The toads in the small pond are reckless today. Paying no attention to casual viewers and not even trying to hide from intruders. Here it is, a minute of toads trying to be tadpole daddies.
Every spring Mr. Cardinal finds an enemy he needs to fight somewhere on the farm. In year’s past, a male cardinal spent hours of the day banging into his reflection in the front picture window.
This year, he has found his rival to be a bit more clever and found him hiding inside the mirror on the car. I sure hope humans don’t spend the same amount of time and energy fighting phantom enemies!
This weekend marked a different kind of milestone – something significant getting subtracted from the farm. We sold the last of the sheep and goats today. It was a bittersweet time as the four-leggeds had been part of the farm for a long time. But realistically, we have no right trying to squeeze the animals into our schedules.
So, this winter, the barn will be silent. We’ll see next spring if we can stand not having any return, but for this winter, so hay sourcing, no trudging to the barn in the cold and dark hours before dawn to attend to food and water before heading off to work.
We might enjoy the spring and not having to be around most of March or April waiting for the ewes and does to give birth. But, the animals also added life to the farm, and we are firm believers in having a complete system of animals and crops. We’ll still have chickens and turkeys to provide some fertility.
It’s a big mixing weekend. The bred ewes eat mostly hay over the winter, but we give a little grain supplement for the pregnant and nursing ewes.
First step is to grind up some corn – ground corn is better than shell corn as it is better to digest. Here Martin watches the electric grinder and Ora the black kitten perches on the apple tree high above to watch!
Again, there are many possible combinations of grain mixtures, here’s what we’re trying this winter – steamed rolled barley, steam crimped oats, and linseed meal.
The final bit of the feed mix is a little bit of probiotics. Probiotics have many good effects on health, but are especially good for good rumen health.
Martin with the buckets ready for the first group to be mixed. Here’s this winter’s recipe:
2 parts cracked corn
1 part steam-rolled barley
1 part steamed crimped oats
1 part linseed meal
1 oz probiotics per 125 lb mix
We decided it was finally time to give up on the commercial mineral blocks and go to a more custom mix that we could control a bit better.
Many producers swear by Redmond’s trace mineral salt. I’ve heard it from enough successful producers who swear by it, that it’s time to bring it to high hopes.
Here’s the salt out of the bag.
The final mineral mix – here was the recipe we used.
4 parts redmond salt
2 part sea kelp
1 part KD mineral
Today we went to a PFI field day to what may be one of Iowa’s biggest organic farms, nearly 1,000 acres, located west of Iowa City in Keokuk County.
Linda Grice operates this farm and here shows off a 90 acre field of alfalfa that it transitioning to certified organic.
It’s a great place for one of our favorite Powesheik County farmers to sit and listen with his son.
Riding in the backs of pickup-trucks on a bumpy drive through the pasture is one of life’s lost joys. This section of the farm is custom grazed (meaning a nearby dairy farm rents it to graze Jersey milk cows).
Here Linda points out one of her paddocks that includes a pond. Usually it is not good practice to have a pond available for cattle to graze around, but in a rotational system there are little to no detrimental water quality effects, especially if the paddock that contains the water is grazed during cool weather. You’ll see that vegetation is not turned to mud along the shore.
This is a fine group of organic grass-fed beef cattle. The critter closest to the camera is in its second year and has always just eaten grass. She has some cattle that are totally grass-fed and others that she sells to Organic Valley that the company wants finished on a combination of grass and grains.
It was a great day and just wonderful to see such a large, successful, environmentally-friendly operation.
After yesterday’s entry about sustainable enterprises and earning it – I can safely say that moving small amounts of manure from a barn to a garden are sustainable enterprises (however negligibly rewarding they may be).
It is strangely satisfying, though to move the fertilizer with only the labor of your own hands along with with a pitchfork and cart.
It’s a time of year we can directly put it on the garden now that the growing season is over. This will be a tilled garden in the spring and although there is no financial reward, we will avoid having to purchase outside petroleum-based fertilizers, so I guess there is a reward of sorts.
Martin is very proud of his fish. If you look closely, you’ll find a gold and grey goldfish in the bowl. There is much “discussion” of fish ownership between Martin and the girls, who want to hone in on the fish ownership. Martin said “I started the conversation about getting the fish.” The conversation started more like “Dad, can I get an animal in a cage in my room?” Hamsters, rats, ferrets, and guinea pigs were all squashed and he finally seemed a bit shocked, when we agreed to fish. He was one happy boy to get them. It was worth at least two days of perfect co-operation!
Today is an outstanding day (if you are a chicken). We have a few bales of oat hay, baled with the seeds intact.
Now that we are back in the single digit temps, the chickens got a fresh layer of oat hay in the coop – now they can scratch and peck to their heart’s content – and they do seem to enjoy it!
The warm weather continues. The chickens are liking the lack of snow cover. Once the snow comes, the free-range roaming instincts are limited.
This is one of the roosters we hatched ourselves. He’s pretty happy with himself this evening. (But then, the roosters always seem quite happy with themselves.)
He’s the leader of the group of “gypsy chickens” who roam separately from the rest of the flock and end up in places they shouldn’t be. We are actually looking forward to a few snow days so they can learn were they should be. These chickens do not lay in the nest boxes – we find clutches of eggs here and there from this roaming band.
This week’s Photo Friday Contest theme is “Fresh.” Here’s a shot from the high hopes archives of milk about as fresh as you can get it!
This is one of our milk goats, Paulina.
We all know there’s more than one meaning to “fresh” so keeping that in mind, and in keeping with the goat theme, here’s another photo.
Back up to about 6 months before the milking picture for Mr. Billy getting “fresh” with his lady!
Here’s one of our thanksgiving turkeys. Today was the day they went to the locker – so they are fresh for Thanksgiving.
It was a rough start to the turkey season – first 10 of 15 of the poults arrived dead from the hatchery this summer. As the replacements weren’t sent for a month, we were worried about the turkeys getting to size. Then a feral cat, ate some of the other turkeys out on the range. At $5 a poult, it adds up in a hurry. We ended up with 9.
The biggest two were about 26 lb and the rest were 12-16 lb, which wasn’t too bad. We kept two – one 16 lb for Thanksgiving and the biggest one Emma cut up and vacuum-packed for many meals. We traded a couple of turkeys for some berkshire pork from Eden Farms. We fried up some chops tonight and they were the best I’ve ever had – literally melt in your mouth chops.
I’ve been hearing rumors for years of a chicken faster growing than the standard breeds, but not quite as fast as the cornish-cross confinement-style chicken. I believe these birds were developed from some french stock. There are four different breeds with slightly different characteristics. They are distributed by a Canadian company, but there is a hatchery in West, Bend, IA. The prices seemed very reasonable as well.
For all you chicken growers out there looking for a hardier, even tastier, bird that takes only a couple of extra weeks to finish, check out the “Freedom Rangers” website.