Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Never Want to Do That Again, but I am Thankful

I never want to move again. Not just move, move all of the cattle, which means prepping the new site for cattle which equals fence, water, power, and the act of physically moving 21 animals 65 miles. I never want to move a the stuff a farm accumulates over seven years. Feeders, waterers, tools, trailers, fence panels, chicken pens, etc. I also don't want to, but will have to move all of our freezers, product inventory, and not to mention our household possessions, again.

Moving the Chicken Pens to The New Farm

A Load of Freezers Headed to Ames

This process started in September, when fence building went from a need to an urgent need. Let me just say, we have awesome friends. Many of whom sacrificed repeated weekends to help build and repair fence. Together we ran several hundred feet of high tensile fence, installed three gates, and repaired 2/3 of the entire south side fence on the new farm. That entailed removing obsolete wood and steel posts, and replacing them with steel posts, and re-hanging the wire. And doing it in weather that was not pleasant to work in.

Nate, Jared, and I Building a Corner Brace

On November 1st, we lost access to our old pasture and had to move our cattle to the new place. That meant four trips back and forth, and catching all of the animals so we could make the trips. If you have seen my handling facilities, you would know that they are not remotely up to the challenge. The whole process was pretty miserable.

Catching cattle in the Cattle Shed Proved the Easiest Way to Load Cattle

Unloading the First Load of Cattle at the New Farm

When we moved the cattle, our water system was nonexistent so I spent several weeks racing to install a water system only to have to reinstall half of it again, because of a critical failure. Thankfully, the cattle were able to get water out of a draw the whole time, even with the crazy cold November weather.

Cobett Waterer Installation

Water Pipe Installation

Functional Cobett

 We Have a Leak

 Exploratory Digging of Leak Reveals a Large Connection Failure

Primary Spot Cattle Have Been Drinking From the Waterway

Janice Running a Rented Mini-Excavator During Second Water Pipe Installation

Instead of moving house and farm stuff, I was spending a great deal of time working on a water system, which then led into November deliveries for Thanksgiving, and the water system again to replace the massive failure. This all compressed the amount of time we had available to move down to a few days and resulted in a frantic mess. On top of that, we learned that the new owner was going to destroy every building on the farm, except the chicken building and start over. So there was a bit of an additional scramble to salvage some additional items because of that.

Bye Bye Home

Needless to say, the children were stressed out by the move and the new household that we setup in Ames. Of course, we were also very stressed out and strained by the whole process. Janice was not only moving, but prepping to present her final group project for her MBA, and coordinating contractors on the new house. Despite all of the stress of the past 8 weeks, I am thankful for a few things.
After Several Weeks, Janice and I Finally got an Evening Together

First, I am thankful that this move is in the past, seriously thankful. Second, I am thankful that Janice and I love each other as much as we do, because I sure pushed her to the limit (actually past quite a bit). Third, I am thankful that we have awesome friends and family, like Nathan, Rob, Tom, and Jen for helping us move household items, like Audra, Jeremy, and Michael for wiring our building,  like Jared, Adam, Nate, Jeremy, Rob, and Michael for helping with fence building, and Jared, Amanda, and Darvin for helping watch the kids. A special thanks to Jared and Adam for spending successive weekends out on the farm building fence well into the night. Lastly, I am thankful that things are starting to normalize a bit and that new routines are finally starting to get set-up.

Helpers Loading the Livestock Trailer

Stay tuned as we hopefully start to frame a house this week and look at doing some December deliveries.

The Basement is Fully Poured and Framing Should Begin Soon

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Poultry Wrap-up

Busy is too simple a word to describe how we have been recently. It has been more then a month since my last post, but we have been hurtling toward some large deadlines and that has taken most of my faculties to keep on top of.  I will discuss them soon in another post.

In the last two weeks, we have taken 180 broilers, 65 turkeys, and have picked-up one beef and 5 lambs from another locker. Needless to say, our freezers are packed with product right now. It is good to be on the back side of everything at this point and it has allowed me to focus much more attention on moving cows to the new place.

I past years, we have used a movable roost for the turkeys, but this year I decided just divide off the area around out lean-to (lambing barn) and run the turkeys in at night. So for weeks I was herding them in at night so they could be out of the elements and not have to use so much energy to stay warm at night. 

Herding the Turkeys inside

A Panoramic Shot of the Turkeys inside the Lean-to

There is always a part of me that misses the turkeys. They form a bond with me since I have cared for them since they were pullets.  I am reminded of Wash on Firefly when he says, "Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal." I get over it pretty fast when I remember, I am not caring for or buying feed for all of those turkeys any more. 

I did get that second chicken pen rebuilt and put into operation. It took longer then I would have liked,  but we have rebuilt both of our primary chicken pens this year. That was something I was hoping to do after I move, but it did not work out that way. Now I have to move two ten by twelve pens. Both pens are built pretty ruggedly, but will have to be turned up on their side for transit, because they are too wide to be legal on the roads. 

Initial Framing for New Pen

Both Chicken Pens Full of Broilers

The kids have been handing in there while we have been pretty busy. My Daughter and I took a weekend day Janice had class to work on pumpkins. I has just listened to the H. P. Lovecrafts "The Call of Cthulhu" ready by the Your Turn Go Podcast, so we did a Cthulhu inspired pumpkin.

Cleaning out the Pumpkin

Posing with Cthulhu Pumpkin

My Son, is rapidly approaching two years old and is leaving that fun toddler stage gradually. That being said, he is playing a bit more physically and is saying quite a few more words. He still loves his dump truck a lot. 

A Little Closer

A Little Bit More


That is it for this short catch-up. I will try and fill you in more about the new place, and the help we have received from some of our awesome friends. Stay tuned. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Moving Out

If you have not heard, we accepted a offer on our farm. We are still holding our breath a bit until it is all a done deal, but we have deadliness and a time horizon for our future for the first time in a year. We are currently planning on getting the cattle moved by November 3rd, and we are planning on being out of the house by December 1st. This timeline will make the next five weeks some of the busiest in my life. 

Proudly Displaying the Sold Sign

The kids are coming along on this journey with us. Our Daughter is preschool during the week, so I admit to not getting to see much of her. I try to take her out for evening chores so we can get some daddy daughter time. Our Son has a new babysitter to watch him once or twice a week. This has allowed me to start making progress on fencing at the new place. 

Pushing his New Dump Truck Toy (gift of his Uncle & Aunt)

Riding Said Dump Truck

At the new place, we have to go full steam ahead. I have a lot of fence to build, water lines to dig, and  building improvements to make and it is really doubtful whether or not I can accomplish what needs to be accomplished in five weeks. To start things off, I got my Uncle to bring over a tractor and knock down the weeds that had buried the place over the summer. It seems like the clutch has gone out of our new tractor so I am making arrangements to have that fixed. The most important thing is I am building fence. We are contemplating some customer and friend work days to help close the gap in what needs to be done. 

My Uncle Knocking Down Summer Weed Growth

New Corner Brace Going In

Back at our old farm, we still have a production season to wind down.  Turkeys are ranging during the day now. We have around 70 birds out on pasture right now. Our mobile prototype roost barely survived last year's turkey production season, but it did not make it through the winter. I have plans for a new mobile roost, but they were scuttled due to time constraints, So the turkeys are positioned around our old lean to, so they can come in out of the rain. 

Turkeys Ranging
I have been chainsawing for weeks so that I could get power up to our northern boundary fence. This has made it much easier to use our temporary fence to fence in the 10 acres that we rented north of the farm for our cattle to graze.

Power Line Running to the North Side of the Old Farm

Temporary Electric Net Covering One Side of the Rented 10 Acres

Cattle Herd Lounging on the Rented Ground

We started moving chickens outside. I have half of the batch outside, but the second half is waiting for a pen before they can move outside. I decided that trying to make the last old pens get across the finish line was a bad investment of time and resources, I have been dismantling it with my little helper and will start using parts from it to build a new pen this week. 

Chickens that Made it Outside

Old Chicken Pen Early in Dismantling Process

Old Chicken Pen late in Dismantling Process

Lastly, I spent a healthy chunk of change on a commercial freezer at a restaurant auction a few weeks ago. I wanted a way to get our chickens frozen faster, as the locker releases them after their internal temperature is 40 degrees or less. This also allows for more storage capacity. I now have the commercial freezer and three medium sized chest freezers empty. I hope that is enough to accommodate 1 beef, 4 lambs, 70 turkeys, and 180 broiler chickens that will all go to the locker in the month of October. 

Recently Acquired Commercial Freezer

There is so much to do and a very limited amount of time to accomplish all of it. Stay tuned as we take the leap of faith full steam ahead. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Some One Ordered Lots of Rain & Fall Weather

Since my last post in mid-August, we have had a whole lot of rain. We saw very little rain in July and early August, so we really needed it. After a couple of hot days, it looks like cooler fall weather is starting to set in as well. The biggest thing that happened since our last post is that I sold almost all of my sheep. I sold 10 animals for $1000, and now all I have around here is four ram lambs that go into the the locker October 1st. We have not pre-sold any lamb, so we decided that the herd was not worth the work and that my time was better invested focusing on our other enterprises. If you want to order lamb from us now is the time, because once it's gone, it's gone. 

Some of Our Breeding Stock we Sold

Since the sheep left, I have been focused on building fence at our current place and at the new place. I completed a stretch of fence behind our house and put in a gate. We always put up temporary fence in the past, but with the sheep gone, we won't be grazing our yard as often.

Recently Installed Gate & Fence Behind Our House

To build off that piece of fence behind our house, I started clearing brush from our fence up over the hill north of our house. This stretch of fence has always been serviceable, but not great. I am working to clear the brush off, tighten up existing fence, and add an electric line on the top. I am planning on continuing this work on the north side of the farm, where the fence is pretty much crap. I have a few head of cattle that have made it their goal to work the fence as hard as they can to find a way out up there, and I am done with it. I don't want to leave the old farm to work at the new farm only to get a call that my livestock are out. 

I rented the neighbors ground north of us, because we had such a dry spell in July, the cattle got ahead of our grass, and I decided that the best way to manage the farm would be to put the cows on their ground and let most of my farm recover for 30 days. The ground I rented is pretty rough and has good fences on only one side. I want to get my fencing work done on the north side, so I don't have to put up quite some much temporary fence to make grazing that ground work. Needless to say,  I am scrambling to make what amounts to significant fencing improvements in not a lot of time. 

Clearing Brush Off the Fence

I just made my first trip to the new farm in around six weeks yesterday. As you can see from the weeds, the areas we tore-up the ground are a mess with massive weeds. I should have tried to plant annual rye grass or some thing this spring, but that did not happen. 

Three-foot Tall Western Ragweed

At the new farm, my big goals include getting the fences fixed, digging the water lines, and putting the next phases of electrical work. I still would like to move my cattle over to the new farm for hay feeding season. Yesterday, was mostly focused on assessing the situation after being absent most of the summer. I widened an opening in the trees to start running fence and working on corner braces. 

Widened the Path for the Fence & Installed Rain Gauge

My daughter is back in school, which does enable me to accomplish more sizable tasks again. One young child is much easier to do farm work with then two. I am quite sure that the change is good for both of them. 

Imitating Crazy Squig Miniatures 

Watching Fall Broilers in the Brooder

We are entering the home stretch here on the production season. In the next eight weeks we will processes a beef, four lamb, seventy turkeys, and around 180 broilers. I have to make meaningful progress on the new farm, add to our freezer capacity, finish fencing work, Completed two rounds of distributions, and try to stay ahead of the day-to-day. Add in showing the house, and the uncertainty about our living situation and it tends to be a very stressful time. We will get through it one way or another. Until next time. 

Sunset on the Farm

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Eight Weeks of Summer

It has been way to long since I have blogged, pretty close to eight weeks. The long and short of things, is that farming has gone pretty good this year, but we have not sold our home yet, so things are not moving on that front. We have had quite a few lookers, but no buyers yet. With two kids at home this summer, farm progress is mostly limited to nap times and the occasional weekend. That pretty much means, if it is not urgent, it does not get done.

As for the farm, things are going better then they have in years. Our first batch of 180 broilers did quite well. We processed two beef in late June and sales from them have been brisk. Turkeys are doing quite well, despite having a young Red-tailed Hawk that is terrorizing them. We had seven calves born in June and July. The lambs look good going into fall, and our second batch of broilers arrives tomorrow.

Turkeys in the Brooder in Early July

Turkey Helper Feeding Turkeys in the Morning with Dad

Hawk Perched on Pen Terrorizing Turkeys

Brooder Cleaned out for the Fall Round of Chickens

The turkeys had made it through the brooder stage of Development with only a handful of deaths. This is incredibly rare. Things were going great until this hawk starts scaring the birds and forces 13 to die in a pile-up in their pen. Aside from that one incident, the turkeys have done well. 

A Whole Cluster of Young Calves Testing Fences All Across the Farm

Having so many calves is nice, but they have been testing fences and did cause a large breakout of the herd a week ago that forces me to extract the herd from a corn field. The vast majority of calves are male, which is good if you like grass-fed beef in mid 2016. This is the first year where cattle have really helped to pay bills and generate some income around the farm. We have processed two beef, with one more scheduled in the fall and we sold a cow and heifer as breeding stock. 

Cattle Spread Out Across the Hillside

We are closing in on Fall. My daughter goes back to preschool in two days, so it is time again to really pivot to focus on the new farm. I have told people I am moving cattle over there this Winter, so I have a lot to accomplish in a limited amount of time. Janice has been busy with classes work to finish her MBA much of the summer, so I have not accomplished much at the new farm. I think it has been almost six weeks since I started sinking new corner posts in to fence out the house and farm building area, and I have not been back since then.  I have to get the new fence built, replace posts and shore up the existing fence, install power, and install the water system, before I can move the cattle. That is a lot to do in 16 to 18 weeks.  

Starting to Sink Corner Posts at the New Farm

The kids are doing well. Our Daughter is helping more with chores, and our Son is growing more and more comfortable outside. With preschool starting up again, I have no doubt the routine will be good for both of them. She will benefit from the structure, and he will benefit from not having his Sister up in his business all of the time. 

Helping Daddy Herd some Sheep

Hat Boy

Aside from that, I don't have much to report. I hope that we get an offer on this place soon so we can begin to make plans. All of my hay is out at the new farm, and I sold my old tractor back at the old farm, so I have few ways to move hay around there. Fall aways seems like a giant rush of activity that is over before you realize it. Keep your fingers crosses for us as we enter frantic fall.

 Sold the Old Tractor