Tuesday, February 28, 2006

This Slid Off of My Kitchen Roof

Monday, February 20, 2006


Last Saturday night all the horses came into the barn like they usually do, everybody seemed to be just fine. When I got to the barn on Sunday morning I discovered that Sahara had slipped her halter, went outside and died. We had the vet in to float her teeth a few years back and he told me she hadn't been twenty for more than ten years. She was old enough that her teeth were in pretty rough shape. Still, for an old horse she had plenty of spunk. I was glad to see her die suddenly and unexpectedly. Usually old animals get to the point where they are suffering and a decision has to be made about putting them down. I guess if you've got to go, that's the way to do it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Cookstove dilemma

The Bengal
The Kalamazoo

Don Lee, our local antique and flooring shop owner stopped by the other day for some eggs. I happened to be leaning against the Bengal Blue Jet cookstove we have in the kitchen, warming my back. I do that a lot in the winter while I am looking out the window at all the work that needs to be done. Don asked me if I wanted a smaller cookstove to go there. He owned one that needed to be moved that I could have for the price of a few meat chickens. So I went and picked it up on Saturday. It is a 6 burner Kalamazoo. The dilemma is this (get ready for the most irrelevant question you have ever contemplated). The Bengal is in better condition and has a good spot to lean on without getting burned. The Kalamazoo is smaller and would fit in our kitchen better, and it has more character. The Kalamazoo, though smaller, has six burners, while the Bengal has only 4, plus 4 gas burners which we don't use. I'd just swap them out for a while to see which I like better except they are really heavy, so they aren't much fun to move. We are planning on building an on farm sales building and which ever one doesn't end up in the kitchen will end up out there.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I went to the field day at Polyface Farm (Joel Salatin's place) this summer. I had a great time and certainly got more than $75 worth of ideas out of it, not to mention a good lunch. It's one thing to read about something but sometimes you just have to see how elements all come together to form a working prototype. I thought I took a lot of pictures, but I don't think I took enough now. One thing I have noticed about pictures is that the main subject of the picture often isn't as interesting as something in the background later on. I am beginning the process of building a coral and handling chute for cattle and I wish I had taken more pictures of his setup for ideas. I was able to get some info from the background of a few pictures. Anyhow, what amazed me most about this day was the turnout. The estimate was between 1200 and 1400 people. When I got there they had 10 hay wagons for hauling people out to the fields. Joel got on a bull horn as the thing was starting and said how many people were here and that a vast majority of us would need to walk. He also said that they had to cut off registration 3 weeks early because it was starting to get out of hand, and they were afraid there might be 2000 people attending if they didn't close it out. I don't know what it really means, but it sure felt like a small farm revolution to me.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Gotta Getta Betta Fence

Well, it looks like the deer knocked my electric fence down again last night. This is the one that keeps the cows home. All it is is a single strand of 12 gauge steel electric fence wire held up on rebar posts. It works great almost all of the time. The trouble is that the deer have a hard time seeing it at night so they knock it down from time to time. The cows know where the fence is so they tend to get out during the day, when they can see that the fence isn't up. I usually have some kids in tow so we've ended up chasing cows with the minivan from time to time. This morning was one of those times. I have been cutting fenceposts this winter, so my days of fence failures should be numbered. My neighbor had a post driver that mounts on the 3 point hitch of his tractor, so when he is done with maple syrup and cleaning his sap lines I'm going to get him to come over and pound the posts in. A couple of years ago I put 2 strands of high tensile fence around the perimeter of one side of the farm. It's great stuff. The deer can't hurt it, and because you can stretch it so tight you don't need nearly as many posts. I spaced those posts 100 feet apart, and we have never lost a cow through it. 50 feet would probably be a little better. One of my goals is to have a barbed wire free farm in the near future. Barbed wire is a lot harder on the people who have to work on it than it is the animals its supposed to keep in. They love to scratch on it and end up stretching the fence out so it won't hold anything. If I had the replacement cost for all the clothes I've torn and bandaids I used because of barbed wire I could buy all the high tensile fence supplies I need to fence this farm.

The Cobbler's Children

The kids wanted to go outside to ride tricycles the other day. About half an hour later I noticed what they had on their feet. They have never been too concerned with the cold. We keep the house about 60 degrees in the winter, and it's much colder upstairs because we have no heat there besides what makes it up the stairs. The old rattley windows don't help much either. One tme we recorded 35 degrees in the back bedroom.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sheila Rae

We got this dog at the pound after we had to put down our last dog, Gretchen, because of bladder cancer. Actually there was another dog in there, but we only kept him for a week. Jing was a Border Collie we got at the pound. I have always wanted a dog who could help with herding cows. It doesn't happen often, but once in a while cows wind up where they don't belong, or I need to move them to the barn for something. It's times like that where having a half decent cow dog would make my life a lot easier. Well, we thought we were onto something when we found Jing, and he seemed alright for the first day. Then he got progressively more aggressive, and with young children concerned I wasn't willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. So he went back to the pound. We actually found Sheila on the internet. One of our local SPCA's posts pictures and info on available animals on their website. When we went to look at her someone had already decided to take her. We looked at some other dogs but nothing really suited us. I couple of days later my wife called the SPCA on a hunch to see what was happening with this dog. The hold had expired so she took the kids down to see her and decided she was the right dog. I went and picked her up a couple of days later.

At first I thought I might have a natural cow dog on my hands. She was pretty good at getting them moving, but after a few days some of the Jersey steers I have decided they should make her prove it. A little bit of a challenge was enough to shake her confidence. That and her unfortunate introduction to electric fencing combined to dampen her enthusiasm altogether for a few months. But other than that she's a good farm dog. She takes anything the kids want to do, and barks at all the appropriate times without making the customers and UPS driver question the wisdom of getting out of their vehicles. I would still like to have a stock dog but this one will do. Maybe the next dog will be the one. A couple of days ago I read that stock dogs should be started on sheep until they gain their confidence, which makes a lot of sense, but i don't have any sheep and ultimately I hardly need a cow dog.