In which we’ve got bumps

In which we’ve got bumps

Sprite's sporting her second bump. Are you looking?

Baby bumps that is. When did the world become so interested in baby bumps? I’m not sure I get it, but then it is true I often don’t. In the days when women suffered from the “vapours”, a lady wouldn’t dream of strutting around flaunting a bulging belly like we do today. Of course, pretty much everything else women are free to do today would be off-limits to those vapid ladies too.

Well, neither the Ladies nor I are hardcore Libbers, but we are grateful for all our modern freedoms and choices. Thanks all you Freedom Warriors before us who made it all possible. We’re ever so grateful for your courage and sacrifices.

Bling made sure I got her bump from all angles she's so proud. What a ham!

Our Ladies have an odd blend of progressive and not-so-progressive in their approach to life. Apparently, in the cow world, having babies is a huge status symbol. They all strive to be mommies and seem to enjoy it tremendously. You’d have to see the pleasure these Ladies show while nursing their calves; I truly believe they have achieved Zen.

In a free cow’s world it is true that a female leads the herd. I admit to being somewhat surprised by this. The bull

Femme is a compact cutie. She looks young for her age; this is her second bump. Of all the Ladies, she was the sweetest, happiest mom and most dedicated babysitter to all the calves.

tends to watch things carefully and quietly from the middle of the herd while he decides how to best handle the situation. If you aren’t familiar with herd life, you might not notice him right away which may not end up so well for you.

More baby daddy than paternal one, no one relishes all the pleasures life has to offer more than Rocco.

Our Rocco is the first calf born on this farm and he is a colorful character. Definitely more a baby daddy than a paternal one, he spreads himself fairly among all the ladies. But he’s pretty companionable with the steer and the little ones too.

The Ladies step aside to give him the best of whatever there is and he isn’t shy about giving a solid shove to anyone too slow about it. Rocco seems pretty satisfied with the way life has turned out for him; lots of pretty ladies, plenty of good grass, fluffy straw beds all winter and freedom to roam and explore. And, the apple trees!

He also enjoys the company of the steer and a good-natured tussling session is held most evenings. I was surprised also by how much the steer enjoy each others company and how kind they usually are to one another. Rocco prefers to hang out with the boys when he has no pressing lady business. And, he’s just as likely to plop down and nap with the babies for a spell. Overall, Rocco is a sunny and personality packed fellow who spreads himself around.

More Bling bump! That's one goofy girl. She's actually trying to convince me to give her a butt scratch. We expect a total of 9 babies beginning very early this spring. Hannah, Sally and Ruby aren't showing bumps yet; they aren't far enough along, but according to Rocco, his work is done.

I wrote once before about our decision to keep a bull. In these days of Artificial Insemination, it isn’t necessary to keep an unpredictable bull around and many farmers don’t. We do for a few reasons. Since one of my primary goals is to allow these cows to show me just how capable they are of managing themselves, I always prefer the least intrusive, least human driven method of management possible. And, I just can’t ignore the lives bulls working as AI sires lead. Maybe not so bad for the Big Name Bull of the Season, but the lesser bulls really have an unfortunate life.

Rocco knows way more than I do about when the Ladies are ready. Rocco lets me know pretty early when the Ladies are settled. With his help, our babies have all been right on time.

Suki wants to make sure you see her bump too...

So, now we’ve all got bumps and the Ladies seem content. They’re ready now to part ways with this year’s babies to prepare for next years’. And Rocco seems pretty pleased with himself. As usual….

I like to say our Zay is the Pamela Anderson of cows. Somehow, she makes motherhood look hot. And all the boys seem to agree... check out that brisket!

And my goodness. What can I say about this? Gigunda? Humongous? Big, honking, mountainous bump? Say what you like; Molly could care less what you think. She couldn't be more pleased with her huge self. Pass the apples please!

In which we say a surprised hello

In which we say a surprised hello

Who says Hannah is too old? Welcome Hannah's new little girl.....

Who says Hannah is too old? Welcome Hannah’s new little girl…..

Hannah, Mrs. B, Hannah Banana, whatever we call her, Hannah is a girl who knows just how awesome she is. The only one of the Ladies who answers to her own name, Hannah is truly the matriarch of our herd.

She came to us from New Hampshire with her daughters Ruby and Sprite, son Hodil and granddaughter Sally.

Her contribution to our herd has been multiplied many, many times. Ruby has given us Regina and Rose, Hodil is father to nearly all of our calves this year and will be again next year. Sally has had Saralee and Sammy and Sprite has given us Spritzer. Last year, Hannah had another girl, Hannabelle and now, today, wonder of wonders, the old girl did it again.

Though Hannah was with Rocco the bull all winter, we really didn’t expect Hannah to have any more babies. I guess she showed us who’s too old. Hannah is very proud of her role as a mother and apparently isn’t about to give it up.

I wish we could teach all our daughters to be as free of self doubt as Hannah. With an udder like a saggy bag of rocks, wrinkly ankles like loose pantyhose and long, flat feet, it would be easy for Hannah to focus on her flaws and lose self esteem surrounded as she is by young, gorgeous Ladies.

But that’s not Hannah’s style; she frets not one bit – she knows she’s got it going on. She sashays her wide self right into the center of all the action and everyone had better just step back and make room.

Having Hannah for a mother is the best advantage a calf can get...

Having Hannah for a mother is the best advantage a calf can get…

More handsome than beautiful, Hannah is a large, imposing Lady with a rich, chestnut coat and stately posture. A couple of blinks of her big, brown eyes and you’ll do whatever she says.  She is a great girl and has been such a help teaching the younger Ladies the ropes. Like the advantage gained by attending the best prep school, any calf gets a boost from being Hannah’s kid.

Here she is, minutes old, getting ready to make her first effort to stand up. Hard to manage those big feet and legs at first....

Here she is, minutes old, getting ready to make her first effort to stand up. Hard to manage those big feet and legs at first….

Today’s young Lady looks like she’s off to a bright start – we expect great things from Hannah’s calves. She’s already got her eye on her sister Rose – I can see those two beauties will be fast friends as soon as our new girl is allowed to go off and play.

Welcome little Lady!

A new baby is an exciting event for the herd. Everyone needs to see the new kid. Then, excitement over, it’s back to work everyone!

In which we say: hello Sammy

In which we say: hello Sammy

Sally and Sammy enjoying a few days of room service

Is it wrong for me to have a favorite Lady?

I’m not admitting it or anything, but if I did have a favorite and if I told you who it is, you’d probably be surprised because we don’t talk about her much.

Some of the Ladies are hambones and always in the middle of the action and some of them are not.  Sally isn’t a flashy girl, but she is pure, sweet and true and we’re crazy about her.

It took me a while to figure her out when she first came – I wasn’t familiar with the ways of cows and she was a little different from the others. Neither a leader or a follower, Sally holds her own without being mean or bullying.

Sally is a little shy and still doesn’t like direct eye contact.  You have to be paying attention to understand that when she comes close and looks at your feet, she wants you to spend time with her. She really likes being around us and loves to be talked to and groomed.

There’s never been a been a kinder, more devoted mother than Sally, two-legged or four. 

Last year, Sally had her first calf, a heifer named Saralee.  Saralee is a real charmer and a sweet girl herself. Saralee was born in August during the hottest, most miserable weather of the summer.  True to form,  this year, Sally was again the last Lady to deliver and while it was in July this time, it was still the hottest, most miserable weather of the summer. The poor girl can’t get a break! But Sally never gets grumpy or complains.

Sammy on the move…..

 

This year, Sally had a boy. He’s peppy, chubby and really, really shiny. He has an especially beautiful coat just like his dad, Rocco, had as a calf.  We sort of joke that Rocco was super-calf racing around as soon as he hit the ground (I say sort of because it was no joke – Rocco was super charged). It appears this little fellow is a chip off the old block.

He kept everyone on edge his first day because he kept slipping out of the pasture and running off. Poor Sally was bawling and running around too. What could I do? A little house arrest was in order, so back to the barn for a few days of bonding.

He needed a little time for Sally to teach him the ropes before returning to the great outdoors. Sally was happy to have a few days of room service and we got the opportunity to get to know this sassy new kid better.  Happy to say, the plan was a success and Sally and Sammy have returned to their pasture.  Sammy’s a busy fellow learning all about running, bucking and kicking and chatting up Ladies. And respecting boundaries.

Welcome Sammy!

Sammy recharging his battery….

In which we begin a new round of hellos

In which we begin a new round of hellos

Our Ruby and her newborn heifer

Our poor Ruby. It’s been so hot and the flies this year aren’t ordinary flies – they’re superflies!

Ruby’s been heavily pregnant for forever it seems, her udder and belly growing more swollen each day.

Usually good-natured and upbeat, I don’t think Ruby would mind my telling you she has been a little cranky lately.

Oh, she’s always sweet to us, but look

Hello, hello!

Ruby's pretty new baby girl

out any lower ranking Lady who gets in

Ruby’s way. Mostly Ruby’s gentle sister Sally.

Thank Goodness for Sally, look what I found this morning at breakfast….

Our Love 'em & Leave 'em Rocco

I also want to be sure to thank our first time dad Rocco for his contribution to this wondrous event.

Of course Rocco, rake that he is, is too busy chasing after his newest Lady Sprite to be bothered with any messy duties of fatherhood.

But that’s ok, Ruby has everything under control. She’s a great mom.

After our struggles with little Spritzer, glad to see this one's already a Hoover!

Being born is tough business - curling up for a nap

In which we give thanks for good friends

In which we give thanks for good friends

“It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” – John Leonard

Best Buddies, Axel & Zig

Given a choice, cows are very specific about who they want to hang out with. They form long lasting and close bonds. They hold long lasting grudges too.

Babies like to hang out with other babies – I get a kick out of the Ladies taking advantage of this. I can’t say how organized this is, but they seem to take turns babysitting.  The gang of little ones will be plopped together with one Mother attentively nearby.

The appointed mother changes throughout the day, though, just like human mothers, some seem to be more dutiful than others.  The older mothers are a bit more casual about the whole parenting business – they don’t get worked up about nothing – but stand back when there’s something worrisome going on!

A wobbly and brand new Axel

While the whole group in general is congenial, special bonds are formed early and tend to last.  Zig and Axel are sons of two cows who have been together since birth.  I don’t really know if they were special friends at their first farm, but they have been close since coming to us.  They each had their very first babies, Zig & Axel, just one week apart.

Being born seems to be pretty tough business – I’m always amazed at how these little ones pop out with engines revving. But, they also struggle the first couple days with a sort of baby blindness. Then,  suddenly, everything pops into focus and it’s off to the races!  Those poor moms get run a bit ragged for a week or so as babies zoom all over discovering the world.

Zig and Axel; so near, yet so far….

The most entertaining discovery is when they finally connect with each other.  For some reason, it took a little longer for Zig and Axel than it did for this year’s calves.  Although, for these two, it could be because Axel has always been a bit eccentric.

If Axel was human, he’d be a pajama & robe man like Hugh Hefner (without the bunnies – WAY too much energy required).  Oh, he plays, kicks up his heels and makes his way to breakfast,

What? Who’s that? Zig sees Axel for the first time.

but every evening, regardless of what everyone else is doing, he takes his evening beauty nap.

Evening is a highly social time for the herd, so this is a little unusual. I cannot tell you how many worried searches I made for little Axel until I got comfortable with this odd habit of his.

Zig is the best kind of friend to have.  He doesn’t judge Axel for his eccentric ways and he’s easy to hang out with.

Zig moves in…. Axel still has no clue

These two appreciate the joys of quiet companionship.  Not so much of the boyish jockeying and tussling with these boys.  In fact, at times Zig is almost maternal in his sweet fondness for Axel.

Not to say they don’t engage in a lively head butting match from time to time.  They’re friends, not saints. But, as true friends do, they always make up and carry on together.

We wish everyone were blessed with a friendship like theirs….

Finally – the Connection is Made! From Baby Blindness to the Two Headed Calf. Typical Zig & Axel all last summer.

Axel lounges while Zig stands patiently by

Pretty sweet…..

Awkward teenage boys – all big feet and knobby knees – still tight as ever

In which Sprite gets game

In which Sprite gets game

A one year old Sprite the day after her 11 hour drive to our farm. A little tired?

Sprite is a cow we brought from New Hampshire.  She came to us with her mother Hannah, sister Ruby, aunt Sally and brother Hodil.  From the first day on our farm, Ruby, Hannah and Hodil were tight and Sally and Sprite were a bit out of the loop.

Sprite is very sweet and friendly but is always a bit odd in an endearing sort of way.

Right away, Sally made friends with the cows already living here, and made great progress climbing the social ladder.  Sprite was less fortunate; she was younger and less confident and stayed right where she was – at the bottom.

Sprite started doing everything opposite the other cows to avoid conflict – she ate while they were busy doing something else. She never got the choicest bed or was the first to eat the tastiest bite and she had long since stopped trying. She was our loner.

Gradually, Sprite became friends with Femme. Femme is a kind girl and her sister & pasture mate Bling, entertaining as she is, can be a mean girl sometimes.  Bling wasn’t all that keen on this development, but in time, she came to be Sprite’s friend too. Sort of.

Her new role as a mom proved to be a little challenging for Sprite.  She had no problems having the baby, she watched the baby,  licked the baby and made all the right noises, but just didn’t want to stand still to nurse the baby. This became a vicious cycle as Sprite’s udder then became very swollen and painful which REALLY made her unwilling to let the baby touch it.

So, things weren’t going well – the baby kept going off by himself and he wasn’t getting enough to eat.  We tried milking her and nursing him but that was a bit of a circus; after all our effort, he just didn’t want to drink from a bottle. So,  I brought them into the barn and locked them in together.  I really was beginning to lose hope that this little guy was going to make it.

Oh, the difference a few weeks makes… this little guy is always up to something!

Well, they both seemed to have figured things out because he’s doing really well – he’s a very smart, chubby and sassy boy.  The only cloud casting shadows on his little world is that he had no playmates.  So, I took last year’s heifers  and turned them all out together.

These girls are still playful enough to enjoy giving Spritzer (yes, that’s his name) a run for his money. Well, you should see young Spritzer out there chatting up his ladies…. very cute.

Spritzer’s aunt Saralee – she’s just his speed

But the unexpected result of this arrangement is that Sprite is in her glory.  It’s so entertaining to watch her chase those girls around – they’re all scared of her.  She goes WAY out of her way to chase them for absolutely no reason except that she can.  She is the unchallenged Queen of the pasture for the first time in her bovine life.

Sprite’s very pleased with herself; I’ve never seen her so enthusiastic about life.  She’s actually got swagger….

And, here they are… Sprite & Spritzer

The undisputed Queen of an empire of children – patroling the premises for potential misbehaviours by her subjects