Shades of Ireland

Friday, November 30, 2012

Still There!!

I know that I should really have a little more faith in the electric fence but..... I have spent over 25 years trying to keep goats fenced in--- or out! If you don't know what I am talking about, count yourself lucky. Goats are the hardest creatures on God's green earth to keep contained. They are genetically programed to find a way OUT!!

That unreasonable fear has leached over in to all my other livestock raising. When we build a fence or put up a divider, we automatically tend towards over kill. With cattle, I have a double fear..... they are darn big creatures. Black cows that have escaped at night are just an accident waiting to happen. I worry about killing somebody in a car with my wayward cows......

Horses are a bit more timid---- especially if they have experienced an electric fence.

When we arrived at the back pasture early this morning, the horses were hanging out with the girls.

Luckily, the cows are on one side and the nags on the other or we might have a repeat of the calf killing from earlier this year. Everybody was still where they were supposed to be.

We rolled up there with all of our fencing supplies as well as the mineral feeder.

Seth was running more electric fence and I had pasture clean up.

 Since they are in the second paddock, we are working on clearing out the first one. We are plagued in this part of the country by "hedge" trees. Also known as Osage Oranges. These things are covered with thorns and will take over a pasture in a hurry. We are already behind in keeping them cleared out. The cattle do not like to graze very close to the little trees because of the thorns. On top of that, it is very difficult to mow with out damaging the equipment. Eventually, they will fill up a pasture and severely reduce the grazing area.

I wore myself out nipping off the trees that are too small for the chain saw. I feel as if I have thwarted and entire forest. The worst part about these things-- other than the wicked thorns-- is that they are very persistent. If we just cut them down or mow them off, they will just sprout right back up. Instead of just one tree trunk, they will send up several shoots making a thick shrub and covering up even more pasture.

So each and every one that we cut down has to be sprayed. This is a very strong chemical and as expensive as liquid gold, so we try to be very careful to only get it on the stump and not the grass around it. At the moment, I am so tired that can't remember the name of it......

When I decided that I had had enough for one morning, I trudged back over to the water trough to rest. My plan was to sit on the edge and catch my breath before heading down to see how Seth was coming on fencing the next paddocks. We will be back in a few days with the chain saw to get the bigger trees.

My cows had other plans. As soon as I sat down, they all began to come over to visit with me.

This 904. She is raising her second calf for us and doing a spectacular job. We are very proud of her because she is a "home raised cow". I love how his face is all wet from nursing.

                                          This is our hamburger supply for late next year........

Mouse was being social this morning.

And, of course, Cornbread had to come see what I was doing at the trough......just in case she missed something. Her mother was named, "Buttermilk" and if she has a heifer, Adam would like to name her "Chili".
Before long, I had six full grown cows and two calves all cautiously circled around me and a few braver ones bumping up against me. The rest were a little further away balefully trying to glare me into letting them back out in to the whole property.

As I sat there in warm sunshine, admiring our girls, I thought about how much I would be missing if I had to go off farm to work.

I hate to bring it up again but...... we are desperate for rain again. Actually, we have never stopped being in dire straights this entire year. I just tried to stop whining about it on here. Forecast is for drizzle tonight.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Grazing-- Day 2

This morning, I am dragging a bit so Seth made it over to the barn ahead of me and got the girls milked.
I got over there just in time to load up and drive out to see how the new grazing system was working.

I was very happy to find this! All the girls and calves still in the small paddock. The water trough was empty and they were all waiting patiently for us to come fill it. We decided to swap out tanks and use a slightly bigger one that was also a bit more shallow. That would give them a few more sips of water and might allow the taller calves to get a drink. We have it set up on a set of hay moving forks so we can move it with the tractor if there is still some water in it. That makes it a bit taller than we expected.

So while Seth was moving the fence charger and the trough, the dogs and I headed back to the barn to get water.

That sounds a lot easier than it really is. I have to load up the tank into the back of the truck and fill it up.

This morning, I just had to pause and reflect on this chore just a bit. I am realizing more and more each day that I am getting old. There was a time when I just would have put this tank in the back of the truck with out a second thought. Now days...... it takes a bit of shifting, maneuvering, balancing and just plain old hefting to get the job done. It doesn't drain well so there is always a couple of inches of water in the bottom that gives me trouble.

I managed to get it done and only dropped it once. As much as it pains me, we are having to use rural water. I can just hear the meter whirling around...... the plan is to get the pump and generator going and eventually use pond or spring water. Unfortunately, until we get a good rain, all we can reach right now is mud.

While the tank was filling, I rushed around and got a few other chores done.

I heated up the calf bottles in the new sink before I left for the first cow check so they were ready to feed now. Adam was at the house doing some major baking so I agreed to do his chores for him.
Fed the chickens, goats and watered the horses. By that time, the tank was approaching full and Seth was coming back to the barn with the tractor. He told me the cows moved right through the gate into the next paddock following the tractor and water tank.

All that was left to do was to fill up the water tank...... easy peasy.... right?

I had been feeling a bit peculiar for a couple of days. This morning, it was worse. Not sick, just a bit light headed, etc. Charlie appeared at about the time we were finishing up and I told him I felt strange. He told me I was looking flushed and touched my forehead....... I have a fever!!!

I am going to be spending a bit of time inside today..... maybe even in bed!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

One Goal Done!

We have so many things we want to get done on this farm. Unfortunately, there is never enough time or money to get many of them accomplished.

Little by little, we make painful progress.

This week----- we made big strides! One of our goals is to begin rotational grazing to reduce our hay input and improve our pastures. On top of that, we can increase our stocking rate and maybe----- just maybe--- we might make a little money.

To do that, we need fence...... Lots of fence. Seth has been a real trooper. He got a barb wire fence strung up across the entire south end of our pasture. Now, we are using hot wire to run temporary grazing strips in that big paddock.

Late yesterday afternoon, we hitched up the hot wire to the first grazing lot, called up the cows and shut the gate behind them. We put a water trough in there and hoped for the best.

This morning, we filled up the portable water tank in the back of the truck and headed out to refill the trough. Guess what????? They are still in there!!!! One big calf slipped under the hot wire in to the next strip while we were there but he got buzzed pretty good. The plan is to move them over to new lot tomorrow.

If all goes well, this will get us at least 14 days grazing before we start putting out hay. This doesn't sound like very much but it will make a world of difference. Round bales of hay are running around $45-$65 each.

Just before I put the cows in the lot, I spread rye grass seed over most of that area. The idea is that they will walk over it and basically plant the seed for me. If we ever get any rain again, we will have more grazing available very early in the spring/late winter. Again, saving us hay.

The big goal is to get the entire pasture divided up to rotational grazing. That will take us a while...... but we have at least STARTED!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chicken Plucking......

On Saturday, we butchered chickens. This was a meat bird experiment. Normally, we raise those gargantuan Cornish cross birds. They have all kinds of issues and over the years, they seem to be getting worse. This batch was some kind of meat bird cross that was light red and slower growing.

It worked out pretty well but they were noticeably smaller. Who knows what we will do next year.....

Anyway, this was the first time that I really got an idea of how well this new barn kitchen idea was going to work out. We are not any where near done or really even started. Having the big sink and the stainless steel table made things go so much smoother.

We just shuffled the junk around and swept the floor. We were able to butcher the birds outside and then move them into the barn to finish up the job. The wind was pretty brisk so it was very nice not to get so cold.

Sis was home for the holiday so she got to be part of the assembly line. Everybody had a job. Seth was the outside man. He did the actual butchering. Neil brought them in and he and Adam took turns with the dipping and using the plucker. Salena and I did the rest.

We have had this plucker for more than 15 years. Several people have borrowed it over the years. Some returned it promptly.... others I had to go get it. This old thing has probably processed thousands of birds. We bought the fiberglass dipping vat at the same time and it has endured years of neglect and still heats up water nearly as well as it ever did. I was looking through a catalog recently and was shocked at just how expensive this equipment is these days.

All in all, the whole process only took us about two hours from start to finish. About thirty minutes of that was just getting everything organized the way we wanted it. We had filled up the dipping vat and plugged it in at morning chores. By lunch, the water was hot enough at 150 degrees. We had gotten our other projects done and we were ready to start. 

At a little after 2:00pm, we had 19 birds cooling in the refrigerator, ready to go into the freezer later, and two stewing in the pot.

Fewer chores to do now, too. Generally speaking, we try to simplify things during the coldest part of winter since we will be hauling hay to the cows and breaking ice for them, too. These two milk cows are kind of putting a kink in that plan......


I put it off as long as I can but the time has come. I have been milking the sore footed Jersey girls with my goat claw. For those of you new to the world of dairy, that means that I have only been milking two quarters at a time. That means that the actual milking chores take twice as long as they should and the girls get to stand in the stanchion and eat longer.
In the beginning, that was a fine arrangement for all of us. I had plenty of help, it wasn't very cold and they certainly needed the extra grain. All of that is changing now. It is definitely colder. Seth really needs to concentrate on finishing up that last of his school work and review since he is getting ready for college. We need to reduce his chore load. Finally--- the girls are looking much better--- still sore footed--- but they have begun to get pretty sassy attitudes since they are eating all that high energy grain.

Last night, I rigged up the cow claw and got it all cleaned up. The only problem is ME! Cow claws are bulky and you have to be somewhat coordinated to get it all to work. I have never been very good at getting all four of them on there with out losing the vacuum and having to start over.

I am really dreading going over there this morning!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Beauty.....

This creature has been quite a surprise for me. I don't care very much for German Shepherds..... or so I thought. This girl...... well, she has stolen her way into my heart and I do not even want to think about this farm with out her. Seth wanted one for years and I strongly resisted because we already had more dogs than we needed and Shepherds are...... a lot of trouble, high maintenance, aggressive, high strung, energetic, blah, blah, blah........ Anyway, you all know that even though I am known as the toughest-Mama-on-the-planet, I really love my kids and eventually I caved in and let him buy this puppy.

From the very first, she has been very different from my expectations. Her prey drive is very strong and the cats on this farm have learned to gauge her moods. She has more stock working instinct that the cow dogs.
She is monstrously big and stunningly beautiful but....... what has stolen my heart is her utter devotion to this family.

She is strong and quiet---until the coyotes get too close. She lives to please us and is surprisingly obedient as well as strong minded. A stern word breaks her heart and brings her back in line but she will still try to sweetly convince you that you should allow her to do what ever she is being reprimanded for.

The instant I open a door on this house, she is on the alert and headed my way. Every morning, she and the other dogs gallop around me as we head to the barn. If Seth makes it out before me, she might go with him but I can almost guarantee that she will come back for me.

I do not know if this sweet soul would be aggressive to protect us but...... for now--- she at least looks very impressive. She is still a young dog--- just over a year old.
Yesterday afternoon, we had company. They were out in the pasture hunting coyotes. As they made all those eerie calls, Elsa stalked around the barn as I did chores with her hackles raised and growling deep....... She stayed as close as she could to me. She was afraid but determined to stay with me---just in case. She was torn between recognizing the danger of a coyote pack and her loyalty and love for me. The fierce part of her young heart won.

Elsa has not been feeling well for the last few days. It wasn't until I took this picture that I noticed her hind foot. The raised one is swollen and oddly shaped. Somehow she has torn off her dewclaw. Probably from racing across the pasture after rabbits. I did manage to convince her to eat half of a can of dog food laced with antibiotics.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I will begin posting again!

I have been busy....... still milking both Jerseys, just finished a craft fair, got company coming for Thanksgiving, planning and working on the kitchen/barn.

Just more of this crazy farm life.....

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Aggravating Hussy!

Bertha Belle is making me crazy. I don't know if it is just my "big cow" prejudice or if she really does have an irritating personality. I can't find the darn camera (again!) so I can't show you how much better both girls are looking.
Bambi is still my favorite and milking very well. In fact, milk production for both of them is on the rise. I wish that I knew when they had freshened.......

Anyway, Bertha Belle is not healing in the foot department. Bambi is getting around with just a slight limp. Bertha Belle is still having serious problems with her left hind foot. In fact, I am tinking that she has regressed.

She is making me crazy because she is absolutely the nastiest cow on the planet. I have never seen anything like this. They are roaming on several grassy acres but this cow will come back and deliberately lay down in her own poop! She is filthy and stinks to high heaven. Her udder is ALWAYS covered in manure. At every milking, I have to haul buckets of soapy, warm water and rags out in to the barn for a big wash up job. This is not a good thing to do..... especially at every milking as it leads to a chapped, sore udder. Modern dairies have a cow version of disposable sanitary wipes that we use for a quick pre-milking clean up. Not with Bertha Belle! Those handy, dandy wipes are no match for this manure coated udder.
It is not a case of accidently getting in a big mess. This cow has some kind of mental issue and actually prefers to be smeared in her feces....... All over---not just her udder. I am going to give her a while to get over it but there is only so much I can tolerate.

Tonight, Seth and I decided to get aggressive with treating her sore foot. We took turns wrestling it up and hanging on during the mad kicking to get it all cleaned out. For a woman with a phobia about getting kicked by a cow, I was really impressed with myself. After we were reasonably sure we had gotten the 5 lbs of manure off her foot and out from between her toes, we then took turns squirting antiseptic and other meds in every crack and crevice we could see in a hoof on the fly...... I bet she is not real anxious to come in to be milked in the morning!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Very Close To Home!

I do not know how to post this thing correctly but I am hoping that I got the link right.
I think that I have heard this young man sing at rodeos....... and I love this video because I have been to most of these places..... in fact many of them are in this general area.
Please take special notice of the scene from Fredonia, Ks. That is the county seat for us and I see that beautiful flag every time I drive to town....