Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My citykid thoughts on the events of the day…..

My little sick calf No 31 didn’t make it through the night. 

And all the pigs have been taken to the butcher. 

The barnyard seems lonely, deserted. 

Even with the three remaining calves that follow me around like puppies (I wonder what that will be like when they are full grown), our 40-some laying hens, and a handful of barn cats it’s just too dang quiet out in the barn.

We began deconstructing the electric fencing for the pig pasture in order to open up a third pasture for the remaining calves. That should keep them busy as long as things stay green.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll let the chickens free range the barnyard and pig pens just to liven things up a bit.

I feel sick over losing our calf. We did everything we knew how to do (consulting the vet and farmer friends and books, getting his tests done, administering meds, giving electrolytes as often as he’d take them and hand feeding), but in the end it wasn’t enough. His little life seems like a valuable price to pay for our inexperience. But we have learned and things will go differently next time, Lord willing.

We’ve lost pigs and chickens and meat birds, but none seemed as hard as this one. Way back when we raised our first pigs, our pig farmer gave us good advice. “Livestock equals deadstock.” Loosing an animal is a part of the life, not always avoidable, and a sobering reminder of our own mortality. I’m so thankful for our Creator God who cares for the sparrow, cared for my little calf, and He cares for His children so much more infinitly better than I ever could.

Monday, October 17, 2016

My citykid thoughts on the events of the day…..

We had a heck of a time getting the pigs in the trailer today. The Old Man went out this morning and dumped in a bunch of grass and four of the six pigs walked onto the trailer.

We should have pulled the ramp and shut the main door and took those babies to the butcher right then and there because from there on out we had nothing but trouble. 

My job was to keep the pigs in the trailer once they were in. I did great until it was time for the last pig. By then, the pigs on the trailer were tired of the treats (eggs, apples and some scraps of bread) and no longer impressed with the little switch I used to snap them on the nose when they looked a little too longingly at the door or stepped too close to the ramp.

One by one they started sizing me up and eyeing the exit, then they’d make a break for it. The Old Man and the kids would get one back on and then I’d loose two more. 

After a bit of this little dance we decided to keep the two actually left on the trailer and take a break for lunch.

This is the ramp leading to the trailer. We decided early we needed a bit of fence to create a funnel leading up to the ramp so we created this makeshift fence from old pallets. I’d did help but when a pig decides he doesn’t want to do something, well…. you better use your brains cause those babies are strong!!

After our break The Old Man and the kids were able to load two more of the pigs quite easily and he won the job of keeping them in the trailer while the kids and I herded the fifth pig. Not bad. We definitely learned how to work together to guide the pig into the “funnel” and up the ramp.

The sixth pig, number 11, had been difficult the whole day. We struggled with him a bit. The pigs on the trailer got restless so we removed the ramp and shut the door and decided to drop off the five and come back and get the last pig, making two trips to the butcher.

Not ideal but none of this has been ideal.

We’ve learned a lot about how not to move a pig and plan to make some improvements to the system next year. 

One thing is certain. Farming often takes a team and the kids really stepped up today. We couldn’t have gotten those pigs  loaded without them. They’re hard and cheerful workers even when something’s terribly frustrating. I’m thankful for farming if for no other reason then for the kids to learn how to do things even when it’s difficult and seems impossible.

Calf Update: No 31 is doing much the same. Eating bits and nursing electrolytes from the bottle. Tomorrow I plan to make another call to the vet just to check in. He is still very weak and I’m thankful for the kids who helped bottle-feed him throughout the day, in between hog wrangling, and as the Old Man and I made our trips to the butcher.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My citykid thoughts on the events of the day…..

It’s looking a little rough for calf No. 31. I feel good about the amount of fluids we got in him but he’s still so weak. Tomorrow’s a new day so I’m hoping we’ll see some renewed strength in this little guy.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to move the last of the hogs to the butcher. Then we’re set to do some adjustment of the fencing to allow for a third pasture for the calves over the winter.

And in between our work I’ll be bottle feeding electrolytes to our sick guy.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

My citykid thoughts on the events of the day…..

All the calves got their second dose of medicine today. They’ve been out on pasture and doing well. Except our little calf Number 31. He’s weak and unable to hold his own weight. But he’s holding his head up and eating. He refused water or electrolytes out of the bucket and we were considering taking him to the clinic to be tube fed fluids and nutrition. As a last ditch effort we tried the electrolytes from the bottle and he took a quart from the bottle. Hoping tomorrow the meds will help and he’ll continue to eat and drink and his strength will return.

Friday, October 14, 2016

My citykid thoughts on the events of the day: an update on the calves….

We are treating all the calves for coccidia (with very, very large pills) and all have responded well except little Number 31. He was the first to exhibit symptoms and still seems a little week. I did get confirmation that he is drinking his electrolytes but I’m anxious to see him out on pasture with the others.

These pills are approximately 3 inches long and this is the balling gun used to get the pills far enough into the cows mouths for them to swallow the pills.


I wasn’t home when the men administered he meds but they get another dose tomorrow, so I can be front and center, you know, should I want to be. Hopefully it will be what my sweet little No. 31 needs to be up and doing all the cow-ish things the other calves do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My citykid thoughts on the events of the day…..

Today was fun.

By 4:00 I had retreated to my bed and hid from the world under my down blanket.

We’ve been watching one of our calves with scours. Yesterday we started electrolytes and while doing my barn chores this morning I discovered the original calf was not improving and his diarrhea appeared to be tinged with blood and that the second calf also was exhibiting symptoms.

Here’s my sad little calf not feeling so great.

Now the Old Man was in a training class and just not available for my farm shenanigans. But we were able to exchange a few texts and we determined it’s time to act–making phone calls and asking questions. Lots of questions. It was up to me to figure out what to do next.

Part of me was afraid to ask those questions. I did enough googling to be sufficiently freaked out. I was truely afraid of what I would hear…. imaging the worst which always ended in certain doom for everyone–cows, chickens, pigs and family. I don’t know, mad cow disease or something.

Thankfully a friend gave me some info and pointed me to people that can help a citygirl out: the OSU Extention Office. I got to talk with the vet directly and she patiently answered all my questions, calmed my fears and gave me a clear course of action.

What was that course of action?

1. Get a fecal sample

2. Take their temperatures

I paced the floor. Watched a you-tube video. Paced some more. Looked it up in my cow book. Paced. Messaged my friend again. Went back to pacing.

Then I did what any citykid would do…. put on my big girl britches and muck boots, make a trip to the store for rubber gloves, and recruit my eleven-year-old farmboy to help a girl out.

I’ll spare you the details. But the two of us got the job done.

The vet gave me a couple of ideas of what she suspected the cause to be. My friend was able to give me more info based on her experience. And when the Old Man got home he talked me out of my hiding place under the covers.

Information, facts and the kindness of others do much to assuage fears.

And one digital-thermometer at a time this citykid becomes a farmgirl.

(We’ll find out tomorrow the cause of the scours and the solution.)

Sunday, October 9, 2016

My citykid thoughts on the events of the day…..
A little worried tonight about one of our calves. He has scours (diarrhea). So we’re watching him closely and doing our research and praying for health for this little guy. He represents a big investment in our farm financially and he is a life that has been entrusted to us so we feel responsible to be sure he is healthy and  well cared for as long he is with us.

And it just so happens that the Old Man will be unavailable for the most part next week due to his day job, so I’ll be the one with the eyes and ears on the problem and who is responsible for taking things to the next step, if needed. Which is tricky for this citykid because I’m not even sure what the next step would be.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

My citykid thoughts on the events of the day…..

Today I picked up the butchered turkeys ready for the freezer. (Incidentally I had to fit the crate we used to transport them in my citykid Honda and it smelled a bit farmy for the ride home–sorry, kids.)

They were not as big as we hoped (their finished weight ranged from nearly 8 to ten pound turkeys.) We had initially intended to have them butchered in another month to have nice big birds just in time for thanksgiving. But the processor we found close to home stopped butchering this weekend for the season. So we have some smaller than ideal turkeys. Which is fine considering this was a bit of an experiment in the first place. Next year we will make some calls early in the year to be better informed before ordering and better plan our timing.

Live and learn, right?

Friday, October 7, 2016

My citykid thoughts on the events of the day…..
The Boy was happy to load up his turkeys in our old dog crate and send them off to the butcher. He’s the boss at wrangling large birds. Fearless and calm. Somehow he knows how to separate one out from the rest and wrap his arms around the chest down over the wings and across the legs. Some things can’t be taught. And if it weren’t for him I would have come up with some concocted plan that involved herding the birds through the open door and into the crate and feathers flying in all directions.

Tomorrow we pick up the finished birds and find out how much they weigh. This year we learned that around here reservations for bird processing fill up quickly. Call early and plan to have your birds finished out to the desired weight BEFORE the processor closes up shop for the season. Things that will be helpful to remember next year.

All in all we found turkeys to be a fairly easy bird to raise. The chicken tractors worked great for keeping them on pasture and we really had no problems showing them to the water and feeders and moving the tractor each day, considering their reputation for being stupid and all.

Another set of animals raised and harvested and another product that is responsibly raised, clean, and local. Nice.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

My citykid thoughts on the events of the day…..

It’s been a few weeks since my last nightly update. I hope to get back on schedule. So for now, a quick update on the last two weeks.

This farmgirl spent two nights and three days in a big city for a conference. I had a blast getting away with one of my girlfriends, but I learned that my citykid side gets homesick for the farm real quick–especially after learning that she couldn’t afford the Uber driver to get her downtown and she’d have to actually drive herself. In an unknown city. Way far away from home. On a freshly paved freeway with no lane markings at night. Where the drivers get angry and the parking garages just don’t make much sense. Oh what joy to come home where the traffic jams are only 5 cars deep and my biggest stress is passing a tractor pulling a hay rake on a two lane country road. Where cows moo and kittens are fuzzy and roosters crow and the eggs are real and the water smells like iron and the neighbors wave when you drive by.

When I wasn’t off visiting far away places the boys and I loaded up 5 of the pigs and took them to the butcher. Loading them up wasn’t too bad. We had been feeding them in the trailer for a couple of days so they had some practice using the ramp. Getting them off the trailer was another story. But we got some help from the awesome folks at the butcher and learned a few more tricks in moving pigs. Namely, how to get them to exit a livestock trailer.

Today the Old Man and I picked up the finished product and made our deliveries. Let me tell you, we had so much fun packing up all the orders, filling the coolers, and dropping them off. What a blessing to be able to share what God has allowed us to work for and know that we are passing on the very best product we can…. pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free, heritage pork. These piggies wallowed in the mud, frolicked in the sprinkler, rooted up the pasture, cleaned up our table scraps, and never knew a stressful day. And sharing that with family and friends makes all the hard work worth it.