Thursday, June 16, 2011

Zero John

Zero John In

                                             Little John Out
Grass cutting can be a problem in the country as most places have very big yards that have to be kept mowed so as not to be an eyesore.  

I have about 2 1/2 acres of grass to mow regularly, including some fairly steep roadway edges.  So it takes a good operating mower to keep the place looking good.

On Monday, June 13, 2011, I was mowing the very dry grass in my yards.  Due to extremely dry weather we've had for several months, about all that was growing was the Bahia grass with it's long, helicopter like tassels.  In hot, dry times the shoots on that grass get very tough to cut.  Little John, a 22 hp John Deere L-175 tractor with a 48" mower was needing new blades, but I was moving slowly in order to cut the tough shoots.  I had just finished cutting all the roadsides and made 7 rounds in the yards when Little John began sputtering.  It did OK for a little while. Later, it started sputtering again and made it from out by the roadside to the front of the garage and totally died!

I took the air filters out and blew dust out of them with compressed air and reinstalled them. Still would not run.  So, I decided not to bother with it any longer and loaded it up on Sib's trailer, came in and showered and headed for the John Deere dealership in Lucedale, MS.  The service guy told me that the problem was in the carburetor.  This is what I thought and was afraid of.  

Since the government has enticed oil companies to start mixing 10% Ethanol in the gasoline used in small engine equipment has been causing carburetors to deteriorate as the ethanol and moisture in the fuel tanks mix causing acid to form that eats up the metal of the carburetors.  I did not hear of this until a couple of weeks ago.  I bought some product that counteracts the ethanol but have not added any to a partial 5-gallon can. One ounce of the addative will neutralize 5-gallons of gasoline.

Besides the carburetor, I had a bearing in one of the mower shafts that was making noise, it needed to be serviced, the belts are 5-years-old. and it needed a new set of blades.  I figured the cost to take care of all those things would cost at least $250.00 and I'd still have a 5-year-old mower.  

So, I talked with a salesman about a zero turn tractor/mower.  He gave me a price quote for a John Deere Z-445, Zero turn with a 48 inch cutting width mower.  I figured I was already out the $250, so I told him to take $300 off the quoted price, which I figured that the two figures would save me $550.  So we made the deal.  They did the required service on it and loaded it on the trailer.  

I'd only cut about 1/3rd of the grass, I went ahead and started finishing the cutting.  At first, I was zig zagging all over the yards getting used to the lever steering of those type mowers.  In my head that if I needed to turn left I'd invariably turn right! But, I soon got the feel of it and finished the cutting in only a few minutes.  This type mower cuts about twice as fast as the old type as the rotation of the blades run lots faster than the other one.  That is another advantage of this type more.  It used to take about 2 1/2 hours to cut all the grass.  This should be done in about 1 1/4 hour now.

I didn't try it on the slopes of the roadsides until today (Thursday) to get the feel of it while cutting on slopes.  I took it out and just ran it along the south part of the roadside that I cut without turning the blades on.  I'd made one round on the roadside across from the house with the old mower, so I finished cutting out to the banks of that side of the road.  I really improved the feel by cutting all the grass on that side of the road.  It REALLY looks better over there.

So, now I can cut grass twice as fast as I could with the old mower so I won't have to spend as much time sweating in the near 100 degree weather.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Life Is Not All Roses

Nature Is Not Always Kind

On Monday morning, I looked out my kitchen window to see one of David's (the guy that has our pastures leased) cows was lying down in the pasture apparently attempting to have a calf.

I called David and told him that, to me, it seemed like the cow was in stress trying to calve.  He was already at work, but he and a co-worker came up to check her out.  
By the time they arrived the cow had moved from where she had been and made her way about 1/2 mile to a wooded spot near the farm pond.  They looked her over and decided to do nothing for now.  

I did a search for her after noon over all the pastures, but could not find her.  Later, I found her near where she had been this morning in a more dense wooded area.  I looked her over and saw that she was in distressed and called David again telling him that I was sure the calf was dead and would have to be pulled.
David and his wife came up soon after he got off work.  He drove her back up to the barn where he did a cursory check on her.  He had to go about 40 miles to his brother's to get their "calf puller" tool that is used for that purpose.

About 9:00 p.m. He, his wife and a son-in-law came back and maneuvered the cow to a small pen within the lot where he began the process of trying to find the cause for the cow's stress.  
It was very apparent by the odor that the calf was dead.  The process of "pulling" a calf is to do just that.  A person must reach inside the cow to determine the position of the calf.  This calf was in a "breach" position (hips first).  During the process, the cow was continually trying to deliver the calf.  Her natural tries kept David from being able to attach a special chain in and wrap it around the calf so that the jacking mechanism, calf puller could be attached.  

After almost two hours of trying, it was determined to leave the cow in the lot and call a Vet early in the morning to come and treat the cow.

About 9:00 a.m. the Vet and a helper came up to check things out.  He gave the cow a couple of shots to ease some of her pain and to relax her.  Upon examination, he was afraid that the pulling process would tear the calf apart.  But, after about half an hour, he was able to get the puller chain attached and began to jack the puller.  
Soon, it was apparent that the calf could not be pulled without doing some surgery, he had to cut around her opening to enlarge it.  Soon after that, the calf began to show and soon was pulled out.  The calf was a very large boned one and would have probably been hard on the cow to have it naturally had it been in the correct position.

The Vet had to suture the cow back up, give her several shots for pain and to prevent infection.  He said that she would no longer able to birth a calf.  So, after the sutured area heals, she will have to be sold to the stockyard.
After two days, in the lot with plenty of water, feed and hay, she seems to be in relatively good condition for the shape she is in!!  The cow will have to be able to expel some of the "after birth" and she will have to have more shots of antibiotics to prevent infection.

This is one of the sad and painful situations that occur while living the Country Life. 

(Sad note: I went out to check on the cow to see if she had enough water in the tub and found her dead in the lot.  Sad ending!)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fuel For Heating and Cooking

Fireplace Wood, Stove Wood and Kindling

I grew up on a small farm consisting of 280 acres (+-) four miles north of Millry, AL on a dirt road, with no power from a power company, no telephone, no indoor toilets, but a house full of love.

Daddy was a farmer/engineer. While he was farming, he had two main field hands, Dennis Turner and Tommy Land who worked on our farm.  Dennis was a tall, heavy set man that didn’t appear to move very fast, but he put in as much or more than anyone else with his steady gait.  Tommy was a little shorter and was muscular and went at his work tasks in at a rapid pace, but his work yield just couldn’t quite measure up to Dennis’. 

This was quite evident after all the field crops were “laid by” in mid-summer, wood cutting took place.  They would cut wood in two lengths, one for “house”, fireplace wood and another length for stove length wood.  After cutting the trees, mostly oak for the house wood and oak, ash, and some pine for the stove, they would haul it in to the back yard and unload it under two huge water oak trees for splitting. 

Dennis would go at his steady pace while Tommy would go at his faster pace.  Dennis’ pile of wood would be larger than Tommy’s pile at the end of the day. I think Dennis’ size and weight enabled him to split the wood with fewer strokes than Tommy’s.  

After the splitting was done, the stove wood was stacked in even, level stacks along the west side of the garage building and under the wood shed.  The house wood was stacked along the east side of my grandfather’s old medical office building.  It was also stacked very level and even.

I would usually make a game out of as much as I could.  So, I’d use my little red wagon to haul the stove wood form the woodshed to the back steps. Once, Daddy made me some “standards” (stanchions) so I could haul up to 50 sticks of stove wood in the wagon.  (I guess I spent more energy pulling the loaded wagon through the sandy yard than it would have been to “tote” the wood in from the woodshed!) Then I’d fill up the wood box on the back porch by the kitchen door. 

At times, the wood would be “green” (not seasoned) or would get wet from rain, so Mother would put several sticks of the oak wood in the old Home Comfort stove’s oven after dinner to let it cure or dry faster.  By doing this, it gave a great flavor to biscuits, etc. that were baked in the oven.

When I was small, it was my older brother Joe’s job to get the house wood in and fill the box on the sleeping porch, near the “room” door. (the main bedroom that had a fireplace )  My job was the stove wood.

The other wood we used was “lightered. (kindling)  This was heart pine that was rich in very flammable tinder used to start fires.  Daddy and the hands would go out in the “piney woods” and haul in the lightered in late summer, the “fatter” (richer), the better.  Then someone would cut it in short lengths and split it in finger sized pieces to use in starting the fires in the stove or the three fireplaces in the house.  

Also, lightered was used to cook out cane syrup at the cane mill.  So, it took quite a bit of it to be prepared for the house fires and the cane mill.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Guest Writer - Curtis Thomas

(In honor of his birthday on May 17th, I'm publishing a blog written by Curtis Thomas at Lonesome Pine Farm on 11/05/09) 

Posted: 11/05/2009 by curtisdavidthomas in Uncategorized

What if you woke up every morning, did your hair, ate breakfast and was off to work/school, and each morning when you stepped out on your front porch, you overlooked this:
(A similar picture was posted in Curtis' blog)
How soon would it be before you were taking advantage of such a beautiful and peaceful atmosphere?

One of the things that I am most fascinated with is history. At one point in time I wanted to be an archeologist in Egypt, uncovering lost cities and tombs, and I dreamed of being the first person to discover what (if anything) is in the Sphinx. Crazy and childish, I know.

But, even upon entering into my current Student Ministry position, I began looking into receiving a Masters in History (which is still very alive in the “Things I want to do” list). I have always been captivated by encountering people throughout history, and the ability to stand in places where history is rich and full which excite me deep in my spirit and soul.

So during this week, I have been filled with probing questions for my grandfather-in-law as I learned about the history of the farm which has been in Cass’s family for 200 years. I have been a nomad most of my life, continuously moving and residing in places for only a season, yet I have always had a strong desire to stay in one place for a very extended amount of time so that stories and legacies are built.

And the Wood family has much of that around here. Around the early 1800s, the first Wood husband inherited close to 300 acres of land in Millry, Alabama. Gorgeous hillside covered in tree, pines, creeks and beauty. There was a house built on the land where a few generations passed through.  This land endured the Civil War while some of the family were involved, fighting for the South.

As time progressed and more stories and legacies were made, the original log house burnt down around the time of the Great Depression. The house, which I am currently sitting in, was then built in place of the log house dating it close to 75-80 years old. Over time, it has been added onto with rooms, closest, porches, etc.

About 40 yards from the back door sits a block of concrete which was part of the original doorsteps of the log house that holds as a reminder of the history this land has endured. To stare upon this lump of rock, it is exciting to think of the wind, rain, weather, feet and years these steps have lived through. And over 200 years later, this lump of rock shouts of stories from things we only read in text books.

As I walk the land of this farm, I can almost imagine the time and culture, without roads and working in the fields with the animals and the land. At times, throughout the week, I find myself staring out the window as the rest of the family is in the other room. I stare across the field, at that picture above, and cannot help for my imagination to saturate my thoughts.

For 200 years, the Wood family has worked, slaved and fought for their children and their grandchildren to have a place to take pride in and call their own. They did it not because it was popular, but because it was what was right. And to watch my grandfather-in-law tell stories never ending of his life and memories of this land, I can only contain myself until I to begin to build my story and my legacy to offer to my children and grandchildren.

My heart is untamed and wants so much to settle, but I plead that God would only allow me to settle for that which is beneficial for my family. To settle for something that would endure 200 years of hard work and commitment. That, I believe, is the pray of a man.

(Happy Birthday, Curtis  Thanks for this post.  Grand Paw Jim)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cows and Their Calves

Cows & Their Calves

Cows and Calves are an integral part of Country Life.  

On our place, cattle have always been a part of our life, and it just wouldn't feel right if you couldn't look out across  the pastures and see cattle grazing and their calves staying together in a group,  and running around with their tails high just getting their exercise.

One of the favorite things for the grandchildren to do when coming to the farm was to check out the cows, help Mr. George, the old gentleman that fed the cows each morning during the winter months, feed the cows and just be a part of relating to the cows. 

Joel has always has a special talent of getting the attention of the little calves.  He would just go out in the pasture or in the barn, sit still and make gentle movements with his hands and get the trust of the calves and would almost always get them to creep up to him and sniff his hand before they'd shy away.

We always named our cows and calves.  While growing up, we had Lindy; who would use her horns to unlatch her stall door and get out;  Sadie, who was a white gentle milk cow; Maude who would chase Mother out of the lot; Rose the gentle milk cow and her calf, June who would just push on her stall door until something gave and she'd get out; Frosty that Joe bought to replace Sadie that was gentle enough but was very hard to milk; Zella who was the mammy of Lou, Misfit and Miss Priss who I toted out of the creek when she was 2 days old, and many many more names.  Some of the names were related to the month they were born, some after members of the family or friends.  Sometimes we'd use quite a bit of imagination to come up with names.

As noted above, "Cattle are an integral part of Country Life!"

Now, we own none of the cattle on the place as we've leased the barn and pastures out, yet we still have the cattle on the place and can get out amongst them, watched the little calves run and play and, in general, keep and eye on them all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Townfolk Enjoying the Country

Some Town Folk Love Country Connection

What you're looking at will be a surprise as you try to figure out the use of this ornamental "House!"

 Still no real clue as to the use of this
ornamental building?
Well, surprise, surprise!!  It is a "Chicken House!"  

Some town folk that own their old home place some 15 miles away from where they live in town, have their old house that seems to be in excellent condition.  

In addition to the house, they have an ornate building that is stained a light olive with red frames that appear to be a door and windows.  No real door nor window in the road (west) side of the building.
 The chicken yard is very secure with "chicken" fencing all around the sides and over the top.  This is to keep the chickens inside and varmints outside for the protection of the chickens. 
There is a ramp for the chicks to walk up into the house.  I'm not quite sure how the "trap door" is to be opened to allow the chicks to get outside, then back inside.  I assume that the door must be opened or closed by use of a rope, but I'm not sure what the chicks will do to get in or out when no one is at home.

It is apparent that there will be laying hens in the house as is apparent by the premanufactured laying nests along the left side.  

Also, there is a trap door to the outside where the owners may harvest the eggs that are layed in those nests.  

Along the right side near floor level, there is another trap door that will allow the owners to "rake out" the manure and collect it for garden fertilizer, etc. 

There are currently thirty half grown chicks in there now.

Now, lets get down to security.  All the way around the yard fence and all the way around the house there are solid concrete walls three feet down into the soil to prevent varmints from digging under the fence or walls to get to the chicks from below!

As noted in the pics, this will  also be trimmed in red and stained the same light olive as the storage building to the east side of the house.  

When the workers that are building the house and another large storage building how much this chicken house cost, they said that they still don't have all the figures in, but it will run from $5,500 to $6,000 when complete.

Folks!  That'll be some EXPENSIVE fresh yard eggs when it is in full operation!!!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Running Water

Jim in front of old Water Tank

Water Supply

When you are Living the Country Life.  You have to work hard to make things easier.  Having no 110 volt electricity adds to the problem.  My Grandfather devised a plan to have running water in the house.  Thanks to his ingenuity, we actually had running water into our house with hot water for the bath tub and kitchen sink, but we had no electric pump!

There is a spring on a hillside across the road from the house that is about 20 feet higher than the back yard.  There was a 2,000 gallon tank on a platform in the back yard.  There was a pipe running from the spring to the tank.  Then pipes were run into the house to the sink and the bath tub.  Any overflow water from the tank was piped to a hollowed out log water trough in the horse lot.  Overflow from the trough ran into an old cast iron stove door for the chickens and turkeys to drink.

We had hot water if there was a fire in the old Home Comfort range.  There was an “L” shaped tank along one side and the back of the firebox in the stove.  Water was piped through that tank to a storage tank to heat water for dish washing and for baths in the tub.  One could determine how much and how hot the water was in the tank by feeling the sides!

After quite a number of years, the old tank rusted through and began leaking about half way up the sides.  The water running all over the platform in cold weather produced many huge, beautiful icicyles.  Also, the water from the spring contained lots of iron.  The pipe form the spring to the house would stop up with rust.  There was a union pipe fitting about 15 inches above the ground beneath the tank that we could connect a pitcher pump to pull the rusty water from the spring pipe.  This would have to be done about once a month.  Daddy finally tore the old tank down and installed two 55 gallon drums in its place.  During those later years we would have to carry buckets of water for drinking and cooking from the spring.  It would usually be my job to go to the spring late in the evening and get a bucket of water while the other siblings were doing their chores such as milking, feeding cows, horse and mules, and bringing in firewood. (Sometimes, someone would take a gallon syrup bucket filled with buttermilk and hang it into the spring so we’d have cool buttermilk with supper.)  

As I said, it would be late in the evening when I’d go up there.  The evening star would be coming out about that time.  So, I’d do the old “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish a mite, have the wish I wish tonight!!!  Then I’d always wish I had syrup, butter and biscuits for supper tonight!”  I’d always want my wish to come true!!!

During the summertime Joe and Daddy built a frame and put a 55 gallon drum atop with burlap walls.  We would fill the drum with water and the sun would heat up the water for a nice warm shower.

In later years, after REA brought electricity to the place. Daddy had a deep well drilled.  The driller hit lime rock at about 35 feet. Then he hit a ten foot shale pocket at 300+ feet.  They tested it for flow, but it did not produce enough volume.  So he continued to drill until he hit another pocket at 545 feet.  The driller had 590 feet of drill stem on site and he used it all.  This pocket furnished plenty of supply of good, light weight water that came up to 30 feet from the top of the ground.  This has produced adequate, good tasting water for about 58 years.

In recent years the County ran a water system in our area that we connected to.  So we can now get water from them or from the well.