Monday, September 26, 2016

September 26, 2016

Well, we have finally begun our little calf barn from the metal carport.  Does anyone else have to add things small steps at a time?  Between our full time jobs, the now five bottle calves, getting ready for our daughter's wedding, etc., we have to add things in with small steps of progress to keep our sanity.  Our calf barn project for this weekend was to get the sides done.  We decided we wanted natural light in our barn, so we added clear corrugated roofing for windows on the sides.  The area between the metal posts is about 20 feet, so we bought 5 panels, using two that are whole and one that is cut down the middle (I used ordinary scissors to cut it.)  In order to have support for the windows, we put a row of wood at top, and added two side supports in the middle by kreg jigging holes to the top and bottom of the boards and fastening on the inside of the barn with pocket screws.  We used 1" self -tapping roofing screws to put in the windows, due to the washers they have on them.  We had bought self-tapping 1 1/2" screws to attach the 10' boards to the metal carport supports, which we counter-sunk to make the heads even with the boards (or close to it).  It really didn't take that much time with two people working on it (my husband and me).  It's funny that we started working about 9 am and decided we needed better tools, so we left to go buy new drill bits and a generator so we could power regular drills (it was draining the batteries of our cordless drills quickly to drill into those metal supports.)  We had wanted a generator anyway with our off grid system and the upcoming wedding reception being so far from the house, so the timing was right.  We didn't really get back to work until about 2:00 in the afternoon, so the work done on the sides was accomplished in about 6 hours, with two of us working.  The boards in 10' lengths were about perfect.  There are only a couple we will have to trim at the corners.  We let them hang over about an inch so they will meet the front and back boards.  Next weekend, we are planning to drill the holes for the interior posts, put cement in to set, and then put up the posts.  As we have guests coming next weekend, that is about as much as we can do.

The calves are getting along well.  I do have to say, though, that I am looking forward to getting the calf barn together and being able to separate them for feeding.  The bottle holder is working well, but some calves are faster at drinking than the others, so as soon as they finish their bottles, they try to knock the other calves off of the ones they are drinking so they can finish theirs as well.  I often have to take the smallest one out of the lineup to hand feed so I can be sure he is getting enough.  The calves are doing a good job at grazing and have started eating grain and drinking water, so that's good.  I am hoping to get all the calves off of bottles before my daughter's wedding here.  I have one bottle that the weep hole is not reamed out as much, which makes the bottle slower.  I have marked that one and make sure the boss calf gets that every time to slow him down a bit so he isn't stealing the other bottles quite so fast.  It has worked well!

Continuing projects include finishing the stairs to the barn loft.  We have yet to do the hand rails, but as there is really nothing to go to up there (and it is extremely hot currently), I am sure we will be more interested in working on that after the wedding, the weaning of the bottle calves, and the cool weather sets in.

Also, in preparation for our daughter's wedding, we straightened up the arbor (that my husband built for our first daughter's wedding), pressure washed it, and gave it a fresh coat of paint in places that there were not plants growing on it.  It appears that a bittersweet vine has volunteered there, which will be fabulous for a November wedding.

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. . .