Dances with Weather, Winter Weather

By on Jan 22, 2017 in Carole's Corner | 2 comments

It was going to be a cold night so Bruce and I had to work fast. Temperatures had been in the 40s and 50s for a few days and all the manure and water that was previously frozen had thawed to sea of six-inch muck. If we waited the muck would freeze solid, impossible to clear away. Winter farming is a dance with weather that changes from day to day. Freezing temperatures turn boot-sucking mud into a solid surface; slippery and hard to walk on. A mini heat wave in winter can turn frozen surfaces into muck especially where there is manure.  As soon as it turns warm the manure melts. Cattle standing in the muck makes it worse.  We call these problem spots, “loafing areas.” Clean loafing areas are important to cattle health. If cattle lie down in the muck they’ll get wet and cold. Besides animal health, there is another reason to keep cattle areas clean; food for human...

What does it take to Train a Four Year Old?

By on Jan 14, 2017 in Carole's Corner | 0 comments

All four feet were off the ground as the thousand-pound steer leapt into the air. I didn’t think a steer could jump so high but Stash was definitely airborne just to avoid stepping on a stone boat lying still on the ground. Stash is a four-year-old Scottish Highlander steer I was training for his new job as an oxen. Four years is old to start training a steer to work in a yoke. Usually, I start my teams at six months or younger. It is far easier to correct a two hundred pound critter than a full grown steer who has his own way of doing things. Young steers think of their trainer as an older, wiser cow and typically learn commands quickly. As they get older they start thinking for themselves and it can be hard to train them. You know the saying, “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I started my first team on Miles Smith Farm at six months old. Topper and Flash were...

Escaped Calves and Fencing Woes

By on Jan 12, 2017 in Carole's Corner | 0 comments

The scrap bucket was empty and the feed bunker a mess. Who had done this? Who would trash the hay and steal the pig food? This was clearly the work of the delinquents; Rowdy and Hemingway. With snow on the ground, it is very hard to keep a strong charge in the 10+ miles of electric fence that separate the pastures on our farm. At Miles Smith Farm we try to keep a good charge in the pig fencing and make sure the bull’s fence is charged but it is almost impossible to keep all the other fences fully charged. For the most part, the cattle respect the fence wires, even if there is little to no charge in them. The babies, not so much. Rowdy is a seven-month-old calf and Hemingway is two months old. Both are Scottish Highlanders and are buddies. They hang out together, play together and escape together. The weakest charge in the fence is in the gates. Each calf ducks under the wire gate...

Farmers Helping Farmers

By on Jan 8, 2017 in Carole's Corner | 0 comments

Do you know any farmers that “work out?” If you think I mean going to the gym, you’re wrong. An old Yankee Farmer once told me that as a boy he lived with his grandfather and worked the farm. But when he became an adult he had to get an “off farm job” or “work out” to keep the farm going. “Work out” was the farmer’s term for having an off-farm job with a regular income. Today lots of farmers “work out.” They have off farm jobs to keep their farm from becoming house lots. Farming has never been a “sure thing” with a regular income. Because of the movement to support local farmers and buy their products farming is improving slightly. But then there are 99.9% of food eaters who don’t buy locally. It takes a lot of work to reach this 99.9% to help the see the advantages of supporting local farms. One way to let the 99.9% know why it’s important to buy locally raised...

Water, Water, Everywhere

By on Dec 28, 2016 in Carole's Corner | 0 comments

In winter water is everywhere but mostly it’s solid ice or frozen snow. To survive winter cattle need extra hay but they also need water, lots of water. Cold not only freezes fingers, it makes water solid. Cattle will die quickly without water so one more job for farmers is making water available. Fortunately several years ago, with help from U.S.D.A., we buried water lines four feet underground and installed frost free hydrants to most of our pastures at Miles Smith Farm. Frost creeps into the ground but rarely makes it four feet down. Since the water lines are below the frost line they won’t freeze. To access those underground pipes of flowing water we also installed hydrants that connect to the pipes. A handle on top of the hydrant turns an underground valve on and off. When the handle is “Up” the water flows. When the handle is “down” the underground valve closes off...

Sign Language on the Farm

By on Dec 20, 2016 in Carole's Corner | 0 comments

As the trailer backed into the holding pen I put up my hand to signal stop just before the trailer hit the building. The truck driver, my husband Bruce, understood and stopped the rig at just the right spot. Farming and hand signals go together. At Miles Smith Farm Bruce and I have created our own vocabulary of hand signals for all farm work. With equipment running it is impossible to use spoken language to direct equipment or cattle. Tractors, bobcats, trucks or mooing cattle are so loud, voice commands don’t work, hand signals do. The first step to using hand signals effectively is eye contact. Once you have the equipment operator’s attention the correct hand signal is critical. Stop is easy but I’ve gotten creative with other signals. To lift and deliver a thousand pound bale of hay I open and close my hand like a jaw and point to the field where the hay goes to....