Living the Country Life

Betsy's Backyard Blog

Betsy Freese is an Executive Editor for Meredith Agrimedia, including Living the Country Life and Successful Farming. She grew up on a fruit farm in Maryland (see and has an agricultural journalism degree from Iowa State University. She and her husband, Bob, a veterinarian, live on a farm in Iowa where they raise sheep, hay, corn, and soybeans.

May 30, 2013

Coyote trouble (graphic content)

Between noon and 6 p.m. yesterday, a coyote slipped under the fence of the corral behind our barn and killed a lamb. Bob had fed the lambs on his lunch break and nothing was amiss. By suppertime he was greeted with the carcass below. I'm posting the photos because they show how a coyote kills, versus a dog. We had dogs attack our sheep in the past. They rip at the sheep from behind, tearing legs and udders. Coyotes kill at the neck (notice the bite wounds and neck trauma) and then tear out the organs. This coyote even left a clear paw print in the mud. The coin is a quarter.

The question now is, what do we do about this? We were just ready to send the ewes and lambs to pasture. With coyotes hungry enough and brave enough to come into the barn lot, the pasture would become a killing field.

I posted the question on social media last night. We can't shoot the varmints because we live in the town limits where that's illegal. A friend has good luck with mini donkeys for guard animals. Bob doesn't want to mess with donkeys. He says he's selling the herd. He might get grass calves.

Stupid coyotes.

Track of a coyote, with quarter for size.

Bite marks

May 29, 2013

Iris time

I say the most beautiful flower on earth is the iris. It's scent and colors and poise are not to be beat. Best of all, the flowers come up year after year without any fuss. My irises have been gracing the south side of my house for more than 30 years; we don't really know when they were planted.

When the irises are in bloom, I spend every evening I can reading in the backyard. There is a two-day window where my lilacs are still blooming on one side of my lawn chair and the first irises are popping on the other. 7 p.m., you will find me there. Heaven.

May 28, 2013

Lego barn

It rained all weekend, so Caroline cleaned the attic. She found the tub of old Legos. Construction on our barn started at noon and went until midnight, maybe later. I found the final result in the dining room this morning. Nice touch on the hay elevator. I like the boat (right); it's flooding in Iowa, so we may need it. As for the palm tree -- she was using material at hand, so adjustments were made. I wonder if she can enter this in her portfolio for the design college application?

May 24, 2013

Spring wedding

The warm glow from Nowlan and Daniella's wedding still resides, so here are more photos.

The walk down the aisle after the vows is always my favorite part of every wedding.

The couple chose to serve 10 flavors of cheesecakes instead of traditional wedding cake. It was a huge hit!

Even if spring is late and the vines have no green, a photo in the arbor is still nice.

The best part about the wedding: We added a whole new family to our family. Wonderful.

May 21, 2013

After the storms

Tiny tornadoes danced around central Iowa the past few days, dipping and twirling, but not killing. We spent Sunday evening in the basement as the worst of the storms went by. At every break in the rain, a cardinal flew down to the garage roof and called for his mate. His song was so strident Caroline thought help was needed outside. "Is Dad whistling for me?"

In Oklahoma the storms were killing machines. I am horrified by the destruction.

Bob says he is cleaning out the cupboard under the basement stairs and installing a sturdy door. That would be the safest place in our house. He also wants to replace the old door on the storm cellar (see photo).

Stay safe.

May 17, 2013

Pond is recovering

During the drought last year, the water level in our pond dropped by several feet. Some ponds in our area dried up completely.

But after winter snows and spring rains, our pond is back to normal and the overflow pipe running. My cousin Kurtis caught a big bass on the north shore of the pond last week (below) and I saw an ugly snapping turtle crawling up the south bank.

May 15, 2013

New neighbors. Blah.

This is the view looking south from the our pond dam. You can see our fence at the bottom of the photo. The houses just keep coming, their windows pointing toward our pasture so they can enjoy the view. I think we need to invest in some fast-growing trees and some more privacy signs. I sure hope those folks don't think they can climb the fence and fish in our pond. But they will.

  • Tags:
May 13, 2013


My oldest son, Nowlan, married Daniella Triebwasser on Friday evening in a beautiful ceremony near our Iowa home. They met as graduate students at Clemson University. Danny's family traveled from North Carolina, Washington D.C,, and Venezuela for the wedding. My family came from Maryland, and Bob's family from Texas and Colorado. It was wonderful to get everyone together for worship, dancing, good food, and days of celebrating. It was the best week of my life. Here are a few photos. More to come later.

Caroline finished final exams at college just in time to race home for the wedding.

My parents on the dance floor.

The newlyweds walk to our pasture.

  • Tags:
May 6, 2013

Annual foot trim

Bob castrated and docked tails on the remaining lambs. It was a poor year, with nine ewes in the cull pen for various reasons. The rams are getting culled, too.

The most dreaded chore of the year is the annual foot trimming. Bob has to flip every ewe over and clip her hard nails while she flails her back legs and I scramble to keep the babies out of her way. All I can think is, "Thank goodness he doesn't do my pedicures." The iodine bottle gets some use.

You can see in this photo how we got the ewes too fat on alfalfa. This mom is nursing triplets and looks like she has three more inside.

May 3, 2013

May snow

Go home winter. You are drunk.

This was my view to the barn at daybreak. Iowa got pounded with snow overnight, the most ever for May.

Below is the grove, with my blooming pear tree in the front.

We asked for moisture to ease the drought of 2012, but really.

  • Tags: