in which Suki does it her way

in which Suki does it her way

Suki's newest little one

Nag, nag nag. That’s what I heard Suki saying to her good friend Zay the other day. I’m sure they were talking about me, but that’s OK.

I was only suggesting that the weather was balmy and dry which is a rare stroke of luck in February, don’t you think?  If you’re going to have a baby anyway, wouldn’t it be a good idea to pick a warm, sunny day?

What-ever. With lots of eye-rolling.  OK, Suki, do it your way.

So she did. Last night I was pretty sure we’d be meeting our new friend today. So, I gave Suki her own room. Before dawn when I checked this morning, everyone was inside except guess who? Suki.  Somehow, Suki managed to escape and off she went by herself to take care of her very important business.

Fortunately, I have been placing big bales of hay in wind-sheltered places just in case. One mostly eaten bale in the most sheltered spot offered the perfect, fluffiest bed.  Since Suki may well be my smartest cow, I was pretty confident that’s where she’d be.

Hello, hello.

It was still dark but quiet and still. I grabbed my lantern and set off over the hill. And sure enough, that’s where she was with her new little calf. Dried, fed and taking a nap. Very, very far from the barn.

While Suki enjoyed a special breakfast, I carried our new friend up to the barn. A long snow-covered uphill hike carrying about 40 pounds of awkward, squirming calf. And, let me just say – this morning I have no doubt I’m not twenty-six anymore.

We were just in time because as soon as Suki & Co. were safely tucked inside and buried in hay, the wind whipped up and things took a turn for the nasty.  So our little friend is getting a challenging start to his/her new life, but so far, so good.

The pinkest ears I've seen yet.... probably trying to figure out how to get back inside that warm cozy cocoon - this place is COLD!

One down, six more hellos to go…

Like babies? Check out some other hellos:

In which we say hello
in which we say hello again and again and again
in which whine enough already
in which Sprite gets game
in which we begin a new round of hellos
in which we say hello Sammy
in which we say a surprised hello

in which we hear it for the boys

in which we hear it for the boys

Tight little buddies from the beginning. Cow friendships are the lasting kind...

I know, I’ve been called on it before, and I admit it is true.  The Ladies get most of the press around here. Not fair and for no good reason, except that they got here first and took over.  And they look better in most of the pictures.  And they do silly comment-worthy things more often.

But now, the boys outnumber the girls. Not by much, and not for long, but today it’s true.

A few things about the boys are not exactly what I was expecting. The tussling, humping and general roughness is exactly what I thought bulls and steer would be like, but the politeness, loyalty and friendship was a bit of a surprise.

 

They are very social and enjoy each others company. I have a loner or two, but even they have their special close friends.  And Rocco, the bull, is Chairman of every pack. Rocco likes to spread himself around.

The intense gaze of Rocco - he doesn't miss anything...

This week, we have finally completely separated the boys from the girls. So, front pasture has all the ladies and the back pasture is home to all the steer and Rocco.

I hate to cloud their moment in the spotlight by mentioning this, but without the Ladies to show those boys where to go next, they’re a bit slow to find dinner. And to know when it’s time to come in out of the snow.

Found the hay, but forgot to go back inside to bed. All boy camp-out by the bale...

I put out three big bales of hay with plenty of space between so everyone would have a fair chance and plenty of room. You’d think they’d be happy to separate since there aren’t  enough places for everyone at one bale, but no.

Rather than strike out on their own, the littler guys have been watching Rocco and his top  henchmen do all the eating, politely waiting for their turn.  But politeness doesn’t buy much in the world of cows – once the big boys had their fill, they decided they weren’t risking their booty by going inside to bed.  They plopped down right there, at the foot of the bale for their naps, blocking the timid little fellas out.

Wearing their hay hats....

The Ladies would have split right up and made quick work of  all three bales.

So, today, I took pity on the gentle-men and led them to the other bales. They had been waiting for someone to take charge – I didn’t have to call twice.  Like the Pied Piper, I lead my parade of curly coated steer. And, let me tell you, they were pretty excited about their all you can eat buffet.

Can't explain it, but cows are big on single file...

Boys.

in which we decide we like it

in which we decide we like it

We changed our minds. Forget sunny & balmy, it’s cold! Now we want IN!

A couple of months ago I moved the pregnant Ladies to the newly fenced front pasture where they could enjoy the last of the not yet grazed grass. Lucky for us, every one of the pastures has both high and low land so each pasture has plenty of well-drained high ground for the wet messy times when the creeks are overflowing.

Which apparently these days can be anytime, all year-long.

While our winter weather remained so balmy and mild, the Ladies had little interest in the adjoining barn other than the usual cow-riosity. Did you know how nosy cows are? Neither did I, but let me tell you, cats have nothing on cows when it comes to curiosity.

All summer, we have been slowly working on the barn. I didn’t really give this building much credit or thought at first. No architectural beauty, it was rough & ready with a floor piled high with black, rich composted manure from years of cows sheltering inside.

Our barn, warts & all this summer.  She’s still not beautiful on the outside, but everyone knows real beauty is on the inside…

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Private rooms, fluffy beds, shelter overhead…

But, the beams were solid, half had a new roof and it adjoins the front pasture and hayfield in a convenient way. Not having the budget for anything better, we were grateful to have it, warts and all.

We tarped the roof to keep the leaks at bay, cleaned out all the old lumber and partitions, and shoveled out the foot of manure and spread it on the garden to be. Amazingly, the entire floor was poured concrete!

We built partitions and hung gates to create a couple of private stalls for calving and I brought fresh hay in for bedding.  I had been counting on Bling’s help to shake out the hay – shaking a thousand pound round bale into a fluffy bed is no easy task, and Bling has a real talent for the job.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvuieKmt3DI?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

But alas.

xxxxxx     Bling looked…….. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and looked…..

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The Ladies were somewhat interested in the activity – they like to watch people work – but the warm days and what’s left of the fresh grass kept them busy outside.  No help, no bites. A few curious sniffs, a couple of gatherings in front, but nobody seems interested in taking up residence.

Well, oh my, what a difference a day makes! Dropped temperatures, harsh winds and snow is making this humble structure look like the Taj Mahal! Even wild Miss Sass decided inside is the place to be!

Our little Angus visitor, Miss Sass

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Can’t judge a book by its cover – this week, this is the most beautiful barn I’ve ever seen!

And I can sleep knowing the Ladies are dry and warm.

in which we aren’t ready

in which we aren’t ready

We should be ready. Our early winter has been so strangely mild. More like spring than winter, with plenty of my favorite sloppy, boot-sucking mud. I’ve been wishing for some frozen ground, but you know how it goes…. be careful what you wish for.

Where's the GRASS!

Happy Bling. She's a glass half full kind of girl.

She thinks I should get over there and scratch her back. She says I don't look too busy...

Morning water looks like this... anybody thirsty?

Miss Sprite... my favorite eating machine

Haven't we got anything fresher?

The Ladies want me to tell you to bundle up and stay warm – it’s chilly!

in which one of these cows is not like the others

in which one of these cows is not like the others

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our funny, sassy Miss Honey. At the time, she was about as spunky a heifer as I’d met.  But, as often happens when you start measuring things and attaching labels, something new comes along to prove you’re all wrong.

One of these cows is not like the others

This young heifer, part of the neighbor’s handsome Angus herd, decided she was ready to take on the world by herself. She had big dreams and was ready to head out for the bright lights and big city.

One of these cows just doesn’t belong

Well, reality was a bit scarier than expected and this little lady decided she’d had enough roughing it on her own.  But, by the time she found her way back home, her family had gone; moved back to their winter address. So, she opted for Plan B and decided to join the Ladies.

Can you tell which cow is not like the others

The Ladies are kind in their way, but they aren’t too charitable to give this strange hornless heifer the Cinderella treatment.

She’s not quite so Sassy these days, but she’s far from beaten.

Miss Sassy thinking I can't see her....

Remember Sesame Street? Photo captions are adapted from One of These Things (Is Not Like The Others), words and music by Joe Raposo and Jon Stone. I dare you not to hum it  all day…

in which our Honey packs a punch

in which our Honey packs a punch

Our funny Honey - a tiny rocket of head shakin' sassiness. Not ladylike to clean your nose with your tongue in public you say? Honey couldn't care less what you think of her rowdy and uncivilized ways. She couldn't be happier with her grubby tomboy self.

It’s only recently that I have been lucky to count cows among my circle of acquaintances.  One of the things I really wanted to know was what kind of emotional life they honestly have.

And, if you’ve been following this blog, I hope I have convinced you that cows do have an inner life. They form and sustain friendships, they play, they enjoy learning new things, appreciate novelty, harbor resentments and remember unpleasantness.

Cows definitely know their favorite people and without question show affection and extend friendship. Many eyes are watching me all the time as I go about my routine.  Of course, the fact that I am the source of any and all handouts makes me more attractive in my cows’ eyes too.

Honey & Rose. Two peas in a pod, both sassy and funny, but while Rose is more sugar than spice, Honey is red-hot.

Cows take immense pleasure in simple joys like a sunny fall day, plentiful spring grass, personal space, apples on the trees and a good, hard back scratch. And they obviously suffer anxiety, stress and depression when these pleasures are lacking.

Cows are also repetitive and predictable which is both a help and an annoyance. It’s an asset because they’re easily trainable, but oh my, can they try your last nerve when their rigidity jams up important farming business.  Especially when you’re in a hurry.

We’re now on our third crop of calves and this year, for the first time, some of the steer are indistinguishable in both appearance and behavior.  I have to admit I’m not completely sure which steer belongs to what cow.

Rose & Honey - see why I call Honey a munchkin? That's OK; Honey is huge with confidence

Of course, every year one calf or another is a standout.  Bling was a real character from day one and continues to crack me up nearly every day.  Sally’s daughter Saralee is a perky, sweet and funny girl too.  Our bull Rocco is personality packed and seems to have passed a certain liveliness on to all his calves.  Ruby’s girl Rose is perky and pretty and has a really endearing way about her.  Same for Sally’s Sammy – unusually cuddly and sweet.  But oh, my; that Honey!

Honey was a pistol from Day One.  She was born late, so she was really a munchkin compared to her pasture mates.  Today, I’m not sure if she really is tiny or if it’s just by comparison to the others who are all older and similar in size.

No matter, being youngest and tiniest doesn’t slow Honey down one bit.  She’s a mighty mite; clever, bold and bursting with head-shaking sassiness.  Most calves are cautious and tentative to attempt new things. Not Honey; she jumps in first and with all four hooves. Honey figures things out lightening fast and is front and center for any new game or activity. Often it’s Honey leading the big girls instead of the other way around.

Honey leads the daily quad inspection...

New straw in the shed? Honey knows all about it.  New mineral block? Honey’s licked it.  New bale of hay? Honey’s already got her head stuck in it.  If there’s a tussle going on, Honey’s in the middle of it or at least running around the edges shaking her head and throwing in the last kick when nobody’s looking.

The other calves don’t want to play? Honey’s not taking no for an answer. She gives a few good head butts to her napping friend until it’s clear that nap is not going to happen. Slowly, they get up and give her a chase half-hearted though it may be.

But, her funniest game is one that I’ll probably never be able to get on film.    I use a quad to do lots of my daily pasture chores, and the cows are all taken with it for some reason.  But Honey’s taken her interest one step further; Honey is a world-class quad chaser.   She’ll literally run right beside me, flatten out and stretch her stride like a Thoroughbred; neck and neck. She actually looks me straight in the eye and sometimes she tries to cut in front to block me.

She’s not the first to think up the idea, but she has taken the sport to new heights. She’s sumpin’…

What are you lookin' at?