Messes and Miracles (The Flood, Part 2)

The rain turned into a light mist and then dissipated. While enduring the waiting, all I could do was pace…or clean. The girls were inside with me and we were all restless. Little Luxe was feeling the vibes and constantly wanted me to hold her. Taegan decided that a rainy day was good day to go to Papa & Nanny’s, so she took off before Leslee came in the house.

When he walked in, I was ready to get in the side-by-side and go see the situation. He was hesitant to even go driving around because the sound of our Ranger is a call of sorts to our cows. They know when he’s driving around in it that 1) food is coming or 2) it’s time to go to the milk barn. Our stranded cows were already motivated to be milked—as they are every morning—and Leslee didn’t want that to entice them to attempt crossing the creek. It was way too deep and swift!

Not knowing cattle as well as he, I asked, “Are cows good swimmers?”

“Ehhh, they do alright. They really need to be able to bounce off the bottom while they swim to stay afloat. I don’t think they could ever get any footing with as fast as it’s moving and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 10 feet deep.”

Well, that settled that for me. Cows are big, but they’re not that tall. I was really hoping that even if some did attempt to cross this morning, worst case scenario would be getting washed down to a different property, not drowning.

“Can we go check on them? See if they’ve moved or maybe if they’re even there at all??”

He hesitated, but curiosity and concern won out. We loaded ourselves and Luxe into the Ranger and took off for the only vantage point Leslee was able to get to.

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Beauty amidst disaster

It was a muddy mess of a ride with little flood-made rivulets all over the property. Dairy farms tend to be muddy, anyway, so it made an everyday problem ten times worse.

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Sometimes disaster creates beauty.

As we drove through the first gate, the cows that had stayed on higher ground all night were gathered…just standing there. That’s not normal.

“See, look at them,” Leslee said. “They know something’s wrong. You should have felt the mood in the barn this morning. They were mopey and a little tense. They’re missing the rest of the herd.”

He called another cow by name and said, “She’s been bawling quite a bit this morning.” (Bawling means “calling by mooing” if you’re not familiar with dairy lingo). “The girls she’s with aren’t the ones she usually hangs out with.”

Cows have cliques. They stay together for the most part, but they have their certain little tribes within the group. Kind of like people. You tend to separate into different age groups, different likes/dislikes, etc.

Listening to him speak with such care and intimate knowledge of his cattle led me to think of all the bad press farmers get regarding their treatment of animals and the farming practices they choose to implement. I’m sure I could meet some farmers around the world that practice a moral or ethical code that I would not agree with. Show me a career field that DOESN’T have unethical or immoral people. But, THIS farmer on THIS day and every other day is what I know. And it’s worth sharing in a world that seems to be so angry all the time at the people providing them food. This man knows them all by name or number, knows whom runs around with whom, immediately realizes one might be walking with a limp, notices when droopy ears might be a sign of sickness…all of it. He cares.

We arrived on a high-point from which Leslee had last seen a few of the trapped cows. I’d never seen anything like it! Water was EVERYWHERE—to the point I was disoriented about location. I couldn’t pinpoint where exactly we were from where they were because all dry land was covered.

We looked through a gap in the trees and about 250-300 yards across the water, we could see some cows. Not all 36, mind you, but at least some. Leslee breathed a small sigh of relief and said, “They moved.”

“What do you mean they moved?”

“That’s not where they were when I came over here last. They were able to retreat.”

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“Ok, so that’s not the piece of land they were on before?”

“No, it’s covered now.”

I felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude to God then. A friend had told me she was praying for God to put “a hedge of protection” around our cows and seeing them butted right up to a line of trees immediately made me think of her wording. A hedge. That’s exactly what He had done. And whether He had given them some extra intelligence or moved them Himself, they were on higher ground.

Fortunately–and yet still unfortunately–we could only see 6 or 7. Although Leslee was glad to see some had survived, I could tell he was preparing himself for the worst. Thirty-six cows was over half of our milking herd. When you’re a small operation, every last cow matters. Six or seven of 36 was not going to improve our potential loss. Replacing thirty cows was not an option for us financially. The only option upon suffering a loss of this magnitude was selling out and starting a new, unknown journey.

“These are the same cows I saw earlier. I don’t see any new ones,” he said.

“At least these are still OK. We know He’s got these. Maybe we just can’t see the other ones. There’s a lot of trees and brush they could be hiding in. Or maybe they got separated from this group and they’re holed up in a different spot.” Positive Polly here…trying to lift her husband’s spirits.

I was choosing to believe it. I was still going to believe that God had saved every last one of those cows and I just couldn’t see them. So, I got back on the computer and updated our friends and family about the current situation while continuing to ask for prayers of protection. The tremendous outpouring of love, offers of help, and prayer was palpable. If it’s possible to tangibly FEEL the power of prayer and love, I was feelin’ it.

It gave me a good boost for what was next. More rain was coming.

 

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Milestones

This morning, I dropped my baby off at school for her first day of kindergarten.

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I haven’t cried…yet. Luxe isn’t allowing me a chance to. However, I feel like a piece of my heart broke off and stayed at school with her. I can’t wait to pick her up so I can hear about her day.

That Band-Aid on her arm is from a booster shot she had to get on Monday. We got her a little stuffed Husky dog named Slush for moral support. However, I only thought she had to get one shot. They informed us there were 2 for this visit.

Let the meltdown commence. She was bawling before the first needle prick.

Taegan doesn’t like to show weakness, so we walked back out to the parking lot where my mom waited with Luxe with a red face and wounded pride sporting Band-Aids on both shoulders. My mom hugged Taegan and said, “You’re so brave! Such a big, strong girl!”

Taegan sourly replied, “Actually, I cried…”

We got her buckled in and had to chuckle. It’s rough being 5 and beating yourself up because you failed to meet your own self-imposed definition of brave.

But, she is brave. Brave without even realizing the risks she takes.

For instance, a week ago, the farmer had some dry cows with the milk cows. She knows they’re dry because he writes a big “D” on them with a hot-pink paint stick. We have a dry cow pasture where all the expecting mothers usually reside, but he had been letting these few come in the barn with the milk cows to eat grain, but not get milked.

Well, he walks out the other day to find them corralled off in a separate pin that leads to the dry cow pasture. Taegan, our little wisp of a girl, had sorted the dry cows out of the herd and put them where she thought they ought to go. Dry cows need to be in the dry cow pasture, so, by golly, they’re going in there tonight!

Usually, the farmer gets angry when he finds Taegan in the holding pin with the cows. It’s dangerous. She knows that. As he started to get mad, he realized what she’d done and just had to stare in shock for a minute.

“Daddy, we gotta get these dry cows in with the rest of them.”

“Ummm…yep, we do…,” he said.

Her grandma has given her the moniker “Little Pol” around here. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the show, “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” but it’s Taegan’s absolute favorite. She DVR’s it and watches the reruns over and over and over. He’s a veterinarian who has a HUGE clientele in Michigan and does a lot of work on–you guessed it–cattle. Taegan has been known to perform procedures on her calves. The other day, one had a “twisted stomach”, so she was caught getting it on it’s back and rolling it over. The calf was perfectly fine, but it took one for the team.

That being said, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up this morning and, with hardly a thought, she said, “A vet.”

It’s funny because right now, knowing Taegan, I can’t picture her doing anything else. That would be perfect for her.

Today is the first day of her academic career. It’s a milestone that begins a channeling of all this intelligence into more specific things. She’ll continue to learn more about what interests her and what doesn’t. Starting now. Kindergarten, to this mama, is the first step in the journey of growing up. And the farmer and I get to walk that journey for a while with Taegan, our little spirited, capable, determined daughter. We’re so proud and so blessed.

Taegan Dresses Up for Spirit Week

Whew! I survived last week. I was creative. I baked. I shopped. I worked. I counted. I did no cleaning. I snapped pictures. I took deep, cleansing breaths. I did not maintain my sanity. And now I’m back, mostly recovered with only a small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I don’t think I could have chosen a more inconvenient time to be 8 months pregnant. It’s really cramping my style. Usually, I thrive on the crazy and mostly enjoy it. I’m a high-energy person. I like to be involved.

However, some alien form of Breauna resides as the dominant personality in my body right now. She’s not as much fun…maybe because she has to heft a bowling ball around 24/7 amidst all the other fun things that come with the third trimester.

Anyway, last week was Spirit Week at Taegan’s school followed by their Fall Festival Friday night. I’m a PTO officer this year, so naturally, this was going to be a VERY busy week.

First, let’s talk about Spirit Week. Every day was themed.

 

DAY 1: PAJAMA DAY

I didn’t get a picture of Taegan that morning because Monday was the only day I was going to get to work. Picture time didn’t happen because Mommy was too busy trying get herself ready. (And if you knew the hoops I have to jump through to get a picture of this kid, you would know ain’t nobody got time for that). Taegan wanted to wear her red and green plaid Hello Kitty long, flannel nightgown. I got it for her last Christmas and, granted, it is adorable, but it screams “Merry Christmas!” I tried to talk her out of it, but she insisted. Nothing else would do but Christmas Hello Kitty. So, in the pouring down rain, I walked my galoshes-clad 4-year-old into the school looking like Christmas morning.

 

DAY 2: STORYBOOK CHARACTER DAY

Figuring out the storybook character for Taegan to be wasn’t hard. In fact, it only seemed natural for our tutu-wearing tomboy with crazy curls and she just so happens to be the main character in some of our favorite books. None other than Fancy Nancy!

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I bought Taegan a tiara with feathers on it and lots of pink beaded necklaces. We had the rest covered. You can’t see from this picture, but I pinned her mess of curls into a…mess of curls and stuck a few hair bows amidst it all. Ooo-la-la! She was darling. (That’s fancy for sweet). 😉 I tried to encourage her to say “Merci” any time there was an opportunity, but she drew the line at that.

 

DAY 3: WACKY WEDNESDAY

I love children’s books and I’ve read Wacky Wednesday many a time. I had this. I really knew I had it when I saw the look on the farmer’s face at the outfit I was carrying around… that look of “Are you serious?” You betcha! I was on the brink of genius! Don’t question it! See, look, even the picture’s all wacky because she’s nut that won’t stand still.

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But, I crossed right over that brink with her hair. Vertical pigtails!!

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She looked in the mirror and laughed at her whole ensemble. I take pride in it. If one can pat themselves on the back for wackiness, I did it on Wednesday.

 

DAY 4: SPIRIT DAY

There was a home game that evening and it was “Pack the Gym Night.” So, the kids were to wear their school t-shirts or red. Well, low and behold, my child owns not one dress, shirt, pair of pants, or sock that is red. Nor does she own anything with a tiger on it (the school mascot). So, I believe we went to school that day wearing a purple shirt with a fox on it.

We went to the game that night and she got her face-painted with tiger paws. We ended the night with spirit.

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DAY 5: SUPERHERO DAY

I wanted to superhero day right, but my daughter isn’t in to superheroes, so I wanted to come up with something about her that was something special.

I thought, What does Taegan like to do? Be outside or bee bopping around the farm with Daddy.

What is Taegan good at? Well, her little head is filled with various facts about the farm. All of the cows’ names, who’s going to calve soon, who had a heifer or a bull, which ones are dry or need to be milked on the bucket according to leg paint and ankle bands, which ones have recently had “masatitis.”

What is Taegan’s 4-year-old passion? This farm, the country, dirt, and cows. It’s her life.

Then, it hit me. Taegan’s super power needed to be something to do with our dairy. And then the slogan came to me.

DAIRY GIRL: FEEDING AMERICA ONE GALLON AT A TIME

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Complete with cow ears, a cape, and the dairy farming staple: black rubber boots. I’ll never top that because it truly is who she is. Farmers are definitely superheroes and she was so proud to wear it.

As you can tell, Mommy had just as much fun (if not more) with Spirit Week as Taegan did.

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

Winter Scenes in the Country

To celebrate the upcoming (hopefully) week of nicer weather, I decided to share some snow pictures I took one day a couple months ago. These are the things I see when out and about our farm.

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Heifers… and pines. Glorious pines.

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Snow-covered rocks in water like glass.

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Filthy trucks caked in red dirt insulated by a layer of snow accented with a few icicles here and there.

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White horses. There are few things more beautiful than a white horse in snow.

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Black horses. I couldn’t leave her out.

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Red horses. (More just kept appearing!)

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Men carrying axes. (????)

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Men breaking ponds. (Phew! I was concerned.)

Have a lovely week and a happy Valentine’s day!

Breauna