Ruminating: bovine pregnancy, goat hernias, and fall gardens

Fall’s cool whispers are winding their way through the Ozark hills. They remind us that summer is not forever and redemption is like rain. The Midwest Dust Bowl of 2012 is beginning to subside, and the newly moistened soil beckons us to plant a fall garden.

We used the patch where our mostly pathetic potatoes grew. A couple of hours of shovel-tilling and cleaning out the weeds, and we were ready to sow seed. About two weeks ago, we planted carrots, kale, lettuce, and spinach. All have sprung to the surface, and are making a mighty effort to be fruitful before winter’s chill descends.

With cloudy days and cool fronts, our air conditioner is taking a much-earned rest from a summer of toil. The utility bill diminishes; we inhale the cool outdoor air as it moves through the house, and exhale a sigh of relief. Ameren could have at least included a “Thank You” note with that July bill…

With late season soil fertility has come the hope that our sweet, ornery Gertrude might soon meet a boyfriend… one that’s not a pig. However, our boar, Lucky, will soon be getting lucky with a sow. A friend has arranged to bring her Red Wattle sow to our farm. I think we may end up with at least one piglet from the union.

Regarding Gertie… a family friend has offered the use of his bull. Soon, Gertie will have lost her innocence that, though among unwed humans is a thing to be cherished, but for us cow-owners has meant the absence of several gallons of RAW milk per day! Our hope is that by next June or July, we’ll be milking our cow!

Calling All Bull-Owners:
Midnight Gertrude, aka “Gertie,” is a 2-year-old jersey-holstein cross. She loves people, as well as goats, chickens, and pigs. She has long been without a male cow companion, and is looking for a bull with whom she can forge that special bond. Though one suitor has already made it onto her schedule, she is open to offers beginning September 2013.

The goat milking will probably begin sooner. A conjugal visit has been scheduled for our two alpine/nubian cross Ozark goats. The breeding will happen in November, and the kidding should happen in April. If we bred any sooner, the newborn goats would come into a cold, life-threatening world.

However…

A problem has arisen (literally) with Wendy. She has had a swollen udder for months now, and in spite of regular penicillin shots, the swelling has not diminished much. Then, about three weeks ago, I saw a bulge on her side, the size of half a grapefruit, right in the middle of her ribcage. Worried she may have some sort of contagious infection or abscess, I sequestered her in a sick pen.

Nothing changed with the bulge, and I finally probed it a bit one day. I was able to push it completely back into her body, which confirmed my fears: Wendy has a hernia.

A little hard to see from this angle, but note on her right side the large protruding bulge. If any veterinarian wants to do some “pro bono” work, feel free to contact us…

Who knows how she got it. Probably from a fight with Joni or Gertie. Either way, I can’t see a sensible way forward where we could justify breeding her. She can’t be bred with a hernia — pregnancy would exacerbate the problem. And it makes no financial sense to spend several hundreds of dollars repairing a hernia on a goat that could be replaced for under one hundred dollars.

Though the decision is difficult, I’m afraid we’ll have to cull her. I’m not interested in doing it, and Kate can hardly bear the thought of killing her and putting the meat in the freezer, so I think we’ll just sell her. Certainly a grave loss for us here at The Ozark House, but a stark reminder that farming can be full of challenges, tough decisions, and life as well as death.

Determined not to end this post on a melancholy note, I’ll add two more items.

1) While Gertrude is at the Patterson’s farm getting knocked-up, I’ll be seeding the pasture for fall and winter grazing. The combination of stumps and boulders currently forbid the entrance of a tractor to plow the field (anyways, I don’t have one), so I’ll be using our trusty Suina to churn it up in sections. They’ll root up the rocks, and even do some damage to the leftover stumps, as well as turn over the soil. After a few days, I’ll move them to a fresh patch of turf, and sow a mixture of seed where they have just been. I plan to sow a blend of ryegrass, red clover, and fescue. My hope is that it will germinate well, grow fast, and provide some much-needed grazing for the newly pregnant cow and goat through the winter months. This makes me hope for a mild winter, like the last one, so the grass will keep growing. But I can hardly wish for such a thing: I need some snow! Also, I would like to try ice skating on the local golf course’s pond. It froze thickly, two winters ago, but I never bothered putting skates to it. I intend to amend that error.

2) This little Bubby is just the greatest. Look at him!

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