Well, I've had plenty of blogs written in my mind, but not on a screen. The days have just been flying by. Even our 10-year-old has commented on how fast this year is going. Wow, July 1 already. To me, that means summer is almost half over!
Last weekend I had my first real experience with farming. Jim and the boys left Saturday morning to attend the wedding of friends of our family, which took place on a ranch about 4 hours from here. The Turtle Mountain Boys had been asked to play their bluegrass music for the next day's doings, which was Prairie Days -- a time of fun and fellowship for homeschooling families. Since I am not a member of the group it was my job to stay behind and do the chores. I was looking forward to some peace and quiet, after a very busy week of finally getting around to canning the remaining 60 of the 200 chickens we purchased with our friend Steve from a Hutterite community.
I must say I have a new appreciation for all the chores the boys do every morning with the animals. I spent mornings having Peter coach me in the fine art of milking goats. We have 2 we are currently milking in the mornings, so they are separated overnight from their kids. It looked so easy when Peter milked, but I found myself a little nervous at giving it a try. I think I have been a bit scared of the goats, but the more I worked with them the more relaxed I felt. They were no longer foreign objects to me! Even though goats aren't as large as a cow they still can pack a punch if they decide to kick or butt. We have them climb onto a milking stand, and then I would kneel on the floor and milk. There is no telling what a person would kneel on in the shed, so I furnished myself with a piece of cardboard for the job. I wasn't too excited about having my head at the level of the goats' hooves, but everything went okay. As long as the goats had their grain they were happy.
A couple of hours after everyone left I decided I'd better go check on the animals. We stake out the 2 milking does and the rest of the goats are in portable pens. As I rounded the shed I came face to face with John, our billy goat. He has always looked nasty to me, since he has the traditional beard and horns. The name he was given before we bought him was "Big Bad John," and he certainly looked the part! John was in a portable pen all his own, which was constructed of cattle panels. Before the boys left they moved his pen to a new location, but it was on the slant of a hill. I don't know how he got out of there with the pen still standing, but he did. I knew if I got him back in there he would just get out the way he did the first time, so I decided I'd better move it to a level area. The only way to do that with just me (takes 2 normally to move the pens around) was to take the thing apart and drag it flat along the ground. It turned out not to be as hard as I thought it would be, and got it set up next to our oldest goat, Mustard Seed. She has had some skin problems and lost most of her hair, so they have kept her separate from the rest of the herd until she is healed up. (Thankfully, a product from Crystal Creek has helped her to start growing her hair back.) I didn't know how to get John back into his pen's new location, but shaking a bucket with grain helped immensely. I gave him grain here and there to be sure he would follow me, and he did. He wasn't nasty at all! Whew!
A couple more hours later I went back down to check on the pig's water, and found one of the does wandering around pulling her stake behind her, so I had to get that back into place. The pigs were very glad to see me, since it was a hot day and they needed more water. Anyway, the animals kept me very busy. Later in the afternoon I checked the weather forecast and found the real possibility of a thunderstorm, so I had to play musical goats to get everyone shelter in the event it did rain. I think it took me close to an hour to get everyone settled down for the night. Thankfully there were no storms.
Got up and going right on schedule Sunday morning, but when I got to the goat shed I discovered one of the kids had somehow gotten out of his pen between the hours of bedtime and morning chores. He was laying next to the fence where his mother was held, and mama was pretty irate that she was so close, yet so far away. She did not want to cooperate with milking, so I didn't do too well with her. I think I managed to get about half of what Peter normally gets, and thankfully the kids would probably take the rest. I think it took me 3 hours to get all the chores done! My reward was to pick strawberries from our patch for breakfast.
I was very glad to have Jim and the boys return about 10:00 that night. There were storm warnings all around, and I needed help getting the kids separated from their moms. The trick of feeding a bit of grain to Big Bad John kind of backfired on me, since the 3 kids needed to go in with him for the night and he kept jumping up on the fence any time I tried to unlatch the clamps to get the kids in. It was either drop the kid I was carrying to get John off the fence (I did that the first time and the kid ran back to his mom!), or unintentionally let John out as I tried to get the kid in! I gave up and waited for reinforcements. We did have a storm that night, and received 3-1/2 inches of rain in 45 minutes. I was sure glad everyone was home and in their beds. What I do feel very badly about is that night friends of ours lost crops to hail in 7 of the 12 quarters of land they planted. Our hearts go out to them, and we are asking the Lord to give them wisdom in what their next step is going to be.