Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moveable Sheep Pen - update

I've been working hard to get our moveable sheep pen back into working order. Had to pull off working on the grapes to get it going again. We are almost out of hay and do have some grass to graze so I really needed to get it going again.

Last year took it's toll on the pen. It did not fare well over rough ground and the rams beat the day lights out of it. So I installed three tamarack poles and put short chains at every joint. In addition I ran a chain down the center, the entire length of the pen. And angle chains at every joint as well.

All I had before for strength was 2 x 4's bolted at the ends and 2 x 4 rails down the sides. The pulling action was all on the cattle panels themselves. They did not hold up well to that kind of tension. They broke and stretched and bent while going over rough ground and running over saplings. So in the video below I show how I fixed it.

Every joint has a chain. The tamarack poles are securely fastened to the existing 2 x 4's with long carriage bolts. Now all the pulling action is on the lower frame work rather than on the panels. Plus I installed the long chain down the center which is bolted to all three tamarack poles. This is a much stronger rig now. A weak point was the centers of the boards. As it was pulled they would break in the middle if pulled over rough terrain. The tamarack poles should fix that.

Another modification was to install anti-ramming boards. Kelli and I observed that the rams did not hit the fence if there was an obstruction in the way. We had a box which a mineral block sat on. We saw that Dakota would not ram the fence at that point. So we wondered if we put something around the pen if that would keep them from banging the thing to pieces. Last year they beat holes right through the plywood. The plywood was put on to keep them from destroying the cattle panel between them. They head butted constantly before that. Even after the plywood was on they still rammed it. It did not take long before holes were broken through. The anti-ramming boards are placed at a height that would hit them in the legs, chest or neck depending on what exact spot they rammed. They no longer want to hit it full out like they used to. The only thing I've seen so far is Dakota will jump up on the boards and hit the plywood but, by doing so he does not have near the force as before. Otherwise they will rake their horns against the panels or the plywood but, doing that they don't do any damage.

I call them anti-ramming boards. I don't know if anyone else uses anything like it but so far it is working well.

Another modification was to mount the water buckets on the sides instead of the ends. I had them mounted on the ends last year. On the ends, the buckets sloshed lots of water out when I moved the pen. I realized that the ends kind of chattered as it was pulled. The sides do not. I hauled an awful lot of water last year due to sloshing. These sheep don't drink very much. Since I put these ones out on pasture I've only filled the buckets one time other than the initial filling, with the buckets on the sides.

The only thing I have left to do on the pen is to brace up the anti-ramming boards and put a partial top on it. I don't plan on using a tarp like I did last year. A tarp wasn't what I had in mind to begin with anyway. I just ran out of time and that's all we did last year. My plan is to install three sheets of steel roofing. I already have the steal sheets, I only need to get them put on and I'll be done. Then on to other projects like more fencing around our grapes and more around one of our large sheep paddocks.

And on that note I'll mention that we have a Livestock Guardian Dog secured. It's a puppy actually but, the breeder requires good fences in place. So fences are our big projects so far this spring. Once we actually get the puppy I'll tell the details and describe the process I've under gone to acquire it. I'm very excited about the coming new addition to the farm.

In the video below you can see all the repairs and modifications described above.

I noticed after viewing the video here that when I uploaded to Youtube my captions did not stay exactly where I put them. So it might be a little confusing. Oh, well I'm not going to redo it now.

Pictured in the video are 6 of last years lambs plus our two rams Dakota and Titan. Dakota is Titans father. The lambs are all Dakota's off spring.

We have 5 pregnant ewes still in other pens until their babies are born. Later we will have them all on pasture.

Until Next Time

Monday, April 26, 2010

Colony Collapse Disorder and some other stuff


Buzz kill! Is this 'bee Armageddon'?
Nature's most valuable workers mysteriously vanishing out of thin air
Posted: April 25, 2010
6:43 pm Eastern

By Chelsea Schilling
© 2010 WorldNetDaily What is devastating the world's honeybees?

In what appears to be a honeybee mystery of Armageddon proportions that has baffled scientists and beekeepers, more than one-third of the nation's commercial honeybee population is mysteriously disappearing – and researchers warn the unexplained phenomenon threatens one-third of the American diet.

Entire colonies of honeybees are abandoning hives and food stores, including honey and pollen. In collapsed colonies, adult bees mysteriously disappear, and there is no accumulation of dead bees. Even hive pests such as wax moths and hive beetles are nowhere to be found around affected colonies. Likewise, other honeybees are reluctant or unwilling to rob the abandoned hives of honey.

Only days before a honeybee colony collapses, according to Bee Culture Magazine, the colony appears to be strong and fully functional.

Then, it explains, the affliction travels like a wave through a beeyard.

Researchers have termed the phenomenon Colony Collapse Disorder, a syndrome characterized by sudden disappearance of adult honeybees in a colony.

Why should Americans care?

Experts warn the implications for the world's agriculture are nothing to be ignored: according to the United States Department of Agriculture, a full one-third of the human diet depends on honeybee pollination of crops – especially fruit, nut, vegetable and seed production in the United States.

For the full article click

I heard about Colony Collapse Disorder the first year I did bees. Actually I had two hives that year and one day I went out to look at them and in one hive all the bees were gone. I attributed it to it being my first try and I figured it was just me. Later that year I heard about CCD and wondered if that is what happened to my hive. I still figure it was my lack of experience and they probably took off looking for a better place since I still had one hive intact and friend Dan still had his two hives right next to mine.

I think this CCD thing must be sending shivers down the spines of many bee keepers. I've heard umpteen theories as to what is causing it, everything from pesticides to cell towers. In the above WND article it states that "according to some estimates, there are as many as 200 proposed hypotheses for the phenomenon" . So at present there are a lot of idea's but no real conclusive answers.

For me right now I'm more concerned about a bear tearing apart my hive at this time. So far the bees are doing well. They were bringing in pollen on the second day even. I checked on them yesterday and I saw many bees loaded down with pollen. I've been feeding them raw honey as well and they hungrily drink it up.

Been pretty busy the past few weeks. Got all the grape vines planted, but still need to put up a fence to keep deer out and trellis wires over each row. In the mean time before I get the fence up I slapped together some makeshift scare crows. Seems to be working there haven't been any deer tracks in there at all. They must work because they even scare me. I don't know how many times I've been out working and I think someone is standing there. It always makes me smile at my self for being so easily tricked. And I put them there!

I had to pull off that project and get our movable sheep pen rebuilt. I spent most of last weekend working on that, I still have a little more work to do on it. I made some modifications to it that I think will work well. I'm hoping it will perform better this year than last.

When I'm done I hope to make a post about it with pictures.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Feds invade farm for 5 a.m. inspection


Feds invade farm for 5 a.m. inspection
Serve warrant on farmer up to milk cows

Posted: April 22, 2010
10:55 pm Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily

Federal agents invaded an Amish farm in Pennsylvania at 5 a.m. to inspect cow-milking facilities then followed up the next day with a written notice that the farmer was engaged in interstate sale of raw milk in violation of the Public Health Services Act.

A failure to correct the situation could result in "seizure and/or injunction," the warning letter from Kirk Sooter, district director of the Philadelphia office of the Department of Health and Human Services, told farmer Dan Allgyer of Kinzer, Pa., on Wednesday.

The farm invaded Tuesday is the one agents visited in February, driving past "Private Property" signs to demand Allgyer open his property for their inspection, saying, "You have cows. You produce food for human consumption."

The case is being publicized by the National Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, which promotes traditional methods of linking farmers with consumers.

Spokeswoman Deborah Stockton told WND Allgyer "is the type of farmer who exemplifies what we are trying to restore." On her organization's website is the commitment "to promote and preserve unregulated direct farmer-to-consumer trade that fosters availability of locally grown or home-produced food products."

She reported she got details directly from Allgyer of Tuesday's early morning inspection, which highlights the growing conflict between farmers who want to provide health food locally and federal regulators.

Click here for the full article. This story was the top headline on WND this morning.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Our neighbor Mike, the one who helps me out with the garbage route, has a sister who makes quilts. We went to supper at his and his wife's house recently and saw one of Mikes sisters quilts mounted on the wall. Has to be the most amazing quilts I've ever seen. She has a website so if you like quilts you should check it out here at "Peggy's Quilting Block" . The above picture is a sample of the work she does. If you go to the site check out all the links to see the rest of her work featured.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Earlier this morning I was thinking that our bees should be in very soon. Days ago Kelli and I even discussed it. I had full intention of looking at the post card I get from our bee guy that tells when they will be in. He drives to California to pick them up. In the past he got them from Georgia but, the past couple times it's been California. But the queen is a Minnesotan. In a short time the hive takes on the queens characteristics.
But as I was saying, I was wondering when the bees would be in. I was just about ready to get started with some projects for the day when I found the post card and it read " Your bees are expected to arrive on April 13th. "The 13th" I exclaimed!!! "What day is this" I asked to who ever was nearest by! The morning hubbub continued with no obvious reply to my question, as is often the custom. Then I quickly drew my trusty cell phone from it's holster and saw that the date was now the 15th. ''It's the 15th" I exclaimed! "Uh, oh" I heard from my wife. With out a second to lose I quickly called called Chris, the bee guy. "Chris, I just found my post card, did the bees come?" " Yep", said Chris. "Are my bees still there?"I quizzed. "Yep". "I'll be there as soon as I can." "OK ' says Chris. He is the biggest honey producer in our area.

So I raced around getting ready to run down to Rhinelander where Chris lives. I had to call our neighbor Mike and let him know I was going to be gone for an hour or so since he was going to come over after the rain stopped and help me load paper from our garbage route onto a trailer.

I couldn't believe I forgot what day the bees were coming. I wasn't even ready for them. Previously I had inspected the hive shortly after the snow melted. I noted that the bees did not survive the winter but, the hive seemed in excellent condition and I figured finally this year we should get some honey out of it. I admit that I'm not a very good bee keeper. So far the only benefit we've had from keeping bees is that they pollinate our crops. I've yet to get any substantial amount of honey.

When I got to the bee guys place he was not at home. Apparently I had called his cell phone and he was currently at work. Fortunately his wife was home and she found my box of bees, which is pictured above. That is how they come. The brown thing on top of the box on the left side is a pollen patty. It helps nourish the bees in the first days when there isn't much pollen being produced by nature. I just happened to set it there until later.

Not shown in the picture is a tin can mounted in the top of the cage full of sugar water to feed the bees until they get to their final destination. Also the queen is inserted in a little cage that rides right next to the tin can.

As you can see they pack a whole bunch of bees in these cages. The close up above shows a bee that escaped.

If you've never seen it before it is truly a sight to behold. It's hard to believe they can pack that many bees into the things.

Since I was not yet prepared for the new bees I had to get the hive ready. It was full of dead bees from last year and a mouse had made a nest in there during the winter so I had some cleaning to do.

There was some honey left over from the year before so I decided to leave it for the new bees. I don't like to feed them sugar water since honey is their natural food. So I figure why not just give them honey. It is way more natural. I don't believe refined sugar is good for any living thing. So why give it to our bees.

Our daughter Ryann caught me during the clean up. Last year I put our bees in an old dog pen to help keep the bears out. A bear could easily get in there but none did all last year. I think it is strange enough for them to stay out of it.
Plus it is all bent up and out of shape from when we kept Dakota, our ram, in it. He beat the snot out of it.
I spent about a half an hour cleaning up the hive, removing the dead bees from last year and the mouse nest.
Once I got it all ready I put in the bees with no problems. Didn't even get stung.
It was really warm today. It's been unseasonably warm, and dry. But, today we finally got a little rain. I worked on the hive between rains.
I wasn't planning on doing bees today. As is often the case things don't always go as planned. In fact after our neighbor helped get the paper loaded on the trailer we took it up to Eagle River and the place we usually take it to was closed. Another change in plans. Can't run paper until Saturday.
However today's unexpected events was perfectly in keeping with yesterday. Yesterday we wound up spending the evening at a vineyard that is closing down. Our friends Phil and Diane called us at the last minute about it. We were blessed with getting 33 grape vines for real cheap. And a bunch of raspberries. The catch was we had to dig them all up ourselves. We've been wanting to establish some grape vines for years and now we finally have the opportunity. We weren't planning on it right now but, here we are. Ready or not. So now over the next few days we will be putting in a vineyard of our own.
On another topic.....Doreen is still doing good. And they are expecting she will get out of the hospital tomorrow. Hard to believe what they can do these days. I mean just days ago they ripped out her heart and gave her a new one and tomorrow she goes home, most likely. But, I believe there is more to it than just a "medical" miracle. There have been tons of people praying for her. In fact I put more stock in prayer than I do medicine anyway.
Until Next Time

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Update on Doreen

The word is Doreen's surgery went good and she is doing remarkably well. However, it is bitter sweet. In order for Doreen to be well someone else had to die. Our prayers go out to the family who lost the loved one who's heart that Doreen got.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Sister Doreen

Kelli's sister Doreen is on her way to the hospital for a heart transplant! In fact she might even be at the hospital by now. About an hour ago we received word that a heart suddenly became available and Doreen had to get to Milwaukee ASAP.

This has come up way faster than anyone anticipated. Everyone expected it might take awhile for a suitable heart to come up. But, the doctors feel this one is a perfect fit for Doreen.

Your prayers are appreciated at this time. Kelli and their other sister Karen, are on their way to Milwaukee right now. They left a few minutes ago.

We expect miracles will continue for Doreen.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sandhill Cranes

The sandhill cranes are back for the season. I was able to catch these two on video this morning. But, little did I know they were going to take off and fly. It took me by surprise with being zoomed in on them from a distance. I noticed the one on the right put it's head down and quickly move to the left of the screen and beyond. Once I regained sight of them they were in the air. I wish I could have caught the entire take off on video. Actually the landings are more impressive. I'd be lucky to catch that on video at some point. They look like jumbo jets coming in.

The other morning our daughter was out for a walk and saw these two getting stalked by either a pair of coyotes or wolves. She couldn't tell for sure. Thankfully the cranes spotted the rascals and flew away. Being in broad daylight, this proves our predator problems are far from over. I'm currently working on obtaining a livestock guardian dog.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

It's everything

I was thinking how the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, is everything. Without this event in history life has no meaning. For the casual observer there's nothing too remarkable about the death and burial part, but it's the resurrection that is extraordinary. It proves that Jesus was who he said he was, the Son of God. He was God incarnate.

"5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
"12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:5-6,12)

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Friday, April 02, 2010

Water that doesn't kill fish

I just took some water out of the tap and added it to our fish tank which was getting low from evaporation. It made me thankful that our water doesn't kill fish.

You see, when we lived in IL and had city water, you couldn't just take water out of the tap and give it to fish other wise we wound up with a bunch of dead fish. Back then our water had all kinds of neat stuff in it like chlorine and fluoride. Killed tropical fish pretty much on contact. Oh we did use city water for our fish tanks, but we had to let it sit for a period of time (days long) before using it and we also added special drops to it that would neutralize the chlorine.

Hmm, if it killed fish what in the world was it doing to us, I wonder? I've always been a water drinker. Ever since I was a kid I drank large amounts of water. Even before bed I'd take a few big gulps to last me the night. I had my own special little water jug in the fridge. It was yellow in color. Drank right out of it. In fact so did all my cousins when they came over. Germs? We didn't care about germs in the 1960's and 70's.

Actually the whole jug of water in the fridge thing started when we still had well water. My great-uncle Jim supplied our whole neighborhood with water from his well. It was excellent water. But, then the evil city ordinances made us hook up to the city line and we all got off of my uncles well.

After that when we filled the bathtub it smelled just like when we went to the public swimming pool. And I remember the water tasted funny too. But, in time we all got used to it,,,, sort of. However, turning on the tap always did remind us of going to the public pool.

After getting our well, here in northern WI, we appreciated the fact that we could put our tropical fish in it and low and behold they did not die! You could fill a bowl with water and immediately put a fish in it and it would live! Whoa!!! What a revelation!

The way I look at it now is, the toxicity of city water to fish, is kind of like the canary in a cage. Kills fish quickly, kills people slowly. I can only imagine what nasty things city water is doing to people. It has to be destroying the health of countless numbers of people. And you don't have to drink it for it to be bad for you. Just by taking a shower you can absorb all that junk.

But, I reckon that's why so many folks buy their water from a store. Well, I hate to say it but, I have a lot of misgivings about that as well. I remember when we still lived in IL, I used to see one of the popular bottled water companies, between where we lived and Chicago. I honestly can't remember the name of the water but, I remember it had one of those pure looking logos making a person think it was pure spring water coming from some far away location in some yet unspoiled place on earth. Perhaps from some remote mountain spring? Man, this stuff was coming right out of a place that was more city than where I grew up. It was probably less than 20 minutes from down town Chicago. Used to think, "yeah right this stuff is pure." I'll bet it came right out of the city water supply. They probably filtered it. But, they failed to put that fact on their pristine looking label, you can count on that. But, I don't know, maybe it was only some kind of distribution facility, but it sure looked like a factory to me.

We are fortunate, that we have good, good water here. Many folks in our area have rusty water or water that smells like eggs. In fact we have sand here and everywhere we have driven a well point we've gotten water. Good water. I imagine that we have the equivalent to an under ground lake. Where our house is at there is about 20 feet of sand. After that it is solid rock. They call it granite but, a well man once told me it is not a true granite. It's black rock. As far as I can tell, our water sits on top of the rock under the sand.

And we have a fresh water spring that we use as a watering hole for our animals. It is simply a low point in the land where the water table is exposed. It is very shallow, but flows out to an even lower point. It is always fresh and clear looking.

The other night we heard peepers for the first time this year. Peepers are frogs. It has been unseasonably warm lately. Right now, I think the sap run is close to being done. It hasn't run for two days. Very little anyway. Been too warm at night. But, so far we've made 4 gallons and one quart of maple syrup. More than enough to last us another year. As far as we have learned, syrup season is officially over when the buds come out on the trees. After that the sap turns to starch instead of sugar. That's what we've heard anyways.

Well, we are slowly gearing up for planting season. I had already planted some spinach in the green house but, it got dry in there and I kept forgetting to water the beds. The spinach kind of fizzled out. Now we have some tomato seeds planted in there. Friends Kristine, Kelly and Jeanna came over and helped. Hopefully we will stay on top of it and keep them alive. In the day time we have to open things up otherwise it gets WAY too hot. And at night we have to close it all up. Can't be lax on it or nothing will grow. Life is a delicate balance. Living systems need a balance of everything. And good clean water is essential. Especially, water that doesn't kill fish.

Until Next Time