Sunday, October 4, 2015

It's good to be farming

Fall is the culmination of all Bruce's hard work throughout the year, the weather and commodity prices are out of his control but he uses technology to try and level the playing field. Last fall I wasn't up to helping with harvest but he had his good buddy, Grassy, who stepped in and did all the hauling. Our elevator built a new dump pit last year and I got to use it for the first time this year and it's pretty neat! 

They know who you are and what you have on.

They tell you which pit to use....

....Pit #2 is the new one and there is so much room, in the old cement silo with our big wagons there is only inches on each side for clearance. 

I LOVE pit #2!

Back at the scale after weighing in, a little scale ticket pops out of the 'toll booth', Janet is smart, she uses her grabber to take the ticket and doesn't even have to leave the tractor.

With my luck I would lose the ticket and it would fall into the pit under the scale.

I hauled a few loads to town and then who should come riding to the rescue??

Grassy!! He decided things were getting boring in Meriden so he came to help.

To reward him for his good help, he gets a picnic supper while he is unloading beans at home.

To find Bruce to deliver his picnic supper, I looked for a dust cloud in the field, it's a dirty job but luckily he is tucked away in the combine cab.

He smiles, there is a hamburger sitting there with his name on it.

You might ask what I did with all my free time, I canned 11 quarts of pears that the neighbor gifted us, it only took me three days.

Betty Crocker I am not.

Then I cleaned up my kitchen, which took one whole afternoon, it looked like a bomb went off.

When it is extremely dry and dusty, farmers must be vigilant to prevent combine fires from accumulated trash.

Bruce learned the hard way to be extra vigilant when the combine caught fire in the field, he was lucky and caught it early, emptied a fire extinguisher on it and put it out. He was able to drive it back to the farm where he power washed it and waited for Tom's Repair to come put it back into peak running condition.

Nate got him up and going the next day and Bruce and Grassy finished at home, he thoroughly washed the combine before going to the Ehler's farm. We felt extremely lucky, it could have worse, if he had stayed late in the field the night before, it would have happened then and been much harder to fight it in the dark. He caught it early so there wasn't a lot of damage.

Yes, it could always be worse.....and it was. He was 2 1/2 rounds from finishing at Ehlers when it caught fire again and did a lot of damage. Too much damage for Nate to fix, it will have to have a new motor to run again and for a 25 year old machine, it didn't make much sense.

So after the shock wore off and Bruce slept on it, he was up at 4 AM Saturday, trolling the internet for another combine and found one at Boyden. At 7:30 AM he rolled me out of bed and away we went.

He's kicking the tires and looking under the panels of this beautiful machine....

...made the guy an offer he didn't refuse and he was off, smiling from ear to ear.

It was a long, slow trip to Tom's Repair, which is right on the way home, where we left the combine so Paul can work his magic to make everything fit on the bean head that we have. Bruce and I had to run home, separate the dead combine from the head, which was much easier said than done, load it on the trailer to take back to Tom's Repair, then drive on north to Luvern, MN to get the parts for Paul so he could keep working.

By the time we got back home, we were both pooped, a lot of emotion and stress in the last 24 hours was telling on both of us. I was so appreciative of our neighbor, Jade, who left us a chili supper in the fridge the night before, no cooking and off to bed.

Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest and it was, with no combine, but that wasn't all bad. Bruce got to rest up and watch football, we started the corn stove and built a fire in the wood stove, it was down to 62 degrees in here this morning, it was cold!

Tomorrow is the start of another busy week, we are going to do the first step in weaning the calves in the morning, with Grassy's help, and hopefully have a combine tomorrow afternoon.

Several years ago when Bruce bought the 9400 John Deere, he said, "This should last me the rest of my farming days."

I don't think he is going to tempt fate by saying that again about this one.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What's this going on in the coop?

If you are a regular reader, you know about the romantic trysts that go in the coop, at night Larry the 3rd squires his two little ladies to a roost high above the other chickens, I've never been there to see the actual flight but they must have good navigation to keep from bonking their heads on the roof.

Or perhaps they have.

Last winter we had a falling out, a lovers spat, differences between sisters? Whatever the reason, one chose to distance herself from the other two.

 Larry the 3rd must have brokered a peace treaty and since positioned himself between the warring factions.

Last summer the little red hen hatched a Serama chick and was foster mother to the four Wyandotte pullets, the five hung together all summer and roosted together at night. Lately I've found the little Serama by herself during the day but still hanging with her foster sisters at night. Since the invasion of the rats, I've been very diligent about counting heads at night to make sure no one was missing.

Last night she wasn't with her sisters and, after searching the coop, getting ready to interrogate the dogs, I looked up. 

Larry the 3rd's little harem is growing but will the other two little women accept her?

It's a soap opera around here, I will keep you updated.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Have I ever expressed my hatred of rats before? If not, it's coming out now and I have a very good reason, for now there are only three....

I knew something was going on when most of my hens quit roosting on their roost at night, instead sitting up in the nest boxes, on the window sill, even on top of the door. But didn't realize what it was until early last Saturday morning, I went to do chores before leaving for the Junk Roundup at Alton and encountered a rat in the chicken house, I'm not sure who was more freaked, me, the rat or the hens but I can tell you who vowed vengeance against the scurvy creature, ME!


At night I shut up the coop tightly and set a trap inside one of the little chicken doors with bricks piled to block the opening but no one took the bait. The little red hen was out in the blue jay cage, where I thought they were safe. After two days of not catching anything, I stepped it up and shoved rat bait everywhere around the coop that I could find, using a stick to poke it underground so nothing else could get it. I also found a couple of holes around windows that I patched with tin to make the coop a fortress against unlawful entry.

Friday morning I was doing chores, opened the coop door and stepped inside and found a dead rat in one of the chicken feeders, YIKES!! But at least he was dead. I had to get leather gloves to fish him out, I had the urge to beat the tar out of him but, since he was already dead, seemed like an exercise in futility and tossed him unceremoniously into the burn barrel.

Burn, baby, burn!

I looked around the coop and saw where I had bricks piled, I'd left a rat sized opening so removed the trap completely, I wanted all the doors shut and locked, and barricaded and booby trapped and tar and feathered and boiling oil and anything else that would rid my coop of the vermin.

And that was before I made the heart breaking find in the blue jay cage, my first inkling that something had gone terribly wrong was when I didn't hear the little red hen clucking, she is always talking to the chicks. Silence, I lifted the rug that kept the wind out and she was huddled at the back, silent. I had to nearly crawl into the cage to reach her and lifted, fearing the worst, three chicks popped out. I looked around, moving everything, hoping he was just hiding but the fourth chick was gone. I have no doubt a rat got it, they don't just disappear.

I moved her out of the blue jay cage and into one of the apartments in the chicken coop where I can lock them in securely at night. Then I removed the last of the food and water from the cage and left a helping of rat bait, which was gone this morning, so I left another helping.

I visited the coop a little later to see how they were settling in and there was a rat running round!!!! I grabbed a club outside the door to whack him but he was too quick and escaped. I know he came in the west door so I shut it up tight and went into the scratch yard with more bait, I found tunnels and I also found a dead rat in one tunnel. I shoved more bait in and then plugged it with a rock and stomped it into the hole.

To be absolutely sure I didn't have any rats in the coop at night, I retrieved the game camera from the farm where it is on duty keeping it safe from two legged rats and set it up in the coop. Nothing moved till early morning when the hens started coming off the roosts and I felt I could release the little red hen and chicks from the cat carrier I'd locked them into last night.

Kind of like locking the barn door after the horse thief leaves? 

After doing chores this morning, I returned to the coop and there was another rat running around!!! I grabbed my club but again it escaped, this time out the east door past the little family huddled in the corner. Upon inspection, I found another rat hole, baited and rocked it then I set the camera back up to see if it came back.

No rats, but it is kind of fun to spy on the chickens as they go about their daily business, one of the little Serama hens pecking around.

Then she spies the camera....

"What the hey??"
One of my many trips where I stealthily grab my club and step in, hoping to use the business end on a rats head.

The Barred Rock hen, heading for the nest box to make a deposit.

Me again, no rat and I can't say that isn't a good thing.

The little Serama, finding a lovely patch of sunlight....

....going down.....

.....AAAH, there is nothing better than basking in a patch of sun.

I have no idea how bad my rat infestation is, I've battled mice before but I can handle them, I can't handle rats. With all the poison I've shoved down rat holes and how greedily they are gobbling it up, I certainly hope I have some very sick or dead rats. Tonight I'm putting the game camera in the blue jay cage to see how many come for the bait banquet.

At least I know the coop is secure until I get rid of the rest. Stay tuned for updates on the rat war.

Update, just out by the coop picking up some stuff and there lay another dead rat, that is good bait.

Updated again at 10 PM, just got home from a night out with friends, I went out to shut the chickens up and there was ANOTHER RAT scurrying around, although he was definitely feeling the effects of rat poison, he didn't quite have control of all his faculties. Murphy was right behind me and all I had to do was scream, "RAT!" and she dove into the coop and had him. By then Mollie was at the door and promptly took him away from Murphy! I had to get leather gloves and pliers again then told Mollie to "Drop it," which she did, Murphy tried to get him but I was quicker. He also went to the burn barrel. Then I brought the dogs to the house and gave them some cheese to try to wash the terrible taste of rat out of their mouths. Tomorrow I might cook them a steak as a reward. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

You'd think it was Spring around here....

....with all the new babies, first the two calves born late in the pasture, now it's chicks. The end of August the little red hen was broody again so I gave her 4 little Serama eggs, my thinking is you can't have too many Serama's. Besides, if there is another rooster, my neighbor girl, Jillian, wants one to replace her's that died last winter.

She was in the blue jay cage, very happily sitting on the eggs, as the days ticked by. A broody hen doesn't take much care so every few days I checked that she had feed and water and removed the huge masses of broody poop, covered in a previous post, it does not need to be addressed again, and left her to daydream.

Sept 19 was the much anticipated Alton Junk Roundup that Kim and I were going to pedal our junk again, this year we were joined by her hubby, Jeff and my sister, Rosanne. Bruce was gone fishing so that week was spent filling our livestock trailer with treasures.

It was a great day, people LOVE our junk!! (I was going to include some pictures of our junk but they are in a different format and for some reason I can't switch them to jpg, but trust me, we had GREAT junk!)

Continuing on, we had a very successful junk sale and I was home unloading what didn't sell when I heard a high pitched peeping. At first I thought it was a bird but then realized it was a chick, could it be that time already?? I beat it to the blue jay cage and there on the ground, where he had tumbled out of the elevated box, was a little yellow chick. He had gotten through the chicken wire enclosure and was frantically trying to get back. Up in the box, the little red hen was also very disturbed but she had three other babies to care for and couldn't leave them to rescue the wayward one. I captured the baby and put him back with the rest of the flock and received 'the look' from their mother.

I think I was forgiven when she had all four back in the nest.

The little red hen runs a tight ship and as soon as I show up, she ushers everyone back to the nest and tucks them under her, away from prying eyes.


"I'm coming, I'm coming!"

To get some pictures I had to deploy a diversionary tactic, a special treat as in a red raspberry.

It worked and one little chick watches in rapt fascination as she devours the berry.

"I can't believe she ate the whole thing!"

No, there are only 4 chicks, the unsightly blob is a steaming pile of broody poop she left behind.

This one seems to be a camera hog.

I thought they were all Serama eggs but there seems to be some inter-breeding going on since there are two yellow chicks and three of them have feathered legs. The little red hen and a cochin bantam hen both have feathered legs, I think Larry Jr. and Larry the 3rd are venturing out into the flock and spreading their seed.

Those naughty boys.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Cow Mamas and their babies

Instinct is a wonderful and amazing thing and that is never truer than when our two heifers calved in the pasture this summer. These were their first babies, they did not go to birthing classes or read books, "What To Expect When You are Expecting That First Calf," they did not have mothers, grandmothers, sisters or friends to turn to with their questions. I'm not even totally sure they know another being is growing in their stomach until they push it out on the ground. We've had heifers give birth, turn around to see just what that was and jump back, eyes bugging out, ears at attention. Obviously what lay there was not what they expected.

#40 reassuring herself that her calf is okay after I had the nerve to pet him.

While we were gone to WI, #23 successfully gave birth to this little guy, we could finally close the books on calving season at French Farms.

Since the creek was still high, I was looking for #40 and her calf, I found the heifer away from the herd, looking and bawling her head off so I was immediately worried. Way down the pasture I saw a brown cow with two little calves and I knew we didn't have any twins. #40 forgot she left her baby with #33.....

....he was safe and sound and so glad to get back with his mama. It's fun to have a play date but come lunch time he wanted his mother back. 

While I was in the pasture, I drove the 4 wheeler around and looked at all the cattle, the high water doesn't faze them much.

To get from one side of the creek to the other, the calves dive right in and swim across.

The bulls were feeling frisky and started sparring with each other, #9100 is no longer the baby and can pretty much hold his own with Louie.

I found Fancy and her baby was also having some lunch, what a pig, he had milk all over his face. He'd pull down on a nipple until it snapped back, then he would bunt her in the bag. I know that had to hurt but she just put up with it.

This is one of our future cows, she will have her first baby next year and she is such a friendly little girl. Her baby number is 23, her future cow number is 35. She has a beautiful white face until she wools around in the creek bank, I don't know why they do it but they love to rub dirt all over their faces. Maybe it helps keep the flies away.

Back to my musings on how these heifers instinctively know how to care for their baby calves. It was too muddy to feed silage in the pasture so Bruce let the herd come up to the house to eat from the bunks. I noticed #23 was there but no baby. I asked her where he was and she gave me this sly look that said, "Just try to find him."

I took that challenge and drove the 4-wheeler around the pasture until I discovered him tucked away in a thicket, like a good boy, not making a peep. 

By the time I drove out of the pasture and back down the road, she had eaten her fill, left the herd, crossed the creek and was calling him. That was his permission to leave his resting place and come have some breakfast of his own.

About three days later, she decided to introduce him to the rest of the herd and brought him along to the house to eat.

"Baby cakes, meet all your cousins."

I think this goes back to their wild ancestors, to survive, they stashed their calves for a few days, away from the herd, to get stronger and be able to travel. Deer also do that to protect their tiny fawns, I've read that fawns have no odor, the mother stays away, only going back for feeding. Predators have a harder time finding the babies.

Mother Nature is so very wise.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Airs Above the Ground!

"Come one, Come All to the Hummingbird Show!"
"Nightly Performances!"
"Bring your own chair, Ooh and Aah along with the crowd!"
"Daring Maneuvers, rivaling the Blue Angels!"

This is a rare moment when two hummingbirds are actually feeding at the same time, usually that isn't allowed.

This little guy was taking a moment to rest on the stepladder.

The hummingbirds are around all day but night brings out the craziness and they zoom and zip, dive bombing each other, lying in wait above in the branches of the tree to surprise an innocent victim.

Bruce is not as enthralled as I am but our neighbors, Brian and Carol, came over last night to enjoy the show. We were sitting just a few feet away from this hanging feeder and we were right in the flight path, tiny birds zooming between and around us, intent on being the king of the feeder.

And to the victor goes the spoils, a well earned drink of the sweet nectar to recharge it's tiny body.

I was watching one bird drinking from the feeder and his little feet were scrabbling, searching for a foothold, I was wishing this feeder had perches on it.

But you must never be complacent, you must always be vigilant or you run the risk of getting bonked on the head by an invader.

They are ferocious fighters as they duck and weave in the air, smacking each other in the chest, the later it gets the more frantic are their actions. But it is not all war, I saw a little hanky panky going on in the branches, twice! It didn't take them long either! I felt like a voyeur but I figured it wasn't something that many people ever saw so that made it okay.

I'm going to miss these little guys when they are gone.