Monday, March 31, 2008

Big Billy Goat, Sheering, Round Bale and Mudding

I feel really bad about yesterday. The kids and I drove all the way down to Waxahachie (S. of Dallas) and picked up an Angora goat "herd sire." Since we started with just the three nannie angoras, we needed a male to complete the team. He fills the bill nicely. He is actually a registered show goat and is probably worth somewhere around $900 according the previous owner (who gave him to us free of charge!) He is an amazing animal and we are excited to have him. He is absolutely massive compared to all our other angoras, and while he is freshly shorn, we are expecting him to have some nice fiber and even better bloodlines. The next round of angora kids we have will likely be very nice goats!
While we were picking him up, we chatted with his previous owner for some time and for some reason, I finally received the motivation to go out and try to sheer one of our nannies. The only clippers to be had were the cheapo ones we use for our own haircuts, so I hooked them up, improvised a sheering stand, and went to town on one of the angora nannies. It worked just good enough to keep me going and after 2 or 3 hours of sweaty labor, one goat is shorn. She is really small looking without all that mohair, and she is actually pink because the clippers took the hair down so close to the skin. the good news is that since the clippers are made for humans, it was extremely easy to not nick her skin, so I got the entire fleece off with no blood!
Of course, yesterday was Sunday, and I feel horrible for having spent most of the day messing around with goats. I am definitely going to be making sure that doesn't happen again.
Tonight, after work, I stopped by at my friends house around 5:30p and spent the next 3 hours (not exaggerating) getting a single round bale of hay onto his flatbed trailer. Using mostly spoons....no, just kidding...using two ratchet straps, a come-a-long and several tow straps, I eventually got it onto the trailer. I would have liked to have gotten 3 (which would have fit on there just fine) but I was actually afraid that I would be stuck on his lower pasture with just the one bale, and it was getting dark, so I left with just the one. To get out without getting stuck, I psyched myself up (telling myself that I had just one chance at this) and slammed on the gas (actually diesel) and rocketed up the hill. Due to the fact that the bale was at the front of the trailer adding weight to my drive axle, I actually got pretty good traction (more than I expected) and by the time I hit his hill, I was really moving and actually had to let off the accelerator because I am pretty sure I actually jumped the truck. It was a bit crazy, but I did not get stuck (and even managed not to hit a tree or his gate.) The question is; "should I get another one tomorrow?"

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Green Cheerio

No, it's not Spiderman's new arch enemy, and no, it's not a new Cheerio flavor... It is, however, the worst fear of young cattle, sheep and goats everywhere. Tonight this menace arrived at our farm and our two young angora bucklings fell victim to the Green Cheerio's strangulating grip. You see, on the farm, the green cherio is not crunchy, but elastic and when stretched out, placed over the gonads, and released, it cuts off circulation to that sensitive organ and cuts off the blood supply until the buggers fall right off.
Why would we do this to the poor little guys? Well, it all comes down to the birds and the bees...to keep it brief, male animals don't have any sense when it comes to their own mothers, and will do what comes...naturally to them. Also, it only takes one male to "take care" of an entire (small) herd. Both those reasons mean that at this time, we have no need to raise a fully intact male animal. 100 Green cheerios cost $0.99, so the math was pretty easy.
I figured it would really get nasty once the bands went on, but the little guys didn't seem to mind too much. This should really save us some trouble down the road. It really is too bad that our first two angora kids were both bucks. What do we have to do to get some nannies around here? There is one angora mama that may still be pregnant, so we have our fingers crossed. Other than that, we have found a friend who has a "registered" angora buck that they are going to give us, so that should solve the problem that we currently have (a lack of intact male angoras on the farm.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Wierdest Thing

I went to sleep on the flight from Chicago. I woke up to the flight
attendant poking me and saying "young man....young man...." I looked
up and the plane was completely empty.

If only this had been a dream. Unfortunately....(or is it
fortunately?) I am now on the bus to the DFW parking facility. The
good news is that I am in TX - the bad news is that there is (at
least) an hours drive facing me and a FULL plate at work for tomorrow
(or I guess, today.)

By the way, did you know that the origins of the word wierd have to do
with old english's terminology for witches? Apparently, witches are
wierd or something.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Union Poison

I am in Chicago and working with our employees out here on some new sites we are starting up for our maintenance program. This morning, I asked one of them how many rooms he had been in and he immediately started arguing and generally freaking out. I wasn't really in the mood for any more of his 10-minute rationalizations of mediocrity (of which this particular employee is very fond of) so I (sheepish to admit this, but it is basically true) commanded him to "stop!" He refused, and I ended up turning my back on him and walking off as he ranted on about how my presence actually hinders their ability to get the work done. Needless to say I was not happy. Long story short, he soon apologized (duhh....) and then started to explain that he was already upset with me because (long story, not so short) last time I was here he started off on a tirade about something he was not satisfied about during a meeting with all the employees. Then Monday, our corporate HQ notified him that his status was being changed from FT to PT (since he is not getting enough hours.) He figured that the status change was retaliation for his stupid comments.
Sooooo......here's where it gets interesting; during the apology, he actually tells me that he is taking tomorrow off because he has an appt. with some sort of labor advisor to advise him on how to screw/sue us because we "retaliated" against him. (Here's me, rolling my eyes.) Get it? He thinks his status change is retaliation against him because he made a stupid comment in a meeting. Why do Chicagoans have to go "there" at the first drop of a hat. This is the second Chicago guy in the last 6 months or so to threaten (or mention) legal action against us for perceived wrongs. This place definitely is tainted with too much of what I call the "union" mentality. If you are thinking of starting a new business, I recommend you avoid this sector of the country like the plague.
As an employer, I have oft expressed my disdain for unions to friends/family in passing conversations. Much to my embarrassment, some of those friends (in Boise) actually belong to unions, but, I have decided, "western" unions are different than big city unions. My view is that big city unions have forgotten that a business has to be successful and all they care about is the amount of ridiculous concessions they can get for their members - even if it spells the death of the parent company. My Boise-friends union doesn't try to eat the hand that feeds it, they just collect a reasonable due and use it to make sure that the employees aren't mistreated. Big city unions use thuggish and manipulative coercion to exact outlandish dues which they then use to strangle the parent company with toxic demands. Why are American car companies going under? Why is the average Detroit home worth less than $22K? Why? Why outsource out of the USA? Because unions, and the union mentality in general are cancer to legitimate business.

Wait...do I sound too bitter here?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Aunt Ruth Wows Bonham

Jessica's harp music was slated for the musical number in sacrament meeting today, and somehow, she convinced Aunt Ruth to come up from TAMU and accompany her. Ruth sang (soprano operatic style) and Jessica harped. It was really something and they really filled the chapel with sound. I guess I had never really heard Ruth since she switched to Soprano and since she changed her tunes to the opera stylings - it was something else - really amazing - wish you all could have been there.
We are now at ma&pas and, after just having celebrated Easter with an Easter egg hunt through the house (at an unbelievable volume) we are now preparing to celebrate the dual B-days of the author and mamaw. It's a day of serious celebration. Jessica and I got some "styled" crocs for mamaw - they kinda look like mary janes and we hope that she will find them both stylish and a relief for her sore feet.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Back @ the Ranch

After a brief sojourn at the Sorensons, I took a ($40!) cab from Love Field to DFW Airport to drive home. I arrived at like 1:30am, watered the animals, checked out our new angora "kid" and went to bed. Today was absolutely insane. I was going to deliver a longhorn to this guy way down south. That fell through (next week?) so I arranged to deliver the other one to this lady in Ft. Worth and to take all the unwanted sheep past Ft. Worth to a little town on the other side. The sheep thing fell through right about the time that I had finally gotten the longhorns ready to load into the back half of the trailer behind the sheep. :(

So, I left the sheep in the trailer for the day, and cancelled that trip. By this time, I had spent the better half of the day messing around with animals for nothing :( I called it quits on that (although both the longhorns are now penned up in stalls for an easier transition next time (they are really hard to work with because they are bigger than me, have sharp horns, and they know it.) I was able to get the mobile shed setup completed. This is the long awaited termination to a project that Dad started by taking apart a shed at this guy's house in Plano. We brought the pieces out, assembled them in the shop, then I built a frame out of recycled 2X6 steel channel and mounted the shed on it to create a sort of sled with a shed on top. Today, the welding was completed, the shop was screwed onto it, and it was towed out to the sheep pen behind the truck. The sled concept worked great, and it is now being used by the animals. Nice....at least something went well today.

While we were finishing up the shed (Ginger and I, because the older kids went to spend the day/night at the granparents house) I snapped this awesome photo of Ginger. She is actually clothed this time, but in true spicy style, she is fully accessorized for a day of shop work. Note the new giraffe boots, the blankie, the torch goggles, and the tradeshow badgeholder - all essentials for a hard day's work. The "P" on the shirt is for princess, but....

By the way - this shot is taken from inside the new shed before it was towed out to the field. I believe we were in the process of bolting the shed down to the frame and welding on the side handles/pull rings. Note the hay pile in the background - it was set on fire at least 10 times while doing the final welds. It kept getting hot all the sudden while I was welding and I would take off the mask and sure enough, I was sitting in a small hay fire.

In conclusion, I have to give it up for the Sorensons who saved the day in Chicago. It could have been a nightmare and instead, I was well-fed, well-kept, chauffered around town, and provided with internet access and a workspace. It really is hard to complain about that. Also, major kudos to the gramps who volunteered out of the blue to take the two older kids for the whole day. It was absolutely awesome for Jessica who has been getting more than her fair share of them this past week and who will be getting another overdose this coming week as I return (once again) to Chicago for work. Thanks family!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sorensons to the Rescue

I found out yesterday as I attempted to get my ticket to fly home from O'Hare that in an act of sheer negligence, I accidentally booked my flight to return on APRIL 20th, not March 20th. Due to the spring break season, bad weather, and misalignment of Venus, there were NO seats available to get me home until Sunday evening with United (and even then at considerable expense.) So, I bought a one-way ticket from Southwest for Friday evening and called my "lifeline" in Chicago. The Sorensons were extremely gracious and took me in for the night and I am now at their house working remotely and waiting for my flight out of Midway tonight. Now the only question is, how am I going to get from Love Field (where the plane will land) to Dallas/Ft. Worth Int'l Airport where my truck is parked? I feel like I am starting to run low on "lifelines" here.....

Now my gripe, how could an online booking system allow me to make such a stupid mistake? Can't they put in some kind of warning that says "now booking your 30 day travel plan" or even better yet, "Did you notice that you have conflicting flights booked with United?" (Because I already have another flight booked with them to do Dallas to Chicago and back next week, so I obviously am not waiting in Chicago until April 20!) Anyway, I ain't crying over spilt milk here, but I am fearful that this act of negligence was so easy to incur that I may just end up doing it again someday. If United were Google, I know this would not have happened.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ginger Style

...her own style. I couldn't get the video of her chasing the cow today (the dogs chased the cow off before we could get to it) but this is just about as good:

video

I got to spend several hours out in the shop tonight. That was nice. I did some welding, grinding, etc on the supports for the new "mobile-shed" for the animals and I whittled wedges for the 10lb sledge and the hatchet whose heads keep falling off. Shop time always makes one feel extra special. If you haven't tried it lately, I highly recommend it.

Chores

One thing that is kinda fun is that the kids actually ask us "can we do chores today?" What a novel concept! Granted, "chores" for us involve going outside to play with and feed the animals, but it certainly is fun to put a new spin on that word. Last night, we went out to do chores and while I was taking care of the longhorns, Ginger was chasing Ol Bessie around the field. It really was comical...there she was, a little, 35 pound, 2-year old wearing a princess tutu thingy (and not much else) chasing a 400 lb cow around. Luckily Bessie wasn't letting her get too close or would have been nervous that Ginger would get kicked or something. I'll have to get some video because it is just too funny.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Happy B-day to the Calico Lamb



Shortly after Ruth and Jessica left this morning, the kids and I noticed this very strangely colored lamb out in the pasture.







What a surprise! In retrospect (looking at the pictures of the mama from about a week ago) it was fairly obvious that this was coming, but it really was a surprise this morning! Too bad Ruth missed it!

These are the proud mama/papa (pics of mama are about a week old):


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Congratulations Uncle Mark & Aunt Kelly!


Who are reporting the birth of their first child last night! Yippee!!

American Airlines

So, I made the standby flight, but in order to get on, the made me
gate-check my rollaboard for some reason. No big deal I thought.
Unfortunately, apparently they did not gate check it, but really
checked it. Again, no big deal. Unfortunately, I, together with
several hundred other passengers are sitting here (where we have been
sitting for the last hour) waiting at the baggage claim for our bags.
This is why I pack light enough to not check bags.
Hopefully, they will make it in tonight because my car keys are in my bag. :(

Friday, March 7, 2008

Hurry Up & Wait

Well, I am @ O'hare waiting on a standby ticket to get onto an
'earlier' flight which, if the moon aligns, will actually depart
somewhere around the time when my actual flight was supposed to have
left (but, of course we all know that nothing ever leaves O'Hare on
time.)

Really looking forward to getting home...it has been a long week.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tradeshow

I am sitting in my booth at the National Facilities Management &
Technology show in Baltimore. Within a few moments, the show floor
will open and we will put on the 'dog & pony' show. This is like the
4th time I have hosted this show, so there is not a lot of mystery
going on...it's just another day on the job. I do have to admit that
I am enjoying the weather her now that I know how bad it is in TX
right now. With my luck though, I'll catch that snow storm in Chicago
on Friday :(

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Llamas & More Sheep

We have been waiting to pull the trigger on a deal where this guy was going to give us a bunch of sheep and some llamas for freee for quite some time. It seems like it has been at least a month or so and he kept cancelling or saying it was too muddy and we had just about written him off when he called the other day and said we were good to go on Saturday morning. Well, at like 10:30pm on Friday night, he cancelled again and said we could do it today (before the big rains that are now pounding us and knocked out our power) came in. I really didn't want to do it, but I went ahead and picked them up today. The good news is that they were just down the road a few miles (very convenient) and not too hard to get loaded. Oh yeah, and free. While I was there, he also offered us a few pygmy/boar mix goats that we will have to pick up later (they were in a separate pen and we didn't want to mess with trying to get them too at the time) and they should be great for BBQ
Here's the synopsis of what we picked up today:

  • 1 Barbardos ram (impressive horns!)
  • 1 Barbados ewe (unknown age)
  • 1 Barbados/???? mix with 2 babies sired by the ram listed above (this one has some "wool" on her back and almost looks like she has wool sheep breeding in her ancestry)
  • 1 Mouflon ewe (really old by the looks of her, but of unknown age)
  • 2 male llamas (brothers although one is a year or so older than the other)

The pasture we keep all these (and our other goats and sheep) in is getting VERY filled. In fact, you may be asking yourself what we are going to do with all these animals? Well, we are asking ourselves that too. At this point, (aside from the cattle) we have been acquiring "fiber" animals. That is, animals that we can shear to get a saleable product. None of the animals we picked up today (except the llamas) can be shorn for profit. In fact, the Barbados and Mouflon sheep are basically just kept to eat and to stock "exotic hunt" ranches (rams from both species grow really nice horns.) We are kind of leaning toward selling most of these animals. The goats that we will get from the guy later will probably be best handled with a BBQ party.

Speaking of a BBQ party, one of our spanish employees' mother is reported to be an expert cook and I invited him to invite her out to cook for us at a "company picnic" at the farm. I told him we would slaughter a goat if she could teach us how to cook it. I'm really hoping she accepts that - my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

About the llamas - well, to me, they were just BBQ or sale-barn material. I guess I don't really know what they are good for. Some people use them to guard their livestock from coyotes, but we are raising a dog for that. Dad, on the other hand, has apparently always wanted a llama, so he laid claim on the older of the two and is going to see if he can get him halter-broke a bit better (right now he mostly fights the lead - he even just sat down at one point.) I guess it would be kinda cool if he could get it trained to haul stuff....but then we would have to hike somewhere with him....

This is not really relevant, but have you ever seen a llama run? I have to tell you, it is just about the goofiest thing you ever may see. They are really a wierd animal - it's hard to explain - maybe I'll try to get some video...but, alas, that won't be for a while because I leave for Baltimore tomorrow morning and from there to Chicago, so I am going to be gone all week :(