Saturday, August 23, 2008

More fencing...and more...

Ok it's been 3 days since my last post and the fence isn't finished yet. After dropping the post pounder on my shoulder while pounding about 40 posts by myself. I finally admitted defeat for the day.

Besides I needed Brian's insight into just exactly where to run the fence through the woods so that we can reach 3 separate water tanks with a minimum of water hose. So Thursday morning I shouldered my new toy - a Stihl weedeater. Together we made short work of all the weeds, grass and other things that might short out the new fence. While I mowed down weeds and grass, Brian was baling on the other side of the farm. We got done about the same time... well he was done at least. I was just plain tuckered out! We took a break for lunch and lots of water and then we hit the fence together.

About 1/2 way across the dam we ran out of weedeater string. That precipitated a trip back to the garage, a careful reading of the pertinent "how to" in the owners manual, a few cuss words, turning the manual upside down to get the right perspective on the diagram and putting the brush blade on. Whew!

The blade is awesome!!! It's like having a little chainsaw on a long handle! Look out multiflora rose!! Take that thistles!! I felt a little like the super hero of pasture fences. :)

Yes, I let Brian play with the new toy. He did the stretch of fence on the rest of the dam. We got 2 of the 5 strands of electric wire run across the dam before we had to quit for the day.

These are times when many hands would make lighter work. At the very least a spooler that would carry 5 spools of wire would make it easier and faster to pull the fence. Maybe this winter Brian can weld one up and somehow attach it to the 4-wheeler... hmmmm?!?

"Honey, I have an idea. . ."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A sheepish adventure

Yesterday, Brian and I took a little car trip to see Gail Former's sheep. She has over 100 Shetlands.

Watching her call in the sheep was like watching a multicolored tide of wool come in. Both Gail and we have sheep from the same breeder. Gail is helping us get our paperwork straightened out. We are also shopping for a new ram.

When we pulled in the driveway, a big wooly brown ram with beautiful curly horns came right up to me at the fence. I looked at Brian. "It's Jeff! She has Jeff."
We had looked at Jeff when we bought our other sheep, but the breeder had been reluctant to sell him and he had a runny nose at the time. We always steer clear of animals that even vaguely look like they aren't healthy. So we didn't pursue it any further at the time.

Now Jeff looks great!! And Gail says he is available. We are going back to get him soon. He'll make a great ram for our little flock.

In light of that development, I have been building fence all day. Before we can bring Jeff home we have to take Ramone out of the herd and wean the babies. We are moving the goats too. They are going into a brushy area. They'll help get the brush cleaned up and they'll enjoy the job too.

The sheep are going to a new grassy area with a bit more shade than they have now. I should be able to finish the fence tonight. Then move the water troughs tomorrow. I'm planning on building new feed troughs too. Then everybody will be set until the end of October when we'll rotate again.

So for now I'm off to pound fence posts.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Exploring the omnivore's dilemma

I spend two hours 3-4 days a week driving to and from work. I’ve grown tired of the music on the radio. It seems like it’s all the same news every evening on the news stations. I need something different to occupy my mind. This week I made a trip to the library to check out an audio book.

I wasn’t sure listening to a book would be enough to keep me awake on the way home at 4am, but I thought it would be more interesting than the same songs over and over followed by the same news repeated endlessly on the radio.

Many of our market customers have been telling us they have read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. So I asked the librarian if it was available. This week I have been listening to The Omnivore’s Dilemma on my commute.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma explores “what’s for dinner?” from the origin of food to its eventual consumption at the dinner table. Yesterday, I learned more than I ever thought to know about the sexual reproduction, history and economy of corn in North America, why Earl Butt’s really was not a friend to the American farmer and why no matter what the price of corn we keep growing more and more of the yellow stuff.

Today, we’ve moved from corn production to the feed lots of Kansas. Did you know they feed fat to cattle? Fat that is shipped in from the processing plant where the steers will be killed– cattle fat. That the diet of corn and additives are totally unnatural for a grazing animal and lead to disease in the cattle. So much so that the big lots have to keep a vet on staff. Cattle at slaughter are frequently found to have abscessed livers.

The author is following one steer from the ranch it was born on in South Dakota to the Kansas feedlot where it is fattened to the slaughter house to his table. It is an interesting tale. Scary but interesting.

Points to ponder:

The manure is collected in a “lagoon”, a vast pool of poop. When asked why they don’t spread it on neighboring farm fields, the author is told farmers don’t want it. They don’t want it because it is too high in nitrogen and phosphorus, not to mention heavy metals. The manure would kill their crops. Wow! On our place manure isn’t waste. It is fertilizer. It closes the circle of production. For example: the cows eat the grass, they produce manure, the manure helps the grass grow, and the cows eat the grass. A circle. They way nature meant it to be.
Downstream the heavy metals, nitrogen, phosphorus cause changes in amphibians and fish. Scary! So what are they doing to us?
Fecal dust causes respiratory and eye irritation for the cattle confined there. On our farm there isn’t much in the way of dust because the earth is covered by growing plants. Plants that feed our animals and keep our air clean.
Cattle fed on corn produce meat that is highly marbled but also high in cholesterol. It’s not red meat that is bad for your cholesterol levels its cholesterol. We raise our cattle as they were intended – on grass. Naturally lower in cholesterol. And I think happier and healthier.
32 lbs of corn each day is fed per steer to create 4 lbs of gain per steer/day. That’s a lot of corn!!
Without routine antibiotics the feedlot would not be possible.
E. coli a new strain, is found in these feedlots and can cause kidney failure in humans. Once again – SCARY!

I won’t tell you everything I’ve heard and all the things that concerned/ frightened me. It would take too long. I will recommend this book to you as a must read - or a must listen if you have a commute like mine.

Take care and be safe,