Saturday, December 11, 2010

There Has Been Blood

It's been a bloody day.

This is a photo of our three new cows taken a day or so ago. You will note the horns on each of the mature cows. Their horns were 'banded' before they came to us, i.e. a very tight rubber band was attached around the base of each horn with the purpose of constricting the blood flow, eventually causing it to fall off on its own. This is not my favorite de-horning method. I hear that skilled people with wire saws and needle nose pliers can do a very quick and relatively clean job of it when they have to, but the best option by far, for everyone involved, seems to be burning the bud of the horn when the cow is very young. I came to this opinion this morning when I went to the barn. Having greeted the cows and grabbed a pitchfork to begin cleaning up their manure. I was forking a patty when I noticed a splotch of blood on the hay. That was alarming. I looked around and saw many spots of blood until I finally lifted my head to see that one of Datura's horns had come off last night. The left side of her face was covered in blood as well as a large spot on her body where she had nestled her head last night. She was no longer bleeding and all the blood on her body was dry. In fact she was behaving very normally, taking a little grain from the bucket in my hand, drinking water, eating hay and so forth. I was alone on the farm at the time and called someone with more experience who reassured me that as long as she was not bleeding anymore, things would be okay. This was relieving to hear, but it only just takes the edge off of seeing one of your cows covered in blood.

These two roosters look guilty for a reason. Garth and I came to the egg mobile this afternoon to find these two and another mercilessly attacking a fourth rooster. Some male chickens will actually repress their sexuality in response to a very dominant rooster in the group. This was the story with two of our roosters. They had been odd looking hens their whole lives until a few very aggressive roosters were extinguished, at which point they promptly began learning to crow and commanding their own little harems. I don't know whether it's that the cold has forced them into tighter quarters, but three of them had abused and terrified this fourth rooster to the point that he was burying his face in a corner of the hen house with his own blood smeared down the walls. Garth decided he would have to kill both the persecutor and prey or it would no doubt continue. He lifted them gently by their feet and carried them over to the old milk house where they will stay overnight before meeting their end tomorrow.

Deer season draws to a close at sundown on Sunday. We heard from one of our elderly neighbors that there used to be 'old timers' around here that would gladly take the organs from any hunters who didn't want to deal with them. "But they all died," he said "and now everyone just throws them away." Edmund took the heart of a buck this man shot a week ago and I guess word got around. This evening a van pulled up and stopped. Garth recognized the man walking toward our door as one in a group of local hunters. He brought us a bag. In it was the heart and liver of doe he killed this afternoon. So I am happy that we are beginning to fill a hole in the community here, no matter what it is.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Frozen Water

Not a lot has changed here since the last post I wrote. The sky is still grey, shedding snow occasionally like finely grated parmesan cheese. The cows are masticating their hay constantly, blurring their bones from our sight with layers of valuable fat. The water for the chickens freezes every night. Edmund just set up this heat lamp with a timer on it to keep the ice at bay. The extra light may also persuade a few more eggs from the flock. I shut them in tonight and thought it looked so cozy in there. Maybe I am lonely for the Thanksgiving company we just had, but it looked like a sleepover to me. I'm sure they'll be talking long into the night.