Sunday, January 29, 2012

First order of the season

It's time.  I placed my first order for seeds.  Had a terrible time finding organic onion sets last year, so I got a jump on it this year.  We planted some onion seeds last fall, and this winter has been so mild that we may actually get some onions from them!

I'm going through last year's seeds and deciding which ones to phase out, which I need to order more of.  And there will be a few new strains - three of them for my son, and three from Macedonia.  Of course, my first love is tomatoes.  We are trying something different this year.  Last spring, I planted some tomatoes behind the house, and of course the chickens got in them.  To protect them, I put some very tall welded fencing around them, and I realized I had created something I could use for a greenhouse.  So this year, we will be experimenting with putting out some very early tomato plants and covering the fencing with clear plastic.  We will see.  It is always an adventure!

Oh, I say that tomatoes are my first love, but I am thinking that we need to do even more potatoes this year.  I did a dozen different strains last year, had about 600 row feet, and we sold every potato we dug!  So I need to get those seed potatoes ordered as well.

Signing off now - have to get the potatoes ordered, too.  :0)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Salt, anyone?

Along with demonizing fat (wrongly), our government is now demonizing salt -- again, wrongly.  It boggles the mind how a man with an ego so big that he couldn't admit he was wrong (I speak of Ancel Keys) sent us down a path of low fat eating, which has correlated strongly with the increase in insulin resistance related diseases.  As we have quit consuming so much fat, we have become fatter, we have developed Type 2 diabetes in ever increasing numbers, heart disease and cancer beset us.  In addition, it appears that high carbohydrate diets (yes, we replaced that fat with bread, pasta and sugar) may play a role in neurological illnesses such as bi-polar disorder, autism and epilepsy.  But fat is a whole other topic.

Today, I want to discuss salt.  I love salt.  I use copious amounts of it.  My blood pressure is a little on the high side, but still within the normal range (or what is considered "normal" today).  In the article that I am linking you to, it appears that 70% of us do not have to worry about the effect of salt consumption on our blood pressure.  But the government in its wisdom has decided that because 30% of the population is affected then we should ALL eat less salt, without examining the effects of a low salt diet on our general health.  This is just as foolhardy as sending us down the low fat path.

This to me is the most important takeaway from the article for which I am including a link.  Just want to make that point - odds are you are in the 70%.  Think twice before you think you need to eat bland food without the kick in flavors that salt brings.  Eat it and enjoy it!  Rather than repeating what this excellent article says, I am including the link. Click here to read it all:  Salt's effect on our health

To your health!  Do your research.  An informed patient is a doctor's best friend.  And if your doctor doesn't think so, then find another doctor.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chickens - part 2

I found a hole in the back fence and repaired it this morning before leaving for market.  Not that a very clever and strong animal couldn't get through it, but I did the best I could with my bum knee and time constraints.  Androo and Clay will be working on the whole fence on Friday.  I stopped at Tractor Supply on my way home from market and got 150 feet of 48" fencing.  It is all the fencing I could get in my Prius, along with milk jars and other stuff from market.  I will go for another load while they are working on the fence on Friday.

I was gratified to see that there were no dead chickens in the pen today - first time in the past four days.  So at least for today, perhaps the repair was good enough.  Now if only it holds until Friday.

I am also very thankful that Buster, Tiny, Ricky Ricardo and Goldie are all still very much alive.  On Tuesday, I was sure it was Ricky lying in the pile of feathers, but on closer examination it was a Buckeye hen.  I was so glad to see Ricky strutting around the pen, very healthy and alive, so there was some joy in the midst of my sadness.

Whatever this animal is, it seems to prefer big birds.  I suppose they are a little less nimble, or maybe it is just that the Campines are good flyers and all end up sitting on top of the Moop when this creature comes for lunch.  I found scat just outside the hole in the fence this morning, will have to do a little investigating to figure out what it is.  Raccoons usually don't attack in the daylight hours.  The hole in the fence was BIG, so it might even have been a coyote, although my first suspicion is that it is a fox.

Well, out to the internet to examine scat pictures.


Something has killed a chicken each day for the last three days - Stewart, who is huge, then a Buckeye hen, also very big, and yesterday the last of my Buff Orpington hens.  I don't know what to do.  It is a daytime predator.  Yesterday I shut up the small gate that allows the chickens to roam free.  I thought it might be a fox that could squeeze through that opening, but whatever it is is getting in some other way.  I don't think it is a hawk, because it would prey on the smaller chickens, and so far it hasn't gotten a Campine.

I'm going out there to check fencing this morning, also to make sure my umbrella of fish line is still up well enough to keep hawks out, in case that is in fact the problem.

So depressing.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My wings are clipped

My left knee has bothered me off and on for the past seven or eight years.  I was on crutches for a bit one summer - doc thought it was a pulled ligament.

It has been getting worse and worse.  I finally went to my old friend who is the best knee surgeon in the area, having taken care of the Notre Dame sports teams for many, many years.  I decided that if anyone was going to operate on my knee, it would be Fred.

He explained that I am knock-kneed.  Surprise!  As if I haven't listened to my courderoys scraping together my whole life.  No way I could sneak up on anyone, unless I greased my knees.  Anyway, he explained that our body weight should be evenly distributed down our legs, through our knee caps, and on down to the ankles and feet, but my weight was being carried by the outside of the knee.  Apparently the aberation is worse in the left leg, because the meniscus is severely worn on the outside of the left knee.

When I went to Macedonia, my friend Nicola, whom I was visiting, pointed out that she is bow-legged, and when we stood side by side we spelled OX.  When I told that one to Fred, he got quite a laugh out of it. But I digress.

The pain has gotten progressively worse, and I finally went back to see how the knee was doing.  They took another X-ray.  The meniscus is gone - just ain't there anymore!  So it is bone on bone, which would explain why things are a bit unpleasant.

Fred said he wanted to do it as soon as possible.  I asked how long it would be after the surgery until I could resume milking.  He looked at me, then said, "Never.  Until you make arrangements to quit the heavy farm work, I will not even schedule the surgery."  And he meant it.  He stood in the doorway while I dialed a couple of numbers, left some messages explaining that I wouldn't be milking after the operation, and we finally agreed on March 2 for my surgery.

I pointed out that I loved the physical part of my work.  HE pointed out that as we get older, we have to reset our expectations.  He said he wished he could still run marathons, but he can't.  And I cannot farm.  It requires running through paddocks full of ruts (terrible condition on frozen ground), lifting 80 lb. bales (I pretty much just shove them around, can lift them maybe a foot or so, that's it), and manhandling recalcitrant cows.  He told me if I wanted physical activity, I should take up golf.  So there!  He wouldn't budge on it.  Said my farming days are over.  I have a torn rotator cuff, and I am avoiding surgery with plenty of PT to strengthen muscles, but he is right, I do not need to lift 80 lb. bales anymore, not even just one foot off the ground.

One of my friends said it should be MY decision, not his, whether or not I continue to farm, but frankly, I am a bit relieved that he pushed the issue.  I know I will just keep pushing myself, and then there will be the day when I have pushed it too far, when it is too late to recover from the latest injury, and so I am retiring from the heavy work.  Clay can take care of the chickens.  I am working on finding a new home for the cows.  I will miss them, but I will not miss having to ship a favorite cow, will not miss running on rutted ground twisting my ankles and knees, will not miss rounding up heifers who have not yet learned respect for electric fences.

I already have the crew lined up for greenhouse and garden.  There will still be plenty of work for me, but even some of the planning is getting offloaded to Androo.  He has been with me for four years, and he knows the gardens better than I do.  Time to let him have at it.

So semi-retirement is just around the corner.  I am shooting for a twenty hour week.  Any less than that, and I would go stir crazy.  So my next great adventure is about to begin.  Golf, anyone?

Monday, January 9, 2012

My son - "The acorn don't fall far from the tree"

My son Jim is an avid gardener.  It doesn't matter that he has a big job (VP of HR for a large manufacturing concern) and is on the road a lot.  He still finds time to garden.  There is an empty lot next to his house, and he asked the developer if he could have a few feet of it to enlarge his garden.  He thoroughly enjoys the added space and makes good use of it.

For the past couple of years, I have given him a flat of greenhouse plants for birthday and Christmas gifts.  This year, I added a little something extra.  I gave him my favorite garden seed catalog (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - Get your catalog by clicking HERE!) and told him I would plant two kinds of tomatoes in the greenhouse, his choice.

I already got his list - of course, many more than two.  I imagine him going through the catalog page by page, enjoying the pictures, dreaming of plants hanging heavy with fruit in the summer sun, and mouth watering in anticipation of the flavor of homegrown tomatoes).

Yup, the acorn don't fall far from the tree!

I ordered chicks this morning.

Well, I did it again - ordered more chicks.  But this year I got serious about egg production.  Both Black Austrolorps and Rhode Island Reds are excellent layers.  I need to have a couple of breeds like them so that I can keep buying the feed to take care of my Campines!  I am hooked on those marvelous little birds, but they hide their eggs.  That means I have a chicken whose production is not that good to begin with AND who hides her eggs - not to hatch them out, but just because these chickens seem to be just one short step from wild chickens.

I will butcher the last of the Buckeyes as soon as I bring the new chicks out to the Moop - probably early July.  Buckeyes are what are called dual-purpose birds, and the protocol is to let them lay for just one season, then butcher them.  They are heavy birds that will make great stewing hens.  My problem is that I let them lay for two seasons, so I am not getting many eggs from them, and being big birds, they eat a lot of feed.

I got conflicting information about the best brown egg layers.  I couldn't decide between the Austrolorps and the Rhode Island Reds, so I ordered a dozen of each.  Then I threw in a few Ameraucanas (they lay blue eggs, and I am amazed that the two I have are still laying pretty well, but they won't for much longer), another dozen Campines, and to round it out, some Welsummers.  Welsummers lay a very dark brown egg, and some of them are medium brown with dark brown spots.  Believe it or not, some of my customers buy my eggs because they like the mixture of colors that I provide, so I will be giving them something new next season.

The chicks usually arrive in June.  This year, it's March 19, so I should be seeing some eggs by July. I am always excited about getting my chicks.  This year, I am excited about perhaps making a little money from them!  LOL

It's a good day

Lucy was quite a bit of trouble after freshening.  She couldn't nurse her calf because her udder hung too low for the calf to get to a teat.  So it meant bringing her into the barn to milk her and then taking the milk back out to the calf in a nipple pail.  Of course, Lucy was frantic the whole time she was being milked, not understanding that she would get to be back with her calf in a few minutes.  I had to milk her with the water hose in hand, because nervous cows make lots of manure.

I got splattered with manure more than once, including in the face.  One always nose breathes when milking newly fresh cows!

After the first week, the calf caught on, but she was not drinking from two of the quarters, so I still had to bring Lucy in every day or so to get her milked out.  Leaving milk sit in the udder is a good way to get mastitis, so we didn't want to go there.

Mike realized that Lucy would behave better with other cows in the barn.  Rosie was always so good about going in the barn, and so we brought her in.  But then Rosie left us.  In anticipation of her departure, I had starting bringing in her daughter Lucky (now Lucky Rose) every two or three milkings.  Of course, that was a change, and cows don't like change.  So Lucy bolted a few times, broke down some fencing, and took to pooping in the barn again.

Things seem to be under control again.  Androo did a great job of repairing the fencing that Lucy had destroyed.  He also put up a bit of fence to keep Lucky Rose from jumping over the machinery to get to the clover hay bales on the other side.  BIG help.

The cows seem to have adjusted to losing Rosie, and I don't have to wander all over the paddock to find Lucy and Lucky Rose at milking time.  They came in docilely this morning, and nobody bolted or leaped over machinery or broke anything.  I came in from milking unscathed, and not needing a shower.  And Lucy milked so well!  Best milking ever.  With only one cow milking, the shareholders are not getting much, but everyone is so thankful that we have milk again, after the herd went dry in late October.

So the cow situation couldn't be better.  I think about finding them a new home, and then a morning like this one makes me want to hold on to them until I absolutely can no longer physically take care of them.  Bovines are beautiful animals.  I am bonded to them, and can't imagine this farm without them.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year!

Well, life goes on without Rosie.  It has been a real challenge to get Lucy in the barn without Rosie leading the way.  Lucky, Rosie's daughter, is not always as cooperative as her mother was, and she totally refused to go in the barn yesterday morning.  So I took in Blackie.

Blackie believes I have indoor plumbing, I think.  Every milker who reads this will know what I mean.  Even if I dawdle getting her in, even if I watch her pee and poop copiously on the way to the barn, she always saves some for indoors. So Blackie obliged by going to the bar in front of Lucy, Lucy then went in docilely to be milked - and Blackie pooped not once, but three times IN THE BARN.  Argh!!!!

Last night, I got Lucky in first, at which time she jumped over some equipment and got to the hay.  I had to chase her out of the barn and start over.  Double Argh!!!!!!!!!  Rosie, I miss you!

Everyone in the pasture was acting silly.  It was the snow.  They had a snow day, and there was much cavorting around, fake fighting, kicking up of heels.  Separating Lucky from the fun was a challenge - she is young and was in the thick of it.  And then when I finally got both Lucky and Lucy settled down and got the milker on Lucy, I heard a banging on the barn door.  It was Sam, trying to get in the barn.  He had managed to open the gate into the holding pen and was in there looking for Rosie, I am sure.  He is puzzled, to say the least.

It will take a while, but they will all adjust over time.  Lucy has quit crying for her calf.  Sam will find another "best friend."  Lucky will come into the barn without incident and stand quietly while I milk Lucy.

Life goes on.  Enjoy it.  And have a Happy New Year!

Love and good living to you all, from down here on the farm.

Susan, the Accidental Farmer.