The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Leaky Fences

September 3rd, 2015 by Ed Bruske


It’s that time of year when our efforts to separate the boys from the girls is put to the test. To avoid accidental pregnancies, we play a complicated game of livestock chess, wherein we deploy our various pastures to keep hormones in check. It doesn’t always work.

Take our boy goat, Tigger, for instance. When July rolled around, we had him in our main paddock and adjacent pasture with our two rams.  That worked fine for a few weeks, when it seemed like a good idea to rotate them to fresher grass. The best idea was our orchard. But we can’t put goats in the orchard because they eat the trees. Into the orchard went the rams, and Tigger wasn’t happy at all. He-man that he is, he doesn’t like to be alone. Sure enough, he found a way out of solitary confinement and was soon roaming with the female sheep.

Tigger spent the summer with the female sheep last year as well and it drove him crazy. He spirals into deep rut, squealing and grunting over the females. But his deepest urges are never satiated. So, as boy goats are wont to do to make themselves more attractive, he constantly pees on himself and loudly stalks the female sheep, to no avail.

Then one day we found that the two rams had gotten out of the orchard and were chasing the female sheep as well. How in the world did that happen? I figured they must have leaped over a dip in the wire fence that surrounds the orchard. But I was wrong. A short time later, I found Tigger and our Jersey calf inside the orchard looking out. An inspection of the fence revealed a previous owner’s splice in the wire mesh that had come undone. I could see a path through the grass were the animals were availing themselves of the orchard. Not a difficult fix: I just wove the patch back together again.

A four-month-old ram-ling I had neglected to castrate was getting a little too frisky with the girls. I moved him into the orchard with the older rams. But for some reason this ram-ling has never been able to resist trying to plow through the netting that surrounds one of our layer flocks inside the orchard. Or he’s just dumb as a post. I kept finding him with his head stuck in the netting, bleating without end. He had to be moved in with the female goats in a separate pasture.

Just when I thought I had the orchard fence under control, I found Tigger in there again, this time with a ewe and her female lamb. This was not good at all, as the two rams were ready to procreate then and there. How could this have happened? Well, I first had to drag the two females across the orchard and back to the pasture where they belonged. Then I walked every inch of the orchard fence until I found the latest problem: A worn area of hillside adjacent to the rear of the orchard had created a large opening underneath the fencing. All the animals had to do was give it a slight push and into the orchard they went.

Farming with animals is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates from one day to the next: You never know what you’re going to get.

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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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