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ANN BAILEY: New life is springing up on the farm

One of my favorite times of the year growing up on the farm is spring. Not only are there signs of new life all around me in the form of greened-up grass, budding trees and blooming flowers, there also are young animals on and around the farm to ...

Ann Bailey

One of my favorite times of the year growing up on the farm is spring. Not only are there signs of new life all around me in the form of greened-up grass, budding trees and blooming flowers, there also are young animals on and around the farm to remind me of the renewal.

Though it's been years since my dad had cattle, I still can vividly recall the young calves, romping around the pasture, tails up in the air, playing tag with one another or lying in groups in the straw, legs folded underneath them, dozing peacefully.

Another scene that sticks in my mind is one of the calves hungrily nursing from their mothers, bits of frothy foam on their muzzles. Though the calves sometimes got aggressive and butted their mothers' udders, the cows were pretty patient and stood stoically chewing their cuds.

If we had a calf whose mom didn't have enough milk, it was my job to bottle-feed it. Once the calves got the hang of drinking out of the manmade rubber nipple, most of them attacked it with the same vigor they did their moms' udders. I had to hang on tight to the bottle so it didn't go flying out of my hands. The bottle-fed calves became pretty friendly and would let us catch and pet them until they got old enough to eat on their own and were turned out to pasture.

Besides calving, another highlight of my youth on the farm in the spring was finding batches of kittens hidden throughout the main floor of the barn and in the hayloft. Long-haired or short-haired, black, brown, white and a mixture of those colors and others, we had a variety of kittens every spring. The kittens, like the calves, enjoyed frolicking and "fighting" with each another and I spent many hours in the barn playing with them.

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Foals and more

Being a horse lover, my favorite baby animals, of course, were the foals, Ginger and Gypsy, who were born and raised on our farm. I remember the excitement that followed the births of both. Ginger, born in 1968, and Gypsy foaled in 1976, are long deceased, but the memories of the fun we had with them during the summers they were babies will stay with me for my life time.

Gypsy especially was a people horse. We spent a lot of time with her from the day she was born and she became so attached to us she would whinny when she heard the screen door of the house slam, knowing the sound usually meant a visit from at least one member of our family. Another memory I have of Gypsy is when she would match her mother, Beauty, stride for stride when I went took Beauty for a ride. Tail straight up in the air like a flag, Gypsy galloped alongside us, until suddenly cutting in front of Beauty. Beauty was athletic and swerved, so she never ran into her, but I nearly got unseated a few times.

These days the youngest animal we have on the farm is Rosebud, my daughter Ellen's golden retriever. Rosebud is 3ยฝ and though she still acts like a puppy some days, she doesn't look like one. It's easy to recall, though, what a cute bundle of golden fur she was the first time we saw her on the movie set of Santa Buddies and how she nestled in her little basket on Ellen's bed when we brought her home to the farm.

Though I lack the day-to-day contact with young animals, I do get my "fix" by visiting farms of people who do. One of my friends for instance, raises cattle so I get to see young calves when I visit her farm in the spring.

Earlier this spring, I also got to do a story on a Minnesota farmer who raises sheep, so I saw a large flock of cute, wooly lambs. I haven't seen any kittens or foals yet, but I'll be keeping my eye out. For me, there's nothing that says spring like new life.

Reach Bailey at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send e-mail to abailey@gfherald.com .

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