Working with Animals

This morning we moved the steer and horses to another pasture as the grass is getting sparse in the one they were in. Our steer has never had a halter on him and of course, never been broke to lead. We had to move him maybe 20 yards outside of the pastures and fences to get to the new grazing spot. Coby wanted to set up a make shift fence with paneling. Probably the smarter way to go but that seemed like waaay too much work for me. I opted to throw a lead rope around his neck instead, not sure what that really does but it made me feel better. So, being armed with the lead rope in hand and a tub full of feed in the other I opened the gate. He did pretty good, until he felt the lead rope tightening around his neck. Then he started romping around and playing like silly moo cows do. I let go of the lead rope because I am clearly not going to stop him and let him run. Luckily, he is a very lazy steer and didn’t go too far BUT, he did go in the opposite direction of where we needed him to go, of course! He let me walk up to him, grab the lead rope and feed tub and slowly I started backing toward the pasture. I could tell a couple of times he was getting nervous so we stopped and let him grab some bites to calm down and continue on.

Scarlett and “Baby Cow” getting to know each other. She was clearly more excited about that then he was!

It took mere minutes to get him moved but it left my adrenaline a little ramped up! It sounds silly but we are dealing with a 750 pound steer. In all honesty we should still be chasing him around the property 6 hours later but we aren’t. To get an animal, especially one of that size and power to trust you and follow you to a new and unknown place is very a humbling experience.

One thing I have learned when it comes to dealing with animals, especially large animals is that you have to be patient, no matter how hard and excruciating. I sometimes have a hard time going on other peoples schedule, my husband likes to remind me that if it’s not done on my time it’s not right.

Getting ready to walk the boys around the perimeter of their new pasture!

I bought my horse Chocolate when I was in the fifth grade, he was my baby before I had a baby. We have learned so much from each other over the 21 years we have been together. But most importantly, he has taught me to slow down, that not everything can be done by my schedule. There are times you just have to stop everything else, everything that you had planned to do that day may not happen because you are asking this animal that is literally a thousand pounds heavier then you to do something and they aren’t so sure of it yet.

I think over the years Chocolate and I have developed a mutual trust that makes it so much easier to ask him to do something. That, and we are both older, matured and just don’t have the energy to be sassy with each other any more! The other night we went for a ride and I decided it would be fun to see if Chocolate would step up onto the cement patio that has a couple stairs on it. He did it without blinking an eye and then just hopped down like it was no big deal. I was so proud of him and how far we have come as a team.

Scarlett’s first ride on Chocolate at 6 months old. He is such an amazing boy!

It is a great privilege to have this bond and mutual trust between large animals and a human. I have trusted Chocolate not only with my life but also my daughter’s, that’s a lot of trust! It is a gift that we have been given to communicate with animals and it is amazing! I am definitely not perfect and get a little rammy sometimes when it comes to dealing with the animals but I hope to teach Scarlett the same love and affection I have for animals so she can have great bonds with them too.

Top 5 Reasons Raising Country Kids is the Best

Growing up in the country was a big influence on who I am today. I truly believe that experience is everything and makes you who you are. I grew up on a small acreage that was fairly self sufficient and many of the things I do today I can trace the reason being that I grew up in the country. My sister has a new beau and invited his parents to my Dad’s 4th of July celebration. Since it’s a small town I already knew her boyfriend’s mom pretty well. She commented numerous times after seeing my Dad’s place how wonderful it must have been growing up there and she made the connection of why my sister and I are the way we are simply because growing up there!

  1. Play- I am not about scheduled play dates and structured activities for Scarlett. Those things can be good too but that is so much work and stress for ME as the parent and I am not about that! I believe in letting Scarlett whip a stick around and play with that. Watching her with it you can see she has a purpose for what she is doing, she has some story playing out in her mind and it is so fun to see and to imagine along with her! There is so much research backing free play. I recently read an amazing book titled, Simple Happy Parenting by Denaye Barahona. She has a Ph. D. in Child Development with a specialty in Family Wellness so she comes at this from an educated stand point. She made an excellent point that our education system is shifting from just memorizing facts and figures because let’s face it, the kids of today can look up anything in a matter of seconds. Instead, education is shifting to focus on the 4C’s, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity. This concept blew me away but made so much sense with the way our world is now. What better way to encourage these concepts then free play!

2. Caring for Others- When you have critters you have to care for them. It doesn’t matter how frigid the wind is, how blazing hot the sun is or if you had a horrible day. Your animals need to be fed and watered and YOU have to do it. Being a country kid you learn responsibility early because you have a life outside your own that depends on you and you have to care for your animals.

3. Life and Death- Even though we lovingly care for our animals life will come to an end. Death is a part of life. Scarlett had a kitten named Sandy that we hand fed because her mom suddenly passed away from an unknown cause. When I found Sandy my first instinct was to hide her before Scarlett could see her. Scarlett was about one and a half at the time. But instead I thought she needed to know what happened to her kitty cat and decided to use it as a teaching moment. Scarlett came over and enthusiastically called, “Kitty Cat!” like she always did to Sandy. When Sandy didn’t move I could see the confusion on Scarlett’s face and it was heart breaking to me. I explained to her that Sandy had passed and she is now in heaven with God. I know she doesn’t understand now but I believe in explaining things as they are because some day it will click in her mind. Another great aspect of living in the country is you get to see life coming into the world. Whether it be a kitten or Baby Buck Bucks or a new calf. There is something magical about babies, no matter what species they are! I know as a kid my parents NEVER sat down and had the ‘Birds and the Bees’ talk with me because I already knew, simply by being around the animals. I remember on more then one occasion watching the sheep or cats do their thing and announcing to everyone that we were going to have lambs or kittens! You simply learn the facts of life by watching nature.

Scarlett loving on Sandy.

4. Where Food Comes From- In such a modern world it is so easy to become disconnected from our food supply. You get the munchies, go to the store, grab what you’re in the mood for all packaged up nicely and there you go. But obviously there’s so much more to it. We have a garden for veggies and hopefully soon a small orchard for some fruit. One of my favorite evening activities is spending time in the garden with Scarlett to water the plants and pull weeds. It is such a peaceful and reflective time for me. She helps pull weeds too and harvests produce with me. She got her first fresh strawberries this spring and couldn’t get enough of them. It was such a wonderful moment seeing her excited and enjoying one of life’s simple pleasures. Along with produce we also have our own steer that we will be butchering this winter. About a month ago my Dad called me at 6am on a Sunday morning wondering if I could come over because they decided they were going to butcher chickens that day. I took over our old hen who hadn’t laid in a long time so we could butcher her as well. We went up to where they were butchering and there was already a pile of dead chickens laying there. It understandably upset Scarlett. I picked her up and explained that chickens lay yummy eggs for us but we also eat their meat as well. I didn’t want to really get into it but simply explain the facts to her. She spent the rest of the day running around chasing kittens so it didn’t seem to bother her after that. I think it was the initial shock that really threw her off. I had debated how to present this to her gently but due to circumstances out of my control the pile of dead chickens made the jump for me and I just explained things best I could and she seemed OK with that. We made chicken noodle soup that night, when I told her what it was she took a big bite of chicken, said “chicken”, and kept munching so either she didn’t make the connection or it didn’t bother her too much!

5. Hard Work- Living in the country is hard work. Anything you truly want in life is hard work and living in the country helps instill that work ethic in you. Hard work can suck, let’s be honest, BUT the gratification that comes from a completed task is worth it. Scarlett has been a doer since she was able to control her limbs. She is always with us no matter what we are doing. We firmly believe that she does what we do. Last summer she was one and a half and we were cleaning up a large tree that had to come down in the yard. She was right there with us picking up little baby branches and placing them in the tractor. Coby and I were so proud of her working right along with us. She amazes us with things that she is able to do and we certainly cheer her on for it. As kids we were expected to help our parents with things and I remember doing things that my parents didn’t think I would be able to, i.e. lifting a log into the wagon and them being amazed! I thrived on that high! I hope we can instill that in Scarlett as well to push herself and amaze even herself with what she can do.

Hard Working Baby Cleaning up Sticks

I loved growing up in the country and clearly enjoy country life still. Clearly kids growing up in town and the cities learn these lessons as well but I feel learning them in the country helps instill these lessons early in life. I may be romanticizing it, but I think back to my childhood with such fondness and my love for nature and clearly can trace that back to living a simple, wonderful life in the country and hope Scarlett will too.