Fencing is as Fencing does

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(photo by Mr. Curtis)

Yesterday and today we fenced.  We have some old, crappy fencing that keeps me awake at night while I figure the many possibilities of one or two of our young, sweet heifers (read “fucking heifers”) getting out.  It turns out number 78 or 64 is playing with the temporary zappy fence.  Bitch! She bobbles it around like the x number of volts snapping her head means nothing.  Ug.  But for the last two days we’ve not had any herding-fun-with-heifers™ so things are good.  I think the girls are digging their new rectangle.  Gordito gets out all the time, but quickly runs back to his mum.  Brent says this is the way it works with the little ones.  They sneak out for the good grass and then get back with the herd without issue.

Now let me tell you, I’ve never fenced in my life.  I’ve never thought about how one would fence. I’ve never researched or googled “fencing.”  I basically know nothing.  And it turns out, I have no natural ability to fence.  BUT, with Brent’s coaching, I’m starting to pick up the little tricks with running a line of fence.  I’m not talking about a little Seattle backyard fence.  I’m guessing I could figure that out, no problem.  No, I’m talking about fencing 400 meters or so of fence (that’s 1,312 feet to you and me) where you can’t see the corner post you’re trying to get to.  As we started doing this, I quickly reminisced of second grade math “word problems” where Farmer Bill needs to build a fence around so-and-so acres with blah-blah feet between posts, how many posts will Farmer Bill need?  Who knew second grade math would hit home so late in life?!  I remember thinking to myself, “what a bullshit question.  Like when in the hell will I ever use this? This is bullshit!”  Here’s the drill (now mind you my little, sweet (read super sweet cute) newborn is safe and snuggy warm near us napping.  The minute her eyes close our fencing effort is on)  The heifers are close by looking like they want to break through the flimsy temp wire we have there continually challenging their “grass is greener” urge.  Newborn sleepy == good.  Heifers in their rectangle == good.  With each post I check this state is valid.  The posts are laid out and we start at the beginning pushing them in with the tractor.  Brent drives the tractor and I work out the post.  So, my husband drives a very large, very heavy vehicle at me while I give him super clear instruction on when to stop and when to lift or go down.  He drives at me while I hold the post, I signal “come closer.”  If I want him to go back I signal “go back.”  When he’s in the right spot I signal “go down” which means lower the fork to touch the post.  If it isn’t aligned, I signal “go up” so I can realign.  After many posts in and out, Brent got very good at alignment so I’d simply do a thumbs up sign as to tell him “all was good”  but that looks very much like “go up.”  Thankfully after twelve years of marriage, he knew what I meant.  The first two posts gave us an incredibly steep learning curve and then we knocked them in fairly quickly.
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Both of us being perfectionist, we slipped our “cheap, peasant farmer” hat on which answered the question “what would a French peasant farm do?” that allowed us to loosen up our strict line and post depth.  At that point, those babies went in quickly.

Very little of the farm is fenced so I’m working with Brent to do the bulk of the fencing in while our little one is laying around whacking toys.  When she gets all mobile, it’ll be a huge challenge to get this stuff done.   After the few episodes of heifer herding,  I’m hoping to get a nice solid three wire perimeter fence up.   That way, if the cows get all crazy, it’ll be our own damn fault and we won’t bother anyone else.  Someday, not sure if it’ll be Gordito, we’ll get a bull and I’d like to keep Mr. Man with his bitches.  There are a few neighboring farms and I hope not to run into any bull-meets-bull situation.  But before that magical moment, we’ll use Artifical insemination.  Which means I will hire a guy with a long glove to get jiggy with it.  No, I will not be wearing the long glove myself.  Mark my words.  …

(super cute newborn … well I guess she’s four months now.)
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Chicken Tiki Masala

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The chickens were moved today from Super Palace Coop or Coopa Cobana if you will, to a small villa just across the way.  It turns out, Brent is really good at catching chickens.  Otto is soon to follow as he has the drive for chicken catching.  He’s quite skilled at chicken chasing.

We found a smaller chicken coop in an out-building by Michael’s place.  Michael chucked it out the window with a few bumps and bruises (to the coop that is, Michael is fine.  No Michael’s were harmed moving the coop).   Kevin and the girls are to follow the cows in the last-known-good paddock.  Brent moves the cows every one or two days and the chickens will follow behind.  Chickens are not our main business so I’m starting slowly learning how to care for them and get them where they need to be.  They will hang out in their new digs while I fix the issues that come up with the net, coop and anything else. When i get better at all this, I hope to scale it and add chickens into our pastured meat business. I needed to make the coop a bit more snuggy for them so thankfully I found the perfect thing in Michael’s giant trash pile.  Without the special table cloth, we wouldn’t get that special something that suddenly turned a random coop into a Tiki room.  It’s something about the small huts and sticks that gives it that Tiki edge.


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At dusk Kevin and the girls where ready to get cozy for the night so they all went to the edge of the net where they could see their old coop.  They stared and stared trying to figure out in their little chicken brain how they could get from here to there.  It was then I started thinking of better ways to introduce their new coop.  We waited a bit to see if one of them would figure it all out.  At last Kevin and the older chickens got settled in while the two younger ones still peeped at the gate.  After dinner I went out to shut them in and they’re all cozy cozy.  Tiki Masala is a lot smaller than Coopa Cobana so we’ll see how they make use of it.

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The heifers and cows are mingling nicely. We’ve had to fix fence design here and there to accommodate the younger heifers. They slip out occasionally. And let me tell you, nothing encourages team building than getting a heifer back to her herd. Forget go-cart racing and motivational offsites. That’s a load a crap. Take your team to a farm and have them herd cattle. There you will see magic. … or a mob of heifers running off in the distance and a gaggle of dudes bickering.

Two Herds Facing Each Other, But They Are One

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(photo by B.Curtis)

Today was a day.  A day like I’ve never had before.  I had a first hand lesson in cow herding, cow herd mingling and fence repair.  I should probably leave it at that, but then you wouldn’t get to appreciate my Gandalf moment.  Brent was under control.  He had a plan and I think the herd recognized it.  Me?  I felt I was suddenly starring in my own reality series.  I’ll skip the part where my day essentially started at 1am between dog, newborn and four year old and then newborn again and skip to the part where Brent said, “Nah, it’ll be like five minutes.”  We were to move the Salers down to Louisiana.  Brent laid out the plan.  The Salers got down to where they were supposed to go with a few recoverable hiccups.  Then the Mirandaise decided to “moo” their presence.  And Moo.  And Moo.  A quick side note on the M-girls.  They are curious and sweet, but also tough bitches with other cows.  We decided to let the girls in and ready ourselves to deal with “Salers excitement in new paddock” with “ M-girls meet S-girls.”  Fevette, a Mirandaise, decided she was going to show off and chased a small mob of heifers back up where they started.  I hopped in the truck to collect them.  The rest of the herd were having a meet-and-greet session.  Brent quickly fixed some fences that took a beating in the process.  It turns out our shocky-shocky battery decided today it was not going to participate which caused all sorts of problems.  Amazingly, I got there in time to block the back-road while Brent got the Fevette bunch back to the paddock.  Whew.  Things were looking good until the Salers explored the lake.  They were in and out and all around checking things out.  The Mirandaise were right with them showing them who was boss.  As Brent had to run off and get some fencing material, a Salers cow decided to push the fence and take a walk down another back-road.  A Mirandaise, of course, had to follow and off they went. With twenty Salers and four Mirandaise eager to follow, I slammed my mental stick (couldn’t find a stick) diving deep inside to my inner Gandalf and shouting “Allez!”  (al-ay) but really saying “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!”  The herd stopped, blinked and then went back to where we wanted them.  The other two cows quickly came back and joined the rest.  After that, it was a munch fest while Brent and I double-checked the rest of the fences.  All looked good.  A back-up shocky battery was replaced.   We’ve since checked them a number of times and they seem cow-like.  So I think we can sleep okay.  I checked them at sunset and they were all nestled in for sleepy time mingling nicely.
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(photo by B. Curtis)

It all happened so fast.  Cows here.  Cows there.  Fences down.  Fences repaired.  Battery fucked.  Overlayed with this being a Wednesday when all the kids are home.  Thankfully we have Michael here who was happy to help out and make sure the kids were safe and happy.  He has a stash of songs in his pocket that he makes up as he’s singing.

Now that the girls are merged, I think we’ll be ready to take on the next challenges.  We have three births on the way.  One mama was ready to go yesterday.  Brent and I had a giggle about her popping out the calf just was we were mending the last bit of fence.  Yet, she’s still with calf and we keep checking her out waiting for our new arrival.  This is the day that I graduated from pot of flour to arms out control.  I think I’m starting to get the hang of this.  Hopefully.

The Unofficial French Word For Brown

Now I know that any of you who’ve learned French traditionally or even through online material have picked up the French words for various colors. Green is Vert. Red is Rouge. Blue is Bleu. Brown is Marron. Sometimes Brown is Brun. But this is false. Brown is not Marron nor is it Brun. According to my son who is learning French the French way, Brown is “Caca Doigt.” Pronounced “cah-cah dwat.”  At first glance that seems interesting. When you google translate that, it is “Poo Finger.” I thought y’all needed to know this. Brown in French is poo finger. Don’t let any French teacher tell you differently.

Here, let me use it in a sentence.  “Mommy, I know what red, blue and yellow make … caca doigt.”

 

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Things Just Got Hornier

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Our second batch of cows arrived today.  I’ll let Brent tell you how we arrived at this breed.  But let me tell you, after the bucky Mirandaise, these girls were a dream.  I say girls but actually there’s one little baby boy in the mob.  He’s six days old and needs a name that begins with the letter ‘g.’  I liked Gordito.  Brent and Michael of course had their smart ass take on names beginning with ‘g.’  There are four cows and a pile of heifers.  It turns out that the cows keep the youngens calm.  This explains why the Mirandaise heifers have been a tad jumpy.  The Salers loaded off the truck and into their temporary accommodation smoothly.   Tonight is their first night here and the wind is picking up.  Hopefully our work securing the fences will hold.  We’ll spend the next week getting to know each other before they meet the Mirandaise possy.  I’m really excited because the Salers are excellent milkers.  Their milk is used for Cantal cheese.   I have no intention of making cheese, but I do enjoy fresh milk.  The older cows are supposed to be easy and calm for milking.  So we’ll soon see.  I imagine non-pasteurized milk and full cream yogurt in my future.

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Little Gordito has been with his mum for his entire six days of existence. This was his first day to meet the farm as well as the mob of heifers. The dude who sold us the cows got Gordito over to the collection of cows where he was fondly received. Them cows look after each others babies. Very sweet.
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It was a big day today with the cows. Brent managed to catch some great shots of the girls in the morning.

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among other nice shots

Tosca decided it was too hot and found shade under the tractor

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After months of “fun with bailing wire,” I discovered the ultimate use for such perfect material. This farm is just about held together with the stuff. So far, I’ve found astounding uses for this magical steel wonder. Who knew?! If you don’t have bailing wire, I suggest you run don’t walk to the nearest ag-store and pick some up.
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Happy Girls

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The Girls are out and doing their grass eating thing.  Well, not the Curtis girls.  They’re there to demonstrate the length of the grass. The five Mirandaise had an exciting few days in the crap paddock while we waited for the grass to grow. Today they moved down to Washington – a seriously grassy paddock.  Brent has been working on the names of the paddocks, which are currently inspired after US states and cities.  So far he’s determined Colorado, Washington, California and Detroit (uh, that’s the crap paddock…sorry Detroit).  We’ve had our share of cow moving.  The first time was a necessity after the wind storm.  The second was moving them from the stable to Detroit.  At first it was all going so well.  Then Fevette, the youngest, spooked and ran setting off the others.  The group went right through the fence Brent just set up.  Thankfully they didn’t run far.  In mid-run they became distracted with grass and quickly came to a halt to start nibbling.

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I’m learning so much with each move.  Brent does all the work and I come in to help with stragglers.  Today we moved them from Detroit to Washington (this is a temporary name, it may end up being Tri-Cities).  Brent spent hours working out how to get them from here to there.  Getting fences ready and their route determined.  It reminds me of moving data.  So much time spent upfront to get data to move around only to watch your work execute in seconds.  When we let the girls go on their big move, they quickly followed Brent.  Soon after, they started bucking and running and stopping.  They were more sensitive to the electric fence this time.  Brent stayed patiently behind them while they went right where they were supposed to go.  The paddock they were being moved to is so lush and green they seemed to go all giddy. Brent said they were munching away so much Elfie’s nose was green.  It’s been  nice to have them part of the farm.  Just wait for for our next editions …

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And in other news, Otto would like to share with you his new dinner classic “p-tato.”  A much easier way to eat your peas should you prefer to eat them with a knife.
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Minty does not like it when a photo is taken without her in it, so here is Minty with her own p-tato as entrée.
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