Cow death and blessing…

Friends, it’s been a tough year for us. With my dear mother in law’s cancer diagnosis and the roller coaster of ups and downs and constant prayer, sick animals, totaled car, injured husband…and all the normal stuff that goes with being a parent to three beautiful boys and a wanna-be farmer. Whew!

Let me give you some history on this post. In May, I purchased two beef calves (Angus and Angus cross) to bottle feed until my milk cow freshened around June 4. Calves are hard to come by this year because the price of cattle is high, so they are in demand (and they are spendy)! So, I brought Elliott and Samuel home. I was going to bring another younger one home with me, but he had fallen sick with a temperature and diarrhea so the rancher didn’t feel comfortable sending me home with him. Just as well, I thought at that point because two was plenty of work to do. And…the price! Samuel fell sick the next day. Went off the bottle, stopped eating. I called The Rancher and he said penicillin. Of course, I had LA200, but no penicillin, so emergency 28 mile trip to town to get penicillin. While I was there, I bought a bag/tube feeder…just in case. Gave him the penicillin and by the next morning he was doing great. A couple weeks passed and he fell sick again. Called The Rancher and did more penicillin, but he didn’t get better. He was running temps around 102.5-105 and not eating. Finally after talking to the vet, after 3 days of this, we pulled his milk replacer, gave him fancy electrolytes and probiotics and a dose of LA200 (followed by another 3 days later). He was better the next day.

My cow freshened on Sunday, June 8 with a little heifer calf-full Jersey. The calf was to go back to the original owner since he AI’d her before I purchased her from him. He would come pick her up in a week. I kept bottle feeding Elliott and Samuel until then and gave Samuel some colostrum and gave them both some cows milk to get their tummies used to it. On Saturday, June 14th, I put the calves on the cow. She wasn’t too happy since she was missing her baby and they didn’t seem to understand what they were supposed to do, having been used to the bottle now for 3 months. After Samuel nursed that first night, he went and lay down in the straw in the “green barn”. The next day, he was slow, lethargic. He would eat a little and be interested in nursing, but then stretch out. I didn’t notice him peeing as I normally did, but he didn’t seem dehydrated, either. I gave him a shot of penicillin just in case. Using penicillin so I could use LA200 if it didn’t work (because you can’t use LA200 first and then follow up with penicillin because of the long life span of the LA200). He didn’t get better. I thought he was dying! He laid in the gray barn and grunted. I tubed him mineral oil and water because he acted like he was trying to poop and nothing would come out…and he still wasn’t better. Finally Tuesday I called the vet and he came out at 1pm. We decided he had a blockage and his penis would have to be removed and poor Samuel would be turned into a Samantha. I squeezed the pallet while Randy (the vet) cut and sewed his magic. Immediately the urine ran out of Samuel. So, the gamble was worth it. Whew.

Samuel never really got any better. He would go and lay down and then come out to nurse. I babied him along and saved a quarter for him to nurse on every morning after I was done milking and I would catch the cow for him to come nurse in the evenings, but he was never vigorous after that and when I finally made up my mind that I would sell him and get a little money for him (per two friends’ advice), he fell sick again. Same thing…all stretched out, no pee, acting like he needed to poop and laying down and grunting. I know this sounds harsh, but by this time I was pretty tired of looking at his gaunt, pathetic, lethargic self. I was tired of babying a 4 month old calf and I had even moved past the emotional trauma of FAILURE, believe it or not. My husband said it wasn’t that big of a deal that I potentially lost $600 (the cost of the calf and all the vet bills), because I tried. But whew! Six. Hundred. Bucks. Actually, probably Seven. Hundred and Fifty. Bucks. That’s a lot of money to me, still! A hundred bucks is a lot of money to me still! Shoot, I’d even attempt back flips if someone gave me $20! 🙂

So, I couldn’t sell him in the shape he was in. I called the vet. Samuel had now not nursed for over 36 hours and I told him, “Fine. Just die.” He ate a little grain, but that was it and that probably made the problem worse in retrospection. The vet said his kidneys were probably backing up and there was nothing we could do. He was hard and very tender in his upper right quadrant. He died that afternoon. Seven hundred and fifty bucks … dead in the barn. More than that, my plans to raise a beef for profit. Dead. In the barn. I guess you call it Urinary Calculi and it is supposedly a nutritional deficiency, but the little guy didn’t eat much grain ever…as a matter of fact, he didn’t eat much of anything, period. My dad said a few months back that, “Sometimes they deserve to die.” I think this might have been the case.

Well, as is the case in farm life, you have to move on. So, the kids and I went out with a rope and I tied it around his back legs (Elliott was laying next to him…to keep him company?) and pulled him out of the barn. Heaved, is more like it. I may have said, “Shit” a time or two, but I got him out. Then we got the lawn tractor and tied him up and drug him out of the pasture. I had told Randy (the vet) on the phone that I would cut into him if he died to see if he was full of urine. So, we found gloves and a few box cutters that we wouldn’t miss if they ended up in the trash. We, as in my boys (ages 6, 3, and 14 months). And the anatomy lesson started…up wind just in case it sprayed out. I didn’t have to cut far before urine drained out of his upper right quadrant (mind you, he was laying on the ground). I left him there because I didn’t want his guts falling out and then no way to load him to wherever I decided he’d lay to rest. And my husband’s back is in no shape to be loading a dead calf, albeit only 250 pounds.

The neighbors let us borrow their tractor and the next afternoon we buried the calf out back. I’m sure the FedEx guy was wondering what the deal was with the dead calf cut open (only an eight inch incision) laying on the ground next to the shop!

In normal mental fashion, I second-guessed everything I had ever done with that calf. Everything I fed him, didn’t feed him. The vaccination, the booster. The LA200, the penicillin. EVERY. THING. I really wound myself up about this…even when I promised myself we’d move on. I hate death, but I hate, hate, HATE suffering even more and when I really thought about how much pain that little calf was in and how irritated I was at his pathetic self not getting better EVER, I was saddened and disappointed in myself. Goodness, though! Any rancher would have just let him die, so maybe I did too much? See the vicious circle my mind does to me?

I went for a horse ride for some decompression. I don’t get out on my horse as often as I’d like and this was much needed. When I got to the top of the highest hill behind my house (horse was ready to go, so we loped up there!) and looked out across the beautiful rolling Palouse, my heart lightened. If my God created all this and allows me to enjoy it and enjoy my horse, then he will not hold it against me that I wasn’t smart/strong/proactive enough to save this calf. Or whatever the right word/sentiment is.

All the frustration of the week…PMS, my mother in law’s health, my husband’s injury to his back, my exhaustion over doing EVERY. Thing (or so it feels), the calf and my Plans…seemed to dissipate…at least for that hour with my horse.

When I returned home the frustration was still there and I would like to recount that I managed it well, but I did not.

I did decide that I would call The Rancher and let him know about Samuel the morning before he died. Since he was a twin, maybe the twin would exhibit symptoms and he should know. I had not called him about the surgery and so I left a lengthy message regarding the last six weeks of history. Then Samuel died. The Rancher called back late that evening and said his twin was fine, but that he had another calf he wanted to give me. GIVE. As in a free cow. People don’t give cows away. Horses, maybe. Dogs, yes. Cows, no. I told him that was not my purpose for calling him and letting him know but he insisted. Wow! What an unexpected blessing! He said just to give him a few days heads up before I came and picked up the other one (the little one that was sickish when I first when to pick the calves up). He also had a heifer calf and was worried how she would do by herself.

I thought I’d pick up the calf and offer him some money, but then he’d refuse. Then I thought I’d pick up the calf and send them a gift card afterwards, but that seemed cheesy. So, I called him just two days ago and I said, “This sounds crazy, but you are worried about your heifer calf and I have the milk cow, what if I take the heifer calf, too? I’ll put her on my cow and raise her for a few months and you can have her back?” The Rancher said he would talk to his wife, but it might work. He called back a few minutes later and was happy and willing to do that.

Thursday (yesterday), after milking, I let the cow out and then stopped beside her to pray. I haven’t been very good about praying…REALLY praying, like letting my heart out to my Father. So, I did. I prayed that the cow would take the calves, the calves would know what to do, that this would be successful and I’m sure there was more I rambled off, but those were the biggies. Oh, and no one would DIE. Then I went in the house and got ready for the day. I had to have everyone out the door before 7:00am. We were out the door at 6:53!

We arrived at The Ranch and picked up the calves without hassle and even made it back to Sprague before we ran out of gas (oops, I forgot to look at the gauge when I went through Ritzville!). We got home after stopping for #2 to pee on the side of the road a few times and unloaded the calves. It was 93 degrees at 11am. My plan at this point (I had just made it up in my head) was to let them settle in and then bottle feed until this morning. So, we went in, had lunch and got everyone settled in for nap.

When Mason woke up from nap we went out and checked on the calves. I put the cow in the barn, tied her head and the heifer calf approached her and knew what to do. Boom, just like that. The cow didn’t kick and the calf did what she was supposed to. Joe, the other calf, has been bottle fed since birth, so he is kind of confused, but after some coaxing and bottle feeding decided he could explore a teat and got it figured out. These are big calves, Friends! 300-350 pounds, probably, so it’s not like I can wrestle them or straddle them to the cow! This is a complete answer to prayer. I haven’t been doing this long, but I grew up with cattle and it NEVER happens this easy. NEVER. Even the last time, the cow was kicking at the calves, the calves had been bottle fed so long they were stupid when it came to teats and udders. I looked at Mason and I said, “Mason! It never happens like this! God answered my prayer! And shame on me, I prayed a prayer and I didn’t even have the faith to believe it.” (But He was faithful despite my unbelief…wow.) He gave me what I didn’t deserve. WOW. Later yesterday Mason said, “God should be called Superman.” Even Superman doesn’t have what God does.

So, the moral of my story (to myself) is not to lose faith, Gretchen. Don’t worry about the dead calf because amazing blessing came out of him dying rather than me selling him, plus I learned a whole lot (and my vet box grew). And, it wasn’t my kids dying of kidney failure, or my husband, or myself, or my parents or in laws, horse or sister…or the cow who is worth more than that silly calf. Ya know? Perspective. I lose it…often. Perspective. I was blessed and I was in turn able to be a blessing to The Rancher and help him with his calf. Taking his calf might allow him a little free time and it might allow me a little free time (ironically, it will save me from milking every day). So, even when you think you have nothing left to give, Gretchen, (still preaching to myself) there is still something to give. Something to share. Some way to be a help to others. Light at the end of the tunnel. A beautiful rainbow after the storm. And God still provides. He still gives hope for a prosperous future, despite what circumstances may look like at any given point in life. Thank you, Lord for reminding me of this…in just the right time.

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Home birth and then a 5 day hospital stay

We arrived at Sacred Heart just to have Baby’s lung X-rayed per Head Midwife (CNM) telephone consult.  She was in New York and as we wished, did not want to take any chances.  When we got there of course the judgment flags flew, “You had your baby at home?  Is this your first?  My you are amazing (I was up and walking!  Amazing?  hmmm.).  Then his blood sugar wouldn’t stabilize and (insert sarcasm) I don’t suppose it had anything to do with the fact that THEY GIVE THEM SUGAR WATER before taking blood!  I declined sugar water until they pressured me so badly that I caved.  If you gave a diabetic sugar water what would they do 30 minutes later?  Uh huh…crash.  Duh, people.  (Confidence in medical professionals dropping). 

His chest Xray was fine, but they were concerned about the blood sugar.  By this time he was lethargic.  My milk wasn’t in, they hadn’t allowed him to nurse, either!  He had had NOTHING to eat.  So, they admitted him and when they did Intake #1 it went something like this:  “When was he born?  Where?  AT HOME?”  They might as well have stopped right there because they had all kinds of judgments in their heads.  They told us they thought it was an infection.  Maddox was born in the amniotic sac.  Delivered in the amniotic sac.  Special.  That freaked them out.  It freaked them out he was born in water.  Oh, and did I mention at home?  Good Lord, this baby was born at home (no one knew what to do!).  Later one smirky doc came in and said they thought he had an infection (probably since he’d been born at home, right?  Well, no one said that…)  “E. coli, Listeriosis, … No nursing, no formula.”  Listeriosis?  I wasn’t about to tell them I drink raw milk!  So they put him on dextrose 10.  SUGAR.  And they told us they should do a spinal tap and the risks were small (no one ever voiced “paralysis”, but they should have!).  Anyway, by this time we were tired, a little freaked and gave up.  I did not want to have antibiotic drops in his eyes, but they said he had “goobers” so they put them in (with my exhausted consent).  It was just plugged tear ducts, btw.  Everything I wanted to avoid by having a home birth was now happening before my eyes by people who were just taking a stab in the dark at what they THOUGHT might be the reason my baby’s blood sugar wasn’t stabilizing.  NEVER MIND he wasn’t being FED.  When they took him away to give him the spinal tap and catheterize him to get a urine culture they assured me that giving them sugar was like giving them crack, that it would release a bunch of endorphins and he would cope better with the pain.  I was too tired to fight at that point.  If I even tried to explain that sugar is crack, highly toxic and not doing the type of thing they hoped, it would have been a lost cause.  So, I told them to do what they needed…and my baby got MORE sugar.  Probably compounding his issue.  Still doc wouldn’t let me give him even formula!

I have PCOS.  PCOS people are supposed to live like diabetics.  That means you eat a whole lot of fat and protein and no sugar because it is a killer on your blood sugar (and other hormones that control stuff) and my baby is freakin’ hooked to Dextrose 10 and everyone is waddling around shaking their head not understanding why the little guy is not stabilizing.  Duh.

The next day the hopitalist, Dr. Miller-an EXCELLENT doctor comes in.  She point blank tells everyone that this baby was home birthed, the cord was probably allowed to pulse out (explaining his “sticky” blood and more red blood cells in the work up) and that he needed to eat and have skin to skin contact with mama.  She treated me like a real person.  How kind.  (She also got a nice thank you note from me when this was all over).

For days later we met with speech therapists, occupational therapists, doctors, nurses, interns, medical students and no one knew why he wasn’t stabilizing.  Jeff was traveling up during the day and going home to be with the boys at night.  Finally someone in their ultimate wisdom consulted with the NICU unit and they said to wean him off  the Dex 10 gradually.  I was nursing but my milk wasn’t in (can you say stress?) and supplementing, he was spitting up like crazy (a few weeks later I figured out this was candida and gave him an infant probiotic that solved that issue, but he had to be on it for 10 months!).  They pumped him full of antibiotics and everything was “dead” in his gut!  Who wouldn’t need probiotics?!  We came home Friday (we were admitted Monday night).  So much for “staying in bed” for a week and bonding with my baby.  I had all kinds of adrenaline going through me.  I never even really felt like I had a baby until they told me we could go home…then it hit me like a ton of bricks! 

I know medical professionals are limited by what they are taught in their training.  (I also know Naturopaths are limited.  If I broke my arm I would go to the hospital, but to treat PCOS, I go to a Naturopath.  I’ve also learned to consult my Naturopath first, then my MD.)  Having been in that field I know what/how they are taught, to some degree.  I also know that the best nurses and docs are the ones who have LIFE experience, not book experience.  Dr. Miller had just had a baby herself 14 months ago and was nursing her still.  While she may not have agreed with my decision to home birth, she understood the perks and what all it entailed and said this had nothing to do with birthing at home!  (and she never judged me or put me down for making my own decision, either) Our other nurse who had been a waitress finally listened when I told her little guy’s IV was leaking and once that was replaced he made leaps and bounds.  An older nurse who had her own kids finally admitted that no one knows what “normal babies” (that’s what they called everyone else) did when they nursed (his O2 Sat kept dropping and finally they decided that was normal).  Everyone else just spouted off information by rote.  In particular one beautiful, soft spoken, kind medical student was asked what meconium was (she didn’t know) and then was asked something else and she spouted off a memorized definition.

Once in touch with our delivering midwife she was astounded that they took him off nursing and then wondered why his blood sugar was out of whack.  She also said we could have given him 2mL of formula every couple hours and the blood sugar would have stabilized. 

And did I tell you that the midwife said I was supposed to have only 2 clots (she called them freebies) while I was there and if I had any bigger than a half dollar (and more than two) I was supposed to go get checked out.  The nice male night nurse escorted me to the OB department and they basically didn’t want anything to do with me.  The nurse checked me out and said my uterus was high and I knew better because I could feel it low!  Anyway, she said I should go to the ER if I had problems and proceeded to tell me how midwives are crap and have no training.  Had I been thinking straight I would have told her my delivering midwife had more experience on the books than she did and the consulting midwife had the education of a doctor, but I didn’t.  What would it have solved? 

So you can see how I have lost a whole. bunch. of faith. in Western Medicine.  Western Medicine couldn’t give me success with infertility treatments.  They couldn’t get me children.  They couldn’t treat my PCOS with anything other than birth control.  They said diet wasn’t important.  They said soy was ok to eat.  They scoffed at gluten intolerances and increasing protein and fat.  They think vaccines and ultrasounds are 100% safe.  They thought my baby had an infection because he was born at home.  They said he didn’t need to eat, but then couldn’t figure out why his blood sugar wouldn’t regulate.  I mean, shouldn’t any intelligent human being be able to figure this out?  But I have no medical degree.  I’m just a mom.  A very passionate mom.  I believe God has arranged my motherhood in his perfect time.  I believe he has called men and women to be doctors and nurses (and to also use their brains) and I believe he called my Naturopath to my area and led me through questioning to Naturopathic care, a low-glycemic, whole food, real food diet, dumping chemicals from our life and accepting a more “whole” way of living. 

Home what?

So we home school, which is becoming more accepted and mainstream as more people realize the benefits…but home birth?? Goodness, this was a bit foreign to me as well a few years back. Our first child is adopted, our second was born in the hospital. All natural and with a doula, but still in the hospital. With #3 I felt confident I could improve upon the experience. We still had a doula who had had some experience and living out in the toolies, we were a long ways from anything. I didn’t tell too many people because 1) it’s not anyone’s business, really and 2) I didn’t want to hear anyone’s (unwanted) opinions.

I did my research, you’d better believe that! I’ve worked long and hard to get these kids I wasn’t going to do something stupid just because it might be popular in the “crunchy” world or because it sounded cool/fun/empowering, etc. Did you know that home birth is actually safer in most cases than a hospital birth? And a year later, thinking on the differences in my experiences, I can see how that could be! I’m not sure it is always in the best interests to have a baby in a place where sick people congregate. Think about that. I read books, I interviewed midwives (four to be exact…or was it 5?). I talked to friends who had home birthed. I read about people who had a negative outcome and would do it again. I read about people who had a negative outcome and wouldn’t do it again. I watched documentaries. I became familiar with Ina May Gaskin and “The Farm”. I talked it out with my husband (who, by the way, hates hospitals). We hired a lovely Christian doula who had also had some midwife experience (just in case the midwife we chose didn’t make it in time). Then we hired a midwife who had over 1000 births under her belt. I can almost assuredly say my MD doesn’t have that many births under his belt, maybe 20% of that.

I continued care with my MD and also saw my midwife. She was 90 miles away so we wanted to have continuity of care for both providers should she not make it and/or should I change my mind or need to be transported to the hospital.

In the end, my labor started at 4:30 (ish)pm on Sunday, May 19, 2013. I called my doula at 5:30 and the midwife at 6pm. I labored at home on the couch and as soon as my husband was done installing the front light (sarcasm, but yes he was doing this for real) and had the birthing pool slightly filled (things were happening fast!) I jumped in. Our doula arrived at 7:30pm. I delivered and caught my own baby in water at 7:50pm and six minutes later the midwife arrived.

Our baby had to spend some time at Sacred Heart Pediatric Unit which I will write about another time, but he is fine and I would home birth again in a heart beat. If that is not an option, they’d better leave me in a dark corner in the hospital room and not touch me or talk to me. 🙂 I know I can do it by myself now and interruptions are annoying. LOL

Livin’ the dream

A few Sundays back we were gathered around the table and the boys were talking about which one of them was going to be the farmer who lived with Maddox (the baby). Basically, they were fighting over the baby…who was going to live with Maddox. So sweet, right? They were going to be farmers and Mason was going to live on this farm with Maddox and have two cows and I was going to milk his cows for him. (I always tell him when he gets his farm, I’m going to come work on it with him.) Creighton (age 2) was telling us how he was going to live on a farm with Mommy (probably only since Mason won’t let him live with him because he now wants the baby to live with him).

I took the liberty to explain that “once upon a time” I wanted to be a veterinarian and then I got greedy so I pursued (human) medicine. After that I got lazy (or fell in love?) and decided to be a nurse instead. Near the end of nursing school I found a passion with children, so I decided to teach. But all I ever wanted was to “be” a mom and after an excruciating 10 year wait I became one. Now, I’m livin’ my dream. I told them this. I’m living my dream of being a wife, a mom and “a farmer” (remember, I say that loosely, because we are very s.m.a.l.l. hobby farmers, but Mason swears we’re farmers because we have a cow and carry hay!). And technically, if we provide nourishing products to others than ourselves, that makes me a farmer….ah, so I embrace the label (while REAL farmers scoff, right?).

Anyway…later in the day Hubby applauds me and says he’s happy I am doing what I’ve always wanted…kids and farm and all. Ahh, success! Knowing your spouse is proud of your and happy for you is way up high on the emotional “want” list, is it not? Knowing that he’s ok that a (sometimes significant?) part of his paycheck is going to feed more animals (hey, it’s not nails, hair or new cars, right?) lessens the apprehension I sometimes feel when I bring another this or that home for this or that animal. In the end though, life is too short to do something you hate. My Daddy always preached that to us and it’s true.

Been too long

Goodness! It has been a while since I made any attempt to blog. I’m not real sure where this year went. I like to say “up in baby”. Whew!

I had so many different posts in my head at one time or another and who knows, they might come to be…
1. Home birth of baby #3-AWESOME.
2. My “welfare recipient” cats that I decided to change from a political post to a post about love…and never posted. For the record, it was in my head every morning while I was out milking the cow, but … life. happened.
3. My kids growing, learning, home schooling, changing.
4. That anti-feminism book I read…yah, good read.
5. That post partum depression and how much more I love my Naturopath.
6. Our recent 1248 mile trip (non stop on the way home) via stuffed 2001 Dodge Durango to visit my dear Mother-in-law who was recently diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer.
7. Returning home to a cow with mastitis.
8. Numerous food rants.
9. That great big God I serve and love and how he guides me every day…

I’m here to tell you, the fun of life never ends! I may or may not get around to posting my hearty commentary on these subjects. My goal is to do just that, but … life happens. I spout off that response a lot around here. What happened to the house today? “Life happened.” I could go on and on, but the reality is I’m tired and my kids have finally settled down for a nap and I think I’ll enjoy the quiet and try to shut off my brain. Till next time!

Bringing Norman (the bull) home…

Oh my gosh, what an experience!

I was up at 4am and out to milk by 5. Ready to leave by 6:20 as planned. Ok, so I didn’t actually get out of the house til 6:25am. I picked up my new friend Raychl in Colfax just a hair before 7am as planned and we headed to Spokane where we were meeting the man with the bull. He also had about an hour and a half to travel.

Raychl and I had a nice visit on the way and while we didn’t solve the world’s problems, we did attempt. I’m driving and already knowing (or at least thinking) that I’m mostly crazy for bringing a bull to our property. But I want this dang cow bred! As life would have it (I don’t really believe in “luck”, or I’d type luck) Miss Moo cycled yesterday morning. The owner of the bull wasn’t able to meet me yesterday, so I’m hoping I’m wrong (though I’m pretty sure I’m not). Raychl, along with my husband and another friend who actually knows cattle and has her own herd think it’s a great idea to not just lease the bull, but to buy him. Jeff says it’s a great business and is looking forward to the write offs. Jessica, my cattle guru friend, has her own milk cow and wants Norman’s stud services. Raychl has an entrepreneural spirit. I have that same spirit, but mind you I also live on just 2.5 acres and I’m the one who has to mess with the bull. A real live, breathing bull. I’m 7 months pregnant and have two other little kids. Not sure this is the right timing. But I also know that God’s timing is perfect.

So we get to the meeting point five minutes before 8am, our agreed meeting time and Coleman, the owner is there. He is probably my age, not what I was expecting. For some reason I was expecting someone in their 50’s. I don’t know why. He unloads Norman, who stands just at my armpit like the cow, and he unloads easy. He loads right into my little two horse straight load trailer. Coleman ties his head on the divider with a blue lead rope. I mention there are horse ties in front (kind of hinting that that’s how I’d do things). Norman get his head through the divider, which stands about half his height. Coleman pushes him out and ties him tighter. Knowing that Coleman knows his bull better than I do, I let it go.

We shake hands, I give him the lease fee plus some for gas and I circle the trailer making sure everything is latched properly and securely (a hard lesson learned in the past). And we’re off. As soon as we turned on the highway the trailer starts “wiggling” and Raychl is concerned. I’ve hauled animals before and often when you start out they have to find their feet under them and get their balance, so I tell her not to worry. We’re down the road a ways (not quite a mile, probably) and Coleman calls my cell and says Norman had his head back in that divider and he was turning around to get him straightened out. What a gentleman…Coleman, not Norman, helping out two wanna be rancher women. 🙂

We get out of thet pickup to check on Norman and I’m not kidding you, he is on the OTHER side of the divider. He’s on the other side of the trailer! He had jumped that smallish space while going 45-50 mph. This is when I really start to wonder what the heck I have gotten myself into. A little bull who jumps dividers at 50 mph. Holy blankety-blank. Coleman pulls up and looks a little shocked. We tie his head to a horse tie on the other side…ok, I tie it to his halter and shut the head door. Coleman suggests a hot wire on the fence but thinks that the woven wire fence with two strand barbed wire should be sufficient. His friend he brought along agrees. I’m seriously wondering what the hell I was ever thinking. Maybe I really should have sold my cow. Oh my gosh.

We go on down the road then after making sure again that all is secure. Norman seems happy to be on the other side and so off we go. I plan to check him about 10 miles down the road.

He’s moving around quite a bit in the trailer as we pull him up the hills and out of the “city”, but we know his head is tied, so he’s not going to attempt to jump or fly or whatever he did to manage getting on the other side of that little Circle J. I stop 10 miles up the road and we get out to look at him. That ding dong has his front knees up in the feeder area of the horse trailer and he won’t come down. We push on him a little and finally decide that he’s the idiot who got up there, there isn’t room enough for him to back and get back down and it probably isn’t smart to attempt to unload him and re load him on the side of the highway. Some folks drive by and ask if we need help. Raychl, in her bravery, says we’re ok. I’m thinking, “Not so sure on that one…” Anyway, like I said, he’ll just have to either figure out how to get down from there or stay there and deal with it. He’s not injured, nor will this injure him, so onward we go.

Coleman said if we had problems with him getting out of the fence to just shoot him. I was thinking, “I like your attitude.” Once I was back in the pickup I said to Raychl, “I should have brought my gun.” To which she casually responds, “I have mine.” Good, ok. So if we need to shoot him we can. Oddly, that brings some relief to my somewhat panicked heart. Again, what exactly was I thinking?

About 20 miles or so more down the road we stop again and check on Norman. He’s in the same position, but we are little assistance to him. I know once we get home he’ll be able to back out and get his legs back down.

I drop Raychl off at her house and continue on toward mine. All the while I’m humming a worship song and thinking I’m pretty much crazy. Who on earth brings a bull on to their tiny little property? Apparently, I’m not the only one. Coleman and his wife got the bull as a weanling and raised him to breed their cow. Then they pimped him out to some homesteader type folks (I don’t know, but calling myself a farmer seems like such a disgrace to actual farmers right now) who have milk cows. My husband, Jeff, thinks we could do this as well. Raychl and Jessica are on board. Of course they are! They don’t have to keep the bull! 😉

Once home, Jeff is there with the electrician who is rewiring the service panel to the shop and some other things and he opens the gate for me. I pull in the pasture (mind you, this pasture is about an acre big, maybe an acre and a half…) and explain to Jeff the plan. I’ll unclip the tie from his halter, then we’ll open the back of the trailer and let him come out on his own. I caution my husband that he might “blow out of there.” So we get out of the way. He comes out just fine and starts exploring his surroundings.

He’s actually a nice bull. Curious. Maybe a bit too curious because I don’t like any of my animals eating out of my pockets! They’re not pets, they are honest-to-goodness large animals that have the potential to hurt someone, whether they mean to or not. I don’t feed treats to any of my animals for this reason. They are to respect my space. I have my horse trained to keep her rear out of my space. Coleman said to pop Norman on the nose if he got too close. He also told me he doesn’t allow his wife in with the bull. Oh nice. It’s kind of a one man show here…a one pregnant woman show.

Of course Norman lost his halter right away when he arrived. He sniffed my cow and they sniffed rears for a while. She was acting real receptive to him, but I do think she is past her cycle now and we’ll have to wait another 2-3 weeks for her next cycle.

So…strangest thing I’ve ever witnessed. The kids and I are out walking around the outside of the pasture seeing if we can eye the halter Norman lost and we get around where he is feeding out of the bunk and suddenly he squats. I mean squats like a human going to take a poo in the wild. His manhood (bullhood?) comes out and something comes shooting out of it. A small amount, albeit, but something. I have never EVER seen a bull do this before (and I have been around bulls before, people). I don’t know if he had to relieve some stress or what, but I was kind of thinking, “Hey, you’re supposed to do that while mounted on my cow!” Odd. Thankfully the kids didn’t ask any questions on that one. Although, Creighton my 20 month old kept pointing and saying “bull!”

I kept shaking my head and rolling my eyes at myself. “Bull. Yep. Oh my gosh. What was I thinking? Have I gone mad? I must have “pregnant brain”. Well, crud, I have to get this cow bred somehow! I can’t believe she cycled early. Of course. A bull, Gretchen? Seriously?”

I saw no action between cow and bull the rest of the day.

Now Sunday morning Jeff gets up to go out and milk with me. This is so sweet, the man who stays in bed on the weekends while I go do my chores at 5am. I told him he needed to be up at 5:30am (old time would have been 4:30am and then I could get her into a routine by tomorrow). I forgot to mention (pardon the language), “Ass out the door at 5:35am.” I’m getting the milk bucket ready and the warm soapy water to wash her udder and I hear the shower come on. What the heck? Is he seriously taking a shower to go milk? Yep. At 5:55 we finally make it out the door. All the way I’m shaking my head. I am STILL shaking my head! It’s like when our first born was an infant and woke up in the night. First hubby had to pee, then get a drink of water and then take a chew and make the bottle. I finally got to the point where I’d just get up, feed the kid and go back to bed. Good heavens!

Anyway, it was nice having him out there “protecting me” from a bull we were unsure of. Of course Norman was excited to see us (he’s really friendly…better than aggressive, but I like them to keep their space from me). I went in the barn, plugged in my makeshift light and waited for the cow to come. She didn’t. Of course. I had to go find her in the other (pole) barn. In she came and again, of course, as she was coming in the barn to be milked, Norman decided that would be a good time to mount her. He was all stirred up-he doesn’t know the routine. Jeff made sure he didn’t come in and I started milking the cow (after hooking her to her lead and washing her udder). Norman’s outside pitching a fit. “Where’d my girl go?” Moo…Ma, Ma Moo! Whatever. He also settled in a bit.

By the time I was finished milking the sun was starting to come up over the horizon. You folks who don’t get up early miss so many beautiful mornings! I told Jeff my normal routine: Leave the cow tied, let the calf out, feed the horse her grain and then lock her in the other barn. Then I explained it should be different today. I was half expecting the horse to balk at the new animal and not do what she normally does, but she surprised me and went in the barn just fine. Norman and the calf stayed in the pasture and I got some alfalfa for them. Norman was all wound up and as he got close to me I tapped him firmly on the nose as a warning to stay away. He earned some of my trust by backing…numerous times. And may I mention…some of my trust. With everyone fed and in their proper places, Jeff and I headed to the house. I think I’ll be able to do this routine by myself tomorrow. I’ll have to!

Meanwhile, Jeff goes back to bed, wakes up, takes another shower and then our normal Sunday begins. Kids up, breakfast, get ready for church and leave. On the way home from church Jeff says, “I have a whole new appreciation for the milk I drink.” I just said, “Good,” with a smile on my face.

Off the wagon and back on…

I want to encourage you, if you beat yourself up over failing with this nutrition stuff, just pick up where you left off when you fail and get back on the wagon.

About a month ago, I shared a Wendy’s Frosty with my boys and this became the start of a downhill slide for me that I (no kidding) just now recognized. The Frosty led to McFlurry’s, M&M’s, homemade granola bars (with organic and gluten free ingredients, but lots of honey), slugs of chocolate chips down my throat, etc. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I have been grouchy, indecisive, achy, acne, tired and just not really myself, although I must say, it sneaks up on a person (the return of the addiction).

Just about 4 days ago it hit me what was going on. I had fallen off the wagon. The sugar-recovery wagon. Drat. In the past I may have beat myself up over it, but not anymore. I recognized the problem and now it was time to fix it. So, back to no sugar and I’m feeling better already!

I have always said that remaining gluten free is motivation because it takes 9-10 days to clear my system. Sugar only about 48 hours, really. Ok, at most 72. So, sometimes the “risk” is worth the pain if you get what I am saying. When you are having a major sugar craving you can poo-poo those 72 hours of joint pain and crabbiness away because it’s “only 3 days”. Apparently that’s what I was doing…every day. Well, 30 days later, it’s a fresh start and my head is clearing and I’m feeling more physically motivated rather than making myself do things around here.

My encouragement to you is not to give up. Pick yourself up after you figure out what’s been going on and start afresh and anew. God Bless!

Cattle (sigh)

Like I said before, I always thought I when it was time to raise cattle that I would 1) do it for a living and 2) raise beef cattle.  So here I am “hobby farming” essentially and getting all in a tizzy over dairy cattle.  But what do you do when you love raw milk, can’t get it locally and have room for a cow?  You milk your own in my case.

So, we’ve been having this dilemma in our household.  Hubby loves to see product for money spent.  I get that, I really do.  But he is thinking “product” in this case is the actual purchase of a bull.  I have not been so easily convinced, which is odd because I am always the one who springs for animal purchases!  We don’t have the fencing up yet (or should I say he doesn’t?) and I’m not sure he realizes it’s a bull.

I was fretting over the decision.   (Give me a break, I’m 7 months pregnant and decisions don’t come easy at this stage in the game.)  Hubby says, “Why don’t you just lease him, ask him if they’ll put his lease fee in towards the cost of buying him if you bring him home and he’s as well-mannered as they say?”  Now, that was a good idea.  And, they will.  I go Saturday to pick him up (we’re meeting half way) and we’ll see from there.  My cow should be cycling again by Tuesday (ish).

So the cow.  Did I mention that decision making comes hard for me right now?  Ack!  I have decided to keep her and get her bred by Norman (the bull).  If she doesn’t breed back then she will be sold, period.  If she does breed back (I’m expecting she will) then I will graft another calf to her to nurse while I am too pregnant to care and post partum and then we’ll calf-share milk again (milk just once a day and let the calf have the rest) until September when I would dry her up to prepare for her next lactation.  A calf born in December is not my best idea, but what do you do?

I did speak with a nice lady up near the Canadian border today who is raising American Milking Devons and she is going to keep my contact information for the future.  And the nice family with whom we were part of their CSA have a heifer calf coming due in Nov/December they will want to sell.  So the opportunties are there.  I/We just don’t want to be without milk for 8 months!

So that’s the update with my hobby farm.  The bull is currently part of a limited stud service, so maybe you’ll find me pimping him out and writing off some of the costs of keeping him.  I do suppose that would be a good job for me, plus I could tote the kids around with me doing that.  Stay tuned…

To buy a bull or not…that is the question…

So, I’ll probably be selling my cow (only to get another) since she hasn’t bred back and by the time I get her to we will be 8 months without milk.  I could loan her out and have offered and thought about that, but it probably makes more sense to sell her and start over.

I thought she was coming into heat again (and she was and did) after the AI 3 weeks ago and so I got on the phone with a couple I learned of in Northern Idaho that has a Guernsey bull they lease out.  The bull lease is only $100, but the gas both ways for them to deliver him was an additional $100.  Hubby freaked out, to say the least.  He hates spending money on things that we have nothing to show for.  (understandable!)  However, this is one of those things when you are a hobby farmer that you just have to adjust to…at least in my mind.

So, I mention to him that this bull is for sale and seems how we’ve already spent and could potentially spend here half the cost of the bull Hubby says, “why don’t you just buy the bull?”  Hmm…the bull is already in bull service and has clients.  Could be a business I could do from home and take my kids with as we deliver him.  We could potentially write off vehicle and some feed expenses as well as the fencing we just bought.  But it’s a bull!

And while this bull is notorious for his great disposition and gets compliments where ever he goes, he is still…A. BULL.

But it could be an interesting business venture, really.  And if he doesn’t work out we can always put him in the freezer (butcher him).

I’m anxious to talk with one of my cow friends when she returns home from a trip to Arizona and ask her all kinds of questions about things I should consider before I leap on this or potentially NOT leap on this.  She also has a dairy cow and would love to borrow the bull.  I assume she knows other folks who have need for a dairy bull, too.

Anyway…(sigh) life on the wanna-be farm continues.  I always thought if I were buying and selling cattle they would be beef cattle, specifically Angus or Angus-cross and I would be doing it from more than 2.51 acres and definitely not in Eastern Washington.  It is funny how God takes you on these little wild rides.  Sorry, Daddy.  I guess I won’t be a “real rancher”, just a wanna be for now.  giggle.