We had some weather move in late last week.
Wind and snow.
But that's okay. Thanks to the new awning on our barn, the cattle were protected.
But we learned the awning had an entirely unexpected side effect -- the water from the roof drained into the adjacent bull pen and congregated in the bull pen shelter.
This not only made a soupy mess at the entrance to the shelter...
...but it left a goopy stew of "quick mud" inside the shelter that was about eight or ten inches deep. Truly ugly nasty stuff. We realized our poor critters had been unable to use their shelter during the storm.
While eventually we'll have to install guttering and drainage systems, we needed a more immediate solution. And the most immediate solution we could think of was to load the pen with gravel.
You see, about a week ago we got in a load of gravel in anticipation of next spring's garden. (For new readers, I'm transitioning to a raised-bed tire garden and cutting weeds with a combination of billboard tarps and gravel. It's worked wonders so far.)
Without much option, we cannibalized the pile of gravel in order to back-fill the bull pen shelter and create a gravel base. But how to move that much gravel into the bull pen? Trundling it over by wheelbarrow would take hours and require pushing the wheelbarrow through a lot of sludgy mud.
So Don decided to disassemble the backside wall of the shelter and use our neighbor's tractor to move the gravel.
We used a cattle panel (sometimes called a hog panel) to block the bull (and the cow/calf who's with him at the moment) and keep them out of the shed.
Then Don removed four of the sheet metal panels from the side of the enclosure.
Armed with a shovel and rake, I got gravel duty. Don carefully maneuvered the tractor bucket between the girts in order to dump the load.
While he drove around to scoop up another bucket-ful of gravel, I shoveled and shoveled and shoveled and shoveled. But no matter how thick I laid on the gravel, it just seemed to disappear into that horrible mud. This is my boot, sinking.
I lost track of how many times Don dumped another bucket-ful of gravel, but it was a LOT. He estimates we went through three or four cubic YARDS of gravel, and ended up raising the level in the bull pen shelter by eight or ten inches before we finally conquered that mud.
This diminished the gravel pile by quite a bit, so at some point we'll have to pull in another truckload (or two) for the garden. But I am mighty grateful we had that gravel to begin with.
Then we broke open a bale of hay and spread it out. We figured the critters were entitled to a little bit of spoiling after all that mud.
Here Samson peers into the pen, wondering when he'll be allowed to start eating. Soon, big boy!
But first we had to reassemble the outside sheet metal paneling.
The animals certainly enjoyed their dry digs!
But wait, we weren't done. Yesterday morning, well before dawn, Lydia kept barking both inside and outside the house. But I didn't hear a thing from outside, so it was with considerable surprise when, at first light, I saw every single cow out in the driveway. (Usually when a few cows escape, they all bellow. Since this time ALL the cows had escaped, no one was bellowing...the sneaky little turds.) No wonder Lydia kept barking.
It was 6:20 am when I woke up Don. He said news like that is better than coffee for waking up. Not as enjoyable, mind you, but certainly better. Adrenaline will do that.
Ends up the animals had somehow managed to knock over all the cattle panels separating the awning from the barn. (The cattle panels are temporary; we're in the process of building feed boxes across this length.)
The camera flash revealed some of the animals had climbed up the hay bales for additional snacking. Aarrrgghh!
The critters cavorted around in the early morning light. Once we closed the driveway gate, we decided it was more important to have our morning coffee/tea before tackling the roundup.
However we skipped the morning feeding, since the cattle were already glutted.
After his dose of caffeine, Don reinforced the cattle panels by screwing some long boards across the barn side...
...and then wrapping baling twine through the panels and around the boards. This strengthened things considerably.
This wall of cattle panels is temporary. Don has permanent feed boxes planned which will regulate feeding much more efficiently (as well as waste less hay).
Bonus pix: chickens in the slushy driveway.
Life on a farm. It's never dull. True, we tend to lurch from crisis to crisis, but that seems to be par for the course.