My first time away from the farm in 3 years and it didn't quite turn out how I planned. I had to go by myself and leave Diana the hard task of tending the farm. Having a farm it's almost impossible to just leave. She took on a lot of work for me to get a very much needed break. Getting lost in the mountain, I truly thought I wasn't going to make it through the night yet I strangely would do it all over again. I also didn't realize just how expensive it is to go into the forest and pretend your homeless. Camping isn't very cheap anymore. You have gas to get there. The road I wanted to go up cost $20 just to enter the area then the campground cost $20 per night. It's not legal to collect wood out of the mountain even though its laying everywhere on the ground. Instead you have to buy tiny hobbit bundles of split wood that cost about $1 per half log. Yeah.. don't tell anyone but I gathered my own wood ; ) Then of course you need to buy your supplies (ice, drinks, food, fish bait etc...) and if you want to fish that's gonna cost you too for a fishing licence. I spent hundreds on this trip.
A little of my background since this adventure is going to make it look like I never been camping before. I learned a lot of new lessons this trip. Ever since I got my licence at 16 I would spend all my free time camping up at Grand Lake, sometimes for two weeks at a time so fishing, hiking and survival is something I thought I new almost everything about. I always watch all those shows like Bear Grylls, Survivor man and the new show Naked and Afraid. Well this time I was Naked and Afraid but with clothes and some survival gear. :p I am one of those people that if you put me on a trail I always want to see whats behind that next corner and never want to turn back. So I have always wanted to climb Indian Peaks at Grand Lake since I was a kid. It's a 2 to 3 day hike straight up a mountain. Now as far as backwoods pack camping I can admit now that it's a whole different animal and I didn't plan on doing so in the end.
Now the reality that I didn't want to admit is I'm now 37 years old and plagued with medical problems. The worst being chronic migraines and heart problems. Now that veteran soldier in me always keeps me thinking I can do anything and hike up any mountain and I wanted to put all those problems away and prove it to myself. Now If you read my blog below this one, I was really discouraged to make the trip up there after the first hour of leaving. I had a migraine hit on the highway and new I needed a place to sleep it off. It was late at night so I pulled into an open space park I knew of since I knew no truck stops were close. I drove in looking for any sign with park hours and there was none so i figured I was safe. I never go to the mountain unarmed and this park was pitch black so I took my migraine "preventative" medicine which makes me black out a half hour after taking it. It was pitch black there so I put one in the chamber of my 9mm and left it on the console just in case someone was to sneak up on my truck. This didn't go over well when a cop pulled up on me at 2am and said I was trespassing. I told him the truth that I wanted to get off the road and take my medications doing the right thing. He took my gun of course and told me I could have received a DUI if it was any other cop. I had to crouch by my bumper of my truck with three cop cars and their blinding spotlights shining on me while waiting for Diana to come pick me up. I had to wait till morning for a ride back to my truck to start the trip all over again. It's crap that you can get a DUI for prescriptions sleeping in your truck doing it the right way. This was just problem one encountered.
So the next morning I was back on the road and this time I wasn't stopping until I got to the campground. Grand Lake always felt like my second home since I was a child. It's up past Winter Park. I pulled into the lake and I was just devastated. Pine beetles have killed almost the entire area. The trees were all dead, cut down and the water level was so low. It looked like someone Nuked the whole place. My favorite old campsite was now a desert. It damn there put a tear in my eye. I had to come up with a new plan because I now didn't want to hike that mountain. This turned out to be a good thing. I slept that night in my truck to go find a new home the next day. Early in the morning a campground host was knocking on my window saying I didn't pay. I told him my plan and offered to pay for the night but he saw my truck laced with Nine Inch Nails stickers and as a fellow fan he told me not to worry about paying. Whats the chances of that lol.
I pulled myself together and headed up Trail Ridge Road which is the highest paved road in the U.S. I have traveled that whole road before and I gotta say you will white knuckle your steering wheel the whole way up. The drop offs are just insane and you can literally find yourself in clouds that crawl up the mountain side. The top is insanely cold even in August. Now I didn't go up that high and chose a campground I ran across that wasn't the most ideal since they cut down trees too but I only planned to sleep there and hike during the day. First big mistake right off the bat. Pulling in I saw a herd of deer and elk just through the trees. Like a moron I park, jump out the truck with my camera thinking I could get a video from behind the herd. After getting on their path I soon realized the whole herd was spread out. I now found myself right in the middle of deer and an elk staring me down and coming towards me. I then reach for my 9mm protection realizing it was still in my truck! I backed my dumb ass up slowly and that seemed to make the buck happy. The herd finished going by and I made my way back to the truck. (Won't do that again)
I then found me a campground. I originally planned to just sleep in my truck but it was a tent sight so I set up home base in a tent. The campground host warned that a bear had been through recently and to be sure and lock my food up. (I never sleep with food in my tent but hearing about a bear wasn't comforting) Now at this point my medical problems hit. I was so sick I did nothing but sleep in my tent for 2 days. The pain was so bad and I have this new condition where if I eat a meal my stomach just cramps so hard, I get dizzy and pass out. I fell down into my tent and slept with my feet hanging out. This now made me question my abilities to go on the long hikes I wanted to. After those two days I decided not to eat anything and this is when I can actually do things. It's awful because I get so hungry and know I can't eat but I wasn't about to waste my time making it this far. I was on a mission!
Now mind you camping this high up in elevation in a tent can really suck. Especially if your in a populated campground and you camp a football field distance away from the nearest bathrooms. This is when a gatoraid bottle becomes a guys biggest friend in the middle of the night if you know what I mean. Now this don't help when you wake in the morning after a night of the greatest camping junk food like hot dogs. You throw your shoes on and fear has already kicked in. You unzip the tent and see that bathroom so far off and people are cooking breakfast all around you. You try to think of anything else but how bad your stomach is hurting to no avail. I call it "walking the mile." You don't want to run with an audience and it feels like your walking down a hallway in a horror movie where the hallway keeps getting longer. Then you pray that the bathroom is also not occupied. I know you all have been there at some point in life ; ) Not to mention it's so cold up their you sleep in so many layers to keep warm at night it takes a half hour just to layer up for bed. I even slept in my farm coveralls. Day time highs were so low I never took my long john pants off.
Another thing I wanted to mention. As I laid in my tent so much I could hear all the dads yelling at their kids constantly. This really depressed me since my dad used to do the same thing. I don't know why people take their kids camping and yell at them for not knowing how to camp. It's just not a fun family trip doing that.
Now here is where the real "fun" happens. I didn't eat breakfast now on day 3 and I felt great. So now I'm loading up my "Pro" hiking backpack. I always hike prepared for the worst since I always love to just go off trail and follow the Colorado River and you don't pass any people. I know If I stayed by the river I wouldn't get lost. I put a map in the dash of my truck with my destination - "Lulu City" an old abandoned mining town, with the date I left just in case. Now here is another mistake. I packed 5 water bottles and 5 beer bottles. Don't hike with beer! I could have fit more water, had a clear head and not had such a heavy pack that made it feel like a torture device.
So I had a map that showed a trail along the river from the campsite to my destination. I later found out that this trail didn't exists! I was hiking in grasses sometimes as high as my chest, up rocks and through trees along the river thinking eventually the trail will show up. I even ran across one couple looking for the same trail. They were the only people I saw and I kept going enjoying those stupid beers out of my pack. I was having a blast and taking pictures along the way.
I then came around a corner and crossed path with a Moose that was nursing her baby. I know Moose can be dangerous, especially a nursing Moose. She stomped and snorted at me and my heart started racing. This was the only time I ever had to pull my gun in fear ever. Once again I backed away slowly and this made her happy. I then had to take some photos of course :p I then circled around her and continued only to find Bear poop and an evident spot in the grass crushed where it had slept. I never seen so much big game camping in my life.
I left early in the morning without any food in me so I could make the journey. Miles later I'm now just flat out starving so I started chewing on wheat grass but this just wasn't going to cut it. I saw some beaver ponds across the river with fish jumping and I brought a collapsible fishing pole. Now I'm on a mission to cross the Colorado River by means of a fallen tree. I've done this many times in life but never with a 60 pound pack on my back and now 4 beers in me. Yeah... I face planted in the river. Somehow I managed to keep my boots dry but my top half was good and wet now. The boots could have been a problem had they got wet. I made my way to the beaver pond and strung up my pole. My first cast of course ended up stuck in the tree right behind me! Now I had to re-string again. This time I get my pole in the water. Now mind you I hate any food that comes out of water. Fish and sea food just grosses me out. At this point I'm so hungry I'm ready to try new things. I could have bit the head off a live fish Bear Grylls style I was so hungry.
Enter a major problem. I'm fishing and enjoying myself. I then look over at the high mountain and see the sun is just a half inch from the top!!! I had been hiking all day not paying attention to the time. I never look at my cell phone at this point because there is no reception. Now a little panic has set in. I didn't plan to sleep in the deep woods but now I had no choice but to find a bed and find it fast. About now I'm regretting my decision to leave my sleeping bag behind thinking I was going to be back. I made my way through the woods fast looking for any shelter. I thought of tying myself up in a tree with rope I had until it crossed my mind that bears and cats can climb trees. My biggest worry after seeing bear poo was the bears. After trekking through the trees I noticed way to many mosquitoes. I then made my way back to the river knowing moving water would be less mosquitoes and sure enough.
Soon I found a huge downed tree with dead branches all over it pictured below. First thing I looked for was any animal tracks or poo by the river, looked for any ants under the tree and all was good. I started popping the biggest dead branches i could find and laid them over both sides of the tree. I knew if I could break the branches then a bear certainly could but at least I would have a fighting chance. I then started striping pine needle branches off a tree to cover the logs and also make a pine needle bed under it. Now darkness has set in and I'm still not done. I pull out my headlight - flashlight from my pack only to find it has been on for who knows how long and dying. Luckily I packed a second flashlight. Jumping over downed trees I almost ripped my arm open on a broke branch. It then dawned on me that a first aid kit will be packed next time... Oh lord what a night.
So now my bed is made. I ran down from my "camp" and hung my fish bait in a tree then headed back. I sit by the river in the moon light and I am just in awe at how beautiful it was. The sights and the sound of the river were just breath taking. At this point I was in heaven. Hell hit when I started hearing animal noises out in the pitch black woods. It was then i became as paranoid as watching a scary movie by yourself in the dark. I shinned my flashlight all over looking for every noise i heard, like a horror movie. Now I'm thinking I should probably get in my newly made "Man Cave." I push my pack in and squeeze in the tight space. Then I pull the big branches over my entrance and drag the pine needle branches over. Then I realize just how many spiders were in there. I smashed the ones that tried to drop down on me then just gave up on them thinking they are the least of my worries.
The temperature is dropping rapidly and I dig in my bag throwing on my two balaclava hats, gloves and the one sweatshirt I had. Still freezing I pull out the "emergency blanket" I had in it's tiny package. I soon find out it's just thin folded up tin foil! It took me a half hour just to unfold and it sounded like I was putting myself in a human chip bag for the bears. The directions said to cover yourself, your head and assume the fetal position. The part they left off at the end was "because your now going to die since you didn't start a fire the last half hour!" I wanted to start a fire and had the gear to do so but i didn't think with my shelter it would be that bad plus I didn't want to start no forest fire. Now I could have made a fire safely by the water but that wasn't close enough to my shelter.
Ok.... I'm still hearing weird animal noises and the temperature keeps dropping. I put one in the chamber of my gun and put it right by my right hand with the safety on. I then take my migraine preventative meds that black me out and try to go to sleep. I did sleep for a few hours and woke up to something crawling above me on my shelter. I reach at my gun and make a fake cough. Then it was silent again. Now I am flat out freezing to death. I sunk down off my pine needle bed into a deeper hole in my shelter and am so balled up I can't move still trying to keep the tin foil over my head. Now here is where I look back and think I was going hypothermic. My camera battery was dead so I sadly made a "death text" just in case I didn't make it saying goodbye to everyone and saved it in my drafts. I really didn't think it was going to turn out good. I was down in this hole with my head on a branch never moving the whole night except for the constant hard core shivering. Not once did I think of the rain coat in my back pack, using my back pack to cover me or even just get up and make a fire. I just kept thinking I just wanted to go to sleep and all will be better. That's a key sign when you just want to sleep that something is wrong. It was low 30's according to my thermometer.
During the night I had a dream that the sun was rising and I woke up. I pulled the tin foil off my head only to see darkness and almost cried. I was right back to sleep. Soon I woke again seeing light and thought I was dreaming again. The sun was finally rising! It was butt ass cold still but just seeing light gave me so much energy thinking "I made it!" I went down by the river and smoked so many cigarettes waiting for that full sun. While sitting there i looked across the river and up the hill and kept seeing color moving now and then beyond the trees. Then it hit me... those are people! You gotta be kidding me. I was both happy and mad. The trail I had been looking for was across the river and up the mountain! I got my pack together and found another log to cross the river then climbed the hill looking for those people. I then found the path and the biggest sense of relief warmed over me.
I finally got on the path. Thank God! Now I faced a dilemma Do I give up and go home or complete my journey? I'm a hard headed Vet. Their is no stopping now... not after what I just went through. I finally found a sign on the trail that said 4 miles to Lulu City. Absolutely drained from the night it was the hardest 4 miles ever but I made it! So now reality hits me. I have to hike back to camp.... oh crap... I don't want to sleep out here again! I do an inventory and i only have 2 water bottles left and 1 beer. I start the trek back thinking if I have to I will just try to find a way to boil river water but until then I have to ration. I also had one can of chicken noodle soup on me that I had been saving. I told myself I'm not eating it until I know I'm at least half way "home."
Going back on the path was so hard. I got so thirsty and at this point I'm moving as fast as I can with my huge ass pack on my back. My left arm was completely limp and messed up so much so I couldn't lift it past my chest and I had a huge knot on my head all from sleeping cramped and fetal all night never moving. I would take the smallest drinks and just swish it around and push on. I passed so many more Moose I could care less at this point. At this point could I have asked for help? Yeah but I'm a stupid guy and on a mission. I finally found the main road and parking points with maps. First I looked for water and there was none. I was crushed. Then I looked on the parking lot map for the trail that was supposed to lead me back to camp and it didn't exists on those maps! Now I figured I just have to follow the road back for the safest bet never sticking my thumb out. I followed the road until ..... You guessed it.... rain clouds! The rain moved in fast. Making my way through the woods again I'm looking for any cover. Only thing I could find was a grove of huge trees to hide behind. Luckily the rain didn't last long but at this point I ripped that chicken noodle soup open and scraped it out with my fingers. It was the best tasting cold soup in the world!
Now the rain has stopped and the journey continues. Following the road I look down the hill and find the STUPID trail I had been looking for! I had a long and steep hill to get down to get there. I gotta admit that Bear Grylls show taught me how to slide down a hill like that feet first. Now I'm on the trail home! You bet your butt this is when I cracked that final beer. Little did I know I still had miles to go. Now I know I traveled 15 miles checking maps. Half of which was hard terrain with no path. While making my last stretch I'm walking the trail and people above were pulled over on the road above taking pictures of another stupid moose that I was walking by :p A police officer yelled down the hill telling me "don't bother the moose!" I told him "I have seen enough... I'm just walking the trail." I then asked if this was the trail back to camp to make sure and he said yes. This comes into play soon.
I walk and I walk and soon my legs start to feel like jello and my back is toast from that pack. I had no idea how much further to camp. I came to this steep hill and I swear I could only take baby steps up it taking multiple breaks. Once I crested that hill I could see camp! My truck looked like a tiny red dot but I knew I made it. I hiked into the campground only to be met by the campground host in a golf cart. He asked if I was Ken and immediately I thought i was in trouble again. The campers next to me told the host that I never came back and the host called the police. They apparently searched everything in my tent and saw my note in the windshield. Everyone in the campground was staring at me like I was some kind of circus freak. The host offered me a ride back to my tent and I refused. I said "I'm gonna finish this... my walking stick has a lot of miles on it." He told me the cops are going to want to talk to me. I'm thinking "oh great, just what I need.... more cops!"
I made it back to my truck.. I grabbed two beers out of my cooler after guzzling water and one can of spaghetti-o's out of my truck thinking I will just wait for the cops before I eat. (STARVING!) Here's a kicker. The same cop that yelled at me on the trail was the one that was supposed to be looking out for me. He showed up and made sure I was ok. I guess if I didn't make it back when I did a search party was coming the next day. I showed him my campground map and asked about the trail. He told me the trail was wiped out by a landslide and didn't exists anymore. I told him "Someone needs to change this map! It's going to get someone killed." Typical government .. he said i have nothing to do with the maps. I'm thinking ..."Ok, just go away so I can eat my spaghetti-o's."
So as good as my luck has been going nothing else can happen right? I struggle with a bic lighter and get a fire going. Woo Hoo! More rain moves in and the wind is so bad I have to pour water on the fire putting it out. So the weather passes. I get my water logged fire going again and now I realize my "precious" which is what I called my canned food while waiting in my tent was not a pull top lid! Now i'm searching for my can opener... Ok I found it. Problem is that the can opener is some kind of rubicks cube device that kept me trying to figure it out for a half hour trying to stay calm. Finally I got fed up. Now I go for the hatchet in my truck and whack that bastard. I then use my leather-man to pry the lid back and plop the can in the coals of the fire. Yeah I could have eaten it cold but I wanted a warm meal after all that. It was now 7pm. I collapsed in my tent and suddenly didn't need as many clothes. Maybe because I lived like an Eskimo the night before.
The very next morning I packed my shit up. "I'm outta here." I wanted to get home before anything else bad happened to me and besides that I had realized camping just isn't as fun without Diana anyway. I knew that before my 2 day episode of Naked and Afraid. The craziest thing is the day after getting home, I'm happily out taking care of the animals. I reach in our dark duck coop for the eggs and put my hand right on a rattle snake. The only reason I didn't get bit is because he had a mouthful of egg. I'm starting to think there is some Final Destination shit going on here.
So who wants to go camping? Funny thing is, I don't regret it and want to go back. I feel like in a small way I did something I always wanted to do, just less prepared than I wanted. It's an eye opening experience just how small you are in the vast wilderness and when that sun came up I felt like nothing else matters. The beauty you see up there far out-ways everything. I never get tired of the mountains here and now I want to take my boy and teach him some skills.
Where to begin? First off don't start a farm if you ever want to go out and do something fun. It's been 3 years since either of us has had a vacation, working 7 days a week in all types of weather. It's almost impossible for someone to take over your animal duties. Working so hard this summer I didn't want to miss another camping season. Nothing makes me happier than being out in the wild away from it all.
There is this place I have always wanted to pack into by foot making it up to the continental divide at Grand Lake, Bear Grylls style since I was 16. I want to take the family with but just working out the animal logistics leaves me to go on my own in my beater truck with no heat but I was determined to do it. Truck loaded and this is wear the fun begins. I feel like I'm stuck in the Hangover Part 2 with no hangover at the moment.
So here is how it went down. I left late in the night to avoid traffic. Shortly after leaving another one of my severe migraines kicked in. Now I just needed a place to sleep it off and take my meds. I stopped at a gas station and a taco bell thinking if I stay here they will probably just call the cops. So I knew of a place we always go to called Greenland Open Space. It was my goal just to make it there so I could take my nightly meds and not have to drive medicated. Now where I was going to camp in Granby, we have had bears scratching on our tent before so of course I was armed with a 9mm hand gun and some rifles. When I pulled into the open space park, I looked for signs that would say it's closed at certain hours and they don't exists so I figured this is a good place. The nearest truck stop was far away. Now this place I stopped at is pitch black at night and thinking of my own safety I put one in the chamber of my hand gun and set it on the floor console not wanting to get caught off guard to someone breaking my window while I sleep.
I kicked and squirmed for hours with my leather belt around my head serving as a tourniquet as usual. It really helps the pain. When I fall asleep the belt either falls off or falls down around my neck. I was soon woken by 3 police cars all with their spotlights and headlights shining brighter than the bat signal directly at me. Now they woke me from a dead sleep, had blinding lights, I still had a migraine, It was freezing cold in just a t-shirt and I was nervous but the reaction to all that made them say and think I was intoxicated.
Luckily the officer was understanding and didn't charge me with a DUI even though he said "I could even if my keys were out of the car. The only thing to prevent a DUI would have been to set my tent up next to the truck then he would charge me with trespassing." I just wanted to sleep off a migraine responsibly! I know it probably didn't look good with a loaded gun, bag off pills and a belt around my neck. He actually called Diana to verify what I use my belt for and make sure I wasn't trying to kill myself.
I had to sit by my bumper and ask permission to get a drink out of my truck while waiting in the cold with blinding lights shining on me for Diana to come pick me up at 2am. (I was not even intoxicated in any way!) Now I sit here waiting for her to get off work so we can make another hour drive to get the truck they made me leave at the park. Now I don't even want to make the camping trip after all that. The migraines are not going to stop and I guess I'm not allowed to drive.
So. The farm wont let you leave! you can try but it will bring you back. Instead of setting up camp I watched the sun come up with no sleep and been back to milking, mucking barns and turd herding chicken crap.
It's just so hard to get away... especially get away together. I'm on my way out soon to see if I can make it to camp none the less. What a pain!
Before I start I would like to state that we are not "crazy country gun nuts." I have never owned a gun other than a .22 rifle that my now deceased grandfather bought and had engraved for me when I was born. Though I often shot an M-16 assault rifle and played with sidewinder missiles during my military career. I never bought bullets for my passed down .22 rifle having a young boy and didn't want to take the chance of becoming the statistic of an accidental child death. All our guns have been handed down except for one that we bought at auction.
It wasn't until my time in Florida during the year of weekly hurricanes -- so many so, they had to start the alphabet over for new storm names. This was also the year of Katrina. Being so close to New Orleans we heard of all the horror stories of rapes, murders, looting's and violent attacks. It was then that I decided to buy my first bullets but still luckily never had the need to shoot the gun until starting our farm. And I hope not to offend anyone, have any dislikes or attacks for saying all this but I think things should be cleared up from a farmers perspective on the issue.
You may or may not have heard that the government is spending millions creating the largest stock pile of ammo in history. Why? I have my own opinion of why and I will keep that to myself but I think it may be obvious. For the last month I have been on the hunt at multiple stores searching for bullets but only shot gun shells are available and, otherwise, the shelves are empty. An employee at Big-R told me he hasn't seen any .9 mm or .22 bullets in over a month. The shelves everywhere are empty because the government now owns all the bullets.
In the city people like to own weapons for self defense You may have heard recently in the news a lady was raped after the 911 operator told her they couldn't send any police and suggested she just "ask him to leave". This was due to lack of man power because of budget cuts in the police department. I can't help but wonder if she had a weapon to protect herself would it have turned out different but what if she couldn't find bullets for it?
Now in the country , why do we farmers need weapons way out here? Most important is we are way out here! I needed the cops once for a neighbors dogs chewing on all my birds. Not wanting to kill someone's pets, I fired warning shots and it didn't faze them. I then shot both of them in the back leg to give them a chance to make it back to their family despite all my dead animals. The police didn't show up for 3 hours! I had these poor dogs howling in pain this whole time and it took animal control another 2 hours to show up. Then I had to help them out in the dark round them up. Now I have been extensively trained on weapons far more powerful that what I currently own. I know proper gun safety and even took marksman in the military. So I find it an insult that I have to pay the government for a concealed license permit which can take a year to get plus pay for a gun safety class when the government already put an M-16 machine gun and laser guided bombs in my hands at age 19. I refuse to do it. I'm not trying to brag at all, I'm just trying show we are not all amateurs.
We hear coyotes out here every night howling and I have never lost an animal one to anything other than neighbor dogs. Just 4 days ago I was milking our goats and out of no where a Rottweiler showed up chasing birds and scaring the crap out of my goats. I immediately let my goats loose and started yelling at the Rott. It then turned on me. If you never had to back away from a Rottweiler ready to attack... you wouldn't know how your blood gets pumping. He killed only one bird luckily while I ran in to grab our 30-30 which has bullets that could take down a buffalo and a scope that can see craters on the moon. My soft side made me only take a warning shot then have a talk with yet another neighbor. This kind of stuff greatly affects our farm. Not only do you loose your loved animals but the first incident scared them so bad they stopped laying eggs for months affecting our business. Not to mention the danger to myself. I don't get mad at the dogs. I get mad at the owners. The dogs are just being dogs. Now a dog that will attack people is a different story. My boy is out their working all the time.
Moving on to the wild life issue. With all the feed that gets randomly spread in the yard from chickens billing out their food and a hay stack priced at $2,000 you sometimes unfortunately have to thin out the problem. You can't stop it but you can control it. The rabbits were chewing all the strands off our hay bales that hold them together also pooping and peeing on the goat hay. Now the chicken feed brought in a infestation of Kangaroo Mice. I spent three days out late at night armed with my .22 rifle and a flashlight taped too it. I counted 136 of these large bodied mice in just three days and it's finally under control. Thankfully it wasn't rats. They will get on the roost and chew on your chickens feet. Keep in mind I don't like killing any animals (especially cute bunnies) but when you run a farm it's just something that has to be done for the heath of your loved animals and to save all that expensive feed.
I take gun safety very seriously. I have trained my boy to shoot and respect the power and consequences that comes with holding a weapon. He has always cleared his weapon and never pointed it anywhere but the ground or his target. I gotta say the kid might be a better shot than me at age 16. I feel better that he too can protect himself when left home alone and know he can now be trusted. He has shot bigger guns than me including the .50 caliber sniper rifle pictured above. That thing is a monster!
And now the government has made protecting ourselves with our own weapons a "non-option." My old .22 rifle my grandfather handed down to me... that, in my opinion shoots high powered pellets, is illegal. This is because It holds 15 rounds in the barrel. Not a high capacity magazine and I can't change that. As of now I can't even hand it down to my son unless he gets a background check. I just want to run my farm. Not take my pellet gun to a theater and flip out. Those insane people will get bigger guns without getting the government's permission either way.
I don't understand why this problem is not getting media attention. People that live in Alaska have bigger ammo needs for protection from bears and countless other dangers. This is just getting out of hand. We are simply farmers and not crazy country gun nuts. We value the life of all animals. We also certainly realized we can't count on the police to get here in time to protect us. It's the responsibility of everyone to be prepared to protect their own family as soon as the danger presents itself. Just be sure to know proper gun safety, train and even take a class if you need to. There are too many consequences if you use one improperly and let's face it... The country is just getting crazy with all that has been going on.
Here is a blog with some cool videos from our trip to Dragon Man's Machine gun shoot out. He's the most armed man in America and even he is being "disarmed." He is having to ration bullets out to customers now. http://www.lilbitfarms.com/1/post/2011/09/fun-with-guns-at-dragon-mans-shooting-range-machine-gun-shoot-out.html
Auction season is coming and it’s a great way to save a buck on everything you could imagine. Ever wanted to go to an auction but don’t know what to expect and feel intimidated? We will tell you what to expect plus some tips and tricks we have learned. Just don’t bid against us after reading this :p While we are not pro’s we have some years of experience to share. When we went to our very first farm auction we were confused on how everything worked so we spent most of our first auction just watching and feeling things out. By the end we were already bidding on items.
The first hurdle is trying to understand the auctioneer. Each auctioneer has their own style of speaking but once you have listened enough it gets easier to understand them. They have so much to sell and they want to move things along fast. If it’s ever not clear you can always ask the auctioneer what the price is up to. Being farmers we mostly attend the Farm Estate auctions for things we can use on our own farm. Plus these old farms tend to be great places to find the best deals on all kinds of antiques, farm tools and old time memorabilia.
Unless you are buying one of these antiques for yourself they can prove to be hard to re-sell unless you have an outlet to do so. So be careful there. We have scored some great purchases such as an old 1960 Schwinn bicycle for just $7 and turned it around for $100 while some stuff is still sitting here a year later. Diana thought I was crazy bidding on a beat up bike but I knew Schwinn’s are very collectible and no one else was biting on it. The list of finds could go on and on. We won a great two stall horse trailer for just $350 having nothing wrong with it, also a brand new kerosene heater that sells at home depot for $150 at the price of $7 yet again. You can find building materials dirt cheap as well. It all depends on what the crowd is looking to bid on. We often see trailers full of boxes that they will sell a box at a time. You never know what’s hidden in there unless you got there early and looked through them all. We have bought these boxes for just $2 to find things like a collectible $100 Polaroid camera in the bottom in mint condition.
At first we felt guilty paying little for things we knew were worth so much more. The worst case is someone is loosing the farm but if we were not there to get the bids higher they would make less, this is the best way to look at it. Most of these auctions are from people retiring in the best case scenario.
Some tips we have learned:
It’s always good to get to know your auctioneer and make small talk in his down time. Frequent one auctioneer's events often. They switch off at the mike for much needed breaks. Our favorite is this great older man named Skeeter who was a dairy farmer in his younger years. He tends to give us good tips and likes to see us there.
Check the auctioneer's website in advance. Most of them will list the bigger items that will be at the sale which gives you a chance to research what’s a good price using the internet. If you have mobile internet to look things up at the auction, that’s even better. We have seen situations like someone overpaying by $200 when the same rifle could have been delivered to your house brand new. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.
Get there early when they open up for an early viewing before the auction starts. It’s best to go with a friend or your wife since some auctions run two rings. If you see something you're interested in be sure to flip switches, pull cords and look for any signs that it’s broken. They always tell you “If it was broke when it got here it will still be broke when you get it home.” There are no guarantees. We have had our share of broken purchases and it’s not always the auctioneer's fault. It’s the owners fault for not being honest on broken stuff. There is so much stuff they can’t possibly test it all. Now on bigger purchases such as vehicles n such they will at least start it up but there are no test drives. Don’t always take the auctioneer's word for it when they describe a certain item. They can’t possibly know everything they are holding and it could turn out to be a common cheap item.
Be sure you’re not bidding against your partner. I know this sounds funny but it does happen when the auction is flying and you're not standing next to each other. It is good to go with a partner. Sometimes they will run two rings all day. One ring might be antiques and home furnishings while the other could be more tools and equipment. Most auctioneers will stop the two rings and go to one ring for bigger ticket items such as vehicles and guns.
Stake out your next target and get a good visual spot. If you're not interested in what they are currently auctioning, move down the row to what you want and hold your ground so you can be right up front ahead of the crowd. I always write down my purchases to make sure I don’t forget to get anything at the end and also keep track of how much I’m spending. It can feel much like gambling and winning but you’re really spending money. Often my boy is there helping and will either put things in a pile or in the truck. You can do this. They do have people watching to make sure nothing gets stolen and we have never had anything turn up missing from our pile.
Bring cash or check. There is sometimes a percentage charge on your total purchase to use a credit or debit card. Some auctions only take cash or check.
The weather doesn’t always matter. We stood our ground in a blowing sand storm thinking most people would probably leave and we would get better deals. They must have been thinking the same thing since the crowd never lessened. However if you stay all day till the very end, most people leave and then you can score on the leftovers. Some auctions turn out to take all day and I know by the end my back is killing me. Most people don’t stay all day.
The most important tip is when you decide to bid, bid hard and fast. Have a number in your head that your going to stop at but don’t let the other bidders know your hesitant and close to giving up. I always bid fast which leads people to think you’re not going to give in and you want it, then at the last minute if the price is too high I also cut out fast. It’s good to watch the other bidders and see if they are hesitating and looking uncomfortable. It’s much like playing poker. On this note, keep in mind that there are auction veterans there and have their own tricks and can pick up on yours. Don’t let other bidders intimidate you. I have had some get mad because I would bid on one thing after another. Just remember you're not there to make friends and they won’t remember you anyway. If it’s something you want, don’t back down because someone is mad. Some auctions have pockets too deep and others are a total score. The size of the crowd doesn’t always matter.
I hope this information helps and the best thing is to just go and see how they work until you're comfortable bidding. It may sound like a lot of things to know but when you're there all this will just come naturally the more you go. It makes for a great and fun day out as well.
I don't know what happened this year but you would think we are a bunny farm. The wild bunnies have multiplied like gremlins dunked in water. At first we thought it would be cute to feed the ones under our deck. Now they sit there inches away every morning while I have a coffee wiggling their evil noses at me. Everywhere you look is a bunny with no fear. They laugh at us. Luckily we don't have a huge garden yet.
We have to check under our car before leaving. You would think they would run when it starts but nope. Every time our T.V. blacks out I see that evil bunny face. They chewed through our Satellite wires and I have yet to fix them. I was under my truck the other day doing an oil change and two of them came under to see if I needed a hand. Either that or they wanted to pull the jack stands.
The latest act of terrorism: We have a huge pile of Hay bales under our car port and I dolly a couple at a time to the goat barn as I need them. They have decided now to chew all the strings off almost every bale that keeps them together.
Just the other day I was re-stacking some hay and one was just sitting on a hay bale staring at me with those cold black eyes. I couldn't resist. I tried to pick him up but as I got inches away he scurried off. Probably a good thing now that I think of it. He probably would have chewed my hand off like a pit bull. So here is a tribute to my new friends. If you can't beat em. Keep trying to beat em.
We put this stuff destined for the trash back to use. Most of the stuff you see we found on Craig's List for free or dirt cheap.
We ran across this rusty old beat up shed with missing doors and a rotten pallet floor. Out here on the farm we look for any way to save money and keep a "junk" pile from our findings until a use for it finally hits me. I have had stuff sit in that pile for a year until finding an idea or need for it. Being resourceful can keep you from becoming "farm poor" buying everything new and you also keep stuff out of the landfill ; )
I first started with the floor using old rail road ties and some new OSB wood for the base and floor. I then put the rusty old shed down on it screwing it into the floor and the wall of the house. I then fashioned my own replacement doors with OSB and old rocking chair leg pieces for the door handles. After getting it in working order I then use paint-able silicone to seal out any water then used spray can primer on it. We finished it off with some old fence slats painted white to give it a design, a sliding door latch and then used the paint we used on the house to finish it off. Even the river rock on the ground around it was free on Craig's List. Of course we had to rake and shovel it onto our trailer from someones landscape but it was well worth it.
In the final picture I then took an old shipping crate, slapped some paint on it, some hinged top doors and now we have a nice box to hold our split firewood for those snowy days. The walkway just in front of it is the bottom part of an old sturdy shipping crate. Part of the fun is to just go with an idea and see what happens. It all turned out like it was meant to be there and we use it everyday ; ) (Click images to enlar
I hope to add more projects we have done around the farm in the future and thought I would start with this one. I usually don't have a plan when I'm building these things. I just pick up the tools and see what happens. The free section on Craig's List can make for some great finds. Also we go to a lot of farm auctions and find great deals.
Truck toppers can be a quick and easy housing and shelter for pigs and chickens if you want to keep things cheap. We have 4 truck toppers in the yard. Three of which we left the way they are so the chickens can spread out to dry areas during those snow days. The one in the pictures below I decided to soup it up a bit. My only regret was using cheap OSB wood. Plywood would have been better to last longer. I popped out the side windows and made a nest box on each side that can be accessed from an outside hatch. Added two windows that prop open on the sides with hardware cloth. Also added a heat lamp that we only use when we have young baby chicks and it serves as a great brooder. You can also stack hay bales on it for added insulation.
In the end I did paint it green helping the wood last longer. We landed the four truck toppers for just $2 a piece. No one else wanted them and we saw some potential in them.
Getting your girls a baby on board sticker can be a strategic pain in the butt. Though many of you may already know this info, I thought I would share our experiences. With each passing year the does need to be "freshened" in order to get their milk production back up high. This can be a real pain if you don't have your own buck. For most, it's just not cost effective to own your own breeding buck unless you plan to stud him out for a $50 date night and you know he's at top quality show standards.
In case you haven't seen a buck in "Rut," all I can say is their is a good reason the devil is depicted as a goat. Now a neutered male is total opposite. They make the best and most docile pet if that is all you want. To own a buck you can't have just one. Goats are herd animals and don't do well alone. So now you have two bucks to feed for just one breeding season a year. They also need separate housing a good distance away from you and the does because their smell can taint your does' milk if you're in the milk business. Every time we take a doe to be bred we have to feed the milk to the chickens until the smell gets out of their system or about 3 days.
When bucks are in Rut they make their own "perfume." They pee on their own faces and somehow this gets them the girls. Kinky, I know :p The smell is awful and if it gets on your hands you will smell it all day. The bucks are much like that drunk guy in the bar that creeps everyone out and dry humps your leg on the dance floor. For us, owning males just doesn't make economical, or any other, sense.
What does the whole breeding process cost you? Our first year we paid seasoned pros to do all of the steps so we could watch and learn. We now do it all ourselves to save a ton of money. First, in order for a breeder to take your does into their herd for breeding, they require your herd be CAE tested and paper work in hand. This is a good thing for both you and the breeder. Any reputable breeder knows this is important. You don't want diseases to be spread and CAE is the worst threat. This requires someone to draw blood from the jugular of each goat at a cost and then a laboratory test for each goat at a cost. Next is the stud fee of $50 per goat. Then comes more blood tests to make sure your doe is truly pregnant. There is a window to get them pregnant and if you miss it like we did in our first year, we had three does that didn't take. This means you now have does to feed for a year with no milk to pay for their keep.
Two months before birth the does require a CDT vaccine. After birth the doe then needs to be wormed. The babies will then eventually also need a CDT shot, Dis-budding at $10 to $15 per head. Then if you plan to register them, they need a tattoo in the ear or tail, money paid to the ADGA for the registration per goat. For each goat owner the costs can vary depending on what you choose to do or not to do. All the above we now do ourselves, as intimidating as it may sound. It was for us in the beginning. Having a mentor is priceless. In our experience you're lucky to recoup these costs with the sale of the baby when they are ready to be weened off mom.
Now comes the strategic pain in the butt. For the three girls that didn't get Prego last year we were able to leave them at the breeder for a month at a cost of $1 per day for each goat. This is ideal to make sure they take. However if you are in the milk business and need that milk this won't work. So instead you need to know your goats' heat signs and be willing to drop everything, load them into the horse trailer and get them to their man since the window is short. A doe goes into heat every 18 to 21 days so if you miss one window, mark the next cycle on your calender and be alert. We have had goats that took 4 trips to finally get the job done. You then need to plan for a "dry" period and hope your customers understand. Does need to stop milking 6 to 8 weeks before birth and then the baby needs the new milk, especially the colostrum, in the first week.
This year we are pretty confident all our girls are pregnant except one. I have had my eye on her for the last month thinking something just wasn't right and I didn't think she was pregnant despite two dates with the creepy dry humping bar guy. Somehow you just seem to know. We got our first blood from the jugular, drew blood and sent it off to be tested and sure enough we were right. We really need her milk since production has plummeted but we also need her to freshen and we are not sure if it's now too late in the season to have success. The other option is to just keep milking her with a lower amount of milk or let her dry off thus costing feed with no milk money return for a year.
Signs of heat can be different for each goat and once you learn the girls of your herd, you will know their differences. Some good signs are a sudden decrease in milk production, lack of appetite, increase in being vocal, excessive flagging of the tail, rubbing on other goats of the herd and the most obvious would be goo from the girly parts. Some goats can be what they call silent heat goats. Some don't show obvious signs at all. If you miss the window, be sure to mark the calendar for 18 to 21 days later and the sooner you notice the heat signs the better your chance for breeding success. Some goats won't even look pregnant all the way up till the end, while others may look like they are going to pop. Our smallest girl stayed looking small but gave birth to the biggest babies out of the whole herd last year.
There is much more I could go into including bottle feeding versus nursing, goat diets and such. Be sure to have a good birthing kit on hand and know the signs that labor is coming. Try to educate yourself in all that could go wrong. Your does and babies could be at risk just the same as complications in human births. We have had to reach in and re-position babies and had a few still births. Have a clean birthing stall stocked with all that you would need but not out of site of the herd. They get stressed by big changes.
A baby monitor is your best friend during this time as they could go into labor in the middle of the night so have your warm clothes and a plan in place to rush out the door because it can happen fast. As complicated as this all may sound, it's not always that complicated. Nothing beats the experience of holding that newborn baby and building a playful relationship with them. It's a labor of love.
Diana was crazy to stand out there and take these photos but I gotta admit they captured the storms nicely. These were taken just after we moved into our new house while we were remodeling the whole place and before we had any animals. It seemed like there was a hail storm at least twice a week for a month hence the desperate attempt to cover my truck in the ripped out carpet pictured below. The lightning just didn't stop.
This prompted us to buy one of those metal carports and of course it hasn't hailed here since in 3 years. That first year was the craziest storms we've seen. We really need that moisture now though. It's been so dry (click to enlarge)
I wish I thought of this before Valentines but it's never too late right? ; ) I was looking through some of our pictures and I'm so proud to be with such a great person I thought I would share some photos of the past.
If it wasn't for the Internet we never would have met. We are both huge Nine inch Nails fans and were members of their fan club message board where we first "met. " She lived on the opposite coast of Florida in Orlando and I was in Tampa. Back then 60 degrees was freezing for us. After months of chatting online we decided to meet. (The best day of my life.) From that day we spent every chance we had to make the 2 hour 1 way drive and spend weekends together for over a year. Mondays were rough. I would wake at 3am and drive 2 hours straight to work but it was so worth it. There were those days I put on that fake cough and called in sick from the other side of the state for just one more day with her : )
We did so much in Florida together. I swear we hit every beach up and down the coast to the point all beaches started to look the same. We hit every theme park, seen the space shuttle take off, military air shows and went to countless concerts and comedy clubs.
It was after running out of things to do in Florida we decided to branch out to my old home, Denver Colorado. I brought her to meet my family and we spent a week on the road hitting all my favorite childhood campgrounds. Diana fell in love with the place and I too missed the mountains of Colorado. After some time of talking about it we finally decided to get the biggest U-haul, load up both our households and move to Colorado Springs with my son.
It always seems that fate keeps taking hold of us one adventure at a time. If you would have told me I would be squeezing goat teets and hatching chickens back then I wouldn't believe it. From the Nine inch Nails fan club to a box of nine inch nails building barns with my best friend. Isn't it funny how life can take a turn. Now Diana has a whole different set of animals to train. Including me :p This was a definite turn in the right direction. I love you Diana. Don't punch me for writing this. You have bony knuckles ; )