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!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Old House Update - Kitchen is done!!!

The kitchen is finally done. My DH has worked so hard on it. There is some final detailing to be done on the house, and then it will go on the market.  If you know someone who would be interested in this beautifully redone century house, let us know!

The eat-in kitchen has a large pantry.  Wish I had this at the new house. (grin) My DH did such a lovely job choosing the tile and all the kitchen pieces and parts and installing them.

There are all new stainless steel appliances.  We also installed new lighting.  I have always liked the fact that the window over the sink looks out over the back yard.  I like the built-in dishwasher also.

Here is the other side of the kitchen.  There is a really nice 5 burner stove and a built in microwave.

view from the kitchen into the formal dining room.

There is lots of cabinet and counter space with the new peninsula.  There is more new lighting here also.

This is the original door on our century home.  It is really pretty, and I think very cool to have.

We have redid the porch/entry way to the house. It looks so much better.

The back hall bathroom was given a make over. It still needs the new lighting installed.

The living room looks so nice, especially with the afternoon shadows.

The backyard is coming along nicely.  It is gradually greening up.  Almost all of the junk has been cleared out.  We are planning to move the little shed (formerly our chicken coop) out of there also and bring it to the farm.  We never seem to have enough chicken coops here.

The front yard no longer bears the imprints of our vegetable gardens.  The grass here looks nice.

Our old house.  So many memories, but I really don't miss it at all.  I love the farm!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Farm Update

It has been awhile since I updated what is going on here at the farm.
Things here are going well. The critters are all happy and healthy and the tomatoes are FINALLY ripening in the garden.

Our bourbon red turkeys are happily free ranging.  When they take their afternoon nap, the tom keeps a watchful eye out for predators.  They stick together and it is all for one and one for all. You always see them together.

 Here is what the field looks like. It is full of grazing sunflowers and many other plants.  It is really pretty and it is feeding our soil.

The chickens in the back are also totally free ranging.  They sleep in the chicken tractor and then run around the rest of the day.

Here is the alpha black jersey giant rooster.  He is a big boy and is still sweet.  The other rooster decided to take on the smallest turkey hen.  He huffed and puffed - out his feathers, and got in her face.  She puffed out her feathers, and just kind of looked at him, Like " What is your problem, son?" Then he really went into overdrive and puffed his feathers even more and started to chest bump her.  Within seconds the big toms came over and stood on either side of her, the other turkeys lined up behind them.  The rooster took a look at them and took off running.  The turkeys chased him around the chicken tractor and he kept running until he got out to the pig pen.  Now he takes his little harem out by the pig pen every morning and does what he can to avoid the turkeys.

This is the big feeder in the tractor.  We fill it up only occasionally as it stays full a long time.

The water supply is collected off the roof as it runs into the gutter and then down into the water barrel.  The tube then has the little nipple waterers for the chickens.  The kids like it as they have not needed to fill it up as we have had regular rain.

Our pullets are starting to lay.  They are still trying to figure out where to lay.  The nesting boxes have not been the most popular choice. They even lay them on the edge of the feeder.  Talented birds.  Not sure how they did that.

The chickens do most of their drinking from the pond.  The rooster supervises and protects them as they drink.

We have currently got all the roosters isolated.  They were bothering the hens and the result of that is that the hens lay less and the roosters are slow to gain weight.

Paul repurposed the rest of the old awning as a rooster shelter.  He put it on skids so it was easy to move.  on the inside there are some roosting poles and a hanging feeder.  We have an electric fence around them to keep them contained.

Here is what the back of the barn looks like.  There is a mobile hoop coop back there and a fence that gets moved to keep all the chickens contained.  The old hens still reside in the run-in coop.  They will be moving on to the freezer in a couple weeks.  They have stopped earning their keep.

The white broad breasted turkeys are now free ranging as well.  They are growing fast.  They stay close to the outbuildings and don't go near as far as the bourbon reds, but I am happy to see them eating bugs and grass.

I forgot to get a pig picture on here, but they are doing well.

The garden is coming along well.  Here you see the kale, some eggplants and ground cherries.

I really like my herb spiral.  The herbs are doing well.  They have established and are growing.  Almost all the herbs in here are perennials except for the cilantro, parsley, and dill, which are really good at self seeding.

Here are the sweet potato beds. and the boxes in the back have our white potatoes.  They seem to be doing OK, but the proof will be in the digging.

The tomatoes look fabulous and haven't started dying back at all.  They must not realize that it is September!!!  I didn't pick my first ripe tomato until the last week in August.  It is September now and the tomatoes are coming on like it is July.  We haven't had any problem with wilt or other disease for which  we are grateful.

Our cabbages have done terrible!  The bugs have destroyed them.  Such a bummer.  We have gobs of eggplants and basil.  We have been enjoying our pesto! Pesto and tomato are such a wonderful combination. Got to go and make a batch of Nanna's chili sauce.  Enjoy the rest of the summer!