Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Squeaking One Out

It is the end of June and we have a long way to go on the larger farm projects for the year, but slow progress is being made. We have a big deadline looming in late August, where we will likely be hosting a  Practical Farmers of Iowa grazing gathering. I would like to have the creek fencing done, our handling facilities well under way, if not done, and our main building cleaned out and reorganized. As well as having the yard mowed and trimmed, the sticks picked up, and the flower beds and garden weeded. I know it is a pipe dream, but it is something to shoot for.

Jim from Pella came out and we finished a long stretch of fence on the north side of the big center draw. There was much chain sawing, poison ivy, sweat, and damp grounder underfoot, but that section is done. One step closer to completion. On the south end of the farm, I continue to sink posts for fencing the smaller draw. I picked up a few used wood posts off Craigslist the other day to hopefully get me closer to finishing that project.

Section of Fence Completed Two weeks Ago with Andy Larson

Fencing completed today with Jim from Pella, it is a long section going well past the tree

On another note, we went through inspection on Tuesday and we now have our egg handlers license. This will allow us to sell eggs through the Iowa Food Cooperative soon. Speaking the Iowa Food Cooperative, the cart open tomorrow, so check out the great products available. We also got 20 older hens from Fox Hollow Poultry Farm; Thank you Tai. Fox Hollow is a great farm outside of Elkhart that sells to several Des Moines restaurants, the Des Moines Farmer's Market, and the Iowa Food Cooperative.

A few of the hens retired from Fox Hollow Poultry Farm

That is it for now. I was well below my goal on the number of posts I wanted for June, but I squeaked one more in there.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Doggie Paddling

I have been a farmer dad for two weeks now, and it is still not settled out yet. Everyday is a constant struggle to get chores done in the morning and at night. The struggle is less so at night, but that is when I get caught-up on things that I can't really do during the morning. The weekends have become exceedingly valuable for pushing projects. We have also go to using a babysitter during the day once a week to free up some time for farm work.

Since my last post, we had Andy Larson from Ames out here and we built some fence when it was horribly hot out. We both looked liked like we took a dip in a lake by the time the day was done, but several corners were completed and we ran some line. About 1/3 of the large central draw is fenced. I have also started sinking posts on the much smaller south draw. The cattle are on the south end of the farm grazing the two steep drift hills and working their way down onto the crop land. I am now well beyond the range of my water system and the recently completed water tank trailer is allowing me to graze down there. The seeding on the crop land is very sparse and we have a lot of weeds to try and graze off. I am also going to broadcast Orchard grass seed ahead of the grazing so our livestock can work some of it into the ground with their hooves and hopefully improve the stand that way.

Water Trailer

Looking down toward the crop land (the corn field in the background is not mine)

Chickens continue to come along and we have a locker date set for July 9th. We will be trying a new locker outside of Bloomfield. It is 45 minutes closer and they will weigh the birds for me.

Chickens on pasture in a Hansen style pen

130 Turkeys arrived this week. They came a day early and the post office did not let me know they were hear until 11:00 AM, usually they call me at 8:00 AM. They got started on a bad foot when one of their heat lamp bulbs burnt out during their first night. I lost seven that night from smothering. Turkeys are incredibly fragile for the first two weeks. We try to keep losses down to 10% during that time. Other then the first night, the birds are looking good.

Turkeys are now here

In other news, the farm continues to be very wet in the low places (large parts of the house yard especially). We have had over 14 inches of rain since our last blog post. I just wear my rubber boots everywhere anymore. I might have cursed us. I bought the boots on sale and ever since then it has been raining. I am glad I bought them, but I don't think the curse is worth it. I picked up a bale spear for my tractor and put category one mounts on it so I can use it with my tractor, but the little tractor has not been able to lift the bales.  It is possible that they hydraulics might not be strong enough to move the bales, but I also did not get perfect angles on the bales I tried to move, so I will try again here and cross my fingers. The tractor is living outside under a tarp right now because it is so wet by the building and we barley got out of there with it. That is the month so far in a nut shell. The first round of deliveries is behind me and my mulberry orders are all filled. Until next time, cross your fingers for mild dry weather for fence building.

One of two marshes in our farm yard

Tractor with bale spear (so far not looking good)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thick of Spring Production

Sorry it has been so long between posts. In the past few weeks we have been building some fence. Not nearly as much as is needed or I would like, but some fence has gone in and we have a nearly complete water hauling trailer.

Jim from Pella has been helping with the fencing, building the water trailer,  and has helped repair one of my pasture pens. We have had trouble getting chickens outside as promptly as I would like this year. My two original steel and wood pens need to be gone through and worked on to replace several rotting boards and to change the height that the waters hang so they have a bit more ground clearance. Half of the second batch of 180 chickens made it out to their Hansen-style pen, but the second Hansen-style pen disintegrated when moved. The Hansen-stle pen is best in hot weather because it is much more open. Jim and I have the pen that disintegrated closer to functional, but it is not quite there yet. The second half of the second batch ended up in the smaller 8 by 8 foot brown steel pen that Janice designed. That pen will shortly be too small for them, but it will buy us a few days to finish repairing the damaged pen. The little brown pen is where the young laying hens usually get moved to. Needless to say, our batch of laying hens is still in the brooder waiting for a vacancy. Being one pen down, we have had some flow issues to work out early this week.

Half of the second batch of chickens in a Hansen style chicken tractor

Friday was one of my 5 scheduled processing days of the year. The first batch of chickens went into the locker. Janice and I load the evening before, then I hit the road a bit before 3:00 AM and try to make it home by the late afternoon to early evening. From there chores get caught up on and then all the birds (177 of them) get unloaded about 25 at a time and wiped down, weighed, and double bagged before going into the freezers.
Trailer in position and ready to begin loading birds

Ryan loading chickens

Janice goes back to work on Monday and HAzel and I begin our first solo day. I also begin to do deliveries next week. Ames is Monday, Des Moines is Wednesday, and Pella is Thursday. It will be a busy week ahead, but they all are when you are in the thick of the spring production season.

Ryan holding Hazel and a Nermal trying to get in on the action