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Farm Fresh Blog
Tuesday, January 31 2012
Do you remember the parable of the man who found a pearl of great value and sold everything he had to possess it?
Well, this ranch is my pearl of great value. This weekend we packed up the kids and the grandkids and like the Beverly Hillbillies in RVs, we descended upon the ranch. Like Lewis & Clark, we headed out on an expedition of exploration and stumbled upon places of such great beauty that I was moved to tears. Words cannot express how profoundly thankful I am that God has placed this land in our hands.
We are simply ecstatic!
But since we returned this morning at 6 am and I must go to work today, I'll have to give you details later! I did update the photos section to include some ranch pics though!
Thursday, January 26 2012
Do you remember the scene in "Finding Nemo" where the little crab lands amid a group of seagulls and they immediately begin squawking "MINE! MINE! MINE!" as they chase him?
Those of you with small children who have been forced to see this movie 300 times will be nodding your heads. (and now you won't be able to get the seagulls out of your head . . . )
Well . . . this is the build-up for my big news!
It's mine! It's MINE!
(actually it's OURS!)
We closed on the ranch yesterday and it's officially ours! (and the bank's)
Monday, January 23 2012
First time mother. Crackhead.
Paisley finally got with the program and figured out how to use her new cell phone (the baby). She is "relatively" attentive now. (unless groceries are concerned) Because her maternal instinct "finally" kicked in, we may keep her another season to see if her problems were just a first time mother thing. If she does it again next year, she's cut from the team though.
The kid is doing fine but would like to play with the orphaned calf across the fence.
But since it's not our calf, she had to wait until today for a playmate.
This little guy was blessed enough to be born to Dancing Cow. She is the most experienced mamma on the ranch. (and would still give Secretariat a run for his money at meal time!)
So when Dancing Cow doesn't show up for breakfast, it's a good bet she has a calf. Sure enough, we walk back there and find this little fellow.
Dancing Cow is attentive, but doesn't threaten to run me down. (goooood cow!) So we hauled his momma some breakfast and checked out the new kid on the block. I was happy to see he was a bull calf. Bully's eyes have improved, but not enough for us to be able to keep him as a breeding bull. An untamed blind bull is dangerous, so some time in February, we'll have to butcher Bully.
I hate to do it, because he's a great bull, but even a gentle bull is dangerous in this condition. We have pulled him out of the pasture and he's living in the roping arena with a "seeing-eye cow" for a friend. That's working out well, but there's no way we can return him to the pasture.
We are waiting to see what the bull calf crop looks like this year. Last year Bully put some really nice bull calves on the ground and now we regret not keeping one as a back-up.
So this little guy may stay a while.
At birth he's as big as Paisley's two week old calf.
She is absolutely delighted to finally have a playmate. He is less than excited to see her at the moment. One sniff and he decided that he'd better follow his momma instead of hang out with this rather forward "red-headed girl." She was most disappointed. Being the first born calf of the season sucks until the rest of the gang comes along.
"Will YOU play with me?"
Friday, January 20 2012
"Your worst nightmare is my Wednesday."
A particular bunch still stands out in my mind. When I got them home, I noted the stalk of one flower was twisted and out of sync with the rest. At first, I chided myself for not taking better care to pick out perfect flowers, but then, as I often do, I shrugged and said "This was meant to be. This particular bunch was meant for me, imperfections and all."
So I stuck my imperfect bunch in a vase, filled it with water and thought nothing more about it. The next morning I noticed that ALL the flowers were pointed toward the window - toward the sun. I could not find the imperfect stalk. All had turned toward the sun. This moment was a shining epiphany. I had stumbled upon another of life's lessons.
Life rumbled on, but I never forgot the lesson of the sunflower. Follow the light. Turn toward the sun. Another of life's lessons I've learned is "There are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason."
Fast forward to yesterday.
After I sold the other house, a reader asked me, "What will happen to Failte Gate Farm?"
I said, "Nothing. The farm is the animals, not the place. Where the animals go, so will the name."
Unfortunately, this hasn't proven to be the case. Yes, the core group of animals is still here, but they are refugees floating in a boat, waiting to arrive at the Promised Land. The farm has indeed, turned out to be a place. This has bothered me. Whenever I think of Failte Gate Farm, my mind conjures up aging wood fences, a vine-covered trellis, a greening welcome gate. The farm was more than the animals.
Failte Gate Farm was to become something else, but what? Like a cat scratching at the door, it stayed in the back of my mind. Ignoring it, I focused on the new ranch - a place where my quaint little farm would combine with his cattle company. This ranch is more than a piece of land - it is a pearl of great value, and I have sold everything I own to possess it.
Like Failte Gate Farm, it is a living, breathing entity.
On it there will be room for a home, a cattle company, and my little drop of sunshine - my place in the sun.
For years I have dreamt of this place, so much like the forests of my childhood, a place to walk in the dappled sunlight, with perhaps a little cabin of my own, to read, to write, to draw, to reflect.
And so yesterday when I was once again, pouring through mountains of homebuilding ideas, I wasn't surprised to stumble upon the answer to the problem that had stuck in my mind like a cockle burr to a shoelace . . .
. . . "Girasole"
I turned the page on my calendar and a vase of sunflowers waved at me. The caption read: The Italians called the sun-facing flower girasole, "turns toward the sun."
Eureka! I have found it! The name of my place in the sun! Like a stone key unlocking an ancient puzzle, the pieces clicked together - "Girasole"
I no longer worry that Failte Gate Farm is no more. It has become Girasole, ("jeer a sol ae") as once again, I turn toward the sun.
Wednesday, January 18 2012
Who does this look like?
Look like someone we know???
I received these pics from Dear Reader Melody in Oklahoma who, like some of the rest of us, had a few questions about Briar's DNA test results. (read: Who's Ya Daddy? ) After looking at pictures of Melody's dogs I'm certainly ready to believe that the rancher we bought Briar from was correct - her mother was a Komondor and her father was a Great Pyrenees.
Here is Melody's note:
Hoity toidy DNA test be damned. I'd bet Briar is a Kom/Pyr cross; this is a picture of my own late, great Kom/Pyr cross "Raggedy Ann" with grandson Jacob.
All the best,
"Whiskers and beard and soulful eyes"
That pretty much describes someone I know!
Sunday, January 15 2012
This is Scout.
Because of less than stellar social skills, Scout is separated from poor defenseless Muskett.
According to Scoutie's paperwork, he is part Mustang. After living with the horse for four years, I can believe it. Last night was a shining example of life with Scout:
Put Montoya and Muskett in their stalls and feed them. Toss grain over the wall into Scout's bucket. Trek out to pasture to release Scout from his pen (where he can't beat up Muskett, but can share a round bale of hay and play-fight over the fence). Let Scout out so he can thunder to the barn, run into his outside stall and eat his supper. Continue our journey to check on baby calf. Note the sound of hooves thundering BACK in our direction. Very annoyed painted horse bounces up and announces,
"Garcon! Garcon! You there! Servant-boy! There's a problem!"
Other Half and I stare at horse in amazement - perhaps he has been watching Mr. Ed and Lassie through the window. Agree that horse is most decidedly upset and has sought out Bi-peds (with opposable thumbs!) to solve his problem. Curious, and eager to reinforce his behavior, we head back to barn. He escorts us about four acres, shaking his head impatiently. I know what I will find.
And sure enough, the gate to his stall has swung closed and he is locked out of his supper. What a clever beast! Rather than pace and puff in front of the problem, he has sought a solution.
And this is why we haven't sold him yet. The horse amuses me.
"Human, your arrogance astounds me. Let me point out the Ignorant Beast in this arrangement. I receive free room, board, and health care in exchange for little or no work on my part. You labor 40+ hours a week and are on call 24/7 so that you may pay "my" bills. Now I ask you, who is the dumb animal?"
Wednesday, January 11 2012
I beg him, "PLEASE! While we have some help over here, let's move Paisley so she doesn't have her calf in the mud in the back pasture. Please let's move Paisley to where I can more easily handle her when she calves in the cold mud."
His response after studying Paisley's back side like a college professor is "Oh, she won't deliver for another week or two."
Fast forward to yesterday morning.
I am already in a pissy mood because he has left me with this muddy mess and jetted off to go play with his dog. My goats are living in a stock trailer because of the flooding. My ram is back in with the ewes, because of the flooding. The dogs are a muddy mess. The horses are going stir crazy in the barn. We're running out of square bales of hay. I can't unload the round bales of hay by myself, so they sit patiently waiting on a trailer. I must put on cold rubber boots that are already filled with water from the day before, AND . . . I have a murder trial to testify in as soon as the chores are done!
Sooooo . . . while slopping through the mud, I happen to look out in the back pasture and what do I see? YES! Paisley has had her calf! In the cold mud! Paisley, who is dumb as a box of rocks on a good day, calved in the back pasture. I slosh out there and sure enough, the calf is alive but very chilled. She is shivering. Her idiot mother is staring at her with a "What the hell is THAT" expression.
Lovely. I look at my watch. I must be in court, 45 minutes away, in 2 hours. At this point I call Other Half and wake him up in his nice warm hotel room.
"Are you happy now?!!"
I'll spare you the rest of the conversation. This is, after all, a family friendly program. Fortunately Son is on his way to work and is able to come help me. Unfortunately, Paisley is uncooperative. We towel baby off and try to warm her up. Paisley stares at her like a teenager with a new cell phone, but she is clueless as to what to do. She refuses to follow us as we try to carry the baby to the barn. Lovely . . .
Watch as baby attempts to nurse. Note with disgust that Paisley knocks baby down and absentmindedly kicks her in the head as she walks away. Baby shakes her head to reassemble her rattled brains. She is okay. Her mother is a crack head.
Dear Sweet Kindly Rancher Next Door has received my panic call and is now climbing over the fence. The cavalry has arrived. He agrees to keep an eye on the little tyke while Son and I go to our REAL JOBS! After spending 4 hours in court, I drive BACK HOME to check on baby and let dogs take a potty break. Rancher is also returning back home and he arrives in back pasture at same time. Baby is still alive. He agrees to check on baby after his chores. I drive 45 minutes BACK to WORK!
Rancher checks on baby. She is okay. Son checks on baby when he gets off work. She is okay. I return home and check on her in the dark. She is okay. I get up this morning to find that baby is now alone ON THE OTHER SIDE OF A BARBED WIRE FENCE from the rest of the cows. I cuss Other Half again. Things would have been SOOOO much easier if Britney Spears had calved in a board arena or a pipe corral. Attempt to feed cows in the mud. I am mugged and shoved and fall down. Border Collie starts to climb through the fence to help. I send her back for her own safety. I then cuss cows and Other Half and the entire cattle industry, and beef in general.
Once cattle have settled at the feeders, I head over to try to carry baby back into pasture. She is too heavy for me to easily carry in the mud. Get her on her feet and poke her back through barbed wire fence instead. Success! Paisley, the crack mother, has her head buried in a feed trough, oblivious to the fact that she even has a baby.
I walk around fence through gate to join baby on the other side. Baby lets out a cry for Paisley. That's when I hear a small tank splashing through the mud toward me. Paisley has remembered that she has a baby. Her pea brain has registered that a bi-ped has her baby and her baby is crying for her. I see the thought of running me down flash across Paisley's small brain. Dart behind round bale of hay to safety. Paisley joins baby and glares at me as if I tried to steal her cell phone.
Paisley then walks off as baby is trying to nurse. Baby tags along trying to grab swaying udder.
"Mom! Wait! Mom! I'm hungry!"
Baby follows Paisley around pasture but finally gives up and lays down. Still hungry.
Paisley stops to examine her stalled cell phone.
I make mental note to sell Paisley.
The perfect cow mother watches this drama with great interest.
"What IS that crackhead doing?"
Snickers is a raging bear of a mother. As a first time mother she removed her baby from the pushing and shoving at the feeder and had to be fed separately because she refused to approach the feeder, fearing for the safety of her baby. She will run down any coyote, stray dog, or Border Collie that comes near her baby. She will glare at all humans like a rampaging elephant. Her babies WILL survive because she sees to it that they do.
Paisley is pretty, but there is no room on this farm for a cow or sheep or goat who will not properly mother her baby. And unfortunately since she may pass on the lack of maternal instinct to the baby, we should sell her too - if she survives life with a crackhead mother.
Monday, January 09 2012
This was a "4-Frapp" day. (yes, I'm drinkin' again . . .) There is not enough de-caf coffee in this state to get me through this day without killing someone, thus, I thank God and Starbucks for those little glass bottles of nectar.
Normally it takes two. Today it took four. In fact, I am sipping #4 as we speak. Imagine a wino sitting on a milk carton behind a convenient store chugging a 40 oz. That's me right now.
This is how a 4-Frapp Day begins:
Am jolted awake by the sound of thunder crashing and hard rain. Actually it is the sound of Ice trying to break down the muck room door to get into the bedroom.
But alas, since Ice gets scared of storms and pees on herself, she is not allowed in the bedroom despite her best "Home Invader" impersonations. I feel bad, then I remember that even inside the bedroom she will still be freaking (and clawing my back) and so the muck room is a much better place for her.
Am thankful that I brought MY horse into the barn before I went to bed.
Other Half trudges out into the storm to bring his Very Grateful Mustang Cowpony into barn. He returns to bed wet but within minutes he and Dillon the Labrador are snoring in rhythm. The storm rages on. The electricity goes out temporarily, thus turning alarm clocks into paper weights. Wake up at 7 AM to realize that Other Half is missing his 6:30 AM meeting. Rut Ro! So much for alarm clocks.
Push him out of bed and climb out myself to go meet farrier at Grandma's house to do ponies' feet. There is a blissful break in the storm. We have just enough time to trim two ponies and buy four boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. Return home to find that Son and Girlfriend have arrived. Oh joy! Help with the Blind Bull! It is 9:30 AM. Let the games begin!
Thus starts the dangerous sport of Blind Bull Bumper Car.
Since Bully feels better because he is hydrated and has food in his belly, he is far more reactive than yesterday and much more dangerous. He is far too big, and far too wild. I find myself climbing onto a feeder and hanging onto the fence as he crashes below me. As I wait for him to slam into my legs and break something, it becomes apparent that we cannot continue this game with enough regularity to save his vision. I do not want to lose the bull, but I also do not want to end up in the hospital myself, nor do I wish to see Husband or Son stomped into the mud, or become a Flat Stanley against a fence. Fortunately Girlfriend has more sense than the rest of us. She stays outside the pen, ready to hand us medication . . . and call 911.
Eventually we do get him in the headgate without having to pay a deductible. No sooner is this done, than the heavens open up again. Son braves the lightning to get a round bale of hay for the cattle while his father and I hook up the trailer to drive to the feed store and pay the mafia for two round bales of horse-quality hay. By now it is raining so hard that I can only drive 20 mph. I strain to see through a fogged up windshield and wonder what people in subdivisions are doing right now.
By the time we return home, the roads are flooding and I am thankful for my Big Ass Truck. Not only is it above the water mark, but if that Mitsubishi rushing down the road goes into a slide, I'll still be alive when they pull his dumb ass out of the ditch. (I'm just sayin')
Arrive at home and am thankful that I drove since now Other Half must get out and open gate. (it's the simple things in life . . .) Park truck. The water is already three inches deep and rising. Border Collie informs me that she would rather stay in a heated F250 pickup truck than jump out into a lake.
"GET YOUR ASS OUT IN THIS RAIN!"
She reluctantly leaps into the water with me. I hear her mutter something about not having rubber boots.
The rain continues. It is time to build an ark. I check on livestock. The water has risen so quickly that I fear the lambs may drown and we discuss the option of bringing them into the house.
"Where would you put them?" asks Girlfriend.
Son shares with her that the bathroom is not a stranger to baby cows in distress. (Well, she might as well know now what she's signing up for with this family . . .)
Since I have no desire to juggle five lambs and eight dogs in the house, I wait. It continues to rain. We watch the news, and eat some breakfast. It is 1:30 PM. The rain continues to beat on the roof. I have lakefront property. Actually, I am living in a house boat. (there is a lot to be said for a pier and beam house) I make brownies and pretend that my husband isn't going out of town and leaving me with a blind bull, and a flooded farm. My phone rings. Life just gets better and better. I am expected in court tomorrow morning. Lovely. Just freakin' lovely. I will not have enough time to get chores down before I must be in court and then go to work. (am reminded of the old saying "If God leads me to it, He will lead me through it.")
Son notes that the rain is threatening the smaller vehicles. He sloshes out to move my 4Runner and Girlfriend's PT Crusiser. I warn Other Half that he might want to move his police truck. He smarts off that his truck is too tall to be in any danger. Okie dokie, smokey, not my problem.
A few minutes later he looks out the window and decides that perhaps he should move his police truck. I take minor satisfication from this. The rain finally starts to slack off. Son sloshes out to check sheep and gives me two thumbs up through the window. They are not happy, but not in danger of drowning. Fire ants are floating in stinging clumps and he battles them as they attack his bare legs. I worry about my animals. Ants just add insult to injury.
The rain subsides and we decide that since nothing more can be accomplished, a nap is in order. An hour later I rise to check on the animals again. There is 4-8 inches of water surrounding the house. I convince the dogs to wade through the water to get to higher ground on the driveway and go potty. Dillon has never seen floodwaters and is delighted. To a Labrador, this is the next best thing to Disney World.
"Splash Party, Dudes!"
I stuff his chocolate butt back in the house and go check the livestock. Return to find that he has climbed onto the stove and stolen an entire pan of cooling brownies. All gone! No more brownies! He is burping chocolate bubbles. I debate whether I should sit down and cry now, or wait until he has diarrhea on the carpet. Opt for the latter. There is no time to cry now.
We check on lambs. Everyone is miserable. The goats are standing on pallets. The lambs are crammed in a corner of the shed in wet shavings. Their mothers look at me in expectation. Surely I will solve this latest problem. After all, that's what Bi-peds do. We drag goats through the water to put them in stock trailer. This gives the sheep more room. The goats are not happy, but they are dry. The lambs take custody of the pallets. It's not much, but it's the best I can do at the moment. A few wander out to the tiny island surrounding the round bale of hay.
I give dogs another potty break (waiting for the inevitable chocolate explosion from Dillon's Behind) and note that water has receded about 4 inches in places in the front yard now. Other Half starts packing his truck to go out of town. Briar begins to squeal and spin in circles. Run to her aid and see that she has a crawdad attached to her back foot. These are mini lobsters that are known by various names: crawfish, mudbugs, crawdaddies, crayfish, etc. They are good eating when boiled en masse, but all of this is unimportant when one is clamped to your back foot. I try to pull it off, but its pinchers have a vice grip on Briar's pad. Other Half rushes in and stomps the creature. Its pinchers pop off its body, but remain clamped to Briar's pad. She whines as I pull them off. Trace stares in horror.
It is now 9 PM. I give up. I inform Other Half that despite the fact that the water has receded from 1/4 of the yard, all the dogs will stay in the house. He informs me that Briar will be locked in the muck room. (Other Half believes that I baby Briar too much and cannot abide by the idea that my Big White Dog should be allowed in the house, whatever the circumstance.) At this point, I throw up my hands and inform him that HE is going out of town and leaving me with this mess. I still have a pickup truck full of cow feed to unload, two round bales to convince Son to unload with the tractor, muddy dogs to juggle, ants, crawdads, (probably snakes) and defense attorneys! But since I am IN CHARGE, MY DOG IS COMING IN THE HOUSE! End of discussion.
A very wet Briar limps inside. I have ceased to care that the house smells like mud and wet dog. I need caffeine.
I ice up a frapp and consider the words I've heard three times today.
"Well, we needed the rain."
So help me, the next person who says that to me will be strangled.
I'm just sayin'.
Sunday, January 08 2012
They say hindsight is 20/20. Decisions in life seem so clear when looking back. At this point, I must borrow from Shakespeare.
"To thine own self be true."
I sit and ponder these words as I look out in the roping arena and see this:
He is a pitiful sight. Our bull went blind this week. The vet says he has a 50-50 chance of recovery. If Bully doesn't recover, we will most likely have to eat him, because a blind bull is a dangerous creature. Bully is small, but he still weighs about 1500 lbs. Imagine something the size of a Volkswagon Beetle scared and blind. He cannot see fences. He cannot see Border Collies. He cannot see us. He is helpless. He is dangerous.
And I blame myself.
Several days ago, I noticed that Bully wasn't coming in with the House Cows to feed in the morning. Because of recent rains, the feeder area was a sloppy mess. I could see Bully in the distance beside the hay bale, so I assumed he was being a prima dona who didn't want to get his feet muddy. He was standing, so he must be okay. For three mornings I resisted the urge to walk out and check on him because Other Half is always cautioning me,
"They're cows! Quit coddling the livestock. You could make a pet out of a mountain lion."
He's right. I have the uncanny ability to make a pet out of anything with fur. But the sale of cattle is money, and beef is food, so I resist the urge to make pets of the cows. Still, that little voice said, "Maybe you should go see if Bully is okay."
I was immediately chided by another voice that snapped, "Quit trying to make pets out of everything. He's standing. He's fine."
Oh, how I wish I'd been true to myself and babied the cattle.
The rancher next door saw him first. He called Other Half who called the vet. The vet says an infection (like a cold) has settled in his eyes and he needs massive antibiotics to recover. There is a 50-50 chance that he'll regain his sight.
Yesterday we spent a heartbreaking afternoon trying to coax a 1500 lb frightened animal into a wooden corral. He walked into barbed wire fences. (I HATE that stuff!) He walked into corral panels. But fortunately he didn't run over anyone. In Bully's favor is his wonderful temperament. He is a very calm and easy-going bull. On a good day, Bully is lazy and never in a hurry to get anywhere. When he can't see, Bully is even less likely to take off at a dead run.
We couldn't use the dogs because that wouldn't be fair to Bully or the dog, so we were reduced to walking near him with a sorting stick (not a shock stick) and tentatively poking him. It was slow and agonizing work. Several times Other Half was ready to give up and shoot him, but I wanted to give Bully a chance - give the antibiotics a chance. I owed it to him.
The infection came on quickly, and even if I'd brought him in 4 days earlier it may not have made any difference in the outcome, but still, I should have been on top of things. I wasn't, and so I'm determined to give Bully every chance I can.
We finally managed to get him doctored and in a safe place. He was hungry, he was dehydrated, and he'd lost a lot of weight.
We moved a Seeing-Eye Cow in with him. Daisy Mae just hit the lottery.
By default, she gets to return to the life of a show cow, something Bully has never experienced. We may move another pregnant cow in there with him too. Both Paisley and Daisy Mae are first time mothers and both are due soon. If they are close to the house, we can keep a better eye on them. Normally we hope for heifer calves, but this year, we're hoping to have some nice bull calves to get a replacement for Bully. This, of course, guarantees a bumper crop of heifer calves.
So Bully will spend the next month or two being coddled. Even if he doesn't regain his sight, we cannot butcher him until the antibiotics are out of his system so it buys him more coddle time.
And I have some time to work on my Shakespeare. In the future, whenever I am tempted to go against my own nature, I'll think of this and be reminded.
"To thine own self be true."
Tuesday, January 03 2012
The holidays are over and it's time to get back to work!
Or, if you're a Border Collie, you never took off for the holidays.
But the rest of us can look back over the holidays . . .
and reflect on our blessings . . .
And then, like the Border Collies . . .
It's time to get back to work.