The Barnyard

Conquering my fear of heights…one bolt at a time.

I spent a good portion of my childhood climbing, sitting, playing & making forts in trees.  My favorite tree, a Red Maple located in the corner of my mom’s yard, has since had its bottom branches trimmed off but there was one branch that doubled as a trapeze bar.  We would hang upside down on it and it was our main access to the top.  As I grew older, I could often be found out in the woods building forts on, under & on top of old fallen trees.

In college I lived with many athletes since my dorm was located just next to all of our sports complexes.   At the beginning of my sophomore year, the day after Labor Day to be exact,  I was ‘recruited’ to try out the university’s circus.  Let me clarify…I wasn’t trying out for it, I was trying it out.  I hung on the trapeze, acted like an acrobat on the mats and then was asked if I’d like to try the high wire.  I was very uneasy about doing it but gave it a try.  The first time I didn’t get very far, got back up & tried it again.  The second time I again fell, the fall was simultaneously followed by cracking and then a trip to the hospital.  I broke my foot in 4 places.

Can you say OUCH!!!

With that said I think I have reason to be scared of heights.  For years I’d have nightmares about it and missed out on a lot of things.  In more recent years I’ve attempted to work towards overcoming my fear.  I’ve successfully sat in my tree stand – granted they lowered it 5 feet for me.  I’ve taken my kids to the ‘big’ slide which is HUGE.  I’ve even gone on the farris wheel, once.

It was during this past Labor Day weekend that I made the most progress yet.  We are beginning to prepare for the winter and added a new shed to our operation to store supplies.  It’s just like our first shed…which is still unpainted.  Getting it built is like similar to a puzzle.  You have to put each piece in just right before you can tighten all of the bolts.  And, it’s a two-man job.  With my hubby’s ‘main man’ – my brother-in-law at home with a newborn, I had to be the wingman.  I wasn’t sure which would be worse.  Being on the top of the roof or standing on top of a ladder, holding the bolts while they are drilled in from the other side.  GULP, I choose the drilling job from the roof.

This is the bolt holding part of the process....

A Look from above….

My of many bolts I drilled that day.

I’m proud to say that I completed the job & we now have a completed shed where we have started storing our hay and feed.  And, I did it! Me, Moi! Now we just have to keep one pesky little hen out of it so she stops laying her eggs in there.  Another project for this weekend…installing a new door.

Next up...painting!

Tomorrow Willis & I head to our first Fishing Derby of the year.  Last year he walked away with a trophy for the largest fish caught.  He’s chomping at the bit for a second win.  I’ll keep you updated!

Our First Heat Related Fatality

Like much of the country, we’ve been under a heat advisory off and on for several weeks.  Yesterday, the heat index topped out at 108.    Around noon I drove the mower down to the sheds to check on water levels.  The chickens are panting and walking around with their wings open but everyone was alive and well.  I went around the fence checking for weeds that might be grounding out the electric fence.  I stopped once and pulled a few then headed to the house.  Just in that short amount of time, without any physical exertion, my clothes could have be wrung out and the sweat poured into a tall glass.

When I went down in the evening I started as usual by first feeding the steers their milk buckets.  While they slurp their supper I walk fast to get their feed ready.  As I started to get the feed out I noticed one of the chickens laying in front of the nesting boxes. When it’s hot they tend to dig themselves a little hole in the ground and sit with their breasts in the dirt in an effort to to cool off – although in front of the boxes was an unusual place.  Without a clear view I was uncertain of what was going on and had a bad feeling about things.  At that point, with all the milk devoured,  the calves were attacking me.  I got them under control so I could enter the chicken side of the shed.  Instead of laying breast down the chicken was on it’s side and dead.  I picked it up and managed to get myself out of the pen before being mugged.  It was one of my hubby’s grandma’s birds so it was probably fairly old.  I’m just glad it wasn’t a young one!

I brought it out of the shed and started to walk out of the pen when Willis saw it.  Here was the conversation…

Willis: What are you doing with that chicken mom?

Me: Well, honey, it died so I need to get it out of the shed.

Willis exclaims with joy:  Oh, good, can we eat it now??

Such a sensitive child…NOT.

Try to stay cool where ever you all are located & drink plenty of water!

Raccoon Update…

Right now I’m feeling pretty ingenious about the Raccoon situation.  It seems that a Hot Dog Roasting stick will scare off an entire family of Raccoons….at least that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!   After we found the present they left in my birdbath we did find  a pile on one of our windows  just next to the back porch.  Other than that, we’ve seen very little evidence in the last few days.

For the first time in 10 years, our neighbors had their garbage cans broken into the other night.  So we’re thinking they’ve moved west.  We hope and wonder if Nicki, our new Rat Terrier has been helping with keeping them away.  Believe it or not she’s been known to kill one…although she was a few years younger than now.

I’ll report any new sightings!

With a Hotdog Roasting Stick, A Huntin’ I Will Go!

A few nights ago we had a break from the heat and humidity.  From our open windows, there was a lovely chorus of crickets, toads and a slight breeze moving the leaves on our maple tree.  Until we heard an awful screech.  “The Chickens!” I yelled.  With a capital ‘E,’ I immediately jumped out of bed to see what was the matter.  I ran down our 14 stairs out through the mudroom, put on my boots, grabbed the closet thing I could defend myself with – a hotdog roasting stick – went over the river and through the woods (not really), grabbed a flashlight and headed to the pasture.  The glow of the flashlight quickly caught 6-8 eyes peering at me from under the Mulberry trees.  RACCOONS!  Urgh!

By that time my hubby was stumbling out of the front door and watched as I used a hotdog roasting stick to scare and chase four raccoons away.  I’m sure I was a sight to be hold.  The worst part of it is that because they are out of season right now there’s nothing we can do until we feel our well being at risk.   Then you can contact a Conservation Officer who can trap and release them to another area.

Until then I’ll have to wait for opening day.  Watch out ’cause I’ll be counting down the days.  Pesky AND messy little things!!

ps Thankfully, the chickens were all fine.

A Revolving Door

If I could describe the last two weeks I would start by saying it’s been a roller coaster revolving door.  Almost two weeks ago Miss Terry and Lona left us and are now living happily on another Jersey farm in northwest Iowa.  My father-in-law decided that although they both have great potential as ‘milk cows,’ after the time they’ve spent here on our grass pasture, they weren’t shaping into the showgirls he desired.

Then my hubby’s grandmother – who at age 85 was still raising chickens 50+ and 3 ducks on the farm – passed out and fell on her bathroom floor.   Although there are neighbors and relatives who keep a watch on her, she laid on the floor for over 6 hrs before someone realized her paper had not been taken in.  Other than being severely dehydrated, she seemed to be fine.  Even so, it was decided that she needed to be moved to an assisted living facility where she could be checked on regularly.

We knew this day/period of time would come and have dreaded it for years.  She is a hoarder and that experience requires it’s own post.  The last two weekends have been spent camping on the farm and helping separate garbage from keepsakes.  In addition to the chickens and ducks she also has two dogs.  One of which is a keepsake to her and she asked if we could keep her – the other I’m contemplating asking my DH if we can keep her too.   We were also offered our choice of chickens.  At the end of our first, four day camping trip we arrived home with a new dog named Nicki (also a Rat Terrier) and six laying chickens.  (Our own chickens aren’t due to start laying until Oct.)

We started out on our 55 min. drive home when my FIL calls.  He has a buddy who’s selling two Jersey/Angus crossed bred calves.  Would we be interested?  At that point I was exhausted and said “sure whatever.”  I did express that they need to be bucket calves.  So we arrived home, dumped everything we’d packed in the truck and off went my hubby.  An hour later we increased our herd to three calves.

That night I had a Cub Scout Leader’s meeting in a neighboring town.  We were about half way through when I got the call.  It was my hubby…”Are you done yet? (in the background I hear ballowering calves)” “Well, no, why?”  “I can’t get these things to drink out of a bucket for anything!!”  Exit meeting.

So I drove 20 min. to the in-laws farm, picked up two bottles and we are now bottle feeding two mighty, strong calves morning and night.  At first it was a chore but I’m now enjoying our time together.  They are super cute!!

To re-cap…at the end of our first trip we added a dog, six chickens and two calves.

Fast forward to this past weekend.  After doing chores now for two weekends at Grandma’s, I was starting to notice three chickens who looked like good egg producers.  After a 10 min. fight we caught two of the three and gave up.  My hubby had been contemplating taking the three Call ducks.  So we brought home two more chickens and three ducks.  The ducks have since gone missing.  : (  I still have hope that they’ll show up.  The area outside of the pasture is pretty thick timber so there’s places to hide.  Time will tell.

We and all of the animals are slowing getting adjusted and I think the revolving door has stopped…at least for now!  The chickens even laid 3 eggs today!

Boys and mud

These are two words that go hand in hand around The Magic FarmHouse.  If there’s mud, my boys will find it.  Especially Willis.  When he was just about two we caught him preparing to eat an earthworm.  Ick!  Although he didn’t try to eat a worm, the other day he did find some mud.  It started out as a trip to the shed to show the new calf to their cousins.

Down to the shed...

Here’s a pic of the new calf.  He looks really cute but don’t let that fool you.  Although he is a bucket calf and has been weaned from the bottle, he has a strong desire to suck (not unusual).  Entering the pen without jeans is not recommended. The boys have started calling him Coo-Coo Brains.

Willis and "Coo-Coo brains"

Anyway, after introducing Coo-Coo Brains the boys wanted to chase the ducks up to the pool for a little swim.  This is where the mud comes into today’s story.  We got the ducks to the pool and Willis I guess became bored and decided to entertain himself.

Camo, Mac and BB going for a swim.

Camo, Mac and BB going for a swim.

Caught! Mud handed!

This was only the beginning and due to a commitment to my baby I was unable to catch anymore shots of the Mud Fest.   I was able to snap a portion of the cleanup.

Redneck washing machine...

Redneck washing machine.

All clean?!

Clothes off at the door boy!


I’ve added Miss Terry and Miss Lona to our starting line-up.  They are both great looking heifers and it’s a lot of fun watching them.

Miss Terry and Miss Lona

'Strike a Pose'

They are like a couple of kids as they run through the pasture.

This also helps with the ‘mowing’.  Mr. Sampson and Dahalia were having a little trouble keeping up with all of the rain we’ve received in the past month.

Fresh Start

Like so many other moms I’ve been busy being a mom. I’m plum full of ideas and each day spend time thinking about things that I could put on my blog…then someone needs a drink, can’t find their baseball pants, a snack, help coloring or the baby has an unpleasant gift in his diaper. I quickly become a classic ‘She,’ a.k.a, Sidetracked Home Executive – checkout for a great definition.

My goal today was to allow myself 15 min. to complete a post on the blog. I’m calling it my ‘Fresh Start.’

I’ll sum up the last two months of no-posting…

  • At the end March we purchased 10 baby chics and 3 ducks – ducks are full grown and chics are nearly so
  • Pickle started baseball and hasn’t even played his first game due to rain.  Today will be the 4th rainout.
  • Willis has struggled with allergies, asthma and skin issues.
  • We put in another water pump near the pasture.
  • At age 4, Willis lost his first TWO teeth and made his first visit to the dentist.
  • Pudder began saying ‘big boy’ words
  • We caught the kids holding and then flinging the chics as high in the air as possible – they were ‘just helping them learn to fly mama!’ I’ll write a longer post on this subject.
  • Willis participated in a Lapbooking class and finished his first year of Pre-K.
  • We visited two zoos.
  • And, my babe started to work overtime for the first time in almost 3 years. Yay!
  • We had Field Day at school and Pickle placed third out of about 70 kids for the Fun Run.
  • We moved two heifers from the farm to our place to get them off grain.  ‘Terry’ and ‘Lona’ are two of the up and coming showgirls of our famous showstring.
  • Oh, and we planted part of our garden and I’ve expanded one of my flower gardens.

There I did it!!  Maybe not the most exciting post ever written but it’s done.

The Yard Dogs And Cabin Fever

Around here we prefer to follow our own local groundhog, Gertie,  rather than the nation’s icon, Phil.  At 7:07am this morning, when Miss Gertie was released from her home she did not see her shadow. Which means PARTY! Here comes an early spring! Well, we hope! She has an 82% accuracy versus Phil’s 33%, so other than the possible snow storm they are predicting on Friday I’m fairly confident we’ll be seeing more days outside. What do weathermen know anyway?!

Apparently someone gossiped to  Sampson and Dahlia and told them spring will soon be here.  They were held up in the shed, by choice, for almost 3wks during a cold & snowy spell.  After running the kids to school I arrived home to find “Miss D” loose in the yard.  Just checking to see if the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.  The little turkey saw me coming and quickly made a fancy dive under the fence. She then through me a  glance which clearly said “I don’t know what you mean Mama, I’d never sneak out.”

This picture isn’t the best but it does show her creative ways.  Keep your mind out of the gutter! This is a family friendly site! There was a leaf she just had to have.  “Hmmm? How will I, oh, wait, I’ll just stand on Sampson.”  It turns out he wasn’t too receptive. What you don’t see in the next frame is Sampson bucking her with his horns.