You can book tours with Spork now

“It’s time to get a real job. You’re 11 now.”

Spork is getting tired of riding along on tours, listening to me babble on and on about grass and cows and blah blah blah. And we have people booking weeks in advance to get by here on a Saturday.  So we are doubling our capacity for tours on Saturdays by having Spork start giving his own tours.

When you book a tour, you’ll now see “Spork” as one of your providers. His tour will be a walking tour as we only have one John Deere Gator for tours but his tours will be great for kids because he will get you up close and personal with farm animals, farm kids, and what it’s like to grow up and work on a farm. Plus, he doesn’t go on and on about grass.

If you’ve been trying to get in to see the farm and can’t find a slot in the schedule, his schedule is currently wide open for this coming Saturday.

All sewn up.
All sewn up.

He is a real farmer and on the one solo tour he’s done, the customer gave a glowing review so we’re going to try him out giving tours. Come and give a young man a chance to work on Saturdays.

So how’s it going with the new milk cow?

Milk cow calf. Very cute
Bernie is doing great, so far

Man, I forgot how hard it is the first week of milking a new cow! While both Betsy and Bernie are gentle and well behaved, they have been a handful, quite literally. Betsy, who apparently wears a halter only as adornment, isn’t quite up to being led anywhere, by anyone. So far our milking team has consisted of three people. One pulling, one pushing, and one handling Bernie. With three people working, sweating, swearing, and occasionally laughing, we’ve been able to get her into the milking parlor each day so far. The score so far is:

Betsy pooped on my arm. +1 Pooped on Erin’s shoulder. +1 Peed on Erin. +1 That’s three for Betsy.

We’ve milked her twice. That’s two for us.

Yep, so far, the cow is winning although I’m not sure that pee should count for a full point. Seems unfair to me but I didn’t make the rules.

Bernie has made a point of staying close to mom through all of this, as you would expect. In fact, the only way we’ve really moved Betsy any distance is to use Bernie as bait.

Milk calf being carried by two people
Bernie, moving to their new paddock with a little help.

When it came time to put Betsy and Bernie outside for the day, Betsy, who didn’t want to be in the barn, was quite certain that she didn’t want to be outside the barn. I was the one holding the halter and Bernie was scampering about having fun, as kids will. Every time Bernie ran behind something, Betsy became agitated. That means that she went from four legs pulling against me, to suddenly running forward to catch sight of Bernie. Since Betsy came equipped with horns, the immediate issue is getting a face full of horns attached to 1000 pounds of cow who is suddenly in a hurry. So far I’ve managed not to get gored but it is exciting, to say the least.

So once we finally drug Betsy to the temporary paddock, via the bait pictured above, we found that in addition to not being halter trained, she also isn’t hot wire trained. Within about 20 seconds she was out of the paddock, Bernie had also ducked into the paddock with the main herd and mom was quite upset. The entire herd was chasing the new calf around and causing quite a ruckus. Oh, and Mr. Dan. Your customer is here. For about 20 minutes it looked a lot like this.

Luckily Miguel arrived and with Erin, Vicente, Miguel, and Lucy everyone got back where they were supposed to be while I gave a tour to a nice family who was quite keen to see the hilarity of a farm running off the rails while I was trying to distract them.

Nothing to see here meme
What I was trying to do to our customers

 

The next morning, Betsy was just as keen to milk as before, which was not at all. It takes about a week of successful milking before it becomes a habit. Since we really haven’t had a fully successful day yet, the clock hasn’t really started. We’re getting milk, but we aren’t getting her happy in the milking parlor yet. Today I’m going to get some different feed as she doesn’t like ours. Hopefully that will entice her.

Ahh, new milk cows. How quickly you forget all the fun.

We’re back in the milk business

Yesterday Erin and I travelled to Creedmoor to look at a milk cow that was for sale. She’s just freshened on the 21st of January and she looked pretty good from the pics.

After driving about 45 minutes, we arrived at a closed farm where we met the farmer’s wife, Linda. Linda’s husband had injured himself and he wasn’t able to milk anymore. Linda loved milking, but was tied up making a living off the farm as many farmers are. Therefor they were selling this freshly freshened milk cow and her little bull calf. Erin and I looked the cow over as best we could and by all accounts she looked great. The calf was cute as a button and everything seemed like a decent deal. Well, she was a little expensive but with what happened to Ginger I wasn’t in a negotiating position. The cow is a Heinz 57 of a breed. She’s 1/2 Jersey, 1/4 Dexter, and 1/4 Holstein. The calf is even more of a mutt with a makeup of 1/4 Holstein, 1/4 Jersey, 1/4 milking Devon, and 1/4 Main Anjou. Phew!

As we talked a few minutes, I noticed that the bull calf peed out “his” backside. Now I’m no expert, but bull calves pee from a different spot. Heifer calves pee out the back. Erin noticed the same thing so we asked Linda if the calf was a bull. “Sure is!” We’d already agreed to the deal so we pointed out she was a heifer and explained to Linda what she was selling. Heifer calves are worth a lot more. She agreed to go ahead and we paid her and backed the trailer up. The calf was a tiny fuzzball so when she got near the trailer I scooped her up and plopped her into the trailer. I then walked her into the front so I could close the cut gate and then coax mom in the trailer with me. As I was walking forward, I felt the trailer move and looked back. Mom had hopped in with me and was ambling forward. I closed the cut gate and Erin closed the rear gate and we had both cows loaded easier than I’ve ever loaded anything or anybody. It took about 5 seconds.

We put mom and daughter into the barn last night and we’ll begin working with her, and milking her today.

Milk cow and calf in barn
Did I mention that they are super cute?

Both cows are really cute. The mom’s name is Betsy and the calf’s name was Bernie since Linda thought she was a boy. I was going to keep Bernie and just say it was for Bernice but SWMBO has declared that’s a terrible name so we’ll see. So far they both are sweet but as they say the proof is in the pudding. We’ll see how milking goes. She may be a devil cow in disguise!

Scary looking milk cow
Devil cow??

 

Wow, was it busy on Saturday! Thank you everyone!

Farm girls working a farm store
The girls working the store

Last year I had some people come for tours from NC State University. As we were talking they asked me how many tours I gave.

“About 3-4 a week.”

They were quite impressed and complimented me on being so busy and taking so much of my time to educate people on what farmers do and where food comes from.

Yesterday we had 18 bookings, IN ONE DAY. We had one last minute cancellation (for a hospital trip instead) and one last minute booking to maintain 18 groups. We had the entire family working, including SWMBO, and we were still behind. There was only one melt down (The Princess got confused on a large order and couldn’t find me), no lunch, and church after.  We sold over two dozen of the girls cookies. We had one overcharge which I’ve already apologized for and credited and I don’t know what else will pop up today. We did more business yesterday than a store I used to sell to would do on Saturdays. And they were a real store, in downtown. We’re just a little room on a farm with some kids working the store.

For all of you that came out, waited patiently while The Princess tried to remember how to round up or down on a weight, or helped her when she charged something wrong, or waited while she grabbed me. Thank you. The reason we do all this is so those girls can learn to work. Those girls are 9 and 7 now. In 10 years they’ll be 19 and 17. Can you imagine how employable they’ll be? How comfortable they’ll be under pressure? How good they’ll be at rounding, or addition, or any of the 1000 other things they’ll learn working every Saturday. Do you think when they take their next math lesson they’ll pay a little more attention since they’ve actually used math in the real world?

I had an order this week from a restaurant that was as much business as all the business we did on Saturday. It took me a couple of hours, by myself, to handle the whole thing. I probably made more money on that order than on all of Saturday’s business.

Farm girls working a farm store
Sisters working together.

But the picture above is why we do what we do. We’ll keep working the store, and getting better at it. And we, all of us, thank you for your business.

 

It’s been a hard couple of weeks, and Ginger didn’t make it

I hate writing these posts.

I always try to share all sides of farming. I think it’s important to be open and honest with our customers and our fans. I’m always quick to point out that we share everything here, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But it doesn’t make it any easier to do.

Yesterday, we had the vet back out to look at Ginger. She had declined since Sunday and I needed to get more attention from the vet if she was going to make it. She was up and moving, but having trouble breathing, and still not drinking or eating.

Vet working on milk cow
Dr. Baker and Marie working on Ginger

We’d already run some IV fluids into her on Sunday but on Monday Dr. Baker ran a huge bag of fluids into her to try and get her rehydrated. She also gave her vitamins and a different antibiotic. We discussed taking Ginger to Summit Equine to stay in the hospital but Dr. Baker was concerned she may not survive the trip. We made up a batch of Gatorade and put some molasses in her water, all to try and get fluids in her. That afternoon we used a syringe to get her to drink Gatorade, and our neighbor Erin came up to give her some more Gatorade that evening and again at night.

This morning about 4 am I went over to check on her and give her more fluids if I was able and I found this.

Milk cow dead in a barn
Ginger, dead in the barn.

She’d died from pneumonia during the night. We’ll bury her today but unfortunately that isn’t the end of the story.

This problem seems to have arrived with the batch of weaner cows we brought onto the farm about a week and a half ago. We put them in the pasture with Ginger to make sure they were ok before we introduced them to the whole herd. Ginger had the pasture to herself as we’d just sold her daughter so having some new cows around would make her happy. And it did, for a while. Unfortunately they also seem to have brought some disease onto our farm. And Ginger isn’t the only victim. Yesterday morning we found this.

Dead calf, with frost on his back
Calf A10, dead in the morning.

This is one of the new calves that we just bought. This calf had died overnight while bedded down with everyone else. I’d personally checked these calves over the evening before and everyone was bright eyed and spry but a few were coughing. They certainly looked good enough to make it to Monday, which was important because for the past three days I’d been running the farm solo.

Well, Spork and I had run the farm together. And Erin and Dustin had pitched in here and there but overall it was Spork and I doing everything, which is not the best time to try and work a bunch of cows or have a disease spread through the farm. Everyone else was iced in, including the vet until later on Sunday. In order to do much to the cows I needed some help and Monday would be a relatively normal day, I’d hoped. So much for that.

So in addition to treating Ginger on Monday, we pulled this entire group of new cows into the corral and treated them all with duramycin 72-200 antibiotic in amounts appropriate for their weight (I love my new scale), which equalled an entire bottle of duramycin. An entire bottle would normally last us about 4 years, before we finally threw it out for being old.

Today, we are bringing the main herd into the corral and checking everyone over carefully and treating anyone who shows signs of anything, no matter how small. Even thought the main herd is separate from the new cows, we know we aren’t safe because we had this last week.

Belted Galloway, dead from bloat.
The last Ninja mom, #62

I haven’t even had time to post this. A little more than a week ago one of our mom’s turned up dead early in the morning when we went out to feed. She appeared to have died from bloat which is very unusual in the winter. We’ve rarely ever had any bloat issues in the winter so we were perplexed why this might have happened. In talking with the doc while she was treating Ginger, she said that whatever respiratory issue we have going around could cause bloat to crop up. Great.

This mom, #62, had a little calf who breaks my heart every time I go in the pasture.

Cute Belted Galloway calf and mom
Little Ninja calf, just born.

He is the last of the Ninja breed and as a castrated male, the end of the bloodline. He mopes around the pasture and looks pathetic every time I see him. He’s fine, eating and drinking and healthy, and will grow up to be a fine cow but I don’t even point him out when I give tours. It’s too sad.

So we’ve lost three cows in about two weeks. Since I usually lose a cow every few years this is a killer. It kills my mood, my time, my psyche, and my ego. It also kills my bottom line. It hasn’t been a good time on the farm the past few weeks, but as with all things, this too shall pass.

Today it’s supposed to be nearly 60 degrees and we’re going to work our way through this thing. All my guys should be here today to work, we have 12 customers coming on Saturday (a record!) with more booking still and the weather looks perfect for winter farm tours. I’m picking up a cow on Friday from the processor and we’ll finally have steaks in the freezer again (for as long as they last) and tonight we’ll have Ninja Cow brisket that has cooked for about 15 hours low and slow (this is where meat goes when it’s been in the freezer too long, you guys had your chance!)

It’s going to be a good day, if I have to drag it to the ground and choke some good out of it.

 

Ginger, our milk cow, is sick

b212

Ginger, our milk cow, has been acting kind of down lately. At first I thought it was because I sold her daughter but it is lasting too long for that. Plus her daughter was neurotic and Ginger really didn’t seem to mind that she was gone.

Of course she started looking her worst when all the weather came in last week but fortunately Sunday things were clear enough that Dr. Baker from Hoof and Horn could make it out.

She gave Ginger a once over and declared that she was dehydrated, and had pneumonia. She gave her a shot of florfenicol, a shot of banamine, an IV of hypertonic saline, and an IV of isotonic saline. She also gave her a shot of B complex vitamins.

Over the next few days we are keeping her in the hospital barn and giving her Gatorade and plenty of hay, water, and feed. We also will keep up with the banamine shots and the B complex vitamins. 

With all the stuff we are giving her, we won’t be using her milk at all, even for the pigs. It will all just go down the drain. At least she’s 10 feet from the milking parlor so the workload is reduced.

Once we stop giving her anything beyond hay and water, we will have to wait a week for double the recommended withdrawal which means we will be short on milk for the coming few weeks. Sorry folks, that’s the way it goes in farming some times. I just hope we can get her back on her feet. She is pretty sick.

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