Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sometimes I almost feel famous

OK, not really.  But in June of last year, Cliff and I went to Iowa to see the Kinzenbaw tractor collection, and I did a blog entry with lots of pictures.  I'm not sure how it happened, but someone at the Kinze corporation found the entry and linked to it, and I am still getting "hits" on that entry that were directed from the Kinze website.  

You can click HERE to see where my blog entry is mentioned.  You will find the entry HERE.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

What happened to naptime?

Cora had a big, busy weekend, so I expected that she'd be worn out and ready to take a nice nap after dinner.  I usually put her down between 12:30 and 1.  Once she goes to sleep, she usually doesn't wake up for a couple of hours.  Most days I lie down on our bed, which is a couple feet away from Cora's bed, and play on the IPad or read something on the Kindle while she sleeps.  Sometimes I actually take a little nap myself.

I really enjoy Cora's nap.  If you were a 70-year-old woman in charge of a nineteen-month-old child, believe me, you would need a little respite too.

Today I put her down at the usual time, but she just couldn't seem to settle down.  She squirmed, chattered, sat up and plopped back down, and worked on making the hole in the netting of the Pack-N-Play that serves as her bed even bigger than it already is.  Another month and she'll be able to crawl through that hole, at the rate she's going.

Many times I said, "Cora, lie down now.  Go night-night.  Shut your eyes."

After an hour of this and gaining no ground, I got a kitchen chair, put it beside her, and began singing and patting her tummy.  She rubbed her eyes a couple of times, and I figured she was ready to go to sleep.  And yet, every time I stopped singing, she would say "More" and make the sign language for "more" as she said it.

I sang many hymns.  The singing was really making me sleepy, but except for the fact that the child was now lying still, it wasn't having much effect on her.  At some point I decided to sing "You're a Grand Old Flag", one of the many songs my mom forced me to learn when she thought I was the next Shirley Temple.


I even ended up singing "Dear Hearts and Gentle People", which I sang for a program at my one-room schoolhouse as some of us rode our tricycles in a circle.

After forty-five minutes of forcing myself to sing one song after another, with Cora saying "More" if I so much as stopped for a breath, I gave up.  She had been in bed for almost two hours and was still as wide awake as ever.  When her dad came for her, I told him my sad story.  He couldn't believe it, since she had such a tiring weekend.  A couple of hours later he posted a picture to Facebook.

Sound asleep, and he said she was in bed for the night at 6:45.  I just hope she doesn't wake them up at 2 A.M. wanting the supper she slept through, and I do hope this business of not going to sleep at nap-time isn't setting a trend.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

This vast cattle enterprise...

It's now controlling me.  I love working/playing with cows and calves, and that's the reason I am dealing with the excess milk and the calves and the cow with her sore udder; but this isn't quite what I had planned.  (Man plans, God laughs.)  Don't get me wrong, everything is going well.  Grace-the-cow had never been milked regularly before, only a couple of times a week when I wanted some fresh milk for the house.  Now that she is being handled twice a day, her manners are improving.  She's learning to back her leg when I shove on it... the right hind leg needs to be back of the left one to allow access to the back quarters, since I'm on the cow's right.  She isn't peeing and pooping in the barn now that she knows the routine.  The calves took to the nipple-bucket just fine.  I keep them separated for a while after they've had their milk, to prevent their sucking on one another, and that seems to be working.

BUT!  When the calves were nursing the cow, if I had wanted to go someplace overnight, the grandson could have handled the whole thing.  He could have turned the cow in with the calves like I was doing and separated them when the cow's udder was empty.  Now that I'm actually milking twice a day, we are home-bound.  It isn't that we really travel much, it's just the fact of knowing we COULD if we wanted to.  But it's only temporary, so I'm going to make the best of it.

There's no sense in two Jersey or Jersey-cross calves getting over two gallons of milk apiece every day.  It isn't wasted, because they grow that much faster, but it also isn't necessary.  The cow actually gives enough milk for four calves, but with the price of calves, I don't want to invest in two of them.  But I think perhaps we will buy one more, because since I'm spending the time and going to the trouble to milk a cow, I may as well have a little more to show for my efforts.

I had thought about a pig, but they, too, are quite an investment.  A little pig really grows well on milk, supplemented with grain of some sort.  But then there's the stink you get with a pig.  Of course, our pasture is limited, and a pig doesn't require pasture... who knows what I'll decide in the next couple of days?  Not I!  

And speaking of excess milk, it's only five weeks until Penny, another Jersey cow, is due to have a calf and start pouring the milk to me.  If I were smart, I'd advertise her on Craigslist and see if I could sell her, but I always have the problem of wanting to see what sort of calf a cow has.  And once I've seen the calf, it's always just such a fine one that I anticipate seeing it grow and it's hard to part with the cow and her calf then.  And Penny has more of the Jersey breed in her, so her cream will be richer and thicker and more yellow.  So I could sell Grace.  She's bred.  But I like Grace!

You see the problem, don't you?  I'M the problem!

While I'm mulling over this problem, I'm making some split pea soup, using a little bit of ham from the freezer, a ham that I cooked back in December.  So that's what's for dinner today.  Some decisions are easier to make than others, and it seems I can always figure out what to fix for dinner.

One thing just occurred to me:  I could advertise Penny for more money than I think she will bring.  That way, nobody would probably buy her... but if they did, I would have some money to ease the pain of separation.  Let's see, a two-year-old grade Jersey bred to a black Angus bull, due to calve in a month... surely nobody would pay $2,200 for her; I mean, who wants to milk a cow these days?  I know Cliff would be all for this plan, but I'm still pondering.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

New routine

I could put the kicker on the cow and force her to allow two calves to mutilate her udder and teats, but as a female who has nursed a couple of babies, I can't in good conscience allow that.  So I am reverting back to my milkmaid days and milking Gracie twice a day.  On the plus side, winter is over, so I won't be freezing to death in a cold barn.  As I've stated before, Gracie gives down her milk easily and the milk comes out freely and fast.  She does a fairly good job of standing still while I milk, without my having to feed her half a bag of sweet feed to get her to behave.  She is relatively tall, which is important, since I can't sit on a low-to-the-ground milk stool.  I sit on a regular-height metal stool stolen from Cliff's shop to milk.  

Years ago I milked several cows and bottle-fed calves kept in individual pens all the time.  At that time I was able to tip a full bucket of milk and pour milk into a calf nursing bottle without spilling more than a few drops.  Well, I found out this morning that 2 1/2 gallons of milk in a bucket has gotten a lot heavier that it was thirty years ago, and I am not as steady as I once was.  Much milk was spilled onto the dirt floor of the barn, but I'm not going to cry over it.  

There are two types of calf bottles.  
This is the type I've used throughout my many years of calf-raising.  The nipple snaps on.  

This is the type of bottle I used this morning; it has a screw-on nipple.  I think I will purchase three more of them, because the opening is bigger, so it's easier to pour the milk in the bottle; the calves also empty this type bottle faster, thanks to the way the nipple is made.  I believe I also need to buy a half-gallon pitcher:  I will pour the milk from bucket to pitcher and then from pitcher to bottle.  Because, you know, I love to wash dishes.  Actually, I will probably just rinse out the stuff I use with the calves at the outside hydrant most of the time, perhaps washing it all thoroughly once a week in bleach-water.  

I need four bottles because each calf gets two bottles of milk (there is still some left over I will pour on the ground), and it's really hard to try and refill a bottle when you have a hungry calf goosing you with its nose as you pour.  My twice-a-day chore time has now increased from less than ten minutes twice a day to thirty minutes twice a day.  But then, what else was I doing?  Surfing the Internet, posting stupid status updates on Facebook, and playing Sudoku as I drank my coffee.  

Because bottle calves tend to suck on one another's body parts, I am keeping the calves separate for a half-hour or so after they are done nursing, hoping they will get over the most frantic time for sucking on stuff before I turn them out together.  If they were both steers it wouldn't matter much, but since Hope is a heifer, I'm doing what I can to prevent the nursing, because if her immature udder is nursed too much, it can be permanently damaged.  Somebody needs to invent pacifiers for calves!

News flash!!!!!  For fifteen bucks I can get a nursing bucket.  Since I separate the calves I can use the same bucket for both calves, and it will be EASY to pour the milk in it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mama Cow started kicking!

A week ago, for no reason I could see, Grace the cow started kicking the two calves I recently put on her to nurse twice a day.  It wasn't a gentle kick, either, but a carefully aimed attempt at murder.  Calves being persistent, neither of them gave up.   They did get pretty punchy, though, dodging at the first hint that the cow was going to lift a foot, so I started putting her in the stanchion in the barn and putting the kicker on her.  If she had shown this behavior when I first put the new calves on her, it would have made sense, but for her to wait over two weeks and then turn on them threw me for a loop.  

Until I milked her to get a gallon of milk for the house.

Both of Gracie's back teats have abrasions and cuts on them.  She didn't kick at me as I milked, since my hands squeezing the milk out of her didn't feel the same as the calves' teeth when they were nursing.  Cattle only have bottom teeth in front, and those bottom teeth had worn big sores on the back of that poor cow's hind teats.  I took a towel out to the barn, dried the cows teats off with it after the calves were done, and applied Udder Balm, but that didn't seem to be helping, with them nursing every twelve hours.  

So I've decided to take all the milk out of those back teats twice a day, then let the calves in to suck the front ones, which still gives them each over two quarts apiece per feeding.  But I stand by to make sure they stay off the back teats.  I take all the milk out of those teats before I turn the calves in with her, but that doesn't stop them from trying to suck on them.  I'm hoping by milking out her back quarters and putting Udder Balm on them afterward that she will get a chance to heal.  Meanwhile I'll be pouring out two-and-one-half gallons of milk a day.  

If only pigs weren't so high-priced, I'd buy one to consume the extra milk and just keep milking the cow.  She is SO easy to milk that I can actually milk her in the same length of time it takes two calves to nurse her.  When I was in my twenties we raised pigs on milk all the time, and they grew like crazy.

I'm still wondering why, back when Grace had three calves sucking her dry twice a day, she never had this problem.  They were with her for five months and her udder was healthy as can be.    

That's how it goes.  Never a dull minute when you have livestock.  

Thoughts in the wee hours of the morning

Until the arrival of the Internet in my life, I never knew how many people have problems sleeping, especially women.  As the number of my Internet friends increases, I am more and more aware of which ones are night owls, which ones are morning people, and how many folks are liable to be awake at any hour of the night.

I don't know when I last slept for eight hours straight.  I do know that in the year 2000 when I started working at Kohl's, it was already rare for me to sleep through the night:  I had no problem falling asleep in my chair by 8 PM, but staying asleep all night was a different story.  I've read all these articles saying people need to get more sleep and I say to myself, "Oh sure, you can say that, and give all those useless little tips... but when none of your advice works, what then?"

It really doesn't bother me so much, these days.  If I lay awake too long, I reach for the IPad and play Sudoku, or sometimes if I have a book in progress, I'll read that.  It isn't that easy to lie in bed and look at the Ipad, but I never get up until four A.M., so I make do.  When my arm gets tired of holding the device, or my neck gets a crook in it from having my head on too many pillows, I attempt sleep again, and sometimes succeed.

A lot of people I know are going through the cancer battle right now, and here's something that occurred to me in the wee hours of the morning:  Getting old is like having cancer, only worse.  You can survive cancer, but you can't survive old age.  At some point it's going to kill you.

Cancer is painful and full of unexpected surprises.  So is old age.  Cancer is scary, not so much because you are afraid to die, but because you are scared of what's going to happen BEFORE you die.  It's the same with aging:  dementia, blindness, total loss of hearing, loss of bladder control; which will it be?  Maybe all of those and then some.  Oh, and guess what?  No matter how old you get, you can still get cancer, so there's that to wonder about.

You will hear lots of people saying, "I am a cancer survivor."  

When did you last hear anybody say, "I survived old age"?

And now you know where people got that saying, "Old age ain't for sissies."

I hope this doesn't seem pessimistic.  I just happen to be a realist, and this is something I've thought about frequently.

On the other hand, I do eventually get up around 4 A.M. and thank the good Lord I have another day.  I ask Him to help me bear the aches and pains of old age.  I thank Him for the little girl who is often under my care, and ask Him to help me do nothing that will damage her spirit.  I thank Him for the man who has shared this life with me for almost forty-nine years, and ask that he can continue to enjoy many more years of retirement.

But it's all going to end at some point.  So I will try to muster some enthusiasm for this day and get on with life, while I have the chance.  No matter what your religious beliefs, you will still cling to this world as long and hard as you can.  My mom, in the years after Daddy died when she was living here on our property, used to ask, "Why can't I just die?"

But at the first tornado warning that came on television, she was heading for the basement. 

This world may not be my home, but it surely has been a wonderful campground.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cliff can HEAR!

First off, let me tell you that I gave the wrong amount when I blogged about how cheap Cliff's hearing aid was:  I stated it was $1,499; actually, it was $1,299.  I went back to that entry and corrected that, so that if anybody Googles Costco hearing aid prices and ends up on my blog, they will see the right amount.  So we saved $550 over ENT Associates of Greater Kansas City, and dealt with much nicer people.  AND Cliff didn't have to wait a month to receive his hearing aid!  He got it only two days after his first visit.

It's fun to see him being surprised at things he can hear now.  The first evening he asked me, "Is the furnace running?"

"Yes," I answered.  "Why do you ask?"

"I never heard it before."

He worked in front of the shop all day yesterday and stated that it was rather irritating, hearing the doves cooing and the sparrows squawking all the time.  When I put Gracie in with the calves to let them get their milk, I usually come inside and set the timer on the microwave for ten minutes so I don't forget about them.  Yesterday evening when the microwave timer gently "beep-beep-beeped", Cliff said, "What was that?"

He had not been able to hear it before.  

He informed me that he had to turn the hearing aid down yesterday morning because I was talking too loud.  Yes, I DO talk to him loudly!  I've had to do so for several years in order for him to hear me.  Now I guess I will need to retrain myself.

He has the ability to change a setting on this hearing aid when he's in a crowd, on the phone, and in other unique situations.  I can't wait for Sunday to find out whether he can hear the announcements and the preaching, because he has pretty much been deaf to anything that was said at church up to this point, even with his old hearing aid.  

The new hearing aid was money well spent, and as I said before, we saved a lot of money on the hearing aid by going to Costco.  It's guaranteed against damage and loss for two years, which is amazing to me, considering the expensive places make you buy insurance if you want your hearing aid covered against loss.  

I am so happy that Cliff can hear again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Growing nicely in two-and-a-half weeks' time

Taken February 28

Taken today, March 18

Money saved at COSTCO

When I first called Cliff's usual hearing aid place, they scheduled his appointment for two weeks from the day I called.  Then, when he got his hearing tested and they made another appointment "to get him fitted" for the hearing aid, it was another two weeks of waiting.  At this point we had paid no money, because the hearing test costs nothing... oh wait, we paid $40 for the doctor to check him out and see if there was any visible problem with his inner ear, because that was the deductible with our insurance.  Cliff would be allowed a trial period in which to decide if the hearing aid was helping him enough to keep it; if he was dissatisfied with it, he could get all his money back except for $250.  

I did an entry about selling my calves the other day, and mentioned that they brought in enough money to mostly pay for Cliff's hearing aid, which was going to cost $1,850.  A local Facebook friend read the blog entry and suggested maybe hearing aids would be cheaper at Costco.  Since we had such a long time to wait, and nobody charges for the hearing test, I said, "Why not?"

I called them on Monday and they made Cliff an appointment for Tuesday, the very next day.  Wow!  Yesterday Cliff, Cora, and I went to Costco and he was told to come in Thursday... tomorrow!... and get his hearing aid.  Oh, and the cost was $1,299.  So now I can say the calves not only paid for the hearing aid, but left us with a few bucks extra.  There are cheaper hearing aids you can get there, but they are of the in-the-ear variety.  That's the kind Cliff had the very first time, and he much prefers the other variety.  

Oh, and at Costco there is a money-back guarantee for the entire amount (they don't keep $250 like the other place does), plus coverage for a year if it's lost or damaged (!!!) and three years for damage only.  I think I have this right, but I can't find the paperwork right now.  After Cliff wakes up, I'll change the information if I need to.

Our Costco membership costs us nothing, since a wonderful former co-worker put us on her family business membership.  

We have kept our paid Sam's Club membership ONLY because that's the only place we can get T-shirts and socks that Cliff likes.  I've looked for Kirkland brand T-shirts and socks and have only found name brands.  Otherwise, if they had those items and they were up to the standards of the ones we get at Sam's Club, we would do away entirely with the Sam's membership.  

If you have a Costco card, take full advantage and check out their optical and hearing aid departments.

I will add this about the optical:  This year we have insurance that covers glasses at a local vision center, so Cliff got his glasses there.  They would have cost $20, but the scratch-resistant feature cost $60.  If he had wanted no-line bifocals, they would have taken the cost up to $200.  At Costco there's no extra charge for no-lines or scratch resistance; it comes with the package.  I got my glasses there last year and paid $200.  I mentioned this to the lady adjusting Cliff's glasses the other day and she said, "Oh, but they use older style frames."  

Yeah, probably from last year.  How much do frames change in a year's time?  

So that's my little plug for Costco, and a big THANK YOU to the good friend who allowed us to have a free business membership on her family plan.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The REST of the cattle-selling story

Someone on Facebook asked why the grandson sold his calf along with ours, since his original reason for buying the calf was for meat.  My answer to that question got rather long and involved, and I thought perhaps I should share it on my blog as well.

Plans with the animals around here are always changing: The grandson was out of meat in his freezer so he bought the one Holstein calf, but of course the calf wasn't going to be big enough until he was around a year old. I decided our runt bull would never stand tall enough to breed a cow, so I told the grandson if he wanted meat, he could just have the bull any time he wanted to have it butchered. The bull must have heard the conversation, because somehow he managed to impregnate Grace, the cow. Well, the other cow, Penny, will have her calf in early May, and she is smaller than Grace, so I told the grandson, "Just wait until he breeds the other cow (probably in June some time) and THEN butcher him. I knew I wouldn't keep him around any longer that that, because Jersey bulls can get really mean and dangerous once they get around two years old. The real reason we went ahead and sold our two calves is because the big calves needed a separate pen from the grown cows (because they would still try to nurse Grace until they are fully weaned) AND from the new baby calves (because I turn Grace in with the babies twice a day and the big calves would latch right on to a teat), and we were pretty much out of space, not to mention that our pasture is overworked already with four horses and two to four cows grazing. The grandson said, "Are you sure you will be ready to get rid of the bull after he breeds the other cow?" I said, "No doubt about it." And now you know the REST of the story.

The Holsteins we just sold were bought from the dairy at $325 each.  I honestly spent very little money raising them:  I only give the cow a bite of feed twice a day when she goes in with the calves to feed them, and the calves went through a bag of calf starter before they graduated to sweet feed.  I imagine I had $100 worth of feed in each one, at the most, and the cow didn't charge me anything for letting the calves have her milk.  

A reader of my blog said I should figure in the cost of my labor when I'm talking about a profit:  That is like asking a hunter to figure what his labor is worth for the time he is out hunting, or asking a golfer to figure up how much his time was worth while he was playing golf.  The cows and calves are a hobby.  They are only here because working with them makes me happy; a high spot of my day is when I see those calves cavorting in the lot, kicking up their heels and bucking and running for the pure joy of having a belly full of milk and lots of energy.

The preacher asked me one time why anyone would bother raising a garden:  "You can buy a can of green beans in the store for fifty cents," he said, as if all the effort put forth in a garden is a waste of energy.  He's an avid hunter who spends plenty of money on guns, and hunting in general, and I have always wished I had asked him, "With all the expense of buying guns and paying for hunting licences and travel expenses, couldn't you buy pork, chicken, and beef in the store for less money than the wild game eventually costs you?"

You see, it isn't about money when you are doing something you love.

We won't even discuss the superiority of a home-raised tomato over the ones you buy in the store, because that's another topic.  I am willing to bet, though, that every home gardener, right now, has visions of a sun-warmed, red-ripe tomato fresh off the vine, even though the vision won't become reality until July.  That vision alone is worth the effort of a garden, because it gets us through the winter.  


Saturday, March 14, 2015

We're RICH!!!! (just kidding)

We took those three calves to the auction Tuesday; two of them were ours, the other belonged to the grandson.  Here you can see what we got for our two... Grace's calf, Gypsy; and Moose, the Holstein who was more black than white.

I'm very happy about this turn of events.  The timing is fortuitous, because Cliff is planning to get a new hearing aid (he can only use one, since one ear is totally deaf), and it's going to cost plenty.  The check will come close to covering the cost of his one hearing aid.  The grandson received a check for his mostly white Holstein, and got a little less money than we did for Moose:  This makes me think I should perhaps pick out Holstein calves with more black on them than white, the next time.  By the way, we didn't get quite all the money shown here; the sale barn commision and other deductions took away $55 of our profit.  When I say "profit", I'm only talking about these calves.  If you figure in the calves we lost over the past two years and count the big picture, we are way in the hole.  But it's a hobby, not a for-profit venture.  

I will probably buy one Holstein when Penny calves in May, to put with her calf and make use of the extra milk, and also to ensure that I won't have to milk a cow twice a day until her own calf gets big enough to take all the milk.  At present, those three-day-old Holsteins cost $425 each, but if that's what is available, that's what I will go with.  The grandson is thinking about buying another calf for me and my cow to raise too, but first we'll see how much milk she gives.  She will probably give enough for three babies.  We'll see.  

Someone at Clinton has a Craigslist ad, "weaned and vaccinated Holstein heifers" for $550 each.  In the picture, they look to be about the size of the calves I sold.  If so, it seems like someone could make a little money just buying them and hauling them straight to the sale.  It won't be THIS person, though.  Never forget that I'm not doing this to make money anyway.  I'm doing it because it allows me to play with cows and calves, which is pretty much my favorite activity.  Where is the challenge in making a trip to the sale with calves I didn't raise?

So that's what's going on in our little neck of the woods; you can tell we aren't exactly rich, to be so happy over such a trivial amount of money.  

Today Cliff is going to haul the 550 Oliver to Lexington and drive it in the St. Patrick's Day parade.  I won't be riding with him, since there's no place for a hitchhiker on that little tractor.  But I will be watching him drive by from the sidelines, wearing my green sweater.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A calf with dental problems?

I included this picture in my last blog entry, and I noticed the strange look on Henry's face at the time, but thought no more about it.  Henry, a steer, is on the left.  

That evening Cora's mom, who is a dental assistant, pointed out the problem:  "That calf has an underbite."  

I imagine her background with showing Shorthorn cattle as a youngster has as much to do with her noticing this anomaly as her dentist background.

She also mentioned that the calf was gritting his teeth, which he does quite a bit, so I'm guessing that has something to do with the badly aligned teeth.  

Later on I Googled "underbite in cattle" and found that it does, indeed, happen.  It can supposedly cause problems with a calf nursing, and later on, with grazing.  I can guarantee that he has NO problems nursing, and I imagine he will cope well enough with grazing;  it's amazing how hunger will motivate any creature to adapt to circumstances.  

Now, if it had been the heifer with this problem, I would be devastated, because who wants an ugly milk cow around for years?  It is a good lesson for me, though, because it's one more thing to watch for when I'm purchasing a baby calf.  It's something I'd rather not have around.  

As far as resale value, I pretty much have Henry marked for the freezer in a year anyhow, so it's probably no big deal.  And from now on, I will look more closely at the faces of my baby calves.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Books, books, and more books

Digital books I have placed on hold at my local library:  "The Racketeer" by John Grisham; "Only Time Will Tell" by Jeffrey Archer; "Angel Falls" by Kristin Hannah; and "The Silent Sister" by Diane Chamberlain.  Reserved in the form of "real books":  "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova; "The Nightengale" by Kristin Hannah; and "A Spool of Blue Thread" by Anne Tyler.

And how did I happen to choose these books?  Here is the process I use:  First of all, I go to the New York Times Best Seller list of fiction works.  If I see a title that might interest me, I go to Amazon.com, type in the title, and see what sort of reviews people are giving it and what the book is like.  The biggest disadvantage to this method of finding reading material is that I am often forced to read a genuine, real, print book, and I much prefer the Kindle or IPad for several reasons:  Real books are heavy and hard to hold; I can't change the size of the print to suit my aging eyes; and if I want to find out the meaning of a word, I have to go on a search for an online dictionary, as opposed to simply holding my finger on the word and seeing the definition pop up in front of my eyes.    

There are certain popular authors I avoid like the plague because they only write romance stories, so those are out.  There are some authors that just don't suit my fancy, Danielle Steele being one.  This is strange, I know, considering that she is currently the best-selling author alive and the fourth best-selling author of all time; perhaps I should give her another chance.  I probably will, one of these days.

Right now I'm reading "The Girl on the Train", which is the strangest book I've read since "Gone Girl".  It seems as though every female character in this novel is loco, and I can't say much for the men, either.  Will I even know, at the end, who the real killer is?  Or will I be left guessing, as I was at the end of "Gone Girl"?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's spring

There's no babysitting this week, since the company Cora's dad works for is between jobs.  It isn't that they don't have any jobs, it's just that none of the jobs are ready for them.  So I've been doing some garden tilling and playing around with my cows.

My new babies, Henry and Hope, are doing great, and Grace is being a wonderful foster-mother to them.  It may be easier for her now, since we hauled her last crop of babies (Whitie, Gypsy, and Moose) to the livestock auction.  With her natural daughter gone, she is liable to bond to these youngsters better.  

It was a rather sudden decision, to sell that group, but honestly, our place (or I should say, the grandson's place, since he is the owner now) cannot support as many cows and horses as we had living here; those five-month-old babies were eating as much as full-grown cows.  It will be interesting to see how much money the Holsteins brought, because I only know what beef cattle are worth, and dairy stock isn't worth nearly that much.  I watched a lot of the sale online, live, and saw that the beef cattle prices are hanging in there.  

As I told Cliff, I have the two new babies.  As long as I have a milk cow and a couple of calves to play with, that's all I need to keep me happy.  

This is Penny, who is due to have a calf around the first of May.  She is overweight, although this picture doesn't show just how MUCH overweight she is.  She was such a typey, dainty little thing when we bought her on March 14, 2013.  It's a shame that her appearance was damaged by an injured ear, too.  When Cliff put dehorning paste on her horn buttons, some of it got on her ear.  The stuff is very caustic, and that's what destroyed the end of her ear.    

I took suggestions from my readers for names for the new calf, and then we took a vote.  And that's how Penny got her name.  She will have a black calf, since she is bred to an Angus bull.  She was somewhat halter-broke and tame, but because I haven't handled her much during the past few months, she wasn't as friendly as she needs to be, if I'm going to milk her.  So I've been letting her in and out of the barn, putting her in the stanchion, and grooming her, and handling her udder, just to get her used to the human touch once again.  A little sweet feed goes a long way to convince a cow to be friends, and I'd say she is now ready to be handled when the big day comes.  

My intention is to keep the little Jersey bull long enough to breed Penny, and then the grandson is going to have him butchered.  I'm hoping the fellow whose bulls we used on Grace and Penny the last time will still be willing to allow us to take our cows for a visit when the need arises, but of course what won't be until this coming winter.  

Not much has been happening around here.  I got in quite a bind with my book-reading:  I put several popular books on reserve at the library some time back, and about five of them came due within a seven-day period.  So I've been reading up a storm.  I just finished "All the Light We Cannot See", which I enjoyed immensely, and have just begun "The Girl on the Train", which I'll probably finish quickly.  

Friday, March 06, 2015

Grace the cow seems to have made the transition

I noted in a previous entry that Grace-the-Cow accepted her new babies the first time I put them with her to nurse, and that is the truth.  However, there were a couple of minor bumps in the road that I should explain.  

First of all, one of those original three calves she has raised up to the age of five months was her own heifer calf.  While she seemed to love all her children equally, licking them and accepting them totally, she never forgot which one she gave birth to, and once I took those calves away from their twice-daily dose of mother's milk, it was Gypsy she worried and stewed about.  

Ideally, we would have those weaned calves on the back forty somewhere so they couldn't even make eye contact with Grace.  Unfortunately, we don't have a back forty.  There's no place to put the calves where they have a supply of water and hay that they can't see and bawl at Grace.  

Other than an occasional, half-hearted kick, Grace never attempted to hurt her new babies; she just didn't care about them one way or the other.  The first couple of nights when I put her with Hope and Henry in the small lot, after her bite of feed was gone she would walk all over the lot mooing at Gypsy across the fences, walking up and down, back and forth... with two new babies who weren't even sure which end of the cow had an udder frantically trying to follow the milk supply but losing it each time Grace walked away.  It was time for Plan "B".  

I put Grace in the stanchion in the barn where I milk and locked her in with a bite of sweet feed and a flake of hay to keep her busy.  I baited the new babies into the barn, directed them to the milk supply, and watched as they nursed.  Grace finished her sweet feed and tugged at the stanchion, found out she couldn't leave, and started munching her hay.  The most difficult part of this, for an old lady, was getting the calves off the teats and out of the barn.  Thank goodness they weren't Holsteins; if they had been, I would have had to enlist help from Cliff or the grandson.  I would wrestle the tiny heifer to the door, open it with one hand, and shove her out with the other hand and my knees, shutting the door behind her.  Then I'd work on her bigger brother, getting him out the door while she was trying to get back in.  It was a real rodeo!  

After having the calves nurse in the barn three times straight, I noticed Grace wasn't as concerned about her half-grown daughter's close proximity, and that Gypsy wasn't bawling after her mom as much when she saw her.  So I went back to plan "A", turning her in the lot with the calves; this time it went great, and it looks like we have another successful calf-raising operation going on.  

The one thing I'm concerned about is whether Grace's calf, Gypsy, will ever be totally weaned.  There will come a time when they will have to be in the same pasture.  I just hope the temptation isn't too great for Gypsy.  It's amazing what a long memory some calves have when it comes to nursing.  I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

On another note, that midget bull must have finally managed to impregnate Grace.  She hasn't shown any signs of heat for six weeks.  

So, has the baby been good today?

This is the question I often get from Cora's mom or grandma when they pick her up, and it's a question that puts me at a loss for words.  Really, can a nineteen-month-old child be anything but good?  

I know what they mean:  Did she mind perfectly?  Did she behave the way we want her to?  Did she make it to the potty every time she needed to use it?  Was she always sweet-natured and obedient?  Did she pick her toys up when she was done with them?  Did she eat everything set in front of her?  (Ha!  That last one will never happen, but at least she has stopped eating dirt and rocks, for the most part.)  

No.  A resounding no to all those questions.  But she was good, because her heart is good.

The child isn't two, but she has been in the throes of what is known as "the terrible twos" for some time now.  She is stretching her boundaries, finding out what she can get by with.  She will grab something she knows she isn't supposed to have and run away with it, laughing, and then when she is caught and the item taken away, she will throw herself onto the floor, kicking and screaming.  

Was she good?  Yes, she was.  She knows how to push my buttons to the point of frustration, but she is smart, and she is learning, and she wants to do the right thing, even though she also wants to try out the wrong things several times a day.  Once in awhile I lose my patience and raise my voice.  Yesterday I even pouted at her for awhile... and then she crawled up on my lap and gave me one of her famous hugs and love-pats, just to let me know she wasn't holding a grudge, so why should I?

Our little journey with Cora has been full of surprises, as well as reminders from the distant past when our own kids were small; I do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past.  As this kid grows up, we grow wiser, if we're lucky.  

Today is a new day.  Dear Lord, help me to do no harm to this growing child who is becoming her own person more and more every day, and let me learn from her how to enjoy this journey we are on together.  Thank You for bringing this good little girl into our lives.   Amen.