Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Tail of Two Old Dogs

This is a story about two very different dogs. One started at a rural animal shelter and then to our farm. The other at a city shelter in Iowa, to an apartment in Wisconsin, to the sub-burbs of Illinois and finally to our farm in Wisconsin.

Misty, whom I refer to as "the super farm dog" has been grandpa's faithful farming companion for over 10 years now. She is a Border Collie mutt and loves nothing more than working! She is in her golden years now and has very few teeth, but that does not stop her from following every pass of the tractor or attacking every dirty rotten raccoon that comes lurching out from under the corn auger. Actually, the cause of her toothlessness is countless bouts with the aforementioned horrible little bandits. She's not much of a lover, but if a cow gets out her tail goes to wagging at the idea of getting to herd her. Misty is so geared to protect the farm that even on the most bitterly cold night she will not go into the garage to sleep. She must have a fear of missing some nigh time intruder from her front porch vantage. It's even hard to get a photograph of her because she must think us frivolous, up to something or maybe she just does not like that kind of attention.

Above are recent photo's of each dog doing what they do best.

Oliver on the other hand is really a pretty terrible farm dog. There's just no other way to put it. He somehow manages to scare the cows out of their pasture and causes steers to break fences just trying to get away from him. He tries to bark our kittens to death...those furry little monsters. He uses the same kitten tactic on raccoons. He must believe that the louder and longer he barks the "intruder" will somehow be deterred. Misty just stares at Oliver and we imagine her thinking something like..."what a stupid city dog." We thought Oliver would learn the ways of the farm dog once we moved, but he still has the idea that large trucks are to be chased and that tractors are the enemy. We have finally come to the conclusion that Oliver is a better indoor companion, footrest, friend for the girls to dress up than a farm dog...we'll leave that to Misty.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winter Chores

Daily activities on the farm look very different depending on the season. During the winter, chores are done as quickly as possible and major outdoor projects are put on the "things to do in the spring" list.

On a daily basis, the cattle, pony, dogs and cats are fed. In the winter, when the cows are not out on pasture they stay around the barns. We have three small pastures of about 3 acres each, with access to water in the barns. The cattle are divided into three groups, and each group of cattle has access to fresh water, shelter, and fresh hay that is grown on our farm.

Group #1 consists of about 34 pregnant cows. These cows need a lot of hay to keep their energy up to stay warm and gestate.
Group #2 is made up of the 32 newly-weened calves. These calves are half grown now and have plenty of space to eat their hay and wander around. They sleep in barns on beds of corn-fodder (stalks and leaves).
Group #3 is the group of 16 steers and heifers that is being finished for harvesting. These range in size from the animals ready to go any day, to the ones that will not be harvested until May. These animals enjoy free access to hay, and a limited access to corn grown on our farm.

Twice a week, all the animals get fresh fodder bails in the barns for bedding to keep them dry and warm. Bryce's dad keeps track of the day to day chores for the cattle (while Bryce finish's his last year of commuting to Illinois to work as a Guidance Counselor), and on weekends we tackle the bigger jobs like fixing fence, barns and sending Bryce up the silo to adjust the corn auger. There are always a thousand things to be done on the weekends and we are so thankful for Bryce's mom and dad for their farming expertise and willingness to help!

The girls also have daily chores, feeding the more domesticated animals...cats & dogs. They are also in charge of making sure the bird feeders are kept full and bringing the mail in each day.

When everything is complete, you would find us warming up in front of our corn-burning stove.