Scratching Post

A few days ago we were preparing to load Nick the bull to take him to his new owners.  We are tweaking our breeding program for meat and though Nick is a great full-blood lowline bull we have replaced him with Ox who is a 3/4 lowline bull for a little bigger carcass.  

Nick really didn’t seem to care about any of this, what interested him was an alder tree that he was using as a scratching post.

All the cattle are shedding their heavy winter coats and apparently a good rub against a tree helps the shedding process along.

Nick the bull was very intent on his scratching and rubbing.  This side and that.

He was so intent on his scratching it was hard to get him away from the tree.

He really enjoyed his scratching tree.

Finally he was persuaded to leave his beloved tree and head over to the stock trailer.

 Of course he couldn’t pass me by without sniffing around to see if I had any treats for him.

Rick had the treats at the trailer so he went over to investigate.

Nick the bull and Daisy the heifer loaded up with very little trouble and Rick was off to deliver them and pick up the recalcitrant steer #5.

Technology Issues

I may have mentioned before that we live in one of the few remaining areas of the country with no cell phone service.  All the red areas on the map have coverage and we are in a white zone.

 Verizon Wireless Coverage Map

Which is one of the things we like best about living here.  Other people sometimes have trouble grasping the concept.  I have told delivery people calling for directions that we have no cell service and one replied “Oh no problem, I’ll call you on your landline.”  I explained to him that HE would not have any cell service here either so what would he be calling me on?  A long silence followed.  We do still have cell phones however, for our occasional trips back to civilization “downriver.”  Last week as I was in Costco (one of my favorite places) I got a call, flipped open my cell phone to answer and this happened.

I am no technology expert, but I do know your cell phone is not supposed to be in two separate pieces.  There happens to be a Verizon kiosk in our Costco, so I went over to see what could be done to repair my phone.

Nothing as it turns out.  Once your phone reaches this state of destruction you should just think about picking out your new one.  Which is what the nice young man tried to help me with; all he needed was my account information and we could get started.  Unfortunately, I could not remember my account information.  Had I known my phone was going to self destruct that day, I would have taken care to write down those important details and have them available.  I did not know this ahead of time however, and could not remember the number he needed.

Isn’t it interesting that with the advent of phone memories and programmed numbers you don’t have to remember important numbers anymore?  I remember my childhood phone number 831-9578.  Both my grandmother’s have been in heaven for many years, but I still know their phone numbers instantly.  They lived in the same small town where everyone had the same prefix  so all you needed was the last four digits.  1601 and 1698 – I will remember those numbers til the end of my days.  They also had the same phone.  The standard issue black rotary phone plugged into the wall.

 The numbers from my youth were vivid in my memory, what I could not recall was the number for my cell phone account.  The young man from Verizon was very patient; he even let me use his very high-tech phone to call and get the information I needed.  His is the kind of phone with more buttons than a NASA space shuttle, each so tiny I had to put on my glasses to see them at all.  Unfortunately, the number I needed to call was – you guessed it – stored in my phone which was now in pieces.  This young man was resourceful however, and he quickly looked up the number I needed on his computer.  Our kind-hearted banker gave me the elusive number for our account and the phone crisis was resolved.

My new cell phone is all in one piece and they were able to retrieve my contacts from half of my old phone so I didn’t have to re-program all those numbers  – which would have taken me approximately a week.  And I added the account number to my written “cheat sheet” that I keep with me just in case.   My memory just isn’t what it used to be.

Hunting Ground

The other day when we pulled into the pasture we surprised a coyote hunting in the field.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen coyotes there.  Last summer when we were mowing  – before we leased the pasture it had been vacant for over three years and was WAY overgrown – the coyotes were out in force.

Every time we made a pass with the mower the voles would run out and the coyotes were waiting at the edge of the field.

In case you are not familiar with voles here is a lot more information than you probably wanted on the little rodents:

A vole is a small rodent resembling a mouse but with a stouter body, a shorter hairy tail, a slightly rounder head, smaller ears and eyes, and differently formed molars (high-crowned and with angular cusps instead of low-crowned and with rounded cusps). There are approximately 155 species of voles. They are sometimes known as meadow mice or field mice in North America. Vole species form the subfamily Arvicolinae with the lemmings and the muskrats.

 And here is the damage they do.

As you have probably figured out, coyotes like to eat voles, and they aren’t the only ones.  We have seen a blue heron in the field for weeks.


Last summer the voles would run out from the path of the mower and the coyotes – at one time six were in the field – were waiting to pick them off.  This coyote was very intent on his hunting and didn’t appreciate our interruption.

After a while though he headed off into the woods.  The cattle didn’t even get up as he sauntered by.

New Crop

We have a new group of four yearling steers.

We were supposed to have five, but when they were being loaded #5 decided he wasn’t inclined to get in the trailer or go on a road trip.  Steer #5 took off with the fence panel stuck on his head that Rick had been holding before the steer bolted over the top of him.  I truly wish I had photos of that incident (Rick wasn’t hurt, just very surprised) to share with you, but alas I was at quilting class and no photographic evidence exists.  You can see how important it is that I stand there taking pictures while everyone else is working – unless of course I am at quilting, then you are on your own.

The pasture is greening up nicely and the heifers are enjoying the fresh grass too.

The four new boys – no we won’t be naming them, they are a meat crop – are getting used to their new surroundings which include the bulls Nick and Ox.  They all seem to be getting along fine.

They have caught on very quickly that Rick will bring them fresh hay as a treat and they line up at the fence waiting patiently.

The new steers aren’t the only ones enjoying the grass, these Canada Geese have been hanging out in the pasture the past week or so.

The cattle graze close to them and we walk by and they don’t seem concerned at all.

Apparently they have decided it is a good place to spend their spring.


After the long, cold, snowy winter we’ve had, I hesitate to say this . . . but I think it could finally be spring.  According to the calendar it was officially supposed to be spring a few weeks ago, but apparently whoever is in charge of the weather around here didn’t get the memo because our weather has still been cold and rainy.  A couple of days ago though, we had a breakthrough; warm and sunny weather!  We worked on fencing yesterday afternoon and I had to wear my sunglasses – amazing.  There are other signs of spring as well.  I have no idea what kind of shrub this is – but it is blooming.

The daffodils are in bloom.

Periwinkles are peeking out of the greenery.

And, if you look closely, the morel mushrooms are popping up too.

Did you see it?  They are pretty well camouflaged.

Here is a morel standing alone.

For me, the daffodils and morels make it official, it IS spring!  And it’s about time.

Hog Hut

To continue with the hog theme, (and how did we even get started on a hog theme?) before the fire broke out we had just finished working on our hog hut.  You may remember that Nephew Nick helped us build the hut a few months ago.

We used leftover pieces of OSB and roofing, re-cycled pallets and other old stuff to construct our deluxe hut for the pigs.

And the pigs with no names – we have instituted a new policy of not naming animals we are going to eat – loved their abode.

They could often be seen slumbering peacefully with their snouts sticking out of the hut.

All was well with the porkers until this happened.

This is our rain gauge which holds five inches.  The reason you can’t see the little marker to tell you how much water in inside is because it has overflowed – again.  In the last two weeks or so we have received over eleven inches of rain; we are going to have to get a rain gauge that holds more rain.  And the pig pen and hut was now flooded.  Pigs do like mud in the summer to cool down, but they don’t like their entire pen and shelter filled with water and mud.  It seems the original architect of the hog hut did not take into account the amount of rain we get and did not include a floor.  Definitely a design flaw.  So, we had to do a little re-model on the hog hut.

In case you have never had the pleasure of working in the mud of a pig pen let me tell you that it has its own unique eau de perfume.  To put it bluntly – it stinks!  Not a fun job at all.  Rick lost the toss so he was inside while I handed things over the fence and took pictures.  He put some rocks down in the mud and standing water in the hut and put another re-cycled pallet on top of the rocks.  Then he added some boards for flooring.

We tossed some straw on top and before we even got all the boards back on the pigs were inside.  I think they really appreciated a dry place to hang out.

We added some boards on the front to keep the straw in and the water out.

And the hogs were once again peacefully snoozing in their hut. 

 About ten minutes after I took this picture it started raining again. . . and it is still coming down.  We’ve had one of the wettest springs on record here and it doesn’t look like it is going to dry out anytime soon.  The HogZilla fire also broke out about then and we went over there with the pig aroma still wafting about us.  Some days I have to be reminded why we quit our desk jobs.

This picture has nothing to do with the hog hut except that Bess was enjoying the sun while we were working on the re-model.  I must tell you folks, I’ve had about enough of hogs, pigs and generally everything porcine related for a while.  Until those pigs are bacon and sausage in my freezer I really don’t want to deal with them or their hut again.

Hog Fire

In our last episode. . .

We had just finished adding a floor to the hog hut when the town fire alarm sounded.  We looked up and saw dark smoke billowing over the trees at the edge of our property – where the HogZilla was working.  We ran, actually Rick ran I got in my car, to see what was happening.

We arrived just after the fire department did, and flames were shooting out from underneath the HogZilla machine.

I am told that the flames were shooting up as high as the tree tops a few minutes earlier.  Amazingly, the fire department didn’t think it was a priority for me to take pictures of the flames and they started putting the fire out.  Lynn, one of our town volunteer firemen, was shooting water at the source of the fire.

Both of our town’s fire trucks – the brand new 1983 model and the old one -responded and soon the truck from the neighboring town arrived too.

The trucks ran out of water and shuttled back and forth to the fish hatchery to re-fill their tanks.

In spite of all the water, the HogZilla still had flames visible after several minutes.

The HogZilla holds a huge amount – approximately 500 gallons – of hydraulic fluid and it was all on fire.    Greg, the guy who was operating the machine, had the good sense to dig a trench around the machine when it started burning so all the fluids were contained and the fire didn’t spread to the nearby trees.

Greg also dumped loads of dirt on the machine trying to smother the flames.  All this before he was able to call 9-1-1 because we live in the middle of nowhere and don’t have cell phone service here.

Greg had to get in his pickup and drive into town to alert the fire department.  Eventually, after many truckloads of water, the  flames were extinguished.   

The county fire marshal arrived to investigate the cause.  There had been a couple of incidents of vandalism in the area recently and they wanted to be sure it wasn’t arson.

 It turned out to be a broken hydraulic line which leaked fluid on the hot engine and poof it caught on fire – nothing Greg did to cause it.  The owner of the company arrived and it was nice to see how well she and the rest of her employees handled the difficult situation.

They spread out absorbent toweling to keep the fluids from spreading.

Then put on special stuff down on the spill to absorb the fluids and keep it from contaminating the ground. They were still on the scene well after midnight cleaning things up.

Everything considered, it could have been a lot worse.  No one was hurt, no property damage and the company has insurance so the HogZilla machine will either be re-built or replaced.

The ironic thing about all this is the HogZilla machine has been at our place for almost four months.  They chipped our slash piles all winter when they were able to dodge the rain and snow enough to get access to the “back forty.”  Greg had just finished up the last of our piles and moved the machine to our neighbor’s Bill’s place to do Bill’s one pile on his way out of town.  He had only been working there for a couple of hours when the hydraulic line rupured and the fire broke out.

If the fire had happened in the far back area of our property the fire trucks would never have been able to reach it – the only road back there is dirt and at this season, over eleven inches of rain in the last five days, it is mostly mud.  Our neighbor’s place is right off the road so the fire department had good access.