Archive for January, 2012

A Treatise on Baby Calves and their Tendencies

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Today we received new baby calves.  They are about 3 days old.  One of them we got a few days ago was born too early and has problems with coordination (they all have problems with coordination, but this one has excessive problems). The good thing about new baby calves it they are very cute and cuddly. But like kittens, they grow up to become mangy bulls.

One of my jobs is to feed the calves baby-milk.  We give the milk to them in a bucket, and most of them drink from their bucket with no problem.  But some of the babies won’t drink nothing (I suppose they don’t know how yet).  So it’s part of my job to learn them. 

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True, I can feed the stubborn ones with a bottle (and do if worse comes to worse), but the problem with bottle-feeding calves is that it spoils them.  Then, from ever onwards, the cuddly critter expects a handfed bottle instead of drinking from their designated bucket (as good little cows should).  So first, we do everything in our power to make the little suckers drink from their pails.

For a stubborn one, I usually start with warm entreaties: swishing the milk around to make him curious.  As he comes up closer to me I’ll dip my fingers in the milk and let him suck my fingers.  As he gets the taste of the milk and wants more, I’ll start leading him toward the bucket, then put my hand in and – if all goes well, he begins lapping up breakfast (and continues to do so after I remove my hand).

Sometimes it doesn’t work so well.  Sometimes they don’t even suck my fingers, rather just loll their tongue from side to side and jerk their head as if they’re wholly insane (and they probably are).  This is bad news and means there will be a sore testing of my patience as hasn’t been seen since the days of Job. 

The best thing to do for this type of stubborn calf is to forcibly dunk its’ head into its’ milk pail so it can see what it’s missing (did I use all the its correctly?)

Today there was a little stubborn calf who was so lethargic he didn’t even want to open his mouth.  I thought it was hopeless, I cajoled him forever with middling results, finally resorting to a bottle, and even then he resisted mightily, baring his teeth at me as if I were the butcher himself, yet once getting a taste of the liquid sugar water began to drink like a parched camel from hades, downing several liters in record time.

Usually the calves are so excited to drink their milk they practically go insane loco.   I’ve seen them get so wound up they butt their heads against the gate and break it open and run out.  Then I get to run after them, tackle them, and drag them back to captivity, which is always great fun.

I saw one the other day so eagerly drinking he wasn’t paying attention to what his back end was doing, and that portion of his extremities ended up getting stuck in the poles on the side of his cage (how he managed this I’ll never know, and most likely, neither will he).  The calf ended up spread out long-ways with his head stuck in the milk bucket hanger and his back legs stuck outside the cage.  It was so funny I couldn’t stop laughing.  Finally I climbed in and helped him get un-entangled (which he was very thankful for and thanked me profusely, yet I still gave him a stern lecture on the risks of drinking while driving his back end).

When they get down to the last few drops of milk, they often lift their heads into the air (with the bucket on their snout) and walk around like that, hoping the final slurry will drain down their gullet.  This always ends up with them tossing their bucket into the mud (for me to clean up after later).

Speaking of cleaning up, I’ll say I’m mightily surprised at how routinely the calves poop in their food bucket (seems like that’s the wrong end of their body to be putting in the food bucket).  I would think this act is hardly necessary: Their food may be bland, but that spice can hardly help, I wouldn’t think.  As their hovering “mother,” I try telling them the food has enough salt in it already, yet they don’t listen, sneaking more poop in when I’m not watching.

I read in my cow book that cows have a keen sense of smell.  The book said they are exceedingly picky over their food, especially what it smells like.  But after seeing them indiscriminately poop in their food dish, I think that book must have been written by an enterprising Hindu.

Another thing they do, (cows, not Hindus) which can be infuriating is stepping into their water bucket.  Why…. oh Why?  I’ll be standing there filling up their bucket with a water hose of sweet-nectar-crystal-clear-spring-water coming straight from the bubbling fountains of the deep when they take a fancy to my muddy pants and step forward for a closer look (a closer lick is more like it) and in the process place a cloved hoof in their agua bucket – instantly turning it coal black.

My cow book says cows have a great memory.  I’ve observed their memory to be off by about 1/2 a second.  Behold, each morning when I give them their milk ration, they always put their head down into their “bucket hanger” right before I get the bucket lowered into their cage.  This results in them getting bopped on the head with their milk bucket (this I do with glee, admittedly), yet they never learn. 

So that’s all for now.  At least they’re cute, if nothing else.

Does God Intervene in Daily Life?

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

During the dead-locked Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787, Benjamin Franklin had this to say:

"The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth:
‘that God governs in the affairs of men.’  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"

Whilst hiking up Masada, I got to chatting with some fellow sojourners: a local Israeli girl and her Dad.  It came up I was a Christian, and the girl was immediately intrigued by this, asking me questions.  (the girls’ Dad, who seemed to be an atheist, was annoyed at his daughter for her questions)

One question she asked me was regarding prayer, “When I need help – say I’m looking for a parking spot in my car – I pray to God, but do you pray to Jesus?”

I tried explaining to her I believe in only one God, the Creator God, same as her.  Yet I also believe God incarnated himself into a human: the man Jesus. 

What struck me most about that question though was her mentioning praying for a parking spot.  While that may be an appropriate prayer, it comes across (at face value) as just turning to God like a genie when we need a favor.

But the question arises, DOES God intervene and intercede in every day events? Perhaps even in the example of a parking spot?

I’ve been hitch-hiking around Israel with my Polish friend, and he will refer to “luck” or “chance” as factors in us getting a ride.  I told him I don’t believe in luck. 

“So what do you believe in, Destiny?” 

“No,” I tell him, “Providence.” 

Which, admittedly, I define as a mixture of chance and Godly intervention.  I don’t believe God intervenes every time (though he could), but rather when He wishes.  The rest of the time he lets thing take their natural course.

Does this really happen?  Does God really intervene in the lives of men?  I think so.  Let me share a quick story.

It was Friday after work three weekends ago and I wanted to go to Tel-Aviv to visit a church in Jaffa (that met the next morning on Saturday).

I was planning to leave the Kibbutz by bus after lunch, but while eating lunch someone informed me the last bus to Tel-Aviv was right THEN! 

There WAS a later bus out of Nir-Oz, but it could only take me to Be’er Sheva (wrong way), not Tel Aviv, because bus lines were shutting down for Shabbat on longer distance trips.

Later… back in my room in the volunteer house I had an inner debate over what to do.  Should I try hitch-hiking to Tel-Aviv by myself?  I didn’t want to hitch-hike alone (though others here do it and it seems to work fine).

So I prayed and asked God what I should do.  I remember asking Him, and then suddenly the issue seemed quite clear: “I should go” because it was important I meet other Israeli believers, and God would watch out for me. 

Having made that executive decision, I was getting ready to leave when a fellow volunteer (my British compatriot) walked up and said, “Hey! I hear you’re planning to go to Tel-Aviv and missed the bus – I was going to too, but also missed the bus.  Do you want to hitch-hike together?” 

Aha!  This was a relief – I wouldn’t have to hitch-hike alone.

But the story doesn’t end there…. so the two of us caught the last bus out of Nir Oz and got off a few miles down the road at a nearby hitchhiking junction. 

Walking up to the junction, Danny put his hand up and (I kid you not) the FIRST car pulled over.  I haven’t hitch-hiked a whole lot, but that was the first time I’ve gotten a ride so quickly.  (for comparison, during this past weekend I caught a total of ten rides, each one I had to wait wait from about 10 to 45 minutes)

But back to the story (it’s not over yet).  We asked the Good Samaritan where she was going and guess what she said?  Yep, Tel-Aviv.  How about that? 

(after an hour ride, she actually dropped us off just South of Tel-Aviv as she was going to a suburb, but we were able to catch a taxi in for the last bit without trouble)

What’s also interesting is that this lady told us she usually never picks up hitch-hikers, but since she was in the boonies and right by a Kibbutz, she decided to pick us up figuring we were probably from the Kibbutz and safe.

So that’s the story, and of course it could easily be explained as coincidence, chance, luck, what have you, and maybe it was (I have no way of proving otherwise). 

But personally, I choose to believe some Providence was at work. 

Especially in light of how my time with the folks at the Jaffa assembly was so productive.  It was there I found out about the Christian Retreat happening the next weekend.  And it was at the Christian Retreat I met believers from a nearby church to Nir-Oz (where I was invited to come and even offered free translation services) and also invited to attend a local Bible study in Be’er Sheva (which I’ve done).

Tel-Aviv Beach

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

I was in Tel-Aviv December 30th.  I walked along the Mediterranean beach down South to Jaffa.  The Tel-Aviv beach is quite nice, so far my favorite “hang-out” spot in Israel.

Here are a few pictures I took along the walk:

Tel-Aviv Beach Evening

(that sailboat out at Sea looked like fun)

 

Tel-Aviv Beach Sunset

(the waves didn’t look big enough for surfing, but then again, I’m no surfer)

 

Tel-Aviv Skyline at Night

(from Jaffa looking back at the Tel-Aviv skyline)

 

In the Old City of Jaffa at Night

(fishing gear on a pier in Jaffa)

 

The following morning (Saturday, New Years Eve) I again walked to Jaffa to attend a church there. 

Here’s what I looked like leaving the hostel (note I’m carrying all my luggage for the three day trip in that little backpack).

Nick on New Years Eve

Walking to church I took the following video (pretty boring) of the Tel-Aviv Mediterranean beach scene:

Give Me Liberty… or… “We’ll Kill Ourselves” ??!

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Masada is an ancient mountain fortress built by Herod the Great in the time before Christ.  It’s located up on a high, isolated plateau in the Judean desert.  Kind of like Israel’s version of Mancha Picchu (in Peru).

For a quick history: During the Jewish revolt against the Romans (in AD 70’s), Masada was the last outpost to fall after being besieged.  The twist to the story is this: as the fortress was about to be breached, the inhabitants (over nine hundred) committed mass suicide rather than lose their freedom to become slaves of Rome.

American patriot Patrick Henry famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death,” but I guess the slogan for these Jews was more, “Give me liberty or we’ll kill ourselves.”  I find the story rather sad. 

Anyhow, in the end… the Jews won regardless, because they outlasted the Romans!  Now Jews hold Masada once again.  And they vow it will never fall again.

I hiked up to the fortress this past weekend.  Here is proof the Jews hold it:

Israeli Flag Flying at Masada

The path I took up was called the Snake Path, it’s on the East side (the difficulty of the climb was about equal to hiking up Elk Mountain in Oklahoma for those who have done that). 

However, the East side was too hard for the Romans to attack from, and they came up the Western side instead, building a sloping siege ramp (apparently with slave labor). 

Here you can see the ramp.  You can even walk it if you want, but I went down the other side.

Seige Ramp Built by the Romans at Masada

Interestingly enough, their ramp didn’t reach to the VERY top, but instead, at the top they built a siege tower to reach up the wall.  Inside the top of the siege tower was a battering ram they used to break down the wall.  You can still see the gap in the wall where it was breached.  The rebels inside had reinforced the wall with wood and earth, but the Romans burnt that out with flaming torches.  Amazing to stand right there and imagine what it must have been like.  I had a similar feeling standing on the Little Big Top at Gettysburg.

At the bottom of the plateau, the Romans had built eight or so camps encircling the fortress (holding guard so no one could sneak down and get out).  Remains from these encampments are still visible and QUITE visible from the top.  It was eerie walking along the wall of Masada and imagining myself as one of the besieged, looking down below to companies of Roman soldiers guarding all chances of escape and slowly, methodically attacking my position.  Sort of like in Lord of the Rings when the Riders of Rohan retreat to Minas Tirith, only in this story the defenders lose.

I took the following video (from on top) of the encampments below.  I’m like 1300 feet above the desert floor.

Since Masada is in such a remote and arid location (and indeed, the location lost to human knowledge until the 1800s), much of it has been well preserved.

When I see ancient ruins it’s easy to think the place looked kind of like a dumpy rock place back then too, but that’s not true.  At Masada there were a few places where original plaster (from before Christ) covering the rocks remained.  This gave me a small glimpse of how amazing the place must have looked back in the day.

For example, notice in this next picture how some of the rocks are crumbling, some are still stacked straight, and at the bottom even the original plaster remains covering the wall and columns:

Roman Ruins (Palace) at Masada

This previous picture was taken at the North end of the fortress and was part of Herod’s palace.  The view from his palace of the desert and Dead sea is incredible.  In the next picture you can see part of that view and to the right, the rounded dais were the previous photo was snapped:

View Looking North from on Top of Masada (Dead Sea to the East on the Right)

Another cool thing at Masada are the ancient cisterns.  They were hewn from the rock (and indeed, doubled in purpose as on-site rock quarries).  I was able to go down in one.  There was graffiti on the walls, but I didn’t see any from ancient times, just recent (like 2004).

Water Aquifer at the Top of Masada

So that’s Masada.  It was amazing. 

Not Enough Time (energy?) to Blog Correctly

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My.

Sorry for the dearth of content recently.  It’s not because things aren’t happening, they are.  So many things, yet not enough time to write them. 

I have a mental list going of things I want to write about (like part of a cows tail that got disconnected from the other part of its’ tail), but either due to laziness or what have you, my blogging is getting “back-burner-ized.”  Oh well.

This upcoming weekend (tomorrow through Sunday) I’m planning to go tent camping with my friend Tomasz around the town of En Gedi (by the Dead Sea).  It should be fun, particularly if the weather cooperates.  Right now the weather-men (women?) are predicting cold temps with rain possible – yet this wouldn’t be the first campout I’ve been on with rain.

The conference last weekend (by Emmaus) was great. 

I did get to tour around the ancient ruins of the Emmaus area, but can’t post pictures because the sign at the ruins said not to without permission.  I think the sign also said something about food and beverages, but I did mange to “break bread” (ok, a cracker) at the site and chased it down with a spot of wine (ok, water) in commemoration of the Lord breaking bread in Emmaus with his two disciples after resurrecting.  I might have also crawled into a 1st century Jewish tomb (which may or may not have been kosher). 

The tomb was perhaps the coolest thing I’ve seen in Israel so far.  I felt like Indiana Jones (except there were no bodies anymore, just pools of water the size of humans).