Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Of Teeth and Dollars

It's always just amazing to me that things that get a person down have to come in groups.  It isn't enough that a cloud should rain on your parade, but it has to turn into a monsoon season.  Yes, I feel like I have been flushed.

Bad enough, that my hay guy sold me manure that apparently had zero potency.  Bad enough he tacked on a charge that was not discussed or agreed to for harrowing, but now he has also added a forty dollar charge to drive his tractor to my place and a five dollar charge per bale to haul them off.  It seem that I will make no money this year.  I also had counted my chickens before they had hatched.  In my optimistic mindset I had pretend spent the money.  In the dark recesses of my mind, I had paid my Parelli dues, bought fence posts, fence wire and, in general, made my world a brighter place.

Let's add to the mayhem.....

Mac has had a lot of chemo and radiation.  He has had a good deal of oral wounds from the graft vs. host after the transplant.  Severe dry mouth which also is not healthy.  Not to mention enough nausea that even brushing his teeth posed problems some days.  Now he is reaping the results.  His teeth are literally falling out.  Another one dropped out of his head yesterday.  This makes the fourth one.  He is depressed.  We haven't the money to fix it.

The horse clinic that I volunteer at has changed locations this year.  It may be too far away for me to attend..  Depressing because this is where I went each year to recharge my batteries.  Renew my vigor.

Don't know what to do today.   I need to get my problem solving skills working.  Do something!!  I don't know what, but I know that standing still terrifies me.  If you stand still, you'll just get sucked backwards.  Gotta keep moving.


Saturday, July 26, 2014


God knows that everyone has their days when nothing goes right.... when things just don't meet expectations, so when you get those successful moments, it's worth sitting back and savoring.  That's me this morning.  While technically the chicken coop is not finished on the outside, it is finished on the inside.  The nesting box is in.  Two sets of perches are installed.  And yesterday we took the chicks out to the new coop and installed them too.

They are beautiful little things.  As their feathers are starting you can see the development of their pattern.  They are brown and they are getting white patches under their wings and dots along their wing feathers.  Tail feathers are just now starting to sprout so we have yet to see how they will turn out.

I was torn between running to town and buying more extension cords to reach the coop so I could install the heat lamp for the chicks.  Frankly they have not been needing it in the house as our summer temperatures spiked and it was more then warm enough, but I was worried about the overnight drop in temperatures out in the coop.  The other option was to get my terminally broody hen out of the other small coop and put her in with the chicks and see if she would turn into their mother.  I opted for the latter as it required no money.

From what I have read, general chicken wisdom dictates that you move them at night, while they are asleep and they just wake up in their new situation and think that it is all normal.  I kind of wanted to do it that way, but was worried that she would wake up early and not like the new normal and peck, possibly kill the chicks.  I decided to amend procedure.  I moved her at dusk when the girls were just settling in for the night.  She was a bit upset over leaving the clutch of eggs she had been stealing from the other hens, but luckily we have a good relationship.  I cuddled her up and grabbed some extra feed and headed to the new coop.

The chicks, still not used to their new surroundings, let out with a chorus of concerned cheeping as we came in the door.  The hen perked up immediately.  In the dim light I could just barely make out where the chicks had decided to nest up for the night.  I grabbed a couple of handfuls of hay and built a quick nest next to the chicks and set the hen down.  There was much more concerned cheeping.  She responded with a noise I hadn't heard her make before.  It came from deep in her throat and sounded like a cross between a cluck and a gulp.  Apparently it meant something to the chicks.  They settled down.  Then they chirped a little and she would again respond with her gulping noise.  Then she started preening, something I hadn't seen her do in the month and a half she has been brooding.  After some additional fluffing she arched her wings and waited for them to scurry under.  They had no idea what she was offering, but it seemed like a good place to leave them for the night.

Chores are done this morning.  It was exciting to get to the coop and see how everybody made it through the night.  It was toasty warm and smelled of fresh straw.  The chicks were awake and taking advantage of all of their new space.  They had spread out everywhere.  Some were hiding behind the cross brace by the door.  Some were in a line in the deep hay  bed under the nesting boxes.  Some were sitting in a row on top of the feeder and some were encompassing the hen, who was all fluffed up and warning me to be careful of her chicks.  I changed out their water and stood for awhile and watched them all.  It was a moment of perfect contentment.  Happy me.  Happy hen.  Happy chicks.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Ideas and Efforts

It's been a busy week.  We have the chicken coop pretty much finished.  The roof is still tar paper.  shingles might take a back seat for a little while.  the sides are wrapped with Tyvek and we are still trying to figure out the best way to side the coop.  Yesterday we started with the interior "appointments".  The large nest box has been installed and I have yet to get any perches in.  It took me a day and a half to get in the little chicken door, the window and the larger person door.  I get a little frustrated at how slowly I seem to work.  I keep telling my broody hen...."Maybe today.  Maybe I will get you into the nice nest box today."  I am hoping that the change of scenery will bring her out of her broodiness.  She seems such a miserable, introverted soul right now.  Squatting there in the hay with a dull look in her eye.

On the other hand there are the chicks.  They are happy and healthy.  Very active and they have figured out that there is something attached to the hand that descends from the sky bringing water and crumbles and grass to kick around.  Now they stand and watch.  Tilt their wee heads to the side and give me a chicken style stare.  Today when I fed them I noticed they had started sprouting their tail feathers.  A reminder that I need to get them out of the house soon.

We now have a solid roof on the greenhouse.  I know that seems illogical.  We considered our weather conditions.  We have high winds.  We have brutal sun in the mid to late summer and I can't really afford to be replacing the plastic every six months as the result.  So we chose a solid roof.  We will put the Tyvek up on the ends.  I have one old window that I can fit into the center section of the back.  The rest of the back and front will get screened and will have a roll up cover.  This way we can go from greenhouse to shade house and hopefully be more practical and useful.  I need to get the tar paper up on that roof yet.

Then there is my hay situation.  It has been depressing me a bit lately.  I don't like being depressed.  So, it has left me thinking, what can I do to make this a catalyst for a positive outcome?  I am kicking around the idea of a kickstarter project.  I am formulating the ideas and the presentation.  I think I have it figured out.  My project is what it has always been... building soil.  But I haven't had much in the ways of tools or equipment.  I need to get the equipment.  When I have all of my ducks in a row, I shall post links here.  I suppose it is a situation of... when life gives you lemons, make a margarita.  In my case I shall be following up with manure tea.

I will leave you on that happy thought.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

This Week

I just love the author Garrison Keillor.  Each week, on his radio show, Prairie Home Companion, he begins his monologue, "It's been a quiet week in my home town......"  I suppose the same could be said here.  It has been a quiet week.  The rain stopped finally. The sun has shown.  The clouds have been huge and fluffy.  The goldfinches have been at the feeder along with the purple finch and my tiny wrens.  The green pf the summer has been spectacular

But that has just been on the surface.

This week we finally had the hay put up.  We have it baled in large bales which isn't ideal for me, but we make it work.  We bale on shares so that, so far, the hay guy takes fifty percent and I take fifty percent.  But this last year has been different.  The hay guy was positive that I should lay down composted manure.  He ran some numbers for me and he said we would split the cost.  He pushed it so aggressively  and was so sure that this would be the ticket to increasing my yield that he would float the part that I owed until we brought in hay.  So, now we have baled.  Last years yield was forty bales of hay.  This year after spending money that I did not have, I have the grand total of forty two bales.  Which gives us each twenty one bales.  But Arlyn the hay guy wants an extra bale as he feels there should have been more yield around the edges.  Plus, he threw on an extra hundred dollars charge as after spreading the manure, he had to come over and harrow it.  He had to harrow as he waited to spread the manure after it had partially frozen.... his mismanagement, not mine.    Then to add insult to injury, he wants me to sell any excess bales to him so he can funnel them to a friend of his at forty dollars per bale, so I make a  profit of  almost nothing.  Actually, I don't make a profit.

To recap.....

I owe Arlyn $930 for exceptionally poor quality manure which he got from a buddy.  My land is not improved.  And I am being set up to sell hay for  a price that will only make me $400 and I still cannot come up with cash to pay my taxes.  Selling ten bales and keeping ten cuts me close on my own needs for my horses for the year.  I still need posts.... I still need wire... I still need more hay.

Floating  over all of my farm drama has been the legal issues with the credit cards that defaulted when Mac's leukemia returned.  I am always glad that we were not as reliant on them as other people but still it looks like a ten thousand dollar lien is going to be unavoidable..... I do not have ten thousand dollars.  Apparently we have a court date for August the eighth to address this problem.

But to the casual observer, it has been a quiet week here on my little farm.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Making Me Crazy

All the rain we have been having is starting to get to me.  I keep looking at my hay field that is waiting  to get cut.  On one hand I am really frustrated and want my hay!  On the other, as long as it is still standing then it isn't cut, laying on the ground and getting ruined.   It doesn't pay to think about it  Actually I have been putting forth an effort to think about other stuff.  I have been trying to look at the tiny house videos that are on youtube.  But it seems that I have seen most of those.  I have looked at some more organic farming videos but a great deal of those seem like they are too long for me to stream or I have seen them.  It adds to my general poor mood.

I was beating myself up about being generally useless.  Then I decided I just need something new to think about.  I need a puzzle.  I have to have my mind engaged.  I don't know why I tried to look up my great grandparents on census files, but I did.  It was something to do  I have found a little information.  Not much.  But I haven't had much to go on.  There are few family stories.  Some census records were destroyed by fire  The biggest hurdle is that I really don't know what I am doing.

There is one thing that strikes me.  We were poor.  We were always poor  It is like a stench that won't wash off.  I am not sure how much of this family research is fascinating and how much is depressing  but I suppose it beats getting driven nuts by watching it rain.  I'll keep at it for awhile though.  I have great hopes for finding a horse thief somewhere in my family tree.  Then, perhaps, I will find out where my horse crazy gene comes from.

But for now, I am just looking out my window.  It is sunny right now.  Birds are singing.  And soon a low pressure front will be sweeping through.  Thunderstorms are forecast for the afternoon  It really is enough to make you crazy.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I remember as  a child having those little seasonal sayings.  For March it was "in like a lion and out like a lamb".... also "April showers bring May flowers"  In general, the weather of spring has seemed to overflow it's boundaries  All around us the weather has been excessive.  There has been a lot of rain.  Some areas are getting in one rain fall the amount of rain expected for a whole month.  Last week we got one storm that brought down three inches.  That isn't so bad.  While we were at Mac's Dr. appointment I heard a woman say they had a two day storm that resulted in six inches of rain.

Of course, that brings a number of problems.  Flash flooding.  Flooding that doesn't "flash" and just stands there killing out the lower sections of corn fields.  And with the flooding we will have more issues with chemical run off into creeks, rivers and lakes.  The lake in the state park to the south of us has caused swimmers to break out in a skin rash.  Some are saying e-coli.  but since no one is mentioning a life threatening version of diarrhea, I'm thinking chemical run off.

Along with the rain, has come the wind.  A couple of tornadoes, but nothing bad there.  That is, as far as tornadoes go, they are pretty much non-events, but the straight line winds have been impressive.  Many communities have gone to the practice of sounding the tornado alarm for straight line winds just as they do for tornadoes.  Day before yesterday when a front moved through with straight line winds, trees were uprooted.  Barns blown down and fields of corn were laid completely flat.

We have been lucky.  Here on our little farm, we are built into the hill, protected and above the turmoil.  Our trees are still standing.  We just haven't been able to get enough clear sunny days in a row to allow for cutting hay.  That is a pretty small problem compared to what other people are going through..... but I really need some hay.  I also need to sell some hay so I can pay some bills.  Here it is July and we are still getting those April showers.  These days we might as well just call it "monsoon season" in Iowa.