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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Up in Smoke

Today is Ellen's first birthday, but in light of current events I thought I would blog about what happened this morning.

We got up and were having breakfast at about 4:15 AM when we saw a firetruck go by. Dear Husband runs to the window to see where it is going. It stopped at our neighbor's house; the mule breeder. Dear Husband saw sparks and ran to get his coveralls on (it was well below freezing outside) I ran to the window to see. DH said maybe it was just a shed; but not from what I was seeing; whatever it was just took off. In the two or three minutes it took for DH to get his coveralls and boots on and go out to the yard he then just turned around and came back in and said it was the house and it was hopeless.

But he got the truck and went up there anyway; neighbor's house is maybe an eighth of a mile from us on the opposite side of the road, not far at all, with a bunch of trees between us. I went out and stood there with tears freezing on my face and watched the whole place go up in flames, heard the walls fall, saw the huge sullenly glowing column of smoke overshadow the whole thing like some hideous spector. At that point I didn't know if neighbor was dead or alive, so I just stood there and prayed. The whole house was gone in less than an hour; maybe just 45 minutes. They had the milk tankers bringing water for most of the morning though, to keep the sparks and embers under control. It's all just a pile of wet charcoal now with the chimney standing sentinel over the wreckage.

DH came back in 1/2 hour or so; yes, neighbor was alive and well. Had managed to crawl out the upstairs window and get down from there. This was a nice 3 bedroom, split level house; he had crawled down to the lowest level roof and was only about 5 feet from the ground there. He had saved their 3 bulldogs, but the little brown mutt that followed him so faithfully where-ever he went, for some reason, she ran into the open door of the burning house and was lost. He had a wood furnace in the basement and thinks that was the culprit.

Neighbor's wife was out of state visiting their daughter and he was going to go back up there and get her this morning early, so he had a couple of bags of clothes packed and ready to go in his car.

It is hard to describe without going on for pages what it was all like and how badly this affects them. For the past 5 years or so they have been struggling. They are in their 50s (I believe, he might be older) and awhile back they found a tumor in her brain. This caused major financial strains and they have just barely kept the wolf from the door, as it were, since then. Just this past summer she had surgery and is on anti-seizure meds. There was about $4,000 worth in the house; up in smoke. Someone said the Red Cross has a program they can go to that will help replace the meds. They do have insurance and that will help.

Already support has poured in for them; our church always has a "burned-out" fund that we donate to folks in the community who go through this, and neighbors, friends and strangers have been going back and forth offering what they can and helping as they can. Our neighborhood has had quite the traffic today; supporters and others just driving by to sow "gawk seeds" as my husband says.

And that is how Ellen's first birthday began. I will blog about the good stuff tomorrow, or when I get the heart to do so.

It is sobering to realize how tenuous our hold on our security is; how quickly it can be destroyed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday Salute 2, I think...

I haven't been doing too well on saluting or throwing back...ha, that sounds indecent, but anyway, I will keep trying.

Here's a salute to my pen-pal Daniela, in the Czech Republic. We have been pen-pals for over 12 years now. I received my first letter from her December 1995. How time flies.

For putting up with me for so long she deserves a salute of some sort. We have had fun over the years exchanging stories and info. She and her husband do lots of traveling all over Europe and she writes great stories about their adventures, I travel vicariously through her letters and emails. I know we'd be great friends in person if we'd been neighbors because we both love to garden and hate to dust. We both also tend to have a wry sense of humor in our writing and love to write long letters and emails.

So anyway; Daniela, here's a salute to you! Thanks for your friendship; it's meant much to me over the years! I haven't been much of a correspondent lately, but I am working on it.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Iced in and no batteries...

Such is life.

My rechargeable batteries for the camera went kaput; or else it's the charger that won't work, I don't have any AA batteries on hand. So, there goes posting any more recent pics for least until I can get to the store and get some.

Oh, well.

What has been going on here? It's icy. Well, yesterday we had a day of sleet, which partially melted and refroze, leaving a sheet of cement/ice that requires great care to walk on; especially if you are carrying a child.

It-the sleet-didn't start 'til mid-morning, so husband and I were able to do some fetching and hauling.

On Wed evening hubby came home and noticed a calf up to the dry cow pen. Then when he put hay out Thur (yest) AM he saw another cow up there calving. So we waited a while then went up and checked out the situation.

Yep. Two healthy calves. Unfortunately the first calf was a bull. Why "unfortunately?" He was another little red calf. I think his mom came from the bull that had red Holstein in his bloodlines. The second calf was a cute little blk/white heifer.

So we went up and fetched 'em back to the barn here. This involved taking the 4-wheeler with the calf cart, putting one calf in, towing it back to the corral w/ Mama Cow following closely behind, then chasing her into the corral. Then we put them both in the trailer, take them back to the barn, go back and do the whole process all over again. Effective, but time consuming. Ellen stayed with Grandma during the whole ordeal.

There is at least one more dry cow up there that looks like getting close to calving. Sure wish it'd warm up before she does.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Monday Post...

Just some random thoughts.

The weather has been up and down the past few days; ice, snow, sleet, sun, wind...a bit of everything. Last week schools were closed 4 days because of ice. The only way this affects the dairy is that when I make my runs up the road to do the graining in the early AM there aren't any kids out by the side of the road waiting for the school bus. Not that I have anything against them; I don't know them at all, but I feel like an idiot on parade going back and forth on the 4-wheeler, waving to them. At one place the parents take the kids to the bus stop in the car/truck and sit and wait. And that doesn't really bug me either much except for the fact that they only see me in my grungy chore clothes, never in anything nice. Also, I have started calling the 4-wheeler "Cyclops" because one headlight is out, so I feel even more stupid.

I was raised to watch my language, and as a Christian I don't have a problem with not swearing, even in my thoughts. I never have really, even when I worked in a jail where most everyone from inmates to co-workers swore like sailors. But occasionally I have lapses.

Yesterday morning I was doing my usual chores, one of which is simply to go close the gate on the cows in the holding corral. The corral is "L" shaped, the top of the "L" being where they go into the milk barn for milking and the toe of the "L" being where they tend to congretate and annoy my husband because they won't go into the milk barn and he has to chase them around. So I go close the gate to get them out of the "L", changing the "L" to a regular box shaped corral. So anyway, yesterday I went to close the gate and there was one beast (there usually always is) that wouldn't move, so I smacked it on the butt with my hand, always, ALWAYS being careful to stay out of kicking range. It just stood there and looked around at me; I smacked it again and it finally moved off and I closed the gate. But as I did so I noticed something and then thought: "Oh, #*%&*, that critter doesn't have an udder between HIS legs, that's the BULL!" And there I was smacking him around like he was just a common cow. *sigh*

It is always best to give dairy bulls a lot of leeway; they are killers, no matter how tame they may seem. The tamer they are the more unpredictable they are. You never know when they are going to go off on you, and they don't really even have to be mad, just annoyed, but one swing of that head and you've got a few broken ribs or a ruptured liver.

Anyway. I will get back to finishing the virtual tour here in a day or so, bear with me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Free Rice

Just checking in for today. Wanted to clue you in to this cool site that C mentioned in her Random Musing blog.

Go to this site: Free Rice and test your vocabulary skills. For every word you get correct you have donated 20 grains of rice to feed the poor. It's easy and fun. Not to mention addictive. Hey, improve your vocabulary and help people while doing it; how much better does it get? I tried to add a banner with a link to it, but I have yet to develop such a skill on here. Any suggestions?

It's cold here on the dairy. Still icy from the "storm" a couple of days ago. They are saying snow flurries for tomorrow. Sigh. Not a good day for taking pictures outside for the virtual tour.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Virtual Tour

It was suggested that I do a "virtual tour" of the dairy here. I am not sure what all you will want to see, so if there are any suggestions, please let me know. I haven't got around to changing my email addresses so I will try and check the one here if you email to it, instead of make a comment.

I'll just start with the quick story of the beginnings. Dear husband began this dairy back in the mid-late 80s (when I was still in highschool, or just getting out) from scratch. He bought up some land next door to his folks, about 5 acres, and he and his dad built the barn. (The one you see on this main page here...whatever you call it.) Then he got 4 cows and started milking. He rented fields around the area until he could buy more land as it became available. From there, over the years, he bought more cows and made more improvements as he could. All of it he paid cash for, and still does, so he owes no one anything.
Most of the equipment is quite old dated as he bought it all at yard sales or auctions where other dairies were going out of business. But really, much of it is better quality than what you'd find today and it is all still going strong.
Here's the inside of the barn, the milking parlor:

This is a candid of hubby, I didn't really want him in the pic. I was standing on the steps down into the parlor. As you can see, it is a herring bone construction, on the left the blue panels are where the cows butts back up against and the black things below them are actually semi truck mud flaps to help prevent ummm...splatters. There are 4 milkers, though 5 cows can fit in here.

Overhead there you can see the glass pipes where the milk is sucked up and then it goes out into the tank room and goes into the glass milk jar where it is then pumped up into the tank. Here's the jar:

This is where I fill milk bottles, at this valve, and get our own milk.

I will have to get a picture of the tank. I don't have one of those on hand. These pics were actually taken on my first visit here pre-marriage, back in the summer of '04.

Any questions...or suggestions...let me know. I'll do more pics of other things as I get a chance.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Welcome to Chigger's

Events of last week gave me little time on the computer to blog. Here is the story of one reason.

On Friday Husband decided we needed to go look at a trailer he had found on Craig's List, I think. He has been looking for a trailer long enough to haul his backhoe in. Anyway, said trailer is in Kansas; Fort Scott, Kansas, which is about a 2-3 hour drive from where we are. Since I am always up for an adventure I decided to tag along. Of course the baby had to come too. So we got everything packed and headed off to KS.
The weather was overcast so it was rather nice, though we ran into a few showers in KS. We went through a series of little towns; just little wide spots in the road. I always like going through these little towns because they have these signs with the town name and the population on them; little towns you'd never find on the map whose names I can't remember now, but one population notation was: 249. Some towns we go through make you wonder what the origin of the name was; Moundville, Fair Play, Filley...
When we got there turns out the guy who had the trailer for sale was the caretaker of one of the cemeteries there in Ft. Scott. A rather large cemetery which fascinated hubby. The caretaker had a couple backhoes and other large equipment; he dug the graves and did the lawn work. Said in spring and summer; grass growing season that is, all he got done was mowing and weedeating the grass. So far, there at his cemetery, he's only done one grave this year.
We look at the trailer. Hubby is impressed and whips out his checkbook. Then we head back. By this time we are need gas rather badly; we are down to our last 1\4 of a tank. But gas is a bit more expensive in KS than in MO, so we head back to MO. Hubby never wants to go back the same way we came so we take a different route. But we keep going and going and no sign of a gas station in sight. We come to Sheldon, MO. A small podunk town. We took a tour around the back streets and finally found a seedy looking place called "Chigger's" with rather antiquated gas pumps out front. We pull in and a seedy looking car pulls in next to us. While hubby is gassing up I see him talking to the young guy, who laughs.
Hubby later says the guy told him that Chigger's is the only place in town that sells gas; which is why the price is no cheaper than what we saw in KS.
Anyway. For some reason this Chigger's place just cracked me up. As you can see from the sign, it appears to be the local watering hole for more reasons than one. They make sure you know that you can get you some Bud there. And a pizza too. What was so funny to me is that it certainly seemed appropriately named. If you live where you have never heard of or met a chigger, my friend, you live in paradise. Check here to see what you are missing. I grew up not knowing a thing about chiggers and I never appreciated it. A chigger is the larval, parasitic stage of a mite. When we were kids we would spend our summers out in the fields rolling around in the grass. Never had to worry about ticks either. Ah, the good old days!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Random photo entry...

I was looking through my photos I have taken since I came to the dairy and found this one above. This is a female cardinal that took a header into our picture window. She was on the ground and I picked her up and put her on the deck for a photo shoot. Isn't she pretty? She recovered quickly and flew off.

Usually in the winter I put up a bird feeder out in the front of the house. I found it fun the first 2 years because I was able to see any number of different birds that I'd never seen on the West coast; especially the cardinals. This year I didn't put up the bird feeder because I learned that it makes a great smorgasborg for Matilda the cat...witness this picture:

For one thing the feeder is on a really short pole, but it doesn't matter because many of the birds, like the snow birds (junkoes), feed on the ground and Matilda sneaks up on them somehow. It is annoying to see puffs of feathers around and know that I am providing the cat with an easy meal. GRRRRRR.... She's supposed to be taking care of rodents near the barns and hay, not eating the birds!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Yet more winter chores....

Last night we got about 4 inches of snow. This means that, although it hasn't been cold enough for the ponds to freeze over and need chopping, it means that we have to shovel the snow out of the feed bunks before putting the feed in.

This can be hazardous because you have any number of anxious bovines behind you crowding and shoving and pushing around to get to the bunks; whether you have put feed in there or not. They figure that since you are messing around in there you MUST have put something in there for them. If you are so lucky as to have charged into the corral and closed the gate before they came up you are doing well.

Fortunately this morning the open heifers weren't up at their corral yet when I was shoveling the snow from the bunks, I was able to close the gate on the bull heifer corral before they showed up and the dry cows (there are only 8 of them instead of 27 or 28 and 17 respectively of the others) aren't that big of a problem.

The neat thing about when it snows is seeing all the tracks and trying to interpret them; squirrel, rabbit, deer...etc. Sometimes you get canine tracks but it is beyond me to figure whether it is coyote or the neighbors' dogs visiting. A year or so ago I got a free subscription to Field and Stream magazine and I was able to pick up some interesting tracking info from one issue. (I had to wade through quite a few advertisements for Viagra and other such ilk that supposedly MUST help the male of the human species while they are at deer camp swilling beer, falling out of deer stands or shooting themselves in the foot, otherwise why would such ads be in there, right?) Anyway, I learned that buck deer toe out and does toe in. Bobcat tracks do not show claws and coyote tracks do show claws.

Also; you have heard it said not to eat yellow snow. I might add that when you are on a dairy; skip the green snow as well. It's not pistachio flavored, that's for sure!