The Start of Calving Season

The rain pours today. Sheep hunker down, round balls of wool with faces. Cattle munch on hay. Horses enthusiastically chomp on grain. The dog curls up on straw piles in the barn, tail wrapping around ears.

Calving season started last week, two weeks early. Four calves have been born; only two have lived. Most of the mothers have been heifers, first-timers.

I ride a quad bike through the cow pasture, counting to 31 to see that everyone is present.

The number was 32 for a little while.

But when I made my rounds Thursday night, looking for signs of new or about-to-be-born calves, I found a heifer lying to the side. She wasn’t breathing hard, but she didn’t move when I approached, either.

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“Small Town, Big Deal” Episode Filmed Here Showing Next Week

“Small Town, Big Deal” Episode Filmed Here Showing Next Week

The crew from Small Town, Big Deal films an interview on the farm.

Last October, a film crew from Small Town, Big Deal visited Parke County to tape an episode about our covered bridges and rural attractions. I was interviewed at the bridge where Jeff proposed to me, and the show hosts, Rodney Miller and Jann Carl, talked to my great-aunt on the farm. I couldn’t hear all of that interview because I was working with the horses in the background, so the first time I’ll really hear it is on TV.

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A Speech and Some Sheep: Sharing Joy from the Indiana State Fair

A Speech and Some Sheep: Sharing Joy from the Indiana State Fair

“State officers!”

Our heels spin in the dust of the infield. The grounded hot-air balloons to the right form dark silhouettes against the silver sky. I squint in their direction, looking for the source of the voice.

A 4-H member in a red t-shirt emerges from the early morning haze, a wide blue lanyard swinging around her neck. Her short brown hair frames an excited grin.

“Meg!” I exclaim. “Hi!”

“Hi! I saw the jacket and knew it had to be you, so hi!”

“I’m giving a speech at the Opening Ceremony. It’s starting soon, we need to go.”

“I’ll be there, too!”

I wave, she gives me her usual salute, and my teammates and I spin again and rush to the FFA Pavilion to meet our supervisors.

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Our Ring Sheep

Our Ring Sheep

Some losses are worse than others.

Yesterday afternoon, we discovered that our beloved ring sheep, Szarlota, was dead.

It was devastating. She was the first Shetland I bought, and she had won her class at a show in Colorado. Her genetics and conformation were good, and I planned to build a flock from her quality and beautiful personality.

She’d come up for a scratch on the chin, and the day I went to buy her, she followed me around, begging me to take her home. (The full story is at the end of “Sheep Make Everything Better“). Continue reading “Our Ring Sheep”

A New Venture: Collecting Sap for Maple Syrup

A New Venture: Collecting Sap for Maple Syrup

Our farm is woven into a few hundred acres of woods. Fences wind across the creeks and up the sides of the hollers, and the livestock graze among the trees. I often walk along the fences in the woods to look for spots that need repairs. Sometimes, Jeff would join me while we were getting to know each other.

“This is a really nice patch of woods, Elise,” he would say. He’d tell stories from one of his college courses in which he learned how to gather sap from maple trees in the spring. “I’d really like to do that again.”

A couple of weeks ago, he scouted out four trees along the road, drilled holes in their sides, and secured spiles in the holes. He then pushed a short piece of plastic pipe over the spout of the spile. The end of the pipe dropped through the narrow opening of a milk jug, which he secured to the spile with twine.

2020 sap set-up in milk jug
Sap set-up.

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