Up to my elbows in dystocia

Up to my elbow today in a cow's you know what. We had a pregnant cow that was acting strange. She was in labor but appeared to be having problems. We brought her into the chute so that we could check that the calf was coming out correctly.

A calf has to come out with its two front feet and head first. Upon internal inspection (Internal as in putting your hand in the cow's vagina. Also called the birth canal) we determined that the calf was ready to come out but one of its hooves was not in the right position. When this happens you get to play doctor and help deliver the calf. To do this you have to get a little dirty and reach around in mama cow until you can find the other hoof and move it into position.

Actually, this was my first time to attempt this and suffice it to say that I did not have much luck. Javier gave it a try and was able to find the hoof. Then as the cow contracted we pulled on the calf until he slid all the way out. It was a bull calf. A little bit worn out from the struggle, but he appears to be doing fine. Mama cow was glad to see him.

And for you word of the day types... dystocia is the technical term used when a cow is unable to deliver a calf by herself.

Continuous Partial Attention

Here is an article I found interesting. Discusses the idea that due to the many distractions of the modern world many of us operate in a state of continuous partial attention . I'm definitely guilty more often than I'd like, but as they say... knowing is half the battle.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11899893/site/newsweek/

Another piece here: http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2005/06/supernova_2005_2.html

Back from Paris....

France, not Texas, although Paris, Texas can also be quite a lovely place... or so I've heard. Just spent a wonderful week in Paris with my betrothed "researching" wine, cheese, and fine French cooking. The weather was a bit cold and rainier than we had hoped, but we had a great time regardless. I ate duck three times. Duck is gooood! Don't know why it's not more popular here. Every restaurant there had duck on the menu.

With all that good food and aged grape juice I was easily able to put off most thoughts of the work waiting for me at home. But today I had a chance to look around the farm and refamiliarize myself with The List. Sometimes here you can feel like you're not accomplishing the Important Things, but then you check your list and amazingly you've made decent progress. I think this feeling stems from the huge variety of tasks that fill each day. You find yourself pulled from one thing to the next and inevitably sidetracked when the unexpected (flat tire, bad fuel pump, sick goat, bad hair day) happens. But that's the game we choose to play and we will continue playing.

We had a nasty (unexpected) late freeze while I was gone. Essentially obliterated what were to be my "early" tomatoes. I'd babied those things for over a month in the greenhouse and I was sure with all the 80 degree weather we'd been having that any chance of frost was over. I put them in the ground just before we left fully expecting them to be loaded with flowers when I got back. Apparently I didn't get the right memo. 28 degrees is what we call a Hard Freeze. We'll just have to wait and see what effect this will have on the berries. I told you in an earlier blog that many of them were flowering and you just don't want flower and freeze to be mentioned in the same breath when you're talking about berries... or plums... or peaches... or weddings for that matter...

Which bring me to the last piece of news. My little sister, Gina, just got married. Yesterday, as a matter of fact. That's right... the same day we got back from Paris. That's all I'll say on that particular piece of bad planning. The wedding was here at the farm and despite threats from various weather watchers of snow and light Armageddon for the date, it turned out to be an absolutely perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky and 60 degrees. She rode a Texas Longhorn steer to the altar while the band played The Eyes of Texas. Now that IS a Texas wedding! She married a wonderful young man named Max Goodgame. They're both moving to Tanzania (Africa) in a week for her work with the Young Life organization. We'll miss them both very much and promise to send plenty of high quality insect repellent with every letter.

That's all for now, still recovering from a little thing called "It's 7 hours later where my body was yesterday" or as it's more commonly called... jet lag.

"The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."

Robert Frost said that. And now I must sleep. Goodnight.

New growth

The thornless blackberries started leafing out in the last few days. The thorned ones started a week ago. I mowed the orchard today and there was a big difference in the amount of weeds under the thorned and thornless blackberries. I think the early leaves on the thorned bushes helped shade out a lot of the weeds. Also they didn't lose as many of their leaves over winter as the thornless ones.

All of the blueberries are flowering. For some reason only the new plants have much leaf growth. I suspect it's because they came from the warmer climate in Mississippi.

I brought back two Southern Highbush blueberries from Mississippi and they already have the makings of berries. They're growing in pots. I think they ripen a month before Rabbiteye varieties. If they are good producers I might grow a row just to have some early berries.

Zen dream

I have been reading all day, confined to my room, and feel tired. I raise the screen and face the broad daylight. I move the chair on the veranda and look at the blue mountains. I draw a long breath, fill my lungs with fresh air and feel entirely refreshed. I make tea and drink a cup or two of it. Who would say that I am not living in the light of eternity?

D. T. Suzuki

A story about fences

The wind has been pretty fierce lately. For the most part I've enjoyed it. Reminds me of being at the beach. But yesterday my coastal currents finally got around to their naughty side and ever so gently dropped a big pine tree onto a section of fence.

This particular fence forms one side of the pasture in which the goats currently reside. Thankfully they were very ungoatlike and decided not to stray. We pieced the wire together well enough so that nothing could get out. Today we went back and stretched the whole thing tight again.

There were two other spots near the lake where trees fell on the fence this winter. Wind, trees, and fence just don't play well together. Since we already had the tools out and since the corner of my mind where I'd buried these nagging problems was eagerly awaiting new material Javier and I tightened up these sections also. This fence wasn't currently home to anything, but in about a month it'll be holding the goats. Los Chivos will be moving to the brushy side of the lake so they can continue with what will be the third year of our goat-powered lakeside beautification project.

Weeder geese

Went to Longview today and amongst other things bought twelve goslings (baby geese). Have you ever heard of weeder geese?? Well, here is the experiment... in attempting to stick to the Organic Path I am going to try using geese to help weed the berries and fruit trees. Just so you don't think I'm bonkers and making this up here is a link from U of Mizzou.

Apparently geese love to eat things like bermuda grass but don't so much like the rough, tough leaf of a blueberry plant. Good for them. Good for me. I'm not sure how much help a dozen geese will be on six acres of weeds, but if they're any help at all there will be multiple dozens next year.

Also not exactly sure how I'm going to control them. Might use electric net fence to keep them in a certain area and to keep out predators. Will definitely need a shelter for them, possibly one that is fully enclosed and can be shut up at night.

Here is another article from a farm that sells cute little baby geese.

So if you come to the farm this year don't be surprised to see geese waddling around the berries with you. I'll report later once I've had a chance to see them at work.

We've got WATER!

Almost irrigating

Worked most of yesterday putting together PVC. Came home with glue covered purple hands. Just a little digging today and a tad more PVC work and we should have free flowing filtered water ready for the drip hose. Good thing too since this March is beginning to feel like last March: hot and dry. Not a good omen for anyone raising plants or animals, or both.

Zen speak

Ten thousand trees freeze, just about to crack.
One lone tree only, warm, reviving:
in the nearby village, deep in snow,
last night one branch came into bloom.

Ch'i-Chi

¡Que milagro!

All the blueberries are planted. Not bad for a day's work. It's amazing what $439 and 7 workers can get done in a day. I could buy a lot of blueberry plants for $439, but they wouldn't be worth much if I couldn't get them in the ground. Now all we need is some rain while I get the kinks worked out of the irrigation system. Personally, yesterday wasn't even all that physically challenging. Although trying to keep everybody working and working properly was a constant task. Supervising is its own sport.

Help is on the way

Had some help today by way of the Texas Workforce Commission. Just one guy. He said that people call him Shep. Had to explain in great detail what a straight row should look like, both to Shep and Javier. Finally, had to redo a few spots. Think we got most of the twists and turns out. Planted 5 1/2 rows for a total of 6 1/2. Tomorrow might have five workers. We'll see who shows. If all goes well there's a chance we might finish before the weekend.