It's been a while since the elk have been up by the house. I put them in the back forty late last summer as the drought was making feed a bit scarce in our main pastures by the house. I've sure missed seeing them out the window!
We're getting close to Big Guy's antler shedding time, and I certainly don't want to have to search for them in the ten acre heavily wooded pasture that they been in. I had to do that the year before last, and it was really hard to spot that one missing antler among all the deadfall!
The good news is that the elk have learned in the last three years that when I shake the bucket and ask them to follow me, there is usually good stuff waiting for them on the other side. I always feel like the Pied Piper!
As usual, Big Guy tries to keep them from following me, but there's only one of him and as soon as one cow slips by and starts running after me, it's all over!
Everything went splendidly... right up until the elk saw the yak standing next to the gate I wanted them to go through! I finally decided to go up to the house and figured I could go out and close gates after they got up the courage to walk through the gate. I knew it wouldn't take them too long; they were hungry and there was a fresh bale of hay waiting for them!!
After seeing they made it into the target pasture, I closed gates but decided that moving the elk was enough for one day. The yak and Piggy still needed to be rearranged, but we were scheduled to get a bit of snow, so I went back and cozied up at the house. What fun to look out my window and see the yak and elk at the same time again... at least for a little bit.
That Big Guy... he sure ain't no rooster. What do I mean by that? Well, when you look at this picture, you are seeing the exact pecking order of this little herd. Big Guy always pushes the girls out of the way so he can get the first bucket and then they sort themselves out down the line. If they don't move fast enough, he "helps" them along with a prod of his antler. He's fairly gentle about it compared to Piggy, but he's still clearly saying, "Get out of my way, girl."
One of the things I miss about having chickens (I'm hoping to add them to the menagerie this year) is the rooster. You don't need a rooster to have laying hens, but there are some benefits to having one. Generally, they are such gentlemen! When they find some choice morsel, they call their ladies over with a chortle and stand by proudly as they eat it. What a man! Here is my last rooster. He was such a nice fellow and always made sure he found the best treats for his ladies.
Isn't he a handsome fellow? Hard to believe it has been almost 14 years since I last had chickens! But I digress...
I have thought, perhaps, that I should cut Big Guy a little slack; I mean, he is getting to be an older gentleman. I have seen him be very generous and polite to the ladies (unlike a certain young whippersnapper I know. Cough. Piggy. Cough.). Here he let the ladies enjoy their grain while he stood watch.
Of course, I suppose it is a lot easier to be magnanimous during the summer when the grass is green and the weather balmy. We've been sitting in the single digits at night lately, so I imagine he's using a lot of resources to keep warm, so, it's OK, Big Guy. I get it. I won't hold it against you that you ain't no rooster. Cockadoodledoo!
The first batch of maple syrup for the year is in the bag, which is good because I was plumb out. It's hard to sell a breakfast box without any maple syrup in it! Our winter has been very mild so far which has allowed this brief bit of production, but I'm hearing rumor of a polar vortex shift that may be changing that very soon. As a result, I've decided not to go all out with putting taps in and am just taking what little I can get in this early run to help me make it through to the main season.
Because COVID has royally messed up everything, supply chains are getting tricky for all kinds of stuff. Maple syrup bottles are one of those things! I knew this was going to be the case but procrastinated calling the maple supply house until this weekend and they only had eleven cases of bottles left, which was about half of what I wanted to purchase. The rest were backordered and would supposedly not be available for another month. I figured eleven was better than nothing, and they said they'd hold them for me. So, my boy and I went on a road trip today to pick them up.
Now, I know I'm a small producer. Really small. I put in less than one hundred taps a year. I know there are big producers out there. I know that they use plastic tubing and vacuum systems to collect those thousands of gallons of sap they process. I just hadn't ever actually seen it before. The woods up there were like spider webs! No, more like those heist movies where there are laser beams protecting the valuable whatever thing. The woods were crawling with tubing! I'd never seen the like of it before!
They even had tubing going over the road so that the sap from the trees on the far side of the road could go into the tank too. And the tank! Look at the size of that thing! Well, needless to say, it made me feel like a pretty small fish... but it also made the woods look weird and not very natural.
I'm happy with the way I'm doing it, and I also believe I can make better syrup than they can. There is a reason I stick with producing small batch, gently boiled syrup. I think it just tastes better. Way better!
The first batch was pretty small, so, for now, I am only offering our syrup as part of our breakfast boxes. I'm using a new fuel set up and I accidentally cooked the first batch a bit harder than usual and it ended up missing the golden cut off by a few points, but it sure does taste good! I can't wait for more sap to start flowing!
And the lucky part I mentioned?
We got there and were about to check out and a delivery arrived with those back ordered bottles! I ended up getting all twenty cases that I'd hoped for. Now I just need to have the right weather to fill them. Stay tuned!
I don't know. I think I might be starting to get the hang of this skunk thing. This summer, I caught one by accident. Needless to say, it was an education and I learned a lot... like dealing with skunks is an aerobic activity!!! This cracked me up. Last July, when I dealt with my first skunk, I had to laugh when I looked at my heart rate chart for the day. Can you tell when I was doing skunk removal!?!
This time, experience made it a little less stressful. I must have caught the granddaddy (grandmammy?) of them all... this skunk was HUGE! Obviously, I don't know if it was male or female as I was NOT interested in encouraging it to show me its private parts. Ha!
The skunks (please be the last one!!!) have been really rough on our yard every fall. They know those grubs are under there somewhere!
I went out first thing to check the trap this morning. That tuna fish is powerful stuff! First night with the trap out and I catch the rascal.
The initial covering of the trap is the heart wrenching part. I use a large piece of black acrylic fabric. Last time I tried a piece of black plastic tarping first, but it was so noisy, that skunk was ready to let me have it! The black fabric works great. And you know what always happens next? The darn skunk curls up and goes to sleep. I kid you not! I tie the blanket on to be sure I don't have any uncomfortable surprises when I get to the drop off location, and load it up in my truck.
And away we go! I drive as far out in the woods away from other houses as I can and let them go. Not that I have a huge sampling to go by, but this skunk behaved exactly like the last one. I get there, open the cage, and nothing happens. I have to pull the blanket off and start making some noise to wake them up. You make them think they're in a burrow and - by golly - they curl right up and go to sleep!
Come on, skunky! Time to wake up and go! When I saw him/her starting to come to, I took the following video. What a big, fat, waddling bunch of fur! I hope it's my last skunk relocation, but if it's not, I guess I've got the hang of it now. Easy peasy... what could ever go wrong?
We woke up to snow this morning. It wasn't a surprise or anything as they've been forecasting it all week, but it still is a bit odd waking up the day before Halloween to measurable snow.
The first thing I had to do was go out and put some hay out for the yak. I've been wanting to get around to it for a few days, but it was quite cold and rainy the last few, so I figured I'd wait for the precipitation to turn to snow. I have no issues working in the snow!
The yak were pretty excited for the hay! I also turned the newly made two steers in with the herd. There was some tussling. Okay, there was a fair bit of tussling! Interestingly, a lot of it was between the steers and the cows! Multiple times I saw Mr. Bull come and break them up because he apparently thought it was getting too intense. Herd mechanics are fascinating!
In this video, you can see Mr. Bull breaking up the fight between 93 and 418, our golden bull... err, steer. It's interesting to me for two reasons: first, 93 and 418 were very close before I separated the herd upon the arrival of the new group, and second, it was 93 who seemed to be instigating and actively seeking battle. You can clearly see Mr. Bull separating the two and standing between them, keeping them from going at it again.
Again, I find it interesting that 93 was so adamant about picking a fight with 418. They always hung out previously. In fact, I often wondered if 418 was her calf from a few years ago. Here they were the day 93 was in labor this June. It almost seemed like she was laying her head on his shoulder!
Anyway. Hard saying what all the fighting was about today, but Mr. Bull was having none of it!
After I hayed the yak, I went to go check on the elk. They were all grouped up in the upper reaches of the pasture and seemed pretty happy to see me. 603 let me pet her multiple times and that included parts of her face, too! Previously, she only let me touch her nose, but I almost was able to touch all the way up to between her eyes! Of course, she was grinding her teeth at me the whole time, which is an aggressive gesture for elk, so I'll only be trusting her so far. I still never go in the pasture on foot when they are near.
I missed catching a video of it, but while I was there, 604 stood up to nibble on some tips of the hemlock trees and managed to dump a ton of snow on herself! She wears it well, wouldn't you say?
The wee ones are experiencing their first cold weather, but they have thick furry coats and didn't seem bothered at all! Just another day being an elk, I guess!
And, of course, Big Guy was there, watching with his deep, penetrating stare the whole time I was out there. Always watching. Man, I like that critter!
I try really hard not to name animals that are being raised for meat. I love my animals, I want to give them the best possible life they can have, but I can't get tooooooo attached or things become really difficult down the line. However, sometimes, a name gets attributed to an animal due to circumstance. Take Piggy, for instance. That food motivated creature was such a pig when it came to food, we couldn't not call him that!
One of this year's calves has a really fluffy tushie. All elk have longer hair on their rumps. When they are agitated and their hackles are raised, the hair stands up a bit and makes them look bigger, I guess. It makes them look something, anyway! 604 tends to raise her hackles a lot and her rump gets fluffy plump, but she's got nothing on this wee one!
All the calves have fairly long hair on their butts right now, but this one is exceptional. When the light hits it juuuuussst right... well... it practically glows in its fluffiness.
You can see in this photo, that number 001 (a little bull calf) definitely has more fluff going on. He's the youngest of the bunch, but he's also the most nervous. I suppose it makes sense then, that he would put his hackles up a lot - but what a coiffure!
Now, listen, 001, there's no reason to get testy about my calling you "Fluffy Butt," it's all in good fun. ;-)
I mean, really, when you think about it, it's rather spectacular!! Thanks for putting a smile on my face, 001, every time I go out and see you're fluffy tushie glowing in the sun!!
I picked up our four new yak yesterday. They appear to be settling in well, although they seemed a bit surprised to see more yak when they arrived. They've been on a farm with beef cattle and a water buffalo, so they looked a bit surprised to be greeted by a small herd of critters that looked and talked like them!
I went out this morning to check on them and since the previous owners told me they enjoy a few slices of bread as a treat, I figured I'd give it a try. This girl, the "mother" of the bunch, is quite friendly and was very interested in eating out of my hand. The others are a bit more shy. The little golden cow, well... I'm going to have to watch her. She's charged at me a few times through the fence already, so I'm really going to have to be careful around her for now.
While I was out there, I suddenly heard a bunch of noisy slurping and turned to see what the heck was going on and was greeted with this sight:
Ummm. OK. So, mama has not weaned her "little" bull calf yet? Goodness! When he bunted while nursing, that poor cow's hind end was lifted a foot off the ground! Needless to say, after their quarantine/get used to the new place time is over, they will be separated. Sheesh!
I was initially told that the herd was a mama cow and three of her calves, but I'm actually starting to think that isn't quite the case. When I picked them up, I noticed this little golden cow has a bag on her (is "in" milk) but she is supposed to only be a two year old. When I ran them through the squeeze yesterday and weighed them, she is a full sized cow (weighs as much as the two cows I already have) and she is very tight with this little heifer calf. I'm starting to think that maybe this is her calf! I'll have to watch them. Maybe I'll see her nurse and can confirm.
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter, but inquiring minds like to know!!
As I was out there, suddenly, I realized that there was another yak in with the newbies - that little baby just walks right under the gates, the little stinker! So much for a quarantine!!
I had to remove her TWICE! I finally decided to rearrange some gates as I was concerned about her getting in with them and not figuring out how to get back to her mama. I'm going to give the newbies a few days to get used to the place and used to saying "hi" to the other yak through the fence before introducing them into the herd, but it should be interesting to see. Never a dull moment on the farm!!
This morning, the very first thing I did was go out to look at the baby. She was curled up in the grass sound asleep, but eventually mama convinced her to wake up and come over to the fence where I could get a better look at her.
She's still a bit wobbly on her feet, but she gets around pretty well. In this video, you can see her walking and talking. Oh, my goodness! Such funny little noises. Turn your volume up and listen for the little frog like sounds between mama's grunting. That's her!
And you're going to have to forgive me for this one, but did you know that Star Wars apparently modeled the AT-AT on baby yak? Don't believe me? Well, see for yourself!
All joking aside, though, she has to be one of the cutest things I've ever seen.
She looks so soft and fuzzy, it's all I can do not to go in there and snuggle with the little thing, but I'm pretty sure mama would have something to say about that.
She's a good mama. Even when she walks away a bit to graze, she's keeping a close eye on her little.
Pretty sure I'm not going to get much work done today. I think there may be a fair amount of baby watching in my schedule. Oh, darn. ;-)
If the poor girl hadn't been waddling around for weeks now looking like she had a beach ball between her legs, I'd have about given up on her ever calving! Her udder was all over the place... one day I'd go out and it'd be pretty swollen up and the next it would be a wrinkly old deflated bag. But lo and behold! Apparently, she calved this late afternoon. I'd looked out and seen her all day long and had not seen anything unusual until I went out to check the water around dusk and there she was, a cute little black and white speckled fuzz ball.
She must have been fairly new as she was wobbly and unsure of her feet, but she was dry and fluffy and mom was fussing all about her. Interestingly, Mr. Bull was a bit more assertive than usual as I approached the fence to get a peek. I think he might have been feeling a bit like a proud papa. ;-)
Baby was up and sucking for all she was worth. She was hungry; that being born is hard work!
She nursed and nursed!
As I walked down to fill the trough, they thought I was bringing them some grain, so they started coming across the pasture. That little baby was all wobbly but, just like the grown ups when they get excited, she was working her tail as she moved along. And her little hump. And her fuzz. My husband was right, at first glance, she looks like a little lamb, she's so fuzzy. Have I mentioned lately how much I love these guys?
While they were hanging around waiting for me to decide to get them some grain (clearly they never doubted that I would), mama and the young bull had a few "words." He's been a bit full of himself lately and she has not been bashful about telling him to stuff it. You go, girl!
Being dusk, getting good photos was a bit tricky and as soon as I turned around, baby was curled up sound asleep, so I'm really excited to go out tomorrow morning and say hello and get some new pictures of her. Rest up, little one! Welcome to the world!
I just love these guys. They are such funny little creatures and so fun to watch. Most of the time they are just so stinking lazy that I can't hardly get them to move twenty feet from where I left them, but when they get the bug to move, they are really exuberant!!
A few days ago, I moved them out to one of the "back forty" pastures to work on some grass that has grown with the little bit of rain we've gotten lately. It took me almost an hour of pied pipering to get them out there, leading them along with a bucket of grain. We got about two thirds of the way and they had to have a little rest. Sheesh!
Of course, the day after I moved them out there, #100 started to show a bag finally (meaning her udder is filling and she's finally getting close to calving)! Well, especially after my recent experience with yak calving, I wanted her close to the barn in case I need to assist, so I brought them home.
That, of course, meant that I had to pied piper them all the way back! Good grief! Well, I forgot to close the gate to keep them up by the barn and to my surprise, those yak decided to walk all the way back out to the other end of the pasture on their own! I was shocked!! So, I had to do it all over again today. They were pretty excited about their grain and when they got close, their excitement kind of got the best of them.
#93 is the younger cow that lost her calf a few months ago. She was looking a little rough for a while, but she is really looking healthy now. She's kind of on the low end of the totem pole, so she wanted to get to the feed trough first so she could get a few bites in before everyone else got there. She's so cute!!
Toward the end of the video, you can see #100 coming in to eat. She's trying her best to keep up with everyone, but she's tired and her tongue is sticking out! These guys do that all the time when they move too much too long (which is like anything more than 20 seconds of activity - honest - they are clearly not the most athletic of beasts). But she wasn't gonna let a little fatigue keep her from her grain!!
I have been watching this video non-stop today. I just love these guys. They're so much fun, and I'm so glad I took the plunge into yak! I'm looking forward to getting those four new ones here soon! I hope you enjoy this video as much as I have!