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Animals

You Have No Idea What This Photo Represents

Maybe you’ve seen this picture floating around social media recently. It annoys me greatly.

calf hutch

Usually I’d let my friends in the livestock world handle this issue, since we don’t raise animals commercially, but you wouldn’t believe how cruel people who argue for humane treatment of animals are being to actual people, so I’m throwing my hat in the ring.

These pens are typically for dairy calves. And what the camera cleverly obscures in this picture are the cattle panels that allow the calves into a yard space.

calf hutches 2

You can see the panels vaguely in the first row of hutches if you know what you’re looking for.

calf hutches 3

The hutches are often used to make sure each of the young calves gets the proper amount of nutrition each day.  It’s very easy to see if someone skipped lunch or hasn’t touched her water if everyone has their own.

The reality is we know almost nothing about this farm.

Studies show dairy cows do well on sand, so its possible there is sand in each pen.  It might seem odd to us, but feels like a beach vacation to the animals.

There might be an employee assigned to every row of hutches; someone who feeds and waters the calves every day and can check on them, even get to know them.

It is highly likely a dairy didn’t grow to be this large without a lot of careful planning and consideration; for the employees, for the set-up and equipment, and for the biggest investment of all- the animals.  To make the most profit a dairy farmer needs the most milk.  Milk is best produced when the cow is comfortable and satisfied.

Not so "little" animals on the farm! {DaddysTractor.com}

I was thinking about this because yesterday I noticed Fanny (goat on the left) kneeling down in the pasture on her front legs, back legs still straight because that is what goats do, trying to find green grass under all the dead stuff.  I almost took a picture so you could see what a pathetic creature looks like trying desperately to get a bit of nutrition but I thought it might go viral on Facebook.  In my make-believe photo shoot I would have then panned my camera back to reveal the giant round bale of hay, her water trough and grain pan.  Not starving.  Not malnourished.  Only a little pathetic. 😉

She, like the rest of us, is looking forward to spring and the green that will come with it.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a farm needs to be explained with millions.

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Categories: Animals, Farming | 4 Comments

The Best Farm Animals

I heard the crash first thing this morning.

Birds 1

It was Anna, trying to remove the blanket from her birds’ cage which she received as a birthday present last month.  The whole cage tipped over.  Water.  Seeds.  Droppings.

But I’ll take it.

Because running the vacuum cleaner over the basement rug and refilling a tiny container of water is the easiest thing I’ll do for animals today!

Last night the temperatures were in the single digits, the high today is right at freezing.  So we’ll water the animals, probably twice, by stomping through the ice and filling their buckets with hot water we’ll get out of the kitchen sink.  We’ll haul the steaming buckets outside to melt more of that ice for the livestock and bring the chicken’s waterer in the house and switch it out for the one that’s been melting all over the tile.  Then I’ll need to disinfect the sink, make sure the lid is on the various food containers, and wipe up the mud we tracked through the back porch while doing all of this.

Birds 2

So despite the crash this morning, I’m taking the opinion that parakeets are the best animal we have on the farm.  Cleaning out their cage means removing a double layer of paper towel, rather than six wheelbarrows full of straw and yuck.

Birds 3

Getting water for them on a cold day doesn’t involve Carhartt, chore boots, or even opening an exterior door.

Birds 5

You buy their bags of feed in ounces, not pounds.

Bird 4

The people at the pet store were a little worried I was buying parakeets for a newly turned six-year-old.  But really it’s all about perspective.

We’ve got this!

Categories: Animals | Leave a comment

Better Make Hay

You’ve heard the expression, “better make hay while the sun still shines?”  It falls in the same category as “shake a leg” or “get a move on.”  And while I have no idea how shaking your leg helps get any work done, “better make hay” isn’t just a saying for us.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

Baling hay tends to get put on the back burner because there aren’t many cows on our row-crop farm.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

The tractor on the left pulls the mower, which does what any mower does.  Behind that is a tractor pulling the red and yellow rake.  The rake pulls the cut grass into rows, ready for the baler.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

The tractor drives over the rows of grass and the baler sucks them up, winding the grass around and around until the bale is big enough.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

Then you open the baler and the hay rolls out.  (Funny story, round bales roll.  You have to be careful opening a baler on a hill.  There’s a surprising amount of physics in farming.)

All this, of course, depends on any number of things– most importantly the weather.

Fresh cut grass has water in it which evaporates as the grass dries to hay.  Baling dry hay is very important because wet hay will continue to “cure” after it’s baled and the steam inside a wet bale can actually cause the whole thing to smolder and smolder until your hay bale goes up in flames.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

We rely a lot on the National Weather Service when we cut hay.  We need a minimum of two sunny days in a row, one for the grass to dry and another to do the baling.  But since no one can predict the future we often see rows of hay like the photos–wet.

Better Make Hay While the Sun Still Shines

This hay was cut with a 0% chance of rain, only to experience several inches and a hail storm.  At this point all you can do is hope it stops raining and the hay can dry out again.

And when you’ve got a sunny day, well, better shake a leg.

Categories: Animals, Farming | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Because Only Chandler Bing Doesn’t Like Puppies

After reading this post you’ll know that I both binge watch F*R*I*E*N*D*S on Netflix and that I brought home a puppy.

The cutest puppy ever!

We've added a puppy to the farm!

I can remember Brian talking about how much he wanted a black lab before we ever dated.  In 1998.  Just before our wedding (in 2004, if you were wondering) a half-grown yellow lab showed up at his paren’t farm in the way that animals do when you live in the country.  Brian’s plan was to move the dog to our house once we got married, but since we live so close to his parents Ben just kept finding his was back “home.”

Ben is still keeping Brian company when he goes to the farm to work, which is a large portion of his time, so I’ve not thought much about him needing another dog.

Until friends posted pics of their (sort-of black lab) puppies to Facebook.

And Brian wanted one.

And I got to thinking that we take care of two goats, a sheep, 20+ chickens, a dog and two cats as it is.

What’s one more animal, really?

So the kids and I went and picked up the puppy as an early Father’s Day surprise.  I’m so glad we did!

After a few days Brian settled on the name Case, although Thor was a close contender.  This face just doesn’t say “Dog of Thunder,” no matter how funny a labra-thor was.

We've added a puppy to the farm!

Give it time and I’m sure he’ll eat a few chickens and probably my favorite flip-flops and end up on my naughty list, but that’s just the price you pay for this much cuteness!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

A Real Disney Princess

You know how as a parents sometimes you just smile and nod and say “Sure sweetie”?  These certianly aren’t our more stellar parenting moments, but when you’re home with kids 24/7 it happens.  There are just certain instances when this has more consequences…

For example, the other day when two of Baby’s therapists were finishing up their visit, in walks Anna, just like this.

Anna's dream came true.  She caught a bird!

Since it’s hard to tell in the photo, I’ll tell you.  That’s a baby barn swallow in her hand.  Which would be interesting enough as a parent, except for one small thing.

For the past four weeks that background chatter, the constant flow of conversation as been, “Can I please try and catch a bird?  Princesses can catch birds.”

The conversation typically continues something like “Maybe someday we’ll get a pet bird.”

“But if I catch one can we put it in that bird cage?” (points to Hobby Lobby decorative bird cage)

“Um, not really.”

“But can we get a bird cage?”

“Sure.”

“Can I pray to catch a bird?”

“Okay.”

“Yay! I’m going outside right now to get one!”

“Uh, huh.”

Never.  Ever.  Did I expect to see her walk in with a real, live, baby bird.  And, I should add, neither did the therapists.  Holding it bird out with both hands she exclaims, “All of my dreams have come true!”

Prayer is powerful stuff.

She and Brett were playing in the shed on Daddy’s old Chevy when she found this baby bird on the ground.  When I went back outside with her I found half a nest on the roof of the pick-up that had evidently fallen out of the rafters, another fledgling still inside.

Anna's dream came true.  She caught a bird!

We took lots of pictures and then a broken hearted Anna left both birds in the nest, certain I was thwarting God’s ultimate plan for the universe and denying her her royal birth-right.

Anna's dream came true.  She caught a bird!

There’s little hope for the poor things; I didn’t see any sign of the parents all morning and there are too many predators around here for birds to survive on a truck.  But leaving them there is probably their best bet.

And Anna is praying for them.

Categories: Animals, Family | Tags: , | 3 Comments

And Repeat

I really didn’t see that coming.  In fact, I didn’t quite believe Brett when he first told me.  But it’s true; one of our hens actually hatched a chick of her own!

Momma hen and baby chick!  {DaddysTractor.com}

We’ve had several broody hens this spring.  (Broody means instead of pecking and scratching in the dirt the hen sets on eggs all day.)  Last spring I put our mail-order chicks under two setting mamas–and was as shocked as anyone when it worked!.  But it’s always seemed tenuous at best.  Any mama hen who forgets which egg box she’s setting isn’t likely to be successful.  But this little bantam hen made it happen!

Momma hen and baby chick!  {DaddysTractor.com}

I did find the egg the chick hatched out of, and this little one is actually from a hen that lays blue-green eggs, not biologically this banty’s offspring.  But she did the work and she’ll get the credit.  The baby follows her every move like, well, like a baby chick.

Aaaaaaand, because I am either such a push-over or I just really love chicks too, I bought a few more baby chicks for her to raise as well.

Momma hen and baby chick!  {DaddysTractor.com}

The problem is that two of our other little girls were recently…lost.  Probably to a dog.  Which leaves us only one of the three I bought for pets and Anna is SO worried.  I might have promised her that if all three perish we could get more.  Well, the farm store is in its last week of selling chicks, so if we get more after this point we’ll have to mail order them and pay three times what the chicks cost in shipping.

Momma hen and baby chick!  {DaddysTractor.com}

And since this mama is raising a chick anyway…

So far, so good.  The new chicks all went right to the hen, despite being four days old, and the mama lets them cuddle under her, despite this odd feeling she seems to have that they aren’t really hers.  This banty is one fierce mommy too, so everyone should be safe and secure.

But wow.  I did not see that coming.

Categories: Animals, Family | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Free-Range Chicks

The story of our free-range baby chick project.  Like most everything else in life, our chick project hasn’t been going quite as planned.  To recap I brought home three Buff Orpington chicks a few weeks ago, not because we needed more laying hens, but because my kids love them so much.

The difference between three chicks as pets and 25 laying birds is that my kiddos loved on those same three birds constantly.  And funny enough, those birds have gotten quite attached to my kids!

Which has lead to the problem of the free-range chicks.

Indoors.

The story of our free-range baby chick project.  We had chicks on our laps during movies, while playing games, and even during school.  And since this is not my idea of a “teacher’s pet,” it was time to move those girls outside!

 Free range baby chicksThey are more attached to Brett and Anna than ever now, since outside is an intimidating place.  I’m watching them through the window as I’m typing and the kids are trying to get a chick to stay in one place (no idea…) and the little bird is having none of it.  She is right there by their feet at all times.

So not as planned, but pretty great anyhow.

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Three Bags Full

So you last saw Lizzie looking like this.

Lizzie's all grown up! {DaddysTractor.com}

It seemed to me that this look was a bit overdressed for spring fashion; no one’s wearing wool this season.  It was time for a makeover.

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {DaddysTractor.com}

If you were shocked, no worries.  I dropped her off at a friend’s house to be sheared while we were gone and came back the next morning to a different animal!  Although technically my biggest surprise was the bag of wool that greeted me on arrival.

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {DaddysTractor.com}

As Brett says, you could fit Lizzie herself in this bag.  And there is another bag of the dirtiest wool from her backside.  (Didn’t think you need a picture of that!)  Both bags are in the garage and every time I pass them I think “Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.”  There is easily enough for the master, the dame, and the little boy down the lane, but I’m not planning to give any to them!  This is the goal.

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {DaddysTractor.com}

Aside from what’s in the picture being bamboo and silk, I’m hoping to turn my bags of wool into balls of yarn.

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {DaddysTractor.com}

While my kid’s take ice skating lessons on Wednesdays I’ve been learning to crochet from some of the other moms.

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {DaddysTractor.com}

(And for the sake of keeping it real, here is what most of my photos look like.)

Learning to crochet-- from the very beginning!  Getting the wool from our sheep, Lizzie.  {DaddysTractor.com}

I’ll keep ya posted!

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

White As Snow

Recognize this?

Lizzie's all grown up!  {DaddysTractor.com}

Yah, that’s Lizzie, the “little” lamb we brought home–wasn’t it just yesterday?!

Lizzie's all grown up!  {DaddysTractor.com}

Last time I think you saw her she looked like this.  I can’t believe how much she’s grown!

The thing is, its spring time and I have baby fever.  Baby animals that is.  I’m posting these photos to remind myself next time I see a cute bunny or whatever that they don’t stay little for long because, yeah, this happened last week.

Not so "little" animals on the farm!  {DaddysTractor.com}

There are just three.  And they’re for the kids.  I promise.  Because I know that baby animals grow up all to quickly.  I really do.

Then again, they’re pretty amusing as grown animals too.

DSC_0089

For example, here’s a photo bomb by Harriet.

And this is Harriet and Fanny as I was leaving their pen.

Not so "little" animals on the farm!  {DaddysTractor.com} Not so "little" animals on the farm!  {DaddysTractor.com}

Don’t leeeeeeeeave us, Mom!

And Lizzie again, trying to eat the camera’s strap.  So adorbs.

Not so "little" animals on the farm!  {DaddysTractor.com}

So maybe not so “little,” and a long ways from “white as snow,” but know what?

Pretty fun anyway.

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Realities of Farm Life

Many people want to do what we do.  A house in the country, taking care of a couple of goats, a flock of chickens, and a Daddy who farms is the dream of many American families.  Getting your own fresh eggs from the backyard seems so ideal.

This is the reality.

The realities of life on a family farm!

Because fresh eggs require live chickens, and live chickens must be feed and watered everyday, in cold, heat, wind and rain.  So then the chickens poop.  Constantly.

On top of that, life happens.  A few weeks ago I noticed the hens were going through a lot of water.  Then I realized why.  Their waterer, which rests on a heated base, was leaking down onto the base and seeping under the layer of straw and poo.  By the time I figured this out I had 9 inches of soggy, wet, manure.

It smelled just like it sounds it would.

The realities of life on a family farm!

First thing was to let the chickens out for recess.

The realities of life on a family farm!

Or that’s what they act like when you open their gate!

Then we shoveled all the manure into the wagon and wheelbarrow and took it down to the garden boxes.

The realities of life on a family farm!

Although nasty smelling and very heavy, sopping wet chicken litter is fantastic garden compost.  You have to plan ahead, however, because chicken litter can also burn plants.  It needs to decompose for a few months– which is perfect because our last frost date.

The realities of life on a family farm!

It took two days, but Brett and I finally hauled all that mess out of the coop and down to the garden.  Since the coop doesn’t have heat I don’t clean it out during the winter, using the process of decomposing to create a layer of heat on the floor.  We haven’t seen the bottom of this mess since last fall!

We’d usually fill the laying boxes and the floor with straw (the stem of a stalk of wheat) but we didn’t have a wheat harvest this year, so we used hay (grass cut in the summer and dried for animals to eat in the winter) the goats had already picked over.  Goats are seriously picky animals and won’t eat hay that’s been on the floor or that they’ve laid on.  Which means we have lots of extra. 😛

The realities of life on a family farm!

The funniest part was hearing those crazy girls after putting down their new hay.  They make So Much Noise!

“Cackle, cackle, cackle, did you see this new flooring?  It adds so much texture to the room, don’t you think?!”

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Animals | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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