Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hay, Straw and a Heat Wave...

Jim says that the week that the barley is combined is always the hottest week of the summer, and this year is no exception!

But first, there was hay to unload.  Jim's in the middle of 2nd cutting of hay this week, and with no rain in sight for several days, he was able to get several wagon loads of dry hay.  We pulled a small crew together and they got it unloaded this morning.  Oh boy, was it ever hot! I think the temperatures were close to 100% today.  Yuck.

Just a few short weeks ago, this mow was completely empty, and housed a puppy kennel for the chilly nights (which are but a distant memory)...


We'll see how full this mow gets this summer.  It's not quite at the half way mark yet.  I climbed up the elevator for a different perspective.


The crumbs left in the wagon got shoveled into the hay racks in the meadow, for an evening snack for the cows.  That's the first place they go when they're left out of the barn for the night...and if there's nothing in the racks for them, do we ever hear about it!


Then it was time to head over to the barley field.  Those windrows of straw are what was left behind by the combine...


Jim started baling around lunch time, but the straw was still a little tough, so he stopped and waited a few hours to try again. It was nicer (drier) by then, but still not as nice as he would have liked, so he left the rest lay for another day.

I'm glad today is almost over, and right now, I'm thankful for a shower, clean clothes, and for the cool breeze blowing in the window beside me.


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Corn and Beans..."Episode 2"...

They're still growing  (they'd better be!!)...

A few weeks ago I posted pictures of the tiny corn and bean plants that were beginning to grow in our fields. We've had a lot of moisture, which is good...but the temps have been cooler than usual, so the growth in the fields hasn't been quite as fast as some years.

Here is the corn today, 16 days later...




And here are the beans...


The corn always seems to grow faster than the soybeans, but when you figure how much taller it has to grow than the beans do before maturity, it makes sense.  If we continue the pattern of plenty of moisture and the temps soar next week like they're calling for, everything should grow like crazy!

All in all, it's doing really well for 3 1/2 weeks.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Watching the Corn and Beans Grow...

A couple of years ago, I did a series of post throughout the growing season, following one particular corn stalk...from seed to harvest.  You can read that series of posts here...

I decided to do it again this year...but I'm going to compare the corn and soybeans.  They were both planted on the same two days...last Monday and Tuesday (May 15 and 16).  Over the weekend, I noticed a few shoots poking through the soil, and this morning you can clearly see down the rows.

Here are the soybeans...



...and the corn...



It's clear the the first time I did this (2012) that the corn was planted earlier than this year!  The weather has so much to do with it...but by Memorial Day, which is fast approaching, the corn that year was already several inches high.  We'll see though...with the rain we just had, and the warm temps to come...it's going to grow in leaps and bounds!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Update...the War On Chickweed...One Month Later...

This is a happy story...

One month ago today, I posted about  the downside of a mild winter. Chickweed had overtaken my flower bed along the meadow fence. Granted, it's at a spot where weeds from the meadow can easily creep in, but I'd never had it look this bad in the spring.  Using mushroom mulch didn't help a thing, as it not only builds up the soil and feeds the good plants, but it feeds the weeds as well.

One month later, I'm happy to show you pictures, not only because it took a lot of hard work, but because I'm flower happy this time of year!

Most of the iris came from a former neighbor who grew hundreds of varieties to sell, as did the peonies.  The roses, which are struggling a bit, came from another neighbor.  That's just one of the beauties of perennials...you can enjoy the flowers as well as the memories of friendship!

I know...the edges of this flower bed aren't straight...and that bugs me.  A lot!  Actually, the intended edge is straight...and mulched.  You can see it if you look closely. However, the chickweed also crawled into the grass.  The weed killer that I used worked quite fine...except that now I need to seed some new grass to fill in the gaps.

Here we go...







The peonies will be open any day now.  Their fragrance is wonderful! (and much nicer than what I'm smelling from the fields right now!)

Do you see who photo bombed my picture?!


Iris and peonies don't like mulch, as their roots need to be on the drier side...so I mulched around them, leaving some space around each plant.  It doesn't look as tidy as I prefer, but whatever keeps them happy!  I also used regular bark mulch this year, hoping that it well better hold back the chickweed.

My war on chickweed isn't over.  It never will be, this close to the meadow...but for now I'd say this battle has been won!



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Signs of Spring...2017...

I'll ask you to forgive me ahead of time for the picture heavy post, but SPRING is here. Completely here, and the sounds and colors make me quite happy!

I like sleeping with the windows open,  hearing the birds singing in the early morning...

I love so many flowers, I might just have to show them all to you...


Dr Ruppel, my early blooming clematis...



Coleus are some of my favorites, and they do well on my porch where they get both sun and shade...


I call this "Happy Row".  The challenge is keeping the dogs from knocking the pots off the bench...


These old fashioned Rhododendron bushes must be around forty years old, at least!


The house finches have once again built nests in my Begonia hanging baskets.  I love hearing their sweets sounds...



And yes, rain is part of spring.  The only sure way to dry running shoes without the dogs dragging them off and chewing them up...


Can you see him?  The corn planter is here!


Phoebe is loving the weather...and is loving destroying the ball that Eric gave her last week...


We'd better enjoy SPRING today, because summer is coming tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rye Grass 2017...

Well the spring/ summer work has officially begun...

Jim had the rye grass mowed on Thursday,  tedded it and raked it up on Friday, with plans  to bale and wrap on Saturday morning. Then...a surprise thunderstorm rolled through early Saturday morning.  Change of plans.

Saturday ended up being a good drying day, so he tedded it again so it could dry out, raked it back up, and baled over evening milking time...


Yesterday morning he used the bale hugger to stack the bales...




We have twenty eight bales of rye grass stacked up, fermenting and hopefully turning into good feed for the cows!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Murphy's Law...

You've probably heard of Murphy's Law...you know...if anything can go wrong,  it will.

Well, today being Saturday,  it would have to be the day that the barn cleaner broke.  The barn cleaner is one of the most crucial pieces of equipment in the barn. It's the only way to get the manure out of the barn, and we use it 365 days a year.

As Jim was cleaning out the east side of the barn, this piece...the one that holds the chain in place...broke...


What do you do on a Saturday morning, when most businesses are closed? It's not something that could just be fixed at home.  Jim got the piece off the elevator and eventually found an Amish business close by that could repair it. They had to do some cutting,  grinding and welding, and after about 1 1/2 hours, we were good to go again.


The bill? $13.00.

It wasn't an easy 1 1/2 hours...its never fun to be covered in manure ( Jim), and I was trying to be helpful while fighting the flu. A friend from church had just texted me to see how I was feeling, and I asked her to pray for my attitude and that Jim would be able to fix the problem. I'm very grateful to say that what looked like a day where Murphy's Law would win, it lost big time.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Down-side Of a Mild Winter...

We had such a mild winter this year, and for the most part we were thrilled...hardly any water lines freezing, very little snow to deal with, etc...

THIS, however,  is quite a  problem...


The chickweed is out of control in my iris bed beside the meadow!

Jenna started tackling it on her Easter break, but it's a horrid mess...


It's going to take LOTS of dirty hands...and knees...and patience until it's finished! Maybe even some weed killer.

I'll keep you posted,  as there will be much cause for celebration when it's finished!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gotcha...the Egg Thief...

I knew he was there.  I would forget to gather the eggs one day, and the next morning there would be nothing but a few broken egg shells under the "porch", next to a suspicious looking hole under the shed...

Now the thief has been caught...


Did you know that skunks like cat food?  That's what lured him in.  No more eggs for this guy!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Farmer Date...

The lazy days of summer winter are drawing to a close, and before we know it, the not-so-crazy-busy days will be gone, and our days will be filled with outside work.  I'm looking forward to some of it...gardening, mowing, opening the windows...bring it on!

We have a whole bunch of springers (cows that are about ready to calve) due in the next few weeks, and no where to go with them in the barn. So...we looked them over, and decided who might be the best option to sell at the sale barn.  We had her delivered to the barn yesterday, and today she was sold at the dairy sale.

I had to spend the morning shopping for a new dishwasher, but was finished in time to go with Jim to see her sell.  We got to the sale after she was already sold, but picked up the check (which more than paid for the new dishwasher! :) ) and watched some heifers sell.  I snapped a picture of the sale...(not our cow in the ring)...


It was a farmer date!  We stopped for lunch on the way home, and now it's just about time to head to the barn for evening milking.

I'm sitting here typing...hearing the furnace run because it's chilly inside...but hearing the birds singing out on the porch through the closed windows. They're just as glad as I am that it's SPRING!!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Winter? Or Spring?

A month.  That's how long it's been since I've posted.  I'm in a blogging slump right now, but stick around!

We've been keeping busy with regular stuff...you know, milking, feeding, cooking, cleaning, repeat.  The weather, however, has been very confused!

Two weeks ago we were running around in shorts and T-shirts...at least Jim was!...and last week we had a "blizzard".  Stella, the nor'easter paid us a visit on Monday evening and 'til she was gone, we had somewhere around a foot of snow.  We didn't know what to think!  It was pretty cold, but seemed frigid, considering the unusually warm weather we had all winter.

Here are a few pictures from the storm...

On Tuesday morning, just after I got up, and the snow wasn't too deep yet, I snapped this picture of the daffodils along the south side of the house...


The biggest concern for us was when the milk truck would come, and whether or not we would be ready for him.  He showed up just as we finished milking, and just as Jim was ready to hop on the skid loader to open the driveway.  It was pretty good timing, actually, because the snow was only about 6" deep at the time, so between the chains on his truck and Jim on the skid loader, he came and went with little trouble...


That's always a relief.

When I fed the calves in the morning, I glanced in the chicken pen, and was surprised to see these hens all huddled together outside...


I have no idea what they were thinking, but there were no tracks around them, so I'm assuming that they huddled together outside all night, with the snow coming down around them.  I carried them inside the shed, where they happily joined their friends for the duration of the storm.  They're fine...and laying eggs quite happily now that the snow is gone!

I got a new phone, and was having fun taking pictures in the snow.  This is one of the hens that was outside all night...she was intrigued by her first selfie...



Now, a week later, most of the snow is gone, except for a few big piles.  It had better be...because SPRING is officially here, and I'm happy about that! While I don't like losing an hour of sleep over the change to daylight savings time, the longer daylight hours energize me.  I feel so much more motivated to get things done when there is daylight and sunshine!

One thing I've been working on the past few weeks is something called 40 Bags in 40 Days.  You may have seen postings on face book about this, or read about it online somewhere.  I'm not following it to a "T", but I'm working on cleaning out and simplifying.  It coincides with lent, and is so satisfying to me.  I've cleaned out closets, cupboards and book shelves. (why was I keeping things in my kitchen cupboards that I never use?) When I'm done cleaning out, I'm planning to scrape wall paper in the upstairs hallway.

Enough rambling...

I hope you're seeing signs of spring wherever you are!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Balmy February...

Sometimes the farmer has to play a little, especially when February feels like springtime...


Windblown, but having fun this afternoon in the MGB...



We had almost record setting temperatures again today...73 degrees...

Is it just us, or does spring seem to be coming early everywhere?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Good Winter's Night Supper...

What do you do when you remember at 4:00 pm that it's not a food co-op night, and your family is going to be hungry for supper before you know it?

You go to the freezer and pull out a package of frozen Italian sausage from Costco...throw the links in the microwave for a few minutes to thaw...cut them into 1 1/2" pieces...cook them on the stove top in just a little bit of water for a few minutes...

Wash and cut up a couple of (unpeeled because it's easier and they taste much better that way!) potatoes into bite sized pieces...

Wash, trim and cut a package of brussels sprouts in half...

Toss everything together in a baking dish...drizzle with olive oil and seasonings of choice...


Set your oven timer for an hour at 375 degrees...

Come in from the barn to a delicious smelling and delicious tasting quick and easy supper!

(If you've never had roasted brussels sprouts, you simply have to try them! They are that good!!  Thanks to my sister Marge and her husband Hermann for introducing us to them!)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Roller Coaster Weather...

This has been one of the craziest winters I remember in a long time...

On Wednesday we had a record high temperature of 62 degrees F and were wearing short sleeves...yesterday we had snow and wind, with temperatures hovering around 32 degrees F.

Even the daffodils are confused...



...and they'll be confused again over the weekend, when temps are expected to rise back up above 50 degrees!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Crows, Crows, Go Away...

Crows.

I've written about them before...how they are such a nuisance to farmers. They scavenge just about anything, sometimes harmlessly, but sometimes they cause damage to growing crops or in this case to already preserved feed.  Here's a post written almost exactly two years ago about how they can damage a silage ag bag.

We don't put out silage ag bags any more, but we regularly have round bales of hay wrapped in plastic which are stored along the edge of the fields.  Jim then brings them into the barn as we need them.

Over the past couple of years, we've had problems with numerous animals damaging the bags.  We've had cats using them as scratching posts, and this year the damage has been from crows!

We've seen large flocks of them in the fields around us over the past few weeks, and last week we discovered that they'd been having a feast on some bales that we had stored along the edge of a field on some rental property.

This bale is laying on it's side now, but you can see all the tape that is covering up crow damage.  If you can imagine the bale rotated 90% counter clockwise, this would have been the top of the bale.  The birds sat on top and pecked away through the plastic until they reached the hay underneath. Once air gets inside the bag, spoiling begins quickly.  You can see near the middle of the picture, a hole that was either made after I initially taped the bale up, or one that I missed.  I think probably the birds came back because there was another hole pecked right through a piece of tape. Grrr...


They also sat on the ground around the bags and pecked away at "crow level"...anywhere from 8" - 12" from the ground.

This is one of the bales right after Jim opened it up...


You can see a bit of mold in the center right side of the picture.  Thankfully, Jim caught the damage pretty early, and the mold seems to be only on the first few outside layers.  A few days later and the bale could have been pretty seriously damaged, and into the gutters it would go, wasted.

I'm thinking back a few years to when flocks of crows were hanging around the local shopping mall, creating dirty messes on shoppers' cars and on the roof of the building.  In a letter to the editor in the newspaper, someone suggested that "the crows be sent out into the country into the farm fields where they could live in peace".

Hmmmmm....I'm glad that wasn't even a realistic option!








Monday, January 30, 2017

Filling Our Freezer...

Every once in a while, we have a cow that won't settle (get pregnant), so we breed her artificially to an Angus bull instead of a Holstein.  If we're lucky, we get a bouncing baby bull calf from her about ten months later.

If we're lucky, after the vet pays him a visit to make him into a steer, he continues to stay healthy and grow until he's about eighteen months old. The healthy part can get a little tricky in the winter when the heifer pens (where he lives) are crowded and the temperatures fluctuate up and down. Just like in elementary school, germs get passed around from animal to animal. Several times over the years we've intended to raise a steer, only to send him to market early because of over crowding and respiratory viruses.

Luckily, this year we successfully filled our freezer with half a steer.  The rest went to some family and friends...


Over 150 lbs of ground beef, another 50+ lbs of roasts, chipped beef, dried beef and jerky...


It's actually bittersweet.  We are not hard and calloused and uncaring about having one of our animals butchered!  But...we need to eat, and knowing that the meat we are eating is from an animal that was healthy and well cared for helps.  After a while you learn that you have to distance yourself. The first time we did this, three of us were in tears, and the other wasn't hungry at lunch time!