Monday, September 30, 2013

Filling horns

Yesterday we did our semi-annual job of spreading BD-500 on the land here.  It is our only fertilizer application on the pastures, other than what the dairy herd is doing naturally.

We fill horns with our own manure in the fall, then bury the horns until spring, when we dig them up for our first application.  The composted manure is knocked out of about half of the horns and the rest stay underground until our fall task.  We usually have 15 to 20 people here, and each person gets a bucket with about three gallons of water in it and a stick.  I put a fourth cup of this horn manure into each pail, and each person gets busy creating vortices and chaos in the bucket for an hour. 

At the end of the hour, we really don't care much about the manure, the remains of which have sunk to the bottom of the pail.  What we do care about is the energized water, which is applied with pine boughs, cut from the trees here on the farm.  That one fourth of horn manure is good for fertilizing up to one acre, a pretty amazing feat.

We did all 30 paddocks, plus my greenhouse and gardens yesterday.  Oh, and the three calf pens as well.  Can't forget about them!

Tina never misses this operation, but yesterday she couldn't be here.  She is always the one in charge of refilling the horns for next year's applications.  Well, I was saving that job for her, but Ava insisted that she and her dad could fill them.  So I sent them out with spoons and instructions.  They hooked up with Kristina and her two kids Keira and Dane, and before I knew it, the job was done!  The kids had a ball, and it was nice to know that everything got completed in that one afternoon.  Here are some pics of the kids burying the filled horns, as well as some pictures of BD-500 days past.

Friday, September 27, 2013

News from the farm

Things have been hectic lately.  Kim is such an integral part of this farm!  He got double pneumonia, spent nearly a week in the hospital, then couldn't work for several more days.  He came back on light duty last week, but it was obvious that he couldn't work more than a couple of hours, then had to go home to rest.  Thank goodness for Jake, a high school senior who was here every morning at 5:30 before school, to fill in for Kim in the dairy barn.

Little by little, Kim has been training Clay to do more of the work around here.  Clay is really shining!  He is even moving the cows from paddock to paddock now.  He is also doing nearly all of my picking from the garden since Androo left.  And he is picking up more duties in the greenhouse.  Clay has really blossomed in his seven years here at the farm.

Goldie's three chicks are learning to go to the Moop to sleep at night.  Of course, they need a little help.  I put them in a tote with a lid when they bed down in the water tank in the old barn, then haul them to the Moop.  Night before last, it was a little too light when Clay and I moved them, and they jumped back out of the Moop.  I thought I would have to start the procedure over, but lo and behold I saw one of them jump into the Moop.  I checked in the back of it, and there they were, all three of them hunkered down on the floor. 

Last night, I carried them to the Moop in the tote, lifted them out one by one and set them on a roost, and they stayed!  Hopefully soon they will be completely integrated into the bigger flock.  I am pretty sure that Little Susie is properly named and is a pullet.  The other two are a breed I am not used to, and it is a crap shoot.  I can hope for some hens out of the six chicks that were born here this year.  The three that hatched on June 2 should be starting to lay within a few weeks if they are pullets.  I have not heard any of them crowing, so I can hope!  I'm looking for those first small pullet eggs.  In the chicken world, the boys are not so valuable.  And since I can't bear to butcher them, I will have to sell them.  I already have four roosters, and that is about enough for the size of my flock.

The calves are growing!  Scrappy was born in February and is quite big.  Big Ben was always big from day one, and he is keeping up with Scrappy.  Eddie is a little smaller, and of course Lily is the smallest, a beautiful heifer born the latest.

My business at both Purple Porch and the South Bend Farmers Market are thriving this year in spite of the poor production in the garden.  I'm still selling frozen pork from the pig project.  So all in all, receipts are up quite a bit from last year.  Every little bit counts!

Farming is hard work, but the rewards are great.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This year's garden

I just spent an hour (I don't really have an hour for such things) compiling pictures of gardens past.  I want to show it to Kim.  He keeps telling me that we will get past this year of disasters in the garden, and all will be well next year.  I want him to see what beautiful gardens I had in the past.  And for the most part, Androo, Clay and I did them alone!

This year we had a lot of people working the garden, but it was only because we were playing catch-up, after finally realizing that my former farming partner was not going to provide the labor for anything that he didn't feel like doing.  He's an idea man, a dreamer.  The winter greenhouse turned out to be a good thing, but everything else he started was half finished when he finally left.  And that meant the spring greenhouse was a disaster - about 5% to 10% germination - and by mid-April the garden wasn't even cleared yet of last year's debris, much less prepped and planted for this year's early crops.

So we have been digging out of a hole for months.  I called to see if Androo could spare any time, and lo and behold he could.  He singlehandedly resurrected the garden, and I managed to eke out enough product to take care of my one restaurant account plus 10 members in the CSA.  We had 17 last year, and I wanted to increase to 25 this year.  But there is no way that could have happened given the poor garden and greenhouse this year.  Besides, by the time I had enough produce to start selling my Market Basket packages, most people who want to be in a CSA had signed up somewhere else!

I know Androo was upset by the state of the garden, but he had no reason to be.  Given what he started with, I am so very thankful for everything he did.  I retained my restaurant account, I have made most (it's never ALL) of my CSA members happy and have been doing a booming business at Purple Porch each week.  I have sold or used for myself at least 90% of what I get out of the garden, and the chickens happily take care of the rest.

So why am I messing with a collage of gardens past?  Because I want to be reminded that we can do it - next year's garden will be the best ever!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blessed rain!!!

Since June 30, my farm has gotten only 4.75" of rain, until last night, that is.

In July, rainfall totalled two inches, in August 2.75", and in September a big fat zero!  Pitiful!  Thank goodness we have 30 paddocks for the cows to graze on, so we made it through July and August with little affect on our milk production.  However, by September, every paddock had been grazed at least twice, and what grass was left was brown and crunchy. 

We got a shipment of hay yesterday - $875, that is what this drought is costing us.  But last night, the clouds opened.  I am about to head out to the rain gage in my pj's, since the TV report said rainfall is spotty, ranging from 0.16" in South Bend to nearly 2" in Valparaiso.  My farm falls between those two, so I am hoping for something closer to the higher number.  I'm off to the rain gage!

So just got back in the house - 7/8" of rain, and more to come.  The garden will love it, the grass will love it, the shareholders will love it.  Rain means more milk.  And the cows munched on fresh hay all day yesterday.  Life is good.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Goldie has retired from the mama job

Late yesterday afternoon, Goldie ran frantically back and forth in front of the chicken run.  I finally broke down and let her in.  Chicks were not with her.

At dusk, I went to the barn to see if by any chance the chicks went back there on their own.  Yup, they did.  They seemed quite settled in, no crying for mama.  And there were two eggs in there!!  Goldie is laying again, and she has definitely retired from her mama job.

It has been so fascinating to watch this process.  Listening to her talk to them made me even more aware of how many different sounds a hen can make when tending to her family.  I watched Goldie break up a piece of cheese I gave her into three pretty equal parts and lay them in front of the chicks.  I saw her take after both of my dogs when they got too close, and I had no worries that they would harm those chicks!  Goldie would take care of them!!!  She is such a good mom.  But she also knew when it was time to cut the ties.

I am looking forward to moving to my river house in town - meeting with the kitchen contractor this afternoon, and I'm excited about that.  However, I am not excited about leaving the chickens when the farm sells.  They have taught me so much, and it will be a sad day when I tell them good-bye.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

My heart is breaking.

My heart is breaking.  Goldie is done with the chicks.  She is trying to get back with the flock, and the chicks are still just a little too small to put with them.  She has abandoned them today, and they are all peeping and looking for her.  I can't find her.  If I do, I will lock her in the barn with them, at least for today.

Kim and Clay were working on the chicken run, cleaning out trees and brush to put up new deer netting over the top.  Kim is in the hospital now, won't be out for days, and he will not be in any shape to work on the chicken run for a while.  He pushed himself too hard, and I feel guilty about it.  There is always too much do around here, and Kim is so conscientious!  But now he is paying the price.  Kim, get well soon!  Hope you are feeling better today.

I have hired a new person to fill in at least for a bit, until Kim is back on his feet, but I don't really have time to explain what needs to be done before I leave for market today.  Maybe tomorrow.  Then I can put Goldie AND her chicks into the big chicken run, and hopefully the hawks will leave them alone.

I just checked again, and I cannot find Goldie anywhere.  Of course, I always worry that the worst happened.  I hope no wild critter got her!

Looking for mama.

Looking for mama.