October 31, 2005 – Graveside at Halloween

Note: Today’s post deals somewhat graphically with death and burial of animal remains. If that makes you uncomfortable, you may want to skip reading this post.

Today didn’t go as planned. I didn’t envision I’d be outside after dark on a chilly Halloween evening beside a shallow grave, watching the steam rise up from the intestines and assorted other organs of the sheep.

I knew I’d be burying sheep offal, just never thought it would be after the 10 o’clock news. I asked the locker to call call me after the sheep were slaughtered so I could retrieve the lambskins to start the first part of the tanning process. They promised they would. The renderer does not take sheep offal, so the farmer has to take the remains and dispose of them.

So I kept checking the phone every 15 minutes or so. I’m told if a hide isn’t quickly salted down, the hair will fall off later in the tanning process. Nine am passes, 10 am, 11 am, noon. One pm, finally I can’t stand it any longer and decide to drive in before I pick the girls up from school to either pick up the skins because they forgot to call me or see when they would be done.

The “Critter Ridder” does the slaughtering. His truck advertises he will get rid of problem bats, raccoons, skunks, moles, feral cats. etc. His side job is slaughtering the animals for the locker. I wonder if the guidance counselor in high school was disturbed when the results of his career interest survey came back.

Critter Ridder tells me he is way behind as there were a couple of emergency cows that came in and that the lambs should be ready around 6:00-6:30. I return then (missing trick-or-treating) to find nothing at the slaughter house. The lambs are not in the outside pen where I left them, nor are the lambskins and offal outside, nor is anybody there. I wait around for a half hour or so, hoping he had just run to get some smokes or a bite to eat.

I resign myself to thinking I’ve missed the boat on these skins. Around 9:30 he calls and says they are ready to pick up. I run to town to pick them up and when I return home, start rubbing the salt into the hides. There is something satisfying about this step. I don’t know if it is reminiscent of earlier times when hide tanning was an important skill for survival, whether I’m feeling good about using the a part of the animal most people throw away, but at any rate, rubbing the salt into the hides is satisfying.

After the hides are all salted down, it’s time to drag the offal into the pasture to the hole that Martin and I dug earlier in the day. As the darkness and chilly air surround me, I hear more than one strange sound as the offal falls into the shallow grave. In the darkness, I fill the hole with dirt, happy that this part of the day is finally over.

October 30, 2005 – Sheep Gone

Today many small events overlapped. Our friend and favorite Guiness Book of Record holder and one of the, if not THE, nation’s top amaranth curator stopped by to harvest the seed increase we grew out for him. The girl’s piano teacher and her husband stopped by to look at our corn stove. The kids had a fun time walking inside a round section of a small bin, walking inside like a rat on a treadmill.

It was also the day to bring the lambs in to the locker. Many people may think it’s kind of corny, but I always make a point to verbally thank the animals for their gift to us before I drive away. I have no doubt that their lives were much better than most of their brethren, many of whom are confined to small spaces eating a diet of primarily grains to fatten up quickly instead of grasses for which their rumens were made. Claire has a name for them – “Happy Meat.” She fiddled with vegetarianism for a while and eventually decided she would eat only “Happy Meat.” (I don’t think there is any happy meat in a “happy meal” under the golden arches.)

Our customers are looking forward to the meat and bringing their friends into the table. It is rewarding for the customers to really look forward to their annual special meat arrival.

October 28, 2005 – Green Machines

Our neighbor has finished up all his harvesting and brought some equipment over to store in our shed. Here’s Marty getting a ride in the tractor.

Today my Nikon digital camera went on the fritz. I bought the first one new and it had this problem, so I bought the same model used off ebay and it worked for a few months before developing the same problem. I guess Nikon digitals don’t share the lineage of their 35 mm SLR predecessors. So I will be without photos until the new camera arrives. I really want the Canon that accepts lenses from my old SLR, but the budget called for an inexpensive point and shoot.

October 27, 2005 – Lad from Liverpool

It’s not often that one of the Beatles stops in Iowa to play a song or two, but tonight Paul McCartney was in town and we brought the girls. It must be hard to select just 2 1/2 hours of songs from the Beatles/Wings library. A good time was had by all. What struck me is how many of the songs are just a part of everyday life and how the ladies must still go nuts for those puppy-dog eyes!
sir paul

I still remember (for no good real reason) as a college student driving from a lake in Northern Wisconsin late at night with two guys (let’s call them “Mike” and “Tommy”) and for some reason we had the tape recorder on taping a variety show of sorts while we traveled. For some reason that made sense at the time, there is a particular painful version of “Hey Jude” with the three of the harmonally-challenged guys singing along. If I recall, the playback revealed the “na-na-nas” were particularly painful. I’ll have you all know that singing along 20 years later with 18,000 or more people, the “na-na-nas” sounded much better with my mature voice!

As far as a concert experience, the songs were all played pretty true to the originals – to my ears, the later Beatles and Wings songs (Band in the Run, Jet, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) lent themselves much better to the stage than the earlier Beatles tunes. “Let it Be” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” worked well as stripped-down versions. I would have preferred more improvisation and letting the two young guitarists loose, but nonetheless, it was a show to remember.

October 26, 2005 – Corn Crib Project

Now that the steel has arrived, I am beginning work on the corn crib. This fall, I’m going to put steel siding on about half the building and do the rest next year. I built some racks inside one section of the crib to store lumber and need to keep the water and snow out – so I’m closing up one side and parts of two other sides.
Here’s the crib before (but notice the nice roof from year’s gone by!)
Everything flowed today and it was an easy job (no windows or doors and only one piece to cut). I could have used more than 1 1/4 people (Martin could hand me a drill when I was holding the unfastened pieces in place, but that was about it). I just have part of the top two rows of screws to put in and the west side will be done.

October 25, 2005 – New Puppy for the Farm

After our experience with Blue and the confidence Emma has gained in dog training, we now have a new puppy. Her name was Missy, but nobody really cares for that name, so we are thinking of a new name. We were leaning towards Maizzie, but when Martin says that it comes out like Macey. So we’ll decide tomorrow and get on with it. We got her from the animal rescue league – she is about 4 months old and a mixed breed that contains some spaniel.

October 24, 2005 – An Afternoon Project

Today’s project was one of those “good enough” projects. I’ve adopted Joel Salatin’s mantra of making things cheap and just good enough, no matter what it looks like. This was an old cattle chute I put a new tire on and am converting to a mulch hauler (while retaining its ability to still act as a shute. Here’s the before picture.
shute before
The rule for this was to use only materials on the farm – no town trip allowed! So, the side extensions are paneling we ripped out of the house to expose the plaster, the front removable section was leftover plywood from the trailer I recently refurbished, some wood was from the old house that was torn down, the electrical conduit was leftover from a project and the handle on the back sliding “door” handle was from an old double-hung window that was replaced!
Here’s the end result:
shute after
Casual observers may not appreciate some of the decisions that need to be made in such a project. Does the nice side of the paneling face out for a good look, or face in so it doesn’t look like an old woodie station wagon which are long out of style?

Here’s a bit of a close-up of the back shute showing some design features:
shute after

October 22, 2005 – Garlic In

Today we got the garlic in (but not mulched). It does so much better planted late fall than spring. We planted five different varieties: California Early White, California Late White, Music, Chesnok Red, and Siberian. We planted a bit more than last year – last year we had about 200 ft of garlic, this year we have about 360 feet.
We also rearranged some chickens.
We moved two groups to garden clean-up patrol – the Black Astralops were assigned to the former tomato patch to clean up the rotten fruit on the ground.
The mixed standard layers pullets were assigned to the gladiolas and pole beans (the part of the garden most weedy by the end of the year).

I’m really loving these chickens in the garden after harvest to clean up the waste/seeds/weeds. They really seem to enjoy it and leave some fertilizer in place. It’s like getting free weeding and fertilizing!

October 21, 2005 – RoundTuit Work

Today was a day of “RoundTuit” work. Stuff that needs to get done, but never bubbles up to the top of the list. One of today’s tasks was taking a flat wheel off an old cattle chute (last fall we dragged it out of the corn crib to make way for the basketball court, flat tire and all). We took the wheel off and brought it to town to get a new old tire put on it.
Here’s Marty jacking it higher as we get ready to put the new tire on.
lug nuts
As Marty learns the next steps in replacing a tire, he demonstrates tightening up the lug luts.

I’m thinking of converting it to a mulch storer/hauler as there will be lots of that in the coming years.

October 20, 2005 – Officer Bunn a.k.a Barney Fife?

Today’s weekly paper from a neighboring town had this photo on the front page concerning the town’s lone officer and new police cruiser:
Here’s the write up from the State Center Enterprise Record.

“According to Bunn, a call had gone out on the radio to assist an immobile vehicle somewhere in the vicinity. Approaching the intersection of Lincoln Way and Highway 330 – the Albion blacktop – Bunn noticed a forklift on the right side of the intersection, which he thought may be the immobile vehicle. Bunn then saw a lone man running up the shoulder of 330.

Turning his head to appraise the man, Bunn failed to notice the actual stalled vehicle some 50 yards further up the highway. Being perched at the crest of a slight hill, the scene was not highly visible, and a lack of officers on scene resulted in a lone officer in front of the stalled vehicle attempting to control traffic from both directions.

Consequently, Bunn rear-ended a mini van that was preparing to drive around the on-scene officer and the stalled truck. In rear-ending the van, Bunn’s cruiser was embedded in the cargo area of the van, driving both vehicles around the officer and the stalled truck.”

Officer Bunn was not cited as “there was a lack of emergency personnel on the scene to control traffic and the driver of the stalled vehicle was driving under a suspended license.” Hmmm.

There were no serious injuries which is a good thing!

October 19, 2005 – Goodbye to Blue

After a period of decision-making and talking to animal rescue league and our vet, we decided to put Blue down. He had bitten Martin in the face, bitten a neighbor who fed the pets when we were out of town a few weeks ago and nipped at Martin again after we brought chickens back from the locker.

We got Blue from the animal rescue league this spring and he was Emma’s dog. Here’s a picture from one of his first days at high hopes.
She trained him to stop jumping on people, took him to obedience classes and taught him dog agility.

It became painfully obvious to us that doing the easy thing would be to do what so many others do to pets – dump him off in another town, bring him back to the rescue league and not tell anybody about the biting or make up a story to Emma that we did return him to the rescue league. It’s just too bad the the right thing involves a lot of pain and heartbreak.

Emma said it right – it’s not fair to lose two dogs in one year. I agree.

October 18, 2005 – Corn in the Shed

Today, we are ready for winter. Our wagons are full of corn and sitting safe and sound in the shed. The corn heats our house in the winter and especially this year, it is like money in the bank. I was concerned about the tires on the gravity wagon. Even though you don’t need great tires to travel a few thousand feet a year, it’s also not fun to try to replace a wheel in the field on a wagon loaded with 5 tons of corn. So I picked the tire that looked the worse and got a new used tire in its place.
After this trip in the field, I have a new candidate for next year – the tire that shed part of its tread and exposed the steel belts – but it made it into the shed alright. Sometimes things go right!