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Kevin's Thoughts!

Maybe you agree, maybe you don't… find out!

Honey…Sunday!

Posted by Evia on November 14, 2011
Posted in FamilyFarm & Prairie  | 1 Comment

Honey...Sunday!

Вести с полей :)

  • 14 Ноя, 2011 at 12:31 AM
доярушка

Приехали из деревни — как же там хорошо! Середина ноября, а погода… Как будто в компенсацию за летнюю жару, когда невозможно было носу высунуть из дома с кондиционером… Удивительно, но я ничего не делала абсолютно, скрываясь от жары — не полола, не поливала, никак не ухаживала ни за чем… Но урожай собрала кое-какой! :)
Картошка, морковка, петрушка, хрен, лук… Пусть маленько, но все равно, учитывая отсутствие каких-то моих усилий по выращиванию бедных растений… :)
Зато всю осень мы с евином не можем наработаться, надышаться и нагуляться — и частенько остаемся еще на лишнюю ночь и возвращаемся в понедельник… ;) Детям тоже нравится — когда ставим трактор и каботу в “гараж”, раздается дружный рев! :)
В этот раз мы собирали мед — конечно, в этом году получилось всего одно ведро — по сравнению с 10 ведрами прошлого года! Но в этом году пчелок подвела ранняя весна: они “ожили”, начали работать, как зарядили дожди, ничего не цвело долго, два улья зачахли, хоть мы и пытались подкормить… В итоге, активный и рабочий улей дал большинство меда, остальные мы открыли, посмотрели — и вернули пчелам, пусть хранят зимие запасы. У нас еще с прошлого года много осталось! :) И новые ульи Кевин заказал, и место под них приготовил, и сами пчелиные семейства новые весной прибудут…
Электрическим горячим  ножом срезается верхний слой воска, открываются соты…

Фильтруется через три фильтра

Главные дегустаторы

А пока мед фильтруется, поедем, покормим коровок!
Это Сара — пока Дункан не подрос, она чувствует себя главной в стаде — ну так,какие рога!


Это Дон. Она такая же крупная, как Сара, но вполне себе спокойная и дружелюбная корова.

Николь, Дункан и Роуз.  Роуз плохо видно, она есть у меня отдельно. Она самая мелкая и трусливая.У Николь и Дункана рога короче, чем у других, поэтому они держатся вместе и подальше от длиннорогих Дон и Сары. Хотя Дункан уже никого не боится и ему рога девушек как-то пофиг. :)
Николь мне язык показывает. :) Очень доброжелательная, “ручная” коровка.

Николь беседовала с Кевином, а потом увидела у меня фотоаппарат и решила, что я ее угощу. :)

Роуз не уверена: ждать ей, пока я подойду ближе, или уже драпать?

Ну а тут на видео я все рассказала: и кто есть кто, и как Кевин дрессиует Сару, и с Габи мы поговорили про коров, и с Фрэнком, и пообщались с Николь и Дунканом поближе! Рекомендую! :))

По дороге домой заехали в ресторанчик перекусить. Фрэнчик-сладкоежка

А Габи — предпочитает мясо. НЕПРОЖАРЕННОЕ! С кровью! :))

Ооооо, а это… это мое любимое место в этом ресторане! Видите фонтан из шоколада? Да-да, это настоящий фонтанчик горячего шоколада, и вот это все, что там с длинными палочками лежит, можно брать и окунать в него — и клубнику, и зефир, и пирожные из хрустящего риса, и мягкие кокосовые печеньки…


Детей, кстати, такие изыски не прикалывают абсолютно, они предпочитают мороженное. С Мишками Гамми, ага. :)

Ну вот… и после этого ужина они дружно уснули в машине, поэтому у меня образовался целый свободный вечер-полночь, чтобы написать этот пост! :)

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Last weekend photos!

Posted by Evia on October 4, 2011
Posted in Farm & Prairie  | No Comments yet, please leave one

Duncan

 

 

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Prairie Burn – almost

Posted by Kevin on September 23, 2011
Posted in Farm & Prairie  | No Comments yet, please leave one

Had plans to drive up and assist in burning a neighbors small 10 acre prairie today.  This has been in the works for a couple of weeks now.  Got about 20 minutes into the trip when I received the call:  Burn cancelled.  Winds are wrong and humidity is too high.

So, good news:  Saved 380 miles of driving today and the gas money.  Also now have some extra time today.  Spent some of that at a local farm and home store.  Found a great solution for creating a temporary gate at the end of that electric fence I put up last weekend.  Its a traditional electric fence tightener with a built in insulator connected to an 18″ wire loop.  I’ll just screw in a large J hook into the fence post, and use this tightener.  It should keep the fence under a bit of tension, and since the the wire loop is insulted, will allow me to easily unhook it when I want to get through to deliver hay or whatnot.

Did call Sonny to tell him we wouldn’t be up.  Got a report that the cattle are behaving and staying on their side of the new wire.

Regarding the prairie burn – this is just the way these things go.  Conditions have to be just right – temperature good, humidity not too high or too low, winds, but not too strong, and from the right direction.

So many things would be easier if we just lived there!

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Nothing to do? Never on a farm!

Posted by Kevin on September 21, 2011
Posted in Farm & Prairie  | No Comments yet, please leave one

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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Про субботу на ферме и ковбойские сапоги.

Писала-вспоминала свои “15 моментов позитива” за субботу и сообразила, что это готовый пост, только фотографиями проиллюстрировать осталось! :) Так что делюсь позитивом, а негатив, если получится,  оставим за кадром!
Ну и начну с пятницы.
Выехали мы довольно поздно — Кевин чинил что-то на своем компьютере, я читала-писала, Настя из школы пришла и рухнула спать на диване. Проснулась через три часа и спрашивает: “А что, вы в деревню не едете?” :) А мы поехали, только поздненько. Ну и детки уснули по дороге, что всегда радует (представьте себе три часа непрерывного галдения и  вопросы, на которые надо громко ответить, даже если это просто: “Ой, это большая машина проехала?!” — Кевин уже ржет, посчитывая, сколько раз он слышал за дорогу: “Да, мама?” “Да!!!”  — а мне чет не смешно уже. %)

Ну так вот, они уснули, а мы нет, ехали и болтали с Кевином, приехали в 11 вечера, фонарики нам дорогу осветили, детей по кроватям раскидали и тут я заметила, что тихо как-то необычно… А у нас там от электрического забора бандура такая висит с заряживающим устройством, и она тикает все время — забор, значит, под напряжением. К тиканью привыкаешь и не замечаешь потом, а тут необычная тишина… Оказалось, не работают все розетки на этой линии, Кевин несколько раз чинил что-то там в проводке — нет, выбивает и все. Тогда он снял бандуру, разобрал — а у нее внутри взорвалось что-то от перепадов энергии, видимо. Гарантия у штуки 2 года, ну вот как раз 2 года она и отработала. А время-то уже к часу ночи подбирается, что делать — легли спать.

На ферме очень приятно спать: там очень удобная подушка и нежное, мягкое одеяло.   :)
С утра в окно светит солнце, а вид за окном — поля и дубовая роща, очень всегда необычно осозновать, что это все — мое. :)
Мы поехали с утра в Керксвилль — ближайший к нашей ферме город, чтобы купить новый зарядник для забора. Мне так нравится там магазин фермерский — пока Кевин рассматривает свои штуки для трактора, Каботы, забора и чего еще там мужики любят в магазинах искать :) , мы рассматриваем игрушки, одежду и сапоги. И тут меня всегда накрывает изумление. Ладно, я допускаю, что средний американский фермер подходит к выбору ботинок, в которых ему предстоит в любую погоду работать на тракторе или в поле, ходить по земле, по снегу, по воде, по грязи, кое-где придется наступить на колючую проволоку или острый шип, ему может наступить на ногу корова или лошадь, ему, порой, приходится затаптывать огонь — в общем, нужна обувь удобная и прочная. И потратить на такую обувь 100 долларов, раз в несколько лет — нормально. Если покупать не в сезон, или какую-нибудь распродажу коллекции застать, то и дешевле можно.  Но вот мы идем дальше, где стоят женские “ковбойские сапожки”. Кожаные. И расшитые-вышитые. И разрисованные. Я их мерила. Внутри они — как деревянная колодка. Кевин раньше еще мне предлагал купить: на выход. Стоят от 80 до 150 долларов. Напоминаю, это Америка, где самые классные кроссовки можно найти за 40 долларов и носить их много лет. Мы же с Настей покупаем обувь редко, в основном, босоножки-туфли, и умудряемся уложиться в сумму от 5 до 25 долларов МАКСИМУМ. Так вот я отказалась от покупки “колодки” на выход за 100 баксов. А тут смотрю — выставили новые, ценничек 184 американских рубля. Три расцветки, с вышитыми цветами. Хм, очень удобно ноге, мягкие, красивые. “Куда носить” — не вопрос, не хранить же их под стеклом, всю осень и зиму, если не грязно, можно носить — главное, не в огород и не с собакой на прогулку. Только вот, смутило меня, что кожа там такая — нееежная, ногтем проведешь — след остается. Исцарапаются они махом и станут похожи на кусок каки, извините. За 184 доллара, ага.
Я Кевина, конечно, подразнила: “Вот, говорю, нашла сапоги, наконец! Помнишь, ты предлагал купить? Только стоят они… вот.” Кевин дыхание перевел, мужественно собрал волю в кулак и сказал: “Ну, выбирай цвет тогда!” :)) Я его поцеловала, конечно, за мужество, но от сапог отказалась — продемонстрировав, как легко они царапаются.
Но это я отвлеклась. Вот сапоги для тетенек, да. Рядом — детские. Помню, как я первый раз ломанулась к ним, представив себе, как обрадовалась бы моя племяшка и подшефные девочки. Споткнулась, посмотрев на ценничек. И до сих пор диву даюсь. Сапожки размером на трехлетнюю девочку — 72 доллара. О_О Ладно, это самые дорогие. Но не дешевле 50 . Резиновые сапожки — от 20 долларов и выше.
Тут же рядом — ремни. Со стразами, канями и серебряными пряжками. От 30 долларов. Рубашки и блузки на тематику фермы и лошадей от 25 долларов. Я сейчас не вспоминаю российские цены, я все понимаю. Я понимаю также, прожив в Америке 6 лет почти, почему Кевин уронил на пол глаза и челюсть, когда я ему сказала, что моя дубленка, которую я купила перед отъездом сюда, “чтобы выглядеть прилично”, стоила 1000 долларов. Это и для меня были немыслимые деньги, но он тогда прислал — на подготовку к переезду, вот я и думала, что надо “соответствовать”. :))
Может, где-то в Америке и есть такие цены, но не здесь. Нет, наверняка, и здесь, в Сент Луисе есть, я только не знаю, кто там одевается. Кевинские друзья и коллеги с прежней работы, довольго обеспеченные, не покупали себе одежду за такие цены.  Ждали распродаж, еще и купоны вырезали из газет. Тем более, мне интересно, кто покупает одежду по таким ценам в Керксвилле. В городке студентов и фермеров. Еда здесь дорогая, одежда — нет.
С Кевином мы говорили на тему: “Кто же это все покупает?”. Ну и, в общем, все как веде. :) Везде найдутся люди, которые готовы выложить кругленькую сумму, чтобы произвести впечатление. :)
Но я все равно люблю этот магазин. Я знаю, что там я могу купить тот же ремень или рубашку с надписью “Меняю парня на трактор” для эксклюзивного подарка. В нем мы купили нашу качель с бегущими лошадками, а в эту субботу прикупили еще и столик круглый металлический, рядом поставили — чтобы совсем удобно было ужинать при свете звезд или завтракать на восходе солнца…

А сапоги я себе купила резиновые, гламурные в цветочек, на дождливую осень, за 6 долларов в Таргете. :)

Кевин купил зарядник для забора: с гарантией, показывающий степень напряжения, тикающий тихо. И поехали мы домой на ферму, потому что по плану в час дня мне надо было принять душ и успеть высохнуть до поездки в гости.

В  душ мы залезли в него все втроем, с Габи и Фрэнком, воды горячей хватило всем! :)

Хотя мы и ехали на День Рождения, Кевин-то оставался, надо было его накормить. На ланч накопала картошки и пожарила ее с луком,  тоже с огорода. Как-то мне грибов не хватало к этому блюду еще. :) Но грибной сезон здесь — весной, когда всякие сморчки и строчки лезут, я американских грибов не знаю, поэтому не собираю их. Фрэнк и Джуди, наши друзья и соседи, крестные Фрэнка, собирают. И рыбачат. Все хочу напроситься с Фрэнком за грибами, чтобы показал, что у них тут съедобного растет.

Выехали на праздник в Коламбию мы в три часа. Дети по дороге уснули, я вела машину и слушала аудиокнигу.  2 часа!  Такой кайф! :)
На дне Рождения дети сразу побежали играть, а я болтала по-русски с друзьями. Там, как я уже писала, большая компания с детьми от 0 до 14 лет, в основном, все семьи русские, только у одной девушки муж — американец, но она совсем не говорит по-английски, а тусуется только с русскими, так что он уже тоже по-русски говорит и все понимает. Но в этот раз их не было.

Ищут сокровища — спрятанные подарки.

Нашли, а именинница все карту читает: “Здесь, здесь клад!!!” :)

Дети играли себе, а я сидела на большой качеле и ела арбуз: сколько хотела. :)

Таня, [info]t_adam, для тебя Аня с Алиской! :)

Родители именинницы смастерили ей в подарок шикарную ширму для кукольного театра и показывали сказку “Колобок”. Фрэнк очень сопереживал Колобку, а я умилялась этому весь спектакль.

Ну, укусил комарик ребенка, не подумайте плохого! :)

Дети в машине по дороге домой не спали и это хорошо: я боюсь такой штуки , как “highway hypnosis” : когда едешь дого-долго на одной скорости никуда не сворачивая, особенно если один или в машине все спят — очень тянет спать. Бороться трудно, глаза закрываются, просто “вырубаешься”, не замечая. Так что детский визг на заднем сиденье был очень кстати. :)

И на мою удачу дети уснули в последний момент — когда я подъехала к воротам фермы.

Это всегда так радует, что не надо укладывать их спать, а просто перетащить сонных в кроватки. :)

Кевин тоже уже спал, так что я вышла на улицу и пять минут поглазела на звезды.

Так мне повезло в тот  день — когда выезжала из Керксвилля в Коламбию, лил дождь, а в Коламбии было тепло и солнечно. Когда выезжала из Коламбии, там пошел дождь, а подъехала к Керксвиллю   –  а там  уже сухо. :)

Ну вот, так прошла наша суббота, а у меня прошло пол-дня, пока мне удалось написать этот пост между криками, воплями, требованиями поесть, попить, включить  мультик, выключить мультик, съездить в банк, дать еще поесть, прогулять собаку и, и, и…

:)) Продолжение следует! :)

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A good weekend?

Posted by Kevin on September 7, 2011
Posted in Farm & Prairie  | Tagged With: , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

A good weekend?

We try and spend every other weekend out on our farm.  Its a 3 hour drive each way, presuming we don’t take any detours, which we commonly do.  This was Labor Day weekend, and we planned on staying for 3 days.

On Friday, it was 95F outside.  Not exactly pleasant.  Although we sometimes leave mid-morning, with the heat we waited until after rush hour and left rather late – about 8:30pm.  The drive was uneventful (the kids fell asleep about an hour in – always a guilty pleasure) and we arrived right on time around 11:30pm.  The solar porch lights we had installed the previous trip were working!  No more needing a flashlight to find the keyhole!

Got in and did the routine things, mostly adjusting the thermostat and remembering to turn the hot water on.  It was strangely quiet…  Discovered that both the dehumidifier and electric fence charger were out.  Ends up a breaker had tripped.  Reset that and discovered the GFCI I installed on the circuit wouldn’t reset.  Groaned a bit, the GFCI was buried behind air compressors, vacuums, and other tools.  Cleaned a too small work place and replaced the GFCI with a spare.  Kids were still sleeping, all good.  Dehumidifier came on, but the charger didn’t. Not good, but its 1am now, time for bed.

In the morning I investigated the charger.  First thought was “my, this is poorly made, look – one of the plastic tabs isn’t even in place”.  Second thought was “why is this rattling?”.  Opened it up and a story was revealed:  A transformer had blown.  There were bits and pieces of copper wire that had melted into the plastic case when it blew.  Also various bits of plastic and wire were found that caused the rattle.  A bit annoyed now.  Talked with Evia and we placed the purchase of the unit between 18 and 24 months ago.  It was a big unit, we bought a large one to help burn down the weeds.  I had rather expected it to last a decade or more.  At least for the several hundred we spent, I had hoped so.

Still hot out on Saturday, pushing the upper 90s even up here (and its usually about 10F cooler at the farm than in town).  Had some breakfast tea and went to get our Kubota RTV out of the shed.  Battery was dead.  Sure enough, left the spray pump on.   Made a new operating rule:  “Disconnect appliance cords from the battery before parking.”  Annoying, but easy enough to jump.  Just had to push it out of the shed…  Learned that my shed is not quite level, with the exit doors at the high end.  Made it, but felt it in my legs the next day.  Time to go to town.  Looks like maybe we will get some rain – we need it – and that should cool things down a bit.

First stop was the local Orscheln store.  We have bought enough things there that I know the store manager’s name, although I doubt he knows mine.  Still, the farm is registered in their computer, so we get a tax break on legal farm items.  Alas, no sales on chargers today.  Vowed not to buy another Zareba brand.  The store had Gallaghers, which have a good reputation, although they are more expensive.  For instance, the “15 joule, 200 mile” Zareba sells for $350 (we got our original on sale!), a “10 joule, 250 acre, 34 mile multi-wire” Gallagher sells for $430. Discovered a long time ago that ratings are pretty meaningless between brands of most anything and typically are only useful for comparing between products of the same brand.  Didn’t want to spend $400+, thought about hooking up a backup solar powered unit.  Decided that might buy me a bit of time, but come spring I’d need the AC unit to burn those weeds.  Took out the plastic and bought the good one.  Picked up a few other odds and ends while we were there.

Next stop was Joe’s Carpet Barn.  We had been in there on the last trip and the manager was suppose to call us with a price on some flooring.  Never did, and I lost their card (as he probably did mine), so stopped in to talk to him.  Manager was gone, forceful saleslady was present.  Tried to talk us out of what we were interested in and to use vinyl flooring instead (logic was that vinyl was completely waterproof and this was going in a basement).  She might have a point, and the product she showed up actually was both less expensive and looked nicer than what we were previously looking at.  Still, vinyl has its issues:  I would have to make the floor 100% perfectly flat.  Any 1/8″ ridges in the concrete or small holes would show through the vinyl mercilessly, destroying the illusion of it being a hardwood floor (which your not suppose to install over basement floors I’m told).  It would also be best to install everything we wanted at once:  with vinyl, you pay for what they take off the role, not by the square foot or yard.  When you do a large job, often things like closets can be covered with scrape ends left over.  Down side:  we would have to strip our basement of all the beds and furniture in order to lay the floor.  Left the store with confused – but that’s life.

Evia had a kids birthday party in Columbia to attend at 5pm, so we needed to get back to the house so she could get herself and the kids ready.  Still hot out.  I fetched the tractor and installed a cover plate we had to replace.  Noticed one rear wheel appeared to be leaking, but it wasn’t too bad.  Thought about calling our neighbor, Sonny, and asking if he had jumper cables.  Opted instead to ask Evia to visit the local Home Depot in Columbia and pick up some cheap ones.  Still hot, but the clouds are coming in.  While she was busy getting ready, I unpacked the new charger and plugged it in.  First thing I noticed was that it was a LOT quieter than the previous unit.  The Zareba would tick loudly, very loudly, about once a second.  Think like a finger tapping on a glass tap to get attention loudly.  The Gallagher was very quiet.  I listened, and could hear a tick, but it was only about as loud as a wall clock.  Despite having the reputation of being the best, Gallagher still markets.  The box shows a voltage reading of 7.7KV on the display. Without a load, mine registers 6.5KV…  My fence tester shows that 6.5KV as 7.0KV though.  I need >5KV to get through the hair on my Highlands, so I was good.

About 20 minutes after we plugged the Gallagher in, it turned off!  So did the microwave and dehumidifier plugged in!?!  Circuit breaker and GFCI were fine, as was the next socket over.  Now this was odd.  Pulled that next socket out.  All looked ok.  Went to push it back in and the microwave beeped, the dehumidifier started, and the charger came alive (sigh of relief, would have hated to have a problem after 20 minutes!).  20 minutes of pushing, probing, wanting to punish that blasted beeping microwave, and I found the problem.  The white wire leading from the socket to the rest of the circuit was burned.  Apparently that wasn’t quite as tight as the other connections and I’m guessing when the charger blew, the surge heated that connection and loosened it.  Cut off the burned wire and reseated it.  Circuit was fine the rest of the weekend.

While making dinner I heard the rain start.  Wonderful!  We have a tin roof and I LOVE the sounds of the rain.  Decided this was a good time to work on the Temple Grandin style (see post in the books section) cattle handling facilities.  Paper, pen, and compass in hand (can you believe I couldn’t find a pencil?) I started work.  Half a dozen drafts, and four hours later I was happy.  System could probably handle over 100 cattle at a time vs. the dozen or three I’ll have, but it was pretty!

In the morning I used the tractor to jump the RTV, noticing that it was downright chilly out!   Evia was successful in finding cheap, 8 guage, booster cables.  Could never actually jump a car with those, but with a bit of patience, they charged the RTVs battery enough to get it started.  Good news was that they would be just fine for jumping the Prius if we ever needed to – it only requires 12Vs to run the electronics and starts the car from its primary battery pack when it feels like it.

Still cold mid day, we checked the thermometer in the car and it was 65F out!  We had gone from Summer to Fall overnight.

Decided to low cut the grass around the house.  Dropped the brush hog down and started that chore.  Discovered that although I had no problems driving the tractor and brushhog over some 3/4″ PVC above ground pipe I had leading to the water trough, doing so with the brushlog lower ate the PVC.  Amazing how fine it ground it up too!  Fortunately, PVC pipe is both cheap and easy to fix.  Evia agreed to finish mowing, and to cut around the fruit trees for the first time with the brush hog.  She went slow, but got the job done without killing any trees! I repaired PVC…

When Evia was done, I opted to use the brush hog to clean up around the bee hives.  First pass in front was not a problem, the bees didn’t seem to care.  Cooler weather combined with it being mid-day (when most were out collecting) made me think I had it made.   Turned around to make another pass behind the hives and I discovered the bees had another idea.  Felt one on my hair, than saw one sting my right ring finger, then another under my eye.  Blasted path to escape was uphill and I was on a tractor – no fast way to get anywhere.  Used my hat to try to discourage them (bad idea by the way, but it feels right) while I tried to escape.  Still had several on me by the time I got in the house.  So much for bees having a 30 foot “zone” around their hives – our house is a good 400 feet away and they were still coming after me (or at least the ones that found me were).  Noticed a blister had formed on the ring finger.  Within an hour, I was wishing I had taken that ring off (I still wear a promise ring on I had exchanged with Evia before we were married on that hand).  Took some anti-histamines in hopes of checking the swelling.  Within an hour, those had knocked me to sleep.

Evia called about an hour after that.  She wanted help restringing our new electric weed wacker.  Guy at the farm & home store we bought it from said to just strip off about 18 feet and feed it through the holes and use the winder.  Evia had taken the unit apart (which in theory was unnecessary), but I sure couldn’t see how twine was suppose to go through the spool – there was a shaft in the way.  Our owners manual was missing what was apparently suppose to be the “how to rewind” supplement (compliments of the farm & home having the unit assembled for us (and on display until we picked it up)).  My mind was drugged, I couldn’t think.  I gave up, but heard Evia using it outside about 20 minutes later.  Apparently with this unit you cut TWO lengths of twine, insert an end in each hole (aligning some arrows first), and then wind.  Very easy once you know what to do…  Me, I was out for the night.

Monday morning found the pain gone in my hand, but it was still very swollen.  I could, at least, turn the ring, so it was improving (in fact, its almost back to normal, but not quite, today as I post this, 3 days later).  Alas, the eye was still swollen about 1/4 shut.  Rather annoying.  Feed the cows some treats and basically lazed around.  Did go on a short tour of the farm.  Mixed results on some fence line spraying I had done 2 weeks early, and now a bit too late to try again.  Will have to hit them in the spring.  Decided to go visit Sonny, but he wasn’t home.  Found myself looking at the area where I wanted to put the cattle facilities.  Happen to have the plan with me (was going to get Sonny’s thoughts), and had some flags in the back of the Kubota, so tried laying it out.  About an hour later, Sonny came by to say “hi”.  Two more hours later and we had it figured out more or less.  Going to have to pull the plan forward about 30 feet to avoid cutting down some oak trees, but that is ok.  At least it appears to fit.

Went back to the house to be reminded that cool weather does not mean no sunburn.  Apparently those three hours were enough to “help” me with my tan a bit more.

We wrapped up and prepared to come home.  I parked the Kubota and put the tractor back in the shed.  Noticed that tractor tire had decreased a bunch – its going to be flat by the time I get back there.  Its leaking slow, so hopefully I can just inflate it, but I suspect its going to need its 4th tube in 4 years.

So?  What do you think?  Good weekend or bad?

 

 

 

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HIGHLAND CATTLE STANDARDS

Posted by Evia on August 30, 2011
Posted in Farm & Prairie  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

HIGHLAND CATTLE STANDARDS
Originally posted at http://www.scottishhighlandcattle.com

 

BODY

  • straight topline from the shoulders to the tail head, with the tail blending smoothly into the body
  • good width along the back, especially behind the shoulders and between the hooks
  • shoulders should not be too prominent
  • well sprung ribs
  • well filled out over the plates, located between the hooks and the tail
  • full, well developed thighs
  • hind-quarters viewed from the rear should appear deep and square
  • straight sturdy legs, set well apart, with good bone and profuse hair covering
  • large well set hoove
 HEAD
  • proportionate to the body
  • broad between the eyes
  • short from the eyes to the muzzle
  • eyes clear, bright, alert, yet calm
  • broad, clear flesh coloured muzzle with distended nostrils
  • jaw neither overshot nor undershot
  • dossan (the hair between the horns) should be wide, thick and reach to the muzzle
 HORNS

BULLS
Sunset Next Edition

  • extend level out of the head, curving slightly forward and downwards
  • strong and masculine
  • symmetrical
  • avoid ‘doonie horns’ which tend to immediately droop downwards out of the head instead of extending horizontally from the head

COWS 16 year old cow

Two year old heifer

Yearling heifer

  • extend more or less horizontally out of the head and rise
  • the rise and twist of the horns varies from animal to animal
  • feminine, graceful, symmetrical appearance
  • avoid ‘doonie horns’
 HAIR
  • colder climates produce long profuse hair coats
  • a soft fluffy undercoat is protected by a long, strong, outer coat which can reach 14 inches in length
  • both coats shed annually, during warm summer weather
  • colours – black, brindle (red with black streaks, black with red streaks, yellow with dun streaks), light red to dark red, yellow, dun, silver dun, and white.
  • most common colours are red and yellow
  • a bull’s hair coat is not as profuse after the age of two
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Over the past few decades, but especially the past few years, I’ve read a lot of books on why things are going downhill. Several of those are mentioned elsewhere in the book section of this Blog. However, only ONE man has offered a well thought out, if contrarian, solution to this problem: Wendel Berry.

If you only read one book from all of them listed on this blog, please beg, borrow, or buy and READ this one. I don’t normally post the full Amazon “Buy now” link, but for this book I think its worth it. The book is not expensive, and not the least bit laborious to read cover to cover.

Basically, Wendel details why we MUST return to sustainable small-scale farming and how that will  both invigorate the rural economy an led us back to locally produced food for our cities.  One example concept is “acres per eyes”: If a man is plowing a field of 10 acres with a small tractor and sees a 1/2 acre of ground that is too wet – ground which if plowed would be compacted and damaged – he will go around it and perhaps plow it when conditions are better. If a man is contracted to sit on a 250 HP tractor and plow a 1000 acres, he is never even going to see that 1/2 acre. Even if he did, he was hired to plow and plow he will.  That year, one small piece of ground is damage, year after year more and more ground is likewise damaged.

I’m not doing the book justice with that example. Please find a copy and read it for yourself. I simply can not recommend it highly enough.

Kevin

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Grass Fed Beef and related books

Grass Fed beef, or Natural Beef, or maybe even Organic Beef is the latest in niche marketing for the small farmer.  We are actually building up for a niche of that niche:  Scottish Highland “Highly Natural” Beef.  What the heck is “Highly Natural”?  It means that we don’t feed our cattle growth hormones, or fatten them on corn.  They live the virtually all of their lives out on pasture, spring, summer, fall, and winter.  We do supplement their feed in the winter with local hay, although my neighbors are amazed at how my highlands are trudging through the snow to find grass when many Angus are huddled around waiting for the next hay bale. We do train them using “Breeder Cubes” (a mix of corn, grain, salts, vitamins and minerals) for handling purposes – so they get a little bit of “cow candy”, but its not a staple part of their diet.  We also vaccinate the cows and will treat one if it gets ill with modern medicines, but they do not get antibiotics in their food or anything like that.  Doing so requires a bit of work, many of the “routine” feeds have growth enhancers, such as “Cattle Charge”, and antibiotics in things like free-choice spring minerals.  Oh, they also have (antibiotic free!) free access to salt and trace mineral blocks.

Hmmm, a bit of background might be in order:

For the small beef farmer, with anywhere from a few to perhaps a few hundred head, the routine in our neck of the woods goes as follows:

1)  Calves are born in spring.
2)  They are kept by their mothers side for 3-6 months.
3)  They are raised on pasture and sold either that fall (for less money/lb) or the following spring (for more money/lb but after being fed expensive hay all winter)
4)  They are taken to a finishing farm where they are fattened up on corn and then sent to the slaughterhouse.

So, every year, new calves are born and ~6-12 month year old calves are sold.  Fed Cattle Charge and the like, they grow quickly and provide a somewhat steady if not always profitable income to the farmer.  Each cow/calf pair, should be given about 4 acres of land to avoid overgrazing it.

Variations on this pattern exist of course.

Sadly, the 4 acre part seems to be abused by some.  We have one distant neighbors whose summer cows (who should be fat as can be) are literally skin and bones.  If they were horses, he would be sent to prison and/or they would be removed from his property as neglected.  Alas, they are “live stock” so no such laws exist.  In any case, their is hardly a blade of grass more than a 1/2″ tall in his fields.  Its very, very, sad.

Fortunately, most of our neighbors treat their cattle very well.

So what is different with Grass Fed Beef?  Well, for starters, it takes longer.  Instead of being “finished” (grown to full size) on corn and destroying the nutritional profile of the resulting beef, Grass Fed Beef are finished on, well, grass!  These means the farmer is likely to have his calves for 18-24 months instead of 6-12 months – a whole year more.  This also means he needs to have more land, since the older calves will need more to eat.  He is also guaranteed to need to feed them at least one winter.  Pretty clear why few are doing this!  If Grass Fed farmers took their beef to the “cattle barns” for sale along with the “Cattle Charge” cows half their age they would lose not only their shirts, but their reputation, and probably their farms.  Fortunately there is a growing niche for “Grass Feed Beef” for those farmers willing to direct sale their beef.  The GREAT news is that all of them I know are typically sold out.

OK, so what are we doing that is even less common?  We are raising Scottish Highland cattle.  My avatar is a young one.  These cattle grow even slower than grass fed Angus (the predominate breed of beef cattle in our area).  Where an Angus Grass fed will need to be kept 18-24 months, a Highland will need 30-36 months to reach full size.  Being older, the meat will be tougher.  Being Scottish Highland, the meat will be a lot leaner.  Being 30-36 months old, the flavor will be outstanding!  Aging the beef at the butchers for 3 weeks vs. 2 for Angus addresses a lot of the toughness issue.  Proper cooking helps prevent the leaner beef from burning or turning into shoe leather.  And… to my great surprise.. there seems to be a specialty market for Highland Beef!  How special?  A few weeks ago I got a call from a “Representative of the <insert name> family”.  He wanted to know if I could provide 20-40lbs of Highland Beef for his client every couple of weeks.  I don’t know of many Highland ranchers that could – most of us have a dozen or fewer animals, but the call was exciting!  I’ve also had a couple of small Russian food stores ask me if I could provide them with “real” meat and/or “real” eggs.  It was heartening.

OK, I promised a couple of book suggestions, so:

Its pretty oriented toward commercial operations but I found it a good read.

About more than cattle, but again all natural grass based.

And one of my favorites, which goes hand-in-hand with letting your cows go to their food (grass) instead of hauling unnatural food to them (corn):

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Buy land…

Posted by Kevin on August 22, 2011
Posted in EconomyFarm & PrairieLife in General  | Tagged With: , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Buy land...

/* Originally posted on June 22nd, 2010 */

I think the future definition of wealth will be based on what ones physically owns, not numbers in computers. The wealthy will have nice homes on large farms (hundreds of acres, but not thousands unless your talking sparse Texas range ranches).

Family and community will become much more important as interdependancies grow. People may actually become nicer to each other since pissing someone off may prevent them from helping you someday when you need it.

People will become valued for the services and products they can produce locally, and exchange locally for things they need.

Too that end, we have bought the 121 acre farm mentioned extensively elsewhere in this system. I’m trying to establish it as the traditional old-time family farm and fully expect it to be complete with cows (done), chickens, perhaps some pigs and/or goats, etc. We have planted enough fruit trees to actually significantly suppliment our diet and continue to plant more. We have bee hives for honey and have found honey works pretty darn well as a sugar replacement (duh!).

We still need to build the real house out there, although what we have would suffice in an emergency (say the collapse occurs in 18 months instead of the 5-10 years I’m hoping for).

I’d like to add a 10,000 gallon rainwater cistern, and get enough solar/wind power together to at least keep a freezer and refridgerator working. CFL lighting requires a trivial amount of relative power, as does a few ceiling fans for comfort.

All it takes is time and money.

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