April 23, 2010

Cows on Break

OK, technically, there are no cows in this picture.  Here we have one young steer (with the wide horns) and three heifers enjoying the mineral lick in the pasture below the Lower House...but no cows.  According to strict farm terminology, a "cow" is an adult female that has had a calf.  Not only is there is no singular term for cattle (this is called a plurale tantum, for the next time you're on Jeopardy), there is also no generic term; when you refer to an individual animal (bull, cow, heifer, steer), you are also giving information about its' sex and ability to breed or breeding history.  I'm not aware of another animal, domesticated or otherwise, that shares this strange linguistic trait.  A gelding remains a horse, a pullet will always be a chicken, and a gander is a goose.  But a steer can't be a cow...or a "cattle."  You can see that I obviously have too much time to think while mucking out stalls...      

The group in this photo have been spending a lot of time together recently since the cows all had calves this spring, and the bull (Big John) and his current harem are almost always kept on their own.  The little heifer to the right of the steer, looking into the camera, is in training to be a fine milk cow some day.  From the time she was born, she has been petted and spoiled, and has become quite tame.  She is affectionately known as Teenage Baby Princess Star, although her registered name is Rose of Sharon.  Thanks to Laura for the photo.

April 20, 2010

Mergansers on the Stillaguamish

Since most of the farm lies along the banks of the Stillaguamish River, wildlife is abundant, especially birds.  In addition to the river itself, there are also a number of small ponds on the farm which provide a year-round home to many birds, as well as a temporary stopping place for a wide variety of migrating species.

Above we have three Common Mergansers, (or Mergus merganser, if you prefer).  According to the Cornell Orinthology website (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/common_merganser/id), the females are distinguished by their shaggy, rusty brown heads, while the males, in breeding plumage, have sleek green and black necks with white bodies and black wings.  Yet another sign of Spring's arrival here on the farm. Thanks to Ed for the photo.   

April 16, 2010

Spreading the Wealth

Now that the horses are spending the nights outside, and all of the cattle are out of the barn, spreading manure has become only a weekly ritual. During the winter, when the barn is full, we usually go out every other day. Except for what goes into maintaining the compost pile, everything else is spread out in the various pastures. Here is Ryan in the waterfall pasture, which should be ready to hay sometime in June.
You can see how well this particular machine, made about eighty years ago by the New Idea Company, spreads the manure behind it. When it first arrived on the farm, Ryan had to fix some of the gearing in the back and replace the wood panels in front, but otherwise it was in good condition. It is a workhorse of a machine (pun intended) with a simple, easy to repair design, and it runs surprisingly quietly. Even heavy loads that are mostly wet hay are easily shredded and tossed around. The only serious design flaw is that it doesn't load itself.

April 8, 2010

April 4, 2010

Chickens and Eggs

Here we have one of the farm's Barred Plymouth Rock chickens.  There are (at least by my last count), seventeen hens and two roosters.  The hens started laying in earnest two or three months ago, and on an average day, we can expect about a dozen eggs.  A couple of the hens have recently shown signs of broodiness, but still seem to be leaving the eggs at night.

The Barred Rocks are, by all accounts, good dual purpose birds, and they became quite tame very quickly.  And since we don't have any pigs just now, the chickens are good for getting rid of the kitchen scraps.  Just don't get your fingers too close at feeding time...