There are bonuses to winter. For example, I can pull on my insulated coveralls over my pj's on weekends and go out to the barn. Another is that the poop is all frozen so it's not as smelly or dirty in the barn. The bad part of winter is not having a heated water bowl and having to chop ice out of the water buckets twice a day.
Last weekend we finally moved the animals 1 km down the road to the barn. We are borrowing a space in the neighbour's barn for the winter. Hopefully this is the only winter. This spring, plans are in the works to build our own. Crossing my fingers that it actually happens. There is government funding that will help with a big part of the bill. I am beyond excited, but force myself to be patient. There is currently 3 feet of snow on the ground that has no intention of going anywhere and the funding applications don't come out until May. I'm not going to be too excited until I see an approval letter in the mail.
We brought the cows down the road by tying them to the back of the tractor and walking. Smokey, who had been halter broke in the past, I thought would be fine. Toodles, who I didn't think had ever had a halter on, I was worried about. Xanadu, the calf, she was left loose to follow along. I wasn't concerned about her. She had two choices, follow or be left behind alone. Of course she followed her mamma like a good girl. What surprised me was that Smokey wouldn't walk. She's approximately 1800 lbs and wouldn't take a step. The tractor pulled, she slid behind, then fell. Legs splayed on the road. We had gone 500 ft and her hocks we skinned and bleeding from falling on the pavement. It's frustrating watching. All she had to do to relieve her discomfort, was to walk. Each time she fell, I loosened the ropes and gave her a rest. Unsure what we would do if she didn't walk. We couldn't drag her, we'd kill her. We couldn't let her keep falling, she'd hurt herself. Toodles in the mean time was tied next to Smokey, standing just as quiet as can be, without ever pulling her rope tight. You'd think she had been shown, she was so well halter broke. (She is now officially my favorite cow.) When we reached the farm next door, I'm not sure if Smokey could smell the other livestock or what, but she stood right up, shook her head and walked. The rest of the way was a breeze and thankfully she is no worse for wear, with no injuries other than skinned hocks.
I wasn't terribly worried about the walk, because I knew it would work, but it was a huge relief to have them inside and out of the wind and snow. The trip back in the spring? Well, I'll worry about that when the time comes. In the mean time, I will be putting a halter on Xanadu and teaching her how to walk, as she'll have to be tied next round.
A few years ago I would have thought it impossible to farm without machinery or a barn. But I guess where there is a will, there is a way. I've had to be resourceful and return favours with my time (which is worth more than money) but it's working. I have my cows.
The horse wouldn't let me catch him that day. He's in need of a lot of work. He's very herd bound and would prefer if I left him alone with his cows. The thing with him though, is that he's not mentally strong enough to be a herd leader. If he wants to go somewhere in the field, but he's afraid, he'll herd one of the cows and force them to come with him. He's severely claustrophobic (which stems from years of being trapped in a stall 24/7 and mistreated before we bought him) and is afraid of most things. So being in the barn is a bit of a mind blow for the guy. The space they are in is an open area, half enclosed and half outdoors. There is no reason he should feel the least bit confined or trapped, but he does. I'm not sure how to help him with this except to go back to the lessons of natural horsemanship and build his confidence with games and exercises.
I left him in the field and took the cows. If he didn't want to follow me, then he'd suffer the consequences and be left behind. He wanted to be a dink, so I said fine, have it your way. When I returned for him, he ran up to me in the field, placed his head in my lap. He didn't care, he'd follow me anywhere, so long as I didn't leave him alone. He has a strong dominant streak in him, being a stud for 3 or 4 years and that dominance and fight for leadership is a daily battle with us. He wants to be in control, but wants me (or the cows) to provide him with safety and comfort. In the animal world, you can't have it both ways. You follow or you lead. Poor guy is in constant struggle with himself.
We walked down to the barn. I had plans on riding him, but he worked himself into such a state he was covered in icicles from galloping through the snow banks and sweating. He's such a dink some days, but he's my special boy. There is no lack of personality. He is the furthest thing from a dead head quarter horse that you might mistake them for different species.
With everyone warm in the barn, I can wait for Toodles to calve. I'm not sure on her exact due date but some time in February is our best guess. Her calf will be the second born on our farm and will have a name beginning with the letter Y. Two Crows Farm is officially a member of the Canadian Limousin Association and has been given tattoo letters that represent our farm. If we choose to register our animals they will have the tattoo in the left ear beginning with MDC then the number they were born and the letter of the year. So Toodles' calf could be MDC 1Y. We chose the tattoo MDC because it is both Martin's initials and mine.
So the little girl that everyone thought was crazy for having a cow in her back yard, with no barn and no tractor, now has 2 cows, has sent 3 bulls/steer to market, fed 12 families, has had one calf born on the farm and awaits the second, with top of the line genetics and some pretty awesome cattle and plans to purchase two more. Hard to believe we had none of this two years ago.