I've been loathe to write this... it's been a challenging week. Farming is not for the faint hearted! Besides the somewhat normal, if not to the max this year, challenges with insect and animal pests in the gardens, we had a very disappointing death this week.
I found this baby inexplicably dead on Monday. After much research, investigation, and consultation, I believe I know what the main cause of death was, but it doesn't really matter. The end result is the same. You wait for almost a year to see those new calves arrive and to have it taken so quickly when it was initially so healthy is disappointing - to put it mildly.
I believe the calf was stricken down by a condition called fly strike. When weather conditions are just right (hot and humid, which it was horribly so with a bit of rain on top of it), fly pressure can be heavy and if the hair is moist or the naval isn't dry they can lay their eggs so quickly on a new calf that it actually overwhelms them very quickly, in as little as 24 hours. This is something I had always heard about but never seen. Having spent most of my livestocking years in the arid West, I had never come across it first hand.
There may have been confounding factors, and I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice to say, I'm very disappointed about the loss. It's funny, when we first started having calves on the place, when I didn't see a calf at least once a day, I was beside myself, and then I started chastising myself for being silly. Well, I guess when I didn't see that calf at all Sunday, I wish I'd been a little silly and gone looking for it. Hind sight is 20/20, I suppose.
Thank goodness the elk calf seems healthy so far! I didn't get to see it today, despite my efforts - the elk calves hide really well - and the mamas are not quite so magnanimous with me in there looking for them (i.e. they'd run me down me if given the chance!), but I did have proof of life yesterday and it looked very healthy, running around and appearing quite strong.
Today, I gave the yak some grass around lunch time and I was a bit concerned that Goldie (the golden colored cow) wasn't around. She's kind of a loner, often hanging off just a bit from everyone else, but when I didn't see her this evening either, I figured I'd best go looking for her. She can be a bit aggressive, so I thought I'd get the four wheeler to check on her. On my way back to the house to get it, I saw her through the trees... and... what was that black thing trotting along beside her!?! Goldie had her calf! It's our first black calf - a "trim" as they call it because it has white on the face, leg(s), and tail. I haven't had a chance to get close, so I don't know the gender yet. It was moving around pretty good and nursing though, so that's a good sign.
As you might imagine, I'm a bit nervous. When you can lose a healthy calf in the blink of an eye, suddenly they seem very fragile. But, the weather is much nicer; it's supposed to be very mild tonight, so I think s/he will be all right until morning. I'll bring them in to the corrals tomorrow and get a better look at the baby and give it a once over... and maybe apply some fly prevention.
Despite the loss this week, a new calf always makes things seem a bit brighter. I think #7 is on deck next, but I'm not sure exactly how soon. Hopefully, she will bring us another wonderful surprise soon!
Last year, I happened to notice an oriole in my apple tree while it was blooming, so I ordered an oriole feeder to see if I could entice them to hang around. It worked! And then some!
Not only did they stick around all summer last year, but they came back this year and appear to have brought all their friends and family. I have so many orioles visiting my yard, it's amazing!
The original feeder I purchased was nothing special. I think it was twelve bucks or something, but they love the fruit and jelly I put out there... and as a jam/jelly producer, I always have partial jars in the fridge looking for a mouth!
Interestingly enough, the orioles aren't the only ones that enjoy the jam. It took me two years to identify the nondescript gray bird shown here with the oriole. I would hear him singing non-stop in the trees with the most elaborate songs! He was initially very shy, which is why it took me so long to identify him. For months, I could hear him but never see him. They're not shy at all anymore! He's called a cat bird because in addition to beautiful songs, he makes a call that sounds like a cat meowing!
I just love these visitors. I have feeders out most of my windows, and they use them all! I'm pretty sure I have at least four different pairs of orioles... maybe more. I think the cat birds are territorial, so I'm guessing I only have the one pair of them, but they love to sing! The orioles are no slouch either in the singing category. I love listening to them all serenading me while I work. I can't think of a better soundtrack to accompany a long day of weeding or pruning! Welcome, back, my friends!
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?
This past summer, I enjoyed watching a pair of white tail fawns visiting our farm regularly and growing. They were a rambunctious pair and always fun to watch. Here is a picture from last August when they still had their spots. Though their family group had a regular loop going through our yard, sometimes I would go weeks or more without seeing them; then they would come around again and I'd get to see them frequently for a bit before they'd go farther afield for a while. A couple of weeks ago, they started coming through again regularly. On that warm day when the elk were feeling frisky, the twins were in my yard playing too. I got a little bit of a video of them playing in my orchard.
Sadly, when I went out to feed the elk this morning on the back side of the farm, I came across one of those twins dead near the side of the road. Except for some blood in the snow from his nose and mouth, he might have been sleeping. It was a little buck and he was just starting to sprout his first set of antlers! He was in the alleyway between two of the pastures, and I cannot tell you how damning it felt to be dragging this little body out to the road past Piggy and the girls, who were intently watching me. I went to ask the neighbor's hired men if they wanted to salvage the meat, and upon driving back to the body, I was greeted by the saddest sight.
It is probably hard to see here, but if you look in the middle of the road a little ways back, there is the twin to this poor dead buck. It was in the field watching and came running, following me, as I approached its fallen twin. As we lifted the little body into the back of the pickup to salvage the meat, the remaining twin ran off. Saddest thing I've seen in a while. I'm really going to miss watching them play.