Shades of Ireland

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Little Carried Away....

I just can't seem to help myself! I have been planting seeds..... lots of seeds. The weather is absolutely marvelous but I have been burned before by the hint of early spring in Kansas. I have put a few cool hardy things like cabbage and broccoli out in the garden but I have restrained myself from doing serious gardening until after about April 10th. The actual predicted last frost date is April 15th but the rebel in me just has to push the edge of the gardening envelope........ Mean while, I am starting all this stuff indoors.

Yesterday, I wasn't exactly indoors. It is so nice out that I moved to the front porch to do all the dirty work.
The tomatoes that I started a few weeks ago are seasoned travelers now. They have been in and out of my front door too many times to count. I have been working my way through the old seed box and I have been very disappointed in how poorly my gourmet lettuce seeds have germinated. So while I have lots of flats, in reality, I have only a few plants.

I love using the "pot maker" that I bought many, many years ago. It enables me to make small seeding pots out of strips of news paper. I have pretty much ran out of newspaper. I found several stacks of the plastic pots that I saved from the plants that I bought last year. They were very brittle but I have used all that I can salvage. I've recycled yogurt cups and started on disposable cups.....

The bad part about all of this is that I have gotten way ahead of myself. I really do not have the space for all this potted dirt. I have a few flats on the dining room table. If they sprout, I've got to move them somewhere with more light. I have a couple of shelves with grow lights rigged up over at the barn kitchen but they are already full.

The entry just inside the front door is a obstacle course because I have no less than seven flats of seeds plus the big plastic tub outfitted with the grow lights.

Today, we are having to work on an outside fencing project and tomorrow afternoon we are heading down to Stillwater for an awards banquet for Salena. After all of that is out of the way, it is pretty obvious that I have to get my gardening green thumb under control.....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Look What is Heading Our Way.....

Cover Photo

We are located north east of Coffeyville, Ks about 45 miles. Could be an interesting evening!

Up date at 11:30 pm :  We had a great lightening show off to the north and DID NOT get a single drop! You just cannot predict the weather in Kansas..... the best local weatherman says that we will get some rain by around 2:00am but I will be very surprised....

Monday, March 26, 2012

Doing a Little Fate Tempting Myself

I haven't gone as far as those folks I saw last Sunday . My tomatoes are still safely in their pots but I did set out the broccoli and some of the cabbage that I started from seed. I have been moving the little plants in and out of the house to take advantage of the sunshine and start to harden them off, too. Last night, while I was lying in bed, I realized that I had left the batch outside. I debated with myself-- briefly--- about going out to get them but opted to stay in bed. They were still there and apparently no worse for the cool evening air.   

The ticks, snakes and lizards are out in full force today as the temperature topped 80 degrees. I spread fertilizer in the orchard and blueberry patch. Then I spread a little kelp in the open area of the garden.

Neil and I have started to seriously plan how we are going to divide our pastures for rotational grazing. We are starting small and beginning with the lots and paddocks around the house and barn that will be used for the dairy animals and young stock over flow. I even found a pad of graph paper to make it look like we mean serious business!

Seth told me this afternoon that his winter hay feeding/fence fixing job will probably be finished tomorrow. Just in time because another farmer has called to ask him to help with their spring cow/calf working later this week. After that, his MAMA has plenty for him to do! LOL! We have big plans for getting his school finished up and lots of fence of our own to fix and build.

Going to be an action packed spring and summer on this farm!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I Just Couldn't Stand It.....

....... If our week got any better than this last one! Spring break got off to a pretty rocky start-- and I mean that literally.
Poor Salena met a big truck on her way home from college that slung up a rock and cracked her windshield. By the time she got home, it was a major crack all the way across the driver's side of the windshield and cost us a whopping $250 to replace. To add insult to injury, after it was repaired, Seth backed the Ford truck around into her car and broke out the driver's turn signal. Sis got a bit worked up when the lady at the parts store quoted her a price of $179 for the replacement. We found it at the junkyard for $25.

It also rained for most of the week and we ended up with just over 4 inches. Everything was a sloggy, muddy mess but we are not complaining. The upper pond is almost full. Every slight hole or indentation in the county is now a puddle. Our road is an absolute nightmare to drive down and I hope the road crew manages to get around to us early this next week.

Seth worked in the rain and drizzle to get electric fence put up on the far side of the farm to make a nice sized summer pasture for the horses. They put them out in it late yesterday afternoon and they think they are in horse heaven. There is a spring fed pond up there that will spare us the chore of hauling water to them. Now we just have to get a flea and tick treatment on them before they are completely carried away. The ticks and mosquitoes are out in full force. I have already pulled a few off of Holly's udder at milking time and given myself the creepy crawlies just thinking about them.

During all this rain, my dear friend, Rachel, and her kids came for a visit that lasted for a couple of days. I know she had to get back to her own home and projects but I wished that she could have stayed longer. It was so much fun to see and hear the kids roaming all over the farm and canoeing in the pond.....They pretty well terrorized the snakes and turtles, climbed the tree house, milked Holly and the girls and even managed to play cards and watch a few movies...... I will admit that we did more laundry in 2 days than I normally do in a week just to keep enough towels to dry them off from their many trips in and out of the house.
Between laundry loads, Rachel and I cooked, made cheese, did chores, planted strawberries, bred a cow, plotted, planned and solved the world's problems!
 It is good to laugh and joke and share with kindred spirits.

The rain left yesterday along with our guests. It was beautiful day but today has been even warmer and better. Neil has had the weekend off so he has gotten all kinds of things done. Salena's car is road worthy again. The tiller is ready to plow the garden when it dries out. He managed to patch up the lawn mower tires enough that we are at least optimistic about getting it all mowed at least one time before investing in new tires.

The new tractor, Hammer, is in the garage and sometimes I just have to walk by and pat him on his faded red hood. The new brush hogs and bale spear lined up in the edge of the trees just like on a real farm.

Now, I am nursing a bit of sunburn and feeling crawly things-- real or imagined--- because I have been out in the garden putting down mulch in the pathways of the garden. It is my yearly attempt to keep the "garden cancer" known as Bermuda grass beaten back to an acceptable level.

On top of all this wonderful stuff, Neil and I celebrated 27 years of marriage on March 23rd.
That is a long time for a guy to live with and love a crazy goat lady.......

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Welcome "Hammer"

At long last....... we are truly farmers! We own a tractor. Salena christened this lovely beast, "Hammer"" because the first thing we had to do was smack the starter with a hammer to get it to crank up...... I know that doesn't bode well for the future but we are optimists by nature.

Hammer came with not one but TWO brush hogs and a small bale spear. We are on the look out for a few more small pieces of equipment to go with it but for the immediate future--- we are set!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Backyard Pictures

The rain has begun to slow down and the grand total so far is 3.1 inches. Not too bad for about 30ish hours. While there was a lull in the weather, I thought I would step out on the deck and take a few pictures of our overflowing pond. This is the one we call the Big Pond but.....

It would be even bigger if it did not have this gaping hole in the dam.

After the water escapes through the dam, it rushes off down the hill and makes a really pretty waterfall as it leaves our farm and heads down stream to our neighbors big pond and eventually to the Verdigris River.

Still, not a bad view from my back porch....... I am a blessed woman!

Still Raining!

It is officially mud season now! Of course, I can't seem to find my boots but I am going to make a greater effort to find them before I go out this morning. I'm late but I really don't want to go out but I know that I have to. Holly and the girls are waiting. Rain falling just seems to have that effect on me! I did zip out on to the deck earlier in my nightgown to check the rain gauge. So far, 2.5 inches and it is still coming down.

The big news is that we are going this weekend to look at a tractor!!! Yesterday, before I knew about this, I had a lightbulb moment over at the barn. I am going to rearrange things so that we have more space in the shop section of the barn. That is where I milk the girls and it also has all kinds of junk stored there from the big move--- two years ago.... I was looking around while waiting for Zelda to finish milking and thought about how much more space we could have if I cleaned out the stall and moved the milking unit over there.... Then we could have all kinds of room to do something just inside the garage door. Turns out, that would be a great place to park a small tractor.

I cannot wait to see just how much water is in the upper pond. The middle pond is probably running over the spillway and I will have to cross it to get to the barn. The big pond out back is definitely full. I can hear the dull roar of water going over the rock from inside the house. Fixing that break in the pond dam is still on the list of things-to-do for this year but it keeps getting pushed a little further down the list.

I am glad that I took a picture of  the daffodils because they are  looking rather bedraggled after all this rain. Our last official frost date for this area is April 15th. I am sure hoping that doesn't happen because nearly all of the trees have bloomed or are budding out. We drove through a neighborhood in a small town this past Sunday and people were already setting out their tomato plants. I couldn't help but think that they were tempting fate......

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wet Spell Settling In

It is raining today and it is supposed to rain for the next couple of days. Bummer for folks on spring break but you all KNOW that I am not complaining AT ALL!

In fact, the first thing that I did this morning was add 90 degree elbows to the drain pipes on the upper pond. This raises the opening another 4-6 inches and will allow more water to collect in this little pond. The pond is no where near the point of draining through these pipes but the forecast is for lots of rain...... I mean over 3 inches and some are even saying over 6 inches. On top of that, this pond catches quite a bit of drainage from the small pasture and field. We are under a flash flood watch until tomorrow afternoon. This little pond went completely dry last year in our record heat. Raising the pond level by 4 inches may not sound like much but it is a tremendous amount of water. This pond is at the top of the chain of three ponds here at the barn and house. It overflows into the middle pond that is just full of catfish. The dam between the middle pond and "big pond" is the pathway to the barn from the house pictured on the header for this blog. The big pond is directly behind the house and not only waters the cow pasture but provides endless entertainment for my clan.

Since it is a rainy day, I am trying to convince myself to work in the house. Another rancher-ette friend of mine calls this "skirt work" and she is not any fonder of it than I am. I'd much rather plant seedlings, curl up with a good book or cook in the kitchen and mess up every pot in the house but...... I will restain myself and load the dishwasher, start some laundry, and nag the boys to get it folded and put away.

I will leave you with a recent picture of our marvelously, elegant, Elsa.

She is not yet a year old and already pretty much covers up two bales of hay.... I am not a big fan of German Shepherds but this one has won me over. Other than her penchant for carrying the cats around, she is remarkably good with the livestock. I cannot believe how calm, obedient, and sound minded this dog is. She makes every step that we do on the farm and has learned to get up into the back of the truck when we are using it on farm. We do not allow any of our dogs to leave the farm unless it is a trip to the vet. She has a ferocious bark and keeps the coyotes and deer on the move through our place. I do not know if she would protect us from an intruder or not, but she would certainly make one think twice about stopping at our place...... She is still a pup even though she doesn't look like it. When I walk out across the pasture to check cows and suspicious characters driving by on the road slow down to look at me, I don't feel nearly as vulnerable with Elsa beside me. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Milking Time.....

Neil goes over to the barn most evenings to help me finish up the milking chores and last feedings. Tonight, I asked him to take my picture. I take alot of pictures but I am rarely in any of them. I figure someday, my kids just might want a picture of me---with my beloved Holly, of course!

The other cow, Noelle is right behind me in the other stanchion. I used to have just a plain little stool that I sat on. When we first started putting Noelle in to eat and milk, she had a tendancy to swing her back end over towards Holly and often ended up in my personal space. She was pretty light footed in those early days and while she never kicked very hard, she did reach out and "tap" Seth rather vigorously one morning. I found this child's chair and began using it. After she tapped the back of it a few times, she settled down and learned to stay in her space.
If you notice in this picture, Holly's stanchion is not locked. Even when her feed pan is empty, Holly will stay and lick it very clean. I usually have to make her leave because she is spoiled and knows that if she stays long enough, I just might give her another bite. I NEVER forget to lock Nicholle's head gate! LOL!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Zippity Do Dah.....

For the last few days we have had glorious weather. Bright, sunny and almost too hot! The daffodils that I planted last fall are blooming and just make things look so cheerful. The plum and one of the peach trees has already blossomed. The birds are singing their hearts out. I mean singing as if they would absolutely burst if they didn't get it out!
The wheat is almost sinfully green and the pastures seem to get greener by the hour. Spring has come on with a vengence.......

This morning, at first light, as I was crossing between the ponds to get to the barn, the cardinals were already flinging themselves into song. I could hear turkeys gobbling off in the woods and just for a minute I was reminded of the old movie, "Song of the South".

Now I have that song stuck in my head!!

Zippity- A!

Obviously, I have got to get a new picture for the blog header. We certainly have lost all the blues around here!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Garden is Officially Underway

The garden is still an untidy mess but so is most of the rest of my life. Even so, I manage to get a few things done and it is the same in the garden.

So far, we have planted onions, garlic (better late than never), potatoes, carrots, beets and a few bought plants of cabbage and broccoli. If I can scrounge around and find something to use as a trellis, I am going to plant a package of English peas that I found in the bottom of my seed box.

On the inside, I have started several flats of seeds. Broccoli ( never have enough), cabbage, herbs, several varieties of lettuce and, of course, tomatoes. I was shocked to see that I did not have any pepper seeds and I will have to fix that on my next trip to town.

I saw a how-to video on Survival Podcast about starting seeds in a tub like this and attaching grow lights to the lid. I thought that it looked really neat and thought to try it. So did every one else in south east Kansas because all the tubs and light fixtures that were the right size were all gone. Later, I found out that this is a popular way to grow marijuana....... I am so naive! I bought larger sized items and it just didn't work out well. It has just been too awkward to handle. Even so, since the weather has been warm and sunny, I have been setting these tomatoes outside. The high sides gives them some protection from the wind but I did leave them out too long and a few of them have sun scald.

I re-purposed some shelving over at the barn and managed to get a place to set up some grow lights. I even had Salena stop and pick up the special grow light bulbs for me on her way homes last Friday. Unfortunately, we never got them out of her car and she took them back to college with her! She is coming home again this Friday for Spring Break. Meanwhile, the little cabbage and broccoli plants are looking very good. I was pleasantly surprised that the Red Acre cabbages even sprouted. The package they were in was dated 2008!

I found more old seed packets of lavender so I started a small flat of them. The more I dig in that seed box, the more stuff that I find--- most of it several years old. I am not sure why I have such a miserly tendency to save them but I can't seem to help myself. I have decided to get some more potting soil and go ahead and test a bunch of them. I could do a smaller germination test by sprouting the seeds in wet paper towels but....... the honest truth is that I would probably forget that I started them or misplace the paper towels. I am enjoying playing in the dirt so I might as well just set up more lights and test the whole box!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

To Do List

This weekend, it became the DONE list. The family all jumped in and got a bunch of stuff done.

--- Spread seeds on pasture lots before the rain
--- went and got my small stock carrier from the neighbor who borrowed it
--- bought and changed out the starter on the blue Ford
--- Filled in the holes from repairing the water lines
--- Put up the corral panels to make an alley way for the the milk cows.
--- Burned one pile of barn debris
--- Cut a few trees off of the fence and repaired it.
--- Put out the LAST 2 round bales of hay.
--- Disbudded 11 doe kids
--- Fitted the tool box for the truck.
--- Dewormed the horses.

Salena and Seth even got a few small trees cut out of the pasture.

Tomorrow, I will move the horses out of their winter lot and let them roam around thebarn for a week or so until they clean up the very last round bale of hay. After that, I am really not sure just what we are going to do with them..... We are going to have to run some hot wire to keep them seperated from the cows--- somewhere out there.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March came in like a lamb.....

But it has certainly not stayed that way! The March winds are fiercer this year than I remember them being in the past. Up until last night, every time we saw smoke from someone burning off grass or brush piles, we worried about it getting away from them due to the wind. Since it rained last night and is expected to all day today, nobody will be burning anything for a while.

I am dreading going out to do barn chores and I am already late getting started. I don't like working in the cold rain but I also have problems at the barn. I got a really big surprise bill in the mail yesterday. Our water bill for last month is over double what it should be! I nearly had a stroke and my budget is blown and the month is not nearly half over. We found the leak over at the barn and of course, it requires much digging. For now, the water to the barn is shut off so it makes cleaning up after milking a nightmare.I either have to haul it all to the house or haul water over there.

To make matters worse, the vacuum pump for the milking the goats has gone out. I milked them by hand last night and luckily there are only 2 or 3 that need to be milked. This morning, I am going to have to rearrange the barn to get the goats close enough to the cow stanchions to use their vacuum pump. That means moving hay--- not my favorite job! My hands are still very sore from Olga's ordeal--- not to mention other parts of me,too!

The good news is that there is plenty of good news! This rain will cause the wheat and the pasture grass to GROW. Good thing because we are down to just three more bales of hay left.

All my goats have kidded and I only had one serious birthing problem and one tragedy. There are so many goat kids over at the barn that I am really not sure just how many I do have.....

Olga is up and improving daily and because of my sheer insistence is allowing her buck kid to nurse. First one in three years.

Bobbie Sue effortlessly had a lovely heifer calf for Seth.

The boys and I got potatoes and carrots planted in the garden. My tomatoes have all sprouted under the grow lights. I started a bunch of cabbage and broccoli in pots yesterday.

The new pasture seed mix I ordered arrived yesterday. I hope to get it spread next week or earlier.

The rain is not getting any lighter and I cannot put off going out in it for much longer..... Seth has gone off to work, Charlie has come in from work and is sleeping, and Adam is pretending that he hasn't heard me calling for him..... Prissy is snug in MY bed under the covers.

One more cup of coffee while I procrastinate....... and listen to that rain!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hard Morning

My Saanen doe, Olga, decided to kid this morning. I knew she was close but thought we had another day or two. I was actually watching another doe. Honestly, she doesn't have a name. I have never registered her and we just call her by her tattoo--- Z9. I will probably get around to registering her in the near future. I just have really lost all interest in ADGA activities and I am evenlate paying my membership dues this year.

Anyway, Z9 had a very easy birth with two doelings. The unusual part is that one of these does kids is SABLE. The first sable marked kid I have ever gotten from my long years with Saanens.

I can't believe THIS is a Saanen kid! Well..... Sable, now I guess.

Olga did not go so well. In fact, it was such a hard birth that I am afraid that I am going to lose her and the very large buck kid. I am going back over to the barn after I recover a bit and weigh him. He was really twisted up like a pretzel in there and fishing him out was absolutely horrible.....

She still loves me and wanted me to comfort her even after all of that. I am worn to a frazzle  and my hands are almost too sore to type.

Update 6 hours later....

Olga is up, eating and drinking. But as usual, she really LIKES herbaby but absolutely refuses to let him nurse. She hopped up on the milking stand and my sons milked her partially out. My hands are just too sore to do it. The buck inhaled 5 oz with out even sucking hard. She is weak and very, very sore. I am much more optimistic than I was before lunch.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hmmmm.... Slow day

Yogurt by the gallon!

I got this recipe from another blog and as soon as I find it, I'll link to it. It worked beautifully with a crock pot with a "warm" setting.

Having a slow Sunday. Adam and I are the only ones at home-- besides Charlie sleeping. He and I have gotten chores done--slowly-- and tidied up the house--- slightly!

These two scoundrels have figure out how to squeeze through a gap and get into the milking area of the barn. I had been wondering where the left over feed in the milking stantions was going to.......

Notch blessed us with a big bull calf yesterday morning.... actually late the night before but I don't count 'em 'till I see 'em! I preg checked most of these girls earlier this year and guestimated pretty well so far for those we didn't have actual breeding dates for. I think that I have made a mistake with at least one. I was thinking that we have a big gap now and was not expecting any more calves until late April or early May. Since the bull was having problems getting the job done, it is a major setback to have them so strung out. I was checking them over this morning and I believe that Bobbi Sue is going to calve pretty soon. She is Seth's cow and I think she is probably the best one in the herd.
I am hoping this means that I am a little off with my other guestimates and that would give us calves sooner rather than later. I know for a fact that we have a group that will not calve until July or August because I saw them being bred. Calving that late and in the heat of the summer is just hard on everybody and getting the cows back in shape and bred again is more difficult.
Since we still haven't gotten a bull, it makes things even more interesting......  We have offers from two differnt friend to lease their bulls for a short time but we just haven't made up our mind WHAT to do. We need a bull. We also need a tractor...... and a new barn, and, and, and....... LOL!!! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Good Life

Scott and Helen Nearing wrote a book with that title many years ago. It was a back-to-the-land, homesteader kind of book that I learned alot from. Probably not what they intended because they had definite socialist leanings and I am fiercely independent. It did open up a world of possibilities for me...... the sheer amount of productive work one person is capable of accomplishing.

These days, even though I am working hard, I find myself reflecting on the small moments that are pleasing to me and give me a strong sense of contentment. This is a turbulent world we live in and if I spend too much time on the internet, watching the news or listening to all the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it predictions, it is easy to get overwhelmed and anxious. I will admit to being too easily shaken these days and I can find myself overwhelmed and depressed if I do not carefully keep myself in check. 

I try to remember to take my camera with me so I can capture some of the small happy things that cross my path everyday. If I don't get the shot-- that's ok...... I have a really good memory..... It doesn't take much to make me smile.

Incredible Sweetness

A barn is just not complete with out a cat ---- or TEN waiting for you to start milking chores.

One is supremely confident that this is a loving encounter, the other thinks she is encountering a demon.....

How much better can it get for a little boy who should be inside doing his times tables?

Just Gotta Garden!

I have at least a dozen other jobs that I NEED to do but I just have to get a little time in my garden today.

Yesterday, Neil and I went to a luncheon/sales pitch in a nearby small town for organic farmers/gardeners. I have always had those "radical leanings" and I try to go as organic as I can but I am just not going to do the record keeping and hoop jumping that is required to be certified. I am also not a "purist". If the choice is to lose a crop/animal or use "conventional" non organic practices, I am using whatever I need to get the job done.
There have been several things that I have wanted to try or longed to use but they were not readily available to buy in our area. Ordering and having it shipped in has just been way more than I could afford to do. I am absolutely giddy with the possibilities now! I brought the catalogs home and I am hoping to carve out some time this weekend to form a plan. Neil and I plan to start with the garden/produce aspects of the farm and then begin working on the pasture/grazing part.

Since we are pretty much broke and need the income from our farm ground, our neighbor is going to keep farming it for at least another year. He has agreed to let me have a "strip" of the farm ground closest to the barn to use for my larger gardening projects. Unfortunately, I know that is a risky business. The co-op sprays his fields and they are....... careless. That is the most gracious word I can use when referring to this bunch. Other than paying my portion of the fertilizer bill, I refuse to do any business with them. I will drive out of my way and pay double the price for whatever it is I need, rather than spend a dime with them.
The risk is that what ever I plant stands a pretty darn good chance of getting zapped with Round Up or whatever else they may be spraying. They do not give a darn about drift or wind direction. Last year, I had planted a small pasture with a special grazing mix and the Round Up drift wiped out over half of it. When I confronted them about it, the manager just grinned at me and told me those things happen some time......

Would you please take a look at my old friend/enemy, Brindle?? Doesn't she look marvelous for a cow that is 10 plus years old? And nursing a big calf! When I last posted about her, you will remember that she was at the top of the cull list because of her cantankerous nature........ looks like she is going to get a reprieve. Another cow, Lou, had a beautiful white face heifer calf earlier this week. Unfortunately, Lou has made it to the top of the cull list. She has what is known as a "bad toe". It just stays a little swollen and occasionally she has a limp. We have checked it out when we had the cows up being wormed and re-tagged. I am pretty sure it is from the fungal endophyte in Fescue grass. She had it when I bought her and it is probably the reason she was sold at the stock yards. Not much that can be done about it and she will eventually go completely lame. She is still getting around and this is the second calf that she has had for us. Even so, we can't take a chance on her going down out in the pasture. As soon as this calf is raised, we will sell her as a "kill cow" at the stockyard. No sense in passing on this problem to somebody else.

All this means that Brindle gets to stay here a little longer. We have to keep our cows numbers up to generate calf sales and income. 

The plotting and planning and re-arranging in my life never seems to end!