Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Bridge

Life has been crazy.  Our community has it’s houses far apart and so our community does a lot of activities for Halloween.  Instead of “Trick or Treating” we “Trunk or Treat”.  When you “Trunk or Treat” you park your cars in a circle and some of us decorate your cars or trucks just like some houses are more decorated.  The kids put on their costumes and go to the cars and say “Trunk or Treat” and we hand them candy.  Unlike towns that have Trick or Treating on Halloween, we seem to need to have Cub Scout Trunk or Treating, Girl Scout Trunk or Treating, Community Church Trunk or Treating, and so on.  We also have our schools largest fundraiser the Halloween Carnival; band, Boy Scouts, individual classes, and Girl Scouts all hope for volunteers.  It’s a crazy busy time of year.  So what does Darling Husband decide we need to do?  Build a bridge! 

The cattle have eaten all the grass in the pasture we made for them and we need to fence in another area of the property.  We have 2 more areas that will make nice pastures.  One is along the top of our property, we have 5 different neighbors up there with lots of different fencing most not in good condition, one neighbor with a beautiful expensive fence who will let us attach our electric fence to his, and the other neighbor will not allow us (or other neighbors) to touch their fencing.  We will need to install several gates up there.  The other section in a triangle shaped  area that we have never used and rarely even been on it is cut off from the rest of the property by a ditch that becomes a raging river when it rains, the bottom is along the street, and the other side is a neighbors fence that looks in good condition.  We decided this will be the easiest area to prepare for the cattle. 
Darling Husband decided building a bridge and taking the cattle across it will be better than putting a gate at the street.  He found an I beam and cut it in half and welded it so the bridge will be about 10 feet wide, 16 feet long, and strong enough to drive a Mack truck across.
Teen Boy is putting nuts on the bolts while DH drills the holes through the wood.  Then I pound the bolt through the hole.  
My Posers checking out the bridge!  
  Then he got a lot of reclaimed 4 x 6’s and 4 x 12’s and we bought a few also.  Then we use ½ inch bolts and drilled through the wood and beams and metal straps.   This bridge is massive. 

We also moved the sheep’s day time area up around a few of the citrus trees and oaks and ficus tree type trees that all need to be trimmed.  We will let the sheep trim the bottoms and fertilize the plants for a few weeks.  
When I am home we let the sheep roam around and mow the lawn and eat other weeds around the house and where ever they want.  This worked great at first!  They were afraid to come close to the house, now they are eating my flowers out of the planters around the house.  I may have to rethink things – letting the sheep roam, or what I plant hmmm.  
I asked Stick Boy to walk the dog and he comes back an hour later with a skate board and 10 sticks.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Catchin' Up

It has been a crazy time at our house.  We were in charge of the Boy Scout Garage Sale.  It was a great success but we didn’t get anything done around the property.  The ponds aerator is working wonderfully.  We have had some warm weather and we have a lot less algae than I think we would have had without it.  We have about 10 Mallard Ducks, one Snowy Egret, and one Great Blue Heron that are living here. The ducks really are enjoying our cleaner water it is amazing watching them dive.  One morning I spent about 5 minutes watching a heron fishing then I realized it was moss hanging from a tree in the shape of a heron. 

We finally got the solar charger hooked up to the electric fence but it has not been long enough to see how well or even if it works.  We are starting to be able to pet Hope and the steers while they are eating.  She still is skittish but she is getting friendlier. We have plans to put in more fencing: new pastures and finally get the property fenced.  We have an area of the property that is about an acre, it is cut off from the rest of the property by a drainage ditch that becomes a raging creek when it rains.  I think our next big project will be to build a bridge to that area and turn it into a pasture.  

We need to move the sheep’s daytime area but have been too busy and I am not sure where we are going to move them that isn't in a coyote runway that I can set up the temporary fencing around and has a lot of things for them to eat.  We have been letting the sheep roam between the house and the pond when we are home.  The cats have a wonderful time stalking the sheep.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mental Illness

Our family is a family that suffers with Mental Illness.  We met our beautiful 11 year old daughter when she was 4 ½, she had been through a lot in those few years.  It was very clear that my daughter would have a lot of needs from the beginning.  Like a lot of adoptive parents we believed that love, consistency, counseling, care, and more love would heal our daughter.  We were wrong.  Mental illness in children is so hard to treat.  Finding a Dr. willing to work with children younger than 13 is difficult our area has waiting lists.  We have been lucky, our daughter has responded well to medications and is doing so much better than she was 2 years ago.  We are lucky, so many of our friends are not so lucky.  Mental illness like any chronic illness affects not just the person but the whole family. 

When we decided to get sheep and cattle we had to consider how our daughter would respond to the extra animals to care for and extra demands on her parents’ time.  Could we handle the extra chores and meet our daughter’s needs when she has a break down?  She was doing amazingly well and we decided to go for it.  So far it has been an amazing experience.  Our Pre-Teen Daughter and Stick Boy are seeing responses to their actions from the sheep and cattle.  It is on a much larger scale than the cats and dog give them.  When the sheep do not respond like we expect them to while we are herding them and Pre-Teen starts screaming at them the sheep run then we have to calm ourselves down, and calmly gather the sheep it may take an extra half an hour but the sheep need to be kept safe.  We are learning to calm down faster and not always scream our frustration.  We are trying to get the new cattle used to us and Pre-Teen gets mad that Hope, the young heifer, is very skittish and wants to run from her.  Hope seems to feel her frustration and the more rushed Pre-Teen is the further Hope runs from her.  We are learning patience.  Mostly we are learning our actions have bigger consequences than just our little world. 
Counseling, medication, and the new ranching lifestyle all are to be improving our daughter’s life.  
We are blessed. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Installing the Aeration System

Sunday morning Darling Husband fixed the electricity going down to the pond and started hooking everything up to aerate the pond.  The aeration system pumps air into the bottom of the pond and circulates oxygen helping to break down toxins in the water and making a healthier environment for the fish and without so many toxins the hope is we will not have as much for the algae to feed off of.  Some old ponds will have such a bad problem with oxygen depletion that the pond will have the fish die because of lack of oxygen.  This happened to the pond right before we moved here and it is something we work to avoid every summer. 
The pump is plugged in down by the well we have that doesn’t work.  (it is on the to do list somewhere between 140 and 400 – should be happening soon) Then the air line goes down to the pond, 

 When it gets to our bridge it splits into 2 lines so it runs on each side of the island.  Then weighted air hose goes into the pond connecting the air pump to the diffusers and our goal was to put one diffuser at the deepest spots on both sides of the pond.  We didn’t buy enough weighted air hose so ended up using some air line we already had and still do not have the aeration diffusers as far out in the pond as we were hoping.  We will probably switch the air line to PVC pipe, still thinking on it.  Then we can use our existing air line to put the diffusers out further into the pond.  (That job is probably 75 on the list.)

We had the sheep out all day enjoying eating outside of the area that has the electric fence again.  They were much more adventurious than they had been the day before.  They ate between the pond and the house and they decided they love my lawn.  Those lovely sheep spent most of the day fertilizing and mowing my lawn.  UNTIL they became
After a while the kittens decided that grasshoppers were easier prey and gave up their dreams of bringing down a sheep.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cleaning the Pond

Last May we rented an Excavator and had a friend use it to dredge out the pond.  We took out so much pond muck we had a dump truck work for 5 hours hauling what was taken out of the pond into one of the pasture areas.  At that point we had not decided to buy sheep or cattle so we didn't need the pasture.  The pond was beautiful for about 2 weeks then the moss started coming back.  In the middle of summer cat tails started popping up around all the shallow areas.  We had been looking into ways of controlling the algae and moss and ick problem.  We tried barley hay and saw no results.  We tried chemical and microbiological treatments still no or little results, dies seemed to slow the growth down but one of the times we put too much die in the pond and turned the pond a beautiful midnight blue we couldn't see the fish anymore and nether could the birds.  So after spending hundreds of dollars we decided to make the big purchase of an aeration system.  We WANTED a windmill aeration system, having a working windmill seems so romantic and ranch like.  But it is too expensive and we worried we might not get enough wind when the system is needed the most – hot still summer days.  We decided on an electric motor. 

This weekend we finally had all the supplies to put the aeration system in the pond.  We started Saturday with pulling out the moss, algae, and cat tails.  We started with trying to get the algae growth from the bottom of the pond using an old guardrail we have had around the property attaching chains to it and pulling it across the pond.  This plan was a huge success.  So much of a success we bent the guardrail in half and lost all the algae we had caught with it.  So we started pulling the algae by hand.  Thankfully Teen Boy had a board friend who came and help.  Thank goodness for this friend he is always happy to help.  The boys pulled 8 boatloads of algae out of the pond. 

  Darling Husband pulled cat tails out of all the edges of the pond we could reach.

  Since we were working outside all weekend we allowed the sheep to just wander and eat were they wanted to.  For most of the day they were content to eat in the areas we all ready had them penned in.  I guess they were comfortable there.  As the afternoon was ending they went into their pen and waited for us to close it up.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

Moving the Sheep

The cattle are happy in the new pasture.  The first night Onyx got a cut on her ear but we washed it and put antibiotic cream on it and it has healed nicely.  It has been very hot here so I have not done any work with them.  Last night I went out with some water melon rind and Ruby loved it.  

Last weekend we moved the sheep’s daytime area.  While we were moving the fencing we let the sheep run around free.  They found a way into the new cow pasture.  We had not even had the fence up a week and already we need to do more with it.  Can’t tell you how happy I am about that!  While the sheep were in the pasture Hope our youngest calf got out, we have no idea where.  All the cattle and sheep were getting along fine until Hope realized she was on the wrong side of the fence and couldn't see her mom.  She started mooing in a panic, that got Ruby to stop eating, look up, and realize SHEEP WERE WHERE HER BABY SHOULD BE!  As we opened the gate to put Hope back in with the pasture, Ruby herded the sheep out.  Hope ran to her mom and everyone is happy again!  Yay Team! 

The area of our new sheep’s daytime space is a really hard place to mow, it is between the pond and our tenant’s pasture. It has lots of weeds, thistle, and tumble weeds growing on it.  Concussion Boy, Pre Teen Girl, one of her friends, and I moved the 300 feet of temporary fencing in about 90 minutes instead of about 4 hours that it has been taking us.  That includes getting Hope back in the pasture.  The ground was much softer here than it has been other places we have put up the fence and I only needed to use the drill in a few places.  The old permanent fence that the temporary fence is used with is a horrible fence but it has several layers of fencing so I didn’t realize how bad the fence was until the sheep kept getting out and we would fix a hole, then she sheep would get out and we fix another hole,… for the next 3 days.  I still have no idea where Maxwell got out a couple days ago, I came home from work and she was sitting by the gate waiting for me to let her in.