A view of life on our farm
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Lots of folks have been asking about our (their) turkeys. It must be coming to that time of year when summer starts to end, fall is almost here, and thoughts of Thanksgiving start emerging from deep within.
This year we decided to raise more heritage breeds and scale back on the conventional giant whites. This decision was in part due to customer demand, but also due to the ability of the heritage turkeys to free-range. The giant whites are allowed pasture space, yet they seldom wander far. The heritage turkeys, on the other hand, roam far and wide throughout the farmyard. They even find their way atop the farmhouse, from time to time.
Here are some Narragansett and a Bronze "picking" raspberries.
In the distance are some pastured turkeys. The whites never leave the fenced in area, while the heritage turkeys rarely stay within.
And there you have it...Your turkeys!
Posted by Chris
@ 02:21 PM EDT
So every once in a while we have to go out into the main pasture and clean up a little bit. Fences sometimes need to be tightened, and sometimes we have to remove undesirable plants to keep the pasture healthy and useful. Aside from finding various remnants of super-huge fireworks that our friend Jeff brings over for July 4th, we have to contend with giant "pricker/cactus-like things." (See photo below.)
If anyone can tell us what these things are, and what their purpose is (if any are known), we'd be much happier when working to rid our pasture of them. They do have a beautiful purple flower that comes around mid-to-late August. Problem with that, though, is that when the flower comes so do all the pesky little seeds that scatter around to make more of these things. We got
most all but one of them last year, I think, but that one that we let bloom procreated all over the place! I know right where it was, too. Smack dab in the middle of the turkey's pasture. It managed to spread over several acres all on its own. What a great job it did!
You can see from the above that the cattle love to eat just about all that grows in the field EXCEPT these little buggers. Now, Sarah, the milk goat, does enjoy eating these things, but I have kept her out of the pasture lately since the largest cattle is kind of standoffish around other four-legged creatures. He likes (or at least abides) the turkeys, geese, chickens, ducks, and crows, though. Check out the next shot where it almost looks like a carpet of grass except for the presence of these prickly devils. We'll be putting the sheep in to clean up whatever the cattle missed and then after two weeks or so with this weather, the field will be ready for the next set of cattle to move in.
We all worked on getting the pasture in order that day. You have to try to get the whole root out; otherwise, the pesky bugger just grows right back!
Here comes the reinforcement, pink shovel in hand!
If these plants have any value, then we have yet another thing that we're naturally great at growing (add to list of rocks, stones, poison ivy...). I generally don't wear gloves, especially on such a hot day, but MAN, those things have a nasty bite to them. The prickers are up to an inch long. I have no idea how the goat can eat such a thing.
Maybe it's an acquired taste, say, like hot pepper or anchovies.
Liev came out with his shovel and worked pretty hard along side of us until he started to spot parts of the fireworks. He then set about to collecting all that he could find, making a pile of the pieces, and trying to assemble his own "rocket ship."
A lush pile of "pricker/cactus-things." This was merely 1/3 of our take for the afternoon. It would have been a bountiful harvest if we were harvesting, say, ANYTHING but these things.
Posted by Chris
@ 08:10 PM EDT
To those checking back...
9:38 pm. All cattle still in original location. Some modifications have begun on the trailer and the onset of darkness has stopped me from finishing said modifications.
We will in good faith attempt to move them again tomorrow. Perhaps the help of my Dad will push us to success!
(We do have some good pics of our "attempts" to lure them into the trailer, but...alas...the camera is no where to be found.)
Posted by Chris
@ 09:40 PM EDT
We acquired a "new to us" trailer that will work out perfectly for hauling hogs and our cattle, as well as myriad other things (kids, pumpkins, hay, wood).
Our plan is to move two of the cattle to the new pasture this afternoon. If all goes according to plan, there may be some interesting photos up here this evening. I still have some work to do on the trailer--right now both wheels are off, as is the hitch, and I'm in the midst of re-wiring the whole thing. It should be ready this afternoon, though. Yesterday the kids and I went out to the farm store twice. The first time we purchased some nice, shiny new wheels (tires and rims) for the trailer. They measured (in theory, apparantly) to be the right size. The bolts holes were 4 1/2 on center, etc, etc. We got them home. No luck. One bolt hole was off by less than 1/16" of an inch on each wheel. Either we have some funky sized hubs on the trailer, or they are selling seriously flawed rims at the farm store. So, back we went. Which was good because I needed to buy about 12 more things for the trailer anyways.
We ended up going to a local tire store and they popped on two "seasoned" tires onto the original rims, which still have plenty of life left in them, for $80 including the labor and balancing. Not a bad deal. I'm planning to take the red truck up there soon now that I know they do that sort of thing.
Here are some photos of the new pasture being prepped for the cattle. I'll be putting up a gate this morning, finishing the trailer, and then working on loading the trailer with one of the cattle. We'll see how that goes...
The grasses (and weeds) are really tall! The cattle will start working on that this afternoon, hopefully.
Violet will have one last chance to pick wild flowers before the cattle get to them.
The tools needed to string up field fence. (Anyone look up "rod" yet?) There is my trusty homemade fence-puller (the F.T. 2000) leaning up against the tailgate. Yes, it does resemble some 2 x 4's and some bolts. I also figured out an easier way to move around those heavy rolls of fencing using the tractor and some bungees.
The grass is almost up to the kids' heads! We could use this as a hay field if we had the equipment, but for now we'll put the animals to work on it. I'd love to bring down 50 turkeys, but I would worry that predators would get to them at night.
Posted by Chris
@ 10:00 AM EDT
Well, I managed to get tons of poison ivy all over my arms and hands from working in the new pasture. I had to brush hog some areas to run the fencing and it did not dry out enough with all the rain so I ended up covered with it. It's really itchy.
But, on the other side, now that I have poison ivy some of the chores here at the farm that involve poison ivy are fair game! I started today clearing out some more of the side of the wetland and put up some field fencing. The area is covered with poison ivy, but once I have it it's not like it will get worse...I hope.
(And of course, I really needed a new project to work on as I'm down to only about 7 that I'm in the middle of at the moment.)
I started, with the help of kids in the non-poison ivy area, putting up a side of fencing that will become "Goat World." Our Toggenburg milk goat, Sarah, is hopefully pregnant and in another day or two she'll have her own quiet fenced in area. Once more, she'll have all the delicious poison ivy that she can manage to eat. Then, the sheep can roam free in the main pasture after I move the cattle down the road. That does involve finishing some more projects, but they're coming along. After all, it did not rain today!
By the way, along with rocks, we sure do grow some impressive poison ivy!
Posted by Chris
@ 05:33 PM EDT
You'd almost think that this photo was taken 60 years ago.
Anyhow, Erica snapped this on Monday afternoon in the midst of my fence work on the new pasture.
Stunning looking machine, eh? I got to drive it down the road about 1/2 mile to the location of the new field/pasture. I needed to use it to stretch out the field fence. And of course it is WAY cool to ride on the road with farm machinery. I had not really gotten a chance to put it into 3rd gear, or what folks must now call "over-drive," and man did it cook down the road! 13 miles per hour seems really fast on an open chassis mobile! Wind in my hair, indeed.
Here is a shot from the back of the pasture looking towards the front. I am pleased to say that I managed to get up 80 rods (yes, rods---look it up) of field fence up in three days, rainstorms included!
Pictures of the completed project, with cattle hopefully, to follow. Am I lucky to to have such a wonderful photographer as a wife, or what? Tractor calendar, anyone?
Posted by Chris
@ 08:24 PM EDT
There is so much to do that sometimes we don't take time to notice how large some of our animals are getting, especially as they transtition from little babies. Remember those hogs that we used to till up our gardens, orchard, and bramble patch? We brought them to Farm Day in Scotland, too.
Well, they've grown substantially and we won't be bringing them around for fun any more!
Additionally, we have been working on our new pasture. It is pretty large, about 7-8 acres in all. We'll be using the back 2/3 for now and maybe more later. I spent yesterday brush-hogging the areas where I plan to erect the field fencing, and then I set in some nice cedar posts. I plan to finish the cedar corner posts and then strech the fence today and tomorrow. We'll be using metal t-posts between the end/corner posts to allow us to move the fence if we need to easily enough. Our neighbor has been generous enough to let us use the field/pasture free-of-charge for a couple of years. We'll be bringing our cattle down there next week at the latest, I hope.
It's amazing, but we have more than doubled the size of our grazing area in the course of a couple of days.
I drove the tractor down to the field last night so it would be wating for me this morning (it's fun to drive on the roads!). We took a few photos of the field before the fencing is up and we'll post them later on.
Posted by Chris
@ 09:55 AM EDT
The "little" pigs have finished tilling up our orchard area and we have planted four apple trees so far. The trees are already starting to form buds!
So it was time to move the piglets to a new area in which they can put their concerted efforts into what they do best: tilling up the ground.
The grass has been coming up fairly quickly and thickly with all the cold, wet days peppered with warm days over the past two weeks. The pigs really enjoy being on this lush grass. They not only can root around and look for grubs, worms, and other tasty morsels, but the love the grass itself along with the roots!
These photos were taken just after we released them into their new penned in area. We will be turning this area, which is just to the side of our front garden, into a briar and bramble patch. Blackberry. Raspberry. Black Raspberry. And so on.
Hmm...Do I want to eat that Dandelion? Maybe I'll just take a little bite and see how it tastes...
The way this little guy is staring it down, you'd think it was giving him a bad attitude or something. I guess it did not taste as great as he had hoped.
Oh, OK...Maybe I'll try another bite of this one...
In no time at all the pigs will clear this patch and we will move them again. I have a nice spot that is rife with poison ivy behind my log pile. We'll get them clearing that out and exposing a nice stone wall that runs most of the way down one side of our property line. Not only do they clear the land, but they fertilize it at the same time! It's a win-win for all involved!
Posted by Chris
@ 04:54 PM EDT
Here are some updated photos of our new calf, Aloysius, running in the field. These were from about two weeks ago. By now, the grass is really starting to take off in the field. We over-seeded the pasture with a nice mix of grasses just before we had about a week of rain, so hopefully we will be able to improve on the quality of our grass.
The lower portion of the field was all overgrown with golden rod and brambles, which were of little interest to the cattle and sheep. I ended up cutting it all down with a field mower last fall. I was sort of shocked at how bare it looked afterwards, and nervous that I ruined the field, but it looks like the grasses below the golden rod are now able to have a fighting chance.
With a few years of work, we should be able to have this old pasture brought back...
It never ceases to amaze me that all of our animals instinctively know when to throw on the brakes when approaching a fence. They will come at you at top speed and stop just before pummeling you or the fence.
Though he is still only about a month and a half old, he is starting--emphasis on starting--to learn to follow me around and to respond to our voices. He knows his name when called and perks up when he hears it. Always a good thing just in case they happen to "escape."
Above Aloysius (or Monster Truck, as my son Liev just reminded me over my shoulder as I type) romps about.
There he goes, trotting back to his stall after a hard afternoon's play. We feed our cattle only grass/hay, but we do have them trained to grain as a treat. When returning from the field, they (the big ones, too) have to cross through an unfenced area to gain access to the barn. All I have to do is hollar for them to come and they come running. They receive a small handful of sweet grain as a reward.
Posted by Chris
@ 07:55 PM EDT
So here are some photos of our farm just before we moved in. These were taken by my wife and our friend Jeff, who checked out the farm when it was for sale. These photos (actually, mention of the barn!) was all it took to convince me to buy the place. We put in a bid before I even stepped foot inside. It's all been working out quite nicely...
Here is the meadow that we turned into our pasture.
And here is a shot from the other end looking toward the barn.
The next two are some shots of the interior before we put up stalls and made a workshop.
We spent many days working into the wee hours of the morning cleaning out and building up the barn. We now have stalls for our sheep and milk goat, cattle, hogs, as well as seperate areas for brooding poultry, housing laying and meat hens, housing turkeys, and for milking the goat. Several other smaller areas can be converted into whatever needs may arise. We hope to have a few lambs nursing in one or two of these areas in a few weeks' time.
Here are some shots of the work in progress from last summer. The first one is just beautiful. It is so cool watching the dew burn off on an early Summer morning. Don't be fooled--those rolls of fencing are easily a couple hundred pounds each!
Here is the fence after a morning's work. Let me explain about those posts...We dug those holes by hand. That was by far the hardest and most time-consuming job we have had here yet. It was also quite a mental challenge at first as the spot we started in was all rocks and hard soil! We thought that it would take all Summer. Eventually, though, the digging went much quicker when we got down the incline into more forgiving soil.
Have you heard the saying, "Too many cooks spoil the soup?" Well, let me tell you that this absolutely does not apply here. Notice how my mom is right there supervising? It was the first real job that we used the tractor for. I built a fence-stretcher out of two pieces of 2 x 4. We bolted them together with the fence between and we were easily able to put enough tension on the field fencing to snug it right up to the posts. I'm sporting my "Summer beard" there.
Here is a shot of the barn area after some work. This area that my son is so diligently sweeping is now "Turkey World."
Finally, here is shot of the completed pasture fence as our young poults begin their explorations. We are lucky to have such a great mixture of grasses in this field. This year, we will be dividing up the pasture into two areas in order to rotate the animals back and forth and sustain high quality grass all season.
Posted by Chris
@ 03:06 PM EST
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