11-6-19 We have a 6 week old kitten that likes to climb the side of the chickens' water tub and get a drink out of it. She's too short to reach it properly, so she hangs on with her front paws, back legs dangling a couple inches off the ground, and leans way in to drink. She makes me a bit nervous, but it's not deep and she's in no real danger. Some years ago, I was standing near the cows' water tank when a young cat, inexplicably, leaped high up in the air and landed in the 3' deep tank. Before I could hop the fence to rescue it, it surfaced, doggy paddled over to the side, clambered out and commenced to drying its fur. That was the day that I learned that a cat can swim if it has to!
10-17-19 "Loop" to the rescue again. Ron had the cows in an area where they had to exit along the edge of Wagon Creek while making a sharp turn. Cows do not like obstacle courses and were standing at the edge of the 2 inch deep water pondering their next move. Fortunately, Loop came through and led them around the bend and up to the barn. You can see her in the lead in this picture.
10-3-19 Ron and I were bringing the cows up from the pasture for the milking when we came to the gate across the lane. Actually, the gate had been opened earlier, but you wouldn't have known it based on the cows' behavior. Even though it was open and even though they've been through this gate hundreds of times, they kept milling around and circling back just as though it was closed. Finally, "Loop" made her way to the front of the crowd and led them through the invisible barrier and on to the barn. "They really do wait for Loop to take the lead, don't they?" I commented. The next day, we took them through the same route, and Loop happened to be near the front and led them up the lane with no hesitation. Our herd has way too many followers and too few leaders it seems!
9-26-19 The ongoing summer weather, good rains, and a late calving season for half of our herd have combined to give us a bountiful supply of milk this fall. Our milking season will end sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving--most likely when we have a hard freeze. In the meantime, we continue to be entertained by the cats who come into the barn at milking time. Tux the cat is so eager for some tasty, fresh milk, that he cannot wait for us to fill the calf bucket. He's discovered that he can reach the milk with his paw, so that's how he gets his treat until the bucket is full enough to drink out of it in the conventional way.
9-12-19 When we go down to get the cows in the morning, we usually see a large flock of cattle egrets. These white birds spend the day with the cattle, eating ticks, frogs, etc. When we get close to the herd, the birds will rise up en masse, filling the sky with a cloud of white. Often they'll roost in nearby dead trees, looking like living Christmas ornaments. In the evenings, we see strings of them headed north to Salt Plains Wildlife Refuge to spend the night. Very pretty!
Summertime! Photo by Natalie Crain
Farm News: We had a broody hen, so I set some eggs under her 4 weeks ago. Last Saturday, one egg hatched. It was an eggs from the white hen, so it will be interesting to see what color this chick ends up being. The rooster is red and the hen is white, so I told William that the chick will probably be pink when it grows up. He doesn't believe me. :-)
Farm News: Rain! Rain Rain! We've had 3 good rains this past week, totaling over 6". That's more rain that we've had in the past 8 months total. We are very grateful.
More Farm News: The mama cat, Ginger Claw, hid her 3 tiny kittens about 10 days ago. We looked everywhere we could think of, but couldn't find them. We tried following her when she came to the house for dinner, but she was too wily. I assured the kids that she'd eventually bring them here when she got tired of being their only source of nutrition. Sure enough, she brought them out yesterday. It's amazing how much bigger they've gotten. They're still too young for cat food, but in another week or so, we'll be able to help mama cat out with the feeding.
Farm News: Our county continues to be in extreme drought conditions. We have a portable pasture irrigation system that Ron is using to keep an area of bermuda grass growing. But what we really need is rain!
Better Farm News: We got our first pullet egg this week! Our group of 175 young hens are getting close to producing now.
Farm News: Ginger Claw, the black cat with an orange toe, had her first litter of kittens this week. I spotted them under the a.c. compressor. Not a very good location, so we fixed a nice box and our daughter Natalie gathered up the kittens, put them in the box and then put the mother in with them. She carried the box of cats to the shed where they would be much safer. Once the box was back on the ground, the inexperienced mama jumped out and went back to the compressor, searching for her babies. Natalie picked her up and took her back to the shed and put her in the box with the kittens again. Natalie said it was funny because the cat seemed delighted to see the kittens, even though they had made the original trip in the same box together just a couple minutes previously. Happily, she's settled in and taking good care of them.
Farm News: In honor of Mothers' Day, I will tell you my favorite "Farm Kids Say the Darndest Things" story which happened about 15 years ago.
Ron and I had been discussing a story in the news in which a hiker had survived a mountain lion attack by fighting it off with a pocket knife. A few days later, we had all 5 kids in the van when Ron stopped to check on the cattle. While the kids and I waited in the van, the bull came up to the gate near us. I took this as a teachable moment to remind the children that they were NEVER to go into a fence with a bull because he could kill them.
"Not if you have a pocket knife," piped up 5 year old Cara from the backseat.
"Oh honey," I replied, "Do you really think you could kill a bull with a pocket knife?"
"Well," she reasoned, "You could cut that part off and make him a nice boy!"
Farm News: After cleaning the dairy barn, I got the basket and went out to gather eggs, still wearing my clunky barn boots. While stepping over the hot wire, my heel caught and the eggs and I went crashing to the ground. Only my pride was hurt, but the half dozen eggs I'd already collected were a smashed mess on the ground. Ruby the dog quickly came up and started eating the eggs and a bit later, the hens came over and ate all the shells. So, at least I didn't have to clean up anything!
Farm News: This year all the heifer calves are given a name starting with the letter "D". Our little neighbor is named Lily and I was teasing her that she was going to have to wait until she is 20 years old before she would have a calf named for her. We had a heifer born a few days ago and Ron asked me for a name. With a burst of inspiration I said, "Day Lily". Now we have a beautiful calf and a happy little girl.
Farm News: White Hen, who lays the bright white egg, has been sneaking into the barn to lay in one of the old feed pans. The other day, we milked earlier than usual. She sauntered in expecting to go to work, but the cows were in her way. First she looked with one eye; then cocked her head looked with the other eye. Then she stretched her neck as high as she could to try to see her "nest", but couldn't. Ron and I were quite amused, wondering what was going on in her brain. Finally, she got brave and walked between the cows' legs and jumped into the pan. Of course, this startled the cow, which startled the hen who made a hasty escape with much flapping and squawking. I guess she came back a little later, because I found her white egg in the pan some time after the milking.