January 31, 2010

crotch watching

We've been spending our days and nights staring at vaginas and trying to determine who might be showing signs of labor. That would be cow vaginas, folks.
We're trying to learn from Farmer R what to look for and we hope to catch a birth one of these days. There are one or two who are showing signs so something should be happening soon. We're trying to keep the camera on us at all times.
It's also ridiculously cold which means frozen eggs if we don't collect them often. It was -6 degrees this morning. It also means checking the cattle water often to keep it from freezing.
A new calico kitty has appeared on the farm and she's in bad shape. We're trying to decide how much time and effort to put into saving her but she's just so darn cute. This little thing has a strong constitution and just might survive if we can get her main health issues under control.
I hope the 'Future of Food' post wasn't too scary. I feel it's all about education. That's the only way you can make informed food choices. Plus, to be honest, the truth really is scary and I want all of you to know that. The government would have you believe that everything is fine. Just eat your processed, poisoned food and be quiet. These are all huge reasons why we're fighting this fight.
One of my favorite quotes (thanks Jen):

"Every day's act of eating, is an act of creating freedom." - Vandana Shiva. Buy local, buy organic!

January 24, 2010

it's a boy!

 This sweet boy kicks off the 2010 calving season. The brood cows (mamas) will have their calves between now and March, most will come in February. The mama usually does all the work on her own. On some occasions the calf may be turned around in the womb or there may be some other labor complications which would require human intervention. Farmer R chooses his brood cows carefully and if they are good mothers and easy 'birthers', he keeps them. Some of his brood cows are over 20 years old and have given him a calf every year.

Since it was so cold and the little one was still wet, Farmer R dried his ears off with a hairdryer so they wouldn't freeze - while mama supervises. She's not so keen to let anyone near her new baby but she knows and trusts Farmer R and realizes he's trying to help. He also puts iodine on the umbilicus (or belly button). After that we left mom and baby alone for a while so that they could bond and begin nursing. The calf will begin to nurse anywhere from 10 minutes to 6 hours after birth. Here's something fascinating... the calf is up and walking around just minutes after birth and as soon as the calf is born, the mama cow checks its gender and licks it's genitals (in the back for females and under the belly for males) to stimulate the first urination. She then licks it's behind which stimulates defecation.

When we came back just a few hours later to check on them. The calf had dried completely and had a nice full belly of mama's milk.

 You might wonder why in the world Farmer R would want to have his calves born in the middle of winter. I mean, the timing is essentially up to him since he's the one who puts the bull in with the cows for breeding. I was wondering the very same thing and as I have read lots of theories on this, his reasons never occurred to me. First of all, Farmer R wants to be able to spend lots of time checking in on the mama and baby and if it was born during the summer months, the rest of the farm work keeps him way too busy for that. The second reason is that he raises his cattle strictly on grass. During the winter months he feeds hay that he's grown during the summer. He wants to finish the beef on fresh green grass so if you do the math, this requires them to be born in the winter. The cows usually give birth inside the barn which has deep packed manure mixed with straw. Each morning we sprinkle compost starter and add fresh, clean straw. The composting bedding provides heat which creates a nice cozy environment for the calves. Plus, they're a little more equipped for cold weather than we are with their fur coats.

 Another brood cow sniffs and helps clean the new arrival who has wondered outside of the barn. You know, they say it takes a village...

January 17, 2010

terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Today sucked. There is much stress around here as of late but unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to discuss most of it. Bummer. I'd really like to vent. I just cannot believe the audacity of some people. It is truly disheartening sometimes. Why does greed overcome compassion and kindness? Seriously, people have changed. This world has changed.
But here's something I can vent about..... Remember Mr. Neighbor Man whose dog claimed 13 of our beautiful hens? Well, today he informed us, in a super nasty way, that regardless of the fact that we've now lost 13 so far from the attack, he will only pay for the 6 hens that he saw dead. NO apology. Apparently we were supposed to take the birds we euthanized to him as proof? Maybe we should have taken photos to document the carnage but I have to tell you that as I was bawling my eyes out holding several severely injured hens down while Nate took a shovel to their neck in an effort to end their misery, I really wasn't thinking of any of that. There's been a lot going on here and I was feeling utterly devastated at that moment.
The dog owner is also unwilling to even discuss compensating us for the time and money invested in those birds as well as the lost income as we now get a dozen less eggs per day.
Apparently it's our fault that his dog cannot be let out unattended anymore. Poor little Cujo. I'm sure you know just how badly I feel about this, right?
So we're supposed to take a total loss here. A $5 loss per day for the next 2 years. Not to mention that we fed those girls very well for 5 months before they even started laying. Since when is it okay to treat someone like that? It's his dog and he lives across from a farm...with animals.
Lately farming is feeling like an uphill battle. It seems as though there are so many forces working against us... or trying to. We're essentially homeless, floating between 2 different places, trying to make ourselves scarce so as not to be a burden. We're exhausted from working so much and feel lost, discombobulated, numb, yet oddly...HAPPY. We're doing what we love and are where we need to be right now in this moment. We are learning so much and are having so much fun (except for the obvious incidents). Plans are being made and dreams are being born.
This is life-changing.

January 11, 2010

we're down a few girls.

Last week, on the night of our anniversary, the neighbor’s dog discovered our hens. We had both been busy that day. I was making deliveries in Pittsburgh and Nate was traveling to pick up the organic soybeans for our feed ration. We had planned to meet up that evening to celebrate somehow. Nate showed up at the farm at dark to close up the Eggmobile. The hens intuitively head inside as it starts to get dark and climb up on the roosts to sleep. Once they’re all inside we close their door for the night. The attack happened just before dark as they were going inside. There were feathers everywhere and hens were missing. They were confused, scared and flustered and so were we. The neighbors had been warned that there are chickens here and had been asked to keep a close watch on their dogs. Nate was angry and upset and was trying to figure out what happened so he stopped by the neighbor’s house. He said it was his dogs that did it and that they brought the dead hens home to him. Nice.
He apologized and asked what he owed us saying he would pay for the lost hens. Let me tell you, Mr. Neighbor Man, it is not that simple. About 7 or 8 of them were dead and gone while 4 or 5 of them were injured. A couple were so badly injured that we had to euthanize them. Some of them had open wounds from the dogs. A chicken will peck at anything that looks interesting. Unfortunately, once a chicken tastes blood it triggers their cannibalistic tendencies and the hens will start pecking at each other. They will kill each other this way so it must be stopped as soon as possible. Luckily we were able to remove the bloody birds and act fast enough. It was such a terrible feeling and we were really upset. We lost 12 birds total and there’s a dozen eggs per day that we’re not getting anymore. Eggs are our only winter income and now that had decreased. Not to mention that because of the stress of the attack, no one was laying properly and that is just now starting to get back to normal. It’s not like we can easily replace the missing hens either. Our hens have already established a pecking order and will most likely not mix well with others.
So, you see, Mr. Neighbor Man and his dogs caused a ripple effect which we’re still dealing with. You better believe we’ll be taking all of that into account when we figure out how much he owes us.

trying to catch my breath.