February 1, 2011

I know there are people with pet rats.  I’m sure they are wonderful pets, but I just can’t see it.  Especially not after the mess we cleaned up this weekend.

First off, I made two serious mistakes that contributed to this problem.

  1. I stored a season’s worth of peacock feathers in the feed room.
  2. I also stored some baling twine in the feedroom.

Why was this a problem?  Well, the rats seemed to think chewed-up feathers and twine fluff make quite excellent nests.

They had a regular habitat built, a warren of rats, hiding behind barrels and the metal trash cans we use to store feed.  It was sheltered from the wind, they had nice little insulated nests, what with the feathers and twine, so what more could they want?

Oh, yeah.  They needed food.
And they found a plentiful supply.

We’d been noticing the peafowl’s food bowl was emptying out mighty fast.  Every morning… empty!  And we figured it highly unlikely the peafowl all of a sudden wanted so much more food.  It didn’t take a great leap of imagination to figure the rats were helping themselves at night after the peafowl went to roost.  So although they couldn’t get to the feed in the metal cans in the feed room, they still had nice high-protein chow at the local Peafowl Restaurant.

And then there was the smell.  A colony of rats, little rat calling cards everywhere, and worse, rat urine.  Really, REALLY bad.

So Saturday we had a nice, warm day, and The Farmer figured it was a good day to clean out the feed room.  While I was at the grocery store, he started in, so I didn’t get to see the first wave of rats leaving the sinking ship.  They had a huge nest built in the corner behind a couple of metal trash cans. . .

picture of torn up rats nest

All this in one nesting area!

By all accounts, when he started pulling this out, the rats went everywhere!  Up the walls, out the door, out a hole in the window screen (and here we’d been blaming squirrels for that hole…).

The twine was wrapped around stuff in the feed room, and was very difficult to work loose.  We had to do a lot of cutting to get it out.  Then The Farmer carried big shovels full of the stuff to a pile outside and burnt it.

picture of man burning rats nesting materials

Burn the filthy stuff!

Toby was going nuts and constantly getting in the way.

picture of dog sniffing rats nest

"I know something is there!"

He could smell the rats had been there, and he could hear the little babies squeaking.  Not to mention a few mummified remains of deceased rodents.

picture of baby rats

A generation past, and the next generation to come...

We did not allow the next generation to mature.

It was a long, dirty, tiring job.  We scraped up caked poop, nesting materials and urine.  We swept and swept.  We could not get every last bit off the floor or from between the outer wall and joists.  But we got most of it.  The feedroom looks a lot better, and it sure smells a lot better!

As for the Peacock Restaurant, it has been closed down.  Every night we bring the bowl of feed in and stick it in a metal can where the rats can’t get to it.  So we have evicted them from their home, and taken away their easy food supply.  I was feeling pretty good about all that until the Cave Geek wondered if they might decide to try living in OUR house next.

I could have done without that thought. . .

The Snowy South

January 12, 2011

It’s even colder today than it’s been all week.  The snow is not going to melt any time soon from the looks of it.  Our local weatherman informs us that this is the third largest snowstorm in history for this area, the first being 1963, then 1988. 

I wasn’t here for either of those snowstorms, but The Farmer was.  He says he remembers the one in 1963 well.  Having just moved here from Wichita, Kansas, the snow didn’t seem unusual to him at the time.  Now after living in the south so many years, he knows better, ha!

We took a ruler outside with us and measured snow all over the place.

picture of ruler in snow

Measuring Snow on top of wellhouse.

Most of the places we measured showed around 7-inches of snow.  Although some places measured a little more, and our neighbors swear we got 8-inches of snow, 7 was the average around here.

The guineas and chickens hate the snow.  The chickens have mostly stayed put in the sheds, but the guineas get out and fly from tree to tree.

picture of guinea in tree

Guinea flying up into snowy tree.

Some of the guineas even flew up on the windowsills to check things out.

picture of guinea sitting on windowsill

Guinea peeking in window after snowstorm.

The snow doesn’t bother the sheep or llama, and even our goat doesn’t seem to mind getting out in it. 

The Farmer and Toby and I enjoyed tromping through the woods and checking out the snow.  Here’s a video with pictures I took from around our snow covered farm:

This last picture I took this morning when The Farmer and Toby were walking around the far side of the pond.

picture of man and black and white farm collie

Farmer and Farm Collie in the snow.

All this snow reminds me more of when I lived in West Virginia or Iowa or northern Ohio.  It’s been fun for a while, but I’m glad we don’t have to deal with this much snow on a regular basis.

No more snowmageddons in the south please!

Old Farmer’s Day

October 12, 2010

I noticed when I sent out the humor emailings today that it is “Old Farmer’s Day.”

This day is to honor the hard work of farmers throughout American history. Early American culture was heavily a farming culture. Early settlers cleared fields and pristine woods, to farm the rich land. They brought seeds and farming methods with them. They found new seeds, and learned new methods along the way. Many of those new farming methods came from Native Americans, who were already farming the land. Most notably, was the concept of hilling, or mounding soil.

Since October is the time of harvest for many places, it seems like a good time to honor farmers. And if we’re going to honor farmers, we’ve got one here.

Here he is at much younger age. He grew up on a farm in Oklahoma.

The Farmer in his younger years (he's on the left).

And of course, all Old Farmers no doubt had to walk in the snow to school. .

photo of kids in snow

A much younger farmer shown with his siblings.

They were probably on top of the hill here, and had to walk uphill to school. . . both ways.

Even in high school, The Farmer stuck to his farming roots.

photo of young man with steer

Show time!

Of course, he’s not the only one around here that grew up on a farm.

picture of cows in pen

Working the cattle.

The girl on the fence beside my mother is my younger sister, not me!  And of course, that’s my dad on the far side of the pen.  I’m not in the picture because I was the one taking the picture.  Well, okay, looks like a finger or thumb got in the left lower corner of the picture. 

I think we’re probably the last generation of farmers in our family.  However, I’m thankful there are young people who are interested in farming.  It can be a tough life, but a satisfying one.  And somebody needs to produce food!

To all the old farmers out there, “HAPPY OLD FARMER’S DAY!!”

A little cavitation. . .

October 11, 2010

Way back last December I wrote a post about how our nice black rural mailbox got pushed over by a great big delivery truck that ended up in the ditch by our driveway.  The driver came back and fixed the mailbox the following weekend.

Well, as it turns out, the mailbox wasn’t the only casualty.  As Paul Harvey would have said, here’s “The rest of the story.”

It’s like this, in the last few weeks we noticed a hole along the side of our driveway.  I thought maybe it was a rabbit hole, or even made by a groundhog.

picture of hole

The blue arrows mark the spot!

(It’s a little hard to see in the shadows, so I thought I’d point it out!)

I mentioned it to The Farmer one day, and he informed me that wasn’t made by an animal, it was cavitation.

Say what?

Well, when you live with a civil engineer type person, there are often strange terms popping up in the conversation.  The only cavies I knew anything about that might be ‘cavitating’ were guinea pigs, or the South American kind that looks a lot like rabbits.  I didn’t think any of those critters were out here on the farm running around and making such a big hole by the side of the road!

But it turned out that this hole was over the top of the concrete culvert running under our driveway.  And it also turns out that one of the definitions in use for “cavitation” means a hole made in the dirt by the suction of running water. 

In other words, the water running through culvert created a suction that pulled the dirt down through the hole in the pipe, and thereby making a hole in the dirt.  Cavitation.

Well, The Farmer decided to fix the problem this weekend.  He dug down where the cavitation was so he could expose the expected hole in the pipe.

And here’s where we get ‘the rest of the story.’

Turns out it wasn’t exactly a hole in the pipe that caused the problem.  Nope.  Instead of a hole, there was a joint in the pipe there that was broken because the section of pipe on the end had got pushed down.

And HOW did it get pushed down?

Delivery truck stuck in ditch.

Delivery truck stuck in ditch.

Oh yeah, that great big delivery truck that knocked down our mailbox!

Black rural mailbox on bank.

Deep tire track over top of culvert.

You can see where the weight of the truck pushed down deep in the dirt, and it’s right over the end of the culvert.  So instead of a little hole in the pipe, this is what we found:

picture of broken culvert joint

Broken joint in concrete culvert.

The weight of the truck obviously pushed down the end section of culvert and caused the joint to break.

Well, NO way we could push that joint back up into place, so The Farmer had to so some of his famous jury rigging. 

photo of man fixing broken pipe

Fixing the source of the cavitation.

He got a couple of pieces of wire mesh to put over the top of the joint, then covered it with concrete.

picture of concrete fixing broken concrete pipe

Concrete covering broken culvert pipe joint

Once the concrete dried, he shoveled the dirt back over the spot.  Now you can’t even tell where the problem was.

picture of dirt

Covered Up Cavitation

And there you have it, ‘The Rest of the Story,” and hopefully, no more cavitation!

Fowl Watermelon

September 29, 2010

The Farmer’s watermelon crop is slowing down.  He grew a LOT of them this year, but there are several little ones that won’t have time to ripen before it gets too cold.  So he’s been busting them open and feeding them to the fowl – the chickens especially like them.

Of course, he had a little trouble opening the gate with all those little watermelons in his arms!

photo of man with watermelons

Getting the gate open with an arm full of watermelons is tricky indeed!

But he made it, and went on his merry way!

photo of man with watermelons

Watermelon delivery in progress!

As you can see, the chickens keep pecking at them until there’s hardly even any shell left!

photo of chicken eating watermelon

"There must be a little bit left somewhere!"

I’m sure the chickens will be sorry when all the watermelons are gone!