Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Well it's been a busy Spring as usual around here. Life is teeming around us! Baby calves, pigs, puppies! It's keeping us hopping!
Dottie's puppies are growing so very fast! Hard to believe but they will be ready to leave the nest this next week! It will be hard to say goodbye to these little sweeties. But we know they are going to good homes.Dottie is SUCH a good mom! She just loves these puppies. Even now at almost 8 weeks, she watches over them, and she plays with them,teaching them how to play gently, steal gloves and dig holes! When she heard me mention the other night that they were all leaving, I can't describe the look of betrayal on her face... gulp.

Just last week our Hereford cow calved. She had a boy calf, it happened to be we named him Peter Cottontail, naturally!

The day after he was born,
our sows Icy and Ridgett both went into labor together and on Monday morning they had 17 pigs between them. Nice going girls! We were concerned about one little gilt being more chilled than the others, so we made her a little coat :) Yes, that's a sock. It worked!

The lawn tractor has had more than it's fair share of my attention the last two weeks, and still it refuses to mow my grass. The big tractor is unhappy, too, just won't hold oil pressure. Could be a major fix :(
So for all the stressful mechanical problems cropping up, life does more than go on around here. It just about climbs right up and over you! Oh, and I agree with the late Charles Schultz - happiness is a warm puppy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Warm, breezy. Scattered showers, 80 degrees.
Yes, that's right, 80. It's been unseasonably warm here for most of the week. Hot, actually. We've peeled the plastic off the windows and thrown them open. These temps are almost double the normal temps for this time of year. It's kinda nice in March, but would certainly be unwelcome even a month from now. Hope it's just a fluke. But it does look like a definite pattern of some sort, since this has hung with us for so long already, and the 7-day forecast shows no variation from it.
It's hard to know whether to plant now... it certainly feels like late April around here, which is when we normally plant lots of things in the garden. But even then we know we have to watch out for late frosts. The pasture is starting to grow. I'm really glad we got the cows off it when we did last week. We should still be experiencing freezing temps, but we haven't had that for many days. We are also down in total snowfall.

The puppies have turned three weeks old! Their eyes are open and they can hear now. We have just started them on solid food. Here they are getting their first taste of Puppy Mush.

They are quickly out growing their little pen! We are enjoying every minute with these little stinkers. They are just a pleasure to watch. And now they are learning to really vocalize, and it's hard to describe how cute a tiny baby bark or growl is, but it makes us smile and laugh every time!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Late Winter 2012

It's been busy for winter around here. I guess the biggest news is our beloved Welsh Springer Spaniel, Ch. Fox River Prairie Fire (aka Dottie) had puppies a week ago! This was a very planned litter. We believe in well-planned and well-bred dog litters only! So she wasbred to a dog imported from England after much research to find the just-right match for Dottie.
The birth of the puppies was an exciting event that Dottie handled with ease. I knew that she'd be a good mom, but even I was surprised at how really good she has been. Beyond her unbreachable instincts to care for the pups, she has been very sweet with us, not at all aggressive as some bitches can become. I think she is quite proud, actually!
The pupppies are growing by leaps and bounds. They are born with noses and toes all pink, but the pigment (eventually their noses will be all black) is starting to come they are in a very adorable dusky and spotty state right now. Even some of their paw pads and toes are starting to show some tiny spots of black. Here are two tiny feet sticking up out of the puppy pile... It's hard to find words to convey how precious they are right now!
On the farm, we finished the red pigs (Icy's 2nd litter), and I rented a skid steer to completely remove all the bedding from the hoop barn.
This went onto the big compost pile, to return to our soil. Once cleaned of old bedding and manure, we put lime down and let it rest and dry out for two weeks, to help dry and disinfect, since we use gravel and hay between batches of pigs. Then I placed 4 round bales of corn stalks back in, put the fencing and gates back up, and walked Icy and Ridgett back up to the barn and let them in to go to town on those bales, and go to town they did!
Now how hard was it to move those 700 lb. sows across and open yard during a snowstorm, you may ask? Well, not nearly as hard as rounding up your cows that have wandered onto the neighbors lawn and corn field I would reply. See, just the other day, I pulled a very dumb farmer move, and after putting minerals out for my cows, I FORGOT to latch the gate!!! I was only made aware of this hours later as Karen called me to say the cattle were out, and would I kindly scurry back home from my city job to help catch them. Or, she said something to that effect. By the time I got home,she had 8ball and Brownie back in, but Panda and Large Marge and Noel her calf were nowhere to be seen. Anyone who has been through this scenario would maybe ask "What were the weather conditions?" Just because this type of thing always follows Murphy. Our weather had been unseasonably warm, causing the frost to leave the ground. Read "Mud Season" And we had a front coming in, with drizzle and sleet coming down. And we are surrounded by crop land, which meant our cows made us chase them through acres of boot-sucking, hair soaking muddy plowed fields. Our boots weighed 15 lbs.each. It took us two hours. Yes, we called for help, and finally as help arrived, we were latching our gate behind them. If one could spank a cow, I tell ya....
Karen was not in a forgiving mood, and I think she wanted to kill me. So you understand, memories were still a little too fresh as I asked for her assistance to bring up the rear as I simply walked the sows from one barn to the other. A big front had blown in, and it was snowing hard. Karen asked if I'd put up any fences or barriers. I replied no, I didn't think they would be able to see the wire in the snow anyway. And I knew my girls, and I knew how much they would give for another taste of delicious puppy kibble. Karen was more difficult to convince than the sows. She hung an open threat over my head, and I think she was envisionsing boiling cauldrons of oil if my plan and sows went awry.
But my nature is big on confidence and risk-taking, and I just KNEW it would work. So we opened the gate, put that bucket in front of them, and started walking. Actually, I had to walk rather briskly for danger of being run over by 1400 lbs. of hooved, hungry sow. We clipped right along up to the hoop barn. They never even noticed the snow storm. They pranced right in and we pulled the gate shut.
I grinned smugly, but all I got from Karen was a "Well, that went better than expected" hmph!

Here they are, sleeping all burrowed down into the corn stalks after they'd searched through and found every kernal of corn.
This is where they'll stay for farrowing their babies until they are weaned,then they will go out onto pasture.

As mentioned,we finally have gotten a few snow storms, making us believe it really is winter. We have used minimal shelter for the cows, mostly because beef cattle really don't need much for shelter, and partly because we decided to use what we had on hand. Here you see Panda and Marge and Noel in front of stalk bales set as a wind break,
and 8-ball using the hoop shed.
Though rudimentary in some respects, these measures worked just fine to keep our cattle healthy and happy. We do have plans to build a three-sided shelter that the pigs and cattle can utilize for next year.

Happy mud season, everyone!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

oooo, we're so excited! Remember I told you about the neighbor whose cow had a little British White Park calf? I been thinking about that a lot, and hearing myself telling him to let me know if he ever decided to sell her. I like the easy keeping and moderate frame of the breed..... and plus, they are very cute. Maybe I shouldn't let that influence my purchasing decisions, but being proud and pleased with your herd goes along way toward making chores a pleasure....

Well, yesterday afternoon he called me up and asked me if I wanted she and her mama! I went straight over there and looked at them. We struck a deal, and today they brought them over. I wish I could have gotten better/closer pictures, but little Noel and her mama are still a little unsure and won't let us get too close before they move away. These are the best we could get today, but I'm sure they'll both settle in real soon.
And COMON!! JUST LOOK AT HER! Her name is Noel because she was born on Christmas.
That's her Mama on the right -pure black. The White Park bull that was in with the herd must have been very pre-potent, or in other words, he stamps his genes on every calf very clearly.
All my other cows came out of the same herd, though supposedly the White Park bull was replaced by a red angus bull before my cows where bred. Well, if my brown cow is close to calving, maybe she was bred by that same bull? I dunno. But it seems likely we'll have some calves that have different sires, so that's a nice thing to start out with in a small herd. Here are more shots of the girls all getting to know each other today:


And to all a good night!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

A New Year Begins Warmly

Happy New Year to everyone! Hope 2012 is good to us all :)

I bred Icy and Ridgett three weeks ago. In the hopes of having a more simplified, streamlined work flow around here in 2012, we wanted to breed them together so that they will both farrow at the same time,andwe will be able to consolidate the movements, pens, feeds, hauling, etc. of both litters at once. Last year we found that having too many groups of pigs to move around, plus their furniture that goes with them, and keeping dates and records straight got to be a pretty exhausting order while we both work full time at other jobs as well. Actually, we did try to synchronize both big girls last year, but only Icy settled on the first try. It took me two more cycles to settle Ridgett. I've heard that's not a bad record for a rank amateur, but I've improved my ability and knwoledge of swine AI since then. And it looks like I got them both 'in pig' on the first try this time, so we will be having baby pigs in April! Lots and lots of them! Here's the big girls today, telling me they wished I would shower them with cakes and candies every day. And don't forget the pumpkins.

Our brown cow hasn't shown any signs of being any closer to calving. It's just wait and see. She had me a bit worried there the other day. She had tears just streaming from her eyes. Not goopy, just wet,watery tears. She'd been 'crying' so much, it had actually formed an icicle on one side of her face! We finally figured out that because we'd had a big wind storm the night before,the tears were simply from her eyes being irritated and dry. The other two cows have much thicker coats and more furry protection around their eyes, so weren't affected.

The big pig feeder is working out pretty well. But there is one problem now with my supplier. They have been putting me off for delivery now for over a week. I checked everything out with them to make sure my plan would work before I even finished the pig feeder. Oh, sure, they can deliver a custom grain mix in bulk in the auger truck, drive up and fill my bin for me. Just call a day ahead. Great. Worked on that feeder for hours getting it finished. Risked life and limb getting it hoisted in place inside the hog pen.
Called them up for delivery, and I been getting nothing but excuses since then, from a guy who is sick, to a truck went into the ditch, etc. I don't doubt all these issues, and I understand that stuff happens... but man, I'm now stuck with a huge empty feeder in my pen, and I am filling it with a few 50 lb. bags at a time. That is no fun at all, since the opening of the feeder is 6 feet off the ground, and hoisting 50 lbs that high is no picnic. But it does work great for feeding. If the mill doesn't get here soon with that load of feed, my pigs will be too big to finish it all before they go to freezer camp.

I've had the last few days off of work, and it's been nice to have time to focus on farm stuff. When I asked for this time off long ago, I anticipated the weather being the usual harsh January stuff, snow, cold, wind. Perfect for sitting inside and working on books, records, taxes, catching up on reading, organizing, etc. BUT, the weather has been way too nice outside! It feels like October or March, not January.
We don't have a lick of snow on the ground. The grass is still even a bit green in most places. Temps have frequently topped out in the mid 40's. Today, it is 48 degrees outside!! Insanity! To paraphrase Dorothy, "I have a feeling we're not in Wisconsin anymore, Toto" I haven't had to plow my driveway or shovel my walk even one time yet! I took this picture to the right just today. When I hear people doubting the truth in global warming/climate change, I just say "Look outside" And that's where you'll find me these last few days -outside! It's too nice to sit inside behind a computer! I've put up new shelves in the new barn, put up electric fencing for the cows, fixed a door on the stone barn the big pigs busted, scoped out places for trees to be planted next year, deep cleaned the big girls' pen, moved big bales around, turned compost, spread gravel, put the chains on the tractor (wishful thinking), gone to the mill, the cold storage warehouse, the filling station, the hardware store, Menards, etc. Now honestly I have spent at least 4 hours or more doing some book work, and I know I have to do more before I go back to work Monday. But dang. Mother Nature has been making me an offer I won't refuse.