Sunday, January 26, 2014

Grain Dryer + Chinook = Capsize

We have these strong winter wind storms up here in the great white north.  They are called Chinook's.  We also have plow winds.  They are very different and both can be dangerous.  I prefer a Chinook.  Why you ask?  Well, because it is WARM!  It can be -40 F and with a Chinook it will warm up to +40 F over night.  It will stay warm until the Chinook moves on.  We have had them last two weeks.  The winter break they give is so wonderful, but normally it is just a bit of wind that warms it up 10 degrees and only stays for a few hours.  Now a plow wind can only be described as a sideways tornado.  And it does not warm up the air.  Now most years we get Chinooks one or two times a year and plow winds we can generally avoid because we, unlike a lot of neighbors, have lots of trees.  They can and do knock over trees, but in general our area seems to not have very many of these.  

So this winter is very odd.  Instead of having one or two small Chinook's, we had a huge long one.  It started with the winds.  They came from the south and south west.  Strong enough to shack the house, blow out windows and over turn equipment.  Our grain dryer was the worst hit.  It was on it's stand, all secure, and has been for years.  Yet the unrelenting winds did not care.  Gusting to over 120 km.  Luckily the grain truck wasnt damaged too.  But the grain truck stopped the grain dryer from going anywhere.  A grain dryer is normally very round and stands in the air.  Well, not anymore.  

You can see part of the grain dryer top is under the truck and the metal sides that keep the grain in is all bent up.  The center is luckily untouched, but the screens are destroyed.

The screens around the outside are normally attached to each other.  You can see on the right that it is fully open and on the left you can see how smashed up it really is.

Once spring hits (as our temps are back below 0 again) and all the snow melts we will stand it up and see if we can straighten any of the screens.  A good hammer and a welder and we hope we can fix it.  We will know later in the summer.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Orphaned Calf and a Good Dog

Something can be said for a good dog.  My dog may not be a working dog.  She may not always listen either, but you know, when it comes to baby animals, she is the best.  We have not had many orphaned animals here, but last year we did have a calf.  Mom, who is usually a good producer and a good mom, was disturbed at birth from coyotes and never bonded to the calf.  So, of course, in it came.  We were building our greenhouse and it was covered and warmer then outside, so we put the calf in there.  When he came in, he still had all the amniotic on him, mom never cleaned him, never nursed him, and he was half frozen, very very cold to the touch.  We knew the first thing was to get him dried off and warmed up.  Once that happened, then he would be able to stand and drink.  We got the calf on a bed of hay in an extra large dog kennel with a heater blowing at him and I went to get towels.  Not gone more then a few minutes and I come back to the dog having cleaned the calf mostly off.  Stimulating the calf and cleaning him off.  She (the dog) was doing a great job cleaning him off and getting him him warmed with all the licking.  So I decided to leave her to it.

So then I go to get the camera when I finally think about it.  She has been cleaning for about 10 minutes already and the calf is finally starting to respond.

She really seemed to enjoy cleaning him off.

Here is the dog still cleaning cleaning off the face.  You can see the calf is drying very well.  This was about 20 minutes after the calf came in.

All dry and getting warmer by the minute.

Our 6 yr old feeding the calf it's first bottle.  All dry and warm thanks to the dog.

She acts just like mom and cleans the calf every chance she got. 

Especially the calf's face after having a bottle!

An no, my dog has never had a litter of pups.  But something has to be said for a dog that instinctively helps care for the animals.  As long as it isn't pigs, she just wants to eat them.  Yet I can set a chick right on her!  A good dog can be worth their weight in gold on a farm.  Even if it is a dog to step in to mother.  An orphaned calf or even orphaned goats can be cared for easier with a good dog.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


We raise a couple litters every year.  We have only ever had one issue with a rabbit kindling and she had her kits early due to a move.  She later was breed and had several more litters for us.  I found for the most part if you let them do their thing, they will do better.

A doe (female rabbit) is general pregnant for 31 days.  Mine usually kindle the night of day 30.  On day 28 of gestation I will put the nest box in the does cage along with straw for the nest box.  I usually put some straw in the box and some outside the box.  I found the doe will add as much straw as needed for the temps.

Doe is in the nest preparing it.  She will add more straw as she gets the straw that is in there were she wants it.  Moving it around.

The doe has a mouth full of straw.  She will also get in and out of the box to add straw.

Once she has enough straw she will start to pull fur.  She could end up with a bare stomach from this.  Depending on how cold she may then put more straw on top of that and make a mock hole for the kits. 

Here you can see the fur in the "hole" in the straw the doe made.  This was taken about 6 hours before she kindled.

This was taken two hours after she kindled.  I found she would pull more fur after she kindled.

Here are the kits hours after they were born.

Another of the babies.

Here they are two weeks old.  Their eyes are going to open soon.  At this point I will usually change the straw for the babies.  Makes for a clean bed.

They will grow fast at this point.  You can see the fur coming in and they will are starting to open their eyes.

You will notice that the doe also replenished the fur in her nest.

I have yet to have any kits out of the nest box prior to three weeks old.  However, it is a known issue.  Does do not put the kits back in the nest and they can freeze.  If you happen to go out and find a kit laying in the bottom of your cage cold to the touch, you best warm it up before you call it dead.  It is really simple.  Put the kit into a zip lock bag with it's head out so it can breath (if it is alive) and then emerge just the body of the kit in the bag into warm water.  About 101 F will do the trick.  Once the body of the kit is warm watch for several minutes for signs of life.  You will be surprised how many will still be breathing and once warm, the breathing will pick up and those kits will still grow quickly.  I have used this trick with goat kids and even a calf once.  That is one way to save a kit that was on the floor of a cage.  But with it still in the cage at least there is a chance to save it.  That is why one thing I think is very good is "baby saver" wire.  It is basically the same small wire you use on the bottom of the cage 2" up the sides, front, and back.  It prevents the kits from falling out of the cage if they get out of the nest box.  

I usually try to keep alfalfa hay in the cage from the time mom kindles until she weans the kits.  Usually mom is on timothy, but while nursing and raising kits, she gets all the alfalfa she can eat and a cup of pellets until the kits are about three weeks old.  At that time, I try to make sure the pellets are always available too.  The baby's will start to come out and eat at this time,so for maximum growth, I give the best food I can.  Water is a must and needs to always be available.  

Doe's will only feed their kits two times daily usually.  Until the kits can follow her around.  You will notice she will jump in, be there just two to three minutes, then jump out.  When the temperatures are extremely cold, it is not uncommon to bring in the nest box over night, take it out in the morning for them to be nursed, then take the nest box back in during the day, and again returning for them to nurse in the evening, just to be brought back inside at night.  I have not personally done this, but it is not a rare event either.  I have not lost kits, but I breed for warmer months of the year.  However, in the early spring, we can still get the occasional temp of -40 C or so.  I would bring them in if it was that cold.  Mine are in an insulated building to protect them from wind.  So usually they can stay very warm in the winter with the straw in their cages and the wood bottom nest boxes.  

As for the nest boxes themselves.  I found that the summer, the kits could get very hot.  I can see the use of a wire bottom nest box for the purpose of keeping the kits cooler and allowing the flow of feces and urine out of the nest box.  You will have to choose which bottom to go with according to your temps and when you plan to breed.  

You can also get the kits used to being held if you take them and handle them.  If your doe is used to your smell then this should not be an issue.  I have handled all my liters from the day their were born to check for dead or disfigured babies.  I usually do this in the afternoon.  I give mom a treat (kale works wonders) and remove the nest box while she is eating.  Then I will give her a bit of whole oats with the shell still on.  About a teaspoon worth.  It will help her keep her body condition and increase milk supply.  While she is eating the oats is when I put the nest box back.  The doe's will usually go to the box, smell the kits, and hop away.  Remember, they usually will not go back into the box unless they are going to feed them, so do not worry if she does not go see them.  You should handle them very little the first few weeks as they need the warmth of the liter to stay warm and healthy.  I will caution you though, if your doe is new to you, or it is not used to your scent or you, then I would not try to handle the baby's.  Especially if it is her first litter.  She may become over stressed.  The most critical time is the first 24 hours.  

Sometimes a doe is very protective over her liter.  They will bite and scratch and pound you with their feet if they want to protect their young.  I have only had one doe do that.  I could not feed her or care for her while she was pregnant or once she had kits without leather gloves on during those times.  When not pregnant and without kits, she was very sweet.  The sweetest of bunny's can be the most protective and hormonal of mothers too.  The treats will help occupy her so that you can check the young.  You can check them without picking them up.  

If you are trying to figure out if the baby's are eating, go check them.  If their belly's are nice and round and they are warm, then they are eating.  If they are a bit cold, or the belly's are not full and you can see the skin folded, then come back in the evening or morning and check again.  If at that time they are still not fully belly's and are not warm, then you may want to look at fostering with another rabbit that has a litter.  I have never had a rabbit not care for her young.  So, I can not speak from experience on fostering.  

I hope this has helped someone.  I hope the photo's help too. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Rabbit Nesting Box

When we first got our rabbits we looked and looked at building our own nesting boxes.  Most said to make sure they weren't too big that the rabbits use them for litter boxes, but then they also said to not make them too small or the mom may accidentally land on a baby while getting into the nesting box.  Everywhere I looked there were different sizes.  I tried the "normal" size for a large rabbit, but found that I was loosing baby's to mom jumping on them.  So I made mine a bit bigger and have not had another issue.  There are minor things I would change in the future if I built more, but these work great.

I always tend to draw things out to see what I am doing first.  

I am very much a visual learner, hope the photos help.

All measurements were based on 1/2" plywood!

Measurements were:

Bottom: 20" x 12"

Sides (two of these): 6" x 20" x 10" x 10"

Back: 10" x 11"

Front: 6" x 11"

Top: 12" x 10"

Now for the assembly.  Once you have all of your pieces cut, assembly is a snap.

Apply the sides so that they sit on the bottom.  For all the cuts to work this is imperative.  The sides so not go on the side of the bottom, but on the bottom.  We have an air gun, so we stapled it.  You can use a handle stapler, small nails, or small screws.

Once both sides are on, then you can move on to the front.

The front is put between the to small ends of the sides and on top of the bottom.  I found this provides the best stability.

Then you can move on to the back.  It also sides between the sides and on top of the bottom.

Then the top goes on.  Be sure you have this on the right way.  It should cover both sides and be equal in length to match the top of the sides from front to back.

Now you have a nest box.  There are a few things I found I would change.  Well, one really.  For summer kindling I would put a wire bottom on instead of a wooden one.  This way, the baby's (kits) feces and urine will go through.  However, for the winter time here, I found the best for us was the solid bottom.  With the straw in the bottom it will keep the bottom dry of feces and urine from the babies and keeps them warm enough.  

My does look tiny in their box, but sine I breed in late winter, it is just fine as the amount of straw and fur in the boxes is enough to keep kits warm and allow mom in and out with out landing on the kits.  

Combine Melt Down

You know, if you have equipment, it will break down.  You just hope that it isn't at a critical time.  But it rarely breaks down when it is good for you.  For us, it has been the combine.  Two years in a row actually.  Prior to us taking over the farm, all the machinery was on what I like to call the "differed maintenance program".  Rig it then fix it later.  But the problem was, later never came.  Later was years down the road when a tiny problem was so big, there was no more rigging it.  So, this time, the insides fell out.  I know, not likely, right?  Well, I wish!  The back end literally dropped and all the sifters and what not's inside were out on the field.  I even have proof, an empty back end to a combine!

People always ask what we do with our kids when we are working on stuff or in the fields.  I never understood that question.  The obvious answer, they are with us.  They love learning about the equipment.  My 6 yr old can tell you more about most of it then I can.  You have no idea how much help a little one can be.  Especially when something is dropped in a small place that you cant get to.  And they love being helpful.  Here, when equipment needs fixed, it is a family affair.  Even grandpa still gets in on it.  

This is our International 1440 Combine.

So anyway, the combine is old, and now, most everything is replaced.  New insides, new auger (from the previous year), and hopefully, it is good to go for a few more years.  We hope.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Well, this past year we had someone approach us for large round bales of straw.  They were working on a restoration project in the marshes about two hours from here.  They were going to spread the straw on top of the marsh to allow for new growth.  According to the deal we would haul the bales to a local air strip.  It is not really in use anymore, but that was the delivery location.  Turns out, the only way to get the bales there, because of the marsh, is by helicopter.  We used the tractor to load a net, one bale at a time, for them to be air lifted and dropped at the restoration location.

As you can see, the day was not great for flying, but this guy did pretty good.

The helicopter coming in to get hocked up to the line for the bales.

This is the net that the chopper would use to lift the bales.

Our tractor and the straw bales we already unloaded off the bale wagon.

The chopper with the netting attatched.

The guys are adjusting the nets for the bales.

They would hold it in place and guide Dan in with the tractor.

He would place the bale in the middle of the net.

The chopper would come down and the netting would be attached to the line.  They had two nets, so one was being loaded while the other one was in flight.

The pilot said our bales were heavier then we said.  We of course did not realize this, but he was able to lift and manage them very well.

Up, up, and away!  I have to admit, watching it, in the storm, freaked me out.  Everyone else was really cool about it, but then again, I hate to fly.

You can see how bad the weather really was.  Raining and he was flying into some pretty nasty winds.  But there he goes, with the bale.

Him returning with an empty net.  He would drop this one and then go to attach to the other one.

Fueling time!

And away he goes with another bale.

As much as I hate flying, watching that chopper getting pushed around by the bales a bit in the air, makes me never want to get in a helicopter...  EVER!  But it was so cool to watch.  

And who says farming is just riding a tractor back and forth every day?  Farming is an adventure and it is only as big as you allow it to be.  I have learned over my three years here that farming may be hard work, tedious, and at times draining.  But it can also be a really cool learning experience and one that you will never forget.  I for one cant look at a helicopter the same way again.  I don't know.  Maybe when you lead a simpler life, things like this are pretty awesome.  But maybe things like this are always awesome, but most are too busy to see it.  For us, it was awesome.  And the kids loved it too!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Double Blow Out

One of the things that people hear about, but don't really think too much on is blowing out a tire.  Not that big a deal, right?  Well, what if it is a double axle?  A bit bigger deal, but still not bad, right?  Now imagine that it is a grain truck, fully of freshly cleaned wheat, grade 2, just picked up from the cleaners.  A bit bigger deal.  Well, imagine that both back tires blew with in seconds of each other and you are on a road with no real shoulder.  Well, this past year it was one of our big events.  It took us two days to clean it all up with a grain vac, shovels, grain bags, and a small grain hauler.  A lot of our equipment is older then we are.  Purchased by either our grandpa or great grandpa.  When I got there, this is what I see.

Hubby was trying to jack up the truck, but the weight was pushing the jacks into the ground.  Just sinking.  MIL was carrying the wood to put under the jacks.  When that didn't work we decided to try this.

We got the tractor and tried to hold up the truck to take some weight off so the jacks could work.  Yeah, that didn't work either.

The weight of the truck was so much that the tractor started to slide backward down the incline and it was no use.  The whole thing tipped.

All the nice clean, higher quality wheat, now lay all over the ground.  

Finally we got a semi hauler to come and lift the truck.  They hauled it home for us.  Thankfully all of this happened within about 4 miles of the house.

This photo was taken the next day.  You can see the box is bent up.  It was beyond repair as supports broke and the metal was bent in the all the weak places.

By the time the clean up process was well under way it was too dark to take more photo's.  We didn't write if off as a loss though.  We just fed a high priced wheat for feed.  At least it was only one truck load.  That was some expensive eggs and bacon, but we still got our money's worth from the grain.  Just goes to show, even a flat tire isn't just a flat tire when it has to do with a farm.