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A case of the Mondays

(Disclosure:  To point out the crappy week we are having, this post was written on Tuesday and is just now being posted...enjoy!)

Yesterday was one of those days that really tests a farm family's fiber. Makes you question what the hell you are doing out here.

I struggle, sometimes, with how much to discuss our problems on the blog. On the one hand, I want to accurately reflect just how hard it is to farm (or at least to farm the way we're farming, in the situation we're in) and the real-life struggles that go with it. On the other hand, doing so just makes us sound like we complain a lot. And it's probably not a lot of fun to read about, all the time. So, please don't think we are complaining all the time (although some it is definitely us complaining) and we will do our best to share the more entertaining and educational "life lessons" learned on the farm.

So. Back to yesterday. Actually let's go back to Friday, to my blog post when I said "I'm even glad to hear snow is on it's way". And I am glad, overall, but boy did it make our lives more difficult in the short term. The problem, in my opinion, wasn't the fact that we had about a foot of snow fall in 24 hours. It was the fact that it started out as rain and then turned to wet, heavy snow and then got lighter and drier as the weekend progressed. That meant the wet, heavy snow stuck and froze to everything and weighed it down. Where this was most evident was the polywire. Because it's temporary fencing, it's not designed to support such weight and it was laying on the ground by Saturday.

On Saturday, I put in three bales of alfalfa hay for the cattle in an effort to keep them "contained" well that worked for a little while but not long. The rest of the bales are just on the other side of the polywire so I would constantly have a few rogue cows and/or heifers helping themselves. Because the polywire was on the ground and because the evergreens were laying on sections of my fencing, there was no charge in the fencing at all. You can see in this picture that all the branches on the evergreens are drooping. And because many of them are close to the fence, when their branches droop they rest on my fencing. I will say that it's my own fault for not taking care of that over the weekend. But in my defense, I spent half the weekend pushing snow and/or trying to get around in the snow to take care of other chores and put cattle back in.

Let's skip ahead to Monday morning. The chores went fine, slow but fine. The cattle were mostly in, after I had resurrected some of the polywire. But I knew they would get out again if I didn't put a bale in. However, the tractor was almost out of gas and my gas cans were empty. It was almost time for me to work so I "quickly" headed for the gas station. Of course, there was dense fog and I pulled out of the driveway right behind a road grader, and once I got around the road grader I got behind another slow moving vehicle. OK though, I'm at the gas station and I'll get back just in time to run up to the office and I can move a bale a little later. Wait a minute... Where's my wallet? Oh $#!+, I forgot my wallet. So back home a go with no fuel. At that point, it was about 8 so I didn't have time to go back again. Work has been REALLY busy lately so I didn't have time to go back with a credit card until lunch time. Of course, with that last trip I was almost out of diesel in the truck. And, of course, I have to drive another town over to get diesel. So, 30 minutes later, I'm back with gas for the tractor. As I get back, I see that a handful of cattle are out again so I try to get them back in but this time they are being difficult. At this point, I'm fed up so I start moving them all back across the driveway to a paddock with permanent fencing on all sides. No winter water set up but I'll worry about that later. I knew that moving them from where they were to where I needed them was going to be a challenge but I tried it anyway. Long story short, it went worse then expected and took over an hour to move them 50 yards to the area next to where I wanted them. To keep them happy, I was going to put a bale in with them. So I filled up the tractor and cranked her up. Tried to move forward and it died. Tried to crank it up again and the battery went dead... So I had to run and find the battery charger/jumper... Tried to jump start it but didn't go... Had to turn on the generator and try again. Success! Now I have to take the blade off from pushing snow to get the bale spear put on. Time consuming but seamless enough. So, I finally moved a couple bales into the area that I wanted them.

After that things went a little better. Clara calmed down and I got some work done.  I was also able to head into town to send the package. I waited until 5 to leave so that I could make up for the time spent chasing cattle over lunch. Later that night I went out to pull all the evergreen branches off the fence. I will point out that as soon as I started, I fell into a 3 foot hole that had drifted over and re-injured my knee (another farm injury that I have yet to share on the blog). Aside from that, it took a while and was exhausting but I got it done.

Life lessons learned:
#1 Move cattle to an area with permanent fencing in place when a snow storm is coming
     1a I do not have enough permanent fencing or winter water solutions. Definitely need to work on            
         permanent fencing in the spring and putting in more water lines.
#2 When you realize that the fence is shorting out, fix it. Now. (Since all the polywire was down, I knew it
      wouldn't do much good. But I should have done it anyway)
#3 Either open a charge account at the gas station or hide an extra credit card in the truck.
#4 Babies are fussy. No matter how cute and cuddly they are most of the time, when they are screaming their heads off for hours on end they are very hard on parents' nerves and emotions.
#5 If you know that moving the cattle is going to be difficult and you don't have the time, either do it later when you do have the time or set it up so it's not difficult.

The Aesthetic Elevator  – (February 9, 2012 at 10:59 AM)  

I for one appreciate the honesty. I know some people complain when reading realism (ie complaining), but I feel like our culture is much too sanitary in some ways, this being one of them.

While we should have hope and joy and optimism, pretending the hard times don't exist (by not talking about them) is more or less the same as lying to ourselves IMO.

Farmer Jon  – (February 9, 2012 at 1:21 PM)  

Amen, couldn't have said it any better.

Lisa  – (February 9, 2012 at 4:55 PM)  

Wow! I think we need to be thinking about another family day as soon as possilbe where all we do is put up permanent fencing and cut down trees. The stress you must be under has to be unbelievable. You two are deserving of a much needed break!

Rich  – (February 10, 2012 at 12:56 PM)  

When you are building a farm, it is going to take time to work out all the bugs in the system.

And, it will always take a few years to get over the first set of hurdles so that you have a relatively smooth running farm. The hard part is not getting too frustrated when you are trying to get over those initial building steps.

Just take the long view and picture the final result. (Of course, I kinda like dealing with all the "difficult" parts of farming so I might not be the best person to comment)

If you are looking for ideas, I've always used the soft 14 ga. steel wire for my temporary/semi-permanent electric fences. I can still wind it up on a reel like the polywire and I think it carries a little more jolt than ploywire. It might be alittle more work to set up compared to polywire, but it might work a little better at containing cattle in the snow.

I've also used a reel of wire to help corral cattle or sort out cattle. If I have a hot wire close by, I'll clip a gate hook unto it, walk around the ones I want to move and cut them out or "encourage" them to move through a gate, etc. If the wire touches the ground it usually gives a good "snap" when it is grounded which they seem to dislike as much as actually being shocked. If I don't have a hot wire to hook to, it works almost as good. Or, two people can hold each end of the wire (it doesn't need to be hot) and move them around, just be ready to let go of the wire if they decide to run back through the wire so nobody gets hurt.

Farmer Jon  – (February 13, 2012 at 6:47 AM)  

Thanks Rich. I definitely enjoy the challenge of planning and implementing the infrastructure and systems on the farm. I try to set things up that are flexible, efficient and convenient. I've spent hours upon hours trying to think everything through and anticipate any problems. But at some point, as you pointed out, you just do it and work through the bugs. Cause there will always be bugs...
I'll give that 14 gauge wire a try. Everyone talks about the polywire and you get sucked into the tunnel vision. And I do think it's great but I think the 14 ga. would definitely work better in situations like I had last weekend.

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