HOT Happenings

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Greener Upper

Posted on May 7, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Turnips were planted in fall 2018 for cattle as an alternative to grasses. Turnips are an inexpensive alternative, non chemical way to help mine nitrogen from deep in the soil, add organic mass, and prevent erosion. The long tap roots help break soil compaction like a plow and a good choice for a no-till operation. Turnips have excellent forage quality, the cattle eat the green tops and the turnip and benefit from having a diverse diet instead of grains or a monoculture field of grass. 




The next photos show part of the pollinator field planted last year as looking from the barn out to the main road. With help from the NRCS I was able to plant 30 acres in pollinators March 2018. It takes about 3 years to see results from a planting such as this, but with all the rains we have had this year the results have been amazing. I also hand tossed wildflower seeds gifted from a friend this fall. What is interesting is many of the flowers shown were not planted by me. The field had been a cornfield prior to planting the pollinator mix.


March 17 shows nearly bare ground.




This is one month later. What a change!






The following photos are just a few varieties growing this last month in the pollinator field. Ahh, the sweet days of Spring!

Hairy Vetch:



Lemon Bee Balm 


Baby Blue Eyes and Henbit


Rare white bluebonnet


Rocket Larkspur


Stumped?


Texas Vervain



Indian Blanket. Do you see the bees on the flowers?




Moss Verbena


Indian Paint Brush



Blue Eyed Bermuda grass



Blue Bonnets and Vervain?


More Henbit



Cornflower


Cornflower



Bahia Pedata and Purple Tansy

To the casual observer driving by at 70 mph the field looks like a bunch of weeds. Slow down, drink in the sun, breathe in the fresh air and really look around and you will see beauty growing in unexpected places. Stop keeping that meticulous yard. Allow the bees, butterflies, dragonflies, moths and beetles to dance in the fields among the flowers as God intended.  Relax, let your weeds grow. 





Waco Fox 44's Anna Thrash

Posted on March 6, 2019 at 12:20 AM

Fox 44's Anna Thrash came out in the blustery, below freezing temperatures to talk with Andrew about the cold. It will air tonight at 5:30 and 9:00. 


Clucker Upper

Posted on February 5, 2019 at 10:30 AM

Over the last 4 years, starting when Andrew was 14, he has buillt 20+ mobile coops from chicken scratch: small coops, medium coops & large coops. Some were rented out as "rent-a-coop", one mid-sized coop was destroyed in a wind storm and now the remaining unsold coops have been repurposed for housing bunnies and various other birds.


One larger mobile coop affectionally known as the Gypsy Caravan is Andrew's first Clucker Upper! He has taken his building skills to re-building a mess of a coop. The resale value was practically zero. His three options were give it away, burn it or re-build it. The shanty already had a nice open floor plan, but walls were knocked down and rebuilt, doors replaced, framed foundation fixed,  wood floors installed, new temporary windows installed for Generation Z chicks arriving next week, and finally a fresh coat of paint! No shiplap was discovered but the wide splinter inducing plywood panels have a certain rustic charm and we decided to reuse those.  Under consideration is a metal sign that says, "Today is a Good day for a Good EGG". Andrew stepped out of his comfort zone and went with a modern style ramp door. First to appeal to the next generation's taste while also doubling as a sturdy footing for 185 pound young man. 


Before Demo Day:


Rebuilt foundation for the floor. Notice the curved ramp door to the left. To be replaced with a "mid century modern" equivalent.

The Mid-Cen-Mod door and fresh temporary window coverings!

And the reveal of our very own Clucker Upper!


Stay tuned for the the "Cooler Downer" and "Greener Upper"!


A year of records

Posted on February 5, 2019 at 2:30 AM

It was reported that central Texas, in 2018, had set records in heat, cold, drought and most total rainfall. Overall it was a doozy of a year for the recordbooks and farmers.  We surmised that if we made it through the last 12 months we just might be ready to tackle practically anything. It was a tough year for the pasture greens. My daughter asked me what I was looking forward to most this next year. I said, "watching my grass grow".


Andrew has finished building 2 more large mobile coops for his chickens. He is anxiously awaiting the arrival of 1500 day old chicks in a few days. Our mailman asked what happened to our "greenhouses". The coops were built in front of the barn for all passerbyers to see and finally moved to the backside of the property. It makes me happy that we are not the smell of the town. Locals apparently think we are raising plants in the coops. The layer hens don't have that "farm" smell and I attest that to frequent movement of the coops across the grass. I'm glad we have them fooled. Little do they know there is a large soiree of feathered friends clucking about.




Next on our list is to build out a cooler trailer. I recently aquired a large cargo trailer, painted it to match our barn and Andrew and his dad are working feverishly to finish the interior. With the help of a Coolbot, designed by a farmer, we are able to cool a space as low as 35 degrees with a window unit air conditioner. We expect the 20X7 foot trailer, in total, to cost about 6500 dollars once finished. I like the fact that the cooler trailer is not a permanent structure inside the interior of our barn and also costs much less than an interior build. You can check out www.storeitcold.com for instructions on building your own walk-in cooler. 




Dark Cloud

Posted on August 28, 2018 at 6:00 PM

My dad has aptly nicknamed Andrew "Dark Cloud". In DC's word's, "it's going to die, it's going to break, it's not going to work."


DC has been telling me all summer the apple tree planted last fall is going to die. It finally gave up this week. 


We have had the driest summer on record. So far 9 inches of rain, 22 inches is the norm. The hay produced off the farm this year was less than a bale per acre. We probably will not get a second cutting either. I was hoping for 3 bales per acre produced this season. I purchased bales of corn and milo and have been feeding the cows corn since early August.   The cows have decided they like the corn.  After a few weeks I put out regular hay and they turned up their noses and went back to the corn. Which is okay? Corn bales are cheaper but they go through them faster so in the end the cost is probably about the same. Next week I'm going to plant turnips for the cows and hope for some rain. The turnips should be ready in 45-60 days and have a high protein content. Today I have been out working the proposed turnip site and I came in brown from the dust. Should have worn a dust mask.  


I turned over the shredding duties to Mark because there is an area in the field that requires the expertise of someone with a higher pay grade. Dark Cloud was watching Dad on the tractor shred a tricky spot in the field and said, "it's going to break". At least I was off shredding duties until the shredder was fixed.


In March I planted a native seed mix in the pasture and have Bundleflower and sunflowers from that mix growing abundantly.  The Sideoats are showing, but not as plentiful.  Johnson grass (not part of the mix) is also growing well and I have to lop the heads off every couple of weeks. Johnson grass can be a good/bad thing. Depends on how you manage your herd. First, it can takeover a field in no time. The seeds can be viable in the soil for 10+ years. Second, it can harm your cattle if not grazed properly because of a build up of prussic acid.  But the good thing is it grows like a weed, because it is a weed, and is good fodder for cattle. I am trying to get rid of the Johnson grass so that it will not overtake my native mix without using chemicals so that requires cutting the seed heads every few weeks. 


This past week my husband and I tried 9 different ways to put a 20 by 200 foot tarp over some milo bales. Andrew was right again, "it's not going to work". I know those farmers on the high plains can do it, why can't I? Do I really need this tarp? It probably won't rain anyway. I decided the tarp was better off secured in the barn than flying high over the field like a deranged UFO.


Andrew had come running in the house today complaining the chickens had pecked a scab on his leg and was bleed profusely. After he was all cleaned up I put a bacon bandaid on his leg. He said, "don't we have anything else? They'll peck at that even more."  


The blood thirsty chickens have plucked their white tail feathers, sown a surrender flag and are flying it above the coop. I know they wish for rain too.


June- Blackberries are fruiting

Posted on June 18, 2018 at 7:35 PM



It is the second year since Andrew planted the tranplanted berry sticks from Arkansas. They truly were sticks and it is amazing they have grown even with our current drought. The summer has been dry and the rain still has not come for weeks. My cows are fence jumping to greener pastures and always keeping me on my toes. One area of cross fencing is in shambles and they alway seems to know when I have the gate open. They like to stand at the open gate and watch the cars whiz by.  My hay guy has been telling me he will bale the hay next week. That was 8 or so weeks ago. So I have hired another hay guy and he tells me next week. I just will have to keep buying feed until some farmer is available to bale.  


Andrew decided to put our U-Pick sign out mid June and not advertise. I slightly regret this as not many have stopped. He did not want to disappoint pickers as this is only the second year of production and to berries are not at their full potentional, but we still have berries coming out everyday and we pick every morning and every night. My back is sore and I have purple stained fingers. The chickens that roam in the blackberries are depositing purple poop on my driveway. We call this "a drive-by fruiting".  All the dogs are enjoying the fruits too.  So come and pick and eat your fill. They are delicious!


The elusive Blue Bell wildflower showed up in our hay field. Good thing the farmer never came! These are normally only found in Washington County, home to the famous creamery Blue Bell.  I'll be roping off the entire area of Blue Bells. The seeds drop around September-October.

Another amazing wildflower found in the field is the American Basket Flower. It looks similar to a thistle, but without the prickly leaves.


The kid

Posted on May 2, 2018 at 1:25 PM

     Andrew proudly keeps reminding me that he will be 18 and an adult at the end of July. I had to laugh when he walked into Sims Plastic to buy irrigation supplies and was greeted with, "Hey, the kid is here!" All the employees came out of their respective positions to ask him how the blackberries were growing, and if he has graduated Homeschool High School yet. First rule of homeschoolers is you don't ask what year they are, but how old they are. The graduation question sent Andrew into a tailspin. He wasn't sure if I officially graduated him yet. I didn't realize this was complex. My response was, "You graduate when I get that Senior photo taken."



     Mrs. Lewis has been buying Andrew's eggs since he started selling at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market over 2 years ago. She emailed and was wondering if he would host a farm tour for her class. Of course! The 1st attempt the school bus broke down, the 2nd attempt the fields flooded as seen in the previous post and this 3rd attempt was forcasted for thunderstorms. The kids were absolutely darling. One was obviously never going to be a field hand as he protested the smell of the meat birds and held his shirt over his nose the first 15 minutes. Good thing for him we didn't make it to see the pig because of the lightning. One boy asked to hold Andrew's hand as they crossed the field. At the end I asked what their favorite thing was. One said, seeing the baby chicks inside the eggs, another said feeding rolls to the layer hens, another said Andrew was his favorite.

I've got a hole in my boot.

Posted on March 28, 2018 at 8:35 PM

Today the fields flooded and the chickens were wading patiently until help arrived.  All hands were on deck this morning to move the coops and save the day.  My husband was complaining about a hole in his boot that was leaking water and soaking his socks. Most likely a pesky mesquite thorn. I said, "Yeah, my right one has a few holes too".


Remember the movie Men in Black where Kay says, "There's always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life...."? Sometimes it feels just like that around the farm. We have learned to take the battles in stride. 


All this reminds me of Matthew 6:25-34. 


Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,...Look at the birds of the air: they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?...But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


Amen to that! Each day has enough trouble of its own FOR SURE, but I know our heavenly Father is watching over us.



Feast or famine

Posted on November 11, 2017 at 9:00 PM

     The hens have starting molting and we have been barely getting by with just a pittance of eggs.  When the daylight hours decrease below 14 hours the hens start to molt, which means to lose and regrow feathers. The feathers contain 85% protein so instead of laying eggs that energy is spent on feathers. Lighting the coop will help stop the molt in fall. I have spent nearly four weeks trying to figure out a lighting system for the mobile coops. First I had 5 extension cords connected and shocked myself on the cord and said to myself that can't be good. We tried solar connected to batteries, solar Christmas lights & lanterns.   I watched youtube videos and thought to myself if this redneck in a hula grass skirt can light with solar I can surely figure it out.  Not so.  The hand crank lanterns will have to do for now. Each coop light source needs to be inexpensive (under $50) since we now have four hen houses. Speaking of four hen houses...


     Andrew had just spent the last two weeks searching for more quality birds and transporting them back to the farm when he found a 14 foot wide homemade coop on wheels.  His eyes lit up and said, "It's perfect! I need you to find a shipper today."  HIs dad was not impressed and declared the property values will decrease because of it.  Our new favorite local wide-load-hauler even took a photo of the proud owner and his newest aquisition. Andrew has increased his flock by 950 birds in about a span of 2 weeks.  Now we are up to our ears in laying hens and eggs.  


Needs a little fixin'. Hubby thinks painting a huge Texas flag on it can make it look glorious.



Summer 2017

Posted on September 18, 2017 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Summer was ablaze and we did our best to keep the hens cool. After 4 attempts with different misters we found one that did not create an indoor water ballet swimming pool (or mosh pit, whatever floats your boat) in the coop. Our egg production increased with the misters, but the water bill showed the hallmarks of a leak. We have multiple hoses from the house to the hoop coop so the next step is to use about 300 foot of one single rubber pipe to mitagate the leaks. 


The first yield on 1.3 acres of blackberries was 54 pounds. June was the only month for any production for the Ouatchita variety. Andrew is outside pruning the tops and plans to reroot and grow more. We are looking to amend the second blackberry field since our ph level is high. Adding compost doesn't amend the ph, but acts as a buffer and can help with drainage since we have heavy clay soil. We still have truckloads of mulch and plan to top-dress the field. In our research we found mixing the mulch into the dirt can lower the nitrogen content.


 

Andrew has a customer coming tomorrow to buy a few things and I reminded him he has his first day of class at the local college in the morning. He said, "What?!?"  What a terrible thing it is to have a schedule to keep. He is in the last stretch of homeschool, his senior year, and has much freedom from keeping a daily schedule. We will see if this dual credit class lasts. He already has plans to miss the second week of class because he is a professional ****** on the side, and will be at the World event in San Antonio competing with the best of the best. (I am not allowed to write about his side hobby as he tries to stay humble)


In Texas, texting while driving a vehicle has been banned. On my own property I do text and and shred on the tractor. I know all the local highly skilled farmers shake their head in disgust at my curvy rows. It really is hard to stay straight at 6 miles an hour. 


In other news, Andrew decided to sell his goats. He sold 70% in one day to another young boy.  The very next day he decided he missed them and bought more. The next week he decided he would end his goat operation and start breeding sheep.  I'm sure there is a joke in there about changing underwear.



The second hoop coop is up and we have 365 six week old chicks thriving and living in the lap of luxury.  This coop had a build time of about a week instead of 3 weeks. Many mistakes were made and learned from the first hoop coop.





Proverbs 19:21 " Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."






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