Friday, August 31, 2012


When you get eggs from us, you get a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Our hens are a reflection of that: the girls are a wide range too.

This spring we received a shipment of day old baby chicks and as we approach fall they are just beginning to lay eggs. We are hopeful that they will produce eggs all winter: in years past this has worked and we always need eggs!

Thursday, August 30, 2012


We have a little push mower...the kind without a motor. And a scythe. A couple times each year a neighbor cuts walkways with his riding mower.

The rest of the time the herd of cattle mow. The result is a in watch where you step, wear foot ware that can be hosed off, don't wear it into your car messy.

Just the other day the grass was so high here the table could barely be seen. Now it is walk able and usable again. Just watch your step, land mines...I mean fertilizer...abounds!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

feeding time!

Sybil, the momma, and Silla, the calf, are doing beautifully together. Sybil continues to consume massive amounts of green stuff, and to use her massive tongue to lick the calf. She bangs the baby with her nose, gets it up on its feet, moving it around, getting it to drink.

In turn, Silla bangs her nose into Sybil's my eyes it all looks rather rough! Then it occurs that Sybil is about a thousand pounds, Silla must be 70-80 pounds, and the two of them look like what they are doing is working just fine.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

one share, almost September

Every week we pick and pack vegetables. Seeds get planted beginning in December/January and keep going in the ground through the end of August. Actually the seeds should all be in the ground here right at mid-August, any earlier and they kind of burn up, later and there is not quite enough time to grow before cold weather sets in. The last push is happening, and while it is hot enough during the day to make it uncomfortable to get seeds in the ground it must be done. Our vegetable CSA goes until November and them after that there are still many things that grow all winter in the hoop house, after germinating in the fall.

Here is this weeks share: tomatoes, green beans, peppers, rainbow Swiss chard, lettuce, okra, squash, herbs. For weeks there have been many tomatoes and now that season is ending, not done yet but the peak is over.

Monday, August 27, 2012


We never name our livestock. That being said, of course we have ways of referring to them...the pen of hens we were certain had to be too old to lay eggs are the "old nags and hags" (in honor of Christine Mason); the pigs we hope will make piglets are the "married couple"; and the one member of the cattle herd who looks like Grommet of Wallace and Grommet has that name.

But we don't stand and call them like we do with the dog. It is only the sound of feed that gets livestock moving, not their names.

And then there is the milk cow, which is not livestock at all, but rather an investment in our future. As we consider just how much we spend in dairy products: milk, butter, cream, yogurt, ice cream, cheeses, pudding, and then how much goes into additional things we love to eat...a grass fed milk cow almost becomes a savings! While she cost more than I've spent on any animal, we are now reaping the rewards. June 2011 she gave birth to a bull calf and this past Saturday she birthed a beautiful heifer calf. Sybil, our milk cow, arrived with the name and the category of 3/4 cow: sweet, beautiful, big and a tremendous consumer of all things green, she only produces milk from 3 of her 4 tears. Fine for us, not so great at a commercial dairy.

She arrived here in spring 2011 and had her first calf, never named, that summer. The addition yesterday, a little girl cow, means a name must be given, because if the baby is half as sweet tempered as the momma we will own her for a decade or more.

Our milk cow comes from a local dairy where the herd is kept on grass much of the year. To nonfarmers that sounds perfectly normal, but farmers know that most milk cows raised in the U.S. are raised in buildings, are Holsteins, eat silage (you probably don't want to know) and on average have a life expectancy of 4-5 years. Milked 2-3 times a day those girls have a difficult time with fertility, birthing and overall health.

As farmers it is important to know limitations. What is done well and where failures occur. A high maintenance high production Holstein would not do well with us, a cow from a grass fed Jersey herd is perfect for us.

This herd has been bred to birth unassisted, in the field. Both bulls and cows have been selected for decades on their ease of birthing: if a bull produces off spring that are right sized, healthy, pop out, clean up, stand up and nurse quickly they are used for making more. If the cow requires no help, mothers right up to their baby, bags up nicely they are also selected to make more.

So Sybil, our girl, produces another girl. We will keep them both for years to come. The tradition of the herd is to keep the same first initial of the mother in naming the daughter: in our case, an S name. We ran through a number of them and have settled on Silla, a derivative of her mama and my name: seems appropriate for a gal we hope to have sustenance from for years to come.

But naming is difficult. So much to choose from. And here she is, cute little thing, nobby knees, black muzzle, and no obvious white spots yet. We are hopeful that both mother and daughter live long, happy, peaceful lives here with us.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Milkweed grows all over the farm, and we let it. When we start to see caterpillars on them we make an effort to keep the livestock away, so that the conversion to butterfly can occur.

The Monarch butterfly, in it's egg/ caterpillar stage, must have milkweed. While the butterfly can feed from many different plants the caterpillar can only grow out on milkweed.

The theory is that no one Monarch makes the entire flight from here to Mexico. That there are spots along the way where the butterflies stop, rest, reproduce and pass away, and the next butterfly goes a bit further, or maybe a lot further. It shocks me to think this beautiful butterfly can make a flight like that, and the drive to get to Mexico for winter is that strong, that well programmed into their system...and that the butterflies return here every year. We have the pleasure of seeing them every year, of watching them soar around the farm, of knowing that with our messy farm habits we support their lives.

To walk the farm and see one of these caterpillars is such a joy! This one will shortly head into making the beautiful green chrysalis (and will be in there for about 2 weeks) before emerging as a big, beautiful orange and black butterfly. There are also theories that the ones who fly are a bit different colr, an even richer orange than usual.

It must be time for this one to head south when it emerges in September, and we sure hope there is some other spot in Missouri or somewhere west and south of here where a Monarch can land, find some tasty milkweed and reproduce, sending the next generation back here next summer! Every spring we are happy to see them and every late summer we wish them safe travels. And roll out the swamp weed welcome mat so they will return!

Saturday, August 25, 2012


There is a measurement referred to as germination rate. It is the percentage of seeds that actually sprout in any given package of seeds...from the size of package at the local garden shop to the truckloads loaded into seeder on a big farm out west, the germination rate is critical to any grower.

Spacing is also critical. The goal is enough space for the finished plant to produce without being to crowed or overrun by weeds. It is a delicate balance and different for everything planted.

We grow year round. It is difficult to get seeds to germinate in the winter, and other growers have discovered that starting seeds now, allowing them to grow before winter hits allows for harvest all winter long. Last year we ate greens through the cold months, it was a delicious treat and not enough of it. So now beds are being cleared, short term seeds are going in many, and greens, carrots, beets, chervil and the like are going in.

The germination rate at this time of year is spectacular. The warm and sunny days, coupled with steady, not soaking water, means we get close to 100%. Just a few weeks ago it was so hot that watering in seeds was no where near as effective and the germination rate was about half. Except for the weeds, seems those can always fill in!

Friday, August 24, 2012

made it!

It is the end of August, and our final shipment of broilers arrived on the farm yesterday.

As seasonal growers, we do not raise broilers in the wintertime. They just do not do well, the ground under the pens gets torn up and cannot regrow and drinking water freezes!

By the end of October or early November we will finish our season of chickens. Then turkeys for Thanksgiving. A few months of wintertime greens, eggs and milk from the cow and the right back at it!

Tomatoes and peaches are being canned, the nights are cool, we are calculating how many days we can still grow vegetables, with seeds going in like crazy. Loving that it is not so hot and work can be completed quickly.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

visions and plans

My uncle passed away last year: he was in his early 90's. If you asked him he would tell you that he lived a life that he loved. An aeronautical engineer, he was there to help the pilots break the sound barrier, there when the astronauts went to the moon, there when they tested the big bombs on the Bikini islands, there to reconcile with the Japanese, negotiate with the Russians in Huntsville AL...he had a career he loved and had fun doing it. I'm pretty certain he forgot more math than I've ever known and certainly had much better people skills.

He worked on one particular project, in the McDonnell aircraft produced Voodoo family, that he always said really launched his career. While he had photos of family and friends on display in his home, for a while he also had an empty picture frame over the fireplace mantle. Curious about it, I asked him why. He told me he was waiting to locate a photo of the particular version of "his" aircraft and once he had it the photo would go in the frame. Until then, he could see the plane even if no one else could!

So when Homer sent me this photo of a not yet there cheese cave...on the north side of our hill, where the rock line was placed years ago, it made perfect sense to me. Just as I could stand with my uncle and know how much that empty picture frame meant to him, I can stand with Homer and see this too. Visions. Gotta love them. Right there between the two trees.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Compost, done right, is just dirt.

It has also been called black gold, so maybe it is more than just dirt.

We take a variety of things here on the farm and combine them in our compost pile. Sawdust that comes from our local sawmill. Wood chips after being under baby chicks. Parts of poultry no one wants. There is also a neighbor who goes fishing and pulls in carp that is fish tale here...they are 4-5 feet long and heavy: he has his own bin, with sawdust.

The strangest thing happens when all that stuff has time. It all breaks down and becomes soil. It smells like dirt, is a beautiful, rich black color, and fills in in beds beautifully. Seeds get planted and generally we get great production. We still need to figure out sweet potatoes: lots of vines, only tiny little slips every year. Something to study and plan adjustments this winter.

Compost. Such lovely goodness from various things that look like garbage to many. After it goes through Homer's farm made sifter it is really ready to cover a bed, providing nutrition for the next vegetable to grow there.

Those plants in the bed behind? Tomatoes. Grown in compost. Reaching to the roof of the hoop house. No other fertilizer. Wicked good.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

magic beans

Some days...well, really, every day...we tease Homer. He dishes it right back too!

One of the ways he is teased is about his magic bean thinking. Having a beautiful milk cow and the delicious options that can be made with her milk, the story of Jack and The Beanstalk takes on a whole new meaning. From our cow we get additional calves. We get high butterfat content milk, so there is plenty of cream for coffee, to make into butter or ice cream. Soft cheeses, yogurt, drinking milk. Next go round we will also make hard cheeses that need aging. Whey used in place of water in pizza dough and bread.

The idea of taking a creature that can produce so much to town to sell is a real head scratcher. To sell your milker times must be impossible. To trade for a few magic beans is unimaginable!

There are days when, like any other job, one or the other of us want to quit. Earlier this year it was difficult to separate our herd, and the milk cow was the only one who would climb into the trailer. When Homer said he was taking her to the butcher, I told him that was grounds for divorce, and that in these parts the judge was likely to understand and grant me everything: "your honor, he took a 4 year old, freshened cow to the butcher and made hamburger of her"...why, they would throw the book at him!

So the beans. Why anyone would ever consider beans in place of a beautiful, sweet, producing so many options for goodies creature like a milk cow I'll never know.

Beans, by the way, are up to the ceiling and doubling back in the hoop house. Not very difficult to grow, and they sure do feel like they could travel right into the sky! But not worth the cow. Ever.

Monday, August 20, 2012


So no calf so far this year. We are impatiently waiting for Sybil to give birth. It is cooling off at night and will soon be cold at night, she needs to have that little one so it will be large enough to make it.

The herd is on the far side of the hoop house today. They will clean up around the fruit trees.

If you look closely you can tell which one is Sybil. A Jersey girl, she is light brown with black and white markings.

Earlier this year when we stopped taking milk, her milk bag shrunk down to almost nothing. In this picture her bag is visible at a distance, and is full up. Another sign that a calf is likely to be on the way soon, as she will need a full bag to feed a hungry calf.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

demon dog

When we adopted the dog, she arrived with a clear warning. "Don't let anyone touch her". At 10 years old it is not likely this will change. Her other name is rattlesnake, because she will, if provoked, bite. And provoked means if you reach out to pet her.

Before she moved into our home, I read a book about the breed. Titled "Jack Russell: Canine Companion or Demon Dog", it described all the ways this breed can destroy what you own, out of sheer boredom or possibly spite.

The farm, and patrolling while searching for anything that does not belong here keeps her tired out. With both of us here most days she is rarely alone and destroys little.

Cute as can be, always on alert, she is a great addition to the farm. But if you try and touch her she will bite. It does not appear that she is going to change.

So cute! But don't stick your hand in there to pet her, you will get it!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

bald faced

Prior to living on this farm, this paper wasp best would have been toast in our world. One or more of the spray bottles would have been utilized to poison every last creature that moved in or around this every growing nest.

A funny thing has happened. Each and every time we look into the life of an insect we find on the farm we are surprised. In the case of this nest it houses the bald faced hornet, a hornet with a black body and white face and tail. Almost an inch long when flying around, one flying past will stop you and get your heart racing.

And it turns out they pollinate a little, but mostly eat other insects: yellow jackets, filth flies and blow flies.

I can't identify flies. But we have plenty and actually prefer the bald faced hornet to the livestock farmers, the fewer the flies the better!

So the nest will stay here. And we will keep a respectful distance. This photo was taken from inside the truck, windows up, air conditioning on, heart pounding.

Friday, August 17, 2012


There are butterflies all over the farm these days. The way our fields are...kinda messy, with some portions high grass and other portions scratched down to the dirt, allows for the lifespan of many butterflies.

The different caterpillars need different plants to grow on. The 40+ paddocks the farm mean it is more than a month before the cows return to any section. This allows ample time for plants to grow and flower and for butterflies to pupate. There are many kinds here, lovely to see.

Hummingbirds are also still here. So quick we never can get photos, but they are here too!

And we have compost too! An abundance of riches!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

no big thing

Vinyl siding? No big thing. Toughest part is finding the time to locate and get to the store for it...and then the time to install. Done and done. Yay!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

mixed up

We order egg layers as day old peepers every 6 months. Things just happen to the girls and we regularly need reinforcements. Since our hens get to keep their beaks, we use old breeds and never give any growth hormones we prefer to start them as day old peepers in our own brooder.

The other thing about chickens is a flock will establish a pecking order. One hen is the hen everyone picks on, pecks at, excludes from the food and roost whenever possible. If the bottom bird is removed from the flock the flock picks a new bird to be the bottom of the pecking order, to be hen pecked.

If we tried to introduce new birds into a flock the new birds would get beat up badly.

From beginning to end the flocks are together. Right now our youngest flock is 5-6 months old. They were ordered as a "fancy egg layer assortment", which means this group varies widely.

A hen like this, a Polish with the feather topping on her head, would certainly be a target if introduced at this stage of the flocks development. Because they all grew up together she is not the one they go after. But she does look like she could use a wash and comb out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


For book group this month we are reading David Simon's Homicide. Published in the late 1980's and the foundation for the tv show that followed, the book is great. Well written. No wonder it was published and he has a career as a writer!

As we look at our other building, our house and our future, we contemplate what to do with the space we have. Taxes here are based on square footage under roof, so we plan to reduce the square footage and reconfigure a few things.

Yesterday, as we walk around the upstairs of our other building, it is nothing but wide open space. We have had many conversations and ideas about what to do in this space, how to use it, what to use it for.

We took painters tape and taped out some ideas on the floor. Thinking, spacing, configuring. Where to have, what to have. When completed it do not look like a crime scene at all. It looks like a very usable space. Even with it chalked off!

Monday, August 13, 2012

fix food

I'm asked regularly about food, how livestock is raised, how "healthy" food can be located.

"Healthy" is up for debate. Many people have switched their source of protein...from pork bacon to turkey bacon, from animal protein to soy protein, to leaner cuts of meat in general.

This website,, has great graphics, great (short) summaries, simple explanations. Antibiotics, GMO, vegetarian, water...lots of stats, short sentences, research based information.

Fact based research. Another reason why we farm, and eat, the way we do.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

crop squares, not circles

With each pen move the poultry: turkey, egg layer, or broiler leave perfect squares behind. Or sometimes a rectangle.

The National Guard trains helicopter pilots to fly out of an airport less than 10 miles from here. There are constantly helicopters flying over the farm, in all sorts of weather conditions. As hot summer days stretch on and every pen is in use the ground is an ever changing mosaic of color changes, patches of high grass, low grass and bare soil. It looks cool to my eyes here on the ground, it must look quite interesting to the folks in the helicopters.

Or if they are really just learning to pilot maybe scenery watching is not on the to do list.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

hell on wheels

I never met Homer's father. He was born in the same year my father was born (1922) and like my father served in World War II. My father served as a radio operator for flights in Burma, and returned home on army transport with a bag full of snakes. But that is a story for another time.

Homer's father was a part of the group called Hell On Wheels. First division into Europe and North Africa, Homer Sr was injured in North Africa, and taken out of commission for a time. His request for going back into the action was granted, and he ended up in France and then into Germany.

History writers summarize the 2nd Armored Division with many statistics: many awards went to this group, losses of life were relatively small, their tanks rolled across the countryside to end up helping end the war with Germany.

Homer's father told stories of doing everything: as they moved through Africa and Europe they slept under the stars, operated tanks, motorcycles, weapons, repairs, food.

The other day we received a freezer from the house of a friends father...after the father passed away. The house goes on the market today, everything was being sorted through and cleared out, and a big dumpster was out front.

After a bit of checking what was slated for going out in the dumpster Homer located this patch. Not the WWII insignia, a later iteration of Hell On Wheels. It certainly brought back a flood of memories for Homer. And the freezer will hold wintertime food for us. A good day.

Friday, August 10, 2012


512 seeds in a tray. Lettuce, spinach, onions, leeks. Things a farmer needs in tonnage, get them started and then replant them. In the ground.

This tray would cause carpal tunnel pretty quick if it were planted by hand. It seems vegetable growers have purchased systems that operate a vacuum to get seeds inserted into a tray this size...estimated cost: $15,000.

We will not grow enough of the tiny seeded, transplantable vegetables in our lifetime to justify such an expense. But we don't want carpal tunnel either. And onions we use by bagful, and have not figured out how to grow. Really want them, but onion "sets" are usually hybrids, the ones we want to grow are teeny tiny seeds. With a 40 share CSA membership 512 of any one thing will last us about 3-4 weeks at most, and we have a 26 week delivery. Plenty of time and space are all we need!

Homer is working on a system that will get these planted quickly and efficiently for about $50. So far what he has built is working beautifully: we have carrots sprouting at a fantastic rate, even in the heat of summer.

Onions, grown here. Can't wait. It's a year away, but that is how farming is..things take time to grow before harvest can happen.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


The bees are busy. All types, shapes and sizes. If a person does just a tiny bit of research they will discover many varieties of winged things that pollinate, thousands actually. Many beyond a honeybee.

I was stung by something on Sunday. My hand is mostly back to normal with the spot where the sting happened still a little tender.

And the buzzing is everywhere, the pollinators are dancing every second of every day. When we look at anything we grow an insect is buzzing in it.

Long sleeves and gloves. I'm in them. Wearing them to pick, paying attention to what bug is where. I'll get stung again, it has to be. But will be careful!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

York County Buy Fresh Buy Local CSA Day!

This Saturday, August 11, is an open farm day for the CSA farms that are members of York Buy Fresh Buy Local. We will be here to greet visitors and conduct tours!
As part of the scavenger hunt with other participating farms, restaurants and farm stands, the farms that offer CSA memberships through the growing season are offering a day to visit and check out the farms. We have food guides available here, and will be stamping any that are brought here too. The prizes include many offerings from local BFBL certain to submit your form to be eligible for a prize! The more locations you visit and get stamped the better your chances of winning a prize! Saturday promises to be beautiful, come see us!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Sometimes we are asked why our vegetable CSA is cheaper than other farms.

There is a very simple answer. Eggplant, squash and peppers. For the first 2 years of growing a vegetable CSA we never gave them out. Ok, in 2 years we gave out one winter squash. But no zucchini, little delicatta, no yellow squash, tiny amounts of pattypan. And not one eggplant. Not one pepper: hot, bell, bullnose, lipstick. Hubbard squash, pumpkins, acorn, blue squash, watermelon: zip.

Tomatoes? We got 'em. From tiny to massive, in many colors and shapes. From early to late in the season. Tender skin, delicious in taste.

And this year we have eggplant. A few small peppers. Squash plants not yet consumed by squash bugs. These plants all take forever (at least it feels like it to us) to grow, forever to flower, get pollinated, set fruit, grow out to decent size. It seems that the summer phenom of being overrun with zucchini happens with the hybrids, or chemicals, or something we do not do.

So until we hand those sorts of things out we will remain one of the cheapest CSA's around. This week, we have a start. A few eggplants are growing, many more flowers after that, many bees are all over those lovely flowers. Touches of purple are showing, growing. Shining through the leaves. Now it becomes the waiting game: don't pull too early. Don't wait too long. Find the sweet spot. But don't rush it...

Monday, August 6, 2012

10 pounders

We grow turkeys for Thanksgiving. They are the most challenging livestock we grow, as the turkey polts are expensive and in the first few weeks the unexplained losses are great. And everyone who grows them reports the same.

Then there is a chunk of the summer where they are beautiful, growing like weeds, drinking water from the hose, tearing up thistle to consume every speck of it.

And that is where we are now, with turkeys that are already 10 pounds!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

pickling with dill flowers

To make a jar of pickled anything look beautiful, an added flower head of dill can do the trick.

The plant grows and we harvest dill for weeks. And then the flowers begin to open, and any recipe that calls for dill can have the flower instead. The flower smells just as delicious, tastes just as good and looks cool.

The tastes of summer: basil, dill, parsley, sage, cilantro. When we see the prices of fresh herbs in the store ($2.99 for 2.5 ounces of basil, packaged in a hard plastic shell that will take centuries to decompose) it is so wonderful to have plenty of fresh herbs! As I hand out basil in large bunches, and people tell me of processing it and freezing in small batches to use as a foundation for winter time pesto, my heart sings. What a wonderful use!

At the same time tomatoes are coming in. And folks are telling me the same thing: cutting out cores, popping the tomatoes into the freezer for wintertime soups and stews. Plenty to eat now and later. Ridiculous good twice!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

advocates for farming

Maybe a person wonders why farmers might need advocates. Farmers grow many things and the variety of growing methods is wide. We could never grow citrus here, and yet there are farms that grow acres and acres of it. We don't grow grapes or hops and yet there are many acres in this country dedicated to each.

We do grow a few things. There are a few we would like to add. One of the parameters set in our state agriculture guidelines is a provision for raw milk. There are permits issued here for farmers to produce and distribute raw milk. And yet in bordering states raw milk is illegal. There is a provision for a single cow dairy, where the rules are different.

These seemingly small things, and many others like them, mean that a family farm can be in business and stay in business. Lots of food comes from big growers, big manufacturers who take food like substances and process it and put it into bright packaging and launch big budget ad campaigns to create demand. That is not what we do. Our food is straightforward and in plain packaging.

So why farm advocates? We cannot make this meeting, as we are busy with the business of farming. August into September are tough months for farmers: it is hot, the yellow jackets arrive, long work days begin to catch up with everyone, unrelenting work that appears simple but has nuances that are not understood by most cause frustration when misunderstood.

So farm advocates? Those who do not do the year round, I've got to make certain everything has water without breaking key components of the watering system, I've got to budget so the feed supplier can be paid, I've got to make certain that beds are cleared and replanted so there is plenty to fill the box...and the myriad other details that make or break a farmer (tools put away, pens properly secured, lids replaced, systems of efficiency learned and honored so that routine farm chores happen quickly) those advocates make a huge difference in a farmers life. We thank you, we encourage you, we applaud you and we wish we could help. For a few weeks in December, January and February we are available!

If you can help, please attend! Food eaters need advocates. It is our choice not to eat the food like substances advertised and promoted in all types of media, and we appreciate any help we get to have the right to do so. Go farm advocates! Thanks PASA and FarmAid!

Friday, August 3, 2012

heavy metal

Seems everyone and everything likes chicken. We have, for a decade now, lost chickens to many different predators.

It was quite noisy on the farm for a number of nights for a week or so. We lost pens full of chickens, there were middle of the night sightings of creatures not welcome on the farm. Chicken eaters.

Our local hardware store sells traps. Not bear traps. So far, no bears have found their way here. But small traps. We set up have-a-hearts, nothing in them. Another night, more chickens missing.

We farm to earn a living. Or an attempt to earn a living. Every chicken we lose takes away from our ability to do so: either the chicken stops producing eggs or disappears. Either way we cannot recoup the cost of bird or feed when the bird is consumed by a predator. If predator consumption continues we have no reason to be in business...because we cannot, in fact, produce what we have agreed to for our customers.

When we leased land we lost birds by the hundreds. We also worked other jobs and could absorb the losses. That is no longer the case. For the first few years the geese were good at sounding alarms when the nighttime predators appeared, but they lost their drive, started sleeping next to the house and are no longer with us.

Traps went out. Requests for large, guardian breed dogs have gone out, unanswered. So we use traps.

And have had nights of sleep again. Nights without losses, without noises of chickens under attack. Full nights of welcome rest...this time of year is busy and intense in farming, as there is much to do.

We know they will be back. We know that every night every inch of fence, every connection point, every length of electric fence is tested. And a breech in the fence means more chicken losses.

If we had every laying hen that we have purchased as a day old peeper we would have 1,200 (at minimum). We have 200 full grown and another 150 that are growing out. And yet we have never processed a laying hen, the entire time we have farmed. Many a hawk, fox, skunk, dog, raccoon...and others have enjoyed delicious meals instead.

And we will continue to battle them all. And realize why poultry grown industrially is in cement/cinder block buildings, covered. Locked. Tough for predators to get in there!

It sounds easier some nights. But then the memory of the stench of ammonia, the realization that all that chicken poop would have to be dealt with, probably with a front end loader (and all the noise, stink and expense of that) along with the use of medications we do not want to utilize returns.

Sleeping through the night when we can is a luxury. Glad to have it. Know it will not last.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

out and about

The ducklings are out of the bathtub brooder. The tub needs a good scrubbing and then it will again be available for regular bathtub use.

We tried to introduce the little ones to the big ones. The big ones did not even notice them, or acknowledge them. There are lots of spots for ducklings to hide, plenty of places for to disappear. And they are able to swim in the cement pond, not just a small bowl.

The moon is full, and felt blue out there last night.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

storms, water and farming

For a couple of weeks now we have had thunderstorms on a regular, frequent basis. Early afternoon and evening most days.

The storms probably ruin lots of outdoor activity plans. Most of the time it is only about an hour or so of rain, while the rest of the day is hot and sunny.

Plants love this type of weather. They grow and grow, flower and produce, the bees have most of the day to get the work of pollination completed, and then a nice drink of water occurs. With this amount of rain weed pulling becomes easy, as even the most pernicious root systems are softened and weakened by the wet conditions. And by mid-day everything is dry. The pigs are panting and looking for a spray down. And every plant is hoping for a big drink too.

Typically the end of July/beginning of August is awful hot, with day and night temperatures above 90, little to no rain. It is usually impossible to cool off and watering must be done constantly. With the weather we have now, we can save our pump and our well water and let nature take care. Forecasts continue to include late afternoon thunder showers and the farmers are happy to see them arrive!


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