Every year, during the time when the local kids have spring break…we start getting visitors. Friends and family members bring their youngsters out to play with the cattle, chickens and turkeys. This is always the time of year that reminds me of the biggest reasons why I raise, care and tend for animals the way I do.
Two days, two families. Smiles and laughter shared that no amount of money can buy.
Our first visitor that came this week was Sue and Ava. If you follow this blog on and off, you will know that Ava came out last year and the year before. Ava is a favorite, loyal visitor.
Last year, one of the calves kept trying to eat her hair. So this year…she was worried about her hair and kept telling them all “Please don’t eat my hair.” It is really amazing to watch kids with the animals though. This is what makes my job working with the cattle so important.
Not only with the kids…but with the adults it’s important too. You have no idea how many adults want to get “cow kisses”! It’s strange…but I get it. It’s that moment when you feel special with an animal. It’s that much greater because it’s a cow!
The following day after Ava came, we had new visitor for this year. A father (Pat) and his two sons (Logan and Connor). I didn’t know who was more excited when they pulled in…Dad or boys.
I haven’t seen smiles so big and so full of joy as when the calves started licking fingers and trying to get rubs on the head.
To those that don’t know me…this is the most important thing about what I do. Yes, I love raising our own beef, dairy and poultry. But, I LOVE sharing my passion for farm animals with KIDS! It’s an experience that I feel every kid should have.
There are really moments sometimes that almost bring a tear to my eye when I watch animals that are fearful of everything, nose up to a child. It’s one of those things for me.
To anyone in our area reading this…you are more than welcome to come visit, anytime. We love to have people stop by, young or old.
In the meantime, I will be out working (more like playing) with the cows…gotta get that next generation trained for cow kisses!
Well, yesterday was the last time those Texas girls came for farm camp…not to work but for photos with their favorite animals on the farm. I have to admit, I was delighted, shocked and surprised when the chose the calves over new chicks, chickens and the turkeys.
The whole farm camp experience has been both rewarding and fun for our farm. We got the opportunity to share part of our daily lives with two teenage girls who didn’t know, understand and were fearful of many things on the farm. Granted they were Mr. Farmer’s nieces but being one generation and part of the family removed from farm life doesn’t mean they had any idea what farming is/was like.
Having them come to learn about the animals, how to care for them and just spend time around the farm was an eye opening experience. It demonstrated to us just what type of seperation the younger generation sometimes have with the origin of 1)how people in the olden days used to survive, 2)their food and 3)the different methods of achieving the end result of milk, butter, cheese, meat, etc.
I am so very proud of them, even though they hated getting up early to be at the farm by 6 am. They learned to not be afraid of the chickens pecking them while gathering eggs. They learned that calves will not bite (too hard anyway) if allowed to suck on your fingers. They learned that just because a cow is bigger than you it doesn’t mean that you need to be scared all the time but that it is okay to have a healthy respect for the size of the animal. They learned that flip flops are really not good options for foot apparel on the farm, no matter what the farm manager does. They learned that farming can actually be fun and animals are really kind of funny with their antics. They also learned that sometimes normal chores like checking fields can be fun too…especially when you detour with the four wheeler into the woods to get stuck in the mud! They also learned that once you start adding up all that the land and the animals can provide for you, it’s actually a lot of work but very enjoyable too.
The whole thing has actually inspired me to dedicate sometime every summer to a few kids that would normally not have the opportunity to spend time on a farm to at least be able to spend an hour or two learning about what farmers really do. We, as a farm, have decided to use a funding raising method through the sale of t-shirts to raise money to cover for some of the items that would be supplied to the kids. Those t-shirt designs and logos will be given to all the kids that come to learn. They will also receive a portrait photo for them to keep too. For the younger kids, maybe a coloring book and some crayons. For the old kids, we still are thinking…so ideas are very welcome for that teenage group!
As we progress through with the shirts, I will generate a special post for here with color options. Adult shirts will retail for $15, kids shirts will retail for $10. Below are the farm camp version of the shirts, along with the farm logo and a couple of portrait shots as examples.
Well, this morning was the last morning of farm camp for the visitors from Texas. I am so proud of how much change I have seen in these two young ladies from Monday morning until today!
The first day they arrived, they were scared of all of the animals. “The cows are big, the calves are going to bite, the chickens would peck and the turkeys would attack” were just a few of the statements made by these two ladies. It almost made me think that the whole experience was going to be tough because their mom MADE them come up for morning chores at SIX am. What kid wants to get up that early during summer vacation? Most adults don’t…at any time of year!
By Wednesday, they were actually asking to come up to assist with nightly chores, letting the calves suck their fingers and were not afraid to gather the eggs! I feel blessed to be able to share the farm with them! They have come so far in such a short time! I have to say…I will miss them now during my morning routine.
I have some of the photos up on our facebook page…and will get some up here soon but I need to wait. They will actually be included into a special post that they will be the contributors for!!!!! You will get to hear from them all about the experience. I can’t wait to see what they have to share and I promise to share, no matter what they have to say.
And…since they don’t actually read the blog, I will share now what I have done for them. During one of the conversations this week with Mr. Farmer, it was decided that we would do something special for them. So, I sat down and designed up a logo for the back of a shirt! Much like an event T-shirt! Here is the design.
We will have them all ready for them when they return on the 29th of this month. I still need to do some adjustments but this will be close to what the back will look like. I will get photos of the finished products once they are completed and in hand. Oh and by the way…on the front it will say “Farmer Ashley” and “Farmer Autumn”. Kind of like getting a certificate of completion! If anyone else has some ideas on things we could do for them…send a shout out and let me know! These are all ideas that we will start incorporating for all of the kids that come to visit! Farm camp will be reserved for kids who come 2 or more consecutive days for a whole experience type of thing. But since we do have visitors and repeat visitors, I would love to be able to come up with something for them to take home with them as a reminder for the whole experience.
Any ways, I must run and go do errands today…so I need to get my butt in gear or I won’t have the time to finish it all!
******This post contains graphic images of the birth of a calf.*******
How can it be that time seems to stand still for days or weeks on end and then BANG!!!! almost half the year is gone. I think sometimes that we just get so busy that we start ignoring the little things, like the minutes ticking away. I know that’s how it was for us this weekend. It was here, it doesn’t seem like we did anything at all but then POOF it’s gone.
It isn’t like we didn’t do anything. I washed laundry and dishes in there somewhere. I fixed meals and did chores. I did the normal ho-hum of every day life…but I can’t seem to remember what I did on what days and I have to keep looking up dates on photos to get it right. Maybe it’s just old age. Maybe it’s just my short-term memory loss (caused by a car accident in ’95)…..I honestly don’t know. It just seems that time is going by way to fast!
These thoughts start rolling through my head as I watch a first calf heifer trying to give birth to a calf. It was not an easy one and did require some assistance (the front feet and legs were not properly placed). All births make me think of my children being born and without fail, makes me feel old since my oldest son is 14-1/2 already!!! I can tell you, most days that is a reality check for me. In my mind, I think I am still 25 and I am capable of doing so much!
I am not 25, I am actually the ripe old age of 37 and still a young pup in my eyes. Of course, right? I still think in my head sometimes that I am 25. 🙂 I will be that old grandma that still acts like a kid and goes out to throw small square bales around at 70, that is if I live that long and the MS doesn’t take over. I want to be that lady…we all know one or two of them…that goes and goes. You know the one, every time you see her in action you are amazed at how well she is doing and getting around for her “age”.
Anyways…now that I am done complaining about time disappearing, back to the weekend. Yup, everything was going just as usual. Chores, laundry, meals, dishes, blah, blah blah…seriously, do we see where the farm chores rank! I hate doing laundry and dishes…but I do like to cook! Oh wait, there I go, rambling again….
On Sunday morning (and yes I verified the dates!) I got up early, did the milking, feeding and normal chores. Then I went through my normal morning inspection to “talk” to each of the cows. My morning inspection consists of checking feet, legs, bellies and heads. I check for any type of sores, bumps, lumps or limps. Most mornings this includes a brush and my hands on the Jerseys. The Dexters are a different story…they are just getting to the point where we can touch them. Frustrating for me because I forget sometimes and reach for them anyway…think of it like this: I am standing in the pasture next to one, talking to another and absent-mindedly reach out and touch the one next to me. It usually results in a near-kick and the cow running. Defeats the purpose and then I have to start all over with a nervous cow. GRRRR!
As I am inspecting all of the cows, I notice that #47, aka Annie, is walking rather strange, like her hip is really bothering her. Now mind you, she was due to calf at anytime…so I figured “Here we go!” I decided to give her about an hour and then go check on her. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t wait too much longer to go check too. I found her in the farthest corner of the pasture, bellering up a storm and anxiously pacing. After running, up hill mind you, to the house to get equipment (including the camera) and Mr. Farmer I was so out of breath (haha: old age!!!!) I could hardly move. Upon arriving back in the pasture and next to her, I could zoom in with the camera to see in close up detail what was going on. *Insert note here: Yes, she let’s us touch her…but she didn’t want us around her at this point.
Notice that the one leg is slightly withdrawn behind the other. This put the nose (which you can see just above the foot) and the front foot all at the opening. She was struggling and was starting to rip. So, Mr. Farmer decided that was enough of a struggle for a first calf heifer and he intervened to assist.
For me, this was amazing and difficult to watch. I know all about difficult births and I felt bad for her. Once the head came out, the body slid out easily…that is until the back hips entered the top of the birth canal anyway.
A half hour later, while debating names…we decided that he is going to have to be steered for beef just like the other bull calf that was born three weeks ago. All of our steers named here on the farm are aptly named for cuts of meat….so his name is now Sir Loin!
He was a rather large boy for a Dexter, weighing in around 60-70 pounds! He is huge and as you can see in the photo above…the same size as the tradition size of a 3 week old calf!
Needless to say…I forgot everything else that happened this weekend! It just doesn’t seem as important somehow as a new calf!!!!
After a long and very stressful week, I decided to take a break this morning doing two things I really love to do! Taking photos and spending time with the cows!!!!
After having an unexpected visit this morning at chore time that actually helped me get morning chores done a little bit faster, I came inside and sat down in front of the computer…my fingers hovering over the keyboard trying to wrap my head about what I wanted to write for the upcoming article I need to get together on a farm I went to an interview for yesterday. My head just wanted in it. I couldn’t focus on the topic at hand…so I decided I just needed to go clear my head and what better place for me to do it than out in the pastures.
I just start walking slowly, noticing different things that are all around me…from a protective mothers to the smallest of plants. It reminds me of the big, wide world we live in and how small our lives are in the big scheme of life. All we can do is to take each moment as it comes, enjoy the little things and keep a good spirit about the next step, the next moment instead of looking at too much at once.
So, now I will leave you with a few photos as a glimpse into my little world…….
I am excited to say that I am going to get time to go spend on another Jersey Farm today! Lawton’s, who are some of my favorite people around, have a 75 milking cow herd of the most beautiful jerseys!
I have to admit, I feel almost priveledged to be able to go sit down with them for a couple of hours and talk with them about the four generations that have worked the farm. They are lacking ONE year from being in operation 75 YEARS! And I really hope I live to see the day when the celebrate 100!
First thing this morning though, I have to go sit through a bioenergy training class that I am an advisor and instructor for….blah! But, someone needs to do this to educate our local economic development agencies just how important agriculture is to the renewable energy sector and local economic development. Too many times, these agencies won’t talk anything agriculture. I am hoping that these monthly classes (that have been going on for almost a year) have changed the mind sets of the staff. I don’t get paid to do any of this either. It’s been my commitment to the agriculture sector and hopefully more farm security in the upcoming future. I do it for my neighbors, my friends and yes, even a few of my extended family members.
Do I feel I am an industry leader? In some ways, yes I do. In others, no. I am just trying to do my part to educate and promote agriculture. Too many people don’t understand the full diversity of how important our farm land is. It isn’t only about food production anymore. It’s about food, fiber, and energy. It’s not all about the little guys and girls like me, it’s about doing what is best for the environment. It’s about using left over waste products and land that isn’t valued for the food system. There are so many different aspects that most people just don’t grasp. Maybe the whole concept is just too big…another reason why this program is taking a year already and I am sure at least another to begin actual projects.
It takes time to get people to open their minds and sometimes their eyes to see the world around them. We don’t live in a concrete jungle, not all of us anyway. We live in wide open spaces where we watch the birds come in to nest. We watch wildflowers bloom and cover fields in a sea of purples, blues, yellows and whites. We watch as deer, turkey and geese walk across fields looking for food to forage. We sit along creek banks and ponds watching the fish swim and jump. It is just a different way of life that needs preservation. It’s that way of life that keeps me passionate about everything I do.
So for now…I am off to the concrete jungle to talk about nature’s finest moments and how agriculture works together with nature to provide us the stuff we need….would rather be watching that new calf out running in the pasture along side his mother but, sometimes we all have to make sacrifices for the greater good!
Sometimes traditions start by accident. Other times they are planned. Ours just happened by accident….
Last year for Mother’s Day, Mr. Farmer and I brought home a bull calf that we would raise for a service bull for this year on two different farms. He was and is a handsome fellow.
His name is Arthur, named after Mr. Farmer’s Uncle because he is stubborn as all can be. He was, like most Jersey calves, adorable when he came to live on our farm.
He has now grown into a fine looking year old bull and is just about ready to head over to the other farm!
Now back to the accidental tradition…. This year on Mother’s Day, the phone rings at around 4:30 pm from a neighbor farm. “We have a bull jersey/holstien calf over here if you are interested.” Of course we are! We raise them for either beef or rose veal…so sure!
Del, short for Delmonico, is the odd ball on the farm! All that white is almost funny to see around here but, for the time being he has a loving home and will be taken care of like a spoiled pup! He needs a good cleaning and I need to get better photos still but he is here and happily chasing chickens out of his paddock area when it isn’t raining.
PS. I didn’t get the babies I really wanted for Mother’s Day…but they will come soon! Next target goal is Wednesday since that is Mr. Farmer’s birthday. BUT knowing cows like I do and knowing they like to pick the crappiest days to have calves…..They will come when it is raining and wet out there over the next two days! I am really starting to think I need a raincoat for my camera!!!!