Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Country Morning

It would be nice if farming was always as peaceful as our pictures make it out to be. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Weeds grow in the garden, bugs eat the plants, tractors break, it rains for weeks on end and animals get out of their fences. We know these mishaps are part of living on a farm, and usually Farmer John and I can handle them calmly. Sometimes we can’t.

Saturday morning started as it normally does. We were sleeping in because Farmer John didn’t get home until 3am from a trip for his real job. I got up with Badger around 8am and we went for a walk. During the walk, I saw two cows out of their new fence. They were deep into the hayfield munching away. This was frustrating, but I figured I could get the two of them back in without bugging Farmer John.
Before I go on, let me explain the new fence. Our helpful visitors from a couple weeks ago helped us put it up. We wanted to get the cattle on some fresh grass for a little while, so the fence was meant to be temporary. The posts are fiberglass, with an insulator in the middle and a topper. We strung two lines of electric rope, attached it to the electric fence and that was that. Happy cows on lush grass. (There was a chunk of time spent untangling a giant knot of electric rope. A knot that only 8 hands and 6 college degrees could untangle.)
Back to Saturday morning- I walked back towards the field with good intentions of putting the cows back where they belonged. At which point I discovered that the ENTIRE length of new fence was down. Toppers were not on top of the posts, the electric rope was all over the ground, and the rest of the cattle were grazing their way into the hayfield. Obviously, cattle, deer, or some other crepuscular individuals thought it was a good idea to string our new fence, and all the insulators, across the new pasture. This job called for teamwork!

Down into the pasture rode Farmer John on his trusty four-wheeler, in a blaze of cattle-rage. His hair was red, his eyes were red, his blood was boiling and a tapestry of swear words came coursing out of his mouth. He herded ALL the cows back to the proper side of the fence. And let me just say that being in a wet hayfield, with cows running around, horns swinging, and a noisy four-wheeler zooming past is not the way I like to start my mornings- especially when I haven’t had my coffee yet!

Here’s how the rest of the project went. Farmer John stood guard as I searched for missing insulators and re-strung the electric rope. He chased the cattle back to their pasture many times. For some reason they were in the mood to stampede. One of the red cows was especially persistent in trying to cross to the hayfield. Finally, the fence was back where it belonged and so were the cows. The fence was plugged in and Farmer John checked the voltage.
Then it was time to have some coffee and change out of our pajamas and muck boots.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Life around the farmhouse

We had a really...eventful...morning. I'm not ready to write about it yet. I'm still a little bit mad. So, to brighten my evening - and yours - here is a recent farmhouse photo.

There was a strange noise coming from the bathroom this morning. I went in to investigate, and look who was in the tub. He's a weird one that Badger.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bringing the outside in

The mock orange bush by the front porch is blooming. I love being on the porch when it's in bloom, so do the bees and hummingbirds. But, I also love bringing some of it inside. I filled this beautiful bowl (made by one of my favorite potters, Mark Dennehy) with some tonight. If I could share with you how spring-like it smells I would. Instead, enjoy a photo from our kitchen. P.S.- Our kitchen table is NEVER this clutter-free. But don't worry, I put it all back after I took the photo.

After the storm

We had a storm roll through on Wednesday night. It didn't last long, and we went out to check on the cattle afterwards. The steam looked so pretty coming off the hills.

The cows were soaking wet, but they don't seem to mind since they have all that lush grass to munch. (Plus, they're getty used to being wet all the time this Spring)
This is a view of one of the hayfields. If it ever stops raining, we'll have some great hay to cut. The three new calves. They seem to have lots of fun together.
There is an old electric fence in the cow's new pasture. We'll set it up when it's time to plant that garden. In the meantime it makes for great posts to scratch heads on.

Here's Butterscotch. It's not a great idea to name the cows - it's my Mom's fault this one got a name. She started it, and it stuck. She's the oldest gal in the herd, and hopefully having a calf this summer.

The forecast looks good. Hopefully those shaggy coats will dry out this weekend.

Monday, May 16, 2011


We love having visitors on the farm. And this weekend two wonderful friends came down from Michigan.

The original plan had been to plant potatoes. Because when I said "we love having visitors on the farm" what I really mean is that we love having "free labor" on the farm. But, as has been the story all Spring, rain prevented any gardening progress.

We did complete one big project on Saturday. The excessive rain has led to some lush grass on some parts of our property. We decided to move the cattle onto a small plot of land that is next to one they'd already grazed. Using fiberglass posts and electric rope we created a temporary pasture full of long green grass. The cows seem to be very happy with this new arrangement. I'll post some pictures of the fence soon.

The pasture project didn't take long with our friends here to give us a hand. During the rest of their visit we cooked, ate and caught up on life. It was wonderful.

Sunday night we made a feast. Here are the appetizers - samosas with tamarind-date chutney.

Duing one of the many conversations on the porch, Becky mentioned the changes that had been made on the farm since her last visit. It felt so good to hear her say those things. And I don't mean it in a "pat on the back" kind of way. Sometimes living here, and trying to run the farm, is so overwhelming that it feels like we're getting nowhere. Projects take longer than planned and there's ALWAYS more to do. Hearing that we'd made progress, from someone with a different prespective was encouraging. Then we too could sit back, take a moment, eat our samosas, and appreciate the work that's been accomplished.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


This weekend it was FINALLY dry enough to plow! Farmer John and his dad worked on plowing and tilling the gardens all around the farm. The picture is the garden closest to the house. They also plowed two patches near the creek, a patch that our friend John uses, and three smaller patches on the other side of cow lane. This is the latest we've ever planted a garden. And I've been a little on edge - 'cause I really want fresh lettuce! Last night we were able to start planting. Phew.

Here's what went in the ground:

- 1 long raised bed with 2 types of lettuce, 1 lettuce mix, spinach mix, and onions
- 1 row of sugar snap peas
- 5 hills of cucumbers
- 25 broccoli plants
- 45 cabbage plants

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Livestock dreams

Two dear friends got married last weekend. The ceremony was beautiful - I cried a little bit. The guest list was perfect - lots of old friends together again. And love was all around.

The wedding was held at Gale Woods Farm. Being the farm geeks that we are, we ran around the property a bit before the party started. (At some point I realized I should have brought my muck boots. ) We checked out their fencing, garden sites and livestock. And then, we found the hogs.
Oh how badly we want hogs! They would make us so happy. They'd root around. They'd entertain us. They'd add a new aroma to our farm. And then they'd be turned into delicious food.
You should hear Farmer John talk about pastured pork. His eyes light up. He's got a whole business plan based on raising hogs and then turning them into brats and other sausages. Thinking about hogs makes him happy.

And thinking about bratwurst makes me happy. Yum!

Friday, May 6, 2011


It's been a long week. We're tired. And sometimes big dogs just have to take a nap on our bed.

Happy Friday - have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Calf #3

Look at what Farmer John found last night!He'd been telling me for weeks that this particular cow was "real close" to having a calf. I believed him for a while...her vulva was pretty swollen after all. But I'd been waiting for weeks for a new calf and nothing was happening.

Then, we rode up the hill to check on the herd after our recent trip to the midwest. I had to agree, she did look close. Her udder was very swollen. And after school yesterday Farmer John reported that the much-anticipated calf was finally here!

The cow and calf are both doing well. They appear happy and healthy. The calf is nursing and pooping up a storm - which is a good sign. If only they could get their farmers to leave them alone

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New Post

Just put up a new post, however you have to scroll past an old one to see it. Not sure why...if anyone knows how to change that please let me know.

Love, the girl that can use a chainsaw but not the internet .

Easter Weekend project #1

The farmhands from Rockford came for a visit over Easter weekend. Our goal had been to get the garden in, but IT WON'T STOP RAINING! The ground is a muddy mess and can't be plowed right now. So we got to work on some other big projects - and many hands made for light work.

The first project was clearing out a fence row.

Here are the "Before" pictures:

"You mean there's a fence in there?" Yes brother, there is!

The dogs were going to help too.Farmer John worked with the chainsaw to cut out the bigger shrubs and trees. My mom and I used clippers to clear some of the smaller shrubs. Then it all got drug down the hill to make a pile of brush. Here's the view from the brush pile looking up to the fenceline. We all made a lot of trips up and down that hill!And the cows kept an eye on everything. There was some bloodshed. There were a LOT of briars along that fencerow. Wow! That's a nice brush pile you've got guys!After we'd cleared most of the big trees and shrubs out, Farmer John used the "Brush Hog" to mow everything down. "Brush Hog" was not a word I even knew before moving to the farm - let alone knew how to use as a noun and a verb! A "Brush Hog" is an attachment for the tractor, it has large heavy-duty blades that chop up everything in it's path. It's like a mega lawnmower that can deal with shrubs and brush without any problem. It's pretty cool!

Did I mention how it's been raining non-stop? Because of that, the ground is saturated, which makes it tricky to drive a tractor on the side of the hill. Farmer John "brush-hogged" as much as he could without sliding down the hill, but there will still be some to finish up once the ground dries.

And now (drum roll please!) the "After" pictures:

Doesn't that look SO much better??!The cows approve. And so does Farmer John.

Thanks to the Rockford Farmhands we completed a BIG project in just a short afternoon!
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