Beautiful Blooms

I love hydrangeas; they are one of my favorite flowers. When I was a little girl, my grandmother had a beautiful, huge hydrangea on the north side of her house; it must have been over six feet tall and about as big around. Hers was pink and we always took pictures in front of it when it was blooming. When I planted this little one gallon shrub five years ago I didn’t know if it would grow here in our climate and soil or not. We had a nice little spot next to the double doors of our garden shed so it was worth a try.

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Not too long after I planted it, we found out we were having puppies – turned out there were ten puppies. They were the cutest little puppies ever and we thoroughly enjoyed them. Like all puppies they liked to chew on anything available. My shoe laces.

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Each other.

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And my hydrangea. Can you see the sad little stick behind the puppy? Yes, that is my poor hydrangea. I mulched it with straw to try to protect it, but I should have fenced it off from those little chewing creatures. They gnawed it down to a stub. Rick was going to cut it down completely, but I convinced him to give it a chance.

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Well, as you can see the plant made a dramatic recovery. It probably helped that we found wonderful homes for all ten puppies so they didn’t chew on it anymore. I put some “manure tea” and compost on it and now five years later the hydrangea is happy, healthy and at least five feet tall. Apparently the sheltered location is a good one for it, because well into fall when all the leaves are turning, it is still blooming.

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The picture really doesn’t do it justice. The blooms are a beautiful azure blue and about six inches across.

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And new blooms are turning color – even in mid October.

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I’m hoping to get more hydrangeas planted when we do the landscaping around the store.

Menagerie

I don’t know if every cattle ranch has a menagerie of other critters too, but ours sure does. Of course we have our two guard dogs, Molly and Grizzly.

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They can usually be found right at Rick’s feet, literally. If he walks from the shed out to the cattle pens, they go with him; house to the shed, they go with him. I understand that is pretty typical behavior for heelers.

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The ranch is also home to the brother and sister cats Harry and Bess; they are a bit more independent.

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What always amazes me about these four is that not only do they all get along fine – Bess usually goes in the dog house to snuggle with Molly first thing every morning – but when you go for a walk all four of them come along. I tell Rick he looks like the pied piper with all his pets trailing along with him. Here they are all resting in the shade – it was a hot day for a walk.

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A few days ago Rick was out checking on some of the cattle and of course his whole pet crew went too.

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While Rick was checking the herd, all the dogs and cats were waiting in the shade of the cow shed.

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Everything was fine until one of the cows caught sight of the dogs and cats. That is really nothing unusual, the critters are often in the pasture. For some reason though Denver the cow didn’t appreciate them being in her pasture that day. So she came running and chased them out. You can just see Harry below on the far right getting ready to dive under the fence.

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Once she got started all the cows wanted to chase critters out of the pasture. Betty and her calf were next chasing Bess and the dogs.

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After they all made a quick exit under the pasture fence, the whole crew rested in the shade. It was a hot day!

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Harry was so traumatized from being chased he decided to walk all the way back up the hill on the fence rail.

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A lot less chance of a bovine chase up there.

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And then they were safe to rest in the shade.

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Grazing Paddocks

It may not look like much to you, but to us this is a very important fence post. Maybe we should have spray painted it gold, or put some kind of plaque on it?

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This is the last post! Yes, at long last Rick and Alex finished all ten of the grazing paddocks on our new pasture. It was a huge project and took them twelve weeks, but they got it done!  It has been a long summer filled with fencing and more fencing.

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And in between fencing grazing paddocks there was hay season.

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Another long, hot project which has to be done as quickly as possible to get the hay cut, raked, baled and stacked under cover before it started raining. It was our first year to get hay from our own pasture and it went really well.

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We have stacks of fresh hay in the barn waiting for the cold winter weather. And then back to fencing grazing paddocks, which includes installing gates.

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Rick and Alex have had a lot of experience setting posts and installing gates so they will all close and latch on one post.

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That is important when you are setting up your paddocks so one person can move the herd. You close off the gate across the alley where you don’t want the cattle to go, open the gate to the new paddock and then open the gate on the paddock they are moving out of – have all those gates latched in place – and you can move them to fresh grass by yourself and just close the gate behind them. No chance of the cattle getting loose and easy for the humans too. Since there are only the three of us here, that is a good thing.

So now that the grazing paddocks are all fenced the guys must be laying on the couch watching NASCAR all day right? Not exactly. They have moved on to the next of the projects that have to be done before winter.

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This one involves water and electrical lines, big ditches and lots of rocks.

Hay Season

We interrupt fence building to bring you hay season. You’ve heard that phrase “Make hay while the sun shines” well it is probably true most places but it is certainly the way it goes around here. When the hay is ready and the sun is shining you drop everything else you are doing and make hay.

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Hay season is usually around the 4th of July and it is all-consuming because you have to get the hay cut, dried, baled and the bales in the barn before it rains again.  Hay is what our grass-fed beef eat in the winter months, so it is an important part of our operation.

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With our new acreage, we had some of our own grass for hay this year. Our friend Jeff cut it for us, then raked it .

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And baled the hay. I really have no idea how a hay baler works. It looks to me like they drive the tractor pulling the baler over the rows of hay, it rakes up the loose hay and squishes it all together, ties it with twine in two places and spits the bales out the back.

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It is possible there is a more technically correct explanation for the inner workings of a hay baler. I do know everyone I have ever known who has worked with one complains about how hard they are to get adjusted just right. Too tight, too loose or too something.

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Rick and Alex used our tractor and bale handler to gather up the bales in the field and stack them on the trailer.

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They pulled trailer loads to our place to put the hay in the barn for winter.

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The bale handler works to make the hay stacks in the barn too.

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Unlike some places where they get multiple cuttings of hay, here you usually get one per year – two if it is a really good year and you get rain and dry weather at just the right times.  And then we are done with hay for the year and can go back to . . . yep – building more fences.