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Archive for the ‘barn’ Category

When we first moved to the acreage, we got cats.  Well, we had some indoor only cats that came with us from Alberta, but we got some barn cats right away, as there had been a lot of grain storage on this place, which meant there were plenty of mice.  We started out with three barn cats through an SPCA program – Stevie, Bobby, and Molly.

Stevie

Stevie, the (late) Barn Cat

Bobby

Bobby the (former) Barn Cat

Molly

Molly, the (former) Barn Cat (when she was much, much skinnier!)

The cats did a great job of keeping the rodent population in check, and were fun companions while we were doing outside work.

 

Unfortunately, Stevie had to be put down, after we found him, paralyzed, in the hay stack.  We never did figure out what happened, but our best guess is that he tried to jump between bale stacks and missed.  The vets did their best, but were unable to fix him up.  We were pretty cut up about that.  There’s really no such thing as ‘only’ a barn cat around here – they’re all pets.

 

When we sold the goats in late 2015, the barn, which was not heated, got to be pretty cold, and we worried about Molly and Bobby out there.   We had always figured that all three of the barn cats had been somebody’s pets at some point – they were just too tame and friendly to be anything else.  We ended up deciding to try them in the house, to see if it would work out okay with the other house pets.  In the end, it went well enough, and Molly and Bobby moved indoors for good.

 

We ran into some problems in the spring of 2016, though – a couple of skunks started hanging around, and ended up getting into the chicken coop, killing several hens.  We’d never had an issue with skunks before, and were kind of surprised by the whole thing.  Later, though, in speaking to local farmers, we were told that 2015 and 2016 were both crazy years for skunks – one neighbor had shot over a dozen skunks in a one-month period in 2015, and almost as many in the month prior to our chicken incident.

 

We talked it over, and realized that, besides the goats, the only difference between spring, 2015 and spring 2016, for us, was the cats.  So we went back to the SPCA, and brought home a couple more bundles of joy – Oscar and Millie:

Oscar

Oscar the Barn Cat, who thinks he’s a dog!

Milly

Milly the (occasionally psycho) Barn Cat

Our assessment appears to have been right – that barn cats keep skunks away.  We haven’t seen or smelled one since we brought these two home, and this is the time of year we would expect to really start seeing them.  My theory is that cats and skunks occupy the same ecological niche, and that the cats, being territorial, won’t tolerate skunks in their home territory.   Or maybe the skunks don’t like the competition, and stay away.  Regardless, we’re relieved not to have any more skunk problems, and Oscar and Millie are doing a good job of keeping rodents under control, as well.   If you are running into issues with skunks, you might consider a barn cat or two!

 

 

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Other kids get a play pen.  Actually, Baby M has two of those.  One for inside in the living room (which he mostly only sleeps in now), and one for the barn (which got taken over by baby goats, and stinks).  However, they don’t suffice.

 

You see, doing barn chores, or yard work, or really anything at all with an eleven-month-old in tow is basically impossible.  He wants to be held.  If he isn’t being held, he wants to explore.  He “helps”.  Baby M throws down anything you pick up.  He scatters piles.  He screams and scares the goats.  He pinches.  He puts things in his mouth that are not strictly edible.  Or that are just disgusting.  His clothes get filthy.  And so forth.

 

However, the work does not stop just because there’s a baby on the farm.  We managed for the first ten months by trading off – I would supervise Baby M while Hubby shoveled, for instance, then Hubby would parent while I did evening chores.  That was mostly functional for the day-to-day stuff, and my Dad and Step-Mom would occasionally come out and help for the two (or more) person jobs that we couldn’t manage anymore, like vaccination and tattooing.  Occasionally frustrating, but the necessary stuff got accomplished.

 

Then I went back to work.

 

And yard work season hit; spring finally arrived.

 

Now, we still trade off for chores, and for evening-and-weekend stuff like mowing grass and pruning trees.  However, there’s a lot to be done that just won’t fit into my before-and-after-work hours.  And somebody has to do it, baby or no baby.  So we built the Hay Pen.

 

Hay Pen 1

 

The Hay Pen is sort of like a play pen…but completely different.  We made a perimeter of hay bales around a relatively clean bit of ground in the barn, out of the way, but still in sight of the places we would tend to be when we were, say, milking goats or feeding bottle kids.  This has the added advantage of freeing up two adults for dealing with worming, vaccinations, disbudding, and such.  Luckily, Baby M seems to like the Hay Pen, especially when Molly Underfoot the barn cat comes to play.  Baby M does not, however, like the baby goats, who jump on the bales and nip M’s ears.

 

There may eventually be hay pens all over the yard.  There needs to be one behind the barn, where Hubby will be putting the squash this year, and one in the big garden.  Hubby is contemplating one in the back yard, too, so he can prune trees, rake grass, and pick strawberries without having to pay too much attention to Baby M.   We have a big garden wagon hat Baby M could hang out in, but he always wants to stand up, but the sides are too low for that to be safe.  With all the thistles and nettles in the grass, a blanket on the ground isn’t really ideal, either.   In the Hay Pen, Baby M can pull himself up on the hay bales, and cruise around quite quickly; he’s beginning to walk, too, so he’ll have a safe space to practice that as well.  Being made of old bales, we can make the pens as large as we like; even two or three bales to a side, if that’s how much space M needs to be happy.  Meanwhile, Molly Underfoot always seems to gravitate to where the baby is, and seems very tolerant of M’s less-than-gentle attentions, so she will provide hours and hours of entertainment, I’m sure…

 

Hay Pen 2

 

 

 

 

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Operator Error.

Well, I’m long since back from Alberta, but having the odd struggle with getting back into the routine.

 

Yesterday, I went out to do the evening goat chores, and the girls managed to bust out of their yard while I was over feeding the boys.  The hook-and-fencing-staple system which had been a ‘good enough’ gate latch for almost two years…suddenly wasn’t.  We have known for ages that the staple had been slowly working its way out of the post, and had even pounded it back in a few times.  We even had an eye bolt that we could have installed weeks (or more) ago, but we got lazy.  Operator error.

 

Tonight, again doing evening chores, there was another goat escape.   We tie the girls up to feed them their grain, as everyone is on a different feeding program, depending on age and pregnancy/lactation status.  We’ve rigged up a system of leashes on the posts in the girls’ yard, where each doe can be tied out of reach of the others, and I can put down individual buckets for them.  The girls are used to the routine, and it takes about a minute to tie them all up, as long as you do it in the right order.

 

Well, tonight, I had tied up the girls as usual, and served up their grain.  While they were eating, I filled their water bucket as I always do, and was just going through the stall door to put hay in their stall when they all started kicking up a huge fuss.  Missy and Saffron, in particular, were lunging about so violently that they were choking themselves.  I dropped the hay and ran out into the yard, thinking that huge coyote was back.  Looking in the direction that all the goats were facing, I saw…

 

…two white bunnies, running back and forth.  Frolicking, even.

 

“But they could have had teeth, Mom”, six sets of wide goaty eyes said to me.  “Big, sharp, pointy teeth…”

 

Bleh.  I checked the buckets, and everyone was already finished their grain, so I unhooked them all to chase them into the stall for the night.  Of course, being flighty creatures, nobody would go into the stall – when I chased them, they shied away from the barn door, and looped back around to the far end of their yard, where they stopped dead and stared, quivering, at the last point where the rabbits had been spotted.  Stupid goats.

 

I grabbed them one by one, and shoved them into the stall, latching the barn door behind me each time.  However, seconds after I shoved the last goat into the stall, a couple of goat faces popped out the other barn door.  The one that their inside stall door should have prevented them from getting to.  Oh, yeah.  That stall door that was hanging open when I dropped the hay to rescue the stupid goats who were trying to hang themselves over a couple of frolicking bunnies.

 

Operator error, again.

 

Maybe tomorrow night will go a little more smoothly…

 

 

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Eighty Eight Pounds

…give or take a few.

 

We don’t have electricity in the barns, nor to we have running water to either of them.  Instead, we haul water in buckets.  Five and six gallon buckets, to be precise – two of them.  Twice a day.  Right now, we’re also hauling half-full (but partially or completely frozen) buckets back to the house, too, to allow them to thaw.  In the summer, when it’s hot, we haul full buckets out, and empty ones back, which is rather easier, though that’s sometimes a three-trip-per-day job in the hottest weather.

 

I worked out how much they weigh, and it came to about forty-four pounds per (full) five-gallon bucket.   Eighty-eight pounds out to the barn, and probably about fifty pounds back to the house.   It’s a few hundred yards from the house to the barn when you’re not carrying buckets (or carrying empty buckets), but it’s about seven miles, uphill both ways, when those buckets are full.

 

At least I get to save on gym memberships…

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…Yeah, what can I say.  The strawberry plants are up and filling out, but it will be a while yet before we have any strawberries.  Same deal with the rhubarb.  Our early peas are up, but only a couple of inches, so I won’t be snacking on them anytime soon, either.   The lettuce and spinach and radishes I planted a while back are growing, but are a long ways from being big enough to harvest.  Even the dandelions are just beginning to flower, now (I’ve been waiting – if I can find enough dandelions, and enough energy to pick a couple of gallons of them, I might make wine…)

 

The tomatoes and other plant starts are getting leggy in the window, but we’re still a couple of weeks from last frost date for this area.  We’re zone 2, and I believe June 1 is considered the “safe” date.  We may push that a bit, as the weather has been very nice, and really, we have lots of sheets to cover the tender stuff if we need to.  Having said that, though, we’re still just too early.   Hubby has been out turning garden beds and getting everything ready; with all that prep work out of the way, planting should be a breeze, once we decide it’s time.  Maybe, maybe, we can get away with it by the middle of next week, but not a whole lot sooner…

 

I got a call from one of the tree nurseries that one of our tree orders shipped yesterday.  If I remember correctly, that one was a couple of pear trees, plus a plum, I think, and maybe some raspberries.  I started out with the intention of getting a single pear tree to replace the pollenator that never did grow last summer…I should have known better!  I will have to figure out where to put the extras, and also I will have to run to town to pick the trees up from the bus station when they get in, which makes it hard to plan my day for today and maybe tomorrow.  We have another order coming sometime soon, from another place, that is mostly berry bushes; again, we will need to decide where to put everything.

 

Baby is due in just four weeks, now.  We had an ultrasound yesterday, and baby is in excellent health, though measuring quite large.  The doctor estimated he was just over 8 pounds already, even with a month left to go.  Now, I am not a little lady, and Hubby is also a tall guy, so I was not expecting a petite 5-pounder, but I was sort of hoping baby wouldn’t be too big…I may be completely out of luck with that.  We still have a lot to do before I will feel ‘ready’ for baby to arrive – finish the painting in the house, clean carpets, get all the furniture back into its designated rooms, assemble baby furniture, plant the garden and the trees, plus some routine stuff in the barn like trimming hooves and such; I don’t know if we’ll get it all done or not.   We might, if baby does not come early; I sure hope he sticks to his due date, though I know better than to hold my breath on that, too.

 

Between trees and seeds and things I’ve ordered and packages people are sending, I am checking for the mailman every hour, almost.  We only get mail twice a week – Tuesdays and Fridays – but our mailbox is big enough that the mailman often brings smaller packages right out, instead of just leaving us a pickup notice.  Hopefully he’ll be early today, but he usually does not get here until the afternoon.  It would be good if he came before I had to run into town for those trees – then I could collect any other packages that happen to arrive.  It’s a little early for the things I have ordered, but a girl can hope…

 

We have company coming all summer – new babies make a family popular, I guess, and a number of people were planning to come out and see the place anyhow, so now we’re doubly so.  Our first guests will be arriving in about three weeks – just before the baby does.  Hubby’s brother and sister in law are coming up from the States with their three kids, and we’re excited to see them.   The house is nowhere near ready for company, though, so we’ve got some work to do – the aforementioned painting and furniture re-arranging, in particular.  We’re working in the master bedroom, right now, so our bed is in the livingroom, while the dressers and shelves are in the nursery…certainly, there is no space for five extra people until we get that sorted out!  Hubby is working like a madman, though, and plans to have the bedroom done by the end of this weekend, so we can start getting organized after that, which should go fairly quickly.

 

With the plants and the trees and the packages and the baby, it feels a little like a waiting game, even though we’re plenty busy.  I do stop frequently to put my feet up and rest, which gives me entirely too much time to think and fuss, but if I open a book to distract myself, I tend to get a little too distracted, and finish the thing before I get up again.  This has led to yet another amazon order, as I started two different fiction series that I did not have all the books for, and they’ve both turned out to be very engaging, but they’re not available at the bookstore in town.  So now I’m waiting (impatiently) for books, too…

 

 

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Winter has finally arrived in Saskatchewan.  The other day, Hubby went out to do morning chores, and a frozen chicken fell out of the rafters at him.  She must have been hiding when Hubby rounded everyone up for the night, and gone up to roost in the barn rafter, and not been able to stay warm enough out there by herself.  You’d think she’d have let herself in with the other chickens (the same way she’d let herself out – flying over the stall door), but they don’t really tend to move once it’s dark.  She was apparently frozen quite solid.  It was only minus twenty-something that night. 

 

Only.

 

Last night, the forecast was for -40.  We finally broke down and ran an extension cord out to the barn, to plug in a heat lamp.  Up until now, we had not done any additional heating or lighting in the barn – we’re trying to be as off-grid as possible.  Instead, we laid down extra bedding, and piled bales of straw up against the doors where the drafts come in.  The barn itself is not really insulated, except for the hay, which is piled in one half of the barn, and the straw bales we’ve added.  There is an inside layer of wooden siding, which cuts the draft, but not much else. The roof is not insulated at all – no hayloft or anything, as the building originally stored grain, rather than being designed as a northern barn.  We also take the water buckets out steaming hot, but they freeze solid in an hour or two.  The critters have learned to drink right away when we water them, and don’t seem to be too phased by the whole thing.

 

Up until the frozen chicken attack, we hadn’t had any real issues with the cold.  Of course, it hadn’t really been all that cold until recently, but even the nights that reached -25, the barn has consistently stayed substantially warmer than outdoor temperatures, so we hadn’t worried much.  With five goats, two alpacas, however many chickens, and three cats, there are lots of bodies throwing heat.   However, we’re getting down to those frostbite-in-fifteen-seconds sorts of temperatures, where I bundle up like a snowman just to walk across the parking lot at work, and we don’t want the critters to suffer.  That heat lamp isn’t going to raise the temperatures to tropical or anything, but it should mitigate the risk of frostbitten ears and combs.

 

Our next barn is going to have a hayloft, and some sort of interior insulation.  Or maybe just a couple of horses and a cow (for the body heat, of course).  We’re certain it is possible to get our livestock through a northern winter without electricity – lights or heat – but we’ll need a proper building to do it in…

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The two baby goats are growing up quick…physically.  They are still playful babies, but big enough now to do some real damage.  Silly, the baby girl, had taken to playing a game of running into the stall from outside, then ramping off the stall door.  We had anticipated those sorts of baby goat antics, and built the door plenty heavy, then attached it with long screws and heavy hinges.  Unfortunately, all of that just meant that Silly just broke the door framing, instead.

 

We don’t have a truck, of course, and so there is no way to get materials here to repair the stall door.  The remaining stall is far too small to accommodate four goats and two alpacas.  Since we’ve been working on fencing another yard with a convenient little old empty square granary (for the buckling and the alpacas), we decided to separate everyone at night, with all of the girls in the remaining stall, and the buckling and alpacas outside in the yard.

 

The alpacas are impressive mosquito magnets, crawling with them even when there are only one or two on the goats, and none bothering me.   They really like the chickens being in the yard, and even tolerate the birds hopping on them to pick at bugs when they are lying down.   They had become quite accustomed to going into the barn at night, where the chickens keep the mosquitoes down, and they have not been terribly impressed at us chasing them back out into the yard when we close up at night.

 

Silly, the instigator in this whole mess, has been a real pain about matters.  She and Tuscan (the buck) have been together since birth, and she is not taking the separation well.  She bleats and bleats, making the most pitiful (and annoying) noise for hours each night.  She has been jumping at the door of the stall that leads to the yard, too, and it is only a matter of time before she breaks that, as well.

 

Tuscan, for his part, makes a fair bit of noise for a few minutes after the stall door is closed, but settles down fairly quickly.  He was a damp, bedraggled goat this morning, though, as a flash thunderstorm rolled through last night, dumping an inch or two of rain in under half an hour, sometime between 11 and midnight.  I think the poor boy was probably pretty cold.  It’s really too bad, as this is not his fault, but hopefully we can get the boys’ yard done soon…

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