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!
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
Years ago, we discovered guineas as a pest control option. Initially, we got them because grasshoppers can be such an issue around here that gardening can be a challenge. We later discovered that they are also an incredible resource for controlling fleas and ticks. Both of these parasites can be the nemesis to anyone with furry pets, and if you live in the country, they can be especially problematic.
It has been years since I’ve even considered ticks as an issue because we’ve managed our property so well with these birds. Enter Daisy….. our dog we acquired thru adoption last year. No fence will hold Daisy in; she flies over a 5 foot fence with relative ease. Because of her genetic predisposition (she is a border collie / great Pyr cross) she has a strong drive to guard. The perimeter she has chosen includes high grass areas not patrolled by our tick eating fowl. Consequently, ticks have become an issue as we work to protect her (and us) from this disease-laden parasite.
I’ve heard from other sources that this is a particularly bad year in our area for ticks…….the vector to blame for transmitting several diseases, including Lyme disease, and (the new kid on the block)… a tick bite that can make you allergic to red meat. Treatment with antibiotics (for Lyme) is generally effective if caught quickly, but frequently, people get diagnosed much later after the initial tick bite…. and this can lead to lifelong health problems. You can read more about Lyme Disease here, or the tick bite induced meat allergy here.
Everyone’s situation is different, but I thought I’d give some practical tips on protecting yourself and your pets from these little vampires.
*If you live in the country, consider getting some guineas (If you are nearby, I’ve got plenty of adult birds right now, and will donate to your cause).
*Keep your property mowed. If you are like us, it’s not always possible to have your entire property mowed because of the size or terrain involved.
*Keep your pets clean, and consider adding some Cedarwood essential oil to their shampoo as a natural deterrent.
*In tick prone areas, make sure you are wearing long sleeves, long pants, and tucked in clothing. Wear a ball cap/hat to prevent ticks from dropping onto your head (they do fall from trees too).
*If you are an avid outdoor guy/gal, grab some safe bug repellent (one without toxins). Young Living makes a fantastic insect repellent that is incredibly effective. I have found that a quarter sized amount placed strategically on the neck, wrists, and ankles does a stellar job of warding off biting pests. Benefits include:
*Watch for ticks throughout the day, but especially before bathing… being sure to check all nooks and crannies! If you’ve been in a tick infested area, put clothing directly into the washing machine. After washing, dry on high heat for at least 60 minutes to ensure death of any wee little hitchhiking varmints.
If you find that you have been bitten by a tick…. do not panic! Simply remove the tick. Use a pair of tweezers and pull gently, making sure you also remove the biting part of the tick. I’ve read many discussions on using a drop of essential oil directly on the tick to force tick to back out. It is a firestorm discussion with opinions on both sides. I would feel comfortable using this removal technique, but please do your own research!
Once you’ve removed the tick, you’ve got a few options….. but DO NOT DESTROY THE EVIDENCE! Tick testing is ‘a thing’ now…. so you can always send it off, but testing sites do not claim 100% accuracy and it’s about 50$ per tick. If you choose to hang on to the little offender instead of sending its carcass off, put it in a baggie or small jar and throw it in the freezer for safekeeping….. just in case you have some weird symptoms that show up weeks/months later. That tick might come in handy for a proper diagnosis…. after all, these critters can give you a loading dose of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa… the likes of which we do NOT want. This brings me to the last point….. immune support.
Whenever I know that I am entering an environment loaded with ick, I always back up my immune system. Examples: flu season at work, every time I hop on a plane (1 out of every 5 people get off a plane with a new ‘souvenir’ they’ve acquired from recycled airplane air), or times when I am under abnormal stress/lack of sleep. I would list a tick bite as a time when immune support should occur….. after all, there is a lot of potential ‘ick’ in tick.
My two ‘go to’ products for immune support are Inner Defense, and Immupro. I use Immupro for daily immune support (taken at night before bed), and then reserve the big guns…. Inner Defense….when I feel I need to kick it up a notch. (Helpful hint: be sure to have some fatty food in your stomach when you take an Inner Defense… it does not do well on an empty stomach).
Truly tho, the best defense is a good offense….. which brings me back to my guineas, and the fact that I need to rehome some of my prolific pest patrollers…. Any of my local peeps want some? I’m your (farm)girl!
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
Lordy, the first quarter of 2018 came in like a lion, and then took over my life. Here’s a toast (of raw milk) that 2nd Qtr 2018 will be a little gentler on my time. The good Lord only gave me 24 hours in a day, and they’ve been filled to overflowing. Thank goodness I’ve been blessed with a fast metabolism and have access to NingXia Nitro.
Rain: Henceforth known as “The Great Flood of February 2018”. While we desperately needed rain, in this part of Texas, the weather is feast or famine. It’s either scorching hot, windy as heck, insanely beautiful, or swampy wet. February was cold and wet. In fact, it was too wet to be muddy some days. The mud came later tho….. lots of it. Chores that typically took an hour sometimes took two hours for days on end. As I sit here and type, the wind is blowing hard…. (Wyoming hard if you are from that part of the world). I don’t enjoy the hard winds, but I’m enjoying it today, knowing it’s drying the ground out faster.
Friends: This crazy quarter has been filled with so many good things…. Elsa survived (and is thriving), my vision is coming into fruition, and we’ve been blessed by connecting with friends old and new. Humans are interesting creatures. We thrive in community. Studies have shown that over and over again…. even introverts (myself included) need community to thrive. That said, we introverts just need time alone after we’ve spent time with our tribe. I read recently that most introverts are generally highly sensitive and some are bestowed the blessing of ’empath’. Work with me here while I try to explain this in basic “Joe science” terms….. Each one of us is a bundle of energy. This is a scientifically proven fact. Electrical current frequency is measured by Hertz, and we all have varying degrees of energy frequency (Again, not new-agey stuff… this is a fact). Some people have the ability to sense or ‘feel’ subtle changes of energy in people and in our environment (Animals are VERY good at this). I hear massage therapists speak of it often, but didn’t really understand until I began my Dolphin MPS certification process and spent more time with my hands on people. Christian Yoga certification training has taught me even more about it. There are people who could be termed ‘energy vampires’ in that they leave you exhausted after spending much time with them. The same can be said for those who recharge your spirit. And then, there’s the chaotic ‘energy chatter’ that many of us introverts try to avoid when we can. This is a real thing, and I am learning to embrace the gift that God has given me. It has also enabled me to understand why my quiet/ recharge time is truly so important for my physical and mental health. Chronic low frequency (meaning low Hertz) will lead to dis-ease and disrepair within the body. I know… it sounds hokey…. but do some research if you think I’ve dived off the deep end. There is truth to what I just wrote. Fascinating stuff! The body is an incredible machine, and the more I learn about it, the more I marvel at how easy dysfunction can occur.
Elsa: Our little miracle calf has had some milestones in the last month. About 6 weeks into her life, she figured out how to mechanically overcome her cleft palate and begin nursing on her own. Huge kudos to her very patient mama, Honey. It takes her quite awhile to eat, but Honey has definitely been the unsung hero in all of this. I will tell you more about her someday. Elsa has been able to latch on to both front teats, but because of the angle and length of the back teats, could not nurse on those. That is working out well, so I’ve been milking the back quarters while she cleans out the front two. (A cow’s udder has four separate compartments that produce and then store the milk)
We noticed several weeks in to Elsa’s life that her ears had gotten frostbitten, and it looked like she was going to lose the tips of each ear. Sure enough, a couple of weeks ago, the dead areas simply peeled off. I’m posting a pic here, and although you really can’t tell unless you look hard enough, her left ear is a little different than her right ear now. (I’m telling you…. it gets COLD here sometimes in the winter!).
She is starting to eat regular food now, and we’ve come to realize that there is a new problem emerging. The solid food keeps creating a bolus that lodges in her nostrils. I have created a gentle rinse recipe along with a way to remove the bolus when it forms. She doesn’t like it, but I can tell she is appreciative of our efforts afterwards. The rinse is a mixture of distilled water, colloidal silver, and a small amount of Thieves Mouthwash. The latter two create an inhospitable environment for bacteria….. important because my fear is now that she will develop a bacterial infection if food sits there too long and is allowed to ferment. (And yes, I did put a little up my own nose just to make sure it wouldn’t burn…. for those of you who are wondering ;)! We’re just taking this ‘Raisin’ Elsa’ thing day by day. She is healthy and strong, but I feel like I need more information on cleft palates that are not surgically repaired. Surgery does not seem to be an easy option here, but perhaps I’ve not dug deep enough, or contacted the right resources? She is growing so rapidly, and it seems like any repair would need to be able to grow with her somehow.
Take care and enjoy the rest of your day! I’m headed out to feed. Although the wind is blowing hard, the sun is glorious and shines on my face.
Hugs and Love, liz
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?
When we began seriously weeding out chemicals from our lives and our farm, one of the largest looming threats was grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are a serious issue for farms and gardens in this part of Texas. They will literally eat you out of house and home some years…..and their abundant presence makes it virtually impossible to grow anything.
We first attempted gardening about 15 years ago…. one of the same years that grasshoppers were exceptionally abundant. The garden failed. More pointedly, it never even got started. The following year, we used a ‘safe’ control ( Nosema locustae ) that supposedly kills grasshoppers in the nymph stage. While there might have been a slight decline in population, it wasn’t enough to make gardening a successful endeavor. An elderly lady who had grown up on a farm suggested guineas to me as a viable solution…. and that first set of guineas started my appreciation of this odd looking poultry species.
Guineas are indigenous to Africa, and they are odd fowl. Most people have never heard of them and they are hard to describe…. they look like a cross between a turkey, a teradactyl, and a football (yes, their body is shaped like one). There are two types of people when it comes to guineas… those that love them and those that don’t.
Let’s just get the dirt out on ’em now:
All that to say, I am in the league of lovers when it comes to these birds. In my book, their assets outweigh their issues. Guineas are by far the best pest control for larger farmsteads. Yes, they may roam if they need food (they are great foragers), so they may not be ideal for a 1-2 acre farmstead…. but for larger acreage, they generally don’t travel more than 5 acres or so. Since we’ve had ours, we’ve had nearly zero issues with grasshoppers. We also came to realize that they do a magnificent job of eliminating and controlling ticks, fleas, and snakes. Copperheads, a poisonous snake found in this part of Texas, are especially common here. Since the addition of Guineas to our farm, we have had no issues with snakes (barring the occasional large rat or chicken snake). Ultimately, we estimate that they save us roughly 1200$ per year on pest control, without the use of harmful chemicals…. not to mention preventing the garden vegetation devastation from the hoppers.
Secondly, they are pretty remarkable watch dogs. Although they are a dull bunch of crayons in the knowledge box, I’d have to give them an A+ for being observant. They warn the free roaming chickens when a bird of prey is nearby, and the chatter can get pretty raucous if there is a new person or a new dog on the property. They are blind as bats at night, so most attrition occurs thru night time predation. During they day, they are actually quite good about banding together and making their cumulative appearance look (and sound) large and menacing. I once saw a group of them chase a coyote off with his tail between his legs! I can’t imagine a flock of chickens doing the same thing.
I can’t really say much about the bullying. In my book, they really aren’t much worse than some chickens and roosters are. Our guineas have been raised in the presence of chickens, so there really appears to be a symbiotic relationship between the two species. Last year, I actually had a rooster RAISE a handful of guinea keets (the babies). It was truly remarkable… especially watching how kind he was to them (note in the picture: the teen guinea keet sleeping on his back at night).
Guineas are prolific egg layers. They lay eggs until the nest is overflowing with 40-60 eggs… at which point they commence to sitting on them. Unless they get scared off, a guinea will sit for about 25-28 days on her pile of progeny. She is quite protective unless she fears for her life. Usually, about 30-40 babies hatch, and here is where some of the trouble starts. God clearly knew what he was doing…. giving them that many babies… because it takes that many to get just a handful of survivors. Apparently, guineas cannot count, and for the first few weeks post nesting time….. little feathered popcorn sized keets get left everywhere to die. It’s tragic… especially to my tender heart. So, whenever I find a nest (they are ground nesters, and do a pretty darn good job of camouflaging), I watch it closely and mark the days til the estimated hatching occurs. Once that happens, I herd them all (or catch them up) into a safe pen for a few weeks until they are both big enough and strong enough to survive. Despite my best efforts, only a small percentage ever reach adulthood. The parents are an odd mix of aggressively protective and negligently passive. This year and last year, I think the inbreeding of our guinea clan has actually led to either an increase in IQ or better parenting skills. Regardless, we are heavy in the guinea inventory…… real heavy. In past years, we have averaged 8-14 adult guineas at any one time. Today…. well, I’m just not sure exactly how many we have, but it’s over 30 for sure. Guineas are tree roosters at night, and as winter approaches, so usually do the bobcats and owls. Our livestock guard dogs do an excellent job of keeping ground predators away, but nighttime arboreal predators are a harder thing to manage. I still doubt we will lose that many to natural attrition. Next spring, I feel certain that I’m going to be looking for homes for the new batches of keets that will start hatching in June. As much as I love having them around, too much of a good thing is, well….. too much.
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!