Fall in the Sandhills

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October 25, 2008

It was a glorious fall day here today – trees and meadow grasses yellow and rust-colored against the clear blue sky, with gentle breezes and the temperature around 65o. Several small formations of high-flying Sandhill Cranes were heading south overhead, a sure sign of the approaching cold front forecast for tomorrow evening. On this morning’s two mile walk down our gravel road, we were accompanied by our three cattle dogs and seven of the barn cats.

A short while ago, we finished digging the potatoes, collecting the remaining dry beans, and removing the homemade tomato cages from the garden. Aside from the impending freeze, we needed to finish up in the garden so we could turn the bulls into the area. One pesky fence-jumping bull had already ventured into the garden, giving the kohlrabi haircuts, and chomping small heads of cabbage in half as he grazed through. It was, however, amusing to note the evidence of the effects of these cruciferous vegetables on his digestive system.

Our cattle seem to know when it’s time to come home from the large pasture 15 miles to the west. One sign is that they become increasingly difficult to keep fenced in. Since rain has been unusually plentiful this year, the pastures are uncharacteristically green and luxuriant, so we are in no hurry to bring them home. Normally by October, the pastures are nearly brown and can no longer support the herd, and it’s necessary for the cattle to be at home where they can graze the ‘after-grass’ on the meadows – the newly green grass that grows after hay is harvested.

The native prairie hay harvest, or “haying,” took forever this summer. Normally we finish up in about three to four weeks, weather-permitting. This year, however, we ‘hayed’ a day here, a day there for months, again because of all the rain. Area farmers are experiencing the same thing now as they try to harvest corn and beans. We have yet to complete the task of moving the hay home to the bale yards. This week’s 2+ inches of rain put a damper on this for the moment.

One of our fall-calving cows had twin black angus calves today. My husband, Jim, calls them “dinks” – really tiny, as is typical of twins, and adorable. They are spending the night in the barn so their mama can realize she has two to take care of. Otherwise, a tiny wandering calf might fall prey to coyotes that roam the area at night.

A far as area school activities are concerned, late October is the time for band competitions, volleyball tournaments, and post-season football. As parents of two teens, both fully involved in sports and band, Jim and I spend a considerable amount of time traveling to as many activities as time allows. We live 21+ miles from the school, and can drive for up to two hours in one direction for games – and farther yet for band competitions. We realize that this time of our parenting lives will pass quickly, so we try not to complain too loudly about the fuel bills. Watching games with other parents, neighbors, and friends is a large part of the social life of rural settings like ours. Between sets and quarters, we catch up on all the news.

In a few short weeks we will be weaning the calves and driving the herd home for the winter. It never ceases to amaze me how one or two lead cows will know the route home, and will head toward the correct gate, crossing a section while avoiding the blowouts and other obstacles. I will blog again then with a full description. Until that time, take care and be of good cheer!