Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The season is winding down . . .

I am looking at my list of offerings on Purple Porch, our on-line co-op.  More items just got pared from it.  I'm down to a few tomatoes and peppers and a lot of greens.  I didn't plant enough root vegetables, wish I had more beets and carrots to offer.  Next year.

My broccoli was very poor this year.  It is sprouting broccoli, many little heads.  I sold a lot of plants, since it is a favorite of mine and so I am enthusiastic about it when selling greenhouse plants.  But the heat!  It didn't produce, and my customers all complained.  No one got much broccoli.  However, now with the cooler weather, it is finally coming into its own.  With a little luck, I'll be harvesting well into November.  Perhaps my customers will be a little happier with their plants now that they are doing what they are supposed to do.

My new chickens are getting into the swing of things around here.  I was to be gifted with 16 of them, but only nine arrived here, and of those, one is really just a pet, had quit laying altogether, and three are still young pullets that haven't started laying.  So my dreams of having an extra dozen eggs a day once they showed up has been dashed.  They have been here nine days, and since they all lay non-white eggs (my Campines lay white eggs), I know how many they have laid to date.  Try seven!  Yup, nine chickens, nine days, seven eggs.  I am underwhelmed!  I found most of them under a tree, and since they have been confined to the chicken run, which isn't all that big, I am sure that I have found them all.

Yesterday I opened up the run for the first time, since I was sure that the new girls would know where home is by now.  Alas, two of them, one of my new Buckeyes, and one of the Gift Girls, were running around frantically at dusk because they found the way out, but couldn't find the way back in!  Androo helped me round them up.  We will see what happens this evening.  I opened up the gate all the way today.  It will be easier for them to get in and out.

Allen quit.  He was very good with the equipment, and was learning to milk.  Due to health problems, it wasn't working out for him, though.  I hope he feels better soon.  In the meantime, a new person is coming on board for a bit to see how it works out.  I need help, and he says he is willing to work.  There is plenty of that around here!  We will go slow and make sure it works well for all concerned.

Androo, Allen and I had a very good meeting shortly before Allen quit, and we looked at the whole farm, what needs to be done, what needs to change, how do we put our efforts into what is the most profitable.  Financially, it was not a very good year, in part because the bugs destroyed a good bit of my garden, probably cut my produce revenue by at least two thirds.  Ouch!  But we have a pest management plan in place for next season.  I have not had a problem with bugs since I moved here in 2002, so this year took me by surprise, and being organic, my choices in combating them were limited.  But as I said, the plan is in place.  Bugs, beware!

I have said before that I wish 24 hours would go by when no equipment fails, no light bulbs burn out, no cows escape.  It won't be today.  One of the tires on the golf cart came off the wheel, so I had to fire up the small tractor and hook up the wagon so that I can get hay out to the girls this morning. I will worry about fixing the tire later.  For now the girls need to eat.  And I had better get on it right now!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I am so lucky!

Last night I got a birthday card from my Aunt Irma, my dad's sister.  No matter that it is a few weeks late.  There is a three page letter enclosed, and I am savoring it a half page at a time.

My aunt has an apartment in a place for seniors.  She is still one step from assisted living, even though she uses a walker.  I am so glad that she has her own space.  She has made the most of it, growing flowers in a planter on her balcony.  She writes the details of her blooms, and says that she takes care of the geraniums by the front door of her building. 

She tells me that many of the people in the building are NOT using walkers, and they could be doing things like helping with the flowers, but they would rather just "sit on their butts and complain."  Yup, that's my Aunt Irma!  We are a long lived and hardy lot, and part of it is our penchant for work.  We really do enjoy it!  If your choice is to sit with a bunch of people and join in the complaining or stare mindlessly at a TV screen or go outside and weed some flowers, every Siemers I know will choose the weeds!

I feel so grateful that I still have two aunts who are living, Aunt Irma and my namesake, Auntie Vey.  Auntie Vey still lives on the farm, and until the doctor banned her from her tractor a couple of months ago, mowed a two-acre lawn with a 25 hp John Deere.  I'm not sure of their ages, but I think Auntie Vey is now 94, and Aunt Irma is 92.

What is so remarkable is that their minds are good, their handwriting steady, and they have retained their sense of humor - AND their ability to work!

As we move into fall, which happened upon us last night at 11:09 p.m., I am reminded that no matter what the season of our lives, there is much to be thankful for.

Blessed be!

Friday, September 17, 2010

And then there were three . . .

Last night I pulled only three squawking chickens from under the Moop.  There were three more who went into it on their own, after some gentle nudging with my rake.

This morning, we put all of the new fencing to the test.  So far, they are all inside the new chicken run.  The new ones were not running around much anyway, but the old nine from last year are totally incensed!  And outraged!!!  Buster is really letting me have it.

Maybe I will get a few more eggs today.  Or maybe they will go on strike and I will get none.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And the number is . . .

Only eight chickens under the Moop last night.  Roscoe the younger rooster was one of them, and he chose to come out on his own.  It took him awhile to decide to hop in the back, but he made it with no interference from me.

Perhaps tonight they will ALL be inside when I go out to shut them in.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Last night - checking chickens in the dark

I didn't count, but my best guess is that about a third of the new chickens were in the Moop last night.  However, there was one little hang-up.  The pecking order is no joke.  Two of the older hens were busy clearing the top two rungs of the roosts.  They were vicious!  No interlopers allowed!  Top run is reserved for the old girls and Buster, and by the way, the next rung is a "no fly / no roost" zone, thank you very much.  Bottom two rungs only for the newbies!!

In the process of grabbing screeching chickens by the legs to move them from under the truck onto the perches, some of the ones waiting for their turn with the mad lady decided to walk out from under the truck and hop into the back on their own power.

Will tonight be a little easier?  I hope so, because I am getting 16 more chickens on Sunday morning.  I have received a gift of 12 laying hens and four three-month-old chicks, about the age of mine.  So the flock grows, and I shall have eggs.  Blue and green ones, too, by the way, since a few of the layers are Araucanas.  :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Moving chickens in the dark

I am reminded of Tom Lehrer's infamous song "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" as Tina and I make our way through the dark, each carrying a tote with four chickens inside.  We are "Moving Chickens in the Dark," a much less pernicious lyric, but kind of funny all the same.

Why are we doing this?  A load of hay is coming soon.  The chickens that joined the farm in June have been residing in a pen where the hay has to go.  So for the last couple of weeks, Androo, Allen and I have been working on the new chicken run - a place where these smaller chickens can go and get at least a little protection from the predators with whom I share this land.  Last year I put them out too soon, in too open a space, and the hawks got seven of my chicks in short order.  Not this year!

We moved the Moop inside the run, which thoroughly confused the nine who have been living there for the past year.  The Moop moved about twenty feet, but the chickens continued to hang around the bare spot of earth where the Moop was sitting until a few days ago.  On the fourth night, all of them finally decided to move back in and quit roosting in trees that overhang the old spot. 

So why were we doing this in the dark?  Chickens become quite docile in the dark.  There is no way we could have rounded up 37 chickens in the daylight, even contained in a 15' x 15' pen!  So Tina came out about 9:00, two totes in hand (which certainly beat my idea of carrying one under each arm!).  I would sneak into the pen with the totes and pick up four birds one at a time, put in the tote and then hand it out to Tina.  I would repeat this operation with the second tote, then leave the pen with it in hand.  Off to the new chicken run, where I got into the Moop with a tote, carefully removed the chickens one at a time, and made sure that their claws were firmly around a roost.  Then I handed out the empty tote, Tina handed in the second one with four more chicks, and the operation was repeated.  Back to the barn, two more totes, and so on, until all 37 chickens were safely in the Moop.

Yesterday when I let them out, I didn't know what would happen.  It was pretty good news.  While the older chickens escaped (we are still working on fixing escape routes), the new ones stayed in.  They ate about half as much food as usual, and surprisingly drank a lot less water.  But then I realized that worms and grubs have a pretty high water content, especially when compared to the ground up grain that has been their diet to date.

Interesting thing with the layers, the "old" girls - they all escaped.  So I thought I would get NO eggs yesterday, that they would wild lay and as usual I would be hard put to find them.  They are molting, and between that and wild laying, I have been getting only one or two eggs a day, several days none at all.  Well, leave it to these weird Campines!  When they had to sneak back in to lay, I found three eggs in the nests yesterday.  Yup, that's right, when the nests were readily available, they layed in the bushes.  When the Moop got moved behind a fence (from which they had escaped early in the morning), then they sneaked back inside to lay their eggs.  Gotta love 'em!

But back to the new chicks.  The hay showed up two and a half hours late.  Dusk fell while we waited, and I checked on the new chicks.  They were not going into the Moop to roost.  I could hear the coyotes, one of them really close!  I know they have to live too, but please, not on my chickens!  And those Buckeyes are such fat little things.  By the time the hay finally came, full dark had set in.  I checked the chicks before starting on hay, and only a couple of them had made their way onto the roosts in the Moop.  The others were sitting on top of the feed containers, just like they did in their pen in the barn, or were huddled underneath the Moop.  This was not good!  If a chicken could escape the Moop, then any kind of critter could get in and make a meal of my chickens.  I fretted about it the whole time we were stacking hay in the barn.  When the last of the workers left, I decided rather than sleeping on my chaise lounge in the pen, I would try to get them all inside the Moop.  I went to work, small flashlight in hand, and pulled them one by one from under the truck, amid much protesting!  I swear that those Buckeyes were calling out, "Help!  Help!  HELP!!!"  Yes, that is truly what it sounded like!  I would stroke each one and say, "The coyotes are not going to get you.  The coyotes are not going to get you."  They would quiet down, I would make sure their little feet were firmly on the roost, and then I would head back for another.  Finally, with the help of a broom handle, the last two chicks were pulled from under the truck and put in the Moop.

I wonder how many nights this will have to go on before they figure it out.  I'm tired!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spreading biodynamic preparations - BD500

This afternoon, we did our second application of BD500.  Click here to see information on biodynamic farming in India.  Last fall, we packed cow horns with manure from our own organic cows and buried the horns in a circle.  This spring, we dug them up and removed the manure from the horns.  By then, it had composted into sweet smelling clumps.  We broke them up and used half of them, mixed with water, to spread on our pastures.

The rest of the horn manure went into a bucket and was put aside until today.  There were close to 20 members here, ready to go.  "Many hands make light work."  We worked in pairs, letting those with experience help out those who were new to it. 

We used the last of it today, then repacked the horns with fresh manure and put them back in the ground for another six months.  Next spring, we will start the process all over, uncovering these horns, removing the composted manure, and stirring to make more BD500.  The pastures were limed a couple of years ago, but this is the only other fertilizer we use.

Those who stirred took home a quart jar of BD500 to apply to their own lawns and gardens.  A quart will do plenty!

I made sure there was some left for my own gardens and flower beds.  Our president, Tina, said, "Oh, we already did your garden."  I was so grateful, started heading for my herb garden, and she said, "We did that!"  So I headed to the flower beds, and she said, "We got them, too!"  Doubly grateful.  The people in our milk association are good people, and their efforts are much appreciated, by me and by the cows who will be grazing on the paddocks they walked today.

Here are more pics of today's workers.  (One of these days, I have got to do something about formatting!  My apologies for the awkward spacing of the photos.)

Finishing up - A JOB WELL DONE!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Yesterday I noticed that the overhead lights in my garage were both burned out.  Before getting out the big ladder to replace them, I checked the breaker box.  Lo and behold, #25 had popped.  I thought this would be simple - turn it off, turn it on and all would be well.  But it would make a little buzz and then pop again.  Okay, something was wrong.  I can live without garage lights, so I just put it out of my mind for the time being.  I would deal with it later.

This morning Holly Berry, my cat, was driving me nuts - again!  Last night she pestered me until I checked her food dish and found it empty.  Having filled it to the brim, I was sure that hunger wasn't her problem.  I followed her down to the family room, but instead of going to her dish, she headed for a door begging to be let out.  The animals all wear magnets around their necks, which activate a small sliding door so that they can go in and out at will.  Perhaps she lost her magnet again.  It wouldn't be the first time.  Nope, her magnet was on her collar, so I checked the animal door.  It didn't work.  And both lights were out in the storage room.  I had two areas with no lights.  Still believing the problem was the breaker, tonight when I got home from market, I called Allen and asked if he had ever changed out a breaker.  He said he hadn't (wise move!).  I told him I had looked up instructions on the internet and it didn't seem too hard.  Then he told me about the smoke or dust or some such thing that he saw coming out of the outlet on a post by the water trough in Paddock 9.

Aha!  The breaker was probably good, and doing exactly what it should be doing.  The cows had knocked the cover off the switch within ten minutes of installation - plastic housing, poorly made.  So it was in tough shape.  I was pretty sure I had found the problem, since the outlet by the water tank had been run from my storage room, the storage room with the overhead lights out and the pet door that didn't work.  I called the installer.  Of course, on Friday night, this was going to cost some big money, but the pets needed their door!  He said I could save a trip charge if I waited until he came out on some other business on Friday.  I asked him what I would have to do to make it non-operational so that I could get the breaker to stay on, and he explained that I could remove the outlet and put plastic nuts on the end of each wire.

Okay, I thought, I can do that.  Then I thought, if I'm going to take it apart to disable it, why not just replace it?  I headed out to the local hardware store, and with some excellent advice from the clerk there, including how to make sure I didn't kill myself in the process, I headed home with a bag of tools and parts, costing about $15.

I tested to make sure there was no juice running to the outlet.  A little WD-40 loosened up the old screws, and before I proceeded too far, on the advice of the clerk at the hardware store, I checked the wires at the back to make sure they were dead.  They were, and the old part was out in no time.  Within about 15 minutes, I had the new part in and a new outlet cover installed.  This one fits flush, and hopefully the cows will not knock it off.

Jiffy Pop "helping"
They are so nosy! If they would just leave things alone!!  Sam came over and licked my face while I was working, and of course Jiffy Pop had to get her nose into things.

But at last, everything was put back together and the job was done.

I feel pretty good about doing this. In addition to the money I saved, there was a great deal of satisfaction in hitting the breaker and seeing the overhead lights go on in the garage.  All is well.  The pets can get in and out of their door.  The tools are put away, and all is right with the world.

So the romance between Rosie and Sam and my successful electrical wiring job are my two little tales for today.

Rosie and Sam are having a date . . .

Sam, our bull, is such a lover!  He really woos the cows that he is servicing, spending quality time with them.  He will lick his lady's neck, stay by her side, and keeps the jumping to a minimum.  He also sings to them. 

It's Rosie's turn.  She will not settle (that means get pregnant) this heat - it is too soon since she had her calf.  Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, gives the cows a few months after freshening (that means having a calf) before a live egg drops.  But they still do come in heat, and so there are some times for dates without consequence.  Rosie and Sam are having one today.

It is sweet to see them hanging out together.  They are walking side by side.  Wherever one of them is grazing the other is not far away.  I can see them now, on the other side of some trees, away from the others, walking, munching, enjoying one another's company. 

Today, I am especially glad that I am a farmer!

Sam is on left, Rosie on the right.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Moving the Moop

We finished the fencing and moved the Moop into the new chicken run, a distance of about 20 feet.  Last night, only five of the nine chickens spent the night in it.  It was nearly dark when I got home from Purple Porch, and I couldn't find the four others.  This morning, they were there, hanging around the back door of the Moop, waiting for the other chickens to be released.

Tonight I made sure I went out earlier.  I had eight of them close to the Moop, should have closed the fence, but I didn't and two escaped.  I put the other six inside, so I got in one more tonight than last night.

Before I got them into the new area, they all hung around the spot where the Moop formerly sat.  It is just a spot on the lawn with no grass, bare dirt, where it has rested for the last year.  But apparently they still call that home.

The remaining three are roosting within a few feet of one another in a tree very close to where the Moop was sitting.  Only twenty feet, that's all, but they are not going to rest easily at their new address.

Funny little creatures.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yes, I'm still here . . .

Just a quick note to let you know that I'm still here.  This morning the last of my paperwork will be faxed to OEFFA, my certifying agency for organic certification.  What a load off!

The big thing on my schedule for the week is to get a corner post fixed and fencing cleaned up, and to move the little (not so little any more!) chicks into the new chicken run.  The older ones will go there as well, and if we can keep them contained, I may have more eggs.

No eggs in the nests for three days now, but when I was watering some flowers, I found a nice little indentation with four eggs yesterday afternoon!  They will have to be boiled, because I am not sure of their age, but I happily brought them to the house.  I was down to five eggs in the fridge, and have been limiting myself to only one egg per day.  I love my eggs, and I was glad to find those four yesterday.  I wonder if they will lay in there again today.  Probably not.  Once I find one of their spots, they never go back.

Such weird little birds they are!