a cow is a cow only if it’s a cow

For the past few weeks, David has been quizzing me on animal classifications.  For example, a female goat is called a doe. Easy enough, right? All I have to do is sing that age-old tune…doe a deer, a female deer….except replace deer with goat. Doe a goat, a female goat…hmm, just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

So, almost every night David asks, “What is a male goat with its testicles?”

“Horny?” I reply laughing to myself.

David usually shakes his head trying to conceal his own laughter.

Eventually we have gone through all that applies to our little farm at this point and I feel proud to be a farm girl.

Here is the break down thus far: (only for your own personal enjoyment. No quizzes, I promise!)

A male goat is a buck. Same as a deer. Yes, this was confusing to me at first and I found myself thinking, ‘Wait, so are deer and goats of the same species? I’m so confused!’

In the same family we have a yearling which is a goat or a sheep between the age of 1-2.

A kid, well that is a baby goat. A lamb, of course we ALL know what that is. A baby sheep! (they are so cute, right?)

A wether is a male sheep or goat that’s been castrated (neutered).

And an ewe is a female sheep…

Are you still with me?

Let’s move on…to cows. Or those things we all have called cows for years and years. By the way, we are getting one and a calf too!

Overall, two or more is a cattle but this does not apply to one. ‘Cows,’ which are only female (will get to that later) are what we predominately see in pastures because most males are castrated at birth and then slaughtered for meat before the age of three.

A heifter is a young female animal under the age of three that is either close to calving or has had no calf at all. Sometimes a young female that has only had one calf is called a first-calf heifer.

A Springer is a heifer close to calving.

Young cattle of both sexes are called calves until they are weaned from their mothers and then they are often referred to as weaners (insert laughter here) or feeders until they are one years old. After that, they too are called yearlings or stirks if between one and two years old.

A steer is a male that has been castrated and a bull is an intact male (meaning they still have their balls or as I like to refer to them, the horny ones)

A calf is a baby.

And finally, the confusing one. So, contrary to what we’ve all be raised to believe, a cow is only a female animal that is over two years of age and has had a calf.  This term is also used on other larger animals such as whales and hippos.

I turn to David, “Wait, so I’ve been wrong all this time? A cow is not a cow just because it looks like a cow?”

“It is if it’s a cow!” Says David

And now I’m confused all over again.

What came first? The Chicken or the Chicken Coop?

I’m building a chicken coop. And when I say “I”, I probably really mean David and his cousin. However, I was given the responsibility of designing the chicken coop and doing all the research necessary to raise baby chicks and nurture them into grown chickens.

I asked David how many chickens he wanted thinking he was going to say around ten. To my surprise he only wants three. Hmm, that’s not exactly what I had in mind. I want ten. At the least. I think ten is completely suitable AND necessary. I’m not trying to be greedy here. I’m actually thinking sustainability. David thinks three chickens will give us way more eggs than we will ever be able to eat but if you think about it, one chicken lays about one egg a day (if we are lucky). That’s three eggs a day. I eat two.  David eats two. With only three chickens we will be fighting over who gets two eggs and who gets one. I eat as if I was a 250 pound man. Therefore, I’m thinking we need roughly 10 chickens. Okay, maybe we only need four chickens. But, with all the baking I plan on doing, we will need plenty of eggs.

A coworker of mine who just got chickens mentioned the other day that her chickens were stressed out because of her dog and weren’t laying any eggs. I want my chickens to live the good life. One that is free of the fear of dogs and cats. As much as I’d like to believe David’s two dogs and my two cats are perfect little angels, the dead mouse I found in the basement yesterday morning is a pretty good example that they are not.

Therefore, I believe if we provide them with a home that feels safe and comfortable, they in return will provide for us. So I have drafted up some plans. Preliminary drawings if you will. Now friends, I never claimed to be an artist. Be kind.

So there you have it. Since we are waiting to get our chicks next Spring, I have some time to revamp my drawings. This shall be an interesting experience to say the least. A fun one though. Very fun.

If you have experience with this sort of thing please feel free to email me or leave a comment with any suggestion, idea, etc.

The Screams In The Night

In the middle of the night, I woke to David standing at the sliding glass door in our bedroom looking intently out into the darkness. Assuming he had probably heard something and was coming right back to bed, I didn’t think much of it and rolled over and fell back asleep. What felt like hours later (but probably only minutes), I was woken up to David panicked and telling me to get up. “Babe! Babe! Get up! The sheep are screaming!” I lied there momentarily, foggy headed wondering how Sheep scream. And that’s when I heard it as well. The desperate and terrified cries from out in the pasture.

I leaped from bed afraid of what those cries meant. Disoriented, I followed David downstairs and clumsily put on my muck boots making sure to tuck my sweatpants into the tops of them. David grabbed his rifle and we hurriedly walked out to the barn where the geep (goat and sheep) congregate at night, my heart beating faster and faster. I suddenly felt as though I might cry. What if the coyote made its way back onto the property bring friends and they were working their way through the sheep? What if we were about to walk into something that resembled one of those horror movies I use to watch as a kid. Am I ready to see the ugly side of country life? Will this be enough to send me running back to the comforts of waiting for the bus on 3rd AVE in downtown Seattle?

David entered the barn first and I almost couldn’t take it anymore. Imagines of curly bloody wool and injured suffering sheep ran my mind and as much as I wanted to be a supporting girlfriend, a part of me wanted to run back, crawl beneath the covers, and not come back out until it was all cleaned up and all evidence of a massacre had been cleaned up.

David stopped in his tracks, handed me his rifle and told me to hold it as he sighed annoyed. “I had a feeling this was the case” was all he said as he walked around the corner. As I inched closer inside the barn I could not believe my eyes.

No blood, no maimed animal parts to be seen. Only this brown-eyed beauty standing before us..headfirst into the alfalfa pellet bin.


Dorothy, or Little Devil as I like to call her, had jumped the fence that separates the animals from the outside world and didn’t know how to get back in after her midnight snack. The cries in the night didn’t actually come from the sheep after all. They were from Daisy, Dorothy’s daughter, Harold, and Maude. The three other goats. Where they cries of jealousy that she got to eat a little something other than grass in the pasture or cries of fear that they would be separated for eternity? We may never know. I do know this, next time I am woken up in the middle of the night Dorothy and I are going to have a little chat. Goat is a delicacy in other countries after all.

Coyote Not So Ugly

It’s a little known fact that I am a huge animal gal. I once had to stop volunteering at a cat shelter because I kept bringing them home with me. I was excited when I found out there were sheep and goats already on the farm and that the idea was to breed the sheep at the end of the summer/early fall and this spring we will be diving into the world of raising chickens. But not all animals are welcome on the farm and they’ve put a lot of efforts to keep predators from getting through the 8 foot tall fence that surrounds the perimeter of the property.

The other day as I was bringing David his sunglasses while he was on tracker I noticed that he was standing on the wheel looking to the south corner of the property. He yelled at me that there was a coyote lose in the vineyard. Somehow this big guy got in, probably slipping under the fence somewhere near the gate. David yelled for me to go open the gate as it’s kept closed during the spring and summer months for this reason alone. If luck would have it, they were going to try to push the coyote back out without having to do any harm. All of a sudden I remembered that I had just let my cats out to roam in the yard. Momentarily panicked,  I felt caught in between a rock and a hard place. Do I open the gate first which required me running a good football field length or run back to get my cats into the house in order to prevent them from being the coyote’s lunch ? The realization set in that I am now a farm girl and my priorities must change, not to mention that my cats were sitting under a bush about five feet from the front door to the house. I ran to open the gate as fear set in that somehow, just maybe the coyote would manage to smell the fresh meat of my poor defenseless kitties and get to them in the five minutes it took for me to open the entrance of the fence and get back to save their lives. Dramatic? Well, maybe just a little but you have to understand, these were city cats for the last four years and they are rather naive to the ways of the farm cat. Knowing Lucy she’d probably see the Coyote and run to it,  roll over and let the him have his way with her.

Image taken from http://www.freewebs.com/coyotehaven/thecoyote.htm

As I was dashing back towards the house David yelled out that they were going to have to shoot the coyote because he was working his way further into the vineyard. I skidded to a halt. WHAT? Shoot the poor defenseless coyote who probably has a family of its own. I mean, it’s really only trying to provide for its young and who are we to get in the way? I’m assuming David could see the sadness in my eyes and reminded me that my cats were still out. A rush of reality came back to me and I pivoted in my tracks running to gather Lucy and Oliver.

I waited for the sound of the rifle from inside the house but it never came. Although I know that having a coyote loose on the property reeks havoc for obvious reasons, I can’t help that a little part of me is relieved that I never heard the sound of the gun. Maybe he found his way out after all? I wonder if I’ll ever get use to this part of life on a farm?