Sunday, August 20, 2017

A tribute, to the greatest-great grandma I ever had the honor to know

A Tribute, to the greatest great-gram I ever knew:   (Composed Thursday evening,  8-17-17 by Terri E.)

She was born the eldest of four children and the only daughter on November 28, 1924, to Russell & Pearl (Moffett) Larimer.  As a girl and the oldest, she learned early about keeping a household and working for the family right beside her Mother.  As an older adult, she reminisced about simpler times.  She and her brothers were allowed to bicycle from Bronson, MI,  to Orland, IN, to visit their Grandma & Grandpa Moffett.  She still remembered the smell & taste of her Grandma Moffett's soft sugar cookies.  A certain store bought brand was close (today), and they have been a favorite right up to the end.  She remembered the drives in the family car, coming out to visit Grandpa James & Anna Larimer at the farm in Greenfield Mills.  One winter, when the bridge was out and the need was urgent, her father drove the car across the ice on the mill pond.  They made it safely, but the intensity of the moment stayed with her over the years.  She shared how her first visit to church was with the encouragement of a teacher from school.  She attended church for the rest of her life, developing a faith that was rock solid, passing that heritage on to future generations.

Fast forwarding a few years, it was 1941, the war years and she was 16.  She and three other girlfriends decided to go to Dally's ice cream shop in Sturgis.  She drove her girlfriend's car, brand new and a manual, it was a grand adventure.  There was no incident other than this was the first time Vern Donley laid eyes on her.  He was six years older, and he had just enlisted in the Army.  He was at the ice cream shop with three of his buddies, they paired off with the girls.  A smitten Vern made sure he was partnered with her.  He soon became a regular visitor at the Larimer home and by July 1942, they were married.  They only had a short time together before he was shipped to the European & African theatre the following month for the next four years (inconsistent letters were their only source of contact).  Soon after, she learned she was pregnant, she continued to live with her parents and brothers.  Their daughter Connie was born the following May.  Their marriage did not truly "begin" until after Vern returned from the war, and then it was a time of readjustment and healing for all.  A few years later, Russell Larimer approached them asking if they would consider farming together on the family farm in Greenfield Mills.  It would require more adjustments and changes, but it was agreed.  Connie continued to grow & thrive, Roger was brought into the family, farm life had it share of curses and blessings, but then what doesn't?  In 1962, Connie married Dave Easterday and the family grew with the addition of Grandchildren, Terri & Ron.  In the mid-70's, her mother, Pearl, passed.  Roger married Betsy Yarbrough, after a few more years, Grandsons, Vincent & Drake were added.  In 1980, her father, Russell passed in his sleep.  Vern and she had been married for 40 years now.  There was talk of traveling more, of slowing the pace, of having time for "just them".  In August, 1982, an unexpected tractor accident took Vern from her.  A shock.  A blow that was difficult to recover from...  This chapter in her life came to an end.

The next chapter begins around 1988 with the arrival of a new Great-granddaughter, with family moving in right next door.  She began to feel life again, she was no longer just going through the motions.  She helped to care for that Granddaughter at age 63 and the other Great-grandchildren as they arrived, four in all by 1996.  The children loved going to Gram's house and she loved having them -- and they knew it.  But she loved her entire family, not just these later ones.  She said once that each generation was that much more precious to her.  God graced her to be able to see two Great-great-Grandsons before her body began to fail her.

Over the years, she has been a refuge, a rock.  Her faith never wavered even during difficult times.  She used her faith to teach the next generations, sometimes in her stories, oftentimes in her quiet example, her dignity, her servant's heart.  It is this heritage that I celebrate this evening.  That hope that tells us that this world is not the end.  That we KNOW we will see her again as she is being cared for by Hospice and her loved ones now.  Thirty-five years, almost to the day, she has waited to see Vern.  My Grandmother, Marian Donley, is who I write of, as I'm sure many already may know.  She is 92 and will be taken soon.  What a blessing to be able to call myself her Granddaughter...   We love you, Gram.  You will be missed when you go, but we will see you soon.  Thank you for a life well lived.                      

"Love is patient ,love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast it is not proud, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, it always trusts, always hopes, always persevered, love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-9"

Gram passed this morning, Sunday 8-20-17 at 3:00 a.m.

[Composed by my sister. Words fail me.... So I will use my mom's, & sisters words.]

Great-Grandma does not look like the picture on the left anymore, I know in my heart she looks like the woman on the right.  She is with Jesus, and all her loved ones waiting, and I can't even imagine how amazing she must feel now!

I loved having her as my Grandma and I can't believe just how blessed I was to have her in my life! She will always be in my heart.   I love you, Grandma! 💕

Marian Annabelle Larimer Donley
November 28, 1924  - August 20, 2017

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Onward & upward!

After finding out that my Sassy cow wasn't pregnant, it was necessary to reevaluate the situation after the disappointment wore off.

So, as I usually do when I need to make a bigger decision that will effect more than just me, I bounced the decision off those around me. Family, friends, even complete strangers through the cattle related groups on Facebook.

After putting it up in the forum on Facebook that I had this issue, I received a lot of advice & insight from the cattle people. In fact if I hadn't posted my questions and asked for recommendations, I would never have found the owner of this bull! The Lord is good. He is guiding & providing!

Through Facebook, once it became known that Sassafras was not cycling correctly, a woman who is into the mini Jersey world suggested trying a different loose mineral powder for her to try, stating that since putting her cows on this particular brand, that their cows have been healthier, able to produce stronger calves, & more able to maintain their weight. I figured heck I've got nothing to lose, & if it works, this will be one of the best $20 bills I've ever spent.  So I looked up the mineral brand, found a dealer & got some!

I then thought back to my own pregnancies, & thought a batch of probiotics wouldn't hurt. That maybe she's having digestive issues & the rumen in her gut may be a little weak or her cells are struggling to absorb the nutrients. So I got a small tube of that as well as the minerals, but not the brand the bovine nutrition lady at the feed store suggested. I didn't want to spend $68 on something that may not even help, so I bought a 4 dose syringe at Rural King. 

It worked. It worked so well in fact that she is cycling right now! I'm ecstatic! I never thought I would be so happy over a cow coming into season, and the risk of her attempting to mount me, or some other object in her hormone driven state... But I am! I am happy over a cow! Lol

I eventually decided that it was time to organize my thoughts, so I could think clearer, and some of the things I was trying to decide were:

What do I need to do to get her ready to be bred?
* Vet check
* Vaccinations
* Blood tests to prove she doesn't have a disease or a REASON she can't hang onto her pregnancy
* Hormone shot?
* CIDR (extremely strong hormone insert, similar to the T shaped human birth control, but for the opposite of what humans do, since cows do it TO GET PREGNANT instead AVOID pregnancy.
* Locate a transportation trailer

Do I want to attempt another artificial insemination? [I decided against it as it would most likely prove to be a failure. This option is not of the table for future years, just not going to do it this year.]

Do I want to locate a bull & haul her somewhere to let her visit & become acquainted with him? [This is the choice I made. I believe she will be more likely to actually conceive if I allow nature to take it's course the way God intended. At least for this breeding season.]

What are the cost comparisons? 
[* $30-$120 for AI depending on the breed we choose to breed her to (jersey, Dexter, & a couple meat breeds to choose from. Elmer has several straws in storage at Great Lakes Sire Service, which will keep indefinitely till he sells / uses them)
* Mini Jersey bull: $100 stud fee + $1/day unless I haul my own hay over for her to eat.
Waygu bull: $0 stud fee + 1 hay bale per month I plan to leave her there with him. But this is the last breed I want to cross with, next to Dexter's, because although they are the Japanese beef cattle breed, they take twice as long to mature to a butcherable age. The steaks are supposed to be too die for, but after what cost? 3 years of feed, into one mini cow, who would barely fill the freezer? I don't think so!
* Scottish Highland bull: unknown. Never became necessary to find out.

What am I willing to settle for if I can not find what i want?

(Locating a bull of the right breeding and temperament can sometimes prove to be a problem, so if push came to shove & I could find no other options what breed would I be willing to cross with?).

My order of preference is Jersey, Scottish Highland, Waygu, Irish Dexter. My girl has just enough Dexter in her genetic profile to not have the customary white ring around her nose... I do not want to strengthen that particular trait in her offspring, regardless that Dexter's are reputable as being docile

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Disappointing news

Today marks the 14th day past due on Sassafras.  I'm a basket case with this waiting game, & have decided to call the vet to see if he could come palpate rectally to determine if she's "late" or is in fact "open" & I've just been mistaken all this time.

Update 1: Vet is out of town till the 17th. Have called the man who did the AI for me back in October to see if he's available to do it.

Update 2: He is available, & will be here shortly. I have to clean the cow pen, but feel as though I should remain available as well... Who knows when he'll be here. He said he had to go AI a cow in the next town over, so it could be 45-min, it could be 3-hours. I think poop scooping is gonna win out till he gets here.

Update 3: Elmer showed up at the house around an hour & a half after I talked to him, just as I was finishing with spreading the clean stuff.

After palpating, he determined that she is inactive (no eggs moving around in the ovaries), & open, & has heat bag. Which means she's been out of season so long that her body has created a false bag.

I am really bummed but such is life... I guess.

He's advised that I replace the free choice mineral(Perhaps it's gotten old or something), & add a mineral block to make sure she's getting her vitamins. She's always struggled to have normal heat cycles so she's been on minerals for a long time, but I guess he thinks they aren't working or she's not getting enough...

Then he advised a shot of lutalyse & an attempt to rebreed using one of the straws he has stored up at Great Lakes Sire Service. (3 mini Jersey bulls, 2 beef, & 2 Dexter.)

If it doesn't work the 2nd time, coming from a high yield dairy operation mindset, he's advised that she may be a dud & to dispose of her. But I think before I turn her into hamburger (😢) I'm going to find a bull to let her visit with because... She's my pet... & I really don't want to ship her off...

I have had animals all my life. It's a fact of life that dead weight cannot remain, but I have become attached because I believed she was going to be a keeper who would earn her keep... 😭

Please pray for my cow... That she feels better & gets pregnant...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The waiting game

I think I can honestly say that I am having a harder time with the waiting, for Sassafras to have her calf, than I did with birthing my own children! (Laughing but I'm serious).
With the birthing process of my own offspring, there were ultrasounds, doctors input, opinions & helpful advice from other moms, support groups, videos to be watched... Ways of KNOWING what would happen, & that ultimately my baby & I would be alright, even if the birthing process didn't go as well or in the manner that I planned.

With my silly pet cow, it's anyone's guess how long her gestation period is. There is literally a 20-day window  which this birth could fall in, (cows have been 272 - 292 days gestation) & we are in that "donut hole" right now. The vet said one date (7/12/2017), & the AI, who is an expert on miniature cattle, said a different date. (6/24/2017). Well, the 24th was here & gone, & we're still waiting.

Jill, from Prairie Homestead, studied her cow & documented in photos as well as a blog post, the changes & so forth that her standard size Jersey went through in the 2-weeks leading up to the birth. Things like the vulva swelling/becoming engorged, the udder becoming so full that she didn't know how there could be ANY MORE added or the poor thing might burst, then more being added still. She even made note of how the teets themselves resemble coke bottles in shape until just a few weeks ahead of calving, at which point they fill out to what one thinks of when thinking of a healthy udder. This observation was also made by another cattle owner I'm not familiar with, who also described them as resembling coke bottles, & stated that the wrinkles would fill out the closer she got to calving.

★ This theory was confirmed through personal observations of a friend's cow. The friend is new to cows & #2 heifer was freshening for the first time. She was going crazy not knowing how far away the birth would be, so due to the experiences gleaned from the milk route & interactions with the Amish dairy world, she called us. She was just SURE something was wrong, because the heifer was over her due date & wanted a second opinion on if everything was OK or if she was over reacting, so I was able to visualize these pre-calving signs in #2 before needing to recognize them in Sassy.
★ Going over the approximate due date isn't uncommon. Just like humans, the first time around the body is just trying to get the hang of things, so it will go over the due date sometimes.
Yet another owner, who's apparently had quite a few cows to watch this in, had observed that just prior to calving, (24 to 48 hours) the cow will begin to arch, or kink her tail in preparation for the calf to make passage. The person stated that this is a sure shot way of knowing you'll have a new calf shortly, & was confirmed by several others in the forum.

I find this all very interesting, but what I find even more interesting, is there are really not THAT many people who have been watching their cows that closely, so there isn't a ton of info out there on this. In today's day & age... It just hits me as interesting. So I've been trying to observe & take photos. The photos haven't turned out well because she's a dark brown/black, but I have good intentions.

When I bought Sassy, I intended to have a family milk cow. Nothing more. I never actually thought I would grow to love her like a pet, or that I would enjoy her as much as I do. I mean what can you do with a cow? You can't exactly play fetch with it, or cuddle up with it on your lap to read a good book... But ... Despite that, she has been very good for my battered & bruised soul. She behaves like an overgrown puppy. A 500lb, exuberant, genuinely affectionate puppy, who wants nothing more than to be petted,  brushed &/or scratched. She sometimes gets so thrilled to see me coming that she dances. Literally, dances a jig. Other times getting so happy that she rubs her head & face on me. So, I can honestly say that it's kind of nice to be so loved by an animal that she dances for you...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my birthday, and the cat decided to have her kittens last night!  Happy Birthday to me!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Old friends, new changes, better life

Several months ago when I first bought Sassy, an old friend reconnected with the family and although many things have changed since we went back & forth consistently, there are just some things about the friendship that have not changed despite having not seen her or her family in a long time.  Funny how that works!

Years ago, she was the person who would fix our computers when we screwed up this or that.  She taught me a lot about the computer world as well as helping me to get through some tough stuff that I had going on at the time.  She was married to a serious creep of an idiot, had two sons by a prior marriage, and had one daughter from the idiot.

Mom & Dad got tired of constantly needing to fix this or that, and bought a new system.  Since we no longer needed her to fix our broken down fix-r-uppers, we lost touch for a long time.

Since losing touch over the last 12-years, she was able to get away from the abusive idiot of a pedafile she was married to.  Her two sons have gone off the deep end, with one believing that he is a girl and the other being such a chronic liar that nothing is trustworthy from his mouth.  Her daughter on the other hand, is doing "OK", because our friend was able to retain custody of her and she has remarried a really decent man who has a daughter of his own from a prior marriage as well.  He supports and loves her the way she deserves to be loved, and through his support & due to some serious health issues, she has chosen to begin hobby farming in an effort to get healthier and improve the quality of life she has left to live.

Fast forward to today.  Here we are, both of us having lived through our abusive ex's, both of us deciding that we can feed and care for our families, better, through growing our own food than by buying it in a store.

She now has chickens, ducks, rabbits, cows, and dogs, and is loving the country life!!  She's smiling and laughing, has stopped smoking (due to the health issues) and seems to be genuinely happy!

[In comparison:  I have horses, cows, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats & toddlers (ha ha).]

She raises the rabbits as pets for the local feed store, the chickens lay eggs which she uses to feed her family then sells the extra to the public who may stop into her home, and raises the cattle for the milk they might produce, for her family to drink, but mainly for the meat they will produce once they come of age/weight.

Yesterday she called asking if I could come down and look at her heifer who is overdue to give birth.  I went down, and what could have been a 3-hour run, turned into 6-hours.  I looked at her cow, and I guestimate that she should give birth any time between now & tomorrow.

Because of dad being a milkman for over 24-years, I was raised around dairy cows.  Cows are, dare I say, part of who I am?  Although the cows were never my own until now, I still learned a great deal from the producers along the way.

After owning their own business for that long, my parents saw so many crazy animal drama's, equipment failures, life or death emergencies & FDA dramas... that we used to joke about how we should write a book of memoirs, and call it "As The Milk Churns" (haha).

One example of such drama's: when I was around 7-years old, we pull into a producers yard and he rushes out to the truck as we pull in, begging Dad to come help him pull a holstein calf.  They didn't have the proper equipment, the farmer wasn't properly prepared, despite it being a heifer on her first calf.  They pulled and worked to get that calf out for over 3-hours, and when they finally got it, it was dead.  The mother died shortly after from exhaustion. A sad story for sure, but an example of how although Dad wasn't properly "trained" in farm husbandry, he would always get pulled into it anyway.  It would seem that the Amish producers we served, thought that Dad would just know the answers to whatever problems they had.

Now, years later those unexpected experiences have helped me.  Have given me confidence to go on and begin my own hobby farm, and because of how calm dad was in these emergency situations, it laid the groundwork for some of my choices and how to handle emergencies better.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Today's many adventures

Interesting happenings around here today!

When I went down to check on Sassafras this morning she was feeling pretty uncomfortable because the calf was crosswise. I walked in to put her halter on for the day, & she just walks over & plants her face against my stomach & leans on me & moans.

She does this when she's uncomfortable, in pain etc.

I can't do very much about the calf being in the wrong position. So I just try to help her be as comfortable as possible. Walking her around a bit, then tied her out in the yard. Kind of figure if it works for humans maybe it will help her to...