Saturday, September 24, 2016

Red sky

Red sky in morning, sailor take warning,
Red sky at night, sailor's delight.

If the weather guessers are to be believed we shouldn't get much weather from the front that's passing on this, the first full day of Autumn, 2016. Some cloudiness, a little breeze, a little rain. That'll be okay, and if it's not okay, it'll still be okay, if you take my meaning.

I'm from a small farming community. There are pluses and minuses to living in a small town. Quiet, little traffic, little crime. It's hard to get scented tofu, though, and the only rabid progressives are in local government and populate the school system. And everybody knows you and knows your business. Which is a plus as well as a minus. On the plus side, no one honked or yelled at me for standing in the middle of Highway 30 at dawn and snapping a few pics. "That's just Shaun, he does that shit all the time."

The last three weeks have been anything but enjoyable. The infection near my left Achilles tendon has been tough to treat, and the healing process is taking longer than, well, longer than I'd like. The endotoxins released from the cellular battlefield make me ill and cause a lot of inflammation and irritation, thus a lot of pain. Unlike the prospective worst U.S. President in history, I'm not good at powering through the sick and hurt the way all XX'ers have done for all of time. I lack a platoon of secret squirrels to carry me around, and I lack minions, and I also lack the dozens of gubmint pseudo-physicians putting their lives and careers on hold to minister to my every sniffle and cerebral-vascular accident. Butt I digress.

Healing the infection has meant forced inactivity. The foot needs to be elevated a lot, and physical activity generally involves the foot not being elevated. So, sitting around and reading, which would be heaven, if I could forget the chores that are piling up. The mind, of course, could and should be active regardless of what the body is doing, so I really should have been writing these last 21 days and change. And my computers are all laptops, perfectly operable from the foot-up and reclined position. But the spark has been lacking. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

I haven't been completely inactive. Cattle need checking and tending to on a daily basis pretty much regardless of other considerations. It's a responsibility one cannot duck. This time of year, fortunately, the checking and tending can be done almost exclusively from the pickup.

Yesterday we moved cows from summer to fall pasture, and that was done mostly from the pickup. The journey was about five miles, the cows knew where they were going, and the dogs got to chase cows!, which they live for. It was a pretty morning, coolish and misty at the beginning but warming up and breaking into clear September skies when we finished.

The fact that celestial/calendar autumn arrived while we were moving the cattle had nothing to do with going from summer to fall pasture. The calendar only rarely lines up exactly with range conditions. We went into summer pasture on July 1, for instance, eleven days after calendar summer had arrived.

The summer pasture was holding well and would have provided good grazing until hard freeze. The fall pasture we elected to go to has been ungrazed for two years, however, and is lush with a season's full growth as well as abundant regrowth of the cool season grasses. The idea is to take advantage of that regrowth while we have the opportunity and before a hard frost arrives. Depending on what mother nature does, we could be reaping the benefit of springlike browse for some weeks to come. And the summer pasture will enjoy a few weeks, perhaps, of regeneration sans grazing pressure. Hey, presto! Rangeland management!

They really like cool season regrowth...
Under a wide and cloudy sky...
I began writing this on Friday morning (Sept. 23), but somewhere along in here I had enough pain going on that I wasn't writing very well, so most of the following was written on Saturday afternoon.

I've kept up with other bits and bobs of chores; those that don't require a lot of walking or a lot of time. One such chore is draining, cleaning and refilling stock tanks. Not much of a chore, really, and one that can be done in small bites.

Our stock tanks are  generally used heavily enough that the aquatic environment is more like a slow moving stream rather than a still pond or lake. They teem with life, including algae, microscopic single- and multi-cellular organisms, and water bugs. Cows drink about 15 gallons each day, and calves about 5-6 gallons, so there's a constant influx of fresh water to replace what the cows (and evaporation) take. Therefore, when in use for watering, the tanks never see heavy growth or blooming of algae or water plants.

That being the case, they don't really need cleaning each year. They are completely open to the environment though, and accumulate dust and tumbleweeds and other atmospheric detritus, so they do begin to silt up over time, and it's generally easier in the long run to clean them out every year.

The green stuff is a combination of silt and algae and assorted bits of "gunk"
Most of that stuff is dried algae. This one hadn't been cleaned for two years.
The drain hole from the inside. This is a bottomed or portable tank.
Drain plug and gasket. The gasket has seen better days.
Old and busted, new hotness.
It fits! And it's an o ring rather than a flat gasket. But it works.
The other (out) side of the plug.
Where the plug goes.
The plug fitting is sized for a slip-joint pliers handle. Pliers are the universal tool of  ranching.
Ta-dah! O ring seals perfectly.
Clean, shiny and ready for dihydrogen monooxide.
This is a bottomless or permanent tank. It's made of galvanized sections bolted together in a ring, laid into a base of concrete which is plumbed for drainage as well as supply.
Water is mostly drained here, but I let the gunk dry a bit more before scooping it out.
Another bottomless tank. The open pipe is the standpipe which is fitted into the drain. The standpipe opening sets the water level as overfill flows down the standpipe and into the drain. This tank had also been uncleaned for two years and has a nice growth of aquatic weeds.
This end of the standpipe screws into the drain in the concrete base of the bottomless tank.
I've just removed the standpipe and water is flowing through the drain.
Drain discharge, cleverly placed on the downhill side of the tank.
These calves have five other tanks to choose from, but they want to drink from the empty one...
And it's their lucky day, because... comes the water!
I've just replaced the standpipe, using the other universal ranching tool, the pipe wrench.
And that's another annual chore complete.

Earlier today (Saturday) I attended the 90th Annual Farmers' Day parade. Hope to throw up some pics and vids and a complete recap tomorrow. Or so. Depends on a couple of things. Whether I'm pain-free-ish enough for one. And whether I'm in the proper mood, or can force myself into the proper mood. Part of that last may depend on how well the Huskers play tonight.

Hope this finds you all well and enjoying early autumn.


  1. Hang in there, and I hope you get better soon.

    1. Thanks Juvat. I will, just not as fast as I'd like. Not that nature worries much about my preferences!

  2. Be well Shaun. Rest when you can, hoping for a full recovery soon!

    1. Thanks Sarge. Some of this sucks but I'm overwhining quite a bit too.

  3. Hope you heal up soon. Thanks for the reminder of some good memories of cleaning tanks with the kids. I put gold fish/mosquito fish in most of our tanks to keep down the bugs and such... but, we don't live where it gets as cold.

    1. Thanks Brig. My grandpa used to stock the tanks with goldfish; they'd get big and seemed to survive the winters pretty well. I've tried a few times but never with any luck. Maybe next year.

    2. Don't fish die in galvanized tanks? On my Grampa's dairy farm in MN, the stock tanks were concrete.

    3. Not in my limited experience. It is somewhat common to populate stock tanks with fish and I know folks who do. Never heard of a problem with fish in galvanized tanks.

  4. Did the pipe come with a curved handle? Do you carry slip joint pliers, fencing pliers and a Stilson wrench in each truck? I know that tools tend to accumulate in my truck.

    1. Yep, that wrench is an antique and might even be valuable. My favorite pipe wrench. Always funny when I have a need to transport a human passenger and it takes 20 minutes to relocate enough tools for them to have a place to perch. Nothing worse than having to go fetch a tool in the middle of a job. The onboard tool value exceeds the vehicle value in all cases.