The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Wellington Fail

August 16th, 2015 by Ed Bruske


Nothing gets you in the mood for farming like walking around with wet feet. So it’s time to bid adieu to the Wellington boots I bought from Cabela’s in March. Within a couple of months of arriving on the farm, they started to leak. You can see the problem in this photo: the material is badly cracked and separating like crazy.

Thus, my search for a practical pair of slip-on rubber work boots continues. I started with the famous Muck boots. But having owned two pair that fell apart inside a year, I gave up on those. When I posted about it, a publicist for Muck boots contacted me immediately and offered to send me a third pair free. My wife thought I was crazy to decline. But why would I want yet another pair of boots that won’t last? Plus, what kind of writer am I if I can be bought off with a pair of boots? (Don’t answer that.)

Searching online, I found the Wellington boots on sale at Cabela’s. Since they were only $30, I decided to get a second pair for my wife. So far, hers have held up fine. But she doesn’t work in them like I do, nor is she constantly pulling them on and off all day like me.

I figured the Wellington boots would tide me over till I completed my boot research project and committed to getting a pair that really will last. Readers have recommended several different brands. I’m not sure I’m ready to spring for the $450 pair of handmade French rubber boots, but there are other options to consider. I just didn’t think I would be back to square one only a couple of months after getting these Wellingtons. Turns out the famous name doesn’t mean much.

A kindly woman in the Cabela’s customer service department urged me to send the Wellingtons back to the company in Oshkosh, NE, for replacement. Since the postage was $12.60, the boots turned out to be not such a bargain after all. Then I got an email from Cabela’s saying the Wellingtons were out of stock. They gave me 24 hours to chose something else, or they’d send a gift card for the original purchase amount. Now I’m saddled with trying to find something to buy with the gift card.

Meanwhile, I was kind of stuck for boots. Mornings around Spy Dog Farm are always wet with all the dew on the grass. I stopped at the local K-Mart looking for something to tide me over. Nothing there. Next stop was Tractor Supply, and there I found a clunky pair of rubber boots on the “clearance” shelf for just $12. They’re a size bigger than I’d normally wear, but that means they’re that much easier to slip on and off, and I can wear extra heavy socks in winter.

My wife says that because these Tractor Supply boots were so inexpensive, they’re bound to last forever. I just assumed they were made in China. But lo and behold, the stamp on the sole says “Made in U.S.A”

What could be better?

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When Cows Fly

August 2nd, 2015 by Ed Bruske


We have flying cows.

How else to explain when a cow goes to bed on one side of the fence, but greets the morning on the other?

We first noticed this phenomenon last year. That’s when I placed our Jersey heifer in an area next to the main paddock to graze, enclosed by some temporary electric fencing. The electric netting is hardly three feet tall. Still, you’d think that would be enough to keep a Jersey heifer contained. Yet, the next morning there she was, standing in the driveway on the other side of the fence. Since there was absolutely no sign of the fence being molested–no sign of being trampled or knocked over–I naturally assumed the cow must have flown over it.

These days cows are flying more than usual because our heifer–Emily–became a mom and now is nursing her calf on a regular basis. We milk Emily in the morning, which means we are sharing her with the calf, technically speaking. In any event, there is a very strong desire to be together, both on the part of the calf and on the part of Emily. For us to have any chance at all of getting some of that milk, we separate the two at night, luring Emily into the permanent paddock with a bucket of grain.

When I starting doing this, I’d leave the paddock gate open to an adjacent pasture so Emily would have more area to graze. But one night Emily must have flown over the pasture fence. Because next morning she was nowhere to be found in the area I’d last seen her. Instead, she was hundreds of yards away in the upper pasture, grazing with her calf. Needless to say, we didn’t get any milk that morning.

Okay, so we now keep Emily locked up inside the permanent paddock at night. It’s enclosed by “no climb” fencing more than four feet high. The calf, meanwhile, will mope around an area outside the paddock, sometimes calling for its mom. Or it spends the night on pasture with the sheep, taking up his breakfast call in the morning, with Emily–feeling the tug of her motherly duties–calling back.

I guess I forgot to re-connect the electric fencing following a recent thunderstorm. We disconnect whenever there’s a sign of lightning so the fence charger doesn’t get fried. Anyway, when I awoke one morning, I heard the calf as usual but he seemed much closer to the house than ever before. Sure enough, when I went to the front door to investigate, I saw what you see in the photo above: our calf on the front lawn, looking as if he’s waiting to be served breakfast.

Again, no sign of any disturbance to the fencing. So I guess we have a flying calf now as well as a flying cow. I spoke to another farmer recently and she said she’s known Jersey cows to leap over fences four feet high. I neglected to ask if she’d ever actually seen a cow do this, because we haven’t. All we know is cows get put on one side of the fence in the evening, and end up on the other side of the fence in the morning.

As far as I’m concerned, cows fly.

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