Forever Or a Day, with Questions

Feb
25


It has been three months since I wrote this post, shocking everyone over their morning coffee on Thanksgiving. (Trust me, that post was a surprise to me, too. I just knew about it a few weeks before you did.) Since I moved in here, I’m not sure I’ve gone two weeks without some disaster or another. Septic, plumbing, power, furnace, missing beloved animal! (Some of those things cropped up more than once!) In spite of it all, my love for this little old house and this farm has not dimmed, and the one thing that has been steady in all these ups and downs has been your support, most amazingly with the Kickstarter project. Thank you again and again!!!!


Since I’ve been here, I’ve started on the fencing that needs done here (more to come in the spring), hauled in all kinds of hay, put a book together, painted most of the downstairs, almost completely unpacked, planned the studio project and almost finished putting together a Food Establishment Plan, started planning gardens and more fencing, brought in a new dog and a new cat, and started going to beekeeping class and signed up for a master gardener class. (And this coming Wednesday is the all-day agritourism workshop in Morgantown.) I would think there were at least three other people involved in all this activity, but I can never find them when it’s time to do the dishes.

Somtimes it feels like I’ve been here forever, then other times it feels like I’ve only been here for a day because it’s all a blur of activity. I’ve only ever seen one season here! I haven’t lived here long enough to see the grass grow.

There is so much potential on this farm, and so much work to do–and I want to do it. This weekend, Weston is home, and with his muscle power, I’m going to start moving some of the boxes I still have stored in the studio. It will still be several weeks before work actually starts over there, but I need to clear the decks. I’ll be finishing up my Food Establishment Plan and by the time works begins in earnest, starting to lay out my gardens and getting out in the woods to mark some nature trails. (I’ll plant some ramps while I’m at it. Hey, at least I know what I’m doing now!)

What is the best way to mark trails? Any suggestions? These trails are relatively clear–old four-wheeler tracks–but they can go in a few different directions and I want to lay out some planned hikes with some kind of markers. Go this way if you want to see this, go that way if you want to see that, and provide a sheet with a trail map.

Another question–I’m planning to do raised beds. (There are no established gardens here other than the flower beds around the house.) Those of you who do raised beds–tell me about yours, and what size you find the most functional and workable?

Another pressing issue on my mind is the matter of my cows. Who are not pregnant! There are three options. They all come with a price, nothing is free, and they all involve a certain amount of (worthwhile) hassle.

1. I can get a bull. Bulls are readily available! And once I have one, I’m set. He will do his job and I can stop worrying about managing my cows’ love lives.

2. AI. (Artificial insemination.) I had a line on someone who does AI here, but I can’t get them to call me back. I know AI is readily available and a go-to idea in many areas, but it’s just not that readily available here, so setting this up has been a problem I’ve tangled with for months and still gotten nowhere. While it sounds appealing, if you can’t make it happen, you can’t make it happen. So far, I haven’t been able to make it happen.

3. Send the girls away to another farm for a few months. Farms with cows are readily available! I can do this, though I don’t like the idea of sending the girls away for a few months. What if they get out? What if they are wandering down the road somewhere? I would be worrying about them constantly. (There’s no such thing as a perfect farm with perfect fencing. Everybody’s cows get out sometimes, and my cows would be on an unfamiliar farm, possibly looking for home.) The opposite of this is to rent a bull to come here, but that is actually a little trickier as I would have to personally manage the bull if he got out and be responsible for his behavior. I’ll be setting up electric fencing in the upper pastures this spring, but I’m not sure about testing out the pastures and fencing right away on an unfamiliar bull. (This same issue applies to buying a bull, of course.)

Sending the girls away for a few months is probably the easiest thing to do, but it comes with a lot of worry. I’m real attached to my cows. I’m not sure I can withstand another missing animal episode right now.

I have a beekeeping class today, and will also be getting started clearing out the studio, so I may be a little scarce this weekend, but I look forward to reading your comments!

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on February 25, 2012  

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  1. 2-25
    6:52
    am

    In spite of the hassle over AI I vote for that option.

    Whether you rent or buy a bull you are taking on a whole new level of risk. Was it a link you provided (?) that led to my reading stories of bulls who turned on their owners? Even one that was hand raised from a calf by said owner?

    You have friends who can pitch in and help dig up the yard. Is there a friend who can do the leg work for you on AI? As well, can you possibly haul the girls somewhere else to get the AI done? At least they might only be gone for a day.

    There was a small cow herd living in a field behind my house when I was a lad. Only one time did I cut through that field to get to my house. It only took one time seeing that bull catch wind of me and start rambling in my direction to learn my lesson. Much later the man who owned the herd told me that the bull was like Ferdinand (i.e. meek) and he thought I might be bringing him treats. He would not have harmed me, he said.

    Yeah right.

    Keep pushing that AI, IMHO.

  2. 2-25
    6:57
    am

    I can’t haul the cows anywhere myself, so any cow-hauling involves expense to hire someone to do the job. I’ve explored AI pretty well here. I know this is done many places, but it’s not common practice here–most farmers keep their own bull. If it were easy to find someone to do AI, I’d already have it done! Since most farmers keep their own bull, there’s no demand for AI here, so no one does it. (Circle of demand/lack of demand.) To hire someone to take the girls somewhere away from here would be expensive on top of the AI charge, and people away from here don’t want to come here. Etc. I’ve been around and around on the AI issue for months. I’ve been unable to make it happen, in any way.

  3. 2-25
    7:06
    am

    Re raised beds: 4’x8′ is the most common size. Anything wider than 4 feet, it is hard to reach across. But you can make them 2″xwhatever if you want! You can frame them in with old 2x4s, or just make them without frames.
    You can even do “lasagna gardening”, where you just cut the grass as short as you can, lay down cardboard or layers of newspapers, and then put down layers of compost, peat,chopped leaves, soil, whatever you have, and plant. No tilling. There’s a book called “Lasagna Gardening” by Pat Lanza that is very helpful for this method.
    Check out the Organic Gardening website for lots of forum discussions on raised beds. You will probably learn about it in your Master Gardener class too. Good luck and have fun!

  4. 2-25
    7:13
    am

    Oops, I meant to say 2’xwhatever, not 2″! That would be a teeny tiny garden!

  5. 2-25
    7:14
    am

    First I want to tell you how happy I am that Kickstarter worked for you! I was getting nervous.

    Every time I would read of yet another problem,I worried that you would be ready to throw in the towel. I admire how you have handled each event.
    You had a quick course in getting acquainted with your new home….things you will never forget. I bet you know a lot more about your heating and plumbing now!

    I vote for a bull. I know you don’t have many cows but each year you should have two calves and one should be a heifer (odds are). Before you know it you will have built up a small herd and you can use the bull on his own daughters….I think maybe granddaughters is a no no.
    But he will have resale value when you need to change bulls. A-I is not always successful….sometimes it takes 3-4 attempts, each one costing you money and sometimes it doesn’t work at all! Trust me on this. We were breeding 50 Holsteins and finally gave up on A-I. Not all bulls are mean. We always sell them before they get too large and cantankerous. You will need good fencing, electric is good and need to always be wary of them. Rule no 1 is you don’t try to make pets out of them! Never. They should be just as wary of you as you are of them.

    Do some serious research on keeping a bull before doing it.

    If you did rent a bull,that could work but be sure you know about the party renting it. Disease is an issue bringing in new stock. We keep a closed farm for that reason.

    If you take them to a farm,you shouldn’t have to leave them over two months. Check into Kamars. They are a dye filled patch you glue to the tailhead of the cow to know if she has been serviced.

    Good luck!

  6. 2-25
    7:33
    am

    Have a great beekeeping day. I have bees. Hard to keep them alive and that is why it is important to keep trying. We went to school about 2 years ago and received a tobacco indemnification grant to help offset startup costs.

    Our raised beds are 4 x 6 and are made of hemlock which is rot resistant and a renewable resource in southwest Virginia. It was also more cost effective than cedar. If you find a local sawmill, you will be set. If possible, position the beds neat a water source. The will need more water than a traditional garden.

  7. 2-25
    7:42
    am

    Oh! I’m all over the trail marking question!

    You know all those canning jar lids that aren’t good for much after they’ve been used? They make perfect trail markers.

    On my property, I turn them over so the white side is out, stick a piece of reflective tape to the center, then nail it to a tree (the reflective tape is for after dark walks). My sons & I have a color code for the markers, as well, because we have so many loops and side trails. Red tape marks the main trail, out & back, and white tape marks any side trails or loops. This is so they can get right back to the house if it’s after dark or there’s an emergency.

  8. 2-25
    7:44
    am

    Kamars! I didn’t know what they were called, but I knew they existed…or something like them. My first trip to UK, I headed for the hills, driving about with sheep everywhere! We even stayed on a farm where the sheep dotted the hills and were a breathtaking site. One thing I could not figure out was why the sheep had different colors “painted” on their rumps. Different colors. Was it a brand? But why color the wool? My late husband (quiet sort) managed to find out that the rams were fitted with different color chalk bags and when they mounted the ewes, they left their “mark” oink, blue, green. That way the farmer could be sure his ram was working! Same quiet man pulled my leg for the rest of the trip telling me the farmers actually powdered their rumps to make them attractive to the rams.

    Suzanne, we mostly grow our vegetables the old fashioned way, till, rows, till, rows. I try to add a raised bed every year, as I would like to get away from that cycle of tilling. I incorporate the lasagna method, as well as dumping my compost in the beds. We make the beds out of wood, block or whatever we have. When we lived in Miami, and I worked for a sheet metal shop, I had aluminum and galvanized steel raised beds (whenever they made a mistake on roof fan mounts), but then I also had all the shrimp heads and skins I could throw in their too! Sure hope the new owners appreciated that garden!

    On the AI/Bull/or the Studcation. I am no expert, don’t have a cow…yet. But anything short of getting a bull is a stop-gap measure. Shoot for a studcation for this year, with your eye on a bull next year.

    Be well,

    Billie in Flat Top, where we have a dusting of snow that somehow is staying in place despite ferocious winds!

  9. 2-25
    7:58
    am

    My raised beds are 8′ x 10′. You can see them here: http://rurification.blogspot.com/2011/07/our-veg-garden.html

    We use 1×6 boards, stacked 2 high for the sides. We built two narrower 4’x 8′ ones this year for the strawberries so we could pick from both sides more easily. Other than the berries, we have no problem dealing with the other veggies in the bigger beds. I love them.

    I love anna’s idea for marking trails with jar lids. Brilliant! Thanks!

  10. 2-25
    8:11
    am

    Suzanne,
    You are probably digging out canning lids and reflector tape as I type. Problem solved there I think.

    Now for the Bull. Ever thought of having semen shipped to your door? You said you were pretty attatched to your cows. Could you do it yourself? Doesn’t seem to be anything you can’t do?
    Just a thought.
    Laura

  11. 2-25
    8:18
    am

    I rented a bull last year. The man I rented from said that he would and could AI my cow (now cows), but there is a 50% success with AI and it could be expensive if he had to come out several times. However, renting a bull was very successful in the pregnancy department, I did learn a lot about getting a bull back home. I rented a young guy (18months), he was not keen on leaving my cow. Several ruined gates later we had to put both my cow and the bull on the trailer to get him home. If you rent a bull make sure you have a very good “shoot” for loading the bull!!! I will rent again this year, but we did build a very strong gate system for loading bulls.

    I agree with previous comments, 4×8 is a great size for raised beds. I love mine. I am hoping to add more this year.

    I am sorry I am going to miss you this week! I will be at the conference on Thursday to take in the class on high tunnels!

  12. 2-25
    8:21
    am

    Laura, I don’t have the equipment. The semen requires special storage to stay good, usually I think a liquid nitrogen tank. Training on how to do it properly is several hundred dollars on top of the equipment, not including travel costs to a training program. I’ve looked into that!

  13. 2-25
    8:27
    am

    I vote for the bull. A young one may be pricey, but you can easy sell the calves and keep the three of them for a long time. Or every couple of years you can keep the heifer calves and get a new bull. We never allow in-breeding and that avoids the issues it can cause. Bulls come with all sorts of dispositions, just like people. Treat it right, but DO NOT baby it – bulls don’t need cookies, and it will usually be fine. If he turns out to be mean, sell him and try again. Just like people, don’t try to fix the ones who don’t need to stay in your life.
    As for the raised garden. I used non-pressure treated, 16 foot 2X10s, made the beds 2 foot wide, and lined them with heavy duty weed block to keep the dirt away from the wood as much as possible. That size works to help me be able to really see what is going on in the bed. Then I made my own PVC irrigation lines to run down the middle of each bed. I have had tomatoes, beans, peas, squash, carrots, radishes, and way to many marigolds. I put things like corn and sunflowers directly in the ground. I am going to try red potatoes in the raised bed this year. The men plant white potatoes in a plot up on the hill. I want to try something different. 8)

  14. 2-25
    8:30
    am

    Our raised beds are 2′ x 8′ and 4′ x 8′ for two reasons. 1) With the 2×8 beds against the fence, I can still reach all the way across to weed etc, with the 4×8 beds in the middle of the garden being worked from both sides. 2) These sizes are easy to make (the math comes out right with fewest cuts if you buy 8’lumber) and more importantly easy to handle once you build them and then need to move them from the patio to the actual garden.

  15. 2-25
    8:36
    am

    I just want to say I envy you attending the Morgantown workshop…I had looked at the description when I was poking around WV websites a few weeks ago, and SERIOUSLY considered whether I could find a way to attend…and I live in MA! Will you share some of what you learn here? Please?? :)

  16. 2-25
    8:41
    am

    Unless you are taller than 5’6″, make the raised beds _less_ than 4′ across. Even if you have to waste some lumber. It’s hard to bend over and reach into the middle of a 4′ bed. (If the beds were waist high, it would be no problem! But nobody wants to haul that much dirt. :) )

    For the cows… keep working on the AI option. (Actually, you can learn to do it yourself if you’re game!) Bulls are just an additional management hassle., especially since you are going to be bringing strangers onto the property for classes.

  17. 2-25
    8:48
    am

    I think,of all the suggestions about the raised-bed gardens, the “non-pressured treated” is the most important. Pressure treated wood can leach chemicals into your soil. The last thing you want in your nice, fresh veggies are some nasty, cancer-causing chemicals.

  18. 2-25
    8:50
    am

    Our raised bed gardens are 4’x 8′. We used 2″ x 10″ hemlock to make the sides. Screw them together, don’t nail. That way if you need to move them you can. Let your chickens do the work of digging for you. We just set the frame on the ground where we wanted the raised bed. We put all of our kithcne scraps and scratch in the bed. Within days, the girls had the bed completely dug up, not a blade of grass to be seen. Within weeks the bed was ready to go. We just added some compost and we were ready to plant. The girls make great rototillers!

    I also vote for AI. My friends are going through this right now. After much thought and math they determined that having a bull for their two cows just didn’t make “cents”. My friend grew up with steers and cows and she didn’t like the thought of handling a bull by herself. Just a thought.

  19. 2-25
    8:52
    am

    City girl here, so my advice is uninformed and selfish. Get the bull. You will have so many more interesting stories to tell. And I will have so much more to read about and enjoy.

  20. 2-25
    8:56
    am

    I just managed to finally get hold of the one person I had heard of here who does AI. They said no. They are busy with their own herd and can’t do AI for anyone else until the end of the year. That is how impossible it is to get someone to do AI here. Even if they can do it, they won’t do it. It’s depressing.

  21. 2-25
    9:03
    am

    I have to use raised beds due to the heavy clay in my yard. It didn’t make economic sense to bring in a backhoe and dig out and replace the dirt and there’s no way I’m doing that by hand. My raised beds are the size of whatever railroad tie-type of boards are available at the hardware store/garden center. The most recent ones that I bought are 4 feet long so my squares are 4 x 4 or a little smaller where I’ve overlapped the ends. I’m 5’2″ and I can reach to the middle of the bed when I’m on my knees but not all the way across so I have to have access from all sides of the bed. Some of the ties in my garden have been there more than 10 years and haven’t deteriorated. I lay them out, cover the ground with newspaper and then add dirt and mulch until they’re full. If I’m planting right away, I overfill the beds a little with dirt as the dirt will settle. When you get to the subject of bed prep in your Master Gardener course, you’ll hear differing view points and methods. There’s controversy about using railroad ties (and other types of boards) because of a preservative chemical treatment they may have received. The thinking is that the chemicals leach into the ground and get into the vegetation. But what I was taught in my MG course (and an ecotox course I took in college) is that plants are selective about what they take up in the way of nutrients and minerals and that they don’t take in the preservatives because the preservatives aren’t water soluble. So it’s safe to plant vegetables. That’s something you may want to ask your instructor about. The odd thing I find with my raised beds is that the dirt level sinks an inch or two each year even with the leaf mulch I add every fall and I usually top off the beds in the spring. I can’t figure out where the dirt is going; must be all the worms moving it somewhere else. That’s another thing, I never have to add worms; they find the loose dirt and multiply like crazy.

  22. 2-25
    9:09
    am

    You have already tried taking them both to a bull a few times and it didn’t work. And you have talked about getting beef cows. So I think you should just get a small herd of Hereford cows and a young Hereford bull and there ya go. And after you know for sure all the cows are bred, you just take the bull to the slaughterhouse and you don’t have to worry about keeping a bull around all the time. Then next year get another bull and so on and so on… That’s what I am going to do with rams and bucks. There really is no reason to keep a male breeding animals all year when there are so many available all the time. Then you are assured of a freezer full of good meat every year or so.

    As for raised beds, you can make them using cinder blocks. Then you can use the little holes around the edges for herbs or flowers. I read somewhere to look on Free Cycle for free blocks. And what I have done os go to little saw mills and get untreated wood. I use wooden stakes to hammer on the outside so no nails are needed. And you have plenty of fertilizer all over. You’d just need a truckload of topsoil and there ya go.

    I like the suggestion of the used jar lids. Good idea.

    Kris

  23. 2-25
    9:10
    am

    Having grown up on a dairy farm I’d never keep a bull. Way too dangerous. Bulls are nothing like cows in temperment. Cows are rarely agressive. Bulls can be so unpredictible. Too many farmers I knew about as a kid that were either killed or maimed by their own damned bulls. My grandfather always kept his bulls in a pen that was built like Fort Knox and only let them out for breeding. He made sure there were at least 3 grown men around to control things if they got out of hand. Personally, I’d send both the cows out to another farm to be breed. Breeding back the older girl may be difficult to impossible, as she may have gone cystic after being open for so long. Older cows tend to do that. I’d have her vet checked, sometimes they can manually break the cysts or use hormomes to try and restart their cycles. Sometimes it works, while other times we had to ship cows for beef that just wouldn’t bred back. Commercial farms have no pet cows, as much as we loved some of them. Farming for a living is not always fun.

  24. 2-25
    9:14
    am

    Having a bull on the property, and guests on farm-stays, or even just for classes, is probably not a good idea. Even though many people tell you that their bull is a darling, you can NEVER, EVER, EVER totally trust a bull, it only takes one misstep by you, one of your loved ones, a neighbor, or a guest for a real problem. Not sure what your plans for insurance with the classes and such, but a bull will increase the cost if your agent asks the question… if they don’t ask the question and something happens, well, that’s another possible problem too.

    One other thing, if finding a local A.I. tech is THAT hard, maybe YOU could become the local A.I. tech, and there’s another source of income.

  25. 2-25
    9:25
    am

    Can’t comment on the AI/bull thing, but it’s interesting to read!

    Re raised beds…mine are 4 x 4 with 2′ paths between. My beds are framed with 2 x 10s and I buy 8′ lengths for the sides, which I get the lumber yard to cut for me. we use a system that DH invented with PVC pipe to hold up the sides. Much easier than our old system (stacked 2 x 4’s * L brackets). The brackets rusted, the wood rotted and it was always the bottom board of course, which meant taking the top course(s) off. What a pain that was early in the spring when the ground is still mostly frozen!

    The other advantage to our “new” system is I hope to make small hoop houses on the beds. I haven’t tried it yet, it’s on the agenda for March. We’ll see if it works!

    teacup

  26. 2-25
    9:26
    am

    I don’t have experience with livestock, but I would look into renting a bull for a couple of months. I think that would be easier than owning an animal that you only need for a short time.

    As to the raised beds, look into using cement blocks rather than lumber for the beds. I think sometimes they’re called cinder blocks? They don’t rot out and the cavities can be filled with soil and small herbs can be planted in the holes, or boards can be put on them to make benches to sit on while working the beds.

  27. 2-25
    9:41
    am

    Trail markers: posts with boards inscribed with trail name on them pointing the direction of said trail / pond, etc. Put them at the “crossroads” of the trail. You may even consider marking your map with endurance requirements: easy, moderate, extreme. And, you might also want to break the trails down in miles. This can be done with one of those fancy GPS units. Some of those can even map the trail as you walk it and can then print it off.

    There is a farm near here where they’d using hoop houses. They sell year-round. One of their big accounts is to the local school corporation. Those kids get fresh salad mix throughout the entire school year. They have a fridge on the back porch, items in baskets, etc. with prices on the wipe-off board and a utility sink where they scrub all the veggies. They also have a huge compost pile and sell from it. I’ve never seen such beautiful carrots in February!

    Good luck in whatever you decide to do. :clover:

  28. 2-25
    10:11
    am

    We bought our first bull in September, for the exact reasons you are mulling over. An AI tech was hard to find, and I travel for my job, and catching the girls at just the right time was impossible, we checked into leasing a bull, but could not find one we liked, so we “bit the bullet” and bought a bull for our herd of 4 beloved girls. I would not recommend it! He was fine the first few months, while he was interested in the girls, but with his job complete, he began looking for greener pastures, and was constantly getting out of electric fence that our girls never even tried to get out of. He is currently leased out, and I am hoping to keep him leased out until I need him again about June, then home long enough to service the girls and then into the freezer he goes. We have been extremely lucky that he is not agressive, but I know they certainly can be. If you lease a bull, require a health certificate and a Trichomoniasis test (cattle std). The Trich test is required by the USDA when moving a bull between herds.
    Sure hope this helps! I’m sure whatever you decide will be right for you :moo:

  29. 2-25
    10:15
    am

    Planting ramps. I had to smile. A lot of people do not know what ramps are and will have another visualization and questions.
    I was raised on a farm and have mentally closed and locked that door. But, am enjoying your adventures and misadventures.
    But, I seriously doubt if a bull on the property and curious visitors would mix very well.
    It is all coming together well Suzanne, and you will reap the venefits for years.

  30. 2-25
    10:29
    am

    We have gone with Gelbvieh cattle in the last couple of years because they are gentle and easy to handle, we have less problems with calving, and they are good meat and milk cows. My suggestion would be to get a bull in a breed that is gentle and easy to handle and you can build your herd as well as having the milk cows.

    Judy in MO

  31. 2-25
    11:03
    am

    As far as trail markers the simplest is to use a blaze on the tree. Around here they use a 2″ x 4″ rectangle about 6′ up on the bark of a tree. You can cut a template out of cardboard and quickly mark a trail with a can or two of spray paint. The blaze appear every 100 to 200 yards. Very easy to follow. Each different trail would have it’s own color. Very easy to note on a map if folks want to hike on their own. Anyone who has hiked the AT knows about trail blaze.

  32. 2-25
    11:28
    am

    I guess it is time for me to put in my two cents worth… what do we know about BP, How old is she and is she capable to producing a calf. I know she cane from a dairy and appears to have been driven hard and hung up wet. We always kept cows for a few years then off to the stockyard, I have been chased by the bull (just trying to sneak across his field) I can say one thing for sure YOU DON’T NEED A BULL especially if you aare intending to have guests on your farm. Buying milk may be a lot cheaper and is readly available. When you consider all of the care and food involved – you are paying dear for your milk. Now I will get out of my pulpet
    and turn it of=ver to the next one mmhoney

  33. 2-25
    11:29
    am

    I can’t speak to these issues other than to say that the bull scares me (I keep thinking about Mr. Cotswold). I can suggest that when the time comes, you should consider an umbrella insurance policy (you may already know about this. Not sure if it’s a requirement for running your agritourism business, but it may be)? When our kids were young and we had neighborhood children here all the time along with workers building an addition for a long period of time, we invested in an umbrella policy. There’s always the possibility that someone will get hurt, and while no one likes paying for insurance, one lawsuit could wipe you out forever. Plus, I just felt better knowing that if someone did get hurt, they would be taken care of. In your case, it would be a tax write-off as a business expense.

  34. 2-25
    11:29
    am

    To be upfront I am anti full time bull ownership especially with bringing people to the farm for workshops. As you are not able to use AI, I would think Rent-A-Bull would be a better way to go. That way the bull is there for a limited time and human interaction is limited.

    When you talk about hiking paths, how will they relate to where the bull will spend his time? Bulls can be very territorial and any strangers coming into their territory can be met with an immediate challenge, even the “friendly” ones (bulls not strangers). The more strangers he sees the more protective of his cows he will be. Have you checked into the liability (insurance wise) of having a bull on the farm full time when you are planning to bring people in for workshops? Since you are only on a 100 acres the chance is there that there will be contact between the customers and the bull, especially with the hiking option. Your fences will definately need to be very strong and very hot. Even that may not stop him if the neighbors have a cow come into heat or he thinks strange people are a threat to his cows. You will also need a very sturdy sorting pen and a squeeze chute would be good because you know he is going to need a vet visit at some point. Will the bull have his own pasture/lot for seperating him into like at calving time? Will BP & GB be with the bull all the time so that you have to deal with him daily to get a milk cow out to milk? The more he becomes use to seeing you the less he is wary of you and you of him, so the danger increaes.
    If you go the rent a bull route you could likely get one easily from what you have said. For 2 months work on the bull’s part is it really worth having to deal with him the other 10 months? You are going to want your calves close together in age so they can be sold as a uniform sized feeder calf lot. This means that the cows should all be bred in a 2 month time span. When you aquire your cows you are going to want them to all be bred to calve reasonably close together or to all be open so that they can be bred at the same time. What is the common time to calve in beef herds in your area? ie late winter calving (Feb-Mar), spring (Mar-Apr) or fall (Sept-Oct)? I’d go for an Apr-May calving as there will be plenty of fresh pasture for the cows to recover on, the temperature should be mild so the calves should’t be too stressed immediately. If you are willing to be slightly outside the local timeframe, the bull’s owner would probably be happy to rent him out for additional income. When is the market the best for selling feeder calves? (assuming that is what you are planning to do with the calves) Are there buyers outside of that timeframe? What would be the avg price per pound that you would lose if your calves would not be ready at that premium time? Is that loss worth the not having to deal with a bull full time? Are you considering to raise the calves out to butchering weight and to sell them then? (Having them seperate from the mama cows would be preferable to raise them to this weight.) Here there is a niche market for pasture raised, hormone free beef sold directly to the consumer. You would probably need to market in a more urban area to make sales. Are you willing to sell off/butcher cows that do not get pregnant in the timeframe that the bull is with you? (This doesn’t include BP as I figure she is with you until she goes to pasture heaven.) Is the main reason for having a full time bull to get Glory Bee and BP pregnant and milking? Are you prepared for the possibility that even with having a bull full time that BP may not become pregnant again? Are BP & GB showing signs of heat cycles now that they are use to the new farm? If not that may something you need to investigate before you bring a bull onto the place. Also with the bull around the tractor would be a really good transportation vehicle to go into the pasture to check on things. Unless you get a bull who really has something against tractors, they will for the most part ignore it and the person on it. The chances of him denting up the tractor are less that a car or truck. Cattle can cause some major dents just pushing/leaning on a vehicle.

    Just some things to think about if you haven’t already considered them.

  35. 2-25
    11:30
    am

    Suzanne, I think you should get a bull because you are losing a lot of money/milk/meat not having one. Plus you have the land now that you can keep him in a seperate fence if you have to. They can be dangerous, so stick to herfords. Herfords are more safe, the meat is great and so are the cows.

    I have been a gardener all my life. I have done it all. Raised beds are good BUT… They are expensive and hard to build, they have to be watered a lot sometimes, because the roots of the food are not deep in the ground and protected from the heat. They are a pain to use a weedeater around, and if you are going to let any animals run loose there on the farm they will tear them up. They can grow a lot of food, but still too much of a pain in all the other ways for me. The easiest way to garden is always to till a big spot, put all the organic material you can get in it, and put a fence around it to protect it from all the animals. If you want to really can a lot of food(like i do, up to a thaousand jars a year) , do it right because when you do, you will ALAWYS have that garden there for you. Also with all the animal manure you will have the perfect garden over the years. And with your land in the bottom of a valley like it is, the ground should be fabulous. You might want to consider locating it near that creek if possible for watering. I have grown up to 90% of my own organic food. It’s the easiest way for me. If you don’t like none of these ideas, just come and live with me! BECAUSE MY HUSBAND JUST DIED LAST MONTH AND I CAN’T DO MY GARDEN WITHOUT HIS HLEP! I am so bummed :( I got a beautiful huge garden and now I can’t do it anymore. We paid cash for this farm to retire on, and now I am here alone. Life sucks sometimes. :(

    Brenda…

  36. 2-25
    11:41
    am

    LOVE the used jar lid/reflective tape idea! You can then color code your map accordingly too!

    For the bull/AI question, I really like the idea of you learning to do it yourself. You can get the necessary equiptment to store the semen if need be. (If you can build a commercial kitchen, you could build a small AI storage facility in a corner of your barn, couldn’t you?) And like Deb said, you could generate more income by doing the job so many others in your area can’t or won’t do! The second best option would be to buy a young bull, and once the girls have been bred send him to the freezer. If it is timed right you could maybe not have much cross over between guests for classes and him maybe being a little more agressive now that his job has been done? I know the 4-Hers in the area rarily keep a bull for breeding stock into a second year.

    And the garden! I have raised beds too. They are wonderful for many reasons, but my herb garden not getting out of control because it is contained is my favorite reason. Mine are mostly 4 X 4, and I can reach them from all sides. The paths between them are 2 foot wide. I have a big hexagon built around a light post for my herbs, and there are a few times it is hard to get to the middle, so I don’t recommend going too wide. The first few years I did it by the book of square foot gardening. I bought and mixed the soil per the recipe. It worked, but topping it off each year (and as I added more beds too) got cost prohibitive. I have since gone to the lasagna gardening method, and it has become my favorite marriage of gardening. We have a LOT of leaves here, and it is wonderful to be putting them to use! And, my wonderful Fiance came up with the perfect solution for grinding up the leaves… our leaf blower has a vacuum that crumples up the leaves and puts them into a bag. It is SO much easier than running over the leaves with a lawn mower and raking them onto a tarp and dragging it to the beds. The best part is that you could actually start your gardens now (since there is no snow) and when it is past the last frost date, you will have your beds ready to go! I highly recommend the lasagna gardening book Brookdale mentioned… it will make your head hurt with all the ideas you will get!

    Have fun with all your projects… I am in envy of your energy!

  37. 2-25
    11:42
    am

    I started raised bed gardening last year, and found come harvest time that the 2ft x 8 or 10 ft beds were the easiest to work. Narrow enough to straddle when working them or harvesting with the shorter crops. With tall things like pole beans, tomatos and such, 4 ft wide beds were fine. I started them right over the grass using the lasagna gardening principle, picking a non-windy day and laying out all the cardboard then laying the finished wood frames on top, piling in the dirt and compost in the beds and mulch in the pathways (keeping them between 2 and 3 ft wide – enough to be able to kneel beside the bed if needed – for praying that the plants survive my gardening abilities?!). Be sure to overlap the cardboard well – the grass can be quite sneeky in finding a way to the sunlight. You may want to take a look at the basic principles of square foot gardening (https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Square-Foot-Gardening-Foundation/49238586812 ) it’s really quite amazing how much you can get into a small space. I used untreated 2×6’s screwed together at the corners. Six inches of dirt is plenty for most all crops, even potatos and tall plants like sunflowers. I’m going to put those in a “regular” garden bed, though, this year, as they take up so much space that would be better used for things like carrots, lettuce and such. Corn and vine crops like pumpkins will also grow outside of my limited number of raised beds this year until I get more beds made. Remember to fence well to keep out those pesky deer that WV is so full of… I lost much of my flower garden last year to them, and they’ve already started on my bulbs this year. I planted garlic nearby, and while that is supposed to keep the deer away, it seems that we have Italian deer, and they seem to be more attracted to it… hrumph! Around the garden I’ve hung bird netting on 8ft t-posts that kept the deer away from the veggies quite well last year. Best get started soon on your garden, as it’s soon time to get the early crops like peas in the ground. Check out your local WVU extension office website for a planting calendar guide for our part of the state.
    Happy gardening! :clover:

  38. 2-25
    11:55
    am

    Here’s the link to my facebook photo album that has a few shots of our raised bed garden: https://www.facebook.com/#!/media/set/?set=a.1752347542572.91326.1655409369&type=3 – they’re about in the middle of the page. :clover:

  39. 2-25
    11:56
    am

    my raised beds are 4’x 8′ and work beautifully. perfect size in my opinion. wouldn’t want them any smaller nor bigger. don’t forget the landscape cloth on the bottom! I advise against getting a bull – they are difficult to keep and oh so dangerous. as a child I had way too many run-ins with our bull, and my dad had many difficulties managing the thing too. they are dangerous and nothing you do will make them any other way. keep inquiring about AI, there must be someone who will travel to do it. they are out there, you just haven’t found them yet – word of mouth is the way most news travels in the country. talk to your neighbors. congrats on having Kickstarter fully funded! :hug:

  40. 2-25
    12:28
    pm

    Lots of wonderful comments and suggestions here, but I wanted to say I am a real fan of lasagna gardening! Have been doing it for several years. One important step I didn’t realize until I had new weeds growing on the 4th year was that after about three years you need to start with a new layer of cardboard/newspaper and compostable materials in the beds. An added benefit of the lasagna gardening style, is how easy it is in the early spring to set out early season crops without having to do a lot of prep work. Great way to garden!

    And though I do not own any cows (unfortunately :(), I think I have grown a bit emotionally invested in yours! My vote is to purchase a bull if possible. Whereas all other options seem to offer no benefit except possible one-time pregnancy, owning a bull accomplishes that goal and opens up all kinds of other opportunities as well. Obviously there’s more to consider than just that, and I know you’ll do well at judging whether this is additional responsibility you want to take on.

    Farm on!

  41. 2-25
    12:47
    pm

    Lots of great ideas. The bull sounds the easiest, but…once your cows are bred you have to deal with the cost of the feed, etc. through your cows gestation and through the time you will be milking. That is a lot of time. Prices on feed is going up. Cost of worming and shots for your animals factors in. If AI doesn’t seem feasible farming your cows out seems good. Like you said you need to make sure. Bulls are hard on fences. Check their fences, etc. Most farmers don’t want any problems themselves. Like getting their cows bred at the wrong time. Just be selective. Even a well mannered bull will get tempermental at times. With Morgan getting a horse and having her friends over there will be lots of activity going on. You have a lot riding on your decisiion.

  42. 2-25
    12:54
    pm

    I will be taking alot of advice about the raised beds from the comments…..But I hope you do what you want to when it comes to getting a bull! You have plenty of Land now! You can do anything and I couldn’t be happier for you. GOOD LUCK!!! :sun:

  43. 2-25
    1:01
    pm

    Interesting discussion about bulls. I guess this is why I think goats are perfect for home milk production. A couple of full-size or even mini goats can give plenty of milk and it is a simple matter to find a young buck and move him on in the fall or even use a Nigerian on the full-size does. Cream production usually requires a separator though. I can easily handle a breeding buck and I am used to handling larger animals such as horses but the thought of dealing with a bull by myself would scare the wits out of me.

    Great idea about using lids for trail markers and blazes are simple and last a long time too with the right paint.

    I have raised beds also for part of our garden. I wouldn’t want anything wider than 4 feet. In our heavy clay soil, we need beds that are at least 8 inches deep. Some are 12 inches and we are able to plant early things in those since they dry out faster. Summer crops get a good covering of mulch to hold in moisture.

  44. 2-25
    1:05
    pm

    {{{Brenda}}} hugs on the loss of your husband so recently. Been two years for me and things are finally settling down.

  45. 2-25
    1:26
    pm

    I have 6 raised beds. I love them! Mine are the usual 4×8 cinder blocks. I placed about 12 inches of compost in the base of each then organic garden soil on the top. I ammend the soil even more.I do this late fall after all the growing is done and the “stuff” can get happy over winter. Bunny poo, LLama, horse..goat. Then work it in come spring time.Look into hot manure/ cold manure. Im adding 3 more raised beds this year. Im going to try some 4×4 out of wood this time around. I like the smaller size because its easier to work in and around without having to get up and move every time. Check out http://www.gardengirltv.com she has some awesome raised beds and built on chicken tractors. Pattie Moreno was my gardening inspiration. I also start all my seedlings indoors. Cheep and easy. I do heirlooms so its a one time investment for the seeds. Im a growing addict. Start talking about dirt, plants, seeds….I start to hyper-ventilate! :fairy: Every planting season I do away with more lawn. Less to mow and more to grow! I added an herb/salad garden in a corner plot last year, this year Im taking out more grass in the front yard. Hubby thinks this is a fabulous idea!!!! He doesnt like to mow either.

  46. 2-25
    1:48
    pm

    I used the Square Foot Gardening system. My garden beds are 4’x4′ and I can reach each square. I have a trellis net set up on the back side so that I can grow vining plants there. I like to grow the little sugar pumpkins, and it is a lot of fun to see them hanging on the trellis as they grow. The plants compensate by growing a thick, heavy stem, so they don’t fall off or struggle.

    Then I grow onions, radishes, tomatos, etc. in the other squares. You can fit a lot into a small space that way.

    Plus, because of the soil blend that you use there, you will just add to it in the spring each year and you won’t have to worry about some of the other issues you would have with an ordinary garden (such as rotation, etc.)

    You can learn a lot from the SFG Web site and the book. You can also then take a test to become a certified instructor, which can bring some income to you if you’d like to do that. http://www.squarefootgardening.com

    And it’s fun, fun, fun!

  47. 2-25
    2:31
    pm

    No Bull!!!! They are way too dangerous. Rent-A-Bull may be the best option–he wouldn’t be hanging around after doing his duty. How expensive is the frozen semen & the storage equipment? How do you feel about inserting it in cow bottom? I saw Larry the Cable Guy examining a cow on TV–if he can do it, anybody can & your cows (at least BP) are gentle.

  48. 2-25
    3:14
    pm

    One of our neighbors has beef cows behind our house. He shares a bull with the other bordering neighbor. They shared the cost of him and he spends some time here and some time there. We affectionately named him ‘Hoss’ and we laugh at the luxurious life he leads with all of his ladies on both farms. We’re careful when we venture into the pasture (either to pick muscadines or just to ride four wheelers), but he just hangs with his ladies when he’s here and the pasture is so big, we sometimes don’t even see any cows. He never tries to get into our backyard (though the pasture is plenty big enough to probably negate the desire). Just a thought. Getting better acquainted with your neighbors might help solve some problems. Good luck!
    -Kimberly in NC

  49. 2-25
    3:46
    pm

    Had to come back and add another thought after reading BuckeyeGirl’s thoughts. She is right about the insurance. We have had horses for over 50 years. Our property insurance costs much more. We had rules about our kids and their horses. We never allowed other kids to ride their horses becausee of the liability. We seem to live in a litigious world. Your plans for groups of people with young children can lead to problems. Kids are curious, big time. Make sure your insuranace will do it’s job.

  50. 2-25
    3:47
    pm

    thought about your questions:
    1) the used color coding canning lid, at 4 inches or 5 feet above ground is great!
    2) our beds were 4 x 8 pressure treated lumber, they laster more than 15 years. Can you give a look into that recycled plastic lumber? Might be more to start but less in long run. Can be unassembled, moved, and reassembled. Yes, they dry out quickly, but you’re starting from scratch…install a drip irrigation system (slightly buried hose with holes. There’s DIY info on line for this.
    3) Now. The Bull. Unless you can buy a bull, keep it for 4 months until he does his job, and then get rid of him AND have no visitors during that 4 months. Even then there is the added risk of replacing fencing during the short stay. Buying a bull and keeping it allows you the luxury of not planning your cow’s love lives. But, you will adding handling a bull, extra fencing repairs, additional insurance (at least for farm visitors). So I vote, No Bull.
    3a Borrowing a bull for 2 months sounds nice, but you may spend a lot of time shopping for the breed you want. Need to be confident about the health of the bull. Transportation may involve hiring people and or truck/some kind of rolling stock/ramps
    3b Sending girls away… You’re so attached to your girls, this might be emotionally expensive. Also you may spend a lot of time shopping for the breed you want. Need to be confident about the health of the bulls they visit. Transportation may involve hiring people and or truck/some kind of rolling stock/ramps. Oh, and if BP is past the age of conception, you’ll be concerned if she had or not had been serviced (Unless you paid for a vet exam first.)
    3c AI Please don’t roll your eyes. We hear that you’ve been down several blind alleys. That’s never stopped you before…why now? (rhetorical query).
    -First, and my apologies to the guys reading this, I’d have your furnace-fixing cousin call about the AI. Sorry but sometimes even a N-PL (see Feb 4 blog) needs to employ a male to converse with other males. Something in their anatomy interfers with their understanding a female voice.
    -Second, here, apologies to you if you’ve already tried these…How ’bout contacting Davis School of Agriculture at WVU, local or regional 4H animal mentors. Depending on your location in WV, how about checking schools in western KY, southern OH, and western VA.
    -Third, DIY AI. Honestly Suzanne, your blog is chock full of things you didn’t know how to do and did anyway, and taught us all something in the process. Even if I never make cheese myself, you’ve inspired me to think about trying it…and I’ve preserved some things again, inspired by your enthusiasm and the way you seem to embrace every challenge you meet. So, how ’bout you squeeze in AI classes between your bee keeping seminars and your Master Gardener classes, your Sassafrass seminars and home stays and everything else on your calendar. Cost includes classes and liquid N (which can be minimal, honest). Cows stay home. You then can offer your services in your area if you should desire.

  51. 2-25
    3:47
    pm

    Raised beds!! I have used them for the past 4 years and love them. I made mine using 2x8x16’s. The long sides(length)are 16ft, the width(across) is 4ft, and the depth is 8 inches. Kinda like a rectangle. Leave enough room between boxes (2 feet or so, or wide enough to fit your wheelbarrow/wagon). Also leave some room for walking around if close to fencing. Put a good landscape fabric down in the bottom, as it helps to keep soil from washing away The first year we hauled in 2 pickup truck beds of garden soil to fill 2 beds and since then we add as needed, usually 1/2 pickup truck bed in spring is enough. I also add compost from our compost heap before the first planting and again mid-summer. You could also add a little cow manure that is dry and powdery(fresh can burn new plantings). Right before planting, I lay down thin chicken wire flat on top of soil because it seems to deter critters from digging to get to tender roots. This past summer in South Texas was awful for a lot of gardens so I was looking for a more efficient(and easier) way to water We put in a micro-sprinkler system($15 at Home Depot) and it is wonderful. It delivers water to roots(where its needed the most) without washing away the pollen(good for bees!). Lastly, a layer of mulch can do wonders as can shadecloth(also at Home Depot, around $30 for a big roll and its reusable season-to-season) if it gets really sunny and hot where you are. Remember: squash, melons and ‘maters are heavy feeders and take up a lot of room. Don’t ask me how I know ;-P

  52. 2-25
    3:51
    pm

    In thinking about this situation more I’m curious if you still plan to get the beef cows that you had earlier mentioned? My post above was based on the assumption that you were going to have a small herd (larger than two). To me rent-a-bull would be the best option for a small herd of beef cows including BP & GB if you have totally ruled out AI.
    If you plan on the bull for just BP and GB I think you will have way more problems than you think and wish to handle. Two cows are not going to keep his interest very long, especially if he gets the job done right away. He will most likely try to wander in search of building his harem. Are you prepared to deal with 1000-1500 lbs of irritated and/or aroused bull by yourself? Think Mr. Cotswold with an extra 1000 or so pounds on him. If he only has 2 cows he is also not going to be pleased that you are taking one away to be milked (of course that would be a worry for next year). He will have to be brought into the barn area in the winter with BP & GB unless you intend to put a shelter in the upper pasture and leave all of them there. Lack of human contact will have its effect on Glory Bee too. Most likely making her wilder. BP may get skittish but I guessing she will adjust easily back into be a daily milk cow. Bringing the bull to the barnyard puts you, Morgan, your customers, the donkeys, cats, goats, sheep, dogs and chickens at risk. You would definitely need to make a strong pen just for him to live in. I don’t think your present fences would hold up to pushy bull. Some bulls will not tolerate any invaders into their “territory” no matter how small. To be honest you will not know the bull’s temperment until you have spent some time around him. His temperment can also change quickly, sometimes it seems like overnight. Selling him again could be difficult if it is not the time of year most farmers are looking for a breeding bull. They may not want to feed and care for him for months before they have a use for him. As someone above said you can not ever consider him a pet or try to gentle him. I know you don’t want to spend the money to haul the girls to a bull, but really do you want to spend the money, worry and time on acquiring & keeping a bull? A young bull generally is not as aggressive (not a hard fast rule as it totally varies from bull to bull)but will most likely be more costly as he is young and has lots of breeding seasons in him. Older bulls you stand the risk of a std disease, lower fertility, and his knowledge that he can push people around. Young bulls can carry std’s too if they have been actively breeding, especially if they have been used on mature cows.
    Have you thought of renting out your upper pasture and as part of the deal getting breeding services for BP and GB? If you don’t intend to start with a beef cow herd this year it would give you a little income and maybe a couple of calves.
    I just worry that with your inexperience with handling difficult ADULT cattle that you may unwittingly put yourself in serious danger with a bull. Always remember that a bull’s purpose in this world is to procreate and protect his herd. He will not look kindly on or tolerate anything or anyone that interferes in this mission.

  53. 2-25
    5:14
    pm

    I agree with KellyB the easiest way to mark trails is to use a blaze on the tree in different colors. It is the system used by state parks to mark their hiking trails.
    Just make sure you make your raised beds narrow enough that you never have to step up in them. That is what makes them so effective is that you never get in them to compress the soil.

  54. 2-25
    6:36
    pm

    I agree with the others about 4×8 raised beds; no wider than that, anyway. I like the lasagna gardening plan, too.

    I like the idea of using the jar lids for trail markers, but before I read that I was going to suggest white painted rocks. It’s an old-fashioned look, but I like it. If you want to label things on your trails (like the name of a plant, or the way to go), you can use enamel paint on ceramic tiles. Often you can get seconds of tiles cheap.

    I have no experience raising cows, so I have no opinion about the best way to impregnate them. But when I did rodeo photography, I would be right in the chute with the livestock, except for with the bulls; I stayed out of their way. Granted, those bulls were raised for aggression, especially the brahmas. But the cattle were amenable to being pushed around by a small person; the bulls weren’t. They were ornery and would charge a person just for kicks. Even if they’re dehorned, a half ton of angry potroast coming at you like a locomotive can inflict a lot of damage. I have no idea if a bull raised like a pet would be different, but I would hesitate to risk it with lots of guests around, unless you could be sure of isolating him. Even then, there’s always some fool who will ignore the warning signs, wanting to pet him or feed him or take his picture. Just sayin’…

  55. 2-25
    8:34
    pm

    Suzanne you are one amazing woman. It seems that so much goes wrong for you, yet your writing is so positive. You are an inspiration to keep looking forward and making things happen. I can’t help you with the cow issue, but I am sure something will surface for you. Does the high school have an Agriculture Class? Sometimes they teach the students AI and the teacher might be able to get you some help.

    I vote for cinder blocks as a frame for your raised gardens. Your short, so depending on your crops I would keep the garden width narrow, say 3 feet. One thing we have tried here and it worked was to use a base of hay. We were told if horses love the hay it will make a great garden. Once the hay starts to rot it is difficult to walk on, so I wouldn’t use whole bales like we did if you are walking in the garden.

    I followed Crockett’s Victory Garden shows and book when I started my garden many years ago. We are starting a new garden this year and I got the book out again. I just wish we had a nice open area that was level. We may end up doing our garden in pots again this year. Good luck

  56. 2-25
    8:41
    pm

    I recently saw this video thought you might like it :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt-KHUITId8&feature=player_embedded

  57. 2-25
    8:47
    pm

    LOVE square foot gardening. I’ve done it in north FL and in north GA.
    My first place in FL that I had, I used free pallets that I hammered apart. I set the 4′ long boards on their sides into the dirt and dug down a bit so that there would be enough room for the roots (red clay). I didn’t even bother to attach the corners together.

    My second garden in FL was on my own property. My then husband would stop on the way home from work and pick up some free cement blocks from the place that made them. They were ones that were cracked or had a corner broken off of them. Didn’t look “pretty”, but they worked like a charm. As another poster noted, I planted not only in the squares I made, but in the open “holes” in the blocks. I stacked them 2 high. We had no money, so we didn’t bother with mortar, we just stacked them. Never had a problem with them moving around on us – even with little ones leaning on them.

    My 3rd garden consisted of some 4 x 4 x 6″, 4 x 6 x 6″ and a 4 x 8 x 6″ that were made out of untreated wood. They were years old and had started to rot on the bottom – but they still worked. Especially since I put some construction cloth on the bottom. That’s not it’s official name, but it’s some black cloth that keeps weeds from growing up in it. I put it on the bottom and partway up the sides. Takes about 15 minutes to cut and lay it down in each square. Put some GOOD soil/top soil/compost/vermiculite in it and you’re ready to garden.

    I also have containers that I use. I have a 55 gal. water drum that someone had cut in half. I put good soil in it and plant in it. Works well.

    Mulch is our friend. It helps with the water retention of the garden. I have found that even in the FL/GA heat, I only need to water once a day. One 5-gal. bucket was more water than I needed for all the wooden 4 x what-ever “squares”.

    About you and a bull.
    You have many gifts and talents. You excel at a LOT of things. But… you were afraid of Mean Rooster and Mr. Cotswold. You need help handling BP and the donkeys. And GB, hand-raised by you was TOTALLY a “wild child” that takes a lot of people power to handle. I have to ask, and I don’t mean this rudely, but WHY do you think you would be able to handle a BULL????? I can’t see it happening. You do great with mental challenges, but when brought up against the physical challenges of your animals, you’ve not been able to handle them. Morgan is only going to be home for another 3 or so years. Does SHE want the job of being the go-to person every time you need to handle the bull? Truth-be-told, probably NOT. Again, I don’t mean any of this in a rude way. But since you asked for feed-back, I’m trying to give you a reality check on your ABILITY to handle the physicalness of a VERY LARGE, somewhat unpredictable animal – when you’ve not been able to handle smaller, tamer-by-comparison animals. You’re just too afraid of getting hurt. And the others have covered the liability of having one on the property! And it doesn’t matter HOW much you “post the property”, if someone ignores the warnings and gets hurt, YOU are responsible. I’ve seen this happen on several occasions. It’s not fair, but posting now only means that YOU KNEW it was mean. Really sad, but that’s the way laws are now being interpreted.

    As others have suggested, I would check with the local people (4-H, vets, etc) and see if there’s a demand for AI people. If there is, I’d learn to do it myself and then you have another stream of income. Cows are a LOT easier to handle than BULLS are! Your farmer should already have the cow(s) you would be doing the AI on contained. All you’d have to do is load the equipment, aim, fire and go home with the $$$. In the long-run, I think it will be the cheapest way to go. You’ve already tried boarding out the cows. There’s been a lot of discussion about having a bull around and the, mostly, cons that go with that. I saw where others have stated that AI is only good 50% of the time. Well, you leaving the cows with others was good 0% of the time. So was it the bull, something wrong with both cows (BP too old, GB too young), timing (probably not, as they were left part of the summer and should have come into season) or just chance.

    Just some MORE things to chew on! lol :hug:

  58. 2-25
    8:53
    pm

    Don’t get a bull. That is just an accident waiting to happen. My old timer farmer neighbor got rid of his bull recently as he was starting to get a little “scary”. Talk to your neighbors. Bring them some grandmother’s bread or cookies or something like that…..and ask them if they know someone who can help with AI. The other posted was right about going to visit the old lady again….let her know you found Coco and ask her if she knows of someone who could help you out. All it takes if the right person…..

    And I also agree with whoever said that BP may not be able to be rebred. Bet she would make a good babysitter though. And could be used to help GloryBee or any other cows learn the milking routine. Just cause she doesn’t get milked doesn’t mean she wouldn’t walk to the milk stand on time, etc etc, once she has a routine.

  59. 2-25
    9:19
    pm

    (sigh) I withdraw my vote for you to get a bull. Other people have given some excellent advice and it’s pretty obvious that getting a bull to service two cows is not a sensible option. My vote now goes to AI. You could certainly learn to do it and it could be an extra source of income. At least find out how much it would cost to set yourself up as the AI expert for your area. What are you going to do with the extra kickstarter money? Maybe that could defray some of the costs to set yourself up in that business.

  60. 2-25
    9:22
    pm

    I would totally follow your posts as you learn to AI your own cows. Just sayin. :moo:

  61. 2-25
    9:24
    pm

    Wait…I said “it’s pretty obvious that getting a bull to service two cows is not a sensible option.” I withdraw that. It seems to me, based on the other comments, that it would be dangerous and expensive. But I can’t judge what is sensible or not in your situation on your farm. As someone said, you will think about all these things and you will make the best decision for your farm.

  62. 2-25
    9:28
    pm

    I drooled over the gardens in this video. Please give it a look. This new method of gardening is called Back to Eden and it’s a lazy person’s way to garden. http://backtoedenfilm.com/

  63. 2-25
    9:52
    pm

    All this talk about liability and insurance got me to thinking, that might be something to ask about at the agritourism workshop. Like, do farm stays normally require people to sign a liability waiver before they come to stay? And what kind of insurance do you need to carry? How do other people handle that?

    I look forward to learning how the business end of agritourism works, as you get into it. It’s so nice of you to allow us to learn along with you.

  64. 2-25
    10:35
    pm

    I was watching your Kickstarter ticker with bated breath for the last 3 weeks! I’m SO glad you got your funding! And thanks so much for the return gift of a photo of your animals–you feel like family already! I passed on your link to a few friends who I thought might donate too–and I hope that they did! You are living the dream that most of us ‘Urban Folk’ just dream of: Farm, Goats, Chickens(okay, I admit I have 3 hens!), mini-donkeys(!), and COWS…so very fun to read about, I have to tell you!

    I read all the above comments, and if you don’t rent-a-bull, you may want to get a young one for services for one season…and then let him fill your freezer. And if he turns out Great and not too much trouble, you can then decide to keep him, or sell him. I don’t know if I would get too attached, but…at least you have some choices then. AI sounds like it is expensive and is driving you crazy just to pursue any leads in your area!

    Find the book I think it was called ‘cinder block gardening’–others here have mentioned it, but cement or cinderblock gardening is permanent, safe, and I love having the beds 2 blocks high–I plant herbs, flowers, and short-season lettuce/spinach or small stuff like beets/carrots in the holes. I can easily sit on the side while digging or planting, and once you set it up, I dump organic compost in early in the season and stand on the side while digging it in. I have to have weedblock on the bottom–we’ve got the evil morning glory! Also, it works great for hoop houses–the pipe easily fits into the side holes. And when you want to change/move the arrangement, it’s fairly easy–like Lego blocks!

    Good luck, and LOVE your blog!

  65. 2-25
    11:01
    pm

    I am not in favor of Suzanne getting a bull, as I have no experience in that area, so can’t speak to it. I have to say something about some things that have been said. Yes some of the animals Suzanne had were wild or mean, but… she conquered them in the end, learned and now has the experience to (and is) raise animals who are not wild or mean. (Not talking about a bull, here.)I do agree that many times a second person is needed for some of these things, but I have never had the sense that Suzanne was too afraid to do anything she set her mind to. Experience has been a great teacher and Suzanne has been a fast learner. :cowsleep:

  66. 2-25
    11:25
    pm

    Are you really prepared to take on keeping a bull of your own yet? Not just the financials, but safety and capability are a factor. I think there could be some potentially serious safety issues with having a breeding age bull on the farm right now. I believe that you’re better off sending the girls to the bull for this year. Even though it will cost more (maybe someone you know has a truck and trailer you can use for the cost of the gas?) and you’ll miss them while they’re gone they’ll still remember you and love your cookies when they come back. Plus it will give you time to work out a good bull solution for next year.

    Then, about 8-10 months before you want the cows bred again, find a nice little baby bull calf and bring him home and train him properly. When he’s done his job, turn him into a steer or sell him as a well mannered young bull and start looking for the next bull calf. Do remember to keep a minimum of two strong and sturdy fences between the bull and your property line at all times, which is why I would recommend giving him his own stall and yard and taking the cows to him rather than running them all together. If you make being with your cows a treat he’ll be likely to stop and visit with them before hightailing it over the ridge to your neighbors lovely smelling cattle. Also, because you have a small herd your cows will take less wear and tear if the bull has his own place.

    After a couple of years of raising bull calves, if you want to keep a bull you’ll have the experience to find one with a good temperament and raise him into the good bovine citizen you want him to be. You’ll still want a new bull every so often, unless you plan on breeding his own daughters back to him.

  67. 2-26
    12:31
    am

    Susan, I looked around a little tiny bit and found a website here that lists two people in WV who do AI. One guy in Camden and another who has a WV area code but no city listed, he’s associate with select sires and they have some very nice jersey bulls. You might give them a call.
    http://clubcalves.com/ai-technicians.html

  68. 2-26
    12:37
    am

    Dear Suzanne; I’ve just spent quite some time reading each comment re: the bull issue. Please do take SwissMiss and Darlene’s advice. They are exactly on the mark. I was a long term neighbor and friend for years to a dairy farmer. It was an organic, humane and very well run farm, but boy howdy, did I ever see some interesting and scary things! You cannot EVER trust a bull…NEVER EVER. Having such an animal on site is not only dangerous, but almost always an accident waiting to happen. I’m so sorry, but there it is. Please try to find an alternative solution to actually owning a bull. And on a happier note…Congratulations on the funding!

  69. 2-26
    9:15
    am

    My goodness so many scary bull stories. Cows, dogs, cats, goats, sheep, and chickens not to mention people can go “Crazy” and have the same stories. Do what works for you. By now you know it “won’t be right” so thanks for the stories!

  70. 2-26
    2:00
    pm

    haha, this all reminds me of the Princess Bride. Inigo: “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry Humperdinck in little less than half an hour, so all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape, after I kill Count Rugen.” Westley: “That doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying.”

    Raised beds are convenience. So is AI. I’m glad to hear you found a nearby loveboat for the girls. AI is finicky – this from personal experience.

    One question you didn’t ask is “How do I sit back, relax, and enjoy being Suzanne?” Life out in the country is supposed to be simple, right?

    Perhaps you are tackling too much at once. If you start small and add as you get comfortable with your schedule it won’t be so overwhelming. What you’re doing for yourself with the bee classes is a great idea.

  71. 2-26
    8:35
    pm

    Are the trails strictly for hiking, or would you allow, say a wife and husband to bring their 4-wheelers? (Without messing up your property!) but just to have a fun day and perhaps help mark trails for you. DH has an uncanny sense of direction and loves to explore! Just wondering….

    Thanks for this wonderful place that you let me visit each day! :heart:

  72. 2-26
    8:38
    pm

    …..and he loves ramps, we could plant as we go along!

  73. 2-27
    10:38
    pm

    Suzanne,

    I live in OR and I too am using square foot gardening. I bought the book written by Mel Bartholomew, who coined the concept of square foot gardening. It is so incredibly efficient and easy. I am jonesing to get my gardening going this year but we are still have yucky weather and there is most likely at least one more good freeze. Check out squarefootgardening.org.

    I use 4×4 and 4×5 gardens. It is a good way to use space too. I have seen many good ideas here too. Good luck with your gardening…

    janice

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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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