This is David & Susan Sifford's journal of what we pray is our sojourn of life (Hebrews 11:8-10) along the narrow way (Matt 7:14), even the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16), submitting to the Bible as a light unto both (Psalms 119:105). It is our prayer that these documented moments in our earthly time benefit whom God might choose to edify, but ultimately that God glorifies Himself through them.

Year: 2018 (Page 1 of 5)

New Upper Field Fence

We have about 11 acres on a field north of our goat pens. When we arrived here in Texas, most of that field was in Johnson grass, a grass that grows well here, especially in heat and drought. In fact, a former neighbor baled it one of our first years.

Since that time though, we plowed it and tried to grow oats, which didn’t work out too well. And then, instead of crops, I wanted to return to grass in hopes of becoming more sustaining for our cows or goats, and I tried planting B-dahl grass, which didn’t work at all.

And then, rather than fight it, I ironically went back and planted sorghum almum, which is a close cousin of Johnson grass, and so we have come full circle, basically back to Johnson grass. 🙂

God has also granted some other kind of thin, but lush grass to grow, and we are thankful.

This last time of plowing and sowing though, it also planted the cockleburs that were in the field, and so we pulled the whole 11 acres by hand several years ago. Each year I have to walk the field, but for all intents and purposes, it’s basically cocklebur free! Yippee! (You’ll understand my excitement if you read that blog post and think about pulling 11 acres of weeds by hand, even though it was only 1 kind of weed 🙂 )

With the field having some time to get established with the grasses, I wanted to be able to run the goats up there, which should basically end any need to buy hay for them. However, I needed to put up a north-south fence line, which is somewhere between 900 and 1000 feet.

This fence line was originally planned to be partially done by one of the folks who used to live here, but he never got around to it, although he graciously put in an entrance way for us at the county road because he would have been cutting off our main way of driving off the land.

Here is how I did each corner system. I concreted in 2 x 5 1/2 inch treated posts, about 46 inches a part, and then a half post about 78 inches from the 2nd post to function as a dead man. And then I cut out notches in the posts using a reciprocating saw where 4 inch cross posts would go, chiseled them out, and then installed the posts, drilling a 3/8 hold for a 1/2 inch by 8 inch long lag screw, and used a 1 1/2 inch paddle bit to counter sink the bolt:

Fence Post System Cross Piece Hole

Fence Post System Cross Piece Bolt

Fence Post System Cross Piece Notches

Fence Post System Cross Piece Notches Chiseled

Fence Post System Diagonal Cross Piece

Fence Post System Diagonal Cross Piece Bolt

This is where I started, putting in the corner braces:

North Field North Fence Corner

I stretched the diagonal fence lines, using a come-along and fence stretcher, with 6 barbed wire strands, at 4-4-4-4-5-5 from bottom to top on the nubs on the t-posts:

Using Come-Along to Stretch Barbed Wire Fence

Barbed Wire Fence Stretch Holder

North Field Gateway Diagonal Fence 1

North Field Gateway Diagonal Fence 2

And welded on some gate holders and added the gates:

North Field Gateway Gates

This is where I cut the road’s fence where the gates are, pulled out those cedar posts, and then re-stretched and tied off each side of the fencing along the road:

North Field Gateway Fence Entrance

Every 90 feet I concreted in a landscape timber, to try to help give the fence more stability, and then pounded in t-posts every 10 feet in between.

And then pulled the wires from bottom to top. For each wire after the first, I would roll out the next one, hang it on the previous wire, pull it tight with the come-along, and then go down the line a section at a time pulling the hung wire off the wire it was sitting on. Then, I tied off the pulled end, released the come-along, went to the middle of the stretched wire, tied it to the 2 middle t-posts, went half way in between each of those, did the same, and repeated with each half until all the t-posts were connected. I figured this would help keep even tension all along the wire.

And I added the middle gate.

Sadly though, I ran into some real trouble with a set of end posts once the wire was pulled, especially because on several of the wood posts I ran into rock while digging out the holes. The whole structure started leaning badly:

North Field Leaning Fence Post System

Eventually, the back post’s concrete broke, it started to torque, and the cross piece started sticking out:

Fence Post Broken Concrete

Fence Post Broken Cross Piece

Arg. I thought I might have to re-do that whole post system and re-pull each wire from scratch, but with the help of the tractor pulling the fence straight…

Tractor Pulling the Fence Straight

…I was able to dig out the end post, using what concrete was left in the hole as a positioner…

Dug Out Fence Post Hole

…re-concrete it in…

Fence Post Re-Concreted

…tamp the dirt in front of the posts…

Tamping Dirt in Front of Concreted Fence Post

…add diagonal bracing wire to help keep it from leaning (which I should have done in the first place; I really thought the dead man post and diagonal kicker post would hold enough, but I guess not)…

Fence Post Diagonal Wire Bracing

…and then re-tie off the end. I also went back, undid all of the t-post clips on the t-posts that were leaning, straightened the t-posts, and then re-attached.

Yeah, that was fun. It seems to be doing better, although not perfect, in that, the back post started leaning in some perpendicularly, so I re-tied off again the ends but more in the middle of the post, and added a t-post brace to help keep it more upright:

T-post Brace Against Fence Post

But finally, here is the fence line:

North Field Top Half of Fence Line

With weather interruptions and these issues, it has taken at least a couple of months to get that part done. But I thank the Lord things weren’t worse, and for the provisions and health and strength to even work on this fence.

On to the 2nd half!

— David

Goat Breeding Time 2018!

With November upon us, it was time to put our billy goats with their respective nannies for goat breeding time 2018!

With the loss of our buck Rocky earlier this year, Elvis joined the herd, and was ready to go to work! Our plan is to use him for our younger does:

Our Buck Elvis

And then put Shakespeare with the older ones:

Our Buck Shakespeare

This year we moved them a little earlier than normal in the month, basically because Marie, one of our does, went into heat, and Elvis was jumping fences to get to her. In fact, he got out at one point and we believe mated with Nellie, another one of our does. So, we decided to just do the move the first week of November.

However, when we put Elvis with his “ladies”, he not only tried mating with Marie but also started being highly over-aggressive with her, lifting her with his horns, and the like. We had never seen this before with one of our bucks, although he had acted this way with Shakespeare (hurt his leg somewhat badly), and eventually we had to tie him up to keep him from chasing her around.

And at this point, we didn’t know what to do with him. Was this going to happen with all of the females when they went into heat? He wouldn’t be of much use then.

Well, we moved Marie over to be with Shakespeare, and there was no problem there. And when we let Elvis off his lead, he stopped being aggressive with the other females. Also, since then, we very thankfully haven’t seen that over-aggression with the others.

In trying to figure out what happened, we were thinking, since Marie had gone over to Shakespeare when we let the females out to graze, and he and she were rubbing on each other through the fence, that perhaps she ended up smelling like Shakespeare, and Elvis was getting his signals crossed with her, smelling her being in heat and Shakespeare at the same time.

And so, it looks like he’s going to continue to work out ok, although we are planning on having his horns removed like we did with Shakespeare, as he uses them all too well as a weapon.

But, without further ado, here is the video of when we put them together this 2018!


We pray the Lord might grant the offspring in Spring, in accordance with His will; we thank Him that Elvis calmed down and will appear to be useful still; we pray for milk later on next year; we pray for continued health and safety for the herd; and we thank Him for the safety and health He has granted them all of these years!

— David

Garden – Fall 2018

Since our last garden update, we thought we’d show how the garden has progressed through a difficult drought. With lots of heat and little rain in the Summer, the plants struggled, but coming into Fall, the Lord graciously granted some good rains, to Whom we are thankful.

Here’s a recap of the garden goings-on…

Okra

Okra always does very well:

Okra

But even this year, they struggled, and dropped their leaves early, which is quite unusual. Normally, they stop producing when the freezes come, but it was different this year:

Dried Up Okra Plants

But we are thankful to God for what He granted! And here are some of them preserved in apple cider vinegar:

Okra Preserved in Apple Cider Vinegar

Sweet Potatoes

This year, I planted them in our original garden area. Between the rains, and with hard freezes coming, it was time to get them out of the ground. Here are the main plants the day of:

Sweet Potato Plants

And some volunteer ones from last year:

Volunteer Sweet Potato Plant

Another Volunteer Sweet Potato Plant

Here’s Sue helping dig them out:

Harvesting Sweet Potatoes

The uncollected harvest:

Harvested Sweet Potatoes

And then what the Lord graciously granted! It seems less than last year and they are quite a bit smaller, but I put them in a garden that has had only one mulch layer put down, and we went through one of our worst heat spells and droughts this year, so besides the fact that God doesn’t have to grant anything if He doesn’t want to, we are thankful for what He did, with food coming directly from Him!

Bucket of Sweet Potatoes

Now it’s 3 weeks of hardening out in the open, and then 6 weeks into the root cellar, each individually wrapped in newspaper for sweetening! Yum!

Garlic

Since we had a garlic harvest last season, we saved some for planting this year, and completed that process recently too. I believe this is our first time of replanting our own!

Here is the beautiful soil the Lord composted over the last year, into which we planted the garlic cloves:

Compost Pile

Composted Soil

And a newer pile we had started:

Newer Compost Pile

And here are the garlic plants starting to sprout up!

Garlic Plants

We pray for God’s provisions from these next year, as He wills.

Around the Garden

Here are some other things currently growing in the garden…

The Goji berry plant:

Gogi Berry Plant

The blackberries, which died back, but started growing from the roots again:

Blackberry Plant

Another Blackberry Plant

Our little volunteer squash plant. I cover it with double blankets most nights 🙂 :

Volunteer Squash Plant

A volunteer tomato plant. It had little flowers on it, but sadly,even covered with blankets, didn’t make it because of the cold:

Volunteer Tomato Plant

Free prickly lettuce:

Volunteer Prickly Lettuce

And a volunteer turnip:

Volunteer Turnip Plant

And finally, I thought I would include here the last from the orchard, this year’s pecans. Once again, I think the drought really made things struggle:

Pecans

But, as always, we are very thankful to the Lord for granting all these provisions! May we be humbled He even considers giving these things at all, and may we be satisfied with, and thankful for, what He does. And may He grant us to be fruitful followers of Him as well!

— David

Providence’s Perpetuation Provisions: 5th & Surprise 6th Round of 2018 Chicks

The Lord graciously granted another hen get broody this 2018, and she hatched out our 5th set of the year! She hatched out 4 with 1 sadly not making it more than a day, but the other 3 are still doing well as of today!

5th Set of 2018 Chicks

And then one day, Sue was taking the dogs up to their goat field for their evening running around, and lo and behold, there was a hen walking around with 5 chicks following her! Wow! We eventually tracked down that she had been sitting in a pecan tree fenced-in area. Thanks to God for allowing her to sit out there for at least 3 weeks without being eaten herself!

We gathered them up and got them into the summer kitchen brooder building, and here they are. She had 5 with her, and they also are still all going as of today!

6th Set of 2018 Chicks

And here is the video for both groups:


As always, we are grateful to the Lord for granting these provisions, and His extra graciousness in preserving the mama and eggs outdoors for all that time!

— David

Goodbye Gigi

This one’s a little rough, and extraordinarily sad for me…

We had to say goodbye to Gigi, our almost 10-year resident goose here on the homestead. It wasn’t necessarily that she had died, it was how…

Sue went into the barn one morning to get the dogs out of the kennel to take them up to one of the goat fields for their morning time up there, and when she opened the back door to the barn, the dogs met her there.

Wait…what??!! she thought. That’s impossible…the dogs are in the kennel!

It was true; they were out, and the worst fear had come to pass…

Being Border Collies, they have an extremely strong instinct to chase down animals, and sadly with birds, eat them. And sure enough, Sue found Gigi dead. She took up the dogs, and came and got me, and it was true. Interestingly, Gigi didn’t seem to have too many injuries to her, only torn open a little in her chest, but maybe the whole experience was too much physically, or something happened to her neck, or the injuries were just worse than they looked, but she was gone. We pray she didn’t really suffer and that it was quick and painless.

The chain link fencing at the bottom of the kennel door had been pulled up some, and the dogs had apparently squeezed through. Brodey at times past has become scared or something, usually in thunderstorms, and will bite on the kennel door fencing and pull on it. He’s even broken a lower canine of his, we figure from doing that. Well, we assume this is what happened and how they got out.

It’s so heart wrenching, because it was easily preventable. And needless to say, we are much more aware of the conditions of the kennels now.

But, before the world was even created, God planned in His wisdom and goodness to grant us just 5 days short of 10 years to take care of His gift Gigi, who brought pleasantness to the homestead. And we thank the Lord that no other animals were killed with the dogs free like that — a great grace and mercy!

Here is Gigi with each of her mates, including videos of their introductions:

When Gary met her:


And when she met Augie:


And finally, when she met Gustav:


And here’s a final video of she and Gustav, after Gustav had got a watermelon rind stuck on him. We hope God grants us another female at some point so Gustav will not be alone:


We thank the Lord for allowing us to have Gigi and the blessing she was, and thanks again to the folks that gave her to us!

Goodbye, Gigi…

Our Goose Gigi

Gigi Nesting

Gigi's Grave

Gigi's Headstone

— David

Bye to Penelope, Hello to Ham

For many, many years we have been breeding pigs, keeping an offspring to perpetuate for the next round, and then selling the rest.

Well, the Lord in His wisdom decided the line would come to an end. The last one we kept was Penelope from back in 2013. In 2014, we bought a pig we named Odysseus, and put them together. Sadly, this produced no offspring.

So we tried again with a young one from the neighbors, but he got out and ran back to their pig pen. And so we tried again, and this one ended up being one we named Ardy in 2016.

By around mid-2017, I decided that he either had done the job or hadn’t, and so we took him in to the processor.

Well, after 4 months, there was nothing. I debated about what to do, with such a nice line, and being somewhat sentimental to all of the years and generations. But eventually figured it was time to call it “end of the line.”

However, that wasn’t the quite the end. The processor was busy, so we needed to make an appointment in the future.

And we tried to get her loaded, and she would just not go in, even with the cattle trailer backed up to an opening in the paneled fences right at her normal feeding area. She had lost her appetite because of the heat I figure, so she wasn’t very motivated. And so we had to cancel the processor reservation a couple of times.

Well, we tried one more time, with the trailer parked there for 5-6 days before, and the day before really worked it, even by building a temporary fence around the loading area. It was rough at points, where she tried to lift up the panel and get away (she was a big girl and not pleased at all!), and then I had to put in t-posts, but finally, but God’s graces, we got her into the trailer:

Our Pig Penelope

Another of Our Pig Penelope

Penelope's Loading Area

And here she is her last morning. She tore up the cross pieces in the trailer, and then getting her out of the trailer and into the processor was again something of a chore, but thankfully we were able to say goodbye and bring her to her final place where she would, Lord willing, become our daily bread:

Penelope Lying in the Trailer

Here is a video recapping the 1 1/2 to 2-hour loading adventure, and a goodbye the next morning:


And finally, here are some of the provisions God has granted from her:

Ham:

Penelope Ham

Bacon:

Penelope Bacon

And lard:

Penelope Fat

Penelope Lard

We’ve also had pork steaks, which are very tender, including for one of our Lord’s day’s fellowship meal — very yummy, and a real treat!

We are grateful to the Lord for the granting of the provisions from Penelope and all of the generations before her. We are thankful no one has been hurt by the pigs over the years, and we pray for direction for next steps.

— David

Providence’s Perpetuation Provisions: Olivia’s 2018 Turkey Chick

With us not really having a great way to manage the turkey flock we have now, after a rogue Black Turkey heritage breed hen just showed up at our homestead one day, it becomes difficult when the females start getting broody. They often find quite remote places to nest, and sometimes just hide in the grass somewhere in a field. Although we have lost one to that situation, the Lord’s been gracious to allow us to usually track them down as they perhaps come back in the morning to eat or drink or what have you before returning to their nest, and then we can follow them.

Now though, we try to make sure to collect any turkey eggs we find, and then, if we find a turkey on a nest, haul her in and any eggs in the nest, and put them in the summer kitchen, and add any other eggs we have.

Well, we did that this year with Olivia, the female from last year’s hatching, who had quite a few of her own eggs.

And while she had 5-6 under her, only one hatched out, but by God’s graciousness, this little turklet (I call them “turklets”, like “chicklets”) 😉 made it all along, is still going today, and is almost adult size! We believe now it is a “she” turkey, and she is our first grand-turklet!

Here she is with her mommy back in August, obviously a little older than just a hatchling by this time:

Olivia & Her 2018 Turkey Chick

As you can see, the turklet liked to walk all over Olivia 🙂 :

Another of Olivia & Her 2018 Turkey Chick

One sad note: we did the same “grab and put in the summer kitchen” with one of our other hens, Tasha, and she hatched out 2 turklets, but not long after they were born, each disappeared. We assume a snake got them, but I never found the culprit in there, and often we do. It’s still a mystery, but it was not the Lord’s will they continue, and we agree whole-heartedly with Him in His sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness!

Tasha & a 2018 Turkey Chick

And here is the video of Olivia and her hatchling, which progresses from the pictures above to when we permanently let them out of the summer kitchen to just this week! The video does include the other mama and one tiny little turklet that was left at the time:


And as always, we are very thankful to the Lord for His graces and mercies and the perpetuation of the animals!

— David

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