Monday, November 19, 2012

Selling Last Years Calves

We had 12 calves last year and need to sell six this year. This is the most we have had to sell so far. We had 6 in 2010 and kept four heifer calves that were our black bull's daughters. They are having calves for the first time this year. We have kept 4 heifers and a replacement bull. And we are keeping one bull to butcher next summer. Our plan is to keep 4 heifers a year and then start selling the older cows through the years. We can handle about 24 breeding cows and their calves on our farm at one time.

Well anyway, we rounded up the calves and sorted them this morning to be loaded into the trailer to be taken to town to sell. We were up and out at the farm at 6:00 am. John took half a sack of feed into the dark....out into the field to round up the calves. I got the corral set up to sort the calves. The man with the trailer was coming at 7:00 and we had to be ready. We practise with the herd, getting them use to the corral and the head shoot for just this reason.

Well we were up early but the trailer didn't arrive until 8:30. That's the way it usually happens! But we got all loaded and on the way. They will be sold on today and we should receive a check on Wednesday. It is a very strange set-up. I guess we should go to a sell someday. But this is easier. And I like getting the check in the mail.

Everything we earn from the calves we put back into the farm. We build roads, ponds, fences, and barns. That is something we agreed to at the very start. So much has to be done tothe farm to get it into shape to really produce. We really aren't there yet but every year gets us closer.

We walked one of the bulls down to join the main herd and as we approached, our herd bull, Norbert, came up yelling. He was not very welcoming!! When we turned the young bull around and started back to the other field to join his year mates, he was ready to get away from Norbert! We learn something everytime we work the herd.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Being brave....

Heard from an old friend yesterday. She called because it was my birthday. We were room mates in college for three years. I haven't spoken to her in over twenty years. It was so good of her to call. Very Good. I miss her.

I miss her sense of humor, her love of family and friends and her down-earthiness. (is that a word?) She is a only child with wonderful, protective parents. They use to come to school every Friday to get her and bring her back every Sunday. An hour drive. She and her husband have five kids. I missed the chance to watch them grow up. I bet they had a blast. Her dad was (is) quite the joker. I'm sure he and her mother have enjoyed such a big family.

I didn't think we had much in common. Our fundamental beliefs are very different. It was hard to have conversations at times. It seemed better to just walk away.

The differences in people don't matter as much as the things you have in common. The years have given me a little better perspective on those differences. And as we both have children, homes, aging parents, and we are both trying to stay afloat in these trying times, the common stuff is more abundant.

I was talking to an old friend yesterday. I'm glad she called.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Life and Death on the Farm

We lost a ram the other day to what has to be have been a coyote (or pack of them). He was in a field without donkey protection. Lesson learned. We loose animals sometimes to owls, hawks, dogs, coyotes and once to a bobcat. There are a lot of hungry animals in the woods. And you take a dry summer like this past one and it really stresses the native wildlife. We try to protect our animals with field fencing and large cages or coops at night. But where there is a will there is a way!

Of course, as my daughter points out to me, the largest, hungriest animals on the farm are us.  And to that regard we sent the first of our ram herd to the butcher about two weeks ago. Five rams. And now they are in the freezer.

I have never experienced such before. I was not raised on a farm. My dad was not a hunter nor a fisherman. My maternal grandfather had a large farm that supplemented his earnings to feed his large family. He would raise a couple of cows to sell for his kids school tuition or to have a little extra cash some years. I think I remember "Gramps" butchering a hog and putting it in a smokehouse but my mother thinks I dreamed it.

We loaded the rams by feeding them in the trailer on Saturday and then again on Sunday and then just shut the trailer gate. Very anti-climatic. We drove to the local abattoir. Unloaded, one at a time, as the man weighed them. And then went into the office to tell the lady how we wanted them processed. They would be killed, then hang for 9 days, and then they would butcher and package the meat. And so I picked up neatly packaged meat, just like you would see in the grocery store.

Until I started this new life, I really never thought about where the food in the markets came from. There is such a push right now for "farm to table" but someone has to raise and care for those animals. All my family has been made more aware of the reality of the process. I think it makes me more determined to give the animals on my farm the best life they can have for the time they are with us.