Fall on the Farm

November 7th, 2011 by Kim

Mares at the big pond on a beautiful fall day.

Things have been a bit busy around here this fall.  Between everything going on & experiencing some writer’s block…well, you can see I took a little break from the blogging.  So now I have so many pictures I want to share that I hope this doesn’t get toooo long!  Here’s what things are looking like around the farm this fall.

The ditch along the driveway, fixed & with new culvert put in.

Drainage Work

We were finally able to get everything arranged with our friend Steve to do our drainage work in the cow barn pasture.  Dry weather, a week off & a rented backhoe and we were in business.  He put in a couple new drainage swales across the paddock, regraded it all, and fixed the ditch along the driveway, as well as some other things.  The first big rain after he was done, he showed up to inspect it all & see how it was working.  It appears to be working great…I think the swamp days are over! 

Isaac, Friday & Marker supervise Steve’s work on the big swale behind the barn.

Now Jeff has started work on re-fencing the cow barn paddock with permanent “baby-proof” fence (remember Trixie?!).  In the meantime, we’ve been feeding the cows their hay in there to get some organic matter back on top of the clay.  In my opinion, there’s no such thing as the cows “wasting” hay.  What gets left behind & trampled with the manure will help build the soil.  It also acts as a mulch for the seeds that fall out…hay seeds…that will grow come spring & help reestablish the pasture.

Sterling watches from his perch atop the hay stacked in the cow barn.

Once the fence is done though, we’ll have to keep them out of the paddock through winter’s mud so they don’t destroy Steve’s hard work.

Dates & Names

Jeff had a little “oops” while clearing some trees for the soon-to-be turkey pen.

Mace was home for a short visit, then off to see another girlfriend.  Once this cow is bred, then he’s got another date lined up for late winter…busy guy!  Three of the turkeys had a date they probably didn’t like too much.  We decided to go ahead and butcher the Narragansett boys a little early…they seemed the largest of the bunch.  All told, it went fairly well…just like doing chickens, but on a larger…and more challenging…scale.  The rest will wait until closer to Thanksgiving.  And most importantly, we had a date with the vet.  Sterling, the kitten we kept from Sierra’s litter this spring, got neutered and Isaac was gelded.  The heifers, Ebony & Trixie, got their first shots & another tattoo for their brucellosis vaccine…poor girls!  Then all the mommas got preg-checked to confirm their breeding dates.

The Bourbon Red tom, named after…Elijah Craig bourbon, what else?

BoPeep bred back in May, due for a February calf again.  I had kept her separated from Rousseau before that, because I’d rather have her calve in spring than fall or winter.  Keira, Eavie & Ladybell all bred back in June, Eavie due the beginning of April, the others earlier in March.  From what I had marked on the calendar & what the vet felt, it looks like Ladybell “took” a mere 4 weeks after calving…good ol’ cow!  Now I just have a few months to hope & pray for heifers.

Tommy, the White Holland, looking handsome.

Not all the turkeys have a date with a kill cone.  We’re keeping 2 males, Elijah Craig the Bourbon Red and Tommy the White Holland, and 3 hens, Martha, Polly & Pansy, for breeding.  So we soon need to make a date with a fencing company to put in 6′ chain link for a permanent turkey pen.  Right now they’re in the larger part of the orchard & the laying hens are restricted to the smaller section attached to their coop entrance…the turkeys weren’t sharing space very well anymore…poor henny-pennies.

The older hen on the left is molting fast & looks nearly bald compared to the pullet on the right.

Day to Day

Speaking of turkeys & chickens, they make up the majority of our daily chores right now.  The amount of poultry feed we’ve gone through this fall is mind boggling.  Turkeys sure eat  A LOT!  Plus I’ve got 37 hens in the laying flock and 75 “all heavy males” we ordered from the hatchery to raise for the freezer…and they eat a lot, too!  So feeders & waterers need filled up every morning.  13 of the layers are pullets who just started laying this fall…which is good because the older hens are taking breaks for molting.  I get nearly 2 dozen eggs each day, so that means an evening trip to the coop to collect each day.  Of course it takes the young girls a while to figure out that they’re just supposed to lay eggs in the nest boxes & NOT use the nests for roosting overnight…which also means that every morning I need to clean the poop out of the nests…UGH!

Occupied nest boxes in the chicken coop.

The meat birds are now living in the shelter & electric netting.  Jeff finally got wheels for the shelter & it is officially the chicken wagon!  He added a wire floor & doors so the birds can be “locked up” after they all go to bed, for moving first thing the next morning.  Their 3 feeders and 2 waterers need filled up twice a day, and they still come running expectantly anytime you get close to the pen, hoping for some treats from the kitchen.  They’re such a funny bunch & rather friendly for chickens.  There are a few accidental pullets in the group, so I’ll keep them…and probably a couple favorite roo’s, too.

The completed chicken wagon & an eager mob to greet me.

Fall also means we’ve come to the end of our pasture grass.  So we are feeding hay twice daily to the cows & horses.  Of course that hay had to first be picked up out of our neighbor David’s field & stacked in the barn.  My dear cows are in the habit of coming into the parlor every morning for a bit of grain for breakfast, and that’s when BoPeep gets milked as well.  Sadly, it’s time to dry her off so she has some time to put some weight back on before calving, so I just cut back to milking every other day.

Mignon has breakfast with dad Rousseau.

Eavie’s little guy, Mignon, has not only decided he wants to be my friend, but that he REALLY likes his breakfast, too.  He makes sure he either gets in the parlor with his momma or in the stall, with or without his daddy, for his bucket of feed every day.  Well, OK, he’d do all three if I let him, little piggy!  He’s such a sweet little guy, it makes me feel bad…but his name is his destiny.

Bandit in her spot beside the woodstove.

And of course there are the farm cats & dogs to feed & love on every day.  Sterling often leaves me a surprise in the parlor…a grasshopper, frog, or mouse…to dispose of.  Bandit has recently decided the nights were cold enough to warrant becoming a house dog again, so we’re back to her daily ins & outs.  Firewood is stacked on the back porch again, the pantry shelves are full, the animals are getting woolly…yep, it’s fall on the farm.

6 Responses to “Fall on the Farm”

  1. Susan Lea Says:

    Wow! You guys have been busy! So interesting to read. I think I have an idea what a swale is, but can you please explain?

    I love the name Mignon! It’s much more elegant than our T-Bone. 🙂 When we picked him up from Gabriella Nanci this summer, she told us about some people she sold a steer to, and they named him Dinner. I forget how many years later, but quite a few, Dinner is still in the pasture! 🙂

  2. Kim Says:

    Hi Susan! I usually call Mignon by his nickname, Nonny…which isn’t quite so elegant 😉 , but it fits his cute, little self.

    A swale is wide, with gradually sloping sides so the animals can walk across more easily, sometimes even so you can still drive the tractor across. It will remain planted in grass, so you don’t lose grazing space & don’t have to worry so much about erosion. It’s much safer…and prettier…than a simple ditch to control run-off.

  3. Henry Youndt Says:

    Here’s a project for the in house carpenter. When we had laying hens, our nest boxes had a set of perch rails along the front, which could be folded up to close the opening to the nest. Our last egg gathering was just before dark, when the chickens went to roost. At that time we removed any birds from the nests and closed the nests. After the hens were settled for the night, we reopened the nests so they could start their work early in the morning. It was an extra trip to the chicken house. But it sure beats cleaning poopy nests.

  4. Kim Says:

    Thanks, Daddy! I’ve been trying to think of a way we could close up the nest boxes at night & that’s a great idea. We need to do work on the coop anyway…they don’t have enough inside room, perch space, or nests anymore, with a bigger flock now. Another project on the list. 😀

  5. Grandma Youndt Says:

    Hello Kim and family,
    Christmas greetings from the family in PA. Grandma mentioned you had a blog and we just spent some time looking at your cows, chickens and turkeys. Wishing you all happy holidays and a happy new year.
    Alyssa, Linda and Grandma

  6. Susan Lea Says:

    Hi, Kim, I hope this finds you feeling well. I wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award! I understand if you don’t feel up to fulfilling the obligations entailed in accepting this award (I’ll post the rules shortly on my WP blog), but I did want people to know about your blog which remains a great resource for owners and aspiring owners of dairy cattle. Love from Susan, Sara & Siobhan!