Tuesday, February 19, 2019

140 years!

This winter is/was/is continuing to be a REAL winter, with lots of snow and cold!  Some winters it only snows a couple of times and melts away, but this winter we've had the chance for lots of sledding, and even skiing and snowboarding!  

It's tough when the waterers freeze, or when the fuel gels, but overall things have been going well.  No power outages, no furnaces breaking, and so the regular work has gone on like usual.

I was thinking about how many things have changed since we came back to the farm, and we've done some pretty big projects.

2008 - added an irrigation pivot
2010 - built cement pad and cattle crossings
2011 - built calf barn
2012 - remodeled the dairy barn
2013 - built freestall barn and manure lagoon
2017 - remodeled freestall barn to change to sand bedding
2017 - remodeled dairy barn to add an aisle leading to the parlor
2018 - added a second bulk tank

Five years ago, my mom made us a book about our homestead.  After a long history, Kris and I have a liiiiiittle paragraph at the end about what we had done since we moved here.  It's interesting to see how tiny your time is here over the 140 years that the farm has been here.

It's also interesting to think about the next 10, 20, 30(?) years that we will be here.  What projects will be next?  How will things change around here?  When will non-gelling fuel be invented? 
It's all still yet to be written.

In the meantime, we're alternately enjoying/withstanding the winter, taking care of our cattle, working with our teammates, and writing the history of our farm.  Here's to the next winter, and all the ones after that!  Happy 140!

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Monday, February 4, 2019

Otter spotter

Today was a balmy 46 degrees, and when I was running by the creek at my house, I saw an animal slip into the water.

It swam with its head up, making a squeak/bark noise, like it was calling another animal.  How funny, I thought.  I've never heard a muskrat make that noise before.

Another one appeared, making the same noise.  The two of them dove down, came back up, and chewed what they had found on the bottom.

I stared at them.  They didn't look like muskrat.  They didn't look like beavers, either.  Plus, they were huge.  They were also cute!  They looked like ... otters.  I watched them for a long time until they didn't come back up.

I went home and googled otters in Michigan, and came upon a video in Michigan that sounded exactly like these otters!  They were OTTERS!

I ran back down to the creek, but they never returned.  At home, I looked at trail cam pictures, news stories, and videos about otters.

This is so exciting to me, since you figure that the outdoors is kind of going to be the same, but this was an entirely new animal I've never spotted here - and it was a cute one!  My parents, who have lived here 30 years longer than I have, haven't ever seen an otter either.  It was - and is - SO exciting!

This goes for eagles, too.  Growing up, we never had eagles here.  Now we have tons of eagles and see them at least once a month, often flying right over our farm.  In December I saw eagles five days in a row.  They're often eating road kill along the side of the road, or perching in trees.

I have a friend named Greg Smith who takes amazing wildlife photos, usually of birds.  I asked him about the otters and he said he knows of two pair that hang out at the Maple River State Game Area (not far from my house), and he said there are at least six eagle nests he knows of in the area.

I told my brother Gage about this, and he said, "Are you going to write about this and tout that your farm's environmentally friendly farming practices are attracting all sorts of new wildlife?"

I laughed and said that was a great idea, and then in the above article I read that otters "tend to seek out areas with clean water and abundant fish."  So, thanks for the plug, otters.  I also read that eagles have doubled their number of nesting pairs in Michigan in the last 15 years, and there are now about 800.  They must like it here.

I talked about this with Gage, and he said, "Eagles, otters.  What's next ... a wolverine?"   

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