This Little Cow

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John Seymour said his cow Brownie was the keystone of the arch of his farm economy.

Our keystone is progressing nicely. We had the vet out to trim her feet two Saturdays ago.  The outside claw of her back right foot had what is referred to as a hardship crack. These cracks happen when a cow is malnourished or under extreme stress. I noticed it when we got her and I watched it slowly work its way down as her hoof grew out. There comes a point where the flexing of the crack becomes painful and that’s when we called the vet. He trimmed all four feet under sedation and also gave her a couple shots of antibiotics. She is so much better now!

She is cycling regularly now. My dad said if she’s cycling I should get her bred because that’s what she has evolved to do… and if you don’t they get a little squirrelly. So hopefully next month after the A.I. guy visits she’ll be on her way to fulfilling her biological niche and becoming our keystone.

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An Unbred Cow

Ok, I’m pretty proud of this one.

I found a guy who does artificial insemination on cattle and is willing to come out and do our one cow. I should’ve called him this week because it’s was Tilly’s sexy time. I swear it’s embarrassing when she goes into heat because the whole neighborhood must know. She never moos, never… except for one day a month. That day though, she’s like a horny teenager with no phone privileges. Shameful, just shameful.

I did not call the guy though because I haven’t built a head catch for her yet and he says, and I can understand why, that a head catch is pretty necessary.

I haven’t built the head catch because I’ve been caught up in leveling the back porch.

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Whoever added this porch sat it on blocks directly on the ground. I’m no builder so I can’t comment on whether this is acceptable or not. Regardless, over the years the blocks sank into the ground. You can see the years worth of shims, especially in the upper left hand of the picture above. There’s about 2″ of the block left above ground.

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This porch has three walls of windows. It’s fabulous. It was also nerve wracking jacking it back up where it belongs. I had nightmares of all those panes just exploding in an epic movie scene fashion so we took about two weeks and slowly raised it about 1/8 of an inch at a time. Then we dug two foot deep round piers (our frost line is only 18″ here). To help keep the blocks level I made some forms and created a little pad at the top of each pier.

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Here’s how it all came together. There’s still a shim or two on each of the blocks cause like I said, I’m not a builder. I got it close enough though that there wasn’t even a creak when I lowered the jacks!! Woo-hoo!

And that my friends is why my cow is still unbred. Shameful.

Just Odds and Ends

“This is how post-apocalyptic movies begin”, says my friend at work, “It stops raining and then never rains again.”

After complaining so much about our soggy fall and winter I almost feel bad complaining about dry, dry, dry summer. It’s like the Northwest has suddenly gone bi-polar. After the wettest season on record we’ve now broken the record for the longest dry spell. 58 days I think it was without rain, and when it did rain we got perhaps 3/10 of an inch. No rain since. The grass is crunchy. A walk through the yard sounds like you’re walking on paper.

The late heavy snow that we had earlier in the year pretty much wiped out our pears and plums.

We have two plums and four pears. Now I understand the drive to preserve as much of each crop as possible. Luckily we don’t have to rely solely on our own results to feed us. I do now have an inkling of what a failed crop must feel like to a subsistence farmer. Just an inkling though.

On a lighter note I sent the picture below to another nearby hobby farmer who has a Dexter bull we’re talking about using for, um, passionate stuff.

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In my defense, the person I’ve been talking to sent me a picture of her bull first. Still, it feels a little like a bovine match.com. Swipe right. (I don’t really know what that means but I hear the kids say it all the time!)

I have no segue for the next paragraph.

I just finished listening to Never Caught, a book about Oney Judge. Oney Judge was a slave owned by George Washington. Well actually she was owned by Martha Washington. Except actually she was one of Martha’s dower slaves which means she actually belonged to Martha’s first husband, Daniel Parke Custis, and Martha was given use of her along with 1/3 of Daniel’s estate until Martha’s death at which time ownership would pass to Martha and Daniel’s offspring. Just surreal.

Daniel Parke Custis is a distant ancestor of mine. My mother discovered this many years ago during a genealogy jag. Up until listening to this book the admittedly indirect link we share with the first president of the United States was not something I thought about much. It’s made no difference in my life – other than perhaps a chuckle every once in a while at a party or in conversation. But it was downright jarring to listen to this narrative of slavery and escape from slavery and pursuit of human property where every other character’s name was Custis. It’s disturbing to think that I share even a little blood with people who owned other people… and worse, pursued them after they escaped that awful institution.

Sometimes life gives you information you have no idea what to do with.

Oney Judge escaped slavery in her early twenties and although she was always property in the eyes of the law, she lived as a free woman until her death in her 80’s. She gave a couple of interviews towards the end of her life and was asked if she regretted running away seeing as how she actually had to work so much harder outside of Mount Vernon. She replied that she would rather die than return to slavery. I think I would rather have had Oney Judge as an ancestor.

Where I Admit I’m Not Perfect

So yeah.

The other day Don found this really great sectional on Craigslist for this really great price. Unfortunately, in order to get it we had meet the people at 6pm on a Sunday. Some of you may not know this but 6pm on a Sunday is when those of us on the West Coast can watch the East Coast broadcast of Game of Thrones. AND this particular Sunday was the season premiere. I was inappropriately peeved by this – I limit my t.v. time, not because I believe t.v. is bad for you and sucks away your intellect and generally drives culture down the drain (which I do mostly believe) but because I have to be up at the buttcrack of dawn in order to be at my desk at work by 5:45 a.m. each morning. And no, there is no legitimate reason for me to be a work that early, it’s just a rule, a stupid rule.

Anywhooooo….

Because of my inappropriate peevishness and my desire to return to my comfy couch as soon as possible I might not have secured certain parts of the sectional as well as I should have. “Surely that won’t blow out” were my exact words.

Well…

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This is what the corner piece looked like when we got home. Dammit.

Was all hope lost? The manwife certainly thought so. AND the worst part about the whole thing was he was upset because he upset me. It’s just not fair loving someone because you can’t be a jerk when they’re sorry you’re being a jerk and some such and so on. Long story short, I HAD to make this right. I told him to look and see if he could find a replacement piece online and I would see what I could do with this disaster.

Well, turns out I’m not a total loser. Because…

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I dug through my scrap wood pile, put on my creative cap and FIXED IT! It took me three days of doing nothing else after work but I don’t think there are many sets of three other days in my past that were spent so well. There are things you can gloss over in a marriage and this might’ve been one of them but I think I was skirting pretty close to the line. Did I mention that the amount of peevishness I expressed was inappropriate?

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I was really surprised there was such a small amount of damage to the leather itself because this baby was literally rolling down the highway at 45 miles per hour. Those scuffs you can see plus a few right at the top of the back are all there were. Currently they are hidden pretty well just by putting the whole thing together. We are looking at leather repair kits online to actually fix them. And a good thing we are too because…

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Not only is it real leather and a stunning piece of furniture, when we actually looked at the tag we were kinda flabbergasted. This sofa was made in Italy in 2005 – literally the tag says made in Italy in 2005 – and when we looked up comparable pieces on the manufacturer’s website they ranged from $5k to $10k. We picked it up for $300.

I try not to be too much of a putz because every time I do it just bites me in the ass.

Karma.

There Are Days

There are days like today when I am glad that this little farm is really just a hobby. When I got home from work this afternoon I was just bushed and so I did the bare minimum to keep everyone happy and alive. I put the cow up and got her some hay to go with her evening sweet feed, gathered eggs, hauled manure out to the compost pile, put a load of thistle in the burn pile, and made sure everyone had water.

Sounds like a lot but it really only takes about half an hour – but still, it’s stuff that cannot be put off… or I might’ve put it off.

If this were a “real farm” I would be out yet again working on the baler I recently purchased.

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Ain’t she a beauty? We had such a time finding someone willing to bale our little hay patch that I decided next year we will bale our own. This is an International Harvester 45 baler with a McCormick knotter. Best I can tell, it was manufactured in the early 1950s. It actually does work. I’ve been polishing the bill hook and replacing the knives and trying to get the timing just right. Square balers really are Rube Goldberg machines and I’ve been chasing 1/32 of an inch for days. Yesterday I got one of the knotters just almost perfect and I think a couple more adjustments to the other will complete the job. The best part about this old baler (and really, old implements in general) is that it was designed to run behind a 21 horse tractor or larger so my little 33 horse Kubota runs it no problem.

I also bought a New Holland side delivery rake.

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This piece works just as is and does a pretty good job too. I convinced the guy doing our hay to let me rake it for him.

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It was fun. Those are my first windrows! I think they’re perfect windrows! 😉

We wound up with somewhere between 3 and 4 tons of hay off our little 3.5 acre pasture. Not record-setting but still respectable I think. If I can get this old John Deere No. 5 mower rehabbed over the winter we’ll be able to cut, rake, AND bale. Woo-hoo!

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Ok so enough about my burgeoning hay operation. What else have we been up to since last we spoke?

We managed to catch two swarms of bees! I think one was from our own hives but I believe the other was a wild swarm. I have to admit that shaking bees down out of the trees while you’re standing underneath is a little bit surreal…

But also oddly exciting! Now we have 4 hives going. They all seem to be doing well.

We also (finally!) got the house painted! Yay!

I honestly did not realize how much nicer it would be to come home to. We used an airless paint sprayer and we would’ve been done in one weekend except your’s truly managed to toss out a little, itty-bitty part of the spray nozzle with the wash water. We spent the next week with a half-painted house waiting on the replacement. Still, I would not paint with a roller or brush again, at least on the outside. The sprayer was so easy to learn to use and the speed – heaven, just heaven.

What else, what else? I processed our meat chickens. I say “I” because when we moved out here Don informed me in no uncertain terms that he would not be involved with any slaughtering, hahaha, and so far, I’ve managed to live up to our agreement. We rented this setup from our local conservation district for $20 (less the gorgeous table, that’s my creation) and the job went surprisingly smoothly.

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The plucker is miraculous but I have to tell you, I think the real secret is the scalder. It keeps the water at 146.5 degrees and you can dunk five birds at once.

I was very pleased with our harvest. Each bird weighed about 5.5 pounds and we put 50+ pounds of chicken in the freezer.

And I am happy to confirm that they taste wonderful. Unlike the rabbits, we had no problem eating these.

And that my friends is all… I think. 🙂

Thank you for letting me ramble on in these sporadic posts.