Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Zelda finally popped!

Zelda, the second of our two heifers that were bred to join the herd this spring, had a beautiful heifer calf yesterday.  This isn't the greatest picture, but this little girl is hungry!  I couldn't get a shot of her head because it was always attached to her mom's udder!

We are selling Zelda and the calf.  The herd is getting too big, so she and Buttercup will be leaving the herd.  We also sold one of our yearling heifers, but that leaves two more to join the milking herd next spring.  It is always hard for me to let them go.  Blossom was a beautiful yearling heifer, but the guy who came to pick up one of the little calves made a good offer for her, and as I said, our herd is getting as big as we want it to be, so she left us.

Anyway, all that being said, here is a pic of Zelda and her new calf.  Zelda was hand raised, very gentle.  And the calf is so friendly, running around behind us already.  I will be sorry to see her go.  Someone will get a very nice cow and calf.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mama Hen

The littlest chick, the one I thought might not make it, is up and running around.  In fact, all three of them tried to jump out of that nest this morning when Mama went for breakfast.  The Campine slipped through my hand and ended up on the floor again.  He/she is dark and found it easier to escape.  I didn't even see it jump!  But even the tiniest of the three nearly jumped to the floor.  Well, I took care of that -- Mama Hen and the three chicks, plus the remaining unhatched five eggs, are safely ensconced in a heavy box on the floor of the Moop.  The little chicks are coming out from under Mom to eat grain and drink a bit of water.  They are so cute to watch!

I am hoping that a few more of the eggs will hatch.  Mama is setting, so there is no reason why they shouldn't.  I just don't remember how many days went by before I started marking eggs and pulling out the newest ones, so I have no idea when the last of the eggs would be ready to hatch.  The other hen abandoned her nest, leaving all 11 eggs.  It was too cold, I don't have an incubator, so they could not have survived and went to the compost pile.  With water and food in the box, Mama isn't leaving anymore.  And oh, is she protective!  She will drive away any other hen who gets close!!

I will have more pictures soon.

Wasn't this a great Easter present?  And this morning, every tree in my orchard was budded out.  Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


When I got home from market, there were three little chicks in the nest!  When I filled the feed troughs, mother jumped out of nest for some refreshments.  There were two yellow chicks, and one obvious Campine chick.  The Campine was making the most noise - of course!

While mama was having a snack, the three little chicks were unhappy.  I went to the feed bin to get another scoop of grain and when I came back, there was the little Campine running around on the floor of the Moop.  These chicks hatched in the top row of nests, about three or four feet off the floor!  So this little Campine hopped out looking for mom and was running around frantically, yelling at the top of its lungs!  Yup, that's a Campine for you!   I just love those little birds more every day.  Truly a unique breed.  Hard workers, busy all the time, very chatty, and Campine give you the most eggs for your feed of any breed out there!  It makes it all worthwhile that they hide eggs, roost 20' up in trees and get in my garage at every opportunity.  They are unique and loveable.

Enjoy the pics!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Poor little chickie

The first egg hatched - sort of.  There was a fully formed chick inside the egg, but it was making no effort to get out.  The hen had abandoned the nest.  Most of the shell was still around the chick.

I thought it was dead, peeled back some of the shell and it moved a bit.  I don't know if it was just reflex, or if the chick was alive.  When the mother returned to the nest, she pushed the chick out of the nest onto the floor. 

I will see if any more of them are hatching this morning.

I guess I understand why there are hatcheries and incubators.  But it would be so nice to have a few chicks around here that were born Mother Nature's way.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Today I got a letter from the White House.

The writer presumed that I wouldn't remember my high school commencement speaker. How wrong she was! Here is what I wrote Melody, the sender of the letter.

Hello, Melody,

You ask:  Do you remember your high school commencement speaker?

As a matter of fact, I remember him very well.  It was 1959, and our class of 17 kids, mostly from farm families, was graduating.  The speaker showed up late.  He was missing one of his eye teeth, and his suit was well worn, shoes obviously old with heels in need of replacing.

He spoke of injuring his left hand when he was a child.  The doctor told him that the hand would never fully recover, would always be the weak hand.  He gave him a heavy rubber band and an exercise to help strengthen the damaged hand.  The speaker told us that he did the exercise with gusto, and over time his hand recovered.

Several years later, he was in a doctor's office for another problem with his hands.  The doctor said to him, "You injured your hand at one time, didn't you?"  Yes, the speaker told him, that was true, and asked the doctor how he knew. 

The doctor replied, "Your left hand is much stronger than your right."

Are you following this?  The doctor thought the RIGHT hand had been injured because the left hand was so much stronger, when in fact it was the injured hand that had become the stronger one.  I have never forgotten his message.  Use adversity, whatever it is, to get stronger.  It has carried me through some difficult situations - raising two kids as a single mother, starting college when I was 43, earning an MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management in 1996, and taking early retirement from the corporate world to start my own farming operation. 

Why start farming at 62?  I want to do something about what is happening to our food.

We have the lowest per capita food costs in the world, and the highest per capita medical costs.  We are 37th in infant mortality, right there with Croatia, no less, and our life expectancy is in a tie with Cuba at 35th.  And yet we approve genetically modified grains without adequate testing on what it will do to our health and our environment. 

We feed our kids massive amounts of carbohydrates while we ignore the fact that insulin resistance is at the base of most if not all of our "Western" illnesses, and the way to avoid insulin resistance is to cut carbohydrates and make sure we get plenty of good fats.  Yet we create a food pyramid that glorifies grain and demonizes fat. 

We pass laws that make it difficult for small farmers to sell their food directly to the consumers.  We say that pasteurized milk is good for us and raw milk is bad for us in spite of much data that proves the contrary.  We try to pass onerous laws that would make a small farmer micro-chip every animal on the place. 

Richard Deming preached that you cannot inspect in quality at the end of the line, but must design it in at the very start.   We need to quit focusing on chasing after what went wrong with our food after the fact, and get rid of the bad design - the factory farms that are poisoning our environment and shutting out small farmers who cannot afford to spend millions on lobbyists to slant the laws in their direction.

My left hand is still working on that rubber band, and that rubber band is called "food sovereignty."  The Little Engine That Could was a Woman, and I am a Woman, and I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.  What is it I think I can do?  I think I can help to inject some sanity into our food chain in the United States.  I think I can help to get GMOs labeled so that we can make a free choice on whether or not we want to consume them while we wait for proper testing.  I think I can help people to make better choices.  I think I can haul my organic vegetables to the Farmers Market and educate while I sell.

I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.

And I think I can make time for a phone call if you want to hear more about what I have to say, Melody.  I left my number on the White House web site message center.

Susan Siemers

Walkerton, IN 46574

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A tale of two setters

All together now!

The girls

Campines are not supposed to go broody.  This means they do not set on their eggs to hatch them.  They do hide their eggs, but not so that they can hatch them.  They just like to hide them.  They are very crafty.  Last place was in a box that was tall and narrow - about four feet deep, and only a foot wide by maybe three feet long.  Very hard to get in there!  It's why I didn't look inside.  But when I saw a chicken fly OUT of the box, I looked.  Six lovely white eggs!!  You check for the freshness of an egg by putting it in water.  If it sinks, it is okay.  If it floats, it is getting pretty old.  Two of them were old.

Of course, now that I have found the nest, they will not lay there again. One time I found ten eggs in a box of handles - definitely not a comfortable place to lay an egg.  But there they were!

I have thought about hanging some nests in both barns, in the hopes that they would choose a nest rather than look for a hiding place. I don't think it will work, though.  Do you?

Anyway, having been told that Campines don't go broody (one of many reasons that they are on the critical list), I had a Campine go broody!  I thought she was sick, but my friend Cameron said he thought she was broody.  So I let her be.  A few days later, a Buckeye went broody as well, which is to be expected.  That breed often broods.  So there were the two of them sitting on eggs of every color.  I assume that other chickens fly into the nest and deposit an egg while the broody ones are getting food and water, perhaps in the hopes of having progeny since I am not letting any more hens set.  Too many egg customers, and the odds of them actually hatching out a few chicks and then raising them to a viable age are slim to none.  I am only doing this because I am so fascinated to have a broody Campine.

Misty (Cameron's wife) told me that I should mark the eggs.  That way I can pull out the newly laid eggs, which will not hatch with the others and will just be wasted eggs.  I didn't listen until one day there were five new eggs under the two of them,  for a total of 21 eggs.  There had only been 16 eggs in both nests the day before. So now they are marked.

Broody girls - Campine on left
I took out a marking pen and marked both sides of each egg with a big X, since the hens roll each egg over once a day and I wanted to be able to see the X's without having to lift the chickens completely out of the nest.  (Rolling the eggs is part of the routine - it keeps them evenly warm.)  In order to mark the eggs, I gently lifted out the Buckeye, put her in a nearby nest, put on the X's and returned her.  Now the Campine, that was another story.  She was pissed when I lifted her off!  I heard it the whole time I was marking the eggs.  Then when I tried to put her back on the eggs, I REALLY heard it!  She flew away.  I went back and checked the nest several times, since the eggs need to be kept consistently warm.  Finally about 35 minutes after the incident, she came back and crawled into the nest and glared at me.  A sight to behold, believe me.

Now each day I lift them up a tiny bit and count.  I have the number of eggs in each nest written on the outside of the nest.  I have gotten one to three new eggs each day, so it is good that I marked them.  Wish I had done it sooner.  There are at least five of them that will never make chicks, and my customers are waiting in line for the eggs!

Really, having a Campine hen pissed off at me has been one of the more sobering events of the past few weeks.  Hell hath no fury like a Campine moved (from her eggs).