Wednesday, December 1, 2010
We had a wonderful, busy day with friends coming to pick out their fresh dressed turkeys the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The weather couldn't have been better either. I forgot and let the chickens out that morning, so they were part of the party too. A great big thank you to everyone who made the journey out to the farm. A big thank you to Sissy for help on the decorations,(never my strong suite) and to all my kids and soon-to-be-kids for helping spread mulch.
On another note, God has provided again. With this cold weather now upon us, we needed a windbreak on each tractor. As you can see we are stylishly color coordinated in blue. My mom and dad came with gifts from Clearwater and one of them was a giant pool cover someone had thrown out. It just happened to be the right size to make six strips to cover the backs of the tractors with one to spare. Oh, thank you Lord! Now I can sleep at night not worrying if my babies are cold. We can lift the edges up in the daytime if it is warm, and slide them down at night. Perfect! Another recycled item put to good use.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
It's sad to see them go. We've watched them grow from day old chicks to grown up gobblers. Bill built them a mobile roost he calls the TRV the turkey roosting vehicle. They've done wonders for our pasture and they are eating things like cactus and blackberry leaves. But, you know what happens to all good turkeys on Thanksgiving. We've enjoyed them so much this year, that we're already planning when the chicks can come again. We want to try some heritage breeds this spring. Maybe we'll even keep some breeding pairs.
On another melancholy note, we had to say goodbye to the sheep. It was with many tears. We simply don't have the fencing yet on our farm to protect the sheep or move them from pasture to pasture. Maybe the sales from the turkeys this year can help with that. We were able to sell the sheep back to our wonderful, understanding friends the Cox's. The money went to a freezer. Another one. How dull. Our house looks like an appliance store already. Bill was right. We needed it. I can see that now as the twenty pounders go into the new freezer and just about fill it to the top. But I still want to farm with my heart, not always my head. Most of the time my heart wants something warm, fuzzy and cuddly.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Today Bill and I finished up the roof on the egg mobile. We had to take off the old tarp because it was tattered after less than a year. We've been using recycled billboards now and they are so much stronger than tarps. Would you believe they sent us one that was our laughing chicken green? Kansas City Power and Light uses the same green. Who knew? Thanks guys! The words that show under the roof are "Innovative" and "Dynamic". Just the kind of inspiration I need to see when we go collect the eggs. Soon our new flock should be laying. Our market regulars will be thrilled. They've been lining up for the few dozen we bring and I hate to disappoint people when we run out.
Our new ram arrived on Sunday afternoon. Lewis and Janice Cox brought him to us and I am so grateful because we don't own a livestock trailer. He was especially enamored with Pearl this morning. Here is a picture of him whispering sweet nothings to her. The two of them cuddled all day. So sweet. The lambs should come in February. Oh, to hold a new lamb in my arms. Is there anything better? Sigh.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Getting ready for church Sunday morning, checking on everyone before I go. "Baaa Baaaa BAAAAAA!" What is going on? Blueberry Muffin is tangled again in the electric netting and wearing it like a necktie. How do you catch a sheep without breaking a plastic net? As soon as I got close to her she started dragging it and raking it against the chainlink on the dog kennel. I caught hold of the net, worked my way to her and jumped on top of Blueberry. She yanked and kicked. I wrestled her to the ground and we both took a breather. We must be evenly matched wrestling partners. I eased her head and legs out of the netting and yes, she broke a bit of it, but not badly. As soon as she was free, we both stood up and shook the dust off. Some whole corn lured the three of them back into their night time kennel. I gave them a big flake of hay to chew on until we got back from church. The net could be untangled later. I was just glad to have found her before we left. She would have been baking in the sun with no way to get to the water or rolled tighter into the net. Thank you Lord for watching out for us!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Here we are on our 18th batch of chicks this year. That means we've had over 2000 chickens live out happy lives here. Whew! That's a lot of chickens! Recently we've had a frustrating development. The last 7 or 8 batches have had migets in them. It started out with one small one running around under the big guys. We thought it was cute and kept her as a pet for a while and let her run around with the laying hens. Then we saw three and four in the next batch we received. Now we're up to 17 t0 20 tiny sized chicks to a batch and it's not cute anymore. We've tracked the situation, called our hatchery, sent pictures, switched hatcheries and still this is happening. Here are pictures of the last batch of chicks the very same day they arrived in the mail. You can clearly see a difference in size. The other picture is of two 4 week old birds from the same batch. These small guys just don't grow. ....but they love to eat! We've switched hatcheries once again to find a different gene pool. It seems many hatcheries get their eggs from the same source in Arkansas. Ideal hatchery in Texas hatches out their own, so we'll see if the big stuff really does come from Texas.
It's been so frustrating because the summertime is when we usually get our bigger growth and this year it just hasn't been there. The birds are still healthy, but dress out much smaller. I've even given some away on freecycle when they were too small even for our Mini catagory. Such is the world of farming. We let the last batch of chickens grow for an extra week and they did get big enough for some Mediums and a few Larges. The next batch we dress out on Monday looks like it could be a mixed lot. We'll see.
On a happier note, The turkeys are growing like crazy! They love to eat grass and I even heard a gobble this morning. Our list of customers wanting one is growing too. It was a scary thing ordering the chicks without knowing if they would sell, but God is blessing it. They are so much fun to raise. I may see if I can sell them next summer too.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Okay. We're getting serious now. I lost my last duck yesterday and it's not funny. We think there are 12 chickens gone now. Haven't seen all the casualties, we've just seen the empty spaces in the egg cartons. A dozen eggs a day less adds up. This predator is costing us. So.....thanks to our friends John and Margie Knot, we now have the big trap set where the chickens used to be. We moved the egg mobile and as soon as we can inch it up towards the hot wire, we'll get an electric net around the flock.
The trap worked right away. Just like it was supposed to, but we forgot to tell the chickens that they are supposed to stay on the outside and whatever is eating them is supposed to go on the inside. Good thing we found her.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Oh boy have we been having fun with new toys here on the farm! First we got our new carport over our processing area. What a difference. We processed Monday with a cool breeze blowing through the shade. Ahhhhh. Then Bill made a bunch more carrying cages for getting the chickens from the tractor to the processing area. We'll be able to carry 80 to 100 birds. You can see them stacked on the right side of the carport.
Last, but not least (my favorite) we got our first three sheep. Janice and Lewis Cox from Oak Lane farm in Lake City have wonderful breeding stock. We ended up with a Katahdin, a Katahdin cross, and a Florida Native cross. They are all ewes and will be ready to breed next month. They're getting to know us and we're getting to know how to be shepherds. They even know my name. When they see me with the feed bucket they say, "Maaaaa."
I love having them and we'll be ready to harvest our first lambs next year.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Hurray for Thanksgiving! I love turkeys. They are the cutest! Even when they get big and funny looking their personalities make them a joy to raise. Today we received our first shipment. I've ordered 45 for the season, 15 at a time. They are raised with the broilers because the chickens teach them how to live. They have to watch the chickens eat to know where the food is. Yet they are constantly looking for something different to peck. Like my ring. If the market for turkeys is good enough, I'd love to raise them all season long.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Lately we had some sad events here. Something killed one duck, then three more ducks. Not just for food, mind you, but for fun and left the victims lay in the grass. Then, the same something came in broad daylight while we were at church and massacred four chickens. Feathers were everywhere. The casualties were heavy. I was angry and filled with a feeling of helplessness. So much for our "vigilant" guard dogs. Worthless.
Bill took a walk into the woods the next day and spotted a very large raccoon running away. He must have developed a taste for our chickens and was coming in for more. We moved the Egg Mobile and we are taking the dogs down into the woods at different times during the day. We may have scared him off, but I dare not get complacent. The electric netting is going up as quickly as we can get the grounding stakes in the ground. It's amazing how much impact losing four layers has made on our egg production. Four less eggs a day adds up to more than two dozen a week we won't be collecting. It makes me realize how valuable each creature is to the whole system. On a happier note, Our remaining two female ducks are doing fine after getting over the trauma and have begun to lay. I set them up in a new house in the garden, but the first opportunity they had they waddled back to the old cage and put themselves inside. I guess that's were they'll be staying for now.
Friday, June 11, 2010
On the way to collecting todays eggs, Bill stepped over what he thought was a splat of chicken poop on the ground. On further examination, he found a treasure. We'd heard there had been Indians here, now we had proof : a beautiful arrowhead made of stone. To see it in the field and hold it in our hands gave me a feeling of belonging to a long history of people that used this piece of land. We are like pearls on a necklace, each holding its place. I'd love to know the reason this arrowhead landed right here, 100 ft away from the lakebed. A missed hunting shot, or a hit and a meal for his family? We'll never know, but I get to hold it in MY hand now, in this place of time. In 2010, chickens peck and squabble, and lay their daily eggs where a hunting party once hid in the palmettos.
On another note. Check out my daughter's new blog. She's got a knack for writing and an artists eye. I never know what to expect next. You'll find it at http://www.beautifuleverafters.blogspot.com/
Monday, June 7, 2010
Hot days and loads of rain have coaxed the wild blackberries to hang heavy with beaded fruit. My ankles are scratched and my fingers smart with new barbs, but oh how sweet it is to fill a bucket with gleanings from the field. The best place we've found is in front of the studio. The mosquitoes buzz there too. Tonight I covered my legs with Skin So Soft, Catherine picked garden mint and rubbed it on her shins. We felt protected in our cloud of scent for only about 15 minutes but here is a picture of our bounty. Maybe more picking tomorrow.
That's not the only thing new at the farm. Eva, the pound puppy, joined us a week ago and is already having a great time with Jonny showing her the routine of being a farm dog. In true puppy fashion, she pulled a wet paintbrush across her body and across the carpet, waited to get into the house to pee, and ate a whole chicken foot out of the compost. She's a keeper!
Last but not least, my first try at a garden is yielding lots of zucchini! We've been stuffing and sauteing, and giving it away. It's still coming in. They grow stealthily, and creep to great sizes when you're not looking.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Today I picked up peeping box at the post office full of our next flock of laying hens. These Ohio girls are 50 americaunas that lay the green eggs, and 50 black australorps that lay brown eggs. We should start seeing some of those eggs in about 5months. Our other flock is really pumping the eggs out now. Those 68 hens are consistently giving us almost five dozen a day! They have free range of the farm and do a great job searching out bugs and goodies. They come running when we open the back door hoping for a kitchen handout! We also added 3 pairs of ducks that should be laying any day now too. Can't wait.
Friday, April 2, 2010
Last week we noticed a spot in the fence that looked like a car ran into it. After a closer look, Bill noticed hair stuck in the wire. Deer hair. That deer hit the fence so hard it pulled off the post and broke the wires. We thought maybe it was being chased by coyotes. Our dog Johnny has been very clingy latey so we thought something may have scared him. Well.... this morning I was out before sunrise and heard a very strange noise coming from the woods. It was like a wild cat but it repeated about 5 times. We thought we had seen a panther before. Now I knew it could be back. Bill got on the computer and typed in panther sounds. Guess what matched the sounds I heard this morning...a panther in heat! Oh great. Well, now we are really thinking of getting dog number 2! We'll keep our eyes open for sure.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Well, we got two today actually! A green one and a brown one. The hens found a bit of hay in the brooder and they started burrowing in it and making lots of clucking. Bill came home and found two eggs inside. Finally! Breakfast for tomorrow.
It's 12:30am. We just finished bagging and tagging and freezing 46 chickens and 6 ducks. Yesterday was processing day. Whew. My feet hurt. Still filling orders. I'm still not able to give everyone what they asked for but we are getting closer. This time we had one jumbo. The cold weather has kept them from gaining weight like they did last summer. Soon we'll be bringing eggs to the market.
The bunnies are doing great. I've got three litters and two more on the way. Here's a picture of the two week old Polyface line rabbits. Eyes just opened. Boy are they jumpy. She's got eight in there!
Off to bed. It's hard to make complete sentences....
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Yes, we did it! Finally finished it. They LOVE it. They love being able to run around the yard now the most. The very first night they all went in and I just closed the door behind them. Wow. It worked. I just hope they stay out of my garden. I may have to fence it off now.
That's me moving ducks to a tractor in the rain yesterday. Ducks are waterproof. They don't get wet under their feathers. Which has brought us to another hard choice. We started processing ducks yesterday and found out that our equipment cannot separate the ducks from their feathers. We struggled for three hours until we finally decided that we can't offer dressed duck for sale. At least not right now. Until we find out another way to dress them, our career in duck is over. (It sounded like a good idea at the time.)
We also moved our next batch of chicks outside to a tractor. I love to watch them in the grass for the first time. They start right away to scratch and peck whatever looks good. They all gang up on one spot. It's so cute. Another order of 100 chicks is on its way to us tomorrow. Gotta get the brooder ready for them now.
Our family of customers is growing fast. God is so good. We are stepping up production as fast as we can to meet the need. Each week at the farmers markets we get more names on our waiting list.
On a sad note, I lost two litters of rabbits in the cold weather. But one litter survived and is doing great! It's my new NZW doe. She had three this first time. They are fat little butterballs. Today I am re-breeding the does that lost their litters. It will be warmer in 29-33 days when they are ready to kindle.
Gotta go for now!
Monday, February 8, 2010
Last week I received a new shipment of 100 broilers plus an added surprise. The hatchery had mistakenly attached my order to another order and it all came to us. 200 assorted bantams were supposed to fly to New Mexico, but they ended up in Florida instead! Oh Boy! I was ready for 100, but not 300!!!! Thank God we had built the 2nd brooder. I divided both brooders in half and bought more feeders and waterers and nestled everyone in. What a day! I've included pictures of our babies. Right now our nursery holds 40 ducks, 100 broilers and 100 bantams. (I was able to find homes for half the bantams.) Can't wait to see what they turn out to be.
Today was our processing day, but it didn't work out as expected either. We started and the birds just weren't up to the weight they needed to be. I think it's the cold weather. They've used so much energy keeping warm that it has slowed their growth. We've decided to give them another week. I guess that's part of working with live creatures. They do what they want despite our schedules.
Bill is standing in front of our latest project. Our Egg-mobile. We got some car wheels at the junk yard and Bill is making a wagon-like structure on top. It should hold about 100 birds. I want to paint it. Maybe it will be pink. ?? Pink is for girls. We'd be able to find them in the field for sure. I'll keep you posted.
I've also included a picture of my RV with it's pretty bonnet. This is what Bondo Bertha looks like with the billboard on top. Even with all the rain we've had, everything inside is dry. I've got a new tent stove from ebay that Bill is going to hook up for me so I can have heat. Bertha's off grid and will probably stay that way. I bought a new oil lamp too. It's starting to feel like a club house in there.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Our 40ft RV sits off to the side of the property in a quiet setting. It's been packed with all my art stuff in bins and boxes just waiting for me to come over and play. Since we bought "Bondo Bertha" as we lovingly call her, there have been many issues concerning leaks. (Hence the name) But the solution came in a huge billboard I ordered online. Who knew? You can order used billboards and use them for cool stuff. My wonderful husband built a framework over the RV to support it. I'll have to post another picture tomorrow with the final results. Thank you Verizon!
So today, in a dry RV, I pulled open those boxes and sorted my treasures into all the wonderful drawers and shelves and it's beginning to feel like my own space. Soon I'll receive the camp stove I ordered on ebay to have heat inside. Who needs electricity? Can you hear my contented sigh?
Friday, January 15, 2010
Yeah!!!! I actually painted a picture yesterday. It felt so good. The chicks were contented with the warmth of the day so I didn't obsess over them like I have been. Sweet Bill went to the High Springs market without me and I got to stay home and do art. These are cows that live up the street. I love how curious the calves are while they are young and discovering the world around them. They are cautious and curious at the same time. They will look at you, then lift their tails and run away.
My studio space is still such a mess, but the day was gorgeous. The outdoors light has spoiled me to painting indoors anyway. In my next blog I'll have to show you what the RV looks like now as an art hideaway.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Can you say Cold?!!!! On the coldest day of the year, our first winter in the north country we worked outside all day building another brooder. In order to step up production, we decided to build brooder number two so we don't have to rush out little ones who are not ready to go onto the ground. Can you blame them in this weather? In order to keep our babies warm, we put up the art tent around brooder number one. This really worked and probably saved their little lives. The cold stayed out and three heat lamps kept it warm inside. Here's a picture of the outside of the craft hut and the inside with the brooder. The new brooder slid right in facing it. It's a tight squeeze, but it made it. Our new chicks come next week. The batch that is in brooder number one are two weeks old. I have to take a picture of the ducks. You won't believe how large they are! The other picture is of Micah while he works on a bird feeder. I'm not sure he can actually see the wood.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Lots and lots of new friends at the markets! We've been going to High Springs Farmer's Market on Thursdays, and Alachua County Farmer's Market on Saturdays with our beautiful chickens wrapped and frozen. It's been a rewarding experience to hear people say, "We're so happy we found you!" or "You're the last piece of the puzzle I needed!" It makes it all worth while getting up on frosty mornings to move the chicken tractor. I'm so proud of what we've been presenting people, and so thankful. I know God has been partnering with us all the way.
Our layers are growing and starting to jump out of the tractor when we open the lid. Our next project is to build them a movable egg-mobile of their own. This week we received a new shipment of chicks and this time we added 15 ducks to the batch. White Pekins are supposed to grow just as fast as the cornish cross so in 8weeks we should have duck in the freezer too. Everyone has been excited about this new offering. If they work out, I'd like to keep them coming.
I've posted some pictures our son, Ben took. We've been enjoying all the kids home from college. Catherine, Ben, and Ben's girlfriend Danielle. They've been such a help. Everyone goes back this week and it will be just the three of us again in a quieter house. Ah well. Maybe I'll be painting again soon.