Working cattle and waiting for rain – The Graves Family

So, I think it’s been a couple months since I’ve blogged, sorry about that. I’ve had good intentions, but those don’t bring results, do they?

Alfalfa after a hard freeze.

Alfalfa after a hard freeze.

The biggest topic for everyone in the last couple of months has been, in my opinion, the weather. Matt and I get our weather out of Amarillo, TX, along with our local stations. The weather man on one of the stations said it the best when that last freeze came. He called it “weather whip-lash.” What a way to say it! We had three consecutive weeks in April where it would be 80-85 degrees on Monday, and by Wednesday night it would be 29 degrees. Needless to say it did damage our wheat and alfalfa. To what extent is still to be seen. Saturday night, May 18, we received a ¼ of an inch of rain/hail mix. The rain was great, but I don’t think we had enough hail, or big enough, to damage the wheat too much.

Jake pushing the calves, Matt and Gary catching the calf in the calf cradle, and Xander in the background loading the ear-tagger.

Jake pushing the calves, Matt and Gary catching the calf in the calf cradle, and Xander in the background loading the ear-tagger.

I think all the cows have calved. Jake and Matt brought the first-calf heifers and some young cows in this week and worked the calves. They said one calf had literally just hit the ground when they went out there. The cow was still licking it clean. They left them in the pasture and went back for them later. The cows and calves then were taken up to Kansas to pasture for the summer. We don’t want to over-graze our pastures, so we have some relatives that watch them for us through the summer. I know we lost three calves from the heifers. Two of them got stepped on by the cows during those cold spells when they were all huddling together. It’s sad when it happens but it is rare. The guys will bring the rest of the cows and calves in this week. They will vaccinate, brand, castrate (bulls only), and put in ear tags in all the calves. I think we have around 210 heifers and cows, so the guys have a big job on their hands. And yes, for any of you wondering, we do keep the calf testicles and I do fry them up for the guys. It is not something I grew up doing, so I had to ask around for a “recipe.” So far they’ve been good!

The alfalfa is looking good – a little curled on the top from the freezes, but I don’t think it will affect it too much. I reminded Gary the other day, we actually did our first cutting of hay the first Friday of May last year. Which was the earliest I had ever help cut hay, but it got hot early last year, too. I think the first cutting of hay will be in the next week or two. I saw some blooms on the field next to the house. We have four irrigated alfalfa circles, and the corners are dry-land. Last year we did not get enough rainfall for the corners to be cut at all. They look hopeful so far.

Cattle grazing on one of the Graves' irrigated wheat pastures.

Cattle grazing on one of the Graves’ irrigated wheat pastures.

Some wheat looks okay and some not-so-okay. The yields at the end of harvest will tell us best how much the lack of moisture and the hard freezes have affected it. I did look at a wheat head last week on the irrigated circle and it looked hopeful. Last year we started cutting the last week of May, but I don’t think we’ll start that early this year. The kids and I missed the first week of harvest because we traveled with my parents from Kansas to Iowa to visit both set of my grandparents. Needless to say, that didn’t go over well when the main cook on the farm leaves at a very busy time, ha-ha, but they let me come back without too much grief. We unfortunately will not get to make that trip this month. I am hoping that maybe in September we might get away to see my grandparents.

Gary has been busy spraying and top-dressing wheat and alfalfa. We had the aerial sprayers spray the fields last weekend for weevils. They kids enjoyed the airplane getting close to the house. Jake and Gary also freeze-branded the heifers and the young cows about a month ago. If you’re not familiar with that process of branding, it is branding using dry-ice and not a hot brand. It lasts longer and makes it more suitable to use on cows that you will have for several years.

Jake welding together panels for new corrals.

Jake welding together panels for new corrals.

Matt and Jake have also been busy with moving our feeder heifers off of pasture and taking them to the feedlot. Matt picked out of our home-raised heifers the best ones he liked for replacements for our cow/calf operation. Another 25 head of the home-raised heifers were sold to Gary’s nephew and wife. I’m not sure if they are going to use them in their cow/calf operation or just feed them out. After the heifers were moved that made room for all the calves from the sale. Since January the guys have worked about 475 head of bulls and steers. According to the papers, most of them were supposed to be steers already, but on one bunch 90% were bulls. That made a long day for the guys. The guys cut all the bulls that we put on pasture or feed in the feedlot. That makes for a better-tempered calf and keeps our people safe in the industry. It could be one of us, an employee at the local feedlot, or the individuals at the slaughter house. And it makes for a better-tasting end product, which is beef in your grocery stores. We even test our own product every day. We have one of our calves fattened in the feedlot and then slaughtered to fill the freezer.

The yard-work is in full swing, too. When Jolena’s not at work or helping the guys with endless tasks, she is on the mower. With the addition of her and Gary’s new home almost two years ago, along came more yard to mow. They planted a beautiful yard. I am busy getting flower beds weeded and planting my vegetable garden. Matt and the kids help in the process. We have garlic, onions, peas, potatoes, and strawberries planted. We hope to get the rest in this week.

We are getting over-loaded with pets. We have the five ducks, and then we now have 13 chickens. Twelve of them we bought at Atwood’s in Woodward, and the last chick was brought home from Xander’s Kindergarten class. They hatched out over 140 chicks in an incubator in their classroom and the students we allowed to bring one home if they wanted to. Our recent addition this week has been two litters of kittens given to us by a friend. That made a total of 9 kittens, but we gave one to Matt’s nephew. We tried to give a few more away, so we have a few spoken for now.

Matt, Lisa, Xander, and Keira celebrating Easter at Lisa's parent's house.

Matt, Lisa, Xander, and Keira celebrating Easter at Lisa’s parent’s house.

Xander is finished with school. He had his Kindergarten graduation May 17, and had a great time! He has started his first year of T-Ball and is enjoying it! Keira and Xander started up their Harper County Round-up Club play days last Monday, also. It’s going to be a busy summer, as usual! We also have some very exciting news! I’m expecting Matt and I’s third baby! I am almost through the first trimester and so far so good!

Today, May 20, is nice and cool and it’s even sprinkling a little. The guys are bringing in the rest of the cows and calves and it’s so loud from the cows and can’t hear myself think!

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Springtime and shearing time – The Bolen Family

This past month has really been its normal busy time for us.  Photo opportunities have been afterthoughts, and I apologize.

We have sent off another flock of birds for processing and have already placed a new batch this past week.  We did a complete clean-out of the litter of all our houses.  Most went straight to the pastures or hay fields, and we stored some in the barn for future use.

We have been blessed with about four inches of rain in the past week that will really get the summer grasses going.  We also got our 70 yearling heifers artificially inseminated the past couple of weeks.  We also turned all our bulls out for the sixty- to ninety-day breeding season for our older cows.  Our next project with the cows will be to get them all wormed and the calves processed with vaccines and castration of the bull calves.

Also, all our hay fields are ready to be baled.  On any given day between now and frost we will be tending to our normal chores in the poultry houses and baling hay.  I really enjoy the haying season, though.  I love the challenge of making superior quality hay for livestock consumption.

The girls have finished school and will be deciding which lambs they will show this summer and fall.  I missed a photo of the sheep shearing processes, which happened about two weeks ago.  We hire a contractor to shear the wool off all our sheep annually.  It is a very labor intensive, back-breaking job, but the guy we use does it like a pro.  He gathers the wool in large sacks and sends to a processor for us to sell.  The wool brings a little less than what it cost to have them sheared, but the ewes really need the wool removed before the really hot part of summer.

Hopefully over the coming weeks I will do a better job of slowing down and getting some more photos to share.  In the meantime, I would encourage you to Google YouTube videos of folks shearing sheep.  It amazes me how fast some of these folks can shear a sheep.

Snow and all that goes with it – The Graves Family

We received a blizzard! Monday, February 25, was so bad that Gary and Jake were not able to get out. Once it stopped snowing they were able to feed and check the cattle the rest of the week. They said it was slow going. Jolena was able to stay home, because her office was closed due to the blizzard.

Xander and Keira at Magic Kingdom at Disney World

Xander and Keira at Magic Kingdom at Disney World

Matt, Xander, Keira, and I had left the countryside for a little city life. We had been planning this trip since November, and somehow it landed on the week of a blizzard. Our destination was Orlando, FL, and we enjoyed it a lot. We took the kids to Disney World Magic Kingdom, Gatorland, and Melbourne Beach. Our flight was early Monday morning from Wichita, Kansas, and it only drizzled a little. Tuesday we were under a tornado watch in Orlando, and we heard reports of Tampa receiving damage from that storm. It only rained on us, thankfully!

We came back to reality on Friday, March 1, and we were glad to see home. It was a great trip, but it made us very thankful for our country life!

Saturday, we jumped backed into it all and had two extra kids for the weekend. I was so thankful for the warm weather, even with the snow on the ground. It made it really fun for the kids to play and have snowball fights. Matt and Gary fought the mud all day, but got around to all the cattle to make sure they were doing well. Jake headed to the state basketball games to watch his brother.

We received 81 head of steers the first week of March. I pushed the cattle while Matt and Jake tagged and vaccinated them Thursday, March 7. Gary and Jolena headed for snow skiing in Red River, NM, with the rest of the family, which included their daughters, Jennifer, her husband Steve, and their children: Dalton, Ethan, and Ali; and Julie, and her two boys, Rustin and Tayte. They came back Sunday, March 1.

Xander and his first "tractor"

Xander and his first “tractor”

Xander got his first “tractor” this week. Matt bought an old lawnmower from our neighbor and took the deck off of it. Xander has been pulling a small disk around with it. The disk is the same one Matt used to pull around with a 4-wheeler when he was Xander’s age.

Keira and I went to Atwood’s in Woodward, OK, and bought some ducks! This will be fun! We have five and they all have been named: Mohawk, Rex, Cinderella, Stripes, and Baby. The names might be altered a little when we know if they are male or female.

Matt went to Stevens’ Bull Sale on March 9, at Carmen, OK, and bought new bulls. Gary sold our current bulls to a neighbor. He wasn’t able to bring them home because they had received rain the night before. Jake fed all the cattle that day with a little help from his brother, Trevor, and Chad, Matt’s brother-in-law. I spent the weekend visiting my parents in Ingalls, KS. The kids and I had not been to see them since Christmas. Keira and Xander were very excited about seeing Nana and Papa and had a blast playing with her cousins Carson, Brie, and Bradie.

New calf following it's momma

A New calf following it’s momma

Another 127 head of mixed bulls and steers came Tuesday, March 12, and they will get tagged and vaccinated before the week is out. Jake hauled two loads of big square corn stalk bales yesterday to Buffalo Feeders. Matt hauled two loads of corn to Ashland Feed and Seed yesterday. The guys worked some kinks out on the Rogator sprayer yesterday, and Gary started top-dressing the wheat today.

Xander had his spring program at Laverne School last night and did a great job! So did all of the elementary! Laverne is celebrating their 100th birthday this month and they are having some events on Saturday.

More calves have been born! I think there are over a dozen total. Thanks to the moisture, the wheat looks very good!

Beautiful spring weather – The Fisher family

Today was such an enjoyable day to be outside. It started with catching the cows and sorting them for market. After loading the 630 weight calves into the trailer, I hauled them to the Holdenville cattle auction – windows down to take in the warm spring day. Since I already had the trailer with me, I stopped by the neighbor’s on the way home and picked up two bulls I had recently purchased. After bringing the new bulls home, it was on to one

Our family working cattle on a nice spring day.

of my favorite jobs- checking the fence. With winter feeding and calving time past, we moved the cattle to summer pasture. Between storms, deer, and high water there are always places along the fence that need attention.

What makes it so enjoyable is where the job takes you – to the back woods and hidden corners and creek beds. There are wildflowers, dogwood trees and wild plums in bloom – so much beauty all around. There are many birds to see also, nesting meadowlarks and the recently returned barn swallows. As I traveled the fence-line on the 4-wheeler I kept an eye out for my favorite mushroom, wild morels. The day ended with a delicious dinner of another spring favorite, roasted asparagus from the garden. Days like these make me thankful to be living off the land.