Thursday, February 21, 2013

Puttin Up the Fence

The other night my dear husband decided some pop corn was in order.  I entered the kitchen and to my surprise he was using the wrong kind of pot, too much oil, too many get the picture?  I'm sharing this incident because he has the same reactions with me and my fencing capabilities     Precision is key.  Focus is imperative!  Just as I seek the perfectly airy billow of popped corn,the kernel that can only be achieved with precise execution, he too requires the same from his "kitchen".
I have learned (he says not) that I should just listen and do as I'm told. hee-hee  That will be the day!
Posts into the horizon....
A beauty of a fence he builds no doubt.  "Straight as a gun barrel" one of our neighbors exclaimed.  It is truly an amazing feat of engineering.  Yeah, I know, you and I think it's just a bunch of fence posts put in the ground standing vertical to support a wire fence.  Well we're both wrong.  The beginning of the fence is dependent on the middle and so on.

Corner posts, braces, angles, pushing and pulling...every added component requires thoughtful analysis.  Of course so much of what he knows he learned as a young boy with his father.  His fathers knowledge also came from a familiar source, and added experience of course.
I am not going to write today about the dynamics of fencing because I think that might get a little boring.  I wanted to share how complex the project really is.  I wanted to share also as I look at the process the magnitude of the task ahead and the accomplishment when done.
We bought this farm with little to no fencing standing. The fencing that was here was so old, rusted barb wire, and quite frankly dangerous.  We couldn't begin to use it for our sheep.  So, not only did we have the arduous task of "puttin up a fence" we had to dismantle what was here.  You've also heard me say the fence is our first line of defense in protecting our sheep so fortress like it must stand!
There is so much to tell and share. There is the equipment we attach to the tractor, specific to fencing and the ingenious tools John has created to make the task easier.  For example, each post is positioned 13-15' from the other.  Rather then measure each time he puts in a new post he has created a "gauge stick".   Dah!  He has one for height and one for distance.  The more I write the more I realize this blog might only interest the girls out there?  Maybe guys know this stuff already. Maybe this information is as common to guys as the shortcuts we gals take in the kitchen?

John (oops, I haven't introduced him yet...he's my husband...the master fence builder) also says the fence is such a task he doesn't want to have to repeat it.  Not in his lifetime!  How do we accomplish that?  As with anything you want to last, you want to invest in quality materials.  We could go to the store and buy posts or we could take the advice of the old timers.  There is no written evidence but there is physical evidence in all the posts still standing after 40+ years.
This barn, here on the farm, has cedar beams and pillars and has been standing for 50 years.  The pillars  are 12-14" in diameter.

The "red" is considered the heart
You have to be careful to use the red cedar.  You know the stuff, so fragrant to us but objectionable to bugs.  Here in the Piedmont of North Carolina they have used cedar for centuries.

Cedar all over...see it in the foreground?

Who knows whether they used it because it grows like weeds here or because it lasts.  If we assume either argument we can't argue with the wisdom.  Regardless of why we must still be careful to use only the red heart cedar.  The red heart resist rot and bugs.  The "old timers" say you'll find the red heart cedars growing in the wooded areas.  We are so blessed on this farm to have "posts" growing everywhere.

So, I forgot to mention before any posts or fence can go in the ground a lot of ground work has to be done.   One of the previous owners was just plain lazy and went around the farm with the wire fencing and just attached it to trees.  It will kill a tree over time.  We've found wire actually buried within the growth of the tree.  It's really sad and unnecessary.  (See, I'm learning!)  Nope, the fella I'm building fence with puts a lot of time into the preparation of the area.  We have so much dead fall to move to clear the way for the fence line. If your asking "where to?", good question.  It's not like you drag it to the end of the driveway for the garbage pickup service.  We drag the trees to a central pile, one by one and later with burn permit in hand give the carbon back to the soil.  I know, I know some are probably saying what about the air pollution.  There are plenty of studies to suggest the soil contribution out weighs the air pollutants.  It's all what you choose to read, right?  John has also been confronted with the emotional response from me regarding one tree or another.  He might have his fence line figured out and then my keen eye spots a tree in his line that for one reason or another just cannot be sacrificed.  It might be an old glory or a one a kind specimen or just another old persimmon that the sheep love so much and are spattered about the farm.  Who knows.  Most of the time he understands even though he has to rework a great deal of whats already been done to accommodate my emotions.  That's true love!

 Now, let's talk bracing.  Good bracing according to John, is the key to fence longevity.  You have all the vertical posts in the ground and the wire gets pulled tight to the post so you have to "brace" your corners and bends so the posts don't pull out of alignment.  I am not even going to begin trying to explain the placement of the braces.  That's advanced fencing!  So, here we have a few pictures showing the braces, usually always on a long stretch or a corner, or where the wire would begin or end like at a gate.

Fencing, fencing, fencing...
Now I digress...I'm distracted.  I pull back some bark on one of the posts and what do I see? 
A burrowing worm made his home here.
The most curious art in nature....

Now that I have established a break from pounding nails how about a moment for a Glamour Shot?
Not completely off the job, at least I'm posing on the fence.

Poor John.  Some employees are just too much distraction!

As John has proclaimed time and time again, "I'll probably be fencing for the rest of my life" so, rest assured, there will be more to come on the topic....

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lovely Cup of Chai

Alright,  my blog topics are all over the place.  One theme I recognize through out my posts is reference to those little surprises in life that represent, EASY when you thought surely, HARD.  Take Chai for example.  Have you tried it?  Chai means tea in many cultures.  In this country we've come to know it as a spicy tea drink usually mixed with milk.  A combination of cardamon, ginger,cinnamon, and black could it be wrong?  It  produces a warming, soothing effect.  I don't know if it's the spices themselves or the whole experience. I do know it gives me a sense of well being.  I can't really explain it.  I also know it's difficult to resist a second cup.  Once I discovered it I craved it. As is often the case with new love you seek it out. You go back and back to it's origins.  Then as if magic, it appears in more and more places. You can grab a cup at most coffee shops, Starbucks included.  Warm or cold whatever you fancy.   I then began to find it at various stores in those cardboard cartons they're packaging so much in now.   Take it home, add milk....ahhhhh!

I believe it was after the second carton that I realized what a rip off it was but I continued my addiction.  Let's see...the carton had about 4 servings (mugs) and cost almost $5 and you had to add your milk of choice too.  If you bought 4 tea bags you wouldn't be close.  Now mind you I'm not trying to be critical.  I know products take a lot of care to make but as is often the case you can do it a lot more economically on your own.  On top of the economics if you buy quality ingredients you'll often have a better outcome.   I know, it's only a rip off if you buy it but I was!  You can buy the spiced tea bags but somehow I still wasn't getting the same result.  Truth is, I went without my occasional fix for sometime.  Then, the other day I came across the recipe.  So, here it is....that easy, simple fast surprise recipe for Chai tea and I'm telling you it's the best I've ever had.

Chai Tea 

1 teaspoon peppercorns
8 cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
2 sticks of cinnamon
Star Anise
6 black tea bags
1 Cup of milk (almond, coconut, whole, whatever your choice)
2 Tablespoons sugar

Lightly crush your spices and place in a saucepan with 6 cups of water.  Bring your water to a boil and add the tea bags.  Remove from heat and let steep for desired amount of time.  For me it's when I got back to it. I believe it was actually several hours.  Strain the mixture and it's ready to go.  

Here's what I did.  Strained the mixture, added the almond milk (I had some left from someone's visit and it sounded like a good way to use it) and stored it, mixed in the fridge until ready to use.  When I want some I pour it into my cup and heat it, then I add the desired amount of sweet which I must admit I like.  Something about the sweetness up next to those dark, intense, um, ummmm...

I enjoy an afternoon cup of tea but somehow the spices and the milk  give you that cozy comfort that I often need in the middle of the afternoon. 

When your facing THIS...a warm cup of comfy is ALL RIGHT!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Looking for Llama's

Sometimes my job is so hard!  All the folks who think they'd love this job probably picture all the cuteness I'm exposed to.  They are right!  From wee ones to grown ups, they have personalities and faces you just cannot help but adore!  Llama's are just one of the employee benefits here at Stoney Mountain Farm!

Lucy, our guard llama

See the tree line to the right?  Way over there is where the new fence will be!  Our house is off to the left

Our farm is shaped like a rectangle.  We occupy and have fenced one half of the length of the rectangle.  We have a whole other half to go!  My husband jokes he'll be fencing the rest of his life.  He does build a pretty fence though.
Regardless of how 'purdy' our fence is we're about to extend to areas of the farm not visible to the house and separated from primary areas of activity.  That makes me mighty nervous.

What makes me nervous you might ask?  As sheep farmers, our big concern is predators.  The number one predator of sheep is the domestic dog.  Sad, right?  My husbands father's sheep business was wiped out by roaming dogs in the '60's.  Some say it is the very reason  sheep farms have declined.   Besides that, coyotes are said to be everywhere.  We haven't seen or heard them yet but others swear they have.  The call of a coyote is said to be so shrill and specific.   I've spent many an evening outside listening for them and haven't heard anything.  Mind you I'm not a coyote expert, in fact I can't say that I've ever heard one.  They say there is no howl like it so you will know when you hear it.  Whether our threat is real or perceived the risk is such that guard animals become necessary.

Guard animals are widely discussed in any predator prone livestock farming.  Not so much with cattle folks cause cattle are large enough they don't have many predators.  For us raising sheep we have to consider our farm perimeter as our number one defense. That 'purdy' fence turns in to an impenetrable fortress, we hope.  We spend a lot of money getting the right fence and feed husband well so we get the fence right!  After all the fencing,  predators can still be a worry so guard animals act as our second line of defense.  Folks use dogs, donkeys, and llamas.  We've chosen llamas for our pastures.  Our dogs watch over the exterior fence lines but on their own schedules, rarely after the sun goes down.

 Our Woven wire fence.  3" spacing from the bottom, graduated to 5" spacing 

I'm posting today to share one of my many "irresistible" moments on the farm. Opening more pastures creates a need for more llamas.  Hence,we went llama shopping!

Your right to ask, where do you shop for llamas?  Llama farmers are not in the business to support those of us looking for guard llamas.  Llamas can be quite beautiful and therefore demand a lot of money.  Our needs do not require decedents of llama royalty.  We have met many a lady and lord llama along our journey.  No, we'll happily take an outcast or a family disappointment.  All we ask is they watch over our flock and scare off any unwanted trouble makers.

As I said in the beginning, no matter the price tag attached, every single one has personality.  They have a job here on the farm but they also become part of the family!  The search continues.  My difficult job will soon result in more on farm llama cuteness.  I don't get paid much but the rewards are incredible!