Recently, as we were leaving the house for our evening walk, I found this spider outside the garage.
I moved in for a closer look and it didn't move. I gently poked it with a stick to encourage it to leave so I wouldn't be forced to send it to spider heaven. This plucky little arachnid apparently channels Sylvester Stallone, star of the "Rocky" movies, or Marlon Brando, star of "On the Waterfront," who is known for the famous quote, "I coulda been a contender!"
"C'mon, lady, I'll take ya on!" the spider-weight contender challenged. I declined and instead, ran in the house to get the camera. When I came out, he had apparently taken my quick departure for a forfeit. His front legs were raised in victory stance.
No, I didn't kill him. I named him "Rocky" and let him live to fight another day. As we left on our walk, I thought I heard him call to his mate, "Yo, Adrian!"
Since I retired from my day job, I've discovered new interests totally by accident. I already had a bucket list:
1. Publish and market my book.
2. Take back my basement—empty out boxes of old collectibles and sell on Ebay.
3. Design and create glass garden totems. (More on these later.)
Now that the pace has slowed and I'm spending more time at home, I've discovered other fun activities, like amateur photography. You've already seen pictures of one of my favorite subjects, our cattle. Recently, I encountered other inhabitants of our farm. Unlike our cattle, these critters roam freely and pop up at unexpected times. At least, we hope the cattle do not roam freely and pop up at unexpected times! Although, if you've read my book, you know this happens, thankfully not often.
On our evening walks, we frequently see deer. In fact, not long after we moved to our present farm, I was almost the victim of a hit-and-run deer that leaped out of the timber, across my path, over the nearby barbed wire fence and into the neighbor's timber.
We also see wild turkeys, although not as frequently as we see deer. We usually see them from a distance and they disappear into the timber once they sense our approach. Unless they have already bedded down for the night in trees and I walk underneath their bedrooms, startling them awake. Then they make a thunderous racket with their wings as they all take flight. This cardiac arrest-inducing encounter was the subject of the chapter, "In the Timber Primeval," in my book.
One of my recent encounters was this little tree frog. I found it one morning as I was watering my bedraggled, heat-stressed petunias. It was catching some rays on one my yard art pink flamingos. Not sure what the brown spot is. Frog poop, maybe? When I posted it on my Facebook profile, my sister commented, "Looks hungover. Must have been out partying with the flamingos late last night." She's probably right!
A party animal tree frog? Our farm must be "party central" once the humans go to bed!
So many calves, so little time! That about sums up status quo around here. We’re now near the two-thirds mark toward the goal of 63 blessed events. This week was chaotic: Calves were popping out anywhere from two to four a day! And some of the blessed events were truly eventful but, unfortunately, not all were positive. In fact, one event was the most horrific experience I've been exposed to since we started the cow/calf operation; even more horrific than the time the cow busted through the front of the squeeze chute and nearly trampled me to death!
While I’m working on this week’s calving saga—possibly worthy of a mini-series production on the RFD channel—here are pictures of some of our new calves.
Late Breaking News: Proud Mary just delivered her calf. For all of you fans of Tina Turner's version of the song "Proud Mary," we've named the new heifer "Tina." Photos will be available later.
Baby heifer #62A is minding her own business and preparing to relieve herself, judging by her humped back and raised tail. (We have two different lineages of #62 cows so this one is designated by adding an "A" to the number.) Fogerty, Creedence's calf, is watching. Then...
Fogerty stuck out his tongue at her! From her reaction, there may have also been some raspberries involved! I don't really know whether or not cows and calves can blow raspberries but #62A obviously didn't appreciate the gesture. That little rascal Fogerty!
Calf #47 had an evening snack and now receives his bedtime tongue bath from Mama. Reminds me of Mom cleaning my face with spit on a hanky when I was a kid and we were out in public.
Proud Mama #501 and her three-day old heifer. I think Calf #501 may have her mama's eyes!
And I thought my hair grayed early! I'll be curious to see how the color changes as this calf gets older. This is another calf in the 62A lineage. She's actually an aunt to the 62A calf in the first picture. I know—it sounds a little weird. This is what happens when we keep replacement heifers from our herd. They have calves that can be older than their aunts and uncles born to the replacement heifer's mother. (Did you get all that?)
Calf #116 mugs for the camera!
Why, yes, Ms. Cow! I'll snap your picture while you get up-close-and-personal with me. Here, I'll just zoom it out so you can sniff and smear my camera lens without knocking me over!
This newborn calf is making its first wobbly attempt to stand. As Bill started his rounds about daylight this morning, he found the mama, a first-calf heifer, with the water bag hanging out of the vaginal opening. Not knowing how long she had been in this stage of labor, he decided to pull the calf rather than risk losing it because of a long, stressful labor. Later in the day, mama and the calf are doing great!
While the K-State family at Bill Snyder Family Stadium flocked to restrooms, concession stands and water fountains during halftime of Saturday night’s K-State vs. Louisiana game, the Hilbert family headed out for a quick evening walk.
But we didn’t walk as a family and the outing turned out to be anything but quick. Bill had an agenda: check on a cow that, a few hours earlier, had sequestered herself in the timber to give birth. #164 is seven years old and normally we wouldn’t be as concerned about birthing problems as with a first-calf heifer. But #164 already had a complication: she had been limping for several months. The cause was possibly a hip injury or disorder and could cause delivery difficulty. Compounding any potential birth complications was her attitude. She was one of the flighty “Boomer Sooner Bovines,” and hadn’t gentled down to the point where she would tolerate close human contact.
Hoping for the best possible outcome, that he would find #164 and a newborn calf, Bill headed out in the mini-truck to the last location where he had seen her, which was just off our walking path along the edge of the timber. Cricket and I took our usual route through the pastures and into the timber. We found the mini-truck but no Bill. I stopped and listened intently for sounds of movement through the underbrush while visually scanning as far as I could see into the dense timber. #164 may have moved further into the trees meaning Bill would have to hunt for her.
I debated about joining the search or continuing on while keeping an eye out for her. Hollering “BILL!” in this situation was a big-time no-no. If #164 was still in the timber, it could spook her. Ditto if there was a problem and Bill was trying to drive her out of the timber. Since I didn’t know if there was a search to join, I continued on our regular route.
The route included stopping by a stock tank to give Cricket a dipper of water. Then we headed toward the house which was about a half mile away. I looked in that direction and saw Bill driving #164 toward the corral, and her tail was angled up. From this scenario, I knew there was a complication, and Bill would assume his role as Certified Bovine Midwife and pull the calf.
Another dilemma: run ahead to assume my role as Certified Bovine Midwife Assistant, or go back and get the mini-truck so we wouldn’t have to walk back later to get it. With #164’s limp, the progress to the corral was slow. So Cricket and I jogged back to get the truck and hopefully make it to the corral in time to assist, if necessary. I’m a former competitive runner, but haven’t done any serious running for almost 20 years. That quarter mile jog showed me just how out of shape I am, despite the evening walks. Mental Post-it note to self: Pick up the walking pace!
By the time we got to the corral, Bill had pulled the calf and it was alive! But #164, by now totally exhausted from being herded over three quarters of a mile with the temperature hovering in the upper 90’s, had plopped on the ground in the squeeze chute. After much prodding by Bill, she finally struggled to her feet and limped out of the chute.
The calf was lying on the ground with its head up—a good sign. When #164 left the chute, she didn't go directly to her calf. Bill was concerned she was too stressed to be motherly yet but he wanted to be sure she claimed her calf. We let Cricket into the pen to jump-start those motherly instincts. Protective new mothers won’t tolerate Cricket being anywhere near their calves. The ploy worked. #164 shook her head, bawled “Get away from my calf, dog!” walked over to her calf, sniffed and then licked it.
Bill filled a tub of water in the pen so the new mother could rehydrate and we headed for the house. He would return later to make sure the calf got up and found the milk source. I walked into the living room just as the fourth quarter was starting. We had missed the whole third quarter. But wait…
Earlier, as we were leaving the house, I suggested to Bill that we push the RECORD button, just in case we encountered a problem. So, we didn’t really miss Tramaine Thompson’s 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown; or his 61-yard punt return that didn’t quite make it into the end zone but hit pay dirt on the next play; or Ty Zimmerman’s interception for a touchdown.
Bill named the calf, a bull, “Tramaine.” It remains to be seen whether or not this calf will juke and run like Tramaine. I hope he’s not as talented as Tramaine at finding gaps, particularly when those gaps are in fences!
Another bull calf was born this morning, a normal natural birth, and we named him “Ty.”
Fortunately, the adventure had a good outcome. But I could do without this kind of halftime entertainment!
The baby boom continues! Current count is 11 calves since August 20th with four of those being to first-calf heifers. So far, no problems and the new mother/calf bonding is going well.
The latest first-calf heifer birth was Saturday evening. Creedence gave birth to a bouncing baby bull, which I named Fogerty. Do you sense a story here?
A couple of years ago, Bill bought 10 cows from a cattle trader in Oklahoma. These cows created high adventure on the Hilbert farm and I wrote about it in a chapter called “Boomer Sooner Bovines” in my book. A few of these cows possessed more attitude than Bill wanted in his herd, due, in his opinion, to apparent Brahma genetics. Two of the cows never did settle down and no longer occupy pasture space here.
One of the cows started off flighty and eventually settled down; she even ate range cubes out of our hands! Bill named her Proud Mary because, as he said, she held her head up as if she was extremely proud of herself. “Proud Mary,” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR), is also one of his favorite pop songs. Well, that was all I needed to inspire name creativity for the current and future offspring!
Proud Mary gave birth to a heifer, which I named Creedence. I was hoping for a bull because it sounded like more of a male, than female, name to me. But, I was pretty attached to the name so it stuck.
Several months later, when Bill was selecting his replacement heifers, much to my delight he chose Creedence. Proud Mary had turned out to be an excellent mother with a well-formed udder and good supply of milk, had a gentle temperament and raised a good calf—a few of the genetic traits you look for when selecting replacement heifers. Eventually, Creedence was bred and I started my “name the calf” deliberation again. This process took several weeks but finally, one evening as I was walking in the pasture among the first-calf heifers, inspiration hit--Fogerty, after John Fogerty, lead singer of CCR. Of course, this was assuming the calf was a bull. This name just didn't feel like a unisex name.
As Creedence’s time drew near, I really, really hoped for a bull. My creative name well for an appropriate heifer name had run dry. Late Saturday afternoon, I checked the first-calf heifers to make sure the baby calves were not lying in the hot sun, and also to check on Creedence because we assumed she would calve sometime over the weekend.
Creedence was in the early stage of labor: a stream of mucus hung from her rear end and she left the other cows to seek a private labor and delivery area, or at least as private as an eight-acre pasture with only one small stand of trees would allow. I found a spot where I could monitor the progress using binoculars and not disturb her. Bill had been gone all afternoon and called to let me know he was headed home. I gave him the good news and progress status.
Bill arrived home, checked on Creedence, noted the approximate time labor began and we went about our normal activities while doing occasional progress checks. About an hour later, just before dark, we checked and Creedence was up and obviously licking something on the ground. We walked closer and saw the calf. We watched as it struggled to stand up on wobbly legs, take its first faltering steps and find its first meal. Bill thought the calf might be a bull, judging from its size--large!—and blocky body shape. Relieved and happy, we went to the house and toasted the new arrival.
Later, Bill went out to check on Creedence and her calf. He saw enough to verify the calf was indeed a bull. Fogerty—the CCR name line would continue!
Pictured below are Proud Mary, top, and her daughter, Creedence, and grandson, Fogerty, bottom. Proud Mary has plenty to be proud of!