Farm Life

Farm Life

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Another Squealing Good Time On The Farm

      I looked forward to meeting my girlfriends for coffee one particular evening, but I also had an appointment to take our pigs to the slaughter house. What is a farmgirl to do? I finally decided to do this in my good clothes so that I would be all ready to head over to meet my friends and not be late. I set my Muck Boots aside along with my torn up work jeans. I grabbed a clean shirt, changed into some non-holey jeans, and pulled my good boots on. "It shouldn't be a problem." I thought. "What could go wrong?" Unfortunately, the pigs must have known this and had devised extravagant plans of their own. I was driving the horse trailer with my dad as a passenger since his eyesight has him restricted from driving right now. Little Cowboy and Wild Boy sat in the back seat excited to be tagging along. Off we went with the pigs all loaded and eating oats in a comfy bed of hay. I headed to our destination using back roads so that I could drive slowly and safely. After turning onto a dirt road I glanced out my side mirror to see a pig snout peeking out the tiny window. I also noticed cars backed up behind me. I slowed down for a four-way and continued on, still checking my mirrors for anything amiss. As we approached the slaughter house, I ran to direct my dad as he expertly backed the trailer into the narrow path to the gate. As I rounded the back of the trailer I noticed that the top part of the door was swinging open. I was not too alarmed as I had to stretch to even see over the back door that was still locked tight. As I peered into the trailer I saw no pigs. I ran to the front door yelling, "there are NO pigs in there! NO PIGS!!" My dad looked at me with a wild look that was mixed with disbelief. "What?!" he questioned. I ran to the rear of the trailer once more hoping that I had missed the pigs somehow, but still NO PIGS!! Panic and shock washed over me as I heard the butcher walk up behind me. "You missing some pigs?" he asked as I stood with my mouth still agape. A veterinarian had been following me and had witnessed the great pig escape and assumed we were headed to the butcher. He called informing them of the mishap and which way the runaways were headed.................... Four miles back where I had slowed for the four-way my Little Cowboy spotted the smaller pig in the woods. We parked along the roadside and started calling, "pig, pig, pig, pig......" The pig answered with grunts and started heading our way, but this was just to tease us. He had bigger plans than a trip to his final destination. I stopped a truck as it came closer to our adventure. The man got out and immediately pitched in swamping into the water in his sneakers to catch the pig that decided to flee the scene. An hour later my dad and the kind stranger emerged from the frigid water with Little Cowboy close behind. I slowed traffic as they encouraged the pig to enter the dry warm horse trailer. We thanked the good Samaritan and he was on his way to warm up his feet at his nearby residence. Now the hunt was on for a second escapee. We turned the trailer around and went back to the location where we had spied our first wandering pig. I listened quietly and could hear the second pig answering our recent captive. As we called, he exited the woods as a kind lady stopped to offer her assistance. We danced round and round the large pig trying to carefully push him towards joining his buddy in the trailer. He ventured into the frigid water and trying not to lose him I jumped ahead soaking my good boots. My trusty Muck Boots would have been appreciated at this point! As we worked, another helper arrived on scene. He cautiously lent a hand as we tried to corral the beast. Then, amidst all the commotion, our first pig squeezed out of his prison and high- tailed it down the road. I was sure we were doomed now! How could we ever catch them both!?!? We decided roping them was the only way to go. The tall man got a heavy rope around the large pig's neck as my dad held tight to the pig's hind leg taking kicks to the chest. Pig squealing ensued. Loud pig squealing. The kind of squealing that makes neighbors believe you are killing something. I held the rope tight and pulled the pig towards the open door as he fought with all his pig strength. His head whipped from side to side flinging me back and forth. The tall man behind me held on but did not wish to get closer to the animal which was now attempting to bite. All of this played out in the middle of the road as traffic started to back up. Wide eyes watched the display as I tried to stay clear of the barking pig's razor sharp teeth. Finally, at the entrance to the trailer, I got behind the pig and pushed with all my might. Mud smeared up my arms and my go-to-town jeans were suddenly brown with pig smell. "Thanks, pig. My friends will love smelling me across the table tonight." I thought as I gave him one last push. He jumped forward with wild grunts and lunged fiercely at my dad who quickly hitched him and retreated. With the larger of the two animals contained we reasoned that the hardest part was over. Hahahaha. We approached the smaller of the two and dad quickly reached for a hind leg. He received a whipping in return. As my dad took a beating by the renegade pig I wrapped the rope securely around his neck. A ferocious fight ensued. The pink pig violently flung itself from side to side with shrill squealing that was sure to cause severe hearing loss in all that held tight for the wild ride. As we approached the open door the swine flung itself to the ground in an unwilling stance. He gnashed his teeth at me and the tall man backed up a few steps. The squealing continued at an ear-piercing decibel. Flipping the pig over and pushing with all my might was done with the last bit of fight that I had in me. With the pigs reunited we slammed the doors and secured them. We then rechecked the secured doors. We thanked the kind strangers that had taken part in the ordeal, dumped the water from our boots, and then checked the doors again before taking the pigs to their destination. Their final destination. Fortunately, when I see them again it will be with a side of mashed potatoes.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

March in Maine

      I love God's creation. He has made spectacular and wondrous things. I love that here in Maine we have four distinct seasons and I am partial to autumn with its crisp air and falling leaves. I love having a fresh beautiful snowfall for Christmas and the winter activities it brings. Mid summer heat is not my favorite, but I love that it makes my flowers grow and brings outdoor adventures to remember. Late spring is filled with new life. Babies are being born and flowers blooming. Birds chirp their approval of their warming environment. It's all good.... except for March. I hate March. March is a month in which God teaches me to be thankful for the other months. March here in Maine is windy, cold, muddy, wet, and miserable. There are days when the sun shines brightly and you think it is mild until you are chased back inside by a biting wind that threatens to take the end of your nose to frost bite. Just recently we had the coldest day of this winter. Near 40 below with the wind chill. On occasion, a beautiful day pops up with 40 plus degree temperatures and sun that warms you through. This, of course, is only a tease, for the next day you are harshly jerked back to reality with sub- zero temperatures and wind that brings tears to your frozen eyeballs. My muck boots work overtime during this dreaded month. Mud season in Maine is no joke. You wonder where that much mud could possibly come from. You have to keep an eye on small children and pets as they may possibly be consumed by an endless pit of brown goo that could suck them in. The next day it is frozen solid and you are tripping over your footprints from the previous day. They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. It's all lion here. The lamb is hiding in the barn beneath a cover of warm sweet hay. I feel lazy in March. All I want to do is hibernate. A spot in front of a blazing fire is ideal as I sip a cup of piping hot tea and listen to a pot of hot soup simmering on the stove. Spring seems to be an unreachable dream and impatience for all things gardening weighs heavily on my mind. The sweetness of maple syrup boiling is the only reason not to completely banish the month, and my only hope is in the greenhouse. Sprouts of green and the trapped heat from the sun, mixed with the fresh smell of the soil remind me of what I hope is soon to come. My desire is to dig in the dirt and plant my seeds. I'm ready to hear peepers and the birds joined in a chorus of happiness. I wish to open the cabin door wide and invite the warmth of a gentle spring breeze, but right now I'm in the middle of March. I continue to dress for the arctic as we prepare for a snowfall tonight and I'll be tucking myself away next to the fire. Wake me when this is over.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cabin in the Woods Part V: Our Chinking Process

          Now that the logs were up and the roof was on we needed to fill between our logs with chinking. Because we are building debt free, it makes no sense to take all the money we have saved and pour it into a ready made chinking. After searching the internet, we came up with a recipe that we had success with. We used 3 parts sand, 1 part Portland cement, and 1/3 hydrated lime. I decided to try a little straw in my mixture which gave us a better texture to work with plus added strength. I then added water to make a thick consistency, yet spreadable.
Our Mixing Process
                   To prepare our walls to take the chinking mixture, we first had to drive nails between our logs to give the mixture something to adhere to. This was extremely time consuming. After this I started chinking the inside. When I finished an inside wall we then filled the other side with strips of insulation and then added more nails. The chinking then covered the nails and completed the wall. 
Nails are in and chinking has started.
  The tools that I found to work the best were unconventional, but hey, they did the job well! 
A spoon was my tool of choice.
           Yes, I used a spoon! It worked the best to gently pack the chinking between logs and smooth it out for a clean uniform look. 
Chinking mixture ready to be placed.
              Monotonous does not even begin to describe this chore. I worked at this inside the cabin most days all summer long. A friend suggested I hold a ladies "chinking party" to help finish up the work. I hate asking for help, but this was becoming unbearable by myself. I was overwhelmed! So, I sent out some invitations.....
Chinking Party invitations.
                 My mom and I provided the food and some sweet ladies forfeited their Saturday for a day of hard work. My mom, my sister, my aunt Bonnie, my cousin Elisa, and my friends Penny, and Patty showed up to learn the chinking process. My dad joined us to mix our chinking, and after work Patty's husband, Chuck stopped by and helped out too! The progress we made was amazing! Everyone pitched in and was quick to learn. I am so thankful for their help which was such an encouragement as I saw some of the walls reach near completion!
Insulation and nails complete on outside wall. Ready for chinking.
Driving nails after insulation has been added for chinking to adhere to.
Adding chinking over the nails and insulation.
Strips of insulation hang ready to be stuffed into cracks.
Chinking progresses.
A completed wall with chinking left out for window placement.
                             Our south end still needs to be chinked, but this won't be a huge task as most of the wall will be made up of windows. The rest of the walls are nearly done! And this brings you up to date on our cabin progress. As soon as this massive amount of snow melts and temperatures warm, we will be completing the chinking, adding windows, and closing in the peeks. I can't wait to share more progress! This is the year we hope to move into our cabin in the woods! 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cabin in the Woods Part IV: Raising The Roof

          Now it was time to get that roof on, so we chose a weekend and got to work. We decided on metal roofing as it would last a long time, and would be convenient in our snowy climate. With a 12' x 12' pitch we certainly wouldn't need to shovel the roof off! First, we covered the rafters with cabin grade pine tongue and groove boards from the outside. These boards were affordable, and we didn't mind all the knot holes. We wanted to leave the rafters and pine exposed inside, and it turned out better than I expected. I just love the ceiling in my house!
Exposed beams, and pine boards for our ceiling.
An outside view of the tongue and groove pine boards going on.
  The next step was covering the pine boards with tar paper.
Tar paper over the pine boards.
                       We purchased used 3" thick foam board insulation, and used two layers. Those of us on the ground pushed the sheets up to the crew on the steep roof. We laid strapping that we milled ourselves over the insulation board to screw the metal sheets to. 
The 2 layers of foam board insulation. Strapping is started from bottom.
                          We then passed the green metal sheets up to the men on the roof. Two of my uncles, my brother-in-law, my son, and my dad braved the roof, while myself, my oldest boy, and my husband hefted the sheets up to the staging, and then onto the roof where they were screwed to the strapping. The day we put the metal on it was quite warm, and the sheets of roofing became hot to the touch very quickly. This became a challenge. The peek was also difficult to work on. 
Attaching the metal sheets with screws.
                   These men from our family worked hard and had the roof on in a weekend. I think it looks great, and I'm glad my husband insisted on this color. I really like it. (I was leaning towards brown.)
Roof complete!
A long weekend comes to a close.

               Up to this point we had less than $3000 in the cabin. This included ground work, purchasing our pine logs, fuel, and all building supplies. I will post a detailed spending list in a future blog.
                      Now that the roof was on, the chinking could begin. Join me for my next cabin post, and see the process we used with homemade chinking.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Dancing Cow and the Flailing Farmer

                                            (Excerpt from my unfinished book, "Farm Tails")

       One morning Dad set out across the dew kissed pasture in his familiar torn flannel shirt, and worn out jeans. It was a comfortable morning with the sun rising from behind the lush greenery that framed the cow pasture. He chewed a blade of grass, and stroked his bushy beard in contemplation as he stood behind a cow with a leg wrapped in a tangle of wire. He needed to free her, but one pull on the wire and she would take off, he was sure. Carefully he began handling the wire in an effort to free the beast when the cow mindlessly plodded ahead. As she jerked the wire forward it became apparent that the wire now had entangled his dusty work boots. He knew that the more he pulled on the wire, the faster the animal would proceed, so he must work quickly to free her, but also keep up with her as she traversed across the field. A kind of dance ensued which drew a crowd of pink-nosed spectators. A nosy bunch followed the activity with big eyes framed by lush lashes. This seasoned farmer, not being swift on his feet due to years of abuse inflicted by, ironically, his dance partner, and her friends, struggled with his steps, and became frantic with his arm movements. Not at all becoming of a dancer. The black and white beauty abruptly decided that she would pick up her pace with finesse, and put some leaps into her routine. Her tail flew high, and her legs imitated the action. Behind her, the farmer, who had never learned the two-step was finding himself doing the one hundred and forty-three step. It would have been impressive had he not looked like a crazy baboon being ravaged by fire ants. Still on his feet, my dad worked feverishly to untangle the moving wire while he ran to keep up with quick-step Bessie. Now, I know this looks as though it cannot turn out good. You think maybe this farmer will lose his footing and it will be all over. He'll be dragged by his feet, as his head bumps through cow patties galore left by his fleeing dance partner. You think that his heals will plow up enough dirt to fill his gaping mouth as he screams for her to stop and that the fast moving earth below him creates enough friction to burn a tremendous hole in the seat of his britches.  How is it then that this time, he unweaves the web of wire just in time as the cow bolts away at a high rate of speed?!?! Well, sometimes, just sometimes, this farmer scrapes by unscathed. He'll surely pay the price the next time around....


Monday, January 5, 2015

Cabin in the Woods Part III: Ridge Pole and Rafters

          Now that our walls on our log cabin were up we began the process of preparing a ridge pole. This pole had to run the entire length of our home of 24 feet, plus extend two feet out on either end for the overhang. Looking back, I probably should have done a larger overhang, although two feet is sufficient. This massive log of 28 feet had to some how be hoisted to the top of two 24 foot beams awaiting at either end of the cabin. This ridge pole needed to bear the weight of the roof, so this explains it's massive size.
          On the evening of the ridgepole raising we had four men, and two good size boys available. My husband, my father, my brother in-law, my brother in-law's father, and my two oldest boys all took on the task. The ridgepole was first hoisted via pulleys up on top of the log walls. It was then rolled to rest against the two end beams that towered into the sky. My dad then placed a ladder upon the staging, and against the beams pointing skyward. He climbed to the top, and added an extension to the top of the beam, and then attached the pulley system to it. The same was done to the other end. The massive log was then hoisted up to rest upon the ends of the two beams. Once this was done they had to be marked, and then lifted, while my dad cut the underside of the ridgepole with the chainsaw, so that it would sit flat against the tip of the beam. All of this was done while balancing on a ladder high above the top of the cabin walls.
You can see the extensions and pulleys added here.
The pictures do not show the massive size of this ridgepole accurately!
Getting prepared for rafters.
           For the rafters, we ended up deciding on 6"x 8" beams. I really wanted a rugged look, and these would definitely look and play the part. We milled these out, and then myself, and my two oldest boys spent the summer hoisting them one by one up to the ridgepole, where my dad would pin them in place. This was labor intensive, and more than once I wondered why I decided on this size beam! When we had them all up, it was clear that the decision was a good one! They are beautiful! They are left exposed inside against tongue and groove pine boards.
4 rafters added.
Viewing rafters from north end.
Rafters all up!
Pinning rafters to ridge pole.

From here it was time for the roof. I will be sharing all about our roof raising in my next cabin post. 

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Saying Goodbye to the Old, and Hello to the Newborn

       Growing up on a dairy farm, I learned at a young age that farm animals do not live forever. I am passionate about farming, and the good definitely outweighs the bad, but there is still the bad. It is the most difficult part of farming. You nurture, and grow a farm animal with an investment of time, money, and love. Parting is inevitable, and you know that this relationship will not last forever. The animals that we grow for food have a good life free-ranging on the farm, and we know what their fate is. It is still unpleasant, but that is what farming is about. The more difficult, is the animal that is a friend. That for us is our Belgian work horses. Yes, they serve a purpose on this working farm, but we can't help but become attached to these gentle giants that work the soil, rake the hay, and yard logs from our woods. We work our horses until we feel that their age warrants retirement. We then turn them loose to a leisurely life in the back field. Days of nothing to do and no where to go, freely roaming the pasture as they live out their last days. They are in our lives for many years which forms a bond that only strengthens year after year.
        We purchased Kate when I was a child. I vividly remember going with my Dad to northern Maine to pick her up. She had a reddish hue to her, and was not as blonde as her teammate. She was a beauty. She was probably a year or two old when we brought her home. She would have been twenty-six this spring, but we recently had to say our goodbyes. She was always a hard worker. She could out work many horses, and was always willing. She also had an attitude, and would pull your hat off, and give it a throw every chance she got. When Kate put her ears back she meant business, but what a worker! Many people could learn a lesson or two from Kate for she was not lazy.
Kate is pictured on the gee side (to my Dad's right side).
           Over a month ago, we were blessed with a new life on the farm. Long clumsy legs, and a big nose used to nuzzle under your arm for affection. A mane of fuzzy hair, and a sweet little tail. A newborn Belgian was added to our family right before Thanksgiving. Certainly something to be thankful for! 
Chief was welcomed just before Thanksgiving.
              The end of 2014 brings mixed emotions for us. We have lost a friend. Farewell to a girl that gave us so much. We loved her in return, and our hearts ache at the loss, however, new life kicks up his heels on our farm bringing a flood of happiness to close out our year. So, we say, "goodbye" to the old, and "hello" to the newborn.