MARCH 30 – I’ve had a really bad cold and cough (ended up with bronchitis) for the past 2 weeks but finally starting to feel better. It zapped my strength and endurance and made it more difficult to get through the day’s chores and feeding cows and the start of calving.
Last week Andrea had a plumbing problem at her house; one of the shower faucets broke
and wouldn’t turn off, so she had to turn off all the water—which is a bit awkward for a household with kids. She was able to get a new part for it and that evening her friend Jade came out and fixed it.
Andrea’s old mare Breezy is showing her age. She grew really long hair this winter and is slow to shed out—and now rubbing her hair off on the fences. I took a few photos of her “woolly bear hair” while she was eating her breakfast.
|Breezy starting to shed her long hair|
The next day Dani helped bring the older cows down from the field by Andrea’s house. Lynn drove the feed truck, I sat on the back and called the cows, like I was going to feed them, while Andrea and Dani hiked along behind the herd to bring the stragglers. Then she helped us put some hay in the barn and we gave the heifers their first lesson about going into the calving barn, using a couple of 2nd calvers to help show them the way. A couple heifers were reluctant to go in, but with a little gentle persuasion they all went in, and enjoyed eating the good hay. We left them in for 30 minutes to eat. By the second day’s lesson they all went in voluntarily. After 5 days of trips to the barn they are “barn trained” and will always be easy to put into the barn to calve.
Michael and Nick set new posts along the top and driveway side of the maternity pen; they are going to rebuild those sections of fence. They hauled the posts up through that pen with the skid steer and unloaded them, stringing them along the old fence.
|hauling posts up through the maternity pen|
|Michael & Nick unloading and stringing posts along the old fence|
|putting post pounder on skid steer|
|setting the first post|
|setting post in top corner|
It rained hard that evening and all through the night, melting more of our snow. We put some bedding in one barn stall, using some of the coarser bales from my horse hay stack, so we’d be ready in case a cow calves during the nasty weather.
Michael used the skid steer to string out the poles along the top and sides of the maternity pen for building the new fence and started putting them on—getting the top side finished and a few poles up on the side next to the driveway. The next day Nick and Justin worked on the fence and finished putting up the poles, then started sawing out sagebrush along the old fence above that pen. We are going to rebuild about half a mile of old fence along the fields. That old fence has been falling down for several years, patched and tied up to big sagebrush to keep it somewhat functional. It’s the original fence that was here when my family came to this creek in 1953 (except of this end of it which we rebuilt with pole fence about 45 years ago), and some of the sagebrush that grew along the original fence was 12 to 15 feet tall. Here are photos taken a few years ago when Andrea was bringing cows home along the horse road, showing the tall sagebrush along the old fence.
|bringing cows home along horse road|
Andrea took Emily to the doctor on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; she was starting to dilate. It looked like a race to see whether she or one of the cows would give birth first, but the cows won. Malulamae (daughter of Magrat and granddaughter of Maggie—Dani’s old pet cow) started labor Thursday afternoon. We put her in the barn at chore time and she had a nice bull calf.
Yesterday was rainy and foggy. It was so foggy during the night that I couldn’t see the cows in the maternity pen from the window and had to walk out there a couple of times to check on them to see if any were calving. That morning we put Malulamae and calf out of the barn into one of the side pens with a lot of bedding so the calf would have a dry place to sleep. Andrea checked the cows for me a couple times during the night.
Jim got home from his job in California earlier that evening, hoping to get here before Emily had her baby. It was good timing. Em went into labor early afternoon and had the baby by 8 p.m. this evening. Little Christopher Alexander was not very little! He weighs 9.8 pounds. Em is exhausted but that little guy is doing fine—after a precarious start. He was born with the cord wrapped around his neck and was quite blue, but the doctor and nurses resolved that problem and got him breathing fairly quickly.
APRIL 7 – This past week was cold, freezing hard at night. We had a few more calves born. Emily and baby Christopher are doing well. Here are some photos of the baby the day he was born.
|Andrea & Em giving baby his first bath|
|very tired Emily & new baby|
All the kids came to see the new baby and got to hold him, so here are more photos of that new little nephew.
|Dani & baby Christopher|
|Sammy & Christopher|
|sleepy baby Christopher|
|Andrea & baby Christopher|
|Emily & baby Christopher|
It’s nice having Jim home from his California job. He’s enjoying his grandson, and also helping us out a bit. He stays here for a few hours each night and watches the calving cows so I can get some sleep. On Monday he helped us tag and band several of the new calves. Michael and Nick worked that day taking out more of the old fence along the lower end of the horse road so they can set new posts and rebuild the fence. They hauled off the old posts and poles.
Andrea brought Emily and baby home that afternoon, and their friends Jade and Anita brought supper out for them. Later that evening Andrea and Dani came down to help Lynn unload the salt blocks he’d gotten in town that day for the cows, and Dani got to see some of the new calves.
|one of the oldest calves|
Later that morning Lynn and I took some bales of coarse hay to the pen below the barn to scatter in the sheltered corners for bedding, hauling them on the 4-wheeler, and put a couple of the cows with new calves down there. This gives the calves a little more time to get organized (with clean, dry places to sleep, out of the wind) before they go out to the field.
Michael, Nick and Justin worked that day taking out more of the old fence along the horse road and heifer hill, then Nick and Justin finished putting rails on the new orchard (maternity ward pen) fence and set a new gate post.
|new fence between maternity pen and driveway|
That evening Bob and Jane Minor came to visit Andrea and Em and see the new baby. They are like part of our family; when Andrea had her burn accident 19 years ago and spent most of that summer in the Intermountain Burn ICU in Salt Lake, Bob spent a lot of time there; we all made sure someone was with Andrea continually—which made a huge difference in her survival. Bob and Jane have always been “adopted grandparents” for Emily (who was only 2 years old when her mama was burned), and now she’s grown up with a child of her own. Here’s a photo of Bob holding that special baby.
|Bob holding baby Christopher|
With the warmer weather (up to 60 degrees a couple afternoons) and rain, the snow is gone from these lower fields, and melting fast on the upper place where Michael and Carolyn’s cows have started calving.
Lynn stopped by Andrea’s house that day, and she took photos of him holding his young great-grandson.
|Lynn & baby Christopher|
Michael brought a trailer load of poles to unload here for more of the fencing project, and Andrea took Emily and baby to town for the baby’s checkup. They stopped by here and I took a picture of that little kid.
|baby Christopher 10 days old|
|Great grandma & kid|
|Christopher at Great grandma's cluttered house|
|me & Christopher|
Nick and Justin worked on the fence again yesterday, and we had a couple more cows calving. Jim watches the cows for a few hours during the night so I can get some sleep. Yesterday one of the young cows calved out in the horse pasture and everything would have been fine except all the other cows were ganged around the new baby and an older cow (LillyAnnie) was trying to steal the calf—licking it and shoving the real mom away from it. Michael had just arrived with the trailer to move the rest of the fencing materials out of the swamp pasture, and he saw me trying to referee the cows. So he and Lynn brought the calf sled and we hauled the new baby out of the horse pasture and put him and the new mom into the barn. That was probably the best place for them anyway, since it was really windy that day. The old cow (baby-snatcher) we put in the calving pen, and sure enough, she calved later that afternoon. She just wanted a baby quicker--without the labor!
Today we tagged the new babies and put them in pens and took the older ones and their mamas up to the field.
APRIL 15 – This past week Andrea took Dani to school the first few days because it was so hard for Dani to get in and out of Charlie’s pickup with her leg brace, and there wasn’t much room for keeping her leg straight.
Baby Christopher has really grown and gained weight; here are photos of him at 9 days of age.
She took a while calving; the calf was a little big for her, but she finally had him ok on her own without us having to pull him. She was a good mama and her calf was up and nursing in a short time. Here are photos of that heifer and her baby a few days later after we put them up in the field.
|heifer & baby|
|our first calf heifer to calve with her bull calf|
That night it rained all night, and the next day. We were glad we had a barn for the newest mamas and babies. Wednesday it was very cold and windy all day. We plugged in the tractor that morning to make sure it would start later in the day when we needed to put big round bales in the feeders for the yearling heifers and in the field above the house for the cows with calves. Andrea took Em and baby Christopher to town for the baby’s checkup. He’s really grown and gained weight in his first 2 weeks.
|losing my binky!|
So I went to the house and got Lynn and Jim and we started to try to get the calf pushed back into the uterus far enough to get the leg straightened out. It was very difficult, with the heifer straining and pushing against us. Andrea was in town getting the girls after Sam’s talent show practice but she’d called Charlie (at home) and he came down to help us. Charlie and I were pushing the heifer’s tail up firmly over her back (a trick that puts a bit of pressure on some nerves and helps prevent hard straining) while Jim and Lynn each had an arm in the birth canal—one of them pushing the calf back and the other manipulating the turned-back leg. By that time Andrea got home and helped us, too. Lynn finally got the leg straightened out and Andrea (with her smaller hands) was able to reach in and get chains on both legs. Then the three guys pulled the calf while Andrea and I stretched the heifer’s vulva. It was a hard bull, but with all of us working at it we got that calf out alive—a big bull calf. We were exhausted, but glad that he survived such a difficult birth. We were able to get him breathing fairly quickly.
The heifer was exhausted, too and we let her lie there awhile; she didn’t want to get up. We went back out 20 minutes later and encouraged her to get up. It’s not good for the mama to lie there too long after a difficult birth; there’s more risk of uterine prolapse and also the pressure on certain nerves can tend to paralyze one or both hind legs. Its best if the cow can get up fairly soon.
In spite of her ordeal, the little cow was very interested in her baby, mooing at him and licking him, and he was able to get up and nurse ok.
The next day was clear and not raining/muddy so the guys were able to work on the fence again, setting more posts along the horse road, this time with the skid steer and post pounder, and got a lot of them set. Several more cows calved; by the end of that day we only had 6 left to calve.
|LillyAnn & new calf|
|one of the young bull calves|
We got an e-mail from granddaughter Heather in Canada, with a photo of her young son (not quite 2 years old) after he finished enjoying a big piece of cake. Heather’s birthday cake had blueberries on top, and after eating most of his piece, Joseph did a lot of body artwork with the rest of it!
|Joseph enjoyed his piece of mom's birthday cake|
Yesterday was cold, windy and snowing. We only had 4 cows left in the maternity pen to watch and none of them calved. It was Carolyn’s birthday yesterday, and Michael’s birthday today. I picked out some old photos and made cards for them. For Michael’s card I chose an old picture that Lynn took when I was carrying Michael around in a backpack as I was hiking through the pregnant cows to check them—exactly this same time of year, when Michael was a year old.
|baby Micheal went with me to check cows|
|Dani went up to the field on her crutches|
This afternoon Andrea and Dani stopped by after Andrea brought Dani home from school, and we hiked up to the field to see the cows and calves. Dani hobbled up there on her crutches, and the cows and calves were very curious about her.
|Panda & calf|
|Dani on crutches|
The cows knew who she was but the calve thought she was pretty funny. Some of them came up to her to check out this weird person with 4 legs.
|Dani & curious calves|
|Dani trying to entice a calf closer|
|Dani & calves|
While we were up there, Andrea picked a little green grass (through the fence where it hadn’t been eaten down by the cows) to feed to some of her favorite cows, who eagerly came up to her to get a taste of grass.
|Andrea feeding grass to LillyAnn|
|Andrea feeding grass to cows|
APRIL 20 –Last Tuesday our last heifer (Panda’s daughter) calved, but it was a challenging birth. She started early labor about 3 a.m. and I put her in the calving pen with one of the young cows for company, but she didn’t show much signs of active labor until mid-morning when Lynn and I put her in the barn.
We kept checking on the heifer between our other chores—taking more big bales to the cows and heifers, and reloading the feed truck with little bales. Finally by afternoon I stayed in the barn watching the heifer, to make sure things were actually progressing or if we had another malpresentation to correct. At last the calf’s feet emerged, but then there was no more progress. We could see that the feet were big, so it was a big calf. About the time we decided we needed to help her, Jim got back from Montana (he’d been over there for a couple of days visiting friends), which was a good thing. Andrea sneaked up behind the laboring heifer and was able to get chains on the calf’ feet, and then Lynn, Jim and I helped pull it.
It was an extremely difficult pull and we almost needed the mechanical calf puller. We got the calf partway out and no farther and it looked like we were going to lose him because his ribcage wasn’t clear out yet (unable to expand) so he could not start to breath. In desperation we finally got him out, and he was still alive, and we were able to get him breathing. The heifer just lay there, flat out, exhausted. Lynn lay there on his back next to her, exhausted. We are getting too old for this!
We let the heifer lie there awhile (but encouraged her to pick up her head), and when we checked back a little later she’d gotten up ok and was licking the calf. He was such a big clumsy fellow, however, that he didn’t get up. Andrea had to take Em and baby to town for a checkup with the doctor, so when the calf was 2 hours old Lynn and I got him up. He was so big and heavy it was all the two of us could to get him on his feet, and then steady him for a while until he got his strength and balance. His mama loved him and was very patient as I tried to help him get to the udder, but he was just too tired and uncoordinated to suck much. He did get a taste, however, before he collapsed again to rest, and when I checked back later he was up again and nursing just fine.
We were fortunate to get him born alive. The young bull we used on the heifers (one of the two that we bought from Alfonso when they were calves) sired nice calves but they were much too big. We will use him on the cows this year, and find another bull to go with the heifers. Here’s a photo of the first heifer’s calf born—the only one that didn’t need assistance.
|the only heifer's calf born unassisted, with one of his buddies behind him|
The last cow—by herself in the maternity pen—was restless all day; by afternoon it was obvious that she was in early labor. Lynn and I put her in the barn at chore time that evening and she calved after supper. It was a nice big bull calf. We were done calving! Here’s a photo of that last baby, after we put him and his mom out in the field.
|last calf born|
That afternoon Andrea took a photo of Jim and his grandson enjoying a quiet moment while Emily took a nap.
|Jim & his grandson|
|Jim enjoying a moment with Christopher|
Saturday morning we had a thunderstorm at 6 a.m. but not much rain. It was just cool and windy all day. Here are photos taken that morning of Andrea helping baby nap so Em could get some rest, and a photo of Em and baby Christopher both trying to take a nap.
|Grandma Andrea & sleepy kid|
|Em & baby|
Easter Sunday morning we had a lot of rain and it was cold and windy all day. We had dinner here that evening for Andrea and kids, Jim, Emily and baby. Here’s the mob of us in my cluttered dining room.
|Baby Christopher asleep in his car seat on our couch|
|Dani out with cows & calves|
|cows watching Dani|
|Dani taking photos of calves|
|Dani petting Ed|
|pole fence on this end of the horse road - finished|
|pole fence along lower end of horse road|
|pole fence along horse road|
|wire fence along horse road just before the stays were put in|
|new fence up the land|
|new fence for maternity pen|
|new fence with old freight wagons on outside|
|big calf that we had to pull|
|young mama licking her baby and him licking her|
|the big calf we pulled|
Lynn and I moved the feeders and took 2 more big bales of hay to the cows and calves above the house, and also took a new bale to the yearling heifers. We moved their feeder closer to the gate so we can fence off the hayfield side of that pasture and keep them on the creek side (that gets boggy in summer and we can’t put up hay on it), to let the field side start growing. They are grazing the new green grass faster than it grows!
Lynn brought the harrow around from the field by Andrea’s house yesterday evening and harrowed the field where the yearling heifers are, then harrowed the maternity pen and horse pasture.
Today I took photos at sunrise, of the trees along the creek below our house, with their tiny new leaves showing a hint of green, and a photo of sunrise at my hay shed, with K Mountain in the background—and still snow on that mountain.
|sunrise and trees with tiny new leaves|
|sunrise at my hay shed - still snow on K Mountain|
Today Em took photos of Andrea & baby Christopher who is no 3 ½ weeks old.
|Andrea entertaining Christopher|
|baby & his favorite binky|