A reminder to slow down

While the sunlight hours in a day has dwindled and life is getting closer to our winter solstice I am reminded of slowing down.

Day light makes things so much easier to see…it is easier to see how much water is in the trough or where to step on the snow covered ground…it mught even help if you have lost your keys outside around the barn…

This morning I woke up to get ready to go to work…had a coffee and some breakfast…did a little reflection…and then went to do chores…

I noticed that my keys were not on the clasp that they normally are on…

This double ended clasp I have been using lately to hold my keys…I normally have them connected to my belt loop…which is exactly where the clasp was this morning when I went to grab my keys…however the keys were not with the clasp…

So I looked with a flashlight as best I could…I looked all around the barn…and now I will wait for daylight when I can see better…

Yesterday I was in the barn mucking out stalls and I built a new stall or pen (whatever you would like to call it) for the doe to kid in as she is expecting in the next month or so…I think that I may have lost them while working in the barn…I have turned the house upside down…I need to have better light in the barn and around the barn…

So here I am slowing down for the day not because I wanted to but because no matter how hard I try I cannot walk near as fast as I can drive…

My Journey Mug

Back in the spring of 2001 I headed down the trail with everything that I could fit in my saddle bags and my bedroll. I harnessed up the mules Jim and Kate and saddled Easy a black Tennessee Walker. I handed over Easy’s reins to Ken a man who I hardly knew at the time but a man who had enough faith in me and my ability to take me along on this journey. I climbed up on the wagon and waited for Ben to give the go a head. He moved out in front of the train on the path of many who years ago made the journey for a brighter future, a journey of hope.

Along this trail I made many amazing friends. I created memories that have been brought back to mind with the smell of saddle leather or some other little thing. Along this trail we stepped in the footsteps of settlers and people headed to chase the dreams of gold. It wasn’t much different than what we are trying to do here on Splitrock Heritage Homestead. We are trying to do the same thing as peole did years ago. Carving out a future, creating a life, living a dream.

Years ago (not all that many really, 17 years ago) I saddled up and went on an adventure with people who changed my life. With people who impacted and imprinted on me so many different things that it would be hard to explain it all, so today I am not going to try. I am just going to sit back while I enjoy my coffee and remember how blessed I am to have met all of those wonderful people. Thankful that those people took the time to speak into a young mans life. (I will write more about some of those adventures as time allows, but until then let me leave you with this thought.)

The picture I posted is of a journey mug. Not just any mug but a mug that was hand beaded by a wonderful woman who I was blessed to get to know on the trail. Thanks Quackgrass Sally. This mug I used for coffee, water, whiskey. It has sparked lots of conversations over the years. It has seen lots of miles and has stories of its own to tell I am sure. We used to sit in the front of a horse trailer with a bottle of Jack and have a staff meeting with Ben and a few others, filling our mugs and chatting and laughing. We would sit in the morning and drink our coffee listening to the mules and horses stamping their feet and swishing their tails. Breathing in the fresh air that only Wyoming and Montana bring. It was a good time. It helped to prepare me for who I am to this day. And so in the morning between when I get into the house from the barn chores and head to work I will smell the coffee and pour into my journey mug a cup of memories to reflect on.

Thank you to so many who have blessed me so deeply.

Thats a COW!?! Bull S**t!

It has been interesting learning how disconnected from agriculture we as a society have become.

We were given a cow…maybe a bull…depends who you ask…let me explain.

Our cow is gentle. She is small as per her breed. She is shaggy. She is stout. She (and this is where it gets confusing) has horns.

WHAT! HORNS! yes horns. Our cow has horns. Like many breeds our cow has horns. It amazes me how many people have seen my cow and after I have told them “this is my cow isn’t she beautiful?” they get a confused look in their eyes and say something like “thats a bull it has horns”.

If it has an udder down under it’s a cow.

Some breeds are hornless (aka polled). Other breeds have horns. Regardless of sex. Some animals have been dehorned for safety reasons. Not all bulls are mean. Not all cows are friendly.

So let me take a moment to share with you some tips that may help one stay clear of an embarrassing conversation.

Tip #1 if the owner refers to the gender of their animal as female…trust them they are probably correct

Tip #2 if the animal has horns, one way to tell if it is a cow or a bull is to look underneath (you don’t have to get close) to see if you see testicals or an udder or teats? If there is an udder it is indeed a female. If it has none of those traits it is probably a steer.

Tip #3 if you are not sure say so…or say what you think…it makes for some fun conversation

Thanks to all my friends who provided me with the idea for this post through some funny conversations.

Adopted horses not rescue horses

One morning not that long ago around 6am the phone rang. Amanda answered it and after a “let me talk to my husband and I will get back to you” she hangs up. She looks at me and says “that was _________ and they have a friend who is taking care of a draft cross and a large pony. The people who own these horses have both been diagnosed with terminal cancer and are in search of a good home. Our name came up so if you are interested we can have them they just need to get them out of there asap.”

Well we have a mini horse who I have dubbed the 1/8 horse and didn’t really have any interest in having a large pony. I said as much to Amanda but that I would go and take a look. So a friend and I went two days later to look at them (we brought another friend’s trailer being a two hour drive we didn’t want to have to repeat the drive if we were going to take them home anyways). When I stepped out of the truck I double checked the address because there was no large pony to be seen. There was a draft horse (looks to be a pecheron cross of some sort) and a quarter horse.

Well they loaded onto the trailer alright…

They came home that day.

I must say that it is fun having some full sized horses around again.

The heavy is named Belle she has done fox hunting in the past…the bay is called Story…she has done some english riding in the past.

I plan on putting a harness on Belle as well as putting her back under saddle (western of course). I will put Story under saddle as well.

The two of them haven’t been used in a few years so it should be interesting to back them again.

Let me be clear about one thing we didn’t rescue these two loves. We adopted them as their owners were going to be unable to care for them. They were loved. They may have not been used for a few years but they were cared for. They had plenty of hay, a mineral lick, and fresh water, their feet have been trimmed regularly and they are up to date with worming. If more people took care of their animals as these peopls did the world would be a better place. We adopted them because the owners were in a poor way health wise in fact the gentleman passed away about ten days after we picked the horses up. He was glad to know they went to a new home and that they were going to be loved.

I am thankful that we were thought of and that we were able to grant that couple some peace knowing that the horses they cared for for years were going to continue to be cared for. Which in reality is that couple still caring for these horses.

Wow has it been that long?

It seems like forever since I have posted anything on here. I am truly sorry for that.

There has been lots going on and it seems like there is not enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished. Some days I need to remind myself that there is always tomorrow to work towards accomplishing the project at hand.

So lets see what are some of the things we have done in the past few months…

  • Started some basic barn renovations (moving stalls)
  • Picked up a young doeling goat
  • Adopted 2 horses
  • Put up some fencing
  • Planted garlic
  • Had a kid (human baby)
  • Put in a water line to the barn (still working on this)
  • Cussed at the early snow fall
  • Took some time off from work
  • Been to a few funerals
  • Been to a wedding
  • Had some family move out west
  • Picked up a cow
  • Borrowed a tractor
  • Helped with some events for the farm association

All in all it has been busy but also feels like we haven’t accomplished much. When I sit down and write a list of some of the things we did it makes more sense as to why I feel like we didn’t get more done.

I find it good to write down a list for a few reasons. One is to remind yourself of what you have done, another reason is to help keep you on track with your goals.

Do you make lists? What do you use them for? I would be interested in your thoughts about lists.

In the morning quiet

The silence is broken as the alarm sounds of in the darkness that is our bedroom.

It is 5:45 one of my days off as I have this week booked off from work. I have slept in till this point as normally I am already at work.

I let Amanda stay in bed this morning as she normally gets up to milk the rest of the week (even on days that I am home she typically gets up to milk and let’s me sleep in a little longer or just so we can hang out while we milk).

Our youngest got up to help me with milking (he enjoys the homestead life).

Once again the silence of the night is broken as the snow crunches beneath our feet as we walk towards the barn with milking bucket in hand.

As I enter the barn I am met with quiet darkness which is broken with a bleat from Millie and some answering bleats from her kids (who are in a separate pen over night).

I lead Millie over to the milking stand. She steps right up as she has become accustomed to our new morning routine. The sound of her hooves upon the wood disturbs the silence even further.

Our youngest is sure someone is at the barn door but it is just Blaze in the next stall over scratching his head on the partition wall.

Spray down Millie’s teats and udder to make sure she is clean the sound of the spray is loud in the stillness.

Pat her dry and place the milk bucket under her and gently milk her into a strip cup to check that everything looks good and she is healthy. The youngest takes a turn stripping out some milk from Millie into the bucket. We switch who is milking as his attention wains. The sound of the fresh milk against the side of the stainless steel bucket has a satisfactory ring to it and is almost relaxing as I get into a rhythm.

Millie relaxes as the swelling in her udder receds. She starts to munch away on her grain chewing loud enough that you know what she is doing even though her head is out of the circle of light produced from the flashlight.

Milk collected the youngest and I reunite Millie with her kids. Headed back to the house the snow crunches under our feet once again.

The house is quiet as everyone else is still sound asleep. The clock ticks on the wall. We get out the filters and the funnel. Put a filter into the funnel/strainer and pour the fresh milk through it sounds almost like coffee dripping in a brew cycle.

Put the milk into the fridge and wash everything up.

The youngest decides to go back to bed. I sit down to drink a cup of coffee.

Finally some quiet in the morning.

Tapped in!

Sugar bush time is upon us! I have tapped our pipeline (which is a first for us). Up until now we have always used buckets. Mind you up until now we have lived in town. Last year we tapped with just a few buckets because that is what we had on hand.

This year we will use those same few buckets and the small pipeline we have set up. The reason we went with a pipeline for sap collection is simply less work and less loss of sap. Buckets can only hold so much and then they overflow (this isn’t a major issue if you have time to collect throughout the day). Where a pipeline pipes the sap to a larger tank so as long as you size it accordingly to the amount of taps, in theory you won’t lose a drop of sap.

Now we didn’t tap lots just a large handful as this year we have been busy doing all sorts of things and there is no point in putting out so much effort to not collect the benefits of it. So by limiting our taps we can add to it next year and the year after and continue to do so until we reach the number of taps that we decide we are able to do and willing to do.

This will be an interesting year as we have a better boiling system (Thanks Dad). I will highlight the evaporator system we have when we start boiling in a separate post.

Happy sugaring everyone!

Milk…it is a journey

Well this morning we milked Millie for the first time. We have stripped her out here and there just to make sure she was used to the idea and to make sure that the kids were able to get the milk that they needed.

To get to this point has been a journey.

Last year we got a miniature horse (who isn’t a mini now but not a pony…probably a class all of his own… if you remind me I will write a post about that another time lol). Now you can’t have a horse (mini or pony or whatever he may be) and not let him have a friend. So we got a few bottle baby goats. We had them wethered (castrated) and brought them home. We had them castrated so we wouldn’t be dealing with a Billy/buck who can be real jerks. After a few months it was evident that one of the two had been missed for castration.

What do you do with an intact Buck? You find him a girlfriend. Along came Millie. We had chickens at this point and I know we had some bees bumbling around…so after some conversations I am sure that the goats must of had with the birds and the bees…we ended up with kids…

Now that we have kids we have a supply of milk.

We have built a milk stanchion. (I found plans for this at fiascofarm.com).

This stanchion is a well thought out plan all the designers ask is for a donation for using the plan (which I still need to send to them).

We have left the kids with Millie up to this point. Now that we are going to be milking her we will be separating them overnight. This allows her to bag up so we have a supply of milk in the morning to tap into. Once we are done we put her back with the kids for the day and we will separate them again in the evening.

This morning we went out and put Millie on the milk stanchion and washed her uder and teats with a wash solution. A solution that Amanda made from a recipe she found from 104homestead.com.

We put the milk bucket under her and started milking…if only it was that easy. She was a little nervous being a new thing for her but with a few close calls of hooves and buckets we managed not to loose any milk.

We came in from the barn complete with a milk pail of fresh milk and smiles upon our faces.

We filtered the milk through a stainless milk strainer with filter that we purchased on line at shenandoahhomesteadsupply.com.

And now we have milk cooling in the fridge.

This is just a quick overview of how things went. There is more to the process of milking and at some point I may write a detailed post about how to milk. There is lots of good information around sometimes it is just weeding it out.

We have used fiasco for information as well as https://www.weedemandreap.com

Once again there is always information to be had you need to sift through the information and make the best choice for yourself and for your family and animals. I don’t know everything even with Google.

Have a great day everyone and happy milking!

Proud to Announce!!

Mervin (our buck) and Millie (our doeling) are the proud parents of two little kids a little buck and a little doeling.

Mom is doing well.

The babies are doing well.

Yesterday Amanda and I went to look at a horse a few hours away. When we got home Amanda was headed towards the barn to put everyone in for the night. She was talking on the phone with a friend who had just called upon walking into the barn she heard a little cry and immediately said I will call you back I have baby goats. She hung up and yelled for me to come.

Millie had twins but being a new mom we wanted to spend some time to make sure everything was good. (Which is a good practice regardless of how many they have had). She was spending time with the little buck but not so much with the little doe. We watched to see what she would do. After a little while we went into the pen with her and tried to get the little ones to nurse. She wasn’t having anything to do with that. So we dried the little doe off a little more as it was a little cool out yesterday. After she was dry Amanda and I worked on getting Millie to allow the littles to nurse. I stripped (a milking term for pulling milk from a teat on an goat or cow) about 15 to 20 strips to make sure she was able to provide the milk she had produce. Once we had her realize that she did much better with everything.

I got up in the middle of the night to check and make sure they were doing well. Amanda got up in the early hours to check in on them to make sure they were doing well. So today they are 24 hours old and have a better idea of what their feet are about.

It is so nice to see littles come into the world here at Split Rock Heritage Homestead. Looking forward to our goat herd growing.