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.
Last week, Anthony and I went to a nursery in Ixonia, about 45 minutes north of us. This nursery, Ebert’s Greenhouse Village, was offering tours of their facilities and greenhouses, showing what they do to prepare for the growing season. It was an incredible place, with over 20 different greenhouses and some of the kindest and sweetest people I’ve met at a business in one place at one time – more on that later.
I emailed Glenn, whom you might remember from this post, or this one. He’s the cow whisperer, Patsy and Loretta’s first Daddy, and he lives about 10 minutes from the nursery. We wanted to visit, catch up and of course, see all of his girls.
Glenn has been such a great friend and a huge source of knowledge for us. I email him lots of questions and am constantly asking his advice not only about our girls, but about all things farm related. This time when we went to his house, he had many things to talk to us in regard to our girl’s upcoming calving. He surprised us with some bailing twine ready to go, in case we need to assist Patsy in pulling out her calf. (I’m SO hoping things don’t get to this point) He demonstrated how to do it, and gave us a couple of sets to take home. He also saves his Ag papers for me to read, and even had custom t-shirts with our farm logo made for us as a surprise! I don’t know what we did to deserve a relationship with him, but he is wonderful and sweet and we are so lucky to have him in our lives.
After visiting for a while in the house, Anthony and Glenn and I went out to the cow yard. Glenn has a good-sized herd and is expecting some calves himself, around the first of May. We saw both Patsy and Loretta’s mothers, which was fun because we didn’t remember exactly what they looked like.
Glenn’s cow yard
Glenn told us he was trying to “bump” calves earlier that morning – which means pushing on an area where the calf is inside of the cow, and the calf “bumps” or pushes back. I had no idea what he was talking about. I asked him about it, then he took me to one of his pregnant girls to show me how to do it. I didn’t feel anything, and quite frankly it was kind of irritating that cow, so she walked away in a bit of a huff. We tried on a few more, and then I took a picture of where Glenn had placed his fist, so I could reference it when I went home.
I did some research online, and learned a bit more. Basically, you are using a soft fist to push on the cow which in turn should cause the baby inside to bump you back. The area is on the right side of the cow or heifer – which is the non-rumen side, where the calf is laying inside. Usually this can be felt after the 7th month of pregnancy – give or take a few weeks.
One guy’s method was to bounce his fist a bit, over and over, until he felt something come back. You can see that video here.
Once we got home, we went to give the girls their nightly feed. I tried it on both Patsy and Loretta. They weren’t too thrilled about it, but they didn’t run away from me. I’ve tried every day since then and so far, nothing. Wish me luck in getting some kind of bump back from that baby inside Patsy – or better yet, Loretta. I’m sure they will love me practicing on them.
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.
This week marks the one year anniversary of when we purchased our first real farm animals, Patsy and Loretta. I can’t begin to adequately describe in words how much these two have impacted our lives. So I thought I would do it with pictures.
We met Glenn, the man also known to us as the cow whisperer. We bought the girls from him and with a tear in his eye, he told us he was happy that they were being sold to us rather than going to auction. Glenn and I email each other frequently; he helps me with all of my farm related questions and also sends me cow stories, farm related publications and lots of jokes.
I couldn’t sleep the first few nights we had them. They bellowed a lot for two days, missing their herd and their Mommas.
I felt bad for them, I was worried they were cold, that they felt nervous being here, that they might run away and who knows what else. And of course they were fine. It was all just the order of things.
We learned early on that Patsy was the boss. And the hungriest – from the moment she stepped foot into the barn she started eating and hasn’t stopped since. Whenever we need to get her to move somewhere or basically do just about anything, we use a bit of corn to entice her. Works every time.
Patsy’s first two minutes in the barn
We had to stop using this feeder because Patsy would get stuck inside of it
Once again, Patsy inside a feeder
Loretta is the shy and skittish one. She always has poop on her tail and straw or grass on her head. Her sweet and nervous personality makes people love her immediately. Or it might be her beautiful long lashes, I’m not sure.
They are always together. They are their own little herd and have stuck together from day one. They lived at the farm next door for 3 months and every single time we visited them, they were together. I get nervous when I see one without the other, especially since Patsy took on a new role this summer as an escape artist.
They even lick the mineral block together
Eating together at the neighbor’s
These are Patsy’s hoof prints in the sunflower garden.
This was probably the scariest day this year. We live on a very busy road and didn’t discover her absence until about 8 am. Who knows how long she had been out and where she had been. This is also the day we electrified the fencing. Hopefully that will hold them in a bit better from now on.
Gigi’s extreme jealousy has led to us leaving her in the house when we feed or interact with the girls. I’m sad that she can’t be with us and learn to get along with everyone, but it’s better and safer for everyone with her inside. Patsy is ready to head butt Gigi at all times.
We took too many cow selfies to count, got lots of cow kisses from their giant scratchy tongues, brushed and pet them as much as they would let us. We figured out how best to clean up cow poop in our pajamas, which, as it turns out, is very carefully.
We watched them meet the neighbors and have many meetings at the fence line.
We learned that cows clean out their nostrils with their tongues. So attractive.
They went next door to be inseminated in the beginning of July. Patsy is “settled”, Loretta is “open”, meaning Patsy is knocked up and Loretta is not. So we kept them next door to hang with the bulls for another six weeks, hoping it would happen the natural way. It did not. In the middle of October, they *finally* got to come back home and this time they brought a friend. He’s a bull and he’s here to settle this business of Loretta not being pregnant. Meet Barney.
I love seeing the three of them in the pasture together, eating, grooming each other and basking in the sun. I really hope this creates the perfect romantic setting for Barney and Loretta, so that next year I can write about Patsy and Loretta’s two-year anniversary. I don’t really want to think about my first experience with culling to be Loretta, the sweetest of the bunch.
A few days ago, Anthony and I took a drive around the Walworth County barn quilt trail. He has started painting again and wanted to take photos of some of the barn quilts for inspiration. As I was going through the photos today, I thought they were too great not to share.
We saw about 25 barn quilts, which was not even half of them. But there were some we couldn’t see from the road and others just weren’t right for the paintings that Anthony is working on.
The best part of this little jaunt was when we pulled over to take photos of one of the quilts and saw the coolest herd of Scottish Highland cattle and some other type of longhorn cattle – I think they might have been Ankole-Watusi, but I’m not sure.
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.
We are officially filmmakers and are ready to torture all of you with our debut film! A little over a month ago, Anthony got to help our neighbor Kevin with some of his chores, so he could take a little vacation. Kevin had some brand new calves and I think their extreme adorable-ness might have made the chores that much easier. How can you be cranky looking at those precious faces? You cannot.
I mentioned that these are only *some of Kevin’s chores; there are many other things involved in running this farm. Anthony and Kevin’s Dad (Pop) did the feeding and watering and shook a little straw. They didn’t do anything major like manure removal, crop tending (it is winter after all), or barn cleanup. But we thought it might be fun to share some of the things that go on at a farm like this. If we are into it, we know that you guys are bound to be.
This week was filled with a lot of ugly, some good and some bad. A typical week for most of us, I’m sure. Some of this eye candy is disgusting, some of it is cute, all of it is 100% real.
Anthony and I completed a two-day beekeeping course together. I think we both feel much more confident about our introduction to keeping bees in the spring. More on that later. This is some of the equipment we put together.
The girls are still very curious about each other. We have to keep Gigi away from the heifers most of the time since she is very jealous of any attention we give to them.
Lake Geneva hosted Winterfest this past week and this weekend’s highlight was the snowcarving competition. Unfortunately it was almost 40 degrees this weekend, which doesn’t make for a long-lasting display of snow sculptures. Yesterday was the judging, today everything was melting into the ground, creating giant muddy messes. So sad that all of that intricate and hard work is gone so quickly.
I’m sure you heard about the people who parked and subsequently fell through the ice on the lake yesterday. This was the scene of the catastrophe. You should have seen the people standing around today just looking at it; I heard two different mothers teaching their children about it and why you should never park on the ice.
I am always posting photos of our beautiful farm, the gorgeous sunsets, the lovely heifers and our sweet Gigi. But the reality is it ain’t always pretty. It’s hard, it is monotonous sometimes, it’s almost always scary and there’s a lot of shit involved, figuratively AND literally. I would much rather show both sides of this coin rather than pretend it’s lovely and delicious all of the time. Enjoy. Or scroll rather quickly.
This is the main manure pile. Since the girls are in and out of the barn during the winter, we clean up their manure daily and put it in this pile. In the spring it will be spread on the fields as fertilizer. Once the weather warms up, they are out in the fields all day and night we won’t have to do this.
These girls poop a lot. A LOT. A full-grown cow will poop about 15 times per day, about 65 pounds a day. So we’ve got it easy right now because they’re only half-grown. But it’s definitely not as gross or stinky as dog poop. So it’s really not that bad. Really!
And more manure
We suited up and worked in the chicken coop again. We took a break immediately after day 1 because we had to order new filters for our respirators, they were absolutely disgusting. Hopefully only one more day of being suited up and we will be home free.