Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Freshening Up the Chicken Pen...

It's a dirty, dusty job, but it's got to be done...and it's got numerous benefits!

It's been a while since I've cleaned out the chickens' shed, but I'm down to seven six chickens now (Phoebe was a very bad dog last week!) so right now they don't make a very big mess.  After I rototilled the garden, it took me only about fifteen minutes to clean out the chicken litter and toss it around.  (benefit #1)


My helper and I loaded up the wagon with straw and the rest of a bag of chicken feed...


(I told her that we were going to the chickens, and she took off like she was shot out of a cannon!  Can you see her?)



...and in about five minutes, the chickens had fresh bedding. (benefit #2)  They don't use the nesting boxes right now, but prefer to lay their eggs in a nest on the floor, so I spread out most of the straw in the back of the shed...


They scratched around, looking for treasures food...


...while Phoebe wished desperately to get into the pen...



Sorry Phebes...no chicken for your dinner tonight!

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Applesauce Experiment...

I've been making applesauce for a long time, but I'm far from a pro. I can never remember what combination of apples makes the best tasting and prettiest sauce!  I don't like to add sugar, so I need to start out with apples that aren't too tart and have plenty of flavor.

Yesterday I went to a local fruit farm that has bargain bin apples in lots of different varieties. I filled three bags with different combinations of apples, and today I experimented.

Here we go.  Batch number one.

Smokehouse and Crimson Crisp...


This combination was tasty, but I prefer a pink looking sauce!  (it's the lighting...this sauce truly was very light in color and not at all pink!) Nit picky, I know...but hey, it's important!

Batch number two was a mixture of Rome and Jonamac.  By the looks of the skins, I would expect a pinker looking sauce...




It might be kind of hard to tell on these pictures...once again, it's the lighting in the pictures...but the sauce from this second batch was definitely much more pink!  But...not as tasty.

The third batch was what I call a medley...


That's what you call it when you can't remember what kind of apples you put in your bag!  

It's especially a bummer when this batch was the most tasty!

Do you have a certain variety of apples that you think makes tasty sauce?

Friday, October 6, 2017

My Friday Afternoon Project...

Ever since I messed up my back a couple of years ago, I've tried to find ways to do things "smarter", and to make things less stressful on all of our aging ?!? bodies.

When we milk, we have two buckets that follow us around the cow stable. One has steaming hot water in it, and the other holds our biodegradable paper towels, a cow thermometer, a scissors, extra milk tubes, etc.  We also each use a sprayer filled with an iodine spray, used to spray the cows' teats after we take off the milkers.

The way we used to do it...carry the buckets over from the milk house...bend over each time we wet a paper towel...pick up the buckets and move them ten feet...repeat over and over until we're finished milking. Believe it or not, seemingly innocently bending over like that, time after time, day after day, year after year is hard on your back.  (Imagine bending something over and over in the same direction.  Eventually it weakens and can break) So...a simple solution was to put those buckets on a wagon, getting them up off the ground.

The wagon we had been using rusted out, so I found a replacement online.  It was delivered yesterday, and this was my project for this afternoon...


I enjoy projects like this...



My helpers slept through almost the whole process...


It took about 30-45 minutes, and it's all finished and ready to go!


The wagon came with removable sides, but the jury is still out on whether or not we use them.  I put them on for tonight, and we'll see how it goes.  You know...I had to take pictures of this, because it's the absolute cleanest that this wagon will ever be!

More likely than not, it'll be splattered with pazutski inside of five minutes!


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Bullies...

Yesterday we moved some heifer calves around, which can sometimes be quite a circus! Thankfully they cooperated pretty well.

However...picture some "middle schoolers" that are used to relative freedom, and try putting them into a room with kids they've never met before.  A pecking order is going to be established pretty quickly!

I know it's not a great quality picture, with the evening sun blazing in the west windows, but I don't think it's too hard to figure out who the newbies are!  The two calves standing sideways blocking the feed trough have been together alone in the pen for a while now, and they are not about to let the new kids get first pickings!  They stood that way for a very long time...


Fortunately it doesn't usually take too long for them to tolerate each other.

Bullies!

Friday, September 29, 2017

A "Finishing" Day...

It was a "finishing" day today...

We finished filling silo for the year...Jim finished baling and wrapping fifth cutting hay...and it was the final day of the fair...

Each year we chop corn to fill the silos, and a few weeks later we top them off with "late corn".  Late corn is corn that has intentionally been planted later than the rest...usually after wheat or barley has been harvested...for the purpose of refilling, or topping off the silos.  It's a way to make sure that we have enough corn silage to make it through the winter and until next summer when we chop again.

A forage wagon full of corn silage...


Unloading silage into the blower at the bottom of the silo...


What is he looking at?



He's looking at Jim who is at the top of the ladder, watching to see when the first silo is full.  Jim will wave at him, and he will stop unloading until Jim can swing the gooseneck at the top over into the other silo.  Rather him than me, up there at the top!


It didn't take them long here at home.  Then they unhooked the blower and took it over to the other farm to chop a little more corn over there for the heifers and dry cows...


It's a great feeling to have this job finished for the year.  Tomorrow, Jim will level off the silage in both silos, and we'll get the unloaders set up.  That sure will be a lot nicer to feed silage using an unloader rather than a pitch fork!

I made it over to the fair tonight for the livestock sale and to pick up a few things that I had entered.  Jim finished up wrapping the hay that he baled this afternoon.  Fifth cutting is now history, and as I walked in the door from the fair tonight, it started drizzling.  We could use a little moisture again!

What kind of things are you finishing up?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fall Is Back...

Ah...the cool breeze is once again blowing through my windows!  It's actually a little chilly, but I'm not going to be complaining after the week we just had...90+ degrees and high humidity in September is just. not. ok!

This morning I was thrilled to see this...


...and I was thrilled to do this...


Jim mowed the last few acres of fifth cutting hay, and after milking we spent the evening at the West Lampeter Fair!  I watched the dairy beef show and Jim spent sometime looking at the old tractors and watching some of the happenings in the arena.

This is my brother-in-law Marty's tractor...a 1936 John Deere D...one of the many antique tractors entered in the fair this year...


It sat in the middle of a field in western Kansas for years until he convinced the owner to sell it to him.  He had it hauled east and restored it in my Dad's "shop".  A bunch of the family was around to cheer him on when he started it up for the very first time, and his Dad in western Kansas was listening in on the phone. Over the past number of years he's spent a lot of time working on this old tractor. Not too shabby for 81 years old!  (the tractor, not his wife!  :)  )

The only problem is the color...






Monday, September 11, 2017

Silo Filling Prep...

It looks like today is the day.  The chopper is scheduled to roll in around 2:00 - 3:00 this afternoon, so we spent the morning doing some final prep work in the silos.

We have two silos here at home.  The west one had been empty for some time already, so Jim put that unloader up a few weeks ago.  This morning after feeding the cows, he got the second unloader ready to winch up to the top of the silo.  There's some prep involved...first, the unloader has to be lowered so that there's enough slack in the cable for him to hook it up properly for the journey upwards.  That's my job...cranking it down.  And it's a pretty easy one...


That big electric cord is unhooked...


And here's the cable fastened to the bottom of the silo.  We don't crank it the whole way up by hand, but rather remove the handle...


...and use the electric drill that you see in this second picture.  This picture was taken when the unloader was the whole way up at the top, and you can see how much more of the cable is wrapped up...


Doesn't it look kind of like a lunar lander?  I enjoy seeing the unloader from this perspective, with the shadow against the inside of the silo...


By this time tomorrow, Jim will hopefully be leveling off the full silos, and we'll be setting up the unloaders from the top!  There's a lot of climbing the silos involved on the agenda these next few days!