A win in a different sense

“It’s not whether they think we won. It’s whether we think we won.” (The movie, Secretariat)

This is my mare Special with me. She and I have learned a lot together and from each other.
This is my mare Special with me. She and I have learned a lot together and from each other.

I am a homesteader with hobbies. On Saturday, I was entered to run in a barrel racing competition. The horse I was riding, is one that I bought as a wild three year old.

She was skinny and her feet were in terrible shape. The man who owned her, had had three open heart surgeries in the three years that she had been alive. She was very dear to him though and he was horrified at the condition that she had gotten into while in the care of others. She was so wild now, that you almost couldn’t even pet her. I agreed to buy her because she was in my price range and I thought that with having ridden and trained horses for 13 years, she was right within what I could manage.

The day I brought her home, I took this picture of her exploring her new home.
The day I brought her home, I took this picture of her exploring her new home.

Little did I know, that there were parts of my education in horsemanship that were going to need some work. That filly went to work on me when I went to work on her. I had to teach her to accept a halter within a week of bringing her home because her feet were cracked and in desperate need of a farrier’s care. She was so certain that she did not want to let me touch her once I had a halter, that I had to rope her. She took off like a bullet. Since she was in a small pen, I was able to just drop my rope so that she had instant release while in her panic.(When a horse is panicking, it can’t think and therefore can’t learn.) Once she calmed down, I picked the rope up and pulled very lightly on the rope. As soon as she gave a very tiny bit, I let the pressure off. Soon, I had her leading. I also had a lot to learn about training her to accept a saddle and a rider.

Nothing like a good lope! Although, Special is demonstrating the very thing we had been having arguments over for a while. Lead changes were not her thing, particularly when it involved her right lead. Boy howdy did this mare hate that lead!!!
Nothing like a good lope! Although, Special is demonstrating the very thing we had been having arguments over for a while. Lead changes were not her thing, particularly when it involved her right lead. Boy howdy did this mare hate that lead!!!

I spent years of trying to teach her, once she was well enough trained to start patterning on the barrels, that weird clumps of dirt, do not mean that something is hiding there that is going to eat you. Even at home, it took a few years for her to stop spooking. One of those spooks got me into a bad accident.

She spooked when she spotted a bob cat and took off galloping. We had been practising the barrel pattern at a walk and a trot so there were barrels in the area. She had her attention completely on the bob cat and getting away from that dangerous creature. She hit a barrel! When she hit the barrel, she panicked further, and started bucking. I was thrown head first into the ground. My legs and back were bent in a c shape backwards. When I got up, my first thought was for my horse. Barrel racing reins are a solid loop.

I was afraid that she would get a leg caught in the reins and break a leg. I took three steps over to her and got the reins over her head and into my hands. Then my legs gave out. We had to call an ambulance because I wasn’t able to walk. It was 8 weeks before I was able to pick a pencil up off of the ground again.

When I finally had the ok from my doctor to ride again, I made the discovery that 8 weeks of no riding after a bad wreck had left me thinking about what could have happened with the accident too much. I was now afraid to ride. Just sitting on my mare, made me want to hyperventilate. To make matters worse, I had made a commitment to barrel race that year, trying to win a small championship. I didn’t think I could do it now.

I rode on my sister’s horse that year in barrels and worked on overcoming my fear of riding and on healing up from the wreck. It was 6 months before I was pain free. By the end of that year, my sister’s pinto and I had won the age category championship.
Over the next several years, I stuck it out with getting on my mare and working on finding the courage that I had lost.

Special was ready to start warming up.
Special was ready to start warming up.

Saturday was a climax for us.

Here we are getting ready to go make a run. Notice how calm and collected she is.
Here we are getting ready to go make a run. Notice how calm and collected she is.

We didn’t win. We only took 12th place in the lowest division but, we had several BIG wins for my mare and I.

We were heading home now.
We were heading home now.

Saturday for the first time, she never spooked. Not even once! She wasn’t even looking for scary things. The second BIG thing that happened Saturday. My mare, Special took the correct lead both times that I asked her to enter that arena. We have argued leads for YEARS!!!

We have the correct lead! Hooray!!!
We have the correct lead! Hooray!!!

The third BIG thing that happened Saturday: Special remembered that she has a butt and she can use it!!! It wasn’t lost that day and she wasn’t spooking because “Holy Smokes!!! My butt is after me!!! Yikes!!!” She’s done that before. She has had a tendency to swing her butt wide coming off the barrels and she has tended to spook at the mere sight of the tip of her tail.

She didn't swing her butt wide coming off of this turn.
She didn’t swing her butt wide coming off of this turn.

So, true, we didn’t placed within the money what so ever. However, for that little mare and I, Saturday was a bunch of BIG wins!!! We did win, just not in a sense that spectators would know about.

I am so proud of how well she did. I am sure that we will continue to improve
I am so proud of how well she did. I am sure that we will continue to improve
This was just before the race. She was starting to listen and collect after coming out of the trailer. She always wants to look around to start with.
This was just before the race. She was starting to listen and collect after coming out of the trailer. She always wants to look around to start with.
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A Surprise Swarm

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When my dad got home today, we spotted something in the yard. Hanging from one of our fruit trees, was a swarm of bees. What had happened was that a group of bees decided that they no longer liked the place where they had their hive, and they took off in search of a new home. They were all clumped up on a branch. You can see the clump here:

The swarm hanging from our fruit tree.
The swarm hanging from our fruit tree.
This is the clump of swarmed bees on our fruit tree.
This is the clump of swarmed bees on our fruit tree.

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Dad and I were excited! If we could catch them, we could put them in a new hive and have another hive going. Dad is often asked to catch bees in town and he has gotten some new hives that way. Dad had started getting things together to start milking. He had to stop and go get the bee keeping stuff together.

Unfortunately, by the time he got back, the branch had bent too far in the wind, and the whole clump of bees fell off and took off. Oh well! Next time, hopefully.

Flying bees after the clump fell.
Flying bees after the clump fell.

An Odd Egg

The Odd Egg

When I was getting my breakfast this morning, I pulled an egg out of the refrigerator that was an an odd looking egg. It was covered in thick wrinkles all over it’s shell and it was extremely large. When I cracked that egg, I found that the shell was thinner than usual and it was a double yolker.

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I didn’t know what causes the thin and wrinkled shell, so I asked my dad.

He said:

“The double yolk is simply formed because the hen’s body forms the shell (at very end of the egg making process) around two eggs, instead of just one. So, it is literally a double egg in a single shell. “Double yolkers” are favored by some consumers. But they never hatch. So, when a flock starts laying too many of them, the poultryman will have to start selecting for somewhat smaller eggs, from which to hatch.

The soft, thin, crinkly shell is probably because the hen has a problem with calcium formation. This could be a congenital thing, or it could be due to lack of calcium in the diet. We give oyster shell, so I don’t think it’s a deficiency.

Here’s a link.

http://www.thepoultrysite.com/publications/1/egg-quality-handbook/16/thinshelled-eggs-and-shellless-eggs/

I do know, that if a hen does this regularly, it’s good to eat her.”

I found this very interesting. I’d seen a few eggs like my oddity this morning but I had never really thought to ask what causes it. So, courtesy of my curiosity, there you have it!

I’m throwing in a picture of my begging terrier simply because she tried so hard to get into the pictures with the egg. I promised Pixie that I’d give her a spot in the blog by herself. She was reminding me of the seagulls from Finding Nemo. “Mine? Mine? Mine?”

Pixie wanted in on this blog, particularly if it meant that she got that double yolked egg!
Pixie wanted in on this blog, particularly if it meant that she got that double yolked egg!

More than a turkey baster

Many Thanks to Felicia Christenson for the use of this beautiful picture that she took of Sir Loin.
Many Thanks to Felicia Christenson for the use of this beautiful picture that she took of Sir Loin.

You know you might be a farm girl when…

Turkey basters are not used solely for basting turkeys. Every once and again on the farm, we use a turkey baster for something aside from basting turkeys. We raise a bottle calf or two per year and we’ve had a few times where the calf was too weak to suck from a bottle. It can get very interesting.

When you get a calf, if it is your first, I’d recommend finding a mentor before you buy a calf. They can help you find a good calf, and not get ripped off buying it. They also will be able to help with the different illnesses that calves can come down with. I’d also recommend the book “Raising a Calf for Beef” by Phyllis Hobson. It has helped my family out of many situations when we were not able to get in touch with either a vet or our mentor.

We’ve used the turkey baster with a calf that we bought several years ago. He was extremely weak. His mother was a senior cow who developed mastitis and the vet told the owner that the calf’s best chance for survival was being bottle fed. He opted to sell the calf to us and Ribeye as we named him, had to be fed for a short while using a turkey baster. We literally babied that calf and he ended up becoming one of the nicest calves we’ve ever raised. The only calf that comes that close is the calf that we currently have, Ribeye.

It can make it a little tough to drop them off to be butchered. We just have to keep in mind from the get go, that the calf is being raised for food. You treat them well, take good care of them, and when it comes time to butcher, do your best to see that they don’t suffer when they are butchered. We’ve found that a home raised steer that was bottle raised and raised on grass with maybe just a touch of grain given, makes the absolute best meat.

When honey goes funny

funny looking honeyTwo weeks ago, I made an interesting discovery late one night when I got the urge to grab some toast with honey. We had run out of the jar of opened honey so I had to grab a new jar. I noticed that the jars of honey looked a little odd. They looked like they had some serious crystallization going in in them.

This is what a jar will look like if it might be fermented. This jar blew up when I opened it.
This is what a jar will look like if it might be fermented. This jar blew up when I opened it.

I grabbed a jar and noticed that there was some honey on the bottom of the jar. The thing was pretty sticky to handle. “That’s strange”, I thought. When I went to open the jar, it tried to imitate Mt. Vesuvius! Kaboom! Honey blew out of the jar! I’m pretty sure I sat there for a moment in total disbelief. How on earth?! Apparently I have the magic touch? I set the bubbling jar on a plate in the sink to wait until morning to ask my family about what happened to the honey.

A blown up jar of honey

In the morning, my dad explained what happened to the jar of honey. He teaches bee keeping classes and he had taken the extractor to class and had extracted honey. Unfortunately, on his way home from class, while the extractor was in the back of the pickup, rain hit our area.

The extractor blew open. Water got into the honey. Dad did his best to get rid of the water, but when he put the honey into jars and stored them, the honey started to ferment. It was turning alcoholic on us. Dad told me that there is a way to fix that. We are actually in the process of fixing that now.

First, you put together a large flat pan and the jar of honey in the big pan. Put water in the large pan. You’ll heat the honey up to 150 degrees. That will get rid of the alcohol that has started to produce in the honey. After you’ve cooled your honey, you’ll want to store it in a cool but not cold place. You’ll need to use it faster than you would raw honey.

pasteurizing honey

Pasteurization in process. You can see that the honey is clearing from the bottom up. The alcohol is being evaporated.
Pasteurization in process. You can see that the honey is clearing from the bottom up. The alcohol is being evaporated.

Unfortunately, once honey has been pasteurized, it loses a lot of it’s benefits where allergies are concerned. It will still be a great sweetener but it won’t help with allergies any more. The life time of the honey is also reduced by being pasteurized.

This is the jar of honey that went funny after we fixed our problem.
This is the jar of honey that went funny after we fixed our problem.

Last night’s surprise

Buckeye hen with poult babyA few weeks ago, my family got some turkey eggs. We weren’t exactly sure when they would be hatching but we had them in the incubator. I wasn’t exactly expecting them last night. But, we had 8 baby turkeys hatch last night. They were so cute! Excuse the dirty bucket, but here is a picture of the bunch that was born last night.

The bunch in the bucketA single poult in the bucket

Dad didn’t have a turkey hen waiting for these babies, so we put them under a Buckeye chicken hen. She’s the bird pictured at the top of this post with a cute little turkey poult peeking out from under her.

Turkeys seem to be born suicidal. We usually loose about half of the babies that we hatch out. So far, a day after the hatch, we’ve already lost 2. That happened thanks to the fact that momma hen decided that turkey babies were not hers. she broke out of the pen where we had her and the babies, and the babies followed her out. She didn’t wait up. My dad had a time of it catching the babies that we were able to find. After he caught them, he put them back in the pen with momma hen. He then got the idea that this turkey hen might be willing to adopt the little ones.

Full grown henIt was pretty funny. When she was placed in the pen with the poults and the buckeye hen, all of a sudden, the buckeye decided that they were indeed her babies. No turkey was taking these chicks away from her. The nerve of us!

Winter Wood

Preparation for winter
Preparation for winter

I inhaled the wonderful smell of the woods today. I could hear a chain saw near by. Most people at thins time of year aren’t necessarily thinking about how they are going to stay warm for the winter. My family though heats with wood on our homestead.

dogs enjoying the fire

Every year around September, we go into the woods as a family and we find trees that have died during the year but have not rotted to the point of not being good fire wood. Dad is really good at taking down dead trees that are still standing.

Cutting up a tree that had been taken down after he found a dead tree.
Cutting up a tree that had been taken down after he found a dead tree.

Mom and I will haul the chunks of wood that are small enough to load by ourselves. Dad will work a chainsaw and the maul to split the wood down to a manageable size for Mom and I.

Getting ready to haul a load back to the farm.
Getting ready to haul a load back to the farm.

The freshly split wood is one of the best smells in the world, followed by the smell of a good wood fire when the weather has gotten cold. We use elm wood to keep our fire burning all night long and we use pine, maple or anything small and dry. Pine of course smells heavenly when that goes on.

Oh, one last thing! Just like when we are gardening, we find some interesting finds. I found this grub which I hadn’t ever seen anything like it before. This is an Oak Borer grub which eats the oak trees.

The voracious oak borer grub.
The voracious oak borer grub.

Since we had dead stumps left after our dead trees, I opted to let this guy go in a stump so he can eat the stump to his little grubby heart’s content!