Sunday, October 6, 2013


Wow, I can't believe it's been over five months since I last blogged. So very much has happened...all good! Rather than bombard you with a 7000-word post (never a good idea), I'll recap in pictures instead.

Asher Paul, born 6/21 after 4 weeks of modified home bed rest, weighing 8 lbs 3 oz, and measuring 19" long with a 15" head. He is perfectly healthy and a total joy!

Handsome boy! He was born with reddish hair, but he seems to be turning blonde for now.

And then there were 9 (and a half). From left: Xoe, Roxy, Esther's face, Bestla (Esther's mom), Xaralyn, Arianna, Elodie's backend, Ferdinand (2-year old steer out of Bestla), and Buster (Xara's bull calf) peeking out from behind the tree. (Not shown: Alban "Albie", the bull we bought with another farm in June. He lives most of the time in Winlock.)

Bestla, Esther, Ferdinand and Xoe hanging out on the hayfield.

We remodeled two rooms in our 1978 ranch-style house, the nursery and the guest room. Paul and my uncle scraped and retextured the ceilings (bye, popcorn!), and they and our brother-in-law replaced windows, doors, closet doors and trim, we got new carpet and family and friends painted...all while I laid around on modified bed rest. :) This is the nursery. Next year we'll tackle our master bedroom and bath, rebuild the well house, and hopefully paint the barn. We may do some landscaping, too.

Paul and our brother-in-law repainted the house, something that's needed done for a very long time. We chose Sherwin-Williams "Ethereal Mood" (color-matched to Behr Premium Plus Ultra paint in satin finish; that's a stripe of it on the garage wall) with an off-white trim. It looks so much better!

We replaced the gutters and downspouts, too, but obviously not soon enough! This was one of three major downpours that happened in the 2 weeks between removing the old ones for painting and having the new ones installed. Yikes! We've also had a lot of thunder and lightening, which is odd for Western Washington. Fall has definitely arrived, and a bit strangely, too.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Growing and changing

Skookumchuck Farm is growing and changing, little by little!

As mentioned in my last post, our youngest cow, BEM Xaralyn ("Sara"), delivered her first calf, a beautiful, bouncing dun bull, on March 4th, her due date. The little guy continues to be one of the cutest calves we've had. We may keep him intact as a future herd sire. To that end, naming the little bugger has been a challenge. Paul and I have yet to come up with a name befitting a potential bull, and one that we both agree on. We're calling him Bullet for now, but it's not feeling quite right. (If you have any suggestions for names that start with either F (our farm's 2013 letter) or B (our national association's tatoo letter for 2013), please leave them in the comments!)

On Easter Sunday (also my birthday), we headed over to Blueberry Meadows Highlands' leased pasture in Covington, WA to check out BEM Arianna, a coming yearling heifer. We wanted a friend for Elodie, Xoe's October 2012 calf, as a bull was coming soon and Elodie needed to be separated, something not easily accomplished on our leased pasture, where the big girls (and the little bull calf) were. Plus, we would like to grow a little bit! I was enamored with Arianna's personality...she's a very calm, gentle girl, plus lovely to boot! We bought her for my birthday, and have called her my "birthday heifer" many, many times since. :)

Arianna was delivered to our place on April 7th, about an hour and a half after Paul retrieved little Elodie from the leased pasture and brought her back to our house. Poor little Elodie...not only was she separated from the rest of her herd for the first time, but she was also, unbeknownst to her, beginning the weaning process. True, she was only 5.5 months old, a bit early, but we wanted Xoe to maximize the grass she was on (she looked like she could struggle a bit to keep up condition, like Bridgit did years ago as a first calf heifer), and while it's not likely she could cycle while the bull was here, it is possible, so better safe than sorry.

Arianna and Elodie's introduction went fairly well, although Elodie pouted for a few hours and seemed to take it out on Ari (bashing into her side, etc., even though Ari is quite a bit larger and several months older). Elodie's bawling for her mama began in earnest by that evening and lasted about 48 hours.

Today, though, the two are good buddies, spending all their time together whether grazing or napping. Elodie still doesn't care to be touched. We're hoping that'll change for handling purposes (at this point she'll likely be beef rather than breeding stock). However, I must confess amazement at the fact that she apparently jumped right into the trailer for Paul on the 7th when he went and picked her up from our leased pasture, only her second time ever in a trailer (and the first, while she was a pretty good girl, was probably a little scary!). Maybe she won't be so bad after all. We'll see.

Last weekend the leased bull, Bitterroot Lord Morac, came for a 45-day visit. It was almost an anti-climactic introduction. The girls were interested but calm, and Morac, being a gentleman, didn't wig out, either. They're all happily co-habitating on the nice spring grass, and, fingers crossed, we'll have three nice calves next March!

BEM Arianna ("Ari"). She's a pretty girl!

Skookumchuck's Elodie, mid-bellow (missing mama). You can see her brown top coat starting to shed out, leaving her black undercoat. She'll be all black eventually.

Xara's bull calf at 1 month, 3 days old. Isn't he adorable?!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


This space has been difficult for me to write in for awhile, but I'm turning a corner. Paul and I have been farming and caring for our cattle daily, but there have been so many things going on that there just hasn't been time to write about it, as you'll learn below...

Yesterday, our gorgeous red heifer, BEM Xaralyn ("Saralyn"), who we purchased in May 2012, surprised us with her first calf, a healthy, bouncing little dun bull! She was artificially inseminated (AI'd) around Memorial Day weekend last year to a lovely dun bull from Michigan, LEA Raleigh. Yesterday was actually her due date! I caught a glimpse of the calf from the road as I stopped at our mailbox before turning into the driveway. At first, I thought it was Elodie, Xoe's heifer calf, who is now (oh my gosh!) over 4 months old. By the time I parked the car, let the dog out of her kennel and turned back to the pasture, holy cow (bull!), it was a new baby!

The little guy surprised me because when I drove up, he was checking out the oat haylage with Roxy, many feet from his mama. I would have expected him to be instead glued to Xara's side. I changed my clothes as fast as I could and went out with a comb and my cell phone to snap pictures.

Xara was as calm as could be, lying down, chewing her cud with her new baby tucked tightly beside her, his head under her chin as he checked me out. I was able to (cautiously) approach Xara for some combing, which she clearly relished. She eventually stood up, and baby came around to my side, where I was able to give him some pets. (This is a relief, because we STILL can't really get our hands on Elodie, who just doesn't want much of anything to do with either Paul or me.)

Paul called my phone while I was outside, since I'd texted him that we had a calf. He was working late and was none to happy that I was in the pasture by myself with not only the new mama and baby duo, but the rest of the fold. (Never mind that the other three girls were all lying down, chewing cud, too!) I assured him I was being careful...

Careful, because I am currently 23 weeks pregnant myself. Paul and I are expecting our third child, our second baby boy, the "calm after the storm", on July 2, 2013. He was conceived through IVF and we are very, very blessed and lucky, not only that we conceived him at all after 5 years of infertility and the loss of our twins to a second trimester miscarriage in August 2011, but that this pregnancy, while scary, has been largely trouble-free. It's a whole new experience for us to not have our worries validated by reality (nope, they're just remnants of our first horrifying experience).

We have plans in place to move the herd to summer pasture, hopefully by mid-April (weather-dependent), and will bring in a leased bull in May to service Xara, Xoe and Roxy. We're aiming for March 2014 calves, timing it so (knock on wood!) they all calve at home, where we can closely watch them without fear of predators, and so their calves will be 1.5 months old (give or take) before they hit the large, slightly wild summer pasture (hoping that cougars and the like will be less of an issue by that time). It's a new year for Skookumchuck Farm. :)

BEM Xaralyn and her bull calf.

Our baby boy to be. Photo taken on February 25, 2013 at 21 weeks 6 days gestation.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

New arrival

On Monday night, October 22nd, our little black heifer, Xoe, triumphantly delivered - without assistance (but not without a lot of observation!) - her first calf. It took a few days for us to determine the sex of this little one; mama is a good Highland mama, and true to the breed, she was a little antsy each time we got too close. (Navel dipping and towel drying was a very quick endeavor!) We now know, after watching it pee a few times, that we have a heifer!

After what happened with Roxy's calf in August, I'd been checking Xoe frequently. Here in Western Washington, an 80+ day drought took a toll, finally, on our lush green leased pasture, so we brought Roxy, Xoe and Xaralyn home to our place in mid-October, a month earlier than planned. This was a bit of a relief; at least I could easily keep my eye on Xoe and check her every morning and every night.

She had me fooled, many times, but when I drove up after a long day of work on the 22nd and saw Xoe's behavior, I knew this was it. Girlfriend was standing off by herself, watching the road intently, very alert. I quickly changed my clothes and checked on her, and I saw a big, long mucus string, nearly to her hocks. By the time Paul arrived home, she was pacing a circuit from midway down our north fenceline, back across the western cross-fence, to the middle of the outside paddock fence, and back again. She'd stop occasionally to eat a few apple leaves or a couple of bites of hay, but she had that intent but also absent-minded look. By dusk, it was clear she was having contractions. We sat in a dark house with our binoculars, waiting and watching.

After a bit, she stook outside the paddock gate, as if willing it to open. I went outside and opened it, and all three girls entered (Xaralyn kicking up her heels, having never been in this space before). In and out, in and was exhausting to watch Xoe's progress. Finally, when she appeared to be pushing and made her way to the paddock once again, I went out and shut the gate, locking all three girls inside. (It was raining lightly, anyway; they have shelter in the barn.)

At 6:00, I e-mailed my Cattlewomen to let them know I wouldn't be coming to our monthly meeting. Sometime after 7:30, I started checking Xoe with the flashlight every 20 minutes or so. After what seemed like her trying to push out a watermelon (and me wondering if she was trying to deliver a butt and having flashbacks to Roxy's posterior calf), I called Paul out and he arrived in time to see her forebag break. (It's crazy to see before it comes out, because it's really dark, almost purple, and is actually filled with yellow fluid. Freaky when it bursts.) By 8:00, we finally saw first one tiny hoof, and then another, inside the amniotic sac. They were upright, thank God!

By now, I was checking her every 15 minutes. Time went by with no real progress, until finally the end of two toes appeared. I consulted my cattle books, and read that if an hour went by with nothing other than feet, it was time to intervene. It was just after 8:00.

I increased my watch intervals to every 10 minutes, and wondered how quickly any of the Cattlewomen could make it to our house from East Olympia, where the meeting was in progress, if we needed help. Just before 9:00, I saw two forelegs and a pink, moving tongue! Woohoo! I called Paul out and we watched awhile, Xoe pushing with her own mouth open and tongue out, poor girl. We left her for one last 10 minute interval, but I, worrywort, only lasted five.

And when I came out with my flashlight - BABY! The calf was already sitting up and Xoe was ignoring it, busy slurping up birth fluids. I flashed Paul the signal (he'd said earlier, "Three means hooktender needed in the brush," ever the logger!) and he came out. We wondered what to do because Xoe was not interested in attending to her baby, but didn't want us there, either. She couldn't pull herself away from the fluids on the ground, and it was raining and 49 degrees, and her calf was sopping wet.

Finally, we grabbed our supplies, a halter and some grain (a pan for each of the big girls), and Paul tied Xoe's horns and held onto her while I manhandled the baby (who by then was on its feet and sticking close to mama...I didn't really want to get kicked in the head!). I ended up having to pull the calf backwards by its hips and push it to the ground to dry it off (not really, because all that hair is super wet and soapy-feeling, but I at least got one towel-full and dried the ears and head well), and I dipped the umbilical cord in iodine for protection.

The next morning, we both independently checked on Xoe and her calf, and both found them curled up in the small barn stall, baby lying behind mama, fully protected from the entrance. Good Xoe!

The calf was a joy to watch that evening when we arrived home from work, and like our previous calves, she was bouncing and running and kicking up a storm by her second day outside the womb. She's chocolate brown in color with black feet, nose, eyelids and tail switch, and her undercoat has black in it, too. After consulting my favorite Highland coat color article, I was able to easily confirm that this little one will grow up to be black like Xoe (and like her dad's dad).

(Interestingly, Xoe "cleaned", or delivered her placenta, some time later the first day, because she left it intact next to our fence, rather than eating it as Sheila and Bridgit had done. We'll compost it.)

We still haven't named the calf; not knowing the sex for a few days didn't help that endeavor! Hopefully she'll have a name by the end of tomorrow. Until then, we'll keep calling her Baby!

Baby, day 1. (Xoe has a really nice udder, by the way!)

Look at that cute little tail switch! You can see the black in her undercoat, too.

Mother and daughter.
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