Shades of Ireland

Friday, February 25, 2011

Picture change

I had to change that winter farm scene picture. Real life is depressing enough! This one reminds me that warmer days are coming......

Hen House Quest

I have kept chickens for most of my life. Starting with a 4-H project in the 5th grade. I took a break from poultry keeping while in was in college. Dorm life and apartment living are not really suited for poultry yards......

After Neil and I were married and moved to Stillwater, Ok for him to go to graduate school, we rented a small farm. As soon as we could, we got chickens and we have had them ever since. All these years, I have been in search of the "perfect" hen house. I haven't found it yet.

I found this pen on craigslist in Tulsa. I just happened to be going down there and bought it while I was there. Loaded it in the truck and part of it hung off of the back. I flagged it and proceeded home. By the time I got out of town, I was a nervous wreck because it seemed like HUNDREDS of idiots tried to impale their tiny sports cars on the run for this chicken tractor. It was the worst money I have ever spent.

This is not the run that came with it. We built this one as an attempt to salvage something of this mistake and make it work. We have made several modification attempts on this monstrosity.

None of them have worked and it is still too heavy to move, poorly designed and even the chickens don't like it and it has so many places for them to escape that it usually sits empty. I have a friend who refuses to believe that it is really this bad. The next time she visits, it is going home with her----- minus the run.

This is an "Ark" designed portable hen house that I built from plans from Mother Earth News magazine. It was prettier when I built it 8 years ago.....I have certainly gotten my money's worth out of it but I wouldn't do it again. The run on the front of it was not part of the design. It wasn't supposed to have a run.... I just didn't think that the small space under the house part was enough space. I really am a free range kinda gal but chickens are really hard on the garden and landscaping. Plus ours seem to think that should roost on the front porch and come in the garage on cold days......This run is what was on the red monster from Tulsa..... It has long handles (that you can't see for the weeds) for moving it. Those are what was hanging out of the truck.

This henhouse was obviously designed by someone who never raised a chicken. It was a better theory than actual working model. I do use it for bantams and it fits on a raised bed if I decide to do some chicken enhanced composting.

The most memorable portable chicken coop that I ever built, I do not have a picture of. It didn't last a year. I bought one of those English books with lovely plans for small enclosures. I am a big fan of John Seymore and his English style of smallholding self sufficiency. I had visions of the perfect moveable coop with my hens happily scratching about......Egg gathering and clean up being hardly a chore... It didn't take long for that air castle to disappear.  All the measurements were metric but that didn't slow me down. The problem was that it, too, was a "theory henhouse" designed by someone who never ACTUALLY built the dang thing. I built it in the front yard and of course several people came to visit while I was trying to get it done. It took 4 days to build. We named it the "Purgatory Pen" because I cussed so much building it that the kids were sure that I was going to hell.  It never failed, when I blew my top and had a "moment", someone would drive up and get to see me in all my glory pitching a fit..... After it was built, it was so cumbersome and hard to use, I dismantled it after a year. It came apart much easier than it went together. I enjoyed demolishing it much more than construction.

This is another little one that I built to fit in a raised bed. I still don't think that there is enough room but it works pretty well for a pair or trio of bantams. The wheels are a total failure and need to be bigger. Otherwise, I have been pretty pleased with it. I built 2 of them.

Have I ever told you what wonderful freinds I have???? These next two henhouses were gifts from a friend who was moving.

This little jewel is portable-- barely. It is HEAVY but it can be moved with the 4-Wheeler. I usually have a run attached to the front because....... I hate to cage my girls. I think it is just totally unchicken-like for them to not touch the ground. It is suitable for 3-4 hens.

This is a one of those things that I just hate to give up on...... it is only moveable with the truck. We have moved it with the 4-wheeler but it was a strain. The run attached to the house doesn't have a wire floor but...... it is just so SMALL of an area. I ,of course made and attached this run. The nesting and roosting area is very poorly arranged and I plan on fixing that this summer. It is made for less than 10 hens. I have 17 and a rooster. If you will notice in this picture, they are all begging me to turn them loose...... It is only the fact that they love to scratch in my strawberry patch that is keeping them confined......

Neil and I have picked out a spot convienently located between the house and the barn to make a Chicken Complex. That way, on my way to and from the barn, I can let them out or shut them up... depending on the time of day. I will still use the smaller hen houses for Adam's bantams and the larger one for raising replacement pullets. The neat part about all of this is that after all these years of making portable pens, I don't HAVE to do that now. This is MY farm and I plan on staying. I can build it any way I please, anywhere I please. Holy cow!! The options are making me dizzy just thinking about it..... Now, I have to figure out what kind of henhouse we are going to build..... soon.

I've been looking on the internet and just can't seem to find it. Guess I will have to get out the graph paper and plan my own...... Good job for these rainy cool days with a house full of sick kids.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is a Girl to do.......

....on a cold, rainy day when she has a bad case of Spring Fever???

Break out the seed box and start planting! I couldn't resist buying this starter kit at my last visit to Walmart. I planted broccoli, cabbage, dill and parsley....

Then because I just couldn't help myself.......

I dug out the pot maker and tore up newspaper to make some more containers. There are only so many broccoli and cabbage plants that I want to harvest at one time and I usually stagger these planting to spread out the harvest sooooooo...... I simply had no choice! I HAD to plant this whole "flat" full of tomatos and peppers. Just couldn't help myself. There is no such thing as too many tomato plants. Honestly-- have you ever heard of such a thing????

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hay Chores with a Little Help

Today, Seth is pretty darn sick. Two weeks ago, at his job at the stockyards, he had a slight altercation with a big calf and a gate. Even after missing work last week, he was still sore but well enough to go in to work-- he thought. Charlie has apparently brought us home some kind of flu bug from Kansas City. He was down for most of the weekend and it looks like it is Seth's turn now.

Even so, life on a farm still goes on---with or with out help. Adam is my baby and I know that I have spoiled him...... at his age (of almost 10) the other kids had lots more responsibilities and chores. With Seth sick and Charlie and Salena working full time off farm, Adam had to step up this morning and lend me a hand.

He has milked cows with Salena in the past but I gave him a refresher course in muilking Holly this morning. Then he got the moving dolly and put out hay for the penned critters while I fed lambs and grained the heavily bred does.

After the house chores (chickens and Ellie May) and breakfast, we zipped into town to get Seth some medicine. Then back to the house for the final morning chore---- hay for the cows.

This is by far the biggest and most time consuming chore that we have. Luckily, we only have to put out these big bales about twice a week. Today was the day! I probably should have done it yesterday but there was still some that they could finish cleaning up and there are still places in the pasture with "standing hay". Long grass that is still edible but my cows are a bit spoiled and prefer to just wait it out, bellowing at the gate for me to bring them the good stuff......

First we have to hitch up the hay dolly. It has a leaky tire that we have to check and usually air up.

OK--- I had a picture here of my son airing up the tire but it has been removed because fo some reason this blog entry gets a gazzilion hits on this picture..... Not sure what is going on but I get a creepy feeling about it soooooo it is gone!

Adam bought Neil a new snazzy digital pressure guage for Christmas. He was happy to handle this for me just so he could get to use it. I will admit to being a bit irritated to hear, " Daddy says......" several times during this process...... I figure if the dang thing has air in it, we are good to go. We aren't going more than 3/4 of a mile. Adam insisted that chaos would occur if we didn't have precisely 50 lbs of pressure in each tire.....

It only took me two tries to get it backed up and the forks slid right under the bale with out 4-wheel drive. So much easier with out 2 feet of snow! Adam just does not have enough rocks in his pockets yet to hoist them up. I constantly watch that cable in the pulley while I crank it up. If it ever snaps.......

This is the best part about having a helper!!! He can open the gates. Especially since Seth's repair job on the truck doors only worked on the passenger side. I still have to roll down the window and reach out to open the driver door.

Drop the bale (slowly uncrank the pully is a better description) and pull out from under it. Then cut the hay strings so the cows won't eat them or get tangle up in them and saw off a leg trying to get out.

Some jobs are lessons in perserverance. This hay ring is heavier than the others and it takes quite a heft to get it up on it's side. I kept telling him I would come and help him when I got through pulling off all the strings. Call it machismo or hard headedness, he just kept at it until he got it up.

By this time, the cows had figured out that the buffet was being refilled and were heading our way at trot.

Roll the dolly forks back up and head back out for the second one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Odds and Ends

Not alot of anything exciting going on these days. Just lots of anticipation for spring. Neil and I are planning the garden area and he has said that he will take a few days off to help get things set up..... WOW!! I can't wait. Neil works nearly all the time and certainly all of the daylight hours. We don't usually see him unless the sun is going down.

My poor preemie goat baby died this morning. About 2 days ago she hit her peak and began to slowly get weaker. That is a pretty good indication that the colostrum I gave her wasn't enough or wasn't "good" enough. Since she was born early, her mother's colostrum must have been weak,too. I supplemented it with powdered colostrum but it just wasn't meant to be.

We weaned another set of lambs and their owner came and picked them up. I am now down to only 30 lambs and it seems so easy now. He would like for me to take more lambs but bedding is an issue. We can't seem to find any straw to use and hay is just not absorbent enough. It just ends up being a big mess. If he can come up with bedding, I will probably take another 30-40. I just realized that if I do take more--- that will be over 100 hand raised lambs!!

Another doe is due to kid today. When I checked her this morning, I could still feel her rump tendons-- barely-- so I am thinking that she will probably kid tomorrow. She isn't showing much and I am guessing that it will be a single. This is her first kidding and I have been letting her in the barn to learn to get up on the milking stand to eat. I checked my calendar last night and discovered that I have 3 more that are due early next week. I have been so busy with lambs and life, I let this slip up on me.

My barn has been an action packed place with all the lambs and milking Holly. Now I have to make room for a goat maternity ward, goat milking area as well as a place for some bottle calves. We are expecting 6-8 Angus/Holstien cross calves from a friend to start arriving sometime in March.

Time for the second round of chores: putting out hay.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sorting thru stuff

During our big move last spring, we didn't have time to sort through things and organize. I had started packing in the house about the time when we made the final decsion that we were definitely moving and started looking at properties. Most of the really important stuff was handled pretty well.
We had lived there for almost 11 years. It was a wonderful place to live and I had settled in to stay. I didn't take this change well because not only did I love the farm, I loved the nearby little town and had made some very close friends. The bottom line was that with the job change for Neil, the new manager had to live there. He was moving up and it was time for us to own our farm. We had always said that we would get our own place someday. Someday had arrived whether we were ready or not.

We owned LOTS of STUFF. Since I refused to part with very much of it---we still do! I had been preparing for "someday when we have our place" the entire time that we had been in Kansas as well as all of the farm and personal things we brought with us from Georgia. When it all came together and we finally closed on this place, it happened so suddenly after such a looonnnngggg waiting period that it caught us by surprise. Moving over here became a total mad rush. Finally, we just began stacking things in the garage and the barn. On top of our tremendous loads of treasure, the former owner left us lots of his "treasures",too.

It has been a slow go at getting it all sorted and I am not anywhere near done. Yesterday, I took a big bite out of it though. At the old farm, things from the barn, shop, milkroom and parlor were just thrown willy-nilly into boxes, baskets, tubs and bags and hauled over here and dumped out. I have come to the conclusion that in actuality, I am a wealthy woman.  If I ever get it all  organized so that I can find it when I need it, I will need very little! I can not imagine anything else we could possibly need or want to raise livestock -- other than some more major fencing supplies. The only othe major investment we really need is a tractor with a mower and front end loader. I have found all kinds of things that I had forgotten that I owned---- sometimes two of them because apparently I couldn't find it when I needed it and went out and bought another one......

I plan to work on the barn more today but I must work at a much more relaxed pace. After my cleaning frenzy yesterday, I am so sore that I can hardly move....... Even so, I am much encouraged that when this is all done, we are equiped to make this farm work. It is going to take alot more elbow grease and sore muscles but in the end, it is all going to work out.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Glorious Friday!

This weather is sooooo wonderful! We have the sliding glass door open and some of the windows. I got upearly and jogged a bit ( not quite a mile) and started on chores.

I start the chores here. It takes 4 1/2 of these buckets of milk to get all the lambs satisfied. Then I go back 2 hours later and make sure that there is milk in their feeders. That usually takes 3 buckets. I am guessing that is 25 gallons of milk gone before lunch. In all. we are topping over 50 gallons of milk a day.

Seth and I did some pasture work this morning. He used the chainsaw to work on clearing out some scrub trees and cedars that are encrouching on the pasture. I took the old hose reel and used it to wind up about a mile of electric fence that we are not using anymore.

We use Ruby, the old red Ford, for this kind of farm work. As I said before, the doors will not open from the inside. Sometimes, we have to pretend we are NASCAR drivers and go out through the window. Seth finally had enough of all that and made up his mind to take the door panels off and see what was in there. I figured that they couldn't get any more broken so I gave him my blessing. A couple of hours later with some baling wire and electrical tape, the doors open from the inside. Seth gave us all a stern lecture about being gentle with the doors.... no snatching the handles!

I am still bottle feeding the premature goat kid.

With a little help getting up, she was able to stand for a while and even take a few steps. She is still weak and wobbly but I have high hopes that she is going to be alright in the end. Her mother, on the other hand, is still my least favorite goat on the planet and will soon be relocating to someone elses' farm...... I was hoping that she would improve with age but she is still just a nut. Life is too short to put up with crazy goats.

As I went up to check the mailbox, I caught all of these guys napping.

This is a new paddock for them. I deliberately left all stock off of it so that it would still have "standing hay". It has been empty since September and it is not nearly as muddy as the other paddocks. This bunch is thoroughly enjoying it. I stored our supply of round bales in here near the gate. Seth and I had to rig up a small corral around the 6 remaining bales to keep the horses from tearing them all up. They have one in a bale feeder but it is so much more fun to tear up the open ones and make big comfy beds.......

Apparently my daughter is having freinds out for another bonfire tomorrow night. That means I need to spend some time on housework....... yuck! As I have often said...... I would rather skin a live cat than do housework!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Anticipation is over....

Finally! I turned my back for just a little while..... and she has triplet BUCKS!!! Since they are bucks with an unknown sire and destined for market, I am going to lighten my work load and let her raise them.

Since it is pretty much a full moon tonight and the coyotes are really singing, I am going to leave them in the garden shed close to the house for another night or two. Then they will all go back to her pen by the woods.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Unexpected kids

As you all konw, I have been watching Ellie May for kids...... and I still am. As you can tell from her expression, she is just as tired of me checking on her as I am. She has dropped some... I think. I've looked at her so much it is hard to tell anymore.

Meanwhile, over at the barn, I wasn't expecting any does to kid until next week. Surprize! I had one doeling that I never did catch in heat...... She is an Oberhasli/Saanen cross doe that is probably my least favorite doe in the herd. She was dam raised and wild as a deer. I planned on selling her but...I got busy and she is difficult to catch, etc, etc.

I noticed her laying down inthe back of the barn when we were putting hayin their rack but.... I had lambs to feed and we weren't expecting any kids...... Later that afternoon as I was heading to the house, I heard a kid cry. My boys tried to convince me that it was just the lambs--- but I KNEW that it was a goat kid.
Sure enough, lying right where she had been that morning were two kids. One was horribly deformed and obviously premature. The other, a tiny little doe, was still alive but too premie to stand up. I took her to the house, cleaned her up and got some colostrum down her.
We went back and caught the doe and penned her inside the barn with the kid. I put a heat lamp on the kid and hoped for the best.

I checked my calendar and found where my Saanen buck had escaped exactly 145 days ago. Guess we know what he was doing out..... I have learned the hard way to write nearly everything down.

This morning, she is still with us but cannot stand up yet. I held her up under her mom and she tried valiantly to nurse but it just was too much. I milked out the doe and bottle fed her again. The doe is having problems cleaning off so I will be treating and watching her closely.

Meanwhile, I am still watching Ellie.....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Eagles Among Us....

I had always heard stories about eagles taking lambs and even small calves. Frankly, I didn't believe it. After this afternoon, I am going to have to re-think this idea.
Charlie, Neil and I were working over at the barn today. The boys were working on moving the lambs to outside pens and I was working in the kitchen/milkroom/soap shop. The place is just a general mess and we were trying to clean and organize.

I was inspecting the clean up job that Charlie was doing in the lamb pens. All the garage doors were wide open letting in the sun and fresh air. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement of a low flying object.
A fully mature Bald Eagle was cruising the barnyard! He glided past us and perched in one of the trees on the edge of the pond. I was ecstatic and realized that I didn't have my camera. My cell phone camera stinks so I called over to the house and asked Seth to bring me the digital. Of course, by the time he found it and got over to the barn, the eagle was long gone but not before he cruised over the lamb pens. He landed in one of the large trees nearby and was really checking out how we had things set up...... Holy Cow--- we could have a situation here. I am hoping the pens are too close for him to feel comfortable swooping down into. Looks like I better think about some kind of netting over the tops.

The good news is that Rosie was not happy that he was hanging around and she let him know in no uncertain terms that he was not welcome. He flew off across the cow pasture and I learned a valuable lesson about leaving the camera at home. This is the second time that I have missed getting a picture of him/her. 

Since I had the camera, I decided to take a few shots of the barnyard.

Future garden compost. Charlie and Neil managed to get it all cleaned out. I left the youngest pen of lambs in the barn in what I call the "transition pen". It has an outside run so they can get used to the weather before going out for good. The other four pens are empty and drying out. Kind of quiet in there now.

These guys were less than happy with their new accomodations. It is much healthier for them to be outside than in the barn. Cleaner for all us, too.

And finally.........

Need I say more?? She is moving so slowly that we are just letting her free range around the house. A watched pot never boils.......

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Waiting for Ellie May

Many years ago, I raised some truely great milk goats. I showed heavily and was on milk test. We did very well in the ring and I have had 3 does make into the Top 10 milker list for the US. I've been milking a goat for way over 20 years.
As time went by, my passion for them has waned and life has just moved on to other things. I still have some very nice milkers but I haven't shown in a couple of years. DHI milk test has gone by the wayside, too.

I am an Alpine breeder at heart but I have raised some very nice Saanens. About 5 years ago, I sold some nice Saanen does and one of them was named Ellie May. Recently, I had the opportunity to buy her back and I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, poor Ellie May has lead an interesting life since she left our herd. Somewhere along the line, she has caught two pretty serious goat diseases, CAE and CL. They are widely known by these initials because their names are long and complicated to spell but these diseases are very common in goat herds in the US. I worked for many years to eradicate CAE from my herd and fortunately never had much problem with CL. Since my herd is totally clean, Ellie May cannot come back into the herd.

Our farm is divided pretty much by ponds and streams. The goat herd is on the barn side of the farm and Ellie May has to live alone on the house side of the farm.  She is very pregnant and if I remove her kids at birth and raise them on pasturized milk, they will be healthy, disease free kids.

I have no idea when she was bred or who the sire of these kids are. I do know that she is probably one of the biggest goats that I have ever seen.... and she is ready to kid any time.

Normally, she lives in a hut on the edge of the woods near the garden. Since it was going to drop down below zero last night and she is begining to develope an udder, Iwas afraid that she would kid and they would freeze. So the boys moved her into my garden shed right out the back door.

It made getting up in the night to check on her much easier. We ran a heat lamp in there to at least make an attempt to warm things up a bit.

This is what she looked like first thing this morning.......

Still pregnant!

If she will just hold off until tomorrow, it will get above freezing and improve daily after that.

Bless her! She is just as big on the other side, too. Someone suggested that she might have triplets but I have learned not to count my kids too early. The guy that I bought her from told me that she had an 11 lbs single buck kid last year!!!

Since she is in permanent quaranteen, I will have to milk her in the garage. Looks like I need to find all the parts to my pasturizer pretty soon......

Update for Friday: Still waiting......

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Some Moments.... are too precious to lose.

I only have one daughter--- even though she is twenty, I still call her my Girl-Baby. She is a college girl and working as much as she can so she can afford to go off to a university. She is not home much and doesn't participate in the outside chores nearly as much as she used to. Today, the snow blocked her in and she came out to give me hand with the second round of chores. Seth got smacked around by a big calf at the stockyards yesterday and is moving kind of slow.

Our main jobs were getting the horses fed and watered. Since she has two good hands, I was happy just to drive Ruby and supervise.

Then we moved on to the tending the cattle. They still had plenty of hay but water is another necessity.

Guess what they are all looking at????  Me~!

I don't usually use post hole diggers to chop ice but someone had swiped the ax out of the back of Ruby. At this point, I was just looking for a thin spot in the creek.

Doesn't look like much does it?? I kept making the hole bigger and Salena kept shoveling the ice hunks out until we got a pretty decent hole.

Eventually, it was big enough and Salena called her favorite milk cow, Wilma, over for a drink.

Pretty soon they all figured it out and came over,too. This looks pretty easy but you need to remember that we had to drive an old 4-wheel truck like mad women to get in the pasture. Then we had to slog through 2 foot drifts and whack through the ice. It has warmed up to 10 degrees and the dang wind is bone chilling.

We were breathing hard and feeling like we had accomplished quite a feat....... as I stood uphill taking this shot of the cattle, my Girl-Baby let out a big sigh and said, " I couldn't imagine living any other way. Could you, Mom?"

I swung around to take this picture----- so I could keep this moment forever. Sometimes I wonder if I have done the right thing, made the right decisons, chosen the right direction...... I would not trade anything for moments like these.......
Thank you, Lord.

More Snow and Chores

Just thought that I would share a few pictures from my morning.

Dang horses still are just using the shed for a wind break  It was a brisk wind, indeed, this morning. 18mph bringing the wind chill down to -15.

These little sweeties stowed away in the heated garage and I don't blame them. I put that little cup of water up there for them. These are Adam's 4-H Bantams and they are very tame. When I opened the back door, they were on this shelf right at eye level. They were so happy to see me and just clucked and "sang" to me.

These guys were grateful for the heat lamp and breakfast. The milk is cool so they huddle up like this after they eat. When I re-bed  the pens later in the day,they will jump and frolick and harass me terribly.

This is the new kerosene heater in the barn kitchen/milk room/ soap shop. It is truely amazing how big of a difference it makes in warming things up. Even so...... I am still a bit afraid of blowing us all to kingdom come...

This is the big Aussie pup, Hugh. He is hoping for a spill.......

As I posted on my facebook page----- Holly would like to know how far it is to California......

We have several projects planned for the day. Still need to break ice for the cows and probably for the horses, too. We got a bit of a surprize this morning. A doe that I have in quaranteen looks like she may be having her kids soon. We will be fixing a place in the garden shed as a maternity ward.
Salena just informed me that more Bantams hens have squeezed into the garage door..... maybe we should just turn the garage into an Ark.......

Never a dull moment! Warmer weather is coming ---- I can just feel it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How it all worked out....

I thought that I might need to add a bit to that previous slightly depressing blog entry.

Seth made it home just fine and very early. Because of the weather, there were only a few over 300 head of cattle at the sale. By 3:00pm, he was headed home with a WONDERFUL check for our calves. They sold well.
Charlie fed the lambs their afternoon snack so I could take a nap. Salena brought home chocolate chip cookies.

It is still snowing and isn't expected to stop until midnight. Neil got the new kerosene heater going and it is warming up the milk/soap room. We rigged up heat lamps for the youngest lambs in the barn and bedded down all the outside lambs. Horses are hayed, Holly is milked and the calf is fed.

Neil and I will go back over later this evening to check on the new heater and feed the lambs one last time.

I think that I am going to make it. Prissy is saving me a spot by the fire.

Winter anxiety

I was very happy when Neil called from work yesterday to tell me that he would be coming home early to help me haul calves in to the salebarn. We had three big calves that are in the 500-600lbs range that were ready for market LAST week. The blizzard last Tuesday cancelled the sale so Seth and I have been slogging thruough the snow to feed, hay and water them for an extra week. The forecast was for more snow this morning so we decided to haul the calves in last night to avoid the worst of it. Seth works at the sale barn and I just watched him leave driving his sister's car...... it is snowing. He is a new driver. I am an overprotective mother....... my hair will be grey before this day is over!

The cow herd came up to the corral and begged for "cubes". This is a cow feed that comes in huge pellets and is a higher protein. It is designed to feed out in the pasture and be poured from a big metal bunk on the back of a truck. Unfortunately, I am a shoestring farmer and I have to carry mine out in 5 gallon buckets and pour them by hand. What is worse is that my cows are pretty spoiled and really don't want to eat those cubes from the ground. I have a feed bunk and several barrels cut into troughs that I usually use. Today the pans were frozen to the ground and still full of snow. The girls just had to tough it out and eat their cubes with a little snow and I even poured some out on the ground----- deal with it girls! This is Kansas in the winter and I am one cold, tired rancher-ette!

I moved ( or rather had Seth move) two sets of the larger lambs outside to pens with huts. Getting those 20 lambs out of the barn sure improved the quality of life for all of us. This morning, I noticed that the wind had shifted and blowing bitterly from the NE---right into the huts. As soon as I have thawed out a bit, I am going to have to go back out and rig up some kind of a wind block for the hut fronts.

Charlie and I decided that we better get hay put out for the cows before much more snow fell.

This is our beloved Ruby. She doesn't look like much anymore and is begining to rust out. You cannot open the doors from the inside and I will honestly admit to losing my temper many, many times because I have to roll down the window and reach outside for the handle to open the door. The good news is that she cranks right up, has heat, 4-wheel drive and is paid for..... We don't need pretty to put out hay.

 I didn't take any pictures of us loading up the hay because...... it would not be flattering to me or Charlie. Backing this hay dolly up on a warm, dry day is sometimes a challenge. Backing it up through snowbanks is heartbreaking, slow and almost guaranteed to make me cuss. Today, it only took us 3 tries before we got it loaded and cranked up to move. Of course, we got a bit stuck on the way  into the pasture just to make sure we didn't get complacent. This is not the way most ranchers put out hay. They use a tractor or a truck equipted with a "Dew-Eze" that uses hydrolics to pick up a bale of hay and unload it. Again, this is paid for and will have to do until better times.

In weather like this, the cows don't care how we get it there --- just so we get it there!

It is cold and getting colder. My hand is sore and my mind and body are tired. I am counting hay bales-- large and small-- and wondering if I am going to make it to green up. Putting out hay is wearing the clutch out on Ruby. Did I make a mistake sending the calves in to sell today? Would they have brought better when the weather was better? Seth is a sensible kid--- surely he can keep the car out of the ditch to get home---right??
 I need to break ice to get water to the horses and put out better hay for them. Why do they insist on standing out in the falling snow when they have a barn??????

Yesterday, I nearly messed up and let us run out of propane for heating the house. I spent a near sleepless night worrying that we wouldn't have enough to make it until morning. The delivery man came out and filled it up before noon. My hero!

I need chocolate and a nap. My pioneer pluck is fading.... Enduring is getting OLD.

I just have to keep reminding myself that warmer weather is coming..... Saturday is forecast for 45..... Halleluia!!!! I can't wait for MUD.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Plodding along

I can't believe that it is already Saturday...... my days just fly by!
I haven't posted for a few days because besides being busy, I managed to give myself a big gash on my right hand. I debated on going in to ER and since Neil absolutely refused to stitch me up himself, I finally just gave in and went. It took 10 stitches and a tetnus shot to get me patchd back up. The cut is right in the fleshy part of my hand between my thumb and forefinger........ you know---- right where you need to hold a teat while you milking a cow!

Here is a picture. I am hoping this doesn't gross anybody out...... It is not really that bad but if you are squeemish--- stop now! It is not swollen--- I just have fat hands to go with the rest of me....

The boys have all jumped in to help me keep things going. As long as I put a bandage and rubber glove on it, I am able to do most things. Heavy stuff hurts but Seth is my muscle man and does most of it for me.

Putting out hay in this deep snow has been quite an adventure. Seth got his driver's liscence in the mail yesterday. I  have been calling him Seth Andretti because of his snow driving abilities in the pasture. We have slipped, slid and slung snow everywhere and even been stuck a few times! In the pasture, it is all fun but the highways have been dangerous. We have stayed pretty close to home. Neil and the two oldest have gone in to work and school and have made it safely so far.

Our only real excitement has been Rosie.

This is the deep pond right out the back door..... with her standing on the ice in the middle of it. We are hoping that she has sense enough to not try this as it warms up.

Today, Adam and Seth had a big 4-H Club Day event in town. Salena took them since I had lamb chores to finish. I decided to take a break and come warm up a bit before trying to wash up all the "milk pots". It is very nice to sit here typing in a silent house enjoying a cup of coffee. I can hear the trains on the tracks about a mile away. They seem to be coming one right after another and must be trying to make up for not traveling during the blizzard.

It is a beautiful day and just what I needed to encourage me to keep plodding along. There is only so much adversity of weather that I can take! I don't mind the cold and the snow as long as I have some inkling that it WILL END someday. Warming up into the balmy 30's today and tomorrow but plunging back down toward zero for Monday and Tuesday. Gives me just enough time to thaw out a few things, air out and clean the lamb barns, haul upmore firewood and get ready for another round!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Holly's Story

Since there has been a sudden influx of readers who aren't my facebook friends, I thought I might explain how I came to have "Queen Holly".

To most of my friends and neighbors, I am known as "The Goat Lady". I have not always been flattered by that nickname. I have owned and milked dairy goats for most of the last ....... 25 years. When people ask me how many I have, I never tell them because my husband is usually nearby. I am certainly not going to write it here because on occasion he reads this. I will say that my herd is dramatically smaller since our move to this farm. I have freshened as many as 40 one year. I never really cared anything about milking a cow. Cows kick much harder than goats.

A few years ago my teenage daughter decided that she wanted a Milking Shorthorn for a 4-H project. One of her 4-H buddies just happened to have some for sale. We ended up with two heifers, Red and Wilma. When these two beauties freshened, Salena was more than faithful to milk them twice a day--- every day. We rigged up the goat milking machine for them since they gave soooooo much milk. After a while, we grafted some nurse calves on them to help reduce the flow.
I got used the routine but never felt comfortable around them..... they sometimes kicked, knocked you around, and were just so big and........ cow-ish!

This is Seth babysitting Wilma at the county fair last July. She is a real beauty and due to freshen in just a few weeks. Like most animals on our farm, she is also pretty spoiled..... Red will freshen much later in the summer.

I then happened upon a pair of Jerseys milk cows for sale. They were a mother-daughter duo. The mother, Nana, was 10 years old and quite a headstrong cow. Not really tame enough to pet and hard to catch but pretty easily milked--- by Salena. Her daughter, Pauline, was 8 and a much smaller petite beauty. A friend had a houseful of kids and they really needed a small gentle milk cow--- so I reluctantly sold Pauline. In March, two years ago, there was a terrible snowstorm-- sort of like the one today--- and Nana slipped and broke her hip.
Just before Christmas, Neil and I went to the stockyards on cow sale day to eat at their resturant for lunch. That is our idea of a date. My daughter worked in the office and automatically handed us a buyer number. We laughed because we weren't planning on buying anything. Ha, ha, ha......

Bottle calves and few cows with calves had ben run through the ring, when suddenly they pushed in this Jersey milk cow and two little dinky calves. She looked terrible---- a slobbering, walking skeleton. The little calves were pitiful and looked even worse than she did. I grabbed Neil's arm and began nudging him pretty hard.  Neil leaned forward and put his head down..... He knew where this was going. Under his breath, he told me to sit still and he would bid on her but not the calves...... We still are not sure what happened but somehow, they suddenly put up the "no sale" and pushed her out. I stood right up and headed down the stairs and every old man in the sale barn started grinning at me-- they all knew that I was going to dicker for that cow.
All that I am going to say is that it was  unpleasant dealing with the man who had brought her to the sale. When it was over, I went home to get my stock trailer. I did not buy the calves because quite honestly, they were too far gone.
When Seth and I came back to get her, I had no idea what kind of cow we were getting. The guy on horse back pushed her down the alleyway to the load out chute. He had many unkind things to say about her former owner but I assured him that better days were ahead for this poor girl. Seth walked up to her and put a halter on her. He lead her up to the trailer but she did not want to get on so I got behind her and pushed---me with my ingrained fear of being kicked by a cow. She loaded right up and we went home.

The entire time, she was slobbering profusely and constantly working her tongue around in her mouth. I thought that her water source had been frozen and that she had frostbitten her tongue trying to get water. She also had a large swelling under her jaws...... I decided toplay it safe and gave her a shot of LA200 (tetracycline). She wanted to eat and drink but simply couldn't....... I began to have a strong feeling that something was seriously wrong and hit the internet. She looked exactly like the pictures of cows with wooden tongue. Luckily, it said that if you treated it early with LA200, it was curable. Severe cases needed and IV drug from the vet. Untreated-- they starve to death. It was 2 days before Christmas and I just felt that it was best to haul her in to the vet and get the IV. She was in terrible shape and it would just be my luck that she would go down on Christmas morning -- HO, ho, ho..... in to the vet we go.

 This vet also works the salebarn and had inspected this cow. He knew that she had it..... this was some kind of an inside deal and there was supposed to be a buyer at the sale specifically for her. The buyer asked the vet for his opinion and when he realized that she was sick-- he backed out.
Since I had given her the shot, she was already improving but after the IV, she really got well fast. I bought a bag of rabbit pellets so she could eat those smaller pellets and hauled her buckets of warm water. This picture was taken a few days later when she began to look like she might make it after all.

All during this ordeal, she had to be milked. I broke all the rules for buying a milk cow. I am already leary of milking bovines and here I brought home one that we had no idea if she had ever been milked! We didn't have any kind of a set up--- heck--- I didn't even have a clean milk bucket. We plopped down a pan of feed and Seth braced himself as he hung onto the lead rope. Being the old, fat, stiff-jointed woman that I am, I eased down and hastily rubbed her udder. She made no move so I got a little braver. It quickly became obvious that as long as there was soft feed in front of her, milking was not a problem.  Sometime, somewhere in her past, she had been somebody's gentle milk cow.

Over the next few days, she totally stole my heart. She was miserably sick and was so incredibly sweet. I was hooked and named her Holly. I was still very timid about getting down there so close to those hind legs to milk. She is pretty small...... Finally I just gave up and got down on my knees and began milking her. Her udder was a chapped, cut up mess and very sore. If I got a sore spot,she would pick up her foot but not kick..... As the udder healed up, I switched to the machine. One quarter is dead, and one is too badly damaged to milk with the machine. So we devised a system. I use the goat milker on the two good teats and hand milk the mangled one. She gives 3-4 gallons a day.

Now days, Holly is standing at gate demanding to be let in RIGHT NOW! I still don't restrain her and often while I am down there on my knees in a totally vulnerable position, it occurs to me that she could kick me into next week..... I find myself leaning my forehead against her flank... I make sure that the milkers are warm before I attach them, I also have the udder balm warming while we are milking. Seth disgustedly hauls a bucket of warm water for her to drink after her meal.

She makes me very happy.

This picture was taken a couple of weeks after she arrived. Whole different attitude! The sale barn markings and tags had not worn off yet. She is much more beautiful now......and about 100 pound heavier. She also plans to go to the county fair with Red and Wilma this year.