Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday wrap-up

The tractor's issue - one of them at least - turned out to be needing the clutch bled. The horses have their bale.

And the weekend didn't completely revolve around sheep. I picked up a mineral tub for the horses. They always have a mineral block, but they've been hanging over the fence to gnaw bark. Since they're all round and not squabbling over the hay at feeding time, I'm guessing they're not getting something nutrient-wise from the hay that they need.

After much label reading, the one I picked up is intended for horses getting hay, but not grain. (It has some other attractive qualities, too, but darned if I can recall exactly what they were without the label in front of me.

At any rate, the horses were thrilled.

Star discovered it immediately and left the first teeth marks, but at one time or another they were all nibbling at it. They also upped their water intake - another plus. For now the tub's located up by the waterer, so if they're locked out of water while G fills corn buckets for the sheep we don't have to worry about them eating at it and then not getting in to drink.

I also removed windtangles and checked the geldings' sheathes for stud crud. Too cold to actually do a cleaning, but maybe next weekend. They're also due to be wormed, but I didn't want to introduce the mineral tub and worm both the same weekend, and since I remembered the wrong wormer when I picked it up.... Next weekend for that.

This afternoon we took Aiysha back. I'll miss her furry little body keeping my feet warm tonight.

And discovered that the cows had pushed through one of the upper gates and followed the tractor tracks down to the hay storage area. They were happy enough to be herded back where they belonged, though.

So the weekend started and ended with escapees - none of them equine, thank goodness. Fingers crossed that trend continues.

Hope everyone else had a great weekend, too!


The lamb this morning...

We weren't expecting much - honestly, lethargic as it was when we brought it in, neither of us expected it to be alive this morning. But not only was it still alive, but hungry - and vocal about it.

No more lambs, and feeding went smoothly. Except for the tractor. With the battery holding a charge and the oil warm... it still won't move. There's water in the hydraulic lines, and it's frozen. We'll be hauling hay to the horses the hard way this afternoon.


Bright, early, and cold we headed out to the farm. I pushed a bit of hay to the horses and then we hauled corn and fed alfalfa to the outside sheep.

Sorry, guys - no corn for you. You'll have to make do with your alfalfa bale.

The lambs, mostly too small to enjoy getting corn just yet, scurried and scampered out of the way of their mamas rush to the corn feeders. These aren't first-year ewes. Most of them are fairly massive, and the majority out weigh me by a fair amount. I made the mistake of being first in with a bucket, and found myself nearly swept off my feet. With a seething mass of wooliness thigh high all around me, the only thing that kept me upright was the lack of space to fall down.

T, bless him, stood by the gate laughing at me, because once I'd dumped the grain out I was stuck - wedged against the feeder by sheep shoulders. Their bellies are so round that there was space by the feeder, but I couldn't squeeze myself through the press to escape.

He finally took pity on me and dumped his buckets in the other feeder, causing a rush in that direction.

Tractor surgery was next. The battery terminals on the tractor were bad, and we weren't sure about the battery. Turned out it needed a new block heater cable, too.
Back after retrieving the tractor necessities, there were new lambs. Unfortunately, several of them were already dead - even inside the barn with the lamp heaters, it's just so cold...

This one was still fighting, but mama was more interested in already dead sibling to care. In the vet room where it's warm we got it dried off, a bit of milk down it, and hoped for the best.Aiysha curled up next the the little guy and washed his ears - I figured her body heat sure couldn't hurt.

With as much done on that front as we could, we headed over the the vet's to get chores done there. All was peaceful. So after one last lamb check (still hanging in there) we headed home.

Farm weekend - Friday

We had made arrangements with the farm owners to watch the farm this weekend so that they could take a long weekend. They were supposed to go over Christmas, then New Years, but the weather this year hasn't proved too cooperative for traveling.

They were able to get away this weekend finally, as aside from lingering cold weather, things were relatively clear. G always leaves extensive directions as to which flock of sheep gets fed what, and this time of year we watch for new lambs, as well.
Ummm... You guys are not where you belong!

The Black Hills Stock Show is underway out in Rapid City - and two sets of friends headed in that direction this weekend. The vet, where Rufus is staying, has a horse competing. His place is also pretty easy - a couple buckets of grain, check the cows & horses, and fill the water tanks. It's cold standing, waiting on the tanks to fill, but not too strenuous.
Run, sheep! Run!

The other stop turned out to be more of a drive-by. We were just back-up feeders in case of emergency.

Friday evening, other than the sheep escape that occurred prior to our arrival (and didn't get beyond the alfalfa bales) things were pretty uneventful. After herding the sheep back where they belonged, haying the horses and collecting Ayisha, we headed back to town.

First order of business? A bath for the little dog. She's so low-slung that she pretty much drags her coat through everything. At the farm she sleeps in her kennel, so a bit of doggie-odor isn't a big deal. But when she stays with us she sleeps on the bed. And she likes to snuggle.
Much nicer to sleep with a cover-hogging but fluffy-clean dog than one that smells of - politely - sheep raisins.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Faces of Winter

Last week...


That roaring noise? That's the wind.

And finally,
just because this one reminds me of Yoda...

And this one reminds me of somebody...

I just can't think of who.

Can it just be spring now?

I wanna complain about MUD now!

I gambled on a trip home this weekend. It's never good when it rains in SD in January. Which is what it did on and off from Wednesday until Saturday last week. Thankfully, it was warmer than predicted, and what Mitchell got was, for the most part, spitting wet and almost no wind - not enough to soak the horses through, and not really raw.

They weren't cold, or at least they didn't seem to be. And with plenty of hay and a windbreak they weathered that portion of the week just fine.

But unfortunately my gamble didn't pay off. By Sunday we'd had about an inch of fluffy new snow. Marginal, you say? Oh, but that inch of snow hasn't actually hit the ground yet. It's rampaging its way around the eastern end of the state. Visibility is somewhere between an 8th and 1/4 mile - sometimes under. The road underneath may be dry, but seeing where the road is, now there's the challenge.

So I'm working from home today. I had a web meeting via Skype (kind of cool, actually) and cleaned up cat yak in between updating library resource guides. H didn't have school today either, but she hibernated until one of her friends called about 10 minutes ago. Lucky her!

The horses got extra hay last night (and they will again tonight) and they're sheltered from the worst of the wind, so with the temperature staying in the 20's they're in good shape for now. And tomorrow is supposed to be better. I hope so!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

No cows for me

Cow moving started bright and early. T gets to have the fun - unfortunately, H has Saturday school and somebody needed to get her there. (Apparently, if you decide to take two lunches instead of one because your friends all have the second one, you get an unexcused absence - well duh! That plus two tardies and you get to spend Saturday doing homework with a teacher. Kind of seems like punishment for the teacher, too, if you ask me.)

Anyway, since it's the vet (where Rufus is staying) whose cows they're moving, T got the long straw and I got to play chauffeur.

So I'm at home working on funeral scalloped potatoes and ham (one of T's friends lost his mother late this week), dishes, and bread baking. My horse time will be this afternoon. Sunny and I are going to bust through a few drifts - at least that's the goal.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sharing is good

Pennie, Sahara, Star, Thunder, Amyra, Sunny

That's the gang, minus two at one of the tire feeders. New bale tonight. I can tell when they've been waiting to be fed, because Sunny gets possessive of the feeder, but tonight they were almost all squeezed in peacefully.

You know how the media a couple times a winter cover stories about kids getting their tongues stuck to street signs and bicycle racks shades of A Christmas Story? (And we won't mention snow plows. Nope, not a word about them!)

Ever wonder why livestock don't get their tongues stuck to things?
For some reason the snow on the bale fork was mighty darn appealing to these two. Silly!

And speaking of silly - you don't dare leave laundry unattended for long around here this time of year.
I went downstairs to grab the rest of the load out of the dryer and came back to find what I'd just brought up occupied. She was snoring.

Tomorrow we're helping friends move cows. If I can manage the camera and the horse at the same time, hopefully I'll have pictures.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hooray for January thaws!

I fed this afternoon without my down vest, wearing one pair of leather gloves and with no long underwear on - just jeans, sweatshirt, scarf & my winter coat. No hat, either. It was actually in the low 30's. A heat wave :)

The mystery of the down fence was solved - G tapped it with the tractor when he was putting a bale out Thursday night. At nearly -20, it didn't take much to have things going "ping" and not in a good way. The ponies just took advantage of the opportunity.

They weathered the sub-zero temps with no apparent ill effects. They're really woolly this year, for which I'm profoundly grateful. But they seemed pleased to have it be warmer, too.

Yesterday we did a better patch job on the fence and broke a trail through the drifts out to the north pasture for them. As of today, none of them had used the path, but the deer have been, so the horses probably will before too long.

The weather forecast for this week is great - 30's and partly cloudy. Can't beat that this time of year, not in this neck of the woods!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Growing up in Upper Michigan, snow was not a stranger. We had drifts upon drifts. My dad would get up at 0'dark thirty to push snow for several hours before heading off to work, and do the same thing when he got home. We played on snow banks most years from late September until April. But, sheltered by trees and hills, the snow usually came drifting down fairly gently.

Oh sure, we had the usual blizzard and lake effect nastiness you get being near the big lakes. Winds off Superior were bitter, and winds off lake Michigan could chill you to the bone. But there was shelter to be had from the thick forest that covers much of the U.P., and in general stretches below 0' didn't last too very long without breaking.

Winter on the plains is different.

For one thing, the lack of trees makes the wind a LOT more deadly. Fluffy snow turns to ground blizzards or packs into solid, cow-weight bearing drifts, snow creepers wiggle their way out into deceptively deep road blocks to trap cars and block barn/house doors. And the windchill will just plain freeze you.

It's gorgeous, though.

Driving home yesterday - I left early so that I'd be traveling in the "heat" of the day (the temp reached a whopping -11 very briefly after our low of -24) and reached home with the sun still glowing off the wind-polished snow crust. The few minutes more sunshine per day we're accumulating is already making a noticeable difference - one nice thing about the plains: trees don't create an artificially early sunset.

Rather than un-bundle, I collected T and we headed out to do the horses while there was still daylight. Good thing, too. As we bumped down the rutted hill coming up to the farm from the south mile road I could see dark spots against the snow where dark spots had no business being.

Fences that look plenty tall with no snow on the ground appear deceptively low with 3' drifts against them. When the drifts are packed solid, they pretty much are that short. And metal stuff gets brittle when the temps get that low.

Thankfully, a good bale usually keeps the critters where they belong, but not always. Livestock drifts a fair amount every winter, moving away from the wind just like the snow. Sometimes it's the combined weight of the packed herd pushing a weak spot in the fence down. Sometimes they just walk out over it across the snow pack.

Our three escapees had done a combination of the two.

Sunny, Thunder & Pennie were out on a polished spot in the front field pawing through the snow crust to get to frozen pasture grass. They came running when they saw me, demonstrating exactly how and where they'd popped out in the first place, but proceeded to dive right back out again before I could get the hole blocked. Of course, rest of the bunch - the bale had been holding their attention just fine until then - wanted to go with them. Thankfully, with T to block the hole and run interference it was a matter of minutes to get them back in, although I found a few thigh-deep spots to fall into.

At least the effort of staying upright meant I was warm.

We spread hay to keep them busy and then patched the fence and tied some plastic flags to the spot before we lost the light. We'll need to do a better job today, but it will hold them for tonight.

Pictures will have to wait
until it's warm enough
for the camera batteries to function.
It's cold out there.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

May your week...

Be better than mine! 2010 has started out with several entertaining twists. The snow blew in, then the cold, but okay, it's winter - that's normal. But the other fun thing I got for a post-Christmas present was the news that water pipes above my work apartment had frozen and dumped let's-just-call-it-lots of water into my bedroom.

Oh, and in getting things fixed, they turned off the power but not the heat, so everything in the fridge spoiled.

And did I mention I wasn't there at the time? So last week after a trip up to survey the damage and collect the salvagable bedding and clothing items - thank you, thank you, thank you that the hanging clothes closet was spared - which froze completely solid in bags in the back of the truck on the way home - I did lots of laundry. After thawing and many loads later (I'm very thankful that my work wardrobe doesn't run to dry-cleaning mandatory items or require much in the way of ironing) it turned out everything I hauled home will be fine.

The mattress was a total loss, as were a lot of books. Renters insurance is (or had better be) a good thing! And they've gutted the bedroom - new ceiling, new drywall & paint, and probably a new floor, as the once lovely hardwood is now a ripply wreck. But first it all has to dry out thoroughly.

I worked from home last week, which was great for family time, but not so great for the amount of work I actually accomplished. And I also caught T's cold. So this week I'm sniffling in my office trying not to share germs with anyone.

The upside? The boss was understanding, it's relatively slow at work with all the students gone, and no one was hurt - far better a wet apartment than another abscess!

On the home front, the ponies are doing great, touch wood. The weather forecast says more snow and extreme cold is headed our way.

Winter can go away now!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas gifts

We took the tree down yesterday - the living room seemed strangely large and rather dark without its glow. The presents are, for the most part, stored away or taken home, with the exception of a few left to be exchanged.

The first loaf of bread from the new breadmaker
(It survived its picture by not very long)

The giant rat with catnip insert...

After being briefly baffled,

Snowball and Mabel

found it fascinating.

There's the snow, of course - it's a Christmas gift of a sort, right?

I'm 5'10" - the road drift the plows cleared
is at least a foot above my head.
Spring should be very green - after it all finally melts...

and company
are cruising through winter, cold as it is.

Last evening while we were checking on Rufus
a train (110 cars) went by

it made a great excuse
for a bit of leaping and bucking.

And Star continues her daily yoga.
I really should join her!

We're on the lightening side of the darkest season of the year, and I can't help but be grateful. I'm ready for brighter evenings, warmer days, and less white stuff, pretty as it is.

We had three more inches last night - but the sun's out this morning, and it's supposed to get all the way up to 7' today. Winter warmth!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Remembering 2009

RIP Yellow kitten

and Mama Cat


Extreme cold

Bucket soaks

Obligatory ice

Bad hair days

and funny haircuts

Spring flowers

Horse yoga

Summer heat

New additions


More bucket soaking



and Christmas tree cats

Best wishes for 2010!