
One of the calves left behind had been left by himself for a brief time while we got others sorted. Apparently he didn’t approve! He had climbed the snowbank. Pausing only long enough for the required pictures I rushed to get him down where he belonged before he got hurt or stuck.
In the house later my son asked if I had seen the calf on the snow drift! I told him I had, and had put him back where he belonged. Nodding sagely, my son said “so did I”.
Oh dear. Hope we will be able to keep the calf off the bank now that he has found this great new play ground.
We got the best present this morning. It was thirty five degrees when we went out to feed! Snow was melting on windshields and everything started right up without even being plugged in.
We did open our presents first. The cattle and horses have plenty of feed, they aren’t waiting anxiously. No reason to rush.
Bones, black kitty, is back outside where she belongs. Our daughter was holding her the other day and said a bug crawled off the cat onto her. She killed the bug, but there wont be very much cuddling until we can get to town for flea control!
Grey and white kitty quieted down amazingly through the snow. Once he discovered other kitties were getting fed, and the food wasn’t so bad he warmed right up. He is a strange kitty. I was trying to show him where I had left food. He attacked my hand, full on with claws and teeth. Then started violently rubbing against my arm. He may be crazy, but that’s my kind of crazy. Especially when I am fully dressed for winter and safe from his aggressive displays of affection.
The horses got carrots, my pet cows got cake. The rest of the cows got a cows favorite present, lots of food. We are cutting them back to normal rations, but it’s still exciting to get food.
We bought ourselves a flour mill for Christmas. I walked through the garden yesterday, looking for the sweetcorn we had left behind. We’ve always thought it would be fun to grind our sweet corn into corn meal. Two stalks still held ears of ornamental corn. The rest was picked bare. Deer had been sheltering behind the lilacs. Rabbit tracks covered the ground. Far better to feed the hungry animals with the remains of the garden. Who needed corn meal anyway. The sunflowers are picked clean too. Their heads barely above snow level. Now, barely into the bleak midwinter, what will they eat for the rest of the cold? I hate to have the easy pickings gone already.
Squirrels have been everywhere. We see them constantly on the snow drifts. They’re venturing far from the safety of the trees to gather kernels of corn left from the feeding of the cows. Pheasants are everywhere as always. A grouse wasn’t quick enough to evade the hawks. They feasted on her alongside our driveway. Hawks need to eat too. Bald eagles sit in the trees of the windbreak. The cats better be careful.
One calf died the first night of the blizzard.So far that seems to be the only loss. There were a couple of days we just could not get to the bulls to break the ice in their tank. They had feed and shelter. Just not water except for the snow. After the wind stopped and we could see enough to dig to them my husband took a chainsaw to the ice in their tank. He cut out thick blocks. Ten inches of solid ice in those two days. One bull is not going to be ok. He got frost bite in the most unfortunate of places. Poor guy. That would make two losses from the blizzard. Death isn’t the only way to lose cattle.
Christmas is good. Work still needs done. It is the work I want to be doing. The posts about thanking the farmer for not taking any days off, working on holidays and bad weather, always seem odd to me. What else would I want to do? This is the life we chose. This is what is good. Coming back in and sitting a bit is good to, but what would one do with a full day off anyway?
Nothing would start this morning. I thought for sure with these tropical temperatures we have this morning everything would start right up
The wind isn’t blowing! That makes everything seem so much nicer. I made the children come out to feed with us, with it being so nice out. They complained but then made a beeline for the big drifts and were off playing. So nice after days inside.
After getting the payloader started yesterday afternoon my husband put LOTS of hay out for the cows. They had plenty of hay left over this morning so feeding them more isn’t an emergency.
With the payloader started yesterday my husband also dug a path to the barn! It was tough digging. The wind was at it’s worst. I had brought the kids along, but up to that point being along with us had meant sitting in the suburban while we watched the gate while cows got fed and driving back and forth.
Now they were both given shovels and told where to dig. The wind whipped the powdery snow around behind the relative shelter of the barn. Their faces were quickly coated in ice. I sent them back to the house. With some worry they wouldn’t be able to find their way in the white out conditions.
They did find their way. I watched to make sure, then went back to digging.
With a path cleared I went for Popcorn. She lead easily from the shelter of the windbreak where they were standing. The wind was whipping around it too, coating them in powder. I had been going to go back for the others after I had her in, but they all followed happily. Even the extra calf we have acquired through this storm. One of my father in law’s who went wandering early in the blizzard. He hasn’t asked once to go back to his mom. Life must be pretty good with the milk cows.
With them all tucked into one side of the barn, so the body heat would be condensed, I went for the horses.
Walking out to the gate I called. Maybe going with the wind my voice would be able to be heard out there? No heads popped up so apparently not. Walking farther out into their pen I called again. This time ears appeared. I called again and Rusty started to come. I turned back towards the barn.
The horses came thundering up behind me and followed through the gate. Then Rusty passed me and went for the barn on his own. All the horses went in. The usual separations wouldn’t work, having to share it with the cows. Maybe if I tied Rusty the other two would be alright in there together. But Lady was scared to come in. She wanted to stay in the door. Helly was feeling spooky and hot, so was Rusty. They bounced around. Skittered across the cement floor. Chased each other and spooked. They were feeling good, and energetic. I got the call, my husband needed help. They were not going to be ok in the barn. I took off the halter I had briefly gotten on Rusty and they were gone, out the door.
I left the gate open so they could eat the cows alfalfa bale.
This morning when I let the cows out of the barn they looked warm, happy, and rested. The horses were reluctant to leave the alfalfa, but they are fat and were plenty warm. Back out to their grass bale they needed to go!
The big herd of cows was spread out in the warm weather and sunshine. Resting and melting. The steam was rising from their backs, black hide soaking up what warmth it could. Icicles dripped down their sides from where the bunch had been pressed close together and the combined body heat melted the snow. The two old girls I would have bet on losing through that were up and looking good.
The snow cover on their backs must itch. Ghost and Dandelion both begged for more and more scratches as I gave them brisk rub downs removing what I could.
The black kitty, Bones, and the big grey and white one have been enjoying being fed in the straw bales. Bones was sitting outside the barn door yowling for her breakfast. Grey and white kitty didn’t leave even as I came close enough to put feed in their hiding spot.
Most things seem to have come through nicely. We should hopefully be on the other side of this storm and things getting better!
The sun is shining, but without warmth or kindness. It lights the sky so we can see, but no more than that.
The wind is howling, whipping up the powder dry snow that falls when it is too cold for real snow containing moisture. The snow bites at any exposed skin, leaving it just damp enough to freeze quickly under a layer of ice.
My pickup gave up yesterday. One vehicle would start this morning. It has been running ever since. Walking to and from the quanset trying to get things running and cattle fed would be a death march.
Actual temps right now are 17 below zero, farenheight. Did you know that 40 below is the same farenheight or celcious? The windchill is 45 below.
It’s a wonder any of the animals made the night. I have doubts about Popcorn having made it this far without her blanket. She had ice frozen to her chin like a goatee and was moving slow when I grained them this morning. The calves were shivering. Hunched against the cold.
The beef herd is huddled in their windbreak, hungry and waiting for us to feed them. The feed truck started, eventually. It died a couple of times but I made it to the bunks. Cows came running looking for their breakfast. They were willing to brave the wind for alfalfa and corn.
Then the truck died.
The guilt I felt feeling the hopeful eyes of the cows on me as I walked away. So close to getting them food, but so far.
The payloader wouldn’t even try. My husband is out there working on it now.
The children haven’t been out of pajamas for a couple of days now. I keep thinking I should make them get dressed. But why? They don’t need to go out into this. Nothing should have to.
My hindquarters are beginning to thaw. It’s time to get dressed again. My husband has been out there awhile. Need to make sure he hasn’t froze solid. I want to try to dig a path through one of the drifts so I can get things into the barn. it’s not warmer in there but maybe with all the milk cows and calved huddled together they could raise the temp a bit and get a break from the wind.
We are lucky. I’m not complaining. We have neighbors who have lots power. Others with family snowed in far from home, or at home. Or cows have hay left over from yesterday and are well sheltered. The horses have plenty of hay. We are all here together. Life is still good.
Now we have -12F, with the wind howling and slow flurries. I’ve been mocking them a little. School is being canceled again?! For up to an inch of snow??
Now that it’s here I have been properly chastised. It’s cold. The feed truck, my trusty winter mount. Always willing and faithful, able to start in the coldest of weather, has failed.
She couldn’t manage to start yesterday. After battery chargers and being plugged in I was able to feed the load she carried, mid afternoon.
Then she got reloaded and…. died. Right there in the middle of the road she gave up and quit. I called my husband. He happily and enthusiastically came home from work early to work on her in the freezing weather.
Well, maybe not. He did come work on her.
He got her going again and she got parked in the shed where she could be plugged in for the night.
This morning she started happily. Because school was already canceled my husband was home to help feed. It went well, until she died again. He finished putting out bales then came to manually pump fuel to get her started. I was able to finish feeding and get reloaded. With firm instruction to keep gas to her!
She tried to die again. I floored it. In neutral of course. She lugged along sounding more dead than alive until she gasped for breath and came alive again.
I urged her back to the comfort of the shed and left her there until tomorrow.
The valiant battle against the snow drifts blocking the roads was won. But the battle was won while the war was lost. Drifts are collapsing. One lady we know was trapped in her car when a drift collapsed on it.
The light snow flurries are quickly drifting things once open closed again. The temperatures keep the ability to fight to a minimum.
I just came in from blanketing my cow. She was sick this fall and is skinny anyway from being such a good milker. I worried about her in this cold and driving wind. I would have blanketed her sooner had I thought about it.
The cows have more food than they can eat tonight. The horses are fat and fluffy. They got a full bale with not net or even bale feeder to restrict their access. The black kitty has been spending time on the porch and is now sleeping cuddled in the favorite cat hole in the straw. Milk cows got more corn than is probably good for them and one a blanket. Things are settled in best we can do for them.
The children haven’t gotten out of their pajamas all day. As much as I like to drag them outside for at least a little bit even in the worst weather, this is more than I will make them do. We cuddle with them and try to warm up between our trips outside to take care of animals. Our house is warm and has electricity . We’ve got it good.
The winds have, for the most part, quieted. The sun has been shining on the black hides of the cows warming them as they rest and recover laying and soaking up the warmth. The children have been off exploring colossal snow drift. The adults have been getting to sit down a little bit. Trying to catch a glimpse of this cabin fever we’ve heard some people talk about. Or at least a bit of rest.
We woke to fog yesterday.
Hoar frost covered tree branches, fences, and animals. The ground and the very air glistened white. God decorated his creation with such beauty it seem sacrilig to disturb it. Still and silent the world shined under its blanket of crystal. Even the sun was decorated, sundogs nearly circling it.
Until the wind came to destroy the tranquility. No longer whipping, instead quiet and insidious. Just enough to blow the crystals in the air at our faces stinging and cold. Falling to the ground they mix with the snow. The windchill dropped and my face froze walking back to the house after feeding.
It was time to try to make it to the store. My husband and children had gone off to work already. The highway was plowed in a fierce battle against drifts. My husband had blown a path clear to get to the highway. We were almost out of milk.
It felt weird reentering the rest of the world. The drifts along the way were fascinating. The roads were mostly clear, just narrow. All the stores were out of milk.
Except our little local store. The one that had been out before the snow. It made me feel dreadfully guilty for giving business to the behemoth instead.
We developed a new kitty through the storm.
The small black cat has been around for a few weeks now. Yowling at us from a distance, we’ve been putting feed out to appease it. It had not been willing to let us get close. By the end of the snow it came to our back door with it’s loud demands.
My husband fed it and petted it. Apparently that broke the barrier. She now not only lets, but noisily request petting and holding. We worry about our own cats response to an intruder and are not willing to let her in the house. She has been spending large parts of her days on the back porch keeping warm and we’re trying to get some weight on her.
Until then she has been Christened Bones. A fitting name for her tiny skeletal form.
Feeding took a normal amount of time and the cows were happy to come out of their quickly shrinking shelter. The milk cows still needed water hauled to them. We’ll try taking them out a different gate and moving them to water that way this afternoon.
The kids went out to explore the giant drifts in the tree row. They are almost as tall as the trees and from the top we can look past the trees and get our first glimpse of the outside world that we’ve had for days.
The corn stalks caught some snow. That’s why people leave stubble, to catch the snow and provide moisture for next summer.
They didn’t catch all the snow. That’s why it is so deep anywhere there’s shelter.
From the top of the drifts we watched my husband head out with the snow blower. Trying to dig his way to the highway, then to clear his sisters driveway. Our driveway wasn’t bad. Drifts covered the road the whole way to the highway.
The highway was open. For a little ways. As far as people had had to clear to get feed to their cattle. My friend had given it a try to see if she could get to town. She confirmed that it was clear from those peoples house as far as their cows. The snow plows are focusing on busier roads. Nothing on this one has been touched.
Not like over night, but during the day. The wind died down a bit. Or the snow has blown to where it is going to blow. The sun was shining and the sky as blue this morning as it was this afternoon. Not that you can tell.
The drifts that were as big as I had ever seen yesterday were bigger today. The cows were tired. They have shelter and food but the constant snow and cold was taking its toll. I feel awful for cows that people can’t get to. There are people who have been digging all day, all day for the last few days, trying to get to cows. We’re lucky to have ours home, close, and equipment that can reach them.
The milk cows are trapped in their nice sheltered place. That’s the problem with shelter. It shelters snow too and drifts build. I’ve been hauling water to them. They have their bale and are good except for water.
I let the horses up to the barn this morning. I was going to let them in. Rust didn’t even hesitate, he jumped right through the chest high snow bank after me when I called. That got them near the barn, but not in it. That last snow bank was chest high and wide. Much wider than the one he jumped through for me. None of them would try it.
It was better sheltered next to the barn and I hauled the last of the hay I had put away in the barn out to them.
When we went out tonight the horses happily left their sheltered place and ran back out to their pen.
Hopefully the wind stays down and we can dig out and have it stay dug out for more than a few minutes.
Today is the worst day yet. It could just be that I’m getting tired. The cattle are getting tired. The long cold and wind is starting to wear on us all. Digging out the same gate over and over again, more snow every time, to get to the cows gets old.
So many things to be grateful for, and I am, so very much. My husband is home with me and the kids, not having to be off somewhere else working. We get to work together, which means we also get to rest together in between. He is capable of fixing the equipment when it breaks so we can keep taking care of the animals.
We have that big equipment to dig out and to help us make sure the cattle are cared for. The cattle have good shelter and there is plenty of feed to keep them happy and warm. Our house is snug and warm. We haven’t lost electricity yet! For the first few days we figured it would be when, not if.
But the wind.
It never stops.
Any path that is cleared gets blown back in in minutes. The drifts are huge. Some taller than I ever remember seeing. Even in shelter the blown snow sifts down from the sky. A fine mist that gets in your lungs. We aren’t going to lose cattle to the cold and snow, we’ll lose them to lung problems afterwards.
Although we have had our first loss. A calf who laid down and died in the middle of the corral. No idea why or what. This will weed out the weak.
We had planned to have calves weaned a couple of weeks ago. One thing or another has kept us from doing it. This storm being one of them. Sometimes it’s good not to get everything done on time. The stress and not having as good of shelter would have been worse for them.
We dug our way out to the bulls this morning. They have shelter, but ran out of hay. It was a fight and some impressive digging. The lane we would have been feeding calves up, had they been weaned, is blown completely shut. Now it’s blocked even more with the round about path that was the easiest way to get to bulls.
The dairy herd wouldn’t walk through a waist high drift to get to water. So I broke through it for them then chased them through. And dug out their trough for grain. Now I need to go back out and make sure they went back to their hay.
The effort of going out and facing that wind again is daunting. My arms ache from digging. My face is wind burnt. My legs don’t ever want to face another snow drift.
But, I have happy children playing at their computers, after spending the morning helping feed and playing in the snow. I got to lay around this afternoon and take a nap! We’re warm, and full, and life is good!