Recently, Mike and I discovered that someone had knocked down a historic rock wall and cut down about a dozen ‘old growth’ walnut trees on our property without our permission. It was not hard to figure out who the culprit was, since the only access was from the next farm over and there were already complaints about the man’s “druggie” grandson doing the same sort of theft of three other adjoining farms. We haven’t measured the loss, yet, but expect it to run well over $10,000 not to mention the loss of the sentinel trees. The biggest crime is the young man and his friends, to this point have never received substantial punishment for their law-breaking enterprises. No wonder a local-friend referred to people like these as “Pillbillies.”
The thing is…the value of those trees would have provided us with funding for a tremendous herd, but WE DID NOT WANT THEM CUT DOWN!
Because of the kid’s history, our suspicion that he has also been responsible for copper and equipment thefts in the area, we will be pressing charges. Sadly, a conviction will probably do little good. He comes from a family that blames his behavior on drugs, but refuses to see that in his entire life he has never had to face the consequences of his own actions. Someone in his family always bailed him out and enabled him to go through life thinking that he was a special exception to the law. I do not believe it is too harsh to wish that he would personally have to haul newly cut stones, by hand, to rebuild the wall he destroyed; nor is it too harsh to require him to trim the branches and limbs he left into useable firewood for our fireplace (14″ or less) and haul and stack it by hand. And these should be in addition to restitution for the loss, a verbal apology to all the landowners he stole from, and time in jail to ‘dry out’ from his drug usage. In no way should his family be allowed to pay bail, pay the restitution, arrange for or negotiate his punishment or other such things as they have in the past when they sent a message to the kid, “do whatever you want, we’ll fix it for you.”
On a lighter note, Mike and I made a run with our buyer to a large local cattle dealer and it was quite an education for me. I was told the man deals with thousands of cows on his place, and would not doubt that for the world. His farm was perhaps thousands of acres and I do not believe there was one blade of grass on the property. No kidding. There were cows of all sizes and colors, fences galore, hay racks, even equipment and animal sheds but everywhere one looked a bumpy goulash of muddy ooze stood where a lawn once grew. I was a bit distressed and put off by the glaring discrepancy between ‘happy cows’ on most of the farms I see and this place. I mean no real disparagement. His cattle are healthy, thriving, and well cared for. It’s just that his farm due to his ‘success’ flies in the face of every reason most people have for wanting to live in the country. Imagine, no grass, no trees, the incredible “ick” from thousands of cows, driveways of ooze, and landscaping (?)–forget about it!
Still, he appears to be one of our best bets for gaining large numbers of newborn bottle-fed calves for our own operation. I just hope that as we gear up and increase the herd, we do not have to give up what attracts us to this place to begin with.
Update: We have gone several times to purchase calves from this gentlemen and our herd is growing nicely in numbers and weight. We placed a few of the older calves up for sale and currently are negotiating a trade of some bulls for younger heifers. Two of our new arrivals have become some of my favorites and I’ve begun lead training on Coco (a red Saler-looking heifer) and Wadebu (“Boo” a black angus). You can see them in the picture here. (Boo on left and Coco on far right) Boo is difficult and stubborn–not at all like Pip, who still loves his lead and going for walks.
Mike expanded the soon-to-be pasture area near the cowshed by taking a small portion of the field he planted soybeans in last year. The stubble will provide some fodder for the young herd until Spring, allows them room to “stretch their legs” and gets them fresh air and sunshine. The first day he had the electric fence up, he decided to let Pip out into the enclosure. Pip—the bull who has never seen an electric fence and has only been out of the pen on a lead with me coaxing him, assuring him, and controlling him. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty.
Apparently the first thing Pip did was panic and run amuck, crashing through some of the electric fence- Ouch!- then turning to run another direction only to get zapped by the fence again. He came to rest finally in the area he knew…the little “yard” I created for he and Rowdy to linger in and eat fresh grass. It seemed to calm him and Mike was able to return him to his stall. So yesterday I decided to reintroduce the calf to the new space, while controlling him on the lead.
I approached Pip in his stall with a “Would you like to go for a walk?” He looked at me with his big brown eyes and froze in place, his signal to me that he was willing. Ok. I took the lead down and entered his pen saying, “Stand, Pip.” Pip stood perfectly still while I placed the lead around his neck and clipped it into a loop. I opened the pen door and said, “OK, this way” and he followed me to the door. With a “whoa” he stopped just outside the door so I could keep Rowdy and Belle closed in and we began our walk. “Ha, Pip” I instructed and Pip turned left by the shed. “Ha,” he turned again. “Giddup, Pip” and we began a walk parallel to the electric fence until we were about 250 ft from the shed when suddenly Pip decided to sniff the fence. Oh no! Zzzzzzapppp!
At that moment, Pip turned into a wild eyed, frenzied bull, fighting the lead, trying to pull me along, spinning around and around me and ignoring me calls of “Whoa, whoa!” I finally commanded firmly, “Pip, STAND!” Believe it or not, he stopped, froze in place and allowed me to pet his neck, soothe him, and removed the lead. He then followed as I walked a path parallel to the fence all around the new “yard” and something clicked. Once he knew his boundaries, he must have also felt some freedom for he began running back and forth down the length of the yard and kicking his heels up! I opened the pen door for Rowdy to join him and Pip ran from inside the pen to the end of the yard and back again. This was not the wild eyed fear from moments before, but utter jubilation! And it was contagious!
Beyond my own delight in his antics and the realization that he learned a new command a few days earlier when I played with the younger calves. “Amuck, amuck, amuck, amuck!” sent him running and kicking each time and back in the pen Brahma Mama (a huge Brahma cow we got with a calf at her side) was also kicking up her heels. Rowdy, the most laid-back calf in existence, chewed his cud a little faster, kicked up his heels, once, and went back to eating.
So we now have our latest additions, a new yard for the calves, and a new command they all enjoy. I just have to remember never to say that command while Mike is in the stall with Brahma Mama.
I also need to remember, that caring for the animals as simply a chore, takes away the pleaure of watching them play. It is my joy and jubilation, even if at my age I can no longer run “amuck, amuck, amuck, amuck.”