Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Soil improvement & farm notes

Shine The King of Barncats has been awfully photogenic lately... here he is being reflective.

Wow did we ever score on craigslist!  If you haven't checked out your local 'farm and garden' section then run, don't walk, to see what folks have to offer.

A few days ago there was a listing from a cow farm with literally tons and tons of composted soil. We got two huge scoops (probably close to three yards, or over a ton) for only $20. He called me back within 5 minutes and within the hour we were loaded up and headed home. And we made a new friend...and he has all those calves... and us with free goat milk... hum.....

To put it in perspective the local mulch place, as well as another local farm, offers compost for $25 a (smaller) scoop - and it costs about $20 in gas to get to either one. His farm was just up the road. It was deal for sure. The best part was that it was REALLY composted - ready to use. Normally we are happy to take the manure and straw from whoever is cleaning out their stalls knowing it will have to sit a while. But this was pure, black, crumbly gold. Just what we need.

So today was soil improvement day. Still fighting agaisnt this rock hard red clay we used the garden plow on the hillside garden, and then spread the compost over it at about 2-3 inches deep. Now all we have to do is wait for it to rain tomorrow....and after it dries we'll have an incredible growing space.

And we'll be going back for more.

Farm Notes:
* Lots of shoveling poop... and lots of stupid 4th grade jokes to go along with it.
* Added lime to the east side of the hillside garden along with the compost.
* Penny the goose acts like she is ready to set. She stayed close to the nest and bit the hubby while he was trying to wrangle a turkey hen out of the goose house.
* Both turkey hens are setting part time but we need to figure out if they are serious or not. And we need to do more turkey dressing. So we can have turkey and dressing!
* Didn't get anything planted but found some volunteer tomato sprouts - I think they are from my gold Oxhart tomato plant from last summer!
* Runner's chicks are doing great. I can pick out the roosters by their behavior - there are going to be some dillys for sure. The light brahma mutts are huge... Junior, Son of Little Pansy, Son of Big Pansy seems to be the most rooster-y of the lot. I might call him Thor just for kicks.
* Dash is adorable. I love her most when she sets. She calls for me to hurry up and open this door! Then peeps for me when she wants back in. I love that little duck. She totally has me wrapped around her little webbed foot.
* Ginger survived her first nite alone none the worse for wear. Debbie was completely full and milking was going great until she kicked the bucket. Then no one was happy.
* Nibbles continues to be a good once-a-day-milker. Her likable personality is back. She's probably going to stay now that I'm over my murderous rage from last weekend.

We may have another man down. One of the dinner chicks was struggling when we went to put everyone in. We couldn't tell if she was over heated or having a heart attack (blue comb, panting). I got her cooled down and we isolated her. Ugh.

Hopefully getting her cooled and some water will get her up but we just are not very convinced about these dinner chickens. Of the 15 Red Broilers we got last year, we didn't have any losses - and they free ranged. If we loose this one then that will be 2 of 10 and frankly, those odds aren't very good. In talking about the situation we compared it to the Bourbon Red turkeys and the commercial white ones.... the BBW's were nice and big, and tasted like turkey... but they weren't anything special. The BR's are excellent tasting and really easy keepers without having to worry about any of the weird feeding requirements. We'll see when butcher day arrives, but we are not sold on these dinner chickens.

Onward and upward!

Rain tomorrow - hopefully I'll get caught up. Have a great weekend everyone! Happy gardening!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Neighborly relations 101 and farm notes

Well folks. I may have outdone myself.

I yelled at the bad neighbor today, more specifically, the neighbor's dog. OK fine. In truth, I yelled at that guy too. It was so bad that The Big Man came barrelin' out of the house and the good neighbors (with the 4H kids) called to make sure we were OK. Yikes. Now I'm so embarrassed.

You guessed it. Their dog was loose. The guineas were screaming a new song so I headed in that direction and my hard workin' farm dogs took off growlin' and snarlin'...and there was that dog hangin' out by our fence. Not in their yard and thankfully not on our side.

So I kindly "yoo-hoo'd" over to the bad neighbor and would he please come and get his adorable dog?  OK I didn't really say that ....and about that time The Big Man came charging down the hill to find out what the hubbub was about. Then I asked the neighbor to please do a better job of keeping track of his dog. OK I didn't exactly say that either... and in my fit of rage and swearing I may have blistered some of the bark off the nearby trees and our dogs were cowering behind The Big Man and whispering that "Mommy is scary."

I'm not entirely sure this was the best way to establish or maintain diplomatic relations with the bad neighbors but I think they understand our position now. Where's that darn survey guy, we need to put up our permanent fence. Soon. Apparently its needed mostly to keep me IN.


Farm Notes:
* Wow what a spectacular day! Last frost/freeze last nite (hopefully) and really it was just cold than freezing. No frost tonite.
* Turkey hen mania... its finally dark enough for us to pull the ol' switcheroo on the two hens trying to set the same nest. Sheesh! We're putting on the camo and paint and sneaking out. We'll have them changed around before the know what hits 'em. (Turkeys don't function well in the dark so that's when you make nesting changes.)
* Prep-ed the upper garden. About half the buckwheat didnt make it so I spent today hand tilling it in.
* Applied lime to future tomato bed beside asparagus and under straw killing off grass near path (sorry this is so boring folks, but it will help me remember what I did where)
* Planted stock beets, onions, and first bunch of beans in the ground. Used Burpee's innoculator for some of the beans - we'll just see if this works.
* Screamed at the neighbor like a crazy person. Thats just one of the ways you become famous in a small town. Say, did I ever tell you folks that story? Hum...I'll cue it up....

Tonite is little Ginger's longest nite ever. She is separated from Debbie and is in the stall alone. Ginger has been drinking ALL the milk and I can't get out there early enough to grab her before she has breakfast. For heavens sakes, little missy! How early do you eat!?!?.

For her part, Debbie is a goose. She won't eat the bagged food (16% Dairy Goat Power - I love saying that!) on the stand but acts like she is starved. And she eats just fine in the yard. She may just want to eat with Ginger. Just what I need, more animals with ridiculous feeding particulars.... Sheesh!

Here's hoping for nothing but gardening tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Farm notes: Hopefully last freeze/frost...some casualties

Quick farm notes (a reminder that this is where I do my record keeping.. sorry if its boring):

Things are much quieter without the mini-pops around. We are so glad they found a good home but they sure were cute. We're kind of relieved to be moving forward and out of kidding season. It was a dilly. 

Little Nibbles is turning into a good milker. I'm only milking her once a day in the morning. Its a compromise that will keep me from staking her down by the road with a sign that says "Free to a BAD home." More on that later....

* Dang that last, late frost/freeze last nite! 7am and still very cold, but Little Mo just wouldn't let me sleep in. The cats, of course, get up with the sun and remind me that I also need to get up with the sun.
* Most everything was covered and survived the freeze....but a few casualties. First the grapes seem to be done in.... which is a shame because I spent a lot of time getting them strung up on their new trellises. Next a few of the beans weren't entirely covered under the row cover. Also some of the buckwheat was killed off.  And a few potato plants were frost-bitten.
* We re-fenced the Upper Gardens (East and West) and its now one big garden and I LOVE it.. great space almost like a room. Worked on weeding and getting a few more rows of onions in the ground.* Potted up some herbs.
* Mollee is sitting on one lone egg, but bless her heart, she is trying.
* No geese are setting which is very weird, I don't know if we'll have goslings this year or not.
* Miss Dash has forgiven me and is doing a fine job with the dinner-mutt eggs. She peeps for me to open the brooder so she can get out for a stretch. She likes it if I'm on time. She's very fussy.
* Miss Duck won't be moved. For anything. We need to take up some of her eggs so we won't be drowning in ducklings again.
* One of the buckeyes is brooding! She kept trying to make a nest in the goose house - which is very dangerous for her. So I scooped her up and sat her down in the other hen house brooder. I'll give her a day or so then mound up the turkey eggs under her. Its musical nests around here....ducks on hens eggs, turkeys on hens eggs, chickens on turkeys eggs... sheesh!
* Chirper, the young turkey hen, still won't set her nest, but wow its a beauty. She really made it nice.
* The guineas are laying! A lot really, but they don't seem to know what they are doing. The eggs are everywhere and not in a nest or hidden anywhere as far as we can tell.
* Two younger turkey hens are trying to make a nest (part time, they won't sit still) in the main turkey coop. Not sure what that is about and, of course, they won't actually lay IN the nest boxes. For heaven's sakes.

So there is a lot of egg layin' and settin' going on. Gosh with all the news lately we're not buying gold... chickens are the new wealth!  How about the oil slick burning?

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Politics of Gobbling - Part 2: Turkey Parts

Welcome to Part 2 of The Politics of Gobbling! See The Politics of Gobbling Part One for the back story.

But first, from time to time I get accused of not being sensitive to our vegetarian friends.... to that end, if you are veg or if you are icked out by meat, please look away. This won't be overly graphic but I wouldn't want anyone to barf on their keyboard.  But if you'd like to know how to save money, eat like a king, and learn a "new" skill, read on!  Lets talk turkey!

As you know, we recently "dressed" (the polite way to say butchered) three of our big ol' Bourbon Red tom turkeys. They volunteered with their ruckus behavior - and because they were getting pretty darn big. So we had Turkey Day on Tax Day and  had a great time. It really worked out well once we got the logistics down. First a quick nod to my pal, Buster, for his fabulous tips on his BYC thread about dressing his 50 lbs turkey..thanks, buddy! (NOTE: be warned, his post is graphic)

Our toms were big - not crazy big like Buster's 50 lbs monster, but big. We think all three dressed out to over 20 pounds each (probably closer to 25). The big story in this post is what happened after the turkeys rested in the extra-cold-beer-fridge for a couple days. Aging the meat makes it more tender and delicious.. so we let it set for 3 or 4 days.

Since its a little silly for just the two of us to roast a 25 lbs turkey.. I part turkeys up into manageable pieces and then freeze them for easy and quick dinners later. Even if you don't raise your own turkeys you can part up store bought turks when you find them on sale. Thanks to our local grocery store wars all of our local chains had 17lbs turkeys on sale for $5 last fall...so we loaded up at all the stores and had lots of cheap dinners using this parting up method.

OK here is where we get graphic....so turn away, or cowboy up and keep reading......

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Politics of Gobbling - Part One

We have a heritage breed of turkeys called Bourbon Reds. They are more like the wild turkeys and what you see in paintings of the first Thanksgiving than anything else. They have beautiful dark red-brown plumage and are impressive with their fully displayed tails and proud strut. And most of the time we like the gobbling.

But our Bourbon Reds are not the kind you buy at the store. Commercially grown turkeys are usually Broad Breasted Whites - they are the Frankenstein of the turkey world. Like the commercial broilers (the dinner chicks), they grow fast, have over-sized breasts, and are so far from being a "real" turkey they don't even reproduce naturally.

Our Bourbon Reds with same aged BBW's see these hens are bigger than the tom (displayed)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mini babies..... SOLD!

We are so glad that we found NL! She is the proud new momma of our little mini-pops....and really, we are very very very grateful they found such a good home. We wish NL well and send hugs and kisses to the mini-pops in their fun new home!
This little girl has the La Mancha ears - which means, she doesn't have ears. And yep, that's the way they are supposed to be.  How cute is that little white tip on her tail?

Her sister has more of the Nigerian Dwarf features, including these long ears. Check out the racing stripe down her back and the paint markings!

See how little they are!?!?

Thanks, NL for being my new momma!

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Turkey Brooder Coop and Nibbles gets an "F-"

I tell you the truth, I am the Fred Sanford of farming and I don't care who knows it.

I can build, fabricate, fashion, or make something useful out of just about anything -- especially if it looks destined for the junkyard.  Reduce, reuse, and recycle aren't new environmentally friendly ideas, farmin' folks have used the concepts of "use it up, wear it out, and make do" for years. I grind these principles into the ground all the while being mocked by naysayers... but friends, really sometimes "good enough is good enough." And after the mocking dies down and they see some of my "projects" work.... well, there's a new tune playin'.

So it goes when you desperately need to hillbilly up some kind of quick housing for the farm critters. In the beginning The Big Man, who has sold some kind of construction materials his entire career, was horrified at the slapped-together, crap-tastic creations I've come up with to house various farm critters. He was variably shaking with "that's not how you do it" rage when I pulled together the Hog Hut 2008 with 3 pallets, some 2x4s, and some shingles that  (I kid you not) I dug out of the ground. Its still standing and has kept pigs dry this whole time.

I'm telling you this not to brag on my cheapness (altho I do), but to encourage you to not let lack of materials stop you from getting the job done. Instead of heading to the big hardware store to pay top dollar for materials, check around and see what you have - then rip it apart, pull the nails out, and get down to business.

To that end, yesterday I built a new turkey brooder out of nothing but materials on hand and a little ingenuity.  It took me about an hour and I used my favorite tools - the big hammer, the level, and the dog. Mostly the dog just kept me company but I like it when he's around. Here he is goosin' it up:

Back to business. The problem we needed to solve was shutting up one of the younger turkey hens. Literally. She has been screaming for days. Who knows where she was laying but some varmint kept getting her eggs. We figured if we could confine her, give her a safe place to nest, and oh.. about 8 or 10 eggs, she'd shut up and sit her fluffy bottom down. We had a little area outside of one of the turkey coops that was just wasted space so I framed in a little brooder for her. Here's how:

Step 1:

Using the level and the cordless screw gun,  I put up some 2x4's to support the roof - remember that broody hens like to feel like they are hidden.  Since this was in a little space between the big coop and the doorway I didn't have to worry about building walls.

Step 2:

I dug thru our pile of scrap lumber and $0.51 pieces from Home Depot's "cull" lumber bargain bin for something that I could use for a roof and screwed them in place.

I would have stopped there and just hung an old blanket or towel over the front to further "hide" her... but then I remembered that I had some old cabinet doors...... so

Step 3:

I looked around and dug a 4x4 out of the dirt and used it as a bottom "sill" or bottom piece, secured the door as a front panel with a few screws...

...and voila! One turkey brooder made to order. She will be inside, locked, safe, and dry. And the little ones can use the enclosed space outside the brooder to run around until they can go outside.

I put some straw in the brooder, added some turkey eggs that were laid outside, chased the turkey hen around the yard 3 times until she went INTO the turkey house....and she's out there right now. She hasn't sat on the nest yet but she fussed around all day arranging it just the way she wants it. And she's been quiet most of the day.

In other news, Little Nibbles gets an "F-" of mommy-ing. More on that tomorrow as we are still sorting out the situation. Luckily the mini-pops are OK and we figured out they aren't nursing enough in time before anyone fell over dead.

Farm Notes:
* Debbie and Vita are milking like demons. Vita has figured out that yes, she will have to get up ON the milking stand. Corn is for girls who get up ON the stand.
* Mollee had another run in with one of the Barred Rocks, we saved her tho and she got back on her nest.
* Talk about bad mommy's... I get an "F-" from Dash. I got her up today under the guise of getting a bath... but really I was distracting her so I could take up her duck eggs and replace them with the laying meat hen's eggs. Looks like May 7th we'll have more "mutt dinner chick." Dash, of course, knew her own eggs were replaced and gave me an unforgiving look. I was crushed.
* No luck with the trap for whatever is digging under the duck garage. We'll try again tonite.
* Re-secured the net-fencing for the Upper Garden East.. the hens had snuck in and dug around in the potatoes.
* Ginger continues to thrive and is just plain silly. She has graceful, long legs, and a sunny personality.  Here she is being silly in a big tub. That's Vita's big nose.

And now we are ready for the storms that are coming. Hold onto your hats, folks, it gonna be a blow!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bucket of cute and Farm Notes

Seriously, I can't stand the cuteness...I'm SWOONING over these little lumpkins. I believe the "mini-pops" are getting cuter by the day.  Yesterday they were even trying to skip pop around. They look like little rabbits.

Today I milked Little Nibbles, who did a great job for her first milking ever. I think she liked the snacks. Surprisingly she gave a good bit of milk and mostly stood there quietly. We walked back to the stall and couldn't find the babies! We both looked at each other and screamed... and then we searched and searched... oh here they are:

Honestly - is this a little bucket of cute or what?

So farm notes: (a reminder this is my way of record keeping, kind of boring but might be helpful to some)
* Yesterday (4/20) we gave the mini-pops their first shots. In a month (May 20) we give their 2nd shots. Also gave Little Nibbles her bo-se shot (we are selenium deficient here).
* I need to give all the goats the natural wormer - I'm not satisfied with how the chemical wormer is working.
* Two days ago (4/18) some of the hens attacked Mollee's nest - but she sat back down on the one egg. We think we found a way to secure her.
* Miss Dash is down on her nest and locked tight. I need to swap out the eggs, tho.
* Got 3 trays of seeds done - one is marigolds and zucchini (not well marked). Others are romas, Tula Blacks, and then broccoli and cabbage.
* The buckwheat is up! (I love it when nature works!)
* Found several turkey nests - we need to lock up Turkey Momma so she'll lay in a secure place. That's her out there screaming...and screaming.. and screaming....
* Dinner chicks are doing well - they seem to like being outside. We are starting them on a new feed and will see how it goes.
* Runner's chicks need to be moved to a day pen so they can run around more. Runner is still sitting on them at nite as we are still cool (but above freezing). She is starting to wander around more during the day but sticks close - and chases off the hens that are giving her the business.
* I have no idea what Cindy the goose is doing. She built a beautiful nest but isn't really sitting on it. Apparently we need to more clearly define her roles and responsibilities. I think I need to do a more detailed job description. We also need to work on her performance metrics. If she isn't careful she'll be put on a Performance Improvement Plan (golly, looks like I slipped into my corporate speak again!)

Thats all! I'm headed out to garden and get my ducks lined up! Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

THANKS Mimi!! And here's some cuteness for ya!

Wow what a day! Mimi over at Delectable Tidbits gave me a Beautiful Blogger award! Honestly I might even be speechless. Golly, Mimi, THANKS!  I love the concept of this award so I'll work on "paying it forward"..stay tuned.

But for now here is some cuteness - can you stand it?

Mini pop vs the Cougar:

Actually this is our Nicholas, and to be fair he's our 17 pounder... but look how little that mini-skip poppin' goatie is! Luckily Nicholas doens't know she is a food source...there was just a lot of sniffing going on.   Maybe we should name her "One Bite" because that's all she would be. Of the two min-mancha babies this one is more La Mancha with her more delicate frame, subdued personality, and small elf ears. And look at the white cap on her head!

And a cute close up... I am not in love with her, I am not in love with her, I am... not.. umm... do you see that sweet little face?? Awwhhh....

Just for kicks - the geese are slayin' me lately. Junior is in front charging down the hill to show me he is boss. Easy, pal.... I'm bigger than you and I have defeated your old man (OD right behind).

And last... this is why I farm... look at these beauties. The Big Man made these a couple days ago, yep fruit of last year's pig harvest.  A plate of these bad boys made it all worth it... Is that heaven on a plate or WHAT?

Happy Tuesday! Is everyone gardening tomorrow? Yay!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Goat babies galore!

Little Nibbles finally popped! Two fabulous mini-skip poppers.. oh golly they are cute! More on this with the play-by-play but for now check out these little lumpkins... both doelings. One has the small La Mancha ears and the other looks like Dumbo with big ol' floppy mule like ears (from her Nigerian Dwarf daddy).

Little Nibbles before - she looked like the Hindenburg


Look at these little charmers - they are so little! More like "pocket goats" than anything!

And look at those ears.... wow!
Right after the big show:

With my size 7.5 shoe for scale - look how little!

Everyone is doing great. It was almost freezing last nite so we turned on the heat lamp after I took Nibbles some warm water + molasses as a "pick me up" .....and made sure she had some grain. This morning everyone was up and nursing - all systems are go!

And of course... the neighbor gal totally saved the day. She arrived just in the nick of time to deliver the babies who were both breech.

Happy Monday everyone! Get out there and garden!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Do you think I planted this one too deep?

I can't help it... I love my hens..... these sillies just love potting soil for dust baths. I caught this gal in the act yesterday afternoon and another about ready to jump in...

I loved this little "still life" also - check out the guinea hen peeping around in the back. Now that we've gotten them to be quiet at nite we really like them. They have this funny little tippy-toe run which is just hilarious to watch. One of them chased the dog yesterday....but the dog was headed somewhere and didn't realize there was a ferocious guinea runnin' him down. I think that guinea was very proud of himself for running off that "wolf."

Farm Notes:
* Found a younger turkey hen on a nest is the woods...and also Bramble (our best turkey momma) made a nest in the..you guessed it... bramble. We should have named her "Extra Stickery Rose Bush" cuz thats where she likes to lay. We took up all the eggs and put them in turkey hut. She got up and came in with the crew last nite so I don't think she is ready to set yet. When she is we'll wait for it to get dark and then move her in with the eggs. We left her some chicken eggs so she wouldn't know her nest was disturbed.
* Finished re-purposing the brooder and tractor for the dinner chix so I'm just about to move them outside.
* Mollee chased one of the hens out of her nest box but I'm not sure she is setting her nest right. When she gets up I'll go check it out. Miss Dash wanted to sleep with her eggs last nite but got up in the morning. Not much later tho, she stood in front of the brooder and stomped her little feet until I let her in. Honestly, how could you NOT love that little duck?
* Little Nibbles is still looking like she is going to pop..she's out there grunting. Nothing yet. She could be faking it.
* We separated Debbie from the skip poppers last nite and WOW! She had a full bag of milk - talk about a 'hocker knocker!'... She is definitely back in business. The little ones didn't cry at all until I walked Debbie to the milking stand. I think it was all a performance.  She's about ready to be done with them - everytime they came around she walked away. The weaning has begun!
* For bee reference, the dandelions started blooming - a sign to put the queen extractor in (keeps her from laying eggs in the honey gathering sections of the hive).

And that's the news... happy wednesday everyone! Its sunny and 66*!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Beez, Runner, and Miss Duck

Things are booming!  A few quick pix and some farm notes...

Sweet Miss Duck on her nest:

She is a great broody... its amazing how she goes into a 'zen-duck' state and just sits. While Miss Dash is happy to get up, take a bath, and wander around, Miss Duck just sits. I'll start making her get up at least once a day, but mostly that just agitates her.Sadly tho, I'll need to take a few of her eggs so we aren't entirely over run. I'm also going to put the meat chicken eggs under Miss Dash when she decides to put her fluffy bottom down. I have to fill her nest gradually tho - that Dash, she's one smart cookie and will know if I'm trying to pull the wool over her eyes.

Bees! The are buzzing.. great shot of them hard at work:

And check out Runner watching over "her" babies! She sits quietly beside them during the day and we let her set on them at night. And I broke down and got a few more chicks at TSC....I don't know if she didn't notice or just didn't care that there were some new faces, but everyone is doing great.  I put a little apple cider vinegar in the peep's water this morning tho. Its a good way to keep any bacteria from growing in their gut. Sometimes store chix are stressed while momma hatched chix seem to do a better job of fending off any illness. Humm. maybe we'll talk about that also in a later post.

Farm notes:
* Not to be hatin' but so that I have a record.. more problems with the neighbor's and their dog.  The dog wasn't just coming over here - he was chasing the poultry. And their bonfire/party with all their rowdy friends lasted until 4am.  We know what time they left because, while we could drown out the music and the noise with a fan, when they started laying on their vehicle horns as they were all speeding out of the drive... well that woke us up. And the neighbors on the other side weren't very happy either. After they were all partied out I'm sure the new/bad neighbors appreciated us all letting them know that the decent folks around here get up early. Very early. Sometimes you just have to chase the gander around in the morning. Wow.. that OD.. he's loud. Golly. Hope I didn't wake them up!
* So I missed church again  - there was no way we could leave the property unattended with their turkey-chasing-dog - and got 2 more rolls of field fence. We put up over 800 ft of it over the weekend. And now it looks like we'll be doing a survey on that side as well. We believe their camp fire in on our side.
* On the upside the dinner chix are going to be moved to the outside coop today. They need more room and frankly they are creeping me out. Putting their feed down for them is like putting your hand in a piranha infested river.
* Got the buckwheat planted in the upper gardens and watered in...should be fully grown out in 30 days!
* Working on getting the little skip-poppers weaned from Debbie. I milked her out early so the little ones will have to eat grain and hay. The neighbors said they would take Gilly soon.
* Still nothing from Nibbles.. she was acting like something was up, but then nothing. I don't even think she's faking but she'd better get with the schedule.. we need those babies to arrive soon!

And that's the update!  Happy Tuesday everyone!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fastest Farm Notes ever

Under the heading of "fastest farm notes ever".... we are so tired! Worked very hard today and I'm "TTTT" (Too Tired To Type) and my friend, Eliza, and I say....

So quickly:
* Mollee keeps sitting on her eggs are nite...but during the day she is up and around
* Miss Duck sat down yesterday so 35 days gets us to...May 13th-ish? I might take up her eggs tho and put the meat chicken eggs under her from last summer's Red Broiler hens.
* Speaking of... lost one of the dinner chicks last nite for no apparent reason. Ick.
* Runner's chicken chicks are doing great - very lively and are eating well. She has been sitting on them at night and stands next to the coop during the day. We take her up during the day because she accidentally killed one...there was crying by me.
* The three jakes/toms have volunteered for the freezer. Soon.
* Still nothing from Little Nibbles altho her udder looked really tight today... so maybe in the next couple days?
* Had a light frost/freeze last nite - had everything covered so should be ok.. Blooms on fruit trees are OK.

In irritating news...
* New 'almost neighbor's" dog was over twice yesterday 4/9/2010 in the afternoon. We chased him off because he was chasing the poultry...but he came over again. The Big Man "went over there" and talked to the owners.
* Dog was also in our yard the day before 4/8/2010 in the afternoon... the younger woman came and got him.
* Today we worked on fencing and no one was happy. But we got the front of our property fenced and thru another half roll of field fence. We'll need to get more tomorrow.

And now I am going to bed. Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tiller and farm pix

Hi Javamama!

Do I have an opinion about tillers? Honey.. that's like asking do I have a bowl of ice cream in my hand... why yes, yes I do!

This pic will tell the story of what happens to tillers in our extra bad clay:

Yep. Pretty much this is all that's left of the shattered remains of our tiller. We thought we had a good one. It was expensive....and it lasted exactly ONE season here. The Big Man said something about the transmission or the flux capacitor wasn't strong enough. Now we'll be puttin' what's left of it in the back of our crappy truck and takin' it on down to the scrap yard. With any luck we'll leave the truck there too and get $5 for the whole shootin' match, if we're lucky.

So, if your man is a tractor guy yell into him that we took the easy start motor off this thing and put it on a 1952 David Bradley single plow.... more then likely his eyes will spin around and he'll come running out asking to see the pictures. (Men love that stuff). I'll get some pix of that monster but suffice it to say we needed to go old school for the clay soil here.   More on that in a second....

I'd say the garden area combined is less than half an acre..but that's over a couple of beds spread out around the property. Its not big enough for us to use the neighbor's full sized tractor, but its too big to do by hand...and well, it killed our old tiller. We also are working on a "grain only" area which will also be about half an acre.

For any new areas we are using the David Bradley to bust up the clay and hard pan and plant what we can to improve the soil...and then we are pouring on the poop... I mean...compost. The existing garden areas are improved enough to use our little Honda mini-tiller for the initial pass.. and then me using the hoe.This is working well enough but if I ever did win that $5000 survey prize from TSC I'd get the most heavy duty tiller they had and use it just a couple times a year.

If you are starting from nothing my advice is to buy or rent the best tiller you can.... or get a farmer to chisel plow what you have and pasture some pigs out there to really do it up right. Then get a chain gang to come in and use pick axes, and then possibly an Amish guy with a team of 12 horses pulling an extra heavy plow.  Working with clay is not for sissies I can tell you that.

I really like our little Honda mini-tiller but, wow ,its been around the block a time or two and frankly needs to be replaced. It wasn't done in by the clay because it can't even dig into it and just kinda scratches around. But it does a find job on the improved soil and digs right in. I did not like the Mantis that we borrowed.  I found it to be kinda squirrely and it really beat up my arms trying to hold onto it.

But seriously.... the clay is really tough and assume it will take a couple of years to get it up to speed.  So for new beds buy or rent the biggest, baddest, most heavy duty tiller you can find.. for existing our little Honda mini-tiller is perfect. For new areas - chain gang...definitely.  Let me know if you have specific questions and we can walk you thru them.

Just for kicks here are a few pix from around the farm - everyone is really active right now as the weather is heavenly.

Vita being silly... we love her spotted nose.
Guinea hens being quiet.... aren't they weird looking? That's the male in the front, Roy, and his mate who is still unnamed. Mostly we call her, Hey Crazy Screaming Guinea!
Mollee, one of our young duck hens getting a sip and reminding me that I have a lot of fruit trees to plant..

Our man, Shine, the laziest barn cat in the world

Hope everyone had a great day! If you're in the path of the storms, good luck and hope to see you online tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Farm Buzz...and more on dirt

Its the bees! And the bees knees if you look close enough...

Today we went to two counties over to get some bee supplies for our hive. We got our first hive last year and they are doing great. We've all heard about the bee die-off and all the suspected reasons why....so we were very relieved when we checked our bees and they were booming.

We'll get some honey this year...but we really want the hive to build up its strength before we do any serious harvesting. We'll also plant a lot of flowering plants and trees where we put the hive. The hive is down by the pond, which is an easy water source for them. These things, no pesticide use, feeding with sugar syrup, and a sheltered location are all you really need. And you have to be really brave - I'm NOT the lovely assistant to The Big Man. Me and the dogs hide in the house while he suits up to go work on the bees. I have my limits.

Now about this soil improvement stuff...

When we got to this property we foolishly assumed that the soil was good because the surrounding farms all looked like they were really producing. But then we found out our soil is the crappiest, red, hard clay imaginable. So we started an aggressive campaign to improve it.

Storey's Country Skills Encyclopedia, Mother Earth News, and Small Farmer's Journal were great references to help us figure out what to do about our bad soil. Basically we need to break up the clay by adding tilth...that is, we needed to add a lot of organic material to allow the plants to develop deep root systems and allow those roots to take up the available nutrition. The first year was a disaster, the second year (last year) was better, and this year as we tilled up our winter cover crop of wheat the soil was... heavenly. We had gotten past dirt and moved squarely into soil. Soil is different then dirt. Dirt is just dirt. Soil is a living thing full of microbes and live and all kinds of good stuff.

Last year in the upper garden we planted potatoes which are a good starter crop for clay soil. They root well in clay and we use an easy-peasy method of planting that requires a lot of straw. When we harvested them we achieved two objectives - first such a dig-able crop made us turn the soil deeply. And then we left the straw to compost down which covered the dirt. The key tho was that we over seeded (just sprinkled on top of the straw) the area with winter wheat in the fall. The winter wheat is able to germinate at cool temperatures, go dormant when its really cold, then springs up as soon as there is a hint of warmth. After it grew out a bit, and about a month before we are going to plant, we mowed it down, tilled it up on a hot day...and now.. baby.. its actual soil not just clay.

Tilling (or weeding) on a hot day exposes the roots and such so they wilt in the sun and die and not re-sprout. Now all the dead 'green manure' can compost down into the dirt.  This will provide space between the tightly packed grains of soil that make up clay as well as provide nutrients for the new plants. Then we added the lime which further breaks up the dirt particles. I hoed it lightly just to mix it up, then it rained like the dickens last nite and now we are ready for planting in a couple of weeks.  I'll plant beans which are also easily rooted, easy to grow, and will "fix" nitrogen from the air into the soil. Next summer my tomatoes will be legendary.

Soil management is kind of demanding. Sure you can just go get a bunch of topsoil somewhere, or you can use chemicals, but with all the critters around here we didn't want to introduce any new pests or toxic substances. So we are 'old schoolin' it by adding as much organic material as all these critters can create. We tend to over straw the coops and pens so we have a lot of almost-composted-nitrogen-rich organic material.

To this we add a lot of leaves in the fall (the mold from maples is especially helpful for soil improvement) and just about anything else we can come up with. Tradition says to give it a year before its real compost... but we kinda fudge on that. Many times you can just make a lazy compost pile along the side or near the garden or over an area where you'd like to plant the following year. Maybe we'll do a post on compost.. humm.

Anyway. It will probably take a couple of years to get the garden really booming so everything we are doing, from deciding how much we will till the soil, to what we add to it, what we plant, and crop rotation is really important. At some point we will get the soil tested as we'll have to make adjustments. But for us this is working really well and honestly they would just tell us what chemicals to add.

We are really happy with the progress so far. We stood in the middle of the upper garden with the improved soil on one side, and the one small patch that we couldn't improve on the other and it was like looking at different planets. On one side the soil was light and fluffy and a light brown color (still not the desirable dark dark black) and the unimproved side was hard, red, and unyielding. We'll keep up our efforts until we get it right. Until then its me the garden trolley full of poop and a pitchfork...that's old school for you.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Turk-peeps and Farm Notes and STORM!

Yikes! I'm typing as fast as I can... we are having a big storm roll in and I need to sign off quick! But not before I post a few pix of Runner, our turkey hen, and her chicks!

Looks like 9 lived.. but we lost one. We saved one of the 9 that hatched butt first. Normally they pip out right by their little faces...they use their beaks to break thru. However this little guy some how had the shell stuck to the top of his head! It was very cute.

Runner probably broke the shell and that's how he got all turned around. We were afraid he might smother and his little face was all smooshed....so we carefully took the shell off.. but kept the membrane intact.. then we wet the membrane and carefully peeled it off... and he's fine!

Here is the first one that popped out...ain't she a looker?:

And here is most of the crew... and the "momma," Runner. Obviously she didn't lay the chicken eggs but I put them under her when she decided to set a nest. She has one of her own eggs and if she stays on the nest until Friday it might just hatch. You can see there are still a few eggs that haven't hatched and we'll have to take them up if they don't hatch tomorrow.

Why didn't all the eggs hatch? Well, lots of reasons - maybe they weren't fertile, maybe they didn't have the required constant temperature or humidity, maybe the chicks developed but couldn't pip out, or maybe they had some kind of bacteria in them and died/never developed. And as always.. in farming you learn the hard lesson that not every body makes it.

Normally a hen will stay on the nest for a day or two trying to get the rest to hatch -- ducks seem to try longer -- then they just need to take care of the live little ones and at some point just move off the nest. Generally we don't interfere in the course of nature.. but last year we pipped two turkey poults out of their shell and they lived! It was amazing...and we were glad that we did.

Quick farm notes as the storm rolls closer:
* Yesterday we planted about 50 lbs of taters!
* Everything planted in the ground so far is popping up..but not the more sensitive seeds in flats
* Maples, forsythia, pears, ornamental cherries are blooming (bee notes); fed bees again.
* Shoveled yards and yards of turkey poop but wow those coops are clean now!
* Little skip poppers are eating grain; neighbor kids will come over and give their shots in a day or so; Gilly may be going to his new home soon... oh geez.. I can't resist one more cute goat shot:
Would you look at the legs on these two! Gilly is on the left, Ginger on the right.

Happy Monday! Quick I have to close some windows!!
ps thanks everyone for their comments over the weekend - hope you all had a wonderful holiday. I'll get caught up tomorrow.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Runner's Chicks are Hatching! & Farm notes...

How cute is this... Runner, the Bourbon Red turkey hen, was all broody so we let her set a nest of chicken eggs..and they are hatching! Three perfect little puffballs so far...but she didn't want me peeking so I had to butt out.  Hopefully we'll have pix on Monday (I usually try and take Sunday's off).

We had been taking up her eggs - but she was soooooo broody.  We felt it was too early and the weather too unpredictable to let her set a clutch of turkey poults (who are much more delicate then chicks). So the day she sat down on just one of her own eggs I just gathered up all the hens eggs and stuffed them under her.

Hen's eggs hatch at 21 days, not the 28 days poults take to hatch, so she was mighty surprised when the pippin' started. She was looking under her belly at the eggs while I was watching and suddenly saw me, squawked, fluffed up her skirt and sat back down. She had four doomed clutches last year so I think she finally got it right.

Can different species hatch other's eggs?

Sure! As my pal says, "Its a good use of a broody" to put whatever eggs you have under a gal who is determined to set. Mama raised clutches always do better and its much less work for you. And as the ever so wise, Harvey Ussery says, "...a mother hen is a lot smarter than me when it comes to raising chicks.."  So just let them do the job.  (BTW, that's a great article - check out his site for everything you need to know and more!)

Bear in mind the different incubation times tho - a 35 day set over muscovy eggs may be a might long time for a little hen used to 21 days. A fellow farm wife told me she had a duck set hens eggs once. I guess that little duck just couldn't understand why her babies wouldn't follow her into the water. Otherwise, it works out just fine.

Farm notes:
* Still nothing from Little Nibbles....she's still huge
* Debbie's littles are starting to eat real food; Deb has a lot of milk in the mornings.
* Penny the goose seems like she is getting close to setting. The old timers say geese start to set their nests after Easter weekend. We'll let her and Cindy set a few. Secretly I'd love a field of geese...but The Big Man hates them.... drat!
* Work work work all day yesterday prepping the soil in the upper garden; applied lime waiting for it to start raining. Also plowed up a couple strips in the far front field.
* Dash is still acting weird, as is Mollee (who we couldn't find until late last nite); and Miss Duck. I wish Miss Duck would just sit down... Dash must have a nest somewhere hidden and we can't have that. The great duck caper may be commencing tomorrow.. we'll secretly follow her, superspy like...
* Dinner chick update pix. I believe they are just about 2 weeks old... do you think they'll be ready at six weeks??

Happy Easter everyone!!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Girl. Drives. Truck

Thanks, wickett6029, for your kind comments! Here's a funny for ya... you know we farm gals need to stick together. You'll know what I'm talking about with this one...

Thinking how we farmgirls are all in the same boat..rather, truck... kinda reminded me of a story of what happened when this Ohiofarmgirl took a drive one day. I actually had a “function” to attend... no big deal but different than my normal day. I even had to look nice. So I put on my 'goin to town clothes' (my one set of non-pooped on clothes) and boldly launched out of our driveway in Big Red – our enormous fire-engine red, Ford work truck. Settling in for the big drive several hours away, I had my snacks, bottle of water, and a lot of country music. I was supposed to be there in the early afternoon.

The late fall, sunny drive was stunning – tons of leaves to peep, sunshine, and warm enough to have to the windows down. I sang the latest hits at the top of my lungs as I headed on down the highway. I made the exchange to the northbound freeway and headed for my favorite truck stop.

Now, aside from being the only woman at the dump... nothing is better for the feminine esteem than being the only woman at the truck stop in a big ol' 'arrest me red' Ford F250 4X4, superduty, extended cab, extended bed work truck, with an NRA sticker in the window. I hopped out of the cab and instantly was the center of attention.

This wass funny for a couple of reasons.
1. I'm not a spring chicken anymore
2. I don't particularly do anything to attract THAT kind of attention.

In fact, on a normal farm working day with my too-long shorts, big sweatshirts and work boots I generally turn heads AWAY from me. But in the clean clothes and shiny truck, I guess I was just too much for them long distance boys to handle.

“How you doin', honey?” One of my fellow big work truck drivers said to me over the pump.

“Why jus' fine.” I replied moving an imaginary hair out of my face and flashing my wedding band... just in case.

“Nice truck,”  he continued.

“It'll get her done, if that's what you mean, friend.” I said as casually as I could.  Knowing where this just might go I looked over his smaller, not heavy duty, short bed Ford. He started so say something else but I cut him off...

“Say friend, whatcha got in that truck?”  I asked already knowing the answer..

“Well, I work construction so I have all my tools...”

I cut him off again with a slightly bothered “Hum.”  Then before he could defend himself I observed,  “That little truck carries all those tools? Well, friend, what you need is a man-sized truck then – like this one here.” I said patting the hood.

The pump clicked off and in a smooth, practiced motion, I repelled back up into the cab, waved, and roared off leaving him stunned and wondering what I may have meant....

North bound and down, loaded up and truckin' I hit the city limit sign several hours later.

I stopped at the nearest McDonald's to put on my official church meetin' outfit. Not just the clean clothes I wore for the drive but real dress clothes. I had even curled my hair that day – all I needed now was a little make up and I'd be just about presentable.

I opened my official 'girl bag' of cosmetic products and peered in. It had been a while since I had actually worn any make up. In fact, our wedding may have been the last time... so it all looked a little unfamiliar and I carefully removed each small packet of this and that as well as the necessary fluffy brushes for appropriate application. I found lipstick that may or may not be older than our youngest cat. I began the beautification process.

The problem, clear as day right there in all my glory, was that the day before the event I had developed the worlds largest zit.  It was right there for all the world to see. The remedy was the all important girl-product, liquid make up. It hides everything if you believe the lady at the Estee Lauder counter – but she's paid on commission so you never know. Hopping it would work as directed I reached into my bag for it. I searched in my bag for it. Panicking I dumped my bag out onto the counter looking for it. Gone. Not There. None. Now what?!?

My mind raced. I could... I could.... stop at kmart and get some? Nope. No time. I could just go like this?  Nope. I looked ridiculous. I could... I could....and then I vaguely remembered something from an old episode of America's Next Top Model when Tyra said that you could mix some face powder with your moisturizer and voila – liquid make up. I had face powder! A-haaaa....there was the solution!


I didn't have any moisturizer.  Humm... I thought as I gathered up all my “possibles” and shoved them crudely back into the girl bag.... wonder if there was anything in the truck that I could use..... I headed back to the truck.  Surely there was something, maybe some hand lotion in the truck???  I picked up the pace as I was going to be late if I didn't hurry.

Aside from some emergency tire inflater foam, and some window washer fluid... the only thing my search of the truck revealed was...

udder cream.

Yep, thats right.  Every farm truck has got some udder cream for your cow, goat, whatever you're milking and for all your general farm uses. Bag balm they call it. It cures everything.

And as I now know, makes a damn fine base for homemade liquid make up.

Officially late and as beautified as I was gonna get, I took the last few turns and barreled into the parking lot of the event, straw flying out the back of the truck. As I dropped out of the truck and strutted just like one of those Top Models into the event, I laughed that Tyra Banks probably would look better than me in my work truck... but she probably didn't have any idea what you can do with udder cream.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Farm Notes and Return Of The King.. I mean... Queen

WOW! What a day we had -- sunny and 80*. Could not have been better.

And we are so glad to have Queen Vita back with us. Actually her name is Evita somethin'-somethin' according her to registration... but we just call her Vita. Here she is with the little ones - look at Ginger goofin'!  And I love Vita smoochin' on Gilly..silly goaties.

Vita is our big ol' Sanaan -- the "Holstien's of the Goat World" - they are HUGE. Like big as a cow big... like, "Hey lets run back to the truck and get away from these monster goats", big. Big like.. well.. big. But they are usually described as big marshmallows -- really easy going personalities, easy to work with, and mostly they come in one color:  white.

A sassy showgirl, Vita is our herd "queen." Like all herds there is a hierarchy and honestly, we were getting a little sick of Debbie trying to throw her weight around. Vita sauntered into the barnyard, walked right up to Debbie...and then gave her special muzzle nuzzle I hadn't seen before.. and that was it. No fighting, no squabbles, and she didn't really care one way or another about the babies. Altho unlike with the other gals, Vita is happy to share a bucket of hay with those little ones. Now that the queen is back, order is restored and everyone is happy.

Talk about small, medium, and large! We usually think that Debbie is big but Vita has her beat by a mile!

Vita was at the breeder for the winter. She "freshened" on Friday and had an adorable little doe and a big strapping buck. The breeder, with his award winning herd, will find great homes for them and dear Vita came back with us for the summer. In the fall we'll take her back for breeding again. This unusual arrangement worked out really well for us.

We are glad she is back! 

Farm notes (and a reminder that part of this blog is my record keeping...apologies if its boring)
* Dinner chicks are really progressing - feathering out. It was too hot for them with the light on. Trying a bigger drinker for them also.
* Evita is milking like the dickens. Between her and Debbie we probably had about a half a gallon. The hens went nuts for it. We didn't keep E's milk as she still has some meds going thru her system from "freshening" (when she had her babies). We will worm her tomorrow.
* Everyone was out enjoying the sun. Little Nibbles looks like a blimp.
* Worked on organizing the lower garden workspace and setting up additional window teepee greenhouses.
* Planted a couple flats of:
- California Wonder Peppers - 75 days till harvest; may be too cool for them
- Basil - in the hottest part of the greenhouse; 10 days to germinate
- Beefsteak, Roma, & Super Sweet 100 tomatoes
- Early Bush Italian beans
- Black Beauty eggplant; 65 days til harvest
- One row of green onions in the protected part of the green house
- One row of sunflowers in the back of the greenhouse
- 10 pots of mixed sunflowers: Hallo, Lemonade Mix, & Mammoth Russian
All are under the greenhouse/protected area out of reach of birds of all types. Did mostly half packages just in case I'm rushing a bit. We should not have too many  more cold nites and I can cover the exposed parts of the planting areas.
* Bees are doing GREAT! Lots of different colors of pollen was found in the hives. Very active today.

Here are my low budget (FREE!) window teepee greenhouses so far they are working great. Probably too much air gets in, but it has kept the frost off the little seeds poppin' up. In the background you can see my other free greenhouses... water bottles. The bottom is cut out and I just put them over tender plants and seeds.

 Happy Gardening everyone!
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