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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Got Fruit

This morning it rained 1.3" so once again everything was soaked. What to do with such soft ground? Plant trees. So I planted 3 peach trees, 2 pear trees, and 2 plum trees. I still would like to get some apple trees planted this winter but I haven't found any that were good enough looking to invest in. Eventually, we would like to have our own full fledge fruit orchard including grapes, oranges, raspberries, blueberries, and who knows what else.

I am by no means a tree planting pro but I felt that maybe some people may not know how to go about planting a tree. So this post I will do my best to explain it to those who may need a little assistance. I'm sure that the saying "there is more than one way to skin a cat" applies to tree planting, so if you have any good info please feel free to give it.

First, place the tree in its pot on the ground and cut a hole bigger than the top diameter of the pot.

Once you have the outline cut, remove the circle patch of grass and clean out the hole to where the dirt in the pot will be flush with the top of the ground.

Then once the hole is cleaned out, take a pair of post hole diggers and dig a hole in the hole about 12-18" deep. This is to assist the tap root in developing without making it have to fight through the tough ground. Our ground has a lot of clay so it is very hard.

Then fill the hole you dug with the post hole diggers with a top soil compost mix.

Add compost to the dirt you intend to put back into the hole. Take the root ball out of the pot and place the tree into the hole. Put the compost dirt mix around the root ball but do not over fill the hole covering the tree too much. Only cover up to where the tree was originally in the pot.

Pack lightly, then form the excess dirt in a ring pattern around the filled hole. Stake the tree on two sides and tie with string loosely. Do not tie the string tightly around the trunk and do not tie the string too tightly to the stake. It should have a little give. If you can play a note like a guitar on the string, loosen. Water and enjoy your work.

Pear Trees

Plum Trees

Blackberry Plants

Around the Farm 2

Official count 14. (By end of day 15) She got off them for a long time so either she gave up on them or she is trying to build one huge clutch. Who knows.

Here on Yonder Way Farm, we have roll call every morning. It is a very detailed plan of how today will be ran. Notice how attentive they are. In the middle of it some just began to walk away.

While checking on the pigs, I noticed 3 deer eating rye grass in our next pasture. They pretty much go there every morning, now that deer season is over, right in front of my tree stand. I think some times I see a tongue sticking out and hear "Nana, Nana, Boo Boo, You can't shoot me. Always next year.

The cows are enjoying this paddock much better. It is up on the hill so not near as muddy. I am so ready to get them out of these paddocks and onto the rye grass. I keep telling myself, stick to your plan. Its hard though.

Drinking ACV (apple cider vinegar). For a lot of these cows, this is their first round of ACV. I fear that with the wet weather, we may have an abundance of parasites and worms right now so I have decided to keep them on it for a while. To maintain I will continue giving ACV 3 days out of the month, but to get on top of them, I will keep them on it at least a month. We'll see how the performance of the animals inproves.

This is how you get rich orange yolks. I love seeing the chickens pluck the newly formed grasses and slurp them up. It looks like they are eating noodles. Once again, sad to think that the eggs you eat from the store are from chickens that have never enjoyed grass. This is a feather legged chicken that looks like a big robot when it runs at you. They bound with huge strides.

Thats all I have for now. Its raining this morning so we will have to see how the day unfolds. I still can't get in the pastures to put in water lines so it will be something around the garden or barn.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hide & Seek

Well for the last week or so I had been noticing that eggs were missing out of the barn nesting boxes. I usually get around 4 in there and for a while I was getting 1-2. Didn't understand it. I looked everywhere. In every box I could find, anywhere with hay, under the trailers, in the bushes. Couldn't find any eggs out of place. Well I did notice a couple of times that a chicken would come out of the new layer house I had cleaned out. So I looked everywhere I thought a chicken may lay. (There aren't many places to lay in a cleaned out building.) Except for one place apparently. Today while going out to feed, I heard a noise and low and behold, a chicken flew up onto the rafters. Then she went up onto this flat area that is the roof of a smaller room at the front of the layer house. Wha la. There she had made the cutest nest with at least 12 eggs in it. She was in such a broody mood that I couldn't get her off to count accurately. So what a pleasant surprise. I have no idea how long she has been setting so only she and the Lord know when these will hatch. I put her food and water up there so that she won't have to go far to leave them. Good thing is its a pretty big area up there so she can stay up there for a while after they hatch to bring them down. I love births.

Then while in the barn, I noticed one of our barn kittens was hiding in a feed pan. I kept waiting for him to say Peeka Boo but he didn't. So I just took his picture instead. We have 4 true barn kittens if anyone is interested. Would be great outside cats. They already are hunting everything.

Dudley rooting

I know I put a bunch of pictures of our pigs but they truly are the life of the farm. It saddens me to think that commercially raised, and confinement pigs never touch a blade of grass in their entire lifetime. It makes me happy to know that these animals get to be in there natural environment, eating natural diets, fulfilling their purpose; to be eaten but having a great life getting to that point.
Who needs a plow?

Are you my mamma?

Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Still waiting for the pastures to dry up in order to finish installing the water lines for the pig pasture. Chance of rain tomorrow so who knows. Won't complain though.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I love Potatos

I don't know what it is about them, but I do thoroughly enjoy them. Potatoes are one of those things that can be cooked so many ways of which all are pretty much yum. I feel that instead of shrimp, Bubba should have went on about all the ways that potatoes could be cooked. If there were only potatoes and eggs to be consumed in the world, I would be a happy man. I even put potatoes in my eggs every morning. I am salivating as I type this just thinking of getting to eat that conglomerate together when I wake up. Oh my.

Grow Baby Grow!!!

Going to try and do the clean potato method on this batch. You make a trench and lightly cover the potatoes. As they grow, you add straw. You keep adding straw as the tubers get longer and then when it is time to harvest the potatoes, they are on top of hay and not in the dirt. "Take a chance, Columbus did." Uncle D.

Today I planted our first batch of potatoes. Last year we planted some and they were the best potatoes I have ever had. So crispy. We eat nothing but red potatoes. They are so much more healthier for you than any other potato; especially the skin. So today I planted about 20#'s worth and in about 6 weeks, I will plant 40 or 50 more pounds. Like I said before, one of my 2008 goals is having a large enough garden this year to support at least 10 families. This is all new to us so we will have to see how it works out. I don't know how much food it takes to feed 10 families but hopefully we will come out ok. Who knows, maybe we will have enough for 15-20.

Now that I have the goats moved to their new home, I now realize how much I enjoy them. They have absolutely no purpose on our farm. As a matter of fact, they are probably the only animal on the farm that will never get eaten. This being said, their only purpose is to have babies, eat, and be loved. Two of them are much more friendly than the other two but I feel they are coming along. I feel that at least 2 of them are pregnant, although I don't know how far along. I feel one should be having a kid anytime. I felt her milk bag and it is full. How exciting will that be. I love the miracle of life, not the movie, and can't wait to see what they look like. These are pygmy goats too so I know they can't help but be cute.

Cute little girls (Thelma & Louise). They keep getting fatter and fatter.

Other female (Anna Bell). Hopefully will have her kid soon

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dr.'s Visit

Yesterday, I moved the cows to a new paddock. Every month, I try to give my cows preventative check ups. This consists of deworming and mineral replacement. I have read a lot about ways to deworm, and we use different methods for our different animals. With the goats, chickens, and pigs, we put diatomaceous earth in their feed. However, with our cows this is different because we don't feed anything other than grass. So in comes Apple Cider Vinegar.

When we first started administering ACV, I would fill the water trough with water and add 1 ounce per gallon of water in the trough. Then I would have to turn the water off, so that when the cows drank, it wouldn't fill back up and keep dilluting the vinegar. The problem was that I had to check the water every couple of hours to make sure it wasn't dry. Sometimes, I would go out and the trough would be almost full. Then other times, it would be completely dry. In comes the Chemilizer.

This makes things so much easier. Hook it up to your water source, drop the pump sciphon in a bucket of ACV, and connect it to your water trough. For every gallon of water that flows, 1 ounce of ACV is applied. No more checking, no more worrying if they are getting enough water. You figure that on average, a cow consumes 1 gallon of water for every 100 pounds of weight. So a 700 pound beeve will consume about 7 gallons of water daily needing 7 ounces of ACV. By doing this 3 days out of the month, you should have no problems with internal parasites and worms.

I also supply trace mineral blocks for 3 days. Without these, your cows will begin lacking the natural minerals that are sub par on your pastures. We are in a building phase of pasture renovation for the next couple of years so this is much needed for us. It is amazing to see that when these blocks are put out, the cows that have been with us the longest rarely go to the blocks. The newer beeves sit and lick and lick. They make a ground up mineral feed but it is much easier for me to put out blocks in pans than to move a covered mineral trough around. Much cheaper also. Hopefully in the future, trace minerals will all be provided by our pasture grasses. That will be down the road though.

So this is why I say that the beeves are at the Dr.'s office for this rotation. Without healthy cows, you get poor performance with poor gains. If you are wanting to try ACV with your cattle, I highly recommend the Chemilizer for its simple assembly and easy use. Only happy, feeling good cows here.

Oh My Mudness

Well the rains have finally stopped after 40 days and 40 nights. Just kidding, just 4 days. But boy it will have been much needed if it turns off bone dry in the next months. It never did rain hard but it was a consistent mist/heavy fog for no lie 4 days. The ground is super saturated. Water is literally just sitting on top with no where to go. This being said, first thing this morning I knew I was going to have to get the cows to a new paddock. What a mess that turned out to be. No work boots here, had to pull out the dreadful rubber boots. Its like walking around with a tarp on your feet. I want leather, form fitting, steel toed boots, (Twisted X Boots, best boots out there.) So I moved the cows. This took quite a bit longer than normal because of moving hay in the mud. Boy I rutted the pasture up. But what do you do? Good thing is I plan to lightly disk in the early spring, first part of March anyway, so no harm done. This paddock is set up to be my Dr.'s visit for the cows. More on that tomorrow though.

Since the pastures are too wet to do anything in, I mean anything, the pig pasture has come to a screeching halt until next week. No fencing could be built, no nothing, except gardening. This is not my strong point, but I forgot just how good it feels to get your hands in some nicely tilled dirt and put some plants in the ground. I figured I would try to get a late winter garden in so that we could get a small bit to put up for the rest of the year. So today was the day to get started.

I tilled this area that was ready to go and put my rows in. This soil is so much different than it was last year due to the heavy amounts of compost it has received over the last 6 months. It has turned from a silty sand, almost beach like, to more of a sandy loam. I sure hope it produces well. Today we put in transplants, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, green leaf lettuce, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, brussels sprouts, and strawberries. In the next couple of days, I will seed beets, carrots, spinach, sugar snap peas, turnips, and a couple other lettuces. I don't know how well they will do but the garden is all I have right now to keep me busy. Plus, when I am this close to the house, my lovely bride can come out and help me while the kiddos are napping. Thats the best part.
You are so me...can't you see."
Am I gardening or playing football, who knows?

Had to move the chicken coop that was in the garden area. These guys just come right behind you and start to pull up what you just planted. I had to sit and watch them till dark to make sure they didn't go back but instead went into the coop to sleep. I showed them, took their eggs, then moved them in the pasture behind the barn. Good riddens for now.

Strawberry plants: never had any luck with them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pig Progress 3

Dudley finally fitting in

Today, despite the mud, cold, misty rain, and everything being plum wet, I finished the pig pasture fencing. Boy is that a huge check off my list. Not only that, when I tested the wires, everything was at max voltage, 10,000+. Now I know that pigs don't need near this much to make them obey but it isn't them I am worried about. There are several dogs in our pasture by where my pigs are due in part that our south boundary line is a county road. One of these dogs, as nice as he may be, looks like a micro horse. He is huge and my daughter named him "Beast." No lie, he has to weigh at least 140 pounds. Not only that, but we have coyotes that I feel frequent the place at night so I didn't want there to be a chance that one may get in and hurt my feeder pigs. So instead of initially going with a 3 strand perimeter wire, I went ahead and added a 4th. Now I feel fully confident that it will do the trick. Here is the fence and all its dimensions. I have no idea how much acreage it is but I would say maybe 8?.

South 405'

Northwesterly 345'

Southwesterly 200'

Southeasterly 485' (Rowdy couldn't get in, check)

West 270' (Rowdy couldn't get out, check)

North 845'

Still going North

East 450'

15' Dogleg South, then East 210' to beginning

It is still raining. Not hard almost a constant mist. Things are so saturated that it is hard getting around the pasture on the tractor. I finished the fencing around 13:00 and went to subsoil my first rip for putting in my water lines. That didn't work though because as I drove I began to bury myself in the mud. Good thing for 4 wheel drive. If not, the tractor would still be there. So, that being said, the water lines won't be in by Thursday. I just hope it will dry up before first part of next week.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Rain, Rain, and More Rain

"Better to be ontop of the pig than on bottom."

I know as farmers you are never suppose to complain about the rain so heaven forbid, I won't. In fact I love the rain. It is essential to life and without it, nothing could live. (Like Jesus)

However, I think one thing could be tweeked just a bit. That thing would be that it should rain only in the evenings or at night. This only makes sense. At night, you are already in your house, spending time relaxing and with the family. There is no need to see rain because you can hear it and know when it is happening. Plus, especially in the hotter months, the rain would be able to be absorbed by the ground faster because less evaporation would take place. Usually in summer, it gets hotter after the rain in the day time because the humidity jumps from 100% to 250,000%. By having the rain be moved to nights, this would allow for more productive days and things could actually get done.

My wife would tell you that the main reason God makes it rain during the day is so that farmers will take a day off and just do nothing in the house. Maybe she is right.

It has been a good steady, almost misty rain for the last 3 days and that has really slowed things down. Plus it has been cold. Not cold in up north terms but cold for me. So with all this, the chickens are less active, the pigs sleep all bundled up, the cows look at me and make me feel all mean cause they are miserable looking, and my goats just want to eat. But after today, it is suppose to be stop raining for a bit.

I have about 1/2 day left on the fencing of the new pig pen and then I have to put the water lines in. I am hoping that by Thursday I can move the pigs and let them fully enjoy what nature has to offer them. Updates on that will be soon.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Eggs, Eggs, Eggs

Last night we got 17 more eggs. We have several bantam chickens who lay the smallest eggs ever so I eat them for myself rather than selling them. If I got a dozen eggs and there were some bantam eggs in there I would feel I got ripped. However, to me, they are some of the best eggs to eat. Very rich yolks.

So this week, we got 17,13,12,14,17 eggs. I don't know what has changed but I noticed that several of our chickens have new sets of feathers so they may have been molting. I still have about 15-20 more chickens that should start laying soon so that will be nice until I get my master chicken house up and going. People don't start having chicks to sell until Feb or so.

So needless to say, I have 8 dozen eggs that I can sell this weekend. We will be in College Station for church Sunday morning so if you go to my church and would like me to bring them in, I can. The cost is $3.50 a dozen, but if you bring the carton back to me the next ones after that will be $3.00. These are the most beautiful and tasty eggs you will ever eat and so much more healthy for you than store bought eggs. These are true free-range eggs. Heres a link to see the benefits.

Eggs from pastured poultry are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin A. Meanwhile, they are lower in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. In addition, there is a direct relationship between feed, yolk color, and the nutrient content of the egg. The more orange the yolk, the higher the level of health-enhancing carotenoids. Compared to supermarket eggs, eggs from pastured poultry are a vivid yellow/orange—proof of a richer store of disease-fighting carotenes.

(Bornstein, S. and I. Bartov (1966). "Studies on egg yolk pigmentation. I. A comparison between visual scoring of yolk color and colorimetric assay of yolk carotenoids." Poult Sci 45(2): 287-96.)

Please comment if you would like me to bring them to you in College Station.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Pig Progress 2

For the last 2 days, my biggest breeder pig, Lucy, has been in heat. After heat comes the standing part, which the first time I saw it, I didn't know what she was doing. The term "standing" refers to when the pig is ready to breed. This is the act of actually allowing themselves to breed. I remember the first time I went outside and this was happening. She was a lot calmer than normal and she kept following me. Not with a feed me type walk but like a "Where you going big boy" walk. I was confused. Was I being whooed by a pig. Well, I called a fellow I know that sold me the pigs and I told him what was going on. He said that she is standing and is ready to breed and that she is showing me this. Well I knew right away that I needed to get a boar so I asked him if he had one for sale. At first he said no but then he called me back and told me he would sell me one of his breeder boars that they had. He breeds predominately show pigs and he wanted a little bit more characteristics than this boy was packing. However, I want feeder pigs and he would do great for me. So in comes Dudley. Well, I missed the first standing period so I had to wait for the next one. (They cycle every 18-21 days)

So I noticed this morning that Lucy was standing and this time I had the boy to do the job. So I thought. I put the two together and off he went like white lightning. This was wild. My pig guy told me that you want to see when they actually do it, that way you will know to put them back together later in the day to make sure they breed "good." Then you will know the due date pretty close. So, I sit in observance of these two beasts of animals going at it. It felt weird first but then I thought, "this is what has to be done." But there was one set back. Lucy is about the same age as Dudley and weighs about 270 pounds. She is very tall though. Dudley, weighs about 340 pounds and is really compact. Her being tall and he being compact apparently possed a problem. After about 10 minutes of watching this horrible display of breeding, I realized Dudley may be a dud at this time in his life. I think he may need to grow a bit taller because he apparently couldn't find the mark. It was a huge let down. So all morning, I tried to make sure they were getting the job done and the whole time I was out there, the Dudster failed miserably. So then I just let them stay together to see if maybe they could figure it out. Surely in the wild these things are figured out. I mean in the dog world, you see little dogs somehow getting big dogs pregnant. So for now, I will have to wait and see. She should still be standing tomorrow but I have to work in Houston. I will just leave them together and then let her out when I get off in the morning. I just hope I don't get home and the Dudster has had a heart attack from trying so hard. Poor guy. I think I may have ruined his confidence by naming him Dudley.

If anyone has any information on how to help my poor Dudley out please let me know. I'm perplexed.

Once I quit stressing over the pigs, I went back to working on the pig area. I know have all the electric fencing done on the existing fences. All the T-Posts are set, insulators on, and my bottom line wires are strung. If I get a full days work in, I feel that I can have all the wire strung and everything connected together. Then the fun part, running water to the pad. Its not hard, just not my favorite thing to do. Good thing I didn't become a plumber I guess.