September 29, 2023
A Ray of Sunshine
The best news of the summer is that we had a heifer calf born in August! She’s a true ray of sunshine!
Sunshine is the third generation in our herd and has been an absolute joy to raise so far. She was nursing on her own within hours of her birth – even nursing all four of her mama’s quarters standing in one spot!
After a few weeks alone with mama, Sunshine slowly started becoming more interested in the other cows and calves in the herd and now she regularly spends time with both of her grandmas, and even nurses them too sometimes.
We started working on getting Sunshine friendly with humans and introducing her to the halter at a younger age than we have with other heifers and she’s taken to training wonderfully. She is a blessing and a gift from the Lord during this tough farming year!
Prior to Sunshine’s birth (and subsequently too) we experienced a drought – the second driest year on record for our area. After grazing the cows through all of our rotational grazing paddocks just one time, they did not grow back enough to feed the cows again without supplemental hay. We started feeding hay in June and continued all summer. The drought finally ended in late September and the end of the month has felt like spring with the pastures greening up again!
A New Pest
This summer we experienced a pest we had never heard of before. I was worried I was becoming allergic to hay until we realized what was happening – one of the loads of hay we got this summer had itch mites in it. Itch mites are tiny insects the size of a particle of dust (not visible to our eyes) that can be found in hay in the late summer. They usually eat other insects that get into the hay but can bite people and animals too and they are related to ticks so their bites can hurt and itch badly. I was one of the unlucky ones that had huge welts all over my abdomen and even in the bend of my elbow and underarm where I carried the hay. I found Lavaderm from Young Living to be super helpful with the itch and inflammation, which felt a lot like poison ivy rash to me and lasted about as long. Just thinking about it now has got me itchy again!
On a happier note, this month we took delivery of a full truck load of certified organic hay, which should get the nine cows we’re currently feeding through the rest of the fall and winter until spring comes again! The children are having a blast playing on the bales as usual.
We also stacked all our firewood this month. This year we decided to stack it like a wall surrounding our wrap around porch. Some of it is under a roof and a lot of it is not. We shall see how we like this setup, but at the very least it’s a lot closer to the house than it has been in the past. I love the seasonal winter preparations that we work on as the days begin to shorten in the fall!
A New Garden Bed
Another source of joy for me this summer was transforming the beat up construction entrance to our home into a garden bed and brick and stone path! Most of the plants (in the photos below) are perennial and should come back next year, including the fluffy “Marshmallow” Daisies (at the bottom right). We also included my favorite variety of hosta called “Diamond Lake,” “Soft Touch” hollies, a dwarf butterfly bush (that smells amazing!) and a bird bath, which was used all summer by many birds. The one annual flower we planted is the Polka Dot Periwinkle, which grew and spread beautifully despite the drought here (I did water them a handful of times until they were established).
Almost weaning time
We have just over a month left until we’re going to wean the older calves, Rainbow and Blackberry. In preparation for potentially selling calves, we completed updated disease testing on all our cows and everyone came back negative for Johnes, BVD and BLV.
Rainbow’s training is coming along well. She’s just shy of 5 months and about 38 inches tall. We expect her to mature around 47 inches, but her height is not matching up with the Jersey heifer growth chart. It’s making me think of when our oldest was a baby and I learned that the baby growth charts were based on formula fed babies, and breastfed babies grew faster than the charts in the early months. Rainbow has nursed on-demand since we grafted her on to our cow at about a week old and I suspect this is why she’s growing faster than the chart!
There’s much more that has been going on around the farm since my last update in July, but this sure is getting long. I’ll save the rest for later!