Last Sunday with the air and temperatures turning we turned out the hogs. Our three sows (who were outside all winter) were taken to a new, greening pasture. Hog Heaven if you ask them. They love grass. And digging. We have a sacrifice pasture that they mull over and dig up until the corn fields are finished for them to work. In this pasture they will farrow and raise their piglets.
We also put out the laying flock on Monday and Tuesday. We have two sets of layers so I moved them in two houses on two days, but into the same field. They have taken to grass as I figured they would. It is mowed right off. Most people would underestimate the diet of a chicken. Most think they are grain eaters, but they are far from it. Once on pasture our hens eat about 40% less grain than in the winter coop. They are in a field of wheat we had planted for a cover crop last year. We will pull them off of it when we seed it down in the very near future. It is fun to see the transition of their eggs. They have already, in 5 days, begun to turn that bright orange that a range-fed yolk will carry.
I turned the cows out yesterday. I had hoped to hold off another week, but could not do it. Needless to say they hit the pasture with their heads down and never looked back to the barn.
It is nice to know that everyone is outside enjoying the fresh air and grass. Now comes the work, though. The daily rotations of pasture for the animals. It is important that they are moved throughout our pasture to keep the grasses growing healthy and the animals happy!
So I am looking forward to getting our soup chickens this year. For the first time a couple of months ago I made homemade chicken noodle soup. Yes, I can't believe I've never made it before this. Actually if you asked me, I "hated" chicken noodle soup. Then I tried homemade and I love it. I could eat it day, after day, after day...you get the hint. Well, I failed to make extra chicken broth. So when I wanted to make a recipe that called for some, I had to get the store-bought stuff. After discussing the plan to replace our older laying hens, I was thinking about how many I would need for homemade soup, a pot pies, chicken broth, chicken stock, etc. I thought about how pure and natural the homemade chicken stock/broth would be and how much healthier for my family. That led me to go to the freezer and get out the box of chicken broth to see exactly what is in it and how it compares to how I would make it.
Here are the following ingredients (in order): Salt, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Dextrose, Autolyzed yeast extract, Natural Flavor (which could LITERALLY be anything), Water, Corn Syrup, Canola Oil, Xanthan Gum, Caramel Color, and Invert Sugar.
Also, the salt content is 40% (in one cup only) of the Daily Recommended Value...yikes. How many of the above ingredients will I be putting into my broth? MSG, dextrose, etc. are not staples in my kitchen. It's scary to find what's in our food. Feel free to order as many soup chickens as you want and need as many restaurants usually order a lot for their homemade soups, broths, and stocks...so they will go quickly.
It has officially started on our farm. Last Sunday I seeded our transplant vegetables. These are the plants that we will be planting after they start in the greenhouse. We start the plants in starter trays--long thin slots that the seeds are put into to sprout. After they sprout they will be transferred to 6-pack trays where they will get their own soil to grow in. After about 6 weeks they will be nice healthy plants ready for mother nature. We will transplant them into the garden or raised beds in the greenhouse. Our focus this year--broccoli and peppers. We have started lots of each.
The broccoli has all sprouted and the rest of the plants (tomatoes, onions, peppers) are coming along. With this week getting into the upper 60s we should be able to put them back into the greenhouse to boost them along. Currently the starter greenhouse has no heat source. When the electric was run to the out-buildings, and the hole was dug, someone forgot to drop a gas line in it for "just in case" purposes. Hindsight, it is always funny to see what we should have done. Anyway, hopefully this year we can dig a line and add gas to the small greenhouse for next year's plants. My wife always loves my plans because they impact the yard in such positive, muddy, ways. We have been up here for about 4 years now and every year we have dug up the yard for a new project. Last year, the processing building. Before that was the electric to the barn and outbuildings. Before that was the gas to the house. We have had a mud line in our yard every year. She is hoping to go a year without soon, but I would miss having to scrape all that mud off my boots before I enter the doorway. And what about our oldest son? How can he pretend he is saving the beautiful princess by leaping over the alligator filled moat (my ditches) if I do not dig?
Anyway, it is all about progress and we are expanding yearly. We are very excited about our upcoming year and the potential we have to serve our community and local buyers. I would still encourage everyone to "BUY LOCAL". This has been at the forefront of our business for the past three years. We sell local and buy local (feed, supplies, building materials). Not everyone who has the "BUY LOCAL" sign follows their own advice, but that is another post. We will continue to support our local community and economy in our venture. I urge you to ask the people you buy from how they support the community. You may be surprised. I am finding out that some people with the "BUY LOCAL" banner are just on the bandwagon. They want you to buy local and support them, but they are not interesed in supporting other local businesses. They are still buying from big suppliers and chain dealers.
Margie's addition - And how can we forget, the little piglets that are too small to stay in their pasture because they slip under the electric fence also love the ditches. It's quite the sight to see dirt flying out of the ditch and it's not until you walk up to it that you see the little piglets in there having a field day...literally. So perhaps our pretend alligator moat scenario should really be saving the princess from destructive piglets. Let me add, our four-year-old son has the never pretended to save the princess...my husband is just making that up hoping to win me over with his reasoning.
I also want to add how wonderful my husband is by not mentioning last year's spring planting. It was about this time, when everything was coming up that I forgot to open the greenhouse door. Hundreds and hundreds of plants that my husband took a lot of care growing and tending to all withered and could not be saved. Needless to say I don't have a lot of responsibility this year with the plants, though if he needs me to tend to them he sends me lots of reminder e-mails and even calls on his lunch break. Now that's a smart man...
So this is our youngest. He is quite the opposite of our oldest. David was walking around while holding onto to furniture and climbing up and down everything one week after he turned 6 months. David is like his father in every way, always going. Ethan....nada. No interest in moving around unless he's in a walker playing a bulldozer running everything over. The child is so good in that thing he can turn on a dime and even looks behind him when he backs up.
Ethan and I share a lot of little things...we are skeptic about how a food tastes at first, we both love to sleep on our side, and we're both light-sleepers. However, the one thing that binds us together...we're both window-lickers. Well, I used to be as a child; I don't quite have the urge now as an adult. I loved to lick the windows and mirrors. I tried to get David to do this as a baby so my mother and gradmother could reminisce back to when I was a wee little one, but to no avail. Needless to say, when my youngest found great pleasure in licking the window, I just had to hurry and take a picture. So here's to you mom and mom-mom...for every window and mirror you had to wash everytime I toddled past.
In case you missed those days, Ethan and I will be sure to visit soon...make sure you have the glass cleaner handy. Now if only Ethan shared in my love of taking naps...
So standing outside in the warm spring evening at around 8:30pm, all is calm. It is just starting to sprinkle, the wind is rustling the branches and leftover leaves from last year and all you can hear are the crickets chirping. Oh, and MOOING...lots and lots of mooing followed by lots and lots of MAAING from their little calves. You see, Dave's on the "manure list" not because of me, but because of the mama cows. They are the ones that have a problem with him. Our mama's are so good, they will allow their calves to feed forever unless we intervene. Those calves continue to nurse so much that the mothers begin to look weary. So last night Dave decided to separate the calves from their mothers. Even though they can still have contact and sleep next to them, because it's on the other side of gated panels, it's unacceptable. So all night long you hear the chorus of moos and maas and that will continue for another day or two when everyone finally understands (or at the very least loses their voice) and all is peaceful again. For now, the mooing gets to be so intense at times that our female dog is too scared to stay outside on this beautiful day for long.
So Dave is on the manure list and let's just say he better be working on getting some brownie points to be put back on the good list. Let's hope the mamas don't get fed up tonight and start banging on our back door demanding the release of their babies from their stall. If that happens...I'm going to bed, Dave can take care of the rest.
Since we've had such big calves born here on the farm for so long it's still a shock to us when a lowline calf is born. Last week, we had a little boy born and he is as small as last year's Blackberry. He's so small Dave keeps calling him a "she." He doesn't have a name yet, but after being out of the stall for only ten minutes he was already on the other side of the fence. Being around cows for a while now, I have learned to differentiate between their mooing.
-Moooo = I'm happy, I'm looking for my baby, or I'm impatient for my food because I'm on the opposite side of the barn from where you started feeding.
-Moo Moo Moo Moo Moo (it keeps going and going...) = These short, quick mooos are due to a baby that refuses to nurse when the mother wants it to (generally because the calf is too busy playing with other calves) or because a baby is sleeping with another calf about 10 feet away and the mother wants it next to her for bedtime. This generally starts around 11-11:30 at night when she makes sure it's pitch black and as far away from the house as possible and goes on ALL NIGHT LONG depending on the mother. At about 2am, Dave gets all suited up to make sure that everything is all right and comes back to bed shaking his head while mumbling the popular phrase used in these situations, "Stupid cows." We have seen mothers mooing like this in the face of their baby about a foot away while the calf is happily laying in a ball ignoring their mother. You would think the calf would listen just to get their mother to stop nagging them...but I guess they are no different than children. In these cases, the mothers of the world can sympathize.
-Mooooo (in unison from every cow over 15 months old which sounds like a couple rounds of "Row, Row, Row your Boat") = I see you fixing/putting up the fence in the next pasture and we want over there NOW! The calves are generally playing not caring a lick and this generally ends up with one or two of them not crossing over to the other pasture, thus leading to more mooing from their mothers (refer to "Moo Moo Moo Moo Moo...", above).
-Moo Moo = I'm spoiled and just want you to remember that.
-Moo Moo followed by Ma Ma (from the baby) = This sound was what I heard Sunday morning that made me jump up and run to the back window and scan the backyard. This generally means, "What are you doing on the other side of the fence?? GET BACK HERE!" Such a Moo is followed by the response of, "I don't know how...and I'm ready to panic any second."
Thankfully, this time it was just one baby on the wrong side of the fence and due to it being so youg it wasn't veering too far. This first time mother was great trying to help guide her baby while pushing the other very nosy calves aside so the baby can come back over. Generally this mooing causes quick panic as I run to the window with fear because this usually means a cow is out. Most of the time, however, it's not just one...a brief moment of confusion sets in when I look to the backyard and see cows/calves just roaming around. Running to the phone to contact Dave, I wonder if I should try and count who's in the backyard first or see if any made it to the front yard. Usually I go to the front yard first to get an overall assessment of the situation before returning to the backyard. Though in the case of Daffodil, she's so people friendly and comfortable in her environment (as a result of being bottle-fed) that she's usually wandered off out of sight even before I've noticed the animals in the yard. Thankfully she's so driven to please people and be around them that she comes hustling back when she sees any of us. Oddly enough she heels better than our two hounds...
This year for some reason we have a bunch of rambunctious calves. Perhaps it's due to the fact that they are all so close in age, but you can regularly watch them chasing each other darting in and out around their mothers and head-butting their buddy. Their poor mothers look exhausted and worn as they try to keep track of their little ones and their trouble-making schemes...I just give them a quick pat on the head and while nodding say, "I understand Momma..."