Friday, November 21, 2014

A "Winter" Project is Underway...

I guess I shouldn't get ahead of myself...it's still fall, officially for another month yet.  But it sure feels like winter out there this week, and the "fall" work is finished.  Harvest...baling fodder...cleaning out heifer pens...winterizing the barn...all those things are finished, so we're considering projects for the winter.

Here's one that has been a long time coming.

The barn cleaner on the east side of the barn is in sad shape.  Can you see how it's bending in the middle? It also has holes in it where the liquidy manure trickles down through.  Manure does that...it's corrosive, and time and the elements have taken their toll...


I've done several posts where we've replaced the barn cleaner chain here and here.  This time, we're replacing the whole elevator.

Jim ordered a new one from the manufacturer, and it came in two pieces. He picked it up this week...and next week when the weather is to be warmer :)...he's planning to put it in place...


I'll be taking pictures, I'm sure, and will do a post to show you what's involved.  It will be a day long project.  The chain will have to be completely removed....the old elevator removed, saving the motor...the new one put into place...the motor attached...and the chain replaced.

The last time we replaced an elevator was in March of 2009.  It was my Dad's 80th birthday weekend, and the whole family had been together on Saturday.  Sunday morning came, and in typical Murphy's Law fashion while Jim was cleaning out the gutters before Church, the chain caught on something and twisted the whole elevator, causing it to collapse. He scooped manure from behind the cows by hand for several weeks before a new elevator could be ordered and delivered.  That was a mess.  So...that's why he planned ahead for this one.  Hopefully all will go well!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Enjoying the Benefits of the Garden ...

I've enjoyed gardening almost as long as I can remember.

I take that back. When I was a girl, I did not enjoy the garden, because my job was to hoe...pull weeds...or shell peas and lima beans.  All. Summer. Long.  Or so it seemed.

However, the tide has turned, and now that it's my garden, it's mostly fun!

I've been growing herbs for the past few summers, but never seem to use them all up.  I haven't been able to find just the right spot to grow them, where they're also easily accessible on short notice.  I planted rosemary in the pig trough on our porch this year, and it did great.  In fact, it's still looking great, even though we've had several frosts, and below freezing temps the past few days.


I really enjoy the flavor of rosemary, so I decided to try "making" rosemary infused olive oil.

The first thing I did was dry some sprigs of rosemary.  I left them lay on the windowsill in the sun for several weeks to make sure they were completely dry.  (I learned quickly, after a first botched attempt, that the herbs must be thoroughly dried before doing this.  Otherwise you risk getting botulism in your oil!)

Then I looked around for just the right bottle to put it in, and finally found small bottles with different colored stoppers.  I put several sprigs of rosemary in the bottle, filled it with olive oil, and sat it on my kitchen window sill for a month or so...


This morning I took off the topper, and the rosemary smell was strong.  Yay...it had worked!  I thought I'd try using the oil to fry up some potatoes (from our garden)...


The potatoes smelled delicious as they fried.  The rosemary scent was just enough to make your mouth water, and the flavor was mild and not overpowering.

I think I found some great gift ideas!  What ideas do you have for using up fresh herbs?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reposting From 2010...Please, Find a Trash Can...

I've been in a bit of a blogging slump lately.

For some reason I can't get myself motivated to find something new.  Maybe that's because things are pretty routine and I feel like I've posted about all of it before?  Maybe it's because there's been a lot on my mind...thinking about potential college visits...kids schedules...still dealing with chronic back pain and wondering what direction that's going to go?

So...here's a re-post from 2010, soon after I started blogging.  I was reminded of it when I saw several groups of people walking the roads with trash bags the other week.  I don't think people realize the damage that it can do.  It's not just an eyesore...


Please...find a trash can!   

(from October 27, 2010)
I guess finding a trash can is just too much work for some people!
Yesterday as I was planting rye in the soybean field along the road, I noticed a lot of trash lying among the stubble.  This morning, I went back to pick it up.  This is what I found…

Trash like this will very easily be either chopped up with the corn silage or baled up with the hay, finding its’ way in small, sharp pieces, into the cows feed. 
One our best milking cows recently “went off feed”, began running a high fever, and dropped in milk production to almost nothing.  She hunched her back as if she was in pain.  After Jim and the vet checked her out, they determined that she is most likely suffering from “hardware”. 
When a cow ingests a foreign object, it can pierce her stomach and cause pain and infection.  In some cases, she recovers.  In some cases, however, the object can go through the wall of her stomach and pierce her heart, causing irreparable damage. That’s what they think happened to this cow; the object most likely pierced the sack around her heart and may have damaged a valve.
We do what we can to prevent hardware.  Each of our animals swallows a magnet like the one below... 
The magnet remains in her stomach in hopes that it will draw pieces of metal to it, preventing them from going through the cow’s digestive system.  But…in that small pile of trash that I found, there are glass bottles and pieces of hard plastic as well.  And…the magnet is not foolproof.
#264 is slowly beginning to make more milk again.  Her fever is down and her appetite is back, but she will not likely recover fully.  She could have a relapse at any time and will probably have to be slaughtered. 
All that said, throwing trash out the car window is not just ugly…it’s causing real problems for someone, somewhere!  But I know none of you would ever consider it… right?!  

**A note on #264.  Thankfully she made a full recovery and lived for several more years before we had to sell her because of breeding issues. Sometimes the story does have a happy ending.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Now That the Fields Are Bare...

Now that the fields are bare...


...I kind of like the look.  

Once again, it's that change of seasons.  Just about the time we get used to the way things look, the scenery changes.

This morning Daniel and Jim fenced off the two alfalfa fields you can see here. Those fields were baled several weeks ago, and have enough new growth on them to keep the cows happy.

They were happy enough that they paid no mind to the temporary electric fences...their heads were down and they were too busy eating...


...and they came back in the barn happy and content for milking this evening...


...which we certainly won't complain about!

You better believe they'll be itching to get out there again tomorrow morning!

Monday, October 27, 2014

2014 Harvest...

When we woke up on Saturday morning, there were over 30 acres of beans still standing, and a bunch of acres of corn.

When we went to the barn for evening milking, the fields were bare.

Here are a few pictures of the corn and bean harvest, courtesy of our friend and neighbor Steve Emerson. His pictures turned out way better than mine did!  Thanks Steve!

First, they harvested the corn at the two locations where we rent ground...


The combine can hold a lot of shelled corn, but when it was possible, the grain cart drove along beside the combine...


When he was full, he would go and empty his load into the grain truck. These next pictures are ones that I took here at home) ...


This truck wasn't full yet, but it sure didn't take long to fill it...


I got a kick out of watching the cows watch the combine.  This is Patty, mesmerized or perhaps confused about what's going on.  Wouldn't she love to hop the fence and get into that corn field?!  She'll have to wait for that corn later.  It will be dried, toasted and brought back to the farm as we need it.  There goes one of the full grain trucks up the road behind her...


When the corn was finished, they switched headers on the combine and harvested the beans.  (one more picture courtesy of Steve)  It was a windy, but beautiful day.  I'm sure glad all that dust wasn't blowing in my windows!


The corn yields were great this year!  I don't know exact numbers, but I heard talk of over 200 bushels per acre.  It was a little wet though, so between low grain prices and being docked a bit for drying, the final numbers won't be so high.  The beans were plenty dry, and yielded okay.

It's a great feeling to be finished with harvest for the year.  It's not time to rest, though! Right now Jim's wrapping the last of the hay for the year, and then it'll be time to bale corn fodder and haul manure.

The leaves are beautiful about now, and have only begun to fall.  We've been having absolutely beautiful weather, and once again I am reminded of how thankful I am to be able to experience the change in seasons every year!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Replacing Cow Mats...

Did you know that cows have the privilege of laying on mats in their stalls? They're not actually mattresses (although some barns do use mattresses of a sort), but they're thick, rubber mats that give them a softer base than concrete to stand on, and better traction as they get up from lying down. This helps to prevent leg issues in the cows, and also helps prevent tramped teats as the cows get up and down.

We put cow mats in all of our stalls a while ago.  Over the years they need to be trimmed as they stretch, secured back down as the bedding works it way underneath,  and eventually they need to be replaced.  It was a good job to get started on, on this rainy day.

Here are some of the old ones, with a small sample of the new one laying on the right side.  It's the clean, black piece.  Look how much thicker it is...


Yesterday morning while Jim ran to pick up new mats, Daniel tore out the old ones and cleaned off the concrete base underneath.  Then it was time to put the new mats in place.  They had to cut around the posts to make them fit.  Jim drilled through the mat into the concrete with his hammer drill...


...and Daniel anchored the mat in place with concrete anchors...


Putting the next mat in place, measuring and cutting around the post...


This is a time consuming job, so they only get a few mats done each morning.

I wonder if the cows will figure it out and fight over the stalls with the new mats? I would!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Refill..Finally...

Wow...it's been a really unusual year here.  Never, ever before, have we refilled our silos so late in the year!

Spring planting was late because of the cool spring.  Initial silo filling was late because spring planting was late...and so refilling silo was pushed back as well!

Jim had some "late corn"...or "short season corn" that was planted into an old hay field this spring after second cutting of hay.  One purpose of planting "late corn" is so that there is still some corn green enough to chop when it's time to refill...or "top off" the silos before winter.

Last week's 4" of rain held things up a bit, but when the weather is cool like it has been here, the corn doesn't dry down too quickly.  Monday morning, bright and early, Jim and Daniel raised the last silo unloader, and the chopper pulled in just after breakfast.

The field they chopped was at our neighbors' farm.  Here comes one of the full loads, heading for home. The guys tried hard to stay out of the yard, because of how soft the ground was, so they cut across a small corner of the bean field...  (isn't their house beautiful?!  I think it was built in 1863)


The chopper is waiting for one of the two wagons to unload at home, and return.  Our farm is behind those trees you see in the distance.  The silos aren't quite tall enough to stick out over the top...


Just a different perspective of the wagons unloading at the silos.  This load is going into the silo at the west...see the gooseneck at the top of the pipe?



And as usual...when the silos get almost full, Jim climbs to the top to signal to the tractor driver when to shut off the hydraulics on his wagon.  He then swings the gooseneck into the other silo and they fill that one up...


Now both silo unloaders have been set up, and it's on to the rest of the fall work.  Today it's raining, so Jim and Daniel are replacing some cow mats in the stable.  When it dries off, Jim will mow and bale the rest of 5th cutting hay, have the beans and corn combined, and bale corn fodder.  Oh...and haul manure.  There's still a lot of fall work to do.  It's the busiest time of the year here!