And Now We Have Fish

It quickly became obvious that our new cattle trough was also a great breeding farm for mosquitoes. We certainly couldn’t poison them, because that’s the water for the animals. And it’s too big too tip over regularly.

So, we went with the time-honored technique of adding fish to the water. There are many options, including gambusias, which are actual mosquito fish. We went with goldfish. Because I’m a big spender, I went with the 32-cent ones rather than the 16-cent ones.

Regular old comet goldfish.

If we are right, they’ll eat lots and grow fast. The trough is deep enough to keep them safe from birds, I hope. I put them in the trough to get accustomed to the water temperature.

It looks icky in there.

In zero seconds, onlookers appeared.

Hey, Suna, whatchya doing?

Those guys stood back, but Rip was really curious.

Ima come check this out!

He got right up to them and bopped them with his nose.

Can I eat this?

After a while, the fish were freed.

Uh, we’re just fine in this bag, thanks.

Within a minute of being released, they were noshing on algae and chasing larvae. They won’t need the fish food I got them!

We love this green water! We have space! There’s food! Woo’

I look forward to seeing how they do. The trough adds new water when the cows and chickens drink, so the water won’t be stagnant. We will see.

Day Off, with Animals

Just wanna day woo. Taking the day off. So far I have played with dogs and chickens. I had a blast watching Gracie Lou playing with heifers. What’s nice is that they were all obviously playing. Here’s a sequence.

Gracie is stalking. Cows are approaching.
Note Gracie’s play bow.
There she goes!
There they go!

That was fun. Vlassic had to get in the act, but he got yelled at.

Tiny black dog is Vlassic.

I also just hung out with the chickens. Why not? They’re all so glad to see me. It’s great to be loved by tiny dinosaurs.

Love Gertie the Guinea and Fancy Pants.
Three roosters. Two real.

Okay. Further adventures await! You have a Good Friday. Lol. The phone capitalized the “good.”

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.

Can’t Save Them All

I do love nature. But I admit to making a couple of creatures go away today. First, I went to make myself a cup of coffee at the office. As I began to pour creamer into the cup, something moved. It was a quite large American cockroach. Here’s how I knew what it was:

That’s one I saw at the old church.

I am very proud. I just made a little noise. That’s a far cry from my Florida childhood roach phobia (they would get in my bed). I simply took the cup and dumped the roach into the garbage can. So proud. But then I couldn’t get the bag out of the can, so I just set the whole shebang outside. Someone else can deal with it!

Meanwhile, I noticed a jumping spider on the windowsill. It was posing for me, and had lovely markings.

Pantropical jumping spider.

Of course it moved out of the sun into shadow before I could get a picture. Nor could I get a photo from the top. Anyway, I left that one to catch bugs.

When I got home and was reading The Overstory (yes, I’m actually gonna finish it), I got a text from Meghan, who had been feeding Rip the calf. Meghan does not “do” spiders. Her text had a photo of this:

Well, hello Mama, nice egg sac.

I can just imagine that poor woman when she saw that black widow, right on the fence near the hay, where both she and Jim go all the time as they feed the calves together. Eek!

So, much as I love Nature’s creatures, I felt compelled to bring out the spider spray. I don’t feel safe with them all around our ranch community! I keep picturing the horrible scar Granny Kendall had from a black widow bite.

Rip and Buster don’t want spider bites, either.

I found four nests, which are now former nests. My guess is there are plenty more out there, so I haven’t sent black widows to the brink of extinction. I’ll atone for the deaths somehow.

An Evening with a Black Dachshund Mix

Hi, readers of Mama Suna’s blog! I’m Vlassic, and I’ve been hanging around the Hermits’ Rest Ranch for the past two years. I like it here a lot. Wanna know why?

I’m long, but I have longer legs so I can jump high.

I have so many friends! At night I sleep in Jim’s RV. He is so nice to me, and feeds me (I don’t go in the big house because Penney acts weird in there). When I go outside, I spend half my time with my bird buddies, Bertie Lee, Gertie, Fancy Pants, and Clarence. We like how cool it is.

Stay out of our coop, dog! The black chickens don’t like me so much.

The rest of the time I spend with my new friends, the Bull calves. It’s SO much fun there! Calf poop is so delicious, and they have a wonderful water bucket just the size for me to cool off my black coat.

Wait, Rip, it’s my turn! Photo by Meghan Land.

On good days, Mama Suna takes me with her to visit my other friends. Sometimes we ride the little bumpy car. Tonight, though, we walked. It was a beautiful night.

Rays!

I chased two of the 18 series cows, but just a little, to remind them of how we used to play when they were babies. Mostly I was good, though, because I wanted to see my friends.

Here are two friends, Big Red and Apache. The horse is jealous, because the hen gets fed first.

I love this place! There are so many smells of cattle dogs! I have many places where I simply must pee. They need to know Vlassic rules…when they aren’t here.

Take that, other dogs.

There are other fun smells here, too. I especially like donkey poop. Mmm. Thanks, Fiona. Sigh, I was disappointed she didn’t get to come out and play. I love making her put her head down and shake it.

I sure love poop. Why does Mama sweep it up?

The other great thing about where my friends live is that they have an even bigger water tub! I like to swim in it, but not when it’s full.

Big Red and I like to drink from it when it’s full!

After all the friends were fed, we went back. I had to investigate this new hay. It looks funny and smells different. Mama said it’s sorghum, whatever that is. I made sure to pee on it, so it won’t smell so new next time I come.

Funny hay. Needs pee.

As we passed the cabin, Copper the dog came outside, so I ran like the wind.

I’m outa here.

I ran and ran. Meanwhile, Mama saw a new cow patty on the road, that had appeared since we came by before.

That cow patty has a head.

As she got closer, she realized it was a turtle crossing the driveway. She told it hello, but for some reason, she did NOT call me over to introduce me! Geez! I’m nice to all the other animals!

Pleased to meet you. You can leave now.

After rolling a bit in some silage (it’s an acquired smell, but I’ve acquired it!), I ran back to Rip, Poop Nugget, and Buster, to see if they’d pooped any more.

We were just digesting over here.

Then, to end the evening right, Lee and the other dogs showed up! We played! Then it rained a little. Not enough, but it made Lee and Suna smile. We need rain, because my pond is gone!

Time to go inside.

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.

World’s Hottest Socially Distant Photo Shoot

What? I had visitors? I was careful! My work friend, Heather, and her daughter, Emily, wanted to come see our ranch animals, especially Rip in his baby adorableness. We figured if we were mostly outdoors and wore masks, we could safely manage it.

So they drove up, and even brought me my mail from work AND a chocolate pound cake. Homemade. Yep. It’s divine.

Horses and donkeys are on the mantel at the moment.

I have them a tour of the new office, which was a lot of fun. All my animal stuff went over well with Emily, who rides hunter-jumper and volunteers at a very cute farm. And all the shiplap, metal, and brick!

After the tour.

Then it was off to the ranch! It’s good they used to have a Great Dane, because it made all the dogs palatable. Alfred LOVED them. Heather couldn’t get his picture, because he kept going back and forth between the two of them.

Since I got no dog pictures, here’s a leaf-footed bug Emily found.

We then headed to see the chickens. That was sort of sad, since we discovered Butternut had passed away. I think the others huddled on top of her and she overheated. I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I put her in the garage fridge. Sigh. the hottest day of the year is not a good day to get chickens.

Bye, little one. I’m am glad they’ll replace her, and maybe I can get another one.

Heather took a zillion pictures (actual total, 127). Many were of Fancy Pants, who let Emily carry her all over the place. It was really fun watching the chickens with Emily. Here are just a couple of my favorites of her chicken photos.

Off we went to see the cutest calf ever, Baby Rip. That was also a teen animal lover’s dream come true. Since I wasn’t holding a dead pullet, I could get a couple of pictures.

Calf love.

Of course, Heather got a real keeper with the good camera!

Beautiful baby! Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

Here are a couple more of my pictures. Rip is so curious and cute!

Rip wasn’t sure about Vlassic.
Look at my cuteness!

We saved the best for last, and headed over to the horses. Guess who they loved? Fiona! She and Apache were both on their best behavior.

It’s because I am cute and nice. Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

We had a lot of fun trying to get glamour photos of them with Emily. Neither of them was real interested in getting in the good light, of course. After all, it was 104 degrees outside! But, we persevered. Here are some highlights (the last three are by me, the rest by Heather).

My favorite picture, maybe ever, of me and Apache was taken by Heather, and I am going to try to get a print of it.

Me and my buddy. Eight years ago today I learned to put his halter on.

Everyone was having a great time, so we rewarded Apache and Fiona with some grazing time over by the cabin, and went over to see the 18 cows. Guess who was front and center, as always? 18-1. A few of the others also came up to say hi.

Before we left, I asked Heather to take some pictures of R45, since she is getting way up there for a mama cow. She hasn’t had a calf in a couple of years, and is in her decline. But she sure produced some great calves! And she’s still built like a 1970s Buick. Big and wide.

We fed the horses and Big Red, then headed back to the house as the sun was going down. I had a lot of fun talking to Emily about all the supplements the horses get, and she told me a lot about the farm where she volunteers and the place where she rides giant warmbloods. I’m glad Heather is giving her these opportunities to work with animals.

And I’m glad to have given Heather some opportunities to take photos, because she’s taken some real beauties where Emily rides. Looking forward to more! You can see more photos on Facebook, since Heather tagged me on the ones she uploaded.

This makes the ranch look fancy!

My heart is full from getting to show off my animal friends, and I am so glad it was so breezy outside. If we had germs, they all got blown away! Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to getting replacement hens (Butternut2, perhaps?).

Baby’s First Hay

Rip the bull calf has had a lot of adventures in his short bovine career. He was born! Something happened! He rumbled around! He was in a scary place with many frightened animals! He rode in another rumbly thing! A human fed him milk! He was in a grassy place. He slept. Many humans and dogs appeared. He ate and slept.

Sleep and eat.

Then, one day the human who fed him and the large human picked him up (he’s a small calf still) and put him in another rumbly thing, only one that smelled better and wasn’t so rumbly. They called the SUV.

Rumble rumble.

They rumbled along for a while. When Rip had to poop, they stopped and took the poop away. Weird. After some time, they let him out, and he was in a new place! It had other cows and calves. And different friendly humans, one who appeared to be ready to calve soon, herself.

She has a calf in there! See!

Rip liked the place. He still got his milk, but also had a herd to hang with, when they’d let him. There was some tasty grass, too.

A few days later, though, they put him back in the fancy rumbly thing. He had to poop in the same place, and also peed. The female human said she sure was glad they put a tarp in the back seat. So, that’s what the strange slippery brown dirt he was standing on was called.

Next time the rumbling stopped, he was back at the first place with all the dogs. He liked to try to play with the little white one, but the male human didn’t like it.

I’ve put on a little weight!

The other female made him feel better by giving him a delicious kind of feed she called a peppermint horse treat. That was fun to chew.

More horse treats, please! (He won’t get any!)

There was a rectangular prickly thing in the wheelbarrow next to Rip’s pen. It smelled really good. The big male human broke some of it off and tried to get Rip to nibble on it. Nope.

No, thanks. Sniff, sniff.

Then he set some of it on the ground. Rip changed his mind about it, after a lot of sniffing. He put a bit of it in his mouth and chewed. Not bad!

Mmmm.

The humans called it hay, and they kept telling him it was just like grass, just dry. Rip, having so far only lived in the height of summer drought, thought all grass was pretty dry.

Hay is good.

It was time for a nap. His plan is to eat and nap enough to get big and strong, so no human can pick him up and rumble him off again.

Shh, don’t tell him about trailers, and how he’s being trained to walk on a lead for easy loading. Dream on, Rip.

Happiness Is a Brown Calf

I was sitting in my office when I got a text from Chris. It had a photo. I was confused.

Why is Kathleen feeding a tiny calf? Where is she? Why is there a yellow sticker on it?

I asked questions. Like what kind of cow is it? A bull. Where does it live? The back yard. Does it like dogs? We’ll see. Thanks, Chris, I thought. What the heck?

Vlassic was also confused.

Well. Chris went to the sale barn and bought a bottle calf, to cheer Kathleen up. She likes to hand-raise calves. How about that?

Yes, he made Kathleen happy.

So, he borrowed Ralph’s trailer and brought baby Rip home. Well, first they got a halter, a food dish, calf formula (isn’t that just cow milk?), and such. And Chris used our horse panels for a temporary fence. Okay.

Gracie and I were also happy to meet Rip.

I came home and enjoyed all the bonding and stuff. Kathleen is an expert. She held him and cuddled him, and he took a nice nap.

Nap time.

To get him to drink more, she had to make him stand up. He’s a little drowsy. Tomorrow we will get him electrolytes.

He really needed to stand up to eat. They get pneumonia otherwise.

I enjoyed feeding him. I’d never fed a calf before. I fed a little kitten a bottle once, and that’s it. Happy World Breastfeeding Month to me!

Mmm. Milk.

I sure hope baby Rip makes it. Kathleen and Chris say they’ve nursed calves in worse shape before. The guess is that he was a twin or lost his mom. Poor fellow. He will have fun with our crew, I hope. The dogs love his poop, which was not a thing I expected.

In any case, that livened up the day. Oh, so did this. It was still soft when they found it, near where Rip’s crib is.

That’s a healthy snake.

He should do fine, according to the professional family bottle calf raisers. The dogs like him, and Alfred and Clarence the guard rooster will take care of him.

I’m a scrawny baby.

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.