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Monday, February 25, 2008

Around the Farm 2

The pigs are all finally in their new pasture. There has been some serious squelling with them testing out the fence and their boundaries. I actually had one that got shocked, went through the fence, then didn't know what to do so he came back in. Worked out pretty good. This is some more pictues of them in their new home. They finally got the nerve to go into the woods, which now I can't get them to ever come out.

I decided to build them a covered shelter for when it rains and just in case we get another little cold spell. I think we will probably be in the clear, but in this part of Texas, sometimes you get a late freeze before April 1st. Who knows. At least if they want to they can go under it. Makes me feel better I guess.

I went to check the chicken that was setting on the eggs. Well, if you read previous posts, there originally ended up being 16 eggs. She is a new layer, and I really don't think she knew what to do with them. So she went off and hid, laying all her eggs here. This is fine, but she didn't want to set on them. So now these 16 eggs were here and no one to hatch them. I decided to put them in plain site of all the chickens hoping that someone would pick up her slack and set. No one. There was just way too many eggs. I think they were a little intimidated. So I fed them to the pigs. They loved them.

Well, the next week I could find her and lo and behold, she was back up in the same spot. This time, she was broody and I knew she decided that this time, her eggs wouldn't be taken. So now she decided to set. Finally I caught her out eating and I was able to do an egg count. Five. A bit easier for a first time setter. Today I noticed some chirping and there they were. At least 2 that I could see. We'll see tomorrow. I put some chick starter and water up there so she can show them the ropes.

Then while building the pig shelter, I noticed that one of my favorite bantam hens was sneaking around in the barn. Then all of a sudden, she bypassed the normal laying box and snuck around the back of one I have in storage. So I see her go in and inside is 10 eggs. So today she decided to set. In 21 days we'll see how many we get. I love bantams. They are so motherly. I probably could have gave her the original 16 eggs and she would have tried to set on them. Her whole body would have been off the ground. Just a bunch of eggs under her.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Love that Green

We are now through paddock 15 of our 23 shifts. At first when I decided to begin rotating the cows through the new rye grass, there was a bit of uncertainty in doing it. However, after being half way through the rotations, I am glad I did it. The cows are looking great, and the pastures are really changing.
This is one of my favorite steers

Along with rotating them through, I have been applying compost in behind them to help with some nutrient issues and also begin to build organic matter. As I stated before, if pastures were equivalent to hands in poker, we were holding a 7-2 off-suit. But through proper land management and a little help being applied in terms of organic matter, natural fertilizers, and forages, we are going to be in good shape. Man, in just under a year you wouldn't recognize the place from what it was to now.

In a day this will be pretty much gone.

So with the dawn of spring officially around the bend, many things will be happening here on Yonder Way Farm


Last night we had a relaxing time of family time. Not that we don't usually have family time at night but this time we were going to sit outside around the FIRE PIT. We made this thing this year as a "togetherness project," as my dad would say, just the wife and me. It started off very simple but in time began to get bigger and bigger. Eventually, it was about 2 foot deep and about 8' in diameter. The pit turned out way better than expected.

I could sit and watch a fire all night long. Ironic I put them out for a living.

So our tradition for these nights is burn a lot of wood, drink hot chocolate, and on occasion, eat God knows whats in them, full of nitrite, hot dogs. Only around a fire that is big enough to burn the exterior off your face off and make you feel like your clothes are about to spontaneously combust can you forget what your putting in your mouths. But we usually do it on these nights.
But this night, we just drank hot chocolate.

Boy thats a lot of hot chocolate

Then today was a good ole relaxing day. KK has been wanting to go out in the canoe ever since I brought this thing home. So I told her yesterday that today would be today. Wouldn't you guess that today is the most beautiful day in the world but also the most windy. But try backing out on a 3 yr old. These guys you have to show that it won't work very well. So out we set. I think her favorite part was riding in the canoe while being pulled by the Ranger.

So we get to the water and right off the bat I know this isn't going to work very well. I am in the back and she is just in front of me leaving no weight in the front. So now I look like a speed boat doing a hundred mph across the lake except I am in a canoe going maybe 1/2. Needless to say, we just kept getting blown in circles, up onto the bank, and try paddling while fishing with your little girl. I got all twisted up in the line. Within 5 minutes she said, "I think it is too windy, maybe we should try another day." Thats my girl. The good that came from this though, besides just getting to hang out, was that her verse for the week was "Even the wind and the waves obey Him" Matt 8:27. No better visual aid than this because lo as we tried, they weren't obeying us. What a mighty God we serve in deed.

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Pigs

Now that I have the new pig pasture complete, the 8 door feeder in the pasture, and 3 feeder pigs currently, I figured I should go ahead and get 5 more heads for the remaining 5 doors. The Pig Man, thats what I call him, called me last week and said that he would have some ready end of this week. So today was the day. I am hoping that this is the last few I have to purchase from him because now, both my breeder pigs are indeed pregnant, so we will have our own litters in the coming month. More on that.

In this litter, I thought I would try a couple of different breeds this time just to see how they fair. I got 3 Yorkshires, 1 Hampshire/Yorkshire cross (that is what we will be having in our litters), and a Duroc. I really like the Duroc's. So now, I have 8 feeder pigs, 2 Breeders, and a big Stud named Dudley.

It always fascinates me seeing pigs that would have been in confinement getting to be free and raised the way nature intended them. To see them come out and touch dirt for the first time, and start trying their noses, and nipping at all the different vegetation. Its quite sad to think that the pigs most eat in a grocery store never get to experience this. They live in concrete boxes, with hard floors, that when their feed gets on the ground, it cuts into their skin because it is so coarse. Once you get pigs on your farm, you will realize that they are the life of it. They love doing what they do best, tearing the ground up. But when you walk out there, they stop what they are doing and run as fast as their funny bodies will take them and then fall over in front of you for some petting. They are very emotional animals who in confinement, continually stay depressed. Very sad.

This guy wouldn't quit rubbing his body in the soft dirt.

In the newly sprouting rescue grass. Probably feels like carpet

Look what I found to play with.

While at the TOFGA conference, I found a feed mill that sells only 100% certified organic feed. It is called Coyote Creek Farms. They specialize in chicken feed but I got to thinking that pigs eat pretty much the same things are chickens. So I asked the lady, named Sue, if they would be interested in doing this. She was very excited and called a nutritionist and got a recommendation. The even better part, is that the mill is only 75 miles from our farm. Can't beat that. Now the feed is way higher than if you were to buy normal feed but the benefits are well worth it. No GMO products in this stuff, Redmond Natural Trace mineral is used, no chemicals of any sort in the grain. They milled it for me the morning I went to pick it up. It was so yellow and fresh smelling. Probably could make some great cornbread with it. Maybe. No we aren't looking to get certified organic, but we always want to be feeding our animals the best products that are out there.

This is 1000# of pig feed. It smells so good.

Needless to say, I will be getting a price list together for our products because pretty soon we will be in the product selling business. It takes time to build things up so that you can be able to produce over a sustainable amount of time. With such a huge demand for pastured pork, non the less, pastured pork fed only organic grain, I feel these things will get reserved quite fast.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Happy 27th

Today is my amazing wifes 27th Birthday. We got married when she was 19 so I feel like I have seen her grow so much. She is the best wife and mother the Lord could have ever blessed me with. She is my best friend and the love of my life. Thank you babe for wowing me all the time and I hope you have a great day. Sorry I have to be at work. It is 6:15 in the morning and the guys have already tore into the cake you made like a pack of coyotes. For those of you who don't know last week was my birthday and the tradition in the Houston Fire Dept is that on your birthday, you have to bring cake and ice cream. So my wife made a Godiva chocolate pound cake for the guys. They always get excited about her baking goods. Thanks babe and "Love you bunches."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why Support Your Local Farmer?

Well if you felt all safe and cozy knowing that the government is keeping the commercial food business in check then I hope you threw up yesterday morning. If you don't know what I am taking about then here is the link to the full story. I first saw the videos that were aired on the television about a month ago. I could not believe what I saw. These animals that were so sick that they were unable to stand were being carried into this processing plant and being butchered, and sold to the public. But not just the public, but our children through school lunch programs. Yack. And to think that when I was in school, I always got 2 lunches because I just liked food that much. I wish I knew then what I knew now.

The great thing is there is a new movement coming on and if this is not evidence as to why then your blinders are welded on over your eyes rather than the side. I urge you please support your local farmers. I don't mean that you have to buy all your fruits and vegetables along with your meat but at least your meat. Animals are living things that can harbor some awful things, and if you have ever been to a sale barn, you will see that the majority of these animals are being sold because something is wrong with them. Not newly weined calves but I'm talking your full grown older cows. You know who buys them? Commercial slaughter houses. These animals are allowed to be slaughtered under USDA rules as long as they are breathing and able to stand prior to slaughter. Thats it. I don't know about you but I don't want to consume a sick animal. Nope, not me.

There are many farms around everyone, whether you know it or not, that offer locally raised products. Now I'm not saying just go grass-fed, though I don't know why you wouldn't if you had someone producing around you, but go locally raised. Buy from a place where you can go and see the animals and how they are treated. What are they eating? Do they look stress free? I know that sounds weird but a stress free cow produces better and tastes better. Animals were made for a purpose. To work the land, keep other species in check, whether it be other animals or vegetation, and to be eaten by things bigger and smarter than them. But just because we get to eat them doesn't mean you don't let them fulfill their purpose while on that path. I heard it best one time that "God made beef perfect then man came along and screwed it up." That is so true. We somehow feel that we can take an animal that functions perfectly in its natural environment, on its natural diet, and somehow make it work better by forcing it to eat alien things and be confined on a dirt pad. Well, this is what we have come to. A country allowing our kids to eat manure caked, almost dead yet living, abused meat in our tax payed schools. Wow.

So please take the time to invest in yours and your kids health. You can no longer plead ignorance on the issues anymore. You have been shown the evidence so make the wise choice. Support your local farmers and invest in products that are the way they were meant to be.

Video of Commercial Packing Plant

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lime & Compost

After coming back from the conference, one thing they really emphasized was PH and organic matter in your soils. Well, we have extremely low PH, around 5.2-5.5, and it needs to be around 7. We also have extremely sandy areas in our pastures that usually have a hard time retaining nutrients and organic matter. The solution, Lime and Compost.

Last July, I got 2 tons of lime per acre applied to about 30 acres. This left about 70 acres left to do. Trying to get someone to apply lime in the summer is one of the hardest things you will try to do. Most conventional farmers are applying heavy doses of fertilizer at this time, and at $500 a ton, it is much more profitable to put this out than $30 dollar a ton lime. So I was able to get 60 tons at that time.

This time however, I had a guy that said he could do it the next day after I called him. Amazing what a difference the season makes. So in came 148 tons of lime. These trucks were pretty awesome. My daughter didn't think they were near as cool as I did. This was a lot of lime. So now it is out and today we got a nice slow rain throughout the day. The good soaking rain which will be good for this to work faster. Also, always go with the finer grade lime. If you go with the standard agricultural lime, your looking at about 12-18 months for results versus about 6-8.

I also started applying mushroom compost to our pastures. This stuff is amazing. We have a local mushroom farm just about 60 miles from our place, and this stuff is pretty much made up of natural ingredients. Chicken liter, horse manure, hay, cottonseed mill, molasses, and other minerals. I sent an analysis to A&M to be tested and it came back with much better results than I suspected. The fertilizer in this stuff is awesome.

They delivered 2, 18 wheeler loads today, about 90 yds, and I tried to beat the rain in getting it spread. As you can see, I got most of it done. I can get about 6 acres per load so I have about 10 acres completed thus far. The most tedious part of this is not loading and spreading, but the time it takes to come back and get another load. I figure I can get about 10-12 acres done a day so about a weeks worth of spreading should get it done.

The grass is really greening up prior to application from good rain and warm weather. W have had almost a full week of weather in the 70's. Crazy how warm this year.

My cows are in day 7 of their rotation. They seem to be doing great. It is amazing how the pads look after each rotation. People complain about having to move cows but these guys are ready to move as soon as I get out there. I feel like I don't open the gate fast enough and they are getting impatient. They moo at me so I just keep mooing back. Then I let them through and the heel kicking begins. If you look closely in the picture, you can see where the compost has been spread. We'll see how the pastures look after this good rain we just received.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Moooving Cows

Ready to move

Well about a 6 days ago, I made the executive decision to move the cows onto the paddocks with rye grass and clover. I say executive decision because I felt like I had two little people on my shoulders. One saying, "Go ahead and move them, its ok." And the other saying, "You said 8 weeks off and its been just over 6, you should wait." Well I said lets move them and see what happens. I don't know if it is the best thing, but we will see in a bit. I do know they enjoy the new green grass bunches more than the good quality hay. Their poop is like liquid fertilizer now which is good for breaking down into the soil.

I move the cows by making alleys using electric poly wire on reels. This system has worked great for me thus far as long as you don't run the cows. If a cow wants out of a fence due to stress, it doesn't matter if it is hot or barbed, they will go through it. Just keep it narrow enough that they are comfortable but not too big that they get unfocused and get side tracked. This is where a lead cow really is beneficial. Mine helps me a lot.

Here the cows are making the 90 degree turn to go to the new paddocks. The brown cow in the front is my lead cow. We call him #1 because that is what his ear tag is. I know, genius.

The cows in their new first paddock. This rotation will consist of 23 paddocks, with the cows being moved each day. It is amazing how much they eat in just one day but it is good to know that once they move, they will not return for almost 30 days. Right now, I have a total of 31 pads but I won't rotate on 8 of them till spring.

This is the center run of my 15 paddocks. This is 3 strand 12 gauge high tensile wire. All my paddocks are divided with step in posts and poly wire on reels. As you can see, you can move your chemilizer easy as well. If you don't have one, you need to get you one.

Still eating

Tonight when collecting eggs, we got a new record amount, 29 eggs. I use to remember thinking I can't wait to get a full dozen each night. Good thing is that I have had lots of people to buy them so I don't end up with a fridge full. Thanks for all of you who support the feed bill for these chicks.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Haven't Forgot

I was tagged by Tim at Natures Harmony Farm a couple of weeks ago. Here I have to tell 7 things about myself (and wife) that people may not know. I will get on this soon. I haven't forgot, there really isn't much that is interesting about me and I don't want to use all Lynsey's stuff. She is very interesting. So I will get her to help me out. She is my "helpmate" after all.

Back On Board....But Now Sick

This is an actual sign we saw while on one of our farm tours. Never thought there was a problem with people just going into these places and saying, "Well, looks good, lets bury Freddie right there."

Well we have internet now, so now we can be connected to the world. Isn't that sad. It has been forever since I have updated things but I have a lot of posts ready to go. I am going to have to ration them out though or I will feel like I am bombarding everyone. Then they don't scroll down and see all of them. However, now I have some kind of bug. I know I got it from one of my brother fire fighters, who apparently doesn't feel the need to use his sick time when he is sick. Now all of us are mad at him because several of us are not feeling good after a couple of weeks. However, you must push on.

One of the major things I finished a week or so ago was the waterlines going to the new hog pasture. So what I am going to do here in this post is show how easy it is for one man to install 1900' of water line, covered, install spigets, and be ready for operation in about 10 hrs. Thats right, one full day.

The above picture is a subsoiler. If you don't have one, its the best $400-500 dollars you will spend. This thing is made to make rips in the ground so that water will be able to go inside the hard pan that most peoples pastures have over years of compaction. However, you can hook your water line to it and pull it under ground just as well. So this is what it looks like. It is a Bison SVH-1.

Take your tractor and line it up where you want your water line to go. You need to do pre rips because it will take a lot of the weight off the subsoiler when you go to pulling the water line in. I have now done it both ways. By not pre ripping, I broke about 6 sheer bolts vs. none with pre ripping. You only have to make one pass when pre ripping so it doesn't take long at all.

This is the subsoiler actually going through the ground. As you can see, it goes pretty deep. If at the lowest setting it will put your water lines about 18" in the ground.

This is what the ground will look like after one of your pre rips. You can see that it doesn't displace the dirt the way a trencher does which makes for easy work when you go to cover your line, if you choose to.

After you have pre ripped the ground everywhere you are wanting to put your lines in, take your PVC pipe and put it in 200' sections behind the rip. I then glue them together and take 2 sections of 200' and make 400' pieces. I don't go over 400' sections though because that allows you to stop and make sure everything is going as planned without pulling apart somewhere and now you have to find where it happened 18" underground. Then you will be thinking," Why didn't I just use a trencher?"

I then glue a bushing with a threaded end on it and screw a K-Line cap on the end. This is the side that you will be pulling underground. I then connect it to a chain that is attached to the bottom of the subsoiler (they don't come with these so you will have to figure a way that works best for you) and begin to pull it in. Once you get to the end, you will cut the bushing off and apply a spiget or whatever you choose to use as your water source. This is 1" PVC. I use that all over the pasture for water lines.

This is what it looks like as the water line is being put under the ground. There is no covering that has to be done because the subsoiler doesn't remove dirt as it is ripping. I usually don't even run over the rips when I am done because you will see that the areas around the rip will be much greener and absorb much more water than other places.

***Note: I have pulled up to 1000' in a run but that was over a very flat area. If you are going in dips and going over hills, go half way one way and then pull the other half going from the opposite direction. You will have one more connection to put together where they meet in the middle, but if you don't, the weight will pull your PVC in half. Then the searching begins.

Once you have all the water lines in the ground, you will have to dig out anywhere you have to make connections. This time, I had three separate runs so I had to make 3 connections. If you know you are going to be tying into this line later for future water line installation, I suggest putting a valve at the end and putting a box over it. It is nice to be able to just walk up and open the box and tie in and get going.

After you have all the lines tied together, figure out where you want to put your water sources and reach into the rip until you find the line. Its very easy. Dig out around the line and put in a T. The best thing for this is a saddle T. They sell them at plumbing stores. All you do is drill a hole in the T, then put primer and glue on the top half of your PVC pipe and inside the T, then snap it on. Drill a hole through the water line where you already drilled out the T and there you have it. I wish I would have taken a picture of this. Then attach your water source.
***Note: Leave one end of your water line open so that you can flush out anything in your line before pressurizing it.

Then put your valve cover on. (I use Shipley Doughnut buckets because I can get them for free. I just cut the bottoms out and bury it putting the lid on for protection.)

And thats it. Hope this has been somewhat informative for those who may do this in the future and sorry if it was boring to those who it doesn't pertain to. It was showed to me by a very wise man and I feel I should keep the tradition going.