country cacklin's

It's been so long since my last post on November 2012. The seasons change. Mostly the same as the year before. We have become quite the homebodies. We can't leave unless we find someone to take care of the animals and that hasn't happened yet. Still, we love it here and don't have much reason to go any place else. Here is the news up to Winter 2013. I will be kind and write about only the highlights.

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::  WEATHER

February was fairly mild and spring-like until the 25th when we got 6 inches of snow. But it wasn't too cold, and soft enough for sculpting. I had to take off my coat. You know I have acclimated when 40 degrees feels warm. We got another foot of snow 2 days later. With the drifts, it was more like 2 feet in many areas. It made it hard to get around but at least it didn't last long. The first snow of the season is pretty, but we are pretty sick of it by the end of the season.

March was pretty cold and we got more snow on the 24th, but it finally warmed up after that. The bright yellow flowers of the Forsynthia and my one Daffodil plant promised that Spring was here. The only other sign of Spring was the birds coming back. Bluebirds were around all winter. The Robins showed up in mid-Feb. The Meadowlarks and Red-winged Blackbirds arrived. And, seeing our first vulture makes it official.

In May, we had Purple Martins move into the barn house in the backyard. The sparrows still controlled the lower floor, but it looks like they are here to stay. It was such a pleasure watching them soar around the yard and listen to their calls. A few Martins checked out the front house, but the sparrows would not be evicted despite our efforts. I believe we doubled the number of sparrows around here last season. I saw groups of at least 50 flying around during the Winter.

Spring was wet as it should be, and helped the grass grow. The dry soil gratefully soaked it up. In June, Kirksville (about 40 miles away) had some straight-line wind damage. We didn't get anything too scary. Just the usual thunderstorms. We do end up losing sleep because Pepper gets freaked out from the thunder and lightning. Nothing like having a 50 lb. dog jump on your head in the middle of the night.

Although not as bad as last year, the summer was very dry and hot. Too hot to work outside, and the ground got too dry to drill postholes or to work on the patio project.

When the grass gets too tall, we walk the dogs on the road because the grass makes the dogs itchy. (Pretty ironic since we bought the property to have a place to walk the dogs). Pepper has to stay on a leash because she takes off into the trees and won't come when called. So I started jogging with her so she could get more exercise. I haven't run since I was in my 20's. I began by sprinting in sandals and got shin splints for a couple of days. After that I wore better shoes and was progressing pretty well. Taking it slow. Danny even got motivated to jog with me. When we walk, we normally only go about 1/2 mile out and 1/2 mile back. Then my knees starting hurting like crazy. I had to go back to walking for a week. Danny gave up but I want to keep going and look forward to starting again next year. We started walking on the property again when it got cold. As we get older, the bad habits of our youth are catching up with us. It is a challenge to stay healthy. I try to go up and down the slopes as much as possible to keep my heartrate up, but it is easy to find an excuse not to.

::  PROJECTS

Martin House Commission: Danny got a commission from the website for a Custom Purple Martin house from a gal in Wisconsin. She wanted it as a Xmas gift for her in-laws lake house in Michigan. There was barely enough time to get it done on schedule, so I helped him build it. We got it to FEDEX just days before Xmas. We paid extra to ensure it would get there in time. Well, it didn't make it, and when it did arrive, it was damaged. Unfortunately, we didn't insure it for its value and ended up getting only the shipping cost back from FEDEX. Danny ended up having to rebuild the entire thing for free. We learned some hard lessons on that one. Plus, we will use UPS from now on.

Back Deck: As the weather improved in the Spring, I finally finished the back porch railings. I designed some decorative brackets for the posts and Danny built them for me. We still need to put in the steps and then we can put in the small patio in the Spring with the marble pavers that we got from an auction a couple years ago now.

Bathroom: This summer, I remodeled the bathroom. It started last year when I finally got tired of the water alternating between burning hot & freezing cold during my shower, and Danny got tired of hearing me scream. I don't know why it didn't do the same thing to him. I bought a new shower faucet hoping that would help, but there was no way to put it in without changing all of the plumbing which meant tearing out the ugly plastic tub surround (yah!). And that meant remodeling the entire room.

It took awhile to decide on a design, and another 2 months for the special order tile to come in. I did most of the work and it took me most of the summer to get it done. We had to shower outside, which was rather fun when it was warm out. And we had no toilet for several days as well--nuff said about that.

We tried leveling the house by building a wall down the middle of the basement. It's still not level but should at least be more stable than it was. We had to remove the tub and tear up the entire floor to get the bathroom floor relatively level so I could tile. We had to move most of the plumbing and, of course, new electrical. It is much more pleasant to use and so much easier to clean now.

::  WORK

Danny is still working for Jr. Elliott hauling sludge from Nebraska and Iowa to fields in our area. Danny didn't work much in the Winter because the ground was frozen and they move and store the sludge in Iowa. The other drivers had to stay in hotels up there. Danny opted out. Neither of us wanted him to be away from home for a week at a time.

I still don't have nearly enough work. But it is funny how the day flies by. I can find numerous ways to waste the day. I did get a job or two from a local company preparing AutoCad drawings but we didn't agree on compensation and he hasn't called me since.

I worked on a few illustrations and a PowerPoint presentation for an entrepreneur living in Panama. I enjoyed working for him and hope to still work on his website if he ever decides what he wants. So check out my portfolio website: I Like It Design.com and tell your friends.

::  PETS

All the critters are happy and healthy. We have a new addition. Last October, out at the site where Danny unloads the sludge that he trucks, he saw a little kitten running around. Two other kittens had already been run over. "Marvin" was about 10 weeks, according to the vet. He is all gray except for a white spot on his chest and another on his tummy. He had a respiratory infection, was dehydrated, and was very thin. His first poop was a little black tar ball. I can't imagine what he was finding to eat out there. We treated him for ear mites and wormed him. I think that he would have kept eating until he exploded if we didn't restrict him. Then we had to deal with diarrhea as he adjusted to having enough food to eat. Poop would ooze out of him a bit while he slept--and he spent a lot of time sleeping in my lap. I made sure I had a towel in my lap at all times.

Before long, he was better--playful and more independent. Krusty wasn't thrilled at first but was tolerant. Now they play and sleep together like soul mates. Kitty Kitty, who still hisses every time she sees Krusty, still slinks around the boys and probably always will. We kept him in all Winter, which became a challenge towards the end. He got trapped between the door and screen door for a couple hours one morning. He seemed perfectly calm when I found him, but he destroyed the weatherstripping while he was in there.

Having a kitten is fun and annoying. We made a toy for him to chase but you couldn't wear him out. It was hilarious watching him race back and forth after the lure. Boy, he is fast. Then he took to reaching under the carpet to rip up the carpet pad which he would bat around on the floor. I taped the edges to stop him but he just finds another spot. He has also found every little piece of stray foam insulation in the basement to chase around. He reminds me of Dewey in how feisty and independent he is, but he is better at cuddling.

As he grew, we were noticing that he had a smaller and differently shaped head than the other two, which lead me to wonder if he isn't all or part Burmese. He sure looks like the pictures of Blue Burmese that I found on-line.

::  CHICKENS

The chickens all made it through the winter. They have a heat lamp in the coop and we keep them in when it is below freezing all day or when there is too much snow. They don't seem to mind the cold weather, but their combs get frost-bitten.

One chicken from the newest group turned out to be pretty old. We called her Princess Consuelo Banana Hammock (a la Friends, for no particularly good reason). We never got many eggs from her, but she was sweet and Danny had a soft spot for her. I kept threatening to eat her (of course, I would never be able to kill any one of them. No matter how much they poop on my porch or scratch up my garden). One day we saw that Consuelo was having trouble walking and we had to put her down. We still have 3 hens and one rooster. Amazingly, nothing tried to eat them or run them over this year. Brownie is the oldest hen. She used to be low chicken in the pecking order when we had the previous group. She was so sweet and would come and help me garden. Now is the the bossy bitch. The other 2 mostly stay out of her way.

::  FISH

In the Spring, we put 3 goldfish in each of the water tanks to help keep them clean. All but one died in the back tank and we never got around to providing him with company. He had a bent tail from some prior injury but it didn't stop him. He was a survivor. When it began to freeze overnight and the ice became thick, it was time to empty the tanks for the winter. We bought an aquarium for the fish and enjoyed their vibrant color during the winter. One day we noticed that they were black and gold--Apparently caused by poor water quality. But, I read that the black was a sign that they were healing. We made more of an effort to change the filter and they were fine for the rest of the winter. Over time, BentTail started having some trouble with his swim bladder and would end up floating at the top of the tank. We were pretty tired of cleaning the tank by Spring, and we were glad when it was time to put them back out in the water tanks.

::  CATTLE

With 80 acres of pasture, our focus these days is on our cattle. Of the 8 calves we had during 2012, we sold 5 steers and kept the 3 heifers. We had 12 girls to take care of and feed over the winter. We didn't get the cows preg-tested, so we didn't know for sure if they were pregnant. We hoped the heifers weren't pregnant because they would be too young. The heifers will wait until the next year.

We bought 6 more pregnant cows on February 9. (Totaling 15 cows, 3 heifers, that we kept from last year, and 1 bull. Much to our surprise one of the new girls calved the next day, the first calf of the season. The calf was on the ground before we even knew she was ready to go. She was a feisty little thing. These cows are not accustomed to us and run away whenever we get near. Our other girls weren't due to start calving until March 1.

I watched as 2 days later, another of the new girls gave birth. Danny had driven down to Columbia to run some errands. A neighbor called to say he saw a calf on the ground and wanted to warn us. I think he saw the calf from Sunday but I went out and checked. It was a good thing because I saw the second girl in labor. I was freaking out because I didn't know how long she had been in labor. Danny headed back in a hurry. I kept an eye on her and about a half hour later watched as the calf was born. It dangled from it's standing mother for a bit and then splopped on the ground. It hadn't gotten up by the time Danny returned so we went out with towels and dried it a bit and helped it to stand. She was stiff-legged but finally got on her feet so we left them alone.

We got more than a foot on Feb 28 after about 6 inches a couple days before. After that, it was difficult to get around the property, for us and the cows, restricted to the paths that Danny shoveled. And it has stayed cold. I hate it when they have to calve in the snow. They are pretty hardy though. By March, we had 5 calves already and they all looked happy and healthy. February looked like it would bring an early spring, but March proved to be cruel.

The biggest drama of the season was Ditch. Last year, we inadvertently chased Althea into a ditch where she calved stuck on her back, so we called her calf Ditch. This year, she calved during a March snowstorm at the edge of a ditch. We had to pull the calf out of the ditch twice. Since he got muddy and chilled from the ditch and snow on the ground, we ended up having to bring him in to warm him up and feed him. Because of the crummy weather, we brought him in another night. We got Althea into the corral and we chewed our nails waiting for him to find the udder. Althea was attentive, but Ditch was confused. It took all day but then we watched as Ditch finally latched onto Althea's nipple. Tears came to my eyes and relief flowed over the both of us. We will be calling all of Althea's babies Ditch from now on.

The rest were fairly uneventful. We got 12 calves that spring. A majority of them were female, which is unfortunate because they bring less money than male calves. The 3 remaining cows showed no signs of being pregnant. We did shots and castration for the calves on July 12. Danika's calf wouldn't come in, so the vet left the fly tag and shot for us to do ourselves. Well, we finally got Danika's calf in the corral, but she got very frightened. I couldn't get her down the chute and she was cutting her nose on the corral panels trying to get out and her mother was bellowing outside of the corral, so we settled for just giving her the shot. We call her NoTag because we didn't get an ear tag on her. She and Danika wouldn't come anywhere near us after that.

When we had the cows preg-tested in the fall, we found out that 2 of the 3 that hadn't calved in the Spring, were close to being due. We were pretty surprised since we had already removed the bull during the timeframe that they must have gotten pregnant. We did have a couple bull calves visit us one day from next door. Anyway, we ended up with 14 calves for 2013. We kept the 2 newbies (and NoTag) over the winter.

The cattle got pink eye this Summer. It was awful to watch them. The vet says it is very painful, but they are not cooperative about being treated, so they mostly just suffer with it. We called the vet to come and fix up the ones we could get in the corral. Unfortunately, the cattle squeeze chute we bought is a piece of garbage. The first cow to go through the chute got caught in the automatic headgate. This is the second time we ran a cow through it, and the second time she ran through it and got caught. It is so poorly designed that we had to cut it apart to get her out. Her sides got all gouged and cut up from struggling to get out. It took some time before the open wounds healed. We replaced the headgate with the old manual headgate that was on the old corral. We did get feed with antibiotics in it and that seemed to help. The bull and a couple others got it in both eyes and had trouble getting around. Some of the girls ended up with permanent damage.

It was tricky weaning the calves since they had not been inclined to come in the corral since we brought them in for shots and castration. We got 9 separated. We never did get NoTag away from her mom. Two cows showed as being still open at the second preg-test. Since it is not cost-effective to feed an open cow over the winter, we planned to sell them with the calves. One escaped on sale day, but we sold the other one with the 11 calves. Since she was the first to calf, she should have been pregnant long ago. The other girl we hope is pregnant by now.

We bought 80 large bales of hay to feed the herd over the winter. Danny had to go out in the tractor during the worst weather to keep the girls fed. At first, we thought we would have a lot of hay left over, but we are getting down to the last few bales and the grass is only starting to grow. Over the winter one of the late mommas lost the end of her tail. We found out from the vet that it is caused by Fescue toxicity, which causes circulation problems in cattle. Fescue is the favorite grass in the area, but a fungus that lives in the grass, causes health problems in cattle. We are lucky that they have not had foot rot. That would mean having to put the sufferer down.

::  GARDEN

My strawberries did great this Spring. This was my first good batch. I planted them last year and got none. When I had strawberries in Oakland, they all got eaten by snails and rats before I could get any. They are supposed to be ever-bearing but it doesn't look like they plan on putting out anymore this year.

It was another dry summer. The grass got very tall with the Spring rain, but we, and all the farmers around here, could have used more.
My garden was crummy again this year. Although better than last year, there were still drought conditions and I just couldn't water it enough to save it. By mid-August, my garden was really suffering. I just don't like having to water the garden. I didn't have to the first year we were here and I got spoiled. My water bill was the highest it had ever been. The watermelons looked like plums. The eggplants wilted and died. I got blister beetles again, this time on the peppers, so I doused them with Sevin.

I got lots of beans this year. Last year they didn't even come up. We couldn't keep up with all of the cucumbers. The squash and zucchinis don't last long but I filled the fridge with them before the squash bugs killed off the plants. I froze beans, zucchini and squash. The tomatoes were ugly but we got enough for our needs, and the rest went to waste.

I threw out some wildflower seeds and got a couple 4" tall cosmos out of it. Pretty depressing.
It was 90-100 degrees most of August with no rain. I had planned on planting a fall crop but not with the drought. It is pretty discouraging, but hope springs eternal and by next Spring I will have forgotten the worst of it and be ready to try again.

 


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