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Frosted Morning, with Animals

Feb
18

It’s 13 degrees here at the moment. The next few nights are forecast for sub-zero. Snow is expected to start again sometime this morning. I was out doing chores early, before the flakes start falling.

Food to the dogs and cats. Feed and hay to the goats. A big bucket of grain to the cows. I moved the cows all the way into the back barnyard to give them access to more hay. I can’t move round bales right now, so I need to get everybody where they can get what I can move for the next few days–square bales. Their big grain feeder is frozen into the ground in another field, so I had to feed their grain in a small-ish (for big cow heads) feeder.

They managed to get all three of their giant heads in there at the same time. Motivation can create miracles.

Everybody has access to creek water, which has helped me a lot this winter. Well, not the chickens, since I have them in their house. I bring them fresh water every day and tell them to drink up before it freezes on them! They mostly pay attention. Or at least they’re still alive, so nobody’s died from lack of non-frozen water yet.

And at times like this, survival is pretty much the goal. Nothing’s perfect when everything’s going wrong and frozen. Just keep everybody alive until it thaws.

Last, I went to get the horses to move them down and across the road to another field where an untouched round bale was waiting for them. Whenever I’m having round bales moved, I insist on having a few placed here and there in other fields that I’m not normally using in the winter. My hired men say, “Why do you want a round bale there? You don’t need a round bale there!” And I say, “THE DAY WILL COME. Everything will be frozen and I can’t have any bales moved and I will need a round bale there.” I call them emergency bales.

Zip is easy to lead. I just put a dog leash around her neck and tell her to c’mon. Shortcake follows right behind her. The morning sun was pushing at the thick gray clouds in the sky portending the upcoming snow. The road was partially cleared, in the middle, and the horses clip-clopped over the pavement. The sound of their rhythmic clip-clops was such a steady, soothing sound, I wanted to keep walking, never stop.

But I had the leash in one hand and a big bucket of grain in the other, and Zip and Shortcake were eager to spread their napkins in their laps and get to dining, so I took them in the field and let them have at it.
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It’s 13 degrees and everybody’s alive.

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The Long-Awaited Chicken Yard

Feb
12

I’ve had the chickens in the house for a few months now, but there was no chicken yard–because up till then, the farm was their yard. But they kept roosting on the deck and the porches, and it just wasn’t pretty. And I’m planning to plant a vegetable garden in the spring. I want my tomatoes for myself, not the chickens! So. The yard has been under construction off and on for a few weeks.
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An addition was added to bring the roof over further, to put cover over where I’m keeping the chicken feed.
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It’s a pretty good sized yard, going all the way around two sides of the chicken house.
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I have to leave room for trucks and trailers to be able to get up to the alleyway, so I couldn’t build out from the front.
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All the chickens are in the house right now except for one renegade hen who escaped while the yard was under construction.
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She’s been hanging out in the barn, laughing at all the other chickens who are just excited to get out of the house!
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In the spring, I’ll be getting new chicks! It’s been almost five years since I got any new chickens. It’s time. My older chickens aren’t laying much anymore, and I’ve lost a number of them over the years. New chicks. I can’t wait!

P.S. I want to put something over the top of the yard, some kind of netting or chicken wire, but for now, I clipped the chickens’ wings before letting them out so they can’t fly over.

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  1. IMG_4544

    February 10, 2015 - Bred!

    I wish I was talking about cows. Well, maybe Glory Bee is bred. She hasn’t gone into heat. But! I’m talking about goats now!

    We were doing goat hooves last night in the barn, me and my hired men, and checking their udders to see who was bred. They’re all bred except Lizzie, the little short-eared Boer…. Continued…

  1. IMG_4532

    February 9, 2015 - Cows Doing Nothing

    I’d post more pictures of the cows doing nothing, but they’d all look the same!

    The cows are doing exactly the same thing right now as they were doing yesterday when I took this picture. I’ve been watching the cows for days, since I saw Dumplin standing for riding on Wednesday evening. First thing Thursday morning, I ordered semen, which was delivered by Friday afternoon. … Continued…

  1. IMG_4519

    February 6, 2015 - The Chute

    This chute, specifically for vet work (not milking) was under construction yesterday.

    That’s Dumplin in the chute, for measurements.

    Here’s the finished chute today.

    On the sides, the upper board is to prevent a cow from trying to come in the chute from the side. The lower board is to prevent the cow from kicking to the side. (There’s no … Continued…

  1. IMG_4469

    February 5, 2015 - Watching Cows, Again

    As I’m writing this post, I’m sitting in my car watching the cows.

    Watching cows in February is cold business.

    It’s been about three weeks since I had the cows AI’d (artificially inseminated). Yesterday evening there was a lot of attention on Dumplin. Moon Pie and Glory Bee were both trying to ride her, and some of the time, she was letting them. Meaning, she was … Continued…

  1. IMG_4356

    February 2, 2015 - Guilty Faces

    First it was Moon Pie.

    She looks so innocent, doesn’t she?

    She knows how to cause trouble. She broke in through the barbed wire fence separating the back barnyard repeatedly last week. Repairs were no problem–she’d just break through again the next day. And the next day. Then–FINALLY. … Continued…

  1. IMG_4219

    January 21, 2015 - Cow Family

    It was a nice warm winter day here yesterday, with the hoses thawed out and everything, and I was running water in a bucket in the goat yard watching the cows. Glory Bee and Dumplin were licking and washing and grooming and loving on Moon Pie, standing between them.

    It was taking a long time to fill the bucket, … Continued…

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....



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