We’re finally empty nesters

Starting today Steve and I are starting another chapter in our life.

And we couldn’t be happier.

I have spent the better part of this week preparing to take both of our sons to the University of South Dakota in Brookings.

Russell is easy to pack for this year, as he will be a freshman and his mother refuses to help him pack. They have been packing their own suitcases since they were youngsters. Why would I start now?

I think we can fit all of Russell’s needs in one vehicle. That’s how boys are – pack just enough to survive.

Joe on the other hand will require a little bit larger vehicle. He will be moving into a house this year with several other guys from the New Ulm area. But then again, this is Joe that I am speaking of. All of his belongings will fit into another vehicle.

So yes, Steve and I will finally be empty-nesters. Woot! Woot!

I am so happy to finally be sending both of our sons off to college. I have written it before, but we started increasing our work force on the farm as soon as we were married. When we celebrated our First Anniversary, we also celebrated being new parents the week before. (It works well. I can always remember Joey’s age, which helps me remember how many years I have bene married.)

Both Joe and Russell are so ready to be out on their own.

I know Steve and I have prepared our sons well to be out in the world making their own choices.

Heck, I am ready for my newfound freedoms.

I will no longer be greeted by a huge pile of laundry sitting in front of the washing machine because Russell cleaned his room.

I won’t find 27 glasses in Joey’s room when I go looking for an HDMI cable to use on my computer.

OK, let’s face reality. I may find a few glasses and bowls in Joe’s room when I go in there to clean it when he’s gone and I may create a pile of laundry when I go into Russell’s room to do a sweep.

I am prepared for that.

I will admit, I am afraid to open their closet doors.

            So I don’t think I am going to shed any tears when we do finally leave the two Hoffman brothers in Brookings. I know they are ready to move on to this next chapter of their lives and I couldn’t be more excited for them.

            There are so many new doors for each of them to open.

On another note, I have passed many people in the streets of our lovely city. Pretty soon I am expecting to pass many lovely chickens in our city. Just remember, chickens can, and do escape, and in Hawaii, feral chickens are a problem. Chickens are all cute and fun and then they celebrate their one-week-old birthday. It’s all fun and games until someone loses a chicken.

My chickens are finally earning their keep. A chicken must be about 6-months of age before she will lay eggs. Sadly, the macho rooster is not needed for a chicken to lay eggs. Now, if you would like to hatch your eggs into one-week-of-cuteness, Mr. Macho has to do his duty. Eggs that are not fertilized by a rooster, are, well…eggs. Fertilized eggs turn into fluffy, noisy baby chicks.


Other folks have also asked me about our little Tiny and how she is faring. I am so happy to report that she is doing just absolutely mahvalous! She still gets to come out of the dome and romp around on the grass.

Joe did notice that she wasn’t feeling all that well the other day and he gave her some medication to help lower her fever. She is still eating and making just as much noise as a tub full of baby chicks.

Tiny is big in our world

IMG_0350[2]The miracle of birth on the farm amazes me.

How can something I cannot see with my naked eye turn into something as amazing as adorable as a baby calf?

In the case of Tiny, I don’t think there will ever be another calf born that is as adorable.

Tiny was born a wee bit early, according to our record keeping. In fact, Tiny entered the world an entire 42-days before her due date. Tiny was also born out on the pasture, without any human interaction, which makes it real unusual. I would think any calf born this early would need to have some sort of help in surviving.

From what we have learned in speaking to our vet, it’s very, very unusual for a baby calf to be born this early and to survive.

Apparently Molly, a co-worker of ours, found Tiny as she was checking on the pregnant cows in the open-front barn.  

We have had tiny calves born here before, but Tiny is well…really Tiny.

The average weight of a newborn Holstein calf is 90 pounds. I know how heavy 90 pounds of black and white fluff is. Lifting an average-sized black-and-white calf makes me grunt, and then I usually give up and call over a strong teenager.

But Tiny is another story. I can lift her with nary a joint cracking. One bag of feed or barn lime weighs 50-pounds. One rather large bag of dog food to feed five hungry dogs weighs 46-pounds. I can easily carry all three of those items and it gives me something to compare the weight of Tiny to.

So when I asked Joe, “How much does Tiny weigh?” and he answered, “Less that 50-pounds,” I knew I had to go and lift her off the ground.

It was amazing. I am guessing her weight to be right around 30-pounds. Without hardly any effort, which means no grunting or sweating is involved, I can carry Tiny across the yard.

I questioned whether Tiny’s due date could have been off by six weeks. I guess it’s possible, but Steve didn’t think that was the case this time.

“She has really short hair,” Steve said. “Think about it, when a new calf is born, it has loads of long, fluffy hair.”

He’s correct. I love how new calves are so fluffy after the mother cleans them off. The vet also questioned us on the length of Tiny’s hair, which is nice and white and soft, but without any fluff.

Tiny’s legs are also a bit funky.

Normally a calf is born with straight front legs that look the way we all think a calf’s legs are supposed to look.

Tiny’s front legs have a strange backward bow in them. In fact, I commented to Steve that Tiny and I have the same back bend in our legs.

“She is going to have terrible knee issues when she gets old,” I said.

Tiny can barely reach the bottle holder in the Polydome in which she lives. She still gets exceptional attention when it comes to feeding time. Everyone sits and watches her eat like it’s her last request.

Occasionally, I let her out of the dome in the middle of the afternoon. I think exercise does her body good. Her legs don’t look as peculiar as they did her first day.

Our dog Ole seems to think Tiny is another dog and he tries to get her to play with him. It’s quite charming to see the two interact. Ole runs straight at her and she juts to the left or right. Sometimes she gets the rodeo thing going and kicks her back legs into the air. After that little stunt, she usually ends up on her belly in the soft green grass.

Tiny is going to be just fine; it’s just going to take her a bit longer to catch up in size to all the other calves.

For questions, or comments, email me at kahoffman@newulmtel.net.

It’s getting to be show time

It’s the week before the Brown County Free Fair, which means it’s time to start getting heifers and cows trained to walk while wearing a halter.

Most 4-H students have figured out that having one week to train an animal really isn’t enough. I would like to think most 4-H members that have worked all summer long getting their animals ready for the county fairs throughout Minnesota.

I am sure Russell’s girlfriend Sabrina has been walking her big Brown Swiss cows every day since the beginning of time. Well, OK, maybe not since the beginning of time, but I do know she trains her cows way more than anybody I know.

Most of the4-H livestock participants also know that taking the same animal from year to year makes for an easier summer trying to train an animal. Cows, once tamed, are very affectionate for the rest of their lives. That’s why they become pets.

Russell figured this one out a long time ago. This year he is taking his beloved Silky-again. If you would have been here, you would see just how difficult it is to train a cow. Russell was training her while he was lying on the ground. (I uploaded a video to my facebook and it was one of my most popular posts.)

She really is a great cow, she may win the pageant, but she is the sweetest cow on the farm at this moment. It’s all about what’s on the inside that counts.

So, Tuesday afternoon was the day to start refreshing Silky on her show ring manners. It’s not all that hard.

All a person has to do is walk up to Silky, put a halter on her head and walk around. Usually we bring the cows over near the REA light pole in our yard and tie them to a metal post. We don’t tie Silky to the post, but we leave the leash on her. When she starts to wander, she often steps on the leash, which makes her think she is tied.

I was out sitting on the retaining wall, watching and talking to Silky, when I decided to go get a brush to groom her a bit. Cows love to be brushed.

Silky followed me over, and into, the garage. Then she followed my back to the light pole. All I had to do was talk to her. I did give her one quick swipe with the brush to bribe her back to the grassy area.

The reason I was supervising Silky was because Russell was retrieving Si, Silky’s daughter. He was going think of taking her to the fair and that means we had to start training.

Yep, no big rush on time there!

Si is a rebel; she has never been on a leash. We trapped Si between two gates and managed to put a halter on that small head.

The minute we open the gates, Si started trying to pull Russell around the open-front, dry-cow barn.

It takes a lot to pull Russell around a barn.

Russell and I managed to get Si out of the barn. He was pulling from the front and I was pushing from the back.

How is it that I ended up with the back end? The back end of a cow is dangerous in so many ways.

We managed to push and pull Si near the four-wheeler and tied her lead to the rack.

That’s when the fun begins.  

We very slowly started moving forward; Si puts on her super-sturdy, heavy gripper brakes and locks them, and the tug-of-war begins.

I just pray she stays on her feet. My cow Pogo, may she rest in peace, would be playing the wet-noodle trick at this point and throw herself on the ground.

Any normal animal is going to figure it out that if she just walks along with us, it will be a much nicer walk. I will admit, Jersey’s don’t always act normal.

Si continued to apply the brakes the entire way over to the REA pole by the house. And she continued to keep the rope pulled tight after we stopped. Doh.

After a half hour, we pulled Si over to the calving barn and put her in her specially-created pen. This time, when we were physically pulling and pushing, I had the front end and Russell had the back end, which was good, because Si let him have it. And I don’t mean she kicked him.   

Russell wasn’t pleased. I silently laughed.

We will continue to work with Si every day. If her attitude doesn’t adjust she won’t be going to the fair.