Moving Livestock Requires Planning Ahead

Angel and AnnabelOur four bottle calves from last year are yet in their small square pen. Because of moving my mother and brothers to the farm, I did not get a hut built. Out of desperation, when the January winds started to sweep in the harsher weather, we slammed the horse trailer into the pen. Then it became the March wet season. The trailer stayed.

It is now May 21. The end of winter was so gentle the neighbor is haying and the raspberries are starting to form. A few sharp frosts wilted my potatoes from last year and devastated my blooming wisteria. The daffodils are gone, the major dandelion bloom is over. By the way, the blooms are delicious fried in butter with a little salt and pepper.

I digress, a bad habit. Our calf moving adventure started with a backhoe to pull all the future fertilizer out of the horse trailer. An air compressor inflated a brand new tire. I must have picked up a nail or something, just lovely. Then, knowing where I needed the two females, it was decided to pull out the Jubilee tractor which is shorter. Of course, the 2″ ball was missing and it has a 3/4 inch shank. Here we go. Hunting around the farm for a ball. I really need some sheds; and get organized. Sigh. Come on publisher or movie producer, pick my books! Yah, like that is happening.

Again, I digress. We found the ball on the back of the Kawasaki mule, which has again chewed through its monthly bearing on the driver’s side. We set it aside because at a hundred plus a month, it is costing too much to keep trying to fix. We will have to send it off to someone who might know what is going on. The neighbor has the same model and it sits in his barn unused.

The ball hunt over, we started on our way only to be stopped by a fuel shortage. Minor oversight. Jubilee wanted fed. The truck needed fuel, too. Armed with a gas can, I made for the station three miles down the road. A big plus for times like this is a rinky-dink town not far off.

Putzing down the road on our speedy tractor we now faced keeping the yearling calves back. I did not need a rodeo. The easiest way I have found to move most animals is with a bucket of grain. Annabel is a real sucker for grain. She is six months older than Angel, and halter broke. In she went.  Angel followed with a few helpful shoves from behind. Up went the gate and our future milk cows were ready for transport. Around the house and up into the small square holding pen with knee-deep grass already getting grain heads. Everything is early this year.

Down to the pasture, through the gate and on to the next problem. One of the bull calves, a white-faced black Angus cross, hopefully with a Hereford, was on the wrong side of the fence. If I could get him through the steep brier infested hillside, I would have to lead him down through 14 very curious bullies (big cows) to get to the corral. Option two, remove the mesh square fencing, pull it back, and see if he would crawl back through the high tensile fence- which is what he had done on the far side. Only he had gone up and around the brier patch and now refused to repeat the process. Well, that did not work and the hubby was started to flail his arms around like men do when they really want to do anything but what they got suckered into. Hubby is a city slicker. He got roped into this country life. He has zero patience for animals or people. Which is why he makes a wonderful landlord- yah, well despite this, the bulls were coming out of the pasture tonight. I had a pile of eggplants and yams, given to me by some friends, to get canned tomorrow.

The hubby remembered further down the fence I used to put the goats up through an opening beside a falling down shed. After some coherence and a tempting bucket of grain, Honda was back in with his buddy, Old Man Whiskers. (He’s a Holstein with extra long whiskers on his muzzle.) We are trying to sell him, or else he will be neutered soon. Using the same technique of baiting the horse trailer, the bulls, being more difficult; imagine that; and fueling the city slicker’s impatience; imagine that, found themselves roughly shoved up the horse ramp. The hubby slammed the ramp into place and gave me the look. Yah, that one.

Mumbling like the Jubilee’s putting engine, the Hubby helped drag my prizes to the corral where they will stay away from the main herd for a few weeks. All the big cows are going to be three years old and the bull is in there helping the next generation arrive.

This should be fun. Eight first time momma cows and one city slicker hubby. Yah, I’ll be writing a book about the experience.

In the meantime, the boys happily munched in the late evening light. I spotted mint growing fresh along the stream. While the Hubby was getting the ramp up and pulling the trailer out the poor city boy was yet taxed again. I was getting that fresh mint picked before the young bulls stomped it flat.

With a big handful of mint, one impatient hubby and an old muttering tractor we were down the highway getting ready to retire for the evening.

 

Angel MarkDoesn’t Angel have the coolest mark on her forehead? It reminds me of a lady in a fur coat with a big fancy fur hat. LOL I was watching John Wayne’s North to Alaska while nursing her back to health. Angel was the name of the main female character.

When a life ends…

Jazz Posing for the Ladies

Today we have to put down our Tennessee Walker stallion. He was coming on to four years old. We believe the timber wolf we have seen around the farm may have attacked or spooked the horses. The stallion ended up in the barb wire fence. It wrapped around his leg and sawed all the way around until the bone was exposed. By the time we caught the injury too many hours had passed with the bone exposed. The vet said there is nothing to graft and things would go down hill fast.

I hate barb wire. This was new fence; no saggy pieces.  I just hate using it but the cows go through everything else. If it is electric, they know when the power is off and they take the hit if they really want through.

We are so busy on the farm. The garden is ready to be put in. Getting the farmstead started is difficult and time consuming. I would not have it any other way, but, at this moment I am crushed. Jazz Cat is such a beautiful stallion. He is so quiet you would think him a gelding. I was so looking forward to beginning his training; getting the corral fixed and turned into a training pen. My niece and I have been discussing it all week. Now I have to go look my young stallion in the eye and tell him goodbye. It just knocks the heart right out of me, but, you have to keep on going.

When an animal must pass I tell myself I gave it a good life. Lots of pasture to run in and time to be as free as a horse can be. Cows, you know their time will come. I thank the animal for its sacrifice so I might eat. Even the deer and other wild game. I honor their life by not wasting. A horse, however, is different. He is a big fuzzy pal who lets me sit on him so we can go places. He listens to me chatter about all my problems then puts his head on my shoulder as if to say, “It’s all right. Come back with a carrot for our next session.”

It is so therapeutic to run a brush over his coat. When you stand back and see his long mane and tail laying so smooth and flowing you feel like you accomplished something. You take him for a ride and your neighbors “eww and aww.” You proudly put him back in the field and he trots right over to his favorite spot and rolls off all your hard work.

Jazz Cat and I will never know this relationship. We never got to ride together. I will miss the beauty of his painted face and marbled blue eye. Such a picturesque beauty destroyed in a single stroke; a butterfly caught in a bird’s beak. He has been swept away. There are two foals about to be brought into this world. I can only hope one of them is a colt with a blue eye and painted face. I don’t know if the mare running with him is pregnant, but there might be a third life. It’s small console, for none is like the original. I will miss seeing my Jazz streak through the field, his mane floating like a white banner and his tail a streaming flag.

Jazz Looking QuirkyI loved you, you big quirky gentle goof. May your foals be born healthy and just as goofy.

Black Timber Wolf Visits the Farm.

FB

At nine at night last night my niece called to say they see our “coyote” on their front door step. They live here on the farm. I took the gun with me but of course the animal could not be found.

Three times we have seen an animal which looks exactly like this picture. We do have coyote in the area but the description by my niece told me we were talking about the young eastern timber wolf. Only, she said he was huge, almost the size of our great Danes. This would put him in the hundred-fifty pound category and fully mature. So far none of our animals have been bothered by this big guy. It has always appears alone.

The only thing being bothered recently has been the chickens. We caught a red-tailed hawk in the act of killing the only brooding hen on the farm. She was five years old and raised many eggs to hatching. By the time I got to the scene the killer took flight.

A big vixen fox has been visiting the farm early in the morning and now we have the wolf back. It is aggravating to know your favorite chickens are on their menu.  The other problem with this big guy hanging around here is it is taking out our fawn crop. We depend on deer to fill the freezer. Guess I’ll have to hunt up someone who can take out some of the local coyote population and maybe this big guy. With the neighbor’s cows calving the loss to them could be substantial. My niece is also worried about her kids being injured by such a big animal. Usually you could say not to worry, a wolf is more afraid of you than it, but, when you see a wolf right on your front door step those words are not reassuring.

Spring Cleaning on the Farm

calvesAll winter long things piled up. Yes, let’s just say those piles include organic material best suited for the garden. It is clean up the pens time… and it so much fun. Not.

I thought cleaning my house in the Spring was bad. Playing with the John Deere in two feet of “Farm Pies” has got anything in the house beat. The smell is pure methane. Whew! The corral was first, then the calf pen.  No wonder they spent all winter curled up on that pile of hay. I could feel the heat coming off the rotting stuff.

Our four calves from last year are to be moved shortly from this pen.  I have decided to not raise any bottle calves this year. It is not worth the cost. Weaned babies are selling for less so why go through the fuss?  Next year I hope to have five cows provide a fresh batch of calves, no maintenance required. No milk bottles- Yay!

The goat house needs to be lifted and everything pushed off the deck. For the winter I put skids and horse mats in to get them off the deck, then pile it with hay, layer after layer. Their manure is so  garden ready it can be tossed right in, just like the rabbits contributions.

The neighbor came down to grind everything up for me. With this giant tractor and plow he gets the job done in minutes. It really digs and does the job. Just as I started pulling the seeds off the shelf the weather took a wet nose dive. Hurry up and wait seems to be a homesteading theme.

A tractor is an absolute necessity for a homestead. We have yet to buy the plow my neighbor owns so we just send up some deer steaks as a thank you. The plow/tiller is expensive. If we were doing more than a thirty by thirty square garden it would be worth the investment. The tool would come in handy for deer plots and replanting areas the cattle damaged, too.

Even though we have has a completely mild winter this year, an old timer told us not to plant until after mother’s day. Some of last year’s potatoes had come in the garden and were about eight inches high. One morning last week I woke up to frost on the windshield. There went the potatoes and my beautiful wisteria flowers. Young trees lost their leaves as well. Mother’s day is tomorrow. Smart old timer.

 

 

Struggling to find a Publisher

Is there anything more frustrating than writing query or cover letters and never getting an answer; even when you sent the return postage and self-addressed envelope? I recall my college English professor saying Mark Twain was refused forty times on his first novel. I think I have him beat.

While I self-published, so I could share my work with my family, I would like to propel my work forward. I know two of my books, Shelby and The Major’s Renegade are perfect matches for Walt Disney.  Mr. Disney absolutely inspired me as a child. I remember plunking down on the floor in front of the black and white box TV with blankets and pillows waiting for the song, “When you make a wish…your dreams will come true.”

Sigh. The reality is, if you type into search engines “How to get published?” you will be quickly inundated by a bunch of self-publishing companies. Am I happy I self-published. Of course. Am I going to make any money- absolutely not. Self-publishing companies are just that. Companies that want you to pay them to build you a book. They would love it if you bought their “reading” services. Some of these editing serves charge as much as fifty-cents a word. Seriously?

Then there are the infamous contests. You pay fees to enter. If you read the fine print the winner gives up all rights to their work in some of these contests. They also sell your info to places soon to inundate you with all kinds of offers. I backed out of one, thought I had erased all the info, and an hour later some foreign person was calling to congratulate me. I was chosen to have my book published with them; yah, another self-publishing company.

Well, Mark Twain and Walt Disney never had to fight this kind of battle. Honestly, I think the only way to find a publisher is to be working in the industry. After this many no returns on my work I would dare to say the dumpsters of New York are filled with unused postage the homeless probably ripped off the envelopes to send letters to their loved ones. Glad I was able to help someone’s writing career; that was sarcasm.

Getting your book published without knowing anyone in the industry is about as fruitful as a “bang your head sign” on a brick wall. Someone once told me when you come to a brick wall you several choices. Number one, bang your head on it until you die. Number two, climb over it. Number three, dig under it. Number four, find the right tool and break through it. However, I have come up with a Number Five: Yell loud enough until someone throws you a rope and scale over it.

So, here is my dilemma. I have something called “a life.” It requires I feed and house twelve family members and care for my aging neighbors. It also needs me to do some ministerial work. There are seven horses, four dogs, too many cats, dozens of chickens, thirty head of cattle, three pigs, a bunch of rabbits, some turkeys, four ducks and a pair of peacocks who do not understand empty feed buckets. Gardens need to be tended, lawns need to be mowed, meals need prepared and then their is the cleaning and the mending in the words of Cinderella. I could go into building maintenance and chasing loose animals, but I think you got the picture.

My cousin said to start a blog and get enough material then advertise it. Okay, now I need to find something interesting to write about. Then I need to get it out to an audience. Did I mention sleep and a full time job were in my schedule?

I have my Twitter account, my Facebook account, my Amazon account, my self-publishing account, my blog, Pinterest and now I’m trying to figure out how to get my new U-tube channel linked to all this stuff. While I love my writing, homesteading is what I really do. My idea is to use this passion to yell loud enough to get an audience’s attention that I have really cool books that are so chalked full of comedy they’ll be laughing out loud and embarrassing themselves at home, on airplanes or in the office where they are suppose to be working. One reader told me she knew her husband was reading the book because he was laughing in the bathroom. Guess my work has gone everywhere, but out into the general public.

Well, got to go to work, take mother to town, hand deliver an eviction notice because some people think my rentals are free, send a registered letter to someone who sold me a car and never showed up with the vehicle- a lesson to never help people you know only vaguely, and hang some drywall in the rental that is nearly finished. Might even get the mowing finished on the lot. Yah. That’s life. I’ll be right back after these messages…

 

 

Getting the neighbor a Lift inspires motivation…

My neighbor I have known for ten years… and grown fond of… is the same age as my mother. Her life was filled with hardships and abuse as a youth. It seems in her older years the hardships are not letting up. Pretty much confined to a wheelchair, she is now in need of a sit-to-stand lift.

Being that her husband was a war veteran I never expected to hear the cost of her lift would not be covered at all. Not by medicaid either. I know, I have spent many hours researching ways to get her the $4800 dollar piece of equipment they can not afford.

The situation became desperate when she came home from a rehab center in town. She stayed at the place almost two months. Once her social security was drained she was put in a room with a parking lot view, given drugs that literally made her lose her mind stopping her ability to do rehab exercises, and her diabetic wounds on her leg grew to the point they became infected. She told me they fed her bologna sandwiches for dinner every night. She dropped seventy-three pounds because she could not even stand the smell of another sandwich and refused to eat.   At this point her husband had enough and got her admitted to the hospital where her diabetic sores were aggressively treated.

My neighbor is now home, recuperating. On Monday we helped her into her wheelchair and it took all we had to physically do it. She weighs around two-fifty. When she came home from her appointments we had to call the fire company for aide. Over the years, everyone knows who she is, especially if they are in the fire company. It is extremely obvious she needed the lift; a sit-to-stand where she could actually use it as a walker and get much needed exercise.

While my neighbor will have to pay out of pocket for the lift I did manage to find a used lift on craigslist for one-third the cost. Today we are traveling two hours in her van to get it. (Lifts on ebay were five to fifteen hours away.) The people were generous enough to accept five-hundred dollars less than the price, putting the lift within the budget without wiping out my friend’s savings account. It is going to be a long trip, but so worth it.

I really am astonished how our medical system is yet treating our senior citizens’ need for independence so poorly. Had my neighbor been able to acquire the lift in the first place she would have never been in the rehab center’s negligent claws. I wish I had taken a more active interest in her needs sooner. Life keeps me so busy, moving my family to the farm in this instance, I missed out on helping her sooner.

I was right about the trip being a long one. It rained the whole way. The elderly gentleman who sold us the lift was in the process of moving to a downstairs apartment. His wife had passed away and he no longer needed the larger space. Being in his eighties, he revealed without the lift we were now buying the care of his wife would have been impossible. The family was just showing up to help him begin the moving process. They seemed a happy brood and the gentleman was always smiling. Knowing the lift was going on to help another family was gratifying to the family.

Once the lift made it to its destination, and I saw the relief and smile on my friend’s face I shared the sentiment. Life is not about how much stuff you can pile into a house. It is not about how much money is in the bank. The true meaning of life is revealed when you give of yourself, without expecting anything in return. Jesus came to the Earth to teach us a simple truth, “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” Acts 20:35

When I see my neighbor out on the porch in her wheelchair enjoying a fresh dose of morning air it will lift my spirits to know I was a small part in giving my friend a much needed lift.

Helping others also encourages me to keep on pursuing the dream of seeing my books in the hands of a publishing company. To think of the changes success would bring to my whole family and to some of my friends is exciting. Can you imagine how excited they would all be if I were able to get them all together and flip on a demo tape and see an animation film of Major Ross Jackson ducking knives as Private Bucks loses her temper? or Jackson screaming as they ride off the cliff to land in a pool of water at the bottom to escape the evil General’s men? or when the squirrel steals Old Lent’s hat? or when Pearl, Bucks pet cougar, causes chaos?  My friends have laughed so well at the book… well… envisioning the movie version in my mind’s eye with everyone I care about gathered to see it…what a motivating dream.

It was the dream of a four year-old to own a farm with horses; it was the dream of a seven year-old to drive a big truck; it was the dream of a sixteen-year old to write a book; it was the dream of a thirty-year old to bring mother, daughters and brothers together on the same farm; if these dreams can be made to come real than seeing The Major’s Renegade or Shelby become a movie should not be so impossible a dream for a forty-year old, do you think?