Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Raking Snow

     I have a new farm chore.  When it snows, my chickens refuse to step out of the hen house.  That's sixty chickens dropping their business on a floor that it's my job to keep clean. I want them outside, but when I open the door and they see this they don't think, "Oh what a spectacularly beautiful snowfall."  

They think, "Nope. Not. Going. Outside. Today."
     Sixty chickens hanging out all day in a hen house leads quickly to an excess of fertilizer  Luke thinks of the chickens as Pez dispensers.  He's delighted with every deposit they make.  More food for him. I'm not so happy.  Poo builds up quickly and sticks to my shoes when I gather eggs.  I must either clean the chicken house pronto, or throw another layer of hay on top.
     I am currently throwing another layer of hay on top, delaying the torture of cleaning until warmer weather or Scott comes home.  We are almost 8 inches deep in hay and compost now and I'm hoping it will start to heat as it decomposes. Then at least the chickens will stay warmer.

     But for now, I want the girls to go outside. That's where my rake comes in. I have discovered that if they can see just the tiniest bit of a path then they will step out.

     So I grab my rake and start making paths.  One path leads down to the creek so they'll go there for water.  That's a five gallon bucket less for me to tote.  Another path leads to the back side of the shed, which will often heat up enough to melt off a little bare spot.  I call it the Rooster Riviera.

The chickens like to sunbathe there, and the rooster struts about picking up chicks. Lacking a tiny bathing suit he substitutes a deft display of neck feathers.

The rest of the hens head over to the bare spot under the truck.  They can scratch a little, make dust baths and stay out of the view of the hawk who patrols the sky.

Satisfied that I've avoided adding another deposit of hay to the coop, I head back to my house. The hens hang outside for another fifteen minutes and then make their way back to the hen house.  It's warmer in there.Their deposits are decomposing.  Time to go make some more.

In spite of my efforts to avoid it, I guess I'll be making a fresh deposit of my own tomorrow. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Trip to the Woodshed

     My husband had a conversation with a newcomer to the mountains the other day.  The newcomer was commenting on the beauty of the place and how his wife loved her view.  Since they were looking at chainsaws, the talk soon turned to cutting wood for the winter.  The newcomer shared the enormous amount of wood he'd already cut and then said, "but my wife gave me specific directions about where the pile could be.  She didn't want it to block her view, so I've put it behind an outbuilding."  Joe then said to him, "Yes, my wife felt the same way when she first moved here.  Two winters of hauling wood cured her of that notion."  He's right.  Here's my woodshed.

It's pretty far from my house, but in good weather I don't mind rolling the wheelbarrow out there to bring in a load.  It's good exercise and the driveway makes it an easy trip.   But in snow, the wheelbarrow doesn't roll as well.  That's when I'm grateful for this stack.

As you can see, it's right beside the house; an easy distance to tote. 

I'm fairly certain the newcomer's wife will one day appreciate a stack by the door, too.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Neither Rain nor Sleet nor Misery....

     Farmers are superheros.  Illness doesn’t stop them.  There are no sick days when the cattle are standing out in the weather and the only thing that keeps them warm is a constant meal of hay.  There is no one to call when a farmer feels just like the piles of crap dotting the fields where he must, with a fever of a hundred and one, go out and throw hay off the truck in the cold rain.
     This is a short post because I just wanted to give a shout out to my husband and sons, who do what needs to be done even when the doing is pure misery.  I am proud to be a farmer’s wife and the mother of two more.  My men have the kind of grit it took to settle the wilds of America.  They have the kind of determination and stubbornness that gets the job done, personal discomfort be damned. 

I hope the animals appreciate them as much as I do. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Grass is Just as Brown...

      I wish that someone would tell those rascally calves.  I know that they are young, so they don’t have much experience to go on, but it’s winter.  The grass on the other side of the fence is just as brown as the grass on their side.  It doesn’t matter.  They keep busting out anyway. 
     My husband and I have chased these two calves down the edges of the road, to an open gate, at least ten times in the last four days.  In the pasture, where the rest of their friends seem content to hang out, they have access to fresh hay and to calf pellets, delivered daily.  There is a fine source of fresh water, so they are not thirsty.  But, still these two roam and we can’t figure out their escape route or their reasons for escape.
     It happened again this morning.  The phone rang just as the sun came up.  “Your two calves are in the road again,” a neighbor said.  We pulled on clothes, coats and boots and fired up the truck.  A mile away the calves trotted into a neighbor’s front yard and put down their heads to graze on dead grass.  It must taste better than the dead grass on their side of the fence.  It must.  Otherwise, why would they insist on escape?
     The calves have gotten used to our herding them back down the road.  They aren’t scared of us anymore.  They sashay, stopping to grab another bite of dead grass.  They halt and consider the clouds racing across the sky. They pause to ponder, they stop to stare.  Finally, they trot back through the gate and Joe and I walk the fence-line once again, looking for gaps.  He hammers in a few loose staples and we study the grass looking for signs of escape.  We should see footprints or bent grass, but we don’t so we go back to the house.
     I have just placed a couple of pieces of bacon in the pan and turned up the heat when the phone rings.  “Your calves are out in the road again,” the caller reports.
     I have come to the conclusion that these calves are going through puberty. They are seeking to assert their independence.  I’ve read that in Rio de Janeiro adolescent boys, and some girls, get their kicks by hopping on to the tops of speeding trains as they roll down the track.  These thrill seekers stand, with arms outstretched- surfing, as the trains rumble down the mountain.  Despite the fact that over 600 kids a year are killed or severely injured riding the rails this way, the young Brazilians continue to flirt with danger.
     When I chase the calves down the road, back to the safety of their paddock, they exhibit this same “devil-may-care” attitude.  They are not afraid of failure.  My only consolation as I once again corral my boisterous beeves is the fact that my four-legged adolescents aren’t surfing the tops of trains for thrills.  Maybe I can train them to hop on top of cattle trucks as they lumber by.  
     Then they could get their adrenaline fix and I wouldn’t have to pay to get them to market.