Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 1, 2016

So much going on at the farm!!  It's only been a few days since I posted, but too much has happened to wait!  Knowing that we will be getting 6 new calves, we decided to plan a calf  barn.  We are putting it in the middle of the pasture for multiple uses.  Our initial plan is three stalls, one large area to store hay, and one kitchen area with sink to clean and store equipment.  Our plan is to use the idea from Mulligan's Run here.  So we have purchased a metal 18 x 21 carport.  This was installed by Twin Carports.  They arrived at 7:45 am, had the right equipment to install without electrical, helped me orient the carport properly and were finished shortly after 9 a.m.  They did a great job, and had a great sense of humor as seen in the above photo of my carport and the crew.

We picked up two additional calves last night, adjusted the size of our temporary pen that we made under the tractor shed with hay, and built a bottle holder rack for six bottles, as we know we will end up with six calves, which would make feeding them a zoo by myself.   We got the idea from this youtube video.   Honestly, as a new farm/homestead, I don't know what we would do without youtube!  Feeding the calves this morning (with two new calves) was a frenzy though.  Our first two calves picked up earlier did beautifully.  However, the two new calves were another story.  One took to the bottle as long as I held it, then he ended up coming out of the pen between hay bales.  The last new calf would not take a bottle.  I ended up letting all the other calves out, but him.  He still wouldn't take the bottle.  I went back to the house and left the bottle in the holder for a while  (about 20 minutes while watching out the window) to see if he would drink by himself. Nothing.  I had been told that they were using bottle holders at the dairy farm where I got him.  After a while I came back out to try feeding him while holding the bottle.  I expressed some milk into my hand for him to suck on then led him to the nipple and put my free hand under his mouth.  Finally he started drinking and finished the bottle.

Then I left him in the pen and came to make another bottle (kind of as a reward and to continue training).  I went back out to feed him and he seemed to have the handheld down pat, so I started working with him on the bottle holder.  He ended up getting it, but I had to keep expressing milk into my hand and leading him back to the nipple before he caught on. Whew.  I think I had milk from head to toe after the morning feeding with all the calves.   Usually after they finish their bottles, I leave them in the pen for about a 20 minute calming period, then I let them out to roam around our yard.  Otherwise, they keep headbutting me to, I don't know, let my milk down?  The two new calves wound up in my flower bed.

The other addition to our farm recently is a Mighty Mule gate opener.  I can't tell you how nice it is not to have to get out of the car, open the gate, then move the car, and close the gate.  We found that we could stand on the front porch (probably about 100 feet away) and hit the remote to open and close it when company comes.  Life's little luxuries. . .

Sunday, August 28, 2016

August 28, 2016

Well, since we seemed to be successful with the two Angus cows we had purchased, we decided to try some bottle calves.  We have committed to buying six of them.  Our pasture was just too big for our two Angus to keep up with the mowing.  We ended up having to hay it, and having to mow it as the cattle seem to like the fresh tender grass.  We decided to try bottle calves as they are much less expensive than the fully weaned calves.  While we have read that they are more of a risk, we have tried to lessen that risk by buying them from a dairy farm that keeps them for five days so they get their mom's colostrum.  The first calf we got was five days old and we named him T-bone.  He has really grown on us. We have had him now for a week.  Tonight we picked up another Brown Swiss calf and have named him Sloppy Joe.  They are such individuals.  They look completely different and it is quite easy to tell them apart (unlike our black Australorp chickens.)  They are currently sharing a pen, but we will have to give them both bottles in the morning.  We will see how that goes. Our dogs, Hercules and Phoenix, are being really good sports and are watching the calves as the roam around the yard.  We are telling them that it's their job to train the new calves.  We will probably get a couple more calves on Wednesday or Thursday, as it just happens to be calving time at the dairy.

Friday, August 5, 2016

August 5th, 2016

I can't believe it has been so long since my last blog post.  The summers are just terrifically busy.  Our cows are doing great.  So much so that we need to expand in that area.  We have run across a problem with our photovoltaics.  They started not charging as well as they should and my son suggested that we needed to clean them.  Being on the top of the tractor shed roof, we didn't have very good access to them, so we used a telescoping squeegee to clean as many as we could from a ladder on the ground, without endangering ourselves (or at least my husband did).  However, we could not reach the ones at the top.  We decided that it was time to build the deck on the back of the barn for the loft access so we could use it to stand on to clean the panels.  I strongly prefer a permanent solution to a temporary one (like scaffolding).  My husband (with me as the official gopher when I am not working), is moving right along on this.  The great thing is that we are doing it with leftover materials mostly.  We had two steel columns that the inspector made us replace with larger ones in our basement and lots of wood leftover from doing the deck.

The major summer project was building a roof over our front deck.  We also decided that we were going to finally get the columns I have always wanted.  So we hired our neighbor to help us for a week, then my husband carried on to finish with a little help from me and our son to put in the columns.  We put in temporary columns to start with, then when we were finished with all the banging, jacked the roof  up slightly, took out the temporary columns and slipped in the colonial columns and caps.  It looks great.

Since he worked on it during the summer, and it has been a scorcher of a summer, he tried to work from 8 - 12, come in, shower and take a brief nap, then work in the evening for an hour or two when the temperature cooled down.  On a few of these hot afternoons, he and I found this youtube video and set about making a porch swing under the shade of the barn.  We made ours 5 feet long.  It is wonderfully comfortable!  We have already used it many times to watch the afternoon thunderstorms roll in under the cover of our new porch.  We printed out the paper templates.  In order for us to get the arms to fit right, though, we had to put the arm supports behind the front swing support instead of in front of them like in the video.  Yes, we love the drink holders, too.

In my spare time, I have been working on decorations for my daughter's upcoming Lord of the Rings wedding.  We have completed the signpost to decorate the reception.  I am working on the banners next and have done most of the painting for the banner of Rohan.  My daughter will be here this weekend and we will be working on her dress for Arwen, in velvet.  Then we will continue on with all the rest of the costumes.  Life is crazy good, isn't it?

While all this is going on, the garden harvest is coming in and we have put up gallons of italian green beans, 25 quarts of spaghetti sauce, 6 quarts of summer squash and a few gallons frozen, about 6 gallons of bell peppers (so far), and 24 quarts of corn off the cob.  The watermelon and honey dew melons are fabulous this year, we have had lots of cucumber tomato salads with vinagrette dressing, tomato sandwiches, etc.  God is good!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June 29, 2016

Busy summer.  Our latest adventure is having our pasture hayed.  We needed to have three days in a row without rain, so it was tricky.  We decided we wanted the small square bales of hay (why don't they call them rectangles?) because we don't have a lot of extra equipment to handle the heavy round bales of hay.  Haying the field accomplished three things:  mowing, hay for the cows for winter that we knew didn't have harmful chemicals, and it allowed for the new tender growth of grass that the cows prefer.  As we do not have the equipment to hay our own fields, we hired someone to do this for us.  First, he came with an attachment to cut down the hay.  He waited at least a day and came back to check it.  When it was dry enough, he came back with a different attachment that fluffed the hay and moved it into rows.  Then he waited a day and came back with a different attachment that was the hay baler to make it into the small rectangular bales of hay that we asked him to do.  Out of the 6 - 7 acre pasture we got a total of 232 bales of hay.  Once that happened, we then had to pick up the hay and move it to shelter.  My husband did most of that work with the help of my son.   I got the easy job of pulling the trailer with the truck so they could throw on the bales of hay.

My next adventure was providing flowers for church.  I had not done it before and have very little experience of making flower arrangements.  However, if you have been reading my blog long, you know I stretch money tightly and take on as much of the labor as I can myself so I won't have to spend much money.  Youtube came to the rescue again.  As a numbers person, finding a video that showed me how to make a floral arrangement with numbers was ideal!  I used this video to make it happen.  I then came up with this flower arrangement:

I had borrowed a flower urn from the church, and they even gave me a leftover block of oasis that someone else had used.  I used flowers and greenery growing in my yard.  I didn't think the flowers would show up enough for the people sitting in the back of the church, and I sent the picture to a good friend who gave me the helpful hint of trying not to have the flowers in a row, so I moved the middle flower.  On Sunday, I replaced a couple of flowers that looked a little wilty and added some red daylillies.  It turned out looking like this:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

May 28, 2016

What a great life it is here on the farm, and a busy one.  We have been doing so much to prepare for our cows.  We looked at mineral holders, and they cost $179.99, so instead we followed the instructions on this youtube video, and made our own.  We spent $20 on a pickle barrel.  The tire company was happy to give us an old tire, and we had some old wood and hardware. We also needed some shade for them as we had all open pasture, so we designed a shade structure with bent chain link fence and shade screen.  We put it on PVC pipe skids so we could move it around the pasture.  We shall soon see if the cows will use it. As we already had a pipe bender and a jig set up from building our greenhouse in this way, it wasn't much trouble.  It cost a little over $200 to build.  The structure is moveable so we can negotiate where the fertilizer is added to the field.

Another project we work on this time of the year is our anniversary gazebo.  It started last year with six cedar poles posted in the ground and a grain bin roof that we bought at a local scrap metal yard.  This year we decided we were going to put down the cement floor.  Since it is out in the woods and we knew we couldn't get the tractor down the narrow trail, we bought a 1,000 lb. capacity garden cart from Tractor Supply to bring the bags of cement from the truck to the gazebo.  It took 26 eighty pound bags of cement that we carted to the gazebo and mixed there and poured into the floor framework that we had put up and pre-filled with rocks that we had piled up from our yard..  We had brought in our hose from the house with a brass end ( that worked great to control the water flow and turn it on and off) that we added water to the wheelbarrow with to mix the cement one bag at a time. We were pleased with our results.

It has gotten hot here and to cool off, our dogs have started taking a dip in the frog pond several times a day.  My husband captured one of them on film. There dirty, wet coats every day inspired this song.
 We were so excited today to get some new calves from our good friends Kenny and Carolyn Clark.  As first time cow owners, we thought it would be a good idea to get our first calves from somewhere that we knew they were taken great care of in early life.  They also spend a great deal of time around their cows, so they are used to people. We also know their health history and have bugged them to death for cow advice and followed them around several times for "cow school."  By the time the cows got here, they probably questioned themselves many times over whether selling us some calves was a good idea.  Yes, we have already named them, but taking the advice of some good friends, we named them food names, as they are meant to be beef.  Their names are Meatloaf and Licorice.  They are Black Angus and together they weighed 1240 lbs. 
This will be a great adventure for us full of future learning opportunities.  Once we learn with these two, we are hoping to get some more cows, perhaps even a male and a couple females to produce our own.

Finally, readers will probably get tired of hearing how much we love our farm, but this picture of a double rainbow over our farm will tell you that we do indeed feel like we got the pot(s) of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

May 12, 2016

Spring is so busy!  Since our last post, we have been doing so many things, it is difficult to find time to blog.  As a matter of fact, it has been difficult to find room for anything in the calendar, but it is fabulous to be this excited about life!  Our friends, Kenneth and Lori Cherry, invited us to their farm to help with their alpaca shearing.  It was our first shearing ever.  We had a great time and learned a lot.  While we were there, they also had chicks hatching and a baby alpaca was born.  Loved the great time with friends and made lots of new friends. First they used a powerful blower to blow the dirt and dust out of the alpaca's coat.  Then they used ropes to stretch them out on the clean and cushioned floor so when the shearing took place, the other parts of the the alpaca was safe and out of the way.  My husband was brave and even helped put the ropes on the feet of the alpaca.  I helped gathered the wool in three different batches, the back, the neck, and the legs.  They were all carefully labeled per alpaca, and per part. It was organized so well by Lori, that the shearing team finished shearing all 18 alpacas in about an hour and 45 minutes, I think.  It is wonderful how many people from different farms and friends show up to help.  Many hands truly make light work.  Their website is here.

We also enjoyed being asked to chaperone an AIMS Club dance for the school where my husband teaches.  The students worked so hard to bring this together and are so polite.  Of course they couldn't do it without teacher and mentor, Rausie Hobson and her husband.  She works so hard to help the kids.  The theme was old Mexico, so we served drinks in costume. I made my husband's vest out of an old pair of black jeans, my belt out of a shirt with decorative stitching from the thrift store, and the fan came from the Dollar Tree.  The screen from the background is one I found at a thrift store for my daughter's wedding, which I added some curtains to the back.

Just because we are busy outside of the farm, does not mean progress stopped here, though.  The garden is growing, we are harvesting asparagus and strawberries, and we have been working hard on the fence for the cow pasture.  Finally finished it! 
It was a bit of a challenge since we had so many areas of the fence that were curved.  We had to judiciously decide which posts we went behind and which ones we kept the fencing in front so we could keep the fence tight and go with the curve.  Our daughter, Leah, came by to lend us a hand.  We are still awaiting a gate to arrive and for the calves to be released to us due to a vet visit before leaving their current farm.  We have gotten great advice from the Cohen family, the Clark family and the Lewis Family.  It is so nice that farm people are so generous with knowledge!  I am so proud to call them my friends.

I will leave with one last picture of the beautiful fuschias that are now blooming from the ERHS plant sale.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April 17, 2016

Well, indeed necessity is the mother of invention.  As we were finishing up our fencing in the front, we realized that we needed a walking gate through the fence over by the chicken run.  We also needed a way to let our chickens out towards our front yard, as the dogs are moving out of the growing area (since it is time to plant) and into our backyard.  I wanted to use wood that we already had on hand, so I designed and cut out two gates that my husband helped me to put together and put up.  Since they are kind of side by side, I planned for them to look alike, but the chicken gate was, well, chicken sized.  Even though the days are longer now, we are still having to resort to our headlights to finish our projects as it starts to get dark.  I love the way they turned out! To put the chicken gate in the side of the chicken run, we pounded some treated stakes into the ground and put a center piece between.  We then stapled the chain link to the framework, cut a hole in the chain link, and stapled a second row on the framework so there will not be any loose ends to catch the chickens.  My husband sprinkled a little food outside of the gate, and that was all they need to entice them to try the new gate. 
We are trying to prepare the pasture for our new calves.  We had a truck from Southern States come and bring 8 tons of lime and spread it on our pasture.  Surprisingly, they were finished in 15 minutes.  Amazing what big equipment will do!

Our next projects are planting the garden, and finishing the fence for the calves.  We are currently reading Joel Salatin's Salad Bar Beef together.