Shades of Ireland

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Storm Damage

It was quite a night on this farm. Power went out just before midnight and it didn't get repaired until just before 9:00am. The wind was more than strong-- it was fierce! Some places got hail but I never saw any here.

In hindsight, I am awfully glad that the horses did not go into their stalls last night.

These walls are just barely standing and the roof is completely gone. Luckily, it didn't go too far......

It is directly behind the barn-- or what's left--- of the barn. It fell right smack dab on top of the dividing fence. The horses could get in with the milk cows but they just haven't figured out how to cross all the debris. This afternoon, the boys and I will be on clean up duty.

Since the power was out at milking time, Adam and I tried out our new generator.

What we discovered is that it is a noisy little thing that vibrates terribly. Adam had to hold on to it to keep it from jiggling right out the door. It was a real strain for it to pull the milking machine but we did manage to get Noelle milked out before it overheated. Noelle is a novice milker and does not like change to her routine. She prefers to be milked by machine and does not stand well to be hand milked. Holly, on the other hand, doesn't give a fig how you milk her as long as she gets to eat while you are doing it.

About the time we got all the chores done, the power came back on......isn't that always the way??

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Yet Another Weather Report

I am sure my few readers get weary of me describing the weather in our part of the world but..... quite frankly, the weather is a big part of my life. It determines my daily schedule, forces me to plan ahead for trips to town, makes me think ahead for the welfare of my livestock, and in the end--- determines a big part of our paycheck.

I have been keeping an ear out to the weather reports for tonight---- since last Friday. I realized that it is going to rain--- beautiful, wonderful, blessed rain that makes the grass and wheat grow, fills the water barrels, ponds and the stock tanks. That same rain that also makes the ground in short growth pastures slick as snot and muddy enough to bog down in if I don't get myself in gear and put out the large round bales before it gets here. On the flip side, I can't put it out until the bovines have cleaned up what is already out there. We are going to have enough hay tolast until green up--- just barely. I still can't let them waste it.

My main muscle man, Seth, has been working THREE off farm jobs this week so the bulk of the chores has fallen to me. I got both cows and Zelda milked, goats fed, bottle goats and calf fed, and the growing heifers grained by 9:00 am. Then I fired up Ruby and put out the hay for the cows. While I was out in the cow pasture, I tracked down the new heifer calf born yesterday.  Just in the nick of time! I made it back to the house just before lunch while it was raining.

I did the evening chores early tonight to try to avoid the rain. The goats are snug in their barn with hay in the rack. The chickens are high and dry in their coop. The cows are all bedded down behind the tree wind breaks. Horses are standing IN FRONT of their stalls with their butts to the wind. I have no clue why they will not go inside unless there is a raging blizzard or severe hail.

Now that it is dark, the wind is howling fiercely. The weather alarm went off for the first time this year about an hour ago. Strong line of thunderstorms heading our way and we are under a tornado watch until 1:00am.

Adam has rounded up the flashlights just in case. After the big tornado in Joplin last year, he is easily unsettled by stormy weather. That thing formed over top of our part of the county and we watched it head east....... knowing there was a big one up in those clouds.

Thunder and lightening are getting closer so I need to close and shut down the computers and unplug it. Ihave lost countless mother boards to Kansas lightening despite various surge protectors. I just heard the plastic chairs leave the back deck in a big hurry.......

Monday, February 27, 2012

Definite Spring Fever

Yesterday, Salena and I worked out in the garden a bit just trying to clean things up a bit. Moved tomato cages and set up a "trial cold frame". Pulled up what was left of some of last years plants and tossed them in the compost bin. I have two wire compost bins that are complete eyesores that I need to move but they have been such complete failures that I am reluctant to open them up. Lots of broken limbs and stuff that was just too big to compost and I was being lazy about setting them up. Think that I will just set up a pallet fence in front of them and forget about them for another year--- or two. Surely, something will have rotted down by then.........

I had some onion sets and a few garlic cloves that I stuck in a small raised bed. Then I came inside and started setting up a small grow box that I saw on U-Tube. I didn't get it all put together before I skipped to the fun part. I filled up some pots with starter soil and planted tomato seeds. I put them in 4 inch pots so that I won't have to transplant them later and I ended up fitting 21 in the box.

Today, I finished getting the lights rigged up. I have had some of these seeds for several years. This will be a good test to see if it is still viable.

Salena made it back to school, Charlie and Seth are off to work, Adam is working on some project outside and Neil hasn't made it home yet. Think I'll take a nap!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Random Pictures

Friday is a mixed blessing for me. I always seem to be busy but weekends..... they seem to happen at break neck speed! This weekend is going to be no exception. Salena will be heading home this afternoon and both Charlie and Neil have this weekend off. Frankly, my house is a mess but I expect it to be a total disaster by the time Monday gets here!

Sometimes, I need to be reminded of why we live the way that we do. This week, I got a pretty sharp reminder in the form of an unpleasant encounter with a stranger. I chose to live this way because I did not want my children to grow up shallow, selfish, and complacent. I am blessed that God married me off to a man who feels the same way. Leading a rich life doean't have a thing to do with money.......

I have been just a bit unsettled and upset for the last few days. So this morning, I have been looking through my pictures and counting my blessings.

For the past six Sunday afternoons, the youngest boys have been attending the 4-H Shotgun training, Seth has been doing it for several years but this was Adam's first time. He was fretting because he didn't have a shotgun but Seth shared with him. He is pretty darn good for a little kid. The blessing in this is that one weekend, his older brother came home with a gift for Adam. Charlie and Adam cannot spend more than 2 minutes in the same room before they are squabbling--- usually over something incredibly stupid-- because they are soooo much alike....... Lord have mercy on me!  Even so, Charlie decided that Adam needed his own shotgun and bought a used one for him...... I am not sure who was more shocked or surprised-- me or Adam.

Holly's calf is growing by leaps and bounds. Adam has ended up being the primary bottle feeder. It is a good job for a little guy.

All these wagging tails just make me smile.

I do this nearly every blessed day. Occasionally, Salena or Seth will give me a break. Notice my "custom made" milker? I only milk  two at a time --- like a goat-- instead of four at a time. That is because I am just not coordinated enough to handle all that tubing flopping around. Also, Holly only has two teats that can be milked with the machine. As you all know--- Queen Holly comes first on this farm!

What pleases me about this picture is her smooth, rounded sides....... when we first put her in that stanchion, you could count every rib and her hide was a dark muddy brown with long shaggy hair. The healthier she gets, the more she just glows..... 

My Charlie has rolled in and asked me if I was about ready for breakfast..... How many young men look forward to taking their mom out? 

I think that I will keep my life--- thank you very much!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dirty Work

Yesterday was a beautiful day but today has been even better. We hauled calves to the sale barn on Tuesday and did very well. Seth bought himself a bred heifer. She looked pretty rugged yesterday but this morning she was much improved. I think she spent the entire evening with her head  stuck in the hay bale and gained about 50 pouinds over night!

Today, we are doing pasture work. Adam and I have been spreading some fescue seed in bare spots and cutting down the young hedge and cedar trees that are trying their best to invade and take over the pasture. Seth has rigged up a drag behind the old farm truck, Ruby. He had driven over most of the old horse pasture to spread out the big piles of manure. This will help spread the fertilizer and not kill out the existing grass.

We are just taking a break for lunch but I am already getting sore from turning the spreader and working the lopping shears. I spent most of the morning on my knees pinching off the little trees. Since the ground is still wet, I have managed to get very muddy. This afternoon, Seth is going to get the chain back on the chain saw and I am hoping the clearing goes a little faster with out so much effort.

I think we are begining to seriously shop for a small tractor. A bush hog will go a long way toward helping us keep things neat and growing.

Break is about over......

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dreary Day..... Lots to Do...

This little girl is one of the last remaining pups. She is pretty bright and has figured out how to get up on the deck and beg at the back door. They have started tagging along when we head over to the barn to work. It adds to my babysitting duties since the goats try to butt them and the milk cows try to kick at them....

It has been a weird day. The wind has steadily been picking up. It started out pretty cool and it seems to be getting colder. The wind is out of the south but it is really sharp and has everything looking for a wind break. It is starting to sprinkle rain and I swear it feels a bit like it might even snow.

Charlie took me into town for our "breakfast debriefing" when he got in from work this morning. Occasionally, he buys me breakfast if he doesn't have to work that night. He can go to bed a little later in the morning. That made me late getting chores started. Seth went to work this morning so Adam and I had all the chores to do.

These are Lola's kids from the previous post. I have left them in the barn because she was hesitant to accept the big buck kid. Now that I am pretty sure she is going to let him nurse, I will probably put them out after this rain storm blows over.

Now that I have several sets of kids, I am getting concerned about the roaming packs of coyotes that are traveling through this farm. On nights that the weather is good, my does will stay out of the barn and eat from the large round bale of hay. To my way of thinking, that is getting pretty risky.

After I got the milking chores done, the bottle babies fed, the weaned calves fed and everything washed, I decided to go and get a few bales of grass hay. My plan is to put hay in the rack at night and lock the girls up in the barn at night. It is a really big space with plenty of room. There is also a smaller stall that I used to keep Holly in during the blizzards last year, It makes a cozy place to put a doe with new kids in.

As soon as we got back with the hay, I discovered another doe in labor. Blaire had already had a nice buck and was working on another. This was coming a little strangely and I had to straighten him out a bit, too. 

I gave her a little time with them before I moved them to the stall. They are very nice, long bodied and very dairy. My kid count now is: 6 boarding, 5 does and 5 bucks.

I am not sure if it just the quality of our hay or the time of the year but the cows and horses are all cleaning out their mineral feeders on a regular basis. The horses have started nibbling on the the bark on the young trees so I put out a solid mineral block for them and also loose mineral in their feeder. They have already rounded off the corners of the block.....

After I milked Holly and Noelle this morning, I let them out into the cow pasture with the rest of the cows. They enjoy visiting with the other girls but not for very long....... those are just "common cows".  When I went out to fill the mineral feeder for the cows, they saw me and began heading my way, hoping that I would let them back out in the barn yard. They have their own shelter, hay bale, mineral feeder and water in there.

My camera is too slow to get a good picture of Noelle as she came trotting to me. She bucked and kicked and tried her best to stomp Elsa. Isn't she looking much better? I can't wait until the grass greens up and she really slicks off and gains weight.

Holly (on the far right) came at a much more leisurely pace. She is too well endowed to trot unless it is a matter of life or death. The rest of the herd thought that it might be a good idea to head my way, too. Just in case I might have a treat for them.

They just had to settle for mineral this time.

Now that most of the outside chores are done, I just can't put it off any longer. House work!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

More Kids-- Birthing Problems

This afternoon, I was keeping an eye on an Alpine doe named, Lola. After losing Zelda's kids, I am paying more attention. While she was showing signs of early labor, I moved the bottle kids out to their new pen outside. I re bedded the inside stall and by the time I got that done, she was really in labor. I moved her inside the barn to the stall and sat down to wait.

Labor was really dragging and I began to suspect trouble. Goats are generally pretty quick about having kids. Lola had been acting peculiar for about 3 hours before she honestly started showing strong contractions. There really isn't anything that you can do to assist until they begin to try to push the kid out. By then, it is a pretty safe bet that the cervix is dilated.

Lola began to push pretty hard and wasn't making much progress. After a bit, I decided that it was time to check things out. Sure enough, with two fingers, I could feel a solid mass of kid. That is not good. There should be at least one hoof ( preferably two) and nose in the pelvis. It didn't take much to figure out that this was a tail coming first so I had to reach in and find the hind feet and pull him out---- quickly. A breech birth is hard but not impossible as long as you can get both hind feet and do it quickly with out causing damage to the doe. Lola was delighted with her buck kid when I plopped him down at her head. Since she was still lying down, I felt her belly just in front of her udder and could definitely feel another kid--- besides, she was still enormous!

After just a few minutes, she began pushing again. A quick finger check indicated a nose and one hoof. Not ideal but with a little tug, another buck was born. This one was dramatically bigger. Lola began to work on cleaning him up, too. I bumped her belly again and could feel a third kid.

Almost immediately, Lola started pushing. After about 3 pushed with nothing to show for it, I knew we had more trouble. When I reached in, there was a head but not feet. I have known them to be born this way but usually the strain of trying to push the kid out, kills it because it is so slow. It didn't take much effort to find those front legs and slide them up into position. This makes the body more streamlined. This kid was smaller and after getting its feet up and in the canal, I grabbed the head and just eased a lovely little doe kid out.

Lola is an excellent mama and very good milker. When I went back for evening chores, all three were wobbly standing up and had full tummies. Since she had such an ordeal, I will leave her in the stall until tomorrow so that the other curious goats won't intrude on her bonding with the kids. Normally, I don't leave triplets on a doe because it very often causes them to have lopsided udders. I like having the does raise the kids but I sure do hate how wild the doe kids are. Getting first freshening dam raised milkers on the stand is guaranteed to make me blow a gasket.

It won't be long until Inga also has her kids and she is one of the does that refuses to raise her babies.  Very heavy milker but absolutely no maternal instinct. I am thinking that I will just go ahead and raise Lola's doe kid along with Inga's.

So, right now, we have one bottle calf and eight goat kids on the bottle or lambar. At least the puppies are weaned! By the way, there are only three pups left and one of those is leaving on Monday.

I realized late this afternoon that today is Friday. I guess I should be excited that the weekend has started but honestly, I can rarely tell one day from the next!! Hope your weekend is wonderful.....

Thursday, February 16, 2012

First Alpine Kids of the Year

And, the first buck kid of the year! My Gretchen had these two late yesterday afternoon. The sweet little doe is lying down but I can already tell that she is an Adventuress. She has managed to wiggle through the panel and end up in the cow lot twice before she was 2 hours old. I locked them in a stall to make sure she didn't venture too far from her mama.


The "boarding babies" are doing really well on their lambar feeder. They are drinking the cow milk and helping reduce the milk going to the house. Cheese making has slowed down but I needed the break. I think that is all about to change.

This morning, I noticed that one of my Saanen does, Zelda, was in early labor. She is an experienced mother so I didn't worry too much about her. That was a painful error in judgement. I went off to do other things and by the time I got back a round to check on her, the kids were dead. The buck was just a monster and must have died during delivery. The slow labor caused the second kid, a doe, not to make it either.

So now I have a goat to milk, too. In the past, she has been a very heavy milker. Hopefully, I will get enough to mix the milk for these kids on the lambar and get back to making a little cheese.

The main project for today is to get an outside pen cleaned and repaired enough to move these little guys outside at least during the nice days. They need more room to run around and the fresh air.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Trying Not To Be Envious

This is how my neighbor puts out hay to his cows.

I am so jealous..... This was taken this morning when he came to pick Seth up for work. To add insult to injury not only can he haul two bales at a time......

He has two pick up trucks rigged up like this. He drives one and Seth drives the other to get all of his cattle fed. They put out hay every 2-3 days depending on the weather. The colder it is, the more hay the cattle eat.

I keep telling myself that it is on the list. This year we want to buy a small tractor. Then we will begin to save and look for a truck for putting out hay......

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Snow Tonight!

100% chance of 2-3 inches of snow tonight! Adam and I just got back from a last minute check at the barn. While we were there, I discovered new goat babies. One of the does that I took to the Boer buck blessed us with twin DOES! So far, I have 4 doe kids and ZERO bucks.

Bottle bablies are doing great. We all survived the single digit temperatures of the last two nights. The only casualty is the valve on the large tank that catches rain water from the barn roof. Just a slow leak for now but when it thaws, I am thinking we are going to have to do some major plumbing on that.

Neil and the kids worked the weaned calves today while I worked in the barn kitchen. We have decided since the price of calves is at an all time high, we are going to sell the ones that we don't absolutely LOVE.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Winter Weekend

We are expecting 2-3 inches of snow for tomorrow afternoon. Salena will have to head south a little after lunch in order to miss driving in it.

Yesterday, Adam and I ended up putting out the large round bales of hay. We put out two of them and it about wore me out. The power steering pump has gone out in Ruby so I felt like I was wrestling for my life trying to back up to the bale. I had to stop and start over so many times that I could smell the hot clutch.

I put the Alpine buck in with the herd. Since it was supposed to get down to about 9 degrees, I was afraid that he would not be able to generate enough heat to keep from having frostbitten ears. All my does are bred and the yearling does are old enough and large enough to be bred if a romanitc moment should break out in the barn. Neil filled up their hay rack inside the barn so they could snack all night.

We rigged up a heat lamp for the bottle kids and let the remaining puppies into the garage.

My wonderful Seth is heading over to the barn to milk for me this morning and Neil is cooking breakfast.

Charlie cleanedup the kitchen for me last night and I believe I will be spending the day cooking ahead for the week---- so I can mess the kitchen back up!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Icey Blast on the Way

Cold, windy and overcast today--- and that is the GOOD news! LOL! Going to be bitterly cold tonight with lows down to about 9 degrees.

As soon as Seth gets in from helping the neighbor hay all of his cows ( several hundred cows over a wide territory) we are going to have to get at least 3 bales out to our gang.

My bottle babies are all doing well but I am going to have to find a heat lamp for them.

I have put Adam to filling the wood pile inside the garage. It has rained a little over the last few days but it should dry out enough in the garage to get us through this cold snap/ Weather reports are calling for a little snow by Sunday or Monday.

Salena is heading home this afternoon and we are all looking forward to seeing her.

Off to work!

Monday, February 6, 2012

More Bottles.....

Just when we are begining to recover from bottle feeding all of Lizzy's pups, I have taken on another baby project. Last summer at the county fair, we talked with one of the other 4-H families about helping them raise their extra meat goat kids. They had a large herd and just not enough time and energy to handle bottle feeding rejected or small triplet kids. Since I usually have waaaay too much milk, we worked out a deal.

Today was the day that six of them arrived.

I only had about a two hour notice that they were coming so their pen over at the barn is not any where near ready. Since it was such a nice sunny day, the boys and I quickly rigged up a temporary pen for them. If you look closely, you can see Elsa in the right corner checking them out....... I was just a little wary of her interest in them.....

I kept an eye on her and she was very happy to lay down nearby. She doesn't seem aggressive or as if they appear to be a snack to her but....... She is very much a canine and I won't tempt her too much......

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cheddar in the Making!

As I posted last weekend, I spent alot of time making cheese. It was a learning process for me about managing my time. I tried to make two different kinds of cheese at the same time. It wasn't easy but I did manage to keep it all straight and get it done. The big lesson that I learned is that it is so time consuming, that I must make larger batches. It just took up too much of my day to end up with only one wheel of cheddar and one wheel of a pressed cheese. The cheddar has to be aged but the other is meant to be eaten fresh--- and we did.

The cheddar stayed in the press for 24 hours and then had to air dry on a rack. It took just about 3 days for it to dry out enough for me to be ready to start aging it.

Please note that my cheddar is white. Most cheeses are white unless you add a special dye. I will just pass on that step.

To start the aging process, I will cool it in my kitchen is a small wine cooler. I have had this thing for years but today is really the first time I have had it turned on for any length of time. Cheddar need to stay in the neighborhood of 50 degrees.

Right about now, I am really appreciating building those two new cabinets because I am really using them. Don't look to closely at my "modification"

Before I place it lovingly in to this modified, small "cheese cave", I need to wax the wheel. Over the years, I discovered that waxing cheese is pretty close to kitchen acrobatics. If I tried just brushing the melted wax on, I made a really terrible mess.

Quite by accident, I discovered that my cheese wheels were just the right size to fit in a very small crock pot. Even better, the crock pot with it's lid made an excellent place to store my cheese wax. This particular little jewel has had cheese wax in it for about 6 years. When it gets low, I just toss in another chunk.

I dip the wheel and slowly turn it to give a good coating of wax. This wax is the classic red. I do have some that is plain or not colored but I like the red. Not only is it pretty but it helps me keep from missing spots on the cheese. Basically, I can see where I have been.

As you can see, the wax layer is very thin. It is also only deep enough in the pot to cover about 1/3 of the wheel.

After a complete round, the center is still uncovered. That's OK with me because I need some way to hold on to it with out getting hot wax all over me. I have heard that there are women who pay money for that.......

This picture is not very good but the gist is that I take a Teflon brush and spread wax over the middle hole. It doesn't take long for the wax to cool. It will still be warm and a little soft but you can handle it gently.

I think that I have read somewhere that you should ALWAYS use a natural bristle brush to coat the cheese. Whatever........ I have tried that and those brushes shed their bristles. It is just not very appealing to find a hair-like bristle stuck on your cheese. This Teflon basting/pastry brush works wonderfully. I store it in a Ziploc bag after the wax has cooled. As soon as I dip it back in the hot wax, it is good to go.

I repeat this process two or three times until the wax is bright red and I am sure that I have gotten the whole wheel covered and air tight.

I am sure that you could probably do this with a bigger crock pot. Maybe dip it in one side at a time. I am not particularly coordinated or neat so it is best if I make the target area as small as possible......

Now to pop it in the cooler and wait for three months ( at least--- longer if you want it sharp) to see how it turns out. I will have to turn it over on a pretty regular basis.

I am going to try to get some cheddar made several times until the weather gets too hot to stay in the kitchen. It's a thought anyway... I'll let you know how it works out.......

After I get several wheels going, I will transfer the oldest ones to a converted refridgerator for the long haul.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Technology Challenged.....

I have been chatting with a lady via text message about our puppies that are for sale. She saw the ad and asked me to send her a picture of a specific pup......... have mercy! It has taken almost two days but I think that I finally got it done.

Anyway, while I was fooling around with that, I discovered pictures that I had taken last summer on my phone. I even figured outhow to get them on line. I got a wild hair and decided to see if I could get one of them on to the blog ---- and I did!

Last July, we had some strange strong winds that I am thinking was really a baby tornado. It wiped out the powerline and moved in a straight line across our pasture to knock over two very large pecan and two Osage orange trees. We have since cut them up into firewood. For the next few days, it was a large goat buffet!

                                               This is what it looks like now....


                                                    Thanks to this hard working guy.