Thursday, February 28, 2013

She's Got It

Spring isn’t officially here. The thermometer read only 11° this morning when I went out to do chores. But spring abounds. The robins and sparrows are chirping, baby calves are romping (even Trooper was running and bucking this morning!), geese are pairing, and the bald eagles are building a huge nest in a neighbor’s cottonwood.

When I was checking the very pregnant heifers this morning, little Dazzle scampered up Mt. Odoriferous (the barnyard “compost” pile) and posed with her doting mama, Cupcake. Even though the pre-sunrise light did nothing for my extremely limited photography skills, it’s still easy to see how Dazzle earned her name. I wonder if it's too soon to get her an agent....

“…He breathes on winter—suddenly it’s spring!” –PSALM 147:18 (MSG)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Music to Our Ears

Late this afternoon, we finally heard it—the sound we’d been holding our breath and praying to hear—the most marvelous sound in our barn-world—the sound that resonates with life triumphant over death: ESLOONPH, ESLOONPH! Loosely translated, esloonph is the slurping-siphoning noise made by a calf heartily nursing his mama. I apologize if I misspelled it, but I couldn’t find it in the dictionary.

After 44 very long hours of waiting and working to help Trooper fight, first for his life and then to overcome so many obstacles (see yesterday’s Bud and Trooper post), we could only cry with relief and joy as we watched him not only getting up and walking by himself, but butting Blossom and nursing! (Even at today’s noon feeding, he still had no sucking reflex and had to be fed with the stomach tube. We were worried, tired, and discouraged, to say the least. It seemed like Blossom was too.) No one could tell us that we weren’t watching a miracle!

“The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, endure forever….” –PSALM 138:8 (AMP)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bud and Trooper

As expected, Bubbles calved last night. Thankfully, she handily managed all of the required procedures on her own. No glitches, just a sturdy, independent little guy named Bud who was up and nursing in no time. It was a good thing, too, because Hubby and I had our hands full with Blossom.

Blossom’s water bag came out, but no feet appeared. Hubby soon discovered the reason—her calf was breech. Normally, the forefeet exit the cow first, with the head close behind. A cow can’t deliver a breech, and without intervention, both she and the calf will die. Time is the calf’s enemy because the longer a breech calf is in the birth canal, the more fluids it gets in its lungs.

This delivery was made even more difficult because the calf was very large! Hubby was manning the calf puller but having trouble; he told me to grab the tail and pull, but it was so slimy I couldn’t grip it. I had to grab the calf above his hocks. When he was born, we were rather surprised that he was still alive. Within minutes, Hubby named the handsome little dude: Trooper.

Blossom mothered up right away, but it soon became obvious that all was not well, and Trooper’s battle for life had just begun. His breathing was labored and rattled, he couldn’t stand up because his tendons were contracted, and he couldn’t suck. And even though it was a mild evening and he was in the barn, he was shivering uncontrollably.

While I rubbed Trooper with towels and blankets, Hubby milked Blossom to get her life-saving colostrum. He was then moved to ICU (the house). We’d neglected to stock our cow first-aid cabinet with a stomach-feeding tube, so I made a midnight run to get one from one of the nicest veterinarians on earth!

After the first feeding, Hubby went to bed for a while. Trooper kept trying to get up but just staggered and crashed around, so I stayed up with him, helping him sit up, stretching his legs, rubbing him, tucking blankets around him, and praying like crazy. At times, my faith was as weak and faltering as the calf was! By 3 a.m., I must have been somewhat delirious (I’d been up since 4:45 the previous morning) because a song came to me, a variation of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. I sang it over and over to my patient:

I see fields of green, skies of blue
Baby calves playing, and Trooper too
And I think to myself, what a wonderful God!

Hubby got up and milked Blossom again--who, by the way, is the sweetest, calmest first-time mama heifer in the entire planet—so we could get more colostrum into the calf. We surrounded him with a mattress and a couch so he couldn’t hurt himself, and I was finally able to get a few hours sleep.

Thanks to the prayers of many dear folks, Trooper is getting stronger and stronger. Now he can stand up and take some wobbly steps on his own! He isn’t totally out of the woods and hasn’t figured out the nursing thing yet (please pray if you’re so inclined), but if any calf can triumph over adversity, this one can.

Bud, at 12 hours of age.

Trooper, at 11 hours of age. 

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”               –ROMANS 8:37

Monday, February 25, 2013


Another star was born yesterday! Hubby and I had the honor of helping to deliver Cupcake’s first calf, a darling heifer. After the birth, Cupcake sniffed her newborn and started bellowing loudly in agitation. I was so scared that Cupcake was going to reject and hurt her, but between bellows, she licked her vigorously, so we held our breath and prayed.

Thank heaven, Cupcake fell so in love with her baby, who we named Dazzle, that she would barely leave her side. In fact, whenever Dazzle lay down to nap, her helicopter mama would moo nervously and lick her briskly to wake her up. Cupcake was obviously afraid that if Dazzle wasn’t moving, something must be terribly wrong. We finally ended up praying that Cupcake would relax and let the poor thing sleep!

Today, Cupcake’s a lot more “chill”, and the barnyard is much quieter. Excitement is still in the air, however, since Bubbles’ calf is getting ready to make its grand entrance shortly!

                                                            Cupcake checking on Dazzle--again!

“From the dazzle of Zion,
 God blazes into view." PSALM 50:2 (MSG)

Friday, February 22, 2013


Flame has fallen in love with her calf, hovering over her and talking to her constantly. Her lively, long-legged little heifer loves to buck and dance around, showing off to any audience, whether human, bovine, or avian. She’s got her mama’s long, upturned nose, plus these big, gorgeous eyes framed by insanely long eyelashes. Even though our little ranch couldn’t be further than Broadway, I can’t help but name her Liza.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing….” –PSALM 30:11

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Last and First

The first calf of 2013 has arrived! Not only was she 11 days early, but her mama, Flame, was on the bottom of our list for possible early calvers. From the looks of the ladies-in-waiting, my bet was on a trifecta consisting of Bubbles, Blossom, and Cupcake. A surprise like this was delightful but rather humbling.

Flame calved out in the pasture. When I checked her, the baby heffie had sucked and was up bucking (see photo), so I was going to leave the pair out there. But then suddenly they were discovered by a dozen other curious and playful heifers. I tried to lure the troublemakers away with hay in the back of the Ranger, but Flame decided to come too—at a run. When I saw two heifers running at the calf, shaking their heads, I jumped out, scooped up the 70 pound calf, and shoved her into the “cab” of the Ranger. Somehow I managed to keep her inside and drive at the same time.

Long story short: with the help of some helpful cow angels, I got the calf in the barn and the heifers in the corral. Since I had to run the gate and sort cows at the same time, it took a while to get Flame isolated and reunited with the calf. The latter is currently napping on a pile of hay. So far, so good!

Needless to say, I haven’t even started on laundry and breakfast dishes. But first I need a shower because I smell like newborn calf slime and urine.

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” –MATTHEW 20:16

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I suppose every neighborhood has them: two or three impudent young thugs with more nerve than brains. If there’s trouble to be made or property to be vandalized, those guys will have a hand in it.

Since we live in such idyllic country environs, one would think that we wouldn’t have to worry about hooligans. Not so. Two yearling mule deer bucks, ruffians both, had the audacity to tear the bark off of five of our young quaking aspens one night this winter. The little twerps committed the crime right in front of our house, while we slept!

Hopefully, the trees will survive and the hoodlums will either reform or move to another neighborhood!

Mule Deer in Aspen by Jenny Robinson
(To see more of Jenny's artwork, click on the Horses Out West Studio link at right.)

“In the day of my trouble I will call on You, for You will answer me.” –PSALM 26:7

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Every day, the ladies-in-waiting look less and less like heifers, and more and more like cows. I wonder if they have any idea of what’s coming!


“Since before time began
    no one has ever imagined,
No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you
    who works for those who wait for him. –ISAIAH 64:4 (MSG)

Monday, February 18, 2013


As an eagle flies, we live less than half a mile from the Big Horn River. From our vantage point, we can’t see the river itself, but we get daily glimpses of one of the bald eagles that fish in it. A few days ago, we were surprised to see two of them together in the same tree. Could nesting season be upon us already?

Back in the barnyard, there's definitely some nesting going on. We spent most of the day getting the barn ready for calving. First we cleaned it all out, then hauled in and shoveled dirt to level it and to prevent melting snow and rain from running in, should the drought break! The dirt is a little damp, but since it’s sandy, it should dry before I need to spread down the straw. We also had to take the very heavy palpation cage (used for A.I. and pregnancy checks) out of the maternity pen. (The latter is ready in case a heifer needs assistance with delivery.)

Next on my to-do list this week is converting a shed/greenhouse into a temporary goat nest, since new mama cows will probably not appreciate sharing their calves’ nursery with animals of a different species!

“How can I picture God’s kingdom for you?...It’s like a pine nut that a man plants in his front yard. It grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches, and eagles build nests in it.”  –LUKE 13:18-19 (MSG)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Solly's Eyes

Horses primarily use body language to communicate. Whinnies and nickers aren’t heard nearly as frequently as horse movies would lead us to believe. A good horseman can easily read a horse’s body language and converse with the horse using his own.

But one doesn’t have to be a horseman to know what our Tennessee Walker, Solomon, is thinking. His eyes tell all! One glance says he’s content, hungry, wanting attention, begging a carrot, proud of the good work he’s done, or jealous. (He’s easily offended and gets miffed if someone pays more attention to Sugar than him.) Solly would make a terrible poker player.

This morning Solly looked so cute, all covered with tiny icicles, that I just had to snap his picture before I did chores. Needless to say, his eyes read like a book:  Enough already! Where’s my breakfast?

“The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”  –MATTHEW 11:5 (NLT)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Best of Ranch

Dog people probably know that this year’s Best of Show at Westminster was Banana Joe, an (I had to look this up) affenpinscher from the Netherlands. What folks may not know is that our cowdog, Bodie, was just recently named Best of Ranch. While it’s true that the judges (us) were biased, and the competition was not stiff—actually, he was the only contestant—he certainly has the stuff of greatness: stunning good-looks, superior intelligence, athleticism, courage, devotion, and dignified presence. Bodie is humble, too. Despite winning such a prestigious award, he still helped me do chores and herd cows this morning!

“They all shook their heads in wonder, astonished at God’s greatness….”
–LUKE 9:43 (MSG)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


My name is Robin, and I am an arborholic. Some call it OCTPD (Obsessive Compulsive Tree-Planting Disorder). Simply put, I can’t stop planting trees and other woody perennials, especially roses. No matter how many I plant or transplant, it’s never enough.

Last spring, the act of planting dozens of saplings and shrublings was so arduous that I was certain I’d had my fill. And one would think that last summer’s excessive heat and drought might have cured my addiction, due to the sheer amount of time and labor that went into keeping the little things from dying of desiccation. Then in the fall, the job of fencing all the young trees to protect them from the cows should have convinced me to give up the habit for good.

But spring is around the corner, and I’m having cravings.

Because I’ve ordered so many windbreak trees from our local conservation service, they know me by name and send me a tree order form every January. Hubby found this year’s order in the mailbox before I did, and he threw it away before I could see it. That’s as fruitless as flushing a smoker’s cigarettes down the toilet or draining an alcoholic’s bottle in the sink—removing the temptation doesn’t fix the problem.

Besides, I know where the conservation service office is. It’s probably not too late to put in an order….

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
–ISAIAH 55:12 (NIV)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


“Our Father in heaven….”

This week’s homework assignment from our pastor was to ponder and respond to this phrase, found in Matthew 6:9. This is what I wrote in my prayer journal.

Father, You’re not just in heaven—You are heaven. Heaven is heaven because You are there. If You showed up here, right now, this little ranch would be instantly transformed.

Your glory would beautify every ugliness. There would be no dust on the television or stains on our old T-shirts. There would be no mud on our shoes and carpet, no manure in the corral and pasture. The dirty snow and slippery ice would disappear. Every blade of grass, every tree and shrub, every flower would spring to life, green up, and blossom—except for the weeds. We could search high and low but not find a single kochia, curly dock, or Russian thistle. The bees and butterflies would come back, and the larks, robins, and sparrows would sing again.

Your truth would expose every lie and vanquish every pretense. Your justice would make every wrong right and more than compensate for every word or act of contempt given or received. Your mercy would sweeten every bitter memory, and your grace would redeem every shattered dream.

Your love would banish all fear, shame, anger, and sorrow. Every scar on every heart would be healed. Every hole in every soul would be filled. Every infirmity of man and beast would be made whole. No human, cow, horse, or goat would ever limp or gimp again. It wouldn’t even surprise me if Jessie, Peaches, and Sam (my dear departed blue heeler and cats, respectively) were resurrected!

So, what are You up to today? If You get a chance, stop by for a while!

“…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Favorable Conditions

Meels (see Meels’ Big Day, posted on December 1, 2012) can’t stand Lolli, the buck that I borrowed for pregnancy insurance. Meels is repelled by any of Lolli’s attempts at courting. Furthermore, he eats too many of her beloved oats!

It’s good news that Lolli has been here for over three weeks and Meels still has no interest in buck-doe relations. Her normal cycles were 21 days long. If Meels wasn’t pregnant, she likely would have, er, warmed up to his affections by now.

Meels’ rounded tummy seems to confirm our suspicions that she’s expecting, but she’s always been a bit on the curvy side so that can’t be counted as proof. The biggest change that I’ve seen, though, is that she lies down to rest much more than normal. Any mom who is reading this knows that that’s a really good sign.

The jury’s still out regarding Blueberry’s condition, however, but I have high hopes!


“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]!”                                                                 --ISAIAH 30:18 (AMP)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Little Bit

Little Bit got his name because he was born a little bit late, to say the least, to an old pet cow named Mama Cass who had been having reproductive problems. She’d lost two calves prior to Little Bit, so she was especially devoted to and fiercely—and I do mean fiercely—protective of him. Perhaps she sensed that he’d be her last calf.

Little Bit didn’t stay little for long. Mama was a good milker, and Little Bit had inherited her easy-fleshing ability (cattleman lingo for “pleasantly plump”). This is a desirable trait for range cattle that have to earn their living in lean times, such as drought or snowpack, but ours always have plenty of good pasture or hay--maybe even a little bit too much.

Cattle aren’t known for being fastidious, but Little Bit was rather particular about his water. He’d use his tongue to clear the surface before he drank, deftly sweeping the water clean of drowned bugs and little bits of grass or hay that the other cows had left behind. I found this peculiar habit amusing, but the thirsty cattle which were waiting impatiently behind him for their turn to drink were a little bit less impressed.  

“The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us.” –ROMANS 10:8 (MSG)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


A piece of straw is basically hollow and virtually weightless. When tossed up in the air, it flutters slowly to the ground or blows away in the slightest breeze, barely affected by gravity.

Straw has so little mass that a handful of it doesn’t feel any heavier than one. Even a small bale of it weighs only 30 to 40 pounds, depending on type and how tightly it was baled. But we have some large round bales of barley straw that are so dense that they weigh around 1400 pounds! When the net wrap is cut, the bales almost explode with enough straw to bed the barn twice.

I’ve never looked at a piece of straw under a microscope, but I’ll bet it looks something like Velcro because it seems to stick to everything.

Unlike hay, straw has very little feed value, but when spread in a barn, acts as, well, an absorbent toilet tissue for livestock waste.

Words are either hay or straw. (Forgive my hayseed philosophy!) Hay-words bless and add value to whoever hears them. But straw-words are worthless and can absorb value, leaving the listener feeling worthless too. Straw-words can be heavy with contempt and dripping with scorn, just like bedding from a cow-filled barn. Straw-words seem to stick like Velcro and build up until the load seems suffocating. One more critical, shaming word could be the last straw.

“Those who look to Him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.” –PSALM 34:5

“To add value to others, one must first value others.” –John Maxwell

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Change-of-Seasons Request

We must have had some fog the previous night because we woke to a frosty world on Saturday morning. The rays of sunlight refracting from every tiny ice crystal transformed even the homeliest, dried-up old weed into a sparkling wonder, as if a large, unseen hand had sprinkled diamond dust everywhere.

When I was doing chores, my eyes were drawn to last summer’s sunflower skeletons. Although my flower beds look rather messy in the winter, I leave most of the freeze-dried flowers standing until spring. My semi-scientific reason: I read once that decaying roots, with their companion fungi, are a boon to soil health. I also leave them there as proof that winters—no matter how long, dark, and frigid—always pass, and summers always come.

There’s a waitress in town that reminds me of this picture. Customers are understandably underwhelmed by her cold countenance and prickly personality. But I can’t help but wonder what kind of long, dark, frigid winter her soul has endured. How many of her hopes have died? What storms have swept through her life, drying her dreams and icing up her heart? Jesus, give her spring and summer, I pray.

“Turn and answer me, O Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.” –PSALM 13:3 (NLT)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Lindsay's Kids

My niece, Lindsay, teaches in an inner-city San Antonio third-grade classroom. Her school is in an impoverished, crime-ridden neighborhood. Many of her students come from homes where drug deals and violence are the norm, but books and homework are not. Most test far below grade level.

One child spends part of the school year in the psych ward, and another flunks his tests because he always eats—yes, eats—them. Some try to steal her purse, others try to attack their classmates with scissors, many write or shout obscenities fluently. The vast majority of American students who have learning disabilities, mental illnesses, or behavior disorders have individualized education plans, teams of specialists, and/or instructional aides. Lindsay’s kids don’t.

During a recent classroom discussion, Lindsay discovered that most of her students had never even heard of a zoo! No one had ever read them Dr. Seuss’ If I Ran the Zoo, Curious George Visits the Zoo, or any of the other gazillion zoo books written for children. Mind you, San Antonio has one of the biggest zoos in the nation, but those kids have never seen a single one of its 3,500 animals. (Field trips are out of the question—Lindsay’s kids don’t even have access to music, art, science, or recess.)

It’s not right.

Note to Mom and Dad: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for every single trip to the library and zoo!

(Photo from Google Images)
These are NOT Lindsay’s kids.

Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” –MATTHEW 19:14