Shades of Ireland

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Apparently-- I Don't Know Beans!!

And I am very happy about that! After our nice rain last weekend, everything is trying to green up and grow. I had already given up on the soybeans and figured that they were done long before we got this big rain.
Just on a whim, on my way back in to the farm from town, I decided to stop the truck and get out and take a look. What a surprise!! Those early slight rains must have done more than I thought! The soybeans by the road in the lower areas of the field are just loaded down --- and blooming again! I walked the higher parts of the field and they are not nearly as nice but there are beans out there and those poor plants are trying to bloom. We may not make a fortune but I am thinking we won't lose MUCH money anyway..... LOL!

Even better news is that we are expecting to get a few showers from Issac...... not tropical storm or a hurricane by the time it gets this far inland.

Yesterday, we finally got a calf from 904. We have been checking her and Mercy everyday  for about 3 weeks. She was heartily sick of seeing us! She had a nice strong bull calf--- all on her own. Last year, as a first calf heifer, we had to pull her calf. This was her last chance and I am happy that she managed with out us because she is a very nice cow. Mercy should calve with in the next week. She had to have help last year, too. Therefore, we will continue to keep a very close eye on her and try not to harass her too much.

Four other cows are due later in September. I am very anxious to see two of the them since I bred them artificially...... I am going to be a Papa!!

Out of that last set of sickly bottle lambs, I managed to save 4 out of the 6. We are keeping two of the ewe lambs for breeding and planning to put the other two in the freezer. A friend brought us a big Hampshire ram to use this fall. He promptly leaped up and over the trailer gate and was roaming loose and free with my little ewe lambs--- Catherine and Elizabeth. I think that they are too small to breed yet and I do not want any lambs or kids born before mid-February. That is late by most breeder standards but I do not like "Popsicle babies"! Neil has spoiled "his girls" terribly and they are obnoxiously tame. The ram followed them right into a pen and we sorted the girls out....... He has stayed in the pen for three days and not jumped over the panels yet. I am hoping to keep him penned for at least another two weeks. I am going to have to start calling Neil "sheep whisperer" because this ram has learned that Neil is the guy with the feed and is settling down. I wouldn't call him tame by any stretch of the imagination but he certainly knows what a bucket is for.

A friend has generously shared her fig tree with me and I have made a few pints of strawberry fig preserves.  The color from the jello makes plain old figs into a beautiful spread.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Grass Fire

Before the much needed rain yesterday, we had a big fire in this county.I have included the facebook link.!/photo.php?fbid=10150991069732493&set=a.10150991067817493.424320.206952367492&type=1&theater

It was west of our farm about 8-10 miles. It jumped the highway with the wind pushing it. I don't believe that we were ever in danger as it was moving north but my heart just stopped when I looked up and saw the black smoke billowing in the distance. At our old farm, our family was very involved with our local volunteer fire department so I realized how serious this was going to be.

After it was all said and done, over 1300 acres burned. Several out buildings and only one dwelling were lost. The stories of the heroic efforts of people to help their friends and neighbors save their property and livestock are both heart breaking and heart warming......

All rural volunteer units were called out as well as the towns of Neodesha and Fredonia. I am pretty sure that the county to the north also responded since it was heading their way.

Ranchers called their cattle up into the bare ground catch pens in an efforts to save them. No time to move them...... fire fighters stationed themselves around the pens and kept the flames away....... they parked at houses and worked furiously to keep them from going up...... farmers brought their equipment and plowed firebreaks to slow it down and eventually stop it.

I drove over to take a look the next morning and just cried. People were still out working on hot spots. Cattle were wandering over charred ground. Trees in the fence lines had burned and fell over the roads. Neighbors with cattle trailers were lined up at barns to help move cows to new ground---- grass is short but they were willing to share. Others were hauling in round bales to feed...... also in short supply but willing to share........
Around houses and barns, the ground was burned RIGHT UP to the structures ----- they were just barely saved.

Last night it rained again...... total of 3 1/2 inches..... Thank you, Lord!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Glorious RAIN!!!!

Yesterday, the weather tormented us all day..... clouds, wind, dampness in the air but only about three actual drops of rain fell.

Today was much different. It started out with just sprinkles and light rain for most of the morning. After lunch, we only had about 4/10ths in the gauge. By 6:30pm, it was raining in earnest! So far we have an inch and a half!! Still raining lightly, lots of green on the radar and it is still supposed to rain tomorrow.

While it was cloudy and overcast yesterday, I started lettuce, spinach, and carrots in the raised beds in the garden......

The camera is dried out and apparently completely fried. Here is one last picture from that memory card.

Earlier this week, Seth worked on the flowing spring in the edge of the woods near the pond. We were afraid that the cows were going to completely ruin it. They love to hang out under this big tree and wallow in the black mud. We found this big old fashioned bath tub on the farm and decided to recycle it as a holding tank. The water flows in through the holes where the faucets are supposed to be and flows over the bottom edge. We fenced it out of the pasture with cattle panels. Seth hauled in these large stones to make a more solid platform around it. We still have more work to do. More rock around it and a better trench for the over flow water out in to the pond. Then we want to rig some kind of a pump so that we can fill up a stock tank nearby for the cattle when it is dry.

Hopefully, if it keeps raining, we won't have to pump for a while......

Friday, August 24, 2012

Half of a Photo Op...

We went back over to my friend's farm to press some more cider today. It was cool and overcast and threatening rain but...... no actual drops were falling. I managed to remember to take the camera this time.

This is my friend, Bud and his handy dandy golf cart that my boys nearly fight over to drive. They have started telling me that I NEED one to help me around the farm, I told them when I get to be 85 years old like Bud, they can buy me one.

Today was kind of the last round up for apple picking. Bud has been turning his goat herd plus a couple of cows and horses into the orchard to clean things up. As a result, all the trees were pruned up nicely to about shoulder height by the goats.

Some of these trees are about 50 years old. Bud can still remember what variety each one is and where he got most of them. He has invited me to start my orchard from his. I am buying root stock to start this fall and Bud will show me how to graft early next spring. My children have wonderful memories of all the years that we have come to Bud's farm to make cider. With a little luck, we will have trees from his orchard to make memories from for years to come.

This is a marvelous contraption! Bud says that it is an antique like him...... but they both still work!

Sis and Seth gave the apples a little wash up.

Dump them into the hopper for the grinder.

Out comes the mash and it is ready to go into the press....... I'd really like to show you that process, too, but...... I dropped the camera in to the wash vat for the apples! I am hoping that after it dries out that it will still work.

Before I had that little moment, I did get a picture of one of Bud's cows.....

She is obviously a mini cross and had a very difficult time calving. Her calf died but she adopted this goat kid! She absolutely adores him. I have seen many calves nurse a goat on a milk stand but this is the first time that I have ever seen it reversed.

After it was all said and done, we had eleven gallons of cider. We brought home seven gallons but stopped along the way and gave away a 1/2 gallon. Somehow, I have got to figure out how to preserve 5 1/2 gallons....... .

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Frugal Fun!

Nothing like a good sale to change a girls' whole outlook!! Did I find a bargain on shoes, jewelry or clothes??? Of course not!!!

Adam and I just happened to stop in at our local Dollar General Store and found that they had marked most of their garden stuff down for clearance. We had a field day---- literally!

Adam has since sorted these seed packets and informs me that he has 30 Russian Mammoth Sunflowers. He doesn't think that is enough and is scouring the house and vehicles for change to go back and buy more.
Each of these ended up costing us a whopping 3 cents each. For that price we can put them in zip lock bags and store them in the refrigerator until next year. Some of these are appropriate for the fall garden so it looks like I will be planting one.  

The most expensive item in this pile are the mini green house starter flats. They cost us forty-five cents each..... Everything else was fifteen cents or less.

The lady at the check out just laughed and laughed at us because we were so giddy with our savings!

On the way home, I stopped at the edge of a big corn field just off of the highway from our place. When the farmer combined that field, he had a slight miscalculation and unloaded several bushels of shelled corn on to the ground instead of the grain truck. I had loaded up a few empty buckets in the back of the truck before we went to town. When I stopped, I told Adam to hop out and start loading up the corn. He was horrified!! We were going to get out in front of EVERYBODY driving down the highway and steal corn!!???!! He was almost shocked speechless when I calmly told him to get busy....... He was unhappy about the whole business and complained loudly the whole time about how WRONG this was....I was just taking this frugal business TOO FAR!  He was not disrespectful to me but he was terribly distressed with me. Finally, I just couldn't take it any more. I had already talked with the farmer and he was more than happy for us to clean up the spill to feed to our chickens. We loaded up our buckets and there is still several more buckets full left on the ground...... maybe on our next trip to town.

As a Mama, it was very nice to know that he has been listening to all those lectures I have given about being honest.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Busy with the Blahs......

I wish that I could tell you that I have been too busy to blog but the honest truth is that I have been too LAZY to blog.

Still no rain but the temperatures are so much cooler that I hesitate to complain. I went out to check cows this morning and was actually COLD! The temp was a brisk 52 degrees. The out look is so grim for pasture, hay, and fall crops that I just can't open that Pandora's box. If I dare to think about it, I become overwhelmingly depressed.

The growth on my ear that I had removed early last week was benign...... Thank you Lord! Now I am headed to the hospital early in the morning for an ultra sound of my gallbladder. I have been having interesting pain and digestive disorders...... Frankly, I don't care what they find--- I am not in enough pain to have surgery.

The two milk goats that stayed with us most of the summer are back. My friend is just not well enough to take care of them and I am very afraid for her future......

We are expecting six calves to be born before the end of September. Better late than never, I guess!

My daughter came home from her summer in Yellowstone for a few days before heading back to college.

We will begin our school schedule after Labor Day.

I think that I am going to be taking a little blogging break until my mood improves or we have a significant amount of rainfall. Maybe by the time September arrives, I will have lots to catch you up on!

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I have had about all the canning that I can stand for a few days. We have plenty of apple jelly, peach jam and apple pie filling. Even a few quarts of apple cider that probably won't last very long unless I hide it at the back of the pantry.

I was hanging out clothes this morning when Neil and Seth pointed out a visitor......

This doe was just across the pond getting a drink and browsing around. She didn't seem very concerned about us at all--- until I got the camera. I managed to zoom in and get this one as she slipped back into the woods.

It was wonderfully cool this morning and I turned off the AC and just never turned it back on while I was working in the kitchen. It warmed up to about 93 degrees but after nearly a month of over a hundred, this feels wonderful and give me a hint that fall IS on the way. Still no rain...... I have been catching as much of the grey water from my canning and washing dishes to use to water the fruit trees and berries.

I have time to plant a fall garden but I am very wary about doing it..... there is absolutely no moisture in the ground to germinate seeds and I am not set up to do extensive irrigation....... decisions, decisions......

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sweet Morning!

I got busy pretty early this morning in the kitchen. Of course, I had a little cider for breakfast.

By lunch time, I had gotten this much done. The lighter colored jars are just canned cider. The darker rows in the front are apple jelly. I made them in assorted sizes because I am sure that Sis will want to take some with her when she heads back to school.

Now I am taking a break and trying to decide what to do now. I have a doctor appointment late this afternoon and I am just not sure I am ready to jump on the next canning projects....

                              Future apple pie filling. The white bucket behind the basket is also full.

Some friends were kind enough bring us back a box of peaches from Colorado..... they are sooo beautiful! Planning on canning some of them and also making jam. If I get back from the doctor in time, I just might whip up a peach cobbler for dessert tonight.

This will be my second trip to see my doctor in the last two days. Yesterday was just my regular blood pressure and general check up. That went fine but when I showed her a funny growth on my ear, she scheduled me to come back in tonight to have it removed. All those years of wearing my hair in a pony tail!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Missed Photo Op!!

A friend and I took our kids and headed to the apple orchard this morning. The owner is a dear friend who has patiently waited for me to get the fair out of the way and cattle sold before calling to tell me that I HAD to come soon or the apples would be too far gone.

This morning, we pressed about 11 gallons of juice. I brought home a couple of buckets of apples to make pie filling and sauce out of.  We also brought home all of the "mash" from the press to give to the chickens as a treat.

I forgot to take my camera!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Afternoon Escapees....

It all started because I felt the need to brag a bit..... Seth was splitting kindling this morning to make some "women wood" for me and he had a little accident. Nothing serious and a band-aid fixed it. I posted about it on face book and a friend commented about how hard it was to get her grandsons to add to the wood pile. We jokingly call Seth our "American Logger" because he really likes this chore. I told her that I would post a picture of his pile for this year--- so far.

So I wandered out with the camera.....

Please note that this is a double stack about 75 feet long........ anyway back to my story.

I went out the back door of the house--- this will be important later.

I ambled across the pond dam to go to the barn since I had the camera. I might get some good pictures.

This should have been my first clue that all was not well but..... I was oblivious. The new babies were hanging out by themselves in a spare shed. Alone.

I gave the bucks a drink of water and began to think that things were very quiet over here at the barn..... and still. Then it dawned on me ---- NO GOATS.

I walk down to the pasture gate and it is still open from letting Holly in for milking this morning. I walked out into the woods and saw a few goats---- not nearly enough of them!

I begin to get slightly alarmed! If they were out, they could be on the road, walking down the highway headed for town, pillaging the neighbor's crops.........

I had left the truck at the barn during morning chores so I hopped in and headed for the entry gates. I was planning to head down the road to check the highway when I realized that I had left my phone at the house. So I headed to the house to let the boys know the problem.

As I came in the driveway, this is what I found :

The renegade hussies were all hanging out in my front yard, cooling it under the shade tree!!

The interesting part about all this is that as soon as I got out of the truck and began to quiz them about how long they had been there, they all began to stroll around the corner of the house and head back toward the woodpile.... They all knew right where the gate was and led me there....

They were all talking to me and skipping and hopping around as if they had played a really good joke on me.

                         A few of them straggled behind but they all filed right through the gate.

And seemed happy to be back at their home.

                                    And I ended up right back where I started --- at the wood pile.

A Little More Hope.....

Saturday night it rained a little more! We ended up with only 3/10th of an inch but somehow things just don't seem so "crisp" right now. On top of that, we had much cooler temperatures yesterday--- only got up to the mid 90's!! We woke up this morning to a cool 65 degrees! I opened a few windows......

Planning on gathering up the cattle this evening and sorting of the calves. It is a bit early to wean some of them but it is the best management practice to protect the cows and the grass. Heifers will stay in the lot and go on full hay while the steers head in to the sale barn in the morning. We have a cull cow that is going to have to ride along, too.

It is still supposed to be hot over the next week or so but not the scorching 100+ degrees days. I am very grateful that there seems to be a break in the heat and just a hint that fall is on the way.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Orchard Triage

I have been hauling buckets of water down to the orchard near the county road. This morning, I decided it was "make or break" time. I had Seth load up the water tank into the truck.

We have just about passed a critical point. Some things just can not be saved. I am having to make the decision about what to water and try to keep alive and which trees and plants I just have to let die. Since we do not have a well and have to pay for water, it would be a waste of resources to keep watering something that is just too far gone. It may very well reach the point that I have to let all of the orchard die in order to water our livestock.  We are being very frugal with the water but....... the bottom line is that we need rain and lots of it.

This is the fruit trees near the house and garden. The greener peach tree in the back was planted last year and has a well established root system. I even got to eat a few very small peaches from it last week. The apple tree in the foreground was planted early this spring. As you can see from the green Bermuda grass at its base, we have been faithful to water it but it is still suffering.  These trees are doing better than the ones closer to the road because this area is somewhat shaded for part of the day.

This is the oldest apple tree..... barely hanging on. If you look closely you can see a 2 litre pop bottle that I have buried at the base. It has a few holes in the bottom to allow water to get directly to the roots of the tree and reduce run off and evaporation. Usually while I am out watering by hand, I fill it up at least twice. This morning when I drove the truck down with the tank, I made the rounds and filled each bottle at least 4 times and saturated the ground at the base of the trees.

There are some things that no amount of water can save in this heat. All but two of the blueberry bushes are baked to a crisp. My beautiful lush strawberry beds are literally toast. They just could not survive the seemingly endless days of over 100 degree temperatures. We are expecting it to hit 111 degrees today...... a cool spell is expected early next week with temperatures only reaching 98 or so......

The fig bush is still hanging in there and the grape vines are wilted but green. I am not sure whether to pray for rain or an early, snowy winter........

Friday, August 3, 2012

Small Blessings

Last night, something woke me up just before midnight. It was THUNDER. I laid there for just a minute trying to decide if I was crazy or not when it began to rain. I could hear it hitting the roof....... I said a quick "thank you " prayer and drifted back to sleep. A week ago, I would have jumped up out of bed and fired up the computer to look at the weather radar and guess how much we might get. At this point, the heat and the drought are so severe that I am grateful for not only every drop of rain but also for any cloud cover relief from the sun.

When Neil checked the gauge this morning, we had only gotten 1/10th of an inch. Not enough to give the ground, crops or livestock any relief but just enough to kindle a little hope for us humans. Hope dies hard around here.......

Our farmer/neighbor still holds out for enough rain for the soybeans to make a few beans. If not, he will keep a close watch on it and bale it for hay. He also baled up his cornstalks and called to ask us how many we wanted.... That will pretty much save our cattle operation.

We have made plans to plant our field in alfalfa for hay next year....... we are optimists.

Seth and I have plans to work this weekend to clean out the spring so the cattle and goats will have a safe clean water supply for a little longer..... We are optimists.

I've worked out another agreement to borrow a bull from a neighbor..... we are optimists.

The boys and I have started gathering up rocks and calculating how much concrete we will need to repair the pond dam. When it does rain, we want to catch as much as we can..... we are optimists.

My hay guy delivered the absolute last bale of hay that he can spare for us...... and he still gave us a good deal. The price of hay has skyrocketed but he did not take advantage of that......and he could have.

We are more than optimists----- we are blessed.