Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fixing the House Roof...

Usually the things that I blog about are in the barn...fixing this...fixing that, but today it was time to get another project underway.  Our house has a slate roof just like the barn, and it was in need of some repair.  There were a few missing slates, missing snow catchers, and a couple of unused chimneys that did nothing but allow birds and bats into the attic.  I shudder whenever I see a bat in the house, and we've had  four of them in the house in the past week.

Early this morning, the Amish crew came to begin work on the roof.  They began by setting up all their ladders, and once they were set up, they took took down the first chimney top.  It was at the peak of the roof on the far left.  The bricks were removed and the hole was capped and covered with slate.  The guy told Jim that some bats flew out when they were working on it. We were still milking and feeding at the time, so I missed getting any pictures of the process.  The second chimney was at the peak to the right...


It amazes me how some people are so comfortable with heights.  You couldn't pay me enough to walk around up on that roof!

Near the bottom edge of the roof, you can see the row of snow catchers that they added.  This should help in the winter with all the heavy snow sliding off the roof in an avalanche...


Later in the afternoon, they worked on the north side of the house...


This man is repairing the remaining chimney...the only one that is functional in the house...


They are about finished with the house, and will need to come back and finish up some work on the barn roof on another day.

My hat's off to those who don't mind working in the hot sun on hot, humid days, and who don't mind working at those heights!

My only question now, is this...

"The bats that are now trapped in the attic...will they try to get outside by coming down through the house tonight?!"

Friday, July 11, 2014

Another New Barn Cleaner Chain...

Every so many years, it's necessary to order a new barn cleaner chain.  Time and manure take their toll, and the chain wears thin, slipping off the sprocket at the top of the elevator...usually on a Sunday morning of course!

A few weeks ago Jim ordered a new chain for the west side of the barn. (We replaced the one on the east side of the barn a few years ago)  He picked it up a few days ago. We're between 2nd and 3rd hay cuttings, so it was the perfect time to replace it.  After the cows were milked and fed this morning, the 3rd and 4th rows went out to the meadow for a few hours while Jim and his helpers replaced the chain.

First things first...there's always some discussion that needs to happen before the work starts. Harold has been ordering parts and helping with barn cleaner issues for years, and today he came again to supervise and lend a hand...


There's the new chain!  I asked Harold how much that box of chain probably weighed. He said it weighs 6.5 lbs. per foot, so if the chain is 148 ft long, that's close to 1000 lbs...


The first thing Jim did was to find the link that connected the two ends of the old chain together.  He removed it, and hooked the new chain to the old one...


Eric works away in the mornings, and our neighbor Daniel was helping this morning, so he got the honors of standing on the back of the pickup, keeping tension on the old chain as it came around the sprocket at the top of the elevator.  Harold helped by pulling the new chain out of the box and Jim made sure it was untangled, feeding it through the proper channel and into the barn...


My job was to run the barn cleaner switch.  A few feet at a time, the new chain was pulled around the barn...


...and there you have it...the new barn cleaner chain is in place...


Looking at these pictures will be the only time we see this chain clean, ever again...


They also had to replace the sprocket at the top of the elevator.  You start with the smallest size sprocket, and as the chain wears thin, you replace it with a larger one...


Here's the old chain.  It's moved tons of manure in it's life time!  I think Daniel might need to throw those jeans in the laundry, huh?


So there you have it...this was our project for this hot July day!  All in all, Jim said it went really smoothly. We like when that happens!

Update:  someone asked what we do with the old chain?  There's a place nearby that recycles such things, and Jim took it there this afternoon...hosed off, of course!



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lancaster County Summer...

Ok...it's really feeling like a Lancaster County summer now!

It sure is "close" out there today!  Have you ever heard that expression? "Close"...as in really, really, really, really humid.  The air is almost so thick you could cut it with a knife.  Well, maybe that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but I was sweating before I ever went outside the door this morning.

Murphy has the idea...


Find a place in the shade, and stay there as long as possible!  In her case, it's either in the back of the truck, or underneath it, depending on where the sun is situated.

But...I can't complain.  Really.  After the winter we had, I vowed to not whine about the heat.

I'm very thankful for the slight breeze that's coming in the window...for the ice cold coke in my hand...for the cucumbers that I'm about to turn into banana pickles...that second cutting hay is finished (!)...for the thunderstorms that are to come this afternoon and cool things off (hopefully!)...that the kids will return home this afternoon from their missions trip...

...and for the air conditioner in our bedroom window!




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Barley 2014

I think in my last post, I updated at the end, that the barley was being combined that night!  It's been a whirlwind ever since and I'm just now getting around to posting some pictures from over the weekend.

The barley yield was really, really good...just over 100 bushels per acre.  No complaining about that, for sure!


I was on my way on an errand, when I saw the combine in the field, but didn't have my camera along.  So no pics of the combine in action, but here are some from another year if you'd like to see them.  You'll notice the barley looks different in the two posts.  Any ideas why??

I went to the other farm after milking, just in time to catch Jim finishing up with the baler in the first field...


Jim's Dad ran wagons back and forth from the other farm to home...


...where the kids unloaded it above the outside pen.  It'll make nice bedding for heifer pens...



Just as Jim finished up baling, his cousin Wes showed up at the other farm with his dirt bike.  He was on his way home from a day of riding in Delaware, and Jim took a quick spin in the now clean field before heading home...


All the barley straw has now been baled and unloaded.  Today one field was replanted with soybeans, and the second field will be replanted with short season corn this afternoon, as soon as the corn planter gets here.

It must be summer!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Keeping Busy...

It's been a busy few weeks here!  What have we been up to?

Well...the kids are off school now, so we've all been adjusting to new schedules.

This week, Jim round baled some hay from an old alfalfa field that he's taking out, and he spent most of the next two days hauling and spreading pazutski before it's replanted with short season corn.

We've enjoyed some beautiful weather...and have had some really hot, humid days as well.  The grass and the garden are growing like weeds! Speaking of weeds...they're growing too!


I found something to kill the potato beetles that were decimating my plants! It's a spray containing Spinosad, and it works tremendously!  I sprayed late afternoon...it even rained in the evening...and by the next morning, dead potato beetles covered the ground!  For those of you who use organic gardening methods, you're in luck...this qualifies!  Now the plants look healthy and are beginning to blossom...


This year, finally, my tomato plants also look healthy.  I've had trouble with early blight every single year, and found a solution (too late) last summer. Once again...it's a spray that is used in organic gardening called Liquid Copper. I began spraying as soon as I planted the seedlings, and so far, so good...


These volunteer sunflowers are surrounding a huge rock that is in the center of my garden.  I'm hoping that some of them are the beautiful burgundy sunflowers that I grew last year from seeds that I received from my blogger friend Kim!



We were at a family picnic last Saturday, and came home to a torn washline. It had been full of towels, but the kids had brought them in for me!

I finally got around to repairing one of the lines yesterday.  It's really simple to fix.  You put in a large eye bolt, thread the wire through these little thingamajigs, tighten everything up, and it's good as new!  Hopefully it will last a bunch of years before it tears again...


The other line will have to wait until next week, when Tractor Supply gets in more of the wire that I like.

These girls are growing, and enjoying spending time in the sunshine...


They're not the youngest any more, as we've had four new calves this week. We're juggling cows around when we milk, trying to get several dried up, and it can make milking time a little hectic.  Hopefully by the middle of next week the extra cows will be "on vacation" at the other farm and we'll be back to our normal barn full, with no extras.

Here's another baby...one of Jolyn's kitties.  He was watching me from behind the gate when I was out in the barn this evening.  He's getting more tame every day.  Wouldn't you like to have him come live with you?


Coming up next week, we'll be looking at combining barley and baling straw. (Update:  barley is coming off today!) We're hoping for good weather!

How's your summer been going?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Using Sexed Semen...

Ha...I got your attention!  Not exactly what you usually read on my posts, is it?

But before I get into that...I know I've been slacking in my blogging lately. We've been busy...like most of you are...and other things have to take priority sometimes.  I'm finally getting around to "spring" cleaning my house, and it's almost mid June!  The garden is growing...the grass is growing even faster...and the cows still demand attention on a regular basis.  There just aren't enough hours in the day for everything, are there?

That said...I'll move on to explain that title...

Last night I was downstairs late...reading.  Jim had asked me to check on a springing heifer before I came to bed, so around 10:45 I slipped on my boots, grabbed a flashlight and headed out to the barn.  He had checked her an hour or so before, and she was fine. It was just starting to rain, and of course she was outside by herself, with just the tip of one little hoof showing.  I got her into the barn, closed the gate and put some fresh fodder in the pen.  At this point everything looked fine, so I went inside for a few minutes in hopes that she would lay down and have her calf on her own.

When I checked her again, I saw more of just one leg, and now a nose as well, but no sign of the other leg.  So...I woke up Jim.  He came out, donned a plastic sleeve and was able to find and pull the other leg front and we helped her deliver her calf.

The result was this little heifer calf...the newest member of the herd...


Of course it's not unusual to have a heifer calf, but it is unusual for us to be expecting a heifer calf.

We primarily breed our animals artificially (AI), and we usually breed our 14-15 month old heifers to a Jersey, which results in a smaller calf, thus an easy delivery, allowing the new Mom a better chance to get off to a good start.

Last summer though, we had two heifers that Jim decided to breed using sexed semen, which results in a very high percentage of calves in the gender you want.  In our case, heifers.  Last night's calf was one of those.

It was interesting, watching this heifer as she got close to her due date...wondering if the calf would, in fact, be a heifer.  The other heifer that was bred last summer apparently didn't settle (conceive) , so we'll expect a little Jersey calf from her sometime later this summer, from the Jersey bull at the other farm.

There's always something new to learn!


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Our Confused Cat...

Poor Minnie...

On Easter Sunday, she gave birth to two beautiful orange and white kitties...


Unfortunately, they died an early, tragic death.

Minnie was almost inconsolable.  After a week or so, she seemed to get over her grief.

Then...another cat who had a litter of five kitties, brought her litter out of hiding.  She hid them underneath the pallet of barn dri bags that sits outside the cow stable.

Guess who thinks that this litter belongs to her?!


She's in her glory!