Stories of life on our farm in Northwest Georgia where every day is an adventure in this beautiful spot that God has entrusted to our stewardship.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sunshine Through Rain

A storm with hail was predicted for yesterday afternoon.  This is what we got instead.

It was brief, but poignantly beautiful.  It occurred to me that the beauty of sunlight shining through rain is a good analogy for life when we know that God's presence is with us even (and especially) through hard times.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Pied Piper of Zephyr Hill Farm

Herb aka "The Pied Piper."  He was moving the horses out of the pig pasture with a lead rope on Angel, and everyone followed along.  Of course everyone follows Herb:  He's the man with the feed bucket!  Who needs a flute?!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Three Wishes Fulfilled

My sister and her family have been visiting us this past week, and we've been in the business of wish fulfillment!  My nephew was dying to wear his cowboy outfit and ride Julie.  That was easy to grant.  Kara was taking pictures for me, and she was bummed to miss the shot of Julie's expression when he sat down in the saddle.  (Julie, of course is used to Charis & Kol on her back.)  I never knew a horse could look shocked!  :D

 My nephew's next wish was to help do morning chores.  Since they were an hour away in Alabama, that would have dragged everyone else out of bed awfully early.  We compromised on evening chores so he got to feed the pigs, definitely the most fun to watch.

The third wish was actually one we got fulfilled for US because they seem to have brought rain from Virginia!  Yeehaw!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Weather or Not . . .

We've had our share of extreme weather lately.  The week of July 4 we got up to 103-105° every day.  Then the evening of July 5 we had a tremendous wind storm.  Fortunately, no damage was done at our place, but it was pretty scary.  Herb and Kara were out of town, and I sat in the living room with my cell phone and a flash light ready to run for the storm room in the basement.  You can see the leaves tossing in this photo.  Oh, yes, I did go out to take photos before I retreated to the house!

The large oak tree outside the living room glass door is what was scaring me.  I was praying its roots would hold strong despite the drought.  The silvery-colored leaves are the ones whipping in the wind.

Compare this photo to the one above, and you can see how the branches were whipping and slashing from the wind.

Just a week later, we were having rain.  In fact, we had two days of steady, if mostly light, rain and it didn't get above 73°.  Such a blessing!  Here the oak tree and the grass below it are glistening in the rain.

The animals loved the cloudy, cooler days.  The cattle, especially, had been spending a lot of time chewing cud in the shade and not showing themselves during the day.  It was nice to see them active again.

The ones who loved the rain the most were Spamela Anderson and Hammy Faye Bakker.  You can tell by their noses who is responsible for the torn up ground in the photo below.  I understand that pigs love to root for grubs.  I'm going to hazard a guess that we don't have any more grubs in this corner of the Home Pasture!

I'd also venture to say these girls are as happy as pigs in mud!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Super Dog Zephyr, The Sequel, and The Hero Dog

Zephyr's swallow seemed to do well yesterday, but today I found it dead below the nest and this one, the last remaining swallow, perched on the edge of the nest like this.  My research yields conflicting results:  parents boot unhealthy babies from the nest; parents don't boot babies because that's counter-productive; stronger swallows boot weaker siblings; sometimes the nest is too crowded and swallows that perch on the edge fall off.  So I still don't know why the first four died, but the final baby is certainly large, well-feathered and strong-looking.  Hopefully I've found my last dead swallow!  Gulp!  I had been thinking things like "Five baby swallows is one Big Gulp," but once they all died, I couldn't make jokes about it.

We had plenty of non-traditional fireworks today with a little rain (thank You, Lord!), lots of lightning and crashing thunder.  Zephyr kept barking at the thunder until we put her in her crate which quieted her down.  Hero didn't like the thunder, either, so he climbed into Kara's lap!  Some Hero!  Mean Mommy made him get down--after she took a picture!

Local authorities had asked people to refrain from setting off fireworks because of the tinder dry conditions.  Our rain deficit for the year so far is over 6.5".  I think the Lord sent us the rain ahead of time to protect us from all the idiots that set fireworks off anyway!  Living next to 400-some acres of woods, we are nervous about forest fires!  Fireworks are still going off around us, but I'll be able to sleep in peace in the hope that the rain was enough to spare us from a wildfire.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Super Dog Zephyr!

 This morning Zephyr went to the front door on alert, letting me know something was happening outside.  When I looked, I saw the swallow parents flitting frantically back and forth under the porch.  Three of their babies were on the ground under the nest; one was about 10 feet away.  All of them were dead except one.
I picked up the lone survivor before one of the cats appeared.  Then I got a step ladder--and of course my camera!

I put the baby back in the nest with its one remaining sibling and skedaddled away, hoping the parents would return.

Here is Zephyr, all proud of herself because I told her what a good dog she is!  I made Hero stay in the house, but she came out with me.  She didn't attempt to go near the baby swallow, having done her job by getting me.

When I looked later to see what was happening, I saw why the babies fell.  Zephyr's and mine was moving around back in the shadow of the nest, but the other one was teetering on the edge of the nest, clamoring for food.  I'm not sure why the parents aren't bringing any bugs because they are certainly zooming around outside as if they were catching them.  I just hope they come back and feed these babies quick, quick, quick before they both fall.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Keeping the Animals Cool

With the Tri-State area (southeastern Tennessee, northwest Georgia & northeast Alabama) suffering a record heat wave, the biggest priority this week is keeping the animals hydrated and as cool as possible.

According to the groomer, Misty should not be shaved due to risk of skin cancer with her pink skin.  (I did grab a scissors today and trim off some belly hair.)  Instead she cools off by getting wet when she gets a drink.  When she's in the pigs' pasture, she lies down in their kiddie pool.

During the day we keep her up by the house where she can lay on the back porch and get the breeze from the ceiling fans or burrow into her "cave" under the bushes in front of the house.  A full water-bowl is a given, with periodic infusions of ice cubes to cool it down.

Since Herb and Kara have to be in Denver for his sister's memorial during the exact days of the heat wave (!), he moved the horses to the Back Pasture before he left.  It hadn't been grazed recently, so there's plenty of grass although the sun is gradually burning it crunchy.  Once we were done with Siobhan's AI on Friday, I moved the cattle back to join them.  (While in the round pen for the AI, they had water, shade, and some grass with cool leaves to snack on from the woods around the pen.)

Besides the pond for water in the Back Pasture, there's the mud hole in the old part of the pond where the cattle like to cool off.  (No, Siobhan didn't shrink; this photo is from last summer.  It's too darn hot to wait around for another photo op!)  We also filled the large tank to make sure they'd have plenty of water.

 The Back Pasture (in this older photo) has the biggest grove of trees inside a fence.  There's plenty of shade for everyone right around the pond.  And after bush-hogging the Lower Pasture Friday, I can testify to the cooler air that wafts out from a grove of trees.  We have a mineral block out there, too, for the animals to help their electrolyte balance.

The pigs have their kiddie pool (see the photo below with Ping) which they use often during the day.  Whenever I feed, I refill it, and they usually come running for a shower.  It's fun to see them dancing around in the water spray.  They have a rain barrel with a drinking nozzle (background), but they just drink right from the kiddie pool.  We filled the large water tank since they are now big enough to stand on their rear legs and drink from it.  It also makes a nice clean water source for Misty at night.

Before we ever thought of getting pigs, we planned for a shade grove while Herb was fencing the Home Pasture.   By thinning out the underbrush, we made it more accessible to animals while allowing the existing trees to grow bigger without competition.  The pigs love this grove and spend a good part of the day down at the bottom of it.

Ping enjoys the pigs' kiddie pool, too.  In fact, she thinks it's hers, although she's so timid that she runs away quacking whenever the pigs appear.

Herb built a support for this pool for our last pair of pigs and it has held up beautifully, even with 325 lb. pigs using it!  We bought two pools and doubled them for durability.  Ping also has a shade tarp attached to the coop and fence (background) which she and the pigs use.  She spends most of her time under the coop, though, if she's not in the pool.

The hens, ducks, and cats in the barnyard spend most of the day in the barn where I'm keeping our large, powerful fan going constantly.  They make forays into the sun to scratch manure or eat flies, but the ducks are most active at dusk when the bugs come out.  Yesterday I hosed the entire coop down about 6:30 p.m. to help cool it by evaporation; it was almost completely dry when I shut up the chickens at 9:30 p.m.

When it started to get hot, Herb oriented the chicken tractor north and south so the tarp provides shade on at least one side throughout the day.  I refill the 3 gallon waterer every morning, making sure it's level so as not to lose water.  The chickens are eating less grain in this heat which is a good thing since grain makes them hotter.  They sure are eager for the fresh grass when I move the tractor in the morning.

Hero, Zephyr and I spend most of the day in the house with the AC, unless I have to go out to the garden to change the water to a different bed.  Herb watered all the beds in the two days before he left, and I'm continuing to water all day long.  We have enough beds that it takes two days to get around them all, leaving the water for 2 or 3 hours on each one depending on its size.  It seems to be working because I've harvested almost 7 lbs. of bush beans, 11 lbs. of carrots, and 6 lbs. of pole beans in two days, not to mention a few tomatoes and a little squash.  Freezing them made a good excuse to stay inside where it's cool!

So that's how we keep cool and hydrated while we wait out this heat wave.  We have spotty storms predicted for all of next week, and we're praying for some good rain out of them to help alleviate our 6.5" deficit for the year.