Bedtime in the barn is my favorite time of day. With night time arriving early now (4:33 sunset the other day) it's getting more difficult to squeeze it all in. But bedtime, that's always the best part of the day. The animals are always ready and obedient. Ready to retire from a day's work of growing.
For me, I love the process of tucking everyone in, assuring that all of them are locked up safely from predators. I've probably made it more difficult than it has to be, but I don't really care. It allows time for Gusty to share her day's events. Stories and tellings that I'd likely not get to be a part of if we didn't have this alone time. Or some hanging on the fence time with Brian, watching our food grow before we go in to make dinner.
The chickens and turkeys are easy, flip a coin to see who will lock the door.
The fun is always in the barn and Macy is always first....I muck her pen every morning so it's dry and ready for fresh bedding by nightfall. She supervises from the other side of the barn, not so patiently waiting for me to stock her oats, hay and water.
She stuffs her head through the boards and tries to steal fly-aways while I scoop. Finally, I'm ready and so is she. Gusty opens the doors and she lets herself in.
Next up are the ponies. They've been in their pasture run for the day, the swinging gate and rattling buckets mean one thing; oats! They run for oats and they don't need to be called twice.
They chat up Gusty through the boards while they eat.
With this mild winter, they probably don't need to be in the barn, but Ginger and Sassy don't get to play, or sleep, with the cattle. They push them around, don't play well with others and generally run with scissors. As you can see, my barn doors are in poor shape and held shut by just a flimsy board. There's a reason I haven't made secure doors....
...they may not play well with others, but they are down right vicious to outsiders. That girl on the left will run anything to death and the girl on the right will trample and kick the last breath from what's left. Together, these sisters, are a perfectly matched night watch team, if I need it. I know, from experience, that the ponies are completely capable of breaking out of the barn. They'll stay in all night, but if something comes into the fenced paddock, they'll break out and chase it out, or kill it.
That sounds harsh and maybe even completely against my whole living in harmony with wild approach. BUT, there have been two confirmed wolf sightings just west of us. I'm not hunting, trapping or otherwise looking for predators. I just want to make sure there's a little discouragement for late night trespassers. Those ponies are a double dose of discouragement and the big boys may need those ponies one night...
The ponies are well fed and won't break out for food, unless I oversleep in the morning, so the big boys have all night to eat through their bales, peacefully chew cud and rest soundly allll night.
Finally, baby spends the day with the herd, but his nights are in the barn hallway.
He's so sweet and kind of on his own. He doesn't belong to Macy and she's drying up for her new calf due to arrive in a month. The big boys aren't very nice about sharing hay piles, so every night he willingly walks to the barn and heads down the hall and around the corner to his own little bedroom. Full of food, fresh water, deep bedding and a little girl ready to scratch his belly and ears.
So, why so much separation?
Black and white steer has created disorder in the herd and I'm still kind of ticked at him about it. More ticked at myself, actually. But, for story telling, he gets to be the villain.
A month ago, I had a neat and tightly woven herd. Then I went and interfered.
I pulled Macy from the herd to wean off her surrogate calves. I wanted all of her nutrition dedicated to her pregnant self. When I tried to introduce her back into the heard, this guy wasn't having any part of it....
At just 18 months, this steer is just as big as Macy and he used all 1400 lbs to push her all over the paddock. She tried to get away from him and he'd chase her, continuining his assault. He knocked her down, twice, before I could get ahold of a wood plank and deliver an education. I chased that son of a bitch around the paddock two full laps before he finally conceded "victory" to me.
He's never had a flight zone and that makes him dangerous. A man killer. By accident or on purpose, it doesn't matter, he's going to hurt someone. His time is up and he'll be slaughtered in January. Until then, I watch my back (and my front) and no humans (except Brian and myself) get to be on the same side of the fence with him.
Not the happiest bedtime story, I suppose. For me, the reality of a herd is such a fascinating story. A simple, yet complicated, mystery. This herbivore willing to injure or kill its own kind? I'll likely never understand this internal culling unless I apply human traits to the explanation. What I have learned, without cracking the spine on a psych book, is the experience and observations have softened my struggles with killing for food. Temple Grandin really nailed it, nature is mean. '