You never know what you are going to find in the pasture

Kids having a picnic in the pasture
The kids, having a picnic

A few Sunday’s ago, Spork and I were feeding everyone and the girls pulled up on the Gator. They said they were going to have a picnic and wanted know if Spork wanted to attend as well. I thought it was very sweet of them to invite their brother, who was sweaty and had been working since before they got out of bed. As you know, brothers and sisters don’t always get along so it’s always great to see them look out for one another. I of course told him to go ahead, I’d keep working.

What you see above is what I found a little while later when I passed by to go feed some pigs. They were finishing up their picnic and Spork is about to get on the tractor and go back to work with me. They had a full spread of food, blankets to sit on, silverware. It looked really nice. The girls had put the entire thing together by themselves and were cleaning up everything. I was so proud of them, till I got back to the house that evening and found all the blankets still in the back of the Gator. Oh well, they almost cleaned everything up. Still, I was proud of them and glad to be farming so they could do things like this.

Wedding bells at Ninja Cow Farm

A little over a year ago we hosted an event at our farm that featured beer and our own pigs cooked into BBQ. The event was a great success and it was our first really public event we’d ever done. Everybody seemed to have a good time and I even offered to host again if the opportunity comes up.

One neat thing that happened that night was we had a couple attend who were on their first date. It was such a neat first date that there was actually some buzz in the crowd about it that made its way over to me. I made sure I went over and met the couple and exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes and that was that.

Dinner on the lawn
The BBQ and Beer dinner underway. This picture was taken by Laura during the event.

Fast forward a year and I receive an email that goes about like this. “Hi, you probably don’t remember me but my girlfriend and I had our first date at your farm. It’s our one year anniversary and I’m going to ask her to marry me (it’s a surprise). Can we come back and walk around to recreate that first date?”

Walk around? Heck no! You can come for lunch. We had Matt and Laura back out where I cooked up some Ninja Cow pork and the wife made cole slaw. We opened some vino and shared stories for a few hours, then wished them well and sent them on their way to dinner.

Laura in front of the pigs
Laura, taken the night of their first date
Laura one year later.
Laura, one year later with some different pigs
Matt and Laura posing in front of the pig paddock
Matt and Laura together post lunch

So the end result? That night had a great dinner at Second Empire downtown and Matt asked the big question. The answer? She said yes!

Our first Ninja wedding will be soon. Then Ninja babies!

Updates to product pages have FINALLY been done, and our store is almost done

Our website is setup and run like a blog. That means that when I need to get the word out about something, I just post a new blog post and viola! The word flows across the interwebs like so much magic. However, either because of our setup or my mental block, I always seem to forget to go back and check our website pages which unlike a blog post, are static. The end result is I post on the blog that we have beef, but I don’t go back to the beef page and update it. So I’m telling you that we have plenty of meat on the blog post, but I check the beef page and it says we are out of stock of everything. Sigh. So much for my marketing genius.

This morning I’ve gone through the pork, beef, chicken, and egg pages and updated them to the latest info. The quick version is:

Beef – We are in stock on everything except filet mignon. We sold the last filet yesterday. Ribeyes are starting to get slim. Everything else we are loaded for bear.

Pork – We are heavy on finished pigs but due to a sudden change with the processor we are a few weeks out on taking some pigs to get processed. We have plenty of everything in the freezer except BBQ, which of course everyone who has been here is looking for. I’m getting a bunch of BBQ on the next trip to the processor so come get your bacon and whatever else while you are waiting on BBQ.

Chicken – I have more chicken cuts on the way but we have PLENTY of whole chickens in the freezer, which are cheaper and a better deal anyway. The cut up chicken moves faster than the whole chickens and we mistakenly received a double batch of whole birds so the more whole chicken you buy, the more room I have for cuts the next time.

Eggs – We have eggs coming on Friday. We have multiple people who are waiting on them but we have ordered enough to be able to fill those orders plus have some in stock. We will be keeping eggs in stock finally so in addition to your other proteins, you’ll now be able to get eggs anytime you want. If you want to get on a regular rotation for eggs, just let us know so we can include your needs in our inventory.

Farm store under construction
Our new farm store, nearly completed

As you know, we’ve been rebuilding our farm store since February when the whole thing flooded due to a frozen pipe. We are days away from being done with the store and it looks so much better. We have an issue to solve with our water, then we can finish painting, move the freezers to their final places, set up the table to go with our new counter (which is made of lumber harvested and sawn here on farm) and hang our pictures and paraphernalia. We are going to be on the CFSA farm tour this September so there is a push to get things done before then. It looks like we’ll make it with time to spare, thank God!

What did you have for breakfast?

Pigs eating apples out of a cardboard tote
Apple breakfast

I took this picture last Sunday when I was feeding the pigs. These are some of our finished pigs having their breakfast, about 1000 pounds of apples and watermelons. You wouldn’t think a 250 pound pig could jump or stand up on it’s hind legs, but these pigs were doing exactly that. The two you see so well in this shot had managed to just about get in this tote, which is about 3 feet tall. The rest of the pigs weren’t quite so spry so I cut open the cardboard so they could nose their way in there. While their jumping ability is surprising, their nosing ability is legendary. You give them a crack they can get their snout into and they have the cardboard ripped open in seconds.

I thought this was a good picture as I caught both the pigs in the tote, just taking their first bite of apples. It quickly devolved into a feeding frenzy just seconds after this shot was taken.

What I was doing last week, more gunsmithing

Since the gunsmithing has nothing to do with farming, I’m going to make this one long post. For those with no interest, you can skip over this one. For those who are interested, here you go.

Last week I was out of town again taking another gunsmithing class. This time it was AR-15/M4s. Unlike some of my other classes that are mainly working with files and emory cloth to fit and polish, this class was all about taking a chunk of steel and turning it into a shootable gun. That meant that we’d be in the machine shop a lot, something I was looking forward to. As a self taught machinist, I really wanted to get some instruction on what I was doing correctly, and what I was doing wrong.

Colt AR-15 on the bench
The starting product

This is a Colt AR-15. It’s standard and normal in all ways. It’s never been fired. I had it in the safe because everyone should have an AR-15 and I’d gotten rid of my last one so I had to get one to replace it. The not shooting part is because I’ve been lazy/busy lately.

Barrel blank for 300 blackout
This is our starting product for the barrel.

This is our starting barrel. It’s a piece of 4140 steel already drilled and rifled to .300. The markings say 7.52 x 51. We are going to create a .300 Blackout with the ability to add a suppressor later (that will be another project.)

Barrel blank in the lathe
Getting started on the barrel

When I got to class, I found that nearly everyone in the class was a recent graduate of the 2 year gunsmithing program at Montgomery Community College. Of the few folks who were not recent graduates, the rest seemed to all be working as full time gunsmiths or in gun manufacturing for names like Remington. I’m a self taught machinist, former iron peddler, farmer.  To make it even more interesting, two of the returning full time gunsmiths and the instructor were all former room mates. Maybe I’m fighting above my weight class? Nah, I’m sure it’ll be fine. Our instructor Mongo (seriously) got right to work and spent about 30 minutes talking about what we’d be doing at a 50,000 foot level. Then he said grab your barrel blank and jump on a lathe and lets get to work. Everybody jumped up and ran to a lathe and I stopped them by saying, “Are you going to demonstrate to us what to do?”Mongo assured me he’d stick close to me and keep me out of trouble. Good enough for me.

Cutting threads on a 300 blackout barrel blank
The chamber end of the barrel

Here you can see what will become the chamber of the barrel. The tenon is cut and the threads have been cut. You’ll note there is a small non threaded area just past the threads but before the shoulder. That’s called an undercut and it makes threaded so much easier. Thanks Mr. Pete for that tip. I saw some folks in the class struggle with this step. I was glad I knew some of these tips for making it easier. I even got distracted during threading (a big no no) and bumped my tool against the shoulder which knocked it out of alignment. I had to completely reset my threading setup mid way through the process. Not something you want to do. As you can see, it all turned out just fine.

300 blackout threaded, chambered, and headspace.
Threaded, chambered, headspaced.

What you see here is a full length, full size barrel blank chucked into a lathe with just a couple of inches sticking out to work on. After threading and chambering, the barrel extension is screwed on and tightened but not torqued. Then a head space gauge is inserted and the bolt and in this case bolt carrier is inserted and locked up. At this point we check for clearance. Then the whole process is repeated with what is called a “no go” head space gauge. The difference between the to gauges? 5 thousandths of an inch. It’s a pretty close fit. This is some of the gunsmith voodoo that I wanted to learn. What you see here is the finished product. All is well.

Barrel in lathe
The barrel turned around in the lathe

Now we’ve turned the barrel around in the lathe, cut a 60 degree crown into the barrel and chucked the barrel into the lathe between centers with a  steady rest. At this point you are only working on a small section at a time because no matter what you are trying to do, the steady rest is in the way. Here I’m simply cutting the barrel down to .750 so we can install the gas block.

300 blackout barrel, roughed out.
The barrel, roughed out and ready for a gas block

Here the barrel has been roughed out, the gas block journal has been cut (that is a precision operation, there is 1/2 thousandth of clearance) and the gas block shoulder has been cut. At this point the barrel is shootable but the gun will not cycle normally. Some gun smiths do the entire operation then test fire. Because this is a class and we are all here to learn, we took our barrels down to the range to try them out. At this point, I should point out that there were only three students who were ready to shoot their guns. Everyone else was either behind, or had some sort of major problem they were trying to fix. I’m proud to say I was one of the three, partly because I’m not a kid and I get there early, stay late, and work hard the entire time. But also because I was careful and stayed on track, plus I had plenty of help. But lastly because my skills on the lathe were there and all my self teaching was paying off. Despite these guys having 2 years of schooling, I probably had more lathe experience than they did. Not in the breadth of what they cover, but in actual time on the lathe. My struggles were with the fact that I’ve only used one metal lathe, mine. I didn’t know how some things worked on their lathe. By this point I’d figured it out thought.

Firing a test shot with a new barrel
Firing my test shot

It’s very odd to go to school, walk around with a gun, and shoot on school property. Although I knew they had a firing range, I’d never actually been there. We three plus the instructor walked down to the range, loaded one round, and hoped the gun would go bang instead of BOOM. Here I am just as I’m taking my shot (Thanks Anton for taking the picture and loaning me the bullet.)

The gun did go bang and I extracted the bullet with no issues. Mongo inspected my work by carefully going over everything on the spent cartridge. Whatever you did wrong will show up in the brass. I was very pleased that mine came out 100% correct!

Barrel blank getting finished in the lathe
Back into the lathe for a days worth of metal cutting

At this point, the barrel goes back into the lathe, gets dialed back in again, and I started taking off more metal. Most of the guys in the class left their barrels long and thick for target guns. They were creating guns that shot different calibers. 300 Blackout is a round that is designed to be suppressed which means it will have a heavy chunk of metal hanging of the end. With that in mind I took as much weight off the barrel as was prudent. That meant I had a lot more material to cut off, plus shoulders to cut at each change in thickness of which there were many.

Final assemble of 300 blackout
Final assembly.

Here you can see that the gas block is in place. The gas rod hasn’t been installed yet but the barrel has been threaded and crowned. I also made a thread protector to keep things clean till I can get a suppressor made (legally of course). The gas block port has been drilled and the gun function checked (it did great). At this point it’s a finished gun as far as the class is concerned. I’ll take it back at my next class so I can bead blast the barrel and then put a finish on it. I also order a free floating hand guard and then it’ll be a finished gun. This was a fun class and I learned a lot.

Oops, I forgot to put up pictures of the new calf

When I posted that #25 had her new calf, I was out of town in the land of no Gs (no 4G LTE). In struggling to get the post up, I completely missed that I’d not posted the pic of the calf himself. I’m here to rectify that. I went back to the post and attached the picture that should have been there so you can go there and see the calf only minutes old. If clicking on that link is too much trouble, then you can look here at what I saw Sunday before the whole fiasco with #44 started.

When I was moving the cows Sunday I of course looked for our newest little calf. I’d not seen him because I was out of town and I wanted to see him. After looking around, I didn’t see him anywhere! Not to worry, calves are shorter than our temporary hot wire and routinely walk under and find a nice spot to lie down out of the way. But usually I’d see him by now. Then I found this.

baby calf hiding in tall grass
#56, hiding in the tall grass

You can see the paddock wire in the back ground and a patch of Johnson grass in the center of the picture. The cows are all on the other side of the wire. You can also see a little patch of black and a yellow ear tag in the center of the Johnson grass.

Hiding in the tall grass is a wonderful thing for new born calves. It keeps them out of the way of the big cows, and out of sight of predators. It’s always a sign of a good mother. We don’t have any predators but it’s a sign of good genetics in the calf as well. This calf is the son of Benjamin our old bull and it’s good to see his progeny still have it.

Calf hiding in grass
A little closer view

This is a little closer, and cuter view, of this new born calf. He stayed still and watched me intently. As soon as I got close enough to touch him he jumped up and ran to momma. Very cute.

Update on #44, and the rest of the story

So last time we had #44 in the head gate, Dustin and I had performed some home surgery and we’d just installed a brand new trocar to relieve the bloat from this cow. At this point in the story we are expecting a big release of air and to be heroes deserving of smooches from adoring women (after a shower of course).

Instead, what we received was this.

Trocar in cow rumen
Trocar pumping out gooey mess

There was definitely air in there, but we received it via a foamy grassy mess that clogged every two seconds. Dustin took to cleaning out the trocar routinely while I tried to figure out what to do. Every once in a while we’d get a blast of air only but it would only last a second before reverting to this again. With constant attention we were keeping the cow from bloating further but weren’t really causing the relief we were accustomed to.

Cow in head gate with trocar installed
#44 in the head gate, getting more attention than he wants

We worked on #44 for about 30 minutes and weren’t getting anywhere. Usually when I install a trocar I put it on the roundest part of the distended rumen. In looking at where I’d put this one, I thought maybe I’d installed it too low. I hated to do it but I removed the trocar and installed it about 4 inches higher. This meant another home surgery. The end result, same thing. At this point I called the vet. I confessed all my sins and told him exactly what had been going on all morning. His response was we’d done everything correctly and we’d done all we could for the cow. Best thing to do was put him in the barn and keep an eye on him. If what we’d done hadn’t fixed him, nothing the vet could do would do any better. #44 is under observation in the hospital barn and is doing well so far but he still doesn’t appear normal at this time as he still has a distention in his belly. We are keeping an eye on him and will update as things progress.

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