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Author Topic: Fencelines  (Read 147886 times)

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Online Dotch

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Stone cold, can't break away from your spell

The scurs and Weather Eye skated by with another better than usual for January forecast. Can they duplicate that feat or are we out of free passes for a while? Starting Wednesday, partly sunny with a fair chance of evening snow. Highs in the upper 30’s with lows in the low 30’s. Thursday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of snow developing and continuing through the evening hours. Highs in the upper 30’s with lows in the upper teens. Cloudy Friday with a fair chance of forenoon snow. Highs in the upper 20’s with lows in the low teens. Saturday, mostly cloudy with highs in the upper teens and lows in the upper single digits. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with highs in the low 20’s and lows in the upper single digits. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the mid-20’s and lows around 10. Mostly cloudy for Tuesday with highs in the upper teens and lows in the mid-single digits. On the 13th we see the sun set at 5 p.m. as our daylight continues to increase. The normal high for January 13th is 21 and the normal low is 4. The scurs are guessing that their woodpile is sufficient to make it until spring has sprung, next month. Optimism is contagious.

We’ve certainly lived a charmed life thus far this winter. Only one major storm and temperatures for the first half of winter we could only dream of. It may not come without a price depending on your point of view. Some of the insects prevalent in area fields last season are held in check at least temporarily by colder than normal temperatures. Not that we shouldn’t be enjoying our good fortune temperature and precipitation-wise, it’s just that there may be unforeseen consequences once the growing season commences. And while traits and pesticides are helpful, relying on them as our sole line of defense has proven to be a mistake many, many times after going to the well once too often.

The mild weather hasn’t stopped the bird population in the yard from taking advantage of our generosity. A very healthy chickadee population is usually present along with nuthatches, blue jays, juncos, hairies, downies, a red-belly, a song sparrow, a pair of cardinals and an increasing number of goldfinches. We offer suet, black oil sunflower, safflower, thistle seed and corn, both mixed in some feeders and ear corn for the squirrels. Their numbers have increased as well. At first it looked as though there were one or two. At last count, there were seven. One other one met its maker on the road, probably on its way up the hill to get a handout.

The local pheasant population has also been evident. Their tracks in the snow are pretty distinctive. I’m pretty sure we don’t have any roving bands of chickens in the area. The pheasants clean up under the bird feeders and make themselves right at home. In the late afternoon however they’ve taken to roosting in the evergreens. I used to wonder why until going outside at night about this time of year to check for lambs. Recently I can hear the distinctive calls of great horned owls, likely their mating call. They can’t be mating all the time however and have to eat. Pheasant tartar is definitely on their menu.
 
Friday marked the arrival of the first lamb of the New Year as well as our first ewe lamb of the season. I was in a hurry after being dogpiled at work much of the day. I normally like to get to the ranch and check on things after lunch but it took until almost 3 p.m. I also needed to get to Krause’s for feed yet. I spied a ewe with a new lamb by the hay feeder. From a distance everything looked good in spite of being 20 degrees. There was no breeze so that was a plus. I observed them up close for a minute as the lamb hooked onto the ewe. Decided they’d be fine and could be penned when I got back. They were fine and upon my return, Mrs. Cheviot was home in a matter of minutes. The lamb wriggled and kicked at Mrs. Cheviot all the way down the hill to the barn. The ewe followed her baby obediently while Ruby and I tailed her to the pen. Yup, that lamb was definitely gonna be just fine.
   
After unloading the pickup last Saturday and distributing the last of the possessions from Mom’s I finally had a day to do with as I wished. Well, sort of. Almost like being caught in some sort of spell. Time to play catchup and finish cleaning the rest of the main barn. Mostly anyway. First the snow needed to be shoveled out of the spreader and then the apron chains pried out of the ice. Not doing so for the better part of an hour would have resulted in certain disaster. Once that was accomplished the tractor was hooked up to the spreader to make sure there would be no nasty surprises once the pto was engaged. Sure enough, frozen manure had built up on the rear sprockets to the point that a possible apron chain derailment might be possible. Cussing as I chipped away at that and greasing some of the critical zerks afterwards took most of another hour.
 
In order to get to the field a management decision was necessary: Take the chains off the tractor, run up the highway with loads unsure if I’ll get stuck in the field and be able to navigate the icy sloping yard if/when I returned or do I leave the chains on and dig a path with the skidsteer through 50’ – 60’ of 2’ – 3’ snowdrifts in the ditch to make it out to the field? I chose the latter as once I put the chains on I really hate taking them off or putting them back on. There’s nothing remotely resembling fun about either process. After another hour I’d blazed what looked to be an acceptable trail to the field. After that, some major limbs were chain sawed off the bur oak so they wouldn’t tear the flashers off the tractor cab. Almost time to start hauling except the bucket needed to be changed over to the forks on the skidsteer. If you’re not in a hurry the forks go on quickly. If you’re in a hurry, it tends to be a royal pain to get the pins lined up with the mounting brackets. Guess which time it was?

As it turned out my decision making process was 100% correct. It would’ve been nearly impossible to operate in the slippery yard without the chains on, speaking from experience. The snow in the field was an intangible. From the road it really didn’t appear that deep. Once out there appearances proved otherwise, especially on the leeward side of rises and down in the swales. There was snow up to 2’ deep, something the 656 probably wasn’t going through without the chains on while pulling a full load. Calling a neighbor to pull a tractor and spreader out is real embarrassing. Once I got going, we thundered right along considering there were also panels, gates and animals needing to be moved. Six major league loads later we called it good for the day. One more set of pens yet to be cleaned and the main barn is done. Not a moment too soon either with more snow on the way.
 
See you next week…real good then.     
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

Online Dotch

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Haven't you noticed the rays, the spirit sun is stronger

The scurs and Weather Eye blessed us with yet another warmer than expected effort. Will we continue to bite off hunks of winter or finally begin to choke on it? Starting Wednesday, mostly sunny with highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Thursday, sunny with highs in the low 30’s and lows in the mid-single digits. Mostly sunny Friday with highs in the low teens and lows around zero. Saturday, mostly cloudy with a good chance of snow by evening. Highs in the upper teens with lows around 10. Mostly cloudy on Sunday with a good chance of snow. Highs in the mid-20’s with lows in the low teens. Monday, partly sunny with highs in the low 20’s and lows around zero. Partly cloudy for Tuesday with a slight chance of snow. Highs in the low teens with lows around zero. We’ll see daylight increasing by just over 2 minutes per day starting on the 21st.  The normal high for January 21st is 22 and the normal low is 4. The scurs have it on good authority that warm sunny days lie just ahead. They’ll be heading off to St. Olaf beach to catch some rays.
 
We managed to get through what is typically the coldest part of the winter. We did however collect another major snowfall event last week that was more typical of a March snowstorm. The storm was given the “blizzard” designation although by most standards, it was pretty tame at least into the early morning. The snow was heavy and wet, so much so that the strong winds had little effect on blowing it around.  Doing lamb check at around 10 p.m. it had only managed and inch or so of accumulation. Looking out the window closer to 4 a.m. one could see everything was white and the wind was howling. Rather than get too interested in the weather, it was more prudent to go back to sleep for a while. Plenty of time to play with the snow later.
 
Was surprised at choretime to find over 7” of wet snow evenly spread across the dooryard. In town it was much the same. Given the wind one might’ve expected to see more drifting. As sticky as the snow was though it made no sense to attempt using the blower. Like most people did I used the bucket to hack trails so we could get from building to building. When the weekend arrived the weather cooled down and it was easier to use the blower to finish what had been started. Very satisfying to see all the frozen Ruby concretions fly out the chute and over the snow piles into the road ditch.

Lambs continue to trickle in slowly at the ranch. The only fly in the ointment has been the lambing barn that hasn’t been cleaned. The recent snow didn’t help matters. Finishing the cleanout of the remaining pens in the main barn was a feather in my cap however. Loading it up was a little like working in a broom closet; tight quarters while trying to avoid tearing equipment off the wall and leaving the pens intact. It made for one monster load by the time I was done. Like any good livestock farmer, I wasn’t about to make two trips. The 656 growled as the beaters on the spreader pulverized the load, leaving a thick layer evenly behind. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cheviot had the pens bedded with straw quickly and moving the ewes with lambs back into them went smoothly. Best of all it was drier and the air quality was vastly improved, at least in the barn. Out in the field? Let’s just say I was glad the wind was out of the west.

The lambs in the main barn are doing splendidly and have responded to it being clean and dry. The first lamb born back in early December looks like a miniature beef steer. The next two took off like a rocket in the past week. Another ewe lamb born Monday and set of twins born Tuesday look good but are in the lambing barn where moving them sooner than later may be in everyone’s best interest. If we can’t get the lambing barn cleaned we’ll have to keep rotating ewes with lambs through the main barn, open up the loafing area and establish a creep feeder. Looking at the longer term forecasts there may be some bumps in the road but indications are the lower temperatures will be of relatively short duration. It just might work, this time. As the decades have taught me, getting by with something once doesn’t constitute it becoming standard operating procedure especially when dealing with the weather.
       
Ruby has long been in charge of entertainment at the ranch and this past weekend was no exception. Between playing ball, making strange dog noises, and sharing her popcorn she doesn’t skip a beat. She also found another enemy on the TV to go along with the Myrbetriq bladder character: The Cologuard fecal specimen box character. Why not? Her sudden growling usually gets noticed especially when it involves watching TV. Not that her attention span is particularly long but she seems to hone in on the more “unusual “ads and their equally “unusual” representatives. Upon hearing Ruby’s growling it was no surprise to look up from my magazine and understand immediately that the little Cologuard specimen box man was not welcome in her house.

See you next week…real good then.
Time itself is bought and sold, the spreading fear of growing old contains a thousand foolish games that we play. (Neil Young)

 

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