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!


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

On Forming a Food Co-op...

In case you haven't noticed, it's winter time and there's not a whole lot of excitement on the farm, so I'm going to focus on something that's always exciting.  Food!

A couple of Four ?? years ago, I posted about the food co-op that I'm part of, and I'm sharing that post with you again today.  If you need a little boost to your meal planning, and a little inspiration in the middle of winter, find a couple of friends and give it a try.

Originally posted on January 22, 2013...

Are you in a rut with your cooking...can't think of new recipes?  Do you get tired of making the same things, week after week?  Do you simply just want a break sometimes?  I was...I did...and I do!

Last fall I got an email from a friend, asking if I wanted to be part of a food co-op with her and another friend.  I have been part of this group for the past four months, and it has been wonderful!  Did I mention that I love it?

Here's how it works for us:

Three of us take turns cooking the main dish for all three of our families, once a week.  I take Tuesdays, the other two take Wednesdays and Thursdays. 

We get together and plan ahead several months at a time.  We bring a list of recipes and fill in our calendars, alternating with a "chicken", "other" and "beef" recipe each week.  Here's a sample...


We prepare the main dish and deliver it on our assigned day, either hot and ready to eat at mealtime, or more often, we put it in the fridge with basic baking instructions.  Sometimes we send along a side...for example if we make soup, we might send along some crusty bread.  We have keys to each other's houses, and if no one is home, we can drop it off at our convenience.

Today was my day to cook...


I made spaghetti pie, tripled the recipe and had an assembly line on my kitchen table.  Then I covered it with foil, added the critical info, and viola, I was done!


There are some things to consider when forming a group like this...

*It's convenient if you live close to each other
*If you have picky eaters, or food allergies, it might be tough to make it work
*It's helpful if your families are similar in size, or at least eat similar amounts of food  :)
*You've got to be honest with each other.  If there was a recipe your family really didn't like, just say so.

So...if you want something new to try that just might make your life simpler and mealtime more exciting, I encourage you to give it a try!  My kids ask frequently..."Who's cooking today?"  or "What are we getting for supper tonight?"  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy cooking, but this has been so much fun!

It's 11:00 am, I'm off to deliver my meals and I'm finished cooking until Friday.  Then it's back home to break ice on water buckets.

Woohoo! 

A few things have changed over the years...we no longer plan our menus ahead of time, but we decide each week what we're making, and send around some emails.  Our families have "shrunk" with kids off to college, so meal portions have adjusted too, but one thing has remained the same...

I thoroughly enjoy the days that I'm not planning supper!  :)


Monday, January 23, 2017

January Happenings...

Goodness, it's been a while since I've posted! The hubbub of the holidays has passed, visiting family has returned home,a new year has begun and life goes on.

January hasn't been a very "eventful" month around here so far other than a few things I'll mention in a bit. Just the usual...feeding, milking, chores...feeding, milking, chores...every day.  We've had no major snow storms, no horridly long stretches of bitter cold, in fact a pretty mild winter so far.  Today is dreary.  Strong east winds and rain make for a good day to stay inside as much as possible.

As for those those few "fun" things that happened...

Jenna and I, along with a friend, flew out to Hesston KS for a college visit. We changed our flights due to the ice storm in the midwest, but we enjoyed the abbreviated time that we had there!  Numerous family and friends have attended the college, and it was fun to see it for ourselves...


The girls got a taste of college life by staying in the dorm with a friend, visiting classes, meeting with advisers and taking a late night run to a nearby town for donuts.  (I took advantage of a comfy bed in the guest house, and slept like a baby all night long...except for when I woke up on PA time just in time to head for the barn.  I will admit it was very nice to be able to fall back to sleep!)


On Tuesday, we were treated to beautiful blue skies!  And yes...this part of Kansas is flat as a stamp, just like it looks in this picture of the campus.  So different from home!

It was nice to break up the month with something different, but once again it's back to the routine.  It was nice to get away, but there's no place quite like home!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

What's Wrong With This Picture?

So...on this brisk wintry morning, I went to the chicken pen to check for eggs.

I found this...


Perhaps she's a bit confused as to her true identity?  Or maybe she was trying to trick the birds that steal chicken feed into thinking she was a chicken?  I had just asked her this morning if she had caught any birds or mice lately, but she didn't answer.  Maybe I planted a thought in her little kitty brain...


Better luck next time, Jolyn!