Thursday, April 18, 2013

One Cup

Phil's parents left yesterday. I have been desperate to try anything to help me feel better, and at 14 weeks, I really think it's about time. I saw a mention of tapping, a quick tap of pressure points on hands, face, and chest. That seems to help. I am taking some homeopathic remedies appropriate for this stage of pregnancy (Calc fluor, Mag phos, Nat mur). And I found a box of vitamins my sister sent me two months ago, buried under a stack of stuff on the coffee table. I had tried them once and felt so much more horrible the next day, I gave up. But I tried again yesterday, and was impressed with a boost of energy.

This was good, and just in time.

I had gone to bed reading my new copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child's famous first contribution to the cooking world. Happily, the first recipe uses potatoes and onions, butter and salt, all ingredients I had on hand, so I woke up ready to be in the kitchen. Sure, there was a certain amount of early in the morning gagging, but, poof, that's to be expected. And while I was at it, I made rice and an easy ground beef stir fry.

I say this mostly because it has been literally two months since I last managed even those simple tasks. Quite an achievement.

While I was savoring my breakfast, Phil came to tell me that Belle had finally (finally!) calved. He had noticed her bag swelling more yesterday, and her mucus plug had come out, so it was definitely time. For a heifer on marginal feed her entire life, she did a great job, though she did have a little tear in her vulva. Considering her farm-twin Beatrice died giving birth, I'll take a little tear.

We had an unexpected cloud burst this morning, strong enough and prolonged enough that everything turned slippery. So we decided this would be an animal day. We had hoped to pick up some chickens today; in the end that didn't happen. But the question was, where to put them? We suspect the white leghorns brought some sort of infertility virus that infected all other chickens. The last of the leghorns was eaten by a neighbor dog some weeks ago, so there would be no direct transfer. But the pen?

Phil disinfected it while I did some school work with the boys. We decided to put about 10% of the birds in that pen for a week or two, and see if they cease laying. If they do, that's a good indication those nesting boxes and that pen just needs to be burned.

So then Phil and I moved our old, rotted chicken tractor to another location. Phil put up the chicken netting for the 90% who aren't experimental. If there is some mysterious virus, we won't lose all our new stock.

I am thrilled to see nettles springing up at the back of the chicken pen. I bought 15 roots last year, and though not all made it, the ones that took are doing very well!

We had another major task of the day. We decided that we would move Belle and her baby (named Elle or Emily, depending on which son you ask) up to join Babe and baby Einstein.

This hadn't been too difficult with Babe on Monday. She was so pooped from delivery, she just stood there when Phil clipped her leash on, and her baby was so pooped, he followed along. Babe didn't exactly heel (she stubbornly refused to move without intense tugging), but it was not a strenuous exercise.

Enter Belle. Not only is she still almost plump, despite having delivered a large calf (I would guess about 15 pounds heavier than baby Einstein), but she is wily! She saw Phil coming and moved away. Between the two of us, we kept her in one section of her paddock, but she was not keen on being captured. After three or four near misses (because it's not enough to just touch her collar: Phil had to hold it long enough to clip it), Phil rigged up an amazing electric wire walkway. The problem was, it headed into the green growing section where all the other cows wanted to be! So we had to keep the other bovines from going where rebellious Belle refused to go.

Thankfully we had Isaiah, because it was more than a two-person job.

And when more wily Phil had finally captured wily Belle, he was tying her up for a bit to get the baby, when the nylon leash broke! Belle was free to run around the acre pasture! And the leash was just long enough for her to step on and snap again, so she had about six inches of leash dangling uselessly from her neck. Her horns are longer than that!

Happily, Phil had brought a halter, so after more fancy maneuvering with rope and gate, he got her haltered, I stood the baby up and directed her up slope. In some ways, I think Belle was a bit ready. She had just given birth maybe eight hours before, and here she was, being hounded by some crazy humans (and a naughty dog we had forgotten to tie up at the RV).

But that was not the end of the struggles. Belle fought every step of the way, whether her baby was ahead of her or behind her. We stopped to let the baby nurse about halfway up, and that was sweet to see.

In all, it was about 2 1/2 hours of intensity before the baby was in the pen and Belle was in the rye. Babe hasn't wanted to eat the rye much preferring the clovers and low-lying weeds. But Belle immediately went to town on the rye. She gobbled it!

We have had to learn about bottle feeding a calf. Since both the calves have eaten from their moms, they weren't ecstatic about trying the big rubber nipple. Einstein fought a good bit, but now, after about five feedings, he is a champion eater. He can down a half gallon in about five minutes. The new baby, having had real colostrum just hours before the night feeding, had no real interest in the bottle. Tomorrow should be different.

We banded Einstein today, too, which will turn this bull into a steer. I know that there are advocates for cutting bull calves man parts: quick and effective. But the idea of making an incision there—Phil and I are both sketchy on that. I gave the calf some Arnica before the banding, and then held his head. With all our palpitations (important to make sure everything is in the band that should be), he didn't move. Phil put the two bands on, and, hoping all goes well, in about a month, the band will have squeezed off the potent parts.

We had to again catch Babe in order to milk her. Phil caught her on the second go round. She never got quite close enough to the fence to tie her tightly, but after a few minutes of tugging we realized she had set her feet and wasn't going anywhere.

And so I milked a cow for the first time in two years. It was such an absolute joy. Her teats are perfectly shaped, her udder beautiful. She let down immediately. And though she gave only a cup, I figured that isn't bad. She was nursed only hours before, has had an extremely stressful day, and has been living on hay for the last four or five months. A cup is great! And with unlimited access to beautiful rye—I am very hopeful for this beautiful Belle.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Belle really is a belle! . . . And so is Elle (or Emily; but I like Belle-Elle).