County Line Springtime

County Line Springtime

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sunday Strolls

I had just cleaned up the supper dishes, and I'd clicked on the DVR button to see what television show we could watch sans commercials on a lazy Sunday evening.

And we got the phone call.
If you have cattle, you've gotten the phone call I'm talking about.
It was a neighbor who said, "You have cattle out."
So much for cuddling up on the couch with my pillow and the remote. 

Instead, we donned shoes and sweatshirts and went to look for the escapees. When we got to the round top corral, there was one lone mama cow in the lot where she was supposed to be. Thanks for your cooperation, ma'm. I should have gotten your number so I could publicly thank you, but I was too busy scanning the horizon for your friends.

The rest of her compatriots had hightailed it to the south. We spotted them beyond a shelterbelt of trees on wheat. Randy drove the pickup and honked the horn, while I waved my arms and said, "hey, hey, hey" out the passenger window.

Thankfully, they turned around and headed back without us having to go and get the 4-wheelers.
Note the dust they are kicking up in our dry wheat field.
Once they got back to the proximity, they didn't seem to want to cross where the electric fence was down. Kind of ironic, since they'd crossed it to begin with.
But, with a little more encouragement, they went back where they were supposed to be.
I stood at the south edge of the fenced area while Randy restretched the electric wire and then turned the battery back on.

Little No. 447 was the first curious bovine to come and check me out.
I had several observers by the time Randy came back to pick me up. Cattle really are curious creatures.
Unfortunately, sometimes their curiosity takes them beyond the fence ... and interferes with a lazy Sunday night.

A week later, we hit the repeat button. I was settling down with my book (and, who am I kidding?, a Sunday afternoon nap), when Randy raced upstairs for pliers and said we had cattle out. It was the same group. The book (and the nap) would have to wait.
 
Again, No.  R55 was the only one who stayed behind. (I know it looks like they don't have anything to eat, but they were having their meals catered. With more reliability than Pizza Hut delivery guys (at least out here in the boonies), the guys have been delivering hay and water. R55's compatriots were just tempted by greener pastures (also known as wheat fields) on the other side of the electric fence.
I finally had to get out of the pickup to urge this mama and baby along. The baby was convinced it was starving and needed a snack during their march back to the corrals. (It sounds like a typical demanding toddler, don't you think?)

We got them herded back in.
Enough of these Sunday roundups (and other days, too. I just missed out on them.) The boss decided it was time for a change of scenery for this ornery bunch. And weren't we lucky? We got to do that job in snow and cold. Bad timing seems to be the theme, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Schizophrenic Weather

Stafford First United Methodist Church
It was 96 degrees on the bank thermometer when I drove by on Saturday afternoon.
It seemed that we had bypassed spring and skipped ahead to summer.
But the palm branches at Sunday's church service waved in a chilly, overcast day.
 
And then, overnight on Sunday, we hightailed it back to winter.
A couple of inches of snow blanketed the forsythia ...
and the quince, weighing down the delicate pink flowers with a coverlet of white.
And wouldn't you know it? We needed to move cattle. (More on that later.)
I might have been sorry that I complained about the 96 degrees. While I waited, I distracted myself from the shivering by taking photos. (I should have worn a heavier pair of socks.)
This morning, it was 22 degrees. That's a drop of 76 degrees in a couple of days. (Time will tell how the wheat crop copes. It's a long time until harvest.)

Kansas weather is undeniably schizophrenic.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Raise My Ebenezer

 Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
From the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

I’ve been singing hymns for a long, long time. I've had my share of misunderstandings of lyrics. As young girls sitting by our Grandpa Shelby in the pews of Byers United Methodist Church, my sisters and I were convinced we were singing the Gloria Patri directly to him, "...As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be." 

"Shall be" sounds like "Shelby" to little ears, don't you think?

It’s hard to calculate how many times I've sung, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. It would be dozens. But until a few weeks ago, I’d never given any thought to the line that says, “Here I raise my Ebenezer.”

Pastor Ben said he’s made it a mission to define that phrase at every church he serves. Literally, an Ebenezer is a stone of help. It’s a reminder of God’s real, Holy Presence and Divine aid. 

In 1 Samuel 7, we read that the Israelites were under attack by the Philistines. Outnumbered and in fear for their lives, they plead with the prophet Samuel to pray for God’s help. Samuel offered a sacrifice and prayed for protection.
 “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”
In Hebrew the word ebenezer means “stone of help.” This raised stone was a reminder to the Israelites of what the Lord had done for them. The Ebenezer stone represented a fresh beginning, a reversal of course for God’s people. It also said something important about God: His mercies are everlasting; His covenant is forever.

It doesn't have anything to do with my worthiness. It has everything to do with God's grace. 

When Pastor Ben explained the meaning behind the lyrics, I thought of a photo I'd taken when we visited Idaho several years ago. During a morning walk by a river, we saw a pile of stones balanced on a bigger rock along the water's edge.
 
I was struck by its beauty, since its shape mimicked a pine tree across the river on the other bank.

As we enter Holy Week this week, how can I raise my Ebenezer? Spiritually speaking, an Ebenezer can be anything that reminds me of God's presence and help:
A remember can be found in a beautiful sunrise to begin the day ...

... in reading the Bible before the sun comes up ...

in the communion elements ...

 in a cross

 in springtime flowers emerging from bulbs

in yellow forsythia blooming against blue sky

in music

in helping hands

in prayer

in love shown in a myriad of ways

 in a sunset when day is done.

Those things remind me of God's love, God's presence and God's help in my life. They can serve as touchstones during this Holy Week as I walk this path of remembering Jesus' great sacrifice for me.
Samuel recognized something that’s true about human nature: We’re forgetful. At Ebenezer, Israel could stand next to that big old rock and remind themselves, “Yes, we serve a living and faithful God, whose mercies are everlasting.”
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Here I raise my Ebenezer …



I am a Chris Rice fan, so I found this version of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

***
I am linked today to Michelle DeRusha's "Hear It On Sunday, Use It On Monday." Click on the link for other reflections from bloggers of faith. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Well-Baby Checks

Gathering the mamas and the babies from the pasture south of our house. I was taking the photo into the sun, so it's not the best quality.
When Jill and Brent were infants, I took them to well-child checks at the pediatrician. They were different than the last-minute appointments we made for ear infections and other ailments. Well-child checks were designed for the pediatrician to evaluate their health status and give any recommended vaccinations.

Our baby calves undergo a similar process each spring. For this appointment, Randy fulfills the role of "physician's assistant." He certainly doesn't have the education of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. We do use a veterinarian for many of our cattle herd's health needs. But this is a task that Randy does, with help from Jake and me.

The process starts by gathering the mama cows and the calves. The method varies, depending on the location. To work the calves at Peace Creek, we use 4-wheelers to drive the cows and calves a half mile to the corrals and working chute. But, for the other three locations, we gather the cows and calves into a corral.
Then, we separate the mamas from the babies after herding them into a smaller corral.
I never can get photos of that process. You see how you do with trying to get 1,200-pound mamas to go through the gate, and, all the while, trying to corral baby calves who seem to be channeling their inner Usain Bolt.
The mamas end up with that "first-day-of-kindergarten" feeling being separated from their babies.
"Hey, Bessie, I know they went into the barn."

"Oh wait! I think I hear them around the corner."
"I know they're in that trailer, Bessie!"

We use the trailer to transport the babies to the corrals where Jake lives. 
Then, each calf comes down the lane toward the working chute.

I keep things lined up and ready to use, including the ear tagger. We used numbers beginning with "4" this year to indicate the babies were born in 2014.

The babies go, one at at time, down a lane and into a calf cradle - a miniature squeeze chute. Jake gets the unenviable job of pushing the calves down the lane and is sometimes rewarded with a swift kick for his efforts.
We'll let this little black baldy illustrate the process. Once the calf is in the calf cradle, the "doctor's appointment" begins. First, he received his number, 445, and an ear notch. We use those to identify our cattle. Some cattle operations brand their cattle instead.

This year, for the first time, Randy had his name and phone number engraved on the back of the ear tag.
Then, the baby calf and his friends got Tic-Tac-sized growth implants in their right ears. Ralgrow is a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland and helps the calf grow. The $1 injection will bring a $3 return. Randy believes it's a matter of using the technology available to more efficiently grow food for consumers.
And, yes, we eat the cattle we raise here on our farm.
We give each calf two injections. One is Ultrabac 7, an immunization to prevent blackleg. The other is Bovi-Shield Gold 5, which prevents viral diseases in cattle. People often question the reasons for giving immunizations to animals that will eventually enter the food chain. But these injections are like giving immunizations to our own children. It helps keep the calves healthy, and healthy cattle provide a good source of protein in the human diet.
The bull calves, like Number 445, also become steers during their time in the chute. (The following series of three photos was taken another day, but they were better quality than the ones I took this year, so I'm using them instead.)
Randy makes an incision in the sac.
He pulls the testicles through the incision.
And then he cuts the cords, adding a squirt of iodine for germ control.

With all the steps done,  No. 445 rejoins his fellow "class"mates - none the worse for wear. (He's along the fence at the back - easy to see with his white face!)
After we got the process completed, we load the babies back in the trailer for the short ride back to their mothers.
It's time for a snack for the babies and dinner for the humans.