Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sudden Distraction

The little goat kid died early this morning.

She got some fluid in her lungs sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday; when exactly it happened, I know not. Had she been a full term kid, this wouldn't have been a problem; it was such a small amount of liquid in there... But her little premature lungs couldn't take the stress. She gave up. 

She was looking really good on Wednesday morning, trying to stand up on her wobbly legs (failing miserably though; bless her heart), nickering loudly when she heard my voice, and all around being a cheerful little being in the house as she sat in her cardboard box near the wood stove. 

I'm not hugely surprised that she didn't make it; I have yet to find any records of such a premature kid surviving. But I am still dissapointed that I lost her. She never got a "barn name", but she did at least have a "registration name" for the time she was here. I called her 'Sudden Distraction'. It fit her.

Distractions are rarely a permanent thing in life; they catch our attention for a brief time before things settle back down to what they were. Such as this case. She came at a time when I really needed something else on my mind; I guess now it's time to move on and get back to where I was. 

Sudden Distraction came and went... I'm going to miss her presence in the house.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Am Easily Amused

My sister showed me this Youtube, and I was laughing so hard that I thought I was going to die at one point. Of course, you have to be pretty familiar with Disney movies for it to make sense. ;) But it's still fun. 

Starting To Rain

"I've never been good at saying goodbye,
But everyday I wake up, and I try.
I'm haunted by memories, and things I can't change.
They're changing me.

It still hurts to let go,
But everyday I do.
I'm looking for some hope,
This cloud will pass through.
I'm pressing rewind,
I'm searching for when,
We have the skies,
But it's starting to rain again...

~Starting To Rain, by Secrets in Stereo

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Starting Over

A few weeks ago I was asked by the National Young Farmers' Coalition for permission to be featured on their blog. I was delighted at the idea, and gave them full permission. At that time, Mattie was heavily pregnant and looking great. I was full to the brim with plans for how I wanted 2013 to play out, and was excited for everything. Two weeks after the NYFC asked me that question, Mattie became gravely ill, and then died 7 days later. The blog post on NYFC was posted today, (click highlighted words to read it) and the irony of my words are cruel. How things have changed since I wrote that...

 Life totally threw me for a loop.

When I lost Mattie, I lost more than a cow. I lost my business. I lost my income source. I lost all monetary security. I should have been emailing herdshare members this week, getting everyone back on track for the year's schedule. I should have been sterilizing jars, storing milk in the fridge, milking my cow, feeding a calf... Instead I can only shake my head at my own words I wrote to be publicly displayed on the blog of a large organization. My cow is gone. My plans are gone. I feel like I went from "farmer" down to "hobbyist" in a span of one week. Feel like what was once obtainable and possible, is now suddenly beyond my grasp, and I can only wistfully look at it from afar. I cannot afford to buy another cow, and don't want to buy another one just yet. But at the same time, I now have to face the fact that this farm needs to take a completely different direction if I cannot immediately continue with the dairy business. I had everything revolving around the dairy. Mattie literally made everything run. Her milk went to herdshare members, it fattened my meat animals, it fertilized my pastures, it made my cheese, it would have fed my bull calves that were to be raised for draft work.

Now that she's gone, I have to do something different. Something completely different. I feel like someone just pulled a rug out from under me. I'm left stunned, and wondering what on earth just happened. I have no idea what I will do this year; I'm sure something will come eventually, but for the moment I'm sort of wandering willy nilly in my mind... "What do I do now?" I have some ideas floating around in my head, but for now I'm still brainstorming.

What would you do, if you were me? Any advice for a farmer who has to start over?

Monday, February 25, 2013

2 lbs. 9 oz!!

(Yes, the bowl is off center... She's still 2 lbs. 9 oz. though.)

Photo's courtesy of my sister @ Emily Nicolle Photography.

My Voice?

While scrolling through a blog today, I came across a post where the writer stated how she feels that she uses a completely different voice on her blog, than what she uses in person. In the writing world, your "voice" is your writing style. Most people want it to mirror their real self as closely as possible, but not all folks feel that way. To some, it is freeing and empowering to have a completely different voice when they put their thoughts in written form. Reading that blog post got me thinking about my own writing voice and just what that means to me. 

I try my best to use my authentic voice here on the blog. Whether I succeed in doing so or not, is probably up to you readers; perhaps those who know me in person could say if I'm managing to do it or not. When I write, I am writing to all of you, yes, but when I am working on shaping letters into a blog post, I focus on one specific person and write as though I am conversing with them. I am writing a personal letter to each and every one of you, in the end. I want my words to have "my voice". This is who I am.

The problem perhaps, is that I don't let very many people see the real me. If asked to describe myself, I would probably say I'm a quiet introvert with an over-developed sense of humor. I am quiet in person, but a loud mouth when writing. I'm not good as explaining myself, I have a hard time choosing words when talking, I'm a slow thinker, I'm better at listening than talking. I can get along with just about everyone, but I only open up to those that I feel really comfortable around. 

If I feel comfortable around someone, I relax and my sense of humor kicks in. I love to laugh, and I love to make people laugh. Perhaps in the end I'm a mix of being introverted and extroverted? Even I can't figure myself out sometimes... I joke and tease with people I like; I can even get fairly animated when talking about a favorite subject. I quote movie lines incessantly, and use the proper accent each time. I use old, funny words that not many people use any more, like "Aye", "lackaday", and "methinks". Jack Sparrow is probably my favorite movie character to impersonate. (most common movie line you'll hear from me? "I'm havin' a thought here, Barbossa!" and that's complete with the facial expressions and body language that Jack uses. *grin*) I love to sing off-key, I love to dance. Oh dear me do I love to dance... I'm still waiting for the day when I can tell a PETA member that I'm a secondhand vegetarian: Cow eat grass, I eat cow. :) Seriously, I could have so much fun poking sly fun at a PETA member, while keeping an extremely innocent look on my face. I'm also waiting for the day when I'm on an elevator and someone steps in, just so I can say, "Welcome aboard! Just call me Captain!" And yes, I do still jump up in the air when the elevator goes down. I figure I may as well keep on doing it until my knees get too creaky and arthritic to do it anymore. 

 But then the other side of me kicks in when I'm not in a comfortable position. I can easily slip into being a very quiet, cool, guarded person. I don't mean to be that way, but seriously, I have no idea how to approach some people, or how to act/speak around them. I can hold my own with those sorts of people, but on the inside I'm desperately wishing that my cell phone would suddenly ring, or something would start burning in the oven. 

My introvertedness (I have just created that word, by the way), is most apparent in the fact that I mask most of my emotions. Why I do it, I don't know. I'm the type who doesn't like to see things hurt, or unhappy, or see something die. I cry easily. It doesn't take much to hurt my feelings. But most folks don't know that about me. To many, I am calloused and hard. My straight face very rarely gives away the secrets of what I'm really thinking or feeling. Where this reservation comes from, I don't know. But something in me doesn't like to reveal my weaknesses. I may be in a turmoil on the inside, wanting to break down in some quiet spot, but on the outside I am laughing and smiling; seeming to have no care in the world. Or I may just be quiet and still while my levels of self control are being tested. 

When I write, it's my moment to express myself the way I'm really thinking and feeling it. The mask comes off over here in this corner of cyber space. Writing a single post can take me an hour or more sometimes. I have to sit and think. And think. And mull things over, and think. Sometimes I'm scared to push the orange button that says "Publish". Afraid of the negative comments I get every now and again. Afraid of the hate mail that sometimes comes in my email inbox. It would be so much easier if I didn't write with my real voice... If I instead used some bland writing style that offended virtually no one. But I can't do that. And somehow I don't think y'all would like it if I did. Something in me HAS to write, and HAS to write it in the most authentic voice I can muster. 

This blog is me, whether you recognize it as being me or not. Trying to coax me into a verbal heart-to-heart is gonna' get you nowhere fast. I clam up and go silent when someone starts getting too personal. If someone really wants to get a deep conversation out of me, then they have to write it out. It's just the way this movie-quoting, elevator jumping, English country dancing, farm girl ticks. I'm a strange bird and I know it. Perhaps even enjoy it. I write this blog with what I feel is my voice. Whether you like it or not is up to you. Would you like me in person? That's a good question. Do you like water? Well then you already like 70% of me, so you're more than halfway there. :) 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

We Made It Through The Night

I was up every hour, feeding this little girlie; now I'm seeing a nap in my near future.

So far she seems to be doing well; eating regularly (as you may notice by her milk mustache she's sporting!), and trying to move around. I'm rather enjoying her company. :)

It's been interesting to see her color change, as she's dried off... Her spots have faded into more subtle shades that blend into her coat. But she does have the cutest spots above each eye! 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

She Needed A Distraction

And God looked down on earth, and saw a 20 year old farm girl who was distraught because of the sudden loss of her Jersey cow named Mattie. He knew she needed to grieve, and knew it would take time for the pain to subside, but didn't want to see her so terribly downcast. She needed a distraction.

So God made one of the farm girl's goats give birth 15 days before her due date, on a peaceful Saturday afternoon; the 23rd of February it was, that he did it. At 15 days before their time, the baby goats were tiny... weighing in at only 2 lbs. each when they should have been 6-8 lbs. each. He brought them into the world very quietly... The goat was a first time mom and had no idea what to do, so she left the babies by themselves in the cold. 

Then God put the idea into the farm girl's head to check on the animals at a time that she normally didn't go out at. So went out she did. She didn't notice the baby goats at first; she filled water buckets, threw hay in the manger, and scratched the heifer cow on the rump. It wasn't until she was about to leave that out of the corner of her eye she spotted something unusual in a quiet part of the barn pen. Her first thought was that the little babies were dead. So small they were; it couldn't be possible that they had life in them. Then one blinked, and the other twitched its leg. The farm girl gasped in shock, then scooped the wet mass of babies against her chest; not caring that she was getting blood and amniotic fluid on her nice skirt and shirt. She thoroughly freaked her family out as she carried the goat kids inside shouting, "I need towels, fast!!"

Working quickly, with the aid of a sister, the farm girl rubbed the goat kids vigorously with towels, trying to get them breathing, and trying to get the slippery scum off their baby coats.

Twin girls, those goat kids turned out to be. One was the color of ripe wheat; golden all over, with one tiny black dot behind her left shoulder. The other was a wildly spotted girl; also golden in color, but with chocolate spots spattered over her, as though she was caught in a paintball war.

The two girls continued working; now with a heater blasting at 85 degrees, trying to warm the babies up so that they might eat. Alas, the solid colored doeling passed away, despite their heroic efforts. The spotted one however, clung to a thread of life.

The farm girl eventually wrapped the spotted baby up in a towel and went to sit in front of the woodstove... The tiny kid could neither stand, nor move it's head, and the girl knew its chances of survival were incredibly thin. At 15 days early, the kid's hooves were not yet fully formed, nor were its lungs quite ready to receive oxygen. Only grit and determination could pull such a tiny thing through.

The farm girl milked the new mama goat out, and brought the resulting colostrum inside in a mason jar. Upon finding no droppers, she dug a small syringe out of a drawer and commenced to trying to get some of the first milk into her new charge.

It was slow going.

for the first while, she could only get 1/2cc to 1cc inside the little goat. They sat in front of the fire, the two of them did, one tiny and one big. Finally, the farm girl decided she could only do so much holding, so she found a large metal bowl in the kitchen, lined it with a fleece blanket, and tucked her baby inside its new nest. Turns out it's much easier to carry a bowl around, then carry a floppy baby.

Three hours later, the farm girl glanced into the bowl which she had set on the counter while she did the dishes, and saw a little golden head bobbing around. The little goat kid was perking up and was looking for food. The farm girl filled the syringe with 2cc's of colostrum and watched the kid suck it down. Then she fed the kid another 2cc's. And then another. Finally, after 7cc's of colostrum, the baby goat fell asleep... Her little nose twitching all the while.

The farm girl knows the kid may not survive, being as premature as she is; but she's happy for the sudden distraction. Glad that she has something to occupy her mind and keep her from dwelling on "what-if"s and "I should haves" stemming from the demise of her cow.

And God looked down at the farm girl and smiled. Glad for the distraction He had given her.

Friday, February 22, 2013

It Is Finished

Mattie died this morning.

She looked okay when I went out to milk her... She was back to breathing heavily, and through her mouth, but I hoped that with another dose of garlic and some time, she would perk back up just like she did yesterday.

She didn't.

An hour after I milked her, I found her dead.

Few things make me cry; but while cradling the head of my beloved cow, I bawled. Heart wrenching, painful sobs wracked my whole body, and I could do absolutely nothing to stop myself.

I loved you so much, Mattie dear... We both fought this battle with all we had. :( 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Getting There

Yes, yes, I know... I've blogged about basically nothing but my cow for just about a whole week now. I think we're all getting ready for this cow to get better so the blogging can get back to variety!

But for now y'all will just have to endure yet another update about 'ze bovine.

And that is that she's looking great today! :) At first she wasn't. I found her this morning, looking exactly the same as yesterday, and I drooped. The vet had said if she didn't look better by morning, then her chance of surviving was pretty much nil. So seeing her still gasping for breath was a blow; I was so sure I was going to lose my cow... But I wasn't going to lose her without a fight. The vet had used his entire bag of tricks on her, so now it was my turn to finish up my bag of tricks. And I had two weapons I wanted to use: Garlic, and cayenne pepper. These were my personal big guns.

Looking through my Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable, (Have animals? Then you need this book. I have used mine so much over the last 7 years that it's all taped together, highlighted, dog-eared, and written in.) I found that the dosage for a Jersey cow with pneumonia was 8 heads of garlic a day, made into a ultra strong brew. The cayenne I just went on gut instinct, and decided to go with roughly 2 Tablespoons a day.

*checks amount of garlic in kitchen; finds half a head of it*

I had to dash to the market to buy 24 heads of garlic... You buy these by individuals here, so I felt rather funny counting out 2 dozen of them and then paying for them... The cashier looked at me like I sprouted a second head.

After getting the first brew ready, I went out to milk my sweet cow. It had been three months since I had used the milking machine and I was looking forward to it more than I can say. She was looking better by this time; her breathing had quieted, but I couldn't tell just how much better she might be feeling.

 Mattie knows the milking drill so well that I always simply halter her, swing the lead rope over her neck and let her walk her self to the milking stall. She stands there, waiting for me to tie her up and get the machine going. Today however, Mattie swerved to the right, towards the open door of freedom, instead of turning left into the milking parlor! She picked up her pace and trotted briskly right out the door, leaving me wondering what on earth just happened! Sick cow? You're telling me that's a sick cow that just went running out the door?

I laughed heartily and then sprinted after her. There's a first time for everything, and this was the first time I have EVER been so overjoyed to chase after a runaway cow! I caught her in short order, grinning the whole time at my cow who felt good enough to make a break for the wild blue 'yonder. She pranced and pawed at the end of her lead rope as I led her to the milking parlor. 

Milking time was as pleasurable as it always is. I absolutely adore it all... The vacuum pump is loud enough to drown out the sounds of the goats and Peaches, but not so loud that I can hear myself hum or think. Mattie stood like a rock, as always, despite her 3 month vacation she had just had. This cow may make me go gray from her health problems, but I can't complain in the least about her manners in the milking parlor (or anywhere else, for that matter). You won't find a better cow than her. 
I milked her out halfway, and then shut the machine off. Tomorrow I will milk her out 3/4's of the way, and then on Saturday she will be milked completely out. This keeps her from "coming into her milk" too quickly, and possibly making her have another bout of milk fever. Some animals will also go down and stay down in production if you milk them out all the way at the beginning, but it depends on each individual. 

Her colostrum was dumped into the road ditch outside the barn, and then I went inside to wash my equipment. I will continue to dump the milk into the ditch for the next 2-3 weeks, until the antibiotics are out of her system. 

By 4:30pm, the garlic brew was ready, so I went out and had the slobbery job of getting a whole pint of the stuff into the cow. She was not amused. For a cow who's been sick all week, she certainly had enough energy to fight the syringe! But accomplish the goal I did. Just don't ask how long it took, or how much cow slobber I had on me by the time I was done.

I went outside at 7:20pm to do evening barn chores and check on Mattie one more time. Wow. Is this the same cow as yesterday?? She was munching hay placidly; her breathing 100% normal. She looks awesome. Maybe the antibiotics are finally kicking in. Maybe the garlic brew had a better effect than I thought. Maybe all your prayers did the trick and made her better. Maybe it was all three. I'm inclined to think it's all three. :) I think we have a bit more to go before she's back to normal, but I am quite optimistic about her condition. I don't think I'm going to lose my cow. I may have lost the calf, but at least I still have the cow. Yesterday's situation could have been much worse...

Thank you all so, so, SO much for your prayers. :) You don't know how much it means to this farm girl and her cow. We're not at the end of this story yet, but I'm thinking I can see the last few chapters just ahead. I sure hope the last sentence goes, "And they lived happily, ever after..."

I happen to like stories that end like that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

He Was Beautiful

 This day turned out nothing like I was expecting.

My friend came out and immediately began trying to get the calf out. To our dismay though, she found that the calf was not only upside down, but the legs were tucked up against it, and its head was flopped back, way out of her reach. Mattie was straining hard with contractions, but there was virtually no way to get this baby out unless we could re-position it into a proper position. Neither one of us was strong enough to do that.

So we called the vet. Actually, we called several vets, friends, family members, and everyone we could think of. Who was close enough to get here quickly? All the local vets were out on call (we even tried an equine vet, in our desperation), friends and family weren't answering their phones. I finally got a hold of the vet who I've been working with lately, and he said he'd make the 1 hour drive over to help us out. 

An hour is a really long time to wait when you're watching a sick cow heave with futile contractions. 

The vet came at about 5:30pm, and once he had his muck boots and coveralls on, he took his turn in trying to figure this little calf out. Well versed in dealing with problem calves, even he had a tricky time re-positioning the calf, and had his entire arm, up to his shoulder, inside my patient cow. Mattie stood rock still the whole time, without being held in any form or fashion. After some manipulating, he had the calf how he needed it: Right side up with its head nestled in between its two front legs. He slipped a wire snare behind the calf's ears, and cinched it inside its mouth. This would keep the head from flopping backwards again, and gave him something to pull on. He then looped chains around the calf's front legs, just above the dewclaws (think ankles), and heaved with all his might, with the snare and the chains wrapped around his hands. But that wasn't enough to pull a stuck calf. My friend stepped in and helped pull, while I kept Mattie from being dragged backwards. With a groan, Mattie fell to the ground in a heap. My friend and the vet kept pulling. There are the legs! Here comes the head! Yes, yes, yes! There's the chest, stomach, and back legs! With one last heave, the calf was out. There was no joy though, when the little calf was finally out and onto the ground. 

It was dead.

It was a bull calf. Chocolate brown in color, with white patches playfully scattered over his small body. He was beautiful. But he was dead.

It looks like he died 3 or 4 days ago, according to the vet, and it was just a freak happening. Apparently it's very common in Holstein cows, but extremely rare in Jerseys. Why it had to happen to this one particular cow, during my very first calving, I fail to understand... There is nothing you can do to prevent it, nothing you can do to avoid it happening again, and nothing to do to save the calf. In the span of 6 days, my cow has had premature milk fever (very rare for a cow to get it before they calve), a severe case of pneumonia (uncommon to see a cow get it so bad, so fast), a case of dystocia (stuck calf; difficult birth), and an ultra rare fluke of a stillborn calf. Why this all had to happen to me and Mattie, all at the same time, I will never know. It makes no sense to my little head.

The vet continued on to give Mattie some more antibiotics. He gave her every single thing he possibly could and said it's all up to her now. She has a 50% chance of survival. If she looks better tomorrow, then she'll most likely make it and be fine. If she looks the same tomorrow, as she does today, then her chances are slim indeed...

When the vet left, Mattie wandered over to the fence edge, where her calf lay in a heap on the other side. She wanted it, but couldn't understand why she couldn't have it. I sighed, rubbed the soft spot on her forehead, where the fur makes a pretty little whorl, and then helped my friend drag the carcass out. Better luck next time, Mattie dear. 

While part of me is at least glad that it wasn't a heifer that was lost, I'm still heartbroken about it all... I wanted that calf so bad, and have been looking forward to its birth since last July, when I first bought Mattie. All that's left to do now is hope and pray that Mattie pulls through, and then pick up these broken shards of life and continue on. 

Life is tough sometimes.

The Plot Thickens

Mattie's been in heavy labor for a little over an hour now, and still no calf showing. I scrubbed up, oiled up and stuck my arm inside to see what I would find, and was dismayed that no matter how much I searched, I couldn't find the head. I don't know if I'm not reaching back far enough, or if the head is turned back... So I have an experienced cow raiser coming out in 15 minutes to see if she can pull the calf for me. If she can't do it, then the vet will be coming out to do the job.

I have learned more from this cow in 1 week, than I have ever learned about cows in my lifetime. Oy.


Just came in from the barn and would like to announce that Mattie has finally decided to go into labor! So unless she changes her mind about things, we *should* have a calf sometime today!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Plodding Along

Mattie dear seems to have hit a plateau as of last night. She's not better, but she's not worse. No calf yet, and she's keeping me edgy about it all. I spent my night checking on her, and all I ended up with from that adventure was sleep deprivation. But she has started nibbling on hay, which is good, and you can't hear fluid in her lungs anymore, which is VERY good! She's still breathing through her mouth, but the banamine seems to be helping... 

The vet said there is a possibility that the antibiotic *could* take up to 56 hours before it causes her to go into labor, but I'm really hoping it doesn't take that long! We're at 23 hours right now, and she's still looking pretty content to keep her calf. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Calf Is Coming

Mattie's condition quickly grew worse within a few hours of my finding her this morning. You can hear the fluid in her lungs even while standing at the other end of the barn. I called the vet immediately and he prescribed some more banamine, and a really strong drug that should finish the pneumonia off. Should. There's just one catch to this antibiotic though: It will induce labor in Mattie. Since she is only 3 days away from her due date, the vet felt okay with giving it to her.

Folks, the calf is coming. It should be on the ground by tomorrow, if all goes according to plan.

I feel sick to my stomach about all this.


Mattie had a relapse in the night. 

She was looking fabulous last night; basically her old, perky self, and I was overjoyed to think that we were back on track with everything. How silly of me to think it would be that easy...

Now she's back to what she looked like on Saturday. Heavy breathing, mouth hanging open, tongue lolling out, froth rimming her chin, cool ears... Grrr. This is so frustrating to me! I may have to call the vet again and see about getting some more meds, but I have my fingers crossed that I won't. It certainly wasn't cheap getting that first round... Ugh.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Getting There

Mattie is looking better this morning. :) Her respiration rate has finally come down to what it should be, and she's only occasionally breathing through her mouth. She still looks a little sluggish, so I don't think we're out of the woods yet. I did at least manage to entice her to eat a bit of grain this morning, which is fabulous! The vet said once her appetite returns, then she's good to go. Her due date is in four days, so hopefully she'll be back to her normal, perky self before then!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Long Day

Mattie seemed to be doing better this morning, but by the afternoon it was clear that she was sliding on a downhill slope, healthwise. Her breathing was becoming increasingly ragged and heavy, her ears were drooping. Oh she looked bad. Below is a video I caught of her; I had no idea what I was dealing with, so I hoped a video might help if I showed some experts.

The advice came rolling in from experienced cow owners: Get a vet out, and fast. The only problem with that advice though, was that the vet was going to charge $200 just to park in my driveway! I was tired...Physically, mentally, and emotionally tired. And the glaring fact that I needed a vet was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. In short, I lost it. I cried. I was completely overwhelmed and feared I was going to lose my cow. After many, many tissues, I regained my composure just enough to call the vet. Turns out that his day was packed and he couldn't make it out even if I HAD wanted him to come. After listening to Mattie's symptoms I described, he became very grave and said it sounded like she had contracted pneumonia. His guess is that last night's bout of milk fever was just enough to lower her immunity levels and allow the pneumonia to grab hold and run rampant. That news didn't exactly cheer me up.

He went on in a no-nonsense tone to say that he would be leaving some medicine for me at his clinic which was 1 hour away from me, and I should come pick it up as soon as possible. His parting words were that if I didn't get Mattie's condition under control immediately, I risked losing both her, and the unborn calf.

Aaaaaand on came the crying again once I hung up. My goodness, I just couldn't seem to hold myself together!

But after awhile, I did manage to snap out of my funk, get some shoes on, and prepare for a one hour drive ahead. Now was not the time to be irrational. The cow needed medicine and she needed it ASAP!

Halfway to the clinic, one of my sisters called to inform me that one of the pigs had just escaped, he had a hurt front leg, and she locked the vagabond squealer into the chicken coop for lack of a better idea at the moment. I couldn't decide if I wanted to laugh, or cry yet again. This day was just getting worse and worse... First my cow gets sick, then I have to drive all the way to St. Paul to pick up antibiotics, then my pig escapes, and now he's got a hurt leg!? When it rains it pours. In the end, I decided to laugh. I had done enough crying for one day; it was time to find the humor in the situation.

Mattie's medicine was picked up and the drive home began. I looked at the five syringes and grimaced at the thought of having to do all those SubQ injections. It had been at least five years since I had done one, and I wasn't looking forward to doing it on my 900 lb. cow as a refresher course. The vet was gone, so he had simply put my things on the front porch of the clinic, in a cardboard box with directions written on a sheet of paper. I looked over the piece of paper and read what all I had just been given. One fat syringe was filled with a thick, creamy substance and was titled Excede; this was apparently for her milk fever. Another had a steroid in it called Prefed; to help with any swelling. Three slim syringes lay next to them and each held something different: One had banamine, which is a pain killer. One had Vitamin A and D. And the third was Vitamin B complex. Along with the needled syringes, there was another bag with 10 bovine sized calcium/magnesium boluses (pills). Two inches long and almost one inch wide, these things were so huge that I couldn't help but chuckle at the sight. Nevermind the term of something being a "horse pill", from here on out I'm saying "cow pill". Hehe.

When we got home, all I wanted to do was take a nap. But I knew I had to deal with Mattie first. Mustering up courage from some forgotten part of me, I walked outside and tied my sweet cow to a post in the barn. It's time to do this thing, Mattie dear. I decided that the boluses seemed like a good way to ease into all of this. It didn't involve needles, so we should be good to go right? Using what's known as a "bolus gun" (it looks more like a blow dart gun thingy, in my mind...) I quickly, but carefully, stuck the bright red bolus gun into the very back of her throat and deposited the giant pill too far back for her to spit it back out. Easy enough, I suppose. But just a forewarning: if you ever have to do it yourself, just know you're going to have a killer amount of cow slobber on your hands when you're finished.

The injections proved to be much easier than I was expecting. I chose the nice big Excede syringe for my first round. The vet recommended inserting the needle on the neck, right in front of the shoulder blade so that's what I did. Mattie had a lot of loose skin right there, so it was easy enough to simply pinch a good sized bit of skin and slip the needle in between skin and muscle. The cow however, was not amused by five needles in a row and the last one had to be done with utmost speed. Sorry Mattie! I promise it's for your own good!

After about two hours, the banamine had set in and Mattie's breathing began to slow down. Her tongue was no longer lolling, and she was breathing with her mouth closed. I'm dearly hoping she'll continue in this way even after the banamine wears off. The vet says if she doesn't begin to improve in 2-3 days, then she'll have to have another round of stronger antibiotics. He also says there's an extremely high chance that she'll get milk fever again once she calves, so I am working on being prepared for if that does indeed happen.

I wanted a nap so bad when I finally finished treating Mattie... But I could hear the pigs grunting, and knew I had to get Mike out of the chicken coop. Sigh. Of all the days to escape, it had to be today? With the help of the afore mentioned sister though, we had the porker back where he belonged in about 15 minutes. No fuss, no stress, no hassle. It was awesome. The pigs have been so good lately; they get daily back scratches and tummy rubs, and they snuffle and snort in happiness when they hear me coming. I'm going to miss them something fierce when their final day comes.

You'll never guess what I did when the pigs were safely secured in their pen! Yup, I went inside and took a nap! :) I was asleep instantly and slept like the dead for almost an hour. Oh it felt good.

It's been a really long day... And one I hope I don't have to repeat any time soon. But at least the cow and I are both standing so far. That's got to count for something, right?

A Little Better

Mattie looks a little better this morning. She still has no interest in heating anything, or drinking for that matter (which really concerns me), but she is at least alive and standing. Her temps are back to normal, she's walking normal, pupils are normal, and her heart/respiration rate are *almost* normal. But we're not out of the woods yet. When I found her this morning, I was pleased to see her standing and tracking my movement, but was fairly alarmed to see a heavy ring of froth around her mouth, as though she had gone rabid. She's standing in a corner by herself right now; with her head and neck all stretched out, her tongue hanging out like a blood hound's, and froth dripping everywhere. This is so weird I don't even know what to think. So I'm keeping an extremely close eye on her today, will be trying some herbal medications to help her out, and will have the vet's phone number in my back pocket. 

Sick Cow

Hey all, I just wanted to keep y'all in the loop and let you know that Mattie is under the weather right now. I noticed that she seemed "off" this morning when she only picked at her grain (she normally inhales it so fast that your ears pop), but I decided to just keep an eye on her. By nightfall it was obvious something was wrong. She stood in a corner of the barn by herself breathing quickly and heavily, her pupils dilated abnormally, her ears cold to the touch, her heart rate racing, and she staggered around like a drunken sailor. My guess was that it was milk fever, but I called the vet to make sure. After telling him the symptoms of my poor cow, he agreed with me. Mattie dear has an onset case of the dreaded milk fever, which is when a cow's calcium levels are so depleted that their body begins to shut down and they will die if something is not done to increase the calcium in the body. 

Thankfully I caught it early! I've also dealt with this before when Mattie came down with it last September. She recovered overnight that time, with just a big dose of molasses water. I'm praying that does the trick again this time. When I found her tonight, her heart rate was 100 beats per minute, when it should have been 55-80 beats. Her respiration rate was 60 breaths per minute when it should have been 30. 

After a couple hours, and a couple gallons of molasses water, her heart and respiration rates are closer to normal, and she's no longer staggering around. Her ears are still pretty cold though, and she's still pretty lethargic, but I think she's stable enough to make it through the night. Hopefully she will be back to her normal self by morning. 

Mattie dear, you're going to make me go gray before my time...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pastured Pigs. :)

I can't remember if I've posted this video on here before or not, so I'm sharing it again if I have! Someday I want to have a setup like this lady's. Have a few breeding hogs and rotate them through pasture. Who knows; maybe someday I will. :) 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It's Been A Grand Day

I don't need a lot to feel content. Just knowing that I accomplished some goals, and have happy animals is enough for me. Today was a grand day, not because anything spectacular happened, but just because I got things done, and there's a whole barn full of happy animals. :) 

Monday, February 11, 2013

January's Book Stack

Now it's time to return these to the library and get a stack for February. (And yes, most of these books were re-reads.) 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Happy Pigs

I threw a huge pile of old leaves into the pig pen this morning and "the boys" (Mike and Sausage, that is) were quite literally in hog heaven, getting to dig and root around in it all. I thought I'd share the smile with y'all by catching a video of them. :) In the background you can hear Peaches bellowing. That ornery heifer... I hate it when she makes that noise. LOL.

Done Waiting.

Last February I was reading book upon book about cheese making. If there is one craft that has held my attention for an extended period of time (4 years and counting now), it's making cheese. 

But 12 months ago, I was getting rather fed up with all the books I had. They all called for cow milk. And I had goats. What's more, I don't really like goat cheese (unless it's a fresh chevre that doesn't taste "goaty"). I like cow cheese. So I was in a pickle: I had the wrong species for what I wanted.

Then Mattie, my Jersey cow, came along in July of 2012. The lightbulb came on at her arrival. "I can make cheese now!!" Or so I had hoped... Alas, Mattie wasn't giving enough milk for me to do any serious cheesemaking, so I stuck to quick "vinegar cheeses" that were fed to the chickens. But I knew the day would come... I eventually HAD to hit the point where I could make cheese, right? I was tired of making soft cheeses; I wanted the real thing. Gouda's, colbys, cheddars, jacks, and all those other really good ones.

My cow is due to calve in 13 days. When she freshens, she will start giving 8 gallons of milk every single day. Every. Single. Day. That's 56 gallons every week. There will be milk. It is time to make cheese. It's time to pull out the red cheese wax from the cabinet, hunt down the starters that are hibernating in the freezer, and see about investing in a fridge that can be my very own cheese cave. It's time to do this. Four years is a long time to wait for something. I'm done waiting. 

Mary Katlin's book, 'Artisan Cheese Making At Home' is probably my favorite cheese making book; and I've read a lot of them. She makes even the fanciest cheese sound doable. And uh, being the photography snob I've become, I also adore the high quality pictures she has in the book. Okay, so maybe I do sometimes judge a book by its cover... Shame on me. ;)

I'm not sure what my first cheese will be yet; maybe a Gouda... Or perhaps even a Cheddar. But I want it to be something that has to age long and quietly... So that 6-9 months from now I can slice it open and smile, knowing that I'm seeing the fruits from early spring. Inside each wheel is proof that good things come to those who wait. 

Four years is a long time to wait for something, Dear Heart. I'm done waiting.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey Soap

Here are a few pictures of my big batch of lard soap I made yesterday. :) The soap turned out really nice, and I ended up with 52 bars!!

I also got two smaller batches of "fun soap" made today. One is a 2.5 lb. batch that's been made with olive oil, palm oil, and shea butter. This was the batch that I went crazy with and put cocoa powder and vanilla fragrance in. It smells SOOO good! Like chocolate pudding, or fudge or something... 

The second batch is made simply with olive oil, and palm oil (ran out of shea butter, or else I would have thrown it in there). The fragrance for this batch was the winning vote from FB readers (and if you're wondering how to find me on there, search for 'Goat Song Farm'!) and was a blend of vanilla and ginger. This one smells crazy good too, let me tell ya'. :)

I'll cut up those two batches tomorrow and hopefully post pictures of them on the same day. But for now, I figured I could at least show you my oatmeal soap.

Yesterday's Theme Song

If there was a theme song for yesterday, this would would be it. :) 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Spontaneous Me

It's on days like today that I get a lot of stuff done. Blue sky as far as the eye could see, a balmy 55 degree day, and I was high on caffeine. Oooh yes... It was one of those days. :)

I got my Saturday chores done in record time and by 11am I was working on the day's mad idea. I was making soap. Normally I hate making soap; it's tedious, my stick blender messes up, I have to wash a bunch of dishes afterwards, I'm always out of wax paper right when I need it... So the sudden urge to make soap took me by surprise. But I went with it, and pulled out 10 lbs. of lard, 3 lbs. of frozen goat milk, and almost 2 lbs. of lye. I had just read about a different technique on bringing my soap to trace and I wanted to see if it was true. I had always been told that you had to stiiiiiiiiiiir that soap until it thickens, and whatever you do -- don't stop!! Thus my lack of enthusiasm when it came to soap making. After the second hour of stirring a bowlful of fat and lye, I really start to think that I would rather buy my own soap. But then I read a new way: Stir for 15 minutes. Then wait 15 minutes. After that, stir for 5 minutes, at 15 minute intervals. I tried it today, on the biggest batch of soap I've ever done, and my total stirring time came out to 25 minutes. MUCH better!!! I think I could totally come to love making soap if this technique continues to work. I scented the soap with a fragrance called "oatmeal, milk, and honey" (which ,despite the name, smells nothing like those three things), and for kicks, I threw in a handful of ground, rolled oats. Sometimes it's just fun to be spontaneous. The soap is sitting quietly now. Tomorrow or Monday I will unmold it and cut it up. This was a new recipe, and a new method of making it, so I have my fingers crossed that it will turn out nice.

I was on a roll after that batch and *almost* made another one, but this time with olive oil, palm oil, shea butter, and more goat milk. In the end I decided to wait. No need to experience burn out on the first day, right? So that batch will be either tomorrow or Monday. I don't know what fragrance I'll use for this "fun batch" yet; some readers over on Facebook have been giving me suggestions, and I'm hearing a lot of votes for vanilla, lavender, or ginger. Now that I think about it, it might be fun to throw some cocoa powder in the batch and scent it lightly with vanilla. Hmmm. I think I might be on to something here. ;) No! -- must -- wait -- until -- tomorrow -- to -- make -- more -- soap. *valiantly holds self back from starting another batch of soap at 5pm*

The afternoon fled from me with the speed of goats who hear the grain bucket, and at 4pm I noticed the setting sun giving its grand finale as it began dipping behind the mountains which I have come to love so much. I wanted to be out in it as it bid adieu. So I grabbed the long bow, put four arrows into the quiver that I had clipped to my jeans, and strode outside once I had also accumulated my carhartt coat and some leather gloves. I didn't feel like shooting at a target today... Something fierce and wild inside me just wanted to let loose and see my shafts fly. Even soapmakers have a wild side. With this feeling swirling around me like a playful breeze, I decided to simply practice my long range shooting. I want to go bow hunting this fall. I want to see about bringing down a stag, even if it is a young one. So long range practice is every bit as necessary as close range target practice. I must admit I love the impulsiveness that comes along with long range shooting. It's like the difference between writing in cursive, and writing slap dash. One is refined, methodical, and lovely to look at. The other is crazy, impetuous, and perfectly lovable in its own awkward, quirky way. I didn't want cursive today. I wanted Belligrent Madness. I had no target in mind as I stood at the northern edge of the pasture. I simply drew the bow string, inhaling deeply, and let my arrow fly to the southern end; my mind willing it to go farther, farther, farther. It is so fun, you just can't know.

Today's best shot hit 185 feet. The farthest I've shot yet. I dog-trotted up to the arrow and to my delight I found the shaft half buried into the earth. You see, my arrows are not supposed to go into the ground, and it's very rare when they go more than 2 or 3 inches. I have a special tip that I put on them called a "zwickey scorpio" (if that isn't fun to say, then I don't know what is!) which works like a grappling hook and keeps you from losing your arrows to the ground. Before I had scorpios, I was terrible at permanently losing arrows, since the bow's force would shove them beneath a layer of earth with no trace of it's whereabouts. Since getting them, I haven't lost a single one. The prongs on the scorpio don't allow an arrow to embed itself deeply into anything.

So to find one of my arrows 185 feet away and slammed halfway into the ground... Well, it just about made me giddy. A shot like that just might could bring down a young stag. Just maybe? I'm not after any huge prize in my hunting dreams. Just some venison for the freezer. If a big one came along, great; hopefully my bow and arrows will be able to take it down. But just a young buck would please me... 

I shot more arrows; all of them coming close to my record shot, but none surpassing it. I shot fast, I shot furious. I was in my element. One of these days I'm going to have to splurge and buy ma'self a utility kilt. I think that would be awesome. Eventually the sun dipped lower and I knew I needed to stop, or else I would start having trouble finding my arrows in the falling dusk. My left hand is slowly becoming calloused and used to the driving pain that my bow string inflicts. Someday I will get a better bow that won't hurt so much, but until then I bear the bruises and swelling with a smile. After today's practice, my hand hurt with a dull throb, but that was all. Last time I practiced, I came away with a bloody hand, despite the leather glove. I'm getting there. I'm getting better. I have until Autumn to perfect this craft. I know all the deer trails and nesting sights on my neighbor's property. Come autumn, I want to stalk these spots, but with a bow in my hand this time. I look forward to it with more excitement than an average person could understand. 

Looks can be deceiving. Your normal looking soapmaker just might turn out to be an archer who wants a kilt. You never can tell with some people... 

Spontaneity. I love it. We'll make soap in the morning, and shoot arrows like a Scottish lass/lad in the evening. Care to join me?

Friday, February 1, 2013

In The Mail Today!

Receiving goat pedigrees in the mail isn't exactly something most people get to experience...

But to this farm girl, it's like Christmas morning all over again. Love those little slips of paper. :)

The Way It's Supposed To Be

I had always wanted a Carhartt coat... Always. When I was little, I watched people walk purposefully through Wilco (TSC to you East Coasters) with their scuffed Romeo boots, and faded, dirty Carhartt coats as they bought grain for their cattle, a new bridle for their horse, or picked up a few dozen chicks that were on sale. I watched them and sighed... I wanted that lifestyle, but at the time I still lived in town, and had only a large backyard to dream about putting a horse on (which never did happen...). But I wanted that lifestyle, and I wanted a coat like what they had.

In the end, I got both of my wishes. :) Except the coat took longer to get than the land in the country did... Funny how life works out sometimes. But I adore that coat. And it shows by how trashed it is. It's faded, it's filthy, only the bravest would put their hands inside the pockets, it's dinged up, the zipper only works half the time (because of the mud lodged in there, you see), the hem is starting to fray, and even the Carhartt logo is getting battered. But that's the way it's supposed to be.

I got the lifestyle I wanted, and now I've got the coat. Shucks, I even have the romeo boots now. I wear that coat every time I go outside, and I feel invincible in it. It's withstood barbed wire, a 100 lb. pig trying to bite through it (that was fun. Not.), rainstorms, arguments with ornery heifers, goat kids climbing on my back, and all those awkward happenstances I somehow manage to get myself into. 

I love the mud and the wear. It reminds me that I've accomplished two goals I set for myself many, many years ago. Mud and wear on an expensive coat? That's the way it's supposed to be.