Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Week of Farming Fun

It was an exhausting week to be sure. We started some school lessons, Journee started her first full week at Chattanooga State, and the farm animals seemed to need something at every turn.

The weather? Well, it feels like summer has finally arrived! This summer has been mild and wet but this week it was hot, humid, and very humid. The grass still feels damp at noon and the air is thick with moisture. Like I said, hot and humid.

Of course there was a quick scramble by every farmer around here to get hay cut, dried and baled before the weekend thunderstorms started popping through.

We have a neighbor farmer who cuts our hay and we split it with him. Usually he bales it into large round bales but it is difficult to move those bales if you don't have a tractor (I have rolled them around before and thought I would surely die from a stroke). Plus, when you only have a few animals to feed, square bales are just the right amount of hay.

We stacked 470 bales of hay into our old barn. Needless to say, my body aches from the hard labor.

                                                 ***Journee helped with hay.***
It was a group effort that involved the farmer friend and his kids and grand kids plus me and a couple of my kids. Devin would have gladly helped but he was scheduled to work and work he must. The ER is not an employer you call out on lightly.

My laying hens have been challenged this summer and we have experienced a huge drop in egg production. Some birds are molting and some birds are young, but overall it has been an unusual drop.
I decided that the constant rain and moisture was keeping their health less than fabulous, at least I like to blame the unusually high amounts of rainfall for many farming woes this summer.

I caught the hens and moved them to a drier part of the property, using my pasture chicken tractors for their shelters. I bought some poultry fencing from Premier and ta-da! Instant new home for my ladies. I can monitor their feed intake closely and make sure they stay on dry ground.

I am happy to report that they are happy and have started laying again. We will build an egg mobile type of house soon.
Meanwhile, I cleaned their coop up and spread hay thick to cover wet areas. I am glad too because it seems that the goats have come down with a case of hoof rot.

We are treating the hooves and they are already feeling better. I decided the best place to keep them is in the coop with lots of fresh hay. The floor of the coop is wood and stays dry. The ground around the coop is what gets wet. We are keeping the goats locked up until they heal. Again, I will have to address the wet ground issue.....if it will stop raining:-) This has never been a problem until this year.

My ram poked his eyeball this week and needed vet attention. It's a pretty large scratch but we are now treating him with an ointment medicine twice a day plus some pain medicine. He looks better and is remaining locked up in my outdoor dog kennel while I treat him.
Since the vet was here to look at the goats and ram I also had him look at Mary.

 Mary has a slight stiffness or slight limp to a back leg. I thought it could be a selenium issue but the vet assured me that my area was not deficient in that mineral. Her hooves looked fine so we can only assume she injured or twisted it slightly. She moves fine except when she first gets up from lying down. She also refuses to stay fenced in with her sheep family.
I must say that her fleece is really, really pretty. She has large, soft curls that are very white in color.
The sheep shearer will be here in a week to give everyone a nice shaving. I have a different shearer than before, and I am excited to see her in action. This shearer is a woman from Atlanta  who shears for hand spinners. I can't wait to meet her!

Now that the hay is up I am letting the cows out loose after milking. I decided that the large water trough we keep in the side yard needed to be emptied and filled with fresh water for my bovine ladies.


There under the trough was a cute little rat's nest with a pile of very sweet ratty babies.
I carefully put the trough back down, placing a brick under the corner so as to not risk smashing the nest family.
Yes, I know they are wild rodents, but I believe in giving them a chance. After all, they were outside and with my cats on the prowl they need every chance they can get!

Oh and speaking of nests....

The ducks have made a nice little nest in my covered area where we milk the cows. Today we had 4 ducks eggs waiting for us. I replaced the egg above with a golf ball so the ladies will continue to use this perfectly round nest. I hear folks say that ducks are worthless but I disagree. Not only are they entertaining to watch, but they scratch up cow patties, eat lots of bugs and  lay fabulous eggs!


We started a light load of school work this week and it went really well. I was exhausted every single night and my house was a mess, but it went well and the kids are learning and having fun.
I am also studying and taking notes for my next endeavor .

I have read "Salad Bar Beef" by Joel Salatin a couple of times, but this time I am letting the information soak in good.
I hope that next spring I can turn this pasture into paddocks to start my own salad bar. It would be great for the land and soil with some fresh beef as a bonus. I will keep you posted as it progresses.
Initially I think I will buy jersey bull calves from a local dairy to run as steers.

I hope everyone has a great Labor Day weekend! We have another Rock Skool concert today! Indiana will be singing lead vocals for one song and guitar lead for another song. It should be lots of fun!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Honey Bee Blues

I was too emotionally and physically exhausted to take pictures. I really don't need to relive the tale in color anyway. Perhaps I will fill in with other farm and family photos.

                             ****Yum-Yum, our 1 year old jersey steer****

Today was like any other crazy busy day. I had farm chores out the wadzoo and on that list of chores was bee hive inspection.

It's been a tough year for bee keeping here this year. I am sure you have read some headlines about the potential peril we all face without the little yellow critters flying around to pollinate our food.

There have been countless bee keepers losing their bees, especially through the winter months.

It's. Been. Tough.

Today was no different. My heart sank when I came upon my main apiary and did not see a single bee flying from a few hives.

                                ****Indiana's photography debut on the blog. She loves Athena****

Three hives dead. Three hives totally empty. Nothing. Nada.

Three hives succumbed to Colony Collapse Disorder, and my strongest hive was one of the victims.

It just plain stinks.

I spent an hour pulling hives parts down and stacking them half heartedly into my storage building, as I was not in the frame of mind to complete any sort of organizing of hive components.

The cause of the incredible loss could really be any number of things. We do not spray chemicals here, but what about the farm down the road? I am fairly certain they do use harsh chemicals, and that could well have played it's role in the CCD of these hives.

           ****Willow and Bumpit. Bumpit can be a rascal, but she is sometimes very sweet too****

Ironic that a farm that wishes to get a high crop yield would kill off bees when these same bees are needed for the pollination of such crops. Organic pesticides are just as deadly too.

1/3 of our food is dependent upon the pollination of the honey bee. That's a huge chunk of our food.

I emptied my smoker, hung my bee suit and veil up and then decided to work on a different chore. All of the chores needed to be finished today before the rain started, despite my disappointment and frustration.

There is a saying I have had to repeat many times this wet, soggy summer.

"It could always be worse."


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Here Horsey, Horsey

School is just around the corner! We have been busy collecting and organizing.

Journee will complete another year (her senior year) as a dual enrollment student at the community college. In fact she will be on campus this year for her classes. She has a full load and so it will keep her very busy.

In the meantime, she is working a job. Actually she is working for me by giving her younger sisters riding lessons. I pay her by the hour.

Athena has had an easy summer of grazing and an occasional ride. It's good to see her worked and it's good for her.  Here Willow is learning the fine art of turning a horse around.

Indiana has become skilled in grooming and getting Athena saddled up and ready. You really could not ask for a better, more patient horse.

Mary has decided every single day now that she prefers to stay outside the fencing. Her wool is so thick that the electric shock just doesn't affect her. She doesn't wander but rather grazes and rests near the fence. Crazy ewe!

The outside farm chores seem to be adding up! The rain this summer has really been a *damper* as far as keeping stalls and areas dry enough for animals. The chicken coop has suffered the greatest.
This past week we collected about 10 roosters and found homes for them. They were simply eating up my food and pestering my hens. We then placed the hens into my pasture meat bird pens. I am monitoring their food intake and trying to determine which birds are laying.

In a few weeks we hope that we can build a small egg-mobile in which to run them through out the entire property. I am also hoping the coop area will dry out some. I plan to bed the ground down thick with hay.

This week I hope to de-clutter a bit and get some things organized. It's going to be a busy fall!

October 4th we are hosting a public screening of the new documentary American Meat. It features Joel Salatin and explores the failing farming food system in the US. If you are local, come on out! It will be on the outdoor screen so bring a snack, a chair and a friend! I hope for lots of folks to see this wonderful film! Go check out the trailer!

Have a fabulously wonderful and productive week!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you have seen my posts about falling behind in house chores and trying to find my energy in an evening time latte.

It was just that kind of week!

It was a week of worry. As a mom I worry my kids are growing up too fast and that I am missing it all! As a home school mom I worry I am not teaching everything I should be teaching. As a farmer I worry that my chores are slacking and I worry about the health of my sick goats and the lack of egg production in the hens. As a wife I worry that my husband is working too hard. As a bee keeper I worry about the health of my bees and the lack of surplus honey this year. I am frustrated that this bee keeping gig is mine. All mine. It was supposed to be a joint effort with my dad. I get frustrated that stupid cancer took him away and now it's all my job. It's not as fun anymore, and why do people still use harmful, bee killing chemicals anyway?

Worry creeps in and that allows discouragement to creep in and that kills the joy.

Shame on me.

I am not sure what gets this cycle started, but I know that it's contagious. Once you feel the vibe of the worrisome attitude you can't help but start to worry yourself.

 I am not in that frame of mind any longer. I am hopeful, positive, grateful and nothing worries me.
You see there is not room in your head or heart for both worry and joy. You must choose one over the other.

I choose joy.

PS. I might or might not have had it tattooed as a constant reminder:-) It was a date night kicked up a notch:-)


Speaking of incredible joy....

Zeb turned 5! Where does the time go?

I was planning to make him a yummy M&M cake I saw on Pinterest, but he insisted on a strawberry cake. We browsed the internet for a cake and the boy chose the frilliest, pinkest cake we saw!

It was delicious:-)


School has started or is about to start for many children in my area.

I have been purchasing books and slowly starting to get things organized and ready for our upcoming year of learning.

Of course this means I have decided to tackle a project! :-) I seriously have difficulties focusing on one task sometimes.
I am about to repaint a cabinet and shelf so I can put it in my living room. Wish me luck!

How do you prepare for the new school year?

Here's hoping you have a week of joy!

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