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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Coming in Threes

Between sorting photos and everything else going on, writing for a new blog wasn't coming to me. The trip to Seal Rock was wonderful and a delightful three days with our friends. When you can still enjoy being with people after over 40 years, that's a good friendship. I took a ton of pictures as did Farm Boss and many will find their way to the blog. Words for them though didn't seem to be coming.

When we got home there were several things with which to deal. I had not mentioned that my cat, Persia, was living her last days. She was a very old cat and we knew it wouldn't be long. If she had not died, we'd have had to face putting her down. She had quit eating. She used to love to lie next to me, to come wherever I was, but in the last two weeks that had changed and she was more solitary-- perhaps caught up in the dying process. I would watch her breathe to see if she was still alive.

Before I left Monday, I held her on my chest for an hour or so and knew it likely would be the last time. Getting home, when she didn't come, we knew we had to find a body and eventually we did. She had just gone to sleep, gracefully and gently. We buried her out by the stone bench where she had loved to sleep on sunny days.

I cried as we all do when a beloved pet has gone on. Her aging process was a reminder to me of what I will face if illness doesn't take me first. I watched her wither, her weight drop, her hearing go, and I hated facing her loss. It's the price we pay for ever having the pets to love. The other alternative would be we die first and leave them. That's not a good thought either.

Then there was the calf. We didn't find it. We have yet to find its body and obviously it would be a body by now. The person looking after the cattle had seen the calf on Tuesday with its mother, or so he had said, but by Thursday morning it was gone. There are two possibilities. The most likely one to me is that it got into the creek and drowned. We have searched the banks but haven't yet waded the creek. We'll do that on the week-end.

If the creek didn't get it, then something took it off the place. That could be a theft or the thing I'd least want to think-- a cougar got it. We know they live in this area but we have never had one predate the livestock. If that is what happened, the problem will not be finished.

It was after that when I thought about that old saying about how things come in threes. I thought it's silly to even think of it, but I wondered.

Perhaps the third came Friday when we saw the emergency vehicles head to the neighbors' home up the road. We found out soon that their 4-year old grandson had taken off with their dog, and there was no idea where he went or what happened. By nightfall, trained emergency teams were on the hill and they had a tracking dog who had picked up his scent. Aren't such groups wonderful!

When they finally found him, it was two miles away and because the homes in that area had been alerted to keep an eye out. They heard their dogs barking and found the dog first and then the small boy. He was okay and as of yet I don't know why he ended up where he was.

If the first two stories had sad endings, this one had as good a one as possible given the upset that goes with a child disappearing that way.
Anyway above is the photo of Parapluie, Fisherman, Farm Boss and me that we took with self timer when they arrived at the beach house Monday afternoon. The first photo is the view from the beach house. There will be a lot more photos to come but it's hard to get my mind around organizing them.

Wednesday night at the beach, I had realized that I was dreading coming home. I had put my return out of my mind until then. It helped me enjoy the trip and truthfully nothing going wrong here could I have fixed.That is how life goes sometimes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

It only matters when a woman says it?

In my blog on Cheney, I ended up commenting on Obama's choice for a Supreme Court Justice to replace David Souter. I am pleased with it but will be interested in learning more about her opinions on some important issues that will be before the court.

Recent appointments like Alito and Roberts, despite them assuring us they were not extreme righties, have proven to be no real surprise to the right or the left. They did what Bush hoped. We have four very conservative judges with one conservative who can be a surprise. Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas have not surprised yet. Kennedy, you never know for sure.

Sotomayor's intellect, her ideas may be healthy for the court. Possibly when they are debating issues, she may put out some thoughts the conservative, neo-con, federalist judges have not considered. She is young, vigorous, has opinions and Scalia might enjoy having her there.

Souter surprised the first President Bush and maybe Obama will be surprised by Sonia Sotomayor. There have been some questions liberals have had about her opinion on abortion rights. She voted with the pro-life side in the two cases where there is a record. Obama has said he did not ask her opinion on abortion because he was looking for other qualities as of primary importance.

The right has viciously attacked her with Newt Gingrich leading the charge in public and probably Rush Limbaugh on his radio program. They would have attacked any liberal pick, but they especially didn't want this one. Rush Limbaugh expressed his fear of her in 1997.

Along with Obama, I like her intellect and background. How can one not admire people who pull themselves up from backgrounds where it's rare?. I do think never having married or had children, being raised in a fatherless home does give her some areas she has no experience on which to draw. Souter had never married either though. He ended up a far more independent thinker than the first Bush had anticipated and Sotomayor might do the same-- to both sides. From what I have read she is very much oriented to the law but law has to be interpreted based on human beings.

As I learn more about her, I may write more but for now I am pleased with the choice. The following article is a good take on the hypocrisy of the right which is nothing new. How apropos that one of the most hypocritical, Newt Gingrich, is aiming for another presidential run. He should do well as hypocrisy has been a byword for the right wing-- think Rush Limbaugh as another prime example. It governs their lives and decisions. Talk one way. Live another.

Anyway in regards their complaints about what Sotomayor has said in various interviews, this is well worth reading:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Will he just go away? Apparently not..

It's hard not to be irritated at not only Dick Cheney but also the part of the media and American public who follow along with whatever he says, at least in the media's case, because it suits their need for excitement and fear. The one good thing I can say for Cheney is he doesn't appear to be encouraging revolution. Imagine what it means to reach that point where that is praise for a Republican from a leftie.

Cheney's goals appear to be several-fold. He obviously wants to rile up the American people. He is clearly not willing to accept lack of power. He is telling us much about the power he did have during the Bush/Cheney administration. He may be worried about criminal prosecutions in the future He is also evidently trying to market a memoir and this kind of media blitz might raise its price. You know one thing about him, from what he did after his first time in power, there's never enough money.

Here are a couple of articles that feel about like I do. The first is the wish that Cheney would be ignored as any other nutty person is ignored. Fat chance but good try: Jane Smiley

The McClatchy Report is about the success that Cheney claimed he had with his policies, the actual facts, and points out where he lied.

Are Americans really this gullible? Some certainly are. I am not really so upset with Cheney. By now we know who he is. But what about those who lap up what he says as if it was gospel? Do they check facts? Do they care? It appears not. Are they as afraid of getting on a freeway as they are of another terrorist attack? I am not saying there is nothing to worry about with terrorism but there are many things in life to fear. Hiding under a bed doesn't protect us. Being frightened leads to mistakes that often makes the results of fear worse than the possible thing we feared. Cheney has one tool to use and he's out there marketing it again.

For part of his time in office, Cheney did a number on Bush. We can pretty well tell what Bush ended up feeling about it by how he transformed his policies on torture, on Gitmo to one ending up much more like what Obama is continuing. The final clue is that Bush issued no pardons before he left office.

Cheney is a manipulator. He has his best success with Rush Limbaugh types. He apparently relishes the excitement of war but didn't want to fight one himself. He is now seeking to create a groundswell of opinion to force Obama to do what he wants. He is no different than he was when he was Vice President.

There is one way to get him to go away. Quit listening to him but that isn't happening and the last I heard his popularity was up to 37%. That does not surprise me given the divide in this country. I just wish that 37% would look at the facts he is claiming, test them against what is out there for information, and then recognize Cheney for what he is, a selfish, bitter man, who has done all the damage he should be permitted to do. Ignore him. If they don't, he'll likely be on their GOP ticket in 2012. Doesn't that just inspire a great feeling!

If he just keeps that same 37%, the ones who never questioned Bush/Cheney during the 8 years they had power, it will be fine; but if we have another terrorist attack, something that nobody can guarantee won't happen, then I don't know what the great middle will do. Logic is no part of the answer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Along the farm creek

There has never been a time I have not appreciated living along a creek in all its moods, its many shades of color and seasons. When things are not going well for any number of assorted reasons, here is a place I find comfort and it never fails me.

It's not just being able to walk down to the creek, but the sound of the water, hearing the creatures that make their home along its banks. Someone released a peacock out here several years ago, and at night I often hear its plaintive cry, sometimes wondering if it's part of a movie, but no, it's from my backyard.

Not to say creek living is without cost. It floods. There are erosion issues. Fences never stay tight, but it's always worth it. If the day comes I must leave here, and nothing lasts forever, I will always miss it but will take my memories with me for as long as I live. If I should die while I am still living here, I want my ashes sprinkled into this water.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A break

Despite it being a most inconvenient time for taking a break, it was scheduled with reservations for a house and a much anticipated vacation with our friends, Parapluie and Fisherman; so Monday through Thursday, I will be gone from the farm.

The situation with the calf is iffy, but she is finally following her mother out of the barn. Now is the mother feeding her adequately? We can hope. At this point, whatever happens happens. You cannot raise livestock for as many years as we have and not know that sometimes you lose these battles. At this point, we have done all we can.

So we will go, enjoy the beach and time with long-term friends, and hope that it will do okay while we are gone. It's hard to leave, but it would do no good for us to stay either. Farm Boss gave the calf treatment for scours (not unusual in newborn calves under stress). I am hoping for the best.

Since I am not likely to be online while at the beach (house does not have internet), comment moderation will slow down posting of comments but I feel I have to leave it there. Sometimes trolls coming through post some pretty ugly things when I write something political (and while I am gone I have one political blog pre-published). While I like alternative views, I don't want nasty, insulting or crude ones. Mostly I have been lucky that the majority of those who comment here, agree or disagree, have stuck to the issues and explained why they believe what they do. Those are the kind of comments I like to read and always will authorize. It is good for us to hear the other side of areas we may have made up our minds but not considered everything.

If I get to a cyber cafe, I'll check in to authorize comments but otherwise, the 28th, I'll be back and post them then. Please do comment if you are so moved as they always add to the blogging process-- well generally do...

Also, because I know some artists read this blog, check out this link: [Can Artists Save the World?]

Parapluie has been talking about this exact same thing for the last year-- the application of her art to political and cultural problems. The writer of the article asks for such artists to send her their stories with the hoped for result a movement for change leading to beauty and thoughtfulness to counteract so much of the ugliness that often gets more attention than it should.

To go along with that theme of beauty--

Although we have had a lot of farm problems, there was still time to get out into some nature areas for a little hiking. These are all photos from earlier in May on a nature trail in the Oregon Coast Range.
They show a bit of what it is like in a deep Pacific Northwest woods.
This year spring has seemed a long time coming. Ahead lies my favorite season. As always, it is worth the wait.

The insects have had a long wait also. Do they mind as much as we do?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A herd can be security or intimidating

The situation with the little heifer and her mother is getting stranger and stranger. Mama will nurse baby but it only works in the barn. Out of the barn mama is back in the herd and baby won't go there. She doesn't like the herd and mama doesn't like being out of the herd.

Saturday morning Farm Boss released mother and baby and we hoped for the best. Mother went into the herd. Calf retreated, actually ran as fast as she could, back to us and the barn. Getting close to the herd is intimidating to her, while the cow finds her security in the herd. There is no denying a herd is a big force with a lot of very large animals-- pros and cons to it.

Is this little heifer a reincarnated cat or some animal that doesn't like herd life? Did she have to be isolated with her mother at the exact wrong time to bond with the herd?

Saturday afternoon, we tried again. This time we decided to take the calf back to where the herd was grazing. After no little effort on Farm Boss's part, stubborn calf, we three got her to the herd. The calf would not move into it and her mother would not leave it.

We decided if he and I made a quick exit and watched from the distance that maybe the calf would go back to her mother and the herd for security. No, she just wandered toward the barn again-- a sad little lost soul out in the middle of the pastures, wandering through the sheep, but not a part of flock or herd.

In the evening Farm Boss got the mother and baby back into their pen but we had no solution to how this was going to be resolved.

So here you see the problem that has had me gritting my teeth and to which we have yet to figure out a solution; however, today is another day. Once again we will release the calf and mama to see if somehow they can find peace with the herd.
(All photos from Saturday, June 23.)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What a month

As I said last blog, there are times when our little ranch seems to mostly run itself. The last month has not been one of those times. There is an up side to this as when there are problems, I am out there more, observing, watching and end up more connected to the animals than during more benign cycles.

First we had the calf that we thought we lost, but that the mother would not let go. With antibiotics, her care, and the little bull calf's own spirit, these photos show where we are with that.

I watched him running and playing with his little buddy (he's the calf running in the back of the first photo). He has a nice round little body, good energy, and it seems we can heave a sigh of relief. *fingers crossed* ( In that photo with him nose to nose with his mama and his friend alongside, don't they look like two kids checking in with mom?)

Then there is the calf that her mother went off and left. That story is still not resolved.

We had the cow and little heifer (heifers are renamed cows after they give birth to their first calves) in the barn, and it all seemed to be going okay. Farm Boss and I had discussed giving it more time in a pen for bonding.

Wednesday morning, Farm Boss came in from his morning barn check with a sheepish look (figuratively speaking). He had decided they were doing fine and he released them both. Mama took off at a run leaving baby behind who had to be wondering what was that all about? Farm Boss had to put the little heifer back in the barn but had early meetings if he was going to be back for shearing.

It wasn't easy getting the cow in first time. Could we do it again? I grimaced but not much I could do about it. Poor little baby. I thought about shooting the mother but that wouldn't solve the problem-- although it might have given me some satisfaction. grrrrrrrr

The cow, once in awhile, would come close to the barn, but she did not come into it, and her calf remained inside-- theoretically orphaned. After Farm Boss got home, before the shearer arrived, we gave the calf a bottle, but milk replacer is never the best solution as nothing replaces a mother's milk or love.

I had about decided that if we had to accept the mother wasn't going to be a mother, we would bottle feed the baby and keep it. The cow though was going to the auction if she didn't get her act together!

When shearing was done, Farm Boss managed to get the young cow back in the pen with her baby. Actually it seemed she wanted to be there. This time he was determined that she was staying until he could see more commitment. He fenced off the end of the barn to keep them together but not in such a small space.

This is not just a problem of the cow but also one for the little heifer. They have to bond. The heifer must see that this is her mother, and her responsibility is to bond to her, respond when she calls, and recognize this is her food source. This is a symbiotic relationship, good for them both, and the calf has things to learn also. Unfortunately, these two are, in a way, both kids who aren't sure what the heck they are doing.

Thursday I kept an eye on how it was going while Farm Boss was at work but wasn't sure. Early on I thought the udder of the cow looked less full. That would be a good sign. It's not like every time I came out there I was likely to catch the calf nursing. Calves do a lot of sleeping when they are newborns.

By evening, when Farm Boss returned, the heifer was acting pretty energetic, jumping around, and quick to nurse when Farm Boss put the cow back in the head-gate. So, how is this going to work? It's looking good but still a wait and see situation.

Even ignoring politics, my flu, the wet weather, it's been a harder month than usual!

(The calf you see in the first two photos is the one we nearly lost. He is so cute, running, jumping, part of the herd, and forming calf relationships. I hope that the little heifer will soon be joining to make it a gang of three.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Shearing-- finally

There are times that farm work is routine without a lot of ups and downs, not even a lot of time required to tend the livestock. But there are also the times where one thing after another seems to engulf all other activities.

Shearing this year was difficult to schedule because of the rains. Several times we corralled the flock overnight, something neither the sheep nor we like, only to have weather or something else go wrong.

After our regular shearer had to cancel due to an injury, we got the name of someone, who actually lives closer to us and finally after more rained-out dates, he came here on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.

A new shearer is an unknown quantity. Will he nick the sheep? How will he handle them? This shearer was experienced, smooth and gentle. This is probably the best I have ever seen the flock look after being shorn.

They are so happy to be rid of all that extra weight. By this time of the year, some of them are carrying around a good 10 lbs. of wool. After shearing, they feel like lambs again. They are happy to be out of the corral but also just to be in their summer wardrobe-- which like mine is sparse.

There is a little head butting, and I am not sure what that is all about. Looking out the window I saw several of them thumping heads, the sound kind of an interesting one-- a little hollow sounding-- with others rushing to get in on the action.

Lambs are the main unhappy sheep. They want their mamas back, and they think their mamas are somewhere in that wool pile. That slim trim animal can't possible be their mother. They go from ewe to ewe and sometimes even past their own mothers and go right on maaa-ing... When they walk by their mother without acknowledging her, she starts complaining. It's a sheep symphony

It sorts itself out after a noisy night. Too bad I can't share a soundtrack with you although, believe me, you don't want to hear it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Could you reject this little face?

Is there an old saying that goes something like if you declare it, it will make it be true? The other side of that coin would be, of course, if you say it, and you didn't want it, that will also come true. I don't buy either but find it rather coincidental what happened on the week-end given what I had said in the last blog about what wonderful mothers cows are.

We went for a walk Sunday evening, a nice leisurely walk up the gravel road with the intent to get photos of wildflowers along the road and a little (very little) exercise. What we didn't expect to see was a brand new calf in the pasture.

Farm Boss kept counting noses as he hadn't thought any more were due right then. There was no denying it-- definitely a new one and obviously born that afternoon. Farm Boss headed for the field while I went back to the house.

My evening was planned-- read a book, watch a movie. I had changed into a nightgown by the time he returned-- reworking my plans. He wanted me to help sort the mother out of the herd. She was a first-timer who was ignoring her calf. I stuffed back on jeans and helped him set up the headgate and make a small corral.

Heading into the field, I reminded him that I help navigate cattle right until they coming running straight at me. Then if he thought I was the woman who is going to stand there, waving her arms, he had the wrong lady. I am the one who is going to be jumping aside and trying to get out of the way.

Heifers are known to be a potential problem for mothering. Large ranchers calve them apart from the older cows who have been through the mix and know what's coming. With a heifer you never really know. Sometimes they reject their calves after a difficult labor but this one didn't have that excuse as we would have seen that going on. She just wasn't ready to be a mom.

On our farm, in raising cattle for now 32 years, we have had maybe 4 or 5 heifers that didn't want to be mamas. It has been rare but came often enough that we bought that headgate. On a small farm, we obviously don't buy equipment we won't use often but this was a pretty important problem whenever it came up. Tying a cow that is already acting goofy only makes them worse.

After our joint failure to cut her out, we decided the better lure would be alfalfa hay. Farm Boss went out with the backhoe from which they are used to receiving hay. That worked and Farm Boss got her into the barn and then headgate with the work just beginning. He held the calf to the udder and tried to help it understand where the milk was. The calf was eager to try but edgy at her mother's behavior. Mama kicked to the side several times.

It didn't improve Farm Boss's mood after he got knocked to the ground by her kick to have me remind him I had said he should hobble her legs. We had both been observing her kicking, plus the nervousness of the calf which meant it had been happening to it. It's not so much that she wanted to hurt the calf (or Farm Boss), but just get them both away from her.So she is in the head gate, hobbled, the calf is nursing, but right now only with Farm Boss pressure. Sometimes this works and sometimes not. We call these mamas teen-age moms which means some are wonderful mothers right out of the gate but others want to go play in the herd and not be tied down.

The worrisome part for me is the mother is not yet making the soft lowing sounds cows make to their babies. If she simply will not take care of it, we have someone who wants it and will bottle feed it which would be sad but better than trying to keep her with a mama who is rejecting her. Depressing but it does happen.
If it happens, the cow will go to auction with the next shipment which is not our first choice. We can't explain the situation to her, but I hope, out of the goodness of her heart, she gets the idea that her baby, who is adorable, strong and eager to survive, needs a mama. She could be a good mother next time; but we have to thin this herd, and she will be the one to go instead of one who was a good mom the first time.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Life in a Herd

The interaction of a cattle herd always interests me. Not too many ranchers have the option of operating a more or less free-living herd. If someone is in cattle raising for the money (well we all like it to make a profit), they don't have the luxury of raising them as we do. The various ages are separated, fed appropriately, bred when it's the right season, sold when they are not profitable. It isn't a choice.

In our case, we live very close to our animals. Our herd is one of all ages, including geriatric, and a bull. We raise them for food but it's only the two year olds that we sell. We keep a few of the heifers as replacements, have the old ones that die or have to be put down for health reasons, and generally have an organic herd to watch move around the farm.

Our herd has a place they tend to have their morning nap, their afternoon nap and where they will sleep at night. Other than when sleeping, meals are continuous affairs, the ultimate movable feast.

Cows can be tough on each other, on a weak cow and employ bullying techniques for reasons maybe only the herd could explain-- if it cared to try; but it has given me much pleasure through the years to see the affection with which the adults treat the young-- and not just their own calves. In some of these photos you see a cow coming up to nuzzle and lick a calf that is not her baby, but for all I know might be her daughter's or even granddaughter's.

I like seeing the bull with the herd in his protective role. Well to be honest, I have thrown a few small rocks at him when he got protective over a heifer I considered to be too young for breeding. I told him what I thought about it but he more or less looked at me as if to say-- are you nuts? And there was definitely no talking her out of it!

So far, allowing the herd to manage its own breeding, has not led to problems in calving, but it's not as professional. We could fence him off from the rest except when it's time to breed, but we are in this partly for the enjoyment of raising the animals, watching the herd's interactions, and seeing him with the others is part of that.

One more calf was born after the one we nearly lost. Those two are tending to hang out together. It's what calves do-- play with their own age group, and form very tight bonds. Often we try to arrange to kill all in such a group at the same time.

I know it seems tough to realize these animals are not pets but are intended for food. It's my least favorite part of raising livestock. Worse is what we are facing this summer as we must thin their numbers (sheep and cattle). Last year, when Farm Boss was calculating taxes, he told me we paid $5000 more for livestock feed than we made on sales. We gulped.

We had known we weren't making a profit in the past, but with cost of hay production going up and cattle prices not, this has been a hard time on growers. Our situation was not so critical when Farm Boss was earning an income off the farm but with retirement (retired from paying jobs, not from working), that cannot go on.

It's not easy to market grass-fed animals directly to consumers. It's especially hard in a culture like ours where people like fatty beef. Many don't understand that grass-fed beef is as healthy as eating salmon in terms of Omega-3. Europeans eat grass-fed beef. Mostly it's Americans and Japanese who do not or at least have not.

If you are one who is interested in healthier meat (and yes there is a slight difference in taste, but I prefer the more flavorful grass-fed), try to find growers nearby to help encourage more of this type of production. It is healthier for the livestock and the consumer. A lot of a people's increased needs for pills might go directly to the kinds of food consumed.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spring Finally Arrives at the Farm... Maybe

Spring has been here since March but it's been hard to prove most days. I have had fires in the fireplace up until night before last. The rain has put Pacific Northwest worries about drought on the back burner at least in my part of Oregon. Colder than usual means the grass has been slower to grow which means our farm had to buy hay longer than usual-- making for an expensive spring.

This much rain has also complicated shearing. Sheep cannot be shorn wet. We would get a possible date for shearing which meant herding them into a barn and closing them up two days ahead of time to keep them dry.

One of those dates, the shearer arrived, but said they were still too wet. The rain had blown in one side of the barn. Guess where the sheep preferred to sleep.

Farm Boss bought plywood and made sure by the next shearing date that there were sides on that corner of the barn. This week, with a new date, we felt pretty hopeful that finally they'd be shorn.

We waited... and waited. The sheep waited and waited-- well they didn't know they were waiting. We got the call several hours after she had scheduled to be here that she had been hurt when shearing lamas, kicked in the knee cap and had to go to the hospital.

So with her kneecap damaged, that puts the potential for her, at best, to not shear until somewhere in June. Not good for the sheep.

We called another shearer and hopefully we can get him here next week. He's more expensive, but at this point beggars can't be choosers. Hopefully our female shearer will be able to do them next year again as I have been happy with how she handles the sheep. This shearer though is very experienced; so it should be fine. The sheep haven't minded their heavy wool; but this week-end, if it really warms up as much as weather is predicting, they will.

Since it was so nice today, I decided to get more herd and flock pictures. None of them pose for anything. If sheep are looking at me, it's because they want something-- like in this case, me opening their gate. I took advantage of that to get most of these before I again was reduced to rear views. The standing there looking impatient photos were pre- and the running were post-.

Actually sheep do not like having their pictures taken. I am pretty sure of that given how many butt shots I have gotten over the years. At least if I have to take butt shots, I am glad they have tails. I have written about that before. It's something the new shearer won't like but shearers are the only ones.

So today photos of the flock and Sunday the herd.