September 10, 2014

Sept 10th is the #InternetSlowdown. Show the world what’ll happen if we lose #netneutrality. 

August 5, 2014

Getting Some Canning Accomplished

We couldn’t resist.  Found Zucker here -completely out of it – as we headed to bed last night.  He was even snoring!  Give him pillows all around the house.  Why bother?!

After my appointment with the doctor last Tuesday – I’ve been trying to drudge my way forward – and carefully.  Daily exercises with my left foot.  I have no choice but to do stretches if I want to get out of bed.  Otherwise – it feels as if I’ve had an ice pick stuck up my shin through the heel of my foot.

I’ve been getting some canning out of the way – in between heading out to try cleaning up and reviving my veggie garden.  Got the first case of green beans set up with the pressure canner – all by myself!  Hubs has helped with the white grape jelly.  We have 4 cases, so far.  I’ve got another 2 cases to get finished today.  Had to run for more pectin yesterday, while getting some grocery shopping done.

The reason for my jelly being so dark – 1 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar added to each batch.

Sent Jen home with a couple jars last night.  I woke up with a text from her – informing me that her roommate tasted it.  “Mmmm….. You hungry?”  She got busy making biscuits.  Jen said it was 10:50pm when they sat down to pig out.  LOL

I went ahead and stopped by the new produce place by the park on Grove Street in Loudon yesterday.  I didn’t get to plant any squash.  And our corn is becoming an issue.  Just not sure if it will make as well as I’d hoped.  It was more than my foot that was hurt at the wrong time of year - for sure.  But I am so happy the place has opened!

I picked up a dozen ears of Peaches and Cream corn, along with some squash and some Grainger County Tomatoes.  We’ll be having our Grilled Tequila Lime Chicken Skewers during this run of days off.  The yellow and Zucchini squash goes great in the mix, along with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and Cilantro.

We’re selling the boat.  We haven’t been able to take time to go out fishing for the past 2 years.  It’s been dead money – sitting in the garage all this time.  So – we decided to make better use of the space and money.  Plans for another boat are on the list for down the road – after we move from here and find our new home with more land – if we need one at all.  Hopefully – we’ll find a place with a couple ponds that we can stock with fish.  If not – a place near Savannah, Georgia – where we can enjoy seafood again – safely.  Both of us are squeamish about eating seafood from the Gulf of Mexico anymore.

Well – I don’t recall ever teaching April how to tell time.  But she seems to have learned – somehow.  And there are times when I wish they made muzzles for cows.  She has the most obnoxious scream.  Worse than a donkey.

Time to head out for this morning’s feeding!

July 28, 2014

Cora's Transformation - Part 2

If you haven't read Part 1 - Go Here First!

We had a situation erupt – 3 days after Cora gave birth to Seamus.  Naturally – it was a Friday night.  Not a good time to have this huge necessity become a reality - getting Cora into the chute.  The last time we tried getting her into the chute – Dwayne had backed it up to the gate for the little yard.  He refused to square it up – and left a gap.  Cora jumped through - and jumped me.  Knocked me on my butt.  Scared the crap out of Dr. Kate.  I got up looking for the cow.

That was a bad day.  Dwayne had to repair fencing and run a LOT MORE hotwire.  Cora didn’t get her annuals that day.  Brucey had jumped through the gap before Cora.  He jumped over the 3 foot fence for the chicken yard.  And then he got too scared to jump back over – after we got a halter and lead rope on him.  Dwayne had to rip up part of the fence so I could get him out.  And then that fart walked with me - all the way across the open area – into Artist’s paddock – all the way across to the gate for the little yard – ALL THE WAY into the chute – head secured in the headgate – without a bit of hassle.

I miss my Brucey.

The next time Cora had to be treated was for having a screw removed from her leg.  She’d yanked the cattle rub off the wall and tripped over the mount.  Thank God – the screw made a clean pass above her hoof.  Thank God for giving me the inclination to look all our cattle over when I feed.  And for cellphones that can take pictures.  But Kate had to scrounge up a Dart gun.  And it took 2 darts to knock Cora’s lights out so she could be treated.  We took advantage of the moment and gave her the annuals then.

Dwayne and I had fun touching her face and loving on her after Kate put her on her feet again – while Cora was still drunk.  J

But on this 3rd day after birthing Seamus - I had to wait for Dwayne to get home from work.  He had to use the tractor to move the Chute on its trailer.  We had to take it through April’s paddock – then through Storm and Dodger’s paddock – then get it into Artist’s paddock.  The tractor and the trailer were too wide for the gate with the latch installed.  Dwayne had to remove the latch.  We used a chain and clasp for the time being.  He had to unhitch the chute from its trailer.  He had to drag the chute into the little yard with the tractor.  And then we had to hand-pull the trailer into the little yard – hook it back up to the chute – hook that back up to the tractor – and manipulate it until we had it butted up to the door of the barn.  None of it comes easy.

Cora’s udder was in trouble.  And we had to get her into the chute before calling for any kind of help.

We had to use Seamus for bait – tying him outside the chute.  And one more surprise came when Dwayne managed to get a nylon combination halter/ lead rope on Cora.  We were shocked that he managed without her getting as ugly as April or Patty.  But she wouldn’t budge one step forward for him.

I showed her the sweetfeed – before handing it to Dwayne.  He held the bucket while I took the lead rope and prodded.  We all made our way through the chute until we got Cora secured in the headgate.  I let her touch her baby first.  And then – I always – follow through when I con with the sweetfeed.

I don’t like to my husband.  I don’t lie to my kids.  I don’t lie to my cows.

Thank God for ADCA members - and a Vet that was willing and able to show up on this particular Saturday.  We called Kathy Chaney.  She hooked us up with Jennifer McPheeters – who got dressed and drove all the way over to our place to help.

I will never forget a particular moment.  Jennifer was well into the milking when she was informed that she was milking a brood cow - that had only recently allowed us to touch her – and had never been milked before in her life.

But it got even better.  Jennifer informed us – she had never milked a cow in her life before!  Only goats.  And none of us could believe the pail of milk was standing there so still – filling up so fast.

And Seamus.  He was only a 3-day-old bull calf – enduring some very unexpected and expedited halter training.  He was so tiny that we used the nylon combination halter/lead rope for lambs.  And that little boy was just a pure natural at it.  He was so good!  He did such a wonderful job at it!  He stood right there by Mama – where they could see and touch each other.  And he’d just lay down when he got tired of standing.

Cora spent over 3 hours in that chute.  That made it a bit harder to get her back into the chute on Saturday.  I had to help with getting the combo halter on her.  And then Kate had to help us when she got there - getting Cora’s backside in and locked in so we could get her into the headgate.  Dwayne thought it through and we put a Control halter on her while we had her in the chute.

Me and Cora had a little party after we got that halter on her.  ;)  It was funny!  Her eyes started shining!  She knew what was going on.  She had her own bling – just like all the others!  She’d never had a real halter on in her life before that day.

And then Dr. Kate got busy.  It was a list that included - examining her – taking teat cultures – milking her out –injecting her 2 right side teats with antibiotic - and needle punching her all over the place – under her tail – both sides of her neck.  Once again – we took advantage of the situation – dealing with those annuals.  This was worse than that 3+ hours she’d spent in the chute during the night before – even though she wasn’t in there near as long.  But I did all I could to keep her attention redirected.

I taught Seamus a game. Love Mama, Seamus.”  He’d stick his head through the headgate and rub up and down her brisket!  They learn so fast at such an early age!  “Awww – Seamus loves his Mama!”  And Cora would start licking his neck and back.

I took advantage of having her in the chute – proving reasons to trust being touched.  She finally experienced being brushed.  She went through the touching on her face and figuring out what I was doing with the others when I do that while saying – “gentle.”  She’s come to enjoy that!  I’d rub her ears.  She’d almost go to sleep.

We went through several days afterward - getting Cora into the chute so we could milk out her right side quarters and inject the SpectraMast.  Each day became more of a challenge to get her into the chute.  Having that Control Halter on her has been a huge help.  But she just won’t budge for anyone but me.  And even then – it’s a fight.

We moved the chute away from the barn door and to an area that’s shaded in the evenings after Dwayne comes home from work.  We had several more days when we had to haul her into the chute and milk her out – even after finishing up the box of SpectraMast.

There’s a possibility that she may have let her milk down on that day when we tried putting her into the paddock with April and Aon.  It was a week or so before Seamus was born.  That may have contributed to the Mastitis developing.  It was shortly after that – when her udder began to just blow up.

(Took Cora 5 minutes to square April up about who was Boss!)

Time finally came when we could put Cora and Seamus into the paddock with April and Aon.  We had to bring them back into the little yard to milk her a couple times.  But we changed rations to get everybody grazing more.  And we began seeing Cora’s udder looking normal as it should be.  Dwayne discovered later – we were getting some help!

Dwayne busted Aon and Seamus – both – nursing on Cora.

Aon is a smart fart.  He lets Seamus get situated with his butt to his mama.  And then Aon gets situated on the left side of Seamus.  Seamus hits the right quarters.  Aon hits the left side!  He has no trouble finding things!

Seamus won’t mess with the teats on the right side because they’re too big for him.  And he always got so confused on the left side of Cora.  He kept bumping her under her chest – trying to get her to let her milk down.  Wrong end!

Kate will be coming out to inject Cora’s udder quarters with a prescribed med for drying up when we begin weaning.  We’re taking this protocol to assist with ensuring a better chance of having no issues in the future.

It’s come along so well that I can walk out to the paddock with a brush and Cora will stand there – enjoying every bit of it!  She even walks toward me when she sees the brush.

It’s amazing to me – the fact that it only took a year.  I’m sure the circumstances had a lot to do with helping.  But it’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to love on that cow!!

Don’t laugh at me.  Having a steer for a pet is a whole lot damn cheaper than a dog!!

Obviously – she’s wanted to fit in and be pampered like all the others.  She just needed time – patience – a little nurturing – and a lot of compromising.

Nobody can recognize that need for fitting in with the others more than me.

Never let anyone tell you that cows are stupid.  If you take the time to pay attention closely enough – they’ll tell you all kinds of secrets!

July 27, 2014

Cora's Transformation

(Taken as soon as I noticed Cora in labor and before the storm hit.)

It was a vision in my mind of the difference living here could make for Cora – that made sense out of deciding to cull Patty from our Herd.  It’s hard to describe.  But there was a moment I will never forget - on April 27, 2013.

I had Cora’s calf in our Gorilla cart – beckoning her to follow me into the barn so I could get both of them into a stall and out of the storm.  That baby needed to be put under the heat lamp and dried off – fast.

Cora followed me.  She got about 20 feet from the barn door – before Patty came charging up.  She T-boned Cora and started raising cane at Cora – demanding she come back.  Patty forced Cora all the way back to the furthest corner of the paddock.

It was an ‘eye-to-eye’ contact of communication between the 2 of us that told me so much.  In Cora’s eyes I could see her telling me that she wanted to come with me.  But she had no choice other than to go with Patty – no matter what she wanted.  Patty was one to get revenge when the Humans weren’t around.

And I knew that.  I’d seen it.  Patty never could see me watching her from between the blades of the window blinds in my sewing room.

But it was that moment of ‘eye-to-eye’ contact with Cora that put a solid hunch into my heart.  I just knew Cora would be so much happier – if Patty were gone.  And a day would come when I could brush her.

We just don’t sell mean animals.  Patty became much nicer – in the Freezer.  And you could just – feel – this warm and fuzzy blanket of – pure calmness – covering our entire property – as soon as that livestock trailer could no longer be seen or heard by the others.

It’s been a long – slow – patient – compromising journey with helping Cora build trust enough to fit in just like all the others – over this past year.  But we’ve pampered her.  We’ve never pushed.  She’s enjoyed the cookies – the extra hay – having so many things her way.  She’s appreciated being allowed to come inside the barn during the rough cold winter periods and during storms.  She’s appreciated the respect we’ve given her.

Through it all – she’s maintained 2 rules - “Do NOT touch me.” – “I don’t share my food with anybody!”

We’ve had to dance around the issue regarding her food rations.  Our first go-round of having April and Anna in the same paddock with her presented problems during meals.  She wasn’t backing down.  So we tried bringing the other 2 girls into the little yard to share the bunker during meals.  When it works – you go with it.  When it doesn’t work – you better be willing to think fast and try something else – if you want your own supper.

Cora has enjoyed – and appreciated - her life here since Patty left.  And she let that be known when April dropped her first calf.  She witnessed April take such a drastic switch into a negative direction with her behavior – as soon as that calf hit the ground.

Cora was in her own stall – beside April’s – when she watched April throw Dwayne into the air and against the wall.  All he was doing was picking up manure so she could enjoy a clean stall.  Cora’s always understood and appreciated that care from us.  She’s never resisted scooting over so we could “get the poo-poo” for her – not even when she spent a week in her stall after having Stormy.

She witnessed April’s constant attempts to ram us when we tried dishing her grain into her feed trough – even when we’d try giving that girl extra hay.  But I think the turning point came when Cora saw April ram me out in the paddock - and hurt my right arm – which I’d had surgery on in January.

Training Cora to come inside her stall to eat paid off in more ways than we’d even hoped.  We needed to be able to con her into that stall – especially when it came time for her to calve.  Having this calf was a whole new ballgame for her.  Patty wasn’t around.  And we wanted her to enjoy the experience – for a change.  But we never assumed things would go as hoped.

The surprise came when we noticed her eagerness and willingness from the start.  This was just one more thing that Cora wanted – in order to feel like she fit in with the others.  She wanted to eat inside her own stall – like April.  With the exception of the few days she spent in that stall after she calved Stormy – Cora had always shared the alley of the barn with Bruce – or – alone.

We turned April and Aon out into the paddock – after they’d had time to bond and he was fit for going outside.  We tried turning Cora out with them.  Right off the bat – Cora began trying to nurse Aon.  And she began shoving April out of the way.

We had to pull Cora out of there – immediately.  She was close to calving.  We could not have another calf robbing the Colostrum from Cora that would be needed for her own calf.

We’re not quite sure if this may have attributed to a problem we had later.

But the trouble we had with getting her out of there had me concerned.  Cora’s persistence – reluctance – followed by blowing snot at me for the rest of the day – had me feeling there was something more to it.  I had to kiss her butt with cookies and extra hay – even after the sweetfeed – just to get her to stop blowing the snot.

We know now – and we will try next time – milking the colostrum from Cora for storage – before pulling April’s calf and putting it with Cora.  But things with Cora began changing after that.

My routine with her during meals was to – deliberately – set her feed bowl in the furthest corner of her stall.  I was letting her know that I was respecting her flight zone in a small space.  I picked up manure around her – first.  And then I would lay her hay out along the front wall of her stall.

All of this – at the time – was about conditioning her - preparation for being able to access her stall with her and the calf inside.

I always made a point of swinging out - away from her big preggers butt to leave the stall after setting down her feed bowl.  The 2 of us developed a comfortable routine within a couple days.  Cora would follow me in and even give me room to set the bowl down before approaching to put her nose inside.  Basically – I’d walk the back wall of the stall – then walk the side wall and exit through the door.

There was a day – before we’d tried letting her out into the paddock with April and Aon – when she pulled a stunt on me.  I set the bowl down.  She approached the bowl and began eating as soon as I stepped to the right.  But as I reached the corner of the stall connecting the back and side walls – Cora made an obvious and deliberate move – dragging her feed bowl backward and swinging that big preggers butt to the right – trapping me into the corner.  She did it so fast that I lost my footing and had no choice but to lean on her right backside to catch myself.

Not one single flinch appeared in her entire body.  She just continued inhaling that grain – like nothing happened.  I had to remember to breathe first – move my hand second.

Until then - I’d always used my buzz words “coming around, Baby Girl” – whenever I needed to pass by her in the alley of the barn for any reason.  But I never touched her.  When I tried doing the same for this moment – the Girl would not budge.

I tried it again.  Only this time I gave her 2 soft pats on her right backside as I said the words.  That was one of those cliff-jumping moments.  My gut was wrecked!  She could have kicked the fool out of me – smashed me into the walls.  I could have been a goner – so easily – after touching her again!

She made one step to the left.  That was all.  I had to squeeze around her backside to get out of the corner.  (Compromising to the bitter end?)  She never even moved a hoof until I made it outside and closed the stall door.

I just stood there – holding back tears.  Everything inside me told me that she’d done that on purpose.

From that day until Seamus was born – Dwayne and I would test the waters with patting her on the butt every now and then.  She never fussed.

(Taken after we knew it was okay to go inside.)

As luck would have it – I couldn’t bring myself to lock her up in her stall near the end.  Me and my cup of coffee headed out to the barn as soon as I could see outlines of trees and structures on June 6, 2014.  I found Cora standing about 20 feet from her new black baby that was curled up in a ball and sleeping.  But that was even better than had she been inside the barn.

We’d been prepping Artist for the new arrivals.  He became pissed off after seeing April and Aon in the other paddock for the first time.  I had been telling him that he was gonna get to see HIS new baby.  I had prepped him with my buzz words.  “You and April are gonna have a new baby!  You’re gonna be a Daddy, Artist! I’m gonna make sure you get to see your baby.  I promise!”  They all know that last part secures the deal.  Mom follows through with that one – all but this one time anyway.  And it broke my heart.  I was as angry as him.

But Artist was able to stand only a few feet from Cora while she gave birth to Seamus!  He had to go through some training with learning how to use his “ Baby voice, Artist… Gentle.”  He goes from holding his head up kicking out a roar to holding his head way down and looking up with his eyes while he gives off this gentle coo.  I snicker every time he does it.  He loves to coo to the babies.  And it’s all just so cute!

But after all the frightening nightmare we went through with April – we both stood outside the little yard.  Dwayne stood next to the gate.  I stood under the RV pad.  Cora seemed to conclude that we were not coming inside.  And the coolest thing happened!

She walked over to the calf – began nudging and mooing until the calf stood.  And then – she began pushing the calf toward me!  Dwayne and I just looked at each other with mouths wide open.  We went inside!

It was as if she was compensating for April’s bad behavior – deciding to share her calf with us.  And Miss April watched the whole thing.  We could only hope she would learn a lot from Cora – and cool her jets.

We took pictures – of course!  And then we decided on a plan for getting the 2 of them into her stall – at least long enough to figure out how we’d get to the calf so we could dip the navel and give him his intranasal e.Coli bovine vaccine.

We tried the usual feeding routine.  It worked.  But she left the calf outside!  So Dwayne carried him in while I manned the stall door to get him in with her quickly – to quiet her down.  All she did was moo a little louder to let Seamus know she was there.

So much more different than April.  THAT Girl has had to learn so much with this first calf.  And the first lesson was learning that mommies do not leave their new babies in a corner of the bedroom and go partying!  All it took was a flake of hay.  She almost ran out of the barn to get to it.  It was as if she’d completely forgot that she’d just had a calf!

And then it took her a few minutes to realize we’d shut the barn door!  But when she snapped – all Hell broke loose!  Luckily – we had Rob and Michelle there.  We had to work fast to dip Aon’s navel – weigh him and give him the intranasal vaccine.  But Dwayne cleaned the stall.  He laid fresh hay over the entire stall and have her a couple flakes to eat.  All was fresh and clean – and baby was just fine.  Took her 5 whole minutes to shut up!

Cora had no problem after Dwayne set the calf down.  She let him come back into the stall to dip his navel and give him his vaccine.  She let both of us come inside and pet him – love on him.  She just made it so obvious that she wanted to share this calf with us!

That surprise became a blessing more than we could have imagined – 3 days later.  And I’ll share all that in the next posting!