Friday, October 17, 2014

Family Night on the farm


This will be a rather unique blogpost.  I am writing at 1 A.M. and I don't have any pictures to illustrate my story, for which you will be grateful, and I smell like very wet chicken.  Poor me!

Here is my story.  Tonight my DH and I were arriving home at the farm after a very nice date night.  We had gone to hear George Barna speak on parenting and then went out to Aladdin's for dinner.  By the time we arrived home it was after 10.  My DH commented to me that one of the black chickens was lying by the end road.  I said that that didn't make any sense.  I wasn't questioning his veracity just the fact that a black chicken was by the road made no sense.  He went out to look while I stayed on the driveway to keep my shoes dry.  When he came back he reported that the chicken was still alive.  That was really strange.  My DH is a "city slicker" farmer and doesn't touch chickens.

I went and got some boots. a flashlight, and Michelle.  We went out to the road and Michelle picked up the rooster and looked at it closely.  No blood and it seemed intact.  But why was it by the road?!!  The roosters always head to the back to be near the hens and not towards the road.  The rooster chirped and snuggled as we headed back towards the coop.  Alas, the fence was broken down and there was a dead rooster caught in it.  Another rooster was missing altogether.  The fence to the broilers was also broken down.  Fortunately, there coop was buttoned up so tightly that the fox or coyote couldn't get it.  As we were examining the broiler pen, we noticed that all the broilers were sopping wet.  Chickens don't stay healthy when they can't get dry. The place where the pen had been moved to last night had become a swamp with all the rain!

What to do?!!! We called for reinforcements and went and cleared out one of the stalls (My DH and T-Bob used their big muscles to do that) that was filled with junk and covered the floor with hay.  We also cleared out the road trailer, got the ATV out and went back to the broiler pen.  Do you know how long it takes to chase down and move 100 broilers?!!! These are Freedom Ranger broilers and they can move fast.  Thomas was in his documentary mode, meaning he is putting together evidence for future political campaigns that indeed he was raised on a farm and is a real farmer.  He made Elizabeth, (Poor kid, she was in bed sleeping when all the excitement broke out and so she was recruited to come help. Second night in a row that she has been up past midnight), hold the flashlight and video tape him catching the broilers while standing barefoot in the broiler pen full of mud and bird poop.  He is not afraid of hard work or dirt- as long as the camera is on -  LOL.  He continued working though once the camera was off.  We loaded the wet birds into the trailer and hauled them to the barn.  There we reversed our human chain and unloaded them all.  The chickens seemed very happy to be in a warm dry place.  

T-Bob and I went back to check on the roosters and fix their fence.  When that was done we went to move the electric power to the fence so that if the robber comes back he will get a real surprise.  T-Bob made sure that the power was off, but when he moved it there was still a power reserve that jolted him as he walked.  These electric fences are very powerful and give you a real "kick-in-the-pants" and not just a strong tingle.  In fact, he almost fell over from the strength of it and the battery charger went flying.  He thought I had thrown a brick at him and hit him.  At least that's what it felt like.  I would never do such a thing!!!  My DH was once again called out to set the fence charger back up.  Both T-Bob and I wanted nothing to do with it after that.  I think the fact that the ground was soaking wet was a factor in the shock.  By  the time we got in the house it was almost one in the morning.  Michelle was finishing butchering the dead chicken that was caught in the fence.  Don't want to waste the meat on one of my primo roosters.

So what did your family do for 'Family Night'?

Did I mention that we love life on the farm?  It is definitely character building!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hay Baling on the Farm

We had a very busy and exhausting day yesterday!  Early in the morning we heard from the neighbor that he was wanting to bale our fields to see if he could get some in before the rain cam this morning. As I have mentioned previously, we have the BEST neighbors!!!


Earl the Pearl brought his tractor, baler and wagon over and started.  His wagon holds 100 bales.


We had worked very hard all morning to get this section of the barn cleaned out.  The Boss had stacked a lot of things there in preparation for moving his stuff into the barn.  It had to be totally cleaned out to get this wagon in there.

Eli and Elizabeth

A young family had come for adjustments and stayed to watch the excitement.  Our family was really excited to get hay in the barn.  Plus there was the extra suspense of racing the rain.


When the wagon dumped the bales they tumbled out the door!


Lee was very happy to check out the bales.


The team set to work as we had only about an hour to get the first batch of bales stacked before the next one was coming in.


Michelle and Elizabeth worked hard at stacking the bales in the upper part of the barn.  These were very heavy bales!  I was super impressed that Elizabeth could heft a bale around.  She is getting to be a real farm gal! Hard to believe she is only nine.  As soon as she finished eating dinner, she showered and headed to bed.  It was an exhausting day!


We were super blessed to have some friends ( 5 young men) come over and help us on our project.  I don't know how we would have gotten it done without them.  We were racing the daylight and we had to finish up by headlight as it was.


Elizabeth and Michelle worked very hard and you can see that glow of hard work on their faces.  They really enjoy working together!


The baler had one major issue.  About every fourth bale,  the knotter wouldn't work and the bale wouldn't get tied up.  That made a lot of loose hay in the wagon and spread around the barn.  We had to work hard to gather it in a pile.


When the tractor came back we ran the loose hay back through the baler to form it into tied bales.  This almost doubled the time it took.  It cost us another potential load of hay bales from the field.


We don't have a hay elevator and so we had to figure out a quick easy solution.  Paul, our mechanical engineering student, came up with this.  He fixed a sled on a large wooden I-beam.  He attached a rope and it had a back stop.


Hay bales were place on the sled and...


Thomas or one of the other big guys pulled it easily up to the loft.


Thomas seemed to enjoy this job.


Michelle's height was useful as she could swing the bales up to the higher rows when we were stacking.


Sam the Man, held the bales down.  Actually, he worked along with everybody else.


Paul, worked hard with organizing and carrying bales.  He is an expert at figuring an easier way to do most jobs.


Here is the loft crew waiting for another bale.  We ended up with almost 200 bales in the barn.  We are left with over 600 bales worth in the field.  Unfortunately, the rain this morning has soaked it all.  We are hoping it has a chance to dry out before the next rain.  Then we can still round bale it.


Autumn on the farm is a busy time.  Here's hoping that winter slows down a bit more.  The old house is on the market. I can't wait until it sells and I get my DH husband home before ten o'clock at night!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Farm Update

September is quickly coming to a close.  Things will hopefully start slowing down. Most of the garden stuff is fading, although I planted zucchini and other summer squash at the end of July and it is coming on really well.  I hadn't had time to get to it earlier.  I also have a wonderful late crop of green beans to eat and harvest.  I may even have enough to freeze.  


One project that hasn't made the blog yet, is our broiler chicks.  We have about 100 freedom ranger broilers and they should be finished up in November.  It is amazing how much heavier they are than our other birds at the same age.  We moved them out on grass at 3 weeks.  


They are currently in a broiler pen that Joan and I made with Paul's supervision.  He is bound and determined to teach us how to make our own projects and how to use the tools.  The broilers are on grass but still need a heat lamp at night and a tarp.  Starting them later in the year has its challenges.
I like this picture of them as shadows.


Michelle and Elizabeth finished their quilt.  They have another one going already.  It really turned out nicely. It is neat to see them working together.  Now they need to get their projects cleaned up, together.  It is always seems more fun to do a project than it is to clean it up.

The turkeys supervising the unloading of the trailer.

Saturday our amazing neighbor came through again.  The guys took the chicken coop apart from the old house and moved it on a trailer to the farm.  This will give us a third coop for our laying hens.  We need them close to the barn for the winter.  


The broilers are now 4.5 weeks old and they are growing like crazy.  We got the door on the broiler and so now they can go out on the grass.  For now they are staying inside the electric fence.  In time, we hope to get them out in the field, so they can really free range.  They just have to finish feathering out for the cold nights.


The broilers can really pack the food away.


T-Bob is not a big fan of holding chickens.  He much prefers the pigs.


We see a lot of Car.  He is at the farm 3 or 4 days a week.  He really enjoys playing with the big kids.  He is learning to play soccer.


We got our fields mowed on Friday.  This is what they look like.


Here is more of a close-up.  The problem is that it is supposed to rain on Tuesday and it probably won't be dry enough to bale until Wednesday, without the rain.  We are learning the emotional ups and downs of farming. Sometimes you pray for rain and then others you pray that it holds off.


This is what the fields looked like before they were cut. This 'hay' will be very high in protein as there is lots of grain and such in it.  We are hoping to use it for the pigs when the winter comes and until they are big enough to 'harvest'.
  

The pigs are getting bigger all the time. They are also getting friendlier.  At first they weren't sure about getting near anyone.  Then, they decided that it was ok to have their snouts rubbed. Now, they love it when I come over and pet them for real.  They will stand there by the fence until I get tired.  They have the good life for a pig.


Car has been learning to be a big helper.


He pitches in to help T-Bob with his Saturday chores.  T-Bob has to clean out the cars.  Car helped with all the vacuuming.  He is a good kid!


Autumn is setting in and summer is gone.  The trees are starting to change colors and the gardens are needing to be gotten ready for next spring.  The kids were discouraged to see the leaves starting to drop.  Raking leaves is a big job here on the farm!  We are enjoying the nice warm days and the crisp cool nights of the fall.  Spend some time outside enjoying the weather wherever you are.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

One Year Anniversary at the Farm


One Year ago we got the keys for the farm.  It has been a wonderful year with many blessings.  We have learned many things and I have recently been thinking about the things I have learned this year.


I have really come to appreciate my family. Our new farmhouse is very peaceful.  The children have learned a lot of new skills both in animal husbandry and carpentry as well as machinery and landscaping.  My husband has worked very hard getting this house and my office ready to be moved into and then turned his energy to getting the old house ready to sell.  He has been working a lot of 80 hour weeks.  We praise God for the good health we have enjoyed.


Our animal menagerie  now includes pigs. We have realized that if you move the pigs daily that there is no odor.  You also don't have to shovel out manure as it doesn't build up.  Pigs love to munch on the salad of a mixed pasture field.  We have learned that if you pasture the chickens after the pigs the chickens clean up the feed and you don't have rodent issues. We learned to our great sadness that small young pigs don't do well in cold wet weather.  They can quickly develop pneumonia and die.  Pigs are friendly and like to have their heads scratched.


I have learned that turkeys stick together.  They will stand and defend their weakest members against attackers.  They are also very friendly and will follow you around.  They like to visit the other animals on the farm.  We also learned to our sadness that it is very important to label your feed bags from the mill.  It is very bad to mix up pullet grower (16% protein) with turkey grower (28% protein). They are definitely not the same and will result in dead turkeys (At least half of them) .  Otherwise we had good success in raising our turkey poults.  The bourbon reds are a heritage breed that free range nicely and are healthy.


We have learned a lot about chickens this year.  We currently have about 220 birds, including 99 broilers, on the farm.  By the end of November there should only be about 85.  Yes, this year we have learned how to butcher birds.  We have also learned that our free range, raised on pasture birds taste delicious!  We have learned that different breeds of birds have different temperments. We have seen good roosters and stupid roosters.  The stupid ones don't last long, but they taste just as good.  We are learning to see that you have to choose whether you are going to be a city farmer or whether you are running a business. We have made some good decisions and learned lessons from the mistakes.  

Animal confab- Chickens, turkeys and pigs

It has been good to learn the responsibility and discipline needed to raise animals.  We have learned that neither plants or animals wait until it is convenient for you to meet their needs.  One can't be lazy or too busy to meet their needs as bad things happen when you do.  We have also learned that taking care of animals is enjoyable!


We have learned that starting a garden from scratch takes time!  That a lot of the ideas in permaculture work great and will be pursued even more vigorously by us in the future.  We love our herb spiral!  We like having very little weeding to do!  We have learned that you never have enough mulch or manure!


We enjoyed the rewards of our labors! 


The kids have learned that a farm is a great place to bring friends.  There is a lot of room to run and many different backgrounds for dress-up photo shoots!  A pond is a wonderful thing to have as well, whether it is used for fishing, swimming, ice skating or just relaxing.


We have learned that having good neighbors is worth a lot, but having great neighbors is priceless! We have great neighbors.  They are willing to pitch in and help in a crises or to give us newbies advice.  They have loaned us tools and tractors.  They have made this first year so much easier.


We have learned to always take time and enjoy a sunset!  I think they are God's way of saying good-night and that He loves us!  We are looking forward to many more years here on the farm.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Horse Stuck in Quick Sand AKA Horse Sense is over rated!

You never know how a day is going to go when it starts, especially in the country.  I had a lot of things planned for today and none of them are getting done.  I also have a much larger pile of laundry than when the day started.  It was another neighborhood emergency project.

The children were out doing their chores when they saw three horses running through our fields.  That wouldn't be a big deal, except that we don't own any horses. It didn't take long and the owners came through looking for them.  About 20 minutes later the owner came driving through the fields and crying for help. " Did we have shovels or a big tractor? Could we help him and his wife get two of their horses out of a giant mud pit in the back?"  We ran and grabbed three shovels and a rope.

By the time we got back there, his wife had the pregnant mare out


Mark was working on getting the other horse out. The horses name is Red.  Red was very calm and patient.  He didn't struggle or get frantic.  When he thought that there was an opportunity to get out he would make the attempt.  Otherwise, he was quiet.



The kids and Mark were busy trying to dig the mud away.  But as fast as they removed it it quickly oozed back.  If Red was still for too long he would start to sink deeper.


About the time we got him almost out of the mud pit, Red decided that he really didn't want to go that way and spun around and ...


...went back out to the middle of the mud pit.  Where is that much noted 'horse sense'?  Why did he feel compelled to go out the same way he went in?  He was ALMOST out and now he was realllllly stuck!  It was time to call in the reinforcements.


I called Earl the Pearl who called the assistant fire chief.  We didn't think that we could get away with dialing 911.  Mark's brother was out there helping and other's were being contacted.  Mark was exhausted and covered from head to toe in cold, oily mud.  He was exhausted and shivering.  Earl and the Asst Chief showed up and ideas were tossed around about how to extricate the horse.  There was a backhoe nearby but there were a lot of trees in the way.  Time to get all the neighbors involved. 


Mark was suffering from hypothermia and so a squad was called. (If you think of him, pray for Mark as he was having some cardiac issues and was  admitted at the hospital.) When the neighbors saw the ambulance they headed over to help with whatever the crises was.  Did I mention that we have amazing neighbors?



Thomas kept digging, and he insisted that I take a picture. Just in case he wants to use it in a future campaign ad. (You know, I didn't just kiss babies, I rescued horses from mud pits)  The mud was very sticky and black.


The mud is mixed with oil and is really nasty!  You can hardly get it off.

Charlie putting a belt under Red's belly.

The horse was really getting tired and no longer was making periodic efforts to try and escape. In fact, holding his head up was getting challenging.  It had been three hours that he had been stuck.  My brother who is experienced with horses didn't think that he could last much more than two hours total in cold mud.  Red's calmness probably saved him.


All the neighbors were now there.  They had a chain saw and were cutting down trees and taking down vines so that the backhoe could get through.  The back hoe was an old one and no longer had working brakes, and so operating on a slope was a real challenge.


The question was, how do we put the belt around the horse to pull him out.  Three different ways were tried.  First, they put it just behind the front legs, but it just pulled out as the horse got a little higher.  Second they wrapped it around his chest and tried pulling that way.  It just ended up choking him and he wasn't able to help escape.  Finally, Charlie put the rope around his hind end just below his butt.  By this time Red could no longer assist in getting out.  He had been in the mud about 4.5 hours!  They slowly pulled him out and Red was still until he had terra firma under his feet.  Then he jumped up and was walking.


The photographer from the fire department was there taking pictures.



Red, who now looked black rather than red, was led out and a picture was taken of him with his very relieved owner.  She asked Elizabeth to be in the picture with her as Elizabeth had worked very hard trying to remove the mud and help get the horse out.  She had already showered and cleaned up in this picture.  No sense having another person getting hypothermic.


 Red calmly stopped to graze before he was led off to his stable.  He had had enough adventure for one day!