Fancy Watering Hole

Today is one of those meeting-filled and task-filled days that left me with no blogging time but lunch. So, I just have a few minutes to fill you in on a major improvement for out Hermits’ Rest livestock.

I already shared that the chickens’ water now is officially hooked up, and both pens can use the same water trough. Butternut and Buttercup especially like it when the water overflows.

Happy chickens and guinea enjoying water overflow. You can see one of the Butters sticking her head through the fence to drink. Mission accomplished there!

Yesterday, Chris brought up a bunch of very sturdy (and FREE) metal poles to use to anchor gates in our new fencing. Note the splatters. That’s all the rain we got, while Cameron got a quarter inch. Boo.

Big ole sturdy pipes, with rain droplets.

Along with the poles came something to dig the holes for the poles, a big auger.

Big ole auger, AKA post hole digger.

But, what’s made all the animals happy is the other thing he brought: a big water trough and one of those handy cut-off attachments that keeps the water level full at all times. Fiona is jealous (the one where she is leaks). Vlassic spent a lot of time thinking about whether to jump in there or not.

That looks pretty darned deep!

I foresee some happy cattle, and hopefully at some point horses and donkeys enjoying this new improvement. We’re a fancy ranch now!

Now It’s Chicken Heaven

Today Chris and his dad did a lot of work on a new water line for the chicken coop and new barn area. That required digging a trench.

Chickens like freshly dug dirt, a lot. Not only is it fun to explore, it has new and exciting bugs in it.

Carlton wanted to help. the blue stuff is the future water line.

Every time I checked on them today, they were all excitedly climbing around.

One good thing about the water being cut off is that I had to fill the chicken water in the garage. That gave me a chance to scrub the water dishes. I think they liked it.

Like the chickens, Rip and the new heifers also explored their new territory a lot. The other bull calves ate and ate. Eventually the new gals figured out where the cubes are and came up to the pen, but it was too dark for a photo. But I got portraits.

Everything is back in working order at the chicken coop. I even got the distressed fake rooster upright and out of the way.

Fake Rooster is guardian of the Wellsummer girls.

I wish everyone had a pet, wild animal, or other natural phenomenon to watch and enjoy. It sure makes these uneasy times easier to bear.

The beautiful Sapphire.

Great Day to Be a Calf – Not So Great to Be a Pullet

Yep, I got back to the ranch yesterday, just in time for some fun and news. Upon my arrival, I saw this:

There is a new fence in the front pasture, formerly known as a field. Apparently Chris came back to town and spent all Thursday night erecting this. The flags are very helpful, since it’s otherwise invisible. Why the rush to erect the fence?

Just cows

Kathleen brought back two of her cows from the farm in Yorktown to hang out here and join the three little bull calves. One of them is pregnant; I believe the brown one. They are daughters of her lovely bull, Johnny. They don’t have names, because they are just cows, and not pets (got it). The brown one is not real friendly, which is fine with me; I’ve never made it a habit of petting adult cattle unless someone says it’s okay (in other words, the only ones I have ever petted were Kathleen’s former bottle calves).

Now, what’s this?

To top off the excitement, Kathleen let the little guys out of their small pen. Their reactions were true to their personalities. Rip went crazy with glee. He ran and ran, jumped in the air, and made circles around the rock pile.

Rip flies around the rocks.

He’s still got a cough, poor guy, but that only held him up a little. He then proceeded to climb up the rock pile and try every kind of grass there was.

This is SO MUCH FUN.

Meanwhile, the other two discovered taller grass than was in their pen, and started munching away. I think they will be delicious and Rip will be a scrawny little dude forever. In any case, it was the best day of their lives. Everyone enjoyed scratching their heads on the trailer, too.

MMM, this is great, long as that dog stays on his side of the trailer.
One happy calf.

After they all settled down, the new heifers came to investigate the calves, lick on them, and start to “herd up,” as they say. Chris is working on getting the ladies more tame, by enticing them with cattle cubes (also beloved of dogs). I know the little ones feel better with some older bovines to hang out with.

I look forward to watching all of Kathleen’s herd grow. I know she and Chris are both a lot happier with some cattle to work with up here.

As for the Chickens

Today was freedom day for the two Blue Star pullets. They are a month older than the Welsummers and HUGE. They were starting to bully the smaller pullets, especially Buttercup, who hurt her foot, so we decided to let them out. Of course, that didn’t go as planned, and instead of them leaving when I opened the door, most of the other chickens came into their pen. Oops.

I quickly got rid of the roosters, so no one else would get smooshed to death, but it took Chris’s help to get Star and Sapphire out, while keeping the other two in.

We are officially hiding.

The first thing Star and Sapphire did was go check out the feed in the other coop. That meant they were prime rooster targets, which did not thrill Sapphire one bit.

Why did you put us in here with THIS brute? (Hate to tell them, but the OTHER one is the brute.)

They went outside and tried their darnedest to get back into their other pen, but I am sure once they realize how many bugs there are out in the grass, they will be fine. They are already bigger than Hedley, so they can hold their own.

Speaking of the other hens, I think, but cannot confirm it, that all five of the adult hens are finally laying. I found three eggs this morning, and they were all solid brown. The absence of a white or ombre egg means Hedley and Fancy Pants had not laid yet. Well, that took a while. And big ole Springsteen, the Jersey Giant, is now making very large eggs. What a gal!

OMG! That giant rooster is DEAD! It’s the apocalypse! Run!

Being with the animals helps me a lot. I’m so happy to have them all. I’m still a bit shaky around people and having trouble communicating, but maybe by tomorrow I will be relaxed!

Remember, beloved readers, it’s okay to acknowledge your rough times and trouble dealing with things. It helps remind everyone we aren’t alone in having challenges these days. I can be having anxiety struggles and worry about world events (fires, floods, fighting) and still enjoy what’s good in my life and be thankful for kind friends and patient family.

Queen of the Herd: A Tribute

Today marks a rite of passage for the grass-fed beef business of my friends and neighbors, Sara and Ralph of Wild Type Ranch. We have said farewell to the foundation mama cow of their herd, and many others, our wide and beefy queen, R45.

Outstanding in her field. Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

I’ve known R45 since I first started coming to the ranch, so she is my oldest cow friend. It turns out she’s had a lot of adventures, for a Red Angus cow, and she’s been a wonderful leader of the herd since Sara and Ralph got her as a yearling.

We’ve always called her R45, even though all the other Wild Type cattle had cool names. Was I surprised to find out that she had a name: French Queen. Well, I think I prefer R45 to “Queenie,” so perhaps it’s for the best that they didn’t look to hard to find her name.

Wow, she made it to be 15 years old! That’s not typical.

They bought her at the second auction they attended, when they were first starting their breeding program, so you know she was selected for her good genetics. She ended up being one of the first cows bred on Wild Type Ranch, too. And she didn’t let them down. She threw mostly bull calves, though no one can remember whether the one that slipped the fence and got killed by coyotes (or something) was a bull or a heifer.

Sara and I gave her some extra loving last night.

Sarah sent me these calves that she can remember, most of which went on to become bulls used for breeding:

  • Hobart (2010)
  • Pyrmont (2011)
  • Neptune (2013)
  • Zen (2015)
  • Dooku (2016)
  • Randy (2017)

Hobart and Pyrmont were used to develop the Wild Type brand’s features, which are to be very tender grass-fed beef. After they fathered a bunch of heifers, they were sold to other grass-fed beef operations, so they got to spread those good R45 genes around. (You don’t want bulls breeding to their daughters too much; inbreeding is bad.)

All of R45’s boys were beautiful fellows. I especially liked Randy, because I got to name him. He was very interested in the duties of a bull from when he was a tiny calf, hence, Randy. He’s still off siring attractive Angus beef.

Here’s where I imagine she ends up, misty, cattle-filled, endless green pasture.

Now, Queen R45 (I had actually called her the Queen of the herd before I saw her papers!) was a big cow. Her sons and grandsons tended to be compact, but she was built like a 1950s Buick, large, deep, and wide. Very wide. She always looked pregnant.

R45 and her friends. Note her size. Photo by Sara Faivre.

Sara tells a story of one time, when she was pregnant, R45 laid down in the bank of one of the ponds (tanks) at the front of the pasture. The bank was so steep, and she was so large that she couldn’t right herself, and vultures started going after her. Luckily Sara and Ralph got her hoisted back up before she lost an eye! She went on to continue to produce calves for years.

She had nose freckles.

R45’s size almost got her sent to the processing plant way before her time. One year it took her a while to breed, and they thought she was done. Sara checked her to see if she was with calf, but thought her big ole cervix was an un-pregnant uterus. She was scheduled for harvest, but a couple of weeks before that was due, out popped a healthy calf. Whew! I remember being all sad at that time, because I always liked her.

She had very hairy ears, and a lot of notches, from adventures. Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

For the last couple of years, R45 hasn’t been able to bear calves, but they kept her in the herd to honor her years of devoted service. She remained the leader of the herd, and was still seen caring for calves and calming down the younger cows.

For the past few months, though, R45 has been showing signs of her age, and is, as they say in cattle talk, “losing condition.” It’s a sign that she’s having trouble digesting food, sort of like how our old horse, Pardner, did. He ended up so skinny. Rather than let R45 deteriorate, Ralph and Sara decided it would be kinder to harvest her while she’s still feeling pretty good and not suffering.

Thank you for all you did for Wild Type ranch, and for all the entertainment your cute calves gave me. Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

That’s called good stewardship of your livestock, and I appreciate it, even if I’m sad to see the old girl go. She got to do lots more than the average cow, and lived 14 years in our combined ranches’ beautiful pastures, with good health care and good cow friends.

And Sara wanted me to point out that R45’s harvest will be donated to local food banks to feed the hungry. She continues to serve a higher purpose. I salute you, French Queen R45. Graze in peace.

What’s Cuter Than a Tiny New Calf?

Two Tiny New Calves!

Yep, Chris didn’t get to go look at farm equipment yesterday, so he did the next best thing and headed over to the Sale Barn. There were more inexpensive young cows to be had!

Where are we? What happened? Where’s Mama?

He saw lots of good ones, but stayed within his budget and returned with two new friends for Rip.

One is pretty big and muscular. It makes you wonder what the rest of his herd looks like if he’s a reject. He’s older than Rip and the other one, so we wonder if he’ll take milk from a bottle.

I’m big and pretty.

The other one is small and skinny, like Rip, and a very dark brown. When he laid down, he looked just like a turd, so I’m calling him Poop Nugget. I’ll let Kathleen name the other one, because I know there are more characters in that television show. She may well rename Nugget. I don’t have naming rights to their calves!

I’m a fuzzy little nugget.

I’m sure Rip will be happier with friends, and also when he gets over his mild pneumonia. He’s on antibiotics. He doesn’t like shots. Who does? Just ask Vlassic!

Those other guys don’t know what they’re missing. Mmm. Milk.

Speaking of dogs, Vlassic and Gracie seemed to think the calves were invaders, and kept chasing them. They ignore Rip. They also ignore the birds, who wander around with no worries.

We don’t like these strange calves.

Chris and Kathleen tried their best to get the new babies to drink from a bottle, but they weren’t interested yet. Maybe they’ll be hungry and less confused today.

Rip says he will drink it if Nugget won’t.

There was lots of mooing last night. Let’s hope they settle in and grow big and strong. They have an expanded pen to roam in and lots of cattle cubes. Our ranch family will do our best to give them good lives.

Our motley herd. Chris is in the Cameron cow biz.

Sure, I Relax

It was nice to get home from work and think about what’s eternal.

One thing is learning. I’m loving the book I’m reading, perhaps too much. The person who wrote How to Be an Antiracist has managed to clarify all sorts of muddy questions and gut feelings I have about race, class, and political systems. Perhaps this is not the most relaxing book ever, but it makes so much sense that my brain feels tidier or something. More on this when I’m done!

The other eternal thing is life going on about its cycles. I’m surrounded by birth, death, old age, and metamorphosis every day. The new calf, Nicole’s son who will arrive in a month, the lady in Cameron who died in the fire and had cooked all those burgers, Lee and me, a butterfly. I treasure all of it!

Now to stop writing so much and share photos of what relaxes me.

Tomorrow will be Rip’s week-a-versary.
He liked head rubs.
Gulf fritillary.
Happy to enjoy our golden years (ha ha) at the Hermits’ Rest.

Happy Farming

Everyone is finally settling in at the ranch. All the chickens seem to get along fine now that they’re free ranging. And a sign of this happiness was we had a three-egg day today, the first since Lacy Legs passed a few months ago. I’m grateful to whichever new pullet is finally laying!

New hen, Bertie, and Fancy Pants!

They are tons of fun to watch outside, and are friendly as heck. I gave them a big overripe tomato this evening, which led to great joy.

And little Rip is hungry as heck, which is great.

Mmmmilk

He even sucked on my finger today. He has a cute little black tongue and is quite gentle. I obviously could not get a photo of that, so here are his milky little lips.

That Didn’t Work as Planned

Two things didn’t work out quite as planned.

Freeing the Chickens

First, we decided it was time to let the chickens out to eat some bugs. You know, the whole free range thing. Of course the first thing happened was Clarence the super stud went after Bertie with a vengeance. What’s cool is that Bruce came to her rescue.

Bruce is about to go after Clarence for his unwanted advances.

That led to the two roosters going into the pen and chasing each other, flying around and such. All that got everyone in a tizzy. Poor Hedley the little Roo-ish one got chased outside and hid with Henley.

Hedley did manage to get some grasshopper eating in, along with Springsteen.

Eventually the three bravest birds started going after bugs, Bertie, Fancy Pants, and Gray Greta. The guinea just loves her fluffy, white buddy.

Fancy Pants finally has a chick to dote on, even though it’s her size.

They all went out some, but it wasn’t the mad dash to freedom I’d envisioned. Probably because it’s hot outside and the chicken pen has all the shade.

Free ranging, baby.

The part that DID turn out well was that when I got home from horse activity and went to shut them back in, everyone was roosting quietly. And! Clarence had gone to his outside roost! He thinks that’s his house! Hooray.

I’m not always chasing everyone under the henhouse so I can strut around crowing in victory. Just sometimes.

Walking the Calf

This afternoon Chris and I went out around the property looking for trees to potentially transplant near the house. We found some cool Osage orange trees we might take cuttings of, and lots of cedar elms.

Osage orange or bois d’arc (bodark)

We also enjoyed seeing herons and egrets, including a little night heron!

Blue heron and great egret.

We heard shouting. That’s weird around our house. It turned out Kathleen had come home from work and decided to take Rip for a walk after his bottle of milk. We finally saw them. It appeared a lot of his walking was lying down.

A girl and her calf.

We got back to the house and I went to check on them. Rip was ensconced in some tall grass, slowly munching.

I’m camooflaged.

I chatted a while, took pictures of some bugs and plants, and discovered it was time to go see Sara and feed horses. So I left them, right where I found them.

This dragonfly is camouflaged.

Just before I left the horses, I got a text. Kathleen never got Rip to move, so Chris came and got them. He picked up the calf and put him in the back of Hilda the utility vehicle.

My Uber is here.

Chris says Rip finished his milk and went to sleep in Hilda! They had to make him wake up to go back to his pen. Nope, that’s not how Kathleen had planned for their first walk to go!

But, I think we all actually had fun today.

Game Cams Are Fun, as Are Calves

I may have mentioned that we got a game cam to check on what was attacking the birds. We finally got it going and ran it for a few days.

This shows me and Kathleen sneaking up on the chickens.

I have to say I’m impressed with the quality of the pictures you get. I didn’t save many, but I’ll get more tomorrow. The fun ones are giant chicken heads and flying/stretching. Look at Gray Greta!

Look at my wingzzzz!
Wow. This is late at night.

We did get one intruder.

Chris checking for skunks at 9:14 pm. Eek!

You can see they all line up on one branch. Actually most night photos show Bruce on patrol. Good Bruce. I’ll get more to share later. But aren’t the photos good?

Stretch!

Little Rip

I was glad to see our skinny baby bull calf made it through last night. He slept a lot today, but perked up enough to play with Gracie a bit.

Friends.

Like with a human baby, early poops and pees are important. He got in the groove this evening and peed three times. That means he’s hydrated.

A calf has to go when he has to go.

The poor fellow is still a bit unsteady on his legs, so getting up or down is hard.

I was trying to lie down, but I think I’ll get back up.

He really has long legs. Kathleen spends as much time as she can with him, and he is bonding well.

Rip’s shelter.

She even made him a little shade house. Soon he will have a nice place to live, so he will be fine. Can’t wait until he meets Fiona.

I gots spindly legs.

Bumming with Bovines

I am just going to share what makes life worth living these days, and that’s my charming ranch companions. It’s really fun to go for walks with the cows (and horses). You’re reminded that humans are just part of this world, and that every other living being is also out there having adventures.

I didn’t have a bovine traffic jam this afternoon, but probably because I walked.

Reminder of going to work yesterday.

Instead I enjoyed the greetings of my favorite heifers, who are now getting ready for babies of their own. As always, the great and bold 18-1 came right up to say hi. She’s just a golden cow.

Even the clouds love her.

After greeting her and the others, I checked on Apache and Fiona. Apache seems to be gradually improving, even when I let him out to graze a good while every evening. On the other hand, now Fiona seems a little stiff. My plan is a thorough foot check tomorrow.

Apache and I have fun on our walks. I sing him songs, and that gets him walking faster. Perhaps he’s trying to escape the singing. In any event, I’m happy he’s getting exercise and I get to pet and love on him.

Look! You can see his ribs!

On the way back, I was wiping the sweat off my eyes, and saw a brown blur over by the cabin. Hey, that’s a heifer on this side of the fence. She must have jumped the cattle guard.

I went up and saw it was good ole 18-2! She has a cute blonde tail. I said, “You know you aren’t supposed to be here!” I swear she gave me the same look Penney gives when she’s guilty. And she ambled over to the cattle guard and jumped over!

I did it. I’m proud.

Tyler V says she’s done it before. It doesn’t hurt anything for her to be over there, unless she breaks into the silage or something. She couldn’t get away, because there’s a gate farther down right now.

18-2 stands majestically in her field.

My guess is that when she’s full size and all pregnant, there will be no more jumping. I do enjoy this group of young ladies I’ve enjoyed since birth.