Found myself between assignments at work, so opted to spend a week plus up at the farm.  Packed the kids, dog, and my cat in the truck and come up Thursday morning, April 2nd.  Believe this is the first time I’ve mentioned my cat… Starting at the beginning of the year my wife, Evia, began fostering cats for one of the do-not-kill shelters.  We typically have 3 in our laundry room.  Not ideal for them, but a LOT better than sitting in a cage – and they get some socialization with the kids playing with them, as well as a few neighbors kids.  Often kittens, sometime full grown cats.  On off weekends, when we are not at the farm, Evia takes them up to Petsmart who hosts adoption sessions.  Normally one or two of them will be adopted, and a day or two later, the leader of this effort will drop off replacements.  Well, my cat, Midnight, was a black kitten.  First time I went in to visit that batch, this black kitten jumped on my shoulders and settled in wrapped around my neck.  Somehow found myself spending more time with that batch than I normally do.  The weekend before valentines day, Midnight went with the rest of them to Petsmart… and came home.  Apparently there were 7 black cats there that weekend.  Evia presented him to be as my valentines gift.  I didn’t complain.  In Evia’s circle, this is called a “Failed Foster”, where the foster family ends up formally adopting the cat.  Obviously, that can’t happen too often…  In any case, Midnight spends most of the day with me and travels with us to the farm now.

Thursday was travel day.  We had GREAT weather, sunny and warm.  Put out what will probably be the last of the hay, unless we get a freak snowfall.  Swapped out the front hay fork for the bucket.  Started filling the water trough after dumping some new gravel under it and leveling it out better than I did last year.  Checked for leaks and thought I heard one, but decided to check again later at night, when the trough would be full, and the pipes under more pressure (sure enough, went out with a flashlight around 11pm – nice and quiet, no kids stomping in the grass and going “hey Dad?” every 30 seconds, and found a cracked fitting).  Took the kids for a rid in the RTV and checked everything out.  Discovered we have TWO new calves.  Neighbors had reported on the 31st, another appears to have been born a day or two later.  Ran the dog, several times.  Basically enjoyed the day.

Friday was a bit of a sleep in, followed by a trip into town for brunch.  I had my usual steak and eggs (and hashbrowns and toast!), the kids had pancakes.  Went into Orscheln to pick up a few things (new ball for my tractor, a replacement pin for the RTV’s hitch which somehow fell off, a bag of T-Post insulators, and some truck bed spray I want to try on the cattle scales to make them less slippery).  Also wanted to pick up a few boxes of lag bolts for assembling the fishing dock with – and had Kenn, the manager, tell me he was being snubbed by the local nuts and bolts guys – he apologized, but couldn’t even order them for me.  Ran up to PEJepson lumber, whom I placed a $3K lumber order with earlier in the week, and added their entire supply of (123) 3/8″ 3.5″ galvanized lag bolts and washers to my order.  I was expecting to have that lumber order delivered early next week, but to my surprise they told me they were coming out later that day!  (and they did…)  Friday evening Evia arrived a bit later than I expected.  Actually texted her and got a “be there soon” reply.  Apparently we have different definitions of “soon”, with her arriving about 2 hours later after going into town and doing some shopping for the weekend supplies.  No big deal… Earlier in the day Frank and later Gabby had come over to the coral where I was working and gave me a hand.  I went back there when I expected Evia to arrive so I could open the gate for her, and ended up having a lot of time to look at the corral and figure out what I wanted to do next.  At sundown, I gave up and went back in. 

Saturday started with a surprise call from the Fence Guy – a gentlemen I’ve been trying to get to come out for about 2 years.  Eventually enrolled the help of my neighbors.  Between them mentioning me at every opportunity and/or eventually make it to the top of his list, he called.  Showed up about 30 minutes later and we spent a pleasant 2 hours touring the farm and reviewing the fencing plan I had sketched up previously and provided him.  Sounds like he is going to be able to do it all (new southern woven wire/hedge post perimeter fence, new pasture fences, and fencing around the new pond (all integrated together in one master plan of course!)) and will be complete by the end of May.  This is an effort that should last at least 30 years, so well worth doing right.  Rest of the day was spent reworking parts of the corral with Evia’s help – we ended up pulling 4 post and repositioning them to tightening up the squeeze section so the cattle would go into single file mode quicker.  As originally laid out, we found ourselves having a lot of jostling for position, often with cattle jams.  Hopefully this will reduce that problem.  Between Friday and Saturdays work we also installed an inside wide to tighten things up a bit – we are trying to prevent them from doing anything other than single file through most of the run.  Ends up being off by a couple of inches is enough to cause problems (e.g.  at 31″ they will try and push past one another, at 28″ they wont…).  Hopefully the rail will do the trick.

Sunday – Evia and the kids go home tonight.  Evia put the roast I took out of the freeze on Thursday into the slow cooker – good meal tonight!  I wrote the previous post this morning while eating a late breakfast.  Went and finished a new slide gate for the corral after that.  Evia is working on her kitchen garden.  I came in and decided to make this post!  Going to have to drill the base holes for the fishing dock today – apparently we have a lot of rain.  It was muddy down there Friday and Saturday, put apparently the winds have dried it out to where I can get the tractor in.  Might be my last chance, rain is forecast much of the coming week, and once this ground goes underwater, it will be a lot harder to drill!  So… guess I’ll end and go do that.

More later, I’m up here soloing it all week… if having a cat and dog with me qualifies as soloing.

OK – quick edit:.  Added the photo of the first flower of spring around here up at the top of the post.  Below is the results of our afternoon effort.  The water level will be about 5 feet below the top of those 6×6 posts once the pond fills.  The deck itself should be a foot or two above water level, which means during flood it will go underwater briefly. 

Don’t like it when we are rushed, but with rain foretasted as a possibility most of the week, we really needed to get this in today.  If you look at the tractor marks in the ground, I went right up to the current waters edge, and sometimes just a bit beyond.  One or two good rains and the pond will rise to where I wouldn’t have been able to do this – at least not from the angle I did it from.  The deck will be 8’x12′ with a 4′ walkway out to it.  If the weather permits I’ll get all the post in this week and most of the cross bracing.  FWIW – setting a 16′ treated 6×6 is pretty much my limit for what I can do by myself.  Its a lot easier to work these things with two.  Of course, the tops will be trimmed even when done and will serve as post for the handrails.

Oh, last but not least:  We have a pair of Canadian Geese visit us yesterday.  They where still hanging around today.