|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.
|Posted on September 18, 2017 at 3:45 PM||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."
|Posted on June 5, 2017 at 3:05 PM|
The blackberries are abounding! After only a year in the ground it is amazing to see the growth from a single stick to a "baby" plant. The best berries are when you feel the berry fall into your hand. When you have to tug at the berry it will be tart and not as sweet. We will sell some packages at Drug Emporium so check the store!
This tall vine shown with Andrew's dad will be the cane that fruit comes from next year, called the primacane. He's not really camera shy, just taking a break from mowing.
Andrew had the chance to meet a fellow athlete from New Zealand that started a vineyard with one acre of grapes that he grew into 500 acres. Amazing. This man was placed in Andrew's path at just the right time. The Lord's timing is always perfect. Andrew has been wavering in his confidence about his crazy ideas and to meet someone who has plowed through the same issues, starting with nothing but raw land, no real background, learn on the fly, and then to be successful through grit and determination was a rewarding experience.
We have so many ideas and dreams it is hard to know what direction to go. We would like share the beauty of God's creation and promote wholesome family fun with the local community in several ways. Next year the goal is to open the blackberry field to the local community and each year add a new endeavor. What are those endeavors? We will walk in faith that the Lord will make it clear.
4 packages or 30,000 bees and 4 queens, we ordered arrived via UPS and died in shipment. It clearly says on the package bees require ventilation and some numbskull wrapped them in plastic bags. Bees pollinate over 30 percent of our food supply and 90 percent of our wild plants. Please UPS, train your employees on the importance of reading labels.
Some farmers find cool treasures in their fields. In England they have found stashes of coins, my grandpa in Missouri would find arrowheads, others find relics of farm implements. We have our own kind of treasure. I found a big ball of string under the sod. Too bad we don't have cats!
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
|Posted on April 7, 2017 at 12:10 AM||comments (0)|
It has been unseasonably warm and that means flies! My vet was back helping me with another mama calf struggling to give birth. Both of us were astonished that the calf came out alive. 2 weeks later I was back at the vet's office with the same calf. It had come down with pink eye, a virus which is carried quickly by flies. It is never to early to remember to spray the livestock and protect them from the damage pink eye causes to cattle. This calf has now lost it's eyesight. Because of government regulation we are not able to buy the antibotic feed additive necessary as of 1/01/2017 to help the infection, and now required to take a trip to the vet's office for a shot of medicine, which is not always easy to do when the fields are mucky. I wonder how this new regulation changes cattle health for producers nationwide.
The large hoop coop has been wonderful. The laying hens are so happy and carefree in fresh grass every week. Instead of having the nesting boxes in a dusty barn they hang just above fresh grass! Andrew is so pleased with the movable coop that he wants to add a second large hoop coop during the summer months. It was tested this week with 40 mile an hour winds and did not budge. I received our Baylor magazine this week and nearly ran the van off our driveway. As I was flipping through it I saw the owner of Lula Jane's, Nancy Grayson, standing with our eggs in front of her in an article about downtown Waco! Andrew admires her attention to detail and her desire to be efficient in all things. This attention to efficiency has Andrew rethinking retail vs wholesale and what can save him time and labor. Granddad is coming to town and is our master thinker. Hopefully he will have some golden nuggets of wisdom to pass to Andrew to help rethink his business plan and improve efficiency in the small and large areas.
Seems like our fences are constantly being pushed to the limits. An angry mama cow that I had quarantined broke through the fence in 5 different spots. Granted the fence she blazed through was old barb wire and another section was electric. My fence guy came and installed new 7 wire fencing. I've never liked barb wire, but after chasing animals down it now looks appealing knowing it will contain the masses.
|Posted on March 2, 2017 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
Blessed with beautiful days we have had a chance to expand shelters and fix things without changing clothes every hour because of heat and sweat. The beginning of the month Andrew waved down tree trimmers and asked if they could dump the mulch at the farm. 40 truckloads sounds like a lot, but we wonder if it will be enough. The plan is to mulch around the 1.3 acres of blackberries and then mix the remaining organic matter with the topsoil in the next proposed blackberry field.
Fedex delivered a large portable chicken coop/tractor. With the trusty John Deere, and Dad as ballast weight, we were able to safely unload the monstrosity in the pasture. The cream dachsund was backup support. See the beehive in front of the semi? Did you know bees get disturbed by loud noises like tractors and semis? I broke out the smoker and protected myself while enjoying the twirling teen as he swat at the bees. I always tell him as long as you can run 15 MPH you should be fine. Bees cannot fly any faster than that. Too bad bees are his kryptonite. I plan to add 2 hives a year for several years.
Yes, he is wonder boy, but the goggles are eye protection from metal shavings.
Finished after about 3 weeks! Hopefully the next one is quicker. Once the greek was deciphered it wasn't too difficult. This portable coop will house 300+ chickens and will be pulled by tractor to new pasture as needed.
Andrew even had time to attend a Joel Salatin seminar with his friend "TruPork" (a local heritage hog raiser who has the best tasting pork sausage).
We had a lot of furry animal births in February. 3 cows gave birth and I am expecting 6 more within the next 2 weeks. One mama cow had a long birth and I called the vet to assist. After all is said and done it is my first cow birthing gone bad. Mama cow appears to have nerve damage in her right hind leg from the difficult birth. I have been taking care of her in the pasture and have meet many curious neighbors and concerned citizens as they stop to ask about her. It doesn't look good. A black stain on an otherwise delightful month.
No month is complete unless someone gets stuck in the muck. This month's winner was our egg carton delivery guy in his bright yellow semi!
|Posted on February 3, 2017 at 3:35 PM||comments (0)|
It has been a breakneak first year living on the farm. So much has been accomplished and I am very proud of the hard work that has transformed a tired old pasture into a vibrant working farm full life and varied interests. So much has been learned and yet I am humbled to know there is still so much more to learn.
Andrew delivered eggs to Drug Emporium and was told a film crew just finished filming local foods including our eggs for a commerial during the Super Bowl! No way, maybe he heard wrong?? Ever opimistic teen boy.
Here is a photo of a huge egg.
Just after the New Year 70 mile an hour winds howled and socked everything in it's path. 5 Beehives tipped over destroying three colonies and left much broken comb tossed like scrambled eggs. I tried to quickly repair and rehang the comb by heating the wax and rehang the salvaged comb on the top bars. This attempt at salvaging comb had not worked this summer, but I thought the bees might just be desperate enough to try rehive. Only one displaced colony remained nearby and then hung "on strike" outside the hive, to their detriment, as freezing weather proved their final downfall and left a clump of frozen bees by the week's end. One lonely beehive stood firm and thankfully protected its occupants. The surviors have been rewarded with copious amounts of sugar water.
The same blustery morning one of Andrew's chicken tractors, AKA movable coop, "looked like an angel picked it up and smashed it to pieces on the gate", according the the devestated teen. The 60 puny water-soaked troopers rose to the the occasion and huddled together making gathering the flock eaiser than expected. But really not easy when all you are armed with is a butterfly-net and a sister; and the fact the birds thought this might be recess, deciding it was time to stretch their legs. I was sorry to miss out on the fun and games, but the bees needed me. Miraculously only one bird was harmed in the choas from the winds.
This wind also damaged our new fence area near the flood zone unbeknownst to me until the middle of the month. I'll call this part- Water Gate. I was admiring a new born calf in the east pasture and had finally located it after an hour of searching and was just about to pet the sweet thing when Andrew came bounding over and carrying on like a Tasmanian devil. He was squawking about calves. I was trying to hush him and said ,"One is right here. We had more? Shhh!! I'm trying to bond." A light bulb went on, and then I remembered all the police cars that had been passing by as I was strolling about. The older calves in the west pasture had figured out they could get a closer look at the cars on the road by passing through the windblown portion of the water gap over the creek. Moral of the story is never leave home without your phone.
Isn't it confounding how the challenging times can also be rewarding? We can take these trials that expose our weaknesses and improve so we have a more firm foundation as we grow. A good reason give thanks to the Lord in all circumstances.
|Posted on December 31, 2016 at 11:25 AM|
Just before Christmas on a blistery winter morning, I went to the West Cattle auction and bid for the first time! "Bulbuls blu bla bluh.... " Luckily the owner of the auction house walked me through beforehand, translated the auctioneer, explained in detail the different cattle markings, and continued to sit with me as Andrew, my friend Kathy, and I raised our paddles. The owner said Texas farmers don't like to go to auction on dreary days like this and predicted the prices would be low. Andrew and I hauled 12 cows home! Getting the cows to stay in the field we had planned was not as easy. One of the mama auction cows had a sweet calf the day after Christmas.
A couple days in a row the water trough froze over and Andrew's parched donkey brayed hoarsely in protest. All this chilly weather gave Andrew "mindgrains" and sinus problems. Through the sickness Andrew continued moving his chicken tractors, reattaching the blowing tarps and cared for the broilers due for harvest in early January. At least in Texas it doesn't stay cold long and Christmas Eve we turned on the air conditioning.
Our eggs can now be tasted at Lula Jane's in downtown Waco. When the owner asked if he was "regular". Andrew told me that he thought it was a little brazen to be asking about his bowels. Yes, he can deliver eggs on a regular schedule.
Our 12 Days of Christmas:
1 Precious calf
2 Tasty broilers
3 Flat tires
4 Chicken tractors
5 Blue tarps
6 Double yolkers
7 Cows to wrangle
8 Coyotes calling
9 Cattle panels
10 Does baaing (female goats)
11 Hay bales
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
|Posted on November 6, 2016 at 11:25 PM|
The first half of October:
Andrew had a kid! Well, not him personally. A baby goat appeared one sunlit morning. It was a perfect day. Andrew was so happy to be a brand new papa. A few hours after the discovery Andrew was troubled that it was not standing on its own and appeared to have a bloody spot on its back. I told him not to bring it in the house, but as any concerned papa would do, he disobeyed orders and turned his bathroom into a makeshift hospital. We both tried everything humanly possible and eventually after three days the precious baby boy goat passed and is buried now outside Andrew's window. After close examination we determined it was bit by Pretty Boy (donkey #1). Pretty Boy needed to be moved or sold. Who would buy a cruel donkey? Until we figured out what to do with him we put a halter on him and tied him to a fence post. Andrew drove off to school to pick up his sister and planned to move Pretty Boy to another location. By the time he got back Pretty Boy had committed pesticide. He somehow wrapped the lead rope around his neck. Andrew moved the poor soul to a rocky location and we all expected the remains to be eaten by God's cleanup crew within a week. Even the vultures wanted nothing to do with Pretty Boy. A beautiful coat of many colors will only get you so far in life. Lucky for us our fence crew buried him.
Now the hunt began for another donkey. Andrew decided Jack A**'s had the unfortunate name for a reason. It was time to invest in a Jenny. Three days searching craigslist and knocking on local ranchers doors he finally found a Jenny north of Dallas. Andrew was not sleeping well. With the death of his first kid and spending 3 balmy nights in the van watching out for coyotes in an attempt to keep his goat herd safe he was starting to act a little loopy. Andrew insisted I stay by the goats the 4th night while he and his dad went to pick up the new donkey. This was the forth night battling mesquitos, humidity, and Pretty Boy was starting to smell across the field. After midnight they rolled in with a humble looking girl. It made me think of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on an unpretentious beast. The next morning I was told this was not the donkey they went to buy. The Jenny advertised apparently looked sickly, thus the $250 asking price. Andrew told the North Dallas lady his 3 nights of woe in the belly of the van. She had mercy on him and sold him the more expensive Jenny ($450) for $250. The gloom has lifted and even the horse is back to her regal ways
The last half of October has been a productive month on the farm. My favorite earth mover, Don Holy, dug a pond near our front gate. Pork Chop did not bite Don's backside this time. Don did say he was wearing the same pants the dog put a hole in last time he dug a pond for us. No need to ruin another pair. This new pond will irrigate about 3-5 acres of blackberries. We are having a fence installed that will circle our entire property, and we met with our new (to us) local NRCS agent, Clete, to discuss options for converting the row crops to pasture for bovines, bees and berries.
Last week before lunch I asked Andrew to put the the auger on the tractor and put 8 holes near the blackberry field for the rosemaries. He argued he could just hand-dig the holes quicker than putting the auger on the tractor. I won, he put the auger on anyway; we had most the holes done during what should have been lunch. Regrettably we forgot to watch for the main water pipe to the house. A geyser spewed mightly into the air. It was 4 hours later before Andrew finished fixing the pipe (I still have 2 unplanted rosemaries). Guess he should have won that argument and hand-dug the holes. I went to check on the fence crew while Andrew mended the main line. They were having problems of their own. They had been unable to get anybody to answer the phone. Seems they bent the frame of their truck trying to access water for cement for the post holes. Bets were placed and Jose won. Yep, the farmer lady did in fact bust a water pipe, and yes, that had been her yelling. My mulcher, also Jose, was in the truck with me working a quote, so we picked up the other Jose. Remember the Bob Newhart show, Daryl and my other brother Daryl? I took the 2 Jose's to the house and introduced them to my husband, got the fence crew food and drinks since there would be no run to Taco Bell, and Jose and Jose filled the 50 gallon water barrel. Jose the mulcher got the job, and Jose and the fence crew worked late into the night. A few days later I got a call around 5pm that the fence crew hit an unmarked water line and I should call the water company. The water company was on the ball and quickly went to work. About 10pm I had a tense conversation with the water company that the water line had been drilled in 4 different spots. At midnight water was restored to the area homes. We knew there were 2 water lines in our field but the discovery of a third line was a surprise for all involved.
|Posted on October 5, 2016 at 2:55 PM|
If you like soap operas we had the chance to watch our very own drama unfold before our eyes this month. We have our year & half old hens on one side of the barn and our younger six month old hens on the other side seperated by an interior door and outdoor fence. One evening the door was inadvertently left ajar. As I slid the barn door open in the morning it look like an all out barn-room brawl. The air was heavy with dust, feeders were knocked on their sides, hay was pushed aside. We think the older hens did not like the way the young chicks wore their feathers and the young chicks said something about the older hens wide tail feathers. It took an hour to seperate the women from the girls. Good fences (and locks) make for good neighbors.
Andrew brought home Boer goats, which have an uncanny smell similar to goat cheese. We love goat cheese piled on our pizza, so the smell is not offensive to us. Boer goats are a meat goat. We would rather buy goat cheese than labor in the making of it. We will leave the production of goat cheese to another talented soul. A bobcat was spotted in the road and donkeys are known for being great protectors of livestock. With this in mind, Andrew tracked down a handsome little fellow I call Pretty Boy. Apparently my daughter's horse, Reggie, and Pretty Boy, the newly acquired donkey, tossed back and forth some impolite names. Reggie has decided she will no longer go anywhere near that side of the farm. With her nose in the air and tail held high she regally stands behind the feed ring and leaves only to drink out of the pond. Hopefully this grudge will pass.
The last bit of theatrics ended with the bull. He had been limping so we decided we would seperate him from the ladies and tend to his foot. We started with a feed bucket and a stick, which escalted to a motorcycle, then a motorcycle and truck. After two hours of begging and bribing the bull we decided maybe he wasn't limping so bad afterall. This was a bull that had a mind of his own and was not tempted in the least by any treats. I'm wondering if the phrase "bunch of bull" came from an exasperated farmer.
I decided it was time for housekeeping in the beehives. Since the hives are only first year hives it is best not to harvest the comb or honey. One hive had become crosscombed on the bars. I decided I would try to bait the bees to other empty hives nearby with lemongrass and honey and comb so I could cut out the comb and start over. It was a sticky, delicious mess. I wore my trusty Stay-Puft Marshmellow bee suit and rubber gloves. Usually I don't wear anything, but since I was going in an rearranging the kitchen, stealing furniture and eating the bee's food I thought it would be best to wear my newly aquired armor. We have a lot of Snow on the Mountain growing in our fields. It is green with white stripes and can make honey especially spicy. It is an aquired taste. At least I know now that we will want to eradicate the Snow on the Mountain or harvest honey before it appears in the field. One bee did manage to sting me in the funny bone, thus reminding me to keep my elbows off the table. The baiting was a success. The colony split into two hives and in a matter of days I have 16 combs drawn from the top bars. They truly are amazing hardworking insects.
Hopefully October will cool the tempers and calm the animals...
James 3:17-18 "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness."
|Posted on August 31, 2016 at 9:45 PM|
Our soil test from A&M arrived! Andrew had taken about 20 samples throughout the field, mixed them all together and sent off a small bag of soil about 2-3 weeks ago. Little did I know I would be interpreting numbers and reviewing algebra in order to figure the correct mix necessary to apply to the blackberries. Farming this week has included more algebra than I ever expected. For homeschool, Andrew will be writing a 20-30 page paper on soil preparations for blackberries. The algebra involved may take up 2 of those pages. I will not bore you with the calculations involved but it meant translating for small scale to large scale and back to small scale, working with dry and fluid measurements, and a little common sense. No looking in the back of the book for the answers.
Wonder boy spent the afternoon mixing 750 pounds of his very own magic mix with a shovel and then scooping several ounces around each of the 2000 plants. I told him I'm not even going to try to wash those clothes without a rinse in the pond first. Splashing around with the dog probably never felt so good. As a result of the soil test, and some ingenuity, we were able to make our own magic mix specifically for our soil. If I had gone to Lowes and bought what we needed it would have cost us $1200. Andrew was able to make his own homemade mix specifically designed for our soil needs for $140. This will have to be done 3 times a year with each soil sample.
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."- Edison