Monday, January 9, 2017

January 9, 2017

Snow - It's beautiful, but it has it's good and bad points on the farm. . .

When you have a greenhouse that is covered in plastic film, you have to make sure the snow does not accumulate to the point that it tears up your greenhouse.  So we had to go out and knock the snow down.  It was nice to have time to put dirt into pots and plant our lettuce in the greenhouse for later transplanting.

Of course, there's also the animals to feed and water, just like any other day.  We are trying to train our big steer to get into the horse trailer, so we have started feeding them there.  The snow can be slippery and treacherous, and we have extra considerations for the animals, such as more food to help them generate heat and making sure we break the ice on the stock tanks as well as we are dumping hot water in to keep it thawed out a while.

My husband really appreciates the time off from work to be able to catch up on small things like repairs.  This time he replaced the pressure switch on the air compressor, fixed a small leak on the toilet and other small repairs.  I am so  glad he is so handy!  He also likes being able to slow down and drink some hot apple cider. We also liked planning the garden and our shopping trip in the Fedco seeds catalog for those seeds we needed to replenish.  I really like Fedco as they test for GMO seeds and they are reasonable.

I have a hard time slowing down, and tend to get bored.  I do a lot of cooking when it is cold, it seems.  Reading books on homesteading are also at the top of my list, as I am currently studying pasture raised pigs and multi-species rotational grazing.  I also enjoyed finally getting around to painting the calf we added to the nativity scene this year.  Every year we try to add any new animals to the nativity scene that we have brought to the farm.  This year we added the Black Angus steer and the Brown Swiss Calf (in representation of all our Brown Swiss calves.)  I could not find a Brown Swiss calf, so I ended up buying a calf and painting it  to look like our calves.

Friday, December 30, 2016

December 30, 2016

Tralah, tralee, today's my birthday, lucky me.  I'll give my animals a treat, for each what he likes best to eat. . .(From The Jolly Barnyard , children's book.)

So today for my birthday we got to work on a project I wanted to work on, and that is refurbishing the greenhouse.  One, I sometimes have skin problems in the winter and can get sun in the greenhouse, and two, I want to get so much better at starting our plants from seeds.  I would really like a rocket mass heater in the greenhouse, but we shall see. . .In the meantime, the plastic on the ends of the greenhouse had deteriorated to the point of not being there, so today we replaced it with UV resistant plastic (like has lasted on the body of the greenhouse.)

We had an appointment to take one of our steer to be processed.  However, we couldn't get either of them into the trailer to go.  We had bought a two horse trailer (since it will be rare that we are transporting more than one full grown steer at a time).  We had parked it in the pasture to let them get familiar with it.  We thought they would follow us onto it when we were holding a bucket, but that didn't happen.  We are now feeding them in it every night, so we will see if that helps get us to our next appointment on January 23rd.

For insurance, we bought some materials to put together to make a bud box.  While we put it together
ourselves (much cheaper than buying a sweep gate set), we seem to have so much money in cattle (with fencing, trailer, bud box, feed, etc.), we are hoping perhaps the 20th one will pay off?  Anyway, the cattle have certainly been entertaining.   They even figured out how to open the gate to the pasture.  So in the end, we were worried about the cattle letting our dogs out of the fence. . .lol

The front pasture was not looking too green this time of year, so we had to move the cattle to the back pasture where there was a lot more green from different forage (our growing area).  We were worried that they would not have enough pasture, so we expanded the fence by putting a large gate in the growing area and adding a line of solar electric fence off to one side.  It seems to work well.  We watched as the cattle received their "training", as we were worried the day before when we were building it and they ran right through it and tangled it up and broke a few of the step-in posts.

We also had to get another stock tank for the back area, as we got tired of emptying and moving just one.

As far as equipment for ourselves, our kids surprised us with some protective gear for our feet for Christmas.  They are steel toed Wolverine hiking boots.  What thoughtful presents!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

December 10, 2016

Sad news.  One of our calves died.  This particular calf has been a little different since we got him.  Always slow, napping all the time, and apparently when we put him in the pasture, he couldn't function on his own, even though we were feeding him every night, and there was plenty of grass to forage on during the day.  We had no warning, as he came to dinner the night before, and when he didn't come to dinner the next night, we went looking and found him laying down in the pasture, not raising his head.  By the time the vet got here, he was dead.  So very sad.  Our neighbor helped by coming over with his skidloader and digging a hole for us.  A depressing week for my husband and I, as I had fed this calf three bottles a day for about ten weeks.  Of course, when life goes away, it is depressing no matter what you have done.  I hate it when learning comes in this form.

On the positive side, we have finished the calf barn and my husband has decided that it needed some lights, as it gets so very dark so early, and when my husband arrives home from work, it is already dark.  We usually go together to feed the cows.  So he wired up the barn with DC wiring as the barn is remote from the house.  We will run it from a battery that will be charged with a photovoltaic panel.  We made the decision to put a spring wound timer for the switch, so when we go out there, we can turn on the timer which gives us enough time to fill up the bunkers and give the calves some extra time so they can see to eat, without us having to go back to shut it off.

We used a lawn and garden tractor battery due to cost, and the small light requirement we think we will need.  We have not put up the photovoltaic panel yet, but we plan to mount that on the roof of the calf barn to charge the battery.   We know we can get one from our neighbor, so it is only a matter of going over and getting one.  My husband did such a good job, it works like a charm.  After he was done, he went back and banded the wires together with zip ties to increase the neatness of the look.

Monday, December 5, 2016

December 5, 2016

It seems like I haven't written in a while (which is true).  We have been so busy doing things for our daughter's wedding here at the farm.  However, that included finishing up projects here at the farm, so the farm could look good, as well as retain functionality.  For example, we finally have a two car parking pad so we don't have to drag in mud, which in turn releases us from doing that kind of clean up work and allows us more time on the farm.  At the same time, we put in a turn out which has been quite helpful for turning around the truck and tractor.  We also finished up the handrail on the back deck which was a safety issue, as well as finished the calf barn and put on the doors.  Additionally, we had to stop and get a feed bunk for the large steer, as their dancing around us while we were holding the small buckets was putting our feet in danger of getting stepped on.  Another small project was when my husband took an existing barrel and cut it in two to make a feed bunk for the smaller calves.

We ended up having to build a dance floor (which did not get used due to the cold temperature on the wedding day.  However, we put it together in such a way to leave most of the materials a full 8 foot dimension so we can use the lumber elsewhere (such as the flooring on the apartment that will eventually house farm help.)  The tables and benches were put together with two by twelves and two by tens, which we are already planning another outbuilding for the growing area to house tools where we need them.  Nothing will go to waste if we can help it.  It made more economic sense to us to buy the equipment and/or lumber for about the same price as the rental, and have something we could sell or use at the end.

The Black Angus steer and the Brown Swiss calves have sure grown.  We have an appointment for one of our steer to go to the packing plant on December 26th.  Prior to that, we have got to find a trailer. . .

Don't forget to flip over to the wedding tab "One Wedding to Rule Them All," scroll to the bottom of the page and hit the link (the word here), to get to the wedding pictures.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

November 6, 2016

So busy finishing up the calf barn and getting ready for my daughter's wedding.  We are moving right along on the calf barn in what spare time we can muster.  My husband specially made a support piece for the door.

We made the door down in the basement, and we put it up today. We transported it out to the pasture on the forks of the tractor (my husband is a genius.)  It looks so nice on the barn!  Now we just have to finish that other side and the door that goes with it!  Hopefully next weekend will see this project done for now.

We took a day off and went to see my husband's parents.  While we were there, they wanted me to look at their computer that wasn't working so well.  It turned out that their computer monitor died.  We jumped in the car and went to Salvation Army where we bought a replacement monitor for $3.19.  It worked like a charm.

We have been working on lots of little projects for the wedding.  We poured a face for Treebeard and painted the eyes (we are going to be putting it on a tree near the reception.)  We have been working on Azog the Defiler's costume.  Managed to get it done out of a brown suede leather jacket that I found for $4 at a thrift shop.  I also made a handfasting cord for the ceremony from some blue velvet that I cut off of the hem of my daughter's dress.  Only 20 days left until this Lord of  the Rings wedding.

Friday, October 28, 2016

October 28, 2016

Today is a very good day.  I am finally starting to feel better from this 3 week illness I have had.  One thing about being on a farm and having an illness, the animals still need to be fed.  Today I was running a little late and one of my border collies, Phoenix, came and stared in the window and cocked his head as if he were saying, "Hey, mom!  Did you forget to feed these noisy calves?  You're late!"  I have to laugh.  Such a sweet and gentle reminder.

Yesterday was the first day that the older group of calves did not get a single bottle.  It was also the first day the youngest calf got into the weaning program, losing one of his three bottles.  The calves were not happy and any time they saw me, they all came to the fence and bawled.  It has been quite a task to try to get the youngest one out of the fence for feeding and keep the others in.  Thank goodness he is the skinniest one so when I open the gate for him (if I can keep it steady), he is the only one that will fit through.  I have trouble putting him back in without the others getting out, as I have to lure him in with a bottle (it's empty), and if the others see it, they all want it.

We also had Lauren and Themis from the NRCS back out yesterday so they could see what winter forage was coming up and advise me where to place the cow waterer in the pasture.  They are full of good knowledge and advice.  I would highly recommend that if you are a new farmer and don't know what plants are in your pasture or need some advice in designing where everything in the pasture should go, that you call your local NRCS.   While they were here, one of our black angus steer got quite friendly.  Cattle are so curious.  Ours reminds me of an old neighbor, Willie, who used to come over every time someone drove up in our driveway to see what was going on.  Best security we've  ever had, even if it did get a little annoying sometimes.

As work on the calf barn continues slowly, we have had to make a few temporary adjustments.  We bought a gate to stand up at one end and used a board on the other side as sort of a creeper barrier (thanks Linda for the idea) to allow the calves in and keep the older ones out so they don't push the younger calves off of their feed buckets.  As you can see by the picture on the right, one of the calves graciously agreed to model how it works.  So far, so good.

As we are planning for the finished calf barn to have three stalls, a kitchen area and hay storage, I have been watching out for a sink with big drainboards to put in the barn.  Thankfully our neighbors (thanks John and Karen!) were pulling one out from one of their buildings, so that worked out well.  Currently it is just sitting in the barn until we get the opportunity to run water out there.  We are trying to figure out what we are going to use in that area to level it and provide a better flooring, and are considering sand and stepping stones.  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 17, 2016

Days 3 and 4 of merging the calves/weaning the older ones went without incident, and today is day 5.  However, watching the smallest calf be lonely on this side of the fence made me worry.  I also was worried the he was not learning as much from the older calves as he needed to.  So today, I decided to get brave and add him in with the rest in the pasture.

Sure enough, shortly after I added him in, he went to join two other calves at the mineral bucket.

Another sight while I was out there surprised me a bit.  One of our older steer, Meatloaf, who hasn't shown himself to be the most nurturing in the past, was actually grooming the calves.  They seemed to be really liking it and/or were extremely comfortable.  While this was happening, the youngest calf was going closer and closer to the group.  As I had seen the cattle sniffing each other in the past, I was afraid that the older steer would recognize the baby as a newcomer right away and come to see what was going on.  That did not happen.  Of course, unlike other animals, the steer do not seem to mind pooping in their sleeping area.  As they all sleep in it (one can only clean it out so much), I guess they should all have smelled pretty similar.

On the calf barn, we are slowly progressing.  It seems that lately we have either been sick or not had the right materials (no matter how often we go to Lowes.)  This weekend we got the last outside post put up, then started with the back wall.  This time, we ran out of wood screws and had to stop.  I love the way my husband took a small amount out of the 4 x 4s and wedged in the header for the door.  Of course, we also toe-nailed that in.

As far as wedding progress, we got the dirt pile flattened out so we can grow grass there, as well as put down a new coat of rocks for the driveway.

Harvest news:  We harvested and put in the freezer 9 1/2 gallons of bell peppers, as well as 5 1/2 bushels of sweet potatoes.  Some of those sweet potatoes were huge.