Mailbox Irises

Mailbox Irises

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Picture Day

Remember picture day at school? Back in the 1960s, you wore your favorite dress, which your mom probably made at home. Your mom rolled your hair in rollers or pin curls the night before so that you had those tight rolls of curls right next to your head. Your bangs threatened to crawl right up into the crown of your head.

For my very first school photo at Byers Grade School, I'm sure my hair was in place when I left home. However, the school photographers used to pass out these little combs before it was our turn to climb up into the portrait chair. Being the little rule follower I was, I probably tried to use that comb to "fix" my hair. I "fixed it" all right.

Experience is a good teacher:  I seem to recall telling Jill not to use the comb so conveniently provided before Lifetouch photos at school.  As I was wandering around in the corral the other day, I couldn't help but think about taking class photos. 

So, here are some from the County Line Class of 2021. (Of course, it always seem to be "picture day" on the County Line, so it's likely there will be "retakes" along the way.

You've already seen the first class member to arrive, but she's so cute, I couldn't resist showing her  again.

 
Even though there are several black and white faces in the corral, I'll always be able to identify her with her stylish yellow "earring." No. 100 designates that she was the first calf born in 2021. 
 
The first number of the eartag designates the birth year. 

 

You know that classmate who was invariably out of line on the way to the lunch room, where the school photographer was set up? No. 104 found its way to the "lunch room," all right. 

 
Some classmates are wiggly and can't sit still for their photos either.  


 

But others are ready for their close-ups. 
You know those people with the "if you've got it, flaunt it" attitude?

 

Those professional photographers always want to see a little attitude. No. 103 has that in spades.

 

Others have that "I'm king of the mountain!" attitude. (You know there was at least one in your class.)

 
This little gal got a little carried away with the "eye shadow." You know those people who end up with raccoon eyes. Tragic, No. 109!

 

Accessories always make a picture pop. That red feed bunk is just the right one.

 

Sometimes, you'd rather take a nap than get gussied up and pose.

There are helicopter parents in every classroom, right?

And sometimes you'd rather hide from the camera lens. 

 

I can relate!

 

Did this guy think the snow camouflaged him? You'll have to do better than that, little one!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Miracle of Miracles

 

My Grandma Neelly didn't believe in betting. She didn't even like it if you said, "I'll bet you a quarter you will!" or "I'll bet you won't!" for some nonsensical argument among siblings. 
 
If Randy and I were betting folk, we'd have bet that a calf born during sub-zero temperatures last week would not make it. It didn't look good, despite our best efforts. 

My view - holding the bag up so the milk would flow while Randy tube-fed a baby calf in the pickup cab.

The mama had given birth on snow-covered ground, rather than on the straw that was available. When Randy found it, the mama had done a good job cleaning it off, but the newborn was no match for the snow-covered maternity suite and the wind. 

He wrapped it in an old blue blanket and put it in his pickup for a "sauna" treatment, then brought it back to the house. There, we mixed up some colostrum and tube-fed the baby in an effort to help it warm up from the inside out. (And this is why we use the old pickup for these tasks!)

 

 After it was good and dry, Randy deposited it in the straw back at the cow lot.

The mama was still waiting where she'd given birth. (You will have to pull up the photo below to see that the black "dot" in the background is actually the mama cow.)

Randy walked around the mama and herded her up toward the baby.
We left them alone, but the baby was still limp and unresponsive when we left.

Nothing had changed when Randy checked two more times that evening and night. He came back to the house and said he thought it wouldn't make it. 

However, Wednesday morning, he was delighted to discover that the calf was up. It was still wobbly, but it was up and trying to nurse. 

By Thursday, it was nursing well ...


... and following mama around the corral. 


"That is a good mama," Randy said, while we watched the pair. (The mom was not relishing our paparazzi moments.)

I've had a song on repeat in my head ever since, "Miracle of Miracles" from the musical "Fiddler on the Roof." (Click on the link to watch the clip from the movie.)

Over and over, the lyrics repeat "wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles." 

We did lose one calf from a heifer during the extreme cold. Thankfully, most of our heifers had calved prior to the sub-zero temperatures. Several veteran mamas found the straw or weeds in the pasture for cover. 

Ironically, we've had more loss outside the polar plunge. There was a dead baby calf in a pasture Sunday evening. The mama had done a good job cleaning it off, and there was no discernible reason that it didn't survive. 

 
Monday morning when we fed, the mama was in the same place she had given birth. She was there again last evening when we checked the ladies at dusk. It broke my heart.

In addition, we had a mama cow die on Saturday night, with a baby still in utero. However, it wasn't in labor at the time, and we don't know the reason for the mama's death. We also had a five-day-old calf die several weeks ago: Again, we don't know why that happened.

But, thankfully, there are many more miracles than heartbreaks.


Thursday morning, we watched as a brand new calf stood up for the first time.


Here was the same pair Sunday evening.

Yesterday, I watched baby calves chase each other in the pasture in the warm sunshine. No wonder I can't get "wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles" out of my head. 



Thursday, February 18, 2021

Biscuit & Gravy Bake

 

Does anyone else have a "to-be-tried" recipe pile? Don't tell Jill, but mine is in danger of an avalanche.

Jill likes recipes just as much as I do. She just isn't a fan of all my paper. I think she's envisioning having to clean out my house some day. She would much rather pull up the recipes on her phone or her laptop.

And, in the rush to get dinner on the table, I often ignore the burgeoning pile and make something I've already made a million times. (OK, probably not a million, but you get the idea.)

But every so often, I add to the pile anyway. As I'm scrolling through Facebook, something invariably looks tempting. And if it's shared by a Facebook friend, the temptation grows.


I delved into my "to-be-tried" recipe file recently and found a winner. (Thanks Julie Christie!) This Biscuit & Gravy Bake was a big hit with Randy. That's not a big surprise, since biscuits and gravy are often his choice on a restaurant breakfast menu. I liked it, too.

Though I initially made it for dinner (our 12 noon meal), it later became a rerun at breakfast for Randy. (The whole "dinner" vs. "lunch" vs. "supper" debate rages on with Jill's sibling.) But no matter the meal, Randy definitely wasn't complaining about leftovers. It really could be served morning, noon or night.

Whether you save this recipe by printing it out ... or pulling it up on your phone ... you won't be sorry you tried it! Enjoy!

Biscuit and Gravy Bake
Adapted from Tasty.com

12 oz. canister refrigerated biscuits
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 lb. browned sausage
1 cup shredded cheese

Gravy:
4 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup flour
Salt to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 cups milk

Cut each biscuit into 8 pieces. Set aside. 

In a bowl, mix the eggs, milk, pepper and salt. Set aside.

For the gravy, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour and seasonings and stir until well combined and bubbly. Slowly add the 2 cups of milk.  Increase to medium-high, bring to a simmer, stirring until gravy is thickened.

In a greased 9- by 13-inch glass baking dish, layer the biscuits, sausage, cheese, egg mixture and gravy.
Bake at 350°F for 35-45 min, until the eggs are cooked.
 
Serve with fresh fruit. 
 
Notes: 
  • Make sure your 9- by 13-inch pan is deep enough. I had some spillage in my oven.  Just beware!
  • If you are browning your sausage as you make the recipe, you could substitute sausage fat from the bottom of your skillet for some of the butter for the gravy. (I happened to have browned extra sausage at Thanksgiving as I was making my dressing and had it in the freezer, so I used the butter called for in the recipe.) 
  • You could certainly make your own biscuit dough if you have the time and inclination. The refrigerated biscuits were a fast alternative on a busy day.



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Frigid Welcome


It kind of looked like these calves were sticking their tongues out at this weather. 
I must wholeheartedly agree, little ones.  
I hate it when I can see my breath ... and when just breathing can take your breath away. 


It was -14 degrees F Monday morning. According to the meteorologists, the wind chill was in the -30s. Today had a balmy -10 start.


However, I give gold stars to the mamas on The County Line. They are doing a stellar job. 
 
While Randy filled the feed truck with silage one cold day, I watched a newborn calf and mother. 
The baby wasn't sure which end of the mama provided the "fountain."
The mama kept nudging the calf and moving around until the calf found the right location.
The next day, they were still up in the straw behind the windbreak, keeping as warm as they could. 
 
Other mamas find other available shelter for birthing their babies. Yesterday afternoon, this mama had her baby in tall weeds in the pasture south of our house.
 
The weeds are a pain to walk through for humans. I took a rather ungraceful spill into a mud puddle after tripping on the dry weeds in the corrals a couple of weeks ago when we were sorting out an old cow to go to the cattle sale. It meant washing everything I was wearing at the time. 

But those same weeds provide some windbreak and warmth for the newest members of the County Line herd.
 
A little sunshine was a welcome addition to the landscape yesterday afternoon. It gave the illusion of a little warmth, and the solar energy does help warm the new calves up a bit.
 
The mamas tag team with the sun, working hard at getting their new babies cleaned off and up for a warm milk snack. I can relate. I've put a packet of hot cocoa mix in a cup of coffee for a special warm-me-up treat the past couple of days.

 

When human intruders are too annoying, mama protectively moved the baby a distance away from the meddling paparazzi. I can take a hint.

 

 That mama wasn't the only one using the weeds as windbreak. 

 

 Others were glad to use the straw Randy has provided behind windbreaks in each pasture.  

A little attention from mama is sure to provide some warm fuzzy feelings on a cold winter day. 

There was plenty of love to go around ... even after Valentine's Day was over.


And there was plenty of warm milk to go around, too.

Randy has fulfilled his inner circus dreams and tried out flame throwing in an effort to thaw out the nozzle on the water trailer. 


He has had to resort to the acetylene torch so that the water stream flows out at more than a trickle.

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Wonder if a flame thrower works on frozen feet? That method is not recommended.

Electric companies are asking people to conserve energy and have said they'll cut power off in rolling blackouts for 30-minute intervals, if needed. As for us, we are waiting to feed until this afternoon, hoping it will make it easier to get the feed truck and loader tractor started. They don't like the frigid cold either.

I have to laugh at myself when I look at Wednesday's forecast and think that a high of 18 seems warm. Everything is relative.