Today On The Homestead: Wacky Predator, Toxic Discovery, Barn Troubles, And Tragedy Averted

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It has been another busy and new experience-filled week here on the homestead, folks. I thought the swarming yellow jackets who deeply disliked their nest under the boards of an old barn we are tearing down and repurposing would be the most exciting part of my week…but I was wrong.

Let’s start with the yellow jackets at the old barn troubles. My beloved husband thought the infestation was so severe that we would have to wait until cold weather to start dragging out the barn wood to sort and repurpose.

old barn

Mission To Save An 1800s Era Barn

Going that route would mean we would have to put at least eight projects on hold. Sure, I could have the projects completed if I was willing to run to Lowe’s and buy not only lumber but new commercial hardware, and posts. Not only did I not want to spend money on all those supplies, I really and devoted to repurposing all that great old wood and history of this place.

Our homestead predates the formation of the county. One family owned it until 21 years ago. When Mr. Evans became too ill to care for himself during his final years, he was placed in a nursing home and his son was going to take over the family farm.

Sadly, Mr. Evans son was in a horrific car accident and wound up in the same nursing home as his father. The mounting medical bills to care for both men as well as some infighting between the many heirs, caused the property taxes and insurance on the land to get very far behind.

old barn from the side

The farm was split into several parcels, with our 56-acres being the largest. A local man who often buys and sells land, usually after cutting the timber, bought the place when it was placed on the auction block by the county over the back taxes.

He must have had too many other parcels on his plate and never really did anything with the place – thankfully the woods were left intact. Select cutting is smart from both a fire prevention and money making viewpoint, but clear cutting destroys the beauty of a land. We live in what many have called the “hardwood capital” of the country and are home to a plethora of sawmills.

The land investor sold the land to Mr. Howard, who built the hunting lodge that we now call home. When I saw hunting lodge, do not picture some bucolic cabin, but instead what is best described as an above ground basement.

Before Mr. Howard got divorced, he lived in a home across the road that was also part of this original property and included in the purchase from the land investor. He build a simple concrete floor and half-way up poured concrete wall and concrete floor lodge, garage, and butcher shop structure.

After the divorce he sold the property across the street and made the lodge his home. It was a fairly spartan structure that we only began revamping cosmetically in recent months. Barn, road, well, and fence repair were of a more pressing concern – along with growing crops and increasing our livestock herds. Finishing the floors and painting the drywall portions of the walls were the only improvements we had completed on the interior of the home.

Now that we finally have the time to work on the inside of the house, I need to get that barn wood pulled out, sorted, sanded and cut where necessary, and put to great new use. I also want to the rusty corrugated tin roof panels and as much of the old hardware from the window shutters and doors as possible.

A local Amish acquaintance was hired to merely pull off the roof of the barn so we could salvage what we could from it and work more safely on the unstable barn to remove the hand-hewn timber posts and weathered wood exterior panels. Except for the newer roof, there was not a nail or screw used anywhere in the barn.

But, the unstable barn collapsed during the roof removal, thankfully no one was hurt. Very little of the materials were damaged in the fall, but unfortunately some of the hand-hewn posts had to be cut away from upper floor boards they were supporting to the mess could quickly be pushed off the road by our tractor as rapidly as possible to avoid a wreck. The old barn sits only a few feet from the road on the lower portion of the acreage, right at the end of a blind curve.

Here are some of the ways we are going to repurpose the old barn wood and other materials

1. Using the weathered exterior planks as paneling to cover the poured concrete half walls.
2. Turning the hand-hewn timbers into a bar to put in the attached garage that is going to become a living room.
3. Using exterior planks to make doors that for a pantry that will run along the concrete half walls in what is now the combined kitchen and living room but will become dining room and kitchen when the attached garage becomes a living room.
4. Using the rusty corrugated roofing sheets as a backsplash – after coating them so they will not rust further or allow existing rust flakes to fall off.
5. Using the large hog pen boards in the “basement” of the barn to make a butcher top countertop.
6. Using those same wide boards for part of the island and to make a farmhouse table that is extra wide and long so it can seat our extended tribe and be handy for canning and dehydrating after the harvest.
7. Using the weathered exterior boards to make three cabinets for the bathroom and more of the rusty tin to use decoratively on the cabinet doors.
8. Make a bathroom vanity with the old exterior wood and rusty tin and sink a wash tub into the top to used as a sink.

The amount of money it would take to redo the interior of the house without those great old and beautiful materials would be enormous – and I want the barn to live on. Patience is not my strong suit, except with children and critters, so waiting until the yellow jackets to die off when the weather turns chilly really is just not going to work for me – at all.

We can’t use diesel fuel to smoke out the yellow jackets and destroy their nest because of the massive pile of wood everywhere in and near the barn. So, we will put on our beekeeping suits (I am allergic to bees) and instead of working out way back into the barn sorting the wood and stacking it on the remaining half of the barn that is now exposed and still stable, we will grab and go from the portion of the pile that is closed to the road – as carefully and quickly as possible.

I also set out multiple yellow jacket traps, You can see how to easily and very cheaply make them by checking out the Japanese beetle trap article, the same trap works for both unwanted homestead visitors.

Wacky Predator

We have lost both ducks and chickens to mink. I loathe mink. The other night I just happened to glance out the back door to see if the horses and goats were still taking care of my weed eating chores around the shelter house when I saw this monster of a mink.

That thing looked more like a coon than a mink it was so large. It was odd to see a mink venture so close to the human and dog patrolled area of the farm, but I think the food leavings by the grandkiddos enticed it to the shelter house area.

The vile mink stopped and looked at me, I was too far from either my rifle or my handgun to grab it, aim, and fire before it fled. My faithful Jovie is always on my heels, but she was looking elsewhere and did not see the evil little predator.

I pointed and commanded that Jovie to get it and kill it. She, with her brother Ruger now not far behind, attempted to do just that. But alas, the mink had a head start and was able to evade their sharp teeth.

Bobby always sets the live traps when such things need done, but I figured it was past time for me to learn how to use them without getting my hand whacked in the process, as well. We don’t use claw foot traps or other similar traps because of our dogs, free ranging livestock, and free ranging kids on our homestead.

My beloved showed me how to set the traps, they all work basically the same but have a few slight differences in design. I baited the traps with some chicken leftover from smoking a whole one in the shelter house over the weekend. I already knew how much that dang mink loves chicken!

The following morning I looked out the bathroom window while getting towels out of the dry and saw the black vile mink inside one of the traps I set. Well, thought I did. I yelled at my showering hubby that I caught the mink and as I slipped my boots on and ran outside.

Jovie beat me to the trap and was barking and running in circles around it – yes, I did enjoy the thought of the mink being terrified. Every time we attempted to get the mink Bobby would tell me the mink would have no idea why it was being trapped or killed, but I said I would know why and it would make me feel better.

I called Jovie off as I got closer to the trap and was still smiling at my first catch as I leaned down to take a peek.

The predator I caught was definitely a deadly one…but only as far as mice and the occasional sock are concerned.

cat caught in predator trap

Yep, I caught our grandkiddos’ cat, Jasper. I went from elated to sorely disappointed in mere seconds. Bobby hadn’t shown me how to release the trap, so poor Jasper had to remain caged until he was out of the shower and dressed. That was the only night that the kitty let her taste buds trump common sense and climbed inside the trap for a leftover chicken snack.

Toxic Discovery

When the grandkids and I go on walks, hikes, horseback, or 4-wheeler rides, I always use the fun adventure as a learning experience. Auddie loves to pick flowers for me and her mother, so we always stop at whatever wild flower or colorful weed that catches her eye and pick a few.

I teach the kids the name of each flower or weed, tell them whether or not it is edible, and what its uses are. We work on leaf, berry, and bark identification on our around the homestead journeys as well.

A wild flower patch I had not noticed before caught Auddie’s attention so we stopped and picked a little bouquet. I took a photo of the flower with a free plant identification app on my phone so as soon as I got back home and closer to the satellite wifi I could find out what it was and what it could be used for medicinally or if it could be eaten.

Turns out what we found was crowsvetch. It is most definitely not edible and so toxic that I do not want the wee ones (who still put things in their mouth that isn’t food) touching it again. I really don’t even want Auddie to pick it anymore, especially after a rain, because as any of you who have raised, taught, coached, or babysat children known, their handle finger food frequently whether their hands are clean or not.

crowsvetch plant

This is the first time I have come across any naturally growing thing on our property that has caused me concern as well as one of the rare times that anything growing here can’t be eaten or used externally for medicinal purposes.

Crownvetch is a highly invasive non-native plant. How is suddenly developed along and inside the horse pasture I am still not sure. The dainty and attractive wildflower might look really pretty in a vase, but you do not ever want it anywhere your dinner plate, it can be deadly if consumed.

crowsvetch flower

This toxic wildflower does serve one valuable purpose. It is used to prevent soil erosion. After the wet winter and spring we have had, I would be tempted to transplant it along the creek banks. When the fence line that borders the creek was erected, it was 10 feet away from the water. When we bought the place it was only inches away from the water. Last month we spent an entire weekend pulling whole sections of tangled fencing and wood posts out of the creek after the bank again receded more in one of the lower pastures.

But, I will have to do a lot more research about it first due to concerns about it being that close to the livestock water supply – and the same water we would use if the SHTF.

Over the course of the winter and spring, historic flooding took place in our region. After several weeks of record high temperatures, we are again living in mud and were flooded in overnight because the creek exceeded its banks again.

creek overflowing on the homestead

I took this photo after the creek started to recede. It might not look like it in the photo, but the water was over two feet deep in the middle nad moving fast enough that Jovie did run into it for her usual after barn chores morning swim. It definitely would have swept her away.

Tragedy Averted

We are still on kid watch with our sweet 3-legged goat, Pearl. She is huge and I feel so badly for her waddling around in this heat on just three legs.

During morning feed time two days ago she slipped when hopping up on the feed tub – where she so does not belong, and fell. She hurt one of her good back legs. I knew immediately it was not broken, but didn’t know how severely it was harmed, she wouldn’t put any weight on it at all.

Even a pulled tendon or torn muscle would have potentially been deadly for Pearl. She is so extremely pregnant, expecting two kids this time, I believe, and would not have been able to stand and move about at all on two legs.

I stalled Pearl for the day, hoping that her leg was just stoved up and sore and she would stay off of it and allow it to heal if she was in her birthing stall with extra feed and water right next to her.

By evening she was tentatively putting weight on her leg, but limping on two legs still. The next morning she seemed almost back to normal and still no kids.

She crawls under the gate to the tack room to get out after feeding. The gate keeps all of the goats out but her and her first kid, Rooster. Crawling under the gate has been a challenge for her as her pregnancy has progressed. I keep trying to feed her elsewhere, but she wants to stands on the part of the feed fridge I don’t open and only store grain sacks in like she has since she came to live her.

Pearl basically wants the new goats to know she is extra special because she gets inside the tack room and that she is in charge of the herd. She was more than a bit jealous when the new goats arrived on Mother’s Day.

goats

The goat family will grow by two sometime in the near future. Not Negan (black goat) doesn’t have great paternal instincts and isn’t really into hanging out with any goat her members besides the occasional romantic interlude with Pearl, he prefers the company of the horses and has made himself a member of their herd.

After morning feed was over and I exited the barn, Pearl still had not emerged from the tack room. I called for her several times and she answered, but did not come out, which was highly unusual for her. Concerned that she couldn’t crawl out because of both her advanced stage of pregnancy and her sore leg, I started back to let her out.

I almost turned around because the other goats followed and I knew it would be a wrestling match to keep them out while coaxing Pearl to exit the room as well. I am glad that I decided to go on into the tack room because as I neared I heard Rooster but did not see him – which isn’t highly unusual, he is always bouncing around somewhere, he is a very curious little goat.

5 goats and a horse

Even when I opened the tack room gate Pearl still stood near the food tub, just staring at it. I told her no more food was going to be scooped out and she would have to wait until evening put up for snack.

Again I gently tried to get her to leave the tack room, but she was adamant about remaining and refused to budge. At this point, I was getting a little irritated, I wanted to go back home and shower and needed to get to work.

Once I adopted a slightly harsh tone to my voice and demanded Pearl follow me out of the tack room, I heard Rooster again and this time I could track the sound. That ever curious little goat once again stuck his nose where it did not belong.

Somehow, using extreme stealth, Rooster must have jumped into the feed fridge as I scooped out feed into buckets the final trip through. I prop up the tub lid with a pitchfork handle so it doesn’t smack me in the head when I am scooping.

Rooster must have knocked the handle and shut the lid.Being busy going in and out the tack room – climbing over the gate each time with feed instead of opening the gate to avoid a goat stampede, I didn’t even grasp it was not me who shut the lid.

nigerian dwarf goat Rooster

Rooster is a Nigerian Dwarf and Pygmy goat cross.

I grabbed a hammer and put a fence staple into the wood wall beind the feed fridge and another into the door itself. Next, I grabbed bit of chain and some double-sided snaps to make a way to secure the door lid in place when it was up.

Never had anything like that happened befre and it likely would not again, but I was unwilling to take that chance. It still scare me to think about the painful death Rooster would surely have endured had his momma not hurt her leg and been so pregnant I was worried about her not being able to crawl under the gate to leave the tack room.

I am hoping for an uneventful seven days on the homestead in the coming week and one that includes catching an actual mink in a trap – but things do always play out as planned on the homestead.

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Tara Dodrill
About Tara Dodrill 58 Articles
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day. her homesteading skills are unmatched, she raises chickens, goats, horses, a wide variety of vegetables, not to mention she's an expert is all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping and many, many more.

2 Comments

  1. Wendy,

    Thank you! Never a dull moment on a homestead, right?! Life in town was both so unrewarding and boring compared to living out our days on our dream land! We are in the midst of building a playhouse for grandkiddos now, out of 90 percent scrap materials, I am planning on writing a how to piece about it as soon as it is done. When i am finished with it there will no longer be toys to step on or bikes to maneuver around in our shelter house and it will look at least a cool as those you can buy or see on Pinterest for only a tiny fraction of the price.

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