Author Archives: Rod Hewitt

More cow tails

Really, we just bought a herd of Dexter cows to add to our herd numbers and if you count them all, each one has one tail, you get a grand total of 55 tails out there. Of course some are steers and some are going to be sold as we also have a raft of calves on the way starting next month. But we have one special cow whom we hope to be able to keep until old age.

This little story is really not about cow tails but about a true cow tale involving one of our special cows. That cow is named Melanie and she is one of our two favorite Dexter cows. The other is Maddy and they are both very much alike in appearance although Maddy is a little less aggressive than Melanie. Both are jet black, short leg cows and both are quite friendly, like to eat and are always the first one to cross the gate to new pasture or get to the feeder when fresh chow is put in. These two cows are the same age and grew up together and are still best friends 5 years later.

Anyway Melanie I call the ultimate mother cow. You see Melanie is very much interested in and caring of not only her own calf but everyone else’s calves as well. For instance in the spring I generally pasture my cows near the barn and every so often they come into the barn to get a drink of water leaving their calves in the pasture. Calves spend a lot of time sleeping and as they get a little older will often wander away from their mother to do some relaxing in the sun, romping and playing with each other or as I said taking a nap. Of course if the separation is too long momma fills up with milk and wants relief and then she get real serious about finding her calf to do the job. When the cows leave the pasture to go to the barn the calves are left behind and Melanie ever watchful and responsible will stay with them in the pasture and watch the nursery until the mother cows return.

On occasion a late calving cow will drop her calf in the pasture and I will go out, put it in a sled and slowly drag it back to the barn with the mother cow following us in or should I say following the sled. Cows bond to their calves by smell and the cow follows the smell of her new born as I drag it back to the barn. Melanie however gets real upset at this event and will come a running from where ever she is in the pasture to see what is going on. Her ears will be up on full alert as she gallops over to get in the act of shepherding the sled to the barn, Sometimes a little too close and often is as much or more interested in the new calf as the birth mother.

As the calves grow they like to drink mamma’s milk and when she runs out will often look for more from other cows in the herd. But the cows know which calf is their’s and push the others away saving their milk for their own. Not so with Momma Melanie. She is the community milk man and does not discriminate between her own calf and her little group of friends and charges. It’s not unusual to see two calves drinking from her at the same time.

When we got Malanie as a young heifer she, unbeknown to us had been bred and subsequently dropped her calf in the corner of one of our field. We found her black heifer calf dead the next morning with Malanie grazing nearby.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Is she trying to make up for the disappointment and failure she had as a young cow in not properly caring for her first calf? What ever the reason her love of the little ones engenders a warm love in my heart for Malanie and she is a great cow to have in our herd, a built in baby sitter and more. She is our special cow.

Cow Family

My first herd of Dexter cows came from a farm in New York. It included 9 cows and a young bull calf which we nicknamed Billy. Some of these cows were related and we had among the nine a grandmother ( Thelma) , her daughter Angel, Angel’s daughter Annabel and Annabel’s son Billy, which was Thelma’s great grandson. Now Thelma was pretty old and tough. She was a small dun colored cow with horns and definitely the boss of the herd, even though most of the others were larger and more fit than she was. Thelma was a little arthritic and slow moving but when she got there, the others made way for her as she swaggered into the group.

Dexters love to run and are pretty smart and emotional. When they change pastures and do something new, it is not unusual to see them do it on a run, and when they run they often jump and kick the air in delight. Have you ever witnessed a child running while watching his feet fly through the air? Well, Dexters do the same thing, as they like to watch their back feet as they perform their antics while running. It’s really comical and fun to watch.

Anyway, one day after the Dexters arrived I had occasion to move them from one of my fields to the barn yard. The route to do this was about 500′ long and led through a small fence-enclosed area where I store some equipment, then a left turn onto a short section of driveway, then a right turn through an opened fence section past our pond, the barn area. This spot alternates between being a very small pasture and part of the barn area lawn.

As usual, the Dexters thought it was great fun to go to a new spot and ran the course with vigor and full antics’ display with lots of classic kick jumps and twists as they navigated the course to the barn. The only problem was that Annabel’s Billy didn’t get it and was left behind in the original pasture. When he realized that everyone was gone, he let out some little bellowettes. I had followed the herd to the barn yard and was amazed at what I witnessed next. Thelma, upon hearing Billy’s blatting, did an about-face and ran at full tilt back to where she had come from, followed by Billy’s mother and Grandmother Angel. Only the relatives ran back, the rest of the herd started grazing the nice grass near the barn, apparently unaware that anything out of the ordinary was afoot. Thelma must have forgotten her arthritis, and ran at the full speed that only a concerned Great-grandmother can muster from an old and tired body when one of their kin is in need. The three of them got to the pasture, rounded up little Billy and headed back along the route to the barn, still at a full gallop but this time with Billy in the group.

Pretty amazing sight it was and one that speaks volumes about the intelligence of these animals and relationship they have with one another

Peace

We are here surrounded by peaceful symbols, nature, quiet snowy landscape, the stillness of a Sunday afternoon uninterrupted, a cozy fire in the stove, dinner in the oven and the dog sleeping away his afternoon in his favorite place by the couch. What other trappings could so work to give peace?

I know there is a big and diverse world out there with lots of people, most of whom are not as fortunate to have their dreamed of trappings of peace and contentment, with war, terror, sickness, disease and unrest so prevalent and intrusive upon this longed for need common to humanity. Today I have been thinking about the importance of outward circumstances and how they contribute to our need for inner peace.

The inner emotions I normally experience range along an incline from deep inner peace through the state of general well being to a generally unrestful state which is my today’s experience. The Bible says that ” Jesus is our peace”and I can vouch for the truth of that statement in my own life. Yet like so many other humans I strive to create my own tangible version of peace by manipulating my environment and find that usually I am somewhat disappointed in the final imperfect product and result.

Take this farm as my prime example. We have worked many years to create this life which we now live and enjoy but find that enjoyment and inner peace are very different. The effort that we have expended to surround ourselves with the outward trappings of peace sometimes seem weak and unproductive in this quest. Oh, we have our blissful moments but are they a result of our living ways or something else working through these conditions to meet us and set us at inner ease?

Don’t get me wrong, as I personally would not want to trade places with anyone and do love our farm and life here. But having all the physical parts in place only highlights the incompleteness of its’ power to meet that inner need for peace. One is without and the other within. The outer reduces the distractions and sets the stage but inner contentment is from another source.

It may be that inner peace is really beyond our circumstances. I once saw a picture depicting inner peace which was of a bird , a Baltimore Oriole, feeding its’ young in one of those hanging nests which they are noted for. This nest was shown blowing in a hard wind and was located on a tree branch right above a turbulent waterfall. Hmmm, not the most peaceful way to raise a family.

So where is the answer? Maybe it’s in this Bible verse ” Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you”. Is the cart sometimes before the horse? Think about it.

Feeds, seeds and other needs

Sometimes when I feel a need for some sociability or just plain want to get away from the farm for a while I go to the feed store. Of course I usually am looking to buy something also like salt or beet pulp or dog food which is why I went this morning. Saturday morning at the our local feed store is a busy time with lots of people on similar errands.

The store is housed in a old, very high and large red barn. The upper part likely encloses bulk storage bins now unused because all the feed is shipped pre-bagged to the store. These bags are stored in the feed storage area on the lowest floor which is a half story above the driveway allowing for loading at a loading dock in the back. In this area are kinds of feed in bags neatly stacked in orderly piles on the well worn wooden floor. Hanging on the walls are an assortment of hand tools like barn brooms, pitch forks and other useful farm hand tools. High up on one wall is an enclosed galvanized conveyor which hearkens back to the day when bulk feed deliveries were still available from the store. Along the west side is a railroad track siding and often a railroad car is parked against the building with the doors open into the feed room functioning as a temporary barn addition with bags of feed and other products inside. More than once I have gone into the car and picked up my feed order.

Today as happens many times, I met a friend on the platform and we passed some time in talking. Chuck is a retired building contractor who buys, trains and sells riding and cutting horses. Today he was telling me about a new mare he was working with and training to pull a wagon for his own use and enjoyment. I also met one of my customers from our local farmers market.

At the counter was the normal Saturday mornings free munchies, donuts, cheese and crackers and today grapes. Also a tray of dog treat samples and of course the tiger cat sleeping or walking the counter top rubbing on whoever will make themselves available. And as always waiting on the floor is the store border collie ready to chase anything you might like to toss for her.

It’s a pleasant family run place to go to where you have the privilege of dealing with the owners and operators of this old and charming business. Aptly named Community Feed store its a place of gathering, talking about the weather and picking up farm supplies.

Not being a person who like to shop I must admit I always enjoy going to feed store.