Friday, June 21, 2024
HomeNotes From KathyThe Joy of Doing Things the Hard Way

The Joy of Doing Things the Hard Way

This week, as I was writing the article on the benefits of calving on grass, I was reminded how resourceful human beings can be. Many folks have already finished their calving season, because for them “Spring” calving starts as early as February. And because calving in a spring that can involve below zero temperatures and blizzards and mud (and general unhappiness for people and animals), innovative people have come up with some smart solutions.

For example, here’s a warming box you can buy for just $850. It’s a plastic container with a heating element that holds a calf nicely and warms him back to life in the middle of winter:

Even better, here’s a Youtube video of a DIY version made from a military dropbox with a hair dryer attached. The fellow who invented it is filming on February 2, the day he came out and found a newborn calf to put in it. The box is really well done and I admire his ingenuity.

Of course there’s always the low-tech solution that Candace Olson-Mizera says her family used: bring the calf into the basement, give it a hot shower and then blow dry it until it’s all warmed up again. And there’s my solution, when I was kidding in February – put the baby on the floor of the truck with the heater on at full blast.

Another problem for calves born during those incredibly cold spring days is frostbite on their ears. As the author of this pattern for calf-size ear warmers notes, calves’ ears can freeze and snap off in cold weather. Here’s a happy calf modelling it’s ear warmers.

And there are other options too. If you prefer a crochet version, here’s a pattern for you.

Of course, you could just use an old pair of wool socks and some safety pins or duct tape. I’m guessing that you could also cut off the arm of an old sweater, cut some eye holes, and then pull the whole thing over the calf’s head to give it a kind of hood. And for those of you with a bigger budget, heck, Tractor Supply is just one place you can buy calf ear warmers for around $20.

Then again, you might consider the question Larry Wagner asks his fellow ranchers when, in Mid-March, they ask him if his calves have started coming. “How many fawns have you seen?” They laugh at him and say they haven’t seen any fawns because it’s just too early for fawns to be born. And that’s when Larry hits them with the punchline:

“Yep, that’s right. You better be doing what Mother Nature’s doing. She’s been at this a lot longer than you have and she’s got it figured out – that you ain’t out there in the winter time and doing all those things. You can fight mother nature and you can win a few battles, but she’s going to win the war. So if you want to be here for a long time, you better be doing what she intended for us to be doing.”

Of course, where’s the fun in that? We’d lose all that ingenuity that’s out there for doing things the hard way!


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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


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