Painting the Gate

It’s been five years since we first moved to the farm. A lot has changed since we arrived. You may recall, I had cows coming home and no fence to keep them in about the same time I had chickens ordered and no coop. Yep, that happened. (It seems to be a recurring theme for me and started long before the farm.) Mike and my dad were there to save the day once again!

One rainy night that first summer Mike and my dad went up to Grandma’s farm to pick up some old fence posts and barb wire that she said was in the back of the barn. When they were heading back my husband called and said “Boy do we have a surprise for you!”

After I got home from work we walked through the dark and rolling thunder to our barn. There against the wall was an old gate. He didn’t have to say a word. I knew exactly where that gate came from. I was so excited to be able to use it!

The gate was blackened with years of motor oil that had been painted on for weather proofing. I remember being allowed to swing on Grandma’s garden gate but we weren’t to touch the corral gate because the oil would ruin our clothes. By that time the animals were gone as far as I can remember. When the fence line was finally taken down nothing went to waste and the gate, still in good shape, was stored in the barn.

The old gate has been keeping the cows in our pasture and now it’s my turn to paint the gate.

I put the little Miss in some old clothes and we set out to the barn. She carried the paint brushes while I carried the jug of used oil. She was pretty excited to be able to help with a “big girl” job. I filled us each a small container of oil and gave her a warning “do not get any on your clothes.” –you can laugh its ok. I knew as well that was going to be a joke. There was no way that she was going to make it more than one brush stroke before it would be on her clothes. But, in trying to be a good mama I needed to at least say the words.

She worked at her eye-level for a while, then over by me and then it happened. It was only a matter of time and I didn’t even see it coming. I looked over and she’s two rungs up on the gate belly rubbing the spot she just oiled.

“What are you doing?”

“Mama, I needed to paint the top.” She told me quite matter of factly; like obviously this is the next logical spot to work on.

“Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?!”

We worked a while longer before I told her she could finish the outside while I worked on the inside. This project was happening during the weekend that the bull wasn’t staying put and was unpredictably rowdy. I didn’t want to take the chance having her in there with him too.

Grace the donkey had been “talking” to us as we worked and ever since she kicked G.W. in the face he’s been pretty respectful of her space. So I wasn’t too concerned to go in. I unhooked the chain and let it fall to the barb wire on the fence and screamed.

I felt that chain drop right up my arm, through my chest and into my back. Then in a moment of electrocution I started swearing. There was a lot of swearing that weekend but this was the first time in front of any little ears. Of course these little ears come with a constantly moving, well-spoken mouth of a three year old. And this time it wasn’t the “kind-mama words”, you know: Shoot, Oh my goodness, Son of a biscuit. No, no, this time it was the “I should just call daycare right now and apologize for what may come.”

Once I got my bearings back together and apologized I had to convince the little Miss to hold on to the gate so that I could run to the barn and unplug the electric. The gate naturally swings open and there’s no way I was about to grab that chain again!

She did a great job. It wasn’t long before we had both sides of the gate oiled and were on to our next projects. She was to scrub out the duck pool and refill it while I oiled the gates to the coop- one of those was Grandpa’s too.

We were almost finished and thunder started rolling in that’s when we called it a day.

 

 

Later I found where the hot wire and barb wire was twisted. I corrected that problem so there aren’t any more electrifying surprises for now.

 

 

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Who’s in the barn?

There was a short week where we didn’t have any morning chores. The cows were in the pasture and the goats had been sold. I’m back to morning chores now. We’ve got the steers that are scheduled for burger and Sweet Caroline in the corral and the rest of the herd in the pasture. That means filling a second stock tank and feeding hay and grain to the boys and Caroline. They all could use a little fattening.

Poor Caroline, she’s been so skinny. I’ve dewormed her a few times thinking maybe that was the problem. According to the calendar she was due to calve in a month but she was just too thin. I spoke with the vet and he came out and gave her a look-over. Diagnosis was slight pneumonia, very nutrient deficient and not pregnant. All around disappointing but fixable. His recommendation was give her some finishing grain along with her hay and some extra minerals. And ween that darn calf!!

The other girls kick their calves off when they’ve had enough. We haven’t had much of a problem getting them to ween when needed. Elwood is a few weeks short of a year. There’s no good reason he still needs milk. Sweet Caroline is living up to her name once again. She will nurse any calf that tries and will not kick Elwood off. That is draining her as well.

Long story short, I’ve been trying to keep the two separated for a good month now. It hasn’t been going well. Elwood’s head is still small enough to fit through the fences and gates. He calls from the gate and she stands there and lets him eat. We had finally been making progress when she was in with the steers.

That all went to hell on Sunday morning.

It was my fault. I should have known better.

Caroline went into estrus and G.W. knew it. She’s already his girl. They are usually side by side all the time. He’s been her protector since she first came home. He was running her up and down the fence line all day Saturday. This caused the steers to run and Caroline wasn’t getting the rest that I felt she needed to get back to normal. So, my genius moment I put her in the barn for the night.

Sunday morning Mike left early for work. Soon after he sent a text. The conversation started like this:

“Are you up?”

“No, whats up?”

“The cows not bad but will need a new gate.”

“Yikes. Ok”

“GW is in with Caroline”

“Holy $#!+ ! I’m up”

Lucy and the gate

Minutes later there I was, bathrobe, barefoot staring down the bull in the wrong pen. The gate was still on the hinges and chained to the post but clearly not functioning properly. It was bent in half-ish and upward.  The 1/3 of a bale ring and smaller gate that was blocking the barn door had been tossed aside and there he stood between me and Caroline.

G.W. and the 1/3 of the bale ring.

I should have known better than to take her out of sight.

The only ones that stayed where they belonged were Lucy and Grace (the donkey). It was obvious that I was not going to get everyone sorted out right away. Instead I managed to get Elwood the unruly calf penned in the barn and let the rest go.

Fast forward through my electrocution by fence and bee hive attack to Monday morning chores. I’ve started playing a new game the cows have made up called “Who’s in the barn?!” I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t Lucy or the donkey… Six bovine, a variety of sizes and colors watched eagerly through the fence as I opened the barn door that morning.

I may or may not have started swearing.

I love doing morning chores and love working with our cows, but sometimes it can be a little… challenging. I love the challenge though too.

Calmly and with the help of some hay and a grain bucket I got the whole herd out of the barn with the exception of Caroline. Using the mangled gate as a first defense I blocked the run from the corral to the barn. Then, I got smart and turned the piece of bale ring around so that it fit into the corner made by the fence and barn door. I climbed through the ring into the barn and leaned the other small gate across the door and used a lead rope to tie the two together! Let’s see Elwood get through that! Ha! G.W. could destroy my handy work I’m sure but that’s beside the point. I’ll take a win when I can get one.

As for the rest of them, I just said the hell with it and left them to the pasture until Mike could get home and help.

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Putting Up Hay

Rain, rain, stay away. Come again another day. Papa wants to hay today.

By Friday night we had the first cuttings bales of fresh hay in the loft. I think this was the first year nothing broke and we didn’t have the worry of rain. I should probably write that down because who knows if we will ever be so lucky again. I guess I am jumping the gun a little bit; the hay on dad’s fields still needs to be put up and the sky is looking pretty dark.

Personally, I love haying season. As with anything there are some not so great parts but I do my best to overlook those. Things like a million cuts on my forearms from the scratching hay, the constant heavy lifting in the summer heat, the chaff that clings to sweat and itches and the sneezing and snot. Yeah, haying isn’t always pretty, easy or comfortable. All that aside, it’s great. (Yes, I know, I probably am outnumbered everyone to one on this.)

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Spring Rain and Loose Barb Wire

Thelma by the “scratching fence”.

During the winter months the cow are kept in the corral to keep them from damaging the pasture. They do quite a number on the barb wire fence during that time; scratching and rubbing on it all winter long. When spring arrives the fence is always in need of tightening. As soon as we can get some savings set aside I want to put boards up for the corral fence instead.

We have yet to have a calf that has not slipped out at least once. At least when they a new they are easy to catch and carry back. The yearlings are a bit more challenging. They are too big to carry and don’t come to the shaking of a grain bucket yet. These spunky little guys can make life on the farm rather exciting.

Last Friday night I raced home from work to pick up Mike so we could go pick up our bees. It’s only about a 45 minute drive but the way things go we wouldn’t have much time before the beekeepers close up for the night. I came flying down the driveway watching for kids, ducks, dogs and a cat, so the cow in the yard was a surprise.

“Caroline’s out.” I called towards the house as I headed towards the barn. I tossed some duck feed into my milk pail, grabbed the rope halter and headed back out. The second surprise of the night, I should have known better. Sweet Caroline doesn’t get out unless I leave the gate open and invite her. Elwood, our yearling steer was out.

I tried a couple times with the pail of duck feed and then went back to the barn for a rope. The idea was to rope him and then lead him back. By that time I had help and that plan was pretty well out the window too. We chased him into the pig gate and up the hill to the corral gate. Just as we (Mike and I) opened the gate the rest of the herd thundered over. On to Plan C… or F?

We didn’t have time to mess around, our bees were waiting. We closed the pig gate and opened the corral gate and let everyone spend a night on the pasture.

A few nights later, one of those nights when everyone was exhausted, supper was late, because bathes were needed first. We had spent the day working outside, Mike was working on the tractor and cleaning coops and pens, while I was cleaning out the garden. The kids were busy playing in the sun and the baby napping in the shade. The night was winding down everyone was settling into the living room and I was doing a weekends-worth of dishes. That’s when I noticed a new sandbox toy…Thelma…the heifer.

“Mike, Thelma’s out!”

He headed for the door and I kept washing dishes and watched the rodeo unfold out the window. He wasn’t messing around that night. He started with the rope right away. Walking up and down the fence line trying to the perfect time to throw. It wasn’t long and he had her and wasn’t happy about it. I watched as he leaned back, the rope was tight and Thelma was kicking and running. Down through the pig gate and up the hill. (Obviously, the cows know the drill) Then they turned from the corral and headed out to the pasture; Mike still in tow. Then they disappeared.

I don’t know where he left her but pretty soon he was back to the house.

“I’m gonna need some help.” Mike said.

I dried my hands, situated the kids and headed out. I rounded the corner of the barn and there they were again, one on each end of the rope.

A little back and forth and a slight distraction on the other side of the corral and I was able to open the gate. Mike pulled Thelma in and then hopped out just before the rest were over to visit. She was wearing the rope like a Girl Scout sash and we let her. It wouldn’t be too long and she would step out of it.

At this point we should have tightened the fence lines. We didn’t.

On to a couple days later. Coming home after another long day and guess who’s trimming the grass by the chicken coop? Yep, Thelma. We sent the kids to the sandbox and the chase was on again.

It had rained almost constantly for the last couple days so everything was delightfully sloppy. Thelma kicked and bucked her way around the barn, through the yard, into the pig gate, up the hill and around the barn again. Mike fed the cows to distract them…again. Then he started to send her back down the hill to the pig gate while I ran (actually ran this time) around the barn to get to the corral gate and get it open in time.

That spunky little heifer snuck right by and went for lap three! She was half way around and saw Mike at the bottom of the hill and me at the gate and that little $#!* squeezed through the fence and was back in with the rest just in time for more rain.

Mike tightened the fence.

What happens when Mike and I chase cows.
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The Cow Came Home

“Dad! Come up here! There’s a monster outside!” –Little boy

“What? Come down here.” -Mike

(little feet stomping down the stairs)

“Come ‘ere. Look! There’s a cow out there!”-Little boy

“Anna! Anna!” I was vacuuming in the laundry room. It took a while for Mike to get my attention.

“What?”-Me

“Come see this.”-Mike

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