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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Random Photos

Currently my eighty six year old grandfather is hospitalized for an indefinite period of time and I am in Georgia while my wonderful family and friends take care of things back home.  I thought I would take the time to post a few photos from the past week on my blog for the next few days since I won't have any real farm news until I get home.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Patrick and Friends

Yes, that's right.  Poor little Patrick who had no friends is beginning to be accepted with the rest of the herd.  Today was a good day for Patrick.

He was hanging out with a couple of the Jersey girls when they discovered something new in their shelter.

"Hey girls, what's this?"



Faith was the most curious one of the group.


"Watcha doin?"


"Come on, Patrick.  She doesn't bite."

 

Then the second best part to the day was when Patrick was able to nurse from Shar while she was distracted tasting the minerals. 



"Who cares if I am almost as tall as she is!  It's milk!"

But THE BEST part of the day was hanging out with friends.



"I love my new friends."

"I especially love Faith.  She is really nice."

Monday, April 16, 2012

A "BEE"sy Day Swarming with Adventure! (A Bee In Her Bonnet)

Photo courtesy of this link


Yesterday started out just like any other Sunday.  I rolled out of bed a few minutes late (after all, it is suppose to be a day of rest) and headed for the barnyard to milk.  When the chores were finished I showered and got ready for the day.  Our typical Sunday includes services at our church, hanging around afterwards to visit with friends we have not seen all week, and then out to eat.  (Mike usually takes me out to eat on Sundays giving me a break from the kitchen for one day.)  We had included plans to drive to a friend's house (who lives in the next county over the mountain) to borrow a "kicker" to use on Shar while we milk her for a few days until she gets back into the routine.  (I didn't milk her much last year as a first calf heifer, choosing rather to leave her calf on her for an extended period to nurse.  Since she didn't have a lot of milk, this was not an issue to her udder health.  However, she has a good bit of milk now and her calf is not taking it all and we need to get her milked out on a regular basis, thus the need for the kicker until she starts behaving herself.) 

After church we were on our way to the restaurant when Mike received a call on his cell phone.  From my perspective sitting next to him and hearing only Mike's part of the conversation, it went something like this:

"Well, we don't actually own bees.  There are some abandoned boxes left at the farm from early years when someone had bees there and let them die out because they took all the honey and then didn't feed them."

"My wife has been wanting to get bees, but I don't know.  I will have to talk to her."

"OK, I will call you back if she is interested.  Let me talk to her."

After Mike ended the call, he told me that a man in the subdivision down the road from the farm had a swarm of bees in the elderly neighbors yard.  The neighbors are frequently away and the man phoning us keeps the place for them while they are away.  The bees were a concern and they wanted to know if we would come and get them.

 I have been wanting bees for a number of years now but I simply have not had the time to invest in learning how to care for them.  I even ordered a book but have not yet had a chance to read it.  I checked into classes at one time, but couldn't find any classes in the area that were being offered (although I have since learned that the community college does offer bee keeping classes from time to time).  To say that I am totally ignorant of bee keeping is absolutely correct.  I know nothing about bees other than the fact I enjoy honey tremendously!

We ordered and ate lunch and during that time I posted on my personal facebook page about the swarm of bees and asked for friends who were beekeepers to give me advice on catching the swarm.  A Facebook crash course in catching a swarm of bees began. When Mike and I  finished lunch, we headed on over to get the kicker, fully aware that by the time we returned, the swarm might have moved on. 

While chatting with our friends in Nelson County and discussing some very simple basics in bee care, my friend Marion offered to let me borrow her bee suit for protection in case we decided to catch the swarm.  I declined at first but when she insisted it would be fine, I went ahead a borrowed the suit.  I was sure by the time we got back to our county, the bees would be gone.

Instead of going home first, we headed down to the subdivision where the bees were swarming and I took a photo of them hanging on the branches of a cedar tree.  They were eally impressive and I knew then I wanted to try to get them, but was a bit unsure how to do it as we only had one bee suit and we really needed two people to accomplish the job.

There were three men with me and all three adamantly said they were not getting anywhere near the bees and they joked about video taping the incident so they could submit it to America's Funniest Home Videos anticipating I would make a complete fool of myself trying to capture the bees.  Someone remarked that "chivalry" was dead and we all laughed. 

I still kind of held back when we went to the farm to clean up a box as  a home for the bees once they were captured.  I was thinking about how to capture the bees by myself and Mike was trying to think of a way to lure the bees to a box without actually capturing the hive.  I was afraid the "luring" would never work and I wanted that swarm, so I decided to go for it no matter what.  I had to go home and change out of my denim skirt and put on a pair of pants and some shoes (other than sandals).  Then, I grabbed the bee suit, a cardboard box, and some tape.  I met all the men back at the cedar tree where the swarm remained waiting for me. 

I was going to attempt to climb a ladder, hold the box while cutting the limbs and catch the swarm when it dropped.  However, Mike soon felt sorry for me, convinced that I would fall off the ladder while trying to hold the box and cut the limb. He decided that he would help.  (Chivalry is not dead!)  He put on borrowed Carhartts and a straw hat.  If we weren't a sight in our "costumes" getting ready to capture the swarm!

Mike and I don't always communicate well what steps we are going to take once we get involved in a project.  Often that leaves me scrambling to try to figure out what we are going to do next, something I didn't think we could chance with this venture, so I started telling him how we were going to do this.  ( I am the oldest of four siblings and can be the bossy take charge type when need be, although I don't like that role at all.)  I instructed that we would cut the smaller branches under the swarm first giving me an area to hold the box directly under the bees.  Then, Mike would cut the two branches allowing the swarm to drop into the cardboard box.  At this point, Mike would move out of the "danger zone" and allow me to close the top to the box and seal it with duct tape. 

Before we quite got started, I realized that we would also need to actually trim the end of the branch on which the bees had swarmed in order for it to fit into the box I would be holding.  Mike was an absolute trooper!  His face and hands were exposed but he went in and cut the end off the branch with the swarm and then trimmed the branches underneath.  He hesitated at this point and I remember saying, "Come on!  Let's do this!"

Snip

The swarm was now hanging on one branch.

Snip

The second branch was cut and the swarm of bees fell right into my hands, and lay in the bottom of the cardboard box.

What an exhilarating feeling to hold that swarm in that box but I didn't have time to contemplate what had just happened because I had to get the box closed and the tape on the box before the bees escaped, or worse, became agitated and angry.

I walked away from the tree with bees buzzing around my face and body and set the box down lightly on the ground.  I realized then the branch was still too big and the top would not shut.   I asked Mike to hand me the pruning shears but instead he stepped in and cut the branch himself and then stepped back.  I shoved the branch down in the box and closed the lid (with bees flying around me) and taped it shut.  I then took my box of bees and put them in the back of the truck and headed back to the farm with them.

We let the bees set for a few minutes under a shade tree in the back of the truck while Mike helped me put the bee box back together and while two of my beekeeping friends coached me by phone.  After the bees had settled and the box was in position with sugar water in place for the bees to eat, I put the bee suit on again and dumped the swarm into their new home putting the lid firmly on the hive!

We have no guarantees that the bees will stay or that they will survive, but we are hoping the bees like their new home and do well.  The whole experience was fascinating and I am thankful for the opportunity for the Sweet Sunday blessing !  (My husband is the best!  I couldn't have done it without him!)

Hard to see but a huge swarm in the tree.  Photo taken with my phone.


Bees new home!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Being Different ~ Patrick the Beef Baby in a World of Jerseys



Patrick is different.  It's not just that he is a beef calf living with a herd of dairy cattle, it's more than that.  It's not just that he is black and the other calves are fawn colored, it's more than that.  It's not those two, black circles around his eyes giving him the look of a bandit, it's more than that.  It's not just that he is almost twice the size of the miniature and percentage miniature calves with whom he lives, it's more than that. 

Patrick seems as healthy as can be.  He takes his bottle with gusto and has never had the scours.  He is growing well on the Jersey milk and eats grass out in the field.  But Patrick just isn't "normal".  In part, he is different because the rest of the herd treats him differently.  They simply do not accept Patrick because he is "different".  The momma cow's push him away and the calves pair up with their own kind.  When Patrick tries to sneak in and get a drink of milk, the momma cows push him away.  This hurts his feelings and means he has to wait for a bottle. 

Unlike some of the other "orphaned" calves we have had who have been aggressive and insisted to be treated "the same", Patrick doesn't have the initiative to force himself on anyone.  In fact, he never even cries for a bottle.  If I do not have a bottle available when he comes up, he never even waits for it.  He simply goes off into the field.  His attitude seems to be "if I get a bottle, I get a bottle and if I don't, I don't." 

When I offer Patrick a bottle, he does not run forcefully towards me and butt the bottle like a normal bottle baby.  He drinks well and has no issues, but calmly steps back when bottle time is over. 

Patrick does not like human contact and doesn't seek out affection. 

Patrick is different and Patrick knows he is different.  He is quietly resigned to being different and although I know we are not suppose to resort to anthropomorphising, I can't help but ascribe a certain sadness to him and his aloneness. 

I also can't help but draw a parallel to human children who are "different" and who don't quite fit in.  I have known and worked with children like this who simply "give up" in their resignation to go through life without the acceptance of others because they are different, all the while inside wanting to be loved and accepted.

Maybe Patrick's story can help us all be a little more accepting of those who are "different" and hopefully Patrick and others will "fit in" better with time.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Photos From Easter Sunday On The Farm

Hereford bull calf sired by our registered Hereford bull.
A portion of our beef herd on lush grass.


More of our beef herd.
Charolais genetic evident in this baby.
Our new mineral feeder and fountain area for the beef herd.
Well house, mineral feeder area.  The views from the top of this hill are unbelievable!

Friday, April 6, 2012

My Tribute To Tay




 She was five years old with big brown eyes, dark hair and a smile that lit up the room when I first met her.  I was nineteen and had newly arrived to Delta Junction, Alaska.  She was attending the preschool class at First Baptist Church where I was teaching and was cuter than cute as she stood  beside her four year old sister, Janis, a blonde with blue eyes. 

It wasn't long until Tay's mother, Elizabeth and I became friends and as the years brought joys and trials our friendship grew to the point that I began to call Liz my "best friend".  Liz and I worked together at the Legislative Information Office in Alaska, we went to church together, we quilted together and we visited in each other's homes.  As Tay and Janis got older and my own children came along, they provided babysitting services for Josh and Alissa when I needed them. 

Distance separated us physically from time to time but did nothing to hinder the friendship of the two families and what a thrill it was for me when the Sarver's ended up moving to Virginia where I had moved a few years earlier, allowing us to live in close proximity to each other once again. 

Three and a half years ago, when Josh died, the first person I called that early morning sometime after I received the call just after 2 am, was my friend Elizabeth.  She never hesitated but left the comfort of her bed and home and made the hour and a half drive to our home.  She stayed with me as long as I needed her and without her presence, I don't know how I could have made it through those first hours as we waited for my son to be taken off life support.

You can imagine the devastation I felt when I heard of Tay's illness and I knew the pain I was feeling was nothing to compare to the pain that Liz, Mike and Janis were feeling.  Each trip that we were able to make to visit with Tay while she was ill was such a blessing.  The purpose was to go and be a blessing to Tay and to the Sarver family but instead, I went away feeling as if I had been blessed.  Each time Tay would see me, her face would light up with that familiar smile.  If you know Tay, you know the smile of which I speak.  It was the smile that was not reserved for just one person, and in fact included all that she loved.  However, when one was the recipient of that smile, one felt as if they were the center of Tay's universe, for her smile made us all feel like we were the most important person on this earth. 

During her illness, Tay never complained.  Not once did she cry for herself, ask God "why", or question His purpose.  On the contrary, she comforted her family by saying, "It's ok.  We have God.  He will take care of us."  Her faith was beyond compare and she left this world with confidence knowing that her Heavenly Father was running to her with open arms to receive her into His kingdom.  Even when the pain was intense and her body began to fail her, she never complained. 

I do not think that it was an accident that our Heavenly Father took Tay home during this most Holy week.  This is the week that He gave up His own Son and watched him die a slow, agonizing death on the cross.  We can be comforted in knowing that our God knows our pain as intimately as we know this grief and He seeks to comfort us at this time if we will but collapse into His arms and share with him our pain.  Today, on Good Friday, we remember the death of God's son as we also remember that Tay is no longer with us on this earth.  Sunday, we will celebrate the Resurrection and because of Easter, we know that one day we will be reunited with Tay.

We say goodbye to Tay's earthly body which is the body we love so dearly and miss so badly that we don't know how we will ever make it without her.  But we, through faith, know that her soul is forever alive and knows no pain or suffering but is instead complete and fulfilled.  And here on this earth, we will keep her spirit alive by allowing ourselves to let her spirit of kindness and love flow through us as we remember her.  She is always with us, for she will forever be in our hearts. 

******************************************************************************

Tay's Obituary


Tay with Casey, the Corgi we were able to find her when she said she wanted a companion dog.





Tay and Janis

Tay with her four year old son, Austin.

 
The Sarver Family:  Liz, Tay, Mike and Janis



My daughter, Alissa with Tay and I.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Scoop on the Hoop Coop!

My husband is awesome!  The poor man has more work than he can possibly keep up with as it is when I mentioned to him that I would like a Hoop Coop for my new birds.  I got a few "grumbles " and a few "I don't know how to do that" comments at first.  So,  I began looking up hoop houses on the Internet, showing him the designs, and encouraging him with how simple it would be to make one!Much to my pleasure, when I went out of town for the day, Mike surprised me when I got home with a new Hoop Coop! (He's the best!  He knows improvements to the farm rank higher on my list than flowers and dining out!)  

The only thing that has held us up from using the new coop was that we could not decide on what plastic to get to  cover the house.  Mike and his friend Sam were talking one evening over supper and they decided that a silage bag would work and they were right! (Aren't they genius?)   

I have a permanent building for a chicken house but I am not quite ready to retire my old birds until these new birds get a little bigger and start laying.  I did not want to put the young birds in with the older birds due to (a) lack of space  (b) the larger birds picking on the smaller birds  and (c) because I wanted to clean the big house out, disinfect it and let it air until fall before I start using it again.  The Hoop Coop was a perfect solution for temporary housing for these younger birds that would not cost us a fortune.  In fact, Mike used lumber that the men had sawed on our saw mill so the lumber didn't really cost us anything.  Then, he used two cattle panels we had to make the "hooped" portion of the building at a cost of approximately $20 per cattle panel.  The roll of chicken wire we used on the lower part of the construction to keep predators from being able to reach through and grab the birds was $30.  The old, heavy duty wooden door (complete with horse shoe for good luck) was donated by my father in law and the silage bag for the cover was donated by our friend, Sam.  So, for less than $100 we have us a nice place for the birds!

A horse shoe on the door for luck and a Great Pyre that barks all night we hope is enough to keep the predators away and our birds safe!  Hopefully the darker, camouflaged colors of the birds will help keep the daytime predators away such as the hawks, eagles and falcons that love to feast on our birds! 



Back of hoop house has plastic over it now but we have a "window" there for when the weather is warmer.  Mike used shredded wood that the highway department has been dumping at the farm (with permission) for the "floor".  The birds will soon be turned out to free range once they get use to the hoop house as home.  In this manner, the hoop house is more of a permanent dwelling while the birds will be allowed to roam at will over our property. 

Currently, I am keeping them in until they get use to their new home and then I will begin turning them out to free range on our 50 acres here at the house. 

In addition to the wonderful, big hoop house that Mike built, I found a small hoop house on Craig's List that was made by a young man still in high school. I can use as a small chicken tractor for my roosters that I am raising.  Considering what it cost us to make the large hoop house, I am sure that I paid more than I should have for the smaller hoop house. However, as Mike is really too busy to build me another one right now I decided to go ahead and get it.  ( Besides, it's really cute!) 

Too cute with that star cut out in the door!  Small, lightweight and easy to move.  This hoop house was built using pvc pipe which is much lighter than the cattle panels used on the big hoop house. 




Currently, because McMurry sent the roosters  mixed in with the hens, I am not able to tell the difference.  Hopefully I will be able to tell in the next few weeks. At that time, I will put all the roosters together in the smaller coop.  They will be allowed to either free range or be pastured with electric poultry netting during the day and fed a diet of clabbered milk to supplement until I get them to butcher size. 

And that, my friends, is the Scoop on the Hoop Coop(s)!