2 weeks ago today we grew our herd to 4. We do not take it for granted that we have two healthy moms and two healthy calves and that we get to keep everyone. We are so fortunate and relieved that everyone is healthy and now I can finally sleep without worrying that something is going to happen in the middle of the night, or during a storm, during super hot days, etc.
Minutes after June’s birth
On Sunday, June 18th, Loretta had baby June. We noticed the day before that Loretta’s bag (milk & udders) was getting to be pretty big so we assumed that she was getting close. Since we figured it would be happening in the next few days, we began to check on her every hour or two throughout the day. Anthony left for softball at about 2:45 and I went outside to water some plants. I looked down to the pasture where Loretta was last seen and I noticed her tail sticking straight out and that she was pacing a bit and mooing. I called Anthony and told him it seemed like it was about to happen, so he turned around and came back home. (Anyone who knows about his dedication to softball will recognize that it was somewhat of a Sophie’s Choice moment for him)
He ran down to take a look, ran back up to the house and grabbed his camera and came back down. He told me to go back up to the house to get the cookies I was baking out of the oven. I didn’t want to leave, but I also didn’t want to burn the house down so I ran up and took them out of the oven. When I came back outside, approximately 3 minutes later, Anthony yelled “She’s out!” I was so pissed. Missed it again!
Loretta immediately took charge and the other two girls came to join in a few minutes later. The whole process took less than 30 minutes and June has fit in with the herd nicely. It took a couple of hours for us to confirm that she was actually a girl and we then named her June in keeping with the theme of the first ladies of country music; naming her after June Carter-Cash. She looks so different from Dolly and I’m always worried that Dolly is bullying her, or taking milk away from her, or that she is just too skinny. Plus Dolly is so solid and June is built differently than her – she’s much taller and has a skinnier face. But they all seem to be happy and now it really seems like we’ve got the beginnings of a legit operation going on around here. Or maybe it will be legit once the new fencing is up and no one is escaping, giving me heart palpitations.
The reason why I can never see her sleeping in the pasture. So little next to the tall pasture grass.
They are always together. Doesn’t Dolly look huge next to her?
Here’s a video that sums it all up. Hope you love it as much as we do.
Today was the most exciting day that we’ve had on the farm, by far. We are the proud new parents of a heifer calf.
I was giving the girls some fresh water at about 1:00 this afternoon. I went up to the top of the barn and started painting. About 2 hours later, I looked out and noticed Loretta on the pasture, but Patsy wasn’t anywhere near her. That’s unusual, they are always close enough to each other where I can see both of them. So I hopped the fence and walked down to the lower part of the pasture where I had seen Patsy lying down a few hours earlier. As soon as I turned the corner, I saw Patsy and her new calf standing there. I couldn’t believe it and called Anthony immediately.
Meet Dolly, the newest member of the Lucky Break family.
We are so happy that this happened naturally and without us having to intervene. Our hearts are so full tonight; thank you to all of you who have been asking about Patsy and the girls. It means so much to us that our adventures are your adventures too.
Everyone looks healthy and Patsy is already a great Mom. She hasn’t left her calf’s side and has been busy cleaning her and mooing at her. She’s also pretty protective.
Loretta is protective too.
Dolly was trying to nurse right from the get-go, but Patsy wasn’t feeling it. We’re just hoping that tomorrow when we see them in the morning, the calf is nursing and all is well.
Today we got some of the best news ever – LORETTA IS PREGNANT! The vet had to come out to give the girls their vaccinations and we had a few questions to ask him, so it was the perfect time to get her checked. He said she is about 5-6 months along and may calve sometime in July. So that means that Barney is most likely not the daddy, so it was probably one of the bulls that she was hanging with next door after the AI didn’t work, early last fall. I can’t tell you how relieved I am that Loretta is not getting kicked off the farm. Patsy is looking healthy and has about 3 more weeks until she calves.
To prepare for our first foray into calving, Anthony spent some time at the farm next door. He learned a lot and feels much more confident than he did a few weeks ago. I’m still somewhat of a wreck. I’m really hoping to wake up one morning and see a calf out in the pasture. That way I know everything worked the way it was supposed to and neither one of us had to intervene.
Anthony made a video documenting his experience next door with one the calves that needed some help coming into the world. THIS VIDEO IS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC – so watch at your own risk. It’s a heifer giving birth and it’s ALL out there. Watch if you’re interested, move along if this makes you nervous. Most of all, please wish us luck or whatever else you think we will need.
Instead of reviewing what happened at Lucky Break Acres this year, I would rather talk about what I’m hoping to see happen next year on our farm. I’m ready to be finished with this year – though we didn’t have as rough of a year as some people, we’ve got things cooking that have me excited to move forward.
This one is a biggie. After many months of thought about what we can and want to do with our farm, and after a fantastic first year in the garden, I’ve decided to try my hand at flower farming. I’m starting small, but if all goes well I will have 2100 beautiful bulbs bloom sometime in the Spring, and that’s just the beginning. My goal is to sell cut flowers – at our farm, maybe at a farmer’s market or two and to florists. I’ve also planted peony bushes and will be planting a lot of annuals once the ground will let me, starting in April when I can get the first cold blooms in the yard. More on this later.
Hopefully this is what we will see in our pasture in April
Patsy is pregnant but we are not sure about Loretta. We think she also may be pregnant because she hasn’t shown any signs of heat in the few months that they’ve been back on our farm. We still have Barney the bull hanging out with them, he will probably go back home in January. Anthony isn’t very comfortable around him and if Loretta is settled, then we don’t really need him to hang out anymore. We will have the vet come out in a few weeks to check Loretta. Anthony wants to be surprised, but I am dying to know. Regardless, Barney will be going. Patsy should calve in April – we are hoping it’s all good and if we could have everything we want, it will be a baby girl.
We have ordered more bees for next year and will start building our two new hives next month. Anthony has been working hard selling our honey and we now it is for sale in three locations. We are out of stock for this year, so we are hoping to double our honey output next year with 4 hives, instead of 2. Right now we are just concentrating on getting them through the winter. There’s not much we can do but cross our fingers and hope they are staying warm inside their hive boxes.
Chickens – finally!!!
If you have been reading this blog for a bit, you know that we have been remodeling, discussing, debating and considering abandoning our chicken coop. Or at the very least, setting it on fire (you can catch up here, if you haven’t) But we’ve finally come down to the final items that need to be accomplished in order to have our coop up and running. We’ve figured out how to get water down to the coop – as in having it in a hydrant and underground so it doesn’t freeze, rather than carrying buckets through the winter all the way down there. Now that that’s figured out, we can get the electrician back out here to finish his business. Once those things are accomplished, then we have about 5 other major things to do – finish painting the doors, put a top on the run, build the roosts and nesting boxes for the inside and design some cool decorative light fixtures for the inside. Oh and figure out how to put a green roof on top.
My sweet sister-in-law visiting during the fair
We have been so fortunate in that most of our family and friends have come to visit or have told us they are planning on coming soon. Both Anthony and I LOVE having visitors so we can share our place and try to convince everyone that Elkhorn, Wisconsin is paradise. And it’s not a hard sell. So come on over, we always want you to come and stay. Really.
So strange to see some of my favorite people sitting on my doorstep
Have more fun
Gigi enjoying the summer
Of course we (I) have so many long lists of all of the things we need to do to the house and the farm. Lots of painting is always involved. Fencing, cleaning, planting, etc. But the most fun we have had is exploring our new state, hanging out on our front deck on summer nights, and spending time in the barn with the girls. I know this is the most important item on our list. To enjoy everything, in all its imperfection. Happy New Year! Thank you so much for reading and following along on our adventures. I hope you enjoy the next year, in all its imperfection.
A few weeks ago Anthony sent me a text with an incredibly disturbing video attached to it. I was out-of-town and it was the morning that Patsy and Loretta were artificially inseminated. He recorded it so I wouldn’t miss out. Needless to say, I could not get through the whole thing, but I’m glad that he was kind enough to include me. And don’t worry, I won’t be sharing that here with you.
When we bought Patsy and Loretta, our plan was to keep them and breed them. That’s why I named them – I knew that we would have them for as long as they lived, and that could end up being quite a long time. If they had heifers, we would keep them and grow our herd. If they had bull calves, then they would go across the street to Kevin’s farm and be raised for beef.
When we first got them – look at how little they were! And of course Loretta has hay all over her head
As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m still in contact with the man whom we bought our girls from. He sends emails of stories of his herd, his calves and his life on the farm. I send him what probably amounts to way too many emails with too many questions and he kindly answers them – usually in just a few hours. I talked to him about what we were planning on doing and asked his opinion and his experiences with AI.
Lolo and Anthony
Since we don’t have a bull, in order to get our girls pregnant we decided to first try artificial insemination. Our next door neighbor Dexter has a herd that is somewhat in the ballpark of 100 cows, 100 calves and 3 bulls. If our first attempt at AI wasn’t successful (it’s around a 60%-ish success rate), our neighbor generously offered to then let our girls be incorporated with his herd to get pregnant the natural way.
We elected to try artificial insemination. We went through some catalogs and websites to pick out the perfect male. Or actually the perfect bull’s sperm – a bull that had a high CED – calving ease direct number – which basically predicts the ease at which the calves will be born to a first-time bred heifer. Dexter gave us a brief description of what some of the numbers meant, other things we should be looking for, etc. Some of the descriptions went like this: “Known for his powerful females with great udders” “An excellent mating choice for larger framed cattle who need rib and dimension” “Whoa Nellie!!!—big time added pounds alert here!!!” I’m not even sharing the most hilarious descriptions that point out great scrotal power. I’m trying to ignore my inner Beavis & Butthead right now.
On July 1, our girls mixed in with Dexter’s herd. His herd came to our pasture for a few days and our girls blended right in. We were so excited for them – from the first time they saw the herd next door they were calling out to them and following them along the fence line. The greatest thing was whenever we looked for Patsy and Loretta amongst the huge herd, the two of them always stuck together and were never far from one another. It’s weird not having them here at our farm. It seems so different and quiet without them. I’m used to looking for them as soon as I wake up and making sure they are still in the pasture before it’s dark at night. Now we just get to visit them every few days next door. And I’m pretty sure they could take us or leave us at this point.
Patsy giving us the cold shoulder
Waiting for the vet
Back to the insemination. Anthony said that Patsy did great – she wasn’t phased, it was easy and she handled it like a champ. Loretta, on the other hand, was bucking most of the time. Cut to last week, when we met the vet out at our neighbor’s farm; he was there to check and see if they were pregnant. Loretta went first and of course, she wasn’t pregnant. Anthony said he knew it. Patsy went next and Anthony leaned around the side of the chute and gave me a thumbs up. She is pregnant.
Since Loretta wasn’t pregnant, we decided to go with plan B. The vet gave her an injection and started the “synchronization of estrus“. That would put her into heat in a few days and then they were back with Dexter’s herd. I asked him how long our girls will be with his herd and he said he likes to keep his girls with the bull for about 3 months. 3 MONTHS? I’m hoping we get to revisit this time frame, but I know my missing them doesn’t matter if we are trying to get Loretta pregnant.
I miss Patsy’s antics
They’ve been gone for what seems like forever, and now I’m not sure how much longer they will be gone. We can’t really visit them because they are in a pasture that’s somewhat far away. I hate it, but I know they’re happy to be out in the pasture again, with the herd, eating grass and laying around outside. And I’m glad they are together. Patsy would not do well here without her Loretta and vice versa.
I wish our girls were back at home, with us, where they belong. I wish we had our own bull. I wish they could have gotten pregnant the natural way. I don’t like having them injected with hormones to put them into heat. It just makes me a bit uncomfortable and seems weird and selfish just because we want them to have calves. But that is how we did it this year and we have learned and now we know what to do and not to do next year. And I’m grateful for everyone’s help and guidance this year – we couldn’t have done it without our neighbor’s patience and generosity. Keep your fingers crossed that Loretta gets knocked up. And if she doesn’t, of course it’s not the end of the world.