Friday, January 29, 2016


I hadn't thought much about mistletoe until recently. A little artificial sprig is stored with our Christmas decorations and always gets hung over some doorway for the fun of it. But other than that, I hadn't given it much thought.

I am reminded, though, of several occasions when we lived in England and saw children (usually "travelers") selling it on street corners or the underground for extra cash. I had thought at the time how quaint that was for them to be growing mistletoe somewhere.

It wasn't until recently that I learned how mistletoe actually grows. I had assumed it was a type of bush or shrub - planted, watered, nurtured, pruned, etc. So when I found out that it grows as a parasite on other trees, I was shocked.

After a little research (i.e. google) I found that it only grows as a parasite on other trees. When one of the white sticky berries comes into contact with the bark of a tree (thanks to birds), it sends out a thread-like root which pierces the bark and firmly attaches itself. It is a true parasite in that it never gets nutrients from the soil, but only from the host tree.

Winter time is a good time to look for mistletoe. Since most trees have lost all their leaves, the circular pieces of evergreen are very noticeable. Most of the time it grows on a high branch and inaccessible. Once you start looking, you see it everywhere. I saw some growing on a low branch the other day and stopped to take some photos. Unfortunately, it is not edible.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Donkey and Pony

We get the oddest stray animals on our property. The other day a black donkey and a brown pony wandered in the front gate together. Later they wandered back out and down the road. A few days later they were back. No idea who they belong to.

Monday, January 25, 2016


We had an eagle sitting in the tree behind the house the other day. We noticed it because it was so different from the usual buzzards, crows and hawks that usually hover around the house. It clearly had a white head and white tail with a yellow ring around its neck. This one was making a lot of noise and flying around in circles over the house. I'm a poor judge of distance, but I would guess the wing span was about six feet. I was especially watchful because I wasn't sure if it was thinking about my chickens. I calmed down just in time to snap a couple of photos (sorry they are such poor quality from my iPhone). And just about that time, the one I'd been watching flew up and joined a second one! I am wishing they are a couple and that the female has laid eggs in our woods.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


We had one tiny apple from one of our trees the other day. We tasted it but it was very tart.

Monday, January 18, 2016


A bull got through the fence the other day from a neighboring field where the herd was grazing. Bulls can smell heifers that are in heat, apparently from a long distance. It was quite a shock that morning seeing him standing in among our heifers. He was not only a black Brangus (a cross between Brahman and Angus) but he was HUGE, towering over our heifers (ours are red Angus). Poor girls. He was obviously interested in at least one of them, possibly several. With him came a smaller black Angus cow, maybe a bull calf, but we weren't so worried about him.

We knew which of the neighbors had their cows next to us and contacted them quickly. Neighbor's cows across the county road are red Angus and never get out, by the way. We have known that the fencing on that side of our property is poor but so far had never been a problem with any of our cows getting out. It's only the neighbors cows that get in!

The bull was really a problem for us. We definitely had not wanted our heifers to be bred with a black Brangus. We were giving our older heifers a rest, and the younger heifers were, well, too young. And as long as he was in among ours, I couldn't easily get the feed to them. He was really huge and intimidating. The only good thing was that I finally conquered my fear of our cows when I saw him.

The owners came on several occasions. Their plan to get him out of our pasture kept changing. The first plan was to lure the heifers through one gate into another pasture using cattle cubes, and keep the bull back by closing the gate. The bull wasn't interested in cattle cubes but would follow the girls. A few attempts at this failed because the bull pushed past the gate along with the heifers. Several more attempts failed because as soon as the bull was separated, he would go down into the woods and find another gap in the fence and come back into the pasture with the heifers.

This was another problem for us because we didn't want the cows in this pasture, and especially not a bull. This pasture has the goats and dogs, along with the three bull calves. It also has three separate stashes of hay under cover but easily accessible to them.

Several plans and days later, the fence was patched in the weak places and the bull was successfully separated and moved back to his herd and to a further pasture away from our heifers.

It will be nine months before we will know how much damage he caused.

P.S. Don't worry. There's a fence between me and him in these photos. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Deer Season

I know this post is way out of order since Deer Season here started back in November. But as I was going through photos, I ran across this one taken the day before deer season started. It is quite unusual for deer to come close to the house, but especially a buck. The picture quality is poor because I was inside the house, taking the photo through the window, because I didn't want to scare him off. He stared for the longest time over toward the chicken coop. At first I thought there might be a doe back in the woods behind the coop but I never saw it. Then something spooked him and he dashed off into the woods.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mule Stuck

The cows got out the other day and I was trying to get them all back where they belonged. I was trying to get them to follow me by shaking a bucket of cattle cubes, which is a big treat for them. They recognize the sound and will usually come running. I had forgotten that it had rained heavily a few days earlier until I drove the Mule through what looked like wet grass. At first when I realized I was getting stuck in the mud, I thought surely the Mule can get out. But the more I tried the more I got stuck.

The cows caught up with me at this point and surrounded the Mule and started helping themselves to the cattle cubes. I only escaped by going over the nearby electric fence. They churned up the grass until it looked like I had driven into a pond.

With Guv'nor gone during the day, I knew it might be days until he could help. I couldn't imagine going even one day without the convenience of the Mule.

So I called 9-1-1, otherwise known as Neighbor! And what a great neighbor. He knew just what to do. Within a few minutes I heard a tractor coming down the road. And sure enough it was him! I expected him to come later in the day and had naively thought he'd come in his Mule or four-wheeler to pull me out. But once he came and started towing, I saw how difficult it was even with his tractor and heavy chain.

And after he got our Mule out of the mud, he even offered to help get all the cows back where they were supposed to be!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Two For One

It seems we have a steady supply of mice out in the chicken coop. We really do need another cat here at the house. I keep a loaded mouse trap in the coop and the other day I got double prizes.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Two Chickens Gone

We came home from church the other day and heard loud bird sounds out by the chicken coop. When we got back there, we found a hawk sitting up in one of the trees and lots of crows making the noise.

One rooster was outside sounding his alarm. Then we noticed that two chickens were not moving and thought that was strange. With a closer look, we realized that both chickens were dead, snarled up in the electric fence. Their necks were also pecked.

I suspect what happened was the hawk flew over or sat on the tree and scared the chickens. Most of the chickens scattered and got inside the coop. Two got snarled up in the fence and then the hawk decided to play with them a little and killed them. Or, the fence could have killed them first and then the hawk played with them.

Whichever way, we lost two chickens that day. We're down to 20 now, 18 hens and 2 roosters.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Routine

For the past several weeks we've been adjusting to a new routine here. Guv'nor has been working full time - an hour and a half away. That means he leaves early and comes back late, tired. So during the week, I've been trying to keep up with the chores around our property - mainly the feeding of animals.

As long as our Mule starts in the morning, I do fine and am able to get out to the goats, dogs, and cows to feed them. Our Mule is old and temperamental, so a few mornings when it wouldn't start I thought I was going to have to walk out to feed them.

The standard feed bag weighs 50 pounds which presents a little problem for me. I'm pretty much a weakling when it comes to lifting heavy things. I've got small hands, short arms, and weak muscles. We use metal trash cans with locking lids for feed bins for the goats and dogs which are kept out in the cow barn near the goat area. Guv'nor usually fills them up for me on the weekend. I use small buckets to take the feed from the bins out to the trough and bowls. 

The cows are a different story. The supplemental feed for them during the winter months, since they eat so much, needs to be set out every day. At first I was emptying half a bag into a bucket which I could carry. I can manage 20-30 pounds as long as I have something easily I can hold onto, like a bucket handle. Then I had this crazy idea to ask the the Feed Store if they could bag the feed into half bags for me. I like to call them Baby Bags. Our local feed store happens to mix and bag this feed, a 2-in-1 ground cotton seed and salt mixture, and even reuses empty feed bags that I bring back to them. So lately, as long as I have these smaller bags, I'm able to manage easier. I can't really drive the Mule into the cow area (I tried that once and they all got out!) so I have to carry the bucket the 20 yards from the gate to the trough. This may sound pretty easy, but when the cows see or hear me coming (it's hard to sneak up on them in the Mule), they start making their way to the gate (imagine running cows). Depending on how hungry they are, it is sometimes literally a race to see who gets to the gate first - me or 15 cows! It can be rather scary seeing them running toward you. Lately they have given me more space since I've been carrying (and waving madly) one of the white electric fence stakes, which they may or may not think is hot.

When everything is going right, I'm able to manage on my own. But a few days some of the cows weren't where they were supposed to be which causes me trouble. We had a lame heifer for awhile that we had separated until she healed. All she wanted was to get back with the other heifers, mainly her mama. We also have three bull calves in a separate area and they get out sometimes.

And when the weather is pleasant I can manage. I have found that my least favorite weather condition is wind followed by rain, or a combination of the two. I don't mind the cold so much because I can wear several layers of clothes. 

Here's a baby bag - half full of feed - and easier for me to lift.

I empty the 25# bag of feed into a large bucket for the cows and a small one for the bull calves.

We save the empty feed bags and take them back to the Feed Store to be reused.

We use metal cans with locking lids for the feed out at the cow barn.

The goats and dogs are eager to see me in the morning.

One day we accidentally left the water running to the goats.

The dogs are protective of their food.

The cows like to crowd around the fence line and gate when they see me coming.

The view from the gate to one of the troughs where I put out the feed.

After the feed is in the trough, the cows eat happily and ignore me so I can make my escape.

The cows love the 2-1 feed and will self-regulate how much they eat.

The lame heifer was separated for awhile and only wanted to be back with her mama.

The lame heifer got out of her area several times and made it straight to the hay barn.

The bull calves are smaller and less intimidating and I can feed them easier.

One benefit of the new routine is enjoying the peaceful sunrise.