Posts Tagged ‘cows’

The cow adventure comes to an end

June 24, 2009

The cows are in a different pasture now. Scott the Farmer was waiting for the people from the Farm Services Agency (FSA) to come out and document that we had cattle and fencing already. The FSA people have that documentation, so after the cows got out on Monday, that was the end of our cow keeping adventure (for now).

The cows hadn’t caused us any trouble for a while. There was one time that Sweetie Cow was out and Tom got her back in with the bucket, and another time that Tim did the same thing. She hadn’t wandered far, obviously. Anyway, those silly cows got out on Monday afternoon. They must have gotten out when I was in town with Tim and Mo and Tom and Aidan were in the house playing video games. That’s all I can figure because they came for their treat in the morning and they were grazing right by the fence while the boys were lighting off bottle rockets.  This time they went south, which was a good choice since one of our neighbors, Mr. G., has cows that way.

We didn’t even know they were out. They should have been in the trees, lying in the shade and chewing their cud. Around 3:00 PM  Scott called and said that he received a call about two cows that were out. He said they might not be ours, but once you are known for having adventurous cows people will assume they are yours. In this case, the assumption was correct. Tim and I immediately went out with buckets to check for them. Tim went inside the fence to check the brush because it is pretty thick and it’s hard to see them sometimes. They weren’t there, so we decided to get in the car and drive south. We didn’t go far before we saw Mr. G. waiting on the north end of his paddock. Scott slowly herded them toward the paddock since they were stopping to drink at every puddle. Apparently cows pee to cool themselves off, so they will drink and pee at the same time. Scott said they were peeing, but not much because they were so thirsty.

So, now they are on some other pasture with other cows that Scott takes care of. He said they wouldn’t like it there because they will be the smallest cows and some of the other cows have horns. Also, they won’t be getting any grain as treats. I feel a little sorry for Sweetie Cow because she really is very sweet. Bullseye, not so much. She always ate her treat and then butted Sweetie Cow out of the way so she could eat Sweetie Cow’s treat. Anyway, as much of a bully as Bullseye was at times, she is still pretty mellow. Even Mr. G. said they are very tame cows.

We miss them, but I suppose we can find out where they are and see if they will come to the fence to see us. If we do that, I will be sure to take my camera and get some pictures.

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Wanted: Weekend Farmer (in training)

June 15, 2009

Wanted: Weekend Farmer to take care of animals

When: Friday evening through Sunday morning

Where: West Central Illinois

What: Take care of farm animals, including 14 cats, 20 chicks, 6 chickens, and 2 cows.

Details: Animals need food and water in the morning and evening.

Chickens on the stairs

Chickens on the stairs

Chickens: The chickens really just need to be let out of their movable coop. Open the screened front flap and prop it up with the piece of wood that was screwed into the frame but came unscrewed. This helps keep the wood from coming unscrewed and helps keep the door from blowing down in the wind. The chickens will rush out and flap their wings and act silly for a few minutes. Make sure to enjoy this part as it’s quite a show. Lula Mae is always the last one out. She’s the pullet with black-tipped feathers near her shoulders (not the technical word, but you know what I’m talking about since you are a weekend farmer being trained by a farmer-in-training). The chickens will range all day long and will put themselves back in their coop. In the evening, you can check their feed and water before you lock them in. Their feed is currently in a Farm King bucket. I will try to put it in a garbage can and label it before we leave.

Chicks: The chicks are pretty easy. They just need feed and water. They have two feeders in the brooder. They think they get special treats in the purple-bottomed one. Please do not let them in on the secret. You will have to check their water. Most likely it will be spilled or totally mucked up with bedding. Either way it will need to be dumped, cleaned out quickly with the hose on the well pump near the house, then filled and placed back in the brooder. Yes it is reddish inside from the iron in the well water. Don’t bother cleaning it as they don’t seem to mind. The silly chicks will most likely knock it over or muck it up before you leave, so you might want to check it again. Their feed is in the brown garbage can closest to the workbench in the garage. I will try to label it before we leave.

Cows: The cows do not need water as they have a big tub with an auto-leveler. Just make sure to leave the handle of the well pump UP so that it will continue to fill up. Their feed is in the garbage can closest to the garage door. There are two buckets in there, to be filled up about 1/4 to 1/2 way. The buckets and the fence tester are in the garbage can with the feed. PLEASE remember to put them back in there as the garage is too messy for me to find them if you put them somewhere else. Proceed to fence while calling cows. I’ve also started to say, “Come on, girls” to get them to come to me that way. If you get here late enough, they will be waiting for you at the fence. Just ignore their puppy dog sad eyes as they are just trying to make you feel guilty for sleeping in. Also feel free to remind them that you are just a weekend farmer filling in for a farmer-in-training. I’m sure they will understand. Repeat in the evening, making sure to check the fence again. If the fence charge seems low, you will need to walk the fence and check for problems. If there are problems, you will have to call Scott the Farmer as fixing the fence is dangerous and you are not getting paid enough to bother with it.

Indoor cats: There are two indoor cats. Only one, Riley, gets soft food. He only gets a half a can, maybe less if he didn’t eat all his food from the previous serving. This is because Cleo does not like soft food, not because we are mean to her. Riley will meow and meow until you feed him. You might want to do this first unless you can ignore his meows. He also is not starving, as will be evidenced by his youthful figure. The cats might need fresh water or more water. More importantly, they need  reassurance that we did not abandon them for the cute outdoor cats and that we will be back soon to worship them.

Outdoor cats: They will act like they are starving, too. Little Gray might actually be very hungry because she is still nursing her litter. Mama Cat will act as if she is starving, too, but she isn’t. She is mean to the other cats, so when you open the soft food cans you might have to push her away from the other cats so she will not attack them. That is, unless the chickens are around, in which case she is meek and humble and lets everyone else eat first. However, then you have to keep the chickens from eating the food so the cats can eat. This is not easy as they are very persistent little buggers. It might be easier to feed the cats before you let the chickens out, but then  you might have to listen to crowing. Maybe you can block it out. Anyway, the cats get between 3 and 4 cans of soft food. It depends on how many show up for breakfast and how hungry they look and how much food the chickens swipe. Use your best judgment. They also get hard food, which is in the pantry to the left as you enter the kitchen. I usually just fill up the empty soft food cans with hard food. Their water is in a ceramic dish near the well pump. This is the water for the chickens and the cats. Just make sure it is full when you fill up the chicks water for the second time.

All of this should only take about 15 minutes each time, depending on which order you do it. If you let the chickens out first, then you will have to stand guard so that the cats can eat. If you feed the cats first, you will still have to stand guard so that Mama Cat doesn’t eat all the food and then you will also have to listen to the roosters crowing to get out. Really, the cows are the easiest as long as you are mindful of the fence. It is electric and from what I hear, it does hurt. I am scared to death of the fence, so I have not gotten shocked as I am very, very careful.

No worries. My aunt and/or cousins are taking care of the cats and chickens. My aunt has way more experience with animals than I do, so she really should be training me. I have to talk to Scott the Farmer, but I am sure he will want to take care of the cows himself, assuming he has time. Boy, having animals makes vacations hard, doesn’t it?

Welcome

June 13, 2009

Welcome to our country home, complete with gravel road (but unfortunately no barn).

This is the direction most people come from when they visit. If you keep going north on this road, you cross a 4 lane highway and then end up in Colchester, population 1500. Before you get to Colchester, there is a four lane highway. If you turn right onto the highway, you will end up in Macomb, population about 18,000.

It’s hard to see in this picture, but there is a bridge. That’s the bridge that goes over the big creek near our house, aptly named Troublesome Creek, which floods frequently.

Country road, north view

Country road, north view

Here is our mailbox. We have a new one, but still need to paint it and put it out. I did, however, spruce it up with some plants and a little border (with a little help from Tim).

Spruced up mailbox area

Spruced up mailbox area

South view of country road, with entrance to our place on left

South view of country road, with entrance to our place on left

We have a little creek that feeds into the big creek. There is a small bridge over our creek, but the creek still floods and we have mud patches on either side of the bridge. If you look on the left of the picture below, you can see some stubble from the corn, still, but mostly it looks like dark green, lush grass. That’s the oats. There are two fields on either side of the driveway. This field on the left of the picture ends, but shortly after it ends, way up that hill, there is another much bigger field. The other field is up the road in the picture above. The house is way in the background (it’s a white kind of blob). There are two small black dots to the left of the telephone pole and those are Sweetie Cow and Bullseye, our two calves.

View from the "bridge" near the front of the lane.

View from the "bridge" near the front of the lane.

In this next picture you can see the house a little better and you can see the dark green oats on either side of the lane. The lighter green stuff is NOT oats and is a mixture of grass and weeds.

View of the oats and house.

View of the oats and the house

We love where we live. It is private and secluded, but also close to town. We are surrounded by trees and animals. I do miss my Phoenix friends, and I know the kids do, too. But we also live closer to family now and we are happy we moved.

Friday Sounds

June 5, 2009

Things I heard today while at home:

Cows mooing in the evening and at night (occasionally it might be our cows, but mostly it’s not)

Frogs, lots of frogs!

Birds singing

Roosters crowing and chickens clucking

Chicks peeping

Cats meowing, growling, fighting

Cars on a gravel road

Babbling creek, if it’s really quiet

Big bumble bees and hummingbirds buzzing, which surprisingly sound the same

Kids playing, fighting

Farmer in training

June 2, 2009

The other day I read a really funny post with pictures of chickens taking dust baths, only they looked dead. The comments made me laugh out loud and the pictures were really funny, too. And then there were pictures of the beautiful feathers. I’d post a link but I cannot for the life of me find that blog or the post. It’s time for some gingko biloba or something, I guess. (EDITED to add that I found it!).

I saw my grandparents on Sunday and my grandma on Monday. My grandpa told me I am a farmer. I think I’m more of a farmer-in-training. Scott the Farmer came by this morning. He got out of his truck without turning it off, so I knew something was up as he usually chats with us for a while. It turns out one of the cows, Sweetie Cow, had gotten out and was on her way to Fandon, which is the town directly east of us. Fandon is probably the closest town, but it barely qualifies as a town since it doesn’t even have a sign, let alone a population on the sign (not that there is anything wrong with that, I’m just saying). So anyway, Scott said he hadn’t had a very good morning and that he didn’t get up until 5:30. HAHAHAHAHA. We get up at 8:30 or so. Even with the roosters crowing at dawn, we still wake up around 8:30. They even crow again right around that time, as if to tell us to get our butts out of bed already. So I’m sure the chickens would agree that we are farmers-in-training, if anything.

Picture Friday

May 8, 2009

It’s Friday, so here are some pictures. I’m thinking of making this a regular thing on Friday. I don’t have more pictures of Little Gray’s kittens because she moved them and it’s hard to see them. She is doing great as a first time mama cat, though. I am a little surprised because she is so young, but she is taking good care of her kittens. The cows are doing well. We’ve even taken the kids up while feeding them. Sweetie Cow didn’t come too close when Aidan was up there, but she didn’t run away. Bullseye was fine with Aidan, but she was fine the very first day, too.

Mama Cat and her kittens

Mama Cat and her kittens

Kids and Chickens

Kids and Chickens

One of the Roosters

One of the Roosters

Mo and the two roosters

Mo and the two roosters

Chickens near movable coop

Chickens near movable coop

Cows grazing

Cows grazing

Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself

May 5, 2009

I am full of ideas, some good and some bad. Before the grass grew and we had to mow, I was telling the guys that we could get a reel mower. I saw one of the Amish boys using one on their lawn and I felt inspired. I figured between that and letting the cows and chickens* mow for us, we would be doing our part for the environment and getting some exercise.

Yes, you can laugh uproariously now. If I weren’t so tired, I’d be laughing at myself, too. After two days of using a push mower to mow my mother-in-laws yard, and then parts of ours, I was exhausted. Our lawn is not even entirely mowed, either! There’s still the side of the garage and one side of the house, a small part by the garden, some by the cornfield and out by the road, and then another part by the corn. I have no idea how many acres we have to mow, but it’s too much to do with a push mower, let alone a reel mower and cows! Clearly, that was not one of my better ideas.

Despite how that idea turned out, I keep thinking about what we can change so that we have less grass to mow. Even when we get a riding mower, it would be better for the environment, not to mention our pocketbook, to not have so much grass to mow. So another option is to let some of the grass go wild and turn into prairie grass again. But where to do that? Not near the house, of course, because we already have too many bugs and ticks. Not along the driveway for the same reason. There might be some parts near the corn that we could either skip mowing or we could incorporate into pasture when the time comes. The only other idea I have is to put a big circle of mulch around all the trees. That will help, but there’s still a lot of grass to mow. If we just had two acres of flat ground to mow, it might not be so bad. Or maybe if I were in better shape. Even so, I do have better things to do with my time than spend an entire day mowing. We have spent well over two hours mowing for each of the last two days. Everyone but Mo has mowed. Aidan loves mowing, though his technique could be more efficient. (I figured I’ll let him figure that out on his own because for now he really enjoys mowing and who am I to change that?)

So anyway, I have more mowing to do today. I can take the kiddos down by the bridge that is over the creek. They will have fun in the mud and the creek and I can get some mowing done. That’s the plan anyway! I might get all the mowing done today if I’m really ambitious.

*Scott the Farmer knows someone who wants a cow to show at the fair, which apparently means the cow would be tied to a tree and would eat the grass for us as part of the taming process. Also, the chickens do a fantastic job of mowing! The area around the garden is almost weed free and the grass is not long at all!

Cow adventure (yes, again!)

April 30, 2009

Yesterday the cows were out again. They weren’t out there waiting for their treat in the morning when Tim left for work. He had to leave early, so it was up to me to feed them in the morning. I didn’t get around to it right away, but I did notice that they were not in sight. Sometimes that just means that they are up at the top of the hill where I can’t see them from the lane or the garden, so I wasn’t too concerned. Then Tim called from work to ask if I had seen the cows, which I hadn’t. He also asked when we last checked the fence. Well, to be perfectly honest, we had not tested the voltage or walked the fence in days. So, I started up the hill to check the fence and the cows. I checked the fence first and I saw the lights flash (the electricity pulses and the meter we have flashed 1-5 or 6 or 7 red lights, depending on the voltage), but only once. I finally figured out that it wasn’t flashing all the way to where I was looking because it was only flashing 2000 volts. I knew something was wrong and continued to walk up the hill where I noticed a big part of the wire was down. I got all the way to the top of the hill and the cows were not there, so I called Scott.

The one smart thing I did was to grab the following things before I went to check: cell phone, voltage checker, walking stick, and bucket of treats, along with my camera, which was not necessary or helpful, but did allow me take some cool pictures. So anyway, I called Scott and he said he would be over soon and that I should follow their tracks. That’s what I did, but I was thinking to myself that they could have been tracks from the last time they got out, or they could be deer tracks because they would look the same to me. I’m not a tracker, obviously. I followed the tracks to the east end of our property, which is where they went the two previous times. It didn’t look like the went through the fence, but I kind of lost the tracks. I went south towards the woods and found a fresh cow pie and a few more tracks, but I didn’t see them. I tried calling them, but they haven’t really started coming to me when I call them and feed them, so they didn’t come.

I was feeling quite dejected and thinking perhaps we are not ready for cows and it’s time to let Scott take them elsewhere. I was feeling quite disgusted with myself for not checking that fence and not being able to find the cows. I stayed in the woods for a while trying to find where the tracks led and calling them. I couldn’t find them, but I did manage to get a few cool pictures.

No idea what this is, but it's cool looking

No idea what this is, but it's cool looking

Fallen Tree, looks like a broken Y

Fallen Tree, looks like a broken Y

Better view of the Broken Y

Better view of the Broken Y

I finally started back toward the house when Scott called to tell me he and Aidan were heading up the hill. We met up and I told him what I had seen and where I thought they had gone. He told me to take Aidan and go back to the house, so that’s what we did. By the time I got back, the phone was ringing and Scott was heading back with the cows. They had come to his call, thankfully. It took him a little while to get them back because they are so tame (I know that sounds funny because they keep escaping, but they are tame!). I went out with him and we fixed the fence and he showed me how to take one of the fiberglass posts out of the spring that attaches it to the wire and how to put it back on. I’m not sure if I could do it again, but I might be able to figure it out. Then we moved some of the posts out a ways because the wire was all stretched out and was too low. Scott checked the fence with his digital voltage meter and it was still low, so we walked the fence. It looked fine and then he realized he had left the gate open. So he closed that and we were done.

I have to say that Scott is possibly the most patient person I have ever met. Not once has he yelled at us or told us we are idiots, even though we have given him cause to do so. We had not checked the fence visually or with the voltage checker in several days. We had gotten lazy. Now, I can’t say for sure that something was wrong with the fence and we didn’t catch it, but I’m guessing that is what happened. It’s also possible that the cows got spooked by something in the night or early morning hours and trampled the fence getting out. We can’t know for sure, but we do know we need to check the fence more regularly. The cows do come to Tim when he calls them, but I need to work on that and do it more consistently. I need to work on my call, which apparently is not loud enough. I need to really work on getting them to come to me when I call them so that if and when they get out again, I can get them without calling Scott.

Eventually we will have more cattle and better fencing and then Scott will be doing all the work and just paying us some rent for the land. That is the plan for the future. For now, though, these two cows are ours and we need to take care of them ourselves. Someday we will probably have a dairy cow, but we have a bit to learn before then, including how to make our own butter, yogurt, and cheese. For now, we need to focus on taking care of these two cows and keeping them in their pasture.

Here are some pictures of the two cows. The muddy head look is the new fashion for cows, by the way.

Sweetie Cow and Bullseye

Sweetie Cow and Bullseye

Sweetie Cow

Sweetie Cow

Bullseye

Bullseye

Cows, chickens, and kittens

April 25, 2009

Sorry I haven’t written much in the past couple of days. We’ve all had a pretty mild cold. It’s mild in the sense that we don’t have boogers and snot all over us and the sore throat wasn’t that bad, but I felt like crap and I know the kids did, too. The cold seems short lived and I’m grateful for that since the weather has been so nice!

The cow drama seems to be over. They seem much calmer, but we also haven’t let the kids near them and won’t until the cows are used to us other adults. Tim has been giving them a “treat” in the morning and I’ve been doing it in the afternoon. They seem comfortable with Tim already; this morning they were waiting for him to give them their “treat.” By the time I got home with the kids around 5:30 today, it seemed like they were waiting for me. So it seems they are getting used to Tim and me. The kids haven’t gotten close to the cows but have been in the garden area, which is not that far away. I think by the end of next week, the kids might even get to go near them. We’ll see.

The garden is going nicely. I’m still waiting for tilling, but the ground isn’t quite dry enough and it’s supposed to rain for a few days. Maybe that’s a good reason to go with no tilling? The pepper plants finally sprouted and now are going crazy. I put some of the broccoli outside to get sunshine and it is thriving. Some of the little seedlings died, naturally, but the others are filling out nicely. The zucchini and watermelon I started are doing really well and some of the herbs are doing, too. I put the spinach starts outside for some sun, but I think I waited too long. I think they all finally died. I just thought I should add in some of the plants that didn’t work out so well, for the purposes of full disclosure. 🙂

The chickens are awesome. They are in the movable coop out in the garden and spent last night and tonight out there. Apparently Chicken Joe is crowing, or attempting to crow. Tim and Tom have heard it and I think I heard him doing something tonight at sunset. Honestly, the kids and I just don’t get up early enough to hear him in the morning. Eventually, he will be loud enough and the windows will be open and we will wake up early. Right? Tonight Tim was looking at the chickens and thinking that one of the other chickens is a cockerel and not a pullet because “she” is developing a comb and wattles more quickly than the other pullets. I told him I didn’t think she was a he, but we’ll see.

Oh, and it seems that Mama Cat had her kittens. I thought maybe she was pregnant because her belly felt round and I could feel her teats, but now I think she started coming around for food once they were born. Mo found the kittens in our shed tonight, but I think that Mama Cat had them elsewhere and brought them here very recently, possibly today while it was quiet outside since the kids and I were in town almost all day. We only saw 3 kittens, but then Aidan said he saw another kitten under the one we have named Vicious. She (or he) has hissed and growled at us anytime we came near. Mama Cat is totally fine with us being near her kittens, but apparently this one kitten is very scared or very protective of the others. I’m not sure as I don’t really have a lot of experience with kittens that are with the mama and litter mates. I’ve had tons of cats, just not in this particular situation. I can’t tell how old the kittens are, but their eyes are open and they are not newborns. I think Mama Cat started coming around for food around 2 weeks ago, so I would guess the kittens are about 2 weeks old. If I can get some pictures I will do that and post them and maybe someone else will have a better idea how old the kittens are.

Anyway, that’s as much as I can write for now. I know I need to post pictures and stories about the chickens, so I’ll try to write about that tomorrow. The kids are so super cute with the chickens, who are now 6 weeks old. I’ll write more later. I need to get to bed!

P.S. Cows are back

April 21, 2009

I said on twitter that the cows are back, but forgot to mention it here. We woke up late this morning, so by the time we got up Scott and Tim had found the cows and almost had them back. They were right near the edge of our property, so we aren’t sure if they just ended up there or if the neighbor herded them back with his ATV. Tim mentioned ATV tracks in the neighbor’s field, so it seems he might have seen them and tried to herd them back last night or this morning.

Anyway, they are back, and we are leaving them alone. They are up the hill, as far away from the house as they can get. I’m not sure they’ve had much water since the water bucket is near the house. Scott will be coming by later to take care of them and work on taming them. Then I think we will introduce them to me, then Tim, then we’ll see.