Bessie is four years old!

Bessie was so tiny when I brought her home from the flea market four years ago.  She weighed about 75 pounds.

She could suck down a gallon of milk in a matter of seconds from this bottle.

Side note: This is my all time favorite photo of myself. I don’t care how messy or chubby I look in it because this was one of the best days of my life (my other favorite photos are all birth photos so not ones I am comfortable having out there for the whole world to see LOL).  This photo is just so me – jeans, boots, t-shirt, messy windblown hair, and spending time with my animals – and Jake’s tiny finger is in it, too, because he was snapping pictures for me!

Now look at my gorgeous girl!  She’s shoulder height on me and still as much my bottle baby as she used to be.  She’s a wonderful mama to two beautiful calves, and she is so even tempered and gentle.  I’m so glad I got her way back when!  She put us on this path to farming (although chickens are definitely the gateway farm animal!), and she has taught us so much about cattle, compassion, and ourselves.

Happy birthday, Bessie!

Meet the cattle

Meet the cattle we currently have here at Striving Acres!

Bessie, dairy herd matriarch, 4 years old (and my baby)

Bindi, first born daughter, 1 year, 7 months old

Belle, second born daughter,  8 months old

Chantilley, future mother to our beef herd, age uncertain but estimated near Bindi’s age

Chip, newest herd member (hopefully sire to our future beef herd and dual purpose heifers), 7 months old

Naughty naughty Chip

We forgot how much work it is to have a bull. We. Forgot.  Chip quickly reminded us.

It takes two people to move anything that requires opening a gate because if it’s open, that bull is going through it. 

It takes two people to diligently watch him while the other climbs on and off and back on the tractor, hooking chains to items that need moved.

It takes two people to stop him from stepping into the newly moved feed trough so he can jump over the gate (I seriously wish I was making this one up!).  All my best feed plans about it becoming a five minute daily job are gone now – poof! – in a puff of smoke.  It’s back to climbing over the fence with a feed bag in tow and fending off all of them until I can pour the feed into their troughs.

It takes two of us to get him out of the open barn (OMG – HE IS SO HEADSTRONG!!!) and close the big door so he doesn’t knock an implement over on himself and get hurt badly.

AND SO FAR, HE’S A GOOD BULL (although he’s a kicker!).   Can you imagine if we had one that was horrible and wouldn’t let us in the field or worse yet, one who was dangerous? 

We are seriously thinking we will just rent a bull next time and give it back after the deed has been done with the girls…

“Sacrifice Pad” (it’s not what you think)

The first time I heard the term “sacrifice pad”, I was horrified. I thought it meant a big cement pad used for slaughtering on the farm.  It is NOT that.  A sacrifice pad simply means an area of the farm you sacrifice to the cattle for winter.  It winds up being a spot where not much grass will grow because the animals are on it so much during the winter.  

We have an excellent spot all around the barn for a sacrifice pad.  This barn was used as a garage to work on semi trucks before we purchased it, and the base is all gravel and large rock for twelve inches down, covered with a thin layer of topsoil and grass.  That gravel layer is excellent because it means the mud won’t be knee deep in our sacrifice pad next winter, and having that area means our pastures can be shut up and rotated to allow winter rye to take hold and grow for the cattle (which helps with the feed bill!).

This order of Amish doesn’t allow their pictures to be taken, but Mr. Keim said I could snap one of the post driver!

Before we went to pick up the new bull calf last Saturday,  we drove over and picked up the local Amish fence builder, his young son, and his gas powered post driver along with his fencing materials.  We dropped him off at our farm, went over the fence plan with him one last time, and headed north to pick up Chip. While we were gone, Mr. Keim built our sacrifice pad and set posts for the new headgate and sweep system (coming sometime this spring which we are BEYOND EXCITED ABOUT!!!).

We got back with Chip just as Mr. Kim and his young son were finishing up the new fence.  It was perfect timing!   They wanted to see Chip, and his son climbed right up and over a post!  That little boy just shimmer right up it and over it!  That was funny to see (and made me feel quite old).

As we took them home Saturday evening, Ted asked Mr. Kim about how the Amish communities are governed, and he told us all sorts of interesting things about their church and their school.  We were fascinated.

Once we dropped them off, we came straight back and introduced Chip to the girls. Bessie herded him from the paddock to the water trough, and Ted and I hung the two gates to enclose the new area in case Chip busted through the fence (so he’d still be contained).

We’ve decided to call the newly fenced area the corral instead of the sacrifice pad so nobody gets the wrong idea about what is going on in there! LOL