But last week was a bugger! First of all, Javid ended up in the hospital in Duluth with another infection in his pressure sore. Although the pressure sore is less than a quarter of the size it was to start with, some of the area is still open. Luckily, as it turned out, the infection was minor, but he did have surgery on Friday. The surgery came out well and the doctor is very optimistic about the results.

Will working desperately to save a bull calf.

Meanwhile, we had two cows in the corral which were close to calving. One unexpectedly had her calf outside on the hay piles early one morning (I’ve lost track of days…). It was a big bull calf and when Will found it, doing chores, he dashed back to the house for me. We carried it up to the house as the temperature was only 10 degrees and it was not only wet but weak. We worked on it for an hour, putting it right in front of the wood stove, rubbing it down with hot towels, tube feeding with warm milk and dextrose, and adding a propane heater as he was hypothermic. But at last, the calf died even though Will did CPR. We were really sad about this calf dying. Will had hoped for a bull calf as it would be a purebred Black Angus out of one of our biggest cows. We immediately got the second cow into the training ring barn and bedded her nicely. She looked ready to pop too. So all day and night we would go down and check her, every two hours. Neither of us got much sleep!

Then, to top it off, on Sunday morning very early, while Will was sleeping on the couch, between cow-checking trips, a pack of coyotes got into the orchard and chicken house, killing all but three of our chickens and four turkeys. It seems they had hopped from the driveway up to the plowed snow against the orchard fence, then on to the round bale of hay covering our well head and into the chickens. It was horrific with bodies lying all around. We were shocked! Yes, I’d gotten lazy with everything else that was going on and didn’t shut the door of the chicken coop. But then, in 14 years, we’ve never had predators breach our orchard fence. See, even I can make mistakes — costly mistakes.

I called David and he and Ashley came over and helped me retrieve the dead birds and sack them up. Then he spent the day fortifying the chicken coop and goat pen. He plowed the snow away from the orchard fence, secured the weakest spots in the fences and added a new, very secure door lock to the goats’ inside stall. I set a trap outside the chicken coop door but so far have not caught anything.

Fern, the mom, keeps careful watch over her baby, Hope.

Last night I went down to check Fern, the pregnant cow, and there was a newborn heifer calf! I called Will on my cell phone and he brought down towels to dry her off as the temperature was swiftly dropping. (It went to -25 last night!) Then he added a propane heater, right next to her, which was at all times carefully monitored. She got dried off and nursed a bit but Will still went down twice last night just to be sure she was okay. This morning, she was nursing all four quarters and looking happy.

Hope our new heifer calf.

Whew, what a week! — Jackie


  1. Hi Jackie, so sad about the bull calf…I hated that part of farming/homesteading. But Hope is a pretty one, even tho not the bull Will wanted/needed. And I love her mom’s “hairdo!”

    It was “interesting “ a few weeks ago…the island had snow, which pretty well shut things down. I was housebound for a few days…which I don’t like! I know six or eight inches is a “skiff” of snow to you…. We were luckier than Seattle, tho…areas around there had twenty inches and more!

    Keep on truckin’…

    • Yeah Joyce, we’re still sad about that loss but moving on, of course. So you got snow! Wow what a challenge for you all. I know you’re not used to it and how quickly things shut down because of it. Spring IS coming!

  2. I am so sorry for all the loses you all have incurred this past week. I personally know how bad you all feel. We just have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and get right back to living. It’s funny how God seems to know our sorrows and it seems like He always puts a bright spot back into our lives to help us get through the hard times.

    • Isn’t that the truth, Sugar! Right now we’re awaiting our third calf to be born and we’re back to checking every 2 hours; no sleep for the wicked!

      • Miss Jackie, My Mom used to shake her head and sigh “there is no rest for the weary.” Often about things unrelated to being tired. I think she meant that life often hands us stuff we don’t really welcome…..BUT then she’d sing “We’ll understand it better by and by.” She was an outstanding vocalist! Rick

  3. So glad that Javid is on the mend. Bedsores must be a frustrating battle. And dealing with livestock is, too. Opportunistic predators of all sizes, weak and chilled newborn animals (for us it’s lambs) and the emotional strain of losing any animal, much less so many at once, must have been a blow. You show us all the realities of homesteading and how to bounce back. Draw strength from the sincere concern and understanding we all feel for you and Will.

    • It was a blow. But like you said, losing stock is a reality of homesteading; it’s not all fluff and smiles, unfortunately. Just like life. Thank you for your kindness.

  4. Wow you’ve all sure had your hands full. So sorry about the problems and loss of the calf and chickens. Hope Javid’s wound continues to heal quickly for him. Hang in there!

  5. Awe man guys! Figures they didn’t break into the rooster pen! We are so sorry to hear of your losses… It seems there have been quite a few life changers for everyone lately. Rough start to the new year! Definitely have you guys on the top of the prayer list tonight! Mia and John

    • Thanks guys! Yep, I did think “why didn’t they pick the rooster coop???”, as well. But they didn’t. And that’s life and we keep on keeping on. We’ll set those two remaining hens and raise up some more chickens and I’ll NEVER, NEVER get too lazy to shut the coop door and lock it every night again!

  6. My husband has been dealing with a pressure sore for more than 2 years now. It’s finally healed, but he went through numerous infections and problems, so you have my sympathy for Javid. I hope he is getting quality care that will see him steadily improving. ** I’m sorry for your loss of the bull calf and all that he would have presented. I’m curious to know if you buried the calf or incorporated his meat into your storage. A touchy subject for some, I now, but a homestead has to survive, and since the calf didn’t have any disease, I was just wondering. Here in Georgia, winter is on it’s last legs. Maybe you’ll see warmer days soon.

  7. I grew up on a farm and I remember some good years and some bad years and we weren’t homesteaders. We had chickens, many chickens which my folks raised for market when I was preschool. They gave that endeavor up and went the dairy route. Sorry to hear about your loss. That was a beautiful calf. And the chickens to. Spring is coming and its time to raise baby chicks. You and Will sure work hard. I hope Javid will be ok soon.
    I have been reading your blog for 6 or 8 years now and I look forward to every post and love the pictures. I love to garden but your garden is way beyond what I have done. Hope is a good name for the new baby calf. Blessings

    • Thank you so much Ruth Ann. Homesteading isn’t about the size or scope of what we do, it’s the path we travel. Hope is now bouncing around outside in the sun.

  8. I grew up on a farm and I remember some good years and some bad years and we weren’t homesteaders. We had chickens, many chickens which my folks raised for market when I was preschool. They gave that endeavor up and went the dairy route. Sorry to hear about your loss. That was a beautiful calf. And the chickens to. Spring is coming and its time to raise baby chicks. You and Will sure work hard. I hope Javid will be ok soon.
    I have been reading your blog for 6 or 8 years now and I look forward to every post and love the pictures. I love to garden but your garden is way beyond what I have done. Blessings

  9. Glad Javid is doing better, pressure sores are tough to deal with.

    My husband got a few nice photos of a red fox out of our living room window looking down on the house – and the coop where my old girls are. The young ones are in our machine shed in a stall. It is too cold to let them out now (but they were out last month)! We took a hike today and found the fox tracks all over and pheasant feathers. There is a rooster pheasant feeding each day under my bird feeders – about 100 yards from the fox perch and next to the hen house. That fox should move on as he was named “Target” today. Plus we don’t need him in the barn getting into the dry cat food. So sorry to hear about the coyotes in your hen house. And your calf. It is tough to lose a nice big calf like that. I have been through the same thing with numerous foals. (We didn’t lose them all – but it is a lot of work whether they give up or not.)

    Hopefully your spring will improve from here on out.

    • That’s what we keep saying. I hope “Target” either moves on or moves on to greener pastures soon. They can sure get into trouble on a homestead. Not only will they eat the dry cat food but the cats too. That’s why Mittens is confined to the house at night; too many hungry big guys out there, especially at night! I had the good fortune to never have lost a foal during 25 years of raising Morgans. Thank God. A calf or chickens is bad enough.

  10. Oh the life of a homesteader. Always ups and downs…ins and outs….sadness and joys. Congrats on the darling hope. ❤

    • Homesteading is just like life; some sunshine days and some pitch black night. But then the sun always comes back out if you just wait.

  11. Sorry about your week, but they say everything comes in threes so you are due for good luck! Love the picture of Fern. Don’t tell her but she looks like she is wearing a baaad wig. The kids laughed also.

    • So you noticed Fern’s “doo” Her mom, Surprise has it and so does Fern’s younger sister, Lady. We laugh at them every day. Behind their backs, of course.

  12. So sorry to hear about the loss of your animals and all the other things you had to deal with. May this week be trouble free.

  13. We too had problems with the early calves ie born January and February. We now turn the bull with cows at the end of June to have calves no earlier than April. We’ve had the same miserable luck with mid winter calving, calves in our bathtub to warm up, resuscitate etc. I feel bad for you and know what work it takes. Last summer a bad ass coon got our few laying hens. Now we have 5 in the hen house and hopefully no way in-hah. We hear coyotes every night here and I ask my grandchildren what do they say and they howl like coyotes. It’s all part of country living and the kids appreciate the cycle of life and know where their food comes from and that Life isn’t easy. Hopefully these are lessons they’ll remember when G’pa is gone and they leave the boonies we live in.

  14. I have lost 6 of my 9 this winter…Racoons got a couple, 1 we think was a fox killing, and then a big bobcat tore off top netting at 10 in the morning and got the other 3…Which we saw run out. Very sad, and upsetting. Spring chick time, and a huge new super strong coop to keep them safer.

    • AMEN, Judith!!! I’m thinking chain link and razor wire….. Maybe mounted guard turrets at the corners???

  15. I’m so sorry about your bull calf and all those chickens. It’s really hard to lose animals that you’ve invested so much in. On another note, when you used to write for Backwoods Home magazine you mentioned that you might write a book focusing on ways to accomplish homestead chores as you age . is that still in the works ??

    • Actually that morphed into Homesteading Simplified; How to Live the Good Life Without Losing Your Mind. Lots of tips and hints on how to do things smarter, not work harder. P.S. I still DO write for Backwoods Home Magazine, which is now back in print again. See the box above to subscribe.

      • How do I order this book? I have a catalog coming. Can I add the book to the seed order? And yes, I would love you to autograph it. I have your other books on canning, cooking from home storage and starting over. Love them, great information.

      • Kathy, you can order the book with your seed order but I ship them separately so the seeds don”t scratch the book cover.

  16. Heartbreaking about the calf – he looks so well formed. And the chickens, what a punch to the gut. I think you were right to double down your defenses – now that they had success at your place they’ll be back. You might have to put a little hunting pressure or at least hazing on them to convince them this is not a great place for coyotes to eat. But, I know you have a well stocked pantry and you’ll have more chickens and you have Hope, so you’ll be ok.

    • Right you are, April. Traps are out and the rifle is loaded. All the dead bodies were taken to the dump so the coyotes don’t benefit from their attack and be drawn around here; the ground’s frozen 7′ down so burial is out of the question. Yep, we’ll have more chickens. The two surviving hens will be allowed to set on their eggs. Luckily, we have a pen of roosters which are destined for butchering when the weather warms up some so we can select one of those to keep. Yep, you’re right; we’ll be okay. Life has its ups and downs for sure. And you just keep moving on.

  17. sorry to hear about the problems with your son, and the other losses you had last week. We had a relative who battled pressure sores, and as a nurse, I think its a result of poor care…which is usually a result of inadequate staffing. Again, sorry to hear.

    • Javid is partly to blame for his pressure sores. He is a people person and although he is supposed to only be in his power wheelchair for 2 hours at a time to prevent pressure sores, sometimes last summer he would refuse to go home to lay down and was up for 5-6 hours, having fun. Mom used to say “when you dance, you’ve gotta pay the piper”. So true. Javid is owning up to that now.

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