Monday Big Adventures

Once the sheep were taken to their roadbank grazing spot, it was time to check the cows.  Last night, there was a heifer starting to calve, but it was getting dark, so I left.  Unfortunately, today was an unhappy discovery for her.  The black Corriente heifer was still alive and sitting up, but no calf.  She actually let me approach her in the pasture to check her from behind, but I didn’t even need to go inside – there was about an inch of calf tail sticking out.  Of all the ways a cow can deliver a calf – tail first (breech) is NOT one of them.

Dallas and I easily walked her the 1/4 mile to the corral, after which Dallas roped her and I tied her.  Thankfully, she is a very docile young cow although she was not feeling well at all.  Off came the gloves and coat and with sleeves shoved up, I gently inserted my hand into her birth canal.  She was very tight, no doubt her body was already shutting down and there was very little dilation at this point.  So I just kept working in until I could start identifying body parts.  Sure enough, just past the tail and butt, there were both hocks.  Though she was pushing with all her might, I had to push back harder and get that dead calf back into the womb where there would be enough room to pull the hooves up and out.  This was especially challenging, because not only was she pushing, but she is a small frame, first calf heifer.  Thankfully, the calf was very small.  However, it still took over 20 minutes before I had the hooves out far enough to get the OB chains properly wrapped about the fetlocks.

My hand and forearm was pretty tired by this time, so Dallas took over on pulling the calf out.  With a bit of instruction, he did a good job.  The calf was dry, so this is a hard pull and we only had the OB chain and handles – no mechanical calf puller.  We’d pull hard when the cow pushed, rested when she rested, and made decent progress until the shoulders and head.  We had to get more leverage!

Dallas came up with the idea of using the Gator.  Perfect!  After switching to the ball hitch, I backed up close enough to loop the OB chain over the ball.  Alas, when I moved forward, I was pulling the cow and still the calf would not dislodge from her.  I noticed that when I moved the carcass, it gave a bit, so, since Dallas was getting a bit squeamish by this point, I had him ease forward in the Gator, while I jumped up and down on the suspended dead calf.  Just what was needed – the calf popped right out- swollen head and all.

While Dallas dragged the dead calf off, I massaged the abdomen of the heifer – there is a lot of yucky stuff in her.  We rolled her over so that she would have an easier time of standing on the slight slope and left her to rest while we headed back to the other side of the farm to put the sheep in the pasture for the evening.  By the time we got back to the heifer, she was gone.  Hooray!  She had walked a half a quarter to the ditch for a drink.  Unfortunately, I did not have any antibiotics to give her and she is still hurting.  Time will tell whether or not she will live.

From the time we roped her to the time the calf was out was at least an hour.  She is one tough and well-behaved heifer – I cannot image the pain she endured so stoically, but at least now she has a chance of surviving.

Now, with hands and arms covered with blood, feces, and dead calf slime, I’m starting to stink.  Looking forward to washing coat, clothes, gloves and scrubbing in the shower.  However, the dead calf smell won’t come off until it wears off.

Pomegranate (Rimon) Season

Find pomegranates in the fresh fruit section of your local grocery store now!  But hurry–the season is nearly over!  Pomegranates I purchase at Twin Oaks Produce, located just west of Brookfield, Missouri, for only $1.89 each, are sweet and juicy!

Granted – they are not local to north Missouri, but they are very tasty and certainly good for you.  Check out this handy fruit chart to compare nutritional values of popular raw fruits:

Dr. Decuypere’s Nutrient Charts
~~ Fruit Chart ~~

Even a cursory search on the internet will produce oodles of sites touting the health benefits of eating pomegranates.  Here’s one I found:  Powerful Health Benefits of the Pomegranate.  There are instructions for removing the arils on this page, but all i do is cut the fruit in half, parallel to the crown, then cut in half again. Bend skin backwards to make aril (seed) removal easier.  It just takes time – no hurry – it’s definitely worth the effort.blog photos 001

It seems most of the commercially available pomegranates are grown in California.  Pomegranate trees can be grown in less favorable climes, but with limited success or smaller fruits.  Pomegranates are picked ripe, so no need to wait for it to ripen.  As far as I can determine, pomegranates are still non-GMO, but correct me quickly if I’m wrong!

One of my favorite smoothies is a combination of about 1 cup pomegranate arils, 2 cups baby spinach, and up to 1 cup coconut water (enough to get the smoothie to blend easily).  Delicious and healthy.   

Our trip to Israel in the fall of 2011 (for Sukkot) would not have been complete without a wine tasting and visitor tour to Rimon Winery.

Rimon (pomegranate) orchard is located on the mountain next to Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra, amidst grape vineyards and other fruit plantations. The winery has visitor center  that attract thousands of tourists annually from Israel and abroad.
Rimon (pomegranate) orchard is located on the mountain next to Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra, amidst grape vineyards and other fruit plantations.
The winery has visitor center that attract thousands of tourists annually from Israel and abroad.
Rimon Winery - Creator of award winning wines and many other products - located in Upper Galilee, Dalton, Israel
Rimon Winery – Creator of award winning wines and many other products – located in Upper Galilee, Dalton, Israel

Sheep Shearing

May 8, 2014

I helped my mother with her sheep not too long ago. I worked alongside Christian, Mom’s hired hand. Jim Schaefer, the sheep shearer, and mom herself. Before we could start shearing of we needed to get them in the prepared place. Mom had long since mustered the sheep into the corral when Dad, Nathan, and I arrived, so we helped herd them across the road into the hay barn that was open to the south, for which were thankful later during shearing because it let in a nice cool breeze the whole two days we sheared.Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (10)

Before we got the sheep lined up, Jim had to set up his equipment and Mom had set up a sort of makeshift corral in order to separate the white sheep from the black because we put the respective colored fleeces in their own bags for sale. I would arrive later with the back up generator and a barrel to throw the poopy wool into and by the time I had arrived, Jim had sheared half bags worth of sheep’s wool. Christian’s job had been to stuff the fleeces into the bag, but I took over his job and he bounced back and forth to help Mom and me. (Mom was sorting and keeping the sheep lined up in the race for shearing.) what my job entailed was waiting for Jim to shear off the belly wool and I’d throw it onto a special pile for the belly wool (the black belly wool wasn’t sorted as such; it sells along with the good colored wool). The second step involved taking the wool with poopy clumps tangled up in it and throwing it into the rubbish barrel I had brought up for that very purpose, although, when Christian wasn’t sorting sheep, he’d throw them in for me because he had gloves on. Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (3) - Copy

When Jim was almost done shearing a sheep, I’d start rolling the fleece up under itself so when I held it up so it  wouldn’t fall apart on me. When Jim finally sheared the sheep clean, I’d gather it up and go toss it in a bag.

Let me tell you about how this bag business is set up. The bag itself is nearly eight feet tall and narrow with a width of a foot. Jim brought along a structure to hold the bag that consisted of a ladder connected to a hopper that the bag goes on which, in turn, is connected to a panel that is wired onto a hastily-built corral panel of dubious integrity. You climb up the ladder and shove the fleece into it and then you jump into the bag and start stomping on it so we could get as many fleeces as we could in the bag because Jim had only brought six bags with him. Although I would suggest only jumping in there when it is four fleeces full, because it’s hard enough as it is getting out of there as it is nearly impossible without once fleece in there. I also suggest using a stick of something to press the first three down because when I land down into the bag to shove it, the ladder slid away and I became trapped with the upper half of my body in the bag with the hoop pinning me against the panel. Thankfully, they were able to hear my cries for help over the radio and got me out of there. Jim got a good laugh out that!

There were times when jumping down into the bag that I’d forget to raise my arms high enough and I knocked them against the hoop going down and let me tell you, getting out of a narrow, eight-foot bag, while only using your arms that were hurting like heck wasn’t half as funny as it sounds. Needless to say, I didn’t forget but one or thrice.Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (9) - Copy

Pizza for lunch was a welcoming break to say the least. Cutting the sheep’s tails short proved interesting because Jim kept forgetting to hold onto every other sheep that needed its tail snipped; it was funny the first few times, but the novelty wore off rather quickly. After all of the shearing and snipping had been done, we moved the sheep and their lambs back across the road, leaving only the wethers slated for butcher and the rams behind to take up to the old homestead. We then began the arduous task of rolling the five and a half bags (one filled up halfway) to Jim’s pickup. It took two of us to stack all of the bags up on there and after that we loaded up Jim’s equipment and wished him on his merry way.

Shearing Merinos - 5-7-2014 (7) - Copy

Two days of handling sheep fleece had made my hands all soft and ‘lotionally’ that weeks afterwards they were still like a babe’s bum and relieved that we were done with the sheep.

Stories by Dallas – May 2014

Moving across the Road!

Yesterday started early since my ewe lambs needed loading from our corral to the paddocks they will stay in for grazing.  I’d never loaded sheep out here before, so hadn’t a clue how it would go.  Incredibly, it went very smoothly!  They hopped right into the trailer and off we went.  They were hungry to be sure since they went straight to grazing once out of the trailer.

Then Dallas and I loaded a bit of hay in my little trailer pulled by the Gator, loaded necessary supplies, and fueled up.  Arriving at Tannachton Farm 35 minutes later, we unloaded the hay and checked on the ewe that had been entangled in the fence.  She is still alive and we cared for her best we could, but time will tell if she’ll ever get up again.  At least it was warm yesterday, but snow today!.

We set up a bit over a quarter of a mile of single strand polywire on the Bowyer Place and hung a Parmak energizer to fire it up, all the while calling the cows, so they would be up waiting and ready to move.  We then set up the crossing for the move across Cord Drive.  Amazingly, the cows and calves poured across the road to fresh grass.  I was short some Stafix step-in posts for the polywire, so once the cows were moved across and in the lot, we drove back to where some stored posts.  As we were collecting those, I noticed a black cow north of the timber, so once done, we circled ’round to check.  What a wonderful surprise!  Not just one cow having calved, but THREE right there together.  They had wisely selected a south-facing, gentle slope with good drainage.  Of course, we left them alone – I’ll move them later when their calves are older and well-bonded to their mommas.

My photo is misleading – we do not have grass that green right now and the cows were actually moving the other direction!  However, I didn’t have any time to take photos so this one is stolen from last spring.

Got done and headed back home arriving about 1pm.  Just in time to finish the meal for our departure at 4pm to Mexico, Missouri and Refuge Ministries.  Despite having some cooking disasters, I managed to show up with enough edible tucker to serve about 70 people!  Chicken-Rice-Vegetable casserole with cherry cobbler and pumpkin bread.  And, of course, sliced cucumbers with home-made ranch dressing.

Fences, Water tanks, and Corrals

What do farmers and ranchers do when they aren’t directly handling their stock?  To be sure maintenance of the infrastructure is at the top of the list!  Today was another day of such for me.  Dallas went with me, so with his help, we were able to accomplish more than twice what I can accomplish alone in the same amount of time.  Today was drizzly and muddy, but the temperature was mid-50s so that’s a good day to work outside.

It takes at least an hour to gather the materials and tools, plus loading a small bit of hay from the hayloft I’m cleaning out on the Buckman farm to haul up to my cows, fuel up, and head north.  The drive is about 35 minutes when the weather is good.  

We had a stretch of hi-tensile electric wire to repair which had been hit by deer and the wire had pulled through a gripple rendering this part of interior paddock fence completely useless.  So, the end post brace was reset and the wires reattached as well as patching the broken part.  All wires restretched with a gripple tensioning tool, then with the gate shut, electricity flowed freely to make the fence ‘hot.’

One water tank had lost its plug, so a couple days ago, I had to get creative and twisted a plug of hay and forced it through the hole.  Incredibly, this worked perfectly!  Absolutely no water came through.  However, I did replace the hay with the proper plug today.

It was still not quite dark, so we unloaded the polywire reel and some step in posts at the Bowyer barn (i’ll set them up next trip up), then went round the block (Cotton Road is FAR too muddy right now) to tie 2 inch by 3 inch welded wire 3 foot fence to four gates in the corral in preparation for mustering the sheep (hopefully tomorrow – weather permitting) and sorting off the ewe lambs I don’t want to get bred.

Even though it was all but dark, I wanted to get more steel posts pulled up and old barbed wire rolled up from around the old horse pond (small pond dug by horses way back in the old days).  So we managed about 7 posts and one strip of wire before the wind shifted and the rain started in serious and it was just flat out dark, dark, dark.   It’s a 35-40 minute drive home in the Gator, so we headed out.

The Art of Writing

A man once said that a writer was the only sort of person that he knew of that thought that he could accomplish more by doing nothing. In this I am not exempt, for more often enough when I would make any attempt at writing down a story, I would find myself staring down at a blank piece of paper, twiddling a pencil between my fingers, uncertainty plaguing my mind as I sought to create an epic that will survive the ages. This isn’t always a result of writers block, but rather a fear of, for lack of a better term, making it impalpable. To write it down would be to write it on stone, because when it’s all floating up in your head you can change it however you want it from adventure to romance to mystery to who knows what, but when you write it down it’s almost like it’s unchangeable. Even when you know that you can just start-up a new draft, there’s still a strange feeling of wrongness about it. Also it can just be hard to put your story into words. You can see it easily enough in your mind’s eye and go through the scenes as you please, but when you write it down you have to be descriptive, ascribing colourful details that bring your story to life, but too much detail and reading it will seem more like a chore having to bog through rather than a luxury, but neither can be lacking in detail and thus making your characters and story boring and engaging, unless, of course, you were trying to make a character or place strange and unknowable by purposely making it vague. Simply put you must moderate your detail to the context of the scene or character or even story. Take for example, if you were to write an adventure, you would add greater detail, an action scene, or if you were writing a children’s book you would write in detail the adorableness of a squirrel or caterpillar or kitten, and if you were writing a trashy romance novel you would write in detail about… trashy… romance… stuff. Anyway, I hope this blog entry will provide some insight into writing.

Dallas Powell