June-July: A List

Whew! This summer has been crazier than any other summer I think I’ve experienced. And by crazier, I mean BUSY. And by busy I mean, my poor little blog takes the back burner more than I would like.

Today, I’m going to attempt to squeeze June-July into one post.

1. I’ve been working 2 days a week at the law firm I work for in the city. I love the job, but I do not love the 2.5-3 hours I spend on the road getting there and back. And see, my right foot is kind of on the heavy side and I’m all about efficiency, so I’m waiting for the day when I become both an employee and a client.

2. After returning from Orange Beach, we had the Tri-County Fair to go to. This is Taegan leading her calf, Triumph, into the barn.

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She’s looking less and less like a toddler every day, which means I catch myself just staring at her while wave after nostalgic wave rolls through me all the while trying to picture who she’ll be when she grows up…

WAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!

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She had a great time and made new friends. Some human, some bovine.

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Naturally, she and Triumph won first place.

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(Little secret: It helps when you have absolutely no competition. Zero.)

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A blue ribbon, a new lead rope, and a good friend.

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Because of Triumph’s star status and her new position as playmate, she gets the privilege of just running free in our yard. I look out the window and there’s Triumph just walking around, picking grass, looking in windows, chasing Banjo, or being led around by Taegan. (She still gets “showed” on a daily basis). Basically, Triumph is now a pet.

She sometimes gets tired of being led around and runs into the brush and weeds. This occurred a few weeks back. Never fear, though. I’m definitely not raising a dummy.

Who does one call when a cow won’t come out of the brush and weeds?

That’s right…Banjo.

I stepped out on the deck and witnessed this: Triumph had made it impossible for Taegan to get to her, so I heard Taegan yell, “Banjo!”

Dun-Dun-DAAAHHH! He really does need a cape.

He runs to her and looks at her like, “What ya want me to do?” She says, “Go get it!” Trust me, you don’t have to tell him twice. He lives for this. He bounds off barking and carrying on, gets behind the calf, and drives her straight to Taegan.

I was totally enthralled. The intelligence of both my daughter and her dog…I couldn’t do anything but laugh and then go call her dad.

Triumph doesn’t run into the brush anymore. And Taegan really doesn’t need a lead strap for Triumph to follow her around now. She just does it.

And Banjo gets to lay in the shade and enjoy some reprieve.

For now.

(Note about Banjo: I mentioned that we were sending him to get trained a few posts back. Weeeeellll, it didn’t go so well. See, we wanted him to learn how to herd. Like, go get the cows and bring them all to the barn for us. Long story short, he got kicked out of herding school. You should have witnessed my husband. The disappointment. The anguish. The embarrassment. Blue Heelers are what the trainer called “drivers.” Border Collie’s are “herders.”She told us up-front that she didn’t know if he would do it, but she’d give it a try. Yeah…no. But you know what? He’s still very useful around here. As a playmate, as entertainment, as a guard dog, and as a helper. Taegan obviously knows what he’s good at and when the farmer is out rounding up the girls to go the barn and he has one that just doesn’t care about going, all he has to say is, “Where’s Banjo?” and she’ll start moving right along. She doesn’t think we really need to go to extremes, now, do we? They’d rather him not be around.)

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Getting a picture of all of our kids even looking at the camera is impossible, but they all really enjoy this time of year. It’s a lot of work getting these calves ready and they (and their parents) put a lot of time into preparing. My sister-in-law, Tanna, was the one that really worked hard with Taegan and her kids and we’re glad because Taegan probably wouldn’t show at all if it wasn’t for her. Thank you, Tanna!

There’s a lot more over the last couple of months to tell you about, but I’ve got to take Taegan to swim lessons, so I’ll just have to write more throughout the following days. Stay tuned.

 

To be continued…

 

Breauna

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Bringing You Up to Date and Rambling

I’m coming up on my second anniversary of being a full-fledged farm wife. On the front lines. Fully immersed in the red dirt and poo. Over the last year, I’ve done less and less of the actual labor part of farming. I don’t get in the milk barn much at all anymore. I spend more time at my desk with the numbers than I ever have because we continue to slowly and steadily grow. I’ve also been working part-time for an attorney in the city. I enjoy it immensely (the finances and the part-time job), but it leaves me a lot less time for my blogging hobby. Not to mention that it’s hard to feel inspired when it’s thunder-snowing with freezing rain tornadoes followed by beautiful spring-like temperatures followed by 18 degrees, quarter-sized hail, 30mph sleet-winds.

I’m serious. One day it looks like this.

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The next day it looks like this.

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I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready for spring in my life!  I can’t even imagine how our cattle feel.

We haven’t been up to anything different than the usual around here. The farmer bought more cows in August and they’ve been sporadically calving in. He’s been busy trying to keep them alive from freak accidents and bad weather. We’ve had 3 black bulls from Solomon.( If you’re not familiar with him, click here: http://wp.me/p1lzEK-hR) However, only one has survived. The first calf born to one of our heifers met his end by falling off a 15-foot bluff and drowning in the spring below. The farmer was just sick about it because she calved early. He had been moving all of the ones that were “due any day now” close to the house. That’s one thing I’ve learned about farming. If they’re not in a barn, left to their own devices, these cows will give birth to their offspring in the most remote, dangerous spot on the farm. Let’s not speak of giving these calves a fighting chance. Apparently, our cows want to raise warrior calves and believe in the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” philosophy. I mean, not only do they have to worry about winter, coyotes, and  abandonment  by  a heifer that seems to think she just had a really rough time going to the bathroom, but bluffs with 8 inches of running spring water underneath.

Wide loads! Comin' through!

Wide loads! Comin’ through!

Then, the farmer had to pull another one, but it was stillborn. So, our luck so far this year hasn’t been the greatest. The farmer did a good job planning so that none of them would calve in January-mid February (the worst part of winter) and here we are, having terrible weather in March. One of our new, really nice cows calved overnight and the farmer has been awaiting her calf with much anticipation only to not be able to find it all this morning. The cow keeps mooing across the fence, but the farmer can’t even so much as find a piece of hair or any sign of the calf. We found mountain lion tracks on our place during the last snow, so he thinks it was either that or coyotes.

And then you always have to worry about a cow getting her back down a hill during labor. She’ll have the calf, but not be able to get back up to lick it and encourage it to eat. In this weather, it will freeze in no time. That’s the situation he came upon with another cow this morning. He got the momma cow turned the right direction, picked up the calf to take it with him, and returned to the milk barn soaked with slime. He put it in the warm bulk tank room hoping he could save it and so far, it’s worked. Needless to say, he’s been busy. And that was all just before church Sunday morning.

Peanut’s been going to preschool during the days. She’s still loving it and it’s heartwarming to watch her make friends and know that there’s a possibility that some of them might be life-long ones. She’s blossoming educationally and socially. And I find myself flip-flopping between being so proud that she can do so much and feeling sad because my baby’s growing up. Baby # 2 fever has definitely arrived!

Peanut only had a half-day at preschool last week and the weather was nice, so we went driving around checking cattle with the farmer. He turned to me and said, “Well, I guess we’ll go back to the house and get the trailer so we can load that heifer and bring her back to the house.” Just a second after that, Peanut looks at him and repeats verbatim what he just said like it was her idea all along. In a more commanding tone. He looked at me and quietly said, “I tell you what, whatever she ends up doing when she grows up, we are raising a boss.” It didn’t take her 5 seconds to reply, “You’re not raising a boss, Daddy. I am the boss already.” He was rendered speechless and I just had to laugh. (Sigh) You gotta love 3-almost-4 year olds… This picture is all the illustration you need of the role she plays around here.

The Boss

The Boss

I have so many stories about Peanut. I think the third year has probably been the toughest as far as child-rearing has gone. (For me, anway. Two was a peach compared to three. All I can say is attitude…attitude…attitude.) However, in some ways, three has been super rewarding because I see Peanut follow the examples her dad and I are trying to set for her. In church Sunday morning, we had our Bibles open and guess what? So did Peanut. It doesn’t matter that we were in Hebrews and she was in Lamentations; it clarified that she’s watching. Later during the sermon, she turned to the farmer and told him he wasn’t on the right page. She flipped his Bible to some other random page and told him, “Now, you’re right.” (Doing to us what we do to her.) It was funny.

She has so much spunk and my family likes to laugh and say, “We can’t wait to watch this story unfold.”  Neither can I.  It’s going to be interesting.

Banjo is as weird as ever.

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He’s still chasing birds…as their flying in the sky.

He’s still dragging all kinds of dead things into my yard.

He still hates cats. (I don’t know of one Blue Heeler that will not kill cats if given one split-second of a chance.) However, he also hates mice. Actually, he hates all animals smaller than him. I like cats and would enjoy having some mousers around here, but if Banjo spots a mouse, it’s a goner. Problem is, he doesn’t hunt them like a cat does… He redeems himself with me by being the best alarm system for snakes. If there is a snake in the yard, Banjo will seriously chase you out of the yard and away from the snake. For that reason, him and I have a special bond.)

And he still entertains me when I catch him outside the window chasing his tail.

Somewhere between the middle and end of March, we’ve planned to start stock dog training for him with a trainer that knows more about what they’re doing than we do. Might as well, right? Why not have a dog that can gather the cows instead of the farmer going after them every morning and afternoon? Why not have a dog smart enough to sort and know what gate you want different cows to go through? That’s our plan, anyway. I’m all about productivity and efficiency around here. Even the dog has to pull his weight.  We’ll see how it all turns out.

Sorry about all the rambling. Just thought I’d let my loyal readers know what we we’ve been up to lately. I’d go take some pictures of some new babies, but I don’t particularly like getting pelted with what feels like glass when I step outside the door, so you’re left to read my ramblings.

I’ll try to do better once spring comes.

Ta-ta for now,

Breauna

Name This Bull – And the winner is…

A name has been selected and the winner is…

Kim Lorton!! “Solomon…he’ll have lots of wives and concubines!”

Be watching the email you entered on the blog for your prize. 😉

Ok, everyone, I need some input and help from you today. Our dairy now has a new addition to the family, but I have yet to name him. Because I can’t come up with anything that suits my fancy.  He’s very different.

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See? He kinda’ sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s a young Angus that the farmer decided to get in order to diversify a little. And upon arriving here, he got to work right away, so we’re hoping to have some nice little Angus/Jersey calves in about 9 months.

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I just can’t come up with a suitable name for him, guys. I’m looking for something clever. Suggestions would be very much appreciated and possibly rewarded if I choose your name.

Happy Thursday!

The Dairymaid

P.S. Please leave suggestions in the comment space at the bottom of this post.

One Year Removed From the City – Reflections

It’s been a little over a year now since I planted both feet here on the dairy farm. It’s at this point, 27 years old, that I have realized that plans mean nothing. I lived in the future every day. I now live in the present. There’s no telling where my journey will take me. Because never in my life would I have dreamed it would lead me to a dairy farm. Out in the middle of nowhere. An hour and a half from my family, my friends, and my beloved Panera. An hour and a half from all my plans and the world I thought I was going to conquer. I’ve grown up a lot since then. Priorities in the right place now and all that jazz. I have learned to grocery shop once a week (kind of). I have become accustomed to cooking rather than running to the closest Chinese place. My domesticity has increased ten-fold. I now have culinary skills and consider myself a good cook, where all I used to possess was quick-wit and a goofy personality. This is how I won the farmer, because goodness knows I didn’t possess any traditional wifely skills.  I still can’t sew. I’m not a fan of baking pies and other delectable treats.

(Less baking = slimmer waistlines, right? Can I argue that I don’t bake because it’s good for my family? Reaching? No? I agree.)

And this will be the first year I’ve ever tried my hand at a vegetable garden. But, I can clean my house to an absolute sparkle and I. Can. Cook. Never, EVER, thought I’d be able to say that. Another unexpected twist in my journey.

I digress. Moving on. I have encountered snakes…in my yard. In our buildings. And in my dreams. If I run screaming out of anywhere, the farmer doesn’t even ask. He just comes, shaking his head and chuckling. But, you know what, unlike last year, I don’t wish death upon them anymore. It’s only ever been black snakes that I’ve seen…so far. And my hatred of mice has made snakes my new, albeit revolting, bedfellows. And you know, it’s not that I’m afraid of mice. Not at all. They startle me more than anything with their scurrying everywhere and random “eee-eee-eee’s” while I’m trying to go through boxes in storage. Yeah, they need to die, too. You would think with two barn cats that the mouse population would be hurtin’ around here. ‘Fraid not. Just another aspect of a dairy farm that I have adjusted to. With a plethora of seed, feed, grain, and corn comes an infinite population of mice. They smell awful and they are just gross.

I have dealt with more bugs than I have probably dealt with in the 25 years before I lived here. And I hunt flies with a ferocity of which I am only just learning I possessed. They, also, must die. If I could kill one slowly and make an example of it to all of its fly friends, I would. And I would revel in it.

Rewind to my fear of snakes up there. I also have an unmanageable fear of wasps, dirt dobbers, hornets, etc. Basically anything that looks like what I think is a wasp sends me ducking, running, shrieking, whatever I need to do to get away from it. I have never been stung by a wasp. You know why? Because I avoid them like the plague.  Yesterday, one was on the windshield of the tractor while we were driving. I said, “Leslee, so help me, if that thing somehow gets in here, I will jump out of a MOVING TRACTOR!” I didn’t have to make good on that exclamation, but it’s a good thing tractors go relatively slow.

Anyway, moving on, I have learned to not set trash bags on the deck for the farmer to take off. These little creatures with black and white stripes really appreciate that. (It stood there and watched me through the sliding glass door as I stood there, stunned. )

Photo taked by Kim Staton

Photo taked by Kim Staton

I have watched my husband artificially inseminate our cows. Also, stunned. (So glad I’m not a cow. So glad I’m not the farmer, too.)

Photo taken by Kim Staton

Photo taken by Kim Staton

I have watched the dog eat cow manure. (Grimace.)

I have asked incessant questions about cattle and the farm even though I don’t actually milk the cows. I have no desire to milk cows or be a dairy farmer. I’d rather just follow my husband around with a camera. But, I am very interested in the happenings of the farm and how everything works. How to be efficient and constantly improve our business model. And I can now sound fairly educated when conversing with other farmers.

I have become accustomed to the overwhelming odor of “dairy farm” as I exit my car after a long trip away. (Your senses acclimate when you’re here every day.)And I have had manure fumes waft through my windows as the farmer spreads it over the fields. My step-mom once told me, “That’s the smell of money.” It’s a good point, and I’ve thought differently about it ever since.

I have finally gotten past the point of caring what my car looks like. It will never be clean. Ever.

If I had known when I got married that my husband would now be a dairy farmer, I would never have gotten married in June. Hay takes priority over anniversary celebrations. However, I’m ok with that this year. At least this year, there is actually hay to bale.

On the positive side of things, the invention of Pinterest has helped me stay up-to-date on my wardrobe.  I love clothes, but seeing the farmer in Muck boots, jeans, and a tshirt every day was very uninspiring.  Feelings of listlessness and enui  might have overtaken me if I wouldn’t have been able to make 54 boards of total and udder randomness.  (Ha! “Udder”)

"A true photographer closes both eyes to capture the best shot." Quote and photo by Kim Staton

“A true photographer closes both eyes to capture the best shot.” Quote and photo by Kim Staton

I have learned more about photography.

I have watched my dear, sweet husband berate himself for not being able to hit the vein the first time on a sick cow. She had milk fever and was not doing well at all. I held the IV bottle while he spoke to her with soothing words.

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I have watched storms roll over the Ozark Mountains and, let me tell you, it’s a breathtaking sight. Looming thunderheads don’t look the same in the city.

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I have probably spent hours, if you add it all up, just staring at the farmer’s muscles as he works. It’s captivating. (Unfortunately for me, he never makes it easy to capture a shot of them in action. Then, I could stare even longer.)

I have sweated and felt the joy of productivity after a hot, reviving shower.

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I have listened as the creek roars or gently whispers over the rocks.

Photo taken by Kim Staton

Photo taken by Kim Staton

I have learned that a successful farmer has to have an excellent business mind. It’s a VERY risky business with no room for silly decisions.

I have watched my husband, after working like a dog all day, still find the energy to play like a child with our daughter.

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I have learned about humility and what it is to feel so small and so young  amid the vast blue sky and old, rolling hills.

I am learning what being content really means. It’s when you’re rolling down a dirt road on the tractor next to your husband and your daughter. She’s asleep in his lap and he turns to you, even amid all the stresses and worries of farming, and says, “This is the life.”

And I have watched my daughter grow from this…

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into this.

Serious Peanut

Photo taken by Kim Staton

I may not have planned this path, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this farm is where I belong. For now, at least. At first, I felt like I was losing the person I had worked so hard to become. I still had a lot to learn.  Because, you know what, that wasn’t the point of all this change in my life. It’s about becoming the person I’m supposed to be. And I’m open. I’m ready to see what else life has in store for me, without making any plans. Because, so far, I have been so blessed.

The Dairymaid

Where Da Cows At?

Feeding and checking cows is part of our daily routine here at the farm.

I use the term “our” very lightly. The farmer and Peanut usually do this. I spend this time cleaning and scrubbing the house.

I use the terms “cleaning” and “scrubbing” very lightly. The definition of those words to me, lately, is burying my nose in a book called Fall of Giants. Hee hee.

Today, however, the farmer and Peanut had the privilege of my presence on the feed run. We started at one of the pastures where we keep 8 heifers. We’ll take a little jaunt back to middle school and call them the C team. These girls aren’t bred, so they’ve got a ways to go before they’re on the line.

Um, ladies…??

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(Cue the music)

dum-duh-dum, dum-duh-dum, dum-duh-da-da-dum,

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dum-duh-dum, dum-duh-dum, dum-duh-da-da-dum…

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Texas just can’t help but lick her lips in anticipation! Corn chops, molasses, distiller’s grain, blender pellets…If that doesn’t make your mouth water, I don’t know what will!

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Uh…ya got a little somethin’ on your nose, there?

We passed by the A team on our way.

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The farmer’s uncle has some beef cattle we keep any eye on. My husband is usually extremely observant, so it didn’t shock me at all to hear him say, “I’m thinking we’ve got a baby. That gray cow is hiding in the trees.” I had to look for a whole minute before I even saw her. She was gray, OK??

I really wanted to show you this Brangus because I get such a kick out of how cute they are. Pointy heads and big ol’ floppy ears. I don’t have a full Brangus calf to show you, but if I did, you would see a bovine rabbit. That’s what they look like to me, anyway.

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If you got between her and any calf, she would cease to be cute very quickly. I’m pretty sure this breed takes pleasure in mowing humans to the ground. They’re great mommas because they’re fiercely protective.

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I’m a little concerned about this pairing. I’m thinking someone got switched at birth.

Finally, we drove over to check on the cow trying to hide and saw a little gray blob on the ground. The farmer and I were worried. It got down into the teens the night before. That’s awfully cold for a little one to come into the world.

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But not for this little toughie!

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He just might be one of the cutest calves I’ve ever seen.

So glad I went along for the ride today.