Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So much about cattle, the land, fences and salt blocks

So much about small farms, hay, fencing and sheds. Calves being born, how we feed our stock, care for the pastures. First, let me please be clear on one thing, and perhaps some of you may have already picked up on this, but my husband absolutely hates the cattle being here. Yup, that is correct, and so does my oldest daughter. They make it quite clear on a regular basis (almost daily) how much they dislike the small "farm" I am making them "endure" here. As if their lives were a living hell because I have cattle on 22 acres.

After trying to figure out (for years now) what exactly bothers them so much about it (as I do 99% of all the work, keep my time with the animals minimal when everyone is home, and see that the animals can support themselves), I finally figured it out (I think).

They cannot understand what I (or others) "get" out of a close association with the land, livestock; the seasons, birth and death, the whole "circle of life". They simply do not see it. Therefore, they don't understand it, and if they don't get it, well, why should anyone possibly "want" it? (or "have it" for that matter....)

On more than several occasions I have been pushed so hard on this (the cattle) that I have seriously considered selling them all (then I will really be miserable), or moving them off the property (why....? I just built everything from nothing over the years, myself ).

I am a homebody. I have no problem with travel, like it alot, but arrangements must be made when one has livestock. Some people do not want to understand that, and see it as another reason to "get rid of the cows". I actually prefer to hire someone to come care for the animals when I do leave to visit family out of state, and just this past April learned my lesson on that (again...) as my husband "insisted" he would be happy to look after the animals while we were gone for 4 days. After the first evenings feeding, all hell broke loose, the weather turned windy rainy and raw, and hubby was out of his mind miserable (and let me know it) looking after the animals....of course, I could not wait to get home to survey the "damage" or "rants" as one could imagine. "Get rid of the cows" sounds like the family anthem at times here....its quite exhausting.

But, now I realize, after much thought, and even more research and reading about personality disorders (yes....) humans needing to bond to the land and physical labor; the satisfaction and mental benefits from farming; (fascinating study of depression in our tech age vs. depression in our society 100 years ago) the selfish needs of those who do not share your passions nor care if you get to fulfill yours...

I have come to the conclusion that farming is what I am. I derive great pleasure on a very deep level mentally from raising and caring for my little herd of miniature Herefords; designing and building things that serve a purpose or fill a need; digging in the dirt to set a post, or plant a tree that will provide shade or windbreak. Its not a tremendous amount of work, it doesn't cost alot, (well, they support themselves, and pay the taxes, usually, too). I would rather be out in the barn, or checking the fences, or building a feeder, or moving cattle, or walking through the pastures staring at the ground to see if the frost seeded clover has begun to sprout, than be stuck in the house. And my husband and oldest daughter know this. I think it drives them nuts.....But they don't understand; and I don't think they ever will, and quite honestly, at this point, I don't care.

I look out the front window as I wipe down the kitchen counters, I see the animals sleeping in the grass. They are healthy, content. Because they are, so also, am I.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ok, so where did the post Miniature Herefords: fence, pasture, and education, go?

Well this is weird....

Yesterday I wrote at length about a bunch of stuff pertaining to the farm, raising livestock, going to actual farm auctions, etc, and I even re-read it last evening ......strangly, the post is gone. Just not there. Where did it go I wonder?


I need to get to the bottom of this before I spend another hour writing; just to be sure that the new post will not vanish again, like the last one, yesterday, did.

Meanwhile, any hints, ideas? anyone else have their blog post just "disappear?"

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Miniature Herefords : fencing, pastures, and educating yourself

Well it has finally stopped raining (for a bit at least) . We have had several days of sunshine, warm temperatures and light breezes!

It has done wonders for not only our mud, but dispositions as well! Even the cattle look happier.

This weekend will be spent cleaning out the barnyard, as during the winter we cannot get out onto the fields to spread manure (snow) or load up the small ground driven spreader for later (freezes solid....trust me I found that out the hard way last winter....), SO we have to pile it where we pitch it, essentially. Which makes for a rather large mound of poop and bedding by spring. Unsightly, yes, although the calves like to play "king of the hill" on the pile!

Anyway, we borrow a skid steer and spend the day cleaning the barnyard and bedded stalls.

Its kind of neat, when one thinks about it; we buy the clover seed from the neighbor farmer, and seed our pastures with it. Our cattle eat the pasture, and stay fat and healthy on it all summer long. Then, we buy the hay from the neighbor, and feed it all winter long. The straw we use for bedding is from the neighbor as well. The cattle live off the very high quality hay all winter, and we pile up the resulting "waste / fertilzer" till spring, when we then take it all back to the field to fertilize the pastures and clover seed..... and the cycle begins all over again.

I swear some folks like to make everything too complicated in life;(remember when you could just order a "cup of coffee"?) every now and then I get an email from someone new to small scale farming / ranching and livestock, and they are so full of questions, confused as to what to do about this that and the other thing....especially in more urban-suburban / rural areas, many well-educated and well intended individuals feel the need for countless books and instructors, classes and endless discussion about the finer points of raising livestock....which is all fine I suppose, but like many things in our lives presently, sometimes TOO much imformation can be paralizing.....I know it can be for me! Fact is, folks have been raising livestock since time began; it is a learn as you go occupation mostly.

Best thing to do is become a listener and a keen observer. Take that ride to real rural farming areas (you can write it off as a business expense). Observe how the farmers fence their animals, what they use for feeders, gates, lanes. Check out the barns, run in sheds, waterers, etc. Go on line and look for a real cattle auction and go to one (at the actual farm). Listen to the farmers talking, walk around, see how things are done, how things work (or dont work...!) Ask questions. Even if you have no interest in buying, a real cattle / farm /equipment auction is an education and alot of fun....(and no, most of the "real" farm auctions do not look like they could appear in a magazine....you know what I mean....)

We try and keep things simple here, our fences are mostly electric, nothing fancy but extremely effective (altho I would love split rail along the road out front!) Our barn / run in shed is simple, affordable, but very effective as well. The gates all swing to help move the cattle when and where we need them to go, and most of the time the cattle can be moved easily by just one person; from pasture to pasture, to the barn for the vet, across the driveway to the other pasture....no chasing, hollering, pitchforks, etc. Just a "come on" and I basically just get out of the way, hold open a gate and they know the routine.

Raising livestock should bring joy. It is a great stress reliever most of the time. Sure there will be times when the animals get loose (leave the gate unlatched anyone??) or its miserable outside and muddy cold raining ,windy, etc; There are animals that get ill on occassion, calves that no matter how hard you try will not make it.....but in the end, there should still be that deep sort of satisfaction, regardless, when you walk in the house after its all said and done. That is what keeps you going back out, day after day after day, to tend to your livestock....and to lean on the gate and watch the babies romp around, or the cattle running full out with tails in the air out of the sheer joy of being alive and well...

That is what

that is why

we do what we do

day in

day out

and love it.

Now if only our spouses would, could, understand.....