Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Neighborly Way

We live ten miles from a city of 12,000, which means suburbia is encroaching on our ranch. "Pilgrims" - that's what Gary calls people that move to the country and plant lawns and delicate trees along county roads. It makes moving cattle from pasture to pasture a challenge. 

Sometimes Mark and I talk about moving further out, finding a ranch at the end of some lonely road somewhere. But as romantic as that sounds, we could never leave family (both his and mine) behind. So rather than getting upset about more and more neighbors, we try to make the best of it. We do as Lincoln said, "I don't like that man. I must get to know him better."

This winter was a good example of just this kind of thinking. Mark talked to the owner of this new home and made arrangements to use their outdoor hydrant to water the heifers for a few weeks. It opened up a new field we hadn't been able to use in the winter before. It worked great and we were very appreciative.          

When it came time to bring the heifers home I did a little preliminary work by stringing baling twine across the many driveways along the way. They're a flimsy barrier, but they look like electric wire to the cows so they steer clear of them. The cattle filed obediently home. I don't know about the other cowboys, but this cowgirl was much less stressed. Gary followed the herd in the pickup and gathered up the strings along the way. 


I think of the comment my friend Pauline made about subdivisions popping up near their family sheep operation. "What do you do, stay mad at nice people in lovely homes?"

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A New Cycle

I was going to write about the grazing experiment we did on the “Scot” place. I was going to tell about grazing windrows laid down in September, and how we didn’t expect them to be edible after fall rains and winter snow and frigid temps. The feed was gray to black in color and none to appetizing. Still, it smelled good, and when we turned the cattle in they started eating and kept full and content. Mark rationed the field out in sections with electric fence every few days. We ran a nutrient test on the windrows and it tested well. But anyway, that was what the blog was going to be about. But then yesterday we found a new baby born overnight. I knew then that he had to be the star of my blog.

I've been dreading the start of calving. So much work ahead and the end of our off-season activities. But . . . how can you not be excited to see a new baby? He is so cute, so fresh, and the heifer (a first-time mother) is taking such good care of him that you have to be impressed. Might as well celebrate the start of a new production year.

Today I got photos of the happy couple. Mark said the calf was “no bigger than a minute.” And I can just hear Gary repeating what he commonly says about newborn animals, "he has the whole world to grow up in.” And so he does.

The grazing experiment:

a sample to test

Monday, February 11, 2013

Just Dance

I got a fun surprise from Callie this week. She forwarded a link to a facebook page called Humans of New York. Two photographers walk the streets of the city, snapping photos of everyday life and posting them on their page. They must have lots of followers because the site is very active. They happened upon Callie doing the swing with a friend while waiting for a subway train. I went to the page and found her. There she is in boots and jeans, wearing the coat we bought together over Christmas break. Her lovely face in a grin, her feet stepping perfectly, one ahead one behind, clasping hands with her friend Eddie. The photo has over 14,000 “likes.” They titled the photo the dance lesson. That’s our Callie!

Callie is a dancer, an artist to her very core. New York has been a huge challenge for her, but little by little she is making her way in the city. She has a diversion while riding the subway into Manhattan from her Brooklyn apartment. She imagines that the people getting on and off the train are really figures in a grand choreographed performance. Some hurried, some slow, graceful or shuffling, all there by design and playing their part. By doing this, Callie changes what is pure drudgery - the commute - into art.

I tried out her approach while feeding cows yesterday (yes, it might be counted as drudgery). We entered the field and one group of “dancers” moved from a grove of trees in the east toward us. From the left the main herd headed our way as well, some stopping to crowd around the first piles of hay while others continued to follow the truck. They thinned as they trailed, some stragglers falling in from the sides. They performed just as they had rehearsed and just as the choreographer had instructed. The finish was quiet as they lined out with their heads down munching hay, their black and red coats against the snow, each one an integral part of the performance.