Browsing Tag

farm life

Farm Life

Dolly

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.


Farm Life

Calving Season

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.

Farm Life

Bumping cows

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.

baling twine, image

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.

Farm Life

What happened to the bees?

About a week and a half ago, Anthony went out to check on our bees to see if they needed more food, and to clear out any dead bees on or in the bottom of the hives. He made some fondant sheets to put on the inside top of the boxes, just in case they had gone through all of their honey stores.

We had a spell of a few warm days between 40-50 degrees, which made it the perfect time to go in and check on them. Generally speaking, it’s not good to open the hive bodies when it is colder than 45 degrees because it puts the bees at risk of getting chilled. They work hard at keeping the inside of the hives a warm temperature throughout the winter, and we don’t ever want to disturb that. When there are unusually warm days in the winter, you will (hopefully) see your bees flying in and out of the hives, making cleansing flights. Bees don’t like to poop inside the hives, so they basically hold it until there is a warm day and then they fly out to “cleanse” themselves.

Anthony didn’t see one single bee flying around, so he began to suspect that something was wrong. (I was working in Las Vegas for a week while all of this went down, so Anthony had to handle it on his own) When he opened up the hives, he realized that all of our bees were dead. He called our mentor, Rick, who told Anthony that he would be able to stop by and see what might have happened. In the meantime, he began to clean out all of the hives.

When he looked at the bees, they didn’t seem to have anything obviously wrong with them – they didn’t have deformed wings or bodies, the hives didn’t smell weird and there was PLENTY of honey for them to eat. So we took this to mean that they didn’t have any diseases. When Rick stopped by later and took a look, he told Anthony that he didn’t see any evidence of a Varroa mite issue. Varroa mites are one of the biggest reasons why hives don’t survive in our area.  We found the queen dead amongst all of the bees in one of the hives, so we know that they didn’t die because they were queen-less.

There was about 20 pounds of honey left between the two hives. Many of the bees had stuck their heads deep into the cells, which based on what we’ve learned and read so far, can mean that they were cold and didn’t want to break out of their cluster. In the winter, the bees form a cluster to create a big ball of warmth inside the hive. It’s actually more complicated than that, but you get the gist of what I’m saying. Rick seems to think this is probably what happened. And since they didn’t break the cluster to go up to the upper hive body where the food was, they most likely died of starvation. Here’s a video of Anthony going through the hives and cleaning them up.

So what is the answer for next year? That’s an excellent question that we still don’t know the answer to. We had some seriously cold and windy days in January, with the wind coming from the south. We have open fields across the street from us and no windbreaks, so this could have sent some very cold air toward the hives. We built a northern wind break, but we don’t want to block the southern sun from hitting the hives with a southern wind break.  If we do build one, it can’t be more than 2 feet tall. We had ventilation on both the top and bottom of the hives, but maybe it wasn’t enough. Without enough top ventilation, condensation can build up and drip ice-cold water onto the bees, thus making them too cold. Our plan right now is to read more, ask more questions, make some more windbreaks and maybe add a bit more ventilation.

We’ve ordered our new bees and more beehives; this year we are growing our apiary from 2 hives to 4. The new bees should arrive sometime around the end of April, beginning of May. We are upset and very heartbroken that we didn’t successfully overwinter our bees this year. Hopefully with a few changes next year we won’t go through this again. But that’s the thing with bees, or working with any living creature, I guess. You just can’t predict what’s going to happen. All we can do is educate ourselves and make sure we are taking care of them as best we can.

Farm Life

Flower Farm

As I briefly mentioned in our last blog post, I’ve started working on a little flower farm on the property. I’m approaching this endeavor cautiously, mostly because that’s how my husband is most comfortable and I really do need him to rein me in sometimes. Don’t tell him that I admitted that out loud, though.
trusty assistant

Starting small, I decided on an area that is 46 feet x 48 feet. It is a perfect spot in between two hose bibs and slants a bit, so water shouldn’t pool if we get torrential downpours. There will be 7 – 4 feet wide beds, with 18″ in between for walking and overgrowth. It’s only missing a south-facing windbreak and we’re still undecided as to whether we will plant bushes or put up a manmade barrier. I’m voting for bushes, because I’d like to cut from those as well for bouquets. Once we figured out the best area on the property for growing flowers, we measured three times and roped it off. Gigi was great at guarding the rope.

flower farm beginning layout

We then removed the rope and spray painted the perimeter, just to be EXTRA sure that this is what we wanted it to look like. After asking many different people and doing a ton of research, we opted to kill the grass in that area and then tilled it up a bit to remove the dead sod.

killed grass

While it looks like Anthony is working extremely hard and I’m just standing on the sidelines taking pictures, he actually only let me use the tiller for one row. He loved doing it and hogged it the whole time. But I knew there was a lot more backbreaking work ahead, so I let him have his fun with that part.

rototilling the grass

We only tilled it once, and also tilled a smaller area a few steps away where I ended up planting peony bushes. More on those later. I’m not really a big fan of a lot of tilling – it breaks up all of the fabulous organic matter in the soil and also pulls up dormant weed seeds. And I definitely don’t need any extra weeds in my life.

digging for the bulbs

The first tough part was removing all of the clumps of sod. I only removed it on two of the rows where I planted spring bulbs, because I don’t need to worry about doing that now. I can work on that in the spring. I knew that I needed to plant a TON of bulbs and didn’t want to overdo it and give up or – even more likely – temporary paralyze myself from digging and raking for 5 days straight.

Look at all of that sod. I covered it with a tarp for a few weeks after we dug it up in hopes of it all dying and somehow magically disappearing. No, it didn’t work, but hey – it was worth trying! It looked great when you drove by our house for those few weeks in November – a giant tarp and paint sticks poking out everywhere next to big, unkempt piles of dirt. My poor neighbors.

digging the trenches

I then dug trenches to plant all of the bulbs I ordered. All 2100 of them. Which, for a flower farmer, is not that many. But the previous fall I planted 80 around my house and thought I was a boss. Ha!

bulbs ordered

These are some of the lovely Tulip and Daffodil bulbs I purchased from various companies. I wanted to test a few different places out – to see what kind of quality their bulbs were, how quickly they shipped, customer service issues if any, etc.

more bulbs

I read Floret Farm’s blog voraciously and followed her bulb planting instructions to a T. If you don’t know about Erin and her SICK flower farm, you must check it out. Immediately. I’ve learned half of what I know about flower farming from her blog and speaking engagements.

tulips

I dug this wide trench, put all of the bulbs down until they were almost touching each other and filled it up about halfway with water. Then I put soil back on top and topped that off with compost.

putting the bulbs in

I dug separate rows for the Daffodils, the Allium and the Muscari.

bulbs in the trenchesI used my old paint sticks to identify which variety I planted in each row. So, it ain’t pretty, but it will do for now.

Now we wait. Actually, now I try to learn EVERYTHING ELSE I can about flower farming. I have just begun to choose which seeds I’m going to start in my basement in the next couple of months. I need to figure out how much drip tape I need, oh yeah, and how drip tape and irrigation works. And how many seeds I need. And how to correctly do soil blocking. And how much landscape fabric I need. And 127 other things, but I’m taking it one step at a time. If all goes well, this is what we will see poking up out of the ground in early spring:

Wish us luck. And get ready to buy some damn flowers.

Farm Life

A look forward

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.

Flower Farm

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.

Calves

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.

More Bees

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.

More visitors

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.

 

Farm Life

1 Year Heifer Anniversary

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.

Glenn and Anthony

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.

First day with the girls

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.

Paty's first night

Patsy’s first two minutes in the barn

We had to stop using this feeder because Patsy would get stuck inside it

We had to stop using this feeder because Patsy would get stuck inside of it

Once again, Patsy inside a feeder

Once again, Patsy inside a feeder

Getting Patsy out of the 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.

Loretta's messy head

Loretta in the field

Loretta up close

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.

Together Patsy and Loretta

Patsy and Loretta

Patsy and Loretta

 

Patsy and Loretta into the sunset

together at the mineral bar

They even lick the mineral block together

Eating together at the neighbor's

Eating together at the neighbor’s

patsy and Loretta together in the barn

These are Patsy’s hoof prints in the sunflower garden.

hoofprints in the 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 jealousy

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.

cow selfie

Anthony Patsy and Loretta

me and Patsy

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.

Anthony shoveling

We watched them meet the neighbors and have many meetings at the fence line.

Meeting the neighbors

Good talk

We learned that cows clean out their nostrils with their tongues. So attractive.

tongue in the nose

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.

Barney in the field

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.

Patsy and Loretta signs

The three lucky break cows

Farm Life

Sunflowers

Last year I had an idea of where I wanted to plant some sunflowers but I wasn’t able to make it happen in time. This year I resolved to get it done.

anthony lucky break acres

I had been eyeing a spot right next to what we call Anthony’s barn – it’s the big barn closest to our house where he parks his truck. We had some guys out to rototill a few big spots on the property and each spot was unable to be tilled. They were all full of rocks and/or old dumped concrete. So we decided to remove the grass and fill this spot with some beautiful new soil.

grass removed lucky break

These guys brought it out to us and we leveled it out.

compost management

compost management dirt

new soil lucky break

Once that was all situated I went online and ordered up my sunflower seeds.  I wanted to try a few different cultivars – long, short, amber and bright yellow. I got everything planted on June 1.

Here’s what it looked like when the seeds first started to germinate.

lucky break germinate

Here’s what it looked like when Patsy escaped and trampled through it. Don’t worry, only one little seedling was damaged in that near tragic sunflower accident.

patsy seedlings lucky break

Then they really started to grow like crazy. It reminded me of Jack and the Beanstalk. This was June 19.

June 19 lucky break acres

This was 5 days later.

sunflowers

2 weeks after that.

lucky break acres sunflowers mid season

And then it all started happening.

sunflower opening

sunflower blooming lucky break acres

sunflower love lucky break

amber sunflowers

sunflowers blooming

sunflowers lucky break

bee sunflower

One of the best parts was watching the bees give the flowers some love. But once the flowers died, they looked so sad. Pathetic, actually. And only half of them died at first, which reminded me why I need to revisit succession planting next year.

dead sunflowers

Look how tall the back ones got!

tall sunflowers lucky break

tall sunflowers

Then the aphids took over. I traveled 3 weeks out of 4 in July, so I wasn’t there when they first started appearing. By the time I figured out what was happening, it was too late. They ruined what was left of the sunflowers, and I wasn’t able to harvest any of the seeds. I did rescue a few vases full last week, and that’s going to be it for the season.

aphid sunflowers

Bastards

Bastards

This is the first time I have grown something in the ground from seed. And I loved it, but I definitely need more. Next week we are planning on removing the grass from lots of areas on our property to prepare for next year’s flower season. Which includes many many more of these beautiful and cheery flowers.

sunflowers

Farm Life

Honey Harvest

Last Tuesday, Anthony and I decided it was time to take the honey supers off of our hives. Where we live, the second week of August is the time when most beekeepers are harvesting their honey.

We weren’t expecting much in the way of honey this year. Many times first year bees only make enough honey to sustain them through the winter. One of our hives produced a nice amount of honey – we got about 3 supers full from them and a full super usually provides about 20 pounds of honey.

Do you remember this diagram of a hive?

langstrothHiveIllus

The honey super is the box that you put on top of the deeps. We have two deeps for each hive – usually their brood (eggs) is in the bottom box and their honey is in the top box.

Our second hive didn’t really produce much of anything. I noticed a few weeks before we pulled the supers off that it seemed like that hive had a much smaller population and was not producing. Our mentor Rick told us that it looked like it had requeened itself. This means the bees got rid of the existing queen and replaced her with a new one, and that usually happens because she is not doing her job well enough. So because of that, they didn’t have a queen that was laying enough or for a long enough time to match the hive next to it that had been going strong all season. Rick seems to think that the requeened hive will do really well next year. Queens do their best in their first few years of life.

This is a queen cell, a new queen will emerge from this (image from hudsonvillehoney.com)

So, back to the harvest. To remove the supers, we applied a fume board – basically a lid that has a super stinky smell coming off of it (think STRONG blue cheese). When that board is on, for just about 30 seconds, it drives the bees further down into the hive, removing them completely from the super. Anthony and Rick did that for each one until all of the bees were out of all of the supers. Once we loaded the supers up in Rick’s truck, he took them to his honey house to dry them out overnight. His honey house is about 90 degrees and has a dehumidifier in it to ensure the honey is dry enough. Honey needs to have a water content of about 18% to be jarred. A good indicator that the honey is ready and has the proper water content is when the bees cap the honeycomb. When they cap it off, it prevents moisture from being absorbed. A refractometer can tell you exactly what the moisture content is.

anthony and capped honey

The white on this frame is wax – this shows what it looks like capped

Once we were back at the honey house, we started by uncapping the wax on all of the frames. This is a somewhat delicate and labor intensive process. We will be using these frames again next year, and since the comb is already built out, the bees will be able to concentrate on filling the comb, instead of starting from scratch and building up comb. So we want to keep the comb intact and untouched as much as possible.

cutting the caps

First, we sliced the cappings off with a knife. We saved all of the cappings to try making something with the beeswax

capping comb

This capping comb takes off the smaller bits and pieces of wax. Look at all of that delicious honey!

Rick generously offered to help us and also let us use his extractor. Extractors are pretty pricy – around $1300 and up. Before we dove in to that purchase, we wanted to have some experience under our belt.

Once the frames are all uncapped, they are placed in the extractor and the honey is spun out. Here’s a video of the entire experience.

We filled a 5 gallon bucket with honey. And got lots of wax to experiment with.

honey bucket

My favorite part of the whole harvest process was when Rick told Anthony to take a piece of the wax and try it. He told him to chew it like gum and taste the honey. Anthony tried it and was shocked. He actually said “WOW, I think I’m going to like honey now!” He even made me give him a blind taste test when we got home with some honey that we had in our cupboard and of course declared ours superior.

Beeswax

Beeswax

honey harvest lucky break acres

This was such a GREAT experience. We are so fortunate that our bees survived and are healthy and gave us such an incredible gift. We also can’t thank Rick enough for all of his help. Anthony and I still have so much to learn, but now that we’ve got half of a season under our belts, we are ready for more!

Farm Life

Patsy & Loretta

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.

Patsy and Loretta

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

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

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.

Patsy

Loretta

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.

Conneally Courage, the bull we chose for our girls

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 & Loretta at Dexter's

Patsy giving us the cold shoulder

Waiting for the vet

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.

Pregnant Patsy 2

Pregnant

Loretta not pregnant

Not 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

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.

Anthony and the girls

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.

Me and Patsy

Our girls