|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
|Posted on July 29, 2016 at 11:55 PM||comments (222)|
Yesterday was Andrew's 16th birthday. If you see him at Market be sure to tell him Happy Birthday! We had just finished breakfast yesterday and I was outside with Mark and Andrew saying goodbye as they were getting ready to go on an outing to their beloved Gun Club in Waco. A white truck that looked official drove up the drive and here I was still in my pajamas. We have been doing a lot of talking with the USDA about ponds, grass, and farm related things so when I saw Department of Agriculture on the side of the truck I was hoping they were here to discuss pond locations. To my surprise they said, "Hi, we are here to inspect your eggs". Totally unannounced to be sure. The pair of inspectors were not fire-breathing dragons, but extremely pleasant and personable. We passed with "flying colors". Not such a bad birthday after all! A 16th birthday we will never forget. Now Andrew just needs to pass his driving test.
|Posted on July 24, 2016 at 5:10 PM||comments (10)|
Maybe it is too quiet? Andrew took his broilers in for processing on Friday. Saturday at Market he sold all his fresh chicken that would fit in the portable coolers by 10:30. I am personally happy to see the broilers in the freezer and not grazing in the chicken tractors. The broilers are like taking care of newborns and with the hot weather we were constantly refilling the waterers and moving the heavy tractors. Our layers have been quiet and happy, and the skunk has not been seen or smelled for 3 weeks.
The main debate we have been having is when to pick the okra. Do you pick at 2 inches or 4 inches long? Neither seems more tender, and both lengths are just as tasty. As long as it is being fried does it matter?
Looks like it may rain early next week. Andrew is hoping it rains; he is afraid our pond we use for irrigation will be drained before we see rain again. Really, I think he is worried his recreational water hole won't be big enough for diving, skim boarding and splashing about with his dogs.
Being the first year for our berries, we are not sure how to water during the hot weather. We started watering everyday and now have progressed to twice a day. Andrew planted and watered, but only the Lord can make it grow.
|Posted on July 1, 2016 at 9:55 AM|
We are an equal opportunity aggravator. All pests will be harassed.
An egg robbing skunk was targeted by a bumblegum chewing, pony-tailed, armed with a mighty pellet gun, superhero Annie Oakley. The skunk left sore and huffy, ready to strike again at a moments notice.
Our dog Pork Chop has yet to earn his superhero cape. He has been sprayed 3 times since the Annie Oakley incident and yet the skunk still stays.
A lunch-plate sized toad was saved by superhero Andrew swooping in to wrestle a large serpent that stalked the barn. The toad pledged to eat more barn flies in gratitude.
Our superhero for the month award goes to the Robinson volunteer fire department who saved the blackberries from a brush eradication fire that got a bit out of hand.
Thank your everyday heroes!
2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a sprirt of power, of love and of self-discipline.
|Posted on June 1, 2016 at 7:55 AM|
A few days ago I went to move the beehive from our newly planted back orchard in preparation for the arrival of 2 packages of bees. We have had so much rain and wind lately that my hive had been knocked over. This was an empty hive from a disappointing year last year. The bees absconded after 2 weeks of loving care. Much to my delight I discovered I absent-mindedly captured a swarm! This was much easier than trying to cut down a palm branch with a football sized swarm. The bees are building comb and it is hanging precariously inside the upside down box.
UPS delivered my 2 new packages of bees about 4 days ago. The days are never without angst. I had asked Andrew why he enjoyed farming and his response was, "there is a new challenge everyday." So true. As I was installing the first package of bees I accidently let the queen out of her cage. Beekeepers cage the queen and put candy in one end and a cork in the other. When she has finally eaten through the candy she is released and by this time the bees should be established. An inappropriate word might have been uttered. I continued to set up the hive and said a little prayer for her return. We were unable to locate a short nail to attach the queen's cage so Andrew cut a nail in half. It never worked and I used a little ingenuity to hang the cage. Lo and behold she returned with a small gathering of followers. I held my breath, grabbed her, and pushed her back into the cage. Enough excitement had happened and the 2nd package would have to wait until the next day.
The next day the installation of the 2nd package of bees went much quicker. A real, whole, appropriate length nail was used to hang the queen from the top bar. I did not let the queen out of her cage or drop her 3 times into the swarm at the bottom of the hive. This is getting so much easier now. Our little cream colored dachshund likes take in the action on the farm and followed me as I worked. Behind me I could hear her heaving. I yelled for Annalise to come take care of the dog because I was busy hanging the queen. When I was finished I turned around and Taffy was limp and glassy-eyed. She had been stung on the nose. When stung by a bee it is best not to grab the stinger as this will push more venom into the skin. The best course of action is to scrape it off with a fingernail. The dog was going into shock. Annalise grabbed her trusty phone and located dosage requirements for liquid Benyadryl for 8 pound dogs. About an hour later Taffy was improving and 2 hours later back to her snappy ways. I was going to fix the upside-down hive in the back orchard, but again enough excitement had happened and it would have to wait until the next day.
Today Andrew and I will try to flip the hive. He is my little warrior, but he is slightly frightful of bees. We will see how the day goes...
We have a double rainbow this morning. I just love it here. It really is like vacation everyday.
|Posted on May 23, 2016 at 6:30 PM|
Andrew has been selling his eggs since about August last year and this last weekend he finally is in the green and made his first profit! His eggs sold out again at Waco Downtown Farmers Market. He ordered 325 layer chicks (laying hens) a few months ago and they have finally arrived. On the way to pick up the layers from Ideal Poultry in Cameron I received an email that cornish rock broilers (meat birds) were on sale. So instead of 325 chicks we picked up an extra 150. Who doesn't love a sale? We had to buy a few extra capital expenses to shelter the extra chicks; back in the red. The dividends in enjoyment is keeping him going.
This is what 425 baby chicks looks like in my farm van.
Our trip to the cattle auction was exciting. Surrounded by denim, boots and spurs, cowboy hats, a Kenny Loggins dead ringer, and a few ladies with bling, I felt slightly out of place with a skirt and flip flops. Maybe next time I'll wear earrings. Our shortest, stocky, Dexter bull calf that I thought looked a little goofy sold the highest per 100 pounds of weight. I'm still trying to figure out why that one was bid so high. We decided next time we have to learn "auctioneer lingo". Hopefully it is easier than Spanish. Honestly we were sitting there asking each other, "What did that sell for? Did he say designer? Is he speaking English?" The auctioneer was the same man who helped us unload our calves, so next time I'm going to stop and ask him to give me some quick instruction before we try to bid.
My new bees arrive by mail this week! The bee swarm that I put in our hive is flourishing. The honeycomb is expanding. No stings! I have heard some Hollywood types actually pay to have bee stings for medicinal uses. Hmm.
|Posted on May 12, 2016 at 12:25 AM|
Remember the bull calf I chased a few weekends ago, Saturday morning, before Farmers Market? His time is up; along with his 3 brothers and sister. Someone else can chase and play with the cute herd of mini cows. I purchased 4 Dexter cattle because they are about half the size of regular cattle. Their size is not so imposing and I feel a little safer. Maybe I can hurdle one if needed? I have not attempted this, but with a rush of adrenaline I just might have a chance.
We have 18 cows and a horse on 30 crowded acres and so we set out yesterday to separate the calves from the rest. We had cleaned up the barn and not much was laying around to defend ourselves, so with tree branches, dirt clods and a broken ladder we set out. There is a reason it is called “animal husbandry”. God calls men to love their wives and women to respect their husband. When a man loves a woman with Christ’s love he is patient, kind and all the wonderful things in 1 Corinthians 13. I decided I would arm myself with traits of a good husband (Mark, hubby of 20 years, is an excellent example of these ideals). Someone, no naming names, thought running and taking on traits of a cattle dog might work, but we just will call it P.E. for the week. Using patience, kind words and walking alongside and slightly behind the timid creatures we were able to coax the calves around brush piles, rock piles, the barn and trailers towards our humble cattle run that was part truck, a pallet and 2 teenagers. We closed the gate to the pen that once held our pigs and thanked the Lord we had no broken toes.
This morning I rushed out to make sure our calves were happy and I found them hoof deep in water from the drenching rain we had last night. I told Andrew we may just have to let them out in the field and try later because we will be getting on the interstate and the trailer brake light won't connect to the light connection of yesteryear on the Ford Ranger. I called O’Reilly auto parts and tried to talk car parts. I failed miserably and told Andrew, “Greek is easier; you go in and tell them we need some sort of light adapter”. The adapter worked and after dragging 3 bricks to the trailer to get the correct height for hook up we were ready! The drive was fairly easy and even easier at the auction barn in West. We can’t wait to go back tomorrow to watch our first herd be sold.
I wanted Andrew to get a feel for driving a heavy trailer on the side roads first, but stopping constantly was a little dicey. One of those stops left a little skid of rubber on the road along with a squeal from the tires and me. On the way home we decided to take interstate the entire way since the precious cargo was gone. Maybe I should have had a sign that said, “15 year old driving truck and cattle trailer first time; please let us over when we signal”.
Winston Churchill- "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."
|Posted on May 12, 2016 at 12:20 AM|
My husband has been asking for a few days if I have seen the air compressor hose. Finally, I responded with, “have you seen my pink sandals?” He hasn’t asked since.
We have been living on the farm since February, but it has been in the family since the 80’s accumulating farm doodads. 2 years ago, as a family, we removed about 1.5 miles of barb wire. The wire was stacked 6 high on old tree posts about ¼ mile down a field. We tossed the wire onto a 15 foot trailer it and has since been hiding in a patch of weeds by the front gate. Andrew has been making plans for that trailer and the barn. He wants to repurpose the trailer into a large moving chicken tractor and add 325 chickens to the interior section of the barn.
One morning, on a whim last week, we aired up the tractor tires and put the air compressor in the back of the truck in case our trailer tires went flat during the few miles to the salvage yard with our cargo from the barn and the wire. We prayed we would not have to make stops because the brake lights were not working and besides wouldn’t it be illegal to drive it to the mechanic in this condition anyway? The salvage yard is one stop sign and four stop lights away so I pleaded with the good Lord that He would keep our path open. And it was good. We were overjoyed that we successfully only made one stop the entire round trip. Yes, we did a full stop at the stop sign.
The huge claw at the salvage yard is an amazing thing. We happily watched as the mess of wire was lifted out of the trailer and the doodads from the barn were easily carried away. Horror struck when I saw, our way home, the device that keeps our tires full, the air compressor, swinging high in the sky. The nice men retrieved our shiny red floating object with a smile.
As we drove about 20 feet away from the claw, it was obvious we had a flat. Not a trailer flat, but the front tire to Andrew’s 1968 Ford Ranger. We were smart and brought our air compressor (and saved it from the compactor)! This will be easy! We quickly realized the claw took our air compressor hose. The nice men at the salvage yard came through again. They gave us tools and Andrew changed our flat with his spare. He is such a talented young man.
We still have not told Andrew’s dad what happened to his hose. I doubt he will read this, ever. All is well, as Mark thought the air compressor was on its last leg, but with a new hose he realized the hose was the problem and not the tank. It all worked out and the Lord has been good to watch over us.
|Posted on April 22, 2016 at 7:50 AM|
We are happy to report our swarm of bees has adapted to the top bar hive! There is a huge amount of honeycomb hanging down. The top bar hive is the most natural way to raise bees. It is basically a box with bars laying across the top in which the bees can attach and make their own comb. Hopefully we will have honeycomb for sale next year. The bees spend so much energy building the comb it is not recommended to harvest the first year. In a month 2 packages of bees will be arriving. I'm preparing the other top bar hives by cleaning them out and adding lemon grass and waxing the bars. The lemon grass is attractive to bees because it is similar to the pheromones of the queen bee. Lemon grass is also great for repelling mosquitos, just remember it attracts bees! Every morning I have been taking a sugar water mix and inspecting the hive and I think I saw the queen! In package bees the queen is marked on the back so it will be easier to pick her out in the package. The feed is suspended in an upside down mason jar. Using the open ring lid I cut old window screen and wax paper to size and secured in under the ring and turned the jar upside down which creates a vacuum. The bees are able to sip through the small opening with minimal loss of feed. Last year I was experimenting with feed for my first package bees, I used a gallon ziplock bag with tiny slits and layed it across the bars. It was easy and minimally evasive. All was going well until I made one of the slits too large and the bees ended up inside the ziplock bag. I lost nearly 3 pounds of bees that day as they had drowned in the bag.
Andrew's blackberry field is growing well. He says the vines are growing as fast as the weeds. It takes him 2 days to trim the weeds. If he wants to plant 3-4 more fields he will need to hire a crew to help maintain the weeds. It would be easy to put chemicals down, but we are keeping the field chemical free.
The grassy field waiting for the arrival of another 325 laying birds is almost finished. Andrew has been busy preparing for the arrival of the pullets in late May. He has about 2.5 months before they need to be turned out on the grass. He is way ahead schedule. Good thing he is thinking ahead. Summer will be hot!
Looking forward to a beautiful day at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market. My family is going in all different directions so I enlisted a friend to help Saturday morning. Hope the morning is not like last week. The boys were gone and before leaving for market I was chasing a calf through a muddy field (he should be slaughtered first). Actually the calf was easy; the horse knows when the gate is open and started to run toward the gate. As luck would have it, I beat the horse to the gate, but not without a twisted ankle. Andrew is usually the shining beacon at the market; the customers where expecting a beaming boy, not his frazzled filthy mom.
|Posted on April 6, 2016 at 7:35 AM||comments (0)|
We just moved in to our freshly built home! The family couldn't be happier to start a new life on the farm. It has been an exciting spring for us. Andrew has been working to build his business and keeps us running.
Andrew planned his blackberry project just before Christmas 2015. The grandparents were coming into town and instead of worrying about cleaning and making meals we were at the local plumbing store, Sims Plastic, discussing different types of irrigation systems, water flow pressure, and field design. I am forever grateful and now a loyal customer. We bought several thousand dollars worth of equipment. After working on a vineyard his first year of homeschool (8thgrade) he learned many skills and was able to apply what he learned to his new project. I thank the Lord everyday for the people He has been puttting in our lives to build us up in so many ways! 2000 plants are now planted and prayed for by a very hopeful 15 year old.
Last Friday I caught my first bee swarm. With help from the homeowner, Lee, we managed to capture the swarm out of a palm tree. She was amazingly calm. That happened to be the same day I found Berry, our new dog, roaming La Salle Ave. New dog, new bees, I hope they both stay at the farm. 2 packages of bees are coming in May. The packages I ordered last year departed after 2 weeks. Daily local honey has helped our family with allergies, but we also hope the bees help the blackberries flourish.
Monday we took Andrew's 58 meat birds to the butcher. The eggs have been popular at the Waco Downtown Farmer's Market and also Andrew wants to sell at local venues. He has an order in for 300 more laying hens. As of last week, we are now able to grade eggs and sell to stores and restaurants thanks to the blessing of the government.