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Oversimplifying, overcomplicating

September 12, 2008

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Trying out my grave!  I can see the headlines now – Farmer drops dead in her tracks, faithful dog at side.  I don’t think anyone would miss me until dinner time – that’s really why Melvin is so close, he starts sticking like glue at about 5:00 pm.   I try to keep things simple, I just want to be buried where I can see the garden and the barns, and be out in the sun for most of the
day.

Humans puzzle me, they oversimplify complicated matters, and overcomplicate simple matters.  I can never figure out if it is fear, that motivates us to do that, or overconfidence.  My problems with Della have had me thinking about my care of her, and our cattle in general.  I come in contact with “conventional” cattle people, some I grew up with, and some I have met over the course of years.  The underlying feeling I get from them is that, they want me to fail with my natural treatments.  Just so they can say, HA told you so!!  I knew it wouldn’t work!  These same “friends” acted the same way, when they heard that my husband needed major surgery last winter – the hue and cry was “What Mr. and Mrs. Organic, SICK, see I told you it was a waste of money, blah, blah, blah…”  It’s no use to try to explain – they refuse to see anything different, and they seem generally threatened, and fearful.

We humans in the last 50 years, have skewed Mother Natures way of doing things so much so, that now diseases in livestock and humans that were anomalies, are now commonplace.  The protocol followed is what is taught at universities, and the same old bad information is written up in books.  Humans always think they are getting smarter, and more progressive as each decade passes.  For some that may be true, but so much has been forgotten and forsaken, it’s like we are starting all over again.  I wish I hadn’t said the health problems I was watching for in Della were common, they are common, but they needn’t be.  I’m striving to not be a common farmer.  I felt the same way when I had my daughter, all my friends were younger and had kids.  All the stories were the same, you need an epidural, your kid will have ear infections, and so on and so forth.

Here are some of the conversations we have had with people this summer, about cattle and farming, and our spin on the dialogue.

Every year the rental bull arrives on schedule, besides the bull guy’s usual lewd remarks about the prowess of the bull, he is always amazed by our grass.  He’s a good stockman – his bulls are gentle, and in good shape and he genuinely likes them.  But, he will not believe that our grass is good except for our elevation, rainfall, or some type of fertilizer.  It couldn’t be that every day of the grazing season, we are scrutinizing that same grass and trying to take care of it, and manage it.  He will not listen, he asks, and then he drives off and shaking his head and telling me how lucky I am.  I’m not lucky in grass, I take care of it!  If I was lucky I would have won the lottery by now!
The other thing that drives him crazy, is that we don’t vaccinate for pinkeye.  This also drives a friend of ours nutty too.  We use kelp, offered to the cattle, free choice year round.  Pink eye is caused by an iodine deficiency, iodine can be poisonous, but a natural substance that contains iodine in a non-toxic form can be used.  Another Joel Salatin tip.  It works, but it must be too simple…  Actually feeding your cattle to healthiness, what! that’s too easy.   OOOhh look at that scary stuff!  We eat it too, and you know what?  I haven’t come down with pinkeye. 😉
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Why on earth would you wrestle your cattle down and vaccinate them, when you can just let them eat something that will do a better job?  There is that overcomplication gene again.  Some of our neighbors vaccinate, some do nothing, and you know what, the pinkeye cases are the same.  So if you are still treating for pinkeye, and vaccinating, is it working?   Would it hurt to offer the kelp too?   One neighbor, who is really plagued with some bad pinkeye, tells us that he doesn’t want to start using a material that he isn’t sure he can still buy, when the world comes to an end.  I mean does he think he will be able to buy vaccine for cows with sore eyes when the END comes???

Homeopathy gets to them too.  Like cures like, whaaat, you mean like give them mastitis to cure mastitis.  Get out the straight jacket, are you a witch or something?  Well, depends on who you ask – my husband would say Yes sometimes, and actually one of my friends publishes a Wiccan periodical… so guilty as charged. 
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So how can these little sugar pills, help?  Well they do, animals aren’t encumbered with a brain like ours, thank heavens. They can’t block homeopathy like humans, so a clearer path to healing occurs.   I happen to believe that these pills have helped Della immensely with her recovery.  But, of course, if she takes a turn for the worse, I will be blamed, for not administering antibiotics, steroids, etc.  These pills did not cause her to malpresent, and even the vet couldn’t believe that a 10 year old dairy cow, could come through so well, after two difficult calf pullings.  Homeopathy is not the end all, but it can help, and it never hurts, so why wouldn’t I use it.  Della had milk fever when she was 6, our vet said at the time, she would have it every freshening.  Through diet and homeopathy we have dodged that bullet since she was six.  I still worry about it, because after all, he’s the VET, and I’m the farmer and that is the way the world works.  So is it fear?  These pills can be administered in the drinking water, or in the cow’s food.  If it works and costs next to nothing, what is the harm in being open to something like that?  And people think cattle are dumb – tonight when I went across the road to get Della, a neighbor stopped and asked me what I was doing.  I told him, Della had lost her calves, and I was going to milk.  He then asked me if she knew her calves were dead?  He was dead serious.  Of course she knows, she was there!!

The other part of Della’s ongoing mineral treatment is a calcium supplement I give her, that is called Fresh-N-Easy. 

Here again, they recommend a balling gun to administer these. That’s where Easy becomes a tad more difficult.  Would you want a pack of lifesavers shoved down your throat, when you could just eat them?  You can just feed this to the cow, it tastes OK, (you know come to think of it I haven’t got milk fever either 😉  )
So, I’m still not getting it – why make things so hard to do.  Kids can administer these types of health aids, and be safe.  I’m not saying don’t use vets, or modern medicine if it is needed, but if you can keep your animals healthy by helping them be less susceptible to disease, isn’t that a better way?

I ruffled some feathers on someone’s blog, when I mentioned bottle feeding wasn’t the ideal, and could cause problems.  It made me realize just how far we have come from what Mother Nature has intended.  Of course, calves, goats and just about any kind of animal CAN be bottle fed, but is it the best, most optimum way to go?  Do you really need that milk so bad, in a homestead type of situation that you can’t just let the baby animal get milk from it’s mother.  Why take the baby away, just because Purina says it’s OK.  Our cows wean the calves at about 8 months of age.  I do have a bucket calf right now, which couldn’t be avoided in my situation.  She did pretty well, until I had to buy milk replacer.  Which is basically formula for calves, the bag says to start feeding grain (big no no) free choice at 4 days and wean when calf is eating 2 to 3 pounds of grain per day.  These instructions are for labor saving on a large dairy, nothing else.  Cattle do better (meaning healthier) without grain.  Sure, grain increases weight gain, and milk production, but it isn’t necessary.  Lath the bucket calf, was pretty shiny on Della’s milk before, but the milk replacer has set her back some.  Now that Della doesn’t have a calf, Lath will get the extra.

I know people have been bottle feeding baby animals for a long time, but we just have to be aware of what we’re doing with un-natural practices like that, and suffer the consequences.  Or maybe, just maybe make some small changes and get back to nature a little…

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2008 1:42 am

    I just got some kelp to start feeding to my poultry and goats. I’m curious to see how they like it.

    That’s funny about the bottle feeding. I was dead set against having a dairy animal for several reasons, even though I desperately wanted raw milk. Then I was told about the option of milking ‘to the side’. What a revelation! lol

  2. Robin permalink
    September 13, 2008 5:25 am

    Cut it out! You’re making way too much sense and you’re going to confuse people!

    The “you’re lucky” comment ticks me off to no end. It’s the perfect comment to minimize your work. You’re not lucky your grass is great, you’ve worked to make it so. Did you know there are birthing centers for animals now? You take your mare there so that the foal can be pulled. No kidding. These mares have been poorly bred for so long that the resulting offspring can’t deliver naturally. But they’re EXPENSIVE horses and you can’t take your chances, right? Milk fever – diet problem. I’m amazed at how many will farmers will call the vet for a calcium drop every year rather than fix the pasture. And commercial sweet feed full of molasses and other junk – I won’t go further on that one.

    I use kelp as a soil amendment in my market garden. It’s sprinkled in the row before seeds are planted and added to holes when seedlings are transplanted. I mulch with rockweed picked up on the beach. We don’t use synthetic chemicals yet we produce a heck of a lot of food on an acre of land even in a bad year like this one.

    We (collectively) are so far removed from food and animals that we think all this crap is normal and natural. Now that I’m done I’m going off to my blog to link to your blog. Everyone should read what you’ve written.

  3. Robin permalink
    September 13, 2008 5:27 am

    ooops, that should have said ‘calcium drip” as in IV, not drop.

  4. September 13, 2008 7:04 am

    Agree, agree, agree! About the humans “over complicating”? Have you met my other half?! There have been many, many arguments about how our animals should be housed, how the gardens should be planned out. He’s very much into all the new gizmos and gadgets. I believe the simpler it is, the easier it is and if it’s easier, that’s the way to go. No fancy poles this year for the ple beans, I used a bunch of branches out of the brush pile. No fancy “water fountain” for the birds, a big bucket works well. And the cute nesting boxes we built, the unstrapped hay bale works better. Too much complication causes too many more problems and even more to take care of. Simple makes everyone, including your animals happier.

    Great post!

  5. September 13, 2008 7:12 am

    Sarah, you will probably be surprised. We like Thorvin kelp the best, we have tried other kinds, but that has the best flavor and was favored by the cattle. If they are hungry for minerals they will eat quite a bit at first and then slack off. This time of year the little calves eat the most.

    Ah yes, milking on the side, I miss having a calf help me. It really makes a difference on the health of the dairy animal, offspring, and the milker. Health doesn’t come out of a bottle or a bag, it is what you do or don’t do every day that counts.

    Robin, you are so funny – I need to come clean, I have lurked on your blog, ever since you were gunning for the bobcat!! LOL

    The horse thing, is so true, my friend who is a Wiccan, she has a vet on call for her stable, for being a pagan she sure doesn’t treat her horses like natural beings. She’s loaded and mistakes spending money for actual husbandry. Our other friends have Boston Terriers that they breed, C-section every time. I don’t understand it, I would be too worried, life, death and birth should be natural occurences. The guy worried about the pinkeye thinks that he shouldn’t feed it, because cattle wouldn’t eat kelp naturally, but he doesn’t think anything of pouring 16-16-16 on his grass in the spring, and then dealing with the grass tetany that follows. His grass still doesn’t grow too well, but he thinks it’s his location that is the cause, even though he is in a warmer microclimate than us. But, what can I expect, he “remembers” us throwing rocks at cars too! Sigh… Thanks for the link!

  6. September 13, 2008 7:25 am

    Oh no- next you’ll be telling us that bottle feeding humans might not be the best idea!

    As usual, a great post full of interesting thoughts and information. Thanks so much for writing.

  7. September 13, 2008 1:36 pm

    Good post.
    Once I was young, now I am old..still I am amazed at how complicated we humans have made our lives! Animals can survive and thrive without so much interference and coddling. They may actually do better!
    When my husband farmed he stewarded the soil well and we had a motto, “pick the best and leave the rest” as there was no way we could do it all.

  8. September 13, 2008 11:40 pm

    First, I hope that your hubby’s surgery was a success, and that whatever ailed him has ceased to do so. I bet that was a stressful time for all of you. Next, *sigh*, I’ve thought about this post all day. It’s hard to discern why some folks act the way they do. How unfortunate there are those who would delight in any setback you experience. I suspect it’s an attempt to make themselves feel better about the choices they’ve made. It reminds me of schoolyard bullies who put down others to make themselves feel important.

    I personally love your passion for pursuing a natural lifestyle and feel so lucky that you share your wealth of knowledge. Everyone’s quest is unique, not perfection. If it were, we’d never try something new or learn from others. You’ve always made me feel welcome, and have exhibited great patience with my city girl questions.

    I know that I personally in recent years have found myself drawn quite strongly to pursuing a more natural lifestyle. Perhaps it’s my age, or the health hurdles my son has faced, or maybe (hopefully :-)) it’s that I’ve finally matured enough and have had enough life experience to realize that spinning my wheels for tomorrow has caused me to miss some of “today”.

    Now as I look at my children, like my parents before me, and their parents before them, I also want my little offspring to have the best abundant life ever … but my definition is different than some and my path to achieve it is getting simpler by the day. I’m want an abundance of good health, overflowing happiness, and unconditional love for each of them. Being able to take care of themselves and their families, grow a veggie in chemical free soil, cook a homegrown meal, sew on a button or mend a tear, think with a positive and open mind, be good stewards to planet earth and animals in their care, and be surrounded by those that utterly love them would be a blessed life.

    Admitting that I don’t know how to do all those things has been humbling, but folks such as yourself have made my journey so much easier. Watching my youngest work in the garden and have her race in the house with a single, solitary carrot … still covered in dirt with the leafy tops flopping about … and show her dad the prized orange beast announcing that she grew it herself … well, that’s pretty special, and ranks right up there with learning to ride a bike (she loves to ride her bike). And just like riding the bike, once she learns gardening, she’ll always know how to do it.

    I’m glad you do what you do how you do it! Whew, what a tongue twister. I’d best stop writing now, and leave some room for other posters.

  9. September 13, 2008 11:42 pm

    Oh Gee Whiz! I had no idea the post would be that long!!! Yikes! My face is so red. Sorry. You don’t have to post it if you don’t want to.

  10. September 14, 2008 12:29 am

    Suggestions on what kind and where to get the kelp would be great. I have heard it’s good for goats and we just brought home 2 does on Saturday.

  11. September 14, 2008 7:09 am

    Cathy, thanks, that’s too bad about your hubby, what probably seems like second nature to you (being frugal, etc) probably doesn’t even occur to him. That makes it hard in a homestead/farm situation when you’re not on the same page.

    EJ, thanks, people anymore are woefully ill-prepared to deal with a natural life. Sometimes nature taking it’s course is the best way. We live in good times, we can pick and choose to blend the treatments, or techniques and have a better outcome. It’s mostly just realizing that we have a choice. With Della, I did intervene, but I needed help – since I have chosen not to be good at calf pulling. My emotions did get in the way on that one, but I’m glad they did. I don’t want all my life to be just business or just pleasure.

    Jan, good motto, and it is so true, animals do just fine by themselves, but put a human in the mix and oh boy, look out. When that fella asked me if my cow knew her calves where dead, I could not believe it. It made me think that if someone took my child at birth, I would not be able to identify that child years later. But, an animal would be able to tell. I know they can’t read or write but I’m jealous of their instincts.

    Paula, no need for a red face, that is a great comment as all of yours are. I never mind the questions. I’m so fed up with local politics that I don’t volunteer like I used to. Consider this blog my “Raffle Quilt” for the year, or however long I can spout off 😉

    Thanks for the concern about my hubby, he is not better, and I haven’t decided whether or not to post about it. Learning from my cows has helped me see his illness in a different light and that will be hard to write about in an understandable way. Uh oh, there I go complicating things.

    Probably your son’s health has spurred you on. My brother’s cancer caused me to rethink the world as I knew it. We were organic farmers by default at that time, not really trying to make a system out of farming. But, there is a whole other way of living, which again is a blend of methods. I never understand the resistance to a natural way. Just freezing our broccoli yesterday, and looking for steamed worms, makes me think when I see one, “Gee sorry about that little fella, got yourself in hot water, huh?” At least the bug is in there, if he isn’t would it be safe for me to eat? We have a lot of birds around the garden and they eat a lot of those little critters.

    Your kids will take what you teach them and build on that, and their kids will continue the teaching. You are making a difference, it’s too exhausting to protest, and get on soap boxes all the time, we have to be the change, and show others that it’s OK to do something “different.”

    As for the school yard bullies, they never do grow up. My husband works with several, and they are approaching 60! We call it the “the crab pulling you back in the bucket syndrome.” I always wonder why these people care, and why don’t they expend that energy doing something positive for themselves. I have a family member (by marriage) that continually shorts out my electric fence. He has cattle of his own. If he would spend as much time on his own fencing as he does on mine, he would have a pretty spectacular fence! But, a sociopathic nature is just that, it does not make sense. So, we just deal with it, and pity him.

    Thanks for your kind comments always, and I could just picture that carrot being brought to the house. You are raising some good future gardeners!

    Liz, the best kelp we have used is THORVIN KELP, harvested in Iceland. The easiest place to get it is at http://www.azurestandard.com Azure is a health food coop, but they sell organic livestock feed also. It comes in a 55# bag, and it is a stable mineral, providing that you keep it dry, it should keep at least two years. It is good for all livestock, including horses, and is a great garden supplement.
    You might want to split a bag with someone, since 55 pounds is a lot.

  12. September 14, 2008 8:53 am

    Icelandic kelp with the Pacific Ocean so close by? Has no west coaster realized this business opportunity? Or is it better somehow than local kelp?

  13. September 14, 2008 9:02 am

    EJ, west coast kelp is pretty contaminated. Even though we aren’t certified organic any longer, we still use certified products that have been tested for contaminants. The local kelp is available, but it isn’t that much cheaper, and I wouldn’t put it on my soil, let alone use it as a feed supplement.

    Thorvin is geothermally dried also, and it actually tastes good, some of the others we have tried, not so good. We let the cows decide, by offering free choice we can see what they eat. They can’t read brochures or listen to the sales pitch, they use smell and taste to determine food quality.

  14. September 14, 2008 7:45 pm

    Sorry if the ironic in my comment oh no …. bottle feeding humans didn’t come through!
    I love your blog and find your way of doing things inspiring!

  15. September 14, 2008 8:30 pm

    EJ – it came through, I had mentioned that very thing in the comment I left about feeding baby animals on another blog. It didn’t go over real well – I decided I should maybe only write about what I really think on my blog and play nice on my commenting at other people’s sites. My mother was not a breast feeder and I was raised on formula – a good customer of ours said she feels like a 3rd generation Pottenger cat, and I feel the same, by the time I came along, my Mom was done with raising kids – so Lactum it was for me!

  16. September 14, 2008 8:50 pm

    Thanks for the link for the kelp supplier. I’ll check it out and see if any friends are interested in some. We have horses and now goats, and plan on getting a couple of beef cattle at some point (may be next year) so maybe I can put 55 pounds to use in a reasonable time frame without sharing. We’ll see.

  17. September 16, 2008 6:19 pm

    it’s a puzzle. a friend of mine went to the effort to feed her baby all organic good food from the farmers market – yet doesn’t eat it herself. She can afford it, can’t defend her behavior, acknowledges that she isn’t making sense. I keep trying to point out that its easier to fix a single meal for baby and parents than two separate meals, she agrees – but – Now baby is getting old enough to refuse to eat anything that mom isn’t eating, sigh.

    People are very strange. At least baby got a head start, but junk is her future.

  18. September 27, 2008 6:10 pm

    You know, homeopathy saved my dear rooster, Pavarotti from certain death. We live 458 kms away from the nearest veterinarian, so when he came down with something that made: his comb turn blue, his eyes water and sag, his tail to droop, and for him to barely be able to breathe I thought he would die on us for sure. I was lucky that a friend came to town several days into this drama with her travel pack of homeopathic remedies. The very next day, he looked slightly better and I began to have some hope. We put garlic in his water and continued with the homeopathic remedies until one day, he stood up and asked to re-join his girls.

    I don’t know how long a chicken will live, but he’ll get to live out his days on the farm. He’s my boy. It would have been devastating to lose him.

  19. September 27, 2008 6:10 pm

    PS. the icon for howlingduckranch is Pavarotti!

  20. April 4, 2015 7:15 am

    Just wanted to stop in to say after all these years, this is still being read. I’m doing a little blog work today and came upon the link. I’m sharing it on Facebook and Twitter because I think this is just as important, maybe even more so, than it was when you wrote it nearly seven years ago. Sadly, I don’t think the general population has gotten any smarter about nature vs pushing the limits unnaturally.

    • April 4, 2015 10:51 am

      Robin, time sure flies doesn’t it. Thanks for stopping by! NO, sadly things haven’t changed much at all.

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