Sunday, May 27, 2012

Old Yeller - 1962 International 1-ton Pickup

After 20 years of sitting idle in his parents' garage, Papa Bear's 1962 International 1-ton Pickup officially came out of retirement today, to move our lambs to the farm that we'll be closing on in just a few more days.

When I asked PB what the truck's name was, he didn't know.  But he didn't think it was a "she."  I told him how silly that was, since all vehicles are "shes." And the earth, too. Everybody knows.

I asked "How about Big Red?"

Nah, too obvious, he said.  Then he chuckled to himself and said, "Old Yeller."

Old Yeller has all of 36,000 original miles on her.  She was used on PB's grandparent's farm, where she was outfitted with a propane tank and actually delivered propane for awhile.  She was also outfitted with a plow, and she was plenty beat up when PB acquired her when his grandparents passed on.

He spent many hours working on her, and working for trade at a paint shop so that he could earn enough to get her painted. 

She's a beauty.

It think she had figured it was "easy-peasy" from here on out.  Until we put new tires and rims and a redneck bumper on her and gave her a test run or two before loading her up on our flatbed trailer and hauling her over 1000 miles from her one and only home in Sheridan, WY, out to podunk-little-Kendall, WI.

Papa Bear works on the tailgate

Once in WI, she was adjusting to life sitting idle at the Big Farm.  And then PB built a tailgate/stock rack for her so we could move the lambs.

Old Yeller comes out of retirement - moving corral panels

Her first "official" farm errand was hauling panels and electric net fencing over to our farm.  She did great, bumping along the hay field two-track to the back pasture where we set up the lamb corrals and surrounded them with electric netting.

Moving the lambs in Old Yeller

If the lambs got out of the panels, we didn't want them wandering off and getting eaten by coyotes, the likes of which we hear howling along the ridge tops on a fairly regular occasion in these parts.

Ready to go?

The next day it was moving time.  We loaded our lambs from the neighbor's place, picking up each lamb and sliding it under the bottom section of the make-shift tailgate then quickly shutting it before the rest decided to jump out.

One of our ewes about to unload

It took two trips but before long they were settled into their new mobile corrals.  Because of the limited grazing space these corrals offered, we needed to move them three times/day.

The lambs settle in; Old Yeller sits by

Apparently, coming out of retirement at such a rapid pace did not sit well with Old Yeller.  She had other plans than bumping along a field road three times/day.

Like sitting in the shade taking a nap.

On the way home at dusk one evening after checking on the lambs, Old Yeller had a bit of a stroke.  Or heart attack, I'm not sure which.

Old Yeller has a stroke

She sputtered every time we tried to climb a hill.  We thought she was out of gas (after only 80 miles on the latest gas tank fill, I was flabbergasted we could be out already).

She backfired and died several times.  We had to call our friends and the Big Farm to come and follow us to the gas station.  And then follow us the 7 painful miles home, during which at best we could only go about 20mph in between sputtering and dying several times.

Finally, we were back at the Big Farm, where we dropped her off at the auto repair shop just 2 miles down the road.

Turns out it was the fuel filter which was very dirty due to rust in the gas tank clogging up the fuel line.  Apparently if you sit fairly empty for nearly 30 years this kind of thing can happen.

I think I might have some rust in my fuel filter, come to think of it.

Anyway.  After that we listened a bit closer when Old Yeller started to complain.  And we took it easier on her, swapping her services for that of the 2002 ATV, a mere teenager in comparison to Old Yeller.

PB feeding treats to the lambs

She still gets to bump out along the field road every now and then when we have visitors.

But most days she can be found napping in the shade near the garage. 

Happy Semi-Retirement Old Yeller -

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Holy Burdock Batman!

Remember this?  How to clear your pasture of burdock?

With temps predicted to go over 90 this weekend and the boys still in full fleece, we decided it was time to run into La Crosse and shear the boys.

Monet - feelin' cooler

It went surprisingly well.

No knee incidences this time, thank goodness.

There was space in the stall the boys share to tether the leg tie-outs.  The cement floor of the barn kept us all cool during the process.

The boys didn't complain.  Much.

Boo - all done!

Boo was our first victim client. Rather than running away to the far corners of the pasture when it was over, he peeked in the doorway and watched Monet get his turn.

The shears worked.

Everything worked.

Before long, we had two naked alpacas running around. 

Monet & Boo feelin' cooler

And two big bags of fleece.

With burdock thrown in, for free.

Cheers - 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nancy the broody hen at Kinney Valley Alpacas

This broody hen (which informally goes by the name of Nancy) escaped from the laying flock here at the Big Farm about two months ago.

About six weeks ago she started sitting on a clutch of eggs.  But we knew they were unfertilized since all the roosters are still with the rest of the laying flock.

We kind of forgot about her for a few weeks until 21 days ago when Papa Bear and I switched out her clutch of thirty one! unfertilized eggs for a clutch of 6 fertilized ones.

So today, like clockwork, when we checked on her in the barn, we spied a baby peep poking its head out from under her wing. 

Her and her brood of 5 have been relocated to the safety of the spring house, where they are in a dog kennel with their nest of hay and food and water and can watch the antics of the other 60 or so chicks that hatched 10 days ago out of the incubator.

baby peeps at Kinney Valley Alpacas

Happy Belated Mother's Day to all the mother hens out there and all of their broods - feathered, furred, or human.

Cheers - 
Gypsy Farmgirl wishes you a Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Lake Superior

I grew up in the most beautiful spot in the world, on the northern shore of Lake Superior, where my siblings and I roamed the woods and shoreline from dawn 'till dusk every day of the year.

It still surprises me that my heart now longs for rolling hills of land-locked grass pastures rather than the rocky cliffs and pristine waters of my youth.  How could a person not want to live on Lake Superior forever?

My childhood home

I went home last weekend, and despite my current love affair with farms, there is still a place in my heart for the place it all started, the place I grew up, the place where although our childhood paths are long grown over, they still weave in and out of my childhood memories clearly.

Seagulls on Lake Superior

We fed the seagulls out on the rocky point where I used to spend hours exploring and dodging cold lake winds by hiding on the leeward sides of the sun-baked rocks to soak up the cool northern sunshine.

I wandered around the yard where my sisters and I bounded like gymnasts across the springy grass, dreaming of parallel bars and balance beams that never materialized.

Boardwalk to the beach

I walked down the now beautiful boardwalk stairway towards our private beach, an access that used to be a simple footpath that clung to the contours of the cliff side and threatened to slip downhill towards the beach after every heavy storm.

That beach was another place that consumed hours of our play-time, acting out scenarios of shipwrecks and pirates, stranded on our "island" oasis. When we got hungry, we "fought" our way up the cliff side and discovered our own house - we were saved from certain starvation!

Our private beach

Gitchee Gumi is the alma mater of my childhood, and she will always be deeply connected to my soul.

But now my soul has been expanded to hold another place, a place to sink roots deep into the earth and grow both our food and our spirits.

The Frisky Farm

After 7 years of renting houses, we will finally have a home again.

A farm.

Our very own farm.

Amen -

Friday, May 4, 2012


This is a post about posts.  Fence posts, that is.

I'm learning quickly that if you're going to be running livestock, good fencing is vital. 

In the last few years that I've been lending a hand on a variety of different types of farms with all different types of fencing from woven wire to barbed wire to electric, and one thing in common for all of this fencing is that animals always find a way to get out.

Perhaps that's what Robert Frost meant when he said "Good fences make good neighbors."  Keep your pigs out of your neighbor's corn fields, and you will have a happy neighbor.

The vital part about a fence is the posts.  Set your corner and brace posts correctly, or your fenceline will sag and fail.

I didn't have any fencing experience before arriving at the Big Farm.  I've gotten to watch and assist a couple of times over the last several weeks.  I'm working on a much more extensive "how-to" post about fencing, but in the meantime I wanted to share this very special photo of my very first post hole.

And now I know why they invented those machine-operated-auger-post-hole-digging-thingies.

Cheers -

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


In honor of May Day, we ran up to the Amish Walmart and picked up the lambs we had put a deposit on back in March.

With the help of a borrowed horse trailer and the assistance of a young Amish fellow named Owen, we soon had the trailer loaded with fourteen sheep (eleven rams and three ewes) and headed back towards Nordic Hills Farm where we will board them for a few weeks until (fingers crossed) our farm loan comes through.

We decided to leave them on the trailer to process them - inspect and trim all their hooves and give them new ear tags that would identify them as our sheep.

I can't say I minded holding each of them and whispering into their woolly ears, telling them how much they were going to enjoy living on our farm and how we would take such good care of them. 


Four hours later we released the last couple of lambs into the pasture where they bounded away looking for their flock-mates.


Daffodil the Jersey cow looked on with curiosity. 

I looked on with happiness.  My first flock.  I'm a farmgirl shepherd now.

Cheers -

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