Monday, December 31, 2007

Swallow that

On the right, aspirin for people. On the left, aspirin for cows. Twice a day, Lottie, the Jersey cow, gets two of the big ones. The instructions say 'by bolus' which is a fancy way of saying 'poke it down her throat.' It's a common technique, and every feed supply store sells a simple tool to help with that. I know how it's done. I've seen it done. It's just not happening here, now, with this cow when I don't have a squeeze chute to immobilize her. I have enough trouble poking pills down cats' throats.

Fortunately, the vet said I could grind up the aspirin boluses and mix them with grain. Add a little warmed molasses, thinned 50/50 with water to bind the powder to the grain, and Lottie has a therapeutic morning snack.

She's better than she was, but not well yet. The vet warned me it would take a while.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mr. Ice

He really is okay.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Iced rooster

Some birds don't have enough sense to come in out of the rain. When the rain becomes an ice storm, bad things happen to dumb birds. Earlier this month, I went to bed knowing nasty weather was headed our way. I'd made all reasonable preparations and moved the livestock and poultry to shelter. This rooster apparently didn't like the company, so he later returned to his favorite roost in front of the house. I found him at daybreak, looking like this.

The weight of the ice on his head and neck feathers made it impossible for him to raise his head, but he was alive and trying. I wrapped him in a towel and moved him to the bathtub. A few careful whacks with a tablespoon broke up the worst of the ice coating his feathers so he could lift his head. The rest melted quickly in the warm room. I let him stay in for a couple hours until he was dry and happily crowing. Do you know how LOUD a rooster sounds in a small room?

Mr. Ice continues to roost nightly on the fence near my front door, through rain, snow, and bitter wind. I doubt he's learned his lesson.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Off-season brooding

December isn't prime nesting time, but we can't convince this banty hen of that. This is her first nest, but she seems to have the basics mastered. Puff up and spread out to cover the eggs, screech at anybody who gets close, peck when the screech isn't enough. The chances of her raising young through the dead of winter are slim. We've seen that happen before, though, so we've been helping her along as best we can by providing fresh water and food.

The power of instinct is a marvelous thing. She's an incubator baby, hatched from a batch of eggs that went into the incubator in February 2007. Yet she knows how to set a nest properly, how to turn the eggs, when to protect and when to gracefully accept the meal that's offered. She picked a good spot among the the straw bales, protected from the wind but with a bit of a view so she can see who or what's coming. She got more right than wrong, and sometimes that's the best any of us can hope for.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry what?

Lottie's had a rough week. Her 4-month-old calf is a rather vigorous nurser. Add a bit of chapping from winter weather, and her tender parts got quite sore. She quit letting the calf nurse, which led to other issues. She wasn't too amenable to hand-milking either. We tried one thing, then another, and she got a little better. It didn't last, and we finally had to call the vet out. He administered a super $30 antibiotic that I can't buy anywhere off the shelf, plus an anti-inflammatory. He left two more doses of the anti-inflammatory, with orders to pick up aspirin boluses at the office next time I'm in town. We'll grind those up and add them to her grain for several more days.

Today, on the third day of treatment, she's regained some of her appetite and lost most of the swelling in her udder. She's allowing the calf to nurse, and letting me strip her out. It'll be a while before she's back to normal though. I'm hoping there's no lasting damage to her udder, but it's too soon to tell.

There are other repercussions. It'll be several weeks before her milk is cleared for human consumption. Some medications pass through the animal's body and disappear quickly. Detectible residues may remain longer with others and can be present in the milk or meat. We chose a longer-acting, broad spectrum antibiotic this time for Lottie, so we'll be observing a longer withdrawal period. The milk's still safe for the calf, especially one as healthy as hers. And it's probably safe for humans who aren't allergic to any antibiotics. But probably isn't good enough, and that's why these withdrawal periods are established by the drug manufacturers and the FDA here in the U.S. (Other countries have their own regulatory agencies that deal with these rules.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy holidays

Honestly, the tree did not look this big out in the field. It's an eastern red cedar, cut from a poor corner of pasture about 300 yards from the house. The full, bushy side of the growing tree faced southwest and benefitted from the bountiful sunshine such a view offers. The backside faced deep woods, and it wasn't so pretty. It was thin and kind of flat in profile, which is a handy thing when you want to put the Christmas tree against the wall. The major drawback is the bushy side is much heavier than the flat side -- not such a problem for a growing tree with a good root system to hold it in place. In the living room, it's a different matter. I got up the morning after to find the tree tipped over. (We suspect a certain brindle-colored cat of climbing the tree and exacerbating an already unsteady situation.) My daughter, being a practical sort, suggested we anchor the legs of the tree stand with sandbags. They're 70 pounds each, and they're hidden under the tree skirt.

The minor drawback of choosing one of the native trees growing out back is the branches don't support some of our favorite ornaments -- at least not out on the tips where you can see them. We had to make do with lots of ribbon, bows, and the lighter ornaments we've accummulated through the years -- those that were still presentable. (The crocheted lace snowflakes have had too many adventures with the cats.) Since I love the smell of fresh cedar in the house during the holidays and there's a surplus of those trees around here, I expect we'll have cedar indoors again. We've already planned some of next year's ornaments . I'll knit some cute little Christmas stockings, and some tiny mittons to hang on the tree. And at least one set of these adorable tiny sweaters here on the Berroco site. Seriously, you have to check them out.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Solstice salad

I slept through the actual moment of Winter Solstice, when because of the Earth's tilt, the Northern Hemisphere leans farther away from the sun than at any other time during the year. It happened just after midnight here in the central U.S., and thus began the first day of winter.

To celebrate, Mother Nature brought us rain, to be followed by the dreaded 'wintery mix' with an overnight low of 19 degrees F. That's a bit nippy for the salad greens, even in the greenhouse. So we harvested a big bowlful for the weekend's meals, then pulled the floating row covers back over the beds -- effectively tucking them in with a light blanket to ward against the worst of the cold's damage.

Lottie, the older cow, has two sore, chapped teats and won't let her calf nurse unless we intervene. The sheep wouldn't come into the barn because the cow was there and in a cranky mood. The chickens skipped their usual scratching through the underbrush and perched in whatever dry spots they found. And the ducks . . . couldn't be happier. Really, it's their kind of day.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Blankets for plants

I've been using floating row covers in the greenhouse lately to add an extra level of protection on cold nights. Jugs of water around what few tender plants remain in there help a lot, too. The water warms with the day's heat, and at night, when temperatures drop, the heat radiates from the jugs and warms the plants. I have fresh salads daily, beets now and then, and a batch of collards for the family most weekends -- all this using no supplemental heat.

Temperatures have dipped as low as 21 degrees Fahrenheight overnight outdoors, but under the cover in the center bed, the lowest reading has been 31 degrees F. That was enough to damage a few tomato plants, but the fruit survived well enough that my father-in-law had fried green tomatoes for lunch a few days after Thanksgiving. I picked the last of the green tomatoes and pulled the vines earlier this week to free up trellis space for the maturing snow pea vines. I'm not a big fan of green tomato cooking, but I did find a new recipe for green tomato jam that might change my mind. I'll let you know after I make it this weekend.

About those covers - they're made from spunbonded polypropylene and can last several seasons. My oldest covers are a light-grade from Reemay, and I lay those along the outer beds where I have mature beets growing. The beets can survive without the covers, but I think the few degrees of warmth the covers hold in will improve growth. This year I added a heavier cover from Agribon that's rated for protection down to 26 degrees. I used it on the center bed over the tomatoes, and on that 21 degree night, the only damage the plants suffered was some freezing on the upper branches. Because the cover has to drape over the trellis, I needed a wider width, so I bought a cover that's 15 feet by 50. That covers the trellis nicely, with plenty on each side for the spinach and lettuce beds next to the trellis.

The down side is maintenance. It takes a while to cover the plants, and uncovering them on warmer days is a messy job. The covers usually are wet from condensation, and the big cover for the center bed is awkward for one person to manage. With practice, I've cut the covering and uncovering time significantly -- if you don't count the time I take for snacking on the produce.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Prairie skies

The view from the roadside across a section of prairie I pass on the way to town. It rained hard a couple hours after I took this photo. If you look along the horizon, you can see the heavy gray of the storm moving in from the southwest.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Strawberry joy!

Photographed November 30, 2007 - one very confused, but delicious ripe strawberry. You'd better believe I washed it off and ate it.

Variety: Jewel
Planted: September 2007

My supplier kept the dormant plants in cold storage for the summer, so they arrived in the usual state of bundled roots I've always dealt with in spring plantings. The warm fall weather fooled them into thinking it was spring, so they leafed out and bloomed merrily. I pinched off
most of the blooms in order to direct the plant's energy into root development. I left a few blooms on out of curiosity. Only one other berry ripened, and I enjoyed it, too.