Finally, the Big Day

I separated Big Mama from her calf yesterday afternoon.  She is NOT happy with me.  The calf didn’t seem to care yesterday but by this morning was downright annoyed with the whole situation.  They are separated by galvanized panels and nonclimb horse wire on all sides.  They can see each other which is alternately comforting and frustrating, but nursing through the fence is not possible. 


The constant bellowing has the neighbors’ livestock talking too.   Bellows of concern and sympathy from Miguel’s cows and brays of annoyance from Tomas’ donkey.   Things should quiet down in a few days.  Lucky for me, most of the racket is during the daylight hours and I am away from home for work most of those hours on weekdays. 

Big Mama has access to the big pasture now which is positively overgrown with winter grasses and the spring coastal.  I will be feeding her half rations of the pelleted feed for the next two or three weeks to help her dry up.  Less feed should give her even more incentive to wander down to the big pasture and the distance will help her wean emotionally from her calf.  She is bred back and should calve again next fall.  This will give her six months or so to rebuild physically.  As aggravated as she is with me right now, this is for her own good.  Even the pacing up and down between the pasture and the barn is good for her. Image

I had concerns about turning Big Mama out with the horses because of her horns and her cranky attitude but I found out this morning, those worries were unfounded.  Big Mama was the first to show up for breakfast this morning but when the horses came up behind her, they made one half-hearted charge in her direction and Big Mama ducked for the safety of her feed stall.  She might have ruled the front paddock these past several months but she definitely doesn’t rule the pasture! 

I ordered two of these from Jeffers online this morning.


Not the goat, just the halter.  Dexters are small cattle, regular calf halters fit most full grown cows.  But medium sized goat halters like these supposedly work great for the calves.  They should arrive by the end of the week and then it will be a rodeo to wrestle them onto the calves.  Big Mama’s milk supply should dry up in a month or so, but I will be keeping them separated until her calf and Lulubelle are gentle enough to halter and lead.   That’s what I’ll tell them when I’m wrestling the halters on them too …be good and learn your lessons, then you can graduate to the big pasture! 


Finished … mostly

From staking the stall barn on March 3rd to finally attaching the ridge vent on April 3rd, it took a month but I now have a two barns.  One for sheltering the livestock and storing feed, the other for storing extra round bales and equipment.


The total footprint of this barn is approximately 30×24, consisting of three 10×24 bays.  My galvanized panels pin together for easy configuration and I have used them to create a feed storage in the middle bay and a shared feed stall in the bay closest to me.  From this vantage point, there is a small spring-fed pond beyond the barn and the road is beyond that.  I left the third bay totally open to provide shelter for any stock confined to the front paddock.  The barn sits near the corner of my side fence and the fence that separates the front paddock from the big pasture.  So I used more panels to create a weaning pen in that corner.  The pen includes 20×12 feet underneath the barn roof which is the space to the right of the horses and the feed stall in this picture.  The whole pen is about 50×50 which is a good size for my purposes.  I needed an area large enough for them to move around a little, but small enough for me to corner them when it’s time to start halter and lead breaking.  They will have shelter from wind and rain under the barn and shade from several tall pine trees that line the fence behind the barn.   It should a low-stress arrangement since I will set up a round bale for Big Mama between the pond and the barn so she will be in their line of sight at all times.  There will be bawling and objections for a few days from both sides of the fence, but it’s coming time.

That dark object behind the horses is my new squeeze chute which sits at the front edge of that open bay.  Eventually, I will add panels to create an alley leading to either the chute or the feed area behind the barn …the cattle won’t know which until they get there which will hopefully make them calmer on days I need to run them through the chute.

The front half (left half in this picture) of the middle bay is my feed storage area.  Floyd built me a wood deck, approximately 6×8, in the center of that bay so my metal feed barrels will be up off the ground.  The deck is moveable so if I come up with a better configuration later on, I don’t have to dismantle anything.

I set up panels all around the feed stall that I can just wing open and back the truck in when I need to unload feed or hay.  I tested that little feature out this morning when I unloaded and stacked six square bales onto the deck.  Worked just like I hoped it would …love it when that happens!


I won’t be able to move my feed barrels for a couple of weeks.  Too much feed in them at the moment but by the end of the month, everything should be centralized at the barn.  Things are shaping up!


Slow Progress

The barn guy (hereafter referred to as Floyd because that’s actually his name and because it’s a whole lot fewer keystrokes to type than ‘the barn guy’) called me Monday afternoon and asked if they could go ahead and start my barns this week.  Yippee …a project schedule that gets moved up instead of moved back!  I said sure! 

I was home by 5:00pm and Floyd and his two helpers proceeded to stake out the stall barn where I told them I wanted it.  One minor change that came up that day is that Floyd wrote down 24×30 and 20×24 or my dimensions (instead of 20×30 and 20×20) …so that was what he figured when he did the quote.  I was happy with the final number so I was real happy to find out I was getting some extra elbow room for my money.  Works for me!  I was so excited to think I would have both barns in place by the end of the month instead of just starting to build them at the end of the month.

But by 8:00pm, they had staked and re-staked and re-staked again the one stall barn and couldn’t seem to get it square.  Floyd knows what he’s doing but his helpers were new to him and weren’t really taking direction well.  He told me when they left, he would re-stake it himself the next morning and not to worry, the barn would be square when it was finished.  I told him it sure would or he’d have to start over.  He laughed kind of nervous like but I wasn’t laughing.  One of our barns at our last place was home-made by the previous owners and not square and it was a booger to work on. 

When I got home Tuesday evening, the stall barn was staked AND square and it only took them one try and about 45 minutes to stake the hay barn.  Progress.  All of the materials were delivered today, but there’s been no other progress.  They were packed up and gone when I got home at 4:45, so I called Floyd to see how it was going.  He said they were bringing a bobcat with an auger Thursday morning and would punch all twenty-one holes for the uprights.  He figured three holes per hour (heavy clay in places) so that will be an all day job.  When they come back Friday, they’ll have traded the bobcat for a fork lift so they can move the materials and set the poles in the holes.  Concrete will be poured Saturday and they should start on the roof on Monday. 

As a side note and a favor to me, Floyd offered to use the forklift to move my new squeeze chute into place in one of the bays in the new stall barn.  That’s a big relief to me.  I was wondering just how I was going to accomplish that! 





Finally …

When Yeoldfurt and I moved up here nearly 8 years ago, we both agreed the only thing this place lacked for our needs was a barn.  There were run-in sheds in the pasture, storage sheds in the yard and a three car garage …but no barn.  So for nearly 8 years now, the horses and the tractor have lived outside in the elements …all day, everyday.  The horses have handled it better than the tractor, I must say.  They were fat and sassy when we moved here and are still fat and sassy today.  But the tractor is rustier and harder to start than ever, definitely showing it’s age.  So I decided it’s time to build a barn. 

My first thoughts were grandiose.  I envisioned a structure big enough to provide shelter for the livestock, covered storage space for equipment and extra hay, an enclosed feed room and some kind of covered work space for when the vet or farrier ..a veritable mega-barn.  At first glance, having everything under one roof might sound convenient, even efficient.  But the concept is problematic when the functions are that many and that different.  I knew I needed to scale back my plans but  everything seems necessary so what to cut?  

Yeoldfurt never liked the idea of storing hay in a livestock barn because hay because of the risk of fire so that was the first thing crossed off the list.  I almost resigned myself to NOT storing extra bales …just buying hay on an as-need basis, one or two bales at a time.  That’s how I do it now but it’s more expensive and if we have another prolonged drought, it becomes nearly impossible to find hay exactly when you need it.  Everyone’s heard the old saying ‘make hay while the sun shines.’   Well a good companion philosophy in my opinion is ‘BUY hay when it’s available.’   But then it dawned on me, I could build two separate structures.  One will be a 20×20 hay barn which will store up to four round bales and the tractor.  The other will be a 20×30 stall barn that will provide shade and shelter for the livestock and feed and space to work out of the weather.  Both will be ‘open air’ for now, no walls …just a roof.  I will add walls one at a time as I can pay for them and I’ll use tarps on the north and west walls in the meantime for shade and windbreak. 

The hay barn will be in the turnaround at the bottom of the driveway which is where the hay is generally delivered anyway.  From there I have easy access to any of the pasture areas where I would put out a round bale.  It is also easy access to the shop where I have the tools necessary to work on the tractor if that becomes necessary.  The stall barn will be in the front paddock which is close to the house and driveway …easy access in and out access to unload feed or load up livestock.  It’s also close to the house so twice daily feeding chores are more efficient. 

I already have a bid from a reliable contractor who has done work for me before.  He will be back the last weekend this month to stake the two building sites and said he should be able to finish both in under two weeks.  Pictures when they’re done. 


I’m Back …or Am I?

My one and only previous post via WordPress was published over 18 months ago.    I don’t know if I have anything worthwhile to say but I do know that I’ve missed blogging.  It’s an outlet.  It’s therapeutic in it’s own way …even the posts that you spill your guts to write but never actually publish.  The spilling is what brings the relief.   Have you ever gotten frustrated with trying to find something in a bag or toolbox that’s over full and the contents are tangled together?  Dig, shuffle, dig some more and you still can’t put your hands on that one thing you need.  It helps to just dump everything out, find what you need and then look at each of the other pieces and decide whether to put them back.  Your heart is the same way.  Sometimes you just need to dump it all out to see what’s there …what’s worth keeping, what’s not.

I miss Yeoldfurt.  It’s seven months today since he passed and I think the mental fog has begun to lift.   I’m past the stress and confusion of going through probate and past the panic of will I be able to make it on my own financially.  I find myself making choices now that are actually choices and not just knee jerk reactions.   Everything is the same as far as goals, needs, aspirations …and yet everything is different because one cannot do everything that two could do.  I cannot do everything WE could do …at least not using the same methods.    So I do what can, by whatever means I can and hope for the best.

I hope that blogging again will help me organize my thoughts, find a focus …stay focused.  At the end of the day, the week, the year, I want to be able to look back see that something was accomplished.  Even if it’s just a lesson learned on what NOT to do.






Another Refugee from Blogger

After more than three years of posting with blogspot ,  I have finally resigned myself to making the move to wordpress.   The last six months on blogspot have been one frustrating experience after another …widgets that appeared and disappeared seemingly at their own discretion, posts that just evaporated somewhere between the preview and the publish process, and the latest and final straw …blogspot won’t allow me to sign in at all.   When I try, it throws me to my wildblue login page.  I give up. 

Several of my friends, followers and acquaintances in the blogosphere ditched Blogger for WordPress months ago …and strongly suggested that I do the same.  Well, sometimes I’m slow to convince but here I am.  For now.  But if I even begin to experience the same issues with WordPress, I will just give up blogging altogether.  So be warned, WordPress …be nice or I be gone!