Monday, August 26, 2013

A Rodeo

The Lion's Club we are members of sponsored a bull riding rodeo this past weekend that was a great success and our Stone House Farm even sponsored several riders. We live in the Ozarks which is cattle country so to me we needed a rodeo.

We have gone full country what can I say.

Its quite a task setting up for this and I had to use the disk harrow on the arena before they brought in the bucking chutes and corrals then I went and got one of the Fire Dept tankers and wet down the place to reduce dust, filled the tanker back up from the water tower, then we started receiving the bulls and a few sheep for the younger kids (under 8) to ride. Here you can see the Cowboys sorting out their tack prior to the rodeo beginning.

This is a Championship Youth Bull Riding event but there was also an open bull riding category for any age and it was tempting.

Lots of people don't realise that Missouri has a long history with cattle and that there is lots of "Cowboyin" going on, particularly in the Ozarks. Its not uncommon to find horses hitched up in front of stores or to see real working Cowboys at the local cafe. These Cowboys (and one young Cowgirl) were all riders.
The three kids on the right here went "Mutton Busting" and rode sheep. The three on the left were a little older and rode calves; and if you think that was easy, one of the calves was meaner than any of the bigger bulls and really gave the young rider a working over.

And then the older riders were up through I would say early 20s. I love rodeos and bull riding in particular but its a brutal sport and they take a pounding. Most of these young men had limps or showed some type of injury. I rode a bull when I was a young Marine and barely got out of the chute before I was slammed into the ground. I was all full of young bravado and of course couldn't lose face in front of my friends but I remember wishing I could be anywhere else when I was in the chute on that bull that was trying to kill me and you have to give these guys a lot of credit. They do it all the time and it takes a lot of guts.

It was hard to get good pictures of the actual riding but this was a young man riding a sheep.
Most of the riders wore helmets and flak jackets but not all and several of the riders got slammed pretty good and it was great. I was right there hanging on the corral the whole night and by the end of the night I was covered in dust, bull snot and had boots full of cow was glorious.

Unfortunately my camera picked up all the dust particles flying around because of the flash but the bull fighters (they aren't called clowns anymore; oh no they aren't) really did a great job.

We had several full rides and the quality of the riding was very good. Several of the bulls had been on the PBR tour and some were just down right rank. One big Brahma was so bad it took 15 minutes to get him back in his pen and he repeatedly slammed into the corral trying to get out and into the audience and people were scrambling, drinks were flying and it was quite a show.

These three young men have qualified for the PBR finals in Texas; its a big accomplishment and they are Ozarks tough.
This is the America that still exists and the America we choose to live in. 

Meet Buster

If you have been following this blog you may remember that we had our neighbors bull Caesar with us last year for about 9 months and now we have reaped the fruits of that stay with the birth of Buster, our new bull calf.

The night before he was born we knew Thelma was going into labor because she separated herself from the other cows, went into the woods and started pacing. I checked her at about midnight but no calf so I went to bed and first thing the next morning we went out to find her. We found Thelma laying down and looking great chewing her cud and we noticed afterbirth was hanging out of her so we knew she calved...but there was no calf. Cattle usually will stash their calves and they can be a booger to find in heavy brush and Buster was no different, we finally found him laying quietly in some think brambles.
We were hoping for a heifer to build our herd and if Buster had been a bald face calf like the rest of our cattle we would probably keep him but as it is we will raise him for about 15 months then send him to slaughter for us to eat. We will not castrate him as uncut bull calves gain weight faster, its safer and more humane not to castrate them (our opinion), and to those who claim bull meat tastes gamy ...all I can say is we haven't seen that at all. It depends on the age and how the animal is treated at butchering time.
Angus cattle are known for good maternal instincts but this is Thelma's first calf so we weren't sure how she would do; luckily she is doing great.

We cant get too close yet because she is still very protective of him but she is getting better.
We enjoy having cattle but these are beef cattle and not pets so we don't pet them and we handle them to the minimum amount possible. We also don't yell at them or hit them, I have found that usually (and there are exceptions) you can make them do what you want by moving into their flight path or using the cattle stick to push their head or poke them in the flank a bit. I hate going to places where I see people screaming at their cattle and whacking them with a stick or prod. Louise, the red Angus to the right is also pregnant and we expect she will probably calf in a month or so.

Thelma is a very large cow with a large udder so we weren't sure how Buster was going to be able to feed but he seems to have figured out that hitting mom from the rear through her rear legs works best. Its very satisfying to see the results of planned breeding pan out like this and we are really enjoying this.
On top of Buster being born one of the wild barn cats dropped a litter all over the farm (literally). We found a couple in the wood pile, some on the side of a hill, some next to the barn, and two were found a day or so after the others in the grass. We don't need them, we don't want them, we are trying to catch the barn cats to get them fixed but what can you do? None of us had the heart to just let them die or get taken by the coyotes so...Judy gets to be mom again!

We have said goodbye to the golf cart project we started back in 2010, too many projects and we realised we would never get to this one so we traded it for some sheep. We will be picking up the sheep soon but in the mean time this got delivered to its new owners.
My friend Bandit is doing well lately but when I am working in the back pasture or wood lot he prefers to ride in the AC now days instead of running alongside like he used to...we are all getting older. For some reason he has never bothered the cattle and Thelma lets him go right up to Buster and we have seen them sniff each other over...that is very unusual.
So here we are in the last month of summer and the leaves on some of the trees are turning, the autumn crocuses have already come and gone and we sliced three persimmon seeds in half and got spoons so it will be a snowy winter. But I like this time of year.

Its still hot and we are just now preparing for the fall garden but you know fall is coming soon and all that comes with that. Cutting wood, Dove season starts next month, the holidays....cooler weather....I look forward to it. As I have gotten older the seasons seem to just fly by.

And finally here is Judy standing in front of the banana trees that you "cant" grow here; glad we didn't know that before we planted them 3 years ago!


Monday, August 12, 2013

First Corn and a Night at the Races

Even though the weather has been bad we have been selling everything we can produce, which is good for business but bad because we haven't been able to save a lot for ourselves to can, freeze or eat fresh. But we have had our first corn harvest and we decided to cream off a few ears for us to put up...87 fully ripe and sweet ears.

We don't spray insecticides or use herbicides on our corn so we usually have the worms at the end of the cobs you have to break or cut off but this year we have had very few and though I wasn't really happy with the germination rate when we planted, the pollination seems to have been very good and we sure cant complain about the taste.

The beard is gone because I start the more advanced Fire Fighter school next week and you cant have beards because of wearing the air packs and needing a good seal and the sun glasses just reflect my optimistic nature! Corn and tomatoes are my two favorite vegetables (yes I know tomatoes are technically a fruit but its my blog) and you just cant beat the taste of fresh corn with home made creamy butter and some salt.
We planted an heirloom variety called "Country Gentleman" which is a white shoe peg corn and real tasty but you can see in this picture that the seed co had mixed up some seed because we also ended up with a more conventional variety mixed in..but it all tastes good. This batch we blanched then froze for corn on the cob that we enjoy during the winter.

While we were shucking corn we looked over to the road from the East pasture (the piled up gravel is where I scraped it into piles after the flood with the Kubota and a box blade) and saw critters all over. The barn cat had taken her kittens out for a stroll and they had a blast playing in the remnants of the river that was. We dont want the kittens, we cant even touch the barn cat as she moves in and out and she is wild enough to do you some serious damage (she was carting fully grown rabbits she hunted into the barn to feed her brood). We have tried live traps with all kinds of setups and bait but she isnt stupid and short of shooting them, which I couldnt do, we just have given up and live in peace with them. They own the barn and dont bug us when we go in and in fact rarely see them in the barn but we dont have
 This is Holly and our friend what do you do when the rain lets up for half a day allowing you to do some work? Why go to the races of course. Roger had some tickets and food vouchers as part of an employee appreciation day and he treated us to an evening at the races at one of the local stock car tracks. This track actually has some lower division NASCAR races and its a really nice facility. Its clean, very family oriented, the food was pretty good and the beer garden had $2.00 beers and great views of the track...whats not to like?
There were several races with varying classes but the late model NASCAR class was the biggest and was a points race. NASCAR driver Jamie McMurry is the local track champion and still returns to race now and again. Rusty Wallace and his family are also Missourians who frequent the track.
This is the Road Warrior class and my favorite. Just local racers with their hoopties tearing up the track.
Some of them look a little rough but they were going flat out and its very entertaining.
Sportsman Class...
Modifieds....and this class was wild with one car getting airborne at one point..
And these crazy 4 cylinder Charger class cars were also a lot of fun. They are mostly stock, they run flat out and because the suspension isnt that great they squeel and slide around corners and bang into each other.
There were several accidents (and one fist fight) with this one being the worst. One driver was transported to the hospital with sore ribs and a bump to the noggin but nothing too serious.
I took this to show the hot dog eating contest, not to show the cute Monster Energy drinks gal in the skimpy top and shorts......really.
Dig this crazy contraption....a jet powered golf cart.

I talked to the owner and driver for quite a while (gear heads like to talk to gear heads) and the jet engine is military surplus but of undetermined origin. He does have a functioning after burner hooked up and he is actually powering a drive shaft to a rear axel. It carries 6 minutes of a gasoline/kerosene fuel mixture and has a parachute on the rear that is more for show.
So during intermission he did a run under the lights and it was pretty cool but he was having trouble with getting the jet to spool up and we never got the thrust boom everyone was wanting but we enjoyed the show

I want.....
I will leave you with this for this post: Life is short so surround yourself with happy interesting people and eliminate those people or situations that drag you down. Our friend Roger works 6 days a week, he has had some blows since we moved here but he is always upbeat and we all enjoy lots of laughs and adventures when we get together. Thanks for a night at the races Roger...we had a blast.


Weather Woes

We have been beset by storm after storm for weeks and we have had record breaking (yet again!) rain and there has been massive flooding all around our area. We are on a hill and though we were cut off for a while from the outside we were generally faring pretty good until the pond over topped the spillway during a period where we had a foot of rain in about a 5 hour period.

It came off the South pasture...
It came off the upper East pasture...
Then the upper pond breached the spillway and flowed to the lower north pond and we had a relatively fast flowing river between Judy's mobile home and the farm house. We have taken great pains to grade everything away from structures and channel the water flow because we do get monsoon rains but as one local told us, "I've never seen anything like this around here for the 74 years I have been around". None of the structures got water into them or were damaged but our roads were washed out in places and about $1000 worth of the gravel we laid this spring got washed down to the lower pond.
It feels like we are back in Alaska with all the rain and I almost expected to see some salmon swimming up stream here.
Our upper pond is now a lake. Last year at this time it was only about 4 foot deep due to the drought and now its about 20 feet deep.....the drought is over.
Here is the spillway that is causing all the carnage to our roads and parking area. Normally to the right in this picture you would go down about a 10 foot embankment to reach the pond.
This is a normally dry stream in our back woodlot but its been flowing for about a month. Its actually kind of picturesque and the cattle have been enjoying drinking from it.
Others have had more damage and we consider ourselves lucky. Our nearest neighbor had his access road wash out onto the highway and partially block one lane so he was out trying to clear it right after this particular storm. We have a great State Transportation Dept but they are spread thin in our remote area and its expected that land owners take care of things...and we do.
Some other friends that live about a mile and a half from us as the crow flies got hit with a small tornado and they lost a couple of barns that they used for their business but luckily no one was hurt and their house amazingly didn't even lose a shingle. Amazingly the Mustang buried in the ruble in this picture wasn't damaged much.

The power of Mother Nature is an awesome one and we live in an area where we are very attuned to the weather for obvious reasons. Its not a casual "watch the news and see what the weather will be" thing either. Virtually everyone has a weather radio, we get storm alerts sent to cell phones, we have NEXRAD radar links on the computer and most of us have our own weather instruments (Thermometer, anemometer, barometer, and rain gage). In fact, the weathermen around here are minor celebrities and often attend fairs, are featured speakers at churches and other civic meetings etc.
This entire section of one of the barn roofs was found about 100 yards into the woods wrapped around a tree, rafters and all.
I was actually on a structure fire call in another town (lightening strike) at about 0500 in the morning when the tornado hit but Holly got a call and immediately went over to lend support and then when I got back a bunch of us went over to help them move things into their basement and garage. We worked most of the day getting things in order and soon there were drinks, pizza and a second shift of people showed up to finish up. Its what neighbors do around here.
The rain continues, we cant really repair our roads and parking area until it stops because the pond is so full even a little rain over tops the spillway now but its supposed to let up later this week and our farm sales seemed to have surged with the bad weather. Its just life on the farm and where we would have been upset or kind of freaked out about all this a couple years its just another thing to deal with like everything else...and not really all that big of a deal at that.