horse pasture maintenance


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this is just a days update on my efforts at horse pasture maintenance…..these photos were taken on 6 28 2021

just some background for anyone who stumbles across this blog and is not familiar with the history. I have horses, cattle donkeys and goats. the equines and goats all pasture together…..the cows pasture separately as the equines enjoy chasing cows. for both groups I have multiple small paddocks and graze the small paddocks for two to three days and then rotate them to the next paddock and do what ever maintenance is needed in the recently grazed paddock. This time of year that means mowing the recently grazed paddock, often broadcasting some seed and then dragging the pasture to try to get the seed to the soil.

At this time of the year I am broadcasting a mix of seed which is my norm as I strive for plant diversity. my paddocks average about a tenth of an acre. the mix i am currently using is

Pearl millet 2.5 #…..sun hemp 2.5# Festolium 2.5 #……chicory 1/3 cup……buckwheat 1/2 #…..a legume blend 1/3 cup…..ashland summer cover crop mix 3 # this amount about fills my seeder.

I broadcast it with a shoulder seeder pictured below…..I like this broadcaster….I have used many types and this is the best I have found….it is a little more expensive but it is in its second year and still going strong….others have lasted about six months and they were worn out.

I should state here……I quit buying chemical amendments probably ten years ago…..that means lime and fertilizer. I want the soil biology to work for me. I will use herbicides to deal with things the goats wont eat but i try to limit it and only use it when the livestock are excluded. For example the fence line between me and the crop farmer neighbor…..the fence has electric on my side so the stock won’t challenge it. that means I have to combat the cedars and thistle and poke weed and multiflora rose.

five principles of improving soil

  1. keep the soil covered
  2. minimize soil disturbance
  3. keep a living root in the soil
  4. plant diversity…..mother nature does not deal in monocultures
  5. integrate livestock

Each of these principles is a subject for learning and discussion on its own but they are the keys to building soil health.

I would add a sixth principle…..plants need rest and lot of it…..only weeds survive continuous grazing

this paddock has rested about 80 or 90 days…..it was grazed in the spring and at that time did not need mowing…..the cools season grasses regenerated and put out seed heads and secondary growth…..this is the next paddock for the equines and goats. there is a lot of grass here.

they will pick thru it and graze the green stuff and some of the mature seed heads but they will leave the mature stalky brown stuff

after they have gotten the good stuff I move them to the next paddock and mow sow and drag the just grazed one

the photos above and below demonstrate the return of the residue to the soil. this provides protection to the soild from the elements and food for the biology in the soil and organic matter to build the soil…..there is also the armor of the living plant cover that will regenerate as long as we get rain. the photo below shows that there was so much residue after grazing that I had to mow it twice to distribute the residue. then I dragged it with my high tech drag…..an old rear tractor tire. the below photo also shows the just grazed paddock along side the next paddock to graze and gives and indication of the forage volume

and below is the high tech fence…….horses honor it fine…..in fact when Pete goes into a new paddock he walks around the perimeter to find the fence which is a single hot poly wire or poly tape or poly rope…..I use them all…..I have over 42 paddocks and experiment with fence…..as long as it has 4500 volts on it horses and cows will honor it…..the goats will walk under the division fences but they wont get far from the equines…..they feel safe with the horses and the mule

Interesting day today 6 8 2021


When I woke up this morning for the first time since my neck surgery, my jaw did not feel like someone had slugged me. It is phantom pain. The doctor told me that some nerve damage was likely.
In my case I feel pain where I have no injury. It is not debilitating in any way and is not severe….just a pain in the jaw. It has lightened up the last couple of weeks which tellt me the nerves are healing. It was quite nice to wake up and it was not sore.
During the day the nuisance has come back, but at least it is improving.

Took a couple of photos of my wild flowers garden….I never imagined I would enjoy it so much. It is a little different every day


I have zuchini that are about ready for harvest, but alas we are still a few weeks from a tomato sammich

Stated the day by moving the equines to a new paddock and mowing the one they were in the last couple of days. Those who know me know that I have a lot of small paddocks and rotate the stock thru them fairly frequently. This time of year I am mowing paddocks after grazing and then closing them off to rest and recover.

Below is a shot of today’s paddock after mowing.

I am also still cleaning up damage from the ice storm this winter….right after the storm I spent several days cutting limbs and trees off the fences. Now as I graze them I am cleaning up the bigger pieces and burning them in my concrete fire ring, the smaller stuff just gets chopped up with the Bush hog. Still have a couple of paddocks yet to graze for the equines before we start the second round

Below Is a picture of the debris from a paddock that is about a tenth of an acre. It has already been burned today.

Then Apache and I went for a walk. We went to North anna battlefield park. Our goal was to walk three miles on the gray trail…but we did not quite make it..the gray trail is not quiet a mile and a half from end to end so to get three miles I have to walk some of the loops twice….Apache did not see the sense in walking circles…we came to one intersection and when I turned to do the loop, …..well he just stopped and turned to face the path to the parking lot…I told him he was right and followed him to the truck. We did 2.79 miles. He promptly stuck his nose in the air conditioning vent and went to sleep. While it was not too awful hot when we started, it was pretty warm when we finished…I am still marinating in my own ambiance….Apache is asleep under a fan.

Took a photo of Dixies brand and sent it to my friend Anthony Macalister. He is a big player in the mule world and I am hoping he can help me find Dixies origins. Maybe he will recognize the brand or know someone who will.

Still feeling good from another great ride with Dr. Condi yesterday,. I even sent Jim Blanks a note thanking him for the opportunity to own Condi. She is rapidly moving up my list of all time favorite horses….as an older unit, I have had the opportunity to ride a good many horses of all types and descriptions…some were mine and many were somone elses…some went on to big things, some I made into better horses at their job, some were broncs that learned a trade and made good horses…….at least one was an outright outlaw who in my younger days wrecked several people after she wrecked me. I learned a little from all of them…now Dr. Condi and I are learning together and I am having a ball. She sometimes now seems to be so tuned in to me that she knows what I am thinking. I have had horses before who were as responsive but they were horses that I rode every day or in a regular rotation. With Condi I am lucky to ride once or maybe twice a week. Thinking of all the horses I have learned from has dredged up a lot of good memories as well.



6 7 2021 DR. CONDI SESSION YORK RIVER STATE PARK


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Dr. Condi and I were invited to ride with three ladies at York River State Park this morning. Always in need of a therapy session I promptly accepted on behalf of Dr. Condi and myself.
I had ridden with one of these ladies at the last Poor Peoples riding club ride at Washington Lacy Park and our horses were well suited in pace and temperament and we had a nice ride.
she and her friends were riding and asked me if i would care to join them.

Condi and I had not been to York River but once with the Poor Peoples riding club and that was quite a few years ago.

photo park sign

I had little memory of the trails but remembered how to get to the park….I had no recollection of how long it would take to get there….

I allowed time to stop at Hardees for a biscuit and a drink….wanna guess who was still a bit early….I had no idea how long it would take me to get there and I allowed plenty of time…
bugs were pretty fierce in the parking lot but it gave me time to give Condi a good grooming. The stable flies were pretty bad in the parking lot so I slathered her up pretty good
with both some ultra boss and some regular horse fly spray. Bugs out on the trail were not too bad at all. But I had my trusty fly bat and did swat a few.
The bug dope seemed to make her less appealing to the pests. Bugs out on the trail were not too bad at all.
while I was at it I slathered myself as well with some Repel and high percentage DEET. I was aiming to deter ticks…
I picked up a bunch on my last couple of walking forays.
all kinds….some lone star…some brown dog ticks….and a number of seed ticks so small they are hard to find until they start itching

Apache had quite a few as well so I got a can of sevin yesterday and dusted him pretty good and that helped him immensely…thinking about dusting me.

The ladies got there early as well and intros of horses and humans were made all around and everyone tacked up and we headed out.

Condi and I started out in the back and for a little while she was comfortable with that, but before long she had managed to sneak her way to the front.
The ladies did not seem to mind and if they did were too polite to criticize. They were all on gaited horses so keeping up with Condi was not a hardship on them.
We mostly just ambled along due to the heat and humidity. It was warm but under the shade in the woods there was a little breeze blowing and it was not uncomfortable at all.

I had two cell phones with me but I never took either one of them out of the holster to take any photos…I had on gloves and did not want to drop either of the phones and when i am riding
Condi I am enjoying life too much to worry with taking pictures. When we rode out onto a small beach along the river i thought about photos but I didn’t take any…there were
warning signs about steep drop offs and swift currents so I did not venture into the water. Condi was sinking in the dry sand up to her fetlocks so we did not hang
around in the sun and got back into the woods. a little bit later i ventured up into the woods on a bit of a hill and there was a beautiful vista of the river.

this photo is very close to what I saw….

I gpsed the trail we road and downloaded it to google earth pro and printed the route. it was basicly a ride out and back and we did 7.31 miles

Looking at the PARK trail map on the web site there are horse trails and there are pedestrian and bike trails. I saw a couple of signs for no horses allowed.
the majority of the trails we rode were nice sandy well graded trails suitable for side by side riding. the trails were soft enough that shoes or boots are not necessary….
mostly sandy footing. the forest was beautiful and a good bit more open than here in central virginia where thick underbrush is more the norm.

I had a wonderful time and travel time to the park is no worse than a trip from here to Petersburg or Five Forks which are both nice places to ride..
as long as the traffic on the interstate cooperates…today it was pretty good.

When I got home I saw a message on facebook that my friend Jim Leahey is plannning to celebrate his 80th birthday with a ride at Lake Anna on the 16th…..
I immediately signed up for the ride

Walking with Apache 6 1 2021


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Apache and I had missed a few days of walking. We needed to get back in the groove. We decided that we would go first thing this morning and we did although we dawdled a bit before leaving. I was pretty sure that we needed gas in the van so we decided to go to Washington Lacy park and we could get fuel in Ashland.

Our goal was to walk over three miles at a decent pace. we got that done

We walked 4.38 miles this morning including the hills on the power line.

Washington Lacy is a pretty park to walk in….the wooded trails especially on the northeast side are very pretty and being wooded are normally pretty comfortable temperature wise……One of us did work up a pretty good sweat this morning though

below is a picture snapped on one of the wooded trails on the northeast side.

always pretty and inviting. the trails within the park have some small hills but generally they are pretty easy to navigate. On the southwest side of the park the trails can be damp when there is a lot of moisture. Today they were pretty good even with the nice rain over the weekend.

to challenge our indurance we normally walk a section of the power line on the north side. There are three hills that will make your heart pump a little faster. I have tried several times to get a good photo of the two big hills but I don’t carry a good enough camera to capture them. Below is todays failed effort at a photo. Apache and I normally climb to the top of both hills and try to not stop in the ascents.

After our walk we stopped and filled the van with Gas and then toddled on home and had some lunch.

when we were coming down the driveway I looked in the stable and saw that the two new friends were sharing a stall again…so I snapped a quick photo…..they were standing there side by side and Pete was in his stall two stalls over.

As I approached Dixie stuck her head over the gate to see if I had any treats. She was disappointed that time…..she is a little spoiled….

After lunch I fired up the push mower and mowed under the electric fences where the cattle are currently…the grass has gotten taller than the fences and I usually mow either a paddock or some fence lines every day.

I have finally been able to put Diva, my cow, back with the three calves. Divas calf took a while to wean but she is finally leaving mama alone….so now that it has rained I will probably have to resume cutting the lawn again before long……

Or maybe Diva will teach the calves to follow her and if I can get them to come to call like she does then I can use them all to mow the lawn….might be worth a couple of tries….

MEMORIAL DAY 5 31 2021 SESSION WITH DR. CONDI


 

The last couple of days have been rainy…..we needed the rain badly as we have not had any significant rain in about sixty days.
Satueday and Sunday brought us about 1.7 inches total here in the aridzona Virginia.

so Friday was the last day I got anything meaningful done here on the farm and Apache and I have been neglectful about walking….

We did try to go on Sunday and decided to try Washington Lacy park because it has the shortest loops and we could only get caught in a downpour so far from the vehicle.
About half way to ashland we drove into rain….it was light rain but fairly steady….we stopped at a couple of places in Ashland but it continued to rain.
so we headed on back home without walking….about half way home we drove out of the rain. We could have walked around here but the only place to walk is the roads
and I am not brave enough to walk the roads here especially with my walking companion along.

The lay off has demonstrated to me that the walking has been the key to my maintaining my weight loss. I have gained three or four pounds over the three days I have not walked.

Anyhow Memorial day was forecast to be a nice day…I decided I was not going to waste a nice day and hooked the trailer up Sunday afternoon…

I love to ride…but lately it is easy for other things to get in the way….Part of it is old age….I know I am not the rider I once was…
Walking I have to be careful not to fall off of my feet…bifocals and a declining sense of balance contribute to that was well as previously torn up ankles
Many folks are suprised to see a senior citizen riding alone….but too many times it is ride alone or stay the hell home…I am tired of stayin home and I have
a great deal of Confidence in Dr. Condi. She is becoming an excellent trail horse…not a dead head by any means but a steady and reliable mount. She confidently moves out alone
and if she sees something unusual she just stops and looks at it. Today at one point, we both heard something crashing thru the fairly thick brush on a hill side above and in front of us.
Neither one of us saw it and it made too much noise to be a deer. I suspect it was a bear…but it went the other way…people ask me why Dr. Condi always wears a bell.
The reason is unlike most people, I do not want to see a bear on the trail….

the trails at Trevillians opened this weekend and we had not been there since the last fourth of july.
There were a couple of trails we did not ride there that day so we thought we would do some scouting.

The day downed pretty as forecast and even a little cool. Had breakfast and fed Dixie and gave a handout to the others and shut the gate to Condis stall.

Gathered all my parphenalia while Dixie was eating. Once she was finished I turned her out with Pete and Condi stePped up in the trailer and we were on the road to Trevillians
just a little before eight. When we got there there was one other trailer in the lot but those riders were already on the trail. We never saw them but we did
see there tracks just about every where we went.

Condi and I were on the trail about nine am. We had not been out since the last Poor Peoples ride which was several weeks ago.
Dr. Condi was in professional mode and was as calm as if we had ridden yesterday… pretty quickly she had the stress falling off of me in chunks. I wrapped the
reins around the saddle horn while I familarized myself with the trail map. Dr. Condi had engaged her auto pilot and handled the navigation while I studied the map.

I remebered that there was one trail that was sort of damp the last time we rode there and wanted to avoid that one knowing that it would be difficult today.
We were sucessful in that endeavor and avoided that trail.

Below is a screen shot from Google Earth of the route we rode today…Best I can make out we rode the Red Trail, The Purple Trail and the Green Trail

GOOGLE EARTH MAP

 

Trevillians has a nice blend of lovely wooded trails that should be cool enough to ride even on hot days

photo wooded trail

and some more open trails that are vehicle wide.
Many of the trails had been freshly bush hogged
The green loop is one of those wide trails.
apparently the hunters and their four wheel drives really tore up the green trail this past wet fall….I recognize it because the logging roads I used to ride around here
are just about impassable on horseback now from the steady stream of trucks in the winter. I got a horse stuck in mud once in my life…not something I want to ever do again.
One side of the green loop had been regraded with a bull dozer. with the rain It was fairly sticky but not too deep. I just Gave Dr. Condi her head and let her pick her way through it

 

we were following the tracks of whomever had ridden out before us

photo muddy tracks

We did have one little bit of excitement. We were near the end of the green loop when we came to a sort of Tee intersection and I missed seeing the trail marker.
I took a right when I should have taken a left….we had not gone too far when I realized we were approaching a home. I turned around to back track when a dog discovered us and
came running and barking. When he came into sight, I realized it was a pitt bull and He was not happy.
I let Dr. Condi into a slow gait to put some distance between us. Did not want to run and cause a chase reflex.
He did not back off. we turned to face him and I yelled and he did stop but he had his hackles up. and he bluff charged us a time or two.

I knew he was not going to bite my horse even if I had to kill him…but I could not figure out how I was going to kill him without turning her aloose. I did not want to turn her loose.
I had no idea how I would catch her if she were to be scared by a fight.

fortunately I managed to buffalo the dog several times until we had put some distance away from his home and he finally gave up the game. Dr. Condi handled it beautifully…
she put her trust in me that time…

When we were about a mile out from getting back to the parking lot we saw the first riders we saw all day….three folks heading out. another quarter of a mile and we met
three more outbound riders. When we got back to the parking lot there were three riders about to go out and there were seven trucks and trailers besides mine.

We did a total of 8.38 miles and had a wonderful time.

I had such an enjoyable day that after I did the chores and Apache and I were discussing supper…..I told him I was goiing to celebrate and go to El Azteca for a Texas Fajitao and a
frozen Margarita….I did and I really enjoyed it….nice ending to the best memorial day I have had in several years….

NEW DEVELOPMENT


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Yesterday there was a new development on the farm that I just had to document.

Ever since she arrived here Dr. Condi has been the boss hoss around here….Pete is a mild mannered gelding so no suprise that he yields to the queen at all times

A while back Condi became a goat buddy.   It is now not uncommon to find four goats lying about in Condi stall while she stands in the middle.

Pete will barely tolerate the goats, and they do not want to hang out with him….they are certainly not welcome anywhere near feeding time.  

Dixie has long been the queen of the goat and donkeys  entourage….they all hang out with her.

The youngest goat,  Calvin, has decided that Condi is his buddy and I posted a picture on Facebook a week or so ago of Condi an Calvin sharing a meal….they eat so closely together that I became worried that Calvin’s horns might accidentally injure Condis  eye….so now I have to feed him in a separate pan in Condi stall…but he still wants to eat with her….

Still working on a suitable solution

Anyhow,  after Apache and I got back from our 3.27 mile walk yesterday, I went down to clean out the fourth stall in the horse stalls.  When I got there I was met by a shocking site

Condi and Dixie were standing side by side in one of the stalls.

Condi has always claimed executive privilege as to her choice of stalls and her chosen stall might change frequently…..but her chosen stall was only big enough for her. 

Just a week or so ago Condi chased Dixie away from the stable because Dixie wanted to enter a stall before Condi picked her stall….and Condi gets first choice.

I was shocked to see them standing side by side.

Photographic proof

The two of them standing side by side, no more than a foot apart and chilling.

I even went in and got a closeup

Once I got over the shock I proceeded to fork out two tractor loader buckets of stuff from stall four and get it spread on the designated paddock. 

The stable is clean for awhile and the cow barn is next on tap

I use the bedded pack method and clean out the stable when the conditions are right.   The stalls are all run in and animals are only closed in while eating….there are enough stalls for all critters to get in to escape flies and weather

Jim Tate
Pipe Dream Farm
Beaverdam, Va

5 25 2021 blog update


Today was the best day I have had since the surgery.
Apache and I started the day with a walk at Poor Farm Park.  We did the perimeter loop that is becoming our  regular trail because we can knock out at least three miles without having to backtrack….any backtracking or extra loops is just more mileage….today we did the loop counter clockwise and did a total of 3.50 miles….

We also did it at a good pace and at one point were travelling at 6 miles per hour.

The nice thing is, that I noticed that my endurance is improving….I can now power thru stuff that just a couple of weeks ago had me stopping to catch my breath.

And a couple of weeks ago when I stopped to catch my breath my Pulse was pounding in my ears……none of that this week

Above is a shot taken along the trail this is going counter clockwise on the perimeter loop

Apache was ready to go….one thing I have learned lately is that he loves the water.  Since it has gotten warm I let him go to the stream to get a drink.    He plunges right in and is happy to swim…I don’t dare let him off the rope though as he would be off on all sorts of adventures.

We got our walk in and we’re back home by 10 15

Next I fired up the tractor and cleaned the accumulated manure out of the third stall in the stable.  This stall had two full loader buckets.   One more stall in the stable and then I will start on the cow barn.

Then I bush hogged paddock c4 and opened up the pine lot for the calves.

On the way back I happened to catch sight of one of my gamma grass plants.  So I snapped a picture of it.  Worthy of note is that last week Diva had grazed this plant down to about 12 inches in height…..now a week later it is about 30 inches tall again.

The beauty of these plants is that once they get established they are deep rooted, self sufficient and extremely productive.

They do take some time to get established…

I also have a small patch of big blue stem that is showing promise this year…..I am letting it compete with the weeds to see how it does.

Above is a shot of the gammagrass.   This is just one plant….
That is a standard Dare brand electric fence post near it for reference.

Jim Tate
Pipe Dream Farm
Beaverdam, Va

PDF PHOTOS 5 24 2021


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gonna go more old school this morning…..using the blog rather than the aggravating Facebook.

TOoK a few shots around the farm this morning before everything perishes due to the lack of rain

Facebook has been so easy to use and so fast that I have fallen into the habit of posting stuff on it….but I realized that a lot of folks who read some of my stuff do not do much with facebook and frankly it has begun to piss me off more than z little…..I will get the same post showing up repeatedly and then folks that I have seen posts from will just disappear

while it is more cumbersome to load photos I decided that today i would try the old blog again.

my recent habit of carrying the old flip phone does not make it any easier

The smart phone is very nice and will do more stuff…..but I find it impossible to carry around the farm….it was too expensive to break or to lose. if it is in a shirt pocket it dives to the ground every time I bend over for something….

In a jeans pocket it will meet a sure end being carried next to a wrench and a pair of pliers or a hand pruner all of which is normally in my pockets…..

I tried one of those belt carriers and after losing the phone for the third time I pitched the carrier into the burn barrel

I have some cargo pants that have pockets on the legs and they work good but they are not nearly heavy enough to last a day on the farm.

I found a little clip on belt carrier that is secure and fits my old flip phone….so I just carry the flip phone most of the time now…..the photos below are taken with the flip phone….problem is it will synch via bluetooth with my tablet but not with the computer…..so I have to bluetooth to the tablet and then download to the computer…..

but I will figure and easier way to get that done.

just a brief update for those I have not communicated with much lately.

I retired in January…..three weeks later I had a heart attack. guess i should have kept working….the stress of full time riding and farming was just too great or maybe it was getting too much sleep.

anyhow two heart catheterization procedures and three heart stents later….the cardiologist sent me to a vascular surgeon because my right Carotid artery was also blocked……so they cut my throat and cleaned that out too….that procedure pretty well kicked my ass….

It took me several weeks to begin to get my strength back.

good news is I have lost at least thirty lbs and am back down below my fighting weight of 220 lbs….I was 210.8 yesterday morning.

Part of that is the new regimen of walking…..trying to do at least three miles every other day….My dog Apache usually goes with me. Also riding as much as I can. Hoping to maybe get in a ride tomorrow. Had to have my trailer inspected this morning……then forked out 3 tractor loader buckets of manure from one of the stalls in the horse stable

As mentioned above it is hot and dry here…..very little rain in April and May which are typically good rain months….we were wet all winter and then the rain just cut off. Very dry here now….we had good spring grass as pictured below…..but it is fading fast

the ph0to below is my mule Dixie and Peter Pinto grazing in a paddock I opened yesterday…..this paddock was over seeded with cereal rye, crimson clover and hairy vetch in the fall and got good growth this spring. they get small paddocks and are moved frequently

above is a shot of my red hot pokers…I have two plants which i stuck in the ground six or eight years ago….they are beautiful for about two weeks …..but the true beauty is they are pretty much maintenance free….all they do is grow with no inputs

below are several shots of a wildflower garden I planted last spring. It was pretty all summer until we had a killing frost. This year it has come back very strong…..I am not good enough with flowers to name them but I have enjoyed watching them……reds and blues and yellows and whites and others that have not yet begun to bloom…..It is just a small strip maybe ten feet by thirty feet and it is sandwiched between to other strips of cover crops

I have seen precious few honey bees this year and the bee keepers I know all say they had great loses this year

as I get the photography figured out, it is my intent to do a better job of keeping up with the blog

Follow up to cold winter


Follow up to a cold day post.

After posting my story of a cold day, I was pleased to get a rare email from one of my oldest friends….

We went to both Junior High School and High School together and a couple of years at Virginia Tech until I went off to join the Army and he went off to Michigan to vet school. He was always a good bit smarter than I.. We had lots of adventures together and he was a positive influence on my life.

He stayed in Michigan and has been a practicing vet and an instructor and mentor to many. He lives somewhere on the upper peninsula right near what I would call the frozen gates of hell.

In his email he related a couple of cold weather anecdotes from his career up there that make me ashamed to say I was chilly at all…. ever. Little things like a c section out in the open in a tee shirt at 60 below zero.

I don’t know how he tolerated it….it was not without penalties of frozen tissue….but he persisted. I left the relative summer resort weather of northeast Ohio winter because I could not take the cold, but like the mountain men of old, the Michigan winter weather was just another challenge to be faced to him……He says the summers are great….

I know that humans can adapt to climatic conditions….in Ohio I started every day for three years with at least a light jacket on….in the summer it might come off fairly early…..often soon after sunrise as I was horseback checking or gathering cows. The first winter back in Virginia I was use to cold and never wore a coat all winter….I had adapted a bit….but by the second winter back home I was bundled up like an Eskimo.

I think my friend had both a genetic and mental advantage in dealing with the weather….one side of his family had branches of the family tree up there in cold country and they had convinced him that the weather was mostly a matter of mind over matter…..If you don’t mind then it don’t matter. That and he was one of the toughest guys I have ever run into. In my Twenties through early forties I could be pretty rank myself, but I would have always preferred him as a friend rather than an opponent.

The Cold Winter


Baby Jim

 The Cold Winter

Today is a snowy and cool day and it reminded us of a real cold day in our history.  Since it is cool and snowy it seemed like a good time to relate the story of that day and that winter.

It was the winter of 1977-1978.  We don’t recall the exact date after over 40 years.  The entire winter was brutally cold.  The fact that our hero was working as a cow man in northeast Ohio at the time made it multiple times worse. The mother in law and her sister had flown in for Christmas and while they were there, the airports were closed for nearly two weeks in both Akron and Pittsburgh or the roads were so bad we could not get them to the airport.  Forty or fifty miles to either one

That year Baby Jim’s mama…..yes he had a mama….related to him that the Cheapeake Bay froze over…..It was several magnitudes of colder in Northeast Ohio just outside the snow belt.  Baby Jim could not believe that he was outside the snow belt as it snowed every day….that is until he saw images of snow in Buffalo and Cleveland.

Now the job at hand was as a cow herd manager for a 300 head registered cow herd.  It included all manner of care to insure the successful care, feeding, breeding and calving of these valuable animals.  Baby Jim had assistant herdsmen but it was pretty much a 365 day a year job.  Always on call.  Many late winter nights were spent in the calving barn sleeping under the heat lamps with the new born calves.  Our hero opined out loud once about the wisdom of calving cows in February winter weather and the boss pointed out that when Baby Jim had his own cows he could calve them out whenever he wanted to…..until then how about caring for these.

The normal routine was to go out pretty early and do the chores to fit the season…go back home for breakfast and then return to work at about 8:00 am….in the winter the early morning chores were mostly feeding and general checking on stock.

One particular morning our hero awakened to find a couple of feet of new snow.  As he drank a cup of coffee before venturing out he heard the wind howling and the snow was blowing fiercely horizontally which meant drifts everywhere.  He glanced at the Thermometer fixed outside the kitchen window and could not see the mercury.  Securing a flashlight he leaned on the counter and the actual temperature was minus 22 degrees.  Time to find more clothes….wrapped in all the winter garments that a Virginia boy would have he ventured out…

Now near the house where he lived  there was a winter lot designed to house 100 cows….it had about 120 in it.  There was a set of silos and feed bunk and a pipe hay rack to handle three ton hay stacks.  The cows could sleep in the barn, eat silage from the bunk and hay from the rack.

There was another such lot three or four miles away with a similar number of cows.  The rest of the cows were later calving cows and they wintered in a lot with a lot of woods another few miles away and wintered on hay….again in the three ton stacks.

Baby Jim did his morning chores and returned to the house to find the phone ringing….the common theme was did your truck start….At that time he was driving a Ford 1/2 ton four wheel drive.  It was the only vehicle on the farm that started that morning.  So the next couple of hours were spent trying to get thru drifted snow to jump start other vehicles so the days work could get done.   To enable road clearing he had to jump start a couple of tractors. Did we mention that it was cold?

The three ton hay stacks previously mentioned were handled by a big John Deere cabbed tractor with a dedicated stack hand machine to move the stacks.

About mid morning there was a radio call….back then we used Citizen Band Radios in the trucks and tractors…..the call was to ask for assistance in finding the town motor grader as the road to the cows in the big wooded pasture was blocked with snow and the big tractor was not able to get thru it..

After a bit of looking the motor grader was located and after a little pleading and cajoling was redirected to the site of the problem.  Fortunately the grader was able to get thru the snow and open the road for the couple of miles to access the gate to the cow field.  There was a temporary feeling of success as the tractor was going thru the gate.  Baby jim was keeping hungry cows back while the tractor was forcing its way in.  Until the tractor motor shut off suddenly.  Would not turn over again.  

Cropping manager said he had to go get another tractor and figure out how to get things moving.  He needed the truck to go back to the shop….But somebody had to keep the cows from coming out the gate.  Those cows wanted that hay but if they came out that gate they could drift for miles…As cow man our hero was elected to stay with the cows and try to control them.

Now it is 20 below zero and wind gusts of 30 to 40 mph.  40 hungry cows and one southern boy so country that the local vet had nick named him Rebel.  Rebel, heretofore known as Baby Jim,  was so cold that he had prayerfully offered a deal to the good lord.  He said, “Lord, if you give me the strength to get thru this day, you will not have to worry about me being in Ohio for another winter ever.” 

Two and a half hours later they got back with the things needed to remedy the situation.

By then hands and feet were numb beyond feeling.  Our hero was so cold that there is no memory of how they got the second tractor around the gate blockage or how they got the cows fed….

There was a lot of yankee teasing about how it was not that cold…but none of those doing the teasing had stood out there for 2 and a half hours.

There are other tales of other days that winter, but this one was nearly life threatening and is etched into the memory forever.