Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I've never been that big a fan of having birds in the house, but ever since a vacation trip to Sisters, Oregon I kind of changed my mind. Sisters used to be one of those towns you passed through and if you blinked, you missed it. Since then it has become quite the tourist attraction with lots of antique stores, specialty art galleries, and so on.

Back when I first visited the place, oh, say 2o some odd years ago, it was easy to find a parking space and then wander up and down, meandering in and out of the shops that lined the main street, and occasionally take a trip down a side street. Good luck finding a spot in the summer time now!

Anyway, back on that trip my husband and I were walking in and out of each store, with no particular agenda in mind, when we went into a store that had sort of antiquish furniture and accessories. And then I saw what has since never left my mind.

Scattered throughout the store were dioramas, each about 18" deep, maybe 3' wide, and about 2' tall. They were made to look kind of like a window, so while you were looking into the box, it appeared as if you were looking outside. Each box had a different "scene", and residing in each box were a pair of finches. The most striking to me were the Lady Gouldian finches, who were in a tropical setting. I had never seen such exotic birds up close before.

At the time we had no place, no plans, and no means to take a box of birds home with us, but those diorama boxes intrigued me ever since.

Eventually we had our children and as pet friendly, animal lovers, eventually we went through the obligatory guinea pigs, hamsters, lizards, mice, etc.

One day my husband was out in the large back yard doing some yard work when a cockatiel flew onto the fence near him. It was exhausted and made for an easy catch for him. We promptly went out and bought an appropriate cage for it, along with food and toys. We looked in the newspaper for "lost bird" ads, but nothing ever appeared. I'm sure I know why.

I guess it's in their nature, but that cockatiel was the noisiest, messiest bird ever! It had the most ear drum piercing screetches that would go on and on. I'm sure whoever owned the bird before probably set it's cage on a picnic table outside and "forgot" to lock the door. After a couple of months we just couldn't stand it any longer and I begged my sister to please take the bird. At the time she had a couple of cockatiels that had been given to her, so I figured she must not mind so much.

She lasted a bit longer than we did, and eventually found homes for all her cockatiels.

Then it was time for our Sonny Bunny's birthday and he wanted to go to Petco (where the pets go...). I steered him away from the giant hissing Madagascar cockroaches (just gross) and talked him out of an iguana (those get really BIG). We headed for the bird room.

There we looked at the various canaries, finches, cockatiels (boo!), parrots, and parakeets. He was leaning towards the parakeets, but since I knew I would be the major cage cleaner, bird feeder and waterer I "talked" him into getting a pair of finches. They weren't the Lady Gouldian finches of my remembrances, but they were small and cute. I think they were either a society finch or a type of zebra finch. (I looked on the internet and I can't really tell.)

One of the birds died suddenly not long after we got it so we were able to trade it in for a new bird. They were out of that same type so we got a spice finch. We've had this pair now for probably going on at least six years. We put a nest in to see what would happen and boy did they get busy. Unfortunately all the tiny eggs were infertile and nothing ever hatched, despite their best efforts. We took the nest out because it was too sad for me to see them keep trying and trying with nothing happening. (I think the eggs were not fertile because although they are both finches, they were two totally different types of finches.)

I love their cheery (and quiet) chirping as they flit back and forth and take their daily bath. The cat enjoys watching them when she's inside too!

The birds get along well to this day. About once a year I have to trim the nails on one of them. For some reason the other one doesn't have this problem. But it must be done otherwise the poor bird starts getting stuck in the wires on the cage. It's not hard at all to do, but it must be done with a gentle hand or the delicate bird could get hurt.

The Spice Finch (notice his long nails).

A bad picture of the Zebra or Society Finch (not sure really what type this one is).

Here's a good view of the too long nails.

If you look carefully you can see where the vein goes in the toe, about 1/3 in the total length. We want to cut just outside of that or the bird will feel it and it will bleed.
I use the same trimmers I use on the dogs' nails, or you could use any sharp scissors.

All nails are trimmed and here's what I got for my trouble!

Ungrateful creature! Oh well, he was very nervous and I can't honestly blame him.

Monday, January 28, 2008


The wind blew all weekend. It's kind of hard to tell in the above photo but you'll notice all the trees are leaning to the right and in the back you can kind of see the dust. Normally I don't mind it too much, but it does make it hard to feed. I can toss the sheep's hay flake in the shelter of their barn, and the goat gets her handful inside her little house, but the cows and pony have to gobble their hay before it flies away. Otherwise, they go hungry. Also because of the weather I didn't get to the sheep butts.

Saturday we had a sisters/daughters/granddaughters day. This may get a little confusing, but here goes. My AZ sis brought her daughter to her other daughter in Orange County. Then they all came up along with the OC daughter and her daughter here to Bakersfield. Then my sister that lives here, along with Carli and her daughter, and the out of town sisters went to lunch at a favorite Basque restaurant. (Eight of us all together!) Carli had to go to work after lunch so the rest of us went to MT's house to sample cheese. Not only that but then the AZ sis brought out some gifts that she had brought which were various mineral samples, a candle, and a giant jar of home grown honey from a farm near her home. Then we came back to my house where we tasted the difference between the brined feta (too salty for me) and the unbrined (which she makes just for me!). We hung out for a while and then went to Dewar's, a local ice cream shop and gorged ourselves on Sundaes and banana splits. Oh heaven! We came back to my house and my husband kept us all entertained, as he usually does, until the out of towners had to leave to catch their bus. We had a really great time and I'm looking forward to doing it again.

Sunday morning I was looking out at the wind and hoping it would die down a bit before I went out to feed. I noticed the baby calf had his head through the fence and I thought he must be looking at his neighbor, the goat. But 15 minutes later he was still in that same spot and now his daddy, the bull, was getting frisky with the baby. I knew something was definately wrong then!

I ran out and sure enough the calf had somehow gotten his head stuck. I was able to twist his head and between my pushing, his pulling, my yelling at the bull to back off, we finally got the calf freed. The bull was showing his frustration by continuing to pursue the poor little guy so I let mom and baby out by themselves until he finally cooled off. What is it with these male animals!!

Help! I'm stuck and I can't move and something wierd is going on back there! Mom! Don't leave me!

I went to Aaron Brothers and got a frame for my horse picture. It was the last day of their buy one, get the second for a penny sale. I wished I had known about the sale a little earlier, but nevertheless I was able to find two nice frames. I really like the "Vintage Three Horsepower Tractor" picture by Pam because it reminds me quite a lot of my Fred Stone print of "The Power Horses" just a different view!

"The Power Horses" by Fred Stone "Vintage Three Horsepower Tractor" by Pam

Now I have to hang it. I have plans to do some wall repair and repainting, as it's been over five years since the last time the walls were painted. I'm getting the urge to build something too. Uh oh.

Stay warm, all.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Stormy Weather

Yesterday afternoon I went with Carli and the baby to the pediatrician to check out a lump in the baby's breast. Turns out it was nothing, thank heavens. As the doc explained it: it's just the baby's body making breast tissue in response to mom's hormones from being in the uterus. The tissue was actually larger when she was born but was not noticeable because it was more equal sided. Now the tissue is dissipating and soon will be all gone until the baby starts her own hormonal puberty issues. (Oh joy for that!) After that I recalled a "King of the Hill" episode in which Hank's infant brother had milk coming from his breast (it happens to boy babies too.) I felt a bit silly about the whole thing but couldn't help feeling more relieved and grateful than silly.

As I arrived home it had started to rain and the sun was out at the same time. It made for the beautiful double rainbow you see above. I was just about to switch lenses to see if I could somehow get it all in one frame, but it faded that quickly.

The weather has been cold and fairly windy, so it almost seems like a real winter. It would be cool if we could have another snow like we did back in 1999. We aren't used to that and it quite literally shut the town down. I remember working that day. They put my parking control partner and me in a pick up truck and we were sent around to various spots in town to block off areas where there were downed wires. For the most part we just drove around doing nothing because everybody stayed home that day. It would be more fun if that happened now because I'm no longer working!

For now the main road connecting northern and southern California is open (I-5 over the Grapevine), but it had been closed for the last day and a half. I hear there may be more weather on the way, so it's probably just a matter of time before it's closed again. I do feel for the truckers and people that need that route for their every day travels.

For me right now, it's a good time to remain indoors. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Last night was Gus and my first visit to the convalescent home. It turned out to be easier than I thought.

Many of the residents were gathered in a large "activities room" and Gus and I just went around to each table and introduced ourselves. Some of the people were noncommittal, but gave Gus a pat or two. There were a few that were very excited and didn't want Gus to leave them, even though I explained he had to visit with other people and we would be back later. Just a very few turned away and when I asked if they didn't like dogs they gave me a look of disgust. I just smiled and said that was okay and we moved on.

I think the activities director was pleasantly surprised. I heard someone comment on how Gus's tail never stopped wagging. They were all impressed with how soft and shiny he was, too. Even some of the staff stopped briefly to visit with Gus.

I think people that knew me from my "former life" would be shocked at how easily I walked around, visiting with all the old folks. Even I was shocked. I've never been a fan of children or old people and was notorious on the street when I was working. One of my printable nicknames was the "Parking Nazi". (I used to be a Police Service Technician assigned to Parking Control.)

That just goes to show that people can change for the better!

I left feeling very happy about how our visit to the convalescent hospital went. Anything to get that extra brownie point for heaven!


I finished the heart mosaic. I decided to go with the black grout to make it pop a bit more. It looks a little more dramatic that way. I like doing the hearts. They're fast, fun, and easy.


I finally got my Starbucks card from Pam for the "Name The Photo" contest from a few weeks ago. Pam had alluded to sending a little something extra and little did I know... She sent it along with a 9 1/2" X 7 1/2" print of the photo, double matted to 11" X 14". Now I get to go shopping for a frame so I can display it properly. So I really got two prizes! I'll post a picture of the picture in the new frame one of these days. Thanks again, Pam! That was really great!!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Weekend of Trimming

I am out of shape!

Friday I trimmed the goat's feet. They were terribly overgrown and I felt awful for letting them get so long. Trimming the goat's feet isn't too tough, really. It just involves tying her head close to the fence and using my body to pin her body against the fence so she can't wriggle too much. Then I have to bend over, get a good grip on one foot and start trimming. She kind of knows the routine, but that doesn't mean she is very cooperative.

After all four feet are done I give her a treat of sweet grain and all indignities are forgiven.

Saturday I trimmed all the sheep feet. The process is much the same as for the goat only they tend to struggle a bit more. I'm really sore today. Maybe I "trimmed" some calories!

Sunday I trimmed all the rose bushes, something that probably should have been done last month, but, oh well. I finished that up just in time to start watching the football games. The wrong teams won both games. Rats!

Monday was a day off for everyone because of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Originally I had offered to babysit while the kids went snowboarding. But then they figured it might be too icy so they cancelled. (By the way, when they went two weeks ago they took Wil, who ended up cracking his wrist. Now he's in a cast for a few weeks!) Just as a side note, on the news today was a story about some people who decided to go snowboarding or skiing and got stuck on the icy road for several hours. It would have been the same road so the kids figured correctly.

So then I had to make a decision. Shear the sheep butts (because they are getting rather woolly, which means their pee and poop are making for nastiness on their back end) or do another mosaic heart.

Hmmm. Shear the sheep butts or heart mosaic. Shear the sheep butts or heart mosaic. Guess what won out.

At first I didn't think I'd like the design, but after it was all done and I looked at it again when I went out to feed I felt much better about it. Now I just have to decide if I want a blue grout or black grout.

I'll do that after the baby goes home this afternoon. The sheep butts will have to wait.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Flourless Chocolate Cake

I've had this cake on my mind for a while now. I was going to make a recipe I received in the mail from a diabetes magazine ad, but the more I looked at it the more I wasn't too sure about it. You see, it used fake sugar and whenever I've tried to use fake sugar in a recipe I can tell. I don't like it.

The recipe I ended up using here uses less than a cup of real sugar (not counting the chocolate), so I felt comfortable with that. After all, I won't be eating the whole thing in one sitting. This recipe is from the Food Network and was courtesy of Florence Tyler. Click here for the printable version.

I didn't make it exactly as described in the recipe. I used chocolate I had on hand. Also something happened and I don't know why. The recipe says to bake for 20 - 25 minutes. I ended up baking mine for 65 minutes. I'm not sure what happened there, but the end result was still delicious. I'll show the recipe with my changes in parenthesis. If any real bakers out there are reading this and you have any ideas about why I had to go extra long, let me know...

The ingredients are: 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I used a 3.5 oz bar of dark chocolate and 1 1/4 bags of semi-sweet chocolate); 1 stick unsalted butter (I never buy unsalted butter so I used regular=1/4 pound); 9 large eggs; 3/4 C granulated sugar, plus 1 T; 2 C heavy cream, cold; confectioners sugar for dusting.

Separate the eggs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter over a double boiler until melted.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light yellow in color. You can see how it leaves a "ribbon" across the top when you pull the beater out.

Whisk a small amount of the chocolate mixture in with the egg mixture to temper the eggs.

Then mix in the rest of the chocolate mixture.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form (I may have slightly over done mine).

Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is set, the top starts to crack, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 - 25 minutes. (I started with 20 minutes, then added five. The cake top was still not set and the batter was still runny, so I added 10 minutes. I kept adding 10 minutes until finally the cake looked as described.)

Moist crumbs.

While the cake is in the oven be a good baker and clean up after yourself.

Let the cake sit out for 10 minutes, then carefully removed the outer ring. Dust with the powdered sugar.

Whip the cream until it becomes light and fluffy. Serve the cake at room temp with a dollop of whipped cream. (I just used canned whipped cream and added a few sliced almonds.)THE END

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lesson Learned

Yesterday I tried to take a walk with the baby. It started out well enough.

She had just fallen asleep and through the whole process of putting her in the car seat, the car seat in the car, putting the stroller in the car it was all good. I drove to the nearest park that the bike path runs by and got the stroller situated with my camera in the bottom basket. The car seat snaps into the stroller and all this was carried out without a hitch. Away we went.

My plan was to walk one mile, turn around and walk another mile back. This is easy to determine because the trail is marked at every mile with a sign that indicates the distance in miles to Enos Lane (the western most end of the trail), a blue hash mark on the side to indicate each half mile, and a white hash mark to indicate each tenth mile (I think, or each fifth, I can't remember now).

As we struck out headed east with the baby sleeping nicely, I was hoping maybe I'd see some of the beaver damaged trees that had been in our news recently. There was quite an uproar from the community because the beaver(s) had felled about 10 trees along the trail and the city was saying it was going to cost $5,000 to replace them. (Not sure how they came up with that figure unless they are factoring the salaries of workers to replace the trees, the cost of their health, dental, and vision, sick leave, vacation benefits, the cost of the vehicles they had to drive including gas and insurance, etc.) For some unknown reason instead of calling the city animal control they contacted a state official who declared the beaver must die. After the general populace heard that and started voicing their complaints the beaver was given a reprieve and the latest I heard is that the beaver will be relocated to a mountainous area.

We did find the area and one or two felled trees. It looks like the other trees were replaced already and some sort of preventative measures were taken against a recurrence of the heinous act. The other trees were wrapped with orange construction fence. I'm sure the orange will let the beaver know "danger: stay away!"

I had just arrived at the one mile point and turned around when Baby S started stirring. I walked a little faster and gave the stroller a little extra sideways motion to try and help her fall back asleep. She was having none of that.

I picked her up out of the stroller and had her up against my shoulder to try and sooth her that way. I just got deaf in that ear. Do you know how hard it is to hold a screaming, squirming infant while pushing a stroller?

I alternated between trying to hold her and push the stroller and putting her back in and just letting her have at it. I couldn't find her binky and I couldn't stand the latter too much so ended up carrying her most of the way back to the car. Boy was I GLAD when I got back to the parking lot! She didn't stop crying until we had left the parking lot.

For the time being I think I'll keep our walks a little closer to home, even if it means walking around the same block several times in a row. Lesson learned!

Meanwhile here are a few more pleasant photos.

I love a sleeping baby! I used some of my "hair product" to try and give her a baby mohawk but she doesn't really have a lot of hair.

She's starting to smile more (when she's not screaming). Babies have the cutest grins.

"Don't worry, Gramma, everything's going to be A-OK!"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gus, Volunteer

Yesterday Gus and I got to make our first real visit as Hoffman Hospice volunteers. We met the client and the family in their home and Gus made sure to sit in front of everyone at least a couple of times. You know, spread the love. He was on his best behaviour and I was really proud of him.

Kim, the volunteer coordinator met us there. She always likes to go along on the first few visits with new volunteers, just to make sure things go as they should. She gave Gus his very own Hoffman Volunteer badge.

Afterwards we talked about trying to make arrangements for Gus to visit in a group facility as well. She said she met with some resistance from the facility manager because of prior disappointments with other groups of "therapy dogs". It seems the owners weren't as committed as had been hoped and appointments weren't kept, etc. Kim assured her that being registered with Therapy Dogs International as well as being a Hoffman Hospice volunteer that we were different. We go through a certain amount of testing and training before being accepted into the program. Not only that but unlike some of the other dogs we are fully insured against any possible visit related accident.

That info seemed to sway her to our favor and hopefully we'll be able to start scheduling regular visits there as well.

So that was our first experience with volunteering and the best news is that we were invited back. Of course! How could you not love Gus?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Perry's New Head Gear

Last week I ordered more raddle marker because I had run out. Raddle marker is a powder that comes in different colors. It gets mixed with mineral oil or vegetable oil to make a paste which is then smeared on the ram's chest. The idea is when the ram mounts a ewe for breeding, a color transfer occurs and that indicates that a ewe has been bred. Supposedly. The ewe's cycle every 16 days so if we change colors then and a ewe gets colored again, that means she didn't "catch" (get pregnant) that first time. We continue the cycle until the ewes don't get marked again. Hopefully then that means they are pregnant.

I also ordered a ram shield. This is a leather device that goes over the ram's head and blocks his forward vision. He can still see to the side, but not to the front, thus making it almost impossible for him to head butt, or ram the other sheep. He can still do everything he's supposed to do, just not ram. I didn't have a problem with him last year, but this year he's a little older, he's an experienced breeder now, and he apparently is feeling the need to show his dominance.

For some reason he particularly is taking it out on Baby. Maybe Perry is prejudiced. Baby is the only black faced ewe we have. The others are all white. Baby may be one of the largest ewes, but she is also one of the most human friendly, eagerly running up to anyone for a scratch behind the ears or hopefully, a handful of grain. When I saw him continuously after poor Baby, and she was actually gimping around the next day, I knew I had to do something drastic.

Baaad Boy Perry before...

...not so baaad now.
When I first put the device on him he seemed confused. The ewes all acted wierd towards him also. Several of them gave him a warning foot stomp.

What the...??
Hey girls, it's still me, your favorite Lover Boy!
Looks like Baby is thinking "I still don't trust him."
It'll take some adjustments on both their parts. Perry did manage to get the contraption off some time last night. That just meant I had to tighten the straps a little.

I don't think he likes me very much right now. Frankly I don't care. I know of someone who bought a very expensive ram (she paid $5,000!!!) and when put to some ewes he killed one of them with the head butting.

We'll see how this works for now. I say, better to be safe than sorry.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Blogroll Update

It's time for me to do a little updating.

Not much more than a year ago I had absolutely no interest in blogs or blogging. I knew basically what they were but didn't think I would find anything of interest to me. Boy was I wrong!

It all started when my sister, MT, told me I might be interested in a blog she reads regularly, Farmgirl Fare, who writes about her sheep farm and posts good, healthy recipes. Then she told me about a local lady, Roberta, who has a blog on Yahoo 360 called Life at a Boarding Stable. This was also of interest to me since she often talks about local goings on that I am familiar with. I wanted to leave Roberta a comment one day and found that unlike Blogspot, where one can leave a comment without logging into an account, I had to create an account with 360. I decided to do that and started my 360 blog with the idea that it would serve as a "for sale" site for my animals. I didn't like the idea of having an inactive blog for such long periods of time, so that site has evolved into a "Daily Photos From Around Our Farm." Well, almost daily.

Well, I got hooked. I'd always enjoyed writing and I thought "I can do that". I was excited about the prospect of practicing writing because in the back of my mind I thought I would some day like to turn all of my husband's funny police stories into a book. That thought is still in the back of my mind. It's one of those things I keep putting off out of fear (that it won't turn out like I hope it will).

I started my blog with a lot of long stories about how we acquired our various animals. The stories were accompanied with a few somewhat grainy photos. It was a learning process. Somewhere in the beginning Robbyn of The Back Forty found me and I've been reading her blog every day. Eventually she put me on her blogroll, a happy and unexpected honor. Note here that I'm #1 on her list. She says it's in no particular order of preference, so I just pretend it is!

Through Roberta's blog I was introduced to Ree, aka The Pioneer Woman, who writes Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. She is wildly popular and writes very amusing stories of her life on a gigantic working cattle ranch and matches them with beautiful photographs. Ree's photography brought out my latent desire to get back into photography. I soon bought a digital SLR and I love it. It really does most of the work for me.

From a comment on Confessions I found mappersnapper via The Park Wife. She was having a "name the photo" contest and though I'm not good at that sort of thing I took a stab at it. Turns out her son was the main judge and he liked my entry so I won! (Looking forward to that Starbucks card!) She is an accomplished photographer and I enjoy looking at her beautiful photos.

And finally another new addition to my blogroll is LOLCats 'N' Funny Pictures. Maybe I just have a strange sense of humor, but the pictures are funny to me. You need to learn "teh langwich of teh kittehs" though. You'll see what I mean.

I do have a couple of others that I read regularly, but I'm not going to post them on my blogroll because I'm trying to keep it at the very least "PG" rated.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Teaching A Calf To Lead

I feel it's a good idea to teach my calves to be led even though I never know where they are going to wind up. When a prospective buyer comes out to take a look and a previous calf he's looked at and my calf are equal in all other regards, it could be the deciding factor in the sale.

Now, admittedly, it's much easier for me to lead train than it would be for a larger operation. I'm sure they don't have the time and their sales volume is obviously going to be higher than mine. Currently I only have one cow and one bull, so you can see why there should be no excuse for me not to lead train my calves.

First of all I want to stress that I'm a total amateur. I'm not a professional trainer of anything and would never claim to be. Everything I've learned about raising sheep and cattle was self taught/learned, through books, or helpful hints from a vet, my daughter's 4-H leader, or people that I've bought or sold an animal to. I never had the experience of growing up on a farm or joining 4-H when I was a kid. I didn't even know what 4-H (or Future Farmers of America or any other such organization) was until my kids were in junior high.

You see, I grew up in a military family and consequently we moved frequently. So when we finally settled in California and I got married I knew my dream of owning a little farm had the possibility of materializing. My goal here is to help other beginners like myself make the learning process a little shorter and easier.

Anyway, to get back to the lesson. My first experience teaching an animal to lead was with horses. I had a mare that I bred about every four years and I used all the hints and tricks from a book about how to train horses. I used those same techniques to lead train my calves.

The cattle I have are Irish Dexter cattle. They aren't miniatures, but they are the smallest regular size breed of cattle. The average height is about 42" at the hip. When they are born they are about the size of a Labrador retriever. The first thing I do is put a halter on when the calf is about two days old. I found a nice "figure 8" halter that is actually made for goats (kids--baby goats), but it fits the newborn calf perfectly. Just make sure to check the halter at least weekly so it can be loosened as necessary.

I used to wait until the calf was weaned before I would start the actual leading process. But then a breeder friend from Nevada suggested starting when the calf was a couple of days old. Much easier to tug around 30 pounds of no brain calf than 100 pounds that has a mind of it's own. She was right and it's how I do it now. (Thanks, Debbie M.!)

First I get the calf separated from it's mom and dad and into a pen alone. If you know how to rope then you can catch it that way. I'm not so good with a lasso so I use my shepherd's crook to corner the calf and slowly creep up on it that way. I've found that if you are quiet and move slowly you will be less apt to freak the baby out and he will be more likely to stay put in a corner, thus making it easier to catch him.

Then I attach an 8 foot lead line to his halter. The first few times you will be actually dragging the little guy behind you. I like to pull (drag), stop for a second to see if he'll take a step, and repeat all the way around the pen. I do this in both directions. If you're like me you won't want to wear your good sneakers while you do this. Sturdy work boots are the recommended foot wear in the cow pen. You want to keep your lessons short. I always try to end each lesson on a positive note. At first the mother is running around the perimeter of the pen and the baby usually does much better going towards the mother. Then I will crouch down next to him and pat and rub him all over and tell him what a good boy he was. At first he continuously pulls back on the rope. The second he relaxes I will release him and open the gate so mom and baby can reunite. It's best if you can do the lessons every day. I'm a little on the lazy side so I do it more like every few days. So first it's tug, tug, tug, keeping the line taut, but giving the opportunity to allow him to loosen the pressure himself by taking a step on his own. When that happens, stop immediately and give lots of praise. Kind of like dog training.

When the calf starts getting bigger and harder to pull there are a few tricks you can do to make it easier. The first is to loop the end around his back side, keeping the snap attached to the halter. Now you tug the halter and if he doesn't step up apply pressure to the looped end. The first time you do this he may leap forward so be prepared.

I usually do this using both hands. I'm standing on the calf's left side (he's on my right). My right hand is holding the back end loop and my left hand is holding the part of the lead attached to the halter. In the picture below the rope is in the right position, but I'd be holding it with my right hand and have it a little more closed over his back. It's hard to take pictures with one hand while I'm doing something with the other. (Next time I'll bribe somebody to help me out with the demo.)

Another method is to snap the rope onto itself and have that loop going around the calf behind his shoulders, then coming through the front legs, then through the halter ring. The idea behind this method is when you pull on the rope it will put pressure on the calf. He's supposed to take a step forward to relieve the pressure. He'll have to follow the rope because it's through the halter ring (see picture below).

At first the calf may totally collapse like a spoiled child in the candy aisle at the grocery store. It's important to stay calm. Merely pick him back up and reposition the rope and continue. This particular calf is very smart. He already knows the early basics and I think he's caught on that when he takes a few steps without me tugging he will be released to rejoin his parents very soon. I can walk about 1/3 of the way around the pen without him or me pulling. He's still not crazy about me putting my hands all over him, but that helps for later on when they are big. After a while they get to liking when you scratch that spot on the neck, or that spot over the tail.

Once the calf has learned to lead half way decently I teach him to stay tied at the fence. This is a little easier since he should have learned not to pull against the rope. I'll tie him fairly short (less than 1 foot) to the fence. This is so if he suddenly bolts he won't snap his neck at the end of a long lead. I'll do the hands on routine, rubbing his body, head, neck, legs, etc. until he relaxes. He might have his head still stretched out a little, but if he relaxes I'll let the rope out a little. Eventually they catch on and realize it's not such a bad gig after all.

The interesting thing to me is that once they've been weaned, they seem to progress by leaps and bounds. They are no longer distracted by Mom and if they've learned to eat grain, then they learn to look forward to you giving them a treat when they are done with their lesson. They've learned from an early age to stay quiet and follow the lead and become much easier and safer to handle.