Cloudy, 28 degrees
Dew Point 22 degree
Wind N @ 8 mph
Snow for the New Year.
Snow is good! It seeps slowly into the soil. This is real good for wheat.
Several folks back East have asked if the stories here are real. Are they perhaps embellished? Stolen? Flat out made up? I guess April 1st would be the best day to answer this because ‘any’ answer would work. But, after a little reflection, talking with family and several pastors, i figured we should start the year ‘clearing the air’.
Truth is vital at the farm.
Very valuable equipment (still amazes me that i can drive around in a machine that costs more than our house) can be severely damaged even ruined if someone won’t speak up….’Hey i forgot to lube the hydraulics this morning.’
Dogs, cows, even people’s lives are at stake working on a farm and truth is the glue that holds everything together. Of course in Western Kansas truth may come a little easier. Grandma said this is because there just aren’t many places to hide. People can see how you are doing. What your crops look like. How you treat your animals. How you treat your equipment. It’s pretty much all out in the open. This ‘farm honesty’ rubs off. Even on this blog. Truth is important. It is valuable.
As Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) said: ‘Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession….
and therefore are economical in its use.’
Yah, in story telling and as well as fishing, it can be necessary to increase the size of the fish just to make the story move along a little bit better. But generally what you read here is the truth….
As Huck Finn said: “There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.”
‘Mark Twain’ 1909
Partly cloudy, 23 degrees
Dew Point 10 degrees
Wind N @ 10 mph
Forecast: Partly cloudy
The bull died today.
All indications are that he died without pain.
All indications are that he had something seriously wrong. Five days after he started showing signs of not feeling well he was dead.
He got sick fast. We hoped it was one of those cases where get sick fast/get well fast. Didn’t happen.
I’ll miss him. He was a good bull. He had a peaceful personality. Didn’t seem to mind my standing next to him. Would move (sometimes) when i pushed him.
I’ve always had a ‘healthy’ respect for cows. They’re big. Really big. They weigh about 1200 pounds.
Cows move quickly. Especially in an enclosed space….like the holding pen. They also spook easily. Will jump when they see a shadow. Of course they can be stubborn and sometimes they won’t move. But cows have legs. And necks. So by pushing a leg or neck they can usually be convinced.
Bulls don’t have necks. Or legs.
They are solid rectangular blocks. 1800 to 2200 pound blocks of muscle. My healthy ‘cow respect’ is doubled around the bulls. There is no chance of bluffing them. If a bull decides he is standing when i want him to move, no amount of shouting, waving my arms or threatening will get him to move.
Around bulls i’ve always got one eye on the bull and one eye on an escape route. Standing next to a bull is a lot different than standing next to a cow.
#37 was different.
Maybe whatever killed him had changed his personality long ago.
Maybe he was just peaceful. Whatever it was there were times i could stand next to him and occasionally have both eyes on him, instead of one on an escape route. He was different.
‘The dog is a gentleman’ said Mark Twain, ‘I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s’. Same could be said for #37.
He was a good bull.
a good bull
Snow, 20 degrees
Dew Point 14 degrees
Wind N @ 25-35 mph
Forecast: Snow, blowing winds
Went into the ‘shed’ to make sure Heidi had water. Heidi is a Brittany hunting dog with a nose that can’t be beat. Her pen is in the shed up against the South wall. She has a new water dish that is heated so it does not freeze.
All of the big equipment is in the shed. And i’m glad to say my ‘new’ grain cart tractor is tucked away from the wind. Actually it is right next to the field tractor, planter, grain cart and i have to admit Bruce has perfected the art of parking the equipment so that everything fits.
A little while later Bruce and i were walking toward the shed and he asked if i noticed what was missing. With my usual lightening assessment skills i accounted for the trucks in the yard, the semi’s out back of the shed and by Bruce’s house, the tractor with the front end loader in the Quonset, the feed cart, the combine next to the…..
Where’s the combine? It should be in the shed with its header parked along the South wall. Right next to Heidi’s pen!
grandma riding in ‘old’ combine
Totally missed missing it. The big tractor and planter take up about the same space and are parked where the combine should be. Of course every thing in the shed is John Deere green, except Heidi.
Seems there is a new combine in our future. An STS; Single Tine Separation system. Instead of having big flat beds of ‘teeth’ to separate the grain from the chaff, it spins the wheat and centrifugal force separates everything. The John Deere dealer down South had some custom-cutters trade in a couple of their combines. Two years old (almost new in the combine business). Not many hours on them. Extended grain bins. Pretty well ‘loaded’.
Bruce and the John Deere folks were able to work out a deal, so we’ll be running a new rig this coming harvest.
Also getting a new header. All and all it should run faster and hold more. Seems like the grain cart driver may have more to do this Summer.
John Deere STS ‘moose combine’
Cloudy, 21 degrees
Dew Point 11 degrees
Wind NNW @ 14 mph
Right after lunch the vet came by.
The bull is just not feeling well.
Three days ago he was out with the cows and very ‘frisky’…..doing his ‘bull thing.’ He is a Hereford. A good-looking young bull with a bright and comfortable future in front of him. He has a laid back attitude. He’ll walk into the holding pen at milking time or maybe just hang out next to the milking parlor just to keep track of ‘his’ cows.
There have been a fair number of bulls at the farm.
Grandma used to tell a story about getting cornered by a bull. She’d been out bringing in the cows by herself. No one else around.
The bull chased her a little ways. Finally got her cornered. He was mad. She says she was never really sure why he was mad, but she could see that she had upset him. He stood there facing her a few feet away, head down, snorting. Started pawing the ground with his front feet.
Keeping her eyes locked on his eyes, Grandma reached over and picked up a large stick. A piece of a tree branch.
Stood there for a few moments, eye to eye.
Then whacked him on the nose.
He jerked his head up and gave Grandma a confused look. She whacked him on the nose again. He jumped back a foot or two. Looked Grandma all over then shook his head, turned around and trotted off. He’d had enough.
Carolyn tells a story about trying to push a bull out of the way. He shook his head and one of her fingers got caught in the ring in his nose. When he pulled his head back she almost lost the finger. It did get cut. Bad enough she had to go get stitches, but not until she finished milking.
Tough women at the farm.
When the vet checked the bull today he was able to do the exam in the holding pen. Even did a rectal exam….did the exam without having to restrain the bull. The bull just stood there. Not normal for a bull, or any other bovine for that matter. The bull is definitely not well. No temperature. No runny nose. The vet said he could feel a mass, almost where a lymph node should be, but the mass was way bigger than a swollen lymph node.
The vet gave the bull some meds.
He’s a young bull. He’s tough. If he is as tough as the women on the farm he’ll make it.
Only time will tell.
Cloudy, 20 degrees
Dew Point 17 degrees
Wind N @ 5 mph
Forecast: Cloudy, cold
All i wanted to do was find some chain. John Deere chain.
Chains are not as ‘universal’ as hydraulic hoses, but a whole lot of farm equipment uses chain. Chain off the old planter is ideal. It is slightly larger than bicycle chain. It is steel so can take welding heat and not melt. It also has JD stamped on it here and there. A great chain for turning into artwork.
Generally we don’t throw anything away. In the middle of harvest, a small piece of metal with an edge on one side might be just the piece needed to fix the combine header and get it back in the field. Farm work is directed by heat and cold and rain and sun and dry and wet and there is no way to control these. When its time to be in the field, its time to be in the field. Equipment must be ready not waiting for parts to come from the dealer.
Bruce has got welding rigs, grinders, anvils, drills, compressors, threaders, wire-pliers, hammers, sockets, tools of all shapes and kinds. Just about anything needed to fix farm equipment….or make art.
So i wanted a little more chain and barbed-wire. Started poking around the Quonset. Recently Bruce had moved things around so the front of the Quonset was more open. The metal table, drill press, etc were moved back. The area where they used to be cleaned up. So i sorted stuff into three piles. Stuff i wanted to use. Stuff i knew to save. Stuff i just wasn’t sure about. Figured Bruce could then sort through the last pile and decide what to keep and what to throw on the flatbed and then to the recycling yard.
the new metal working area
Cloudy, 22 degrees
Dew Point 16 degrees
Wind N @ 9 mph
Forecast: Cloudy, cold
Pam & Don & their kids got here on Christmas day. John & Jan got here yesterday and left today after Janelle & David & their kids got here. (Janelle is John & Jan’s daughter). As always family are coming and going. Since there is no fieldwork to do there have been a few more Pinochle games. Sometimes two tables full of players at a time.
Today has also been filled with work in the Quonset. Bruce and Clayton Michael moved some stuff around….including the big metal working bench. This is where i like to play metal artist. Bruce has also been putting scrap metal on the big flatbed trailer. This rearrangement led me to cleaning out scrap metal under some of the cabinets, just to make sure no potential art was thrown away. My cleaning led Bruce to come out and help just to make sure no potential repair materials were thrown away. The upshot of the whole effort was that we made a fair dent on cleaning the Quonset and a fair pile on the trailer.
Butterballs for dinner!
A Mai family standard.
Butterballs are small dumplings, awesomely rich, cooked in chicken noodle soup. This time the soup was a mix of chicken and turkey. Also had a vegetarian version. We’ve had more vegetarian fare over the last few years, because more of the family are leaning toward vegetarianism. Some are hard-core. Some moderate. But it has certainly spiced up the menu.
But vegetarian or carnivore, butterball soup is a standard.
Cloudy, 12 degrees
Dew Point 10 degrees
Wind NW @ 5-7 mph
Forecast: Cloudy, cold
A few weeks ago the Western Kansas World (http://www.smalltownpapers.com/newspapers/newspaper.php?id=418) reported on the annual Christmas lights contest. This is for the town only. No farms, which is probably good. A few years ago we came up w/a plan to do several tractors and the combine. Sequential lights so it would look like the combine header (the part that cuts the wheat) was moving. Same with the tires. Same set up for the grain cart and tractor. Even had a plan for lights coming out of the combine auger so it looks like it is off-loading into the grain cart.
Saw a YouTube video of some sheep in Wales with LED lights on their backs forming pictures at night. Figured the cows would go along with this. Once the plans were laid a quick search of the internet showed that the lights, timers, power supply would pretty well use up the money from the entire wheat crop for a year.
This evening John & Jan (from Kansas), Pam & Don (from Colorado), Carolyn & Bob (from North Carolina) headed into town to drive around as a three-state judging crew. For an hour we drove around. We even ended up driving down dirt roads that were clearly not within the town limits, but John, Pam & Carolyn insisted that someone they knew used to live ‘right down here on the North side’. Our first place went to some folks on the Northeast side of town. They even had lights on the ground outlining some trees and these were covered in snow. The lights shinning from under the snow was a definite plus. A search of Google Earth shows that their house is visible from low earth orbit.
WaKeeney has a real ‘old time’ feel at Christmas. Kind of like A Christmas Story. All the ‘kids’ (John, Bruce, Carolyn, Pam) say the street decorations are just like they remember from their youth.
But just wait until the oil well comes in! We’ll show them a farm to be reckoned with.
Christmas in downtown WaKeeney