Baby Stuff

This title isn’t very fancy, but I thought it was time to update the blog with some baby stuff.

I will be 34 weeks on Friday, and our baby continues to grow (and thrash and kick) and generally make his or her presence known. I suspect space is getting tight! I love the baby kicks because fortunately they’re not too uncomfortable for me yet.

I’m definitely tired and have a heavy, sore belly by the end of the day, but overall I’m grateful I can still do most of my normal stuff. Swelling is still non-existent, but I should probably knock on wood as I say that.

We are slowly getting our home ready for this new little person, and in the nursery we have fresh drywall – which we stubbornly did ourselves – that’s ready for paint. I also have quite a few things still sitting in their shipping boxes waiting to be assembled: the crib, Bob stroller, car seat… 

 

Behold, the nursery. JR did most of the mudding, and I did most of the sanding. We truthfully haven’t updated much of our house since we moved in, so this was a good excuse to tear out 1970’s-era paneling and make some small progress. I don’t think baby will actually care, but at least we have one less room to tackle! I’ll post an actual before and after once we make it to the after.

Winter has been kind to us so far, and we haven’t had too much extra work at the farm from snow or cold. I think we’ve only had to push snow two or three times and thaw a tiny section of frozen pipe in the old barn once. That may be a record since I’ve been here, and I appreciate the timing.

The countryside is already brown and melted off here, but I remind myself some years we do get plenty of snow in March and even April. The cattle, people, and dogs around here all like the mellow February weather.

   
  
And if you’re curious, here’s me around 32 and 33 weeks. I do think the random bathroom shots are dorky, but I never have a photographer handy when I get the urge to document this pregnancy! 

   
 

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Valentine’s Day 

No matter how you do (or don’t) celebrate Valentine’s Day, I hope you enjoy these sweet faces from the farm.

They would love to be your Valentine!

 

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Seven Years

February 7, 2016. Today marks seven years of marriage for us. It makes me feel both older than I am and very young in the bigger picture of things!

  
We’re having a pretty normal Sunday at the farm, but hopefully we’ll either do dinner or a movie tonight to celebrate. Or maybe just watch the Super Bowl with friends. (We should continue working on the drywall and floor in the nursery, but  we’re making decent enough progress. Sort of. Tomorrow will be another day.)

This anniversary also feels different because we will be parents in just a few short months. Or sooner. 

  
31 weeks

They say a baby will change everything, and I don’t doubt the truth of that. Still, I hope it won’t change for the worse the strength and the bond we’ve built in our marriage these past seven years. I expect we’ll have new and different challenges, and maybe more of them, but I pray God will always allow us to see the blessings in the middle of hardest times. 

Lack of sleep, a messy house, a fussy baby, and hormones galore are only some of the things I know will come our way. And I’d appreciate your insight on whethering any or all of them! But I know we have a lot of support from our families and within our marriage to lean on, and somehow we too will figure out the ins and outs of parenting.

I didn’t really expect we’d be married seven years before we had a baby, but the timing is right. If anything I feel unprepared, so thankfully my plan isn’t the biggest plan. I thank God that His plan is bigger. 

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The Calf Barn

Winter is rolling right along, and we’ve almost made it through the generally cold and unforgiving month of January.

Truth? January hasn’t been that bad this year. We had a few cold snaps of solidly below zero, but this last week brought warmer air again and some melting. We’ve got enough snow without being buried, and I hope all you East-coasters are getting back to normal after your ‘Snowzilla’ storm last weekend.

While cattle do well outdoors in winter as long as they have wind-breaks or shelter plus plenty of feed, water and bedding, raising calves outside during cold and snow still proves a challenge. The calves need to use more energy to stay warm, and it simply takes more time and labor to care for them in winter weather. Pushing and shoveling snow, dumping and refilling freezing water pails, and doing the normal chores of feeding and bedding while wearing heavy layers of clothes is a big job. 

The bottom line is overall our baby calves stay healthy and well over winter, but the conditions are still challenging. Especially for us workers. 

For many years we have talked about ways to move more of our calf raising indoors, and this fall we took step one. We purchased a sixty-stall calf barn and got the foundation piers and water lines all set up during the late fall. The building arrived in early December and then the electric, gas, and plumbing were hooked up. We finally started moving new calves in at the end of December.

  
The day the barn arrived. Yes, it came on a semi truck! 

The barn has two separate rooms made for thirty calves each with a utility room in the middle. There are also fans, ventilation, and heaters all hooked up in one system to continually bring in fresh air and keep the temperature consistent. Obviously less air needs to be circulating during the cold weather, but we still need some. 

The barn is kept around 62 degrees, and our new babies move right in to warm up. The calves will stay in the barn for 2-4 weeks (depending on how many new babies are upcoming), and then they move to hutches for another month or so until weaning.

Each calf room is able to be washed with a pressure washer, so that allows us to clean things well and disinfect the barn between groups. This is extra important because of the warmer temperature inside. 

   This is one of the heifers in the first group to live in the barn. 

It’s wonderful to see the calves start nibbling on their grain earlier and having continuous access to water even when the temperatures are below zero. 

  
It’s amazing how quickly they learn to make a mess with their grain on the floor though! 

The barn is set up well for warmer weather with ventilation, so I hope and expect we will be equally happy with starting calves indoors no matter what season it is. 

We’ve had calves in the barn for over one month, so I knew it was time I update the blog with the news. One more feature I love is easier access to the calves. The stalls are much quicker for me and my pregnant belly to get into than climbing into hutches! 

 

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One Month Old

Pepé’s twin daughters turned one month old on the fourteenth. We’ve had a mix of mild and frigid winter weather since they arrived, and fortunately they’ve handled the changing temperatures well.

They are as big or bigger than the calves around them, growing steadily, and I continue to be amazed at their size for being twins.

   
Calvin likes to help me check on all the calves including these two!

  

I appreciate everyone who sent me name suggestions, and I did sit down one night with JR and consider them all. 

After a lot of ideas back and forth we thought we’d name them after types of peppers. But — then the only pepper name we liked for sure was Gypsy. Finally we decided, and the twins are called Peppermint and Gypsy (Pepper). I’m excited to watch their continued growth, and I’m extra thankful they are a strong and healthy pair.

As I mentioned before, having twins can be hard on a cow. Many do just fine, but unfortunately their mother Pepé was not one of them. After a few good days following delivery she gradually wasn’t eating or feeling as well as she should. First she got additional calcium and every vitamin and supplement we had in our repertoire. When she started running a fever she went on an antibiotic, and we kept checking her for signs of a displaced abomasum or twisted stomach. 

A twisted stomach can happen in ruminants, and it’s most common for a cow soon after giving birth. The condition requires a relatively simple surgery to correct, and normally cows recover from it well. After not one but two vet visits we finally confirmed her twisted stomach, and the vet did surgery.

At this point Pepé had moved into our small ‘hospital’ pen so she could be in a little group as close to the parlor as possible. I hand delivered her extra nice alfalfa hay every day in addition to regular feed, and after a bad day on December 23rd she was improving on the morning of the 24th.

We got back to the farm about 9:30 on Christmas Eve night, and I went straight to the barn to check on Pepé. I found her chewing her cud, which was a great sign because it meant she was eating better again. I brought her a nice piece of leafy hay, which she promptly started eating, and I felt relieved as I tucked her in for the night.

Early on Christmas morning I checked on the basics and then went to find Pepé. I was surprised and devestated to find she didn’t live through the night. I was so glad I had checked on her and found her comfortable the night before, but it didn’t take away the broken sadness I felt.

As I type this now my tears are dripping fresh on the keys, and I know the hormones of pregnancy don’t help. “Take good care of her twins,” JR told me, and he is right. That is the last thing I can do for one of very favorite cows. She was the best. 

   

  

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Baby Calf Care, Cows, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 8 Comments