Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cows and goats and PowerPoint

I should be working on my PowerPoint for the Mother Earth News Fair this weekend, but life has turned into quite the unexpected mess. And yes, I should be working on it now, but I haven't blogged in a week, and I'm not going to be able to write anything on here for the next few days, so I figured I'd let you all know what's been happening.

Yesterday I discovered that Pegasus, one of my ND bucks had a big problem with one of his eyes. At first I thought his eyeball was missing because I could only see pink tissue. But after closer inspection, I realized the eyeball was still in there, but you couldn't see it because the eyelid was so swollen. So, I called the university vet school. The man on the phone said someone would call me back in 15 minutes. So, I started working on one of my PowerPoints for the MEN Fair, and before I knew it, several hours had passed, and it was well past 5 p.m. when the vet school was closed. They have an emergency number, though, so I called back. An ophthalmologist talked to me and told me that it would be $300 for Pegasus to be seen! I was speechless. Normally the vet school is very reasonable.

So this morning, I started to call other vets to see if one of them could see him. The first one had a message saying she was out of town. The next one was busy. Then the phone rang. Our neighbor said our cows were in their yard, so Katherine and I ran out to get them. We brought them home but noticed that our bull was not with them. Katherine looked through our pastures and couldn't find him. Driving up and down the roads looking for him would have been a waste of time because it is very wooded around here, and he was probably deep in the woods where we would never see him from the road.

Then I got a phone call from the vet clinic. It was the technician that I normally speak with, and she said that the ophthalmologist was mistaken. It would be a normal office visit for the vet school, and the ophthalmologist consult would only be $35. Thank goodness she had heard about my phone call. Unfortunately, it was too late to bring in Pegasus today because it is a two-hour drive, so he has an appointment for tomorrow.

Then the intercom for the front gate ding-donged. It was a farmer from around the corner and a mile away. He said that our bull was in his barn. I was relieved to know where he was, but then the farmer started to complain that our cows were getting out "all the time," and he has 70 head of cattle, and "they never get out." Our bull has wound up in his barn twice, but he was also upset that another neighbor assumed our cattle belonged to him and had called him when our cattle got out a couple weeks ago. So, apparently once in March and two times in the last couple weeks is "all the time." But I had to really remember everything my mother ever said about being nice before I responded to his statement that his cattle "never get out." Before we put up a fence across our front yard, I found his cattle in my garden more than once. And I don't even know how many times I've called his brother to tell him that his cattle were in the road. I didn't even think about getting mad at him when someone called me and thought that his loose cattle were mine. I just said, nope, my cattle are in the pasture -- and I even called them to let them know that their cattle were loose.

I had always assumed that they didn't want their cattle running all over the county, and figured they'd realize I prefer mine stay home also. I don't understand why some people get so nasty about animals getting out. I certainly don't want my animals running all over the place. I appreciate it when people tell me they're out because I want them home where they'll be safe. Being mean to me isn't going to do anything to improve my fencing or my psychic ability to figure out how they're going to get out next. The problem is actually not the fencing. It's the creek. We had cattle before, and they never got out by walking down the creek bed or anywhere near there. Both times the cattle have gotten out before, we added additional fencing to the space where they got out, but then they go somewhere else next time. I didn't even attempt to figure out where they got out today because we're not putting them on the back twenty again.

One reason I wanted cattle is because they could utilize the pasture across the creek. Coyotes are thick back in there, so it's not safe for sheep and goats, even with the llamas. But this is not working with the cattle. I'm not happy about the idea of feeding them hay through another winter because they eat a lot. We ran out of hay the first winter we had them, which was not fun. Hay in February costs a lot more than hay during the summer because the sellers know you're desperate.

So, the cattle are now for sale. I already talked to one very clueless man who was interested in one of the cows. He mentioned breeding them to Scottish highlands or lowline Angus, and I immediately saw my sweet cows dieing trying to give birth to huge calves. So, scratch him off the list unless he educates himself a lot about Dexters, which are the smallest breed of cattle in the country. If the bull and the two calves don't sell within the next month or two, we'll turn them into beef and veal. If I have to feed hay to the two cows over the winter, I will.

As for how our day ended -- We had a fun time bringing Jaxon home. He was a mile from home, and the sun was going down. It was only Katherine and me at home, and the farmer made it clear he wasn't helping, which is fine. When Jaxon showed up at their place in March, his brother gave him a ride home in his trailer. Katherine and I took a lead rope and a pan of alfalfa cubes and hopped in the truck to drive over to the man's farm. We walked right up to Jaxon in the barn and started hand-feeding him the alfalfa cubes, and Katherine snapped the lead rope onto his collar. He walked out of the barn like a well-trained dog. I followed in the truck with my foot on the brake the whole time. I felt like I was driving in a parade, but watching Jaxon's back end for all that time, I started mentally drawing lines on him, figuring out how many roasts, steaks, and so on we'd get from him. The walk home went very well for the first half mile. Then Jaxon decided to start running, and Katherine dropped the lead rope. She runs for fun though, so she was able to keep up with him as he headed into the woods for a short while. The two re-emerged on the road a minute later with Katherine running closely behind him. Of course, the main thing on my mind was that if I had been home alone (like I will be in a year or two), I would not have been able to get him home by myself. I suppose that's why I started thinking about beef.

Now I have a PowerPoint to put together, and I have to take Pegasus to the vet clinic tomorrow, which will be a long day. Somewhere I need to get some sleep. I went to bed after midnight last night and woke up at 5:30 this morning and couldn't fall back asleep, worrying about Pegasus. Friday morning, I'm leaving for Pennsylvania and the Mother Earth News Fair. If you're there, be sure to say hi!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The annual panic post

If you've been around for awhile, you know that I generally panic this time of year. Husband-professor Mike is back at school, and the three now-adult children are all in college. Margaret will be graduating from University of Illinois this December. Katherine, my baby, is editor of her community college newspaper this year, and favorite son Jonathan is in theater and has already been cast in a play this semester. That leaves me home seven days a week to milk goats, make cheese, harvest vegetables, can, freeze, and deal with whatever emergency happens to be happening around here, which seems to be coyote related lately. Most days, I have one additional person here to help, and I hate to sound ungrateful, but that's not usually enough.

In past years, I've also freaked out about the fact that we still didn't get drain tiles in the ground around the house and barn, which means that we'll have to deal with continued flooding at random times. And no, we didn't get the drain tiles in this summer either. And the potting shed still is not done, although Mike did buy the lumber, so we are one step ahead of previous years. Maybe my dining room won't be taken over by seedlings next spring. And we got nothing done on the house -- you know, the one in which we live, the one we started building seven years ago. So we're still living with no tile around the master bathtub, few baseboards, and an open staircase. Someday this will be a beautiful house.

But this year, I have new things to add to my panic list -- I have a book coming out in a couple weeks, which means I'll be doing lots of speaking and book signings. So, I have speeches to write and Power Points to create. If you're in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Kansas, be sure to check out the events that are already scheduled there, as well as Illinois, where I live.

I also have to write my second book, which is due January 15. And I started two new blogs, which is one reason I don't post here quite as often. I've already introduced you to the Homegrown and Handmade blog, which is a supplement to the book and contains recipes and information on growing your own food and fiber. But I also decided to start a writer's blog -- a blog where I write about writing.

Does it surprise you to know that I've been thinking about selling the Irish dexter cattle and most of the Shetland sheep? I just haven't worked up the nerve to actually post any ads. Part of me keeps saying, what if it's a mistake? I'm not sure how it could be a mistake to reduce my workload around here, but fear of making a mistake paralyzes a lot of people.

Now the sun is low enough in the sky to be shining into the window next to my computer. It's my cue that it's time for evening chores.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Twin doelings for Agnes

Agnes was at day 143 today, and goats normally give birth between 145 and 150 days. I had even checked her tail ligaments last night, and they were still obviously firm. Her udder was filling up, but it hadn't changed much in the last couple weeks, so I really didn't expect to see kids before the weekend. So, it should not surprise you to hear that I had no idea what Katherine was talking about when she ran into the house this morning and gleefully yelled, "Babies!"


"Babies!" she said happily with a bit of "duh" in her tone.

Then it sort of clicked, and I asked, "Agnes?"

Yes, Agnes had given birth to two lovely little doelings in the pasture. So, Katherine went running back out there to retrieve mom and babies and put them into their own private pen so they could have the time and space to get to know each other.

I could sit out there and watch them all day, but I have tomatoes to freeze, a book to write, and feta to make.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

How does your garden grow?

Ours is growing quite well!

We have tequila sunrise peppers . . .
which are sweet, but every now and then you think it might be a little hot. Definitely different. I love to slice them in ringlets and put them on pizza. Beautiful!

and cayenne peppers . . .
which are hot! Duh! Most of these will be dried, but we do use them fresh while we have them. This is where the bottles of "red pepper" in the spice aisle come from.

and Amana orange tomatoes . . .
which is an heirloom variety that you can't find in any store. They're delicious, especially in tomato soup!

And the tomato plants that look like they're on steroids! (But it's just composted goat manure!)

We even have melons this year!
which is very unusual for Illinois because we have such a short growing season! That's Orangeglo Watermelon on the left, Charantais in the middle, and Banana Melon on the right.

How is your garden doing?


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