Archive for Life on the Farm

Rain and More Rain-August 2020

The inches are adding up. After a hot, humid, July (we did get 2.2 inch of rain in July which is unusual) it is raining and raining and raining some more, and calling for more days of rain. As I write this we have had 12.2 inches of rain in August with 6.2″ of those in the last twenty-four hours.

This afternoon I braved the rain and went to Food Lion. Coming home on our road, there was a fair-size tree laying 3/4 the way across the road. Facebook is “flooded” with pictures and reports of flooded roads and downed trees in our area. Our driveway is one large water puddle!

During the night it apparently rained really hard. The picture below shows some gravel from our driveway in the middle of the road heading almost all the way down to Route 60.

It is a dreary, quiet, peaceful afternoon with nothing to do except for what I want to do-in the house. I was planning to process my second patch of sweet corn this afternoon, pick tomatoes and okra and finish mowing the lawn. Instead I have read the mail, checked email and facebook a dozen times, and pitter-pattered around the house, restless. Church is cancelled for tomorrow so it will be another long day. I don’t have any new puzzles to put together and I can’t convince Gene to play a board game.

The conversation went like this…

Me: Let’s play a game of Settlers.

Him: It’s almost supper time.

Me: It would be fun.

HIm: Supper?

After supper I announced I had fun eating supper and that the Blackberry Crunch in the oven was for those who played a game. I have a feeling he will still get his share of crunch, without the game! Where are my grandkids when I need them. Guess I’ll have to get motivated and make a batch of truffles.

One sad thing for us is the new creek-crossing and bridge we put in late February for cattle crossing and stream exclusion has been badly damaged-twice this month. I’ll show you some before and after pictures.

February 2020
You can see how far up the hill the water was. That steam is normally a trickle.
The bridge, early November 2018
The support posts on the sides of the bridge held.

Gaggles of Canadian geese have been feeding in the fields the past few days and the cows are grazing. The rain is not bothering them one bit.

Neither has it fazed Mr. Squirrel who has been savaging the seeds from the ground under the bird feeder.

At least we have not had wind or fire as some areas of our country are experiencing. Our damage is very minimal, the water table is being replenished and there should be a good hay crop this fall.

We are blessed.

A Beautiful Evening

After supper I mowed the lawn, and then I took an evening ride on my golf cart and enjoyed the beauty of the evening. I saw and enjoyed the glory of God’s creation.

The evening was perfect with a slight gentle breeze. The birds were tweeting their bedtime lullabies, a bull bellowed in the distance, a calf baa’ed for it’s mama, a horse snorted, and the tree frogs were starting to chirp. The bees were all gathering into the safety of the hive for the evening. A squirrel was stuffing his face with seeds from the bird feeder before scurrying to his nest in the treetop.

I saw the sun dip behind the clouds as it sank on the horizon and glory rays lined the clouds. It seemed a perfect time to see Jesus step forward and say, “Saints, come home!”

Storm clouds were gathering in the east.

The cows and horses were quietly grazing in the pasture, filling their bellies before they laid down to chew their cud and rest for the night.

I saw a rabbit resting in the lawn with his legs stretched out behind him. He let me ease up fairly close before he hopped off.

The fragrant yellow blossoms of the evening primrose are starting to bloom and at 8:30 p.m. numerous blossoms popped open as I watched.

When the store closes, everyone goes home, work ceases and all the equipment is parked for the night, the farm is a oasis of absolute peace, quiet and beauty. I love sitting outside, breathing in the fragrances of the farm and listening to the different animal noises. I see God’s handiwork in the flowers, wildlife and sky. I feel His presence in the stillness and love using the opportunity to thank and worship Him. For those moments, the busyness, worries, and stresses of the day and world fade and it is just me and God.

When Unexpected Things Happen

I was jolted awake at 3:15 Sunday morning by a crash in the bathroom. Normally I am a sound sleeper and miss such things as thunder storms, phone ringing and all sorts of night-time doings. Gene had fallen. He didn’t think it was his heart. He wasn’t nauseated or light-headed, just extreme pain in his ribs. His skin was cold and clammy and he was sweating profusely. I helped him up but he immediately “crumbled” to the floor, three times. The last time I couldn’t get him up and had to call 911.

It is a terrible feeling watching your loved one leave in the squad and you can’t go along. They did an EKG and ruled out his heart. We figured the root of the problem was the big bruise on his back. They told me to stay at home, if I went to the hospital, I would be turned away at the door because of covid 19 pandemic restrictions.

Earlier in the week we had a bull get out and as Gene was putting him back into the pen, he slipped and fell as he jumped a ditch and fell on his back on a piece of angle iron. He heard a crack and figured he had either cracked or broken a rib.

He didn’t feel it was necessary to go to the doctor because he knew they would say there is nothing they can do, just be careful. (Just like a broken nose or toe). He developed a big bruise on his back and had to be careful how he turned, but after a few days felt really good. On Saturday, he put forty acres of hay on the ground. He knew he had a narrow window with the weather but because he wraps his bales, he planned to rake and bale on Monday (Memorial Day) and Tuesday. At supper Saturday evening, he commented on how good he felt.

Little did we know the unseen danger that was lurking. It didn’t take long at the hospital to discover that he had blood in his chest cavity. He was bleeding internally. They inserted a drainage tube and drained off over a liter of blood. They ended up moving him to a different hospital that could handle a trauma injury.

I had to take some things to Gene before they moved him and I was allowed to speak to him as they loaded him onto the ambulance.

The next two days were excruciatingly painful but on Tuesday evening he was able to come home. He is resting and on the road to recovery. Today I took him on a “field trip” to check on his cows and see the hay fields that had been baled, without him.

Gene basically makes the hay by himself. He has a friend (Wray) who helps some with the raking when needed. Suddenly we had a big problem. We had 40 acres of really nice hay that needed to be raked, baled and wrapped before the tropical storm comes in Wednesday night. Not just anyone can do it.

It is really neat to watch God work. God specializes in the miraculous, the big stuff, the tough and overwhelming, the seemly impossible. Gene was stressing big time, trying to solve his problem while dealing with unbearable pain. I made a few calls and soon the phone was ringing. Within a few hours I had Wray lined up to rake the hay, Steve to bale, Keith to wrap and Sam to go for more plastic wrap. Luke had volunteered to bale but he had never run our equipment or a computer controlled baler. I called Steve, a good farmer friend and past employee who knew our equipment, and asked him if he could come for an hour or so and help Luke get started. Luke is a farm guy and no stranger to baling hay, just not using our equipment. Steve had his own hands full as he had sixty acres of hay on the ground. He said, “if Luke tedded his hay, he would bale ours”. Steve’s hay wasn’t ready to bale until Tuesday. Suddenly everything felt right and good. The heavy bag of worry I was carrying just rolled away.

Sunday evening Keith got all the tractors filled with fuel and attached to the proper equipment so that everything was ready to roll. Some of the equipment was moved to the field. Monday I just watched the day unfolded. I took pictures and kept saying, “thank you, Jesus”. At 9:05 p.m. the last of the 200 bales rolled from the baler and the tractor parked. About fifty bales had to be wrapped on Tuesday morning. The job was done, thanks to family and friends.

After hearing the many phone calls and texts from concerned people and hearing the offers to help, our grandson who had watched an amazing thing unfold said, “I can’t BELIEVE how many people have offered to help.” He had witnessed what seemed impossible as a community of friends, family and church friends rallied to help. When the unexpected happened, the unexpected happened. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. God is good.

Raking

A beautiful sight.
Baling
A beautiful field.
Wrapping
Just checking on things!

The Recycling King Hits Again

How tell me, what would you do with a 2-drawer metal filing cabinet that’s sitting around doing nothing? Take it to Goodwill? Give it away? Put it on the junk pile?

My hubby found a very ingenious plan for it. He turned it into a waterproof cabinet for his solar fencer and battery.

On top he install the solar panel that charges the battery which powers the fencer.

The battery and fencer he put in a drawer that he insulated. He drill a hole in the side of the cabinet for the ground wire and the wire that connects to the fence.

He now has a nice fencer station and everything is in the dry. It is behind a fence that the cows do not have access to. The meter for the solar panel is attached to the back of the panel.

Rather ingenious, don’t you think? I have been amazed so many times the “junk” he finds ways to put to good use.

Fence Walker

I noticed this dirt path all around the fence behind the house and when I mentioned it to Gene he said, “It is the bull, he’s walking the fence.” I began to watch and sure enough, every day the bull spends a good portion of his day walking the fence. Today I went to take his picture and caught him resting on his walk.

Now you have to understand, he is not a slighted or mistreated bull. He has his own green, grassy five acre paddock with a harem of ladies at his bidding with no competition. But, up and down that fence he paces with his gaze fixed on the other side of the fence.

I wonder what he is thinking. Does the grass look greener on the other side of the fence? Is he not satisfied with his group of heifers? Does the pasture on the other side look lest restrictive? Is there not enough activity for him? Is he just plain restless? Or, does he not like the restrictive fence?

He just looked at me with his big, sad eyes.

Maybe there is a lesson to be learned from Mr. Bull.

I wonder….am I content with my lot in life? Does the grass look greener on the other side of my fence? Do I wish for what is not mine to have?

What about the restrictive fences in my life? Do I resist the fence thinking that there is more freedom is on the other side without stopping to realize that I would be looking a the same fence, just from the other side.

We all have restrictions and boundaries in our lives but when we push on them we almost always get in trouble and create chaos. If we move the boundary fence on our property, the neighbor will get upset. If we take what does not belong to us, it is stealing and we are in trouble with the law. If our eyes lust after another partner, we break our marriage vows and destroy relationships. If we do not obey the laws of the land, we will end up in jail. If we do not follow the moral code of the Bible, our lives are filled with destructive behavior and conflict with God and neighbor.

One evening about dusk, King David took a stroll on his rooftop and peered over the fence to his neighbor’s place, a trusted official of his army. He saw Uriah’s wife taking a bath. As he gazed, lust filled his heart and he desired what was not his to have. He summoned Bathsheba to come for a visit and then he violated moral law. Bathsheba became pregnant which cause a downward spiral in David’s life. (II Samuel 11).

Fence walkers see the fences as restrictive. Pasture dwellers are contented and free because they only see the fences as boundaries.

Are you a fence walker or a pasture dweller?

A Farmer and His Tractor

(A really cute statuary that I bought for Gene one Christmas)

When we refer to “a man and his toys”, we usually are talking about something that makes noise and has wheels, something he enjoys doing in his recreational time. For a farmer, his “toys” are usually very crucial to his trade, something he can’t do without, namely his tractors. I am not sure anything defines a farmer quite like his tractors.

Most farmers pretended to farm with their toy tractors when they were young, imitating their dads (and moms). They in turn gave their children toy tractors and equipment for Christmas and birthday gifts.

This was probably the only green toy tractor that our son ever had. His grandma Hertzler gave it to him for Christmas one year.

She wanted a red one but they had sold out.

(Keith-1980)

Even little farm girls liked to pretend play with farm equipment-Jill 1980

Farmers spend hours and hours and hours behind the wheel of their tractor. Now let me explain…… a tractor is not just a tractor to a farmer. Oh no. “Some like them red, some like them green and some like any color in between”.  A Case/IH man like my hubby, wouldn’t be caught owning a John Deere. Some of his tractors earned names such as “Big Red”, “Queen”, “Princess”and “King”.  Tractors have specific jobs. In a pinch, when one is down for maintenance, they can cross over but the tractor that does the baling has monitors installed for baling in the summer and runs the vertical feed mixer in the winter. The front-end loader tractor has a bracket on the front for the scoop. There is one tractor that always does the raking, or scraping or feeding hay.

I remember how pleased I was when we were dating and learned Gene was an IH man. So was my dad, and I knew he would fit right into my International farming family without being the blunt of much teasing.

When the Hertzlers moved the farming operation from Denbigh to Powhatan in 1969 they were still using the old Farmall M tractor. But they discovered things were different in Powhatan. The farm was bigger and the soil was hard red clay instead of a loamy, sandy black.

(Gene-1969 shortly after he moved to Powhatan)

Fast forward to September 2014….. This is Gene on one of his dad’s tractor’s at his estate sale.

The 70’s also brought rapid changes in the technology of tractors and equipment.  The old was quickly being laid aside for newer, bigger, better and faster equipment. The first tractor Gene bought was a used Oliver 1800 tractor.  It was his start into upgrading his tractor needs. Besides a blue Landtrac later on, they are the only tractors he has owned that weren’t red.

In the early years of our marriage, especially the late 70’s and 80’s, Powhatan was a bustling farming community and there were quite a few farmers in our church. There was a significant group of young couples our age who were taking over the family farms or venturing out on their own and they were all John Deere guys, except for Gene. He was the lone red ranger among his peers.  I remember the friendly, fun competition among the guys as they talked about their tractors, compared who was buying what and competing in tractor pulls.

I remember our children loved to ride with their daddy on the tractor and he would take them when he felt it was appropriate. It was much safer when he had tractors with a cab.

Jill riding with her daddy on the tractor.

 

IH 806

Keith wanting to be a big boy like his daddy. He figured out by sitting on the edge of the seat he could stretch his feet and touch the pedals. He had watched his daddy and he knew what you were suppose to do.

I remember when we got a new phone number and the last four digits were 4021. John Deere had just come out with the 4020 series. One of our close friends, a die-hard John Deere fan loved to tease us about our phone number. He was sure we were close to converting!  At least he had no trouble remembering our number.

It is fun to look back at old pictures and see the progression through the years as tractor changed from the Farmalls and Putt-Putts to real workhorses with cabs, air-conditioning, state-of-the-art computer monitors and increased horse power.  For the farmer his tractor is not a toy, but his work horse, vital to sustaining his business.

 

(IH 574)

(1974)

(1977)

1981

2012 JX75

There have been other tractors through the years and I am fairly sure I have taken pictures of all his tractors even though I was not able to find them.

This final picture is one of Gene’s dad on his old tractor-of course it is an IH.

 

 

 

 

 

The Bridge to the Other Side

A bridge has one purpose; a means to get you across a creek, river, ravine or vast expanse to the other side. Today Gene put a bridge across one of our small creeks so that the cows can have easier access to the pasture on the other side.  We are in the process of fencing our cattle out of the creeks so some changes had to be made in how the cattle can access certain fields.

Gene is a genius at repurposing old or unused “stuff” into something useful.  He had an old flatbed truck bed with a steel frame and floor that years ago he had put onto a wagon frame but now is no longer using. He saw the potential!  It could be a bridge! Like a cat with nine lives, the truck bed is now on it’s third life.

The wagon.

Using a torch to cut the front head board off.

Ready to go to the woods.

Pulling and pushing into place.

 

It works!

I went down later to check on the project. The “bridge” was anchored in place and the fence posts on each side are ready to be strung with wire. Two cows were checking it out.

I sat and watched to see what the cows would do. When they were done snooping, one went to the left and crossed the creek and the other went to the right, down a steep bank and jumped across! In a few days their old crossings will be fenced off and they will have to use the bridge.

Sometimes I get so frustrated with some of the old stuff sitting around and then Gene amazes me with what he does with it. Like they say, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” A worn out wagon once again has new life. And the cows, they have a bridge to the other side.

A Staggering Tale

Early Sunday morning Gene got up to go to the bathroom. He was so “dizzy” he could hardly walk. He staggered there holding on to furniture and the walls. He felt ok: he wasn’t flushed or upset on his stomach.  He didn’t have a headache. He thought maybe he had vertigo but he wasn’t really light-headed as in dizzy.

By the time I was up, he was feeling some better but still not right. He had to be careful how he stood up and wasn’t sure what or if he wanted to eat.

Something was not right, but what was it.  It was worrying him. I took his blood pressure, it was normal. He had not eaten anything unusual or different on Saturday. He had not changed, omitted or doubled up any medications that he knew of. He had removed a tick several days before but that had left only a small red spot. He checked out some things on the web, but nothing resonated.  By the time we went to church he was better, but still not totally right.

Saturday morning he had worked around the farm and then we went to see Sight and Sound’s “Moses” movie in the afternoon. He had only done one thing different……

A new, just opened brewery in the village had given him the discard waste from making moonshine to feed his cows.  It was a corn mash slurry with a lot of water.

He and Tim had worked with it trying to figure out the best way to feed it.  They tried to drain the water off so he could feed just the mash. It didn’t work. He remember that had his hands in the stuff a little and began to wonder if that could possibly be what affected him?

Gene and Tim

Tim stirring the brew!

Yesterday evening he had a chance to talk to Tim and asked him if he had any side effects. Tim said Saturday evening when he tried to watch a game on TV he couldn’t focus.

I went to my friend “google”, and searched “can the fumes of moonshine make you drunk”? The result….

When alcohol vapor is inhaled, it goes straight from the lungs to the brain and bloodstream, getting the individual drunk very quickly. Because the alcohol bypasses the stomach and liver, it isn’t metabolized, and the alcohol doesn’t lose any of its potency.

Folks, my hubby, who has never taken one sip of alcohol of any kind, had gotten drunk on the fumes from the moonshine!!!  Moonshine!

Let me tell you, we do not drink and getting drunk is not one bit funny, but Summer and I rolled with laughter.  This “staggering” tale is just too good to keep so now you know. It makes me wonder what a breathalyzer test would have showed. Fortunately, he wasn’t drunk-drunk, just drunk enough to stagger.  Now I sure wish I had seen the early morning “stagger” show!!!

Remnants of Florence Passing Through

5:30 p.m.

We are getting hammered right now in Powhatan County (Central Virginia)  with rain. We are having heavy bands of rain and it was eerily dark all day. This evening there is a lot of thunder and lightning with storm clouds boiling.  Within the last hour a funnel cloud was spotted at Flatrock-2 miles east of us and one hit a farm on Petersburg Rd. about 10 miles away.  The Bowlin farm lost a number of trees and a hay barn was damaged. In Chesterfield a tornado hit in the shopping area off 360 and as the reporter was broadcasting live the roof blew off a business as if a bomb went off. It was amazing to watch. They are saying one person was killed.

Just a few pictures of our very minor flooding here on the farm this evening.

View out my front door. Rivers running across the pastures.

The cows were out grazing and paying no attention to the rain.

 

The driveway is a river.

The ditches are full.

Front horse pasture.

7 p.m.

A little bit ago the sun broke through while it was still pouring rain. A huge, beautiful rainbow circled the eastern sky behind the house but it was too faint to get a good picture. One end looked as if it was touching the ground on this side of the woods.

To the south the fog is rising and storm clouds are still floating by.

To the west the sky is clearing and the remaining dark clouds are lined with the brilliant glory of the setting sun.

(This picture doesn’t do justice to the beauty).

After the world-wide flood in the time of Noah, God made a covenant with him and said, “Never shall all flesh be destroyed again by the waters of a flood, neither shall a flood destroy the whole earth again. I am setting my bow (rainbow) in the sky as a reminder of this covenant…..when I see the bow, I will remember.” Genesis 9:11-16

But today is nothing compared to what the residents of North Carolina are experiencing. Today we had 4.2 inches plus the 1.3 inches we had Saturday and Sunday. I don’t want to even imagine what 20-30 plus inches would be like. We are on a ridge and there are no rivers close by. We are blessed. In a few hours life will be back to normal and Florence will have waved good-bye as she hustles north.

Have Wheels, Will Travel

Once upon a time a mama and papa Carolina Wren searched for a place to build a nest. There were many places to choose from on the farm but finally, they found the perfect spot….

The spare tire on the cattle trailer is fastened firmly to the side of the trailer forming a well protected spot inside the rim of the tire.

Quietly and unnoticed, they built their nest and hatched a clutch of four baby wrens.  All was going well until Monday morning at 7 a.m. when Mr. Farmer loaded  calves to take to the stockyard in Lynchburg.  By 9, Mr. Farmer was on the road and did not arrive home until 4 p.m. The trailer was parked back in its normal spot.

Today, Gene and his buddy, Wray, hauled two finished bulls to Fauquier Butcher Shop in Bealeton which is a two hour drive one way. Gene loaded the trailer at 7 this morning and parked the truck and trailer out front of the house until 11 when they hit the road. When they stopped for lunch in Orange at Burger King, Wray noticed that he was hearing birds chirping and they sounded close by but he didn’t think much about it or say anything. When they got to the butcher shop, he realized he was still hearing a lot of chirping. Suddenly, he saw the very upset nest of baby birds looking out of the wheel well wanting food and mama!

It was 4:30 until they arrived back home. Gene pulled the trailer back to its normal parking spot and immediately mama and papa wren set up a big fuss and ruckus. They chirped and chattered loudly and flew in and out of the nest in a frantic search for food for their squawking younguns.

Their nest is tucked in the corner on the left, but these younguns were at the door mad as a hornet and crying for food.

I checked on them two hours later and the babies were sound asleep in the nest but Mr. and Mrs. Wren were close by watching closely. My presence did not go unnoticed!

 

I wonder, what did Mr. and Mrs. Wren do when the babies disappeared? Did they see them go? Did they attempt to follow? Did they figure out they were parked out front several hours? Did they spend the day mourning their loss? Obviously, they immediately knew when they were back.

I am amazed the babies survived almost two days (Monday and Wednesday) without food for such a long period of time. After traveling almost 400 miles, they now have a story to tell: “We have wheels and we will travel!”

Post note:

I did an internet search and discovered that it takes only 12-14 days for Carolina Wren’s to fledge (leave the nest) from the time they hatch. By Sunday (three days), they were gone. Looking at the pictures that is incredible to me that in three days they were ready to be on their own.

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