Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Signs of summer

Memorial Day is always heralded as the official start of summer, even though the calendar says otherwise.

Balloons start popping up at the end of driveways, marking the location of graduation parties. Church parking lots start to fill up on Saturdays for the summer wedding season.

It's also the time of year when farms all around the state open their doors for Breakfasts on the Farm. Here in Stearns County, our Breakfast on the Farm will be held next Saturday, June 4th at Schefers Dairy near St. Stephen.

For me, I know summer is officially here when the discbine starts laying out swaths of alfalfa and orchard grass. We're going to try making haylage with our first crop. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Along with the smell of fresh cut hay, there are some other tell-tale signs of summer:

• The kitchen floor could almost pass as the barn floor since nobody thinks they're going to be inside long enough to warrant removing their shoes and nobody wants to stay inside long enough to sweep the floor.

• Despite the sunscreen, Dan and Monika are developing farmers' tans from all of their hours "working" outside. But it's hard to tell what's tan and what's dirt until you hose them off in the shower.

• I have a list of ideas to write about that's two pages long, but I don't want to stay in the house any more than the kids do, so the items on the list keep increasing faster than I can check them off. Ditto for the photos to share.

• Heat and humidity. We had our first pressure cooker of a day yesterday. As we were sitting in the grass under a tree, Dan asked simply, "Why is it so hot?" (I'm not sure, since I had to put long underwear on again last Friday.)

• The bugs are back. First the June beetles started showing up in the sandbox. This morning there was something buzzing around my head while I brought the cows in. Dan even had his first wood tick of the year.

Without a doubt, summer is here. I hope your summer has plenty of sunshine, dirt and bugs (not the biting ones, though).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bovine waterbirth?

I won't say that it would be boring, but dairy farming would be a lot less eventful without the pasture.

When I brought cows in yesterday morning, Laugh wasn't with the herd. So I walked back out to look for her.

I found her on the bank of the back pond, just standing there and shifting her weight the way cows do when they're in early labor.

The back pond. (This isn't Laugh, but it's the only photo I have of that pond...)

She ambled away when I got a little closer, so I left her there to labor in peace.

When Glen asked where Laugh was after I got back to the barn, I jokingly told him she was out by the back pond planning her waterbirth.

He only half laughed.

During our first summer here, he ended up waist-deep in one of the ponds trying to prevent a bovine waterbirth. The calf's feet and nose were out and the cow was just standing in the pond like she had every intention of delivering the calf right there.

I offered to go check on Laugh an hour later, but Glen said he could do it a when he went over to the neighbor's to feed the heifers.

After he'd been gone for awhile, my phone rang.

"Was Laugh actually IN the pond when you checked on her this morning?"

"No, she was just hanging out on the east bank."

"Well, she's in the pond now! Can you open the gate to the waterway? I'm going to bring her up to the barn." (We're using our grassed waterway as a calving pen for the summer.)

Not more than a couple minutes passed before my phone rang again.

"You're not going to believe this…" Glen started.

He said that when he got up to the pond to chase Laugh out, her calf was standing right next to her, up to its ears in the water. From a distance he hadn't been able to see the calf at all because its black head was camouflaged by Laugh's shadow.

He grabbed onto the calf and pulled it out of the water. Since he didn't dare leave it on the bank, he carried it all the way back to where he had parked the truck.

At least the calf was dry by the time they got home.

We're not sure if Laugh delivered the calf in the water or if it rolled down the bank and ended up in the pond. Hardly enough time had passed for the calf to be delivered, get up by itself and walk into the pond. (Enough time had passed, though, for a leech to find its umbilical cord. Eew.)

Regardless of how it happened, we're just glad the calf is alive. We named her Lilypad. Her sire is one of Glen's favorite bulls, so he said he would have been more than a little upset if things hadn't turned out okay.

Hopefully, the rest of the summer's deliveries are a little less remarkable.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Green knees

We finally got the cows out to pasture on Wednesday — a full two weeks later than last year. The event has become something of a holiday around here. It means that summer is finally on its way and the cows are finally out of the barn. Life seems so much simpler when the cows are on grass.

However… putting the cows out to pasture means we're once again switching cows. But I'll take switching cows over the alternative, which is selling the extras.

Last night while we were feeding cows in the barn, I noticed something that brought a smile to my face. The cows all had green knees!

The grass is so lush right now, that when the cows lay down, their knees get grass stained, just like Dan's pants this time of year.

But I won't be watching their green knees for much longer. Since we were able to find some used J-bunks last fall, we'll have enough bunk space in the cow yard to feed all of the cows outside. That means, pretty soon, we'll be done forking and carting feed until we close the pasture gate this fall. Woo-hoo!