My Morning Chicken and Farm Stuff

What’s happening on our farm

I often have my coffee early in the morning just after the sun light creeps through the trees to my east along the road. It is cool and more often than not the newspaper has not been delivered to our mail box. Birds are singing, the barn yard animals are honking and the farm is stretching to wake up. We have bird feeders in the trees in front of the house and during the day small amounts of bird seed fall to the ground. I get great pleasure in seeing my “morning chicken” each day under the feeder eating the spilled grain. She is a Rhode Island Red and stands out against the deep green of the lawn grass. All things are right when she is in her place. She appears not to have a care in the world. I wonder is she is aware of the pleasure she brings.

Life on a farm is very different from having a day job in the city. I live by my lists, both written and remembered. There is no “boss” to tell me what to do. There is also no end to the tasks (that no one but me is going to do) that have to be accomplished every day and that changes over the year as the seasons change.

There are NO annual evaluations with made up lists of what I did right and what areas of improvement I need to focus on. On the farm, we are our own evaluator. Probably more harsh than any former boss I had.

Currently we have baby chicks in brooders that require regular attention to be sure they have feed, water and the right temperature provided by heat lamps. Chicks that arrived a few weeks ago are about ready to move to larger quarters, but with the same standard of care. Another batch arrived 10 days ago and need to stay in the shop for a bit longer. Friday we get yet another box of day old chicks to brood. In time, all will be in our new egg mobile and providing 9-10 dozen eggs a day. These will be real free range chickens living in a cow pasture, so these eggs will be as healthy as you can get with deep yellow yokes.

The last baby calf of the season was born this week, a bull. His mom was a heifer and she waited weeks after all the other girls to get her business done. I suppose she liked the extra attention of our checking her several times a day. Most heifers and cows have their babies without assistance, but she got a little extra help from us. In time, she may have had the baby calf without help, but since we lost too many calves this season we wanted to take no chances. Javier and I pulled a little so the calf would be born with ease. He popped out in Javier’s arms as I pulled his front hoofs. There is a special feeling in the birth of an animal that you participate in.

We took soil samples a few days ago. That entails going over each field and sticking a steel probe in the earth to obtain a one inch sample six inches long. On a 20 acre field, you collect perhaps two quarts of earth. Some years we send many individual samples to see how the minerals are in each paddock. This year we only collected two samples; one from Rocky Branch and one from home. The amount of mineral and nitrogen we use at each place are different. Rocky Branch takes two trucks loads and one at home. This year we will mix Cowboy Bermuda seed with a portion of the mineral and nitrogen and re-plant 35 acres. This is an experiment to see how this forage grass performs. After the seed is distributed we will either drag a tine or run a cultipacker over the ground to set it to germinate. The soil samples let us be exact in determining what minerals and micro nutrients the soil needs.
We do not use Texas A&M’s soil lab except to check nitrogen levels. The method of mineral extraction they use confuses physics. It does not properly evaluate your minerals and how they relate to what you are growing.

We moved a group of male goats off their winter paddock a few weeks ago into an area that we had fenced off from others We wanted to confine the goats in a forest area and not be on pasture. At first, we had two yearling bulls with them, but the bulls escaped by swimming under a fence in the lake to join some cows. They had to be caught and returned to the bull paddock. Around the forest is a barbed wire fence. This week we added three more wires that make it next to impossible for the goats to pass through. They are now confined in the forest, with lots to eat, and will go about their business clearing up the under brush. We laid 400 Ft of water hose to them for water, but will be laying a buried water line soon. We will also build them a shed to stay out of the rain.

We have had rain and the night temperature is approaching 60 degrees, so the grass is starting to respond. It still looks grim for hay production with the number of cattle we graze and the lack of sustained rain. Our number one hay meadow has very light spring grass versus years when we had a large cutting in May. Our current plan is to move 35 cows and their calves onto this field in a week and let them graze it short, then pull them off and fertilize it hoping for rain. If we are lucky, we will get at least one cutting of hay in the early summer. We have already grazed our number two hay meadow, but not yet fertilized it. If we do not have enough grass this year, the cattle get first preference on grass and we will have to buy hay from away and truck it in.

Hopefully in four weeks, we will have a lot of vegetables to sell here at the farm and in farmer’s markets in our area. Our summer vegetables have struggled to get started with the many cool nights we have had, but they are starting to grow. We will be planting more seed this week for some varieties that like warmer day sand nights.

This week we will spend a lot of time in the berry field. We have already weed trimmed under some of the rows, but there are many more to work on. Despite two hail storms, it appears we will have a very good blueberry crop. Blackberries will be lighter this year. We have had a cane virus that killed many of the plants. We replanted in the rows, but those new plants will not produce this year. I expect there will be a need for more replanting this winter. The new plantings of blackberries are doing well. We have irrigation on them and will start fertilization soon. These new blackberries will more than double our production. We expect to have blueberries around Memorial Day or a few day later.

At Rocky Branch, we have a baby fox living in the hay barn. On some days it is laying in the sun staying warm. We only started to have more fox this past year. They are so graceful as they fun when spotted. Of course, at home I think fox were in part responsible for the loss of 60 chickens last winter.

Beside baby calves, we have several baby goats in the old barn now. Unfortunately we have lost more than we had born live. For some odd reason the goats delivered premature this year. I have no idea why this happened. The Spanish/Boar goats have not yet delivered.

The next major project is to trench and lay about 2,000 Ft or more of water line at home. This will allow us to rotation graze here and also be the water source for our egg mobile.

Coffee is finished. I had bacon and eggs on the veranda. Now it is time to go to work. I am running way late today. It is already 8:45 AM, but its Sunday too.

What a life!

What’s not to love.....

Happy Mother’s Day