At last the rain came on the last blessed Sunday for the year. The next day the sky was clear, crisp cold, the fragrance of chaparral lingering in the air. I took in a deepbreath and decided this would be the day I take a hike with my 3 month old McNabTia. Starting out on leash we headed east down the old highway for half a mile before ascending upward to Mid Meadows.
[Feels good to take in fresh air after having a long summer of wildfire smoke that was so heavy at times you dare not go outside for very long let alone exercise. The air here in central coast California stayed hazy for most of the year. Rain is welcome.]
My legs were working for the first time in 9 months, no numbing sensations. Ever since I had been bit by ticks last April I became gravely ill for the fourth time in the past 30 years from tick bites. I was elated to find that even though I had lost a lot of condition I was able to handle the exercise.
Tia was allowed off leash and was such a great trooper staying close to me, only to run ahead a short ways and then return. When we came to a grassy slope she became so excited and ran up and down, spinning and swapping ends so fast she was a blurred black and white streak! It made me laugh and she knew it pleased me and kept it up. I sat on the ground and gave her a big hug.
Once home I put Tia up and went about chores washing the dog’s dishes and preparing their home made food in the outdoor kitchen my husband made for me (smelly business inside the house!) Each dog has their own specific diet depending on age, gestation, lactating, working or old and arthritic, so it is an undertaking to get the bowls lined out and distributed.
As I worked I heard my husband drive up. I walked out to greet him and he came around the passenger side of his truck, opened the door and pulled out a 2 week old calf that was deceased. I examined him closely and his nose had been bit clean off. I found one other injury above his hind hock which was bit through the tendon and joint. Whatever did this had to have a powerful bite! There was no blood loss, he must have died from shock. We talked about all the possibilities that could cause these kinds of injuries and I called a wildlife specialist I know. He thought it sounded like a tag team of rogue hog dogs. Not good!
[A few years ago we had two pit bulls attack our cattle and literally shredded the testicles, nose, ears and udders on several of our cattle. The cattle had to be put down and after the third time the owner of the pits found them attacking our cow that was protecting her baby calf and he went back, got his gun and did away with the problem for good!]
We took the deceased calf back out to where we found him as a lure in case whatever came in and did the damage came back. Next morning we were up at the break of dawn with our guns in hand in hopes of finding the culprit. Nothing came in except some coyotes that chewed through the soft portions of the calf. There won’t be much left in a few more days.
As the week progressed we had more deaths from a completely different cause. For the first time heifers are calving late and not keeping well even though Justy has been putting out 125 pound tubs of crystalized supplements. There is plenty of dry grass, but it has lost its nutritional value and is just roughage. He now is handling 20 -125 pound bales of hay daily, Justy’s got a strong back and arms made of sinew. I try not to think about anything happening to him physically and how I would be able to do what he does!
[There was one year when Justy fell off of a ladder and broke his ribs! At that time we were feeding the cattle 20 bales a day. I had a lady named Sharon who had contacted me previously about our dogs for agility and was planning to visit for a couple weeks to evaluate our McNab puppies. I found out Sharon was no stranger to ranch life and hard work - she arrived in the nick of time and jumped right in to help me load twenty 120 pound bales of hay and feed while Justy drove the truck. She was our Godsend!]
We found two more dead cows and another that can’t stand up with a baby calf by her. We load her in the stock trailer and Justy picks up the calf and places her by her mother and brings them back to the ranch. As Justy departs to the vets, I remind him it is News Years eve day and the traffic will be bad, so be careful. They run blood and fecal samples and everything looks normal. Everyone is perplexed as to what the cause is.
Not a good week for either one of us, as I came home that day to find my billy goat had been struck in the leg by one of my horses and it was broken above the hock! I would have to take care of this myself. Another death loss!
On my own I need to get my nannies in as they are all about to kid. I will have to fix the fences and put up a new gate, get them into the shelter, man handle a bale of straw into the Polaris and bed down their shelter, man handle another bale of alfalfa and feed them. I walk down to the barn and back up again (mind you, we live on a steep mountain hillside) carrying 20 pound buckets of sweet feed in each hand for them. Finally got my nannies tucked away for the night, then time to go feed the dogs, horses, feral cats and orphan calves. Days are short and night is closing its curtains as I feed the last mouth and head to the farm house. Chill is in the air!
Back in the house I clean out the ashes from the fireplace insert and prepare a fire for the night. A day like today is when I wish I could just walk in and turn a dial and ta da, ‘let there be heat’. Time to get dinner started, wait for my husband to return and call it a day. Tomorrow is the beginning of a New Year and I pray that it is nothing like this last week, let alone 2020!