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  1. Loved, loved, loved your story. What a gift from the Lord of such a beautiful night time experience with His creatures and creation. You were truly blessed. I wish I could give treats to all your animals!

  2. Great story that I can relate to. I live in the northeastern California woods in the northern Sierra range and I know of the darkness you speak of. It is truly haunting, but beautiful like you say. I often spend time in the cold of winter night, praying and meditating and communing with God’s creation. I love sharing the night at the edge of the pasture with my horses and all the ranch cows. Since I have a well trained stock dog (Border collie – the most intelligent, loyal creature a man could hope for) I never worry about wildlife catching me at unawares. He is always by my side and never barks unless I send him on a stubborn cow or bull. I am always amazed at how good night vision can get with a good long time adjusting in the darkest of night. Any light really does ruin it for a long time – not just minutes. I haven’t tried the red light that supposedly preserves night vision. And it is a joyful feeling to have all the other senses become heightened. I do some high country packing with stock and my defense against cold feet is to try to never let them get cold in the first place. A pair of thin merino wool sock liners with medium weight wool oversock inside the sleeping bag does the trick. And keeping my head, face and neck warm helps keep my hands and feet warm.
    These are the best camp shoes I have found: https://www.xtratuf.com/collections/men/products/mens-6-in-insulated-elite-legacy-ankle-boot-copper-tan . (no affiliation with them). I keep them inside my sleeping bag at night so they stay warm and dry and I know exactly where they are in an emergency. I keep a S&W .357 revolver in a cross draw rig because it’s comfortable easy to access on horseback. It’s holstered under my pillow at night. If I’m travelling alone and light I often just take a thermos of soup and coffee and a sandwich and dry high calorie food that doesn’t need cooking. I find that for just overnight trips I don’t need much food, so it’s not worth the time and weight of cooking with all the gear that entails. I guess I’m on a tangent now, but your good story got me going…
    I have often thought of relocating to the redoubt if I wasn’t already attached to a beautiful ranch here, where I work part time. It’s probably just a matter of time before the crazies drive me completely out of this state. But for now I will stay and hold my ground.

  3. One tip for night vision (aren’t the stars spectacular here?): Red glasses.
    It is blue light that zaps your night vision and it can take 30 minutes for it to fully recover.
    “Laser visibility glasses” are deep red – you can’t even see some green LED traffic lights so they aren’t for driving – and will preserve your vision. You can also use red lightbulbs though I don’t know if there is a red flashlight. At home I have several bright red bulbs (careful, some are filtered-white and lead blue) so I can even read and do things that don’t require color and my night vision stays intact, as well as it is supposed to be good for sleeping since a part of your brain senses blue light to wake you up.

    You can even do yellow and green, but some green is close enough to blue to damage night vision, and yellow and green appear brighter and give you some color sense. I haven’t found a full blue-blocker glasses that let me see more colors but keep my night vision but I’m sure they exist.

  4. Loved the story. Reminded me of my early life growing up on a small farm in the Redoubt area. We didn’t raise cows but dairy goats. Many of the same experiences with night sky and animal watching. You put me back over 40 years. Keep up the good work and write more of these experiences – I am getting younger mentally just enjoying the tale.

  5. We had set routines to establish and maintain night vision when I was in the Navy. It is dark out on the ocean at night and night vision adaption and discipline is essential for safety.

    At least 30 minutes prior (preferably significantly more) to needing night vision you wear red goggles. Any flashlights used have red filters. All other lights are avoided to the maximum extent possible. Standard flashlights, lights, fires, etc. ruin your night vision rapidly and it requires significant time to regain full night vision.

    Night vision uses different sensors within the eyes than day vision. One byproduct of this is that your best vision in the dark is not necessarily directly in front of you. For instance to view a faint star or light, you can often focus slightly to one side of it and actually see it better than if focusing directly at it. This is a trick an amateur astronomer friend showed me and it is quite effective but I find it requires practice to actually use effectively. It is not natural for me.

    Another feature of night vision is that it is more sensitive to movement than to static objects. I guess all vision really is but night vision more so. So you may see something when it is moving and it may effectively disappear when it is motionless.

    Night vision is almost another sense in a way and requires practice to take advantage of it. When FULLY adapted it is kind of fun how much you can see if you do not break light discipline. As you get older and start to develop cataracts and other issues (which virtually everyone does to at least a slight degree even if they never require surgery) your night vision deteriorates so young people typically have an advantage. Maybe an older person after cataract surgery would regain some of that advantage? I don’t know.

  6. A hundred years ago one could find ladies with enough fortitude to do this, now there is one. lol. Seriously, I have done the same with our sheep and cattle at lambing/calving. Spending the night in the barn can be very revealing at how one can adjust to doing without the comfort of a warm house. The critters know that you care about them. You know when the bull is close when you are on your knees and can feel his warm breath on the back of your neck, been there! Good story for sure.

  7. Buy an eye patch from Walmart for $2. Wear it over your eye even before nightfall. Only take it off in darkness. If there is an ambient light keep the patch on. If you turn on your flashlight put the patch on first. You will be amazed at the increase in night vision in that one eye. Another hint for “incredible” night vision is to wear the patch for 3-4 days. Make sure there is no light leaking to that eye. It will turn “pitch black”
    into visibility.

  8. Mrs. Rawles, what a wonderful story! Many years ago, while on a week-long backpacking trip from Mineral King to Giant Forest, we slept under the stars our last night instead of pitching the tents. I woke up in the middle of the night, looked up, and saw three deer grazing around my head. The first thing I thought of was how sharp their hooves might be if I startled them and they trampled me. So I laid completely still and watched. They continued grazing and slowly moved away. What fun. Yes, the animals are quite stealthy. On separate winter backpacking trip to Dry Lake on the flanks of Mount San Gorgonio, my friend and I were in our tent and heard multiple loud cracks ring through the air. My first thought was that they might be shots fired. We came to the conclusion that the reports were the ice cracking on the frozen surface of the lake. It was a clear night with a full moon and the ground was completely covered in show, so the night was almost like day. I need to escape the city and move to the Redoubt. Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. Dear Jim,

      Yes, That is very cool to have the deer right around you, AND listening to ice cracking, shifting and making their subterranean sounds is extra cool. I have ice skated on newly frozen lakes, when the ice was four inches thick and still “pliable”. When tired, we would lie on the ice and listen to the subterranean sounds and feel the ice shifting from the water movement underneath the ice. So cool. Have any of you ever sent a rock across newly frozen ice? That action makes one of the coolest sounds nature can give to us. One can hardly describe it…

      I am hoping for a lot of snow, soon, and a clear full moon night to go night cross country skiing. Just waiting for the right conditions, and hoping…..

      I went to a Girl Scout camp for a summer in the northeast when I was in High school. We slept out under the stars, just on the ground about three times a week for the whole summer. I LOVED IT! It was a time before the northeast had the tick problems, an overabundance of coyotes, and regular rabies outbreaks among coons, skunks, foxes and bats. The environment has changed a lot in the last thirty years. πŸ™

      In our area, the dry rocky exposed areas have an abundance of ticks, but we don’t have them on our land, or we have very few… And there haven’t been reports of rabies in our region in a very long time. May it remain so!!!!



  9. If the cow has significant maternal instincts left this can be quite hazardous. Some cows will just let you do this. Others will try to kill you.

    In the years I did dairy work I did this slightly more than daily with about a 450 cow herd. Amongst the Holsteins I use to work with, you could carry off the calf about 90% of the time with just some bellowing. The other 10% you would have to have a partner to distract the cow while you rushed in and got the calf and then ran with it as fast as you could to get over/under/through a fence before the cow saw what was going on and attempted to trample you. With beef breeds I think the percentage would be higher for a strong maternal reaction.

    In a remote area, without adult help, I think Lily did the right thing just being patient. I would call it good risk management. She may have had a shot at getting away with it but the consequences of failure and serious injury in that situation outweighed the benefit IMO.

    1. Dear JBH,

      Yes, I would have needed about four adult persons to help me get that calf and to keep mama away. And I really didn’t want to stress mama out. As it is, Miss Eloise and I, would like to have a third person to help hold the calf down to de-horn it. Miss Violet isn’t into this kind of work. So I am not too sure that I will be de-horning her??? Anyhow, I don’t like being rough and having a “rodeo scene” with the animals. So I will see what we will be doing about this, soon. Jim doesn’t get back home until after the window of opportunity has passed…. πŸ™



      1. Dehorning was always my least favorite part of working with cattle. Branding, vaccinating, etc. never bothered be at all but burning or cutting their heads always was a little tough.

        You might consider tying her feet. You and Miss Eloise could maybe do that especially if you tied front and back separately and then tied each end to a post or something else stout? Kind of like what you end up with after duel calf roping. If you have the two ropes ready with loops that will just cinch up, should not be too hard. Then you can let the ropes do some of the work holding the overall body stretched out while you two are trying to hold the head still. And maybe Miss Violet would be willing to give a hand with tying her up, if it is the actual dehorning she dislikes. Just a thought.

        You can dehorn fairly safely with a certain type of shear later but it is a bloody, painful process chopping out the nub. (I assume you are using an iron?) As I recall, the times I have done it I would end up throwing away my shirt after doing just a few calves. Did not enjoy that operation.

        1. Dear JBH,

          De-horning and castrating are not nice things to have to do to the babies. It causes them to lose their trust in you and then it takes a good year to build it back. πŸ™ Sometimes! It makes mama not happy either.

          We, use a chemical process, the de-horning paste, which is a very alkaline base. We shave the area of the un-emerged horn, just a very small circle around the horn. Then we apply with a large popsicle stick just a little bit of the paste. A little will go a very long way. Then, very quickly, before they start to feel the burning, we apply duct tape over the horn buds and tape it around their chins. This is so that they do not rub the base near their eyes, it will burn away, eyelids and other tissues nearby, if it gets spread. We don’t want Mama to lick it and burn her tongue. We leave the tape on for 6-12 hours. Then remove it. The base eats away the nerve tissue and veins around the horn bud, effectively killing it’s growth ability. The calf feels miserable for about three hours. It staggers around, shaking it’s head, in pain. When it realizes it cannot get away from the pain, it lies down in defeat and misery. πŸ™ I feel soooo bad about it… I have done about 8 calves now. But it’s safer than de-horning by cutting and using a horn burner. The horn burner is awful, too. De-horning and castrating are an ugly business, but must be done for the safety of the humans that will want them as part of their “ranch family”.



          1. What is the name of the paste? Can you use it on goats?

            I have a few goats these days and I hate dehorning so much that my last few kids have horns because I procrastinate about using the iron. With goats, because the skull is so small, the iron can actually damage a goat’s brain if you leave it on too long.

            Not sure I actually don’t prefer to leave the horns on goats but I would like to have another option as well.

          2. JBH,

            I wouldn’t use it on the goats, for the very reason, you mentioned, of their skulls being so small. We had a problem of the paste leaking down too far once on a goat and damaged it’s eyelid. πŸ™ It was awful. I think it’s too risky for goats. Goats are very tough to de-horn in my opinion. We lost a baby, too, from the stress of the de-horning process, using the hot iron, once, when Miss Eloise was in the goat business. πŸ™

  10. I love this story! It seems to tell of so much harmony…like every creature knew their role and how to best live it. I know nothing of raising animals, but your writing style did a good job of telling what is necessary at times…you and your animals are very fortunate to have each other!

  11. Just in case you are interested the Torah does actually forbid mutilation which includes de- horning. I say this only to say that it’s interesting to think of the Torah as an ethical guide to Gods ideal will with regard to how we treat animals. There is no other communication from God on this subject and all scripture is profitable.

    1. Hmmmmmm?!!!! I will have to look into this. Is it commanded for all animals, or only the animals being used as sacrificial animals? Is it Biblical or Rabbinic?

  12. DEAR LILY ,,,,,I have run cattle for better than 35years ,your story made my blood run cold ,IF you would have had a predator attack you most likely be hurt or dead ,in the confusion of such cows would not have recognised or know you were there ,especially being in a sleeping bag and you would not have been able to protect your self ,think about a cow stepping on you ,on your throat?or belly ,or your rib cage any of which would be crushed ,with Jim not home to find you ,you would have been dead by morning,,
    I have helped clean up what was left of a neighbor that was giving shots to a calf ,it looked to me that every bone in what was left of his body was broken ,the cow was tame use to people ,
    I will chalk your experience up to beginers luck,
    We want to keep you around ,stay safe ,you were lucky

    1. Dear Oldhomesteader,

      Ayup, sadly, stuff happens.

      It’s called prayer, praying Psalm 91 over ourselves and our family members daily, multiple times when out in possible harm’s way. It’s asking Jesus to watch over us on a moment by moment basis. At any given moment, my life is in His hands. He controls whether I live or die and when that will happen. It’s called situational awareness, and being alert and ready to jump at any moment. I was only covered, not in the sleeping bag, when the animals were near me. I never had the intention of actually sleeping out there in the open, only to be with them for part of the night while being awake. I am not a person who easily falls asleep unless I am very safe in my own bed. It’s a trait of a vigilant woman/mother. I turned on the light every few seconds until clouds left. The calf is only about 40 pounds. I am not planning on tackling a 100 pounder, ever. Cows are always put in crush stall for any work being done on them. I’m sorry I made your blood run cold. I believe that Jesus has a hedge of protection around our ranch and is hiding us under His wings to serve His purpose for our lives until the day He calls us home. But we have to ask for his protection daily and trust and be ever vigilant and not test his boundaries.

      May you be blessed,


    2. Thankfully I have a wife who is confident, competent, and well-armed. She also has a great rapport with our livestock. I’d be much more worried about her safety if she were out at night alone in the Dirty Big City. There, the predators are two-legged, and wildly unpredictable.

  13. Avalanche Lily,

    Just a note about night vision. I taught a class on ALT (available light training)….it is always frustrating to my grand kids when we play hide and seek in the dark. I can locate them, most of the time, and they never see me coming.

    I can’t talk for current military training but I was under the impression that most military trained individuals,,,ground troops anyway,,,,knew about red lenses. The old boy scout flashlights came with a set of red lenses also. The comment of the eye patch is very important. If you need to have night vision always keep your primary eye covered. Every time you turned on your flashlight you just blasted you night vision. The same thing happens when you are driving at night, try to look at the right side of the road when facing on coming traffic.

    If you practice looking slightly off target at night you will get to the point you can frustrate your grand kids too.

  14. Quick note about warm feet … I used to ski quite a bit and got used to ” toe heating pads ” for in my ski boots. In fact, now that I am in my mid 70’s I will regularly use them if I am intending to stay outside for some time here in the northeast. They are slim and do the job for a good 6 hrs. Might be something you want to try ” next time “.

    If only the animals could talk – they must be conversing among themselves … ” Why did Jim throw her out ? ” Ha !

    You have started my 2020 with a great reflective of God’s handiwork !

  15. I have a headlamp that also has a green bulb for night vision. Works great when we’re looking through the telescope, using a chart to see constellations and not wrecking our night vision. Might help.

  16. Great story but the description of your clothes I knew you would be inside before too long(cold feet too heavy on top). You made me cringe every time with the flashlight. Was like a city kid who never used night vision and had to have the flashlight taken away(light discipline). Don’t know about cows but I know what a bear is like just inches from my head.

    1. VT,

      I am sorry that you were cringing, but I chose to wear these clothes on purpose, so that I would be uncomfortable, to remain alert and awake, until I decided what I was going to do. I mostly wanted to see how the baby was behaving and how the other animals were behaving concerning the baby. I was close to the house, to go get dressed better, if I decided to stay outside which I did decide, to do, later. I know very well how to dress for being outside, if I was going to be out and not near our home…. I will write more on this and the flashlight business for Saturday.



  17. We have a neighbor who has such a great rapport with his horses that one of those horses once came to his window and whinnied in such earnest that he knew something was wrong. He grabbed his rifle and followed his horse, only to find a mountain lion stalking the livestock!

    Having a great relationship with your livestock is invaluable. Also, certain breeds of cows (Dexters, Scottish Highlands) are simply far more docile and easier to manage than other breeds are. You have most likely wisely chosen breeds that are more docile and better suited to your homesteading lifestyle versus what one would find in large scale commercial cattle operations.

  18. Grits In Montana,

    I like that story of the man and his horse. Yep, I would hope my animals would do the same. πŸ™‚

    Yes we do have a gentle small breed of cows and a very small operation. We are just a small homesteading family. Our animals are for our own private use. We do not sell them or their meat. Our animals are not income producers, by our choice. The Blog, advertising, guns, and consulting, are our main work.



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