Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"How's that bridge building going?"

As some of you know, we live on the other side of a creek. We park by the road on one side......then we walk across the bridge and up the hill to the house. We live in a situation where "God willing, and the creek don't rise" actually applies. We knew what we were getting into when we moved to the farm. Well, Farmer John knew what he was getting into. It's taken me a long time to get used to my daily treks to and from the house.

The bridge has become become a part of our daily lives. So much so that I think it should have been part of our vows when we got married.

"I, Mollie, take you, Farmer John to be my husband. I promise to haul the groceries up the hill, in all of nature's elements, and not complain about it too much."

"I, Farmer John, take you, Mollie to be my wife. I promise to make many trips up and down the hill to load our car for trips, put sand on the icy bridge, and hold your hand on days when it's very slippery." When we bought the farm several years ago, we planned on using some of the loan money to build a driving bridge. And it's been a long process and we've learned a lot about building bridges. This spring, Farmer John found a company that uses decomissioned railroad cars to make bridges. So we're going back to our Northland College roots and recycling a railcar. This summer (fingers crossed, knock on wood) we're going to get our driving bridge! Perhaps one of the most challenging things about this project is the span of the bridge. Our bridge has to be at least 80 feet. (Oh, how much easier our life would be if it only had to be 60 feet!) The railcar is 90 feet long and wide enough for a vehicle to drive across. Step #1 of the process began on Thursday when the abutments arrived. The abutments are just big concrete blocks that the railcar will sit on (and be attached to). The blocks have round humps on top and holes on the bottom so that they fit together when stacked. Think of them like concrete Legos. Our abutments also have a pretty face on one side that look like they're made of stones. Most of ours will be buried though, so the face doesn't matter so much. We watched excitedly as the abutments were unloaded.And now we have 14 concrete blocks sitting by our mailbox. We're happy to be done with step #1 and will start working on all the other steps soon. But, that will have to wait for a little while. Farmer John and I are going on vacation. We'll start more work on the bridge as soon as we get back. If anyone is driving by the farm next week and notices cows or chickens out of their fences will you put them back please? Thanks!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Coop on the move

Earlier this week, when we had more help around, we moved the chicken coop.

"Chicken Tractors" have become popular with the rise of backyard flocks. They are small coops, usually with an attached open area where the chickens can get at pasture. These "Chicken Tractors" are great for a few chickens and one or two people can easily move them around a yard. We know several homesteaders that are having great luck with them. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, or just want to know more, there's some good information and photos here.

Our farm doesn't have a "Chicken Tractor". The coop we have takes a tractor to move it. It is big enough for 70 chickens to have space to roost and use the nesting boxes. We've never had that many chickens, the most we've ever had was about 35. But, Farmer John and "Uncle" John built the coop with the intention of adding more hens to the flock.

Several times a year the coop gets moved to a new location. The night before the big move we close them in the coop. If the coop moves without the chickens, they can't find it. (Chickens are not the brightest birds around.) Farmer John hooks it up to the tractor and drags it to the new spot. There are two Locust logs that the coop is built on and they act as skids to help the coop move.

This next picture was moments after Farmer John almost died on the tractor. The front end went way up in the air and almost tipped backwards. (Shh...don't tell our Moms.)

That was because the coop hit this post on the way through the cattle gate.

Farmer John and Farmhand Dad jacked up the coop and then managed to get it away from the post. Then it could be dragged to it's final spot.

The next step was to set up the fence. We use "electro-net" as fencing around the chickens. This electrified netting keeps the chickens in (most of the time) and predators out. It takes a little time to set up, and at least two sets of hands, but it's much easier than setting up any kind of permanent fencing. We like it because the fence is large enough to give the chickens room to move around, scratch and eat bugs, it also keeps the chickens safe. A couple years ago a fox found our chickens and reduced the flock by more than half. We haven't had any problems with predators as long as the flock is inside the fence. Next, the guys did some work on the coop. These are the nesting boxes. Our chickens seem to prefer the milk crates over the white buckets. I think they are just the right size, the buckets are just a little too small. So we got rid of all but one bucket and are going to replace them with more milk crates. I put this picture up before, but I love it. And because it's Father's Day, I'm posting it again. Here's my Dad taking down nesting boxes. Thanks Dad for climbing inside the coop, fixing gaps in the chicken wire, putting up the fence, herding chickens and helping with all the other farm projects!

Here's the coop's summer spot. It's not too far from the house so we can check on them easily. It's also close to the cattle water, which makes it easier for us to give them lots of fresh water throughout the summer (rather than haul it from the house). And, it has a nice view of the gardens and a hayfield.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Staining the cabin

We have a cabin that Farmer John's Grandpa built. (I should probably call him Farmer Homer - or Farmer Pap.) All the wood is from the farm and lumber was cut with his sawmill. Nobody has ever lived in the cabin for very long, it was mostly used when hunters came to the farm and is now just for storage. The wood was never treated or protected in any way - so earlier this week we stained it.

First Farmer John got to use my second-favorite farm tool - the power washer. He cleaned the porch and railings.

Here's what the porch looked like after the power washing.

Oh, I should have mentioned that we cleared everything off the porch first. You know, things like chairs, tables, a glider and the moose antlers. No West Virginia cabin would be complete without it's moose antlers.

Then all the windows and doors were covered with plastic. That's because we were going to use "Uncle" John's amazing paint sprayer.

The paint sprayer was awesome. Here's Farmer John staining the floor of the porch - which took him oh, about 5 minutes. It was so much better than brushing or rolling all the stain on. The guys kept the sprayer bucket full, moved the hose around and supervised Farmer John whenever he was up on a ladder. This project went so much faster than we anticipated. Now we're thinking about which buildings to paint/stain next. Here's one of the walls after one coat of stain. Sam helped with rolling the stain on all the railings and then trimming around all the doors and windows. (I bet all you teenagers out there wish you could have such an exciting summer vacation!)Here's a before and after - I know it's hard to tell, just believe me that it looks better. Another after picture - this time with Farmhand Dad. I like the warm Cedar color of the cabin now and that it still shows some of the weathering that's happened over the past 26 years. Our next goal will be to run water the cabin and eventually add a bathroom. Until then, it still has the best porch on the farm.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Guest starring...

We've really enjoyed having Mollie's family here for the past few days. They've helped us cross LOTS of tasks off our summer list. Here are some scenes from their visit.

Here's Sam - our IT guy and Cheif Chicken Herder. Sam stayed with us during their trip and is happy to report that he didn't have any supernatural experiences upstairs. (Some people claim the upstairs of the farmhouse is haunted...Sam doesn't buy it.)

Farmhand Mom fed the calf during their trip. She also helped with lots of other odd jobs around the farmhouse.

Farmer John is on the ladder, and "Uncle" John is holding the ladder. He keeps a garden here and helps us with lots of odds and ends - sometimes we just couldn't run this place without him. He also makes lots of tasty jams, jellies, breads, dips, cookies and juice.

Farmhand Dad helped with all kinds of projects while he was here. But, this is my favorite picture. He's in the chicken coop removing some of the nesting boxes. This was taken on his first Monday of retirement!

It takes a lot of time and a lot of hands to keep the farm running. Thanks to all our guest stars for their hard work!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Everyone Can Comment!

We have a special guest post tonight. The Illinois farmhands are here to do some work for us. One of Sam's contributions is working on the blog. Read on for some of his tech-support. Thanks Sam!

Thanks to my masterful computer skillz, ANYONE can post a comment on Mollie's wonderful blog! You no longer need a Google Account or Blogger profile. All you need is a name, and I assume all of you have one of those. When you find a comment-worthy post (which they all are), follow these steps to share your thoughts with Mollie and the rest of this blog's readers.

1. Click on the link at the bottom of the post that says "0 Comments." It tells the number of comments on the post, but as of this writing, most posts have zero comments, unfortunately. How about we change that, eh?
2. The link will take you to a page specifically for that post. Underneath the post, there will be a blank text box, above which it reads "Post a Comment." Do as it says! Type your message in the box.
3. When you are satisfied with your comment, click "Select profile..." It's next to the "Comment as," underneath the message box.
4. Click the option that says "Name/URL." It is the second to the bottom option. Don't worry, you do not need to have a URL (web address) to post a comment.
5. A small window will pop up that says "Edit profile." Type your name in the text box under the heading "Name:".
6. When you are satisfied with the spelling of your name, press the button that says "Continue."
7. Now you have the chance to review and edit your comment one last time before it is published for all the Internet to see! Muah-ha-ha!
8. Finally, click the button that says "Post Comment."
And that's it!

Wasn't that easy? You don't need to set up an account or anything! Welcome to the magic of the World Wide Web!
Now get commenting!

Jennings Brae Bank Farm IT Guy

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Calf Update

The calf has been with us for a week now. We've learned a lot in the past 7 days of caring for her. Our kitchen counter has become the headquarters of all her medical supplies.
Farmer John is getting pretty good with needles and giving penicillin shots. We're also giving her some antibiotics for her eyes. It's actually made for cows with mastitis, but our vet recommended putting it in her eyes. (There was some confusion when the nurse told Farmer John that he had to "inject" it in her eye. But, really she just meant to squirt it in the eye and rub the cream around. So, not a scary as it originally sounded.)

The calf is getting stronger and has more energy than she did when we first got her. The vet said that getting her energy up was the priority, rather than her eyes, so we feel pretty good about the progress made so far.

Also, she knows what to do with that bottle! There's no more fighting to get her to eat. When she hears us come into the barn and her stall she starts sticking her tongue out and licking her lips.

Also, I let her suck my thumb after the bottle.

Her eyes don't seem to be improving at all. But, the vet said we probably wouldn't see any change until we'd used the antibiotics for one or two weeks.

We have our fingers crossed that her health and eyes will continue to improve. So far this has been one of the most interesting experiences we've had on the farm - and we're certainly learning a lot along the way. We'll keep you posted on our new adventure.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Look what came in the mail yesterday!

Farm stickers! They aren't quite as heavy-duty as I thought they'd be, but I still plan on sticking them all over the place. Our vehicles, farm truck, tractor (?), chicken coop (?), etc.

I also think they'll be fun to give away. Want one?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Our Weekend

Let me preface this post with two notes:

1) When I asked Farmer John what he wanted to do this weekend on Thursday night this is what he said "Oh, let's just try to have a relaxing weekend at home. We can do a few farm things, and just hang out." I think he jinxed us!

2) This will not be the most well-written post ever. All we could do was keep a list. Pictures are at the end. Read on!

found new calf (from Butterscotch)
watched as the calf couldn’t stand, and wouldn’t nurse, seemed blind.
cried at the heartbreaking scene of mom and calf, with nothing we could do.
left calf for dead in the woods.
picked up farm truck in Ohio with a rebuilt transmission
mourned for calf

errands in town
sent check to buy our bridge!
Farmer John went to “take care” of the calf
came back to house with news the calf was still alive!
Butterscotch wasn’t around it, so Farmer John brought calf into the house
made frantic calls to the vet
mixed up some colostrum and tried to bottle feed the calf - no luck.
Farmer John left to pick up stock trailer
Mollie got the calf to take the bottle
John got back….went to Tractor Supply after milk replacer
John got back….Vet called….Said we needed more colostrum and penicillin
John went back to Tractor Supply after needed supplies
Mollie thought calf was headed towards the light while John was in town
Got home clumsily injected calf with penicillin got it to eat one more time
Took calf to pen in barn
Ate Dominos and tried to relax
Enjoyed the cool air on the back porch as a midnight thunderstorm rolled in

Got up early
Gave calf the last of the colostrum and another penicillin shot
went back to bed
Breakfast, coffee, checked on calf
Visited with John – who keeps a garden at our place
Tried to get the calf to take another bottle with milk replacer – wouldn’t eat
Washed her eyes with saline solution
Laundry, housecleaning, made Naan
Farmer John worked in garden: weeding, set up drip irrigation, mulched with straw
Discovered Badger had slipped his collar in backyard and was gone
Half-hour of panicked searching – until he came trotting up the hill from the creek.
Farmer John finished mulching garden, Mollie went to town for groceries.
Watered plants, sprayed poison ivy on bridge.
Farmer John mowed lawn and around gardens.
Tried to get the calf to take another bottle with milk replacer – wouldn’t eat
Fretted about the calf not eating while doing other chores
Cut, washed, sorted and bagged lettuce for sale
Weeded and mulched asparagus
Farmer John picked up several cattle panels from our neighbor.
Got clothes off the line
Farmer John took care of cats and chickens
Baked naan, grilled eggplant
Prepared another bottle and penicillin shot
Calf took the bottle! Drank 3 pints, and the shot was the smoothest one yet.
Farmer John made Indian eggplant dip to go with naan and samosas
Showered, did dishes
Ate dinner @ 10:30
Collapsed into bed at 11:00

Here she is! This is where she stayed when she first came in the house.

Close-up of an eye. It doesn't open much at all. We don't yet know what's wrong with her eyes. This was taken shortly after Farmer John left me with a calf in the house! Notice the phone next to her - I was making frantic phone calls. After her first bottle she has some energy and got up to explore the house. I thought it would be a good idea to corral her in Badger's cage. It wasn't.

This is where she took a nap. Then I thought I was losing her! But, I got part of a bottle in her, and then she was up again to explore. She can't see, so spent some time in corners, until I could get her turned around. Back in the kitchen. Bottle before we took her to the barn on Saturday night. In the barn on Sunday - that's a full bottle that she wouldn't drink. Successful feeding on Sunday night!
We fed her again at 5am this morning. She was resting in her stall when I left for work. We'll keep you posted on this new farming adventure!
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