My sister-in-law introduced me to Pinterest a few weeks ago. If you’re not sure what it is, it’s a website where you can “pin” or bookmark websites or photos that inspire you in a neat collection of “boards” for you to come back to and read or use later. For instance, I have a board of horse photos, a board for scrapbooking ideas, a board of photos of things in my favorite color of green, and boards that give do-it-yourself tutorials for making some really neat things. You can get recommendations from your friends by seeing things they have pinned or liked, and it is just fun and relaxing to make your own collections to come back and look at whenever you need inspiration. Last night I was creating a board for the kind of style I’d like to have. As I was pinning a beautifully ruffled dress that you could only wear to a wedding party or soiree, the thought hit me, “Who am I kidding? I deal in cow manure!”
It’s true. Yesterday I was knee deep in it, hands covered in it, a trail of it all the way through my house and an inch of it in my bathtub. The car smelled of it, my shoes are completely ruined with it, and my frame of mind was pretty much the equivalent of it, too. It was just a cow-manurey kind of day.
It would be easier if Cowboy Dad were around. But he and his brother went to Denver for the weekend to take in the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo. So it was up to me to feed the calves and horses and make sure the cows had water. They didn’t. The tank was drunk down to the bottom, and nothing remained but an icy rim around the top of the tank. When I went to start the hose running, it had been used and not drained properly and was frozen shut. Since it must pass through the feeder calf pen to reach the stock tank, it is continually being dragged through fresh manure whenever it is used….I really didn’t want to put it in my recently-vacuumed Tahoe, but I didn’t really have another choice. I got it into the car and back to my house, managing to scrape manure all along the way through the kitchen and living room, and piled it into the bathtub (yep, got some manure on my white fabric shower curtain!) and filled it up with hot water.
As it defrosted, I used a scrub brush to clean most of the manure off. Wrapping it in a huge bath towel made it easier to carry and caught most of the muddy drips as I carried it back out to the car. I got it hooked up and decided to fix the problem so that it wouldn’t happen again. From the hydrant, I ran the hose straight up to the top of the corn crib door, through the corn crib aisle at a slope, and all along the fence panels sloping down until it reached the tank. I used nails and baling wire to secure it, and after the tank was filled, it looked like all of the water drained out of it on its own. So hopefully I won’t have to repeat the thawing process with the hose, and the hose won’t get drug through the manure every time we need to use it.
But manure is still a big part of my life, and I have to say I prefer it that way. My husband and I have talked quite a bit about just selling the cows and being done with it, as the cost of keeping them has outweighed the benefits some of the time, since we don’t have enough of them to really make it a profitable business, and getting started in cattle required a lot of facility and equipment purchases. But I always consider it a quality of life that we’re paying for. Not everyone has the privilege of dealing with manure on a daily basis.
There is just something comforting and stable about being in the presence of cows. So many times after evening feedings, we just stand there listening to the calves gobbling up their grain, crowded in side by side at their feed bunk, their tails wagging in enthusiasm and their happiness spreading to us as well. The feeder calves are also fun to watch because they get so excited at the smallest things and go bucking and jumping around the corral. They are very curious and will come up and sniff your hands if you offer them, and seem so childlike in their actions.
We have named a couple of our cows, and they are practically family pets. Dorothy and Peaches (pictured above) are heifers that we kept from babies when we first purchased their mothers as first-calf heifers. Peaches is a small black white-faced cow who is pregnant with her second calf. She is tame, but not when she has a baby to look after. Dorothy is a deep red Hereford cow that is so tame you can give her vaccinations without putting her in a chute. She will follow a bucket anywhere you want her to go, and has become the “leader” of our cow herd whenever we need to get them in the corral or even into a trailer to move them. Dorothy lost her first baby and didn’t take with her second AI session, so she is coming up on 4 years old and still hasn’t raised a calf for us. Anyone with smarts would have turned her into hamburger by now, but we just can’t do that with Dorothy. She is an angel, and we all love her. So we’re going to try again this spring with a low-birthweight bull, and see if she can be a mother after all.
We have worked countless hours putting up fencing, hauling water in a poly tank in the back of our pickup, cutting trees out of the fence lines, and pitching hay—all because we have cattle. But I would rather have the experiences and lifelong memories of those hours working alongside my husband and my kids, or when I was a child working with my siblings and parents, than give up all of that and the work, trouble, and yes—the manure that is involved in owning cattle.