- Bruce (draft horse)
- Doc (draft horse)
- Josie (dairy cow)
- Buttercup (dairy cow)
- Thunder (the ram who thinks he's at #3)
- #57 (ewe)
- #56 (ewe)
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
The William Arbuckle company of Toledo, Ohio makes some fine stuff! Our "Tiffin" corn sheller is probably over 110 years old, and still works wonderfully. Their corn shellers are such a pleasure to use that 5 year olds who typically prefer to lounge around in their underwear will jump at the chance to operate one.
Armed with a bushel of field corn from our garden and my experimental plot, we set to work, and now have a couple gallons of shelled corn to make our own cheese puffs with.
One evening I decided to bring the camera down to the barn with me for milking time, where I snapped this photo of warm fall sunlight streaming in through the windows.
It's a very pleasant place to be, with the cows munching their hay to the sound of milk streaming into the pail. There's the occasional protest from one of the barncats being molested by Bilbo in the corner. I can hear the horses chewing on the barn, hoping they'll annoy me enough that I toss them some hay to make it stop.
Since I've taken that photo, things have changed. It's much colder now, and not quite as pleasant.
Michigan has four very distinct seasons, and winter just arrived this week. I like them all, but some a little more than others. Winter has a sort of austere beauty around here. The leaves are gone from the trees, and I can suddenly see through the woods that seemed so dense until now. The wind makes a whistling noise once the leaves are off. It reminds me of the wind in the sailboat rigging when we lived aboard our boat in Bellingham. It's often snowing, but so far it's been just a few scattered flakes, each a perfect star. They don't accumulate, but seem to disappear as they hit the ground.
Rachel did a fine job of announcing winter's arrival, saying "It's 22 degrees, and I'm going outside to use the outhouse!" I wonder if she'll make the same announcement when the temps go below zero again.
The barnyard, despite a load of wood chips, had grown very muddy over the last few weeks, especially after being churned up while I extended our water line to the horses' paddock. It's not a problem anymore though, as the mud has all frozen. It's nice that the wheels on our poo-cart no longer sink into the mud, but they don't roll over this frozen stuff too well either.
Our barn seems to produce its own barn-cats through spontaneous generation, as evidenced by the appearance of "Coon" the kitten late this summer. She's a true barn-cat, as I rarely see her outside the barn at all. She survives on a diet of second-hand chipmunks left by Meowie and Burrito, along with some milk donated by Josie.
Our local library hosted an astronomer a few weeks ago, and Henry was quite excited to go out and sleep under the stars after seeing his presentation. We loaded up the backpack with sleeping bags and found a nice cowpie-free spot out in the middle of the pasture.
While bow-season didn't produce anything for me this year, firearm season went pretty well. The bucks, as I'd anticipated, grew careless. I had a 40 yard shot at a 6 point buck who was busy making a scrape. He ran away as the smoke cleared, just as healthy as ever. I guess there was a little too much brush between us.
Later in the evening of opening day, I spotted a nice buck running along one of the trails I've cleared with the tractor. This time the shot went where it was supposed to, and he was down within 50 yards.
Henry saw his first shooting star, and I was amazed by how many airplanes there are flying over our house at any given moment. We lasted until 1:00am, when Henry announced that he couldn't sleep any more, at which point he ran for the house and spooked the horses who thundered around the barnyard and terrified him.
There's an old play-house in our woods which I had promised to bring up to the house for Henry. I was going to do it with the tractor last summer, but never got around to it.
This year I finally had the time to bring it back, but was able to load it on to our stone-boat and drag it back with the horses. It's not in the best of shape, but should last at least until Henry loses interest in it. Inside is a "witch's kettle" made from the top of an old cream separator.
I managed to find an old Oliver 99 walking plow at the auction in Topeka, which is perfect for the smaller space of our garden. We harnessed up the horses and went to work. I worked the lines while Rachel steered the plow. The plowing went very well once I stopped staring at the plow and paid attention to where the horses were going.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The outhouse, though not yet fully complete, is now operational. It's all sheeted, and two of the three windows are installed, but it still needs siding. Although it still gets some use, the sawdust toilet in the house isn't a whole lot of fun to empty, so we avoid it as much as possible.
The popularity of this new building is actually much greater than I'd anticipated. One of our new hens has decided that she likes laying her eggs in there (the door, which went on last weekend, doesn't yet have a latch to keep her out). Our barn cats quickly discovered that it's an excellent pick-up spot, great for mooching attention from the human-folk who are briefly immobilized there throughout the day.
I met some of our neighbors for the first time last week, a couple who seem very nice. About 15 minutes after letting the dogs out for a potty break, I received a phone call from them. They live through the woods and across the state highway down a long driveway. Bilbo likes to roam, apparently. We initially thought that Memphis would help show Bilbo where the "home turf" was, but he's been doing his best to corrupt her instead, as she follows him around on his wild explorations.
So, last weekend, we bought an "invisible fence", which is a shock collar triggered by a signal wire you run around the perimeter of your yard. Bilbo made a few forays across the wire with a special spring in his step, but has since decided that staying in the yard is just fine.
I finally decided to open up our new pasture for the animals, even though the back end doesn't have a fence around it. I put up a polywire temporary-fence, which seems to be working alright so far.
Josie's production went up a little once she was back on pasture, and I like not having to shovel manure in the barnyard and haul hay around. This will give us a couple weeks of reprieve until everyone has to start eating hay again. If last year is any indication, we'll probably have some snow here then anyway.
My hunting endeavors haven't gone all that well this year. I saw lots of deer in the first couple weeks of the season, but no bucks that were close enough. I finally resolved to take a doe to get the freezer filled. I took one long shot that I missed, and haven't had an opportunity to take one since. I think they all know it's deer season now, and have become completely nocturnal. In a week or two the rut will start, and then the bucks will start to get careless, or so I hope.
Our horses have some chronic thrush (that's a bacterial infection on their hooves). It's not a big deal, but I need to clean them out and apply medicine daily. At first, Bruce would visibly transfer all of his weight to the foot I was trying to lift, but has since mellowed out and usually cooperates now. Doc would play "ring around the mulberry bush" with me when it was his turn. Now it usually takes a bit of sweet-talking before he'll grudgingly allow me to mess with his feet. Today he kicked loose and stomped on my foot. That felt *wonderful*. Last week the cows banged the metal roof on their hay feeder and spooked the horses while I was cleaning Doc's hoof. I thought I was about to be dismembered, but only got knocked over.
The turkeys are all happily nested in our freezer now, so we won't be running any more turkey-drives back from Stan's house. They were regularly visiting Stan and his wife, apparently feeling quite comfortable among their roving herd of guinea hens, geese, chickens, and peacocks while partaking of the abundant feed. One of the hens learned to tap on their back door looking for handouts. Although we initially planned to do our own butchering, the Amish farm where we've been buying chicken offered to butcher them for $5 apiece, which seemed like a good price. We've eaten one so far, and it was very good. Meat tastes better when images of the butchering process aren't lodged in your memory.
We've been watching the Star Wars series over the last few days, which Henry absolutely loves. Every stick has become a light saber. This evening while I was bottling our milk, he presented me with a light-saber performance outside the kitchen window. It's strange for me to think that I first went to see the new Star Wars movie with my own father when I was exactly his age.
Sci-Fi has always been about reading current trends and extrapolating them to the next step; a way for us to explore and contemplate what may be just around the corner. Back when I was 5, the wonders of space exploration were still very much on people's minds -- and Star Wars extrapolated that trend to a possible future of space-based civilization.
It's clear to me that our future can never be in space, which makes these movies feel quaint to me now. Humans are a product of our own planet, and as such are inseparable from it. The mix of bacteria which make our digestion (and thus our life) possible, is probably found only on this planet. We've developed immunity to untold numbers of pathogens, the mix of which is almost certainly unique to earth. The amount of gravity our skeletons are adapted to, the composition and pressure of the atmosphere we can breathe, and the temperatures we can tolerate are all unique to this planet. We -- and the planet we live on are as unique as a snowflake. Even if we could find and easily travel to other planets which are similar to our own, we could never expect to survive there.
As we've recently entered the era of increasing energy scarcity, the ability to build or fuel spacecraft looks like it will also be in terminal decline. But to me, it seems as if it was a silly dream to begin with. I think that our future -- if we manage to preserve it -- probably looks a lot more like our past.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
When Buttercup the cow returned from her summer vacation of hanging out with some fine young bulls, she and Josie became the best of friends. And then one morning, they *really* became the best of friends, engaging in highly visible displays of passion right next to the road for all the passers by to see.
Having by then spent a few hundred dollars breeding Buttercup (both with multiple AI's and the bull visit), and with Josie being bred before we purchased her, I was a little disappointed. With Buttercup's track record, I was starting to think that she might have to make a permanent visit to Hamburgerland.
Yesterday we harvested our first honey, from our single hive which sits out near the garden. The hive has two "supers", which are the boxes that contain "extra" honey -- above and beyond what the bees will need to get them through the winter. That's the honey we get to keep.
Step one is to get the supers off of the hive, and the bees off of the frames. They get kind of angry when you pull their hive apart, but I let them have it with my smoker. The smoke makes them think that a forest fire is about to consume their hive, so they eat a bunch of honey and calm down. Or something like that. I forget what the bee book said exactly. One of the problems with running a farm is that I no longer have the time to read up on how I *should* be doing things.
Once I had the two supers removed, I set up my new honey extractor outside near the garage, thinking that a messy task like this might not be suitable for the kitchen. It took me about 10 seconds of running the honey extractor before an angry swarm of bees showed up (they can smell honey) and scared me back inside.
With Rachel and Henry's help, the honey frames were all eventually cleaned out -- netting us about 5 gallons of honey and a couple pounds of wax. At $30/gallon, this is probably one of our more profitable operations, so long as I don't factor in costs for the hive, extractor, bee suit, and my time (and mental anguish).
While it's not exactly complete yet, we are making progress on the composting outhouse. It's all framed, the roof is on, and a little bit of sheeting has gone up thus far. If a tornado comes through, we're all going to the basement of the outhouse, as it's probably the best built structure on our property.
It's bow hunting season again. I haven't quite lived up to last year's experience (when I shot a nice buck in the first hour) but I have been seeing deer. Just this evening after dinner I was out for about 20 minutes, sneaking up to a bunch of does in our alfalfa field -- but no bucks. I've seen a couple bucks, but always just out of range (because they saw me first). Our neighbor Stan says he's seen some very nice bucks at the back of our field lately, so there's something to look forward to if they stick around.
Our turkeys are nearing the end of their brief lifespan, destined to become thanksgiving dinner, turkey sandwiches, and the like. For now, they're both entertaining and annoying. They love to strut around the yard when we're around, with all the toms puffed up and fanned out, dragging their wings along the ground. One disappeared, so we're down to nine now. Not sure if she ended up in someone else's freezer, or perhaps a coyote's stomach. Or, perhaps she left to join her wild brethren, as their territories have started to overlap as our turkeys wander increasingly further from the barnyard.
One day after giving the horses a good workout, Rachel decided that I should try riding one of them. I picked Bruce, because he seems a little more relaxed than Doc. Note the bike helmet I'm wearing -- a sign of supreme confidence in my fine steed (I would've also worn body armor if I had any). Despite my misgivings, Bruce performed well, and responded just as well to me working the lines as he would if I were walking behind him as usual. He's awfully big though; riding him feels about as secure as sitting on top of a tanker truck. I thanked him for not throwing me off and squishing me.
Rachel has been digging a mysterious hole in our basement, which she says is for "storing cabbages". If I disappear anytime soon, I would suggest that you look for me there. I think the forced use of a sawdust toilet (and upcoming outhouse) may be wearing on her.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
A little while back, an unsuspecting bathroom-goer made a grim discovery. A mysterious someone had plugged the toilet yet again. Rachel rushed in to assist, plunger at the ready, yelling "Clear!" before attempting to restore circulation to the afflicted fixture. Pushing the plunger down produced a nice little geyser from outside the toilet, which hadn't happened before. Hmmmm...
I loosened the bolts to lift the toilet and discovered that they really didn't need to be loosened, because three of the four were completely rusted through. There was no wax sealing ring to replace, but rather a home-made rubber washer and globs of sealant. The pipe underneath was crumbling away - I think it had an asbestos flange. So it wasn't going to be a simple wax-ring replacement, but rather a plumbing repair as well. I don't really like toilets (except at certain times) anyway. They use electricity (via the pump in our well) which puts them on my black list.
So instead of sinking a little money into a simple repair/replacement project, I decided it was high time to sink more time and money into a much bigger project. It's time to build the outhouse!
This isn't just any outhouse, but a *composting* outhouse. That's the plan anyway, as the outhouse doesn't fully exist yet. A fancy-schmancy double-seater affair to allow complete composting of the "product" before removal is required. It would be almost as romantic as those dual-showerhead showers in fancy houses, except you're only supposed to use one side at a time, until the chamber beneath fills up.
Our neighbor Stan volunteered to teach me to lay cinder block this weekend, which is about 3/4 complete now. Next weekend should finish the foundation, and after that it's on to the rest of outhouse. I'm making it up as I go -- hopefully the inevitable design flaws won't be too daunting.
Some of you will be visiting us soon, and are probably wondering if the outhouse will be finished by then. Perhaps you're wondering if you'll have to stumble outside in the dark of night, searching in vain for the correct outbuilding. Maybe you'll get lost and end up as Buttercup's next love toy, discovered face down in the barnyard the next morning. Worry not! You won't be relegated to the bushes when nature calls, as we do have an interim solution.
We also have a "sawdust" toilet in the bathroom for the time being. It's a fancy frame and toilet seat that fits over a 5-gallon bucket, which uses sawdust to accomodate your offerings. Don't remind me that sawdust *also* requires energy to produce (perhaps using more energy than the toilet it replaces). I can't be burdened with petty details.
Our neighbors accross the street keep horses, and like most horse owners have an abundance of horse crap. Being as I am the proud new owner of an ancient manure spreader, I offered to relieve them of this awful burden, which they were happy to unload today.
When Bruce mentioned that he would be cleaning out their horse barn, my first thought was to hook the spreader up to the tractor. But that would involve 1) pumping up the leaky tire, 2) detaching the brush-hog, 3) fueling up, and 4) setting up the tow-bar before I could hook up the spreader. After a few minutes of deep thought, I realized that this would take just as much time as harnessing the horses, which made it an easy decision.
Bruce and Doc seem to know what's coming, and didn't want to turn into Bruce and Kelly's driveway at first (yes, our neighbor has the misfortune of living next to a horse with whom he shares a name), but eventually they relented and resigned themselves to their crappy fate. A strong magnetic force seemed to pull them back towards our barn each time we passed, but they managed to resist it with my assistance on the lines.
The spreader worked beautifully, spewing a fountain of poo in graceful arcs accross the pasture. The weeds which overpowered my grass seed have never had it so good!
Rachel has been dutifully harvesting the bounty of our garden. We'll have enough potatoes to feed half of Ireland this winter. She's also made kim-chee, sauerkraut, relish, and too many types of pickled items for me to remember. We also canned tomatoes for the first time -- one batch of tomato sauce, and another of ketchup. Several hours of prep, cleaning, and cooking down a four-gallon pot of tomatoes rewarded us with 6 and 1/2 pints of ketchup. Like most food items we produce, it's really best not to compare our time and energy spent with the alternative of just buying it at the store. I think the lowest wage in Bangladesh would compare favorably with our wage if we figured out what we "earned".
With Ron's help (that's my father-in-law), the woodshed I started nearly a year ago is now standing. It was immediately recommissioned as an equipment shed, however, so our firewood is still living under leaky tarps. We put it together using timber-frame construction, which is both a lot of fun and much more work than conventional construction. At least all of the beams were free. The turkeys like it quite a bit. One of them flew up to inspect my work while I was putting the last few sheets of roofing on.
One evening after dinner, Henry decided that it was high time for a salamander hunt in our basement. This is one of the fringe benefits of living in an ancient house of questionable structural integrity. The basement didn't disappoint, and boy did we eat well the next day!
Buttercup has a new companion now, Josie the cow. Josie is a 3/4 Jersey 1/4 Holstein cross from a nearby dairy. She's very friendly, and had no transition problems moving to the farm. She's been producing over 5 gallons a day ever since she arrived at the end of July. Twice a day, after I release her from the milking stanchion, she uses my butt as a scratching post.
As Josie arrived a month ago, Buttercup was just leaving in the same trailer, off to her vacation at Camp Studly Bull. Buttercup just returned from her vacation, and seemed happy to have a new companion. They're inseperable, and both come into the barn for milking time, although Buttercup won't be milked for another 9.5 months.
With Josie's arrival, we've started up our cow-share operation,and are officially open for business. We even have a customer already. Drinking 5 gallons of milk a day was getting really tiresome, so I'm happy to be able to share it now.
We're still cutting firewood for this coming winter -- 5 cords cut and stacked now, with another 1.5 cords to go. I wish this was all done last spring, but... we've been kind of busy. At least we're ahead of where we were at this time last year. I've been hauling whole logs out of the woods with the horses, rather than cutting them up in place. That takes the truck out of the loop and reduces fuel use. In the interest of eliminating fossil fuel use, I should be getting rid of the chainsaw too, of course. Maybe next year. Yeah, next year.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Our tallest corn is now over 8'. Sugar snap peas are all done, and we have small watermelons and cantaloupe on the way. We've been eating carrots, beans, summer squash, lettuce, etc. Rachel has also been doing some pickling. I think our first corn is only a couple weeks away now. But I can rest assured that the local racoon population knows that as well. Maybe Henry needs another 'coonskin cap?
One day while using the brush-hog along the road in front of our house, I noticed an odd shape in the middle of the road a few hundred yards away. I stopped and stared for a bit, and realized that it was moving, albeit very slowly. I ran over to investigate, and discovered this attractive creature, who was a little less than enthusiastic to meet me.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Buttercup was clearly hot and bothered, and expressed a strong interest in meeting me up close and personal, like the cow in this video. I made sure not to let her fall behind me, but as we passed the mineral feeder, she broke away. She then proceeded to show me how she had flattened it before. Apparently the curved rain guard looks like the back of another (very sexy) cow.
Later that day the AI lady paid Buttercup another visit. So, hopefully, in 9 1/2 months, she'll have a calf. If the mineral feeder is flattened again in 22 days, that means we need to bring the AI lady out again.
In addition to our cow excitement, we've cut our first hay. The weather is always a nemesis when you have hay out drying in the field, so I decided to hop to it and get the hay cut when the forecast showed 7 days of no rain.
After a few days of drying, it was time to rake the hay into windrows. Despite the forecast, some rain started to sprinkle halfway through this job, but it didn't amount to much. Not enough to damage the hay anyway. A day after that, we had a mystery rain storm come to attack us at 1:30am. I checked the forecast while it was pouring rain outside, and there was zero mention of rain. A check of the radar showed a single storm forming out on lake Michigan, and heading straight towards us like a missle, and dissipating shortly thereafter. This rain was enough to damage the hay, but not too bad.
Rain was finally in the forecast for the evening of Memorial day, but the hay wasn't 100% dry yet. If we baled it, it would become moldy and useless. If we left it in the field, the additional rain would make it worthless. That left us with one option not normally considered by sane people, which was to put it up loose, as was done before the invention of balers. Loose hay, so long as it's not stacked too high, can still dry out without molding. We didn't have enough room in the barn to put it all in without stacking, but we did get a few pickup loads put away, and it's now dry and looking good.
I thought that forking all of the hay by hand would be a terrible chore, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. At least it was fun until about the 6th truck load. Tossing 5lbs of hay on the end of your pitchfork is much more pleasant than hefting 50lb bales around anyway.
In order to get as much hay as possible in each truckload, we had to squish it down. Our certified professional hay squisher was invaluable for this.
We soon ran out of space to spread the hay out in the barn, so decided that it might be a good time to learn how to make a haystack. It might get moldy, but at least it wouldn't burn our barn down if it started to heat up. At best, it might allow us to keep more of the hay from this cutting.
Although the hay did heat up a little, it hasn't molded yet, and may very well survive as good hay. In the good old days, such stacks were just left outside with no tarp; the hay on top acted as a thatched roof while the hay inside remained dry. The stack did shrink quite a bit though -- it's now about half of the height shown in the photo.
Our new horses seem to like the haystack, which is in their paddock. I hadn't really planned on getting a draft team this early, but was keeping my eyes open to make sure I had an idea of prices and availability so I could jump when a good opportunity arose.
As it turns out, that opportunity came up, so we've made the largest single addition (by weight) to the farm's animals. Doc and Bruce are a team of 8 year old Belgian geldings.
They spent their first hour galloping around the barnyard and exploring their new farm. Doc soon discovered that the many small trees in the barnyard make great scratching sticks for those intimate spots if you back over them and rock back and forth.
But wait, that's not all...
The weekend before we got Doc and Bruce, we made another addition of pasture-eating livestock.
Being financial wizards, we've decided to enter the highly lucrative wool business (shearing typically costs more than wool can be sold for). We've picked up three Romney sheep, a breed known for high quality wool. By next year at this time, we'll all be wearing our home-made wool underwear.
I would post a photo of the sheep, but they're not the most photogenic, as they're typically running away from us. We'll get one... eventually.
Finally, we now have 11 week-old Narranganset turkey chicks from a woman who hatches them in Kalamazoo. They'll be around until Thanksgiving when Rachel has volunteered to gut and pluck each one of them all by herself.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
So ever since, then, I've been paying close attention to Buttercup's behavior, as we're planning to have her bred in May now. She seems a little more spunky when she's in heat. Or is she just being spunky for no reason? I make frequent fanny inspections, but it's still hard to tell when she's in heat.
A couple weeks ago, I ventured out to the barnyard after work, for our customary friendship building session, which involves me feeding her some carrots and petting her while she licks my clothes. She immediately noticed me, and ran right up for our encounter. Usually she's a little more shy about it, but hey -- maybe these friendship building sessions are really working?
Next thing I know she's reared up on her hinds and is coming at me, ready to bring our friendship to the "next level". I made sure not to turn my back as I made a hasty exit. So now I have a very positive ID of one of Buttercup's heat cycles. In a few days now she'll come back into heat. I'm not sure yet if I should venture into her pen for another positive ID.
Lifting up the cow-pie, I discovered some burrows underneath. Henry and I went to go get a shovel and inspect the burrows. As soon as I lifted up the soil, out popped a big dung beetle, complete with a ball of manure that she had buried.
As I alluded to a while back, we've been very busy this spring. The last couple months have been spent putting up 800 feet of woven wire field fencing around our garden, 2,000 feet of electric fence around our pastures, planting the garden, planting the new orchard, plowing/disking/dragging and seeding about 4 acres of new pasture, and working with the Amish crew we brought back to re-roof the barn. This weekend I'm hoping to finish off the electric pasture fencing so that Buttercup can be set free and stop eating hay. We've been planting some more in the garden, and I also have a horse-drawn corn planter (converted for tractor use -- but I'll switch it back to it's rightful state soon enough) that I'm planning to use on a corner of the newly tilled pasture.
Plowing a field is definitely destructive, but it's something we have to do at least once to get our pastures seeded in as we want them. Turning up soil is actually one of the biggest sources of CO2 in the atmosphere as well -- because all of the carbon in the soil becomes oxidized when it's brought up to the high-oxygen environment at the surface. Some sources say this actually exceeds the amount of carbon we've released through the burning of fossil fuels.
Speaking of pasture, ours is growing very well now, or at least the stuff we planted last fall is. Our hayfield is up about 7" tall already, and the adjacent clover/grass pasture is nearly that tall as well. Now that it's all grown up, I can't see all the rocks which cover our fields. That makes me happy, but my mood might change when I start hitting the rocks with the sickle mower in a few weeks.
Back to the new roof on our barn...
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Before we moved to Michigan, I was warned that there would be trouble if my obsessive-compuslive nature returned. I'm doing my best, but this time of year is particularly difficult. Our pasture is starting to grow again, and I need to get it fenced in so our animals can use it. The barn still needs some work. The garden needs to be prepared, and I need to prep a couple acres for my field corn. I need to get our 7 cords of firewood cut so that it has time to dry before we need it again next winter. We need to cut fenceposts for putting up our perimeter fence. After purchasing two loads of hay that our animals refuse to eat, the pressure is on to find some that they *will* eat. The hay mower needs to be rebuilt, and the trim in our house needs to be finished, the basement needs to be cleaned up, insulation needs to be finished, I should really rewire the basement lighting, and fix the cellar doors, and...
Earlier today, Rachel and Henry were playing with a big ball of his. Buttercup ran up to the fence and bellowed at the ball. So, Rachel threw it into her pen to see what she would do. Buttercup clearly enjoyed herself, but I can't say the same for the ball.
Our barn has an old pigeon coop built up above the hay loft. It's been vacant since we moved in, but we had some visitors today. I think I even heard some pigeon hanky-panky going on, so perhaps there will be more soon.
Ashley the goat is still kicking. No more runs, but she's very weak right now. The worms and coccidosis appear to be gone, but we don't know if she has another ailment or if she will slowly recover. At least she can lounge in the sun these days rather than shivering in her stall like she was a couple weeks ago.
Spring is definitely here now, at least for the time being. Our ponds are about halfway melted out, and I hear frogs in the evening now. Sandhill cranes are prancing around in the field again, and the mourning doves have returned. The fun we've really been waiting for -- mosquitoes -- are starting to annoy once again. I'm hoping tomorrow evening's forecast of 21 degrees takes care of them for the time being.
The deer are out in our pasture nearly every morning and evening. At first I thought it was pretty neat to see, but now I'm starting to wonder if I really like that, and have started chasing them off. I'm trying to grow these pastures while they're trying to eat them, and there are quite a few out there. Hmmmm....
Friday, March 6, 2009
We got out for a little ice skating earlier in the week; perhaps the last of the season. Today we walked out to the same pond after dinner, and the ice was already melted several feet from the shore in places.
Our goat Ashley is turning out to be the veterinarian's best friend. Or worst nightmare, depending on how you look at it. About a month after we got the goats, she had a serious bout with worms that lowered her milk production enough that we decided to dry her off. Worms are a common problem with goats -- most goats get wormed at least 3 times annually, but usually just during the warmer months. We had been using an herbal wormer, but it apparently doesn't handle heavy worm load very well. Ever since then, she's been getting wormed again and again, with ever increasing frequency. Her partner in crime -- Mary Kate -- seems to be a model of vibrant health.
A few weeks ago, it got to the point where (shortly after being wormed yet again) she had developed bad diarrhea. I quickly learned not to stand within 15 feet of her fanny when she sneezed, because she was firing out both ends. The vet's new diagnosis was coccidosis (a microbial infection normally affecting only young goats). We treated her for that, and she started to firm up a bit, and then quickly reverted to her former state.
We've been supplementing her copper intake, as that's a common deficiency with goats that can lead to these sorts of problems. She gets more coccidosis medication, enterotoxemia treatment, pepto-bismol, pro-biotics, vitamin B injections... but her rocket-rump still persists. It's clear that her immune system is not up to the task, but there doesn't seem to be a good way to tell what the reason is. All we can do is remedy the common causes (such as copper deficiency) and hope that we get it right before she keels over.
On a "real" farm, where each animal is viewed with an eye towards cost/benefit, she would've been disposed of long ago. She seems relatively happy for now, but there's a good chance that she'll have to be put down if her problems persist despite various treatments. If it comes to that, I'll be the one to do it, and I'm not really looking forward to it. I guess that's one of the not-so-fun parts of playing farmer.
We picked up a horse drawn hay mower last weekend - a McCormick Deering #9, which I'm very excited to try out. I'm thinking that horses won't be coming for another year yet, but maybe this fall if our pasture looks good and our hay stores are healthy. I'll be taking a 4-day course in draft horses later this month, which I'm really looking forward to as well.
Buttercup the cow is growing ever more sociable. She moos back to me when I talk to her now, and occasionally turns around in her stanchion at milking time to give me a big goobery kiss. Whenever I have some work to do in the barnyard, she wanders over to see what's up. She's also pretty responsive. If she comes into the barn when she's not supposed to (such as when I'm out forking her manure into the compost heap), all I have to do is tell her "no" in a stern voice and she skedaddles back outside. She clearly knows when she's being bad.
Buttercup has also developed a fondness for the barn cats. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, she reaches down to "groom" them with her monstrous tongue while they cringe in disgust. Even if I don't catch her in action, I know when she's been playing barncat hairstylist, because the cat looks like she was attacked with a can of hair mousse.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Things finally warmed up a bit last week. We went from below zero to 65 degrees in a few days, and the snow disappeared. All of the formerly frozen doggie-mines deposited in our yard over the last few months are thawed, laying in wait to hitch a final ride on my unsuspecting boot. I'm also reminded of the fact that our yard is still a mud-pit as a result of the water line installation last fall.
With the snow gone, its fun to play outside again. But all is not well at the Hayman Road Farm.
Lurking in the bushes is Fergus, the Evil Rooster of Death. After a couple flap-and-scratch attacks (Fergus thinks Henry is moving in on his ladies) sent our brave young farmer running back inside, we decided that it was time to fight back.
Armed with a beekeeper's helmet and a big stick, Henry was ready to show Fergus who was boss. We weren't entirely successful, however. A rooster flapping in your face (even while wearing a bee-veil) is still scary enough to force a hasty retreat.Rachel has mentioned that Fergus may "need to go into the stewpot" -- an idea which Henry is in full support of. I'm hoping we can work out a more amicable solution.
We're apparently not the only people with this problem -- I noticed another rooster has been offered on our local Craigslist because "our son is scared of him".
Despite Fergus's obvious shortcomings, he does seem to serve a good purpose (aside from the obvious one of keeping all his ladies satisfied). He's exceptionally good at keeping the flock together. Whenever a hen has to run back to the coop to drop off an egg, Fergus is there to guide her back to the flock with a good cock-a-doodle-do. When one of the hens turns up a pile of tasty worms, Fergus is always there to announce the find as the other hens come running. I'm not sure what other predators (besides Henry) he may be fending off, but it seems as if he could do some good there as well.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Considering where our economy is headed, I feel that indoor hunting skills like this may come in handy in the future. They could really help to stretch that grocery budget, and food can't possibly get any more local.
Since the "polish a turd" policy started in our living room seemed to work pretty well, we decided to continue the policy and paint the dining room as well. So long as you're in the next room and have poor eyesight, it looks pretty nice now.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Then, things changed. Apparently his stink machine takes a few days to warm up, and the presence of two fine ladies was just what he needed to get it going.
I'm not sure exactly where the stink comes from, but suspect that his "goatee" may be a source. Every time I'm in the goat's pen, he tries to rub his chin on my thigh. He's not particularly aggressive about it; just very persistent. Every time I turn around, he's there, with his chin moving into position.
There is at least one source of the stink which I'm quite certain of. Curious creates what he thinks is both a refreshing drink and a fine cologne, all rolled into one. I'll let you figure out what it is. I really make sure I keep my distance after he's been partaking of himself that way.
I finally ordered a cheap pair of hockey skates off of Ebay after some unsuccessful attempts at finding a pair at the Goodwill, so now we all have skates. We've been out skating on one of our ponds, which was really nice. A friend of ours invited us to skate out on Corey lake (the big lake about a mile north of us), which has frozen over. The ice on a lake of that size is laced with cracks from the expansion of the ice, although they don't seem to be a hazard at all. We could hear strange echoing noises while we were out on the lake, which is the sound of new cracks forming.
The snow started falling again a couple days ago, so skating is out for the time being. Hopefully there will be enough snow that we can break out the skis.
With the weather not particularly conducive to working outside, I've been cleaning out the barn. Up until now, I was just cleaning sections as it became necessary to use them. It's nice not to have to maneuver around the old junk, bat guano, broken glass, and ancient straw.