Category Archives: Rurality Photos

Calf cuteness

Thus far we’ve had five calves born here at the farm.  And boy howdy are they cute!  Full of verve and vigor, plenty of personality, more energy than we or their mothers can duplicate, and in general providing ample joy and laughs every day.

Close-up of a calf with his tongue sticking out (20130407_06166)

That’s Red Jr. less than two weeks old.  He was showing the paparazzi what he thought about the intrusion, but when I didn’t get the message, he turned up the volume.

Close-up of a calf with his tongue sticking out (20130407_06179)

I still didn’t get the message, but he didn’t seem to care anymore.

And if you’re wondering why he’s named Red Jr., well, here’s his mother, Red.

One of our cows named Red eating grass (20130315_05678)

Hence the name.

We also have this little guy.

Close-up of one of our calves (20130407_06160)

Nope, we haven’t named him yet.  I probably will even though I shouldn’t.

His mother is likewise nameless, though she certainly has personality.

Close-up of a cow as she investigates the camera (20130315_05689)

Or at least curiosity.  Which is cool by me.

And this is Braue.

Close-up of Braue, one of our calves, resting in the grass (20130407_06253)

The name should be obvious (from German).

We’re not sure of Braue’s gender yet.  Not that it’s an emergency.  Besides, we’ll figure it out soon enough.

As for his mother, her name is Whiteface, and she’s the reason the pasture isn’t safe for strangers.

One of our cows named Whiteface as she looks at me (20130315_05683)

In fact, Whiteface makes the pasture unsafe for my uncle who lives here.  She got her bad personality from her mother who was also dangerous.

One of our cows, Whiteface, standing over her calf, Braue (20130407_06205)

But that personality serves her well when she has a calf.  Trust me, you don’t want to mess with her or her calf if you value your life.  I can get close because I’m in the pasture many times each day and I’m the adopted Mr. Mom for one of the calves.  This has made me an honorary member of the herd.  Anyone else venturing into their territory is taking a big risk if Whiteface is around.

This is Sis.

One of our calves, Sis, holding a dead leaf in her mouth (20130321_05892)

She’s Bini’s twin sister.  Yes, a sister.  That photo was taken while she sampled a dead leaf, something she quickly discarded once she decided it wasn’t tasty.

One of our calves, Sis, drinking milk from her mother (20130320_05772)

That’s Sis feeding from her and Bini’s mother, Mom.  (Yes, we named her Mom because she’s a good mother.)  Unfortunately, having twins seemed to throw Mom’s body for a loop.  She wasn’t able to produce enough milk for even one calf (we’d already taken Bini away to raise him by hand).  Eventually we had to take Sis away from her and start feeding her by bottle.

The separation went well, albeit somewhat traumatic for both mother and calf.  But they’ve both adapted.  Sis has been held in the corral for almost two weeks while she acclimates to her new mother, my aunt.  Once she’s ready, we’ll move her back to the pasture with the herd and other calves.

Which brings us to the fifth calf, Bini.

My adopted calf Bini sleeping with his head on my lap (20130321_05924)

That’s him sleeping with his head on my lap.  There’s no question from his perspective—or the rest of the herd for that matter—about who his Mr. Mom is.

Bini befriended

Following abandonment by his mother, I carried Bini, the newborn calf, to a holding pen across the farm where we could manage his first few weeks.  He needed regular feedings, monitoring, interaction, and most importantly, he needed to bond with his adoptive mother—which would be me—the latter being paramount in order for him to rejoin the herd.

A portrait of Bini, our abandoned calf (20130315_05611)

He enjoyed warm milk four times each day in increasing amounts, but food represented only a fraction of what he needed.  Like all kids, he required play, time to investigate the world, time to lounge away from his hay bed, affection, a sense of safety and belonging, and a plethora of simple needs his mother would usually provide.

Except his mother had abandoned him, rejected him in favor of her second calf, Bini’s twin.  So it fell on me to fulfill his early needs and desires, to be his Mr. Mom as it were.

Though we had four scheduled feedings, I also visited him many other times throughout each day to give him time outside the isolation pen where he slept (and that kept him safe both from the outside world and from potential harm or escape from the holding pen).  We played, we explored, we bonded.

Our abandoned calf Bini with his tongue sticking out (20130315_05623)

Sometimes I would just sit on the ground and let him rest his head in my lap as he slept.  Sometimes I would stand back and let him meander about investigating the world.

Our abandoned calf Bini sniffing straw on the ground (20130315_05637)

And sometimes I would have him follow me around so I could force him to face challenges, obstacles like walking across uneven ground and meeting the horse and donkey through the fence.

Our abandoned calf Bini with our horse and donkey in the background (20130315_05622)

I even had to teach him how to pee and poop.  Human children do these things automatically, but many mammalian young need guidance the first time, help getting the plumbing going if you will.

As children will be children, however, a great deal of our time was spent in play.  Great gamboling gobs of play.

Our abandoned calf Bini running around the holding pen (20130315_05650)
Our abandoned calf Bini running around the holding pen (20130315_05651)
Our abandoned calf Bini running around the holding pen (20130315_05652)

Whether after feeding or play or just spending time together, he eventually would return to his hay bed in the isolation pen, sometimes willingly and sometimes by me carrying him (a progressively difficult task).

Our abandoned calf Bini lying in his hay bed (20130315_05662)

Despite feeling heartbroken at the begging sound of his young bellowing voice as I walked away, I knew I’d return.  And so did he.

In the end, we had bonded solidly and I had become his Mr. Mom, trusted entirely, sought after for food as much as for folly and welfare, loved by a young calf less than two weeks old.

A close-up of our abandoned calf Bini as he looks at me (20130315_05653)

Thus we came to Bini’s most daunting challenge to date—relocation to the main pasture and reintroduction to the herd, including his estranged mother and sibling.

Ten days following his birth and after ten days of me bonding with him, I felt he was ready for Bini’s big adventure.

Bini’s beginning

We first saw him standing in the pasture, no more than ten minutes old.

A newborn calf only ten minutes old (20130311_05564)

But he was not alone.  On the contrary, the herd had moved in to protect the little one, guards in vigilant service to protect the least among them.

A newborn calf surrounded by members of the herd (20130311_05563)

Yet we wondered where his mother was.  As each heifer approached the calf, they would sniff each other, and the youngster would try feeding from them.  And in response, each gently pushed him away while remaining nearby to protect him.

A newborn calf touching noses with an adult cow (20130311_05573)

It didn’t take long to find the little guy’s mother.  She’d had twins and had moved some distance away with the second calf.

Cows aren’t very bright in the scheme of things, thus when one gives birth to more than one calf, they often don’t realize the firstborn is also their offspring.  Instead they bond with the last calf born, leaving the first to fend for itself.

A heifer with her newborn calf (20130311_05588)

So in the end, the young bull was abandoned by his mother, left alone in the big bad world, rejected only because he came first and she didn’t realize he was as much her child as the second twin she so carefully groomed and fed and protected.

There he lay, finally giving up on food and affection from the other cows, finally giving up on finding his mother, finally giving up.

A newborn calf lying in the pasture (20130311_05581)

What to do then?

Well, quite obviously we needed to take on the role his mother declined.  Hence I adopted him, became his Mr. Mom, and I’ve been tending to him since.

Today he’s five days old, and boy howdy is he full of personality and energy.

Oh.  I named him Bini.  It’s Latin and means “two at a time.”

[more of Bini’s adventures and progress in coming posts]

A boy and his cow #3

After observing the livestock show hoping to better understand what was expected of him when he and Bella eventually entered the ring, Keigan returned to his cow’s side.

Keigan checking Bella prior to competition (20120818_03066)

Perhaps by this time in the day’s activities—most notably after he gained perspective and instruction from the ongoing competition—Keigan’s palpable fear, uncertainty and doubt began to change, to metamorphose into something usable, something akin to determination and intent.

Keigan and Bella sharing a moment before they compete (20120818_03073)

Because she continued drawing upon his emotions to help define her own, Bella’s substantial stress and worry remained tangible, material.  Keigan knew this as well as we did.  He therefore tried his best to reassure her, to calm her, but also to reiterate that she must follow his bidding if they were to have any hope of placing.

Keigan and Bella waiting to hear the get-ready call for their competition (20120818_03093)

The enemy of purpose is vacant time.  Always rushing only to wait, the boy and his cow found themselves suspended in that insufferable moment when they had nothing further to do save wait for the call for his class to show.  It would be unwise to leave Bella, he knew, because they would have to move swiftly when the speakers announced their time had come.  So they waited.  And worried.  And wondered.

Keigan leading Bella toward the ring (20120818_03110)

Then it happened.  Through the cacophony of bellowing cows and bleating sheep and laughter and voices and overhead announcements, word came for Keigan’s class to prepare for competition.

With show stick in hand, he led her toward the ring, through throngs of animals and people.  He led her toward competition, their first together.  He led her.

Keigan and Bella waiting yet again before entering the ring (20120818_03114)

Yet once again the enemy of purpose reared its ugly head.  Prepared and assembled, competitors had to wait.  Again.

Bruce, Keigan's ag teacher, giving Bella a quick look and giving Keigan last-minute guidance (20120818_03118)

But Keigan’s ag teacher Bruce knew they would have no better opportunity for last-minute checks, last-minute tips, last-minute guidance.  So he defeated the enemy of purpose by filling vacant time, wresting control from fear, uncertainty and doubt.

The moment didn’t last long, though, for the time had finally come.  Speakers throughout the arena declared competitors in their class should make their way to the ring’s gate, for they finally had to face the judge for the first time.

Competition comes in waves.  Competitors and their animals must first contend at the class level.  Worthy participants advance to the best-of-class competition.  And winners in best of class advance to best of show.

However, first they must make it through their class, be chosen to move on, impress the judge with knowledge, skills and genetics such that they place and move forward.  Keigan had great hope for placing in his class, deep desire tempered with realism that he might take best in class, and willingness to face the daunting challenge of competing for best in show.

To know if any of these prospects could be made manifest, he and Bella had to overcome the biggest hurdle.

The judge for the cattle portion of the livestock show (20120818_03132)

They had to face the judge for the first time.

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. Keigan checking Bella prior to competition
  2. Keigan and Bella sharing a moment before they compete
  3. Keigan and Bella waiting to hear the get-ready call for their competition
  4. Keigan leading Bella toward the ring
  5. Keigan and Bella waiting yet again before entering the ring
  6. Bruce, Keigan’s ag teacher, giving Bella a quick look and giving Keigan last-minute guidance
  7. The judge for the cattle portion of the livestock show

A boy and his cow #2

Now where did we leave off?  Ah yes …

Keigan leading Bella into the arena (20120818_02859)

As Keigan led Bella toward the arena and their first joint showing, I was reminded of something his mother Denise said: “Give a boy a truck, a job and cow, and he thinks he knows everything.”  Facing the daunting task of participating in a livestock competition for the first time with a calf who has as much an excessive personality as he does, Keigan nevertheless continued denying that he suffered anxiety, that he felt nervous about the show, that he was at all worried.

Oh but we knew better.

Denise, Keigan's mother, standing watch over Bella (20120818_02874)

With Bella secured inside the large structure and Keigan and his father Kurt wandering off to get a better sense of when they would enter the ring, I stood watching Denise as she kept an eye on the cow, the goings on around her, the crush of people and animals, and I realized I was the true third-party observer.  My friendship with them notwithstanding, perhaps it was I who had the least invested in the day’s activities, and therefore it was I who could see that Keigan and Bella weren’t the only two suffering from stress and concern.

Competitors and their animals waiting outside the show ring; Kurt, Keigan's father, is standing near the ring fence right of center (20120818_02910)

Before them surged and flowed a veritable flood, wave after wave of people and animals crashing through the cacophony of judges’ voices pouring from the speakers.  This they faced together as a family.  And within each of them I could see the worms of fear and doubt squirming.

Keigan preparing to brush Bella (20120818_02934)

When from the crowd Keigan came sauntering, his carefree gait belied the apprehension in his eyes, on his face.  Busying himself, he brushed Bella, soothed her frayed nerves, gave her comfort in the familiar despite the unfamiliar surrounding her.  And perchance it was not just the cow who took succor from the interaction, but likewise the boy suckled at the teat of the wonted, of the preferred and comfortable, taking strength from the sweet taste of the known with hope it would wash away the sour sting of the unknown.

But his class and category would not show for some time, hence minutiae could provide only temporary relief from the incessant worms, always wriggling and writhing, always busy unmaking whatever ease the boy and his cow built.  So brushing and bonding transformed into busywork.  And busywork occupies the hands but not the mind, oftentimes churning the fecund soil wherein fear and doubt grow, consequently Denise and Kurt suggested Keigan spend time observing the show, learning from it, taking from it whatever experience his eyes and ears could gain.  For he and Bella faced this together for the first time, something the boy had never experienced and something the cow had never experienced with the boy.

Keigan and Denise watching the competition (20120818_02994)

Yet Keigan was not the only one who needed to observe.  With him stood his parents, and in the guise of scrutiny the worms of fear and doubt grew, apparent in each face, in their eyes, in their collective study of what soon would come.  Livestock shows are as much style as they are substance, as much rigid rules and pedantic procedures as they are idiosyncratic impressions and fussy fancies.

A young girl putting her heifer into a show stance during competition (20120818_02997)

Before them the ring filled and emptied, filled and emptied, each iteration bringing with it a bombardment of new impressions that laid waste the assumptions carried.  Most disconcerting perhaps was this realization: the mechanics of showing and the animals shown represented but a part of what the judges considered, for assessed as closely were the human contestants, their dress, their mannerisms, how they treated their animals, how they carried themselves.  Yes, Keigan and his family learned quickly that nice clothes and a clean shave would not a winner make, though they would play a part.  And more to the point, they realized the worms of fear and doubt had to be faced, had to be subdued, otherwise they would serve only to draw attention to those very human flaws which must remain hidden, obscured by determination and skill and intent.

Competitors leading their animals around the show ring during competition (20120818_03025)

Each successive class and each successive judging brought home the truth of what they faced and how they must face it, both the family as one and the boy and his cow together.  What they gleaned from their collective observation must provide Keigan the wisdom to show well, the knowledge to lead Bella and help her show well, the ability to face observers, judges and contestants with perseverance and purpose, for to do otherwise would be to fail before entering the ring.  Entering the ring for the first time, that is, because to win a class means only to move on to the next showing—best of show for their breed.

Keigan, Kurt and Denise observing the ongoing competition (20120818_03038)

Keigan, Kurt and Denise watched, unaware that they too were watched even as they focused on what happened before them and what that meant for what lay before them.  Their attention keen and directed, for the first time I saw the unconscious struggle within them, the worms of fear and doubt fighting against determination and resolve.  And for the first time, I saw the promise of victory in each of them, a hint of potential to overcome the incessant battle raging inside.  Yes, for the first time I saw tangible hope: We can do this, it said.  We can face this and we can accomplish something.

Keigan closely watching the competition (20120818_03047)

Oh how they twisted and turned then, those worms of fear and doubt, since hope is their archenemy.  In Keigan’s unflagging inspection I could see uncertainty as easily as I could see fortitude.  The struggle continued, but soon the battle would reach its zenith: their first showing, their first judging.

And that time was approaching faster than they realized.

— — — — — — — — — —


  1. Keigan leading Bella into the arena
  2. Denise, Keigan’s mother, standing watch over Bella
  3. Competitors and their animals waiting outside the show ring; Kurt, Keigan’s father, is standing near the ring fence right of center
  4. Keigan preparing to brush Bella
  5. Keigan and Denise watching the competition
  6. A young girl putting her heifer into a show stance during competition
  7. Competitors leading their animals around the show ring during competition
  8. Keigan, Kurt and Denise observing the ongoing competition
  9. Keigan closely watching the competition