Archive for the ‘How-To’ Category

Fruits and Veggies

 Our past posts have dealt primarily with our animals and the work associated with them, but another blessing we’ve got here is what we’ve been provided with in the way of fruits and vegetables.

Kids picking the first lettuces

We had a late start to the garden itself as we were pretty busy with all the projects that came from moving in.  A combination of that late start and me mixing entirely too much compost into the garden led to a relatively low and late yield.  By mid-summer, only the lettuce (which absolutely loved the nitrogen high I’d given it) was harvestable for our table.

Meanwhile, the other vegetables turned the nitrogen into leaves and stems, growing somewhat out of control but not producing flowers or fruit.  It wasn’t until late summer that we started to get a few beans, cukes and tomatoes. 

Cukes are Here!

The tomatoes, combined with fresh basil and some store-bought mozzarella allowed us to make one of our favorite summer appetizers, Caprese salad.

 The recipe for Caprese, btw, is ridiculously simple: slice and arrange 2 or 3 very ripe tomatoes on a plate, top with slices of buffalo mozzarella and basil leaves, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.


Mmmmm... Caprese!

Come to think of it, you may want to use 4 tomatoes for this… It dissappears quickly around here.
While the garden was slow in ripening, the wild offerings were not.  Our property (and the area surrounding us) has a good selection of berry bushes – primarily wild strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
The wild strawberries came into season first, and though we had grand plans to collect them for jam, most of them went directly from the pickers’ hands to their mouths – what a great early summer treat!
We filled our need for canning strawberries by patronizing a few of the many local pick-your-own farms in the area, our freezer space dwindling by the day.  Wild Raspberries ripened next, and this year’s crop was impressive (though this bowl had some stray early blueberries as well).

Wild Raspberries... and Some Friends

We managed to find very few black raspberry bushes,  so we added those extra-special treasures to a bag in the freezer until we had collected enough for canning.  My wife asked for only one thing for her birthday… a food mill, and after researching several different models, we found a good deal on a Victorio (here it is at Amazon) and an accessory kit (4 more screens and a grape auger).
The wild blueberries were rare (and tiny) this year in our area, but a friend’s high-bushes were absolutely out of control, yielding nearly grape-sized berries by the basketfull.  In a half hour at their house, we had picked nearly 10 quarts to share with their neighbors.
While waiting for the food mill to arrive, we started to realize that the peaches were going to be ripe a lot earlier than we expected.  We also realized that we should’ve been a lot more dilligent about following my Dad’s advice and culling the overproduction earlier in the season.  By late July, a branch had already fallen, and I had to build supports to hold up the other ones to prevent further damage.

That's a Lot of Peaches

In one day, we picked a bushel or so of pre-ripe peaches to take some of the load off.  In the following weeks as the fruit ripened, we found ourselves with more peaches than we knew what to do with, especially when we decided we needed to empty the tree in preparation for Hurricane Irene.  By the time we were done, we had picked upwards of 5 bushels of peaches and discarded maybe 3 more (windfalls and insect-damaged fruit).

Now What?

A modified version of the scene from Forest Gump, where Bubba talks about all the ways you can prepare shrimp, became the household joke.  Peach salsa, peach cobbler, peach pie, peach jam, peach chutney, pickled peaches, canned peaches, peach sorbet, peach gumbo… 

Peach Pyromania Salsa

Our Peach Salsa Recipe is here:  We modified it by using only 1 cup of sugar, doubling the red pepper, and adding sliced jalapenos.

Peach Cobbler


Blueberry and Peach Jams

Special thanks to http:/// for all the help in the way of recipes and canning advice, btw!  We used and adapted many of their recipes.  A few favorites:  “Blue Suede” (Blueberry-Peach Jam), “Tri-Dye Jam” (raspberry, blackberry, and peach Jam), Peach Cobbler, Pickled Peaches, and strawberries.
Then, as we finished processing the peaches and most of the berries, the garden went into full-bore production mode, as did our apples.

Apples Ripening

The first early windfalls ended up as applesauce – again a simple recipe: cut up apples, cook them until soft in about an inch of apple juice, run through the food mill, and can in a hot water bath, but soon we had quality ripe apples for eating, cooking, and canning to go along with our broccoli, beans, peas, cukes, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers!
All has to end at some point, though we recently discovered a small grove of wild grapes at the end of our driveway!.  The first frosts have arrived, and though we’re keeping the garden going by covering it at night, the end of our garden produce is in sight.  Next year, we’ll work on some cold frames and perhaps even a small greenhouse… and we’ll make sure to prune the peaches.

NATO Peacekeeping, Family Harmony, and Automatic Chicken Doors

I spent 10 years in NATO assignments, so I’m pretty acquainted with the challenges of trying to accommodate seemingly incompatible desires.  Hey, if I could somehow deal diplomatically with both sides of the Aegean Sea dispute between Turkey and Greece, I should be able to figure out a farm, right?


OK, we’re not talking international incidents, but our chickens did provide us with a challenge, caused (as most challenges are) by competing agendas:

1.  We want to raise our chickens in a natural, free-range environment (for all of these reasons)

2.  We want our chickens to feed us, not the local predators, and

3.  We want to be able to leave the house every once and a while and not have to chase the chickens inside before we leave, or wonder if we remembered to close the door for the night, or have to rush back home to close the door before the raccoons, possums, and skunks start prowling.

As I’ve said before, I’m a gadget guy, and we tend to accumulate gadgets that don’t necessarily save time or effort.  However, every once in a while, I do find a gadget that does some good.  In this case, it was a gadget that met all those agendas… an automatic chicken coop door.

I’d heard of them before – pretty cool gadgets that open the door in the morning to let the birds out, then shut in the evening when they’re roosted to keep them safe for the night.  I put on my Google-Fu gameface and went to work.  Sure enough, I found all types of doors available… simple to complex, hinged doors, vertical sliders, horizontal sliders…

… and they started at about $200 shipped, and went up almost to $400.  Ouch.

Undeterred, I added “DIY” to the start of my search string.  And boy did I find some great designs.

One had an electronic schematic involving diodes, transistors, limiting switches, solar panels, and a flux capacitor.

I’m a pilot, not an engineer, and I couldn’t afford the Mr Fusion required to run the sun-following solar panel positioner.

The next one used an old-fashioned wind-up alarm clock.  No kidding.

Simple, promising, but it lacked bling, and I worried about Homeland Security knocking on my door.

Here’s one that uses a power door lock actuator to drop the door closed.

Getting warmer, and the “no raccoons” sign was a big plus..  But I wanted one that would open the door also.

Finally, I found one done by the same guy that used a car antenna motor, a lamp timer, and a couple transformers.  Simple and straightforward, and made a cool electric motor noise when it operated.  It wasn’t the kind of status I could get by installing the Cheyenne Mountain blast doors, or the Star Trek elevators with their “swish-swish,” but pretty cool nonetheless.

Now this one used diodes also, but I figured I could bypass that nifty-keen aspect and replace the light-sensitive timer with a manual lamp timer. Winner, winner, chicken dinner (for me, not the foxes).

So, I started shopping around for the components.  Holy diminishing returns, Batman!  We were up past $100 again.

Enter the wonderful folks at, who not only have simple, step-by-step instructions for how to make this, but also tell you how to get the materials for about $50 total.

I ended up saving even a few more $$ when I realized aftermarket Wii controllers are 12v, 3.7A (plenty to run the motor) and were on sale from Amazon for $4 each (and free shipping with the antenna motor)!

Once the parts came in, I essentially followed the instructions and put my door together.  One thing I changed was to use a clear Lexan panel for the door (again, because I found one for cheap).

Worked like a charm… a few mods to make it open and close smoothly and we were in business.

Except the chickens wouldn’t use the door.

Seems they tried to go out while the door was closed, through the crystal-clear Lexan, and bumped their beaks one too many times.  Evidently, they decided that just because a cool noise went off, and it looked like the door had moved, they weren’t going to get tricked by the invisible Lexan forcefield again.

Easy fix – I covered the Lexan with spraypaint (now that I think about it, I should’ve used a “No Raccoons” picture), opened the door, and pushed the chickens out by hand.  By the next day, they’d figured it out.

Everything was now working great.  The door opened in the morning.  Chickens filed out and started reducing our tick population.  In the evening, they filed back in to the roost.  The door closed.  Everyone was safe.  We got to stay out late keeping Tractor Supply and Home Depot in business.  Life was good.

Then we got goats.  Within 24 hours, both of them (these are pretty dang big goats, mind you) had squeezed through the 8.5” x 11” opening to get to the chicken feed, shattering the Lexan door in the process.

However, that’s another story for another day.

Repurposing Wooden Pallets

I’ve found a reliable source for used wooden pallets (as well as heavy-duty plastic ones from time-to-time).  There’s always a use for them – whether it’s stacking firewood, scavenging the wood for another project, or using them intact (or mostly so) for one thing or another.

Here are my latest two pallet-projects:

Muscovy Nesting Boxes


The muscovy nesting boxes started life as a 4×4 pallet.  I cut it into four sections – one with three flat boards across (for the base), the other three with two.  One of the smaller sections, I cut in half to make the sides.  The other two made the front and roof.  Some scrap 2×4 and pressboard (for the floor) and ecco!  I took another length of 2×4 from the long section I’d been using to prop the peach tree limbs and put a perch across the barn stall.

Next up – Boer Goats need dry hay for roughage, but they’re notoriously bad about wasting it.  They’ll pull a bunch out of a standard hay rack, eat a bit, drop the rest on the floor and poop/pee on it.  Once that happens, they won’t touch it – it’s just waste.  Another crate, scrap 2×4, and some salvaged 2″ woven wire fencing, and here’s the fix:

Wooden Crate Hay Feeder

Wooden Crate Hay Feeder


Note from the side view that I tilted the top out a bit so the hay falls down and forward as it gets eaten.

It seems to work pretty well.  They can pull hay out with their lips and tongue through the mesh, then munch on it without dropping much at all (note all the waste hay below from the previous method).  Now to make an identical one for the shack in their mini pasture (behind the chicken coop).

On Gadgets

It’s a little known fact that the managers at the local Tractor Supply Co and Home Depot franchises have recently seen the same specialist to cure the same problem. It seems their salivary glands go hyperactive anytime they see me roll into the parking lot.

If you have a small farm, you know that there are all sorts of gadgets you can buy to “help” you.  Now, I’m a gadget guy – and my wallet and I are drawn to them like bugs to a zapper – but I’m also honest with myself.  I’m firmly convinced that very few of these machines, slicers, dicers, and automatic car washers actually result in a net gain in productivity, though some of them are just downright fun (as in the “Whiz-Bang Chicken Plucker,” which we don’t currently own… yet).

What’s a Whiz-Bang?  The story about it is on the inventor’s website, with some great photos and descriptions; however, while a photo says a thousand words, a video is even more verbose.  A bit of Google-Fu gives us an example:

Where were we?  Oh yeah, why gadgets rarely result in a net gain:

Say a person makes the US median income – about $45K a year, or $22.50 per hour.  He or she takes pride in his/her lawn and edges it every week from April to September using  an old-fashioned rotary-blade manual push edger for the task, a good workout that takes an hour to complete.  By the way, we’re talking about “a person,” not me.  I don’t edge my lawn.  It’s not visible from the road, I’m not exactly sure how one edges a gravel drive, and my wife normally mows the lawn anyhow… a long story involving lions, beavers, and USAF flight training.

Back to the story.  One day at Home Depot, said person notices that the Binford 2000 gas-powered Lux-o-Edger (with patented dual counter-rotating blades of turf death) is on sale for only $250.  The sales associate expresses horror when hearing about the old-fashioned edger our person currently uses and says “This baby will do the job in half the time.”

Our gadget guy (oops – I just lost the non-gender-specific edge, I guess) buys the edger, gas can, oil, extended warranty, storage cover, and auxiliary lighting system, and laser grass illuminator, checking out for $350.  Over the two-year life of edger (exactly the length of the extended warranty), he also spends another $100 in gas and parts, bringing the total cost to about $450.  In the end, he saves 20 hours of labor (24 minus  the 4 he spends changing the plugs and oil, and sharpening the dual counter-rotating blades of turf death), which at his hourly wage is worth about $450.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to close my Macbook and go spend some time adjusting our automatic chicken coop door.  Maybe I’ll use the tractor to turn the manure pile also, since it’s so much easier than using a shovel.  Afterwards, I’ll go scrounging for a food drum for a project I’ve been considering.  I’ve already got the motor….

Fall is Around the Corner

Last Year's Fall Foliage

We’re just starting to get a hint of color, and are excited for the Fall Foliage to arrive.

View Over the Barn, Sep 11th

Of course, if Autumn is just around the corner, Winter is close behind.  That means there’s not a lot of time left for us to get some of our tasks done around the farm.  Yesterday afternoon was a big day for that, and one of the projects was dividing the barn runout to allow the goats to share it with our horses (and ducks).

A few things to think about when building fences here.

1) The ground isn’t nearly as bad as North Texas clay, and T-posts and U-posts drive pretty easily, except…

2) They don’t call this the Granite State for nothing.  Every post I drive usually requires a couple re-starts due to me hitting a big rock a foot below the surface…

3) Measure twice, cut once applies to fence building also – every post was driven at least 3 times due not only to the rocks but also me realizing that I’d put it in the wrong place, and…

4) Dropping a fence driver on your nugget hurts like the dickens!

I’ve still got to finish the fence, but this morning I let them in to explore.  The goats seem to like the new digs, though Jasper (our Haflinger cross and boss of the barn) isn’t too happy that he can’t walk to the entry gate anymore.

Some pics from the weekend:

Jessie Meeting Jasper

Gracie (left) and Jessie (right)

They’re not in the barn, but the Barred Rocks are 5 days old today, already noticeably larger, and their wing feathers are becoming more prominent.

Barred Rocks at 4 Days

What Does Free Range Mean?

You can do an Internet search of “cage-free” and “free-range” eggs or chickens and see that there really aren’t a whole lot of legal requirements to claim those titles. 

"Free Range" Chickens at a Factory Farm

“Free range” at the Flying T means that as soon as our chicks and ducklings are safely able to live in the outdoors, we let them roam the farm. 

Rhode Island Red Free-Ranging at the Flying T

  Most of the chickens return to the coop at night to roost, and the ducks to the barn (some chickens may choose to hang out with the ducks in the barn, especially Henny Penny, aka “Chuck the Chicken Duck”), but otherwise they are out foraging for insects, bugs, spiders, worms, seeds, and plants during the majority of the day.  We don’t use pens or cages except in special circumstances (in order to quarantine new or young birds for a short time to ensure biosecurity, or to separate an injured bird to keep it from getting pecked, for instance). 

Chickens hanging out on a woodpile at the Flying T


Mocha foraging with her flock at the Flying T

 This does pose some risks (like predators) and costs.  We can only select breeds that are suitable for free-ranging.  Many “production” strains have many of their natural free-ranging, brooding, self-preservation, and other habits bred out of them so that they spend as much energy as possible either into growing meat on their bones or eggs to lay.  We believe the benefits, however, are worth it.


  1. Free-range eggs have up to 4-6 times the Vitamin D, 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene than factory-raised eggs.  (article)
  2. Free-range ducks and chickens are miracle-workers when it comes to controlling ticks, barnyard flies, grasshoppers, and other pests.  This reduces the need for pesticides, which is not only better for all the animals on the farm… it’s healthier and better for us as well!  (citation and another). 
  3. Free-range birds are healthier than factory birds, and their meat has a firmer and more flavorful nature, and encourages us to return to more traditional harvesting, preparation, and cooking methods (read this article for good information and ideas).
  4. While factory birds are selectively bred to discourage broodiness (a female bird’s instinct to nest, incubate, and raise her own young) because a broody hen doesn’t lay eggs, our breeding plan actually encourages broodiness, allowing us to sustain the flock.
  5. A broody free-range hen will raise her own chicks/ducklings.  If you’ve ever raised either (we have… and actually, we are doing it again), you know it’s a lot of work and attention that could get spent elsewhere.  Our hope is that with our breeding plan, this is the last batch we have to hand-raise!
  6. Though we offer free-choice supplemental feed (especially in winter), free-range birds require a lot less of this, reducing our costs.  And since they don’t spend as much time in their roosts, clean-up is a lot less time-consuming also (instead, they spend a lot of time fertilizing our pastures and lawn).
  7. Free-range birds don’t tend to fight like confined birds, which is why even “cage free” and some “free range” factory birds have the tips of their beaks cut or burnt off. (citation)
  8. Finally, it’s just peaceful and enjoyable to watch birds range over the farm, stopping from time to time to peck at food, or chasing a dragonfly across the pasture.

The Farm Cycle – Finding the Groove

As we build up our farm here in New Hampshire, one thing we’re working on is putting together an annual farm cycle – a rotating calendar of events so that we not only get everything done, but also spread the work evenly as possible across the year.  Here’s an example of how this might have looked on an early colonial farm (put together as part of a National Heritage Museum curriculum).

Farm Work Cycle from the National Heritage Museum


It’s neat to see that though we don’t have to worry about combing flax or buying salt (and with the advent of the automobile we don’t need to confine neighbor visits to January), things really haven’t changed a whole lot in 250 years.  I’ve got to put on snow tires instead of building wooden wheels, lube and change oil in the tractor and truck vice repairing carts, and brewing beer?  We’ll maybe have to take that up some December in the future.

At the Flying T, we don’t/can’t control the timing of some things – when the ducks and chickens will raise broods, for instance, but we are realizing that we need to do some advance planning now to make sure we can get work done next year.

As we’ve worked to develop how this wheel will look at the Flying T, one thing we’ve decided is that we can’t add anything else to mid-August through mid-September!  The late start to our garden and mid-summer assault upon it by a woodchuck (RIP) meant a lot of our produce is just coming available.  Our amazing abundance of peaches began ripening in late August, and we were in high gear harvest as many as possible before they all got thrown to the ground by Irene.  Couple that with start of the kids’ school and the academic year at UNH where I teach, some needed repairs on the farm and house, and we were in high gear.

This is not where we need to be dealing with kidding goats (or new kids for that matter), which leads to timing when we want to make them available to breed, which also affects when the kids will be ready for market…

Nor is it when we want to be putting up hay, which we blessedly did the month prior, and hopefully will top off next month.  That’s tricky timing also – when I was preparing us for move-in, I found out how difficult it is to find good hay in early Spring.

Hopefully we can get the garden in earlier next year (and get the nitrogen balanced a bit better as well), which will help also.

Irene helped us add to the firewood stash.  We were already in pretty good shape and I wasn’t going to cut any more, but now we’ll have another ~cord to split and stack that should be dry by the end of the winter.

This is all a superb education opportunity for the adults and kids (human, not goat).  Thank God for great mentors, a superb library and librarian, the Internet, and the NH extension program!

The Simplicity of Horse Trailering

When you start thinking of horses and horse ownership, lots of images start playing in your mind’s eye.  At first, most of them probably are the romantic cuts, drawn mainly from watching The Man from Snowy River and Open Range too many times.

As you get closer to making that decision to actually buy a horse, those images might start to include scenes of the more practical sort like feeding and training (and if you’re the Dad, you have visions of your wallet being wrung like an old dishrag).  But still your mind’s eye is adulterated by the filmmaking industry, which even when they do cover “difficult” or “headstrong” horses, the problems are overcome easily in the course of a two hour feature film.  I apologize if I am the first to break this news, but Secretariat, Black Beauty and National Velvet are works of fiction.

Trailering is simple. So is astrophysics.

There’s a reason that even those movies that touch on horse training never show real people getting real horses into a trailer.  That reason is that every actor has a clause in his or her contract with injunctions against the actor being made to look like an incompetent fool and against smaller injustices, such as being kicked to death or squashed between a steel wall and one thousand pounds of horse.

On the outset, it really doesn’t seem to be too complicated.  The horse seems to trust you.  You feed, water, groom him, and clean up his poop.  In return, he lets you ride him and seems to follow your commands reasonably well.  When you walk him around the arena or lunge him in the round pen, he follows your leads just fine.  Surely he’ll follow you out of the pasture and into a trailer.  This is simple, right?

This leads me to one of my cardinal rules of horses, one that I’ve adapted from two decades of military service.  If anyone says “this is simple,” it’s time to take cover.

Let’s look at this from the horse’s perspective.  You are a herd animal.  You like to be with other animals, particularly with other horses.  You crave stability, firm ground, and readily available forage, and new things tend to make you nervous.  You are created to live and thrive in open country where you can detect predators at a distance and use your speed to elude them.  And now this human, obviously off his rocker (he collects poop for heaven’s sake!), wants to lead you alone into a dark metal box that moves when you step in it.  You outweigh him by half a ton.

Trailering, it turns out, is one of the most difficult things with some horses.  Like so many things with horses, we find out we are hoodwinked on this fact.  After signing the contracts on our two horses, Jasper balks a bit at getting into the trailer, but his previous owner gets him in with a bit of urging.  “He’s a bit trailer shy,” she says.  Zip, on the other hand, walks in with no questions, just a point of the finger.  We have no idea that: 1) Zip is the product of years of training combined with his overly-compliant personality and 2) One should view the words “a bit..” attached to any possible vice by a person trying to sell a horse as a bright red warning flag.

After a short trip to the vet for a health check and tests, Rachel our horse trainer gets Zip and Jasper back into the trailer with “a bit” of effort, and we make the two hour drive back to the barn near our house where we will board them for the next few months.  After unloading them into a paddock and feeding and watering them, we head home.

The next morning, we arrive to work with the horses, and Rachel suggests we start with a trailering lesson for Jasper.  We’re excited, because Rachel is the type of horse trainer who can get horses to do just about anything.  In fact, when we were looking at horses to buy, one of the owners took his horse off the market after seeing Rachel work with him, and in one session getting the mare to do several things he had told us she flat out was incapable of.

Rachel demonstrates, lunging him around and back and forth in front of the trailer for quite a while, working him into a sweat before walking him towards the trailer.  He wants nothing of it, so she brings him out and works him some more… and some more… and some more.  After about an hour, he walks in tentatively, then comes right out.  Rachel declares victory and tells us that we need to do this every day until he gets right in.  “It might take a week or so before that happens,” she says.

This is simple, right?

(Read more in my post, “Adventures in Long-Distance Horse Trailering, Part 1“)

Tractor Lessons: Dust in the Wind

Back in Texas, we started our search for horses.  Rachel, our daughter’s former riding instructor and an amazing horse trainer, served as our priceless mentor.  While we got ready to start this next chapter in life’s adventure we realized we needed another to ask for help from another mentor, Mary Elizabeth (director of Whispers of Hope, the therapeutic riding facility at which we’d been volunteering).

You see, we’d just bought a tractor and neither of us knew how to drive one.

Mary Elizabeth, on the other hand, was born on a tractor.  Actually, I think her mom was working on the tractor and the midwife was riding next to her on a horse.  At one point, Mary Elizabeth was born, swaddled in Carhartts and cowboy boots, and then kissed her mom goodbye as she started driving cattle up the trail.

When we ask for tractor lessons, therefore, she answers by laughing.  Who would need to learn to drive a tractor?  But she obliges, and quickly settles into showing us everything about how to operate her manual-transmission diesel tractor, loader, and various accessories for the three-point hitch.

While she’s talking about how to set the proper “float” for the grader, I’m trying to explain that I’m just happy I’m not stalling the tractor out in the swap between 1st and 2nd gear.  I also mistakenly mention that our tractor has a hydrostatic transmission, so this won’t be as big of a problem.  I get a disdainful scowl in return – “Hmph… real tractors don’t have automatic transmissions.”  I decide not to mention the cruise control.

Nevertheless, after a bit of trial and error, both of us are getting around the farm OK in the tractor, with fewer and fewer ground gears or sudden stops and starts.

At this point, Mary Elizabeth’s eyes light up (in a good way, not like when I almost put the bucket through the window of her F-350) and she announces that the best way to really learn how to work a tractor is to do real work.  And the real work she needs done is for us to load up tons (literally) of old manure, and transport it to the dumpsters across the way.

No problem, we say.  This sounds like fun!

And fun it is.  Drive up, load up, lift, back up, drive down the road…

And then it’s time to dump.  Now, this is a bit trickier, because the loader bucket is just about the same width as the dumpster, and so it takes some coordination, with my wife driving while I give her directions… forward, back, left, right… looks good… OK, dump!

Now before we talk about how the dump part works, let me digress for a bit and talk about biology, physics, and meteorology, all subjects in which I have absolutely no expertise.

We are about ready to dump manure.  We are in North Texas.  There is no moisture in North Texas, and so the manure dries completely and quickly.  As it dries, it becomes dusty, to the point that even the slightest breeze sometimes will lift particles of manure up to mouth level.  And again, we’re in North Texas, where what they call “the slightest breeze” is what the rest of us would call “gale-force winds.”  Below is the result of this perfect storm of manure and wind.

Afterwards, Mary Elizabeth notices us trying to wash the manure out of our mouths, noses, eyes, and ears.  Casually she says, “Oh, I guess I forgot to tell you – I normally wear a bandana over my face when I do that.”