Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘hobby farm

Tragedy Visited

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I’m home again and Cyndie has everything under control, despite trying to do everything with one arm. The only difference I notice between now and a week ago when I left is the grass is long again. No surprise there. My thanks go out to all the people who helped out around here while I was off biking and camping.

The news that I shared with my fellow riders all week long was about a tragedy that happened on the Friday night that was supposed to be my first night of camping. An as-of-yet unidentified intruder decimated our chicken flock.

These three are all that we have left.

I hadn’t planned on being home at the time, but I was. With the bike tour starting less than a half-hour away from our home this year, I was able to use most of the day to finish chores, but I didn’t plan on running out of gas. The amount of time I spent getting to town and back was enough to throw my grand plan all out of whack.

Plan B involved driving to the school where the Tour started so I could get registered, then continuing on to the next exit off the interstate, where I picked up a prescription for Cyndie. With that in hand, I needed to drive back home to deliver it to her, so I decided to just sleep there and return to the school in the morning.

My sister, Mary, was over for the weekend to assist Cyndie. As I focused on packing for my trip, they headed out to close the door on the chicken coop for the night. Uncharacteristically, they found one chicken was up on our driveway by the house.

Eventually, they discovered two lifeless bodies, one inside the paddock and one just outside that same fence. Cyndie found one of the Barred Plymouth Rocks walking near the coop and got it to go inside. The one up near the driveway, the surviving Buff Orpington, was hiding in the woods and and wouldn’t come out until the next day.

I had gone out to bury the two fatalities in a compost pile and discovered the other Barred Plymouth Rock up in a tree. I was able to grab her and return her to the coop to keep the other one company for the night.

Final tally of the nine we had: two confirmed dead, three survived, and four missing in action.

Cyndie and Mary scoured the property for signs, but found no evidence to clue us in to what might have become of the others. We lost all of the Rhode Island Reds, two Buff Orpingtons, and one Barred Plymouth Rock to an unknown predator or predators.

Never saw or heard a thing, before or since. Could have been a neighboring dog or cat, or any number of wild threats. It’s possible that the some of the four missing chickens just ran away and never made it back home. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure.

It’s a risk we take to have free ranging chickens.

This morning when I wheeled a load of manure out to dump on the pile, the three surviving chickens were doing their best to dig through the compost and eat as many bugs as they could.

We’re gonna need more chickens.

I need to go mow the lawn.

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Written by johnwhays

June 24, 2017 at 9:46 am

Going Slow

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We are in a bit of a rush this morning. After staying out late last night at Gary’s for dinner and music, we are hosting brunch for Cyndie’s family in a couple of hours. Although we started preparations early yesterday, there is much to be done right down to the last minute.

Care for our animals does not get postponed, so we end up feeling like we are trying to do two things at once. The natural result of that is, we try to rush everything we do.

I gotta say, rushing things tends not to be my favorite mode. I definitely prefer going slow, especially when it comes to being with our horses. Even when there is more to be done than there is time for, I can’t help pausing in the morning sun, breathing in the spring air, and just being quiet around the herd for a few moments.

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I ponder over the incredible saturation of soil we are currently in the middle of, amplified right now by the 4.5 inches of rain that has fallen over the last two days. I marvel at how quickly –overnight!– the rain greened up the grass. I smile at the new buds popping open throughout our woods.

It definitely feels like spring has sprung.

Growing things obviously aren’t going slow now, so my pauses to enjoy will become squeezed between frantic efforts to keep up with the mowing and trimming that is already on the verge of demanding attention in some spots.

Life can be a delicate balance of hurrying up and slowing down all at the same time.

See? Opposites attract!

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Written by johnwhays

April 16, 2017 at 10:02 am

Weeds Begone

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It took twice as long as I expected to finish cutting down the 4 acres we call our hay-field yesterday, but I was trying to do a very thorough job of removing the primary invader, Queen Anne’s Lace from sight. The biennial crop is the most visible evidence that we aren’t growing high quality grass hay out there yet.IMG_iP1562e

There is some grass there, and it has become obvious to us from the regular mowing we have done around the labyrinth and along the fence lines, that doing so will help the grasses and hurt the weeds.

Right now, we are thinking about just keeping this mowed short for a full year. We may have some additives applied to the soil, and add desireable grass seed over the top, before getting back to baling it again the year after.

The project was almost over before I had even completed the first pass along the fence line. For no apparent reason the shear bolt suddenly gave out and the blades stopped cutting.

We had waited the entire summer to have this field cut, and when it didn’t happen any other way, we decided to finally just chop it down ourselves. This interruption had me wondering if maybe we were making the wrong decision, but I had a replacement bolt and it was an easy fix, so I didn’t let that problem stop me for long.

When it became clear that it was going to take all afternoon to complete the task, Cyndie was kind enough to bring me lunch in the field. It felt just like farming!

When I got to the last little strip to be mowed, I wanted to include Cyndie in the moment of achievement. She was serving the horses their evening feed at the barn, so I whistled to get her attention as I was lining the tractor up for the final cut.

IMG_iP1565eCHShe heard the second of my shrill chirrups, and was looking to ascertain whether I was in need of her assistance while I was backing into position. I was intending to point out that it would be the last pass and I just wanted her to share in the joy of accomplishment, when the blades of the mower started clattering on a rock I hadn’t noticed.

The sound of mower blades hitting obstacles always tends to create a panic response. I stomped on the clutch and lifted the mower. My big moment of victory was dashed by a dose of humble pie. In a comical turn, now she did think something was wrong.

She hollered something to me, but I couldn’t hear her words over the rat-tat-tat of the diesel engine idling. After several fruitless tries, we walked toward each other until I heard she was asking if I had my camera with me so she could capture the moment.

We laughed over the fact I hadn’t hit a single thing all day, but just as I was hoping to get her attention, …clank. I had already mowed over that rock without incident in the other direction. Backing across it on the slope was a different story.

She took the pictures of my final successful pass.

IMG_iP1576eCHIMG_iP1585eCH.

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Did you see that bird she captured in the last shot? It looks as happy as me over having our field freshly cut.

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Written by johnwhays

August 6, 2016 at 9:13 am

Two Worlds

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In the constant ebb and flow of change that has occurred for Cyndie and me in the almost 4 years since we moved from the suburbs to rural life on a horse hobby farm, there are waves of intensity that can be both invigorating and disorienting. I’m probably just tired from a pattern of not sleeping optimal hours every night, but lately things have been mostly disorienting.

Yesterday, while filling out the schedule of customer orders at the day-job, I received a new Purchase Order with a requested delivery date that I immediately perceived to be past due. Wondering how that could be, I checked the date it was sent and interpreted that as being a week old.

I marched up to the boss’s office to investigate how this could have happened, only to embarrass myself in discovering that my mind was off by a week. The order was sent and received with yesterday’s date and they were asking for delivery next Wednesday.

Never mind.

Obviously, I was not living in the moment. My calibration gets a little off when spending hours of intense mental energy trying to fit weeks of work into limited days of available labor, several months into the future. It gets compounded when trying to do so while simultaneously burdened with trying to self-teach lessons on how to properly (read that as “legally”) load and secure heavy cargo on a trailer.

My poor little brain is surfing on the crest of one of those waves of constant change with regard to the horse hobby farm gig. We have adjusted our hay plans this year to trying to purchase all of next season’s inventory and not use any of what we can cut and bale off our field. This year’s crop on our front field is growing more weeds than grass.

We are negotiating with two sources for small square bales and trying to work out movement of goods. Cyndie called the trailer dealership in town to inquire about short-term rental of a flat-bed. It just so happens that our next door neighbor, John, works there. He said they don’t rent equipment, but offered to loan us the use of one of his trailers. He’s got two of them.

DSCN4953eWednesday night, John stopped by the house to discuss details and I learned very quickly how out of my league I was. When we bought the truck, I didn’t know there was a difference between a trailer hitch and a ball mount. My rather narrow experience from years in industry is in electronics manufacturing. It was intimidating to learn the significance of details involved with trailering commercial-sized loads like the one I already moved last week, which I had done without proper knowledge.

Yesterday, Cyndie took our truck in to have the trailer dealer install a brake controller. Last night, our neighbor stopped by and dropped off his trailer in front of our hay shed.

I’m trying to shift mental gears from the day-job world to the hobby farm world, and reviewing the Wisconsin laws for securing and trailering heavy cargo. We are also trying to plot a course toward improving the crop of hay we hope to grow for ourselves.

Don’t ask me what day it is today. I’m feeling a little disoriented.

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2016 at 7:11 am