Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fencing Underway!

So much has changed in the last two weeks, and so far it's all good (mostly)!

We hired someone to come and clear the fence lines. Fantastic! In a day-and-a-half, he not only chopped down the yaupon and small trees in his way, but his machine also mulched it up. It was like a huge paper shredder with scary teeth at the front. What a great investment in saving time! Also meant no burning of brush piles and returning the organic matter to the soil.

So, this moved us into building fence before it gets to be 110 degrees.

First things first, Dan and I surveyed the fence lines, noting how many posts, corners, H-braces, gates and such we would need. During the week, Dan picked up fencing supplies at the Coop and took them to El Rancho. He off-loaded three dozen 8 inch posts, only about 100 pounds each. (!)  On Saturday, we put the auger on my tractor. It hadn't dug a hole in many years, but after we finally got it connected to the PTO, we were in business. (I also had to replace my redneck drink holder as the last one had gotten torn).
First hole we drilled we hit a hard layer of clay partway down and Dan had to get out the 'idiot stick' and break it up some so the auger could bull through. Then we remembered that we do have a front end loader on the other tractor- uh, duh! A little pressure from above and the auger dug right on through. Building braces was aided with the generator, electric drill, impact wrench, and long screws. They are not moving any time soon!

Unfortunately, somewhere in the digging, the backhoe reached out and wouldn't retract. Ruh ro, Astro. Plenty of hydraulic fluid, but no joy. So, we figured out how to release the pressure and fold the arm up so we could put the tractor on its trailer and haul buns to Bryan before WCTractor closed on Saturday. Spent 45 minutes there trying to offload the 'easy connect' backhoe at the shop. Part of the decoupling process requires you use the stabilization legs on the 'hoe to lift it off the tractor mounts. Ha! It actually worked! Still we left it to have it checked out and took the L2800 (Extra Power) back to El Rancho. Finished up the posts and braces on the northeast line.

On our northwest side, we are rebuilding and improving an existing barbed-wire fence. Many of the 'posts' are actually old railroad ties, some are cedar staves, some t-posts and some 3 inch posts. Everything will be goat wire topped with barbed wire once we're done. This property line is crossed by the large lake next door, just a finger of water on our side. So, we decided to start at the water and do that piece of the fence first. Looking at the 'four corner' property line, you can tell how old the fence is by it's fragility and how the tree (which is one of the supports) grew around the barbed-wire. The corner post was one of those railroad ties , but it was broke off at the surface when we pushed it. The auger had a helluva time trying to drill through what was left of the wood and again Dan used the idiot stick to muscle out little pieces. Then I would drill, Dan would dig, I would drill.... finally we got it done. Made an executive decision to never replace a railroad tie unless it was exactly at a corner! In Somerville, there has been a railroad tie manufacturing plant since 1897, and we have tons of railroad lines in the Brazos Valley. I wonder if ties came from rebuilding tracks or were rejects from the plant. Now, for whatever reason, railroads don't give away old ties-- probably an EPA reg.

We set all posts and braces on that line and got wired up. Front end loader again helped out with the t-posts, pushing them in most of the way so that Dan had only to bang once or twice with the t-post driver. We pulled the wire with a come-along and a home-made field fence holder (they retail for over $70 and Dan made this from materials at-hand). Then staples and t-post clips to secure to wire. We ran a strand of barbed wire along the ground to keep hogs and coyotes out and our critters in.

The new fence is a huge improvement. I think our neighbor will be pleased!

Fencing the small run was a great warm-up on the bigger parts. Work smarter, not harder. I am happy to have our his and her Kubotas, power hand tools and a nifty generator. Our next task will be installing the wire on the northeast line.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Summer is Yellow

You can tell when spring ends and summer begins in Texas by the color of the flowers (well, the temperature is also a sign). In early spring, we are carpeted in acres of bluebonnets, a cool color. As things heat up,  the bluebonnets and bluebells fade away and the yellows predominate: asters, daisies, sunflowers, wood sorrel, prickly pear, and more. There is also an abundance of white flowers, from the lowly wild onions to the Cherokee Rose and tiny baby's breath. But white and yellow, with the occasional orange or pink thrown in, don't pop from the landscape like blue does. From a distance, a field may look mostly "flowerless", when it actually harbors thousands of yellow and white blossoms. Driving on the highway, you miss the little flowers, only seeing random stands of sunflowers or daisies. But bees and butterflies have no problem finding these hidden flowers (I love wildflower honey!). Maybe we should all take time to slow down and see what's blooming underfoot.

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's Fence-able

Quick note that summer officially got to Texas about a week ago-- yellow flowers predominating (I'll blog about that soon) and the thermometer pushing 100 degrees were pretty strong clues. However,  there's been a lot of El Rancho progress this week, so I decided to get to that first!

Progress!  That's what I like! What a busy, productive ten days. The last weekend of April, Dan and I went to El Rancho and worked pulling and stacking brush. Very tedious trying to clear along our property line because we can't drag the brush down the road. These maneuvers involved tight turns and limited space for two tractors.

So, we talked about finding a brush crusher smasher mulcher to come and do the work for us. I figured there had to be someone nearby, so I threw out a request for a rec on TexAgs on Monday, talked to Todd on Tuesday, met him after work on Wednesday, and he showed up to do the work on Friday! I am so delighted with the work. What would have taken us several weekends (months and months!) to do is taking him a day and a half. In addition to clearing all four fence lines, he will chomp a path across the middle for a major cross fence. "Brush bustin' " pictures are on the El Rancho facebook page,

Speaking of fencing, the Board at Producers Coop met on April 30 and they decided I was in! I got the letter on Thursday. This means that I am now a partial owner of the Coop and will share in the profit based on how much I spent that year. What a deal! Plus, they have some great workshops and a wonderful feed mill. We had already decided to buy a few thousand dollars of fencing material there, so now it will be even cheaper!

On Friday at lunch, I went out to El Rancho to see how the brush chomping was going. While I was there, my neighbor, Frank Leggio, drove by and stopped to chat. He'd just gotten my letter asking about tying into and improving the fence line we share. Knock yourself out, girl, he says, then goes on to say we might think about tying into his lake so we would have water too! I'm so fortunate to have a great neighbor. And, speaking of neighbors, when we were out showing Todd the scope of work, our other neighbor's mom stopped by and we chatted about her son's new offshore job. Found out he'll be here next weekend, so we'll get a chance to discuss common projects (he has a barndo in progress right now).  My third neighbor, Rodney, also stopped and let us know he has sold his 20 acre place and filled us in on the new neighbors who will be living there. Fingers crossed that they will be great too!

On Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday, we burned brush piles, walked the fence lines and made a shopping list for fencing materials. Dan got to meet Mr. Leggio and I discovered that he is a retired Arson Investigator from Houston and we have a common acquaintance from his HFD days! How's that for a small world! We are going to start on the Leggio side first as it will be the most challenging (taking fence down, inserting some new posts, pulling goat wire, and keeping his cows in!).

All this work has sped up our goat acquisition calendar. Learned today that it's a good practice to not move bred does to a new place and to not breed does until they've been at the place for two or three months. Allows them to adjust to the new forage and browse, as well as the new worms. So, if I can get some does by September, we can be all set for spring kids! Closer to fence, one t-post at a time...


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