We did our usual trip to the farm last weekend.  I mentioned to Evia when we arrived a bit earlier than usual that I really didn’t have anything planned.  She said “Good, you can just relax this weekend”.

Then I called Sonny, our neighbor, to check in.  Appears the heifer that escaped last month had done so again.  This time she simply found a looser part of the barb wire fence and walked right through it.  Did the same on the other side of the road to join with Donnie’s herd.  Sonny actually watched her do it and described it as all rather apparently casual for her.  Well, not much I could do about it Friday night, so went to bed early (something I always seem to be able to do at the farm, and never do here in the city).

Saturday morning I arose and went to check out the situation.  On the way to the fence I checked the leaky tractor tire I had left 2 weeks ago.  Much to my surprise, the tire had not gone down any more, and we brought an air tank.  OK, something trivial to do this weekend after all.  Met up with Sonny to see if we could walk the heifer back.  She was across the field, but a good solid “Come on Girl!” got her walking towards us.  A couple of Donnie’s cows came too, but nothing to worry about…

As the heifer got closer, I offered her some cattle cubes (pressed grain, salt, vitamins and trace minerals that come out of the press in 1-3″ long 1/2″ round cylinders).  She came forward, but so did Donnie’s #20.  Now most cows don’t intimidate me, its pretty easy to figure out those that you need to be concerned about, and #20 was behaving very docile.  A bit of a “shoo” and she backed off some.  Started walking our heifer towards the gate, using the cattle cubes as the proverbial “carrot”, and was surprised how well it was working.  Our heifer would take a couple steps forward, I’d take one or two back, and give her a cube.  This was going to be Easy!  And it was, at least until #20 decided she didn’t like our heifer getting all the attention and head butted her to the side.  Went downhill from there.  Every time I’d get close to our heifer, #20 would intervene.  *sigh*  We were within a few feet of the gate once, but were losing ground.   Donnie was suppose to be by later in the morning, perhaps we could try herding her over.

Alas, Donnie did come by around noon, but was neck deep in other chores.  He offered to collect the wayward heifer in the next week or so and deliver her, but voiced valid concerns she would just return.  Wayne was with Donnie and took a walk with our two little ones while Donnie and I chatted.  Wayne promised to come back Sunday and walk with Gabby, who was thrilled.

I turned my attention to the tractor.  Filled the air tank and walked it back to the shed.  Air went in and appeared to hold.  Cool.  Really didn’t want the expense of replacing the tube again (not exactly a do-it-yourself job – the tube is filled with a calcium chloride/water mix to add weight and lower the center of gravity of the tractor.  That and the tire is shoulder high alone weighing over a hundred pounds.  This is a job for the boys with the right equipment to do it!).  Thinking that perhaps it was just the valve core gone bad – although why it leaked badly sometimes and not others was beyond me.

Decided to go into town and get some cores.  Wanted to get another electric fence lead-in wire too.  Stopped at our normal place, Orscheln, and picked up the cores, a removal tool, a pressure gauge, a 1/2 mile and 1/4 mile spool of 14 gauge electric fence wire, 100 fiberglass post and insulators, and some screw in wooden post insulators that looked decent.  Say what?  I just needed cores right?  Well, our Missouri Conservationist, John Murphy, suggested that I place my “hairy beast” (as he calls them) onto the 30 acres we reseeded 2 years ago to mow down some excessive Birdsfoot Trefoil (a non-native, but reasonably desirable legume I have growing on about half the farm).   This combined nicely with a half-backed idea I had that perhaps if the wayward heifer was in another field, out-of-sight of Donnie’s herd, that she might stay put.  Problem was I didn’t have another well fenced field due to my northern neighbor replacing some of his.  Figured a good, if temporary, solution would be to fence in those 30 acres with an electric wire.  Two sides were in new fence:  the eastern part in high-end woven wire that heifer would have to jump to get past, the southern part in new tight barb wire.

Since we were in town, we also stopped at Home and Farm to inquire about solid nylon cutter bars for our electric weed trimmer.  Apparently 1/2″ thick ragweed stems are a bit much for the twine normally used.  They had one, which was great!  Bought it and some replacement blades.  Evia tried them out Monday morning and claimed it was like using a chain saw – cut right through those tough stems.  Once again the old saying comes true:  “Every job is easy if you have the right tools”.

Anyhow, we got back from town around 6pm.  I replaced the valve core and the tire appeared stable.  Took our Kubota RTV 900 utility vehicle (from now on just called “the buggy” <smile>) out to the far field with Evia and the kids and started to lay out the new fence along the ridge.  We worked until it got dark, the used the buggy’s lights to work a bit longer.  Got a good start on the project.  BBQed some burgers for dinner and called it a night.

Got up reasonably early Sunday morning.  Tractor tire was holding!  Wonderful.  Although perhaps not perpendicular, I had a goal that the new fence line would at least be as straight as I could make it.  That meant that some of the steel T-post used for a similar fence last year to keep the cows OUT of this area might, or might not, be usable for the new fence to keep the cows IN the area.  In any case, I wanted to clean up old post by pulling them so they wouldn’t be future navigation problems, so having the tractor functional was going to be a big plus (a chain wrapped around a post and hooked to the tractor bucket makes a fine way to pull those post out of the ground in under a minute without any back strain.  A good thing!).

Packed up the family.  The weather was decent, looked like we might get some drizzle, but a couple of flannel shirts and I was warm enough.  Evia dressed the kids for rain, just in case.  We started to head for the field with Gabby got all upset!  If we went to the field how would Wayne find us for her walk?!?  I assured her he would, and that seemed to suffice.  Evia took the buggy, I took the tractor, and away we went!

Found that I hadn’t done too bad of a job using the buggy’s headlights, but opted to clean it a post or two.  Formed a annoying habit quickly that I never did shake all day long:  Fiberglass post come with a plastic end cap for pounding them into the ground.  If you pound the post directly, you will splinter the fiberglass.  Each bundle of 20 post comes with cap, so had plenty of them.  However, despite knowing that I would likely do it, I formed a habit of leaving the end cap on the post, just to discover it 50 feet away when I got ready to put in the next post.  Probably did that 2/3rd of the time all day long.  It became a running joke between Evia and I.

Wayne did come by mid-morning and had a nice walk with the kids.  They decided to play hide & seek, and Gabby hid in a pile of tall weeds.  Good thinking, except those weeds happen to be the type that have small seeds with barbs that stick to your clothes, and are particularly hard to remove from one’s hair – and she gathered a headful!  Yet another ordeal…

Evia and I were making good progress, it was going to be a long day, but I felt we could finish the job before calling it a night.  We pulled several post from undesired locations as we worked our way into their vicinity.   I was using one steel post every 250 feet or so, and fiberglass post every 50.  When Wayne came by I asked him to help set a few steel ones using the tractor bucket – my that went fast and easy!  We had borrowed Sonny’s post driver, but using the bucket was just a breeze in comparison.

We finished the long ridge, used the tractor to sink an 8′ steel post a good 3′ into the ground as a corner, and started working our way south.  A few hundred feet into that and I heard Evia yell “Kevin!  The Tractor!”.  I walked back and the tractor tire had a small river of water running out of its tire.  Moved the tractor a bit and it slowed down, but clearly there was a bigger problem than the core.

We eventually finished running the wire and there was still some daylight.  Went to the house to drink some water, show Evia how to fill the air tank, and to get some cattle cubes to lure the main herd into the new area.  Cows went reasonably easy, we just had to pull into the field a ways.  They saw the electric wire on the ground and didn’t want to get near it.  That’s a good thing normally.  Still, we managed to distract them, and they crossed over it.  Up the wire went and I was off to tie it into the main fence for power (yes, we turned off the charger when we were at the house!).  Powered it up, grabbed a tank of air, and out tester and went to check voltage.  At the gate into the area I read 6300 volts – good enough.  At the far end of the fence the meter read 7500 volts!  Great!  Why more?  Only guess is that I had a better ground at the far end.

We drove back to the tractor, now with a flat, and transferred the air I had in the tank.  Almost thought it was a lost deal, but with 40lbs left in the tank, the tire started to visibly rise.  At 20lbs (its normal inflation level) it looked reasonable.  I sent Evia back to the house to get more, not knowing how long it would last, and started to work the tractor back to the house.  Of course, I had a dozen or so more steel post to remove, so did that along the way.  One more tank of air got us there.  It seems to be holding again.  Stopped and filled the tractors fuel tank and heard it leaking… parked the tractor on a nice flat spot to make it easy for Woody’s Tire to make a repair, and noticed the river was flowing again.  Within 10 minutes the tire was flat.

Returned Sonny’s post driver and chatted for a few.  He comments that we would be getting back late, I agreed.  On the way back to the house, we decided to stay the night and return Monday.  Guess that’s one benefit of being unemployed.

Monday morning I went with the kids for a buggy ride to check the cattle and the fence.  First thing I noticed were that cattle were nowhere to be seen, second was that 150′ of fence was lying on the ground.  Apparently deer had hit the wire over the night.  The bright yellow insulators were nowhere to be found.  Fortunately, I had plenty of spares.  I’m told they will learn to avoid it, but I started to think that perhaps I needed to come out the following weekend just to check it.  Much to my pleasure, I found the cattle in the far corner of a field, crowded into a small area with a bit of shade.  At least they found some.  In their “normal” field they have a few acres of woods to rest in.  In the new field they only have a north-south treeline that’s fenced off.  They will be able to have shade all afternoon, but not in the morning.  However, it is cooler now, so I’m not too worried.

By the time the kids and I returned, it was time to pack up and go home.

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