Saturday, June 27, 2009

Snake Wrangling 101

This morning, before coffee, I saw the wren nest that had been in a cubby on my porch on the ground, empty of its two young, still unfeathered, inhabitants.  My two cats, waiting to be fed, were my first suspects as to the cause of the loss.  Then I saw a snake wrapped around my hats, beneath the cubby.  No more mystery of the nestlings' fate; however, the parent wrens were quite noisy and dive bombing at me, as if I was the cause of the tragedy in their lives.

Not to miss an opportunity for excitement, I video taped my part in the matter (after milking the goats and feeding the chickens, of course.)

This is a five-minute video but does have an interesting ending!

Will have a post soon on my new goat management practices and its harmonic convergence with all things organic.  Check back soon!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Black Bull Exercise Program

Ariel is spending a week with me at the ranch while Joseph is doing a short summer semester at A & M Corpus Christi.  After completing morning chores (milking the goats, releasing the chickens, feeding the dogs, etc.) we were enjoying a cup of coffee and looking at some photos from our trip to Europe last month.

My next-door neighbor, an 83-year-old widow, called me to let me know our bull was in her pasture.  This neighbor, similar to all our other older neighbors, can be hell on cattle.  She takes no mercy on them, chasing them into the pens, letting them know in no uncertain terms that they will behave while under her command.  While all this is well and good, I have this pre-conceived notion that little old ladies (80ish) should not be climbing fences to dodge charging bulls.  So, when Trula told me she would pen my bull for me, Ariel and I got up, hooked the trailer to the truck and headed over.

She indeed did have the bull penned and Ariel and I were able to load him within a matter of minutes.  Trula let me in the chute with him to load him, so maybe she is slowing down a bit.  Anyway, Poindexter III is back home now.  
This is a good example of enforced exercise and lifestyle choice.  No doubt I would have been content to enjoy my coffee and browse the computer, do a little gardening later in the morning and do my goat work after I was "well rested."  But I got an extra hour of exercise today, which included fence climbing and being generally active, exercise that I would not have gotten had I had my old desk job or even had my 3-day-a-week gym membership.

If I can keep at this, maybe one day I'll be an 80-ish little old lady capable of putting these bulls in their proper place.

Friday, June 12, 2009

So you wanna be organic?

This morning, right before the temperature hit 90 degrees, I spent an hour organically dealing with sand burrs. Also known as "goat heads" to cyclists, who are familiar with these burrs from changing the flat tires caused by them, and as "stickers" to children growing up in the Gulf Coast region of Texas.

A pasture full of sand burs, or even just a few plants at each and every gate, with the burrs ready to latch on to dog or cow or person, then hitchhike a ride to a new pasture, is more than a nuisance. Their presence is annoying enough to make a person want to go into mosquito hobby farming just to enjoy the relative pleasure of mosquitoes.

So how does one organically deal with sand burrs? With a hoe or similar instrument, thick gloves and a sincere, if impractical, belief that one can make a difference pulling them out plant by plant. And then burning them. No chance taken on composting these babies and hoping they won't reproduce a year later.

There are two chemicals I know of that are formulated to kill these plants -- one is a pre-emergent (usually these plants don't let me know where they'll be coming up so you have to spray a whole pasture) and a new one just being advertised this spring that will kill them after they have sprouted and grown horns. I haven't bothered looking into the "side effects" of these chemicals and reading the hazards associated with using them. I am easily resisting all temptation to look to this "cure."

Before WW II and the heavy use of chemicals in agriculture, I would guess that sand burrs were taken care of the "organic" way. But those farmers, and earlier, slaves, didn't have air conditioning and digital media calling them hither from the scorching and windy fields. And many of those folks actually tried to make a living or at least feed their family from the direct work of their back. Me, I'm an aging boomer who has chosen a laborious lifestyle to maintain health, and who believes that in the end Nature has the best ideas for the continuation of life on this planet. Maybe not solely for human life, but for life in general.

But I must say that I hope others join me in this organic move to rid this place of sand burrs. Sand burrs must be cruel to the mouths of cows, calves and goats. And I know they can put the toughest dog out of action when buried deep in a paw. To the younger kids and the aging hippies, and to intelligent life forms everywhere,  to anyone who believes strongly and fervently in all things organic and sustainable, or if you just really dislike being pricked, please make sure you never pass a sand burr again without putting an end to its existence!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cattle Work - more than you want to know?

While Tom and I were gone we had two bull calves born; one to a heifer and one to an older cow.  The calf of the older cow, No. 6, appeared to have an umbilical hernia so that needed to be checked, plus they could get their little steer-making procedure.

Before we went on vacation we had tried a new "steer-making" procedure on one of the bull calves, using an emasculator, aka Burdizzo, an instrument purchased from Premier Supply for use in making wethers of our buck goats.  We tried it on a young steer calf and today, three weeks later, examined the results.  The procedure appears to have worked and testicle growth was stopped.  The procedure was much less stressful on the calf and on the operators (Tom and me) and because it is bloodless, less chance of infection.

Fortunately, the bull calf who appeared to have a hernia did not and was released, as a steer, to his mother.  So we now have two new steer calves.

In addition, we had some 600 lb. calves that needed to be weaned and one smaller calf who was still on the heifer/young cow.  So we have six calves in the pen now for weaning.

It is my opinion that people, me included, who choose to eat and enjoy the benefits of meat, should also be aware of the actual cost of the meat to the animal and to the environment.  I don't believe the bulk meat in the typical grocery store covers the actual cost of the work required by the initial rancher and encourages less humane treatment of the animals and of the environment, especially feed lots.  The large meat packers and the large Agri-businesses make the most profit from the animals.

I do concern myself with the concept of "Do no harm" and feel that my partaking of meat does cause harm (of course, just existing as a human does "harm" to some resources of  this planet.)  However, I am doing my best to cause less harm when I choose to enjoy the nutritional and flavor benefits of beef.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Great to be back home!

Tom and I have returned from our vacation and we were welcomed back by healthy, well-tended cows, goats, dogs, cats and chickens and a clean house!

Also, some full honey frames which Torrin helped me finish extracting while I was recovering from jet lag.  I'll finish bottling the honey today and will have at least enough to bake my bread for the next year.

The grass is still green and growing, there's hay that needs to be cut and overall what looked like a dismal, drought-filled year has turned into the abundance that only nature can provide.