Life is What Happens in the Middle of Making Plans!

Since my last update on December 29th, I feel like that is exactly what has happened – all the uncertainties that life brings and how all of that can affect your plans. We have had sickness, the care of a friend and weather that has continued to interrupt our farm plans. 

We were just talking the other day about how we could just make the farm a “mud bogging ranch” and charge for people to just come drive their 4-wheelers all around in our mud. We have had inches and inches of rain and inches and inches of snow. One snow storm brought 9.5 inches and then a couple more storms brought 2 and 3 inches at a time. That has all melted now except for the large pile by the driveway. That melt and the rain that we’ve had have made the farm a literal wetland. We even joked about applying for a grant for the wetland. 

All kidding aside, it has sure interrupted our plans. By this time last year, all our garlic was planted and strawed in for the winter. We had tarped certain sections of our garden to allow installation of our caterpillar tunnel to begin. I am sad to say that no high tunnel has gone up yet and no garlic has been planted. It is ready to plant, thanks to our good friend Michelle who has spent the last month separating all the garlic bulbs. She has been a “shut-in” since her injury on Christmas Eve that tore a ligament in her knee. The good news is, her MRI showed it was just a tear and the kind that wouldn’t require surgery. We were thankful but knew it will now take 6 to 7 weeks to heal. As of the time of this writing, she has had her 4 week follow-up appointment and everything is looking good. She can now start weaning herself off of the walker. We had loaned her Grandma’s walker and every now and then I catch a glimpse of her and it takes me back to seeing Grandma use it. 

Speaking of Grandma, it will be a year since we lost her on 3/24/18. We’ve started clearing out her sitting room to make that room our farm office. We have a box for Goodwill and a box for storage for things we want too keep. We came across 3 boxes of cards that she had saved through the years. Came across a box that had 3 perfectly stacked groups of hand-written letters, tied all so lovingly with a ribbon. These letters, you see, were the letters her husband had courted her with. I certainly kept those and want to read them someday. A love that lasted a lifetime. It was sad that he preceded her in death so early. She would end up being a widow for 32 years. But that 32 years would be some of the happiest times, as she moved in with us and changed our lives for the better. Oh Grandma, how we miss you!

Paul was sick for about 2 weeks with a sinus infection and cough and then I got it and was also sick for about 2 weeks. Neither of us missed that much work, but we did miss a couple of days. We would both come home from work and just have no more energy to do anything other than the evening’s poultry chores. Our egg layer flock and our guineas have spent so much time in their coops because of the excessively cold weather and the snow and rain. In a lot of ways, it has been good, especially for the guineas, because this time last year we were dealing with multiple fox attacks. I think as the cold weather and snow move in, the predators are certainly looking for small animals to feed them. We have used more straw though to keep their bedding fresh. As I write this blog, so early in the morning, I’m listening to coyotes yelling and they sound very close.

We got our vegetable seed order in. We increased the volume of seed we ordered. With high hopes of a high tunnel being installed, we know we can grow more tomatoes and peppers for sure. Also, we plan to have more succession plantings of greens and cucumbers, etc. We got our onion plants ordered and increased the volume of those as well. The one thing we didn’t order this year were the seed potatoes. We have just not had enough success with these to justify the higher priced organic seed potatoes. We will try our hand with the 50lb bag of seed potatoes that we can buy at our local farm store just to see if we have better luck with them.

We were able to get our chicken tractors repaired from the windstorm that tumbled them all over our pasture! We are talking about not using this style tractor for our next build. We think we will go with the Joel Salatin model which is lower to the ground, cheaper to build and hold more birds. We know we want to increase our number of birds this year. Last year we did 2 batches of 120 each for our broilers. This year, we are planning for 2 batches of 200 each. This will require more chicken tractors. We need a pattern that will be easier and cheaper to build. 

We are discussing our turkey order as well. Last year we did 30 Bourbon Red heritage turkeys. This year we plan to grow the Bourbon Reds, but we also want to grow the commercial breed Broad Breasted Whites. They will take less time to mature (16 weeks versus 28) and we will use that breed for our ground turkey and our turkey breasts, wings and drumsticks. We still feel like the Bourbon Red is the best choice for the traditional Thanksgiving turkey. 

We had to do a quick fix on our chicken coop. When we had the storm system move through that brought us the 9.5 inches of snow, the severe wind took off 3 of the roof panels. One of the panels landed on a poor chicken and killed it. We didn’t have time or the desire to get up on ladders in the cold and wind to repair it, so we just covered it with a tarp. We will have some new decking and roof to put on that coop if we ever get through this winter weather. 

The excessive cold has frozen the lake over and I witnessed one of the most traumatic things last week. I was outside with the dogs and heard something faintly crying and then I heard splashing of water. I knew exactly what that meant! I looked over and saw that a deer had fallen through the ice and was trying to make its way back to the shore. I rushed the dogs back inside and just started praying and asking God to please help it. It made it to shore and slowly climbed out after resting a bit. I am thankful God answered my prayers and I kept asking God to help it survive being wet in such cold temperatures. 

For the garden, we are in the process of planning for our washing station and pack station. We need to build a bubbler that will wash the greens we harvest and then a drying rack for stuff to dry on and then a pack area to prepare the items for storage and refrigeration. So much to do! It is certainly easier to plan – that is for sure.

We hope each of you are staying warm and safe and enjoying a new year filled with such promise. Thanks for reading our update!

Paul Trusty