Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Story That the Rhode Island Red Hen Had to Tell

Nestled comfortably in the hay, one of our Rhode Island Red hens was sitting.  She had tucked herself away from all the activity of the cows bellowing for green grass in the yard, the goat kids jumping around, and all the other chickens scratching and competing for tasty bugs and worms.  I think if you look at her eyes below, you can see that she is unhappy that I found her.

But if you listen closely, she has a story to tell.  Even though she can't speak in any language that I can discern, her actions tell a story, if you have ears to hear and eyes to see...

The question that has been around for a long, long time is: "What came first?  The chicken or the egg?"  I think even Aristotle deemed it a real dilemma as it was an infinite loop.  Chicken or Egg?

What a silly question!  At least for Christians who believe the Bible. 

According to The Bible, the chicken came first.

"And God blessed them, saying "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the water in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth." - Genesis 1:22

So there you have it!  Just as it happened in the hay on Our Maker's Acres Family Farm, it happened back in creation.  The chicken came first and then the egg.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sowing Seeds of Corn (not weeds)

“Your mind is the garden, 

your thoughts are the seeds.

The harvest can either be flowers or weeds.”

– William Wordsworth

Don't you just love planting seeds?  There is something miraculous about it that no matter how many times I work up the soil, dig a hole, drop a seed in and cover it, I still am in awe to see a living plant pop up out of the soil from a seed.  From such a small thing comes so much!  Take the time to look at the food on your plate and realize that so much of what you are eating came from a tiny seed. 

Several weeks ago I worked up the patch of ground in the side yard.  While I had it worked up real good, I applied a good dose of agricultural lime.  I think that is going to help unlock some of the nutrients that have been tied up in the soil.  I wanted to raise this bed up since in heavy rains, the north side of this patch will flood.

The Corn Patch
There is a part of me that likes order.  According to some publications, corn is to be planted 4-6 inches apart.  I'm not going to measure each hole, but I made a guide to help me.  I found a cane walking stick in the corner of the garage that Benjamin or Russ had made in our Webelos Den quite a few years ago.

I used a Sharpie to make lines 5 inches apart on the cane pole.  I laid the pole down and made holes in the soft soil at each line.  Then I moved it forward 8 inches and repeated the holes. 

Here I have a handful of corn seeds.  See how shriveled up and dry they look? 

This year I'm planting a new type of Sweet Corn.  I enjoy planting the open pollinated, heirloom seeds and I still intend on planting them.  However, I have experienced some issues with the ears not filling out completely.  This year I found a Non-GMO hybrid sweet corn called "Gotta Have it."  I hope it lives up to its name!

Russ helped me by dropping a corn seed into each hole.

And then we filled each hole with some garden soil.

We watered it all in and in just a few days, like miracles, they popped up out of the ground with purpose.  Hopefully that purpose will be to provide our family with delicious sweet corn in about 78 days!

Now, we'll keep the corn patch watered and weeded...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Little Running Back And Why You Can't Cry Over Spilled Milk

One of our 3 triplet goat kids is named Georgie and she has a lot of personality.  Tricia has grown to be especially fond of her.  Georgie is the biggest of the triplets and as a result, she gets a lot of the milk.  When goats have triplets, the math doesn't exactly work out since a goat has 2 teats.  3 kids fighting over 2 teats means one is going to be left out.  When Tricia tries to catch Georgie to separate her so that the other 2 can drink, Georgie doesn't exactly oblige.

Georgie dodges, jumps, jukes and jives.  She's got elusive moves to the extent that Tricia calls her the "little running back."  When she finally catches her, Georgie is very affectionate.

She'll let Tricia hug her and kiss Tricia's cheek:

She makes ol' Tricia very happy and even whispers nice things in her ear.  I wonder if Tricia might like her "little running back" more than her husband!

Except that Georgie is mischievous.  All goats are, actually.  They are like having some bad little kids around your house - always into trouble of some sorts and causing mayhem.  When we milk the cows, it is about a 20 minute task, brushing the cows' bellies, washing the udders, lubricating the teats, and then hand milking into buckets. 

When done, we'll generally set the buckets of milk atop a table in the corner while we un-hobble the cows.

Pro-tip: You cannot do that when you have a mischievous little running back in the barn!  Curious Georgie jumped up on the top of the table.  (Goats can really jump!)  She promptly knocked the bucket of fresh milk off of the table.  We watched with dismay as the rich, creamy, fresh milk soaked into the barn floor.

But Tricia promptly said, "No use crying over spilled milk!"

Especially when Georgie, the little running back was the perpetrator.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Spring Brings Flowers... Along With Something Else

The weather has been fantastic lately.  Cool mornings with brilliant sunshine and the bluest skies you've ever seen.  The rains really invigorated growth on all of the plants, most noticeably Tricia's roses, by activating the rose fertilizer that I sprinkled around the base of the roses.  Her white rose bit the dust last year, but the yellow and pink roses are as happy as pigs in mud.

The pink rose yields a beautiful flower - just about as perfect as you can imagine.

The yellow rose isn't as perfect in shape or symmetry, but it has a really nice fragrance.  The pink one has no scent at all.

Flowers attract appreciation by others that aren't human.  Bees!  Bees are everywhere right now.  Tricia brought it to my attention, much to her chagrin, that our colony of bees (or columny of bees!) has moved back into the column that supports our side porch.  Tricia doesn't like the bees living there as it is not hospitable to guest to have swarming bees by the door that greets most of our visitors.

After the bees left the column last fall, it was my job to get caulk and fill up the crack between the top of the column and the ceiling so that it blocked their entrance.  My intentions were good.  My follow-through was not.  I put one layer of caulking along the bottom and decided I would let it dry before putting the second layer.

But the problem is, I never got back around to putting the second (and third layers).  Those two layers would have completely blocked the bees' re-entry to their home in the column.  Next time they move out, maybe I'll completely patch up the holes.  While Tricia doesn't like them in the column, I love having them there as they pollinate our garden and fruit trees. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

2018 Meat Birds - Six Weeks Old

Very early Saturday morning, we had some bad weather accompanied by strong winds blow through.  We were prepared, though.  The night before I had used a sledge hammer to drive a metal stake into the ground and tied a rope around the stake and the frame of the chicken tractor.  This (hopefully) would hold the tractor down.  We had learned a couple of years ago that the tarp on the tractor turns it into a sail and in high winds, it will flip it over and kill chickens.

After Saturday morning's weather, I learned that I need to stake down BOTH sides!

Staking it down
The winds picked up the tractor and shifted it, breaking one of the wheel levers in the process and setting the tractor down on a water bucket.  Fortunately, none of the chickens were injured or killed and only four of them were outside the tractor.  They were quickly caught and returned to safety.

A broken wheel lever that must be repaired
I simply used the old wheel lever as a template and cut another one out of a 2x6 and then drilled holes in it and put it all together.  It isn't as pretty as the first one, but it works!  I was able to move the tractor to a dry spot.

All Fixed up!
So it is 'weigh day,' and as I discussed last week, I normally pick out an average sized bird to weigh.  I'll do that today as well, but I'll also pick out the largest bird and weigh it.  I'll pick out the smallest bird and weigh it, and I'll also pick out an average-sized bird and weigh it.  We're shooting for a 6 pound carcass at 8 weeks, so let's see where we are at 6 weeks.  Here is the biggest bird.  He's an athletic thing and promptly jumped out of my bucket!

I put him back in the bucket and carried him into the garage where I have the kitchen scale set up.

The largest bird weighed in at.... (drum roll) 5 pounds 13 ounces!  Whoa.  He'll be ready to butcher at some point during his 7th week of life.  A week early!

Let's see the smallest bird.  He is easy to spot.  He's not agile enough to jump from the bucket, but he didn't like being in it for sure. 

The smallest bird at six weeks weighed 4 pounds 7 ounces.  There's almost a pound and a half difference in weight between the largest bird and the smallest.

Now, let's do like we've been doing every other week and we'll weigh the bird that looks to be the average-sized bird.  I scooped him up and put him in the bucket.

The average-sized bird weighed 5 pounds 4 ounces.

Let's look at a good comparison:

Week Six 2018: 5 pounds 4 ounces.  That is one pound six ounce gain since last week!
Week Six 2017: 4 pounds 8 ounces.
Week Six 2016: 5 pounds 1 ounce

We are well ahead of 2017 birds at this stage and slightly ahead of 2016.  These birds are just healthy and looking good.  We don't want them to get too much over six pounds as we've discovered the tenderness and flavor of the bird suffers.  We may very well try to butcher them in batches.  In other words, we may try to slaughter them as they reach 6 pounds and allow the smaller birds to grow for another week.  We'll see if that makes sense.  Stay tuned for next week's weigh-in, as it could be the last for the 2018 Meat Birds.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Springtime Tradition

In what has become a tradition over the past several years, Benjamin and I plant a row of peanuts in the garden.  Peanuts are not a crop that I had ever planted until just a few years ago.  It turns out that they are relatively easy to grow.  I haven't achieved spectacular yields, but we have been successful in having enough to roast and make peanut butter with, and that's always exciting.

In past years, I planted Shronce's Black Peanuts.  This year I'm trying a Tennessee Red Valencia Peanut that I got from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

I opened up the artsy seed envelope and poured out the peanuts in my hand.  It looks to be about 13 peanuts.  I could eat all these in mere minutes, but these peanuts aren't for eating.  They are for planting.  The previous afternoon I had worked up the soil so that when I got home from work, I could milk Luna and plant peanuts before it got dark.

Before you plant them, you need to shell the peanuts.  I went and got Benjamin to assist.  We sat in the garden and quickly shelled them.  The amount of actual peanuts we get to plant in minimal compared to the big envelope of peanuts, but oh well, I actually have peanuts in the pantry from last year's crop that we haven't made peanut butter with yet.  I'll supplement with those seed peanuts if these aren't enough to plant the entire row.

The planting guide calls for planting them 1 inch deep and 8 inches apart from one another.  I started digging the holes and Benjamin planting a peanut into each hole and then filled the holes in with dirt.  We ran out with about 1/4 of the row left and I planted some of last year's peanuts to finish out the row.  Jane, our soon-to-be mother goat, supervised the work.

It didn't take long for two of the three triplet goats to come poke their heads through the garden fence and eat the green grass just inside the garden fence.

In this case, the grass truly IS greener on the other side of the fence.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Makes Me Wanna Take the Backroad

Makes me wanna take the back road...
My job takes me west on I-10 for about a 40 minute commute each day.  Almost entirely all Interstate travel with the cruise control set at 74 mph.  It is uneventful, almost automatic.  So routine, I think the car could drive itself.  Except they recently launched a multi-year construction project that has sent my easy commute into somewhat of a tailspin.

That 40 minute commute turned into an hour and 15 minute commute on the very best day and a 2 hour and 45 minute commute on the worst!  I tried many different routes, but it seems other people had figured out those 'supposed' short cuts and traffic was backed up there too.  So the other day, I had nothing to lose and I decided to take some back roads to get home.  Rather than idling in bumper to bumper traffic, I determined I would drive way out of the way to get home.

I headed north for 18 miles and then 37 miles east and then 21 miles south and then 25 miles east.  That is 101 miles, whereas my normal commute is 49 miles.  On the positive side, I got off the beaten path and saw some country at a slower rate of speed.  I took time to observe things around me.  On a stretch of back road between Kinder and Welsh, I was awestruck by the beauty of a shady canopy of oak trees that enveloped the country road.  The trees had fresh green leaves on them.  I had to stop the car and get out and take a photo.  That's something I'd never ever do on I-10!

It reminded me of a country song I like by Rodney Atkins whose chorus goes like this:

And it makes me wanna take a back road
Makes me wanna take the long way home
Put a little gravel in my travel
Unwind, unravel all night long

Truth be told, I'd like to take the back road, the long way home and put some gravel in my travel on a more routine basis, but there is a lot of planting in the garden that needs to be done.  I've learned that those seeds don't plant themselves!
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