Shades of Ireland

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grim Situation

There is just no way to get around it. Optimism is a wonderful thing but very hard to maintain when the temperature has been over 100 degrees for so many days that I've lost count. Rain has been very sparse and scattered.
Last week we had planned to gather up the calves and sell them but changed our minds at the last minute. I do not believe that we will be able to put it off for much longer. Also last week, I ended up breeding three cows. Not sure if it was a height issue since the young bull was so short or if there is another problem. Either way--- it just was not a good thing.

As much as it pains me, I have started planning on culling the goats as well. If we had somewhere for the horses to go, I would begin selling them as well. Frankly, there just is not a market and you can't give a horse away when hay and grass is this short.

There is a slight chance of rain for the next few days but it is too late for our soybeans. We walked out across that field this evening and were shocked by how poor the stand was. Some of the plants were valiantly trying to bloom but even if it were to pour down rain tonight--- it would still be too late. Now we have to see what the farmer plans to do---- wait and see how many beans make it or cut and bale it for hay. We would be much better off to bale it.

I only have 60 large round bales bought and not all of them delivered. Not enough to last winter, especially if we have to start feeding it soon. I am guessing that we will have to start using it for the calves by next week.

By Friday, they are predicting that the temperature will reach 113 degrees...... can you imagine??? 

I am sure that we will endure and survive but it is certainly no fun. The best that we can do is use this time and situation to prepare and learn how to handle this kind of drought. We know that we have to get the breach in the big pond dam fixed so that we can catch and keep more water. We have to get the spring cleaned out and fenced for emergency back up water. The pasture has to be cross fenced to rotational graze...... we have to improve our pastures and develope a hay source to reduce our dependence on bought hay and grain.  We have to tighten our belts, sharpen our pencils and become better managers.

Our livestock is still healthy and not thin. They still have water to drink even if they have to wade in mud to get it. There is still grass to eat....... many other ranchers are not so lucky. The corn harvest is low but better than expected in our area. 

I remember thinking last year that it could not get any worse. I was wrong. I am very grateful that we are not fighting fire in this area. There is a burn ban in effect.

Please pray for rain in the heartland....

County Fair

Every year, I wonder why in the world we go to the county fair. It is always the last week of July when it is miserably hot. Every body gets incredibly stressed out and it just wears us all to a frazzle getting ready.

Even so, by the time next year's fair time rolls around, all of that seems to fade in our memory and we sign up for all kinds of projects and do it all over again.

Honestly, it is very hard work but....... it is a good satisfying feeling to get it all done and compete against other 4-H friends.

This year was Seth's last year to be eligible. Since there are very few dairy cow or goat entries, he did very well-- of course. Winning the Dairy Showmanship, made him eligible for to compete in the "Round Robin Showmanship". This is an overall showmanship contest against the other winners in each species.
They have to show pigs, beef cattle, dairy ( goat or cow), horses, lambs, and meat goats. It makes for a long contest. Seth did not win but he sure made us proud.

Adam did well, too. One of the pictures that he took while in Yellowstone won Top Blue. That means that he will be able to send it on to state competition. Also, his pen of three commercial hens--- fat old Buff Orpington hens that have enjoyed the summer grasshoppers and extra milk at the barn--- won Reserve Champion in the poultry division. He had other hens that also got Top Blue ribbons as well. 

The two Saanen/Boer cross does showed well in their classes. The boys ran them through the "premium sale" which is basically bids for prize money, and people were very generous to them. They have nice checks to put in their bank accounts.

My feet are sore, my body is weary but my soul is full and happy because of the wonderful time we had with our friends and neighbors in this county.......

Monday, July 23, 2012

One Thing After Another!

This summer has just about done me in! It is almost unheard of for me to make three major trips in a year much less in three months. It has certainly taken its toll on my schedule, my routine and my health. I am just plain old tired!

Added to my travel schedule, Adam had baseball season and then made the All Star Team. He finished up with the state tournament yesterday. We had to drive about 35 miles to the games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday..... I am just grateful that it wasn't further away.

On Sunday morning, Neil and drove about 65 miles over to the Four States Farm Show. By lunch time, I nearly had a heat stroke and had seen all that I needed. We headed for home and there just in time for a short recovery nap before heading back out for a baseball game. The boys did not win but they played hard.

Now---- I just need to hold everything together long enough to get through 4-H Mom Hell Week.... also known as the county fair.
 It is always a scorching hot event because somebody decided that county fairs in Kansas need to be in JULY-- the absolute hottest month of the year and usually the driest. I would really like to smack that person........

All in all, this is going to be a rather calm fair for us. We are not showing any horses or doing any crafts. Adam and I ran into Walmart right after lunch and got all ten of his photographs printed off. Seth has started clipping the milk goats. We are only taking 2 milkers and two dairy weanlings. The boys also have two weanling Boer cross does kids to show. Since this is Seth's last year at the fair, he is taking Holly, the milk cow. This will also be her last fair. It is just too hot and she is old.
Adam has seven chickens to exhibit and we managed to get them all properly blood tested in time to make the entry deadline.

We are seriously debating on just doing crafts, food and photography next year and skipping the livestock part of it all together. 

My garden has almost completely burned up in the heat and drought. My happy place is not so happy these days. I do still have a few tomatoes on those wilting vines and I have a few other things in mind. The boys were faithful to pick and freeze the tomatoes while I was gone. Later in the year, I will go back and make sauce, and salsa when it is cooler and time is not so constrained.

The fruit trees are pitiful and I am afraid that most of my strawberry plants are dead. I am trying to keep the trees, blueberries, figs and grapes from dying.

Our best chance for rain is on Thursday. If it doesn't come, the situation will be very serious. I did not think that it could happen this quickly, but it appears to me that this years dry spell is much worse than last years..... I really did not think that was possible.

In the morning, we will call up all the cows and sort off the biggest calves to haul to the stockyards. We really have no other choice. Grass is getting short and hay is unspeakably scarce and expensive.  Our soybeans are still green but they have stopped growing and are just waiting for rain. They can only do that for a few more days before they will give up and begin to die off.

On a happier note, there has been another surpirse baby goat born. It is also a doe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Whew! What a Month!

July has been just one thing after another!

 I had a wonderful time in Loveland, Colorado at the American Dairy Goat Association 2012 National Show. I worked for Hamby Dairy Supply for the week. The weather-- even when it was hot--- was still wonderful. When we first arrived, it rained enough to put most of the raging fire in the area out and green things up considerably.
Watching the show and visiting with old and new friends made for a great vacation. Earning some money and buying my supplies for the year made for a great job. One of the highlights of the the whole week came on Friday night. I won the Alpine raffle doe kid!! I was busy tearing down the booth and did not attend the drawing. My friend called me with the good news and I just could not believe it! Mamm-Key Epic's Precious is a beautiful doeling with such a sweet disposition! She rode in the trailer with my friend's goats about half of the trip home. After that, she rode in the back seat of Charlie's Chevy Cavalier!! I took the seat out and put it in the truck and covered as much as I could with a tarp and plastic sheeting. I stopped and walked her around a few times just like a big puppy! She was a very good passenger and only had one accident just before we arrived home.

Now that I am back home, we are dealing as best as we can with another full lown drought situation...... no rain to speak of in what seems like ages. Temperatures are 100 degrees or higher nearly every day. No real of chance for about ten more days.

My beautiful garden is pretty much gone. I am trying to keep the the tomatoes and asparagus alive. The fruit trees are looking pretty sad but I just keep giving them a drink every evening and hoping that they hang on a bit longer.

We still have some areas of the pasture that have grass and the cows are all very fat..... hoping that we can keep them in good shape for a while longer....... calling around and searching for hay to buy. If it doesn't rain very soon, the situation will reach the critical point -----again. Neil sat down and calcualted that this is our 14th summer in Kansas and our fourth serious drought.

The good news is that I got a really nice surprise almost as soon as I got back home.

One of my yearling Alpine does had a very small doe kid! She is just beautiful.......

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summer Work

It is hot and dry and I must be a bit crazy----- actually alot crazy! I have been busy with my garden and canning. Somehow, even though I may be sweating like a race horse, working in the garden isn't the same kind of work as folding clothes or mopping floors-- or heaven forbid--- washing dishes.
I often think of my paternal grandmother when I garden. We lived over 1200 miles away from her and I rarely saw her but she made a great impact on me. She was remarkable in many ways...... I remember as a teenager helping weed and thin out something she had just gotten started in her garden. She had a garden that people dream of..... long, straight, weed free rows. Her garden had to produce or she didn't have much to eat....... I realize now just how tough life was for her. Even so, gardening was her passion. I can remember her telling me that she was a farmer. As we trudged down those rows, she explained in her plain Okie language that it was in her blood. She just couldn't help it...... I am begining to understand just what she meant.

It seems as if I have been doing this for a long time. I realized today that I started canning green beans when my Charlie was about a year old....... nearly half my life! It is second nature to me to handle a pressure canner. I think that I own 6-7 of various sizes and models. I know there have been times when I have had three on the stove at one time. I probably would have added the fourth but there was just not room!

Today, I managed to get a little marinara sauce canned up.

While these were boiling away, I shelled the peas that I picked earlier this morning.

I know that it doesn't look very impressive but they are delicious! Southerners call these "peas" and they are a staple of southern diets but here in Kansas people think that I am talking about English peas........ Ummmm--NO! Out here, the locals call these "cowpeas"......... They also look at me funny when I try to buy seed.

Anyway, I should have enough of these to can in the next day or so. My family always blanches and freezes them but I generally have my freezer full of other stuff --- like milk and meat. Besides, I am not real good at planning ahead for meals so it is really nice just to open a quart jar and heat them up in a hurry.

I have lost count of how many jars of green beans I've done so far..... we have eaten a bunch straight from the garden but I still think I managed to get about 30 quarts done. Plus a few pints for Salena to to back to school this fall.

I picked a small batch of these this morning while I was pulling up the plants. It is so dry and they are pretty much done producing beans. This makes way for something else to be planted in their space plus I will plant a second crop of green beans in another spot.

Day before yesterday, late in the afternoon, I went berry picking! I found a few nice bushes that have not completely dried up. This is another pleasant chore that brings back all kinds of good childhood memories for me. I intended to make a big cobbler out of these but I could not get to it right away. Today, when I went back to start on it, there were considerably fewer berries in the pan! The boys just could not resist so there will only be a small cobbler for dessert tonight!

I am hoping that there are still a few to be picked this evening. I would really like to make some blackberry jelly. We have already eaten all the strawberry jam I made earlier this year.

Planning another trip this weekend. I will be going to Loveland Colorado for almost a whole week. The American Dairy Goat Association is having their national show. My friend, Paul Hamby, owner of Hamby Dairy Supply, has hired me again this year to help out at his traveling store. I love to do this! I get to visit with many of my goat buddies and see hundreds of beautiful dairy goats. A working vacation!!

All this is to warn you that the entries on this blog may be few and far behind again......

Monday, July 2, 2012

Took A Little Trip!

It was wonderful but it really threw me for a loop! Seth and I zipped up to Grand Island, Nebraska for almost a whole week. He was on the Kansas Shooting Sports Team in the muzzle loading discipline.

This is his group and the coach:

Mike "Blue Hawk" Adams, Jamie Burger, Austin and Wyatt Smith and Seth.

Pay no attention to the ribbons--- they didn't win them. It was an error and they awarded the team 5th place by mistake and the kids had to give back these ribbons........ that is a whole 'nuther story!

Seth had a wonderful shoot despite all the crazy weather. We had blistering heat and wind, cold and rain and one perfect weather day. The only ting missing was snow--- thank goodness! He shot his personal best several times. In the end, he placed 5th overal and the team placed 6th. 

The competition was absolutely fierce with about 13 teams and close to 50 shooters in muzzleloading. 
The very best part for me was my wonderful " neighbors".

All of the family and friends for the teams had to stay well back away from the shooting line. For safety reasons but also because........ you all know how 4-H parents can be! LOL!!! They just wanted to take the pressure off of the kids and only their coach was allowed to speak to them during the match.

So--- we all set up little "camps" back across the ditch.

This was my group from Kansas.

Next door to us on one side was a very friendly group from Florida:

On the other side were our neighbors from Colorado :

We chatted with people from other states up and down the line but pretty much sat with this group of people for the better part of four days. I had a MARVELOUS time! The humor and kindness of these stranger/friends truely blessed my soul. We all wanted our kids and teams to do well but the competition was fair, sane and friendly. We cheered for and encouraged each others kids! 

Sometimes, I find myself world weary and getting pretty cynical if I spend too much time online or listening to the news. Seems like I get overwhelmed with bad news and bad attitudes. Rude, selfish and vulgar are viewed as normal. It was so refreshing for me to meet and spend time with "real live" spectacularly ordinary people.