Predicting the weather
Living in North Dakota almost all of my life, the weather has played a big factor in what we did on a daily basis. In the summer, you have to watch out for severe thunder and lightning storms and sometimes tornadoes. In the winter if you're not prepared, you'll end up losing some livestock or your water supply will freeze up.
As far back as I can remember, there were always things in nature that we'd study to see what kind of winter we were going to have. Some of these practices date back to Indian days but many of them are more reliable than the high-tech meteorologists today. When it comes right down to it, no one can predict the weather all the time but by using some of these old traditions, we didn't get caught with our pants down too many years.
Onions skins and corn husks grow thick and hard if it is going to be a cold winter. This is to protect the center of the onion which is the part that grows the next spring or the cob of the corn which protects a portion of the corn seeds from freezing completely and thus ensures a supply of seed for the coming year. As a recent story about the Southwestern tribes of Indians showed, some of their corn is still viable seed after several hundred years as it was in a dry place and hadn’t started to sprout.
We've used a pig spleen to predict six months of weather. The part of the spleen that is attached to the liver is for the first month, whether it is in October, November or later in the year. The widest part, usually about 2 inches, will be normal weather and the thickness usually about one-fourth inch will be the amount of rainfall or snow. Some years when it has been very cold, the spleen or as the old timers called it “the winter” will be very wide, maybe 4 inches and about one-half inch thick, and maybe 7-8 inches long. In the winter of 1996-97, we had three spleens to compare. They were about 8 inches long and 3-4 inches wide and one-half inch thick and we had a lots of snow and it was very cold. They also had some marked indentations on each one like a curvy woman's body, which also corresponded to the several snow storms we had that year.
You might want to try this experiment to forecast the weather. Cut a big onion into twelve equal slices on December 31 and place them on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle a little salt on each slice and leave the sheet on the counter overnight. The first month will be the top of the onion and so on to the bottom, which will be December. In the morning, the slices that have moisture on them will be the wet months and the dry slices will be the dry months or little precipitation. Of course, this won’t work with store bought onions unless you know the onions were grown in your vicinity. And if the crop was grown under intense irrigation, the outcome won't be accurate.
If you have Goldenrod flowers growing, the first blooming in the fall foretells the first frost usually six weeks down the road.
Flying ants come to North Dakota and northern states about six weeks before a heavy frost.
If you have to spike a calf unto a cow, Paul learned a new technique this spring. Put some good-old fashioned Vicks, mentholatum works too, on the dead calf. Also spread some on the calf to be spiked and if possible some on the cow's nose. The smell will be the same and after she smells the new calf, it usually doesn't take long for her to accept the new calf. Paul also likes to let the cow fill up with milk for one feeding after losing her calf. She is more apt to take the relief at that time than if you try to force her to take a calf too soon.
If a calf is slow in getting up, try feeding him some colostrum, preferably from its dam. If it's not possible to milk her, use formulated dry colostrum and get it into the calf as soon as possible. If you have to tube it, be careful not to get the fluid into its lungs. A calf bottle with a larger hole works pretty good and usually after the calf gets about a quart of milk in him, he will try to get up and nurse on his own.
One of my kids figured that after 60+ years in the school of hard knocks, I might just have some good advice I should pass along. So we'll update this page from time to time with tidbits, life's lessons, and free advice for you to do with what you wish.
A brood cow's diet
During the winter and nearing spring, it is easy to forget how critical it is to supplement a brood cow's diet. A good supplement is vital to ensure the re-breeding of the cows. Second-calf heifers need extra feed at this time also. They are still growing plus nursing a calf and then trying to cycle to re-bred.