Happy Spring, Dear Readers!
We’re well beyond just a little excited about springtime and all that it brings. The daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths are coming up and all our fruit trees have promising little buds or blooms, which the bees are digging, and which we’re taking as a sign that our first ever orchard attempt has been, so far, at least, a success.
Of course, springtime also means we have poultry again! Well, to be honest, we’ve been back in the poultry business since sometime in February, but now they’re all big and strong and can be outside, and Outside’s starting to get warm and welcoming enough to be a good hostess. It’s a total win-win.
Even before the birds were ready for the great outdoors, though, the weather was pretty cooperative in our neck of the woods. It’s been cold, sure, but it’s been dry, which is a big deal for brooding. We’ve been pretty fortunate on that front.
Also in February, we sold all but one of our cattle. And the one we kept is staying ’cause she’s on the nest! It was a surprise, because we don’t have a bull, but this little tart jumped the fence and apparently got cozy with the neighbor bull. We’re pretty excited about it, though—this one will be our first conceived-here, born-here calf!
We DO have a few other calves right now, but they’re adoptees. The first one’s name is Mickey, and he weighs about 160lbs at 3 or so months old. Mickey came to us in a sort of round-about way. Our neighbor, Kevin, got cattle early this year, and many were bred, so he’s had many successful births, effectively growing his herd. Sadly, though, one of those cows lost her calf, so Kevin got a young dairy calf to keep her company and help alleviate the pressure on her udder. But the cow was too clever and didn’t, even for one minute, believe that Mickey was HER calf, so he became a bottle calf, instead. Meanwhile, Matt had been thinking that maybe we should get a bottle calf for our little nephew (who’d been asking for a goat—this is close enough, right?), and since, for Kevin, keeping a bottle calf would be challenging (he has a full-time job and doesn’t live at the farm), the stars aligned and we got the calf! And though he’s not bottle-feeding anymore, he’s still super friendly and we get a kick out of watching him explore his world.
Matt brought home the other 4 bottle calves a few weeks ago from the local dairies. There’s Eager Steeger, or Steegs for short, and he’s for our newest niece. He showed up hungry and eager and we have yet to see him satisfied, which explains his name. Then there’s Clark, who we got for our other niece. Clark’s doing great now, but during week 2 here was feeling sorta puny. Fortunately, Yours Truly saved the day with a couple probiotic capsules as big as a a thumb, electrolytes directly down the gullet, and a syringe of some sort of magic from our vet. The remaining two calves are a matched set of Holstein-Angus mutts, and their names are: Kurt (named for Matt’s cousin) and Sarah Cook (as requested by my best friend, who just likes having farm animals named after herself—this calf joins a series of other Sarah Cooks on farms around this fine nation), and they’re our very own.
Anyway, selling the bulk of our cattle herd has allowed us to take advantage of the empty pastures and do some much-needed soil amending. In March, a very nice man with a hat named Doug brought a very large truck with a dump-bed and dropped a couple tractor-trailer loads of lime on the driveway of the new 40. Then Matt and our neighbor, Kevin, spent that evening (night) spreading it on the cattle-free pastures.
Also on on the pasture front, we’re in the process of converting a couple previously row-crop fields into pasture, which for now means planting oats for forage/hay. The long-term plan is to plant an endophyte-friendly fescue there, but since seeds for that grass are best planted shortly after its harvest in the fall, we’re too far out by the following springtime (at which point you start to lose some of the benefit of the endophyte-friendliness). So in the meantime, we’ve gone with the oats. After we make hay from them, we’ll sow the fescue, and once it takes hold, we’ll add in some clover. And the cattle will be the happiest clams.
Anyway, it wasn’t long before we were back in the cattle business. Matt’s a cattle man at heart, so we couldn’t really have gone long without a significant cattle project, and we didn’t. A couple weeks ago, he came home with 11 cows of the pregnant persuasion. So we now have 12 cows and 6 new teeny calves (whose mothers are no longer pregnant). And they’re so cute and clumsy you can barely stand it. Their eyes are all shiny and sparkly and their ears are ginormous. And their mothers are doing all the right things. 🙂
Also new is our fancy new (under construction) garden! For Christmas this year, Matt gave me two little scraps of paper, both IOU’s, which sounds terrible for a gift, but it was brilliant. One IOU was for a bunch of bricks and the other was for a bunch of lumber which combined, are the fixin’s for a brick-paved, raised-bed garden! So we’re about … let’s say 34% through building it, and have started to populate the built bits with cool season stuff like greens, onions, radishes, carrots, etc., and have also planted some potatoes. This Easter will be dedicated to finishing the garden and getting a few more things in the dirt, including flowers, which I’ve been buying at the nurseries around here and keeping indoors at night for fear of too-cold weather. May 10 is our frost-free date, and I’m not sure I can wait that long—I may gamble with a few plants.
What else…? Well, for one, the Feast Magazine buzz of last year was great for business, which has been lovely, and has helped us grow again this year. And growth is great, but it means we’re producing more and that there’s more work to do, so we’re finally getting some regular help for the first time ever, and it’s been great!
Matt’s been loving the new trucks, too. There’s the new (to us, anyway) box truck for deliveries, which has been a trooper and is much more glamorous than the first box truck. And then, just this winter, Matt got a new (to us, only) farm truck and put a flat-bed on it. And it was about time, since his last pickup was in pretty tough shape. We just took the farm truck out to check on the cattle earlier in the week, and our nephew got to steer it. I think it was a pretty peak experience for him.
In addition, the new barn we (well not we, personally, but you know what we mean) built last fall has improved our lives immensely, making the big weekly job of getting ready for deliveries pleasant, when compared to how we used to do things! Not to mention, it’s also become the perfect venue for farm repairs, of which there are many, so if you’re ever looking for Matt, that’s probably a good place to check.
We’re looking forward to this season’s promised sunny days and warmer weather. Everything’s getting green and the cows are calving. The beagles are happy (catching rabbits always results in happy beagles, and they got one this morning), so things on this here farm are good.