Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

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11/20/2014

Members of the fledgling Oregon County Food Producers and Artisans Cooperative in tiny Alton, Mo., (population 879) are preparing to celebrate with the community a substantial win – a national award package valued at more than $40,000 to refurbish a vacant building and create an edible courtyard.

Not only are co-op members asking for public input on how to demolish and salvage materials from the old tavern, they will share Nov. 20-22 what they have learned about forming a successful cooperative in a rural community. The 101-member co-op has come a long way since founder Rachel Luster first began turning into every driveway in the county with a “Farm Fresh Eggs” or “Hay for Sale” sign posted in the yard to recruit potential members.

Driving the rugged gravel roads in search of fresh produce, meat and eggs for her family, Luster envisioned uniting producers and artisans with consumers at a centrally located market. After overcoming numerous obstacles, her persistence paid off with the formation of the all-volunteer organization and store opening in March 2013.

Co-op members take turns running the store in a small rented building and stocking it with their homegrown and homemade wares – anything from goat milk lotion, treadle-sewn quilts, dried organic herbs, bedding plants and cedar trunks to homemade laundry soap. Members pay dues of $5 to $10 per month, in cash or exchange of products or labor. Members also set their own prices for their products, with 30 percent of sales going to the co-op for expenses.

Partnering with Alton Chamber of Commerce to apply, the co-op was awarded, just a year after opening its doors, a Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design grant to expand the organization’s community support. The co-op was one of only four organizations across the country to receive the award this year funded, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts and the USDA.

In October, two representatives of the New York City-based CIRD, Cynthia Nikitin, CIRD program director and senior vice president of Project for Public Spaces, and associate Willa Jones, met with Luster for the initial site visit. Both were impressed with the co-op’s mission to sustain Oregon County communities and economies through local trading and selling of homegrown and homemade products and knowledge. Their article, Butchers, Bakers and Candlestick Makers, is posted on the CIRD site.

Since applying for the grant last April, the co-op was gifted the adjoining building by a co-op member. The co-op’s goal is to demolish the building, reusing many materials, and turn it into a multifunctional market and community center with a courtyard of fruits and vegetables available to residents.

With popular “pay-what-you-can” lunchtime meals, an already vibrant store and a community space for workshops and get-togethers, the co-op has grown steadily since its inception. The CIRD award, a total of $7,000 cash and access to free consultation (valued at $35,000), will help enlarge the co-op’s positive impact on the community.

“Over the past year, we have seen how our efforts with OCFPAC have empowered people and offered them a meaningful way to supplement their incomes and give back to the community they love, as well as serve as a bridge connecting residents of various ethnicities, interests and backgrounds,” Luster said.

Luster believes the co-op will also inspire others to form similar co-ops to invigorate their communities and provide a source for fresh, locally grown food and quality crafted items.

Meanwhile, the CIRD grant will be used, among other things, to present a community workshop, bringing together other local organizations, businesses and residents to collaborate on a design plan to benefit all. The rough plans include a kitchen area with enough room for 20 people to can produce at once and a courtyard with fruit trees and garden crops to help those who need it. Other ideas include environmental efficiency, such as recycling greywater to irrigate the gardens.

“I want this to be a game-changer for the community,” Luster told the CIRD representatives. “But people have to be able to relate to it or it’s going to be an alien spaceship in the middle of downtown.”

The public is invited to tour the building Nov. 20-22 and offer suggestions about its use and revitalization. All input is encouraged.

“We want this to not only be a building that can broaden the scale of our mission,” Luster said, “but also one that contributes to aiding other community organizations whose aims are to help people in need and strengthen the communities of Oregon County in any and every way possible.”

A series of presentations and engagement activities over the weekend includes designers, horticulturalists, market specialists, architects, cultural geographers and more. The resource team includes Richard Saxton and Kirsten Stoltz of the M12 Collective, Guy Ames of Ames Orchard and Nursery and ATTRA, Maria Sykes from Epicenter, and Ben Sandel of CDS Consulting Co-Op. Other presenters include Matthew Fluharty of Art of The Rural, Jesse Vogler, designer and cultural geographer, Mark Wise, an architect with KEMStudio, and Emily Vogler a landscape architect from Michael Van Valkengurgh Associates Inc.

“I feel very fortunate to have the collaboration of such a wonderful team of specialists and people!” Luster said. “I know that each member of the team places, foremost, the engagement of community in their process, and I really think, with our community and this team, we can make something really special happen on the square in Alton.”

Luster said the co-op’s mission basically comes down to cultivating and nurturing community life and an economy of neighborliness.

“Not to sound too precious,” Luster said, “but we do all depend on one another and this place to make it, why not work together to make it the best it can be and to serve as many of us as possible?”

Luster said those questions led to starting the co-op. Her philosophy in all of this remains that a vibrant and dynamic culture is both the flower and the seed of a well-tended community.

“The process is and has been allowed to be organic and has manifested itself in ways I could have never imagined,” she said. “Some were foreseen or predictable, but others have been pleasant surprises.”

While preparing for the Nov. 20-22 weekend, Luster said she looks forward to this next phase, one where the coo-op expands its mission locally and to seeing this model adapted and tried in different places to address the needs and resources of those sites and communities. Already two sister/spin off organizations have formed with interest mounting in other regions.

“I think this model has the ability to be locally adapted by a variety of communities and disciplines and be successful,” Luster said. “I look forward to seeing that happen!”

To learn more, visit the co-op at Oregon County Co-op's Facebook page or see this 2013 Mother Earth News blog – Food Co-op Promotes Bartering, Sustainability.

Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid with human power, and invented the WaterBuck Pump.

Photos by Linda Holliday and courtesy of Oregon County Food Producers and Artisans Co-Op.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



11/20/2014

tomato

I had huge plans for the garden this year. I want to show you photos of pristine raised garden beds with mulch in-between, keeping weeds at bay, exploding with awe inspiring vegetables and fruits, green, lush plants bursting with bounty that I would then can away for the winter months. What I can show you are photographs of green, lush weeds growing in-between and inside my raised garden beds covering the carcasses of what were my vegetables and fruits. I can also show you a quarter filled pantry that should have been busting from the seams.

This year, I sucked at gardening. I had zero discipline and farted around until what was a manageable garden became a Thunderdome of weeds. I got busy. I get distracted way too easily. I did not manage my time well. I did not prioritize and I just plain sucked. I am one of those individuals who, at times, make more work for themselves by cutting corners and lazing around without any clear direction. I am a garden loser…but…I am now equipped with the knowledge of what not to do and I am not doomed to fail next year. I have lit a fire under my moderately sized rear end to blow it up next year when I will show you a banging garden and a pantry full of it’s bounty.

Don’t get deterred if you fail, get harder on yourself. Take this fall and read up on what you want to grow, maybe condense what you want to grow and just grow the basics until you get a handle on things. I went all exotic with what I planted and needed to focus my attention on vegetables and fruits that my family eats on the regular and not what seems romantic or eclectic to grow.

I am already planning next year’s garden and while I am not looking forward to all the hard labor to come, it’s my penance for taking it so easy this year as well as a reminder that doing it right the first time saves time, energy and vegetables.

So, go easy on yourself for making a mistake but be harder on yourself to not repeat those mistakes. Making a mistake once is fine, everyone does it, it’s the remembering not to do it again that’s the hard part. Happy gardening!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



11/19/2014

The beekeeping year starts now. Most budding beekeepers will begin thinking about this venture in the spring. That’s what I did. Everything awakening. Gardeners starting to plant early crops of peas and greens. Spring calves and lambs beginning to make their entrance. And beginners looking to start an apiary.

It was too late.

At least too late to start with package bees. I didn’t know about trying to find nucs (pronounced "nuke" and short for nucleus colony) for sale, so I just waited another year. Some established apiary will have nucs for sale in April or May. But even these sell out quickly. Perhaps you can capture a wild swarm although hiving wild swarms and having them stay in your location is difficult at best.

In my opinion the best way for a new beekeeper to get started is with a package of bees. Orders must happen between November and January for the following spring arrival. The earlier the better as packages tend to sell out quickly.

What Is a "Package" of Honeybees?

A package of honeybees is a ventilated box, filled with about 3 pounds or 10,000 bees. The box also holds a can of sugar solution to sustain the bees through their journey and a queen in a separate cage. Honeybees can travel this way for a week or so and are quite docile during their trip. They are not protecting brood or significant food supply. They hang together around the queen getting to know her. Essentially this is an artificial swarm created by a supplier and packaged for shipment.

In the pictures are two different containers used to ship honeybees. Although one is plastic and the other is a wood and screen material, both are about the same size. Ventilation is important, but also the size of the vents are small enough that bees will not escape. You may see a few bees clinging to the outside of the box. This is normal and does not mean that the cage has a hole. You just have some hitchhikers.

Plastic Bee Bus

Wood Bee Crate

Start Planning Now

Consider how many hives you would like to manage. You can start with one, but at least two is recommended. Two hives will help you compare the behavior of the colonies. You will have a backup if one fails. If one of the colonies is weak, you will have options to bolster numbers from the other or combine the hives so that not all is lost.

Next, find a reputable supplier. There are multiple beekeeping supply houses available on the internet that offer package bee sales. Some will sell a complete kit including the hive and bees. Others will sell only the bees and you purchase the hive separately. Ask the beekeepers in your area. Beekeepers are helpful folks ready to share their advice and information. They will know who sells bees and be able to give you advice about their experience with package bee suppliers.

Now what?

Order your bees.

Read and learn all you can about keeping honeybees. Join a beekeeping club. Watch our video  on Youtube about how to hive your new package of honeybees. Dream about the sweet delicious honey you will harvest next year.

Stop by the Five Feline Farm website for more about life on a hobby farm. Happy beekeeping.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



11/18/2014

 What did you say??!!??

When you raise chickens for eggs and meat, someone always has to be the first to go. My views on this are as follows: “My birds have a really great life with sunshine, bugs, fresh water and room to run, flap, attempt to fly and roost … they just have one really bad day”. Not even an entire bad day, more like a bad three seconds.

So, how do you decide who goes? At Chimney Swift Farms we use the jerk method. Who is the biggest jerk in the flock? Are they big enough to process? If so, that’s how we choose.  It’s not a science but it works for us and it also helps to keep the flock happy, and protected.

I have literally spent my life saving animals; squirrels, birds, turtles, mice, if it had a pulse it was savable. It was incredibly hard to switch gears to processing animals for food and take a life, even a jerk. I am a meat eater and I feel that if I am going to eat it I should be willing to raise, nurture it and in the end process that animal as humanely as possible. I would rather have one of my birds that I know was treated with respect, kindness and a gentle hand than a 30-lb, 30-day-old roided out bird from a factory farm that has lived thru hell. My girls have a great life, humane death and good health in-between.

My first harvest was a rooster who was killing hens and making the flock very nervous and on edge, he passed the jerk test with flying colors. It was still so hard, it felt foreign taking a life, almost wrong. It was over quickly and without struggle or fear, on his part, and the processing went better than anticipated. I was proud of myself and grateful to him and hoped that his life was happy right up until the end.

We will be expanding the chicken yard this spring and will be adding a lot more birds and begin to process on a more regular basis. I am confidant and have the tools needed to make the right decisions for my flock and treat them with dignity, respect and give them humane ends. So at Chimney Swift Farms it’s safe to say, don’t be a jerk.

It’s time more people cared about where the meat on their tables came from and how it was treated from birth to death. With the amount of family farms in operation, you have so many other options than factory meats. Call your local farmer’s market and I am sure they can direct you to more healthy and humane options when it comes to purchasing meats. Supporting your local farmer can help us move away from factory farming and all the negative aspects associated with it. One person may be a small change, but it’s still a change.  Winter is a good time to gather information on all your local options for all varieties of foods and to join a CSA to become part of the movement! 


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


11/17/2014

When my husband and I deserted our cushy life and city jobs five years ago to stitch together a living on our dream homestead in the sticks, we didn’t know there was a term for such outrageous behavior. Ah, but, there is.

Coined in 1996 by fellow ship-jumper and author Michael Fogler, “un-jobbing” is exactly what we are doing here in the Ozarks. Like Fogler, we freed ourselves from a life of merely making a living. Instead of being rattled from sleep by a screaming alarm clock (a totally unnatural way to awaken) to trudge to a corporate establishment, we rise with the sun. No longer exhausted from grueling days consumed indoors, my husband can devote boundless energy to designing and building all we need here, especially his favorite – human-powered devices for the self-reliant.

And I can grow food, sew, draw, write, delight in nature and volunteer at the local food producers’ co-op. Although not impossible, it was less fun to do such things when depleted from work, worry and driving. As crazy as it sounds, I found I had more money by not working. Having a job means buying clothes, gas and food, among other nonsense, away from home. Incidentally, the higher one’s income, the more damage done to the environment.

In his gutsy, concise book (only 106 pages), Un-Jobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook, Fogler explains how he pulled all the areas of his life into alignment with his personal values, living more simply and consciously. In a light-hearted style, he chronicles his journey in search of the ultimate fantasy job, a high-paying, full-time career “with benefits package and security.” Fogler’s frustrating pursuit led him in an entirely different direction – home, where his heart is, enjoying a non-job-dominated life.

Fogler and his wife left the work-a-day world as we did, a little at a time, until eventually becoming immersed in a fulfilling life without luxuries, but full of riches money cannot buy. Untangling from society’s expectations is not easy at first, as Fogler points out.

When I quit my final “guaranteed paycheck” in 2012, it felt unnatural as I had worked nearly seamlessly since the 1970s. I didn’t know what to call myself when meeting people. I wasn’t retired, laid off, unemployed or between jobs. I was simply no longer part of that accepted routine of what Fogler calls “the 9 to 5 to 65 merry-go-round.” In other words, most people in Western society accept and expect to work their lives away for an employer, and are bewildered when encountering those of us who choose not to. Even home-based entrepreneurs can fall into the trap of overwork, Fogler warns.

For years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I frequently woke in a panic at 3 a.m. dreaming that I had forgotten to turn in an extremely crucial writing assignment or to dress appropriately for an interview with the president. After only a few months of un-jobbing, however, those “pajamas in public” nightmares ended.

Perhaps because I am more aware of this lifestyle now, or maybe the Ozarks attracts us, I have met many others who piecemeal together incomes so they can live simply off the land. Many, like us, raise much of their own food, forsake frivolous amenities, barter with their neighbors and are mastering the art of repurposing. We live without air-conditioning, TV, cell phones and much of everything else modern society deems essential. But, as Fogler stresses, this is not a life of deprivation. Un-jobbing also does not include relying on government aid or charity. Instead, we focus on and build for ourselves what we truly want from life.

At a lavish wedding this summer, it made me smile to know I’d spent less than $4 on my glittery outfit at a non-profit thrift store. After the wedding, I donated the clothing back, where it will be sold again to support the local domestic violence shelter.

Ironically, a friend who still struggles with how to leave so-called job security passed the book to me on my way to the wedding. I read it on a Greyhound bus headed north. Before reaching Minnesota, I’d finished the book. Although I was already living the life Fogler described, the book affirmed my decision. I put down the book and gazed out the bus window at miles of commuters in stiff business suits, road construction workers hammering away at concrete and truckers entombed in their semis. Then there was the bus driver who never smiled once in 900 miles. I can’t say for certain, but I bet nearly all those folks preferred to be somewhere else, but do not know how to make the change.

Because this feeling is too good not to spread around, Fogler offers tools, ideas and suggestions on how and why to live such a life. MOTHER EARTH NEWS interviewed Fogler in April 2000 in How to Quit your Job, asking him what people should know about the process of extricating themselves from unfulfilling work.

“The biggest stumbling block is fear, no doubt about it,” Fogler said. “People are afraid, and while they might fully admit that they're not totally happy right now, the fear is that if they make a big change, it could be worse. And so they'd rather stick with what they know, even though it leaves a lot to be desired. They are afraid that accepting a different way of life will mean financial catastrophe.”

Fogler said there is no guarantee that quitting a job won’t mean financial ruin. In his experience, however, it doesn’t.

“I don't know if everything's going to be okay,” Fogler said he tells people in his career workshops. “But I know that if you don't make any moves, if you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always gotten."

Another great MOTHER EARTH NEWS article on the topic of living simply includes So You Want to Be a Farmer?

In March 2014, fellow MOTHER EARTH NEWS blogger Kyle Chandler-Isacksen explains in Six and a Half Money-Saving Tips how his family of four lives abundantly on about $6,500 per year on a half-acre in Reno, Nev., without electricity, a car or job.

“With this lifestyle comes time for hobbies and interests, time for being with our children and time with my wife, time for play and rest, great health and great food, time to do lots of service, and deeper connection to nature and to our friends and neighbors,” Chandler-Isacksen says. “It's been a great journey so far.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Linda Holliday lives in the Missouri Ozarks where she and her husband formed Well WaterBoy Products, a company devoted to helping people live more self-sufficiently off grid with human power, and invented the WaterBuck Pump.

Photos by Linda Holliday


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


11/17/2014

This is typically the time of the year I would be writing about Halloween, my favorite holiday, or putting together something crafty for autumn. I tried that route, but I’ve never been very good at anything other than writing from my heart.

And in my heart, I am feeling like this is an early Thanksgiving instead of Halloween. You see, for the last three and a half weeks, my life has been spinning on its axis. In late September, my mother had a health emergency, leaving my sister, father, and me at her bedside for weeks. Although I know, in my practical mind, that we lose loved ones in life, suddenly I was staring that reality in the face.

We spent days in the hospital room with her, listening to beeps and blips and watching doctors and nurses shuffle in and out. On the surface, I was in the room with the machines and IVs but, inside my head, it was a much different landscape.

I looked back over the years of her being the one to hold my hand through the tough times, through sickness, through children being born. Now we sat at her bedside, holding her hands and pleading with her to get better, not even sure she could hear us or recognize our voices. We brushed her hair and washed her face, as she had done for us for so many years. Doing these small things were some of the most difficult moments of my life.

Two weeks into our vigil, the stress of the situation finally took a physical toll on my dad, leaving him in a separate hospital with heart problems. When you’ve been married for 45 years, helplessly watching your wife is bound to break your heart. It was at this point that my sister and I split duties, one with Mom at her hospital and one with Dad at his. I couldn’t help but ponder how much I’d taken for granted in my life, including my parents, who had raised me to appreciate everything that makes me a Homegrown type of woman.

My dad taught me from a very young age to find solace in nature, to recognize the peace that it can bring. He grew gardens and took me for long walks in the state park at the end of the street. We trekked through corn fields to explore old abandoned barns and stopped to appreciate clouds and animals. I learned early on to appreciate and seek out the beauty that so many people are too busy to recognize. I have always been grateful for that.

Michelle's dad and son

I trailed behind my mother all of the time in my young years, watching her create a home; that's the two of us, many years ago, in the photo below. She made every meal, starting with my dad’s breakfast early in the dark hours of the morning and ending with a family meal together around the dinner table. She baked and she cleaned, doing far more than I ever recognized as a child. She was also very active in society and in helping dozens of young, scared, pregnant girls who had nowhere to go. In addition to giving us what we needed, she also found these girls homes and food and security.

Together, my parents delivered full dinners to families in need and provided holidays for people who otherwise had nothing. To me, this was a normal life. It was years, not until I had my own children, before I realized they worked hard to instill social responsibility in us. They felt that raising empathetic and giving kids was their greatest legacy.

So you see, everything I cherish and have in common with you Homegrown readers, I owed to these two people lying in hospital beds. They were no longer the immortal super humans I’d always thought they were. They were, quite suddenly, very human and very vulnerable. This was my chance to learn a lesson and perhaps to share it with each of you.

Today, as I sit writing this, my dad is with my mom at her rehab center while she relearns some life skills before coming home. They’re both on the road to recovery, now that doctors have found and treated my mom’s mystery illness­: a cyst in her brain, leaning on her pituitary gland. I, too, find myself relearning some life skills.

I’ve forgotten how much I love the simple, small things—you know, the “normal” things. I’ve realized that instead of my parents being normal, they’re actually blessings and not everyone’s normal: clearing the garden in fall with the kids, making way for new growth and new seasons, the routine of getting ready for school and going out into life. Preparing for family holidays then spending them together, decorating the Christmas tree or collecting Easter eggs. Picking up the phone to call my parents to talk about the fall colors, lucky they’re only 20 minutes from me.

I’ve realized these things are the glue that has held my family together tightly. It continues to hold our kids together with their cousins and their grandparents, as well. In the grand scheme of life, these are not simple or small things. They’re what life is all about.

Above all, it’s important to make these things passed down by our parents rituals rather than routines. Next time I put up food after the harvest, I’ll remember when my dad bought dozens and dozens of ears of corn to freeze. He shucked and stripped ear after ear, resulting in the year when we had corn every which way. Or the time my mom allowed me to express my own fashion sense and bought me a purple faux fur coat that I loved, only to be called Grimace for a solid year afterwards. She had tried to steer me away from the ill-fated choice, but in the end, she let me learn my own lesson.

I’m still learning my own lessons, often the hard way, but I’m exceedingly grateful to have my parents, my family, and my friends to learn from. Happy early Thanksgiving.

This post originally appeared on HOMEGROWN.org.

Michelle Wire comes from serious pioneer stock: Her great-grandmother literally wrote the book. It’s this legacy, in part, that led Michelle to trade in her high-stress life for a Pennsylvania homestead where she works from home in between raising kids and chickens. 

Photos by Michelle Wire


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


11/15/2014

I can hear it now: “What the devil? Angus? They are not milk cows!” Well, it all got started when the neighbor purchased four, what he was led to believe were, Black Angus calves from someone in a valley some distance from us. After he got them home and observing them over the next couple weeks, it became apparent that they were, in fact, a cross of some variety. In disgust, he offered them to us for what he paid for them: $20.00 apiece.

Anxious to get our “herd” started, being new to the country life, we bought two and some hay and put up a loafing shed. We suspected they were a dairy cross, so we named them Buttermilk and Brownie. As they grew, we handfed them to make handling easier as we had no squeeze chutes in which to confine them. Over the next 14 months they became big pets, begging for carrots or apples as we moved through the field changing irrigation pipes and pulling noxious weeds; and coming on a dead run if you were working in the garden where carrots or pea vines lived, or they’d be right beside us if we were headed toward the grain barrels.

The Milking Angus is BornBrownie The Milking Angus

At about 2 years of age, we had them bred to the neighbor’s Hereford bull. The pregnancies progressed without incident and soon they delivered two frisky little calves. But the udders on these two cows were huge! They clearly had more milk than the calves could handle. Once the calves devoured the colostrum (first milk), I decided to see if the cow named Brownie could be trained to allow milking. She was skittish at first but soon tolerated it without incident, especially when her stanchion was filled with molasses-flavored oats. Thus The Milking Angus was born. Her milk was so rich it formed about 6 inches of cream on the top of a gallon jug. Made us suspect Jersey in her blood lines.

Of course, after the neighbors knew what we were doing, they fell down in gales of riotous laughter. That is until they saw and tasted the milk. Then they became steady customers. Buttermilk had white on her underbelly so we were thinking Holstein with her. Her milk was larger in volume but contained less cream. An old-time rancher told us that he always left the calf with the cow until he wanted a milking, then separated them for 12 hrs and took his milking. It worked, too, though it did get a little noisy as the calves objected mightily.

‘Buttermilk’ Finds a New Home

We took to birthing the calves in the early fall, as we felt the savings on one winter’s hay was evident before they were butchered at two years of age. After a couple years, we decided we had too many mouths to feed on our small acreage, so we sold Buttermilk to some friends. We told them we didn’t have a loading chute so whoever picked up the calves would need a ramp to load her.

A couple cowboys arrived to pick up Buttermilk, only to find we had no chute and they had no ramp. They were going to leave and try to come back with another truck. Wait, we said, this can be done with a carrot. They, too, fell down in gales of laughter. I am not sure what was so funny, but they quit laughing as Buttermilk followed me and a bag of carrots up a hastily made ramp of two 2’ x 6’ boards with a few 2’x 4’ cross pieces nailed to keep her from slipping, into the back of their two ton 4’ high truck bed. She did love carrots, and the cowboys thought the local stockyard should know about us.

Amazing Cow Stories

Over time, Brownie became a neighborhood icon, folks watching as she approached calving or when she was in another field having a fit because a calf was being butchered. The man who did our field killing told us he had never seen a cow like her. She could see or hear his truck about 3/4th of a mile away, and she would meet him at the corner of our property that was ringed by the road, and run alongside the truck, bellowing at him constantly until he disappeared around the bend on the way to someone else’s place. We always removed her when we were butchering, but she would run right to the spot after the truck was gone and stamp on the ground and snort. It was almost enough to get you to quit eating meat.

One year, we were gone at calving time, and a neighbor on the way to work spotted the new calf. He returned home to grab some Bocee and a banding gun. After he had doctored and banded our little newborn boy, he trotted off to work. About 30 minutes later, another neighbor and his wife stopped by having noticed the newborn calf. A shot of Bocee was administered and when he turned the calf over to band it, he uttered, “well I’ll be, this puppy was born banded.” Actually, his language was a little more colorful than that but you get the idea.

One time, Brownie developed a deep split in her hoof and it badly needed trimming and someone skilled to look at it. I called a horse shoer who would have all the tools and some knowledge of this kind of injury. But when he learned we did not have a chute, he would have nothing to do with it.

We called a new young vet, asking him if he would at least examine her. He reluctantly agreed and after the exam agreed it needed trimming and cleaning. But without a chute he was not sure. Carrots, I said, this will work. Dubious, but willing to give it a go, he retrieved his equipment and I retrieved a bucket full of carrots and molasses flavored oats. Then I tied her to a fence post, and offered her the goodies while picking up her foot. He proceeded to trim, file, and clean up this nasty little hoof injury without so much as a twitch. He became the family vet and pretty enamored with Brownie, our Milking Angus.

Remembering a Remarkable Cow

A few years later I found her newly calved and down on the ground, awake but in deep shock and covered with frost. I grabbed some sleeping bags and covered her up while we put in an emergency call for the vet, assuming calcium or magnesium issues since she had just delivered. He arrived with the magic IV solution, but by the time he got there so had all the neighbors, so this crowd of onlookers were pretty concerned. She did not get up after the first bottle was administered, and it took a second. By now he had broken into a big-time sweat. After she got on her feet, we asked if he was ok. “Yes,” he said, “there was just a lot of pressure treating the neighborhood Milking Angus.”

In 17 years, Brownie produced 15 calves, and only one was lost due to severe birth defects. She was a sweet little mama, and never lost her pet-like qualities with us, or the kids and grandkids. In her 17th year, she broke an ankle, and was in a great deal of pain so it was clear the era of Brownie The Milking Angus was over. But pictures still grace our albums, including the pictures of her first calving. We were so excited, we sat on a nearby rock pile to record the event. In typical behavior, she was more interested in the possibility that we might have brought a carrot to the event.


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