Monday, April 30, 2012

Attack of the Moths!

Out here on the High Plains we're having a miller moth infestation.  This evidently is a migration thing in which the moths migrate from the plains to the mountains where they spend the summer (sounds like a good idea to me!) before returning back to the plains in the fall to breed.  In any case, this is one of the worst years I've seen.  We have moths _everywhere_.   I opened the truck doors yesterday evening and the rubber lining around the door was filled with moths.  Our door frames are loaded with moths.  At night there are thousands of them flying around any light that's on.  Of course, once you open the door, they fly inside.  They don't really cause any problems except for pooping on your windows and flat surfaces.  They can also get inside things like your furnace vents, ATV air filters, electrical outlets, etc and clog those up.  But they don't eat stuff or sting or bite.

This doesn't look too bad
A closer look at a cluster of moths

The entire surface of my hawk house door looks like this

Inside a door frame

Out in the pasture, we've made good progress at building fences.  We've got the one worst pastures fenced back in and it looks good.  Today, we're heading for the NW corner of the ranch where snow drifted over a mesa rim and crushed the fence below.  The fence was completely rebuilt several years ago and now it's lying in pieces on the ground.  Interestingly, we got here in '96 and it wasn't until 2006 that I had my first crushed fence.  Since then, I've fixed at least one every year.  It's like once something starts, the door is open.

A new brace
And on the very up-side, we've been getting rain.  Rain is life out here.

This results in...

We look SO MUCH better this year than we did last year at this time.  Last year, it was cold and windy. Grama grass requires warm temperatures to grow and, due to the cold spring, the grass just got a very late start.  May and June were almost completely dry and never gave the grass anything to work with.  July and onward were pretty normal, and the grass grew good but with a late start there was only so much it could do.  Anyway, here we are and we're hoping and praying for a good year so that the grass will recover.  For me, it's not so much about making money as it is just seeing green grass and trying to be a good steward of what God's given me to work with.

No real news on the Davidic front.  We haven't heard anything from Denver and he's still on steroids and still responding well to them, so we're just taking this opportunity to breathe.

I'll be starting the search for a tiercel prairie falcon next weekend!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fence Me In!

I've been wondering what to do with this blog. When I started it, I wasn't on Facebook and it was kind of my way of keeping people updated with happenings in my life. Then I joined FB and found it easier to post little snippets there. Updating a blog is kind of a lot of work. However, I think I'll keep it going and I think what I'll do is continue to post more detailed articles than I'd write on FB. So, with that said, let me catch you up.

Spring is coming and what I'm doing now is getting ready for cattle season. For the first time ever, I'll be running cattle from two different owners on our place. Normally, we've run 1500-2000 head of cattle from the same owner. If they mixed up a little bit, no big deal- they're all going the same place in the end and so I'd just sort them out in the pens after we gathered. But this year, it'll be important to keep them where they belong. My end of the contract includes fences and water and so you can guess what I'm up to. Yup... fencing!

We really haven't done much fencing since I got here 15 years ago. It's expensive for one thing and for another I just haven't had the tools and supplies I need to get the job done. Oh, we've hired people to come in and work sections, but what I mostly need to deal with are things like this:

A shot from 2004, for crying out loud!
As you can see, there are leaning posts, sagging wire, and just generally poor fence conditions.  In addition to this, late in 2010's season, we got a gully washer of a rain that tore out large sections of fence.  When a fence crosses a water shed like a creek or even a flat drainage area (see that dip in the fence?), that's called a "water gap".  Hopefully your fence is designed to break-away in the water gap, but you still have to go put it back up.  Anyway, after that rain, I was out fixing water gaps and in the course of the day, fixed 10 of the things.  This involves wading out into the water, dragging fence wire and posts across the gap, and sticking things back together.  Exterior fences are obviously more important than interior fences and I just basically never got around to fixing the wash-outs in this interior fence.  Until now.

Along with just putting posts back up, I needed to rebuild some corners and braces.  These are the heart of a fence.  W/out them, you can't stretch wire and w/out a solid stretch, your fence is worthless.  You can build braces out of railroad ties or metal posts and there are (dis)advantages both ways.  Railroad ties are a little easier to work because there's no welding required, but you do have to wrap and tighten wire around the ties.  Posts don't require wire wrap, but they have to welded and usually cemented into the ground.  Either need to be dug or pounded into the ground and both need to go at least 3' in the ground.  Four feet is better.

I started out digging by hand:

I have a skid steer, but I don't have the auger attachment for it and I'd never used on my skid steer so I didn't even know if my hydraulics worked.  Time to borrow an auger, which I did:

Whooooo!!!!  Now we're talking!!!  Unfortunately, my skid steer developed a coolant leak, but fortunately, I was able to get 5 holes dug to get my braces in good shape for this section of wire.

After getting these done, it was time to put posts in the ground.  Again, there's a great attachment for the skid steer and again, I don't have this wonderful tool (although it is in the 2012 budget!).  So, I did 'em by hand.

Having dug and planted 5 braces, pounded over  50 posts by hand, and re-attached several sections of fence, this fence is looking fairly decent.  It's now time to move around the North side of the ranch and work on nearly 12 miles of fence.  This is going to be my Main Job this summer.  Once we get some money back in the back and we're up on the wave and surfing, I'll get an auger and driver for the skid steer and spend most of the summer fixing and strengthening fences.  Fences and water are 80% of the job on a ranch.

The really, really good news is that we got R-A-I-N.  I drove around on Monday looking at things and thanks to warm temperatures the grass was starting to sprout and green-up.  Monday night we got nearly 1/2" of rain followed by wet snow and ice.  By Tues it was all melted and the ground was sopping wet.  Forecast calls for temps in the 70's the rest of the week and that's really going to get the grass going.  Lord willing, we'll get another rain or two in April and that will set us up.  Rain is Life out here.

Well, that oughta do us for today.  I'll try to keep this updated with new developments.

On the Davidic Front, we still don't have a solid diagnosis, but he's still responding well to steroids (prednisolone) and has not had a transfusion since Thanksgiving.  Remember, at that time, he was getting 2-4 units and just absolutely destroying the blood.  For him to not only stay stable but actually increase hemoglobin on his own (up to 8.6 g/dL) is a very, very welcome break in the storm.  This coming week we have an appointment in Denver at the Children's Hospital during which we hope to get a second evaluation and possibly come up with some leads as to his condition.  Again, I will keep the blog updated.