Located in Central BC

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas Everyone!
Happy New Year

Its been an interesting and busy year on the farm. Looking back its hard to know where to start, so I think I will start at the beginning. It was a cold snowy winter and we were all very happy when the days started to get longer and the snow started to melt.

We had the kids in hockey so the weekends and a lot of evenings were spent at the various rinks in town. When the kids got a chance they went snowboarding or skiing on the local ski hill. Peter, Matty and Petra snowboarded while Henry, Georgina and Willy went skiing. Both Henry and Georgina went skiing at school and Willy had no fear and just raced down the hill with John trying to catch up to him. I even tried skiing one day. The girls and I made it cross country skiing a couple of times through our fields and the back pasture.  Once we packed a picnic complete with a tablecloth to put on the snow.
Matty and Peter

We were very happy that we had released the bulls the summer before a bit later so that the earliest calves expected after March 23rd and not earlier because it was still very snowy out come mid-March. In fact, John had to take the tractor and move the snow out of the maternity pen for the end of March. One of our cows had misbehaved in 2010 and had jumped in with the bulls early and had an early calf on March 10th. As the cows hadn't been moved into the maternity pen yet, we moved the calf and tried to move the mom cow. Well she wouldn't have that and bolted east into our forest and pasture. John and Peter tracked her half a mile away, but couldn't convince her to come home. She showed up later that night, but wasn't interested in being re-united with her calf the next day. The girls and I had taken the calf and were bottle feeding it, so we just decided to continue. The calf was healthy and did well. Shortly after we started feeding this orphan calf, John was reading the Bargain Finder and saw that the dairy had steer calves for $50 again. We asked the girls if they wanted to try raising some dairy calves as they were feeding my Angus calf anyways. So spring break found us driving out to the dairy in Vanderhoof and picking up three steer calves: 2 Holsteins and one Jersey cross: Charles, Dalmatian and Chocolate.

Calving season was a lot of fun with a total of 32 calves born, the majority in the three weeks after March 23rd. I had a premie born that we kept in the house a couple of days until it got its footing and the girls raised him as well. They put a lot of effort and time into their calves and they are all looking great!
Cow and calf fall 2011

The kids were also in Judo and Matty and Petra earned their blue belts, Henry his green belt, Georgina green stripes for her orange belt and Willy orange stripes for his yellow belt. They didn't go back to judo in the fall, there just didn't seem to be enough time for it.

In May we decided we were going to have a bigger, better garden than 2010. We thought we would be smart and start some seeds early. We planted lots and lots of seeds, and it took until July 10th to finish transplanting all of the seeds. John took his tractor and got us manure and used his rotovator and dug a garden expansion for us. We turned over the old garden and we were well on the way to making a lot of work for ourselves!! It was a wet spring and summer and cooler too. It was great for all the berries, but the cooler weather slowed down the growth in the garden and many of our vegetable plants did not grow big enough to harvest. We did manage to grow a lot of different things: lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, red cabbage, green cabbage, peas, sugar peas, carrots, beets, tomatoes, kale, beans, cucumbers.... Our apple tree produced a lot of apples, the Saskatoon berries and black currants had bumper crops. Sitting here inside on a winter's day it's hard to imagine the kids outside picking berries. We went to the local U-pick berry farm and picked over a hundred pounds of strawberries that we froze and made into jam!
The Garden


In the summer, Peter got day 20 day old turkeys that he raised. He has kept a large Tom and four hens as breeders to produce more babies for next year. We brought the rest of them in to a government certified poultry processing facility. We cooked a 29lb home raised turkey for Christmas Dinner and it was delicious!
The Turkeys

Matty, Petra and Georgina bought 3 large rabbits in early September. They are a cross between New Zealand Giants and Flemish Giants so are nice and big. They had their first babies born on Dec. 21st and are just little wiggly babies in the nest for now. Matty started riding Tango our appendix gelding in the summer and Georgina bought herself a really nice older Arabian mare. Georgina and Willy would climb up onto Satin's back and she would happily walk around her pen with them on board!
Willy and Georgie on Satin

Matty on Tango

Buckhorn Lake Rd. There was a lot of hay, but it was no joke getting it off the field this year. We found a young tomcat at our Buckhorn house and Tommy now lives in our hay barn.
Peter and Tommy

Working in the hay loft

Hottubbing (with rhubarb leaf hats!)

This fall the kids have been kept very busy with their animals, school and hockey. They are all doing very well at school, Peter is in grade 11, Matty and Petra in grade 9 and Georgina in grade 6.
Georgina with her 8th place ribbon for cross country!

Georgina and John, paintball fun.

All the best to everyone in 2012!!
Spirit our Borean Angus Bull

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

summer images

Rainy days sums up most of the summer. Lots of water for the garden, the hay and the pastures. Everything grew, but slowly and the hay couldn't be harvested until three weeks later than usual. We are still at it.

The best memories:

Matty saddling up Tango all by herself and galloping through the newly cut hay fields while Tango thoroughly enjoyed watching all the activity.

Petra giving her new bunny "Finn Rizzell" a bath, which doesn't sound that difficult until you realize that the bunny weighs about 12lbs and didn't enjoy it!

Georgina and her berry patch. She scouted out the strawberry plants in early May with Willy and marked them. She picked lots of little sweet berries in July and Saskatoon berries from the same little area in August.

Peter jumping off the hay way up on the hay trailer and all his hay aerobatics most of which resulted in him landing askew on the ground or hay bales.

Driving the hay truck at dusk with it being loaded without me by Peter, Petra, Matty and Georgie.

Henry's grin as he drove the Ford 9N with the little rake on it over the cut hay.

Willy helping cut the hay, standing in the tractor with John for hours telling him what to do. He could probably cut the hay by himself at just 7 years old, he was so completely attuned with the process.

Maggie in a dress. Everyday if she had her way!

Covering the garden in a layer of plastic to protect it from frost on July 3rd and again on August 24th. Not a long growing season!!

Realizing that you just don't need to plant several packets of each type of seed for the garden. The seeds actually have a high germination rate and 200 lettuces was overkill. Although, I am looking forward to harvesting the 200 kohlrabi and all the red cabbages.

Going on a calf counting expedition with Willy to the 240. He hadn't been through the shortcut and was really excited when I took the quad through the foot deep water on the way. Then when we found the cows, I called them and we stood still as a whole bunch of them circled us. As soon as one of the cows got too close, Patch would chase them off to a safe distance. Then we started counting the calves and Willy kept track as more and more of them emerged from the bush.

Looking in the forest for the last cow to give birth. She had been hiding for the previous two days and I was pretty sure she had a new calf. When I went looking, I saw her with the three cows she was penned with and parked my quad to look for the new calf. I was walking along and I heard all this rustling and looked up, the red cow was gone. I didn't think she could move that fast. After chasing her and losing her a couple times I finally caught up with her as she was nuzzling her newborn red bull calf. Very cool.

The many gorgeous sunsets, oranges and red usually with a lot of clouds. Always so beautiful.

The girls putting all the calves they raised this year together in one pasture so they could have all 9 together.

Georgina putting a halter on Java, a small Angus calf that the girls raised for me and riding him for a few steps.

Peter getting so excited during a thunderstorm that he talked us all into going into the hot tub with him only to be pelted with hail and heavy rain and have the water getting choppy with the force.

The absolute joy in Peter's face as he opened his box of one day old turkey poults. And watching him build them a gorgeous indoor pen for when they were young. Finally he enlisted Henry and they reclaimed the chicken pen in the red barn and cleaned it out and fixed it up for the turkeys. The last step was recruiting all the kids and some help from John and his tractor to create an outdoor pen for the turkeys.

The morning calf feeding with the girls walking up the hill carrying their buckets of milk. Petra explaining to me how the Holstein calves get sunburns on their noses and sometimes on their skin under their white patches.

Peter walking by the apple tree and stopping us all to help thin the apples because there was just too many apples for the tree.

Its been a great summer.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Real men don't eat quiche.

Yes there was a book that was published in 1982 with that name. I never read it, but I remember my older sisters talking about it. The fact is that people thought that men were fast losing their masculinity then, what about now? In my opinion, if a man is not as tough or masculine as me, a middle aged woman, then he has, in fact, lost his masculinity.

Sure, I work in forestry and live on a farm. And I know that it wouldn't be appropriate for all men to walk around with their cell phone and leatherman wave on belt clips when they are at an office job. But, a man should at the least have a penknife in their pocket. I mean, c'mon! I carry my change in my jeans pocket, not some wimpy-ass change carrier mini purse, that I have seen "men" pull out at the checkout.

Really, WHAT were you thinking? Yes its time to go to the beach/park/dog walk/mall, I better put my IPAD, wallet, change purse and water bottle in my fanny pack and head out!! Yeah that is so manly - NOT!!!  As for IPADs, blackberries etc, if you can't stick it in your pocket or in a holder on your belt, what the hell are you doing? Do you really need to be tweeting, face booking etc, all the time?
         fb status: LOL, forgot I had my water bottle in my fanny  pack and sat down! LOL it looks like I peed my pants.
        You get the idea.

Real men don't change diapers if there is a female older than 8 years old present.
Real men don't cook unless it involves fire.
Real men don't have water bottles. Ever!
Real men don't know what a window treatment is.
Real men don't walk their dogs in areas where you have to poop scoop.
Real men don't get dehydrated.
Real men like bacon and eggs.
Real men can drive any vehicle. any.
Real men can not just change a tire, but can do all the regular maintenance on a vehicle.
Real men don't wear sun screen.
Real men aren't afraid of energy drinks.
Real men own guns.
Real men never get their hair styled.
Real men don't use a Miami device.
Real men have watched all the Clint Eastwood movies.
Real men know that the TV remote is called the power for a reason.
Real men like chain saws, power tools and air tools. The first instinct for a real man when they pick up a chainsaw is to pretend they are part of the cast for the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Real men have spent more time deciding what they would do if there was a zombie outbreak than a global flu outbreak.
Real men can ride a horse. and if they fall off they get right back on it again.
Real men drive 1 ton diesel pickups. And they need to even if they live in a little apartment in the city.
Real men don't do yoga or Pilate's. They pump iron.
Real men don't worry that if they are staying up to late, a real man does not have a bedtime.
Real men can do all the basic home repairs including gyproc, plumbing, electrical, heating, roofing and painting.
Real men don't do dishes.
Real men have bedtime snacks.
Real men have real sons.
Real men wear joe boxer underwear, the ones with the reminder to change daily.
Real men don't wear lacoste shirts.
Real men know that Princess Auto is their lifeblood and at any given time "need" about 50 different things from there.
Real men don't do low salt, low sugar, decaffeinated, low fat, high fiber, or vegetable based proteins.
Real men eat hotdogs.
Real men don't understand fashion.
Real men own backhoes, bulldozers and tractors. And if they don't they want to and could think of a thousand uses for a backhoe to improve their life in their condo.
Real men don't go on bus tours. If he isn't driving, it's not on.
Real men don't fuss about weeds in their lawn, but recognize the need for a ride-em lawnmower regardless of lawn size.
Real men don't watch dramas or chick flicks.
Real men don't prefer Picard over James T. Kirk.
Real men don't shop for their own clothes, they just magically appear in the correct dresser drawers.
Real men have lighters, lots of them.
Real men know that a tiger torch will warm up that big piece of equipment and if there is a chance of catching the piece of equipment on fire they don't care.
Real men that early on in their lives made a commitment to the brand VW won't change their minds on it, and insist they prefer to drive around dressed in full winter gear in the winter.
Real men don't wear pajamas.
Real men don't ask for directions when they are driving.
Real men don't read instruction manuals.
Real men know how to smoke a cigar.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Canada Day

Finally summer holidays and all the good stuff that goes with it. The girls are anxiously awaiting their new holstein calves we ordered, we have one steer waiting for more male calves to be born. Unfortunately for us, the last four calves have been heifers. So there are two more due this weekend and we are hoping for some boys so we can start calf project #2 for the year. The 6 bottle raised calves are doing awesome. Only the youngest Augustus, is still being fed. They are living with three cows and a young calf in a nice pen with grass for them.

Today we planted a bunch of lettuce and brussel sprout seedlings (or something else, our bookkeeping sucks!) that we started from seeds. They look good, John rotovated us an addition to our garden because we had so many seedlings to plant and ran out of room. Then Matty and I were checking out our larger plants and WOW!!! we have itsy bitsy cauliflower heads, broccoli heads, miniscule brussel sprouts and tiny kholrabi's. Absolutely amazing!!! Lettuce to eat next week and more veggies the week after.

The cows have settled in the far grazing area, happily munching their way through the pastures and grassy areas. I went out to do a calf count last week and stood on this field that John had plowed last fall and I had planted this spring shaking my fist at the entire herd yelling "get off my grass!!!" The grass has grown so much they were actually eating it!! Once this rain stops, I am going to go check out the rest of the areas that I planted and see how things look.

The hay is growing well, but its definately behind where it normally is at this time, so we will probably be starting haying a bit later than usual. It would be nice to get some warm weather after this rain, then things should really start growing. Our two old mares, Dagmar and DeeDee are enjoying their pasture, they are so funny. They will not adventure at all. They stay in their small pasture and won't enter the forest area at all. The other two horses are very happy for now. They are visiting a friend's property cutting down the three foot high grass for her. Very happy and fat. It will be a bit of an adjustment when they get back here next week. But they will get lots of adventure as all the kids want to learn how to ride and I can't think of two better mellow horses than Tango and Pika. Pika is so mellow, she doesn't even want to trot, that's too much effort. And she is a nice little horse, a good size for the kids.

Peter is expecting his 20 day old turkey chicks on Tuesday, so he has some work to do on the inside pen for them. Then while they are getting large enough for an outdoor pen he can fence off the pen we have decided on for them. So lots to keep us all busy for the summer months.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A Late Spring

Gussie (Augustus)

Well spring is late this year. The first aspen to flush at our house on Buckhorn Rd. flushed yesterday May 18th. I've been keeping track of the first flush since we moved there in 1989. The earliest date was April 28th, the latest on May 25th. But spring is here and the grass is growing, the rhubarb is almost a foot high, the pasture is almost ready for the cows, the carrageena is starting to leaf out, the hummingbirds are back in force, the lilac tree is green, the black currants have leaves and blossoms on the way.

For now it is warm and the rain has stopped after giving us 3 to 4 inches in the last 10 days. The sun is setting after 9pm now giving us the long days that always end in the kids going what? how can it be bed time already? The cows and calves have been moved to a staging area about 200m west of their maternity pen. This small field allows the calves to get used to a bigger area with lots of room to run and to get used to finding their moms at a distance. What I always get a kick out of whenever I got to check the cows on pasture whether its just this small field or when they have full movement over the back 400 acres is the babysitters. Yes cows have babysitters. The calves tend to be in a group with a smaller amount of adult cows watching over them. The cows may change, but usually about three quarters of the calves can be found grouped together. Today there were three very large cows lying around with about 14 calves. It must be a great way to control predators and keep track of the calves. There are always a few calves that figure they know better than their moms and are always getting yelled at by their moms. If you make a calf squeek in the bush guess what happens? Any bull, cow, or yearling within hearing distance rushes towards the calf. Some of them very aggressively. They are a herd and will protect any member of the herd. I think its pretty cool. As well I have trained my cows to come when I call. Yep, I have a call I make a sort of YOO-HOO-OO-HOO-HOO and they know that is the "good sound" and come to see what I have to offer them. In the middle of the summer, I can take the quad and drive into the middle of a field where the cows are and start calling. Even though there was no cattle in sight, within minutes they start calling and filing into the area near me. I totally enjoy this!!

They know me and the older cows and bulls know the routines of the seasons. Right now, the bulls are fully aware that they are getting ripped off! They get an extra month of detention while the females are starting to get to eat grass. They are kept away from the girls until June 15th to delay the calving until the last part of March. But they know it and just bide their time. The cows know its time to stretch their legs and enjoy some freedom after the long winter. They are ready to eat grass, clover, aspen and whatever else interests them. They will be given access to the 50 acre pasture just behind where they are now. And if they don't get the access soon, they will effect self release. Then in a couple of weeks when we are ready to let them onto the next pasture area, the females will run to the gate when we start to drive them. The older cows know the routine and there is nothing more valuable to your herd than a bossy, smart cow. She will readily go through the gate and lead the others to where they belong.

In the fall, when the frosts start to come, the cows are ready for hay. They have had enough foraging and are ready to have room service and sit around with no adventure. Starting in Sept. last fall, my black angus bull: Fatty DingDongs could be found standing in front of the gate into his winter pen. He had enough of the hard life and was ready to come back for the winter. In the summer he comes to see me when I call, but seldom wants a pet, in the winter he is a lot more sociable and sometimes when he hears me talking walks to the fence to see if I will come over and give him a good scratch. The angus/highland cross bull: Spirit Calf is very eager to come when I call in the summer, but has always been a bit stand offish, not as friendly as the angus. But he knows me and will always come when I call.

And now we are all waiting for just a bit more growth, some more sunshine and then they can run freely over their first pasture!

April Moon


Saturday, 7 May 2011

Kids love living in the country!

Today I did some wandering around my farm (on the quad) and ended up at the small creek near McRinney Road. It was babbling along quite happily and I thought of the "city folk" who buy little waterfalls for inside their condos and felt truly sorry for them. I know, I know IF these people really wanted to be in the great outdoors they would be. But then is that really true? Does living in a rural area perhaps fall into the same category of "you don't know what you are missing when you don't have kids until you have them". John commented the other day that people know what they grow up with and change something takes a different attitude. All the pioneers were willing to change their lives and move to the frontier and try something different. To grow up in the city and move to the country really then takes more of a pioneering attitude.

Just as many mainlanders and islanders are unwilling to give the interior of BC a chance, I think many city dwellers are unwilling to give country life a chance. Perhaps the fact that kids shoes get muddy and in the spring your dogs are dirty 24/7 has something to do with this. But I think perhaps, to live in the country is to give up some of the convenience of the city. The convenience store down the block, no next door neighbours for kids to hang around with, a longer drive to hockey practice, the kids take the bus to school instead of walking and usually the driveways are longer for snow plowing.

However, the best part about living in the country is the life the kids have compared to city kids lives. When Peter was young and we ended up walking down a city street to a cross-country meet at an elementary school, Peter would always comment on the tiny yards and be amazed that they could even fit a trampoline in there. And all the questions he had about how the kids could actually play in such a tiny yard and what could they do? At the time our house was a large rancher 35 feet across by 130 feet long (including the built-in shop). The house wouldn't actually fit onto many city lots so you can see where he was coming from. A house in the country, even one on just a few acres offers so much more for kids. Lots of room for a trampoline and usually a dirt/sand pile that is eventually going to be used for landscaping. A gravel drive with lots of rocks for looking at or breaking. We once got a load of riverstones for landscaping which provided hours of enjoyment to the kids. They still go back to it and break rocks just to see whats inside. The amount of insects on a country yard is also amazing. Kids love bugs, snakes, frogs, salamanders and locating birds nest and broken egg shells. There is just so much more for a little kid to do in the country. And as they get older there is even more for them to do. Yesterday Peter took a walk with his gun just to see what he could see. In the summer the girls hunt for wild strawberries, raspberries and saskatoon berries. They can walk down to the creek and look for animal prints and try to catch the fingerlings hiding in the shade. They can put their hand out near the hummingbird feeder and wait for the tiny birds to alight on their outstretched fingers.

Our current house is average sized but the yard is huge. With a little thought things can be put into perspective. Our lilac tree is so big that it would take up more than half of most city yards and our "little house" which houses the birds, plants and office would be two houses away in a city. Our front yard is the size of a city park, the parking area as large as a city parking lot, our piece of forest near the house would be a major green strip left in a modern subdivision, the ancient log cabin located across the driveway would be a heritage home and made into a museum, the row of black current bushes and saskatoon trees scattered around the yard provide enough berries for a u-pick operation. In a city, the walk down to Tabor Creek could be a mountain biking/hiking route, the area around the road access to Tabor Creek could be a city picnic area, the raptors, cranes, woodpeckers, various song birds, ducks and ravens make the area so rich in bird life that it could be a bird sanctuary in the city. The wildlife: bear, coyotes, white tail deer, moose, squirrels, hare, beavers are abundant enough to have a wildlife viewing station. The garden is large enough to be a community garden located in the inner city.

Monday, 25 April 2011


Gray rejected twin

Twins!! trouble right from the getgo. I keep telling my human twins that I am not as bad as the mom cow who just accepts one of her twins and knocks the other one away when it tries to feed. 14 years and I still have my twins around so I guess I really wasn't as bad as a mom cow. And now, they are awesome little calf feeders. So awesome that this morning when I found the knocked about little gray bull calf in the pen with the mom cow doting on her black bull calf and literally knocking this little guy to the ground, I thought, well the girls would like another little calf to feed. (Yeah like they would like a hole in the head.) Regardless, this little guy wasn't gonna make it. Just how much rejection can a calf a couple hours old take anyways? So I loaded the little guy up and pulled him in the sled. He was far too active and large to put in the entranceway to the house, so I pulled him up to the girls bunnies enclosure. At 10 feet by 10 feet with a canopy and wrap around walls this was going to be his new home. The bunnies got put back in their old pen and I placed my new gray calf in the enclosure. 
Black accepted twin

With calfs and all things to do with cattle, patience and perserverace are necessary. Perserverance okay, I can do that, but patience is not a virtue that I am that familiar with. But I was patient when I sat in the maternity pen and watched the little calf try to nurse and get kicked away over and over again. The best place for a calf is with its mom, but if that is not going to happen, then one must take action. After about the 8th time of watching the little guy get beaten up by its mom, I took action. I loaded him on a sled and brought him to the bunny pen. The perserverance came next. He wouldn't drink the colostrum from the bottle. Matty and I stuck with it for about half an hour with only getting about 8 oz in. Then we took a break and went to check on the other twin calf. It was doing just great so I tried again with the bottle with Petra. And this time he was interested in sucking and we got him to drink 3/4 of the colostrum. Now he can rest and in a couple days, if all is well he can go up to the barn with the other bottle fed calfs.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Evolution of Borean Angus

Borean Angus Calf

 If you let it happen, ideas get formed and are dynamic. Sort of like one thought flowing into another thought and eventually a whole new idea is formed from the original. That is sort of what has happened with our cattle ranch. We were going to raise registered Black Angus bulls and heifers for sale. A good idea with the popularity of Black Angus bulls being high when we first purchased our Black Angus pregnant heifers and bull. Within a couple years we realized this probably wasn't the route that we were going to take. First off, the registered bull sale is in April and the goal of registered bull breeders is to provide the largest long yearlings possible for the sale, hence these ranchers were calving as early as January. Well to us, calving in January in Pr. George just didn't seem like a good idea. The first two to three months of their life would be spent in the bitter cold of winter.
In the spring of 2007 we were raising black angus. We had sold all the Highland Cattle that we had except for a Highland x Angus cow named Bess. Unlike our other Highland crosses, she had no horns so we kept her. That spring when the Black Angus calves were being born and moving slow and sleepy, Bess produced a dun colored baby bull calf. He was robust and vigourous and after 4 hours I was hard pressed to catch him. This was a sharp contrast to the purebred angus which seemed to sleep for days, often so sleepy that we were afraid they were dead. So we decided not to castrate him and keep him as a bull. We were castrating all the non-purebred bulls at this point. We gave him a name, because he was quite a light color: Spirit Calf.
And the next year we gave him the run of the herd. Spirit calf was released for the first three weeks of the breeding season. He was 15 months old. I had read in a book that a young bull can be expected to impregnate as many cows as he is old in months. Sure enough the next year we got 15 of our calves sired by Spirit Calf. They were everything we hoped for, robust and vigorous and not sleepy. They had hybrid vigor and grew fast. The added bonus to this bull is that we get a variety of colors of calves, from white, to blonde, red, brown and black. Spirit calf (the bull) is one quarter highland and three quarters black angus. His offspring are one eighth highland, just enough to give them more robustness at birth and hybrid vigor and growth. The meat is very good, the same as black angus.

Spirit Calf at 2 years old
 We had to give our new breed of cattle a name: Borean Angus. Something a little different for the sub-boreal forests that they spend their summer in.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Calf Tagging Day

Hard at work preparing tags

With 16 calves on the ground, it was time to start tagging them. This year we went for a BCID tag in the right ear with a white flap tag for the back. This way we could give the calves a reference number readily visible. Last year we wrote the BCID tag numbers in the calf list, but the numbers are small and require squeezing the calves to read them. So now, hopefully the calf ID will be easily readable.

Tagging Micro
After breakfast the girls got busy with all the tags, lists and elastics. So with all 7 kids we headed up to the maternity pens. Willy and Maggie were the spectators, John was to keep any nosy or upset cows away from us. Peter and Henry were to tackle the calves, I tag and use the elastic banding tool and Petra passes me the injections. Matty and Georgina loaded the tagging machine and kept track of the tags and which calf got which tag. Easy peasy! This was one of the easiest tagging sessions yet. The cows were more mellow than usual, Peter being much stronger and larger than last year grabbed the cows faster and got them down quicker.

The Spectators

He used a new technique this year. He approached the unsuspecting calf from the side and then grabbed both of the far legs and pulled the calf down. This worked surprisingly well and avoided the usual running around trying to physically catch the calf. We did have one overactive calf. She jumped around and basically pwned Peter then ran away out of that half of the pen. We caught her on the other side, alongside one of the last snow banks. Luckily it was a she and didn't require an elastic on its balls.
The best part of tagging the calves is it is such a family operation. Everyone has their part to play and we all work together so well.

That was yesterday morning and since then we have another two calves born. I suspect we will re-run the program next weekend.

Borean Angus Calf

Friday, 8 April 2011

Why Garrendenny?

Carragenna lining the front driveway.

Belfast 1928 and my father was born on the kitchen table of his grandmother's house "Garrendenny". This house was named after the ancestral castle of the Butler family. In 1999, I travelled to Ireland with my parents, my father's return to Ireland after he had left in 1930. We searched the nethers of Ireland, following different maps and talking to locals, but could not find the ancestral castle Garrendenny. The name stuck in my head and I chose it when I named my farm. On a later trip to Ireland, my parents managed to find and visit Garrendenny and brought me home a piece of slate from the now defunct castle.
Fatty-ding-dong our Black Angus Bull

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Calf Project

Chocolate (CoCo) a jersey cross steer

Matty with Dalmation, Charles and Micro

After years of seeing the ads for holstein day old steers in the Bargain Finder, this year we finally called them up. The net result is that Matty, Petra and Georgina are now feeding 5 calves in the barn, 2 holsteins, 1 jersey x and two orphan black angus bulls. The black angus are mine, the first from "deer cow" who decided last year to jump the fence and get impregnated two weeks early so she had her calf when there was still over two feet of snow on the ground. And then instead of following the sled with her calf on it to the maternity pen, she bolted. Peter tracked her by foot through the thigh deep snow half a mile back, John on skidoo much further back. She returned that night, but the next day wasnt interested in her calf. What a cow!! The second black angus was born rather limp. He managed to flip around and get himself soaked in the mud. Cold, muddy and limp we kept him in the kitchen overnight feeding him a small bit of packaged colostrum that evening. I slept on the couch to keep track of him overnight, and around 3am he started moving around. By the next morning he managed to get up with some help and that evening he stood by himself. At three days we moved him up to the other calves.

Petra with Charles, Georgina in background

So now the girls get up a bit earlier for school and we mix up the milk and carry up the pails to the barn. This time of year the sun is just rising as we head up the hill on the road and we crunch through the icy puddles with Patch and Rio (our dogs) alongside us. Patch is ready to help if there is an errant calf/cow that needs chasing and Rio is happy to help lick the milk out of the pails. At the barn, Petra takes the youngest black angus "coffee" and feeds him his bottles, Georgie helps Matty and passes the pails over the fence to Matty. This is where it gets interesting, Matty's holstein "Charles" is trouble, he's big and piggy. It seems whenever, I peek in the barn to see how they are doing, Matty has her arms around Charles, verbally scolding him and wrestling him away from the other calves milk. Charles laps his milk in a pail, the three others have pails with nipples, the other day when we were looking at the pails we noticed their labels: calf -a pic of a calf- teria. They are calfterias OMG!!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Not for everyone

Thats what I was thinking as I was wearing my bright orange rubber boots standing in 6 inches of water fixing the barbwire fence with the kids. This isn't for everyone. Seeing as the world's population is getting more urban and BC is just the same, it seems that less and less people are interested in standing in 6 inches of water fixing a barbwire fence.  I would be too if it wasn't part of something so much larger, a whole flavor of life with lots of hands on experiences and challenges all while doing something constructive and building a future. This morning my three daughters were feeding their dairy cow steers and our orphan bull calf, which in itself is an awesome event to witness, when we noticed that 10 of last years calves had managed to break down a fence and were milling about where they weren't allowed. So with teamwork and some quick footwork, we got the older calves put away and fed the calves and still got everyone to school on time. After school, the fences needed fixing. Sounds like just another chore doesn't it? But when Petra fixes the smooth wire, Georgina watches a cow get ready to give birth, giving us updates every few minutes, and Matty, Peter and I tackle the broken barbwire fence, its not a chore. Its fun and when the fence is fixed, we all look at it and praise ourselves because it looks better than before. The snow is melting, its calving season and spring is in the air! It may not be for everyone, but it is for me!