Let’s Give Them Something to Squawk About
August 30, 2012, 7:12 am
Filed under: August 2012

Hens on and off the nest

                                                     August 30, 2012

     Our hens like the new coop, but were laying all in one nest. I was at a flea market the other day and bought a stone egg from a lady. I brought the egg home and put it in the middle nest box. The hens squawked about it for hours, but are now laying in at least two places.

     It was funny, the fuss they raised on that first day. You would have thought they would pack up and leave. One would cluck loudly and another would start cackling. The next thing you know, the whole house was abuzz with hen chatter.

     I guess it is much like us humans. We don’t like change too much either. There is clucking and cackling, usually in the form of complaints and gripes, but it is disruptive just the same. I hate change…especially at first!

     My wife recently moved the trash can. I still am not 100% used to it. I am having a tough time with my teabag 😮 Perhaps it comes from working with animals, they aren’t too crazy about change either…ask any cow has had to change stantions…she doesn’t like it at all!

     Earlier this summer, I moved a bee hive. I only moved it about 100 feet. Those girls were not happy with me at all. They kept going to their old spot. Many of them spent a night on an old brick. I did finally convince them to stay with their hive, but it was a struggle.

     At work we are told to “embrace change” to position ourselves for the global market. I am like the cow looking for her old stantion. I do finally get there, but I’m not happy about it 😮 Heck, I still struggle with the whole trash can move thing!

     My wife says it’s good for me to have some “excitement” in my life. So she moves the canister set around just for fun…yep, then I can’t even find the tea bags. I will say that growing older has made me a better person, maybe it is all the changes? I don’t know, so I will just say, “Let’s give them something to squawk about!”


Logged On
August 29, 2012, 12:25 pm
Filed under: August 2012

Logs in their natural form

                                                            August 29, 2012

     We took a second load of logs to the sawmill. The lumber list is now complete for the pig barn addition. Construction will continue as soon as the weather and time permits. It actually sounds like rain may stop us for the first time since early spring. The storm “Issac” is to bring us some of our missing summer moisture 😮

     The possible soaking rain has me fretting about digging potatoes, harvesting pumpkins and any other dirt work waiting for me to complete. I guess I should not be a worry wart…. It will be what it will be and I have no control over it at all. It is a tough thing to think about, for a control freak like me!

     The logs are all delivered and most of our logging job has been cleaned up. I sorted out firewood, for a friend of mine, from the smaller top limbs and branches. The trees left standing will now get more light and nutrients. Even these white pine plantations are managed as part of our woodland management plan.

     Work waits, rain and stormy weather looms… and I am “logged on” to share our progress, that being said… I better get busy!


Stocking Up
August 26, 2012, 3:35 pm
Filed under: August 2012

Duke in the stocks getting his feet trimmed

                                                      August 26, 2012

     Duke is in the stocks, in this picture taken the other day, while he was getting his feet trimmed. It seemed to go with today’s post about making tomato soup. We are knee-deep in tomatoes from the garden and its a good place to be 😮 Yep, we are stocking up for winter.

     Our drought effected the tomatoes with blossom end rot. That is when the plant doesn’t get enough water to get calcium to the fruit. Blossom end rot is found in many things, pumpkins are another. Our pumpkins show no sign of it, but to the delight of our pigs, there are some tomatoes that have it.

     Blossom end rot is when an otherwise perfect tomato has a black or even rotted spot on the bottom…right where the flower blossom used to be. The rest of the tomato is fine to eat, but looks awful. I am sure my mom and grandma used the good parts, but we feed the whole thing to the pigs…my city born wife is a bit squeamish about such things 😮

     We don’t usually see much of this problem, but this year we have to deal with it. It seems to be only on a few tomatoes on each plant. I am sure it is the ones that were forming in the peak of the drought. My watering efforts kept the plants alive, but they did not thrive.

     We have plenty of plants growing and producing fruit, so the few we feed to the pigs are of no consequence. The pigs eat them like candy. I am sure it is a change from their feed ration and much like dessert to them. They also get a few zucchini squash that are prolific in our garden. All of those treats make the pigs squeal with delight, when they see us coming with a bucket.

     Our pantry is starting to look good. The empty jars are filling up thanks to our efforts. My wife has the hard job, but I do assist as I can. I try to always be there to lift the “awkward, but not heavy stuff”. In any case, stocking up, is a job done best with help!

     We had nice rains at the beginning of the month, after an extended droughty period. The grass and pastures all greened back up like magic. Now, however, everything is starting to dry and curl up again. We are way behind on our rainfall totals. I am fearing that one day, we will get all that we have missed in the form of autumn rains or winter snow.

     It is time to start working ground for fall planted crops. I want to push it a little so the rain doesn’t catch me unprepared. The corn harvest looms as well, but so far we are all caught up with our work ……. that is until I start looking at my list!  Oh well, we will keep stocking up for now as we harvest the garden. The rest of the work will fall into place… and I plan to have a lot of fun getting it done!


Innovative Pig Waterers
August 24, 2012, 4:28 pm
Filed under: August 2012

Pigs drinking from the pig nipple drinker

                                                August 24, 2012

     Once again, the discarded plastic barrels have answered a need here on the farm. We made portable pig waterers out of them. They work very well, were easy to make and are inexpensive … my favorite part 😮

     We took the barrel and after rinsing, neutralizing and rinsing again, we cut a small portion of the top out. We next marked a spot on the side for the location of the stainless steel pig nipple. We kept them at the height that the pigs needed and up off the bottom so trash and chaff could settle out without plugging the nipple screen.

     We next took two pipe “floor flanges” and sandwiched the plastic barrel in-between. We marked the center hole and the holes to bolt the flanges together. We drilled a 1/2 inch hole at the center mark. We then drilled the 1/4 inch holes for the flange bolts. We assembled the flanges on the barrel, after putting some silicone caulking on each flange, where they contacted the sides of the barrel.

     We next screwed a close nipple into the outside flange threads. This nipple just made the drinker a bit longer to reach inside the pen, without being too long so the pigs would break them off. A coupling was added next. We then threaded the stainless steel pig nipple into the coupling. We used 1/2 inch pipe fittings for the whole project, because that was the size of the pig nipple.

     The waterers cost a little less than $15.00 each. That includes all the pipe fittings, bolts and nipples. The nipples and associated piping  were purchased at the local farm store. We let them cure and dry for 24 hours before filling them with water to allow the silicon caulking to dry well.

     They work great. We rinse then once a day We  fill them as needed, usually twice a day. The pigs seem to be drinking more water this way than when watered in a trough. The mess is less and the water stays much cleaner and fresher.

     These portable drinkers also work very well for our moveable pig pen. We just secure it to the side of the pen with steel plumbing tape making a circle for the barrel to slide into. We can remove and clean them as needed or daily to freshen the water.

     The barrels shown had  low pH material in them for the soap that they dispensed. We rinsed, then neutralized with baking soda and water, rinsing several times afterwards. Once again some innovative thinking helped save some money, while providing a valuable tool for the farm.

     You can call it “tight”, “frugal” or “cheap”, but I prefer the sound of “Innovative” !!


Draft Horse Pedicure
August 23, 2012, 12:10 pm
Filed under: August 2012

Duke getting his feet trimmed

                                                    August 23, 2012

     Today I took the horses down to Burton to get their shoes pulled off and their feet trimmed. They will be barefoot now until late January. They get new shoes in time for the maple sap season ans the work that comes with it.

     My farrier uses stocks for the draft horses. I am glad that he does. The horses are secure and safe, as is the man working on their feet. Some folks don’t think stocks are a good idea, but I am a fan of them. Well made stocks are comfortable and safe, giving the farrier’s back a break.

     My horses were in and out in just under 30 minutes each. They all have neatly and correctly trimmed feet. They are no worse for wear. They are not afraid of the stocks or the task of having their feet work done. I think it is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Holes, Poles and a New Project
August 22, 2012, 8:57 pm
Filed under: August 2012

Pig barn addition underway

                                                                August 22, 2012

     Today we started on the pig barn addition. It will give us two more nice stalls. The alleyway makes moving pigs, feed and manure a breeze. The little barn works very well, so why try to improve on what works?

     I had to rent an auger. We used to have one, but then I thought… when will we ever use that thing again? Then sold it…this makes twice since then, that I had to rent one. My back is too sore to try to dig by hand… and hey, that is as good an excuse as anything 😮

     My hired hand will soon be back in school in the carpentry class. He had a good day today as we laid out the building and set up the poles. The concrete floor comes next. Once the concrete has been laid, the rest of the building material should be ready.

     The logs will be sawed by the time the cement has been put down. Our white pine trees will take on a new life in the form of our pig barn. The wood will keep the pigs safe and warm and provide a home… not just a barn. Home is where comfort, security and love is found…the pig barn is no different.

     We will build the barn in the next few weeks. I will try to teach my helper all that I know about building. It will be a short lesson, but given the best way that I know. He will get hands on experience as well as doing the climbing for this aging man. We both will get something out of the experience, but the hogs will benefit the most.

     On a farm there is lots of work to do. Projects like this one just spice up the mundane. It is nice to see a project completed, knowing that you had a hand in it. This one is a bit more special, because of using the pine trees and mentoring a young man…..  I do love this life!


Too Tired
August 21, 2012, 4:53 pm
Filed under: August 2012

King … Too “Tired”

                                                   August 21, 2012

     After chasing his tire, King gets pooped. It is funny to watch him lumber off after the rolling plaything. He is actually very quick, he just looks a bit clumsy from his puppy way of doing things. Today, I know how he feels.

     Today we cut down the white pine trees to be milled into lumber for the pig barn addition. The weather was perfect, but my back was a little “ouchy”. The job took us until just after lunch. It went very well.

     We took the logs to the mill and unloaded them. The pine sap flowed freely from the fresh-cut wood. We got pretty well soaked with the sticky stuff. It gets everywhere, on clothes, in your hair and on everything that you touch… Thank goodness for the power of “Pine-Sol” baby! 😮

     Once we returned home from the log delivery, I tried to do a couple of simple jobs. I felt like I was dragging my leg behind me. Now, as I write, the pain is shooting down my leg and out my toes. I guess I have abused my body a little too much over the years. A trip to the chiropractor, a day of rest and I should be back on the mend.

     My dad used to tell a corny joke; Why is a bicycle slower than a car?           Because it’s too tired!   Today I feel a little like the dog and the joke. I think I will quit for the day. Chores are done, horses are resting and its raining on and off … perfect time to say enough… for today 😮


Man’s Best Friend
August 20, 2012, 8:11 pm
Filed under: August 2012

King and I take an evening break

                                                   August 20, 2012

     They say that dog is man’s best friend. I have to agree with that statement. A dog only knows one way to love you and that is with its whole being. They are always glad to see you, no matter that you have only been gone five minutes.

     Our dog is now just 14 months old. He is a member of our family. It’s crazy, my wife is not a dog person, but she makes a genuine exception to King. He has won her over too. I am a very lucky guy to have had so many wonderful canine pals.

     King joins a long list of faithful friends. My most recently departed Lucy broke my heart when she died. I guess that opened a place for King. He has become my trusted and loyal partner, not taking Lucy’s place, but rather securing one of his own. He is my buddy that is for sure!

     A young friend of mine has an old dog that is starting to have end of life issues. So far, the dog is in no pain and gets around with a slight limp. It is a fact that their long friendship will end one day soon. I am trying to prepare him for the day when he and his pal have to say goodbye.

     That will be a rough day for sure, but it is part of responsible pet ownership. The tears will flow as his old friend drifts off to an eternal sleep. There will be no tears of shame, but rather tears of celebration, for the times and life they have shared together. A boy needs a dog, just as much as a dog needs a boy. Hang tough my young friend, spend a few more minutes each day petting your old companion… you will be very glad that you did.

     I am not a cat person, but I do have a cat. I think he just lets me stay here to bring him food. He is aloof, friendly, hard-working, but aloof. I pet him and he allows it, unlike King who adores it 😮

     I am a dog person through and through. I don’t want to think about life without a good dog in it. I read somewhere once, and find it to be true…. there is a reason, that dog spelled backwards is … GOD …. nuff said for me!


Racked Up
August 19, 2012, 12:25 am
Filed under: August 2012

New rack on the hay wagon

                                                August 19, 2012

     Today we cut down half of the second cutting hay, we built this hay rack and we installed a culvert for the bridge to nowhere. The hay rack got broken during my demolition project of the old chicken coop. I broke everything in sight … even the neighboring  fence!

     The new rack cost $11.90. It was a quick fun project for my hired man and I. He was a boy when he first started here, but hard work makes men out of them 😮 He is planning a career in carpentry. I showed him how to be a wood butcher… finese he will learn later.

     The culvert went into a small ditch that leads to the little bridge down by the sugarhouse. I want the path to be high and dry in all sorts of weather. The culvert will help keep the little ones out of the mud. The culvert pipe was a leftover piece and Lord knows we have dirt around here.

     Once the path is complete, I want to grow flowers there. The short walk to the sugarhouse will be a nice place in summer with blooming flowers lining the walkway. I hope it turns out like I have planned and not some overgrown snarl of weeds and brush.

     Summer is nearing its end. These last several days have been perfect for me. It is cool, in the 70’s, with a nice breeze. The evenings have been lovely. I have been trying to enjoy some of each day, by pausing, just to notice how nice it is. I am better off for doing it.

     We hope to get the last of the hay in next week, along with cutting our logs for the pig barn project. A busy week is in store, but hey, we aren’t bored much! I will just have to be extra careful not to get “racked up”.


Moving sheep after Dark
August 15, 2012, 10:38 pm
Filed under: August 2012

Before the sorting

                                                    August 15, 2012

     Tonight we moved and sorted sheep. We waited until the cool of evening to do it. It took us a little bit too long, so we finished in the dark. It was nobodies fault, the sorting just took a little longer than I thought it would.

     The job went flawlessly. The new lambs are all sorted and now weaned from momma. They will rub noses through the fence, but the nursing days are over. We weaned lambs weighing 60 to 70 pounds. Not bad for a drought year!

     Once the sheep were sorted, the moms went into one paddock and the lambs into one adjoining it. The sun was long gone, as we moved the older ewes to their pasture. They walked behind me following my “come babies”  low call to them. They walked along nicely and went right into the lush pasture.

     Then, it was pitch dark. I could only see about twenty feet on the cloudy night. The baby lambs were put with my old matriarch Persephone. She was one of our original ewes and is almost thirteen years old. She will die here of old age. She has helped move my flock ever since she was a baby.

     She had been raised on a bottle and was very tame. I like the old girl. She gave us twins every year. Her udder is now shot , so we keep her away from the rams at breeding time. Her only job is to keep everyone calm and lead the flock.

     Tonight in the dark, little Persephone led the way following my voice. The baby lambs followed the old matron without question. They walked slowly as she ambled her way to the waiting paddock. I spoke softly to the group. Persephone baa’d softly and kept the little ones moving. They went through the gate as if we moved them that way everyday.

     The old ewe and I knew what was happening. I would beckon to her and she would do my bidding. She knew I would not harm her so she followed me fearless and confident. The babies followed because she asked them to do so. If only I listened as close to my Master’s voice….. A guy can learn a lot from a flock of sheep 😮