Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The All American Girl Next Door

 photo by Kim Stone

My days have been pretty long here, since Dolly died. I spend a lot of time fussing and worrying over EmmaLou Moo and watching chickens. I've pretty much been in a blue funk lately. The good news is, I know from past experience that having a cause is often a healthy remedy for depression or sadness and tonite I have a cause.

One of the young ladies that comes to the ranch every summer and helps out is in a contest. It’s a Facebook thing, but if she was to win, she would be in a print ad as an ambassador for Wrangler jeans. It’s called the "Wrangler Ultimate Cowgirl Next Door."

This young lady is perfect for the job. She is strikingly beautiful, but a humble, all American type of girl. She can ride, rope, brand, break and train horses and doctor with the best of them and look pretty while doing it. She has a charming personality, a grateful attitude, a million dollar smile, a great work ethic and an enormous sense of fun and adventure. That's Amanda.

Therefore, I am going to urge each of you who have a Facebook page to click on this link and give her a daily vote until the contest ends. That's

Seeing her chosen as the ambassador makes me smile. That's a good feeling I've been missing lately.

Thanks in advance to those who help!
And thank you to all who have left comments and encouragement since Dolly died. For whatever reason, I have been unable to leave responses on my own blog.  There have been some computer issues here, but I want you to know I sincerely appreciate it. It means more than you can know.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Time Out

I stepped outside today for a break. I have been furiously keeping myself busy, trying to avoid the grief that threatens to intrude on my days and overcomes me in my sleep. I need respite. I need sanctuary.

The chicks are industriously pecking around, treating themselves to bugs and green grass. A hummingbird hovers near the bee balm as dragonflies float lazily through the air, doing whatever it is that dragonflies do. A small white Captains butterfly flits over the rock wall out of sight. I wait to see if the Monarchs that were visiting yesterday will show up again, or maybe one of the many Tiger Swallowtails that frequent the garden, such as it is. It is a work in progress. The Maremmas sleep heavily while Cider rests nearby, his head pillowed on his newest toy, a large fuzzy stuffed bone. Cider loves stuffed animals in fact he collects them. Every time we go shopping he noses through all the bags, checking to see if he got anything. On Christmas he knows exactly which gift is his, under the tree. I think he sneaks in and peeks under the bed before I wrap them. What kid taught him that?

He has a toy basket full of toys and he obediently picks them up whenever I tell him to…of course he expects cheese for doing his chores, or at the very least, to play catch. He used to help me load laundry, but one particular time I had nothing to 'pay' him with. He disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a dog biscuit he had managed to locate and pilfer from the pantry. He handed it to me, picked up the laundry, then sat expectantly, waiting for me to pay him. As he has grown older, I have lived in fear he might go union on me.

A grasshopper flutters and lands over by a pink spirea. He is living on the edge, as the chickens will make short work of him. Mr T, the enormous and beautiful black rooster, struts by and blasts out a bellicose crow. His plumage is deep, shiny black with highlights of green and darkest purple. His comb and wattles are dark, deep, saturated red, like Marilyn Monroe’s lips. He really is a magnificent bird of impressive size. I find him intimidating and hope he never turns on me, though I bet he would make a fine meal.

The buzzing and chirping increase as several hummingbirds bicker and vie for a place at the feeder.

I laugh at the little chicks running like S.W.A.T. team members across the lawn and then scurry around under the cover of leaves from the plants against the wall. Like kids with a clubhouse, they spend most of their time there eating and chatting and entertaining themselves and me, in the process.

I hear birds ‘chit chit’ in the background. Wimpy, my horse, snorts on the far side of the wall. There is more rustling of dried leaves as the chicks scratch for worms and insects. Cows are lowing in the distance.

Suddenly a jet rips the sky, racing before the speed of sound, shattering the serenity. I say a silent prayer for its pilot, knowing that in this world, he or she may soon be called to put their life on the line in defense of our country. I marvel at the fact that we have a voluntary military. Those who stand in the gap do so by their own volition. They are my heroes.

I am not courageous or heroic. I settle back down on the cushion of the wicker chair and ponder how far we have gone astray as a nation, but grateful that I am here, in this place.

I thank He who is faithful in both pain and pleasure, ready to pick me up when I stumble or when life slaps me down.The One who is beside me when I ride the crests of joy that swell out of the tides of my life.

In the rising and setting of my fickle circumstances and intense emotions, He is always constant. My Rock, ever solid, ever present in the quagmires I sometimes find myself sucked into, consoles and comforts me. I lean back, secure in His watchful gaze, knowing He will never let go. I am content.

Sanctuary has been found.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


We processed the meaties and took all the lambs to the sale, as I cannot shear them, so we have made the decision to find some lower maintenance Katahdin hair sheep. We shipped the goat kids as well, since they are so hard to fence in and were always breaking into everything and generally making my day very stressful. I gave away my mare because I can no longer ride colts. Our nephew sold my other horse for me, so I am down to just good old Wimpy. He should be able to accommodate my growing weakness. My strength has deteriorated considerably over the past couple of years.

 Dolly, my sweet , sweet Jersey cow, died today. We never even got back from the vet. Her prognosis was fair. I had done all the right things for her. I was to watch her for a few days. I am profoundly sad. My laptop died and my internet does not work. I feel as though I am being sequestered in my sorrow and pain. All the loss in my life, seems magnified today.
 My world has been shaken.

I am already missing Dolly’s little crooked face and the funny way she walked.


 Time and again she made me laugh, as she lolled her tongue and looked like she was singing. She’d let me go sit with her while she laid in the shade under the trees and loved to have her brisket and shoulders scratched. She would stand like a statue while I milked her, although she was never good about 'letting down'. She always held some back for the calves. She hadn’t always been good, but we had grown together and I was sad to dry her off last year, as my milking time with her had become such a pleasure. Her cream was heavenly. She loved the Fall, when the apples all fell from the trees. She couldn’t wait to vacuum them up.


She was mean to the dogs, always. She loved ‘her’ babies, it didn’t matter whose they were, she loved on them, and fed them sacrificially. She raised countless leppies in her short little life of only 5 years.  She doted on Mo, even more than she had Emma. I loved the soft moo she had just for him. It was so tender and loving, it stirred my heart everytime I  heard it. She and Em were constantly licking on each other, and Dolly was forever licking little Mo.


To the world, she was just a cow, but she brought so very much to my life. Many cold winter nights were spent in the barn pouring my heart out to her. Leaning my head into her warm flank while she gave up her milk, listening to her rhythmic chewing, the soft sweet, grassy smell of her breath in my face brought comfort when heartbreak visited and revisited. Seeing her hiding in her little ‘tent’, which she loved, belching in my face when I would sneak up to see her, making me laugh. It tickled me to see how she strutted around in her ‘prom dress’ last winter, I was surprised because I didn’t think a cow would accept wearing a blanket in the winter, but she could hardly wait for me to put it on her. She’d lick it and stuff her head through the neck hole, hurrying me along.



On my treks through the tall weeds with the dogs, she would always peek out from her hiding place to say hello. She passionately loved her food, her life and her calves. She was a happy cow and she made me happy too.

Because of her, I learned to make soap and butter, sour cream and cheeses. She was the impetus to so many of the things that now make up my life. All the things that have saved me from pain and myself since I’ve been forced to accept physical limitation and the gut wrenching loss that comes with it, all were gifts from her.

I prayed all winter she’d be pregnant. Once I was sure of it, I prayed her delivery would go smoothly. I was terrified to lose her to milk fever or some other horrible malady. I loved this little cow. I wasn’t prepared for ketosis. Not with all the feed we had here. Not with the way she loved to eat. I was being so careful. She looked so good. She went into this calving looking better than ever.   

Sweet Dolly would mother every hungry calf that came to her. She stood patiently while her calf Mo, as well as the orphan calf we had grafted on Emma and Emma herself and her calf sucked the life out of her. She loved them and nurtured them until it began to ravage her own body as she continued to produce even more milk for them,  unable to keep up with the calorie demands she and they placed on herself.
I separated them all when I found out, but she would grieve and refuse food…standing outside the fence crying for them.  I finally removed her and put little Mo in the pasture with her far from them, where she couldn’t see anyone else. It was too late. She couldn’t recover.
She lost weight at an alarming rate. Even with the green grass and alfalfa available to her and all the extras I brought daily, begging her to eat, she kept getting thinner and weaker. We raced her to the vet, hours away. They found nothing else wrong with her, just the ketosis that had taken hold. After tubing her with a solution that would help energize her and turn the ketosis around, as the molasses had done in the past, we headed home, planning how we would best situate her to get her back on her feet. I was hopeful and grateful and confident she would get better soon.

My greatest fear became reality. She’s gone. Her poor wasted little body is laying out in my horsetrailer, waiting for Randy to come with the tractor and take her away. Despite our greatest efforts, my cajoling, my begging, my forcing sustenance into her with a stomach tube when necessary, she starved herself to death. She barely made it home. She was down when we went to unload her, unable to lift her head. I sat with her awhile, crying, begging and with resignation and great sorrow, I left her to die as comfortably as she was able. We had put Mo in front of the trailer, where he couldn’t nurse her, but she could hear him. The last sounds I heard her make, she called softly to him.

I miss you Dolly. You enriched my life in ways I could never have dreamed. We will continue on as before, Emma, Willy, Mo and I, but you will be fondly remembered and sorely missed.

We are not promised tomorrow. Even when we are hurting, we can thank Him for the gifts. Yesterday
is gone, but we can still have forever. Thank You Lord, for Dolly.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Night Shift

Daytime is idyllic here. The sun shines, the hummingbirds swoop under the eave of the backporch mobbing their feeder, the chickens happily scratch around, eating greens and bugs off the flowers and lawns and I marvel at the color palate and textures we have to experience in this world as my eyes scan the grey and craggy rock wall, the velvety green lawn, the towering yellow sunflowers, the petunias in varying shades of pink spilling out of their trough by the iron arbor.

The pups loll around, sleeping most of the time, greeting me when I come out. I laugh as the 6-week-old layer chicks flit around the yard like roadrunners, streamlined and rapid, quickly disappearing behind plants as if I had only imagined them. The 6-week-old meaties lumber past in their big breasted, heavy bodies, looking for a handout and enjoying the freedom to stretch their fat, thick, not so powerful and not so rapid legs.  I find my first small egg in the run where the 5 month old layers reside. Life seems quiet, safe, serene and simple.

It’s still morning. I wander through the gate and across 2 pastures looking for the cows and calves. They haven’t come up this morning, it was their first night in a long while, all together, including the new leppie calf. Mo and CWilly came in without him last nite. You know how kids are when there are 3. They nursed and gorged themselves so I let everyone out, knowing the cows would find ‘stepchild’ and feed him.

The sheep follow us down and the Maremmas stay close by us. I ask Cletus
“Where are my cows?”
He heads off on his own, as if he understood me. I continue down through the tall thistle, being scratched and pricked with nearly every step as I follow the little cow trail to the shade tree they like to sleep under. No one is there. As I head out the other side, I see Cletus over to the south…standing in front of Dolly. He DID understand what I said!

The cows say hello, Dolly steps into the ditch for a drink. One of the lambs follows suit and Dolly tries to push her in. She is not a morning person, much like myself. Bruno stands between her and the lamb, as a barrier, even though he knows Dolly will deliver him a painful head-butt without due cause. He stands his ground, neither challenging Dolly, nor backing down, but faithfully guarding his lamb from a cow he also considers one of his charges. It’s an interesting dichotomy to me. He handles it graciously and fearlessly.

Seeing that the cows have been adequately nursed and in no need for milk, I head back. Cletus follows me, the lambs follow him single file and Bruno brings up the rear. 

I don’t know how they work out the details but they always seem to have an agreement about who will be where and do what job. They are truly amazing dogs. They pass me except Bruno, who remains behind me with the older ewe who is dilly-dallying along. He won’t leave her, as she is separate from the group now. When I get up by the alley between pastures, I see that Cletus has stopped to wait and the lambs are grazing around him. Once we get there, they all continue on to the house pasture again. The dogs have things all under control and although they remain flexible on my account, I am just along for the ride. They are pretty clearly the ones in charge.

Dolly and Emma come up a few minutes later, moo-ing to let me know they are ready for their grain. I oblige them and they gratefully finish and head back out to the back pasture.

I spend my days doing various things, milking my cows and moving them from pasture to pasture, making soap, or cheese, changing water, hoping for eggs from my two older hens who are only 5 months and had not, until this morning, begun laying.

When daytime ends, life on the ranch takes on a different face. Predators come forth from their hiding places, moving stealthily, looking for victims. Owls take to the sky, swooping down on smaller creatures, sometimes not so small. Chickens are not immune to the razor sharp talons of owls and hawks. I have seen Great Horned owls pick up cats and fly off.  Coyotes, raccoons, skunks, and cougars, all move across the landscape in search of sustenance, be it a hapless deer, a newborn calf, a barn-cat, or bounty from the garden and orchard. Nighttimes the ranch can be a dangerous place. Before the Maremmas came, it was often even dangerous by day. There were several kills by the houses in the daytime. Once, a cougar drug a huge ewe up into a tree. These are not animals to be taken lightly.
 The goats and sheep band together more closely, alternating between sleep and wakefulness, their scent wafting on the breeze tantalizing those in the darkness.

We snuggle down under the comforter, warm and safe. With Cider at my feet, I ease into sleep.

Hours later, I awoke to hear Cletus sounding his alarm bark. It’s not unusual to hear the dogs once or twice a night, calling out a warning to opportunists from the sky or out in the tall grass, but it rarely lasts long. Last nite I could hear his voice trailing out across the sheep’s pasture and far away. He was in pursuit of something. It continued on for a time then I could hear Bruno take up the barking. It had been several minutes and was a different sounding bark than the usual “don’t come near, these are MY charges”. It was more of a “Leave or DIE”.

I decided to go see what was going on. I assumed it was a raccoon, or something they had treed, so I wasn’t too concerned for my own safety. I threw on some sweats and grabbed a flashlight. I went through the gate of the first pasture and found Cletus was now with the sheep. He had come back, leaving Bruno out with the threat and led them all up into the corner closest to the house. Apparently it was not just a coon, as the dogs don’t often split up and one hover over the stock. Cletus acknowledged me, then turned and led me out of the pasture and on into the darkness toward the barking without further ado.

I didn’t use the light except when I thought there might be a hole to step in. There was some moonlight and I followed Cletus, who continued to look back for me. As we headed down a lane, the sheep caught up to us. Cletus ran them back, which was something I had not seen him do before. They returned to the beginning of the alley and waited there. We walked on and started through the tall weeds, in the direction of Bruno’s growling. I could see him, his hackles raised, his tail curled tightly. Both dogs were sounding and barking out in the direction of impenetrable brush. They stopped for a minute to listen, then took off ahead of me. There I was, alone in the pasture in the dark, with thistle taller than I, unable to see further than a few feet ahead of me, no weapon to defend myself but a flashlight. I knew if something attacked me, the dogs would know and protect me and had indeed, already run whatever it was out of the vicinity. I had the willies, but I knew I was safe enough. I started heading back towards the house. Bruno suddenly and silently, appeared at my side, escorting me, matching my tentative steps through the darkness and the brush, walking so closely, I could feel his fur on my fingertips. Cletus had gone on in pursuit of whatever it was they had protected us from. We caught up to the sheep and Bruno took the lead. The sheep followed him back to the gate dividing their pasture from our backyard. Cletus caught up to us by that time.

All was quiet until I was back in bed. I heard Cletus again, by our window at first. His bark trailed past our window, the side of the house and across the road in front. Something was stalking the goats. He sounded fierce, aggressive and confident. The barking didn’t last for long. Most likely whatever they had run off before, had doubled back for the goats, who were in a different location than the sheep.

I used to lay awake at night, fretting about the stock. I had goats in a small pen close to the house, but we had to put a top on it, because of bobcats and cougars who brazenly entered the yard, even to the point of attacking one of the cowdogs just feet from our front door.
The wire on our chicken run has places where it was nearly pulled off by some animal, likely a raccoon, attempting to get inside where they would quickly put an end to our flock.
Now I rest at ease.

I know the Maremmas are on patrol and won’t allow anything to endanger their charges. Their barking tells me the dangers haven’t disappated, but they are restrained. I marvel at the instinct, heart and courage of these incredible dogs. Grateful the danger to themselves is minimized by both of them working together, I sleep peacefully.

I stepped out on the back porch this morning and was greeted by a wet and muddy Bruno. He must have just gotten back from his patrol. He was watching meatie chickens grazing on the lawn. Cletus came around the corner, from out front where he’d been guarding goats. They both jumped on the porch, their joy of seeing me working its way through their huge, powerful, wiggly bodies. They tried to squeeze one another out as they pressed their big heads onto my lap and looked up to touch my nose with theirs. I don’t know if all LGD’s or all Maremmas do this, but these two do. They do it daily to each one of the goats, calves, and sheep and each time I see them, they do it to me.

It means “I love you and I intend to guard you with my life”.

Lord, I am blessed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Miss Dolly Update

It’s a beautiful sunny day. After the thunderstorms last nite everything smells fresh. The lightening show was amazing and lasted for over an hour. We sat on the back porch with the Maremmas and watched for a long time. The power displayed was awesome, so much so I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the Lord Himself coming through the clouds.

The meaties will all be gone in a week and there will be a lot less poop to clean up! Cletus will get a break too, as he tries everyday to watch them, plus the chickens at the other end of the yard, plus the calves, sheep and goats in the pasture. To complicate his life more, I put the goats and milk cows in the draw, out in front of the house. Bruno sacks out in the house during the day. He doesn’t share Cletus’ on-call 24/7 work ethic, he only works the night shift.

Dolly had a voracious appetite this morning and cleaned up all her hay and grain! She also had more milk in her bag than Mo could drink. I am so encouraged and very grateful for her recovery. I clip a lead rope on Emma twice a day, and drag her to the draw or back to the house. Dolly usually just follows. Today she led. She just walked through the gate and headed on over, knowing exactly what I wanted her to do. She is the worlds sweetest, bestest cow, and EmmaLou is slowly learning from her example. Emma let the new leppie nurse with CWilly this morning, very generously.

My Jersey cows bring me so much joy. I wish everyone could know what a great feeling it is. They are amazing animals. They give sweet companionship, lots of fresh creamy milk for us, for the dogs and chickens, for the leppies, meat for the freezer, they are great for my garden, and good weed destroyers. They are definitely #1 in the pet department as far as being useful pets. Dolly had a bath yesterday and she seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. Say what you will about me over-indulging my cows with feed, baths and blankets, they deserve the attention and in return they make my heart feel full and make me laugh. It sad that most of the world will never know what a great experience it is to have a good cow.

The rest of the day was spent making soap with the remainder of my goat milk, a batch of Colby cheese and doing random things around the house and yard. In the evening, Dolly felt so good, she not only led, but she led us astray. She took off towards the barn and started peeking in all the trucks and checking the horse trailers. I guess she thinks she is up to a ‘road trip’. After capturing her and sending her back to the house, I turned the 3 calves loose. Emma stood quietly while all 3 nursed again and I had to chase Mo back to Dolly. He drank until he was content but she had more milk than he could finish, so I had to milk out one quarter. She gave me a gallon. What a great cow.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

After nursing the entire neighborhood, Dolly lost ALL her weight and developed a metabolic disorder known as Ketosis. The body quits using available food for energy and starts to burn body fat as an energy source. (Think Atkins) This is NOT okay for a dairy cow!! They stop eating and exacerbate the problem and go downhill quickly.

I knew Dolly was losing weight, but could not figure out WHY! We kept upping her feed and she wouldn’t finish it. Finally, I saw Emma nursing her and it made sense. The next day Dolly went off of feed completely. My poor little bag o’ bones was wasting away before my eyes. She barely had the energy to stand and no inclination to eat.

I checked the FamilyCow Boards and gleaned everything I could on combating ketosis. I made up a recommended drench, with real Apple Cider Vinegar and Molasses, and yogurt. I decided to dump in a half gallon of milk with the cream on it still, as I figured it couldn’t hurt. She slurped it up. I poured some over some corn and she took one bite then refused the rest. At least she ate a little. I turned her back out hoping she’d eat some grass.

Next morning, I fixed her another concoction. She refused it and refused to eat. I gave her a shot of B complex hoping to stimulate an appetite and fretted all day. I went and started fencing off a couple of acres in a draw across the way, where a lot of grass and alfalfa is growing. I dragged Dolly out there to see if she’d be tempted to eat fresh alfalfa and she was, just barely. She nibbled here and there as I strung up hotwire. I decided to leave her for a little while to eat while I hunted down Randyman to charge the fence. Dolly, sweet thing that she is, saw me leave and decided she did not want to be alone. She walked to the fence, reached out and tested the wire with her nose (she is braver than I am!) Finding it wasn’t charged, she walked through it dragging half of the fence behind her.

At least she ate a bit. I made her a concoction with corn syrup this time, as she decidedly did not want molasses now. She drank it with gusto and wanted more. She wouldn’t eat much still, but at least she had some available sugar in her system.

One of the baby goats has discovered he can crawl under the gate where the dogs go in and out to patrol. This is very unfortunate, as now the dogs have to be locked in, or out. I am thinking this goat may soon be invited to a barbecue. At any rate, I locked the pups out last night so they could protect the goats and sheep. As a result, they were unable to get back in the yard to protect the chicks as well.

This morning I found one of the meaties had drowned in my waterfall barrel. If the pups had been here, they could have alerted me, but they weren’t. Once again, I checked on the internet boards, this time the LGD board and decided not to let the chicken go to waste. I began plucking and cleaning the bird to put in the freezer for a few days and give back to the dogs for guarding them so diligently. I am so PROUD of these two pups, who only months ago would gleefully run around chasing chickens then catch and pluck them for sport, resulting in the death of the bird. Once they finally understood the chickens are MINE and to be protected, not molested, they have stepped up and guard them both up and down. NOTHING is allowed to bother the chickens, not from the ground, nor from the sky. Cletus, especially (formerly the worst offender, but ‘he who is forgiven much, loves much) spends his days in the yard where he can keep the chickens all in constant sight. He looks to be sleeping, but is instantly on his feet if he perceives a threat to them. Even Bruno takes his turn babysitting.

Even without Dolly having milk, I seem to have an abundance of it in my refrigerator, so I have happily taken advantage of that to practice some cheesemaking. It isn’t nearly as daunting a task as I had thought it would be, its actually quite easy, the greatest challenge to me being to stay focused and remember I am making it!!

Here I have poured 4 gallons of milk into my large roaster with some water under the big pan to act as a double boiler. It’s important to maintain temperatures for 45 minutes or so at a time so this works really well for me.

As I am using raw milk, there is no need to add calcium chloride to it. To make cheddars and jack cheeses, jack being my favorite, I add either a mesophilic culture (Clabber) or thermophilic culture (Yogurt). Either of those two can be purchased as direct set cultures from a cheese company, but if I have made my own, it all works better! The milk warms up then sits for about 45 minute to ripen then I add rennet and let it set another 45 minutes to coagulate and begin separating curd from whey.

The next step is to slice the curd, which allows it to release even more of the whey. I need a good knife or long cake icing spatula for this, but for now I am using the back of my bread knife and its working ok.
The cheese rests for 5 minutes to heal the curd, then is slowly heated up, about 2 degrees every 5 minutes til it hits the target temperature.

It holds there for awhile, then I drain off the whey, salt it, add my peppers if making pepper jack, and line my cheese press with cheesecloth. The cheese is put in and pressed at whatever pressure for whatever length of time the recipe calls for. 

Its flipped and repressed a time or two, then set on a bamboo mat to dry for a couple of days. Once it forms a rind, I melt cheesewax in a double boiler set up again and wax the cheese, taking care to leave no open spaces where bacteria and mold could grow.

The cheese is marked, then set in my little ‘cheese cave’ to ripen for a few months at 55 degrees. I turn it once a day or so for the first few weeks and wait anxiously to try it and see how it turned out!

During the 45 minute breaks that the cheese was doing its thing, I move Dolly and Em back and forth from the pasture. Cletus plays dead as Dolly walks by, as she likes to head butt him a lot. Again, the Maremma version of extreme sports. I always choke on my breath, afraid he’s going to get hurt.

In the evening, I go to put the older chickens in their pen and lock up the new little eggers in theirs. They are the same age as the meaties, but only weigh ounces, where the meaties are already weighing pounds. I find, to my surprise, they have decided to move their badselves into the big chickens pen and sleep on a roost like big kids. One MORE problem solved!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chicken Sunday

We had heavy thunderstorms all afternoon and evening. The next morning the sun rose bright and every color seemed more intense. It was humid, but the flowers all seemed more brilliant and cheerful than usual. Maybe that is what ‘woke up’ the chickens. All summer they have had their little doors open, but chose to remain in their quarters. Not today. Today, even the meaties are playing on the lawn on the opposite side of the house. They are basking in the sun and playing in the raspberry bed. The ‘big uns’ are parading all around the back yard and the ‘little uns’ are darting hither and yon in search of bugs. They even entered the ‘big un’s’ pen and tried out all their roosts. It is as if they were all injected with joy. I have dubbed it “Chicken Sunday”. It is also my sister’s birthday.

Not all went so smoothly.
Dolly went into this calving looking better than she has ever looked before.
Everything was going swimmingly until we had to graft leppies on both cows to share-milk while we went to town. We would let Dolly’s own calf nurse, along with a foster heifer, then bring Moose in to clean up what was left as she was producing more than the calves could handle.

Suddenly, she started losing weight. I had been separating the all calves overnight, but Dolly would come in the morning with a nearly empty bag. I was beginning to worry about her calf getting enough to survive. I removed the foster calves.
We thought maybe she was grieving her calf, as she spent a lot of time at the fence mooing to him, so we turned him back out with her. I wanted to milk Emma, so I kept her in. Dolly looked immediately better that evening, and even had some milk in her bag. I turned both Jersey calves out with her so I could milk Emma in the morning. Emma cried and carried on. I was mad because it looked like SHE was getting too attached to her calf and it was going to cause me problems.

I turned both cows out for two days and Dolly has continued to drop off weight and has gone back to an empty bag. Emma’s bag never seems to be very empty, but she isn’t letting down for me. Dolly is starting to scare me.
I keep upping her feed and supplementing the almost 40 acres of pasture with more and more alfalfa, but she continued to get thinner and thinner at a rapid rate.
Emma looked fine. I began to panic thinking maybe Dolly had Johnes. Every horrible scenerio ran through my head. What could make my cow go from looking great to skin and bones in two weeks??

Tonight the mystery was solved.
I brought the girls in to feed them, then turned them out with their calves. They were all standing in the orchard and I could see Dolly licking her calf while he nursed, but something didn’t look right. I walked through the muck and mud and found out EXACTLY why Dolly looks so poor, and Emma has a tight bag.

There nursing Dolly, was her calf, “Mo”, Emma’s calf “CWilly” …