Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fun on the Farm

Today, the temp is up to 50 degrees F, bright and sunny.  It started a bit colder.

I began my day bundled up in a fleece-lined jacket, with gloves and a scarf over my Manure Movers of America sweatshirt and jeans.  I tied the strings of the jacket hood, which was over my scarf.  As I tackled the brush around the farm shop with loppers and hand shears, the day warmed and I began the old farmer's strip tease.  I lowered the jacket hood, then took off the scarf and gloves.  Before long, I took off the jacket.  You can work up a sweat doing this kind of work.

As I organized and cleaned the inside of the shop, it became clear to me that I have to do something about the wild vines and brambles which are trying (successfully) to come inside through the windows.  So I managed to clear one long wall and started around the side of the building.  Unfortunately, the slope and the fact that there is a pasture fence near this mess doesn't lend itself to much mechanical short cutting.  I'll just work my way around the building by doing what I can on warmish dry days until it gets done.

Right now, the pasture side looks much like what Snow White's castle must have looked like with all the brambles and weeds.

The cows are sharing pasture with the goats.  I noticed that the calf kindergarten was having fun running wildly through the grass.  They must have noticed that this scared the goat herd and made them run in the other direction.  A new game.  What total fun!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

December

The cows have been cycled into the last pasture near the barns.  There's a lot of grass there which they are currently chomping down.

We've had a little snow, some freezing rain, and a good number of cold but sunny days.

The farm work shop is getting organized.  I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Many loads of cardboard and metal have been hauled to the recycle center.  Trash has been bagged.  "Lost" treasures have been found and located with items of similar function. 

I've gotten down to the nitty gritty of sorting screws into see-through containers, which is very tedious.  However, it will be nice to find just the right size and type when doing projects and repairs.  I now know where many power tools and hand tools are located.  The drawers are labeled.

I've got a short list of other indoor farmy projects to keep me busy during the Winter months.

Bear sightings are on the rise.  I haven't personally seen any yet this year, but some of the neighboring farmers have killed bears on their land.

I've only heard the coyotes screaming once so far.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November

Well, it's cold enough to convince you that it is mid-November.  The black walnut trees are leaf-less and some of the others are holding on to fading Fall colors.

Barn cleaning is going swimmingly and I'm making serious inroads on the farm shop building.  I've hauled carloads of cardboard and paper to the recycling center and am sweeping and sorting like a madwoman.  It should be done in a year or two.

The cows have a visiting red Angus bull and the goats a handsome Boer feller.  We should be knee deep in kids come March.  September should be prime calving time.

So far, no snow.  I am thankful for that and hope it will continue in that weather pattern for some time to come.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sweeping the Cobwebs Away

It's the long-awaited coolness of Autumn which allows me to engage in productive physical farm work.  I've cleaned out the goose and duck houses, exchanging clean straw for mounds of dirty litter.  The chicken house took only a day.

Now, the goat barn clean up is in progress.  The upper part is mostly raked out, with dried manure and old wasted hay hauled out in my Mule UTV.  I'm tackling the lower part now, which requires me to get large mounds of the wasted remains of large round bales in order to work the gates.  That would allow me easier entrance and exit with the Mule.

This will take a great many daily forays before it's accomplished.  This will be my work outs as long as the weather permits.  I cannot do it while the goats are "in" because they invariably hop in the driver's seat of the UTV while I'm raking to check and see if they can drive it.  The other day, they managed to dislodge the ignition key.  Long searching finally located it in the hay.  'Not quite a needle, but still...

In the middle part of the barn, where wooden gated stalls are located, giant cobwebs hang down from the ceiling.  It is truly halloweenish and it is impossible to walk through without getting my hair topped with the wispy strands.  The only way to make the area more people friendly is to take a broom and literally sweep the cobwebs from the ceiling.  That is something I can do with goats present, but I cannot leave the broom down there because the goats will eat it!

Mostly, I check to see if the herd is somewhere in the pastures before I go down to the big barn.

The trees have now turned their cheerful Fall colors and sunshine this week will encourage the continuation of the great barn cleaning of 2014.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August

August's halfway over and it hasn't been too bad this year.  Today is a bit humid for my taste, but it isn't quite up to ninety.  The nights have been reasonably cool and actually we had a lot of lower temperatures this month during the day.

The morning glories I let grow in my vegetable garden are living up to their name.  Beautiful blue flowers greet me.  There are so many butterfly bush volunteers that at mid-morning the butterflies are all over the fenced-in area.  If you were so inclined and had nothing better to do, you could pull up a lawn chair and watch the zucchinis grow!

I have serious zucchini fatigue this year.  Luckily the chickens like them.  And yes, I've made zucchini bread and even zucchini lasagna.  Enough.  The best thing I did with them is make "noodles" with a little gadget and froze bags of them.  Hopefully, I'll enjoy them when it is cold and there is snow on the ground.  By then, zucchini will seem like a good idea.

Listening to the old timey bluegrass radio show today, I heard one of the Carter sisters sing a song about going back home to Texas.  It was probably a recording from the 1930s.  She sang, "I am weeping like a willow; I am mourning like a dove."

I've never heard that song before.  It's probably famous in Texas.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wild Kingdom

Here are some of the things about Summer that I hate:

We are in the period of heat and stinking high humidity.  You can hardly breathe at midday.  This morning, I was out using the trimmer before seven a.m.  I worked up a good sweat.

A giant black snake is helping himself to eggs in the chicken house.  Okay, okay... he does a service by keeping the mice and rats down to a minimum.  I suppose he is entitled to a share of the eggs in return.  However, I am sometimes startled by his unexpected presence and I have to look in each nest box before placing my hand inside!

Something has killed and eaten three ducks this week.  I'm thinking a little family of possums or raccoons.  They do us no service that I can recall.

The first kill was through hardware cloth which had been pried loose.  I repaired it and thought all was now safe.  Wrong.  The second kill was through a corner of exterior plywood which was pried loose.  I charged up the drill and drilled holes for the new long stainless steel screws.  I screwed them down with the drill into solid wood supports.  "This is a good repair," I thought.  They cannot pull this apart.

It was not pried loose.  The predator CHEWED A HOLE through the plywood in order to slither through and get the third duck.

These are some clever, determined creatures.  I'll have to place a new piece of plywood over the existing one and screw it down in short sections.  But first:

The remaining ducks will not go into the duck house tonight.  I will set a Havaheart trap with dog food inside with the door of the duck house closed and locked.  They can use their entrance hole to get in.

Will this work?  Who knows.  They'll probably manage to eat the dog food and get away.  Why do I feel like a frustrated old fool trying to outsmart a woodland creature -- or like Sylvester trying to catch Tweety Bird?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Vignette


The old fellow goes out to the garage and hops on the riding mower. His wife hasn't hidden the key and it starts up. He mows odd meandering paths around the property. They reflect the meandering of his mind.

“I don't see no more grass to mow,” he tells his wife when he goes back inside.

“It looks fine,” she says kindly. She is now on her second round of child raising.

She cannot relax or take a break for more than fifteen minutes. He has tipped the three-wheeler over during a rain storm and lain in the mud for over an hour. He used to regularly run down the tractor battery when he tried to use it, or fix it, and left the key in the “on” position. Male relatives managed to convert most of the accessible farm machinery so that keys could be removed. The riding mower is the only toy he is allowed to use.

He is bored and restless, having led an active life prior to this. Now, there are regular doctor visits and short day trips his wife devises to keep him out of trouble. He is not allowed to drive the pickup anymore. The last time he did, he quickly became disoriented and luckily a relative stopped him before he left the private rural lane.

He sleeps deeply in the lounger in front of the television. The Andy Griffith Show blares on, but he doesn't seem to hear it.

I've brought over a bucket of duck eggs, which the wife likes for baking. She invites me in and we take a tour of the small home to look at her vast collection of pig figurines, knickknacks, baskets, and key chains. She's been collecting them for many years and they fill the tops of her kitchen cabinets and the spare bedroom. I express admiration and we walk back to the kitchen through the living room.

I sneak a look at the pale man in the chair. He is breathing so shallowly that I briefly wonder if he's died.

He is okay and the next day his wife stops by as she picks up her newspaper and I weed the garden in the early morning. We stand by the fence and have one of our more frequent conversations on nothing in particular and lots of small unimportant topics. We both need the diversion.

The husband has expressed concern over our llama, which he hasn't seen in several days. I explain that Zorio has been staying inside the barn during the hot, humid days. He needs a Summer haircut, but won't stand for me to shear him. The goats are going out llama-less in the meantime. However, the llama is healthy and is getting hay and feed inside during the day and can graze during the cooler nights.

She will tell her husband to assure him that there is nothing to worry about.

I muse on the mystery of declining minds and aging bodies. I think about the bond of kindness and patience in long term marriages.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

June

We are beginning the transition into summer as the humidity slowly cranks up. 

There are more lightning bugs at night than I can remember from years past.  My colored lights are working to keep the deer away from the daylilies and the first blooms are appearing.  I didn't realize how much I missed their lovely blossoms.

Speaking of deer, they've dropped their fawns in protected fenced pastures and cool woodsy spots.  They give it away by running in front of my UTV as I zip along.  I guess the instinct is to divert potential danger away from the hiding places.  They evidently have no idea how little incentive I have to chase them.

The cows are also doing the reproductive thing as well.  We have three brand new calves that I know about.

I love the way that my cows smell -- milky and sweet.  The other smells of early summer include chamomile, honeysuckle, and fresh mown hay.

The hay sheds are filling up as the "hay conglomerate" gathers big round bales from area fields.

Meanwhile, all my mowers and trimmers are in working condition, allowing me to keep the lawns and grassy areas under control (for now.)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Hoppin' Down the Bunny Trail

Rabbits abound this Spring on the farm. I see so many each day that it is beginning to worry me. Small bands scatter before my UTV as I drive through the pastures. Will they devastate gardens this year? Will we rival Australia in rabbit overpopulation? Stay tuned.

Something is out of balance in nature. Perhaps it is the destruction of the coyotes in the area.

So, what else is happening? Well, we thankfully did not have a tornado go through our region during the last bout of storms. It rained a lot and is still cool. I tried to do some gardening tasks in the past two days and just got muddy and wet. I've been digging out big clumps of grass and trying to get the flower gardens back to some semblance of "acceptableness."

Actually, I'd like to enjoy the gardens and see the daylilies bloom for the first time in years. The deer and rabbits eat them down to the ground, especially any flower buds that develop. I've found some solar powered lights that change colors and staked them all around the garden. I am closely monitoring leaf growth and looking for buds. I even found an old spray bottle of deer deterrent -- which, ironically is probably coyote urine based!

I've noted that iris of any type and peony is not touched by the wildlife, so I'm transplanting a lot if it around daylily plantings to see if it helps.

The deer population is also pretty healthy on this farm. There are more than a dozen that graze in my hayfield, despite the fact that hunters harvested twenty two deer last Fall.

This year, the lungwort, which the locals call Virginia Bluebells was quite lovely. It's beginning to decline now. We have the variety which is tinged with pink on the blue petals. The neighbor says they originally got it in the woods, like a lot of the plants on the farm. This is also called pulmonaria. When I looked it up in my large volume Botanica, I found that it is a Eurasian plant. So, if it was located in the woods on the farm it must have come from very early European settlers.

It is interesting to me that in the same gardens where the lungwort is planted, there is also spiderwort and soapwort -- all lovely plants which also thrive in woodland areas.  I've been meaning to go on a Spring wildflower tour of the woods to see what else is blooming this year.  Maybe I will.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

April

Despite false starts and stops, it appears that Spring has made progress since my last post.


There was snow and cold less than a week ago, but today's temperatures will be in the 70s,  The red tips of peony plants have emerged.  Bunches of daffodils bloom in long lines around the farm.  The apricot tree has pink blossoms and fine green leaves are beginning to appear on trees and bushes.


It seems it was all alive under the snow just waiting for the trigger of the light to come back to life.  I get the concept of resurrection in the Spring.  I also get the concept of eggs as a symbol.  The chickens and ducks are laying prolifically.  Old Honky gander is once again cranky and mean as he protects old Wifey and her eggs.


I peel an inch layer of hard manure off the barn hallway using a sod cutter and my Kawasaki Mule to haul it to the compost piles.  It is good, hard physical work, and if I'm at least half sane I credit it with keeping me that way.


I started cleaning up the vegetable garden.  It is a huge task.  I'll plant mainly perennials and things I can reasonably consume this year, like lettuce and other greens.  This area has become a butterfly bush garden on its own and I'll think on how to transition it.  'Nothing wrong with a butterfly bush garden, I guess.