Saturday, January 19, 2008

An Afternoon of Work at Stoneyfield

Well, since our town decided that I shouldn't have five chickens on my property I decided to make a quick trip down to the farm yesterday. I had to dismantle the the nest boxes (buckets), grab the feed/oyster shell/grit, gather up the hens, and load everything up into the back of the Expedition. You can scroll down to yesterdays post to see a picture of the chickens new digs. They are just fine, but I don't think they will be as warm (and it is going to be very cold for the next couple days). Since I had a reason to go down I planned on doing a few other things that also needed to be done.

First of all I met my dad in town at the farm store to pick up 6 cattle panels to upgrade a little section of fence with the impending arrival of our bull, Hershey. The entire front lot (about 2 acres) is surrounded by cattle panels except for this one little section that just had the very old worn down woven wire/barbed wire fence. Considering our heifer Vicki can jump that fence at will we didn't want to see what would happen when there was a bull on one side and cows in heat on the other side! So, I dropped a bit of money and we headed to the farm (with a short interlude to pull the mailman out of the ditch).

At the farm I set up the new chicken pen (corner of a shed that had been used for puppies) and mixed up a bunch of feed for my dad. They should be good to go for awhile and I don't feel so bad about bringing the chickens down because at least they will get some eggs! In fact I think everyone (Dad, Stepmom, and brother) are excited about them ... except for my sister.

Despite the cold air and the wind it was pretty easy to put up the panels. In fact we were able to drive in a few t-posts with no problem. After we had the panels set up we set about cutting out the bull calves from the herd in order to wean them. Now, I have heard lots of great things about Dexters ... but, on Thursday I really experienced one. In the morning my dad put out the hay in a small pen we have in the corner of the front lot and then called the cows up (they do come when you call). They all walked in and started eating while my dad broke open the water tanks ... then, six of the girls must have received the memo because they just decided to walk out! So, when I showed up there were just three cows/heifers in there with the four boys. Showing our cattle sorting prowess we both walked into the little pen and I announced that I was going to sort the bull calves over to one side. Just as I said that the bull calves did exactly that! Dad opened the gate ... the girls walked out ... we were done and we were speechless!

This weekend is going to be very cold and while they have some good wind breaks out in the pasture the bull calves in the small pen for the time being had none. With that in mind we build a barricade of hay bales around one corner and put up some old panels around it to keep them from eating all of the hay. I think the boys will be as snug as a bug in a rug ... or at least as Dexters in a corner of hay.

It was nice to get out there and do some work that I had been meaning to do. It is just more difficult because it is such a long drive. After the afternoon of work and being informed that we couldn't keep our chickens we are all the more ready to make a move ... hopefully soon!

**I hope you enjoy the pictures of our cattle. From top to bottom: 1.) Ginger with her face all up in the camera; 2.) Vicki, who is staring to look very pregnant; 3.) Ginger looking longingly at her calf in the pen; 4.) The boys eating by their hay wall**


Kramer said...

You got some tough cows. It was raining, mid 30's yesterday and my cows looked absolutely miserable out there. I stood out there with them for about 20 minutes to show them I would do it too but then I had to leave. I am more of a weenie than they are. I can't imagine having that much snow. You northerners rock. I like the 100 degree 100% humidity weather. Bring it on.

Ethan Book said...

Sure our cows are tough! I guess that is another plug for the Dexters :)

Actually, this morning at my Dad's it was -7 and I'm sure that was probably one of the warmer spots in the state. When he looked out the cows were just nosing around in the snow and eating a little hay ... no problems, and the chickens had already laid an egg!

Now, the stinky thing about Iowa is that we get this cold and we can get those 90 degree 100% humidity days ... I hate humidity!!!

Walter Jeffries said...

How sad that the city government is so disconnected with the natural world that they find a few chickens offensive. That is an unfortunate statement on the affairs of the modern 'urban' world.

You are most gracious in your chicken move.

Ethan Book said...

Walter ... I probably wouldn't have been so gracious about the chicken move if it wasn't for the light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a possible impending move out of town into the country

Yeoman said...

My grandfather came from Dyersville Iowa, and my father always claimed that Iowa was very cold in the winter, and hot in the summer, is that correct?

In normal years (which this is turning out to be so far, for the first time in a decade) our winter here is arctic. It was -11F when I left the house this morning, and we're supposed to be in the freezer for a couple of days.

The cows are simply out in a big pasture, getting fed every day. Good thing their vast bulk retains so much heat.

Ethan Book said...

Yeoman ... what your uncle says is about right ... especially up in Decorah which is in the northern part of the state. I think in the past couple of days Decorah received over 6 inches of snow and tomorrow a major cold front will slide through (for the second time in a week) brining below zero highs. Of course, come July and August that cold front will seem a long ways away ... when it is 90 plus degrees and humid! Ah, the extremes.

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