Well, the big news is Jane had her calf…actually she had two, two weeks early. And the other sobering news is that I twisted my knee about two days after Jane’s difficult calving and this is the first day I can sit at the computer with my knee bent. Ugh. So while I had good intentions about blogging and such, it just wasn’t going to happen. I haven’t been able to move my cows, milk, or do much of anything. Stairs everywhere I look, and let me tell you it’s a long way to the garden and greenhouse on crutches. But each day is getting better, Hangdog and Ruthless know the drill, and I have been able to at least feed them, so while they are filling in for me besides all their regular chores at least they don’t have to worry about cooking too.
Jane was due October 20th, and I had semi been getting ready. Milk fever boluses ordered, vet called, stocked up on molasses, and fresh cow homeopathics, stalls cleaned and freshly bedded, and buckets and bottles at the ready.
I was also transitioning Jane back onto her rolled barley ration too, and reestablishing chore time. Vacay was about to be over for both of us. No more languishing in the pasture for Jane, or hitting the snooze for me. Routine is everything to cattle, and by bringing Jane in at night and feeding her, I could give her a good look-over and check her for signs of calving. Observation is everything in farming, subtle clues are so important. On Tuesday, October 6th I noticed Jane’s udder was quite a bit fuller since I had last laid eyes on her that morning, and her pins had dropped considerably. What the heck? October 20th was still two weeks away. I know that a cow can calve two weeks or so either side of her due date, and usually a cow is pretty consistent, early, late or on time. Jane had been on time with a heifer, and late with two bull calves. Could it be? Early? Heifer? Happy heifer dance. I thought birth was pretty imminent so I got up every two hours that night to check on Jane. Nothing but interrupted sleep for both of us.
Still nothing the next morning so we went about our chores as usual, and when I came back to the barn from moving the beef cows, I saw Jane lying down in this position with a hint of a water bag showing. Finally! We started the vigil, Jane taking no notice as she was in active labor.
She pushed a bit, and then the water bag came out, and kept coming. Ruthless and I exchanged worried glances, and she asked me, “Is that normal?” I shook my head No. “Not really, too big, and odd-shaped.” I’ve seen quite a few births, but have missed more because the beef cows usually have some privacy when they calve, so I was hoping to myself I was wrong and needlessly worried. The beef cows rarely have problems, so we don’t pester them like we do the house cow. I’m not saying we ignore them, we know who is going to calve and when pretty much, we look for the same signs as we do on the milk cow, but I don’t worry as much, there is so much less to go wrong without all that pesky milk production breeding.
What I saw that doesn’t really show in the photo were a few cotyledons, the places where the bovine placenta attaches. You usually don’t see that until after the calf is born. Crap. I immediately went to the house and called the vet. He was a little nonplussed because we had just spoke the day before when I called to see what days he would be on vacation or available towards the end of the month. I explained the placenta with no first bag of waters and he quickly said, “I’ll be there ASAP.” Of course, ASAP means 30 minutes at least if he leadfoots it here, he lives that far away and then there is traffic even on the back way.
Once Jane stood the water bag started to leak and she started looking for her calf, all perfectly normal in the course of a calf being born. But there was no calf. When the vet pulled in we breathed a big sigh of relief. I was pretty heartsick knowing that the calf that went with that big bag of amniotic fluid was most likely dead. I always start out hoping for a heifer when Jane is bred, then as the months go by, I start hoping for a good outcome for mom and baby – a healthy calf of either sex and robust mama cow. And then this happens and I get to the point where I am just worried about Jane remaining upright and alive. Since Dickie had been born, things hadn’t been quite right with Jane, she was oddly lopsided, normally a cow carries her full rumen on the left side, and when the calf starts to grow in the last trimester you see the calf on the right side. Jane has every thing on the right, and it makes her list as she walks. Needless to say, it had worried me but she seemed fine, so I hadn’t really done anything other than mention it to the vet, who without looking didn’t really offer any advice. It was equal parts worrisome and not worrisome.
The vet arrived in 30 minutes which seemed like days and seconds all at the same time. Stress is such a time warper. He gathered his calf jack, ob chains, gloves etc. and got to work. First exam revealed a calf in proper position but not moving away from the vet’s touch. Dead. Which explained the huge amount of amniotic fluid and cotyledons presenting before the calf. He secured the ob chains and the calf jack and proceeded to pull the calf. He appeared to be dead, and no amount of reviving did any good. While Jane tended to her dead calf, we talked again about her lopsidedness, and the vet speculated about a ruptured tendon as the cause. He wanted to examine Jane further just to make sure she wasn’t carrying another calf, and sure enough his hunch was right, and the good news was that this calf had its own intact placenta. The bad news, he was presented back feet first. Not good. Another pull. So I steadied Jane while he attached the ob chains to the second calf and positioned the calf jack. I let go of Jane while he pulled lest she fell and injured one of us. I was off to the side when the calf came out, and I thought I saw a slight movement like he blinked his eye. But I am sure you have experienced that moment when you wish for something, you almost think you see it.
I did see movement, he was trying to breathe but his lungs were filled with amniotic fluid, taken in at that critical time when the umbilical breaks and the baby starts to breath. He pulled the sac away and got the calf moving and wiped as much fluid from his nostrils as he could. The vet advised leaving him hang a minute upside down a while to drain more fluid while he regrouped to tend Jane further and to get the calf going.
To be continued…
Seems like all I can muster anymore in the way of blog posts are garden posts, which I know drives cow people crazy just like when I post about cows for posts on end, it drives the garden people crazy. Sorry folks, I do both each day, I’m beginning to wonder how I ever posted on the blog as often as I did. So sorry cow folks, this is a pic heavy garden tour post.
By this time of year you realize that you really just borrowed the garden spot for a few months. Mother Nature is taking over and preparing for winter. Today I’m working on dismantling the drip irrigation and getting ready for a final spot tillage for more cover cropping. Now it’s full on harvest mode with a tiny bit of planting. After we got a decent rain, the weeds are back with a vengeance and doing the natural cover crop thing. Some I will leave, and in large blocks where I can drive the tractor without damaging an adjacent crop I will till and plant a cover crop of my choosing.
It’s easiest to just start at one corner and walk through taking snaps. I am the very east edge of the Staple Garden. I basically have twenty rows/beds to play with here. I have already installed the eight inch high hot wire for my carrot eating dogs. Much easier to maintain than my plastic deer fence cover of past years. You can see the weedy headlands…
From left I have a double row of late mixed variety carrots and beets, double row of Chantenay carrots, double row of Chantenay carrots, double row of Turga parsnips, double row of Winterkeeper beets, and barely visible adjacent to the corn, there is a single row of celeriac.
If I look to the left, the reason for all those carrots and parsnips is clearly visible. Ms. Jane Butterfield keeping an eye on things.
If you follow me on Instagram you know last weekend I had to cut the flint corn and get it away from the Steller’s jays that were really wreaking havoc in the rows. A few weeks back I underseeded some cover crop between the corn rows and it is just visible now. The sweet corn remains as we harvest the smaller cobs still ripening.
These are the potato rows, all dug and just about sorted and weighed. So far, the Purple Viking yielded 232 pounds from 20 pounds planted. The potatoes were dryland, by the time I decided the more tender crops needed irrigation the potatoes were well on their way. Tomorrow I will sort the Desiree potatoes and compare yields. To the right was my dry bean row which I harvested before the rain on Labor Day weekend. This entire block of four rows will be tilled and planted to cover crop.
Next is the pollinator row, rutabaga row and the squash patch which was two rows with a vacant row in between. It’s a jungle of summer squash, butternut, musque, sweet meat, naked seed pumpkin and jack-o-lanterns.
This greenhouse garden is petering out. The melons, cukes and squash are done. The tomatoes are just about finished, with the only thing left being irrigated and harvested in here are the peppers and strawberries.
Right next door to the big greenhouses are the little chicken greenhouses. This year I planted the vacant chickhouse to greens, this greenhouse receives the most light of all during the dark days, so we’ll see what this experiment yields. Usually I just cover crop it, and call it good. Rest is rest though between species. Might as well have a few more salads this year.
Next is the greenhouse we usually start growing in. I have a small basil patch in here in addition to a sudan cover crop. This cover crop is really showing me where I have too much fertility and not enough. Some of cover crop is yellow and short and other patches are beautiful and lush. This greenhouse has symphylans too, so we’ll see if the sudan has any allelopathic effects on them.
Greenhouses are wonderful things on a farm, here are the dry beans drying in a corner. Usually I stick the winter squash in here for a bit too unless the weather is really wet. In the northwest, a roof is a roof.
Poor old main garden this year, only got about half planted. We just filled in here and there with small little successions of summer squash, cucumbers, lettuce, peas and beans. It needs some cover crop before winter in all the open rows.
This past year has been one for the record books weather-wise here in the Pacific Northwest. A game changer on many fronts. Not so much in a bad way, I think a better description would be …uh, challenging. New things here on a larger scale have been drip irrigation in one of the outside gardens in addition to the greenhouse. A win-win on all fronts. I’m pretty serious about growing our food, not just the meat aspect but the potatoes too. With a warmer summer, we can expect wins and losses that are different that what we normally experience. I’ve seen a gap in pollination in some cucurbits due to 100°F days but we’ve been enjoying melons much earlier due to those same 100°F days. In western Oregon we always experience a Mediterranean-like summer, we are used to three months of dry weather with no rain, but as I look around at the trees, I see it’s not the summer dry that is hurting us its the winter and then spring prolonged dry spells that are making the difference. The big fir trees are wilting, not noticeable to the eye, but each day as a I drive to the cows, I have to drive through these trees, limbs that barely brushed the cab two weeks ago are now wiping across the windshield midpoint. That’s at least six inches, that’s noticeable. They’ll be fine, but it’s telling, we are in a moderate drought. (Changed to severe drought as of August, 13, 2015.)
A life saver this season has been transplants. Most folks think of starting seeds in the early spring and planting their gardens and then they’re done. But transplanting more crops this year instead of direct seeding has made a true difference in what will be our fall, winter and into spring food supply.
Successful transplants come from having a system whether it be flats and corresponding inserts that fit those flats, to soil blocking and everything in between. I have no experience with soil blocking, so I’ll write about what I know, production type flats and inserts. I like them, mostly because of the uniformity. That’s important to me. I have X amount of space to start my plants, uniform size flats allow me to plan better for our food needs. Where you can get creative with flats and inserts is the cell size in the inserts. I use 200, and 48 cell packs the most. I also have 128 and 72 and I don’t seem to use those as much if at all. I must say too that if you’re worried about having extra plastic lying around, I’ve had some of those cell inserts for 20 years. Of course, I store them in the dark when not in use, and I handle them carefully. I want them to last.
There are challenges to seed starting whether it be in the spring or in the summer. Sort of the same, but not really. In the spring you are hoping for light and warmth, and in the summer you are hiding from those things. I learned a long time ago, to start my first starts in the unheated greenhouse without lights. I tried lights, but what happened was I had plants ready too early to be planted when the real conditions were not right. Too cold, too wet, too early. I also experienced damping off in some of the weak plants. Now I cool my heels and wait impatiently, no lights, but I do provide bottom heat. What this forced patience yields are hardy plants that are not leggy and starved for heat and light too soon, but ready for the rigors of the vegetable garden. It’s also nice too, because I am no longer chasing the sunny window and moving flats, the flats stay put. Also the mess of potting soil etc, stays in the greenhouse where it belongs, and miraculously the damping off disappeared too when the plants were healthier.
Once the hot weather hits, I move my transplant starting efforts to outside the greenhouse on the north end. The end wall provides enough shade so the heat doesn’t cook the seeds, and once germination has taken place there is still enough light to grow good seedlings.
While I normally transplant all brassicas and greens, this year I have transplanted crops that I have never needed to transplant before or at least not during the summer. Extras on the transplant list this year were more successions of cucumbers, summer squash, kohlrabi, and recently peas. Normally in July I start direct seeding these crops for another succession. But in reality starting the transplants was much easier. Our heat in June and July was hot, hot, hot. Keeping the soil wet enough and cool enough for seeds isn’t that easy especially when these succession crops are fill-ins. Lettuce bolts, you pull that out, fill in the gap…without irrigation everywhere that would mean hand watering a spot here, and oh yeah, over there too. With flats of transplants, I find them easy to take care of. Rather than the same amount of plantings scattered over two gardens, the flats are right where I have to walk past on the way to many other tasks. It’s easy to turn the hose on when it’s right there, not so easy to get that same hose out to the garden for twelve broccoli plants. Or remember to do that after a day of hay hauling.
I still love to direct seed, and some crops don’t tolerate transplanting, but I have to say expanding my summer transplant list in this drought year has been a life saver for the garden and this gardener.
My how the garden grows when you don’t blog about it. I snapped a few photos of the jungles and deserts here so you could see I haven’t been totally twiddling my thumbs. For the record I don’t remember having such a dry summer since the 70’s when you had to ask for water in a restaurant. Anybody reading remember that? Other things from the era, you could only buy gas on odd/even days depending on your vehicle license plate, and businesses were required to shut off lights at night after closing. Imagine that. We should be doing some of those things now me thinks. Saving energy? What?
Anyway, here’s this afternoon’s walkabout right after I “saved” Jane from her drylot.
This is the best place to start right next to the garden. At one point this was all garden too, but we were selling at farmers markets then, so the extra space was needed. I’m standing right at the edge of the garden, and the following photos were taken just by facing a different direction and then wending my way past the garden into the greenhouses and onto the next garden.
Hopefully this grass will grow a bit more and make some second cut hay for Jane. We clipped this in May to combat a weed that spreads with haymaking, so while yield will be down, quality should be up and we didn’t reseed acres of pasture with rhinanthus, a grass killing weed.
Just a quarter turn with camera and there is the garden, formerly the dryland garden before the drip irrigation was installed. I have watered three times since we installed the drip.
Here we are today in the same place, the garlic has been harvested, and the plants are taking off, the water has helped a great deal, but since it has cooled down from 90’s every day, the vegetables have really done well. From left carrots, parsnips, beets and celeriac.
We have cut back some on our plantings, normally I plant in blocks of four rows with things like corn and potatoes, so to keep to my rotation plan and wanting less, we have dropped the corn and potatoes to three rows. This garden gets a good breeze so I think, I will be okay with corn pollination.
One row of dry beans this year and a pollinator row of flowers and herbs made up from whatever seeds need to get gone from my seed boxes. You’ve heard of old cat ladies? I’m an old seed lady. Bags, envelopes and jars of saved seeds of all types. Make a furrow and throw them in. And somewhere there is a scanty row of rutabagas about to be swallowed by winter squash. Not sure what I am going to do about that…
The end, and three fallow rows because I have planted less. I’m doing a bare fallow here and since the garlic has fallen out at the other end, I will wrap my rotation, and start with garlic here on the first row, then each year the garlic will begin its march across the garden.
It’s funny I enjoy these sunflowers in the greenhouse from outside more than when I am inside. When I am inside I am always working and not taking in the “view”. This view greets me every time I walk up the hill to the greenhouses and I actually love it.
Now inside you see why I don’t notice the sunflowers at the other end. This is a crazy place. Strawberries, peppers, cukes, melons, tomatoes and one row of brassicas on the morning sun side of the tomatoes.
And this view from the other side, in the land of lost brassicas. There are just about done, I have a few more heads of cabbage to harvest and some broccoli with side shoots coming, and then this row is coming out so we can weed, and then have room to harvest the tomatoes.
Farming with Draft Horses Benefit
Belle Mare Farm – Willamina, OR – Sunday, July 19 – 4pm to 8pm
Enjoy a Horse Team Demonstration, Dinner, Silent Auction and Music to Support Scholarships for Beginning Farmers to Attend a 3-day Horse-Team Farming Workshop
Celebrate the craft of farming with horses at Belle Mare Farm in Willamina, OR on July, 19 from 4-8pm! This event will feature horse team demonstrations, a farm fresh dinner, and music by The Ivie Meziere Foss Trio and proceeds will raise money for scholarships for beginning farmers to attend an upcoming 3-day horse-team farming workshop with Don Yerian and John Erskine, masters of the age-old techniques of farming with horses.
When: Sunday, July 19, 2015, 4pm – 8pm
Where: Belle Mare Farm, 18100 SW Mendenhall Rd., Willamina, OR
Why: Support the future of horse farming while having a great time!
How: Tickets are $75. To purchase tickets, register and pay below.
This celebratory event is centered on local food, farmers and chefs, and especially the draft horses that work on farms. Attendees will learn about, and talk with, horse-powered farmers – from bright-eyed newbies to wise and experienced elders – and begin to understand the practicality and spirtuality that ‘horse powered tech’ brings to family-scale sustainable agriculture.
- Meet and mingle with Don Yerian, horse-farming expert and one of the instructors for an upcoming three-day horse team workshop this event is raising scholarship funds for
- Watch a horse team demonstration on the farm with a team of Suffolk Punch geldings that Don Yerian raised and trained
- Tapas featuring farm-fresh ingredients from Willamina local producers including: Yamhill River Farm, Dancing Faun Farm, Mama Tee’s Farmstead, Belle Mare Farm and 47th Ave Farm
- Award winning wines featured in a silent action: Wines from Horsepower Vineyards, Big Table Farm and J Wrigley Vineyard. See a list of the Silent Auction Wines for the evening here.
- Enjoy live music from The Ivie Meziere Foss Trio
This event is brought to you by Friends of Family Farmers, Belle Mare Farm, and 47th Ave Farm. All proceeds will go towards scholarships that will be made available to beginning farmers attending an upcoming horse team workshop led by Don Yerian and John Erskine.
Event LocationBelle Mare Farm
18100 SW Mendenhall Rd.
Phenologically speaking, we are two weeks ahead due to our dry and warm spring. We’re cutting hay and picking raspberries, those two yearly tasks normally commence on or around the fifth of July depending on the rain. Compressing tasks means we aren’t quite ready to be thrown into haymaking or berry picking mode just yet. But here we are.
Also this means that I had to get cracking on the drip irrigation installation or wait until there was a break in the haymaking. Sometimes there isn’t a break in haymaking, we’re hauling and mowing at the same time, so I decided to just get the irrigation off the list this weekend while Hangdog was mowing hay.
I took before and after photos of the garden for documentation, not so much of the drip irrigation itself but to show a good look at the garden that was planted in early May and has not been irrigated. Normally this time of year we are lucky to have a dry enough stretch to do a lot of planting, let alone have to irrigate. Farmers I know started irrigating just so they could plant in May. We are having a dry year.
I can’t say enough good things about Dripworks, even if you don’t plan on using drip irrigation their catalog is full of information and I like looking at all the plumbing fittings. They are in California though, so there may be an equivalent on the east coast that would make more sense to order from since the price of shipping has to be taken into consideration. Also many of these supplies can be found at Home Depot or Lowe’s too.
Since this is temporary I just hooked the mainline to a garden hose. If we decide to make it permanent we will trench in a line and a more permanent hookup. The simplicity of drip irrigation is astounding, there are fittings for every application imaginable for the home garden. I purchased a filter, pressure regulator (I’m using municipal water for this), mainline, drip tape, and fittings to attach the drip to the mainline. Easy peasy. The simplest way to see what you need for your garden even if you are buying locally, is to go to the Dripworks website and look at the kits that would fit your application, then just scroll through and see what you think you need. There were several things in the kit that I couldn’t see a use for, and some that I needed instead. My garden is laid out in row crop fashion, so that really simplified things. One mainline, enough drip tape to water each row, and the fittings to match. My garden is always laid out the same, so I will be able to reuse this for many years if I take care of the supplies. The most important thing to do is take care of the drip tape. Here is a great article by a colleague showing how to make a drip winder.
I decided to build in some flexibility by putting shutoff valves at each line. I did not install any lines for the potatoes, they are fine without irrigation. With the shutoffs I will be able to reuse this mainline for this garden even though next year the potatoes will move in the rotation. The hardest part of drip irrigation installation is the planning ahead. Also with the shutoff valves I may choose to stop irrigating a certain crop while continuing on another. Well worth the $2.00 price tag to save on water.
While I’m not totally convinced that drip irrigation is what plants really want, since they are designed to take in moisture through their leaves also, I think that like many other things in life there is always a tradeoff. I want a more automatic garden this summer, and this is the way to achieve that goal in the time being. If I take care of my supplies this little system should last me years, especially if we go back to dryland gardening.