The Week That Was: September 14-20

Perhaps the best way to describe the week is to borrow from English literature. We had no revolution and on one lost their head, but what Charles Dickens wrote as he started his monumental work on the French Revolution, A Tale of Two cities, captured the good and bad of our week on the farm.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way”.

So it was with the week that just passed. If the week before was calm, this past week was anything but calm. I told Eva that Monday was probably the hardest day I have had since coming to the farm. If that was not enough, we needed Noah’s Ark by Thursday and then had an electrical fire in the pasture Friday. She had a great cooking class Saturday, but was stiffed by one “lady” on payment for the class. Where to start?

All of the blueberry plants are not mulched. This annual task is finished finally. It was too wet to do any more in the berry patch. The fencing projects were on a slow crawl too with the rain. Hay could not be moved at Rocky Branch also due to the weather.

We had rain that started Sunday and by Monday morning it was getting really bad and the ground water soaked. We had 5 inches or more in 24 hours and eventually almost 12 inches of rain. Javier was away with his family on vacation. I did not expect to do much except catch up on paperwork. Eva had left earlier to go to Dallas for the day. I got a call that we had cattle out on the road south of the house. That was an understatement. We had over 30 head out in several different areas. Read my blog for all the terrible details.

I was alone, soaked and scared. A significant investment in cattle was at risk. I had no time to call for help (phone got water soaked anyway), and the only thing to do was to gut it up and take care of it myself. When it was over I was scratched, bruised, exhausted, soaked to the skin, but the cattle were back and safe.

I repaired the gate that was knocked over in their escape, but still do not know what caused them to force it down. I still suspect it was a cougar that pressed caused them to gather as a mob and the gate was unable to take the pressure of so many cattle on it.

We had a dinner Friday night for families from Dallas and Louisiana that had come to the farm for a reunion. It went very well and as we started to clean up the dishes the electricity suddenly went out. No storm or such to make an outage expected. We ran around and handed out lanterns to each cabin and the bunkhouse. We have these neat lanterns that do not need a battery, but you wind them up and a minute wind gives good light for an hour. I started the generator so we had light and water in the house to get the dishes washed.

In a while I noticed the outside security light was on (direct wired to the power company lines) so the electricity was restored within an hour. That was good. I went out to turn off the generator and make the power switch when I saw a big fire in west of the house. For a moment I thought the barn was on fire. I called to Eva to call 911 for the fire department and got Javier and we headed out into the paddock with the bull’s where the fire was. It became it that it was an electrical fire. We stopped well short of it knowing of the danger and we saw the bulls were well away from the hot line that was live and hot. About that time the power company truck showed up and surveyed the situation. Apparently the breaker switch did not trip when power was restored (the line was broken). The fire department eventually showed up. The electric co-op fellow called in for a work crew and after midnight several large line trucks arrived and about 2:00 am the power was restored.

At rocky Branch we move 92 bales of wet hay closer to the barn to dry before storing inside. The cattle there have eaten most of the grass in the paddock they are in, so it was important to move them to new grass. As we are just weeks away form calving season we cleared high grass to install electric wire fence to keep the cattle away from the deep woods. It is better they calve in open lush grass.

Fencing took a back seat, but we did get some done. More brush clearing where new wire will be installed. I know this project is near an end.

Eva’s cooking class on Artisan Breads and Soups was tremendous. She has such talent and a fun, unique way to teach and have the class participate. Except for someone that had stayed on the farm for the weekend, signed up for the class and then did not attend and refused to pay as a no show, it was a wonderful event. Some people go through life with a gloomy outlook and rain on everyone’s parade around them. They appear to be sad, unhappy folks.

We have applied during the week for two government farm programs under the new farm bill. Both are conservation programs designed to improve the environment on our farms and the area around them. For the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), we have to sign a five-year agreement and perform specific conservation practices. There will be different focuses on grassland areas versus timber. An example is maintaining fire lanes around planted pine timber. For the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP) you also have a contract to perform assigned tasks over a specific period of time. EQUIP examples include installing water distribution systems to eliminate cattle trails to ponds and tanks which wash out in rain. Another new one will be planting wild flower buffers to provide food for bees.

“The 2008 Farm Bill made improvements and strengthened the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The program was expanded to help farmers and ranchers maintain, establish and increase conservation on land they are actively farming. CSP is a voluntary program that rewards farmers and ranchers for managing their land in a way that produces real and measurable conservation outcomes – healthy soil, clean water and air and wildlife habitats.”

“The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides a voluntary conservation program for farmers and ranchers that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. EQIP offers financial and technical help to assist eligible participants install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land.”

We will not know for months if our application was approved and if it was what practices we will need to implement.