Sunday, January 22:

Shawn’s business trip meant some of us could go along for two days of luxury – no farm chores, and an indoor pool.  The older boys stayed home to milk and do their own cooking – bacon and eggs for every meal – while S-5 and Mom took the small people to the pool three times a day, and watched movies crowded four across the top of a hotel bed – S-6 occupied a lap. You had to squeeze in close because the audio on the Dell is very quiet.  We all came home with very clean fingernails, and the skin worn off the tips of our toes on the bottom of the pool.  Four inches of new snow smoothed the contours of the south hill pasture, and the pigs had been into the tack room, leaving behind them unmistakable evidence; still, it is very good to be home.  We live so far outside the world of business and hotels and movies that they can be a little disorienting.

With the third steer in the freezer we can stop and assess our hay consumption this winter.  Good rainfall last summer meant that we didn’t have to give the animals hay until November; so far, so good.  Warm weather well into December meant we didn’t dare butcher the two-year-old steers until December and January; not so good.  Those big boys consume a lot of hay, hay we didn’t budget for when we were putting it up in May and July.  We are discussing two strategies to avoid a recurrence of this situation:  one, buying our baby bulls very early in the spring, and butchering them at baby beef stage in November or December; or, two, buying them very late in the fall and overwintering them when they are still tiny and milk-fed.  We’ll let you know.