Shades of Ireland

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Update on the Sore Feet

You just never know how things are going to turn out in the end, do you?

When my dear friend brought me these sore footed Jersey cows, I really thought that Bambi was the one in the worst shape. Berthe Belle did not appear to have as much of a problem. I was honestly afraid that I would end up with her and her bad attitude and crazy hang ups.

Bambi has made an almost complete recovery and often trots to the barn at milking time. The only time that I really see her limp is when she tries to walk down the gravel road.

Bertha Belle has not done so well. In fact, she is much worse. I am beginning to think that along with a serious case of foot rot, one of her toes is slightly fractured, too. It has reached the point that she often cannot get up. I am happy if she makes it to the barn every couple of days to be milked. I would completely dry her off but after the incredibly painful effort to make it all the way to the milk barn, I do not have the heart to not let her in for the grain.

They both have really tamed down, slicked off and we have worked out our differences in the milk parlor.
I have made up my mind that I will not call them to the barn anymore. Bambi knows when she should be there and will hang out and wait for me to show up. Poor Bertha waits at the hay and then tries to struggle to the barn when I call. If I am quiet, maybe she will just not make the effort.

I added another element to the mix today as well. Noelle will be calving in the next month or so. She looks dramatically better than when I turned her out to pasture but cold winters are hard on dairy cattle. Competing with my bossy cows for space at the hay ring is a losing battle for her, too. So when I was checking the girls, she followed me back to the "home lot" and I let her in with Bambi, Bertha and the sheep flock. She immediately bullied the younger, sore footed cows into submission. In this paddock, she is the boss!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Took a Little Jaunt....

One of my all time favorite people in the world found herself in Rogers, Arkansas for a wedding yesterday.
Since Adam was feeling better and Salena's car was fresh out of the repair shop, we loaded up and drove down to get in a quick visit.

Don't you just LOVE kindred spirits?? It has been about 4 years since we have met face to face but it really doesn't matter. Other than the initial rush of tears at the pure joy of hugging her again---- we just picked right up where we left off. My Adam did not know her or her family at all. He has often heard stories of the wonderful times our families had together before our move to Kansas which was before he was born. We had such a good visit--- until it began to snow.

After about three hours of visiting and lunch, the weather began to change rapidly. After looking at the weather radar, we decided that if we could get ahead of the storm front we could make it home and we did.

Unfortunately, when we got home, we found a whole house full of sick people. People with "the stomach bug" were draped all over the living room furniture watching the TV. Salena, Seth, and Neil were all very ill for most of the day and into the night.

This morning, they are all perking up and so far, I have escaped this sickness. My new handy, dandy, digital outdoor thermometer  says that it was 11 very frigid degrees this morning. We suited up and got the basic chores done. Weather sites are indicating that we are in for big time snow or ice on Monday...... Hallelujah!!

We will spend the rest of the weekend getting ready. Firewood stacked in the garage, generator tested, hay out to the critters, water systems thawed and set up....... before all of that, I am heading into town to restock the kitchen..... just in case that stomach bug finds me after all!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Brisk Morning

I am being very lazy on this Christmas Eve morning. It is a very brisk 19 degrees out there so I am reluctant to leave my 61 degree house!
The pond out back is frozen around the edges and a small flock of geese arrived sometime in the night. Elsa is just sure that they are alien invaders and barked her head off as soon as it got light enough for her to see them floating on the water. We called her back to the deck and reassured her but she is still sitting, staring intently at the geese with her hackles raised.

I am much better health wise but still feel very strangely. Just not myself and if I do not get back to normal after Christmas, I will probably have to make yet another trip in to see my local doctor. I am not unwell enough to be alarmed but just enough to make me realize that something is just not right.

The kids and Neil have been handling the barn chores for over a week. I did manage to ramble over there a time or two but for the most part, I have been on sick leave. This morning, I am going to wait a bit and let it warm up before I let anybody venture out.

We are only milking the Jerseys in the morning. A little variation in their milking time will not affect them. We weaned two of the bottle calves and took them back to our friend. The other three are still getting a bottle in the morning after milking chores. The goats have full access to hay as do the horses and all the cows. It has been just too much for one person to handle hay rationing while I was sick. Besides, it has been too cold for me to feel comfortable restricting the hay. Everybody looks marvelous.

Still very little precipitation so the drought is still very much in effect. The spring that we were so proud of all during the dry summer has finally stopped running. The weather man has predicted light snow for us on Christmas night. I can not even allow myself to get even a little bit excited about that prospect because we have already been disappointed so many times.

Yesterday, Sis and I worked on baking and getting gift baskets made for friends, coworkers and neighbors. We have pretty much had a homemade Christmas this year. We packed up soaps, lotion, cookies, jelly, jam, candies, and bread, Today we will get busy delivering them.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and hoping that we all have a very wet New Year!!!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spoke Too Soon...

Ok..... I do not know what kind of evil illness I have but something is seriously wrong. I was thinking that I was coming out of this and finally going to kick it.
Neil came home at lunch today and I ventured out with him to do some Christmas shopping. It wasn't long before he asked me what was wrong...... I just faded away. I was not sure that I was going to make it back to the truck. I have another low grade fever and feel very yucky.

I cannot bear to spend any more time resting and trying to get well!!!!! Guess I will  have to break down and call my doctor in the morning....... He is getting used to seeing me on a regular basis.


After 14 days of a terrible cold and cough, I think that I just MIGHT be getting over it. There were a couple of days there that I just had to turn it all over to Seth and go back to bed.

I hate to get my hopes up but..... there is a very good chance that we might get some much needed rain or even snow this afternoon. If the snow does make it, we do not expect to get more than an inch but moisture is moisture and I will not complain at all.

We have begun putting out hay for the livestock. That immediately puts us on a countdown clock until spring green up. Will we make it or not?? I can already tell that I do not have enough small square bales for the goats and penned critters. Going to have to do some creative thinking there...... I am pretty sure that I can buy another pick up truck load or two from my hay guy but the later in the season that you buy it, the more expensive it gets.

The good news is that what little rain we have gotten was enough to get the strip of wheat to sprout. We have no intentions of harvesting it and plan to graze it all off. That should give us a little more time before we get desperate for livestock feed.

I was marveling at how fat the sheep, Katherine and Elizabeth, are and Neil reminded me that in less than six weeks, we will have lambs!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Recycling Farm Style

I am just getting wimpier and wimpier as I get older! I have a had a terrible cold that just WILL NOT go away. I have had it so long that I have lost all track of time. About the time that I think that I am getting over it, I relapse and it knocks me flat again!

Needless to say, I have not been very productive for the last week or so and it has not improved my holiday spirit one little bit. I managed to do a little shopping but honestly, I have no idea just who has what coming. I planned to make gift baskets for friends and neighbors with baked goodies, soap and lotion but..... That has not happened as of yet.

I should not have done it but--- I did---- We went to an auction yesterday. Managed to spend a reasonable amount of money on some nice additions to our farm. A hay rake and and large flat bed trailer. Seth thinks that we can pay for the trailer by using it to haul off just a couple of loads of the scrap metal that he has been gathering up on this farm.

Seth comes from a long line of scavengers on my side of the family. He is much better at sorting off the useless stuff and getting rid of it than I am. I just want to keep it all..... he is loading up the true junk and hauling it off. I am very impressed with his recycling ability. He found a small trailer frame with flat tires off in a pile of stuff in the woods. He scrounged enough scrap lumber to put a floor and side rails on it. Then he went looking for cast off tires..... just on a whim, he aired up the flat ones already on it. He put some tire goo in them, hitched it to the 4-wheeler and away we went!  We have been using that thing to haul off the trees from the pasture cleaning. I do not know how we have managed to run this farm with out it! The tires have held with just an occasional air up for about 3 months.

Our cattle working pens are entirely possible because of Seth's frugal scavenging. There were lots of panels and pipes laying around when we bought this place. Many of them were bent, warped and actually not meant for livestock use. He has just kept working at it and re-adjusting and building until he has gotten a decent set of working pens set up. Luckily for us, our cattle are not hard to work and relatively tame. We are as gentle as we can be when we get them up so they are not really hard on the working set up. Still, it is pretty impressive what a determined teenage boy who doesn't know how to weld can get accomplished.

He is not saying it but..... he working very hard to get things set up so that while he is gone off for school, it won't be such hard work for me and Adam while Dad is off farm slaying dragons. What a guy.......

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cold and Very Late

And I guess that I should add that I don't even care! The temp this morning is 18 degrees and feels like 10. Somehow, I did not get my work clothes swapped over from the washing machine to the dryer last night so I don't have anything to wear this morning. While I was waiting for the dryer, I cooked breakfast, chatted with a friend on facebook and let the boys sleep late.

Yes--- we are very late doing the barn chores. They will all be just fine..... I hope. Yesterday, I was sick. I got everything done in the morning and posted on this blog. Then, I fell apart. This cold hit me like a ton of bricks and I was down for the rest of the day and night. The rest of the clan has been suffering with it for almost three weeks, just passing it around. I decided that I was not going to push myself so that it lingered for DAYS. So, I took massive doses of Vitamin C, some cold medicine, turned up the heat and went to bed. I do not know what happened in this house or on this farm while I was out but they all seem to be alive and kicking today.
The good news is that I feel much better and only have a slight cold now.

The boys are up and fed and all of us are looking out at the frozen pond and dreading heading out--- but we must! The cows still need milking and everybody else needs feed, hay and water.

So.... I guess that I can't put it off any longer......<sigh>

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finally --- Big Chill

We have had a few cold snaps this winter that have lasted a day or two. It has been pretty darn nice having this almost balmy weather in December. Looks like that is all over with now!

The weather man warned us that an Arctic chill was coming and he was right. This morning, the temp is 16 degrees. He also called for a few snow flurries after midnight but I didn't stay up to see. I would have much preferred a heavy snowfall to at least give us some moisture......... we still are in a severe drought.
The national cow herd numbers are continuing to drop dramatically. There are fewest number of cows in the US since the early 1940"s. We are hanging on to ours just as hard as we can........ I am happy to say that my cattle still look to be in good shape. As I drive around some of the back county roads, I see herds that are getting thin. I thought it might just be our area but Salena tells me that on her drive up from Oklahoma she saw lots of herds that were beginning to show the affects of short grass and poor water.

The rotational grazing experiment is over and we count it a total success. Our stocking rate for our pasture is very light. That means that we could have more cattle grazing to make our farm more productive but...... we have been hesitant to do that because of the drought conditions and we have needed the money from calf sales. Now that we have seen the possibilities, in spite of the drought, we will begin keeping more heifer calves--- if we have any! The last six calves born on this farm were bulls!

It worked out that the grazing scheme ended just as the cold weather was heading our way. The cows burst out the gate in the last paddock and headed out to graze on the easy stuff. I really wanted them to have completely full bellies to help keep them warm.

The horses have been loose in the big pasture while the cows were shut up. They had a marvelous time roaming far and wide. They had to go back into their small pasture with a bale of hay. We do not give our horses grain. They are grazing creatures and every single one of ours is absolutely "mud ball fat". I also limit their access to the hay bale. They tend to just waste so much of it playing in it if they have full time access. So, they are allowed in with the hay bale late in the afternoon and left with it all night. Part of our morning routine is to run them out and shut the gate. I do give them a little treat when it is going to be very cold. There is a pelleted feed designed for horses that are kept in stalls. It is a complete feed that says that you do not even have to feed hay with it..... so it is very high in roughage---- a very good thing for horses. I try to keep a couple of bags of it on hand for the nights that it gets bitterly cold. I believe that 16 degrees with a brisk north wind qualifies as bitter........ so the nags get about 3/4 lbs each just before dark. It makes them thirsty so they all take a big drink from the tank before it freezes over.

So our late afternoon routine yesterday was pretty busy. Besides turning out the cows and handling the horses, we had to give all the bottle calves, penned bucks, and the goat herd extra hay inside their shelters. The chicken waterers had to be taken into the barn kitchen to keep them from freezing solid. We have to find a couple of tank floats to keep the water for the goats and milk cows from freezing over. After milking and cleanup, we had to shut off the water to the barn and drain all of the lines and make sure the heat lamp was on over the incoming pipes. 

This morning, we will have to take the ax and chop ice in the horse water tank. The pond is not frozen because the wind kept it moving all night so the cows are good.

The biggest problem I have with cold weather is all the clothes! By the time I get the wool socks on, jeans and maybe long johns, topped with coveralls, a hoodie and my heavy coat and gloves, I step out the back door and realize that I need to pee..........

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chef Lumber Jack Nurse

That is my title these days. I have been cooking nearly everyday ( and the kitchen shows it... ), helping Seth with the small tree clearing in the finished grazing paddocks and taking care of sick or injured people.

Neil has had a terrible cold and Adam fell out of a tree and severely sprained his ankle.

Salena says that she will be heading home after her late class tonight. We are under no illusions that she is rushing home because she misses us terribly! It is still hunting season and the last weekend of gun season until January. She is the only one in the family that has the hunting fever this year.

This morning, I made two batches of basic baking mix and another two batches of the bread machine mix.
Adam was in alot of pain so Seth let me stay at the house while he did all of the chores. I made a double batch of muffins for breakfast in hopes of having a few left over for this weekend. I must have been dreaming. The only thing left is the empty pans.......

The barn kitchen is still waiting for me and still in a huge mess. I do not know when I am going to get back on that project but I am well aware that time is running out. Noelle will calve in Jan/Feb and the goats start kidding in February. I had hoped to have all of that organized and set up in more "professional" system. If I don't get the lead out, it will just continue to be the same old depressing mess. Emphasis on "MESS"......

I am thinking that I am just going to have to commit myself (and the rest of the clan) to pulling out all the stops and making this THE PRIORITY for the last week of December and the first of January.

The rotational grazing trial will be over on Sunday morning. So far, the cows have only moved themselves one time. It looks like deer ran through the fence sometime in the night and the cows just walked to the next pen as soon as it was daylight. They were scheduled to anyway but I would have preferred for them not to handle it on their own.  

That end of the farm looks wonderful. We have cut down and piled up enough cedar and hedge trees to make a huge pile. The plan is to begin burning the piles as soon as we get enough rain or snow to reduce the fire danger---- or wait until spring green up---- which ever comes first. There are about a dozen large piles of tree debris scattered all over this farm. They were here when we bought the place but it has been a low priority to get them burned. The kids have had a few bonfires and invited their friends over to enjoy the party but there are still many more eyesores. I have decided that 2013 is the year to get all that cleaned up.

One pile is so large that I am afraid it would show up on a space satellite if we set a match to it. It is an absolute rabbit warren. The coyotes as well as our dogs hunt it every day-- and night. I am going to have to think long and hard about setting it ablaze. I have gotten so used to it that I don't even notice it anymore. It is a farm fixture--- kind of like the barn and actually bigger than the barn!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Plotting and Planning

Most people I know are planning for Christmas. I am just not in the "spirit".  Usually by this time, I am nearly done with all the shopping and related hoopla...... but not this year. Deep down inside, I am being very passive aggressive and just pretending that none of the holiday stuff is happening. I have just sort of totally skipped over all that and moved on to the planning and goal setting stuff that we normally do in January.

The craft fair this last weekend was very nice and very festive but...... even though we sold a bunch of soap and lotion, all I bought was a cute new apron----- for ME! LOL!!

On top of all that, it is deer season. Open day of rifle season came and went and I really didn't notice too much. I have went out a few times with Adam but I took a book to read. YAWN..... he is still a very beginning hunter so after about an hour, he is ready to head in to the house and that is just fine with me.

I guess that I need to snap out of this funk or I am going to lose my "Mother-of-the-Year" status....

What I have been doing is scouring the Internet for the best prices on fruit trees, strawberry plants, blueberry bushes and asparagus crowns..... Praying for rain and watching the horizon. I can't bear to listen to a weather report or check the weather sites on line because it is just too depressing. Hearing those chirpy forecasters gush about warm, sunny weather makes me grit my teeth.

We moved the cows into the fourth of seven paddocks this morning. Everybody just moved right over with out any fuss or drama. I went in to town to do some banking and bill paying this morning and came home with a new chainsaw...... how many women can cross that off of their to-do list??

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Craft Fair

Yep--- December 1st and I am off to a Christmas craft fair this morning. My friend and I have done this for several years now.  We sell our goat milk soap and lotion. Two weeks ago, we did the Elk Falls Craft Fair. These are our only two official marketing places.

I can hear the wind blowing outside and I amhoping for at least a little rain today. Neil is off from work this weekend. He and the boys will have to handle moving the cows this morning.

We need to sell lots of stuff this morning! Wish me luck!