Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Sale

If you’re quiet, you can hear the sounds of spring in cow country: birds singing, cows calling calves to mealtime, and auctioneers selling bulls and replacement heifers.

In general, the cattle market is quite vulnerable to volatile factors such as weather here and abroad, grain markets here and abroad, prices of fuel and fertilizer, foreign demand for beef, numbers of cattle in feedlots, and public perception of beef nutrition and safety (itself subject to a torrent of information which is often distorted or false).

That’s the big picture. The worth of an individual animal is also dependent on the seller’s reputation for quality and integrity, the animal’s phenotype (quality as determined by appearance and ultrasound), genotype (genetic potential), actual performance, as well as a buyer’s needs, preferences, and depth of pocketbook.

If I were a cow, I’d be chased into a sale ring and weighed on a scale for all to see. And after folks took a look at my scars, limp, bad back, and multiple brands, there would be more snickers and jokes than bids. Probably the only one bidding would be the slaughter buyer, the man that buys what no one else wants—for cheap. (Where else do you think those burgers on the dollar menu come from?)

But, just before the auctioneer would give up and wave me out, a bearded guy sitting on the back row bleachers would tip his white Stetson. Everyone would turn and gawk at him, as the auctioneer resumed the bidding.

“I’ve got 65, who’ll give me seventy?”

The guy in the white hat would stand up and pull his checkbook out of his Carhart pocket. With a commanding voice and a twinkle in his eye, he’d say, Is seventy centillion enough? Then he’d write the check with a pen that positively glittered and ink as crimson as blood.

For once in his life, the auctioneer would be nearly speechless. “Are you crazy?" he’d finally sputter. “That cow ain’t--”

The buyer’s eyes would darken. He’d clear his throat. “Don’t talk about my cow like that! I just gave everything I had for her.”

If anyone could manage to tear their gaze away from the eyes of the man in the white hat, they’d see that the check was already in the hands of the clerk. Her face would be pale and her hands shaking as she stared at the signature on the check: Jesus Christ.

“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you…. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” –1 PETER 1:18-19 (NLT)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Happily Healed

We took the casts off of Shadow’s forelegs today. As expected, Princess was the helicopter-mama, hovering over us as I held her getting-bigger-by-the-day calf while Hubby cut off the wrappings. Fortunately, Shadow is used to us messing with him, and he only struggled once, at which time I realized that he’s grown so strong that he can almost lift me off the ground.

When we let him up, he just stood there for a few moments, getting used to his cast-free, now-straight limbs. Then—very uncharacteristically for such a big, mature, slow-moving cow--Princess playfully took off around the corral, bucking! It seemed for all the world like she knew that everything was finally okay with her little guy, and she wanted to celebrate. For his part, Shadow commemorated the occasion with some lunch!

“The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy!”             –ISAIAH 35:6a (NLT)

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Grace, a beautiful black Lab from town, has come to the country for a few days as she does once or twice a year when her family has to be out of town. She barks more than we’re used to, she’s often tracking in mud after her swims in the canal, and her tail wags can leave bruises on our shins—but we adore her sweetness and irrepressible enthusiasm for accompanying us. Every chore, every trip, no matter how short, is joyfully anticipated and fully enjoyed. Grace fully expects to have a good time, and she’s never disappointed! Oh, for the grace to be more like Grace, I pray. Just don’t give me her propensity for chasing rabbits!

“For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received…one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift.” –JOHN 1:16 (AMP)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

WHAT Tree?

Today I hauled some alfalfa compost out to one of the new windbreaks to apply to the little golden willows. The job would have taken minutes, not hours, except that most of the tree fences were nearly disassembled and required reshaping and rewiring. Many of the t-posts that the fences been fastened to were also bent this way and that. The black hairs stuck in the fencing, trampled ground, some broken willows, and the many cowpies revealed that the culprits were of bovine ilk, and they must have mistaken the tree cages for scratching implements. Ironically, there are two mature tamarisk trees (a weed and a nuisance, in these parts) only yards away that they could have scratched on.

I’m tempted to take back every good thing I’ve ever said about cows!

A victim of an itch.

“A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench….”     –ISAIAH 42:3

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spit and Polish

Cows may not be the most hygienic of creatures, but most of them spend quite a bit of time scrubbing and grooming their calves, their rough, wet tongues serving as water, soap, washcloth, and brush. It doesn’t sound very sanitary, I know, but after their baths, those calves look every bit as spiffy as do people who have just showered, shampooed, moisturized, deodorized, gelled, and blown dry! 

 One of Isabelle's frequent baths

“I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you.” –EZEKIEL 36:25 (MSG)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

At Long Last

Much grumbling has been uttered, and very few birdsongs have been heard, during these past unspringlike days of cold and wind. According to our thermometer, the early morning temperatures have been in the lower teens. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this tiny-but-tough viola, the forerunner of many, many flowers to come!

“The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” –SONG OF SOLOMON (KJ21)

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Shadow is much improved but still having trouble with his forelegs. Hubby and I have little formal training for our jobs as physical therapists, so we consulted with Dr. Miller before we began our administrations. 

First we gave Shadow two shots to help relax his tendons. Next, we splinted his legs with a combination of splints carved from PVC pipe and ground smooth, old dish towels, stretchy Vetrap, and duct tape. Shadow is normally quite affable, but he apparently took offense at being poked and held down for the procedures because after we let him up, he casually walked passed me and aimed a sideways kick at my leg. I suppose it’s not ethical or respectful to laugh at a patient, but we did so anyway!

Hubby, who always has football on the brain, said that Shadow now looks like an Oakland Raider.

“Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others].”
1 PETER 4:8 (AMP)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Names and Numbers

I probably should give readers a break from my incessant cow-calf parables. I don’t want to leave people with the impression that my life revolves around cows. Oh, well, maybe it does, particularly during calving season, anyway.

At a recent trip to the hardware store to pick up sealant for the stock tank (aka watering trough for cows), I met a kindred soul named Susan who also loves her cows. Just like me, she’s often taken quite a bit of flack for naming her cattle.

Traditionalists give cows numbers in lieu of names. Ours have numbers, but numbers are too boring for me to remember them. By the time I get from the pasture to the house to jot down the number of a heifer in heat, 129, for example, I’m having to ask myself if it was 219, 192, or 129, necessitating another trip to the pasture. Besides, I can’t help it. If one is around an animal long enough to observe its unique characteristics and personality, the critter just ups and names itself!

Speaking of critters: I just happened to catch the cutest shot of these two little cherubs in the pasture today.

Dazzle and Wings

“He rode upon a cherub, and flew; and He was seen upon the wings of the wind.”                       –2 SAMUEL 22:11 (NKJV)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Magnificent Seven

Annabelle and Isabelle have joined the other pairs in the back pasture. The two youngest calves, Shadow and Big Red, are doing well but we’re keeping them close to the barn because a winter storm is in the forecast. The back pasture is small, but its hills, trees, and brush—along with two few beds of straw that we spread out--provide a lot of protection from the elements. Best of all, we can watch them out of the back windows when we’re in the house.

The Magnificent Seven, as Hubby calls them, put on their best wild west show around dusk, which I’m hoping to capture on film. Cuteness combined with exuberance makes for great entertainment!

The Magnificent Seven taking an afternoon siesta with their mamas (one is hidden behind).

“He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.”             –GALATIONS 5:22 (MSG)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Big Little Brother

Because Shadow had such a rough start in life, nothing can make me prouder than watching him nurse by himself and cavort with his new brother out in the corral!

Daisy Mae brought our newest little guy, Big Red, into the world yesterday afternoon. Yes, he’s black, but if the light shines on him right, we can see the reddish stripes he inherited from his great grandma, Little Red. Red almost hit the ground running—right for his first meal! His avarice and aptitude for nursing, as well as his strength and vitality, are a blessing and relief, especially after all of Shadow’s recent struggles.

Nevertheless, I’ve noticed that those calves that badly needed our help aren’t wary of us like the others. They know that we love them. We love the others too, but they don’t know it yet!

Red, left, and Shadow

Shadow, right, showing off

“God takes the side of the helpless…” –PSALM 116:6 (MSG)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Isabelle's Ears

Leggy, high-stepping Isabelle prances around like a Saddlebred colt, but her most distinguishing feature is her ears—she has lots thereof! Isabelle’s mama, Annabelle, has normal-sized ears, as do all six of her half-sisters and brothers born thus far. She must be a throwback to some audibly-gifted distant ancestor. One can only hope that her ears remain disproportionately large because if she grows into them, she’s going to be one awfully big cow!

“God keeps an eye on His friends, His ears pick up every moan and groan.” –PSALM 34:15 (MSG)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Best Place to Be

Although I knew that Princess was going to calve yesterday, the weather was so wonderfully warm that I left her down in the tree-filled lower pasture. As was her habit, she privately and handily delivered yet another bull-calf!

At first, all seemed well, but then we saw that his front tendons were contracted, so he could barely stand and was too unsteady to nurse. We put him in the back of the Ranger—thank heaven for that handy little vehicle which goes anywhere and doesn’t get stuck—and Princess anxiously followed our precious cargo to the barn.

Like many cows, especially Angus, Princess is of the opinion that mothering calves is strictly the job of their mothers. She tolerates our interference—she knows he can’t nurse without our aching bodies surrounding her calf, holding him up underneath her—but she’s quite stressed by the entire business, as are we.

On two different occasions, once in the pasture and once in the barn, I had this thought: Name him Shadow. I resisted because “shadow” doesn’t sound very fun and cheery, and besides, it reminded me of a dog a friend had when I was a kid. But then I was led to these two beautiful scriptures (italics mine):

“…In the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge and be confident until calamities and destructive storms are passed.” –PSALM 57:1

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty….” –PSALM 91:1

Later, after a late night feeding, I opened a book and found myself reading about staying so close to Jesus that our shadow is one with His. So, Shadow it is!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March Hare

Isabelle arrived on the scene this morning, not to the fanfare of a big band but to sparrow songs, not on a red carpet but a bed of straw. Her mama, Annabelle, handled the entire proceedings as if she was a seasoned veteran, not a two-year old novice. She gave birth and licked her baby clean in record time. For her part, Isabelle was on her feet and nursing heartily within 45 minutes of her grand entrance.

Isabelle has Annabelle’s regal nose but, at this point, lacks her mama’s calm and stately composure. In fact, she’s something of a March hare, startling and hopping at the slightest quick movement. It’s no shock to me that Isabelle is such a firecracker because when I was checking Annabelle a few days ago, I saw her belly, flank, and udder quaking from the impact of a number of rapid-fire kicks! Lucky for Isabelle, I’d already named her months ago. Otherwise, I’d be compelled to call her Thumper.

Isabelle, age 3 minutes

“He’ll calm you with His love and delight you with His songs.” –ZEPHANIAH 3:17 (MSG)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

More Than Enough

Trooper and Bud, shown cavorting in the photo below, joined their sisters in the pasture yesterday. The young mamas joyfully romped and played along with their calves. A few tears of gratitude filled my eyes when I remembered the song I sang to Trooper when he was struggling to breathe and stand just over two weeks ago:

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

That’s Trooper in the lead. And although they’re tiny, there are some green blades of grass popping up, so the song has come true already.

The chunky all-black calf in the foreground is lucky that we’d already dubbed him Bud. When the calves get up from their naps, they always nurse.  Afterwards, they all gambol about—all, that is, except Bud. Even though his mama has plenty of milk, greedy little Bud still makes the rounds of the other gentle heifers, stealing as much as he can until he’s so full that he plops down to nap again. If the little butterball didn’t already have a name, we’d call him Piggy!

“…God has been good to me and I have more than enough.” GENESIS 33:11

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Tourists

The two heffies in this photo struck a cherubic pose this afternoon, but they’re not as innocent as they appear. Since Dazzle and Liza are the oldest calves, they and their mamas were the first to be turned out in the pasture yesterday. Well, the mamas went out in the pasture, but these two little free-spirits went here, there, and everywhere, leaving us and their mamas in the dust. Fences didn’t faze them. They’d discovered a big, wide world and fully intended to investigate every inch of it.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Since day one, Liza has been her own heffie—bold, curious, friendly, and ever busy. She only hangs out with Flame, her mama, when she’s hungry. Last night, Liza was out of the pasture again, checking out the goat shed. She looked in the window and found herself face-to-face with Lolli, the buck. I don’t know if it was his looks, his weird voice, or his smell that scared her, but she high-tailed it back to Flame—for a little while.

The little explorers have stayed contained today, probably because they're just really tired!

Liza (foreground) and Dazzle

“Great is the Lord and highly to be praised; and His greatness is [so vast and deep as to be] unsearchable.” –PSALM 145:3 (AMP)

Monday, March 11, 2013


If a calf’s appearance doesn’t readily lend itself to a name, we wait until the little one’s personality surfaces. It turns out that Panda’s calf and Hubby are buddies. The calf likes to be scratched and petted, but he especially likes to bounce up to Hubby and butt him! Hubby named the personable little outlaw Pancho (after Cisco the Kid’s sidekick).

“I have called you by your name; you are Mine.” –ISAIAH 43:1b

Friday, March 8, 2013


Angel has wings—a pair on her nose, one over each eye, and another pair on her brisket. Angel also has Wings, her new little heifer, so named because she’s so often flitting and hopping around, trying to get airborne. It doesn’t really surprise me that Wings has a touch of sky blue in her eyes!

“Is there any place I can go to avoid Your Spirit? If I climb to the sky, You’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute— You’re already there waiting!” –PSALM 139:7-10 (MSG)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Since calving started, I’ve done most of my sleeping in the recliner in my long johns, so that when the alarm wakes me up for the next cow-check, all I had to put on was the winter layers and boots waiting by the door. But we knew that last night would be a zero-calf night, so I had the supreme luxury of wearing flannel pajamas to bed where I slept all night.  Hubby informed me this morning that I tossed, turned, and fought the covers last night, a fact of which I was blissfully unaware. In my defense, I can only say that I’m out of practice!


“My sleep had been very sweet.” –JEREMIAH 31:26 (NLT)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Red-Eye Specials

Our ranch’s population increased by two last night.

Angel’s calf was small but for some reason was reluctant to make her grand entrance into the world, so she had to be pulled because Angel was wearing out. There were a few tense moments—which seemed like eternity—when Angel fell down while we were pulling the calf. The handle of the calf puller got wedged into the bottom frame of the maternity pen, but I couldn’t help Hubby. I was busy pushing on the headcatch with all my might, so Angel wouldn’t choke to death. Gravity and some of Angel’s 1150 pounds were working against me, but adrenaline and prayer are amazing things! (My back and shoulders are rather sore today, but it’s all for a good cause.)

Despite the shaky start, Angel and her baby, a yet-to-be named heifer, hit it off right away. Both of them act like they’ve done this all before and know exactly what to do!

Panda’s subsequent delivery was timely and assistance-free, which was a relief. Although the calf was strong and sturdy, it didn’t look like he’d nursed when we next checked. Hubby kept directing the little bull udderwards, but he showed not the slightest interest. Since most of the vital antibodies in colostrum can only be absorbed within the first six hours after birth, we decided to err on the side of caution by milking Panda and tubing the calf. But by the next check, he’d already taken care of his own breakfast and was be-bopping around the barn. Hubby thinks he may have been sandbagging and knew what to do all along. It just had to be his idea.

The wind has quit and the sun is warm, so everyone’s outside in the corral. Thank goodness, the cows have settled their differences (see yesterday’s post) and calm is restored. The next wave of heifers to calve are at least days, maybe a week or so, from delivery, so we’re looking forward to the first full night’s sleep we’ve had in 11 days. It’s a good thing, too. Our eyes are so red that Visine won’t even help!

Panda and calf

Angel and calf

“I’ll refresh tired bodies; I’ll restore tired souls.” –JEREMIAH 31:25 (MSG)

Monday, March 4, 2013


Trooper’s legs and lungs are much stronger, and he’s growing like a weed. No casual onlooker would ever guess the ordeal that he went through a week ago.  He’s ready to join the other pairs. But there’s just one problem: the other mamas.

First of all, Cupcake’s calf, Dazzle, has a blaze face. Every time that Cupcake sees Blossom with the blaze-faced Trooper, she bawls in anger, thinking that Blossom has stolen her calf. Dazzle is considerably smaller and a heifer to boot, but Cupcake jumps to conclusions before assessing the facts! Hubby had to break up a fight between the two mama cows.

Yesterday, Hubby tried to put Blossom and Trooper in with Flame and Liza because we thought Flame was more rational and easy-going than Cupcake. Wrong! Flame lit into Blossom like an Angus bull lights into a rival, which is quite violent. Hubby sprang to rescue Trooper from the fray and get him into the barn, but both the fighting cows followed him inside! Fortunately, Bodie heard the commotion and sped down to the barn. He bit Flame in the nose, sending her outside and saving the day.

Hubby thinks the other cows are jealous of Blossom because she, by virtue of Trooper’s fight for life and subsequent recovery, has been getting all the attention and perks. I don’t know, nor do I know how to restore peace to our formerly tranquil barnyard. But I do know that all this drama reminds me of the 6th grade!



“But the wisdom from above is….peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” –JAMES 3:17-18 (NLT)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Glorious Day

Yesterday afternoon warmed up nicely, so Blossom and I took Trooper out for his first outdoor excursion. He had so much fun running and playing that, after a half an hour, he took himself back to the barn and plopped down to rest for a while. Trooper was so worn out last night that I worried that he’d overdone it, but this morning he put on a bucking bull show nearly worthy of the NFR (National Finals Rodeo). I was more than reassured of his well-being!

“But unto you who revere...My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings and His beams, and you shall go forth and gambol like calves [released] from the stall and leap for joy.” MALACHI 4:2 (AMP)

Friday, March 1, 2013


Blueberry has kept Lolli at a polite-but-cool distance for exactly 30 days, and she’s eating and resting much more than she previously did. I think it’s safe to give Lolli a pink slip and send him home. His work here is done. We’ll certainly miss his jolly presence but not his smelly essence!

This morning I snapped this shot of the two of them engaged in synchronized napping.

“No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts His praises! My body rests in hope.” –ACTS 2:26 (NLT)