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Rodeo at the Barn

Apr
19

In other words, I’m milking Moon Pie.

First, I have to separate baby Gingersnap from mommy.
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Baby Gingersnap doesn’t like this part.
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Moon Pie thinks she has a babysitter, so she goes out shopping.
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And everything is fine for a while, until she realizes THE DINGO STOLE HER BABY and she has to stand in front of the barn and moo and bawl until morning.
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Then baby Gingersnap has to move to a temporary confinement so mommy can come into the alleyway on her way to the milking parlor.
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This is Moon Pie’s first calf, so she hasn’t been milked before. I hadn’t been planning to milk Moon Pie, but neither one of the “real” milk cows has calved yet, so Moon Pie has to step up to the plate. If I’d been planning to milk her, I would have started training her before she even calved.
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It takes me a while to convince Moon Pie to walk into the milking parlor. I’ve just started training her this week, so it’s still new to her. She doesn’t want to walk through the doorway into the milking parlor. I walk around and around her. I put on a lead on her. I push her and shove her and pat her on the bottom and beg a little bit. Then I yell head ’em up, move ’em up, hyah! and she finally walks in there and eats a bit of food I left for her inside the parlor, just far enough in that I can get in behind her and shut the door. I whip the food away from her and talk her into going into the stand and slam down her headlock.
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I’m only milking three quarters, to leave some milk for the calf. Moon Pie bucks and bounces around. She doesn’t really want to be there.
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Before I release her, I let the calf go. The calf gets all confused and wanders off to the barnyard looking for mommy. (Walking right past the open milking parlor door where mommy is!)
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Gingersnap: “Did mommy go into the chicken house? Why?”

Meanwhile, I release Moon Pie and she goes back to the last place she saw Gingersnap to look for her, and gets all confused when she can’t find her.
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Valentina and Aranel discuss how glad they are that they’re not cows. (Aranel is looking like a wide spot in the road, isn’t she? She’s due in May.)
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I finally get Moon Pie to see her calf.
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Yay!
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The world is right again.
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Then I milk Valentina.
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That’s Cherry hiding up under the food tray in the stand.

And that’s the morning rodeo in the barn! I’m only milking Moon Pie once a day. I’ll separate her and the calf again in the evening so I can milk again in the morning. I’ll keep this up until Glory Bee calves, then I probably won’t keep milking Moon Pie.
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I’m pretty sure that’ll make the two of them real happy!

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She Picked A Cold Morning

Apr
11

It snowed all day here on Saturday. April! Really??? Then Moon Pie sneaked off to the back of the upper pasture on Sunday morning to make something.
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Things are happening according to plan, except for the part where she had her baby in a back field. It’s April, time for calves, so I was trying to keep the cows close. Only they really liked the way the grass was looking in the upper pastures. A week ago, Moon Pie leaped over the fence. Yes, really. She didn’t even push it down, she just jumped over it. UPHILL. If you think a cow can’t jump over a fence uphill, I’m here to tell you different, and they can even do it when they’re nine months pregnant. I was worried about Moon Pie hurting herself in her effort to get at the greener grass on the other side of the fence, so we just went ahead and opened the gate to let them have at it for a few days. Which, of course, is when Moon Pie chose to go hide in the back of the field and pop out a baby.

She went missing Sunday morning and we went to find her–and she had her new little friend with her.
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Bradley the Dexter bull arrived here around the end of June last year. We observed the order of his attentions. First it was Moon Pie. Then Dumplin became his best friend. Then Glory Bee. He sorted them out and took them on private dates. After he finished, then they all hung out together like one big happy family. So I expected Moon Pie to deliver first, then the rest about a week apart. This means Dumplin should be having a calf by next weekend, and Glory Bee by the next weekend after that.

Moon Pie is half beef mutt and half Jersey/Brown Swiss. Her udder didn’t start filling ahead of time–we’d been watching her and checking her out. She’s a first-time mommy, and sometimes they’re like that. No sign, then boom. She had put on a nice udder already yesterday morning, and the baby is sucking nicely and seems healthy.
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Baby is a lil heifer! I don’t expect to be keeping her longterm–we already have plenty of girls here–but since it is a girl, she’ll likely stick around for a year or two and be bred before she’s sold. I’ll watch her as she grows, but I’m thinking she may be good to sell as a milker. She’s got a lot of milking blood in her. Dexters are a dual-purpose breed, used for dairy and beef both. She’s half Dexter, one quarter Jersey/Brown Swiss, and one quarter beef mutt. That’s three quarters of pretty nice dairy genes. We’ll see how she turns out. Since she’ll be staying for awhile, I’ll name her at some point, but I haven’t decided yet.

Meanwhile, Moon Pie and Baby are back up around the barn, along with Dumplin and Glory Bee. We’ve got the bull separated off with Blossom and the new Hereford to keep him company. I’m waiting for the next calf!

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....



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