HONEY ROCK DAWN

Catch Up & A Chicken Contest

Ahoy! I started a new dose of thyroid meds about ten days ago and am finally feeling RIGHT. It’s so nice. It’s so easy! Every day is no longer a battle, as it has felt for the past six months. I wake up smiling again, like I used to. I am so glad.

I did find out that one of my vocal cords is paralyzed due to nerve trauma during surgery. The nerve is not severed, so it’s possible it will heal and my voice will come back. In the meantime, I am scheduled for a temporary fix: an injection of collagen right into the vocal cord. This plumps it up enough to move the cord to the midline, so the other working vocal cord can meet it and make strong sounds – right now, there is an air gap, which is why my voice is weak and breathy. It’s a simple office procedure and, like a Real Housewife’s face, it’s temporary – the collagen will eventually be absorbed by the body. At that time, I’ll know if the nerve has healed or if I need to repeat the injection or have a permanent procedure done.

One of the boons of my lengthy recuperation has been the chance to devour a giant stack of books. I just finished I Am Malala. INCREDIBLE. So riveting, so profoundly beautiful, so worth your time if you’ve not read it yet. (The audio version is great, too).

The Farmily is excellent, everyone is peaceful and happy and well. Maia has become mother of the year, always doting and protective, and Luna is thriving. And the chicks are nearly grown up! I always wondered how many would be roosters and how many would be hens, and it is almost clear. In about two weeks, I think we will know for sure who is what. In the meantime, let’s bet!

There are six little birds in total – how many will be hens and how many will be roosters? Leave your guess in the comment section. The correct answer will win one of my special Wyoming care packages, filled with treasures made by Mother Nature and me.

dos chickies

If multiple people guess the correct rooster:hen ratio, all names from that group
will be raffled randomly to select the winner – so go with your gut!

tres chickies
Photo taken June 27. They are much bigger now.

Love Connection

Spoiler: Maia and Luna are a happy pair! After two days of using the squeeze chute to allow Luna to nurse safely and easily, it was time to transition to a more natural method – we didn’t want Luna to associate the squeeze chute with food and have that override her instinctual connection with Maia. Though Maia never really kicked at Luna – she favored headbutting – we decided to put the hobbles on Maia as we did last year, in hopes of keeping Maia standing still so Luna could nurse. Straight out of the gate, Maia figured out how to bunny-hop with the hobbles on, taking a step with her front legs and jumping forward with her back legs together. When Luna approached to suckle, Maia pivoted, violently headbutted Luna, and then ran away with her bunny-hops. Maia could cover some serious ground with her bunny-hopping, crossing the entire length of the corral in two seconds flat.

So we took off the hobbles and came up with another contraption to protect Luna from the headbutting. We clipped two horse cinches together with a carabiner, and tied them on Maia behind her shoulders. I then put a halter on Maia, and tied the lead rope to the cinch. Maia could still eat and drink, and get up easily and safely, but she didn’t have the full range of motion to headbutt with any force. Since Maia had never worn tack before, Mike was nervous about an epic protest in the form of bucking and snorting, but that never happened. Instead, she stood calmly beside me like a seasoned saddle horse as I fiddled with the halter and cinch and all the knots. Such a gentle, patient cow! Now we just needed to transfer that patience and trust to her baby.

With this contraption in place, we brought Luna over to Maia, and though Maia no longer whacked Luna with headbutts, she still wouldn’t stand still for Luna to nurse. So Mike took off his shirt and tossed it over Maia’s face. Maia, unable to see anything, stopped moving around, and Luna had her meal. We gave Maia plenty of hay to relax and distract her.

LML

We couldn’t just leave Maia blindfolded, and didn’t trust her with Luna yet. Though Maia could no longer forcefully headbutt, there was still a chance that, if left together, Luna could accidentally get cornered and Maia could really hurt her. So, between meals, we kept them in adjacent sections of the corral, where Luna and Maia could see and hear and smell one another. I cuddled and brushed Luna and gave her some of the physical attention she wasn’t getting from her mother, and we brought them together for meals three times a day. We often found them lying side by side, with just the rail fence between them.

At meal time, either Mike or I (whoever was on duty) would toss a flannel shirt over Maia’s face and tie the arms under her chin, and open gates for Luna, who would run to Maia and plug onto a teat. As the days went by, we began taking the flannel off Maia midway through Luna’s nursing sessions and observe Maia’s behavior – sometimes she’d get antsy and angry and we’d put the flannel back on; sometimes, she’d stand calmly and nuzzle Luna. We began leaving them together after meal time and watching their behavior, and, once we felt we could trust Maia not to hurt Luna, we left them together overnight. The next morning, I walked down to the corral at first light and caught them in the act – Maia was standing calmly, of her own volition, as Luna nursed. Hooray! It just took a little darkness and time, patience and creativity, and trust in love.

In other news ~

I will be taking my Shop offline tonight (July 1) for all of July and much of August. If you would like to stock up on presents, prints, elk antler chew toys, books, or special stones, today is your last chance!

I will be delivering Star Brand Beef to Denver! Delivery will be Friday, August 14th and ordering will be open till mid-July.

The baby chicks have turned into mini chickens….
mini chicken

Baby Mama Drama

Yesterday afternoon, I was taking a bit of a siesta when I heard Baby bellowing. When it goes on for more than ten seconds, it usually means there’s another bull around, and each is telling the other how superior he is. We’ve had a neighbor’s bull show up at our fence a couple of times (who we do not want to get in with our cows), so I slipped on my Vans and went outside to see if that bull was back. The other bull was nowhere in sight, but once I was outside, I heard another cow noise, like yelling at the top of one’s lungs, if a cow could yell at the top of her lungs. It was apparent that Sir Baby was responding to this noise, so I turned the corner to see what was happening, and there was Maia, headbutting her newborn baby calf into the dirt. Just pummeling it, over and over, and making this horrible sound.

I raced up the hill to get between Maia and her calf. For comic relief, I will mention that I was completely nude but for my Vans, as I was expecting to just peek out my door for the roving bull and get dressed only after I determined if he was present – otherwise, I was going to hop back in bed to finish my nap. And how could I turn around and go back to the house for clothes when this baby was in mortal danger?! The calf was completely slick and floppy – she had to have been born less than a minute before I got there, all thanks to Sir Baby and his foghorn voice alerting me to the baby mama drama. Maia was going nuts. She bit one of the baby’s legs and kept trying to dodge me in order to headbutt the calf. I had to get it away from her, so I grabbed the calf and ran as fast as I could, half-dragging this 80-pound baby across the pasture and the driveway to the fenced yard where she would be safe from Maia’s violence. Maia chased after me, continuing to ram the baby when she could. When we got to the yard, I set the calf on the ground, jumped the rail fence, and pulled her underneath the railings to the safe side, just as Maia stormed up. And then I flopped on the grass beside the calf, gasping for breath, covered in birth slime and dirt.

Maia continued to pace the fence and moo angrily at us, but she found no way into the yard. I zipped into the house and grabbed a shirt for me and a towel for the calf. We sat in the sun as I dried her off (usually mother cow does this), and made sure she had no wounds from her first traumatic minutes of life. Little Luna (so named when I saw her black hair shimmers with silver) was perfectly fine. Calves are incredibly resilient. Luna spent the next ten minutes wobbling up to standing, and then the next ten nuzzling me, looking for an udder. Mike got home soon after, and he took Maia down to the corrals to the squeeze chute, while I located jeans and drove Luna down to the corrals in the pickup. With Maia in the squeeze chute, Luna could nurse safely and get that essential colostrum. Maia didn’t kick or get impatient while her baby suckled, but afterward, she still seemed full of confusing feelings. When Luna wandered in front of Maia’s head, while Maia was still in the squeeze chute, Maia began licking her (good!), then headbutted her right in the ribs (BAD!!). Oh Maia. Maia had mothering issues last year, though she did end up loving Jupiter after a couple of trying weeks. I hope she connects with Luna much more quickly – with her heart, not her head.

Sir Baby & Tinkerbell

babyandtinkerbell

Look at this bull! Sir Baby is now six years old and weighs over a ton. I’d guess he’s about 2200 pounds. His hooves are the size of salad plates. He stepped on my foot once, accidentally, and luckily the ground was soft and my foot sank into the earth and I was left with just a bruise. The hard part was getting him to move off my foot, because he was expecting a scratch between his shoulder blades.

Tinkerbell is a miracle baby – though she’s not a baby anymore, despite her tiny size. She’s nearly a year old and was born unexpectedly on the mountain last summer. Back in 2011, one beautiful young cow contracted a disease called lumpy jaw. A bacteria enters the jaw bone and causes the bone to grow, which severely deforms the jaw of the cow and makes it hard for her to chew. There’s no cure. The options are to sell the cow (which I was totally against, as she would be considered ‘garbage’ and treated even worse than other cows that enter The System), shoot the cow, or keep the cow and help her as much as possible (good grass, supplements in the winter, etc). We chose option 3. Though she became a very skinny cow, too thin to ever have calves, she was perky and an active part of the herd (sick and injured cows are “droopy” and will separate themselves from the rest of the herd).

Fast-forward to last October – this skinny, lumpy jaw cow came off the mountain with a baby! We couldn’t believe it – she didn’t even look pregnant when we trailed up, and we had missed all evidence of this event each time we went up to check on the cows (with 1000 acre leases, we never see every cow on these day trips). The baby was lively, frolicking and bucking, but miniscule, and already eating grass, as her mother wasn’t producing milk. I tried to get the calf to nurse on Daisy, but the calf had already been conditioned out of the instinct to nurse – she completely ignored Daisy’s udder and, instead, went for Daisy’s special high-protein pellets. So, we put the cow and her calf in the barn when we trailed the rest of the herd to fall pasture, and planned to spend the fall and winter giving them extra-special treatment and hopefully fattening both of them up.

November began with highs in the 60s, then, halfway through the month, the temperature suddenly plummeted to -21°F. It fell to -28°F the next night. And the next morning, we found mama had died in the night. She didn’t have enough body fat to keep her alive in that extreme cold, even in the barn with a sleeping bag tied on like a horse blanket and unlimited food. It was too cold, too fast. Her calf (who looks so much like she did, before the disease set in, with a long and delicate face) made it through the cold snap, as did the rest of the herd. I named the calf Tinkerbell, and I moved Sir Baby into the barn (he fights too much with the other bulls for his own good, which is why his left ear is deformed).

Tinkerbell and Sir Baby immediately became BFFs. They sleep side by side. Sir Baby grooms Tinkerbell throughout the day, licking her neck and back just like a mama cow would. He’s taught her not to fear people, and when I climb onto his back and brush his massive neck, she nibbles the toe of my boot. Tinkerbell gets a daily bucket of Daisy’s special pellets, and she’s actually grown quite a few inches in all directions. They are the biggest and the littlest members of the Farmily, an odd couple and unlikely friendship, a happy consequence of a sad story.

Born on the first day of Spring

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