River Barriers

This stretch of warm weather has been good for the grass hayfields nearing harvest and for vegetation growing around the hayfields that the cattle have been grazing on. The water level in the river has also dropped which is an indicator that we need to get the fences shored up so the cows don’t go wandering away from the farm.

elk trail down to the riverWe reinstall barriers each year since the winter water levels wipe out the fencing. The trails of wire extend down stream where the current sucked it downstream. Each spring we wade out there and reconnect the wire to strong anchor posts on opposite banks of the river and shore up the fence enough to discourage the cows. Continue reading

Fence Fixing 101

Step 1- Find a fence that needs repair. Here on the farm it is hard to find a fence that doesn’t need repair or replacement so this is the easy task to do.

Two men roll out barb wire along a pasture fence. Step 2- Roll out a length of new barb wire. The 80 lb. roll of pokey wire is held between two people that has a five foot heavy steel bar slid through the middle like a shaft  so the roll can unfurl as they walk. I was standing about at the half-way point of the fence and they had made it three-quarters of the way to the corner. The tricky part was where the sedge grass is growing. They had to step from clump to clump with their cumbersome load to avoid sinking knee deep in mud.

Step 3- Begin replacing the broken posts and splicing the broken strands working your way down the fence row. (This is usually where most people also start looking into hiring this job out)

A full day of work only got us part of the way done, another two days will have to be scheduled to complete this area of the fence near the back of the big field. A couple of us need a week or more for our arms to heal. Did I mention that barb wire is pokey? There was no major blood loss, but a lot of ripped gloves, sleeves and pant legs. Sometimes the skin underneath got in the way.

A Jaunt Up The Hill

Freezing weather, snow fall, some strong winds and a large herd of elk all have been rough on our fences so far this year.

A man with two dogs walks on frozen terrain.The two dogs were happy to help check the hill with Mike. It was a chilly morning and he had to dress warmly in order to stay comfortable.

He found a few spots where the fence line will need some repair from fallen branches and where the elk had crossed without quite clearing the top wires, but so far, most of the fence line is in good repair.

The herd of elk that we have been seeing on this spot are about 40 strong and it would be nice if they moved a couple of miles farther into the Coast Range an left our hay/nursery field alone. We are finding that they like to bed down in the big hay field and are chewing up the grass with their hooves.

One this hike, Mike was only able to find 4 deer running around. The herd of elk had disappeared for the time being.

Brush Encroaching Fence Line

I live in an amazing part of the world. Our mild winters and comfortable summers with lots of rain produce a climate that is vibrant and constantly growing.

Reading about the history of this area recently, I came across some excerpts from diary of a fella that kept daily notes about the region. This was back in the late 1900’s. He mentioned that it was hard to find evidence of Indian population around here because the thick, tall stand of fir trees left little open area for homes. Continue reading

Official End of Summer Grazing

It’s official, we have now fenced the main herd of cows out of the hay field/pasture for the winter. The field/pasture will be opened up for the cows that start calving.

The field/pasture becomes a nursery field for the cows with new calves. They are able to stay on grass and not get muddy. During the wet and cold winter months the areas are off limits to the main herd in order to keep the grass from getting ripped up.

Temporary fence around a big hay field.A temporary electric fence is a good and economical way to separate the pasture ground from the other areas of grazing.

Once all the cows with new calves are moved into the field in the spring, the temporary fence will again be dismantled until it is time for the cows to be pulled of the field in order for it to grow for hay.

Now I See You

Rounding up the main herd twice a day is not a particularly hard task. The animals know the sound of us, the dogs and the John Deere Gator. They know that if we are checking on the them, there will be a reward meal of sweet grass hay to go along with the round up.

On really warm afternoons, the herd will retire to the cooling shade under tall maple, alder, ash and hemlock trees. The thick brush that grows around the edges of the clumps of trees make for good side scratching and fly removal. It’s also a nice place just to hang out between naps and meandering through the shade. But it is also a hazard, for if the animals are not fed on a regular basis, the low fences that are barriers for the animals become more like suggestive boundaries rather the law.

Open range land can mean way too much freedom for the herd that is more comfortable and and much safer within the farm proper.

A black angus calf barely seen inside the thick brush.This calf stood right in the thick of things with his head down while all the other members of the herd had moved out of the brush and onto eating in the next pasture.

He waited for me to walk around him and urge him forward with a whoop, a holler and a lot of thrashing around the brush before he would move out of his hiding spot where he was so comfortable.

No-Jumping Clods

Let’s just say that our mealtime conversations are varied. Topics can range from dirt to sky, creatures big and small, inanimate objects, world or local events, the sublime and the Divine. The other day there was an unusual phrase spouted when there was a lull in the conversation, ‘We got us some no-jumping clods out there…’¬† Not only was that terrifically bad grammar, it did not make a lot of sense either.

I had never heard about no-jumping clods before, so I looked out the window to see if the soil should be bouncing around but was not.

All seemed to be in order out there.

When the phrase was repeated, I set down my fork and stared at Mike until he started to explain further. ‘The fences keep getting knocked down in the back of the hay field because we have some no-jumping clods out there.’

Ah, it was all clear now. Elk are a graceful animal when it comes to jumping. They can scale fences without a sound as they bound over the top. It is like watching a herd of sheep that bounce over an obstacle, single file, one after another until they are on the other side.

Apparently, we have a couple of visitors that do not care to join in on the jumping and prefer to just go right through the fences.

Mike had me worried about his sanity for a few moments, but I guess his statement really sums up our issue. Yep, we got us a couple of no-jumping clods.