Monday, August 25, 2008

Frantically harvesting!

Another pretty sunset. We can't quite see the water from here, but the San Juan islands aren't far from us, to the west.
Does anyone grow purple-podded green beans? These were grown from seeds from Bosnia that a coworker gave me. They are beautiful, and the vines are very robust with dark magenta flowers. I would love to identify the variety, but there are so many kinds of beans I'm sure it's impossible.

Check out Gemini & Stewart getting scritchies. If you look closely, you can see pony's upper lip flapping as he drools. Stewart isn't much more dignified.

It's busy season here at Seven Trees, and one of us is recovering from surgery. Luckily we've had lots of help, but any of the veggies that survived the cold spring are growing like gangbusters. We've put up plenty of dill pickles, pickled beets, chard & beet greens, and next up are green beans and applesauce. We have a few tiny melons in the greenhouse, and hopefully they will keep growing before the frost hits. More potatoes to dig, blackberries and cukes to pick, but what I really look forward to is the Painted Hills sweet corn. Not quite yet though. Sad to say, I'm already looking at the current garden's successes and failures, and planning for next year.

Monday, August 18, 2008

August = chores!

Yet another load of hay stashed in the garage. Some really nice fescue/orchardgrass that the critters approve of heartily. We have a pretty good menu of various cuttings and grass varieties to accommodate the needs of all our herbivores. I wouldn't mind having a round bale dumped in the barnyard to give them something to snack on between meals. With just one of us taking care of the place for the next 6 weeks, every shortcut helps.
Here's Princess Stella having a pedicure. Too bad we didn't get the lifting process on video. The metal stall part starts out upright. She walks into it and gets lifted and turned with heavy duty slings.
The giant "bolt cutters" take off the bulk of overgrown hoof, then she gets her nails filed with a hand-held grinder. She wasn't too thrilled with the process, but she looks great now. There aren't too many people willing to come work on just one cow, so finding such a skilled and friendly trimmer was a huge relief. Email us at the info link or post a comment if you want his contact info for cow trimming in Whatcom County.

Beets! These are Early Wonder Tall Top, a new variety for us this year. The greens are just ok for eating, but the beets themselves are really tasty, and even better pickled. I still blanched & froze the greens anyway, since come winter we'll be happy for any "free" veggies we can get. We've been harvesting chard, kohlrabi, the last of the lettuce, carrots, cukes (8 quarts of dill pickles so far), a few Stupice tomatoes, Anaheim & Islander peppers, and of course lots of potatoes. The Reddales are about ready to dig up completely, and the Island Sunshine & Ozette fingerlings are not far behind. The garlic is harvested and drying, green beans are getting a late start but starting to shape up, and the corn looks very happy so far.
Got the trim on the back corners of the run-in installed. Now Gemini & Ryder have a lpace to get out of rain & wind and still have lots of fresh air. We'll keep fancying it up later this year though.
Stella and Doug, posing for the camera. The vet didn't think she's pregnant, but we think she is. With Dexters, sometimes the fetus is too small to feel so early, so there is a margin for error on his diagnosis. We could do a blood test to be sure, but we'll just wait & see. She's weaning Doug right now, and will all we have going on this summer, I decided to stop milking. There just isn't time to do twice a day milking, and I also don't want to deal with the bellowing that will commence once they are separated. We got 5 good months of milking, and later I'll post a grand total of how many gallons we got over how many days. I'm still pondering how I want to milk next time. I'd like to milk longer, but the convenience of letting the calf do most of the work is very tempting. We are back to buying milk. It's raw, local Jersey milk from Jackie's Jerseys. Tasty, but nowhere near as rich as Stella's.
Here's Ryder, modelling the new stanchion. He got dehorned Friday, and his shots. He's settling in ok, and we've been walking him and working with him, and enjoying the learning process of training a bull calf.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If mama's not happy... nobody's happy!

But this little bull packs a wallop too. This is young bull Ryder... small and cute you say? Yes, but also between 320 and 370 pounds, well over 2 to 2 1/2 times my weight. Something I became all too familiar with when he escaped his digs the other night when mama cow Stella had a yelling fit middle of the night this week. The episode was so traumatic, had us both rethinking cattle all together...

The mistress of malfeasance herself with her not so much a baby anymore Douglas. Stella is locked away from Douglas at about 5:00 PM on milking days so we can get that evening's milk come 4:40 AM the next day. Well Ms. Stella has been starting to self-wean Doug, so she isn't letting him nurse much at all, which means her bag gets full and uncomfortable very fast. Sometime between 2:00 and 3:00AM Monday night Stella started yelling for Doug for just that reason, and him being locked away meant he couldn't respond. Of course we woke up at the squalling as no doubt half our neighborhood did. A bellowing cow has the volume of something between a full volume trombone and a ferry horn. She's was very LOUD and very upset. All the excitement and stress got new bull baby Ryder completely worked up. When I went out to check on why all the noise was happening in robe with flashlight in hand that was all too much for Ryder who bolted through a hot wire behind his pen. Unfortunately, I'd had to unplug it to go out and check on everyone. Ryder tore through several other paddocks, tearing down the fence all the way as he tried to get to Stella in the ajoining paddock. I think he was close enough to having been weaned that he sees her as mom, and was more than happy to come help her out by nursing if he could get to her. He was pretty scared no doubt of course as well, being in strange new place. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me he had a rope halter with a trailing rope still on and Stella is in a hard fence paddock, so he bounced off that fence, and I was able to get close enough to grab the trailing end. The fight was on as Ryder wanted nothing to do with a scary human in nothing more than her robe, carrying a blinding flashlight. He bolted and I hung on, and on, and on. I got drug around pretty good a few times, but would then get to my feet and brace against him. There were a few times we'd both stop and pant, each staring at one another, straining on our respective lead rope ends. Not sure if any one else remembered, but there was actually a meteor shower that evening, so as I sat straining on the rope, several of them shot across the sky. It's just too bad I wasn't really in a position to truly appreciate them. I knew that if I let go of the rope I'd never get Ryder back in, so I kept easing up, working him up to the barn, between bouts tug-of-war, getting drug, flashlight flying one way, me the other, scraped knees, rope burned hands, a few bruises no doubt on both of us in the process. FINALLY I got him close enough to the run-in I was able to get the rope around a 4 x 4 post and anchor him. The entire time we fought, Stella screamed incessantly, so it was about then that J came out and asked me, "Is everything all right?"
No, no it wasn't of course! It took both of us to drag resisting Ryder back into his area, and tie him off again. He darn near drug us both around the home paddock all over again just as above, but we somehow held on until he was secured. Still had Stella to deal with though, so J marched her right into the milking stall, got her milking gear, cleaned the cow up and got to milking. Then we both tried to get an hour's sleep before we got up to the alarm... not much luck there as we seriously questioned whether we may have gotten in over our heads!

Had a lot of this stuff on me the other night. If you think cattle might be the thing for you keep in mind that there's a lot of this involved! And late night rodeos too...

Fortunately we are pretty handy, so I spent most of Tuesday making Ryder a stall where he will remain, until he recognizes this place as home, and there is abslolutely no chance Stella can convince him to break out. I spent a little time working with Ryder as well, and he was a lot calmer. Pretty spent no doubt from the night before, just like me. Also repaired all the fence damage and when J got home we got to work on the stanchion shown above and below, modeled by our steer boy Douglas.

Doug fought a bit, but once I showed him the grain pan, then that was an OK place to be, stanchion or no. Trick is to get Stella and Ryder in it. Stay tuned for all your rodeo action here!

Also no, none of our battle royale was caught on video or still pictures. It was just me, Ryder and the eternal stars watching, or so I dearly hope...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ryder is here!

Here's the little guy. We drove nearly 3 hours each way to pick him up, but he looks so nice and beefy, we think he'll be well-worth the effort. His dad was a wonderfull bull from great milking lines, so he should be a great match for Stella.
Living with a bull is a little tricky. We'll have to make sure he knows we're in charge, but I think we can handle that just fine.

He did great on the ride home. Here's Stella & Doug staring at him. They're in separate pens for now, but close enough to get acquainted.Here are a couple clips of Stewart, showing how well he follows instructions. Such talent!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Another Seven Trees pictorial weekend!

Here's Crichton, demonstrating the shopcat pose. Sometimes Newt hangs out here, and sometimes they hang out on the window ledge and look outside.Gemini is just outside the window above. He likes to trim the weedy area where the garage site scrapings were piled. Someday we'll try digging a root cellar into the little hill piled up, off the picture to the right.
We've been hearing a ruckus around 4am some mornings, and just assumed Maggie was roughhousing before we open the cat door for the day. Imagine our surprise to discover that he's been playing with real mousies. Newt (who knows how to open the cat door when it's locked) has been bringing them in for him.
One view of the new shelter. The back corner will have trim, and an angled piece will go above the open half of the side walls to make it look nicer and keep a little heat in.
Here's another view, with no side wall. And the front will have a little bit of siding across the top, down as far as the 2x4 nailing girt. This should help divert some of the winter north wind, but we'll probably eventually add a partial wall in front, from top to botom.
One more view, this time with pony. We'll run a gutter across the back too, but not just yet...
We've been working like crazy to get chores done and some food stocked up for the surgery adventure coming up in 2 weeks. I've made & canned bean with bacon soup, chili, and split pea. There is a batch of congee in the freezer too. The garden is kicking in more finally. Lots of Reddale potatoes, a few Island Sunshines (super tasty), kohlrabi & carrots. We picked our first cuke tonight, and tons of little ones are on the way.
Look at this stressed out kitty! He can't seem to lie down without losing all muscle tone. We call him Boneless Chicken.
The obligatory porch-pony shot. Gem is learning to come to the front door for a treat when we ring the bell, but the back porch is the place to go for chicken scratch and muck boots. We went for a 1.5 mile drive yesterday and he almost broke a sweat. I think we'll be heading to Everson for a latte in no time! The vet gave him a clean bill of health today, but not without being sedated and having his teeth floated. Crichton and Magnus are getting along better. They played (and fought) in the hay bales yesterday while we painted siding.
Maggie scored the high ground, much to Crichton's annoyance. We still find "leftovers" from when they bring varmints behind the bales for snacks.
This Sunday we go get Ryder. Our critter count will be complete then, save for a beehive and weaner pig next spring.

Technical difficulties!

Our modem has bit the dust! Seven Trees master-computer should be back online later today, and we'll celebrate with a pictorial review of our busy weekend. Special bonus - critter pics!