Saturday, March 31, 2007

A week of rain

Lots of things happened this last week, but they did not get blogged about. I will be updating this week over the next few days so as not to overwhelm with a gigantic single blog. Today I will tell the sad story of the rain on Monday. I am not complaining about getting rain. The rain has soaked our fields and our tank is now full. During yesterday’s rain the tank was trying to burst out of the berms that keep it in place. The channel that fills the tank was almost out of its banks and the channel out of the tank was also almost out of its banks. Three weeks ago we had a tank that was so low we were getting the milk cow stuck in it. Feast or famine out here.

Anyway, between noon last Sunday and 9:00 a.m. on Monday we got three inches of here at the farm. (We got two inches in three hours yesterday.) Mitchell and I went out and milked the cow in the rain and the little shed I moved the milking operations into was a good shelter from the falling rain, but it was still sopping wet because the whole area was super saturated and we had about an inch of standing water in the shed. Still, it was a lot better than being in the pouring rain Monday morning.

We finished milking and I went out to tend to the chicks. We had a mix out in the brooder of about 45 laying hens and 45 meat birds. They had just been moved out to the chicken tractor last Wednesday. When I got out there we had two dead chicks and the rest we standing in muddy water up to their breasts. It was at this point that I made a fatal mistake. You see, the tractor was in a spot where the water was pooled and they were drowning as well as losing body heat. So, I moved the tractor out of the standing water. In the process the chicks fell in the cold, wet mud and got coated with it. They then laid there and the tractor squashed them. When I left, there were about 20 dead chicks I had pulled out of the tractor. What I knew I had to do was get the chicks out of the standing water. I did that, but lost about 20 chicks.

That afternoon I was on my way to a pasture and livestock workshop at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center in Overton and talked to Melissa when she went out to feed them. I was very concerned about how many had survived. Not many was the answer. I imagined the chicken tractor looking like the killing fields in Cambodia. We lost, all tolled, 32 laying hen chicks and 22 meat bird chicks. Rather than pulling the tractor out of the water I should have run back to the house, gotten everybody out there to pick up chickens and moved them back into the brooder where it was dry and we could heat them up. I did not do that. PETA and ASPCA have brought me up on charges at the World Court in the Hague.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Rattle snake or Bull snake, what's the difference?

Several of us stayed home from church this morning with colds. So I decided to start looking for some of Stephen's old t-shirts for the quilt I want to make him before he graduates. The clothes are all in plastic containers in what was going to be our new laundry room--an unfinished part of the addition to this house. So I went in there to dig around through the clothes and had to move a piece of insulation out of my way. It was an extra piece that isn't yet installed anywhere and was just laying on the floor. But there underneath of it was a snake! I dropped it back on the snake, jumped and yelled. Then Faith and I searched through our Texas Snakes book. It wasn't a diamond back so I calmed down. I can deal with snakes, but nothing poisonous please. Then Faith pointed out that we should identify it because there is more than one kind of poisonous snake. So we go back and it's still there, apparently sleeping with its tail tucked underneath so we couldn't see if there were any rattles or not. Now with both of us having seen it, we start to go through the book again. It looked exactly like the picture of the Western Massasauga--a rattle snake! We went back to the snake and looked again and compared it to the picture. Exact same markings. I called Roger who was in Sunday School and told him there was a rattle snake in the laundry room. He came home.

Okay, I didn't keep an eye on the snake. That was a mistake. It was sleeping and it was cool so I figured it would stay asleep. But then, we did disturb it three times. When Roger came home, rather than let me tell him where it was he immediately started to pick things up and toss them aside--making a LOT of noise. I figured he woke it up and scared it away. Finally I went in and made him let me show him where it was. It was gone. Who knows whether it was because I left it unattended or because he made so much noise--or both! It just really scared me to think that snake was in my house and we didn't know where!

After some searching we finally found it. This time we could see the tail and there were no rattles. Roger decided it was a bull snake and left it there. I guess I could have complained, but there's the mouse I saw recently on the kitchen counter. I was up nursing Gloria at 2:30 am when I heard something fall in the kitchen. After I got Gloria back to bed, I grabbed a flashlight and shined it in the kitchen. Sure enough, there was a little mouse looking at me. Yuck!

I guess if I have to choose, I'd rather have the snake than the mouse. We haven't found any snake droppings on our kitchen counters yet. I've had pet snakes and pet mice in my lifetime and I think the mice are way stinkier. Snakes are really beautiful creatures when you aren't startled out of your mind by them.

But then my mom had to go and ask if this snake might have a family in there. They don't, right? Aren't snakes loners? Karen, my favorite vet, I hope you read this and answer soon! And do bull snakes eat mice? I suppose I could google these answers myself, but I have a quilt to make. I actually made myself go back and get out those shirts. I just waited till Roger and my big boys were home again from church!


Friday, March 23, 2007

New Cows

Since Isabella's little mud incidents, the milk has been reduced in quantity. We reached a point where we needed to either buy milk or buy a cow. Then lo and behold, there was an ad for a jersey with calf in whatever thingy Roger picks up every Thursday.

So meet Stella and Patty. Isabella is introducing herself in this picture. She might have been a bit confused since Taffy and Patty look like they could be twins! They are about the same age as each other as are Stella and Bella.

Praise God our herd is growing! Roger is getting ready to look up cheesemaking in case we have some extra milk after we drink our fill.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cement trucks were here!

Monday morning we had three cement trucks here!

Friday, March 16, 2007

The house, the cow and the tank

Good morning. We have some rain this morning so I thought I’d update you on the house and tell you about the cow. About the house – the first row of blocks are in place and sand was delivered yesterday. The sand will be used to get the grade under the foundation right for the pour, which may be next week. We don’t know because we are being blessed with construction slow downs because of the rain.

The rain has not been enough to fill our tank, which is not good and is a player in the rest of this post. Monday afternoon I came home to get the milk cow from the pasture and pen her up for the night so we could milk her in the morning. I walked out to the tank and there she was, stuck in the mud. Now, as a city boy I had no idea about this little problem and what it could mean. Seems if a cow gets stuck in the mud it will struggle to get out and since it is stuck and can’t get out it will give-up after it has exhausted itself. This is the state in which I found the cow, tired and full of give-up. The vet also explained that in the straining the cow could also suffer ligament damage.

So, through the miracle of the mobile phone I called the house from the tank and the boys – Stephen and Mitchell – ran out to help. We tried pulling and pushing and this did not work. I sent Stephen back to get the truck. We had 100’ of rope I had bought to use on the chicken tractors so we tied one end to the trailer hitch and the other to the cow’s harness. Stephen drove the truck and Mitchell and I tried to assist the cow as she was pulled out. This did not work, but her neck did get a good stretching. When we stopped this attempt she looked even worse. I had a tow strap in the truck and in our second attempt we looped the tow strap around her front legs, which we could get out of the mud and tied the free end of the strap to the rope tied to the bumper. Again Stephen drove and this time I manned the halter to keep her head out of the water. The angle we had to work with was awful. She had gotten stuck in the worst part of the tank for this maneuver. This time the truck was able to get her unstuck and we dragged her up the hill and away from the tank.

With the cow out of the tank we fed her and she ate with no problem. I took this as a good sign. Then she started chewing her cud. I thought this was also good. Still, she would not even try to stand up. We tried rolling her up and tempting her with more food, but she just laid there. The vet arrived and administered some anti-inflammatories and other stuff and said her heart rate and respirations were good and that eating and chewing her cud was a good thing. At about 8:30 we finally went in and left the cow out by the tank. I got up at six the next morning and went to see how she was doing. She was gone. She had gotten up in the night and wandered off. An excellent sign.

Tuesday afternoon I went out to get her to bring her in for a Wednesday morning milking. Stephen went with me. There she was, stuck in the tank, worse than the day before. Stephen ran back to the house and got the truck, my rubber boots and Mitchell. I got into the tank and put the strap under her with one loop in front and one in back. We tied the rope to the mid section of the looped strap and the other end of the rope to the truck’s bumper and puller her out sideways. Again, she ate and chewed her cud and this time she stood up on her own. We walked her back to the stanchion in anticipation of milking her Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning we got all of three quarts from her. Thursday morning we got a half gallon. This morning we were back up and got over a gallon and a half from her.

The top picture is the lovely Bella on Tuesday afternoon. The next is also the cow. The last picture is of my sock when I finally poured out my boots.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Stem wall

Here's a picture of our house. I had to stand way back in our future front yard to get it all in. They've got 3 sides of the stem wall in, but ran out of dirt for mixing mortar. When they get more dirt, they'll do the last side. This will be the frame for pouring the foundation.

I can't tell you how exciting it was to walk out there and see something showing before I got all the way there.

Our current house has a lot of problems. Here's an example. Yesterday morning I was sitting in bed with my head against the wall nursing Gloria. Roger walked out the front door to go milk the cow. You have to practically slam the door to get it to shut and when he did so, the house shook to the point that my head bounced away from the wall and back again. Now, this wall is several walls away from the wall the door is on. I don't get how the house could be so bad and still stand, but thankfully it is still standing. It scares me when the kids jump in the house (and they're active kids and there are a lot of them) because the refrigerator will shake like it's gonna fall. I'm just praying that God will keep this house standing as long as we need it.

Sorry we're not keeping the blog very current. We're pretty busy these days. There's the house we're building, the house we're living in, new chicks, cows, etc. Then this is the time of year that I prepare the writing books for our next school year. That means I plan copywork and compositions and reports and such for the entire school year, type them, print them, and bind them. It's no small task. I should just need to print them and bind them now, but I had that computer crash last spring before I ever backed anything up. Grrr.

In addition to all that, I've been dealing with our oldest, Stephen, thinking he's growing up or something. Silly boy wants to be an adult and get on with his life. Hmmph. Don't I have any say in that? He's preparing to join the military and they are giving me a little trouble over a lack of accreditation in his schooling. Nevermind the fact that he's taken a practice ASVAB test and done VERY well. They know he's brilliant, but need paperwork proving his school is accredited. Well, it's not and there's no way to change that. Fortunately, they just THINK they need that. A search of helped me find that they don't. The transcript I gave them should do just fine, thank you.

I'm home from church with little ones with little colds. Thankfully it is no big deal. Claire was supposed to get baptized today (she accepted Christ as her Lord on my birthday, isn't that cool?) but she's one of the kids with a cold. So hopefully next week.