Saturday, February 2, 2013

Feb 2 Update

Four days ago it got to 72F degrees here, two days ago the high was 26F and the low was 9F and we got about an inch of snow so things are a bit confused. Some of the grass is greening, the forsythia has buds on it and the Daffodils are peeking their light green shoots out of the snow. Tomorrow starts another warming trend and it will get up into the 50s and low 60s all through next week and I know that sounds great to our Alaskan friends but its almost torture because you get a feeling of spring and then "BAM" another blast of cold will descend out of the Canadian plains.

This is also the time of year when everything is muddy and we are anxious to start living outside like we usually do. On top of that, my shoulder surgery has been delayed and now it will be delayed further because of some medical courses I am scheduled to enroll in which pushes the possible surgery date into late spring early summer which wont work, and then we have fall when we need to be prepping for winter so......AHHHHHHH.

But we have been busy.

Our hired hand Travis and I finished up pounding the T-Posts for the new pasture, to be exact, because of my back he pounded and I held the post, but we got it done and took advantage of the soft ground from all the rain and snow we have had lately.

This is one side of the gate posts we set earlier last fall and we finished bracing them to take the gate and to allow us to stretch five courses of Gaucho barbed wire. Everyone has a favorite way to brace corner and gate posts and I prefer to set them in concrete that I have mixed (some like a dry set) and then use an H brace about chest level and a diagonal wire bracing under tension.

This is an acre long and narrow pasture with trees for the cattle to take shelter at one end, and a good bit of nicely established mixed grass. The 8 foot gate opening by the truck will be used in case any of the animals get out and to allow movement of steers we will be running on the neighbors pasture to the right of the truck. This is a further movement towards our eventual rotational grazing scheme.

Our cattle in the mid pasture have been fascinated with what we are doing and follow us down the fence line as we work.

Looking in the other direction, we still need to run wire from down the hill but that's the easy part. If your wondering, we are using 6.5 foot T-Posts for the perimeter fence with five strands of barbed wire and the 6.5 foot T-Posts are now almost 5 dollars each. We have a stash of used posts for some cross fencing but we feel more comfortable with putting in new and taller posts for our perimeter fencing.

The drought left our winter pasture a bit thin so we have been feeding about a bale and a half of  hay every day and we are getting to the point where we will have to buy more hay soon at current prices of $7.50 a square bale. We just didn't get the hay harvest this last year we have had in previous years because of the drought and normally we haven't had to purchase hay. I am posting costs because we have had some people ask and they seem shocked by what it costs to even run a small operation like ours. The romantic notion of having a few cows, some chickens, and a small family farm like ours is appealing and can lead some people astray and its easy to get into trouble if your not careful. Since we bought this farm and moved here numerous others have done the same in our area and most of them are no longer here, either losing their farm to foreclosure or taking a big financial loss when they sell. I am not trying to be negative but you have to go into a life like this with a realistic view of what it really costs to live the "Simple Life" in the manner we do. Not to say it cant be done a lot cheaper than we are doing but we have zero desire to feel like we are barely scraping by at our age.

Speaking of drought, our main pond has been really low since last summers drought but with the recent heavy rain and some snow its coming back up. Holly is standing where the water level usually is so we still have a couple of feet to go but its improving and we are thankful for that.
This is looking at the new pasture we just enclosed from the other end and you can see the new gate posts in the far distance on the left.

We run the fence lines daily in the 4 wheeler and if it looks cold here it was. Our mid and back pasture is on top of a hill and really gets the wind.
Can you say pregnant? Louise is really showing.
Thelma isn't showing as much but we think she is pregnant too.

You can really see how big Louise is getting compared to the others in this picture. If all goes okay, we should be calving in July.

Chores don't stop when the weather gets cold or nasty and besides the cold and mud, we have to break up the ice in the water troughs, feed the hay, feed the chickens and change their water, mend the fences etc.

I included this picture of Rose the Farm Dog because you can see just how much the grass is greening. Its Feb 2, we just hope we don't get a bitter March but according to Puxatawny Phil we are supposed to get an early spring and ...we are ready.
And finally, last week we made more progress on the Blue Dodge D-150 project. New upper and lower ball joints..

New brake rotors and pads (the calipers were fine)..

and a new exhaust system from the catalytic converter on back.

A local shop fabricated the exhaust system for us and I am really happy with their work. Its stock as I didn't want a noisy shop truck but it has a good sound and sure beats the pfft pfft of the old leaky exhaust.

And last but not least we replaced the O2 sensor which solved the rich idle when cold. The truck would start easy but it would idle kind of rough when it was cold and it was really putting out the soot from the tail pipe when it was first started. Turns out just as I suspected the catalytic converter was shot and clogged which sooted up the O2 sensor which in turn told the ECM the truck needed to be run rich. All that is now history, the truck runs even better than before, no soot, and it has a lot more power. Next up, new tires and an alignment. On the alignment, some people say you don't need an alignment after doing ball joints but the ball joints on this truck were so worn that to me it just makes sense.

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