Friday, August 26, 2016

If You Build It They Will Come

Two years ago, I began establishing myself in this far corner of Russell county. 
I spent nights building my own 4 acre field fence.

Not my idea of fun.
After moving into their miniaturized version of their former 100 acre field, my horses and oxen peacefully coexisted, oh, two months. Ingrates!
Plan B:  I was offered a patch of open ground, wherever I could find it.  The closest and largest was 1.5 miles from my house.
The field I chose hadn't been bush hogged in years, fifteen foot tall trees carpeted my future 13 acre field.  But, I saw the potential.  
I bush hogged, sprayed, limed and fertilized, then replanted.
As I was still not finished paying off the first fencing project and all the current fertilizer and herbicides, I opted for a lesser expensive option:  electric fencing.
A choice I still regret...
But, my three horses were happy.
I saved up some more and Dad helped me build a run-in shelter for them.
It was perfect.
Until a pack of wild dogs entered the pasture and killed Bella.
The remaining two horses were pulled out and the Boonies Pasture became a ghost town...
...until a couple of months ago when I realized that we needed more grazable land for the farm's 11 horses.  With my $4000 already invested, the farm sprang for field fence and labor... The Boonies was on the way to becoming a Boom Town again.
With a little bit of mechanical help prepping the new fence lines and bush hogging 6 months of neglected grass.
But most of it was day after day of manual toil in 100'F heat indices temperatures.
Flynn and I split all the tasks for the first 2000' feet of fence while Tommy kept everything at the barn going by himself.

By the last 1/4 mile, we called in for backup.  Mayday, mayday...
Tommy come fence with us!!!
Not this kind of fencing...
This kind:
9 sections of fence spliced together.
We'll all have nightmares of crimping splicers.
Our 4x4 farm truck valiantly stretched 14 sections of fence (a square pasture with 4 corners would've been asking too much).

At times, the dogs came to lend moral support.
It takes a village.
And two great guys to help me resurrect The Boonies.  Tip of the hat to Farm Team, once again.
Baked, delirious, but finished!
Video of our maiden horse drive on August 26th to shuttle the horses the 1.25 miles to and fro from the stables. There's no way you can enjoy it as much as we did, but please try.
Large screen and with volume recommended.
Until next time from the most beautiful pasture on Earth.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Dear Daphne

In my 26 years living in the Deep South, I've never seen so much rain.  I've been expecting all the cactus around here to rot.
This photo was taken in June of last year.  This year, the grass has overwhelmed it.  Therein lies the problem:  the grasses are too lush.  All water and carbs, no fiber.  Enter bloat... around mid afternoon Tuesday.

Daphne, my 5 year old Holstein cow was not acting her aloof self.  Instead, when I arrived home, she was at the gate closest to my house bellowing to no end.  Quick assessment told me she was bloating. Imagine she's swallowed an inflatable dingy, now you're getting the visual.  Bloat can be deadly, in a hurry.  When too much fermentation takes place in the rumen, gases or froth build more quickly than the cow can eructate (belch), leading to ruptured rumen and death.  Daphne was in trouble.  When she went down, I managed to get over half a gallon of mineral oil in her.  The oil has an anti saponification effect (breaks the bubbles in the froth).  Sometimes works, sometimes not. By 2 AM, I had my scalpel, kitchen tools and reference book ready to perform an emergency trocarization. The rumen lays right up on the cow's left side, you cut a hole into it, set a tube in and let the gas out.
I'd helped perform some before when I worked on a dairy in CT, but that was 26 years ago. Daphne got the memo that she was up for home surgery and started showing signs of improving.  For one, she got up and her labored breathing slowed.  
By 8 AM Wednesday, she's back to the land of the living and I'm bleary eyed and severely ill tempered.  This is my day off, the one where I was going to sleep in and work in my garden all day.  I guess not. In lieu, I declared war against all the grass in the cattle's 4 acre pasture. 
It's an odd shaped area with hills and trees everywhere.  Bush hogging isn't feasible in over half of it.  But we have a DR Trimmer monster at the farm.  I pushed that bad boy for three hours. Let Daphne find anymore tall grass!!!
Tommy's mama push mowed 3 acres.  
Because this is what Daphne needs to be eating:
Proper hay with fiber.  
By afternoon, her flanks looked normal again.

Still unsure she was out of the woods, I opted to work around their barn all day. I trucked in 15 cu. yards of sand and made them some new softer beds in the barn.
Tommy's inspecting my work.
Does it pass muster?
Tommy says: "thanks".
Daphne says: "that'll be all, you're dismissed".  Yup, she's feeling better, back to her prickly little self.
A whole day hanging around with my cattle, haven't done that in a very long time.  I love my Tommy, Daphne's growing on me...
A sleeping ox, is there anything so beautiful?  Don't argue with me, it's futile.


Cole is now donning a new cone.  He's taken to licking his legs raw--again.  My little Petunia doesn't let that interfere with his hunting activities.
He has the patience of Job.  He can still motionless, endlessly waiting for a squirrel.
Five minutes later.
He's been there so long, his shadow has moved more than he has!
When it's time to move though, he can hustle.
Game camera caught us on our morning run.  Trying to get the the other two dogs in shape for our upcoming trip has been challenging.  
This is Pete's preferred activity:
Matched well by Garrett's:
A few weeks ago, we were invited to use the pool for exercise and physiotherapy.  I finally made time to try it out.  Pete and Garrett pretended I was drowning them when I set them down in the two foot deep kiddie pool area.  And Cole... he's a nincompoop.  This is the guy who routinely tries to swim across the lake.
Watch him pretend to not know how to swim.  My little diva!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Tommy Turns 9

Nine years ago I made a 10 hour round trip to pick up a pair of two day old Brown Swiss calves.
He's all grown up now.
Aug 5 is his birthday.  We had extra special alfalfa rations for dessert. Video:

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Trucker Mama

I'm thinking of a side line:  operating a shuttle service from Russell County to Auburn University Vet School.  Seems I'm there a lot these days.
Cody, last week:
Cole, Medallion level frequent flyer:
Tommy and Daphne, Wednesday:

What a payload!
What would I do without my Rolling Hilton?
Or the most benevolent vet in the land who allows me to treat her carport like a drive-thru clinic?  Even at 10 PM at tonight!
Meet Henry.  29 years young.  Perhaps colicky from the series of strong thunderstorms day after day, who knows, but we don't take any chances!  Load up the bus, grab the dogs and hit the road.
Henry receives a clean bill of health; I'm happy; and our vet probably regrets ever letting me know her address!

Out Of The Darkness

At this point, I'm so burned out that I'm extra crispy.  But, on Wednesday, let there be light!

 I arrive at the vet school with my very lame ox and the sidekick cow.

Poor Tommy, he almost looks worse after his treatment!

Daphne gets a regular trim and I ask the vets to palpate her udder.  It's awfully big.  I'm assured it's only fat.
But, once on the tilt table, the straps squeeze her udder and look what happens...
She's lactating!!! She's nowhere near pregnant.  Another medical anomaly.  Here's my dilemma:  do I go ahead and enjoy the bounty and milk her twice a day for the next few months and miss my vacation, or do I ask the vets to dry her up and I go to Maine.
I'm so excited.  I have a real cow.  I love my Daphne!
To have my own milk again!!!
I'm beside myself with joy.  But, I opt to let them treat her with the intramammary injection of dry cow formula.  
Suffices me to know I have a real cow, not some fancy lawn ornament.  The head of the dairy herd came to see -- he'd sold her because they couldn't get her pregnant again.  I told him she's lactating on her own, no bull!  (get it?)
One happy camper to be home again!
Pasteurizing my bounty.
The best cup of coffee I've had in years.
Have I mentioned that I love my little Daphne?
Milk as a snack and a baked custard for supper.  I'm in lactose heaven.