Monday, November 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What I Did For Indian Summer

Sunny and warm, 72
Seems like the amount of rain we got during the year has been matched lately by a string of dry weather. It's getting downright dusty around here, but that's not altogether a bad thing. It's allowing the corn and soybeans to dry well and farmers are not having to rush and try to squeeze harvest in between bad weather. Better for the soil, too.
I'm enjoying this perfect Indian Summer weather, it certainly isn't responsible for holding me back from getting things done. I can only blame myself for that!
Over the past few days, I or we have put the bottom ring back on the grain bin and moved it over behind the pump house, moved the grain drill out of the pasture, but need to replace one tire on it. Flipped the pig hut back over so I can fix it backup and make it ready for habitation. Picked up a bunch of fence posts and mowed some of the pasture. Went to the feed mill and to Farm N Fleet, what farm break is complete without a trip there? We've been harvesting most of the garden, including all of our pumpkins, yay! We also harvested the bird house gourds, and some real big beans that have wild, splashy colors.
I went to town and got about two yards of mulch. Our friend Jason came over and helped put a lot of the mulch on the perennial garden, and we also did a lot of end-of-year weeding and trimming in our borders, then put lots of mulch on them as well.
I've also been spending a good bit of time working in the stone barn, building new quarters for the Berk gilts that will be here at the end of this week. I've pulled out wall coverings, swept, scraped, dug, pulled out stanchions, removed wheelbarrow loads of gunk, and have tuck pointed the walls, set posts, and poured about 3 yards of concrete in there, and I'm not even half way through in there. Plenty more work ahead in there. Coming up- putting up a hoop barn!

Friday, October 1, 2010

I wish the weather was always like this!

Mostly sunny, 68 degrees
More beautiful weather here on the farm.
Had the last few days off. Been working on getting the yard into shape for Fall -picking up walnuts, walnuts, walnuts!!! Mowing ,weeding. Went and got a big load of free mulch from the local municipal yard to go on the borders, flowerbeds, and the perennial garden.
Smoked up a pork shoulder on the Weber Smoky Mountain (WSM) yesterday for a delicious pulled pork. I served it with a thick, slightly sweet and spicy St. Louis style sauce on the side. Wow, soo good! Karen made a batch of scalloped potatoes from our own home grown yukon gold potatoes, kale from the garden, and an apple crisp for dessert.

That shoulder came from one of our crossbred feeder hogs. It developed a nice 'bark'in the WSM and also a nice smoke ring, which is that pink ring around the outer layer, caused by slow smoking. It's the mark of meat smoked just right.
We sure do eat well!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cloudy, Very Windy, 68
Decided I'd try to post an image from the vantage point of our living room window every few days to show the progression of Fall here. This picture and the one from the last blog look pretty similar. That won't last too long, unfortunately. Watch the seasons change with us!

Been making some progress on cleaning out the side of the barn that will house our breeding pair of gilts. Karen says I have been obsessed with pigs lately. It's true I have been studying all about proper feeding and breeding techniques, farrowing, choosing sires, etc. Anyway, I have been dreaming about pigs, and find myself thinking I might like becoming a pig hoarder(!) LOL. Good timing on getting some breeding stock I guess.

Finished up the corral, at least got it done to the point that it will function as needed to load the cows out. They were watching me string up the electric portion, and started mooing to me that they wanted me to let them in the new place. So as soon as I finished up, or so I thought, I opened the gate. I had assumed

they would very slowly and carefully enter the new walkway that leads to the corral. No. It was windy today, and they were feeling extra spunky. they raced past me, kicking and bucking, barn. Oops!!! I forgot to close the barn door first! I managed to scoot past them and close it before any bull-in-china-shop incidents.
All of them but one seemed to really enjoy the new digs. This guy just stood on the hill and mooed. He just didn't trust it.
the others snacked on hay and corn we put in there for them, and Karen came out and even tried to feed them out of her hand.
Placed an ad to sell them today, so their days here are drawing to an end.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Sunny, 74 degrees
We've been blessed with more nice weather. Very little rain, which is just fine. The leaves are just beginning to turn, some have begun to fall from the trees. When I sit next to the west living room window, I can hear the occassional thud of giant black walnuts hitting the ground. It sounds like far off gunshots.
The other night, we were in the house after dark watching tv (!), but I heard something outside. So we turned off the sound, and heard lots of gunfire. I quickly realized it was fireworks! So Karen and I walked to the top of our hill, leaned against the tractor, and had a great thrill watching the surprise show practically in our own back yard! We remembered that one of the local bars had a big shindig that night to commemorate September 11th, I guess. The fireworks themselves were fantastic. Cool!

Been working on cleaning up the barn and hanging gates. Got the gates on, just need to finish up with the rest of the enclosure for the corral area. As far as cleaning up the inside of the barn goes ('before' picture was posted last week), we've made some good progress there. Got most of the big 'stuff' moved out, several loads of straw taken out, and I managed to remove most of the stanchions. We are going to leave the mangers intact, to see if we can utilize them in feeding sows. Once sows are up to their full size/weight, they need to be monitored and fed individually according to whether they need more or less feed, to keep them in the best condition. But those mangers need some real cleaning out, they've had decades of neglect and crap thrown in them.

This morning after chores I got the pigs moved outside to the piggie palace. Getting them from point A to point B can be accomplished one of two ways: either put them in the trailer and drop them off at the new pen, or build a makeshift chute and run them out there. I opted for option A as more of a sure thing. We have had our fair share of piggies going right under/over/through what we thought was a pretty sturdy makeshift chute. It took me a couple hours to get the pen ready. Needed to go through and pull all the grass and weeds that had grown against the electric wire, put down fresh straw in the hoop house, rearrange and secure the tarp, go get the water barrel and fill it, get the trailer hitched, then set up gates from their pen to the trailer. THEN, get the piggies to get ON the trailer! This took quite a while, even after Karen came out to help with chocolate cake as an enticement. These pigs sure aren't as easy as Berks!

Got the hoop barn ordered this week, it should arrive in about 4 weeks! Woo hoo, it'll be just in time for the change in seasons! Also been getting lumber lists and quotes from neighbors, etc. on the foundation work. It's both exciting and scary. I'm nervous that of course there will be last minute changes or details that I haven't thoguht of, and it will hold up or even mess up the progress of getting the new barn up. Well, I tell myself that no matter what, having a new barn up, even if it isn't perfect in every way, will be a huge improvement over the facilities I am trying to work with now! So I'll just do what I can and hope for the best!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Finally Some Beautiful Weather

Light Rain, 64 degrees

Early Fall has arrived and we have welcomed it with open arms. The constant heat was finally replaced with much more moderate and bearable temps about a week ago. At the same time, we finally got some dry weather which meant better for working outside, weeding the garden, mowing the lawn, the corn and beans in the fields are drying down nicely, etc.

Karen reminded me the other day that when we first met,it was on one of these types of days I told her "these kinds of days make people think it would be great to be a farmer." I keep forgetting I said that. The inverse, of course, is also true. When the weather is harsh I guess people either feel sorry for us or they think we are crazy.

The leaves around us are mostly still green and on the trees, but the black walnut trees in our front yard have been dropping their bumper crop of tennnis ball sized bombs all over our lawn and driveway. Birk and I have gone out and picked them up a few times, but looking up yesterday I realized we will have many more hours of walnut picking ahead. We haven't gotten around to actually using them for anything, I wind up throwing them in our campfire circle.

Yesterday was a pretty productive day for me. It was a gorgeous day-sunny, breezy, mid to upper 70's. Just so nice, a beautiful day to get to spend outside getting things done. My morning chores consist of cleaning out the pig pen (the newer pigs we got are in the barn until we get them vaccinated for piggy viruses, then they can go outside), and setting up a new paddock and moving the cows.

After that, I drove to the feed mill and chatted up the old guy that makes the deliveries in my area. Came home with 500lbs. of feed for the pigs, and 200lbs. cracked corn for the cows (putting a little bit of fill on them now as we are getting ready to sell them). After I unloaded that into the barn, I went back to work on the corral.

The corral is essentially going to be a fenced in area between our three out buildings that will be a secure holding area for cattle (or pigs). I'm pretty sure that there was something similar here many years ago, but any remnants of a fence there are gone now. It is another infrastructure project that needs doing now.

Other big projects that are on the to-do list include cleaning out the "chicken" side of the stone barn and making it pig worthy. This will be apretty big project, actually. Need to remove old cow stanchions, put up wall coverings and insulate, insulate, insulate.
This also means probable decisions and more work on the coop in the polebarn. One thing leads to another!

The big hoop barn project has taken it's first real steps, and I've been getting quotes from guys for the labor on the project, which will include trenching water and electriclines, and excavating and levelling thesite, pouring a concrete pad, and then setting posts, building the wall it will sit on, and then finally putting up the rafters and stretching the canvas over it. I'm hoping to be able to move in in about 4 weeks from now. This will give us lots more options for pigs here. And some covered equipment storage!

Spent a few hours mowing the lawn. Ran over and chopped up one of the garden hoses :(
Spent some time working on the proposed location for the corners of the hoop barn. After a delicious dinner ofburgers on the grill, Karen joined me in the barn for the tag-team event of vaccinating hundred pound feeder pigs! It was afun way forusto round out a weekend evening. Not as fun for the pigs. And they didn't get a sucker, either, but they did get a bowl of kale. Next time you have to take your kid in for their shots and they start crying, you could point out that at least they are not getting kale for a reward. A good lesson in the rule of relativity.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rest In Peace

They say every livestock farmer eventually has a loss or losses. I've been very lucky so far, having never lost anything bigger than a chicken. Even losing Frances the hen was pretty hard on our family.
But the school of hard knocks has been in session around here lately, replete with what must be a nun bearing a yardstick. Let me explain.
About a month ago, I noticed one of my beloved Berk piggies started limping. They were outside in the piggie palace, and they liked to sleep in a big pile so I figured maybe she got stepped on by another pig, or twisted something during one of their frequent racing matches. The next day, another one was limping a bit, too. Well, that was strange. The next day, a third was limping. This sent me to the internet, the phone, and email, wondering what on earth was going on.
Long story short, I got lots of different opinions, lots of differing thoughts on what to do. The vet said here, try this. I gave the three pigs a dose of medicine, but it didn't seem to make much difference. Things seemed to level off, and though a few of them continued to have a bit of a gimp, they otherwise seemed totally normal. Then about a week ago, my favorite pig Tiny just went down. Her hind legs stopped working. We brought her bowls of milk mixed with probiotics, mineral and vitamin supplements, and aspirin for any pain and inflammation. She drank it down readily. We kept this up for days, and she seemed otherwise totally normal, with a very good appetite, normal pee and poop, and she had no temperature. Another call to the vet. We tried a couple different antibiotics on her which made no change.

She was in a group of pigs that are just days away from their date with the butcher. I knew if she was down like this, they wouldn't accept her at the butcher (nor would I even think of trying to force an animal in this kind of condition off of a trailer and into a slaughter facility). I knew if she didn't have some kind of miraculous recovery, I would have to put her down myself. I dreaded it. I've shot animals for humane reasons before, even a big boar once. But this was my little Tiny One, she was special to me. As the littlest in the group of Berk weaners we got last Spring, Tiny stood apart from the rest. She had a very broad white splash on her face, and her ears were especially large, giving her a cute, clownish appearance. Her personality was totally endearing. Being the smallest, she knew she couldn't win any push and shove battles, so she would occupy herself doing other things while her mates were squabbling over anything (food, water, the best spot, you name it, pigs are very competitive). When the rush was over, she would quietly yet confidently walk up and get her share. But perhaps the best thing about Tiny was how she knew me and recognized me at a distance. Every day as I approached their pen or paddock, Tiny was always the first to see me coming off in the distance, and she would literally come flying toward me, giant ears flapping, smile on her face. I would call out to her, and once inside with them, Tiny would insist on a good rub. She would press her side against my legs and grunt happily. She loved a good scratching and rub behind the ears, but rubbing her belly literally made her go weak in the knees. As I rubbed her tummy, she would collapse onto her side, usually on top of my feet, grunting her approval, encouraging me to rub more and more. I could hear her saying "Oh, yeah, that's it right there...." She would have liked it if I never stopped. This, I'm sure is the reason for her very gleeful greetings.

Tiny also had a way of spinning and tossing her head under a water shower that made me sing Tina Turners' song Tiny Dancer to her when I was hosing the pigs down. She won a space in all our hearts. Karen often asked if we could keep her as a pet.
So the thought of having to shoot my little Tiny Dancer made me sick, and I kept putting the thought out of my mind. I did know, though, that I would have to do it at some point.

The bigger problem of course, was that I have been vexed by what this strange lameness thing really was. Was it a bug, a feed deficiency, something on our farm? Most importantly, what can I do to prevent this from ever happening to another pig (if indeed, it's possible). So I had decided that I would have a necropsy (animal autopsy) done on Tiny in order to get some answers.

Yesterday, after doing chores with the new smaller pigs, I went to the Berk's pens with a bowl of treats from the garden. I saw Tiny lying up against the fence. When I called to her, she didn't move. I knew she was gone. Dear, sweet Tiny had spared me having to kill her. So it's been a mixture of sadness at her loss, and gratitude that I didn't have to do the deed.

Tonight the vet came out, looked over the pigs, and did the necropsy on Tiny. Though we won't have the results of the samples for while, the vet is pretty certain this was something called mycoplasma arthritis. Having read up on this as one of the possibilities, and talking with the vet about it, I was reassured a bit, and of course a bit concerned, too. Good news is this not something that affects meat quality at all, it doesn't exist in the environment so it won't necessarily be a problem for us forever. He said pigs get it from direct contact with pigs that already carry it. I won't necessarily ever see it again. If a sow has had it and recovered, she can pass immunity on to her offspring, though there is no vaccine for it at this point. Symptomatic pigs can be treated with antibiotics that target the joints. We don't just give antibiotics lightly here, but neither will I withold medicine from an animal that needs it for health and humane reasons. Our ultimate goal is to avoid the need for them in the first place.

The other good news is that everything else on Tiny looked very good. Her liver was perfect with no blemishes, and no signs of any parasites.
So tonight as I head to bed, I am very sad to have lost a sweet pig, but I'm also very grateful that at the same time she helped me figure this dilemma out.

Thank you, Tiny. I will always remember you.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Partly sunny, 79
Moved the cows and pigs last night, into adjacent paddocks. I've been surprised to note that though I planted the Dwarf Essex Rape mostly for the pigs, they have mostly ignored it. Instead, the cows have gone crazy for it. In fact, at first after I got the cows, they went straight for the stuff and I had a hard time keeping them off of it before it was tall enough to graze. Now I am letting them have at it, and they love it.

The garden is really producing lots right now, especially melons (all at once, of course!) and tomatoes. Karen has been busy as a beaver working in the kitchen and garden, trying to get stuff put up. with all the rain, some of our melons are bursting while they are still on the vine. Sad for us, great for the pigs!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

79 Degrees, breezy
The weather today is such a welcome relief. All creatures on Prairie Fire Farm appreciate a warm, not hot and breezy day.

I wanted to mention another issue happening here on the farm. Our bats seem to be dying in large numbers, and we have no idea what is the cause. We haven't sprayed anything, nor changed anything except put up some hay in the barn. Like every good old structure, we have had a resident population of bats here. We welcome them for the bug eating service they perform!

But this year, starting back in about June, we started running across dead bats on the ground. The first bat or two, we didn't think too much of it. Then we started noticing that we were finding as many as 3 or 4 in a week. One near the garage, several under an ash tree, one in the barn, more just in different places on the lawn. Many of these dead bats were really dried out, which seemed odd. Dessicated like they had been dead a long time, but we are pretty sure we found them within 24-48 hours since we regularly walk by, etc.

We have made calls to our local bat conserve folks and the DNR, but haven't heard much back that is at all helpful. DNR suggested in a letter it may be heat related, but I am a little skeptical of that. It always gets hot in Wisconsin in summer, and if it were the heat, wouldn't everyone be seeing these bats dying everywhere? I am very in touch with local bat calls, so I have a very good idea about whether this is going on in other places. I know of one other place - a house in Madison - that is seeing extraordianary die-off. Karen has been corresponding with the DNR, and we would love to help out with becoming part of a monitoring program.

The world's bats perform such a very vital function on our planet. Imagine the devastation caused by a million-fold increase in the number of insect pests. More pesticide use, which poisons more insect-eating animals causing a horrible destructive spiral is one very ominous and obvious result. Here is a link to a short article outlining a crisis in bat health across the country:

This issue has us very concerned. This is real, and it is a wake-up call that the scales of nature are getting really unbalanced.

Here is a link to a local bat conservation group, they have LOTS of great info on their website about how to set up bat houses, what to do with bats in the house, identification of bats, etc.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

Hot, Humid, 90 degrees 68% humidity.

The weather and mosquitoes are taking top billing at any place a few locals are chatting. We have been enduring a very long, very warm spell. Looking back, I see it's been quite hot around here since at least June. Many years when we get real lots of heat, we are also dry, but not this year. In step with the last several years, this year has been much wetter than normal. Beginning to wonder if 'normal' will ever happen again. I have noticed many days lately that we are hotter than San Antonio. We have been getting hit with monsoon-like rains. Between severe rains, we get less severe rains, but almost every single week this Summer, it has rained at least twice. As of about three weeks ago, we were 7 inches above normal for the year, and we have gotten plenty more since then. So all this moisture means we are inundated with mosquitoes as well. They are crazy thick this year. Karen and I have actually had to retreat back into the house on several occasions, despite mosquito blocker clothing and full on DEET. I don't remember ever hoping for an early frost so much! It also means the lawn is acting like it's on steroids. I simply can not keep up with the growth of the lawn this Summer. Seriously, it could use a cutting at least three times a week. Even if I had the time to mow three times a week, we are lucky to find one afternoon when the grass dries adequately to be cut. I'm telling you my grass is growing at a rate of at least a half inch a day!! Insanity.

There is a silver lining to this, however. This great grass growing weather also is great for growing pasture! Honestly, I need more cattle to keep up. The 8 calves and the pigs I have should have been about right for a normal year. But in these conditions, I believe I could stock at least double that amount right now and be just fine. Of course, the trick is being able to predict the future. Since I have no idea when or if the water works might shut down, it's hard to justify getting more cattle at this point in the year. We have maybe two more months of growing left, not enough time to put enough weight on a stocker calf to make it worth it.

We took the biggest three Berks to the processor a couple of weeks ago, so now we are down to 5. We had brought them back up to Piggie Palace for when we were on vacation (much simpler and more secure for non-swineherding farm sitters!)and then we let them enjoy the shade there for the worst of the heat. We did move them back out on to pasture last week. They are managing the heat just fine out there. Of course we provide them with plenty of water both for drinking and wallowing. There have been a few days when I have spied their armor of wet mud, and I tell you, it does look almost invitingly cool and mosquito proof! Four of the remaining 5 have an appointment to be finished in September. This time, we are keeping one back for breeding! We've been planning on taking the big leap from buying our feeder pigs to farrowing/raising our own litters. We will start with 2 or 3 gilts (females that have not yet had a litter). A female pig can have two litters a year. It takes approximately 6 months from birth to finish a feeder pig @ 250 lbs. You never know how many piglets your gilt will have, but we are hoping for an average of 8 weaned per litter.

SO....doing the math.....that means that if we get three gilts bred in October, they will farrow in three months, three weeks, and three days (February). If we get 8 from each litter, that's 24 piglets. Common advice says we may lose a few along the way. So we hope to have maybe 20(?) pigs to finish exactly one year from now. of course, our numbers may be way off, one never knows how many live pigs they will have. I spoke to my Berk guy today and even though he is more experienced than I will ever be, he had a sow have 10 pigs last night, but only 5 were born alive. Stuff happens. I know that sort of thing is going to be pretty hard for both Karen and I, and frankly it's been a deterrent to taking the breeding leap. But our pork business is growing, we'd like to have more control of our genetics, and it really is time. So we'll just have to learn to be good midwives. Good thing Karen is one of the best there is ;)

We planned to buy all the gilts at once from the Berk man. But one of this current batch of pigs is just a really nice looking gilt. Big Girl, as her name implies, has shown herself to be made of great swine stock. To my untrained eye, she looked pretty good - long, rectangular, good shoulders and hams, good underline. Then we had a swine consultant come out to help us figure out how to expand our pork business, and she really liked these Berks, and confirmed my opinion of Big Girl. Now, our pig farmer has a couple litter mates to Big Girl saved, as well as some other nice gilts from other litters to choose from in September. So it feels good that I'm going to be using one gilt that I raised myself, and it will be neat to see how she looks compared to her sisters. I've arranged to go down with the trailer in September and pick out the basis of our breeding stock, and bring them home to give them a chance to all get to work out pecking order, etc. before they get bred.

Our consultant recommended that we get a boar simply because it is easier to get the girls bred. But we feel like it doesn't quite make financial sense to buy, keep and feed a boar for only 2 or 3 gilts. So we are going to try our hand at AI. Stay tuned!

In the meantime before our future piglets are ready, we will be short on pigs! Our Berk guy doesn't have any feeder pigs available now, so we will be getting a batch of crossbred pigs from our original pig man. He happened to call just as we were wondering where we were going to get more piggies. We know his pigs are healthy and good growers. These pigs should finish around the first part of December.

I don't know if I've mentioned this in here before, but a long-term goal of ours has been to put up a hoop barn for the pigs. A hoop barn can be deep-bedded, Swedish style for comfort and well-being of the pigs year-round. I don't know if we'll need it year round, but we definitely will love it during Spring, Winter, and Fall... I'm also hoping to be able to use one end of it for parking my tractor out of the snow. We are hoping to get this project underway soon, and we hope to have a hoop barn up before the snow flies. I have done as much reading up on these types of barns as a person can do, I needed to talk to some real folks who have used them. In the last two days, I have talked to three different farmers in my county with them, and it was very encouraging. They all love their hoops, and would build another. All of their hoops have stood for over ten years, and have held under our 100" snowfall years recently, so I'm convinced they are a good investment.
To the right is an example of a hoop barn.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hot and Muggy, 83 degrees
Things continue to move at warp speed around here. So much going on, it's hard to find the time to sitdown and write about it. Seems like I barely get to come in the door at 9:30 pm after doing chores and projects and it's time to go to bed so I can get up and do more the next day!
Last weekend,for Solstice, Birk got to visit with her aunt Shoshana while Karen and I got a little grownup time in with dear friends at their place up north. The weather cooperated, the pontoon boats did NOT break down(!) and Coach and I won at Freestyle Bocci Ball. 'Nuff said about that! Dottie enjoyed swimming in the lake where Mich taught her to swim! Here she is retrieving a swimming 'noodle' Thanks to our farmhand and friend Jason for watching over the place so we could get away for a weekend.

The pigs are doing very well. They did as they were told, and they rooted up the sparse, dry southeast corner of our pasture really well. I moved them off of there, and then I planted forage turnips, or rape. Planted it last Thursday, and it was coming up just great by Monday. Looks like that old Deere drill I got will do the trick pretty okay. Though I do need to adjust it better to try and get it down to only 10 lbs per acre, it dropped about twice that in the space I planted. I'll need to tinker with it more, but honestly, I'm pretty proud of taking a 50 year old piece of fairly complicated machinery (lots of gears, grease fittings, springs, coils, and cups, etc) and making it work. I could easily have spent ten times what I spent on this grain drill. So a few extra seeds in the ground are an acceptable margin for experimentation. Besides, these turnips are going to be grazed by livestock, not harvested by machine or anything. Their mere presence on my sandy hillside is good for the soil. I disced the hill to smooth it out after the pigs and to incorporate their manure, then planted.
However, they continue to really root up some very nice, beautiful soils and pasture. It's not very cost effective or rational to allow them to continue to turn lush alfalfa and clover into mud. There are two alternatives: take them off the pasture, or put rings in their noses. I think the rings are inhumane, I know the pigs don't like them. It makes it painful for the pig to root with it's snout. There is nothing more natural and instinctive to a pig than to root, and to turn that in to a source of pain for the animal seems very cruel to me. I have a very nice alternative for them, the piggie palace, so that is where they are headed during the next pasture rotation. Eventually, we will build a hoop barn for them.
And now, for the big farm news of the week! First though, I'll give a bit of background. In a previous post,I mentioned how we had over 300 bales of hay made from our pasture. Those are now safely stored in the mow of the barn. I don't have any cattle yet to eat the hay, and I'm thinking this hay will be for pigs and possibly one or two larger cows if we get some later in they ear. But the rain hasbeen generous to us this Summer,and my pasture is now again nearly waist high in most places. I'd rather get some feeder cattle in here to graze the alfalfa down, accomplishing two things - avoiding making hay(and the expense of that),and adding value to the standing alfalfa by turing it into beef on the hoof. If I buy cattle now, and graze them on all that hay,they should gain nicely andI'll have heavier calves to sell in the Fall.
I still may decide to make hay out of some of the pasture, but this way I have alternatives. So, that being said, I'm very delighted to say that I am back in the cattle business! I found some calves on Craigslist, and they were dropped off the day we got back from vacation. They are nice, healthy looking calves, most are about6months old. They are a mix of dairy breeds, mostly steers. Dairy breeds are plentiful in Wisconsin, that's for sure, and they sure make for a colorful herd, don't they? That little Jersey steer is simply precious. Almost makes ya wanna bring him in the house and make a pet out of him!

Ain't they cute???
I can't tell you how sweet it was to hear a little 'moo' and smell cows in my field again. It's just so good. And already they've provided us with a little 'entertainment'! Last night(their first night here) we had a big thunderstorm, including of course lots of thunder and lightning. I went out this morning to check on them, and couldn't see them. Not anywhere. Knowing from past experience that even large cows have an amazing knackfor "disappearing' in plain sight,such as in a very slight valley, etc., I didn't panic as I walked through our pasture. But finally, I had to concede that though I had checked nearly every where in our little pasture, they were GONE. I went in to the house to ask Karen to come out and help me look inside our fences one last time before I started to actually freak out. In my everyday job, the times I get called out to help locate or corral loose livestock is always under two circumstances:either they just got moved,or a bad storm panicked them and they stampeeded. And I had both happen at once. Oh, boy. We went toward the one corner I hadn't thoroughly inspected, and sure enough, as we approached, we saw some ears twitching behind the brush pile. There they were! Wheew! I now know that if last night didn'trun them off, they are here to stay. That makes me sleep good at night.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pigs Can Be Rotated

Overcast, 85 and muggy
Finally have a few minutes to write again. I wish I had pictures to go with these last few posts, but the danged digital is broke again. Sigh.
Last weekend I got the pigs moved to the next spot in the pasture. It is essentially about an acre away from where they were, down in the southeast corner. I wanted to move them there next, since that is our most sparse ground at the moment. Since it's not growing much forage, I want to try planting some forage turnips there. This is a big deal for me, as this will actually be the very first time I've ever actually tilled ground or planted anything - like a real farmer! LOL The turnips are a good choice for pigs. They grow very well during the slump in summer growth of other pasture grasses and clovers, and they are an excellent source of nutrition, next to alfalfa. The pigs will be allowed to graze the tops of the turnips, which will grow back if allowed a break from being grazed. Cattle can eat them as well.
So the pigs are out there now, helping to prepare the soil. And I must say,they are doing a fine job of it. Eating the weeds: I watched them tonight as they were really seeking out a common pasture 'weed', White Campion. They carefully sought out each stem of the plant, then they dug below it with their snouts and pulled out the taproots and munched them up. I'm guessing there are some good minerals or carbs in those roots. Or both. I am also really pleased with the distribution of manure in this paddock. Pigs tend to designate a bathroom area,and are known to often concentrate their dunging in a specific area. But they are not doing that on this paddock,the manure is pretty well evenly distributed out there. I think this is because I have moved their furniture three times now (shelter, feeder,and waterer) within the week. This keeps their rooting at a shallow level, and distributed in different spots (again,to bring up rocks,loosen the soil in preparation for planting). This ill make it easier on the tractor when I am ready to work the soil with the disc and then plant.
I have been told that it is hard to move pigs compared to cattle. Pigs like their home base, and want to go back to it. Plus,they dont like to cross a line where there had been electric. They can't see well,but they remember, and are hesitant to test it.
Since this is my first time actually trying to rotate pigs on pasture, I came up with my own ideas and thought I'd try them even if other guys said it didn't work very well.
First, I created their shelter and waterer as one unit,and made it mobile. I bought a heavy duty flat wagon, which is big enough to serve as their shelter and shade. It is more than adequate for the warm months. I put a 500 gallon water tank on top of it. This will be the resevoir I fill their drinker from. All I have to do to move them is to hook the tractor up to the wagon, put their feeder in the tractor bucket, and go.
So last week was my first trial run, and I knew it would be agood test. I was not just moving the whole herd of pigs to an adjacent area, I wanted to take them half way across our pasture,i nto a whole new world as far as they were concerned!
I got everything ready to move, and I removed the existing electric fence netting that had been holding them in. Note: turn fence offf irst!
The next thing was to simply start out fort he next paddock (which I had already put up, ofcourse, except for the section I wouldd rive in through. Like I said, pigs don't want to cross electric lines. Neither do cows or farmers,for that matter.) Making sure there were no pigs in the path of the tractor or the wagon wheels,I creeped outof there in low gear, calling the pigs. I slowly ventured out into the big open space of the Back Four, still calling them. Next Note: this is where it really, really pays to have tame, handled pigs! The pigs thought this was one of the best things ever! They followed right along behind the wagon,which remember,is their shelter. So me and 6 little black and white piggies slowly made our way throught he clover field. Two pigs stayed back for a while, worried about crossing the line. But finally, even they mustered upt he courage and came running to catch up with their herd. I steered into their new paddock, and set up the wagon, unhitching it from the tractor. The pigs had taken a bit of a detour and were sampling forages along the way. No bigdeal, I expected that. It gave me time to get everything set up in their new space for them. I drove the tractor out,and then I pulled out the treats - a whole case of organic milk and buttermilk from the co-op! I filled their treat bowls, called them once, and they came stampeding in. While they sipped their delicious dairy treat, I simply closed off the open gate, and the pigs were now moved into a whole new paddock. It took less than 20 minutes. Like I said, since they have been in this particualr paddock,I have moved the wagon within it 3 times,to get them used to being moved,and to keep their digging shallow and distributed vs. deep and in one place. So far so good.
I've been working on the half-century-old grain drill I got about a month ago. Cleaning it, greasing it,replacing feed tubes, fixing it up in anticipation of using it to plant the turnip seeds. I hope it does what it's supposed to. As I was scraping away a ton of grime and trying to locating grease fittings, I remembered the other peice of old John Deere machinery I owned at one time. It was a manure spreader,bought at auction. That thing was a consternation, always breaking down, and I hoped this drill would not also bring me frustration. Oh well, I didn't pay more for it than the scrap price,so if it's a bust I can always drag it to the scrap yard.
The hayfield is growing back really well as we've been getting rain and sunshine both. Our barn mow is pretty full, so I want to get some cattle to put out there and harvest the forage before it gets out of hand. It will be easier to let some cows eat the grass,and add value to the grass through them, then sell them in the fall when the pasture is done, and hopefully make a few bucks at it. Plus they will fertilize while they eat. A lot easier and more entertaining than filling the barn with hay!
Someday we'll have a proper beef herd, but for now, I need some ruminant mouths, and I'm not going to be too picky. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hay and Air Lock

Rainy and cool, 72
To update on the first cutting of hay, it did get rained on the next day. We didn't get as much rain as some neighbors, though. In all, we got three big bale wagons full of hay off of our 5 acres, over 300 bales. Karen, Jason and I had the job of unloading all those bales and stacking them in the barn mow. It took us two evenings, but now the barn is so full of hay I need to add some supports under the joists! Some of them have started cracking under the weight.

We sure have been busy these days. It's hard to remember everything that has gone on. A few days ago I finally got around to fixing a little problem on my tractor, and wound up with a much bigger problem. The gasket on one of my fuel filters was a little twisted, so a small fuel leak had developed there. So I finally got around to fixing that. Took it off, set the gasket, replaced the filter, and the tractor refused to run. Somehow I had managed to introduce air into the fuel line. Must not have bled the vent properly when I was done. I monkeyed around with the tractor several times over days. I cracked the injector lines open while I cranked the engine, no change. I removed the fuel supply line to check for crud in the line, it poured out in a stong stream, mostly on my boot. I dropped not one, but two tools into the bucket full of spent fuel I had below the filters to catch draining fuel,and had to fish them out. I spent a lot of time covered in diesel. Diesel is oily and slippery. I dropped one of the glass sediment bowls and cracked it. My last gasp effort was to finally try replacing both fuel filters with new ones, and of course replace the broken sediment bowl. If that didn't work, I'd have to call in reinforcements. I finally got to replace the filters the other night as the sun went down. It was quite dark when I finished, so I re-opened the fuel line from the gas tank, and let her fill up. I let it sit at least 24 hours to ensure maximum fuel re-fill. And that did the trick! I sure was happy today when I got her to start up and run smooth for a good 5 minutes. Success!

Monday, May 24, 2010

First Hay Cutting

Hot and humid, 90 degrees

Summer arrived yesterday. We went from highs in the 70's to 87-90 in one day.
My first concern in weather like this when the heat index is approaching 100 degrees, is for my livestock. No cows yet, so I only have to worry about the pigs. They have two sources of shade and fresh water available at all times. Pigs also need mud. They can't sweat like we do to cool off. Mud helps keep them cool, and it also helps protect them from biting insects. The mosquitos are not quite out yet, but we all know they are an inevitible scourge. Anyway, I've been going out to the pasture a few times a day to spray the pigs with the hose, which they love!! Tiny, in particular, loves to do the twirling pig dance under the sprinkler. They are doing fine.

The bigger news is that we finally got our first crop of hay cut! We got the name of a nearby guy that does custom hay from some neighbors. This guy came pretty well-recommended. We got a little rain on Thursday and Friday, so the plan was to cut on Saturday, as there was a good 3 day window of clear warm weather ahead. After a little juggling back and forth about whether he was or wasn't going to come Saturday after all, he said he'd send his hired man over around 3pm. At 4 pm, I started to wonder. At 5pm, I was really getting anxious since making hay requires not only cooperative weather, but good timing and lots of luck. I called the farmer, and he said he'd sent the guy my way quite a while back,and he should have been here 45 minutes ago. Hmm. Farmer drove up and said he went looking for the guy on his tractor, and didnt see him anywhere. He said he'd have to go find him, maybe he got lost! An hour later I got a phone call from the farmer saying he located the guy, guess he thought he'd stop home and cut his own place first. But then the haybine broke. Skidplate hit something and bent backward on it. Can't get parts until Monday. Farmer told me he'd call me on Monday and we'd talk about the forecast, etc. and go from there.

But today (Monday) as these folks are fond of doing, he just showed up with his 14 foot discbine! I had two thoughts: Yay, and I hope it doesn't rain in the next three days!

I watched how he mowed the field. That big ol mower/conditioner sure made short work of what had been 30 inch-high alfalfa and clover. It cuts it off at the base,then pulls the plant through two rollers that crimp or squeeze it, opening the stems up. This allows the hay to dry much faster and improves the chances of getting it baled before the next rain. So now we wait a couple days, and he'll come back to rake Wed. morning and then bale it Wed. afternoon. If the weather cooperates, of course. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pigs Got Out!!

You bet they did, and they are loving being pastured piggies!

I had a 4 day weekend, which gave me the time I needed to get a bunch of chores and projects done so we could finally get our little Berks out onto lush lush pasture! I had to trench out a lead wire from their pen to the pasture. In the process, I accidentally cut through the dogs' Invisible Fence wire :( ugh. Something else to fix!

Once I had that wire in place, I layed out a combination of electric netting and two strand poly wire to create a square area inside the pasture. The alfalfa/orchardgrass in that section is mostly up to my knees, so I mowed a perimeter strip for the electro-netting and so the pigs could get an easy visual of where the hot wire is. Since this is their first pasture paddock, I wanted to make it easy for them to understand and prevent accidental escapes, etc. One thing I have learned over the years is it is worth it to do it right and stop problems before they happen. Which, I guess, comes after learning the things that can and will go wrong. From watching them go....wrong. After many frustrating hours of trying to chase errant animals back IN through an electric fence, etc., which I can tell you is about as easy and fun as unwinding a hairball, I don't want to go there again. Guess that's what they mean by older and wiser! A week or two ago, I got a flat rack from a nearby farmer. This is basically a large flat wagon on a big set of axles (running gear). This will be my platform for my portable water tank for the pasture moves, and it will serve as shade and shelter for the pigs as we move from spot to spot within the pasture. Then I built another hoop hut as additional shelter for them.

Once I had the layout of the perimeter of their first paddock set up, I built a temporary chute, or alleyway between their pen and the new pasture so they could go out there without wandering all over the yard. We did the same thing with our other batches of pigs when we moved them to the garden. These Berks moved out very nicely. I've always read that pigs will not want to cross a line where an electric wire was because they don't have great eyesight. But these guys did great coming over with just a bit of coaxing from Karen and I. Pretty soon, they were all racing around in the pasture!

Well, all except one, who suddenly appeared having copious foam coming from his nose and mouth! We didn't see him eat anything weird, but he certainly had all the symptoms of a pig that just licked a poisonous toad or something similar! I offered him some water,but he didn't want it. It cleared up in about 30 minutes, but that was weird. He's totally fine now, and we have no idea what it was he ate.

Have you ever seen a pig eat grass? I mean, really eat a LOT of grass?? It was quite amazing to me to watch these pigs simply go crazy munching away on the tall grass. I know now that pigs can and will eat grass, but I had never seen them fully graze like that! For such little pigs, it seemed like they must be stuffing their stomachs full!
Now, pigs are not ruminants, they have a single stomach like us. They can digest grass, but not as well as cows or sheep can. An adult pig can get as much as half her diet from pasture alone. But smaller pigs don't have as fully developed digestive tracts, and so cannot utilize grass as much as bigger pigs can. Plus, growing pigs need a good amount of protein, which is low in forage, and they need lysine, an amino acid they cannot manufacture, so we continue to offer them their regular feed while on pasture. the pasture,however, is particularly full of beta-carotenes and sugars especially this time of year. I'm sure the sugars in the grass is what's got them eating it like candy. this is the sweetest time of year, literally, if you are a grass eater. the brix, or sugar levels are highest on the lush forages while the days are warm and the nights are cool, and it is receiving plenty of moisture. Once the daytime temps go over 80 degrees, grass stops growing very much, and it lignifies. Which in plain English means it gets kinda starchy and bitter tasting.
My pasture are getting ahead of me, and I need to get some cows out there to eat it down, or it will go to seed and quit growing altogether.

Moving the pigs out is not all we got done. If you want to know what we do on our days off, or for those of our friends who think our life is just like vacation all the time, here is an incomplete list:
Fixed car door, pumped up low tire, took the truck and trailer to Farm & Fleet and picked up some gates and fence panels, put up 125 post insulators (still need about 225 more to go), planted three birch trees, weeded, watered and planted the vegetable garden, picked up the yard, mowed the lawn, scraped the rust off of a galvanized stock tank and repainted it, removed the bottom from the grain hopper to clean the rust off that, ordered a hog feeder, fixed the Invisible Fence, cleaned the house, smoked a ham, had family over for a nice day on Saturday. My brother helped me cut down a tree, and as I was hauling brush away, my mom joined us and even she pitched in and started hauling brush! That felt good, it was sweet to be working side by side like that again. Even Dad was there for supervision! We also had a little family time and got to play some badminton and had two nice campfires.

Next on the list is to build a corral for receiving cattle....!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The wind continues to be the wildest I've ever known it. So many days these past two months have had winds in the 20-30 mph range, and I'm talking about sustained winds, not just gusts. It's pretty unusual for this part of the world. I sure hope things go back to normal soon. My pig hut remains on it's roof, I can't really even think about turning it back upright in winds like these. I saw a semi-trailer today that was flipped and twisted off the freeway. It's also been drier than normal, we're about 2.5 inches below our normal totals at this point in the year. We do get rain occassionally, and we're not in a drought yet, but I do wonder about what this pattern of dry wind will turn into.

Been slowly but steadily getting bits and pieces of stringing barbed wire along the bottom of the fence done, to prevent pigs from rooting under. I've had many of my "weekend" hours taken up by other stuff these past few weeks and I haven't had too many good solid days to just get stuff done. And when I have, well you know that's when it rains!

Billie has so far hatched 4 baby chicks! They are so cute, I'll try to post pictures soon. We have been letting the chicks dry off and get their feet while under Billie, then pull them out and put them in a brooder with food and water. (Speaking of their feet - each one has tiny little feathers on their tiny little feet - eeee!) Normally, the chicks will all hatch within a few hours of eachother, and when they are done, mama will leave the nest with them and lead them around the barnyard, clucking to them and showing them how to scratch and peck and generally hunt for food, etc. Unfortunately, I didn't know that Billie had started setting when she did. I think Karen knew, but she didn't mention it. Other hens were laying additional eggs under her, which meant that the hatch dates would be all stretched out over about a week. Now we are just doing it this way, and hoping that when all the eggs have hatched, we can re-unite the babies with their mama and she will still want to mother them. If not, it won't be too big a deal to raise them in the brooder.

We've been working on our flyer and other materials, took a soil sample in for the pasture, been working on long-term plans. Loaded, hauled and unloaded 60 bales of straw last week, it's good to have on hand. We use it for animal bedding and mulching the garden. Using my new Weber Smokey Mountain to smoke chickens for my first tries, it's been coming out super great!

Karen has been hard at work in the garden. We seem to have settled into a division of labor that suits us both, she doing most of the gardening and me doing most of the yard and livestock stuff. I am still waiting for the cold nights to pass though so I can plant this years' sweet corn!

This weekend I will use what time I have to work on getting the pasture ready for the little piggies. Well, the pasture is ready, the fences are not yet. Need to get it set up, and get the hog hut fixed up and back on it's feet! And then it'll be pastured pigs!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gee, but it's been a very long time since I've posted anything here. So much has happened, it's hard to remember it all or to know where to start.

My eye has healed almost completely, so no worries there. I was lucky.

The weather has turned nicer, and the pigs are outside now in the piggie palace. They LOVE being outside, and immediately started eating grass. The Palace is constructed with hog panels as walls, with a hot wire along the perimeter inside, to train them to electric so that they can be put out onto pastures eventually with just electric wires holding them in their temporary paddocks. That electric wire is HOT. Just ask my sister.

Got the barn cleaned out. There is a long, deep channel of missing concrete in the floor, that I want to try and get filled with concrete again before I put anything else in the barn. I had it pretty well cleaned out, but of course the chickens got into the barn and scratched up all the straw I had piled neatly, and had kicked it all mostly right into the crack again. One of our hens, Billie, is setting on a clutch of eggs. This is the first batch of eggs we've tried to hatch, so we don't know how things will come out, regarding the fertility of the roosters, or the mothering ability of Billie, etc. I sure do hope it works, there is something so sweet and cute about seeing a newly hatched clutch of fluffy peeps scurrying around a clucking mama, and seeing all the neat color combinations you get in a mixed flock like ours.

We went to an auction and I picked up an older hog feeder for a good price. It needs some work, but I think it's worth it because new ones are very hard to find unless you are willing to pay crazy too much money for them.

Now that the fence is finished and the alfalfa is growing, it sure is tempting to start cow shopping. I still need a few other pieces of equipment for cows, like a bale feeder, a water tank, wagon, etc., but I've been keeping my eye out for them.

We are still planning on building a hoop barn this year, but we may have had a change of mind as to where exactly to place it. Still mulling over the options. I did talk to a neighbor who has a quarry and he gave us a nice quote on the crushed limerock we'll need for the base. He also dropped off a load of the stuff for Karen to use in her perennial garden for the pathways. Our farmhand Jason has really been invaluable in helping us with projects like these. He did nearly all the work of digging out the base of the paths and then moving all the screenings into the garden. Last year we planted asparagus and rhubarb, herbs, strawberries and lots of pretty flowers in this garden, and it is really starting to come in nicely.

We planted a redbud and a magnolia tree in the front yard, a fig tree next to the potting shed, a climibng rose and a clematis next to the trellis at the perennial garden...Karen also planted a currant bush and lots of other stuff; I dont even know where she put them all!

Last weekend was spent in Chicago for some friends of Karens' wedding. Heather and Jay are really nice folks, and they have purchased pork from us in the past. They hired a very cool caterer for their reception dinner, and asked him to feature our pork! Karen made a special delivery to Chicago with 4 whole shoulders (that is about 88 lbs. of pork) so he could do his magic with them. The pork was lovely, and it sure felt good to have our pork appreciated like that. I felt a very personal attachment to this pork, since this was from our Berks, and I had literally spent hours with these pigs taking care of them and rubbing and petting them and making sure they had everything they needed. It mattered a lot to me that this was a fitting tribute to their quality.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Don't worry Mom, I can still see.

Last evening we were getting ready for a nice weekend evening outside. I was preparing the bonfire area for a nice evening fire, and was about to get the coals going for a barbecue of home grown chicken on the grill.

One of the dried up old branches I wanted to put on the fire pile was too long, so I whacked it against a stump to break it up. Honestly, since Kate was standing just behind me, I actually said "Watch your eyes" and then gave her (the branch, not Kate)a good whack. In that same instant I got belted right in the eye - HARD by a chunk of stick that shot right back at me. There was a long weird moment of silence as I bent over, holding my eye in my hand. Kate didn't ask if I was okay, cuz she was still standing there with her eyes squeezed shut!!

Blood was coming out, it felt like there might be a piece of wood in there, so I decided it was best to go to the emergency room. It was a very reluctant decision as I knew it would ruin our fun evening plans, and I didn't want to do that. Oh, well.
Long story short, I got it checked out and luckily I just suffered a very bad scratch (or many, actually) on my eyeball. It actually looks worse today than in that picture because it has swollen shut. It hurts a lot, but I'll live. I was told the eye heals quicker than any other part of the body.
Glad I have insurance.

Post One Hundred!

Sunny, Warm, 68 degrees
Woo hoo, a hundred posts!
The weather has turned nicer with milder temps and less wind..... Although, when my bff Kate arrived for a weekend visit, she brought snow with her as she always does. Last time, she made it snow in May, and once, she made it snow in September. Since she has moved to California, she always says she misses snow and hopes to see some when she is back visiting, And then it snows. I have to find a way to stop her from this madness.
The big project this weekend with an extra set of hands on deck was to get the hog hut flipped back over on it's base. After much contemplation, ideas involving pulleys, levers, coolers, hay bales and support posts were all bandied about. In the end, my idea to just lift and flip it with the tractor loader is what we went with, and it worked pretty well, considering all the things that could have gone wrong.

It survived it's flip and roll pretty well, actually. I built it to withstand hogs rubbing and chewing on it so I overbuilt it and used braces, screws and glue all over the place. I do need to replace th big 2X6 that goes across the front, and I'll need to either bend those brackets back or replace them. A few other patches here and there, and it'll be ready for hogs again!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

She huffed, puffed, and blew my house over

Sunny, windy, 56

Yesterday as mentioned, my sister Connie came out and helped with the wood. My sis and I have spent many many hours cutting wood ever since we were girls. We spent a good portion of our summers helping our dad and sometimes our brother cut wood for the fireplace. Our summer cottage had no heat, and no electricity until I was 7. We got "running water" inside when my grandpa installed a pitcher-pump on the kitchen sink when I was a kid. This was our father's house when he was a boy. His mother, our grandmother, was born in a logging camp. We still have the miniature cant hook the blacksmith made her as a gift. It is a precious momento. Cutting wood is simply part of our heritage.

Yesterday I was out in the field running the chainsaw, cutting up more of the wood that had to come down for the fence. Connie walked up, pulled her gloves on, and started grabbing branches and tossing them in the back of the truck. We immediately fell into a familiar rhythm, not needing to talk or even really look at eachother, concentrating on the work at hand and knowing what the other would do before she did it.

When the truck was full, I cut off the saw and we drove over to unload at the huge brush pile. The wind was so high, all we had to do was lift the biggest branches straight up into the air, and the wind would loft them onto the top of the pile. We remarked on how high the wind gusts were, must have been some 50-60 mph. While we were there, I heard a scratchy, metallic noise, which caught my attention. It sounded out of place. I looked around, and much to my horror, I saw my great big pig hut lying upside down on top of my brand new fence!! The screechy noise was the metal roof scratching against the fence wire as it rocked and pitched in the wind. No Way!

It had flipped up and over, right onto the one day old fence! The posts held fast, but the weight of the hut crushed down the woven wire.
I brought up the tractor and tried lifting it by the 2X6 cross brace. Once lifted, I backed up hoping to drag the house off the wire. Unkown to me, the wire was actually hooked around a screw in the metal roof. As I pulled back, the fence held onto the house, and the result was a snapping sound as my main cross member broke in half. Sigh. This is what it looked like.

After about an hour or more of Connie and I crawling under the house and trying to remove two sheet metal screws in a 6 inch space, encased in very tight wire squares while having dirt constantly blown into our eyes, we got the screws out, and we were actually able to simply lift the house up and slide it off using spare fence posts as rollers under it. There it sits right now. It's still too windy to even attempt to right it. Besides that, I am not at all sure how to get her back up again without destroying it. All I can do is come up with a plan, and hope for the best.

Today I straightened and re-attached that section of fence as best as I could. I think it will do to hold pigs and cows in. Went around the perimeter of the pasture and picked up some old junk in one corner. Put up two bluebird houses, cleaned the barn, changed the flat tire on the trailer, mounted the hitch wiring harness on the truck, took the tractor chains up to the barn mow and cleaned up the garage, and took Dottie for a walk up to the top of the hill. It was a beautiful spring day! We had a nice showwer all night last night, and the grass suddenly turned bright green over night. It really glowed against the bright blue sky.