Today my baby is officially a teenager.
Last year I asked Walker a few questions on his birthday and I loved the answers so much, I decided to do it again this year.
With this kid...some things will never change...
And when you least expect it...he throws you a curve ball.
Summer is under way and there is a whole new set of activities awaiting us. There are summer sports, 4-H meetings, summer camp, jackpot shows, Bible school, holiday parades and activities, county fairs, etc.
Most of these activities would not be possible if it wasn't for the unsung hero...
The all-important volunteer.
The person who gives up their time, their vacation days, and many times, money from their own pocket, just so we can show up and have fun.
The calendar may still say it is Spring, but in our books...
Summer is here!
We are spending this weekend taking one last breath, because tomorrow...
Summer is on!
Spring is supposed to be relatively calm for us.
This year... it was NOT!
Somehow we jumped from a winter that wouldn't end straight into Summer weather.
I am not sure what happened...but our heads are still spinning.
Tomorrow, the boys will start washing calves every day.
Since it is only about 3 weeks until they will be leaving for junior nationals, we have some ground to make up, so they are supposed to wash Ribbon, Jewel and Apollo twice a day.
I already know this summer is going to fly by....
But for a moment...
Take a look at our not so chaotic spring (ha! if you only knew that it felt like total mayhem).
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All that you do
This quote is hanging on our wall and it is one I am always reminding the boys of.
We all often get run down and tired and just want to get it over with, but kids tend to wear down faster and have more difficulty seeing the finish line.
One of the most fought over farm chores around here is whose turn it is fill the water troughs.
It is the easiest job on the farm....but it takes FOREVER.
Especially when there are 4 troughs to fill.
And, it never fails that one particular child gets easily distracted, finds something else to do, forgets to go back and check on the trough...and floods the barn or barnyard.
Winter is finally over, and the threat of frost is past.
It is time to break out the summer watering system.
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Sometimes it takes us a while to catch on to some of those things that others have known for forever.
Last year, we finally discovered the automatic stock tank float valves. I had seen other types of float valves, but they were more expensive, required drilling a hole in the stock tank, and would break when the cows decided to play with them.
Then, I headed to the local farm store and discovered the Little Giant Trough-O-Matic Stock Tank Float Valve.
When the water level goes below the float, the valvue opens and allows the water to refill the trough.
This means that every time the cows drink from the tank, the tank is automatically refilled...which means that we don't have to stand there every night watching the water troughs fill.
All you need is a hose.
Invest in a good one...it will last you for years.
We put a 4 way splitter on our pump head.
This allows us to have float valves on several tanks as well as leaving us a hose that we can use to water the garden and clean the manure off of...anything and everything.
No need to hook and unhook hoses. With a flip of a switch, we can have water to one individual hose or all hoses at once.
The float valvue just slips onto the side of the water trough and is tightened down with screws.
You can see the red float. When the water level is high, the red float is pushed up and keeps the water off. When the water level drops, the red float drops down and allows water to flow through the hose into the trough.
Turn on the water and watch the trough fill.
Walk away...and it's ok.
The water will shut off when the tank is full.
It may take a couple of days for the cows to get used to the new water system.
First of all...there is a strange new thing in their water trough.
The first time they drink from the trough and the valve opens to refill...the cows will go a running.
Don't worry, they will come back.
Once one cow comes back for more water, the rest of the herd will follow.
Within a few days, the cows won't even bat an eye when the valve opens and the water refills.
Actually...they may start to like it. The sun warms the water in the trough all day, but the fresh, clean water coming from the hose is nice and cool because it is fresh from the deep well.
A few reasons why we love the float valves...
You will notice that we use really small water troughs.
These are actually old mineral tubs. We like the smaller size because they are easier to handle and move around if needed. When the algae starts to grow or the water needs changed out, it is much easier to dump the water out of a small trough than the 100 gallon troughs.
Algae doesn't grow as quickly because there is frequent supply of fresh water coming into the trough and the water doesn't get stagnant.
When the water temperature stays cooler (cool water from the deep well) it helps to bring the body temperature of the cows down, decreasing stress levels in the hot summer months.
Since the cows are out on summer pasture and the water doesn't need to be refilled each night, we can spend a few days away from the farm without having to have someone do chores for us each day.
It took we a while to convince Daniel that the automatic float valves would work for us and be worth the money.
Once he saw them in action, he was an immediate convert.
I think he might have almost cried when the temperatures started to drop last fall and we had to take the valves out of the tanks.
He was chomping at the bit this spring to get them back in.
We leased a new farm this summer and just moved cows over there this weekend. Before the cows were even off the trailer, the float valve was installed on the tank. We will check on the cows each night, but we don't have to worry about water, no matter how hot it gets.
I don't know why it took us so long to get on the bandwagon, but we are sure glad we finally did. There is no point in wasting time doing chores that can be done automatically.
Now if I could just figure out a way for my glass of ice cold lemonade to automatically refill...
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The final event of every B.E.S.T. season is the awards banquet.
The banquet is a fun time for everyone to get together, enjoy a good meal, and actually look and smell decent.
To be honest...we don't recognize half the people when they are all cleaned up.
This is a picture of all the B.E.S.T. participants that attended the banquet.
That is a lot of kids...and a lot of the kids weren't there this weekend.
This is the Knox County crew.
I know...we are in Morrow County...but sometimes they put us in with the Knox County crew because we show at the Knox County Fair.
We just go with the flow...
The main event of the evening is the award recognitions.
Not everyone that attends the banquet is eligible for an award.
However, they give away tons of door prizes and all participants that are present at the banquet are entered into a drawing for a one year lease of an Eby trailer.
Those that attended all 15 B.E.S.T. shows this season were presented with a show pass good for a free entry at one of next year's shows.
Isaac received a belt buckle for accumulating the most points for the season in the Miniature division.
Each show, they are given a certain number of points for how they placed in the ring. These points accumulate throughout the season and the top 2 points winners are awarded a belt buckle.
We knew going into the weekend what awards the boys would receive...except for one.
Each year they have a photography contest. You can enter a picture in three different categories and then they are judged by each age division. They also have an adult division that parents can participate in. A first, second, and third place winner are selected from each age division.
The photography winners are presented with a canvas print of their winning picture.
As soon as we walked in, Walker's eyes turned to the photography awards.
There in the back is his picture....
And it is the biggest one...so he knew he won 1st place.
He was so excited!
I think he was more excited about winning the photography contest for the junior division than he has ever been about winning a buckle.
Walker has never had any direction or training in photography.
At the Ohio Beef Expo, he begged and pleaded and whined until I let him use my camera.
I stood right by his side and watched him like a hawk!
Nobody messes with my camera!
I knew he really wanted to submit some photos for the contest, so I indulged him for about 5 minutes.
He took an amazing picture!
That is me on the end!
Yep...I won first place in the adult division.
I had a really hard time getting a picture. The rules state there are not supposed to be any edits or enhancements to the photos. In this digital age of photography, that is a really hard thing to do.
I have a lot of pictures I love, but I have cropped, lightened, sharpened, etc. to get the picture just the way I like it. That meant I couldn't use any of those pictures.
I am probably my toughest critic, so it took a long time for me to take a picture that I was happy with.
I have never won an award for photography, so I was almost as excited as Walker.
The hardest part has been finding the perfect place to hang the pictures in our house.
I am trying to convince everyone to let me take my picture to work to liven up the boring white walls of my office.
This is the picture that Isaac submitted for the contest. He didn't win anything and is pretty disappointed.
He took this with his phone one afternoon as a storm was starting to roll in.
I love this picture so much, I think I am going to have it printed on a canvas for him to hang in his room.
Yesterday afternoon Isaac was busy learning to use his camera (my old camera). He is bound and determined to take better pictures and win the photography contest next year.
We always love attending the B.E.S.T. banquet and this year was no exception. The Ohio Cattlemen's Association has created a wonderful program, and along with their many sponsors and supporters, they have put a lot of smiles on faces.
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Each year we plod along doing what we always do.
Then, one day we look back and realize we learned something.
Life is all about taking one more step and learning one new thing. Each new thing builds on the last thing, and then one day....maybe we will have a few things figured out.
We don't claim to have this cattle thing figured out...but we have learned a few things along the way.
Three weeks ago, the boys went out to do evening chores and found a new heifer calf.
Raylee is happy and healthy...but she had one problem.
Raylee is not a bull...she just has an umbilical hernia.
An umbilical hernia is caused when the blood vessels in the umbilical cord do not shrink as much as they should after birth. It really isn't a big deal, it just looks bad.
We don't normally worry too much about hernia's, but Raylee's was larger than normal.
Since there is a really good possibility that she will be in the show ring, we wanted to go ahead and get the hernia taken care of.
Since she is so young, the Dr. Rob wanted to use gas for the surgery, so we had to take her into the vet's office instead of having the surgery done here at home.
I was the bad Mom because I made Isaac and Walker go to school instead of letting them ride along with Dad for Raylee's surgery.
Some people may think it is weird for all of us to be so enthralled with cow surgeries, but you have to remember that Isaac was just seven years old when Dr. Rob had him help stitch up Missy after her C-section. It was a case of needing every set of hands to keep mamma and baby alive. No one had the choice to be grossed out...we all just had to jump in and do what needed done. Ever since then, the boys have been all too curious to see anything the vet does.
We sent Daniel to the vet's office with orders to take lots of pictures.
Raylee was the star of the vet's office. Everyone was in love with her and was more than happy to get to be a part of her surgery.
The vet tech's started by clipping the hair around the hernia.
Then it was Dr. Rob's turn to fix the hernia.
He made an incision, tucked everything back into place and then stitched her back up.
Raylee was still a little groggy...but all better and ready to go home.
I love the tongue!
Raylee is back home and doing well. She has to stay in the barn until we take the stitches out in two weeks.
Her belly is still swollen, but it will go down as it continues to heal.
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The B.E.S.T. season is over...
And it feels like it just began.
When we headed to Lima the day after Thanksgiving, we faced a daunting few months. Little did we know that the next few months would hold a family death, a job change and a winter full of sickness.
Life can be crazy...but even more so when you have to cram your normal life into your non-show weekends.
But...for some reason, this year felt like the quickest season yet.
Maybe it is because we are just another year older...and they say the older you get, the faster time flies.
We started the season with 4 cows...but mostly because we couldn't decide which ones to show.
Three of these cows finished out the season, and one made her way back home.
Some cows are destined for the show ring and some are just meant to be mamma cows and build the herd back home. Just because a cow isn't show stock, doesn't mean that she won't throw an amazing show calf. Some of our ugliest cows throw our most amazing babies.
Fina just wasn't cut out for the show string. Fina is keeping some of our foundation blood lines alive as we have to make some difficult decisions about the future of her dam.
River did finish out the season...just with another family.
River went to live with a family that is new to the stock show life. This family is striving to raise their kids with the values and work ethic that they see in so many of the older kids on the show circuit. They see the difference in these stock show kids and want that for their family.
River found a family that spoils her rotten. They even figured out she likes gummy bears...but just the red ones.
That left us with Ribbon and Jewel for Isaac and Walker to show.
It was Isaac's turn for first pick of the heifers and he chose to show Ribbon. Walker was back and forth, but he decided on Jewel.
It is kinda ironic, because the first heifer that Walker ever showed was Rachel.
Walker and Rachel did not get along. Rachel is CRAZY!
Rachel is Jewel's mom. Every year we have the fear that Rachel's crazy will rub off on her calf.
Fortunately, Jewel is a little doll baby and she and Walker got along wonderfully.
Even with our very indecisive start, we figured out pretty quickly that Ribbon was going to hold her own for the season. We were a little surprised, but mostly relieved.
We have a pretty tight knit group of Miniature Hereford breeders in the area. While you never know who or what is going to show up at a show, we had some sneak peaks. We heard rumors of breeders that had sold calves that were supposed to show in the B.E.S.T. and we even watched some online auctions where we knew some of the other bidders. We knew there were going to be good animals this year.
For several years we bought our show heifers. Some years, we just didn't have enough heifers. Other years, we had specific cows in mind that we wanted to add to our breeding program.
This year...it was all about us. We had enough heifers to choose from here on the farm, and we had some very specific reasons why we wanted to wait to buy off the farm.
It makes us very proud to show the animals we have bred and raised...but it can also be very scary.
Will our cows make the cut?
Is our breeding program on the right track?
Are we completely out of our league?
After that first show, there is always a huge sigh of relief. While there has to be a winner and a loser, it is always nice to figure out where you stand.
This season also brought some big struggles for us.
The show season is difficult on the cows. There is a lot of stress on their systems in a short amount of time. We really do ask a lot of them.
This year we battled gut issues almost from the start. We did everything we could think of and talked to everyone who would listen. The vet ran every test imaginable and the only answer we got didn't really tell us anything. No one had an answer.
We changed feed, water, mineral, hay, vitamins, supplements, medicines....everything.
One week the cows would look great and two days later they had horrible diarrhea...but they weren't sick...all the tests came back negative. A week later they would be fine. Another week later and they were sunk in, with dull, burnt hair. Sometimes they would eat and sometimes they wouldn't. Nothing seemed to help.
Some shows, we questioned if we should even go. But, we trudged through. While other people found their groove and the cows were improving with every show, we felt like we were going backward.
The final show of the season was a pretty good summary of the struggles we faced. We placed first...and last.
The judge has to judge on that day in that ring.
Two days before, Jewel had placed second in her class. It was one of her good days. Then, she fell apart again. She deserved to place last.
We have had gut struggles before...just never this bad.
Before, the answer was fresh green grass.
I can't say we are sad this season is over. We know these cows desperately need time at home out on good clean pasture. The barn needs aired out and disinfected. We still don't know what the problem is...and it is driving us crazy...but we are going to fix it. Ribbon and Jewel still have a lot of showing ahead of them and we certainly don't want to repeat the struggles of this winter.
Now, if we can just get the snow to go away and the grass to grow.
Through all the struggles, Isaac and Ribbon did come out in first place for the season.
Isaac did a good job from start to finish. He picked a good calf out of the field and he worked tirelessly throughout the season. He cared for Ribbon each and every day and kept a close eye on her condition throughout this year of struggles. He has a special calmness and patience about him that makes it all look easy and effortless. But, behind the scenes, we see the determination and hours of work that make it all happen.
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The coveted moment in the show ring is when the judge turns towards you, tips his hat and shakes your hand. The moment that crowns a champion.
A simple gesture, a moment in time…a world of unspoken words.
A handshake is a greeting, a farewell, an expression of congratulations, a condolence, the beginning of negotiations, the sealing of a deal, a first and a final impression.
Yet, so many people miss the gravity and importance of this unspoken moment. A good handshake speaks volumes about a person, and a not-so-good handshake can end a moment before it even begins.
Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.