Payday loans uk

 

Nancy's new lambing shed

Nancy’s new lambing shed

Here on the ranch certain animals seem to become more Nancy’s concern than mine. I consider everything on the farm that’s small and cute hers and often find myself making references like, “those are Nancy’s baby lambs or Nancy’s baby ducklings”. Anyway, anything small, cute and cuddly get special preference on the homestead and lately it’s been the new baby lambs.

We raise Barbados Black-belly lambs for several reasons; first, they are considered the best meat lamb, second, they are the easiest to take care of (they shed their wool and don’t require shearing), and third, they were the cheapest lambs on Craig’s list when we were in the market for sheep. They don’t look like normal wooly lambs, but a lot like they’re related to Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep.  

Abraham

Abraham

The rams have full curl horns when they grow to maturity and they act a lot like wild deer. The fences here on the ranch have to be in perfect repair and quite a bit taller than a normal sheep fence (about six feet high). These sheep are very athletic and can really jump. But, saying all that, the new baby lambs are very cute and a whole lot of fun to watch when they start playing with their little lamb buddies.

A few months ago Nancy decided the pregnant ewes needed a better shelter to birth and care for their new babies and as a result commissioned me to build a new lambing shed. After a lot of consideration we decided the best place to construct such a structure was right in front of the house. This would make it easy for us to keep our eyes on things, but also would make it the first structure folks would see as they drove up the front drive into the yard.

Nancy and her new addition

Nancy and her new addition

 For this reason we felt the design had to be in keeping with the other homestead structures and not a typical shanty looking shed.   After a bit of planning I decided to build the new building out of log slabs and rap it with natural granite rock to keep the snow off the bottom four feet in winter. We are very satisfied with the way it came out and thought we’d share the design.

Tags: , , , , ,

18
Feb

New Arrivals at Timber Butte #219

   Posted by: trobinson   in Country living reflections, Livestock

Max the Cat makes a new friend

Max the cat makes a new friend

We woke up this morning to two new twin lambs but one had his umbilical cord wrapped around his hind legs and was lying limp in the straw. We thought he was dead until we saw his tiny chest moving. Nancy picked him up and carried him to the house where she warmed and revived him by the fire with the help of Max the cat. We are attempting to reintroduce him to his mother but  it’s beginning to look as if Max will be adopting another new friend.

Tags: , , , ,

14
Feb

Elk on the Butte this morning

   Posted by: trobinson   in Country living reflections, Environment

The last week of rain has been a welcome blessing after such a long, cold, dry winter here at the base of Timber Butte. Everything warmed up a bit and the rain melted the frozen snow off the south slope of the butte. Every evening the elk and deer had been poking out of the timber near the summit in small groups looking for a little exposed grass. But this morning they showed up in a great massive herd from one end of the slope to the other now that the snow has melted away and feed is in abundance.  I stopped counting after a hundred realizing there where so many. They covered the butte from bottom to top and from one side to the other.  

Elk on the Butte

Elk on the Butte

Tags: , , , ,

When it was all said and done - I felt a sense of satisfaction

When it was all said and done – I felt a sense of satisfaction

My last three entries on the subject of constructing concrete fence posts has attempted to answer the question of why building your own concrete posts is a good idea.  I had walked interested folks through the how to’s of constructing posts that will last forever, and  gave pointers on building both braced corner posts and gate entree posts. Actually, there is not much left to say with the exception of some general thoughts concerning the fence line insolation process.  So here are a few closing pointers for folks who might even consider such a work intensive undertaking.

First, I would suggest placing your post at ten foot intervals. Because concrete posts have both strength and substance, I believe that  foot spacing is very adequate for a mess wire type fence. My great-grandfathers posts, as I mentioned in my first entry, (see entry #215) were spaced at fifteen foot intervals with spacer wires in-between. He was using them for a four strand barbwire fence.

Second, Concrete posts are very heavy. I never weighed one, but they must weigh at least a 100 to 150 pounds apiece. Thus, if you bury them two feet deep there is a lot of weight above the ground. That means that they need to be set ether in really solid soil or in a concrete post mix. I did both. I set all corner posts along with their bracing in concrete mix plus several line posts if the run was more than fifty feet between corners.

The third thing was setting my posts not only in a straight line by using a long snap line, but making sure they were perfectly straight up and down by using a long level.  Because concrete posts are so visible due to their size, if one is out of line it sticks out like a sore thumb. Many times I was tempted to say “good enough” to a post that was off an inch, but later was glad when I went the extra mile to re-dig a hole or reset a post when I didn’t really feel like it.

Once the posts were set in place, stretching the wire mess went pretty easy with strong corners to stretch to and plenty of wire eyes to hook the wire too. After all was said and done after a long summer of hard work I sat back feeling a deep sense of satisfaction for what I considered a job well done.

Tags: , , , ,

 

Wooden gates on concrete posts and header

Wooden gates on concrete posts and header

Now that we have discussed how to prepare and pour a normal in-line concrete post I want to share some additional thoughts concerning specialty post such as corner posts, hinged gate post s and header rails. You might recall that in my second entry on the subject of concrete post construction I mentioned how my great grandfather had the forethought to place a bolt in his posts while pouring them in order to attach pipe bracing when installing his fence line. I thought that was a great idea and did the same. In fact I sometimes put two or three bolts in posts that would require extra steel support bracing. Again, I was trying to keep my costs minimal and so I opted to use six foot steel fence posts as my bracing material rather than expensive galvanized pipe which would have had to be an inch diameter to work effectively.  (Hopefully the images will better explain how this all looked and worked.) In the end I was very satisfied how well it all functioned when I eventually put the corner posts to the test by stretching the mess wire under some serious tension.

 

Steel post braces

Steel post braces

My next challenge was to improvise a means of hanging gates. My great grandfather had used normal wire to stretch gates but because this particular fencing project was in my front yard I wanted something a little more aesthetically looking. I not only wanted to build wooden gates, but I decided to include a concrete header beam as well. I hadn’t seen either of these things done before, but because I was so into what I was doing I decided to give it a try.  I forgot to mention that I used heavier rebar on my corner posts than I had in my normal inline posts as I did on my gate posts. In order to swing my gate off of the concrete post I had to attach hinges onto the concrete while I was pouring them. I did this using heavy galvanized lag screws about three inches long. While my cement was still wet I wiggled them in and gently tapped the cement around them with a small stick. That process turned out to be effective and simple. Constructing and installing the header on the other hand took some special thought. I used the same forms to pour the header but blocked them off at the exact length I wanted my gate posts to be spaced.  I put an extra length of rebar in them and wired a

Bolts and hinges were set into the concrete while it was still wet

Bolts and hinges were set into the concrete while it was still wet

foundation bolt to the rebar in such a way that they could stick out of the header 4½ inches on each end. In this way they would be exactly long enough to reach through the gate post and take a large washer and nut. In order for them to go through the gate post I placed a steel tube through the top of those when I poured them. (Again, a picture can illustrate this better than I can describe it.)   To my amazement everything came together  and the gates I later built swung perfectly.

Tags: , , , , , ,

 

I learned by trial and error (mainly error), was how rich to mix my cement

I learned by trial and error (mainly error) how rich to mix my cement so the posts wouldn’t crack

In my previous blog I had explained my motives for spending the better part of my free time this past summer constructing concrete fence posts. I shared how we had needed to protect our orchard and vineyard from meandering deer and elk, and how I had become motivated to build posts that would outlast me. Having said that, I’d like to share in my next few blog entries on the construction process itself and what I learned from the experience.  

As I explained, I’d been around concrete post construction all my life having been raised ( most weekends and vacations )on our old family ranch where my grandfather and great-grandfather had fenced the entire place with homemade posts. The problem was, like so my things in life, I took all those old posts for granted. What I mean is, because they had been there all my life I had never given much thought as to how they had been constructed or how much work that construction must have taken, especially in days when cement was mixed by hand and sand and gravel was shoveled out of dry creek beds. There were a few things however that I did notice.  I had been aware that corner posts had been braced with large steel pipes (2” diam.) which had been attached to bolts that had been preplaced in the concrete at the time the posts had been made. I had also noticed that each post had small tubes running clear through the cement at one foot intervals allowing bailing wire to run through them in order to connect the fencing wire; both barbwire and mess-wire. I also noted that they had been poured in forms that created four inch by four inch posts. (In those days a 2 X 4 was really two inches by four inches unlike today’s smaller dimensioned lumber.)

 

I spent the better part of a morning building four wooden forms that would be used over and over

I spent the better part of a morning building four wooden forms that would be used over and over until all my posts were ready to use

As I prepared to start my project I spent the better part of a morning building four wooden forms that would be used over and over. I used long deck screws to attach the form lumber knowing that they would take quite a beating after an entire summer of service.  I also created wooden removable top caps that would form a rounded end at the top of each post. I had noticed, as I mentioned in my previous blog, that in Spain many of the posts had rounded tops which gave them a bit of character. I then cut sticks of rebar steal into long lengths so they could later be set into the wet concrete at the time the post were poured. Having thought through the project in advance I chose not to run small tubes through my posts as my grandfather had done so many years before. I remembered noticing broken posts on the old ranch which had been broken at the very spot where those tubes ran through the concrete. Because the thought occurred to me that maybe they had weakened the posts, I decided I might try something different. Here is what I did.  I purchased 4 X 8 sheets of concrete

Setting rebar and eyed foundation wire into wet cement

Setting rebar and eyed foundation wire into wet cement

mesh; the kind you might use to reinforce a small slab or sidewalk. Using bolt cutters I cut them so that I had one long eight foot strand of steal wire with shorter six inch lengths extending from it at six inch intervals. I then bent the short six inch extensions into loops. It was my plan to place the eight foot length into the cement alongside the rebar with the heavy wire loops slightly sticking out of the cement.  (See picture.) After the posts were installed this would give me places to adhere the fencing wire later. One other innovation I made was to cut ½ inch PVC tubing into eight inch lengths in preparation to set them (again when the cement was being poured) into the very top of each post. My thinking was that if I desired to make my fence another foot or two higher to discourage ambitious athletic deer I could later slide a short piece of rebar into the PVC tube that would have already been in place to provide a hole in the center top of the post. This was all that would be needed to construct the common posts, but the supporting corner posts and gate posts would need a few additional considerations. I’ll speak to this in a later blog.

 

The finished posts made it easy to stretch and attach the mess wire

The finished posts made it easy to stretch and attach the fencing wire

One thing I learned by trial and error (mainly error), was how rich to mix my cement and how long it needed to let my wet posts cure in their forms before removing them. One thing I forgot to mention was that I decided to give my posts a slight bit of adobe color. I did this with a dark brown / red concrete die. I was trying to keep my posts under ten dollars each to prove that I could construct them at lesser cost than treated six inch farm posts. For that reason I almost chose against the die, but when all was said and done I managed to construct each post for a little over eight dollars (not considering labor) and was very pleased to have a little tint to the color. At first I mixed my concrete a little richer than necessary (four to one) and not only used more cement than needed, but weakened the posts. I also learned that a little wetter mix than I might use for masonry work made for a better outcome.

 After a few trial and errors I used a five to one mix and found that the curing posts had less tendency to crack and later break. I also discovered that I needed to be picky about the sand and gravel mix I used. Because the posts are narrow it is crucial to use good clean sand. Also, I discovered that it was best to let the posts cure in their forms not moving them for at least forty-eight hours even in the hot summer sun. When I first started I had dropped them out of the forms at about twenty-four hours not realizing that it took longer for the concrete to cure in the bottom of the forms than on top where I could visibly observe the dryness.

Practice makes perfect and as time went by I became more proficient. It took me about one hour to mix and pour four posts at a time if all the needed materials were present and everything was cut and ready to go.

Tags: , , ,

 

Concrete fence posts protecting our vineyard

Concrete fence posts protecting our vineyard at Timber Butte

This past summer I decided to build concrete fence posts tall enough to keep deer and elk out of our orchard and vineyard. Last year in just one night they did havoc; stripping fruit ready for the picking and breaking down our vineyards trellis posts and wire. Nancy and I had already decided to invest in a protective fence but hadn’t decided what materials we would use. The kind of fence we needed would not be cheap to build or without serious sweat equity. In the end I decided to form my own concrete posts for reasons I feel important to explain.  It took me most of the summer to pour them, set them in hard sun backed ground and finally, stretch mesh wiring on them. It was a work intensive undertaking no question, but I did it and now see it as being more than a fence but as a testimony of wanting to build something that would last for future generations. In the next few blog entries I will share the particulars of the project itself and what I learned in the process of construction, but before I do I need to explain the motives that inspired us to start the undertaking in the first place. 

 

Fence posts made by my great-grandfather surrounded the old family ranch

Fence posts made by my great-grandfather surrounded the old family ranch

In May of this year Nancy and I traveled to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail of St. James.  [See our journal entries and pictorial record of the Camino walk at: http://trirobinson.org/?tag=tri-robinson] One of the things that struck me while passing through so many old villages and farmlands in that beautiful country were all the structures we encountered that had been built with a mentality of permanency. Farmhouses, barns and animal shelters, walls and fences, inns and churches were built out of rock and mortar in such a caring and thoughtful way that they have stood up against the test of time. Many had clearly been functional for literally hundreds of years. We were struck by the attitudes of those early builders who had not only used what was natural, available and, for the most part, free for the taking, but by the sense of pride and beauty their structures displayed. After days of walking through farms and villages I began to question my own motives for much of what I had built in my life on Timber Butte Homestead and on the previous places Nancy and I had built up. I reflected back on an old statement I remembered saying while purchasing some treated wooden fence posts for some project I had been doing. The words echoed in my mind; “these posts only need to last for twenty years”, thinking because I was in my 60’s I would be too old to care if they rotted and fell down after I was gone.  My old idea of “building to last” was now feeling short sighted realizing that it meant things only had to last for me. I hadn’t considered I might leave something of substance behind for others to use and enjoy after I had long left this earth. I had fallen into the mindset of so many of my generation who had become satisfied with what was quick, inexpensive and temporary. I remembered something my great-grandfather and grandfather had done many years before I was born, clear back in the 1920’s and 30’s when they had established our old family ranch on Mt. Liebre. They too had built homemade wooden forms and poured hundreds of concrete fence posts to fence about 500 acres of land.  To this day I don’t know where they got the idea to take on such a project, especially considering that in those days concrete had to be mixed by hand, but they did it and their fence line is still functional to this day, standing as a monument to their tenacity and long range vision. It was because of this that I decided to build my own wooden forms and begin constructing my own concrete posts. It was a project that required some innovative thinking and experimentation; some successes and failures worth passing on to whoever might desire to give it a try. This will be the focus of my coming blogs.

Tags: , , , ,

 

Nancy was weeding in the vineyard

Nancy was weeding in the vineyard

What a difference a little time can make in the development of any small farmstead; both for good or for bad.  Sometimes I feel like I am just spinning my wheels or running chest deep in molasses as I labor to build up the Timber Butte Homestead project but then I look back at where things were only a few years ago and I’m amazed at the progress and growth here. It’s true, we have worked had to do our part building with sweat and even sometimes a bit of blood, but the things that really show the most difference are the things human hands could never do.  I can’t help reflect on the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians where he reminded the people of God’s miraculous work in their life when he said, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow”. For me it is a humble reminder that all of my hard work and effort to do any good thing in my life is totally and completely dependent on God’s miraculous intervention.

The other day I caught Nancy weeding on a rock terrace that had been planted with grapes three years ago. It was our first crack at planting grapes and although we had high expectations we knew little of what it meant to be vintners. After a short crash coarse from the nursery owner in Central Washington [See blog entry #160 - April 12, 2010] we did the best we could with the little information we had. In a way you might say Nancy planted and I watered, but only God could have made it grow; and he really did. The fact that our vines are now loaded down with heavy clusters of Cabernet Franc grapes to me is nothing short of a miracle; a miracle that could only be realized over the course of time.

Everywhere I look as I walk around our small homestead I see the same story over and over. I remember the hours of hard work, the seasons of dreaming of what could be, but in the end it was the faithfulness of God to make our human efforts into something of substance and beauty.   

Tags: , , , , ,

 

Meanwhile back on the ranch

Meanwhile back on the ranch

I realize it’s been awhile since we’ve been contributing to the Timber Butte Homestead journal and especially for those of you who have been so faithful to constantly visit it, we apologize for such a long season of silence. Our silence has not been caused by a loss of motivation or because our lives have been dormant. On the contrary, this past year has been so full that time and priorities have kept Nancy and I focusing on getting through a most major transition of our lives.  Our job descriptions as you may remember from reading our last blog entry recorded last winter, changed from being the lead pastors of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Boise, Idaho last November to becoming the founders and directors of a ministry called “i-61”. I-61 (named after a passage found in Isaiah 61) is a ministry of compassion, justice and mercy among the extreme poor of the world. For greater explanation please have a look at www.i-61.org . Among many other things this new ministry venture has required us to establish a full time staffed training base in Nicaragua, an extreme poor country in Central America. Establishing a base in a country like Nicaragua has required a tremendous amount of time and energy as we have renovated a large home in the city of Managua. The house is now called the “Isaiah House” and its four member staff has been receiving teams of willing people from across the United States for the purpose of equipping them to address seven world crises issues. Again, this is a subject for later, but for now only to say that is has required much of our time, passion, thought and energy.

AA Blog Shop door resizeIn addition to this new undertaking we had been given the amazing opportunity to travel to Spain in the month of May for the purpose of walking the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage Trail of St. James through the Galatian Mountains and on into the city of Santiago. This adventure and the provision to do it was a retirement gift given to us by our church family. To have a look at this really wonderful adventure you can look at my journal blog on www.trirobinson.org .

In the midst of it all, Timber Butte Homestead has carried on and has in fact continued to develop into the sustainable farmstead we had originally envisioned it to be. We hope that you will once again visit and revisit the Timber Butte homestead blog site to catch up on the activities here for ideas and the inspiration to pursue a smaller foot print for the purpose of making a larger handprint on the world.  

Passing on a healthy Vineyard

Having served as the founding pastors of Vineyard Christian Fellowship Boise for the past twenty three years has given Nancy and I a rich sense of reward. As we now let go of our Senior pastoral roles to enter yet a new phase and season of ministry we can’t help but look back at all the Lord has done with deep gratitude and thanksgiving. We give thanks first to the merciful hand of the Lord and also to all the wonderful people who had dedicated so much of their lives to see a vision to build a vibrant life giving church come to pass. It was always our intention to build a fruit bearing church that could one day be handed off to the next generation. It was our dream from the beginning that all the many years of laboring in that Vineyard; the plowing, seeding, weeding, pruning and watering would end in harvest. It was our dream that the Vineyard would grow to maturity and eventually bear an abundance of fruit. That it would be a Vineyard where the next generation could not only enjoy the fruits of our labors, but take it yet to a greater level of fruitfulness.

To view the last two transition Sundays at Vineyard Boise; please
click here
www.vineyardboise.org/lead-pastor

Tags: , ,

My dad with the 51 Dodge on the old ranch

Nancy and I were married in 1970 after graduating from the College of Idaho. We remained in Idaho for our first year of marriage before moving the first load of our modest household to my family’s old homestead in the mountains of Southern California. It was then that we purchased our first bona fide pickup; a 1951 half-ton Dodge with a flathead six engine. One of our first really memorable adventures as a young married couple was driving our newly acquired pickup back to Idaho. It was a journey of eight hundred miles across the deserts of Eastern California, Nevada and Oregon. We took it for the purpose of gathering the remainder of our meager belongings and transporting them back to our small rural cabin in California. Top speed on the old Dodge was forty-five MPH and as I recall, the trip took three days each direction traveling in temperatures that exceeded one-hundred degrees.

Daughter Kate helps load the truck - 1970's

The Dodge served all of us well for many years on the ranch. My dad and I used it for many years hauling firewood to keep us warm in the winter, carrying rocks and sand for construction, and transporting animals such as pigs, sheep, calves, our kid’s pet ponies, and once even a pair of full grown donkeys. In addition to a ranch truck I used the old truck for many years as a commuting vehicle between our home in the mountains and my work in town; a journey that took me an hour each way.

When we moved off of the California ranch and returned to Idaho some twenty years later the old Dodge was left behind, worn out and forgotten after having serviced our family for nearly twenty years. Leaving the ranch the old truck was parked and abandoned in what could have been its final resting place among the sage brush had it not been for Brook our son. After being settled in Boise for several years Brook had turned fifteen years old and started dreaming about reclaiming the old Dodge and using it as his first vehicle. With a lot of persuasion he eventually convinced me to return to

Brook drove the old Dodge through high school years

California to retrieve the 51’ Dodge with the intention of restoring it. He had visions of driving it through his high school years.  With the help of a friend who volunteered to transport it back to Idaho on a trailer, we once again headed back to the family homestead.  I’ll never forget seeing that lonely looking old pickup after so many years of abandonment sitting in the sagebrush with flattened tires and a cab and engine compartment filled with mouse and rat nests. It really was a sad sight for a truck that had served our family so well for so many years.  We checked the fluids and added what was necessary, aired the tires, cleaned out the nests and with the help of another truck pulled it to the driveway and started it rolling on down the mountain. After gaining some speed I popped the clutch and to all of our surprise the engine kicked and sputtered, belched a cloud of black smoke and in a matter of a few minutes took off running down the old county road.

Back in Idaho it took Brook and I nearly a year of work to complete our restoration project in order to make the old ranch truck road worthy once again.  For the next couple of years Brook drove it every day to school and took it on many adventures until he eventually graduated and headed off to the University of Alaska. Once again the old truck became forgotten, and  retired to a field at the back of our Idaho property. We moved several times after that, each time airing up the Dodge’s tires just enough to load it onto a trailer and transport it to its next out of the way spot; that is until the summer of 2012.

Hope and her grandpa pull the truck out of storage

Hope is our thirteen year old granddaughter. For years she had been hearing the legendary stories of the life and times of the old 51 Dodge as if it had been a part of the family. She heard it from her mother and her uncle who had both grown up with the pickup. She had heard of how it had served our family on the original homestead as well as of her uncle’s excursions during his teen years. And so it was; Hope announced to us all her desire and intention to restore the famous old truck to serve her as well though her teen years. She commissioned me, her grandfather, to begin the next restoration project as soon as possible so that it might be completed before her sixteenth birthday. What could I say?  So this is where my story now stands or maybe I should say, begins once again.

This past summer, Hope, Nancy and I cleaned out the mouse and rat nests, replaced the rotted tires and towed the truck to the workshop next to the barn. After power washing the engine and I might say the inside of the cab as

Hearing the old engine run again reminded me how this old truck had faithfully serving family for four generations - Brook & Kate late 70's

well, we replaced the six volt battery, poured five gallons of gas in the dry fuel tank, changed the oil, cleaned out the oil bath air filter and primed the carburetor. We were just about ready to see if the engine would turn over when Brook and his wife Andrea pulled up the lane. Now, the entire family was present, Brook and Andrea, Kate our daughter, Nancy and I and of course Hope (who is the fourth generation of the family to use the truck) gathered once again around that old Dodge truck to see if it had one more season left. I rapidly pumped the gas pedal, pulled the chock out as far as it would go and pressed the large silver starter button on the dash. The engine slowly cranked over complaining and protesting for several rotations of the tired old pistons until, to all of our amazement and joy, it kicked over and started to run. It spewed black smoke blowing out the cobwebs of neglect as it had done so many years before, but soon it began to smooth out with the familiar old sounds of a sixty year old pickup truck stirring our memories of past adventures and giving promise of things that yet could come.

Tags: , , , , ,

28
Oct

The peacemaker – Entry #211

   Posted by: trobinson   in Country living reflections, Livestock

Love at first sight

When Bandit, a big black gelding, first came to our ranch on Timber Butte he was immediately introduced to a small herd of mares. Bandit, being a big powerful horse could have easily thrown his male dominance around, especially among a group of mares who where infatuated with his presence.  Initially I had isolated him in a pen where introductions could first be made over a strong lodge pole fence rather than brave possible injuries due to the squealing and kicking that nearly always occurs when a new horse is introduced and pecking orders are being established.  Bandit’s introduction, however, was very different than the norm I expected.  His presence brought immediate peace in the corral. The mares never gave even a squeal as they, one by one, touched noses with him across the railed fence. Bandit wasn’t a bandit but rather a peacemaker especially when it came to a large quarter-horse named Cayenne who had, up until that day, always been number one in the pecking order.

We have two mares that are both named Pepper. Both were named before we owned them, and both are worthy of their names. (Full of spunk & life) Because one was previously named “Red Hot Pepper” and the other “Cayenne Pepper”, we call one Pepper and the other Cayenne so as not to have too much confusion in the barnyard. Although they are both very good looking, it was Cayenne that Bandit was drawn to and immediately bonded with. It was love at first sight. Ever since that day they have been close companions, grazing side by side, sharing the same feeders in the barn stalls and just enjoying each-others company in general. Before Bandit came Cayenne had been the queen-bee and spent a lot of aggressive energy proving it. She doesn’t do that anymore; she is now much more tolerant and less assertive not only to Bandit, but to all her companions.

Friends for life

You don’t read a lot about horse bonding, at least with their own kind, in most equestrienne literature.  A lot is said about people and horses bonding as well as how to keep horses from bonding with each other so as not to become barn soured. A common problem horse owners often try to combat is over bonding between horses so that when separated they experience dysfunctional anxiety attacks. Cayenne and Bandit never panic when separated, probably because I most often ride alone and can only ride one horse at a time. As a result they have learned to accept separation as a part of the norm, but this isn’t the issue I’m speaking to. What I’m talking about is deep friendship that is developed between certain animals. I believe, that just like people, animals in general build personal relationships that are very real and tangable. Like people they can have more chemistry with some individuals more than others, even of their own kind and these friendships are life long.  On the other hand some horses become loners, and do actually like human company over their own kind much like a household dog might. My other horse Pepper is like that. In my lifetime I’ve owned a lot of horses (or maybe they have owned me) and after getting to know them I’ve discovered each has a personality unique to itself accompanied with emotions and feelings. Relationships are important to them.

Believing that horses bond with each-other and learn to feel at home in certain places it has always been hard for me to be to be a horse trader. When I get a horse that bonds with both the place, other animals and myself it is hard to get rid of them. For this reason most every horse Nancy and I have owned has been able live out their life in the family and because of it they often live long healthy lives well into their thirties.

 

Tags: , , ,

A saddle shop and a place to dream

For me, barns are special structures. They are places that stir nostalgic memories of times past when life was simpler and maybe a bit more adventurous. My barn is the place I go when I want to think outside the norm of normality and listen only to the peaceful voices of horses intermingled with the content sounds of munching hay. It’s a place I go to become lost in my thoughts and at times visit the memories of years of past ventures; of bygone horse packing trips into the mountains of Idaho and California, of old elk hunting camps and the years our family spent in summers living in the backcountry constructing trails with our good friend Pat Armstrong. Sometimes I think of high mountains lakes that need visiting again, places where the horses were hobbled in lush meadows and Cutthroat trout would hit my fly nearly every cast. When I’m in my barn I relish the smell of the tack room; the pungent odor of stale horse blankets and ageing saddle and harness leather.

"Monday's" last pack trip

Because I’m most satisfied when my hands are somehow busy doing something of value I find working with leather and restoring old tack is a perfect way to pass those times of quiet contemplation. Saddle repair is in many ways a menial work yet an art form in its own rite; one that is rapidly becoming lost in a world of technology and modernism.  For these reasons, both nostalgic and practical, I decided the perfect thing would be to set aside a place for saddle repair in a corner of my barn.  It has already proven itself a wonderful addition; here is a case in point.

On a recent fishing trip my old pack horse “Monday” fell and rolled on her load breaking the rigging in at least a half a dozen places.  The leather was old, there was no question about that, and although I knew restoration was imminent I hadn’t given the task much thought until I was tightening cinches at the trailhead.  It only took one bad tumble on a steep rocky trail that caused nearly every leather strap on the old wooden sawbuck saddle to be damaged beyond repair.  Jury-rigging things the best I could with pieces of rope got us home giving my memory bank one more experience to remember, as something to fix.

My dad and his wild horse named "Utah" - 1938

It was nice being able to come home to a place I could re-rig that old saddle which had served our family ever since my ninety-four year old father had ridden and packed two horses out of the Escalante canyon country of Utah in the 1930’s. Speaking of memories, as far back as I can remember I loved hearing my father tell me about the many adventures of his youth. I loved hearing the story of how he had milked cows for a summer at a remote homestead after wandering the canyon country where he had captured and broke a wild mustang that he had naming “Utah”. He named him because his unique coloring which matched the distinctive red toned rocky cliff and canyon landscape he had inhabited. After a summer of milking and doing other ranch work he was paid with a second horse, a riding saddle and the old sawbuck pack saddle I still use to this day.

My great-grandfathers harness still in use

Standing at my tack repair bench I can’t help but think of the richness of heritage as I reflect on the adventures my saddles and worn sets of wagon harness have experienced through the many years they served both the cowboys and farmers of my families past.  I still cherish a set of work harness my Great-grandfather used to farm the old family ranch, forever amazed at how it can continue to function after so many years with nothing more than a dry place to hang, a little loving care and some periodic maintenance. For me these things are simple treasures that I’m sure very few people could understand. My work bench is a place to see, to smell, even to hear the creaking of saddle leather that stimulates my senses, my memories and my dreams of what the future years could yet bring.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ducks quake in jubilation and horses buck and snort gleefully running into an open pasture

Freedom is an attribute of the health of uninterrupted creation.  In the beginning it was the way life is intended to be. When we experience it we feel right; not only in the welfare of our physical bodies, but in the liberation of our spirits.  To be imprisoned is to suffer because we weren’t created to be confined or in bondage. This is a simple truth that most of us recognize not only in our own being, but for those of us who are country livers we see it daily. We see it in the behavioral actions of all created things, even among our barnyard friends.

I read a report recently that revealed an alarming fact.  In the 1930’s one out of every four American families lived on small farms and were responsible for producing the majority of our nation’s food supply while today there is less than one in one hundred.  Not only so, but in the present day, some eighty years later, three-fourths of our food supply is produced on commercial factory farms, where I might add, everything is controlled, manufactured and animal life is raised never experiencing freedom of any kind.

In the morning I have a routine.  It’s a routine that I’ve fallen into after years of living in the country with lots of animals to care for.  I awaken early, put on the coffee, feed the dog (who knows the routine well), put on my rubber farm boots, and head for the barnyard where I commence to open corral gates and pen doors for the morning liberation of horses, cows, chickens and ducks.  Everyone goes free after a night of purposeful captivity for the sake of protection from looming predators. It’s an outrageously  noisy time when the goose and rooster sound the alarm of liberation, ducks quake in jubilation and horses buck and snort as they gleefully run into the adjoining open pasture.  It’s sincerely a joyous time on the homestead for everyone. The chickens run for the corral where they enthusiastically pick through the previous nights treasured manure piles, the ducks dive into favored water seepages and mud wallows while the goose nibbles shoots of fresh new foliage refreshed with morning dew. Every barnyard inhabitant seems genuinely overjoyed with the freedom of another day and all present communicate the exhilaration they feel with noise and action that anyone present could not help but understand.  It’s the way, even domestic animals, are meant to exist, and because of it the products they produce for us (eggs, milk & meat) are healthier, tastier and more life giving. Everyone benefits.

America needs the revitalization of the small farm. We need to create a culture where words like “free-range”, “organic” and “sustainable” are once again not related to the trendy diets or an elite segment of people who can afford to spend extra money for what is now being referred to as “real food”, but where real food is the normal and natural way of doing things once again. There is no question, returning to a system of food production like this is a big order.  Some would call it unrealistic and even impossible in a world that is annually growing in hunger.  Yet, nothing is impossible for those who believe it is a God given responsibility to care for the hungry and poor (Matt. 25) not just with a quantity of food that fills the belly, but a quality that nourishes and restores the body.  From my vantage I see many who recognize the ultimate long range solutions to world hunger are found and implemented through the grassroots of people movements rather than through the implementation of more government subsidies and temporary handout programs (which in fact are necessary bandages in the short run).  Those in this camp might agree that the ultimate answer lies in two basic concepts: First, the old adage that compares giving a man a fish rather than teaching him how to fish (an issue of education and information – A responsibility, especially for those who accept God’s commission to care for broken humanity), and secondly, a faith in the fact that God’s M.O. is for freedom and health and that freedom is at the root of the solution.

God’s heart for liberation isn’t just for mankind but for his entire creation, yet man is always the recipient of a creation that is functioning in accordance to His plan. Romans 8 tells us that the creation suffers (even groans) when man is out of God’s will or way of doing things. In this regard some would say that much of today’s food production is motivated more by the monetary gain of a few above doing what is right for the earth and its struggling inhabitants. If a method of food production is undermining the environmental condition of the earth (water, soil, climate, etc) then it is endangering the sustainability of long term food availability. Romans  also tells us that the very welfare of the creation is directly tied to man’s sin and bad choices and in the long term everyone (especially the poor) will pay a horrible price.  “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.” (Romans 8:19-23) In the end, if we knew the truth concerning both who God really is and what His perfect will for us is (and if we were obedient to it), the world would experience the kind of freedom he has always intended.  It was Jesus himself who said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”(John 8:31)

Small farms aren’t the answer for a world of greater freedom, God clearly is, yet those who have experienced what I’m talking about can understand that seeing freedom played out every day, even in a simple barnyard, is a picture of how things should and could be.

Tags: , , , , ,

The "Mittleider Method" of irrigation at work

Not long ago Nancy and I were invited to teach at a Vineyard Church in Grand Junction, Colorado. It is a church very much like the Boise Vineyard in both vision and size and they also have been investing heavily in a large organic garden that volunteers maintain for the purpose of feeding the poor in their area.  Up until that time I hadn’t seen a community garden project of a scope that could compare to the one at the Vineyard Boise, but this one without question did. They weren’t producing the annual tonnage of vegetable produce as the Boise project had been, but some of their gardening techniques and systems were unique and impressive.  Two things caught my eye: one, a large aquaponic system that raised both fish and vegetables simultaneously located in a large greenhouse and second, an irrigation system that would water a 30 to 50 foot row of vegetables in a matter of minutes without wasting water.  Rick Kenagy, the man in charge of the project, told me it was called the Mittleider Method and was growing in popularity around the world. I was so taken by it I decided to incorporate it into our vegetable garden here at Timber Butte and at my request Rick gladly explained in detail how to construct and install the system.

Drilling over 4000 tiny holes took time and patience

I soon discovered that the construction of the Mittleider irrigation system was painstaking; almost so that I debated if it was worth the time I’d have to invest in setting it up. In retrospect I’m glad I bit the bullet and went for it. The most tedious part of the project was spending the time to drill literally hundreds of tiny holes down the full length of fifty foot stretches of ¾ inch PVC pipe. (In order for the system to work properly it requires drilling three small holes every four inches down the full length of the pipe.) Rick was adamant about the fact that the holes had to be drilled with a .57 drill bit which requires real care due to its very small diameter. He warned that because a .57 diameter drill bit could not be purchased at a local Home Depot and usually required special ordering, it would be wise to order a half dozen bits due to the certainty of breakage. In the end I drilled over 500 feet of pipe (4500 holes) and broke about five bits in the process. I used schedule 80 (thinner walled) PVC not only due to the cost and ease of drilling, but because it holds a greater volume of water than the thicker walled schedule 40.

To make the job easier and with less drill bit breakage I decided to make a jig using a small drill press and a ten foot piece of channel iron. I welded feet on the channel iron so that I could skew it down to a solid plank along with the drill press. I marked the channel iron every four inches so that the PVC pipe could be easily marked without the repeated use of a tape measure. (500 feet of irrigation line required drilling 50 ten foot lengths of PVC so just the marking alone was a tedious process.) Every four inches down the pipe I then drill my three holes around the bottom at about four O’clock, six O’clock and eight o’clock.  (See picture).

Watering one row takes only a matter of minutes

The other thing I did was bury a 1 inch main line from my primary water source to each row and install a ¾ inch  valve in order to better control the flow down each row. At the end of each row I put a threaded plug so that the line could periodically be flushed out.  I felt this would be necessary due to the small size of the holes. For this reason I also installed a filter in the main line that fed the entire system.

It’s important to note that the Mittleider irrigation system is not a drip system, but rather a high pressure system that quickly injects water right to the roots of your vegetables. At first look I thought it might do damage to my young plants but I found that due to its many holes the water is quickly distributed down the row before erosion occurs. We did however turn on the system before planting and made note of the small divots in the soil each jet made and then commenced to plant both seeds and seedlings between them as best we could. For more information you can look up the “Mittleider Method” on line.

Tags: , , , , , , ,