country cacklin's

Another year has zoomed by. Here is the news for Danny and Denise up to the end of 2014. The bulk of this year is very much like last year. Here are the highlights.

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We had a short Fall and a miserable, cold Winter. It felt like it would never end. Several of the cows calved in subzero temperatures. Spring finally showed up at the end of March. We got nice Spring rains and the grass grew, but then May was very dry. We avoided all the severe weather that hit many part of the Mid-west this year.

Summer was too short, and often too hot to get outside projects done. At least it wasn't as dry this year. Although I still love Summer the most, I can't tolerate the heat like I used to.

Fall came early and October was unusually cold. That didn't help with getting our firewood in. Then November and December made up for it by being unusually temperate, and we still didn't get enough firewood cut and stacked.


WOODSHOP: Last Winter, Danny worked in the shop on some new bird house designs. He used his lathe to create Wren and Bluebird houses that look like water towers and grain silos. The big one resembles a trio of huge silver silos we see on the way to Macon. This Fall, Danny had a commission to make a Martin house for his boss. He worked diligently to get it done in time for Christmas. Everybody loved it.

His next project is a Martin house that resembles the Bates house from Psycho. I researched it on-line and drew up full-sizes plans. I had to do a lot of guessing of the scale based on the photos I found, so it is not as accurate as I would like.

YARD: This Spring we finally put down the patio. A while back we purchased some used marble pavers at an auction and they sat on a pallet for a couple of years.

We didn't put a good base down for them and when the ground dried up, big cracks developed under the pavers and it settled and sunk in several places. Next Spring, we will have to start over. I also put in a brick walkway and splurged on some new plants for the adjacent beds.

SCULPTURE: Danny finally guilted me into working on some metal projects this Fall. He requested a seahorse stand for the mailbox awhile back, so I created this one. It is welded and bolted together from scraps found around the property.

I also created this assemblage from scrap metal that I have been collecting since I was in the Bay Area. Now, I need to find a way to sell it. So far, I don't want to part with any of the other pieces I have made, but I'd love a commission. I'm all inspired now, but it is too cold to spend any time in the barn. Danny and I both need to develop an inventory so we can do a show or fair.

FARM: In the Fall, we hurried to get the loafing shed expanded before bad weather set in. The way it was, it was too small to provide protection for the whole herd. We essentially doubled it. We bought old tin for the sides, and new tin for the roof to match the look of the existing structure. We are really glad we got it done. They really needed it during the latest windy, below zero days. Here's the original loafing shed or go to Chapter 11.

::  WORK

Danny is still working for Jr. Elliott hauling sludge from Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa to fields in our area. He took a break during February to oversee the calving because of the crappy weather. After the weather improved, they have been keeping him busy.

Denise: Last year, I created an architectural photo-illustration for a new client in Southern California. He was happy with my work, and I was hoping that I would get more work from him, but it didn't pan out. I wish I could find more work like this. It helped me decide to focus on this type of work in my recent I Like It! Design website re-design that I launched last January.

Fortunately, I still have Marathon and Caroline work from time to time. This Fall, I began drawing for a door and window company in San Francisco. He was happy with the work I did and promised me more work in the coming year. I am still not busy enough, so check out my portfolio website: I Like It and tell your friends.

::  PETS

Everyone is well. We still have 3 dogs and 3 cats. Krusty and Marvin have become good friends. I have tons of adorable pictures of them sleeping together and grooming each other, but I will subject you to only one.


The chickens all made it through the winter. We had 3 hens and one rooster. However, we ended up having to buy a lot of eggs last winter, so we bought 3 new chicks this Spring. I wanted to try Wyandotte and even called around to find them. Orscheln's said it had some and would hold them for me, but when I got there, I found out that they hadn't had any all week. I ended up getting 2 Ameracuana, like the 2 we have. I really like them because they are sweet chickens with a small comb that is less susceptible to frost-bite, and they lay green eggs. Danny surprised me a couple days later with a tiny black chick. She is younger than the other 2 by a few days but she soon surpassed the others in size.

In late April, we put them outside. We kept them in a wire enclosure for about a week, and they spent the nights in the coop with the rest of the group. We put in a small, low perch for them, away from the others, while they acclimated. After we let them out of the pen, they stayed close to the house and stayed together. The older chickens wouldn't let them hang out with them.

When they reached sexual maturity, our rooster found them more interesting and accepted them into the group. Although the older girls continue to put them in their place, they now all travel together. When the new girls began laying in the Summer, I spent a lot of time looking for their laying spots. When I would discover one spot, they would move to another.

The older girls quit laying when they molted in the Fall and haven't started up again. Midnight quit as well for some reason. We have been having to buy eggs to supplement the eggs of the 2 that are still laying. Hershey is pretty lacsidasical about laying. We think she is plopping out eggs while on the roost, as we are finding broken eggs on the floor of the coop. She will also occasionally just plop one out wherever she is standing in the yard. Other times, though, she will practically fly to get to her favorite spot in time, when we let them out of the coop in the morning.

::  FISH

Last Spring, we put 3 goldfish in each of the water tanks again during the summer to help keep them clean. We bought a couple more to keep Bent Tail company.

During one week, both of the floats failed and we had a major and costly water leak. So much water ran through that the Chloramine killed all the fish--at least that is what we thought. When we emptied the waterers for the season we noticed one fish flopping about and rescued him. We just had the solitary fish in the aquarium for the Winter. He got pretty big, having the entire tank to himself.

When we started up the waterers in the Spring, we added our lonely goldfish and added some more to keep him company. Unfortunately, we found them belly up shortly thereafter. We are not sure why, but perhaps the cattle were drinking enough that it put too much chlorinated water in the tank.

We went without fish in the waterers this season and the algae wasn't too bad, so we will not be sacrificing any more goldfish. We do miss having them in the aquarium over the Winter though. It sits empty, but neither of us has done anything about filling it up.


It was a long, bitter winter. Especially with the sub-zero temperatures in February and March. We bought 5 more Spring calving cows on February 8 (a total of 22 head, close to our limit). They are much calmer than the group we got last year. We expected the cows to start calving any minute and crossed our fingers that they could hold out. Every day the weather promised to improve, but then it would get so cold again. I just ticked off the days and hoped.

On Feb 17, on a morning with freezing rain, we went out to find the first calf dead. Danny had been checking them often, and the momma seemed fine just a 3 or 4 hours before. But in that small timeframe, the momma couldn't get the calf cleaned up fast enough and it died, presumably from the cold.

We had several cows calve in some of the nastiest and coldest weather I have experienced here. Somehow, the babies endured it with an incredible zest for life. The mommas were attentive and diligent. The 3 heifers, who we were most worried about, calved without trouble. However, around midnight, with temps below freezing, it looked like one was having problems getting her calf dry and had given up.

At 2 a.m., Danny checked his mouth and it was cold. He was still wet and had ice on him. We brought him into the shop to warm up. It took awhile, but around 3:30 a.m., we finally got him on his feet and gave him colostrum. We put him in a pen that Danny had set up in the shop. He had finally stopped shivering and was walking around the pen. When he finally laid down, I left him to sleep. I still couldn't go back to sleep and stayed up until around 4:30.

The next day, we took "Frank" out to his mama. She was attentive to him so we left. It wasn't until the afternoon that we finally saw him suckling. After that we figured he would be fine.

One of the cows had a cervical prolapse. We had the vet come and stitch it up with the requirement that we had to cut the stitches right before she calved. It is quite a challenge handling any of our cows, but especially with this one. Danika is the same cow that was highly protective of her calf the year before and would go plum loco. When she looked like she was about to calve, we attempted to get her in the corral. It was pitch black with just the truck headlights. Unfortunately, she slipped out while we were sorting them, and there is no way she was going to go back in. We futilely chased her around a little bit more and gave up. Danny was trying to devise another method of containing her when he went to check on her next, but she had already calved despite the stitches.

She was a much calmer cow this year and barely tried to kill us when we had to pull her calf out of the ditch, but because cows tend to prolapse again, we had to send her to the sale barn with the calves. We lost some money on her because she was sold for slaughter rather then breeding.

Unlike last year, we got a lot of bull calves, which is good news. Steve is doing a great job--easy calving and boys! We had 16 healthy calves by mid-May. It was getting harder to count them all when we went out to check on everybody. Sixteen calves and Danika went to the sale barn at the end of October. We still have the 3 youngest calves. The momma of the first calf that died in the Spring, calved on Christmas eve. Because we weren't able to isolate Steve this year, several others are potentially due. We didn't get them preg-tested this year. We have been watching them carefully and will probably have several early Winter babies.


The garden was disappointing as usual. It was very dry in May after I planted, and I didn't water enough, so the melons and eggplant and carrots were stunted. They just wouldn't grow, even after the Summer rains began. The Watermelons looked like green golf balls.

We did get good tomatoes this year. I planted a cherry-sized variety called "Juliet" that were quite yummy and Danny loved to take them in his lunch. The beans, zucchinis and cucumbers were plentiful and tasty. And, I finally planted enough snow peas to get more than a handful.




I think there is something wrong with my camera and I am unhappy with most of my recent shots, so I haven't been taking as many pictures. Plus, how many pictures of my garden, dogs, cats, chickens, cows, etc. do I need.

I did find a couple of interested items this year. In April, I noticed a handful of ducks floating around the lagoon They turned out to be Blue-winged Teals.

We have been visited by bald eagles on a few occasions this fall. They like to sit in the dead branches of our old oak tree. I still am thrilled to see them. Our chickens and cats make themselves scarce.

Last year a Phoebe built her nest on top of the light above the garage door. This year she returned and added to the nest. We watched daily as they grew and fledged.

I noticed something bright red in the front yard. It turned out to be a stinkhorn fungus. It likes the rotting mulch caused by the wet weather. Flies are attracted by its odor. I wasn't brave enough to get close enough to smell it. It only lasts a couple of days.

I learned something interesting about Swallowtail butterflies this year. I got some pictures of a black and a yellow Swallowtail mating. Apparently, they are different color forms of the same species. If you are interested, my photo was posted on "What's That"





The red-headed Woodpeckers have been abundant this year. They have been enjoying our suet and Mulberry tree. I suspect they have a nest nearby. I saw what I assumed was an immature woodpecker early last Spring. His body was speckled and his head was mottled gray and red. I wish I had gotten a picture of him.