Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bookkeeping ...

The next learning curve to be conquered is the bookkeeping for our business.  Now this part I truly enjoy.  I took an accounting course when I was in college and struggled with the class.  I finally went to the professor to get help and managed to come out with a B in the course.  Then many years later, I took a beginning accounting class to help me understand some of the responsibilities of my job.  I loved the class and took additional classes with the thought of possibly pursuing a second Bachelor.  In taking these classes, I found that I have an aptitude for accounting.  But doing homework for a class or taking a test is a far cry from handling the bookkeeping for our personal business.  I worry about making mistakes in the accounting and causing a huge mistake in taxes or creating more work for our accountant or horrors - bringing on an IRS audit!  We purchased Quick Books and I tried to begin learning how to use the program but soon found that it was more complicated.  I looked around for a class that would provide a basic foundation to begin using the program for our own books.  I found one through our local junior college.  It has been interesting learning the accounting again and the program is actually very user friendly once you understand how it works.  I have to work through getting all our information input - that's a huge job - but it is one I truly look forward to working through.  An interesting side note - I begin a new job on Monday and they use Quick Books for their accounting so hopefully the class will not only be beneficial for our personal use, but might also be useful in the new job.

Hey - thanks for checking out the blog.  I truly appreciate folks stopping by!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fence Building 101

So before you can put cattle (or any other animal) in the pasture, you have to have good fences.  The only "fence building" I had ever done was helping my dad build a fence around our yard.  That fence would blow down every time the wind blew and we would have to set it back up (and yes - my dad says the same thing and we all laugh about it now!).  Obviously that would not be a good way to start this fence building.  Fortunately my spouse had helped his granddad build fence and had been around barbed wire most of his life.  The goal was a new 5 strand barbed wire fence around the back of the pasture to keep the cows out of the creek and to keep them in our pasture and repairs to other fences as needed.

The first lesson was in cleaning out the fences and repairs to areas that needed them.  My spouse had me start pulling trees and brush out of the fence line so we could see where repairs were needed.  In s addition to branches and just brush "trash", we also have a wicked vine known as greenbriar!!!  Yep - it is absolutely wicked as it grows and winds through trees, grass, brush, and even itself, creating a tangled, woven mess!  The briars on it attach to anything they touch and they stick, tearing as you pull through.  Clothes, hair, skin - you name it, the briars rip it!  Causes major falls as well when the vines catch your pants or shoes as you are walking through and trip you!  So clearing out the fence line is an ongoing process to keep the briars out.

We did get a portion of the north fence line cleared and repaired in one afternoon.  I would hold the barbed wire (which was a 4 barb and painful when it caught the skin) as my spouse would unwind it to the length needed.  We replaced several areas of wire where the water had washed through (yep creeks rise here!) and where tree branches had pulled the wire down.  My spouse had the hardest part as he had to carry the roll of barbed wire to unroll the length needed.  The rolls are probably 75-100 lbs each and you have to unroll them and hopefully keep everything untangled as you go.  Eventually I even got to nail the staples into the posts to hold the wire in place.  When I started hammering - it would take me about 50 hits per staple just to get them in but as I went along (days later) I got a little better at it.  My spouse, on the other hand, took about a dozen hits or less to get the darn staples nailed.  Truly irritating when you have a competitive spirit and one that just want to prove she can hold her own at this fence building thing!  But we are working on this together and getting it done so that is most important right now.

Once we got the one fence cleared and repaired, the next step was to build the fence back along the creek (reference beginning of this post).  My spouse got things started by digging post holes and driving t-posts at the first leg of the fence.  He said the ground was about like concrete as he dug the hole for the first couple of posts!  Fortunately, our son-in-law came in one weekend to help.  The two of them set posts and drove the t-posts for the entire rest of the fence!  We are very blessed and thankful for his help.  We had gotten the first section's bottom wire set and they got the bottom wire started for the next section.  We were both gone for a week so fence building took a rest.

When we got back, my spouse had gotten the bottom wire strung all the way around.  We spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday getting the other 4 wires strung.  We also had to build a couple of gates in areas that would need to have access to the back pasture - one across the bridge and one to allow the cattle to cross when we want to move them to the back.  My spouse explained what type of "gates" we would be constructing.  His granddad called them "poor man's gate".  Let me explain - you use corner posts with loops of barbed wire at the top and at the bottom on one end; add a swing post to be used to open the gate and use posts in the middle (called stays)  that are not set in the ground but have the barbed wire secured to them.  This keeps the wire up and secure but can be rolled back to open the area to travel through.  We found the stays in the trees we have.  Make use of everything available - without running to the store!

Now to get to securing the wires to the t-posts.  I had watched and held wire as my spouse "tied" the wires to the posts.  A portion of the pasture needed to be shredded so I told him I could tie the wire to the posts, if he wanted to start shredding.  He agreed and away he went.  I worked on those 4 wires securing at every post for a couple of hours.  The first few times, I wore my gloves but it was awkward for me using the pliers to twist the ties around the post so I took them off.  "BIG MISTAKE"!  I'm sure those of you who know about barbed wire fencing are laughing at me right now!  Yep - after pinching my fingers for the 4th time and leaving bruises - I put my gloves back on!  It took me about 3 turns for each side of the tie to get it twisted and secured.  (Remember there are 4 wires per t-post that have to be secured.)  We even had a visitor "drop in" while we were out there.  He was on the top wire so we figure he must have dropped out of the trees.  I don't think the hammering was to his liking though, as he made it to a post, crawled down it to the ground and went on his way! (I googled it - believe this is a Rough Green Snake. Rough green snakes can be found in a variety of habitats but are most common in open forests and edge habitats. They can be particularly abundant along the margins of wetlands and rivers, where they search overhanging vegetation for insects.
Habits: Rough Green Snakes are probably the most arboreal snakes in our region and spend the majority of their time hunting for insects, spiders, and other invertebrates in vegetation well above the ground. When encountered, green snakes often freeze, relying on their green coloration for camouflage. At night, Green Snakes can often be found sleeping coiled in shrubs, vine tangles, or thick vegetation. During cool weather Green Snakes often take refuge on the ground and can sometimes be found hiding beneath logs, rocks, or debris. (Courtesy of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory website))

My spouse came back around to the area and suggested we trade - I drive the tractor (which will be another post) and he works on the fence for a while.  I made one round and knew then why he wanted us to trade.  He was probably a good 3 times faster at getting those ties secured than I was!  He got a lot further a lot faster and I just drove around the pasture shredding.

We had some work being done at the house on Tuesday morning so I didn't get to go back out, but my spouse went out and late on Tuesday afternoon sent me this picture with this message - "The one I've been looking for!".  I was completely baffled until he got home and explained - the last t-post on the fence we had built!  Yep - all tied up and cattle are in the pasture eating that grass even as we speak!

I told a friend that as we were out building that fence that I honestly loved doing it.  The weather was great, it was peaceful, cows were grazing, and I was completely loving being there.  I talked to the Lord, giving Him thanks for allowing us to do this, for guiding us through 30 years of marriage to get to this place, and for providing for us every step of our lives!  My only regret - that we didn't do this a lot sooner!!!

A few pictures of the cows in the new pasture ...

Next up - Tractor driving school - Oh yeah!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How Now Black Cow!

Once we got the land purchased, took possession, and finally got full use of the place, it was time to purchase cows.  My spouse learned of a dispersal sale about 45 minutes from us.  After looking through the information we received in the mail, we both agreed to drive down to look at the cattle they would be selling.  My spouse had his eye on a group of cows that were in the brochure.  We drove down, looked at the cows, visited with the vet (who was a business associate of the spouse) and decided to come back on Saturday for the sale.  Just FYI - as we were getting ready to head out, we stepped into the barn and got to watch as the vet palpated the cows.  Now I knew what that meant but I had never seen it.  To be honest - I would have stayed for the entire day.  It was really interesting to watch and I was enthralled to see how the vet could know how far along the cows were.  For those who don't know what all this means - palpating is how the vet determines if the cow is pregnant and if so, how far along she is.  (All the cows we purchased were bred so we were looking forward to birth of calves - more on that later!)

We got up early on that Saturday morning and drove to the sale.  It was cool and as we drove, it began drizzling on us (this will become more of an issue as the day goes on).  We arrived about 1 1/2 hours before the sale was set to begin.  I had never been to a sale like this so the entire atmosphere was a new experience.  We walked through to see the cows we had looked at before.  The drizzle falling began to get heavier.  We sat inside, watched the bulls as they came through the sale ring, and watched as the drizzle got heavier and heavier.  Finally after lunch, the group of cows we had looked at, began coming through the sale ring.  My hubby bid on the first group but stopped short of having the high bid.  However, the next 4 groups he bid on and got the bid.  We bought 32 head that day.  Now to get them home. 

Delivery was available but it would be a large truck.  We weren't sure a truck could make it out to our place and get in the gate, especially if it was wet.  Did I mention that it had drizzled/rained all day on Saturday?  Arrangements were made for delivery to the sale barn in our town on Sunday morning.  We would transport from the sale barn out to the place.  I went on to church Sunday morning while my hubby waited to meet the delivery truck.  I called when I got out of church and met him at the ranch.  He had already transported 1 trailer load of cows from the sale barn.  I grabbed my camera, coat and headed out.  The drizzle from Saturday - yep - it kept it up on Sunday morning, got heavier through the day.  I learned about how to load the cows from the sale barn into the trailer.  The first load went in ok - trailer was dry and clean, but it definitely didn't stay clean or dry!  As each load went in, I worried about one breaking a leg or getting a gash as they tripped going up into the trailer.  Then I wondered if all that were being herded to load would actually fit!  It was almost like getting clowns in a Volkswagon!  We got them out to the place, backed up the trailer to the pen (no I wasn't driving), and opened the gate.  Out they went, sometimes tripping on the trailer or in the mud as they ran to get out.  It took about an hour for each load and it took 4 loads to get them all out to the place.  I was wet, cold, muddy and had manure smeared on my jeans and I LOVED it all!  It was such a great feeling to see all those black cows in the pen and know they were ours! 

I have pictures posted below.  If you look, you can actually see it raining.  It has definitely been a learning experience and I truly have loved every minute of it.

More to come ...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Beginning

My husband and I relocated to east Texas at the end of April.  The reason we agreed to move was to possibly begin the realization of a dream that had been all but abandoned. My spouse's grandfather had cattle and a piece of land just north of the small community where he lived. "Orb" instilled a love of the land and a desire to be able to have a cattle operation in his grandson. However, it was not just his dream. I also had a love of the land and a desire to have cattle and land to use as the beginnings of a "ranch". In our 30 years of marriage and life, we had just about given up on ever being able to see that dream come to fruition. Through circumstances that can only be called Divine, that dream is beginning to become a reality. God brought so many things together this past spring and summer to allow us to begin the process and we are grateful for His hand on everything.

We purchased the land at the end of August. 135 acres that has beautiful grass, trees, a creek that runs through the middle, ponds already built, barn with pipe pens - it had everything. The interesting part of this story is that we looked at this parcel of land over a year ago. We really didn't think it would still be available when we moved out here this spring. But it was still availabe, so we began the process of purchasing the parcel. It took much longer than we anticipated but once again God shows us He is in control of every detail. We had to delay doing anything to the property as the previous owner needed some extra time to move equipment, etc. and get his cattle moved. We were so excited the day we closed! We immediately drove out with a friend (who also happens to be our banker!) and drove around the place. For this city gal - it was like a dream but it was real! I was so excited!

So many new things to learn and some refresher things to relearn - names of grasses, plants, trees;, fence building; checking cows for injury, sickness, and new calves; tractor driving 101; and so much more. Oh and bookkeeping - yep - learning QuckBooks so hopefully I can be helpful in this new endeavor!

More to come but here are a few pictures ...