I feel like I’ve woefully neglected the farm critters lately, so here is a pictorial update of some of the creatures.
I feel like I’ve woefully neglected the farm critters lately, so here is a pictorial update of some of the creatures.
Boot City and I live on top of a hill. A very large and rocky hill. Our friends like to tell us how delightful they find our driveway. Truly delightful. The primary reason that our driveway is so very delightful is due to laws of gravity: what goes up, must come down. This is true not only for our driveway, but for other parts of our property as well. All farmers and ranchers are constantly battling erosion of some sort. We aren’t actual farmers or ranchers, but we do have an ongoing battle with erosion. When the rain comes down, it has to go somewhere and so down the hill it goes. Generally after a hard rain most any loose dirt and rocks from our driveway have found their way to the highway by our house. I’m confident the county road crew loves us the most.
For the past nine years we have lived on our happy 10 acres we have been working towards improving the land and increasing the amount of grass that grows. Improving the soil is all about adding organic matter and nitrogen. The combined efforts of the chickens pooping, the goats pooping and the horses pooping have done wonders to increase the amount of organic matter. We try to compost as much as we can, but sometimes that sh$% just has to get spread around. Boot City has also gotten to justify his schmancy new 65 horsepower John Deere all in the name of grass and soil improvement. This allows him to dig up the soil, plant seeds and fertilise when necessary. And this spring has shown the fruits of our (mostly his) labor better than any other.
So much so that after an especially hard rain this past weekend there was a great deal of evidence that we really need to work on creating our very own mini-creek for the water to go down after such hard rains. As it is now, the water running down the hill just takes all the organic matter we’ve worked so hard to accumulate with it!
Towards the bottom of the back hill the grass had gotten to be about 12″ – 14″ tall. When I walked the property the morning after the rain I was somewhat surprised to find how it had been completely flattened by the water runoff. This was a prime opportunity for us to identify the low spots and plan for adding rocks and other solid barriers to slow down the water and to prevent the topsoil from being eroded.
In the back, right before and at the largest back pasture (about 5 acres) the grass is thick, tall and lush. It’s that perfect spring green that makes anyone associated with agriculture and animal husbandry smile and take a deep breath. Along the path of the water runoff it had gotten completely flattened and looked like a big green walkway. Again, indicative of where to plant more large rocks!
Last, but not least, this is where the water collects and runs to lower ground on the neighbor’s property. Last year, in the fall, there was a similar large storm and the water runoff collected so much debris that by the time it got to this spot it took down the fence!
Now we mow, mow and mow some more (and by we I mean Boot City mows) and collect rocks from other parts of the property to add to the future “creek”. Maybe by fall we will have a genuine little waterfall to share!
First off, I’m sorry for the inadvertent blogging hiatus! For a girl with 10 planners, my time management isn’t the best. Hopefully I’m back on track to post here regularly.
Summertime for horse owners (and keeping them at home) means hauling hay. It is one of the least glamorous aspects of horse ownership. There is nothing quite like being hot and sweaty with hay in your socks, in your shoes, in your mouth, in your shirt, well, you get the point.
When planning how much hay to buy every year, I usually get one bale for every day, so around 365 bales. They are about 50lb bales and most every year I run out of hay at least 3 months before the next harvest. Cold winters put a bigger dent in the hay supply, too. Horses stay warm by eating hay, it gets their internal furnace burning. My hope is that with one less horse and improved math skills I will get enough hay this year! It costs twice as much to buy hay from the feed store than to buy it directly from the supplier so is MUCH nicer on the feed budget!
The supplier I buy from is gracious enough to let us drop off our trailer and load it for us. This way all we have to do is take it home and stack it in our barn. When we built the new horse barn we started using the old barn exclusively for feed storage and as the chicken coop. This lowers the fire danger in the new barn and reduces the amount of dust.
This first load of the summer was few bales short of 150. We will get another similarly sized load later this summer and then hopefully one final small load before the hay is gone.
We clean out the hay room before refilling it with hay. This requires taking out all the pallets and lots of sweeping. We probably should wear breathing masks because of the dust, but we didn’t plan for that this year. It gets REALLY dusty! You’ll see the dust in quite a few of the pictures. It makes me feel like sneezing just looking at the photos!
I learned at a very young age how to properly stack hay. You want to create a stable base for the stack and fit as many bales in a small space as possible.
After the base layer is down, you stack the next layer flat on and perpendicular the base bales. Each additional layer goes on the same way. Only the base bales are laid on the narrow side. The rest of the layers are laid on their widest side.
It usually takes a couple hours to stack 150 bales. I do most of the stacking and get Boot City to help with the top two layers. He’s taller and has more arm strength than I have to get the bales up that high. It feels SO good to be done stacking the hay and be prepared for the upcoming fall and winter with lots of hay for hungry horses (and sometimes goats).
How is it already June?! And mid-June at that! I have travelled for work, family or fun every week for about eight weeks. I know lots of people who travel much more than that, but it has been a lot for me. I’ve always been a bit of a homebody so I have to recoup in between trips and this week hasn’t been any different.
Tonight I wandered around the property enjoying the AMAZING weather and snapped some cute and funny animal pics.
Our ranchette seems to be afflicted with a rash of unplanned pregnancies. I pestered Boot City a few days ago to get the eggs away from our broody bantam hen. The last time she was broody she hatched 6 or 7 chicks. They were adorable. Until they grew up and pecked one of their brothers nearly to death and then had to be separated. Too many roosters in a small space makes for a lot of drama. So now we have 3 random bantam rooster habitats that are a pain in the neck to take care of and they don’t lay any eggs!
I went to check on said broody hen tonight and guess what I found?
We won’t know for a few weeks of it is a hen or a rooster. I really hope it’s a hen. When I asked Boot City about this little bundle of joy he told me he had found it yesterday. Why he wouldn’t share this delightful news immediately is beyond me. Actually, it doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s always irritated by people who act like any birth is a glorious event (human or animal, in his eyes they aren’t all glorious events) regardless of circumstances.
Do you see how it has fuzzy legs? When it grows up it’ll have feathers down it’s feet. It’ll be cute. Bantams are miniature chickens and when the roosters with the feathered feet fight with each other we call it tickle fighting because they look so cute jumping around. Until there’s blood. Then it isn’t very cute anymore and they have to be separated.
Can you see the chick here with it’s mum?
The baby snuggles up under it’s Mom to stay warm. They can’t regulate their own temperature until they have feathers. They generally are fully feathered at about 6 weeks. They won’t lay eggs until at least 14 weeks, but with bantams it is more like 26 weeks before they lay eggs. The purpose of bantams are to be cute. They don’t really lay many eggs and their eggs are teeny tiny. They are like Italian Greyhounds, no real purpose in life other than to be cute.
This is the whole fam-damily. Three hens and two roosters live in this little chicken house. These roosters actually get along quite well. I don’t think we’ve ever had an issue with them fighting.
Everyone should think happy thoughts/pray/meditate whatever it takes for this chick to be a hen. Her life would be much better (and probably longer) than if she’s a he.
Do you know what the world needs more of? I’ll tell you; cute baby animals. After a super busy week at work, one of the rougher weeks for Boot City with the weather man (I’ll explain that in a later post, but it’s a pain issue) and a somewhat sickly horse it was pretty fun to be able to pop into the ratty old barn and get a glimpse of these cutey patooteys.
They are a few days older than 5 weeks and mama cat had hidden them for the first 4. So not nice of her to hide them. Boot City found them after they were a few days old, but she had them in the ceiling of the barn so they weren’t exactly easy to get to. I, of course, reached into the insulation where they were hidden to see how many there were and snuggle them. Mama cat promptly moved them to where I couldn’t reach. Rude.
She seems to be fine with sharing them now. When I go into the room where they live she talks to them and they all come out to see her, then see me and freak out hissing. It is quite adorable and funny.
The harsh truth out here in the country is that we go through a lot of cats. I think we’ve had about 15 since we’ve lived here. It is difficult to get them to stick around. Even the ones we’ve spayed and neutered found a reason to go out and either find a new home or become coyote bait. Two of the ones we loved most got hit by cars on the road in front of our house. Our sweet neighbor got them off the highway before they were a gooey icky mess so we were able to bury them properly. Now that is a good neighbor.
A couple of these munchkins are spoken for. One goes to a new home next week. And it ‘s a good thing because it appears that our other female cat is going to pop in the next week or two with her own batch of kittens. I’m not going to lie; I love having little kittens around to play with. Seriously, how can you resist this face?!
I know the more responsible thing to do is to get them all spayed and neutered and that is the plan for the mama cats once the kittens are no longer nursing. Hopefully we can get a group discount at the vet.
We have about 60 laying hens right now. Some are older chickens who don’t lay prolifically others are young hens who have only been laying for a few months. It works out to about 40 eggs per day we collect right now. That is a lot of eggs! We have quite a few friends who get eggs from us, but there are still plenty leftover. My thought was there would be no better way to use up some eggs than to have our friends’ kids over to dye Easter eggs!
I hard boiled about 5 dozen eggs in hopes the kids would have plenty to dye. Our chickens are a variety of breeds so our eggs vary in color from white to tan to brown to blue and green. This made it even more fun to see how the egg colors would turn out. About 15 kids made it to the party so they had plenty to dye. Some of the kids had dyed eggs before, others had not. Dyeing and decorating eggs is one of my fondest memories of Easter from my childhood so I love creating this memory for our friends’ kids.
Along with dyeing eggs some of the little ones had better ideas of what to do ith the eggs. This little guy, barely a year old, was far more interested in partaking in farm fresh hard boiled eggs!
And this future farmer was enamored with the John Deere tractor. A little man after Boot City’s own heart! Every time we have kids out to the ranchette there is a crowd of them on the tractor at some point.
We treasure these times with the kiddos before they are too cool for us. I never tire of watching them running after chickens, trying to catch baby goats, getting their food stolen by the hound dogs, and generally still discovering their surroundings. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry sometimes that our friendships would grow distance as our friends have families and their activities and interests diverge from what we did together when we were in our 20’s. Gatherings like this just confirm that true friendships don’t go away, they just change and mature like we do.
Growing up in Montana I never really understood the saying “April showers bring May flowers”. As I write this it is 39 in my hometown with a forecasted low of 19. April meant snow showers a lot more often than rain!
Texas spring weather is a lot more true to the saying! When I left work today it was pouring rain. By the time I got home it was sunny and lovely and clearly hadn’t rained at the house. My trusty iCellular weather app made no indication of rain in the near future so I rushed to feed the ponies so I could ride Sterling (gotta give him 30 minutes for his food to settle, its like swimming when you were a kid). I had barely scarfed down my leftover pizza and it was thundering and lightening then raining and hailing. I mean it was RAINING! The water coming off the roof of the house looked like a well planned waterfall.
So, I missed my ride. I did however get some fun pics of the farm after the rain. We were too busy holding Guzzi during the thunder to get any pics of the actual rain and hail. Hopefully my car doesn’t have any dents…..
I hope you enjoy the photos. The light after evening spring rains is the best. And even though my photography skills are still lacking I got a few good ones.
My favorite times of the day at home are in the early morning just before the sun rises and at night just as the sun sets. I had errands to run after work today (and to stop and see a dear friend whose house I left THE camera at over the weekend) so got home just in time for dusk. Animals are always pretty active just before the sun sets.
The chickens are busy just before the sun sets as this is one of their more vulnerable times. Coyotes are pretty active at sunrise and sunset and the chickens show a more keen sense of awareness at those times. That and they are gathering up to go to bed.
People often ask us how we train the chickens to go to their coop and the truth is we don’t train them to do anything. It is amazing how hard wired they are to do what they do. They have a 6th sense (it’s called survival) to go to where they perceive to be the safest place at night. When we first got chickens we were worried they would roost in trees or other various places where we didn’t want them to roost. Never ever have they roosted anywhere but in the barn. Often in places in the barn we didn’t intend them to roost, but safe nonetheless. There is even one who sleeps on a spotlight in the new barn by herself every night.
Pablo was exceptionally helpful with chores tonight.
I couldn’t resist photos of the horses. I know I’m biased, but they are beautiful!
And, of course, the sunset. This view never gets old.
When I started this blog I was really determined that I wasn’t going to use iCellular photos. The quality isn’t as good as a “real” camera and all that. But there are a lot of really funny things that happen at the farm that you can only catch on an iCellular. So you’re just going to have to endure some lesser quality photos periodically to enjoy the silliness.
Last Saturday while I was at the Closing Hunt (getting photos with my “real” camera) Boot City sent this photo to me:
This is our 11/12 year old foxhound, Peaches, eating a banana. Yes, our hounds like fruit. Evidently. Peaches doesn’t get around very well and we are pretty sure she had some help getting the banana off the counter. Most likely from the hound who ate about 8 apples off the middle of the dining room table a few weeks ago (Cupid).
Then, today, I get this photo from Boot City:
We have almost this exact same photo of Annie only instead of a banana she has a dead rat. I digress. At this point in the day there didn’t appear to be any bananas missing from the counter (I bought more bananas just last night after the hounds ate their fill last weekend). Our suspicions pointed to Annie having stashed a banana over the weekend during the initial banana thievery events, then going back for it sometime today. She is known to do that with eggs she steals from the chicken coop.
It appears we were wrong:
We are again placing blame on Cupid for this attempt at banana thievery. None of the other dogs are as agile at getting things off tall surfaces nor do any of the others seem to have the intestinal fortitude to do what it takes to get things off the counter quite like Cupid does. She has a lot of stick-to-itiveness when it comes to food. One might attribute her voluptuous figure on her commitment to eating food she’s not supposed to eat. Cat food. Apples. Anything small children are trying to eat. Goat feed. Cattle feed. Chicken feed. Alfalfa cubes.
Thanks to the banana thieves no one will be having banana with their oatmeal tomorrow morning.
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