I probably should have titled this post "The Case of the Peculiar Egg Placement", but then, that would sound like a Nancy Drew mystery, and that would have dated myself for sure! This has been a season of busy, and I've got so many topics I want to write about and little time to do the big topics justice. So, in the form of constructive procrastination, I've got to share a little farm hilarity.
A bit of backstory: After a summer of drought, Mother Nature has seen fit to gift us with the wettest October on record. At last count, our area has gone from drought to 8 inches over the yearly average in a short 31 days. This has created all sorts of excess water issues on the farm. (Wherever there's water and animals, there will be copious amounts of mud). Case and point: Last week, our internet guy came to fix our unstable internet situation. Turns out, even a colony of fire ants had moved to higher ground (our roof), and had moved their entire nest (dirt and all) to the radio receiver box.
Because of all the rain, we have mucked our little hearts out daily. Last week, I noticed an interesting thing in all my mucking of stalls and turnouts. Eggs kept appearing in a very peculiar location....right out in the middle of the turnout... in front of God and everybody. Now, chickens tend to like a little privacy when they lay, so the location is odd indeed. When something out of the ordinary occurs, curiosity drives me to figure it out... and this little mystery was bugging the heck out of me! These eggs.... I gave them 3 options:
To add to the mystery, each day, there was an additional new egg.... so bizarre! Yesterday, while we were outside doing chores, I happened to be in just the right location at just the right angle to look up and solve the mystery. Drishti! (That's this particular hen's name). She has found, perhaps, one of the most dangerous places to nest. Even worse.... it appears she is broody, and intent on sitting on her eggs til they hatch... well, the eggs that haven't yet rolled off the roof! We're gonna have to figure out how to move her and the remaining eggs to a safer location. I have never had a chicken who wanted to lay eggs in such an elevated place. Typically, they are ground layers.
Ants on the roof..... eggs in the gutters. You know it's been a rainy season when everyone, and everything is moving to higher ground!
Welcome! You've found my first official blog post on the updated website! This has been a work in progress for the past several months, and.... not being exactly technically savvy (give me science or farming any other day!), I've had to call in some excellent tech help to assist in the upgrade. You can finally find ALL you need right here in one place!
The move to the new website put blogging on a little hiatus until we could get everything matched up properly. I think you'll find this venue MUCH easier to navigate. Growing means learning, expanding, and exploring new options, right?
Speaking of growing.... She's now 10 months old, and it's well past time for an Elsa update! Sweet girl shows up on Facebook with some regularity, but I need to update here.... this is kind of her 'baby book' after all. For all my love of animals, I never thought I'd love a cow as much as I love this heifer. I guess that's what might happen when one lives in your bathtub for a few weeks, and syringe feeding around the clock takes control of your life! The cards were certainly stacked against her. Birth during 20 degree weather (which cost her parts of both ears), failure to thrive (because she couldn't suck properly), trips to the vet (because we didn't know any better.. couldn't see the internal cleft palate... and subsequently also missed by the vet).... it did not look good for Elsa. If you scroll back thru my early 2018 posts, you'll find her history scattered throughout.
Nonetheless, she prevailed.
Her story hasn't been without a little work and some modifications in her/our life. Elsa is a permanent mascot on our farm. She is a greeter, social maven, photo bomber, and so much more. As she's grown, we've adapted and risen to the challenge.
Her cleft palate is not easily repairable. According to a couple of vets I've consulted at Texas A&M Veterinary College, the surgery would not be easy on her. Cow mouths do not open very wide, and any repair of this nature would only be manageable by entering thru the side of her face...effectively eliminating the possibility of surgery unless absolutely necessary.
Elsa eats well (albeit messily!), and does not seem to be hindered much by her birth defect. Fairly early on, we discovered that she is also moderately tongue tied, and is only able to stick her tongue out of the right side of her mouth. This really doesn't seem to affect her much, so I'm torn between getting it fixed surgically (rather, putting her thru that surgery), and just letting her carry on as she has been. She doesn't know any differently, and so it seems more like the surgery would be for us moreso than for her.
Cleft palates in calves are not as rare as you'd think. Unfortunately, most calves are birthed fairly unattended, and if they go without nursing for long, they die. As in the case of Elsa, if the cleft palate is undetectable externally, the rancher usually assumes the calf simply died of natural causes. Cleft palate in calves is not a genetic anomaly...it's caused by eating the wrong plant during the first trimester of pregnancy (a similar thing can happen in people if certain medications or products are consumed during the first trimester too). In Honey's case (Elsa's mama)..... she apparently got ahold of a select few plants in the lupine family..... the most common culprit for bovine cleft palates. Honestly, we're blessed. Her deformity could have been much much worse, and her personality more than makes up for the bit of added work that is required for her health and safety.
Just like all babies, Elsa has had her milestones.
Lessons from raising a Cleft Palate Calf
Stay tuned.... Elsa will always be making an appearance here. She's one of us..... part of the 'farmily'.
Thanks for visiting and celebrating our imperfectly perfect life on the farm.
Hugs and Love - Liz
One of the darlings on our farm is sweet Clementine. This old girl is, well, just that…. the granny on our farm. You’ve got to start somewhere when you embark on any journey in life, and she pretty much represents when our raw milk story took the ginormous step from simple consumption to full throttle buy in.
Clementine was my birthday present more than 10 years ago, and our second milk cow. We were still ‘young’ in the learning about all things cow, handmilking, etc. Dairy cow husbandry is equal parts skill, art, instinct, commitment and passion. If you find you lack in any of these areas (as many do), your stint as a dairy cow guardian will likely be short lived. Mistakes, ignorance, or lack of commitment can easily cost a cow her life…. or at the very least, permanent damage to her udder.
In the beginning, I read books, watched videos, talked to everyone who knew anything about handmilking dairy cows. We ‘hired’ a teenage homeschooled young man to teach us hands on rudimentary skills and very basic knowledge of dairy cow care when we bought our first handmilked Jersey from his family. Bonnie (short for Mooey Bonita) was a pretty girl and, by cow standards, pretty patient with our ignorance. We learned much from her. (She was with us for several years before unexpectedly passing away in the middle of the night.)
Owning one dairy cow does not make you an expert. Heck, honestly, it was a few years before I felt like we had ranked up from beginner to novice. It was about that time that we decided to expand our herd of one. This time, we felt like we ‘knew what we were doing’ when we drove 4 hours south to buy a cow which was part of a herd of culled commercial dairy cows. The owner of this herd was a woman who likely recognized that we were blissfully ignorant when it comes to cow shopping (much like a used car salesman probably perceives a first time car buyer…. with a mixture of glee and predatory guile).
Clementine was huge! She is a big Jersey….. but I’m talking about her udder in this case. Not just large… but massive. We commented on how big her udder was, and our cow salesperson told us that the reason for that was because she was still in milk production.
“Notice the large and long teats (a good thing), and the placement of them (also a good thing)….. and only ‘probably’ 5 years old. ” ….. all important amenities of a handmilked cow.
We were told she would be an excellent source of bountiful and copious amounts of milk. Just look at her udder size. Clearly. The poor girl looked like a bovine version of Dolly Parton. Thinking we had just hit the white gold jackpot, we wrote our check, loaded her up, and headed home, really having no idea what we had just bought.
Despite our ignorance, Clementine turned out to be an enormous blessing, and our experience with her has allowed us to rank up from novice to advanced proficiency in all things ‘dairy cow’. An animal raised in a commercial farming industry (as she had been), does not usually receive daily rations of kindness and compassion. They are viewed as a commodity and either an asset or liability. If they fall below the line distinguishing those two, then they are typically sold or destroyed. There is no room for ‘slackers’ in the the factory farming business.
Clementine’s udder was her downfall, AND her saving grace. We found out much later that her enormous udder was a physical defect caused by laxity of the suspensory ligaments. What we thought was a goldmine (her udder) was, in actuality, the reason she was culled from the commercial dairy herd. It was actually a time bomb. The lower an udder hangs, the greater the odds of mastitis due to injury (kicking herself as she walks), and the harder it is for a calf to nurse. Had we not purchased her, she likely would have been sent to the processor.
Like bygone versions of Miss America pagents, dairy cows are given scores on their udders…. only the opposite is true. Bigger is not better, and will, in fact, get you culled. In her case, Clementine had maxed out the scale (a 5 is rated as the worst).
When we bought her (and her defective udder), we only saw a sweet faced cow that looked our way when the other cows in the herd wanted nothing to do with us. We saw a cow that was willing to learn to be handmilked if we were willing to give her a chance. True, we also thought we had a pretty darn special udder attached to that cow….. not knowing that it was ‘special’ in a totally different way.
I’m not even sure when I realized we had been duped, but it was probably a couple of years into our life with her. Just like women have different bra sizes, cow udders are…. well, ‘udderly’ different from one another. Bonnie was an average ‘B’ cup when not in milk, but Clementine…… her udder just seemed to stay ‘DDD’ regardless of the season. The internet is a wonderful thing, and sometimes you just don’t know what to look for until you start looking. Curiosity got the best of me on this topic, and that’s when I found out (and narrowly avoiding a few rounds of mastitis in the process) what her problem was. Secondly, she was also at least a few years older than we had been told at the time of sale.
And yet. Thank God we picked Clementine and her defective udder. She has been the advanced training guide we needed …. life isn’t simple or easy when it comes to cows, and Bonnie had been both of those. We had no issues, and didn’t really have any concept of what warning signs, symptoms, and dysfunction might look like. Experience is a powerful educator. I’ve honed my holistic animal husbandry skills considerably in the last decade (thank goodness for Young Living oils and Animal Scents Ointment!). But in addition to the considerable education that sharing our lives with Clementine has granted us, she has proven to be a remarkable ‘spokescow’ for the family milk cow world. She is beautiful, photogenic, paintably cute, Miss Congeniality, and…. above all else….. kind. She has been a tremendous mother and auntie to calves, and is quite the greeter on our farm.
Last year, it became obvious that her udder simply could not take another pregnancy. One the scale of 1-5, her udder was a 9. By our calculations, her estimated age is around 18 (the average lifespan of a commercial dairy cow is 5-7yrs.)
I’ve posted about the realities of farm life on my blog, but there are times when emotions defy logic and financial prudence. No worries ya’ll…… Clementine is here to stay. She is one of our mascots……. Still ‘aunt-ing’ calves, still greeting, and ready to photobomb whenever she can. We are making her retirement as comfortable as possible for her. A discussion with a vet at Texas A&M rejected the possibility of an ‘udder reduction’ surgery (way too risky). Her udder is pendulous,perilous, and ultimately, it probably will cost her her life someday.
Awhile back, one of our friends jokingly sent me an article on ‘cow cuddling‘, apparently the newest thing in psychotherapy. Believe me, I think there’s merit to it. Clementine, among others, are probably what keep me sane some days! Heck, at an average going rate of $300/ 90minute session (according to the article), maybe she’d be interested in a late in life career change?!?!? It’s never too late to teach an old cow new tricks!
Hugs and Love, Liz (and Clementine)
*Kudos to Kim Guthrie Art for our artwork. (Doesn’t she do amazing custom work?)
Well. This morning started off with a bang. Literally. I was not sure whether to name this post “Family First”, “Farm Life Reality Part II” or the above title.
About 6:30am I heard a very specific series of barks. For those of you who are well tuned in to your dog(s), you know exactly what each bark means. Our dogs have some very specific ones:
As soon as I heard it, I flew out of the house wondering which enemy it was. When I rounded the corner on the back side of the property I knew we had a situation that wasn’t going to end well. Lily, our livestock guard dog, had backed a coyote into a corner (between fences), and no way was she going to stand down. Lily is an Akbash, a dog very similar to a Great Pyrenees, but in my mind, a far superior LGD for many reasons (another post for another day). These dogs are not fighters, although pressed to do so, they will defend themselves and will kill if necessary. No, their instinctive drive is to protect their family at all costs using intimidation first, and force as a backup if necessary.
We do not kill predators for the sport of it, but if we have one threatening our farm family, we will not hesitate. It is a rare day that we pull out a gun and use it for this purpose, but this morning, it was necessary. We have shot sick skunks and poisonous snakes. Coyotes, although they live all around us, generally stay off our property thanks to the dogs. This one had gotten brave, and that’s not good. A brave coyote will find a food source and then our farm becomes Luby’s cafeteria for she and her friends. This means that our chickens, our cats and kittens, and even our calves and smaller dogs become potential meals…… not to mention vet bills that start rolling in as our LGD’s have to sometimes engage the enemy in battle.
Today did not end well for this coyote, and it was stressful for Lily too. She would not back down even tho she is terrified of guns. She held the coyote at bay, and Charlie shot it. Lily scrambled back to the porch, shaking…… not because of the coyote, but because of the gunshot.
Lily prefers to spend her time outdoors guarding her farm-ily……unless there is thunder, fireworks, or gunfire in our area. Any of those, and she’s at the door begging to be let in (which we do). This said, I was concerned about her response to gunfire literally that close to her.
Young Living has an oil that is well used and loved by those who know it: Stress Away. I would venture to say that several million bottles of this relaxing blend have been used and relied upon over the years. It is one of my favorite oils, and for a very good reason too…. it is my ‘go to’ in times of stress. Consequently, I keep a bottle in my purse, and one in my lab coat at work, as well as one on my desk at home. It is literally like letting out a gentle sigh of relief simply by applying it to the neck and wrists.
Now, this morning, while the situation was an elevated one, it was not as stressful for me as say….. driving in Dallas traffic during rush hour…… or working in an intensely busy pharmacy with not enough help (Frankly, that’s waaay more stressful than the previous scenario!). Poor Lily, however, WAS stressed… not from the coyote, but from the gunfire.
So, after all was said and done, I slathered our hard working girl up with Stress Away and gave her some extra special loving for the good job she had done. Young Living oils are amazing for many reasons, not the least of which is that they work just as well (if not even better) on animals as they do on humans. I believe this is because animals have no preconceived notions about what therapeutic oils can and cannot do. They either work, or they don’t for our four legged friends…. but in my experience, they nearly always do.
I am happy to report, that after about 30 minutes, Lily had a very spoiled breakfast (with treats), AND she had no interest in coming inside to recover from the gunfire. In fact, she spent the rest of the morning laying in the midst of the chickens, guarding her peeps. I’d say both she and Stress Away did their jobs well this morning!
Hugs and love from the farm y'all…. Life goes on. ~ liz
A couple of weeks ago, I left a post on my Wellness Prepper’s Facebook page that is really the ‘middle’ of this story of mine. If you know me, you know that I am a lover of animals… I connect with them in ways that most people do not. That said, the evolution of my life (and my thought processes) will likely not make much sense without an explanation. Explanations can answer questions, open a can of worms, or do both. I don’t dread talking about this topic one on one, but writing to the masses who have no idea how much heart I put into caring for my animals is a scary thing indeed. So, that said, I ask you to read onward with a thoughtful mind.
I believe in doing the right thing and living my life transparently. I am what you see and strive to be the same person in all situations. There is no ‘work personality’, ‘farm personality’, ‘church personality’ etc. One of my strongest traits is that of a protector. If I see a wrong, I work towards making it right….. ESPECIALLY if I realize I may have inadvertantly been part of the problem thru lifestyle, ignorance, or social design. (This post is not about my ‘pharm’ life, but this trait has been the driving force behind my personal growth in holistic well care as kind of kismetic gift to those in my world who have struggled with health solutions because they were led to belive that only western medicine philosophy held the right answers).
Nope. This post is about my farm life, and all that it represents. We do a large amount of animal rescue, and have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars caring for those animals who otherwise would not be given a chance. We have foregone so much ‘free time’ that I can’t even imagine what it would be like NOT to have the beautiful responsibility of caring for all the unique lives God entrusted us. I cry (believe me, I CRY) every time we lose a life around here… my heart breaks. God patches it with His presence, and I move on. In farming, when an animal is involved, there is going to be death. Sometimes it is a natural death (common within our poultry flock…. we lose one every so often to natural causes), and sometimes it is a pre-ordained destiny. This is the case with the male offspring of our dairy cows.
Before you throw me under the bus (or tractor), please hear me out. I refuse to be an intentional hypocrit in my life, and strive to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. As a world, we cannot avoid meat products and byproducts. Unless you are the most concientious vegan on the planet, your daily life likely incorporates multiple beef byproducts in it:
So you see, some of these are daily use items we simply cannot avoid. Yes, I agree… there should be a vegan solution for all of them, and in some cases there are… but in many cases, there is not. I certainly respect those who live a vegan lifestyle, but the reality is….. nobody on this planet is fully vegan.
The second part of the equation is this…. if you are a carnivore, are you an educated one? Unless you are eating humanely raised meat, do you have any idea of the quality of life an animal leads from birth to death? For the vast majority, life is uncomfortable, unnatural, stressful, and without kindness. It is easier to block this from your mind, and so most people do. They prefer to pick up their packaged meat and blind themselves as to how it arrived at the store. Feedlot raised animals and Factory Farming are abhorrent practices that should be outlawed…. but they’re not.
I once was blind, but now I see.
I challenge you to click on the link above to learn the facts, and I believe you will understand the message I am trying to convey here. The vast majority of farm animals are treated as objects. Their lives have no value in the eyes of the beholder (unless you are talking about $/lb hanging weight). There is no appreciation for the life that is sacrificed so that the consumer can eat a hamburger or steak, and certainly not for the lesser things…. the glue, binder, ointments, etc.
This is NOT the case on our farm.
We can be part of the problem, and turn a blind eye, or we can be part of the solution, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. For in our discomfort, we are compassionate.
When a bull calf is born, we celebrate his healthy birth, but with a bit of sadness. One of the byproducts of our liquid gold (raw milk) sometimes is a bull calf. That bull calf will eventually be old enough, after living a well loved life, grazing without fear in our pasture, with no stress, plenty of space, and with a small herd. He will have plenty of natural forage to eat, fresh water to drink, and shelter from the elements. He will be able to enjoy the sunshine, and will play with his peers. Life will be good. Believe it or not, I begin praying for him and thanking God for his healthy birth, and for the sacrifice he will be made so that some of our friends can have healthy and safe meat (grass fed, nonGMO, hormone free, antibiotic free, chemical free). We have hand chosen the processor we use. He is one of the few animal welfare approved processsors in this area of Texas. The end comes without stress for him. As for me, I drive them myself. It is a rough trip, and I cannot say it is stress free for me, because still…. my heart breaks. I say prayers of thanksgiving the entire 140 miles round trip. Do I enjoy this aspect of farming? Heck no. But this is reality… not just for us, but for everyone. We don’t condone what Factory Farming does, so we provide a better way for a small handful of cattle over our lifetime. Like the starfish principle…. we are making a difference to the ones we raise this way.
People have asked me how we can do this, and I respond…. how could we not? We could put our heads in the sand and sell the calves and pretend we don’t know what happens to them. For the record, most dairy calves end up at the sale barn unless they are replacement heifers. They also end up in veal cages (the worst case scenario for a calf). Our calves stay with their mama’s and are dam raised (as opposed to removed from their mama and given powdered milk replacer instead of the good stuff….. another common practice). They stay with them for several months before they are weaned.
The average dairy cow lives a life of about 5 years before being culled (that’s a nice way of saying killed). Our granny cow (retired) Clementine is somewhere around the age of 15. We have two more that are 7+ years old, with a long life in front of them. They have time to recover from each birth and milking season before repeating the process.
Walking the talk is not easy, but it is the right thing to do. It has given me the true meaning of praying over our meals, and the sacrifices it took to get it there. Mealtime prayers frequently get overlooked or understated. Rote. Not in our home.
I doubt this process will ever get easy for me, and I honestly, I hope it never does. Discomfort ensures compassion and gratitude, something we all need more of.
Hugs and Love, liz
Good morning friends! This is the time of year where things are fast and furious around here…. garden planting time, berry vineyard maintenance, etc…… all on top of our general busy lives.
Contrary to what you might think, my oasis of busy-ness is milking. The slow repitition is very ‘zen’. I use that time to pray, think, ponder, and enjoy the peace of it all. Honey (Elsa’s mama) has turned out to be an incredible mother and milk cow. I need to write about her story at some point. She and I really got thrown a curve ball when Elsa was born, and she truly rose to the challenge and has become a very special cow to me.
Hand milking is relaxing (it’s also a skill and requires a certain set of muscles most people don’t use). The sound of a cow quietly chewing her cud, and kittens playing. When the weather is right, it’s a perfect ‘bottle the moment’ time for me.
Our diverse animal family are cross species friends, and that makes for some amazing moments. I was able to catch some particular cuteness last week between our retired granny cow Clementine and Velcro (one of our two kittens). Velcro had started chasing Clementine’s tail, and Clementine let her do it….. in fact, even seemed to be encouraging her. The next thing I knew, Velcro had climbed up on top of Clementine….
(I had to stop milking to watch how this was going to play out). Once he got up there, I think Velcro suddenly realized he had a very comfortable perch. I was more concerned about Clementine getting up and accidentally stepping on Velcro in the process. Not to worry tho!…. her response was the sweetest thing to watch.
Velcro decided he was going to take some time to give himself a little spit bath.
Then he decided he was just going to hang out and enjoy the view for a bit. After a bit, he got down and continued to play all around Clementine. Clementine seemed to enjoy the attention, and when he ventured off, she actually stretched her neck out as far as it would go, low to the ground, in his direction, trying to get him to come back (he did).
They sat like this for quite awhile, and then I watched them do what I could only call an inter-species hug. Clementine very gently lowered her head and kind of hugged Velcro with her neck. Velcro, in response, put his little paw up and hugged her back. It was a completely adorable moment (and these pics do not even begin to do it justice). I wouldn’t trade moments like these for anything.
So if you need some cuteness to get you thru your Friday…. here ya go :)! Enjoy your day, and look for the beauty in life wherever you go. It’s everywhere!
Hugs and Love, liz
……. stands a man who supports me in all that I do. My farm guy and I have been married for 25+ years, and he truly never ceases to amaze me with his support, care, and love.
I’m not gonna lie, these past three weeks have pushed me to the limit and have brought out the cranky side of me. I feel like lack of sleep has called out my evil twin. Charlie has been awesome despite all this, and has picked up where I’ve had to leave off to keep Elsa fed and cared for. (She is doing INCREDIBLE by the way… and feedings are now spread to every 5 hours!)
Charlie learned early on that my love language is service. We make a great team…. I say something like, “I wish I had a ______________” (this blank usually requires power tools to complete), and the next thing you know, he’s out there building it! No joke. My dad was a handy guy, and I married an equally handy one. My guy is gifted beyond measure and can visualize something and then the next thing you know, it’s built. He is a man’s man, and he is also a tenderhearted sweet soul that God gifted me.
Last year, he encouraged me to step out and pursue a passion that I’ve been carrying in my heart. He did this verbally, and then backed that encouragement by physically stepping in and being present when I was absent. That is no small feat when it entails caring for 60+ animals, managing farm chores, being an elder at our church, AND holding down a 50+hr per week job that is a 2+hr round trip commute each day. He sees value in what I am passionate about, and he supports me 100%. This is a gift beyond measure, and he does it without complaint.
Last week, I pretty much hit my stress limit. I’ve got alot going on here…. at times, I wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew (especially when you throw Elsa’s care into the mix). In some ways, I feel like I’ve gone back to college…. but these things I’m doing are part of a much bigger vision that God has on my heart, and I have a sense of urgency in completing them. People are hurting (physically and emotionally) and feel it. It is driving me to learn how to help them find healthier ways to heal (instead of being ‘band-aided’ by meds).
This is a season, and it won’t be forever, but it’s a busy time right now, especially with Elsa’s needs. (I only have words of admiration for you moms of special needs human babies….YOU are amazing if someone did not tell you that today!)
My ‘to do’ list of farm chores is steadily falling further behind. For having a working farm, I’d say we run a pretty tight ship around here. We both like ‘neat and tidy’, and my efforts with Elsa mean that other duties have fallen to the wayside. We’ve recently hired a young man to help us for a few hours a week…. I think you might have heard us both audibly sigh in relief.
We are in the process of converting our barn apartment into a home office to house ‘my vision’ that has become ‘our vision’. Charlie has been working tirelessly to get the physical upgrades done, and it is looking awesome! I am the caulker and painter in the family, and both of those duties have fallen to the side. He knew that was stressing me out (falling behind on my end of the work project), so he quietly arranged for a dear friend who owns a commercial painting company to come out and do what I have not had time to complete, and then surprised me with it. If you want to see a grown woman cry, that was it…. a blessing beyond measure.
He even surprised me with my dream of a purple door on ‘The Dairy Palace’. The whole palace (another ‘wish’ that became a reality) isn’t quite done yet (there is a little more to complete), but I love the whimsical pop of color!
I’m a tired farmgirl. It’s a passing season, and I’ve got a farm guy who is my favorite person in the world, my best friend, and greatest cheerleader. It is a blessed woman indeed who has a man such as mine. (And by the way, our animals are blessed too, because his heart is big enough for all of us).
My world has come to a standstill…..at least it feels that way. I take my hat off to all those mamas who have (human) babies. The 24/7 is real….. even more real when you’ve got one with a health problem.
Elsa’s entry into the world, while received happily by us has been fraught with issues. The last two days, we’ve been unraveling the problem(s) that have plagued her.
Once we found out she had pneumonia, we upped our game. Frankly, the vet, rather gently attempted to talk me out of saving her, simply by telling me her chances of survival were slim. That news came Wednesday. Today is Friday, and baby girl is doing better. She has been on a round of two antibiotics, and spent about 48 hours in our bathtub. Because we wanted to do everything we could to support proper lung function and boost her immune system, we’ve been diffusing therapeutic grade Frankincense, Copaiba, and Lemon around the clock. Our bathroom became an aroma tent for her. Two days of tube feeding…. and then we tried to teach her to nurse again, with very little success. We were all disappointed. Honey, (her mama) was THRILLED to have her back this morning after two days of absence. Honey’s mourning was heart wrenching. She went into a depressed mood, and didn’t even call for her baby. It was as if she knew she was dead. This picture isn’t so great, but neither one of them would stand still for a photo op.
Tube feeding is time consuming, but so is keeping a calf in the house….Keeping the house clean is a chore all it’s own. I’ve done load after load of towels and blankets. Little girl has proven that both her bladder and her bowels are functioning… this is GREAT news, as it means her organs are working. Her blood oxygen saturation level yesterday afternoon confirmed that….. it had risen to 95%. Because she is so tiny, she needs food every 2-3 hours. Feed. Clean. Repeat.
Honey, Elsa’s mama, can’t be forgotten in all of this…. she has a bag full of milk at any given time, and has pined for her baby. Throughout all of this, Honey has been a trooper. She is young, and has never been milked before…. so, on top of missing her baby, she had a crash course in getting to know me intimately while I milked. You can’t just walk up and start milking a cow. It actually takes time, trust, and a learning curve on the cow’s part. So this… milking….. has to also be added into the equation. Thankfully, because of scheduling at work, I was given a window of 7 days in a row off (Thank you Jesus!)…. but by next Wednesday, I’ll have to come up with a longer term plan.
This brings me to Elsa’s Problem #4: Last night in the wee hours of the morning as I was placing the tube down her throat for yet another feeding, I felt something odd on the roof of her mouth. No wonder the poor thing can’t suckle well…… she has a cleft palate! After feeding her, I promptly did a little research…. what are our options?…..are we looking at surgery, is death the only option…. what’s next? Surprisingly, I found a small group of farmers and ranchers who have successfully raised cleft palate calves. It appears that if you can get past the initial suckling problems (ie: get creative with feeding), they can actually grow up and thrive. I also found that this particular congenital defect is almost always due to ingesting a plant in the lupine family during a certain time of pregnancy. You know I’m going to be stalking those fields in the spring with the intent of destroying that offending plant.
Today is Friday. Technically, she should be dead by now. I won’t say she’s thriving, but I do believe she is at least 85% better than she was on Wednesday. But the “window”, according to the vet, is still 3 days away.
Y'all keep praying for her. She is a cutie, and she’s worth fighting for!
Hugs and love, Liz
T’was the night before New Year’s and all thru the barn,
Not a creature was stirring…….’cause it was dang cold on the farm.
The critters were nestled all snug in their beds,
With visions of warm spring days dancing in their heads.
With Charlie in his long johns and I in my leggings…..
We too bedded down for a year’s calm ending.
The morning came quickly, and someone was missing,
…. A cow named Honey had left without sleeping.
A package she left us half frozen we found…
A little calf so cold on the hard winter ground.
Shivering mightily, she lay there so weak…..
We feared our new year would begin with a valley, not a peak.
Spotted and tiny the little girl lay,
We towel dried & wrapped her in a blanket and prayed.
The temperature kept dropping, a crisis at hand,
So we brought her inside by the fire to mend.
A blanket, a fire, Frank & Myrrh on the (belly) button….
This baby girl was gonna grow up to be somethin’!
Slowly she warmed and began to stir,
And with a small ‘mooo’ we knew the coast was clear.
Two hours later she returned to her Mama,
Who was pacing the stall, clearly glad to be done with the drama.
And so this morning now that she’s well, We’d like to introduce
The star of the day….. Elsa’s her name (just like in “Frozen” they say).
Happy New Year from us…. Honey and Elsa too,
Although in cow language… you might have just heard ‘Moo’!
We hope your 2018 is filled with HEALTH, Happiness, and Prosperity! Thank you for reading my first year of blogging. You are appreciated!
I was out of town for 5 days last week working to further my education and edging closer to Dolphin MPS certification. It was a whirlwind trip and I got home late in the afternoon on the 21st.
My hubby has been a trooper this last year….. working full time, and managing the farm when I am out of town either educating others or getting educated myself. We are a great team, he and I, and we both see the benefits of what we are working towards.
As I drove up the driveway, I automatically began scanning my the pastures and doing a mental farm-ily checklist. I stopped and checked water troughs. The last one I checked caught me right in the heart. Despite the fact that there was a piece of wood floating in the trough (for little critters who might fall in and need a lifeboat), there were two dead squirrels. Drowned.
Of course, my first thought and breath prayer was that neither body belonged to Henri. It was not in an area that I could imagine she or her babies would be, but still….. it’s also not that far from the house. Charlie went out and disposed of the squirrels and cleaned the trough. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it… simply because I wasn’t sure who exactly had drowned. Let’s face it, squirrels all look pretty much alike. As much close contact as we have with Henri, I still can’t tell her apart from other squirrels except by her personality and approximate size.
We have incredible relationships with all of our animals out here, and although we grieve when one passes away, we are healthy about it. Life goes on, and so must we. What is nearly harder than death is when an animal comes up missing. It’s been a rare occurrence, but it has happened. Then you have a kind of limbo grief it’s hard to let go of… not knowing whether to grieve and move on or keep on hoping. Charlie hadn’t seen Henri the entire time I was gone so she had been missing already for about a week. As the days wore on, I started giving up on hope. I left nuts out and they didn’t get eaten. She really seemed to be gone, so my hope was that she had just gone into the wild and not drowned. That thought was a little sad too… but better than the alternative reason for her absence.
Today was a great day! Henri returned…. acting as tho she had never been missing. She looked thru the window and asked for nuts. Her favorite nuts come from our local pecan orchard, Foster Crossing Pecans.
Henri will snub the native pecans in favor of these babies. Just like the prodigal son…. only the best for our girl! (The owners are friends of ours and cannot believe we buy high end pecans for a squirrel. What can I say? She is worth it!)
Henri was more affectionate than usual now that she’s home, clearly happy to be with me and asking to be stroked for a few minutes before she got back to the business of eating and hiding pecans. I have no idea where she’s been, but my heart is lighter knowing she’s still with us.
Home is where your squirrel is, right?
Hey there....thanks for stopping by! This is me (Liz James)... an eclectic mixture of holistic (and organic) farmgirl meets pharmacist. It's a synergy that works well as I speak truths and dissect fact from fiction. If you're looking for healthier living options, you've come to the right place!