Friday, December 14, 2007

Ice, Snow and Etcetera

Wow. I've had so much to write about and post up here lately, but no time to do so!

So this past weekend's ice storm hit our place a bit harder than it did the metropolitan area, but not as hard as it hit many other areas, or as hard as the 2005 ice storm did. We lost trees limbs, (which also downed our clothesline), but no serious damage. Since I was already very sick with a head cold, I didn't even attempt to get out and about during this, either.

Saturday morning Steven and I had go into Wichita to attend my company's employee party, and that didn't do much to help me feel better, and the weather was getting bad. I went ahead and attended bible study Saturday night, but by Sunday didn't feel like going anywhere at all, as the weather was getting increasingly worse. So we missed church, missed attending the musical Oklahoma that I had tickets to for the afternoon, and missed choir.

Sunday night we realized our windmill drive stock watering tank was very very low (no wind for a couple of days, and the cows drink a lot). We have goldfish in there to keep algae down, and at that rate, we were going to lose them all, if the 2 inches of water left were to freeze clear through.

We have a gas water pump for emergencies, but it was frozen up. So we had to bring the gas pump inside and put it in the bathtub to thaw out and drain. Then at 10 PM at night, Steven and I were out there in the dark, with pouring freezing rain, hooking up that pump and filling up the tank. We carried it down in the pickup, which was covered with a solid sheet of ice.

Ah, farm living!

We only lost power for a bit of time on Tuesday night, but the house sure did get chilly during those hours. We played gin rummy by candelight in the dining room until it got late enough to go to bed.

Our water heater quit working, too. Appears to be a faulty thermostat, so I hope to pick up that part this week and fix it.

It's always something! :)

Last night we finally hauled the entire big round hale bay into the goat pen near the barn for them to forage as necessary. Up until now, we have been "doling" it out in quantities to control how much they ate and prevent waste. We realize having the whole bale in there will lead to more wasted hay, but it's supposed to snow up to eight inches tonight, and so it was our best option for now.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Busy weekend

This is the stock rack we had given to us this past weekend (that I referred to in an earlier post). It is such a perfect fit for my truck - I was thrilled.

It took us about an hour to drive over to where it was on Saturday, but they helped us load it, and some other stuff. We are also getting a brooder hood and a big feeder from them. Steven cut his finger pretty badly trying to get the brooder out. Since we had no water, hopefully it doesn't get infected; but it seems to be healing okay.

Then on the way home we stopped at the Carp's and got 10 bales of straw to start weatherizing the house and animals (since it is supposed to turn cold this week, that's not a moment too soon). We got those bales placed on Saturday before I left for bible study, so overall, it was a very full day.

Things we still have to do before winter really sets in includes: plastic on the north windows; more straw bales around house foundation; clean out goat barn; finish mulching garden, winterize the mowers and tractor. Then throughout the winter we plan to do a lot of work with the chain saw to clear some areas up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Veteran's Day

I’m back at work now recovering from my day off. Man, if I worked as hard here everyday as I do at home, I would never gain weight. The way it is, I work super hard on my days off, then my muscles hurt for days afterward…

We had blocked off my Veterans Day off as the day to clean out the chicken house really thoroughly before winter, do some patching and repairing, etc. Steven wanted to get all the litter and manure spread on the garden, too, before the predicted rain (that never rained). So we got up early and had breakfast, then started right away on the chicken house. It was cloudy and kinda misty in the morning. We chased the chickens out, and put the nesting box outside of the house near the door they use. Then proceeded to get all the gunk shoveled off the floor. That was many, many wheelbarrows full. We wanted to do a really good job, so that meant once we got the main part out, using scrapers to get anything stuck to the floor from years of us just changing litter without doing that.

Chickens are really dumb, did you know that? Even though we put the nesting box by the door, this chicken would come into the house while we were working on it, and literally throw herself up against the wall where the nesting box used to be. “Duh! Don’t you see it’s not there?” We finally had to move the nesting box back inside and just work around it because they were freakin’ out.

There are holes all over the chicken house floor from where the rats have chewed up from underneath (the flooring is tongue-n-groove 1 x 6 oak – the house was made to be portable and was on runners, but pretty much the earth has filled in underneath (it’s almost 60 years old) and the rats' nest under and chew up the floor to get to the chicken grain.) In the past I have put small pieces of tin over the holes, but now the holes are bigger, and, as Steven points out, the more we cover the holes, they are just going to make new ones. We pretty much agreed to handle it the way we have most lately – just leave one of our mouser-cats in the chicken house at night when we lock them up. There are two cats that have done an excellent job with this, and I think they have pretty much wiped out the rat population that used to be there. The chickens don’t mind the cats, and they ignore the chickens, so it works.

We went to the hardware store to see about getting pieces of sheet metal to cover some of the worst areas, but choked at the price. A little 2’ x 3’ piece of sheet metal is over $20!! So we passed on that, and came back home and used wood we had around to fix some of the problem boards and shore up some areas. We hosed down the whole inside really well and let it dry; then put in new bedding and everything else. We put in a different roost (one we had picked up from the neighbor’s house before they auctioned it) because it was much better built than ours. I wanted to cut it down a bit because it is much bigger, but Steven didn’t want to, so we made it work. Then we patched up the north side, put plastic around to winterize it, and called it good. That took almost the entire day. It was getting on toward evening, and Steven had decided when we got this project done, he wanted to go fishing, because we hadn’t been to the ponds to fish yet this year! (have been down there several times, but not fishing). So he rushed through the last of our job to get it done while still light.

Then he loaded the truck and we went down to the ponds. Of course, during the middle of the day the front had come through and it was quite a bit colder, with a north wind, but that meant the barometric pressure was good for fishing. The ponds have drastically changed since the flood this past spring, and I don’t know how much longer then will be viable. But we got bites the minute we cast out our lures. I ended up catching three small bass, and Steven, two, but only two overall were really big enough to keep (and that may have been questionable in some people’s minds – but we were hungry, so we were desperate). So we had a couple medium large-mouth bass for supper. It was pitch black by the time we drove home to fix them, though, and I was really beat tired. Tried to teach Steven how to clean the fish, and realized we don’t have a decently sharp knife anywhere in the place, so I really kinda mutilated it. But he got the idea.

Saturday we had spent the day tilling the garden (although it was basically dust); doing some jobs with the tractor, and grazing the goats out. We tried to graze the goats out on Monday while working on the chicken house, but they are just too curious for their own good. They kept coming over and bugging us and coming in the house, and didn't really seem interested in grazing much of anywhere, so we put them back in the pen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More free stuff

We had another friend inform us that her son had purchased a rural property that "had some stuff" on it when he bought it that he was just going to get rid of, or cut up for scrap. Offered it to us.

We went over there in the car on Sunday and looked it over -- a huge hog feeder, a chicken brooder hood, some small cages, etc. Usable -- definitely not something that should be just scrapped out. I don't know if we will use all the stuff, but we can take it off their hands and then figured it out from there.

What I was most excited about, though, was when we went behind the barn, where he was mentioning an old cattle chute -- but next to it was a wonderful stock rack (to be mounted on a pickup bed)! It's perfect for my pickup -- I had been drawing up plans to build my own out of wood, but don't have the money for the lumber. This was a wonderful livestock carrier that is all steel and have a pulley-type gate on the back. It alone was so worth the trip out there to see the stuff!

The only down side is we need to go get the stuff - and it is over a hour away from our house. That's a lot of gas in my old pickup, with its bald tires that I'm not sure will make the trip. :( So I would love to get the stuff this week, but don't have the money for gas to go get it. And it will probably take more than one trip to get all the stuff out of there. *sigh*

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Goat deer :)

On my way home from work last night, as I was driving past the corral to our drive, there was doe 21, out on the roadside eating tree leaves from the hedgerow. *sigh*

We really don't mind them getting out and browsing so much, but we just don't want them near the road. And she was awfully close to the road (in the ditch). So I "beeped" my car horn.

Man, did that startle her! She jumped and took off at a dead run north around the end of the corral. That was the way I had to go to turn into the drive, so we she saw me coming, she took off again, even faster, and headed toward the back gate to their pen.

I thought "she's going way too fast -- she's gonna hit that gate and hurt herself!" I was kicking myself for beeping the horn.

But at the last she made a football-style dodge to the right, a flying leap, and sailed right through the fence (the small gap over the woven wire top wire, and under the strand of barbed wire above it), like a deer. Seamless. Barely even moved the wire. Made it look like it was a breeze (did I mention she was pot-bellied pregnant too?)

I went out to examine her for injury, but not a mark on her.

I'm beginning to think fences are worthless with goats.

That, and I need to use Cattle Panels on the road side of the corral.

Monday, October 29, 2007

New fencing

Wow - sometimes it is a really good thing to let your needs be known.

While talking to a farmer-friend of ours in our church, we mentioned about Steven re-doing all the fencing and that we needed to purchase new field fencing, but it's expensive.

He said, 'you need fencing? I have fencing - just come get it!'

I had forgotten he used to have a huge hog operation, and sold out, and had all these rolls of very good condition used wovenwire (welded wire) fencing in his barn. We went and picked it up Saturday, and it was quite a lot. And it is much higher quality and higher gauge that what we've been using. And he gave it to us FREE (because we're friends). That was so awesome.

So now Steven has enough finish up that west corral, to give us one more rotational area. He's in the process of ripping out the old, battered stuff now, and pulling up the weak posts and putting in new. It will be awhile before we can actually put animals there, but this is definitely encouraging.

Said farmer also has a barn full of straw bales.... :)
(Straw doubled in price from last year around here)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mower Fixed

Got the new drive shaft for the rotary cutter (bush hog) installed last night. Actually, we got it on Monday (Steven went and picked it up for me at the tractor dealer) and got it on the mower that night, but the tractor battery was dead, so I had to re-charge it overnight before I could test everything.

Steven was gone tutoring, so I struggled with getting it hooked up by myself (it's always a little harder that way). The part that attaches to the tractor PTO has a different coupling that previous, but this one is actually a bit easier. I took it for a spin around a couple of areas that needed knocking down -- I really like the new shaft. It runs much smoother and quieter than the old one that broke. (new parts all greased up nice are like that!) :)

It would have been nice if Steven had warned me about that hidden piece of fencing in some of what he asked me to cut, however. Luckily, I hit it while backing up, so going slow and didn't do any damage.

The mowing was short-lived because Steven had put in a "temp" shear pin on the new drive shaft (because I haven't bought a regular shear pin yet); and he must not have put it too tight -- it vibrated right out and was lost, which, of course, then keeps the blade from spinning. So I put it away for the night until I buy that shear pin. It was getting dark anyway. I really don't get much time to work at home after work these days, as darkness creeps up so early.

I suppose that is just going to get worse after November 4th when the clocks change again. I'll have to save work for weekends only or something.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

God answered prayer

Well, I'm happy with how that turned out! :)

There was quite a crowd for the auction, but most seemed to be curious locals rather than actual bidders. When the bidding began, there were really only about four or five serious bidders, which eventually dropped down to two.

The neighboring place eventually sold for $81,000, which surprised most everyone (most didn't think it worth that, because the house needs so much repair). However, the 20 acres of beautiful land and trees is a great selling point, and it was a GORGEOUS evening, weather-wise, for a sell, which made the place all that more appealing.

The winning bidders were a young couple from the area. The young man is about my oldest son's age range, and I know his parents -- we used to serve together on the local fire department. I don't think this young couple has been married very long, and they are both working full time and going to college, so they are really going to have their hands full; but they seemed to have lots of support from other family there, mainly a grandfather (who runs a successful business) who wants to help them remodel the house. I'm glad they got it over the second-high bidder, who was a contractor who wanted to tear down the house and put a big new fancy one there.

Better yet, the young couple, I believe, go to Pleasant Valley church east of town, which means they most likely KNEW the elderly lady that used to live there, before she passed away, because that's where she attended. That also means they have a belief in God (hopefully) and we have some common ground to build a good neighborly friendship. I had prayed for Christian neighbors, or at least someone who wasn't anti-God.

Steven and I introduced ourselves, as did several of the other neighboring people, to welcome them to our area. (where they currently live with his parents is about six miles away). We told them if they need help, feel free to ask us, we're right there. I think the young man was glad there was another young man (Steven) that close by as well. I told Steven this is a great opportunity for him to develop a friendship as well (since he spends a lot of his time alone).

Neither of them have any kind of "farm" background, so I'm sure this will be a challenge. They were already talking to us about goats! :)

The rest of the event was much like a reunion -- with neighbors just talking with neighbors who haven't had a chance to visit for awhile -- with harvest and daily activities taken up so much time. I got to chat with friends I hadn't seen in months.

I came home smiling.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Auction

Tonight is the evening of The Auction. The auction of the house closest to mine.

I know by city standards, it is a long ways away (like almost 1/2 mile). But my family has lived next to THAT family for over 3 generations. It is very sad to me that Eldon & Arlene died with no heirs and the place is going up for random auction and I will, for the first time in my life, have strangers living next to me. (Depending on who buys it, of course).

I walked over to the old house last night by myself, and said a prayer, leaving it in God's hands to provide good neighbors for me; people who will care about the place and the legacy and will want to hand it down through generations of their own family. Not city people who don't understand that. But it is very hard for me to "let go" emotionally and trust God to handle it. Although I know He can and will.

To complicate things, a friend of mine from a nearby town wants to bid on it, and he keeps calling me because he can't make it to the auction due to work, so wants me to keep him on the phone during the auction and bid on his behalf. I've very uncomfortable with that. I know some of the other people who MIGHT bid on it, and I don't want to be put in that position. I'm not sure how to handle that dilemma at this point.

But in two hours from now, the auction will begin. The place will no longer be "the Smith place" for the first time since 1869. Hard to imagine.

Wild turkeys

Ha. The "wild turkeys" around our place are becoming less and less wild. Here is a fuzzy photo taken Monday morning of them all sitting on top of our chicken pen (eyeing the feed inside, no doubt). I took it through the kitchen window, so as to not spook them away, so it's not a very good photo.

We've been seeing as many as 45 turkeys together in the back 40 lately. We have about 12 that frequent up near the house and the chicken pen each morning. Steven still hopes to "catch" one to have for Thanksgiving, but I'm not hot on the idea of preparing it. :)


Also on Monday, I made a trip to the local tractor dealer to try to get the replacement part for the rotary cutter drive shift I obliterated. They are having to order it from Georgia, and it should arrive sometime later this week. Cost me about $100. But then I can mow with the tractor again (just in time for winter!) HA.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Columbus Day

Monday was crazy!

I love having a day off due to government holiday, but man! It's harder work than being at work.

Steven and I had planned on working on goat fencing all day, because they got out on Sunday while we were at church (Mom got them back in).

However, he got called by a family friend who asked for help fixing a car, (needed an extra pair of hands) and I told him to go ahead -- friends are important. I would work on the fence. That began a nightmare morning.

First, I loaded up all my tools in the wheelbarrow and grabbed a roll of wire and headed to the pen. I went over to the area of the woven wire where I knew they had been getting out, and prepared to work on it. Of course, they followed me, and so while I was getting my wire out and ready...... pop! through the fence they went, and out onto the road! grrrr. Rather than go out and around to herd them, I went to the barn and grabbed a grain bucket and called them. The first doe came right back in the same way she went out.

The buck (and I would NOT have believed this if I hadn't see it with my own eyes), couldn't figure out that he could get back in the same way, so suddenly he dropped to his knees and belly, and pushed his head UNDER the fencing, and pushed up on it with his horns and CRAWLED back under the fence. I was amazed. The last doe got confused and just ran all the way around the pen until she got back to the gate, and we put her back in.

So this wasn't going to work. When I attempted to begin mending again, the buck would just come over and constantly "rub" his head against me. Not really a butt, but strong enough to knock me over, even though it was kind on an affectionate rub, or scratching, of his head (and horns) on my hip. And he stinks really bad with that musky male goat smell.

I looked for solutions. Decided to bring my big Pyr into the pen with me, on a long leash, and that would make the goats stay away from the area I was working. Now, at our house, only one dog roams free currently, and that is a very very old German shepherd who has arthritis so bad he can hardly walk. The collie, aussie shepherd pup and Pyr all stay in the fenced front yard (very large yard).

When I went to get my Pyr, as I was leading him out of the yard, the other two dogs suddenly bolted out as well (I didn't have enough hands). So they take off after the chickens, and mom is screaming at them as she tries to catch them, and I'm trying to hold the Pyr from all the commotion, and in the meantime, the Shepherd goes INTO the front yard, and chaos reigns. We finally get the two other dogs back into the yard (didn't get the shepherd out) and have the Pyr safely in hand.

That idea worked really well for the fence repair though. Put the long leash on the fence and my Pyr just laid there in the shade, and the goats just stayed on the other side of the corral watching the Pyr. All was well. The fencing itself was a mess -- was trying to put a new strip of 24" old woven wire we had salvaged from somewhere ABOVE the woven wire that was already there (to make it about 48" high) and it is really hard to string woven wire high, especially when it isn't new wire. I had to fight with it alot and cut back tree limbs in the way, and make repairs to what I was putting up, as well as tie it to the existing wire.

Then, when we went to put Rodman (the Pyr) back into the yard, chaos reigned again. As we approached the gate, the German shepherd had decided by this time he wanted back out - but when we tried to do that, suddenly our collie viciously attacked the shepherd (they have never been good friends - both male), and our poor shepherd, who is close to death's door already, had no defense. Mom was screaming (which adds to the frenzy of it, I keep trying to tell her that just makes a bad situation worse), and Rodman was going nuts trying to get out of my hands and join the fight frenzy. I had to release Rodman outside of the gate, get inside myself and pull the collie off the shepherd, but I couldn't put the shepherd back outside the gate, so I just opened the front door of the house and shoved him inside and shut the door. Then chased the collie away enough to get the Pyr back in. *exhausted*

So I had a wounded shepherd in my house and I was scratched up from breaking up the fight.

Today Mickey (the shepherd) doesn't seem any worse for the wear, surprisingly. I finally got him out of the house about an hour later.

I felt like I deserved a trip to town for a cheeseburger and fries. So I did :)

No more working on goat stuff without Steven there, for me!

October 8

Steven was gone, so I wandered around the farm for awhile deciding where to start. So much to do, so little time. At least the weather is beautiful.

I began cleaning out the chicken pen. We have a large "holding" pen for them (6 feet high chicken wire) for the times/days we want to keep them more confined for whatever reason, before allowing them out free range. Gets them out of their house, but not ALL the way out.

Lots of volunteer trees had grown up in there, and the bigger trees (it is open top) had some broken limbs. I got the chain saw out (been meaning to get it serviced up and ready for awhile now) and used it for a bit -- but not too long because I realized I was out of bar oil, and I didn't want to risk damage.

Got the limbs cleared out, and hauled two truckloads out to the brush pile. The brush pile is in the goat pen, so they love this, because they nibble all the leaves off the brush when we pile it on. They really love leaves - even eat the dried ones off the ground as they fall from the trees this autumn.

Anyway, raked the whole pen and got it cleaned up well. We haven't cleaned out the house itself yet, because Steven wants to wait for a freeze. After first freeze, we want to till the garden really well (stir up those insect eggs) and then layer the manure/bedding stuff out of the chicken house onto the top of the garden for winter.

I definitely need to start buying straw to put around the house to prepare for winter.