Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sounds in The Night

Anyone who has owned livestock  knows that sounds at night can be a disaster in the making.

Actually a farm or small homestead has all sorts of sounds that you get used to. Normal happy critter sounds, a cat meowing, crows cawing, an occasional moo of a cow calling her calf. A snort from a saddle horse rummaging through their hay, you know normal sounds.  On still winter days if the air is just right you might also hear your neighbors yelling at their kids or banging away on some mysterious equipment repair.  People who live in urban areas always think of how quiet the country side is, we who live here know it is not always so blissful.

Now at night though it really does get quiet...well except for coyotes serenading the moon and the dogs barking at them just to let them know they are watching out for the farm. I have heard owls hooting and it always makes me think of the world we don't see at night. Then there is noise that warns us of something gone wrong. Horse hooves galloping when it should be quiet, cows bellowing or mooing when they should be laying down in their fresh bed of straw. Something is up, you get dressed grab a flashlight and head out. You check the horses and they are all snorting at the far end of their corral, obviously something has spooked them, they are not out though, no gates left open here. The cows seem to be curious about something in the  shrub windbreak at the back of the calving pen...a hah!  The yearling bulls have escaped and are having lots of fun scratching in the trees and playing in the drifted snow. There is a broken plank of the fence by their shelter. Young bulls showing off their machismo! Calling the dogs and opening a gate to an empty corral you round them up and everything seems peaceful as they settle in to the pen. Not too serious a problem and not much repair to do tomorrow. You head back to the house and bed and it feels so good to pull up the comforter and snug down to get warm again.

The simple routine of a farm is never constant for long there is always something going on.  Bulls seem to contribute more than their fare share of chaos. My senior herd bull is a beef Shorthorn, he still has horns and I weighted them when I bought him as a yearling, they have a lovely curve and I like the way they look.

He is a gentle bull and very easy to handle. This day though it seems he has done something unusual. I am walking to my pickup to go to town to get mineral and other supplies when I hear an odd daytime noise! It sounds like a giant drum bashing on a log house...then a weird rustling bashing noise, very strange. I head down to the corrals and what do I see...its the oddest thing ever. The Big Old bull has a round bale feeder stuck on what seems to be his head? He is walking down between the rows of windbreak shrubs and the noise is from him swinging his head and the feeder back and forth against the trees!

How on earth has this happened? I am amazed at his strength he is swinging his head back and forth with the bale feeder on it. He  has not lowered his head to do this either!

 What am I going to do and how is it stuck? I call him and he stops walking and turns to look at me, then seeing help he  marches through the last few small trees and heads my way! He stops by me and looks at me to say HELP! I can see what has happened, on this particular feeder there is smaller slot for heads near where the feeder halves join, when he uses the regular slots he turns his head to get his horns through, but this slot is about an  inch narrower and once he has his head in it binds on his horn instead of letting the horn slip past.  What are the odds of him choosing that slot out of all of them, I mean he has his own feeder! When he got stuck he lifted his head and that took the bale feeder right off the bale it was around!

Now how  am I going to fix this? I can't use a cutting torch as it will burn I guess its going to be hacksaw work! I get a hacksaw, now every time I start to saw he turns his head to see what I am doing, just great and after the second time he  nearly knocks me off my feet with the swinging bale feeder I call for reinforcements. My sister in law, she comes down and can't believe what has happened. She is more than willing to help but what can she do? Ahh my secret weapon. This bull loves to have his butt scratched, he has a in itchy spot near his manly [Bully] parts so I get my capabull:)  assistant to start to scratch him there.  Pretty soon he has lifted up his hind leg to get full benefit of her scratching and I get busy sawing. After a good twenty minutes and one broken hacksaw blade he is suddenly free.  Tragedy averted and we can go back to our regular day. I thank my help and put the feeder back around the bale and head for supplies, adding hacksaw blades to the list.

Yes odd and unusual noises are good indicator of trouble on the farm, they don't always occur at night either.

Days go by and I get used to normal noises and all is right with the world! I  lay down and read a while, relaxed and satisfied with my day I decide it is time for sleep. I am just nodding off and what do I hear.... WHY It sounds like a giant drum bashing on a log I get up to investigate I shake my head, I call my sister in law and I grab my hacksaw. Of course I had forgotten a bale feeder has two sides, that means of course there is another smaller slot and it sounds like the bull wants another good butt scratch!  The joy of sounds in the night!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Yea Olde Wood Cookstove

Yea Olde Wood Cookstove

Have any of you got a wood cookstove? They are a marvelous thing in all their Stove Blacked cast iron and nickel glory!

I have one and love it dearly. My first memories of our wood stove come from childhood, the early morning rattle of stove lids as my mother got the fire going and started breakfast for my Father before he went out to do chores on the farm. The stove lids clatter was invariably followed by the smell of bacon and coffee. Still two of  my favorite morning smells! The the gentle warming of the air around my nose as  it peeped out from under the blankets signaled the fire heating up the cast iron stove and the start of a new day. The old house was heated by the wood stove, and in winter it was quite cold in the back bedroom my brother and I shared.

We grew up loving the wood heat and toasting our toes by the stove when we came in from the outdoors.  Food always seem to have rich flavor and  a pot of soup simmering on the back of the stove would fill the house with the delicious smell of our lunch to be.  Bread baking days came on Monday and My mother would have crusty gold loaves sitting to cool on the table in no time at all.  Watching our Mother slide a turkey grown on our farm into the over on Christmas day filled our heads with wonder and the secret hope we would get the wishbone and maybe a drumstick!  And the taste..oh it was heaven!

Our dinner was served  in bowls  or on  plates that had been kept in the warming oven, food served on warm plates seems to retain more flavor than on modern plates out of the cupboard. Of course these were memories from child hood. We grew up and my Mother divorced and we moved away from the farm, the wood cookstove was replaced by a fancy new electric range.  The kitchen wasn't as warm somehow, the forced air furnace kept the new house at a steady temperature all day and night, so why didn't we feel as cozy?

Life moved on and somehow I ended up back on our farm, working with my father and now as an adult learning to cook on the wood stove! The first thing I noticed was it was warmer again! Then it was my turn to get up and start the day by getting the stove lit and burning. Coffee...I found out it boils over alot quicker on a wood stove depending where you out the pot! My first attempts a a roast of beef had a unique result, blackened on one side and near raw on the other, the oven was either COLD..or 700 degree's! It was simply a nightmare!  My Father had a genius idea, he stoked the stove and got the oven right, I prepared the food to cook! I finally got the hang of it, cut the wood smaller and more uniformly and stoke it steadily but not overfill the firebox! We were a real team!

The strange thing is food really does taste better from the wood heated oven...I have no idea why but it does, I never had a dry turkey until I cooked in an electric over at a friend place one Christmas. Roast beef in a wood oven is miles above one done in a gas oven. 

 I cannot imagine not using my Old McClary, it has fed me and warmed me from childhood and has seen my failures as a cook and helped me make great success's as a cook!  It has had coffee boiled over on it Bread burned to charcoal in it and has  huge farm raised Thanksgiving Turkeys come out smelling like heaven and glistening gold brown and crisp skinned!  Goose at Easter and Chocolate cake for many a birthday, it is a grand old behemoth and will sit in my  kitchen warming plates. toes and even chilled lambs for as long as I am here!

Thanks for the memories hardly does the stove justice! My Olde Woodstove!