Sunday, June 26, 2016

State of the Farm(er) Address - part one

Farming, even on a small scale, is always such an endless mix of life and death.  Chaos and order.  A farm is perpetually striving for balance, but balance is never more than a fleeting moment.

After moving the chicken coop away from the stone wall and up close to the barn, I added 2 strands of electric fence.  I know there are other security measures I should be taking, but this is the best I can do for the moment.

So far, no more casualties - except for the flowers that the chickens have killed.


This is the third(?) year that I have been leaving the main portion of my pastures un-mowed until the end of July.  I do this so that there will be grass stockpiled for winter grazing.  I also wait to mow till  late July so that the grassland can double as a sanctuary for ground-nesting birds.  After spending the past 7 years rehabilitating these fields and the last three years managing them for winter grazing and wildlife, I have seen a huge increase in the bird populations this year.  

The first year I was here, I saw very few birds.  This year, there are several dozen tree swallows, a growing population of barn swallows, blackbirds, bobolinks, a bunch of things I can't identify and even a pair of bluebirds.

Earlier, I was standing, drinking my morning tea and watching all the swallows swoop and dive over the fields.  I love watching swallows.  Then, the caffeine finally caught up with my foggy brain and I realized that the swallows were so beautifully and gracefully swooping and diving directly over my new beehives.

Hopefully, those queens are laying a lot of eggs and the hives can find their moment of balance before the birds eat them all.


Every day, Connor swims in the pond and every day, I look for the fish I set loose.  So far, I have seen no sign.  Today, of course, I forgot to look for the fish.  It was as Connor's stick was just about to fly from my fingers that I looked up and saw all six carp having a meeting in the center of the pond.  The stick landed right in the middle of them and the Border Collie was not far behind.  In the brief look I got of them, they seemed to be doing well.  I think they may even have grown.

Still no sign of the catfish, but I'm not sure that is a bad thing.  they should be hanging out on the bottom of the pond, doing their thing.  I think i would only see them if there is something wrong.


The equines are all doing well, although both Emma and Tessa have gained an alarming amount of weight.  They did very well over the winter, everyone even lost a few pounds and they all looked good this Spring.  I wanted to maintain that so I actually gave them less access to grass than I have in previous years and took them off the main pasture a month earlier.  However, the grass came in super strong this year and, before I knew it, the pounds were adding up even on their limited access.  Everyone is on a strict diet now and for the foreseeable future.

I was lucky to get really low sugar hay last year, which is what helped with the weight lose, but I think the low sugar was because of the freakish amount of rain we had.  This year, we have had a freakish amount of sun and I am very worried about the sugar content of the feed this year.  It is especially worrisome because I can no longer feed straw for reasons I will get to in a minute.  I am trying to figure out how to lower the calories and still keep the herd happy.  It is a struggle.

Ramsey will be turning 4 in a few days, which is amazing.  He sure has come a long way.  His bad foot is doing well.  It has its issues, as it always will, but Ramsey is growing into a very solid, strong donkey.  He is almost an adult.

Hard to believe isn't it?

To be continued.....


  1. I do so enjoy your posts. I've provided water and bird seed in my backyard for years. Love watching the birds, especially the Gambel Quail. This summer I suddenly realized what a new bird is; its a Phainopepla, a black, desert cardinal! Wow. What a treat, and there are several of them.

  2. That sad photo gets me every time of little miserable Ramsey struggling to get well and you so worried. He certainly has grown into a fine looking big boy!
    Fighting the battle of the bulge is ongoing at our house except for Joe who is a bean pole. Addie became a bit fatty over the winter. I've cut her kibble and treat cookies but she's still bulky around her shoulders.

  3. Last summer when we first saw this farm, we did not see many birds...some barn swallows and of course sparrows and a Mockingbird. We too leave a longer lawn for the poultry to have more cover and to help build the soils when we use the mulching mower. There were 2 barn swallow nests in the main bay and now there are five feather filled condo's! More Swallows nest in the high places of the loft.There are Killdeer, Meadowlarks, Redwing Black birds, whipoorwills, Chipping sparrows, song sparrows, King birds,Towhee's, Goldfinches, Bluebirds and many more I am working on identifying. We do not have bees but the swallows seem happy.
    Good luck with your poultry and your so right about the mix of life and death on a farm.
    I had thought Emma was a little plumper in the photo with the pine bough snack....

  4. I didn't know of Ramsey's history. He's certainly thriving now.

  5. Love having meadows around. This has been an amazing year for our barn swallows also. I will be heading to Tainter Creek and under the bridge to watch the swallows feed there young in the mud nest. It is amazing and noisy.