Row-Hoe!!

There was a challenge at work that had me trying to get as many steps during the day as I could (I was trying to win Twins tickets… I didn’t). I did drag the family on a few walks in my attempt, one of which we went to Erica Lane (our new parcel of land). Mike was trying to show me the property lines; otherwise known as my tilling/plowing/fencing limits.

It’s really a pretty piece of land with a little bit of everything- woods, field, slough and a creek. The deer paths have over grown with ox-eye daisies, one of my favorites. The old garden plots haven’t been worked in years by the looks of it. In fact the only reason I knew they were there at all was because of the weather worn wire hanging hap-hazardly from crooked old posts. The tall grass and weeds was no different than what is in the field. I marched through each plot to check things over, I’m not sure what I was looking for, in anything.

By this time the little boy had climbed out of the stroller and waded through the tall grass to an old swing set. The swings were long gone but the ladder to the fort was still in tact as well as the slide and that was all he needed. I was still searching for nothing as I tripped over a row of tomato cages and then a couple rows of make-shift cages out of sturdier garden fence. Then I found a diamond in the rough or a worn out hoe… same thing in my eyes.

Well I didn’t know what I was pulling out of the weeds at the time. I just saw an old handle and decided to pull. It was caked with soil, little trees and weeds were growing out of it keeping it well hidden. By the time I wrestled it out of the tangled mess I had quite the contraption! I had seen pictures of such things, but to be honest we had to look it up online to get an idea of just what I was dealing with.

A Row-hoe! A cultivator from one direction and a weeder from the other. Needless to say, Mike pushed the stroller home and I drug the new piece of equipment all the way home.

Row-Hoe

I was absolutely delighted with my find. I haven’t decided if I want to shine it up real pretty, give it a new coat of paint and a new handle or just leave it old and worn. The appearance won’t affect the quality of work that comes out of it, but it does make me look like I have been working hard and know what I’m doing.

Gardening Vicariously Out the Car Window

“…and apologizes for her hands, which are covered with flour and dough. I show her my own hands, still stained with island soils, and tell her never to apologize for dirty hands. I am reassured when someone offers me a rough, callous mitt.”- “Fields of Plenty” by Michael Ableman

My hands are usually something that could use a apology. The constant kitchen work leaves them quite dry and rough from the constantly washing off whatever it is I am baking. The deep cold of winter and extra “work” during the holidays leaves me with a bit of carpel tunnel or early stages of arthritis. The aching feeling in my hands and wrists usually subsides late January assuming I wear mittens every time I’m outside.

Spring, summer and fall means my hands (and feet) stained a rather unpleasant shade of brownish-green. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I scrub. The callouses, though there year-round, are much more noticeable during the “non-snow” months. Between shovels, pitch forks and garden weeds there is no rest for my hands.

I appreciate someone with hands like mine. I can see the common ground between us without having to speak. For someone like me who struggles with conversation, garden stained hands gives an opening for pleasant small talk that isn’t weather based. The conversation will inevitably end up there, as talking about the weather is a true Minnesota pastime.

Driving home the other night I was temped to stop by and talk to a family that was planting a garden along the road. I didn’t of course, that would mean I would have to actually speak, but I thought about it. Over the years I have watched that garden plot thrive with vegetables for a few years, then taken over by weeds for a few and back with new owners. Last I heard, it is a father and couple sons that have it.

Last year was weeds. This year I saw they tilled it so nicely and then laid sheets of black garden plastic over the whole thing. That in itself must have been quite a task, this is not small plot. Over the next few nights I could see they were planting through the plastic and carefully marking the plants and rows with flags. They also appear to have a fence up to keep the deer out. Probably the reason for the weeds last year; gardening can be very discouraging when all you do is unwillingly feed deer.

I am curious what they have planted, how they plan to keep it watered if needed and what they are using to keep the plastic down. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this method. It’s also not the most common method in the area, so it would be nice to hear what they have to say about it at the beginning of the season and again after harvest. Over the years I have tried all sorts of things that at the beginning of the season sound like a great idea and by harvest I would never do again.

… A few weeks have gone by now (I have been slacking on finishing this post). I see them planting almost every night on my way home from work. It’s starting to look like quite the garden. I still have no idea what they have planted but it’s looking good.

The flowers I planted in the front bed must have from been too old seed. I have a lovely patch of weeds in there and no flowers that I can see. I learned years ago to not weed the flower beds until they are big enough to tell the difference between weeds and flowers. By now everything that was going to grow should be up. This late in the year I am not going to bother trying again. I will just pull the weeds and leave it empty for now.

Our vegetable garden plot in looking great so far. Our neighbor plowed up a big area between the two of us. We helped pick some rock and then he took the disc to it. Some of this will get some fresh grass seed and the rest will be vegetables next spring. I can’t wait to get some seeds in the ground next spring. The soil there is beautiful, rich, black and alive. I’m tempted to try the black plastic method next year. Maybe for half of it… I haven’t yet decided.

This no vegetable garden is a tough one for me but I am surviving. I just gawk at everyone else’s.

Little Jerry

Most of our animals have names with the exception of the chickens. There is no way I could keep 180 birds straight. Instead we have “the Ladies” our laying hens, “the Fry’n Pan Special” and “Little Jerry” the rooster that gets to spend the winter with the Ladies. I typically do most of the animal naming around the farm, mostly because I pick out names before the animals arrive. Little Jerry is one that my husband picked. It is a revolving name assigned to any rooster in the hen house.

I had a few names picked out, most of which were from old John Wayne movies. But, I had to share some of the naming fun. Little Jerry got his name from a Seinfeld episode. The one when Kramer bring home a chicken for fresh eggs…

seinfeld_The_Little_Jerry-250x187

Check it out here… (a http://youtube.com link)

Expanding the Farm

A while back my husband mentioned it would be nice to have a little more hay ground, not that we need more hay at the moment. I’m guessing he is thinking long term. It would be nice, but I didn’t think too much more about it. Maybe a week later, he was browsing online and stumbled upon a new listing. 30 acres just across the road from us. If we wanted to expand this would be a great plot to get because it is so close, but I wasn’t sure we really wanted to make the move now. He made the argument that we have no idea if or when this piece would come back up for sale.

Of course, we called up the family realtor and went to take a look. There is not as much hay field as I had expected but there were a fair amount of well-traveled deer paths. Mike was sold on it, I think before we even went to see it.

Over the years I had managed to squirrel away some cash that was divided into envelopes, labeled for the intended use. They are empty now and most of the savings account too. But we have land, and the payment to match. Not quite how I would like to go about things but for now it is what it is.

For now we’ll sell the extra hay. In time, we plan to fence our current hay field then add to the herd; a few more cows and a couple horses. One of my “bucket list” tasks is to break a wild mustang from a program such as the Mustang Heritage Foundation or something similar. In order to do that I will need a little more space than we have set up right now.

I don’t know what the field across the road looks like just yet. I will check on tomorrow. I got a good look at the one out front when I was trimming for the electric fence. Which, for those who are keeping track, is still not done… The alfalfa is waist high, thick, and ready to be cut. The hard part is to know when to cut. The weather is less than dependable and once the hay is down, we need a stretch of nice weather for it to dry. Then to get it baled and in the barn before the next rain. It wouldn’t surprise me if the old tradition continued this year; baling hay on the 4th of July. It’s not one that I had growing up, that was before my time, but it appears to be making a comeback on the farm.

Spring here, brings a lot of rain. I seemed to have forgotten just how much rain falls in a Minnesota spring. We need it and I love to hear the rain on the old tin roof of the barn, but once the hay is ready to be cut it can stop for a bit. Before the spring rain stops I need to restack the hay we have left from last year. That should get used up before we start feeding this year’s cutting.

It’s time to stock up on Kleenex and Claritin  and hit the hay!

 

Have You Seen My Goats?

We spent most of Sunday working around the farm. I worked some more on the never ending fence (it’s still not done by the way), mowed lawn, cleaned the coop and so on. Mike was busy with fire wood, tilling and digging rocks. We have been letting the goats wander the yard when we are home. They never go too far and can usually be found guarded by our shih tzu. It was getting closer to supper time and I had realized I hadn’t seen the boys around in a while. I checked all the usual places; the garden, the flowerbed, the front porch, the milk side of the barn, the coop. They were no where to be found. I grabbed the little boy’s sand pale, filled it with sunflower seeds and headed towards the neighbors. Walking over I started to think how ridiculous I am going to look, knocking on the door with my little pale of treats to lead the boys home with. Knock, Knock. “Hi. Have you seen my goats?” “No dear, it’s just the crazy lady from next door. This time her goats are missing. Sorry no goats here…” Luckily it didn’t go that far. I was halfway up their driveway when Mike called me back to the barn. “Listen” It sounded like one was in the barn by the hay. How in the world could he have made it there?! The hay is stacked pretty tight up against the barn wall, so we thought. They are small goats though so I s’pose  there is the possibility that they found a hole and fell. Right now where there is one, there is two. The boys are practically attached at the hip. barnopen This led to use asking “how are we going to get them out?”. The door that is there is screwed shut because, in keeping with the rest of the barn, it needs work and the hay is blocking it making it unusable anyway. Mike got the drill and unscrewed the door. When he bent back on of the boards next to it a little nose appeared. He sent me to get the other drill and we proceeded to remove a patch board from the side of the barn. Out scurried two little goats. Lyle Stuck After some investigation, we came to the conclusion that they must have walked around the south end of the bales and turned north at the corner. When the got to the first pole they were stuck because neither of them knew to back up. And the excitement begins… Where will they get stuck next? lyle 2

You $*@+=%!# Cow!

Lucy in the pasture

Lucy in the pasture

Agh! I have had it! Between the never ending fence and the lack of cow milking going on around here, I could just scream. I have decided I am going to build an actual milking stanchion. No more of this dancing around the barn and chasing cows in or out to where ever they are supposed to be.

I had Lucy trained so well I could have milked her just loosely tied to the fence rail with no problem. It was determined that I was too pregnant to milk at the time, so no pen was set up to separate Elvis and Lucy. I am quite positive I could have sat on the barn floor and milked her just fine. Getting up would have been a sight, but I was always alone in the barn anyway.

After the little Miss was born and I was back to doing chores, we got a pen together for Elvis. I started working with Lucy again. She walked on a lead rope just fine but anything else… nope. She was not having any of it. The other two were no help in the matter either. Every time I step into the pen they start to play musical feeders; horn to rump pushing each other out of the way. It makes it very difficult to accomplish much. I did shut the other two outside a time or two. That worked okay but I spent more of the time I had, chasing cows rather then working with Lucy.

I know it’s not all Lucy’s fault, I should have kept up working with her through the last couple weeks of pregnancy and maternity leave. I whimped out, it was cold, my coveralls didn’t fit and I was tired. All poor excuses but that’s all I’ve got. She didn’t need to go and forget everything we worked so hard on up to that point though either!

As far as the fence goes, we have been almost done for quite some time now. I might as well sing the song that never ends when I am out working on it.

“This is the fence that never ends. Yes it goes on and on my friend. Someone started stringing it not knowing what it was, and they’ll continue stringing it forever just because…” (repeat) Ahhh!
My fencing rendition of the 1988 “Song that never ends” by Norman Martin.

We got the wood posts in and started stringing the barbed wire. Then decided we need a couple more gates, added a couple more posts to support those. Next the steel posts went in. Insulators on those and started stringing the hot wire. Added more insulators to the wood posts. Reworked how the electric would run to adjust for the new gates. Almost had everything strung and ready to turn on when we realized all five wire gates need to be redone so they don’t short out the whole thing when unhooked.

In the mean time the cows have been allowed into the first paddock to graze while I am home. Chest high grass and alfalfa for them to eat and Elvis has to climb through my temporary gate to eat what’s one the other side (it’s the same thing!). At this point I don’t need a rope and halter to take him for a walk. We go for an evening walk quite regularly lately.

This weekend, that fence is going to be finished. It has to be.

Wheezy and Elvis

Wheezy and Elvis

Spare Me the Change

Surprisingly, I am not a fan of change. I may change direction mid-stride and change my mind constantly but that’s different. That doesn’t alter my daily routine, it doesn’t mess with my tasks that need to be completed for the day. The change that causes me to start a whole new routine is not a welcome change, even if it’s something I am excited for. Confusing, I know.

Recently I had to go back to work (in town, work at home never ends). We were finally in a good routine after the little Miss was born, we have adjusted our schedule to her “up during the night” times and were back on track with getting the daily chores done. Then I had to go back to work…full time. This is a huge change and one that I am less than thrilled about. Don’t get me wrong, if I have to work in town I most certainly want to be were I am. The people are great, the company is great, the job is not as creative as I prefer but I still can’t complain. The only problem is that I am not at home with my children, which leads to a whole other post to come.

My “to do” lists would be miles long if I knew what I was to do in the first place. A change in routine this big of a change completely knocks me off my game. The weekends I accomplish next to nothing; in fact I don’t tend to remember what I did do. I know last weekend I worked on the never ending fence project. I’m getting there…very slowly. I moved and divided a bunch of flowers, just in time for snow! Yay! That’s about it. Laundry and rocking sick babies. A few of the important things but not comparable to what I was getting done before. The little bit of writing I have made time for is a bunch of unfinished, unpublished pieces.

I know it will take some time to get my act together but until that happens, this is a very frustrating feeling. I know I should be doing something…but what? The list I started last night is all work that needs to be completed outside and nothing that I want help with. (another problem I have.)

As mentioned previously, we are not planting our usual large vegetable garden this year. That in itself has had me lost since January. Now, mid-May aside from some flowerbed cleaning, I’m a little lost as to what to do next… Not there is ever a shortage to things to do. Even with a list I don’t know where to start for the time being.

It’s spring. A very, very, busy time of year and here I sit lost as to what I should be doing…

Ma’ Boys

My husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year. A hydrant or well of some sort in the barn seemed logical. It was on our “to do” list for the season and would be really handy, especially in the winter. Then we wouldn’t be watering the animals by five gallon buckets from the kitchen sink when it’s 50 below. He didn’t think that was an appropriate gift and did a little searching on his own.

A month later, my birthday gift was weaned and we set out on a 3 hour drive to pick them up. A large dog kennel in the back of my SUV and we were on the road.

“The Boys”. Clyde and Lyle.

Two little myotonic goats; also known as fainting goats. Yes, I had them named long before we went to get them. Mike spilled the beans one night and let me pick out which two I wanted, with one stipulation: one had to be named Lyle. I picked Clyde. Then we pick out the goats and decided who was who. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.

Clyde and Lyle - Fainting Goats

Clyde and Lyle – Fainting Goats

From then on we had another project on the list. Build a goat house and pen before they arrive. Aside from the cattle panels, we patched everything together with bits and pieces from around the farm. The base of the house was a couple heavy pallets, the studs were scraps from previous projects and the walls were some OSB that was a wind block in the barn. The roof Mike came up with from somewhere. A little barn red paint and it was ready to go! The pen was easy; pound a few posts and tie the panels on and done.

Goats are busy creatures and appreciate a playground of sorts. For now they’ve got an old wire spool and a tire that I dug out of the woods. I’m not sure why is was there in the first place but it was on the list of yard clean-up duties, so it worked out well.

Last summer I was cleaning under the deck and found an old metal table top. For whatever reason I washed it off and put it in the barn for safe keeping or something. That turned into the roof on the hay feeder, that consisted of some scrap 1×4’s and a wooden shipping box I had scavenged with the plan to use for starting plants in. It will serve the goats a little better.

I am sure the excitement has just begun with these guys too!

Fencing Again

“Hang on. Hang on.” Little boy was saying, with his arms outstretched standing behind me; his words for a piggy back ride. We were standing in the middle of the pasture and he was tired. Tired of walking and tired in general. A day of fencing in the sun with mama can wear a little boy out. We put up most of the barbed wire on the wood posts lining the perimeter earlier. Now it’s time to put in the steel posts to divide the pasture into five paddocks for rational grazing.

His snack in hand, I pulled him onto my back and on we went. Boy on back, post pounder in one hand and roll of bailer twine in the other. Packed up like a mule, up the hill we went. We paced the pasture, pounding corner posts (little boy had to stand for that. He “helped” hold the post.), then stringing the twine between them. This is a very important step for me when it comes to fencing for a few reasons. The first day I went out to set the steel posts I had a perfectly straight line of posts. When I had finished that run, I stood back to admire my work only to realize I angled it in the wrong direction. On the bright side the ground is still soft, so the posts are a little easier to pull.

As you saw last year when we were setting posts with my dad and brother it had to be precise. If dad came to visit and saw I put in rows of crooked posts I run the risk of driving him nuts and possibly trying to fix them. If he is going to come up here and work I’d rather him help with something that hasn’t already been done. No sense in doing something twice. Actually half those posts I have put in at least twice already. I tell yah…

http://WildFlowerFarm.org

Fencing in 2014

Over the next few days, I spent nap times putting in the posts and let the little boy “help” dig the sod out of the new flower bed. Even the little miss gets in on the fencing. I’d hate to leave someone out of the fun.

Lunch time for the little miss.

One more good day of work and this project will finally be done. Hopefully.