Good Friday and Easter on the Farm

We’ve been told we’re “original”, “unique” and “different”.  I think that may be because people have a hard time finding nice words to describe our family.  We live in a community that was mainly ag and fire brick industry based until about 10 to 15 years ago.  The fire brick industry dried up in this community.  Ag is still a large basis but it’s mostly row crop farmers in our county.  We only row crop to support our beef cattle habit.  Does that sound like an opening line to a rancher’s anonymous meeting?  Maybe that’s our ministry.

Mike and I both had Good Friday off from the town jobs.  That set us up to celebrate Easter weekend in our own unique way.  We started our day – Mike and Chris getting everything set up for flushing a cow and semen checking bulls, while Kailey and I ran errands.

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When we got back home the vet was just heading into the house to look for eggs.  Easter egg hunt #1 was under way.  We grilled some steaks for lunch while Brittany and the kids showed up.  Vet decided he should have more eggs that what he was finding so he went back out and flushed her a second time.  Egg hunt #2 ensued.  We ended up with 16 eggs by the end of the day!  Success!

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In the meantime we took Avery and Wyatt outside in the back yard and planted jelly beans.  Great Grandma Bastian may not be happy with the planting skills we taught Avery.  Drop and stomp was the method we employed in planting the jelly beans.  Today was the first day of sunshine we’ve had and we all enjoyed just being out soaking up some Vitamin D.

We ate lunch then Chris and Kailey got changed and we started on their engagement pictures.  Avery decided she needed to be the photographic director.  Chris asked her if she was going to be Pearl when she grew up.  “Uh-huh.”  Pearl has been the only livestock photographer the boys have known (other than their mom) through the years.  She took Jesse & Brittany’s wedding pics and is doing Chris and Kailey’s this summer.  Avery has some big shoes to fill.

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By the time we finished engagement pictures, it was time for Mike and Chris to go get hay from Grandpa Bastian’s farm.  Avery and Kailey rode along in hopes of Avery taking a good nap.  She did fall asleep but we’d worn the poor girl slick.  Brittany, Wyatt and I stayed at the house, looked over some pictures and snuck in a short nap.

Mike and I went to Good Friday services that Genesis held at the Mexico Middle School.  It was a unique, interactive service that was very good for us.  When we got back home Brittany had the oil heated up and we started frying fish, chicken, potatoes, onions and biscuits.  We also made some shells and cheese for Avery.  We ended up with everyone just standing around the counter in the kitchen eating it as it came out of the oil.  I couldn’t imagine a more informal, casual and perfect for our family Easter meal.  I’m thinking this could become a tradition for us.  As our kids get older and have more kids, there’s more and more demands on their time at holidays.  If we can schedule a celebration for a more relaxed time, that might just be the best gift we can offer them.

After supper I put out some eggs filled with tea lights and some others that were pre-filled with candy.  We left the porch lights off and it was after sunset by that point.  Avery and Wyatt both seemed to enjoy the glow in the dark eggs.  After Avery collected the eggs and Wyatt had chewed on his glowing one, we went inside for the to get their Easter gifts.  Wyatt really enjoyed his little sports balls and book, Avery was excited for her bubbles and chalk and Mike and Jesse played with the ball and velcro mitts.

Yes, everyone was exhausted, but it was a celebration that I will treasure, no matter how untraditional.

 

Hoping I Don’t End up on The People of Wal-Mart

Yes, it’s Sunday morning….Palm Sunday at that, and I missed church this morning. Mike came in from chores saying we have at least one calf with scours. After checking that pasture we found two more but only had one packet of electrolytes left. We went back out to treat the 2nd calf. He didn’t want to be caught and our best roper is at a show in Springfield fitting steers this weekend. Note to self….improve roping skills this spring. So we ended up bringing him up to the barn and caught him in a corner there. We managed to get him drenched with electrolytes, gave him a sulfa bolus and a shot of penicillin. Bloody scours is dangerous. We’re fortunate we caught them soon enough they still have some get up and go. We need a nice week of sunshine this week as that’ll help as much as the medication. Cool, wet days keep us holding our breath.

Anyway, after we got him treated we decided Mike would go ahead and feed hay and check the rest of the pastures. While he was doing that, I would run to the only farm store open on Sunday in our town and get some electrolytes. Apparently, many other farmers and farm wives have made the same trip this weekend. There were only 2 packets of our preferred brand of electrolytes, ReSorb. I tossed those in the cart and then started rating the others by what they were good for. Just a heads up, there’s very little left on the shelves at the store. I prepared for the worst of needing to treat up to 12 calves twice before another farm supply store would be open. They did not have Pepto Bismol on hand though. That’s where the title of this post comes in to play.

We had used the last of our Pepto on the first calf of the day. We gave the 2nd calf the sulfa bolus so he’d need Pepto tonight. Oh well, I did put on clean pants & shoes and combed my hair, so I should be safe at Wal-Mart, right? Right, until you think about my list. I needed Pepto in large quantities. I was wearing my Farm Mom hoodie, but it had some slobber and possibly a little leftovers from the backside of that calf we treated smeared across the front. I didn’t even smell it until I bent over to pick up the double packs of extra large bottles of Pepto. And then I bought 2 of the double packs. Let’s be honest, I thought about buying all 3 that they had on the shelf, but decided I better leave something for the other farmers. Our Wal-Mart isn’t heavily populated on Sunday mornings but I’m pretty sure every person who saw me had questions. No one dared ask why I had need of so much anti-diarrheal medication, they were certain they could smell why I had need of it. I promise all of Mexico, that smell was not of my own making.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last time that I will be watched by others at Wal-Mart with questions they’re likely afraid to ask. I’ve checked out with no less than 20 bottles of Joy soap, 10 boxes of Blackest of Black hair dye, bottles of Mane & Tail, and Pink Oil from the ethnic hair care aisle. My buying habits are anything except ordinary. Now I’m adding in Lysol Laundry Sanitizer. The things we do for our animals and families. Happy National Ag Week from the aisles of Wal-Mart.

Wild Ranching Women

My husband has been encouraging me to spend time with a new group of girls. Some of them are teenagers, some are older. All are pregnant. None are married. And he encourages me to spend time with them late at night or into the early morning hours when they’re out eating, drinking and partying it up.

These are some high needs girls. They expect their food, drinks and medical services delivered to them. They demand fresh bedding taken care of by others. Many would like to have spa days donated to them.

They’re all due to have their babies in the next 45 days. And there are about a hundred of them….seriously. My husband thinks I need to go out with them every night, either at 9 pm or 1 am – making sure their needs are taken care of, their wants are met, their comfort assured.

If they have complications and need medical attention, THEY GET TESTY! They may kick at me, try to head butt me and generally try to raise a ruckus. Much like trying to get a toddler to bed, they don’t want to go where they need to go and then expect 5 star treatment when they finally give in. Negotiating with terrorists might be easier some days.

By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out I’m talking about calving season at our place. We check out AIed and a few natural bred cows/heifers every 3 to 4 hours around the clock. 1 am/pm, 5 am/pm, 9 am/pm and so it goes. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for about 3 months. There was a time I did a lot more of the checks, but then again I wasn’t working a town job then either. Now I’m gone about 11 hours a day for that job/commute. Mike is now on the day shift at his town job. That leaves Chris for a lot of the daytime checks. This week, he’s helping out a fellow breeder, so that means a call is put in to Brittany to come mid-day to check with the 6 month old grandson and nearly 2 year old granddaughter. It takes a village to raise a herd of cattle.

So, when I say to you, “I can’t come/attend/go/be there due to calving” I’m not just giving you an excuse. When I get home from the town job, I start supper for the humans while the guys are finishing up chores outside. We eat then sit down to handle calving records, registration papers, sale entries, tax information, etc. Then we check cows again and go to sleep for 3 to 4 hours if there’s no trouble.

Praying for a safe and successful calving season for all our fellow ranchers.

Melinda

To Everything There is a Season

And sometimes, those seasons stink. We’ve had a bit of a rough 24 hours around here. Chris found his calf that was 2 days old dead – still tucked in some trees where he was fine yesterday. He just bought this calf’s momma as a bred this past fall….there goes the profitability for the year on that one. People wonder why cattle are expensive, why steaks run so much at a restaurant…..here’s part one of the reason. It takes 9 months from breeding to calving if the cow sticks on the first breeding. Then you have to successfully calve out the cow. According to Drover’s Magazine, 6 to 10 percent of calves are lost due to calving issues. We normally check our calves every 3 to 4 hours around the clock during calving season. We know there can be any number of reasons for assistance to be needed and strive to keep our losses much lower than the 6 to 10% stated above. From birth to weaning, another 2 to 5% of calves can be lost for any number of reasons…..respiratory illness, disease, predators….. sometimes you just don’t know the actual cause. The fact is that the crazy weather extremes we’ve had as of late, are extremely hard on the immune system of calves. In the last 7 days we’ve had wind chills as low as -25 and warmth up to 50 degrees today. A 75 degree difference in just a matter of days makes it hard for a newborn to adjust….shoot, it’s hard for this nearly 47 year old to adjust to. It’s just extremely frustrating that we didn’t even have a chance to treat and potentially save this one.

The same day Chris found his new calf, he also found a replacement heifer in the feedlot that was bloated at evening chores. He placed a call to the vet, pumped some mineral oil in her and the vet even left us a trochar to put in her if she didn’t go down. We put it in this morning without success. All the mineral oil that had been pumped in came out of the trochar – not out her usual exit chute. Usually when you pump mineral oil into a calf, they have a very oily rear end the next few days. Her’s was dry….completely. We placed another call to the vet while we ate our lunch but when the guys went out after lunch, she was dead. Apparently instead of just being bloated our best guess is that she couldn’t poop due to a blockage. So there’s reason #2. We calved her out safely and raised her to weaning safely. We were growing her out to produce more calves and yet that opportunity is now gone. $1,500 (avg. fat calf price) to $2,500 (bred heifer avg.) gone. The feed we’ve fed her since September is now just a dead animal, the vaccinations won’t prevent anything, the land and property taxes paid won’t be refunded for her. The vet bills incurred aren’t just written off because she died. None of the expenses go away, they just have to be absorbed by other calves in the herd.

So now, we’re in a state of evaluation and re-evaluation. What was the cause of the calf dying? What was the cause of the heifer dying? What can we change in each of these situations to help prevent more of the same? So, that’s how I’ll spend part of my Saturday afternoon…..after a nap. Did I mention we kept the grandkids last night? I do remember why we had kids in our 20s and not our 40s. Avery woke up at 12:30 and discovered her Papa was home. She thought it would be a good time to play with him. Mike had just worked a 16 hour shift at the town job and was exhausted. We finally got back to sleep about 2 am. So now, I’m trying to avoid the flu that’s running rampant in our area, doing a little housework, stocking up on some cattle supplies and sneaking in a nap before the next crisis hits. And maybe, if we’re all still upright tonight, we’ll go out and enjoy one of those delicious steaks.

Discovering the Why behind Requests

For the past several years our oldest son, Chris, and my husband, Mike, have gone to Denver for the National Western Stock Show. They have gone for a week or more each year and two years ago our younger son, Jesse, and his wife, Brittany, went also. I have had a few requests and no one asked for the why’s behind my requests. They just assumed I was being lazy, I think. This year, it didn’t work out for anyone other than Chris to go to Denver. Mike is working a day shift town job this year so that leveled the playing field a bit.

After about 3 days of getting up at 4 am to do chores before leaving for work, coming home to feed hay then do evening chores, Mike looked at me and said, “I’m not sure how you were going to be able to get everything done.” You see, I get home from my town job 3 1/2 hours later than he does. I go in two hours later and have a longer commute. It’s not good in the winter when it’s dark when I leave home and dark when I leave the job to come home. And so he now understood why I needed to know the dates they would be gone to Denver so I could adjust my work schedule. I had arranged with my boss to come in a little early, work through my lunch and maybe finish some stuff at home if necessary. After all, my family was going with the boss’s son & future daughter-in-law.

Oh, did I mention the temps during the National Western in Missouri rarely got up to freezing? As a matter of fact, much time was spent thawing waterers and just trying to keep everything going in the bitter cold. And so, about 6 days in, Mike looked at me and said, “Boy, am I glad we’re not calving.” *smile to self here*. Three years ago during spring breeding season I begged for everyone to hold off just a little longer. I really did not want to be calving first calf heifers while everyone else was gone showing. They assured me February calves would be safe. They lied. Just know, Denver occurs two weeks prior to February calves’ calculated due dates, but somehow, for some reason, one or two decide to make their appearance that week. Last year during breeding season, I finally got my way and the majority aren’t due until mid to late February or even March. But…..Chris bought some breds this fall and yes, two have now calved. One at the beginning of the month and one yesterday…….he got home Tuesday night. Timing.

So, you see, there’s always a reason why behind the requests. Guys, if you’re asking your wives and girlfriends to take care of everything while you go off to the shows, you may want to think through the whys. I promise it’ll make your life much smoother, happier and less likely to have objects flying at you when you return home to ice, frozen waterers and a whole barn full of new babies.

A few years ago in a small town just a state away….

Well, maybe just a bit more than a few years ago, but on that cool, crisp fall day in 1937 a little girl was born to first time parents.  Stanley and Norval Schumacher welcomed their first of four children that October 8th.  They raised her on the family dairy farm, teaching her how to care for the livestock and the home.  She ended up falling in love with the boy next door…..literally, next door.  Those two have lived and farmed in 3 states.  Janice has loving raised her family and worshiped her Savior at every stop.  


Life hasn’t been a bed of roses for Janice.  But the many challenges she has faced have always been handled with much grace and dignity and faith.  There have been ample opportunities in her life to question her faith, her loving God.  She may ask Him why but never turns her back on Him.  She is a prayer WARRIOR.  Watching her prayer list ebb and flow shows an amazing amount of love and compassion for all.  Serving her church has always been a priority in her life, as is evidenced by her still working in the church nursery on a regular basis.  

Janice loves her family.  She is always there for all generations of her family.  She lovingly cared for her mother in her later years.  She loving cared for her grandchildren when her daughter passed away unexpectedly.  And even now, she enjoys caring for her great grand children.  Watch Janice work in the garden with her great granddaughter, Avery, brings a smile to my face.  And a snapshot is stored in my memory.  The kids (both young and adults) know Grandma will always have a treat of some sort baked for them, a meal ready at the drop of a hat and a kind word and warm hug for them.  


Janice is more than “just a farm wife”.   She’s always lived and worked on the farm.  Yes, she’s held some other jobs over the years, but her heart has always been on the farm. She worked alongside Paul during lambing season, pigging season, calving season, planting season and harvest.  She mourned the loss of every animal and wondered what could have been done differently.  She cooked meals and hauled them, along with any number of children, to the field so the guys could continue working.  She maintained the books and did all she could to help keep the family afloat during the farm crisis in the 80’s.  Janice is, quite simply, a major part of the farm.


Janice is an amazing mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, great-grandmother and mentor.  I have learned much from her over the years.  She’s always willing to share the latest bits of wisdom she has garnered – from cooking to Bible study to house keeping to emergency preparedness.  


So, today, on her 80th birthday, I want to say thank you, Janice.  You have always provided the example of what a Christian woman should be.  Thank you and happy birthday!

 

Sale Preparation

I was just scrolling back though some of the older posts on here and realized, I’ve never shared with you just what it is we do to prepare for our annual club calf sale.  I thought this might just be a good time as starting tomorrow night, things will likely begin getting very hectic for all of us.  

Go back to the beginning of August with me.  That’s when we brought the calves up to begin the slow weaning process.  At first, this may seem like a lot more work than just completely weaning the calves from day 1.  And at first it is more work.  We’re blessed that some of our cows have calves in the sale every year and so they know what’s going on.  Slow weaning lasted a little longer than anticipated this year because we were also working on improving the calf lots on the front of the barn.  The guys have built 4 pens off the barn with pipe fence and have gates installed so we’ll be able to turn them out on grass lots for you.  


Calves starting on feed after nursing.   Shoes after the first wash day.      Avery helping to water the calves.

Here’s the before of the pens.  Lots of lime.  Lots of work to be done.


So, after getting the lots built we decided to put halters on the calves.  Then Hurricane Harvey hit Houston.  Mike’s nephews live near Houston and had to evacuate.  And so, Mike headed to Texas to help them lay some new flooring in the middle of this breaking process.  I’m glad he went.  I’m glad we were able to bless them in some small way.  Being away during the process has consequences and we’re still catching up.  I thought we were just going to tie the calves for the first time on the 17th.  Turns out they tied them on the 16th and we washed several on the 17th.  This is where we reap the benefits of slow weaning.  When we’re slow weaning, the calves learn that they can trust us.  We walk calmly amongst them.  We try to not get upset around them and make it as good an experience as possible.  We have NEVER tied calves one day and washed the next.  We usually give them a 3 day tie period then start washing the tamest ones.  But, we were in catch up mode.  And guess what?  They all responded better than we anticipated! We got everyone washed for a first time then went back and washed a few a second time ending with their clipping being done.  Then we rinse, blow out, touch up and picture and video.    Mike, Chris and Jesse are the clipping team.  I think everyone has helped in some part of this process.  Even Wyatt came for picture day last weekend and watched and learned.  


This weekend we’ll finish clipping, picturing, videoing, editing the video footage, uploading to YouTube and then finally finishing the website and online catalog.  Oh, and I really need to finish some informational flyers for you guys coming to see the calves in person.  So you see, there really is a bit more to it than just snapping a couple of pictures and putting them on Facebook……at least there is if you expect the best out of yourself.  

Time to get off here and take care of the town job, come home and do some more work getting ready for the long weekend and maybe getting to spend a little time with family.  Catch up with you soon.