Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Freaky Snow Storm

My boss called me at 6 am this morning to warn me about the blizzard he was dealing with 3 hours from here and to warn me about coming up to the main office today.  I had only an inch on the ground, so I wasn't concerned.    I have a 2 hour drive to work, one way, so I thought maybe the snow would all be melted by the time I reached the office.

What the heck was I thinking ?????  Within 5 miles and 3 minutes of leaving my home, the snow started bombarding my truck. So intense was the amount of snow blowing at me that I got a wicked headache.
You know the kind.   Snow got deeper and more blinding the further I drove.  The ride to work was over 3 hours. Most of it at 40 mph behind a long line of vehicles. The last 12 miles were at 20 mph.
Many cars were off the road in the ditch.  The roads were very slick and as you can see from the photo, we were down to only ONE lane.  Visability got worse and worse.     There were confused turkeys sitting in trees by the highway.        Amazing to me was that I could NOT see higher than the treetops because the snow clouds were so low and the snow was coming down so hard.

It was a long day at work and I was glad to head home. By 5 pm the roads were much better, but the tress had lots of damage from the weight of the snow. Many big trees were down on the powerlines. Lots of Vermonters have no electricity tonight.  Worse yet, all the berry and fruit growers are in a panic that their crops may have been destroyed.

I headed for the farm as I had a gut feeling there were new calves. When the barometer falls, like it did for this weird storm, calves start being born.
I was not dissapointed.

Three new calves. Two huge boys and a big girl were born in the snow, sleet and rain.  Lots of rain.

Mud season has returned.

Here is Gwen and her new 90 lb boy, Galvin.           Gwen is a serious graham cracker addict.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Building A Relationship

It has been 17 months since the Gold Prince was allowed to come into the house.  Murphy was pretty much a feral cat when I first saw him on the porch that cold November day.   I knew it would take awhile to "re-domesticate" him as he showed all the traits of a once cared for cat, but with some very serious trust issues.  We have survived 2 winters together now and we are finally at the stage where he does not flip out when I pull my camera out and start taking photos of his antics.  He no longer runs away when I enter a room or drop my boot or open the fridge.    Progress has been very slow, but steady.   Murphy is torn between being outside and stalking the fields 24/7 and sleeping in a comfortable place.   Daylight savings and his own personal requirements have made me a very early riser so he can be the early bird that gets the first mouse of the day.  Since no calves were born today I thought I would share a few recent photos of this very unusual character that I share my space with.

Murphy will look out several different windows before sitting at the door and asking to go out. If it is raining or the trees are moving because of the wind, he will not leave the house.   He is a better weatherman then the weathermen.

The Gold Prince doesn't sit AT the door to be let out, he sits beside the door so his private valet will tend to the door so he can leave in the style he is accustomed to.

I tried for months to get a photo of this, but he always heard me coming and would exit like the wind.
This is why I feel he once belonged to a man.  This cat will not drink from a bowl or anything other than the toilet.  When I returned from Indiana the toilet was empty of water.  Of course it was nicely decorated with dry cat paw prints all over the seat, floor and rug.

This is when I knew that he finally trusted me.  I was only 2 feet away while trying to get a decent shot of this very opinionated cat face.  Of course I had to take 10 of them to get one decent photo.  He obliged.

What I did not expect was to return from my trip and find him sprawled out on my bed, oblivious to me rolling in my luggage and starting to unpack.   He did not run, he did not get "spooky," he did not stand with his hackles up and give me the "evil eye."      Something had changed.  In a good way.   However, now every night he boldly hogs the bed, as he wants the center of it and refuses to move over.     I lay in my tiny corner of the bed and smile.   17 months wasn't long at all.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Better Than Christmas

Calving season is my favorite time of year.  Christmas in April.  The presents come wrapped in all kinds of colors, styles and with cute faces attached.    3 more beautiful " gifts" arrived today.

This calf has some unusual appaloosa type spots on his legs, ears and face.   Haven't seen those kind of markings before in this herd.

My favorite cow, Wanda, had a stunning 90 lb heifer calf.    It was love at first sight for me.  I might have to keep this one.

My big cow, Gracie, had a 110 lb bouncing baby boy.  I had a tough time wrestling with him to give him some earings and his special green band....  Last year Gracie had a 120 lb boy and I almost got a hernia wrestling with him.

It has been sunny and cool for 2 days and the mud is slowly drying out.   The soft breeze and temps in the 40's make it perfect for calving. No ice, no bugs, no snow, no rain.   The calves are born quickly and dry off in 10 minutes and are nursing within 15 minutes.   It is very amazing to watch.  Made me very thirsty watching and listening to all the calves getting their free milk on tap.

The cooler temperatures are still making the cows keep their winter coats on and some have shed out very little.
Everyone in this state still thinks we are going to get a hard frost or worse yet, one more snowstorm. The fruit growers are all worried because the buds have opened on all the apple, peach, cherry and pear trees as well as all the berry bushes. A frost could bring financial ruin to all the fruit farmers in the state, as well as all of New England.     Even the cows won't start shedding their winter coats, so I have held off planting my vegetables.

This is Raychel Ray and her calf that was born 4/14 while I was looking at flat land and rockless fields in Indiana.  Note her very fuzzy winter coat.

This is the oldest cow in the herd, Big Red 75. She had a beautiful heifer calf early yesterday morning.   I put her green earings in about 8 minutes after she was born.  Most of these calves are running within an hour, so it is imperative for me to tag and band calves as soon as they are born or I won't be able to catch them later on in the day.  Mud helps to slow them down a bit, but it also slows me down as well. 

Here is that appaloosa spotted calf, about 6 minutes after he was born he was up and nursing.

Here is that 110 lb calf making his first attempt at getting up and heading for milk. Notice those rear rump muscles on that big calf..

As the sun was setting I checked all the cows and calves one more time to make sure all had nursed and that all the afterbirth was eaten by the cows to prevent coyotes and foxes from coming into the field to get it.

Its great to look in all directions and see calves and moms chewing their cud and nursing their healthy calves.

 Today has been a great day here at TailGait farm.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How To Make A Vermont Farmer Cry

I had an interesting adventure out to Indiana.    It's a whole different planet out there.  Corn is King.

I am afraid to tell my farmer friends what I found out there:

NO snow

NO mud

NO salt on the roads.

NO rust on vehicles

The SUN stays up until 8:45pm~!!!!

FLAT land    For miles.  And miles.... and miles.   And miles.     

Not a tree in sight. 

 "Plots" of land of several thousand acres each.

In fact, FLAT land can be seen CLEARLY for 9 miles in all directions.

There are also NO rocks.  Anywhere.   For 9 miles in all directions. NO Rocks.

Do you see any rocks in the fields ?  I don't

Do you see any rock piles or stone walls ?  I don't.

The soil here is fertile and black in color. Beautiful.  NO rocks. Not even a pebble.

For early April, it was a pleasant surprise to see these red bud trees all over the area.

We don't get buds like these until May.

Another amazing thing that I saw thousands of, were Silos.    These kind actually function properly.

Also saw many many windmill farms.  These are enourmous structures.  There were 250 of them in a line that went for 20 miles and I could actually see most of them.

When I saw the sun set the first afternoon I was there, I was awestruck.  The sun in Indiana is TEN times the size of the sun here in Vermont.  I kid you not.   Gigantic.  And much warmer than our tiny sun here. It was 85 blistering degrees all last week in Indiana while I was there.  It was 39 degrees here when I got off the plane in my town.  A woman from Maine also noticed the size of the sun, the lack of rocks and trees and the abnormally flat landscape.     I regret not taking a photo of the sun going down last week.  A Totally mind boggling experience.

Better yet was the flight leaving Indiana and seeing all the thousands of fields from the AIR~!

Click on this photo to really see the sheer number of fields. These fields are several miles wide and long.

Seeing all this farm land made me proud to be an American Farmer.    

It was great to get home to the snow, ice, rusty vehicles, small sun, wicked hilly land, gigantic rocks and cold muddy weather.

I had alot of new faces waiting to meet me in the barn:

One new face didn't recognize me....   It happens..

Thank you Indiana for the educational adventure!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday

Another day, another wonderful calf.   Always a nice surprise to check on the herd and find one already up and nursing.

Although it was a bit chilly, lots of happy flowers are growing, budding and blooming.

The local bee keeper stopped by this afternoon for a chat about how happy the bees are. He was distributing his hives to all the local blueberry, apple and peach orchards.

Everyone is getting an early start here in Vermont with their crops and I hope we are able to turn the cows out to pasture, early, as well.   If "green up" continues, the herd might be free ranging again by April 25th.
That is my very hopeful guess.    However, many ponds and lakes here still have a lot of ice on them.

The geese were doing the "ice shuffle" today as big chunks of ice were floating by and crashing into each other.    Trout season starts Saturday and should be very sucessful since there are many open areas on most ponds and lakes. The loons will soon be returning!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Color

A sunny, but cool morning greeted me as I made my way to the farm to check the herd.  A breezy 50 degrees. Much better than the 70 degrees we had this past weekend.   The mud is still drying out, but there is more dry land in the fields and the cows are taking full advantage of the sun and gentle wind.
RaychelRay loves to lay on the embankment by the stream and show off her good looks and red hide:

Even the Pontiff is enjoying his new found knowlege of how good sunshine can be.

A few early blooming plants are near the house and the combination of unexpected colors really is stuning.

I am heading off on a cross country trek this weekend and hope that it stays dry and cool while I am away and that the cows can hold off having any calves untl I return.  Think it will happen ?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Pope Arrives in Vermont

Being a devout woman of faith, my friend Violet succumbed to her broken heart, appropriately, on Palm Sunday.  I attended her funeral on the morning of March 31st with the sadness of loss filling my own heart.
As soon as I left the funeral I drove up the steep, muddy rural roads to the farm to check on the herd and see if Violet, my first calf heifer named after my dear friend, was any closer to having the calf we all eagerly awaited for. 

As I drove, I thought of my very religious friend Violet and how she had worked as an executive secretary for three cardinals in the arch diosese of New York and adored all the Vatican Popes in her life time. Rosary beads were always in her hands 24/7.  Violet always prayed for me, and my herd, when we needed it..and even when it wasn't apparent ( to me ) that we even needed some spiritual assistance. 

As I came down the last hill, I could clearly see a cow with afterbirth dragging behind her in the mud.  I jumped out of my truck and raced thru the barn and out the back door into the barnyard--still wearing my dress up funeral clothes--and here is what I found:

  My friend Violet had asked me to name her namesake cow's calf, if it was a girl--Viola after one of her favorite flowers.  She could not think of a boys name and when I jokenly suggested we name a boy "The Pontiff," she laughed.   We giggled like school girls over the name suggestion.
Little did I know that would be the last time I would ever hear my friend Violet's voice, or her sweet laughter, ever again.
As I looked down on this newly born calf in the middle of the muddy river around him and his young mom tenderly nudging him to get up and move out of this quagmire, I knew exactly what his name would be.
Every time I said his name, I heard the sweet laughter of my dear departed friend again and again.  

I knew I had to get this special boy out of the deep mud and into a stall in the barn, soon, as the mud was very cold, the wind was colder and all the cows sniffing him were creating a lot of splashing and chaos for his first time mom. With much perserverience, in mud up to the knees of my new pants, I eventually got him and his mom to the barn and into a stall. After a few minutes of a rubdown with last summers delicious hay, and his new eartags-- He looked like this:
Within a few minutes he was up and looking for some warm milk.  He weighs 95 lbs. A good hefty calf for a first time calving heifer.   I could not have been prouder, or dirtier, but the whole day was just one surprise after another.  

Mother and son spent 4 days in the dry stall with special meals, gentle attention and lots of curious onlookers.  This morning, Easter Sunday, I let them both out of the stall and watched the young Pontiff gallop over the now dry mud hills. He raced all around the barnyard and out to the field.  Sheer joy engulfed my heart and there was of course a big smile on my face as Violet's laughter came to my mind over and over.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Vermont Signs of Spring

Right now if feels like summer, not spring. The temps have gone from 30 degrees immediately  up to 75 without anything inbetween.   From turtlenecks to T shirts in just 1 day.   
Last weekend was Maple Open House weekend with all the sugar makers opening up their hidden sugar shacks for visitors.  The air was full of the sweet smells of maple syrup.  Yummy!
I watched my neighbor bottle fresh maple syrup while serving maple coffee, maple brownies and maple candy to everyone who came through the door.  I left with an incredible sugar buzz!
I went down to his barn to see what he had for lambs.  I was not dissapointed.
The flock was calm and content chewing their cud and laying outside enjoying cool breezes.
I found lots of twin lambs and moms napping in the barn too.
Vermont farmers can start spreading manure on April 1st .   Farmers love to share the bounty of  winter piles of manure.   Today there was lots of "poop on wheels" travelling from farms to friends gardens.
Gardening will be in full swing very soon up here. The mud is FINALLY drying out. I can also hear the peepers as of yesterday.      Whats going on in YOUR farm area ?