Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cows on the Run

It's been pouring rain all this past week.  I wanted to get Siobhan out of the soggy barnyard, so she and Remy went out to pasture for the first time since he was a few days old.  I'll let them tell the story in their own way . . .

. . .

. . .

"Wait a minute, Mama, do you think she let us out by accident?"

"Hmmm, I don't know, son, but if she did--"

"Run, Remy, run!"
"Don't worry, Mama, she won't catch me!"

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The "Other" Hardware Disease

A year and a half ago, I did a post about hardware disease in cattle and how to help prevent it.  Today I'm posting about the "other" hardware disease.

First, the background.  I wanted to hang a reminder on the chicken coop door to "Close Nest Boxes."  (If we don't hang doormats over the nest boxes in the evening, the chickens roost in them and our eggs end up covered in poop.  Blech!)  So I grabbed a couple of short sturdy nails and a hammer to tack up my sign on the door.

Bang! Bang! Bing!  Suddenly the nail flew right out of the wood, bounced off my chest and disappeared into thin air.  That was NOT good!  Yes, our cattle have rumen magnets, but magnets won't help them if they step on a nail, and besides, I don't really want them eating nails!  So I needed to find that nail, but a thorough scan of the grass in front of the coop ended in failure.

I headed to the hay barn to find one of our big magnets--either the flexible magnet or the big rolling one.  I came up empty-handed--and this is where the "other" hardware disease comes in.  This hardware disease affects humans!

"What is this dreaded disease?" you may well ask.

The above scene illustrates the human version of hardware disease--a chronic failure to put things in their proper place when you're done with them.  The result of this disease is that when you really need something--like a magnet to recover a nail before it injures a cow--you will experience the symptoms of this debilitating disease:  irritation, anxiety, high blood pressure, and excessive sweating as you tromp from place to place looking for the required piece of equipment.

Here is what my crisis looked like--pretty much like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  Without a magnet to find my nail, I resorted to desperate measures.  I plunked myself down on the ground, chicken poop and all, and combed my fingers through the grass, trying to find the nail.  When that failed, I raked a manure fork through the grass, hoping to see the sun glint off it as it bounced into the air.  Failure again.

So I headed to the house to ask Herb if he knew where the magnets might be.  He didn't, but he did help me search the hay barn shelves.  I've been a bit leery of those shelves ever since I found a baby copperhead on one of them, but with Herb to back me up I overcame my trepidation enough to actually move things around.

And there it was, the flexible magnet, masquerading as a bit of jumper cable.

I double-checked that the magnet would, indeed, pick up my missing nail, then I hurried to the barnyard to get it before Siobhan or Remy could eat it or step on it.  I raked the magnet repeatedly through the grass and repeatedly came up empty.  Maybe the 45 wasted minutes had been just enough time for Siobhan to step on the nail, I worried.  So I picked up her feet (good training at a young age!) to make sure she was okay.  Well, I picked up her front feet and one of her rear feet, at which point she'd had enough and wandered off.

That nail had simply disappeared into thin air. I thought back over the moment it flew out of the wood and bounced off my chest.  It was so frustrating!  It was almost as if it had fallen down inside my shirt--but I knew it hadn't because I'd already checked.  Even though I knew from checking that it hadn't gone down inside my T-shirt, the thought made me clap my hand to my chest.

Something poked my hand.  Something in the bottom of my T-shirt pocket.

This is my painting and varnishing shirt, so it's stained.  It also has a little point at the bottom of the pocket, and that's where the nail went.  Don't ask me how that nail managed to fall through the slit of the pocket opening; if I had been required to make it fly in there to save my life, I would be dead!

Instead, I laughed my way all the way back to the hay barn where I put the magnet exactly where it's supposed to go.

And I kept on laughing all the way back to the house where I informed Herb that there's one more item on our To Do list for the fall--get that hay barn whipped into shape.  I refuse to fall victim to hardware disease again!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Bye-bye, Birdie

We've had our share of impromptu visitors in the past, notably Frodo the miniature stallion and
Lucie the cow.   Today another unexpected visitor dropped in for a flying visit.

The story began Sunday when a lady we'd never met before drove up to the house to tell us she'd lost her scarlet macaw, and would we please call her if we saw it?

Today our good neighbor, friend, and lawn service provider Randy was mowing the front yard when he called to me and said, "That lady who lost her macaw?  Look, it's up there!"  Sure enough, up in the tip-top of the tallest tree at the bottom of our driveway, there was a flash of red and yellow.

I quickly called the lady and went back to keep an eye on our visitor.

Before long, the bird's owner, K., arrived with some sunflower seeds.  She was dismayed to find her bird so high up in a tree that she couldn't possibly climb.  She explained that Rose, the macaw, didn't know how to land.  She could fly up and across, but not down to a landing.
She called to Rose, and after about ten minutes, Rose launched herself into the air.
She looked like a rainbow in flight.
Looking at this photo, who could blame Rose for wanting to live free in the treetops with a mountain view like that?

Unfortunately, Rose sailed right over K's head from tree to tree, ending up in our front yard near the house.  Poor K. sank down on the ground in the shade of the tree (which was still too high to climb).  Rose peeked down at her owner and chattered to her.
Suddenly, Rose sailed down from her perch to land in K's lap.  Of all the times to pick to learn how to land, this was the one!  There were tears of joy on K's part and famished devouring of sunflower seeds on Rose's part.

Jet generously contributed his crate to make sure that Rose would make it safely home.

Tears were dried, hunger assuaged, phone numbers exchanged, and it was time to for Rose to wing her way home.

Bye-bye, birdie!  You're definitely the prettiest visitor we've ever had.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Storm Clouds and Rainbows: An Update About Holding On

This is an update on my June 15 post, The Cow, the Calf, the Crisis, the Kids and the Creator.

June and July have difficult months for me, often resembling a sunset through storm clouds.  Shortly after I wrote the June 15 post, I got the results of the milk culture back.  There was no growth reported in any of Siobhan's quarters, but she had a horrendous SCC (somatic cell count) of over 4 million in the Right Rear (Pseudomonas) quarter.  I didn't know whether to feel happy over the "no growth" or worried about the SCC; I was just confused!  I knew that an SCC could remain elevated even after the mastitis was gone, but surely not that much.  Dr. A had been out sick, so none of my questions got answered; in fact, I never have gotten to talk with him again.  I've finally concluded that he was rather like the angel God sent to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac--he saved Siobhan and disappeared offstage.

Wondering if I had tested too soon after the antibiotics, I decided to send off a test to AntelBio, a lab that tests for the DNA of mastitis-causing organisms.  That means that even if an antibiotic treatment was preventing growth in a culture, any organism present would still show up through its DNA.  Those results confused me even more!  They showed that both Right quarters had no detectable organisms, but one or both of the left ones (I had combined them in the last tube I had) had 1+ Prototheca spp., contagious algae carried in water.  On top of that, it turns out that AntelBio doesn't even test for Pseudomonas, so the negative result wasn't reassuring at all.

That meant I needed to send off one more test to TQML since they test for both Pseudomonas and Prototheca.  This time the test came back showing NO Prototheca, but with 60 CFU/ml of Pseudomonas and the SCC down to 2.7 million.  (For comparison purposes, when Siobhan originally had Staph A in February 2014, the count was 659,000 CFU/ml.  When I got a report of 60 CFU/ml of an environmental bacteria at dry-off, Susan told me that small amount was probably a contaminated sample.)  So I was left with lots of questions . . . Was this a contaminated sample? . . . Had the PA never gone? . . . Or was it back?  Susan did tell me that with Pseudomonas, it's not unusual to have a negative test followed by a positive one.

Meanwhile, another problem had appeared.  About the 12th of June I noticed that Siobhan seemed to be in pain when I was milking or Remy was nursing, although her quarters seemed normal in size and the milk was flowing well and without clumps.  In fact, for the first time in her life she was regularly lifting a foot in protest, and I resorted to using hobbles on her.  As I investigated what could be causing her pain, I discovered long sores high up in the "cleavage" where her front quarters joined her body.  The sores were hidden in her thick coat and only became obvious when I tried to shave the area.  Her reaction made it clear that this was VERY painful.

I prepared hot water with eucalyptus, lavender and tea tree oils and used it to apply hot, moist compresses to the area.  Then, a bit at a time over a period of days, I shaved and pulled away the nasty clumps of dried exudate and hair.  What was left was raw, red, oozing sores.  I realized that they were right in the area where the thick edge of the Tamm udder net had touched Siobhan, and I was sick at heart to realize that I had caused this, too.  I tried a variety of things to help soothe the area until my friend Kirby Allen suggested that it sounded like a fungal infection.

So I switched to using Colloidal Silver ointment, which seemed to ease the pain as soon as I smeared it on, followed by Lotrimin Anti-fungal spray.  Every morning I dragged Siobhan into the stanchion to eat her grain while I did her soaks and treatment.

By that time it was the end of June.  I was down to once a day milking, and Remy was pretty much handling everything on his own.  My sisters were due to arrive July 1 to celebrate my 60th birthday, so I milked Siobhan for the last time on June 28.  After agonizing over what to do and when and how, I finally came to the conclusion that I didn't know enough to do anything at that time.  Siobhan had been in the barnyard with her Pseudomonas, and keeping her there longer wasn't going to change that.

Except for the sores, Siobhan was looking healthier and actually getting a shine on her coat.  So I decided to just hold on and let her raise Remy as long as possible.  There was no rush to make a decision, and I would try to enjoy the month of July with my family, ignore the undercurrent of sorrow that lurked just below the surface, and cross the next bridge when I came to it.

By the end of July, the right-hand sore was mostly healed, with new hair growing back.  I stopped the soaks on that side, but continued to monitor it and apply Lotrimin every few days.

The left-hand sore was much better, with most of the rawness gone and no further clumps of exudate appearing.  I was thankful for small blessings like Siobhan not being in pain any more.
I continued daily treatment on the left-hand sore, and now at the end of August, most of the hair has grown back.  I continue the daily treatments, however, unwilling to take the chance of a relapse.

The final piece of news is that this past Monday, Aug. 24, I sent off milk samples to TQML for a mastitis re-test.  I got the results Thursday, and to my complete surprise, there was no growth after 72 hours.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  The SCC results are confusing (to both Susan and me), and I think I might have mixed up the two right-hand tubes.  At any rate, I'll test again in a month.

This entire saga has been like a roller coaster ride.  While I'm trying not to hope too much, I'm very thankful for this unexpected blessing, and I'll continue to leave Siobhan's future in God's hands.  Meanwhile, Remy is a funny, lively little guy and Siobhan is her usual sweet self.

What a relief that I don't have to drag her into the stanchion any more!  She comes over to the gate, waits until I open it, and walks right in.  I don't even have to shut the neck catch.  She eats her grain, I do her treatment, I give her some apple treats, and when I open the gate she backs out.  It's obvious that she wants to be out of the barnyard, and every three weeks she moos for Royal, but I think we can both hold on a little while longer.

A special "Thank you" to all of my family and friends who have prayed so faithfully for Siobhan!  Some of you like Herb, Kara and Barbara have been right beside me when it was hard to make myself go out to the barnyard.  Others of you I only know through the internet, but your caring messages have encouraged me more than you can know.  So thank you!  And please keep praying!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Helping Me Over the Hill

As I mentioned back in June, the month of July was scheduled for a big family get-together.  It ended up being a month-long celebration to help me "over the hill" for the Big 6-0.  My two sisters, Barbara and Karen, arrived July 1 to kick things off.

Of course visiting me means hanging out with my Dexters.  Barbara has met them before, but it was Karen's first time here on Zephyr Hill Farm, so she had to meet the whole crew.  Here she is petting her first cow, Ebby.
Barbara discovered that when there aren't enough barn boots to go around, cowboy boots work fine for mud, too.
We did some civilized, "girly" things, too, like antiquing--an especially appropriate activity for an old-timer like me!
The last time the three of us were together was five years ago, so this was a special time for us all.  Someone has to be the oldest and hit 60 first, so it might as well be me.  As I like to remind my sisters and my kids, "If I can't be a good example, I'll just have to serve as a horrible warning."

Sadly, the girls had to leave before my actual birthday, but others came to take their place . . .

We celebrated that night at my favorite restaurant with all of us locals: Jim, Monique, Herb, me, Katie (who came in from Houston), and Kara.

Before Katie headed back to Houston, we modeled our new Billy Bob teeth.  What can I say?  It's a family tradition!  She also took me shopping while she was here, so now I actually clean up nice.

Kara had spent weeks planning a special birthday menu that spanned much of July.  Since we love ethnic food, she cooked up an Around the World Food Tour of places we've visited and cuisines we enjoy, including German, African, Persian, Egyptian, Italian, Greek, Spanish and Mexican.

This was the twelve-course Persian meal she prepared one night with a little help from her Minions.
Jim and Monique brought the grandkids for a weekend, and they kept me young at heart.

Jenny and Jean-Marc came down from Ohio to join the local yokels, and we all got our own pair of teeth for some family photo fun.

Misty had to get in on the act, too, and the kids couldn't bear to take out their teeth, so the "serious" photo was only about as serious as it ever gets in this clan.  Fun times to remember, though!

When everyone else had to go home, Jenny and Jean-Marc stayed on.  They were able to use up some leave and get some rest before heading to their new base.

About the time Jenny and Jean-Marc left, Barbara came back with the rest of her family for another week of fun and laughter, like enjoying my youngest nephew's attempt to walk on water.  (Just kidding--see the swinging rope over his head?)

The month of July finally drew to an end and so, like all good things, did the longest-ever birthday bash.  After we waved goodbye to the last of the family, Herb turned to me and jokingly said, "Well, it's over.  You're not special any more."

I didn't believe him, though--I had an entire month full of lovely memories to remind me otherwise.