Monday, June 29, 2009

Dead-eye Unkigiash

Unkigiash came out to party for a bit yestiddy and since he was picking up his rifle that he had left, we happened to have it in hand and loaded when Justin (our dog) scared up a widdow bunny wabbit. It took off with Justin in hot pusuit and unkigiash drew a bead on it and winged off a shot. I gfigured it was a wasted shot (at a full-speed rabbit with a rifle) but I was proven wrong when Justin was treated to a nice little snack. That's right, unkigiash took out a rabbit that was running at full speed with a hunting rifle. Amazing.

Today, after a surprise major rainstorm (that was sorely needed) I sold my stock trailer for a thrifty profit. (well actually, seeing as I spent a good bit of $$ and whole lot of time doing repairs to it, I guess it probably isn't such a big profit after all - but it is nice to be rid of it) It really was just not the right trailer for my needs. I am constantly wishing I had a utility trailer and the stock trailer served semi-ok for that, but it wasn't perfect and was often too large and not suited for the work. I now have my eye set on a utility trailer that can be converted temporarily into a stock trailer by bolting on a "cage." Jessica thinks I should just get a utility trailer and be done with it, but I don't really see how I would ever move the livestock without some sort of cage for it. At least now that the stock trailer has been converted to cash we have options.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Salute to Zeus

This is Zeus. I believe he is an English Mastiff and, in his prime, he was probably near 200 pounds. His head is absolutely humongous and he has a great brindled coat. He was a great dog loved by one and all. Zeus was raised by my good friend Tyson from the time he was a puppy and today, after living out a full life of 8 years, he was laid to rest under a Texas mesquite tree on "the back 40."

While he has recently lost a lot of weight, and was barely able to walk back there and had to take frequent breaks to catch his breath (the fact that it was well over 100 degrees today certainly didn't help with that,) he was able to fill the last few moments of his life instilling fear in the hearts of our longhorns with his ferocious bark. He was noble till the end and we're glad to have been privileged to provide him his final resting place.
Here's to you Zeus!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's Hot

eOK, apparently, I haven't blogged recently and readers may be misled to believe the cow is still missing. Well, we got her back. The neighbors had rounded up their cows for sale on the very day she entered their field and so she was loaded up will all of them and hauled off. Luckily, they cut her from the herd at their sorting facility (over a street from us) and kept her there a few days. Those few days bought us the time we needed to:

1) get the fence fixed to prevent a recurrence (coincidentally, this particluar fence repair marks my initiation into the historic old-western tradition of stringing barb wire - I had never done it before)
2) get the truck fixed so I could go over there with our stock trailer and get her

In the meantime, it has gotten officially too hot. I realized that yesterday as I swam in my own sweat while loading a few thousand pounds of granite pavers into my truck by hand and then again today as I worked to unload them dipping into the swimming pool between wheelbarrow loads to try to stay cool. Unfortunately, that pool is getting to almost be bathtub temperature and is just barely refreshing at all.

In other news, our electric fence has been restored to its former glory days and again has the potential to kill small animals and knock a grown man to his knees (kids beware). After Sam Allred was here a few days ago with some buddies, they tested their mini-manhood by grabbing the electric fence to feel the shock. That was the last straw - that fence has grown weaker and weaker and since the winter I have not been able to get it back up to full shocking power. Between Josh's cow walking through the fence and Sam holding it for fun, I decided that it was time to figure out why the voltage was not hitting like it used to. I grabbed the weedwacker and cleared weeds that were touching the lines over a mile or so of line. When I got back to the shop, I found that it had not helped at all in terms of getting the voltage up, BUT apparently it made enough of a difference that I could now here a rythmic "popping" of an electrical arc underground over near where the line reemerges from its underground path from the shop. To make a long, dirty, hot, mosquito infested story short, I dug up and located, fixed and re-buried the line and the fence was magically back to full power.
That may seem like small potatoes to the city-folk (or is it to the sane folk?) but I am just pleased as punch to have that thing up again. The real good news here is that now Josh's steer can learn to respect fences and I can actually release the big mama longhorn that we got a month or so ago so she can also learn the boundaries of our farm (she has been locked in a smaller pen and has seriously depleted the grasses in it - she really needs to graze over more territory).
Here's a couple of fun stories demonstrating the power of the fence:
  • Today I had the truck backed up to the fence to unload granite and the lower line was touching the tow-ball of the truck. I was actually shocked by the truck body as I climbed into the back and also as I opened the door to try to move it!
  • The arc can jump a 1/8" to 3/16" gap (with a bright white flash and loud "crack")
  • As I undid a chain to open a gate at the calf pen, the chain accidentally hit a hot wire. I was shocked enough to call out audibly even though I was holding the chain probably 6" from where the chain touched the hot wire
I guess I'll have to go back to disconnected the fence when visitors come over...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Errant Cow

Bad news. After scouring the property and all the neighboring lands (both at day and after dark, when I figured she would be most ready to come home) one of our longhorns is long gone. I can't figure where she might be, but it really stinks. I was motoring all around the neighboring farms on the little minibike and saw nothing.

More bad news. I finally got the new front wheel bearing for the truck that is on blocks in the shop and the 40mm socket I would need to get the old one off. I was all set to get that whole project done and out of the shop tonight. I went out there and hooked up my new Harbor Freight breaker bar to the new 40mm socket and after jumping on it with no luck at all, I set a 6 pipe on the breaker bar to increase the torque and promptly proceeded to break the new breaker bar - and no, the nut still didn't budge. So, after hammering on it for 5 minutes with the impact wrench and breaking the breaker bar, the nut has yet to budge, and I am unable to do anything on that project. Seriously though, how much torque is it going to take to get that stupid thing off?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


This may sound retarded at worst (cliche at best) but I garner great satisfaction to eat breakffast every morning in our windowed breakfast nook as I look over the livestock peacefully grazing in the fields. I don't really know what it is, but it makes a man feel good to see the livestock out there doing their thing.

ANyway, this morning one of the longhorns wasn't to be seen. This happens from time to time when they are laying down or behind a tree, but I watched for her all day every time I was in the kitchen to grab some water and by afternoon, I was convinced that we had a problem. After work, Ginger and I finally installed a new chain on our awesome 5-horse mini-motor-bike and together, we took off on a tour of the premises to locate the errant bovine. After a brief mishap involving a lack of gasoline in the tank, we finally made it up to the far corner where we immediately saw the missing kine on the other side of the fence. Boo!
There was no time to do anything about it, but it was sure fun to get out on the motorbike after what has been like a 6-month hiatus (due to the broken chain.)
This evening, we had a family over for FHE and swimming and after they left, with the kids tucked away, I headed out with a can of sweet feed (on the minibike) and tried to lure the cow back to our side. It didn't work, but I soon had her in my grips with some "cubes" (which are just bigger cubes of feed) that I spread all over the ground on our side of the fence. She walked right back over onto our side and then ditched the food and headed for her herd. Apparently she was very anxious to get back to see them.
Switching gears, I hit the shop to continue on a project started on Saturday - working on my truck. I installed another shock and pulled the brake rotors (so they can be turned) and it is all ready for the new brake pads. I also discovered what I think are two potential sources of a rattle-sound that comes from the truck. First, it appears the anti-rattle springs from the passenger side of the vehicle are just plain missing. Second, the lower shock mount on the passenger side was totally loose and was probably just banging around down there. It's nice to solve problems. Oh yeah, it also appears the bumpstop is missing on the passenger side. Sheesh.
Finally, I think it is worthy to note that tonight marks the night that I broke my Husky brand ratchet (which I love, by the way) for the 4th time. Home Depot (or is it Lowes?) always replaces them for free, and I have to admit that the source of the breakage is generally easily identified (blatant abuse) but it is still a pain in the keister to have to take them in for a trade in. Perhaps tomorrow I will just break down and buy a $5 breaker bar so that I can stop breaking my ratchet.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Farming Update

Two factors caused me to spend a lot of time with the kids today:

- Jessica has been really sick over the last couple of days (appears to have eaten something that is not agreeing with her.)
- Our internet has been down all day (due to last night's storm.)

The kids spent a lot of time outside and we had some good fun - here's a synopsis of the good times:
  • I went outside barefoot to tell Ginger not to walk across the clover barefoot (to prevent beestings to the bottom of the foot) and was promptly stung on the bottom of my big toe by a honey bee.
  • Sterling was walking through some tall blue flowers in the pasture and got stung on the leg by a honey bee (yeah! not in the face!)
  • Winter fell off the end of the dock into the lake - then kept jumping in for fun. She ended up with a tiny leech on one leg so she wins the prize as the first one in our family to get a leech.
  • Ginger and I rode down to the mailbox on the lawnmower to get the mail and saw two rabbits (I later got the .22 out and took care of half of that problem)
  • I only ended up spending about 75% of the working day with work
  • We went fishing and caught a couple of small bass, but couldn't seem to get the big one to bite - so we switched gear to catfishing with breadballs (without any luck) and finally resorted to cooking angelhair pasta for dinner. Unfortunately, the kids had eaten most of a loaf of whitebread (catfish bait) and so they left most of their angelhair for Biggy Smalls (the pig) who was duly grateful.
And an update on the cattle situation:
  • Josh's steer is growing (prolly 350 lbs or so now) and is doing fairly well with his halter-training
  • Our little bottle calf is just starting to nibble on grass and sweet feed. He still takes two warm bottles per day. He spent the night in the shop last night due to the major storm that blew through.
  • The two longhorn heifers are gonna end up as progeny-less old spinsters if we don't figure something out soon. I found a guy that has local semen from a fairly decent bull (pictured below) for $25 (no shipping charges!) and that looks like a good option (although I'm not a huge fan of his coloring and my heifers are already too white, so this isn't the most optimal breeding for increasing the odds of darker progeny.) The total cost for insemination per cow would be ~$100 which is approaching half-reasonable and we may go that route.
  • The one longhorn mama still hasn't dropped a calf. She has fattened up noticeably since she came to live on our farm and from the looks of her, she must certainly be getting closer to birthing. We'll just keep our fingers crossed.
In other news, I was perusing the web looking at Ankole-watusi cattle and I now have serious horn-envy. The longhorns I once thought so spectacular now seem puny and pathetic when compared to the racks on these things. Check these things out:

Are you kidding me! I even saw a watusi heifer on CL for like $400. I have to admit, I like them big horns!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Revision to the Semen

Yikes! Nevermind on the semen. I signed up to pay $50 for it and they called and said the total bill would be over $130 after factoring in various fees and shipping charges. Add that $130 on to $75 or so per cow for the actual AI service and we are getting into too much $$ to pay for some silly unregistered longhorns. It looks like the neighbor's bull it is then. Bummer's my favorite story to cheer you up (which I believe engendered the story that is the basis for the movie with Alex the Zebra and the crazy militant penguins - which one was that?)

I love animals: I'm always talking about animals, I love 'em. But the thing is that, you know, whenever you see animals on the telly, it's always the show-off animals. Yeah? It's always the leopards and panthers and crocodiles. Lions milling about, going "Oh, I'm very good, I'm on everything", and it really makes me annoyed, you know? Because what about the English animals, you know? The British mammals, yeah? Hah, what about the muskrat, or the tiny northern root-vole, with his little banjo and hat made of elastic bands, yeah? Who's representing them, eh? No-one, that's who.

I was furious! I went round all the heavily wooded regions in England. I just went round with this small pamphlet, recruiting like a huge slave rebellion. I was like Spartacus. I was there, going, "Okay, we're gonna go to Africa! We're gonna kick their arses", and I got a huge sort of tiny little mammal slave rebellion. They were all wearing tunics, we were there rummaging about in Greece... Well, Kent. And I said, "Come on, we're gonna go over there, and we're gonna show 'em. I'm sick of the lions, I'm sick of the crocodiles! You must be too. Come on, now!"

So I got them all in a big rusty bomber, and we flew over to Africa. But we needed a strategy. We couldn't just go over there, you know, go "COME ON!", and give them some aggro. We needed a strategy. So what we did was, um, we built a huge wooden shrew, like the wooden horse of Troy, but with just a little bit more stoat in it, with tiny little stoat's arms holding the spear, and what we did, was we lined it - to make it double dangerous - we lined it all with kitkat wrappers.

Ah, it was fantastic, it was like a glossy b!7c4. It was so bright, it was a metallic wonder. Small boys would rather eat a pair of scissors than go near the glossy b!7c4. "Don't make me go near it, I'll eat another pair of scissors. I can't look at it, it's doin' me pupils in!" Ah, it was fantastic, it was very warlike, the body was very warlike. But the eyes? They were telling a different story. Hardly warlike: eyes, like the eyes of an old russian lady, who had seen too much. An old russian lady, with her arm caught in a loom, and big sailors would walk past and go "Hello!" and she'd go "No, not hello. My arm - it's in a loom." And they'd go, "Yes, hello!", and she'd go, "No, not hello. It's gone maroon. My arm, it is in a loom." And they'd go "Yes, hello!", and she'd go "No, not hello -", and in the end she'd have to pick up the two-ton loom, and walk them, follow them home, and knock on their front window, and they'd be going "Oh, you're scaring me a little bit now". That's what the eyes were like: dangerous, but beautiful at the same time.

And what we did, was we cut two circles out of the base of the shrew, so that Martin Pinemarten could stick his little stoaty, weaselly legs through, and wheel us around - it was fantastic. And there weren't any windows, so we were crashing into antique shops, knocking over stationary yachts. We were having a nightmare!

And eventually we found the plains, and we waited till dusk - waited till it got a little bit dark - and we looked through a crack in the shrew, and they were all out there, lions milling about, and we thought, "Yeah, we're going to get you, you freak nuts."

So, what we did, was, we waited till it was dark, and we went out, and we went "CHAAAARGE!" and we ran at them, and when we got out there, we couldn't believe it, they were HUGE! Lions the size of transit vans, we couldn't... we didn't know what was happening! Leopards like marquees, "Oh, he's like a Victorian tennis house, look at the size of him!" Martin the pine marten was in a right state, he said, "No, I'm not going out there again, they were bloody huge, you didn't say anything about them going to be that huge!" Martin, what's happening to your voice? "I don't know, but I'm a bit scared."

So we all ran back into the shrew, we were like, "Oh, no, what are we going to do?", and we had to come up with Plan B. Luckily, Morris, the wood-pigeon, went, "I've got an idea". Now, he'd brought some Japanese Tourist costumes along, and we popped them on, went out there, and we took photos of them all. But we used them cameras that fly water! Oh yeah! Some of the zebras were soaked, cheetahs wringing out their gussets. We went over there and we kicked their arses.

Semen Purchase

OK, I finally got off my lazy keister and bought some semen. The results of the bull poll to see which sire was favored were for The Shadow and after many months, I am still leaning that way - so I bought two straws of semen from The Shadow.

There is a guy I found locally that will take shipment of the semen, and will then take care of the artificial insemination process for me. He claims a 70% success rate, so we'll have our fingers crossed, and if the AI fails, I have a neighbor who is supposed to be getting a longhorn bull in a couple of months for his small herd - he said I can run my hiefers over there for a few months if needed to get them bred.
So, The Shadow is the main plan and the neighbors bull will be the backup plan.