She Just Climbed Over and Thump!

The January thaw that usually only lasts for a couple days has lasted for a few weeks this year and we have been taking full advantage of the warm weekends. It has been a great time to get everyone’s pens deep cleaned before we plummet back into sub-zero temperatures. It was pretty exciting to have a blister on my hand mid-winter that wasn’t from a woodstove. That’s some good work! This Sunday was no exception.

Once the kids were down for their afternoon naps Mike and I headed to the barn. I was busy cleaning in the cow pen; we are going to have some great compost this year! I was happily running my pitch fork getting things all pretty for the herd while Mike was busy in the goat pen. I had the bigger area but he had the bigger job I would say. The ducks are doing quite well in the goat pen and not making nearly the water mess they could. They are however making themselves known. Mike spent a portion of time chipping the little ice rink out from around the mini stock tank. He then removed the tank and shoved Stinky Hank back into his own pen. His time with Scarlet was up. With any luck there will be some kids coming late spring! With everyone separated accordingly we were able to install the insulated tank my dad made. Talk about nice! Those are some spoiled goats!

I had the cow pen cleaned just as Mike was ready to start wheel barrowing out the goat pen cleanings. It was the same time that the cows remembered there was a fresh bag of alfalfa cubes in the barn and if they all line up to the rail there’s a good chance of getting a treat or two (or five if the Little Miss is feeding). This isn’t a big deal but to get to the winter heap we have to go through the cow pen. For the most part this is done without a second thought. The eager faces were quickly disappointed when the realized I was not going to be handing out and treats, but they were not moving. G.W. (the bull) has watched me take Sweet Caroline out of the pen a few times through that gate and he’s been pretty sure that that’s where he wants to head. Smart cow, he knows where the good stuff is kept.

Continue Reading

Time to Put Some Pants On

Chores http://wildflowerfarm.org

Its official, I have to start wearing pants to the barn in the morning. I held out as long as I could. The time has come where my short summer night gown and long, fuzzy bathrobe is no match for the sub-zero temps and biting wind. Winter is once again here and my feelings for morning chores haven’t changed; they’re still my favorite. A bonus this winter is I’m not too pregnant for coveralls to fit!

The new hayloft gives some extra insulation over the cow pen despite the barn walls that are quite drafty. In fact after a good west wind everything has a heavy dusting of snow because the barn boards have weathered so much over the years. On the extra cold mornings the refuge of the barn is welcomed, as it’s always a few degrees warmer in there. When the mornings are warmed up to -15 in the barn pants are a good idea.

Continue Reading

Goat Poop is Not Raisins

I turned around just in time to see the Little Boy slide out of the wheel barrow, barefoot on the gravel driveway. The wheel barrow was clean according the wheel barrow standards; it hadn’t carried manure in a few months and had been used elsewhere in the meantime. His jeans would need to be removed before he goes into the house, mud dried between his fingers and dirt from ear to ear. “Thank God we are able to raise our children out here.” I thought as I turned back to the Little Miss who was sitting on the tractor. She’s all about cows, tractors and baby dolls right now. There she was clothes speckled with dried mud from the duck pen, sand in her ponytail that was already falling apart (again) and a face that was looks like she was eating dirt not too long ago.

I know it’s crazy to be thankful for dirt behind the ears but we are. Did you know that most people forget to wash behind their ears? Not at our house! Our kids are very involved with our outdoor work. It starts with the baby carrier in the stroller and once they can walk they are on our heels… or somewhere close by. They are always encouraged to help even when their helping is not so helpful. I’m already talking up how much fun it is to stack square bales on the hay wagon in July. They are so excited to be big enough to help with that! Yes!! They really do enjoy helping with any task at hand. Especially tasks that require a hose and/or water, the ones that can get really messy. The trick is to keep them busy allowing them to explore but not too much (if that’s possible).

Continue Reading

Tales of the Pregnant Farmer: Nesting Theory

When asked when I’m due my usual response is “sometime between now and the county fair.” This is sometimes taken as sarcasm, unfortunately I’m serious. This time around I was given four due dates depending on who I talked to. An average “safe delivery” time can be two weeks before or after the due date, which means I have/had about eight weeks of “any day now”. So the no “real” due date answer seems to shock and/or annoy the person asking when. Hmm. How about Mama? Think about how annoying it is to politely answer that for eight weeks or longer?! Not to mention the weeks of comments of “how big you’re getting!” (that’s not a compliment no matter how you try.) The only acceptable thing to say about a pregnant ladies size is “you look great!” FYI.

All that complaining aside, life doesn’t stop because of it. I still mow the lawn each week and do what I can to help with yard work, gardening and so on. It takes a lot longer to get anything done, but it does get done. In an attempt to get this baby out I thought I’d give “nesting” a try. Pretty sure I didn’t do much for nesting with the other two. I didn’t really have time, nor did I slow down as much as I have this time. I washed the baby clothes the last time I had everything dug out of the kid’s closet to put away the out grown and get the next box of hand-me-downs. The house is picked up… I wouldn’t say clean, but picked up. Wash the floors during nap and by the next snack time they’re sticky.

Nesting it is. It was worth a try anyways.

The ducks really only need enough water to dunk their heads but they make such a mess splashing and end up wasting all their drinking water doing so. I had put a rubber feed dish in the run to give them something a little more to splash in. It worked… kinda. They emptied that and the drinking water. The days are warming up considerably and if I want this year’s chicks (who live with the ducks right now) to have water the ducks needed something more again. I think.

When they were in the house we had them in a small kiddie pool. The kids loved it. It was fun but it didn’t take long for them to outgrow the space and make the house smell like a chicken coop. It was time for them to move out. After the flock was in the coop the pool went outside to be stored until the next batch of chicks would grace the kitchen.

Well, my “nesting mother duck” came out and those ducks needed a pond of sorts. I dug out the pool, hauled it to the outside run and scrubbed it out quite nicely… I’m not sure why. It stayed clean about as long as a freshly washed kitchen floor. A short piece of fence post scrap was set by the edge in case someone needed a step in and I began filling the “pond”. While I was watching my handy work fill, Mike brought over the four-wheeler and wagon so I could get the coop cleaned too. I’m not sure what he thought when he saw my project but he didn’t object at least.

Happy Ducks
Happy Ducks

“I’m going to go up to Erica Lane and meet Uncle Greg in a bit. I’ll be back in after while.” Mike headed out of the run. By that time I had just about finished cleaning the mud out of the waterer. As I went to leave the pen and shut off the water I had a little bit of an issue… He locked me in.

Yep.

Stuck.

The hook and eye lock on the outside was too low for me to reach over and unhook. I’d like to think I could still fit through the turkey door in the other pen but once again that wouldn’t do much good because their door was closed with a hook and eye inside the feed room. The idea of trying to climb over the fence…well even I knew that wasn’t going to happen today. The landing might have knocked the baby loose which would’ve been helpful I guess. Luck was on my side this time. I remembered I had my phone with me because I didn’t want to miss my Uncle’s call.

“Hello?”

“Hi. I promise I won’t leave the yard if you let me out of the duck pen!”

“What?”

“Please? You locked me in when you left.”

(Short silence. Then laughter.) “I’ll be right over.”

Only on our farm would mama get locked in the duck pen on the 4th of July.

Once allowed out, I got the whole coop cleaned quite nicely. The ducks were swimming in the new pond. The Ladies were happy with their fresh bedding and watermelon rinds. The nesting boxes are all cleaned and ready for fresh eggs. Baby’s still not here… So much for the “nesting” theory.

Continue Reading

Well S#!*

Because I picked up a Saturday shift I was given a day off during the week. If the kids aren’t going to daycare for a reason other than being sick, I like to give her as much notice as possible, as this directly affects her income as well. I completely dropped the ball on letting her know the change in plans, so I guiltily dropped the kids off at daycare on my day off. In an effort to rid myself of some of the guilt I decided I was going to get as much done at home as absolutely possible.

I started my day with an appointment with our Midwife. That went well. Then I painted the wall in the laundry room in preparation for the new cupboards my husband was planning to install that night. While the paint was drying I suited up, grabbed a freshly sharpened filet knife and headed for the coop. I haven’t been out there cleaning weekly as I should have been and it was past time to do so. It was a balmy 30 degrees out, snowing giant flakes and windy as ever. But in the coop none of that mattered.

There was nothing unusual about the cleaning other than it was embarrassing how long I let it go. After the “morning sickness phase” had passed my priorities turned to keeping the house tidy (a losing battle) and spending every spare minute with the kids. I should have taken an hour during naptime and taken care of the coop. Lesson learned. As usual I had the door to the coop opened for extra air flow; in the summer it can get rather dusty when cleaning, in the winter, it’s just nice to get some fresh air.

It was blowing and snowing and I was happily taking my wheel-barrow loads of “coop cleanings” to the pile. After a few loads, the old was out and fresh shavings were down. As I was cleaning out the laying boxes I heard something hit the wheel-barrow. My first thought was a shovel blew over. I cleaned another box and realized I didn’t have any shovels outside at the time and if I did they would have still been too far away to reach the wheel-barrow. I peered out the door and with a bewildered look said “well, shit… hmm” and went back to cleaning the last few boxes.

Do I call Mike at work and let him know what happened or do I wait until he gets home…

Of all the times I remember my phone when I leave the house, today I had it, so I gave him a call on my way to the barn. No answer.

The other spot on the farm that has really been missing my attention is the cow’s pen in the barn. Again, I blame it on the “morning sickness phase”. When I was feeling my worst was when the cows were starting to spend more time in the barn and when I should have started daily barn cleanings again. As luck would have it, I didn’t start and well let’s just say the “work” has been piling up. I grabbed my new pitch fork (Mike got me one for Christmas this year!) and made a path from the gate to the door so I could maneuver the manure outside without tipping the wheel-barrow. A few loads in and my phone rings.

“Hi”

“Hi. You called?”

“Yes. It’s pretty windy out.”

“I know.”

“So I cleaned the chicken coop and the laying boxes. Martha didn’t take her place on the roost so she’s still out there.” (Martha is going to go sooner than later, hence the filet knife.)

“Ok. That’s good”

“You know how I’ve been having trouble getting the coop door open when it swells and freezes? Well, you can fix the door length a little easier now… It’s not attached to the coop anymore.”

“What?! How did that happen?”

“Umm, it’s windy out. One minute it was there, the next it was flipped over in the yard. I gotta go the boys are going to tip over my wheel-barrow again.”

I don’t know what it is about a full wheel-barrow but the cows love to come scratch on it and almost always tip it over. It can get rather frustrating. I was able to push them out of the way and get out the door without spilling the load this time around. A few loads later my phone rang again (probably why I don’t usually bring it with me). It was time to be done anyway; my back had had enough. The gate was open and I just got the wheel-barrow through when I answer and continue the conversation from earlier. Now there I am, standing between the open gate and the cracked corn storage, on the phone and the cows are lining up. Elvis, my sweet steer, G.W., the friendliest little bull and the girls behind them. The boys love to have their heads scratched and to eat corn. Elvis was after both and made his way out the gate, G.W., glued to his side, Wheezy pushing and Lucy bringing up the rear.

Try backing that train up!

“The cows are out. I gotta go again!”

Oh my! What a parade!

I got the girls backed up just by trying to scratch their heads. The boys I started pushing with no measureable progress. So I caved for a bit and gave them both a scratching. That seemed to be enough to get them to follow me back into their side of the fence. It’s going to be a sad day when Elvis goes, for me and G.W.. I’m sure I say that too often. I think it’s my way on reminding myself that “yes, he’s sweet, but he’s destined for red meat.” I’d say that’s probably why Old McDonald didn’t name his animals, but with a “herd” our size it wouldn’t matter if they have names. With that I closed things up…except the coop, and headed back to the house.

By the time I finished the second coat of paint in the laundry room and got supper going the family was home. It was a good day, not completely guilt free, but not wasted.

Coop Door

Continue Reading