Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - a list

'Tis the season for best and worst of 2011 lists. And boy do I love lists! Farmer John and I spent some quality time in the car this past week, and we ruminated over the past year. What we kept coming back to was how much we learned this year. The following is an annotated list of some of the things we've learned this year - in no particular order.

  • How to make "no-knead" bread - thanks to new friends at the very beginning of the year. 
  • How to make rabbit pot pie - I also learned that I really enjoy rabbit. 
  • Our knowledge of raising chickens grew exponentially - meat birds in 2012?
  • How to build a cattle chute - thanks again to Farmhand Rich who saved the project.
  • Straw mulch is worth the investment - gardening was more of a joy than a chore this year.
  • How to blog - many thanks to you for reading (and commenting)! 
  • How to stabilize a falling-down walking bridge - call on friends for engineering and emotional support!
  • We gained more inspiration for full-time farming - another goal for 2012?
  • How to raise a calf with BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhea) - we'll miss you shaggy girl.
  • Farmer John is still learning  about teaching middle school - a sense of humor is a must.
  • How to fix a small engine for a wood splitter- thanks to Joe Lasure for all he taught us about engines.
  • We learned more about gas pipelines than we ever thought possible - or wanted to in the first place.
  • How to make a slanted building level - easier than first expected. 
  • Cut wood early - we knew this, we're learning to actually do it. 
  • How to buy a bridge and install abutments for it - also, measuring said bridge is extremely important.

Finally, most importantly, we learned we have to take care of each other. Yes, it means the obvious, Farmer John and I are partners and we have to work together and care for one another. But it is bigger than just the two of us. We have learned this year how necessary it is for neighbors, friends, and family to help, protect and love each other. At times, it has come up and smacked us in the face. We couldn't run this farm without our neighbors, friends, and family. We couldn't cope with heartbreak and grief without our neighbors, friends and family. We wouldn't have as much joy in our life without our neighbors, friends and family. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Our Little Blind Calf died last week.

She had been doing very well for a while, but we knew she was still sick. The vet told us that calves in her condition aren't likely to make it to maturity. In the past week of her life she'd stopped eating as much and had another flare up of diarrhea. We had started her on another round of probiotics, electrolytes and scour medication in an attempt to help. However, this wasn't enough.

Farmer John found her laying against a hay bale on Thursday night. He said it looked like she just went to sleep. He came back up to the house to tell me and we hugged each other and cried a bit.

We have much to be thankful for with the life of the blind calf. We learned a lot because of her. In the beginning it was how to deal with a calf in the house and bottle feeding. Our learning curve contiued when the vet told us what caused her blindness and Farmer John had to give penicillin injections. Finally, we learned the depth of our attachment to her.

In truth, she'd become more of a pet than livestock. We are proud of the quality of life we gave her and grateful we did not have to make the decision of how to end it. We'll miss our sweet little "shaggy coo girl" meandering and grazing in the yard.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

For fun

Farmer John and I are spending some time in Illinois with my family. We've been having some fun looking at YouTube videos, which is something our internet isn't fast enough to do at the farm. 

Here's an entertaining one I found yesterday, and I can't stop humming the song to myself. I'm a fan of the close-ups of rubber boots, and Farmer John liked all the shots of Massey Ferguson tractors. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

One that made the cut

Merry Christmas!
Farmer John, Mollie, Coco and Badger

(and the rest of the farm menagerie) 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Solstice

Happy Solstice! 

We are in the deep mid-winter, but the light will be returning to us soon. 

Here's a photo from a few nights ago. Farmer John is up in the barn feeding the cows. I'm sure he'll be excited to have more light for the evening chores. 

Also, happy birthday to K over at Little Alexander!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bovine in the mist

Two scenes from the backyard on Thursday night. Smoke from the chimney was mixing with fog. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

For Susi and Jim

Our sweet Coco girl used to live on another farm. That's where she met Susi and Jim (Farmer John's sister and brother-in-law). Coco followed Susi and Jim when they rode the four wheeler up to their cabin and got to hang out with them. 

But, that's also where she was the "little" dog on the farm. The other two residents were mastiffs. And they didn't play nice. 

Right after Farmer John and I moved into the farmhouse, Susi told us about a wonderful farm dog that needed to be rescued and could be ours. And that's when Coco came to live with us. What a wonderful idea Susi! 

It's hard to believe she's been with us for six years already. If there is a dream life for a dog, Coco is living it.  She spends her day romping around the farm and her evening perched regally in her throne next to the Christmas Tree. What a life!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

After school

On Monday we had big plans after school. Farmer John was going to drop me off and go to town for some feed and Christmas shopping. I was going to get started on chores before it got too dark. But, we had a surprise waiting for us when we got home.

We pulled into the parking spot and looked up the hill in front of the house to see ALL the cows in the front yard!

Not in the barn eating hay, not up on the hill in their pasture, not even by the water tank...the front yard!

Well, we had some choice words for them as we got out of the car, went across the bridge and started up the hill. I got the feeling they all knew that party was over when we started up the hill because they did head in the right direction.

Farmer John got them herded together, and I got the gate open by the water tank. They all headed back to where they belong without too much complaining. I snapped this picture just as the last ones were headed back inside the fence.

As much fun as after-school cattle wrangling can be, I think we will start chaining our gates shut. Hopefully that will contain our bovine escape artists.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Card outtakes

Yesterday we started to gather photos to use for our Christmas card.

Here are some that just didn't make the cut.

I think I'm going to stop using the "bull in a China shop" saying and instead say "a blind calf in a kitchen".

The coop that flew!

How we grow cats at the farm - organically of course!

This is a face only her owners can truly love.

A very wet and muddy Spring Break.

And, last but not least, the too-short bridge. Here's hoping we'll be driving across it in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Places cows should not go

This is Bonnie
and this is Clyde.

They spent the ENTIRE weekend getting out of the fence. Although, Bonnie only got out once or twice. They didn't have names until this weekend. It got so ridiculous that we had to call them something.

Clyde is ornery. He spent most of the weekend somewhere he should not have been. It was always somewhere with green grass.

About 10 minutes after we'd put him back inside the gate, we found him all the way at the end of the hayfield among the pipeline work.

This last photo is from Sunday, he spent his afternoon hanging around the back porch.

As I write this, everyone is where they should be, but Clyde is relentless so he'll probably be out again soon.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Is that bridge getting built?" An update

Up until Thursday this is what the bridge project area looked like. For those of you keeping track - we're going on two weeks of looking at the bridge like this. Have I mentioned that it's not supposed to look like this?

On Thursday they started digging out the bank closest to the road. This is where they would set more blocks.
The blocks were delivered on Thursday, and they started to set them into place late on Friday evening.
On Saturday the work continued. They set more levels of blocks. There are 6 layers of blocks total. That includes the wing wall that they created to help prevent erosion once the bridge is in place.

The guy walking on the bridge is someone who's with the pipeline project. They have been all over our place for the last couple weeks. More on that soon.

Since our parking space is ripped up, filled with cement blocks and an excavator, this is where we've been parking. It's a little ways down the road from the farm.

The guys finished setting all the blocks on Saturday night.

On Sunday, Grant used the excavator to fill the dirt back in around the blocks.

At this point, the blocks are in place and ready for the bridge to be set onto them. The big problem is that they do not have the equipment to set the bridge. They are running into all kinds of dead-ends when it comes to renting a very large excavator. (It has a lot to do with all the oil and gas work going on in WV, PA and OH)

Do you have an 80,000 pound excavator we could borrow for a day or two?

Sunday, December 4, 2011


After spending some time cleaning this morning:

"Hey Farmer John, are other houses as dirty as ours?"

"You mean other farmhouses with two people that work full-time, heat with a woodstove, have to walk across a bridge and up a muddy hill to get to their house, have two big dogs, and are in the middle of a major construction project? Yeah, they're probably this dirty."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Bridge Update

In case you were wondering, we don't have a bridge yet. Farmer John says "we're making progress". I'm letting my Norwegian side take over and am feeling generally grumpy about the whole thing. Hence, no blog posts.

If the guys are working this weekend, I'll try to get some more pictures.

In the meantime, here's our remaining rooster. We call him Saint Nick.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Plan

Happy Day Before Thanksgiving!

Here's the latest bridge update. We /They have a plan. It took a long meeting yesterday and some phone calls, but there is a plan. They are going to move the abutment blocks on the road side, dig deeper, set more blocks and create a "wing wall". The wing wall will be in place to prevent erosion when the creek goes up.

Here's Farmer John and the bridge crew talking about the plan:

And this morning they marked where they plan to dig. The utility company has to come and check before they can dig. Apparently these guys are patriotic.

This plan will be put into place starting a week from today. Hopefully we'll have a bridge in place by next Friday. But this time I'm NOT going to mark it on the calendar!

We plan on spending the next few days thinking about other things besides the bridge. Migrant Farm-Hand Becky will be here for the long weekend. There will be much cooking, eating, drinking and general merriment. We'll also attend the Backyard Brawl (WVU vs Pitt) as this has become a day after Thanksgiving tradition.

We hope you and yours have a very festive Thanksgiving. Farmer John is making pumpkin pie (with our pumpkins). If you want to stop by for a slice, make sure you wear your muck boots. This is what it looks like on our side of the bridge:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday's List

1) This is what I saw out the kitchen window this morning. It makes all the events from the weekend a bit better.
2) I spent some time on the phone with our project manager, so did Farmer John. Sounds like they have a plan. It involves re-positioning the abutments. Probably won't happen until next week due to the holiday (a.k.a. hunting season).

3) We have one less deer on the farm, thanks to Michael. The guys are out hunting right now. Perhaps we'll have even less deer around by the time they're done.

4) The bridge still looks like this:

5) I'm spending my Monday away from school re-reading a favorite book. Badger's been keeping me company.

6) Thank you for the supportive blog comments, Facebook messages and e-mails. They help us remember that it will get better and at least we don't have an "excavator in the bay".

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bridge Day Debacle

We'll here are lots of pictures from yesterday. The day we were supposed to get our bridge. Technically, we do have a bridge. And technically, it is laying across the creek. Sigh... read on.

Here's a shot from Friday (the original Bridge Day). The crew from Colorado has their truck backed up to the abutments to attach a steel plate which the bridge will sit on.

The bridge arrived on it's truck on Friday night. It spent the night close to town (across from Certified at the start of Rt. 7). It arrived to the farm at 7am and promptly got stuck in the mud. It turned out this was the least of our problems.
Here's Grant cutting a hole in the deck. They put chains through these holes to help with the unloading and moving of the rail car.

Two things to notice in this photo. First, there are two excavators trying to lift the bridge. They couldn't do it. Second, the truck with bridge is blocking one lane of the road. We were able to use some guys from the gas pipeline to be traffic flaggers for the morning. Normally they cost a lot of money for every hour they work, yesterday they did it for free. We did have to sell our souls to the pipeline company though.

After they figured out that they couldn't lift the bridge off the truck with two excavators, they went and got another excavator. Again, this was all thanks to the pipeline company. The next three photos show the process of unloading the bridge from the trailer.

Once it was unloaded the excavators began the process of getting the bridge into place, since it was unloaded about 100 feet from where it would be set.

At some point they realized the three excavators would not be able to set the bridge on their own. The rail car that was sent was heavier than normal. They had to have a bulldozer with a heavy duty winch to help pull it across the creek and into place.

The following set of photos shows them maneuvering the bridge around a turn and then across the creek. It was at some point while watching all this happen that I really wished my civil-engineer cousin was here.

The bulldozer on one side of the creek wasn't enough, so they sent one of the excavators over.

I'm not sure why, but the excavator dug out part of the hillside, while the bulldozer held it in place.

Then the excavator held onto the bulldozer while it tried to pull the bridge into the right spot.

And right about then was when someone realized that the bridge wasn't going to fit! That's right, the rail car was 5 feet too short. Our bridge is sitting just like this right now. Much lower than it should be, and at a weird angle.

The bridge we'd ordered (and paid for!) was supposed to be 90 feet. The one that was delivered was 85 feet, and that just won't work.

The bridge company has said all the right things at this point. It's their fault, and they are telling us that they will fix this problem and get us a bridge. We do not yet know what the new plan is - it could be adding on to the bridge, or adjusting where the abutments are set. It could even be getting a different rail car. I think/hope they will be able to tell us more tomorrow.

Farmer John and I were pretty upset yesterday, but have calmed down now. We are trying to find the positive parts of this situation, and are trusting that the bridge company will make this right.

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