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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring Flowers, Snow & Apple Pies


March came in like a lamb but has behaved like a lion. We've had sunny days of 50 degree weather, snowy days of 25 degree weather and wind chills to bring those temps down to low teens. Last Saturday it snowed, then melted, snowed, then melted all day long. If it had snowed continuously, we would have had five inches of snow. As it was, drifts were more than a foot deep and made for slippery driving on our way home from Bristol.

Dave and I had cabin fever so drove the seventy-five minutes to Bristol where brand new stores are located. Our favorites too! Books a Million, TJ Maxx, Best Buy and several restaurants. We're used to driving to Johnson City, TN, a drive of more than two hours, when we needed to break our cabin fever. Bristol is much, much closer and, almost, just as much fun.
I made two apple and blueberry pies; we ate one and gave the other to Jim Conrad from WCYB TV. It's the Fox affiliate in Bristol and he was here Friday past to do a story on the farm. Jim is a great guy and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves even though the weather had decided to turn back to winter. It was 40'ish, rain/sleet and maybe a bit of snow but animals still have to be fed and chores completed. Jim said he works in all kinds of weather so, for the morning, we made a good team.


Flowers are peeking up from Mother Earth even though Father Time says spring is still a week away. I want to run out and protect the little darlings but they seem to be managing quite well without me. A honey bee has braved March to get an early start on honey making.


Seed catalogues are arriving and I've already bought some sunflower seeds. I want to start them in early April and will use egg cartons that will be transplanted directly into the ground and will decompose as the seeds grow.

Sheep Shearing Day is 12 April. I visited Clinton yesterday to order some sheep minerals and ask him to shear for me. He's knee deep in lambs, I believe the count is upwards of 300 thus far. I'm going today to help him bottle feed the orphans; I've got severe lamb fever.

If you're in the area, make plans to visit us on Sheep Shearing Day. This working day on the farm is open and free to the public. Lost Arts Guilds members will demonstrate and sell traditional Appalachian crafts. We always have a great day; be sure and wear comfortable, warm clothing and footwear. Bring a camera and bag lunch, this is a great family day at Thistle Cove Farm.

Blessings ~ rain ~ snow ~ sunny weather ~ pies ~ spring flowers ~ the hope of spring ~




Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bush Hog - Part III

Dealership Guy is here, putting on new choke cable and doing some other things to make the UTV operational, all day, every day. Dealership Guy has always been available to either do things right or make things right. Corporate might learn a few things from Dealership Guy should they ever decide to have a chin wag with him.

Dave tells me I should not have mentioned the Hog showing up dirty. The only reason it was mentioned, being wet had a direct relationship on the choke cable freezing and thus not working. It was one of those things that was just unavoidable but made its presence known when weather was freezing, or below, and the Hog wouldn't start. It certainly wasn't meant as a bad note and I apologize.

There are still a few things to finish but nothing that affects the starting or running of the new Bush Hog UTV. It shows every promise of being the piece of equipment we hoped it to be when we were researching new UTV's and should, hopefully, last us many years. We intend it to be the last UTV we ever purchase for the farm.

Bush Hog Tough - it can now be said with confidence! Thanks, Dealership Guy!

Daddy and Mother taught us to take good care of our equipment, to keep the oil changed, the body washed of dirt, mud and other debris that mean rust, wipe down the soft sides and roof and all those other things that go into care and upkeep. All those things mean long life for equipment.

Today is a beautiful day and most of it will be spent outside. The fence line needs to be checked, debris from the last storm picked up, bird feeders checked, minerals put out for animals and a few other chores. If I have time, I'll drag the alfalfa pasture so the horse manure is dispersed over the field. That acts as fertilizer and helps ensure a better crop of hay this year. We're still low on our water table, I thought we were caught up, but a neighbor tells me we're still very low. My prayer is for at least two cuttings of hay this year, hopefully three. We had to buy hay last year and that, severely, cut into finances.

We also need to pick up a few pieces of electronic equipment, some batterys, a new mouse and the like. That's a job for dusk or later when it's too dark to work outside. It's daylight savings time and I really don't like DST; it takes me a while to adjust and throws my rythm off. I wish ole Ben Franklin could have just left well enough alone. It's fairely obvious a non-farmer/rancher came up with the idea of DST. Most farmers/ranchers tell me they don't care for DST either but I've run into some who love it. I wonder what the difference is...?

Blessings ~ Dealership Guy ~ sunny day ~ good night's sleep ~ an operation...in all weather, day or night, Bush Hog UTV ~ EST...eventually ~

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bush Hog - Reliably Unreliable

On every farm there are pieces of equipment that are useful to the farm operation. For the past four years one such piece of equipment has been a "Workhorse" that is, basically, a "sexy little golf cart" as the farrier put it. Regardless, it was a great tool and made feeding the animals much easier as the Workhorse could carry those 65 and 70 pound bales of hay. Prior to the Workhorse, I was toting those bales of hay to three separate pastures...one for mares and gelding, one for stud and one for sheep. Having a "ride" for the hay made my job lots easier. In the summer, it's much easier to check and fix fence lines with all tools being at hand as opposed to carrying them on several trips.

So. After considerable research, we decided to trade in our Workhorse on a Bush Hog. The Bush Hog has many features the Workhorse doesn't...4-wheel drive, larger bed, independent suspension, higher clearance. We also decided to get soft sides which cut the tremendous winds that assail the farm. This makes a incredible difference during wind chills that are below zero or greater. It gives me a place to escape the wind and allows me to safely, comfortably check my fence lines and assess if more large round hale bales are needed in the outlaying pastures.

We placed our order the Saturday before Christmas, December 22 and then the wait began. Finally, more than nine weeks later, on 26 February, the Bush Hog was delivered to our farm. But, this was only after dozens of phone calls, many “broken promises” ~the P.C. way of saying what my Mama used to call "lies"~ and a Very Long Wait During Freezing Cold Winter Weather. The local dealership was truly embarrassed over the way Bush Hog headquarters treated us. Corporate headquarters kept making excuses, kept making promises; kept saying one thing then doing...Absolutely Nothing. They kept talking about Customer Service - the New Oxymoron of the 21st century. It seems Customer Service...NOT! is the only thing most, all...?, corporations have in common anymore.

The local dealership brought our Hog on Tuesday which was a rainy, cold, freezing day with many, many mud holes, ditch lines filled with water, etc. From the looks of the Hog, not one of those ditch lines or mud holes escaped the honking big truck tires and the Hog was covered in muddy water. Somehow it didn't look so new but seemed rather like the old saying "rode hard and put away wet". It was off loaded, we were given the "here's the light switch, here's the choke, etc." tour and we took it for a drive. Hog Heaven! It was great and the soft sides almost made it too warm with temps in the upper 40's.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning and chore time. I'm up early and excitedly head to the barn, my chores and my new Hog. I pull the choke. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. I push the choke. Again, nothing, nada, zero, zilch. Sama, sama. Bad words begin floating around the edges of my consciousness. I use my walkie-talkie to call Dave and ask him to call the dealership. He does as I begin hand carrying bales of hay in this 17 degrees F above zero, wind chill below zero spitting rain/sleet/snow weather. Bad word vibes are getting stronger. Dave walkie-talkies me back and says Dealership Guy says, “pull out the choke”. I tell Dave that's been tried and found wanting. Dealership Guy says “sounds like choke is frozen”. I say, "so get down here and fix it, please." He says, “on my way” and ninety minutes later is working on the problem.

~ next entry, please, as this is an almost 2,000 word saga. ~

Blessings ~ strength to carry 65 to 76 pound bales of hay ~ strength to break frozen water in horse and sheep troughs ~ enough clothes to, reasonably, stay warm ~ hot coffee, tea and chocolate ~ no guff from the Dealership Guy ~

Bush Hog - Reliably Unreliable, Part II

Fast forward to...Dealership Guy didn't bring any tools and must return to the shop but will come back this afternoon. My smile feels frozen and I'm not sure if it's because I'm trying to remain calm or because I've been in the cold for close to four hours now. I head to the house to thaw and Dealership Guy heads to his shop; he returns later that afternoon with loads of tools and we determine

*choke is frozen due to being driven through many mud holes resulting in splash on the engine - choke must be partially left out so it can be 'mashed' down to break the ice so it can be pulled out to start the engine. I say, "fine but I'm not willing to do that; Fix The Choke". Okay, schedule a replacement choke.
*vapor lock in the fuel line - too much line means a crimp which needs to be cut off and reattached.
*heater not linked directly to the key so heater must be separately turned on and off or it will drain battery. This is So Not Very Good so please fix.

There are other "issues" but those are the ones that mean the Hog does, or doesn't, operate. If it were a piece of exercise equipment, it would now be laden with clothes and used as additional clothes hanging space.

Dealership Guy is a very nice guy who is doing a great job and is about as frustrated as I. Between the two of us, we manage to get the Hog started and running and Dealership Guy helps me with evening farm chores. I think this is because of two reasons – he’s embarrassed because our Brand New Hog appears to be a lemon and he wants to stay with the Hog until he’s sure it’s working. Eventually, he heads back to the shop and I head to the house, both of us happy which turns out to be shear ignorance of What Lies Ahead.

The next morning, not even twenty-four hours after delivery, I’m in the barn, pushing in on the Hog’s choke which was left open. This works to break the ice and choke can now be pulled out/pushed in and engine turns over and starts. HURRAH! I am SO HAPPY…again, as it turns out, ignorantly happy because I do not know What Lies Ahead. I finish chores and head to the house and call Dealership Guy to say, “Thanks! The Hog worked well this morning…meaning it started…and my chores were accomplished in relatively warmth and ease”. He’s happy, I’m happy and everyone knows when Mama’s happy, everybody is happy. Right?

In the afternoon, I head to the barn, go through my Little Choke Ritual; turn on the key and ratta tat tat tat tat tat .

WHAT THE?????

Dead Battery.

Dealership Guy gets another call. Yep, dead battery and it will be fixed before dark. I manage a smaller hurrah as my enthusiasm is waning.

The week prior to delivery, Dave called Bush Hog Corporate Headquarters in Selma, Alabama and spoke with a “Customer Service Representative” ~and I use the words loosely~ several times. Miss K. promises this, swears that, tells of many trials, tribulations and woes on her part but…Bush Hog Will Make It Right! Miss K. promises to relay messages to Management and, eventually, a VP calls. She and he must have the same script because he, essentially, promises the same… Bush Hog Will Make It Right! Ummm, that was about three weeks ago and we’ve heard nothing since.

Yeah, Yeah. I am So Not Believing This anymore. I’m beginning to doubt my “Buy American” attitude and am thinking if I can understand someone’s accent when they lie, does that make it better or worse than when I can’t understand their accent?

Okay. Less than two weeks of having this Brand New Reliably Unreliable Bush Hog and

*Bush Hog Corporate Vice President still hasn’t called us back
*Bush Hog parts are still “somewhere” in their system but Most Certainly Not On my Bush Hog
*Bush Hog still isn’t starting because choke still freezes in cold weather.

Yeah. You heard me right. Said Bush Hog is setting in the barn with choke frozen solid because I didn’t leave it halfway out yesterday morning. I forgot. So, I suppose that makes it my fault and not Bush Hog’s fault, eh?

So. Bush Hog Corporate Headquarters: If you’re reading this, come get this blasted piece of equipment and FIX IT. I don’t want it until it runs in ALL weather! Bring me a replacement. Heck. Bring back the Workhorse, at least it started No Matter What the Weather. Cold, windy, wet, snowy…the Workhorse started. Yeah. The “sexy little golf cart” started in All Manner of Weather, all day, every day. 365/24/7. The Workhorse Started.

“Bush Hog Tough” my rosy red derriere. Bush Hog Pansy is more like it.

Blessings ~ it's warmed to above freezing so maybe, just maybe the choke has unfrozen ~ we've had much moisture which helps our ground water level ~ the sun is shining ~ dry boots ~ sun glasses