It wasn’t planned to have winter calves. But stuff happens on the homestead. One of our cows, who we thought was bred for an August calf, evidently didn’t get bred and while running with the bull, got bred way later. Same with one of our heifers. The cow, Mamba, was getting close and we hoped she’d calve when it was relatively warm last week. No dice. Monday evening when Will did chores, he came up to get me. Mamba was thinking about getting down to business. AND the nighttime temps were going to be -27 F! We herded Mamba out of the pasture, where she was determined to stay and have her calf out in a pile of dry round bale hay, and into the training ring where there’s a barn. We fluffed up three bales of oat straw for her and she decided the barn was good enough for her to calve in.
Two hours later, with the temperature at -17, I went to check her by flashlight and presto — a black, very wet calf! I called Will on my cell phone and we set about toweling the baby dry. And more towels! And more towels! The ears and tail are the most freezeable parts of a calf and we were very careful to keep them as dry as possible and covered with our hands and blankets.
I got the calf to nurse well three times but his ears still were trying to freeze!
At midnight, I finally caved when the temp was -22. Will had on his insulated coveralls and hunkered down in the hay trying to keep warm and keep the blankets around the frosty calf. No matter what he did, the ears kept trying to freeze! Finally at 3 AM, he loaded the calf into the Subaru and brought him up to the house. So the calf, now named Frosty, stayed in the living room while the outside temperature went down to -37 F.
In the morning, it was warming up outside; all the way to 7 above! And the wind wasn’t blowing a gale like it was at night. We took Frosty down to Mamba and he went right to town and had breakfast. Two days later, he’s outside, in the training ring barn and doing great. The challenges we homesteaders sometimes run up against.
Like last night when our neighbor’s barn burned. What a shock. They saved their goats and horses and the rabbits are in shock but alive. But the chickens are no more. Neighbors are all helping where they can. We may be caring for their goats until spring and another neighbor is going to take care of their horses at their place. Country is like that; most folks help each other through tough times.
I’ve been poring through seed catalogs, trying to kind of finalize the hundreds of new varieties we’ll be trialing this spring. It makes my head spin! If you’re having the same problem, check out my article on seed catalogs in the Nineteenth Year Anthology for some help.
Even though it’s only 17 above outside, the sun is shining and I’m raring to plant! Come on, spring! — Jackie