The Calf And The Kitchen Sink

At last count, we have nine newborn calves. We’re just entering calving season and pretty soon, there will be baby beefs snuggled under every sagebrush at the ranch. When we ride to check on the mother cows and their babies, the latter can be hard to find. Just yesterday, I had a heck of a time finding a new calf here at home where we keep the first-calf heifers. But, while I was looking for the little dickens, I did find something else … a treasure!

Baby calves slip in and out of a fenced pasture as easily as a dog or cat. A foal would get injured, but, calves have a lot of coarse hair and thick skin. They don’t get scuffed up. I wasn’t all that worried about the MIA calf being hurt, I was more concerned about one so young forgetting how to get back to where he belonged. So, when I couldn’t locate him, I went on a reconnaissance mission. The pasture beyond our own here at home was once owned by a local junk-man. The residual relics still live there. I hadn’t been back there for a long time. Since then, I’ve developed a love for re-purposing junk. While looking for the calf, I found an old porcelain sink and several other old rusty treasures that have ‘garden container’ written all over them. I called the current land-owner to make sure he didn’t mind if I give some of the old junk on his property a new home. He said I was welcome to it. GoodyTwoShoes! Now I can make use of a cute idea I found at Pinterest. See below…the sink I found (where it laid) and the photo I saw at Pinterest (posted here with permission from Patti’s Artful Design blog). Now, all I have to find is a couple more goodies for it: legs from an old iron stove and I think I recall seeing just such a thing at an old ranch dump nearby; and an old faucet & handles. Game On!

Kind of app-ro-po that a sink is part of this edition of my blog. I don’t have a real theme this time — just rollin’ with whatever is going on around here at present … I’m covering everything including the kitchen sink :o) Ok, bathroom sink if we’re gonna be nitpicky.

ANYway, I’ve been going in about 7 different directions … which, for me is kinda normalish. I think I was A.D.D. before there was a diagnosis for it.

The porch project is near completion (kind of) — just a couple more things to do inside before I can move furnishings into the room. My husband is now getting things ready to set forms for concrete (for the covered patio). He thinks he has to do everything himself, so all of this happens between his full-time job (doing maintenance for our town’s elementary school) and the ranch … and now calving – the busiest part of our ranching agenda. So, the home improvements take longer than if we were like ‘normal’ people who hire folks to do this sort of thing. Once the patio is in place, the timbers come next, then the screening (we’ll have a wonderful screened porch) and THEN a new roof over the house and the new addition. Phew! My husband needs a clone. Below is a photo collage of the porch as it is now. Lynn built the stairs and landing out of old school bleachers. I painted, distressed and refinished them. The horizontal white strip on the wall is one of three radiant heat panels. Boy, is that a slick way to heat. Also in the photo collage are a few things that will find their way onto the porch: an antique sled, an antique mantel and the carved wooden swan I told you about in my last blog article. Until I get moved into the porch, the ‘stuff’ is being warehoused in our living room … and s’more in the barn.

The other day, my farmgirl pal (Michele) and I went on our monthly shopping excursion over to the city. We hit all of our favorite antique shops along the way, had lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then did our ‘neccessity’ shopping. It is an all day affair since it is a two hour trip both ways just to get there if we didn’t piddlefart as part of the trip. Both of us scored a few antique finds. I found another golden-oldie that I’ve been hankering for lo these many years: an antique weathervane horse. I wasn’t tooooo picky about what kind, I just wanted one that A. I could afford, and B. is pretty. Some of the horse weathervane styles are kinda UGH-ly. I had in my mind’s eye the likeness of one my Morgan Horse’s ancestors: “Black Hawk”, the famous racing roadhorse (Morgan Horse) of the 1800s. He is the classic trotting horse you see so often in old ads of the late 1800s … and it is his image in the form of a weathervane that I’ve been sighing over for many, many years. Because good quality *antique* weathervanes are so blinking expensive … to the tune of many hundreds of dollars up to many thou$ands of dollar$ … I assumed I’d never own the real thing.

So, ok, we stop at our first antique shop which is more of a place than a shop. The building is surrounded by gobs of old iron and a motley mix of alllllll kinds of vintage “junque”. First, I found a couple of old galvanized tubs for my garden. Then, I wandered inside and before I laid my eyes on Black Hawk his-self, I think I heard the classic heavenly choir sing “Wa-Hahhhhhhh”. And then, there he was … hanging on a nail from the rafters with old saws, chains, and a graniteware pot. I was shocked to see this kind of weathervane in this region. They’re common back east, but not here. But, there he was … real copper and brass, perfectly aged, no bullet holes, his tail and ears were intact. I knew that he would be much more than I could justify spending, but I had to ask. When the store owner said, “60 bucks”, I couldn’t get him down soon enough! Thank you Lord for little trinkets that make us smile. At our next antique shop-stop, I took Black Hawk inside and Michele asked the owner (a friend of her’s who is heap savvy about antiques) where she would price the weathervane. $350, she said — for this area and it would probably be much higher back east. WooHoooo! I did get a good deal and she confirmed that my prize is an antique and not a reproduction. “Black Hawk” will live somewhere in our new porch. Here he is …

Sorry, I got a little carried away with my equine find. Moving on. How about some photos.

Here is wonderful photo that I know you’ll love … unless you have a hair-trigger gag reflex.

The answer to the obvious question, “What In The Sam-Hill Is That??!!” is: why, gourmet breakfast for my hens, of course. A yummy porridge of cooked oatmeal, flax seed, corn meal, barley, a few peas, an egg, the shell … and topped with dried meal worms. Mmm-Mmmmm. Since they are no longer yard-birds, but rather jail-birds, I fix them a good breakfast. They love to free-range and they’re missing out on fresh greens and who knows what else. They only get an hour of freedom in the evenings now so that they can’t tear up my flower bed.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch … like I said, we’re calving now, just getting going. I thought I would share a few details that some of you might find of interest. Male and female cattle look quite different from one another – as it should be. There should be strong gender characteristics in both sexes. Even steers have their own ‘look’ — less male than a bull, but not like a cow. Even as babies, you can often tell the difference by looking at the overall animal and not just the more obvious indicators: the plumbing.

Here are photos of the first two babies of this year – one male and one female – standing by one of their mommas. The bull is in front – he is ‘blockier’, thicker built, heavier bodied and more masculine in the head. The baby heifer is noticeably more feminine … finer built, having a more delicate head, thinner neck – leaner looking body — even her leg bones are not quite as sturdy in appearance. Both of them are two days old in this photo. Not all babies are as gender-correct looking as these two, but it is clsoer to the norm than not.

The photo at the top of the page is the baby bull playing. Here are head shots of the two …

The bull:

The heifer:

Can you see the difference now? Here are two more, first the little bull. His face and head look to be shorter and thicker than the heifer’s. As he ages, his neck will thicken tremendously and a hump will develop over his ‘withers’. Even the beef breeds have the hump that is much more pronounced in breeds that have Brahma in their lineage.

The heifer’s profile is below. As she matures, her neck will not thicken. It will remain more slender looking and she will not develop the heavy muscling of a bull. Much of her energy will go to building babies and lactating.

Baby girl again …

So, that is where we are at present … watching first-time mothers around the clock as they get close to birthing. Some need help, most do not. We lost a baby yesterday – still birth. No obvious reason. It just happens. Sometimes, if timing allows it, we graft an elderly cow’s calf onto a young cow who has lost her own calf. This time, however, it is too early into calving to have a ‘sub’ at the ready. I feel sad for the mommies that lose their baby. The good news is that this little mommie found a sub of her own. She decided to adopt the bull calf. He thinks its great – he’s got more milk which can be a little short in heifers until their milk comes in good. That is another reason we keep first-timers here for awhile — in the event that we have to supplement a calf whose mother doesn’t produce enough early on. You can tell if a calf isn’t getting enough to eat in two ways: lethargy and they are hollow looking in the flank area. Out at the ranch, sometimes a cow, even a veteran mother, will forget where she put her calf or a cow might have had twins and accepted only one. That is also an important reason to look for babies and at them. Another sign that a baby is underfed and perhaps orphaned is this: they stand and bawwwl … a lingering, plaintive bawl … the way a baby calf “cries”. If we have an orphan on our hands, we take it home, feed it and we can usually graft it onto a new mother. A calf always does better with real milk. Dry milk replacement is a poor substitute for the real thing. But, it is a life-saver when you need it!

This is as ‘ranch farmgirl’ as my job gets and it is my favorite time of the year – from now until late June. Calving is ground zero in our line of work and both my husband and I really enjoy it. This weekend will be the first time we will ride this year at the ranch. We need to bring the horses home for some serious grooming. Poor “Ribbon” looks like she’s had a serial bad hair day for months on end. Lynn trimmed everyone’s hooves the other day, now they just need some grooming. They’re also shedding big-time now which for a ranchy farmgirl means no lipstick or lip balm unless you like furry lips.

Well, girls, that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you’re enjoying everything that springtime means in your little corner of the world. For all the turmoil we hear about in the news, for all the ills we see in society, for all the sad things that would make our hearts and spirits grow limp and weary … this is still a wonderous and wonderful place. It is no more evident than in the spring of the year, no more beautiful and full of promise and life’s goodness. How perfect that Easter arrives when we’re so in need of rejuvenation. “He Is Risen” … and the promise held in those three words means that hope really does spring eternal. Happy Spring and Happy Easter to all of my farmgirl friends. ~ Shery

  1. Lacey says:

    Shery Another GREAT read!!! I love the sink project, and I’m surprised my Pinterest addiction hasn’t lead me to find that particular project yet, it is an amazing thing to have as a DIY guide!! Also I Love the weather vane it’s a real beauty! Glad to hear that calving season is off to a good start for you, and I hope the weather cooperates better for you than it has for us. We just finishing making some comfy straw beds for our herd as the weather man says we’re in for a few more blizzard like days! Sending Blessings to you for Easter and Calving too!


    Thanks Lacey!  Yes, finding Pinterest happened for me via my sister. It has been especially timely since we are doing so much to the house this year. Going idea hunting there has been a lot of fun and it inspires you to get it done!   shery

  2. Joan says:

    Ahhh another wonderful trip with Shery – what great fun y’all have – sure worth the drive. Wheweee a real good look’n horse weathervane and you didn’t have to mortgage the ranch – now that’s a great find and the sink for free – I’d say you are on a roll. The porch and your yard are going to be spiffy for sure. And then calving – oh how I feel the love – there is nothing like babies on the ranch – they make life anew. Thanks again for such a fun read and Happy Easter to you and yours.

  3. I luv the "work in progress" on the Ranch….
    and fyi, I nearly spewed coffee out my nostrils when reading your comment: They’re (horses)also shedding big-time now which for a ranchy farmgirl means no lipstick or lip balm unless you like furry lips, "

  4. meredith (hereford girl) says:

    Good Morning Shery! Just had to let you know that you gave me the laugh of the day with the comment about no lipstick or lipbalm unless you like furry lips- only a farmgirl can understand that!!!! Good luck with your calving- we are about halfway finished and the babies look good. We are so blessed to do what we do…..
    Have a great day! Meredith

  5. meredith (hereford girl) says:

    Good Morning Shery! Just had to let you know that you gave me the laugh of the day with the comment about no lipstick or lipbalm unless you like furry lips- only a farmgirl can understand that!!!! Good luck with your calving- we are about halfway finished and the babies look good. We are so blessed to do what we do…..
    Have a great day! Meredith

  6. Diann says:

    Well, our critters aren’t roaming like the cattle but they certainly are producing this time of year. Sixteen piglets in three days…imagine we started out with only one two-day old wild boar..Butch…and now a mere 18 months later, have well over sixty hogs…..whoa. Our biggest concern is the mamas rollin’ over on the piglets. We check often. And like your little calf, we have lost a few piglets. The brighter side to this, my daughter and granddaughter were here this week and were able to see the process and care for a runt piglet that is needing a little extra care. They did "good" for city slickers! My little ranch is alive with piglets, puppies, kittens, birds, chicks….oh my! It makes me more alive too. Next! Just waitin’ for those fresh onions and garlic to be ready….yuuummm! Have a glorious Easter y’all….the sun (son) is rising!

  7. Jan says:

    Hi Shery, Happy Spring and Easter to you too. What a find with your horse weathervane!!!! It is really good looking and in such good shape. I also love the sink garden project, what fun. I have my pansies and violas planted in pots out on my front porch now. Oh, how I love flowers!
    I loved seeing the pictures of some of your new babies, sooooo cute!! My Dad raised Black Angus for a few years and I always loved the new babies.
    It got warm, actually hot here the first of April so the horses started shedding really early. With the rain and the shedding they have been quite a mess. Worked on them a few days ago, but they still need more grooming.
    Love seeing your progress pictures of your house project, it looks great!
    Always look forward to your posts.
    Until next time.
    Jan in KS

  8. Terry says:

    I kinda figured you were out playing around…not on Pinterest as much. Forgot to tell you that there is a Morgan Horse Farm about 1/4 of a mile up the road from us. Have a good one Miss Shery. He is Risen!


    Hi Terry! Remember when Dad couldn’t remember your name and he called you Twyla? :o)  He told me the other day to say HEY to ‘Twyla’ and he was happy to know you are well. Ok, you must tell me what the name of the Morgan farm that is near you! I bred them and was very involved in the Morgan community for many years. I may know them.  shery

  9. Laura says:

    Love this post! You so artfully tie together all the elements of spring. I miss being on the ranch at this time of year, but sometimes paths change. It is also wonderful to hear the love and devotion you have for the wondrous things in your life. Thanks for sharing so eloquently!
    Happy Easter! Happy Spring! Happy Rejuvenation!

  10. Betty Benesi says:

    Know all about that waiting to get your projects done. We moved into our "fixer" 6 months ago. Progress is slow we got a new roof, need a foundation on the back side but the garden is beckoning. Still no heat except for little floor heaters and d*#% those things run up the bill.
    I have been riding a litle more lately though we are now having a cold snap again in Northern California. My horse Lee looks like I could pluck her like a chicken.
    And yes you are right Spring reminds us how beautiful our world is. I try to remember what a gift it is to us.

  11. Brenda says:

    Yes, He has risen!!! Loved the lesson! What sweet faces, male or female. Cannot wait to see your sink planter. I am now a certified Farmgirl #4048. Badge and certificate came in today’s mail. Have a wonderful Easter Sunday! Blessings from our home in the woods.


    Dear Brenda, Welcome to the sisterhood! It is fun to get that much more MJF in your farmgirl life. Congrats to another Clucker! :o)  shery

  12. Victoria says:

    Shery…I remember those baby days before I had to move south and give up all my farmgirlin’. What amazed me was something my Jersey milkcow used to do. When she was in labor and about to calve, she would turn her head around to her rear, (where the baby was coming out), and make the most lovely, soft moo sounds. She was lovin’ that baby before it was even born. It just about made my heart burst! A few humans on this earth could take lessons from mama cows! I love your Wyoming blog. My daughter used to live in Cheyenne. Beautiful country! That and Montana!!!!!!


    Victoria,  Yes, you are so right about mama cows having an entirely different kind of voice when they talk to their babies…especially the newborn. It is a very soft, melodic moo-coo.  When we witness such things, it is pure love and love is food for the soul.   shery

  13. Ann says:

    I would be interested in seeing what you do with the galvanized tubs. . .love the sink.


    Hi Ann,  I think they will have either flowers or veggies in them. I found another one today at the ranch near the site of an old homestead. I DO want to make a fairy garden. I don’t know why it appeals to me, but I saw one in an old tub and it just looks like something I would have played with for hours as a little girl. I guess I still like to ‘play’.  Thanks for stopping in!  shery

  14. KimberlyD says:

    Aaaawww I want one of the babies!!! They are so cute! Just tonight I was looking at my neighbor’s paint, I know its spring when they open up the back pasture for their horses! Also watching all the traffic which is the tractors driving up and down my road means spring. Time for me to clean out my garden and get it ready…love the dirt in between my fingers!
    Happy Easter!

  15. Treese says:

    Yep, it is calving season. I had a little catastrophe yesterday here on our ranch. We had a still born calf with a first time mother cow. She was beside herself. Well, as luck would have it there was an older cow that had a healthy baby but she did not want her. The poor little creature got a kick every time she tried to nurse. I tried to put her on the mom that was crying for her dead baby, but she would smell it and then turn away. Well, my grandfather taught me a trick. I skinned the hide off the dead baby and made a little jacket for the healthy baby. I took the calf over and the mother smelled the jacket which had the smell of her baby and hot damn she let the little heifer go to nursing. By late afternoon I took the hide off and there was a happy mom and baby in the pasture. Ah, life on the ranch-there is nothing better.
    Now, listen Shery! You got me hooked on this Pinterest site. I LOVE it, but spend way too much time there. LOL! I never knew there was such a site with everything in one place to spend hours gathering so much information. I have to set a time limit or I could be there all night!

    Happy Easter and Happy Spring!
    Treese/Colorado Cowgirl

    Hi Treese, I think we should blame my sister! She told me about it! I just started a ‘ranch’ board; it really is a great place to store info online.

    Yeppers, that is also how we graft calves. It has never failed us. It is a little graphic for the faint of heart, but the dead calf can save another in need of a mama. The ‘cape’ tied on with baling twine fore & aft works like a charm. Pouring old perfume and other so-called scent helps to accomplish a successful draft RARELY work unless you have a granny kind of a cow that will take anything. That just doesn’t happen with range cattle. If it isn’t HER calf, you can FirGET it! The smell of her calf and the graft calf mingle and then become one. Everybody is a winner!   Hope the rest of your calving goes well for you!   shery

  16. Debbie says:

    Hi Shery! I’m glad to see things are thawing and greening up in your neck of the " high plains".
    I love the little sink you found, and the way you got to find it too! Lucky farmgirl you are out on horseback doing your "junkin"! Thanks for sharing the images of the baby calves… so cute… I bet those Bull’s grow out of that phase in a hurry though! Is that red room your porch? I love the red walls and yellow chest together… so bright and cheery! And, the weather-vane is a precious find too! I sea you are off to a great start this spring. Happy Easter and happy ridin’ my dear!


    Hi D-Boz!! Thanks for the kudos, sista.  Yes, the red room is the porch…going with barn colors inside and out — saves on paint color choices around here :o) I giggled at your possible spelling booboo: sea instead of see, but in YOUR case it fits!!! ha.  ~ shery


  17. bonnie ellis says:

    Shery: I am re-living my farm and ranch days through you. You are such a good writer and photographer and I just can hardly wait until your next blog. Your home project will enhance your life and the sink will be perfect. Happy spring!


    Oh Bonnie, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind encouragement!!!    shery

  18. Debbie says:

    Oh geeze! That was a spelling error!!! But, you are right. It fits! hahah!!! Your porch is going to be farmgirl fab a licious! Happy spring my dear!

  19. Jessica Halloran says:

    Thank you for sharing. Not too many people in your position are so gracious. Your article was very poignant and understandable. It helped me to understand very clearly.

  20. Terces says:

    Hi Shery,

    A quick question, our Dexter had her first bull calf this past December. I milk the momma and love it! Now we are choosing the future of the calf, of course we are a bit attached! Do you sell most bull calves at auction? Or raise for beef yourselves? Thanks Terces


    Hi Terces!  Yes, we sell ALL of our bull calves which are steers by the time they’re 2 months old (castrated). Like you, it is really easy for me to get attached to animals and so I do NOT go there with the cattle. I do have some favorite gentle cows that will eat treats from my hand, but they’re not really pets. We haven’t raised a beef to butcher. Sometimes there is a dry cow, but we haven’t done that either for several years . We’ve never held a steer back. Friends of our’s always butcher a beef and we buy from them. I help them cut & package and go home with full coolers. A whole beef is just WAY too much for my husband and I. We do not eat beef all the time. My husband could, but I have to have a more varied diet! Confession: venison is my favorite meat. And, I don’t eat meat everyday either. I love vegetables better than anything else.   shery

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *