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Monday, August 31, 2009

Back To School!

So it rolls around again. Fun times of swimming and the smell of chlorine in our nose have passed.

Labor Day is over.

School days are back.

School days school days,
good ole golden rule days....

Its an especially BIG deal this year though. We have two little ones starting school for the very first time!

Along with one amazing princess returning for her 4th year.

Gotta love this beautiful girl. So smart in mathematics and science that her teachers recognize her for that. Being that I am deficient in both, she impresses me more than she will ever know.

Her brother, a very cool guy who thinks so deeply that it amazes people the things that come out of his mouth.

And finally, the littlest princess. "Lil Mz Resilient". This girl makes friends wherever she goes and even at her young age has the remarkable ability to forge her own way.

Here's to a year of learning and growing.

Life passages.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"To Be Continued"... continued

After getting dry and warm and out of the rain and deeply aware of my defeat in "them thar hills" at the hands of mud and muck and cattle, I decided I had to try again to find this calf that legends are made of.

In the name of all that is real I needed to not fictionalize this huge record making baby cow (who had in the interim been named) but rather, I needed to find him and photograph him. It was necessary to legitimize him.

If I didn't whose to say that the kids and I werent just making this whole story up?

People needed to see this with their own eyes. Otherwise, this calf would be like the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot, or maybe the Abominable Snowman and we couldn't have that.

So I went out again today, determined to find this calf.

This gargantuan record setting calf that really does exist, even though I cant seem to find a trace of him. He is REAL I tell you!!!



By all accounts...

I found lots of babies heres one

and this one!
(my what big ears you have...)

and then I found HIM!

The record breaking calf who in the interim has been given the totally improbable name of.....
(insert drummroll here)



What does this big bruiser (who isn't even white) have to do with cotton?

Cotton seems content doesn't he?
We need you to stand up Cotton!
We need to see your Paul Bunyan self!

Cotton is about to get up. Oh dear...

My, my, Cotton, you really are quite the big guy!

Just for comparison here is a normal newborn

and once again, Cotton...

We have been receiving complaints from the milk room...

when Cotton's mama comes in, all she wants to do is rest.

She has no milk to give to the group effort. Cotton is drinking it all.
Look at her udder, all collapsed and empty.

And look at Cotton already 1/3 her size.

Remember that Mama with the "normal" looking udder?

You are bad for business Cotton!

But just look at you...

The look....
the feel...
of Cotton....

the fabric of our lives...


I get why you are named Cotton now.

A continuation of the story below...

So, I should have had my camera with me yesterday for the great adventure but I didn't.....and even though I had missed the taking pictures of the birth, I still wanted a good picture of the baby to complete "the story".

By the next day the kids had gone home but they really wanted to see the calf again, to know that he was really ok and happily running around the pasture with his mama.

I went back the next afternoon to the cow pasture where the mamas and babies are, to get pics of this biggest baby evah...

but I couldn't find him.

I thought I saw what might have been him cavorting over the edge of a rise off in the distance. It was a big calf and it was white. He had been white when he was born hadn't he?

Was that him I was seeing off in the distance? It was raining and that made everything look a little blurry and to be honest, the last and only time I had seen him was at his birth when he was just a big bundle of white fur heavily coated with slime -
not exactly the way he would look now at 24 hours later I was sure.

The best way to find him was to look for his mama, #177.

If I could find her, he wouldn't be far away and I could hop out in the rain, take his pic and post this story and that would be that.

All I had to do was cross the puddle at the gate that leads in to the pasture. Never mind that this was at the back end of the pasture and no one drives there - that its just for the cows.

Never mind that it had been raining heavily all day.

Who focuses on those kind of details?

Ever notice how long you have to contemplate the error of your rash choices when you are stuck in the middle of nowhere?

I wasn't entirely sure I was really stuck at this point so I got out and broke off some branches and tried to rock my way backwards out of the mud.

That was how I got stuck even deeper!

Oh yeah, I was stuck good.

Of course all the cows did was laugh at me.

And lick my car....

I tried calling for help - no one would pick up their phones.

I tried beeping the horn but that didn't help either.

In desperation I turned to my faithful sidekick,

"Emme - go tell them Timmy's in the well!"

I got nothin....

except more snickering and laughing at me behind my back....

I "herd" that!!!!

Finally, I heard the distant rumble of something besides thunder.

Was that a tractor?

Was I going to be rescued?

I was!

Oh thank you that you have come!

I am so glad that I gave birth to you 24 years ago.

And taught you to drive a tractor.

And thank you for finally answering your cell phone!

It is too bad that I didnt teach you not to laugh at your mother in her hour of need - but all parents have some regrets.

After being laughed at by the cows, whats one more?

Im unstuck!

Im free!

I can go home to warm dry clothes and forget this ever happened!

Calf? What calf?

I think it was all just a story and the super biggest calf ever born is just a figment of the imagination.

Thats what I think...

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Day Without Pictures...

On the final day the kids were here, I decided to leave the camera behind as we took off in the golf cart to see what we could find to explore.

I had taken a lot of pictures and they had taken lots of pictures of each other as well and we were all just a little tired of the camera.

So off we went, who would miss the camera, right?


While we were driving around counting the hay bales, Handsome Son came up in the truck and said

"Hey guys, I'm going to pull a calf, wanna watch?"

Apparently he was oblivious to me behind all the eagerly nodding heads, glaring at him while shaking my head NO.....

You see, pulling a calf is only done when the cow has labored unsuccessfully on her own. By the time she is discovered, usually hiding off by herself, the situation is serious. Many times the calf is already dead. Sometimes the mom doesn't make it either.

Truth is, its just not Disney all the time around here.

I was worried that this was not going to be the high note to end our sleepover on at all!

But the chance to circumvent this was just not going to happen. Three sets of eyes and heads bobbing excitedly, were in agreement. This was going to be A LOT more fun than counting hay bales!

While The Hub and Handsome Son got pails and betadine and gloves and ropes and chains (ouch)loaded in the truck, I tried for last minute damage control....

"OK guys, you need to know before we go out in the field how this is going to go"
I said, trying for a tone that was educational and factual, while in my head, I was fighting off thoughts of the trauma I might need to explain to puzzled parents later when I took them all home...

"This isn't like a movie where everything turns out good in the end...this is more like the nature shows you watch on TV where the lions really do eat the pretty antelope - do you understand?"

"Yes!" Three excited faces looked at me in anticipation of more...

Hoping this could be a case of foreknowledge trumping trauma I continued...

"There are three possible outcomes we might see here...

#1 The mama cow and the baby cow are just fine once the baby cow gets out. We hope this happens - but it might not if the baby has been in there too long.

IF that happens, it will be scenario #2",I explained as we bumped our way carefully across the pasture and into the edge of the woods, my little followers listening as carefully as any first year med students.

"In scenario #2 the calf still has to come out but it will be dead. It wont breath and we will only work on it a little bit just to make sure it isn't alive at all. We will work very hard on the mama and we will be glad that she is alive because we have a lot invested in her and while it is sad that the baby died, we will be happy if we save the mama cow because if she dies it isn't only sad, it is bad for our business when we lose her, because she is an investment."

They nodded sagely, not bothering to ask what an investment was. Homegrown economics amongst the cow patties seemed to be computing very well.

Taking a deep breath and plunging on I said,

"and the last one is scenario #3 in which the baby will be dead and the mom is so weak that she will die too. This one is very bad and doesn't happen to often but we have to be prepared for it. That is the way things work in real life sometimes. Not often, but sometimes.

"Do you still want to go watch?" I asked, I guess hoping vainly that at this point we could go back to counting hay bales or looking for the hawk we had seen the day before...

but no!

The vote to go watch was unanimous if you didn't count me - which no one did.

At this point, we had to abandon the golf cart and go deeper into the woods on foot. When we got to the cow, the guys had finished putting a makeshift halter on her to restrain her if she decided to run for it. She was a smaller black and white Holstein and you could see two little white hooves poking out of her backside just underneath her tail. At least she was still on her feet which was a good sign that she hadn't been worn down by hours of labor. I felt scenario #3 slipping quietly off the list of options, much to my relief.

Once mama was restrained, the action moved south to her backside. The chains went on the calf's feet. The traction bar enables you to pull without damaging the calf's feet. The best way to pull is straight down to the ground, which Handsome Son did. The chain popped and he fell flat on his back prompting nervous laughter on the part of the kids as he got up brushed off the leaves and reattached the chain more securely.

He pulled again.

My plan had been to stay right there with the kids (who had a birds eye view of everything that was happening)and narrate the good or bad so they would understand what they were seeing.

What actually happened is the guys yelled "come help pull!" I had to leave the kids and go help...

within about 15 seconds I had ears in my hands, along with a brow and forehead. "Its alive" someone shouted and out in one ginormous plop slid the biggest bull calf we had ever seen.

He wasn't breathing but you could see his heart beating so we cleared his airways and untied his mama, so she could turn around and take care of him. We gave her a shot to help her get rid of the afterbirth, which she didn't even notice - so intent was she on her baby.

Meanwhile, the little munchkins were moving closer and closer with little gasps of awe and excited whispers. The calf started to breathe and immediately looked even bigger then he had the moment before. He raised his big wobbly head in a drunken circle before he flopped back on to the leaves while his mom licked him dry with a big rough tongue.

That was when I heard little voices saying "This was a #1 scenario!"

"What?" said Handsome Son?

You know, they replied with happy squeals a #1! Everybody lives!"

So maybe life can sometimes be a little like Disney.

Now and then.

(and me without a camera for all this!)

no matter....

And they all lived happily ever after.

The End

Oh! Those Summer Nights!

With school starting soon, it was time for one last sleep over before everyone is back on a schedule.

The fab 3 made hand dipped pretzels to take home as a surprise for moms and dads.

These are even more fun to make than to eat - maybe?

"Hey! I am going to eat this one to make sure they are good!"

"Mine taste great!"

"I did one for mom and one for dad!"

A surefire combination of sweet, salty and crunchy guaranteed to have something for everyone!

After we were stuffed with chocolate and pretzels, it was on to the story telling.

Their stories/plays are always so creative and rich in imagination. This one involved a warrior princess and the worlds smartest side kick, enlisting the aid of a beautiful alien to save the planet from invasion.

encore` encore!

The dazzlingly talented and slightly pooped stars were then ready to watch a movie that carried almost the same theme -coincidence much?

Just when you think that sleep is not in the "plan" and it isn't going to happen and that they really are going to stay awake all night as they had promised each other....


the future is asleep in my living room...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

We have been enjoying the kind of rainy days here that make the ground burst with life. The peanuts are growing by leaps and bounds. The hay fields are lush and thick. Now all we needed was a 3 day window of bright sun to dry and bale all that grass!

If I had ever thought about hay before I moved to a farm (which I didn't) I would have just assumed that one fine day when there was nothing else pressing, a person would just get out a tractor and start making hay!

I mean hey! (yes I mean hey - about the hay..)How hard could it be?

I have learned that like most things that appear easy and simplistic there is a lot of strategy and steps of preparation that lie behind all the "easiness".

First the hay is cut. This isn't cutting like a lawn mower cuts. There is a special cutter that fans the hay out as it cuts it. It looks somewhat like a palm frond when it is cut. This exposes as much surface area as possible to the sun. The goal being to have nice dry hay with a low moisture content.

Now that it has dried for a day in nice even rows its time to mess it all up!
The machine you see in the distance is a "fluffer" attached to a tractor. Its long metal "fingers" fluff the hay up in the air and drop it back down again so that the underside gets sunlight too.

Now it has to dry in the sun another day.

Meanwhile everyone watches the sky and the weather and hopes for the best.

On the third day the hay is dry enough to bale.

First, it has to be raked back into rows after all that flipping the fluffer did they day before.

The rake gathers the hay into long narrow rows called wind rows, then the baler drives over them and eagerly devours all the hay.

When the baler stops you hear a high pitched spinning sound, somewhat like if you put your car in neutral and gunned the gas pedal - that sound.

Wait! Look! What is that I see peeking out of the baler?

Its a brand spanking new hay bale!

Welcome to the world brand new bale! Now go and join your 820 brothers and sisters!

So there you have it. Three days and lots of sunshine later.

From this

to this

P.S. It rained two hours later...after the last bale was finished.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Thin Man

A lot of people come and go when you live in a farm house.

It's just a fact of life.

One I adjusted to early on when I came to live here on the farm.

I remember once, after a particularly hard day helping a cow birth her calf. I headed off to take a long steamy shower only to afterwards walk out into my living room to find
ehh gasp,

a stranger standing there!

My left hand clutched my bathrobe while my right steadied the towel on my head. The "stranger" stood there in denim overalls, hat in hand.

Turned out, he wanted to bring over a cow that had given birth to a still born calf and needed to be milked.

While he went from potential serial killer to kind benevolent animal lover in 30 seconds or less in my mind that day, it took me awhile longer to realize that when you live in the country

people just drop in!

Farmers stop by to borrow equipment you have

or drop off something they are loaning to you.

Hay customers come to buy hay for hungry horses and goats.

Sometimes, people show up wanting another product we have in great quantity...

they want some "black gold" otherwise known as cow manure in these parts.

There are semi tractor trailer loads of grain delivered every few days.

Also, the milk truck which comes to pick up the wonderful result of all that grain and feed.

(Can you spell M.I.L.K.)?

Then there are the less glamorous but very important service vehicles that show up randomly to fill tanks with gas, drop off vet supplies and so on.

Its just an all around common thing to have people in and out all the time when you live on a farm.

Im used to it (sort of)

I was gone to the big city today and when I came home, I found this on my dining room table.


Looks like a nice guy...

a little thin and a little on the pale side but that's OK...

who are you?

You look a little like running man...

only you aren't going anywhere....just hanging out right here with your pen in hand.

Wonder what you would write if you had paper to write on?

Note to self...leave paper handy along with a pen next time!

Monday, August 3, 2009

On Being #1 In the #2 Business...

So what did you do with your weekend?

Spend time with the kids? Mow the yard? BBQ and go to a baseball game?

All/some of the above?

How mundane!

How typical!

How average!

Instead of all that all American wholesomeness you could have come to club Moo for one of our weekends. I wanted to add the word atypical in front of the word weekend but sadly I would be pretending.

Fact is while this weekend was not quite the normal order of things around here, it definitely was one of those

what do you mean hire someone when we can do it ourselves?

moments that I see a lot of, in one way or another.

So instead of having the neighbors over and grilling some steaks, we dug out an entire back yard.

Yes that's right folks! The septic had been warning of its presence for awhile so the day came when the pooper scooper truck had to come and do its job. In the process it was discovered that the drain field was no longer clear and functioning. The septic company would have been more than happy to stay and fix that also at around $5,000,000/hr. but The Hub said au contraire! We can do that part! Handsome son groaned inwardly.

As did the dogs.

And the chickens.

By the time I got home I could see what an undertaking it was. I started to flee for my life to the nearest mall to wait until someone gave me the all clear but something about the sight of "Handsome Sons" head resting on the ground (really he was in the trench) was so disembodied and macabre that I had to grab my camera and take a few pics!

I ran towards the scene, tripping over chickens and piles of dirt.

What is this head doing at ground level in my backyard?

Come to think of it - where is my backyard? The chicken is obviously excited to find a mountain ridge where formerly there was only boring flat grass!

A disclaimer:

Kids, do not attempt this at home. Especially if your dad is asleep on the couch and your mom has just run to the store for a minute.

The only circumstances under which this should be attempted is under adequate professional supervision - which we had...

The event drew a lot of sightseers, naturally....

Handsome son....shouldn't this be a hard hat area instead of a hard head area? yuk yuk - I am so funny....

ok this is about as much fun as I can stand on a Saturday....maybe I will go check out the mall after all~